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Title: A Biography of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher
Author: Scoville, Samuel, Beecher, William C.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Biography of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher" ***


                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_.

Footnotes have been moved to follow the paragraphs in which they are
referenced, and have been numbered sequentially.

Illustrations have been moved to fall on paragraph breaks.

Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected. Please
see the transcriber’s note at the end of this text for details regarding
the handling of any textual issues encountered during its preparation.

                        REV. HENRY WARD BEECHER.

[Illustration: Henry Ward Beecher]

                              A BIOGRAPHY
                        REV. HENRY WARD BEECHER.


                              ASSISTED BY
                        MRS. HENRY WARD BEECHER.


                               NEW YORK:
                     CHARLES L. WEBSTER & COMPANY.



                             COPYRIGHTED BY
                     CHARLES L. WEBSTER & COMPANY,

                        (_All rights reserved._)

                      JENKINS & McCOWAN, PRINTERS,
                   224, 226 and 228 Centre St, N. Y.

                        =To Our Mother=,




                           HIM IN PROSPERITY,





                              CHAPTER I.


   Ancestry—Beecher—Ward—Foote—The Anvil—The                   17-29
     Oak—Courtship and Marriage of Lyman Beecher and
     Roxana Foote—Home at East Hampton, Long
     Island—Removal to Litchfield, Connecticut

                              CHAPTER II.

   Litchfield—Situation—Natural Features—Early                 30-45
     Settlers—Social and Moral
     Advantages—Patriotism—North Street described—The
     Beecher Home—Birth of Henry Ward—The Times at Home
     and Abroad—His Birth-Mark

                             CHAPTER III.

   Early Glimpses—Recollections of the Mother—Going to         46-71
     School at Ma’am Kilbourne’s—His First
     Letter—District School—The Coming of the New
     Mother—His First Ride on Horseback—A Merry
     Household—Fishing Excursions—Minister’s
     Wood-Spell—Saturday Night—Going to Meeting—The
     Puritan Sabbath—The Cold of Litchfield
     Hill—Rats—Work—The Catechism—Formative
     Influences—Summing Up

                              CHAPTER IV.

   Boyhood—Sent to School at Bethlehem—The Widow               72-81
     Ingersoll’s—Failure—A Champion—Sent to Catharine
     Beecher’s School in Hartford—Humorous
     Incidents—Religious Experience

                              CHAPTER V.

   Boston—Home Atmosphere—Various Experiences—Ethics           82-92
     rubbed in by a Six-pound Shot—Discontent—Makes up
     his Mind to go to Sea—To Study Navigation—Picture of
     his Life in Boston

                              CHAPTER VI.

   School-Life at Mount                                       93-108
     Pleasant—Mathematics—Elocution—Testimony of
     Classmates—Religious Experiences—Troubles—A Romantic
     Friendship—Another Kind—Letter of Reminiscence—A
     Royal School-Boy

                             CHAPTER VII.

   Amherst College—Private Journal—Testimony of              109-135
     Classmates—Tutor’s Delight—Begins his Anti-Slavery
     Career—Spiritual Darkness—Engagement—Letters of his
     Mother—Experiences in Teaching School—First
     Sermons—Lecturing—His Reading—The Record

                             CHAPTER VIII.

   Lane Seminary—Dr. Beecher Called—Home at Walnut           136-156
     Hills—Amusing Incidents—Family Meeting—Death of Mrs.
     Beecher—Extracts from Journal—First Mention of
     Preaching in the West—Experience in Ecclesiastical
     Matters—Despondency—Meeting of Synod—Influences of
     the Times—Revulsion—A Rift along the Horizon—“Full
     iolly Knight”

                              CHAPTER IX.

   Call to Preach—License—Examination by Miami               157-180
     Presbytery—Refusal to Subscribe to Old
     School—Ordination by Oxford Presbytery—Visit

                              CHAPTER X.

   The New Field—Growth of Influence—Social Life—The         181-209
     Secret of Effective Preaching—Editorial
     Labors—Lectures to Young Men—Call to

                              CHAPTER XI.

   Invitation to come East—Call to Plymouth                  210-224
     Church—Friendly Misgivings—Plainly Outlining his
     Views—Early Success—Plymouth Burned—Preaching in the

                             CHAPTER XII.

   Plymouth Church—The New Building—Sabbath                  225-232
     Service—Prayer-Meeting—Weekly Lecture—Socials—Church
     Polity—The Pastor’s Policy

                             CHAPTER XIII.

   Beginning of the Great Battle—Five Great                  233-270
     Eras—Compromise Measures of 1850—“Shall We
     Compromise”—The Fugitive Slave Law denounced—Right
     of Free Speech defended—Commercial Liberty—Fighting
     Caste—Liberty of the Pulpit defended—Quickness of
     Retort—Sentiment of the Times—Reaction—Visit of
     Kossuth—Election of 1852—The Parker
     Controversy—Degraded into Liberty—John
     Mitchel—Garrison—Close of this Era

                             CHAPTER XIV.

   The Battle renewed—Repeal of the Missouri Compromise      271-291
     proposed—The Struggle in Congress—Mr. Beecher’s
     Appeals—The Battle lost in Congress is transferred
     to the Territories—Forces engaged—Kansas War—Dred
     Scott Decision—Mr. Beecher’s Defence of
     Kansas—“Beecher’s Bibles”—Charles Sumner attacked in
     the Senate—The Fremont Campaign—The Dog Noble

                              CHAPTER XV.

   Remarkable Experiences—The Edmonson Sisters—Pinky and     292-308
     her Freedom-Ring—Slave Auction in Plymouth
     Church—John Brown—The Wrong and Right Way—Election
     of Abraham Lincoln—Secession—Buchanan’s Fast

                             CHAPTER XVI.

   War Begun—Firing upon Fort Sumter—“The American Eagle     309-338
     as you want it”—Death of Col. Ellsworth—Equips his
     Sons—Personal Feeling yields to Patriotism—His House
     a Store-house of Military Supplies—Sends a Regiment
     as his Substitute—Our National Flag—The Camp, its
     Dangers and Duties—Bull Run—Becomes Editor of the
     _Independent_—Salutatory—The _Trent_ Affair—Fight,
     Tax—Soldiers or Ferrets—Characteristics as an
     Editor—One Nation, one Constitution, one Starry
     Banner—McClellan Safe, and Richmond too—Mildly
     carrying on War—The Root of the Matter—The only
     Ground—A Queer Pulpit—President’s Proclamation of
     Emancipation—Let come what will—Close of the Third

                             CHAPTER XVII.

   First Voyage to England—Extracts from Diary—Warwick       339-349
     Castle—Stratford-on-Avon—The Skylark—Oxford—Bodleian
     Library—London—Old-time Sadness—Paris—Catch-Words
     from Diary—Effect of Picture-Gallery—The Louvre—His

                            CHAPTER XVIII.

   Church and Steamboat—Jenny Lind—Hospitality—Colonel       350-395
     Pertzel—The Family—Twins—Medicine—Giving Counsel—For
     the Sailor—An Absurd Story
     contradicted—Salisbury—Trouting—Death of Alfred and
     Arthur—Letters to his Daughter at
     School—Lenox—Equivocal Honors declined—The
     Pulpit—“Plymouth Collection”—“Shining Shore“—A
     Church Liturgy—Courting with his Father’s old
     Love-letters—1857 a Year of Trial—Matteawan—Visit to
     Litchfield—1858 a Year of Harvest—Revival
     Meetings—Hospitality of Plymouth Church—Courtesy to
     Errorists—New Organ—Peekskill—Letters to his
     Daughter abroad—Marriage of his
     Daughter—Lecturing—Title of D. D. declined—Flowers
     in Church—Christian Liberty in the use of the
     Beautiful—His two Lines of Labor

                             CHAPTER XIX.

   Visit to England in 1863—The Need of Rest—Condition of    396-407
     Affairs at Home—Arrival at Liverpool—Refusal to
     Speak—Visit to the Continent—Reception by the King
     of Belgium—Civil War discussed—News of
     Victories—Return to England

                              CHAPTER XX.

       Facing the Mob in Manchester—Glasgow—Edinburgh—Desperate
   Attempts to break Mr. Beecher down at                     408-442
     Liverpool—Victory in London

                             CHAPTER XXI.

   Close of the War—Distrust of the                          443-456
     Administration—Kindlier Feelings after Mr. Beecher’s
     Return from England—Growing Confidence—Intimacy with
     Secretary Stanton—Fort Sumter—Lee’s
     Surrender—Lincoln’s Death

                             CHAPTER XXII.

   Reconstruction—Mr. Beecher favors speedy                  457-478
     Readmission—Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Convention at
     Cleveland—The “Cleveland Letters” cause great

                            CHAPTER XXIII.

   The “Silver Wedding” of Plymouth Church—Children’s        479-487
     Day—Services in the Church—Reunion of old
     Members—Historical Reminiscences—Dr. Storrs’s

                             CHAPTER XXIV.

   The Conspiracy—Relations with Mr. Bowen—Disputes and      488-522
     Arbitration—Theodore Tilton’s Early Promise and
     Intimacy with Mr. Beecher—Bowen’s Ill-Will and
     Tilton’s Malice—Tilton discharged from _Independent_
     and Brooklyn _Union_—Tripartite Agreement—Moulton
     and Tilton Conspire to Blackmail Mr. Beecher—Tilton
     consults Dr. Storrs

                             CHAPTER XXV.

   After-Effects—Charges against Tilton—Advisory             523-536
     Council—Investigating Committee called by Mr.
     Beecher—Its Report—Dropping Mr. Moulton—Council
     called by Plymouth Church

                             CHAPTER XXVI.

   After-Effects of the Conspiracy—Calling Council of        537-563
     1876—Principle of Selection—Mr. Beecher cautions his
     Church—Bowen Reappears; Proposes a Secret
     Tribunal—Mr. Beecher’s Reply—Bowen Dropped by
     Plymouth Church—Deliverance of Council sustaining
     Plymouth—Mr. Beecher’s Persecutors Denounced—Special

                            CHAPTER XXVII.

   Rest and renewed Activity—Lecturing Tours—Resignation     564-570
     from the Congregational Association—Boston

                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

   Attacking Corrupt Judges—Interest in Political            571-587
     Questions—Advocating Arthur’s Renomination—Opposing
     Blaine—Supporting Cleveland—Campaign of 1884—After
     the Battle

                             CHAPTER XXIX.

   A Preacher—His Place—His Training—His Estimate of the     588-613
     Work—Defects—Effectual Call—Upon Drawing an
     Audience—His Theory—Preparation—Results—A

                             CHAPTER XXX.

   Love of the Country—Communion with Nature—Farming at      614-638
     Salisbury—Lenox—Matteawan—The Peekskill Farm

                             CHAPTER XXXI.

   Home Life—Love of Children—His Method of Training and     639-664
     Education—Formation of Library and Art
     Collection—Personal Traits

                            CHAPTER XXXII.

   1886—England Revisited—Speaking in the City               665-683
     Temple—Westminster Abbey—Lecturing through Great
     Britain—Addressing the Theological Students at City
     Temple—“Life of Christ”—Sickness—Rest

   Appendix                                                      687



   1. Anvil and Oak Stump                                            18

   2. Foote Coat-of-Arms                                             21

   3. Church in which Lyman Beecher preached, in                     28
        East Hampton, L. I.

   4. Beecher Residence at Litchfield                                39

   5. Room in which Mr. Beecher was born                             43

   6. Elms and Well which mark the Site of the                       45
        “Beecher House” in Litchfield

   7. Facsimile of the first Letter of Mr. Beecher                   50

   8. Ingersoll House                                                73

   9. Stairs in Catharine Beecher’s House in                        111

  10. Mr. Beecher at the time of his Marriage                       168

  11. Mrs. Beecher at the time of her Marriage                      169

  12. Church at Indianapolis                            Facing page 182

  13. Mr. Beecher’s House at Indianapolis               ”     ”     202

  14. Mr. Beecher and his Father at time of Call to     ”     ”     210

  15. Pinky’s Freedom-Ring                                          295

  16. Mr. Beecher in 1850                                           367

  17. Mr. Beecher at the Close of the War                           445

  18. Mr. Beecher and his Sister, Mrs. H. E. B.                     525

  19. Cottage at Peekskill                                          619

  20. Old Apple-Tree                                                621

  21. Mr. Beecher on his Farm                                       625

  22. House at Peekskill                                            631

  23. Hall in New House at Peekskill                                633

  24. Mr. and Mrs. Beecher at the time of Visit to                  667
        England in 1886

  25. Lying in State in Plymouth Church                             679


A few months prior to his death our father undertook the preparation of
his Autobiography. This was earnestly encouraged by his family, who
shared with the public the desire that he should tell the tale of his
life in his own words, giving those pictures of his inner self, the
impressions made on him by his varying experiences, that he alone could
give, and which, to a large extent, he alone knew. Confiding and
free-spoken as he was in his joys, in his griefs he withdrew within
himself, bearing in patient silence a load of sorrow unknown even to
those nearest to him. But it was not to be. He had only jotted down a
rough outline of his plan, and written a part of an intermediate
chapter, when he laid down his pen for a little rest, never to be
resumed again.

In his contract with our publishers but a single volume of not less than
six hundred pages was contemplated. Unconscious of its magnitude, we
undertook to complete the contract. Accepting the limitations of a
single volume, we began to collect the necessary material, and, when too
late to change the form of the work, discovered that two volumes would
hardly contain the history as it opened up to us, so closely interwoven
has his life been with the nation’s history, and so full of important
incidents. In the work of condensation, to bring our story within the
space prescribed, we found it necessary to omit many of his letters,
hoping that in the not far-distant future we might publish a
supplemental volume containing all of his important correspondence.

The book before us we have sought, as far as possible, to make
autobiographic, telling the tale in our father’s words; happily the many
letters furnished us by friends, or retained in the family, his public
writings and utterances, supplemented by the many personal reminiscences
which he gave us at various times, has enabled us to do so to a large

We are fully conscious of the imperfect manner in which we have woven
these quotations into our story; the ordinary writer who attempts to
connect with his words those glowing sentences white-hot with his fiery
indignation against slavery, or his eloquent appeal to the English
public for fair-dealing, or the brilliant play of wit and fancy in his
more humorous utterances, can hope, at the most, to give but a
respectable background that may aid by contrast.

We have sought to make this book a truthful history from the beginnings
of his life, through boyhood, manhood, and ripened age, to the end,
omitting no important period, though passing innumerable incidents.

A man loving peace, he reached peace only through war. From his early
manhood he was called to meet in deadly combat the great sins of the
nation. Through his life, at different times, he met and overcame bitter
and deadly assaults made upon him.

In our narration of these events we have had no revenge to gratify nor
theory to maintain. We have tried to give only facts, omitting
deductions or conclusions, leaving each reader to draw his own
inferences. If parts of our narrative bear hardly on any, it is only the
pressure of the facts which cannot be suppressed in any fearless,
truthful portrayal of our father’s life. We do not make them; we merely
state them.

We would acknowledge our indebtedness to the many friends who have
kindly furnished letters and reminiscences, but especially to our
mother, whose memory, running back along the paths they travelled for so
many years together, has given to us much that never would otherwise
have been known.

If our readers get from a perusal of these pages a tithe of the comfort
and inspiration which we have obtained from their preparation, we shall
feel that our work has not been in vain.

If they can see something of the fearlessness for right, the patience
under unjust suffering, the inextinguishable love for fellow-men, and
the abiding faith in God, that has been revealed by a study of his life
even to us, who knew him best, we shall be satisfied.

                                                    W. C. BEECHER,
                                                    SAMUEL SCOVILLE.

BROOKLYN, March 12, 1888.

                               CHAPTER I.

Ancestry—Beecher—Ward—Foote—The Anvil—The Oak—Courtship and Marriage of
    Lyman Beecher and Roxana Foote—Home at East Hampton, Long
    Island—Removal to Litchfield, Connecticut.

Henry Ward Beecher used to say that the first thing for a man to do, if
he would succeed in life, is to “choose a good father and mother to be
born of.” He himself was eminently wise, or fortunate, as the case may
be, in this matter.

“My earthly life,” he says, “was given me by two of the best folks that
ever lived on earth.” His father, Lyman Beecher, was one of the leading
preachers, reformers, and controversialists of his day. Sturdy in body
and mind, full of sensibility, aflame with enthusiasm, devoted to the
highest aims and utterly unselfish in life, a Christian in whom deep
spirituality and strong common sense were happily blended, he was just
the man to transmit excellent qualities to his children; a father to be
enjoyed while living, and to be remembered with love and reverence after
his death.

Of him his son says: “While he was eloquent and among the foremost
speakers of his day, I remember particularly that I never heard from him
a word of uncharitableness, nor saw a symptom of envy or jealousy, or
aught else but the most enthusiastic love of men, and of young men and
young ministers; and knowing him in the household, I have yet to know
another person that was so devoid of the inferior feelings and so
eminent in the topmost feelings of human nature.”

Lyman’s father’s name was David, a well-read, clear-headed man, with
decided opinions upon the questions of the day; one with whom Roger
Sherman delighted, upon his return from Congress, to talk over the
business of the session and discuss public affairs. He kept college
students as boarders, that he might enjoy their conversation, and made
himself proficient in many of their studies. Of him his son said: “If he
had received a regular education he would have been equal to anybody.”
He was both blacksmith and farmer, and had the reputation of “raising
the nicest rye and making the best hoes in New England.”

[Illustration: The Anvil and Oak Stump.]

Lyman Beecher’s mother was a Lyman, a woman “of a joyous, sparkling,
hopeful temperament.” Her grandfather was a Scotchman, thus giving a
little Gaelic blood to the veins of her descendants. In his
autobiography Lyman Beecher says: “She died of consumption two days
after I was born. I was a seven-months child, and when the woman that
attended on her saw what a puny thing I was, and that the mother could
not live, she thought it useless to attempt to keep me alive. I was
actually wrapped up and laid aside. But after a while one of the women
thought she would look and see if I were living, and, finding I was,
concluded to wash and dress me, saying: ‘It’s a pity he hadn’t died with
his mother.’ So you see it was but by a hair’s-breadth I got a foothold
in this world.” He was taken in charge by “Aunt Benton” and brought up
on his uncle Lot Benton’s farm in North Guilford, where farm-work and
farm-fare made him strong.

Their intention was to make a farmer of him; but the intolerable
slowness of an ox-team, in ploughing fifteen acres of summer fallow
three times over in a single season, so disgusted the lad that he became
restless. His uncle saw it, and upon consultation with the father they
decided to send him to school to prepare for Yale College, which was
accordingly done. He often said, “Oxen sent me to college.”

David’s father’s name was Nathaniel. He was also a blacksmith, and the
anvil of both father and son stood upon the stump of that old oak under
which John Davenport preached his first sermon to the New Haven Colony.
He married a Sperry, “a pious woman,” whose mother was a Roberts from
Forlallt, Cardiganshire, Wales. From her, his great great-grandmother,
came the fervid Welsh blood with which Henry Ward was always so well

Joseph was the father of Nathaniel. His father’s name was John, of whom
tradition says that he was one of those who in the fall of 1637
accompanied Samuel Eaton in his explorations for a suitable location for
the colony of John Davenport, that had just come over and was then
staying at Boston; and that he was one of the very few men who lived
through the winter in the poor hut that had been built at “Quinnipiack,”
New Haven, that they might pre-empt the territory and be in readiness to
welcome the colony in the following spring.

He was the only son of Hannah Beecher, whose husband, born in Kent,
England, died just before the colony sailed. She was about to abandon
the enterprise, but, being a midwife and likely to be of service to the
youthful colony, they promised her her husband’s share in the town plot
if she would come. They kept their word, and it was in her lot that the
historic oak just mentioned stood.

Her business seems not to have been remarkably lucrative, for at her
death her estate inventoried only £55 5s. 6d.

One earlier mention of the family was found by Mr. Beecher in the
British Museum during his visit to England in 1863, and copied in his

“Visitation of Kent, 16,279 Brit. Museum.

“Henry Beecher, alderman and sheriff of London 1570, ob’t 1571.”

Apparently of more than the average intellectual ability of their class,
there was one feature in which the men whom we have described markedly
excelled—namely, in their physical strength. The standard of measurement
was peculiar to those early times, and may not be as well understood by
us; yet it even now conveys the idea of great stalwartness. David, it
was said, could lift a barrel of cider and carry it into the cellar;
Nathaniel, his father, was not quite as strong, yet he could throw a
barrel of cider into a cart; while Joseph exceeded them all, for he
could lift the barrel and drink out of the bung-hole. Of Henry, the
sheriff, no description has been found.

There was one especial feature of degeneracy in these modern days,
compared with the good old times of the fathers, over which Henry Ward,
when Mrs. Beecher was just within earshot, moaned and groaned. His
grandfather, he said, had five wives, his father had three, but such was
the meagreness of these penurious times in which he lived, and the
persistence of the Bullard blood, that he saw no chance for himself to
have more than one. But afterwards, lest she should feel hurt at his
raillery, he writes her with many expressions of affection, in a letter
dated March 31, 1872: “It has always been a shadow over the future to
fear that I should walk alone the few remaining years of my life, for
alone I shall be if you go from me. In jest we have often spoken of
other connections. But such a thing is the remotest of possibilities.
Should you go no one would ever take your place.”

Such was the ancestry selected on the father’s side. Six generations,
without question, are known to us, reaching from the hills of
Litchfield, in Connecticut, to the chalk-cliffs of Kent, England. For
that distance we can trace the family stream up to its sources in the
great body of the English common people, in that county most
characteristic of England, where the Roman had first struggled with the
Briton, where the “free-necked men,” under Hengist and Horsa, had first
made a lodgment on English soil, and near which was Hastings and the
fields of the Norman conquest, and where, perhaps more than in any other
county, mingled those different strains of blood, Briton, Roman, Saxon,
Northmen, Scots, and Picts, out of which has come England’s strength and
England’s greatness. We find all of them of the yeomanry, all of them
honest, useful, God-fearing men, fit to be the progenitors of one who
delighted in nothing more than in his common experiences with common
people, and valued nothing more highly than their confidence and

Nor would it be difficult to find in the sturdy independence and quaint
humor of these men of the anvil and the plough, the origin of much of
that robust and humorous manliness which made Henry Ward Beecher so
conspicuous in his day and generation.

His power to strike heavy blows and to hit the nail on the head was
partly inherited, and that anvil-ring of the fathers has been often
heard in these latter days under his sledge-hammer strokes. If the iron
were not hot, he heated it by striking, and sparks flew, and men’s
hearts and minds were moulded and welded before he was done.

[Illustration: Foote Coat-of-Arms]

More than this, there appears in him something of the love of the
“shield-game” and the “sword-play” of those earlier generations that
were “at heart fighters,” and something also of the sadness and heroism
which led them to say, “Each man of us shall abide the end of his
life-work; let him that may, work his doomed deeds ere death come.”

On the mother’s side the selection was somewhat different. While we find
no more sterling qualities, there is in this line a higher social
position, more culture, a broader training in public affairs, both civil
and military, and what with some may appear of still greater importance,
a coat-of-arms given as a special mark of royal gratitude.

Roxana Foote had gentle blood in her veins. She could trace her
genealogy on the father’s side back through Nathaniel Foote, who came
into Connecticut with Hooker’s company in 1636, to James Foote, an
officer in the English army, who aided King Charles to conceal himself
in the “Royal Oak” and was knighted for his loyalty. As the old primer
has it:

                  “It was the tree, the old oak-tree,
                   Which saved his royal majesty.”

The tree stood in a field of clover, and the Foote coat-of-arms still
bears an oak for its crest and a clover-leaf in its quarterings, with
the motto “Loyalty and Truth.”

Her mother, Roxana Ward Foote, was descended from Andrew Ward, who came
over with Sir Richard Saltonstall and settled in Watertown, Mass., in

He afterwards moved to Wethersfield, and was a member of the first
General Court, or Legislature, held at Hartford in 1636. Later he moved
to Stamford, and represented that colony in the higher branch of the
General Court at New Haven.

From him descended Colonel Andrew Ward, who took part in the old French
and Indian war and aided in the capture of Louisburg in 1745. Of him it
is told that, being a stanch cold-water man, he took money in lieu of
his daily rations of grog. With this he bought six silver spoons, on
which he had engraved the name “Louisburg.” Some of these spoons are
still preserved in the family, witnesses to the virtue and valor of one
of its honored ancestors.

His son was General Andrew Ward, of Revolutionary fame, who, at the
close of the war, went back to his native town, Guilford, and took up
his residence upon a farm of about two hundred acres, called Nutplains.
For many years he represented the town in the State Legislature, being
nominated, it is said, year after year by some one of the town worthies
in this primitive manner: “The meeting is now open, and you will proceed
to vote for General Ward and Deacon Burgess for representatives.”

When his daughter, an only child, who had married Eli Foote, was left a
widow, he took her with her ten children to his home at Nutplains, and
cared for them as if they were his own. Being a great reader, and always
bringing home with him from the Legislature his saddle-bags full of
books, which were read aloud and discussed in the family, this home
became a school that afforded superior advantages for gaining
acquaintance with literature, for acquiring such knowledge of science as
was accessible at that time, and for exciting thought and interest. In
that school Roxana, the second-born of the family, is represented to
have been easily first both in intellect and goodness.

Taking her part in the labor of the household at a time when it was
expected that the woman portion would not only care for the house,
prepare the food, and make the clothes for all the family, but also
weave and spin the materials as well, she yet managed to acquire an
education of which graduates of our modern schools and colleges might
well be proud. “She studied while she spun flax, tying her books to the
distaff.” She not only became well read in literature and history, and
acquainted with the progress of science, then just beginning to attract
the attention of scholars, but learned to write and speak the French
language fluently. She gave enough attention to music to be able to
accompany her voice on the guitar, and was sufficiently skilled in the
use of pencil and brush to paint some very creditable portraits upon
ivory, several of which are still in the family. She was an adept in the
mysteries of the needle, “in fine embroidery with every variety of lace
and cobweb stitch,” and was gifted with great skill and celerity in all
manner of handicraft, so that in after-years “neither mantua-maker,
tailoress, or milliner ever drew on the family treasury.”

Belonging to a family distinguished in both branches of her ancestry,
and residing, while her father lived, in the centre of the village of
Guilford, which could boast that more than four-fifths of its original
population belonged to families with coats-of-arms in Great Britain, and
afterwards taken to the home of her grandfather, General Ward, who was
the foremost man of the town and one of the leading men in the State,
and who kept open house to all strangers, she enjoyed the best social
advantages which the times afforded.

Tall and beautiful in form and feature, with a winning and yet
commanding presence, “she was so sensitive and of so great natural
timidity that she never spoke in company or before strangers without
blushing, and was absolutely unable in after-life to conform to the
standard of what was expected of a pastor’s wife and lead the devotions
in the weekly female prayer-meeting.”

She was early confirmed in the Episcopal Church; her parents, although
both from strictly Puritan families, having joined that denomination
upon their marriage. They had held through all the Revolutionary
struggle to their loyalty to King George, and this had subjected them to
the determined opposition of their neighbors, and stamped the family,
perhaps, with something of that independence of character which
opposition to a prevailing popular sentiment is adapted to give, and
which is so marked a feature in her descendants.

Converted when she was but five years old, and scarcely remembering the
time when she did not go with her joys and sorrows to God in prayer, and
next to the oldest in a family of ten children, her mother a widow, and
all dependent upon the grandfather, she early learned that patience,
self-control, efficiency, and unselfishness that characterized her
through life and left in her old home at Nutplains, as Mrs. Stowe tells
us, traditions like these: “Your mother never spoke an angry word in her
life.” “Your mother never told a lie.” And from the husband such a
testimony as this: “She experienced resignation, if any one ever did. I
never saw the like, so entire, without reservation or shadow of turning.
In no exigency was she taken by surprise. She was just there, quiet as
an angel from above. I never heard a murmur; and if ever there was a
perfect mind as respects submission, it was hers. I never witnessed a
movement of the least degree of selfishness; and if there ever was any
such thing in the world as disinterestedness, she had it.”

No one reading her history will think that Henry Ward exaggerated when,
speaking of her and her influence upon him, he said: “There are few born
into this world that are her equals. She was a woman of extraordinary
graces and gifts; a woman not demonstrative, with a profound
philosophical nature, of a wonderful depth of affection, and with a
serenity that was simply charming. From her I received my love of the
beautiful, my poetic temperament; from her also I received simplicity
and childlike faith in God.”

And again: “My communion with nature arose from the mother in me.
Because my mother was an inspired woman, who saw God in nature as really
as in the Book, and she bestowed that temperament upon me, and I came
gradually to feel that, aside from God as revealed in the past, there
was a God with an everlasting present around about me.”

With these elements of a more personal nature also appear certain family
traits. As we saw how, from the father’s side, the old anvil was
constantly making itself heard in the strong, sturdy qualities of the
Beecher stock, so shall we see features from the ancestry on the
mother’s side coming to him almost unchanged. The loyalty represented by
the oak-tree, and the virtue displayed at Louisburg, will constantly
show themselves. Who that has seen him standing, now for the black man
in the face of the adverse popular sentiment of his time in obedience to
his own convictions of right, now governing his political actions by the
same authority, and anon following his religious convictions wherever
they led him, can have failed to see, in him, the oak-tree standing in
the clover-field with the motto written upon its shield, in letters of
light, “_Loyalty and Truth_”? In his constant advocacy of reform, in his
early and strenuous opposition to intemperance, appears “Louisburg”
again, written this time, not upon silver, but upon life and
character—the Ward and the Foote families showing in him the
characteristics they had won.

More than this, probably no lines could better illustrate the New
England race-elements, the union of its democracy and its gentry, the
sturdy independence of its homes and its native ability in war and
peace, its intellectual and its spiritual independence, its quaint humor
and its shrewd common sense, than those that united in him from both the
parental roots.

He was a natural product of the New England stock, tempered and
sweetened by the broader traditions of the more aristocratic blood of
the Cavalier, of New England institutions and New England character. And
since New England, thus enriched, illustrates the whole land, and by
reason of the diffusion of her blood has made her characteristics
national, he was a typical American, standing with unusual ability and
conscientiousness where every true American feels that he ought to
stand—for right and liberty. This, we doubt not, was in part the ground
of his national popularity and influence; he was felt to be so
thoroughly American. He represented us as do our national colors and our
battle-flags, and we were proud of him, grew enthusiastic over him, and
men that never saw him loved him. And since these characteristics are
but the product of English institutions and the putting forth of
Anglo-Saxon tendencies which were always advancing, always protesting
against some old abuse, and always seeking the recognition of some
right—now at Runnymede among the barons, and now at Westminster among
the Commons; now taking up the question of negro-slavery, and now the
Irish question; always hopeful, expectant, progressive—and America is
but, as he claimed, “the better England transplanted,” and he but “an
Englishman from a broader England,” a continental instead of an insular
one, he was hailed by all the English-speaking people as belonging to
them as do King Alfred and Shakspere.

As we go on we shall find many other influences at work—influences of
nature, of books, of college and profession; but thus early we can see
that, more than of any and all the rest, Henry Ward Beecher was the
product of New England parentage, full-veined with English traditions
and race characteristics.

The courtship of Lyman Beecher and Roxana Foote took place in 1798. It
was marked by the interpenetration of religious sentiment and earthly
love, and was a true preparation for home-making, and of such a home as
should help to form the remarkable personality of H. W. Beecher.

The letters that passed between them during this year give evidence of
the strong love of those who, while having still upon them the dew of
their youth, have each found in the other the chosen mate—a love than
which earth has no more influential nor beautiful thing to give. They
also show us the two akin in intellectual powers and pursuits, and
equally enjoying the treasures which the world of letters opened to
them. But most prominent of all matters referred to in these letters are
religious questions and personal religious experiences. They revolve
around “the evidences” and similar subjects with an absorption of
interest that must seem almost incomprehensible to modern lovers. In the
perfect and unrestrained communion of heart with heart these two speak
of the sweet and wonderful experiences that they have enjoyed from the
presence of the Lord, share their common hopes and anticipations of the
coming glory of the Redeemer’s kingdom, and strive to help one another
to a better understanding of the best things of God. Such thoughts and
efforts as these undoubtedly went far toward laying the foundation of
that “intimacy that existed throughout the whole range of their being,”
and for that deep and unswerving regard and confidence which each
cherished for the other until death. She rested upon him, and he always
looked upon her as intellectually and morally the stronger and better
portion of himself. The very differences in their nature and education
contributed to this large and beautiful unity and confidence. While
resembling each other in many things, in others they were the
complements of each other. He was quick and impulsive, she, perfectly
serene and self-poised. He was logical, she was intuitive as well. He
was of the Independents, she was an Episcopalian. From such a union, so
sincere and broad, we may expect a happy home.

Judging from these letters, we should say also that whenever these two
shall build their home they will build it strong and high. Not only will
love be there, with all its attractions, and intellect with its stimulus
and power, but the grand things of heaven will be builded into it. And
wherever it shall be established, whether by the sea-shore at East
Hampton or among the hills of Litchfield, it will have a broad horizon;
it will look out upon something wider and deeper than the sea and higher
than the mountains. The high things of God will always be kept in view;
His broad, deep, measureless purposes will be held within the range of
its contemplation, and His presence will be felt in shaping its policy
and in giving vitality to its atmosphere.

From such a home we shall expect children that shall have power in the

They were married at Nutplains, September 19, 1799.

“Roxana’s friends were all present and all my folks from New Haven.” ...
“Nobody ever married more heart and hand than we.” Then came the packing
up; “the candle-stand, bureau, clothing, bedding, linen, and stuffs
generally,” and the going over by sloop to Long Island.

Their life in East Hampton, Long Island, was that of two who believed,
without one shadow of doubt, in their call of God, and who took up their
work, not only with the firm grasp of duty, but with the enthusiasm of
devout, self-sacrificing love. Their faith was tested by his
long-continued sickness, by the death of one of their children, and by
the numerous discouragements of a country minister; but it stood the
test, deepening and brightening under trial.

It was a barren place to which they had come, but Lyman Beecher brought
such vigorous faith and added to it such enthusiastic labors, now in the
home church, now in the school-houses of the surrounding districts, and
now among the Indians at Montauk Point, that he made the whole district
fruitful. The field was a narrow one, but by the interest awakened by
his sermons, especially the one upon duelling called forth by the death
of Alexander Hamilton from the pistol of Aaron Burr, he broadened it
until his parish stretched across the Atlantic.

[Illustration: Church in which Rev. Lyman Beecher preached, in East
Hampton, L. I.]

The wants of a young family made some effort necessary to eke out the
meagre salary of four hundred dollars, and a school for girls was
decided upon, to be kept by Mrs. Beecher. It was successful in every
respect but financially, and moderately so in that; but it did not bring
the relief that was sought, and there came a necessity to change for a
field where sufficient salary could be had to support the family without
the harassments of other and unpastoral labors.

A marked providence, as it seemed to Mr. Beecher, opened the way to his
preaching on trial in Litchfield, Connecticut. He made a good
impression; the people were unanimous and eager in their call; the
Presbytery gave its consent; and now, without a doubt that it is
according to the will of God, the decision is made, and the home which
had first been planted within the sound of the ocean surf at East
Hampton, Long Island, in 1799, was transplanted to the quiet inland
village of Litchfield in 1810.

                              CHAPTER II.

Litchfield—Situation—Natural Features—Early Settlers—Social and Moral
    Advantages—Patriotism—North Street Described—The Beecher Home—Birth
    of Henry Ward—The Times at Home and Abroad—His Birth-Mark.

As Henry Ward was perfectly satisfied with the parents that bore him, so
he was with the place in which he was born. “Surely old Litchfield,” he
says, “was a blessed place for one’s birth and childhood. Although there
were no mountains, there were hills, the oldest-born of mountains, high,
round, and innumerable. Great trees there were, full of confidences with
the wind that chastised them in winter and kissed and caressed them all
the summer.”

The hills referred to were “Prospect” and “Mount Tom” on the west,
“Chestnut Hill” on the east, and others like them but unnamed—the “high,
round, and innumerable” ones of which he speaks, and which together
formed, with their sloping sides and valleys between, that broad and
irregular plateau of elevated land, extending for miles on either side,
in the midst of which the village of Litchfield is situated. A country
of hills, with that wide and picturesque horizon which only such a
landscape can furnish, where the irregular outline appears as walls and
watch-towers for the protection of the home territory, with here and
there an open door, through which the imagination of youth or the feet
of maturer years may pass out into the great world of sunshine or of
cloud beyond.

Litchfield Hill itself, on which the village stands, is more than a
thousand feet above sea-level, “high and broad-backed,” and belongs,
with all its fellows, to the Green Mountain range, which, beginning near
the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sweeps in an irregular curve to the seaboard
at Long Island Sound, the back-bone of this great New England peninsula.

High enough to be breezy and healthy, but not so high as to be
unfertile, and sloping to the south, it afforded then, as now, all the
inducements for residence which sun, soil, pure air, and a beautiful
landscape could furnish.

Lakes, without which no landscape is perfect, were added: Little Pond to
the southwest, and Big Bantam Lake beyond, were the ones that were
visible from the village, out of a large number that can be found in the
township; but the Sawmill Pond, where Henry Ward caught his first fish,
with an alder-stick for a pole and a bent pin for a hook—caught it so
thoroughly that it was dashed in pieces upon the rocks behind him—has
disappeared with the tearing away of the dam that held it.

Brooks ran down between the hills and sang their way through the
meadows, each one offering some new feature to the landscape, and each a
field of new discovery for inquisitive youth.

Woods, made up of every variety of tree and shrub native to our
latitude, where nuts grew and all kinds of small game abounded, where
crows and now and then a hen-hawk built their nests, were in easy reach
upon the slopes of the hills both to the west and east. Ledges of rock
to the north were the lair of wildcats, a vermin so numerous
seventy-five years ago as to be a serious pest to the farmers; and stone
walls, where woodchucks retreated from the clover-fields and thought
themselves safe, were the usual division-fences for the fields.

There were other things that were equally pleasing to a boy’s fancy, and
perhaps equally influential in his education. The lakes, streams, and
forests of the town had been the favorite fishing and hunting ground of
the Indians; arrow-heads were occasionally picked up on the lake shore
or turned up by the ploughshare upon the hillside; and, best of all,
Mount Tom was one of the series of stations where blazed the
signal-fires which the Indians of this region built to warn their
brethren of the whole territory between the Housatonic and Naugatuck
rivers of the approach of their enemies, the fierce Mohawks.

Litchfield, in short, was the paradise of a birth-place for any boy. It
was paradise, school-house, gymnasium, church, and cathedral to Henry
Ward Beecher. In it he experienced his sweetest pleasures, learned his
best lessons, gained control of his powers, and offered his first
worship. He breathed its pure air, climbed its rocks, wandered in its
woods, wrestled with its winter storms, and in this way laid the
foundation for that superb health for which he was remarkable through

With the hunger and inquisitiveness of a growing boy, he searched
nature’s storehouse of fruits and nuts, which opens with the wintergreen
plums and squaw-berries of the melting snow-time of spring, and
continues, a house of plenty for all that know her secrets—partridges,
squirrels, and boys—until the snow covers the ground in December, and so
gained that habit of investigation into the things of nature, and of
close observation, that distinguished him ever after.

He lay on the ground and looked up into the blue sky and the moving
tree-tops for hours together, and listened to the voices of spring-time
and eventide, and in this way, as he tells us, received the first
distinct religious impressions that he remembered. His nature, which
seemed closed almost to the verge of stupidity to the rules of syntax
and the answers in the Westminster Catechism, was wide open and
receptive to all the processes and influences of nature around him. He
drank them in, and they became not only a vast storehouse of facts and
images to which he resorted in after-life for illustrations, but, even
more than that, a very part of himself. The tree that so often appeared
in his sermons was made from those up whose trunks he had climbed, in
whose shade he had lain, and to the whisperings of whose leaves he had
listened in boyhood. The spring which so often served in illustrating
spiritual truths was but the description of those that burst out from
the foot of Chestnut or of Prospect Hill, and the flowers so frequently
referred to in the pulpit or in private conversation were such as he had
grown familiar with by the roadside, in the meadows or the forests of
his country home. The moving of the great cloud-shadows across the
fields of Litchfield, the blue of its skies, the reddening of its
mornings and the gold of its sunsets, the flash of its sunlight upon the
lake, its wealth of apple-blossoms, the exquisite beauty of its violets
hidden away in fence-corners, the grace of its elm-branches, the
ruggedness of its oaks, the strength of its rocks, the soft catkins of
its willows, its meadow flower-garden of clover, daisy, and buttercup,
the gorgeousness of its forests in autumn, the gurgle of its brooks, the
song of its birds, the plaintive voices of its twilight, the gentle
breathings of its August winds and the fierce rattle of its December
storms, were all absorbed by his receptive nature and continually
reappeared in his writings and talk of after-years. They added the grace
and beauty native to them to all that he wrote or spoke, and were in
part the secret of that charm in his words which attached and interested
all alike. They did more than this: they prepared him to be an
interpreter of nature to others, and, when he had become equally well
equipped with a rich spiritual experience, they fitted him, as we shall
see farther on, to be the reconciler of a spiritual faith and a material

It was not an unimportant thing, but one of God’s beautiful provisions,
that Henry Ward Beecher was born in Litchfield, where there is more of
nature to the square foot, as we believe, than in any other place on the
globe; to learn his first lessons in the beautiful school of her
flowers, birds, brooks, meadows, pasture lands, hill-tops, and forests.

“Dear old Litchfield! I love thee still, even if thou didst me the
despite of pushing me into life upon thy high and windy hilltop! Where
did the spring ever break forth more joyously and sing at escaping from
winter, as the children of Israel did when that woman’s-rights Miriam
chanted her song of victory? Where did the torrid summer ever find a
lovelier place in which to cool its beams? What trees ever murmured more
gently to soft winds, or roared more lion-like when storms were abroad?

“It was there that we learned to fish, to ride a horse alone, to do the
barn chores, to cut and split wood, to listen at evening to the croaking
frogs and whistling tree-toads, to go to meeting and go to sleep, to
tear holes in new clothes; there we learned to hoe, to mow away hay, to
weed onions, to stir up ministers’ horses with an unusual speed when
ridden to water; there we went a-wandering up and down forest-edges, and
along the crooked brooks in flower-pied meadows, dreaming about things
not to be found in any catechism.”

Equally marked was Litchfield at that day for its social and moral as
for its natural advantages. Its early settlers, mostly from the
excellent stock from which the colonies of Hartford and Windsor were
formed, were men of broad and liberal mould, and began their work upon
this hilltop in a characteristic fashion. They laid out their streets
and staked off the village common with such generous breadth that they
remain the delight of residents and the admiration of strangers to this
day. They made such liberal provision for education and religion that
the settlement soon became noted for the excellency of its schools and
the commanding influence of its pulpit.[1]


Footnote 1:

  Out of sixty-four allotments into which the town was divided, one was
  to be given to the first minister, to be his and descend to his heirs
  for ever; a second was to be reserved for the use of the minister
  during his ministry, and a third was reserved for the benefit of a
  school. While as yet three houses, one in the centre of the present
  village, and one on either side a mile distant, were picketed and
  garrisoned for protection against the Indians, and while there were
  but sixty adult male inhabitants, they built their first church
  edifice, with a Sabbath-Day House for the better accommodation of the


The law-school of Judges Reeve and Gould, and the young ladies’ school
of the Misses Pierce, made it an educational centre scarcely second in
the breadth of its influence to any in the land, and attracted a class
of residents of high social position.

Its courts gathered from time to time some of the leading members of the
bar from the whole country, not for a few hours, as now with our
railroad facilities, but for days and weeks together. All these things
helped to create a very high order of public spirit—that force which,
often wholly unregarded, is yet so powerful in moulding the character
and giving direction to the life.

One other element in this communal influence must not be omitted—its
intense patriotism. From the beginning to the close of the Revolutionary
struggle the records of the county of Litchfield are stamped with the
evidence of the most enthusiastic loyalty to the cause of the struggling
colonies. At the time of the Boston Port Bill, Litchfield had forwarded
a liberal contribution for the aid of the poor of that city. When the
equestrian statue of King George, of gilded lead, was missing from the
Bowling Green in New York, it was shortly found in the dwelling-house of
Oliver Wolcott in this village, was melted down by his daughters and
their friends, and furnished forty thousand bullets, which were sent to
our soldiers in the field, to be afterwards forwarded by them, from the
muzzles of their muskets, to the king’s Hessians, with the hissing
compliments of the American colonies.

No town excelled her in the proportionate number or quality of the men
she sent into the field (at one time every able-bodied man in the town
being, it is said, at the front), nor in the suffering and loss which
they endured. Thirty out of a company of thirty-six who surrendered at
Fort Washington, New York, “died miserable deaths from cold, hunger,
thirst, suffocation, disease, and the vilest cruelties from those to
whom they had surrendered on a solemn promise of honorable treatment.”
This had made Ethan Allen, a native of this village, and, as is well
known, a professed infidel, grind his teeth and exclaim: “My faith in my
creed is shaken; there ought to be a hell for such infernal scoundrels
as that Lowrie,” the officer in charge of the prisoners. Nor were these
days so remote that their influence was unfelt. In 1810 the spirit of
’76 was not seriously diminished, and many of the principal actors in
the stirring scenes of the Revolutionary struggle were still alive.
Colonel Tallmadge, one of the most dashing and able cavalry officers of
the army, Governor Oliver Wolcott, Jr., a member of Washington’s
cabinet, and many other soldiers of the Revolution and actors of less
note, were residents of the village at the time of the coming here of
Lyman Beecher. When we note the burning patriotism which was always so
marked a characteristic of Henry Ward, we must remember that he drank it
in in his youth from its primitive sources among the old soldiers of

We give his description of the village as it appeared to him in his
childhood, although a part of it is out of chronological order. It is
found in an article entitled “Litchfield Revisited,” written in 1856:

“The morning after our arrival in Litchfield we sallied forth alone. The
day was high and wide, full of stillness, and serenely radiant. As we
carried our present life up the North Street we met at every step our
boyhood life coming down. There were the old trees, but looking not so
large as to our young eyes. The stately road had, however, been bereaved
of the buttonball trees, which had been crippled by disease. But the old
elms retained a habit peculiar to Litchfield. There seemed to be a
current of wind which at times passes high up in the air over the town,
and which moves the tops of the trees, while on the ground there is no
movement of wind. How vividly did that sound from above bring back early
days, when for hours we lay upon the windless grass and watched the top
leaves flutter, and marked how still were the under leaves of the same

“One by one came the old houses. On the corner stood and stands the
jail—awful building to young sinners! We never passed its grated windows
without a salutary chill. The old store, and same old name, Buell, on
it; the bank, and its long, lean legs spindling up to hold the shelf up
under the roof! The Colonel Tallmadge house, that used to seem so grand
that it was cold, but whose cherry-trees in the front yard seemed warm
enough and attractive to our longing lips and watery mouths. How well do
we remember the stately gait of the venerable colonel of Revolutionary
memory! We don’t recollect that he ever spoke to us or greeted us; not
because he was austere or unkind, but from a kind of military reserve.
We thought him good and polite, but should as soon have thought of
climbing the church-steeple as of speaking to one living so high and
venerable above all boys!

“Then came Judge Gould’s! Did we not remember that and the faces that
used to illuminate it? The polished and polite judge, the sons and
daughters, the little office in the yard, the successive classes of law
students that received that teaching which has since so often honored
both bar and bench. Here, too, we stopped to retrace the very place
where, being set on by a fiery young Southern blood, without any cause
that we knew of then or can remember now, we undertook to whip one of
Judge Gould’s sons, and did not do it. We were never satisfied with the
result, and think if the thing could be reviewed now it might turn out

“There, too, stood Dr. Catlin’s house, looking as if the rubs of time
had polished it instead of injuring. Next there seemed to our puzzled
memory a vacancy. Ought there not to be about there a Holmes house, to
which we used to go and get baskets of Virgaloo pears, and were inwardly
filled, as a satisfying method of keeping us honest toward the pears in
the basket?

“But Dr. Sheldon’s house is all right. Dear old Dr. Sheldon! We began to
get well as soon as he came into the house; or, if the evil spirit
delayed a little, ‘Cream-o’-tartar with hot water poured upon it and
sweetened’ finished the work. He had learned, long before the days of
homœopathy, that a doctor’s chief business is to keep parents from
giving their children medicine, so that nature may have a fair chance at
the disease without having its attention divided or diverted.

“But now we stop before Miss Pierce’s—a name known in thousands of
families, where gray-headed mothers remember the soft and gentle days of
Litchfield schooling. The fine residence is well preserved, and time has
been gentle within likewise. But the school-house is gone, and she that
for so many years kept it busy is gone, and the throng that have crossed
its threshold brood the whole globe with offices of maternal love. The
Litchfield Law School in the days of Judge Tapping Reeve and Judge
Gould, and Miss Pierce’s Female School, were in their day two very
memorable institutions, and, though since supplied by others upon a
larger scale, there are few that will have performed so much, if we take
into account the earliness of the times and the fact that they were
pioneers and parents of those that have supplanted them. But they are
gone, the buildings moved off, and the ground smoothed and soft to the
foot with green grass. No more shall the setting sun see Litchfield
streets thronged with young gentlemen and ladies, and filling the golden
air with laughter or low converse which, unlaughing then, made life
musical for ever after!

“But where is the Brace house? An old red house—red once, but picked by
the winds and washed by rains till the color was neutral, thanks to the
elements. The old elm-trees guard the spot, a brotherhood as noble as
these eyes have ever seen, lifted high up, and in the part nearest
heaven locking their arms together and casting back upon their separate
trunks an undivided shade. So are many, separate in root and trunk,
united far up by their heaven-touching thoughts and affections.

“Mrs. Lord’s house is the only one now before we reach our own native
spot. This, too, holds its own and is fertile in memories. Across the
way lived Sheriff Landon, famous for dry wit and strong politics.

“But south of him lived the greatest man in town, Mr. Parker, who owned
the stages; and the wittiest man in town, with us boys, was Hiram
Barnes, that drove stage for him! To be sure, neither of them was
eminent for learning or civil influence, but, in that temple which boys’
imaginations make, a stage proprietor and a stage-driver stand forth as
grand as Minerva in the Parthenon!

“But there are houses on the other side. The eastern side of Litchfield
North Street, like the eastern side of Broadway, was never so acceptable
to fashion, albeit some memorable names lived there. It was our good
fortune to be born on the west side of the street. We know not what
blessings must have descended upon us from having been born on the
fashionable side; one shudders to think how near he escaped being born
on the other, the east side of the street.”

Into this village Lyman Beecher brought his family in 1810. The dwelling
had been described by himself: “The house I shall purchase is in a
beautiful situation, is convenient, has a large kitchen, a well-room, a
wood-house, besides two barns and a shop on the premises, and one and a
half acres of land; price, about $1,350; and there is a good young
orchard near for sale, so that we can keep a horse and one or two cows
and have apples of our own from the money we shall reserve after paying
our debts.” A row of quince-trees “whose early blossoms were so tender
and whose switches were so tough—ah! those trees used to come home very
near to me!” was on the north side of the house.[2]


Footnote 2:

  This house, enlarged by the addition which Mr. Beecher found it
  necessary to make, still remains substantially as it was seventy years
  ago, although not upon the old lot. It is now a part of Dr. Buel’s
  hospital for the insane, about a quarter of a mile above the original


The home circle was large and varied. There were at this time the
parents and six children, “Sister Roxana and her little group of
countless numbers.” “Aunt Mary Hubbard,” the mother’s favorite sister,
“spent much of her time with us, and some of mother’s favorite pupils
from East Hampton, who had come to attend Miss Pierce’s school, sought a
home in our family. Betsy Burr, an orphan cousin, lived with us like an
adopted daughter, while the kitchen department was under the care of the
good and affectionate Zillah and Rachel, who came with us and completed
the home circle.”

The circle was still farther enlarged by the coming of Grandma Beecher
and Aunt Esther, who, it will be remembered, was Lyman Beecher’s
half-sister—“a woman,” as Henry Ward once said, “so good and modest that
she will spend ages in heaven wondering how it ever happened that she
ever got there, and that all the angels will be wondering why she was
not there from all eternity.” “They occupied half of the next house to
ours on the way to Prospect Hill, making a place of daily resort for
some of the family.”

[Illustration: The Beecher Residence at Litchfield.]

“Uncle Samuel Foote,” the mother’s sea-captain brother, “came among us,
on his return from each voyage, as a sort of brilliant genius of another
sphere, bringing gifts and wonders that seemed to wake new faculties in
all. Whenever he came to Litchfield he brought a stock of new books,
which he and Aunt Mary read aloud.”

It will be seen that, without referring to other inmates of the family,
such as boarders and visitors, who afforded a great variety, some
amusing and others instructive, the things which Henry Ward said were
“the great treasures of a dwelling—the child’s cradle, the grandmother’s
chair, the hearth and the old-fashioned fireplace, the table and the
window”—were all there, and a great many things beside.

There were trials, almost hardships we should call them, as appears from
a letter of Mrs. Beecher’s dated January 13, 1811, but none of them
sufficient to bring discouragement or destroy her interest in scientific
subjects: “... Would now write you a long letter, if it were not for
several vexing circumstances, such as the weather extremely cold, storm
violent, and no wood cut; Mr. Beecher gone, and Sabbath day, with
company—a clergyman, a stranger; Catharine sick; George almost so;
Rachel’s finger cut off, and she crying and groaning with the pain. Mr.
Beecher is gone to preach in New Hartford, and did not provide us wood
enough to last, seeing the weather has grown so exceedingly cold.... As
for reading, I average perhaps one page a week besides what I do on
Sundays. I expect to be obliged to be contented (if I can) with the
stock of knowledge I already possess, except what I can glean from the
conversation of others.... Mary has, I suppose, told you of the
discovery that the fixed alkalies are metallic oxides. I first saw the
notice in the _Christian Observer_. I have since seen it in an
_Edinburgh Review_. The former mentioned that the metals have been
obtained by means of the galvanic battery; the latter mentions another
and, they say, a better mode. I think this is all the knowledge I have
obtained in the whole circle of arts and sciences of late; if you have
been more fortunate, pray let me reap the benefit.”

Looking at both its sunshine and its shadows, this Litchfield parsonage
offers an illustration of an ideal New England home. The household was
large, large enough to contain in itself a great variety of resources,
and able in that roomy house to offer a broad hospitality to all comers.
Democratic in the best sense of the word, servants being considered and
treated as constituent members; wide awake, reading all the new books,
discussing all the vital questions of the day, arguing all the knotty
points of theology; industrious and frugal; allied to the best life of
the place and the times, with a broad outlook that took within its
horizon all the interests of country and humanity, of the kingdom of God
at home and abroad, social, political, and spiritual, it was good soil,
and a good exposure for planting a tree whose branches should spread
abroad throughout the land and the whole earth.

Into this family was born a son, June 24, 1813—“the fourth, fifth,
sixth, or seventh child, somewhere thereabouts,” as he himself says in a
speech before the London Congregational Board, with that forgetfulness
of numbers which was always characteristic of him. In fact, the ninth
child, the eighth living at the time. It was in one of his favorite
months, that of June, “which bursts out from the gates of heaven with
all that is youngest, and clothed with that which is the most tender and
beautiful,” that he began his career.

The grandmother, Roxana Foote, being with her daughter at the time, and
remembering her own two favorite sons, who died in youth, named the
new-born infant after his uncles, Henry and Ward.

They were stirring times, those of the early summer of 1813. The second
war of our national independence was then in progress, and tidings had
just reached the village that Fort Brown had been captured by the United
States forces. Lyman Beecher says of those times:

“Our dangers in the war of 1812 were very great, so great that human
skill and power were felt to be in vain. Thick clouds begirt the
horizon, the storm roared louder and louder; it was dark as midnight,
every pilot trembled, and from most all hope that we should be saved was
taken away; and when from impenetrable darkness the sun burst suddenly
upon us and peace came, we said: ‘Our soul is escaped as a bird from the
snare of the fowler. The snare is broken and we are escaped.’”

Across the water Napoleon was rallying from the disaster of his Russian
campaign, and making the Continent again resound with the roar of his
cannon. Not only did these events stir mind and heart of all alike, but
the increased taxation and the high prices that resulted from a world at
war were severely felt in the parsonage. Mrs. Lyman Beecher wrote: “We
feel the war somewhat more than we should one between the Turks and Crim
Tartars, inasmuch as, for the most part, every article is double or
treble the former price, and some things even more than that.”

These were also the days of the inauguration of some of those great
moral movements that are even now in progress in this State and in the
land. It was but the year before that the General Association of
Connecticut, under the leadership of Lyman Beecher, had taken decided
action upon the temperance question. In speaking of it he says:

“I was not headstrong then, but I was heart-strong—oh! very, very! From
that time on the movement went on, not only in Connecticut but marching
through New England and marching through the world. Glory to God! Oh!
how it wakes my old heart up to think of it!”

Morals in general at this time were at a low ebb, and he secured the
organization of a “General Society for the Suppression of Vice and the
Promotion of Good Morals in the State.”

His sermon upon the “Building of Waste Places” resulted in the
institution of a “Domestic Missionary Society” for the work of home
evangelization in Connecticut, and he had already secured a Foreign
Missionary Society for Litchfield, which was one of the most efficient
auxiliaries of the American Board, then but recently established. The
conflict concerning the Standing Order which in 1818 resulted in the
withdrawal of State aid from the Congregational churches, and which Dr.
Beecher feared as likely to open the flood-gates of ruin upon the State,
and by reason of which he says, “I suffered what no tongue can tell, for
the best thing that ever happened to the State of Connecticut,” was just

In all the movements of this progressive period stands this village
parsonage, like an outpost of an advancing army, held almost within the
enemy’s lines.

Added to these public labors and troubles a very heavy family sorrow was
laid upon them during this year. The mother, for months before the birth
of her ninth child, saw her favorite sister, Mary Hubbard, slowly
wasting away with consumption, and had need to call up all her resources
of faith and resignation to meet this complication of trials that was
upon them.

[Illustration: Room in which Mr. Beecher was born.]

So this child was nourished, even before birth, in the sweet spirit of a
most godly soul, deepened and chastened by both private griefs and
public sorrows, and was ushered into the world at an era of most
important events, into the very midst of multiplied labors and stirring,
progressive movements. All these formed, as it were, an atmosphere of
influence as imperceptible to the eye as common air, but as powerful in
moulding character in its formative periods as are the natural forces in
shaping the mountains or growing the forests. By virtue of that law by
which the offspring are affected by those things which most interest the
parents, we may safely say that Henry Ward Beecher was in part a product
of the times that preceded, attended, and followed his birth, and was
stamped by their strong and peculiar characteristics. He carried war in
him as a birth-mark, but with him it was war against wickedness and

The springs of consolation, which flowed from him in after-years for the
relief of troubled souls the world over, were such as his mother
resorted to in days of trial, and were opened to him in her bosom; and
he was continually pressing forward through life to some new measure of
reform, to some new step of attainment, by virtue of that reforming,
progressive age that so early became a very part of his nature.

[Illustration: The Elms and Well which Mark the Site of “The Beecher
House” in Litchfield.]

                              CHAPTER III.

Early Glimpses—Recollections of the Mother—Going to School at Ma’am
    Kilbourne’s—His First Letter—District School—The Coming of the New
    Mother—His First Ride on Horseback—A Merry Household—Fishing
    Excursions—Minister’s Wood-Spell—Saturday Night—Going to Meeting—The
    Puritan Sabbath—The Cold of Litchfield Hill—Rats—Work—The
    Catechism—Formative Influences—Summing Up.

We of course see but little of him in these early years.

“The younger members of the Beecher family came into existence in a
great, bustling household of older people, all going their several ways
and having their own grown-up interests to carry.

“The child growing up in this busy, active circle had constantly
impressed upon it a sense of personal insignificance as a child, and the
absolute need of the virtue of passive obedience and non-resistance as
regards all grown-up people. To be statedly washed and dressed and
catechised, got to school at regular hours in the morning and to bed
inflexibly at the earliest possible hour at night, comprised about all
the attention that children could receive in those days.”

Here and there a glimpse is given, just enough to tell us the direction
the stream is taking. The first is found in a letter of the mother to
her sister, Harriet Foote, written when he was a little more than a year

“_July 12, 1814._—... I arrived Saturday at sunset, and found all well,
and boy (Henry Ward) in merry trim, glad at heart to be safe on terra
firma after all his jolts and tossings.”

Again in November of the same year:

“I write sitting upon my feet with my paper on the seat of a chair,
while Henry is hanging round my neck and climbing on my back.”

He himself gives an experience of a little later period:

“I remember very well when I was but two years old (strange as it may
seem; sometimes I think I spent all my remembering power on that early
period!) finding myself in the east entry of my father’s great house,
alone, coming down-stairs, or trying to. The sudden sense which I had of
being alone frightened me, and I gave one shriek; and then the echo of
my voice scared me worse, and I gave another shriek that was more
emphatic; and I remember seeing the light stream in from the
dining-room, and being taken up by loving hands. The face I do not
recall, the form I do not recall; but I remember the warm pressure. It
was my mother, who died when I was three years old. She took me to her
bosom. I recollect sitting by the side of some one who made me feel very
happy; and I recollect seeing my father’s swart face on the other side
of the table.

“Now I could not paint my mother’s face; but I know how her bosom felt.
I know how her arms felt. I have a filial sense, a child’s
interpretation, of motherhood. It was only an emotion or instinct in me,
but it was blessed.”

This incident of the mother is supplemented by two of the sister
Harriet, in which the little boy Henry had a part:

“In my own early childhood,” she says, “only two incidents of my mother
twinkle like rays through the darkness. One was of our all running and
dancing out before her from the nursery to the sitting-room one Sabbath
morning, and her pleasant voice saying after us, ‘Remember the Sabbath
day to keep it holy.’”

Another remembrance is this: “Mother was an enthusiastic horticulturist
in all the small ways that limited means allowed. Her brother John, in
New York, had just sent her a small parcel of tulip bulbs. I remember
rummaging these out of an obscure corner of the nursery one day when she
was out, and being strongly seized with the idea that they were good to
eat, and using all the little English I possessed to persuade my
brothers that these were onions such as grown people ate, and would be
very nice for us. So we fell to and devoured the whole; and I recollect
being somewhat disappointed in the odd, sweetish taste, and thinking
that onions were not as nice as I had supposed. Then mother’s serene
face appeared at the nursery door, and we all ran toward her and with
one voice began to tell our discovery and achievement. We had found this
bag of onions and had eaten them all up. Also I remember that there was
not even a momentary expression of impatience, but that she sat down and
said: ‘My dear children, what you have done makes mamma very sorry.
Those were not onion-roots, but roots of beautiful flowers; and if you
had let them alone ma would have had next summer in the garden great,
beautiful red and yellow flowers such as you never saw.’ I remember how
drooping and dispirited we all grew at this picture, and how sadly we
regarded the empty bag.”

When the mother grew sick and the children were admitted to her bedside
once a day, Henry was among the number, although no memory of the fact
lingered with him in after-years.

Mrs. Stowe writes of this event:

“I have a vision of a very fair face with a bright red spot on each
cheek, and a quiet smile as she offered me a spoonful of her gruel; of
our dreaming one night, we little ones, that mamma had got well, and
waking in loud transports of joy, and being hushed down by some one
coming into the room. Our dream was indeed a true one. She was for ever
well; but they told us she was dead, and took us in to see what seemed
so cold and so unlike anything we had ever seen or known of her.”

Mrs. Reeve, one of the most intimate friends of the family, writes of
the last day of her life:

“She told her husband that her views and anticipations of heaven had
been so great that she could hardly sustain it, and if they had been
increased she should have been overwhelmed, and that her Saviour had
constantly blessed her; that she had peace without one cloud, and that
she had never during her sickness prayed for her life. She dedicated her
sons to God for missionaries, and said that her greatest desire was that
her children might be trained up for God, and she trusted God would, in
his own time, provide another companion for him that would more than
fill her place.

“She spoke of the advancement of Christ’s kingdom with joy, and of the
glorious day that was ushering in.

“She attempted to speak to her children, but she was extremely
exhausted, and their cries and sobs were such that she could say but
little. She told them that God could do more for them than she had done
or could do, and that they must trust him.

“Mr. Beecher then made a prayer, in which he gave her back to God and
dedicated all that they held in common to him. She then fell into a
sweet sleep from which she awoke in heaven. It is a most moving scene to
see eight little children weeping around the bed of a dying mother; but
still it was very cheering to see how God could take away the sting of
death and give such a victory over the grave.”

Mr. Beecher’s remembrance of this event was simply of a feeling of fear
and pain at the weeping of the children around him, and of interest in
the baby, Charles, in his little white dress, as he was lifted up in the
arms of one of the attendants.

Of the funeral we read from Mrs. Stowe’s pen:

“Henry was too little to go; I remember his golden curls and little
black frock, as he frolicked like a kitten in the sun in ignorant joy.

“I remember the mourning dresses, the tears of the older children, the
walking to the burial-ground and somebody’s speaking at the grave, and
the audible sobbing of the family; and then all was closed, and we
little ones, to whom it was so confused, asked the question where she
was gone and would she never come back? They told us at one time that
she had been laid in the ground, at another that she had gone to heaven.
Whereupon Henry, putting the two things together, resolved to dig
through the ground and go to find her; for being discovered under sister
Catherine’s window one morning digging with great zeal and earnestness,
she called to him to know what he was doing, and, lifting his curly
head, with great simplicity he answered: ‘Why, I am going to heaven to
find ma!’”

We next hear of him in a letter written by his sister, February 1, 1817:

“... Henry is a very good boy, and we think him a remarkably interesting
child, and he grows dearer to us every day. He is very affectionate, and
seems to love his father with all his heart. His constant prattle is a
great amusement to us all. He often speaks of his sister Harriet, and
wishes spring would come, so that she might come home and go to school
with him.”

This was in the winter when he was past three years old.

Perhaps the prattle of this one will be instructive as well as amusing
some day. Who knows?

At last spring comes, and with it his sister Harriet from her long visit
at Nutplains, and an important era in his life opens. He begins to go to
school, with her as his companion and guardian.

He is just four years old that summer, the usual age for school
beginnings in rural New England. They went to Ma’am Kilbourne’s on West
Street, and there he clambered up the first rounds of the ladder of
book-learning and took his first lessons. These consisted in repeating
his letters twice a day, such as he could remember, and having the
others pointed out to him from Webster’s spelling-book, as he stood, a
chubby, bare-footed, round, rosy-faced boy, in front of the dreaded
schoolma’am, who had been made sharp and angular by her years of labor
in sharpening the intellectual faculties of generations of children.

In due time Charles is large enough to join the older brother and
sister, and tells us:

“I remember all three of us coming out of our yard and stringing along,
holding each other by the hand and saying every morning, ‘What if a
great big dog should come out at us?’ and Henry, as the larger brother
and protector of the group, answering, ‘I would take an axe and chop his
head off.’”

As yet he wears his hair in long golden curls, the badge of a continued
infantile state; but some of the girls at school improvising a pair of
shears from the pieces of tin thrown out from a shop near by, and
cutting off some of the coveted locks, it is thought best at home to cut
them all off; and now, with trousers, and suspenders, and jacket, and
short hair, and bare feet, he emerges from the half-infantile, girlish
state and becomes a full-fledged boy, much to his own satisfaction: “he
considered that his manhood had now commenced.”

That the instruction of his teacher is not all thrown away is evident by
the letter which he wrote at this time, when he was five years old, of
which a facsimile is given. Its merits of directness and originality, at
least in the matter of spelling, will be readily recognized:



One incident of about these times, which is related by his brother, is
ludicrously prophetic:

“I remember Henry’s coming in and taking his turn” (reading to Aunt
Esther). “Once the piece was about wild beasts, and it said ‘two
monstrous lions came out.’ I can see Henry’s red face and declamatory
air as he read it ‘two monstrofalous great lions came out.’”

From Widow Kilbourne’s he graduated into the district school, which was
a few rods north of the parsonage, and was attended by all the children
of quite a large farming district. Like the other children, he carried
sewing and knitting, and the sister tells us that “this bashful,
dazed-looking boy pattered bare-foot to and from the little unpainted
school-house, with a brown towel or a blue checked apron to hem during
the intervals between his spelling and reading lessons.”

His eagerness for sister Harriet to return, that he may begin school,
has long since subsided, and given place to an unusual dislike for his
whole district-school experience, as appears from reminiscences which he
wrote in after-years:

“It was our misfortune, in boyhood, to go to a district school. It was a
little, square pine building, blazing in the sun, upon the highway,
without a tree for shade or sight near it; without bush, yard, fence, or
circumstance to take off its bare, cold, hard, hateful look. Before the
door, in winter, was the pile of wood for fuel, and in summer there were
all the chips of the winter’s wood. In winter we were squeezed into the
recess of the farthest corner, among little boys, who seemed to be sent
to school merely to fill up the chinks between the bigger boys.
Certainly we were never sent for any such absurd purpose as an
education. There were the great scholars—the school in winter was for
_them_, not for us pickaninnies. We were read and spelt twice a day,
unless something happened to prevent, which _did_ happen about every
other day. For the rest of the time we were busy in keeping still. And a
time we always had of it! Our shoes always would be scraping on the
floor or knocking the shins of urchins who were also being ‘educated.’
All of our little legs together (poor, tired, nervous, restless legs
with nothing to do!) would fill up the corner with such a noise that,
every ten or fifteen minutes, the master would bring down his two-foot
hickory ferule on the desk with a clap that sent shivers through our
hearts to think how that would have felt if it had fallen somewhere
else; and then, with a look that swept us all into utter extremity of
stillness, he would cry, ‘Silence in that corner!’ It would last for a
few minutes; but little boys’ memories are not capacious. Moreover, some
of the boys had mischief, and some had mirthfulness, and some had both
together. The consequence was that just when we were the most afraid to
laugh we saw the most comical things. Temptations which we could have
vanquished with a smile out in the free air were irresistible in our
little corner, where a laugh and a spank were very apt to woo each
other. So we would hold on and fill up; and others would hold on and
fill up too; till by and by the weakest would let go a mere whiffet of a
laugh, and then down went all the precautions, and one went off, and
another, and another, touching the others off like a pack of
fire-crackers! It was in vain to deny it. But as the process of snapping
our heads and pulling our ears went on with primitive sobriety, we each
in turn, with tearful eyes and blubbering lips, declared ‘we didn’t mean
to,’ and that was true; and that ‘we wouldn’t do so any more,’ and that
was a lie, however unintentional, for we never failed to do just so
again, and that about once an hour all day long.

“Besides this our principal business was to shake and shiver at the
beginning of the school for very cold; and to sweat and stew for the
rest of the time before the fervid glances of a great box iron stove,
red-hot. There was one great event of horror and two of pleasure: the
first was the act of _going to school_, comprehending the leaving off
play, the face-washing and clothes-inspecting, the temporary play-spell
before the master came, the outcry, ‘There he is! the master is coming!’
the hurly-burly rush, and the noisy clattering to our seats. The other
two events of pleasure were the play-spell and the dismissal. O dear!
can there be anything worse for a lively, mercurial, mirthful, active
little boy than going to a winter district school? Yes—going to a summer
district school! There is no comparison. The one is the Miltonic depth,
below the deepest depth.

“A woman kept the school, sharp, precise, unsympathetic, keen, and
untiring. Of all ingenious ways of fretting little boys doubtless her
ways were the most expert. Not a tree to shelter the house; the sun beat
down on the shingles and clapboards till the pine knots shed pitchy
tears, and the air was redolent of hot pine-wood smell. The benches were
slabs with legs in them. The desks were slabs at an angle, cut, hacked,
scratched; each year’s edition of jack-knife literature overlaying its
predecessor, until it then wore cuttings and carvings two or three
inches deep. But if _we_ cut a morsel, or stuck in pins, or pinched off
splinters, the little sharp-eyed mistress was on hand, and one look of
her eye was worse than a sliver in our foot, and one nip of her fingers
was equal to a jab of a pin; for we had tried both.

“We envied the flies—merry fellows! bouncing about, tasting that
apple-skin, patting away at that crumb of bread; now out the window,
then in again; on your nose, on your neighbor’s cheek, off to the very
schoolma’am’s lips; dodging her slap, and then letting off a real round
and round buzz, up, down, this way, that way, and every way. Oh! we
envied the flies more than anything, except the birds. The windows were
so high that we could not see the grassy meadows; but we could see the
tops of distant trees, and the far, deep, bounteous blue sky. There flew
the robins; there went the blue-birds: and there went we. We followed
that old polyglot, the skunk-blackbird, and heard him describe the way
they talked at the winding up of the Tower of Babel. We thanked every
meadow-lark that sung on, rejoicing as it flew. Now and then a
‘chipping-bird’ would flutter on the very window-sill, turn its little
head sidewise, and peer in on the medley of boys and girls. Long before
we knew that it was in Scripture we sighed: Oh! that we had the wings of
a bird; we would fly away and be out of this hateful school. As for
learning, the sum of all that we ever got at a district school would not
cover the first ten letters of the alphabet. One good, kind,
story-telling, Bible-rehearsing aunt at home, with apples and
ginger-bread premiums, is worth all the schoolma’ams that ever stood by
to see poor little fellows roast in those boy-traps called district

“I have not a single pleasant recollection in connection with my
school-boy days. The woods were full of temptations, the trees called
me, the birds wanted me, the brooks sung entreaties. It seemed cruel to
be shut up. The brooks, birds, flowers, sunshine, and breezes were free;
why not I?”

In the autumn of 1817, when Henry Ward was a few months past four years
of age, Dr. Lyman Beecher married Miss Harriet Porter, of Portland,
Maine, and brought his bride at once to Litchfield.

The advent of the new mother is thus described by Mrs. Stowe:

“I was about six years old and slept in the nursery with my two younger
brothers, Henry and Charles. We heard father’s voice in the entry, and
started up in our little beds, crying out as he entered our room, ‘Why,
here’s pa!’ A cheerful voice called out from behind him, ‘And here’s

“A beautiful lady, very fair, with bright blue eyes and soft auburn hair
bound round with a black velvet bandeau, came into the room smiling,
eager and happy-looking, and, coming up to our beds, kissed us and told
us that she loved little children and that she would be our mother.
Never did stepmother make a prettier or sweeter impression. The next
morning I remember we looked at her with awe. She seemed to us so fair,
so delicate, so elegant that we were almost afraid to go near her. We
must have been rough, red-cheeked, hearty country children, honest,
obedient, and bashful. She was peculiarly dainty and neat in all her
ways and arrangements; and I remember I used to feel breezy and rough
and rude in her presence. We felt a little in awe of her, as if she were
a strange princess rather than our own mamma; but her voice was very
sweet, her ways of moving and speaking very graceful, and she took us up
in her lap and let us play with her beautiful hands, which seemed
wonderful things made of pearl and ornamented with strange rings.”

In a letter written to her sister Mrs. Beecher gives her impressions of
the group. She says: “We surprised them here almost as much as Mr.
Beecher did us. They did not expect us till the following evening, but
it was a joyful surprise to them. I never saw so many rosy cheeks and
laughing eyes. The little ones were all joy and gladness. They began
all, the first thing, to tell their dreams, for it seems they have
dreamed of nothing else but father’s coming home; and some dreamed he
came without me, and some that he brought two mothers. They all became
immediately very free and social, except the youngest (Charles), and he
is quite shy; calls me ‘lady,’ and sometimes ‘dear lady,’ but he loves
aunt much the best. I have never seen a finer family of children, or a
more agreeable. I am delighted with the great familiarity and great
respect subsisting between parent and children. It is a house of great
cheerfulness and comfort, and I am beginning to feel at home. Harriet
and Henry are very desirous for me to send their love.”

Later she writes of them:

“I perceive them to be of agreeable habits, and some of them of uncommon
intellect.... Harriet and Henry come next, and they are always
hand-in-hand. They are as lovely children as I ever saw, amiable,
affectionate, and very bright.... Our dwelling is pleasantly situated.
The garden yields plenty of vegetables for the year, plenty of cherries,
and the orchard furnishes cider and apples enough. A barrel of
apple-sauce is made in the fall, which the children use instead of
butter.... The boys are up before it is quite day, and make fires, and
we are all down and have prayers before sunrise. Our domestic worship is
very delightful. We sing a good deal and have reading aloud as much as
we can.”

The following silhouette, although following the last by quite an
interval of time—it is in 1819—is our next family picture in order:

“Papa is well and is still writing that piece with a hard name, I can’t
remember what. Mamma is well, and don’t laugh any more than she used to.
Catherine goes on just as she always did, making fun for everybody.
George is as usual. Harriet makes just as many wry faces, is just as
odd, and loves to be laughed at just as much as ever. Henry does not
improve much in talking, but speaks very thick. Charles is the most
mischievous little fellow I ever knew. He seems to do it for the very
love of it; is punished and punished again, but it has no effect. He is
the same honest little boy, and I love him dearly.”

It must have been about this time that Henry had the experience which he
thus describes:

“When I was a lad I was ambitious to ride, but never was permitted to
ride except behind an elder brother; but one fair morning, as the horse
was brought out to be watered, I bestrode him and took the reins in my
hand. He made for the brook with considerable celerity; but though he
was nimble I was willing, and I succeeded in holding on and getting back
without any accident. So elated was I with my first attempt at
horseback-riding that I felt that I was the horseman of the
neighborhood. The next morning I repeated the ride, but with a
variation; for, being unaccustomed to some of the phases of
horseback-riding, I was not prepared for what occurred. The horse did
not perform just as I wanted him to, so I laid the whip on him, and he
darted forward, and when he reached the edge of the brook he suddenly
stopped and I went on!”

They are a merry lot of children, getting up little impromptu concerts,
charades, and games of all kinds, at one time going so far as to
dramatize a favorite story. They “curtain off the end of the parlor,”
and “complete the entertainment amid thunders of applause.”

Animal life is regarded, and the absent members of the family are kept
duly informed of the well-being of their favorites:

“Old Puss is very well and sends her respects to you. And Mr. Black Trip
has come out of the barn to live, and says if you ever come into the
kitchen he will jump up and lick your hands and pull your frock, just as
he serves the rest of us. Henry and Charles love to play with him very

Little events in the family are noted and immortalized in verse, of
which the following letter is a sample:

“... Apropos, last week was interred Tom, Junior, with funeral honors,
by the side of old Tom of happy memory. What a fatal mortality there is
among the cats of the parsonage! Our Harriet is chief mourner always at
their funerals. She asked for what she called an _epethet_ for the
grave-stone of Tom, Junior, which I gave as follows:

                         “‘Here died our Kit,
                         Who had a fit
                           And acted queer.
                         Shot with a gun,
                         Her race is run,
                           And she lies here.’”

When Henry was eight years old we read of the three in this wise:

“Harriet reads everything she can lay her hands on, and sews and knits
diligently. Henry and Charles go to school. Henry is as sprightly and
active, and Charles as honest and clumsy, as ever.”

Later in the year he can be had if really wanted:

“We have four boarders besides our own sick folk, so that if you are
lonesome for want of children we could easily spare Henry or Harriet.”

Whether the hint was taken, and the boy who was sometimes too “sprightly
and active” and this girl who “reads everything she can lay her hands
on” were wanted and sent, is not told. The next year perhaps they would
not care to spare him. “I had the alders down at the bottom of the east
lot cut up, broke it up, and planted to corn and potatoes. Henry and
Charles began to help hoe a little.” Any one who has had experience in
such matters knows that hoeing potatoes in a newly-ploughed field just
cleared of alders is no fun. At this time Henry was nine years old.

It has been said by one whose hatred of orthodox religion is only
equalled by the beauty of the language with which he is able to clothe
his misconceptions, that “Henry Ward Beecher was born in a Puritan
penitentiary, of which his father was one of the wardens; a prison with
very narrow and closely-grated windows.” But Mrs. Stowe wrote years ago:
“One of my most vivid impressions of the family, as it was in my
childish days, was of a great household inspired by a spirit of
cheerfulness and hilarity, and of my father, although pressed and driven
with business, always lending an attentive ear to anything in the way of
life and social fellowship.”

The brother Charles, who was an almost inseparable companion for Henry
in those days, says in a letter recently received: “The parental
authority was pronounced but not very strict. That is, there was never
any thought in the mind of the children of disobedience, but resort to
corporal punishment was rare.

“Nor was brother Henry made to work very hard, nor was father very
strait-laced or stern. Nor were we often _switched_, tho’ I dare say we
deserved it. I only remember once distinctly, when Henry performed the
gymnastics and I furnished the music (out in the barn). Fortunately for
me, the switch was mostly used up on him as the elder—a birthright I did
not envy—and I howled in sympathy, with a few cuts for _Da Capo_.

“The fact is, father was very fond of all his children and frolicked and
romped with them. All the work there was to do (chores we called it) was
to take care of a horse and cow, and in spring make garden, and, after
wood-spell, carry in and pile up wood. I remember that we were told if
we made the garden so and so, or did this or that, we should go fishing;
and we used to go, the whole family of us, to Little Pond or Great Pond,
and catch ‘Perchy, roachy, bullhead,’ as we sang it. One afternoon at
Little Pond, where father had taken Henry and me in the chaise
(‘one-hoss’), we were catching roach when the church-bell rang, and
father remembered that it was Preparatory Lecture, and the way we
scurried in the old vehicle may be imagined.”

Mrs. Stowe writes: “I remember when the wood was all in and piled and
the chips swept up, then father tackled the horse into the cart and
proclaimed a grand fishing party down to Little Pond; and how we all
floated among the lily-pads in our boat, christened ‘The Yellow Perch,’
and every one of us caught a string of fish, which we displayed in
triumph on our return.”

The father was very wise in directing the homely labors of the
household, so that they became occasions of mental stimulus.

“I have the image of my father still, as he sat working the
apple-peeler. ‘Come, George,’ he said, ‘I’ll tell you what we’ll do to
make the evening go off. You and I’ll take turns and see who’ll tell the
most out of Scott’s novels’ (for those were the days when the ‘Tales of
my Landlord’ and ‘Ivanhoe’ had just appeared); and so they took them
novel by novel, reciting scenes and incidents, which kept the eyes of
all the children wide open and made the work go on without flagging.

“Occasionally he would raise a point of theology on some incident
narrated, and ask the opinion of one of his boys and run a sort of tilt
with him, taking up the wrong side of the question for the sake of
seeing how the youngster could practise his logic. If the party on the
other side did not make a fair hit at him, however, he would stop and
explain to him what he ought to have said: ‘The argument lies so, my
son; do that and you’ll trip me up.’ Much of his teaching to his
children was in this informal way.”

A kindly country life surrounded the minister’s family, that could not
fail of stamping the impress of its plain sincerity upon all who were
brought in contact with it. Once a year this came to its climax in the
winter’s wood-spell, when all the farmers upon a given day added their
contribution to the minister’s wood-pile—a festival of kindness and good

“The kind farmers wanted to see all the children, and we were busy as
bees in waiting upon them. The boys heated the flip-irons and passed
around the cider and flip, while Aunt Esther and the daughters were as
busy in serving the doughnuts, cake, and cheese.”

Another influence we must not forget, and that was, being let alone. “I
think,” he says, “that I was about as well brought up as most children,
because I was let alone. My father was so busy and my mother had so many
other children to look after that, except here and there, I hardly came
under the parental hand at all. I was brought up in a New England
village, and I knew where the sweet-flag was, where the hickory-trees
were, where the chestnut-trees were, where the sassafras-trees were,
where the squirrels were, where all things were that boys enterprise
after, therefore I had a world of things to do, and so I did not come
much in contact with family government.” “Nobody,” so says his sister,
“thought much of his future, further than to see that he was safe and
healthy, or even troubled themselves to inquire what might be going on
in his life.”

Some of the reminiscences of this period now given in his own words are
interesting, not only from the wide field which they cover, but from the
revelation they make of the susceptibility of his nature to outside
influences. Of “going to meeting” he discourses in this wise:

“The coming on of Saturday night was always a serious business with the
youngsters. We had no stores of religious experience on which it is
presumed the old folks meditated, and the prospect of a whole day
without anything in it to interest us was not a little gloomy. On no
night of the week did the frogs croak so dismally, or the tree toads
whistle in a mood so melancholy, as on Saturday night.

“But those blazing summer mornings! What a wealth of light spread over
that blessed old hill-top! What a wondrous silence dwelt in the great
round heavens above our head! The birds sang on. The crows in the
distance called out to each other in hoarse discourse. The trees stood
in calm beauty—the great elm-trees, tall, pliant, graceful, the
perfection of strength and beauty. All this we saw and heard while
buttoning up our Sunday clothes by the side of the open window. For the
cow and horse had been foddered, and the pigs fed, and all the barn
chores done up, and a bountiful breakfast eaten, and our face and hands
washed, and every article of apparel, from shoe to hat, had changed from
a secular to a sacred use. Not the every-day hat, soft, shapeless,
universal instrument, used as a liquid or solid measure; used now for
the head, and now for a football; used for a net to catch butterflies or
to throw at wasps—no, not this bag, pocket, hat, pouch, and magazine,
but the Sunday hat, round, stiff, hard, and respectable.

“Although the new hat was always disagreeable to our head, yet we had a
wonderful reverence for it, and spent no inconsiderable portion of our
time in church in getting it dirty and then brushing it clean.

“Our jacket, too, was new. Only a handkerchief was then in the pocket;
no knife, no marbles, no strings, no stones, no fishhooks or dried
angle-worms. No; a boy’s Sunday pocket of the olden time was purged of
all temptation. In meeting-time we often put our little hands down into
our Sunday pocket with a melancholy wish, ‘Oh! if I only had my other
clothes on!’

“As soon as we were dressed and mustered in the sitting-room an
inspection was had. The collar was pulled up a little, the hair had a
fresh lick from the brush, the mouth must be wiped with a wet towel, the
shoestring tied, and, after being turned round and round, we were
started off.

“‘Now, Henry, be a good boy.’

“‘Yes, ma’am.’

“‘You must not laugh, or tease Harriet.’

“‘No, ma’am.’

“‘Don’t stop on the road—go right in when you get to church.’

“‘Yes, ma’am.”

“Every word was sincerely promised, and efficaciously broken within ten

“Oh! how high the trees seemed! Oh! how bright the heavens were! Oh! how
hard it was not to play with Chester Covington’s dog, that came running
to us with bark and frolic, and seemed perplexed at our sturdy

“The old musical bell up in the open belfry was busy a-tolling. It was
the only thing that was allowed to work on Sunday—the bell and the
minister. That bell-rope was always an object of desire and curiosity to
our young days. It ran up into such dark and mysterious spaces. What
there was up in those pokerish heights in the belfry tower we did not
know, but something that made our flesh creep. Once we ventured to pull
that rope. It was a bold and venturesome thing, we knew. But a sorcery
was on us. It came gently and easily to the hand. We pulled again.
‘Dong! dong!’ went the bell. The old sexton put his head out of the door
when, on that particular morning, service had begun, and said, in a very
solemn and low tone, ‘Boy! boy! you little devil you!’ and much more, I
presume, but I did not wait for it, but cut round to the other door and
sat all church-time trembling and wondering whether he would ‘tell my
pa’; and if he did, what _he_ would say, and more especially what he
would _do_. I called up the probable interview. I had numerous
precedents on which to found a possible experience, and afflicted our
little soul all meeting-time with needless punishment by the

“But ordinarily we escaped into the minister’s pew without special
temptations. Imagine a boy of eight years old, round as an apple, hearty
and healthy, an hour and a half in church with nothing to do! We looked
at the galleries full of boys and girls, and wished we might go into the
galleries. We looked at the ceiling, traced all the cracks back and
forth. We looked at the dear old aunties all round the church, fanning
themselves with one hand and eating fennel-seed or a bit of dried
orange-peel out of the other. We gazed out of the window high above our
heads into the clouds, and wished we could only climb up and see the
trees and horses and dogs that abounded around the church on Sunday.

“Gradually these died out and we dropped asleep. Blessed liberty! the
child’s gospel! All trouble fled away. For a half-hour paradise was
gained. But then an unusual thump on the pulpit Bible, and the ring and
roar of a voice under full excitement, that went on swelling like a
trumpet, and that no one, not the most listless, could hear without
catching its excitement, waked us, blushing and confused that we had
been asleep in church! Even on the serene and marble face of mother the
faint suggestion of a smile came, as we clutched our hat, supposing
meeting to be over, and then sheepishly dropped it and sank back in
dismay. But even Sunday cannot hold out for ever, and meetings have to
let out sometime! So, at length, a universal stir and bustle announced
that it was time to go. Up we bolted! Down we sat as quick as if a
million pins were sticking in our foot! The right leg was asleep!
Limping forth into the open air, relief came to our heart. The being out
of doors had always an inexpressible charm, and never so much as on
Sunday. Away went the wagons. Away went the people. The whole Green
swarmed with folks. The long village streets were full of company. In
ten minutes all were gone, and the street was given up again to the

“Little good did preaching do me until after I was fifteen years
old—little good immediately. Yet the whole Sunday, the peculiar
influence which it exerted on the household, the general sense of awe
which it inspired, the very rigor of its difference from other days, and
the suspended animation of its sermon time, served to produce upon the
young mind a profound impression. A day that stood out from all others
in a hard and gaunt way might, perhaps, be justly criticised. But it
left its mark. It did its work upon the imagination, if not upon the
reason. It had power in it; and in estimating moral excellence power is
an element of the utmost importance. Will our smooth, cosey, feeble
modern Sundays have such a grip on the moral nature? They are far
pleasanter. Are they as efficacious? Will they educate the moral nature
as much?”

The cold of Litchfield Hill and the exposure of his old home were always

“You may think you know something about winter; but if you never spent a
winter on old Litchfield Hill, where I was brought up, you do not know
much about it. It was before the days of stoves. There were what we
called ‘box-stoves,’ but they were a very small power for generating
heat. The idea of a furnace was not born. It was not even within the
reach of a prophet to predict it.

“My father’s house was a great barn of a structure, with rooms scattered
about here and there. Mine was the west and north room—on the corner; so
that I had the full benefit, without any subtraction or discount, of
everything that was going on out of doors; for double windows were not
known, and the carpenters did not care about making a tight fit.
Therefore the wind found no trouble in coming in, and on many and many a
morning the snow had blown from the window to my bed and across the foot
of it; and if anything inspires alacrity of step on a winter morning
when the feet are bare, it is a drift of snow. Walking on it is like
walking on wasps.

“To go back to the frigid houses of New England in winter, without
furnaces or hard coal, or air-tight stoves or steam, would make our
dainty skin tingle. What a pother is made to ascertain the exact
position of the North Pole, the very centre and navel of cold! Why, I
could have pointed to the exact spot sixty years ago. It was on the
northwest angle of my father’s house in Litchfield, Connecticut, in the
room where I slept.”

Not only did the severity of the elements affect him, but their uproar
as well, especially in the night-time.

“The war of winter winds to our young ears was terrible as the thunder
of waves or the noise of battle. All night long the cold, shelterless
trees moaned. Their strong crying penetrated our sleep and shaped our
dreams. At every waking the air was full of mighty winds. The house
creaked and strained, and at some more furious gust shuddered and
trembled all over. Then the windows rattled, the cracks and crevices
whistled each its own distinctive note, and the chimneys, like diapasons
of an organ, had their deep and hollow rumble.”

And now comes an influence that we should have passed by, if he himself
had not given it place and elaborate notice:

“Next to the winds our night experiences in early boyhood were much
affected by rats. The old house seemed to have been a favorite of this
curious vermin. There is something in the short, hot glitter of a rat’s
eye that has never ceased to affect us unpleasantly. We could not help
imagining them to be the mere receptacles of mischievous spirits, and
their keen eyes had always a kind of mocking expression, as if they
said, ‘You think we are rats, but if we get hold of you you will know
that we are a good deal more than that.’ We never could estimate how
many populated our old house. The walls seemed like city thoroughfares,
and the ceiling like a Forum or Roman theatre. We used to lie in bed and
marvel at what was going on. Sometimes there would be a great stillness,
as if they had all gone to meeting. Then again they would troop about
with such a swell of liberty and gladness that it was quite plain that
the meeting was out. But nothing ever scared and amused us so much as
their way of going up and down the partitions. At first up would come
one, then another, and finally quite a bevy, squeaking and frolicking,
as if they were school-boys going up-stairs, nipping each other and
cutting up all manner of pranks. Then came a stillness. Next a
premonitory rat would rush down, evidently full of news, and immediately
down would pour after him a stream of rats, rushing like mad, and
apparently tumbling heels over head. By and by some old sawyer would
commence where he left off the night before, cutting the same partition.
To this must be added nibblings, rat-nestled paper, an occasional race
of rats across the bed, the manipulation of corn in the garret, the
foray with cats and kittens, the rat engines—‘steel traps,’ ‘box-traps,’
‘figure-four’s,’ and all manner of devices, in spite of which the rats
held their own, and, if allowed suffrage, would have outvoted the whole
family, dog and cats to boot, four to one.”

He was early taught to work and endure what now might be called

“It was my duty, after I got to be about eight years old, to go
down-stairs and build a fire. Ours was a house in which, when the
weather was cold, if water was left in any vessel it would freeze and
split the vessel asunder; and of course crockery had no chance. Our well
used to choke up with ice so that we had to cut it out in order to get
the bucket down; and sometimes, when the cistern was frozen up so that
we could not get water from it, I have gone, on washing-days, two miles,
and dipped water from a brook into barrels, and brought it home.
Therefore you see that, however dainty I may be nowadays, I started on a
very different pattern.”

But he came in after-years to be glad of this experience:

“I am thankful that I learned to hem towels—as I did. I know how to knit
suspenders and mittens. I know a good deal about working in wood—sawing,
chopping, splitting, planing, and things of that sort. I was brought up
to put my hand to anything; so that when I went West, and was travelling
on the prairies and my horse lost a shoe, and I came to a cross-road
where there was an abandoned blacksmith’s shop, I could go in and start
the fire, and fix the old shoe and put it on again. What man has done
man can do; and it is a good thing to bring up boys so that they shall
think they can do anything. I could do anything.”

The greatest trial of those days was the catechism. Sunday lessons were
considered by the mother as inflexible duty, and the catechism was the
_sine qua non_. “The other children memorized readily and were brilliant
reciters, but Henry, blushing, stammering, confused, and hopelessly
miserable, stuck fast on some sand-bank of what is required or forbidden
by this or that commandment, his mouth choking up with the long words
which he hopelessly miscalled, was sure to be accused of idleness or
inattention, and to be solemnly talked to, which made him look more
stolid and miserable than ever, but appeared to have no effect in
quickening his dormant faculties.”

Such were the influences that were exerted upon Henry Ward Beecher
during these early and formative years. Various as they were, they
preserved a general character of healthful simplicity; and numerous as
they appear, they can yet be readily generalized. The first were those
that were addressed to conscience, and that went to make this the
strong, influential factor which it became in all well-trained New
England youth of that period, and in none more markedly than in him. The
stepmother led in this work. She was the conscience of the family,
training to the strict observance of duty with a thoroughness which the
father, with his more impulsive nature, could never have equalled,
although he was in sympathy with the process. Home duties carefully
exacted, regular attendance upon school, the strict keeping the Sabbath,
even the hated lesson in the catechism, were some of the instruments
employed. Open to criticism, they may be, in method and extent, yet they
did their work, and strong conscientiousness was developed that made him
tremble at the thought of wrong-doing, and kept him so free from
viciousness that he was able to say: “I never was sullied in act, nor in
thought, nor in feeling when I was young. I grew up as pure as a woman.”

And although in after-years he gave more stress to heart than
conscience, and preached the Gospel rather than the law, it was but the
carrying out the natural process of soil-making and forest culture: the
granite ridges of conscience formed the foundation, clothed and hidden
by the growth, but not destroyed.

With all her admirable qualities his step-mother failed to satisfy his
longing for affection.

“It pleased God to give me a second mother, a very eminent Christian
woman. Now, my nature was enthusiastic and outgushing; I was like the
convolvulus—I wanted to be running on somebody all the time. But my
second mother was stately and not easy to approach. She was a beautiful
person, serene and ladylike. She never lacked self-possession in speech,
gesture, or posture. She was polished; but to my young thoughts she was
cold. As I look back I do not recollect ever to have had from her one
breath of summer. Although I was longing to love somebody, she did not
call forth my affection; and my father was too busy to be loved.
Therefore I had to expend my love on Aunt Chandler, a kind soul that was
connected with our family, and the black woman that cooked, who were
very kind to me. My mother that brought me up I never thought of loving.
It never occurred to me. I was afraid of her. I revered her, but I was
not attracted to her. I felt that she was ready to die, and that I was
not. I knew that at about twilight she prayed; and I had a great
shrinking from going past her door at that time. I had not the slightest
doubt that she had set her affection on things above, and not on things
beneath. I had the strongest conviction of her saintliness. It stamped
itself upon my youth.”

Another division of influences comes under the head of spiritual:

“I can look back upon my own early life, and see how one and another
took me, and how one prepared me for another. I can see how the largest
natures did not always get access to me. It was late in life before my
father influenced me very much. I think it was a humble woman who was in
our family that first gained any considerable control over me. I feel
the effect of her influence to this day.

“I next came under the influence of a very humble serving-man. He opened
up new directions to me and gave me new impulses. He was a colored man;
and I am not ashamed to say that my whole life, my whole career
respecting the colored race in the conflict which was so long carried on
in this country, was largely influenced by the effect produced on my
mind, when I was between eight and ten years of age, by a poor old
colored man who worked on my father’s farm, named Charles Smith. He did
not set out to influence me; he did not know that he did it; I did not
know it until a great while afterwards; but he gave me impulses, and
impulses which were in the right direction; for he was a godly and
hymn-singing man, who made wine fresh every night from the cluster. He
used to lie upon his humble bed (I slept in the same room with him) and
read his Testament, unconscious, apparently, that I was in the room; and
he would laugh and talk about what he read, and chuckle over it with
that peculiarly unctuous throat-tone which belongs to his race. I never
had heard the Bible really read before; but there, in my presence, he
read it, and talked about it to himself and to God. He turned the New
Testament into living forms right before me. It was a revelation and an
impulse to me.

“He talked to me about my soul more than any member of my father’s
family. These things impressed me with the conviction that he was a
Christian; and I never saw anything in him that led me to think
otherwise. The feeling that I was sinful, that I needed to be born
again, that there was such a thing as a regenerate life produced by the
Spirit of God in the soul—these feelings came to me by observing the
actual example of persons that I lived with more than from all other
sources put together.”

But above all others for diffusive and permanent impression affecting
his whole nature, bringing him into sympathy with God in all his works
as in all his words, and increasing to the day of his death, was the
influence of his own mother.

“The memory of my mother as one sainted has exerted a singular influence
on me. After I came to be about fourteen or fifteen years of age I began
to be distinctly conscious that there was a silent, secret, and, if you
please to call it so, romantic influence which was affecting me. It grew
and it grows, so that in some parts of my nature I think I have more
communion with my mother, whom I never saw except as a child three years
old, than with any living being. I am conscious that all my life long
there has been a moral power in my memory of her. It is evident to me
that while in education and in other material respects her death was a
deprivation, it was also an inspiration, a communion—one of those
invisible blessings which faith comprehends, but which we are not apt to
weigh and to estimate.

“Do you know,” he says, “why so often I speak what must seem to some of
you rhapsody of woman? It is because I had a mother, and if I were to
live a thousand years I could not express what seems to me to be the
least that I owe to her. Three years old was I when singing she left me
and sung on to heaven, where she sings evermore. I have only such a
remembrance of her as you have of the clouds of ten years ago—faint,
evanescent; and yet, caught by imagination, and fed by that which I have
heard of her and by what my father’s thought and feeling of her were, it
has come to be so much to me that no devout Catholic ever saw so much in
the Virgin Mary as I have seen in my mother, who has been a presence to
me ever since I can remember; and I can never say enough for woman for
my sisters’ sake, for the sake of them that have gathered in the days of
my infancy around about me, in return for what they have interpreted to
me of the beauty of holiness, of the fulness of love, and of the
heavenliness of those elements from which we are to interpret heaven

In those influences that went to move the intellect, to awaken interest
and thought, while the family life and the school and nature were all
doing something, the dear old Aunt Esther with her Bible-readings and
her innumerable stories and incidents of animal life stood pre-eminent
and unapproachable at this period. It was but a few years before his
death that he spoke of her early influence upon him, and read to us the
story of Joseph as she used to read it to him, with the tears rolling
down his cheeks. He told us that he had never yet been able to read that
story or hear it read without crying.

