Old South Meeting House; WGBH Forum Network; Slavery and Abolition at Boston's Old South Meeting House
This your series is focused on Abraham Lincoln the Lincoln family and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Tonight we'll be hearing about how Old South Meeting House fits into this larger story about how the members of the congregation struggled with the issue of slavery. Joining us this evening is James Crawford. Mr. Crawford served as Minister of Old South Church from 1974 to 2002 and is currently the minister emeritus here in theological degrees from the Union Theological Seminary in New York. And over a new theological school and many of his sermons have appeared in the minister's manual and he's the author of the book entitled worthy to raise issues preaching and public responsibility. I'm also pleased to say that he currently serves on the board of trustees of the association. Please help me welcome Mr. James coffin. Well good evening everybody and thank you Lisa and Pat Leahy for your kind invitation to join this series revolving around the reveres the Lincolns of 18th and 19th century
Massachusetts. What a wonderful story to recall and to feature and congratulations to you for enabling it to emerge on this bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birthday and collaboration between these two wonderful historical sites Revere House in the Old South Meeting House brings cheer to us all. Surely Paul Revere and Samuel Adams would express their delight and Abe Lincoln his deep appreciation. Try as I might. However over many years I could find no organic ties between Abraham Lincoln and the old South Meeting House none Tremont Temple. Yes but this wonderful setting. No. So I bring you tonight three vignettes from the membership list of the Old South
Meeting House two of whom anticipated Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation years before its injunction. And the third who fought for and celebrated it. They are in this order. Judge Samuel Sewell the Cantore of this psalm singing congregation Phillis Wheatley a member while yet a slave compelled to sit in the balcony here and Jacob Manning one of the church's ministers during the Civil War. We begin this evening then on Monday November 19th 692. At about noon at Salem Giles Corey was pressed to death for standing mute. Giles Corey's wife had been accused of witchcraft amid the dark fanaticism of the Salem witch hunt. And although Corey found himself inclined to agree with her accusers
her profound piety and horrible execution changed his mind about the whole business and he stood resolutely against it of course he became the next accused. The court found Corey guilty but during his trial he stood before the accusations and by refusing to plead yea or nay to his indictment Corey brought down upon himself the severe penalties of the law pressing to death by the increase of heavy weights upon the body and thus a death unique in American annals took place. Tradition has it. Corey underwent execution in the Rocky Massachusetts field where 18 others similarly cue's met their doom and legend adds that in his agony Corey begged for heavier boulders as he would never played one of the judges on the court sending Giles Corey to his death was a member of the congregation gathering regularly on this spot
in what was then known as the old cedar meeting house. The meeting house that preceded this building. His name Samuel Sewell. In July August and September 16th 92 Samuel Sewell met with six cop met with six colleagues heard the cases amid one of the most astounding and insane episodes in American jurisprudence school was no lawyer as we know lawyers for the law in Puritan Massachusetts Bay lay in the Scriptures pious theocrats interpreted that law and Samuel seul in 16 92 was counted among the most pious and thoroughly convinced churchmen in Boston. He's come down through history known as the hanging judge. He came close to hanging the highly respected John olden but all didn't escaped from jail shock as he wrote and reflection without regret. A lot of
wench's whom he never knew nearly sent him to the gallows that pathological spiritual fury surfacing in the summer of 16 92 became for Samuel Sewell with John Greenleaf what here called the haunting sorrow that never slept. Sewell kept a diary daily. One of the most revealing and reflective documents emanating from colonial Massachusetts and throughout that diary we catch glimpses of a brooding guilty tormented conscience. SOOL prayed for vindication. He fasted alone he wondered if 11 of his 14 children died as a sign of divine revenge. Can you imagine that. And finally in January 16 97 on a fast day called to remember the Salem trials and what must have been one of the most poignant and stirring moments in the history of the old south congregation.
