Slavery justified… according to the Bible, or at least Joseph Ruggles Wilson’s interpretation of it

Posted on March 18, 2009 by


I had forgotten all about this story until I came across it again last night… and that is particularly bad considering I included the story in my book about Staunton and Augusta County, Virginia in the Civil War. Nonetheless…

President Woodrow Wilson’s (fyi, his full name was Thomas Woodrow Wilson) father, Joseph Ruggles Wilson (born in Steubenville, Ohio) was a Presbyterian minister. After moving to Virginia and becoming the pastor of Staunton’s Presbyterian Church (1855-1857), it was said that he became “unreconstructedly Southern” in values and politics.

The family left this residence before the Civil War, and moved to Augusta, Georgia (1857-1870) where Joseph Wilson continued in his role as a Presbyterian minister. There, his “Mutual Relation of Masters and Slaves as Taught in the Bible” sermon of January 6, 1861, at the First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, displayed his attitude and drew a great deal of interest. When asked to submit his sermon for publication two days later, Wilson responded, “It is surely high time that the Bible view of slavery should be examined, and that we should begin to meet the infidel fanatacism of our infatuated enemies upon the elevated ground of a divine warrant for the institution we are resolved to cherish.” By December, Wilson was directly involved in establishing the Confederate or Southern Presbyterian Church.

You really have to read the sermon to grasp this thing. It can be found online through this link at UNC’s Documenting the American South Project.