The black men in the Revolution and the war of 1812.

The return of the festival of our national independence has called our attention to a matter which has been very carefully kept out of sight by orators and toast-drinkers. We allude to the participation of colored men in the great struggle for American freedom. It is not in accordance with our taste or our principles to eulogize the shedders of blood even in a cause of acknowledged justice; but when we see a whole nation doing honor to the memories of one class of its defenders to the total neglect of another class, who had the misfortune to be of darker complexion, we cannot forego the satisfaction of inviting notice to certain historical facts which for the last half century have been quietly elbowed aside, as no more deserving of a place in patriotic recollection than the descendants of the men to whom the facts in question relate have to a place in a Fourth of July procession.

Of the services and sufferings of the colored soldiers of the Revolution no attempt has, to our knowledge, been made to preserve a record. They have had no historian. With here and there an exception, they have all passed away; and only some faint tradition of their campaigns under Washington and Greene and Lafayette, and of their cruisings under Decatur and Barry, lingers [407] among their descendants. Yet enough is known to show that the free colored men of the United States bore their full proportion of the sacrifices and trials of the Revolutionary War.

The late Governor Eustis, of Massachusetts,— the pride and boast of the democracy of the East, himself an active participant in the war, and therefore a most competent witness,—Governor Morrill, of New Hampshire, Judge Hemphill, of Pennsylvania, and other members of Congress, in the debate on the question of admitting Missouri as a slave State into the Union, bore emphatic testimony to the efficiency and heroism of the black troops. Hon. Calvin Goddard, of Connecticut, states that in the little circle of his residence he was instrumental in securing, under the act of 1818, the pensions of nineteen colored soldiers. ‘I cannot,’ he says, ‘refrain from mentioning one aged black man, Primus Babcock, who proudly presented to me an honorable discharge from service during the war, dated at the close of it, wholly in the handwriting of George Washington; nor can I forget the expression of his feelings when informed, after his discharge had been sent to the War Department, that it could not be returned. At his request it was written for, as he seemed inclined to spurn the pension and reclaim the discharge.’ There is a touching anecdote related of Baron Steuben on the occasion of the disbandment of the American army. A black soldier, with his wounds unhealed, utterly destitute, stood on the wharf just as a vessel bound for his distant home was getting under way. The poor fellow gazed at [408] the vessel with tears in his eyes, and gave himself up to despair. The warm-hearted foreigner witnessed his emotion, and, inquiring into the cause of it, took his last dollar from his purse and gave it to him, with tears of sympathy trickling down his cheeks. Overwhelmed with gratitude, the poor wounded soldier hailed the sloop and was received on board. As it moved out from the wharf, he cried back to his noble friend on shore, ‘God Almighty bless you, Master Baron!’

‘In Rhode Island,’ says Governor Eustis in his able speech against slavery in Missouri, 12th of twelfth month, 1820, ‘the blacks formed an entire regiment, and they discharged their duty with zeal and fidelity. The gallant defence of Red Bank, in which the black regiment bore a part, is among the proofs of their valor.’ In this contest it will be recollected that four hundred men met and repulsed, after a terrible and sanguinary struggle, fifteen hundred Hessian troops, headed by Count Donop. The glory of the defence of Red Bank, which has been pronounced one of the most heroic actions of the war, belongs in reality to black men; yet who now hears them spoken of in connection with it? Among the traits which distinguished the black regiment was devotion to their officers. In the attack made upon the American lines near Croton River on the 13th of the fifth month, 1781, Colonel Greene, the commander of the regiment, was cut down and mortally wounded; but the sabres of the enemy only reached him through the bodies of his faithful guard of blacks, who hovered over him to protect him, every one of whom was [409] killed. The late Dr. Harris, of Dunbarton, New Hampshire, a Revolutionary veteran, stated, in a speech at Francistown, New Hampshire, some years ago, that on one occasion the regiment to which he was attached was commanded to defend an important position, which the enemy thrice assailed, and from which they were as often repulsed. ‘There was,’ said the venerable speaker, ‘a regiment of blacks in the same situation,—a regiment of negroes fighting for our liberty and independence, not a white man among them but the officers,—in the same dangerous and responsible position. Had they been unfaithful or given way before the enemy, all would have been lost. Three times in succession were they attacked with most desperate fury by well-disciplined and veteran troops; and three times did they successfully repel the assault, and thus preserve an army. They fought thus through the war. They were brave and hardy troops.’