But in those practical influences that had to do with life, that gave
him the impression that things could be done and must be done, that gave
him inspiration to labor, his father took the lead.

“What I was going to speak of was the effect upon my young mind of
observing my father’s conduct under trying circumstances. I never once
saw him flinch before the cold, or look as though anything was hard, or
as if there was a reason for not pitching in and holding on when things
were difficult. I have seen the time when we had to cut a
twenty-five-foot tunnel outward from the kitchen-door, carrying the snow
through the house; and such tunnels would sometimes remain a month
before they would break down. I have seen the children around the house
crying with cold, and slapping their hands, and stamping their feet,
when father had to go and dig wood out of the snow-bank, and cut and
split it; and his alacrity and vigor infused themselves into the
children. I recollect particularly that if, on such nights as this, when
to the high wind severe cold and thick darkness were added, my father
had appointments, he always fulfilled them. It was customary to have
preaching-places all around the neighborhood, here, there, and
everywhere; and I never knew him to think of shrinking from an
appointment, or holding himself back for a moment, on account of the
weather. There never was a snow so deep, or a wind so high, or a rain so
driving, or a night so black that the thought seemed to enter his head
that he must give up a meeting. I have many times seen him, on cold,
bitter nights, take out his old silk handkerchief and put it on, and go
forth into the storm without seeming to dread it; and often, as I have
remembered it, I have wished I could put on his spirit in the same way.
He did it as a matter of course. And such was the effect of his example
on his children that there was not one of them that would not be ashamed
to show the ‘white feather’ in the presence of external difficulties.

“When I was a boy I learned some hymns, and committed to memory an
indefinite number of texts, and waded a certain distance into the
catechism, never getting through it; and I forgot them again very
quickly. But I do not think all of them put together exerted any
material influence upon me one way or the other—they did not remain in
my mind to be understood when I was older; but a great many things which
my father did, but which neither he nor anybody else spoke of, have had
a strong influence on my whole life. For instance, his defying the
elements, making himself master in every condition and under all
circumstances, and exhibiting an indomitable pluck which did not pause
nor shrink—that made a powerful impression upon me, and has been one of
the reasons of the success of my life; not just here and now, but in my
earlier career, when I was in the West on the frontier, and when I was
very poor and had to do a great deal of rough work under circumstances
of discouragement. I had an ideal of what a man should be and should do,
and it stood me in stead better than any amount of catechetical
instruction could have done.”

So joined these—the stepmother, the mother, the humble servant in the
family, Charles Smith the happy Christian black man, Aunt Esther, and
the father—hand-in-hand with nature, with the life and events that were
moving on around them, and with God, in directing and moulding him in
every part in these early years.

There were none of them, perhaps, unusual, certainly not unprecedented;
for others besides Henry Ward Beecher have had heavenly-minded and
large-hearted mothers; others, as well as he, have been trained in
conscientiousness and have had a happy Christian example set before
them, and have enjoyed the influence of fathers full of manly
inspiration, while God and nature have been with and around them, and
yet no such marked results have been seen as in him. Something native
there was in the soil that enabled it to respond to such genial
influences with such unusual fruitage. We are driven, in accounting for
this, to that especial endowment that was given to him and withheld from
others through the will of One who gives to every man according to His
own good pleasure. “And to one He gave five talents.”

His appearance and attainments at this time are thus summed up by Mrs.
Stowe: “Henry was now ten years old, a stocky, strong, well-grown boy,
loyal to duty, trained in unquestioning obedience, inured to patient
hard work, inured also to the hearing and discussing of all the great
theological problems of Calvinism which were always reverberating in his
hearing;... but as to any mechanical culture, in an extremely backward
state, a poor writer, a miserable speller, with a thick utterance, and a
bashful reticence which seemed like stolid stupidity....

“He was not marked out by the prophecies of partial friends for any
brilliant future. He had precisely the organization which often passes
for dulness in early boyhood. He had great deficiency in verbal memory—a
deficiency marked in him through life. He was excessively sensitive to
praise and blame, extremely diffident, and with a power of yearning,
undeveloped emotions which he neither understood nor could express. His
utterance was thick and indistinct, partly from bashfulness and partly
from an enlargement of the tonsils of the throat, so that in speaking or
reading he was with difficulty understood. In forecasting his horoscope,
had any one taken the trouble then to do it, the last success that ever
would have been predicted for him would have been that of an orator!
‘When Henry is sent to me with a message,’ said a good aunt, ‘I always
have to make him say it three times. The first time I have no manner of
an idea more than if he spoke in Choctaw; the second I catch a word now
and then; by the third time I begin to understand.’”

Of the bashfulness referred to in the above he says: “We had our own
fill of it in childhood. To walk into a room where ‘company’ was
assembled, and to do it erectly and naturally, was as impossible as it
would have been to fly. The sensations of sensibility were dissolving.
Our back-bone grew soft, our knees lost their stiffness, the blood
rushed to the head, and the sight almost left our eyes. We have known
something of pain in after-years, but few pangs have been more acute
than some sufferings from bashfulness in our earlier years.”

Healthy, robust, frolicksome, conscientious, obedient, loving, and
efficient, but bashful in the extreme and backward in all his studies,
is the summing-up that we must make of Henry Ward Beecher at this period
of his life.

                              CHAPTER IV.

Boyhood—Sent to School at Bethlehem—The Widow Ingersoll’s—Failure—A
    Champion—Sent to Catharine Beecher’s School in Hartford—Humorous
    Incidents—Religious Experience.

To remedy the marked defects in his training, noticed in the preceding
chapter, something must be done, or this boy will fail not only of
becoming a student but of acquiring even a decent common-school
education. Mr. Brace’s select school was tried for a year, but with
little benefit. After a good many family discussions and some
correspondence it was decided to place him in a private school in the
village of Bethlehem, seven miles distant from his home, under the care
of Mr. Langdon, to begin study in earnest. Of this important era, his
first going from home, we have not a syllable, as we are aware, from his
own pen or lips. That there was a mingled feeling of pain at leaving
home, of pleasure in the novelty, and a shrinking from the new faces and
the new duties, every one who remembers this epoch in his own life can
readily imagine. The ride, for a large part of the distance across a
broad plateau that stretched away cold and strange like the Downs of
England, was well calculated to awaken that yearning sadness which was
so prominent a feature of his secret experiences from childhood, and
gave in part that tone of melancholy which appears so markedly in
everything that we know of him at this period.

Singularly enough, he boarded with the grandmother of the one who
afterwards became his son-in-law and is now aiding to write this
biography. Her name was Ingersoll, and she is well described as a
“large-hearted, kindly woman, a widow, living in a great, comfortable
farm-house where everything was free and unconstrained.”

He was well remembered by my mother, Mrs. Martha Ingersoll Scoville,
who, being somewhat older than he, had him much under her care. She said
he was always a good boy about the house, but very bashful. “I used to
feel very sorry for him, he seemed so homesick. He liked to be off by
himself, wandering around in the woods, and I don’t think he studied

[Illustration: The Ingersoll House.]

This was true. Whether it was because this first separation from home
brought an increase of those gloomy yearnings of heartsickness to which
he was subject at times through life, or simply because of his innate
dislike to the study of mere names and forms of things, that he failed
to make progress in his books, no one knows. We only know on the
authority of his sister, Mrs. Stowe, that “Henry’s studies were mostly
with gun on shoulder roving the depths of the forest, guiltless of
hitting anything because the time was lost in dreamy contemplation.
Whence returning unprepared for school, he would be driven to the
expedient of writing out his Latin verb and surreptitiously reading it
out of the crown of his hat—an exercise from which he reaped small
profit, either mentally or morally.” This was not understood at home at
the time, and Dr. Beecher writes concerning him:

“Mr. Langdon has been faithful with Henry, and I trust successful; he
says in a letter: ‘His observance of my regulations relating to study
has become exact and punctual. His diligence all along has gradually
increased, and I think he has arrived at that full purpose which will
insure his making a scholar. My method of instruction for beginners is a
system of extended, minute, and reiterated drilling, and the make of his
mind is such as fits him to receive benefit from the operation.”

Perhaps the method of “reiterated drilling, extended and minute,” was
not so well adapted to the boy as the teacher thought. At all events we
have this testimony on the other side, that “after a year spent in this
way it began to be perceived by the elders of the family that as to the
outward and visible signs of learning he was making no progress.”

He was therefore brought home to Litchfield, leaving but one incident of
his life at Bethlehem especially worthy of note. It was this: One of the
older boys, having studied Tom Paine’s “Age of Reason,” was freely
advocating infidel sentiments and gaining a strong and vicious influence
over his companions. Young Beecher saw it and came to the rescue. He
brushed up the knowledge he had already gained at the hearth-stone and
table of his home, studied “Watson’s Apology,” challenged the advocate
of Tom Paine’s philosophy to a debate, and, in the judgment of the
school, gained a complete victory, proving himself thus early to be a
doughty champion of the faith.

The experiment at Bethlehem having proved substantially a failure, his
oldest sister, Catharine, who was then teaching a young ladies’ school
in Hartford, proposed to take the boy under her care to see what she
could do with him.

If his nature lay in strata, as has been said—the one a dreamy, yearning
melancholy lying at the bottom, which had its full exercise in his
lonely wanderings around Bethlehem; and the other, the surface one, of
humor and fun—it was the latter, constantly effervescing and exploding,
that appeared in his life in his sister’s school of thirty or forty
girls in Hartford. The story of his arranging the umbrellas on the
stairs one recess, when he was supposed to be studying grammar, so that
when the outside door was opened by a late comer the whole series rushed
pell-mell down into the street, greatly to the dismay of the teachers
and the enjoyment of the school—with whom, of course, he was a great
favorite—is well known. And one of the incidents of the recitation-room
is equally familiar, but, as it is very characteristic, we give it
place, copied verbatim from Mrs. Stowe:

“The school-room was divided into two divisions in grammar, under
leaders on either side, and the grammatical reviews were contests for
superiority in which it was vitally important that every member should
be perfected. Henry was generally the latest choice, and fell on his
side as an unfortunate accession, being held more amusing than
profitable on such occasions.

“The fair leader of one of these divisions took the boy aside to a
private apartment, to put into him with female tact and insinuation
those definitions and distinctions on which the honor of the class

“‘Now, Henry, _a_ is the indefinite article, you see, and must be used
only with a singular noun. You can say _a man_, but you can’t say _a
men_, can you?’ ‘Yes, I can say _amen_, too,’ was the ready rejoinder.
‘Father says it always at the end of his prayers.’

“‘Come, Henry, now don’t be joking! Now decline he.’ ‘Nominative he,
possessive his, objective him.’ ‘You see _his_ is possessive. Now, you
can say his book, but you can’t say him book.’ ‘Yes, I do say hymn-book,
too,’ said the impracticable scholar, with a quizzical twinkle. Each one
of these sallies made his young teacher laugh, which was the victory he
wanted. ‘But now, Henry, seriously, just attend to the active and
passive voice. Now, I strike is active, you see, because if you strike
you do something. But I am struck is passive, because if you are struck
you don’t do anything, do you?’

“‘Yes, I do—I strike back again!’”

A letter from the afore-mentioned teacher, sent to him with her New
Year’s salutation, January 1, 1858, has lately come to hand. She says,
in recalling this incident: “Memory has daguerreotyped upon my mind a
boy, a small specimen of perpetual motion, perpetual prank, and
perpetual desire to give wrong answers to every sober grammatical rule,
thereby not only overwhelming Murray but the studious gravity of a
hundred school-girls.”

“Sometimes his views of philosophical subjects were offered
gratuitously. Being held of rather a frisky nature, his sister appointed
his seat at her elbow when she heard classes. A class in natural
philosophy, not very well prepared, was stumbling through the theory of
the tides. ‘I can explain that,’ said Henry. ‘Well, you see, the sun he
catches hold of the moon and pulls her, and she catches hold of the sea
and pulls that, and this makes the spring tides.’ ‘But what makes the
neap tides?’ ‘Oh! that’s when the sun stops to spit on his hands,’ was
the brisk reply.

“After about six months Henry was returned to his parents’ hands with
the reputation of being an inveterate joker and an indifferent scholar.
It was the opinion of his class that there was much talent lying about
loosely in him, if he could only be brought to apply himself.”

Of his religious life at this time we have a glimpse in a letter written
by Dr. Beecher in November, 1825:

“Our family concert of prayer was held in the study on Thanksgiving
Day—your mother, Aunt Esther, Henry, and Charles. It was a most deeply
solemn, tender, and interesting time.... Henry and Charles have both
been awakened, and are easily affected and seriously disposed now. But
as yet it is like the wind upon the willow, which rises as soon as it is
passed over. It does not grapple, but the effect is good in giving power
to conscience, and moral principle producing amendment in conduct.”

This was during a revival which was then in progress in Litchfield, in
which the pastor was assisted by Mr. Nettleton, the great revivalist of
that period. Henry was twelve years old.

That no permanent good resulted from this work appears true, as the
doctor feared, but for a reason very different from that which he gives.

Henry Ward himself tells us why it was:

“My mother—she who in the providence of God took me to her heart when my
own mother had gone to see my Father in heaven, she who came after and
was most faithful to the charge of the children and the household—she
often took me, and prayed with me, and read me the word of God, and
expounded to me the way of duty, and did all that seemed to her
possible, I know, to make it easy for me to become a religious child;
and yet there have been times when I think it would have been easier for
me to lay my hand on a block and have it struck off than to open my
thoughts to her, when I longed to open them to some one. How often have
I started to go to her and tell her my feelings, when fear has caused me
to sheer off and abandon my purpose! My mind would open like a rosebud,
but, alas! fear would hold back the blossom. How many of my early
religious pointings fell, like an over-drugged rosebud, without a

Again, and more at length, he opens his religious experiences of the
whole period:

“I remember having religious impressions, distinct and definite, as
early as when I was eight or nine years of age.

“The first distinct religious feelings I had were in connection with
nature. Although I was born, as far as any one can be born so, a
Calvinist, and although I was conversant at a very early age with the
things which pertain to Calvinism, yet, as I look back, I see that the
only religious feelings or impressions I had were those which were
excited in my mind through the unconscious influence of God through
nature. It was not until years later that I knew it was the divine
element. I yearned, I longed, for purity and nobility. I had the
beginnings of the feeling of self-renunciation. I had a wistful desire
that something higher, something superior to myself, should be developed
out of the system of nature to help me. I had the germs of evangelical
teaching; but I never spoke to anybody about them, and it seems to me a
hermit could not have been more solitary, so far as that part of my life
was concerned, than I was.

“The next thing I remember was a transition, under the influence of
teaching, from the religious conditions and tendencies in my mind to a
speculative state. I began to listen to sermons when I was eight or nine
years old, and what seems strange is that the picturesque parts stopped
not much with me; that they faded out of my mind; that the colors were
not ‘fast’; but that I caught hold of the speculative parts,
particularly those which were most insoluble, about which men knew least
and taught most—the nature of God, the purposes of God, the scheme of
divine government, not those parts which are transcendently important,
namely, the elements of justice, truth, and morality commingled; that
God from all eternity foreknew; that, foreknowing, he predestinated;
that by predestination things were fixed, made certain; that so many as
he fore-ordained to be saved would be saved, do what they would or come
what might—my mind greedily seized on these, not merely as undoubted
facts, as they were to me, but as having special reference to myself.

“I recollect being sometimes, as it were, behind the entrenchments of
such a doctrine, and wishing I could get over them, and feeling that I
would give everything in the world if I only knew that I was one of the
elect, and praying that God would in some way let me know whether I was
or not.

“At other times it would come in this shape: I had probably been
reprimanded for a misdemeanor or a delinquency, or something of that
sort. I used to be melancholy and to sit in judgment upon myself; and I
remember thinking, ‘Well, it is no use for me to try to be a good
boy’—not a saintly boy; that sort did not abound where I was born, and I
was certainly no exception to the average run. I don’t think there are
many of that kind outside of Sunday-school books. Judged by the ordinary
standard, I was a very good boy. I had no vices, and no objectionable
tendencies except those which sprang from robust health, buoyant
spirits, and immense nerve resources. But I thought I was a base sinner.
The pulpit represented all men as being sinners, and I accepted it
absolutely and literally. I thought I was an awful transgressor; every
little fault seemed to make a dreadful sin; and I would say to myself,
‘There! I am probably one of the reprobate. I have tried to be good, but
I am going down. The probability is, I am not one of the elect; and what
is the use of my trying? If I am not fore-ordained to be saved there is
no chance for me, and I may as well go by the wholesale as by the
retail.’ So sometimes on the one side and sometimes on the other these
thoughts wrought upon me. Not once or twice merely, but many times, they
passed through my mind. They were the sub-base, as it were, of my life.
I think it was a period of fifteen or twenty years before I got relief
from that undertone. It had some advantages and not a few disadvantages.

“If I had had the influence of a discreet, sympathetic Christian person
to brood over and help and encourage me, I should have been a Christian
child from my mother’s lap, I am persuaded; but I had no such influence.
The influences of a Christian family were about me, to be sure, but they
were generic; and I revolved in these speculative experiences, my strong
religious habitudes taking the form of speculation all through my
childhood. I recollect that from the time that I was about ten years old
I began to have periods when my susceptibilities were so profoundly
impressed that the outward manifestations of my nature were changed. I
remember that when my brother George—who was next older than I, and who
was beginning to be my helpful companion, to whom I looked up—became a
Christian, being awakened and converted in college, it seemed as though
a gulf had come between us, and as though he was a saint on one side of
it while I was a little reprobate on the other side. It was awful to me.
If there had been a total eclipse of the sun I should not have been in
more profound darkness outwardly than I was inwardly. I did not know
whom to go to; I did not dare to go to my father; I had no mother that I
ever went to at such a time; I did not feel like going to my brother;
and I did not go to anybody. I felt that I must try to wrestle out my
own salvation.

“Once, on coming home, I heard the bell toll, and I learned that it was
for the funeral of one of my companions with whom I had been accustomed
to play, and with whom I had grown up. I did not know that he had been
sick, but he had dropped into eternity; and the ringing, swinging,
booming of that bell, if it had been the sound of an angel trumpet of
the last day, would not have seemed to me more awful. I went into an
ecstasy of anguish. At intervals, for days and weeks, I cried and
prayed. There was scarcely a retired place in the garden, in the
wood-house, in the carriage-house, or in the barn that was not a scene
of my crying and praying. It was piteous that I should be in such a
state of mind, and that there should be nobody to help me and lead me
out into the light. I do not recollect that to that day one word had
been said to me, or one syllable had been uttered in the pulpit, that
led me to think there was any mercy in the heart of God for a sinner
like me. For a sinner that had repented it was thought there was pardon;
but how to repent was the very thing I did not know. A converted sinner
might be saved, but for a poor, miserable, faulty boy, that pouted, and
got mad at his brothers and sisters, and did a great many naughty
things, there was no salvation so far as I had learned. My innumerable
shortcomings and misdemeanors were to my mind so many pimples that
marked my terrible depravity; and I never had the remotest idea of God
except that he was a Sovereign who sat with a sceptre in his hand and
had his eye on me, and said: ‘I see you, and I am after you.’ So I used
to live in perpetual fear and dread, and often I wished myself dead. I
tried to submit and lay down the weapons of my rebellion, I tried to
surrender everything; but it did not seem to do any good, and I thought
it was because I did not do it right. I tried to consecrate myself to
God, but all to no purpose. I did everything, so far as I could, that
others did who professed to be Christians, but I did not feel any
better. I passed through two or three revivals. I remember, when Mr.
Nettleton was preaching in Litchfield, going to carry a note to him from
father; and for a sensitive, bashful boy like me it was a severe ordeal.
I went to the room where he was speaking, with the note in my trembling
hand, and had to lay it on the desk beside him. Before I got half-way
across the floor I was dazed and everything seemed to swim around me;
but I made out to get the note to him, and he said: ‘That’s enough; go
away, boy,’ and I sort of backed and stumbled toward the door (I was
always stumbling and blundering in company), and sat down. He was
preaching in those whispered tones which always seem louder than thunder
to the conscience, although they are only whispers in the ear. He had
not uttered more than three sentences before my feelings were excited,
and the more I listened the more awful I felt; and I said to myself: ‘I
will stay to the inquiry meeting.’ I heard Mr. Nettleton talk about
souls writhing under conviction, and I thought my soul was writhing
under conviction. I had heard father say that after persons had writhed
under conviction a week or two they began to come out, and I said:
‘Perhaps I will get out’; and that thought produced in me a sort of
half-exhilaration of joy. I stayed to the inquiry meeting, felt better,
and trotted home with the hope that I was on the way toward conversion.
I went through this revival with that hope strengthened; but it did not
last long.”

It is evident from this chapter that if we would understand Henry Ward
Beecher and the influences that went to the formation of his character
and to the success of his life, other things than parentage, home,
school, or nature must be taken into the account. The vast things of the
invisible realm have begun to speak to him, and his nature has proved to
be peculiarly sensitive to their influence.

He is thus early groping, unresting, and unsatisfied; but it is among
mountains, and not in marshes or quicksands. Some day these mountain
truths, among which he now wanders in darkness, shall be radiant in his
sight with the Divine Compassion and his gloom shall give place to
abiding love, joy, and peace.

                               CHAPTER V.

Boston—Home Atmosphere—Various Experiences—Ethics rubbed in by a
    six-pound Shot—Discontent—Makes up his mind to go to Sea—To Study
    Navigation—Picture of his Life in Boston.

In the spring of 1826 Dr. Lyman Beecher moved with his family to Boston.
Henry Ward was thirteen years old the following June, “a green, healthy
country lad,” “with a round, full, red-cheeked face.” Here a new world
opened to him and a new set of influences was brought to bear upon him.

The same home life was around him, and, if possible, more intense than
ever; for Dr. Beecher had come to Boston to be the champion “of the
Faith once delivered to the saints,” and he threw himself into the work
with all the zeal and enthusiasm of an intensely ardent nature.

He had watched with intense interest every step of that reaction in
Massachusetts from the strict theocracy of the Puritans, called the
“Unitarian Controversy.” He thoroughly understood and heartily condemned
the process, employed by the wealthy and literary classes, of taking
away from the church, composed presumably of regenerate persons, the
power to govern their own affairs and of giving it to the congregation,
which was often composed of men hostile to a spiritual religion. He had
seen the dominant majority enter into the possession of church edifices
and church property, employ ministers opposed to the old faith, and
drive the orthodox ministry out into school-houses and town-halls; and
old foundations established by the fathers to perpetuate the faith had
been seized and made to support opposite and antagonistic views. All
this had kindled in him a burning indignation against the wrong that had
been perpetrated, and a deep sympathy for the brethren who had suffered.
“It was as a fire in my bones,” he said. “My mind was all the time
heating, heating, heating.”

“His family prayers,” we are told by Mrs. Stowe, “at this period,
departing from the customary forms of unexcited hours, became often
upheavings of passionate emotion such as I shall never forget. ‘Come,
Lord Jesus,’ he would say, ‘here where the bones of the fathers rest,
here where the crown has been torn from thy brow—come and recall thy
wandering children. Behold thy flock scattered on the mountains; these
sheep, what have they done? Gather them, gather them, O Good Shepherd,
for their feet stumble upon the dark mountains.”

Mr. Beecher in after-years spoke of the work here as something deeper
than a mere dispute between rival denominations or antagonistic creeds.
“The outward form of the great excitement was that of controversy
between the Unitarian and Calvinistic faiths. But, as compared with the
great inward reality, this was but superficial. It was broader than any
doctrinal controversy, deeper than any sectarian conflict. It was a
resurrection of vital religion, in all churches of every name, and in
the Unitarian churches as well as the Evangelical.”

It will be seen that the same atmosphere of deep feeling and triumphant
faith, if possible more tropical and more thoroughly charged with
electricity, continued in the new as in the old home; but outside the
family very different influences were brought to bear upon the lad, and
he was led out into a much wider range of experiences. We give as many
of these as space will allow.

The first thing that greatly impressed him seems to have been the bells:

“Is there any boy left in Boston to whose ears the Christ Church chimes
sound as they did to mine? Some travelled persons in Litchfield had
informed me that the churches in Boston were so thick that the bells on
Sunday morning would almost play a tune. The first Sunday morning after
the family took possession of the house in Sheafe Street, being in the
back-yard, I heard in a wondrous manner the tune of ‘Greenville,’ played
on bells! The whole air was full of ‘Greenville.’

“I was fully persuaded that this was the thing predicted, and that this
tune simply fell into place among the vast number of bell-strokes. Too
young to analyze or reason upon the matter, I listened with a pleasure
and amazement which I fear nothing will ever give me again till I hear
the bells ring out wondrous things in the New Jerusalem. Blessed city!
in which dwelt so divine a spirit of harmony that some airy hand
governed the widely scattered belfries, and taught the notes which each
bell carelessly struck to come together in time and tune, and march
through the air in harmony. And when, after a few minutes, the tune
changed and ‘St. Martyn’s’ came sadly and slowly through the air, I
could contain myself no longer, but rushed, red and eager, to bring out
‘Charles,’ the inseparable companion of all my marvels, who opened his
great eyes with a look of amazement as utter and implicit as if he had
been a young devotee witnessing his first miracle. I expounded to him
the cause, taking for text the reports which had been made to me while
yet in the country. Alas for marvels! The cook, overhearing, laughed us
out of countenance, and explained that it was a chime of bells, and also
what a chime was. Of course we were wiser and less happy. But never, in
forty years, has that _chime_ of bells sounded in my ears without
bringing back, for a second, the first electric shock of wonder and

“Next to Boston bells were Boston ships. Here first we beheld a ship! We
shall never again see anything that will so profoundly affect our
imagination. We stood and gazed upon the ship, and smelt the sea-air,
and looked far out along the water to the horizon, and all that we had
ever read of buccaneers, of naval battles, of fleets of merchantmen, of
explorations into strange seas, among rare and curious things, rose up
in a cloud of mixed and changing fancies, until we scarcely knew whether
we were in the body or out. How many hours have we asked and wanted no
better joy than to sit at the end of the wharf, or on the deck of some
newly-come ship, and rock and ride on the stream of our own unconscious
imagination! We went to school in Boston Harbor.

“Next to the merchant marine was the Navy-Yard. We stole over to
Charlestown almost every week. With what awe we walked past the long
rows of unmounted cannon! With what exhilaration we looked forth from
the mounted sea-battery that looked down the harbor, and just waited for
some Britisher to dare to come in sight! We have torn any number of
ships to pieces with those cannon, with imagination for our commodore
and patriotism for our cannoneer. There have been great battles in
Boston harbor that nobody knows anything about but ourself!”

Other experiences there were of a different nature.

The peaceful life of the quiet New England village, where each one took
his place mostly by the position of the family and held it largely
undisturbed, had given way to that of a city full of antagonisms and
strife. It was a life not exactly in accordance with the instructions of
a well-regulated Christian family, but its rough experiences were
undoubtedly adapted to bring out some qualities that were useful in an
after-career in which battle was to have so prominent a place.

“It was with some slight contempt that we beheld our first companions.
Our first home was in Sheafe Street, far down at the North End, next
door to Mr. Gay, the landlord. The boys thereabouts were smart and
lively, but few of them could wrestle, and none of them often held out
with us in a downright race. I was always long-winded, even before I
began public speaking.

“In those days no boy was a good boy among his fellows who had not the
courage of battle. It was the duty of all living in certain districts,
upon proper occasion, to fight the boys of other streets or districts.
The Salem-Streeters included all the small streets adjacent—Sheafe
Street, Bennett Street, etc. When nothing else was on hand small
scrimmages were gotten up between ourselves—Sheafe Street vs. Bennett
Street, etc.; but we all united against Prince Street. Prince-Streeters
were the natural enemies of all the surrounding streets. Yet, when the
West-Enders came over in battle array, yelling, throwing stones, and
driving in the timid lads caught out of bounds, all the North-Enders
rose, forgot their local feuds, and went forth in awful array to
chastise the wretches that lived at the West End. And if one were to
believe all the feats of which we boasted for a month thereafter, he
would be sure that since the days that Homer sang no such fighting had
ever taken place.

“But what were all these things to that implacable and ineradical hatred
which all true Boston boys entertained against Charlestown Pigs? For by
such a title did we expose the meanness, the degradation, the cowardice,
the utter despicableness of a boy born the other side of the ‘draw’ of
the Charlestown Bridge!”

While the father was coming to leadership in the pulpit his son Henry
was reaching the same point in his set by the only way opened to him at
that time.

“Copp’s Hill? It recalled many a boyish prank. One sport engaged our
youthful leisure. It was called ‘Follow your leader.’ It was considered
as a testimony to one’s courage when, by acclamation, he was elected to
leadership! The game was simple; but the results, always amusing, were
sometimes somewhat too stimulating for pleasure. The leader started upon
a run, with a long trail of boys in a line behind him, whom he
endeavored to throw off by doing things which they were not strong
enough or skilful or daring enough to imitate. If twenty boys started,
half would drop away, after a sharp run, by mere want of breath; another
section could be thrown off by some feat that terrified them.

“We recall one memorable chase. Called to the head of the column, I
plunged down Margaret’s Lane, up Prince and back, up toward Copp’s Hill,
reducing my followers, by sheer exhaustion, one-half. A brick house was
going up; into it I dashed, ran up the ladder, walked along the
floor-joists, and let myself down by a rope attached to a guy on the
front. Only six or seven could follow. A large mortar-bed lay near by. I
dashed into that, wading through the slush. Five came out on the other
side with me. Tough five! They followed me into a shop, right back into
the adjacent parlor, out at a side-door, though some of the last got the
yard-stick well laid on by the indignant shop-keeper, and the last one
out came dripping from a pail of water which a woman flung after ‘the
nasty varmints,’ as she styled us. Many other feats did we, but in vain.
The five would stick. I remember that a large part of Copp’s Hill had
been dug down for filling the ‘Causeway,’ leaving a precipitous
face—well, say fifty feet high to the eyes, but, if measured, perhaps
twenty feet. Ascending the hill, I drew near the verge, a little
hesitant to venture the plunge. But to confess that I dare not do
_anything_ would be disgraceful, and so, with but a moment’s pause, I
jumped for a little crumbling foothold half-way down, and off from that,
as soon as on it, to the bottom, which I reached in a heap, with dirt
and stones and two boys following after! Not stopping to rub my shins,
rejoicing that only two were left, and desperate, I took my way to the
near wharf where ‘Billy Gray’s’ ships used to be, climbed the side, ran
along the deck, up the bowsprit, far out, and then, with a spring, off
into deep water! Down, down, down we went, and seemed likely to go on
for ever. At length the descent stopped, and we rose again to the
surface—O joy!—to see the two boys standing on the bowsprit! They did
not dare! That day’s work established our reputation! We know how
Alexander felt! Cæsar and Napoleon can tell us nothing new about the
glories of victory!”

That his country honesty was not altogether proof against the
temptations of his life in the city is shown by a description he gives,
in “Eyes and Ears,” of his successful attempt to purloin a six-pound
cannon-ball from the Navy-Yard:

“One day I visited some ill-constructed vaults where shot had been
stored. The six and twelve pound shot were extremely tempting. I had no
particular use for them. I am to this day puzzled to know why I coveted
them. There was no chance in the house to roll them, and as little in
the street. For base-ball or shinty they were altogether too
substantial. But I was seized with an irresistible desire to possess
one. As I had been well brought up, of course the first objection arose
on the score of stealing. But I disposed of that, with a patriotic
facility that ought long before this to have sent me to Congress, by the
plea that it was no sin to steal from the government. Next, how should I
convey the shot from the Yard without detection? I tried it in my
handkerchief. That was altogether too plain. I tried my jacket-pocket,
but the sag and shape of that alarmed my fears. I tried my
breeches-pocket, but the abrupt protuberance was worse than all. I had a
good mind to be honest, since there was no feasible way of carrying it
off. At length a thought struck me: Wrap a handkerchief about it and put
it in your hat.

“The iron ball was accordingly swaddled with the handkerchief and
mounted on my head, and the hat shut over it. I emerged from the vault a
little less courageous than was pleasant, and began my march toward the
gate. Every step seemed a mile. Every man I met looked unusually hard at
me. The marines evidently were suspecting my hat. Some sailors, leering
and rolling toward the ships, seemed to look me through. The
perspiration stood all over my face as an officer came toward me. Now
for it! I was to be arrested, put in prison, cat-o’-nine-tailed, or
shot, for aught I knew. I wished the ball in the bottom of the sea; but
no, it was on the top of my head!

“By this time, too, it had grown very heavy; I must have made a mistake
in selecting! I meant a six-pounder, but I was sure it must have been a
twelve-pounder, and before I got out of the Yard it weighed twenty-four
pounds! I began to fear that the stiffness with which I carried my neck
would excite suspicion, and so I tried to limber up a little, which had
nearly ruined me, for the shot took a roll around my crown in a manner
that liked to have brought me and my hat to the ground. Indeed, I felt
like a loaded cannon, and every man and everything was like a spark
trying to touch me off. The gate was a great way farther off than I had
ever found it before; I seemed likely never to get there.

“And when at length, heartsore and headsore, with my scalp well rolled,
I got to the gate, all my terror came to a culmination as the sentinel
stopped his marching, drew himself up, and, looking through me, smiled.
I expected him to say: ‘O you little thievish devil, do you think I do
not see through you?’ But, bless his heart! he only said: ‘Pass!’ He did
not say it twice. I walked a few steps farther, and then, having great
faith in the bravery of my feet, I pulled my hat off before me, and,
carrying it in that position, I whipped around the first corner and made
for the bridge with a speed which Flora Temple would envy.

“When I reached home I had nothing to do with my shot. I did not dare
show it in the house nor tell where I got it; and after one or two
solitary rolls I gave it away on the same day to a Prince-Streeter.

“But, after all, that six-pounder rolled a good deal of sense into my
skull. I think it was the last thing I ever stole (excepting a little
matter of a heart now and then), and it gave me a notion of the folly of
coveting more than you can enjoy, which has made my whole life happier.
It was rather a severe mode of catechising, but ethics rubbed in with a
six-pound shot are better than none at all.”

His student life, which had been such a failure heretofore, was improved
a little, and but a little. By means of the pressure of school
discipline, backed up and made formidable by family pride and the advice
and exhortations heard at home, he managed to make fair progress in most
of his studies, especially in the rules and exceptions of the Latin
grammar, and to the day of his death was able to establish his claims to
proficiency in that language by rattling off the list of eleven
prepositions that govern the ablative. But his heart was not in the
work. Disgust, insurrection, revolution, was the stormy way along which
he was rapidly travelling.

This period in his own life is described in “Norwood”: “Long before the
Amazon reaches the ocean it has grown so wide that from the channel no
shore can be seen from either side. It is still a river, but with all
the signs and symptoms of becoming an ocean. There is a period,
beginning not far from fourteen, in young lives, when childhood is
widened suddenly, and carries its banks so far out that manhood seems
begun, though as yet it is far off. The stream is ocean-deep. Upon this
estuary of youth the currents are shifting, the eddies are many. Here
are united the strength of the sea and the hindrances of the land.

“The important organic changes which, in our zone, take place in the
second full seven of years, produce important results even in the
coldest temperaments and in the slenderest natures. But in persons of
vigor of body and strength of feeling there is frequently an uprising
like a city in insurrection. The young nature, swelling to the new
influences with a sense of unmeasurable strength, sometimes turbulent
with passions, but always throbbing with excited feelings led on and fed
by tantalizing fancies, seems transformed from its previous self and
becomes a new nature. New moral forces are developed into activity.
Aspirations begin to quicken the soul. Ambitions grow nobler.”

Mrs. Stowe says: “The era of fermentation and development was upon him,
and the melancholy that had brooded over his childhood waxed more
turbulent and formidable. He grew gloomy and moody, restless and
irritable. His father, noticing the change, got him on a course of
biographical reading, hoping to divert his thoughts. He began to read
naval histories, the lives of great sailors and commanders, the voyages
of Captain Cook, the biography of Nelson; and immediately, like
lightning flashing out of rolling clouds, came the determination not to
rest any longer in Boston, learning terminations and prepositions, but
to go forth to a life of enterprise. He made up his little bundle,
walked the wharf and talked with sailors and captains, hovered
irresolute on the verge of voyages, never quite able to grieve his
father by a sudden departure. At last he wrote a letter announcing to a
brother that he could and would no longer remain at school; that he had
made up his mind for the sea; that if not permitted to go he should go
without permission. This letter was designedly dropped where his father
picked it up. Dr. Beecher put it in his pocket and said nothing for the
moment, but the next day asked Henry to help him saw wood. Now, the
wood-pile was the doctor’s favorite debating-ground, and Henry felt
complimented by the invitation, as implying manly companionship.

“‘Let us see,’ said the doctor, ‘Henry, how old are you?’ ‘Almost
fourteen!’ ‘Bless me! How boys do grow! Why, it’s almost time to be
thinking what you are going to do. Have you ever thought?’ ‘Yes; I want
to go to sea.’ ‘To sea! Of all things! Well, well! After all, why not?
Of course you don’t want to be a common sailor. You want to get into the
navy?’ ‘Yes, sir; that’s what I want.’ ‘But not merely as a common
sailor, I suppose?’ ‘No, sir; I want to be a midshipman, and after that
a commodore.’ ‘I see,’ said the doctor cheerfully. ‘Well, Henry, in
order for that, you know, you must begin a course of mathematics and
study navigation and all that.’ ‘Yes, sir; I am ready.’ ‘Well, then, I
will send you up to Amherst next week, to Mount Pleasant, and then
you’ll begin your preparatory studies, and if you are well prepared I
presume I can make interest to get you an appointment.’”

And so he went to Mount Pleasant, in Amherst, Mass., and Dr. Beecher
said shrewdly: “I shall have that boy in the ministry yet.”

In a sermon preached by his brother, Rev. T. K. Beecher, we have this

“All of you know more about ‘Henry Ward Beecher’ than I do, but I know
more about ‘Brother Henry’ than you do.

“A little Boston boy five years old had a brother Henry who was sixteen,
and a brother Charles who was fourteen; and though he knew of David and
Goliath, who ‘fell down slambang,’ and David, ‘little David ran up and
cut his head off’! though he knew about Samson and the lion, yet for the
present strength and greatness Henry and Charles were his heroes. Did
they not own a long sled and coast down Copp’s Hill and jump sixteen
sleds at the bounce? Did they not sharpen skates with enthusiasm and go
off to the mill-dam alone?

“By night when the tocsin rang and the little boy covered his head and
shivered under the sheets, did not Henry and Charles rush down two
flights of stairs and out the door, yelling fire? And they were at
school fitting for college at Mt. Pleasant. Their hair-trunk was two
days a-packing, and the stage took them away before daylight, leaving
the house so quiet and _so_ empty. Sixteen and five—oh! how magnificent
the boy of sixteen to the little boy of five. I speak of brother Henry.

“But at prayers, family prayers, Henry and Charles could sing, and so
could the little boy. A frail, blue-eyed, willowy mother sat in the
rocking-chair. Father would read—the little boy knew not what. But for
the singing from village hymns Henry sometimes fluted, making a queer
mouth; and then, all kneeling, it was ever asked by father, ‘Overturn
and overturn, till He whose right it is shall come and reign, King of
nations as King of saints.’

“Prayers over, Aunt Esther and the little boy, he standing in a chair,
washed the dishes, and Henry and Charles stormed out to the Latin
School. But they went to Mount Pleasant, and Mr. Colton was the teacher.
Twice a year they came home, at Thanksgiving and the summer vacation.
The expected stage drove up, and the little boy, in agony of delight
that could not be endured, hid himself on a trundle-bed under mother’s
and braided bed-cords till, searched out, he was tossed above the clouds
by great, strong brother Henry.

“At morning prayers, ‘Thou hast brought back our boys in health,’ the
little boy heard that and the ‘overturn and overturn’ part; and that
little boy, now your pastor, bears witness in your ears that the boys
were kept, and that since those days there have been overturnings not a
few. And further he tells you that those family prayers propagated the
ancestral religion in brother Henry, though they have failed to hand
down the ancestral theology.

“The boys must go to college, and leave the little boy to go to infant
school, to Miss Bull, and learn to tell the hour on a card clock, and
add, subtract, and count with an abacus. Henry in the world of departed
spirits, Amherst; Charles at Bowdoin. Every morning father praying for
our boys at college: ‘May they become good ministers of our Lord Jesus

”... Edward was a man, like father. But Henry and Charles were heroes,
doing things. How they could jump! How they whirled around the
horizontal bar! How Charles could flog a top! And Henry had peanuts and
red peppermints. Shall I ever be big and do things, and run to fires,
and go way down Milk Street?

“Yes, one vacation brother Henry took the little boy down on Milk
Street, past two Unitarian churches safely, past Tremont Theatre, past
an open stable-door where lay a red cow with monstrous horns, chewing
her big mouth with nothing in it, and looking, oh! so strong and hungry
at that little boy. But Henry wasn’t scared. He was whistling. ‘Come
along, Tom,’ he said, ‘that’s only a cow.’

“Henry and Charles at college; father and eight of us staging from
Boston to Cincinnati, leaving my heroes. Amherst and Bowdoin loom large
in my fancy still. My heroes were to stay and grow! Tidings once a
month: Charles has a fiddle, Henry has a six-keyed flute; Charles, and
something about circles and geometry; Henry, and phrenology and
temperance lectures.”

Such was his life in Boston, undoubtedly to a certain extent beneficial,
and, by reason of the activity of the streets of the city and the bustle
of the wharves, attractive. But coming at the turbulent period of his
own development, when the rough elements of its thoroughfares were more
congenial to him than the influences of its churches, libraries, or
homes, it was far from being satisfactory. Its liberty was not
altogether safe, nor were its restrictions healthful; and he says: “I
cannot see how, if I had remained much longer in Boston, I could have
escaped ruin.” We see him, therefore, start off on the lumbering
stage-coach, in the early autumn morning before daylight, for Amherst,
with a sense of relief and hearty thankfulness that he is escaped as a
bird from the snare of the fowler.

                              CHAPTER VI.

School-Life at Mount Pleasant—Mathematics—Elocution—Testimony of
    Classmates—Religious Experiences—Troubles—A Romantic
    Friendship—Another Kind—Letter of Reminiscence—A Royal School-boy.

It was in 1827, and Henry was fourteen years old, when he entered the
Mount Pleasant Institute. “He was admitted to the institution at a price
about half the usual charge, for one hundred dollars per year.” “His
appearance was robust and healthy, rather inclined to fulness of form,
with a slight pink tinge on his cheeks and a frequent smile upon his
face. In his manners and communications he was quiet, orderly, and
respectful. He was a good-looking youth.” This is the testimony of one
of his teachers, Mr. George Montague.

“I think he must have been fond of children, for he was always ready for
a frolic with me. I don’t remember how he spoke, except that he talked a
good deal and was full of life and fun.” So says a friend, in whose home
he boarded, in a letter written during the past year.

No place could have been better fitted to the condition of the boy, as
he then was, than the one chosen. He was tired of the city with its
brick walls, stone pavements, and artificial restrictions, and longed
for the freedom and the freshness of the country. Amherst at that time
was only a small village, fighting back with indifferent success the
country that pressed in upon it from every side, and offering this
city-sick lad, almost within a stone’s throw of the school, the same
kind of fields and forests that were around him at Litchfield, and
spreading out for him a landscape equal in beauty to that of his
childhood home.

Besides, he has an object in view that stirs his blood. He is to fit
himself for the navy; his father has promised his influence to get him
an appointment, if wanted, and Admiral Nelson and all other brave
admirals and commodores are his models. For the first time in his life
he takes hold of study with enthusiasm.

The institution was very popular in its day, and a great advance upon
the old academy. It was semi-military in its methods, and in its
government there was great thoroughness without severity. Its teachers
possessed superior qualifications, and all were men of great kindness as
well as of marked ability. Among them were two men who especially had
great influence in directing his energies and preparing him not only for
Amherst College but for the greater work beyond, and who were ever
remembered by him with the deepest gratitude.

The first of these was W. P. Fitzgerald, the teacher of mathematics at
Mount Pleasant school:

“He taught me to conquer in studying. There is a very hour in which a
young nature, tugging, discouraged, and weary with books, rises with the
consciousness of victorious power into masterhood. For ever after he
knows that he can learn anything if he pleases. It is a distinct
intellectual ‘conversion.’

“I first went to the blackboard, uncertain, soft, full of whimpering.
‘THAT LESSON MUST BE LEARNED,’ he said, in a very quiet tone, but with a
terrible intensity and with the certainty of Fate. All explanations and
excuses he trod under foot with utter scornfulness. ‘I want that
problem. I don’t want any reasons why I don’t get it.’

“‘I did study it two hours.’

“‘That’s nothing to me; I want the lesson. You need not study it at all,
or you may study it ten hours—just to suit yourself. I want the lesson.
Underwood, go to the blackboard!’

“‘Oh! yes, but Underwood got somebody to _show_ him his lesson.’

“‘What do I care _how_ you get it? That’s your business. But you must
have it.’

“It was tough for a green boy, but it seasoned him. In less than a month
I had the most intense sense of intellectual independence and courage to
defend my recitations.

“In the midst of a lesson his cold and calm voice would fall upon me in
the midst of a demonstration—‘_No!_’ I hesitated, stopped, and then went
back to the beginning; and, on reaching the same spot again, ‘_No!_’
uttered with the tone of perfect conviction, barred my progress. ‘The
next!’ and I sat down in red confusion. He too was stopped with ‘No!’
but went right on, finished, and, as he sat down, was rewarded with,
‘Very well.’

“‘Why,’ whimpered I, ‘I recited it just as he did, and you said No!’

“‘Why didn’t you say _Yes_, and stick to it? It is not enough to know
your lesson. You must _know_ that you know it. You have learned nothing
till you are _sure_. If all the world says _No_, your business is to say
_Yes_ and to _prove it_!’”

The other helper of this period was John E. Lovell.

In a column of the _Christian Union_ of July 14, 1880, devoted to
“Inquiring Friends,” appeared this question with the accompanying

“We heard Mr. Beecher lecture recently in Boston and found the lecture a
grand lesson in elocution. If Mr. Beecher would give through the column
of ‘Inquiring Friends’ the methods of instruction and practice pursued
by him, it would be very thankfully received by a subscriber and
student. / / / / / / E. D. M.

“I had from childhood a thickness of speech arising from a large palate,
so that when a boy I used to be laughed at for talking as if I had
pudding in my mouth. When I went to Amherst I was fortunate in passing
into the hands of John Lovell, a teacher of elocution, and a better
teacher for my purpose I cannot conceive. His system consisted in drill,
or the thorough practice of inflexions by the voice, of gesture,
posture, and articulation. Sometimes I was a whole hour practising my
voice on a word—like ‘justice.’ I would have to take a posture,
frequently at a mark chalked on the floor. Then we would go through all
the gestures, exercising each movement of the arm and the throwing open
the hand. All gestures except those of precision go in curves, the arm
rising from the side, coming to the front, turning to the left or right.
I was drilled as to how far the arm should come forward, where it should
start from, how far go back, and under what circumstances these
movements should be made. It was drill, drill, drill, until the motions
almost became a second nature. Now I never know what movements I shall
make. My gestures are natural, because this drill made them natural to
me. The only method of acquiring an effective education is by practice,
of not less than an hour a day, until the student has his voice and
himself thoroughly subdued and trained to right expression.

                                                           H. W. B.”

Mr. Montague says: “Mr. Beecher submitted to Mr. Lovell’s drilling and
training with a patience which proved his interest in the study to be
great. The piece which was to be spoken was committed to memory from Mr.
Lovell’s mouth, the pupil standing on the stage before him, and every
sentence and word, accent and pronunciation, position and movement of
the body, glance of the eye and tone of voice, all were subjects of
study and criticism. And day after day, often for several weeks in
continuance, Mr. Beecher submitted to this drilling upon the same piece,
until his teacher pronounced him perfect.”

His dramatic power was displayed and noted at this early period. Dr.
Thomas Field, a classmate in the school, says: “One incident occurred
during our residence in Mount Pleasant which left an abiding impression
on my mind. At the exhibition at the close of the year, either 1828 or
1829, the drama of ‘William Tell’ was performed by some of the students,
and your father took the part of the tyrant Gessler. Although sixty
years have passed, I think now, as I thought then, that it was the most
impressive performance I ever witnessed.”

His love of flowers was so marked as to attract the attention of a
gardener in the village, who gave him the use of a plot of ground where
he might sow and plant what he chose; and here the boy spent many a
play-hour in digging, sowing, and weeding, that he might enjoy the
beauty which his own hand had been instrumental in producing. “In this
garden-corner the chaplain of Mount Pleasant Institute found him one day
lost in admiration for the opening buds and beautiful blossoms that were
unfolding under his culture, and could not forbear to improve the
opportunity and administer a gentle rebuke to the enthusiastic youth.
‘Ah! Henry,’ he said, ‘these things are pretty, very pretty, but, my
boy, do you think that such things are worthy to occupy the attention of
a man who has an immortal soul?’” The boy was abashed before so much
dignity, and, we may add, stupidity, and assuming the stolid look that
his bashfulness had made natural, at this time, under such
circumstances, went on with his work among the flowers; but he said
afterwards that he wanted to tell him that “since Almighty God had taken
time to make these trifles, it did not seem amiss for him to take time
to look at them.” So, now a youth, he is walking as when a child among
flowers, and the leader of the boys in their most venturesome sports is
kneeling in adoring silence over beds of pansies and asters, and feeding
the hunger of his soul with the beauty of their forms and colors.

In a letter dated December 24, 1828, addressed to his sister Harriet—the
first that has come to our hands from Mount Pleasant—he gives some
account of his manner of life at school, and various experiences:


”... I have to rise in the morning at half-past five o’clock, and after
various little duties, such as fixing of room, washing, etc., which
occupies about an hour, we proceed to breakfast, from thence to chapel,
after which we have about ten minutes to prepare for school. Then we
attend school from eight to twelve. An hour at noon is allowed for
diversions of various sorts. Then dinner. After that school from
half-past one to half-past four. At night we have about an hour and a
half; then tea. After tea we have about ten minutes; then we are called
to our rooms till nine.

“Now I will tell you how I occupy my spare time—in reading, writing, and
playing the flute. We are forming a band here. I shall play either the
flute or hautboy. I enjoy myself _pretty_ well. In Latin I am studying
Sallust. As to ease, all I have to do is to study straight ahead. It
comes _pretty_ easy. My Greek is rather hard. I am as yet studying the
grammar and Jacob’s Greek Reader. In elocution we read and speak
alternately every other day.

”... I find it hard to keep as a Christian ought to. To be sure, I find
delight in prayer, but I cannot find time to be alone sufficiently. We
have in our room only two, one besides myself, but he is most of my
play-hours practising on some instrument or other. I have some time, to
be sure, but it is very irregular, and I never know when I shall have an
opportunity for private devotions until the time comes. I do not like to
read the Bible as well as to pray, but I suppose it is the same as it is
with a lover, who loves to talk with his mistress in person better than
to write when she is afar off....

                                         “Your affectionate brother,

His religious experience, of which we have heard nothing since he left
Litchfield, the life in Boston apparently not being very favorable to
it, again attracts our attention at this point. He says:

“When I was fourteen years of age I left Boston and went to Mount
Pleasant. There broke out while I was there one of those infectious
religious revivals which have no basis of judicious instruction, but
spring from inexperienced zeal. It resulted in many mushroom hopes, and
I had one of them; but I do not know how or why I was converted. I only
know I was in a sort of day-dream, in which I hoped I had given myself
to Christ.

“I wrote to father expressing this hope; he was overjoyed, and sent me a
long, kind letter on the subject. But in the course of three or four
weeks I was nearly over it; and I never shall forget how I felt, not
long afterward, when a letter from father was handed me in which he said
I must anticipate my vacation a week or two and come home and join the
Church on the next Communion Sabbath. The serious feelings I had were
well-nigh gone, and I was beginning to feel quite jolly again, and I did
not know what to do. I went home, however, and let them take me into the
Church. A kind of pride and shamefacedness kept me from saying I did not
think I was a Christian, and so I was made a church-member.”

In an editorial in the _Independent_, written in 1862, upon the
disbanding of this old church, the Bowdoin Street—originally Hanover
Street—Church, Boston, he describes this event:

“If somebody will look in the old records of Hanover Street church about
1829 they will find a name there of a boy about fifteen years old who
was brought into the Church on a sympathetic wave, and who well
remembers how cold and almost paralyzed he felt while the committee
questioned him about his ‘hope’ and ‘evidences,’ which, upon review,
amounted to this: that the son of such a father ought to be a good and
pious boy. Being tender-hearted and quick to respond to moral sympathy,
he had been caught and inflamed in a school excitement, but was just
getting over it when summoned to Boston to join the church! On the
morning of _the_ day he went to church without seeing anything he looked
at. He heard his name called from the pulpit among many others, and
trembled; rose up with every emotion petrified; counted the spots on the
carpet; looked piteously up at the cornice; heard the fans creak in the
pews near him; felt thankful to a fly that lit on his face, as if
something familiar at last had come to break an awful trance; heard
faintly a reading of the Articles of Faith; wondered whether he should
be struck dead for not feeling more—whether he should go to hell for
touching the bread and wine, that he did not dare to take nor to refuse;
spent the morning service uncertain whether dreaming, or out of the
body, or in a trance; and at last walked home crying, and wishing he
knew what, now that he was a Christian, he should do, and how he was to
do it. Ah! well, there is a world of things in children’s minds that
grown-up people do not imagine, though they too once were young.”

Unsatisfactory in many respects as was his religious experience, it
seems to have been powerful enough to change his whole ideal of life. We
hear no more of his becoming a sailor. He appears to have yielded to the
inevitable, and henceforth studies with the ministry in view.

That there was awakened in him a strong sense of duty and a deep
earnestness of purpose appears from a letter written from the school to
his brother Edward:

                                   “_Mount Pleasant_, July 11, 1829.


“I have been expecting a letter from you all the time; but I suppose you
have too much to do to write letters. Mr. Newton has set up a
Bible-class on Sabbath morning for the larger boys, and a Sabbath-school
on Sabbath afternoon for the smaller boys. The Bible-classes are very
interesting indeed. He first began with the 73d Psalm; then he commenced
the New Testament and is going through it in course. The boys generally
are very much pleased with the lecture.

“On Wednesday evenings he is a-going to deliver doctrinal sermons. All
with whom I have conversed on the subject are very desirous that he
should commence them.

“There has been a boy named Forsyth who has since the revival been very
active in the cause of religion, and promised to be a man of great
usefulness; he is a boy of great influence, and he has gone back. He
does not oppose religion, but wishes that he had it. His going back has
caused a great deal of sorrow here among the boys who profess to be

“I room with Homes at present; he is, I think, very amiable and pious.
We have prayers together every evening. Then he has an hour in the
morning and I an hour in the evening for private devotions. I find that
if I neglect prayer even _once_ that I do not desire to pray again as
much as I did before, and the more I pray the more I love to do it.

“At present I am comparing the Evangelists together, and looking up the
passages in the Old which are referred to in the New Testament.

“Charles and I correspond regularly. In order to make it profitable as
well as interesting, we have in every letter some difficult passage for
one another to explain. I like the plan very much.

“Our examination is over, and exhibition also. I send you one of our
papers (published at the institution), which has a scheme of the
exhibition. I got through my examinations very well. I hope that you
will find time to answer this soon. Give my best love to any of the
family who may be in Boston, and Aunt Homes’s family.

                                           “Your affec. brother,
                                                    “H. W. BEECHER.“

In another one to the same, dated August, 1829, he says:


“I received your letter Sabbath eve. I expect father received a letter
from me about the same time that you did this one, in which I asked him
to explain some things from the Bible to me.... While I think of it, Mr.
Newton explains the Bible twice a week now instead of once. He presses
the boys to the study of the Bible and to prayer more than any minister
I ever knew, and I believe it to be not without effect. I, for one, have
read my Bible more and studied it more. Father recommended me to keep a
little book in which I should put all my loose thoughts. I got one about
a month since and have filled a good deal of it already. My studies go
pretty well. At present I am studying Cicero and the Greek reader. I
expect next term (in about five weeks) to take up the Greek Testament,
and Virgil, and mathematics. I intend to stay here another year, almost
for no other purpose than to learn mathematics, it is taught so well
here! I exercise three hours in a day. One of the questions which I
wished to ask you is this, Matthew ii. 23: ‘That it might be fulfilled
which was spoken by the prophets: He shall be called a Nazarene.’ Mr.
Newton gave one explanation, but it did not satisfy me. I have been and
am still reading Dr. Gregory’s letters on the evidences, doctrines, and
duties of the Christian religion.

“I intend to spend a part of my vacation (which will commence soon) in
Hartford. I do not exactly understand the doctrine of predestination,
and several boys have been to me and asked me to explain it to them, but
I could never do it to my own satisfaction. I am paying a considerable
attention to elocution, reading, etc.

“I wish to ask you concerning _novel_-reading. I know that to read much
of any such thing is bad, but do you think that it would injure me to
read now and then those of Scott and Cooper? Write soon as possible.

                                                Your affec. brother,

The following letter, written near the close of his school-life, affords
a view of some of his troubles, and is given entire:

                                      ”MOUNT PLEASANT, Mar. 1, 1830.


“I received your letter yesterday and have got up about an hour earlier
this morning in order that I may have time to answer it. My studies are
growing more and more difficult, for I am preparing for examination, and
most of the Greek which I am reviewing I have never been over, and I
have to learn something like _ten_ pages. Sometimes I feel almost
discouraged, and if I was studying for _myself_ alone I should have
given up long ago; but when I think that I am preparing myself to bear
the commands of Him who is my Master, I can go with renewed strength
from day to day. A little time spent here in performing our duty, and
then our toil and trouble will be rewarded with double and eternal
happiness. I feel just as you do while writing or thinking of these
things—I feel drawn up toward heaven, my home, and am enabled to look
upon the earth as a place of pilgrimage and not an abiding city. Those
are moments of true happiness, which the world knows not; but when I mix
with the boys I forget these things, and do talk and act unworthy of a
disciple of Christ. I find this to need much watchfulness and prayer,
for I believe that I take to light trifling more than people generally
do. I find much trouble with _pride_. I am afraid every day that I shall
get into some difficulty with my instructors. I feel more at liberty
when I write to you than any other of my sisters; not because I do not
love them, but because you are nearer my age. I notice many things in
reading your letter which struck me as exactly like my own feelings. I
feel when in meeting, or when reading any book, as if I should never
cease serving Christ, and could run with patience the race which is set
before me. Oh! then I have such thoughts, such views of God, and of His
love and mercy, that my heart would burst through the corrupt body of
this world and soar up with angels. Oh! how happy the thought that we
may in all the ages of eternity serve and enjoy the _presence_ of that
God, the very glimpses of whom fill us with such joy here. I believe
that if I had not somewhere to lay my troubles, if Christ had not
invited all those that are ‘weary and heavy laden’ to come unto Him,
that I should have long since been discouraged, for I do not think that
my instructors do right with me; for although they know that my lessons
are double those of any other boy, still they scold and ridicule me
during recitation, and, what is worse, the principals will at the close
of the week, when the reports are read, read off my reports and all the
remarks which are made of me by the under-instructors, and yet will not
even say (_I_ can say it with my whole heart) that I exert myself all in
my power. And the deficiency is not for want of study. Nevertheless, if
it will do me any good, if it will break down my proud spirit, if it
will make me depend more upon help from above than earthly help, I will
suffer it—yes, rejoice in it.

“I _write_ to you, Harriet, just as I would _speak_ with you; and if it
seems to you that I am childish in feeling thus, I can say perhaps I may
be, but there are feelings which I have long had, and have wished to
relate to some one whom I loved and who could advise me. I have said
little or nothing to any of my schoolmates concerning these things. You
inquired something concerning card-playing, etc. I don’t know what to
think about it. I believe that there are little societies which meet at
certain places for the purpose of playing. It is not among the large
boys only, but among those of ten or twelve years of age, and most all
the boys say ‘they would not _play, because_ it is _forbidden_ by Mr.
Colton; but they don’t _think_ there is _any harm_ in it _any more_ than
there is in playing _chess_.’ Mr. Colton knows that the boys play, and
all that he has found out he has punished in some way or other; but
there are many that he has not found who still continue to play in
secret places, and it is not uncommon to hear little boys of eight or
nine years old swearing most shockingly.

“The bell is ringing and I must begin my studies now. Write _soon_.

                                   Your most affectionate brother,

“P. S. Will you send me a few questions that will be good for a debating
society? We wish to get the best one we can for a public debate.”

Occasionally in some moment of frolicsome reminiscence he would tell one
of his grandchildren of another kind of experience that belonged to
these days. Bashful as he was and retiring by nature, he was not by any
means proof against the tender passion—in fact, such a nature as his was
just the one that its arrows would reach the earliest, and into which
they would strike deepest.

She was the sister of a schoolmate, and her name was Nancy. All this
vacation he had developed great fondness for this school friend; was
often at his house. “And there,” he said, “I would lean against the
window and watch Nancy sew, she had such little pink fingers—how I
wanted to take hold of them! And then once in a while she would just
glance up, and I would be covered with hot and awkward confusion.”

On one evening in particular he had spruced up his dress and screwed up
his courage preparatory to making an evening call, when, as the family
sat around the fire, “Lyman,” said the mother, without looking up from
her lace knitting, “Mount Pleasant is an excellent school. Henry is
improving very much. He has grown tidy, blacks his boots and brushes his
hair, and begins to pay a proper attention to his clothes.”

“At this point,” says Mr. Beecher, in telling the story, “Charles gave
an explosive giggle and punched me slyly. Father lowered his newspaper;
glancing over his glasses in our direction, seeing me covered with
confusion and Charles full of suppressed laughter, said dryly:

“‘Oh! it is the school, is it? Humph! I guess the cause is nearer

“How did it turn out, grandpa?”

“Oh! she was older than I, and married another fellow soon after. A
short time ago, after a lecture in Boston, a little old lady introduced
herself to me as ‘Nancy ———.’ But the charm was gone. I shook the once
tempting hand and felt neither awkward nor hot.”

To some of his letters of this school-boy era he signs the initials H.
_C._ B. instead of H. W. B. The adoption of this letter C came about
from that enthusiasm of friendship which was always one of his marked
characteristics. The following is the history of the matter:

On the back of a sheet of letter-paper which we have before us, folded
as if for filing, is written:

                           “HENRY W. BEECHER
                         CONSTANTINE F. NEWELL,
                 Mount Pleasant Collegiate Institution,
                            Amherst, Mass.”

Opening it we read:

“We do, in the presence of God and his holy angels, by our signatures,
mutually pledge ourselves to be and perform all things subjoined:

“(1) We do pledge ourselves to be _real_, lawful, and everlasting
_brothers_; and that we will perform toward each other _all the duties_
of brothers, whether present or _absent_, in health or in _sickness_, in
wealth or in _poverty_, in prosperity or adversity; and that we will
love and watch over one another, seeking by all means in our power to
aid and make each other happy.

                                             ”H. C. BEECHER,
                                             “CONSTANTINE F. NEWELL.

“(2) If parted hereafter we pledge ourselves to write to one another
once in two months, provided we are both in the United States. But if
either shall remove or reside in any foreign land, we will write _four_
times each year, that is, once in three months, unless we shall alter
the arrangement.

                                             ”H. C. BEECHER,
                                             “CONSTANTINE F. NEWELL.

“(3) If we hear one another’s character evil spoken of, we pledge
ourselves fearlessly to defend it and shield it from reproach.

                                             ”H. C. BEECHER,
                                             “CONSTANTINE F. NEWELL.

“(4) We will pass over the little faults which we may observe in each
other, nor will we reproach one another of any little misstep.

                                          [Signatures omitted here.]

“(5) Our sorrows and joys shall be common, so that we may rejoice in
mutual prosperity and assist one another in adversity.

                                             ”H. C. BEECHER,
                                             “CONSTANTINE F. NEWELL.

“And now we consider ourselves as _brothers_, and we are bound together
by ties and obligations as strong as can be placed upon us. But we
rather rejoice in the relationship, as now it has converted our former
friendship into brotherly love. As formerly we were connected by nothing
save voluntary friendship, which could be broken off, so now we are
connected by a love which _cannot_ be broken; and we have pledged
ourselves before God and his angels to be as written above. But we do
not sorrow on this account—far from it, we greatly rejoice—for we have
not done this thoughtlessly, but being convinced by _three years’_
friendship that we mutually love one another; and from this time are now
assumed new duties and obligations. And to all the foregoing we
cheerfully and voluntarily subscribe our names. And now may God bless us
in this our covenant and in all our future ways, and receive us both at
last in heaven.

                                             “H. C. BEECHER,
                                             “CONSTANTINE F. NEWELL.

“AMHERST, April, 1832.”

The explanation of this singular paper is found in a very romantic
history and friendship.

Constantine Fontellachi was a Greek from the island of Scio, in the
Grecian Archipelago. His parents were killed by the Turks in that
terrible massacre of the Sciotese which horrified the world in 1822.
Constantine, who was six or eight years old, escaped and hid among the
rocks upon the coast until he was discovered and taken off by a coasting
vessel. He made his way to the New World and was adopted by Mrs. Newell,
of Amherst, as her own, and sent to the Mount Pleasant school. His
romantic but sorrowful history, his great beauty and grace of person,
captivated Henry Ward; as he said: “He was the most beautiful thing I
had ever seen. He was like a young Greek god. When we boys used to go
swimming together I would climb out on the bank to watch Constantine
swim, he was so powerful, so beautiful.”

The brightness of his intellect and his kindliness of heart were equal
to the beauty of his person, and the admiration excited deepened into
the warmest and most sincere affection. It was like that between David
and Jonathan, and appears to have been mutual.

When they separated at the close of their school-days, one to enter
college and the other to go into business in Boston, the above covenant
was written, admirable only as it illustrates what has been called Mr.
Beecher’s genius for friendship. Returning to his native land in 1842,
Constantine died very suddenly of cholera. But even then the old
friendship was not forgotten. Years after Mr. Beecher gave to one of his
sons “Constantine” as a middle name, that he might have in his family
one who should always remind him of the friend so greatly beloved.

We close this chapter with a letter of reminiscence of Mount Pleasant

                                      “AMHERST, MASS., May 17, 1849.


“Here am I in this memorable place. It is now fifteen years since you
received a letter from me dated as is this one. It is twenty-three years
since I first put my foot on the village sod! It gives my head a whirl
to look back so far, or to hear myself, with my young-looking face and
younger-acting one, talking of things that happened to me at such long
distances of time.... Arrived at Northampton about four o’clock; took
stage for Amherst, mounted on top for sight-seeing. Rode through the old
town along by the ploughed fields to the bridge of memorable history.
All _our_ experiences came very freshly back. I thought I could tell the
very places where I kissed you in our ride home....

“After emerging from this old town (Hadley) the colleges shone out from
afar; then Mount Pleasant gradually, and one by one the various
prominent dwellings in the village. I put up at the Baltwoods’ old
tavern.... I first went to the college; walked up and down and around in
the various entries, in the grove, by the well, in the chapel, in each
recitation-room. Then I went to each of the rooms which I occupied in
college. I sought out the spots which had a very melancholy interest
from events in my morbid religious history. I then turned my steps to
Mount Pleasant. I cannot tell the emotions that I had when I once more
trod the grassy ascent where my opening manhood first fairly dawned. As
I walked up the long slope I almost thought that I should see the crowd
of boys break forth from some door. I stopped on the terrace where for
three years I mustered with more than a hundred boys, and whence we
marched to chapel, to meals, to church, etc. As I stood there
Constantine seemed to rise up to greet me, as he never will greet me;
Hunt, Pomeroy, French, Burt, Thayer, Tilghman, Dwight, Van Lennep,
Fitzgerald, and scores of others. The wings of the building, the chapel,
the kitchen, etc., were all taken away, so that the places where most I
roomed, and the veranda in which I used to sit and muse and feel the
rise and swell of yearnings the meaning of which I did not know, are all
swept away. Here I spent the half-ideal and half-emotive, dreamy hours
in which I used to look across the beautiful Connecticut River valley,
and at the blue mountains that hedged it in, until my heart swelled and
my eyes filled with tears; why, I could not tell. Then I would push out
into the woods and romp with the wildest of them. I visited the grove,
once beautiful, now meagre and forlorn. I went into the rear building;
each room brought up some forgotten scene, some face remembered for good
or ill. I went to the room where I roomed early in my course. The boys
were at supper, and so I sat down and meditated awhile. The room in
which I lived with Fitzgerald was not to be found, some changes in the
interior of the house having shut it out from the entry where I formerly
found it. It was a strange mixture of old things found again and old
things not to be found—of surprise and disappointment, of things painful
and of things joyful. All my favorites, the little fellows that I used
to love and cherish, their faces looked out at me at every turn. I tried
to find the trees, growing three from a root, on which I made steps and
built a slat house up among the branches; where I used to sit
wind-rocked and read or muse, cry and laugh, just as the fancy took me.
It was gone. There are twenty-five boys here at a select school. They
were playing down on the old football ground, and the voices and shouts,
quips and jokes, were so natural that I could hardly help plunging down
the hill, catching up a club, and going into the game of ball with all
my old ardor. But they would have no remembrances to meet mine. I should
not have been _Hank_ Beecher to them.... Good-by, dear wife.

                                        “Truly yours,
                                                           “H. W. B.

“Love to all the children, big and little.”

For the benefit of all school-boys we call attention to some of the
most marked features of this period in the life of H. W. Beecher, as
they appear from the extracts given and from other papers for which we
have no space. He was healthy and robust, a favorite among the boys
upon the play-ground, who called him “Hank” Beecher. He was a leader
in their sports, and at the same time a champion of the younger and
weaker boys. He learned to master his work, and by drill in
school-room and gymnasium gained control of his own powers of body and
mind. He kept his eyes open to the beauty of the world around him, and
was very susceptible to the attractions of fair faces as well. He was
open and manly in following his religious convictions, clean-mouthed
and pure-hearted in his morals. He pondered big matters, and asked
large questions, and sought out satisfactory conclusions for himself
and for his companions. He looked for information in all directions,
and took great pains to store it away for future use. He read good
books and a great many of them, and the novels he read were of the
best kind. Withal he was a “hail-fellow-well-met” companion and a most
devoted and faithful friend. Upon the authority of every word of
testimony we have been able to get from teachers, classmates, and old
residents of the town, we declare him to have been a royal school-boy,
whose manly faithfulness, kindly service, stalwart morality, and
loving, cheerful friendliness prepared him for the grand life which he
afterwards lived and the great success which he achieved, and make him
a worthy example for all the ingenuous, aspiring youth of our land.

                              CHAPTER VII.

Amherst College—Private Journal—Testimony of Classmates—Tutor’s
    Delight—Begins his Anti-Slavery Career—Spiritual
    Darkness—Engagement—Letters of his Mother—Experiences in Teaching
    School—First Sermons—Lecturing—His Reading—The Record.

Henry Ward Beecher entered Amherst College in 1830 in a class of forty
members. Although prepared for the Sophomore year, yet, following the
advice of his father, he entered as a Freshman in the class of ’34. On
the cover of a very commonplace-looking copy-book, brown and yellow with
age, which we have in our possession, he has written with a great many
flourishes “Private Journal,” and then has added with equal emphasis,
“Not to be looked into.” But since he afterwards drew his pen through
both clauses, we have taken the liberty not only to look but also to
make extracts from its contents.

The pages appear to have been written for the most part with reference
to a correspondence which he was then carrying on with his brother
Charles, referred to in the previous chapter, many of the questions
being apparently argued, and incidents in the diary noted with him in
view. As a whole it forms a rather odd mixture of excellent sentiments,
religious doctrines, questions and arguments, studied illustrations and
daily incidents, showing an alert mind, and one that, while awake to
observe the smallest events, was equally ready to grapple with the
largest subjects. A list of eleven “Tracts French” on half the first
page is followed on the blank spaces of the remainder with careless
pen-scrawls in which the name of “Nancy” appears with attempts at
monograms, showing the pleasant fancies that possessed his idle moments.

“Tracts English” heads the next page, which is ruled for names and
numbers; but for some reason, perhaps because the list was too great or
the selection too difficult, the plan was never carried out and not a
single entry was made—a failure so human, so common, that it at once
brings him into the sympathies of thousands who remember how often they
have done the same thing.

“Occasional Thoughts” comes next, printed with the pen in small caps in
the middle of a page, and surrounded with the usual artistic
pen-decorations. On the opposite page the thoughts begin. The first is
“Proof of a Hell.” “I prove first that there must be a hell, and then it
will appear evident that there must be a judgment.” Six pages of
proof-texts and argument follow, when we come to the next question: “Who
will enjoy heaven most?” When this has been answered, somewhat more
briefly than the former, but apparently to his own satisfaction, he
opens the next subject:

“I wish to ask you [evidently addressed to his brother], not as a
question, but for my own information, what you think about the devil?
Now, this of itself is quite a curious question, but what I wish to ask
in this particular is, Do you think that he is at all under the divine
direction as we are?”

Several pages of pithy sayings and illustrations follow, of which the
first three are fair samples:

“God’s plans are like a hive of bees, for they seem to go on without any
order till they are accomplished, but then you can see a great plan.
Each one seems to be pursuing something for itself, but, like the bees,
they at the end help to form one elegant edifice.”

“A half-way Christian has too little piety to be happy in the next
world, and too much to be happy in this.”

“Religion, like fire, will go out nearly as soon if no fuel is added to
it as if water is poured on it.”

These are not quotations, but original, and show thus early a habit
already formed and a power already being educated of illustrating
religious truth by natural objects and processes.

The last half of the book is used as a diary, written mostly with a
lead-pencil, and opens with an account of his journey from Boston to
Hartford on his way to enter college:

“I started from Boston Tuesday eve at ten o’clock, and, riding all
night, I arrived in Hartford in time to dine. I took passage in the
United States mail-stage. It can hold but six passengers inside, it
being made light in order to travel fast. I think that we travelled very
fast, for we went one hundred miles in about fifteen hours. After I got
into Hartford I started off to find Mary. I went to her house, and sent
word that I wished to see Mrs. Perkins. After waiting awhile she came
down-stairs, and did not know me, and I had to tell her who I was. About
five o’clock I went to see Harriet and Catharine. Catharine knew me, but
Harriet did not. She could not think what to make of it when I went up
and kissed her.

“I shall now begin my journal:

“Catharine wishes me to go to her levée to-night. Don’t want to much,
but conclude that I will. Went before any of the company came. Went into
Catharine’s room and sat till it was time to go down. The company began
to come in, at first ladies, like flocks of pigeons, stringing along
through the parlors; soon also the gentlemen began to come in. In the
meantime I was sitting by the side of the pianoforte, alone and
‘unbefriended,’ looking at the different groups of persons talking. At
length Harriet came and sat down by me, and I had quite a talk; but she
wishing me to go with her into the other parlor, where a great many
young ladies and no gentlemen were sitting, I refused, whereupon she
kept pressing me, till at length, when she got up to go and speak with
some one on the other side of the room, I seized the opportunity, and
very quickly started for the door, but unluckily ran against a
gentleman, knocked him half-over, made an apology, and got into the
entry. Nor did my scrape end here; for, getting my hat, I perceived that
they saw me from the parlors, and, getting the other side of the entry
to hide myself from them, I espied six or seven young ladies seated on
the stairs, watching to see what I was a-going to do. Well, I went back
to the table where I had taken my hat, and from there _whipped_ out of
the door. After I had got home I sat and talked with Aunt Esther and
Mary for a few moments, and then I went out to get a lamp. The stairs, I
thought, were in this shape:


but instead of that they were in this way:


You know when they are moved round in that way there are four or five
steps that meet in one point, _a_, and branch at _b_, so you cannot step
on them except at _b_. Well, I stepped down at _a_ and fell five stairs
head-first—stretching my hands forward saved my cranium—and tumbled the
rest of the way, to the no small annoyance of my shins and knees. So
much for running away from the levée.”

“Catharine and Harriet came to tea, after which I went home with them,
when Harriet put her curls on to my head and her bonnet, Catharine a
cloak and neck-handkerchief, and then called the young ladies in, and
they all thought that I was Harriet; and then, to cap all, Harriet put
on a man’s cloak and my hat, and she looked exactly like _you_

Such was Henry Ward Beecher at the age of seventeen, on the eve of
entering college—bashful, smooth-faced, and changing rapidly in
appearance, so that his own sisters did not know him. The penmanship
shows as yet an unformed hand, but in its main features is like that of
a later date.

He carelessly leaves out a word or a letter here and there, and markedly
in places continues the old habit of his early school days—poor
spelling. Nothing appears that indicates any talent superior to the
majority of young men on their way to college, unless it be a certain
enthusiasm, straightforwardness, and simplicity.

The college at this time was but nine years old, having been established
in 1821. Rev. Heman Humphrey was president. It was small and poorly
endowed, as well as young, but the chairs of instruction were ably
filled; and since it had been founded by the orthodox Congregationalists
as, in fact, an antidote to the Unitarianism of Harvard, and with
especial reference to the education of young men for the ministry, its
orthodoxy was unquestioned and its religious spirit pronounced and

By reason of his excellent preparation and the admirable mental training
he had received, either of two courses were open to Henry Ward. He might
aspire to lead his class in scholarship, become a “high-honor” man, and
possibly take the valedictory, or use the time which he had at his
disposal in following out those studies and readings that were to his

He chose the latter, and, while giving sufficient study to the college
course to preserve a respectable standing in his class, gave his
greatest effort to carrying out his own plan of development and culture.

“I had acquired by the Latin and mathematics the power of study,” he
says. “I knew how to study, and I turned it upon things I wanted to

The beauty of the Greek and Latin classics did not attract him; it
seemed cold and far away, belonging to another time and another order of
mind; but our English classics, with their warmth of feeling, their
lofty imagination, their delicate sentiment, their power and eloquence,
seemed akin and near to him; they had to do with the present, and he
gave himself to their study with a whole-hearted enthusiasm that
rendered him peculiarly open to their influences.

Inspired and fed by them as to what to say, he also gave especial
attention to the manner of saying it. Rhetoric and oratory were
diligently pursued throughout his college course. In these departments
he seems, according to the testimony of his class and college mates, to
have excelled then almost as markedly as he has since.

Says Dr. Thomas P. Field: “The first thing I particularly remember about
him in college was this: I went into our class prayer-meeting on
Saturday evening, and young Beecher gave an exhortation. He urged us to
a higher life and more constant activity in religious work. I heard him
a great many times after he became a famous preacher, but I think I
never was more moved by his eloquence than in that boys’ prayer-meeting.
In the regular routine of our studies I always was aroused and
astonished by his extemporaneous debates. He surpassed all the rest of
us then in extemporaneous power of speech as much as he did in his
after-life. There was where he seemed to me particularly to excel as a
student. In mere recitation of mathematics or languages many of us could
surpass him, but in extemporaneous debates he could beat us all. I was
always greatly interested, too, in his written essays. We were in the
habit of reading our essays to the professors in the class-room. Your
father always had something to say that was fresh and striking and out
of the beaten track of thought—something, too, that he had not gotten
from books, but that was the product of his own thinking.”

Dr. John Haven, another classmate, says of him: “He was a great reader,
and probably had more general knowledge than any one of his classmates
when he graduated.”

Says Lewis Tappan, a classmate: “In logic and class debates no one could
approach him. I listened to his flow of impassioned eloquence in those
my youthful days with wonder and admiration.”

S. Hopkins Emery, another classmate, in answer to a letter, writes:
“Nobody could be gloomy or desponding near your father. He made us all
cheerful and happy. Do I remember him in college? Indeed I do—more than
I have time to write or you patience, perhaps, to read. It seems but
yesterday that I was reading a composition in the lecture-room of
Professor Worcester. Beecher sat just behind me. I had finished reading,
when I heard a friendly whisper in my ear: ‘Emery, your porch is too
large for the house.’ It was a good criticism. In such college studies
which had to do with writing and speaking the English language your
father excelled. The dead languages and mathematics never seemed to suit
his taste. He might have excelled in them if he had been so minded. He
was equal to anything he undertook. No one was his match in
extemporaneous talk or debate.”

This power and its exercise upon one memorable occasion was fraught,
according to a college mate, Rev. S. W. Hanks, with very marked

“In the annual Sophomore and Freshman fray the former found themselves
engaged with a force that was more than a match for them, and their
pranks upon the Freshmen got repaid with much more than the usual
interest. In consequence of this a meeting of all the classes in college
was held to protest against the barbarities of this customary war, in
which the smoke of the battle usually found its way into the Freshmen’s
rooms. At this meeting a leading member of the Junior class, finding the
Sophomores a little wanting in courage and speaking talent, volunteered
to act as their attorney, and made a telling and crushing speech against
the Freshmen class for their hard handling of the Sophomores, who had
only followed an old custom in their treatment of the Freshmen. At the
close of this speech by the ‘leading Junior,’ Beecher arose and said he
wished to say a word on the other side, whereupon he ‘went for’ the
Junior in a speech full of wit and point, which altogether ‘turned the
tables’ to the great amusement of all present and the great annoyance of
the ‘leading Junior.’ When the meeting broke up the Goliah of the Junior
class found himself suffering from a wound which the little smooth stone
from the sling of the hitherto unknown Freshman had made. This was a new
experience for the proud Junior, and the wound rankled.

“It seems never to have been forgotten. Time passed on and the ‘leading
Junior’ became a leading lawyer, jurist, judge, and Democratic
politician, and when the great scandal arose volunteered a very strong
argument against Mr. Beecher. It had great weight in some quarters, but
was less convincing to those parties who remembered that this judge was
eagerly embracing the first opportunity that had offered of paying off
an old score of their college days.”

“He was whole-souled and hearty, humorous in the extreme but without a
particle of viciousness, a reformer and an earnest man.” This is again
the testimony of his classmate, Dr. Field.

“We would often gather on the steps of the chapel, a number of us
incidentally, and if your father was in the gathering we always had much
wit and sparkling repartee, and anecdote and description, all of which
seemed to be infused by your father, and of which, indeed, he was the
greater part. He always seemed full of health and hilarity, and yet,
after all, there was a prevailing seriousness, an earnest purpose, a
determination to be a good and true man. I never knew anything of him
but what was good, and great, and orderly, and becoming a Christian. I
have heard persons say he was wild in college. Nothing more untrue. I
never heard him utter a word, and never heard of his doing a deed, that
was contrary to the rules of morality and propriety. He would criticise
some things in college studies, etc. I remember his maintaining very
decidedly that the study of mathematics was not a good discipline for
the mind, but he never set himself against college rules of order. He
was a strong temperance man, and was very bold to rebuke his
fellow-students in anything he thought to be wrong.”

Of his social and humorous qualities Mrs. Stowe says:

“In fact, Mr. Beecher was generally the centre of a circle of
tempestuous merriment, ever eddying round him in one droll form or

“He was quick in repartee, an excellent mimic, and his stories would set
the gravest in a roar. He had the art, when admonished by graver people,
of somehow entrapping them into more uproarious laughing than he himself
practised, and then looking innocently surprised.

“Mr. Beecher on one occasion was informed that the head tutor of the
class was about to make him a grave exhortatory visit. The tutor was
almost seven feet high, and as solemn as an Alpine forest. But Mr.
Beecher knew that, like most solemn Yankees, he was at heart a
deplorable wag, a mere whited sepulchre of conscientious gravity, with
measureless depths of unrenewed chuckle hid away in the depths of his
heart. When apprised of his approach he suddenly whisked away into his
closet the chairs of his room, leaving only a low one which had been
sawed off at the second joint, so that it stood about a foot from the
floor. Then he crawled through the hole in that study-table which he had
made after a peculiar plan of his own, and, seated meekly among his
books, awaited the visit.

“A grave rap is heard. ‘Come in.’ Far up in the air the solemn dark face
appears. Mr. Beecher rose ingenuously and offered to come out. ‘No,
never mind,’ says the visitor; ‘I just came to have a little
conversation with you. Don’t move.’

“‘Oh!’ says Beecher innocently, ‘pray sit down, sir,’ indicating the
only chair.

“The tutor looked apprehensively, but began the process of sitting down.
He went down, down, down, but still no solid ground being gained,
straightened himself up and looked uneasy.

“‘I don’t know but that chair is too low for you; do let me get you
another,’ said Beecher meekly.

“‘Oh! no, my young friend, don’t rise, don’t trouble yourself; it is
perfectly agreeable to me; in fact, I like a low seat.’ And with these
words the tall man doubled up like a jack-knife, and was seen sitting
with his grave face between his knees, like a grasshopper drawn up for a
spring. He heaved a deep sigh and his eyes met the eyes of Mr. Beecher;
the hidden spark of native depravity within him was exploded by one
glance at those merry eyes, and he burst into a loud roar of merriment,
which the two continued for some time, greatly to the amusement of the
boys who were watching to hear how Beecher would come out with his
lecture. The chair was known thereafter as the ‘Tutor’s Delight.’”

He carried his usual sports with him into college life. “On Saturday
afternoons,” says Lewis Tappan, “we often revisited the woods in the
rear of our former home, on which occasion your father would climb the
tallest trees and place a pillow-case over the holes where the flying
squirrels were. I on the ground rapped the trees, startling the inmates,
who were caught in their efforts to escape.

“Botanical and geological specimens were collected on the way, and in
his room your father had a good collection of the latter.”

He joined a club of eight who boarded a mile from college, that the
going and returning for their meals might give them six miles of
exercise a day. This was done in part to save expense, the board being
cheaper at that distance from the village. He also walked from college
to Boston, more than a hundred miles, on his vacations, for the same
reason. Yet, with all his care in economy, and although his board cost
him but $1.50 a week, it was thought at one time impossible to keep him
in college on account of the expense, as this letter, written by a
friend of the family during his Freshman year, will explain:

“While Henry and Charles were in college your father and mother felt
very much straitened for money. One evening particularly they were
talking about it, and did not know what they should do to keep the boys
along. At last your father said: ‘Well, the Lord always has taken care
of me, and I am sure he always will.’ The mother lay awake, she told me
afterwards, and cried. She cried because she did not see how they should
get along; but what most troubled her was that her husband had so much
faith and she had not any.

“The next morning was Sabbath morning. Some one rang at the door, and a
letter was handed in containing a $100 bill and no name. They came up to
tell me, as they always did, but they did not know, nor I then, who gave
it. I found out afterwards it was Mr. Homes—a thank-offering at the
conversion of one of his children.“

The following letter, written near the close of his Freshman year, shows
the bent of his mind at this period:


“I write principally to tell you that I have sent the ‘Book of Nature,’
and that it is probably at the stage-house.

“But I want to consult you on a _plan_ that I have formed—for I possess
real Beecher blood in the matter of _planning_. It is this: In my six
weeks’ vacation, and in the four weeks’ one, I mean to attach myself as
some kind of agent to the Bible, or Tract, or Education, or some other
society, wherever I can, and travel round to the small towns at a
distance, and collect funds or distribute Bibles and tracts, or
something like that, or do something or other—of course I can’t tell
what they may want me to do.

“I shall in a month or two be eighteen years old, and I think that that
is old enough to begin to do something. I can get letters of the
president and professors here and of gentlemen of Boston to establish my
mission, so that folks will not think that I am collecting for my own
purposes under the name of some society. Will you write to me about it?
Tell C. that I have engaged one to hear me recite botany. I am going to
establish a daily prayer-meeting here, and pray for a revival. Pray for
us, too. Mount Pleasant is in a very bad state. Lotteries are here
without number—five dollars is the highest prize—and books and
everything else, morals and all, are going, I believe, and the masters
(blind fellows) know nothing of it, although one of the monitors handed
in to Mr. Fellowes a _lottery scheme_ instead of his report in the

“Give my love to Mary and husband, Catherine, Cos. Elizabeth, and all
who care for me, taking a goodly portion to yourself.

                                        “Your Brother,
                                                          “H. C. B.”

Lest we get a stronger impression of his sanctity at this time than the
facts would warrant, we add this incident, related by himself, of one of
his vacation experiences in Boston that has in it a very decided flavor
of humorous and unsanctified humanity: “Looking for a friend, I rapped
at the door where I thought he lived. The door stuck, but at last flew
open after a good deal of tugging from the other side, and a very
red-faced woman appeared and asked in a very cross tone what I wanted.
‘Does Mr. ——— live here?’ I asked very meekly. ‘No, he don’t!’ snapped
the woman, and slammed the door in my face. I thought I would teach her
a lesson; so, after I had walked a little ways to give her time to get
to work, I went back and rapped again as if I wanted to tear the knocker
off. And when the same woman opened the door I shouted at the top of my
voice, ‘_Who said he did?_’ and then turned and walked away. When I
reached the corner the woman was still gazing after me in amazed

It was at Amherst that young Beecher began his anti-slavery career, as
he tells us in his sermon upon the death of Wendell Phillips:

“Fifty years ago, during my college life, I was chosen by the Athenian
Society to debate the question of African colonization, which then was
new, fresh, and enthusiastic.... Fortunately I was assigned to the
negative side of the question, and in preparing to speak I prepared my
whole life. I contended against colonization as a condition of
emancipation—enforced colonization was but little better than enforced
slavery—and advocated immediate emancipation on the broad ground of
human rights. I knew but very little then, but I knew this, that all men
are designed of God to be free, a fact which ought to be the text of
every man’s life—this sacredness of humanity as given of God, redeemed
from animalism by Jesus Christ, crowned and clothed with rights that no
law nor oppression should dare touch.”

Of his religious life at this period we give the story in his own words:

“When I went to college there was a revival there, in which I was
prodigiously waked up. I was then about seventeen years old, and I had
begun to pass from boyhood to manhood, but I was yet in an unsettled
state of mind. I had no firm religious ground to stand upon. I was
beginning to slough hereditary influences without being able to take on
more salutary influences, and I went through another phase of suffering
which was far worse than any that I had previously experienced. It
seemed as though all the darknesses of my childhood were mere puffs to
the blackness which I was now passing through. My feeling was such that
if dragging myself on my belly through the street had promised any
chance of resulting in good I would have done it. No man was so mean
that I was not willing to ask him to pray for me. There was no
humiliation that I would not have submitted to ten thousand times over
if thereby I could have found relief from the doubt, perplexity, and
fear which tormented me.

“I went to Dr. Humphrey in my darkness of soul and said: ‘I am without
hope and am utterly wretched, and I want to be a Christian.’ He sat and
looked with great compassion upon me (for he was one of the best men on
earth; if there is a saint in heaven Dr. Humphrey is one), and said:
‘Ah! it is the Spirit of God, my young man; and when the Spirit of God
is at work with a soul I dare not interfere.’ And I went away in blacker
darkness than I came, if possible.

“I went to an inquiry-meeting which Professor Hitchcock was conducting,
and when he saw me there he said: ‘My friends, I am so overwhelmed with
the consciousness of God’s presence in this room that I cannot speak a
word.’ And he stopped talking, and I got up and went out without
obtaining rescue or help.

“Then I resorted to prayer, and frequently prayed all night—or should
have done so if I had not gone to sleep; I tried a great many devices; I
strove with terrific earnestness and tremendous strength; and I remember
that one night, when I knelt before the fire where I had been studying
and praying, there came the thought to my mind: ‘Will God permit the
devil to have charge of one of his children that does not want to be
deceived?’ and in an instant there rose up in me such a sense of God’s
taking care of those who put their trust in him that for an hour all the
world was crystalline, the heavens were lucid, and I sprang to my feet
and began to cry and laugh; and, feeling that I must tell somebody what
the Lord had done for me, I went and told Dr. Humphrey and others.

“I endeavored, from that time out, to help those who were in trouble of
mind like that in which I had been whelmed; and yet I was in a sort of

It was in one of these half-despairing moods, doubtless, that he sought
counsel from Moody Harrington, of whose piety and wisdom in directing
inquirers he has often spoken. Harrington’s room-mate writes:

“It was in the midst of this great religious movement that one day Henry
Ward Beecher came to our room—how distinctly I remember it!—and, with a
countenance betokening a mighty pressure upon his spirit, said
substantially: ‘Harrington, I am in great distress, in spiritual
darkness; I don’t think I have any religion. I’ve come to talk with
you.’ My room-mate took him into his bedroom and talked and prayed with
him a long time, and when the young man came out from that interview his
face seemed radiant with hope and peace. Years after Beecher had become
famous he would repeatedly speak of Harrington as having been to him a
spiritual helper beyond that of any other man he had known.”

His first talk in a religious meeting outside the school or college is
thus described:

“I think it must have been late in my Freshman career at Amherst College
or in my Sophomore. My mind was much stirred and distressed at that time
on the subject of religion. In the class above, one Moody Harrington
took much interest in me. He was in some respects a remarkable man for
profound religious feeling, for fervid imagination, and for remarkable
eloquence in exhortation. He lifted me by his personal sympathy and his
encouragement out of great despondency and set me on my feet with some
tremblings of heart. On one occasion he asked me to walk with him one
evening to Logtown to a little prayer and conference meeting. After
Harrington had spoken for a while he turned to me all unexpectedly and
asked me to make some remarks. I was confounded. I rose and said
something—I do not know what, nor did I quite know then, for everything
was whirling darkness while I was speaking, but it was the letting out
of waters. I never ride past the Dwight house without going out of the
cars to look over the place and to bring back to memory that dismal
night, and that dismal speech, and the dismal walk back to college,
ashamed and silent.”

Another important event took place in his Sophomore year, January 2,
1832. He became engaged to Eunice White Bullard, daughter of Dr. Artemas
Bullard, of West Sutton, Mass. Of this event, the preceding and
succeeding acquaintance, our dear mother has written in a paper entitled
“Looking Back,” of which she says: “Of course all this is no help to you
in preparing your father’s life, but I sit and dream of the past and
write just as it rises before me, as fresh as if but yesterday, hoping
by doing so something may come to me that will be of service to you.”

We shall give her notes just as she has written them, leaving it for our
readers to judge whether or not they are of any service:

                             “LOOKING BACK.

“Fifty-seven years ago last May, 1831, my brother Ebenezer, then in his
Freshman year in Amherst College, wrote: ‘The term closes this week. I
shall walk home (fifty miles), and would like to bring two of my
classmates with me. We shall start before the sun and hope to be with
you by supper-time. Don’t be at any more trouble than if there were
three Ebenezers coming home.’

“No; of course not! Sickness in the village made it impossible to get
help that summer, and mother and I were doing the work alone for a very
large family, so large that a half-dozen more or less made little

“In good time for supper, weary and travel-soiled, my brother and his
two friends made their appearance: one a tall, very dark-complexioned
gentleman, the other a very verdant-looking youth, a Freshman of not
quite eighteen—an age when one is prepared to find a young man awkward
and painfully embarrassed, and to look with dismay on the prospect of
trying to entertain and make him comfortable.

“But even then the roguish mouth, the laughing, merry eyes, the quaint
humor and quick repartee, very soon put all such anxiety to flight. This
was _Henry Ward Beecher_ as I first saw him. Truth to tell, an
exceedingly homely young man. But, in youth or old age, who ever thought
of that, or, thinking, believed it after being with him an hour? Before
that first evening was ended none of the family thought of him as a
stranger; he was thoroughly at home with all. There were truly ‘only
three Ebenezers there,’ each equally ready for quiet conversation,
music, fun, repartee, or teasing; but the youngest of the three was the
most expert in the latter accomplishment.

“After our outside work was done mother and I took knitting and sewing
and sat down with them. I was going to wind a skein of sewing-silk (that
was before _spools_ were common), and, as was my custom, put it over the
back of a chair. More gallant and thoughtful, _apparently_, than his
older companions, this young gentleman insisted upon holding it for me
to wind. For some reason—_perfectly unaccountable_ if one judged only by
his quiet, innocent face, without watching the eyes and mouth—that skein
became as intricately tangled as if tied by Macbeth’s witches. ‘A badly
tangled skein, is it not?’ said he, when I had lost half my evening in
getting it wound. ‘Rather more troublesome, I imagine, than if I had
kept it on the chair,’ I replied. ‘It was a good trial of patience,
anyhow,’ was his response to the laugh that followed.

“Even my quiet mother was not exempt from some of his mirthful sallies,
but he carried, in all his fun, such an inexhaustible store of
gentleness and good-humor that I think she really enjoyed it. Often in
after-years she used to say that Henry always made her feel young again.

“My father had been called out some distance to see a patient and had
not yet met the ‘three Ebenezers,’ but came in just as we were all
laughing heartily at some story Henry had told. He stood in the doorway,
tall, dignified, and somewhat stern. When at last we became conscious of
his presence brother at once came forward and introduced his classmates.
Father received them courteously, but a little of the sternness still
lingered on his face as he took the chair which, without the least
appearance of boldness, _somehow_ young Mr. Beecher was the first to
bring him, yet in no way seeming to put himself forward. Little by
little the same subtle influence that had pervaded the whole evening’s
enjoyment began to steal over father. The little cloud seen at first
vanished, and long before it was time to retire my father was telling
stories and Henry following with another as freely as if they had been
boys together.

“The others joined, but it was to _young Beecher_ that father was most
drawn. When the ‘good-nights’ were said, and while I went to the dairy
to make some preparations for breakfast, father and mother took counsel
together about the work for the morrow and various matters; but just as
I returned father was saying: ‘He’s smart. If he lives he’ll make his
mark in the world.’ ‘Who, father?’ I asked. ‘Why, young Beecher.’ (But
father didn’t quite like the ‘mark’ he made a few months later—‘Nothing
but a boy!’)

“The visit was prolonged some days, and there was no end to the fun and
frolic. Your father was constantly investigating, and by no means lacked
assistance from my brother and his other more demure classmate, who,
however, stayed only part of the time.

“Mother and I were necessarily much of the time busy in the kitchen,
milk-cellar, dairy, etc., but these young collegians found those places
most attractive. The gentle way mother smiled at all the younger one’s
mischievous pranks was a source of perpetual delight to him. He always
said he fell in love with my mother, and, not being able to get her,
took up with me.

“One day, in taking out the bread, pies, etc., from the old-fashioned
brick oven with the long-handled shovel, she dropped some ashes on one
of the pies, and called me from the dairy to get it off while she
removed other articles. Your father sprang forward. ‘No, no; I will get
it off for you,’ and, respectfully taking it from her hands, the three,
without her seeing the mischief, marched off with it into the garden,
and, seating themselves under a big apple-tree, ate it all up. This
labor of love accomplished, the others rather held back from proclaiming
it, but your father demurely walked in and handed mother the empty
plate, saying: ‘There! see, we have cleaned the plate nicely!’

“One evening your uncle told him one of their classmates was engaged to
Miss ———. ‘I don’t believe it,’ said young Beecher. ‘She knows nothing
about singing, and I am sure F——— would never marry one who did not. I
know I never would marry a woman who could not sing.’ Short-sighted
mortal! In the evening brother asked him to get his flute and have some
music. He did so, and after a short time asked me to sing. I replied: ‘I
can’t; I never sang a note in my life.’

“In the summer and fall after first meeting your father I taught school
in Clappville, South Leicester, Mass., and at the commencement of his
fall vacation at Amherst Henry found it necessary to go from Amherst to
Boston (thinking it _shorter, perhaps_!) _via_ Clappville, and entered
my school-room just as I was dismissing the school for the day. He spent
the evening at Brother Jones’s, where I was boarding, and, incidentally
of course, remarked that he understood I was intending to visit my aunt
in Whitingsville during the winter. I replied that after my school
closed I was thinking of having a play-spell before taking another, and
might be there at least through December.

