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# 



.! ' I 



GERRIT SMITH 



A BIOGRAPHY 



'^HERATng 



Di, 



^^r^*-*? 



^^er; 



I6AN 



'■e^ 



BY 



OCTAVIUS BROOKS EJIOTHINGHAM 



SECOND EDITION 



NEW YORK 

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 

182 Fifth Avenue 

1879 



i^MMiUkiT, ti^./i). t. ir'i^ljfriA*? * ^im&. 



i 






CONTENTS. 






•J 

< 

M 

ft 



CHAPTER I. 
Parentage 5 

CHAPTER II. 
Health 38 

CHAPTER III. 
Religion 44 

CHAPTER IV. 
Humanity 94 

CHAPTER V. 
Temperance 144 

CHAPTER VI. 
Slavery 160 

CHAPTER VII. 
The War 2 

CHAPTER VIII. 
The Peace 294 

i CHAPTER IX. 

^ Philanthropy 331 



CHAPTER X. 
The End 343 



PREFATORY NOTE. 

The second edition of the Life of Gerrit Smith 
differs from the first in one respect. In the portion 
which relates to John Brown and the attack on Har- 
per's Ferry the historical facts are stated simply and 
without comment. For a final statement as to these 
the reader is referred to page 254 of the present volume. 

O. B. F. 



LIFE OF GEURIT SMITIL 



CHAPTER I. 

PARENTAGE. 

•^ r ' O one who looks into the beginnings of any local 
-*- society, the influence of individuals is apparent. 
The interest centres in a few men. This was the case 
in Central New York. One of the men who made him- 
self felt there in the first quarter of the century, was 
Peter Srhith. He was born in Greenbush, Rockland 
Co., November 15, 1768. His ancestors, who were 
Hollanders, had lived and died there, for several gen- 
erations. Petrus Smith died January 24, 1767, aged 
eighty years, two months, four days. Annitje his wife, 
died January i, 1803. Gerrit P. Smith, their son, 
(born June 15, 1743, died October 7, 1826) married 
Wintje Lent (born July 16, 1750, died at her son's 
house in Schenectady, F'ebruary 17, 1834). Peter was 
their oldest child. They lived on the farm near Tap- 
pan, which was made famous by the execution of John 
Andr^. Peier was about twelve years old when that 
tragedy was enacted. At the age of sixteen or there- 
abouts he became clerk to Abraham Herring, an im- 
porting merchant in New York City. At this time, 
it is said, he exhibited the taste for theatricals that is 
usual with very young men, and, as an actor of subor- 



6 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

dinate parts on the stage of the old Park Theatre, gave 
signs of a faculty which if cultivated and directed 
might have enabled him to shine in another career. 
He was of sensitive temperament and quick emotions, 
easily moved to tears by consideration of his religious 
duties and by reflection on his relations to the Supreme 
Being and the destinies of the hereafter. 

Versatile and persuasive, a man to impress himself 
on others, and win confidence, his clerk life was suc- 
ceeded by a partnership with John Jacob Astor, a poor 
youth like himself, but like himself adventurous, and 
endowed with the qualities that ensure success — patience, 
endurance, industry, and the sagacity that divines, as by 
instinct, the way to wealth. They kept a little store and 
traded in furs which they procured at first hand from 
the Indian hunters at the North. It was their custom 
in the summer months to go to Albany by sloop, thence 
on foot to penetrate into the interior of the State, mak- 
ing their way as they could across rivers, swamps and 
other natural barriers, climbing, wading, swimming until 
they reached the tribes, Mohawks, Oneidas, Cayugas, 
Senecas, who held the treasures of winter spoil. The 
price paid was not dear, the ** Indian money *' as it was 
called, consisting of beads, shells, bits of glass, of no 
value except in savage eyes ; — but the Indians were sat- 
isfied, and helped the traders to transport the skins, on 
man-back and by canoe to Albany, whence they were 
taken down the river to New York. The business was 
profitable for those times. It was perhaps to make it 
more profitable that Smith took up his residence in 
central New York, in the valley of the Mohawk, and 
'^'^'^ned an Indian trader's store in a corner of his house, 



PETER SMITH, 7 

on what is known as the Bleecker property at Utica 
At this period the furs were sent to his partner in New 
York. But other interests engrossed him, and the part- 
nership with Mr. Astor was dissolved. Astor bought 
real estate in the heart of the city, and Smith bought 
acres in the centre of the State. 

Two little pocket journals exist, written rudely in 
pencil, containing notes of journeys northward from 
Albany, in the summer and autumn of 1822. The de- 
scriptions suggest hardships of nearly every description ; 
bad roads, scant accommodations, sparse populations, 
hard climated, vile weather, but they disclose a sturdy 
resolve, a keen vigilance, an appreciation of natural ad- 
vantages and a foresight into future possibilities, an in- 
telligent, humane interest, too, in the prospects of civili- 
zation, such as belong only to men of genuine power. 
The purchases of land were, even at the start, immense 
in extent. At this period the Indians in his neighbor- 
hood outnumbered the whites, who were mostly Dutch. 
His native language was Dutch, but he was able to com- 
municate with the Indians, and even to address them 
effectively in their own speech. His frequent excursions 
in search of skins had made him acquainted with the 
land in different parts of the State and given him hints 
in regard to the probable sites for towns and villages, 
which he was quick to act on. As it was illegal to buy 
land outright from the Indians, Mr. Smith leased a large 
tract for the technical ninety-nine years, and then by 
arrangement with the authorities obtained permission to 
purchase a tract of some sixty thousand acres, for which 
he paid three dollars and fifty-three and a half cents per 
acre. Of this enough was sold at auction in 1802, to 