In the debate in the New York Convention of 1821 for amending the Constitution of the State, on the question of extending the right of suffrage to the blacks, Dr. Clarke, the delegate from Delaware County, and other members, made honorable mention of the services of the colored troops in the Revolutionary army.

The late James Forten, of Philadelphia, well known as a colored man of wealth, intelligence, and philanthropy, enlisted in the American navy under Captain Decatur, of the Royal Louis, was taken prisoner during his second cruise, and, with nineteen other colored men, confined on board the [410] horrible Jersey prison-ship. All the vessels in the American service at that period were partly manned by blacks. The old citizens of Philadelphia to this day remember the fact that, when the troops of the North marched through the city, one or more colored companies were attached to nearly all the regiments.

Governor Eustis, in the speech before quoted, states that the free colored soldiers entered the ranks with the whites. The time of those who were slaves was purchased of their masters, and they were induced to enter the service in consequence of a law of Congress by which, on condition of their serving in the ranks during the war, they were made freemen. This hope of liberty inspired them with courage to oppose their breasts to the Hessian bayonet at Red Bank, and enabled them to endure with fortitude the cold and famine of Valley Forge. The anecdote of the slave of General Sullivan, of New Hampshire, is well known. When his master told him that they were on the point of starting for the army, to fight for liberty, he shrewdly suggested that it would be a great satisfaction to know that he was indeed going to fight for his liberty. Struck with the reasonableness and justice of this suggestion, General Sullivan at once gave him his freedom.

The late Tristam Burgess, of Rhode Island, in a speech in Congress, first month, 1828, said: ‘At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, Rhode Island had a number of slaves. A regiment of them were enlisted into the Continental service, and no braver men met the enemy in battle; but [411] not one of them was permitted to be a soldier until he had first been made a freeman.’

The celebrated Charles Pinckney, of South Carolina, in his speech on the Missouri question, and in defence of the slave representation of the South, made the following admissions:—

‘They (the colored people) were in numerous instances the pioneers, and in all the laborers, of our armies. To their hands were owing the greatest part of the fortifications raised for the protection of the country. Fort Moultrie gave, at an early period of the inexperienced and untried valor of our citizens, immortality to the American arms; and in the Northern States numerous bodies of them were enrolled, and fought side by side with the whites at the battles of the Revolution.’

Let us now look forward thirty or forty years, to the last war with Great Britain, and see whether the whites enjoyed a monopoly of patriotism at that time.

Martindale, of New York, in Congress, 22d of first month, 1828, said: ‘Slaves, or negroes who had been slaves, were enlisted as soldiers in the war of the Revolution; and I myself saw a battalion of them, as fine, martial-looking men as I ever saw, attached to the Northern army in the last war, on its march from Plattsburg to Sackett's Harbor.’

Hon. Charles Miner, of Pennsylvania, in Congress, second month, 7th, 1828, said: ‘The African race make excellent soldiers. Large numbers of them were with Perry, and helped to gain the brilliant victory of Lake Erie. A whole battalion of [412] them were distinguished for their orderly appearance.’

Dr. Clarke, in the convention which revised the Constitution of New York in 1821, speaking of the colored inhabitants of the State, said:—

‘In your late war they contributed largely towards some of your most splendid victories. On Lakes Erie and Champlain, where your fleets triumphed over a foe superior in numbers and engines of death, they were manned in a large proportion with men of color. And in this very house, in the fall of 1814, a bill passed, receiving the approbation of all the branches of your government, authorizing the governor to accept the services of a corps of two thousand free people of color. Sir, these were times which tried men's souls. In these times it was no sporting matter to bear arms. These were times when a man who shouldered his musket did not know but he bared his bosom to receive a death-wound from the enemy ere he laid it aside; and in these times these people were found as ready and as willing to volunteer in your service as any other. They were not compelled to go; they were not drafted. No; your pride had placed them beyond your compulsory power. But there was no necessity for its exercise; they were volunteers,—yes, sir, volunteers to defend that very country from the inroads and ravages of a ruthless and vindictive foe which had treated them with insult, degradation, and slavery.’

On the capture of Washington by the British forces, it was judged expedient to fortify, without [413] delay, the principal towns and cities exposed to similar attacks. The Vigilance Committee of Philadelphia waited upon three of the principal colored citizens, namely, James Forten, Bishop Allen, and Absalom Jones, soliciting the aid of the people of color in erecting suitable defenses for the city. Accordingly, twenty-five hundred colored men assembled in the State-House yard, and from thence marched to Gray's Ferry, where they labored for two days almost without intermission. Their labors were so faithful and efficient that a vote of thanks was tendered them by the committee. A battalion of colored troops was at the same time organized in the city under an officer of the United States army; and they were on the point of marching to the frontier when peace was proclaimed.