“After my school closed, while spending some time at home before my
visit to my aunt, he called at father’s, and incidentally (again)
remarked that he had been requested to teach the town school in
Northbridge, and was to board at a Mr. Fletcher’s (Whitingsville was
only a part of Northbridge, and he knew it all the time).

“‘Why,’ said my father, ‘that’s where Eunice will be. Now, child, you
have been teasing to go to some academy this winter and go on with your
Latin, but,’ turning to the demure, quiet-looking young man, who had not
seemed to pay any attention to what was going on—‘but she has overworked
the past few months, and I won’t let her go to school. Perhaps, as you
are to board at her aunt’s and she will be there a short time, you might
give her some help if she is in trouble with her Latin!’ Strange as it
may seem, he didn’t appear to feel it an intrusion, but professed
himself as very ready to render me any service. Even my clear-sighted
mother saw nothing out of the way in father’s suggestion. ‘He was such a
boy!’ as she said afterward. Neither did I, as I might have done had he
been older; only, even though he was now a Sophomore, I didn’t believe
he could help me much—_I_ who had been a school-ma’am for three terms!
And how young and boyish he did look! But (an after-thought) he might,
after all, know much more than his _looks_ led us to give him credit

“He came to uncle’s a week after I did, one Saturday, so as to be ready
to begin school Monday. That evening (January 2, 1832) the young
teacher, my cousin, a young lad who was to be under his care, and myself
were all in the parlor writing. Uncle and aunt were out calling. He
interrupted my writing by asking how far I had progressed in Latin. Was
I perfect in the Latin grammar? Could I conjugate all the verbs? etc. I
thought it a queer way to begin teaching, but I said, ‘Oh! yes; I think
so.’ ‘Suppose you try some of them, and let me see how well you
understand them.’ I laughed to myself, for I was sure I knew them
perfectly, and rather thought I knew them as well as my teacher; but I
respectfully conjugated the verbs as he gave them out, and at last, ‘Go
through the verb “amo.”’ I did so, soberly, honestly, without a thought
of any mischievous intentions. I went through it creditably, and was
told that the lesson was perfect.

“I then turned to my writing, and soon after he slipped a bit of paper
on to my writing-desk: ‘Will you go with me as missionary to the West?’
A few minutes after my cousin finished his studies for the evening and
went to bed. Then some few short questions ensued and a few shorter
answers not necessary to repeat. But, as the embarrassment consequent
upon such abrupt and unexpected questions had somewhat diminished, he
urged a more decided, definite answer from me personally. Simply
referring him to my parents did not satisfy him, so I quietly remarked:
‘Why! I can’t sing, and only a short time since you said you would never
marry a woman who could not sing!’ ‘Oh! that was six months ago, and I
have changed my mind.’ ‘And in six months from now you may change it
again.’ ‘No! I did change it the very minute you said that night that
you never sang. There is no fear of my changing again.’

“The next day, Sabbath, uncle’s horse shied going to church, and tipped
us all out of the sleigh; and Henry was so anxious to know if I were
hurt, paying no attention to others, that he awakened uncle’s

“That week at the week-day evening meeting (Preparatory Lecture) Henry
was called to speak, and did wonderfully well, to the great surprise of
all who heard that ‘young lad.’ After that, while he stayed at
Whitingsville, he spoke at almost all the evening meetings, and always
with increasing surprise and acceptance. I do not remember your father’s
alluding to those meetings but once, and that, I think, was to an
English friend who called when we lived on ‘The Heights.’ He said,
smiling: ‘Whitingsville was my first pastorate. While teaching there one
winter I spoke there several times and in some other places near by.’

“The next Saturday after giving me that momentous question on that
little slip of paper, Henry rode to West Sutton and spoke to father and
mother, to their infinite surprise. Mother was grieved, but father was
very angry. ‘Why, you are a couple of babies! You don’t know your own
minds yet, and won’t for some years to come,’ he repeated over and over
again. (_Fifty-seven_ years have given ample proof that we did.) But
father was grieved, mortified, angry that he should have been so blind.
But who could resist your father when he pleaded in earnest? Mother
often spoke of it long after we were married. She said it was wonderful
how he swayed that strong, proud man, my father, who winced at being
outgeneralled by a boy. His extremely youthful appearance perfectly
blinded them both. But mother was soon only a listener, charmed by the
modest, manly, earnest manner, illumined occasionally by flashes of
humor, with which he opened his heart to father and finally overcame
him. From the first Henry’s youth and the long engagement was father’s
only objection, and the fear that, as he grew older, he would repent of
such imprudence.

“From the first hour father saw him he was drawn to him, and when he
left after this conversation, and returned to Whitingsville, father
said: ‘Boy as he seems, he will be true to Eunice; I have no fear on
that score.’ Just before your father came to teach _several branches_ he
went a few miles out from Amherst and gave a lecture, I think on
temperance (am not quite sure), for which he received five dollars. With
it, among other things, he bought me Baxter’s ‘Saint’s Rest’—not a usual
love-token—and some paper that was for me if his suit prospered. On the
fly-leaf of the little book, in pencil, were the following lines:

                     ‘Take it; ’tis a gift of love
                       That seeks thy good alone;
                     Keep it for the giver’s sake,
                       And read it for thine own.’

“Before his next vacation he walked to Brattleboro’, Vermont, gave a
lecture, received ten dollars, and then bought our engagement-ring, a
plain gold ring, which was also my wedding-ring. With the remainder he
bought books.

“The three years in college soon passed. We only met once in three
months—vacations—and there was nothing unusual to record. The ‘young
boy,’ ‘too young to know what he was about,’ as we were so often told,
went on toward manhood, unshaken by opposition, laughing at all
prophecies of inconstancy or change, and then we bade farewell for four
years while Henry went to Lane Seminary, Walnut Hills, Ohio, for his
theological course.”

Somewhere Father Beecher has described a “Saxon courtship” as “a grave
and serious thing. It is a matter of consideration. I have known a
proposal of love to be stated like a proposition, and calmly argued for
and against with far less warmth than Luther would have felt in debating
a thesis. Indeed, many courtships are like attempts at kindling fires
with green wood—a few starveling coals are heaped together, a mere spark
dances in and out upon the inhospitable charcoal, and disappears on one
side as fast as it appears on the other. But by all manner of shavings
and bits of paper—mere trinkets, as it were, and billet-doux—a slight
flame is got up, which strives, with doubtful prospect, to convert the
smoke into blaze. The bellows are called in, the fire is fairly driven
up to its work, the green sticks begin to sizzle at either end; and
though at last, when the heat triumphs, the fire is large and lasting,
the poor fellow that kindled it had to work for it.”

Now, we never could bring ourselves to asking direct questions, and we
do not suppose that we should ever have been any wiser if we had; but,
from the references sometimes made to riding through covered bridges,
from the comical look that would come to his face and the blushes that
would be sure to come to her cheeks when the raillery around the table
became hot and personal, we were led to believe that this was not their

On two leaves of his diary, written probably while at his home in Boston
in the vacation that followed his Freshman year, and during the summer
in which he had made the acquaintance of Miss Bullard, we find the

“_Sept. 3, 1831, Sab. morn._—I found the correspondence of my father and
own mother this morning, and eagerly sought out _her_ letters and read
them. O my mother! I could not help kissing the letters. I looked at the
paper and thought that her hand had rested upon it while writing it. The
hand of my mother! She had formed every letter which I saw. _She_ had
_looked_ upon that paper which I now looked upon. She had folded it. She
had sent it. But I found out more of her _mind_ than I ever knew before;
more of her _feelings_, her _piety_. I should think from her writings
that she was very _amiable_, _lovely_, and _confiding_ in her
disposition, yet had much dignity. She appeared to have a mind very
clear, strong, yet not _perceptible_ till brought out by her feelings.
Her letter to father in which she treats of ‘love to _God_, whether we
should love him because he has done us good or not,’ etc., I was much
pleased with. And I could not help observing that her letters were
superior, more refined and conclusive, than the corresponding ones of
father’s. They corresponded upon _subjects_, it seems, as pride, dress,
slander, etc., etc. Her piety was doubted by herself, although no one
who reads her description of her feelings can doubt for a moment that
Christ was found within her heart.

“The letter to father in reply, apparently, to one in which he had
expressed his feelings toward her and urged for her permission to hope
for a future union, pleased me much. There was much playfulness about
it. I thought that I could see that she loved him while she was writing
it, yet she tried not exactly to show it. I should think that at the
conclusion she told her feelings frankly, from one line which I saw, but
the rest was torn off. I suspect that father did it that no one might
ever see it.”

In common with many other students of limited means, he taught a term of
eight weeks during three of the four years of his college course, using
the winter vacation, which was at first six weeks long, and borrowing
two weeks from the winter term in college.

Of his experience in Hopkinton and some other matters, especially the
fear of his friends concerning his engagement, the following letter to
his brother William gives some interesting details:

                                       “HOPKINTON, Friday eve, 1832.


“... I know not as you would have had a reply at all if it were not for
something said on the first page. Now, I supposed that my good friends
would find out all at once that my engagement had undermined all my
habits of study and was ruining me, nor did it surprise me to have you
write it. It is all false, as false as it can be. No term since I have
been in college have I studied so much as the last term; no year
accomplished so much as the last. I am not anxious, however, to
vindicate myself; I am ready to have you all think so, if needful, for I
expected it from the first.

“Soon after I began the school some of the boys began to be
fractious—all of them larger and stronger than myself. Their parents set
them on, and they determined to carry me out of the room. A large fellow
disobeyed me before the whole school, and persisted in it. They hoped I
would thrash him, and then they would rise. But I turned him out of the
school forthwith. He came the next day. I had previously told the
committee and asked them to take the business out of my hands. They
approved, but said that they wished I would do it. The next day I saw
that they had got another great fellow in to help them. I called two of
the committee in, and then ordered this disobedient boy out. He refused,
and I took a rule and beat him, and finally broke it over his head. He
struck at me a number of times and I parried them. The large ones then
rose. I seized a club of wood and struck the boy three times—tore the
skin each blow. The committee had to take the other fellows to keep them
off. I then dismissed the school; told the committee that I should not
keep the school where I could have them stand by and see such a scene
without doing something; that if they would see those fellows removed I
would go on, if not I would not. They said that they would do it if they
thought they had power. I settled it all very soon by saying that _I
would not keep the school_, and set my face as though I would return to
Amherst. But the next day, Saturday, it rained. The committee liked my
school, and gave me a good dismission in writing. The scholars were
pleased for the most part, and through them their parents. They wished
me much to open a private school. I waited till I found they were in
earnest, and then opened one, and now am comfortably teaching about
thirty scholars. Besides this my time is loaded. Sunday noon,
Sabbath-school; Sunday afternoon, five o’clock, I have a Bible-class of
ladies; Wednesday and Saturday evenings, meetings in the centre of town;
two other evenings in the districts, and, after this, Sunday evening in
the vestry.... May God bless and prosper you.

                                 “Your affectionate brother,
                                                          “H. W. B.”

Of his preaching at this time he says:

“My earliest remembered sermons were delivered at Northbridge, Mass.,
where I taught school for three months in 1831. I conducted conference
meetings almost every night, and a temperance address at Upton, Mass.,
where old Father Wood was pastor, and in his church. In the winter of
1832 I taught school in Hopkinton, Mass., and carried on revival
meetings every night and preached on Sundays. The people were plain and
simple and liked the effusions. During the winter of 1833 I again taught
school at Northbridge, and made a formal sermon in a chapel over the new
store built by Messrs. Whitings.”

It was in his Sophomore year that a number of students, Henry Ward among
them, invited a college mate who had been reading up on phrenology to
deliver a lecture upon that subject. They did it for a joke, but it
ended in Henry Ward’s accepting this philosophy as the foundation of the
mental science which he used through life.

It was during his college course that he began lecturing—that mode of
communication with the people that afterwards became so popular, and in
which for so many years he was the acknowledged leader. His first formal
lecture for which he received pay was delivered in Brattleboro’, Vt. He
was paid ten dollars, and walked the whole distance, nearly fifty miles
each way, that he might have the whole sum to expend as he pleased.

Speaking of this period, he says:

“There stands before me a line of battered and worn books—English
classics. Their history is little to them, but much to me. In part it is
my own history. I wish I could lay my hand on the _first_ book that I
ever bought after the dim idea of a library began to hover in my mind!
But that book is gone. Here, however, are others whose biography I can
give. As early as 1832 I began to buy books—a few volumes, but each one
a monument of engineering. My first books, if I remember correctly, were
bought of J. S. & C. Adams, in Amherst, Mass. I used to go in there and
look wistfully at their shelves. My allowance of money was very
small—scarcely more than enough to pay my postage, when a letter cost
twelve and a half or twenty-five cents. To take a two or three-dollar
book from my five dollars of spending-money would have left me in a
state of sad impecuniosity. Therefore, for many, many months I took it
out in looking.

“As early as at _sixteen_ years of age I had begun to speak a little in
public—faint peepings, just such as I hear in young birds before they
are fully fledged. For such service the only payment was a kind patience
till I relieved them by finishing my crude efforts. But at that time—say
1832—I was sent by the college society as delegate to a temperance
convention in Pelham, or Enfield, or somewhere else. I conceived a
desire thereafter to give a temperance lecture. I have forgotten how I
ever got a chance to do it. But I remember that there came an invitation
from Brattleboro’, Vt., to lecture on the 4th of July. My expenses were
to be paid! A modest pride warmed my heart at the thought of making a
_real_ speech in public. I smothered all the fears and diffidences with
the resolute purpose that I _would_ succeed! I remember the days of
writing and anxious preparation, and the grand sense of being a man when
I had finished my manuscript! But the most generous purposes are apt to
be ruined with selfishness; and my public spirit, alas! had a financial
streak of joy in it—my expenses were to be paid!

“Well, suppose I chose to walk and save all the expenses? I should have
at least eight dollars of my own, of which I need give no account! That
would be an era indeed. But grave scruples arose. Was it honest to take
money for expenses which I had not really incurred? If I went by stage I
might lawfully charge my fare and food; but if neither of them cost me
anything, how could I honestly make a bill of expenses? I did not get
any relief in reflecting upon it. I started off on foot, went up the
Connecticut River valley, and reached Brattleboro’ by way of Greenfield.

“Every hour this question of honesty returned. My feet blistered with
walking, but I stamped on them hard in the morning, and the momentary
exquisite pain seemed to paralyze the sensibility afterwards. Whether it
was the counter irritation that relieved my brain, or whether—as I fear
that I did—I smothered conscience by saying to myself that I would
settle the matter when the time came, I do not know. But I was relieved
from even that struggle, inasmuch as not a word was said to me about
expenses, or money in any form. Yet I had a charming visit. The rising
of the moon from behind the mountain that hedges in the town on the east
powerfully excited my imagination, and led to the writing of the first
piece, I believe, that I ever printed. It was published in the _Guest_,
a college paper, issued chiefly as a rival to another college paper
whose name (alas!) has escaped me. And if anybody could send me a volume
of that _Guest_ I should be exceedingly beholden to him!

“But after reaching college again—no longer a mere student, but a public
man, one who had made speeches, one who determined to be modest and not
to allow success to puff him up—a very great and wonderful thing
happened: the post brought me a letter from Brattleboro’ containing _ten
dollars_. I could not believe my eyes. I forgot my scruples. Providence
had put it to me in such a way that I got my conscience over on the
other side, and felt that it would be a sin and shame for me to be
raising questions and scruples on such a matter! But O that bill! How it
warmed me and invigorated me! I looked at it before going to sleep; I
examined my pocket the next morning early, to be sure that I had not
dreamed it. How I pitied the _poor_ students, who had not, I well knew,
ten dollars in _their_ pockets. Still, I tried to keep down pride in its
offensive forms. I would not be lifted up. I would strive to be even
more familiar than before with the plainest of my acquaintances. ‘What
is money?’ said I to myself. ‘It is not property that makes the man; it
is—’ Well, perhaps I thought it was the ability to deliver eloquent
temperance addresses. But great is the deceitfulness of money. I felt
the pride of riches. I knew every waking moment that I had money. I was
getting purse-proud.

“I resolved to invest. There was but one thing to invest in—books. I
went to Adams’s store; I saw an edition of Burke’s works. With the ease
and air of a rich man I bought and paid for them. Adams looked at me,
and then at the bill, and then at me. I never could make up my mind
whether it was admiration or suspicion that his face expressed. But I
wanted him, and panted to have him ask me, ‘Where did you get all of
this ten-dollar bill?’

“However, I concluded that the expression was one of genuine admiration.
With my books under my arm (I never to this day could get over the
disposition to carry home my own packages) I returned to college, and
placed on my table my volumes of Burke! I tried to hide from myself that
I had a vain purpose in it, that I was waiting to see Bannister’s
surprises and to hear Howard’s exclamation, and to have it whispered in
the class-room: ‘I say! have you heard that Beecher has got a _splendid_
copy of Burke?’

“After this I was a man that owned a library! I became conservative and
frugal. Before, I had spent at least a dollar and a half a year for
knickknacks; but after I had founded a library I reformed all such
wastes, and every penny I could raise or save I compelled to transform
itself into books!

“As I look back on the influence of this struggle for books I cannot
deny that it has been salutary. I do not believe that I spent ten
dollars in all my college course for horses or amusements of any kind.
But at my graduation I owned about fifty volumes. The getting of these
volumes was not the least important element of my college education.
There are two kinds of property which tend to _moralize_ life. What they
are I will tell you some other time, if you will coax me.”

His reading, as we have said, was very largely of the old English
writers, whom he studied until the flavor of their language had been so
thoroughly appropriated that it is very plainly discernible in all his
early public writings. An old poet, Daniel, who belonged to the times of
Spenser and Shakspere, was a great favorite of his. In a sermon preached
in 1862 he quotes the poem that especially pleased him. We quote it
entire with his introduction, and venture to say that the mind that
makes choice of such a poem is sound and healthy at the core:

“I remembered a poem that I had read in my youth, and that I used to
hang over with great interest. It had a strange fascination for me then.
The writer was born in 1562, and he wrote it somewhere between that time
and 1600. It has had a good long swing, and it will go rolling down a
great many years yet:

          “‘He that of such a height hath built his mind,
          And reared the dwelling of his thoughts so strong,
          As neither fear nor hope can shake the frame
          Of his resolvèd powers, nor all the wind
          Of vanity or malice pierce to wrong
          His settled peace or to disturb the same—
          What a fair seat hath he, from whence he may
          The boundless wastes and wilds of man survey?

          “‘And with how free an eye doth he look down
          Upon these lower regions of turmoil!
          Where all the storms of passions mainly beat
          On flesh and blood; where honor, power, renown
          Are only gay afflictions, golden toil;
          Where greatness stands upon as feeble feet
          As frailty doth, and only great doth seem
          To little minds, who do it so esteem.

          “‘He looks upon the mightiest monarch’s wars
          But only as on stately robberies;
          Where evermore the fortune that prevails
          Must be the right; the ill-succeeding mars
          The fairest and the best-fac’d enterprise.
          Great pirate Pompey lesser pirates quails:
          Justice, he sees (as if seduced), still
          Conspires with power, whose cause must not be ill.

          “‘He sees the face of right as manifold
          As are the passions of uncertain man,
          Who puts it in all colors, all attires,
          To serve his ends and make his courses hold.
          He sees that, let deceit work what it can,
          Plot and contrive base ways to high desires,
          That the all-guiding Providence doth yet
          All disappoint, and mocks the smoke of wit.

          “‘Nor is he moved with all the thunder-cracks
          Of tyrants’ threats, or with the surly brow
          Of Pow’r, that proudly sits on others’ crimes,
          Charg’d with more crying sins than those he checks.
          The storms of sad confusion that may grow
          Up in the present for the coming times,
          Appall not him, that hath no side at all
          But of himself, and knows the worst can fall.

          “‘Although his heart (so near allied to earth)
          Cannot but pity the perplexèd state
          Of troublous and distressed mortality,
          That thus make way unto the ugly birth
          Of their own sorrows, and do still beget
          Affliction upon imbecility:
          Yet, seeing thus the course of things must run,
          He looks thereon not strange, but as foredone.

          “‘And whilst distraught ambition compasses,
          And is encompassed; whilst as craft deceives,
          And is deceived: whilst man doth ransack man,
          And builds on blood, and rises by distress,
          And th’ inheritance of desolation leaves
          To great-expecting hopes: he looks thereon
          As from the shore of peace, with unwet eye,
          And bears no venture in impiety.’”

Such is the record of Henry Ward Beecher in college. It is one of which
none need be ashamed. It may be pondered with advantage and followed
with profit by every one standing himself upon the threshold of that
eventful period in his own life. It is the record of a man who was loyal
to duty, to truth and purity. Independent in his line of thought and
study, yet obedient to the government of the college, industrious and
aspiring, his course was essentially a period of education, a drawing
out of his powers, a training-school of his whole nature, a fitting
preparation for that high place which he came ultimately to fill in the
confidence and affection of the nation and the world.

                             CHAPTER VIII.

Lane Seminary—Dr. Beecher Called—Home at Walnut Hills—Amusing
    Incidents—Family Meeting—Death of Mrs. Beecher—Extracts from
    Journal—First Mention of Preaching in the West—Experience in
    Ecclesiastical Matters—Despondency—Meeting of Synod—Influences of
    the Times—Revulsion—A Rift along the Horizon—“Full iolly Knight.”

At the close of his college course, after a two-days’ visit to Sutton
with Miss Bullard, he started for Cincinnati to begin his theological
studies at Lane Seminary, of which institution his father had been
elected president and professor of theology, and whither he had moved
with his family two years before. The Seminary, located at Walnut Hills,
two miles out of the city, had been established for the sake of
supplying preachers and pastors for the great and growing West. It was
thought that the territory traversed by the Ohio and the Mississippi was
“the valley of decision” for the great interests of our country and of
the world. To meet the emergency and take possession of this broad
domain for Christ, its rightful Lord, was felt to be the most important
work that could occupy the attention of the Christian public. It had
been decided that a theological seminary established at Cincinnati, in
the very centre of this district, afforded the most effective means for
attaining the great object in view; that the best man in the whole
country should be secured to stand at its head; and that that man, all
things considered, was Dr. Beecher. He would bring energy, enthusiasm,
and practical wisdom; would secure confidence in the work among Eastern
capitalists, and conduct the enterprise to assured success.

Out of this conviction sprang the Seminary and the call to Dr. Beecher
to be its head. He was in perfect and enthusiastic sympathy with the
object in view. He says of the project: “There was not on earth a place
_but that_ I would have opened my ears to for a moment.... But I had
felt and thought and labored a great deal about raising up ministers,
and the idea that I might be called to teach the best mode of preaching
to the young ministry of the broad West flashed through my mind like
lightning. It was the greatest thought that ever entered my soul; it
filled it, and displaced everything else.”

Coming to this definite work under the inspiration of this great
thought, from a church which had been for years in the midst of a
continuous revival, he had naturally given the Seminary a markedly
practical tone of spiritual earnestness. A strong man himself, he
attracted men of like stamp; and there had come, soon after he took
charge of the institution, “a noble class of young men, uncommonly
strong, a little uncivilized, entirely radical, and terribly in

Dr. Beecher’s method of instruction was peculiar and in harmony with his
spirit and purpose. It was not so much of the formal lecture order as of
the free conversational kind, in which questions were invited,
objections were answered, thought was quickened, and feeling was
awakened, with the result that the great truth which was the subject of
the lecture was likely to be not only in a large measure comprehended
but felt and appropriated by the students.

One of the professors, Calvin E. Stowe, for whom Henry Ward conceived
one of those ardent friendships which distinguished him through life,
helped him in the same direction. “He led him to an examination of the
Bible and to an analysis of its several portions, not as the parts of a
machine, formal and dead, but as of a body of truth instinct with God,
warm with all divine and human sympathies, clothed with language adapted
to their fit expression and to be understood as similar language used
for similar ends in every-day life.” And we have now in our hands a roll
of manuscript in which, in line with this idea, the young student wrote
out during his theological course a careful analysis of the miracles and
parables of the New Testament.

Without doubt this tone of the institution and method of instruction had
an important and very beneficial influence upon him at this formative
period of his professional life, giving him a genuine enthusiasm for his
work, and training him to investigate carefully and analyze clearly the
truths brought under examination.

And, that there might be lacking no element for his fittest training for
the great work that was before him, the question of slavery had arisen
among the students, creating such a disturbance that forty, under the
leadership of Theodore Weld, had withdrawn just before he appeared on
the ground.

Of the place, his coming, and some of the incidents in his life his
brother, Rev. T. K. Beecher, says:

“By and by they two, Henry and Charles, came to study theology in Lane
Seminary, a brick building in the woods of Ohio. The whistle of the
quail, the scolding squirrels, once the heavy, busky flight of wild
turkeys—my hero killed one and claimed a second—the soft thump and pat
of a rabbit, the breezy rush of wild pigeons, were here heard.

“A foot-path led through the woods, over which came three times a day
the heroes, shouting, exploding the vowel sounds, and imitating cows,
frogs, and crows—a laughing menagerie.

“The Academy of Music, two miles off down-town—Henry primo-basso,
Charles violin and tenor; and the little boy, at last an alto, permitted
to run between the heroes and sing, while eyes feasted on Charles’s
violin bow-hand, and ears were filled with Henry’s basso, are well

“The ‘Creation’ and ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ were our winter’s work, and
Henry was off sometimes lecturing on temperance and phrenology.
Sometimes on a Saturday morning, at family prayer, there were Catharine,
George, Henry, Harriet, Isabella, Tom and Jim, Aunt Esther, and father
still praying ‘Overturn and overturn,’ and singing by all hands:

                  “‘Awake and sing the song
                    Of Moses and the Lamb;
                  Wake, every heart and every tongue,
                    To praise the Saviour’s name.
                  Sing on your heavenly way,
                    Ye ransomed sinners, sing!
                  Sing on rejoicing every day
                    In Christ the Heavenly King.’

Long, long discussions, lasting till past midnight and resumed at every
meal, of ‘free agency,’ ‘sovereignty,’ ‘natural and moral ability,’
interpretations, and such.

“Charles could whittle graceful boats with sharp knife out of thick

“Henry had the full set of Walter Scott’s works.

“Charles took lessons on the violin of Tosso, in the city. Henry wrote
something that Editor Charles Hammond printed in the Cincinnati
_Gazette_. O wonderful Henry! They both wrote long, long letters to two
far-away beings, and the little boy sometimes took them to the
post-office and paid twenty-five cents, wondering what they could find
to write such long, long letters about.”

His brother Charles says:

“The glorious old forest lay between the Seminary and father’s house,
and we made it ring with vocal practice and musical scales and
imitations of band-music. The house father occupied was of brick, and
Henry whitewashed it with a kind of whitewash that was equal to paint,
of a sort of cream color. I can see him now, on his tall ladder, with
his spattered overalls, working away.

“One of our professors was B———, a nice, dapper, rosy little man, in the
chair of history. We naughty boys made fun of him. Henry took notes. I
would give something handsome for that note-book. B——— was fond of
quoting authors with sounding names, Bochart among others, and Henry
would have it ‘Go-cart,’ and made a hieroglyphic to that effect.

“We walked to and from the city, up and down the long hill, and attended
father’s church, Second Presbyterian, on Fourth Street. Henry had a
Bible-class of young ladies, for which he made preparation by writing.”

For three years young Beecher was again a member of the home-circle,
from which he had been so long separated. This home had apparently lost
none of that broad, open-doored hospitality and cheerful spirit that so
markedly characterized it in Litchfield. “The house was full. There was
a constant high tide of life and animation. The old carry-all was
perpetually vibrating between home and the city, and the excitement of
coming and going rendered anything like stagnation an impossibility.”
“It was an exuberant and glorious life while it lasted. The atmosphere
of the household was replete with mental oxygen, full charged with
intellectual electricity. Nowhere else have we felt anything resembling
or equalling it. It was a kind of moral heaven, the purity, vivacity,
inspiration, and enthusiasm of which only those can appreciate who have
lost it and feel that in this world there is, there can be, no place
like home.”

Of two of its members and some of their make-shifts we have this
account, copied from his journal:

_“The Economical Family._—My father was an excellent man (for no one
provided better dinners—soups, codfish, mutton-chops; even, upon great
days, he has been known to have a _turkey_). He was a man of enlarged
mind and great sagacity. He was before his age in his views, and always
before his salary in his expenses. This was from no want of calculation:
nobody ever was longer and shrewder in that. But he was aspiring, and by
nature seemed to go beyond things seen, far into the region of things
_hoped_ for.

“His sister, an antique maiden lady, differed vastly from him and could
in no sense be called enlightened. It was astonishing to see how his
example and his reasoning were thrown away upon her. To the last she
clung to those earthly, _low_ notions which seem so peculiar to this
world. She would persist in saying that no one should buy what he could
not pay for, nor pay for any new thing until old debts were settled. Nor
could she be brought to adopt an enlarged policy in respect to the
family. We were obliged to wear clothes until they were worn out—at
least out at the knees and elbows—altho’ the fashion should change a
dozen times during that period. So that it was not uncommon to find
one’s self two or three times the pink of fashion before a suit was
fairly condemned as unseaworthy. In fact, we may be said always to have
set the fashion at such times, since we were seen wearing the proper cut
before even the leading beau. But if this was comfortable it was but
little amends for the days of darkness which ensued. One day we revelled
(?) in our glory; the next every one gaped at our uncouth fashion. We
might properly be likened to a ship riding gracefully upon the water,
but suddenly left by the tide sticking in the mud, stiff and immovable.
I used to comfort myself, when laughed at, by saying, ‘Never mind; you
laugh now, before six months you’ll be imitating me.’ And so it often
proved, till I began to think I was a prophet.

“But it is of the family I write and not of myself, for be it known that
I am not under vassalage. I am free from both authority and—money; the
latter condition as no reproach. I have often noticed that these two
kinds of independence are closely allied. True independence seems always
in the lurch.”

One amusing incident that grew out of the half country-farm life which
they then lived he used often to refer to.

Living in the outskirts of the city, where the fences were poor and
straying cattle often gave them great annoyance, Henry one day, to his
immense disgust, found a cow quietly resting in the middle of the barn
floor. With the accumulated indignation aroused, by numerous chases,
which these poachers of the highway had led him, by many tramplings
across flower-beds and destruction of the garden vegetables, he drove
her out and chased her down the street. Coming in hot and tired from his
run, he threw himself upon the sofa, saying: “There, I guess I have
taught one old cow to know where she belongs!” “What do you mean?” said
the doctor, looking up apprehensively from his paper. “Why, I found
another cow in the barn, and I have turned her out and chased her clear
down the street, and I think she will stay away now.” “Well,” said Dr.
Beecher, “you have done it. I have just bought that cow, and had to wade
the Ohio River twice to get her home, and after I have got her safely
into the barn you have turned her out. You have done it, and no
mistake.” And the chasing of that cow was renewed.

His humor bubbled out at all times and in all places, finding its
occasion even in so staid a matter as chapel prayers. He roomed with
Prof. Stowe, who was the soul of punctuality, and was continually pained
at the failure of his young room-mate to be on time at morning prayers
in the Seminary chapel.

Having done his best to wake him up one morning, apparently without
success, he had gone down-stairs with many expressions of disgust. No
sooner was he out of the room than Henry sprang up, dressed himself as
only college students can, ran to the Seminary by a back way, and when
the professor entered was sitting demurely in front of the desk. The
amazement of the teacher at this unexpected appearance, rubbing his
glasses and peering at him again and again to determine whether it was
real or he only saw a vision, was always remembered by Mr. Beecher with
a chuckle of merriment.

For a short time near the close of his theological course he edited a
paper, and appears to have done his work with marked success; but
circumstances brought it to a speedy close. “The _Cincinnati Journal_
needed an editor. There was at that time in the middle class of Lane
Seminary a green young man of some facility of pen. He had written a
series of anonymous articles on the Catholic question in the evening
paper edited by Mr. Thomas. He was considered rather tonguey, and not
likely to back down from anything from want of hopefulness and
self-confidence. Him Dr. Brainerd called to the chair, and, on
relinquishing the editorship, recommended this beardless youth to the
proprietors of the journal as his successor. One fine morning this young
man found himself an editor upon a salary! An editor must have a coat;
and Platt Evans made a lion-skin overcoat that has never had a successor
or an equal. He must have a watch! A plain, white-faced watch soon
ticked in his pocket. Alas! evil days befell the publishers. The paper
had a new owner. He did not want the young editor; the young editor
_did_ want the watch, but could not pay for it; the seller took it back,
to the great grief of the young theologian, who went back disconsolate
to his classes at Lane Seminary, and was broken-hearted for a whole day.
The young man recovered, and has been in mischief ever since, some folks

When the pro-slavery riots broke out in Cincinnati in 1836, and James G.
Birney’s printing-office and press were destroyed by a mob headed by
Kentucky slaveholders, young Beecher volunteered and was sworn in as
special constable, and for several nights patrolled the streets
thoroughly armed to protect the negroes and their friends. He was
earnest in this matter, as in everything else that he undertook. His
sister Harriet, finding him busy running bullets, and asking him what he
was doing it for, was a good deal startled to hear him answer in a hard,
determined voice: “To kill men.”

Besides the influence of this common, every-day life, which was
afterwards reflected in his own hospitable spirit and home, two domestic
events took place during these three years that deserve more especial
notice. The first was “the Family Meeting.”

“Long before Edward came out here the doctor had tried to have a family
meeting, but did not succeed. The children were too scattered. Two were
in Connecticut, some in Massachusetts, and one in Rhode Island. But
now—just think of it!—there has been a family meeting in Ohio! When
Edward returned he brought on Mary from Hartford. William came down from
Putnam, George from Batavia, Ohio; Catharine and Harriet were here
already; Henry and Charles at home, too, besides Isabella, Thomas, and
James. These eleven! The first time they all ever met together! Mary had
never seen James, and she had seen Thomas but once. Such a time as they
had! The old doctor was almost transported with joy. The affair had been
under negotiation for some time. He returned home from Dayton late one
Saturday evening. The next morning they for the first time assembled in
the parlor. There were more tears than words. The doctor attempted to
pray, but could scarcely speak. His full heart poured itself out in a
flood of weeping. He could not go on. Edward continued, and each one in
his turn uttered some sentence of thanksgiving. They then began at the
head and related their fortunes. After special prayer all joined hands
and sang ‘Old Hundred’ in these words:

                 “‘From all that dwell below the skies
                 Let the Creator’s praise arise.’
                   *     *     *     *

“When left alone in the evening they had a general examination of all
their characters. The shafts of wit flew amain, the doctor being struck
in several places. He was, however, expert enough to hit most of them in
return. From the uproar of the general battle all must have been

“Tuesday morning saw them together again, drawn up in a straight line
for the inspection of the king of happy men. After receiving particular
instructions they formed into a circle. The doctor made a long and
affecting speech. He felt that he stood for the last time in the midst
of all his children, and each word fell with the weight of a
patriarch’s. He embraced them once more in all the tenderness of his big
heart. Each took of all a farewell kiss. With joined hands they united
in a hymn. A prayer was offered, and finally the parting blessing was

The other event referred to was the death of Mrs. Beecher, which
occurred at the close of Henry’s first Seminary year. She was his
step-mother, but “she did all that she could for my good.”

“In the holy yearnings of this truly devoted mother the whole family was
included; nor could the older children perceive any less fervency in her
desires for their true welfare than for that of her own flesh and
blood.” And it was with deep and true feeling that he writes “that God
was with her in her closing days, and that the light of his countenance
cheered her passage to the tomb.”

These varied experiences of joy and sorrow in the home-life of this
period; this variety of occupation—now studying and attending lectures
in the Seminary, lecturing on temperance and phrenology, drilling in the
“Hallelujah Chorus,” painting the old family mansion, accompanying his
father in his attendance upon presbytery and synod, now a constable and
anon an editor—all contributed to give him a broad culture, had much to
do with the variety of labor which he undertook in after-life, and
fitted him for that easy, natural, and familiar mingling with all kinds
and conditions of men which was in him so marked a characteristic.

Of what he did, read, and thought at this time we are fortunate in
having another source of authentic information from his own pen. Upon
the unruled blank leaf of a letter-book, as large as a commercial ledger
and heavily bound in leather, is written in a large hand, large enough
to cover the whole page:






               BEGUN JUNE, 1835, AT LANE THEOL. SEMINARY.

On the first page, “Begun three days after birthday,” June 27. “I have
tried times without number to keep a diary or a journal of my religious
feelings. I have never succeeded.” 1. “I am not enough contemplative to
make a record of reflections and feelings very definite.” 2. “I never
could be _sincere_. The only use which I distinctly know that I have
derived from it is a knowledge of my being very averse to saying just
what my feelings were. I could not help feeling: ‘_This_ will, perhaps,
be seen.’ And why should I not so feel? One object in keeping a journal
is to look back upon your mind as it reflected itself at different
periods past, and if you _keep_ one no one can pretend to have enough of
prospective wisdom to save it from the hands of others.”

After half a page of reasons why this possibility—which has indeed been
realized—may take place, he says: “Can I conceal it all from myself, and
feign to myself that that which I am disclosing and giving form and
permanence to, my most secret feelings, none will see? And when I feel
secretly that they will be seen, is it possible to go through honestly a
narration of those emotions from the disclosure of which I shrink in my
inmost soul?”

In view of this possibility, he decides upon a modification of his

“In this journal I do not set before me as an object to tell _all_ my
feelings, but only such as for any reason I may choose to tell. I intend
to record, too, my opinions and reflections on occurrences, on persons,
on books, and to find a resting-place, if possible, for many of those
daily thoughts which are too short and unconnected to be noted down
separately, and yet of some small value, perhaps—at least to give
variety to a journal. Then, too, being little tenacious of dates, I here
mean to record and date all changes in my life, that afterwards, when
business and multiplicity of other facts have crowded from my mind such
facts, I may here recur as to a faithful chronicle and refresh my

“Here, then, I mean to be at ease, and not molest myself with any
obligations to write so much, or so often, or so anything, but in mental
_dishabille_ I will stroll through my mind and do as I choose.”

It can well be supposed that with such an introduction facing us we feel
some delicacy, even with the _quasi_ permission which his departure from
the true ideal of a journal gives, in handling, and especially in giving
to the public, the matters which are here written. While we find no word
that a perfectly upright and honorable man need be ashamed of, we do
find private matters which we have no right to make public. Out of the
great amount of material which the journal affords we have selected such
portions as illustrate the salient features of his life, character,
work, and methods at this time.

First of all, we find him still keeping up the old habit of reading, and
after a very critical method.

“_July 1, 1835._—I finished Scott’s ‘Antiquary’ this morning, and I
propose giving some little account of my impressions. To do it I shall
be obliged to collect my general scattered feelings into a definite,
tangible form; and if I always did it after reading I should have more
numerous ideas of things and of their forms, and more correct ones.

“I think it one of Scott’s best, although my _personal taste_ gives his
novels founded on warlike customs, as ‘Ivanhoe,’ more relish. But that
does not alter the abstract merits of this, for there are grounds of
judging a work altogether aside from our taste as to the subject judged.
There are but two general considerations in estimating a novel. First,
has the author been a faithful copyist of nature, even when his effort
is of the imagination? And, second, has he made a judicious selection
and skilful combination of his material.”

After several pages of the large ledger have been devoted to this
subject, there follows this entry:

“_July 4._—The difference between Scott and Shakspere is of two kinds:
(1) the difference of dramatic and prosaic description, and (2) the
native difference of the two men. The first involves a discussion and
comparison of the two kinds of writing. The dramatic is _narrower_, more
formal and measured, and consequently more _stiff_. No one ever heard
one speak as Macbeth, as Hamlet, or as Iago, for no one ever spoke so.
Passion, or indeed nature, never marches in heroic measure. In another
respect it differs. There is a general _sameness of language_. The
imitation of nature respects _feelings_ and character, and not
_expression_, if we except some comic characters. But prose imitates
with perfect freedom, unshackled by _verse_, not only the passion,
_character_, etc., but the _expression_ and _language_.

“In this respect Scott differs from himself as a poet and novelist as
much as when a novelist he differs from Shakspere, etc....”

Similar and lengthy criticisms of Crabbe, Coleridge, Byron, Burns, and
others follow, many of them crude, but all aiming to grasp and express
the original thought of the poet, as he says after naming some rules by
which to judge a book:

“But such things are the externals of criticism. I admire the German way
of going into the motive and spirit of a poem, and discussing the
principles and source of feeling.”

We find his habit of drawing from his own experiences some moral or
spiritual lesson, and then teaching it to others, thus early formed:

“_June 27, 1835._— ... Being unwell is by no means useless. It crowds
one on to thoughts of death, and sweeps away all the mist of
forgetfulness which the frivolity of events has accumulated. One must
either wrap himself in designed forgetfulness—which is a stupid
resource—or come to some conclusion in respect to his religious
prospects. For my part, in sickness (what little I have had) I am not
agitated, but rendered serious and calmly apprehensive, and I begin to
think what God is, and Christ, and heavenly joy, and compare them with
my tastes and disposition, and see if they accord or are repulsive. I’ve
written enough for the present, so I’ll return to Scott’s ‘Legend of

We find very little, almost nothing, concerning the regulation work and
studies of the theological course, possibly because some other book
which has not come down to us contained these. He seems to have plenty
to do, and carries into his work a very decided determination to

“_Aug. 2, 1835, Sunday._—I have for this time work enough: two courses
of lectures—one, for my Bible-class, to begin next Sunday; the other a
course of temperance lectures for Reading and elsewhere. I don’t know
how I shall succeed, but I am never self-distrustful and often feel sure
I _shall_ do VERY well, and as often see that I may fall through
entirely. Either course failing would mortify me. But here, as
elsewhere, let me start with feeling, ‘I will _persevere_, and with
every endeavor which interest and ingenuity can furnish.’ Such being
one’s constant feeling and action, hardly anything is invincible.
_Perseverance_ without corresponding exercise of ALL ONE’S MIND is but
a dogged spinning out of tedious and useless effort. _Remember when most
discouraged_ to _labor_ as though you were in the full blossom of
_Hope_, and shortly you will be.”

At this time he was singing in, and sometimes leading, the choir in his
father’s church, as he writes:

“_Nov. 14._—The medical authorities of the family, having ordered me up
for inspection, have decided that I was not sea-worthy, but have, in
view of past services, ordered me into dock to be a receiving-ship, and
there to undergo thorough repairs. I am quietly riding in the dock
without mast or rigging. They have sent aboard two sets of workmen this
morning, under the care of Messrs. Calomel and Aloes; and these are to
remove all my cargo, ballast, etc., after which I am to be new-rigged
and furnished and sent out on a new cruise. This is well. I have sailed
very dully for some time and came near to foundering once or twice.

“Will you take my place to-day and sing bass? I know of no one
possessing suitable gravity except yourself to confront the audience and
do justice to music....    Yours truly,

                                             “‘_Old Constitution_.’”

A line of tender sentiment runs through the journal, appearing whenever
any reference is made to the one to whom he was engaged. Concerning so
delicate a matter we only give extracts sufficient to show the radiant
atmosphere in which, at least at times, he walked, and the deep and
sincere affection which he cherished. They are to be read as the opening
stanzas of that beautiful idyl that closed only with his life.

“_Aug. 4, 1835._—It is a little curious, perhaps not, however, that I
very much dislike to say anything in my journal of my thoughts and
feeling for E., who is so much of my _existence_. Well, I suppose the
more and the more delicately we love the less we care and wish to say
about it. It becomes a matter of _heart_, not of _tongue_; it becomes a
_feeling_, and feeling has no language except _action_. I have sent her
a large letter, largely laden with affection....”

“_Aug. 5, 1835._—Woke up and thought of E———, M———, and G———; compared
their characters. M——— is marked by INTELLECT, G——— by lady-like
character, sweetness, and gayness. E——— has neither so _prominent_, but
both well combined and softened by strongest and sweetest
_affectionateness_. Her character is uniform, and projects, if anywhere,
in line of _affection_.”

“_Sept. 14, 1835._—I wonder what people think of my warmth? Some, I
know, estimate it far too highly, because they have not _seen_ much of
such things. Others, and _most_, suppose it very _low_ and suspect very
little of it. It is in truth but _medium_ naturally. Well, in a year or
two, and then E——— will be disappointed the right way. What a noble
creature E——— is! I could have looked through ten thousand and never
have found one so every way suited to me. How dearly do I love her! I
long for the portrait.”

“_Oct. 1, 1835._—Found a packet of letters from my dearest E———. Oh, how
dear! Her _likeness_ too, which, though imperfect in some respects, has
very much the looks of the original, and if only _one_ feature were
preserved I would feel grateful. But, excepting the _mouth_, each
feature is faithfully like her own. I shall begin a letter to her
to-night. God bless and keep her! I love her more and more and say less
and less about it.

“Harriet has had E———’s portrait all day, and I have felt quite lonesome
without it. Last evening I retired to bed and very philosophically
decided to leave the portrait in my side-pocket. I lay for some
half-hour and was quite convinced that it was in the wrong place, and
removed it to my pillow. It soon underwent another migration—_where_,
one may imagine if he will recall all such doings as depicted in

The following is his first mention of preaching in the West:

“_Aug. 9, Sunday, 1835._—Preached twice in George’s church. In morning
with great dryness and trouble, and felt much mortified—more, I think,
than _grieved_.

“Afternoon smaller audience, but had great liberty and fluency, and
produced effect; but whether superficial or permanent and saving, God
only knows. Afternoon text: ‘My ways not as your ways’; Morning: ‘For we
thus judge’ (2 Cor. v. 14, etc.)

“After preliminaries, subject, ‘The genius of Christianity is not to
produce _gloom_ or debar from pleasure; but, contrary, _earthly_
pleasures can _only_ be enjoyed by Christians, and much more

He begins to be conscious of unused powers.

“_Sept., 1835._—Since reading Crabbe and Scott I am possessed with the
notion of writing _characters_. I have some models which I know would be

His love of fun evidently subjected him now and then to criticism. To
one whose remarks had touched him to the quick he writes in

“_Oct. 29_ [1835].—... You said last night that I was never made for a
minister. If a minister were made to wear a lachrymose face and never to
enjoy or make mirth, you said truly and I was not born to it. There are,
in fact, three classes of divines—the ascetic, the neuter, and the
sunshiny; the first conceive the chief end of man to consist in a long
face, upturned eyes, a profound sanctimonious look.... I must plead
guilty if you mean that I was not born to the rank of these worthy
personages. Far be it from me to believe that _religion_ makes
ridiculous dunces. And though I think many such are truly pious men, yet
such endowments are the deformity and misfortune, not the ornament, of
their piety. The second class I call neuter because they (like the
Chinese leaf by which character is told) quirl and roll just according
to the party with which they are.... I must confess I have too many
opinions of my own to be whirled about by every change of company. And
though it is proper and decent that one should conform to the nature of
different occasions, so as not to jest at a funeral, laugh at church, or
dance in a hospital among the sick, the dead and dying; and though one
should respect the conditions of his company, so as not to obtrude upon
age the buoyancy of youth, ... yet I am sure neither old age nor old
reflections ... shall make me disown mirth.... Now for the third class,
the glorious, sunshiny ones. I envy them, I emulate them. These are they
who think there is a time for relaxation and elegant enjoyment. Too much
is to be done to allow them long seasons of gayety.... But while they
labor hard, think and write, and preach and visit, weeping with those
who weep, they conceive by the same authority that they may unbend and
refresh the mind by laughing with those who laugh.... To be mirthful is
part of our constitution, and I believe God never gave us that which it
is a sin to exercise.... None but those who feel it can tell how hard it
is to restrain a disposition which sees everything in the most ludicrous
point of view. But God knows that if I have a good deal of mirth I
compensate for it in secret; and although now I look for different
times, yet till now I have had enough of anything but joy to make mirth
acceptable to me. You said what you did in jest, but I lay awake all
night thinking of it. God will bear me witness that I love the ministry,
and if it be necessary for me to lay aside even my constitutional gayety
that I may be more useful, I will cheerfully do it....”

From a “catalogue of books in my possession” we learn that on December
2, 1835, he had 42 volumes of theological works, 71 volumes of literary,
10 scientific, and 12 miscellaneous, making a grand total in all of 135
volumes—not a bad showing for one who had earned every book, either by
labor or severe economy, and, what is more to the point, had read and
studied them all.

We must now turn from the perusal of his journal to note other
influences than those already referred to—those of the Seminary, of home
and books—that were at work upon him at this time. There were some that
had a very important influence in shaping his ecclesiastical bearing
through life.

These were days of heresy-hunting; days when Albert Barnes was arraigned
before presbytery for unsoundness because of some kind of heterodoxy (?)
discovered in his notes upon Romans, and when the conflict between the
two parties in the Presbyterian Church was rapidly advancing to a
division of that great body into Old and New School. “Dr. Beecher,” so
writes Mrs. Stowe, “was now the central point of a great theological
battle. It was a sort of spiritual Armageddon, being the confluence of
the forces of the Scotch-Irish Presbyterian Calvinistic fatalism,
meeting in battle with the advancing rationalism of New England New
School theology. On one side was hard, literal interpretation of Bible
declarations and the Presbyterian standards asserting man’s utter and
absolute natural and moral inability to obey God’s commands, and on the
other side the doctrine of man’s free agency and the bringing to the
rendering of the declarations of the Scriptures and of the standards the
lights of modern modes of interpretation.” This battle soon assumed the
character of an assault upon Dr. Lyman Beecher for the purpose of his
destruction. His son knew it to be wholly without justification and as
senseless as it was wicked. He knew his father’s earnestness, devotion,
and unselfishness, the sacrifices he had made to take up this work, felt
how greatly he deserved the gratitude of all Christian men; and when he
saw that father attacked for heresy and brought before every tribunal of
the Presbyterian Church, except the highest, for trial, and all because
his construction of the Presbyterian Confession was not according to the
views of one or two of the leaders of that Church in the West, he was
not more indignant than disgusted.

He saw him triumphantly acquitted by one body after another, but still
pursued by suspicion, and knew that a conspiracy had been formed in
which some of his Eastern friends and one or more Eastern seminaries
were enlisted, with the avowed intention of crushing him, and all this
mostly by good men, under the strong bias of ecclesiastical prejudice
and in a mistaken zeal for God’s service.

We must feel his disgust as he was compelled to go scurrying through the
country, not to rescue souls from danger nor to forward any great moral
end, but to anticipate the action of some presbytery or arrange for some
meeting of synod; we must realize his indignation at seeing his father
compelled to leave the death-bed of his mother to defend himself against
these heresy-hunters, if we would understand the position which Mr.
Beecher occupied towards ecclesiastical bodies in after-years.

In a letter dated “_Canal Boat, Wednesday morning, Oct. 14, 1835_,”
Henry Ward gives an account of a meeting of Synod. After a humorous
description of the eccentricities of Dr. Beecher, for which we have no
space, he writes: “At length we are ready to start. A trunk tumbles out
of one side as Thomas tumbles in the other. I reverse the order—tumble
Tom out, the trunk in. At length all are aboard, and father drives out
of the yard, holding the reins in one hand, shaking hands with a student
with the other, giving Charles directions with his mouth—at least that
part not occupied with an apple; for since apples were plenty he has
made it a practice to drive with one rein in the right hand and the
other in the left, with an apple in each, biting them alternately, thus
raising and lowering the reins like threads on a loom. Away we go,
Charley horse on a full canter down the long hill, the carriage bouncing
and bounding over the stones, father alternately telling Tom how to get
the harness mended and showing me the true doctrine of original sin.
Hurrah! we thunder alongside the boat just in time.... Yesterday the
Synod was constituted Old School. Moderator by a majority of seven,
under his administration the system is beginning to assume form and
becomes apparent. All the committees are one way, and the whole aspect
of affairs shows you that there is a deep-laid, regular plan, and the
elders are all _drilled in_. The committee give leave of absence to all
New School men, and refuse all others, so that they may increase and we

“It is Tuesday morning and everybody is talking, planning, plotting—all
bustle; heads together; knots at every corner; hands going up and down,
and faces approaching earnestly or drawing back in doubt; one taking
hold of the other’s coat, leading off into one corner for _a particular
argument_; elders receiving drill, some bolting the collar. Here, in my
room, are father, George, and Mr. Rankin. They are looking over the
ground, prognosticating, arranging for the onset, or for the reception
of an onset.... I never saw so many faces of clergymen, and so few of
them intellectual faces.... And the elders are just what forty or fifty
common farmers would be supposed to be—except that _for eldership_ the
_soberest men are chosen_, and, as _stupidity is usually graced with
more gravity than great good sense_, the body of elders are not quite so
acute in look as the higher class of workingmen.”

Although written in a playful mood, it is evident that he had no fancy
for such work, and as he advanced his dislike increased. The broad,
kindly, hospitable living, the strong, practical, sympathetic preaching,
and the honest dislike of all the rattle of ecclesiastical machinery,
which marked his after-life, came naturally from the training he
received on the _outside_ of Lane Seminary.

The influences of the place in which he lived as well as of the times
were powerful factors in his theological education. The great West, with
its boundless possibilities which had so moved the spirit of his father,
lay before him, and stirred his imagination as at an earlier period the
sea had done. And, as when he looked out upon the broad Atlantic from
the wharves of Boston he had felt the impulse to go forth to be a
sailor, command ships, and fight naval battles, so did the movement of
the great streams of population Westward, and the vast field that
stretched out before him like the ocean, move his spirit to go forth
upon the sea of human life and conquer for Christ.

In this period of theological study, when the most of students withdraw
themselves as much as possible from real life, he was brought to face it
in some of its most intense forms. Cincinnati was then the central and
most important city of the great West; an immense commerce was carried
on from its wharves; it was the point where gathered the multitudes that
were going out to occupy the new territory; it was still the rendezvous
for frontiersmen; more than this, it lay upon the border-land between
the free and slave States, and already felt the uneasiness and
bitterness of the irresistible conflict. Chain-gangs of slaves were
continually passing on the decks of the steamboats, to be sold down
South, and fugitives from bondage were keeping the sympathy or the
hatred of the people in continual activity. Life of high pressure and in
great variety was presented to Henry Ward Beecher there in the heart of
the great West in the years of 1834-1837; life that was very real, and
that called not so much for fine-spun theories as for practical forces;
not for dead and formal dogmas, but for living truth, for _Him_ who is
both _Life_ and _Truth_.

True, he might have measurably kept himself from it and immured himself
in the library and class-rooms of the Seminary, but he followed an
entirely opposite course; he lectured, wrote anti-slavery editorials,
joined the citizens’ body of police for the preservation of order, every
way keeping himself in sympathy with the stirring times in which he
lived, and they helped to make him the living, practical preacher he
afterwards became.

His Bible-class, to which he gave great attention, both in preparation
and in teaching the lesson, afforded him a field for the application of
the truths he had learned, and for testing the methods he had adopted.

Yet for the most of the time his mind was not settled. His ideal of the
Christian ministry was so high that he sometimes despaired of ever
attaining it, and at times he seems to have seriously contemplated
giving up his preparation for the ministry and of devoting himself to
some other pursuit. Mrs. Beecher says that through these years his
letters were very full of the discomforts and doubts that troubled him.
“... Sometimes I think I shall not succeed in anything. If, when my
course here is finished, they will not license me, suppose I go far
West, enter a homestead (?), clear the wood off, build a little log hut,
work during the week, and hunt up the settlers and hold conference and
prayer meetings—will you come to me if that is all I can offer you?”
Then, perhaps, in the next letter: “I will preach, if it is in the
by-ways and hedges; but oh! for more light to see my way clear!” “During
the last two years his letters had less of this depression. He would
preach, whether men would hear or whether they would forbear.” “But I
must preach the Gospel as it is revealed _to me_, not as it is laid down
in the schools.”

He gives his experience in these words:

“During the latter part of my stay in college my feelings were
unsettled. Sometimes they inclined one way and sometimes the other,
until I went to Lane Seminary. I was then twenty years old, and there
came a great revulsion in me from all this inchoate, unregulated,
undirected experience in religion. My mind took one tremendous spring
over into scepticism, and I said: ‘I have been a fool long enough.’ I
refused to be any longer played upon in such a way. It was bitter, it
was malignant, it was sad, it was sorrowful; but it was wholesale, and
swept away ten thousand fictions and external observances. I said: ‘I
will not stir one step further than I can see my way, and I will not
stand a moment where I cannot see the truth. I will have something that
is sure and steadfast.’ Having taken that ground, I was in that state of
mind for the larger part of two years.

“It then pleased God to lift upon me such a view of Christ as one whose
nature and office it is to have infinite and exquisite pity upon the
weakness and want of sinners as I had never had before. I saw that He
had compassion upon them because they were sinners, and because He
wanted to help them out of their sins. It came to me like the bursting
forth of spring. It was as if yesterday there was not a bird to be seen
or heard, and as if to-day the woods were full of singing birds. There
rose up before me a view of Jesus as the Saviour of sinners—not of
saints, but of sinners unconverted, before they were any better—because
they were so bad and needed so much; and that view has never gone from
me. It did not at first fill the whole heaven; it came as a rift along
the horizon; gradually, little by little, the cloud rolled up. It was
three years before the whole sky was cleared so that I could see all
around, but from that hour I felt that God had a father’s heart; that
Christ loved me in my sin; that while I was a sinner He did not frown
upon me nor cast me off, but cared for me with unutterable tenderness,
and would help me out of sin; and it seemed to me that I had everything
I needed. When that vision was vouchsafed to me I felt that there was no
more for me to do but to love, trust, and adore; nor has there ever been
in my mind a doubt since that I did love, trust, and adore. There has
been an imperfect comprehension, there have been grievous sins, there
have been long defections; but never for a single moment have I doubted
the power of Christ’s love to save me, any more than I have doubted the
existence in the heaven of the sun by day and the moon by night.”

We have thus followed Henry Ward Beecher from the cradle to the moment
that he stands prepared to enter upon his life-work; have noted every
step of his course from the hills to the sea, from school to college,
from the East to the West; have marked the influences of the home, of
nature, of the city, of school, college, and seminary, of the times, of
the Word and Spirit of God; have traced his experiences, felt his
dawning strength, examined the life he lived, the dispositions he
manifested, the hopes he cherished, and the character he formed; and in
our confidence and admiration choose, as not inappropriate for him at
this time, the description of “The Patrone of true Holinesse” in the
“Faerie Queene”:

         “Full iolly knight he seemed, and faire did sitt,
         As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt;
         And on his brest a bloodie crosse he bore,
         The deare remembrance of his dying Lord,
         For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore,
         And dead, as living ever, Him ador’d:
         Upon his shield the like was also scor’d,
         For soveraine hope, which in His helpe he had,
         Right faithfull true he was in deede and word;
         But of his cheere did seeme too solemne sad;
         Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.”

                              CHAPTER IX.

Call to Preach—License—Examination by Miami Presbytery—Refusal to
    Subscribe to Old School—Ordination by Oxford Presbytery—Visit

In the early spring of 1837 Mr. Beecher graduated from Lane Seminary. In
accordance with the practice of the Presbyterian Church, a clergyman
might be licensed to preach, even though not ordained; but such license
could only be obtained after the applicant had appeared before the
Presbytery for examination, and he was required also to read a “trial
lecture,” as it was called. Agreeably to this custom, upon graduating
from the Seminary Mr. Beecher went before the Cincinnati Presbytery, was
examined, and read his “trial lecture.” The examination and lecture seem
to have been satisfactory, for he was duly licensed to preach.

For a few weeks prior to his examination for license he preached in a
little hall at Covington, Kentucky, just across the river from
Cincinnati. He seriously contemplated settling there as soon as he
should be licensed.

“After preaching there [Covington] three or four Sundays I was called,
by Martha Sawyer, a Yankee woman, to go to Lawrenceburg and preach.
There was a church in that place, composed of about twenty members, of
which she was the factotum. She collected the money, she was the
treasurer, she was the manager, she was the trustee, she was the
everything of that church.”

At this time the pulpit of the little, struggling Presbyterian church at
Lawrenceburg, Indiana, was vacant, and one of the ladies of that church
came up to Cincinnati to see if Bishop Little could not secure for them
a pastor. The good bishop introduced her to young Henry Ward Beecher.
This led to his preaching one or two trial sermons at Lawrenceburg. The
result of the experiment seemed to be satisfactory on both sides,
although the first sermon was said to have been a lamentable failure
through the nervous apprehensions of the young preacher in facing the
unusually large audience of one hundred persons.

In May, 1837, he moved to Lawrenceburg and began preaching regularly as
a licentiate, not yet ordained.

It may not be uninteresting to read just here the brief memoranda from
the journal which he was keeping then:

“_May 4_ [1837].—Returned from Lawrenceburg. I think seriously of
settling there—a destitute place indeed....

“If I go to Lawrenceburg, remember you can gain men easily if you get
round their _prejudices_ and put truth in their minds; but _never_ if
you attack _prejudices_. Look well at this....

”_Mem._—My people must be alert to make the church agreeable, to give
_seats_ and wait on _strangers_, etc.“

”_June 15, Thursday._—To-day received call from Lawrenceburg, and a very
flattering call it was and did my heart good. Meeting called June 12,
1837; about 30 persons present. Mr. Hunt, moderator; D. S. Mayer, sec.
Vote for me unanimous. Blank filled for $250, with but one dissenting
voice (he voting for double that sum).“

”_Monday, July 10._—Sat. eve., 8th, arrived here permanently to

“I mean to write down little plans and devices for _pastoral labor_ as
they occur; I may else forget them.

“1. In different districts get men quietly to feel _themselves_
responsible for progress of temperance or Sunday-schools.

“2. Quietly to visit from house to house and secure congregations.

“3. Secure a _large congregation_. Let this be the _first_ thing. For

        “1. Preach well uniformly.

        “2. Visit widely and produce a personal attachment; also wife do

        “3. Get the young to love me.

        “4. See that the church have this presented as a _definite_
        thing, and set them to this work just as _directly_ as I would
        to raising a fund, building, etc.

“4. Little girls’ societies for benevolent purposes.”

The town was small, scarce fifteen hundred inhabitants, located at the
junction of the Ohio and Miami rivers—just across the Miami from Ohio on
the east, and the Ohio River from Kentucky on the south—subject to
devastating floods from both rivers impartially.

The church was small, with meagre accommodations, the people poor. We
quote his description of the place and church:

“You can form some conception of that field when I tell you that it was
a place where they had four gigantic distilleries, from which was
carried to market a steamboat-load of liquor every day. When I went
there and entered upon my vocation of preaching, I found a church,
occupying a little brick building, with nineteen or twenty members.
There was one man, and the rest were women. With the exception of two
persons, there was not one of them who was not obliged to gain a
livelihood by the labor of the hands. So you will understand how very
poor they were. I could not, of course, obtain my living in so small a
church, and in a community that was not overblessed with wealth. I was
taken up, therefore, as a pensioner by the Home Missionary Society, and
my first two years were spent in the field as a missionary, in part
supported by the funds of this society.

“I was sexton in the church. There were no lamps there, so I went and
bought some, and filled them and lit them. I swept the church and
lighted my own fires. I did not ring the bell, because there was none. I
opened the church before every meeting, and shut and locked it after
every meeting. I took care of everything in the church.”

Here in this little frontier village, then upon the very borders of
civilization, began his real work. For twenty-four years he had been
preparing for this step. Now it must be determined whether his life
should be a success or a failure.

The year passed uneventfully, and it was not until September, 1838, when
he applied for ordination, that he got his first taste of trouble.

At this time the division between the Old School and the New School
Presbyterian churches was about to take place, and two General
Assemblies, afterwards called the Old School General Assembly and the
New School General Assembly, were, a short time later, convened in
Philadelphia. A resolution was introduced into the Oxford Presbytery
that no man should be licensed or ordained by that body who did not
connect himself with the Old School Presbyterian Church, dropping from
their care those who declined to do so.

This resolution, it was thought, was probably aimed at Mr. Beecher[3]—an
attempt to strike the father over the shoulders of his son. For the
actual division and separation of the Presbyterian Church into Old and
New School was in no small measure the result of the controversy carried
on for several years previously against Dr. Lyman Beecher. The doctor in
1832 had, as we have seen, accepted the presidency and professorship of
doctrinal theology in Lane Seminary. He had been brought up in, and had
been connected with, the Congregational Church until this time. While he
entertained no revolutionary spirit, he had some expectation that the
free spirit of New England thought, and that loving spirit of voluntary
co-operation which he had enjoyed so in his New England pastorate, might
be infused into the forms of Presbyterianism. The idea of an intimate
friendship and co-operation between the Congregational and Presbyterian
churches in the United States had always been dear to him.


Footnote 3:

  “It is no inconsiderable matter in these days that Dr. Beecher has at
  least one son who, after a full and free examination before the Oxford
  Presbytery, has been pronounced to be orthodox and sound in the faith;
  and that, in order to exclude the son of the arch-heretic, a new term
  of ministerial communion had to be introduced” (Extract from letter of
  Dr. Bishop, President of Oxford College, to Mr. Beecher in 1838).


But when he went to Cincinnati there had already commenced in different
quarters a movement aiming at greater stringency and the expulsion from
the Presbyterian Church of what was called the New England element, of
which Dr. Beecher was an eminent representative. His settlement at Lane
Seminary was followed by a more active demonstration of hostility.
Formal charges of heresy, slander, and hypocrisy were preferred against
him, to which reference has already been made.

These proceedings produced a very markedly unfavorable impression in the
public mind against Presbyterianism. They had only ended at about the
time his son, Henry Ward, came to Lawrenceburg.

There was a good deal of feeling in the two branches of the Presbyterian
Church, and when Mr. Beecher applied to the Oxford Presbytery, within
whose jurisdiction Lawrenceburg was located, a good deal of interest was
aroused. A son of Dr. Lyman Beecher was to be examined by a presbytery
known to be in marked hostility to him. It would be a good chance to
demonstrate the laxity and heterodoxy of Dr. Beecher. For, of course,
the young man would only reflect the father’s views.

The presbytery duly met in session in September, 1838, and Henry Ward
appeared before them. Writing to his brother George, he refers to his
examination. After telling of his family affairs he says:

“So much for family news—a quiet lake; now for public affairs—a troubled
ocean casting up mud and dirt.

“I went some sixty miles up into Preble County, near Eaton, before
Oxford Presbytery. Presented my papers. Father Craigh was appointed to
_squeak_ the questions. They examined me to their hearts’ content. I was
a model to behold, and so were they! Elders opened their mouths, gave
their noses a fresh blowing, fixed their spectacles, and hitched forward
on their seats. The ministers clinched their confessions of faith with
desperate fervor and looked unutterably orthodox, while Graham and a few
friendly ones looked a little nervous, not knowing how the youth would
stand fire. There he sat, the young candidate begotten of a heretic,
nursed at Lane; but, with such a name and parentage and education, what
remarkable modesty, extraordinary meekness, and how deferential to the
_eminently acute_ questioners who sat gazing upon the prodigy! Certainly
this was a bad beginning. Having predetermined that I should be hot and
forward and full of confidence, it was somewhat awkward, truly, to find
such gentleness and teachableness!

“Then came the examination: ‘Will the mon tell us in what relation Adam
stood to his posterity?’ ‘In the relation of a _federal head_.’ ‘What do
you mean by a federal head?’ ‘A head with whom God made a covenant for
all his posterity.’ Then questions on all the knotty points. ‘Still the
wonder grew,’ for the more the lad was examined the more incorrigibly
orthodox did he grow, until they began to fear he was a _leetle_ too
orthodox upon some points. What was to be done? The vote on receiving me
was _unanimous_! Well, they slept upon it. Next day, while settling the
_time_ of my ordination, Prof. McArthur, of Oxford, moved to postpone
the business to take up some resolutions. In the first they ‘sincerely
adhered to the Old School Pby. Assembly’; second, required that all
_licentiates_ and candidates under their care should do the same or be
no longer such. I declined acknowledging it to be the true one. Father
Craigh (whom my orthodoxy had softened) said they would give me _six
months_ to think and decide, and I might continue to preach in their
bounds. I refused, and they turned me out and gave me my papers back
again. I asked them what the duty of my church was. They replied that it
was _vacant_—just what they _had to_ say, and just what I wanted them to
say, and, moreover, just what I determined they should say. I drove home
forthwith; got back on Saturday. On Sunday recounted from the pulpit the
doings of Pby., and declared them vacant if they continued under Oxford;
appointed a meeting for Wednesday P.M. for their action. By a unanimous
vote they withdrew from Oxford and declared themselves an _Independent_
Pbyn. ch. Now for Synod. The Old School called a convention to meet two
days before Synod met; cut out a series of resolutions going for O. S.
Assembly, cutting off those who had officially joined the Constitutional
Assembly, etc., etc. After sermon by Jno. Rankin, Stowe and Coe
nominated for moderator—Stowe 47, Coe 70. The New School then determined
simply to urge on to voting. All speaking was on one side. When they had
passed the resolutions to the one cutting off all who had joined N. S.
Assembly they inserted a new one, by which _majority of Cincinnati
Presbytery_ were _ejected_! Jno. Rankin then rose and declared the body
_dissolved,_ and as moderator of last Synod would give them time to
leave the house, and would then form the true Synod. They prayed and
adjourned to Wilson’s. It was queer. ‘Synod of Cincinnati will adjourn
to meet at 7 in 1st Pby. ch.’; ‘Synod Cin. will now come to order,’ etc.
I left after this and both bodies were still in session. I stepped in a
moment Saturday morning just before leaving, and they were then passing
in _our_ Synod a resolution not to allow any _slave-holder_ in our
connection. Mills agreed to it. I did not wait to hear votes, but
presume it was nearly unanimous. Synod declared the whole ground
formerly held by Oxford Pby. to be held by the Cin. Pby. Stowe has just
written me that Graham, Thomas, Chidlow, Merril, Crothers, Dickey, and
others have formally withdrawn from the Old School Synod, but not yet
united with ours. This is a brief sketch of matters ecclesiastical. Pby.
of Cin. will begin their new authority over former territory of Oxford
Pby., by coming here to ordain me on Thurs., Nov. 8 [1838].”

The New School Presbytery met in Cincinnati, and before this body Mr.
Beecher applied for ordination, the minutes of which record that it
ordained and installed him November 9, 1838, over the independent church
at Lawrenceburg, Dr. Lyman Beecher presiding, Dr. Blanchard charging the
pastor, and Dr. Calvin E. Stowe, his brother-in-law, charging the

Mr. Beecher felt that the division in the Church was wholly uncalled
for, but naturally was unwilling to desert the school to which he was
attached by its more liberal and democratic policy, by the associations
of his education, and the ties of filial love and admiration. The
bitterness of this controversy in the body of the Church, and the utter
folly of a great Church, organized for the work of saving men’s souls,
wasting its strength in harsh recriminations and angry feuds over
matters which seemed to him of minor importance, and finally splitting
the Church into two hostile bodies, produced a profound impression upon
Mr. Beecher’s mind, and developed rapidly that trait, doubtless then
latent, which has so markedly characterized his preaching since then—a
disregard of mere forms, provided he could secure the substance. And so
he grew to look upon all denominations as his brethren, wholly
disregarding the formal differences that existed, rejoicing heartily in
all their successes, and wishing them God-speed, seeing only the objects
for which all labored—the enlightenment of the world, the saving of
mankind. He was always willing to co-operate. He never withheld his hand
or voice, when there was a chance to help a struggling church, because
it was of a different denomination from his own.

He gave another account of these experiences and their effect upon his
mind, in some remarks at one of his Friday-night meetings, suggested by
the meeting, in the spring of 1869, of the Assemblies of the Old and New
Schools, and their reunion as one body at that time:

“My whole life has more or less taken its color from the controversy
which led to the division of the Old School and the New School
Presbyterians. I was brought up in New England, a minister’s son, the
son of a minister who was doctrinally inclined and whose warmest friends
were great doctrinarians. My father’s household was substantially a
debating society. As early as I can remember I knew enough to discuss
foreordination, and I could do it as well as my betters. I could go just
as far as they could, could run against snags at the same spots that
they did, and could not get off any better than they could. All those
great doctrines which tend powerfully to enlarge the imagination and to
sharpen the reason without feeding them were, I had almost said, matters
of daily conversation in my father’s family. When I went to college I
fell under the influence of a young minister who became an Old School
Presbyterian. He was a man of large brain and marked ability. He had a
naturally philosophic mind. He was noble-hearted and genial. I remember
that my poetic temperament, alongside of his rigorous, logical
temperament, used to seem to me mean and contemptible. I thought he was
like a big oak-tree, while I was more like a willow, half-grown and
pliant, yielding to every force that was exerted upon it. At any rate,
he had a powerful influence upon my development. But as I came to the
possession of myself more and more I took on the logical methods in the
exercise of the reasoning faculty which God had implanted in me, and
they came near wrecking me; for I became sceptical, not malignantly but
honestly, and it was to me a matter of great distress and anguish. It
continued for years, and no logic ever relieved me. My brother Charles
went through the same process, and he came back in the same way that I
did, through the instrumentality of a living Saviour. An abstract,
philosophical statement of the truth never met my wants, but when there
arose over the horizon a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ as a living
Friend, who had the profoundest personal interest in me, I embraced that
view and was lifted up. My heart did for me then what my head had failed
to do. This was an experience which has constituted one of the greatest
affirmative forces that have acted on my mind in preaching. All my life
long I have had a strong disposition to so preach the truth as to meet
the wants of men who stand not only outside of the churches but outside
of belief. I suppose that as long as I live I shall think of the truth,
not as it looks to those that are within the Church, but as it looks to
those that are outside of the Church and outside of belief itself.

“This has given to my preaching an element of naturalism. It has led me
to seek for a ground on which I could stand and bring men to a knowledge
of the love of Christ. I have gone far from the usual narrow
ecclesiastical and theological rules to broader social methods by which
men that are doubters can be reached.

“My first settlement as a pastor was at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where I
was two years in the Presbyterian Church. When I left Lane Seminary I
went down there to preach, and I thought nothing about Church
connection. My business, as I supposed, was to preach what little I knew
and to lead men to the Saviour; but I soon felt, for the first time, the
authority of the Church. I had not been ground; I was nothing but corn,
and I had to be run through a mill. This Lawrenceburg church was in the
territory of the Miami Presbytery. The Presbytery was not only a body of
Presbyterians, but was composed of _Old School_ Presbyterians; not only
were they Old School Presbyterians, but they were _Scotch-Irish_
Presbyterians; and not only were they straight, but they bent like a
hoop the other way. I had received an ordination license at the
Cincinnati Presbytery—where my father belonged at that time—in about
1837; but it was necessary that I should undergo another examination.
The Assemblies had not then divided; there was only the one Church; but
there were two parties—the Old School and the New School. There was the
one great body, but there were these two sections. There were
presbyteries and synods of the New School, and there were presbyteries
and synods of the Old School; but they were under the same authority.

“I went on horseback from Lawrenceburg to Oxford, where the Presbytery
was in session. And, by the way, I came near losing my life in crossing
the river. The water was high, and I was thrown into it; but I got out
and dried off, and started again, and reached my destination without any
further mishap, and went through my examination.

“At that time, under the instruction which I had had in my father’s
family, under the college drill that I had gone through, and under the
training to which I was subjected in Lane Seminary, I had become so
familiar with the doctrines of theology that it was difficult for any
one to put me down in a discussion of them. I could state them very
glibly. I was ready with an explanation of every single point connected
with them. I knew all their proofs, all their dodging cuts, all their
ins and outs. Therefore I had no trouble in standing my ground with the
men who examined me. They knew they had Dr. Beecher’s son before them;
the questions came like hail, and I was very willing. Somehow I have
always had a certain sympathy with human nature which has led me
invariably, in my better moods, to see instinctively, or to perceive by
intuition, how to touch the right chord in people, how to reach the
living principle in them; and that faculty was fully awakened in me on
this occasion. I recollect that the presiding clergyman at that
Presbytery was a man that I had seen at my father’s house and that I had
taken a sort of fancy to. He was probably fifty or sixty years of age.
He was tall, and was thin in the face, and he had a shrill, ringing
voice. I felt that he was like a file; but still I liked him. Well, he
put questions to me. Some of them I answered directly, some ingeniously,
some intelligently, and others somewhat obscurely. The examination
extended over two or three hours; and I thought I perceived a warming
and melting influence among those men. I was quite indifferent as to
whether or not I came out with their endorsement, and I have a
recollection of feeling very fine. They questioned, and questioned, and
questioned; and it happened that the points on which they were very
particular were man’s sinfulness, the influence of the Holy Ghost, its
necessity, its work, the thoroughness of it, and so on.

“Now, I was always immensely orthodox—thunderingly so; and when they
thought they were going to get heresy they got a perfect avalanche of
orthodoxy. This man whom I had seen at father’s was quite carried away
with me; he shielded me and helped me over some rough places; and the
Presbytery, without a dissenting voice, voted that I was orthodox—to
their amazement and mine!

“I thought then that the bitterness of death was past, when lo! a
professor from Oxford University, Miami, introduced a resolution, which
was passed, that that Presbytery would not license nor ordain any
candidate who would not give in his adhesion to the Old School
Presbyterian General Assembly. It was on that point that the Old and New
Schools divided, and I, being my father’s son, spurned the idea of going
over to the Old School; I felt as big as forty men; and when that
resolution passed I simply said: ‘Well, brethren, I have nothing to do
but to go back to my father’s house.’ They were kind to me; they seemed
to have conceived an affection for the young man; they took the greatest
pains to conciliate me; they endeavored to smooth the way for me, and
tried to persuade me to comply with their wish; but I was determined,
and said, ‘I won’t.’ I always had the knack of saying that and sticking
to it!

“So I turned my back on the Oxford Presbytery, and rode to Lawrenceburg
again; and the next Sunday morning I announced to my congregation the
result of my week’s pilgrimage, told them of the vote which declared
their church vacant, and said to them: ‘Now, brethren, one of two things
is necessary: you must get somebody else to preach for you, or you must
declare yourselves independent of the Presbyterian Church.’ It was no
sooner said than done. Before sundown on that day they declared
themselves an independent church, and I decided to stay with them. I was
then ordained by the New School Presbytery in Cincinnati, after which I
went on with my work regularly.

“Preceding all this, you should recollect that during the three years
that I was in the Seminary the controversy between the Old and New
School Presbyterians ran very high on questions of theology and on
questions of Church authority. I had been stuffed with these things. I
had eaten and drank them. I had chopped and hewed them. I had built up
from them every sort of argument. I had had them _ad nauseam_.

“When I went out into the field I found all the little churches ready to
divide, such was the state of feeling throughout the whole West. Going
into my work in the midst of that state of affairs, I made up my mind
distinctly that, with the help of God, I would never engage in any
religious contention. I remember riding through the woods for long,
dreary days, and I recollect at one time coming out into an open place
where the sun shone down through to the bank of the river, and where I
had such a sense of the love of Christ, of the nature of His work on
earth, of its beauty and its grandeur, and such a sense of the
miserableness of Christian men quarrelling and seeking to build up
antagonistic churches—in other words, the kingdom of Christ rose up
before my mind with such supreme loveliness and majesty—that I sat in my
saddle, I do not know how long (many, many minutes; perhaps half an
hour), and there, all alone, in a great forest of Indiana, probably
twenty miles from any house, prayed for that kingdom, saying audibly, ‘I
will never be a sectary.’ I remember promising Christ that if He would
strengthen me and teach me how to work I would all my life long preach
for His kingdom and endeavor to love everybody who was doing that work.
Not that I would accept others’ belief, not that I would embrace their
theology, not that I would endorse their ecclesiastical organizations;
but whatever their instruments might be, if they were sincerely working
for the kingdom of Christ I would never put a straw in their way and
never strike a blow to their harm. By the grace of God I have kept that
resolution to this day. There was _so_ much good that came from the
discussions and quarrels of the Old and New Schools by which at that
period of my ministry I was surrounded. So much for the influence on my
mind of those early scenes and experiences, which were more, in some
respects, a theological school to me than Lane Seminary itself was.”

[Illustration: Mr. Beecher at the Time of his Marriage.]

Such was the beginning of his ministry.

We may now retrace our steps a little to take a look at the beginning of
his domestic life.

For seven years, like Jacob of old, he had labored, waiting for the time
when he could claim his wife. Of course, until he was settled somewhere
with some definite income, it was folly to think of marrying. But when
he began preaching on trial at Lawrenceburg, and it seemed probable that
he might be called there, his mind ran forward to when, having a
definite home, he might go East for his bride. In his journal we find
one of his written reveries:

[Illustration: Mrs. Beecher at the Time of her Marriage.]

“SPRING, _March 1, 1837_.—The winter has gone. Spring has come—the time
of the singing of birds. How vividly does that little expression call up
the whole scene—the bright sun, the mild air, the heaven full of sweet
influences, and the green sprouting grass among patches of snow, and the
swelling buds! Every voice echoes in the air, and all sounds are mellow.
The falling of a plank, the pound of a hammer or beetle, the rumble of a
wagon, all, this morning, sound like joyful music. But I have one
thought sweeter than any of these, which _makes_ these sweet: it is that
now only spring and summer are to fly before I meet my dear wife, not
again to be parted, except by death!”

In July, 1837, having been formally called, though before his
ordination—it then being apparent that he was to be definitely settled
at Lawrenceburg—he wrote to Miss Bullard, suggesting that their marriage
be celebrated shortly after his ordination, which was then expected to
be in the following September. He had no sooner written and mailed the
letter when he said to himself, as he explained to his wife later: “Why
should I wait for my ordination? Why not have _my wife_ present at it?
And I started that very afternoon.”

His letter reached Miss Bullard in the morning of Saturday, July 29, and
he himself appeared in the evening of the same day, to the great
surprise of all. His plan was explained, and after a hasty discussion
August 3 was fixed on for the wedding, and three o’clock in the
afternoon the hour.

“I was expected to be ready to leave in the afternoon of August 3,”
writes Mrs. Beecher. “The wedding-dress and wedding-cake were to be
made—for what New England damsel could be married without wedding-cake?
At _one_ o’clock Monday morning I began my work, sewing until the family
were up. After the breakfast was over the materials for the wedding-cake
were brought from the village store, and _Henry and I_ began the work
for _the cake_. He picked over and stoned the raisins—taking abundant
_toll_ while doing it—beating the eggs, and in every way made himself
useful, and kept the whole family in good spirits and cheerful, when,
but for him, in such hurried preparations we might have felt the great
exertion severely. But the work was done, and the 3d of August dawned
bright and rosy.

“Very few guests were invited outside of the brothers and sisters, with
their families, who were near enough to the old home to reach us. Both
my sisters were married in a storm, and I had always said _I would not
be_. Three o’clock was the hour appointed for the wedding. About two a
heavy thunder-shower came on, and it began to rain, thunder, and
lighten. At three o’clock we were summoned, but I said: ‘Wait until the
storm passes,’ and, in spite of their remonstrance, they did wait. At
four o’clock the clouds broke away and the sun appeared, and we were
ushered into the parlor, Henry and I together. Just as we were entering
the door (it was very warm, and door and windows all open) a _rainbow_,
the most brilliant I ever saw, and so remarked by all in the room,
seemed through the open window to span the parlor, and the spectators
said we walked under its arch to our places. In his prayer the clergyman
spoke of the ‘bow of peace and promise,’ which he hoped was the
beautiful symbol of what our lives were to be.

“We rode to Worcester after the long farewells were said, not expecting
to meet the home friends again for years.”

A few days later Mr. Beecher wrote from New York to his sister, Mrs.


“Before this gets to you, you will have begun to look for us and wonder
that we do not write or come. This is to certify that we are alive,
safely and thoroughly married. Coming, and _came_ as far as New York.
Now, this damsel, my most comely wife, longing for the leeks and
cucumbers of Boston, did freely eat thereof, and these, as in duty
bound, did most freely hurt her. Three days she bore it, but on arriving
at New York they had come well-nigh to the cholera morbus; and thus we
are detained for a few days. The doctor’s prescriptions have acted like
a charm. She is relieved, and rapidly grows better. Nevertheless, it
being now Thursday, we shall tarry until Monday for her to gain
strength, and then, God willing, we shall set our faces westward and
travel like the wind. We were married on Thursday afternoon, at four
o’clock, August the third. We went immediately to Worcester, to Mr.
Barton’s. Nothing could surpass his delicate kindness to us.

“I preached a preparatory lecture to the three churches on Friday P.M.,
and preached twice for Mr. Peabody on Sunday. Monday left for Boston.
Stayed until Tuesday of the week ensuing. Preached in Bowdoin church in
the morning of Sunday, and at Park Street in the P.M. Was invited to
preach _all_ day at Bowdoin, and also all day at Odeon, but preferred my
course. Left for New York on Tuesday noon; arrived next morning. Am at
Rev. Mr. Jones’s (Mrs. Beecher’s brother-in-law), and very pleasantly
situated. Lucy Ann is a dear, sweet sister, and Mr. Jones a most amiable
and well-read, gentlemanly man. Probably I shall preach here on the
Sabbath, but nothing has yet been definitely said.

“Shall return by Pittsburgh, leaving this place on Monday next, if God
wills. At that rate you may calculate upon seeing us somewhere about the
middle of the week ensuing.

“Ah! Harriet, how I long to see you and Calvin. I shall soon show you my
dear, dear wife. I grow more and more proud of her every day....

“Love to _all_—for I love you all, even to the little homely kitten—and
love to all _our_ folks, Margaret Hastings and all.

                   “Yours most affectionately, dear Harriet,
                                                          “H. W. B.”

Leaving New York, they started westward, partly by rail, partly by
steamer, and not a little by the slow method of the canal; travelled day
and night, until they finally reached Cincinnati the last of August.

From Mrs. Beecher’s memory we obtain her impressions of their first

“We remained a few days at Walnut Hills, and then took the little
steamer with a free pass to Lawrenceburg. We were to board for the
present, as we did not think that eighteen cents in pocket and three
hundred dollars a year prospective salary would enable us to begin
housekeeping. Lawrenceburg was a small place on the Miami.

“Mr. Beecher was obliged to take charge of that part of the building in
which he was to preach. Together we went every Saturday afternoon, swept
and dusted the room, filled the lard-oil lamps, and laid the wood and
kindlings ready for him to start the fire the next morning before
service, when needed; for the members of the church were all, except a
few families, poor laboring people, with all they could attend to at

“But curiosity to hear the young preacher filled the room the first
Sabbath, and from that time it continued to be filled—crowded. The
Methodist church had always been the fashionable church, where the
wealthy and more refined part of the population worshipped. This little
Presbyterian church had almost died out, and, when first requested to
preach there, neither Mr. Beecher nor the people had any thought of his
coming for more than that one Sabbath. But his manner of preaching was
so very different from what they had been accustomed to—so original—that
they wanted to hear him again, and after that they gave him a call to
settle there. The Home Missionary Society were to give $150, and the
little band who composed the church thought they could manage to raise
$150—in all $300—and the call was accepted, notwithstanding the
remonstrance of friends in Cincinnati. They were more ambitious for him
than he was for himself, knowing that he could doubtless, in a short
time, get a better settlement. They knew, also, he intended to marry as
soon as his theological course was finished, and thought him wild to
think of bringing a wife out West and expect to be able to live on three
hundred dollars a year. But from the first he acted up to the advice he
always gave in after-years to young graduates from theological
seminaries: ‘_Don’t hang_ round idle, waiting for a _good offer_. Enter
the first field God opens for you. If He needs you in a larger one He
will open the gate for you to enter.’ _And so_ he _did_.

“From his first sermon[4] in Lawrenceburg that little room was crowded.
He did not extemporize so entirely, at first, as in later years—at least
he wrote more copious notes—but those who knew him can well imagine that
when warmed up by his subject his notes did not hold him very closely.


Footnote 4:

  “See Appendix A.”


“How vividly I recall that first Sabbath! How young, how boyish he did
look! And how indignant I felt, when some of the ‘_higher classes_’ came
in out of simple curiosity, to see the surprised, almost scornful looks
that were interchanged!

“He read the first hymn, and read it well—as they had never heard their
own ministers (often illiterate, uneducated men) read hymns. I watched
the expression change on their faces. Then the first prayer! It was a
revelation to them, and when he began the sermon the critical expression
had vanished, and they evidently settled themselves to _hear_ in

“The next Sunday the interest was still more strongly marked. His
preaching was to them something unusual. It was evident the hearers were
not quite at ease. He _woke_ them up, and they were not quite prepared
to decide whether they were anxious to be so thoroughly aroused. They
were not exactly comfortable, and some went away, after the services
were over, a little irritated and half-decided never to hear him again.

“The next Sabbath they concluded it would not hurt them to go just this
one time more, and from that time were constant attendants. The
satisfaction with this young preacher increased, and many from all sects
came regularly.”

On his return from the East with his young wife, not feeling that they
could afford to undertake housekeeping, he accepted the hospitality of
one of his elders, who had offered him a room in his house. There they
lived for some little time, when the sudden death of a member of the
family and the necessity of a change in the good elder’s domestic
arrangements required the use of this room.

At this time Mr. Beecher was attending a synodical meeting at
Cincinnati. Mrs. Beecher set to work at once to get board elsewhere.
Failing in this, she sought to hire rooms. After hunting until nearly
exhausted she secured the refusal of two rooms over a stable down by the
banks of the Miami, which had been occupied by the hostler, rental forty
dollars per annum.

She immediately took the boat to Cincinnati, and then, being too poor to
hire a wagon, she walked to Walnut Hills, four miles from
Cincinnati—which was then the home of the Beecher family—to report on
the state of affairs to her husband. A hasty examination of his finances
showed just sixty-eight cents. As they had no household furniture of any
kind, the prospect was not alluring. But an ability to get along somehow
was a characteristic of those days. Friends, though not over-rich
themselves, were able each to furnish something. One supplied half of an
old carpet, another some knives and forks, a third a few sheets and
pillow-cases, then a bedstead, a stove; and little by little, before
they returned home that night, there was gathered together enough to
meet the absolute requirements of living. Later the sale of Mrs.
Beecher’s cloak realized thirty dollars. The salary, though nominally
$500 per annum, was in fact but $300, of which one-half was paid by the
Home Missionary Society, and neither half paid with great regularity.
Any industrious day-laborer of modern times would have been ill-content
with either income or home possessions.

Returning from Walnut Hills, the next thing was to cleanse the rooms and
settle down. Mrs. Beecher gives a graphic account of their first
housekeeping: “When we reached our former boarding-house we found our
good friends with whom we had boarded very blue because their pastor and
wife could find no better rooms; but the lady was a true New England
woman and knew how soon a little hard labor would change the looks of
the rooms. Old Toby, their colored man, brought round, the next morning,
two pails and scrub-brushes and plenty of soap, and Henry and I went to
work with great energy. Think of father with sleeves rolled up, a big
apron on, scrubbing the floors! But I confess I never had known anything
so hard to clean. Tobacco-stains and all manner of dirt that might have
been looked for from the former occupants was so soaked into the floor
that it seemed impossible to remove the stains. I asked the landlord if
we might get some paint and paint the floors. ‘_Oh! no. That would
injure the wood!_’

“In a day or two the rooms were as clean as faithful, hard work could
make them, and after our last breakfast with our kind friends we bade
them good-morning, with thanks and a blessing, and went to get our
furniture, which the good captain of the steamboat had stored until we
were ready. With it came some groceries, wash-tubs, and a nice painted
dining-table, and a _husk_ mattress, and _husk_ pillows.

“‘Where did these last things come from?’ said your father.

“‘Part of my cloak,’ I replied, ‘but not all of it.’

“The kitchen-window looked out on a large back-yard that could be made a
fine one with a little care, but among the rubbish I espied an old
three-legged table and something that looked like the remains of small
hanging shelves. I ran down stairs and asked the landlady if they had
been thrown aside as worthless. ‘Oh! yes. They are good for nothing.’
‘Then may I have them?’ ‘Certainly. But on examination you will find
them of no use.’

“I washed and cleaned them well, and called to Henry to take them
up-stairs to our rooms. By the table I found the broken leg. With very
little trouble the table was repaired, the hanging shelves put up, and
both varnished. They proved to be mahogany, and when the varnish was dry
they looked quite nice. Among your father’s very scanty wardrobe was an
old coat past any mending. I took the skirt, cleaned it, and put it on
the top of the table, and fastened the sides and ends with some strips
of kid that I had brought from home. It did look quite fine, and you can
hardly imagine how much pride and pleasure your father had with his

“The long boxes made in Amherst expressly to pack his books in when he
came West were well made of planed boards. These we set one atop of the
other, open side out, and filled with books bought by his own labors
while in college, teaching school, and making speeches. These made quite
a fine addition to the room which was to be the parlor, study, and our
bed-room all in one.

“In the back room was a cook-stove given by brother George, and the old
three-quarter bedstead that your father used at Lane Seminary, now all
nice and clean, curtained with some four-cent calico Mrs. Judge Burnet
gave us. Henry made the upright posts and ran a large wire round it on
which the curtain was hung, with a wide tape all round the top on which
our clothes were pinned. Crosswise from the door to the chimney a piece
of four-cent calico curtained the corner where wash-benches and tubs,
flour-barrel and sugar-barrel (the two last sent in by good friends)
were placed, and over the door leading to the loft in the adjoining
store your father had nailed some large pieces to hold saddle, bridle,
and buffalo-robe. On the other side of the range was a good dish-closet,
and in front a sink.

“So these two small rooms, at first so repulsive, were becoming quite a
pleasant home. The house was situated very near the boat-landing on the
wharf of the Miami River—too near for comfort when freshets swept down
in _that direction_, but a pleasant outlook across on to the Kentucky
hills; the river sometimes so low that your father has walked across and
gathered flowers in Kentucky, then again rising so as to sweep
everything before it as it did two years ago, utterly obliterating all
that portion of Lawrenceburg where we lived.”

We are indebted to the Rev. John H. Thomas, the present pastor of Mr.
Beecher’s old church in Lawrenceburg, for the impressions of his
ministry there, as gathered from the reminiscences of his surviving

“Mr. Beecher made his mark immediately. His youthful appearance—he was
but twenty-three—and his careless dress may have raised doubts as to his
ability when his hearers first saw him, but they disappeared as soon as
he began to speak. The characteristics of his later oratory were all
present from the first—fluency, glowing rhetoric, abundance of
illustrations, witty points, brilliant ideas. From the first he filled
the church. Merchants told their customers of the talented young
preacher, and they would come miles to hear him. He was annoyed at
interruptions, and when late-comers appeared he would stop speaking till
they were seated.

“His personal habits were as original and effective as his pulpit
efforts. He was not what would be called a good pastor. An old pastor of
the Methodist Episcopal church in Lawrenceburg said to me: ‘Mr. Beecher
could outpreach me, but I could out-visit him, and visiting builds up a
church more than preaching.’ The records of the church during his
pastorate are yet in our hands, though in one of the great floods here
the volume floated out of the submerged study of the pastor, and was
found, by chance, embedded in the yellow deposit of the Ohio. It is
accurately and neatly kept, in the beautiful hand of Mr. Beecher, each
entry signed with his well-known autograph. The additions to the church
were about on the average of other pastors.

“But outside of strictly pastoral work Mr. Beecher’s influence was felt
widely and beneficially. He was universally popular. He was kindly,
genial, and free with all classes. He would hunt and fish with men not
used to the society of clergymen, and spent much time on the river,
especially in catching drift-wood brought down in every rise. Once he
called to a poor German emigrant woman that if she would bring him her
clothes-line he would show her how to get her winter’s supply of fuel.
She brought it, and he tied a stone to one end, and, flinging it out
from the shore over logs, would draw them in. In a little while their
combined efforts had brought in a dray-load.

“He was fond of talking with all sorts and conditions of men. There was
an old shoemaker in the town of pronounced infidel views. Mr. Beecher
would spend hours in the room where he worked, discussing with him.

“There is no evidence that he lowered in any degree his character as a
Gospel minister, but plenty that his influence was felt by the neglected
classes, and even by the rough elements. And in this did he not follow
the example of his divine Master, of whom it was said: ‘This man
receiveth sinners and eateth with them’?

“He was not unscholarly, but is remembered as a reader rather than as a
student. He studied men even more than books. A Baptist minister with
whom he had a discussion one Sunday is yet living here, and has told me
that at the close of the discussion, in which the Baptist minister
thought he had the best of it, Mr. Beecher waved his hand and said to
the audience: ‘Well, I don’t care if you all go down to the river and
get immersed.’

“His going away was esteemed a great loss. ‘Cords of people,’ says an
old lady graphically, ‘were about to come into the Church.’ But
Indianapolis, then with only 2,500 people, was the State capital, and
was rapidly outstripping the little town on the river. It was a louder

“Mr. Beecher’s relations with the other ministers were happy, although
he outshone them completely. He established a popular union
Sunday-school, notwithstanding there was one in each church, and he
often spoke in other churches.”

Mr. Beecher described his preaching there as follows:

“I preached some theology. I had just come out of the Seminary, and
retained some portions of systematic theology, which I used when I had
nothing else; and as a man chops straw and mixes it with Indian meal in
order to distend the stomach of the ox that eats it, so I chopped a
little of the regular orthodox theology, that I might sprinkle it with
the meal of the Lord Jesus Christ. But my horizon grew larger and larger
in that one idea of Christ. It seems to me that first I saw Christ as
the Star of Bethlehem, but afterward He seemed to expand, and I saw
about a quarter of the horizon filled with His light, and through years
it came around so that I saw about one-half in that light; and it was
not until after I had gone through two or three revivals of religion
that, when I looked around, He was _all_ and in all. And my whole
ministry sprang out of that.”

At another time he said:

“I had no idea that I could preach. I never expected that I could
accomplish much. I merely went to work with the feeling: ‘I will do as
well as I can, and I will stick to it, if the Lord pleases, and fight
His battle the best way I know how.’ And I was thankful as I could be.
Nobody ever sent me a spare-rib that I did not thank God for the
kindness which was shown me. I recollect when Judge ——— gave me his
cast-off clothing I felt that I was sumptuously clothed. I wore old
coats and second-hand shirts for two or three years, and I was not above
it either, although sometimes, as I was physically a somewhat
well-developed man, and the judge was thin and his legs were slim, they
were rather a tight fit.

“There was a humorous side to this, but I could easily have put a
dolorous side to it. I could have said: ‘Humph! pretty business! Son of
Lyman Beecher, president of a theological seminary, in this miserable
hole, where there is no church, and where there are no elders and no men
to make them out of! This is not according to my deserts. I could do
better. I ought not to waste my talents in such a place.’ But I was
delivered from any such feeling. I felt that it was an unspeakable
privilege to be anywhere and speak of Christ. I had very little
theology—that is to say, it slipped away from me. I knew it, but it did
not do me any good. It was like an armor which had lost its buckles and
would not stick on. But I had one vivid point—the realization of the
love of God in Christ Jesus. And I tried to work that up in every
possible shape for my people. And it was the secret of all the little
success which I had in the early part of my ministry. I remember that I
used to ride out in the neighborhood and preach to the destitute, and
that my predominant feeling was thanksgiving that God had permitted me
to preach the unsearchable riches of His grace. I think I can say that
during the first ten years of my ministerial life I was in that spirit.”

Here he began a habit which he followed during the first ten years of
his ministry—that of keeping a record of every sermon preached, stating
the date, text, an outline of the sermon, and then the reasons why he
preached that particular sermon, “as giving a kind of guide to my course
by a perusal of what I have done, also to avoid repetition and to show
_why_ I made given sermons”; thus forming the habit of preparing his
sermons with a view to reaching some specific object. This record, with
his daily journal in which he jotted down such thoughts on religious
subjects as came to his mind day by day, are now before us, and show an
immense amount of painstaking care. His habit of careful analysis was of
incalculable value to him later, giving a logical method to his
reasoning. It was not until after he came to Brooklyn that, under the
increased pressure of this larger field of work, he abandoned this

The last recorded sermons we find were those preached on the morning and
evening of January 5, 1848.

