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Monday, April 22, 2013
Henry Ward Beecher
Harriet Beecher Stowe, by Granger; www.fineartamerica.com I have found a new-to-me person in history:
Henry Ward Beecher
He was one of Harriet Beecher Stowe's brothers. They were quite close in fact; Harriet was 2 years older. When he lost his mother at age 3, Harriet stepped in.
"A babe is nothing but a bundle
- Harry Ward Beecher
So who was this man? Why do I find him interesting?
Here we gooooo........
He caught my eye when I read a couple of his quotes.
I love quotes!
and Henry Ward Beecher has LOTS of quotes!
"A man that does nothing but watch evil,
never will overcome it."
Mr. Beecher was father to 11 children (only 4 lived to maturity), a preacher,
an orator, an actor, a tireless advocate against slavery and bigotry of any kind, an advocate for Women's Suffrage and Darwin's theory of evolution. He wrote many books and was considered one of the most famous people of the 19th century!
His church, the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, was said to be the largest church and congregation in the USA, with a seating capacity of 3000 people.
President Abraham Lincoln was in audience, and remarked "no one in history had so productive a mind."
Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, New York, 1866
Both Walt Whitman and Mark Twain went to see Beecher in the pulpit.
"There is no such thing as
unless the sermon is so long
that they have to
while they hear."
The entire Beecher family had many famous siblings.
There was Harriet Beecher Stowe, as mentioned above.
As a reminder, she was the one who wrote 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'.
Harriet was a strong and unwavering activist against slavery.
In an interview in 1862 (during the Civil War) President Abraham Lincoln is alleged to have said:
"Why Mrs. Stowe, right glad to see you!"
and then (alleged) he said
"So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!"
While this is probably an 'afterthought' created by the Stowe family after Harriet's death, it does demonstrate the power that Mrs. Stowe had on America at the time of the Civil War.
Her book "Uncle Tom's Cabin" did much to motivate northerners against slavery.
Uncle Tom and Little Eva, 1896
advertisement for Rev. Josiah Henson, the 'real' Uncle Tom
The matter of slavery was constantly in the minds of both Harriet and Henry, along with their brothers and sisters.
It was a deep evil that was dividing the new Union. Was it the primary cause of the Civil War? Probably not.
But it did become the catalyst that finished the War.
"Wickedness goes to great lengths
where it is not checked and restrained
by the free
and continuous expression
of the indignation
of good men."
- Henry Ward Beecher
an African slave being shackled
credit: Norbert Haupt
Harriet Beecher Stowe was not the only sibling of Henry Ward Beecher's that received national attention and praise.
Both his sister Catharine Beecher and his brother Rev. Thomas K. Beecher were educators.
Charles Beecher and Isabella Beecher Hooker became well-known activists.
The Beecher Family, 1855
Top row, from left:
Thomas K., William, Edward, Charles, Henry Ward
bottom row, from left:
Isabella, Catharine, the senior Lyman Beecher, Mary, Harriet
not pictured: James
For a peek into their family life, we find some interesting things.
1. Rev. Lyman Beecher was a Presbyterian preacher from Boston.
2. The family prayed at the beginning and at the end of each day.
3. They had rigorous church obligations, and were expected to participate in
- prayer meetings
- attend lectures
- attend other church functions
4. Undue frivolity was strictly forbidden.
5. The family sang hymns daily.
6. The family did not celebrate Christmas, or birthdays.
7. Dancing and theater were strictly forbidden.
Henry Ward Beecher recalled that he had not a single toy throughout his childhood.
Henry Ward Beecher and sister Harriet Beecher Stowe
"Men who stand on any other
than the rock Christ Jesus
are like birds that build in trees
by the side of rivers.
The bird sings in the branches,
and the river sings below,
but all the while the waters
the soil about the roots,
in some unsuspected hour,
the tree falls with a crash into the stream;
and then its nest is sunk,
its home is gone,
and the bird is a wanderer."
Early in the war Beecher pressed President Lincoln to emancipate the slaves through a proclamation. The preacher later went on a speaking tour in England to undermine support for the South by explaining the North's war aims.
a Slave auction house, 1860's
WARNING Following are photos of slavery, punishment devices, and slaves. These are graphic. Although accurate, it may be upsetting for some.
a 'slave card', used to sell slaves to buyers further away.
Henry Ward Beecher raised funds during the War to buy weapons for those willing to oppose slavery in Kansas and Nebraska. Rifles bought with this money became known as "Beecher's Bibles" as they were secretly shipped in boxes marked 'Bibles'.
"It usually takes a hundred years
to make a law,
after it has done its work,
it usually takes a hundred years
to get rid of it."
Did you notice that Emily 'has a whining voice'?
Did you notice that Henrietta has a 'very sullen countenance', and that her husband was 'quite impertinent' when spoken to?
I don't know.....being in slavery against my wishes, being forcibly separated from my husband, made to do hard labor with no rest and little compensation...
I think I would be sullen and whiny and impertinent too!!!
a slave cabin with 2 slaves
slaves, 1850 - 1860
a fauquiere slave cage, or a 'iron strap' cage, Virginia
These were not one-person containers.
"There is no greater crime
than to stand between a man
and his development;
to take any law or institution
and put it around him
like a collar,
and fasten it there,
so that as he grows and enlarges,
he presses against it till he suffocates
Wilson Chinn, a branded slave, Louisiana, 1863
exhibiting instruments of torture used to punish slaves.
an iron collar for slaves, circa 1838
to prevent slaves from being able to lie down.
" When our cup runs over,
we let others drink the drops that fall,
but not a drop from within the rim,
and call it charity;
when the crumbs are swept from our table,
we think it generous
to let the dogs eat them;
as if that were charity
which permits others to have
what we cannot
slave quarters, Anna Kingsley Plantation, Jacksonville, Florida
This is the photo of a slave named 'Gordon'.
It took several months of bed rest recovery to overcome his beatings from the Fall of 1862.
He escaped in 1863 to a Union encampment at Baton Rouge, LA.
The photograph shows the scars that remained from his beatings.
Here is a photo that shows Gordon entering the Union Camp, March, 1863:
Please notice how his clothes are rags. These were his 'slave' clothes that he ran away in.
"Tears are often the telescope
by which men see far into heaven."
I have more on Henry Ward Beecher, but I'm tired for today.
He was an advocate against the limitation of Chinese immigrants in the 1860s and the 1870s. He was vocal about women's suffrage - the right to vote - and many other social issues of his time.
I hope you have enjoyed this little bit of history about a strong man of God.