DIVINE CONNECTIONS —— THE TASK OF LEADERSHIP
The Unfinished Work of the Gettysburg Address
November 19, 1863, one of, if not certainly the greatest American President, addressed a crowd of citizens in a field where hundreds of Americans were laid to rest, and where four months earlier the greatest single battle of the American Civil War had been fought — Gettysburg.
So much has been said about the Gettysburg Address. It is the most famous presidential speech in our history, and remarkably, the shortest (268 words). It has been heralded as the greatest use of the English language and parceled into book titles for Civil War study and essays on issues of political and ethical morality. Let us reflect upon one of its phrases.
There were 51,000 casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg! All of them were Americans. November 19, 1863, Lincoln said, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” What exactly did our 16th President mean when he used the words, “unfinished work?”
Some would conjecture he was speaking of the federal dead who had fought for the preservation of the Union, and they would be right. Others would say it was for the abolition of that peculiar institution — slavery — and they too would be right. Still others would declare the “unfinished work” was to end the Civil War. And yes, that too was certainly meant by Mr. Lincoln. To understand fully its meaning it is not possible to pull this phrase out of context. It must be interpreted in light of the over riding theme of Lincoln’s presidency — “union.”
America was immeasurably blessed to have had such a man as Abraham Lincoln in the White House during the darkest four years of our nation's early history. In his heart was the restoration of the divided nation. For him there was some larger and more noble reason for her existence that transcended the blood and tears of the sectional schism which had torn her asunder. And Hoosier-reared Lincoln perceived that reason.
If men who had been created equal were to enjoy the fruits of freedom individually, it would only be possible in a “united” states. Though the North was more industrialized than the South, it would be greatly weakened by the permanent severing of its southern extremity. The future of the country in whole from east to west depended on a unified north and south. Any historian now will agree that America could not have become what she is today, especially in light of the two world wars in the recent century, had the South remained cutoff from its northern brother.
In reflection, we have come so far in the years since that rainy November day in Gettysburg. But, we have farther to go. The “unfinished work” of contributing to further freedom where all men around the world experience democracy, as we have so graciously known it, requires in Lincoln's words, “increased devotion.”
The act of voting demonstrates the purest form of that unified, democratic “government by the people,” Lincoln alluded to. The many humanitarian and charitable institutions in America, which work in unity to promote the cause for which so many Americans in all wars died, exercise Lincoln”s “government for the people.” And when, this nation, under God, prays for the nation's leadership holding it accountable before God, thus demonstrating its trust in God; then, we are truly a “government of the people.”
Fighting among ourselves does not solve our problems. It did not in Lincoln's day and it cannot in ours. We have choice. It is our basic human right. And in America we each may exercise that right in free speech. We may not agree with each other, but we must defend each others right to disagree. And then, because we are a Union, we labor together for the resolution and betterment of all!
Perhaps, in Lincoln's immortal words we have not finished the work, but in the indomitable spirit of the Gettysburg Address, we here today, the living, do take increased devotion from the past to renew our lives for what Abraham Lincoln dreamed and died for — that republican democracy embodied in the United States of America would not perish from the earth!
Certainly there is broad agreement that Abraham Lincoln was a great President. And many would agree he was, perhaps, the greatest! Most would argue he was a providential leader appearing during a crucial period of the young republic! Some may even go so far as suggesting he was DIVINELY placed!
Historically, the Bible demonstrates unequivocally that God intervened in world history, through the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and in the person of Christ in the New Testament. Emphatically, the New Testament reports that Christ was born when the "fullness of time had come," (Galatians 4:4,5 NKJV). Apparently, Divine Providence (God) works on a master schedule. Nothing apparently happens that is not prearranged.
If in God's providence the United States of America was to be used forcefully in the global propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as history now records, then human slavery would, must be, eradicated from shore to shore!
From the inception of the United States through the Declaration of Independence, which declared, ". . . That all Men were created equal," through the signing of the Constitution, September 17, 1787, and its implementation with the ninth state New Hampshire's ratification, June 21, 1788, our founding fathers failed to adequately and permanently deal with the deplorable enslavement of African Americans.
The first of many compromises between the slave-holding south and its northern cousin, which in Article I, Section 2, , of the US Constitution stated that each state's number of representatives to the House would be determined among other factors by, ". . . adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other Persons," would only delay the ultimate confrontation which would finally and totally end the ungodly practice (underline and italics mine).
Slavery was again held over with the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, championed by none other than, Stephen A. Douglas on a platform of Popular Sovereignty, and stalemated again with the compromise of 1850, finally boiling over with the internal wars in Kansas by 1861. Of course southern states had already begun seceding from the Union by this time, because of the election to the Presidency of a northern abolitionist republican, Abraham Lincoln.
The fact that a country-bumpkin from Illinois, who had served only one term in the US House of Representatives, and had not been formally educated, would ascend to the highest office in the land, is both amazing and provoking. It must also be noted that Lincoln received one of the weakest popular votes in history, due to the split in the Democratic Party of the South. Had Douglas been elected, he would have died in office. Of course had Douglas been elected no southern state would have seceded and slavery would have been indefinitely retained.
Surely a Higher Power was at work with and through the heart of truly the greatest American born into the 19th Century, who would singularly have more to do with the present than even the founders!
