Henry Beecher


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, November 14, 1863

We have been collecting Civil War newspapers for over 20 years. We have now been able to post this extensive collection online to allow students and researchers to access this important source of information and illustrations. Reading these old newspapers will allow you to gain insights not otherwise possible.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to the page of interest)


Freed Slaves

Freed Slaves

Brady Studio

Mathew Brady Studio


Battle of Bridgeport

Lytle Death

Death of General Lytle

General Lytle

General Lytle

Henry Beecher

Henry Beecher


Medicine Cartoon

Lookout Mountain

Battle of Lookout Mountain

French Fleet

French Fleet

Ship Building

Ship Building




NOVEMBER 14, 1863.]




WE publish herewith a portrait of one of the greatest living preachers, and one of the best men of our time—the Rev. HENRY WARD BEECHER. All England is ringing with his eloquent appeals in favor of our cause; and even Liverpool, sodden in pro-slavery corruption, listens to his speeches. The following account of his life was written five years ago by one who knows and loves him:

"The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher is one of the many children (thirteen, we believe, in number) of the Rev. Lyman Beecher. Mr. Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, June 24, 1813. He graduated at Amherst College, Massachusetts, in 1834, and studied Theology under his father at the Lane Seminary, in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1837 he was settled as a Presbyterian clergyman in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where he preached for

two years, and then removed to Indianapolis, where he remained until he was called by the orthodox Congregational society of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, New York, where his ministry commenced in 1847, and still continues. Mr. Beecher was one of the founders of The Independent newspaper, to which he is still an occasional contributor, over the signature of a star. His works—if they may be so called—consist of a volume of 'Lectures to Young Men'—'The Plymouth Collection of Hymns'—a collection of some of his articles in The Independent, called 'The Star Papers,' and a volume entitled 'Life-Thoughts,' made up of striking passages from his discourses, reported by an admiring hearer.

"Probably no man in the country is more generally known, or regarded with a more personal affection and enthusiasm. Whenever and wherever he speaks, vast crowds assemble; and he is the only orator for whom all the halls and all the churches every where are too small. There are American orators more polished, more elegant, more scholarly, more graceful, more rhetorical, but there is no one who impresses his hearers with a deeper sense of his own sincerity and manliness—no one whose sympathy with suffering and sinful men of all conditions is felt to be sweeter or more ennobling—no one whose affluent imagination so illuminates, and whose tender Christian heart so purifies, the subject he discusses.

"Mr. Beecher is identified with various causes; but his independence remains untouched, and he works in his own way. He is a temperance man, but something more. He is an anti-slavery man, but something more. He is an orthodox Congregationalist, but something more. 'God works by the Church just as far as he can,' said he, in one of his discourses, 'but the stream of his working overflows and runs in a hundred ducts besides.' In like manner, his chief sympathy and hope are for man, and they run in a thousand rills of speech and action. Whatever hedges, cramps, confines, or in any manner dwarfs human development, is the enemy with which he deals, and the combat is jubilant and triumphant. He rejoices in his strength and in his work. He sends his words for the right, ringing home like the anvil strokes of a blithe blacksmith singing at his forge.

"When he rises to speak his face is full of a lambent light—humorous, and sly, and sweet—a kind of happy, boyish innocence and confidence, which directly win sympathy and interest—so that the orator is eloquent before he has spoken.

His discourses are generally prepared, but as the tide of feeling rises it overbears the limits of his preparation; his imagination floats and soars beyond the course marked out, and, like a strong bird dipping, and reveling, and darting in the summer air, with the lights of heaven and the colors of earth glancing and glittering upon his plumage, his mind decorates his thoughts with an affluence of exquisite illustration drawn from every department of nature—so felicitous, and charming, and novel, that the happy hearer believes, with Cicero, that a great orator is truly a rarer triumph of nature than a great poet.

"Mr. Beecher's voice is not especially musical, nor of great range; his action is vehement and dramatic rather than graceful; and the violent contrasts of effect—the sharp, loud cry and muscular movement, followed by a relaxed frame and ordinary conversational tone—are sometimes unpleasantly suggestive of a poor style of clerical declamation. But the next moment some gush of humor lights like a sunbeam upon the level of the discourse, or some lovely sentiment touches it with tender pathos, and thousands of eyes, bright alternately with smiles and tears, proclaim the power which is not to be described or criticised—the magnetic sympathy and persuasion, without which grace and elegance, and music and learning, and wit and fervor, do not suffice for eloquence.