During the second year of his Lawrenceburg pastorate he received a call
to the Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, at a salary of $600
per year. Though this opened up a much larger and more effective field
of labor, with the means of living much more comfortably, yet, feeling
that he was doing effective work where he was, he refused the call. He
was always opposed to short pastorates and frequent changes: he had no
faith in rolling stones.

After a short time the call was repeated and again declined. He was then
urged to reconsider his refusal, and strong representations were made to
him that it was his duty to accept the larger and more important field.
At last, perplexed, he agreed to lay the matter before the Synod and
abide by their recommendation The Synod advised that he accept the call.

Aside from the strong aversion which he felt for restless changes, and
the feeling that, no matter how humble the field might be, he ought to
labor there so long as there was work for the Master to engage him, he
also felt a great unwillingness to leave the people to whom he was
becoming strongly attached. The life there, though rude and simple, had
been very happy. There his first child had been born. There for the
first time he really had begun to live and work in the field he had
chosen. But as he felt constrained to be guided by the advice which he
had sought, on the Synod’s recommendation he accepted the call.

On the afternoon of July 28, 1839, he preached his farewell sermon at
Lawrenceburg from the text: “These are the words which I spake unto you
while I was yet with you.”

                               CHAPTER X.

The New Field—Growth of Influence—Social Life—The Secret of Effective
    Preaching—Editorial Labors—Lectures to Young Men—Call to

With a heart full of tender feelings he parted with his people and
entered into the larger work in which he first became known outside of
the limits of his Presbytery.

In the last week in July, 1839, he removed his family to Indianapolis,
which, though it was the State capital, was hardly more than a village,
having less than 4,000 inhabitants, its streets unpaved and noted for
the depth and persistency of the mud. Like most of the then frontier
towns, it was very malarial; chills and fever were expected as a matter
of course, very rarely disappointing the expectation.

The Second Presbyterian Church was an offshoot from the “First” Church,
a chip struck out by the axe of controversy, then being so fiercely
waged between the Old and New Schools. The new church was of course New
School. Its fifteen original members, having been released from the
First Church after some little ecclesiastical difficulty, organized at
once, and secured the second story of the old Marion County Seminary.

Their first call was to Rev. S. Holmes, of New Bedford, Mass.; he
declined. They then invited Rev. John C. Young, of Danville, Ky., with
like result. Their next call was to Henry Ward Beecher, who became their
first pastor. He was then but twenty-six, looking still young, but
fresh, rugged, and full of life.

To the few survivors of that little band who knew and loved him in those
early days we are largely indebted for the impression produced by his
preaching in this church and in the community, and for a brief account
of his life among them.

“My first recollection of Mr. Beecher,” said one of his early
parishioners, “was when I was a journeyman printer. A man named King
came to me and, with much enthusiasm, declared he had heard the greatest
preacher he had ever listened to in his life—a young fellow who was
preaching at the Marion County Seminary.

“I went there and heard him for the first time in the spring of 1840, I
suppose it was. I was, like everybody else, perfectly carried away with
him. I soon formed his acquaintance, and, after he got to the new church
on the Circle, became a member in the great revival of 1842. I was a
printer when he delivered those lectures to young men, and in the course
of printing them (I was at work in the shop where they were published) I
was much in contact with him. They were published by the old jobbing
house of E. Chamberlain, who was afterwards a bookseller here. The
_Indiana Farmer_ was printed in the office where I worked, published by
a Quaker named Willis. Mr. Beecher was really the life and soul of
it—wrote all the articles in it that were good for anything. I
frequently assisted him in reading proofs. He had no practical
experience as an agriculturist, except that he was thoroughly alive to
every new thing. He took great pride in raising flowers, and his garden
was full of plants that had never been seen here before. During his
revival meetings—I think as much to test my sincerity and earnestness as
anything else—he invited me to come to his house at five o’clock in the
morning and breakfast with him. It was a winter morning and before
daylight. Mrs. Beecher and the children were up, everything in perfect
order, and breakfast ready. He called his wife and children together for
family worship, and spoke and prayed in simple words. It seemed to me
the most beautiful and touching thing I ever saw in my life. Mr.
Beecher, I thought, was even then broad in his ideas and the most
industrious man I ever knew. For a time he lived in one side of a little
one-story house in the alley half a square north of Washington Street,
between East and New Jersey Streets, in the rear of where the Jewish
Synagogue now stands. I think there were three rooms. At another time he
occupied a house that stood near the southeast corner of Pennsylvania
and New York Streets. He has told me that during a malarial season he
preached when he could hardly stand up, and, making his way home, would,
on entering his door, fall from exhaustion.”

[Illustration: The Church at Indianapolis.]

Another writing to us says:

“I remember well the occasion of his advent here (from Lawrenceburg).
Almost immediately his ministry attracted a strong following—quite too
numerous and influential for the limited seating capacity of one hundred
and fifty the chapel could accommodate, and a church was erected for him
on the corner of Market and Circle Streets. That was probably in 1840.
The building was regarded as a colossal edifice, and, while what would
now be considered primitive in the extreme, was in the main comfortable
and inviting. It was the first departure from the orthodox style of high
pulpits, and contained a low desk and platform. From the first his
preaching and precept were of the beauty of holiness and praise,
gladness and thanksgiving, and to this end he added the attraction of
music to the service of lesson and prayer. In those days his choir was
considered magnificent, and what the organ might lack in volume was more
than made up in melody and soul-reaching timbre. He was especially happy
in the selection of music that seemed to be an accompaniment to his
discourse. He was also the first clergyman, out of the Episcopal Church,
to introduce chants in the service.

“Upon the opposite side of _The Circle_ from his church, facing west,
was located the First Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Phineas D. Gurley,
pastor. I have often heard them spoken of as the ‘two distinguished
divines’ who were ‘the wheel-horses among theologians.’ They were both
leaders. I think that if there was one impression more than another
conveyed by Mr. Beecher’s appearance it was that of reserve force. The
steam up, he was capable and eager for the work in hand. Indeed, he
seemed the very personification of energy. I recall, however, that he
was always neatly dressed, usually in black, and that he was the first
clergyman in this part of the country to wear a soft hat. I am not sure
if he did not wear the first straw hat in those days of clerical
conventionality. He was certainly devoted to comfort, if in no manner
given to taking his ease. I doubt if he knew what it was to be idle.
When apparently indulging in recreation his active mind was storing food
for thought and spiritual teaching. The lightest romance which caught
his fancy (for he was an omnivorous reader) furnished material for
practical application.

“In form he was compactly built, with just enough flesh to give grace to
his lithe and active movements. His step was particularly elastic and
yet firm. All vigor and animation, there was the rosy tint of health in
his complexion, and his eyes were as clear and bright as a child’s. His
disposition was sunny, and the kindly grasp of his hand confirmed the
charm of his genial presence. It followed that he was fond of young
people and frequently participated in their romps and sports. I remember
in a game of copenhagen at a church picnic he was in no way disconcerted
by being rolled over and over down the hill when entangled in the rope.

“When need be he could be determined enough. At one time a younger
brother was an inmate of his family, and was a classmate of mine at the
University. In the boy’s judgment ‘all work and no play made Jack a dull
boy,’ and he went fishing and was gone two days. Instead of whetting his
appetite for study the diversion had the opposite effect, and he openly
declared he would go to school no more. Mr. Beecher did not waste words
on the matter, but seized him and took him by main force. As they drew
near the University the lad broke loose and took to his heels, Mr.
Beecher after him. The mud in our streets at that day was something
phenomenal, and there was a tussle in it, when the two closed, that sent
the ‘soft impeachment’ in every direction. For a little while the air
was filled with mud; arms and legs were scarcely distinguishable. The
authority of elder brother prevailed, carrying its point—and the younger
brother, too—and handed him over to the tender mercies of the principal,
Mr. Kemper, who was a rigid disciplinarian, and proverbial for observing
the Scriptural injunction of not sparing the rod. The youth was equal to
the occasion, however. Equipped in extra thickness of clothing, he took
his punishment with most astonishing fortitude, much to the admiration
of the other boys, whose sympathies were naturally enlisted.

“This incident illustrated Mr. Beecher’s indifference to appearances
where a duty was involved. He also assisted in building, painting, and
varnishing his house, and, if material fell short or heavy groceries
were needed, did not hesitate to go after them with his wheelbarrow and
take them home. In the single particular of giving dignity to labor, if
there had been no other, his influence in the community was invaluable.

“As in a notice of his _personnel_ his characteristics first attract
attention, so in his ministerial labors his method of conversion came
before the inculcation of doctrine.

“I have spoken of his fondness for young men. It was reciprocated to a
degree amounting to championship. His influence was personal and direct.
In his revival work he did not trust entirely to church service. He
became personally acquainted with people. He had a habit of taking long
strolls with men, and what his precept failed in his good companionship
made up. One long walk generally captured the sinner.

“He did not confine himself to Bible preachments. I heard his lectures
to young men in the basement of the church, and they were so practical
that they reached every mind. He struck yeoman blows at the evils of
intemperance, and engaged in a controversy with an influential distiller
of Lawrenceburg that attracted much attention and was reported by the
press of that date. Largely owing to the sentiment aroused by the
debate, no doubt, the distiller abandoned his calling.

“He also engaged in the publication of an agricultural paper, the
_Indiana Farmer_, and, as far as known, was the only professional man
who ever put practical sense into a periodical of the sort. A keen lover
of nature, he may be said to have put his heart in the work and made it
a memorable success.

“I do not remember his making any political speeches, although it is
well known that his church was the favorite resort of statesmen, who
made a study of his oratory and diction for their own benefit. I know
that he was deeply interested in all charitable enterprises,
particularly the benevolent institutions that are now the pride of the

“Nor am I aware that he ever addressed the legislative bodies in
particular, although the General Assembly men attended his church almost
in a body. He was known as a Whig, but was not pronounced in that

“The heart-felt interest he took in the slavery question was well known.
About the year 1842 a roving commission of Abolitionists from the East
visited Indianapolis. They held a meeting on the State House grounds,
and I remember seeing Mr. Beecher a prominent figure on the platform.

“The unpopularity of the Abolition cause at that time cannot easily be
imagined. To be identified with it was to be socially ostracized and
boycotted generally. It required the courage of a martyr to be an
Abolitionist. As notable examples may be cited two physicians who were
members of Mr. Beecher’s church. Bold enough to avow their principles,
they were exceedingly unpopular with the masses, and in their struggle
to combat popular opinion found it extremely difficult to support
themselves and families. They literally had no practice. The manner in
which Mr. Beecher sustained himself on this question was prophetic of
the personal hold he had upon men. It was exceptional.

“Meanwhile his popularity both as a preacher and man continued to
increase. Indeed, his success was without precedent and has never been
rivalled since. His church was crowded every Sabbath, both by his own
congregation and visitors from other and distant churches. Although the
pew system obtained, at least one-fourth of the seats (one entire
section) was reserved for young men and strangers. Among them may be
named the judges of the Supreme, Federal, and local courts;
distinguished professional men; and if there was a Hugh Miller of a
fellow, picking out truths of humanity from stone or devoting himself
like the Owens to his fellow-man, he would be found in that imposing
body of men. I suppose Indianapolis could not then boast of more than
five thousand inhabitants, but there was an unusual aggregate of culture
and refinement, and it was pretty sure to find delight in Mr. Beecher’s
preaching and service.

“As a rule his morning sermons were more doctrinal and more confined to
notes than his evening discourse. In the delivery of all of his sermons,
however, he would at times become very much enthused and dramatic.

“One frequent gesture that I noticed in attending his last lecture here
he retained through life. It was the habit of raising his right hand
high in air, and after a pause, sometimes prolonged, bringing his arm
down sharply to his side. An amusing incident once occurred in
consequence. At the identical moment that his hand was raised a big,
burly fellow, a member of his congregation, aroused from a nap (even his
eloquence could not keep every man awake) and seeing the hand uplifted,
the sleepy lout thought the benediction was being pronounced. He
gathered himself up accordingly and marched toward the door, making a
terrible racket with his squeaking boots, to the visible annoyance of
the congregation. There was a charming twinkle of fun in the preacher’s
eye as he gravely said: ‘If others of the congregation desire to leave I
will wait.’ A laugh went round the audience.

“In his liberal interpretation of the divine calling of bringing sinners
to repentance, some motley members, not to say black sheep, were
gathered into the fold. Among these was a lame tailor who was a very
hard case indeed, but was possessed of an appreciative soul and a
wonderfully retentive memory. He was always to be found in his seat in
church and was attentive enough to inspire a speaker. The following
morning the tailor’s shop would be crowded to hear him repeat the
sermon, or eloquent passages thereof. This he would do, word for word,
and with a close imitation of voice and gesture that proved a
first-class actor had been lost to the world in the realm of ‘the
shears’ and ‘goose.’ A propensity for gambling that could not be checked
was reported to the church and he was dropped from the roll.

“Take them all in all, Mr. Beecher’s sermons in Indianapolis were
marvels of logic and learning, graced by rare beauty of expression and
that feeling to nature kin which touched the heart. His usefulness could
not be circumscribed by the then narrow limits. His fame spread abroad
in the land, and one fine Sunday two or more strangers, with an
unmistakable New York air, appeared in the church. It transpired that
they were a visiting committee in search of a bright and shining pulpit
light, and it all ended in his call to Brooklyn.

“Great were the regrets of his congregation and the community of which
he was the great central figure of interest and influence. The impress
he left has not been obliterated, with the growth of the city, by the
lapse of time. In many respects the city is a monument to his earnest
efforts to promote her moral and intellectual development.”

Mr. Beecher has often remarked in later years that his first real
preaching was at Indianapolis. Although at Lawrenceburg he was noted for
his brilliancy of diction and wonderful oratorical power, and by his
good-fellowship and the strong personal interest which he took in all
his people made many and lasting friends, yet he did not feel that he
was doing real, effective work. “I can preach so as to make the people
come to hear me,” said he to good old Bishop Little, “but somehow I
can’t preach them clear into the kingdom.”

A year or two after his removal to Indianapolis he determined to find
out what the difficulty was.

“We had delivered hundreds before, but until then the sermon was the end
and not the means. We had a vague idea that truth was to be preached,
and then it was to be left to do its work under God’s blessing as best
it might. The result was not satisfying. Why should not preaching do now
what it did in the Apostles’ days? Why should it be a random and
unrequited effort? These thoughts grew, and the want of fruits was so
painful that we determined to make a careful examination of the
Apostles’ teaching, to see what made it so _immediately_ efficient. We
found that they laid a foundation first of historical truth common to
them and their auditors; that this mass of familiar truth was then
concentrated upon the hearers in the form of an intense personal
application and appeal; that the language was not philosophical and
scholastic, but the language of common life. We determined to try the
same. We considered what moral truths were admitted by everybody and
gathered many of them together. We considered how they could be so
combined as to press men toward a religious state. We recalled to mind
the character and condition of many, who, we knew, would be present, and
then, after as earnest a prayer as we ever offered, and with trembling
solicitude, we went to the academy and preached the new sermon. The Lord
gave it power, and ten or twelve persons were aroused by it and led
ultimately to a religious life.

“This was the most memorable day of our ministerial life. The idea was
born. Preaching was a definite and practical thing. Our people needed
certain moral changes. Preaching was only a method of enforcing truths,
not for the sake of the truths themselves, but for the results to be
sought in _men_. _Man_ was the thing. Henceforth our business was to
work upon _man_; to study him, to stimulate and educate him. A sermon
was good that had power on the heart, and was good for nothing, no
matter how good, that had no moral power on man. Others had learned
this. It was the secret of success in every man who ever was eminent for
usefulness in preaching. But no man can inherit experience. It must be
born in each man for himself. After the light dawned I could then see
how plainly Jonathan Edwards’s sermons were so made. Those gigantic
applications of his were only the stretching out of the arms of the
sermon upon the lives and hearts of his audience. I could see it now,
and wondered that I had not seen it before.”

The application of this, to him, new idea soon began to be apparent in
rich results.

A series of revivals sprang up, by which many were brought into the
church. From one of his successors we learn that “these were great
foundation days for the church. Strong religious impressions were made
upon the young town, and very many were redeemed to a life of Christian
service. These were fruitful years, starred over by three prolific
revivals. In the spring of 1842 nearly one hundred were received; again,
in 1843, was another spiritual blessing, and once more in 1845. Such
fruits vindicate the character and fervor of the pastoral activity. Many
of these converts are in the church to-day, old men, testifying as
elders and devout believers to the genuineness of this work. Mr. Beecher
preached seventy nights in succession during one spring, in labors
abundant. He ceased special effort, he said, to permit many who did not
wish to come out under an excitement, to calmly join the church.

“Revivals have been characteristic of this church from the beginning.
They have brought it steady and growing and efficient workers.”

He wrote to his father May 1, 1842:

“Prosperity and peace dwell with us. Our church is filled; our young
converts run well, and already there is gathered in material for another
revival of persons hitherto not wont to attend church anywhere.

“I hope this fall and early winter to see the scenes of this spring
renewed. The neighborhoods about town are also revived.”

He has told us of one occasion when he attended a meeting of the
Presbytery with his father. Great efforts were made at these meetings to
awaken a religious interest among the people especially in the church
where the meetings were held. Several sermons had been delivered on this
occasion, with no great effect, when he was called upon to preach. He
selected for his subject “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” “As I went
on describing the going away of the sinner from God the people became
interested; as I described the sinner’s coming to himself the interest
increased; but when I came to the return of the sinner to God, and God’s
readiness, even hastening, to receive him, the whole audience broke
down, and father, who was on the platform with me, said, wiping his eyes
and spectacles, ‘Thank the Lord! a revival is begun.’ Mr. C———, a good
brother, grasped my hand after the sermon with great fervor. ‘You did
well, Beecher, you did well; but you ought to have given ’em salt
instead of sugar.’ But since the salt had been tried several days
without effect, and the sugar, as he called my preaching, brought many
to Christ, I did not agree with him.”

His zealous labors were by no means confined to Indianapolis. He was
constantly called to help in the towns and villages throughout the
centre of the State. One, two, and even three weeks at a time he would
be gone, laboring to help some brother striving to awaken his people.

Terre Haute, Madison, Greenwood, Greencastle, Lafayette, Logansport,
Fort Wayne, Laporte, and Columbus are the names we find most frequently
endorsed on the manuscript notes of his old revival sermons now before
us. These were the days he loved to look back upon; though full of
hardship, privations, and not a little suffering, they were also full of
that great joy which comes to those who labor successfully in winning

Revisiting Terre Haute in one of his lecture tours many years afterward,
and for the first time after coming East, he writes back:

“And now my face is turned homeward! I am bound to Terre Haute—clear
across the prairie that I once traversed in early days. Farm touches
farm over these wide expanses which, forty years ago, I thought could
never be inhabited! No coal, no timber—how, except along the streams,
could men settle and thrive? Railroads, those dry and solid rivers, have
solved the problem.

“Is this Terre Haute? How has thy prosperity increased and thy beauty

“I wandered up and down the streets to find _my_ Terre Haute! It was
gone, covered up, lost, utterly lost, in new streets, new buildings!
Where is the former green? Where the quiet fields within bowshot of the

“At any rate, I shall know the church. There it was that I first wrought
in revivals, and every board and nail in it was precious. I found it. I
entered by the basement side-door and stood in the lecture-room where I
preached my first sermon, the same day of my arrival in town, to aid
Rev. Dr. Jewett. It was a solemn feeling that stole over me. I saw the
audience again. The seats were filled with shadowy listeners! It only
needed to see a few of the familiar faces—L. H. Scott, Dr. Ketcham,
Ball, Gookin, and others—to make it real again! Just then came up the
aisle Harry Ross himself! It was the touch needed to round out the
reminiscence. Only one fact disturbed the sweet illusion. This was not
the same church. The old one had been burned, and this one took its
place! It was a gentle shock to my sensibilities. But it stood on the
very ground, and was on the old foundations, and upon the same plan, and
looked like the old one, and so I inwardly voted that it _was_ the old
one and took my comfort of it! The city is wonderfully improved in every
way except to those sentimentalists who come hither to renew the past
and live over again old experiences.

“After the lecture, in a special train, we sped, through darkness and
storm, to Indianapolis—three hours’ blessed ride. How different this
midnight ride from the first one, thirty-five years before! For three
weeks I had labored side by side with Brother Jewett—the first revival
in which I had ever taken part! How helpless and wretched did I feel
when Jewett sent for me—then newly settled in Indianapolis—to come over
and help him! I had no effective sermons. I did not know how to preach
in a revival. Yet my elders said, Go. I rode two days the lonely road,
through beech forests (now all gone), in a dazed and wondering state.
Hardly was my saddle empty before Jewett was at my elbow. ‘You have done
well to come. You must preach to-night.’ In a moment the cloud lifted.
The reluctance was gone. It has been so all my life. At a distance I
dread and brood and shrink from any weighty enterprise; but the moment
the occasion arrives joy shines clear, and an eager appetite to dash
into the battle comes.

“Three memorable weeks at a time when events stamp the memory and the
heart as the die stamps the coin! When the time came to return home did
ever heart swell with stronger and more unutterable feeling? To go back
to the ordinary round of church life from this glowing centre seemed so
intolerable that my whole nature and all my soul rose up in
uncontrollable prayer. Through the beech woods, sometimes crying,
sometimes singing, and always praying, I rode in one long controversy
with God. ‘Slay me if Thou wilt, but do not send me home to barrenness.
Thou _shalt_ go with me. I will not be refused. I am not afraid of Thee!
I will prevail or die!’—these and even wilder strains went through the

“At length the clouds rolled away. The heavens had never seemed so
beautiful and radiant. An unspeakable peace and confidence filled my
soul. The assurance of victory was perfect, and tranquillity blossomed
into joy at every step. The first day was one long struggle of prayer.
The second day was one long ecstasy of joy and thanksgiving! I need not
say to the wise that the fire of my heart kindled in the church, and for
months the genial warmth brought forth a spiritual summer, so that
flowers and fruit abounded in the garden of the Lord.

“And now in this three-hour midnight ride, amid outward storms but
inward joy and thanksgiving, I recalled the old days, and mingled their
light with the gladness of the passing hour.”

Referring to a revival at Terre Haute—perhaps the one just mentioned—Dr.
Lyman Beecher wrote:

“The revival here under Henry’s administration and preaching was, in the
adaptation of means and happy results, one of the most perfectly
conducted and delightful that I have ever known.”

We can get some slight idea of the hard physical labor he endured in his
ordinary home preaching by quoting a single page of his “Sermon Record
Book”—a not unusual record:

“Oct. 22. Rode 36 miles; Adams’ neighborhood by noon. Evening
        rode five miles to Franklin; preached on Faith.
  “   23. Rode back to Adams, and at 10½ preached ordination
        of Stimson: Duties of Pastor.
  “   24. Sunday morning and evening, our church.
  “   26. Funeral of Mrs. Jennison.
  “   31. Twice—once on Baptism.
Nov.   7. Morning, baptism; P.M., funeral.
  “   11. Rode 8 miles to Brewer’s and preached; home again.
  “   12. Rode 8 miles to N. Prov. Ch.; preached, and home.
  “   13. Preached morning and night, and rode 5 miles to M———;
          P.M., 10 miles, preached 3 times a day.”

At this time he undertook a minute and careful analysis of the Gospels:

“I took the New Testament, I read it diligently, I made myself familiar
with the life and teachings of Christ, I became saturated with the
spirit of the four Gospels, I obtained all the helps I could get for
their interpretation, and I have now in my drawer a heap of manuscripts
in which I have condensed and compiled these Gospels, everything in them
being conveniently arranged for use. It was an immense work. These four
Gospels had, as it were, been eaten and digested by me and gone into my
blood and bones.

“It was while I was engaged in this work that Christ was brought to my
soul for the first time in my life with a sweetness and beauty, with a
vividness and glory, that for the time transformed the heavens and the
earth to my eyes. I had a conception of the depths of the nature of the
Divine Being that made metaphysical doctrines and philosophical formulas
more repugnant to me than they had ever been before, and I entered into
a vow and covenant that if I were permitted to preach I would know
nothing but Christ and Him crucified among His people. I took my horse
and saddle-bags and traversed the wilderness of Indiana, keeping that
view in my mind. For eight or ten years I labored for the poor and
needy, in cabins, in camp-meetings, through woods, up and down,
sometimes riding two days to meet my appointments. I had no books but my
Bible, and I went from one to the other—from the Bible to men, and from
men to the Bible. When a case came up I said to myself: ‘What will reach
that case?’ and I looked through the Acts of the Apostles to see how
they reached such cases. I hunted the Bible through in order to get at
the right way. So I worked on, and at last the habit was formed in my
mind of studying men, their dispositions, their wants, their
peculiarities; and then I worked with reference to curing them, not
constructing a system, but striving to produce righteousness in the
individual and in communities.”

It is said that in his preaching he often went double-loaded. He would
go to church with a sermon specially prepared for some person whom he
greatly desired to reach. If, however, he was not present, he would
preach a more general sermon. But when, on some other occasion, he
found, on entering church, that the object of his solicitude was
present, he would lay aside the sermon prepared for that day and preach
the special one.

It often occasioned no little surprise in the mind of the subject that
Mr. Beecher should have _happened_ that day to preach a sermon so
exactly fitted to his case.

Although he had the strongest feelings of love and kindliness toward
mankind, both in the abstract and the concrete, yet he never hesitated
to lash with stinging words any who took advantage of their strength to
abuse another’s weakness. And in such a case nothing could induce him to
back down or withdraw from the attack, unless he could be satisfied that
he had been mistaken in his facts.

One noticeable incident of the kind occurred during his ministry in
Indianapolis, as narrated by Mrs. Beecher:

A man in the city hotel, and not a little feared because of his
brutality, had done something more brutal than usual, and, the facts
coming to Mr. Beecher’s knowledge, in his sermon on the following Sunday
he expressed in no gentle terms his abhorrence of the act, and in very
strong language rebuked the man.

Many of his listeners were alarmed lest the man would, when he heard of
the sermon, do Mr. Beecher some injury.

Of course before the day was over the substance in the sermon had been
reported throughout the town, and did not fail to reach the man’s ears.

Monday morning Mr. Beecher went to the post-office immediately after
breakfast, and must go right by the hotel around which this man would
most likely be hanging. He got his mail and turned to come home. As he
passed the hotel there were several standing by, evidently watching for
some development. At that moment the man came down the steps with a
pistol in his hand.

“Did you say thus and so in your sermon yesterday?”

“I did.”

“Did you intend those remarks for me, or were you meaning me?”

“I most certainly did.”

“Then take it back right here, or by ——— I’ll shoot you on the spot.”

“Shoot away,” was the reply, as, looking the ruffian sternly in the
face, Mr. Beecher calmly, with deliberate step, walked past the man.
With pointed pistol and fierce oaths the man followed for a few paces,
when, baffled by the imperturbable coolness of his opponent, he slunk
away down a side-street, ashamed to return to the hotel.

Mr. Beecher himself has given us an account of another similar event:

“I remember that in Indianapolis there was a meeting called for the
enforcement of the laws against gamblers and against grog-selling, at
which I was requested to address mechanics and laborers; and some of
these violators of the law were there. A man named Bishop, and others of
that stamp, were in the meeting to hear what was going to be said. They
were the very men that we were aiming at. I was much excited. There were
gambling-dens and liquor-saloons where young men were induced to drink
and form bad habits, and were in danger of being dragged down to
destruction; and I expressed myself plainly, and pointed to Bishop, who
sat on a back seat, and denounced him to his face. There was a lively
time, if I recollect right; and he gave out the next day that when he
and I met one or the other of us was going to be whipped. I went down
the street soon after, and I had forgotten all about it until I was
right in front of his shop. He was a bully. He watched me as I came
down, and I confess that my first thought was a wish that I was not
there; but then it would never do for me to flinch, and I walked as
though I did not see him till I came close to him, when I turned and
looked at him. He thought I was going to attack him, and waited a
moment; I bowed and said, ‘Good-morning, Mr. Bishop,’ and passed on. He
would not run after me and hit me, and so the affair blew over.

“A year or two after that I left Indianapolis and went up the river, and
he chanced to be on the boat with me; and there never was a man that
paid me more kind attention than he did. He looked after my children
here and there, guarded me at night, and wanted me to drink with
him—some soda-water. He opened his whole heart to me, and told me how he
felt at the time of my remarks, how he felt the next day, and how he had
come to feel since. He said he knew he was carrying on a wicked trade,
that he was mad with himself, and that he was mad with me, and told me
what it was that induced him to stop. I found that under his love of
gain, which had led him to sell liquor, there was a conscience, a heart,
and a good deal of kindness.”

During the latter part of his ministry in Indianapolis the Presbyterian
clergymen had been requested by the presbytery to preach at least one
sermon during the year on slavery. Agreeably to this suggestion Mr.
Beecher prepared three sermons on this subject. He waited until the
United States Federal Court came there, with Judge McLean as the
presiding judge; and when all of the State courts, Supreme Court and
Circuit, were in session and the Legislature was convened—so that all
lawyers and public officers, men of every kind, thronged the city—he
announced that he should preach on slavery.

From the original manuscript before us we learn that he presented his
subject in three sermons. In the first he discussed ancient slavery,
especially among the Hebrews, its origin, methods, and final
abandonment. In his second he presented “the doctrine and practice of
the New Testament in respect to slavery.”

In his last he discussed the moral aspects of slavery and its effect
upon the community. These sermons made a profound impression on the
public mind. Indiana was just over the border of slaveland, and many of
its people sympathized heartily with the slave-holders. The prevailing
sentiment was very bitter against the Abolitionists. There was very
little patience with such “cranks” and “fanatics.” So when Mr. Beecher
attacked slavery with the same unsparing earnestness which characterized
his utterances on this subject in latter days—for he did not hesitate to
denounce it as a crime against God and man—he stirred up a very large
and very energetic hornet’s nest. The city was all excitement. Men
talked of nothing else. The friends of slavery were bitter and
threatening; the few friends of freedom, overawed by the threatening
demonstrations, held their peace and waited to see the outcome. Mr.
Beecher stood almost alone. Many of the church-brethren were shocked and
grieved beyond all expression; some even felt so outraged as to send for
letters of dismissal. Many prophesied that he had destroyed himself and
ended his influence for usefulness for ever, mourning over his speedy
downfall—a mournful prophecy so often repeated in after-years by timid
brothers whenever he took any advanced position, and with the same
results as in this instance.

Holding the United States Circuit, then in session, was Judge McLean, of
the United States Supreme Court, whose views upon all public questions
were naturally held in high esteem. The hotel where he was stopping was
full of lawyers and members of the Legislature. On the Monday morning
after these sermons, in angry and excited groups, they stood in the
public rooms of the hotel, talking about the three sermons which had
thrown the town into such a ferment. The judge, happening to join one of
these groups, was asked his opinion. Instead of denouncing Mr. Beecher’s
bold stand as madness, he calmly but with decisive emphasis replied:
“Well, I think if every minister in the United States would be as
faithful it would be a great advance in settling this question.” The
judge’s words spread as rapidly as had the sermons. They checked the
flow of bitter criticism. Men stopped talking and began to think; before
the day was out a revulsion of feeling set in. Many of the most hostile
found their anger changing into admiration—not convinced by Mr.
Beecher’s logic, but deeply impressed by his pluck. Those who shared his
views felt emboldened to speak out; and that middle class, the social
weather-vanes who like to go with the majority, soon felt the changing
breeze and began veering around to his side. The timid church-members
took heart, the applications for letters of dismissal were recalled. The
tide that threatened to overwhelm the plucky preacher only lifted him up
and carried him the higher in public estimation. This was the first
demonstration of his ability to face and overcome an adverse public
sentiment while championing a just but unpopular cause—an experience
many times repeated in the forty years that followed. Sometimes it
seemed as if he could not stand against the flood poured out upon him.
Then the consciousness of right made him strong and gave him that great
peace that no whirlwind of adversity could destroy, and roused up in him
a determination to only work the harder.

It was while in Indianapolis that he began his first real literary work.
It is true that he did some editorial work while at Lane Seminary, but
that was too short-lived and occasional to be regarded as regular
literary occupation.

Here at Indianapolis he accepted the editorial chair of the _Indiana
Farmer and Gardener_, and, as we are assured by those who were readers
of that journal, threw around the subjects therein discussed a
brightness of humor and fancy that made the otherwise dry topics of
fodder, fertilizers, and plantings seem new and interesting subjects.

“It may be of some service to the young, as showing how valuable the
fragments of time may become, if mention is made of the way in which we
became prepared to edit this journal.

“The continued taxation of daily preaching, extending through months,
and once through eighteen consecutive months without the exception of a
single day, began to wear upon the nerves, and made it necessary for us
to seek some relaxation. Accordingly we used, after each week-night’s
preaching, to drive the sermon out of our heads by some alterative

“In the State Library were Loudon’s works—his encyclopædias of
Horticulture, of Agriculture, and of Architecture. We fell upon them,
and for years almost monopolized them.

“In our little one-story cottage, after the day’s work was done, we
pored over these monuments of an almost incredible industry, and read,
we suppose, not only every line but much of it many times over; until at
length we had a topographical knowledge of many of the fine English
estates quite as intimate, we dare say, as was possessed by many of
their truant owners. There was something exceedingly pleasant, and is
yet, in the studying over mere catalogues of flowers, trees, fruits,

“A seedsman’s list, a nurseryman’s catalogue, are more fascinating to us
than any story. In this way, through several years, we gradually
accumulated materials and became familiar with facts and principles,
which paved the way for our editorial labors. Lindley’s ‘Horticulture’
and Gray’s ‘Structural Botany’ came in as constant companions. And when,
at length, through a friend’s liberality, we became the recipients of
the London _Gardener’s Chronicle_, edited by Prof. Lindley, our
treasures were inestimable. Many hundred times have we lain awake for
hours unable to throw off the excitement of preaching, and beguiling the
time with imaginary visits to the Chiswick Garden, to the more than
oriental magnificence of the Duke of Devonshire’s grounds at Chatsworth.
We have had long discussions in that little bed-room at Indianapolis,
with Van Mons about pears, with Vibert about roses, with Thompson and
Knight of fruits and theories of vegetable life, and with Loudon about
everything under the heavens in the horticultural world.

“This employment of waste hours not only answered a purpose of soothing
excited nerves then, but brought us into such relations to the material
world that we speak with entire moderation when we say that all the
estates of the richest duke in England could not have given us half the
pleasure which we have derived from pastures, waysides, and unoccupied

He was an earnest advocate of manual labor. He had no patience with
those whose squeamish effeminacy made them look upon labor as degrading.

On the fly-leaves of his “Editorial Agricultural Book,” begun January
10, 1845, he wrote:

“It is my deliberate conviction that _physical_ labor is indispensable
to intellectual and moral health, that the industrial and producing
interests of society are powerfully conservative of morals. Especially
do I regard the tillage of the soil as conducive to life, health,
morals, and manhood. I sympathize with the advance of society through
practical physical labors more than I do through metaphysical
speculations. I obtain clearer views of religious truth through my
sympathies with _men_ and their _life_ than I do through _books and
their thoughts_. Nor do I think any theology will be sound which is made
in the _closet_. It should be made in the street, shop, ship, office,
and on the farm. I have followed both inclination and conviction in
allying myself to the laboring classes.”

His knowledge on the subject of farming was not altogether theoretic.
One of his old parishioners writes us:

“He loved to work and toil, especially in his own garden. He always had
the earliest vegetables in the market, and his garden was better than
any other in the city. He loved to work among his flowers, and could
call every flower by its name readily. I think that he loved his flowers
and took more pleasure with them than anything else, excepting his
family. He certainly was more devoted to his family than any man I ever

It was no uncommon thing for him to take his vegetables to the market
before daylight, sometimes, as an especial favor, taking his little
five-year-old girl with him.

From the report of the fall exhibition of the Indiana Horticultural
Society we learn that Mr. Beecher took the three first prizes for the
best exhibition of squashes, beets, and oyster-plants. His beets, it is
stated, weighed from eight to fourteen pounds.

The literary production which first attracted any general attention was
his “Lectures to Young Men.” The State capital seemed to be the
headquarters for all those forms of temptation and vice which are
particularly liable to undermine the morals of the young. Many a young
man, whose future seemed bright with the promise of an honorable and
useful life, had Mr. Beecher seen swept from his feet and whirled away
to a dishonorable end—young men who might have been saved had some one
been able to show them the dangers of the paths they were treading,
whose beginnings seemed so pleasant and fair. Greatly distressed at what
he saw, he finally determined to deliver a series of lectures intended
primarily for young men, and for the purpose of opening their eyes.
These were subsequently revised and published, under the title of
“Lectures to Young Men.” The purpose of these lectures he aptly
indicated in his preface:

“When a son is sent abroad to begin life for himself, what gift would
any parent consider excessive to him who should sit down by his side and
open the several dangers of his career, so that the young man should,
upon meeting the innumerable covert forms of vice, be able to penetrate
their disguises, and to experience, even for the most brilliant
seductions, a hearty and _intelligent_ disgust?

“Having watched the courses of those who seduce the young—their arts,
their blandishments, their pretences—having witnessed the beginning and
consummation of ruin, almost in the same year, of many young men,
naturally well disposed, whose downfall began with the _appearances_ of
innocence, I felt an earnest desire, if I could, to raise the suspicion
of the young and to direct their reason to the arts by which they are
with such facility destroyed.

“I ask every YOUNG MAN who may read this book not to submit his judgment
to mine, not to hate because I denounce, nor blindly to follow me, but
to weigh my reason, that he may form his own judgment. I only claim the
place of a companion; and, that I may gain his ear, I have sought to
present truth in those forms which best please the young; and though I
am not without hope of satisfying the aged and the wise, my whole
thought has been _to carry with me the intelligent sympathy of young

He dedicated the book to his father—

                          “LYMAN BEECHER, D.D.

To you I owe more than to any other living being. In childhood you were
my Parent, in later life my Teacher, in manhood my Companion. To your
affectionate vigilance I owe my principles, my knowledge, and that I am
a minister of the Gospel of Christ. For whatever profit they derive from
this Book the young will be indebted to you.”

Our space forbids any attempt at reproducing or analyzing these

The evils that he attacked were real, and he did not mince matters in
the assault. In the course of his lectures some of his good people,
including one or two of the elders, thought that he was too plain and
outspoken in his description of the temptations and dangers that beset
the young, and undertook to advise him, suggesting that he should be
more prudent in the forms of his expressions. He expressed regret that
he should differ with them, but he proposed, he said, to treat the
subject as he thought he ought, without regard to any instructions
given. He did not propose to fight a mad dog with a handful of straw.
Notwithstanding the timidity of his advisers, it appears, from the
universal testimony of those who heard them, that they did great good,
awakening the community to the dangers he exposed.

He was earnestly urged to revise and print them, “that their usefulness
may be extended beyond the place of their delivery.”

His first attempts at their revision were not at all satisfactory to
him, for he said afterwards:

“I remember, when I was reading over my lectures to young men, with the
intention of printing them, that I took down a volume of Dr. Barrow’s
sermons and read two on the subject of ‘Industry and Idleness.’ I had
two lectures on similar subjects that I thought of publishing, but they
seemed to me so mean in the comparison that I took up the manuscript and
fired it across the room and under the book-case, where it lay I do not
know how long, and said: ‘I am not going to put those lectures into
print and make an ass of myself.’ I thought that I would be a fool to
think there was anything in them worth publishing. Afterwards, however,
a volume of lectures to young men was lent to me, and when I read them
they seemed so thin and weak that I said: ‘If these are acceptable to
the public and will do good I think I can print mine.’”

The many editions published in this country and England justified his
final conclusion.

Although his salary had been doubled on coming to Indianapolis, had he
received it all it would hardly have kept pace with his necessities.
Many little necessities incident to their new surroundings called for
expense. In the State capital two rooms over a stable would hardly meet
the requirements of his social surroundings. It became necessary to hire
an entire house, the spare rooms of which were devoted to boarders whose
rent helped out the slender family purse. The house needed painting; why
hire a painter? He could do it himself. Was he not born and brought up
in sturdy old New England, where every lad was expected, almost from the
day he was weaned, to take care of himself and add his labor to increase
the common good; where a man was thought wanting in ordinary “cuteness”
who could not turn his hand to any job and do anything he had seen
another do?

Off he starts to the paint-store with his old horse and wagon, entering
so enthusiastically upon the work in hand that he wholly forgot an
engagement, made for that morning, to marry a couple. As the paints were
being put up, he suddenly recalls his engagement, abruptly turns on his
heel, rushes from the store, jumps into his wagon, and goes clattering
down the street, leaving the astounded storekeeper in anxious solicitude
for his sanity. Returning shortly, with a merry laugh he explained the
cause of his precipitate outgoing. He found the couple waiting, married
them, and then returned for his paint. Getting his supplies, he goes to
work. He said:

“I wanted to economize in every way I could, and meant to paint the
house myself; and I did. I got along well enough until I came to the
gable end, which was two and a half stories high. When I began to paint
there I was so afraid that I should fall off from the platform that I
nearly rubbed out with my vest what I put on with the brush, but in the
course of a week I got so used to climbing that I was as nimble as any
painter in town.”

Here three more little ones came to swell the family circle, adding new
joys to the heart of one who loved almost with a mother’s devotion every
little child he saw. But these joys brought three more mouths to feed,
three more little bodies to clothe.

Fortunately food was abundant and very cheap. In the fall and early
winter game abounded, so that pigeon, quail, and ducks were bought for
almost nothing, and at times were literally given away.

[Illustration: Mr. Beecher’s House at Indianapolis.]

We remember the story oft told by him of the man bringing six dozen
pigeons to town. He tried to sell them, and was laughed at. He then
offered to give them away; no one wanted them. “Well,” he said, “I won’t
take them home; perhaps if I leave them in my wagon in the street some
one will steal them.” Returning a half-hour later, he found that some
other hunter equally anxious to get rid of his game had dumped eight
dozen more into his wagon.

His people would sometimes donate food or clothing. The best suit of
clothes he owned was made over from a discarded suit donated by one of
his parishioners.

Yet these were among the happiest years of his life.

For he found joy in his work. He loved his people and was beloved. Above
all, his teaching was bearing rich harvest, and many, many souls found
rest and peace through his words. His success was very gratifying, and
urged him on to greater effort.

Among the young his influence was especially marked. A genial playfellow
and companion, entering with hearty zest into all their sports, helping
them out of their little difficulties, he gained their confidence and
love. He guided the feet of many into the paths of a higher and nobler

One of these friends writes:

“He had a class of young girls, and I do not think that any one that
recited to him could ever forget his original way of teaching. There
were eight in the class, and we enjoyed the hour spent with him. He
developed our originality. He first attracted us toward Milton. We
studied, for he inspired in us the desire to know. In after-years, in
his visits to Indianapolis, the surviving scholars were looked up and
called upon, and the children of those who were gone were asked after.
With some of these scholars he was thrown more intimately than with
others, for all were not in his church. In these he naturally took much
interest and directed them in their reading. I remember his telling me
to ‘let Bulwer alone and the French novels,’ which were then first being
translated. At a company, a church social, or the singing-school he had
a merry word to say to one and another. All felt at home with him.

“My brother tells this story: When he was nine years old he had with
great labor made a kite, at least what he thought would serve as one. In
those days there were no toy-shops here, and, indeed, it was with
difficulty material could be found out of which to manufacture a kite.
But, as I said, he and his little sister had succeeded in shaping a
thing which they called a kite. So, on a spring day, they set forth to
fly it. My brother held the string and the little sister kept the kite
off the ground. He ran, and she after him; but run as they would, coax
as they might, their efforts availed nothing. Finally, disappointed,
footsore, and covered with dust, they stopped to take breath. While thus
brooding over their failure they saw Mr. Beecher standing near, looking
down upon them with an amused but sympathetic expression on his face.
‘What do you call that?’ ‘A kite,’ was the melancholy response. ‘Well!
well!’ the kind heart fully taking in the situation. ‘Come to my house
to-morrow afternoon.’ There was hope in the tone, and the boy’s heart
bounded. The next day he went to Mr. Beecher’s. He was shown a kite
bigger than himself. He could scarcely believe his senses. Why, the tail
even was long enough to set him wild. ‘Where’s your string?’ asked Mr.
Beecher. Out of his well-worn pocket, where all a boy’s treasures are
hidden, he drew forth a cotton string neither long nor strong. ‘This
will not do; have you any money?’ ‘No, sir.’ ‘Come, let’s go and get a
string.’ To the nearest grocery-store, where in early times everything
was kept, from pins up to ploughs, they went. A ball of twine was bought
for a ‘bit’; one was not enough—two for a quarter. Out into the street
they went, and the kite was a success. Away it flew over their heads,
the heart of the happy boy flying with the kite far into the heavens,
and won to his pastor for all time by this simple, kindly act.”

Like all mankind, he had to taste the bitter with the sweet and pass
under the shadow of the dark cloud of sorrow.

First his brother George, who had been a kind of guardian brother to
him, and deeply loved, was killed. The news came with the shock of a

“I was called to go to Jacksonville to deliver an address,” he said,
speaking of his brother’s death. “The journey was a long one, across two
States (or one and a half). I took my wife and child with me, and we
were gone some two weeks. When, on returning, we had got within two
miles of Indianapolis, and were as elated and songful and merry as one
can imagine anybody to be, we met one of the elders of my church riding
out from the city, and he said, after stopping to greet us: ‘Have you
heard the news?’ ‘No,’ said I; ‘what is it?’ ‘Your brother George has
killed himself.’ I did not say a word, my wife did not say a word, and
he did not say one word more. We rode on, and as we rode I could not
help thinking, ‘Killed himself! killed himself! killed himself!’ It was
nearly an hour before we got home, and then I learned that my brother’s
death was caused by an accident with a double-barrelled gun while he was
shooting birds in the garden; and it was a great relief to me to know
that ‘killed himself’ did not mean suicide.”

Later came the death of his little boy George, the first loss in his own
immediate family. He wrote, a few years later, to his sister, Mrs.

“I was in a missionary field, enduring hardships, and thinking in myself
always how to stand up under any blow, even if it were a thunder-stroke,
with Paul’s heroism at once firing me and putting me to shame. Our noble
boy suddenly sickened. Our people did not know _how_ to sympathize. Few
came while he lived; fewer yet when, on a bleak March day, we bore him
through the storm, and, standing in the snow, we laid his beautiful form
in his cold, white grave. Eunice was heart-broken. My home was a
fountain of anguish. It was not for me to quail or show shrinking. So I
choked my grief and turned outwardly from myself to seek occupation.”

In later years this sorrow had hardly lost its acuteness:

“I remember, to-night, as well as I did at the time, the night that my
eldest-born son died. That was my first great sorrow. I remember the
battle of hope and of fear, and I remember the victory of submission.
The child revived in the night. I went to Indianapolis (I lived on the
edge of that city), and I shall never forget the amazing uplift of soul
that I had, nor that one unspoken, universal thought of prayer, which
seemed to me to fill the whole hemisphere, for the life of my child. I
think that if one ever came near throwing his soul out of his body, I
did. And yet before the morning dawned the child had found a brighter
world. This was a double sorrow because I had given him up and then
taken him back again. Then came the sudden wrench.

“It was in March, and there had just come up a great storm, and all the
ground was covered with snow.

“We went down to the graveyard with little Georgie, and waded through it
in the snow. I got out of the carriage, and took the little coffin in my
arms, and walked knee-deep to the side of the grave, and looking in I
saw the winter down at the very bottom of it. The coffin was lowered to
its place, and I saw the snowflakes follow it and cover it, and then the
earth hid it from the winter.

“If I should live a thousand years I could not help shivering every time
I thought of it. It seemed to me then as though I had not only lost my
child, but buried him in eternal snows. It was very hard for faith or
imagination to break through the physical aspect of things and find a
brighter feeling.”

The attachment which his people felt for him was more than reciprocated.
He always loved to recall these early years and in memory live over
again their joys and sorrows, their struggles and triumphs.

In the early winter of 1877, in the course of a Western lecture trip,
revisiting Indianapolis, he wrote back:

“I went to Indianapolis in the fall of 1849 with a sick babe in my arms,
who showed the first symptoms of recovery after eating blackberries
which I gathered by the way. The city had then a population of four
thousand. At no time during my residence did it outreach five thousand.
Behold it to-day with one hundred and ten thousand inhabitants! The
Great National Road, which at that time was of great importance, since
sunk into forgetfulness, ran through the city and constituted the main
street. With the exception of two or three streets there were no ways
along which could not be seen the original stumps of the forest. I
bumped against them in a buggy too often not to be assured of the fact.

“Here I preached my first _real_ sermon; here, for the first time, I
strove against death in behalf of a child, and was defeated; here I
built a house and painted it with my own hands; here I had my first
garden and became the bishop of flowers for this diocese; here I first
joined the editorial fraternity and edited the _Farmer and Gardener_;
here I had my first full taste of chills and fever; here for the first
and last time I waded to church ankle-deep in mud and preached with
pantaloons tucked into my boot-tops. All is changed now.

“In searching for my obscure little ten-foot cottage I got lost. So
changed was everything that I groped over familiar territory like a
blind man in a strange city. It is no longer _my_ Indianapolis, with the
aboriginal forest fringing the town, with pasture-fields lying right
across from my house; without coal, without railroads, without a stone
big enough to throw at a cat. It was a joyful day and a precious gift
when Calvin Fletcher allowed me to take from the fragments of stone used
to make foundations for the State Bank a piece large enough to put in my
pork-barrel. I left Indianapolis for Brooklyn on the very day upon which
the cars on the Madison Railroad for the first time entered the town;
and I departed on the first train that ever left the place. On a
wood-car, rigged up with boards across from side to side, went I forth.

“It is now a mighty city, full of foundries, manufactories, wholesale
stores, a magnificent court-house, beautiful dwellings, noble churches,
wide and fine streets, and railroads more than I can name radiating to
every point of the compass.

“The old academy where I preached for a few months is gone, but the
church into which the congregation soon entered still is standing on the
Governor’s Circle. No one can look upon that building as I do. A father
goes back to his first house, though it be but a cabin, where his
children were born, with feelings which can never be transferred to any
other place. As I looked long and yearningly upon that homely building
the old time came back again. I stood in the crowded lecture-room as on
the night when the current of religious feeling first was beginning to
flow! Talk of a young mother’s feelings over her first babe—what is that
compared with the solemnity, the enthusiasm, the impetuosity of
gratitude, of humility, of singing gladness, with which a young pastor
greets the incoming of his first revival? He stands upon the shore to
see the tide come in! It is the movement of the infinite, ethereal tide!
It is from the other world! There is no color like heart color. The
homeliest things dipped in that for ever after glow with celestial hues.
The hymns that we sang in sorrow or in joy and triumph in that humble
basement have never lost a feather, but fly back and forth between the
soul and heaven, plumed as never was any bird-of-paradise.

“I stood and looked at the homely old building, and saw a procession of
forms going in and out that the outward eye will never see again—Judge
Morris, Samuel Merril, Oliver H. Smith, D. V. Cully, John L. Ketcham,
Coburn, Fletcher, Bates, Bullard, Munsel, Ackley, O’Neil, and many, many
more! There have been hours when there was not a hand-breadth between us
and the saintly host in the invisible church! In the heat and pressure
of later years the memories of those early days have been laid aside,
but not effaced. They rise as I stand, and move in a gentle procession
before me. No outward history is comparable to the soul’s inward life;
of the soul’s inward life no part is so sublime as its eminent religious
developments. And the pastor, who walks with men, delivering them from
thrall, aspersing their sorrow with tears, kindling his own heart as a
torch to light the way for those who would see the invisible, has, of
all men, the most transcendent heart-histories. I have seen much of life
since I trod that threshold for the last time; but nothing has dimmed my
love, nor has any later or riper experience taken away the bloom and
sanctity of my early love. And I can truly say of hundreds: ‘_For though
ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many
fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel._’

“But other incidents arise—the days of sickness, chills and fever, the
gardening days, my first editorial experience, my luck in horses and
pigs, my house-building; and not a few scrapes—being stalled in mud,
half-drowned in crossing rivers, long, lonely forest rides,
camp-meetings, preachings in cabins, sleepings in the open air.

“I was reminded of one comical experience as I was seeking on Market
Street to find the old swale or shallow ravine which ran between my
cottage and Mr. Bates’s dwelling. It had formerly been a kind of bayou
in spring when the stream above town overflowed, but dried off in
summer. To redeem it from unhealth a dike had been built to restrain the
river and turn the superfluous freshets another way. But one year the
levee gave way in the night; and when the morning rose, behold a flood
between me and my neighbor! There was sport on hand! It was too deep for
wading, but I could extemporize a boat. I brought down to the edge my
wife’s large washing-tub, and intended with a bit of board to paddle
about. No sooner was I in than I was out. The tub refused to stand on
its own bottom. Well, well, said I, two tubs are better than one. So I
got its mate, and, nailing two strips across to hold them fast together,
I was sure that they were too long now to upset. So they were, in the
long line; but sideways they went over, carrying me with them with
incredible celerity. Tubs were one thing, boats another—that I saw

“I would not be baffled. I proposed a raft. Getting rails from the
fence, I soon had tacked boards across—enough of them to carry my
weight. Then, with a long pole, I began my voyage. Alas! it came to a
ludicrous end.

“A rail fence ran across this ravine in the field, just above the
street. One end of the fence had loosened, and the water had floated it
round enough to break its connection with its hither side. A large but
young dog belonging to a friend had walked along the fence, hoping to
cross dry-footed, till he came to the abrupt termination, and, his
courage failing him, he had crouched down and lay trembling and whining,
afraid to go back or to venture the water. I poled my raft up to the
rescue; and, getting alongside, coaxed him to jump aboard, but his
courage was all gone. He looked up wistfully, but stirred not. ‘Well,
you coward, you _shall_ come aboard.’ Seizing him by the skin of the
neck, I hauled him on to the raft, which instantly began to sink. It was
buoyant enough for a man, but not for a man and a lubberly dog. There
was nothing for it—as the stupid thing would not stir, I had to; and
with a spring I reached the fence just abdicated by the dog, while he,
the raft now coming to the surface again, went sailing down the pond and
was safely landed below, while I was left in the crotch of the fence.
One such experiment ought to serve for a life-time, but alas!

“There is no end of things gone by. They rise at every point; and one
walks encompassed with memories which accompany him through the living
streets like invisible spirits.”

                              CHAPTER XI.

Invitation to come East—Call to Plymouth Church—Friendly
    Misgivings—Plainly Outlining his Views—Early Success—Plymouth
    Burned—Preaching in the Tabernacle.

Mr. Beecher had confidently expected to have remained permanently in the
West, and to have grown up with the new but rising country; but it was
destined to be otherwise.

His fame had spread Eastward, and in the early winter of 1846 a
tentative effort was made to call him thither. Mr. W. T. Cutler,
returning from a visit at the West, wrote in December, 1846, to Mr.
Beecher that Dr. Storrs had been called to the Church of the Pilgrims;
that one of Dr. Cheever’s principal men, J. Hunt, had “observed to me
that Dr. Cheever named _you_ as the man for the Pilgrims, and he thinks
that there will be new churches formed on the Congregational plan here
and in Brooklyn, and that you are the man to build up _one_ of them.”
While in Cincinnati Mr. Cutler called on Dr. Lyman Beecher relative to
his son’s going East, but “_he_ set his face like flint against it.” He
then had a long and urgent talk with the son again, in answer to which
he received the following letter:

                                   “INDIANAPOLIS, December 15, 1846.

”DEAR SIR: Your letter has just come to hand, and thanks for it. I am
glad you saw father, for your sake, for his, and for mine. Touching the
question of our former conversations, this is my position: My pride
tells me that if the only question in life were personal advantage, he
is on the right road who is _developing truth within himself_, and the
road to truth lies in _one’s own self_, and not in the place where he
lives. But my conscience tells me, and, I thank God, my whole heart goes
with my conscience, that the grand question in human life is the work of
benevolence—the doing good on _our_ scale, just as God does on _His_. I
am sure that the shortest road to one’s own happiness is by making
others happy. Now, in this work, the labor of _usefulness_, if there be
one thing which, above all others, I especially abhor, it is this _cant_
talk about ‘_taking care of one’s influence_’; going where one can ‘_use
his influence to best advantage_’; refraining from this or that for fear
‘_of ignoring influence_,’ and all suchlike trash. A man’s _influence_
is simply the shadow which _usefulness_ casts. Let him look out that he
is _doing enough_, and doing the right things, and then he may spare all
time usually employed in looking after his shadow lest it should give
him the slip.

“As to _where_ a man shall live and labor I have no plan, no theory
except this: That God has a very sufficient ability to make Himself
understood when He wants a man. A man should work _just where he is_
until he is clearly _called_ somewhere else. This keeping one’s ear open
to hear if God is not calling, this looking out every little while to
see if one is not wished for somewhere else, is rather of the nature of
_self-seeking_. A minister, like a maiden, ought not to make the first
overtures, nor to be over-eager to have them made to him.

“Now, I set forth this long preamble because it has occurred to me that
my situation and my conversations with you were a little _queer_, and
that it was worth while to state explicitly where I stand.

“Whenever it clearly seems to me that God has work for me to perform, I
shall, I hope, perform it, wherever it lies and whatever the work may
be. Moreover, when God has work for me in another sphere, I do not doubt
that He will make it so plainly His voice that calls me that I shall be
in no more doubt about it than Abraham was when called to leave his
native land or when called to offer up his son. I have no plan for
staying here, or for going to the West, or for going to the East. I
leave it entirely with Him who called me to the ministry where I shall
live, where and when I shall die; and in all fields, actual or
contemplated, I do desire above every other thing to have a heart
prepared to receive that welcome _call_, joyous to every one who has
tasted of the powers of the world to come, _to go up and labor in a
higher field_, with ennobled faculties and results, every one of which
shall be both perfect and illustrious.

“I believe that Christ will surely lead you wisely, if you will _be_
led; and that He will point out to you what enterprises it will be wise
for you to undertake, and to what one of all His multitudinous servants
you should apply for help. And should I never labor in such service with
you or near you, in New York, what then? I feel, in that respect, as if
we were like the two portions of our army before Monterey. What matters
it on which side of the city we are, since on either side we are bravely
pushing our arms toward a common centre, and when we meet it will
assuredly be in the hour of _victory_?

“But if ever I come to you or go to any other place, although I have no
plan as to situations, I have, I hope, an immovable plan in respect to
the objects which I shall pursue. So help me God, I do not mean to be a
_party man_, nor to head or follow any partisan effort. I desire to aid
in a _development of truth_ and in the production of _goodness_ by it. I
do not care in _whose hands_ truth may be found, or in what communion; I
will thankfully take it of _any_. Nor do I feel bound in any sort to
look upon untruth or mistake with favor because it lies within the
sphere of any church to which I may be attached.

“I do not have that mawkish charity which seems to arise from regarding
all tenets as pretty much alike—the charity, in fact, of
_indifference_—but another sort: a hunger for what is true, an
exultation in the sight of it, and such an estimate and glory in the
truth as it is in Christ that no distinction of sect or form shall be
for one moment worthy to be compared with it. I will overleap anything
that stands between me and truth. Whoever loves the Lord Jesus Christ in
_sincerity and in truth_ is my _brother_. He that doeth God’s will was,
in Christ’s judgment, His mother, His sister, His brother, His friend,
His disciple.

“Your visit has certainly been of collateral advantage to me. Some who
did not seem to care whether I had anything to live on or not have been
stirred up, at least to attempt to discharge the pledges to me for a
support: $800 does not seem to me to be an extravagant salary, but I
would gladly take $600 in lieu of it, if I could have it paid regularly.

“Give my love to Mr. Day and family, if you know them; if not, just take
this letter in your hand, go to his store, show him this paragraph: ‘Mr.
Day, allow me to present to you my friend, Mr. Cutler. Mr. Cutler, I am
happy in introducing you to an old and valued friend, Mr. Day.’

“And now, as you are at the fountain of news, why will you not drop me a
line from time to time, and keep me apprised of things in the great
world? You hold the pen of a ready writer as well as the tongue of a
ready speaker. And though I may have little news to send in return, such
as I have will I give unto thee.

                                 Truly yours,
                                                    “H. W. BEECHER.“

[Illustration: Mr. Beecher and his Father at the time of Call to

Again in February Mr. Cutler wrote, this time asking pointedly if Mr.
Beecher would accept a call to Brooklyn, stating that the property
formerly owned by the First Presbyterian Church—Rev. Dr. Cox—had been
purchased by Henry C. Bowen, Seth B. Hunt, and David Hale; that it would
be vacant in May, and that they proposed to organize in it a new church
on the Congregational plan; that if he would come they would give him a
salary of $1,500 per annum, and, if necessary, make it $2,000. Mr.
Cutler held out many alluring inducements, but without apparent effect.
Mr. Beecher would not even entertain the proposition. In the meantime
Mr. Cutler shrewdly reasoned that if he would come East, even for a
short time, it might be possible to make him change his mind. It was so
arranged that Mr. Beecher received an invitation from the American Home
Missionary Society to deliver an address, under its auspices, at what
was then called the “May Anniversaries” held in New York. He accepted
this invitation, intending, as he said since, “to urge young men to go
West, to show what a good field the West was, and to cast some fiery
arrows at men that had worked there and got tired, and slunk away, and
come back. I remember that I was particularly glowing on this subject;
but I came East not knowing what I did. It was a trap. Brother Cutler
(who has gone to heaven), it seems, had a little plan at that very time,
and I was running into a noose, though I did not suspect it. The result
of that visit was the formation of this church [Plymouth]. Mr. David
Hale, of the _Journal of Commerce_—whose son Richard is still one of our
members, though he is not with us—with two or three others, desired at
once to extend me an invitation to become the pastor of this church. But
the church did not exist. It was like asking a young man to become the
husband of an unborn girl. There was no church to be my bride. I refused
to receive a call to an empty house. They therefore made haste to form a
church; and I think it was early in June of the same year that some
twenty-five persons covenanted together over this very ground for the
church as it then stood. The main building fronted on one street, and
the lecture-room on the other. Here they agreed to become a church of
Christ; and then they extended to me a call to be its pastor. The call
was not publicly known until the October following; but still the
mischief was done.”

On Sunday evening, June 13, 1847, Plymouth Church was formally organized
with a membership of twenty-one, Rev. R. S. Storrs, of the Church of the
Pilgrims, preaching the sermon.

On the Monday evening following business meetings were held by both the
church and society, in each of which it was unanimously voted to invite
Mr. Beecher to be their pastor, with a salary of fifteen hundred dollars
the first year, seventeen hundred and fifty the second year, and two
thousand the third year and thereafter.

A formal call was at once sent.

For the first time the question was taken into serious consideration,
and for the next two months every argument was presented that might lead
to an acceptance of the call, great stress being laid on the fact that
in the larger field could be accomplished a more important work and an
influence might be exerted that would be felt throughout the entire
country; that the West could easily be reached from New York, when it
might be difficult to reach New York from the West.

Long and most urgent letters were sent to Dr. Lyman Beecher, begging him
to withhold any adverse influence. It is very doubtful if any of the
inducements or the flattering representations so strongly presented had
succeeded in winning him from the field where he was then working, were
it not that another influence was silently and powerfully at work. The
health of his wife, who literally was giving her very life to aid and
sustain him in his work, was rapidly failing under the malarial
influences of the West. It became very evident that she must have rest
and a change of climate. A few years in the East might restore her
health, then he could return and resume his work. In August he came to a
decision, and on the 12th wrote his letter of resignation, in which he
set out his reasons and plans:

                                     “INDIANAPOLIS, August 12, 1847.

”_To the Elders of the Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis_:

“DEAR BRETHREN: I have the very painful necessity laid upon me of
relinquishing the pastoral charge of the church over which for eight
years I have presided. I need not assure you that I do it with extreme
grief. If I could have had the control of my own affairs I should
certainly have supposed it wisest and best that, for the present at
least, I should remain in the West and with you. It is only the firm
belief that in removing temporarily to the sea-coast I should save the
life and restore the health of my wife that has induced me to sever the
connection which has so long and so pleasantly existed between us. I am
peremptorily warned, not only by those in whose medical skill I place
implicit reliance, but by a continual confirmation of their judgment in
actual experience, to leave this climate if I would save her life. You
will perceive in this state of facts that against which neither I nor
any one can form any argument or persuasion. I cannot express the
feelings which have warred in my breast in the anticipation of this
necessity, nor can I without the deepest regret recall the deficiencies
of my ministry among you. But I shall never forget the kindness with
which my failings have been borne, the sympathy which I have experienced
from you in the vicissitudes of the past eight years, and that
co-operation without which I am sure I could but in a small part have
accomplished the work which has been done. There are some details of
arrangements which I desire to make, but which can be better treated in

“I am, with Christian and personal affection, very truly yours,

                                                     H. W. BEECHER.”

Having decided, he wrote at once to the committee of Plymouth Church
from whom he had received the call:

                                     “INDIANAPOLIS, August 19, 1847.

”DEAR BROTHERS: I desire to convey through you to the Plymouth Church
and congregation my acceptance of the call to the pastoral office
tendered by them to me.

“I cannot regard the responsibilities of this important field without
the most serious diffidence, and I wholly put my trust in that Saviour
whom I am to preach in your midst. I can heartily adopt the language of
Paul: ‘_Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free
course and be glorified._’ It will be necessary for me to remain yet for
some time in this place, but I hope to arrive in Brooklyn in the middle
of October, or at farthest by the first of November.

                         “I am, in Christian love, most truly yours,
                                                     “H. W. BEECHER.

  “H. C. BOWEN,
   and others.”

While in the East, after having received the call from Plymouth Church
and while the question of acceptance was still in doubt, Mr. Beecher
also received a call from the Park Street Church of Boston—the same
church where he had preached nine years before, when on his way back to
Lawrenceburg with his young wife.

On June 10, 1847, he received a letter from the Rev. Silas Aikens, the
pastor of Park Street Church, stating that they very much desired Mr.
Beecher to accept a call to the position of associate pastor.

Early in July a formal call was sent by the church and society to the
same effect, but was shortly afterwards declined.

The call to Brooklyn having been definitely accepted, Mr. Beecher began
at once to arrange for the removal of his family. His salary was in
arrears. To meet the necessities of his family he had been obliged to
borrow five hundred dollars. This, with other and smaller debts, must be
paid, and money must be raised wherewith to transport his family East.
But how? Fortunately this difficulty had been foreseen, and as soon as
it seemed probable that the call would be accepted the friends at
Plymouth Church, in prophecy of that generosity which characterized them
in all after-years, promptly raised by subscription one thousand
dollars, and notified Mr. Beecher to draw thereupon as he might need.

About the first of October, 1847, he started Eastward, leaving
Indianapolis on the first passenger-train run on the new road just
built. Modern luxuries had not then been introduced, if we may rely upon
his account of the ride:

“The car was no car at all, a mere extempore wood-box, used sometimes
without seats for hogs, but with seats for men, of which class I (ah me
miserable!) happened to be one. And so at eleven at night I arrived in
Madison, not overproud in the glory of riding on the first train that
ever went from Indianapolis to Madison.”

October, 1847, marked a new era in Mr. Beecher’s experience. By
successive steps he had advanced from field to field with steadily
increasing responsibility, from the collegian tramping twenty miles to
deliver an occasional address in some adjoining town on topics affecting
public morals, to the young theologian still in the seminary, trying his
powers in some little hamlet—a knight-errant breaking a lance with the
adversary; to the young, unknown missionary entering the lists for his
first real, earnest battle against “the world, the flesh, and the
devil”; to the acknowledged preacher called to the State capital,
dealing stalwart blows at those evils which sap the public conscience
and allure the youth into evil ways, a recognized leader not only within
the limits of his Presbytery but even throughout his State.

And at last, called to the metropolitan centre, he enters a field whose
limits of influence were to be bounded only by the limits of the
civilized globe. With each increase of influence came corresponding
responsibilities. So far he had developed resources sufficient for each
increase in his burdens; but would he be sufficient for this new
experience? He had fully sustained himself as a missionary and a
preacher in a pioneer State, in a comparatively rude and uncultured
society. He had earned a reputation that had preceded him East; could he
maintain it? Could he meet the requirements of the refined, critical,
and highly-cultured metropolis (for New York and Brooklyn were, to all
intents, one great centre)? Many feared, and kindly volunteered the
information that neither the new church nor its new pastor would last
many months.

He was altogether too outspoken for his own good, said they. It was all
very well for a minister to combat evil, but he must do it in the good
old-fashioned, orthodox way: he should confine himself to generalities
and not be too specific. There were some things he ought not to meddle
with: the pulpit was no place for politics, and slavery was purely a
political question. He would find that in New York the public would not
tolerate those things which had been permitted to him in Indiana.

If he persisted he would soon have empty pews to preach to, even if he
did not have a personal demonstration of the folly of attacking those
popular sins—sins which most of his clerical brothers had had the good
sense to leave alone. Endless were the similes and metaphors indulged
in, of which the well-worn rocket was perhaps the most suggestive.

Some amiable critics even went so far as to intimate that his success in
the West was due more to the surreptitious use of the father’s old
sermons than any inherent ability in the son, and he was generously
given just one year to run through the barrelful of such sermons
supposed to have been brought on with him. The barrel, like the widow’s
oil-cruse, seems to have had a miraculous power of refilling.

Many friends advised him against the change: the risk was too great, his
experience too little. He said of this time:

“In coming to Brooklyn I had but one single thought—that of zeal for
Christ. I came under all manner of warnings and cautions. Many good
brethren told me how men got puffed up in the city, what temptations I
would encounter, and how I would very likely be conservative, and forget
my zeal, and so on; and I was obliged at last to say even to my father:
‘Father, do you understand, then, that God’s grace only extends to the
country, and that He cannot protect anybody in the city?’”

On the other hand, some counselled self-interest: “It is not necessary
that you should settle in Brooklyn; with your talent you will make more
show in New York.” “I didn’t come to make a show,” he replied. “I came
to preach what I understand to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ to men, and
this is the first opening, and I take it.”

He did not propose to have any misunderstanding on the part of his new
church as to the course he should pursue. He intended to make that very
plain and at the outset. If they wanted him they would have to take him
with their eyes open—_wide_ open.

October 10, the first Sunday after his arrival, he preached in the new
church, both morning and evening.

“My first sermon, I think, was directed to the Source of all true
religion—the Lord Jesus Christ and His power. In my second sermon—on the
evening of the first Sunday—I recollect that I lifted up the banner and
blew the trumpet in the application of Christianity to intemperance, to
slavery, and to all other great national sins. I said to those who were
present: ‘If you come into this church and congregation I want you to
understand distinctly that I will wear no fetters; that I will be bound
by no precedent; that I will preach the Gospel as I apprehend it,
whether men will hear or whether they will forbear, and that I will
apply it without stint, and sharply and strongly, to the overthrow of
every evil and to the upbuilding of all that is good.’”

Well-meaning but timid friends took alarm at this bold declaration. It
was not customary; it was not what they were used to; they came to him
to “counsel him for his own good,” they said. “Save yourself, anyway;
don’t ally yourself to unpopular men nor unpopular causes. There is no
need of it. You can have your own notions about abolition; what is the
use of preaching anti-slavery sermons?” To their great distress their
counsels had just the opposite effect intended: “I despised them all,
and preached like thunder on those subjects, especially before
pew-renting. For a period of more than ten years I never let a month
elapse before pew-renting that I did not come out with the whole
strength of my nature on the abominations of American slavery. I
remember saying, with some discourtesy and with language that I should
not use now: ‘If you don’t want to hear such doctrines, don’t take a pew
here next time.’ It had something of youthful eagerness in it, but I am
proud that it pleased God to ally me to causes that were weak but right.
It has ever been a cause of great gratification to me that I have not
lost that spirit, and that I ally myself to that which I think to be
right; and I do not care what man says to me, provided only I can
believe that God likes it, and that I have the testimony of His approval
in myself.”

To have remained silent in the presence of such great evils was to have
shared the responsibility of their existence.

We quote here his views on this subject, uttered from his pulpit many
years later:

“In every reform from intemperance, from vice, from crime, each
individual citizen is responsible to the degree of influence which he
has, and if he does not exert it he is responsible for a neglect of
duty—a binding duty. He is bound to create a public sentiment that shall
work for virtue. He is bound to drain the community of all those evils
that run together and form a channel for vice and crime. It is not a
matter of election, it is a matter of obligation; and because there are
the most respectable classes in the community that don’t do it, you are
not set free. Because the men of riches and the men of power and the men
of standing in society don’t do it, the poorest laboring man in the
community, if he does not, under the direction of his reason and
conscience, labor for the purification of the commonwealth, is
responsible to God. He is bound to do it. If his individuality on the
one side has shielded him against aggression, it brings with it also
certain obligations, and he is bound to meet them. All parties hold
their members only subject to the corrected judgment and moral sense of
the individual. If they go with their party on the general ground that
it is going right and is doing right, as far as the limitations of human
ignorance and human power are concerned, travelling in the right
direction also with many imperfect steps and many imperfect elements, he
may justly go on with it; but if he is committed, as were the parties of
slavery, to so atrocious a wrong as that which violated the fundamental
rights of the whole human family, a man is bound to fight the party, in
and out of it: in it by correction, out of it by protest and opposition.
And merely because he can say, ‘The party did it, I did not,’ he is not
relieved of responsibility. Inasmuch as you knew what was right and did
not do it, so much you are involved in the guilt; and there was a great
deal of guilt. The Church itself was involved in the same—dumb pulpits,
uncirculated Bibles, a corrupt and vicious public sentiment.

“When I came into Plymouth Church as its pastor there was probably
hardly a single church in the bounds of New York or Brooklyn of any note
that dared to say a word for the liberty of the abject slave. Was I
wrong in protesting against it, with the knowledge that I had? With the
conscience that I had, had I been silent I should have been doomed
justly to the stroke of God’s righteous judgment; and the want of moral
courage under such circumstances is a very great sin everywhere. You are
not right to stand still in any great party, moving in any direction,
doing wrong, without deliberately taking account with yourself. Am I
striving to correct the evil by all the influence I can wield? On
finding that to be impossible, do I free myself from all imputation of
partnership in any such guilt, one way or the other?”

_Now_ it is easy enough to express such sentiments: it is popular; it is
in the line of public sentiment. _Then_ it was a very different matter,
and the living up to them still more difficult.

Recalling the early history of Plymouth Church, he said:

“It was formed in the midst of the development of the greatest work of
the modern century—the emancipation of the slaves in America, by which
the industry of the Continent was also emancipated, and by which the
Church and religion itself were saved from a worse than Babylonian

“When I came here you could get no great Missionary Society, Bible
Society, or Tract Society to say one solitary word for the slave. Such
were the interests of the mercantile classes of the South that it was
extremely difficult to exert there any anti-slavery influence. As the
merchants largely held the funds, as the great societies needed support,
and as churches were built by respectable men whose prosperity depended
mainly upon the peace and order of the South, the position that this
church took was a bold and unpopular one. Those who did not live then
can have no conception of what it was to form a church that should stand
right out in the intense light of the time, and declare for universal
liberty and for the right of the slave to the Bible, and to full
religious freedom. This church grew up right against a flinty way of
bitterness and opposition.”

Such was the beginning, and such the times!

Although he began preaching in Plymouth Church, October 10, 1847, Mr.
Beecher was not formally installed until the 11th of November following.
On that day an ecclesiastical council was convened “by letters from the
Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, in the State of New York, at their
lecture-room, ... for the purpose of installing (if the way should be
found clear) the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher as their pastor,” etc.

“After an extended and thorough examination of the pastor-elect
respecting his views of the doctrine of natural and revealed religion,
his experience of renewing and sanctifying grace, and his object in
entering on the work of the Christian ministry, the council unanimously
pronounced the examination sustained and voted to proceed to

The invocation and reading of the Scriptures was by the Rev. Dr.
Humphrey, of Pittsfield, Mass.; the sermon by Rev. Dr. Edward Beecher,
of the Salem Church of Boston, an older brother of the new pastor; the
installing prayer by Rev. Dr. Hewitt, of the Second Congregational
Church of Bridgeport; the charge to the pastor by Rev. Dr. Lansing, of
the Second Congregational Church of New York; the fellowship of the
churches by Rev. R. S. Storrs, Jr., of the Church of the Pilgrims,
Brooklyn; address to the people by Rev. J. P. Thompson, of the Broadway
Tabernacle, New York, and the concluding prayer by Rev. Dr. Bushnell, of
the North Church of Hartford.

As soon as he was fairly installed the pastor set himself vigorously to
work to build up the young church, and to fill it with new converts.

The audience-room of the church began to fill rapidly, in the morning
being generally three-fourths full, and in the evening entirely full.
Early in 1848 difficulty was found in accommodating those who wished to
attend, the building being crowded from that time on, both night and

In the spring, daily morning prayer-meetings were held, under the
conduct of the pastor. Soon revivals broke out in the church, which,
though singularly free from undue excitement, produced a deep and
wide-spread influence. More than seventy persons were converted, most of
them joining Plymouth Church, the rest uniting with other evangelical

Notwithstanding the many doleful prophecies that greeted its early
beginnings, and the “dangerous stand” taken by its pastor which alarmed
so many conservative minds, the church was just perverse enough to
prosper and grow rapidly—a perversity which characterized it for the
next forty years. In a little over two years from its birth it had an
enrolled membership of four hundred and four, of whom fifty-six joined
in 1847; one hundred and fifty-two in 1848; one hundred and thirty-six
in 1849 (the year of the fire), and sixty in the first part of 1850.

On the 13th of January, 1849, occurred one of those fortunate mishaps
which proved to be a blessing in disguise. For some time previous, the
congregation had been greatly disproportioned to the capacity of the
church; the necessity of rebuilding began to be seriously discussed,
when occurred a fire that abruptly terminated the discussion. The
building was so badly damaged that it was unanimously determined to
rebuild rather than repair.

The kindly sympathy of neighboring churches, in volunteering the use of
their buildings for the houseless congregation, was gratefully accepted
for a short time.

It soon became apparent that this unsettled and migratory condition was
harmful to the church. It was therefore determined to erect a temporary
structure upon ground in Pierrepont Street, kindly offered by Mr. Lewis
Tappan. In thirty days a building, one hundred by eighty feet, was put
up, and in this the church made its home until the first Sunday in
January, 1850.

The whole expense of this “Tabernacle,” as it was called, was
twenty-eight hundred dollars. The subsequent sale of the building,
together with the weekly collections, more than repaid this outlay,
while the pew-rents were amply sufficient to meet the current expenses.

As soon as possible after the fire, steps were taken to put up the new
building, which was to be constructed on a much larger scale than the
old one.

On May 29, 1849, the corner-stone was laid, and on the first Sunday in
January, 1850, the congregation worshipped in their new church.

The new structure was built on Orange Street, and ran through to
Pineapple. It was really two buildings under one roof, the church proper
being one hundred and five feet long by eighty broad. Adjoining and
opening into this, from the rear, was a lecture-room of two stories,
eighty by fifty feet, the second story being the Sunday-school.

The entire cost of the new church was about $36,000, of which $31,127
was raised upon scrip, bearing interest, payable in pew-rents. To
provide for the balance, and a mortgage of $10,500 on the old property,
the new building was mortgaged for $16,000. The entire indebtedness and
all encumbrances were paid off by 1867, at which time the church was
entirely free from debt.

The cost of the lecture-room and Sabbath-school was about $13,000, of
which $10,800 were donated, the rest being paid partly by festivals and
fairs held for the purpose, and partly from the general fund of the

The Sabbath-school at this time consisted of two hundred and fifty
scholars and thirty teachers.

The seating capacity of the pews and choir-gallery of the church was
about twenty-one hundred persons. This was thought at first, by some, to
be a very extravagant allowance. But in 1857 the seating capacity could
not supply the demand, and folding-seats were placed in the aisles,
fixed to the end of each pew, and so constructed as to fold up against
the pew-side when not in use; while benches were set along the walls all
around the galleries, and in the vacant space in front of the pulpit.
These accommodated about eight hundred more, while the standing space,
almost always occupied during the last twenty-five years, permitted
about three hundred more to be present.

As his last year at Indianapolis had been consecrated by the loss of his
little boy, so in like manner were the first in his new pastorate.
Scarce had a month passed when the death of his little girl “Caty”
became the means of closer communion between pastor and people through
the bonds of sympathy and kind service. He wrote to his sister:

“When Caty sickened and began her quiet march toward the once opened
gate, to rejoin the brother (cherub pair), we found our house full of
friends. Many of the truest, deepest hearts asked no bidding, but, with
instinctive heart taught right, _lived_ with us almost literally; and
when her form was to go forth from us, they embowered her in flowers,
winter though it seemed, and every thought and remembrance of her is
sweet in itself and sweet in its suggestions.

“What had I to bear up against? I was held up by increasing love and
sympathy on every side. Of _this world_ I had more than heart could
wish; of friends, never so many or so worth having; and the effect, as
might be supposed, has answered to the cause. I find now that it is with
me as with mountains in spring-time—every fissure is growing to a rill,
every patch of soil is starting its flowers, every shrub has its insect
and every tree its bird.”

                              CHAPTER XII.

Plymouth Church—The New Building—Sabbath Service—Prayer-Meeting—Weekly
    Lecture—Socials—Church Polity—The Pastor’s Policy.

As we have stated, Plymouth Church took possession of its new building
on the first Sabbath in January, 1850. Then, as on the Sabbaths of the
nearly forty succeeding years in which Mr. Beecher ministered here, the
crowd came and filled every available seat. Then began that sound, once
heard never forgotten, and heard nowhere else so continuously, of the
incoming multitude, the tread of hurrying feet like the sound of many
waters, as the crowds, held back for a time until pew-holders have been
in part accommodated, press in and take their places. Here, on this
first Sabbath, arose that song of thanksgiving whose fulness and power
were for so many years a marked feature of the religious service of this
great congregation. Here began that long succession of sermons which
opened to so many thousands, at first by the voice and then by the
printing-press; the nearness, the righteousness, and the boundless love
of God revealed in Jesus Christ. And here began on that day to ascend
those prayers which drew hearts into the very presence of the Most High
and left them gladdened, refreshed, and filled as with the fulness of
God. Blessed old Plymouth Church! Its every memory, its very walls are
dear unto multitudes.

It was plain even to bareness—unnecessarily so in the opinion of
many—both without and within, with not the slightest effort at show or
even ornament. None of those harmonies of color nor graces of form, such
as are now shown or attempted in almost every church edifice, were here
found. It was builded with the simple conscientious purpose of enabling
as many as possible to hear the Gospel, of affording every advantage to
such as wished to meet together in the prayer-meeting and sociable, and
of instructing the young in the Sunday-school. Herein lay the beauty of
the Plymouth Church building: its excellent adaptation to the great end
in view. More than any church of that day, and, with all the progress of
later times, excelled by but few, if any, at the present time, Plymouth
Church building afforded superior accommodations for Gospel hearing and
spiritual, educational, and social training. By placing the seats in a
partial curve, by the admirable arrangement of the commodious galleries,
and by pushing the pulpit well forward toward the centre of the circle,
the vast audience of nearly three thousand people were brought near
together and near to the speaker. While this enabled him to address them
with great ease, it also afforded an opportunity for the cultivation of
that feeling of homeness and fraternity that always characterized the
gatherings of this church with its pastor.

The pulpit was then, as now, a plain platform, with no railing in front,
and no other furniture than a set of chairs, a stand for notices, and an
open table for the Bible; as far removed as possible from those boxes
where the man must stand, cramped and stiff, while he delivers his
message. An offering of flowers was also found there, the beginning of a
custom which has been continued, we believe, without the failure of a
single Sabbath, from that day to this.

Behind the pulpit was the organ and seats for a choir of fifty or more
who should lead the great congregation in their songs of praise.

In the rear of the audience-room, opening back into another street, was
the lecture and prayer-meeting room, and above this were the parlors and
the Sunday-school rooms.

Such was the equipment that the pastor and Plymouth Church began to use
on that first Sabbath in 1850. It seemed to many more than ample. The
audience-room was more commodious than any in the land. Would the young
minister be able to fill it? Would he hold out? The “six months” that
one of Brooklyn’s most oracular of D.D.’s had given “that young man to
run out in” had long since passed, and he gave, as yet, no signs of
waning popularity; but perhaps he will, and a few possibly hoped, and
some, it may be, feared, that it would be so; but by far the larger part
of that great congregation praised God that day in joyful confidence
without any fears or misgivings. They had faith in their pastor as well
as in God; and he, conscious that he had builded sincerely, without sham
or pretence, had no question but that He who had begun this good work
would carry it prosperously forward to the end. All these appliances had
been demanded by the thousands in attendance. Their necessity was of
God, hence they could trust Him to vindicate His own plans. The young
pastor neither feared nor was anxious. He was the Lord’s; let Him do
with him as He pleased.

Of this feeling in connection with his preaching he himself says: “I had
at that time almost a species of indifference as to means and measures.
I cared little, and perhaps too little, whether I had or had not a
church building. I thought of one thing—the love of Christ to men. This,
to me, was a burning reality. Less clearly than now, perhaps, did I
discern the whole circuit and orb of the nature of Christ; but with a
burning intensity I realized the love of God in Jesus Christ. I believed
it to be the one transcendent influence in this world by which men
should be roused to a higher manhood and should be translated into
another and better kingdom. My purpose was to preach Christ to men for
the sake of bringing them to a higher life; and though I preferred the
polity and economy of the Congregational churches, yet I also felt that
God was in all the other churches, and that it was no part of my
ministry to build up sectarian walls; that it was no part of my ministry
to bombard and pull down sectarian structures; but that the work of my
ministry was to find the way to the hearts of men, and to labor with
them for their awakening and conversion and sanctification.

“I have said that I had no theory; but I had a very strong impression on
my mind that the first five years in the life of a church would
determine the history of that church and give to it its position and
genius; that if the earliest years of a church were controversial or
barren it would take scores of years to right it; but that if a church
were consecrated, active, and energetic during the first five years of
its life, it would probably go on through generations developing the
same features. My supreme anxiety, therefore, in gathering a church, was
to have all of its members united in a fervent, loving disposition; to
have them all in sympathy with men; and to have all of them desirous of
bringing to bear the glorious truths of the Gospel upon the hearts and
consciences of those about them.

“Consequently I went into this work with all my soul, preaching night
and day, visiting incessantly, and developing as fast and as far as
might be that social, contagious spirit which we call a revival of

The services in the church were then, as ever since, in harmony with the
building—simple and without ostentation, differing from those of other
Congregational churches only in the spirit of unusual heartiness and the
impression of unusual power.

When the bell ceased tolling the organ began its work of preparing the
hearts of the great multitude for worship. Then followed the invocation
by the pastor, always devout, always joyful and trustful, uniformly
sincere, and always varied. No set phrase ever took possession and held
in its formal grasp the expression of his praise and expectant prayer:

“Thou that dost hold the sun, and pour forth therefrom the light and
glory of the day, from Thine own self let there come, streaming as the
daylight, those influences that shall awake in us all hope and all
gladness of love. For we sleep except when Thy beams are upon us. Only
when we are in God are we alive. Let us in, O our Father! and may all
that is within us rise up to worship Thee. Accept our service according
to what we would do and according to what Thou wouldst have us do. Bless
the word and the reading thereof. Bless our songs of praise and our
fellowship therein. Bless our communion one with another and with Thee.
Bless us in our meditation, in the services of the day, at home, and
everywhere. Make this a golden day to our souls, through Jesus Christ
our Redeemer. Amen.”

Then followed, in those early days—in later years he often omitted
it—the reading of the hymn, simply, with no straining after effect, but
so as to give the full meaning of the words to be sung, and in a measure
to interpret their spirit. The singing which followed, so full and
appreciative, was something to remember. It was the voices of the
multitude joining and blending in one great, full song of adoration and

The reading of the Scripture was usually without comment, but so vivid
to his thought were the great truths uttered, and so flexible was his
voice in giving them expression, and so natural the adaptation of his
whole manner to their import, that his simple reading gave a better
understanding of Scripture than the explanations of most other men.

The prayer that followed the hymn was very marked in its general
characteristics, comprehensive, and adapted to the occasion and the
needs of the people before him. It invariably gave expression to a
thankful spirit, lamented sins and failures, was permeated with a
yearning desire for communion with God and with great sympathy with men,
class after class of whom he brought before the Heavenly Father for
deliverance, comfort, and blessing.

The sermon was long, consuming from three-quarters of an hour to an
hour, and sometimes more, in delivery, and usually combined in a very
marked degree the three elements, the exegetical, the philosophic, and
the hortatory. He delighted in giving a full and broad opening of
Scripture, that all might be quickened and fed; in showing the relation
and harmony of the truths thus presented to other truths already
admitted, making their bearings clear by frequent illustrations, and
pressing them in the progress of the sermon, and especially at the
close, upon the acceptance of his hearers. His preaching informed,
convinced, inspired, and moved men to decisive action Godward, or it
was, in his view, a failure.

The benediction with which the services closed was as if he saw the
hands of the living Saviour stretched out over His beloved people, and
he became but a mouthpiece for the solemn and tender expression of His

Then followed the informal after-meeting, unadvertised and
unarranged—the pressing forward to the pulpit, or the waiting in the
aisles until he should pass out, of some who perhaps had a word of
thanks for help received in the sermon, of others asking questions or
bearing messages, of strangers who wished to press his hand, or of
troubled ones who wanted a word of cheer. The meeting continued down the
aisle, out into the porch, out on to the street, as friends still walked
along with him, talking as they went.

The weekly meetings of the church, besides Sabbath services and the
Sunday-school, at this early period, were three: a “Lecture,” Tuesday
evening; a “Sociable,” Thursday evening; and a Prayer-meeting, Friday

The weekly _lecture_ was a familiar meeting of the church family and
their friends, where, in simple and colloquial speech, the pastor
instructed them in the things that pertain to the spiritual life. It was
always spoken of, not as a _sermon_, but as a “_Lecture-Room Talk_.” The
subjects chosen were practical, like these, given in the order in which
he delivered them: “Groping after God,” “Praying for Others,” “Fervency
of Religious Feeling,” “Conversing with the Impenitent,” picked up in
his intercourse with his people, selected with direct reference to
solving doubts, removing difficulties, and securing spiritual growth and
activity. In these, perhaps more than anywhere else, he displayed the
resources of his great common sense, revealed the depth of his spiritual
life, and drew most largely on the wealth of his own Christian

The prayer-meetings did not differ in form from those that are common in
Congregational churches. A moment before the hour for the meeting Mr.
Beecher came upon the platform, threw his hat upon the floor by the side
of his chair, sat down, and, throwing back his cloak, took up the
“Plymouth Collection,” and, the instant the bell ceased tolling, without
rising, gave out in a clear, firm voice the number of some familiar
hymn, usually of thanksgiving. The pianist wasted no time in playing the
tune through, but struck the opening note firmly, the audience joined
without delay and sang without dragging, and the meeting gained that
most important advantage—a good send-off. No sooner had the hymn ceased
than the pastor arose and read a passage from a Bible which he held in
his hand. He then led in a prayer, simple, confiding, hopeful, tender,
that helped all weary and waiting souls to realize that they were in the
presence of their very best Friend, and gave them needed help. Another
hymn, given out in the same manner and sung with the same spirit,
followed. Then, that there might be no break in the movement of the
service, looking at the individual addressed, usually some one of the
old warriors upon the front seats, he would say, “Will Brother ——— lead
us in prayer?” When this prayer was finished his eye seemed to take a
broader range and search out some of the younger and less experienced to
bring them into the work. Woe be to you then if you have come in late,
taken a back seat, and tried to keep out of sight! He seemed to know
instinctively where you were, and how you felt, and how essential, if
you would enjoy the meeting, that this ice should be broken; and on this
second call for leaders you would be very likely to hear your name
pronounced with that same kind but authoritative intonation that you
could neither pretend not to hear nor refuse to obey. Another hymn
increases the kindly warmth of Christian feeling that has begun to
pervade the audience like an atmosphere, and under its inspiration other
prayers are offered, at this stage by volunteers; experiences are
related, often by the pastor; questions are asked upon some practical
difficulty, and answers are given; failures and sins are confessed and
lamented, and prayers are requested and offered, until the hour was
passed all too quickly. Another hymn, and then the benediction closes
the meeting.

The social meetings, for the accommodation of which Mr. Beecher added
the parlors—at that time an unusual feature of a church—were a very
earnest attempt made by him in the meridian of his social power and
enthusiasm, and in a church more than ordinarily inspired by his loving
spirit, to overcome the separations which different conditions and
dissimilar social training and surroundings bring about in the Church of
Christ, and to realize as nearly as possible the family ideal. A
sewing-meeting was held in the afternoon for some benevolent enterprise,
followed by a plain tea to which all were invited. Friends dropped in,
pleasant conversation ensued, and perhaps a few selections of reading or
song, prepared for the occasion, were given. “Mr. Beecher then took his
stand in the centre of the large room, rapped with his pencil and called
his flock around him, and gave them ten minutes of appreciative, kindly,
witty, helpful talk. ‘Plymouth Collection of Hymns’ was then handed
round, and everybody sang, or tried to. After this, prayer and
‘good-night.’” This was about the outline, and for several years it was
moderately successful; but busy times crowded in upon it, unregulated
elements worked into it, getting and doing more harm than good, and at
length it was given up, and the members of Plymouth Church chose their
companions according to social affinities, similarity of position, and
circumstances, like other people.

Such preaching and labors, with such appliances, under the blessing of
God were sure to bring abundant results, and revivals followed each
other in quick succession all through those early years; in fact,
Plymouth Church thus far during its whole history may be called a
revival church.

Its polity was Congregational, as we find in its manual of 1850:

“This church is an independent ecclesiastical body, and in matters of
doctrine, order, and discipline is amenable to no other organization.
This church will extend to other evangelical churches and receive from
them that fellowship, advice, and assistance which the laws of Christ

His own policy toward the church is given in these words:

“I have never _managed_. I have never employed management. I have tried
to inspire kind feelings and thus lead men to take up their crosses. I
have never sought to exert my authority, but to promote the utmost
freedom of thought and action.... I have maintained from the beginning
the most profound desire that there should be a church-life among you
quite independent of me, and that as the pulpit was independent, so
should the pews be also. I have scrupulously avoided meddling with the
liberties of this church, except to _enforce_ them. My simple aim from
the beginning has been to develop among you as high a standard of
manhood, and of Christian manhood, as the infirmity of human nature
would permit; and for that—the exaltation of manhood in Christ Jesus—I
have labored in season and out of season: not without flaw, not without
fault, not without sin, but, as God is my witness, with every power of
my soul and body and understanding, from year to year.”

Such was Plymouth Church as she stood a score and a half and more years
ago, and as she still remains.

“Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is this our Mount
Zion” well expresses the feelings of multitudes as they recall these
years and remember these places. Her streets of Sabbath service and
work-day conference and prayer were continually trodden by eager crowds,
and were made beautiful and attractive by the Christian fellowship that
grew up and blossomed here on every side under the inspiration and
culture of one who himself so trustfully, hopefully, and exultingly
walked with God.

                             CHAPTER XIII.

Beginning of the Great Battle—Five Great Eras—Compromise Measures of
    1850—“Shall We Compromise”—The Fugitive Slave Law Denounced—Right of
    Free Speech Defended—Commercial Liberty—Fighting Caste—Liberty of
    the Pulpit Defended—Quickness of Retort—Sentiment of the
    Times—Reaction—Visit of Kossuth—Election of 1852—The Parker
    Controversy—Degraded into Liberty—John Mitchel—Garrison—Close of
    this Era.

Other things than opening the church building contributed to make 1850
an eventful year to Henry Ward Beecher.

In that year slavery came to the place of supreme interest in our
national affairs which it never afterwards lost until it was swept away
in the battle-storm of 1861-65.

The very month that Plymouth Church took possession of its new house,
the first month of the last half of the nineteenth century, Henry Clay
submitted a series of resolutions in the Senate of the United States
as “compromise measures for a final and complete adjustment of the
slavery question.” In the debate, passage, and enforcement of these
measures, the utterly antagonistic nature of the two contending
elements, liberty and slavery, which had been brought together under
our Constitution, became so evident; slavery, from the very necessity
of self-preservation, became so aggressive, advanced claims so
comprehensive and so forced the fighting, that the very measures
intended to compromise the whole difficulty made it clear that there
could be _no_ compromise. There could be no amicable adjustment of
interests so diametrically opposed; one or the other, liberty or
slavery, must take undivided and undisputed possession of the
government. From debate of words the conflict passed rapidly to the
argument of arms, first on the plains of Kansas and eventually over
the whole southern half of our country, developing into the greatest
civil war ever known in the world’s history—a war in comparison with
which, in the numbers engaged on either side, in the breadth of the
battle-field, in the agents of destruction employed and the important
interests at stake, England’s Wars of the Roses, and even the strife
of the rival claimants for the imperial purple of Rome, were
insignificant and secondary contests.

The part of this great slavery conflict in which Mr. Beecher was
actively engaged had five distinct eras, clearly marked by well-defined
boundaries, each presenting peculiar difficulties of its own to be
overcome, and each bringing forward peculiar and important questions for
solution. The first began with the agitation of the Compromise measures
of 1850, and ended in the passage of those measures and their
enforcement, more or less complete, during the uneasy years of 1850 and

The second began with the proposition to repeal the Missouri Compromise
measures and continued through what was known as “The Kansas Struggle,”
until April 1, 1858, when the first substantial victory ever won by the
free States was gained in Congress in the permission to give the actual
residents of Kansas a fair vote upon the question of the acceptance or
rejection of the infamous Lecompton Constitution.

The third began with the abandonment by the slave-power of its
dependence upon legislative enactments, which its defeat in Kansas had
proved to be futile, and the inauguration of an era of secession and
violence, and ended with the Proclamation of Emancipation, which took
effect January 1, 1863, and which legally destroyed slavery in all the
States in rebellion, and substantially within the whole domain of the
United States.

The fourth era began with the issuing the Proclamation of Emancipation;
extended through two years and more of battle by which the proclamation
was carried into effect, and slavery was destroyed _de facto_ as it had
already been _de jure_, and foreign intervention was prevented; and
ended with raising the flag over Sumter, the sign of the restoration of
our national authority over a free and undivided national domain.

The fifth includes the period of reconstruction, in which the difficult
task of bringing the States, once in rebellion but now submissive, back
into the Union was successfully accomplished. It covers the ground from
the close of the war to the present time, or, more properly, from the
death of President Lincoln, when the South lay prostrate at the feet of
the victorious North, to the election of President Cleveland, when, as
Mr. Beecher hoped and believed, sectional lines were obliterated and the
South once more saw the candidate she favored raised to be the chief
magistrate of our common country.