In Springfield, Illinois, in 1839, Lincoln attended a revival service at the Methodist Episcopal Church, where Rev. James F. Jacquess was preaching. In the reverends on words, "The church was filled that morning. It was a good-sized church, but on that day all the seats were filled. I had chosen for my text the words: Ye must be born again, and during the course of my sermon I laid particular stress on the word must. Mr. Lincoln came into the church after the services had commenced, and there being no vacant seats, chairs were put in the altar in front of the pulpit, and Mr. Lincoln and Governor French and wife sat in the altar during the entire service, Mr. Lincoln on my left and Governor French on my right, and I noticed that Mr. Lincoln appeared to be deeply interested in the sermon. A few days after that Sunday Mr. Lincoln called on me and informed me that he had been greatly impressed with my remarks on Sunday and that he had come to talk with me further on the matter. I invited him in, and my wife and I talked and prayed with him for hours. Now, I have seen many persons converted; I have seen hundreds brought to Christ, and if ever a person was converted, Abraham Lincoln was converted that night in my house."
Even without this testimonial we are readily aware of the enormous burden placed upon one man during the darkest days of this country, who showed great character in the White House, which brings pride to all Americans even now. Some have remarked that Lincoln could have spared 650,000 American lives had he simply permitted the seceded states to form their own government. That comment was shortsighted in Lincoln's day and it is utterly and absolutely void of intelligence today.
The Union's preservation not only ended human slavery in America, but opened the door for so much good that has come from those terrible and bloody four years from 1861-65, for which we and the world are the benefactors. One cannot research the writings of Lincoln and not sense his unwavering faith in God. October 24, 1863, he addressed the Baltimore Presbyterian Synod, in Washington, D. C. Speaking of himself he told those gathered, ". . . I was early brought to the living reflection that there was nothing in the arms of this man, (himself), however there might be in others, to rely upon for such difficulties, and that without the direct assistance of the Almighty I was certain of failing. I sincerely wish that I was a more devoted man that I am. Sometimes in my difficulties I have been driven to the last resort to say God is still my only hope. It is still all the world to me."
In the words of Lincoln given at his final inaugural speech March 4, 1865, let us all, ". . . strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." Sounds very much like a Christian mandate, if you ask me.
Dennis L. Kutzner, Founder & President
GETTYSBURG CAMPFIRES, INC.
* "Arguing About Slavery," by William Lee Miller, published by Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, 1998.
* "The Road to Disunion," by William W. Freehling, published by Oxford University Press, 1990.
* "The Unknown Lincoln," by Dale Carnegie, published by Dale Carnegie & Assoc., Inc., 1932.
* "The US Constitution, And Fascinating Facts About It," by Terry Jordan, published by Oak Hill Publishing Company, Naperville, Illinois, 2000.
* "Lincoln, Speeches, Letters, Miscellaneous Writings, Presidential Messages and Proclamations, 1859-1865”, published by Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., New York, 1989.
* "Abraham Lincoln's Daily Devotional," published by Trinity Broadcasting Network.
The Baptism of Dorsey Pender
General William Dorsey Pender commanded a Brigade in A. P. Hill's Division of the Army of Northern Virginia, and for five weeks prior to July 2, 1863, lead one of the most celebrated commands, the famous "Light Division." He was wounded in the upper left leg by shrapnel late in the afternoon, Thursday, July 2, 1863, when he ventured to the right of his line at Gettysburg to get a glimpse of the battle and to determine the reason his men were not engaged. July 18, 1863, Pender would succumb to that wound and Lee would later say concerning the colossal Gettysburg battle and Pender, " . . . and we should have succeeded had Pender lived." Pender was only 29!
Today, he lies in Calvary Cemetery, Tarboro, North Carolina, while these words cover him, "Patriot by Nature, Soldier by Training, Christian by Faith." But Dorsey Pender had not always been a Christian. He came from hard working folks and lived, with his parents and siblings, on the 400-acre estate made successful with the aid of slaves. God or religion was not given room in the Pender home. Penders had fought in the Revolution, the War of 1812, and assisted in putting down several Indian uprisings. Edgecombe County had supplied its share of volunteer companies for the War with Mexico when Dorsey was a teen.
Political connections within the family brought an appointment to West Point, when congressman John R. J. Daniel placed Pender's name before Secretary of War, George. W. Crawford. Pender was appointed and accepted, joining the West Point 1850 plebes. He quickly made friends, among which were James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart, Stephen D. Lee, and Oliver Otis Howard (the Christian General).
Pender did not seem to hold to the typical Southern precept that slavery was a social good. He read Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and informed his bride of 1859, Mary Frances Shepperd, "Fanny," that he and Mrs. Stowe nearly agreed on the slavery subject. Admittedly, Pender did not see blacks and whites on an equal scale and believed most African-Americans were childlike and could only mature picking up the manners of their masters. At an early age, however, he seemed to doubt the moral supports of the so called "peculiar institution," and was never comfortable with the sale of slaves, particularly when that meant the severing of families. He believed that such activity was a cruel practice and would make of anyone an abolitionist. Oliver Otis Howard was endeared to him for such opinions. During his time with the Confederate Army he would employ only free blacks and would negotiate a monthly salary, which was not common among Southerners, soldiers or civilians.
Dorsey Pender finished 19th of 46 when graduated in 1854. He had learned, like his peers, that disobedience of any military regulation bears consequences and that adherence to the strictest code was necessary if one wished to earn promotion in the ranks. At the top of his class was George Washington Custis Lee, who was the oldest of the academy's superintendent, Col. Robert Edward Lee. Pender had excelled in mounted tactics with only four others gaining higher points than he. Ten of his classmates would become general officers during the Civil War in addition to himself, and he and six others would become commanders in the Confederate States of America, before the horrible conflict would end. Too many would not survive.
February of 1855, Pender received his first full-rank commission to Fort Myers, Florida, which was home to a detachment of the 2nd United States Artillery and quickly engaged himself in a plethora of duties. Such duty, though desired, was usually extremely demanding and not suited for weaklings. Life inside a walled fort was harsh and bad on one's health, not to mention the poor living standard on account of the insufficient pay and subsequent warped morale. By the spring of that year Pender was longing for the open space where he could serve horseback. Then Secretary of War for the United States, Jefferson Davis, approved his request and sent Pender his Presidential appointment as a junior officer with the 1st Dragoon Regiment serving in the New Mexico Territory.