Samuel Sewell slipped the document into the hands of his pastor Samuel Willard and while Sewell stood penitent and humble before the congregation Willard read in part as follows. Samuel Sewell sensible of their re-iterated strokes of God upon himself and his family and being sensible that as to the guilt contracted upon the opening of the late commission that Salem to which this fast day relates he is upon many accounts more concerned than any that he knows of desires to take the blame and shame of it asking pardon of men and especially desiring prayers that God who has unlimited authority would pardon that sin and his other sins personal and relative and according to his infinite by ninety and sovereignty not visit the sin of him or of any other
upon himself or of any of his or upon the land. But that God would powerfully defend him against all temptations to sin for the future and vouchsafes vouchsafe him the efficacious saving conduct of Word and Spirit. Sewells participation in the Salem trials presents us perhaps a dark cruel and sordid picture of a diabolical denizen of the bench that solemn event throws an ominous shadow across Samuel's Sewell's life. But Samuel Sewell was more than a hanging judge. And those six months colored much of his reputation to be sure but in his own time this event notwithstanding he was one of the most revered and respected of public men and three years after his apology in 17:00. He induced another critical moment in American history no less
significant Sanyal souls churchmen ship among many other contributions. He led the singing of the Psalms at morning worship here Samuel Saul's churchmen ship grounded him with a public Efik compelling him to participate vigorously in commercial and political life. It also moved him to draft the first abolitionist tract in New England and he entitled it the selling of Joseph a memorial and composed it in June. 17:00 this tidy monograph turns out to be a polemic as one commentator Sidney Kaplan writes a polemic born of Sewell's perception of the increased number of blacks living in slavery in Boston and the frequency of their pains to escape from bondage. Zul describes this propensity to run away as they are an easy nece under
their slavery. But more we see what appears to Sewell's personal struggle over his own long procrastination for failing to condemn sooner what. Over years he perceived to be the rank unjust and un-Godly condition of black men and women and yes more Sewell wrote in a fury over the mistreatment cruelty and deception exerted on a particular black man named Adam by a Massachusetts slave master and fellow magistrate John Saffren the Samphan versus fuel encounter over some years shows us saff and holding the slave Adam in bondage. Vengefully renting him out against his will to farmers in this region. Saffron's anger at Adams conspiring to escape savin's failing to sustain agreements in-general
treating Adam with contempt and brutality. JOHN SAFRAN pursuits court orders to retain Adam in chains and Devizes printed pamphlets arguing the black race is inferior to the white and the black man's obvious. According to Saffren character and genetic disposition to slavery and one other factor contributing to soules polemic surfaced. Cotton Mather took up the task of writing a treatise he titled The negro Christianised. He finished it in 17:6 six years after the selling of Joseph but even then as Sidney Kaplan writes the main thrust of the negro Christianised would be a plea to the Masters that a black Christian after all would make a happier slave and a black pagan. And when Sule writes his treatise he anticipates Mather's blessing of the racial status
quo. So Samuel Sule anticipating matters. Pathetic apologetic outraged at the degraded condition of Samphan slave Adam. In addition perceiving the increase and an easiness of men and women in bondage indeed piqued by his own conscience. Samuel Sewell rips into the ethos of slavery articulating a powerful moral biblically based case. He opens with a quotation from the most prominent Puritan theologian of the time William anes contending for as much as liberty is in real value Next unto life. None ought to part with it themselves or deprive others of it. But upon most mature consideration and then Samuel Sewell proceeds insisting on human equality as rooted deeply in biblical texts. One of those from Sam 15 assess asserting
God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation. And from that proposition. Continues to argue that anyone selling another human being loses their own humanity. He laments as he writes the removal of negroes from Africa and selling them here. That which God has joined together men boldly Renaissance rend asunder he writes men from their country husbands from their wives parents from their children. How horrible is the uncleanliness mortality if not murder. That the ships are guilty of that bring great crowds of these miserable men and women. Samuel Sule foresees Captain Mathura proposal to Christianize pagan Africans arguing evil must not be done that good may come of
