Old South Meeting House; WGBH Forum Network; Slavery and Abolition at Boston's Old South Meeting House
This year's series is focused on Abraham Lincoln the Lincoln family and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. So we'll be hearing about how Old South Meeting House fits into this larger story and 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 from the Union Theological Seminary in New York and over a new theological school. Many of the sermons have appeared in the minister's manual and he's the author of the book entitled to raise issues preaching and public responsibility. I'm also pleased to say that he currently serves on the board of trustees of the old south Association. Please help me welcome Mr. James Crawford. Well good evening everybody and thank you Elisa and Pat Leahy for your kind invitation to join the series revolving around the Reveres of the Lincoln's 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 coming aberration 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 Abel 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. Dream on temple. Yes but this wonderful setting. No. So I bring you tonight three vignettes from the membership lists 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 sued the Cantore of this psalm singing congregation Phillis Wheatley a member 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. Sixteen ninety two. 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 Corrie guilty but during his trial he stood mute before the accusations and by refusing to plead. Yea or nay to his indictment already brought down upon himself the severe penalties of the law pressing to death by the increase of heavy weights upon the body. And thus the death unique in American annals took place tradition has it Corey underwent execution in the Rocky Massachusetts field where 18 others similarly juss met their doom and legend adds that in his agony Cory 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 fool. In July August and September 16 92 Samuel SOOL met with six cars met with six colleagues heard the cases amid one of the most astounding and insane episodes in American jurisprudence. Sule was no lawyer as we know lawyers for the law in Puritan Massachusetts Bay lay in the Scriptures. Pius theocrats interpreted that law and Samuel Sewell and 16 ninety two 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 Alden. But all of them escaped from jail shocked as he wrote in reflection without regret. A lot of
wenches whom we never knew nearly sent him to the gallows. That pathological spiritual fury surfacing in the summer of 69 he too became for Samuel Sewell what John Greenleaf Whittier called the haunting sorrow that never slept. Still 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 in what must have been one of the most poignant and storing 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 the reiterated 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 90 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 vouchsafed him the efficacious saving conduct of Word and Spirit. School's participation in the Salem trials presents us perhaps a dark cruel and sordid picture of a diabolical denizen of the bench. That's Salem event throws an ominous shadow across Samuel Sauls life but Samuel was more than a hanging judge. In 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. Samuel Sauls churchmen ship among many other contributions he led the singing of the Psalms at morning
worship here. Samuel Sills churchmen ship grounded him with a public ethic compelling him to participate vigorously in commercial and political life. It also moved him to a draft the first abolitionist tract in New England and he entitled it the selling of Joseph a memorial and composed it in June. Seventeen hundred. This tidy monograph turns out to be a polemic as one commentator Sidney Kaplan writes a polemics born of soules perception of the increased number of blacks living in slavery in Boston and the frequency of their pains to escape from bondage. Sewell describes this propensity to run away as their easiness under their slavery. But more. We see what appears as soules personal struggle over his own long progress
the nation for failing to condemn sooner what over years he perceived to be the rank unjust and the godly condition of black men and women. And yes more seul 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 SAFRAN. The saffron vs. fuel encounter over some years shows us saffron holding the slave. Adam in bondage vengefully renting him out against his will to farmers in this region. Saffron's anger at Adam's conspiring to escape sanctions failing to sustain agreements in general treating Adam with contempt and brutality. JOHN SAFRAN pursuits court orders to retain Adam in chains and
devises printed pamphlets arguing the black race is inferior to the white and the black man's obvious according to Saffron character and genetic disposition to slavery. And one other factor contributing to soules polemics surfaced Cotton Mather took up the task of writing a treatise he titled The negro Christianized. He finished it in seventeen six six years after the selling of Joseph. But even then as Sidney Kaplan writes the main thrust of the negro Christianized would be a plea to the Masters that a black Christian after all would make a happier sway than a black pagan. And when Sulu writes his treatise he anticipates there is a blessing of the racial status quo. So Samuel Sulu anticipating matter's pathetic apologetic outraged at that the graded condition of
saffron slave Adam. In addition perceiving the increase and easiness of men and women in bondage indeed Pete by his own conscience. Samuel Sewell rips into the ethos of slavery articulating a powerful. Maro biblically based case. He opens with a quotation from the most prominent Puritan theologian of the time William Ames contending for as much as liberty is in real value Next unto life not 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 Psalm 15 assess asserting God hath made of one blot. All nations of man for to dwell on the face of the earth
and have determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation. And from that proposition SOOL 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 many boldly Renaissance rend asunder he writes men from their country husbands from their wives parents from their children. How horrible is the UN cleanliness mortality if not murder that the ships are guilty of that bring great crowds of these miserable men and women. Samuel Sule foresees cotton matters proposal to Christianize pagan Africans arguing evil must not be done that good may come of it. He alludes to a prophetic curse and 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 Ames reminding us again that liberty is the very next thing to life itself 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 futile 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 prophet's province such as are of the lowest condition whether they be English or Indians or