8 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

• 

repay the purchase money and still leav^e him a large 
estate. Mortgages on the lands that were sold on credit 
were transferred to the State in discharge of his indebt- 
edness, and formed in part the capital of the Common 
School Fund. The tract of sixty thousand acres was 
divided into four parcels. The first contained seventy- 
four lots ; fifty-five in Oneida County, in the present 
town of Augusta ; fourteen in Stockbridge, and five in 
Smithfield. The second contained sixty lots ; most of 
them in the present town of Smithfield ; the rest \n the 
adjacent township of Fenner. The third contained 
fifty-six lots, all but three in Fenner. The fourth con- 
tained forty-seven lots, mostly in the town of Cazenovia, 
then in Chenango County. Mr. Smith, then Judge 
Smith, was, it is said, the largest purchaser of land in the 
Oneida Reservation, embracing nearly the whole of the 
Second Assembly District of Madison County, and sev^- 
eral large towns in Oneida County, which was sold in 
tracts of various sizes and shapes to speculators. He 
bought largely lands that were sold for taxes, often at a 
merely nominal sum, and either remained in his hands, 
as permanent possessions, or were redeemed at enhanced 
prices. Among these later purchases, were eighty thou- 
sand acres in the then county of Oneida, for which he 
paid to the State three dollars an acre. Of the amount 
offered at auction in Utica, twenty-two thousand two hun- 
dred and ninety- nine and a half acres remained unsold. 
The highest price paid was eight dollars and forty cents 
per acre. Whole townships of unoccupied land were 
sometimes bought at a single purchase. Thus Mr. 
Smith became one of the largest landholders in the 
Union, certainly the largest in the State. His posses- 



PETER SMITH. 9 

sions comprised acres by the hundred thousand, nearer 
a million than half a million; they were measured by 
square miles. 

Judge Smith resided in the county of Madison and 
presided at the County Court. The township where he 
lived was named Smithfield, and the village Peterboro. 
Here he kept open house and exercised generous hos- 
pitality. He was one of the burgomasters of his day 
when the Dutch Huguenots and the active merchants 
of Holland were colonizing and civilizing the central 
portion of the State. The Vanderkemps and Schuylers 
and Van Rensselaers and Kips, were welcome guests. 
The great landholder could be social and even jovial. 
His latch-string was out for his friends ; and he was too 
wise if not too kindlv to make enemies. To the last he 
remained on good terms with the Indians ; the Oneida 
chief, Skenandoah, was a friend so fast that Mr. Smith 
named his first born son after him, Peter Skenandoah. 
In fact, his influence with the Indians was so great as to 
cause uneasiness to the general government, which dis- 
patched an agent to break up what threatened to be an 
embarrassing intimacy. The danger however was im- 
aginary. The agent reported accordingly, and the savage 
associations continued as lon^f as he lived in the neiij^h- 
borhood. The Indians made free with the hospitality 
of the Peterboro mansion, camped in the halls and out- 
houses, and lay loose about the piazza, not always de- 
sirable, though still useful visitors. 

To those who knew Judge Smith casually, he seemed 
a hard, sharp, shrewd man, close at a bargain, selfish and 
grasping, too much occupied with himself to make others 
happy, or to be genial of intercourse. He was heavy in 



lO LIFE OF GERRl'i 

beinnr apprised of the measure w; _ _^: for his blessing 

Branch Tract Society, be hereafter 

I hope may shortly be done, it will _^.^ proceeding from our 

auxiliaries to connect themselves " .^.|i ^q our souls, is the 

Those justly and hig-hly v 

Tract Magazine, and the Chi. ^^ SMITH, of Pctcrboro. 

vou. Should vour sets from 

wriiir.g. by private opporti: ,Mingr, and not be wearied. 

Ebcnezcr Watson, Esq.. Co:- ,„,i look back. Although the 

State Branch of the Amer ^ „,^[ show itself as frequent and 

forward the dericient numh ,.. ^ust hope it will appear, not 

May the blessings of t ^ ,„ons when we and our doinj;s 

strive to supply the need} . j continue to furnish the Silent 

loursmce receive standard tracts, 

• istian Almanack. I again take the 
Standard Tracts, .:selJ" may not cease striving to cause 

4 Page do, ,^ ^^nd ages. 

r> road sheet do. rewarded for the faithful discharge o\ 

Hand bill do. ., eternity, is the prayer of 

Children s Bool ,,r friend and exceeding 

And one Chris Well wisher, 

N. B. It is hr Peter Smith, of Pctcrboro. 



covered, to be sr 



,^r such of the tracts as are not, before vou 



Dear 



lour page ao. .j^^^ y^^^ j^^^ gone by since I penned rny tract 

to conie^s. 1 . ^^^ g^^ years since number one. How many 

encouragem .^^^^ ^ ^^irivt and you receive, is, for uue pur- 

and GiQ tor . ^^^ ^^ |^^^ ^^ ^^^ ^^^^. ^^.-j^n^ jj. j^ to-dav, of 

^.'^•^^'°^ ,t not assured. 



riistriDutr 



1 you, my dear sir, to make the most of these silent 

P^^^ • ' , from time to time. I am puttin-^ into vour charge, 

the wat r c» . o 

, . ice circulation. We have numerous accounts ot re- 

. iving been the means, under God, of showing the 

: state of his heart, and of provlucing in hini a right 



Let 

in vou 
circu^ 
our ' 
mai 



. are covered tracts, 

four page Ao. 
Christian Almanack, 

' esteem it a favor, occasionally^ to hear from you upon the 
tracts ; the more especially, if any good effects from the 



PETER SMITH. II 

Aug. 5, " Have had a comfortable night, and still no 
heart to thank a most merciful God for this mercy/* 

Aug. 24, " Just now saw two smart Vermonters going 
as settlers upon Hoffman township. They give twenty 
dollars an acre. I am very much worried and fatigued ; 
very little attention to make me comfortable at this tav- 
ern. O, may I be resigned to all my trials ! Give me, 
heavenly Father, a contented mind.** 

Sept, 8, Sunday^ *' Have not had a comfortable night, 
spirits too much agitated this morning ; intend going to 

meeting at five and a half miles north ; may the 

perturbations of my mind be allayed ! May I hear at- 
tentively and profitably ! ** 

Monday morning, "Still at Esq. Johnson*s ; am not 
very well ; mind is much perplexed regarding concerns 
here. Heard two sermons yesterday, from Rev. Mr. 
Comstock ; the one in afternoon was funeral sermon, a 
daughter of Mr. Catlin, about — yrs. of age, had died 
suddenly — croup I expect. * Work while it is day, for 
the night cometh,* etc. O, could I be persuaded so to 
do! But this stupidity! This unbelief!** 

Sept. 30, Monday, ** Yesterday we had reading and 
prayer-meeting here ; all seems to have no lasting effect 
on my slothful, sluggish mind. I read much and good 
books, but when I lay them down, the world is instantly 
uppermost ! Were we but prepared for death ! We 
read : * A Christian*s death is the best part of his exist- 
ence ! * What is it keeps me from embracing the proffer 
of the Saviour ! O, the hardness of heart ! * Heaping 
up wrath against the day of wrath.* O, what consum- 
mate folly ! O, had I but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! 
What shall I do to obtain it! O, might I but firmly be- 



.1 "^ ■ .1 • ■■ 






I .. 



r : : 



^ ' ; 



'. . V 



. I . •. . ^ 



■ ■»■■• r' " • *■ 

•.. .1 [\d\'-J uiy.f.lf '\ ::■.-': 
..■\- others IiiV; :>» :■;:.. 