The Compromise measures of 1850 were conceived for the purpose of
removing the serious and dangerous complications that had arisen,
between the North and the South, in the attempt to organize the
territory recently acquired from Mexico, and in admitting California as
a free State with a constitution for ever prohibiting slavery within her
borders. The South felt that such an addition to the free States would
so disturb the balance of power between the sections that something must
be given her as a compensation. Hence these Compromise measures, which
provided for the admission of California as a free State, but gave the
South, as an offset, a more stringent Fugitive Slave Law and paid Texas
ten millions of dollars for the adjustment of her State boundaries.
Honestly intended, no doubt, and urged by the mover, Henry Clay, and
accepted by many who disliked it, from patriotic motives, this
Compromise was, nevertheless, wrong in principle and proved only
mischievous in results. It rested on the false theory that the
development of both liberty and slavery was equally the duty of the
Republic, and that whatever gain was made by the former must be
equalized to the latter by some new concession, and led to constantly
increasing disturbance in both sections. While failing to satisfy the
more radical men of the South, it was utterly abhorrent to a much larger
body at the North. It seemed to the latter to be but another great step
taken by the slave-power in its attempt to gain possession of the whole
land. The first had been the Missouri Compromise, in which slavery,
surrendering what it never owned—viz., the territory north of 36° 30′,
called Mason and Dixon’s line—gained Missouri and a _quasi_ right to all
territory south of that line. In this second great step now proposed
they did not fail to note that the provision to prohibit slavery in the
newly-acquired territories, called the “Wilmot Proviso,” had been
defeated in Congress, nor fail to see that in these Compromise measures,
should they be carried, the slave-power would secure the right to hunt
and capture its fugitives in every city, town, and home of the free
States, and to compel every Northern citizen to aid in the work, thus
making, so far as fugitives were concerned, slave territory of the whole
North. They saw in this measure a great advance towards nationalizing
this institution and securing for it the right, aimed at by its
advocates from the first, to go unquestioned and protected wherever the
authority of the Constitution of the United States was recognized. If
this were passed they felt it to be not at all improbable that the
threat of Senator Toombs, of Georgia, to call the roll of his slaves
from the steps of Bunker Hill Monument, would be executed, and they
opposed it with an energy born both of conviction and abhorrence. In
this opposition none were more strenuous than Mr. Beecher. Speaking of
this period, he says:

“In 1850, when the controversy came up about Clay’s Omnibus Bill,
including the Fugitive Slave Laws, I was thoroughly roused, and in the
pulpit and with my pen I attacked with the utmost earnestness the
infamous Fugitive Slave Bill. It was then that I wrote that article,
‘Shall we Compromise?’ It was read to John C. Calhoun on his sick-bed by
his clerk, and he raised himself up and said: ‘Read that article again.’
The article was read. ‘The man who says that is right. There is no
alternative. It is liberty or slavery.’ And then, when Webster made his
fatal apostasy on March 7, 1850, I joined with all Northern men of any
freedom-loving spirit in denouncing it and in denouncing him. Forthwith,
after a paralysis of a few weeks, his friends determined to save him by
getting all the old clergymen—such men as Dr. Spring, Dr. Lord of
Dartmouth, and the Andover professors—to take his part. The effort was
to get every great and influential man in the North to stand up for
Webster; and then it was that I flamed. They failed utterly. Professor
Woolsey of New Haven, Dr. Bacon, Dr. Hopkins, President of Williams
College in Massachusetts, and various other most influential men,
absolutely refused to sustain Webster.”

In the issue of the _Independent_ of February 21, 1850, filling three
columns, we have the famous article referred to above. We quote only
enough to indicate its spirit and line of argument:[5]


Footnote 5:

  This article entire can be found in Mr. Beecher’s “Patriotic
  Addresses,” published by Fords, Howard & Hulbert, New York City.


                         “SHALL WE COMPROMISE?

“Mr. Clay’s Compromise has been violently resisted by the South and but
coldly looked upon by the North.

“It is not that both sides are infatuated and refuse a reasonable
settlement; but the skill of Mr. Clay has evidently not touched the seat
of the disease. He either has not perceived or else has not thought it
expedient to meet the real issue now before the people of the United
States. The struggle now going on is a struggle whose depths lie in the
organization of society in the North and South respectively; whose
causes are planted in the Constitution. There are two incompatible and
mutually destructive principles wrought together in the government of
this land.... These elements are slavery and liberty.... One or the
other must die.

”... The South now demands room and right for extension. She asks the
North to be a partner. For every free State she demands one State for
slavery. One dark orb must be swung into its orbit, to groan and travail
in pain, for every new orb of liberty over which the morning stars shall
sing for joy.

“... It is time for good men and true to gird up their loins and stand
forth for God and humanity. No compromises can help us which dodge the
question, certainly none which settle it for slavery....

“There never was a plainer question for the North. It is her duty
openly, firmly, and for ever to refuse to slavery another inch of
territory, and to see to it that it never gets it by fraud. It is her
duty to refuse her hand or countenance to slavery where it now exists.
It is her duty to declare that she will under no consideration be a
party to any farther inhumanity and injustice....

“Mr. Clay’s Compromise resolutions demand better provision for the
recovery of fugitive slaves, and a bill is now pending in the United
States Senate for that purpose. On this matter our feelings are so
strong that we confess a liability to intemperance of expression.

“If the compromises of the Constitution include requisitions which
violate humanity, I will not be bound by them. Not even the Constitution
shall make me unjust. If my patriotic sires confederated in my behalf
that I should maintain that instrument, so I will to the utmost bound of
right. But who, with power which even God denies to Himself, shall by
compact fore-ordain me to the commission of inhumanity and injustice? I
disown the act. I repudiate the obligation. Never while I have breath
will I help any official miscreant in his base errand of recapturing a
fellow-man for bondage; and may my foot palsy and my right hand forget
her cunning if I ever become so untrue to mercy and to religion as not
by all the means in my power to give aid and succor to every man whose
courageous flight tells me he is worthy of liberty!

”... From those compromises, like Mr. Clay’s, which seek for peace
rather than for humanity—from such compromises, guileless though they
seem, and gilded till they shine like heaven, evermore may we be

This battle in Congress resulted, like every battle since the adoption
of the Constitution, in a victory for the slave party. In September of
this year, 1850, the Compromise measures, which had passed both Houses
of Congress, were signed by President Fillmore and became by a very
decided majority the law of the land. Many things had contributed to
this result. On the one hand, there was a strong party in the South,
representing largely the sentiment of that whole section, who felt
themselves aggrieved and deprived of their rights under the
Constitution, since they could not carry their property with them into
the common territory of the Union, and who saw in these Compromise
measures a step in the direction of nationalizing their peculiar
institution; on the other the commercial and manufacturing interests of
the North demanded a cessation of strife, that they might enter into the
prosperity opened to them by the discovery of the gold upon our Western
coast; again, the fear of disruption, if the bitter discussion in
Congress should continue, reconciled many to such measures as promised
peace; also, the habit of compromise, which had been early formed, and
stood apparently justified by years of prosperity and growth, made it
easier to again adopt this course; and, perhaps more influential than
any other, the leaders most beloved and trusted at the North were in
favor of the measure. Henry Clay was its originator, and Daniel Webster,
the great expounder of the Constitution, in his fatal speech of March 7,
1850, had justified the Compromise measures, spoke not a word in
condemnation of the legal or moral crudities and enormities of the
Fugitive Slave Law, and had reserved the lightning of his sarcasm and
the thunder of his condemnation for the Abolitionists:

“Nothing can be plainer than that all parties in the state were drifting
in the dark, without any comprehension of the elemental causes at work.
Without prescience or sagacity, like ignorant physicians, they
prescribed at random; they sewed on patches, new compromises on old
garments, sought to conceal the real depth of the danger of the
gathering torrent by crying peace! peace! to each other. In short, they
were seeking to medicate volcanoes and stop earthquakes by administering
political quinine. The wise statesmen were bewildered and politicians
were juggling fools.”

If the anti-slavery men of the North hated the Compromise, and
especially the Fugitive Slave clause in it, while it was being debated
in Congress, their abhorrence was increased a thousand-fold now that all
it had cost and all it threatened was in a measure comprehended. Looking
at it calmly, they saw that safe-guards which from time immemorial had
gathered around the individual to protect him in person and liberty had,
for a very large class in the community, been suddenly destroyed.

Trial by jury was denied. Opportunity for the accused to summon
witnesses in his own defence was not given, and “in no trial or hearing
under this act shall the testimony of such alleged fugitives be admitted
to evidence.” He had no hearing before any competent judge, but before a
commissioner appointed to take depositions, who, whatever his ability or
lack of ability, was clothed by this infamous act with plenary power in
the premises.

On the simple certificate of this man the unhappy victim was hurried off
at once into slavery, and no stay of proceedings or liberty of appeal
was granted. Dumb, undefended, his destiny at the mercy of any accuser,
and of a commissioner possibly ignorant and possibly vicious, the
accused was consigned to a state worse to many than death.

Aimed at a particular class, its injustice was seen to be indiscriminate
enough to make an attack possible upon individuals of any class; and its
provisions for the deprivation of a single right made necessary such a
stringency in the exercise of other rights as could not be tolerated in
a free community.

Atrocious in itself, it became still more offensive and dangerous by
reason of the ease with which its provisions could be employed by
villains for kidnapping negroes, or even white men, who had never been
slaves. It was stated and believed that along the whole line between the
slave and free States arresting fugitives at once became a regular
business, with very little care in many instances as to the previous
liberty or slavery of those arrested. Instances were continually being
recorded of colored boys and girls being unexpectedly spirited away and
hurried off into bondage. Great activity in this work of securing
fugitives who had lived in the North for years prevailed, and fear and
apprehension took possession of the whole negro population of that
section, and a corresponding indignation grew hot in the hearts of
multitudes of freemen.

Scenes and incidents were continually transpiring and published in the
newspapers that stirred the one party to greater hatred of the
institution of slavery, and the other party to greater hatred to the
means, regular or irregular, that were employed to prevent the carrying
out of its purpose.

As may well be supposed, Mr. Beecher speaks with no greater affection
for this measure, now that it has become a law, than when it was being
debated in Congress.

In a Star paper that appeared October 3, upon “The Fugitive Slave Bill
at its Work,” he meets it with undisguised and open defiance. “With such
solemn convictions no law impious to God and humanity shall have respect
or observance at our hands. If in God’s providence fugitives ask bread
or shelter, raiment or conveyance, from us, my own children shall lack
bread before they; my own flesh shall sting with cold ere they shall
lack raiment; I will both shelter them, conceal them, or speed their
flight, and while under my shelter or my convoy they shall be to me as
my own flesh and blood; and whatsoever defence I would put forth for my
own children, that shall these poor, despised, and persecuted creatures
have in my house or upon the road.”

He follows with another very thoughtful and able article upon “Law and
Conscience” in defence of his position, and for the instruction of those
who were in doubt what course to take in the conflicting claims of the
law of the land on one side and their feelings of humanity upon the

In the first place, he makes the duty of obedience to law very strong:

“Nothing could be more mischievous than the prevalence of the doctrine
that a citizen may disobey an unjust or burdensome law. Should that
liberty be granted, the bad, the selfish, the cruel and grasping, might
disregard wholesome laws as easily as just men unjust laws. It would
constitute every man a court in his own case; and a court, too, in which
selfishness would preside. Society could not exist for a day.

“It is a question seriously asked by thousands: How can we as good
citizens subscribe to such wholesome doctrine and yet openly resist the
Fugitive Slave Law? Many reasons make it important that this question
should be thoroughly answered. There are thousands who _say_ that this
law must be obeyed, and who, with the next breath, bravely and
generously declare that nevertheless, should a distressed fugitive ask
succor, shelter, and guidance at their hand, he should have them. But
this is breaking the law. To keep this law you must not shelter a slave
mother fleeing to her free husband in the North, nor a slave girl whose
foot bounds at the sound of a pursuer, as if it were the knell of
virtue. You must not give direction to a fugitive, though his head be
white and his old limbs reveal half a century of unrequited toil; though
a man say to you, in the awful agony of his soul, ‘Kill me, but for the
love of God do not betray me!’ the law enjoins you to go with the
officer, if he summon you, and help in his arrest! The minister of the
Gospel, the humane philanthropist, peacefully walking to the
Sabbath-sounding bell, must turn aside and help some scoundrel hireling
to run down his slave, if the marshal command him, or break the law!”

He then lays down this general principle:

“Every citizen must obey a law which inflicts injury upon his person,
estate, and civil privilege, until legally redressed; but no citizen is
bound to obey a law which commands _him_ to _inflict_ injury upon
another. We must _endure_ but never _commit_ wrong. We must be patient
when sinned against, but must never sin against others. The law may heap
injustice upon me, but no law can authorize me to pour injustice upon
another. When the law commanded Daniel not to pray he disobeyed it; when
it commanded him to be cast into the lions’ den he submitted.

“A law which enjoins upon a citizen the commission of a crime, and still
more of an open, disgraceful, and flagitious crime, has violated the
confidence of the citizen, and is dissolved in the court of God the
moment it is enacted.

“Let no man stand uncommitted, dodging between daylight and dark, on
this vital principle. Let every man firmly and openly take sides. This
vibrating between humanity for the fugitive and conscience for the law,
this clandestine humanity in spite of law, to which the lips only give a
sullen and pouting obedience, is not consistent with sincerity and
open-hearted integrity. We adjure every Christian man, every man to whom
conscience is more than meat, and honor better than thrift, to stand
forth and enunciate the invincible truth of the Christian’s creed:
_Obedience to laws, even though they sin against me: disobedience to
every law that commands me to sin._”

His conviction of the origin of this whole trouble, his policy
concerning it, and his confidence in the working out of natural causes
are well set forth in an article at this period upon “The Cause and Cure
of Agitation”:

“It ought primarily to be understood that our Constitution has _invited_
this whole conflict which has raged about it. Had the framers been
gifted with prescience they would, we cannot but think, have regarded
the inevitable future mischief of that compromise by which slavery had
its rights embedded in a constitution of liberty, as too great to be
risked. They acted with the light which they had. They swaddled and laid
in one cradle two infant forms. These were rocked together and grew up
together; but one was a wolf’s cub and the other a lamb. Both were alike
peaceful at birth—for a lion’s whelp when first dropped is as gentle as
a doe. Growth brought forth separate natures. Then appeared hostility.
Each acted to its nature.

“Our policy for the future is plain. All the natural laws of God are
warring upon slavery. We have only to let the process go on. Let slavery
alone. Let it go to seed. Hold it to its own natural fruit. Cause it to
abide by itself. Cut off every branch that hangs beyond the wall, every
root that spreads. Shut it up to itself and let it alone. We do not ask
to interfere with the internal policy of a single State by Congressional
enactments: we will not ask to take one guarantee from the institution.
We only ask that a line be drawn about it; that an insuperable bank be
cast up; that it be fixed and for ever settled that slavery must find no
new sources, new fields, new prerogatives, but that it must abide in its
place, subject to all the legitimate changes which will be brought upon
it by the spirit of a nation essentially democratic, by schools taught
by enlightened men, by colleges sending annually into every profession
thousands bred to justice and hating its reverse, by churches preaching
a gospel that has always heralded civil liberty, by manufactories which
always thrive best when the masses are free and refined and therefore
have their wants multiplied, by free agriculture and free commerce.

“When slavery begins, under such a treatment, to flag, we demand that
she be denied political favoritism to regain her loss; we demand that no
laws be enacted to give health to her paralysis and strength to her
relaxing grasp. She boldly and honestly demanded a right to equality
with the North, and prophetically spoke by Calhoun, that the North would
preponderate and crush her. It is true. Time is her enemy. Liberty will,
if let alone, always be a match for oppression. Now, it is because
statesmen propose stepping in between slavery and the appointed bourne
to which she goes, scourged by God and nature, that we resent these
statesmen and refuse to follow them. If her wounds can be stanched, if
she may have adventitious aid in new privileges, slavery will renew her
strength and stave off the final day. But if it be forbidden one
additional favor and be obliged to stand up by the side of free labor,
free schools, free churches, free institutions; if it be obliged to live
in a land of free books, free papers, and free Bibles, it will either
die or else it _ought_ to live.”

He ridicules those measures that had been adopted North and South to
enforce the peace, and compares those who keep agitating against
agitation to poor old “crazy Dinah” who used to sit on the pulpit stairs
in Litchfield. “Once she began talking, but, startled at her want of
manners, she said out loud: ‘Why I’m talking! I’m talking in meetin’!
There, I spoke again. I ought not to speak. There, I spoke once more.
Tut, tut! why, I _keep_ a-speaking.’”

While advocating at this time, as ever afterwards, the utmost liberty of
discussion, he stated his creed in these words: “There is nothing so
safe in a free country as _free discussion_, nothing so dangerous as the
suppression of it; _peace_ and _liberty of speech_, _violence_ and
_intolerance_, respectively go together.”

He argued and advised in a lengthy paper against “the usual unfortunate
concomitants of controversy, bitterness, railing, unfairness, and
exaggerated prejudices.

“We have not the least objection to the most unbounded ardor of
expression, to the most enthusiastic convictions, expressed in the most
positive manner, so long as they relate to _truths_ or _principles_. But
when the propagandist comes to regard those who do not receive his views
as devoid of all principle and necessarily dishonest, and becomes
offensively personal, then controversy is morbid and mischievous. And as
nothing gives such vigor to like or dislike as conscience, so they who
profess to be conscientious are often conscientiously bitter. There is
no revulsion against men or measures so violent as that of pure and
honorable men. A man consciously right should watch against severe
judgments of others. It is sad and curious to observe the progress of
exaggerated impressions of personal character. Those who do not follow
our conscience on the slavery question are often, nevertheless, on the
whole, more conscientious men than we. Those whose reasonings we
pronounce cold and inhuman are not cold or inhuman men. Those whose
commercial interests reduce them, as it seems to us, to a policy on this
particular question which outrages justice and rectitude, are in their
private character most estimable for truth, and even for tender
sympathy. Indeed, this is often shown in strange contrast; for the very
men who give their counsel and zeal and money against the unseen slave
_of the South_ irresistibly pity the particular fugitive whom they may
_see_ running through the North. They give the Union Committee money to
catch the slave, and give the slave money to escape from the Committee.”

All who were acquainted with Mr. Beecher know that the course he advised
for others he persistently and conscientiously pursued himself. We doubt
if any man ever lived who was engaged in so many severe battles and
carried into them or brought from them so little bitterness.

Such a vigorous treatment of large and vital questions commanded a
following; and it was not long before this young minister from the West
was recognized as one of the great anti-slavery leaders and had a
national reputation. Men at the South began to hate him; men at the
North, conservatives whose business interests were wrapped up in the
present state of things, whose goods and principles were equally for
sale in Southern markets, were horrified and alarmed at his unwise
sayings, his blasphemous use of the pulpit for political ends, and his
fiery denunciations of the nation’s pet institution. But over against
these there was another class, daily growing larger, whose consciences
were set free by his clear discrimination of a citizen’s and a
Christian’s duty, whose intelligence was broadened and enlarged by his
lofty views, and whose hearts were set on fire by his mighty enthusiasm
and abounding love. This body daily increased in numbers and came more
and more to share the spirit of their leader. Whatever he wrote they
read. Whenever he spoke the size of church or hall alone decided the
number of hearers. Without ambition, without self-seeking, with a
simple, earnest desire to do his work as God revealed it to him,
unrasped by hatreds, he had come to a place and leadership as broad and
high as there was in the land. With cheek still ruddy with youth, with
eyes from which the laughter never died out except when the tears of
sympathy filled them or the deep things of God veiled them, with a heart
that was in sympathy with all nature round him, and which nature and He
who is above nature fed with perennial freshness, with a voice that
could interpret every emotion, with that excellent health that makes the
body a perfect channel of expression for the mind and a complete
instrument for its service, he stands like a David just come from his
sheepfolds, free, unencumbered, and singing as he strikes.

In the progress of this discussion upon the Compromise measures, which
had its centre in Congress, but in which every hamlet, almost every
household, in the North had a share, other questions came to the front
as parts of the great controversy.

Among the earliest of these was the right of free speech—a right utterly
unknown where slavery was in power, and always bitterly attacked where
it had influence. As may well be expected, it found in Mr. Beecher one
of its most strenuous champions. Early in his career he urged all the
claims of friendship, risked the safety of his new church building, and
defied the New York and Brooklyn mob, then under the control of the
notorious Captain Rynders, in its defence.

In a sermon preached in 1884 upon the death of Wendell Phillips he gives
an account of his experience in this matter:

“It is a part of the sweet and pleasant memories of my comparative youth
here that when the mob refused to let him speak in the Broadway
Tabernacle before it was moved up-town, William A. Hall, now dead—a
fervent friend and Abolitionist—had secured the Graham Institute, on
Washington Street, in Brooklyn, wherein to hold a meeting where Mr.
Phillips should be heard. I had agreed to pray at the opening of the
meeting. On the morning of the day on which it was to have taken place I
was visited by the committee of that Institute (excellent gentlemen,
whose feelings will not be hurt, because they are all now ashamed of it:
they are in heaven), who said that, in consequence of the great peril
that attended a meeting at the Institute, they had withdrawn the liberty
to use it and paid back the money, and that they called simply to say
that it was out of no disrespect to me, but from fidelity to their
supposed trust. Well, it was a bitter thing. If there is anything on
earth that I am sensitive to it is the withdrawing of the liberty of
speech and thought. Henry C. Bowen said to me: ‘You can have Plymouth
Church, if you want it.’ ‘How?’ ‘It is a rule of the church trustees
that the church may be let by a majority vote when we are convened; but
if we are not convened, then every trustee must give his consent in
writing. If you choose to make it a personal matter and go to every
trustee, you can have it.’ He meanwhile undertook, with Mr. Hall, to put
new placards over the old ones, notifying men quietly that the meeting
was to be held here, and distributing thousands and tens of thousands of
hand-bills at the ferries. No task was ever more welcome. I went to the
trustees man by man. The majority of them very cheerfully accorded the
permission. One or two of them were disposed to decline and withhold it.
I made it a matter of personal friendship: ‘You and I will break if you
don’t give me this permission,’ and they signed. So the meeting glided
from Graham Institute to this house. A great audience assembled. We had
detectives in disguise, and every arrangement made to handle the subject
in a practical form if the crowd should undertake to molest us.”

Neither at this nor any other time was an attack actually made upon
Plymouth Church, although many times in its history have angry men
gathered in the immediate neighborhood, evidently bent on mischief, but
were restrained from violence by the bold bearing of many in the
audience who were known not to be Quakers, and by the presence of the
police, who were kept well informed of their intentions.

Another of the secondary battles that were fought early in this year was
one for commercial liberty.

The South, by the help, and perhaps by the instigation, of Northern
co-operators, attempted nothing less than to boycott every commercial or
manufacturing company that was opposed to them upon the great political
questions of the day. A great “Union Saving Committee” was formed in New
York, and met in Castle Garden and made out a black-list of the
merchants that were anti-slavery, from whom the South were to withdraw
their patronage. Mr. Beecher not only preached against the outrage, but
visited from store to store to uphold the courage of the merchants.

He says: “Mr. Bowen was, of course, included in that blacklist, and
threatened with the loss of all his Southern custom. He came to me and
asked me if I would not write a card for him, and I undertook to do it;
but, my head not running very clear, the only thing I got at, after
making three or four attempts, was, ‘My goods are for sale, but not my
principles,’ but I could not lick it into shape, and I gave the paper to
him and said, ‘You must fix it yourself.’ He took it to Hiram Barney,
and he drew up the card in the shape in which it appeared, including
that sentence, which was the snap of the whole thing.”

“My goods are for sale, but not my principles” became a war-cry for the
independent business men of the day, and had immense influence upon
commercial action.

He fought the petty ostracism of the North, and apparently with success:

“I never preached on that subject. I never said to the people in this
congregation, from the beginning to this day, ‘You ought to let colored
folks sit in your pew.’ I preached the dignity of man as a child of God,
and lifted up the sanctity of human life and nature before the people.
They made the application, and they made it wisely and well.

“When I came here there was no place for colored men and women in the
theatre except the negro pen; no place in the opera; no place in the
church except the negro pew; no place in any lecture-hall; no place in
the first-class car on the railways. The white omnibus of Fulton Ferry
would not allow colored persons to ride in it. They were never allowed
to sit even in the gentlemen’s cabin on the boats.

“I invited Fred Douglass, one day in those times, to come to church
here. ‘I should be glad to, sir,’ said he; ‘but it would be so offensive
to your congregation.’ ‘Mr. Douglass, will you come? And if any man
objects to it, come up and sit on my platform by me. You will always be
welcome there.”

“At the Fulton Ferry there are two lines of omnibuses, one white and the
other blue. I had been accustomed to go in them indifferently; but one
day I saw a little paper stuck upon one of them, saying: ‘Colored people
not allowed to ride in this omnibus.’ I instantly got out. There are men
who stand at the door of these omnibus lines, urging passengers into one
or the other. I am very well known to all of them; and the next day,
when I came to the place, the gentleman serving asked: ‘Won’t you ride,
sir?’ ‘No,’ I said; ‘I am too much of a negro to ride in that omnibus.’
I called the attention of every one I met to that fact, and said to
them: ‘Don’t ride in that omnibus, which violates your principles, and
my principles, and common decency at the same time.’ I do not know
whether this had any influence, but I do know that after a fortnight’s
time I had occasion to look in and the placard was gone.”

But perhaps the most important, at all events the hardest-fought, battle
of this era was in behalf of the liberty of ministers of the Gospel to
preach in their pulpits for the slave and against the atrocities of

It sprang from the publication, by an influential New York daily paper,
of an article in which it was threatened that clergymen who spoke in
their pulpits upon slavery “would have their coats rolled in the dirt.”
Mr. Beecher at once took up the glove in his own defence and that of his
brethren who thought it their duty to preach on this subject. He entered
into an examination of the whole status of the slave with great
thoroughness, and gathered his materials for defence and attack from
Southern sources. A report made to the Synod of South Carolina and
Georgia in 1833 says: “They have no Bible to read by their own
firesides; they have no family altars; and when in affliction, sickness,
or death, they have no minister to address to them the consolations of
the Gospel.

“They are destitute of the privileges of the Gospel, and ever will be,
under the present state of things. They may justly be considered the
heathen of this country, and will bear a comparison with heathen in any
country in the world.”

“Says Judge Ruffin, of North Carolina, in a case brought against
defendant for shooting and wounding a _woman_ who endeavored to run away
from a whipping: ‘With slavery it is far otherwise. The end is the
profit of the master, his security, and the public peace. The subject is
one doomed in his own person and in his posterity to live without
knowledge, and without capacity to make anything his own, and to toil
that others may reap the fruits.’”

Aroused by such testimony from reports of religious bodies and the
decisions of the courts, he exclaims, with hot indignation:

“Yet the pulpit, whose echoes roll over the heathenism of the globe,
must be dumb!

“It is vain to tell us that hundreds of thousands of slaves are
church-members; does that save women from the lust of their owners?
does it save their children from being sold? does it save parents from
separation? In the shameless processions every week made from the
Atlantic to the Gulf are to be found slaves ordained to preach the
Gospel, members of churches, baptized children, Sunday-school scholars
carefully catechised, full of Gospel texts, fat and plump for market.
What is religion worth to a slave, except as a consolation from
despair when the hand that breaks to him the bread of communion on
Sunday takes the price of his blood and bones on Monday, and bids him
God-speed on his pilgrimage from old Virginia tobacco-fields to the
cotton-plantations of Alabama?

“What is church fellowship, and church privilege, and church instruction
worth if the recipient is still as much a beast, just as little loved,
just as ruthlessly desolated of his family, just as coolly sold, as if
he were without God and without hope? What motive is there to the slave
to strive for Christian graces, when, if they make him a real man, they
are threshed out of him; or, if they make him a more obedient and
faithful man, raise his market price and only make him a more
merchantable disciple of Christ? It is the religious phase of slave-life
that reveals the darkest features of that all-perverting system.”

Ridiculing the idea that it takes _distance_ to make a topic fit for the
pulpit, and upbraiding the ministry, who are engaged in snatching here
and there a child from the Ganges, and have no words for those children
that, here at home, every year are snatched from the parents’ bosom and
sold everywhither, he says:

“It requires _distance_, it seems, to make a topic right for the pulpit.
Send it to Greenland or to Nootka Sound, and you may then practise at
the far-away target. And the reason of such discrimination seems to be
that preaching against foreign sins does not hurt the feelings nor
disturb the quiet of your congregation; whereas, if the identical evils
at home which we deplore upon the Indus or along the Burampootra are
preached about, the _Journal_ says that it will risk the minister’s
place and bread and butter; and it plainly tells all Northern ministers
that if they meddle with such politics they will have their coats rolled
in the dirt. Will the _Journal_ tell us how many leagues off a sin must
be before it is prudent and safe for courageous ministers to preach
against it?

“Every year thousands of women are lashed for obstinate virtue, and tens
of thousands robbed of what they have never been taught to prize, and
the _Journal_ stands poised to cast its javelin at that meddlesome
pulpit that dares speak of such boundless licentiousness, and send it to
its more appropriate work of evangelizing the courtesans of Paris or the
loose virtue of Italy! And it assures us that multitudes of clergymen
are thanking it for such a noble stand. Some of those clergymen we know.
The platforms of our benevolent societies resound with their voices,
urging Christianity to go abroad, stimulating the Church not to leave a
corner of the globe unsearched nor an evil unredressed. But when the
speech is ended they steal in behind the _Journal_ to give it thanks for
its noble stand against the right of the pulpit to say a word about
home-heathen—about their horrible ignorance, bottomless licentiousness,
and about the mercenary inhumanity which every week is selling their own
Christian brethren, baptized as much as they, often preachers of the
Gospel like themselves, eating from the same table of the Lord, praying
to the same Saviour, listening to snatches of that same Bible (whose
letters they have never been permitted to learn), out of which these
reverend endorsers of the _Journal_ preach!”

He shows that the slavery of New England never was the slavery of the
South: “The slavery of the South in our day adopts the Roman civil law
as the basis of its code.... Now, New England never held a slave on the
basis of the Roman civil law, but under a law which was expressly
enacted for the benefit of the slave and for the ultimate destruction of
slavery—viz., the _Hebrew law of slavery_. No system of slavery, in this
land, can be profitable which does not put the slave under a regimen
which denies him the rights of manhood. The North, on the basis of the
Hebrew slavery law, found it out; she refused to go further and
sacrifice her religious scruples. The South, on the basis of the Roman
civil law, imbibed its inhuman spirit, put on the screws, and forced the
system into its present legal attitude, with a written code more
infamous than the unwritten law of any pirate’s deck.”

He proves that the North never sold out her slaves, with a profit, to
“her partners in the South, and so closed up the business,” by showing
that in most of the Northern States the slaves were set free by the
decisions of the courts upon the adoption of the State constitutions,
and that in the meantime their masters were forbidden, under heavy
penalties, to sell them South.

In New York gradual emancipation was enacted, and not only was the sale
of slaves out of the borders forbidden, but masters travelling with
their slaves in the South were required to give heavy bonds for the safe
return of the same.

These words reveal his own spirit in the discussion:

“In exploring this wilderness of inhumanity, filled with the shapes and
motley sights of degradation, I live in a perpetual struggle how to calm
the natural expressions of an honest soul into that measured phrase that
may best suit the sated public ear. If one overhang this abyss until his
spirit do drink in its very import, his soul must be full of thunder and
his words glance like fire. Neither are these feelings the foul
engenderings of fanaticism. They are the true feelings of a heart taught
to hate injustice and degrading wrong, by that nature which God gave it;
by the Bible which educated it; by the law under which it was made, and
by the public sentiment in which it has been bred. It is with a sense of
shame that we see strong words for oppression granted an unapologized
liberty to walk up and down as they will; while he who speaks for
freedom must rake up his ardor under the ashes of a tame propriety, and
stand to answer for want of a Gospel spirit if indignation at double and
treble wrongs do sometimes give forth a bolt! Nevertheless, we hope; we
trust; we pray; and hoping, trusting, and praying, we soothe ourselves
in such thoughts as these: ‘From this shame, too, thou shalt go forth, O
world! God, who, unwearied sitting on the circle of the earth, hath
beheld and heard the groanings and travailings of pain until now, and
caused Time to destroy them one by one, shall ere long destroy thee,
thou abhorred and thrice damnable oppression cancerously eating the
breasts of liberty.’”

He concludes by giving his views upon the position of the pulpit, and
utters this solemn protest:

“Therefore, against every line of the Coward’s Ethics of the _Journal_
we solemnly protest, and declare a minister made to its pattern fitter
to be sent to the pyramids and tombs of Egypt to preach to old-world
mummies than to be a living man of God among living men, loving them but
never fearing them! God be thanked that in every age hitherto pulpits
have been found, the allies of suffering virtue, the champions of the
oppressed! And if in this day, after the notable examples of heroic men
in heroic ages, when life itself often paid for fidelity, the pulpit is
to be mined and sapped by insincere friends and insidious enemies, and
learn to mix the sordid prudence of business with the sonorous and
thrice heroic counsels of Christ, then, O my soul, be not thou found
conspiring with this league of iniquity; that so, when in that august
day of retribution God shall deal punishment in flaming measures to all
hireling and coward ministers, thou shalt not go down, under
double-bolted thunders, lower than miscreant Sodom or thrice-polluted

Some idea of his mode of address and quickness in retort at that day
will appear from extracts from his speech at the annual meeting of the
American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and two incidents that
occurred at this meeting. Mr. Beecher answered the Scriptural argument
for the return of fugitives, based on the return of Onesimus, in this
manner: “There are two ways of sending fugitives back into slavery. One
is the way Paul sent back the slave Onesimus. Now, if people will adopt
that way I will not object. In the first place, he instructed him in
Christianity and led him to become a Christian; then he wrote a letter
and sent it by Onesimus himself. Now, I should like to see Marshal ———
or Marshal somebody else, of this city, send back a slave in this way.
In the first place, the marshal would take him and teach him the
catechism, and pray with him, and convert him, and then write a letter
to his master telling him to receive him as a brother beloved; and then
the slave goes of his own free will to his master, and walks into the
house, and, with his broad, black, beaming face, says: ‘How d’ye do, my
brother? and how d’ye do, my sister?’” The broad, beaming face which he
himself wore as he described this scene and personated this character
was irresistibly comical, and nothing more was heard in that quarter of
Paul’s return of fugitives.

It was in this speech that, in describing the situation of the slave, he

“They are married and separated in the South until perhaps they have
twenty wives.” [A voice: “There are men in New York City who have twenty
wives.”] “I am sorry for them,” he answered at once. “I go for their
immediate emancipation!”

He read extracts from the law as laid down by some of the able members
of the Southern bench in South Carolina and Louisiana, to show that
slaves are mere goods and chattels.

“The slave,” he exclaimed, “is made just good enough to be a good slave
and no more. It is a penitentiary offence to teach him more.”

Here a person among a group in one corner of the gallery exclaimed:
“It’s a lie!”

“Well, whether it’s a penitentiary offence or not, I shall not argue
with the gentleman in the corner, as doubtless he has been there and
ought to know.”

Such was the voice that began to attract attention throughout the whole
land. It was as truthful and earnest as that of the old Abolitionists,
but took in a broader range of subjects and was inspired by a higher
spirit than theirs; it was as politic in its utterances as that of the
prince of politicians, Martin Van Buren, but it was the policy of right
and justice; it had in it the strength of Webster’s, but argued from
truer premises than he; it was as popular as Henry Clay’s, but its
sympathy was broader than his; it was the voice of Henry Ward Beecher as
he stood in the early maturity of his powers, aflame with Christian love
and patriotism, preaching the Gospel of the Son of God, the Deliverer
and Saviour for slave and master, for North and South, for commerce and
manufactures, for our whole land from shame and thraldom.

The need of such a voice will appear if we consider the state of things
at this time, as he himself described it:

“‘An Abolitionist’ was enough to put the mark of Cain upon any young man
that arose in my early day, and until I was forty years of age it was
punishable to preach on the subject of liberty. It was enough to expel a
man from church communion if he insisted on praying in the
prayer-meeting for the liberation of the slaves. I am speaking the words
of truth and soberness. The Church was dumb in the North, but not in the
West. A marked distinction exists between the history of the New School
of Presbyterian churches in the West and the Congregational churches,
the Episcopal churches, the Methodist and Baptist churches in the North
and East. The great publishing societies that were sustained by the
contributions of the churches were absolutely dumb. Great controversies
raged round about the doors of the Bible Society, of the Tract Society,
and of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The
managers of these societies resorted to every shift except that of
sending the Gospel to the slaves. They would not send the Bible to the
South; for, they said, ‘it is a punishable offence in most of the
Southern States to teach a slave to read; and are we to go in the face
of this State legislation and send the Bible South?’ The Tract Society
said: ‘We are set up to preach the Gospel, not to meddle with political
and industrial institutions.’ And so they went on printing tracts
against tobacco and its uses, tracts against dancing and its abuses, and
refusing to print a tract that had a shadow of criticism on slavery!

“One of the most disgraceful things took place under the jurisdiction of
Bishop Doane, of New Jersey—I take it for granted, without his
knowledge. I have the book. It was an edition of the Episcopal
prayer-book. They had put into the front of it a steel engraving of Ary
Scheffer’s ‘Christus Consolator’—Christ the Consoler. There was a
semi-circle around about the beneficent and aerial figure of our
Saviour—the poor, the old, the sick, the mother with her dead babe,
bowed in grief; every known form of human sorrow belonged to the
original design and picture, and among others a fettered slave, with his
hands lifted to heaven, praying for liberty. But this was too much; and
so they cut out the slave, and left the rest of the picture, and bound
it into the Episcopal prayer-book of New Jersey. I have a copy of it,
which I mean to leave to the Historical Society of Brooklyn when I am
done using it.

“These things are important as showing the incredible condition of
public sentiment at that time. If a man came to be known as an
anti-slavery man it almost preluded bankruptcy in business.”

After the intense excitement, within and without Congress, upon the
discussion and the passage of the Compromise measures of 1850, a
reaction followed, and the year 1851 is, in many respects, a marked
contrast to that immediately preceding. The people, in the main, tired
of the discussion and the consequent turmoil, thankful for their escape,
as they thought, from the threatened danger of the dissolution of the
Union, were determined to preserve the peace that had been won, and
frowned upon everything that endangered its continuance. Public meetings
and conventions, held for the expression of free-State sentiments, were
regarded with great disfavor and often broken up by mob violence.

Four millions of people in a Christian land were denied every right
belonging to them, not only on the ground of Christianity but of
humanity, and yet they must be dumb. The pulpit, which represented Him
who came to set the captive free and preach the Gospel to the poor, on
this great matter must utter no voice. Statesmanship must see
consummated an utter perversion of the fundamental principles and policy
of the nation, and yet offer no protest. A common humanity, outraged by
the atrocities committed against a fellow human being, must be silent or
join in the hue and cry for the capture of the unhappy victim.

This was the programme that conservatism, through the press, in the
pulpit, by the ballot-box, through business patronage, social frowns or
favors, and not unfrequently through mob violence, attempted to execute.
It was as vain as to try to still the voice of Niagara or the noise of
the breakers upon the coast.

One thing more powerful than any other contributed to prevent a complete
reaction and consequent stagnation upon this subject—the activity of the
South in availing itself of the advantages offered by the Fugitive Slave
Bill for obtaining possession of the property that had escaped and was
living on Northern soil. The year 1851 was emphatically a year of
slave-hunting. And since these refugees from labor had, many of them,
lived for years at the North, had become respectable citizens and reared
families, their violent capture invariably occasioned, if not forceful
resistance, at least deep and bitter indignation.

The quiet of 1851 was not perfect and it could not be made permanent. It
was only the lull which weariness compels in every hard-fought battle.

In December of this year Kossuth visited this country at the invitation
of the Senate, coming in a government steamer sent to Asia especially
for his conveyance. Many things contributed to awaken immense enthusiasm
for him. He had represented Hungary in the Austrian Diet; had championed
the liberty of free press and free speech so fearlessly as to gain the
honor of an Austrian dungeon; had been elected governor of Hungary, and
for two years had waged successful war with Austria. Overcome by the
immense military power of that great empire in alliance with Russia, he
had been forced into exile with a price set upon his head. He
represented, in that year of European revolutions, the struggles of the
common people for liberty. These experiences, united with his personal
appearance and marvellous eloquence, combined to secure for him a most
enthusiastic reception by the people of this country. The Senate, on the
other hand, were far more chary of their welcome. The Hungarian exile
stood for universal liberty, and that was just what at that time the
Senate of the United States were most interested in suppressing.
However, though granted no reception, a banquet was given in his honor,
at which most of our public men were present, and Daniel Webster,
Secretary of State, delivered the principal address.

Quick to perceive the dilemma in which Congress found itself, and eager
that the nation at large should appreciate it, Mr. Beecher writes a Star
Paper in which, in his usual happy and effective style, he describes the
incongruity in the action of our government in welcoming this fugitive
from the oppression of the Old World while we are engaged in remanding
to their oppressors fugitives in the New.

Invited by Mr. Beecher, Kossuth delivered an address in Plymouth Church
in behalf of the cause of Hungarian liberty. So great was the eagerness
of the people to hear him that some ten thousand dollars were realized
from the sale of tickets.

So did the pastor of this church link himself with the cause of freedom
all over the earth.

Fifty-two, being “election year,” saw efforts more persistent, if
possible, than ever before to regard the Compromise measures as a
finality and discourage all agitation of the subject of slavery. A
public pledge was signed by more than fifty senators, among them the
most influential from both the great parties, including Henry Clay,
agreeing that they would thereafter support no candidate who did not
approve and promise to abide by the provisions of that compact. Both the
great parties of the day—the Whig and Democratic—put into their
platforms resolutions declaring that the above Compromise was accepted
as a final settlement of the questions at issue, and agreed to resist
all attempts at renewing the agitation of the slavery question under any
pretext whatsoever. In the election Franklin Pierce, who had but two
qualifications for the office of chief magistrate—he was a gentleman and
a radical pro-slavery man—was chosen by an overwhelming majority for
President, for the reason that his party affiliations gave the best
assurance that the pledges which all had alike made would in his case be

General Scott and the Whig party made just as profound an obeisance to
the slave-power, and offered just as heavy a bid for its favors; but
there was not the same confidence in their ability to perform the
service demanded as in that of their Democratic rivals, and they were in
consequence disastrously defeated. So did the popular vote upon its
first opportunity endorse the action of Congress and declare that
discussion on this great matter was closed. Yet, in spite of the verdict
of the ballot-box, in spite of resolutions, compacts, and threats,
agitation still went on. Mr. Beecher explains the phenomenon:

“Politicians inquire whence is the tenacity of life of the anti-slavery
movement. It is not fanaticism that animates or controls it, it is the
religious principle that is the secret of the strength of this cause; it
is because Jesus Christ is alive, and there are Jesus Christ men who
count this cause dearer than their lives.”

In the summer and autumn of 1852 Mr. Beecher was engaged in what was
called “The Parker Controversy.”

We have no desire to open anew the bitterness of those old matters which
have passed so long ago into history, and almost into forgetfulness, but
no biography of the man would be complete without a reference to this
trial, the severest which he had thus far endured, and which prepared
him for other and greater ones to come. In our study of the character
and disposition of Henry Ward Beecher we find him, as we believe, to
have been pre-eminently a man of peace. In his history we see him almost
continuously engaged in war. This anomaly is easily explained. It was
not from desire or disposition, but a necessary consequence of the
progress which he was making and the position which he occupied. The age
was moving forward: wrongs must be overcome, new positions of advantage
must be gained. By the habit of his mind, the intuitions of his genius,
and the earnestness and simplicity of his purpose he found himself a
leader in this progress.

While others stopped to discover the truth by laborious study in their
libraries, he found it among the results of former researches, derived
it intuitively from well-admitted principles, or gathered it from the
people with whom he associated by the way. While others were carefully
weighing the consequences of their actions, he, trusting in God, in the
righteousness of his cause, in the forces of nature and in himself,
stepped forward to the front. While others were laboriously forging
their speeches his sprang like the fabled Minerva from the brain of
Jupiter, alive, armed, and beautiful. He came into battle for the same
reason that the head of a column advancing to seize a favorable position
within the enemy’s lines is early brought under fire, or that a heavy
field-battery, which is sending its shot with deadly effect into the
ranks of the enemy, is attacked.

In his discussion with a New York daily, of which we have already
spoken, he had come in conflict with the commercial spirit of the day
which held its principles and its goods both for sale, and against it
had defended the right of the pulpit to discuss the live topics of the
hour. This had drawn fire. Men who had been scored as he scored them in
a Star Paper of January 24, 1850, entitled “A Man in the Market”— “...
They hang themselves up in the shambles of every Southern market; they
trust the pliant good nature of the North, and are only fearful lest
they should fail to be mean enough to please the South”—and who deserved
the scoring, would not be likely to forget it soon or forgive it
readily. The conflict in which he now became engaged was more painful
than the former, for it was waged with Christian brethren. Beginning as
a skirmish, it became a general battle, in which the conservatism of the
Church, which had expurgated its religious tracts, curbed the religious
press, and toned down the utterances of the pulpit, so as not to hurt
the feelings of slave-holders, was engaged and brought to judgment.

It came about in this way: In “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” Mrs. Stowe had
described the sale of a child taken from the arms of the mother, and of
Tom’s feeling on the subject. “To him it looked like something
unutterably horrible and cruel, because, poor, ignorant black soul! he
had not learned to generalize and take in large views. If he had only
been instructed by certain ministers of Christianity he might have
thought better of it, and seen in it an every-day incident of a lawful
trade—a trade which is the vital support of an institution which some
American divines tell us has no evils but such as are inseparable from
any other relations in social and domestic life.”

In a note she refers to Dr. Joel Parker by name as the man who had given
utterance to these sentiments, and as representing the class which
entertained them. The words, “No evils but such as are inseparable from
any other relations in social and domestic life,” had been printed as
his in a discussion which he had held in Philadelphia, had gone the
rounds of the papers as his and had been printed and commented upon in
England, and he had never denied that they rightfully belonged to him.
But the quickened moral feeling which followed the publication of “Uncle
Tom’s Cabin” made the authorship of such sentiments less pleasant than
formerly, and Dr. Parker suddenly discovered that he had been wronged in
having these words ascribed to him, and threatened Mrs. Stowe with a
suit for libel. A friend of his lawyer visited her brother Henry, and
suggested that this matter could be arranged without a law-suit. With a
confidence that was born of sincerity and inexperience, the brother
attempts that most difficult rôle—that of peace-maker. He visits Dr.
Parker, becomes satisfied that his language is capable of a less violent
construction than had been put upon it, confers with Mrs. Stowe and
finds her ready to take the most favorable view of the case possible,
bears a letter from her to the doctor, writes and discusses with him the
answer which he shall make, forwards Mrs. Stowe’s letter, which had been
somewhat changed in the discussion, to her for approval—which being
gained, he publishes both letters over the united signatures of the two
parties, and goes off to Indiana on a lecturing trip, with the happy
consciousness that he has done a good thing. Never was a man waked from
a sweeter dream to a more bitter disappointment. Instead of making peace
between them, he found, as a result of his labors, their differences
increased and embittered, and himself charged with forgery both of
letter and signature. Offended professional pride, newspaper rivalry,
the hatred of men who had been lashed by his tongue and pen, the fears
of conservatives and the bitter hatred of pro-slavery men, suddenly
united their forces for his destruction. This young radical had left
himself open to attack, and they all rushed to the onset or stood back
and cheered others on, and were already beginning to rejoice in his
downfall. The lead in the attack soon passed out of the doctor’s hands
into those of more able and less scrupulous men, and aimed at nothing
less than his annihilation. “The arrow was well shot,” he said; “had I
been unshielded it would have done its work, for the point was
poisoned.” But he was not unshielded! the overthrow was not
accomplished, and he stood, at the end, fully vindicated from all the
aspersions of his enemies.

In a long, carefully written article over his own name he gives the
whole beginning, continuance, and end of this unhappy matter:

“For myself I profess that no event of my life, not the loss of my own
children nor bereavements of friends most dear, have ever filled me with
so deep a sorrow as that which I have in being made a party to a public
dispute when three of the parties concerned are ministers of the Gospel,
and when the fourth is a woman and the wife of a clergyman. At the very
best it is a shame and a disgrace. To avert it I labored most honestly
and with all my might.”

He closes with these words:

“I commit this narrative to the sober judgment of all good men, and
myself I commit to the charge of Almighty God.”

                                               “HENRY WARD BEECHER.”

Two letters selected from the voluminous correspondence of that time,
one to a friend who approved, and the other to one who condemned, his
course, are given, that the spirit which he cherished may be more
thoroughly understood:

                                           “BROOKLYN, Oct. 12, 1852.


“DEAR SIR: Your kind letter gave me much pleasure, not as adding
anything to that quiet which belongs to a conscience void of offence,
but as showing that I have been able to manifest to others that which
was undoubted truth to me. It is very painful to be placed before the
public as I have been, even when the verdict is ultimately favorable;
for there is something repugnant to one’s feelings even to feel it
possible that a suspicion of his honor could be for a moment

“But I am sure that I should be the most ungrateful of men if I failed
to recognize the presence and abundant blessing of my God in all the
passages of this painful experience.

“Not a promise made to me has been left unfulfilled, and I know that it
has been a better sermon to me than was ever preached by human lips.

“Toward the parties of this wrong much must be allowed to wounded
vanity, much to partisanship, something perhaps to forgetfulness. After
all this, however, the rest will be a burden to their conscience
whenever they shall hereafter look back upon it. And while I do most
heartily forgive them, and could with earnest good-will do either of
them a kindness, I cannot refrain from thanksgiving that I was the
accused, not the accuser. Your kindness I have felt the more because
personally (although not otherwise) a stranger to me, and because,
coming among the first letters of sympathy, it has been the harbinger of
great kindnesses, similar in kind, from many.

“I am, with sincere esteem,

                                     “Gratefully yours,
                                                    “H. W. BEECHER.“

                                           ”BROOKLYN, Oct. 12, 1852.


”DEAR SIR: I was for a moment pained by the reading of your note this
morning, and but for a moment; for it has pleased God to grant Himself
to me in such measure that neither the wrath of enemies, nor the strife
of tongues, nor the unadvised blows of friends have power to do me harm
or unsettle my peace. Had I ever doubted the promises of God I should
now find every shadow swept away; and I surely count the little
annoyance which this perversion of honor and truth in these unprincipled
men has caused me not worthy to be mentioned in the joy which I have had
in being folded into the very bosom of my Saviour.

“All that I can ask in your behalf is that when the day of trouble shall
come to you (with as little fault on your part as this on mine) God may
sustain you by that certainty of integrity and that consciousness of
honor which have given me unspeakable comfort, and _would_ were I this
day standing before God’s judgment-seat.

“I do not blame you; I believe that you meant me no unkindness; but it
is manifest that with your present views it would be as painful for you
to associate with me as it would be impossible for me to permit it.

“Whenever the evil impressions which have tempted you into misjudgments
shall have passed away (and they assuredly _will_), and when my
righteousness shall shine forth as the light (and God _will_ bring it
forth), then you will find me unchanged in my affections for you; nor
shall I then remember anything but that you were once my friend.

“I am, with God’s unwavering support, and with the patience and peace
which Christ only can give,

                                        “Truly your brother,
                                               “HENRY WARD BEECHER.“

Also we give extracts from a third:

                                        ”BROOKLYN, October 12, 1852.


”DEAR SIR: Your welcome letter I received this morning. It gave me great
pleasure, though I did not need it for my happiness. For it has pleased
God so graciously to stand by me in this fiercest attack of my life that
if every friend in the world had abandoned me I should not have been
alone. I need not tell you, who have both known and taught to others,
that Christ has a peace which, surpassing all other experience of
earthly joy, requires for its possession an unusual earthly trial. In
that peace I have rested as in God’s pavilion....

“I never expected to stand up in the publicity which God has been
pleased to draw me into, and faithfully to declare His truth against the
interests of commercial and political circles, and not be visited with
this wrath.

“But they shall neither destroy me nor daunt me nor silence me, for my
God is greater than their devil. I will work yet harder and speak more
plainly for every blow they deal. May God repay your kindness to me a

                                                    ”H. W. BEECHER.”

We find no word from Mr. Beecher concerning the election of this year,
but an article immediately following shows that he kept his eye upon the
main issue, and that none of its humorous any more than its sorrowful
features escaped him. It was entitled “Degraded into Liberty”:

“A Southern gentleman _en route_ for Texas brought to New York eight
slaves, to be shipped hence by one of our ocean-going steamers. The
birds of the air informed the Abolitionists of the facts, and it was not
long before a writ was served upon the whole chattel-gang, and they were
hauled up before Judge Paine to show cause why they should not be doomed
to freedom. The cruel inhospitality of New York was never more manifest.
These innocent fellow-beings, blessed by being born slaves, and not
painfully educated for it, as Northern Southerners are; having had all
the manifold mercies which make a Virginia slave so much better off than
a free factory-girl in Massachusetts; having grown up in the indulgence
of those hilarious dances and in the practice of those songs which make
plantation life perfectly paradisaical, they were on their way to that
land waving with sugar-cane and cotton-plants, where, hoe in hand, they
were to while away the brilliant hours with gentle dalliances with loam
and clay—when lo! they were suddenly arrested.

“From these bright anticipations they have been ruthlessly snatched, and
plunged into freedom utterly unprepared! Are there no tears in Castle
Garden? Ought not the Union Committee to spend something for a trifle of
crape? Eight innocent fellow-chattels changed into fellow-_beings_! No
kind master have they now. The tender relation is sundered. Our bereaved
master and mistress must depart slaveless and alone. Having been worked
for so long, and tended and taken care of, it is doubtful whether they
will be able to take care of themselves now. Much as we sympathize with
them, we do not consider their affliction at all comparable to that of
the late happy slaves. These poor creatures are free, and we are assured
in the highest quarter that no greater evil than that can well befall
the slave population. They have degraded themselves. They have refused
to be ‘_content_ rather.’ In all the world they cannot find a man who
_owns_ them. They are now to sneak through life, like white men, owning
themselves! They must have had some awful moments of compunction when
the conviction first flashed upon them that they owned their own hands,
trod upon their own feet, put their clothes upon their own shoulders,
and felt that thing throbbing under their ribs to be their own heart.
Some natural feelings must have shot through the maternal heart as she
pressed her own babe to her own breast, and dropped her own tears upon
its dusky cheek....

“Only one woman can be found faithful in this emergency. Their former
mistress alone has appealed to their conscience and adjured them to
return to her! Where were the teachers, the chaplains, the casuists, the
lawyers, that a little time ago choked the press with beatitudes of
slavery? ‘His watchmen are blind; they are all ignorant; they are all
dumb dogs; they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.’

“In reply to Mrs. Lemmon’s appeal the deluded slave-woman drew herself
up, and, pressing her child to her breast, said, ‘_I had rather be
free!_’ What! not value the radiant mercies of slavery more than that?
The creature is crazy! Slaves in their senses are always contented. They
are mere pets. The Uncle Toms of Virginia do nothing but look after the
children, or sit in sunny nooks and smoke their stubbed pipes. The Aunt
Phillises are always fat, rollicking cooks, bursting with laughter.
Nobody is happy but slaves. The poor masters have all the care and
burden, slaves all the glee and leisure....

“It is a dreadful state of things here in New York, where we feed upon
Cotton, and have our very living in the smiles and favor of the South,
to be hurting their feelings by talking so much about liberty and all
that. A few more slaves set free, and the South will get angry again;
and then New York will be in a world of trouble, and another call will
call together another Castle Garden full of anxious merchants, all full
of love to the South; and we shall have more sermons and more newspaper
articles; and nobody can tell what will happen the next time.

“In part, the South is at fault. It has sent North the wrong kind of
negroes. Those who have run away, or been judicially sentenced to
freedom, or been bought—all these have _loved liberty_. Now, won’t the
South send us some of another sort—some of those model slaves that love
bondage and wouldn’t take liberty if they could get it? With a few
specimen copies of such, we believe that we could do Southern
institutions great good in the North.      *”

Fifty-three follows in much the same line as that of the two years
immediately preceding. Franklin Pierce, who had been elected in November
last, takes the oath of office on the 4th of March. His inaugural gives
expression to what was undoubtedly the general feeling of the country—a
determination that the Compromise measures shall be enforced, and a
fervent trust that the question of slavery has been settled; and in his
annual message, upon the assembling of Congress in that year, promises
that the peace which now so happily existed through the land should not
be disturbed during his term of office, if he could prevent it. A large
majority of the people, both North and South, were undoubtedly in
perfect accord with this desire, greatly pleased with this assurance,
and tried to share his confidence.

Those were days in which a great deal of sympathy was felt in this
country for the Irish, and by many, too, who were stanch opposers of
liberty for the negro. Mr. Beecher had no patience with men, on either
side of the Atlantic, whose sympathy was limited by the bounds of race
or color; and when John Mitchel, who had posed as the “Great Irish
Patriot” of that day, having escaped from an English penal colony and
been received here with great enthusiasm, took occasion to state in an
editorial in the _Citizen_, “We deny that it is a crime or a wrong, or
even a peccadillo, to hold slaves, to buy slaves, to sell slaves, to
keep slaves to their work by flogging or other needful coercion; we only
wish we had a good plantation well stocked with healthy negroes in
Alabama,” he (Mr. Beecher) enters into public correspondence with him,
in which he denies the claims of the refugee to be an “apostle of
liberty,” sorrows over his downfall, and dismisses him to the test of
history in these words:

“Once you stood like some great oak whose wide circumference was lifted
up above all the pastures, the glory of all beholders, and a covert for
a thousand timid singing-birds! Now you lie at full length along the
ground, with mighty ruptured roots ragged and upturned to heaven, with
broken boughs and despoiled leaves! Never again shall husbandman predict
spring from your swelling buds! Never again shall God’s singing-birds of
liberty come down through all the heavenly air to rest themselves on
your waving top! Fallen! Uprooted! Doomed to the axe and the hearth!

“But there is a future beyond this, even on earth! There is a time
promised, and already dawning, in which the human family shall be one
great brotherhood, and Love shall be the law of man! In that golden age
there shall be research made for all the names that, since the world
began, have wrought and suffered for the good of their kind. There will
be a memorable resurrection of forgotten names. From the obscurity into
which despotism has flung all who dared to defy it, from the shades and
darkness of oblivion by which oppressors would cover down the memory of
all who proclaimed human right and human liberty, they will come forth
shining like the sun, and none be forgotten that labored to bring to
pass the world’s freedom! In that day, when ten thousand names shall be
heard, in all their number not one shall utter that gone and forgotten
name—John Mitchel!”

We do not wish it to be inferred from our words that Mr. Beecher was the
only anti-slavery leader who was doing good service in those days. There
were many others, and some, perhaps, were doing as effective work in a
single line as he. But we believe that, when the whole sphere of his
activity was considered, he went far beyond any man of his time.

In any one of the three channels of largest influence, of that or of any
time—the pulpit, the press, and the platform—he was the peer, if not the
superior, of any leader; and while the most of his co-laborers used but
one, or at the most two, of these instrumentalities, he was constantly
employing the three, and each with unequalled efficiency.

His beliefs, as his labors, were broader than the most who were at that
day prominently identified with the anti-slavery cause. He believed in
the Constitution of the United States, and claimed that, if the
government should be administered according to the original intent of
this document, slavery must speedily cease. In this he differed from
Garrison and his school, who held that “the (Federal) Constitution is a
covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” He believed in the
ballot-box, and in using its power to the utmost. In this he differed
from Wendell Phillips and others of his school, who had disfranchised
themselves for years, lest by voting they should seem to countenance an
institution that was being used for the perpetuity of so great an
injustice. He believed in the Church and the moral forces which she
could bring to the work. He believed in love rather than hate, and most
of all, with a triumphant, joyful faith, he believed in the person,
presence, and leadership of the Redeemer and Reformer of the world. In
all this he separated from the great body, individuals here and there
excepted, of the Garrison and Pillsbury school of Abolitionists.

His judgment of the spirit of the leaders in this great movement may be
inferred from the following extracts:

“Events made Garrison a leader. We never thought, and we do not now
think, that Garrison deserved the one-half of the bitter reproaches that
have been heaped upon him. His worst faults have been the reaction, in
him, of the opposite faults of men favoring slavery or indifferent to
it. But we regard him as one of the most unfortunate of all leaders for
the best development of anti-slavery feeling. He is a man of no mean
ability, of indefatigable industry, of the most unbounded enterprise and
eagerness, of perseverance which pushes him like a law of nature, and of
courage which amounts to recklessness. These are the qualifications
which make a man powerful for stimulation. Had he possessed, as a
balance to these, conciliation, good-natured benevolence, or even a
certain popular mirthfulness; had he possessed the moderation and
urbanity of Clarkson, or the deep piety of Wilberforce, he had been the
one man of our age. These all he lacked. Had the disease of America
needed only counter-irritation, no better blister could have been

“Garrison did not _create_ the anti-slavery spirit of the North. He was
the offspring of it. It existed before he was born. But he at one time
more powerfully developed and organized it than any other one mind; and
developed it in modes and spirit, as we think, most unfortunate.
Anti-slavery under his influence was all teeth and claw. It fought. It
never conciliated. It gained not one step by kindness. It won not a
single fort by surrender. It bombarded everything it met, and stormed
every place which it won. We do not deny that Garrison and his early
followers did a great work. Another generation will divide praise and
blame, as no one is fitted to do in the heats of the present day. But
when bare justice shall be done we believe that it will be found that a
noble soul, deeply and truly benevolent, who sought the truest interests
of his age, yet sought them with such a fierceness and such a hard and
relentless courage as constantly roused up in his path the worst
feelings of man, and heaped obstacles before him to such a degree that
at length, in combating them, his sympathies for good seemed swallowed
up in a bitter hatred of evil. The result of the agitation, inspired
largely with this feeling, was that almost every interest in the nation
rose up against the movement with which he was identified. Churches
dreaded abolitionism, parties hated abolitionism, commerce abhorred
abolitionism. Mobs rioted around the meetings, and threatened the
dwellings, the stores, and the very persons of Abolitionists.

“There was odium and influence enough arrayed against the anti-slavery
movement, under the form of early abolitionism, to have sunk ten
enterprises which depended on men for existence. But there was a spirit
in this cause, there was a secret strength, which nerved it, and it
lived right on, and grew, and trampled down opposition, and came forth
victorious! There was an irresistibility in it which made it superior to
the faults of its friends and the deadly hatred of its enemies.”

It will be seen from the above how thoroughly he differed from what may
be called the right wing of the Abolition party.

This difference is emphasized and the spirit which impelled him is
indicated in an address which he delivered before the annual meeting of
the Anti-Slavery Society, and in a letter which he wrote to the New York
_Tribune_ in answer to a criticism that appeared in that paper:

“I believe there is to be found Christianity enough in the world, in the
Church and out of it, in the Bible and out of it, _i.e._, in the record
and in the living heart, and, I had almost said, breathed through the
very air, as a Divine Providence, inspiring the great organic laws of
society, controlling the moral sense of the Church, yea, beating in the
veins of political economy, subtly guiding the common generosities of
men into a public sentiment which, in God’s own time, in spite of
recreant clergymen, apostate statesmen, venal politicians, and
trafficking shopmen, shall fall upon this vast and unmitigated
abomination and utterly crush it. But my earnest desire is that slavery
may be destroyed by the manifest power of Christianity. If it were given
me to choose whether it should be destroyed in fifty years by selfish
commercial influences, or, standing for seventy-five years, be then the
spirit and trophy of Christ, I had rather let it linger twenty-five
years more, that God may be honored, and not mammon, in the destruction
of it. So do I hate it that I should rejoice in its extinction, even did
the devil tread it out, as he first kindled it; but how much rather
would I see God Almighty come down to shake the earth with His tread, to
tread all tyrannies and oppressions small as the dust of the highway,
and to take unto Himself the glory!”

This having been severely criticised, especially his willingness to have
slavery linger, if by so doing its destruction could become a trophy to
the prevailing power of Christ, he replies in a letter addressed to the
same journal:

“Our highest and strongest reason for seeking justice among men is _not_
the benefit to men themselves, exceedingly strong as that motive is and
ought to be. We do not join the movement party of our times simply
because we are inspired by an inward and constitutional benevolence. We
are conscious of both these motives and of many other collateral ones;
but we are earnestly conscious of another feeling stronger than either,
that lives unimpaired when these faint, yea, that gives vigor and
persistence to these feelings when they are discouraged; and that is a
strong personal, enthusiastic love for Christ Jesus. I regard the
movement of the world toward justice and rectitude to be of His
inspirations. I believe my own aspirations, having a base in my natural
faculties, to be influenced and directed by Christ’s Spirit. The mingled
affection and adoration which I feel for Him is the strongest feeling
that I know. Whether I will or not, whether it be a phantasy or a sober
sentiment, the fact is the same nevertheless, that that which will give
pleasure to Christ’s heart and bring to my consciousness a smile of
gladness on His face in behalf of my endeavor, is incalculably more to
me than any other motive. I would work for the slave for his own sake,
but I am sure that I would work ten times as earnestly for the slave for
Christ’s sake.

“I am not ashamed to own that I bear about with me an ineffaceable
consciousness that I am what I am from Christ’s influence upon me. I
accept the power to do good as His inspiration. Life is sacred to me
only by my belief that I am walking in the scenes of a personal Divine
Providence. When I drop from these beliefs life becomes void, the events
of human society mere bubbles, and strifes of hope and fear, of good and
bad, are useless as the turmoil of the rapids above Niagara. Nay, there
is more than this: there is a heart-swell which no words can express;
there is a sense of the sweet freedom of love, a sense of gracious pity,
of patient condescension, of entire and transcendent excellence in
Christ, which makes me feel how utterly true was the impassionate
language of David: ‘Whom have I in heaven _but Thee_? and there is _none
upon earth that I desire besides Thee_. My heart and my flesh cry out
for God!’...

“This sentiment does not spring from any indifference to the slave, but
from a yet greater sympathy with Christ Jesus—the slave’s only hope, my
only hope, the Saviour of the world!”

With this letter we close our consideration of Mr. Beecher’s work in
this era of slavery agitation. Great as were his labors—and we think
they were unsurpassed and unequalled by those of any other man—we still
believe that his best contribution to the great cause was the spirit
which he manifested and the motives that influenced him. It was like the
walking of the Hebrew youths in the fiery furnace and coming forth
unscathed from the flames.

                              CHAPTER XIV.

The Battle Renewed—Repeal of the Missouri Compromise Proposed—The
    Struggle in Congress—Mr. Beecher’s Appeals—The Battle lost in
    Congress is Transferred to the Territories—Forces Engaged—Kansas
    War—Dred Scott Decision—Mr. Beecher’s Defence of Kansas—“Beecher’s
    Bibles”—Charles Sumner Attacked in the Senate—The Fremont
    Campaign—The Dog Noble.

“Henry, the battle is coming on. When it will end I know not. I only
hope that every one feels as alert as I do” (extract from a letter of
Mrs. Stowe to Henry Ward Beecher). It was dated November 1, 1852, but
expresses the feeling of some of the more sagacious ones during the
whole of this era of apparent peace. They were not deceived by the
surface calm. They felt that, beneath all party platforms, and the
compromises of party politics, and the make-shifts of a commercial
spirit, the great conscience of the North was being stirred. Deep was
calling unto deep, and the moanings of the sea that presaged the coming
tempest had reached their ears. The storm, not a new one but the violent
rising of the same old elements, began in Congress in the early part of
1854, upon the question of the organization of the territory of “The
Platte,” afterwards divided into two Territories called “Kansas and
Nebraska.” The star of empire was moving Westward, but of what kind
should this empire be, of liberty or slavery? If matters continued as
they then were it must be the former. California, stretching along the
Pacific coast for two hundred and fifty miles below Mason and Dixon’s
line, had declared for freedom through all her borders. The Territories
of New Mexico and Utah were not favorable to any great growth of slavery
nor capable of rendering it much assistance. Texas, although intensely
pro-slavery, yet, by reason of State pride, would not divide her
imperial domain into quarters for the benefit of that institution. Only
in one direction was expansion and growth possible, and that was in this
broad domain which was now asking to be organized into Territories and
would soon demand admission as States. Why should not this magnificent
country be opened to the slave-owner and his property as well as to the
settler from the North? Was not this his right? Other factors than
property interests have entered into the question. Conscience has been
enlisted upon the one side as on the other. The South has come to look
upon slavery as having equal rights, under the Constitution, with
liberty, and she feels aggrieved that she is not given all the
privileges of her fellow-citizens of the North. The only thing that
apparently prevented this natural and, as it seemed to her, just
expansion, was the Missouri Compromise, which had solemnly guaranteed
this whole territory to freedom. Why not repeal this obnoxious measure?
The proposition to do this sprang from Kentucky. The same State which,
through its senator. Henry Clay, had been foremost in originally
securing the act, now through its senator, Mr. Dixon, his successor, was
the first to ask for its repeal. Unlike as the movement seems, and
disowned as it undoubtedly would have been by Mr. Clay, the great
projector of the Missouri Compromise, yet in reality the substance of
each is the same. In both there is but one design—to placate the
slave-power and save the country by attempting to compromise, not
diverse interests, but antagonistic principles. They were but separate
steps in one path, and that a road towards national perversion,
disgrace, and ruin. The guiding star which once shone in the heavens had
been lost, and our statesmen were taking up with a will-o’-the-wisp,
born of swamp and miasma, in its place.

Although the project was conceived by the South, it could not have been
brought to the birth, much less nourished into baneful strength, had it
not been adopted by the North in the person of Stephen A. Douglas, one
of the ablest leaders of the Democratic party, a member of the United
States Senate, and chairman of the Committee upon Territories. Into the
bill for organizing the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska, which he
reported to the Senate in January of 1854, he introduced the proposition
to repeal the old Missouri Compromise. The mere proposal was regarded as
little less than sacrilege. For thirty years that compromise had been
looked upon as a sacred pledge, to be held in the same reverence as the
Constitution itself. Scarcely four years before, the mover of the
proposition for its repeal had described it as “canonized in the hearts
of the American people as a sacred thing which no ruthless hand would
ever be reckless enough to disturb.” An attempt to set it aside roused
the most intense excitement throughout the whole land, the South in
favor, the North opposed. The readiness with which the flame sprang up
proved that through these past years of apparent quiet the fire had been
covered but not put out. Now that fresh fuel was added and the draught
opened, it blazed up more fiercely than ever. It was not confined to any
class or condition.

All of anti-slavery tendencies saw in it an evidence of the settled
purpose of the South to nationalize the institution of slavery, and a
testimony that it would not scruple to use any means to attain its end.

Moralists saw in it a disregard of most sacred promises, and felt the
ground of constitutional fidelity shaking under their feet. More than
three thousand clergymen in New England signed a protest against the
action proposed.

“We protest against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise as a great
moral wrong; as a breach of faith, eminently unjust to the moral
principles of the community and subversive of all confidence in national
engagements; as a measure full of danger to the peace and even the
existence of our beloved Union, and exposing us to the righteous
judgments of the Almighty.”

Even the mere politician was angry that an issue so repugnant to a
majority of the people had been so unwisely precipitated. Nor were his
anger and apprehension unwarranted. The storm of popular indignation
swept down like a tempest upon the forests, scattering dead leaves,
breaking off dead branches, and throwing down trees that had become
rotten in trunk or root. Before the end of the year the Democratic party
had lost its magnificent majority in Congress, and the Whig party had
practically ceased to exist, dishevelled, torn up by the roots, buried
by the storm.

During this preliminary contest Mr. Beecher is neither indifferent nor
silent. In lectures, in special sermons, and in numerous Star Papers he
makes his influence felt. In one of the latter upon “The Crisis” his
appeals and reproaches go out to all classes:

“The virtue, the morals, the prosperity of a domain large enough to be
an empire has no safeguard about it. Those future States, silent and
unpopulous, are like so many lambs huddled in a thicket by crowds of
wolves, that only wait for some single taste of blood to plunge in and
tear the whole! Unless there is a storm from the people that shall roll
like thunder in the mountains; unless the recreant and graceless herd in
Congress shall hear the coming down of many waters, like roaring
freshets from mountains on whose tops clouds have burst, there will soon
be no more ground to fight for. If anything is to be done it must be
done by the North. It must be quickly, loudly, and impetuously done!
There must be an outcry coming up from the bosom of the people, like
that which rent the midnight of Egypt when all its first-born were
stricken. Let no man wait for his fellow. Let children and women lead
and teach sluggish manhood with what energy and soul a voice should be
heard for liberty, upon half a continent, like the voice of God when He
speaks in storms!

“Let every single man write, ‘I solemnly protest against the perfidy and
the outrage of abolishing the Missouri Compromise’; and as he bears it
to the post-office, if he find a fellow to sign it, let him sign; but if
not, let it go as his single protest.

“Let families send solemn protests—the father and mother, the children
and hired laborers. Let there be ten thousand petitions from single
families within a week at Washington.

“Let churches and congregations unite and send instant petitions.

“In this solemn hour of peril, when all men’s hearts sink within them,
we have an appeal to those citizens who rebuked us for our fears in

“Did you not declare that that should be a finality? Did you not say
that, by a concession of conscience, we should thereafter have peace?

“Is this the peace? Is this the fulfilment of your promise? Is not this
the very sequence which we told you would come? That compromise was a
ball of frozen rattlesnakes. You turned them in your hands then with
impunity. We warned and besought. We protested and adjured. You
persisted in bringing them into the dwelling. You laid them down before
the fire. Now where are they? They are crawling all around. Their fangs
are striking death into every precious interest of liberty! It is your

“In this emergency where are those ministers of the Gospel who have
always refused to infuse into the public mind a sound and instructed
moral sentiment upon the subject of slavery? Hitherto you have been
silent, because it did not concern the _North_. We earnestly protested
that so deep and dreadful a disease could not prey upon any limb of this
nation and not strike its taint and danger through and through the whole
body politic. We implored men not to let the first principles of human
rights die out of the popular mind; not to let a gigantic engine of
despotism, through its selfish remunerations of commerce, deaden every
quick sensibility to justice and bribe to sleep the vigilance of
humanity, though every palm should have thrice as many pieces of silver
as did he of old.

“The North is both bound and asleep. It is bound with bonds of unlawful
compromise! You, ministers of Christ, held her limbs, while the gaunt
and worthy minions of oppression moved about, twisting inextricable
cords about her hands and feet; or, like Saul, stood by, holding the
garments of those that slew the martyr! The poor Northern conscience has
been like a fly upon a spider’s web. Her statesmen, and not a few of her
ministers, have rolled up the struggling insect, singing fainter and
fainter, with webs of sophistry, till it now lies a miserable, helpless
victim, and Slavery is crawling up to suck its vital blood!

“What, then, do you owe to God, to heaven, and to your country, in an
effort to regain conscience, liberty, and duty? God, who searches the
heart, knows that it is not in our heart to say these things for the
sake of aspersion. We would lie down before you, and let your steps
tread our very neck, if you were only marching toward the high ends of
our country’s good. But we cannot endure to see noble and venerable
ministers of the Gospel first duped and deceived, and made to serve the
ends of oppression, and then, when the mighty juggle is detected, stand
silent and aghast, as unwilling now to repair as before to prevent the
utter misery and evil.

“But let us not be deceived. Let every man be prepared for a future! If
this bill shall be defeated the North will be like a man just dragged
out of the rapids above Niagara! If this bill pass, the North will be
like a man whirled in the very wildest rage of the infuriate rapids and
making headlong haste toward the awful plunge.

“Does any man believe that there can be _peace_ if this iniquity goes
forward? Will the South, with such advantage gained, easily relinquish
her grip? Will the North, betrayed, wounded, and religiously aroused
from the very bottom, let slave States come to the door of the Union,
from the very territory of which she has been cheated, and bid them
enter? Such struggles are before us as we have never seen. The next time
the masses, the religious-minded men of the then undivided North, are
aroused, standing on no flimsy base of compromise but on the solid
foundations of humanity, of natural feeling, of a Northern national
feeling springing from a love of liberty, they will not be put to sleep
again by any mere pretences of peace. The finality which the South gave
was a hollow truce but to give them time to forge their arms and grind
their swords. They bribed the North with a lie. The next time the North
reaches forth her hand it will scarcely be for gold or silver. There is
more danger now of wild collisions than of lying finalities. It will
come to that if the foolish counsels of timid men prevail. If civil wars
are to be prevented, now is the time; courage to-day or carnage
to-morrow. Firmness will give peace; trembling will bring war.       *”

Another one follows upon “The Christian’s Duty to Liberty”:

“_Mar. 23, 1854._—At length God seems to have caught the wicked in their
own craft. It was not in the power of all the men of the North to
develop so earnest a feeling against slavery and for liberty as is now
finding tongue and giving itself forth all over the North. All that for
which we have been counted uncharitable by men anxious to be honorable
toward the South has come to pass.

“Let the _conscience_ of the North settle this question, not her
_fears_. God calls us to a religious duty. Long has our talent lain in a
napkin. Our testimony for liberty has been waived; our assertion of
freedom has been timid and without enthusiasm. We have refused to accept
at God’s hands the true mission of the North, to preach liberty to the
captives and elevation to the whole human family. At length let the
banner flow out to the wind, let the battle begin. There will never be
another day of grace if this goes past. Retreat now and the North will
never retreat again. We beseech Christian men and ministers to put this
question where it belongs, upon a religious basis. Let them feel their
duty in their own land as they feel their duty of preaching the truth of
Christ, _whether men will hear or whether they will forbear_.

“Oh! that God, by breathing a spirit of prayer upon His people and of
unflinching fidelity, would give us token that He has appeared at length
for our salvation!”

In spite of all efforts to the contrary, the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise was effected in September of 1854, and the battle which had
been fought in Congress and lost by the free States was at once
transferred to the newly-admitted Territory, and was there waged with a
fierceness and persistence that cannot be understood or appreciated,
unless it be remembered that Kansas had become the strategic point of
the whole great conflict. Given Kansas, slavery would have not only
additional territory, but, what was even more important to its purposes,
a majority in the United States Senate that should for ever, as it
hoped, prevent the admission of more free than slave States, or the
following of any course which should be prejudicial to its interests. In
this new field the North at first labored under great disadvantage. The
peculiar institution had already been planted and had taken root. The
eastern border of Kansas was upon Missouri, a slave State which was
fully aware of the advantage that broader fields would furnish the labor
of her increasing slave population, and containing enough of a rough and
wild frontier element to carry through any plan that desperation or
villany might devise. The President of the United States Senate and
acting Vice-President of the United States, David R. Atchison, was on
the ground, and for months had been organizing Blue Lodges and other
secret bodies, with the intent to take possession of the Territory, or
at least of its polling-places, and secure it for slavery. The officers
appointed by the President—a governor, three judges, a secretary, a
marshal, and an attorney—were, of course, all favorable to the policy of
the Administration, a policy which was all that the most radical
pro-slavery advocate could desire.

The party thus happily situated did not hesitate to avail itself of its
advantages. Its members swarmed across the borders at the election of a
delegate to Congress, took possession of the ballot-boxes, appointed
judges of election from their own number, elected their man by an
overwhelming majority, and then for the most part returned to their
homes in Missouri.

This was in October, 1854. In the following spring a Legislature was
elected by the same illegal process, and proceeded at once to form a
constitution most rabidly pro-slavery. It prescribed the death-penalty
for any who should entice or decoy away a slave or assist him to escape,
and ten years’ imprisonment for harboring or concealing a fugitive
slave. To deny the right of holding slaves in the Territory, either by
speaking, writing, printing or circulating books or papers, was declared
to be felony, punishable with two years’ imprisonment. Having formed an
elaborate constitution of the above character, and made ample provision
for enforcing its requirements, they selected a site for the new State
capital, called it Lecompton—after the attorney of the State, whose
legal acquirements had assisted them greatly in their villany—and

Looking upon affairs as they then appeared, and seeing that the
Legislature, however elected, had been officially recognized, and that
its enactments were in form legal, that the whole machinery of courts,
marshals, and militia were in its hands and could be used to enforce its
statutes, that it was favored by the Administration and the dominant
faction at Washington, which could employ the United States army for its
support, it would seem as if the battle had already been lost to the
Free-State men, and that Kansas could be counted upon to give that
majority in the United States Senate which the slave-power so greatly
coveted. But other forces were at work. In the first place, the very
enormity of these slave-laws compelled all the decent residents of
Kansas, whether Free-Soil, Whig, or Democrat, to combine for their own
defence against the possible outrages to which they were exposed by
these enactments. In the second place, the party which had brought about
the repeal of the Missouri Compromise had, by this very act, lost the
control of the Lower House in Congress, and could not be relied upon to
admit the Territory with its present infamous code. Besides these near
and more immediate advantages, there were forces enlisted on this side
that were working slowly but with great certainty toward the result
aimed at by the Free-State men. The old migratory instinct which had
throbbed in the veins of this race from the first, which had brought
them from the steppes of Asia to the shores of the Atlantic, pushed the
stronger and abler ones across the seas, moved them from the sea-coast
to the foot of the Alleghanies, then drove them across this barrier to
take possession of the great valley of the Ohio and the Mississippi, was
still as active as ever and readily responded to the enticements of the
new and fertile lands just opened in Kansas for settlement. No sooner
was it known that the broad plains of this Territory could be occupied
than the tide began to flow in this direction. Principle also came in to
strengthen and ennoble this instinct.

“Then arose a majesty of self-sacrifice that had no parallel before.
Instead of merely protesting, young men and maidens, laboring men,
farmers, mechanics, sped with a sacred desire to rescue free territory
from the toils of slavery, and emigrated in thousands, not to better
their own condition, but in order that when this Territory should vote
it should vote for freedom.”

Lest both instinct and principle should move too slowly or with
insufficient equipment, emigrant societies were formed at the North to
assist those who would offer themselves for the redemption of Kansas.
One of the earliest of these to be on the ground was the “Massachusetts
Emigrant Aid Company,” headed by the Hon. Eli Thayer. This organization
sent out a body of some thirty persons, who, in July of this year, had
founded the town of Lawrence. With this company, organized, mutually
acquainted, and trained in the orderly methods of New England, for a
centre, there rapidly gathered a strong body, and one that well
represented the bona-fide settlers of Kansas. They proceeded at once to
call a mass convention and elect delegates. In due time a Constitutional
Convention was called at Topeka, October 23, 1855, which formed a
constitution, submitted it to the people, from whom it met with a hearty
endorsement. It was then transmitted to Congress for approval.

These, Lecompton and Topeka, were the storm-centres around which surged
the principal events of those turbulent times in Kansas which have been
designated as “The Kansas War.” It was a wild, irregular, barbarous, and
bloody strife, made up of night-attacks, house-burnings, secret murders,
skirmishes between armed bodies sometimes rising to the proportions of a
battle, Lawrence twice burned, Leavenworth sacked, and acts of that
description, filling up four years or more of most eventful history.

Kansas at that time was the skirmish-line of two great hosts that were
already settling down to a life-and-death struggle. On the one side a
Legislature, as we have seen, elected largely by the votes of marauders
from an adjoining State; a reckless population just over the line, whose
historic name, Border Ruffians, seems to have been fully deserved,
organized into secret bands ready to march at a moment’s warning,
equipped either to vote or fight as should be required; a regiment of
United States troops placed at their disposal; the whole South awake to
the work they have undertaken, and forwarding supplies of men and money
for the support of those already on the field; and the Administration at
Washington, through portions of two presidential terms, alternately
scheming and commanding for its success.

On the other hand was a Legislature, illegally convened, but elected by
a large majority of the resident population of the Territory, with a
constituency, some of them doubtless adventurers, some fanatics, and
others possibly villains, but for the most part honest homesteaders,
living, it may be, in sod huts or dug-outs, but living upon land which
they had pre-empted and could call their own; the great North behind
them, slowly but surely moving down to their rescue; the throb of the
world’s progress beating towards them; the consciousness that they are
fulfilling the purposes of God in saving this land to liberty animating
them; and the great natural elements of soil, air, and sunshine, that
are always on the side of liberty, working for them. These were the
forces on the other side.

Each section came to the support of its skirmish-line in characteristic
fashion: the South by military companies and the incursions of armed
bands of raiders aiming to conquer the country, if necessary, by force
of arms and overawe it into accepting its bogus State constitution. The
North came in emigrant-wagons, with family, stock, house-furniture, and
farm utensils, prepared to remain and occupy the land.

The general trend of the government at an early period in the strife, as
seen in various acts at home and abroad, must also be taken into the
account. The Ostend Manifesto, issued under the inspiration of President
Pierce by our three ministers, Buchanan, Mason, and Soulé, at the courts
respectively of London, Paris, and Madrid, recommended the purchase of
Cuba, if possible; if not that we obtain it by force. “If Spain,” they
said, “should refuse to sell Cuba to the United States, then by every
law, human and divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from her, if
we possess the power.” Slavery at this period had a foreign as well as a
home policy. It was that of the old buccaneer, a policy of unscrupulous
aggression, that would not hesitate to embroil the nation in war, if
necessary for the carrying out of its designs. Filibustering
expeditions, which were continually being planned and attempted at this
time against Cuba and Central America, were rightly looked upon not only
as additional proof of the purpose but as the initial steps in the
proposed plan of foreign conquest.

As if the forces arrayed against liberty were not enough, as the
conflict advanced the Supreme Court of the United States added its
influence to the side of the antagonist. In the historic Dred Scott
decision, given in the spring of 1857, the ground is taken that the
negro slave is so completely and exclusively property, under the
Constitution, that the owner can take him, as any other property, into
any and all territory belonging to the United States government. In
effect “the negro has no rights which the white man is bound to

After the lapse of many years, upon a calm review of that decision it is
difficult to say whether the historical errors, the feeble reasoning, or
the immoral sentiments most awaken our surprise and contempt. It is
sufficient for our purpose at this time to know that this decision threw
a vast influence against the Free-State men. If it were final, then
their struggle was all in vain. Strive as much as they would, and suffer
as much as they might, they could never make Kansas a free State. And
yet, in spite of the Dred Scott decision, the hostility of the
Administration, and all other adverse forces and circumstances, they
held on. To this result had our country come through the compromises and
surrenders of three-quarters of a century: slavery in possession of the
machinery of government, nationalized by the highest tribunal in the
land, declared to have equal rights with freedom in all the public
domain, and, in logical sequence, not to be shut out from even the free
States. Every institution of thirty millions of freemen was to be judged
and graded, encouraged or restrained, with supreme reference to the
interests of this institution. Dominant at home, it was already taking
steps preparatory to foreign conquest, and the only effective obstacle
in the way of the consummation of its plans was the life-and-death
tenacity with which the free settlers of Kansas held to their
determination that theirs should be a free State.

The contest continued for four years before any substantial advantage
was gained for the Free State party. Four governors, three appointed by
President Pierce and one by President Buchanan, had successively been
sent, and then deposed and disgraced because they could not, or would
not, carry out the unjust measures proposed by the Administration. The
victory in Congress in 1858 was simply a resubmission of the Lecompton
constitution to the people of the State to be voted upon, whether they
would accept it or frame one for themselves. They of course buried it
amid universal execrations. Slight and unmistakably just as was this
concession of Congress, it was nevertheless secured but by a small
majority. The change of five votes would have passed the notorious
Lecompton Bill, admitted the State with slavery into the Union, added
two senators to the slave-power, restored the supremacy of that power in
the Senate of the United States, to be followed by the carrying out the
Dred Scott decision to its logical consequences, slavery supremacy at
home, slavery aggression, annexation, and expansion over Cuba and
Central America, abroad. A vast slave-empire stretching from the lakes
to the southern shores of the Caribbean Sea seemed not an improbable
dream, if there had not been wisdom enough or will enough to fight the
battle out in Kansas. All honor to those brave men and women who in
those days saved this Territory to the North! All honor to those who
stood by them and helped them to win! A more important battle was never
fought in our history, and a more heroic spirit was never shown. What
the château of Hougoumont, held by the British right centre, was to the
battle of Waterloo; what the “Bloody Angle” held by Hancock was to the
battle of Spottsylvania Court-House, such was the Kansas war in the
early and determining era of the great American conflict.

Call this four years of struggle one battle, and it will take rank with
the “fifteen great battles” of the world’s history, second in importance
to none.

We have thus given an outline of this great preliminary struggle of the
war, that Mr. Beecher’s position and labors, which were much criticised
at the time, may be seen in their true light. As is well known, he threw
himself into this work with all the enthusiasm which such an emergency
might be supposed to awaken. He felt the importance of the struggle and
the need of instant action. Since, under the doctrine of “squatter
sovereignty,” which had taken the place of the former restriction, the
question of freedom or slavery in Kansas must be decided by the vote of
the actual settlers, these must be aided to emigrate to that Territory
from the North, and at once. Since they were to be the foundation
elements of a Christian State, they should be supplied with Bibles; and
since they would doubtless be called upon to defend themselves against
attack, they _must_ be supplied with firearms. He lectured and took up
collections in Plymouth Church and from the lecture platform for Sharp’s
rifles, an arm then but just come into notice. He preached, lectured,
and bought rifles with the same object in view—to redeem men to liberty;
and with the same spirit—love to God and man. Some of the rifles, it is
said, were sent in boxes marked Bibles, but without his knowledge, and
so passed in safety through Missouri and the enemy’s lines. Hence the
term Beecher’s Bibles came to be applied to these effective weapons.

At this time he published his famous “Defence of Kansas,” that showed
not more clearly the warmth of his spirit than his clear understanding
of the issues at stake and the dangers that were impending:

“A battle is to be fought. If we are wise it will be bloodless. If we
listen to the pusillanimous counsels of men who have never shown one
throb of sympathy for liberty, we shall have blood to the horses’
bridles. If we are firm and prompt to obvious duty, if we stand by the
men of Kansas and give them all the help they need, the flames of war
will be quenched before it bursts forth, and both they of the West and
we of the East shall, after some angry mutterings, rest down in peace.
But if our ears are poisoned by the advice of men who never rebuke
violence on the side of power, and never fail to inveigh against the
self-defence of wronged liberty, we shall invite aggression and civil
war. And let us know assuredly that civil war will not burst forth in
Kansas without spreading. Now, if bold wisdom prevails, the conflict
will be settled afar off in Kansas, and without blows or blood. But
timidity and indifference will bring down blows there, which will not
only echo in our houses hitherward, but will by and by lay the
foundation for an armed struggle between the whole North and the South.
Shall we let the spark kindle, or shall we quench it now? But, that
intelligent citizens may the better judge, let the facts of this case be

“There was never so strong an appeal to public sympathy as that which is
presented in the case of Kansas free settlers. Their emigration was a
mission of mercy, full of the ripest fruits of Christianity. Their
conduct has been noble. They have borne hardships without faltering,
they have borne outrage and persecution with patience, returning good
for evil. They have suffered wrongs manifold and infinitely provoking,
without retaliation. When aggression on one occasion was pushed so
sorely that their patience failed, some of the men said: ‘We cannot bear
such wrongs.’ The reply made by Pomeroy will become a maxim of Christian
men: ‘Be patient! your wrongs are your very strength.’

“When the armed day came, and their adversaries came out to consume
them, then, and only then, they took up arms and surrounded their homes
with living men, determined not to attack, but never to surrender....
Once when England only asserted the right to tax the colonies without
representation, the colonies rebelled and went to war. But now a foreign
Legislature has been imposed upon Kansas. That Legislature has legalized
slavery against the known wishes of nine-tenths of the actual settlers.
It has decreed that no man shall enter the Territory who will not take
an oath of allegiance to this spurious Legislature. It has made it death
to give liberty to the man escaping from oppression. It has muzzled the
press. It has forbidden discussion. It has made free speech a
penitentiary offence. The rights for which the old colonists fought were
superficial compared with these. These are the rights which lie at the
very heart of personal liberty.

“Indeed, there can be no personal freedom where free speech, a free
press, a free canvass and discussion are penitentiary offences! These
are the laws which the President is determined to enforce! Congress is
to be asked for money to sustain this government in Kansas, or to pay
for an army to cut the throats of every free citizen who will not yield
to this infamy!...

“Peace in Kansas means peace everywhere; war there will be war all over
the land. Now it can be stopped. But fear will not do it. A truculent
peace will not do it. Indolence and presumptuous prayer will but hasten
the mischief. When tyrants are in arms they who cry peace become their
confederates. Manliness, action, courage, and ample preparation for
defence will stop the danger. The Providence that will help us is the
Providence that we help. God works for those who work for Him. When He
answers prayer for harvests He inspires men to work, and petitions for
crops and harvests are answered through ploughs and spades. And God will
answer prayers for peace by inspiring men with justice, with abhorrence
of oppression; by making good men bold and active, and bad men feeble
and cowardly; by stopping the ears of the community to the counsel of
cowards and hypocrites. Let every man in this awful crisis not fail to
_pray_, and, that they may pray without hypocrisy, let them watch and
work! How shall we dare ask God to save us from bloodshed when we will
not use the means He has put into our hands? Faith without works and
prayer without works are dead—stone-dead. Let the emigrants go hither
and thither by hundreds, and pray as they go! Let them that have money
now pour it out, and pray as they give! Let them that have sons in
Kansas send them arms, and pray that they may have no occasion to use
them; but that, if they must be used, that the son may so wield them
that the mother be not ashamed of the son whom she bore! Let them that
have influence speak out! Let ministers and Christian free men now, if
ever, speak against barbarism and uphold the whole retinue of Christian
institutions! Let those whose tongue has been hitherto palsied by evil
advisers now loose their tongue and speak! _Of whom will the land take
counsel?_ There have been two sorts of counsellors hitherto. One has
pointed out for twenty years the nature of slavery, its tendencies, the
dangers which it threatened; and all the prophecies have come true. The
other kind of counsellors have predicted peace, dissuaded from action,
urged compromise, and at each reluctant step have promised the country
peace. In not a single instance have they been right. Events have
overthrown every one of their promises. They have led us down deeper
into trouble at every step. We have been betrayed by kisses. Excitements
have deepened, lessons have multiplied, compromises have bred
cockatrices. We are spun over with webs. We are tangled with
sophistries. We have everything but manliness, straightforwardness,
courage, and decisive wisdom....

“But what is done must be done quickly. Funds must be freely given; arms
must be had, even if bought at the price mentioned by our Saviour: ‘He
that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.’ Young men who
would do aught for liberty should take no counsel of fear. Now is the
time when a man may do for his country in an hour more than in a whole
life besides. Time flies. Events hasten. Fear and treacherous peace,
that betray duty with ignorant words of religion, will ruin all; but
energy, courage, action will save all. Woe to us if war comes from our
fault! If it comes, on the skirts of false peace will its blood be

Of the result of this sending armed colonists into Kansas he speaks a
few weeks later:

“Of all the revolutions on record, we remember none so remarkable as
that which has been wrought by Sharp’s rifles. We do not know that a
single man has ever been injured by them. They are guiltless of blood.
But the principle which they involve has brought the whole South to a
protest against violence, even in the extremest necessity of
self-defence! These aforetime heroes of the knife and revolver are now
deep in the Scriptures. They are quoting all the peaceable texts; they
hang with irrepressible delight over all those passages which teach

Being attacked in a religious paper for his aggressive attitude, he
answers: “We have acted consistently with our settled belief. We have
NOTHING to retract.”

An event that took place at this time added still more fuel to the hot
indignation that was glowing through the North—the attack by Preston S.
Brooks, of South Carolina, upon Charles Sumner, May 22, 1856, in the
Senate Chamber. It was an act so cowardly and atrocious that it cannot
be recalled after these many years without a tingling of the blood. If a
blow had been given at the moment of the debate, if the man seeking
redress had approached his adversary face to face and given him
opportunity to defend himself, if it had been but a single blow,
possibly some extenuation could be offered; but to strike a man a
stunning blow without warning, when he is sitting at his desk and so
hampered that he is unable to rise until he has torn the desk up from
its fastenings; to follow with more than a score of blows until the
instrument of attack, a heavy cane, is broken to pieces and his victim
is left senseless—is an act that, search where it may, can find nothing
to add to its infamy. Among the meetings called all over the North to
give voice to the anger of the people at this dastardly act, one was in
New York City. The advertised speakers were William M. Evarts, John Van
Buren, Daniel Lord, Jr., and others of eminence. The speeches were able
but tame and conservative. They did not meet the demand of the popular
heart over that tremendous outrage. Just as the meeting was being
adjourned Mr. Beecher was discovered in the back part of the room,
having come in to listen to men whose reputation was so great but whom
he had never heard. At once the cry from the unsatisfied audience was
“Beecher, Beecher!”

So unexpected was the call, and so annoyed was he at being called out,
that it required almost physical force to get him to take the platform;
but when once there his soul kindled with the occasion. A simple recital
of facts led the audience step by step over the ground which had been
traversed for the last ten years. The grand principles of our polity
were uncovered to their view. Scene after scene was depicted by his
marvellous dramatic power, culminating in that outrage in the Senate
Chamber on account of which they had gathered; and the audience,
alternately moved by his pathos, fired by his passion, or swept by his
humor, became one with the speaker. They saw as he saw, they felt as he
felt; and he stamped them that night with the impress of his hatred of
slavery and his burning enthusiasm for liberty. The next day the press
carried this impression to the multitude of its readers, and, dismissing
the other speeches of the evening with a formal notice, gave his as
nearly as possible verbatim. It was his meeting for the first time upon
the platform with the leading men of the country, and from that hour he
took his place with them and held it to the end.

Many leading men in Massachusetts having been invited to a similar
meeting held in Boston, and sending regrets, he analyzes their excuses
in a Star Paper upon “Hearts and no Hearts”:

“Admirable! The man is sacrificed to the position. No tear, no
indignation, no heart-felt throb, no voice or gesture which befits an
open and free heart. All instincts and spontaneity must be judged by
supposed interests of a professorship. In such cases as this the man is
a mere Jonah in the whale’s belly. His professorship has swallowed his
manhood! Alas for the whale!”

Of this attack on Sumner he said in the Star article of June 12,
“Silence must be Nationalized”:

“This deed stands absolutely alone in our history. It has not a single
fellow! There have been brutal things, and cruel things, and mean
things, and cowardly things, and wicked and inhuman wrongs, but nothing
before that epitomized them all. With the exception of one or two
papers, the whole South has accepted the act and made it representative!
It is no longer Brooks that struck Sumner! He was the arm, but the whole
South was the body! And with one consent it is declared that for the
crime of _free speech_ it was done and deserved!”

In the meantime a new party, born of this conflict, was rapidly coming
into power. Made up of elements apparently most diverse, it was brought
together by a common purpose and fused into one by a grand enthusiasm.
There was, for a nucleus, the larger part of the old Free-Soil party,
that had been in existence since 1842; then came Abolitionists, of which
there had been for years a sprinkling in all the Northern States;
seceders from the Whig party, called in New York State “Silver Grays,”
and from the Democratic party, called “Barnburners;” and a multitude of
others, a daily increasing host, vital in every member with the spirit
of the hour. Combining some of the best elements of all the parties, it
had a breadth of power that no one party could have given it alone.
While it had enough men of experience in affairs to secure wisdom of
action, its recruits were for the most part young men, who brought the
inspiration of their youth, their numbers, their hope, and their
indignation. After a preliminary mass convention in Pittsburgh on
Washington’s birthday, February 22, 1856, they met in Philadelphia and
adopted a platform of principles and nominated candidates for President
and Vice-President.

In this platform they gave their attention mostly to the great issue of
supreme importance—that between liberty and slavery. Their action here
was positive and unequivocal: no more slave territory; no more coddling
of slave institutions. Upon this platform it nominated John C. Fremont
for its standard-bearer, and organized its hosts for the great
presidential contest of that year.

The party thus brought before the country had some great advantages over
all rivals. The Whig party was already dead, although not yet fully
conscious of the fact, and awaiting burial; the Democratic party was
inextricably associated, for weal or for woe, with the slave-power;
while the Know-Nothing party was but a mushroom, and a poisonous variety
at that. On the other hand, this new organization was intensely alive.
It had a definite object in view and was not afraid to avow it. It had
the strength of intense moral conviction. Its cause gave opportunity for
inspiration and awakened the grandest enthusiasm. It was in harmony with
the fundamental principles of our nation and the early struggles of our
people. It was in sympathy with the great movement of the age in all
lands. Its lengthening lines and the rising hosts of the Old World were
parts of the same army. Its standard-bearer, by reason of his youth,
adventurous career, and brilliant service, was well adapted to awaken a
loyal and spirited following. It had nothing to conceal; it had nothing
to fear; it carried with it the hopes of the nation and the world.
Adopting the “Marseillaise,” the greatest liberty song that was ever
written, it adapted its own chorus to the music and sang at its meetings
with boundless enthusiasm:

                      “Arise, arise, ye braves!
                      And let your war-cry be,
                        ‘Free speech, free press,
                        Free soil, free men,
                      Fremont, and victory!’”

