Lyman Beecher.

Autobiography, correspondence, & c. .. online

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some members of more than half these families were in
bondage. May God make us more humble, fearless, un-
flinching,- full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, full of sym-
pathy for suffering humanity, and rejoicing that we are
counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.''

Perceiving the momentum of their motion, and well aware
how easy it was in those days to rouse the slumbering de-
mon of pro-slavery fanaticism, Dr. Beecher endeavored to
caution them, particularly with reference to putting in prac-
tice their principle of ^' social intercourse according to char-
acter, irrespective of color" — ^a principle as dangerous as it
is just.

" When they founded colored schools," said Dr. Beecher,
«« I conversed with Weld repeatedly, and pointed out these
things. Said I, you are taking just the course to defeat
your own object, and prevent yourself from doing good.
If you want to teach colored schools, I can fill your pockets
with money ; but if you will visit in colored families, and
walk with them in the streets, you will be overwhelmed."

The young men, however, thought they saw the danger,
and reidly tried to guard against it. Their opmion was,
and probably still is, that no amount of prudence, nothing
short of surrender of the enterprise altogether, would have

Dr. Beecher thought differently. He felt decidedly that

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the students had not, in all respects, shown a proper spirit
in their treatment of their instructors. Still, his letters show
that, before leaving for the East during the summer vaca-
tion, he anticipated no such serious results as actually en-

As late as June, 1834, he writes : '^ Our first class is forty,
and the large majority of it composed of men of matured
age, powerful mind, and ardent and devoted piety. I have
never known such power for intelligent and strong action
condensed in a single class. Their progress in study is high-
ly satisfactory to the faculty, and we are quite willing that
their attainments should be the first specimens to represent
the seminary.

" The only inconvenience we encounter as the of&et to so
much good is from the independence inseparable from such
mature age and power of mind, unaccustomed to the disci-
pline and restraints of college life. But this has not occar
sioned the slightest trouble except in one instance : we al-
lude to a few particulars in respect to the Abolition Society,
in which, as a matter of conscience, mistaken we suppose,
but real, they have not regarded our advice as we hoped
they would, and think they ought to have done.

^' But, after having said and done all which we consider
proper, and waited for the teachings of experience and wis-
dom from above, we are united in the conclusion thsityifiDe
and our friends do not amplify ihe evil by too much alarms
impatience^ and attempt at reyidation^ the evil will subside
and pass away."

Some time previously a committee had been appointed by
the trustees on this subject, but the recommendation of
strenuous measures was resisted by the faculty. After the
departure of Dr. Beecher, Professor Stowe, and Professor
Morgan, however, this committee, in connection with the

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Professor of Ecclesiastical History, proceeded to consider
the subject.

The result was, Dr. Beecher was informed by letter that
on the 20th of August the executive committee adopted a
resolution " declaring that rules ought to be adopted prohib-
iting any societies or associations in the seminary, any pub-
lic meetings or discussions among the students, any public
addresses by the students in the seminary or elsewhere, or
appeals or communications to the students at their meals or
when assembled on other ordinary occasions, without the
approbation of the faculty; and requiring that the Anti-sla-
very Society and Colonization Society of the seminary should
be abolished ; and providing that students not complying
witB these, as with other rules, should be dismissed. * * *

^'It was decided to postpone the enactment of these rules
until the faculty should be reassembled ; and in the mean
time, in order that the students might not remain in igno-
rance of the contemplated regulations, and that the public
impressions on the subject might be rectified, it was order-
ed that the proceedings should be published, which will be
done in a week or two."

A few days later the following letter was received from
the same writer (September 1 3, 1834), still farther unfolding
the state of affairs : ^^ We have acted with great delibera-
tion, and great reluctance in the absence of the faculty. If
we could have felt any reasonable confidence that even the
existence of the seminary could have been preserved, we
should have postponed every thing till the faculty were re-
assembled. Many of our best citizens were looking upon
the seminaryas a nuisance, more to be dreaded than cholera
or plague.