He was assigned to Company I and immediately took to the new service with a natural proclivity and developed close relationships with several associates, including one West Pointer, David McMurtrie Gregg of Pennsylvania, who would oppose the Army of Northern Virginia's Cavalry at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, and successfully rout the Southern invaders. Pender considered Gregg one of his closest friends in spite of their different sides in the war.
Religion had made no entrance into the young officer's life, but that was to change with his marriage, February 3, 1859, to the love of his life, Mary Frances (Fanny) Shepperd. The Shepperd's pastor, the Reverend A. H. Houghton, followed the rites of the Episcopal Church in conducting the couple's ceremony. Eventually, the young couple made there way to the Washington Territory, where their first child, a son, Samuel Turner Pender, was born. And it was there that Dorsey Pender began tapping into a previously untapped source. He attended chapel services, though at first he remained outside not following his wife into the services. He would be stirred by the devotion of his wife. She urged him to explore the Scriptures. He would find in them a central message that lifted him out of the daily routine finding practical meaning to all of life. He would learn from his Biblical journey that he could make himself worthy of God and His grace by accepting Jesus Christ as his personal savior, and could rise above human weakness and sin to honestly enjoy life both here and in eternity.
He would struggle with the "working out" of his new-found faith and most often would be disappointed because of his failure. Such waning would nag him until October 6, 1861, when he was formally baptized into the Epicopalian Church. Though he continued to battle with the "flesh," he steadily read the Bible and attended regular services and profusely read Christian literature.
The most important step he took in securing his Christian Faith was the constant letter writing he kept with his devout wife, Fanny, who he, if not consciously then quietly, acknowledged, was his Christian superior. He freely shared his innermost feelings and sought her advice. She willingly and tenderly encouraged him never usurping his oversight and covering as her endeared and loving husband. Among those letters are these words from September 1861, "I feel sincerely desirous of doing what is pleasing in the sight of God. His image is continually in my mind, and wrongdoing grieves and worries me, and I sincerely try to do better. I love our Savior—not as I should, however." These were his feelings which led to his baptism. He proceeded with this thought, "I desire to put away all covetousness and sin and I believe in the Apostle's Creed, and I feel that the connection with the church will be a great help to me."
The Reverend Aldolphus W. Magnum, who was pastor of the Methodist church in Salisbury, North Carolina, earlier had been assigned as regimental chaplain of the 6th North Carolina, which was attached to "Stonewall" Jackson's Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, and though only one month in the field, provided Pender many hours of counsel before his departure and seems to have encouraged him along his path to enlightened faith.
Then, Colonel William Dorsey Pender, sought the assistance of an Episcopalian chaplain. The Reverend A. Loomis Porter of Charleston who gladly agreed to officiate Pender's baptism. Pender agreed to have the 6th present in order to enrich the unbelievers among the ranks. Following the regular Sunday morning service, October 6, 1861, the men of the regiment, along with two witnesses chosen by Pender, Stephen D. Lee and Col. Benjamin Alston of the 4th Alabama, observed Pender's confession and baptism. Though Dorsey Pender would live only for another twenty months and twelve days, he would diligently strive to be a firm example of his saving faith in Jesus Christ and that effort would be observed by all, officers and soldiers alike.
With the untimely death of Lee's right arm, "Stonewall" Jackson in May 1863 at the battle of Chancellorsville, Lee would reorganize his army into three corps. Longstreet, his "Old War Horse," would retain command of the First Corps and Richard Ewell, one of Jackson's underlings, would receive command of the Second Corps, Jackson's old corps, and Ambrose Power Hill, another of Jackson's Division Commanders, would be assigned the new Third Corps, making each lieutenant generals. Pender was given, by Lee, command of Hill's old division, the "Light Division," thus making him, at 29, the youngest major general in both armies!
Pender would aggressively demonstrate in his first and only effort as a divisional commander July, 1 and 2, 1863, that Lee had made a wise decision; but, too soon would be permanently removed, as were other general officers of both sides during the Civil War. (Both the Union and Confederate Armies lost 80 generals in the war, which was too costly for the Southern Army, as they did not have the reservoir of officers to replace those losses as did the Northern Army. In fact, when adding all other wars America has fought through the present, the Civil War remains at the top with more generals killed!) The outcome of the war would not have changed had Pender lived, but his place in the war's history may have been a tad brighter; nevertheless, the epitaphs were many and highly flattering. From Pender's Corps Commander, A. P. Hill, "No man fell during this bloody battle of Gettysburg more regretted than he, nor around whose youthful brow were clustered brighter rays of glory."
Before his final breath, William Dorsey Pender, instructed his doctor to tell his wife, ". . . that I do not fear to die. I can confidently resign my soul to God, trusting in the atonement of Jesus Christ. My only regret is to leave her and our two children. I have always tried to do my duty in every sphere in which Providence has placed me."
Christians today can take renewed courage from the life of one so young and so dedicated in his faith to also do their duty in every area in which God has placed them.
Dennis L. Kutzner, Founder & President
GETTYSBURG CAMPFIRES, INC.
"General William Dorsey Pender, A Military Biography," by Edward G. Longacre, 2001, Combined Publishing, Conshohcken, PA,
"Stonewall Jackson, The Man, The Soldier, The Legend," by James I. Robertson, Jr., 1997, Macmillan Publishing, New York.
"The Civil War, A Narrative, Fredericksburg to Meridian," by Shelby Foote, 1963, Random House, Inc., New York.