Mr. Beecher gave himself unreservedly to this contest:

“Well, of course we felt all aflame. My church voted me all the time
that I thought to be required to go out into the community and speak and
canvass the State of New York. I went into that canvass, spoke twice and
often three times a week, having the whole day to myself—that is, making
all the speeches that were made. I was sent principally to what we
called the Silver-Gray districts or counties—the old-time Whigs that
were attempting to run a candidate between Fremont and Buchanan. I
generally made a three hours’ speech a day in the open air to audiences
of from eight to ten thousand people. I felt at that time that it was
very likely that I should sacrifice my life, or my voice at any rate,
but I was willing to lay down either or both of them for that cause.”

Of Mr. Beecher’s contributions to the literature of the campaign we can,
for lack of space, give but few quotations, and these only as they
afford an idea of the humorous and enthusiastic manner in which he stood
up for his candidate. In the close scrutiny of private life, which is so
marked a feature of presidential campaigns, it had been learned that
John C. Fremont and Jessie Benton had fallen in love with each other,
and, her father not approving of his daughter’s selection, the two
lovers had made a runaway match of it, and in their haste had been
married by a Roman Catholic priest. This escapade was being used against
the candidate by the opposite party, not because he ran away with the
fair Jessie—the ballot of the average American voter would as likely be
won as lost by such an exhibition of youthful enterprise—but because it
helped to prove, what was persistently claimed, that he was a Roman
Catholic. In answer Mr. Beecher wrote a vigorous article disproving the
charge, and justifying the groom in securing the services of any one
competent to perform the marriage ceremony, closing with these words:
“Like a true lover and gallant man, Fremont said that he did not care
who married him, so that it was done quick and strong. If we had been in
Colonel Fremont’s place we would have been married if it had required us
to walk through a row of priests and bishops as long as from Washington
to Rome, ending up with the Pope himself!”

He ridicules the persistency with which certain newspapers returned to
the attack upon Fremont on the assumed ground of his being a Roman
Catholic, with the story of “The Dog Noble and the Empty Hole,” that
probably did as good campaign service as any story that was ever

“The first summer which we spent in Lenox we had along a very
intelligent dog named Noble. He was learned in many things, and by his
dog-lore excited the undying admiration of all the children. But there
were some things which Noble could never learn. Having on one occasion
seen a red squirrel run into a hole in a stone wall, he could not be
persuaded that he was not there for evermore!...

“The intense enthusiasm of the dog at that hole can hardly be described.
He filled it full of barking. He pawed and scratched as if undermining a
bastion. Standing off at a little distance, he would pierce the hole
with a gaze as intense and fixed as if he were trying magnetism on it.
Then, with tail extended and every hair thereon electrified, he would
rush at the empty hole with a prodigious onslaught.

“This imaginary squirrel haunted Noble night and day. The very squirrel
himself would run up before his face into the tree, and, crouched in a
crotch, would sit silently watching the whole process of bombarding the
empty hole with great sobriety and relish. But Noble would allow of no
doubts. His conviction that that hole had a squirrel in it continued
unshaken for six weeks. When all other occupations failed this hole
remained to him. When there were no more chickens to harry, no pigs to
bite, no cattle to chase, no children to romp with, no expeditions to
make with the grown folks, and when he had slept all that his dog-skin
would hold, he would walk out of the yard, yawn and stretch himself, and
then look wistfully at the hole, as if thinking to himself: ‘Well, as
there is nothing else to do, I may as well try that hole again!’

“We had almost forgotten this little trait until the conduct of the New
York _Express_ in respect to Colonel Fremont’s religion brought it
ludicrously to mind again. Colonel Fremont is, and always has been, as
sound a Protestant as John Knox ever was. He was bred in the Protestant
faith and has never changed....

“But the _Express_, like Noble, has opened on this hole in the wall, and
can never be done barking at it. Day after day it resorts to this empty
hole. When everything else fails this resource remains. There they are
indefatigably—the _Express_ and Noble—a church without a Fremont, and a
hole without a squirrel in it!...

“We never read the _Express_ nowadays without thinking involuntarily,
‘Goodness! the dog is letting off at that hole again.’”

The election of 1856 resulted, as is well known, in the choice of James
Buchanan for President. Since his policy was dictated by the same power
behind the throne as that of Mr. Pierce, it was, of course, not unlike
that of his predecessor; and this era in the great conflict which opened
with the repeal of the Missouri Compromise closes with the
Administration at Washington more than ever submissive to the demands of
the South. But it also closes with the right wing of the great army of
liberty, whose lines reached from the Atlantic to the roots of the Rocky
Mountains, securely entrenched and holding its position, and with
continually increasing numbers, barring farther aggressions of slavery
for ever.

                              CHAPTER XV.

Remarkable experiences—The Edmonson Sisters—Pinky and her
    Freedom-Ring—Slave Auction in Plymouth Church—John Brown—The Wrong
    and Right Way—Election of Abraham Lincoln—Secession—Buchanan’s Fast.

While these larger public matters were engaging his attention there was
an equally engrossing field of private activity in which he was
constantly engaged, and which developed into some very peculiar and
remarkable experiences. As early as 1848 we find him conducting an
auction sale, in New York City, of the two Edmonson sisters.

This case at the time attracted wide attention. Two respectable young
women of light complexion, living in Washington City, had the misfortune
to be born while the mother was a slave. After they had grown to
womanhood they found that the former owner of their parent was about to
sell them to a slave-dealer for exportation to New Orleans and the
market. Despairing of being able to raise the exorbitant sum at which
they were valued, and not knowing how to escape from a doom far more
dreadful than death, they risked everything by going on board the
_Pearl_ schooner with seventy-seven others, in the hope of escaping to a
land of liberty and purity. The ship was captured and they were hurried
off to Slater’s Den, Baltimore, and thence to New Orleans. By some most
extraordinary providences they were brought back from New Orleans to
Washington, and their sad case at length reached the ears of those who
had hearts to feel and means to save. A meeting was held in the
Tabernacle October 23, at which Dr. Dowling and Mr. Beecher spoke with
so much effect that $2,200 were raised and the captives were free. Mr.
Beecher’s speech is described by an eye-witness, himself a minister, as
beyond anything he has ever heard before or since. He extemporized there
on the stage an auction of a Christian slave. The enumeration of his
qualities by the auctioneer, and the bids that followed, were given by
the speaker in perfect character. He made the scene as realistic as one
of Hogarth’s pictures and as lurid as a Rembrandt. Physical excellences,
mental, moral, and spiritual qualities, are each dwelt on with an
emphasis and moving effect that proved that he would have made a capital
auctioneer if he had chosen that business.

“And more than all that, gentlemen, they say he is one of those praying
Methodist niggers; who bids? A thousand—fifteen hundred—two
thousand—twenty-five hundred! Going, going! last call! _Gone!_”

The audience were wrought up to a perfect frenzy of excitement while
that picture was being drawn, and when real contributions instead of
imaginary bids were called for, the sum was easily raised and the girls
were free. He says of it: “I think that of all the meetings that I have
attended in my life, for a panic of sympathy I never saw one that
surpassed that. I have seen a great many in my day. An amount of money
was subscribed, and they were bought and set free. The mother was a very
old woman. She had been a nurse of a great Richmond lawyer whose name
has died out of my memory. He owed his conversion to her. He was famous
in the days of Webster.”

We have lying before us as we write a little leather-covered
account-book, soiled and worn by use, which has upon its first pages
letters from various humanitarians—William Lloyd Garrison being among
the number—recommending to the Christian public one Pomona Brice, who
“is engaged in collecting money to secure the ransom of her daughter and
two grandchildren who are scattered somewhere in North Carolina,
Mississippi, Alabama, and Missouri.” The names of subscribers follow,
with the sums subscribed—ranging from twenty-five cents to ten
dollars—among which stands the familiar autograph “H. W. Beecher, if the
whole is made up, five dollars.” Receipts from the different
savings-banks where she had deposited the money; a letter from her
lawyer to Mr. Beecher telling him that at her request he had examined
the laws of the above-mentioned States, and found them all against her;
a bill for his services and a judgment of the court against her for
$100, all either directed or entrusted to Mr. Beecher, give us an
inkling of another kind of work that wore upon his time, sympathy, and

Not only did he help by his subscriptions some poor mother or
grandmother to buy the liberty of her children or grandchildren, but
sometimes brought the slave upon Plymouth pulpit and raised the money
for its redemption on the spot. A handful of letters in our possession
gives the preliminaries to such a transaction.

One is from a Mr. Blake, who has called on the “nigger trader” and
obtained the refusal of the child for $900, and has also “obtained four
or five good names to a bond for the payment of the money or return of
the child. When I told the grandmother what I had done the poor old soul
cried for joy. ‘God bless you!’ she said. ‘I will sit up all night to
get you some breakfast. You have saved my child.’” Then comes a hitch in
the proceedings. A partner to the trader before spoken of appeared. He
hated “the d——— Abolitionists, and would not let the child go among
them.” “Do you not think something could be done without the child? She
has light flaxen hair. Her owner said I would easily get her on the
cars, for no one would know her from a white child. The grandmother has
purchased herself. She has also saved up about $200 to support her in
her old age. She is willing to give this. If we take it we shall want
$700 more. If you can do anything, in God’s name do it and save the

                                                “G. FAULKNER BLAKE.”

In some way, the letters do not tell us how, the difficulties were
overcome. The permission of the joint owners of this flaxen-haired girl
was obtained, bonds were given to the railroads as well as the owners to
secure them from loss in case this property should not be returned, and
the child was brought to the auction-block of Plymouth pulpit and was
bought for liberty.

The following is Mr. Beecher’s farther account of this matter:

“Before the passage of the Red Sea, before the escape of the Israelites
(in this country, not in Egypt), I was accustomed, from time to time, to
buy slaves here; and it was thrown up that this was one of the best
slave-auction places anywhere to be found—that better prices were
obtained for slaves that were put up for sale here than for any others.
Some thought there was an inconsistency in it. I did not. I was always
glad, at suitable times, as often as was proper, to bring before you
living men and women, and let them stand and look you in the face, that
you might see what sort of creatures slaves were made of. I was glad by
every means in my power to arouse men’s feelings against the abomination
of slavery, which I hated with an unutterable hatred, and which I hate
still in memory as much as then I hated it in substance and in fact.

[Illustration: Pinky’s Freedom-Ring.]

“Well, at one time there was a girl named ‘Pink,’ or ‘Pinky,’ brought
here. She came through the agency of G. Faulkner Blake, a brother of one
of our own members. He was studying in the Episcopal Seminary at
Alexandria, I believe. He learned from her old grandmother that ‘Pinky,’
who was too fair and beautiful a child for her own good, was to be taken
away from the grandmother and sent South.

“To make a long story short, those interested in the girl wrote me to
see if I could purchase her. I replied, ‘I cannot unless you send her
North’; and there was trouble in bringing her here. I wrote that I would
be responsible for her, and that she would be lawfully purchased or sent

“I remember that the pen-keeper paid me a compliment which I shall never
forget, by saying that if Henry Ward Beecher had given his word he
considered it better than a bond. So she was brought here and placed
upon this platform; and the rain never fell faster than the tears fell
from many of you that were here. The scene was one of intense
enthusiasm. The child was bought, and overbought. The collection that
was taken on the spot was enough, and more than enough, to purchase her.
It so happened (it is not wrong to mention now) that a lady known to
literary fame as Miss Rose Terry was present; and as, like many others,
she had not with her as much money as she wanted to give, she took a
ring off from her hand and threw it into the contribution-box. That ring
I took and put on the child’s hand, and said to her, ‘Now remember that
this is your freedom-ring.’ Her expression, as she stood and looked at
it for a moment, was pleasing to behold; and Eastman Johnson, the
artist, was so much interested in the occurrence that he determined to
represent it on canvas, and he painted her looking at her freedom-ring;
and I have a transcript of the picture now at my house in the parlor,
and any of you can see it by asking.

“So the girl was redeemed. She went back South after her redemption; but
she was in the North for a time and received some rudiments of
education. At length I lost sight of her until 1864, I think, when she
was at Chief-Justice Chase’s, and I received word that she wished to see

“It seems that ‘Pinky’ was not a good enough name for her when she was
free, though it was when she was a slave; so they mixed things and
called her ‘Ward,’ after my name, and ‘Rose,’ after the name of this
lady; and ever since her name has been Rose Ward—a very nice name
indeed. She then had grown to be a young woman, and was very fair. I
supposed she would probably live and die in labor to support herself and
her grandmother, who was becoming infirm; but it seems that she has
shown uncommon intelligence, and has manifested a very earnest desire to
become a laborer for her people, and she is to be educated and to become
a teacher and missionary among them.

“Now, it suits me exactly to have this child brought out of slavery,
redeemed on this platform, and grow up and develop a Christian
disposition, and go back and labor for her people. She does not know
anything about it, but if we can raise $150 she shall have a year’s
schooling in the Lincoln University at Washington. It seems to me as
though there was poetic justice and fitness in it. As you redeemed her
in the first instance from slavery, in the second instance you must
redeem her from ignorance by contributing the amount necessary to send
her a year to that university.“ And it was done.

An account of another is found in the weekly press:


“There was never a more thrilling exemplification of Gospel principles
than last Sabbath morning, June 1, in Rev. H. W. Beecher’s church,
Brooklyn. Mr. Beecher preached from Luke x. 27.

“Just after announcing the last hymn he stepped to the platform and
said: ‘I am about to do a thing which I am not wont to do, which I have
never done before upon this day; and, in order that you may have no
scruples about it, I will preface it by reading what the Lord Jesus
Christ says of the Sabbath and its duties: “And it came to pass also on
another Sabbath that He entered into the synagogue and taught: and there
was a man whose right hand was withered.... And He said to the man which
had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he
arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one
thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to
save life, or to destroy it? And looking around about upon them all, He
said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so; and his hand
was restored whole as the other.”

“‘Some two weeks since I had a letter from Washington informing me that
a young woman had been sold by her own father to go South—for what
purpose you can imagine when you see her. She was purchased by a
slave-trader for $1,200; and he, knowing her previous character and the
circumstances of the case, was so moved with compassion that he offered
to give her an opportunity to purchase her freedom. He himself gave
towards it $100, and persuaded a friend and another slave-trader to give
each $100 more. So much of good is there in the lowest of men! He
allowed her to go to Washington to solicit aid from the Free-State men
there, and she succeeded in obtaining $400 more. I was then applied to,
to know if we would do anything to raise the remaining $500. I answered
we would do nothing unless the woman could come here. After much
hesitation on the part of her master she was allowed to visit New York,
giving her word of honor that she would return to Richmond if the money
were not raised’; and, going to the platform stairs, ‘Come up here,
Sarah, and let us all see you,’ said he.

“A young woman rose from an adjacent seat, and, ascending the steps,
sank down, embarrassed and apparently overcome by her feelings, in the
nearest chair. She was of medium size and neatly dressed. The white
blood of her father might be traced in her regular features and high,
thoughtful brow, while her complexion and wavy hair betrayed her slave
mother. ‘And this,’ said Mr. Beecher, ‘is a marketable commodity. Such
as she are put into one balance and silver into the other. She is now
legally free, but she is bound by a moral obligation which is stronger
than any law. I reverence woman. For the sake of the love I bore my
mother I hold her sacred, even in the lowest position, and will use
every means in my power for her uplifting. What will you do now? May she
read her liberty in your eyes? Shall she go out free? Christ stretched
forth His hand and the sick were restored to health; will you stretch
forth your hands and give her that without which life is of little
worth? Let the plates be passed and we will see!’ There was hardly a dry
eye in the church; and amidst tears and earnest lookings at the poor
woman, who sat with downcast eyes, the plates went around. Every purse
was in requisition, and as the bills were thrown down Mr. Beecher said:
‘I see the plates are heaping up. Remember every dollar you give is the
step of a weary pilgrim toward liberty, and that Christ has said:
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these ye have done
it unto Me!”’ At this Mr. Lewis Tappan rose and said, ‘There need be no
anxiety about the matter; some gentlemen had just now pledged themselves
to make up the deficiency, whatever it might be.’

“Then she was free! And when Mr. Beecher told her so and announced it
to the great congregation, there was an involuntary burst of applause.
It was in the church, upon the Sabbath day, but it was no
desecration—rather it was echoed by richer acclamation in heaven! As
it subsided Mr. Beecher said: ‘When the old Jews went up to their
solemn feasts they made the mountains round about Jerusalem ring with
their shouts. I do not approve of an unholy clapping in the house of
God, but when a good deed is well done it is not wrong to give an
outward expression of our joy....’

“He then read the closing hymn, saying, as he handed her the book, ‘We
shall sing this hymn as we never have sung a hymn before, and she will
sing it too.’ This was the hymn:

                  “‘Do not I love Thee, O my Lord?
                    Behold my heart and see;
                  And turn the dearest idol out
                    That dares to rival Thee.’

                    .    .    .    .    .    .

                  “‘Hast Thou a lamb in all Thy flock
                    I would disdain to feed?
                  Hast Thou a foe before whose face
                    I fear Thy cause to plead?’

                    .    .    .    .    .    .

“The blessing was pronounced and the meeting was over; but many lingered
to know the amount of the contribution, and when it was found that $783
had been raised, so that not only she but her child of two years old
could be redeemed, the applause burst forth anew.

“In the plates were several articles of jewelry, thrown in by those who
had no money with them or were unable to give anything else.

“Thus may Plymouth Church be consecrated. Verily ‘it is lawful to do
good on the Sabbath day.’”

A handful of photographs of children, white and beautiful, who had been
set free, have come to my hand with the above letters. Having to do with
white-faced, flaxen-haired children born under the curse of slavery;
with mothers carrying their little account-books from house to house,
gathering funds wherewith to accomplish the apparently hopeless task of
first finding their children who had been swept away from them in the
black maelstrom of slavery, and then of purchasing them; of grandmothers
who wept for joy at the prospect of saving their grandchildren, and
willingly surrendered all the money which they had laid aside for their
old age if it could be accomplished, would make a man tender toward the
victims and hard against the system which caused their trouble.

Through this course of training he walked in these years, his heart now
dissolved in tears and now hot with righteous indignation. No
compromise, no surrender, no betrayal, no yielding, but the destruction
of slavery and the salvation of the Union.

The Kansas and Nebraska troubles had resulted in more than establishing
certain theories or in deciding the status of portions of our territory.
It had intensified the feeling in both sections of our country, and men
were being irreconcilably divided upon the subject of slavery. Out of
these troublous times sprang John Brown, originally a farmer, born in
the northern part of Connecticut, and emigrating to Ohio when a child.
In 1854 his four elder sons migrated to Kansas, joining with the
thousands from the North to make that a free State and to secure homes
for themselves and their families. Plundered and harassed, they wrote to
their father to procure arms. To make sure that they should get these he
went with them. This was his introduction into Kansas. We have no design
of following out his history in detail, but only claim that his
fanatical zeal and his unreasonable expectations were the product of the
times in which he lived and the experiences which he suffered, acting
upon a temperament peculiarly unselfish, heroic, and religious. Enough
for us is it to know that his course led him, with an army of sixteen
men, to the capture of Harper’s Ferry and to a conflict with the whole
State of Virginia, in fact with the power of the whole United States
government, and ultimately to the scaffold. His courage, his calmness,
his undoubting faith in the future deliverance of the slaves, crowned by
his heroic death, made his name the war-cry of the future legions of the
loyal States, who sang as they marched:

           “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
           John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
               But his soul is marching on.”

The attack on Harper’s Ferry was made October 17. On Sunday evening,
October 30, Henry Ward Beecher preached upon “The Harper’s Ferry
Tragedy,” and gives his judgment of the principal actor in the following

“An old man, kind at heart, industrious, peaceful, went forth with a
large family of children, to seek a new home in Kansas. That infant
colony held thousands of souls as noble as liberty ever inspired or
religion enriched. A great scowling slave State, its nearest neighbor,
sought to tread down this liberty-loving colony and to dragoon slavery
into it by force of arms. The armed citizens of another State crossed
the State lines, destroyed the freedom of the ballot-box, prevented a
fair expression of public sentiment, corruptly usurped law-making power
and ordained by fraud laws as infamous as the sun ever saw, assaulted
its infant settlements with armed hordes, ravaged the fields, destroyed
harvests and herds, and carried death to a multitude of cabins. The
United States government had no marines for this occasion! No Federal
troops were posted by cars night and day for the poor, the weak, the
grossly-wronged men in Kansas. There was an army there that unfurled the
banner of the Union, but it was on the side of the wrong-doers, not on
the side of the injured.

“It was in this field that Brown received his impulse. A tender father,
whose life was in his sons’ life, he saw his first-born seized like a
felon, chained, driven across the country, crazed by suffering and heat,
beaten by the officer in charge like a dog, and long lying at death’s
door! Another noble boy, without warning, without offence, unarmed, in
open day, in the midst of the city, was shot dead! No justice sought out
the murderers. No United States attorney was despatched in hot haste. No
marines or soldiers aided the wronged and weak!

“The shot that struck the child’s heart crazed the father’s brain.
Revolving his wrongs and nursing his hatred of that deadly system that
breeds such contempt of justice and humanity, at length his phantoms
assume a slender form and organize such an enterprise as one might
expect from a man whom grief had bereft of good judgment. He goes to the
heart of a slave State: one man—and sixteen followers! He seizes two
thousand brave Virginians and holds them in duress.

“When a great State attacked a handful of weak colonies the government
and nation were torpid; but when seventeen men attacked a sovereign
State, then Maryland arms, and Virginia arms, and the United States
government arms, and they three rush against seventeen men!

“Travellers tell us that the Geysers of Iceland—those singular boiling
springs of the North—may be transported with fury by plucking up a
handful of grass or turf and throwing them into the springs. The hot
springs of Virginia are of the same kind! A handful of men was thrown
into them, and what a boiling there has been!

“But meanwhile no one can fail to see that this poor, child-bereft old
man is the manliest of them all. Bold, unflinching, honest, without
deceit or dodge, refusing to take technical advantages of any sort, but
openly avowing his principles and motives, glorying in them in danger
and death as much as when in security—that wounded old father is the
most remarkable figure in this whole drama. The governor, the officers
of the State, and all the attorneys are pigmies compared to him.

“I deplore his misfortunes. I sympathize with his sorrows. I mourn the
hiding or obscuration of his reason. I disapprove of his mad and feeble
schemes. I shrink from the folly of the bloody foray, and I shrink,
likewise, from all the anticipations of that judicial bloodshed which,
doubtless, ere long will follow—for when was cowardice ever magnanimous?
They will kill the man, not for treason, but for proving them cowards!

“By and by, when men look back and see without prejudice that whole
scene, they will not be able to avoid saying: ‘What must be the measure
of manhood in a scene where a crazed old man stood head and shoulders
above those who had their whole reason? What is average citizenship when
a lunatic is a hero?’”

He also availed himself of this opportunity to show the wrong way and
the right way in our treatment of this whole question of slavery. I can
only mention the heads, but they so far outline his whole principle of
action during the war that I give them that his position may be

“1st. We have no right to treat the citizens of the South with acrimony
and bitterness because they are involved in a system of wrong-doing.”

“2d. The breeding of discontent among the bondmen of our land is not the
way to help them.”

“3d. No relief will be carried to the slaves or to the South as a body
by any individual or organized plans to carry them off or to incite them
to abscond.”

As to the right way:

“1st. If we would benefit the African at the South we must begin at
home. No one can fail to see the inconsistency between our treatment of
those amongst us who are in the lower walks of life and our professions
of sympathy for the Southern slaves. How are the free colored people
treated at the North? They are almost without education, with but little
sympathy for ignorance. They are refused the common rights of
citizenship which the whites enjoy. They cannot even ride in the cars of
our city railroads. They are snuffed at in the house of God, or
tolerated with ill-disguised disgust. Can the black man be a mason in
New York? Let him be employed as a journeyman, and every Irish lover of
liberty that carries the hod or trowel would leave at once or compel him
to leave! Can the black man be a carpenter? There is scarcely a
carpenter’s shop in New York in which a journeyman would continue to
work if a black man were employed in it. Can the black man compete in
the common industries of life? There is scarcely one in which he can
engage. He is crowded down, down, down, through the most menial
callings, to the bottom of society. We tax them, and then refuse to
allow their children to go to our public schools. We tax them, and then
refuse to sit by them in God’s house. We heap upon them moral obloquy
more atrocious than that which the master heaps upon the slave.”

“2d. We must quicken all the springs of feeling in the free States in
behalf of human liberty, and create a public sentiment based upon truth
and true manhood.”

“3d. By all the ways consistent with a fearless assertion of truth, we
must maintain sympathy and kindness toward the South. If, in view of the
wrongs of slavery, you say that you do not care for the master but only
the slave, I reply that you _should_ care for both master _and_ slave!
If _you_ do not care for the fate of the wrong-doing white man, _I_ do
care for the fate of the wrong-doing white man! But even though your
sympathy were only for the slave, then for his sake you ought to set
your face against, and discountenance anything like, an insurrectionary

“4th. We are to leave no pains untaken, through the Christian conscience
of the South, to give to the slave himself a higher moral status.”

“5th. The few virtues which shall lead inevitably to emancipation are to
be established and insisted upon—the right of chastity in the woman,
unblemished household love, and the right of parents to their children.
The moment these three stand secure, that moment slavery will have its
death-blow struck.”

“6th. And, lastly, among the means to be employed for promoting the
liberty of the slave we must not fail to include the power of true
Christian prayer. When slavery shall cease it will be by such
instruments and influences that shall exhibit God’s hand and heart in
the work. May He, in His own way and time, speed the day!”

With such radical yet conservative and kindly speech, bringing home to
his audience their own deficiencies and pointing out the way that must
be taken, did he temper and direct the hot passion of those fiery days.

The heat occasioned by the John Brown raid in the fall of 1859 was not
cooled by the after-events that occurred both in and out of Congress
during the following winter; and the country came to nominating its
candidates in 1860 in a state of the most intense feeling. Four parties
were in the field, each representing as its essential characteristic
some phase of feeling towards slavery. Among them stood the Republican
party, with a well-defined purpose, clearly understood and openly
declared—no interference with and no extension of slavery. Abraham
Lincoln was its nominee for President. Mr. Beecher had met him in 1859
when he came to New York to deliver his speech at Cooper Institute, and,
with his quick perception of the ability of men, and already well
acquainted with his record, had placed confidence in this tall, gaunt
Westerner from the first. He had doubted the policy of nominating Mr.
Seward, and one of his first interviews with a member of the New York
delegation, who had labored earnestly but vainly for his nomination, is
thus described: “With a laugh that was almost a roar he burst into the
editorial room where Mr. Raymond sat, his chair tilted upon its two fore
legs, and, grasping him cordially, heartily, vigorously, said: ‘Young
man, I know the people of this country at heart better than you do. Your
friend Seward has too much head and too little heart to succeed in any
such crisis as this.’

“‘And yours,’ replied Mr. Raymond, ‘I fear, has too much heart and too
little head for such a crisis as will assuredly be precipitated.’

“‘Trust, then,’ replied Mr. Beecher, ‘in God, and keep your powder

For the election of their nominee Mr. Beecher labored with pen and voice
to the utmost of his ability. His sermons Sunday evenings often had
reference to the great questions of the day. His lectures of this period
were little more than political addresses, and by his Star Papers in the
_Independent_, which were largely copied in other papers, he made his
views known to the reading public throughout the land. Believing that
the election of Abraham Lincoln was of the utmost importance, he gave
himself unreservedly to make it an accomplished fact, and made himself
as obnoxious to the timid and time-serving as he was admirable to the
opposite party. Of this period he says: “We next had to flounder through
the quicksands of four infamous years under President Buchanan, in which
senators sworn to the Constitution were plotting to destroy that
Constitution; in which the members of the Cabinet, who drew their pay
month by month, used their official position, by breach of public trust
and oath of allegiance, to steal arms, to prepare fortifications, and
make ready disruption and war. The most astounding spectacle the world
ever saw was then witnessed—a great people paying men to sit in the
places of power and offices of trust to betray them.”

Most portentous events followed the election. State after State in the
South called their conventions and passed decrees of secession, in every
case, except in South Carolina, by the jugglery of political leaders, in
spite of the popular vote. Representatives withdrew from the House,
senators from the Senate, and members from the Cabinet, and flocked to
Montgomery, Ga., where a rebel government was being organized. The most
specious arguments were urged in justification of secession, were
substantially admitted even by so excellent an authority as the New York
_Tribune_, and the right to coerce a sovereign State, as well as the
expediency of the attempt, was denied by a large portion of the Northern
press. Preparations to make secession successful, if resisted, were made
openly, while the denial of the right to prevent the same tied the hands
of the government and left it powerless in the toils of its enemies. In
the meantime different schemes of conciliation, all amounting to some
species of concession or compromise, were advanced both in and out of
Congress, and urged to the very utmost possible limit of forbearance and
kindness. Against “peace at any price” and all patched-up compromises
Mr. Beecher, together with a multitude of others of like feeling at the
North, threw his influence.

His Thanksgiving sermon this year was upon this topic: “Against a
Compromise of Principle.” He recounts the common but abundant blessings
of the year, and gathers assurance that they are from God on the
following testimony.

“All the sons of God rejoice and all good men rejoice. It needs but one
element to complete the satisfaction. If we could be sure that this is
God’s mercy, meant for good and tending thereto, we should have a full
cup to-day. That satisfaction is not denied us. The Mayor of New York,
in a public proclamation, in view of this prodigal year that has heaped
the poor man’s house with abundance, is pleased to say that there is no
occasion apparent to him for thanksgiving. We can ask no more. When bad
men grieve at the state of public affairs, good men should rejoice. When
infamous men keep fast, righteous men should have thanksgiving. God
reigns and the devil trembles. Amen. Let us rejoice!”

He then describes the true nature of the compromise that is asked, and
shows the impossibility of making any that shall be satisfactory to
either side:

“We are told that Satan appears under two forms—that when he has a good,
fair field he is out like a lion, roaring and seeking whom he may
devour; but that when he can do nothing more in that way he is a serpent
and sneaks in the grass. And so it is slavery open, bold, roaring,
aggressive, or it is slavery sneaking in the grass and calling itself
compromise. It is the same devil under either name. If by compromise is
only meant forbearance, kindness, well-wishing, conciliation, fidelity
to agreements, a concession in things, not principles, why then we
believe in compromise, only that is not compromise, interpreted by the
facts of our past history.

“We honestly wish no harm to the South or its people; we honestly wish
them all benefit. We will defend her coast; we will guard her inland
border from all vexations from without; and in good faith, in earnest
friendship, in fealty to the Constitution, and in fellowship with the
States, we will, and with growing earnestness to the end, fulfil every
just duty, every honorable agreement, and every generous act within the
limits of truth and honor; all that and no more—_no more_ though the
heavens fall; _no more_ if States unclasp their hands; _no more_ if they
raise up violence against us—NO MORE! _We have gone to the end._”

He did not agree with Mr. Lincoln in his hope that the South would be
satisfied by the careful explanations given in his inaugural, nor with
Mr. Seward in his expectation that the difficulty would be settled in
ninety days; but he did believe with all his heart that God was in the
work, and that the trouble would be settled some day, and that it would
be settled right. In the turmoil of that turbulent time his mind was
kept in perfect peace, because it was stayed on God.

The Republican party was charged with having brought about this unhappy
state of the country. This charge he answers in a sermon preached
January 4, 1861, the day appointed by President Buchanan for Fasting and

“What is the errand of this day? Why are we observing a sad Sabbath? a
day of humiliation? a day of supplication? It is for the strangest
reason the world ever heard. It is because the spirit of liberty has so
increased and strengthened among us that the government is in danger of
being overthrown! There never before was such an occasion for fasting,
humiliation, and prayer! Other nations have gone through revolutions for
their liberties; we are on the eve of a revolution to put down liberty!
Other people have thrown off their governments because too oppressive;
ours is to be destroyed, if at all, because it is too full of liberty,
too full of freedom. There never was such an event before in history....
Meanwhile we have had no one to stand up for order. Those who should
have spoken in decisive authority have been—_afraid_! Severer words have
been used; it is enough for me to say only that in a time when God, and
providence, and patriotism, and humanity demanded courage, they had no
response but fear. The heart has almost ceased to beat, and this
government is like to die for want of pulsations at the centre. While
the most humiliating fear paralyzes one part of the government, the most
wicked treachery is found in other parts of it.”

So closes in shame and fear the second era of the great conflict.

“Buchanan’s Fast” marks the lowest point of degradation the government
of the United States ever reached—a point of abject fear of the
consequences of its own sins, of feeble persistence in them, and of
cowardice in applying the remedy for its trouble.

Instead of abandoning its policy of falsehood and injustice, and making
a manly use of the means still at hand to avert the threatening dangers,
it held to its course, declared that it could do nothing more under the
Constitution than to advise and remonstrate with treason, and made a
frantic appeal to the Christians of the land to plead with Jehovah to
save it from the inevitable consequences of its folly and wickedness.

It was a failure. The Call of the President to his kind of Fast awakened
little response from the people. Another Proclamation was ringing in
their ears. It was that of the old prophet uttered centuries before. “Is
not this the Fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness,
to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye
break every yoke?”

This Fast of the Lord was rapidly approaching, and for it the people
were getting ready.

                              CHAPTER XVI.

War Begun—Firing upon Fort Sumter—“The American Eagle as you want
    it”—Death of Col. Ellsworth—Equips his Sons—Personal Feeling
    yields to Patriotism—His House a Store-House of Military
    Supplies—Sends a Regiment as his Substitute—Our National Flag—The
    Camp, its Dangers and Duties—Bull Run—Becomes Editor of the
    _Independent_—Salutatory—The _Trent_ Affair—Fight, Tax—Soldiers or
    Ferrets—Characteristics as an Editor—One Nation, one Constitution,
    one Starry Banner—McClellan Safe, and Richmond too—Mildly Carrying
    on War—The Root of the Matter—The only Ground—A Queer
    Pulpit—President’s Proclamation of Emancipation—Let come what
    will—Close of the Third Era.

For five months the daily papers had borne for their prominent
headlines, “The National Crisis,” “Pro-Slavery Rebellion,” “Pro-Slavery
Revolution,” “The War-Cloud.” At length the issue of April 12, 1861, was
headed, “The War Commenced: The first Gun fired by Fort Moultrie against
Fort Sumter”; the next day, “Fort Sumter Fallen.”

Mr. Beecher was lecturing in Cincinnati when the tidings came North of
the bombardment of Fort Sumter. The committee who had charge of the
lecture were alarmed, and, remembering the old pro-slavery riots of
thirty years before, declared that it would be unsafe for him to deliver
his lecture. He told them that to give that lecture was his object in
coming to Cincinnati, and do it he should; if not in a hall, then on the
public street. With many misgivings on their part, he was permitted to
go ahead, but so great was the fear of a riot that few attended. That
night he turned his steps homeward. Eager to learn his opinion of the
matter, we met him on the doorsteps. His oldest son, having left his
position up the river, had stopped at a recruiting station on Broadway,
already opened, and enlisted, and had then come home. Fearing something
of the kind, the mother gave strict commands that he should not leave
the house until his father’s return—a command which he was the more
ready to obey since the business had already been attended to. Naturally
he felt some little solicitude as to what his father should say, and his
first words were: “Father, may I enlist?” and was answered: “If you
don’t I’ll disown you.”

The next day was Sunday. The report of his sermon was headed thus:
“Henry Ward Beecher on the Crisis: ‘What will you do, stand still or go

“The good people of Brooklyn have shared with us all the fears and
anxiety of the past weeks. Yesterday there was, if possible, a more
dense mass of human beings than usual packed within the walls of
Plymouth Church, and a more than ordinary curiosity on the part of
strangers, and a more than customary solemnity pervading the
congregation. It was manifestly the belief of all there that the pastor
would not fail to improve the occasion by preaching to the people of
this age upon the duties of the present trying hour, and that he would
deal with so grand a subject in a manner befitting its character, its
importance, and its universal occupation of the American mind. Nor were
they disappointed. Mr. Beecher delivered a sermon from the text, ‘Speak
to the children of Israel that they go forward.’”

The above appeared in one of the daily papers. We have not time to give
the synopsis of the reporter. The sermon was a careful review of the
present condition of affairs and a sober counting the cost of both
advance and retreat.

“Peace can be had by two-thirds of the nation yielding to the one-third;
by legalizing the right of any discontented community to rebel; by
changing our charter of universal freedom into a charter of deliberate
oppression; by becoming partners in slavery and ratifying this gigantic
evil; by surrendering all right of discussion, of debate or criticism.
On these terms,” he said, “we may have peace.

“You can have your American eagle as you want it. If, with the South,
you will strike out his eyes, then you shall stand well with Mr. Davis
and Mr. Stephens, of the Confederate States; if, with the Christians of
the South, you will pluck off his wings, you shall stand well with the
Southern churches; and if, with the new peacemakers that have risen up
in the North, you will pull out his tail-feathers, you shall stand well
with the Society for the Promotion of National Unity! But when you have
stricken out his eyes, so that he can no longer see; when you have
plucked off his wings, so that he can no longer fly; and when you have
pulled out his guiding tail-feathers, so that he can no longer steer
himself, but rolls in the dirt, a mere buzzard—then will he be worth
preserving? Such an eagle it is that they mean to depict upon the banner
of America.

”... So far as I myself am concerned, I utterly abhor peace on any such
grounds. Give me war redder than blood and fiercer than fire, if this
terrific infliction is necessary that I may maintain my faith in God, in
human liberty, my faith of the fathers in the instruments of liberty, my
faith in this land as the appointed abode and chosen refuge of liberty
for all the earth! War is terrible, but that abyss of ignominy is yet
more terrible!“

He then pointed out the steps that must be taken in the going forward.
They were, deepening and cleansing our convictions, making them more
earnest and religious; drawing the lines; cherishing feelings of
benevolence, and aiming at a peace built on foundations of God’s
immutable truth, so solid that nothing can reach to unsettle it.

To show the spirit which he cherished in those days, we cannot do better
than give one of the familiar lecture-room discussions which were so
frequent between him and his people. It was immediately after the death
of Colonel Ellsworth, which took place May 21, 1861:

”_Ques._ Will you please explain one point? I am so much a natural man
as not to be able to obey the injunction which calls upon me to love my
enemies; and when I stand on Broadway in New York, and see men in
regiments which are bound for the field of battle, having been taken
from their homes, their wives, their children, and all that is dear to
them on earth, by the conduct of miscreants, I cannot understand how you
can have such feelings as you express. I wish you would speak on that

“I have no doubt that the brother feels just as he says he does, and I
have no doubt that I do not feel a bit so. When I consider the interests
of God’s advancing kingdom of justice, and judgment, and mercy, and
purity, and truth, and liberty, I think that all the things in the earth
are of no value at all in the comparison, and that the earth might melt
with fervent heat, the elements dissolve, and the globe vanish away
rather than that this kingdom should not prevail. ‘Let God be true, but
every man a liar.’ Let the nations perish, let everything go, but let
the eternal treasures of God—truth, liberty, mercy, judgment, and
purity—be preserved. I feel lifted up to a sovereign height of
inspiration when I conceive of the majesty of these treasures, effluent
from the heart of God, which He is seeking to embody in our time, in our
earth, in this nation. Therefore, when I see justice put down I feel
like a lion. When I see a great moral principle overborne there are no
bounds to my indignation. When I see a great humanity trodden under foot
I long to be a champion for it. And when I look on the face of an
ignorant, erring, wicked multitude, I think of a great many things

“For the sake of these great principles I would give my life as quick as
I would pour out a glass of water; or I will do what is harder than
that—I will keep it and use it for forty years, if God spares it,
increasing its toil every year. I will make any sacrifice or perform any
labor for the sake of a moral principle. But when I look at the South,
other feelings besides those of vengeance are excited in me. Every one
of those traitors is as wicked as you think, and more. The Floyds, the
Davises, the Toombses, the Rhetts, and all such as they, are more wicked
than we know; and yet the Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour held up for
every such one. They are all immortal, they are all, like myself,
pilgrims toward the bourne of the eternal. And when I think how many
ignorant creatures are led by those base men to do wicked things, half
of the wickedness of which they do not know, I feel compassion for them
and am sorry for them. If they array themselves against justice it is
necessary that they should be overborne; but not one blow more than is
necessary for the defence of the principle assailed should be struck. We
are not authorized to inflict vengeance. ‘Vengeance is mine, I will
repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he
thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on
his head.’ About the use of every single sword and spear and ball
needful to assert a divine principle there should be no squeamishness. I
am for war just so far as it is necessary to vindicate a great moral
truth. But one particle of violence beyond that is a flagrant treason
against the law of love. And I can say to-night that I would go to war
with every State in the Southern Confederacy, if called of God to join
the army, and would hold them to the conflict till the cause of right
was vindicated; and that I could, at the same time, pray for those
misguided men as easily as to-night I can pray for my own babes. I am as
sorry for them as for any set of men in the world. I do not think I
utter a prayer on any morning that I do not pray for them, and that God
does not see my feeling of tenderness and sorrow toward them. And that
is not all. I regard them as citizens yet. I love this whole country. I
love its past and its prospective history. God do so to me, and more
also, if I ever cease to feel for them all, misguided though they be, as
anxiously as for my own kin and brethren. We cannot afford to be very
critical with wickedness.

“However, there are some difficulties involved in this question. Colonel
Ellsworth, who has just been murdered by one of these ‘miscreants’ of
whom you speak, I knew well. I was thinking of my own sensations when I
walked over from New York after hearing the sad news. Why, I was forty
feet high! I was scared, I grew so fast. I walked so lordly that every
step seemed to have the weight of a mountain; yet I did not feel the
touch of the earth. For one hour I think I had enough volume of feeling
to have swept away a continent. I was almost frightened at the turbulent
and swelling tide within me, and I said: ‘Suppose my Master should come
and say: My child, what are you doing with such feelings? Where is My
teaching? What are you taking on yourself My supreme attribute for?
“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”’ Is it not charming
how these texts will exorcise the devil? I put that passage on my head
as a crown, and I have felt as peaceful as a lamb ever since. And
although it was very base and wicked for that man to murder Colonel
Ellsworth as he did, I can say that had he not expiated his crime, and
had the victim been my brother, I could still have forgiven him and
prayed for him.

“Now, my brethren, I am going to fight this battle right straight
through from beginning to end, and not lose my Christian feelings
either. I am going to stick close to my Saviour. And, with regard to the
past, I am not sorry for one sermon that I have preached among you, or
that I have preached during the last twenty years of my life. If the
question were put to me to-night, ‘When you look back upon your public
life and see what you have done to bring about the present issue, are
you not sorry for the ground you have taken?’ I would say, _No_. I bless
God for every word I have spoken and every influence I have exerted in
that direction. Knowing all that was to be, I would do over again all
that I have done if the same state of things existed, only my little
finger should be as heavy as my loins have been.

“Now that the time of conflict has come, we must accept it. I mean to go
through it, and you shall; and I pray God that the whole anointed Church
at the North may, bearing the banner of Christ along with the banner of
our country. The stars over us shall not be brighter and purer than
those that we carry into this very conflict. We have had examples enough
to know that even in such a desperate case as civil war a man may be a
Christian. I thank God that praying men have gone into the army from
this church. Every day and night there is a prayer-meeting in our camp,
and there will be to the end. And I believe that among our soldiers are
those who, if they saw the bitterest and most blasphemous of the enemy
suffering and dying, would relieve their sufferings by kind offices and
soothe their last moments by comforting words. God grant that it may be
so, and that, both in the service of the country and in the service of
the Lord Jesus Christ, they may be true soldiers!”

It is impossible to describe, or even, in our time, to conceive, the
fervor of patriotism that followed the firing upon Fort Sumter.
Patriotic meetings were held in nearly every village of the North, and
the raising of flag-poles with their accompanying exercises was the
order of the day. A monster mass-meeting was held in Union Square, New
York, over which John A. Dix presided, and where the flag which had been
lowered at Sumter was displayed. The attack on the Massachusetts
regiment in Baltimore as it hastened to the defence of Washington
deepened and increased the excitement. The ranks of military companies
already organized were speedily filled, and the young men met, in most
of our Northern cities, week by week for military drill. A squad of
these was formed in Brooklyn. Some fifteen of us wanted to go to the
front, and offered ourselves to one of the New York regiments, but the
offer was refused with thanks. Their ranks were full and they had no
place for us. Hearing of this, Mr. Beecher, who took a deep interest in
this whole matter and used to attend our drills, proposed that two of
us, his own son and one who expected to belong to his family, should
join a cavalry regiment then being enlisted in New York. He gave us each
a horse, brought us home our equipment of pistols, bowie-knives, etc.,
and, the next day, went with us to New York to see us enlist; but the
enlisting officer had received notice from Washington the day before to
accept no more recruits—cavalry regiments were not thought to be
necessary for the ninety days’ struggle; and so we were refused. One of
us went to Riker’s Island, and, after a month of waiting, was able to
get into service; the other, having just finished his theological
course, and having for weeks been importuned by a church to become its
pastor, concluded that it was God’s will that he should preach, left the
city, and went to work.

There was great variety of work to be done. No need now of efforts to
arouse the public mind—the firing upon Fort Sumter had done that; no
need now of urging men to the front—the young men of the nation had
formed into companies and regiments faster than the government was
willing to accept them. Illinois asked permission to furnish all the men
that were required. But another work pressed upon heart and hand. Homes
at the North were being made desolate, not only by the absence but by
the death of their loved ones. Tidings began to reach us of what
afterwards seemed skirmishes, but were important battles in those
days—Big Bethel, Newport News, and others; and the list of the dead,
small to what it afterwards became, carried with it then, as always,
sorrow and heart-break. The bodies of fallen sons and brothers, picked
up on the battle-field or gathered from the hospitals, covered with the
stars and stripes, were being borne through the streets of our cities on
the way to bereaved homes, and the people needed comforting. Then it was
that the words of one perfectly assured of the justice of the cause,
that it was of God, and that those who upheld their country’s flag were
doing His work, and who viewed life and death as only and equally
desirable when they accomplished His will, rang out like the
resurrection challenge of St. Paul: “O death! where is thy sting? O
grave! where is thy victory?”

In a sermon preached May 26, 1861, when but the first mutterings of the
storm had been heard and the first splashes of rain were felt, he says:
“He whose remains are to pass to-day, amid many tears, through yonder
city, lived long though he died early. Why? Because he lived to a moral
purpose. Because he has given his name to patriotism. Millions of men
shall live four-score years and shall not leave any such memorial as he
has left. He had lived long enough. Any man that can give the whole
weight of his being and his heart-life to a great truth or cause has
lived long enough. Measure him by the higher and not by the lower
standard. Do not say that he has lost days, that he has lost coming
honors, that he lost pleasure. He lost nothing. He gained everything. He
gained glory, and paid his life for it in such a way as to take on

One very intimate with him in those days says: “I do not think that he
spent a moment in solicitude for the fate of those who were at the
front, not even of his own flesh and blood. Everything seemed swallowed
up in his zeal for his country, and for her he was ready to sacrifice
everything without complaint or hesitation.”

“My oldest son is in the army, and shall I read with trembling anxiety
the account of every battle to see if he is slain? I gave him to the
Lord, and I shall not take him back and I will not worry and fret myself
about him. I will trust in God though He slay not only him but me also;
and all I have I put on the same ground—I try to, sometimes not
succeeding and sometimes succeeding a little. My God, this Christ
Emmanuel—God with me—has sustained and comforted me in care and trouble,
and taken away my fear and put hope in its place, and I will look to Him
still; and if there are any here that have carried burdens, and whose
faces are wrinkled with care, I beseech of you to try living by faith in
a present Saviour that loves you and ordains all things, and says that
everything shall work for your good if you love God.”

Among the things that occupied his time and called forth all his
energies was the equipment of the Fourteenth Long Island Regiment. His
home at 124 Columbia Heights became a store-house of military goods and
a place of consultation for men interested in the events that were
taking place; Plymouth Church became a rendezvous for regiments passing
to the front, and the church parlors a workshop where the women and
maidens of the church, under the direction of Mrs. Beecher, met daily to
sew and knit and pack for the soldiers. He told Mrs. Beecher to use all
his salary in this direction, except such as was absolutely necessary
for running the household. She did this, and added to the amount by
personal solicitation from families and merchants, until an immense sum
was raised and expended.

While many men sent single substitutes, Mr. Beecher determined to be
represented in the war by a whole regiment; and so, after helping to fit
out two regiments, he took upon himself the entire burden of equipping a
new one, called “The Long Island Volunteers,” afterwards the
Sixty-seventh New York. This regiment would never have had any existence
but for the labors of Mr. and Mrs. Beecher, and the members of the
church whom they interested in it. Their eldest son, Henry Barton
Beecher, joined it and was made a lieutenant. In those days the
government had plenty of men and very little money, and therefore
declined to accept this regiment for many weeks after it was organized,
during which time the entire expense of feeding and clothing the men was
borne by subscriptions raised by Mr. Beecher. It was not until after the
battle of Bull Run, at the end of July, 1861, that the regiment was even
in form accepted, and not until much later that it was actually mustered
into the national service.

In those days of multiplied and harassing labors Mr. Beecher did not
lose his hope, his cheerfulness, nor even his mirthfulness. He had a
refuge to which he constantly fled when the pressure became too heavy.
He had also the power of seeing the humorous side of many common or even
tragic events, and drawing from them laughter as well as tears. The
flowers, too, and the clouds had their message for him. He kept the
channels of his soul wide open on every side to receive, and became a
fountain of perpetual inspiration to others.

At this time, while the route through Baltimore was closed against our
troops on their way to Washington, he preached to the “Brooklyn
Fourteenth,” on the eve of their departure to the front, upon “Our
National Flag.” After giving the history of our banner he more
particularly addressed the soldiers before him:

“And now God speaks by the voice of His providence, saying, ‘Lift again
that banner! Advance it full and high!’ To your hands God and your
country commit that imperishable trust. You go forth self-called, or
rather called by the trust of your countrymen and by the Spirit of your
God, to take that trailing banner out of the dust and out of the mire,
and lift it again where God’s rains can cleanse it, and where God’s free
air can cause it to unfold and stream as it has always floated before
the wind. God bless the men that go forth to save from disgrace the
American flag!

“Accept it, then, in all its fulness of meaning. It is not a painted
rag. It is a whole national history. It is the Constitution. It is the
government. It is the free people that stand in the government on the
Constitution. Forget not what it means; and, for the sake of its ideas
rather than its mere emblazonry, be true to your country’s flag. By your
hands lift it; but let your lifting it be no holiday display. It must be
advanced ‘_because of the truth_.’

“That flag must go to the capital of this nation; and it must not go
hidden, not secreted, not in a case or covering, but full high
displayed, bright as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army
with banners! For a single week that disgraceful work, that shameful
circuit, may be needful; but the way from New England, the way from New
York, the way from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, to Washington, _lies
right through Baltimore_, and that is the way the flag must and shall
go! [Enthusiastic cheers.] But that flag, borne by ten thousand and
thrice ten thousand hands, from Connecticut, from Massachusetts (God
bless the State and all her men!), from shipbuilding Maine, from old
granite New Hampshire, from Vermont of Bennington and Green-Mountain-Boy
patriotism, from Rhode Island, not behind any in zeal and patriotism,
from New York, from Ohio, from Pennsylvania and New Jersey and Delaware,
and the other loyal States—that flag must be carried, bearing every one
of its insignia, to the sound of the drum and the fife, into our
national capital, until Washington shall seem to be a forest in which
every tree supports the American banner!

“And it must not stop there. The country does not belong to us from the
Lakes only to Washington, but from the Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The
flag must go on. The land of Washington shall see Washington’s flag
again. The land that sits in darkness, and in which the people see no
light, shall yet see light dawn and liberty flash from the old American
banner! It must see Charleston again, and float again over every fort in
Charleston harbor. It must go further, to the Alligator State, and stand
there again. And sweeping up through all plantations and over all fields
of sugar and rice and tobacco, and every other thing, it must be found
in every State till you touch the Mississippi; and, bathing in its
waters, it must go across and fill Texas with its sacred light. Nor must
it stop when it floats over every one of the States. That flag must
stand, bearing its whole historic spirit and original meaning, in every
Territory of this nation!”

Other sermons of similar character followed. “The Camp, its Dangers and
Duties,” was one:

“For any one that is going forth to meet the temptations of camp life I
had almost said I would sum up in one single word of remembrance a
talisman of safety—temperance, absolute temperance.... The men that are
dangerous in camps are not bloated drunkards, shameless gamblers, and
such as they. But an accomplished officer, a brilliant fellow, who knows
the world, who is gentle in language, who understands all the etiquettes
of society, who is fearless of God, who believes nothing in religion,
who does not hesitate, with wit and humor, to jeer at sacred things, who
takes an infernal pleasure in winding around his finger the young about
him, who is polished and wicked, and walks as an angel of light to tempt
his fellow-men, as Satan did to tempt our first parents—if there be in
camp such a one, he is the dangerous man.

“There ought to be a bold stand taken in favor of virtue by the good in
each one of the various companies. If there is not such a stand taken in
Company C of the Fourteenth Regiment, I shall be ashamed of my

He was constantly invited to lecture, and almost any sum was offered to
secure his services. These, as we may well conceive, were mostly
patriotic addresses upon the great subjects that were then burning in
the minds of the American people.

We remember well his having a course at Providence, Rhode Island, the
third of which was delivered Monday, after the heavy work of the day
previous, and when he took the train he had not touched pen to paper nor
given it a moment’s thought; but his mind and heart were fully awake,
and the resources of a lifetime of thought and labor were at his

The battle of Bull Run, which was fought in July, as is well known, was
the first battle of the war of really national importance. The result
was sobering and humiliating to the North. On the following Sunday
evening Mr. Beecher preached a sermon upon “God in National Affairs.”
After tracing His way in the history of the nation, he says:

“The battle is well begun. If I consult my pride, if I consult my
vanity, I fain would never have seen our banners dip; and yet, if I
consult a larger wisdom, I know not but that the best thing that can
befall us is that humiliation which shall teach us not to rely so much
on words and cheers and newspaper campaigns. A defeat just sufficient to
make us feel that we must fall upon the interior stores of manhood, that
we must have faith in God, that we must set aside everything but a
solemn purpose and an earnest consecration of ourselves to this work
which God has given us to do—such a defeat cannot but be beneficial.”

And so it proved. The battle of Bull Run awoke the North from its dream
of easy conquest, and thenceforth she took up the war in earnest.

In his Thanksgiving sermon in November of that year, upon “Modes and
Duties of Emancipation,” he shows the conservatism of his belief and his
confidence in the national authority if rightly used—“This conflict must
be carried on through our institutions, not over them”—and his view of
the great forces engaged—“While preparations for this conflict have been
going on God has poured money into our coffers and taken it away from
those who might use it to our harm. He is holding back France and
England, and saying to all nations, ‘Appoint the bounds! Let none enter
the lists to interfere while those gigantic warriors battle for victory!
Liberty and God, and slavery and the devil, stand over against each
other, and let no man put hand or foot into the ring till they have done
battle unto death!’ Amen! Even so, Lord Almighty. It is Thy decree, and
it shall stand! And when the victory shall come, not unto us, not unto
us, but—in the voice of thrice ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,
of ransomed ones, mingled with Thine earthly children’s gladness—unto
Thee shall be the praise and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”

During all these years, almost from the time he came to Brooklyn, Mr.
Beecher had been fortunate in having a channel of communication with the
public, in general so in harmony with his own views and spirit as the
New York _Independent_. In its second number appears an extract from a
sermon of his, followed by frequent contributions from his pen called
“Star Papers,” and for the last three years a sermon in full upon the
second page. He is now called to its head. In the issue of December 19,
1861, appears his “Salutatory.” Since in this he gives, in brief, his
conception of the office and importance of the religious newspaper, it
is given in full:

“The undersigned has to-day assumed the editorial management of the
_Independent_. This will not involve any change in the principles, the
purposes, or general spirit of the paper. The _Independent_ was founded
to illustrate and to defend the truths and doctrines of the Christian
religion; to employ them as the authoritative standards by which to
estimate and influence events, measures, and men; to infuse a spirit of
truth and humanity into the affairs of this nation; to give aid and
encouragement to every judicious scheme of Christian benevolence. It has
sought to leaven with the Christian spirit all the great elements of our
civilization. These were the aims. The results are upon record.

“For the future, studying a catholic sympathy with all who love our Lord
Jesus Christ, and seeking to promote concord among all Christians of
every name, the _Independent_ will still continue explicitly and firmly
to hold and to teach those great cardinal doctrines of religion that are
substantially held in common by the Congregational orthodox churches of
New England and by the Presbyterian churches of our whole land. But, as
heretofore, this will be done for the promotion of vital godliness
rather than for sectarianism.

“The _Independent_ will not deviate from that application of Christian
truth to all public questions which has thus far characterized its
course. While seeking to promote religious feeling, as such, and to
incite and supply devotional wants, it will not forget that there is an
ethical as well as an emotive life in true religion. We shall therefore
assume the liberty of meddling with every question which agitates the
civil or Christian community, according to our own best discretion.

“The editorial profession, with the progress of popular intelligence,
has assumed an importance second to no other. It may unite in it the
elements of power hitherto distributed in the several professions, and
add, besides, many that have belonged to no other calling. He who knows
the scope and power of the press need desire no higher office than the

“In that silent realm of influences out of which proceed the actions of
men and the events of history, the editor is the invisible leader. Votes
cannot raise him higher. His pen is more than a sceptre. Profoundly
impressed with such a responsibility, desiring to honor God in the
welfare of men, we ask the sympathy of good men and the remembrance of
all who pray.

                                               “HENRY WARD BEECHER.”

At this time the excitement growing out of the capture of Mason and
Slidell on board the British steamer _Trent_, by Commodore Wilkes on the
_San Jacinto_, was at its height. News had just reached this country of
the bitter feeling awakened by “the outrage,” of the shipment of troops
to Canada, and other hasty preparations by Great Britain to avenge the
insult to her flag. And Mr. Beecher’s first editorial bears the somewhat
ominous title of “War with England.”

As we might expect, it is both temperate and defiant in language and

“We have no idea that there will be any war with that power. England has
a peculiar practical wisdom in affairs which touch her own material
interests. Her folly will be expended in words; her wisdom reserved for
actions. It is not her interest to go to war with the Northern States in
the interest of the Southern States. There is no probability that she
will allow herself, whatever she has done in other days, to be found
fighting for slavery against freedom....

“There is no desire on our part for so unnatural a war. To avert it we
shall be willing to yield anything but honor. Our hands are sufficiently
full. To have a British fleet thundering at our sea-doors, while the
volcano was yet pouring lava through our Southern States, would be a
little more business on hand than could be attended to with that
thoroughness which our people desire in all warlike enterprises.

“Yet should England force us into war, terrible and atrocious as that
would be, America is determined to put her in the wrong before the
world. If we have transgressed any law of nations; if we have, indeed,
violated any right of England; if we have, to the width of a hair,
passed beyond the line of our own proper duty and right, we shall, upon
suitable showing, need no menace to make ample reparation. We shall do
it for the satisfaction of our own sense of justice. But if we are
right, if we have done right, all the threatenings in the world will not
move this people from their steadfastness....

“Our wish is to unite with England in a race of civilization. But if she
_will_ fight, we _must_.”

Some idea of the variety and character of the work he did at this time
may be gained by a look at his editorials found in the _Independent_ of
January 16, 1862, the third week of his administration as editor. The
first is “Our Help from Above,” in which he directs all burdened hearts
to the great sources and divine methods of consolation. “The nearer our
thoughts come to the infinite and the divine the more power have we over
our troubles. The act of consolation is, to a great degree, the act of

The raising, equipping, and feeding such vast armies as, it was now
seen, would be required for the prosecution of the war, awakened in the
minds of thoughtful men a question scarcely second in importance to any.
By what plan or on what system shall the money required for these large
and expensive enterprises be secured? His second editorial upon this
page takes up this matter under the head of “A Word from the People to
Congress,” in which he urges the fearless imposition of taxes sufficient
to carry on the war, and justifies such a course upon the simple basis
of honesty. The article opens with this sentence, “Taxation and national
honesty are now synonymous,” and closes with this, “Every honest man in
America ought to send to Washington one message in two words, _Fight_,

How to treat the black men that came into our lines, or were liberated
by the advance of our armies, was another of the pressing questions at
this time, and one concerning which there was a great difference of
opinion. He treated this subject in a column article on this page,
entitled “_Men_, not _Slaves_.” The position which he held, and
advocated with great force and clearness, is given in this sentence:
“One thing is plain—one thing as a starting-point admits of no doubt,
needs no hesitation: let us forget that these blacks ever were _slaves_,
and remember only that they are _men_. With this as our first principle
we cannot go far wrong.”

This money-raising was a matter of so great importance that he devoted
another column to it on this same page, on the “Duty of the Hour.” In
the first article he sent a message to Congress; in this he speaks to
the Christian public: “Whether the great impending patriotic tax shall
be a moral triumph and a testimony to the religious life of this people
will depend largely upon the conduct of Christian men and the action of
Christian teachers.... There seems to have been very _little education
of the consciences of Christian men to the duty of a cheerful support of
government by their property_. Even Christian men are tempted to give
grudgingly, selfishly, meanly. The nobler sentiments of the heart have
been allowed but little scope in this part of citizen duty.

“Is the Gospel worn out? Are ministers of the Gospel less manly and
Christian than in the days of the fathers? Has the American pulpit
forgotten that its place is in the van—that it leads, not follows, the

“Every church should have a public sentiment developed within it which
shall make this national tax almost a free-will offering. Let Christian
laymen take counsel together. Let the leading men of towns and
neighborhoods not only set a good example, but make it their duty to
cheer and inspirit the slow and reluctant. Let Christian men everywhere,
and in all things, seek to inspire the public mind with an earnest
willingness to discharge this great debt which we are called to pay for
_national unity, national safety, and national glory_.”

In those days of dress-parades in our largest army, and “all quiet on
the Potomac,” men chafed continually over what appeared to be inaction
and timidity on the part of the government at Washington. This found
expression in still another article by this same pen upon this same
page, “Courage and Enterprise”:

“There was never a time when timidity was so nearly allied to rashness,
and courage to the highest prudence, as now. We have every element of
national prosperity except the courage to use our power. Standing on a
centre and whirling around with sound and celerity may make a _top_, but
never an administration. Courage to see and accept the whole national
danger; courage to see and to accept the thoroughest remedy; courage to
ask the people for all that is needed, without a thought of refusal;
courage to use the means, willingly afforded, so as to put the whole
strength of this nation into every blow; courage to dash in pieces every
enemy, without stopping to consider just how we shall mend the pieces
afterward—this is the very critical prudence of good administration.

“Since war is upon us, let us have courage to make war.

“There is no money needed, there are no men wanted, there is no
enthusiasm that the North will not give with eager gladness, if only
SOMEBODY will speak to the nation such words as the fathers spoke! Then
men LOVED liberty! The nation suffered for a principle! What are we
doing now? Are we raising moss on cannon-wheels, or are we fighting? Is
it husbandry or war that is going on? Are we to starve Southern armies
or conquer them? Do we mean to put down rebellion by _soldiers_ or

These editorials showed certain features which were as characteristic of
his work in the editor’s chair as they were in the pulpit and upon the
platform; the first of these was this: he chose his subjects from among
the things which at that time affected and interested the people. This
he did, not simply because he could then get the ear of the public, nor
because these were in themselves the largest or most important matters,
but from a deep religious conviction that these present questions and
present interests were a part of God’s providence, by which and through
which He was accomplishing His purposes; and that in treating these
matters he was working together with Him. He believed thoroughly in
God’s action in common affairs and through the impulses given to common
men. This conviction made him a leader of the people without bringing
him into bondage to them. It gave him the kind of leadership to which he
attained: not of the abstract thinker in the movements of a hundred
years hence, but of the practical man of affairs in the battles of
to-day. This gave him the boldness that he never failed to display.
Confident that he was moving in harmony with God’s purpose and at His
own appointed time, he waited for no gathering of numbers, but pushed on
alone, if necessary, with an assurance born of faith. Storms and
confusion did not daunt him, because he recognized in these but the
necessary methods by which the Almighty carries out His designs in the
moral and spiritual as in the material world.

Another characteristic feature was seen in his treatment of the subject
in hand. He uniformly regarded it from the standpoint of the law of
Christ’s kingdom on the earth—“Bear ye one another’s burdens.” This
insured harmony in his policy through all changes of events around him,
and ultimately secured success. All the forces of the universe, because
created and administered by the Saviour of mankind, were on the side not
only of justice and truth but of kindness, forbearance, and helpfulness,
and must in time prevail. So deep was his conviction of the direct and
universal application of the law of this kingdom that he instinctively
took this side, and linked his action and his destiny with its fortunes,
when prudence and policy would seem to dictate a different course, with
a sublime confidence in its final victory.

A third characteristic was this: He wrote so as to awaken inspiration,
to stir men’s hearts to feel. It was not enough that men believed a
truth; that was nothing unless they felt it. His words must take hold,
they must excite the emotions and move men to action, or they were a

Besides the editorial articles referred to on this one page, there was
his sermon in this same issue occupying more than four columns of the
second page of the paper. It was upon the Divine Government, and moved
along on these lofty heights: “We believe that God is in His own world
and that He governs it by His personal will; that this government
includes nations, families, and individuals; that it aims at the highest
good and the everlasting good of sentient and intelligent creatures;
that it is one which admits the action of our minds upon God’s and the
action of God’s upon ours; that it has in it a place for all human
yearnings and strivings and longings.” “I bring you a Gospel that will
never wear out, a Gospel which is for ever fresh, and that is,
Emmanuel—God with us: God with you, in you, around you, loving you,
bearing with you, forgiving you, helping you, watching over you, taking
you up and carrying you as the parent takes up and carries the little

The first anniversary Sunday of the attack on Fort Sumter was marked by
a sermon on the “Success of American Democracy,” the tone of which may
be judged by the following passage:

“‘We will give every dollar that we are worth, every child that we have,
and our own selves; we will bring all that we are and all that we have,
and offer them up freely—but this country shall be one and undivided. We
will have one Constitution and one liberty, and that universal.’ The
Atlantic shall sound it and the Pacific shall echo it back, deep
answering to deep, and it shall reverberate from the Lakes on the North
to the unfrozen Gulf on the South—‘One nation, one Constitution, one
starry banner!’ Hear it, England!—one country, and indivisible. Hear it,
Europe!—one people, and inseparable. One God; one hope; one baptism; one
Constitution; one government; one nation; one country; one people—cost
what it may, we will have it!”

The summer of 1862 was, perhaps, a period of as great discouragement to
the North as any during the war. After months of preparation and
wearisome delays, with the grandest army that had ever been gathered on
this continent, McClellan had made his advance against Richmond, only to
entrench, retreat, and at last to be hurled back defeated and shattered.
It was when these terrible disasters were beginning to be understood and
their true significance appreciated that Mr. Beecher’s editorials in the
_Independent_ rose to their highest point of power and influence. They
were directed to the people and to the government as occasion demanded,
but always with such a grouping of facts, with so clear an appreciation
of the situation, and with so great earnestness of appeal and power of
denunciation that they must be reckoned among the loyal forces. We give
the titles and a few sentences from several of that time, that their
general character may be understood. On July 3, 1862, we have one upon
“The Great Duty”:

“In another column will be found the President’s call for 300,000 more
soldiers. These, and as many more if needed, can be raised. The North
has not changed her mind. The integrity of this nation, the authority of
its Constitution over all its original territory, will be maintained at
every hazard and at whatever expense.

“It is our duty to the nation and to the family of nations to make a
slaveholders’ rebellion so odious and disastrous that it shall stand to
all ages like Sodom and Gomorrah. Whatever it may cost in men and money,
the North is fully assured that for nothing else can money be so well
spent, and for nothing nobler can men live, or, if need be, lay down
their lives!

“The great duty now is to maintain a united North. No event can be more
sure than the victory of this government over the slaveholders’
conspiracy, if the loyal States are united. But if secret feuds or open
factions shall divide and paralyze the popular feeling, the cause will
fail, or succeed only after long, wasting, and useless expenditures.”

In the next issue, July 10, he has an equally strong editorial upon “The
Country’s Need.” The suppression of news, the failure to trust the
people, the political intrigues at the capital, moved him to righteous
and sorrowful indignation:

“Did the government frankly say to this nation, We are defeated? To this
hour it has not trusted the people. It held back the news for days. Nor
was the truth honestly told when outside information compelled it to say
something. It is even to this hour permitting McClellan’s disaster to be
represented as a piece of skilfully planned strategy! After the labor of
two months, the horrible sickness of thousands of men poisoned in the
swamps of the Chickahominy, the loss of probably more than ten thousand
as noble fellows as ever lifted a hand to defend their country,
McClellan, who was four miles from Richmond, finds himself twenty-five
miles from the city, wagons burned, ammunition-trains blown up, parks of
artillery captured, no entrenchments, and with an army so small that it
is not pretended that he can reach Richmond! The public are infatuated.
The papers that regaled us two weeks ago with visions of a Fourth of
July in Richmond are now asking us to rejoice and acclaim—not at
victory—but that we have just saved the army! McClellan is safe!—and
Richmond too!

“The government, upon this disaster, procures the governors of the
States to _ask it_ to call for 300,000 more men. Why did not the
President take the responsibility, plainly confess our disaster, say
that we were within a hand-breadth of ruin, throw himself on the people?
No. The people pay taxes, give their sons and brothers—but that is all.
We are sick and weary of this conduct. We have a sacred cause, a noble
army, good officers, and a heroic common people. But we are like to be
ruined by an administration that will not tell the truth; that spends
precious time in playing at President-making; that is cutting and
shuffling the cards for the next great political campaign. Unless good
men awake, unless the accursed silence is broken that has fallen on the
people, unless the government is held sternly to its responsibility to
the people, we shall dally through the summer, make brigadier-generals
until autumn, build huge entrenchments, but fight no battles till they
are forced upon us, and then we shall be called upon to celebrate our
defeats or retreats as masterly strategies!

“We have a country. We have a cause. We have a people. Let all good men
pray that God would give us a government!”

This is followed by one, July 17, on the “Patriotism of the People.” Its
tone will be understood by these few sentences:

“There is no need of rousing the patriotism of the people. It is an
inexhaustible quality. It underlies their very life. The government
itself is buoyed up by it, and rides upon it, like a ship upon the
fathomless ocean.

“No. It is the government that needs rousing. We do not need meetings on
the Hudson, but motion on the Potomac. It is not in Boston, or Buffalo,
or Cincinnati, or New York that this case is to be settled, but in
Washington. There is no use of concealing it. The people are beginning
to distrust their rulers—not their good nature, their patriotism, their
honesty, but their capacity for the exigency of military affairs. They
know that in war an hour often carries a campaign in its hand. A day is
a year. The President seems to be a man without any sense of the value
of time. The people admire his disinterestedness. They believe him firm
when he reaches decisions. But they perceive how long a period he
requires to form judgments; how wide a circuit he takes of uncertainty
and vacillation before he determines. In civil affairs, that can bear to
wait, the people deem him among the best of our long line of Presidents.
But it is war! Armies are perishing. Months are wasting. We are in the
second year of rebellion. We have been just on the eve of doing
something for sixteen months!

“The nation rose up in its majesty to punish rebellion. It put a
magnificent army into the President’s hand. For one year that army was
_besieged_ in the capital!

“At length, this past spring, began the campaign in Virginia. The people
gloried in the belief that the majesty of the government would be
asserted. After four months’ campaign the armies of the United States
are on the _defensive_! Not less than a hundred thousand men have been
lost by death, wounds, sickness, and captivity; McClellan is cooped up
on James River; Pope is collecting an army; and the country is to-day
actually debating whether the enemy cannot strike a blow at Washington!
Is this such a management as will confirm the confidence of the country
in Mr. Lincoln’s conduct of the war? Do we need to ask why men are slow
to volunteer? Does any man need to be told what the end of such things
must be? This is not punishing rebellion; it is helping it....

“We speak plainly, sorrowfully, earnestly. An enemy of the
Administration would have no right to speak so. We are friends—all the
more because we speak out what millions think but do not utter, lest it
might hinder the cause. But, unless some one speaks, there will soon be
little cause left to hinder or to help.”

In the next issue, that of July 24, he has another two-column editorial
upon “The Duty of To-day”:

“In the beginning of this great struggle the question among loyal men
was, _How_ shall we save this nation? One year of fighting and the
question is, WHETHER we can save it? That is the question of to-day....

“The South has simplicity and unity of purpose. The North is uncertain
which she wishes most—to subdue the rebellion, to leave slavery
unharmed, or to have the right President at the next election!

“The South adjourns every question and postpones every interest in favor
of arms. The North is busy with conflicting schemes and interests—and is
also mildly carrying on war.

“Does anybody doubt the result of such a course? It is so certain that
it is not worth our while to waste another man or another dollar! Either
the Administration policy should instantly change or the war cease! It
is not more vigor so much as a different _internal idea_. If the
Administration cannot be disenchanted of the traditional policy that has
grown up during the heartless, timid, compromising era of the last
half-century, and adopt the simple and straightforward policy that
becomes a people striving for liberty and free institutions upon the
American continent, then we are doomed! It is war that we are making—war
first, war second, war wholly! It is not politics. It is not
Constitution-making. It is not the decision of legal niceties. These are
not the business of government, as toward the South. It is war,
absolute, terrible, and immeasurable war!

“The South has organized on the fact of slavery, and fights on that
issue, pure and simple. The North must organize on the doctrine of
liberty, and fight right through on that issue, pure and simple.

“The South sacrifices everything that conflicts with her central idea.
The North must do the same. The South is not ashamed of slavery. The
North must not be ashamed of liberty!

”... The government cannot any longer avoid choosing the issue that has
been made up and thrust upon it—_freedom or slavery_. The time has come.
So long as there was a chance of solving this question _as a civil
question_ it was wise to leave it, as far as possible, to the States
concerned, and to employ the moral influences which change men’s minds.
_But slavery has become a military question._ One year has changed all
things. A remiss and vacillating policy of the Administration; the
committing of the armies of the United States for a whole year to a man
who thought he was at West Point giving a four years’ course of
instruction to five hundred thousand men infinitely at leisure, has
changed the relations and possibilities of things. It has taken slavery
out of the realm of discussion and placed it in the arena of war. It
must be settled by force....

“Nothing will unite this people like a bold annunciation of a moral
principle. Let the American flag be lifted up by Mr. Lincoln, as was the
brazen serpent, and let it be known that every man who looks upon it on
this continent shall be free, and a tide of joy and irresistible
enthusiasm will sweep away every obstacle. Let Mr. Lincoln decree it.
The nation will do it!

“Such a policy would carry the conscience of the North; would kindle the
enthusiasm for liberty, which is always the most potent of influences;
would bring all the historic traditions of the old American struggle to
enkindle the ardor of the young, who are to form our armies. It would
brush away at one stroke a thousand hindrances, give simplicity and
unity to our plans, and distinctness to our policy. It would end all
threat of foreign intervention. Above all, it would give to the American
armies that pillar of smoke by day and fire by night by which God the
Emancipator led forth His people from bondage into liberty!”

In the next issue, July 31, he writes a two-column editorial upon “The
Root of the Matter”:

“It is not enough that we increase our men and means. We shall never
succeed until we accept the _idea_ latent in this conflict. Slavery must
be crushed. Liberty must have absolute and unquestioned dominion on this
continent. We will not have oppression under the symbol of a sceptre or
of a whip—neither exported from abroad nor sprouting from our own soil!
This continent is dedicated to Liberty. It is the mission of this
generation of men to establish free institutions from ocean to ocean. We
sought to do it in peace. Since war has come, we will seek to take from
its repulsiveness and horror by making it serve the noblest ends of
human liberty. If it is for liberty upon a whole continent that we
fight, then every son or brother that falls is a sacrificial victim. By
his blood we ransom generations of men!

“The way to make the Administration see this truth is to see it
ourselves. There is a kind of political mesmerism. Our rulers will
partake of our sensations. What the people see the President will see.
What the people taste will repeat itself on the President’s tongue.

“Let the sentence be spoken. Let all hindrances and hesitations end.
Lift up the banner! And as the winds of war roll out its folds, let
those letters shine out as if God had written them with heavenly light,

The next editorial, August 7, is upon “A Leader for the People.” These
were the days of Pope and the disasters of the army, and the uncertainty
and terror at Washington. Two columns of argument and appeal for more
genuine enthusiasm for the great doctrines on which this government was
founded close with a prayer, the only relief of a heart bursting with a
mighty passion of sorrow and impatience:

“Great God, what a people hast Thou brought forth upon this continent!
What love of liberty; what heroic love of law and institution; what
courage, and constancy, and self-sacrifice hast Thou given them! And no
man is found to lead this so great a nation! Be Thou Leader! Lord God of
Hosts, hast Thou forgotten how to lead a people? There are no ages on
Thy head! Years make Thee neither old nor weary! Behind Thy unwrinkled
brow no care dwells! Teach this people to need no other leader but
Thyself! Then, led by Thee, teach them to be all-sufficient for every
deed of justice, and omnipotent for liberty!”

These are followed, August 14, by a three-column editorial upon “The
Time has Come”:

“We have been made irresolute, indecisive, and weak by the President’s
attempt to unite impossibilities; to make war and keep the peace; to
strike hard and not hurt; to invade sovereign States and not meddle with
their sovereignty; to put down rebellion without touching its cause; to
bring an infuriated people into enforced union with their enemies, and
to leave all their causes of quarrels unsettled and vigorous, and yet
hope for future concord.

“Thus far the conservative North has been striving to conduct this war
so as not to meddle with the so-called Southern right of slavery. But,
in spite of every scruple, events have crowded men to the necessity of
confiscation and emancipation. There is one more step. It is the last
sublime step toward national safety and national Christian glory. It is
_immediate and universal emancipation_!”

In the next issue, August 21, is another article, upon “The Only
Ground,” of the same temper, urging the same plea:

“The President has the right and power to destroy slavery. Let him
account to the civilized world for not doing it.”

And another August 28, upon “Reconstruction”:

“Since, then, the old Union is _de facto_ ceased, and all the local
rights lapsed by rebellion to the hands of the government, and it is to
reconstruct the Union, would it be a stretch of authority in the
government so to reconstruct it as to insure its perpetuity by purging
out all possible cause of future discord? The President has the
authority. He is exercising it every day. All that we ask is that he
will look _forward_ and not _backward_; that he will consider the nation
of the future, and not mere precedents in the past.... To put down
rebellion first, and attend to slavery afterwards, is letting two
serpents uncoil that may as well be stricken through with one blow.”

The preacher’s pulpit is in perfect accord with the editor’s chair. In a
sermon of July 27, 1862, he says: “God has been pleased to bring this
nation at this time into great trials that are to test the faith of all
true men. I think that we have not by a long way touched bottom yet. I
think that the wind has not yet blown its fiercest. There are blacker
clouds than those that have yet expended their fury. I cast no
confidence away. I do not know that we are to succeed to-day or
to-morrow; but we are going to succeed. I do not know that we are going
to succeed in Virginia for the present, but we are a-going to succeed in

“When I die there will be a great many things that, if I have time to
think of them, I may be sorry for. After I die there may be a great many
inconsistencies, a great many sins, a great many unperformed duties
that, when I behold them in retrospect, I shall regret. But I tell you
that, whether in the passage of death, or at the gate of heaven, or
before God’s eternal throne, I never expect to be sorry that I have
preached so often and so strongly in behalf of those that were in bonds;
that I have spoken, as I have had opportunity, for those that could not
speak for themselves; that I have roused up, according to the measure of
my influence, the whole community to vindicate the cause of God toward
His oppressed ones. I shall not be sorry for that. I shall be sorry that
I have not done more; but I never shall be sorry that I have done so

“And my faith in this cause was never so strong as it is now. I do not
throw it away. I feel certain that if the will of God is done in this
matter, though we may have to wait, we shall have great recompense of
reward in waiting.

“May God inspire the hearts of our rulers by the right things! May God
unite the hearts of this great people in right counsels and in right
feelings! May God accept the offerings that we make of our children, of
our brothers, of our neighbors, of everything that we have! Let us put
them all on the altar of patriotism, knowing that in this case the altar
of patriotism is the altar of God. He will accept the offering, and in
His own time, by tokens infallible, He will reward our faith and bring
us forth purged, purified, strengthened by the things which we have

With all his earnestness he must have his laugh at a contemporary, “A
Queer Pulpit”:

“We knew that the _Journal of Commerce_ was famous upon statistics and
prided itself upon its good literary taste. But we had no idea before of
the powers of its rhetoric. We extract a figure from its issue of August
27 that should be commended to the directors of the New York Hospital:

“‘It is the voice of a glorious past which speaks to him, in the tones
of the fathers whose graves are with us. It is the voice of the living
nation, millions on millions of whom utter the same words we utter
to-day. It is the _voice of posterity, speaking from the womb of time,
that calls on him to save the Constitution_, which was made, not for the
duration of a human life, but to be the blessing of all men and all
nations until the end of thrones and earthly powers. That he will be
faithful we do not for one instant doubt.’

“This is taking part in politics rather early. Constitutional studies
must be pursued under difficulties in this case. But if posterity are so
greatly stirred in their minds, there is nothing for it but for the
President to write them a letter. He answered Horace Greeley. Surely he
will heed the sufferings of posterity in such uncomfortable quarters.

“For ourselves, we cannot be too thankful that we are already born. We
prefer open-air speaking. If the President don’t save the Constitution
now, it is a hopeless case!”

In an editorial, September 11, upon “The Contrast,” he sums up the
difference in sentences like these:

“Richmond determines, Washington reasons; Richmond is inflexible,
Washington vacillates; Richmond knows what it wants to do, Washington
wishes that it knew; Richmond loves slavery and hates liberty,
Washington is somewhat partial to liberty and rather dislikes slavery;
Rebellion is wise and sinful, Government is foolish.”

Upon a report that a member of the Cabinet had said “that nations often
lose their institutions, their liberties, and yet preserve their
national life, and that in our case we must aim to preserve the national
life,” he writes an editorial (September 18, 1862) which he properly
entitled “The Trumpet”:

“... Let other people imagine as they may a national life, like a
disembodied spirit, wandering over the continent seeking rest and
finding none. We propose no such issue to this struggle. The nation must
emerge from war shorn of no attribute and mutilated in none of its
members. We claim this continent for liberty. We demand the execution of
slavery for treason. We arraign this arch-conspirator, arrested with a
dagger in its hand aimed at the life of this government and the
liberties of the people, and in the name of mankind and before Almighty
God we demand that its life be forfeited. Let the trumpet sound!”

These are but samples of the editorials that were sent out from his pen
through the columns of the _Independent_. Week after week they
continued, pleading for vigor, denouncing inaction, urging that liberty
be recognized as the great issue at stake, and demanding immediate
emancipation of the slave.

At last, after this long, weary, heart-breaking delay, he publishes,
September 25, “The Proclamation” of the President announcing “that on
the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight
hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or
any designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in
rebellion against the United States, shall be thenceforward and for ever
free.” Mr. Beecher says of it:

“We send forth to-day the most important paper ever published in the
_Independent_, the most extraordinary document ever proceeding from this

“No more guises and veils. No more side-issues. No more deceitful
compromises. The government has taken ground, and every man in the
nation must take ground. You are for or against this government, and
this government is declared to mean liberty to the slave! There is no
neutral ground for traitors to hide in, playing wolf at night and sheep
by day. The President’s proclamation will sift the North, give unity to
its people, simplicity to its policy, liberty to its army! That whole
army is no longer a mongrel something between a police force and a
political caucus. It is an _army_ organized to strike where blows will
be most felt.

“The Proclamation emancipates slaves in thrice thirty days. But it
emancipates the government and the army to-day. The nation is freer than
it was on the 21st. We have a policy. The people will base it upon a
principle. It is the policy of liberty upon the principle of justice.
The future is before us! Through what dark days we must pass we know
not. What battles and what reverses are in store we do not inquire. At
last we have a right to believe that God is leading us. He who carried
His people from bondage through the wilderness, and established them in
the promised land, can surely guide us!

“Let sorrows fall fast; there is joy before us! We behold upon the
troubled sea a Christ coming to us, walking on the waves! In His hand
are winds and storms. Every hour now moves toward the great day of
Emancipation. At length the dawn shall bring that day most eminent in
our national calendar. Amid all the festivities that usher in the year,
there shall be a great joy, deeper, purer, holier than ever came to us
with the New Year—the joy of a nation that, after long sorrow and shame,
shall cast off from itself the guilt of slavery, and stand erect before
the world a consistent witness for liberty!”

He looks upon it as the beginning of the end, and is satisfied if it be
God’s will that his work should now cease. On the evening of the last
day of slavery in America—Wednesday evening, December 31—he says in his
lecture-room talk:

“As for myself, let come what will come, I care not. God may peel me,
and bark me, and strip me of my leaves, and do as He chooses with my
earthly estate. I have lived long enough; I have had a good time. You
cannot take back the blows I have given the devil right in the face. I
have uttered some words that will not die, because they are incorporated
into the lives of men that will not die. Through my instrumentality,
aided by God’s providence, many souls have been converted and gone
singing home to their eternal abode. I think I have a larger church in
heaven than I have on earth, and I think they love me and want me there.
I have no reason to ask for longer life. If my work is done, and God
does not want me here, and this is my last night of labor on earth,
ought I to be sorry? Ought I not to be the most grateful man that ever
lived that I have had such health, that I have had such an open field,
that I have had the privilege of speaking the truth right straight along
for fifteen years, whether men would hear or whether they would forbear,
and that I have been borne up, in doing this, by so large a church,
composed of such an enthusiastic body of God’s people?

“And to-night the shadows of the past come over me. I remember when I
first stood, in about this place, in the old church. I remember the
sermon that I preached to you on the first Sunday night after I came
among you, as if it were but an hour ago. I then declared to the
inchoate congregation gathered here that it was my purpose to preach the
Gospel in its applications to slavery, and peace, and war, and moral
purity, and every Christian reform, and that I would do it whether you
heard it or not, and whether you stood by me or forsook me. I recollect
those times perfectly well.

“Fifteen years have passed since then, and here we are talking about the
President of the United States emancipating four million slaves. Here we
are in the midst of a war whose inevitable outcome from this time must
be to make war on slavery. Mightier than Congress now is the arm for
emancipation—mightier than all things! In the providence of God what
wonderful revolutions and changes have taken place in fifteen years! I
am willing to live fifteen years more, if God wishes it, if I may renew
my youth and work on. I should dread to find now that there were no more
locks to get up, and that I must henceforth travel on a dead level. I
would try and pull with my freight-boat on a level, if God wished me to,
though I would like here and there to rise. It would be a pleasure to
live, if it were God’s will, till the day-star dawned, for I know it
will dawn, but I am willing to lay down my burden at any time, if it
please God. If He will accept the thanks that I give Him for all that He
has permitted me to do, to say, and experience in days past, then, as to
the future, let His will be done. I ask neither to live nor to die.”

This closes the third era of his work in the great anti-slavery contest.
We now turn back to glance over the same period and note some of the
more important events aside from this struggle, public, domestic, and
private, that marked the years from 1850 to January, 1863.

                             CHAPTER XVII.

First Voyage to England—Extracts from Diary—Warwick
    Castle—Stratford-on-Avon—The Skylark—Oxford—Bodleian
    Library—London—Old-time Sadness—Paris—Catch-Words from Diary—Effect
    of Picture-Gallery—The Louvre—His Return.

In the middle of the year 1850 his labors were interrupted.

“Henry Ward Beecher, our esteemed brother, sailed for Europe on Tuesday,
July 9, in the ship _New World_, Captain Knight. It was a sudden move,
but having received a friendly invitation from the captain, and taking
the advice of his friends that a voyage out and back would be of
essential benefit to his health, which has been considerably shattered
by repeated attacks of illness, he accepted the invitation, but expects
to return with the vessel. During his absence the pulpit of Plymouth
Church will be supplied by the pastor’s younger brother, Rev. Charles
Beecher, of Indiana.” This item we find in the _Independent_ of that

“_Journal._—Landed from _New World_ July 30, 1850. Waterloo Inn.”

This is the first entry in a memorandum-book now in our hands, and it
tells its own story. He is in Liverpool, England.

We have spoken of Mr. Beecher’s perfect health, and such he enjoyed, for
the most part, through life. But it was only retained, after he came to
Brooklyn, by great care on his part. Before he had learned the necessity
of this there had been several failures. One was an attack of
erysiphaltic fever, in the spring of 1849, which kept him out of his
pulpit for several months. During the following winter he had a severe
attack of quinsy, from the exhaustion of which it seemed to his friends
that he was breaking down, and they procured passage for him to Europe,
as has just been stated, and gave him a three months’ leave of absence.

Another experience now opened to him. The sea, out upon which he had so
often looked with longing eyes, in boyhood, from the wharves of Boston,
and across whose waters he had often sailed in imagination, he now, for
the first time, traversed in reality. He found it far less agreeable
than he expected, and learned on this his first voyage, what no
after-experience ever contradicted, that for him “the only pleasant
thing about going to sea was the going ashore.”

From his note-book and diary we can follow him, step by step, and from
his letters to friends can learn of some of those experiences that made
this trip memorable in its impressions and influence. The next entry in
his journal reads:

“July 31, Manchester and back. Hedges same as combed and uncombed hair.
Railroad mile-posts subdivided; grading in manufacturing villages. Go
out from London under ground, come into Manchester over tops of houses.
Clothes-line across streets.

“August 3, Birmingham; railroad stations. Knight says thirty-three ocean
steamers have been put afloat in eighteen months; only the Bremen
steamers before afloat.

”_Plated Ware._—Pattern dies, stamping, handles, etc.; spoons, forks,
plain piece, cut shape, then slit tines, stamp shape; filing-room,
polishing, chasing or fretting, plating, brushing. Designer gets £2 to
£2 10/per week.”

This is the first page of his note-book, and is given entire, not
because there is anything remarkable about it, but because it is a
sample of his note-books in general. They are full of facts, and facts
of every description. He seldom gives impressions or sentiments. He has
a hunger for all kinds of items; give him these and the sentiments will
take care of themselves. Occasionally he concludes with a description
that sets the items in some higher relation and shows the processes that
are going on in his own mind; as when, after giving some dozen
particulars in the process of manufacturing papier-maché, he closes the
list of catch-words with this: “It is the art of creating plastic wood.
It grows by hand and not by vegetable vitality, then hardens and
receives _Art_.”

But it was not items alone that he learned in his travels; he became
familiar with objects of which he had read, and gained inspiration from
a more intimate acquaintance. In Warwick Castle and Kenilworth he walked
among scenes made vivid to him in his youth in the pages of Sir Walter
Scott. He entered, as he said, “into the very life of that olden time,
and took from it its good without tasting its evil.”

Cæsar’s Tower, which had stood for eight hundred years, co-eval with the
Norman Conquest, especially aroused his imagination:

“I stood upon its mute stones and imagined the ring of the hammer upon
them when the mason was laying them to their bed of ages. What were the
thoughts, the fancies, the conversations of these rude fellows at that
age of the world? I was wafted backward, and backward, until I stood on
the foundations upon which old England herself was builded, when as yet
there was none of her. There, far back of all literature, before the
English tongue itself was formed, earlier than her jurisprudence and
than all modern civilization, I stood in imagination, and, reversing my
vision, looked down into a far future to search for the men and deeds
which had been, as if they were yet to be; thus making a prophecy of
history, and changing memory into a dreamy foresight.

“Against these stones, on which I lay my hand, have rung the sounds of
battle. Yonder, on these very grounds, there raged, in sight of men that
stand where I do, fiercest and deadliest conflicts. All this ground has
fed on blood....

“I walked across to Guy’s Tower, up its long stone stairway, into some
of its old soldiers’ rooms. The pavements were worn, though of stone,
with the heavy, grinding feet of men-at-arms. I heard them laugh between
their cups, I saw them devouring their gross food, I heard them recite
their feats, or tell the last news of some knightly outrage or cruel
oppression of the despised laborer. I stood by the window out of which
the archer sent his whistling arrows. I stood by the openings through
which scalding water or molten lead was poured upon the heads of the
assailants, and heard the hoarse shriek of the wretched fellows who got
the shocking baptism. I ascended to the roof of the tower, and looked
over the wide glory of the scene, still haunted with the same
imaginations of olden time. How many thoughts had flown hence besides
mine!—here where warriors looked out or ladies watched for their
knights’ return. How did I long to stand for one hour, really, in their
position and in their consciousness who lived in those days; and then to
come back, with the new experience, to my modern self!”

In this is shown his sympathy with the old Saxon yeomanry, and was his
Saxon ancestry taking voice; all the romantic, picturesque elements of
his nature were fed, and ran, like the streams of springtide,
full-banked to the sea.

We next find in his note-book these items and references:

“Approach to Stratford-on-Avon. How peaceful the associations in
contrast with those of Warwick and Kenilworth!”

“The place: old English houses; Red Horse Inn.”

“Birds: thrush, lark, nightingale, sparrow, robin, starling, rooks,

“A different but, to me, even greater interest attaches to Avon from the
throngs from every nation that have visited it.”

“Shakspere: eleven years old when Elizabeth visited Kenilworth.”

“No greater change can be imagined than from the warlike towers of Guy
of Warwick to the quiet home of Shakspere, Stratford-on-Avon.” The
change in his experience was equally marked. In the one the martial
spirit of the warrior, in the other the loving, receptive spirit of the
prophet and poet, were aroused and fed. In Stratford-on-Avon he had one
of those luminous hours which were, in his experience, like Mountains of

In a letter to a friend describing a Sabbath here, written at this time,
he says:

“The scenes of Saturday had fired me; every visit to various points in
Stratford-on-Avon added to the inspiration, until, as I sallied forth to
church, I seemed not to have a body. I could hardly feel my feet
striking against the ground; it was as if I were numb. But my soul was
clear, penetrating, and exquisitely susceptible....

“I had been anxious lest some Cowper’s ministerial fop should officiate,
and the sight of this aged man was good. The form of his face and head
indicated firmness, but his features were suffused with an expression of

“He ascended the reading-desk and the services began. You know my mother
was, until her marriage, in the communion of the Episcopal Church. This
thought hardly left me while I sat, grateful for the privilege of
worshipping God through a service that had expressed so often her
devotions. I cannot tell you how much I was affected. I had never had
such a trance of worship, and I shall never have such another view until
I gain the Gate.

“I am so ignorant of the church service that I cannot call the various
parts by their right names, but the portions which most affected me were
the prayers and responses which the choir sang. I had never heard any
part of a supplication, a direct prayer, chanted by a choir, and it
seemed as though I heard not with my ear but with my soul. I was
dissolved; my whole being seemed to me like an incense wafted gratefully
toward God. The divine presence rose before me in wondrous majesty, but
of ineffable gentleness and goodness, and I could not stay away from
more familiar approach, but seemed irresistibly yet gently drawn toward
God. My soul, then thou didst magnify the Lord and rejoice in the God of
thy salvation! And then came to my mind the many exultations of the
Psalms of David, and never before were the expressions and figures so
noble and so necessary to express what I felt. I had risen, it seemed to
me, so high as to be where David was when his soul conceived the things
which he wrote. Throughout the service—and it was an hour and a quarter
long—whenever an ‘Amen!’ occurred it was given by the choir accompanied
by the organ and the congregation. Oh! that swell and solemn cadence
rings in my ear yet!

“Not once, not a single time, did it occur in that service without
bringing tears from my eyes. I stood like a shrub on a spring
morning—every leaf covered with dew, and every breeze shook down some
drops. I trembled so much at times that I was obliged to sit down. Oh!
when in the prayers, breathed forth in strains of sweet, simple, solemn
music, the love of Christ was recognized, how I longed then to give
utterance to what that love seemed to me. There was a moment in which
the heavens seemed opened to me and I saw the glory of God! All the
earth seemed to me a store-house of images made to set forth the
Redeemer, and I could scarcely be still from crying out. I never knew, I
never dreamed before of what heart there was in that word _amen_. Every
time it swelled forth and died away solemnly, not my lips, not my mind,
but my whole being said: ‘Saviour, so let it be.’

“The sermon was preparatory to the communion, which I then first learned
was to be celebrated. It was plain and good; and although the rector had
done many things in a way that led me to suppose that he sympathized
with over-much ceremony, yet in his sermon he seemed evangelical and
gave a right view of the Lord’s Supper.

“For the first time in my life I went forward to commune in an Episcopal
church. Without any intent of my own, but because from my seat it was
nearest, I knelt down at the altar, with the dust of Shakspere beneath
my feet. I thought of it as I thought of ten thousand other things,
without the least disturbance of devotion. It seemed as if I stood upon
a place so high that, like one looking over a wide valley, all objects
conspired to make but one view. I thought of the General Assembly and
Church of the First-Born, of my mother and brother and children in
heaven, of my living family on earth, of you, of the whole church
entrusted to my hands—they afar off, I upon the banks of the Avon.”

He did not forget his old friends, birds and trees. From
Stratford-on-Avon he writes:

“As I stood looking over on the masses of foliage and the single trees
dotted in here and there, I could see every shade of green, and all of
them most beautiful, and as refreshing to me as old friends. After
standing awhile to take a last view of Stratford-on-Avon from this high
ground and the beautiful slopes around it, and of the meadows of the
Avon, I began to walk homeward, when I heard such an outbreak behind me
as wheeled me about quick enough. There he flew, singing as he rose, and
rising gradually, not directly up, but with gentle slope—there was the
free-singing lark, not half so happy to sing as I was to hear. In a
moment more he had reached the summit of his ambition and suddenly fell
back to the grass again. And now if you laugh at my enthusiasm I will
pity you for the want of it. I have heard one poet’s lark, if I never
hear another, and am much happier for it.”

At Oxford a new world opened to him—that of an English university town
enriched with the growth and associations of seven hundred years. The
beauty of its architecture, its cloistered quiet, its galleries, and,
most of all, its libraries, impressed him.

“Few places affect me more than libraries, and especially the Bodleian
Library, reputed to have half a million printed books and manuscripts. I
walked solemnly and reverently among the alcoves and through the halls,
as if in the pyramid of embalmed souls. It was their life, their heart,
their mind, that they treasured in these book-urns. Silent as they are,
should all the emotions that went to their creation have utterance,
could the world itself contain the various sounds? They longed for fame!
Here it is—to stand silently for ages, moved only to be dusted and
catalogued, valued only as units in the ambitious total, and gazed at
occasionally by men ignorant as I am of their name, their place, their
language, and their worth. Indeed, unless a man can link his written
thoughts with the everlasting wants of men, so that they shall draw from
them as from wells, there is no more immortality to the thoughts and
feelings of the soul than to the muscles and the bones. A library is but
the soul’s burial-ground. It is the land of shadows.”

It was, however, not all shadowy.

“_Noon Refection._—‘What will you take to drink, Oxford ale or a little
wine?’ Cold water. ‘Oh! not cold water, surely? A little sherry and
water?’ ‘Surely you will not come to England to drink cold water?’ My
dear sir, I am a thorough-going teetotaler, and you surely would not
have me come to England to lose my good principles? ‘Why, sir, I am not
a teetotaler, but I am a temperance man—was never drunk in my life—but
you surprise me!’

“Dining and tea-room of Fellows. Elaborate carved oak—no sham. In all
respects college in quadrangle proposes to take care of its students,
head and stomach, soul, intellect, and body, and therefore has added
kitchen to library.”