"The secret of Mr. Beecher's influence and success with all kinds of minds lies in his broad and sweet humanity. It is both sweet and wise. Liberal Christians, as they are usually called, wonder why he remains within the limits of a creed so orthodox.

The temperance men wish he worked more technically under their banner. The Abolitionists heartily denounce him as a trimmer, because, while he sees the dangers and difficulties of our national differences, he also sees and grants the splendor of our prosperity and position, and the magnificent scope of our destiny. Hearty and healthy in body and mind, his theology, his philosophy, his sentiment, are all buoyant, hopeful, and cheerful. He believes in the power and goodness of God, and therefore perceives the ultimate triumph of his Spirit.

"However old he may grow (and may he live as long as good men ought to live!), Henry Ward Beecher will always seem to be a great, noble, blithe boy. His fresh feeling, his exuberant and rollicking humor, his genuine love of men, and faith in their improvement and progress, his most Christian reliance upon the religion of which he is

a teacher, will always keep the bloom of youth upon his heart, and its fire in his soul, however Time may brush the hue from his cheek and quench the light in his eye. His youthful appearance is such, that, upon first coming to this neighborhood to preach, he went one Sunday to the church, and, seating himself quietly in the pulpit, was presently warned off by the sexton. 'What do you mean?' said Beecher. 'Why, we don't allow boys up here,' sternly replied the sexton. But Beecher allows boys. No man has a livelier love for children, and more sympathetic intelligence of their tastes, and wishes, and habits. Some of the most striking and beautiful passages of his lectures and sermons are thoughts and illustrations of childhood and youth; and his eye would moisten with hope, and admiration, and longing over a brave boy or a happy girl, as it would, with sorrow and prayerful entreaty, over a sinful fellow-man.

"He is an American in the best and truest sense. There is nothing mean, or narrow, or sectional in his fraternal and national feeling. He believes that this continent was intended for the great experiment, and that it will be fully, fairly, and successfully

tried. To this end he welcomes the ever-increasing immigration, for whose labor the untracted Western wilds are waiting. He cheers the ship that he sees from his study window, sparkling on the bay, and rich with those who shall be developed into citizens and the parents of citizens. Every Sunday three thousand people in the morning, and three thousand in the evening, hear him expound the Gospel of Christ in this humane and catholic spirit. Every night in every week, except during his summer rest, somewhere and in some way, either at prayer-meetings—at revival meetings—at lyceums—in halls—in school-houses—in theatres—under the trees—from the steps of public buildings—he is preaching, with a text or without a text; and the substance of his discourse is the song of the angels, 'Peace on earth, good-will to men!'

"Yes—but 'Sharp's rifles,' and laying corner-

stones of armories, and addresses to military companies, how about all these things?

"His answer would be short and simple: Human means for human ends. Because we are to love men, we are not, therefore, to let them murder our children, nor lay waste society. Mr. Beecher does not take a position without understanding it and himself. He rolls up his sleeves and stands to his guns, and whoever attacks it must expect no fair-weather fighting. He occasionally explodes a false rumor about himself with a witticism, sometimes pours in sparkling satire and severe truth-telling; and whoever interrupts him in a speech or a lecture, or in conversation, either playfully or seriously, will find that he has but burnished and sharpened the weapon he opposed.

"Mr. Beecher is of medium height, with a florid complexion, and large, soft, humorous blue eyes. His mouth is full and firm, and less poetic than the general character of his face. His boyish appearance is heightened by the hair brushed behind his ears. His dress is always simple and half negligent, like his manner. One very warm Sunday in the dog-days, when he was fresh from the West,

he preached in a light linen coat. But he does nothing eccentric for the sake of eccentricity. He is discreet and thoughtful. He fights substances, and not shadows. No man is more liked by his opponents, because no man is more generous to them. A characteristic American, large-hearted, large-handed, large-minded, more learned in men than in books, clear-sighted and loyal and self-confident, he has already written his name upon the times and upon the hearts of his countrymen."