"Gettysburg, The Second Day," by Harry W. Pfanz, 1987, The University of North Carolina Press.
"The Generals of Gettysburg," by Larry Tagg, 1998, Savas Publishing, Campbell, California.
"The Civil War Book of Lists," by Donald Cartmell, 2001, Career Press, New Jersey
The Dream that Ignited the Civil War
Said to have had the largest sale of any book, excepting the Bible, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is still in demand, and can be found on the shelves in the fictional section of many notable bookstores. Originally appearing in the anti-slavery paper, The National Era, in weekly installments from June 5, 1851 to April 1, 1852, the book first appeared in hardback, March 20, 1852, twelve days before the final Era installment. With little advance notice and virtually no reviews, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book sold three thousand copies the first day, ten thousand copies the first week, twenty thousand the third week, and after one year, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, had sold over three hundred thousand copies, with three million worldwide! In today’s populous America, the book would have registered nearly twenty-five million sales!1
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was banned in the South and attempts were made to discredit the author and her research. Southern works designed to portray slavery in a more benign manner were quickly published, but did not have the desired effect. Stowe’s remarkable work aroused anti-slavery feelings in the North, and around the world, unlike any other tool previously taken-up by anti-slavery organizations during the antebellum period. Her literary achievement brought together the previous thirty years of the tempestuous work by abolitionist societies, promoting their creed within the public’s view in a way today’s news networks only could have accomplished. Charles Edward Stowe captured this in his biography of his famous mother when he wrote, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, made enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law an impossibility. It aroused the public sentiment of the world by presenting in the concrete that which had been a mere series of abstract propositions. It was an appeal to imagination through a series of pictures. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, made the crack of the slave-driver’s whip, and the cries of the tortured blacks ring in every household in the land, till human hearts could endure it no longer.”2 It is commonly reported that when Stowe first met Abraham Lincoln, the President was to have said, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”3 What is not so commonly reported is the manner in which Stowe claims to have written her celebrated American classic. Divine Inspiration.
Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was born, June 14, 1811, at Litchfield, Connecticut, into one of America’s prominent Christian families. All of “Hattie’s” seven brothers were ministers. One, Henry Ward Beecher, nearly as famous as his author sister, was considered one of America’s most distinguished clergymen. Henry Ward was highly influential with powerful leaders in England and played a major role in ensuring that the British would not extend diplomatic recognition to the Confederacy. Lincoln would say there were three reasons for the later: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Mrs. Stowe’s “Reply,” and Reverend Henry Ward Beecher’s British tour. General Robert E. Lee agreed.4
The Reverend Lyman Beecher, Harriet’s father, who was considered among his contemporaries the greatest pulpiteer of his day, was called, “the father of more brains than any other man in America.”5 In 1832 he moved his family to Cincinnati, where he became the president of Lane Theological Seminary. The elder Beecher was persuaded to leave the East for the nation’s sixth largest city with financial help from one of abolitionism’s benefactors, New Yorker, Arthur Tappan.6 The school was chartered with many of Presbyterian Evangelist, Charles Grandison Finney’s firebrand converts. Though Beecher disagreed with Finney’s “perfectionist” Calvinism and its concluding argument that abolitionism was its offspring, he would not acknowledge his part in its introduction on account of his “free thinking” brand of Calvinism. It would not be long, however, before this duality of dogma would cause a breach which Lane would never successfully close.7
Theodore D. Weld, one of Finney’s converts who traveled with him during the Second Great Awakening in the East, was devoutly dedicated to the abolition of American Slavery. Weld saw, in the formation of the Western Reserve’s Lane Seminary, the opportunity to promote his deep conviction about the emancipation of the American slave, as well as other free thinking practices, among which was his encouragement of women to speak in meetings, an exercise until then, only permitted among Quakers.8 It was not long until the theological and intellectual routes collided. February of 1834, saw one of the most egregious occurrences of student “activism” in the young republic’s history. Weld organized an eighteen-day meeting to debate the slavery issue. The protracted meeting was divided into two nine day sections each dealing with one of two questions: “Ought the people of the slaveholding states to abolish slavery immediately?” and “Are the doctrines, tendencies, and measures of the American Colonization Society, and the influence of its principal supporters, such as render it worthy of the patronage of the Christian public?”9
The history of the anti-slavery movement began with the formation, in the winter of 1816-17, of The American Society for the Colonization of the Free People of Color in the United States, which was commonly referred to as the American Colonization Society, whose sole purpose was the expatriation of free persons of color to Africa. The ACS attempted to expatriate willing participants to the nation of Liberia. Two million slaves lived in the United States in 1830, and that number was increasing by five hundred thousand every ten years. Three hundred and nineteen thousand free persons of color resided in America with their numbers increasing by fifty thousand every ten years; but, in the first twenty years of the American Colonization Society fewer than four thousand Liberian emigrants were aided by the Society’s efforts.10 Weld, the Tappan brothers, Arthur and Lewis, William Lloyd Garrison, Gerrit Smith, Frederick Douglous, Lyman Beecher, and others were colonizationists prior to the 1830’s. With, however, the Society’s failure to end slavery by colonization of free persons of color, (it must be noted that the greater majority of free persons of color did not want to leave the United States), many of the Society’s members moved away from colonization to the more moderate form of “gradual” emancipation, and eventually to the more radical form of “immediate” emancipation. Lyman Beecher remained committed to the former.