^ mm ^ . . . 



PETER SMITH. 1 3 

My intentions are, God allowing bodily and pecuniary 
ability, to continue doing the like ; may He bless the 
recipients and distributors ! 

** In addition, I intend to make deposit with suitable 
person, in neighborhoods (more particularly where the 
gospel is not statedly presented) in the northern and 
western counties, of tracts, say from one hundred to 07ie 
thousand^ according to circumstances, with request that 
to each head of a family, one tract be given, the like to 
schools, and to single persons not attached to a family, 
with desire they may be exchanged at the depository, 
from time to time ; (to deliver to such only who intend 
to make the exchanges,) the receivers desired to keep 
the tracts neat and clean as may be, list to be kept of 
the names to whom tracts in first instance are delivered 
— it is also my intention from time to time, to make ad- 
ditions to the deposits, especially in neighborhoods 
where most read. 

" The person with whom deposits are made, to make 
report at the end of every year, stating whatever may 
have come to his knowledge, regarding the effects (if 
any observable) produced by the reading, and what the 
encouragement for the future. 

** And further my intention is (God willing) to send to 
friends in destitute neighborhoods, from time to time, 
bundles of twenty-five, thirty or forty tracts for them- 
selves and families to read, with request to loan to such 
of their neighbors as will read them." 

NEW YORK STATE TRACT SOCIETY. 

Albany, ist yuntt 1825. 

Peter Smith Esq. having submitted to us a circular letter to 
accompany deposits of tracts in various places in the interior of the 



12 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

lieve in that Jesus who is the resurrection and the life ! 
O, for grace, for saving, divine grace ! " 

Feeling and intellect were at strife in the man. He 
was sincere, but could not make up his mind. 

It was his habit to leave tracts as he journeyed on 
his land expeditions. His approach to a settlement was 
announced by small placards set on way-side posts, an- 
nouncing the message of *' Eternity." The gospel 
trumpet, in the similitude of a horn, blown by himself, 
heralded his near presence. Thus he plied the business 
of two worlds at once. 

Aug, 8, 1822, ** I have here, as well as heretofore on 
this journey, distributed many tracts, but not half as 
many as I could have wished. I was not sufficiently 
supplied ; must hereafter on my journeys be more atten- 
tive to this. At Plattsburgh I presented No Fiction to 
the Misses Davidson, and for other ladies, Mrs. Judge 
Piatt, Mrs. General Moers, Mrs. R. H. Walworth to read. 
May they receive good from it, and may all I do in this 
way result in good, and O, might it to my own soul! '* 

On his removal from Peterboro to Schenectady, in the 
spring of 1825, he made systematic arrangements for the 
continuance of this pious work. 

** We arrive, with view to take up residence at Sche- 
nectady, April 9, 1825. 

" For several years past, I Peter Smith of Peterboro, 
have from time to time supplied myself with great va- 
riety of religious tracts, and some larger works, and in 
the habit of distributing such, in my frequent excursions 
in various directions, mostly within this State, from 
which have ///jK^^//" derived much satisfaction, and I hope 
many others have been, and will be benefited from it ! 



PETER SMITH. 15 

families and others in your place and neighborhood. I anticipated 
much satisfaction from the effects of my former deposits of tracts, 
but I make the present addition with increased satisfaction, from 
the great avidity with which (I am informed from many quarters) 
they have been sought after and read, and the decided good which, 
in some instances, they have produced. And why should they not 
be sought after, and why should they not do good ? Though in 
form, of all things the most unpretending, they are, in fact, most 
powerful preachers to the heart and conscience. In their subject 
they are second to nothing that can be presented to the mind of an 
immortal, for they treat of his eternal happiness or misery. In their 
execution they may be justly styled the elegant extracts of theological 
literature ; for they are the productions of some of the soundest 
heads and the purest hearts which bless our world ; a greater proof 
of excellence can hardly be given of a man's writings, than to honor 
them with a place in the series of the American Tract Society. 
When, therefore, their worth is considered on the one hand, and 
their necessity on the other, from the destitution of the stated ordi- 
nances of the gospel, with which the heart of every man of proper 
feelings is pained, who traverses any considerable portion of the 
State, (particularly the northern and south-western sections.) it is no 
matter of surprise that they are almost universally interesting and 
extensively beneficial. Much has my heart been rejoiced by the re- 
lation of the effects produced by those I have deposited, in many 
places, destitute of almost all religious privileges. 

With these views, I am very desirous of extending their circula- 
tion much beyond my deposits. One of the principal designs in 
planting a few tracts and books in various places is, that they may, 
in due season, bring forth fruit, in the establishment of Auxiliary 
Tract Societies. There are many important advantages to be de- 
rived from such societies, which will readily occur to your reflection. 
While, therefore, I confirm my former instructions, for the mode of 
circulating the deposits entrusted to your kind care, I now propose, 
for the purpose of encouraging the establishment of Auxiliary So- 
cieties, that the tracts and books in your charge, as my depositary ^ 
shall be considered as a donation from myself, to any society that 
shall hereafter be established in your neighborhood, auxiliary to the 
New York State branch of the American Tract Society, which shall 
raise by an <3!«««a/ subscription, in the outset, a sum not less than 
— dollars. To facilitate that measure I send herewith a printed 
form of a constitution, which has been recommended by the Ameri- 
can Tract Society ; you will readily perceive the propriety of my 



14 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

State, we are constrained to express our great gratification in his 
original and systematic efforts for planting tracts. We persuade 
ourselves, the plan will lead to the establishment of auxiliary tract 
societies in those places where his deposits may be made : and we 
hope that the persons to whom he shall entrust the pleasing labor 
of circulating the tracts, will set that desirable result before them 
as the object of their aim. No matter, in the first instance, how 
small the societies may be. 