it. He alludes to a prophetic curse on those who fail to liberate their slaves. He stands on that ringing biblical ethic. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you do ye even so to them. For this is the law and the prophets. He closes his case with William Aimes reminding us again that liberty is the very next thing to life itself. Yea by many is preferred before it throughout his life as evidenced in his diary Samuel Sewell courageously stood against iniquitous slavery advocated for black men and women in precarious bleak and feudal circumstances he expressed in 1719 when invited to offer sentiments for the trial of a white citizen of Sandwich who beat his black slave to death. The poorest boys and girls within this profit province such as are of the
lowest condition. What do they be English or Indians or Ethiopians. They have the same right to religion in life that the richest heirs have and they who go about to deprive them of this right. They attempt the bombarding of heaven and the shells they throw will fall down upon their own hearts. Five years before his death in 17:30 sual corresponds with a friend about hiring new house staff a note including almost his last words on the subject. I have an antipathy against slavery hanging just to be sure but a decisive change of mind rooted in conscience shouldering personal blame for a religio political crisis illustrating a rare and healing trait and the luminous moment in our Commonwealth mighty story. And yes we glimpse a sturdy 17th century civil libertarian
whose passion in behalf of moral and civil equality not only for black slaves but women and Native Americans other astonishing but eclipsed SOOL initiatives enables us to appreciate the wide dimensions of human nature its tendencies to obliquity and nobility. And the case of Samuel Sewell encourages us to grant him perhaps not three cheers but certainly to. Leap Ahead now some for decades to a moment in 1772. A woman not yet twenty years old enters a Boston Chamber to face a strenuous and humiliating oral examination when she steps through the door. She faces 18 white male faces skeptically solemn intimidating. There sits John Irving a prominent merchant Charles Chauncy pastor of the 10th Congregational Church. John Hancock
businessman politician chair of the Boston Town Committee that the center of this august gathering we see his excellent. See Thomas Hutchinson the governor of the colony and next to him lieutenant governor Andrew Oliver. Whether the young man stands whether the young woman stands or sits. We do not know but we do know she confronts an ordeal reflecting the shame the horror the tragedy of a North American culture and social dynamic. We have not yet fully escaped why this inquisition what resides at the heart of this apparent star chamber proceeding. I am almost ashamed to tell you the young woman is Phillis Wheatley. She became a public poet between 1767 and 1772. Her verse appeared originally on broad sides and finally she gathered a little sheaf of her work and with the encouragement and support of others she submitted it for publication.
But the poems inflamed controversy. They raised eyebrows. The style smacked of Alexander Pope. The mood occasionally of John Milton. Biblical narratives classical references Latin quotations saturated the work skeptics sauf scoffed. A fraud a hoax. They cried. Who ghost of these lines who use Phillis Wheatley as a poetic front and now the audacity to market these stolen couplets for London Book House are planning to publish the poems. Demand an investigation. Who really composed them. Where laid the genius behind them. Could these poems and truth represent authentic Phillis Wheatley and thus the Inquisition 18 white male Boston establishment Terrytoons facing down a young woman barely out of her teens. They prepared to protect the publisher and the English speaking world from a
catastrophic intellectual and cultural scandal scandal us who could possibly care about a flimsy sheaf of some thirty odd poems. Scandal indeed. Because this young poet Phyllis quickly bore all the marks of humanity perceived by eighteenth century Boston as innately incapable of producing poetry indeed her claims to authorship appear to what we would now might call a sexist racist culture of 18th century Boston. Her claims appeared to the Boston aristocracy as incredibly pretentious. Such claims of truth would at best suggest only a human aberration a freak of nature. Why. Why. Because to our forebears in this city and among the members of the congregation meeting here no poet of any learning elegance and sophistication
could possibly be a woman a black a slave. So they tried her. These learned Harvard graduates devoted to literature the arts and sciences hurling esoteric questions and probes at one they believed in ignoramus not so the sweetly perceived as trash and valued as cattle woman black slave poet Phyllis Wheatley tackled each question with verve and authority. The tribunal listened startled amazed shaken at the close of the interrogation they composed a public attestation to the authenticity of the poems emerging from the hand and the soul of Phillis Wheatley. We whose names are under written do assure the world that the poem specified in the following pages were as we verily believe.
