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Narrative of the Anti-Slavery Experience of a Minister in the Methodist E. Church, Who Was Twice Rejected by the Philadelphia Annual Conference, and Finally Deprived of a License to Preach for Being an Abolitionist


An 1845 autobiographical narrative by Lucius Matlack, a leading figure of American Methodism, concerning his experience as a religious abolitionist. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.


Lucius C. Matlack (1816-1883) was a major figure of nineteenth-century American Methodism. He published this Narrative as vindication following his rejection as a licensed preacher for advocating abolitionism. During 1844-45, the Methodist Church underwent a north-south schism over slavery, with southern Methodist seceding over the attacks of antislavery clergy and lay members from northern states. Matlack was an emphatic supporter of the Methodist antislavery forces, led by his friend and mentor Orange Scott, La Roy Sunderland, Luther Lee, and others. He published this narrative as autobiographical illumination of the recent history of antislavery conflict within the Methodist church.

Born in Baltimore, Matlack was beginning a career as a minister at the same time as he was attracted to the antislavery cause. The result was that in April 1837 the Methodist Episcopal conference denied him ordination and a preacher’s licence for radical “modern abolitionism” and again in 1839, both times unanimously. He subsequently joined Orange Scott as a minister in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1839, at took further appointments in Holliston and Boston. He received ordination from the New England Conference in 1840. Matlack was a participant in the establishment in 1843 in Utica, New York, of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, a group of churches that formed the Wesleyan Church in America.

During the 1850s Matlack became second president of the still-forming Wheaton College. He left to join the Union Army as chaplain of the 8th Illinois Cavalry, then assumed officer’s rank in the 17th Illinois Cavalry. He was mustered out of the army in 1866 with the rank of brevet colonel. In 1867, the Philadelphia Annual Conference ordained him by unanimous vote, reversing their rejection of thirty years previous. He subsequently served as a minister in Elkton, Maryland, New Orleans, and Wilmington and Middletown, Delaware. He died in his Maryland home on July 19, 1883 (Christian Cynosure, July 24, 1883).

Matlack’s publications included (with Daniel Denison Whedon) The Antislavery Struggle and Triumph in the Methodist Episcopal Church; (with Orange Scott) The Life of Rev. Orange Scott: Compiled from his Personal Narrative, Correspondence, and Other Authentic Sources of Information (New York: C. Prindle and L.C. Matlack, 1847); A True Church; its Simplicity of Character (New York: Book Room Office, 1848); The History of American Slavery and Methodism from 1780 to 1849, and History of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection of America (New York: Wesleyan Book Room Office, 1849); an introduction to Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave (New York: self-published, 1850); (with Luther Lee and Samuel J. May) Discussion of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Syracuse, NY: Wesleyan Book Room, 1854); Secession: A Personal Narrative of Proscription, for Being an Abolitionist (Syracuse, New York, 1856); and (with Cyrus Prindle and Luther Lee) Reunion with the Methodist Episcopal Church Defended (Syracuse, New York: Master and Lee, 1868).

— Joe Lockard