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Augustana President Lars Paul Esbjörn on slavery, 1850

Following is an excerpt from a letter from Lars Paul Esbjörn to P. Wieselgren, May 23,1850, after Esbjörn had immigrated from Sweden to Andover, Ill. 

The letter was published in Emigranterna och kyrkan, brev från och till Svenskar i Amerika 1849-1892, edited by Gunnar Westin, Svenska kyrkans diakonistyrelses bokförlag, Stockholm, 1932, pp. 42-45.

This excerpt comes from “The Archbishop Warned, but Lars Paul Esbjörn Went” by John E. Norton in the spring 2007 newsletter of the Augustana Historical Society. The newsletter was produced in anticipation of the bicentennial of Esbjörn’s birth on Oct. 16, 1808.

Peter Wieselgren was a Swedish Lutheran priest and leader of the Swedish Temperance Movement. In the newsletter's preface to the letter, John Norton writes:

"Newly settled at Andover in May of 1850, Esbjörn wrote home to his fellow temperance preacher and friend Peter Wieselgren about his initial experiences in the new land. Less than a year before, on 10 July 1849, Wieselgren had presided over the funeral of one of Esbjörn's young twin sons at Hälsingborg, then extended a last farewell to Esbjörn's group, as the emigrants left Swedish waters."

Augustana President Lars Paul Esbjörn

Lars Paul Esbjörn to Peter Wieselgren, May 23, 1850

Here there is much noise about slavery, which the southern states are very hot about preserving and expanding, and the Northern eager to oppose.

The worst is, especially, that Christian churches trade in this and permit slave owners and slave traders to be members of their congregations, especially the Episcopal Methodists and Old School Presbyterians. Thus many large numbers, congregations and Synods separated from them and organized their own synods, since they do not wish to be in Christian brotherhood with people who sanction the holding of slaves as being permitted for a Christian.

The sin of slavery here is, as drunkenness has been, a national sin, which has taken frightful root, and it requires great powers of Christian self-denial to uproot them. Many Christians express a hearty desire to enlighten their neighbors, but it goes slowly.

 I wish that Sweden would add a little fuel to this fire of love, and give the United States some return for (Rev. Robert) Baird’s book. Thus, I ask you, as a historian, to send me some historic proof that Slavery in Sweden disappeared immediately with Christianity so that as it arrived, slavery left.

I have spoken with one of the heroes of anti-slavery here about you, as the right man to give us such practical proof of slavery and Christianity being pure opposites, and he asked me to request of you some little piece which might be used as a newspaper article.

Please do him and me and the suffering humanity this service of love and very soon. If you find it difficult to write in English, I will translate it from our beloved mother tongue and let a native review the translation. But, remember, this “word to the stumbling” will not wait long.