Another pleasing view of this subject is, that these deposits will, 
in many instances, be the germs of lending libraries : a plan of 
operation which has been extensively adopted, within a year or two, 
in Europe ; and the happy effects of which are spoken of in the 
highest terms, in many of the annual reports of religious societies 
of the past year. 

W. A. Tweed Dale ^ 

Nath'l Davis | 

Aaron Hand \ Executive 

Nahum Rice Committee. 

John Willard I 

Eben'r Watson, Corresponding Secretary. 

To 

Dear Sir — I take pleasure in making an addition to the de- 
posit of religious tracts heretofore made with you ; accompanying are 
standard tracts, all different from the former. I not only hope that 
yourself will take pleasure in reading, and in putting and keeping 
these with the former ones in lively and continued circulation, but 
that your neighbors near may, by their attentive perusal of them, 
manifest a due sense of the opportunity afforded. The more these, 
and the like books, are read, the more we may expect the cause of 
religion and morality to be promoted. 

I am gratified in having it in my power to inform, that the New 
York State Tract Society have resolved to forward you a copy of the 
New York Tract Magazine, without charge to yourself, save the 
postage. 

I am greatly encouraged in the prospect (having communication 
from different quarters) that our expense and labor, in these mat- 
ters, will not prove in vain. 

Wishing you happiness in this world, and in that which is to 
come, I remain your friend, 

Peter Smith. 

My Dear — Herewith be pleased to receive the tracts and books 
specified below, as an addition to my former deposits, for loaning to 



PETER SMITH, 1 7 

Dear Sir Since I last sent you a package of tracts, another 

year has passed, admonishing us by its rapid flight, that our " time is 
short," and that we must do quickly what remains for us to do. 

I trust that the tracts you have hitherto received froFTi me, have 
not been without some good effect in arresting the careless sinner, 
and in quickening the zeal of the pious believer. May the Lord's 
blessing accompany the little preachers I now send you, and make 
them the messengers of comfort, and joy, and salvation to many. 

It will afford me great gratification to receive from you an occa- 
sional letter, tellmg me of some good thing in the history of your 
tract depository. Especially will it gratify me to hear, that Chris- 
tians in your neighborhood prize this little establishment, and com- 
mend it to the blessings of Him who hears and rewards prayer. 

With affectionate regard. 

Your sincere friend, 
Peter Smith, of Peterboro, 

Dear Sir, Through the providence of God, I am again permitted 
to address you upon the subject of tracts ; I have confidence it is a 
subject that, with yourself has not become stale. We are greatly 
encouraged to persevere in furnishing and circulating these silent 
unassuming preachers. We have accounts, almost daily, through 
the newspapers and otherwise, where the use of tracts has been 
greatly blessed. Myself am favored with communications from sev- 
eral depositaries, stating that under God, great good has been pro- 
duced through the means of tracts in their respective neighborhoods. 
If within the bounds of your circulation, no material effects are as 
yet discernible, do not therefore be discouraged nor slacken your 
hand, but continue to distribute. In some ground seed lies longer 
than in other, before it springs up and yields fruit; we must sow in 
hope. 

The publications with which I furnish my depositaries are in the 
language of an able and faithful minister of the word of God, *• free 
from everything sectarian. Instead of exciting the jealousy of the 
different denominations of Christians, they are eminently calculated 
to strengthen the bonds of brotherly love among the friends of truth, 
and make them feel they are disciples of the same master." 

Herewith I forward to you standard tracts, from twelve to 

forty-four pages each, of four pages, and one on cholera. I 

trust you will make them productive of the greatest good in your 
power, by lending out, receiving in, and lending again and again \ 
By frequently conversing with your neighbors upon the subject of 



l6 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

being apprised of the measure when adopted. Should a county 
Branch Tract Society, be hereafter established in your county, which 
I hope may shortly be done, it will doubtless be expedient for the local 
auxiliaries to connect themselves directly with the county Branch. 

Those justly and highly valued publications, the New York 
Tract Magazine, and the Children's Friend^ will be continued to 
you. Should your sets from any means not be complete, state in 
writing, by private opportunity, what numbers are lacking, to 
Ebenezer Watson, Esq., Corresponding Secretary of the New York 
State Branch of the American Tract Society, in Albany, he will 
forward the deficient numbers by return of the same person. 

May the blessing of God accompany the labors of those who 
strive to supply the needy with spiritual food, is the prayer of 
Your sincere friend and very humble servant, 

Peter Smith, of Peterboro. 

Standard Tracts^ 

4 Page do. 

Broad sheet do. 

Hand bill do. 

Children's Books, 

And one Christian Almanack. 

N. B. It is hoped you will cause such of the tracts as are not 
covered, to be so before you loan them. 

Dear Herewith you will receive standard tracts, — — 



four page do. Christian Almanack. Although I am constrained 

to confess, I have not generally, within the last year, received that 
encouragement from my various depositories that I had anticipated, 
and did for previous years, and although I sometimes feel almost in- 
clined 10 give up the expense and labor of obtaining, depositing and 
distributing tracts, in manner I am doing and have done in years 
past ; then again, we may hope for good account of bread cast upon 

the waters (if not immediately) after many days so try again. 

Let me entreat you, my dear to manage the books and tracts 

in your charge to the best advantage ; put and keep them in lively 
circulation, and let us pray with hope, that good may proceed from 
our exertions. If we do not observe ih^ good effects in time, that we 
may in eternity. 

Affectionately, 

I am your friend. 

And exceeding well wisher, 

P. Smith, of Peterboro. 



PETER SMITH, 1 7 

Dear Sir Since I last sent you a package of tracts, another 

year has passed, admonishing us by its rapid flight, that our " time is 
short," and that we must do quickly what remains for us to do. 

I trust that the tracts you have hitherto received from me, have 
not been without some good effect in arresting the careless sinner, 
and in quickening the zeal of the pious believer. May the Lord's 
blessing accompany the little preachers I now send you, and make 
them the messengers of conTfort, and joy, and salvation to many. 

