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Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-

Clergyman; born in Litchfield, Conn., June 24, 1813; son of Lyman Beecher; was graduated at Amherst College in 1834. He afterwards studied theology in Lane Seminary. For a few years he was pastor of a Presbyterian church in Indiana, first at Lawrenceburg and then at Indianapolis. In

Henry Ward Beecher.

1847 he was called to the pastorate of a new Congregational organization in Brooklyn, called Plymouth Church, over which he presided as pastor till his death, March 8, 1887. From the beginning of his ministry, Mr. Beecher held a high rank as a public teacher and pulpit orator, with a constantly increasing reputation. Laying aside the conventionalities of his sacred profession, and regarding the Gospel minister as peculiarly a leader in social life, his sermons were always marked by practical good-sense, and embraced in their topies the whole field of human society. They were largely made up of illustrations drawn from every phase of life and the instructions of nature. He had an abiding love of music, the fine arts, flowers, and animals; and believing Christianity to be, not a philosophical system, but an exalted rule of conduct, he never hesitated to discuss in the pulpit the great problems of the times in politics and social life — temperance, social evils, and the lust for power and gain. His persistent and ferceful denunciation of the evils of slavery brought him into the greatest prominence during the Civil War period, while his speeches made during his visit to England in 1863 did much to disabuse public opinion there as to the merits of the struggle. Mr. Beecher led a most active life as preacher, editor, lyceum lecturer, and author of numerous books. He began editorial labors before the began to preach, conducting for a year (1836) The Cincinnati journal; and for nearly twenty years he was an editorial contributor to the New York independent, a weekly newspaper. From 1870 he was editor several years of the Christian Union, a weekly paper published in New York, and was a constant contributor to other publications. In 1874 Mr. Beecher was accused of criminal conduct with Mrs. Theodore Tilton. He was exonerated by the committee of Plymouth Church, but in the civil suit instituted by Mr. Tilton, which lasted more than six months, the jury failed to agree. The case attracted the attention of the entire world.

The system of slavery.

The following is Mr. Beecher's address in Liverpool, England, Oct. 16, 1863, the feeling of his auditors towards his subject and himself being clearly indicated parenthetically:

For more than twenty-five years I have been made perfectly familiar with popular assemblies in all parts of my country, except [305] 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 and applause, 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 temper of Englishmen, they would 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. (Laughter.)

There are two dominant races in modern history — the Germanic and the Romanic races. The Germanic races tend to personal liberty, to a sturdy individualism, to civil and to political liberty. The Roman race tends to absolutism in government; it is clannish; it loves chieftains: it develops a people that crave strong and showy governments to support and plan for them. The Anglo-Saxon race belongs to the great German family, and is a fair exponent of its peculiarities. The Anglo-Saxon carries self-government and self-development with him wherever he goes. He has popular government and popular industry; for the effects of a generous civil liberty are not seen a whit more plain in the good order, in the intelligence, and in the virtue of [306] a self-governing people, than in their amazing enterprise, and the scope and power of their creative industry. The power to create riches is just as much a part of the Anglo-Saxon virtues as the power to create good order and social safety. The things required for prosperous labor, prosperous manufactures, and prosperous commerce are three: First, liberty; second, liberty; third, liberty--( “Hear, hear!” )--though these are not merely the same liberty, as I shall show you. First, there must be liberty to follow those laws of business which experience has developed, without imposts or restrictions or governmental intrusions. Business simply wants to be let alone. ( “Hear, hear!” ) Then, secondly, there must be liberty to distribute and exchange products of industry in any market without burdensome tariffs, without imposts, and without vexatious regulations. There must be these two liberties — liberty to create wealth, as the makers of it think best, according to the light and experience which business has given them; and then liberty to distribute what they have created without unnecessary vexatious burdens. The comprehensive law of the ideal industrial condition of the world is free manufacture and free trade. ( “Hear, hear!” A voice: “The Morrill tariff.” Another voice: “Monroe.” ) I have said there were three elements of liberty. The third is the necessity of an intelligent and free race of customers. There must be freedom among producers; there must be freedom among the distributors: there must be freedom among the customers. It may not have occurred to you that it makes any difference what one's customers are, but it does in all regular and prolonged business. The condition of the customer determines how much he will buy. Poor and ignorant people buy little, and that of the poorest kind. The richest and the intelligent, having the more means to buy, buy the most and always buy the best. Here, then, are he the three liberties: liberty of the producer, liberty of the distribute, and liberty of the consumer. The first two need no discussion; they have been long thoroughly and brilliantly illustrated by the political economists of Great Britain and by her eminent statesmen; but it seems to me that enough attention has not been directed to the third; and, with your patience. I will dwell upon that for a moment, before proceeding to other topics.