General Jackson's proclamations to the free colored inhabitants of Louisiana are well known. In his first, inviting them to take up arms, he said:—

‘As sons of freedom, you are now called on to defend our most inestimable blessings. As Americans, your country looks with confidence to her adopted children for a valorous support. As fathers, husbands, and brothers, you are summoned to rally round the standard of the eagle, to defend all which is dear in existence.’

The second proclamation is one of the highest compliments ever paid by a military chief to his soldiers:—

To the free people of color.

Soldiers! when on the banks of the Mobile! called you to take up arms, inviting you to partake [414] the perils and glory of your white fellow-citizens, I expected much from you; for I was not ignorant that you possessed qualities most formidable to an invading enemy. I knew with what fortitude you could endure hunger, and thirst, and all the fatigues of a campaign. I knew well how you loved your native country, and that you, as well as ourselves, had to defend what man holds most dear, —his parents, wife, children, and property. You have done more than I expected. In addition to the previous qualities I before knew you to possess, I found among you a noble enthusiasm, which leads to the performance of great things.

Soldiers! the President of the United States shall hear how praiseworthy was your conduct in the hour of danger, and the Representatives of the American people will give you the praise your exploits entitle you to. Your general anticipates them in applauding your noble ardor.

It will thus be seen that whatever honor belongs to the ‘heroes of the Revolution’ and the volunteers in ‘the second war for independence’ is to be divided between the white and the colored man. We have dwelt upon this subject at length, not because it accords with our principles or feelings, for it is scarcely necessary for us to say that we are

one of those who hold that

Peace hath her victories
     No less renowned than war,

and certainly far more desirable and useful; but because, in popular estimation, the patriotism which dares and does on the battle-field takes a [415] higher place than the quiet exercise of the duties of peaceful citizenship; and we are willing that colored soldiers, with their descendants, should have the benefit, if possible, of a public sentiment which has so extravagantly lauded their white companions in arms. If pulpits must be desecrated by eulogies of the patriotism of bloodshed, we see no reason why black defenders of their country in the war for liberty should not receive honorable mention as well as white invaders of a neighboring republic who have volunteered in a war for plunder and slavery extension. For the latter class of ‘heroes’ we have very little respect. The patriotism of too many of them forcibly reminds us of Dr. Johnson's definition of that much-abused term: ‘Patriotism, sir! Tis the last refuge of a scoundrel.’
‘What right, I demand,’ said an American orator some years ago, ‘have the children of Africa to a homestead in the white man's country?’ The answer will in part be found in the facts which we have presented. Their right, like that of their white fellow-citizens, dates back to the dread arbitrament of battle. Their bones whiten every stricken field of the Revolution; their feet tracked with blood the snows of Jersey; their toil built up every fortification south of the Potomac; they shared the famine and nakedness of Valley Forge and the pestilential horrors of the old Jersey prisonship. Have they, then, no claim to an equal participation in the blessings which have grown out of the national independence for which they fought? Is it just, is it magnanimous, is it safe, [416] even, to starve the patriotism of such a people, to cast their hearts out of the treasury of the Republic, and to convert them, by political disfranchisement and social oppression, into enemies?


The Scottish Reformers

The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all. Friedrich Von Logau.

The great impulse of the French Revolution was not confined by geographical boundaries. Flashing hope into the dark places of the earth, far down among the poor and long oppressed, or startling the oppressor in his guarded chambers like that mountain of fire which fell into the sea at the sound of the apocalyptic trumpet, it agitated the world.

The arguments of Condorcet, the battle-words of Mirabeau, the fierce zeal of St. Just, the iron energy of Danton, the caustic wit of Camille Desmoulins, and the sweet eloquence of Vergniaud found echoes in all lands, and nowhere more readily than in Great Britain, the ancient foe and rival of France. The celebrated Dr. Price, of London, and the still more distinguished Priestley, of Birmingham, spoke out boldly in defence of the great principles of the Revolution. A London club of reformers, reckoning among its members such men as Sir William Jones, Earl Grey, Samuel Whitbread, and Sir James Mackintosh, was established for the purpose of disseminating liberal appeals and arguments throughout the United Kingdom. [418]

