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w England, and then resident in Newburyport. With his aid I established a series of prizes for the best prose and poetry written by the young people of the town; and the first evidence given of the unusual talents of Harriet Prescott Spofford was in a very daring and original essay on Hamlet, written at sixteen, and gaining the first prize. I had also to do with the courses of lectures and concerts, and superintended the annual Floral Processions which were then a pretty feature of the Fourth of July in Essex County. On the whole, perhaps, I was as acceptable a citizen of the town as could be reasonably expected of one who had preached himself out of his pulpit. I supposed myself to have given up preaching forever, and recalled the experience of my ancestor, the Puritan divine, Francis Higginson, who, when he had left his church-living at Leicester, England, in 1620, continued to lecture to all comers. But a new sphere of reformatory action opened for me in an invitation to take
lectures and concerts, and superintended the annual Floral Processions which were then a pretty feature of the Fourth of July in Essex County. On the whole, perhaps, I was as acceptable a citizen of the town as could be reasonably expected of one who had preached himself out of his pulpit. I supposed myself to have given up preaching forever, and recalled the experience of my ancestor, the Puritan divine, Francis Higginson, who, when he had left his church-living at Leicester, England, in 1620, continued to lecture to all comers. But a new sphere of reformatory action opened for me in an invitation to take charge of the Worcester Free Church, the first of several such organizations that sprang up about that time under the influence of Theodore Parker's Boston society, which was their prototype. These organizations were all more or less of the Jerusalem wildcat description — this being the phrase by which a Lynn shoemaker described one of them — with no church membership or commu
Henry C. Wright, afterward a prominent Abolitionist, had lost his parish, a few miles above Newburyport, for the alleged indecorum of swimming across the Merrimack River. My first actual proposal of innovation was in a less secular line, but was equally formidable. It was that I should be ordained as Theodore Parker had been, by the society itself: and this all the more because my ancestor, Francis Higginson, had been ordained in that way — the first of all New England ordinations — in 1629. To this the society readily assented, at least so far as that there should be no ordaining council, and there was none. William Henry Channing preached one of his impassioned sermons, The gospel of to-day, and all went joyously on, youth at the prow and pleasure at the helm, not foreseeing the storms that were soon to gather, although any sagacious observer ought easily to have predicted them. It must be borne in mind that during all this period I was growing more, not less radical; my al
necessity, as showing that, as Mill says, the very nature of woman has been to some extent warped and enfeebled by prolonged subjugation, and must have time to recover itself. It was in the direction of the anti-slavery reform, however, that I felt the most immediate pricking of conscience, and it may be interesting, as a study of the period, to note what brought it about. There was, perhaps, some tendency that way in the blood, for I rejoice to recall the fact that after Judge Sewall, in 1700, had published his noted tract against slavery, called The selling of Joseph, the first protest against slavery in Massachusetts, he himself testified, six years later, Amidst the frowns and hard words I have met with for this Undertaking, it is no small refreshment to me that I can have the Learned Reverend and Aged Mr. Higginson for my Abetter. This was my ancestor, the Rev. John Higginson, of Salem, then ninety years old; but my own strongest impulse came incidentally from my mother. It
formatory body which it is to-day, --the change in the Episcopal Church being the most noticeable of all,--but that it devoted itself very largely to the tithing of anise and cummin, as in Scripture times. Of the reforms prominent before the people, nearly all had originated outside the pulpit and even among avowed atheists. Thomas Herttell, a judge of the Marine Court of New York city, who belonged to that heretical class, was the first person in America, apparently, to write and print, in 1819, a strong appeal in behalf of total abstinence as the only remedy for intemperance; and the same man made, in 1837, in the New York Assembly, the first effort to secure to married women the property rights now generally conceded. All of us were familiar with the vain efforts of Garrison to enlist the clergy in the anti-slavery cause; and Stephen Foster, one of the stanchest of the early Abolitionists, habitually spoke of them as the Brotherhood of Thieves. Lawyers and doctors, too, fared ha