Ethiopians they have the same right to religion in life that the richest areas 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 1730 SOOL 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 Judge to be sure but it decisive change of mind rooted in conscience shouldering personal blame for a religio political crisis illustrating a rare and healing trait in a luminous moment in our commonwealth a 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 initiatives. Unable to appreciate the wide dimensions of human nature its tendencies to obliquity nobility and the case of Samuel Sewell encourages us to grant him perhaps not three cheers but certainly too. We leap ahead now some four decades to a moment in 1772. A woman not yet 20 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 skeptical and solemn intimidating. There sits John Irving a prominent merchant Charles Chauncey pastor of the tenth Congregational Church. John Hancock businessman politician and chair of the Boston Town Committee and at 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'm almost ashamed to tell you. The young woman is Phillis Wheatley. She became a public poet between 1767 in 1772. Her verse appeared originally on broadsides 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 soft scoffed a fraud a hoax they cried who ghost of these lines who used Phillis Wheatley as a poetic front. And now the audacity to market these stolen couplets. The London Book House is planning to publish the poems demand an investigation. Who really compose them. Where lay the genius behind them. Could these poems in truth represent authentic Phillis Wheatley. And thus the Inquisition. 18 white male Boston the stablish Menteri ends 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 sheet of some 30 odd poems scandal. Indeed because this young poet Phillis Wheatley bore all the marks of a humanity perceived by 18th century Boston as innately incapable of producing poetry. Indeed her claims to authorship appeared to what we would now might call the 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 an ignoramus not so fearless weakly perceived as trash and valued as cattle woman black slave poet. Phillis Wheatley tackled each question with a verb and authority. The tribunals listened startled amazed shaken at the close of the interrogation they composed the public at his station to the authenticity of the poems emerging from the hand in the soul of Phillis Wheatley. We whose names are under written do is sure the world that the poem specified in the following pages were as we verily believe written by fellas 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 a 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 us one of Phillis Wheatley s 19th century biographers writes The master class justified their institution of
slavery by the declaration that they Christianized 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 who Savior taught them to do unto others as they would have others do unto them. Shades of Samuel Saul. These Christian people refused to extend the right hand of fellowship to their sables sisters and brothers Phillis Wheatley represented an exception to the church membership and Joseph SOOL Samuel sun for 56 years the pastor of this church served as her mentor and friend. Phillis Wheatley was born in 1753 year 1754 perhaps in the West African country we now call Senegal. Our subject
as one of our 19th century biographers writes our subject was stolen from our home and parents in her baby years by a cruel man who decreed for her perpetual slavery. She was about seven years of age when dragged from the land of her fathers by those who professed to be civilized Christian men. Those cold hearts packed away this babe in company with 70 or 80 other girls. Many of the same age tenderness and innocence. They slammed her into a slave ship brought her to Boston and put her around the auction block a little waif wrapped in a scrap of carpet. Boston continues our biographer Boston the eye of America the modern intellectual. Athens is one of the freest cities in the world today. Yet 100 years ago it was a common thing to visit the markets and to purchase children. The year was 1761. Suzanne
and John Wheatley purchased young fellas at age seven. They named her after her slave ship. The fellas the Wheatley's are expected to foster and groom a domestic servant to care for Mr. sweetly in her old age. They discovered in a knightly gentle maiden and sublime genius. They immediately recognized the human treasure the Wheatley's taught Phyllis to read to write. To parse 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 a while in Philadelphia. The Lord Mayor of Boston presented her with a copy of Milton's Paradise and at her
death the executors sold or sold it and occupies today a place on the shelves at Harvard College. When her surrogate mother Susanna died in 1774 Phillis Wheatley career and fragile family life began to dissolve. John Wheatley died in 1778. The crisis and distractions of the war deprived fellas of familial and social support. Her husband John Peters abandoned her two children died in infancy. A third died with her in 1784 31 years old. Isolated and poverty stricken the Afric news as she called herself gone. What legacy do we possess. How do we remember Phillis Wheatley. Well thank heaven we possess an inheritance of freedom from this oppressed woman this and slave 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 our extant letters to the Native American Christian missionary Samson Arkham Phillis Wheatley rejects on 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 in to walk him she insists in every human heart God has implanted a principle which we call love of freedom. It is impatient of oppression 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 Phillis Wheatley the love of freedom implanted in her breast. Impatient
of oppression and panting for deliverance shed light. Watch what shackles she could through her poetry. Each of you I hope has a little 11 page leaflet including six of Phillis Wheatley poems. Each poem represents others in the Wheatley corpus each one represents what John C. 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 shield suggests four moods in fearless weeklies 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 the escape to freedom
through political revolution. Let's touch on each one briefly in your brochure. Turn first of the poem on page 4 it's in title imagination. Does everybody have one. I brought a ton of them. I think she's I think Elise is all gone. It's on page four.
