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Parker, Theodore 1810-

Clergyman; born in Lexington, Mass., Aug. 24, 1810. His grandfather, Capt. John Parker, commanded the company of minute-men in the skirmish at Lexington. Theodore began to study Latin at ten years of age, Greek at eleven, and metaphysics at twelve. He was an earnest naturalist, and before he was ten he knew all the trees and shrubs of Massachusetts. In 1829 he entered Harvard College, but did not graduate; taught school until 1837, when, having studied divinity at Cambridge, he was settled over a Unitarian society at West Roxbury. He became an acute controversialist, for he was a profound thinker, and had the courage of his convictions. In 1846 he became minister of the 28th Congregational Society in Boston, which, in November, 1852, occupied Music Hall for the first time. Parker became the most famous preacher of his time. His place of worship was always crowded, and people came from all parts of the country to hear him. He urgently opposed the war with Mexico as a scheme for the extension of slavery; was an early advocate of temperance and anti-slavery measures; and after the passage of the fugitive slave law he was one of its [66] most uncompromising opponents. So marked was his sympathy for Anthony Burns, the seized fugitive slave at Boston (January, 1854), as to cause his indictment and trial for a violation of the fugitive slave law. It was quashed. In 1859 hemorrhage of the lungs terminated his public career. He sailed first to Santa Cruz, thence to Europe, spending the winter

Theodore Parker.

of 1859-60 in Rome, whence, in April, he set out for home, but only reached Florence, where he died, May 10, 1860. He bequeathed 13,000 valuable books to the Public Library of Boston.

The following are extracts from Parker's oration on the dangers of slavery:

I. Will there be a separation of the two elements, and a formation of two distinct states—freedom with democracy, and slavery with a tendency to despotism? That may save one-half the nation, and leave the other to voluntary ruin. Certainly, it is better to enter into life halt or maimed rather than having two hands and two feet to be cast into everlasting fire . . .

But I do not think this “dissolution of the Union” will take place immediately or very soon. For America is not now ruled—as it is commonly thought—either by the mass of men who follow their national, ethnological, and human instincts, or by a few far-sighted men of genius for politics, who consciously obey the law of God made clear in their own masterly mind and conscience, and make statutes in advance of the calculation or even the instincts of the people, and so manage the ship of state that every occasional tack is on a great circle of the universe, a right line of justice, and therefore the shortest way to welfare; but by two very different classes of men—by mercantile men, who covet money, actual or expectant capitalists; and by political men, who want power, actual or expectant officeholders. These appear diverse; but there is a strong unanimity between the two— for the mercantile men want money as a means of power and the political men power as a means of money. There are noble men in both classes, exceptional, not instantial, men with great riches even, and great office. But, as a class, these men are not above the average morality of the people, often below it; they have no deep religious faith, which leads them to trust the higher law of God. They do not look for principles that are right, conformable to the constitution of the universe, and so creative of the nation's permanent welfare, but only for expedient measures, productive to themselves of selfish money or selfish power. In general, they have the character of adventurers, the aims of adventurers, the morals of adventurers; they begin poor, and of course obscure, and are then “democratic,” and hurrah for the people: “Down with the powerful and the rich,” is the private maxim of their heart. If they are successful and become rich, famous, attaining high office, they commonly despise the people: “Down with the people!” is the axiom of their heart—only they dare not say it; for there are so many others with the same selfishness, who have not yet achieved their end, and raise the opposite cry. The line of the nation's course is a resultant of the compound selfishness of these two classes.

From these two, with their mercantile and political selfishness, we are to expect no comprehensive morality, which will secure the rights of mankind; no [67] comprehensive policy which will secure expedient measures for a long time. Both will unite in what serves their apparent interest, brings money to the trader, power to the politician—whatever be the consequence to the country.

As things now are, the Union favors the schemes of both of these classes of men; thereby the politician gets power, the trader makes money.

If the Union were to be dissolved and a great Northern commonwealth were to be organized, with the idea of freedom, threequarters of the politicians, federal and State, would pass into contempt and oblivion; all that class of Northern demagogues who scoff at God's law, such as filled the offices of the late Whig administration in its day of power or as fill the offices of the Democratic administration to-day—they would drop down so deep that no plummet would ever reach them; you would never hear of them again. . . .