During those momentous eighteen days the Lane Seminary students, lead by Theodore Weld, and later branded “Weldites,” set the stage for the next twenty-seven years of the Christian inspired abolitionist movement. It was in Walnut Hills, Cincinnati, that slavery was nailed as “sin,” and slavery’s owners and those who would not take-up the “cross,” pronounced sinners. Had it not been, however, for the response of the Lane Seminary trustees, the “Lane Debates,” may have remained only part of the seminary’s history and not shot into the sectional debate then afire in the House of Representatives, which was being led by former president and then congressman, John Quincy Adams. The trustees ordered president Beecher to clamp-down on the extra-curricular activities of Weld and his followers. And though Beecher, who detested ungovernable men, was sympathetic with the trustees, he found it difficult to embrace their efforts to stifle free-speech. Therefore, while Beecher was out East raising funds for the seminary and all other sympathetic professors were on summer vacation, the trustees ordered the students to cease from all their anti-slavery activities and disband their local society or face expulsion. The students withdrew en masse and entered Oberlin College north of Columbus, Ohio, where Charles G. Finney, in 1835, was made professor of theology. Included among the charges the trustees brought against the rebellious students were equality and amalgamation of the races. The opponents of abolitionists had also become the opponents of civil liberty.11 Weld would later marry Angelina Grimké, who along with her sister, Sara, joined the abolitionists from their South Carolina aristocratic upbringings. Being firm abolitionists they were an embarrassment to the slaveholding South, but leading advocates for slavery’s annihilation.12 Harriet Elizabeth Beecher would come to appreciate the published works of the Weld’s in a way unequaled by any other person.
“Hattie” Beecher immediately settled into Cincinnati by becoming acquainted with an unusual bookish club, The Semi-Colon. Samuel Foote, who was a brother to Harriet’s mother, Lyman Beecher’s first wife, who had died when Harriet was five years old, lived in the city and was instrumental in convincing Harriet to join the literary club. One member, Judge James Hall, editor of the Western Monthly Magazine, encouraged young Harriet to write, purchasing and publishing her first story.13 An impressionable young women, Harriet first learned of the abuses of slavery from another club member, a twenty-five year old attorney, Salmon P. Chase. Chase, would eventually become a United States Senator, Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln, and ultimately, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He and Harriet would remain friends throughout their extended lives.14 Successful author, Caroline Lee Hentz, yet another club member, would later move to the Deep South, writing a series of novels to emphasize the advantages of the slave domain for both blacks and whites. Needless to say, Harriet had little use for Hentz.15
Catherine, Harriet’s older sister, founded the Western Female Institute, which was patterned after her Hartford Female Seminary. Harriet functioned both as a teacher and Catherine’s associate. It was during this time Harriet’s first book, Primary Geography for Children, was published. And it was during this time she met Dr. Charles Ellis Stowe and his frail wife, Eliza. She and Harriet became friends; however, in the summer of 1834, Eliza would die. She had been Dr. Stowe’s wife for two, very brief years.16
Dr. Calvin E. Stowe, had graduated valedictorian from Bowdoin College, at Brunswick, Maine, in 1824, spending the next few years at Andover Theological Seminary, acquiring, French, Spanish, Hebrew, Greek, German, and Arabic. He had met Eliza at Dartmouth, where he was professor of Greek. He cast his lot with Lane Seminary, which placed him in Walnut Hills, in 1833.17
Eliza Stowe took ill and died during the cholera epidemic of 1834. Lyman Beecher’s wife reached out to poor Dr. Stowe, and subsequently, he found solace in the sympathetic and generous ways of Harriet. Sixteen months after Eliza Stowe’s death, Harriet Elizabeth Beecher, became the second Mrs. Stowe, in a quiet ceremony in her home, January 6, 1836.18
Harriet Beecher Stowe, became aware of the institution of slavery in Cincinnati, as did all the city’s inhabitants, from their close proximity to Kentucky. The largest grouping of the Underground Railroad, which assisted escaped slaves reach freedom in the North, was founded and operated in Cincinnati until the end of the Civil War. It was impossible for any resident to remain neutral on what was swiftly becoming the greatest moral topic of that era.19 Harriet’s father believed immediate emancipation rather than gradual emancipation would harm blacks as well as whites. Before being freed, slaves should be educated. The first phase was to make them Christians, and the Presbyterian Church, Beecher naturally believed, was best suited to achieve this goal.20 Nothing is known of Harriet’s feelings toward her father’s view, but it must certainly be said she intensely desired to learn more about the institution of slavery, and that could best be done by visiting a plantation. Her uncle Samuel stepped in again and arranged such a visit to one of his acquaintances across the Ohio river into Kentucky. Mary Dutton, who accompanied Harriet, would years later recognize it as Colonel Shelby’s plantation depicted in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Mrs. Stowe would spend the remainder of her time in Cincinnati raising her family and running the home, while Dr. Stowe enjoyed his Lane Seminary teaching assignment. Their third child, a son, named Samuel Charles, was born in January of 1848. During the summer of 1849, while Dr. Stowe was away in Connecticut being treated for an illness, another summer of cholera broke out in Cincinnati that June. Such scourges were normally confined to the Irish and Negro quarters of the city. Within the first thirty days it became alarmingly apparent this would be a deadly epidemic, ending in 9,000 fresh graves! June 29, Harriet wrote to Dr. Stowe, “Hearse drivers have scarce been allowed to unharness their horses, while furniture carts and common vehicles are often employed for the removal of the dead.”21 July 10, little Charley took ill. His mother unsuccessfully nursed him, until sixteen days later, he surrendered to death’s harsh clutches.22 His grieving mother wrote of the saddest event of her life, “Never was he anything to me but a comfort. He has been my pride and joy. Many a heartache has he cured for me. Many an anxious night have I held him to my bosom and felt the sorrow and loneliness pass out of me with the touch of his little warm hands. Yet I have just seen him in his death agony, looked on his imploring face when I could not help nor soothe nor do one thing, not one, to mitigate his cruel suffering, do nothing but pray in my anguish that he might die soon.” 23