Written by Phyllis a young negro girl who was but a few years since brought an uncultured barbarian from Africa and has ever since been and now is under the disadvantage of serving as a slave in a family in this town. She has been examined by some of the best judges and is thought to be qualified to write them. Signed by that electrified eminent 18 London house subsequently published the poems. Now good people where do we start with this incredible story of the young black slave poet who ultimately became a baptized member of this old South congregation in 1771 are joining this Church proved an exceptional event itself for as one of Philos. Wheatley's nineteenth century biographers writes The master class
justified their institution of slavery by the declaration that they Christianize slaves. Shades of cotton Mather and save their souls. But when their slaves took them at their word and applied for the benefits and society of the church. These Christian people whose religion taught that the greatest of Christian attributes is charity and to Savior taught them to do unto others as they would have others do unto them. Shades of Samuel Saul. These Christian people refuse to extend the right hand of fellowship to their sables sisters and brothers sweetly represented an exception to church membership and Joseph SOOL Samuel. Some 56 years the pastor of this church served as her mentor and friend Phyllis Wheatley was born in 1753 1754. Perhaps in the West African country we now call Senegal. Our
subject as one of her 19th century biographers writes our subject was stolen from her home and parents in her baby years by cruel men who decreed for her perpetual slavery. She was about seven years of age when dragged from the land of her fathers by those who profess to be civilized Christian men. Those cold hearts packed away this babe in company with seventy or eighty other girls. Many of the same age tenderness and innocence they slammed her into a slave ship brought her to Boston and put her on the auction block. Our little waif wrapped in a scrap of carpet Bostom continues our biographer. Boston the eye of America the modern intellectual Athens is one of the freest cities in the world today. Yet one hundred years ago it was a common thing to visit the markets and to purchase children.
The year was 1761 Susanna and John Wheatly purchased young Phyllis at age seven. They named her after her slave ship the philos the Wheatley's expected to foster and groom a domestic servant to care for Mrs. Wheatly in her old age. They discovered in a neatly gentle maiden and sublime genius they immediately recognized the human treasure. The Wheatley's taught us to read to write to parts of Latin and Greek. They rendered trips to Europe exposing her to what was then among a certain race and class considered high culture. She gained honor and high acclaim. Meeting our Ambassador Benjamin Franklin born directly across the street as you know baptized here described by Justice Holmes you will remember as a citizen of Boston who dwelt awhile in Philadelphia. The Lord Mayor of Boston presented her with a copy of Milton's Paradise and at her
death the executors sold it sold it and occupies today a place on the shelves at Harvard College when her surrogate mother Susanna died in 1774. Phyllis Wheatley's career and fragile family life began to dissolve. John Wheatly died in 1778. The crisis and distractions of the war deprived Felis of familial and social support. Her husband John Peter's abandoned her two children died in infancy. A third died with her in 1784. Thirty one years old. Isolated and poverty stricken. The Afric news as she called herself. Gone. What legacy do we possess. How do we remember Phillis Phyllis Wheatley Well thank heaven we possess an inheritance of freedom from this oppressed women this enslaved black
she may well have been constrained by the culture of her time but her heart and soul her hopes and dreams clamored for freedom and one of her extant letters to the Native American Christian missionary Samson aka Phyllis Wheatley rejects the hypocrisy of those engaged in a revolutionary war seeking liberty and she calls attention to what she calls the strange absurdity of their conduct. Whose words and actions are so diametrically opposite and to mock him she insists in every human heart God has implanted a principle which we call love of freedom. It is impatient of impression and pants for deliverance and by leave of our modern oppressors I will assert that the same principle lives in us. Isn't that a majestic and radiant hope the love of freedom implanted by God in every human breast. I want to show you for a few moments how Phyllis Wheatley the
love of freedom implanted in her breast impatient of oppression and panting for deliverance shed light. What shackles she could through her poetry. Each of you I hope has a little 11 page leaflet including six of Philos. Wheatley's poems each poem represents others in the Wheatly corpus. Each one represents what Jhansi shields the editor of a collection of Wheatley's poetry including biographical and critical material assembled by Henry Louis Gates Jr. emanating from the Schomburg Library in New York. Each poem in the leaflet represents what shields calls the poetics of freedom. Suggests four moods in Philos. Wheatley's poetics of freedom. The first is the escape to freedom through the imagination. The second the escape to freedom through life after death.