It will afford me great gratification to receive from you an occa- 
sional letter, telhng me of some good thing in the history of your 
tract depository. Especially will it gratify me to hear, that Chris- 
tians in your neighborhood prize this little establishment, and com- 
mend it to the blessings of Him who hears and rewards prayer. 

With affectionate regard. 

Your sincere friend, 
Peter SxMiTH, d?/" Pf^/.^r^^r^. 

Dear Sir, Through the providence of God, I am again permitted 
to address you upon the subject of tracts ; I have confidence it is a 
subject that, with yourself has not become stale. We are greatly 
encouraged to persevere in furnishing and circulating these silent 
unassuming preachers. We have accounts, almost daily, through 
the newspapers and otherwise, where the use of tracts has been 
greatly blessed. Myself am favored with communications from sev- 
eral depositaries, stating that under God, great good has been pro- 
duced through the means of tracts in their respective neighborhoods. 
If within the bounds of your circulation, no material effects are as 
yet discernible, do not therefore be discouraged nor slacken your 
hand, but continue to distribute. In some ground seed lies longer 
than in other, before it springs up and yields fruit; we must sow in 
hope. 

The publications with which I furnish my depositaries are in the 
language of an able and faithful minister of the word of God, ** free 
from everything sectarian. Instead of exciting the jealousy of the 
different denominations of Christians, they are eminently calculated 
to strengthen the bonds of brotherly love among the friends of truth, 
and make them feel they are disciples of the same master." 

Herewith I forward to you standard tracts, from twelve to 

forty-four pages each, of four pages, and one on cholera. I 

trust you will make them productive of the greatest good in your 
power, by lending out, receiving in, and lending again and again ! 
By frequently conversing with your neighbors upon the subject of 



1 8 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

their contents ; and above ail, by prayer to God for his blessing 
upon our doings in this behalf. 

May we live to see great beneficial results proceeding from our 
labor in this cause, and that it may be sanctified to our souls, is the 
prayer of Your sincere friend, 

Peter Smith, of Peterboro, 

Dear Sir — Let us continue in v^ell doing, and not be wearied. 
Having laid our hands to the plough, not look back. Although the 
fruits of our labor and expense^ may not show itself as frequent and 
abundant as we could wish ; yet we must hope it will appear, not 
only in the present, but in generations when we and our doings 
shall be forgotten. In this belief, I continue to furnish the Silent 

Preacher, Herewith you will receive — ^ — standard tracts, 

four page tracts, and Christian Almanack. I again take the 

liberty of soliciting that yourself may not cease striving to cause 
them to be read by all classes and ages. 

May you be abundantly rewarded for the faithful discharge ol 
your agency, in time and in eternity, is the prayer of 

Your friend and exceeding 

Well wisher, 
Peter Smith, of Peterboro, 

Be pleased to cover such of the tracts as are not, before you 
loan them. 

Dear Sir — Another year has gone by since I penned my tract 
circular number six, and five years since number one. How many 
I may still be permitted to write and you receive, is, for wise pur- 
poses, hid from us ; may we but do our duty while it is to-day, of 
the morrow we are not assured. 

Let me entreat you, my dear sir, to make the most of these silent 
preachers, which, from time to time, I am putting into your charge. 
Let them have free circulation. We have numerous accounts of re- 
ligious tracts having been the means, under God, of showing the 
sinner the true state of his heart, and of producing in him a right 
mind. 

Herewith are covered tracts, 

four page do. 
Christian Almanack, 

I will esteem it a favor, occasionally, to hear from you upon the 
subject of tracts ; the more especially, if any good effects from the 



PETER SMITH 1 9 

reading, in any instance, are visible. I am very desirous that all the 
families in your neighborhood should in turn have the use of all you 
receive from me. May God's blessing accompany our labors in 
this cause I I am, indeed, your well wisher for time and eternity, 
and very respectfully. 

Your ob't servant, 

Peter Smith, of Peterdoro. 

Dear Sir — I now deposit with you, and under your paiticular 

charge Religious Tracts. I beg the favor that you give 

One to each head of a family in your neighborhood, to teachers of 
schools, and to single persons not attached to a family, with 
request that they be read and exchanged, one for another, from time 
to time. Deliver them to such only as engage to make the exchange 
and entreat that the tracts be preserved neat and clean. You will 
keep a list of the names to whom tracts, zn the first instance, are 
given and annex the same hereunto. 

My intention is to continue this deposit, and occasionally to 
make additions to it ; especially, if you shall deem that so doing 

may be profitable. Hence I must beg that at the end of you 

make report, in writing directed to me at stating, as far as you 

are able to ascertain, the effects the tracts have produced, and any 
other facts you may think proper. 

May the Lord prosper this the labor of our hands. 

I am very respectfully. 

Your friend and well wisher, 

Peter Smith. 

Mr. Smith, on the 5th February, 1792, married Eliza- 
beth, daughter of James Livingston, of Montgomery 
County. She was born in Lower Canada, May 18, 1773. 
Col. Livingston her father was born in New York, March 
27, 1747. He was a graduate of Columbia College, and 
a lawyer in Montreal until the outbreak of the Revolu- 
tionary War, when he fled to the United States with 
three hundred men, and joined the American army. 
He was colonel of a New York regiment, fought against 
Sir William Johnson at Johnstown, and assisted Mont- 
gomery and Arnold in the assault on Quebec, leading 



20 LII'E OF GERRIT SMITH. 

the diversionary attack on Fort Diamond ; was at the 
head of his regiment when Burgoyne was taken, and 
shared in other actions of the war. His ancestors for 
four generations had lived in America, the first Liv- 
ingston, Robert, comi-ng in 1674. The Livingstons in- 
termarried with the Van Rensselaers, the Schuylers, the 
Tenbroecks. The wife of Peter Smith was second cousin 
to Chancellor Livingston. She died in Utica, Aug. 27, 
18 1 8. Mr. Smith married a second time Sarah Pogson, 
of Charleston, S. C, a lady of English birth. Her tastes 
were literary, and more social than suited the reserved, 
taciturn and punctilious man. The union was an un- 
happy one. The wife, after the experiment of an ab- 
sence in England, finally left her husband and returned 
to her old home, where she died at an advanced age, 
after the close of the civil war. The references to her 
in Mr. Smith's letters to his son, indicate a bitterness of 
feeling that was long and keen, but give no clue either 
to the nature or the occasion of the alienation. 