In Scotland an auxiliary society was formed, under the name of Friends of the People. Thomas Muir, young in years, yet an elder in the Scottish kirk, a successful advocate at the bar, talented, affable, eloquent, and distinguished for the purity of his life and his enthusiasm in the cause of freedom, was its principal originator. In the twelfth month of 1792 a convention of reformers was held at Edinburgh. The government became alarmed, and a warrant was issued for the arrest of Muir. He escaped to France; but soon after, venturing to return to his native land, was recognized and imprisoned. He was tried upon the charge of lending books of republican tendency, and reading an address from Theobald Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen before the society of which he was a member. He defended himself in a long and eloquent address, which concluded in the following manly strain:—

‘What, then, has been my crime? Not the lending to a relation a copy of Thomas Paine's works,—not the giving away to another a few numbers of an innocent and constitutional publication; but my crime is, for having dared to be, according to the measure of my feeble abilities, a strenuous and an active advocate for an equal representation of the people in the House of the people, —for having dared to accomplish a measure by legal means which was to diminish the weight of their taxes and to put an end to the profusion of their blood. Gentlemen, from my infancy to this moment I have devoted myself to the cause of the people. It is a good cause: it will ultimately prevail,—it will finally triumph.’ [419]

He was sentenced to transportation for fourteen years, and was removed to the Edinburgh jail, from thence to the hulks, and lastly to the transport-ship, containing eighty-three convicts, which conveyed him to Botany Bay.

The next victim was Palmer, a learned and highly accomplished Unitarian minister in Dundee. He was greatly beloved and respected as a polished gentleman and sincere friend of the people. He was charged with circulating a republican tract, and was sentenced to seven years transportation.

But the Friends of the People were not quelled by this summary punishment of two of their devoted leaders. In the tenth month, 1793, delegates were called together from various towns in Scotland, as well as from Birmingham, Sheffield, and other places in England. Gerrald and Margarot were sent up by the London society. After a brief sitting, the convention was dispersed by the public authorities. Its sessions were opened and closed with prayer, and the speeches of its members manifested the pious enthusiasm of the old Cameronians and Parliament-men of the times of Cromwell. Many of the dissenting clergy were present. William Skirving, the most determined of the band, had been educated for the ministry, and was a sincerely religious man. Joseph Gerrald was a young man of brilliant talents and exemplary character. When the sheriff entered the hall to disperse the friends of liberty, Gerrald knelt in prayer. His remarkable words were taken down by a reporter on the spot. There is nothing in modern history to [420] compare with this supplication, unless it be that of Sir Henry Vane, a kindred martyr, at the foot of the scaffold, just before his execution. It is the prayer of universal humanity, which God will yet hear and answer.

O thou Governor of the universe, we rejoice that, at all times and in all circumstances, we have liberty to approach Thy throne, and that we are assured that no sacrifice is more acceptable to Thee than that which is made for the relief of the oppressed. In this moment of trial and persecution we pray that Thou wouldst be our defender, our counsellor, and our guide. Oh, be Thou a pillar of fire to us, as Thou wast to our fathers of old, to enlighten and direct us; and to our enemies a pillar of cloud, and darkness, and confusion.

Thou art Thyself the great Patron of liberty. Thy service is perfect freedom. Prosper, we beseech Thee, every endeavor which we make to promote Thy cause; for we consider the cause of truth, or every cause which tends to promote the happiness of Thy creatures, as Thy cause.

O thou merciful Father of mankind, enable us, for Thy name's sake, to endure persecution with fortitude; and may we believe that all trials and tribulations of life which we endure shall work together for good to them that love Thee; and grant that the greater the evil, and the longer it may be continued, the greater good, in Thy holy and adorable providence, may be produced therefrom. And this we beg, not for our own merits, but through the merits of Him who is hereafter to judge the world in righteousness and mercy.


He ceased, and the sheriff, who had been temporarily overawed by the extraordinary scene, enforced the warrant, and the meeting was broken up. The delegates descended to the street in silence,—Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags glooming in the distance and night,—an immense and agitated multitude waiting around, over which tossed the flaring flambeaux of the sheriff's train. Gerrald, who was already under arrest, as he descended, spoke aloud, ‘Behold the funeral torches of Liberty!’

Skirving and several others were immediately arrested. They were tried in the first month, 1794, and sentenced, as Muir and Palmer had previously been, to transportation. Their conduct throughout was worthy of their great and holy cause. Gerrald's defence was that of freedom rather than his own. Forgetting himself, he spoke out manfully and earnestly for the poor, the oppressed, the overtaxed, and starving millions of his countrymen. That some idea may be formed of this noble plea for liberty, I give an extract from the concluding paragraphs:—

True religion, like all free governments, appeals to the understanding for its support, and not to the sword. All systems, whether civil or moral, can only be durable in proportion as they are founded on truth and calculated to promote the good of mankind. This will account to us why governments suited to the great energies of man have always outlived the perishable things which despotism has erected. Yes, this will account to us why the stream of Time, which is continually [422] washing away the dissoluble fabrics of superstitions and impostures, passes without injury by the adamant of Christianity.