The third the escape to freedom through finding security amid chaos. The fourth escape to freedom through political revolution. Let's touch on each one briefly. In your brochure turn first to the poem on page 4. It's entitled imagination does everybody have one. I brought a ton of them. I think she's I think all gone. It's on page 4.
The first one's entitled imagination and imagination she writes this first then the escape to freedom through imagination imagination who can sing lifeforce or who describe the swiftness of course soaring through air to find the bright abode the Imperial Palace of the foundering God. We and I pinions can serve pass the wind and leave the rolling universe behind. From start to star the mental. Up the road. Measure the skies and range the realms above. There is in one view we grasp the mighty hole with new worlds a maze the unbounded soul. Then we see her afirm imagination by reversing turning around recreating current conditions. In this case she asserts imagination can turn winter into summer. Though winter frowns to fancy's raptured eyes the fields may flourish
and gay scenes arise the frozen deeps may break their iron bands and the waters murmur or Sands. Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign and with her flowery riches decked the plane so vainest made a his honors around in all the forest may with leaves be crowned showers may to send and Duge their gems disclose nectar sparkle on the blooming rose. Such is my power. Nor are thy orders vain. Oh thou the leader of the mental train in full perfection all thy works are wrought and thine. The sceptre or the realms of thought Philip sweetly uses our imagination to turn her circumstances upside down upside down to create new conditions to envision freedom and secondly the principle of freedom planted in Philos. Wheatley's brast makes itself evident in her vision of freedom after death. No more slavery
in heaven. On your leaflet page 5 you'll find a funeral poem on the death of see an infant of twelvemonth's. Phyllis Wheatly wrote a number of allergies she wrote them on demand and one you'll see a number of quotation. This one you'll see a number of quotation marks indicating the babe now among the seraphic voices rejoicing in his release from the tribulations of human existence through airy roads his wings his wings his infant flight to pure regions of celestial light the angels view him with the light unknown press his soft hand and seat him on his throne. Then smiling thus to this divine abode the seat of saints of Saraf and of God thrice welcome thou the Raptured babe replies. Thanks to my God who snatched me to the skies ere triumphant had possessed my heart. Ere the tempter had
beguiled my heart as yet transcends base actions I was bent ere yet I knew temptation's dire intent ere yet the lash for horrid crimes I felt ere vanity had led my way to guilt but soon arrived at my celestial goal full glories rush on my expanding soul joyful he spoke exulting cherub's round clap their glad wings the heavenly vaults resound say parents why this unveiling moan why heave your pensive bosoms with the groan could you welcome to this world again. This air of bliss with a superior air. Me thinks he answers with a smile severe Thrones and dominions cannot tempt me there and throughout her extant poems Phyllis sweetly glorifies the possibilities of the celestial detailing the
trials and tribulations of this earthly life she sees freedom. She sees liberation in heaven. Thirdly Phillis Wheatley seeks a secure pattern amid chaos in her case Phillis Wheatley makes frequent references to solar imagery the sun the moon the regular courses of the stars and the sky sunset and sunrise. All of this sets a secure cycle around a chaotic and vulnerable life where nothing for a black woman slave poet was secure and on page six from a poem entitled A hymn to the morning Aurora hail and all the thousand dies which DECT I progress through the vaulted skies. The more and awakes and white extends her rays on every leaf. The gentle Zephyr plays sea in the east. The illustrious King of day his riding rising radiance drives the
shades away and in the last two lines from him till the evening nights leaden sceptres seals my drowsy eyes then cease my song till faire arrives fill a sweetly understood the solar cycles as security as freedom in a chaotic and threatening world. And lastly but hardly least phyllo sweetly sees freedom and political revolution and writing and 1772. As to the secretary of state for the colonies the right honorable William Earle of Dartmouth Phillis Wheatley speaks to the Earl believing him a sympathizer with colonial freedom. She sees him holding the silken reins of freedom and loosening them so freedom can unfold on page seven of your leaflet. When freedom comes. She writes. When freedom comes no more America in mournful strain of wrongs and grievance undressed to complain no longer shalt thou tread that iron.