II. The next hypothesis is, freedom may triumph over slavery. That was the expectation once, at the time of the Declaration of Independence; nay, at the formation of the Constitution. But only two national steps have been taken against slavery since then—one the ordinance of 1787, the other the abolition of the African slave-trade; really that was done in 1788, formally twenty years after. In the individual States the white man's freedom enlarges every year; but the federal government becomes more and more addicted to slavery. This hypothesis does not seem very likely to be adopted.

III. Shall slavery destroy freedom? It looks very much like it. Here are nine great steps, openly taken since ‘87, in favor of slavery. First, America put slavery into the Constitution. Second, out of old soil she made four new slave States. Third, America, in 1793, adopted slavery as a federal institution, and guaranteed her protection for that kind of property as for no other. Fourth, America bought the Louisiana territory in 1803, and put slavery into it. Fifth, she thence made Louisiana, Missouri, and then Arkansas slave States. Sixth, she made slavery perpetual in Florida. Seventh, she annexed Texas. Eighth, she fought the Mexican War, and plundered a feeble sister republic of California, Utah, and New Mexico, to get more slave soil. Ninth, America gave ten millions of money to Texas to support slavery, passed the fugitive slave bill, and has since kidnapped men in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, in all the East, in all the West, in all the Middle States. All the great cities have kidnapped their own citizens. Professional slave-hunters are members of New England churches; kidnappers sit down at the Lord's table in the city of Cotton, Chauncey, and Mayhew. In this very year, before it is half through, America has taken two more steps for the destruction of freedom. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the enslavement of Nebraska: that is the tenth step. Here is the eleventh: the Mexican treaty, giving away $10,000,000 and buying a little strip of worthless land, solely that it may serve the cause of slavery.

Here are eleven great steps openly taken towards the ruin of liberty in America. Are these the worst? Very far from it! Yet more dangerous things have been done in secret.

I. Slavery has corrupted the mercantile class. Almost all the leading merchants of the North are pro-slavery men. They hate freedom, hate your freedom and mine! This is the only Christian country in which commerce is hostile to freedom.

II. See the corruption of the political class. There are 40,000 officers of the federal government. Look at them in Boston—their character is as well known as this hall. Read their journals in this city—do you catch a whisper of freedom in them? Slavery has sought its menial servants—men basely born and basely bred: it has corrupted them still further, and put them in office. America, like Russia, is the country for mean men to thrive in. Give him time and mire enough— a worm can crawl as high as an eagle flies. State rights are sacrificed at the North; centralization goes on with rapid strides; State laws are trodden under foot. The Northern President is all for slavery. The Northern members of the cabinet are for slavery; in the Senate, fourteen Northern Democrats were for the enslavement of Nebraska; in the House of Representatives, forty-four Northern Democrats voted for the bill—fourteen in the Senate, [68] forty-four in the House; fifty-eight Northern men voted against the conscience of the North and the law of God. Only eight men out of all the South could be found friendly to justice and false to their own local idea of injustice. The present administration, with its supple tools of tyranny, came into office while the cry of “No higher law” was echoing through the land!

III. Slavery has debauched the press. How many leading journals of commerce and politics in the great cities do you know that are friendly to freedom and opposed to slavery? Out of the five large daily commercial papers in Boston, Whig or Democratic, I know of only one that has spoken a word for freedom this great while. The American newspapers are poor defenders of American liberty. Listen to one of them, speaking of the last kidnapping in Boston: “We shall need to employ the same measures of coercion as are necessary in monarchical countries.” There is always some one ready to do the basest deeds. Yet there are some noble journals, political and commercial, such as the New York Tribune and Evening post.

IV. Then our colleges and schools are corrupted by slavery. I do not know of five colleges in all the North which publicly appear on the side of freedom. What the hearts of the presidents and professors are, God knows, not I. The great crime against humanity, practical atheism, found ready support in Northern colleges in 1850 and 1851. Once the common reading-books of our schools were full of noble words. Read the school-books now made by Yankee peddlers of literature, and what liberal ideas do you find there? They are meant for the Southern market. Slavery must not be offended!