The Stowe’s had, with Samuel Charles’ death, experienced one of the most familiar and yet fathomless occurrences of the nineteenth-century household. The natural order of things was turned-upside-down when a child died before his adult parent, who was forced to endure the difficulty in coming to terms with such an unwanted event. After Charley’s death Harriet pondered its meaning, “Is there a peculiar love given us for those that God wills to take from us. Is there not something brighter and better around them than around those who live—Why else in so many households is there a tradition of one brighter more beautiful more promising than all the rest, laid early low.”24 Stowe was to learn that God, did indeed, effect a brighter, more promising plan in her life from Charley’s death that would be used to crystallize in her mind the worst abuse of slavery, which was, “. . . its outrage upon the family,” making it “. . . more notorious and undeniable than any other.”25 She would aggressively write of this atrocious practice, the separating of families, in the light of God’s Word and the abomination slave-holding Christians had convinced themselves was “. . . in accordance with God’s Word.”26
Until Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Northerners had no concept of slavery’s vile and inhuman practice of separating families. Spouses could, at any moment, be taken forever from one another’s embrace. On the auction block, mother’s tearfully watched as children were sold and taken miles away from their loving arms. Regrettably, for some black mothers, who trying to escape to freedom with their children only to be recaptured, did in that desperate moment determine death was more humane for those precious little ones, than forever dooming them to that hated institution of human bondage.27 Stowe was enabled, through the death of her small son, to write with unbridled passion about the agony of separation, which for mothers of slavery having their offspring torn from their arms knowing they were not dead and would never be seen again, was even more cruel than death. Harriet Beecher Stowe recognized this divine spark caused by life’s flinty rocks when she wrote, “There were circumstances about his death of such peculiar bitterness, of what might seem almost cruel suffering, that I felt that I could never be consoled for it, unless it should appear that this crushing of my own heart might enable me to work out some great good to others.”28 And Stowe would put that “great good” to work, when she placed the bondwoman, Cassy, in her book. Cassy would represent those poor souls who, placed under the control of their slave masters, were forced to endure horrible abuses of mind, soul, and body, often resulting in the children of racial amalgamation. But alas, even these mixed progenies were not exempt from the fleshly market. Harriet A. Jacobs, who experienced the pain of child separation described her ordeal she and other mothers faced who considered infanticide to separation. “When I lay down beside my child, I felt how much easier it would be to see her die than to see her master beat her about, as I daily saw him beat other little ones. The spirit of the mothers was so crushed by the lash, that they stood by, without courage to remonstrate How much more must I suffer, before I should be broke in to that degree?” And as she would think even more deeply, she would ponder, “As I held her in my arms, I thought how well it would be for her if she never waked [sic] up. . .”29
Stowe’s Cassy summed it all up with a calculated description of her decision when taking the life of her second son, born to a white master, “O, that child!—how I loved it! . . . But I had made up my mind,—yes, I had. I would never again let a child live to grow up! I took the little fellow in my arms, when he was two weeks old, and kissed him, and cried over him; and then I gave him laudanum, and held him close to my bosom, while he slept to death.” She laments only for a moment as she continues, “How I mourned and cried over it! and who ever dreamed that it was anything but a mistake, that had made me give it the laudanum? but it’s one of the few things that I’m glad of, now. I am not sorry, to this day; he, at least, is out of pain. What better than death could I give him, poor child!”30 And Stowe’s readers would react as anticipated, with pity and fervid anger. Slavery, which would permit such ghastly practices, must end, and end now!
Stowe, leading up to her providential book-writing, followed her path to greatness along her spiritual roots, which began with her conversion under her father’s preaching, and continued on with her work in the schools her sister Catherine started. Like all the Beechers, she believed in a divine destiny and was driven to its discovery and fulfillment. Writing was heaven’s way of assuring her success. Her family were all keenly aware of her writing gift. With the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act and its enforcement, along with other compromises of 1850, abolitionists became more inflamed. “Hattie’s” brother, Edward, had been a close friend of the Reverend Elijah P. Lovejoy, who was murdered by an anti-abolitionist mob in Alton, Illinois, in 1837.31 Edward’s wife wrote a challenging letter to Harriet several months before she would begin writing her book. Isabella Beecher encouraged her sister-in-law, “Now Hattie, if I could use a pen as you can,” she continued with noticeable pressure, “I would write something that would make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is.”32 Reading Isabella’s letter aloud in her parlor, Harriet remarked, “I will write something. I will if I live.”33 Tempers had been aflame on both sides of the slavery question. All that was needed for the abolitionists to move ahead was a unifying medium. One voice that would be heard the world over. And that voice was about to be heard.
