James Osgood Andrew (1794-1871)
James Osgood Andrew was a nineteenth-century Methodist Episcopal Church bishop whose possession of slaves generated controversy within the denomination. Andrew became the symbol of the slavery issue that divided the church in 1844 and instigated the separation of northern and southern Methodist Episcopalians the following year.
The son of Mary Cosby and John Andrew, James Osgood Andrew
The details surrounding Andrew's ownership of slaves, and particularly the way in which he acquired them, are the subject of some debate. According to most published accounts, Andrew never bought or sold a slave; rather he had become a slave owner through his wives. In 1816 Andrew married Ann Amelia MacFarlane, with whom he had six children. Upon her death in 1842, she bequeathed him a slave. Andrew's second wife, Leonora Greenwood, whom he married in 1844, was also a slave owner. When she died in 1854, he married Emily Sims Childers.
Some evidence exists, however, to suggest that Andrew may have first acquired slaves earlier than 1842. A man named James Osgood Andrew is listed on the 1830 Athens census as the owner of two slaves, although this man may not have been the bishop. The U.S. census of 1840, taken four years after Andrew is known to have moved to Newton County, lists him as a resident of that county and the owner of thirteen slaves.
Andrew's ownership of slaves, by whatever means, was contrary to Episcopal custom. A growing abolitionist movement was evident within Methodist ranks at the General Conference of 1844. The real issue was whether or not the Methodist Episcopal Church would accept or disapprove of slavery. Northern delegates sponsored a resolution asking Andrew to "desist" from exercising the Episcopal office as long as he owned slaves. Southern delegates countered that the church would be destroyed in states that prohibited emancipation. The resolution passed by a vote of 110 to 69. A Plan of Separation between northern and southern Methodist Episcopalians resulted, and the next year representatives of the Southern Annual Conferences met in Louisville, Kentucky, to organize their own church. The first General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, assembled in Petersburg, Virginia, in 1846, and Andrew was invited to preside.
During his career, Andrew contributed to religious periodicals and published two books, Family Government (1846) and Miscellanies (1854). During the Civil War (1861-65), he resided in Summerfield, Alabama. After his retirement in 1866, Andrew continued to conduct church conferences when his health permitted. He died in the home of a daughter and son-in-law, the Reverend and Mrs. J. W. Rush, in Mobile, Alabama, in 1871, and was buried in Oxford. Andrew College in Cuthbert is named for him.
Mark Auslander, The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding an American Family (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011).
Donald G. Mathews, Slavery and Methodism: A Chapter in American Morality, 1780-1845 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965).
George G. Smith, The Life and Letters of James Osgood Andrew, Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church South (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Methodist Publishing House, ).
Frederick V. Mills Sr., LaGrange College
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