"The spirit of insubordination, resistance to law, and of
civil commotion, which they regarded it as fostering, was

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deprecated in a tone to make one shudder. The scenes of
France and of Hay ti recur to their imaginations, and it is
impossible to make them calm or even reasonable. It is im-
possible for persons not well conversant in the slave states,
and the part of the coantrj on their borders, to realize the
state of the public mind on these subjects. If once excited,
we may as well tamper with the whirlwinds and the light-

These resolutions of the trustees, having been published,
were denounced by the anti-slavery press as an attack on
freedom of speech. "In what age do we live?'' asks the
New York Evangelist, " and in what country ? and who are
the persons thus restrained ? and with whose endowments
was the seminary founded? and who is its president? * *
Nor do we see how such men as Dr.Beecher, and Profess-
or Stowe, and Professor Morgan could consistently remain,
nor how those subscribers to the funds of the seminary
who expected to make it an institution of elevated char-
acter, could make any farther payments to trustees so in-
competent to appreciate the wants of the age. But let us
hope the trustees will pause before they take the final

Unquestionably, but for this hope, Dr. Beecher might have
been justified in resigning. But the laws were not yet pass-
ed, nor did the absent professors consider themselves com-
promised by what the trustees had done. " We, of course,"
writes Professor Stowe, September 20, to Dr. Beecher, " are
not responsible for the doings of the committee, especially
as we tried with all our might to prevent the passage and
publication of the resolutions referred to." Nor would Dr.
Beecher's sanguine temperament permit him to leave his
post without au effort to avert the threatened rupture.
. In this, however, he was destined to be disappointed.

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The hope had been cherished hj some of the students — so it
was stated publicly at the time in the Emancipator, of New
York — that Dr. Beecher, on his return, wonld be able to
arrest the execution of these laws. This hope, however,
proved vain. The trustees declined to await Dr. Beecher's
return ; the laws were formally promulgated ; and as things
had gone too far to afford much prospect of a change, the
students, with one consent almost, resolved on retiring from
the institution.

^^ When I got back,'' Baid Dr. Beecher, ^' I found all in a
flurry. If I had arrived a little sooner I should have saved
them ; but it was too late.'' An attempt was made, indeed,
to expound the obnoxious resolutions and orders as contain-
ing ^'nothing which is not common law in all weU-regulated
institutions, since they merely commit the whole manage-
ment of the internal concerns of the seminary to the discre-
tion of the faculty," but this the students regarded as in-
dorsing the despotic enactments in all their extent.

After the departure of the students, and during their res-
idence at Cnmmingsville, a final attempt was made at an
agreement. ^'I determined," said Dr. Beecher, ^Ho make
one more effort. I went to the trustees, and told them that
the manner of reformation in my absence was untimely, and
the phraseology of the resolutions and orders not the most
felicitous, and that they must let us offer terms. They con-
sented. The laws were revised, and the objectionable feat-
ures struck out."* We then called a meeting of a number
of the most discreet and sober among them, telling them I
had a confidential communication to make to them.

"'The fact is,' said I, * there are some things you don't
know, and you have ignorantly done just what others meant
you should. Professor , though an excellent man,

* Bjr this reTision the laws were restored nearly to ihe same form ia

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has not been popular with yon, nor you with him, and, in
fact, it was either you or he must leave. So, when he saw
tho tide of public excitement rising against you, and a mob
threatening, he felt his time had come, and used all his in-
fluence with the trustees to do what they did, hoping you
would bolt, and he has succeeded. He has ousted you, and
you have helped him. If we had been here it would not
have been done. We can not say it openly, but he has led
the trustees, who know nothing about such matters.'

" ' Well,' said they, * what can be done ?'

^^ I said, ^ That is for you to determine. It is sad for us ;
it will be apt to be sad for you. You are excellent men, but
I am afraid it will wreck you, some of you. You may tell
the rest what I have told you, on condition that you do not
divulge it publicly.' They worked like beavers to form a
reaction, but said they could not do it.".

Our limits do not allow us to insert extracts from the
statements published by the students and fiiculty respect-
ively, setting forth the reasons of their course.