V. Slavery has corrupted the churches! There are 28,000 Protestant clergymen in the United States. There are noble hearts, true and just men among them, who have fearlessly borne witness to the truth. I need not mention their names. Alas! they are not very numerous; I should not have to go over my fingers many times to count them all. I honor these exceptional men. Some of them are old, far older than I am, older than my father need have been; some of them are far younger than I; nay, some of them younger than my children might be: and I honor these men for the fearless testimony which they have borne—the old, the middle-aged, and the young. But they are very exceptional men. Is there a minister in the South who preaches against slavery? How few in all the North!

At this day 600,000 slaves are directly and personally owned by men who are called “professing Christians,” “members in good fellowship” of the churches of this land; 80,000 owned by Presbyterians, 225,000 by Baptists, 250,000 owned by Methodists—600,000 slaves in this land owned by men who profess Christianity, and in churches sit down to take the Lord's Supper, in the name of Christ and God! There are ministers who own their fellow-men— “bought with a price.”

Does this not look as if slavery were to triumph over freedom?

VI. Slavery corrupts the judicial class. In America, especially in New England, no class of men has been so much respected as the judges; and for this reason: we have had wise, learned, excellent men for our judges; men who reverenced the higher law of God, and sought by human statutes to execute justice. You all know their venerable names, and how reverentially we have looked up to them. Many of them are dead; some are still living, and their hoary hairs are a crown of glory on a judicial life, without judicial blot. But of late slavery has put a different class of men on the benches of the federal courts—mere tools of the government; creatures which get their appointment as pay for past political service, and as pay in advance for iniquity not yet accomplished.-You see the consequences. Note the zeal of the federal judges to execute iniquity by statute and destroy liberty. See how ready they are to support the fugitive slave bill, which tramples on the spirit of the Constitution, and its letter, too; which outrages justice and violates the most sacred principles and precepts of Christianity. Not a United States judge, circuit or district, has uttered one word against that “bill of abominations.” Nay, how greedy they are to get victims under it! No wolf loves better to rend a lamb into fragments than these judges to kidnap [69] a fugitive slave, and punish any man who dares to speak against it. You know what has happened in fugitive slave bill courts. You remember the “miraculous” rescue of Shadrach: the peaceable snatching of a man from the hands of a cowardly kidnapper was “high treason” ; it was “levying war.” You remember the “trial” of the rescuers! Judge Sprague's charge to the grand jury that, if they thought the question was which they ought to obey, the law of man or the law of God, then they must “obey both!” serve God and mammon, Christ and the devil, in the same act! You remember the “trial,” the “ruling” of the bench, the swearing on the stand, the witness coming back to alter and “enlarge his testimony” and have another gird at the prisoner! You have not forgotten the trials before Judge Kane at Philadelphia, and Judge Grier at Christiana and Wilkesbarre.

These are natural results of causes well known. You cannot escape a principle. Enslave a negro, will you?—you doom to bondage your own sons and daughters by your own act . . . .

All this looks as if the third hypothesis would be fulfilled, and slavery triumph over freedom; as if the nation would expunge the Declaration of Independence from the scroll of time, and, instead of honoring Hancock and the Adamses and Washington, do homage to Kane and Grier and Curtis and Hallett and Loring. Then the preamble to our Constitution might read “to establish justice, insure domestic strife, hinder the common defence, disturb the general welfare, and inflict the curse of bondage on ourselves and our posterity.” Then we shall honor the Puritans no more, but their prelatical tormentors, nor reverence the great reformers, only the inquisitors of Rome. Yea, we may tear the name of Jesus out of the American Bible; yes, God's name. . . .

See the steady triumph of despotism! Ten years more like the ten years past, and it will be all over with the liberties of America. Everything must go down, and the heel of the tyrant will be on our neck. It will be all over with the rights of man in America, and you and I must go to Austria, to Italy, or to Siberia for our freedom; or perish with the liberty which our fathers fought for and secured to themselves—not to their faithless sons! Shall America thus miserably perish? Such is the aspect of things to-day!

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