All through the year 1863 he labored to this end, with alternations of hope and despair. On February 9, 1863, he writes to his cousin, Judge Sidney Breese: “A movement is commenced in the formation of a society here which promises good. It is for the purpose of Diffusing Useful Political Knowledge. It is backed up by millionaires, so far as funds go, who have assured us that funds shall not be wanting for this object. They have made me its president.”
Through the agency of this society he worked to bring about “Peace with Honor,” but, as one of their cardinal principles was the abandonment of abolitionism, he worked in vain. He bitterly denounced the Emancipation Proclamation, and President Lincoln came in for many hard words from his pen, being considered by him weak and vacillating. Mistaken though I think his attitude was in this, his opinions were shared by many prominent men of the day, and we must admit that for those who believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible there was much excuse. For instance, in a letter of September 21, 1863, to Martin Hauser, Esq., of Newbern, Indiana, he goes rather deeply into the subject:—
“Your letter of the 23d of last month I have just received, and I was gratified to see the evidences of an upright, honest dependence upon the only standard of right to which man can appeal pervading your whole letter. There is no other standard than the Bible, but our translation, though so excellent, is defective sometimes in giving the true meaning of the original languages in which the two Testaments are written; the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New Testament in Greek. Therefore it is that in words in the English translation about which there is a variety of opinion, it is necessary to examine the original Hebrew or Greek to know what was the meaning attached to these words by the writers of the original Bible.... I make these observations to introduce a remark of yours that the Bible does not contain anything like slavery in it because the words ‘slave’ and ‘slavery’ are not used in it (except the former twice) but that the word ‘servant’ is used.
“Now the words translated ‘servant’ in hundreds of instances are, in the original, ‘slave,’ and the very passage you quote, Noah’s words—’Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren’—in the original Hebrew means exactly this—’Cursed be Canaan, a slave of slaves shall he be.’ The Hebrew, word is ’ebed’ which means a bond slave, and the words ’ebed ebadim’ translated ‘slave of slaves,’ means strictly the most abject of slaves.
“In the New Testament too the word translated ‘servant’ from the Greek is ’doulas,’ which is the same as ’ebed’ in the Hebrew, and always means a bond slave. Our word ‘servant’ formerly meant the same, but time and custom have changed its meaning with us, but the Bible word ’doulos’ remains the same, ‘a slave.’”