Those who are versed in the history of their country, in the history of the human race, must know that rigorous state prosecutions have always preceded the era of convulsion; and this era, I fear, will be accelerated by the folly and madness of our rulers. If the people are discontented, the proper mode of quieting their discontent is, not by instituting rigorous and sanguinary prosecutions, but by redressing their wrongs and conciliating their affections. Courts of justice, indeed, may be called in to the aid of ministerial vengeance; but if once the purity of their proceedings is suspected, they will cease to be objects of reverence to the nation; they will degenerate into empty and expensive pageantry, and become the partial instruments of vexatious oppression. Whatever may become of me, my principles will last forever. Individuals may perish; but truth is eternal. The rude blasts of tyranny may blow from every quarter; but freedom is that hardy plant which will survive the tempest and strike an everlasting root into the most unfavorable soil.

Gentlemen, I am in your hands. About my life I feel not the slightest anxiety: if it would promote the cause, I would cheerfully make the sacrifice; for if I perish on an occasion like the present, out of my ashes will arise a flame to consume the tyrants and oppressors of my country.

Years have passed, and the generation which knew the persecuted reformers has given place to [423] another. And now, half a century after William Skirving, as he rose to receive his sentence, declared to his judges, ‘You may condemn us as felons, but your sentence shall yet be reversed by the people,’ the names of these men are once more familiar to British lips. The sentence has been reversed; the prophecy of Skirving has become history. On the 21st of the eighth month, 1853, the corner-stone of a monument to the memory of the Scottish martyrs—for which subscriptions had been received from such men as Lord Holland, the Dukes of Bedford and Norfolk, and the Earls of Essex and Leicester—was laid with imposing ceremonies in the beautiful burial-place of Calton Hill, Edinburgh, by the veteran reformer and tribune of the people, Joseph Hume, M. P. After delivering an appropriate address, the aged radical closed the impressive scene by reading the prayer of Joseph Gerrald. At the banquet which afterwards took place, and which was presided over by John Dunlop, Esq., addresses were made by the president and Dr. Ritchie, and by William Skirving, of Kirkaldy, son of the martyr. The Complete Suffrage Association of Edinburgh, to the number of five hundred, walked in procession to Calton Hill, and in the open air proclaimed unmolested the very principles for which the martyrs of the past century had suffered.

The account of this tribute to the memory of departed worth cannot fail to awaken in generous hearts emotions of gratitude towards Him who has thus signally vindicated His truth, showing that the triumph of the oppressor is but for a season, and [424] that even in this world a lie cannot live forever. Well and truly did George Fox say in his last days, ‘The truth is above all.’

Will it be said, however, that this tribute comes too late; that it cannot solace those brave hearts which, slowly broken by the long agony of colonial servitude, are now cold in strange graves? It is, indeed, a striking illustration of the truth that he who would benefit his fellow-man must ‘walk by faith,’ sowing his seed in the morning, and in the evening withholding not his hand; knowing only this, that in God's good time the harvest shall spring up and ripen, if not for himself, yet for others, who, as they bind the full sheaves and gather in the heavy clusters, may perchance remember him with gratitude and set up stones of memorial on the fields of his toil and sacrifices. We may regret that in this stage of the spirit's life the sincere and self-denying worker is not always permitted to partake of the fruits of his toil or receive the honors of a benefactor. We hear his good evil spoken of, and his noblest sacrifices counted as naught; we see him not only assailed by the wicked, but discountenanced and shunned by the timidly good, followed on his hot and dusty pathway by the execrations of the hounding mob and the contemptuous pity of the worldly wise and prudent; and when at last the horizon of Time shuts down between him and ourselves, and the places which have known him know him no more forever, we are almost ready to say with the regal voluptuary of old, ‘This also is vanity and a great evil; for what hath a man of all his labor and of the vexation [425] of his heart wherein he hath labored under the sun?’ But is this the end? Has God's universe no wider limits than the circle of the blue wall which shuts in our nestling-place? Has life's infancy only been provided for, and beyond this poor nursery-chamber of Time is there no playground for the soul's youth, no broad fields for its manhood? Perchance, could we but lift the curtains of the narrow pinfold wherein we dwell, we might see that our poor friend and brother whose fate we have thus deplored has by no means lost the reward of his labors, but that in new fields of duty he is cheered even by the tardy recognition of the value of his services in the old. The continuity of life is never broken; the river flows onward and is lost to our sight, but under its new horizon it carries the same waters which it gathered under ours, and its unseen valleys are made glad by the offerings which are borne down to them from the past,—flowers, perchance, the germs of which its own waves had planted on the banks of Time. Who shall say that the mournful and repentant love with which the benefactors of our race are at length regarded may not be to them, in their new condition of being, sweet and grateful as the perfume of long-forgotten flowers, or that our harvest-hymns of rejoicing may not reach the ears of those who in weakness and suffering scattered the seeds of blessing?

