Lectures from the Allen Room & Wertheim Study: Battle of the Bishops : A Slavery Controversy in Pennsylvania in 1863

Date and Time
January 14, 2015


Event Details

              Challenges on the Emmaus Road: Episcopal Bishops Confront Slavery, Civil War, and Emancipation, published by the University of South Carolina Press in September 2013, examines the responses of American Episcopal bishops in the period 1840 – 1875 to slavery and to the tumultuous events and issues that derived from that institution. The words and actions of Northern as well as Southern bishops were studied, and that study uncovered an astonishing affair that occurred in the Diocese of Pennsylvania during the middle of the Civil War. 

              In 1861 Bishop John Henry Hopkins of Vermont had written a pamphlet defending slavery based upon his interpretation of the Bible. Hopkins gave his consent to a request to have this pamphlet circulated throughout the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1863.  That distribution outraged Pennsylvania Bishop Alonzo Potter and many of his clergy, both because they disagreed with Hopkins on the issue of slavery and because the document was circulated in their diocese without their consent or even prior knowledge.  A public uproar ensued, and there were vitriolic exchanges of communication that resulted in the alienation of the two bishops from each other.  This incident and its context and consequences are the subject of Dorn’s lecture.

              T. Felder Dorn, a writer in residence in the Library’s Wertheim Study, is a graduate of Duke University and holds the Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Washington.  His academic career included service on the faculties at The University of the South in Sewanee, TN, and Kean University in Union, NJ.  He also held appointments as a school dean and vice president for academic affairs at Kean and served four years on the staff of the College Entrance Examination Board.  In addition to Challenges on the Emmaus Road, his books include The Guns of Meeting Street: A Southern Tragedy  and Death of a Policeman; Birth of a Baby: A Crime and Its Aftermath.