Dread the iron chain which wanton tyranny with lawless hand has made and which it meant to enslave the land. See that no longer the wrongs and grievance the dread iron chain the wanton tyranny the lawless hand the enslaved land. And then she continues with a remarkable self-reference explanation as to her own yearning and love for freedom. Listen to her tell the Phillis Wheatley story. Should you my Lord while you peruse my song wonder from whence my love of freedom sprung whence flow these wishes for the common good by feeling hearts alone best understood I young and life by seeming cruel fate was snatched from Africa fancied happy see what Pang's excruciating must my last what sorrows labor in my parent's breast steeled was the soul and by no misery move that from a father seized his babe aloft
such such my case and can I then but pray others may never feel tyrannise sway you will find Phyllis Wheatley's pure pure trees saturated with references to political revolution and its promise of freedom from any type Randich sway. Oh what a figure we made here. That we had time to touch other extraordinary bases. Note to George Washington when he became commander of the colonial armies in 1775 again celebrating universal freedom and all those who struggled and fight for it. Washington's gracious and modest note in reply followed and then at his invitation and audience with him in Cambridge or her pivotal position in one of the white races. Perverse and evil debates of the 18th century. What constitutes human being. Phyllis Wheatley lives in the debate as an illustration of the universal capacities of all human kind. Yes even
black female slave poets to develop high culture and build a civilization. Phyllis sweetly confounded the blind and corrupt racism of Europeans or her presence illuminating the contradiction between people will it writing Creed's to freedom while holding another race and slavery. Her genius cast an ironic bleak and blistering light on that national hypocrisy political philosophies in this country and abroad used her as a centerpiece in defense of human rights and her critics. While Jefferson read her poetry and cast it aside the compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism he said. Voluntary Valtteri read it and rated it great. And Thomas Clarkson one of the singular cadre of British abolitionists in a book refuting slavery that shocked the world. Cited three of philos Wheatley's poems and he went on to remark
that if the author race was designed for slavery the greater part of the inhabitants of great Britain must lose their claim to freedom. What a startling and radiant figure Nay what an event in American history this black slave woman poet this third female poet published in America and Bradstreet being the first this composer of the first book of poetry published by a person of African descent in the English language. Black literature of an appreciable scope descending directly from her although in more recent years black academics and artists tending to set her aside because of her eighteenth century acceptance accommodation and honor in the world of Anglo culture accusations and rejection. Henry Louis Gates calls the second trial of Phyllis Phyllis Wheatley perhaps in any case writing some 12 years after Phyllis Wheatley's death an observer in Philadelphia having just
finished reading her poetry graph. Phyllis Wheatley's poignant insight into the dual meaning embraced by the American Revolution. Freedom for the colonists and freedom for slaves. The double meaning bound up in her own life is done. He wrote this done at length along with held the Kreig goes forth that Afric shall be blessed and free Philos. rises and the world no more denies the sacred right to mental power. While heaven inspired she proves her country's claim to freedom and her own deathless faith. And before we are finished one more giant in our pantheon and we begin on Sunday October 5th 1862. Jacob Merrill manning the minister of the old south congregation from 1857 to 1882 made ready to join the 43rd regiment of the Massachusetts
volunteers and standing in the pulpit behind me as the new chaplain of that regiment. On the eve of the eve of their journey to the front Manning preached to the officers of the regiment a sermon entitled The soldier of freedom and then that sermon he crystallized not only his own ministry but focused public attention on this congregation's concern for civic matters. On that occasion so long ago Jacob Manning saw freedom to be the overriding issue of the Civil War and against stout resistance not only in this conversation but from his senior associate George Washington. Blackgum about more in a moment. Manning held his ground. Freedom he affirmed. Freedom now a few appeals to us because her champions and defenders freedom. The trial of humanity cradled in chains and darkness led forth into light by hope prophecy and song taught to endure the earthquakes and grapple with the