“_London, August 9._—Arrived last night. Old Bell. Visited Trafalgar
Square and Westminster Abbey, Guildhall, Bank of England, Tower, Tunnel,

In London something of the old-time sadness came over him, with the
old-time sources of relief:

“Now, too, I am apt, if I do not fall asleep soon enough—or more
frequently when I awake, hours before it is the fashion here to get
up—to lie and think over my way of life hitherto; and my life-work seems
to me to be so little, and so poorly done, that I feel discouraged at
the thought of resuming it! I have everywhere in my travelling—at the
shrine of the martyrs in Oxford, at the graves of Bunyan and Wesley in
London, at the vault in which Raleigh was for twelve years confined in
the Tower—asked myself whether I could have done and endured what they
did, and _as_ they did! It is enough to make one tremble for himself to
have such a heart-sounding as this gives him. I cast the lead for the
depth of my soul, and it strikes so soon that I have little reason for

“Had it not been for paintings, and flowers, and trees, and the
landscapes, I do not know what I should have done with myself. Often
when extremely distressed I have gone to the parks or out of the city to
some quiet ground where I could find a wooded stream, and the woods
filled with birds, and found, almost in a moment, a new spirit coming
over me. I was rid of _men_, almost of myself. I seemed to find a sacred
sweetness and calmness, not coming over me, but into me. I seemed nearer
to heaven. I felt less sadness about life, for God would take care of
it; and my own worthlessness, too, became a source of composure, for on
that very account it made little difference in the world’s history
whether I lived or died. God worked, it seemed to me, upon a scale so
vast and rich in details that anything and anybody could be spared and
not affect the results of life.”

He crossed over to Paris in August, and his note-book gives us
catch-words and sentences evidently intended for reminders of sights,
incidents, and adventures that he wished to remember. So disconnected
are they that they are of little worth except as showing what interested
him in this great city on this his first visit, and as affording the raw
materials out of which grew his letters and more finished descriptions.

_When_ he arrived, by what route, at what hotel he stopped, he
apparently did not think worth noting; but what he saw in the life of
the people he wished to remember, and the first few pages of his diary
are filled with items like these: “Three mothers with their babies.”
“Boy and sister frolicking, six or seven years old.” “Family on seat;
little thing talking, about three years old.” “Twelve soldiers going to
relieve sentinels.” “Stand for flowers,” etc.

Next to the life of the common people the largest space in his diary is
given to the art-galleries. On two pages he jots down “Effect of Gallery
on my Mind”:

“1st. Astonishment, at number and exquisite character, beyond what had
expected—not of something finer, but such as to make me feel that before
I had not seen anything.

“2d. Then sense of intense pleasure, from _what_ do not stop to inquire.
It is not color, form, composition, nor mere sympathy with thing
expressed. _It is the whole._ The walls flame out as if the hall was a
_summer_ and all shining in concentration upon you. I see all that is
painted—and _more_. I see, beyond, other visions, the mute figures
speak. I imagine the scene before the time chosen and afterwards.

“3d. Then comes sense of _beauty_, complex, of rich and exquisite
_coloring_; also the beauty of the scenes. The objects, in other words,
and the instrument of their manifestation.

“4th. Then you begin to select and to hang in a dreamy review over one
or another. _Time_ is not known; you wake by some footfall. Whether you
have been here an hour or four you cannot tell; it seems by the populous
experience a long time. You do not _weary_, but you _exhale_—_i.e._, the
senses seem to flag, while mind is keener than ever, and you _imagine_
rather than see; as one who is exhilarated by wine _sees_, to be sure,
but his own mind affords the color and—”

In his letters he afterwards enlarged upon this topic: “Ah! what a new
world has been opened to me, and what a new sense within myself! I knew
that I had gradually grown fond of pictures from my boyhood. I had felt
the power of some few. But nothing had ever come up to a certain ideal
that had hovered in my mind, and I supposed I was not fine enough to
appreciate with discrimination the works of masters. To find myself
absolutely intoxicated; to find my system so much affected that I could
not control my nerves; to find myself trembling, and laughing, and
weeping, and almost hysterical, and that in spite of my shame and
determination to behave better—such a power of these galleries over me I
had not expected. I have lived for two days in fairyland, wakened out of
it by some few sights which I have mechanically visited, more for the
sake of pleasing friends at home, when I return, than for a present
pleasure to myself, but relapsing again into the golden vision....

“I could not tell whether hours or minutes were passing. It was a
blessed exhalation of soul, in which I seemed freed from matter, and, as
a diffused intelligence, to float in the atmosphere. I could not believe
that a dull body was the centre from which thought and emotion radiated.
I had a sense of expansion, of etherealization, which gave me some faint
sense of a spiritual state. Nor was I in a place altogether unfitted for
such a state. The subject of many of the works—suffering, heroic
resistance, angels, Arcadian scenes, especially the scenes of Christ’s
life and death—seemed not unfitting accompaniment to my mind, and
suggested to me, in a glorious vision, the drawing near of a redeemed
soul to the precincts of heaven! Oh! with what an outburst of soul did I
implore Christ to wash me, and all whom I loved, in His precious blood,
that we might not fail of entering the glorious city whose builder and
maker is God! All my sins seemed not only _sins_ but great deformities.
They seemed not merely affronts against God but insults to my own
nature! My soul snuffed at them and trod them down as the mire in the
street. Then, holy and loving thoughts toward God or toward man seemed
to me to be as beautiful as those fleecy islets along the west at
sunset, crowned with glory; and the gentler aspirations for goodness and
nobleness and knowledge seemed to me like silver mists through which the
morning is striking, wafting them gently and in wreaths and films
heavenward. Great deeds, heroism for worthy objects, for God, or for
one’s fellows, or for one’s own purity, seemed not only natural but as
things without which a soul could not live.

“But at length I perceived myself exhausted, not by any sense of fatigue
(I had no sense or body), but by perceiving that my mind would not fix
upon material objects, but strove to act by itself. Thus a new picture
was examined only for an instant, and then I exhaled into all kinds of
golden dreams and visions.

“I left the gallery, and in this mood, as I threaded my way back, how
beautiful did everything and everybody seem! The narrow streets were
beautiful for being narrow, and the broad ones for being broad; old
buildings had their glory, and new structures had theirs; children were
all glorified children; I loved the poor workmen that I saw in the
confined and narrow shops; the various women, young and old, with huge
buck-baskets, or skipping hither and thither on errands, all seemed
happy, and my soul blessed them as I passed.

“My own joy of being overflowed upon everything which I met. Sometimes
singing to myself, or smiling to others so as to make men think,
doubtless, that I had met some good luck or was on some prosperous
errand of love, I walked on through street after street, turning
whichever corner, to the right or left, happened to please the moment,
neither knowing or caring where I went, but always finding something to
see and enjoying all things. Nor do I know yet by what instinct I
rounded up my journeyings by finding my proper lodging. That night I
slept, as to my body, but felt little difference between dreaming asleep
and dreaming awake.”

We turn from his note-book and letters to one of the papers of the day,
and read: “Rev. H. W. Beecher, our esteemed brother, has returned from
his transatlantic trip with improved health. He reached New York
yesterday (evening) in the _Asia_, September 11.”

He arrived unexpectedly and found his family, which had been spending
the summer at Sutton, Mass., with the grandmother, awaiting him. His
trip had been a success in every particular. Not only was his health
restored, but his field of observation had been vastly broadened and his
experiences greatly deepened. England, the home of his race, had been
seen and touched; he had visited her castles, colleges, and churches;
walked among her fields, become acquainted with her people; and
henceforth her noble history, great achievements, and mighty names
seemed more real to him, and she was more admired and beloved than ever.

In Paris he became conscious for the first time of the power of true
art, and began that study of it which only ended with his life.

But, whether in England or France, so well read was he in the history of
the places visited, and so vivid was his imagination to bring back the
scenes and men that made these places memorable, that his journey was as
a sojourn with the wisest and best of our race, and he returned from it
refreshed and enlarged for the work that, for a few weeks, had been laid

                             CHAPTER XVIII.

Church and Steamboat—Jenny Lind—Hospitality—Colonel Pertzel—The
    Family—Twins—Medicine—Giving Counsel—For the Sailor—An Absurd Story
    Contradicted—Salisbury—Trouting—Death of Alfred and Arthur—Letters
    to his Daughter at School—Lenox—Equivocal Honors Declined—The
    Pulpit—“Plymouth Collection”—“Shining Shore.” A Church
    Liturgy—Courting with his Father’s old Love-letters—1857 a Year of
    Trial—Matteawan—Visit to Litchfield—1858 a Year of Harvest—Revival
    Meetings—Hospitality of Plymouth Church—Courtesy to Errorists—New
    Organ—Peekskill—Letters to his Daughter abroad—Marriage of his
    Daughter—Lecturing—Title of D.D. declined—Flowers in
    Church—Christian Liberty in the Use of the Beautiful—His two Lines
    of Labor.

No sooner has he put his foot on shore than he is engaged in battle.
This time it is against religious bigotry and intolerance upon the seas.
A Star article from his pen appeared September 19 upon “Church and
Steamboat—Cunard Line”:

No religious service was allowed on the steamers except that which was
appointed for the crew, at which the passengers were _permitted_ to be
present. No one was allowed to read the service there except the
captain, who, having been playing cards late Saturday night, and being
addicted to the sailor habit of profanity, was not considered fit for
the office. No one at all was permitted to preach, or, if the rule were
ever varied, only a clergyman of Episcopal ordination. One of the
owners, who happened to be on the ship, when courteously asked to allow
some one of the nine clergymen on board to preach, and to give the use
of one of the several cabins to those who chose to have service of their
own, lost his temper and said that if Americans did not choose to go on
his line, “d——— ’em! they may go to h———.” All this appeared to Mr.
Beecher as rank injustice and an interference with the freedom of
worship of multitudes of travellers. Humorously, yet with good, solid,
set phrase, he denounces this bigotry in the article above mentioned.
Like most of his articles, it was strong enough to draw the fire of the

The captain and the son of this owner reply in letters which partly
explain, partly deny, but wholly charge Mr. Beecher with falsehood. This
brings another article from him in the next issue, September 26:

“It is not to be supposed, gentlemen, that either of you can sympathize
fully with me in an inveterate prejudice which I have contracted against
lying in all its moods and tenses. But, really, I feel hurt that you
have so low an opinion of my ingenuity as to suppose that, if I set out
to tell lies, I should tell such poor and graceless ones.

“Allow me to assure you, gentlemen, that while my principles forbid me
to employ falsehood, yet should I attempt it I should conscientiously
endeavor to lie well.”

He reiterates his charges, adds to them some further remarks upon the
gambling habits of the captain, which unfit him to act as conductor of
public worship, procures affidavits from responsible parties to
substantiate his charges, and refers them to the courts for redress, if
they think themselves aggrieved.

The first battle upon his return to his native land was waged for
freedom of worship upon the high seas!

In this same month of September, Jenny Lind came to this country and
began that series of concerts which have never been surpassed. Her first
concert in Castle Garden, September 11, netted $30,000. Some of the
papers having criticised her and her manager for the high price of
tickets, and the community for paying it, Mr. Beecher takes up the
cudgels in her behalf:

“Jenny Lind, if we understand her desires and aims, is employing a
resplendent musical genius in the most noble accordance with the spirit
of the Gospel. In her we behold a spectacle of eminent genius employing
its magic power in the elevation of the human race.

“If men would spare from the disgusting weed and poisonous liquors
one-half of what they spend every month, there are few so poor as not to
be able to hear Jenny Lind.        *”

One of his children gives this incident:

“In those early days father always had a flower-garden in the back-yard
of our city homes. I remember when we lived in the little, brown wooden
house on Columbia Heights, Jenny Lind came to board near us for a short
time. All the neighboring children used to gather round her door to see
her start for her drive; and one day when we saw the carriage in front
of her house, I ran in to ask father if H——— and I could go and see her
come out. He was at work in the garden among his flowers, and, after
giving his consent, called me back, cut a handful of roses, and told me
I could take those and give them to her. So off H——— and I went, but I
believe, after all, my courage failed, and I brought them home again,
very much ashamed. Father laughed, but comforted me by saying he’d
rather I would be too shy than too bold.”

He closes this eventful year (1850) with two Star articles—the one
(December 12), “Remember the Poor”: “Upon the whole, we doubt if there
is any other means of grace so profitable to a Christian as the _whole_
duty of relieving the poor; for giving money is but a small part, and
often the least effective part, of duty to them. Every man ought to take
a single case or family, and look after them through the winter.”
Another (December 19) upon “Different Ways of Giving”: “Now and then you
will find a man whose face is March but whose pocket is June. He will
storm and scold at you, but send you away with ten times as much as you

Mr. Beecher was very hospitable, and kept open house for friends, and
even for such chance acquaintance as came to be associated with him.
“When Kossuth was in this country, Colonel Pertzel, his chief of staff,
with his wife, stopped with us for several weeks. When they went away
she gave me her bracelet of national coins, which, she said, was prized
by the Hungarian women in their exile above all their possessions.

“Our own family circle at this time consisted of father, mother, and
three children—two boys and a girl. Besides these Aunt Esther was with
us, whom I remember as little and round, straight and precise, with
snapping black eyes, looking after the second generation of nephews and
nieces, and telling us stories; and also Grandma Bullard, doing the
mending and cosseting while she sang ‘Bounding Billow’ and ‘Like the
Hart and the Roe.’ Dear, ideal old grandmother!”

December 20, 1852, there was an addition to this circle. “I can remember
sitting in the parlor one evening with Aunt Esther, and father’s coming
in, going up to her, and kissing her first on one cheek and then on the
other, and her giving a little jump, saying, ‘Not two, Henry!’ and his
answering, ‘Yes, two.’ Then he told me that I had two little new
brothers up-stairs.

“Father was so proud of these twins that I remember on New Year’s day he
took fifteen or twenty of the Hungarians who were making New Year’s
calls up into mother’s room to see them.”

At the Thanksgiving service of this year Mr. Beecher had announced that
an effort would be made to raise by subscription the sum of $13,000 to
pay off the floating debt of the church before January 1, and the papers
of a later date contain the announcement that the sum was promptly
subscribed, “and Plymouth Church may now be considered on a firm
foundation in temporal matters, and is in every way in a prosperous

The church entered the new year, 1852, without debt, and more than ten
thousand dollars were realized from the rent of the pews.

Evidently he begins the year with especial effort to overcome spiritual
coldness among the people, and bring in the summer of Christian life and
growth, for his Star Papers are upon subjects like these: “Ice in the
Church,” “Various Convictions of Sin,” and later are announcements in
the papers of morning prayer-meetings in “Plymouth Church,” “Preaching
Every Evening.”

In due time the announcement is made that “sixty persons were last
Sabbath morning received into the church, fifty upon profession of

He is experiencing one of the evils to which religious meetings are
prone, and concerning it he sends out a note of warning, “One Cause of
Dull Meetings”:

“We hardly know of a more unprofitable exercise for social meetings than
what is called exhortation. Men impose upon themselves and social
meetings degenerate into absurd formalities—a pretence of caring for
what they do not care for, of renouncing what all the world knows they
do not renounce, of asking for what they do not desire and desiring what
they dare not ask.”

Through life Mr. Beecher was as free with pathies in medicine as of isms
in religion, and used allopathy, homœopathy, hydropathy, electricity,
or hand-rubbing, as seemed to him at the time most likely to secure the
coveted result. In general he trusted more to the man than to the
system. His position on this matter, which he held substantially for
years, is given in a review of a medical work:

“In good earnest, we regard medicine with little favor. Our first recipe
for sickness is, not to get sick. Our second is reliance upon a
well-bred, sensible doctor. _We_ select the doctor. It is his business
to select the medicine, and we do not care a pin what it is. To all who
ask us, therefore, what school we belong to, we reply: ‘We are firmly
persuaded of Dr. ———.’ This is the sum of our present creed.”

His interest in common men and their affairs brought many to him by
letter or in personal conversation for advice in their difficulties.
Probably few physicians or lawyers in good practice were consulted by
more people than came daily to Mr. Beecher. So practical were his
principles of action, so great his sympathy with men in trouble, and
such his ability to see through the difficulty, that men came to him for
counsel from far and near.

A man asks him as to his duty to his creditors under certain peculiar
circumstances which he mentions. Mr. Beecher goes over the matter in
detail, states the ground of difficulty in that and all similar cases,
and points out the way of relief in this fruitful sentence: “Selfishness
is the great mischief-maker in settlements. Men think of their own
rights first and their creditors’ afterwards. Reverse this. Be careful
first that no man suffer by you.”

Again, at this time a man writes asking as to the duty of a temperance
man and a professor of religion in regard to selling liquor as an agent.

“... He, therefore, who loves his situation or his pocket more than his
religion can expect but little sympathy from robust Christians, and
little favor from that Christ of the cross who has ordered a church of
cross-bearing disciples. But we will turn our friend in such a dilemma
over to our friend Hall, a drayman in New York, who utterly refuses to
cart liquor, who will not unload a ship if in so doing he must cart
brandy. For he says he will not disgrace any horse that he owns by
letting him be seen with a load of liquor behind him.”

While carrying a free lance ready as any knight of old to champion every
cause that was suffering injustice, we want to emphasize the fact that
he had none of that small, truculent spirit that leads to personal
attacks. He was very lenient to individual human failures, charitable in
his judgments, and would rather attempt to save by hiding than to punish
by exposing them. In answer to a question which we once asked concerning
a man who, to our mind, had greatly transgressed the limits of public
propriety, if not of morality, “Why don’t you pitch in and show up this
matter?” this man of a thousand battles said quietly, with just a shade
of rebuke for the spirit we had shown in his tone: “I don’t like to
pitch into folks as much as some do.” But when wrong or injustice had
wrought itself into a system, it made no difference to him how high in
position they were who upheld it, or how low in the scale were the
sufferers, or how securely entrenched was the wrong; he waited for no
invitation, he asked no permission, he sought for no support, but
attacked it at once, aiming to expose and remove the root element of the

An illustration of this characteristic of Mr. Beecher is afforded by an
article written by him at this time upon “Naval Discipline,” in which he
brings to the sailor the same broad sympathy, established principles,
and clear reasoning that he was accustomed to employ in the case of
another and very different class:

“... It is of little use to cobble a system whose radical idea is wrong.
This is our judgment in the case of the American navy. The republican
institutions of America, slavery always excepted, contemplate the
improvement and elevation of the masses. Government does not undertake
to educate the citizen, but it contemplates, it is obliged from its
origin to accommodate itself to the radical idea of, the liberty of the
people to move among themselves, to guide, to change, to advance freely
in any direction. The American navy is a monarchy. Its subjects are
regarded in but one light—_they are to be under service_. More than this
nothing is thought of. Sailors have no liberty. There is neither
provision for, nor expectation of, improvement.... There must be an
entirely new spirit infused into the whole system of such service.

”... In short, the naval system must address the social and moral need
of the sailor. They must be allowed to act under all those high motives
which develop men on shore.”

While moved by these world-wide sympathies, he was in no mood to submit
with patience to bigotry nearer home, and utters a very strong protest
against the ostracizing of certain Sabbath-schools by the orthodox
schools of Brooklyn in their yearly parade:

“We ought to seize such an occasion to promote kindly feelings and
cultivate such sympathy as differing sects might lawfully have in
common. There is no liberality in urging this matter; it is simply
common sense and common decency....

“Does the ——— (paper) regard it as dangerous to walk the streets with a
Unitarian? Is heresy like smallpox, so contagious that one school will
give it to another by sitting for an hour in the same audience-room with
it?... We shall pray more earnestly than ever for the advance of that
day when the love of God shall abound in the hearts of men and inspire
men to love each other.”

His Star Papers of 1852 close with this, which will at once be
recognized as eminently characteristic:

“We had always supposed that absurd stories grew in this vicinity like
weeds in the tropics or trees planted by rivers. For once, however, the
country newspapers have got ahead of our neighborhood.

“We have made diligent search, taken the census, examined every cradle,
drawer, closet, crib, nook, and corner, and are prepared to affirm the
following story, which was born in the _Windham County Telegraph_, the
Norwich _Tribune_, Springfield _Republican_, Boston _Chronicle_, and
other papers, to be _exaggerated_:

“‘Rev. H. W. Beecher’s lady has presented him with five little
responsibilities in a little better than one year: two soon after the
arrival of Kossuth and three the other day.’

“Twins there were a year ago whose blessed faces fill the house with
light, but the _three above-mentioned_ were born of those maternal
editors whose brains fulfil the prophet’s word, ‘Ye shall consume chaff;
ye shall bring forth stubble.’

“We turn these mousing, mongering editors over to the next
woman’s-rights convention; or, if they are not fit for a seat there,
they may amuse the children with nursery tales while the mothers are at
discussion; or, if not fit for that, let them in mercy be bound out as
very dry nurses at some foundling hospital.”

He spends the summer of 1853, as he had the one preceding, at Salisbury,

“Once more we find ourselves at home among lucid green trees, among
hills and mountains, with lakes and brooks on every side, and country
roads threading their way in curious circuits among them. All day long
we have moved about with dreamy newness of life. Birds, crickets, and
grasshoppers are the only players upon instruments that molest the air.
Chanticleer is at this instant proclaiming over the whole valley that
the above declaration is a slander on his musical gifts. Very well; add
chanticleer to cricket, grasshopper, and bird. Add, also, a cow, for I
hear her distant low melodious through the valley, with all roughness
strained out by the trees through which it comes hitherward. O this
silence in the air, this silence on the mountains, this silence on the

He closes a long letter upon trouting in this fashion:

“You forget your errand. You select a dry, tufty knoll, and, lying down,
you gaze up into the sky. O those depths! Something in you reaches out
and yearns. You have a vague sense of infinity, of vastness, of the
littleness of human life, and the sweetness and grandeur of divine life
and of eternity. You people that vast ether. You stretch away through it
and find that celestial city beyond, and therein dwell oh! how many that
are yours! Tears come unbidden. You begin to long for release. You pray.
Was there ever a better closet? Under the shadow of the mountain, the
heavens full of cloudy cohorts, like armies of horsemen and chariots,
your soul is loosened from the narrow judgments of human life, and
touched with a full sense of immortality and the liberty of a spiritual
state. An hour goes past. How full has it been of feelings struggling to
be thoughts, and thoughts deliquescing into feeling! Twilight is coming.
You have miles to ride home. Not a trout in your basket! Never mind; you
have fished in the heavens and taken great store of prey. Let them laugh
at your empty basket. Take their raillery good-naturedly; you have
certainly had good luck.”

The sadness which is plainly visible in the passage quoted is an old
acquaintance. We have learned to expect its appearance somewhere at
every feast. At this time undoubtedly it comes the oftener because of
the sorrowful experiences of the early summer. The twins, Alfred and
Arthur, “whose blessed faces fill the house with light,” had both died
on the fourth of July of this year, and been buried in the same grave.

It was one of the deep sorrows of his life, seldom mentioned save when
attempting by his sympathy to comfort others in like affliction; it
became a fountain of deep and tender feeling for all in distress, and of
earnest longings for the rest and the reunions of heaven.

The going away of his daughter to boarding-school during the autumn
makes another break in the family, to which he refers in a letter in

“... This is the first departure of any of my children from home, and it
is an experience which testifies to my affection for you and my
solicitude; yet I do not in the least doubt that you will do well....

“There is little news at home. Your room is occupied by E——— B———, who
now lives with us and takes care of W———. She seems a very good girl,
and W——— is getting very fond of her. He makes no resistance to her
dressing him, and submits even to having his hair curled with great
peace. The rogue is fat and happy, and opens his big eyes with a
half-tearful, dreamy look when we ask him: _Where is Sister H———?_...

“We are all going to Aunty H———’s to dinner, and in the evening Mrs.
H——— and family will come round there too. As for me, I am in the agony
of writing my Thanksgiving sermon....

“There, H———, I have made quite an effort, for me, at letter-writing and
news-telling. Let me hear from you.

                                        “Your loving father,
                                                          “H. W. B.”

In a letter to her the following June he mentions an important domestic

                                           “BROOKLYN, June 24, 1854.

”_My dear H———_:

“I must answer your last letter to me before you leave, lest I lose my
repute as a good and frequent correspondent; and I am the more willing
to do it as I have very agreeable tidings to communicate to you.

“You will receive a visit from W——— A———, of our church, whom I presume
you remember. Well, it has been thought best, after consultation, and
some mysterious correspondence with your Aunt S——— which you may have
noticed, that you should meet me at Cleveland and spend the next Sabbath
there, July 2; go to Painesville and spend _July 4_ with me there; and
then come back at our leisure to see your mother and a new little
brother who was safely born into this world on last Thursday, June 22,
at three o’clock in the afternoon, weighing ten pounds, and filling all
people’s hearts with joy at his health and general peaceable qualities.
As yet we have fallen upon no name....

”... Meanwhile young Master Nameless is sleeping off all traces of
remembrance of that former state of existence from which Edward supposes
him to be an emigrant to this world....

                                                          “H. W. B.”

This year he spent the summer in Lenox, Berkshire County, Massachusetts,
where a few friends have aided him to purchase a farm, “which the deeds,
with great definiteness, say contains ninety-six acres, more or less.”
Annoyed by the inquisitiveness of certain newspapers, he goes on to say:

“We gave for farm and farm-buildings $4,500; for the crops, stock,
implements, etc., $1,000 more; total, $5,500. Any person in search of
useful information can have further particulars as to terms of payment
and any other private publicities by personal application to us.”

His emotions upon taking possession are described in a letter of that

“It was in the presence of this pasture elm, which we name the Queen,
that we first felt to our very marrow that we had indeed become owners
of the soil! It was with a feeling of awe that we looked up into its
face, and when I whispered to myself, ‘This is mine,’ there was a
shrinking, as if there were sacrilege in the very thought of _property_
in such a creature of God as this cathedral-topped tree! Does a man bare
his head in some old church? So did I, standing in the shadow of this
regal tree, and looking up into that completed glory at which three
hundred years have been at work with noiseless fingers! What was I in
its presence but a grasshopper? My heart said, ‘I may not call thee
property, and that property of mine! Thou belongest to the air. Thou art
the child of summer. Thou art the mighty temple where birds praise God.
Thou belongest to no man’s hand, but to all men’s eyes that do love
beauty, and that have learned through beauty to behold God! Stand, then,
in thine own beauty and grandeur! I shall be a lover and a protector, to
keep drought from thy roots and the axe from thy trunk.’”

Although the owner of the farm, we are not to suppose that he took hold
of work as the neighboring farmers did. We fancy that his love of
downright hard work exhausted itself in the West.

“The chief use of a farm, if it be well selected and of a proper soil,
is to lie down upon. Mine is an excellent farm for such uses, and I thus
cultivate it every day. Large crops are the consequence, of great
delight and fancies more than the brain can hold. My industry is
exemplary. Though but a week here, I have lain down more hours and in
more places than that hard-working brother of mine in the whole year
that he has dwelt here. Strange that industrious lying down should come
so naturally to me, and standing up and lazing about after the plough or
behind the scythe so naturally to him!”

When we remember how many ministers who take an interest in public
affairs find themselves elected to some town or village office, made
mayor of a city, sent to the State Legislature or even to Congress, we
are surprised that Mr. Beecher was never elected, so far as we remember,
to the smallest public office. This was largely owing to the fact that
he looked upon the work of a preacher, to inspire men to right conduct
in public affairs, as more important than filling any official position,
however high.

He declares this opinion facetiously, but none the less as a matter of
deliberate judgment, in a letter:

                       EQUIVOCAL HONORS DECLINED.

“The _Tribune_ last Saturday, in reply to a private letter asking its
advice on the matter, recommends that we be nominated for Congress,
elected and sent, and, when that shall be done, that we _go_....

“Had the proposal to go to Congress proceeded from the American Board of
Missions there would have been grave reasons for considering it. We
doubt whether they have a harder field in all heathendom, nor yet a
field where the Gospel is more needed. But, for mere political reasons,
to backslide from the pulpit into Congress is a little too long a slide
for the first venture. We beg to decline in advance.”

In some of the sharp discussions of this year, 1854, the ministry have
been bitterly criticised by papers who opposed politics in public, and a
great deal of advice has been given to ministers concerning preaching.
This receives his attention in this fashion:

“When one considers the amount of advice given to ministers about
preaching, it is surprising that there should ever be again a dull or
improper sermon.

”... We have no doubt that a rigorous landlord, having sharked it all
the week, screwing and gripping among his tenants, would be better
pleased on Sunday to doze through an able Gospel sermon on divine
mysteries than be kept awake by a practical sermon that, among other
things, set forth the duties of a Christian landlord. A broker who has
gambled on a magnificent scale all the week does not go to church to
have his practical swindlings analyzed and measured by the ‘New
Testament spirit.’ Catechism is what he wants; doctrine is to his taste.
A merchant whose last bale of smuggled goods was safely stored on
Saturday night, and his brother-merchant who on the same day swore a
false invoice through the custom-house—they go to church to hear a
sermon on faith, on angels, on resurrection. As they have nothing
invested in those subjects, they expect the minister to be bold and
orthodox. But if he wants respectable merchants to pay ample pew-rents,
let him not vulgarize the pulpit by introducing commercial questions. A
rich Christian brother owns largely in a distillery, and is clamorous
against letting down to the vulgarity of temperance sermons. Another man
buys tax-titles and noses around all the week to see who can be slipped
out of a vacant lot. On Sunday he naturally wants us to preach about
eternity, or moral ability and inability. A mechanic that plies his
craft with the unscrupulous appliance of every means that will win, he,
too, wants “doctrine” on the Sabbath—not these secular questions. Men
wish two departments in life—the secular and the religious. Between them
a high and opaque wall is to be built. They wish to do just what they
please for six long days. Then, stepping the other side of the wall,
they wish the minister to assuage their fears, to comfort their
conscience, and furnish them a clear ticket and insurance for heaven. By
such a shrewd management our modern financiers are determined to show
that a Christian _can_ serve two masters, both God and Mammon, at the
same time.”

While fully alive to all the advantages of natural forces, the Sabbath,
the pulpit, and a spiritual church-membership always held the highest
place in his regard.

“It is no small thing, as it regards the education of the community,
that from their youth up they have been taught to discuss all questions
from ascertained and authoritative moral grounds....

“The pulpit is the popular religious educator. Its object is to
stimulate and develop the religious feelings....

“When a whole community are wont to have their social life, their
secular business, their public duties taken out of their low and selfish
attitudes, and lifted up into the light of God’s countenance, and there
measured, judged, repressed, or developed, and wholly bathed or inspired
by the spirit of conscience and of love, then they are receiving a moral
education for which there is no other provision except the Sabbath and
the pulpit.

“Such are the members that make a church rich—poor in this world’s
goods, but rich toward God—rich in faith, in hope, in meekness, in
patience, in prayer, and, according to the feeble measure of their
ability, in good works. Many a church is destroyed through an ambition
of having strong and wealthy men, only rich, not holy....

“It may be very easy to sustain a church that has great wealth and
little piety, but it is not worth sustaining. It is not a moral power.”

He had no confidence in secret political organizations. “One might as
well study optics in the pyramids of Egypt or the subterranean tombs of
Rome, as liberty in secret conclaves controlled by hoary knaves versed
in political intrigue, who can hardly enough express their surprise and
delight to find honest men going into a wide-spread system of secret
caucuses. Honest men in such places have the peculiar advantage that
flies have in a spider’s web—the privilege of losing their legs, of
buzzing without flying, and of being eaten up at leisure by big-bellied

“When will men understand that simple, open integrity, an unflinching
adhesion to PRINCIPLE, is the peculiar advantage of truth and liberty?
All that the Right asks is air, light, an open enemy, and room to
strike. It is Wrong that sneaks in the dark and gains by the
stiletto.       *”

From time to time he gave examination to modern spiritualism, with this

“I am a stout unbeliever in the spiritual origin of this phenomenon,
either by good spirits, bad spirits, or any spirits whatever.

“A belief in modern spiritualism seems to weaken the hold of the Bible
upon conscience, the affections, and to substitute diluted
sentimentalism and tedious platitudes instead of inspired truth.”

In 1855 Mr. Beecher published the “Plymouth Collection.” Of its history
he has spoken somewhat at length:

“Soon after I came to Brooklyn from the West the conductor of music in
this church was a Mr. Jones. He was intimately associated with the house
of Mason Bros., publishers of music in New York, and sons of Lowell
Mason, of honored and revered memory. I desired very much to inaugurate
a new day in music—that is to say, to transfer to the great congregation
on Sunday the same methods, so far as singing was concerned, that we had
already instituted in our evening meetings, our conference meetings, and
our revival meetings—namely, that of having both the hymns and the music
before them at the same time.

“I can go back in my memory, easily, to the time when there was no
hymn-book with notes for church use. The ‘Christian Lyre,’ edited by
Joshua Leavitt, was largely used in the revivals under Dr. Finney, and
‘Christian Songs,’ by Mr. Hastings (the sweet singer of Israel, whose
service to the church was never adequately recognized), were also used
in revivals. When these books came they brought a progeny with them; but
still there was nothing of the kind for the great congregation. The
music-books for choirs were those long, narrow, inconvenient ones which
could not well be held in the hand, but must always needs be laid upon a
shelf. These were granted to the choir only, and the congregation had to
sing from memory or not at all. It seemed to me that it would be a step
in the right direction to put the tunes and hymns together, so that
everybody who had the one should also have the other.

“With this end in view I asked the trustees of this church to agree to
purchase a few copies of the ‘Temple Melodies,’ a small book of hymns,
the music for which was to be selected by Mr. Jones and myself, and in
which I interested the publishing house of Mason Bros.

“Connected with this was a curious incident. Mason Bros. would not
publish the book unless we would pay for the stereotype plates; and the
trustees agreed to take a certain number of copies of the book—enough to
cover the cost of the plates—so that the publishers should suffer no
loss. When the book came to be published there was an acknowledgment of
the services of Mr. Jones, but my name was not mentioned. Although I did
not care particularly about that, I was curious to know how it should
happen that Mr. Jones, conductor of music in my church, was personally
mentioned, and I, who had given to the work time and influence, and who
had obtained means with which to pay for the plates, was not mentioned
at all. Though I was the father of the book, everybody else got a slice
of the credit, and I was left without a crumb. I asked Jones how it was,
and, blushing up to his ears, he said (if you will pardon the adjective)
that the publishers said that they would not have the name of a d—d
abolitionist in their book.

“This was the first step in that direction. The success of the
undertaking was such as to satisfy me that a larger endeavor of the same
sort would be successful also; and I went to work and laid the
foundation for the ‘Plymouth Collection.’ It was to be published by Mr.
A. S. Barnes, but it was necessary that there should be a guarantee in
the form of an advance sufficiently large to pay for the plates, that
the publishers might run no risk in issuing the book. Mr. Henry C. Bowen
and Mr. James Freeland agreed to furnish the money, with the
understanding that when the income, if there was one, from our copyright
should equal the amount they had advanced, with interest, all further
profits from the copyright should inure to the benefit of the choir of
this church.

“The book has been a profitable one on the whole; but I know not how
much the choir has ever received from it. There was no written
agreement, and the memorandum lapsed. I forgot to make any arrangement
for myself. The consequence was that I was left out in the cold, and
never got a penny for my services in the matter. I do not care for that.
The object for which I was eager and earnest was to procure for the
churches a book of hymns and tunes, so that they should have both before
them at the same time.

“The book was assailed, but was defended, and it made its way.

“Since that time there have been eight or ten books of the same general
character adopted, and they have so exactly copied the ‘Plymouth
Collection’ as to size, type, and form that you may take the eight or
ten volumes and set them on a shelf, and unless a man stood close to
them he could not tell one from the other. So that the ‘Plymouth
Collection’ not only has been a good book for this church, but has been
a good pattern for other churches to follow. Although it was the first
one of its kind, it was so well adapted to the want of the community
that it has not been deemed expedient to change in the least degree its
form, nor to change, except to a very small extent, its method. It has
invariably proved to be a book acceptable and well suited to the purpose
for which it was designed. It was made on a theory of my own, or rather
it was the result of my observation and experience. I had observed what
hymns appealed to the imagination and the affections of the people; and
I did not believe that any hymn-book would ever be popular which had not
in it hymns the elements of which appealed to these faculties. I had
observed, also, what tunes the people loved. I had observed that any
music, however irregular or grotesque, that appealed to their
imagination and affection, they would adopt and make their own. Guided
by that observation, I introduced into the book a great many melodies of
a kind that were unknown in the sobriety of the old-fashioned psalmody,
but that have been developed more fully and skilfully in subsequent

“With that conception of what a hymn-book should be, I was very much
shocked in a conversation with Mr. Lowell Mason, whose services to
American music cannot be over-estimated, and who has gone to a higher
choir, but who in his old age fell upon a theory that I thought to be as
vicious as it could possibly be—the theory, namely, that all music
should be of one character, and that the tune should be the main thing.
He said to me one day: ‘I think a perfect hymn-tune is one to which you
ought to be able to sing every psalm in the whole collection.’ I
considered that simply monstrous, literalizing and Platonizing
everything. His late books lost ground a great deal because they were so
insuperably flat. A man might sing them to all eternity and not find in
them anything which hooked on to his memory or affections, or anything
that had a tendency to develop his higher nature.

“About twenty years ago Mr. Love, of Chicago—who has conferred great
benefit upon churches and schools by his compositions—and I were riding
together from Brooklyn to Boston, and we discussed this question of
music. He was under the influence of Mr. Mason, and partook of his views
on the subject, and I blew him up soundly and told him how preposterous
I thought they were. He went home pondering what I said, and
subsequently, as I afterward heard, cut out from a newspaper the verses
beginning ‘My days are gliding swiftly by,’ and with that conversation
in his mind he sat down and wrote the ‘Shining Shore’ to go with them.
Whether this tune has justified my idea or not, it has been employed in
this congregation for many years. Moreover, it was taken by the Brooklyn
Fourteenth Regiment to the war, it was performed by their band, and
whenever they gave anything like a serenade in the army the ‘Shining
Shore’ was called for. Since that time this tune has been played and
sung all over the continent. How great a favorite it has been here you

This collection was vehemently attacked by one of the religious papers
of the day in the lead, several others following, and was vigorously
defended by Mr. Beecher in a series of articles in the _Independent_
over his well-known signature, the *. So simple a matter as bringing out
a hymn-book for the use of his own church, and only for others so far as
they chose, would hardly seem likely to call out so strong a protest,
but it shows the position that he had already come to occupy in the
public mind. With his advanced views and strong following, everything
that he did demanded examination, must be sifted and probably marked
dangerous. In the vigorous defence of this child of his heart he
discourses at length upon hymns. We have room for only two or three

“Hymns are the exponents of the inmost piety of the Church. They are
crystalline tears, or blossoms of joy, or holy prayers, or incarnated
raptures. They are the jewels which the Church has worn; the pearls, the
diamonds, and precious stones formed into amulets more potent against
sorrow and sadness than the most famous charms of wizard or magician.
And he who knows the way that hymns flowed knows where the blood of
piety ran, and can trace its veins and arteries to the very heart.

[Illustration: Henry Ward Beecher in 1850.]

“Oftentimes when, in the mountain country, far from noise and
interruption, we wrought upon these hymns for our vacation tasks, we
almost forgot the living world, and were lifted up by noble lyrics as
upon mighty wings, and went back to the days when Christ sang with His
disciples, when the disciples sang too, as in our churches they have
almost ceased to do. Oh! but for one moment, even, to have sat
transfixed and to have listened to the hymn that Christ sang and to the
singing! But the olive-trees did not hear His murmured notes more
clearly than, rapt in imagination, we have heard them!

“There, too, are the hymns of St. Ambrose and many others, that rose up
like birds in the early centuries, and have come flying and singing all
the way down to us. Their wing is untired yet, nor is the voice less
sweet now than it was a thousand years ago.

“There are Crusaders’ hymns, that rolled forth their truths upon the
Oriental air, while a thousand horses’ hoofs kept time below and ten
thousand palm-leaves whispered and kept time above! Other hymns,
fulfilling the promise of God that His saints should mount up with wings
as eagles, have borne up the sorrows, the desires, and the aspirations
of the poor, the oppressed, and the persecuted, of Huguenots, of
Covenanters, and of Puritans, and winged them to the bosom of God.

“In our own time, and in the familiar experiences of daily life how are
hymns mossed over and vine-clad with domestic associations!

“One hymn hath opened the morning in ten thousand families, and dear
children with sweet voices have charmed the evening in a thousand places
with the utterance of another. Nor do I know of any steps now left on
earth by which one may so soon rise above trouble or weariness as the
verses of a hymn and the notes of a tune. And if the angels that Jacob
saw sang when they appeared, then I know that the ladder which he beheld
was but the scale of divine music let down from heaven to earth.”

We must find room for his answer to the charge of having left out from
Watts “fifteen splendid hymns,” whose first lines are mentioned. After
accounting for five of them by showing that they were left out because
others of Watts’s versions of the same Psalms, and better ones, have
been selected, he goes on to say: “Next in the list the ——— charges that
we have omitted Watts’s hymn, ‘Glory to Thee, my God, this night.’ This
evening hymn, dear to thousands of hearts, was probably written before
Watts was born, certainly before he had written his psalms and hymns, by
Bishop Ken, who was thirty-seven years old when Watts was born, and who
died when Watts was but thirty-six years old. There is not, perhaps,
another hymn in the language which it would require such ignorance to
ascribe to Dr. Watts. To make the blunder full-orbed, it turns out that
the hymn is _not_ omitted, after all, from ‘Plymouth Collection,’ but
may be found at page 416, hymn 1287.

“The next omission from Watts charged by the ——— is the hymn ‘While my
Redeemer’s near.’ We left that hymn out from Watts because Dr. Watts
left it out himself, not thinking it honest, we suppose, to insert a
hymn before it was written, or to appropriate another author’s labors as
his own. For this hymn was written by Mrs. Steele, I know not how many
years after Watts’s death. How dearly this critic must have loved Watts!

“We are next charged with excluding from ‘Plymouth Collection’ the hymn
of Watts, ‘God is our Refuge and Defence.’ Alas! this hymn is by
Montgomery, and not by Watts at all.

“How precious Watts’s hymns must be to a man who cannot tell a Steele or
a Montgomery from a Watts! With what grief must one be afflicted at the
injury done to Watts by not ascribing to him Bishop Ken’s hymns? Why did
not the ——— go on and mention the even more glaring omissions from Watts
in the ‘Plymouth Collection,’ such as ‘Ye Mariners of England, ‘Drink to
me only with thine eyes,’ ‘To be or not to be’—all of which are left out
of Watts and the ‘Plymouth Collection,’ and which should have attracted
the learned attention of the critic of the ———.

“It is rumored that the Psalm-Book of the New School Assembly is to be
revised. If so, the interests of the Church require that the editor of
the ——— should be put on the committee. His accuracy, his carefulness,
his profound knowledge of hymns, and especially his intelligent
admiration of Dr. Watts, cannot be spared in such a labor.”

In this discussion his adversaries found out, what to this day, we
think, is not well understood, that his action, however impulsive it
might appear, really sprang from very clearly defined principles, which
could be justified whenever, wherever, and by whom attacked, and that,
however careless he seemed, he had a habit of making himself thoroughly
acquainted with the matter in hand, and was prepared to meet any
antagonist. Mr. Beecher had great boldness and perfect confidence in his
conclusions, and was willing to stand alone upon them, because he had
thought them out and settled the matter once for all.

From the kindly manner in which he had often spoken of the Episcopal
Church, his mother’s communion, and in his account of the effect which
the service had upon him at Stratford-on-Avon, it might seem that he
would attempt to bring some form of it into use in Plymouth Church; but
no movement in that direction was ever made, and he appears to have been
well satisfied with the possibilities that lay in the simple forms of
his own order. He has several articles at different times upon a
proposed “Congregational Liturgy,” but advocates no change of method,
only an improvement of spirit. “Our services are barren, not from any
want of common forms of devotion, but from the want of common sympathy.
_A church has a right to the gifts of every one of its members, and the
minister is set to disclose and develop them._ He is not to lean upon
the strong, or avail himself alone of the services of those already
developed. It is his office to take hold of every individual man, and to
educate him, so that he may bring forth the one, or five, or ten talents
which are committed to him for the use and profit of all his brothers. A
man of books, a man of ideas, a man of sermons, is not Christ’s idea of
a minister. ‘Follow me and I will make _you fishers of men_.’ A minister
is a man of men. He is an inspirer and driller of men.... But a dead
church with a liturgy on top is like a sand desert covered with
artificial bouquets. It is bright for the moment. But it is fictitious
and fruitless. There are no roots to the flowers. There is no soil for
the roots. The utmost that a liturgy can do upon the chilly bosom of an
undeveloped, untrained church is to cover its nakedness with a faint
shadow of what they fain would have but cannot get....

“As to ‘surpliced boys,’ we have them already. The whole congregation is
a choir, and our boys, bright and happy, unite and respond with the
elders; so the surplice which they wear is just that thing which the
dear mother threw over them when they left her.

“If we were disposed to use any liturgy, we know of no one which we
should sooner employ than that which expressed the earliest religious
feelings of our own mother, now in heaven. The mere fact that she had
used and loved it would for ever make it sacred to us. We never hear it
pronounced by a sincere and earnest man without deriving profit from it
ourselves; and we have no doubt that others are benefited by its use. We
do not, however, believe that its continual use as the only vehicle of
expression of the religious feeling of the congregation would be as
profitable, on the whole, as an extemporaneous worship. If we did we
should use a liturgy. While, then, we decline to use it in public,
because we think it, on the whole, less edifying than the usage of
Congregational churches, we do it without wishing to detract from its
intrinsic excellence, and without wounding the feelings of those who
delight to use it.”

At this time he takes pains to contradict the report that he had spoken
slightingly of the Episcopalian forms in saying that “he would as soon
go a-courting with his father’s old love-letters as to go to church and
carry a book to pray out of”:

“So far from its being true that the remark in this story was applied to
the Episcopal or any other liturgy, it was applied to what are called
extemporaneous prayers in Congregational and Presbyterian
prayer-meetings. We were reprehending the practice of praying without
sincerity or real religious feeling. We said that when men began to lead
in public prayer they should be simple, truthful, and strictly
individual, expressing their own wants or feelings with child-like
truthfulness. We commented upon the undeniable fact that men too often
borrowed their prayers, copying the elder or deacon or minister, not to
express real feelings, but as forms. Thus extemporaneous prayers became
hereditary. And it was in reference to these unwritten forms of prayer,
in our own Congregational churches, that the remark imputed to us was
made. It was not a fling at the Episcopal service. We never indulge in
such remarks at the expense of other denominations, and never intend to
do it. We regard the whole practice of railing at other sects or their
religious usages, from the pulpit, as not only unchristian but
discourteous and ungentlemanly.”

The year 1857 was one of great commercial trouble through the country.
Many of his people were involved and became bankrupt. This gave him much
uneasiness from his sympathy with them, and to some extent affected his
health, which he alludes to in a letter to his brother later in the

“I do not think it safe for me to undertake so much work this winter. My
head is already suffering from overwork and anxiety induced by
commercial troubles among my people. God will in the end make it a
greater blessing than their prosperity.”

A family affliction which he felt very keenly, both in his personal
affection and in sympathy with those who were bereaved, added to his
burden. In a letter to the _Independent_, July 16, 1857, he says:

“The writer has been called by the stroke of violence to part with three
nephews within two weeks—two of them of one age—dying, one in New
Hampshire, and the others in Ohio.

“Two sons of Dr. Talbot Bullard, of Indianapolis, Ind.—Henry, aged
thirteen, and Frank, aged eighteen—were thrown with the cars over an
embankment, and died the same day.

“Nobler, truer, more gentle, and more amiable natures never were. Just a
moment before the accident one of them said to a gentleman by their
side: ‘In a few moments we shall be at home.’ They were indeed nearer
home than they thought.

“Henry E. B. Stowe was the eldest son of his father’s family. On the 9th
of July, while bathing in the Connecticut River, he was drowned. But we
sorrow not as those without hope: his race was quickly run.”

We are not surprised, therefore, that we detect in most of the letters
of this year a tinge of sadness accompanied with increased spiritual
tenderness, as if he were finding the sources of consolation for
himself, that he might lead others to them.

Lenox was found to be so far from Brooklyn that it was given up as a
summer home, and this year, 1857, he spends his vacation at Matteawan,
on the Hudson. His first letter gives us this bit of characteristic

“We are living in a pleasant old house, around which fruit-trees have
grown in which birds have bred and lived unmolested from year to year.
It is but a dozen wing-beats from the trees to the mountain woods.
Nothing can please a meditative bird better than to have domestic scenes
on one side and the seclusion of the wilderness on the other. A bird
loves a kind of shy familiarity. Here we have a garden, a door-yard, an
orchard, and a barn grouped together; and they on the other side have
the young forests of scooped mountain-side. So the birds come down here
for fun and go up there for reflection. This is their world; that is
their cathedral.”

“In the Mountain and the Closet” he is speaking out of his own

“The influences which brood upon the soul in such a covert as the closet
are not like the coarse stimulants of earthly thought. The soul rises to
its highest nature and meets the influences that rest upon it from
above. What are its depths of calmness, what is the vision of faith,
what is the rapture, the ecstasy of love, the closet knows more grandly
than all other places of human experience.”

It is not all sadness even in this year of the minor key. In August we
have a long article upon “Hours of Exaltation,” in which he gives us
some of those higher experiences which were common to him:

“... We are filled with the very affluence of peacefulness and joy.
There is neither sorrow, nor want, nor madness, nor trouble in the wide
world. The glory of the Lord, that at other times hangs upon the horizon
like embattled clouds full gorgeous with the sun, on such days as we
have described descends and fills the whole earth. The impassioned
language of the psalmists and prophets, which on other days is lifted up
so high above our imaginations that we can scarcely hear it, now comes
down and sounds all its grandeur in our ears. The mountains do praise
the Lord; the trees clap their hands. The clouds are His chariot and
bear Him through the air, leaving brightness and joy along their path.
The birds know their King. The flowers lift up their hands, and with the
silent tongue of perfume praise God with choice odors. The whole earth
doth praise _Thee_.”

In September of this year he visits Litchfield with his father—the
latter for the first time since he had moved to Boston—and writes a
letter upon “An Aged Pastor’s Return”:

“A man past eighty going through the streets, to visit all the fathers
and mothers in Israel that had been young in his ministry there, was a
scene not a little memorable. One patriarch in his ninety-ninth year,
when his former pastor came into the room, spoke not a word, but rose up
and, putting his trembling arms around his neck, burst into tears....”

“The particular errand that brought us hither was a lecture. A new organ
was to be bought. All Litchfield boys were permitted to help. Our
contribution was asked in the shape of a lecture. My part was soon done.
Then the aged pastor came forward. A crowd of old and young gathered at
the pulpit-stairs to greet the hand that had baptized them or had broken
to them the bread of life. It was a scene of few words. One woman gave
her name, but was not recognized in her married name. She then mentioned
her maiden name. That touched a hidden spring. Both burst into tears,
but spoke no words. The history came up instantly before both, but
silently, which had occasioned the preaching of those sermons upon
intemperance whose influence for good will never cease.”

And now he points to one of the dangers which he has learned to avoid,
and opens to us some of the lessons which he has himself learned from
the experiences of this year:

“Many troubles in life cease when we cease to nurse them.

“Many troubles are but the strain which we endure when God would carry
us the right way and we insist upon going the wrong. Troubles come to us
like mire and filth, but when well mingled they change to flower and

“It should be borne in mind and thought of with thankfulness that
although a heavy pecuniary pressure has been resting on the community,
_nothing perishes_. No ships will rot, as under embargo; stores will not
go down; not a wheel will rust, but only rest; the railroads, whose
creation has cost us so much, are created, and will not go back but
thunder on. Not an acre will go again to the forest; not a seed will

“We shall hold the substantial elements gained, losing no art, no
science, no ideas, no habits, no skill, no industry, nothing but a
little temporary comfort; and for that we shall receive back steadiness,
safety, reality, and consolation worth a thousand-fold.”

That there had been no diminution of the prosperity of the church
appears from an announcement in one of the New York papers of the annual
pew-renting, which took place January 7 of the following year:

“The membership of Plymouth Church was never so large as at present, and
the size of the congregation is undiminished. The building admits of an
audience of about three thousand persons, and it is not an uncommon
occurrence on a pleasant Sunday evening for fully as great a number as
this to go away from the church-doors, unable to get even standing-room
within the walls.”

If the year 1857 was one of sadness, that of 1858 was one of rejoicing.
The sowing with tears was followed by the reaping with joy. Never in the
history of our country were revivals of religion so frequent, so deep
and wide-spread, as in the year that followed the great financial
disasters of 1857. The shattering of men’s hopes of wealth, the
disturbance and destruction of their confidence in material things, was
followed by a very general turning to those things that endure. From a
little book entitled “The Revival in Plymouth Church,” published
anonymously, from the testimony of those who were active at that time,
and from letters and sermons besides, we get a very clear idea of the
part which Mr. Beecher took in this great work and the methods he
pursued. Near the close of the year preceding he had received a letter
from a young man in New York, who described himself as slowly but surely
sinking beneath the temptations which he could not escape, and who
implored help from the destruction that hung over him. He said, “Preach
to me the terrors of the law, anything to arouse me from this fearful
lethargy.” Mr. Beecher read the appeal to his audience, and answered it
by preaching on the love of God in Jesus Christ as the only remedy for
man’s sin and the only power for his salvation, and said: “If this
remedy fails I know of no other. If love will not save you, fear will be
of no avail.” He then led the congregation in a most earnest and tender
prayer for that young man and for the great multitude which he

It was by such means as this, enlisting the feeling of his audience in
specific cases, awakening and directing the sympathies of the church,
that the work began. He disclaimed any confidence in a revival, born of
mere excitement, carefully explained God’s methods in saving men, and
threw the whole responsibility for success upon Christians. If their
hearts were filled with the love of God the influence would be felt with
power by those around them.

On the last Sabbath in February he preached upon the reasonableness,
usefulness, and Scriptural nature of revivals, combated objections
against them, and finally brought it home to the conscience of his
people: “Ought you not to have a revival?”

On the next Sabbath, at the communion season, he preached upon the
words, “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into
the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” holding
up before his people with great clearness and tenderness the privileges
and the infinite rewards of patient, Christian following and labor. The
father, who assisted at the service which followed, expressed the
feeling of many hearts when, in his prayer, he said: “Lord, we thank
Thee for the opening out of Thy word this morning; we have been brought
very near heaven; we see not how we can be any nearer till we stand
within the very gates.”

On the Wednesday evening following, at the usual weekly lecture, he
spoke to a crowded audience upon the conversion of the Philippian
jailer. It was a service of confession of the lack of faith in the
ever-present grace of God, of instruction concerning the spirit and
methods of the apostles, and of guidance to any who were seeking light
and peace. A prayer-meeting followed, at which any who desired prayers
for themselves or others were given opportunity to make their desire
known, and the work was begun.

“Morning meetings were opened daily, and were attended by
ever-increasing numbers, while so many remained afterward for
instruction that the pastor’s work was rarely over before eleven or
twelve o’clock. He called in lieutenants of both sexes, who helped him
in the work. No one who attended on those occasions can ever forget the
fascinating mixture of tenderness, earnestness, pathos, dry humor, quick
wit, and sound common sense that ran through all the instruction of
those meetings. One would be told to pray; another, whose knees were
almost worn out and whose mind was diseased with useless anxiety, was
told in the next breath to stop praying and go to sweeping; the many
timid and shrinking ones were encouraged into freedom, while one or two,
who thought that all the angels were anxiously awaiting the news of
their conversion before the business of heaven could proceed, were taken
down by a little quiet humor that cured yet did not wound; and all alike
were brought into the one fold. Under such influences and instructions
three hundred and thirty-five persons united with the church this

“The morning prayer-meeting has been in Plymouth Church emphatically a
‘love-feast,’ the attractive influences being love to Christ, to the
pastor, and to one another in full and lively exercise. No better
description of these meetings can be given than that of a happy and
united family gathering together, under the guidance of a beloved and
honored father, for morning worship. No wonder that men as they passed
along the street, though unused to a prayer-meeting, could not resist
the voice of song which fell on their ear daily in the sweet morning
hour; and no wonder that, once having entered, they should be fascinated
by the scene which met their eye and warmed by the atmosphere of love
which they breathed, and should return saying: ‘Surely God is in this
place, though we knew it not; this is indeed the house of God, and this
is none other than the gate of heaven.’ There was no such feeling as
that smiles, or even an honest laugh, were sinful; smiles and tears
mingled in curious proximity, without any attempt at restraint; in
short, everything was natural.

“At the close of a meeting, when, owing to the quaintness of speech of
some of the brethren, especially the newly-awakened ones, in the
relation of their varied experiences, we had laughed and cried
alternately, the one as heartily as the other, Mr. Beecher said: ‘I call
you to witness whether this has not been a good meeting, whether there
has not been a tender spirit among us, and whether the influence of the
Holy Ghost has not been here? I say this because, as you know, many
persons entertain the opinion that laughing is quite inexpedient on such
occasions as these and a sure means of grieving away the Spirit. Bear
this meeting in mind, and let it be your answer to the charge of
irreverence whenever it may be brought against us on this score.’”

He gave one of his own experiences:

“You know that my usual frame of mind is hopefulness. I am apt to look
at the bright side of things and take cheerful views of life. On this
very account an occasional experience of sadness is an inexpressible
luxury to me. Last night, I know not why, but I could not sleep for some
hours. I lay restlessly, turning from side to side, till this morning
between one and two. No sooner was I asleep than it seemed to me I was
in an Episcopal church, robed in black, where a clergyman was
celebrating the Lent service. By and by he ascended the pulpit and began
to speak. There was no eloquence in his language, nor anything
particularly striking in his mode of dealing with his subject, but his
heart was evidently in it. He was setting forth in simple language the
sufferings of Jesus, and as I listened there seemed to rise up before me
a vivid conception of the Saviour in His last agony on Calvary. I gazed
till the tears gushed from my eyes, and I awoke to find my pillow
soaking wet. I composed myself again to sleep, and my imagination took
up the stitch just where I had dropped it, and knitted on. I beheld the
same vision, and again the tears flowed. I gazed and wept until it
seemed to me as if my very soul would dissolve and the fountain of tears
be itself exhausted. Again I awoke, and, again falling asleep, the
vision was for the third time repeated, and I seemed to weep my very
life away. I know not when I had before such a sweet, rich experience of
the love of my Saviour; and when I awoke finally this morning, it was
with a tenderness of soul I cannot well describe. I was thankful I did
not sleep sooner, and that when I did sleep I made such good use of my

Opportunity was given at these meetings to any who wished to ask the
brethren to pray for themselves or for others, and was largely used. A
little before the close of the meeting Mr. Beecher would rise, and,
taking the slips of paper that covered his table, read from them aloud.
After reading these he would ask, “Are there any here who desire to make
requests on behalf of their friends?” And then when these had all been
made he would say, “Are there any who desire to ask on their own
account?” Then having caught the eye of each as they arose, and
acknowledged the request by a slight inclination of the head, in token
of recognition, until they ceased rising, “in a low, soft tone would
come the words, ‘Let us unite in prayer,’ and instantly every head was
bowed. The prayers which followed these scenes were the most precious
opportunities of communion with the Lord Jesus Christ which we were ever
permitted to enjoy. We believe that he who uttered them was taught of
the Holy Ghost, and that he spake as the Spirit gave him utterance.
There was an exuberance of faith and love in these utterances not
usually found in prayer; a gladness on the part of the speaker, and a
recognized consciousness of gladness on the part of Christ. They were
the breathings of love into a loving ear.” “We always concluded with a
hymn, for Mr. Beecher was wont to say that he liked to send us away with
a full tide of song, and for a long time our choice for concluding hymns
lay between ‘Shining Shore’ and ‘Homeward Bound.’”

March 27, 1858, Mr. Beecher gave a twenty-minute address in Burton’s old
theatre in Chambers Street at the noon prayer-meeting. “I wish to leave
the impression that the matter of salvation is a matter between your own
heart and the Lord Jesus Christ; that there is between you a sympathy so
plain that there is no need of any interference. You may become a
Christian _now_, and go home to your household and be enabled to ask a
blessing at your table to-day.”

Letters are frequent this year upon subjects like this, “Trust in God”:

“We ought not to forget that an affectionate, confiding, tender faith,
habitually exercised, would save us half the annoyances of life, for it
would lift us above the reach of them. If an eagle were to fly low along
the ground every man might aim a dart at it; but when it soars into the
clouds it is above every arrow’s reach. And they that trust in God
‘shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.’”

About this time he answers a criticism that appeared in several papers
upon the extravagant income of Plymouth Church:

“It is easy to stand off and rail. Will any one suggest a plan by which
five thousand men can be put into a church that can hold only three

“The poor should be held in lively remembrance. But ought we to provide
for the poor in a way that shall punish those who are not poor?...

“In closing we will only say that from the beginning no church ever more
conscientiously endeavored to give the Gospel to all classes, rich and
poor, resident or strangers. For ten years the members of this society
have cheerfully submitted to an inconvenience, for the sake of the poor
and of strangers, such as has rarely had a parallel. Gentlemen have paid
hundreds of dollars for pews which were, with the exception of a single
Sabbath in the year, more or less filled with the poor.

“Every Sabbath day families who have paid hundreds of dollars for a pew,
coming to church, find it pre-occupied by the poor and the stranger, and
it is a rare exception that in such cases there is any irritation.

“Generally the owner, distributing his family as best he can, takes a
seat in the aisle or stands in the entry. And this is not an occasional
thing. It is the regular experience of the congregation, year after

The year 1859 opens with some very characteristic letters from Mr.
Beecher. He had been charged with having held the doctrine of total
depravity up to ridicule in a lecture which he delivered in Boston. This
brings from him a letter, two or three passages of which we here

“But although we did not employ the phrase total depravity in any
opprobrious sense at the time mentioned, we do not hesitate to say that
we regard it as one of the most unfortunate and misleading terms that
ever afflicted theology....

“On the other hand, we do believe, with continual sorrow of heart and
daily overflowing evidence, in the deep sinfulness of universal man....
We heartily hate the phrase total depravity, and never feel inclined to
use it except when reading the ethics of ——— or the religious editorials
of ———.”

He was shortly after this attacked for lecturing in a “Fraternity
Course” in the same city. This calls out a long answer upon “Working
with Errorists,” in which he says:

“I have long ago been convinced that it was better to love men than to
hate them, that one would be more likely to convince them of wrong
belief by showing a cordial sympathy with their welfare than by nipping
and pinching them with logic. And although I do not disdain but honor
philosophy applied to religion, I think that the world just now needs
the Christian heart more than anything else. And even if the only and
greatest question were the propagation of the right theology, I am
confident that right speculative views will grow up faster and firmer in
the summer of true Christian loving than in the rigorous winter of
solid, congealed orthodoxy or the blustering March of controversy....

“If tears could wash away from Mr. Parker’s eyes the hindrances, that he
might behold Christ as I behold and adore Him, I would shed them without
reserve. If prayers could bring to him this vision of glory, beyond
sight of philosophy, I would for him besiege the audience-chamber of
heaven with an endless procession of prayers, until another voice,
sounding forth from another light brighter than the noonday sun, should
cast down another blinded man, to be lifted up an apostle with inspired

“But since I may not hope so to prevail, I at least will carry him in my
heart; I will cordially work with him when I can, and be heartily sorry
when I cannot.

“While we yet write word comes that Mr. Parker, broken down by
over-labor, seeks rest and restoration in a warmer climate. Should these
lines reach his eyes let him know that one heart at least remembers his
fidelity to man in great public exigencies, when so many swerved of whom
we had a right to expect better things. God shield him from the ocean,
the storm, the pestilence, and heal him of lurking disease! And there
shall be one Christian who will daily speak his name to the heart of God
in earnest prayer, that with health of body he may receive upon his soul
the greatest gift of God—faith in Jesus Christ as the Divine Saviour of
the world.”

Another incident calls forth a similar response:

“At the recent celebration of Tom Paine’s birthday at Cincinnati the
infidels present toasted: ‘The heretic clergy, Parker, Emerson, Conway,
Chapin, Beecher, and all who love man above all creeds, and sects, and
rituals, and observances, who regard man as the highest and holiest and
most sacred of all in the universe—may their motto be: Ever onward,
greater freedom, and clearer light.’” Having disclaimed any distinction
as one who loves man more than creeds, since this is “true of all
Christians when they are in their most Christian disposition,” and
having accepted their motto as being in line with sundry passages of
Scripture, he gives his true and honest feeling towards them in these

“Let no man think that we despise the sympathy and well-wishing of a
convention of infidels. We thank them for their kind feelings. Like our
Master, we had rather discourse with publicans and sinners than dine
with the most select and eminent Pharisee. But we _love_ a true
Christian better than either. But, infidel or Pharisee, all need the
grace of God, and all, by repentance of sin and faith in Christ, the
Saviour of sinners, may yet meet in heaven.

“Gentlemen of the Cincinnati convention of infidels! we should be
ashamed to be less kind and courteous than you have been, and in
concluding we take leave of you kindly, saying, in the words of Inspired

“‘Now may the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord
Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the
everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His
will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through
Jesus Christ. To whom be glory for ever and ever.’         *”

The setting up of a new organ in Plymouth Church this winter is thus
duly announced:

“The organ long expected has arrived, been unpacked, set up, and
glorified over. It has piped, fluted, trumpeted, brayed, thundered. It
has played so loud that everybody was deafened, and so softly that
nobody could hear.”

After speaking of the characteristics of the many organists who have
tried it, and of one who was an especially brilliant player, he says:
“But he was not a Christian man, and the organ was not to him a
Christian instrument, but simply a grand Gothic instrument, to be
studied just as a mere Protestant would study a cathedral, in the mere
spirit of architecture and not at all in sympathy with its religious
signification or uses. And before long he went abroad to perfect himself
in his musical studies, but not till a most ludicrous event befell him.
On a Christmas day a great performance was to be given. The church was
full; all were musically expectant. It had been given out that something
might be expected. And surely something was had a little more than was
expected. For when every stop was drawn, that the opening might be with
a grand choral effect, the down-pressing of his hands brought forth not
only the full expected chord, but also a cat that by some strange chance
had got into the organ. She went up over the top as if gunpowder had
helped her. Down she plunged into the choir, to the track around the
front bulwark of the gallery, until opposite the pulpit, when she dashed
down one of the supporting columns, made for the broad aisle, when a
little dog joined in the affray, and both went down toward the
street-door at an astonishing pace. Our organist, who, on the first
appearance of this element in his piece, snatched back his hands, had
forgotten to relax his muscles, and was to be seen following the cat
with his eyes, with his head turned, while his astonished hands stood
straight out before him, rigid as marble!”

In the spring of this year he purchased a farm in Peekskill, and
explains his object as follows:

“I knew that the place was good for grass, for grain, and for fruits, of
all which I talked a good deal during the preliminary approaches to a
purchase, but for which I cared about as much as I should whether the
inside of my boots were red or yellow.

“If the thing must be told—and I mention it to you, Mr. Bonner,
confidentially—it was the remarkable aptitude of the place for
_eye-crops_ that caught my fancy. It was not so much what grew upon the
place, as what you could see off from it, that won me. It is a great
stand for the eye. If a man can get rich by _looking_, I am on the royal
road to wealth. And, indeed, it is true wealth that the eye gets, and
the ear and all the finer senses; riches that cannot be hoarded or
squandered; that all may have in common; that come without meanness and
abide without corrupting. So long as it remains true that the heavens
declare the glory of God, and the earth His handiwork, so long will men
find both heart wealth and strength by a reverent admiration of the one
and a sympathetic familiarity with the other.”

In a letter to his daughter he describes the new home:

“... _Farm_—I wrote so far at home, but being interrupted have brought
it up to the green hills. You will be quite ashamed to think that
Matteawan ever seemed beautiful to you when you shall have seen this
place. It has no wild or romantic features, but it is full of soft,
nice, beautiful views. No barren fields are seen, no brown
pasture-lands, no rugged hills—the very mountains in the horizon are
carved into round and graceful shapes. The near hills are round, gentle,
smooth, and verduous to the very top. Only one summit is rugged and
wild, and we keep that in the distant foreground as a contrast to all
the other graceful shapes. The river in the distance is like a _lake_,
except the fleets of sloops and schooners give it a sense of navigation.
From the _top_ hill of the farm you can see almost as wide a prospect as
from Bald Mountain in Salisbury—on the north and east, wild,
mountainous, solitary; but all the rest beautiful and cultivated, with
the Hudson rolling along the west. I have traced a rude diagram[6] on
the opposite page, but it will be only just better than nothing, though
you must confess that it is exceedingly well drawn for me!


Footnote 6:

  The Publishers regret that the diagram could not be given.


”... I heard from H——— yesterday. He is well and lively, and wrote me
quite a sprightly and witty letter. W——— is round, rosy, curly, and
loving as usual. B———, the rogue, is fairly recovering from a double
charge of scarlet-fever and whooping-cough, and is becoming most
healthfully saucy.“

Early in the autumn they returned from the country and began life again
in the city. We give copies of several letters written to his daughter:

                                           ”BROOKLYN, Sept. 4, 1859.

“... In the beginning let me say, my dear child, that I heartily approve
of all that you have done. I am not a superstitious observer of the
Sabbath, nor do I hold to the rigor either of the Jewish or the Puritan
Sabbath. But I _do_ believe that one-seventh part of our time was
originally appointed for rest, for home-society, and for religious

“When I was myself in Paris I acted just as I do in Brooklyn. I took no
more liberties, and was quite as observant of my home proprieties. And I
must say that I do not relish the idea of our young countrymen going to
Europe to learn how to get rid of religious habits. Foreign travel
should improve our manners, increase our information, enlarge our
experience of men, enrich our imagination, cultivate our tastes, but
_not_ enervate our conscience....

“Everything is going well at the farm. I have bought a yoke of cattle,
white with mottled necks and red heads; also two Ayrshire calves, and a
little bull calf of the same breed. Your mother is driving away at her
cheeses in the most housewifely style. She has already made, eaten, and
given away two or three, and she has four or five on hand, good large
ones, which are to grow old for city use. Already I imagine myself a
nimble little maggot making the cheese fly. The pet ponies do bravely,
the pigs are fat and flourishing, the chickens comely, and the ducks
noisy but drawing very near to doom and dinner.

“I would not advise you to use wine unless you are weak and it is
recommended by judicious advisers for real reasons of health; and then I
should take it frankly and without hesitation. But while you do not use
it, you are not bound to take it on any occasion for _others’_ sake. If
the occasion comes, call for a glass of water and calmly lift that to
your lips. But more of this by and by. I have no objection to your
learning to _dance_ as a part of physical education.”

The home life in Brooklyn ran undisturbed through the autumn, until,
early in 1860, a serious accident befell Mrs. Beecher, which Mr. Beecher
describes in the following letter:

                                                 “FEBRUARY 11, 1860.


“I suppose you will not scold me if I relieve your mother of
letter-writing this steamer; it is, I think, the first time she has
missed. But she is too lame to write to-day, having had an accident that
_ought_ to have killed her, and that _would_ have killed anybody else.
And that your fears may not magnify the matter, I shall go back and
describe it all to you.

“On Wednesday last, February 8, she took the horse and chaise (a
_two_-wheeled chaise, which we have bought of Mr. M———), and started to
go to New York and meet and bring me home from the New Haven depot.
Eliza and Bertie were taken in, the former to go over to the Hudson
River Railroad for milk, and Bertie for the ride. The horse was spirited
and soon got under way beyond control, but did not run till, turning
into Hicks Street from Orange, she dashed off like lightning, ran to
Fulton Street and right across it, up on to the pavement and headlong on
to the Brooklyn Bank steps. The carriage was broken and turned over, and
all, of course, heaped up together—horse, chaise, and people. Men sprang
to the horse, held and detached her; others succored the party. Bertie
had a smart thump on his right eye, or above it, which has done him no
harm, and he has not been kept in from his play, though made a little
homelier than he was before. Eliza was thrown against the stone and a
smart slit cut in her head, which bled profusely, and though she has
kept her bed by the doctor’s orders, she expects to be about to-day.
Your mother, as usual, took everybody’s share on herself. She was shot
out apparently head-first, and fell upon the right side of her head,
neck, and shoulder, bruising her, but breaking nothing. She was
insensible when taken into the drug-store close by. I know not how H———
was notified so soon, but he seems to have been on the spot within five
minutes, and manifested as much self-possession and decisive wisdom as
would have done credit to a much older head. He gave orders to have his
mother taken home, sent for Dr. Adams to come to the drug-store, sent
another messenger to the stableman to look after the carriage and horse
(who, confound her homely self! was but little hurt), and then took a
hack to meet me at the New Haven depot and bring me home.

“I reached the house very nearly as soon as your mother did. Found Mrs.
E——— B———, Mrs. L———, Mrs. B———, Mrs. E———, and one or two strange
ladies present, the doctor, a policeman or two, and scores of people
running to and fro; yet, in the main, there was order and good sense.

”... The doctors regard her as out of danger, but she will be a sufferer
for a week or more. Everything is going on regularly in the house,
except that I am at home all the time, which is very irregular in my

“... And so when you read this you must remember that though it seems to
you as if it had just happened, it will have been all past, and your
mother doubtless, while you read, will be marching forth in full
authority. Everybody who saw the scene speaks in admiration of her
courage and skill. She guided the horse to the last, though she could
not control her, and was game to the end. But _that_ we should all
_expect_. Nor does her courage flinch yet. Some one said to her
yesterday: ‘Well, I suppose you will never drive that horse again.’
‘Yes, _I shall too_,’ said she; and _she shall_. We are very grateful
for her safety and merciful deliverance, and although she will suffer
from twinges, yet, as there are no internal injuries, no bones
fractured, it is only a matter of patience.... Slept very well and has
the beginning of an appetite, although I am constrained to say that when
I mentioned the little luxury of _gruel_ as something appetizing and
excellent for her, she turned up her nose (I could not be mistaken) at
the suggestion, so that she is evidently not quite settled yet in her
mind. She can walk slowly, takes her bath, submits to packs, and has
refreshed herself once or twice with a hand-glass, looking at the recent
improvements about her countenance.

”... Love to all. I shall keep you faithfully apprised of her health,
and you need not fear that anything is a bit worse than I say. I shall
tell the truth. Good-by.

“May God have you in His care!

                                  “Your affectionate father,
                                                     H. W. BEECHER.”

                                                       “FEBRUARY 14.

”MY DEAR H———:

“Your aunt has told you of your mother, and little is to be added on
that score.... I wish you would take all your gauze paper and send it to
Cardinal Antonelli, or the pope, or the—that is, burn it up, tear it up,
crumple it, throw it away, do anything with it except sending it to me.
Go forth and search and buy some that is respectable, for I wow a wow
that I will vex my eyes no more with such intolerable stuff. I feel as
though I could say a little more with great comfort to myself, but, as I
must receive several letters before this reaches you and reforms your
writing materials, I reserve a stock of wrath for those several

”_Wednesday, Feb. 15._—Your mother this morning is generally better,
though suffering from cramps. She is now lying in a _pack_. Mrs. F———
has been as good as an angel, and a great deal more useful. Indeed, I do
not think much of angels, unless they have a good serviceable body on.
Of course Auntie B——— is on hand kindly and constantly. Everybody is
kind. Mrs. G——— has spent four days here, two in the parlors to receive
company, etc., and two with your mother. Mrs. L——— has been incessantly
here, and has both watched, waited, and run for watchers and nurses
without tire or fatigue. We had a meeting on Monday night for new
church. The action of the trustees was confirmed, and they were
requested to go ahead immediately and raise the necessary funds, and as
soon as $100,000 were secured to proceed to lay the foundations. I do
not regard the enterprise as _quite_ sure yet, though looking favorably.
Give my love to the pope. I am sorry for his situation. If he only sat
under my preaching how much his eyes might be opened! As it is, if he
chooses to write to me in regard to any of his little difficulties, I
hope he will allow no delicacy to restrain him. I will do the best I can
for him. Ditto Antonelli.

“I am now the holder of _your_ room. There nap I, and there sleep I, and
seldom either without a faint shadow of a rosy-cheeked, Minerva-eyed
girl that whilom tenanted it. I have removed the boys, W——— and B———,
into the room next it, formerly H———’s, while he holds the front large
room, now pink-papered and famously carpeted and furnished. Eliza is
quite well and trots about the house with a diligence that shows how
wholesome it is for an Irishwoman to have her head broke. I have
promised her, whenever she is sick, to give her a granite-steps course,
instead of water, as being much better adapted to her wants and
nationality. Give my love to all the great American family.... Remember
that _paper_, THAT PAPER, THAT PAPER!

                                “Your loving and longing father,
                                                          “H. W. B.”

“Good-by, old fellow. Give my love to Hattie, and tell her that her
father hasn’t forgotten her,” were the first words of Mr. Beecher to me
that I remember. I had been introduced to him the evening before, but he
had just returned from a lecturing tour, tired and sleepy, and if he
said anything brilliant it has entirely escaped my memory. I was going,
in company with Mrs. Stowe’s son, to take a pedestrian tour in Europe.
We expected, in time, to join her party, who were then on the Continent,
and were busy getting ready to go on board ship that day. It was a
hearty send off to one who was comparatively a stranger, that was very
characteristic of the man.

Of course I remembered the message and gave it faithfully; and after
several months’ acquaintance, travelling in Switzerland and Italy, made
an addition of the same in kind on my own account, which being accepted
and reciprocated, we were married September 25, 1861.

“The innumerable friends of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher would hardly
forgive us if we were to omit mentioning the pleasing incident that
occurred at his country residence at Peekskill last week. On Wednesday
morning, after the dew was dry, Mr. Beecher chose a spot under the
shadows of the trees near his garden, where, in the presence of a fit
circle of friends and neighbors, he gave away his only daughter in a
novel ceremony of marriage. The beauty of the day and the beauty of the
ceremony together rendered the scene singularly charming, tender, and

Of his method of making himself acquainted with the peculiar features of
the villages in which he lectured, and his pleasant words concerning the
people he met, the following letter is a good illustration:


“I sent you a scrap from the goodly town of Norwich, N. Y., in which I
have most pleasantly spent a portion of three days, and would fain have
added as many more. It is one of the many towns in this Chenango Valley
of which Dr. Dwight said that the time would come when men of wealth
would leave the seaboard cities and retire to it as a place of rare

“The great hammer manufactory of the New World is also located here.
What hardware man has not seen David Maydole’s name? Many of the best
improvements in the hammer have sprung from his ingenious skill. But
there is room for improvement still. Thus our hammers have the power of
_hiding_ themselves.

“After investigating many cases it becomes plain that hammers have a
power of locomotion, and that when we are asleep they crawl off. We have
never seen them actually move, but we have _almost_. We have found them
on the ground or floor, and they were probably on their way somewhere
when we surprised them, and then, like many insects, they feigned
dead.... We should be glad to listen every night to as sweet music as
that which rose up before our window in Hamilton and in Norwich.”

As a complement to the above an experience in _not_ lecturing is here
given in full:

                                              “ST. LOUIS, ———, 1859.


“DEAR SIR: On behalf of the Mercantile Library Association of this city,
it is my pleasant duty to address you. We are now endeavoring to form
the lecture programme for our association for the coming season, and we
wish to do so as early as possible. Fully appreciating your well-known
reputation as a lecturer and an orator, we should be pleased to make an
engagement with you for two or three lectures the coming fall and
winter. If you can serve us, will you be so kind as to give us your
_terms_, _time_, and _subject_ as soon as possible?

“As our Association may not be well known to you, permit me to say one
word in regard to it. We think that there is no library association in
this country that is in a more prosperous condition than ours. It has
some eighteen hundred members, and is rapidly increasing. Its members
are merchants, clerks, and members from the several professions. As a
matter of course these members come from all parts of our country, and
naturally entertain a variety of views, both as to politics and
religion. Hence it becomes our Association to be very careful to eschew
all matters pertaining to either of these subjects in its lectures.
Should you be so kind as to favor us with a course of lectures—and we
sincerely hope you will do so—you will please bear the above facts in
mind. Hoping to hear from you at your earliest convenience, I remain,
Yours truly,

                                      “R. H. D———,
                            ”_Chairman Lecture Committee, M. L. A._“

They heard from him at once as requested, and this was the answer:

                         MR. BEECHER’S REPLY.

                                               ”BROOKLYN, ———, 1859.

“DEAR SIR: I have received your letter politely inviting me to give one
or more lectures before the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association
next fall or winter. But you ask, in consequence of the diversity of
opinions among your members, that I should, if I accepted your
invitation, ‘_eschew all matters pertaining to politics and religion_.’
I am too much of a patriot to eschew the one, and too good a Christian
to neglect the other. Indeed, the only motive that I have for lecturing
at all is the hope that I may make better citizens and better Christians
of my fellow-men. And it seems to me that a course of lectures from
which have been strained out ‘all matters pertaining to politics and
religion,’ must afford but a very meagre diet to the young people of St.

“Nor can I imagine why you should, under the circumstances, have wished
me to visit you. If I have ever been of any service to my fellow-men, it
has been because I never would eschew any topic which I thought it
needful for them to hear. Nor have I ever allowed myself to stand on any
platform where I could not follow my own judgment as to what should be
said with the most unlimited freedom. And it is too late in my life for
me to yield up my sense of self-respect and come under a censorship.

“I hope I have not taken seriously a matter which, perhaps, you meant
only as a pleasant jest. For, on reading your letter again, I hardly
repress the conviction that you deemed it a pleasant jest to ask me to
come all the way to St. Louis to give lectures, under an implied
agreement that I should ‘_eschew all matters pertaining to politics and

When the title of Doctor of Divinity was offered him he declined it, as

                                        “PEEKSKILL, August 21, 1860.

”_To President and Board of Trustees of Amherst College_:

“GENTLEMEN: I have been duly notified that at the last meeting of the
Board of Trustees the title of D.D. was conferred upon me. It would
certainly give me pleasure should any respectable institution bear such
a testimony of good will, but that Amherst College, my own mother,
should so kindly remember a son is a peculiar gratification. But all the
use of such a title ends with the public expression. If the wish to
confer it be accepted, for the rest it would be but an encumbrance and
furnish an address by no means agreeable to my taste. I greatly prefer
the simplicity of that name which my mother uttered over me in the holy
hour of infant consecration and baptism.

“May I be permitted, without seeming to undervalue your kindness or
disesteeming the honor meant, to return it to your hands, that I may to
the end of my life be, as thus far I have been, simply

                                                HENRY WARD BEECHER.”

One of the peculiar features of Mr. Beecher’s work in those days of
1861-63 was the revival interest that continued, with variations of
intensity, it is true, but with no substantial interruption, for years.
The revival of 1858 had not entirely ceased at that time, and although
those days of war, especially since he gave himself so intensely to
public matters, would naturally be regarded as unfavorable to any marked
religious interest, yet it continued notwithstanding, as is shown by the
numbers that constantly sought admission to the church upon profession
of faith. This was owing, we doubt not, to the perfect conviction of Mr.
Beecher that the whole work of that time was the Lord’s, and to his
entering upon it with such consecration that he was continually shielded
and refreshed by experiences of the divine presence. This gave a deep
practical spirituality to his preaching, which was appropriated and
reflected by his church, making the Gospel attractive, in those days of
trouble, as never before. Men turned to the refuge which they saw he had
found, and which, with deepest sympathy and with abundant hopefulness,
he was pointing out to them. He himself says: “It is a mistake to
suppose that the preoccupation of the public mind with the war, and the
great excitements which are fed by the ever-changing rumors and news,
are unfavorable to the work of a true minister of the Gospel.”

The continued ingathering into Plymouth Church during all those years of
the war was something almost phenomenal. One marked occasion, the May
communion of 1862, was described in a newspaper of that day: “Every part
of the house was densely packed. The platform and desk were decorated
with vases of flowers, while banks of azaleas, magnolias, carnations,
fuchsias, white lilies, roses, and other plants in blossom reached from
the pulpit floor to the orchestra. After the usual exercises of singing,
reading, and prayer, Mr. Beecher read a list of about eighty names of
persons who were to unite with the church. Many of them were members of
the Sabbath-schools and Bible-classes. Some were persons of middle age;
a few were persons of advanced years. After a brief address Mr. Beecher
read the articles of faith, to which the parties gave their assent. The
ordinance of baptism was then administered to those who had never before
received it; after which the members of the church arose and received
the new members into full and cordial communion. Mr. Beecher took his
text from John x. 3, 4. There had been provided memorial bouquets for
each new communicant, which were distributed at the close of the

These floral decorations may almost be said to have been introduced by
Plymouth Church, and were justified by Mr. Beecher upon the highest
moral and religious grounds. He says of “Flowers in Church”:

“They are simply the signs of gladness. They are offerings of joyful
hearts to God.

“Flowers are not of man. They are divine. Man can, by culture, develop
all that God has hidden in them, but can add nothing to them, nor can he
invent or build them.

“God has made flowers for everybody. They are next in abundance to the
great elements—air, light, water. The poorest man has a roadside
flower-garden. No mission-church is so poor that it cannot afford wild
flowers upon the altar and a few assorted leaves in the windows. How
beautifully would woman’s hand light up the dreary plaster wall and
frigid seats of many a church room, if permitted to garnish them with
these field-thoughts of God!

“The effect upon children is well worth our thought. To teach a child to
love flowers is to give him riches that no bankruptcy can reach. This is
the wisdom of finding our pleasures, not in conventional arrangements,
but in sympathy with nature, which never is confiscated, or goes out of
fashion, or becomes old and exhausted. There is a new heaven and a new
earth every day, as if suggesting that grand and final event of

“The use of flowers on social and religious occasions soon gives to them
meanings which they had not to us before. We read nature more
thoughtfully and lovingly.

“Weeds change to flowers. The moment a plant inspires intelligent
emotion in us it ceases to be a weed and becomes a flower. The natural
world is not any longer godless or commercial and mechanical. It has a
moral power.

“At first many will shrink at seeing flowers upon the speaker’s desk or
on the pulpit. But why? Is the place too holy? But is it holier than
God? And are not flowers His peculiar workmanship? If God deemed it
suitable to His dignity and glory to occupy His mind with making and
preserving such innumerable flowers, are we wise in disdaining them or
considering the place too sacred for God’s favorites? Do men reflect
that God has been pleased to name Himself from flowers? ‘_I am the Rose
of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley._’”

In line with this are his views upon “Christian Liberty in the Use of
the Beautiful”:

“I cannot but think Christian men have not only a right of enjoyment in
the beautiful, but a duty, in some measure, of producing it, or
propagating it, or diffusing it abroad through the community.

“But in all your labors for the beautiful, remember that its mission is
not of corruption, nor of pride, nor of selfishness, but of
_benevolence_! And as God hath created beauty, not for a few, but hath
furnished it for the whole earth, multiplying it until, like drops of
water and particles of air, it abounds for every living thing, and in
measure far transcending human want, until the world is a running-over
cup, so let thine heart understand both the glory of God’s beauty and
the generosity of its distribution. So living, life shall be a glory,
and death a passing from glory to glory.”

If we have supposed that his love for nature was intuitive or came to
its fulness without effort or study, the following letter will correct
that impression:

“We are performing not alone a work of love in commending Ruskin, but
paying a small part of a debt that can never be discharged. We are more
indebted to him for the blessings of sight than to all other men. We
were, in respect to nature, of the number of those who, having eyes, saw
not; and ears, heard not. He taught us what to see and how to see.
Thousands of golden hours and materials both for self-enjoyment and the
instruction of others, enough to fill up our whole life, we owe to the
spirit excited in us by the reading of Ruskin’s early works.

“The sky, the earth, and the waters are no longer what they were to us.

“We have learned a language and come to a sympathy in them more through
the instrumentality of Ruskin’s works than by all other
instrumentalities on earth, excepting always the nature which my mother
gave me—sainted be her name!”

We have again come to the point, 1863, which we once before reached in
this biography, but this time upon entirely different lines. In our
first examination, for the sake of unity of impression, we confined
ourselves to the events of the great anti-slavery conflict. In this
which we have just completed we have sketched the outline of other
labors and the events of his home life during this period. No one, we
suspect, reading the first record, the record of strife and battle,
would conceive it possible that a life so full of all manner of peaceful
pursuits and home labors was being lived; nor, on the other hand, would
any one going over his work of preaching, lecturing, writing helpful
Star articles upon all manner of common subjects, imagine that he had
the time or the spirit for the former work. But, in fact, in his case
they were each the necessary complement of the other.

We have seen how, at the West in the midst of continued revival efforts,
he took up the study of landscape-gardening as an alterative. This was
an illustration of his habit through life. In the midst of the most
exciting events he would escape and go apart from them all, if possible,
to some point where he could look out upon the landscape or up to the
clear heavens. Such places at such times seemed to become Mountains of
Transfiguration, where he would meet the Master and be refreshed by His
presence, and whence returning he would bring back a store of beautiful
experiences that enabled him to give cheer and inspiration to his
fellow-toilers, who had not, perhaps, noted his absence from their side.
Or he would escape to some quiet nook and hold converse with birds and
flowers, delight himself in quaint and pleasant fancies, look at life
from a new standpoint, until he was able again to take up the burden
without weariness; or he would sit down with his boxes of seeds or
catalogues of plants, and lose himself in their imagined growth and
beauty; or, drawing from his pocket some one of the precious stones he
always carried with him, gather rest and inspiration as he watched its
changing hues.

In this way he was enabled to carry on the most various and exhaustive
labors, and at the same time to preserve that mental health and good
cheer for which he was remarkable.

                              CHAPTER XIX.

Visit to England in 1863—The Need of Rest—Condition of Affairs at
    Home—Arrival at Liverpool—Refusal to Speak—Visit to the
    Continent—Reception by the King of Belgium—Civil War Discussed—News
    of Victories—Return to England.

The spring of 1863 found Mr. Beecher thoroughly exhausted and greatly in
need of both mental and physical rest. The past twelve years had been a
season of unremitting care and toil. In addition to the regular duties
of his new and growing church, and the active revival work carried on at
this period, which were quite enough to task the energies of any one
less fortunately endowed with mental and vital energy, he had taken a
very active part in the anti-slavery agitation, and from the pulpit, the
lecture platform, and the columns of the _Independent_ kept up a
constant fire upon this national evil. In 1856, as we have seen, he had
thrown himself heart and soul into the Fremont campaign, well-nigh
destroying his health. From 1860 he had been laboring, without rest, to
uphold the government, to rouse and maintain the patriotic confidence of
the North, and through all of this time was a contributor to the New
York _Independent_, and since 1861 its editor-in-chief. Fagged out and
despondent from exhaustion, rest was imperative.

His church, with that generous love which has always characterized it,
voted him a four months’ leave of absence with expenses paid.

In company with Dr. John Raymond, then the president of Vassar College,
a warm personal friend, he set sail early in June for a holiday, making
his second trip across the water.

Fortunately we are able to give almost wholly in his own words the
history of this trip:

“I left New York in June, 1863, for a tour through Europe during the
summer vacation. I was not requested, either by President Lincoln nor by
any member of the Cabinet, to act in behalf of this government; it was
purely a personal arrangement. The government took no stock in me at
that time. Seward was in the ascendency, and, as I had been pounding
Lincoln during the early years of the war, I don’t believe there was a
man in Washington, excepting perhaps Mr. Chase, who would have trusted
me with anything; at any rate, I went on my own responsibility, with no
one behind me except my church. They told me they would pay my expenses
and sent me off. I went away wholly for the sake of rest and
recuperation. I went simply as a private citizen, and I went with a
determination not to speak in Great Britain.

“It was perhaps the dreariest period in the whole war. One after another
of our generals had been sent to school in the field to learn the art of
generalship. The task was too large for most of them, and they took a
secondary rank. At that time, up to the date of my departure, we had
made a stand and maintained it, but had gained but very little. The most
defensible country, perhaps, on earth is our own in its southern
portion; and the line that ran two thousand miles of active warfare
through our middle had been so fortified, and was defended with such
skill and unquestionable bravery, that our forces had not been able to
push back the line of rebellion much, and there had been nothing to
encourage the hearts of our people beyond their faith—for we lived by
faith and not by sight in those days.

“I had not, except in times of sickness, when the whole tone of my
nervous system was lowered, had an hour of doubt. I was sure of victory.
There were some sick hours in which I remember distinctly thinking, ‘One
nation is ground to make soil for another, and it may be that this
nation will be ground up in order that another one may grow up on its
ruins’; but ordinarily I was full of courage and hope, not unfounded I
think now in review; and it stood me in good stead abroad.

“At that time Grant had not emerged. McClellan had, and had retired
again. Burnside had briefly shown that he was too modest and not strong
enough to take McClellan’s place. Hooker, who had lost his head in the
great battle which he fought, was at the head of affairs, and we were on
the eve of one more change—a change which has surrounded the name of
Meade with lustre. Grant was at the time besieging Vicksburg. Lee had
not yet ventured into Pennsylvania, out of which he never ought to have
been permitted to go.

“It was at about that stage of things that I left. The political
condition of the country, and also its civic and secular condition, will
justify a word or two. There was a great party of the Union, made up of
men indifferently from all foregoing parties. Old lines were effaced,
old questions sank to the bottom, and the one question that united the
strangest elements, discordant in every other respect, was the wise
determination to maintain intact the union of this whole country. That
formed the band and belt that gave unity to the party of war. The great
Democratic party was divided into three ranks. The largest part, and the
noblest, joined themselves to the party of the Union; and better men
never came from any party than those that formed under our banner,
bearing briefly and for a time the name of Republicans, but very largely
going back again, after the war was over, to the Democratic party. There
was a second division of lukewarm Unionists in the Democratic party,
that were always hoping the war would be compromised—men of great
patriotism, who could not forbear to ask: ‘What will be my position
politically when we shall have secured peace again?’ They were for
compromise and for easy adjustment.

“Now, war is good for nothing if it is not intense and cruel. It means
organized force; and it is nonsense to go into the field with anything
else except guns in your hands and swords at your side. The attempt so
to fight, as in the earlier periods of our struggle, as not to hurt
anybody, is most disastrous, whether in prudence or in civil successes.
The South never did make war except to hurt somebody; and in the earlier
day the vehemence, the courage, and the convictions which they brought
into the field, made them more than a match for our Northern soldiers.
Very largely our generals had anticipations of Congress, or the
Presidency, or what not, before them; and such political anticipations
never whet anybody’s sword.

“There was a third section, and that was the least—those that were
directly in league with the Southern and slavery element. Of them it is
not necessary that anything should be said. They are wiped out, and that
is fulfilled in regard to them which the Scriptures hath spoken: ‘The
name of the wicked shall rot.’

“In that divided state Lincoln was under great discouragements, yet
maintaining invincible his purpose, without compromise, to destroy all
oppositions to this Union. Meanwhile we were maintaining a blockade of
about three thousand miles—an unexampled blockade. We had to extemporize
a navy, as we shall again if we have any war. We are always wise
_afterward_. For the sake of economy we are the most wasteful of all
nations, without foresight in such matters; too confiding. There is not
a ship in the American navy to-day that could not be blown out of the
water in a ten minutes’ conflict with the best-armored ships of Europe;
and Congress, that has no end of money for votes, through pensions and
various other channels of distributing, cannot be persuaded to do
anything for stability and inexorable defence against foreign invasion
and warfare.

“We had at that time converted almost every sea-going craft into a
man-of-war; and this extended blockade was in the main well served.
Europe stood watching as a vulture does to see the sick lamb or kine
stagger to fall, and from her dried branch of observation she was ready
to plunge down. Napoleon did. He already had sent French armies into
Mexico. That was a mere preface. Mexico was not his final object. The
recovering again of territory that once had belonged to France lay in
the achievements or the expectations of this weak and wicked potentate
in the future.

“In this condition of things we were hovering on the very edge of
intervention. It was well known to those acquainted with the condition
of affairs in other lands that Napoleon was disposed by every art and
intrigue to persuade the government of Great Britain to interpose, to
break the blockade, and to give its moral support to the rebellion of
the South.

“I found in England the utmost scepticism prevailing as to our success,
and an exaggerated conception of the endurance and courage of the South;
and no sentence was more frequently uttered in my hearing than this,
‘You will never subdue the South’; to which I invariably replied, ‘We
_shall_ subdue the South.’

“I found that, with a few noble exceptions—Mr. John Bright, Richard
Cobden, Mr. Forster, and such like—that the statesmen of Great Britain
were either lukewarm or in avowed sympathy with the South. The
middle-class and laboring people of Great Britain were in sympathy, on
the whole, with the North; but they had no votes. As a general thing,
the officeholders under the government, the rich families, the
manufacturing interests, the educated and professional men of Great
Britain, believed that our Union had been or would soon be dissolved.
Some one said to me at that time, ‘All men who ride in first-class cars,
and put up at first-class hotels, and live upon intellectual
professions, together with most of the clergymen, even of the dissenting
bodies of England, are adverse to the Northern cause.’

“The conduct of the laboring classes in Great Britain was admirable.
While they were on the verge of starvation in the cotton districts, they
patiently endured their sufferings without retracting their sympathy for
the Northern cause. As a body, the Quakers, whose testimony against
slavery had been continuous and unswerving, were in sympathy with the
North. The Congregational churches of Great Britain, with few
exceptions, were adverse to the North. The Congregational churches of
Wales were almost wholly in sympathy with the North.

“All the world looked upon America as about to be split asunder. Here
and there was a faithful witness and a faithful friend. The civilized
nations of Europe looked with varying emotions upon our conflict, but
agreed generally that it was an impossible task that the North had
undertaken; and everywhere I felt the numbness that that produced.

“It was at just that period that I left our shores and was in Great

From his letters home we have gathered something of an outline of his
experience and first impressions:

“I reached the mouth of the Mersey, seven miles from Liverpool, on
Wednesday night. The tide would not let us across till five the next
morning.... Duncan was on the tug when we reached the city—for there are
no wharves at Liverpool, and we lay in the middle of the stream and
landed passengers by means of a little steam-tug.... Before leaving the
boat a Mr. Estcourt, of Manchester, was at hand to invite me to have a
reception and speech at Manchester. The same happened for Liverpool
within a few hours, and letters from London, from two committees, came
within a day, soliciting the same. I declined them all and declared my
intention not to speak anywhere at present, and until I had had time to
form some judgment of things. I find that all our American friends at
Liverpool approve highly of my decision. And even those who most
solicited speeches admit that they think my decision the wiser one. I
will not trouble you with any description of the state of the English
mind toward our country. We have nothing to hope from it when it might
be of use to us, and we shall not by and by care a pin whether they
think ill or well.” After a week’s run in the country he returned to
Liverpool and “went to meet some friends at the _parlor_ of a _store_.
The great stores here have parlors, in which the heads of departments
dine every day. Gave them a plain talk about America. At the end, as we
got familiar, they confessed that America _had_ sufficient reason for
her complaints against Great Britain.”

Writing from London a week later:

“Every man I meet who is on our side commends my determination to keep
quiet for the present. I do not mean in preaching, but public addresses
and public receptions. There _is_ but little favor for the North.
Whatever may be said, a narrow but intense jealousy is felt, and fear of
future rivalry....

”_London, July 7._—On Monday of this week (yesterday) I met a circle of
temperance men at a breakfast. It was private in this, that no reports
were to be made or published. I gave them a good talk on our affairs....
To-day a like meeting with a section of anti-slavery men.”

He attended the meeting. Of course he was expected to make some remarks,
and he did. He says, speaking of this incident: “Several speeches had
been made when I was called upon, and made a statement expressing my
indignation at the position of the Congregational clergy of England in
view of this war. They were men who were seeking to know the signs of
the times, and had as a whole body gone wrong and had virtually arrayed
themselves on the side of slavery and against liberty. I put my best leg
foremost, and, although I succeeded in making a favorable impression, I
saw that I was likely to be regarded as an enthusiast, and so determined
that I should clinch the arguments I had advanced with a speech from a
calm-minded man, and accordingly when I had concluded I said:
‘Gentlemen, Dr. John Raymond, president of Vassar College, is present
and will add a few views of his own.’ He was a cool man and not easily
excited, but his sympathies were with the Union, and when he had kindled
up to his work I sat and looked at him in perfect amazement. He went at
them like a hundred earthquakes, with a whirlwind thrown in. He made a
magnificent speech, of such towering indignation as I never have heard
before or since.”

The expectation that the speeches would not be reported was misplaced;
there appears to have been “a chiel amang us takin’ notes,” and the
substance of the speeches was quite fully reported the next day.