Calvin Stowe, swayed by the nine thousand cholera dead just three miles from his home, and the lure of brisker air in New England, accepted a call to his alma mater, Bowdoin College, to the Collins Professorship of Natural and Revealed Religion. He refused to leave his position with Lane Seminary until a replacement was found. And then, to compound matters, another call came from The Theological Seminary, in Andover, Massachusetts.34 Dr. Stowe would, eventually, honor all his commitments, but Harriet would not remain in Cincinnati another winter. In April, 1850, she removed herself with three of the children to Brunswick, Maine, setting up house in the home that had been occupied by one of Calvin’s Bowdoin classmates, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.35 Three months after her arrival she gave birth to a son, Charles Edward, who was named after his deceased brother, like his mother who was named for her deceased sister, Harriet. Charles Edward Stowe would assure his place in history, thirty-six years later, by writing his mother’s official biography.36
At the urgings of Gamaliel Bailey, editor of the National Era, an abolitionist magazine published in Washington, D. C., Harriet contributed a few anti-slavery articles, which met with acceptance by the magazine’s readers, who clamored for more from the author. In late autumn, 1850, Bailey made an unprecedented offer, sending Stowe $100.00, asking her to write another anit-slavery story for him.37 Mrs. Stowe did her best to convenience Bailey, but drew a blank. No inspiration came, though she sat night after night gazing into the fire. Then, on a chilly Sunday morning in February, 1851, while she sat in the college chapel for a Communion service, all at once she saw in her mind an old slave being maliciously beaten, while his attacker was urged by another white man, to further excess! The vision changed and she then saw the old dying slave forgive his merciless murderers and pray for the salvation of their miserable souls.38 Stowe was convinced God had given her this daytime dream. Her son would, in his biography, make reference to this experience, “Suddenly, like the rolling of a picture, the scene of the death of Uncle Tom passed before her mind. So strongly was she affected that it was with difficulty she could keep from weeping aloud. Immediately on returning home she took pen and paper and wrote out the vision which had been as if were blown into her mind as by the rushing of a mighty wind.”39 When further pressed concerning the divine inspiration behind her story, she would comment, “I the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin? No, indeed. The Lord Himself wrote it, and I was but the humblest of instruments in His hand. To Him alone should be given all the praise.”40
Stowe would write to Bailey the next month that she had launched into a story that would last through probably three or four segments, “Up to this year I have always felt that I had no particular call to meddle with this subject, and I dreaded to expose even my own mind to the full force of its exciting power. But I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak . . . and I hope every woman who can write will not be silent.”41 Just before Stowe’s submissions began, the Era switched to weekly rather than monthly publications. But even Stowe did not foresee the sketches running the length of nearly ten months. “I could not control the story; it controlled itself,” she would say.42
Calvin Stowe, on behalf of his wife, entered into a contract with John P. Jewett, who had published books by other family members, for a ten percent contract, though he had offered to go fifty percent. But the professor could not conscientiously agree. Catharine Beecher’s publisher, Phillips, Sampson, & Co., would not publish the book because a novel by a woman on an unpopular subject was too risky! But it was another woman, Jewett’s wife, who urged her husband to publish the book, while she sat by his side during a cold January, reading the touching death scene of little Eva.43 In the first three months of sales, the book netted for the Stowe household, $10,000, more than 10 times their annual income! The press would note this amount, “. . . was the largest sum of money ever received by any author, either American or European, from the sale of a single work in so short a period of time”44 The first printing in clothbound sold for fifty-six cents. Three mills ran full tilt just to supply paper for the book! Within two years the book was published in French, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Flemish, Polish, Russian, Bohemian, Hungarian, Serbian, Armenian, Illyrian, Romaic, Wallachian, Welsh, and Siamese. Ultimately, the book was published in forty languages!45
During the fifty-eight years that Mrs. Stowe and her heirs held copyrights, between three and four million copies were sold in the United States, with more than one and a half million selling in Great Britain, and four million in foreign translations! The dramatic version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was one of the most successful plays ever produced in the American theatre. At one time in the 1850s, sixteen companies were playing it at the same time. That record was surpassed when between 1868-72 nineteen companies performed it. It was on the boards continuously somewhere in the United States from 1853 to 1934 without a single break!46 Mrs. Stowe and her household did not change, however, anything of their normal lifestyle. She would remain frugal and giving with her new-found wealth and notoriety the rest of her life.
Gamaliel Bailey, the editor of the National Era, paid Mrs. Stowe $300.00 for the serial and this editorial critique, “Mrs. Stowe has at last brought her great work to a close. We do not recollect any production of an American writer that has excited more general and profound interest.” Other notable authors would share their opinions with the new, world-famous novelist: John Greenleaf Whitter, contributing editor to the Era, and poet laureate to the anti-slavery movement, “What a glorious work Harriet Beecher Stowe has wrought;” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “I congratulate you most cordially upon the immense success and influence of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It is one of the greatest triumphs recorded in literary history, to say nothing of the higher triumph of its moral effect;” and Charles Dickens: “I have read your book with the deepest interest and sympathy, and admire, more than I can express to you, both the generous feeling which inspired it, and the admirable power with which it is executed;” and James Russell Lowell not only admired the book but made it his immediate business to meet the author, and thereafter was her good friend.47 And William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the anti-slavery magazine, The Liberator, and leader of abolitionists, declared, “I estimate the value of anti-slavery writing by the abuse it brings. Now all the defenders of slavery have left me alone and are abusing you.” Leo Tolstoy would link Uncle Tom’s Cabin with A Tale of Two Cities and Les Misérables as examples of pure, moral art.48 Prime Minister of England during the Civil War, Lord Palmerston, who faced the decision whether to recognize and support the Confederacy admitted to reading the book three times admiring it “not only for the story but for the statesmanship of it.”49