It is a necessity of every manufacturing and commercial people that their customers should be very wealthy and intelligent. Let us put the subject before you in the familiar light of your own local experience. To whom do the tradesmen of Liverpool sell the most goods at the highest profit? To the ignorant and poor or to the educated and prosperous? (A voice: “To the Southerners.” Laughter.) The poor man buys simply for his body; he buys food, he buys clothing, he buys fuel, he buys lodging. . . .

On the other hand, a man well off — how is it with him? He buys in far greater quantity. He can afford to do it; he has the money to pay for it. he buys in far greater variety, because he seeks to gratify not merely physical wants, but also mental wants. He buys for the satisfaction of sentiment and taste, as well as of sense. he buys silk, wool, flax, cotton; he buys all metals — iron, silver, gold, platinum; in short, he buys for all necessities and all substances. But that is not all. He buys a better quality of goods. He buys richer silks, finer cottons, higher-grained wools. Now a rich silk means so much skill and care of somebody's, that has been expended upon it to make it finer and richer; and so of cotton and so of wool. That is, the price of the finer goods runs back to the very beginning and remunerates the workman as well as the merchant. Now, the whole laboring community is as much interested and profited as the mere merchant, in this buying and selling of the higher grades in the greater varieties and quantities. . . . Both the workman and the merchant are profited by having purchasers that demand quality, variety, and quantity. Now, if this be so in the town or the city, it can only be so because it is a law. This is the specific development of a general or universal law, and, therefore, we should expect to find it as true of a nation as of a city like Liverpool. I know that it is so, and you know that it is true of all the world; and it is just as important to have customers educated. intelligent, moral, and rich out of Liverpool [307] 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 nation on the globe. (Loud applause.) You also have an interest in this, because you are a moral and 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 now 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 . . . .

They have said that your chief want is cotton. I deny it. Your chief want is consumers. (Applause and hisses.) You have got skill, you have got capital, and you have got machinery enough to manufacture goods for the whole population of the globe. You could turn out four-fold as much as you do, if you only had the market to sell in. It is not so much the want, therefore, of fabric, though there may be a temporary obstruction of it; but the principal and increasing want — increasing from year to year — is, where shall we find men to buy what we can manufacture so fast? (Interruption and a voice, “The Morrill tariff,” and applause.) Before the American war broke out, your warehouses were loaded with goods that you could not sell. (Applause and hisses.) You had over-manufactured; what is the meaning of over-manufacturing but this: that you had skill, capital, machinery, to create faster than you had customers to take goods off your hands? And you know that rich as Great Britain is, vast as are her manufactures, if she could have fourfold the present demand, she could have fourfold riches tomorrow; and every political economist will tell you that your want is not cotton primarily, but customers. Therefore, the doctrine how to make customers is a great deal more important to Great Britain than the doctrine how to raise cotton. It is to that doctrine I ask from you, business men, practical men, men of fact, sagacious Englishmen, to that point I ask a moment's attention. (Shouts of “Oh, Oh!” hisses and applause.) There are no more continents to be discovered. ( “Hear, hear!” ) The market of the future must be found — how? There is very little hope of any more demand being created by new fields. If you are to have a better market there must be some kind of process invented to make the old fields better. (A voice: “Tell us something new,” shouts of “Order!” and interruption.) Let us look at it, then. You must civilize the world in order to make a better class of purchasers. (Interruption.) If you were to press Italy down again, under the feet of despotism. Italy, discouraged, could draw but very few supplies from you. . . .