es, and to occasional visits paid by my parents, traveling in their own conveyance. Being once driven from place to place by an intelligent negro driver, my mother said to him that she thought him very well situated, after all; on which he turned and looked at her, simply saying, Ah, missis! Free breath is good. It impressed her greatly, and she put it into her diary, whence my eldest brother, Dr. Francis John Higginson, quoted it in a little book he wrote, Remarks on slavery, published in 1834. This fixed it in my mind, and I remember to have asked my aunt why my uncle in Virginia did not free his slaves. She replied that they loved him, and would be sorry to be free. This did not satisfy me; but on my afterward visiting the Virginia plantation, there was nothing to suggest anything undesirable: the head servant was a grave and dignified man, with the most unexceptionable manners; and the white and black children often played together in the afternoon. It was then illegal to t
it devoted itself very largely to the tithing of anise and cummin, as in Scripture times. Of the reforms prominent before the people, nearly all had originated outside the pulpit and even among avowed atheists. Thomas Herttell, a judge of the Marine Court of New York city, who belonged to that heretical class, was the first person in America, apparently, to write and print, in 1819, a strong appeal in behalf of total abstinence as the only remedy for intemperance; and the same man made, in 1837, in the New York Assembly, the first effort to secure to married women the property rights now generally conceded. All of us were familiar with the vain efforts of Garrison to enlist the clergy in the anti-slavery cause; and Stephen Foster, one of the stanchest of the early Abolitionists, habitually spoke of them as the Brotherhood of Thieves. Lawyers and doctors, too, fared hard with those enthusiasts, and merchants not much better; Edward Palmer writing against the use of money, and even
circumstances, I held my place for two years and a half. Of course it cannot be claimed that I showed unvarying tact; indeed, I can now see that it was quite otherwise; but it was a case where tact counted for little; in fact, I think my sea-captains did not wholly dislike my plainness of speech, though they felt bound to discipline it; and moreover the whole younger community was on my side. It did not help the matter that I let myself be nominated for Congress by the new Free Soil party in 1848, and stumped the district, though in a hopeless minority. The nomination was Whittier's doing, partly to prevent that party from nominating him; and he agreed that, by way of reprieve, I should go to Lowell and induce Josiah G. Abbott, then a young lawyer, to stand in my place. Abbott's objection is worth recording: if elected, he said, he should immediately get into quarrels with the Southern members and have to fight duels, and this he could not conscientiously do. This was his ground of
ides of the Atlantic, but I still regard Hurlbert as unequaled among them all for natural brilliancy; even Lowell was not his peer. Nor can I be convinced that he was-as President Walker once said to me, when I urged Hurlbert's appointment, about 1850, as professor of history at Harvard--a worthless fellow. Among many things which were selfish and unscrupulous there must have been something deeper to have called out the warm affection created by him in both sexes. I strongly suspect that if, s lustily as Schramm's pupils in Heine's Reisebilder; the social reform debate, which was sustained for some time after the downfall of Brook Farm; and of course the woman's rights movement, for whose first national convention I signed the call in 1850. Of all the movements in which I ever took part, except the antislavery agitation, this last-named seems to me the most important; nor have I ever wavered in the opinion announced by Wendell Phillips, that it is the grandest reform yet launched
Josiah G. Abbott (search for this): chapter 6
ree Soil party in 1848, and stumped the district, though in a hopeless minority. The nomination was Whittier's doing, partly to prevent that party from nominating him; and he agreed that, by way of reprieve, I should go to Lowell and induce Josiah G. Abbott, then a young lawyer, to stand in my place. Abbott's objection is worth recording: if elected, he said, he should immediately get into quarrels with the Southern members and have to fight duels, and this he could not conscientiously do. ThiAbbott's objection is worth recording: if elected, he said, he should immediately get into quarrels with the Southern members and have to fight duels, and this he could not conscientiously do. This was his ground of exemption. Years after, when he was an eminent judge in Boston and a very conservative Democrat, I once reminded him of this talk, and he said, I should feel just the same now. Having been, of course, defeated for Congress, as I had simply stood in a gap, I lived in Newburyport for more than two years longer, after giving up my parish. This time was spent in writing for newspapers, teaching private classes in different studies, serving on the school committee and organi
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