whirlwind attended by the good of all ages and terrible only to tyrants. Freedom has at length come to this western world and taken her proud seat among nations. Verily its a grand and awful trust which the generations have committed to our keeping with that salvo. The Reverend Jacob Manning becomes literally a soldier for freedom a soldier for justice a career soldier for our commonwealth. The crisis of the Civil War simply magnifying his gifts his inclinations and his courage. Who was Jacob Manning a brief note he was born in Western New York went to school there graduated from Amherst in 1850 with honors and entered Andover seminary. He was ordained in 1854 and 18 1888 57 became the associate minister of the old south. He met a mixed mixed greeting some church members enthusiastic. Others strongly
resisting his arrival. Not a nice situation but he faced more than that. His detractors either fell away or changed their minds. The worst was yet to come. Manning found himself yoked with George Washington Blagden Yale 18:23 Andover seminary 18:26 senior minister of the old South Church 1837 to 1872. Blagden had been pastor of the old south for 31 years before Manning arrived. He was a man fully aware of his seniority but even more as Blagden was a native of Washington D.C. Manning encountered a decided sympathiser with the Confederate cause in the Civil War one known in these climes as a copperhead Blagden sympathies were ironic because he married the sister of Boston's most militant abolitionist Wendell Phillips and then found himself tethered to one of Boston's most
abolitionist pastors Jacob Manning nonetheless some years later someone reflecting on their joint ministry dared say that Manning and Blagden walked together in simplicity and godly sincerity labored side by side with mutual helpfulness as few colleagues through such trying and exciting times ever have done. Sounds great doesn't it. I don't believe it. In May of 1861. Not long after the fall of Fort Sumter and the presence of a large assemblage there was a flag raising here at the church flag and proclaimed the flag an emblem of God's mighty and prevailing truth. The emblem of a free government from which men cannot see see but by rebellion. Manning defined the flag a symbol of justice and loyalty to human rights. The very next week Manning observes in his journal. I hear Blagden gave a lecture in which he tried to qualify and take back the strong northern sentiments uttered by him at a flag raising last
Wednesday the outrages in the South seem not to have cheered him entirely of his pro-slavery inclinations. One year later on the very day he preached to the Massachusetts Regiment and the soldier of freedom. Preparing them for his trip to the front Manning informs us in his journal that some people thought he should consult with Blagden and abort his decision. This I have refused to do as Blagden has repeatedly treated me with rudeness and when I have gone to him for counsel and I cannot expose myself to such treatment I do not think Christ requires it of me. Cast not your pearls before swine and so on. In March 1864 Manning informs us in his journal of the deacons being much troubled and excited over the non intercourse of the two pastors. Manning refers to Blagden as a son a. A scolding pastor he castigates his colleague for disloyalty. He tells the congregation to scorn the flattery of
traders. He keeps private incredulity on Blagden presidential vote against Lincoln. He comments a surgically Blagden refusal to read Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamations and when the Confederacy surrendered in April 1865 Manning tells us Blagden southern sympathies nearly drove people out of the house. The tension explodes at Lincoln's death and writing in his journal two days after the Good-Friday assassination having preached on Lincoln's death that Easter morning. Manning describes the whole nation as inconsolable and weeping and then almost in a fury he continues. Not finding our church draped in black as it should have been. I ordered the sexton to throw my Copperhead associates gown over the reading desk and I put the Bible on the hat. So the president's funeral sermon was preached lying on flagons gown though he himself feels little sorrow at our woeful loss.