Viewed at this distance of time, we find much to com-

which thej were before the discassion, the onlj difference bearing upon
this sabject being the following :

Original Laws (before the discussion).
No student shall be absent from the premises of the institution during
study hours without permission from the instructor of his class for the
time, or from the president

Revised Laws (November, 1834.)

<<No student shall be absent in term time without permission from the
instructor of his class, or from the president. General meetings of the
students, and public addresses or lectures bj them, and societies formed
among them in the seminary, shall be with the consent and subject to the
direction of the faculty."

Rather a slender foundation, one would think, for so painful a measure
as rending away a whole class, and threatening to wreck the institution.

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mend and something to condemn on either side in this most
painful aff^r. That the rales as passed by the trustees
are indefensible, we do not deny ; that the first " declara-
tion^' of the faculty was equally so, we frankly concede ;
but that the final revision of the laws was perfectly unobjec-
tionable, and such as ought to have been accepted by the
students as a ground of reconciliation, we see not how any
candid mind can question. As to the statement of the Lib-
erator that '^ Lane Seminary was now to be regarded as
strictly a Bastile of oppression — a spiritual Inquisition,^'
time has shown how to estimate its real value. Certainly
the two sons of the president, who entei*ed in the very next
class, found no shackles imposed on their minds, and have
not been generally regarded as graduates of a school of tyr-
anny, nor have the professors and their families impressed
the world as keepers of a spiritual Bastile.

In our judgment, nay, to our certain knowledge, those
young men might have kept their place and their principles,
and accomplished all their. noble aims, if they had consented
to adopt Dr. Beecher for their leader. They made the mis-
take, common to ardent minds, that to submit to an unjust
law is as sinful as to enforce it. They forgot that men may
waive their rights voluntarily, even to the laying down of
life. They abandoned too easily their noble design of stamp-
ing an anti-slavery character upon this central seminary of
the West. Without the least concession of principle, they
might have calmly and quietly gone on with their studies,
trusting to time and to Dr. Beecher, whose heart they knew
beat for liberty with a pulse as high as their own, to bring
things right again.

But it was overruled for good. The seminary suffered,
being '* obliged to bear up under a load of prejudice as a
pro-slavery institution ;" but it was not a pro-slavery insti-
tution, and God would not permit it to go down.

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At the same time, the students were taken care of. Prov-
idence stirred up friends to their support. Arthur Tappan
exhibited a princely liberality in their behalf. A theological
department was projected and endowed at Oberlin ; and al-
though the welcome to students ^4rrespective of color" was
ungracious in appearance, it proved cordial in effect.*

Thus, though by a way he knew not, was Dr. Beecher's
removal to the West directly or indirectly instrumental in
the establishment of two theological schools instead of one ;
^nd we can almost imagine we hear the seminary on Wal-
nut Hills exclaiming, as she gazes on the numerous alumni
of Oberlin, '^ Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have
lost my children and been desolate ? Who hath brought
up these ? Behold, I was left alone ; these, where have they

* It was with great difficulty, and only in the prospect of rich endow-
ments and of securing a large class of students, that the principle of ad-
mission irrespective of color, already in practice at Lane, received from
the tntstees of Oberlin a cold and ambignons sanction.

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DuBiNG the summer in which these unpropitioos events
were taking place at the West, Dr. Beecher was successfully
pleading the cause of the seminary at the East. In so do-
ing, he was led to speak of the character, wants, and dan-
gers of the great valley as they appeared to the eye of
comprehensive b^evolence, and as would be adapted to
kindle the interest of the churches and draw forth their

Invidious misrepresentations of his statements having
been reported at the West, and the "reporter's month be-
ing sharp," as Dr. Beecher expressed it, he was led to re-
vise and publish his address under the title at the head of
our chapter.

