Abner H. Cheever papers  1816-1837
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Written for his children on the eve of his sudden and unforeseen death, Gilbert McMaster's autobiography is a fascinating account of the life of a Scots-Irish immigrant and his growth as a Reformed Presbyterian minister. His recollections of childhood are written with an eye toward his intellectual and moral development.

A man of measured temperament, McMaster's innate tendencies appear to have led him to consider all his actions and usually to adopt a moderate stance. Though hard edged and demanding in matters of morality, he avoided extremes. His comments on the great revivals of 1801-02 suggest that he withdrew from participation partly through reasons of personality and partly for orthodoxy, but despite this, and unlike many of his fellow Reformed Presbyterians, he never condemned them altogether. Even his opposition to slavery was placed within careful bounds -- criticizing the government, but never the Constitution, wishing to see it expunged from the Church, but rejecting the notion that its members were compromised by the sins of their fellow church members or fellow Americans who held slaves.

The most important section of McMaster's autobiography is undoubtedly that devoted to the events leading up to the eventful General Synod meeting of 1833, and the schism that resulted indirectly from McMaster's antislavery agitation. Although this account was terminated by his own untimely death, in conjunction with his published writings on the subject (see below), it provides a relatively full intellectual justification of his stance, and yields some insight into the politics and emotions of antislavery argumentation within a church setting. It is an invaluable document as well for understanding the history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America.

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