Judge Smith had six children ; — Cornelia Wyntje, 
Peter Skenandoah, Gerrit, and Adolphus Lent, w-ere the 
only ones that reached maturity. All are now dead. 

At the time of his first wife's death, — a woman for 
whom every one of her children cherished a warm af- 
fection and had a tender reverence to the last of their 
lives — Judge Smith became melancholy and disinclined 
to business. In October, 1 8 19, he made arrangements 
to put out of his hands, into those of his second son, his 
whole estate real and personal, valued at about $400,000, 
on condition that his debts, amounting to $75,000 should 
be paid, that he should receive the income of $125,000, 
and that one half of the remainder should be divided 



PETER SMITH, 21 

equally among the children of his other son and the 
children of his daughter. This done, the active man, 
then scarcely past the prime of life, left the family man- 
sion in Peterboro. In April, 1825, he took up his resi- 
dence in Schenectady, where he died of heart disease, 
April 13, 1837. His second wife brought him no off- 
spring. His last years were outwardly tranquil, but as 
a force he was no longer felt. The nick-name ** The 
saw-mill " bestowed on him by the Indians, hardly ap- 
plied to the quiet man, who, alone in his age, withdrew 
more and more within himself, brooding over the other 
world, which, in his active years, he felt he had too much 
neglected. He was far from happy. His frequent letters 
to Gerrit prove that the natural infirmities of his disposi- 
tion increased when the pressure of active business was 
taken off. The same curious mixture of worldly with 
other worldly anxieties that characterized the journals, is 
prominent here, only the former are more peevish, and 
the latter more helpless. Complaints of loneliness, pious 
ejaculations, lamentations, regrets, reproaches, restless de- 
sires to be elsewhere, groans over the vanity of his life and 
of all life, morbid uneasiness about the health of his 
body and the destiny of his soul, remonstrances with 
Gerrit for giving too much to the missionaries, make 
strange confusion in the sentences. He was on the 
verge of hypochondria, a trouble to himself, and an 
anxiety to those about him. A ruling passion dies 
hard. Judge Smith used the means he had reserved to 
himself from his first fortune, to accumulate a second. 
So intent was he on it, and so diligent, that, at his 
death, he left an additional $800,000 to be divided 
equally among his two sons and the children of his 



24 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

** Siege of Corinth,*' presented by his bosom friend, F. 
W. Haight, ** to his sincere, affectionate, sentimental, 
poetic, ambitious, superior-minded, noble, generous, 
honest, honorable, jealous, deceitful, hoaxing, partial, 
epicurean, gambling Smith, as token of high esteem. 
Hamilton College, July 23, 1816.'* The piety that was 
so fervent in his later years, was not conspicuous in these 
college days. The son of a rich man, he dressed care- 
fully, lived well, and was becomingly free in expense ; 
but it is not in the memory of his mates that he spent 
money in hurtful dissipations of any kind. It is clearly 
in their recollection that he detested meanness, niggard- 
liness, selfishness, injustice ; that he invariably took the 
part of the weak against the strong, of the wronged 
against th'e wronger, of the oppressed against the op- 
pressor, and never failed to win the hearts of the noble 
in soul. His destination was the profession of law, for 
which his abilities and general mental aptitudes peculiar- 
ly qualified him, but domestic events changed his career. 
Mr. Smith's interest in Hamilton College con- 
tinued hearty throughout his life ; so hearty that he 
could not bear to have it seem unfaithful to the highest 
concerns of education, and during the presidency of Dr 
Dwight — 1833-1835 — his discontent reached the point 
indicated by the following entry in his Journal. ^' Aug. 
12, 1834. I went to Clinton to attend the meeting of 
the trustees of the college. Returned next day, not 
having remained to attend Commencement. Probably 
this is the last meeting of the trustees of the college 
wh*ich I shall attend." But in 1835, at the resignation 
of President Dwight, we find him proposing a plan for 
paying the debt on the institution, and loaning the col- 



PETER SMITH, 2 1 

generous sentiments. It is quite likely he referred to 
himself when in after years he describes some who 
aspired to the fame of possessing genius, on the strength 
of " flowing hair and the broad Byron collar," the latter 
being one of his own peculiarities to the end of his life. 
As a youth he was remarkably handsome in person, the 
admiration of all beholders. His manners were open, 
his bearing was cordial, his action graceful and winning. 
His popularity was universal, and the social turn of his 
disposition carried him into the games, entertainments, 
collegiate and extra-collegiate amusements of his com- 
panions. He was gay and sportive, but never vicious, 
or in the vulgar sense, " wild.** He was an innocent, 
joyous 3'outh, not averse to noisy but harmless pranks, 
having no prejudice against a game of cards, but rather 
a passion for them. He records, himself, that in a club 
of card players " to which,** he wrote afterwards, ** it 
was my unhappiness and wickedness to belong,'* his 
nick-name was ** Old Mariner,*' and that he played 
cards for stakes on Sunday. It is related that on one 
occasion when uproar was at its height, the tutor*s omi- 
nous rap was heard at the door. There was another 
door at which the young rioters made hasty retreat. 
Smith remained, and flung himself, face downward, on 
the floor behind a desk. The tutor espied the prostrate 
form, and demanded an account of it. Who is it ? 
**Gerrit Smith, sir.** Well, Smith, what are you about? 
" Meditating on the mutations of empire.'* The tutor, 
not pausing for admonition, retired, professing briefly his 
satisfaction at finding Smith so profitably employed. 
The character he bore among his mates is indicated by 
an inscription on the fly leaf of a copy of Byron's 



26 LIFE OF GERRIF SMITH. 

ment. I agree with you that there should be a solid structure in 
the place of it. I shall be willing to pay for it, if it be such a monu- 
ment as meets my sense of fitness. It must be plain and simple 
and costing not more than five hundred dollars ($500), I have no 
sympathy with mourning apparel, nor with expensive coffins, nor 
with the display of wealth in gravestones. 

Very respectfully your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 

Hamilton College, President's Room. 

Clinton, Oneida Co., N. Y., February 19, 1874. 

Hon. Gerrit Smith. 