A savage is a man of one story, and that one story a cellar. When a man begins to be civilized, he raises another story. When you Christianize and civilize the man, you put story upon story, for you develop faculty after faculty; and you have to supply every story with your productions. The savage is a man one story deep: the civilized man is thirty stories high. (Applause.) Now, if you go to a lodging-house, where there are three or four men, your sales to them may, no doubt, be worth something; but if you go to a lodging-house like some of those which I saw in Edinburgh, which seemed to contain about twenty stories--( “Oh, Oh!” and interruption )--every story of which is full, and all who occupy buy of you — which is the better customer, the man who is drawn out or the man who is pinched up? (Laughter.) Now, there is in this a great and sound principle of 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 hissing 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 [308] 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.) I was saying, when these responses broke in, that it was worth our while to consider both alternatives. 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 final result? You will lay the foundation for carrying the slave population clear through to the Pacific Ocean. This is the first step. There is not a man who has been a leader of the South any time within these twenty years that has not had this for a plan. It was for this that Texas was invaded, first by colonists, next by marauders, until it was wrested from Mexico. It was for this that they engaged in the Mexican War itself, by which the vast territory reaching to the Pacific was added to the Union. Never for a moment have they 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, let us consider the prospect. If the South becomes a slave empire, what relation will it have to you as a customer? (A voice: “Or any other man.” Laughter.) It would be an empire of 12,000,000 of people. Now, of these 8,000,000 are white and 4,000,000 black. (A voice: “How, many have you got?” Applause and laughter. Another voice: “Free your own slaves.” ) Consider that one-third of the whole are the miserably poor, unbuying blacks. (Cries of “No, no!” “Yes, Yes!” and interruption.) You do not manufacture much for them. (Hisses, “Oh!” “No.” ) You have not got machinery coarse enough. (Laughter and “No!” ) Your labor is too skilled by far to manufacture bagging and linsey-woolsey. (A Southerner: “We are going to free them, every one.” ) Then you and I agree exactly. (Laughter.) One other third consists of a poor, unskilled, degraded white population, and the remaining one-third, which is a large allowance, we will say intelligent and rich.

Now here are 12,000,000 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 would 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.) Now, you must recolled another fact — namely, that this is going on clear through to the Pacific Ocean; and if by sympathy or help you establish a slave empire, you sagacious Britons--( “Oh, Oh!” and hooting)--if you like it better, them. I will leave the adjective out--(laughter, “Heart!” and applause)--are 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!” A voice: “I thought it was the happy people that populated fastest.” ) . . . It is said that the North is fighting for union, and not for emancipation. The North is fighting for union, for that insures emancipation. (Loud cheers, “Oh, Oh!” “No, no!” and cheers.) A great many men say to ministers of the Gospel: “You pretend to be preaching and working for the love of the people. Why, you are all the time preaching for the sake of the Church.” What does the minister says? “It is by means of the Church that we help the people,” and when men say that we are fighting for the Union. I too say we are fighting [309] for the Union. ( “Hear, hear!” and a voice: “That's right.” ) But the motive determines the value; and why are we fighting for the 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.) . . .

