Harriet Martineau (1883).

Remarks at the Unveiling of Miss Anne Whitney's statue of Miss Martineau in the Old South Meeting-House, December 26, 1883. This was the last public utterance of Mr. Phillips.

Webster once said, that “In war there are no Sundays.” So in moral questions there are no nations. Intellect and morals transcend all limits. When a moral issue is stirred, then there is no American, no German. We are all men and women. And that is the reason why I think we should indorse this memorial of the city to Harriet Martineau, because her service transcends nationality. There would be nothing inappropriate if we raised a memorial to Wickliffe, or if the common-school system of New England raised a memorial to Calvin; for they rendered the greatest of services. So with Harriet Martineau, we might fairly render a monument to the grandest woman of her day, we, the heirs of the same language, and one in the same civilization; for steam and the telegraph have made, not many nations, but one, in perfect unity in the world of thought, purpose, and intellect. And there could be no fault found in thus recognizing this counsellor of princes, and adviser of ministers, this woman who has done more for beneficial changes in the English world than any ten men in Great Britain. In an epoch fertile of great genius among women, it may be said of Miss Martineau, that she was the peer of the noblest, and that her influence on the progress of the age was more than equal [474] to that of all the others combined. She has the great honor of having always seen truth one generation ahead; and so consistent was she, so keen of insight, that there is no need of going back to explain by circumstances in order to justify the actions of her life. This can hardly be said of any great Englishman, even by his admirers.

We place the statue here in Boston because she has made herself an American. She passed through this city on the very day when the father of my honored friend was mobbed on State Street. Her friends feared to tell her the truth when she asked what the immense crowd were doing, and dissimulated by saying it was post-time, and the throng were hurrying to the office for the mail. Afterwards, when she heard of the mob and its action, horror-struck, she turned for an explanation to her host, the honored president of a neighboring university; and even he was American enough to assure her that no harm could come from such a gathering; said it was not a mob, it was a collection, or gathering.

Harriet Martineau had been welcomed all over America. She had been received by Calhoun in South Carolina, the Chief-Justice of Virginia had welcomed her at his mansion. But she went through the South concealing no repugnance, making her obeisance to no idol. She never bowed anywhere to the aristocracy of accident. This brave head and heart held its own throughout that journey. She came here to gain a personal knowledge of the Abolitionists, and her first experience was with the mob on State Street. Of course she expressed all the horror which a gallant soul would feel. You may speak of the magnanimity and courage of Harriet Martineau; but the first element is her rectitude of purpose, of which was born that true instinct which saw through all tilings. We have had Englishmen come here who were clear-sighted enough to say true words [475] after they returned home; but this was a woman who was welcomed by crowds in the South, and about whom a glamour was thrown to prevent her from seeing the truth. It is easy to be independent when all behind you agree with you, but the difficulty comes when nine hundred and ninety-nine of your friends think you wrong. Then it is the brave soul who stands up, one among a thousand, but remembering that one with God makes a majority. This was Harriet Martineau. She was surrounded by doctors of divinity, who were hedging-her about with their theories and beliefs. What do some of these later travellers who have been here know of the real New England, when they have been seated in ceiled houses, and gorged with the glittering banquets of social societies? Harriet Martineau, instead of lingering in the camps of the Philistines, could, with courage, declare, “I will go among the Abolitionists, and see for myself.” Shortly after the time of the State-street mob she came to Cambridge; and her hosts there begged her not to put her hand into their quarrels. The Abolitionists held a meeting there. The only hall of that day open to them was owned by infidels. Think of that, ye friends of Christianity! And yet the infidelity of that day is the Christianity of to-day. To this meeting in this hall Miss Martineau went, to express her entire sympathy with the occasion. As a result of her words and deeds, such was the lawlessness of that time, that she had to turn back from her intended journey to the West, and was assured that she would be lynched if she dared set foot in Ohio. She gave up her journey, but not her principles.

Harriet Martineau saw, not merely the question of free speech, but the grandeur of the great movement just then opened. This great movement is second only to the Reformation in the history of the English and the [476] German race. In time to come, when the grandeur of this movement is set forth in history, you will see its grand and beneficial results. Harriet Martineau saw it fifty years ago, and after that she was one of us. She was always tile friend of the poor. Prisoner, slave, worn out by toil in the mill, no matter who the sufferer, there was always one person who could influence Tory and Liberal to listen. Americans, I ask you to welcome to Boston this statue of Harriet Martineau, because she was the greatest American Abolitionist. We want our children to see the woman who came to observe, and remained to work, and, having once put her hand to the plough, persevered until she was allowed to live where the paean of the emancipated four millions went up to heaven, showing the attainment of her great desire.

The End.

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