My Dear Sir — I have just received this evening, your letter of 
yesterday containing two checks of five hundred dollars each for the 
use of Hamilton College, and I cannot sleep without thanking you 
most sincerely for this most generous and timely gift. The college, 
I am sure, is worthy of the love of its friends. It has done already a 
great and good work for the State, and needs only somewhat better 
means and appliances to take a position still more advanced, one 
of which her sons may reasonably be proud. These means, my 
dear sir, your gift will help to furnish. 

Let me thank you also personally, for without knowing it, you 
have done me a great service. None but those intimately acquainted 
with the necessities of the Institution, can understand the anxieties 
of those who have to bear, rather more directly than others^ ..the bur- 
den of administering its affairs, a burden which you have done much 
to lighten. 

Mrs. Brown and myself have both been greatly disappointed in 
not having been able to visit you, or to welcome you at our house. 
I trust that both these pleasures are yet in store for us. 

Wishing you health and every prosperity, with much regard from 
Mrs. Brown as well as from myself, 

I remain sincerely. 

Your obliged friend and serv't, 

S. G. Brown. 

Hamilton College, Presidents Room. 

Clinton, Oneida Co., N. Y., Nov. 17, 1874. 

Hon. Gerrit Smith. 

My Dear Sir, — I hardly know in what terms to acknowledge 
your large-hearted liberality to Hamilton College, not more distin- 
guished for its generosity, than for the kind, hopeful and affectionate 
Words with which you accompany it. If the old proverb be true. 



PETER SMITH, 2/ 

Ms dat qui cito dat, I think it is no less true that -he who gives with 
the spirit of love doubles the value of his gift. 

You are good enough to leave the disposition of your munificence 
to the trustees of the college. I d6 not know to what use they may 
think it wise to put it, but whatever it be, no one who loves the col- 
lege can help remembering with gratitude the generous giver. 

I am happy to add, my dear sir, that Mrs. Brown seems to be the 

belter for her ride to Peterboro, and neither she nor my daughter, 

nor myself, shall soon forget our exceedingly pleasant trip. The 

rest of us are well. With affectionate regards from them all, I am. 

Dear Sir, your greatly obliged friend 

and ob't serv't, 

S. G. Brown. 

The second of these letters is an acknowledgment 
of two subsequent cheques for five thousand dollars 
each, given without solicitation and without conditions, 
making in all twenty thousand dollars to the institution. 

Theday after his graduation, Aug. 27, 181 8, his moth- 
er died. This brought him back to Peterboro, where he 
remained the rest of the year. On the nth of January, 
1 8 19, he was married, in Rochester, to Wealthy Ann, 
the only daughter of Dr. Azel Backus, first president of 
Hamilton College. They had been engaged since the 
spring of 18 17. This wife was taken from him hydropsy 
of the brain, on the 15th of August, 1 8 19, seven months 
only after marriage. On the 3d of January, 1822, he 
was a second time married, to Ann Carroll, daughter of 
William Fitzhugh, who lived about four miles from 
Geneseo, Livingston County. She was born in Hagers- 
town, Maryland, January 11, 1805. Early in November, 
1 8 19, he had begun to keep house in the family mansion 
in Peterboro. At this time, his household consisted of 
his mother-in-law, her son Robert H. Backus, who was 
in his employ as clerk, and Laura Bosworth, who re- 



or 



2S LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

mained a member of the family for more than twenty 
years. Thus early in life began his household care, his 
personal sorrow and responsibilities and his aboundin 

l^ospitality. 

1 he arrangements above alluded to, by which his father 
placed in Gerrit's hands his whole estate, real and personal^ 
under conditions that required the careful administration 
of a large property, decided his residence and occupation. 
He was to be a man of business. The act showed on his- 
father s part a remarkable confidence in the vounof man's- 
practical ability and personal integrity, and on the part 
of the son a consciousness of power, and a readiness to- 
accept responsibility, not singular, it must be confessed,, 
for many a youth jumps at opportunities he cannot 
meet, and accepts trusts he lacks moral force to dis-- 
charge — but in this instance, more than justified. From*, 
that hour the yo»;ng man's career was determined. The 
necessities of business, the care of much land and of man^'' 
people, the claims of kindred who were made dependent 
on him, duty to his father who trusted him so entirely,, 
held him strictly to his locality. He could not wander 
from it for any purpose; he could not travel; he could 
not amuse himself. The life of enjoyment and dissipa- 
tion was forbidden. Had he felt ever so keenly the young 
man's desire to see the world and taste its pleasures, he 
was as powerless to do so as the poorest man in the vil- 
lage. Remote from the small centres of American soci- 
ety ; far from New York, far from Albany even, his days 
and years went on with noiseless unremitting energy, 
undistracted, unwasted. The talent for affairs which 
his sacracious father noticed, and which even his elder 
brother had to confess, was trained until he became, by^ 



PETER SMITH. 29 

the best testimony, one of the ablest business men in the 
country, by all admission, the most competent manager 
in the State. He was regular, exact, systematic, far 
sighted, bold and just. His working power was immense, 
and shrank from no burden that was laid upon it. 
The passion to acquire land which actuated his father, 
never possessed him in the same degree, though in early 
life he purchased largely. His purchases were never 
made with a view to accumulation, but to ensure profit 
from the rise in value of real estate, or to oblige debtors. 
The Michigan tract of six thousand acres bought in 
1858, on account of William Backus, the nephew of his 
first wife, was sold ten years afterwards, at a handsome 
advance. It cost six dollars an acre and brought thirty- 
two, more than five times as much ; but the taxes and 
other expenses during the ten years he held it, made 
the profits of the sale much less than these figures report. 
He was scarcely more than twenty-one years of age, 
when he bought eighteen thousand acres of land in 
Florence. In 1827, the State of New York, sold in lots 
at public auction, the site of the then village of Oswego, 
about a mile square on either side of the river, the Wei- 
land and Oswego canals being at the time nearly finished. 
The expectation that the canals would build up the little 
village of seven or eight hundred inhabitants into a 
thriving town, raised the price of the land, though the 
surrounding woods concealed much of it from any but 
speculative eyes. Mr. Smith was one of the largest pur- 
chasers on the east side of the river, where lots were 
valued one-third less than on the west side. The sum 
invested was not great, about fourteen thousand dollars; 
but the purchase proved to be important. In a few 



