This bitingly satirical prayer appeared in a variety of newspapers during the Civil War. This copy is from The Highland Weekly News from Hillsboro, Ohio on Thursday, December 29, 1864. The wording of the various versions as well as the titles changed slightly but they all carry the same tone and meaning.
This one was called A Butternut’s Prayer for the “New Church.” I have also seen it in Indiana newspapers under the title “A Copperhead’s Prayer.“
Copperheadism was a highly contentious, grassroots movement, strongest in the area just north of the Ohio River, as well as some urban ethnic wards.
Historians agree that the Copperheads’ goal of restoring the Union with slavery was naive and impractical, for the Confederates refused to consider giving up their independence. During the war, Copperhead support increased when Union armies were doing poorly, and decreased when they won great victories. After the fall of Atlanta in September 1864, military success seemed assured, and Copperheadism collapsed.
Clement Vallandigham, leader of the Copperheads, coined the slogan: “To maintain the Constitution as it is, and to restore the Union as it was.”
A Butternut’s Prayer for the “New Church.”
Lord, we beseech Thee, if Thou art not an Abolitionist, to save our country. If Thou can not do It Constitutionally, and without setting the niggers free, or giving Old Abe Lincoln any of the glory, “let it slide,” But, oh. Lord! if Thou art an Abolitionist, and had any hand in setting the slaves of the Egyptians free, and drowning their masters in the Red Sea. Thou art not our God; for, be known unto Thee, oh, Lord, that we have established a new church, and will also set up a new Lord rather than submit to the dictum of one who set the slaves of the Egyptian free, and killed their masters because they were Democrats and Butternuts, as the Abolitionists call them. And, oh, Lord, if Thou art an Abolitionist, and in favor of setting the nigger free please make it known unto us, so that in our next meeting we may appoint a new Lord, and take immediate action in regard to a new Heaven; for we have resolved not to serve an Abolition God, nor will we occupy the same heaven with the Abolitionists and niggers .
We pray Thee, oh. Lord, to inform us if Thou art in favor of free speech, free press, free whisky, free acting, free everything , but free niggers ; and if Thou will admit niggers into Thy Heaven, that we may consider the subject at our next meeting, and determine whether it would not be prudent to cast Thee aside, end appoint in Thy room and stead our worthy brother, D. W. Voorhees, as Thy successor; for we wish Thee to understand, most directly and emphatically, oh. Lord, that we will have no God to rule over as who is not in favor of freedom in everything except the niggers . Oh, Lord, if Thou art not an Abolitionists, we will continue our supplication unto Thee; but if Thou art an Abolitionists, and say it is wrong to keep niggers in bondage, and admit them into Thy Heaven, we entirely repudiate Thee, and Thy Church, and will establish for ourselves a new church, a new religion, and a new Heaven. Oh, Lord, we desire a pure church and a holy people—a people who have no more regard for the nigger than for the dumb brute. We don’t believe they have any souls, and if they have, a nigger’ s soul ain’t worth saving.
Oh, God, protect and defend slavery— give us peace, but don’t let the Abolitionists interfere with slavery. In mercy, oh, Lord, restore the Democratic party to power, and every infernal cuss of a nigger to his master.
Lord, don’t let the niggers come unto the North, least they become our equals, and, in much mercy, don’t abolish slavery lest they become our superiors.
Oh, Lord, if there is a Lord, restore to us our beloved Dodd, but don’t cripple slavery; let L. P. Milligan have entire liberty of speech, but don’t give the nigger his freedom.
God of mercy, prevent all the Southern States from coming back in the Union without slavery, and, whether in accordance with Thy divine will or not, do Thou speedily restore it in the District of Columbia. Lord, protect and defend the institutions of slavery everywhere, and the more especially so, as many of the Southerners have, of late, been giving it the cold shoulder.
Oh, Lord, if there is a God, send all the Abolitionists to HELL, and finally, oh, Lord, save our church from everything like niggers , and Abolitionists. These blessings we demand at Thy hands for the weal of the Butternut-Copperhead party. Amen!