The first one is entitled imagination and imagination she writes this first on the escape to freedom through imagination imagination who can sing by force or who described the swiftness of my course soaring through air to find the bright abode the imprint old palace of the funder in God we die pinions can surpass the wind and leave the rolling universe behind from star to star the mental optics row measure the skies and range the realms above. There is in one view we grasped a mighty whole where with new worlds a maze the unbounded soul that we see here affirm imagination by reversing turning around recreating current conditions. In this case she asserts imagination can turn winter into summer. Though winter frowns to fancies rapture dies 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 Venus may diffuse his honour's around in all the forest may with leaves be crowned. Showers may descend and do lose their gems disclosing nectar sparkle on the blooming rose. Such is thy power. Nor are the orders of pain. O thou the leader of the mental train in full perfection by works are right and I in the scepter or the realms of thought Philip. It was sweetly uses her imagination to turn her circumstances up died down upside down to create new conditions to envision freedom and secondly the principle of freedom planted in Phillis Wheatley breast 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 12 months. Phillis Wheatley 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 he wings his infant flight to pure regions of celestial light. The angels view him with the light unknown press his soft hand and see him on his throne then smiling thus to this divine abode the seat of saints of sorrow of sand of God thrice welcome that 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 ere yet on sins base actions
I was bent ere yet I knew temptations dire intent ere yet the lash for horrid crimes I felt err vanity had let my way to guilt but soon arrived at my celestial goal full glories a rush on my expanding soul. Joyful he spoke exulting cherubs around clapped their glad wings the heavenly vaults resigned. Say parents why this unveiling my own why heave your pensive bosoms with the groan. Could you welcome to this world again this air of bliss with disappear your air. Me thinks he answers with a smile severe Thrones and dominions cannot tempt me there. Throughout her extant poems of Phillis Wheatley glorifies the possibilities of his celestial disdaining 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 in 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 eyes which decked I progress through the vaulted skies the morn awakes and wide extends her rays on every leaf the gentle Zephyr plays C in the east. The illustrious King of day his writing rising radiance drives the shades away and in the last two lines
from in him to the evening night's leaden scepter seals my drowsy eyes then cease my song till fair. Aurora eyes. Phillis Wheatley understood the solar cycles as security as freedom in a chaotic and threatening world. And lastly but hardly least. Phillis Wheatley sees freedom in political revolution and writing in 1770 to those to the secretary of state for the colonies the Right Honorable William Earl of Dartmouth Phillis Wheatley speaks to the girl 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 undress to complain no longer shall tread the
iron dread the iron chain which wanton tyranny with lawless hand has made and which it meant to enslave the land. I see that no longer the wrongs and grievance the dread iron chain the wanton tyranny of the lawless hand the enslaved land. And then she continues with a remarkable self referenced 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 my young life by seeming cruel fate was snatched from Africa its fancied happy seat. What pangs excruciating must my last what sorrows labor in my parent's breast. Steel was the sole and by no means remove that from a father seized his babe and laughed. Such
such my case. And can I then but pray. Others may never feel tyrannies sway. You will find Phillis Wheatley is pure poetry saturated with references to political revolution and its promise of freedom from any tie remix way. Oh what a figure we made here. With that we had time to touch other extraordinary bases. I know to George Washington when he became commander of the colonial armies in 1775 again celebrating universal freedom and all those who struggle 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. Phillis Wheatley lives in the debate as an illustration of the universal capacities of all humankind.