The history of the Edinburgh reformers is no new one; it is that of all who seek to benefit their age by rebuking its popular crimes and exposing its cherished errors. The truths which they told [426] were not believed, and for that very reason were the more needed; for it is evermore the case that the right word when first uttered is an unpopular and denied one. Hence he who undertakes to tread the thorny pathway of reform—who, smitten with the love of truth and justice, or indignant in view of wrong and insolent oppression, is rashly inclined to throw himself at once into that great conflict which the Persian seer not untruly represented as a war between light and darkness— would do well to count the cost in the outset. If he can live for Truth alone, and, cut off from the general sympathy, regard her service as its ‘own exceeding great reward;’ if he can bear to be counted a fanatic and crazy visionary; if, in all good nature, he is ready to receive from the very objects of his solicitude abuse and obloquy in return for disinterested and self-sacrificing efforts for their welfare; if, with his purest motives misunderstood and his best actions perverted and distorted into crimes, he can still hold on his way and patiently abide the hour when ‘the whirligig of Time shall bring about its revenges;’ if, on the whole, he is prepared to be looked upon as a sort of moral outlaw or social heretic, under good society's interdict of food and fire; and if he is well assured that he can, through all this, preserve his cheerfulness and faith in man,—let him gird up his loins and go forward in God's name. He is fitted for his vocation; he has watched all night by his armor. Whatever his trial may be, he is prepared; he may even be happily disappointed in respect to it; flowers of unexpected refreshing [427] may overhang the hedges of his strait and narrow way; but it remains to be true that he who serves his contemporaries in faithfulness and sincerity must expect no wages from their gratitude; for, as has been well said, there is, after all, but one way of doing the world good, and unhappily that way the world does not like; for it consists in telling it the very thing which it does not wish to hear.

Unhappily, in the case of the reformer, his most dangerous foes are those of his own household. True, the world's garden has become a desert and needs renovation; but is his own little nook weedless? Sin abounds without; but is his own heart pure? While smiting down the giants and dragons which beset the outward world, are there no evil guests sitting by his own hearth-stone? Ambition, envy, self-righteousness, impatience, dogmatism, and pride of opinion stand at his door-way ready to enter whenever he leaves it unguarded. Then, too, there is no small danger of failing to discriminate between a rational philanthropy, with its adaptation of means to ends, and that spiritual knight-errantry which undertakes the championship of every novel project of reform, scouring the world in search of distressed schemes held in durance by common sense and vagaries happily spellbound by ridicule. He must learn that, although the most needful truth may be unpopular, it does not follow that unpopularity is a proof of the truth of his doctrines or the expediency of his measures. He must have the liberality to admit that it is barely possible for the public on some points to be right and himself wrong, and that the blessing invoked [428] upon those who suffer for righteousness is not available to such as court persecution and invite contempt; for folly has its martyrs as well as wisdom; and he who has nothing better to show of himself than the scars and bruises which the popular foot has left upon him is not even sure of winning the honors of martyrdom as some compensation for the loss of dignity and self-respect involved in the exhibition of its pains. To the reformer, in an especial manner, comes home the truth that whoso ruleth his own spirit is greater than he who taketh a city. Patience, hope, charity, watchfulness unto prayer,—how needful are all these to his success! Without them he is in danger of ingloriously giving up his contest with error and prejudice at the first repulse; or, with that spiteful philanthropy which we sometimes witness, taking a sick world by the nose, like a spoiled child, and endeavoring to force down its throat the longre-jected nostrums prepared for its relief.

