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To John G. Whittier.

Wayland, January 20, 1876.
You remember Charles Sprague's description of scenes he witnessed from a window near State Street? First, Garrison dragged through the streets by a mob; second, Burns carried back to slavery by United States troops, through the same street; third, a black regiment marching down the same street to the tune of “John Brown,” to join the United States army for the emancipation of their race. What a thrilling historical poem might be made of that! I have always thought that no incident in the antislavery conflict, including the war, was at once so sublime and romantic as Robert G. Shaw riding through Washington Street at the head of that black regiment. He, so young, so fair, so graceful in his motions, so delicately nurtured, so high-bred in his manners, waving his sword to friends at the windows, like a brave young knight going forth to “deeds of high emprise ;” followed by that dark-faced train, so long trampled in the dust, and now awakened by the trumpet-tones of freedom! How I wish a grand historical painting could be made of it! Mr. Sears, in a [236] sermon he preached at the time of the attack on Fort Wagner, said: “The mere conflict of brute forces is so much murder and slaughter, and nothing more. Whichever side is victorious, there is cause for humiliation, and not for thanksgiving. But in the great conflict of ideas, of civilization against barbarism, of universal emancipation against the slavery of a race, it were a shame not to see the sword of God's mighty angel flashing like sunbeams over the field, and lighting our way to a glorious future.”

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