In stating the wants of the seminary, he had said, '^ What
we now need is a chapel for the accommodation of students
and fast-increasing community, with a place of worship, the
endowment of a professorship of Rhetoric, and a library.
For the first we have dared to rely on our friends in Boston
and its vicinity ; the library we hope to receive from our
X friends in New York ; and for the professorship of Sacred
Rhetoric we look t/jp, hoping and believing that God will put
into the hearts of one or more individuals to endow it."

On the margin of the copy in our possession is written in
pencil, "All these were secured in an agency of six or seven
weeks ; and the one for which I looked t(p, t?000 in Boston

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by one individnal, an equal sum in Worcester by four, and
the remainder in Hartford."*

In a letter written shortly after his return, he says, ^' My
reception by my people (in Boston) was all that affection
could desire. I met the Church first in their vestry prayer-
meeting, was expected, and the room was full. As I en-
tered the gas-lights were dim, but as I passed up I could
note well-known faces, and see the expression pass across
them as the light moves over the standing corn. As I en-
tered the stand, and turned round to face the audience, the
light flashed into vivid illumination, and presented as sud-
denly every countenance brightened into a smile. It was a
touching moment."

The Bowdoin Street people subscribed about (4000, show-
ing that, in pleading the cause of the West, there were cords
that would vibrate, and that whatever was really needed
could be obtained.

It was during this visit that the Catholic nunnery at
Charlestown was destroyed by a mob, and the city of Bos-
ton thrown into a state of great excitement This circum-
stance, in connection with the fact that, in his Plea for the
West, he laid bare the despotic character and hostile de-
signs of popery upon our country, led to the charge of hav-
ing incited the mob to that act of violence.

Referring to this, he says, '^ The late violence done to
Catholic property at Charlestown is regarded with regret
and abhorrence by Protestants and patriots throughout the
land, though the excitement which produced it had no rela-
tion whatever to religious opinions, and no connection with
any denomination of Christians."

* It maybe comprebensiyelj stated here that, in the three years follow-
ing the spring of 1838, Mr. VaU, aided by Dr. Beecher, raised at the East
subscriptions to the amount of about $40,000 for a fourth professorship,
and for the erection of a chapel and professor*s house.

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On the margin is penciled, in the doctor's handwriting,
the following words : '^ The sermon of mine to which the
mob was ascribed was preached before mj presence in the
city of Boston was generally known, and on the very even-
ing in which the riot took place, two or three miles distant
from the scene, and not an individual of the mob, probably,
heard the sermon or knew of its delivery.**

The following paragraph illostrates the condition of things
at the time :

^'For what was the city of Boston for five nights under
asms — ^her military upon the alert — her. citizens enrolled,
and a body of five hundred men constantly patroling the
streets? Why were the accustomed lectures for public
worship, and other public secular meetings, suspended?
Why were the citizens, at sound of bell, convened at mid-
day in Faneuil HaU ?— to hear Catholicism eulogized, and
thanksgivings offered to his reverence the bishop for his
merciful protection of the children of the Pilgrims ! And
why by the cradle of liberty, and under the shadow of
Bunker's HiU, did men turn pale, and whisper, and look
over their shoulders and around to ascertain whether it
were safe to speak aloud, or meet to worship God ? Has
it come to this, that the capital of New England has been
thrown into consternation by the threats of a Catholic mob,
and that her temples and mansions stand only through the
forbearance of a Catholic bishop ? There can be no liberty
in the presence of such masses of dark mind, and of such
despotic power over it in a single man. Safety on such
terms is not the protection of law, but of single-handed des-
potism. Will our great cities consent to receive protection
from the Catholic priesthood, dependent on the Catholic
powers of Europe, and favored by his Holiness, who is him-
self governed by the bayonets of Austria?"