What then? Shall we, in view of these things, call back young, generous spirits just entering upon the perilous pathway? God forbid! Welcome, thrice welcome, rather. Let them go forward, not unwarned of the dangers nor unreminded of the pleasures which belong to the service of humanity. Great is the consciousness of right. Sweet is the answer of a good conscience. He who pays his whole-hearted homage to truth and duty, who swears his lifelong fealty on their altars, and rises up a Nazarite consecrated to their holy service, is not without his solace and enjoyment when, to the eyes of others, he seems the most lonely and [429] miserable. He breathes an atmosphere which the multitude know not of; ‘a serene heaven which they cannot discern rests over him, glorious in its purity and stillness.’ Nor is he altogether without kindly human sympathies. All generous and earnest hearts which are brought in contact with his own beat evenly with it. All that is good, and truthful, and lovely in man, whenever and wherever it truly recognizes him, must sooner or later acknowledge his claim to love and reverence. His faith overcomes all things. The future unrolls itself before him, with its waving harvest-fields springing up from the seed he is scattering; and he looks forward to the close of life with the calm confidence of one who feels that he has not lived idle and useless, but with hopeful heart and strong arm has labored with God and Nature for the best.

And not in vain. In the economy of God, no effort, however small, put forth for the right cause, fails of its effect. No voice, however feeble, lifted up for truth, ever dies amidst the confused noises of time. Through discords of sin and sorrow, pain and wrong, it rises a deathless melody, whose notes of wailing are hereafter to be changed to those of triumph as they blend with the great harmony of a reconciled universe. The language of a transatlantic reformer to his friends is then as true as it is hopeful and cheering: ‘Triumph is certain. We have espoused no losing cause. In the body we may not join our shout with the victors; but in spirit we may even now. There is but an interval of time between us and the success at which we aim. In all other respects the links of the chain [430] are complete. Identifying ourselves with immortal and immutable principles, we share both their immortality and immutability. The vow which unites us with truth makes futurity present with us. Our being resolves itself into an everlasting now. It is not so correct to say that we shall be victorious as that we are so. When we will in unison with the supreme Mind, the characteristics of His will become, in some sort, those of ours. What He has willed is virtually done. It may take ages to unfold itself; but the germ of its whole history is wrapped up in His determination. When we make His will ours, which we do when we aim at truth, that upon which we are resolved is done, decided, born. Life is in it. It is; and the future is but the development of its being. Ours, therefore, is a perpetual triumph. Our deeds are, all of them, component elements of success.’1


The Pilgrims of Plymouth

From a letter on the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, December 22, 1870.

No one can appreciate more highly than myself the noble qualities of the men and women of the Mayflower. It is not of them that I, a descendant of the ‘sect called Quakers,’ have reason to complain in the matter of persecution. A generation which came after them, with less piety and more bigotry, is especially responsible for the little unpleasantness referred to; and the sufferers from it scarcely need any present championship. They certainly did not wait altogether for the revenges of posterity. If they lost their ears, it is satisfactory to remember that they made those of their mutilators tingle with a rhetoric more sharp than polite.

A worthy New England deacon once described a brother in the church as a very good man Godward, but rather hard man-ward. It cannot be denied that some very satisfactory steps have been taken in the latter direction, at least, since the days of the Pilgrims. Our age is tolerant of creed and dogma, broader in its sympathies, more keenly sensitive to temporal need, and, practically recognizing the brotherhood of the race, wherever a cry of suffering is heard its response is quick and generous. It has abolished slavery, and is lifting woman from world-old degradation to equality [432] with man before the law. Our criminal codes no longer embody the maxim of barbarism, ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ but have regard not only for the safety of the community, but to the reform and well-being of the criminal. All the more, however, for this amiable tenderness do we need the counterpoise of a strong sense of justice. With our sympathy for the wrong-doer we need the old Puritan and Quaker hatred of wrongdoing; with our just tolerance of men and opinions a righteous abhorrence of sin. All the more for the sweet humanities and Christian liberalism which, in drawing men nearer to each other, are increasing the sum of social influences for good or evil, we need the bracing atmosphere, healthful, if austere, of the old moralities. Individual and social duties are quite as imperative now as when they were minutely specified in statute-books and enforced by penalties no longer admissible. It is well that stocks, whipping-post, and ducking-stool are now only matters of tradition; but the honest reprobation of vice and crime which they symbolized should by no means perish with them. The true life of a nation is in its personal morality, and no excellence of constitution and laws can avail much if the people lack purity and integrity. Culture, art, refinement, care for our own comfort and that of others, are all well, but truth, honor, reverence, and fidelity to duty are indispensable.