The enormity of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s phenomenal success with her first major publication is undeniable. Whether, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was the single reason for the Civil War is of course debatable. With little inquiry, though, its effect upon those in the North who were undecided on the slavery issue was extensive and immediate. The book communicated the message of abolitionists better than any one or any method prior to 1852. It polarized anti-slavery organizations in the North and in England. The decisive influence of the Underground Railroad was expanded when readers were made aware that Hoosiers Levi and Catherine Coffin, were depicted in Stowe’s narrative by Simeon and Rachel Halliday. Levi Coffin was the unofficial president of the Underground Railroad.50 Uncle Tom’s Cabin, helped swell the ranks of anti-slavery activists who continued placing pressure on their representatives petitioning for the end of not only the trading of slaves, but the institution itself in America. The magnitude of the problem multiplied with the book’s publication and the subsequent years Mrs. Stowe traveled both in America and England giving speeches, (though custom then prohibited women from public speaking, instead, her husband or brother Edward would read aloud her speeches to audiences). Inevitably, the years of inaction and compromise on the slave question erupted in a sectional split of the United States, in 1861, with the election of Abraham Lincoln. Virtually no family went untouched by the Civil War’s carnage. Calvin and Harriet Stowe would suffer with all Americans, North and South, when a son, Frederick, was wounded in the head by shrapnel during the second day’s fighting at Gettysburg. He experienced headaches the rest of his life and would eventually turn to alcohol. His parents believed sea air would help him and encouraged him to take a long voyage. He agreed. Frederick Stowe sailed from Florida around the Horn to San Francisco from where he intended to cross the Pacific, but wandered from the water’s edge into the streets never to be heard from again.51
Harriet Beecher Stowe would write other works that won acclaim, seventeen books and nearly fifty articles and pamphlets, but non that would eclipse Uncle Tom’s Cabin, nor would anyone else. Her writing would put her in the center of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, but she took no commanding position, although, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton pursued Stowe and her sister, Isabella Beecher Hooker, for editorial positions with their publication, the Revolution.52 Perhaps, one of the highest tributes paid her came from the most unlikely place, the South. Many in the North believed the defeated Confederacy should be severely punished for its sessionist act; but, Stowe used every opportunity to communicate the true Christian position, which was to demonstrate compassion. In numerous articles she maintained that the North’s failure to show brotherhood to its Southern half would bring unfortunate harm to the entire nation.53 Even the revered Robert E. Lee, who had become president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, and later Washington and Lee University after his death in 1870, expressed his approval, both in public and private, for Mrs. Stowe’s work.54 Lee’s blessing alone was enough to win her the South’s approval, and even the cynics gave way to her as she tenaciously advocated empathy toward the South. In the 1870s when she visited several major Southern cities, huge crowds gathered to applaud her.55
Celebrating in 2002 the 150th anniversary of the appearance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and we reflect, and are challenged in our understanding of the actions of Providence through the life of one Civil War era citizen who had in her heart a sincere desire to bring an end to the awful affliction then ravishing the nation’s soul, and take note how one person, with a dream, can make a difference in theirs and future generations.
Dennis L. Kutzner, Founder & President
GETTYSBURG CAMPFIRES, INC.
1. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1901, Hurst & Company, Biography of the Author, p. vii; James H. McPherson, Drawn with the Sword, 1996, New York, Oxford University Press, pp. 24-25; Joan D. Hedrick, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life, 1994, New York, Oxford University Press, p. 223.
2. Charles Edward Stowe, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1890, Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin and Co., p.155.
3. James H. McPherson, Drawn with the Sword, 1996, New York, Oxford University Press, p. 24.
4. Noel Bertram Gerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Biography, 1976, New York, Praeger Publishers, Inc., p. 165.
5. Ibid, p.2; Clyde E. Fant Jr., and William M. Pinson, Jr., 20 Centuries of Great Preaching, Res. Assoc., Donald E. Hammer, 1971, Word Books, Vol. III, p.209.
6. Jules Archer, Angry Abolitionist: William Lloyd Garrison, 1969, New York, Simon & Schuster, Inc., p. 36.
7. William Lee Miller, Arguing About Slavery, 1998, New York, Vintage Books, pp. 79-84.
8. Ibid, p. 84.
9. Ibid, p. 88; Hedrick, A Life, p. 102.
10. Dwight Lowell Dumond, Antislavery Origins of the Civil War in the United States, 1939, University of Michigan Press, 1959, First edition as an Ann Arbor Paperback, p. 5.
11. Miller, Arguing About Slavery, pp. 89, 92.
12. Ibid, p. 314.
13. Gerson, A Biography, p.26.
16. Hedrick, A Life, pp. 93-94.
18. Ibid, p. 98.
19. Gerson, A Biography, p.36.
20. Ibid, p. 38.
21. Hedrick, A Life, p. 189.
22. Ibid, p. 190.
23. Stowe, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, pp. 123-124.
24. Hedrick, A Life, pp. 191-192.
25. Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1968, Arno Press, Inc., New York, Gen. Ed. William Loren Katz, p. 257.
26. Ibid, p. 267.
27. Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul, Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, p. 34.
28. Hedrick, A Life, p. 192.
29. Harriet A. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1987, ed. by Jean Fagan Yellin, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp. 86-87.
30. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Or Life Among the Lowly, 1981, ed., & intro., by Ann Douglas, Penguin Books, p. 521.
31. Miller, Arguing About Slavery, p. 282.
32. Stowe, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, p. 145.
35. Hedrick, A Life, p. 194.
36. Ibid, p. 195.
37. Gerson, A Biography, p.65.
39. Stowe, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, p. 148.
40. Ibid, p. 156; Gerson, A Biography, p. 69.
41. Hedrick, A Life, p. 208.
42. Stowe, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, p. 156.
43. Hedrick, A Life, p. 223.
45. Gerson, A Biography, p. 70; McPherson, Drawn with the Sword, p. 25; Gerson, A Biography, p. 70.
46. Gerson, A Biography, p. 71.
47. Stowe, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, pp. 158, 161; Gerson, A Biography, p. 72.
48. Gerson, A Biography, p.72.
49. McPherson, Drawn with the Sword, pp. 25, 26.
50. Underground Railroad, 1998, Produced by the Division of Publications of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D. C. p. 61. Courtesy of Indiana Fourth District Congressman, Mark Souder.
51. Stowe, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, pp. 382, 383; Gerson, A Biography, p. 190.
52. Stowe, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, p. 354.
53. Gerson, A Biography, p. 180.
54. Ibid, p. 181.