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In the letter already quoted he says, *'The Catholio effer-
vescenoe, though it obstructed for the momeut, aided us on
the whole. It was a favorable providence, which called me
back to speak in uadaunted tones, when, without some one
to explain, and take correct ground, and inspire courage, all
were likely to quail and be carried away. Before I left the
tide turned, and Catholicism forever in New England must
row up stream, carefully watched, and increasingly under-
stood and obstructed by public sentiment." >

We well remember the time when Dr. Beecher >ms get-
ting this Plea through the press. One or two very influen-
tial men had rather taken a hostile attitude, under the influ-
ence of distorted rumors and reports; but, after the publica-
tion of the Plea, which quickly passed through several edi-
tions, the opposition died away. The influence of this little
volume in deciding the character of the West is believed to
have been extensive and salutary to a degree at present not
easily to be estimated, when institutions are firmly rooted,
and social character established and mature. ''I have just
read," writes Dr. Blagden, " your lectures on Skepticism
and Plea for the West, and I have risen from both with a
deeper conviction than ever before that you are a good man,
and that the motto of your heart is * All for God.' ♦ ♦ *
0hy4ny dear friend, keep humble ! I never feared any thing
so much in relation to you as that, in the consciousness of
power, you might become vain."

Dr. N. Adams, also, who was preparing to review the
volume, writes, ^^If I could only throw into the review but

a small portion of my feelings toward you, Judge

would not wish for, nor you demand another for some

We believe that it was in getting this Plea through the
press that the little incident occurred narrated by Professor

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Stowe, with which we close the chapter. '^ One day, after
the printers had been on tenter-hooks forty-eight hoars for
some copy, he hastily finished his manuscript in his stady,
crashed it into the crown of the hat that lay nearest him,
clapped another hat on his head, drove down to the city,
rushed up to the printing-office, and snatched off his hat.

" ' Here's your copy — h'm — h'm. Well, if it isn't here it
is somewhere else !'

^^The copy was still in the hat that was left at home.
But who could be angry with so much good-nature, even if
it were a plague ?"

Vol. n.— P

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Professor C A. Goodrich to Dr. Beecher.

*<New HaTen, August 8, 1834.

" Could we have known that you were to pass through
town, we should have waited on the wharf for an opportu-
nity to welcome your return to Connecticut, and to have
seen you for a single moment. As it is, let me say, the af-
fections of past days are cherished with increasing strength
as years pass over us. I hope you will give us a number
of days before you leave New England. Brother Taylor, I
suppose, will feel that he has the prior claim, but none
would welcome you more cordially to his home and heart
than myself.

" I am particularly desirous, however, that Brother Tay-
lor should enjoy as much as possible of your society, be-
cause ho is unwell, and cast down in mind from the influ-
ence of disease. Still, he goes on lecturing with his accus-
tomed power and clearness. But the unkind treatment and
gross misrepresentations which he has to encounter have
perhaps a greater effect on his feelings now than at any for-
mer period, and demand from his friends peculiar exhibi-
tions of attention and sympathy. I do believe, with Broth-
er Skinner, that ^ there is not in this country a man who has
been so shamefully ill-treated.' I only wonder that he is
alive under the continual pressure of care and responsibility.

"There is one subject on which I could have wished to
say a word on your coming back to Connecticut; I mean,

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CORBEflPOKBBNGE, 1834-5. 839

the use which has been, and will, perhaps, again be made
of your name and influence in our theological concerns.
Last winter Brother Hawes said to me, ^ There is a great
deal of Jesuitism at work to procure subscriptions for the
East Windsor scheme. They say, among other things, Gov-
ernor Smith tells us go on; Dr. Beecher tells us go on?

" Governor Smith soon after took pains to inform Judge
Daggett that, so far from this, ^ he had given formal notice
to the secretary of his rejection of his appointment as a
member of the board at East Windsor, stating his reasons
at length, and saying that he considered the new institution
as hazardous to the peace of the churches, deeply injurious
to Yale College, totally uncalled for, and on every view to
be deplored.' Still, his name was, after all this, given to the
public as one of the trustees, and used as Brother Hawes

^^ Your own was used in the same way ; and we now see,
from Brother Nettleton's extracts from letters sent down
to Virginia, how a mere remark of yours, that good would
come out of the new scheme, connected as it was with mat-
ters hostile to Brother Taylor, was made to leave the im-

Online LibraryLyman BeecherAutobiography, correspondence, & c. .. → online text (page 24 of 42)