Almost immediately thereafter he crossed over to the Continent, and did
not return to England until the following September.

He remained strongly disinclined to make any formal addresses, though he
had been urged to speak in London, Liverpool, and Manchester on his

Writing from Switzerland, July 28, to Mrs. Stowe, he refers to the two
meetings in London, and his views regarding his return in the fall:

“My time in London, where I spent ten days, was, for the last six or
eight, spent in meeting private circles of gentlemen, and talking to
them like a father. I breakfasted with almost a hundred from the
Temperance Alliance, with seventy-five of the Congregational Liberty
Association, with forty or fifty at a soirée at Mr. Evans’s, president
of the Emancipation League, where Baptist Noel was the questioner, and I
responded for two hours. I hear since that great good was done, and at
the time there was elicited a great deal of confession from many that
they had been both ignorant and wrong. There was a universal and
vehement desire that I should arrange to speak in London, and elsewhere,
when I return to England in the autumn. If I see the way clear to do so,
these conferences will have opened the door effectually. Meanwhile I
shall wait and watch the development of things.... But let me tell you
that the root of all the conduct of England is simple and absolute
_fear_. I do not mean fear of a narrow and technical kind. But the
shadow that the future of our nation already casts is so vast that they
foresee they are falling into the second rank—that the will of the
Republic is to be the _law of the world_. There is no disguising of this
among Englishmen.

“I was told by Rev. Henry Allen, of London, eminent among the
Congregationalists, that they had long felt that a time must come when
England would have to take hold of us and curb our power, and that, now
that we were divided against ourselves, they rejoice to see their work
done for them. The Duke of Argyle distinctly recognized this feeling,
not in himself but in others. Roebuck openly avowed it in the House of
Commons. The papers on all hands abused him for it. But, in fact, it was
because _he spoke the truth_, which they were ashamed to have spoken so
boldly and openly. I met at Yungfrau a young Irishman, friendly, who
gave the same view of English feeling. Indeed, I have searched into it
and am thoroughly satisfied that it is mainly and deeply the dread of
our gigantic national development in the future, that has been coiled up
as the main-spring under all the other reasons, excuses, and
pretendings, and that has, consciously or unconsciously, moved the whole
mind of England. Against this what will reasoning or exposition avail?
Is there any _explanation_ that will make England ready to stand
_second_? Is there any way of stating our gigantic power that would lead
her to rejoice in it? I do not propose to pull wool over their eyes, nor
to play the sheep in any way. For I distinctly see the difficulty. I
know it to be unremovable, and all that can be done is to appeal to the
higher feelings of the Christian part of England, that the elect few, in
both countries, may hold fast the golden cords of love till God in His
own way shall have settled the future.”

As late as August 27 we find him still in doubt as to what he will do in
England; at that date he writes:

“When you read this, therefore, I shall probably be in London. I cannot
yet decide anything about my course in England. From a distance I do not
see any occasion or necessity for my squandering time there in

On his way back to England he passed through Brussels; while there he
paid his respects to the United States minister, Mr. Sandford. We give
his experience in his own words:

“In drawing near to England I went to Brussels, and at a dinner by our
American minister there, found him very much wavering as to our final
success. I expressed such sentiments, and expressed them so firmly, as
to lead him to wish that I should see King Leopold of Belgium, who was
considered the wisest sovereign in Europe, and to whom Queen Victoria
and others were accustomed to refer many questions for judgment or

“For the first and only time in my life I prepared myself for the
ordeal. But oh! consider it, ye that dwell at home, ye that sit at ease
among flowers and all pleasant things—consider my sufferings in a
_fashionable hat_, a white cravat, and a pair of white gloves! Yes, it
was even so! I reluctated, but Sandford plead; and as it was more for
his sake than my own that I consented to the interview at all, and also
because the king was very influential with all the sovereigns of Europe,
and especially with Victoria, and was pleased with attentions from
Americans, I took to myself a hat, cravat, and gloves, and in an open
barouche with two white horses, and Mr. Simmonds sitting by the side of
the driver, large as life, and most happy to be the courier of a party
called on in all the capitals by American ministers and consuls, and
_now_ going actually to see the king! Happy, happy Simmonds! The crowd
stared; the people gave way right and left; the royal guard at the
Governor’s House opened; we dismounted just at eleven (hat, cravat,
gloves, and all). A golden-laced official received us at the lower door
and jabbered French in our faces, which we answered by making for the
stairs beyond him. At the top two officers, much dressed, bowed and
seemed to be expecting us, showing us toward a pair of folding-doors
which, opening into the ante-room, revealed to us an aide-de-camp in
waiting, who took my card, walked softly to the next door, communed with
some one within, returned, and said that in a moment the king would
receive us.

“In a moment the door opened, a servant beckoned us, and we entered. A
tall man in full military uniform, blue, with eleven orders, crosses,
etc., on his left breast, with hair black (not his own), of a face quite
reverend, long, thin, somewhat corrugated, came towards us graciously
and paternally, bowed gently, and began a conversation of our travels,
of Europe, of America a _little_. Well, it was my duty, of course,
always to address him as ‘Sire,’ but I generally managed to call him
‘Sir’ with a hasty correction to ‘Sire.’

“After some conversation, in which he plainly intimated to me that he
would rejoice in bringing us to terms and peace again, all the while
intimating that the South could not be overcome, and that it would be
very wise for us to make a compromise, and that he would be entirely
willing to render service in that direction, I said to him: ‘Your
majesty’—I got it out once or twice right—‘if there were any ruling
sovereign in Europe to whom more than to another we should be glad to
refer this question, it would be to the king of Belgium, a judge among
nations and adviser among kings; but we do not propose to refer it to
any one. We are going to fight it out ourselves; the strongest will win
in our conflict, and so it must be settled.’

“Turning from that, he asked me what I thought of sending Maximilian to
Mexico—for at that time he had not been sent to be the emperor of this
new nation the Latins had established there; and, without suitable
diplomacy, I said to him: ‘Your majesty, any man that wants to sit upon
a throne in Mexico, I would advise to try Vesuvius first; if he can sit
there for a while, then he might go and try it in Mexico.’

“This very soon brought our conversation to a close. He bowed, we bowed.
He stepped back a step, we two, and, repeating the operation, we were
soon at the door and out of it.”

The next day finds Mr. Beecher at London. But a short time before, and
while in Paris, an event occurred that had a marked effect upon his
subsequent course in England and the results which he achieved. The news
came to him of the fall of Vicksburg and the repulse of Lee at

“Such a revulsion of feeling as I experienced myself, and such a
revulsion and intoning as all patriotic Americans experienced (for all
Americans were not patriotic; very largely they were commercial
cowards), from those tidings, one can scarcely imagine who was not there
to see. At this time I was staying in Paris at the Grand Hotel. It was
on a radiant Sunday, as I wended my way from the hotel to the church,
that the news came of the surrender of Vicksburg. No words can tell the
buoyancy, the awful sense of gladness that I had. I went into the house
of God and sat down in the pew of our minister to France, Mr. Dayton. By
my side sat his daughter. In a pause in the service I turned to Miss
Dayton and asked, ‘Have you heard the news?’ ‘No,’ said she, looking
earnestly at me. ‘_Vicksburg has fallen!_’ ‘_Is it true?_’ ‘Yes, be
sure.’ She answered me not a word, but turning to her companion, another
young lady, she whispered it to her, and both sat still as statues. The
hymn was given out, the music sounded, and she began to sing; but no
sooner had she opened her lips than, in a flood of tears, she buried her
face in her hands and wept for gladness and triumph. It overwhelmed her,
and it overwhelmed me too. And before the sun went down, yea, before the
sun was at noon, the other tidings came of the victory at Gettysburg;
and then my cup ran over. No man can tell how victoriously I walked. In
the ample court of the Grand Hotel there usually gathered a very large
company of Southern men, to whom my name was not savory; and day after
day, as I went out, they were wont to collect in one corner, and with
sneers and undisguised attempts at insult they met me as I came in and
went out, even sending contemptible messages to me by the servants
(which I never received, being intercepted at the office, although I
heard of them afterwards). But on that day when I heard that Lee had
been driven out of Pennsylvania and that Vicksburg had surrendered to
Grant, I put on my best coat, walked down-stairs and out into that court
to see how it fared with my brethren of the South; but, alas! they were
not there, not one of them. They, too, had heard something!

“The effect which these tidings produced throughout Great Britain was
immense. Before this no avowed friend of the North could go through the
Exchange in Liverpool without being looked at and watched, largely as
one would look at a bear escaped from a menagerie. My friend Charles
Duncan had scarcely been able to transact business without being
insulted at every step; when the good news came he went down into the
Exchange to look into the faces of these men that had been so insulting,
but there was not a man in the whole Exchange who had not been on our
side from the very beginning, and who had not always believed in us, in
our cause, and in our final victory! How wonderful are the workings of

“On returning to England representations were made to me which compelled
me to consent to a series of public speeches. Our friends said: ‘We have
sacrificed ourselves in your behalf, and have been counted as the
offscouring, because we had championed the cause of the North; and now
if you go home without making a recognition of our efforts we will be
overwhelmed.’ Aside from other considerations, I found that a movement
was on foot to induce Parliament to declare for the Southern
Confederacy. This they were very willing to do, but did not dare to
without the approval of the unvoting English, who held great power.
Steps had been taken by friends of the Southern cause to have orators go
through the manufacturing districts for the purpose of enlisting the
sympathies of the laboring classes.

“By projecting a series of meetings on the other side it was hoped that
this mischievous course might be baffled and forestalled. At first there
was thought of but a single speech, and that at Manchester. So soon as
it was known that there was to be such a meeting applications were made
from Glasgow, from Edinburgh, from Liverpool and London, for like
meetings in these places.”

                              CHAPTER XX.

Facing the Mob in Manchester—Glasgow—Edinburgh—Desperate Attempts to
    break Mr. Beecher down at Liverpool—Victory in London.

“After spending some days in the Lake district I went to Manchester to
meet the engagement there for October 9th. Great excitement existed; the
streets were placarded with vast posters, printed in blood-red,
appealing to the passions and even to the spirit of violence on the part
of the people. Threats resounded on every side. Both there and at
Liverpool afterwards it was declared that I should never come out of the
audience alive.

“I was met at the station by John Estcourt and young Watts, whose father
was Sir Something Watts and had the largest business house in Central
England. When they approached me I saw that there was something amiss,
and before I had proceeded twenty steps they let the cat out of the bag:
‘Of course you know there is a great deal of excitement here’—at the
same time pointing to placards printed in red letters, with which the
streets were flooded, denouncing the Northern cause and all its
advocates. I always feel happy when I hear of a storm, and I looked at
them and said: ‘Well, are you going to back down?’ ‘No,’ said they, ‘but
we didn’t know how you would feel.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘you’ll find out how
I’m going to feel. I’m going to be heard. I won’t leave England until I
have been heard.’

“The Free Trade Hall, I was informed, held from five to six thousand. It
was the purpose of our adversaries to break down my first speech in
England there, and prevent my being heard thereafter. All the great
papers of London and of the kingdom were represented. The tumult defies
description. No American audience, under any amount of excitement that I
have ever known, could be compared for one moment with the condition of
the audience at Manchester; and that was equalled, and surpassed even,
by the one subsequently at Liverpool. If one can imagine a shipmaster
giving orders to a mutinous crew in the midst of a tropical
thunder-storm, he will have some faint idea of the task that was on my

“Although in every speech I was obliged to rehearse substantially the
same general facts in regard to the questions at issue in America, yet
each speech had a field peculiar to itself. In Manchester I discussed
the effect of slavery upon manufacturing interests of the world, and
gave a history of the external political movement for fifty years past,
so far as it was necessary to illustrate the fact that the American war
was only an overt and warlike form of a contest between liberty and
slavery that had been going on politically for over half a century.”

After Mr. Beecher was introduced, and before he had fairly entered upon
his speech, the mob began to show its teeth, and in a few seconds there
was one unparalleled scene of riot and confusion. Mr. Beecher took the
measure of his audience, about one-fourth of whom only were against him,
but they made up in noise and tumult what they lacked in numbers. They
had been systematically bunched about the house, so as to make their
interruptions the more effective. He had come with his speech carefully
prepared in manuscript, but when the interruptions began he tossed the
paper to one side, and, stepping forward, with head erect, said: “My
friends, we will have a whole night’s session, but we will be heard.” It
was like attempting to preach a sermon through a trumpet in a howling
gale; but the press was well represented, and, bending forward, he said
to the reporters: “Gentlemen, be kind enough to take down what I say. It
will be in sections, but I will have it connected by and by.” The uproar
continued, and all sorts of insulting questions were hurled at the
speaker. The latter, however, had made up his mind to be heard, and he
was. He would wait until the noise had somewhat subsided, then,
arresting the attention of the audience by some witticism, he would take
advantage of the lull to give them some telling sentences. Finally,
after about an hour of speaking by fits and starts, the audience became
manageable. The English admire pluck, and they had an excellent example
of the article before them, and finally could not fail to show their
appreciation. His cool, determined appearance as he said, “I have many
times encountered similar opposition, and afterwards been heard; _I
shall be heard to-night_,” produced a marked effect, and in a short time
thereafter the vast assemblage was brought in perfect silence and into
full sympathy with the speaker. They listened during the remaining hour,
and were convinced; the next morning every paper in England printed the
entire speech.

Just as the speaker was drawing to a close, occurred a stirring incident
that strongly emphasized the effect of this speech. The chairman, taking
advantage of a slight pause, touched Mr. Beecher on the shoulder and
whispered a few words to him. The latter retired sufficiently to give
his place to the chairman, who, raising a paper which he held, said in a
distinct voice: “I hold in my hand a telegram just received from London,
stating that her Majesty has to-night caused the ‘broad arrow’ to be
placed on the rams in Mr. Laird’s yard at Birkenhead.” This meant the
stoppage of the ships which were being built for Confederate cruisers.
The effect was startling. The whole audience rose to its feet. Men
cheered and waved their hats, while women waved their handkerchiefs and

At the conclusion of his address the feeling of the audience, which a
short time previous had been a howling mob, can be best portrayed by the
following incident: A big, burly Englishman who was sitting in the
gallery, seeing that it would be impossible to reach Mr. Beecher to
shake hands with him, cried, “Shake my umbrella,” at the same time
reaching it down to him. Mr. Beecher complied with the request, and as
he did so the enthusiastic Englishman cried, “By Jocks! nobody sha’n’t
touch that umbrella again!” Hundreds of others, more fortunate, crowded
in to shake the speaker’s hand.

Of course it will be impossible, within our space, to give the speeches
entire, whilst an attempt at analysis would be like presenting a bony
skeleton bared of its flesh, omitting all that gave them life and
strength. But a few of the more striking passages from each speech may
not be uninteresting:[7]


Footnote 7:

  These speeches have been reprinted in full in “Patriotic Addresses,”
  by Messrs. Ford, Howard & Hulburt, of New York.


“I have not come to England to be surprised that those men whose cause
cannot bear the light are afraid of free speech. I have had practice of
more than twenty-five years, in the presence of tumultuous assemblies,
opposing those very men whose representatives now attempt to forestall
free speech. Little by little, I doubt not, I shall be permitted to
speak to-night. Little by little I have been permitted in my own country
to speak, until at last the day has come there, when nothing but the
utterance of speech for freedom is popular. You have been pleased to
speak of me as one connected with the great cause of civil and religious
liberty. I covet no higher honor than to have my name joined to the list
of that great company of noble Englishmen from whom we derived our
doctrines of liberty. For although there is some opposition to what are
here called American ideas, what are these American ideas? They are
simply English ideas bearing fruit in America. We bring back American
sheaves, but the seed corn we got in England; and if, on a larger sphere
and under circumstances of unobstruction, we have reared mightier
harvests, every sheaf contains the grain that has made Old England rich
for a hundred years....

“Allusion has been made by one of the gentlemen to words or deeds of
mine that might be supposed to be offensive to Englishmen. I am sure
that in the midst of this mighty struggle at home, which has taxed every
power and energy of our people, I have never stopped to measure and to
think whether my words, spoken in truth and with fidelity to duty, would
be liked in this shape or in that shape, by one or another person,
either in England or America. I have had one simple, honest purpose,
which I have pursued ever since I have been in public life, and that
was, with all the strength that God has given to me, to maintain the
cause of the poor and of the weak in my own country. And if, in the
height and heat of conflict, some words have been over-sharp and some
positions have been taken heedlessly, are you the men to call one to
account? What if some exquisite dancing-master, standing on the edge of
a battle where Richard Cœur de Lion swung his axe, criticised him by
saying that ‘his gestures and postures violated the proprieties of
polite life’? When dandies fight they think how they _look_, but when
_men_ fight they think only of _deeds_. But I am not here either on
trial or on defence. Here I am before you, willing to tell you what I
think about England or any person in it. The same agencies which have
been at work to misrepresent good men in our country to you, have been
at work to misrepresent to us good men here; and when I say to my
friends in America that I have attended such a meeting as this, received
such an address, and beheld such enthusiasm, it will be a renewed pledge
of amity. I have never ceased to feel that war, or even unkind feelings
between two such great nations, would be one of the most unpardonable
and atrocious offences that the world ever beheld, and I have regarded
everything, therefore, which needlessly led to those feelings out of
which war comes, as being in itself wicked. The same blood is in us. We
hold the same substantial doctrines. We have the same mission amongst
the nations of the earth. Never were mother and daughter set forth to do
so queenly a thing in the kingdom of God’s glory as England and America.
Do you ask why we are so sensitive, and why have we hewn England with
our tongue as we have? I will tell you why. There is no man who can
offend you so deeply as the one you love most.... Now (whether we
interpreted it aright or not is not the question), when we thought
England was seeking opportunity to go with the South against us of the
North, it hurt us as no other nation’s conduct could hurt us on the face
of the globe; and if we spoke some words of intemperate heat, we spoke
them in the mortification of disappointed affection. It has been
supposed that I have aforetime urged or threatened war with England.
Never! This I have said—and this I repeat now and here—that the cause of
constitutional government, and of universal liberty as associated with
it, in our country, was so dear, so sacred that, rather than betray it,
we would give the last child we had; that we would not relinquish this
conflict though other States rose and entered into a league with the
South; and that, if it were necessary, we would maintain this great
doctrine of representative government in America against the armed
world—against England and France.... We ask no help and no hindrance. We
do not ask for material aid. We shall be grateful for moral sympathy;
but if you cannot give us moral sympathy we shall still endeavor to do
without it. All that we say is, Let France keep away, let England keep
hands off; if we cannot manage this rebellion by ourselves, then let it
not be managed at all. We do not allow ourselves to doubt the issue of
this conflict. It is only a question of time. For such inestimable
principles as are at stake—of self-government, of representative
government, of any government at all, of free institutions rejected
because they inevitably will bring liberty to slaves unless subverted,
of national honor, and fidelity to solemn national trusts—for all these
war is waged; and if by war these shall be secured, not one drop of
blood will be wasted, not one life squandered. The suffering will have
purchased a glorious future of inconceivable peace and happiness! Nor do
we deem the result doubtful. The population is in the North and West.
The wealth is there. The popular intelligence of the country is there.
THERE _only_ is there an educated _common people_. The right doctrines
of civil government are with the North. It will not be long before one
thing more will be with the North—victory. Men on this side are
impatient at the long delay; but if we can bear it, can’t you? You are
quite at ease; we are not. You are not materially affected in any such
degree as many parts of our own land are. But if the day shall come in
one year, in two years, or in ten years hence, when the old stars and
stripes shall float over every State of America; if the day shall come
when that which was the accursed cause of this dire and atrocious
war—slavery—shall be done away; if the day shall have come when through
all the Gulf States there shall be liberty of speech, as there never has
been; when there shall be liberty of the press, as there never has been;
when men shall have common schools to send their children to, which they
never have had in the South; in short, if the day shall come when the
simple ordinances, the fruition and privileges, of civil liberty, shall
prevail in every part of the United States—it will be worth all the
dreadful blood and tears and woe. You are impatient; and yet God
dwelleth in eternity, and has an infinite leisure to roll forward the
affairs of men, not to suit the hot impatience of those who are but
children of a day and cannot wait or linger long, but according to the
infinite circle on which He measures time and events!...

“The institutions of America were shaped by the North; but the _policy_
of her government, for half a hundred years, by the South. All the
aggression and filibustering, all the threats to England and tauntings
of Europe, all the bluster of war which our government has assumed, have
been under the inspiration and under the almost monarchical sway of the
Southern oligarchy. And now, since Britain has in the past been snubbed
by the Southerners, and threatened by the Southerners, and domineered
over by the Southerners—yet now Great Britain has thrown her arms of
love around the Southerners, and turns from the Northerners. [A voice,
‘No.’] She don’t? I have only to say that she has been caught in very
suspicious circumstances. I speak as I have, perhaps as much as anything
else, to bring out from you this expression; to let _you_ know, what
_we_ know, that all the hostility felt in my country towards Great
Britain has been sudden, and from supposing that you sided with the
South and sought the breaking up of our country; and I want you to say
to me, and through me to my countrymen, that those irritations against
the North, and those likings for the South, that have been expressed in
your papers, are not the feelings of the great mass of your nation.
[Great cheering, the audience rising.] Those cheers already sound in my
ears as the coming acclamations of friendly nations; those waving
handkerchiefs are the white banners that symbolize peace for all
countries. Join with us, then, Britons. From you we learnt the doctrine
of what a man was worth; from you we learnt to detest all oppressions;
from you we learnt that it was the noblest thing a man could do TO DIE
FOR A RIGHT PRINCIPLE. And now, when we are set in that very course, and
are giving our best blood for these most sacred principles, let the
world understand that the common people of Great Britain support us....”

The attempt to “break Beecher down at his first speech” signally failed.
He had beaten the mob. He had made himself heard, and the full reports
of his speech were scattered throughout the entire kingdom. Many crude
misconceptions were corrected, not a few of his opponents were
converted, while many others were forced to admit that they had received
some new ideas respecting the North and the United States government. On
the 13th he spoke in Glasgow, where the blockade-runners were being
built, and where the laboring-classes were in some sense bribed by their
occupation in the shipyards. Here were discussed the effects of slavery
upon the welfare of the working-classes the world over, showing the
condition of work or labor necessitated by any profitable system of
slavery, demonstrating that it brought labor into contempt, affixing to
it the badge of degradation; that a struggle to extend servile labor
across the American continent interests every free workingman on the
globe, and that the Southern cause was the natural enemy of free labor
and the free laborer all the world over.

A strong Southern sentiment existed here, and the same attempt was made
as in Manchester to break the speaker down. The City Hall was crowded to
its utmost limits with friends and opponents. The opposition here was
neither so determined nor prolonged as at Manchester. His success there
had encouraged him while it discouraged them.

His opening sentences established a kindly bond between the hearers, so
devotedly attached to their own country, and the speaker. Their kindly
interest once aroused, it was not difficult to gain and keep their
sympathy throughout the speech. The unruly element was soon put down,
but little disturbance occurring after the first half-hour.

“No one who has been born and reared in Scotland can know the feeling
with which, for the first time, such a one as I have visited this land,
classic in song and in history. I have been reared in a country whose
history is brief. So vast is it that one might travel night and day for
all the week, and yet scarcely touch historic ground. Its history is yet
to be written; it is yet to be acted. But I come to this land, which,
though small, is as full of memories as the heaven is of stars, and
almost as bright. There is not the most insignificant piece of water
that does not make my heart thrill with some story of heroism or some
remembered poem; for not only has Scotland had the good fortune to have
had men that knew how to make heroic history, but she has reared those
bards who have known how to sing her histories.... I come to Scotland,
almost as a pilgrim would go to Jerusalem, to see those scenes whose
stories had stirred my imagination from my earliest youth; and I can pay
no higher compliment than to say that, having seen some part of
Scotland, I am satisfied; and permit me to say that if, when you know
me, you are a thousandth part as satisfied with me as I am with you, we
shall get along very well together. And yet, although I am not of a
yielding mood nor easily daunted, I have some embarrassment in speaking
to you to-night. I know very well that there are not a few things which
prevent my doing good work among you. I differ greatly from many of you.
I respect, although I will not adopt, your opinions. I can only ask as
much from you for myself. I am aware that a personal prejudice has been
diligently excited against me.... It is not a pleasant avenue to a
speech for a man to walk through himself. But since every pains is taken
to misrepresent me, let me once for all deal with that matter. In my own
land I have been the subject of misrepresentation and abuse so long that
when I did not receive it I felt as though something was wanting in the
atmosphere. I have been the object of misrepresentation at home simply
and only because I have been arrayed, ever since I had a voice to speak
and a heart to feel—body and soul I have been arrayed, without regard to
consequences, and to my own reputation or my own ease, against that
which I consider the damning sin of my country and the shame of human
nature—slavery. I thought I had a right, when I came to Great Britain,
to expect a different reception; but I found that the insidious
correspondence of men in America had poisoned the British mind, and that
representations had been made that I had indulged in the most offensive
language and had threatened all sorts of things against Great Britain.
Now, allow me to say that, having examined that interesting literature,
so far as I have seen it published in British newspapers, I here declare
that ninety-nine out of one hundred parts of those things that I am
charged with saying I never said and never thought—they are falsehoods
wholly and in particular. Allow me next to say that I have been
accustomed freely and at all times, at home, to speak what I thought to
be sober truth both of blame and of praise of Great Britain, and if you
do not want to hear a man express his honest sentiments fearlessly, then
I do not want to speak to you. If I never spared my own country, if I
never spared the American Church, nor the government, nor my own party,
nor my personal friends, did you expect I would spare you?... I have
heard the voice of my Master, saying, ‘If any man come unto Me and hate
not father, and mother, and brother, and sister, yea, and his own life
also, he is not worthy of Me.’ When, therefore, the cause of truth and
justice is put in the scale against my own country, I would disown
country for the sake of truth; and when the cause of truth and justice
is put in the scale against Great Britain, I would disown her rather
than betray what I understood to be the truth. _We are bound to
establish liberty_, regulated Christian liberty, _as the law of the
American Continent_. This is our destiny, this is that towards which the
education of the rising generation has been more and more assiduously
directed as the peculiar glory of America—to destroy slavery and root it
out of our land, and to establish in its place a discreet, intelligent,
constitutional, regulated Christian liberty.... I call your attention to
a few propositions, then, in reference to slavery as it exists in the
extreme Southern States. And, first, the system of slavery requires
ignorance in the slave, and not alone intellectual but moral and social
ignorance. Anybody who is a slaveholder will find that there are reasons
which will compel him to keep slaves in ignorance, if he is going to
keep them at all. Not because intelligence is more difficult to govern;
for with an intelligent people government is easier.... The slave would
not be less easily governed if he were educated. If the slaveholder
taught him to read and write, if he made him to know what he ought to
know as one of God’s dear children, the South would not be so much
endangered by insurrection as she is now. There is nothing so terrible
as explosive ignorance. Men without an idea, striking blindly and
passionately, are the men to be feared. Even if the slaves were educated
they would be better slaves. What is the reason, then, that slaves must
be kept in ignorance? The real reason is one of _expense_. In order to
make slave labor profitable you must reduce the cost of the slave; for
the difference between the profit and the loss turns upon the halfpenny
per pound. If the price of slaves goes up and cotton goes down a shade
in price, in ordinary times, the planters lose. The rule is, therefore,
to reduce the cost of the man; and the slave, to be profitable, must be
simply a working creature. What does a man cost that is a slave? Just a
little meal and a little pork, a small measure of the coarsest cloth and
leather—that is all he costs. Because that is all he needs—the lowest
fare and the scantiest clothing. He is a man with two hands, and two
feet, and a belly. That is all there is of a profitable slave. But every
new development within him which religion shall make—the sense of
fatherhood, the wish for a home, the desire to rear his children well,
the wish to honor and comfort his wife, every taste, every sentiment,
every aspiration—will demand some external thing to satisfy it. His
being augments. He demands more time.... Profitable slaveholding
requires only so much intelligence as will work well, and only so much
religion as will make men patient under suffering and abuse. More than
that—more conscience, more ambition, more divine ideas of human nature,
of men’s dignity, of household virtue, of Christian refinement—only
makes the slave too costly in his tastes. Not only does the degradation
of the slave pass over to his work, but it affects all labor, even when
performed by free white men. Throughout the South there is the most
marked public disesteem of honest homely industry.... But even in the
most favored portions of the South manual labor is but barely redeemed
from the taint of being a slave’s business, and nowhere is it honored as
it is in the great and free North. Whereas, in the richer and more
influential portions of the South, labor is so degraded that men are
ashamed of it. It is a badge of dishonor. The poor and shiftless whites,
unable to own slaves, unwilling to work themselves, live in a precarious
and wretched manner but a little removed from barbarism, relying upon
the chase for much of their subsistence, and affording a melancholy
spectacle of the condition into which the reflex influence of slavery
throws the neighboring poor whites. Having turned their own industry
over to slaves, and established the province and duties of a gentleman
to consist of indolence and politics, it is not strange that they hold
the people of the North in great contempt. The North is a vast hive of
universal industry. Idleness there is as disreputable as is labor in the
South. The child’s earliest lesson is faithful industry. The boy works,
the man works. Everywhere through all the North men earn their own
living by their own industry and ingenuity. They scorn to be dependent.
They revolt at the dishonor of living upon the unrequited labor of
others. Honest labor is that highway along which the whole body of the
Northern people travel towards wealth and usefulness. From Northern
looms the South is clothed, from their anvils come all Southern
implements of labor, from their shops all modern ware, from their lasts
Southern shoes. The North is growing rich by its own industry. No
wonder, then, that Southerners have been wont to deride the free workmen
of the North. Governor Hammond only gave expression to the universal
contempt of Southern slaveholders for _work_ and workmen when he called
the Northern laborer the ‘_mudsill of society_,’ and stigmatized the
artisan as the ‘greasy mechanic.’ The North and South alike live by
work: the North by their own work, the South by that of their slaves!
Which is the more honorable? I have a right to demand of the workmen of
Glasgow that they should refuse their sympathy to the South, and should
give their hearty sympathy to those who are, like themselves, seeking to
make work honorable and to give to the workman his true place in
society. Disguise it as they will, distract your attention from it as
they may, it cannot be concealed that the American question is the
_workingman’s question_ all over the world! The slavemaster’s doctrine
is _that capital should own labor_—that the employers should own the
employed. This is Southern doctrine and Southern practice. Northern
doctrine and Northern practice is that the laborer should be free,
intelligent, clothed with full citizen’s rights, with a share of the
political duties and honors. The North has from the beginning crowned
labor with honor. Nowhere else on earth is it so honorable.”

On the following evening, October 14, he spoke in Edinburgh. The crowd,
that packed the hall and completely blocked the entrances, was so vast
that it very nearly deprived the meeting of both chairman and speaker.
With great difficulty they managed to struggle through and finally
reached the platform. Edinburgh being a centre of refinement and
learning, Mr. Beecher aimed to give some idea of the philosophy of
slavery, showing, how, out of separate colonies and States intensely
jealous of their individual sovereignty, there grew up and was finally
established a nation; and how, in that nation of united States, the
distinct and antagonistic systems were developed and strove for the
guidance of the national policy, which struggle at length passed and the
North gained the control. Thereupon the South abandoned the Union,
simply and solely because the government was in future to be
administered by men who would give their whole influence to freedom.
Comparatively speaking, but little opposition was encountered at this
meeting. At the outset some disturbance was attempted, but the temper of
the audience was opposed to the unruly ones and they were soon quieted.
The speech produced a marked impression, the resolution and vote of
thanks being carried with “loud and prolonged applause.” We give a few
extracts from it:

“During the last fifteen years I believe you cannot find a voice,
printed or uttered, in the cotton States of the South, which deplored
slavery. All believed in and praised it, and found authority for it in
God’s Word. Politicians admired it, merchants appreciated it, the whole
South sang pæans to the newfound truth that man was born to be owned by
man. This change of doctrine made it certain that the South would be
annoyed and irritated by a Constitution which, with all its faults,
still carried the God-given principle of human rights, which were not to
be taken by man except in punishment for crime. That Constitution, and
the policy which went with it at first, began to gnaw at, and irritate,
and fret the South when they had adopted slavery as a doctrine. How
could they live in peace under a Constitution that all the time declared
the manhood of men and the dignity of freedom? It became necessary that
they should do one of two things, either give up slavery or appropriate
the government to themselves, and in some way or other drain out of the
Constitution this venom of liberty and infuse a policy more in harmony
with Southern ideas. They took the latter course. They contrived to
possess themselves of the government; and for the last fifty years the
policy of the country has been Southern. Was a tariff wanted? It was
made a Southern tariff. Was a tariff oppressive? The Southerners
overthrew it. Was a tariff wanted again? The Southern policy declared it
to be necessary, and it was passed. Was more territory wanted? The South
must have its way. Was any man to obtain a place? If the South opposed
it he had no chance whatever. For fifty years most of the men who became
judges, who sat in the presidential chair and in the courts, had to base
their opinions on slavery or on Southern views. All the filibustering,
all the intimidations of foreign powers, all the so-called snubbing of
European powers, happened during the period in which the policy of the
country was controlled by the South. May I be permitted to look on it as
a mark of victorious Christianity that England now loves her worst
enemy, and is sitting with arms of sympathy round her neck? The man who
was an Abolitionist when I was twenty-one years of age might bid
farewell to any hopes of political advancement; and the merchant who
held these opinions was soon robbed of customers. As far as I remember,
there was nothing in the world that so ruined a man—not crime itself was
so fatal to a man’s standing in the country—as to be known to hold
abolition sentiments. The churches sought to keep the question of
slavery out; so did the schools and colleges; so did synods and
conventions. But still the cause of abolition progressed; and still, as
is always the case with everything that is right, though the men who
held those sentiments were scoffed at, though such men as Garrison were
dragged through the streets with halters round their necks, yet the more
it was spoken of and canvassed the more the cause prospered, because it
was true. The insanity at last abated; for the command came from on High
saying to the evil spirit concerning the North: ‘I command thee to come
out of her.’ Then the nation wallowed on the ground and foamed at the
mouth; but the unclean spirit passed out, and she became clean. The more
some people wanted to keep down this subject and keep out the air, the
more God forced the subject on their minds. When Missouri knocked at the
door there were those who opposed its admission as a slave State, but by
Southern management and intimidation Henry Clay persuaded the North to a
compromise. Now, when there is no difference in principle, but only
conflicting interests, a compromise is honorable and right; but when
antagonistic principles are in question I believe compromises to be
bargains with the devil, who is never cheated.... We do not want to
quarrel; we do not want animosity between Great Britain and America. No
man has spoken of Great Britain words of praise and blame with more
honest heart than I have. That man is not your friend who dares not
speak of your faults to your face. The man that is your friend, tells
you when he thinks you are wrong; and whether I am right or wrong, I
assert that in giving moral sympathy largely to the South, and, above
all, in allowing the infamous traffic of your ports with the rebels,
thus strengthening the hands of the slaveholders—and that without public
rebuke—you have done wrong. I have said this because, dear as your
country is to us, precious as were the legacies given to us of learning
and religion, and proud as we have been for years past to think of our
ancestry and common relationship to you, yet so much dearer to us than
kindred is the cause of God that, if Great Britain sets herself against
us, we shall not hesitate one moment on her account, but shall fulfil
our mission! ... I have a closing word to speak. It is our duty in
America, by every means in our power, to avoid all cause of irritation
with every foreign nation, and with the English nation most especially.
On your side it is your duty to avoid all irritating interference, and
all speech that tends to irritate. Brothers should be brothers all the
world over, and you are of our blood, and we are of your lineage. May
that day be far distant when Great Britain and America shall turn their
backs on each other and seek an alliance with other nations! The day is
coming when the foundations of the earth will be lifted out of their
places; and there are two nations that ought to be found shoulder to
shoulder and hand in hand for the sake of Christianity and universal
liberty, and these nations are Great Britain and America.”

The effect of these three speeches was being very widely felt. It looked
at first as though the backbone of opposition had been broken.

This pleasant impression was soon dispelled. The mob spirit was not
dead; it was only resting and gaining breath for a final and more
desperate effort.

The next speech was to be in Liverpool on the 16th, at the great
Philharmonic Hall.

Liverpool was the headquarters of the Southern sympathizers. A great
many Southern men were there.

The feeling was very strong that if Mr. Beecher should succeed there he
would carry the day. A determined and desperate effort was to be made,
at any cost, to prevent the delivery of the speech.

The streets were placarded with abusive and scurrilous placards, often
posted over the notices of the meeting, couched in the most inflammatory
language, urging that “Englishmen see that he gets the welcome he
deserves.” On the morning of the 16th the leading papers came out with
violent editorials against Mr. Beecher, full of falsehoods and
misquotations from his speeches. Every art was resorted to to work the
passion of the mob up to the point of violence.

We quote a brief extract from the Liverpool _Courier_ of that date:

“The visit of Mr. Henry Ward Beecher to Liverpool to-night is not likely
to do the Federal cause much service in this neighborhood. His views on
slavery are too violent and unreasonable to meet with much favor from
thoughtful people; and even those who earnestly desire the freedom of
the Southern slaves would not consent to adopt the extreme, sanguinary
principles enunciated by Mr. Beecher.... But, apart from his abolition
doctrines, Mr. Beecher, unless he has been greatly misrepresented, has
displayed the most intense hatred of Great Britain, and has vilified the
British people in a disgraceful manner. He was most violent in his
denunciations of England during the never-to-be-forgotten _Trent_
affair, and if his views had been adopted the two great Anglo-Saxon
peoples would have been plunged into war. When he said, ‘The best blood
of England must flow for the outrage England had perpetrated upon
America,’ he used language unbecoming a man, still more a professing
preacher of the Gospel. Yet the person who could thus insult the British
nation has now the audacity to come amongst us to lecture us on American
politics. Such conduct evidences unbounded impudence and little
discretion, and can only be explained by the assumption that he is the
accredited emissary of the Federal government.”

It was openly declared that if he should dare to address the meeting he
would never leave the hall alive—a threat believed to have been
sincerely made, with the fullest intention of fulfilment. The friends of
Mr. Beecher were greatly alarmed, many advising him not to attend the

He was fully conscious of the risk that he ran, and knew that to be
present was to carry his life in his hand. During the whole day he was
under the shadow of a black cloud. He was plunged into the depths of
despondency. _He was going to the meeting_, but would he leave it alive?
Could he make himself heard? Must he fail now that he was on the very
verge of success? These and similarly anxious thoughts tormented him
throughout the day. No light illumined the darkness of his soul until,
having left the hotel, he was on his way to the hall; then, he says,
suddenly a great light burst in upon him, and, night though it was, it
seemed as if the whole heavens blazed with light like the noonday. Fears
and anxious doubts disappeared like mists before the morning sun. A
great peace settled down upon him, and as he entered the hall he was
filled with the certainty of succeeding.

It was well known that the mob was armed; it was not so well known that
a small but determined band of young men, occupying a commanding
position to the right of the platform, were also armed, determined, if
any dangerous outbreak occurred, to protect Mr. Beecher at all hazards.
Mr. Beecher himself was in ignorance of the fact until some days later.
Happily nothing more serious than noise was developed, the cool and
determined appearance of the speaker and the earnest demonstration by
the majority present seeming to discourage a resort to violence.

The speech was devoted to a discussion of the relation of slavery to
commerce, showing that, in the long run, it was as hostile both to
commerce and manufactures the world over as it was to free interests in
human society; that a slave nation must be a poor customer, buying the
poorest and fewest goods, and the least profitable to the producers;
that it was the interest of every manufacturing country to promote
freedom, intelligence, and wealth amongst all nations; that the attempt
to cover the fairest portion of the globe with a slave population that
buys nothing, and a degraded white population that buys next to nothing,
should array against it every political economist and every thoughtful
and far-seeing manufacturer, as tending to strike at the vital wants of
commerce, which was not cotton but rich customers.

It would be impossible for tongue or pen adequately to describe the
scenes at the meeting. The great hall was packed to the crushing point.
The mob was out in force, with lungs in good working order and a
disposition to use them to the best advantage.

Manchester and Glasgow were love-feasts in comparison.

We give an attempt at description from one of the Liverpool papers:

“For several days before the meeting it was understood that efforts
would be made to create a disturbance.

“For some moments before the time fixed for the commencement of the
proceedings, cat-calls, groans, cheers, hisses, etc., were freely
indulged in, and it was evident that a strong force of the pro-Southern
(or at least of the anti-Beecher) party had congregated in front of the
gallery and at the lower end of the body of the hall. The _début_ of the
Rev. Mr. Beecher was, judging from the frequently manifested impatience
of the audience, awaited with intense interest. Several occupants of
seats in the upper gallery loudly insisted upon somebody bringing him
out; and when the reverend gentleman did step on the platform, the
enthusiasm of his friends and the indignation of his opponents were
almost indescribable. Cheer rolled after cheer with deafening effect,
and, in the brief pauses between each hurrah, hisses fell upon the ear
with a sound like that of a falling torrent. The uproar was maintained
so long that the chairman, Mr. Robertson, determined not to await the
abatement of the storm, but to try to subdue it by a few judicious
words. He was only partly successful until he appealed to the audience
as Englishmen to stand up for fair play and not to withhold justice from
a stranger.

“Mr. Beecher’s introduction surprised though it did not disconcert that
gentleman. He was evidently prepared for some opposition; but he could
hardly have expected that his appearance at the front of the platform,
would rouse one portion of the audience to a high state of enthusiasm,
and cause the other portion to approach almost a state of frenzy. For
some time it was doubtful whether the celebrated Abolitionist would be
allowed to speak; but those who sat near the reverend gentleman, and
observed his firmly-compressed lips and imperturbable demeanor, saw at
once that it would require something more than noise and spasmodic
hisses to cause Mr. Beecher to lose heart. He stood calmly at the edge
of the platform, a representation of ‘patience smiling at grief,’ and a
simile of sincerity, battling tacitly but successfully with opposition.
One of the two must sooner or later give way, and no one who scrutinized
Mr. Beecher’s features could imagine that he would be the first to
become tired. At last there was a lull; clergymen and ladies ceased to
wave their umbrellas and handkerchiefs, the torrent of hisses became
less perceptible, and the chairman made another appeal to the meeting
for fair play to Mr. Beecher. His assurance that an opportunity would be
offered, after Mr. Beecher had concluded his address, to persons who
wished to ask the reverend gentleman questions, was not very favorably
received, and a series of disturbances ensued. Cries of ‘Turn him out!’
were heard in various parts of the hall, and efforts were made to eject
some members of the unruly party. When the scuffling had partly
subsided, the chairman expressed his determination to preserve order by
calling in, if necessary, the aid of the police. This announcement
produced something like order, and Mr. Beecher took up the advantage and
commenced his address. The interruptions were incessant, while a scene
prevailed the equal of which has seldom been witnessed in Liverpool.
‘Three cheers for Jeff. Davis!’ was a proposal which once more met with
a hearty response from a portion of the audience; and as the admirers of
the Confederate President were loath to cease their expressions of
approval, Mr. Beecher composedly sat down on the low parapet of the
platform and awaited a calm, at the same time apologizing to the
reporters for causing them to be so long detained. At one time, about a
score of persons were speaking in various parts of the hall, and Mr.
Beecher, as a last resource, said that if the meeting would not hear him
he would address the reporters. From the gallery were suspended placards
on which the words, ‘Who is Henry Ward Beecher?’ were conspicuous; and,
taken all in all, the scene was one of complete disorder. Mr. Beecher
repeatedly declared that it was not new to him; but he admitted that his
struggle for an hour and a half against the prevailing disorder had
caused his voice to fail. So far, indeed, had his voice suffered that he
was compelled, in concluding, to declare that he could not answer any
questions unless perfect order prevailed. He did reply, in comparative
peace, to one or two written interrogatories; but, the disturbance being
renewed, Mr. Beecher sat down.”

A few quotations from this speech will not only give an idea of the line
of Mr. Beecher’s argument, but, by retaining the interruptions as
indicated by the reports in the next day’s papers, will also to some
extent show the conditions under which the speech was delivered.

“For more than twenty-five years I have been made perfectly familiar
with popular assemblies in all parts of my country except the extreme
South. There has not for the whole of that time been a single day of my
life when it would have been safe for me to go south of Mason and
Dixon’s line in my own country, and all for one reason: my solemn,
earnest, persistent testimony against that which I consider to be the
most atrocious thing under the sun—the system of American slavery in a
great, free republic. [Cheers.] I have passed through that early period
when right of free speech was denied to me. Again and again I have
attempted to address audiences that, for no other crime than that of
free speech, visited me with all manner of contumelious epithets; and
now since I have been in England, although I have met with greater
kindness and courtesy on the part of most than I deserved, yet, on the
other hand, I perceive that the Southern influence prevails to some
extent in England. [Applause and uproar.] It is my old acquaintance; I
understand it perfectly [laughter], and I have always held it to be an
unfailing truth that where a man had a cause that would bear examination
he was perfectly willing to have it spoken about. [Applause.] And when
in Manchester I saw those huge placards, ‘Who is Henry Ward Beecher?’
[laughter, cries of ‘Quite right,’ and applause], and when in Liverpool
I was told that there were those blood-red placards, purporting to say
what Henry Ward Beecher had said, and calling upon Englishmen to
suppress free speech—I tell you what I thought; I thought simply this:
‘I am glad of it.’ [Laughter.] Why? Because if they had felt perfectly
secure that _you_ are the minions of the South and the slaves of
slavery, they would have been perfectly still. [Applause and uproar.]
... And, therefore, when I saw so much nervous apprehension that if I
were permitted to speak [hisses and applause]—when I found they were
afraid to have me speak [hisses, laughter, and ‘No, no’]; when I found
that they considered my speaking damaging to their cause [applause];
when I found that they appealed from facts and reasonings to mob law
[applause and uproar], I said: No man need tell me what the heart and
secret counsel of these men are. They tremble and are afraid. [Applause,
laughter, hisses, ‘No, no,’ and a voice: ‘New York mob.’] Now,
personally, it is a matter of very little consequence to me whether I
speak here to-night or not. [Laughter and cheers.] But one thing is very
certain—if you do permit me to speak here to-night you will hear very
plain talking. [Applause and hisses.] You will not find a man
[interruption]—you will not find me to be a man that dared to speak
about Great Britain 3,000 miles off, and then is afraid to speak to
Great Britain when he stands on her shores. [Immense applause and
hisses.] And if I do not mistake the tone and the temper of Englishmen,
they had rather have a man who opposes them in a manly way [applause
from all parts of the hall] than a sneak that agrees with them in an
unmanly way. [Applause and ‘Bravo.’] Now, if I can carry you with me by
sound convictions, I shall be immensely glad [applause]; but if I cannot
carry you with me by facts and sound arguments, I do not wish you to go
with me at all; and all that I ask is simply FAIR PLAY. [Applause, and a
voice: ‘You shall have it, too.’] Those of you who are kind enough to
wish to favor my speaking—and you will observe that my voice is slightly
husky, from having spoken almost every night in succession for some time
past—those who wish to hear me will do me the kindness simply to sit
still and to keep still; and I and my friends the Secessionists will
make all the noise. It is just as important to have customers educated,
intelligent, moral, and rich out of Liverpool as it is in Liverpool.
[Applause.] They are able to buy; they want variety, they want the very
best; and those are the customers you want. That nation is the best
customer that is freest, because freedom works prosperity, industry, and
wealth. Great Britain, then, aside from moral considerations, has a
direct commercial and pecuniary interest in the liberty, civilization,
and wealth of every people and every nation on the globe. [Loud
applause.] You have also an interest in this, because you are a moral
and a religious people. [‘Oh! oh!’ laughter, and applause.] You desire
it from the highest motives; and godliness is profitable in all things,
having the promise of the life that is, as well as of that which is to
come; but if there were no hereafter, and if man had no progress in this
life, and if there were no question of civilization at all, it would be
worth your while to protect civilization and liberty, merely as a
commercial speculation. To evangelize has more than a moral and
religious import—it comes back to temporal relations. Wherever a nation
that is crushed, cramped, degraded under despotism is struggling to be
free, you, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Paisley, all have an interest
that that nation should be free. When depressed and backward people
demand that they may have a chance to rise—Hungary, Italy, Poland—it is
a duty for humanity’s sake, it is a duty for the highest moral motives,
to sympathize with them; but beside all these there is a material and
interested reason why you should sympathize with them. Pounds and pence
join with conscience and with honor in this design. Now, Great Britain’s
chief want is—what? They have said that your chief want is cotton. I
deny it. Your chief want is consumers. [Applause and hisses.] ... Now,
there is in this a great and sound principle of political economy.
[‘Yah! yah!’ from the passage outside the hall, and loud laughter.] If
the South should be rendered independent—[at this juncture mingled
cheering and hisses became immense; half the audience rose to their
feet, waving hats and handkerchiefs, and in every part of the hall there
was the greatest commotion and uproar.] You have had your turn now; now
let me have mine again. [Loud applause and laughter.] It is a little
inconvenient to talk against the wind; but, after all, if you will just
keep good-natured—I am not going to lose my temper; will you watch
yours? [Applause.] Besides all that, it rests me, and gives me a chance,
you know, to get my breath. [Applause and hisses.] And I think that the
bark of those men is worse than their bite. They do not mean any
harm—they don’t know any better. [Loud laughter, applause, hisses, and
continued uproar.] What will be the result if this present struggle
shall eventuate in the separation of America, and making the South [loud
applause, hisses, hooting, and cries of ‘Bravo!’] a slave territory
exclusively [cries of ‘No, no,’ and laughter], and the North a free
territory—what will be the first result? You will lay the foundation for
carrying the slave population clear through to the Pacific Ocean. There
is not a man that has been a leader of the South any time within these
twenty years that has not had this for a plan. Never have they for a
moment given up the plan of spreading the American institutions, as they
call them, straight through towards the West, until the slave who has
washed his feet in the Atlantic shall be carried to wash them in the
Pacific. [Cries of ‘Question!’ and uproar.] There! I have got that
statement out, and you cannot put it back. [Laughter and applause.] ...
Now, here are twelve millions of people, and only one-third of them are
customers that can afford to buy the kind of goods that you bring to
market. [Interruption and uproar.] My friends, I saw a man once, who was
a little late at a railway station, chase an express-train. He did not
catch it. [Laughter.] If you are going to stop this meeting you have got
to stop it before I speak; for after I have got the things out you may
chase as long as you please—you will not catch them. [Laughter and
interruption.] But there is luck in leisure; I’m going to take it easy.
[Laughter.] Two-thirds of the population of the Southern States to-day
are non-purchasers of English goods. [A voice, ‘No, they are not,’ ‘No,
no,’ and uproar.] And if by sympathy or help you establish a slave
empire, you sagacious Britons [‘Oh! oh!’ and hooting]—if you like it
better, then, I will leave the adjective out [laughter, hear, and
applause]—you will be busy in favoring the establishment of an empire
from ocean to ocean that should have fewest customers and the largest
non-buying population. [Applause; ‘No, no.’] ... It was the South that
obliged the North to put the tariff on. [Applause and uproar.] Just as
soon as we begin to have peace again and can get our national debt into
a proper shape, as you have got yours [laughter], the same cause that
worked before will begin to work again; and there is nothing more
certain in the future than that the American is bound to join with Great
Britain in the world-wide doctrine of free-trade. [Applause and
interruption.] Here, then, so far as _this_ argument is concerned, I
rest my case, saying that it seems to me that in an argument addressed
to a commercial people it was perfectly fair to represent that their
commercial and manufacturing interests tallied with their moral
sentiments; and as by birth, by blood, by history, by moral feeling, and
by everything, Great Britain is connected with the liberty of the world,
God has joined interest and conscience, head and heart, so that you
ought to be in favor of liberty everywhere. [Great applause.] There! I
have got quite a speech out already, if I do not get any more. [Hisses
and applause.] ...

“It is said that the North is fighting for Union, and not for
emancipation. The North is fighting for Union, because we never shall
forget the testimony of our enemies. They have gone off declaring that
the Union in the hands of the North was fatal to slavery. [Loud
applause.] There is testimony in court for you. [A voice, ‘See that,’
and laughter.] We are fighting for the Union, because we believe that
preamble which explains the very reason for which the Union was
constituted. I will read it. ‘We’—not the States—‘We, the people of the
United States, in order to form a more perfect NATION’ [uproar]—I don’t
wonder you don’t want to hear it [laughter]—‘in order to form a more
perfect NATION, establish justice, assure domestic tranquillity
[uproar], provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare,
and secure the blessings of LIBERTY [‘oh! oh!’] to ourselves and our
posterity, ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States
of America.’ [A voice: ‘How many States?’] It is for the sake of that
justice, that common welfare, and that liberty for which the National
Union was established, that we fight for the Union. [Interruption.]
Because the South believed that the Union was against slavery, they left
it. [Renewed interruption.] Gentlemen, I have travelled in the West ten
or twelve hours at a time in the mud knee-deep. It was hard toiling my
way, but I always got through my journey. I feel to-night as though I
were travelling over a very muddy road; but I think I shall get through.
[Cheers.] ... In the first place, I am ashamed to confess that such was
the thoughtlessness [interruption], such was the stupor of the North
[renewed interruption]—you will get a word at a time; to-morrow will let
folks see what it is you don’t want to hear—that for a period of
twenty-five years she went to sleep, and permitted herself to be drugged
and poisoned with the Southern prejudice against black men. [Applause
and uproar.] ... When I was twelve years old my father hired Charles
Smith, a man as black as lampblack, to work on his farm. I slept with
him in the same room. [‘Oh! oh!’] Ah! that don’t suit you. [Uproar.]
Now, you see, the South comes out. [Loud laughter.] I ate with him at
the same table; I sang with him out of the same hymn-book [‘Good’]; I
cried when he prayed over me at night; and if I had serious impressions
of religion early in life, they were due to the fidelity and example of
that poor humble farm-laborer, black Charles Smith. [Tremendous uproar
and cheers.] ... There is another fact that I wish to allude to—not for
the sake of reproach or blame, but by way of claiming your more lenient
consideration—and that is, that slavery was entailed upon us by your
action. [Hear, hear.] Against the earnest protests of the colonists the
then government of Great Britain—I will concede not knowing what were
the mischiefs—ignorantly, but in point of fact, forced slave-traffic on
the unwilling colonists. [Great uproar, in the midst of which one
individual was lifted up and carried out of the room amidst cheers and
hisses.] ... We do not agree with the recent doctrine of neutrality as a
question of law. But it is past, and we are not disposed to raise that
question. We accept it now as a fact, and we say that the utterance of
Lord Russell at Blairgowrie [applause, hisses, and a voice, ‘What about
Lord Brougham?’], together with the declaration of the government in
stopping war-steamers here [great uproar and applause], has gone far
towards quieting every fear and removing every apprehension from our
minds. [Uproar and shouts of applause.] And now in the future it is the
work of every good man and patriot not to create divisions, but to do
the things that will make for peace. [‘Oh! oh!’ and laughter.] On our
part it shall be done. [Applause and hisses, and ‘No, no.’] On your part
it ought to be done; and when, in any of the convulsions that come upon
the world, Great Britain finds herself struggling single-handed against
the gigantic powers that spread oppression and darkness [applause,
hisses, and uproar], there ought to be such cordiality that she can turn
and say to her first-born and most illustrious child, ‘Come!’ [Hear,
hear, applause, tremendous cheers, and uproar.] I will not say that
England cannot again, as hitherto, single-handed manage any power
[applause and uproar]; but I will say that England and America together
for religion and liberty [a voice, ‘Soap, soap,’ uproar, and great
applause] are a match for the world. [Applause; a voice, ‘They don’t
want any more soft soap.’]”

Thus in the wildest confusion, little by little, a few sentences at a
time, the speech was delivered. For nearly three hours the fight was
kept up, until at last the speech was done. Although the mob was not
quieted—it did not come there for that purpose—yet the speech _was_
delivered, and, what was more to the point, was printed verbatim in the
morning’s papers. The mob wholly failed to accomplish their object. It
did not break down Mr. Beecher.

Four days later the concluding speech of the series was to be delivered
at Exeter Hall, London. The great metropolis was the centre of political
thought and influence. It was of great importance that the London speech
should be a success, and to that end that the speaker should be in good
condition himself.

But the constant strain upon his voice in his efforts to be heard in the
first three speeches, culminating in the prolonged struggle at
Liverpool, where his strength had been taxed to the uttermost, had at
last gone beyond even his powers of endurance. The day before the London
speech his voice failed him; by night he could not speak above a
whisper. Voiceless, he was helpless. When he first realized the truth he
was for a moment overwhelmed. To fail in London was, in very large
measure, to lose the ground so hardly gained.

“I felt all day Monday that I was coming to London to speak to a public
audience, but my voice was gone; and I felt as though about to be made a
derision to my enemies, to stand up before a multitude and be unable to
say a word. It would have been a mortification to any one’s natural
pride. I asked God to restore me my voice, as a child would ask its
father to grant it a favor. But I hoped that God would grant me His
grace to enable me, if it was necessary for the cause that I should be
put to open shame, to stand up as a fool before the audience. I said:
‘Lord, Thou knowest this. Let it be as Thou wilt.’”

Rest being of the first importance, he retired early, and, having
wrapped his throat in wet bandages, dismissed all further thought of the
morrow and slept.

In the morning waking refreshed, the first thought that came to him was,
“Can I speak?” For a while he lay silent, fearing the attempt. First he
tried a low whisper, then louder, finally spoke out. His voice had
returned, not in its old strength, yet strong enough to use. Now his
exaltation was as great as twelve hours before had been his depression.

The night came, and with it increased strength, fully sufficient for the
work before him.

In this speech slavery was discussed in its moral relations. Of the
meeting we quote briefly from the published account of an eye-witness:

“In the five great speeches which Mr. Beecher has made in England and
Scotland on the American question, before vast audiences, he has taken
care to observe a system of selection which has brought before the
country all the great salient points of the American war. He has not
repeated himself, but met the Confederate sympathizers here, upon every
field which they had chosen for their own advantage. But the grand
climax of all his efforts was that which was made at Exeter Hall last
night, before a crowd as great as ever gathered into that immense hall,
and which, despite the persistent efforts of the opposition to destroy
the meeting and its effect, made a mark upon English opinion which must
prove of the utmost importance.

“Mr. Beecher’s strokes in other cities of the kingdom having invariably
drawn blood from the hides of the Confederate sympathizers here, it was
plain that they had determined to meet with yells and uproar what they
could not meet with argument. That an organized opposition was
contemplated was not concealed. During all yesterday, posters were
scattered through the length and breadth of the city, making all kinds
of charges of a personal character against him, abounding in fictitious
and distorted quotations from discourses and lectures delivered by him
in old times. It had been considered of prime importance to the
Confederate cause here that Lord Russell’s assertion at Blairgowrie,
that the moral sympathies of the English people were adverse to the
Southern cause, should be disproved; and it was hoped, through personal
assaults upon Mr. Beecher, to injure the effect of the meeting, and then
claim it in as the verdict of London in favor of the Southern

“At an early hour the hall was crowded to overflowing, and there was
evidence, too, that they were orderly men and women, who, whether
sympathizing with the North or not, had come to hear a fair discussion
of the question which concerns all, and were determined to secure fair
play. The crowd outside in the Strand and Exeter Street was enormous,
and consisted chiefly of the opposition. One of the committee came in
smilingly, and said: ‘Our shilling admission-fee has filtered the crowd.
The Southern sympathizer is always a man who looks hard at a shilling
before he parts with it, and then don’t part with it.’ Yet it was known
that in two or three sections of the house there were parties who meant

“When Beecher arose there were five minutes of the most tremendous
cheering that I have ever witnessed. Wave after wave, as of a tumultuous
sea of sound, came thundering up from the gallery at one end to the
organ at the other, in the midst of which stood Mr. Beecher, calm as a
rock in the midst of the surges. A hiss was then begun, but at his first
word it sank back into the diaphragms of those who uttered or meant to
utter it. The first glance and the self-possessed manner of the man told
plainly that he had something to say in Exeter Hall that night, and that
he meant to be heard.

“Mr. Beecher’s voice was scarcely as sonorous and clear as it usually
is, and all recognized that this was natural after the many speeches in
immense halls which he had given during the week. ‘I expect to be
hoarse,’ he said, ‘and I am willing to be hoarse if I can in any way
assist to bring the mother and daughter heart to heart and hand to hand
together.’ This sentiment was received with great applause; and
Beecher’s hoarseness was thus impressed to the service of his cause. But
he so economized his voice that every word was distinctly heard by the
vast assembly. And I assure you that every word was freighted; in the
day when men are called to give an account for every idle word spoken,
Mr. Beecher will not be confronted by any one uttered last night at
Exeter Hall. At one time, when there was an interval of a few moments
arising from the effort of the hisses to triumph over the cheers, Mr.
Beecher, with a quiet smile, said: ‘Friends, I thank you for this
interruption; it gives me a chance to rest.’ The hisses thereupon died
away, and had no resurrection during the evening. It was evident,
indeed, that the speaker, who knows a thing or two about audiences, felt
that the meeting was his and that no interruption would succeed. But
many of his friends had serious apprehensions. One of the editors of the
_Star_, himself a distinguished speaker, and thoroughly acquainted with
English audiences, who sat near to me, whispered in my ear: ‘There are a
great many here who do not cheer; there is a strong chance of a row yet;
but the meeting is just in such a condition that its result will depend
upon the power and equanimity of the speaker.’ ‘Then,’ I replied, ‘you
needn’t fear.’ If Mr. Beecher had heard our brief whispers he could not
have more distinctly appreciated the remark of the editor. At that
moment, although he had been interesting all along, he suddenly stepped
one side from the desk upon which his notes lay, and his face gleamed
like a sword leaping from a scabbard. No more hisses, no more cheers,
now for half an hour; the audience is magnetized, breathless; when the
first pause came, a Sir Somebody, sitting behind me, said, ‘Why, he
looked at first like a heavy man, but he’s got wings’; whilst a reporter
near our feet whispered audibly to a brother writer, ‘Oh! but he _can_
put things!’ Mr. Beecher forgot all things but his subject; his tongue
burned with living coals; his arm pointed like a prophet’s rod. The
shams of our enemies in England; their talk of peace when they mean
every kind of bloodshed except that which is for justice—‘the aspect of
a lamb with the voice of a dragon,’ as St. John saw it; their cant about
emancipation being not a principle with Mr. Lincoln, but only an
expedient, as if that would make liberty any less a prize to the slave
and humanity if they got it—all these collapsed palpably before the
masses then gathered, and all the fine points of Roebuck and Lindsay
became toads under the touch of his flame-tipped spear.

“‘This cannot go on,’ whispered a clergyman near; ‘these strokes draw
too much blood; the victim is writhing in pain now.’

“Again did Mr. Beecher level his lance; it was at those who were making
capital out of what they call ‘American sympathy with the oppressor of
Poland.’ Nothing could exceed the drollery with which, almost blushing,
he presented the loving and jealous maiden who, when her suitor is not
attentive enough, gets up a flirtation with some other man. ‘America
flirts with Russia, but has her eye on England.’ Now, the presence of
warships from Russia at New York has been the leading card of the
Confederates here in their game to win popular sympathy for the South;
for our friends among the English people are also the friends of the
Poles. It was plain that the opposition in the meeting did not mean to
let this matter pass without trying to get some capital. Consequently,
when Mr. Beecher said, ‘But it is said it is very unworthy that America
should be flirting with the oppressor of Poland,’ there were violent
shouts, ‘Yes, yes,’ ‘Certainly it is,’ etc. Mr. Beecher waited until the
cries had entirely subsided, and a little time had been allowed for
friend and foe to speculate as to his reply; then, leaning a little
forward, he put on an indescribably simple expression, and said mildly:
‘_I think so, too. And now you know exactly how we felt when you flirted
with Mason at the lord-mayor’s banquet._’ I cannot attempt to describe
the effect of these words on the throng. The people arose with a shout
that began to be applause, but became a shout of laughter. The hit was
so perfect and felicitous that roars of hearty laughter told that that
topic was summed up for ever. Three loud groans given for the late
lord-mayor—his place is now filled with a much better man—ended that
scene, and the drama proceeded.

“In the heart of Mr. Beecher’s oration was given a denunciation of
slavery more powerful than I have ever heard from his lips. He scored
and scourged it until it seemed to stand before us a hideous monster,
bloated with human blood and writhing under his goads.

“Mr. Beecher, having sustained himself throughout better than I had ever
known him to do before—and I am pretty familiar with his grand successes
in our own country—having carried the meeting entirely and evoked the
warmest expressions of good-will to America, sat down, leaving the
audience hungry and shouting ‘Go on, go on!’”

London was captured; the speech was discussed in every parlor and in
every club. It was the topic of the day. Farewell meetings, veritable
love-feasts, were held in London, Manchester, and Liverpool on the 23d,
24th, and 30th of October, and then Mr. Beecher sailed for home.

That these speeches, delivered just at this time, in connection with the
events at home, produced a marked effect cannot be doubted. They
certainly cleared up many gross misconceptions that filled the English
mind, and gave the English people a clearer insight into the real
purpose of our government and the true object of the South. This seems
to have been the judgment of contemporaneous opinion. A prominent
English paper said:

“Before he left England he had thoroughly enlisted the sympathies of the
people with the cause of the North; and he had no small share in
averting a collision, which at one period of the Civil War threatened
ominously, between this country and the United States.”

On his return to Brooklyn he was called to address two monster meetings
on his English experiences, one in Brooklyn in aid of the War Fund
Committee, and one in New York in aid of the United States Sanitary
Commission. In his introductory speech at the former, Dr. R. S. Storrs
thus eloquently summarizes Mr. Beecher’s work abroad:

“We are here as American citizens all, to welcome one who has done to
our country on foreign shores a signal service! The rapid and private
trip which he undertook, simply for the purposes of rest and recreation,
was transformed, not so much by his own device or desire or will as by
the persistent urgency of Englishmen, into a real international embassy
of peace and good-will. And by consent of all who know, of all the
interpreters, the advocates, the champions of our great national cause
in England—of whom there have been not a few able and eloquent—no one
has labored more faithfully, zealously, and effectively than he....

“We may gratefully recognize the kindness and the wisdom of that
preceding preparation of both body and mind which fitted him for this
work. The rest and leisure of those weeks upon the Continent prepared
him not only to face the rough seas that have delayed his return, but to
meet and master the more tempestuous savagery of the Liverpool mob. The
Alpine peaks to whose summit he climbed contributed, no doubt, to lift
him afterwards to the climax of his eloquence at London and at
Manchester. And so it has come to pass that to him it is owing, as much,
perhaps, as to any other one man on either hemisphere, that the mind of
the great middle class in England—which is the mind that in the last
analysis moulds and governs the government of Great Britain—is at least
now partially informed concerning the principles and the history of our
struggle; that the warships framed by Confederate malice and commercial
cupidity to harass our commerce, break our blockade, or desolate our
cities, are not to be left to step out to sea through any loose
interpretation of the law, but are to be kept chained to the docks and
held there by the strong arm of the government, and that stars of
promise are shining in the east, where lately the thunderbolts of war
seemed to gather.”

At this same meeting Mr. Beecher himself gave an outline of the state of
public opinion when he reached England, and some estimate of his own
work in changing this public opinion:

“I desire this evening to speak upon that which you all have come to
hear—namely, my impressions and experiences in respect to the condition
of things in Great Britain, as they relate to this struggle and this

“There are many reasons why an American would have presumed it easy to
understand British feeling and British policy. There was a similarity of
institutions in England and America and a sameness of radical
principles; but that very similarity, since it begets, through different
institutions and different vehicles, different policies, is liable to
deceive us. If I had judged of the condition of England from the
impressions produced upon me by my first four weeks’ tarry there in the
summer, I should have judged very wrongly. You are aware that the
original expectation of our people was almost universal that in Great
Britain we should find a sympathizer. One thing we counted sure, and
that was that, if all the other nations stood aloof, there was one which
would stand by us in the hour of our peril, and that one was Great
Britain. And the sharpness of our retaliatory complaints was acuminated
by that very disappointment of a very confident conviction. We never
asked for help. We never asked that she should lend us anything, or
stretch out so much as the little finger of her right hand. We did ask
simply a generous confidence and a generous moral sympathy, and that was
all. I found, in the first place, on going there, that every man I met
was a Southern man—not literally born in the South, but this is the
designation they have themselves made. They are Southerners and
Northerners even more than we are here. I found that on the railways, on
the boats, in the hotels, and wherever there was a travelling public,
there was a public that sympathized with the South and adverse to the

“The nobility as a class are also against us, though there are some very
noble exceptions.

“In Parliament, if a vote were taken to-day according to the private
thoughts, sympathies, and wishes among its members, I suppose they would
vote five to one against the North and in favor of the South. It is
believed, too, by those well informed, that at least a portion of the
government have been entirely willing to go into a rupture with the
North, and that but for the unflinching restraints they would have done
so long ago. But it is the impression throughout the realm that the
sovereign of Great Britain has been from the first our judicious but our
steadfast friend. It is believed, and so represented to me, that her
never-rightly-estimated and lamented consort was our fast friend, and
that among the last acts of his life were those which erased from
documents presented to him sentences that would have inflamed the
growing anger. And if you ask me what is the great underlying influence
that has been at work upon the upper class of England, I answer thus:

“1. Commercial interest and rivalry therein.

“2. Class-power and the fear of contagion from American ideas.

“3. (I know not how I shall say it so that it shall be the least
offensive to our friends on the other side, but neither they nor you
have come to the bottom of the conduct of Great Britain until you have
touched that delicate and real foundation cause.) We are too large and
strong a nation.

“With this state of facts you will ask how it is that the English people
have been restrained? How is it that they have not gone into overt
belligerency? That is the very question that I propose to answer, and in
the statement that the English heart is on our side. The nobility is
against us; the government is divided and a part is against us. I think
I may say that while the brains that represent progress in Great Britain
are in our favor, yet the conservative intelligence of Great Britain is
against us, and that all there is on the surface of society,
representing its dignities, its power and intelligence, is
anti-American. And the question I propose to you is, How, with the
papers, magazines, and universities, how with their titled estates
opposed to us, that they have been restrained from manifesting this in
open hostility? It is because there is a great underlying influence that
restrains them—it is the influence of that under-life, and to a very
great extent of the non-voting English, which has produced this effect,
It is a thing I could not understand at first, and which it is very
difficult for us to understand; for wherever in our country there is a
majority of the votes there is sure to be a direction of affairs. But it
is not so in England. I learned that the men who could not vote, where
they were united and determined, had the power to control the men who do
vote. I hold in my hand a letter from Richard Cobden. He says: ‘You will
carry back an intimate acquaintance with a state of feeling in this
country among what, for a better name, I call the ruling class. Their
sympathy is undoubtedly strongly for the South, with the instinctive
satisfaction at the prospect of the disruption of the great Republic. It
is natural enough. But do not forget that we have in this case, for the
first time in our history, seen the masses of the British people taking
sides for a foreign government against its rebellious citizens. In every
other instance, whether in the case of the Poles, Italians, Hungarians
and Corsicans, Greeks, or South Americans, the popular sympathy of this
country has always leaped to the side of the insurgents the moment the
rebellion has broken out. In the present case our masses have an
instinctive feeling that their cause is bound up in the prosperity of
the States—the United States. It is true that they have not a particle
of power in the direct form of a vote, but, when millions in this
country are led by the religious middle class, they can go and prevent
the governing class from pursuing a policy hostile to their sympathies.’

“Into such an atmosphere and among such a people I went. And when,
unsought, and indeed against my feelings if not against my judgment, I
entered upon the labor of the past few weeks of my sojourn in England, I
assumed the responsibility, I cannot say with trembling—for I am not
accustomed much to tremble—but I assumed the responsibility with the
gravest sense of what it was. I have felt the inspiration of nationality
often, but I never before was placed between two such great peoples,
where I saw them both in prospective, both in their present relations
and in their future. I never before felt so much as I felt all the time,
waking or dreaming, night or day, what it was to stand and plead for the
unity of these two great nations, for the sake of struggling mankind;
and it was at once an excitement to me and a support. But, after all, I
did not know how my countrymen would regard my efforts. If you had
disapproved I should have been sorry that you disapproved, but not sorry
for what I had done. I did the best I knew how to do, every time,
everywhere disinterestedly, for the love I bear to the cause and to the
principles which underlie it. I did not hear from home whether my
representations of policy, of fact, of history, and of the tendencies of
things would accord with yours, or whether I should not be caught up in
the whirl of conflicting parties, my reasonings traversed, and my
arguments denied. When I landed in Boston I learned for the first time
that my services had been accepted by my countrymen....

“That to a certain extent my speeches produced among the common people
beneficial results there can be no doubt; but how far that extended, or
whether they had influence upon the thinking classes, others could say
better than I. They were certainly greatly aided by the fact that Lee
was defeated at Gettysburg and driven back to Virginia, and that at the
same time Grant received the surrender of Vicksburg. Those timely
victories, together with other causes, held in check the manœuvres
and diplomacy of crowned heads and made intervention less certain and
more remote; and gave time for Grant’s success at Chattanooga, and his
transfer to the Army of the Potomac, and in turn his promotion to
general-in-chief of the operations in the field.

“I put no immoderate estimate on my services. I believe I did some good
wherever I spoke. But it should be remembered that a single man, a
stranger in the community, would be eaten up by vanity if he said or
supposed, that he had done all the good that had been accomplished.
There must have been preparation. He merely came to touch the train that
had already been laid. When, in October, you go to the tree and give it
a jar, and the fruit comes down all around you, it is not you that
ripens it. A whole summer has been doing that. You merely brought down
the fruit prepared. It was my happy fortune to be there to jar the tree.
The fruit that fell was not of my ripening.”

A few brief extracts from three of the leading papers in New York,
published at the time, are quoted as indications of the popular
sentiment as to the value of his work:

“It is plain, from the whole tone of the British press, that Mr. Beecher
has been instrumental in starting, or at least hastening, a complete
revolution of the popular feeling of the kingdom in favor of our
National cause. He is the man who ought to have been sent to England two
years ago to enlighten and rouse the people. Had this been done he could
have hardly failed of preventing a vast deal of that bitterness which
has since, all the while, been fermenting between the two nations.”

“The Administration at Washington have sent abroad more than one man to
represent the cause of the North and press it upon the minds of foreign
courts and citizens; but here is a person who goes abroad without
official prestige, on a mere private mission to recruit his health, and
yet we doubt whether his four or five speeches in England have not done
more for us, by their frank and manly exposition of our principles, our
purpose, and our hopes, than all the other agencies employed.”

“Every loyal American, whatever his opinions respecting the past words
and acts of Henry Ward Beecher, will thank him for his work across the
water. It is no exaggeration to affirm that the five speeches he has
delivered—in Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, and London—each
pursuing its own line of argument and appeal, have done more for our
cause in England and Scotland than all that has been before said or

Whatever may have been the causes, it is historical that the English
government, which had been trembling upon the very verge of
intervention, withdrew from this project and began to entertain much
more peaceful and friendly feelings towards the United States—feelings
that have grown stronger and deeper with each successive year.

                              CHAPTER XXI.

Close of the War—Distrust of the Administration—Kindlier Feelings after
    Mr. Beecher’s Return from England—Growing Confidence—Intimacy with
    Secretary Stanton—Fort Sumter—Lee’s Surrender—Lincoln’s Death.

On his return home from England, Mr. Beecher found that there was a
marked change in the feelings of the Administration towards him. It was
the popular verdict, in which Washington concurred, that the series of
speeches just delivered, in conjunction with the successes of our armies
in the field, had switched the English government off from the track
leading to intervention and probably war, and had started it in the
direction of friendliness and peace. Before that time he had succeeded
in creating in the minds of the President and his cabinet a feeling
which, if not hostile, was at least not friendly. With many things that
had occurred or failed to occur during 1861-2 and early in 1863 he had
felt great impatience. He had had no sympathy with the feeling, that
prevailed so generally during the first few months of the war, that it
would be an affair of but a few months, that 75,000 men would be more
than enough to end the rebellion. He felt that the proper policy was for
the government to crush the rebellion by the power of an enormous army,
and that it was but poor economy to send forward troops by driblets. Nor
did he at all believe in the distinction that existed between the United
States regulars and the State troops. He thought that they ought to be
_all_ United States troops. What he felt he was not slow to say. On June
10, 1861, he wrote to the President, urging the government to accept a
regiment raised by Colonel Stockton:

“Ought not such a man as the one whom I send to you, Colonel T. B. W.
Stockton, of Michigan, _a West Point graduate_, a colonel in the
_Mexican war_, to have a chance in this great war, with a thousand men
at his back?

“Do we not need men that have seen fire?

“I am exceedingly desirous, _anxious_ even, that a large demonstration
of power should be made, as a matter of _economy_, of _humanity_, and of

“Are we not in danger of being injured by a _Northern_ misconstruction
of State rights, which shall prevent government from taking troops where
it pleases, without being obliged to _come to the people through_ the
machinery of State governments?

”_It is the people’s war._ The people must be allowed to have a fair
chance for the exertion of their will.”

And later, when political expediency was permitted to play so prominent
a part in the selection and action of our generals, his indignation was
intense and outspoken. While he felt great admiration for President
Lincoln and great confidence in him, still he felt that he was making
serious mistakes. As we have seen, Mr. Beecher was then the
editor-in-chief of the New York _Independent_, and through its
editorials he sought to rouse both the President and public sentiment.
Speaking of this time, he says:

“In 1862 the great delay, the want of any success, the masterly
inactivity of our leading generals, roused my indignation, and I wrote a
series of editorials addressed to the President” [to which we have
referred and from which we have largely quoted in a previous chapter],
“and as near as I can recollect they were in the nature of a
mowing-machine—they cut at every revolution—and I was told one day that
the President had received them and read them through with very serious
countenance, and that his only criticism was: ‘Is thy servant a dog?’
They bore down on him very hard.”

Not unnaturally, neither the President nor his cabinet felt especially
pleased at this. They looked upon it as a hostile attack, and did not
regard him with any over-friendly feeling.

But in November, 1863, we find all this changed. The Administration now
could see in past criticism, not personal hostility, but an anxious
desire, through love of country, to prevent mistakes and secure the best
course of action. A far more kindly and confidential relation was
established, which continued through that Administration. When, in 1864,
there was so much talk about compromise, Mr. Beecher went direct to the
President and had a confidential talk with him, which he describes in a
brief sketch (of Lincoln):

[Illustration: Mr. Beecher at the Close of the War.]

“There was some talk early in 1864 of a sort of compromise with the
South. Blair had told the President that he was satisfied, if he could
be put in communication with some of the leading men of the South in
some way or other, that some benefit would accrue. Lincoln had sent a
delegation to meet Alexander Stephens, and that was all the North knew.
We were all very much excited over that. The war lasted so long that I
was afraid Lincoln would be so anxious for peace, and I was afraid he
would accept something that would be of advantage to the South, so I
went to Washington and called upon him. We were alone in his
receiving-room. His hair was ‘every way for Sunday.’ It looked as though
it was an abandoned stubble-field. He had on slippers, and his vest was
what was called ‘going free.’ He looked wearied, and, when he sat down
in a chair, looked as though every limb wanted to drop off his body. And
I said to him: ‘Mr. Lincoln, I come to you to know whether the public
interest will permit you to explain to me what this Southern commission
means?’ Well, he listened very patiently, and looked up to the ceiling
for a few moments, and said: ‘Well, I am almost of a mind to show you
all the documents.’

“‘Well, Mr. Lincoln, I should like to see them if it is proper.’ He went
to his little secretary, and came out and handed me a little card as
long as my finger and an inch wide, and on that was written—

“‘You will pass the bearer through the lines’ (or something to that

                                                       ‘A. LINCOLN.’

“‘There,’ he said, ‘is all there is of it. Now, Blair thinks something
can be done, but I don’t, but I have no objection to have him try his
hand. He has no authority whatever, but to go and see what he can do.’

“‘Well,’ said I, ‘you have lifted a great burden off my mind.’”

During the last year of the President’s life they became very intimate,
and the respect and admiration which Mr. Beecher shared, in common with
the general feeling of the North, deepened into a strong personal love.
In one of his Friday night prayer-meetings, shortly after Mr. Lincoln’s
death, he refers to their intimacy:

“I am sure no one more than I, can feel the personal affliction, outside
of those that were immediately associated with President Lincoln. I need
not say to you how my public relations have brought me, not only to the
most constant study of his course and of his character, but into some
personal relations with him that have given me more knowledge of him
than otherwise I should have had. I was reading to-night, before I came
here, the last letter that I received from him. It had reference to an
interview which I had had with him on a particular subject. It is a
precious letter to me. During the time that I was with him (it was
between eleven and twelve o’clock at night, in Washington) his great
kindness, his great simplicity, and his great frankness opened him to
me, and I saw him more fully than ever before, as very wise, as shrewd
as well as wise, as far-reaching and sagacious as well as shrewd, and,
above all, as faithful to the great interests that were committed to
him. That interview has come up to me over and over and over again. It
seemed as though it was but yesterday. And when the tidings that he was
gone came to me, I know not how I shall describe the sense that I had of
a strange personal loss.”

During this period Mr. Beecher formed the acquaintance of Stanton, which
speedily ripened into a very strong friendship, largely through an
impulsive act of sympathy by Mr. Beecher:

“I came up Wall Street one day and met a friend, who said: ‘I have just
come back from Washington. Stanton is breaking down; he won’t hold out
much longer.’

“Well, it just struck me all into a heap. I walked into an office in
Wall Street and said, ‘Will you allow me pen and ink?’ and wrote to him
just what I had heard—that he was sick and broken down and desponding. I
wrote that he need not despond, that the country was saved, and, if he
did not do another thing, he had done enough. I sent the letter, and in
the course of a few days I got back a letter, and if it had been a woman
writing in answer to a proposal it could not have been more tender. And
when I went to Washington he treated me with great tenderness, as if I
had been his son.”

From this letter of Secretary Stanton, which is before us, we quote:

“How deeply your kind note has affected me is beyond my power to
tell.... The approbation, confidence, and sympathy of any man was never
more highly prized than yours is by me. Your friendly words are a
cordial that strengthens me, and your kind sympathy will serve to dispel
the gloom and despondency that, as you rightly judged, does sometimes,
in moments of physical weariness, gather upon my brain and press heavily
upon my heart. Let me tell you that often and often, in dark hours, you
have come before me, and I have longed to hear your voice, feeling that
above all other men you could cheer, strengthen, guide, and uphold me in
this great battle, where, by God’s Providence, it has fallen upon me to
hold a post and perform a duty beyond my own strength. But, being a
stranger, I had no right to claim your confidence or ask for help, and
so have been forced to struggle on patiently as I might from day to day,
supported only by fervent faith in our sacred cause, and the
consciousness that prayers were being offered up by good people for aid.
Now, my dear sir, your voice has reached me, and your hand is stretched
forth as to a friend, and henceforth I shall look to you and lean upon
you with a sure and abiding trust. Already my heart feels renewed
strength and is inspired with fresh hope. There are some points involved
in, or developed by, this present contest, on which I wish to commune
with you before long.”

Early in 1865, and shortly after the surrender of Charleston, in reply
to a letter received from Mr. Beecher making some suggestions, the
Secretary wrote:

“It will not be in my power to go to Charleston just now, but I would be
glad to send you, and as many school-teachers as will go.... Your idea
of raising the flag over a colored school and making our banner the
banner of civilization is indeed a noble one, and heartily my feelings
respond to the suggestion. Soon after the 4th of March I may be able to
go to South Carolina and do what may be done in that direction.... We
received this morning the news of the capture of Wilmington yesterday.
Surely the end cannot be afar off. The battle of physical force is
nearly won, and now we must fight for civilization, including therein
legal protection to the rights of all, and universal education. What of
strength, heart, and hope is left to me I am willing to spend with you
in that cause. Please let me know if you will go to Charleston without
waiting for me. The sooner you go the better.”

Shortly after this it was decided to celebrate the anniversary of the
fall of Fort Sumter (April 14) by an imposing military and naval
demonstration, and by raising again the old flag over its parapet, and
the project of sending to Charleston a delegation headed by Mr. Beecher
was abandoned.

As soon as the general plan of the Fort Sumter celebration had been
decided upon, the President invited Mr. Beecher to be present and
deliver the address.

On March 27, 1865, the following general order was issued:

        No. 50.      }    ADJUTANT-GENERAL’S OFFICE,
                     }      WASHINGTON, March 27, 1865.


”_First._ That at the hour of noon, on the 14th day of April, 1865,
Brevet Major-General Anderson will raise and plant upon the ruins of
Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, the same United States flag which
floated over the battlements of that fort during the rebel assault, and
which was lowered and saluted by him and the small force of his command
when the works were evacuated on the 14th day of April, 1861.

“_Second._ That the flag, when raised, be saluted by one hundred guns
from Fort Sumter, and by a national salute from every fort and rebel
battery that fired upon Fort Sumter.

”_Third._ That suitable ceremonies be had upon the occasion, under the
direction of Major-General William T. Sherman, whose military operations
compelled the rebels to evacuate Charleston, or, in his absence, under
the charge of Major-General Q. A. Gillmore, commanding the Department.
Among the ceremonies will be the delivery of a public address by the
Reverend Henry Ward Beecher.

“_Fourth._ That the naval forces at Charleston, and their commander on
that station, be invited to participate in the ceremonies of the

“By order of the President of the United States.

                                    ”EDWIN M. STANTON,
                                               “_Secretary of War_.”

The steamer _Arago_ was sent by the government to New York to transport
the invited guests to Charleston. As soon as the formal invitations to
the guests of the government had been issued and accepted, Secretary
Stanton telegraphed Mr. Beecher:

“A list of the persons who have accepted invitations on the _Arago_ has
been forwarded to General Van Vliet. I do not exactly understand the
extent of the accommodations on the _Arago_, but think there may perhaps
be room for a few more; if you will see him and find that more can be
accommodated, you are authorized to fill up the number with such persons
as you may wish to accompany you. On presentation of this telegram he
will give them free transportation and subsistence as if this were a
formal order....

                                     “EDWIN M. STANTON,
                                               “_Secretary of War_.”

During this spring the Secretary was in constant telegraphic
communication with Mr. Beecher, keeping him informed of each victory or
successful move of our army as it occurred.

This led to a thrilling incident in Plymouth Church. During the month of
March of this year it became very plain that the war was surely drawing
to a close. Lee, hemmed in by Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan, obviously
could not hold out very much longer.

The whole country watched and waited with almost breathless interest as
slowly but surely the end drew on, the intensity of feeling growing
stronger as the end seemed nearer. It was in this condition of the
public mind, and on Sunday, April 2, that, just after Mr. Beecher had
finished his sermon and had given out a hymn, a telegram was handed up
to him on the platform.

Catching the feeling in the air that something of importance had
happened, every eye was turned to the platform and a silence like death
fell upon the three thousand gathered there. Eagerly the telegram was
opened, and as the flash of joy lit up Mr. Beecher’s face a thrill ran
through the congregation, instantly hushed as he said:

“The congregation will turn to ‘America’ while I read the following

                                       “‘WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON,
                                                  “‘April 2, 1865.

“‘TO REV. H. W. BEECHER, _Brooklyn_:

“‘A despatch just received from General Grant’s adjutant-general at City
Point announces the triumphant success of our armies after three days of
hard fighting, during which the forces on both sides exhibited
unsurpassed valor:

                                   “‘CITY POINT, VA., April 2, 1865,
                                              “‘5.30 A.M.

“‘A despatch from General Grant states that General Sheridan, commanding
cavalry and infantry, has carried everything before him. He captured
three brigades of infantry, a wagon-train, and several batteries of
artillery. The prisoners captured will amount to several thousand.

                                 “‘(Signed) T. S. BOWERS, _A. A. G._

                                       “‘EDWIN M. STANTON,
                                                 “‘_Secretary of War_.’”

As he ceased speaking the great throng rose and, as one man, with
streaming eyes joined in the triumphant anthem,

                      “My country, ’tis of thee!”

The organist drew the trumpet stops, and turned the full power of the
great organ into the hymn, but it was drowned by the voices raised in
solemn thanksgiving. Not a voice was silent, not an eye was dry. As the
last notes of the hymn died out many a strong man dropped into his seat
and sobbed with thankfulness. The beginning of the end had come.

                  *       *       *       *       *

On the 8th of April the _Arago_ sailed from New York for Charleston. The
day after she sailed came the surrender of Lee’s army.

Of course no word of the news was received aboard the _Arago_ until she
arrived off Charleston Harbor.

“It was when I was tossing upon the sea,” said Mr. Beecher, “off the
harbor of Charleston, that we were spoken, and the tidings were
communicated to us from another ship, ‘Lee has surrendered!’ And the
wild outcry, the strange caprices and exultations of that moment, they
never will forget who were present. We were far off from the scene of
war; we saw no signs nor tokens; it was as if the heaven had imparted it
to us; but oh! what gladness, what ecstasy there was in that news no man
can know but those who have suffered as we had suffered.”

Of his speech at the raising of the flag we can only quote a few brief

“On this solemn and joyful day we again lift to the breeze our fathers’
flag, now again the banner of _the United States_, with the fervent
prayer that God will crown it with honor, protect it from treason, and
send it down to our children with all the blessings of civilization,
liberty, and religion. Terrible in battle, may it be beneficent in
peace! Happily no bird or beast of prey has been inscribed upon it. The
stars that redeem the night from darkness, and the beams of red light
that beautify the morning, have been united upon its folds. As long as
the sun or the stars endure may it wave over a nation neither enslaved,
nor enslaving. Once, and but once, has treason dishonored it. In that
insane hour, when the guiltiest and bloodiest rebellion of time hurled
its fires upon this fort, you, sir [turning to General Anderson], and a
small heroic band, stood within these now crumbled walls, and did
gallant and just battle for the honor and defence of the nation’s

“After a vain resistance, with trembling hand and sad heart you withdrew
the banner from its height, closed its wings, and bore it far away to
sleep amid the tumults of rebellion and the thunder of battle....

“To-day you are returned again. The heavens over you are the same; the
same shores are here; morning and evening come as they did. All else how
changed! What grim batteries crowd the burdened shores! What scenes have
filled this air and disturbed these waters! These shattered heaps of
shapeless stone are all that is left of Fort Sumter. Desolation broods
in yonder sad city; solemn retribution hath avenged our dishonored
banner. You, who departed hence four years ago, leaving the air sultry
with fanaticism, have come back with honor. The surging crowds that
rolled up their frenzied shouts, as the flag came down, are dead, or
scattered, or silent, and their habitations are desolate. Ruin sits in
the cradle of treason. Rebellion has perished. But there flies the same
flag that was insulted. With starry eyes it looks all over this bay for
that banner that supplanted it, and sees it not. You that then, for the
day, were humbled, are here again, to triumph once and for ever. In the
storm of that assault this glorious ensign was often struck; but,
memorable fact, not one of its _stars_ was torn out by shot or shell. It
was a prophecy. It said, ‘Not one State shall be struck from this nation
by treason.’ The fulfilment is at hand. Lifted to the air to-day, it
proclaims that, after four years of war, ‘not a State is blotted

“Wherefore have we come hither, pilgrims from distant places? Are we
come to exult that Northern hands are stronger than Southern? No; but to
rejoice that the hands of those who defend a just and beneficent
government are mightier than the hands that assaulted it! Do we exult
over fallen cities? We exult that a nation has not fallen. We sorrow
with the sorrowful. We sympathize with the desolate. We look upon this
shattered fort and yonder dilapidated city, with sad eyes, grieved that
men should have committed such treason, and glad that God hath set such
a mark upon treason that all ages shall dread and abhor it.

“We exult, not for a passion gratified, but for a sentiment victorious;
not for temper, but for conscience; not, as we devoutly believe, that
_our_ will is done, but that God’s will hath been done! We should be
unworthy of that liberty entrusted to our care if, on such a day as
this, we sullied our hearts by feelings of aimless vengeance; and
equally unworthy if we did not devoutly thank Him who hath said,
‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord,’ that He hath set a
mark upon arrogant Rebellion, ineffaceable while time lasts!...

“That long night is ended! And for this returning day we have come from
afar, to rejoice and give thanks. No more war. No more accursed
secession! _No more slavery, that spawned them both!_

“Let no man misread the meaning of this unfolding flag! It says,
‘Government hath returned hither.’ It proclaims, in the name of
vindicated government, peace and protection to loyalty, humiliation and
pains to traitors. This is the flag of sovereignty. The nation, _not the
States_, is sovereign. Restored to authority, this flag commands, not

“There may be pardon, but no concession. There may be amnesty and
oblivion, but no honeyed compromises. The nation to-day has peace for
the peaceful, and war for the turbulent. The only condition of
submission, is, _to submit_! There is the Constitution, there are the
laws, there is the government. They rise up like mountains of strength
that shall not be moved. _They are the conditions of peace._

”_One nation, under one government, without slavery_, has been ordained
and shall stand. There can be peace on no other basis. On this basis
reconstruction is easy, and needs neither architect nor engineer.
Without this basis no engineer or architect shall ever reconstruct these
rebellious States....

“I charge the whole guilt of this war upon the ambitious, educated,
plotting political leaders of the South. They have shed this ocean of
blood. They have desolated the South. They have poured poverty through
all her towns and cities. They have bewildered the imagination of the
people with phantasms, and led them to believe that they were fighting
for their homes and liberty, whose homes were unthreatened, and whose
liberty was in no jeopardy....

”_But for the people misled_, for the multitudes drafted and driven into
this civil war, _let not a trace of animosity remain_. The moment their
willing hand drops the musket and they return to their allegiance, then
stretch out your own honest right hand to greet them. Recall to them the
old days of kindness. Our hearts wait for their redemption. All the
resources of a renovated nation shall be applied to rebuild their
prosperity and smooth down the furrows of war.”

After the ceremonies of the 14th Mr. Beecher and his party spent two
days in visiting the various historic points in the city and harbor of
Charleston, then went to Hilton Head, where the steamer _Sua Nada_ was
placed at his disposal by the government.

From Hilton Head Mr. Beecher and his party went on an excursion visit to
Beaufort. The day, which opened so bright and beautiful, was to close in
the gloom which overshadowed the nation. The near points of interest
about Beaufort had all been seen, and the party, full of the joyous
brightness of the day, were sauntering back to the boat which was to
take them to Hilton Head, when a telegram was handed to Senator Wilson
that drove the smile from every lip. Lincoln had fallen, struck down by
an assassin! Dazed and bewildered, for a few moments all stood silent;
then Mr. Beecher exclaimed, “It’s time all good men were at home,” and
in mournful silence they hastened back to Hilton Head. The _Sua Nada_
was ordered to get under weigh at once. In sadness and gloom the party,
that but a few days before had left New York with hearts filled with joy
and thankfulness, now hastened back through dreary rain-storms—nature’s
sympathetic mourning.

We can best describe that awful sorrow by quoting from Mr. Beecher’s
sermon preached in memory of the martyr:

“Never did two such orbs of experience meet in one hemisphere as the joy
and the sorrow of the same week in this land. The joy was as sudden as
if no man had expected it, and as entrancing as if it had fallen a
sphere from heaven. It rose up over sobriety, and swept business from
its moorings, and ran down through the land in irresistible course. Men
embraced each other in brotherhood that were strangers in the flesh.
They sang, or prayed, or, deeper yet, many could only think thanksgiving
and weep gladness. That peace was sure; that government was firmer than
ever; that the land was cleansed of plague; that the ages were opening
to our footsteps, and we were to begin a march of blessings; that blood
was stanched, and scowling enmities were sinking like storms beneath the
horizon; that the dear fatherland, nothing lost, much gained, was to
rise up in unexampled honor among the nations of the earth—these
thoughts, and that undistinguishable throng of fancies, and hopes, and
desires, and yearnings that filled the soul with tremblings like the
heated air of midsummer days, all these kindled up such a surge of joy
as no words may describe.

“In one hour joy lay without a pulse, without a gleam or breath. A
sorrow came that swept through the land as huge storms sweep through the
forest and field, rolling thunder along the sky, dishevelling the
flowers, daunting every singer in thicket or forest, and pouring
blackness and darkness across the land and up the mountains. Did ever so
many hearts, in so brief a time, touch two such boundless feelings? It
was the uttermost of joy: it was the uttermost of sorrow—noon and
midnight, without a space between.

“The blow brought not a sharp pang. It was so terrible that at first it
stunned sensibility. Citizens were like men awakened at midnight by an
earthquake, and bewildered to find everything that they were accustomed
to trust wavering and falling. The very earth was no longer solid. The
first feeling was the least. Men waited to get straight to feel. They
wandered in the streets as if groping after some impending dread, or
undeveloped sorrow, or some one to tell them what ailed them. They met
each other as if each would ask the other, ‘Am I awake, or do I dream?’
There was a piteous helplessness. Strong men bowed down and wept. Other
and common griefs belonged to some one in chief: this belonged to all.
It was each and every man’s. Every virtuous household in the land felt
as if its first-born were gone. Men were bereaved, and walked for days
as if a corpse lay unburied in their dwellings. There was nothing else
to think of. They could speak of nothing but that; and yet of that they
could speak only falteringly. All business was laid aside. Pleasure
forgot to smile. The city for nearly a week ceased to roar. The great
Leviathan lay down and was still. Even avarice stood still, and greed
was strangely moved to generous sympathy and universal sorrow. Rear to
his name monuments, found charitable institutions and write his name
above their lintels; but no monument will ever equal the universal,
spontaneous, and sublime sorrow that in a moment swept down lines and
parties, and covered up animosities, and in an hour brought a divided
people into unity of grief and indivisible fellowship of anguish.”

                             CHAPTER XXII.

Reconstruction—Mr. Beecher favors speedy Readmission—Soldiers’ and
    Sailors’ Convention at Cleveland—The “Cleveland Letters” cause great

With President Lincoln’s death the Rebellion died. A few fitful flames
and a few smouldering coals here and there were all that was left of the
great conflagration, but the Rebellion was broken and dead. In its
death-struggles it struck one wicked, random blow, and left the victors
mourning in the very hour of victory—never was so great a victory so sad
and joyless.

But the nation soon roused itself and turned to the solution of those
new problems which confronted it. Through four harsh and bitter years,
years of suffering, this peace-loving nation had been trained to war.
Energetic fighting men had been pushed forward, by the necessities of
the times, to the front, and put in command of national affairs. A vast
army, trained for fighting, was at hand. When suddenly the war was at an
end, and he who with patient wisdom had stood at the helm, and guided
the nation through such troubled seas, was stricken down. A new and
untried man was, by virtue of his office, called to the head of the
government. Armies were to be disbanded. The credit of the nation was to
be sustained, and steps taken to meet the vast debt rolled up by the
war. The problem was changed: instead of war was peace, disarmament, and
reconstruction. Most serious of all was this question of
reconstruction—what to do with the conquered States and conquered
people. Having rebelled and led armies against the national government,
the leaders had been guilty of high treason. What should be done to
them? Should they be punished, and, if so, how? What should be done with
the States? It had been determined that they should not depart from the
Union. They were not in, and how should they be received back?

They had submitted, offered anew their loyalty to the government of the
Nation, and asked to be taken back again. The passions of a four-years
strife, and such a strife, were slow to subside; boiling blood cools but
slowly. At first a strong feeling of resentment set in, and it was
earnestly proposed to hang out of hand the leading rebels. Then they
proposed to hang Jefferson Davis as a symbol of defeated treason, and so
vicariously punish the South. In time even that feeling passed away. But
on the question of reconstruction and readmission the feelings of the
Republican party leaders ran high.

President Johnson, himself a loyal Southerner, was strongly in favor of
readmitting the Southern States to a participation in the government
(upon such terms as might be just), and receiving Senators and
Congressmen from the readmitted States. To this plan Congress, which was
overwhelmingly Republican, was bitterly opposed, and the result was the
executive and legislative branches of the government divided one over
against the other, waging a fierce and disgraceful fight—disgraceful
alike to each. As i