So then what did Jacob Mensing pan on that manuscript spread across the black liturgical gown of George Washington Blagden. What could he say to that shocked and grieving congregation gathering in this meeting house that this consulate Easter Day. Abraham Lincoln's life. How incomplete. He said. Abraham Lincoln's life. How complete would he not say so as to all that concern his country if his spirit could stop for a moment and touch those cold lips which are sealed forever. What is life not have filled out the utmost stretch of his ambition and earthly hope. When he came from his simple home in the West had he known had he known that the state across which he was born secretly and in the skies would come first singing the paeans of freedom to lay its offerings of Thanksgiving at his feet. Maryland had
he known that he should live to issue in the providence of God a proclamation giving manhood and womanhood to four millions of slaves. Had he known that he should hear his own plain name tenderly spoken all over the earth wherever goodness is revered and liberty loved. Had he known that he should be permitted by his wise counsel seconded by the able captains who he knew to Drood his course to make his distracted country feared and respected throughout the world that the very day on which his summons to eternity should come would be but the fourth anniversary of the day on which the starry banners stooped to the dust at Fort Sumter and on that day the same banner by the same hand which surrendered it should be lifted up to that ancient height but covered with more than its ancient glory. Had he all four known this would he not have said Lord. That will be enough. Then let thy servant depart for their lives has seen my salvation and
brooding on significance of our martyred president martyred president Jacob Manning captures Lincoln's exalted character and then foreshadows the overarching reality of Abraham Lincoln's deathless impact and his ever abiding presence. There is much in Abraham Lincoln says Manning. There is much in Abraham Lincoln the sweetest and tenderest traits of his character of which we have seen but glimpses yet still we feel no hesitation today in placing him so far as patriotism and honesty of motive can go on the same pedestal with Washington and then beyond what we now accord him how his name will brighten as it rises out of the present conflicts into the serene sky of history as all his little half forgotten acts of love come welling up into the memories of us all as prejudice and passion cease clouding our vision and we see
him traveling in the greatness of his strength. One of the choice company of imperial souls garment and crowned with the gratitude of the ages along the starry pathways of the immortal A good people we gather tonight in this house of freedom we cherish together regardless of the tilt of our religious inclinations. We cherished together these Massachusetts harbingers of freedom recognizing of course reveres and Lincoln's. But tonight in this sacred place we gratefully celebrate. In particular the Lincoln who crystallized the hope of Samuel Sewell will fill the dream of Phyllis Whately kindled the passion of Jacob Manning and be the one whom we gratefully addressed finally as the great emancipator. Thank
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- James W. Crawford, Minister Emeritus of Boston's Old South Church, discusses how the concept of liberty and destiny so tied in with the church's identity, flavored the congregation's stance on slavery and how Lincoln's influence provided inspiration during the Civil War.Boston's Old South Meeting House has a long connection with abolition, reaching back to the 1700 publication of New England's first anti-slavery tract by prominent congregation member Samuel Sewall. But by the 1850s, Old South, known for its role in the fight for American independence, was split on the question of how to achieve the abolition of slavery.
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Identifier: fcb3a50d58ec243a8fd52fb50d2c5ea01f8416f0 (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
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- Chicago: “Old South Meeting House; WGBH Forum Network; Slavery and Abolition at Boston's Old South Meeting House,” 2009-09-30, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 26, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-jm23b5wk4c.
- MLA: “Old South Meeting House; WGBH Forum Network; Slavery and Abolition at Boston's Old South Meeting House.” 2009-09-30. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 26, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-jm23b5wk4c>.
- APA: Old South Meeting House; WGBH Forum Network; Slavery and Abolition at Boston's Old South Meeting House. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-jm23b5wk4c