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.) The evil was made worse because, when any object whatever has caused anger between political parties, a political animosity arises against that object, no matter how innocent in itself; no matter what were the original influences which excited the quarrel. Thus the colored man has been the football between the two parties in the North and has suffered accordingly. I confess it to my shame. But I am speaking now on my own ground, for I began twenty-five years ago, with a small party, to combat the unjust dislike of the colored men. (Loud applause, dissension, and uproar. The interruption at this point became so violent that the friends of Mr. Beecher throughout the hall rose to their feet, waving hats and handkerchiefs, and renewing their shouts of applause. The interruption lasted some minutes.) Well, I have lived to see a total revolution in the Northern feeling — I stand here to bear solemn witness of that. It is my opinion; it is my knowledge. (Great uproar.) Those men who undertook to stand up for the rights of all men — black as well as white — have increased in number; and now what party in the North represents those men that resist the evil prejudices of past years? The Republicans are that party. (Loud applause.) And who are those men in the North that have oppressed the negro? They are the Peace Democrats; and the prejudice for which in England you are attempting to punish me, is a prejudice raised by the len who have opposed me all my life. These pro-slavery Democrats abused the negro. I defended him, and they mobbed me for doing it. Oh. justice! (Loud laughter, applause, and hisses.) . . .

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 mikst of which one individual was lifted up and carried out of the room amid hisses and cheers.)

The Chairman: “If you would only sit down no disturbance would take place.”

(The disturbance having subsided, Mr. Beecher continued.)

I was going to ask you, suppose each child is born with hereditary disease; suppose this disease was entailed upon him by parents who had contracted it by their own misconduct, would it be fair that those parents that had brought into the world the diseased child, should rail at that child because it was diseased? ( “No, no!” ) would not the child have the right to turn round and say: “Father, it was your fault that I had it, and you ought to be pleased to be patient with my deficiencies” ? (Applause and hisses, and cries of “Order?” great interruption and great disturbance here took place on the right of the platform; and the chairman said that if the persons around the unfortunate individual who had caused the disturbance would allow him to speak alone, but not assist him in making the disturbance, it might soon be put an end to. The interruption continued until another person was carried out of the hall. Mr. Beecher continued.) I do not ask that you should justify slavery in us, because it was wrong in you 200 years ago; but having ignorantly been the means of fixing it upon us, now that we are struggling with mortal struggles to free ourselves from it, we have a right to your tolerance, your patience, and charitable constructions.

No man can unveil the future; no man [310] can tell what revolutions are about to break upon the world; no man can tell what destiny belongs to France, nor to any of the European powers; but one tiling is certain, that in the exigencies of the future there will be combinations and recombinations, and that those nations that are of the same faith, the same blood, and the same substantial interests ought not to be alienated from each other, but ought to stand together. (Immense cheering and hisses.) I do not say that you ought not to be in the most friendly alliance with France or with Germany; but I do say that your own children, the offspring of England, ought to be nearer to you than any people of strange tongue. (A voice: “Degenerate sons,” applause and hisses; another voice: “What about the Trent?” ) If there had been any feelings of bitterness in America, let me tell you that they had been excited, rightly or wrongly, under the impression that Great Britain was going to intervene between us and our own lawful struggle. (A voice: “No!” and applause.) With the evidence that there is no such intention, all bitter feelings will pass away. (Applause.) 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 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 things that will make for peace. ( “Oh, on,” 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 it 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, singlehanded 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 at match for the world. (Applause; a voice: “They don't want any more soft soap.” ) Now, gentlemen and ladies--(a voice: “Sam Slick” ; and another voice: “Ladies and gentlemen, if you please” )--when I came I was asked whether I would answer questions, and I very readily consented to do so, as I had in other places; but I will tell you it was because I expected to have the opportunity of speaking with some sort of ease and quiet. (A voice: “So you have.” ) I have for an hour and a half spoken against a storm--( “Hear, hear!” )--and you yourselves are witnesses that, by the interruption, I have been obliged to strive with my voice so that I no longer have the power to control this assembly. (Applause.) And although I am in spirit perfeetly willing to answer any question, and more than glad of the chance, yet I am by this very unnecessary opposition to-night incapacitated physically from doing it. Ladies and gentlemen. I hid you good-evening.

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