Yes even black female slave poets to develop high culture and build a civilization. Phillis Wheatley confounded the blind and corrupt racism of Europeans or her presence. A woman eating the contradiction between a people Willett writing creeds 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 voluntary read it and rated it great and Thomas Clarkson one of the singular cadre of British abolitionists in a book refuting slavery that shook the world. I cited three of Phyllis Wheatley's poems and he went on to remark
that if the authoress 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 in a vent in American history this black slave woman poet. This third female pub 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 ever eighteenth century acceptance accommodation and honor in the world of Anglo culture accusations and rejection Henry Louis Gates calls the second trial of Phillis Wheatley. Perhaps in any case writing some 12 years after Phillis Wheatley is death.
An observer in Philadelphia having just finished reading her poetry grass Phyllis Wheatley's poignant insight into the dual meaning embraced by the American Revolution freedom for the colonists and freedom for slaves. The double meeting bound up in her own life is done. He wrote it is done at length along with held the creed goes forth that Africa shall be blessed and free. Phyllis 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 fame. 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 forty third regiment of the Massachusetts volunteers. Standing in the pulpit behind me as the new chaplain of that regiment and the ease of there on the eve of their journey to the front Manning preached to the officers of the regiment a sermon entitled The soldier of freedom. In that sermon he crystallized not only his own ministry but focused public attention on this congregations 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 resistance not only in this congregation but from his senior associate George Washington Blagden about more in a moment. Manning held his ground. Freedom here firmed freedom now a few appeals to us because her champions and defenders of freedom the child 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 it's a grand and awful trust which the generations have committed to our keeping. With that salvo the Rev. 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 an eight hundred fifty seven 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 eight hundred twenty three Andover seminary eight hundred twenty six. 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 blagging was a native of Washington DC. Manning encountered a decided sympathizer with the Confederate cause in the civil war. One known in these climbs 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 walk 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. Don't believe it. And May 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 seed 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 cured him entirely of his pro-slavery inclinations. One year later on the very day he preached to the Massachusetts Regiment on 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 Blagg in a bar and abort his decision. This I have refused to do. As blagging 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. I 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
blag and as a son a traitor a scolding pastor he castigates his colleague for disloyalty. He tells the congregation to scorn the flattery of traitors. He hates private incredulity yon Blyton's presidential vote against Lincoln. He comments a cervical yawn blagged 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. Writing in his journal two days after the Good Friday assassination having preached on Lincoln's death there 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 down over the reading desk and I
put the Bible on the hat so the president's funeral sermon was preached lying on the ground. So he himself feels a little sorrow at our woeful loss. So then what did Jacob Manning pen on that manuscript spread across the black the traditional gown of George Washington. What could he say to that shocked and grieving congregation gathering in this meeting house that this consulate Easter Day. Abraham Lincoln's wife how incomplete he said Abraham Lincoln's life how complete Would he not say so as to all that concerned his country if his spirit could stoop for a moment and touch those cold lips which are sealed forever. What does 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 disguise would come first singing the peons of freedom to lay its offerings of Thanksgiving at his feet. That's Maryland. How do you know 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 he 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 drooled was 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 it all for known this would he not have said Lord. That will be enough. Then let thy servant depart for thine eyes have seen nice elevation and brooding on significance of our mortared 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 immortals. People we gather tonight in this house of freedom we cherish together regardless of the tilt of our religious inclinations. We cherish together these Massachusetts harbinger of freedom recognizing of course reveres and Lincoln's. But tonight in this sacred place we gratefully celebrate in particular the Lincoln crystallized the hope of Samuel will fill the dream of Phillis Wheatley kindled the passion of Jacob Manning. Indeed the one whom we gratefully address finally
as the great emancipator. Thank you. Mm hmm.
- Old South Meeting House
- WGBH Forum Network
- Contributing Organization
- WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
- AAPB ID
- 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.
- Literature & Philosophy; History
- Media type
- Moving Image
Speaker2: Crawford, James W.
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 40ad0d782d9238f55033434c5634ecd41bff6567 (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- 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-wm13n20v2v.
- 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-wm13n20v2v>.
- 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-wm13n20v2v