The Pilgrims were right in affirming the paramount authority of the law of God. If they erred in seeking that authoritative law, and passed over the Sermon on the Mount for the stern Hebraisms [433] of Moses; if they hesitated in view of the largeness of Christian liberty; if they seemed unwilling to accept the sweetness and light of the good tidings, let us not forget that it was the mistake of men who feared more than they dared to hope, whose estimate of the exceeding awfulness of sin caused them to dwell upon God's vengeance rather than his compassion; and whose dread of evil was so great that, in shutting their hearts against it, they sometimes shut out the good. It is well for us if we have learned to listen to the sweet persuasion of the Beatitudes; but there are crises in all lives which require also the emphatic ‘Thou shalt not’ of the Decalogue which the founders wrote on the gate-posts of their commonwealth.

Let us then be thankful for the assurances

which the last few years have afforded us that

The Pilgrim spirit is not dead,
But walks in noon's broad light.

We have seen it in the faith and trust which no circumstances could shake, in heroic self-sacrifice, in entire consecration to duty. The fathers have lived in their sons. Have we not all known the Winthrops and Brewsters, the Saltonstalls and Sewalls, of old times, in gubernatorial chairs, in legislative halls, around winter camp-fires, in the slow martyrdoms of prison and hospital? The great struggle through which we have passed has taught us how much we owe to the men and women of the Plymouth Colony,—the noblest ancestry that ever a people looked back to with love and reverence. Honor, then, to the Pilgrims! Let their memory be green forever!


Governor Endocott.

I am sorry that I cannot respond in person to the invitation of the Essex Institute to its commomorative festival on the 18th. I especially regret it, because, though a member of the Society of Friends, and, as such, regarding with abhorrence the severe persecution of the sect under the administration of Governor Endicott, I am not unmindful of the otherwise noble qualities and worthy record of the great Puritan, whose misfortune it was to live in an age which regarded religious toleration as a crime. He was the victim of the merciless logic of his creed. He honestly thought that every convert to Quakerism became by virtue of that conversion a child of perdition; and, as the head of the Commonwealth, responsible for the spiritual as well as temporal welfare of its inhabitants, he felt it his duty to whip, banish, and hang heretics to save his people from perilous heresy.

The extravagance of some of the early Quakers has been grossly exaggerated. Their conduct will compare in this respect favorably with that of the first Anabaptists and Independents; but it must be admitted that many of them manifested a good deal of that wild enthusiasm which has always been the result of persecution and the denial of the [435] rights of conscience and worship. Their pertinacious defiance of laws enacted against them, and their fierce denunciations of priests and magistrates, must have been particularly aggravating to a man as proud and high tempered as John Endicott. He had that free-tongued neighbor of his, Edward Wharton, smartly whipped at the cart-tail about once a month, but it may be questioned whether the governor's ears did not suffer as much under Wharton's biting sarcasm and ‘free speech’ as the latter's back did from the magisterial whip.

Time has proved that the Quakers had the best of the controversy; and their descendants can well afford to forget and forgive an error which the Puritan governor shared with the generation in which he lived.

West Ossipee, N. H., 14th 9th Month, 1878.


John Winthrop.

On the anniversary of his landing at Salem.

I see by the call of the Essex Institute that some probability is suggested that I may furnish a poem for the occasion of its meeting at The Willows on the 22d. I would be glad to make the implied probability a fact, but I find it difficult to put my thoughts into metrical form, and there will be little need of it, as I understand a lady of Essex County, who adds to her modern culture and rare poetical gifts the best spirit of her Puritan ancestry, has lent the interest of her verse to the occasion.

It was a happy thought of the Institute to select for its first meeting of the season the day and the place of the landing of the great and good governor, and permit me to say, as thy father's old friend, that its choice for orator, of the son of him whose genius, statesmanship, and eloquence honored the place of his birth, has been equally happy. As I look over the list of the excellent worthies of the first emigrations, I find no one who, in all respects, occupies a nobler place in the early colonial history of Massachusetts than John Winthrop. Like Vane and Milton, he was a gentleman as well as a Puritan, a cultured and enlightened statesman [437] as well as a God-fearing Christian. It was not under his long and wise chief magistracy that religious bigotry and intolerance hung and tortured their victims, and the terrible delusion of witchcraft darkened the sun at noonday over Essex. If he had not quite reached the point where, to use the words of Sir Thomas More, he could ‘hear heresies talked and yet let the heretics alone,’ he was in charity and forbearance far in advance of his generation.

I am sorry that I must miss an occasion of so much interest. I hope you will not lack the presence of the distinguished citizen who inherits the best qualities of his honored ancestor, and who, as a statesman, scholar, and patriot, has added new lustre to the name of Winthrop.

Danvers, 6th Month, 19, 1880.

1 Miall's Essays; Nonconformist, Vol. IV.

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