At the outbreak of the war Mr. Beecher threw himself into it with his accustomed energy, spoke and wrote on the loyal side, and sent his son into the field. Last spring he went to Europe, and within a few weeks he has been speaking in England on the subject. In many places he has been well received; in others the influence of the aristocracy and the Southerners has caused him to be interrupted and insulted. At Liverpool his

lecture was a scene of the most shameful disturbance. It would give us great pleasure to have space to republish his speeches; but we can only find room for a couple of striking extracts from the address delivered at Manchester. Speaking of the probable duration of the war, he said:

The question of war, under the circumstances in which war is now carried on in our country, is simply a question of time. [Cheers.] The population is with the North. The wealth is with the North. [Cheers.] The education is with the North. [Cheers.] The right doctrines of civil government are with the North. [Cheers, and a voice, "Where's the justice?"] It will not be long before one thing more will be with the North—victory. [Loud and enthusiastic rounds of cheers.] Men on this side are impatient at the long delay; but if we can bear it, can't you? [Laughter.] You are quite at ease ["Not yet"]; we are not. You are not materially affected in any such degree as many parts of our own land are now. [Cheers.] But if the day shall come in one year, in two years, in ten years hence, when the old Stars and Stripes shall float over every State of America— [Loud cheers, and some disturbance from one or two.] Oh, let him (the chief disturber) have a chance. [Laughter.] We will take a turn about; I will say the sentences, and you shall make the responses. [Laughter.] I am a Congregationalist, but I can make a very good Episcopal minister too. [Loud laughter.] I was saying, when interrupted by that sound from the other side of the house, that if the day shall come, in one, or five, or ten years, in which the old honored and historic banner shall float again over every State of the South; if the day shall come when that which was the accursed cause of this dire and atrocious war —Slavery—shall be done away [cheers]; if the day shall come when through all the Gulf States there shall be liberty of speech, as there never has been [cheers]; if the day shall come when there shall be liberty of the Press, as there never has been; if the day shall come when men shall have common schools to send their children to, which they never have had in the South; if the day shall come when the land shall not be parceled in gigantic plantations, in the hands of a few rich oligarchs [loud cheers], but shall be parceled out to honest farmers, every man owning his little [renewed cheers]; in short, if the day shall come when the simple ordinances, the fruition and privileges of civil liberty, shall prevail in every part of the United States, it will be worth all the dreadful blood, and tears, and woe. [Loud cheers.] You are impatient; and yet God dwelleth in eternity, and has an infinite leisure to roll forward the affairs of men, not to suit the hot impatience of those who are but children of a day, and can not wait or linger for long, but according to

the infinite circle on which He measures time and events. He expedites or retards as it pleases Him; and if He heard our cries or prayers, not thrice would the months revolve but peace would come. But the strong crying and prayers of millions have not brought peace, but only thickening war. We accept the Providence; the duty is plain. [Cheers and interruption.]

In answer to some queries put for the purpose of embarrassing him by a pro-slavery Englishman with regard to the recognition of slavery in the Constitution, he observed:

All the Slave States stand on the radical principle that a slave is not for purposes of law any longer to be ranked in the category of human beings, but that he is a piece of property, and to be treated to all intents and purposes as a piece of property; and the law did not blush, nor do the judges blush nowadays who interpret that law. [Hear.] But how is it that the Constitution of the United States, when it begins to speak of these very same slaves, names them? Does it call them "slaves?" Does it speak of them as in "servitude?" It lifts itself up as if consciously inspired with the grandeur of the thought and dignity of man, and says, "Persons held to service." [Hear and cheers.] Go to South Carolina, and ask what she calls slaves, and it says "things;" and the old Capitol at Washington sullenly reverberates, "No, persons!" [Cheers.] Go to South Carolina, and her fundamental article saw; she looks upon

slaves as "things;" and again the Constitution echoes, "No, persons!" [Hear.] Go to the charter of Louisiana, or to the Southwestern Slave States, with their Constitution, and still that doctrine of devils is enunciated—it is "chattel," it is "thing." Looking upon those for whom Christ felt mortal anguish in Gethsemane, and stretched himself in death on Calvary, their laws call them still "things" and "chattels;" and still in suppressed tones of thunder the Constitution of the United States says "persons." [Cheers.] What was it then, when the country had advanced so far toward universal emancipation in the period of our national formation, that stopped this onward tide? Two things, commercial and political. First, the wonderful demand for cotton throughout the world, coupled with the facility of producing it, arising from the invention of the cotton-gin—that introduced a new element of value. Slaves that before had been worth from $300 to $400, began to be worth $500. That knocked away one-third of our adherence to the moral law. Then afterward they became worth $700, and half the law went [cheers and laughter]: then $800 or $900, and then there was no such thing as moral law [cheers and laughter]; then $1000 or $1200, and slavery became one of the beatitudes on the Mount. [Cheers and laughter.] When Moses wrote his laws, delivered by the Highest, he wrote them on tables of stone; but when the devil, through his minion, wrote his laws, he wrote them on silver. [Cheers and loud laughter.] Their pocket is their Mount Sinai [cheers and laughter]; they are the lineal descendants of those men who before worshipped the golden calf. [Cheers.]


Henry Beecher




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