30 LIFE OF CERRIT ZJfTITH:. 

years his property equalled in valuation, that on the op- 
posite bank of the river, and half a tntllton of dollars 
would not buy what a few thousand secured at first. Soon 
after this, the acute speculator bought neariy the whole 
stock of the Oswego Hydraulic Canal Company, put the 
canal in good order, leased the water privileges at low 
rates, and in connection with his brother-in-law and 
others built flour mills, which after a time changed 
hands. In 1 83 1-2, he improved what was called the 
East Cove, a marshy, unwholesome district, for which, 
after renting it several years from the town, he had paid 
five thousand dollars, by digging a ship basin and ship 
passage from the river. The land purchased was sold in 
lots. By October, 1835, all the property was sold at 
moderate rates, except the canal and cove property. 
Then began the disastrous speculations in real estate, 
which carried away nearly every man in the town. A 
general bankruptcy followed, and a large portion of the 
property which Mr. Smith disposed of in 1835, being but 
partially paid for, fell back into his hands. The panic 
of 1837 brought him to a strait pass. An accumulation 
of debt distressed him, and there seemed no way out of 
bankruptcy, except by incurring new obligations. The 
large sum obtained of John Jacob Astor, mentioned 
elsewhere, barely enabled him to pay interest and taxes, 
leaving the principal undiminished. He left his house 
in 1842, and retired to a smaller one called ** The Grove," 
about a mile distant, reduced his establishment, called 
on his wife and daughter to take the place in the 
office of discharged clerks, and toiled terribly to 
lift the burden — a heavy one at that time — of six 
hundred thousand dollars. His predicament at this 



PETER SMITH. 31 

period, is hinted at in a letter to his wife, dated 
Dec. ir, 1839. 

" Never, my dear wife, have I been reduced to such 
straits in money matters. I have some fifteen hundred 
debtors, but I receive almost literally nothing, and I 
can borrow nothing. I shall find it difficult to keep you 
and Libby at Philadelphia,— difficult even to get money 
enough to visit you." The lands coming into the market 
about 1843, gradually put h™ ^" funds; the debt was 
rapidly reduced, and in 1 850 was all paid. Misfortunes 
never come singly; neither do persecutions. In 1837, 
he had taken, in part payment of a very heavy debt 
from a relative, — one hundred and seventy-five thousand 
dollars, — a mortgage on an undivided fourth part of the 
steamboat " St. Lawrence.*' It was good for nothing, 
and had been put down as practically good for nothing, 
a worthless piece of property. In the summer of 1 844, 
it happened, that the village of Sackett*s Harbor took 
fire, and was nearly destroyed. The fire began by 
the lake, and soon after the ** St. Lawrence " had left 
the port ; whence it was ingeniously surmised that a 
spark from her smoke stack had done the damage. A 
certain Mr. Dodge, well named, caught at the idea, and 
brought suit against the owners of the boat, Mr. Smith 
included, to recover the loss on his hotel. It was an 
absurd suit, and was almost immediately dismissed. 
But it cost time and lawyer's fees, and indefinite vexation 
of mind. Counsel thought the case looked dark, quoted 
the deceitful adage that where there is smoke there must 
be fire, and advised a composition, even an assignment 
of property ! Poor Mr. Smith ! he might have been 
extinguished entirely, but for his own pluck. Of the 



30 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

years his property equalled in valuation that on the op« 
posite bank of the river, and half a million of dollars 
would not buy what a few thousand secured at first. Soon 
after this, the acute speculator bought nearly the whole 
stock of the Oswego Hydraulic Canal Company, put the 
canal in good order, leased the water privileges at low 
rates, and in connection with his brother-in-law and 
others built flour mills, which after a time changed 
hands. In 183 1-2, he improved what was called the 
East Cove, a marshy, unwholesome district, for which,, 
after renting it several years from the town, he had paid 
five thousand dollars, by digging a ship basin and ship- 
passage from the river. The land purchased was sold in 
lots. By October, 1835, all the property was sold at 
moderate rates, except the canal and cove property. 
Then began the disastrous speculations in real estate, 
which carried away nearly every man in the town. A 
general bankruptcy followed, and a large portion of the 
property which Mr. Smith disposed of in 1835, being but 
partially paid for, fell back into his hands. The panic 
of 1837 brought him to a strait pass. An accumulation 
of debt distressed him, and there seemed no way out of 
bankruptcy, except by incurring new obligations. The 
large sum obtained of John Jacob Astor, mentioned 
elsewhere, barely enabled him to pay interest and taxes, 
leaving the principal undiminished. He left his house 
in 1 842, and retired to a smaller one called ** The Grove,*' 
about a mile distant, reduced his establishment, called 
on his wife and daughter to take the place in the 
office of discharged clerks, and toiled terribly to 
lift the burden — a heavy one at that time — of six 
hundred thousand dollars. His predicament at this 



PETER SMITH, 3 1 

period, is hinted at in a letter to his wife, dated 
Dec. ir, 1839. 

" Never, my dear wife, have I been reduced to such 
straits in money matters. I have some fifteen hundred 
debtors, but I receive almost literally nothing, and I 
can borrow nothing. I shall find it difficult to keep you 
and Libby at Philadelphia,— difficult even to get money 
enough to visit you." The lands coming into the market 
about 1843, gradually put him in funds; the debt was 
rapidly reduced, and in 1850 was all paid. Misfortunes 
never come singly; neither do persecutions. In 1837, 
he had taken, in part payment of a very heavy debt 
from a relative, — one hundred and seventy-five thousand 
dollars, — a mortgage on an undivided fourth part of the 
steamboat " St. Lawrence.** It was good for nothing, 
and had been put down as practically good for nothing, 
a worthless piece of property. In the summer of 1844, 
it happened, that the village of Sackett*s Harbor took 
fire, and was nearly destroyed. The fire began by 
the lake, and soon after the ** St. Lawrence ** had left 
the port ; whence it was ingeniously surmised that a 
spark from her smoke stack had done the damage. A 
certain Mr. Dodge, well named, caught at the idea, and 
brought suit against the owners of the boat, Mr. Smith 
included, to recover the loss on his hotel. It was an 
absurd suit, and was almost immediately dismissed. 
But it cost time and lawyer's fees, and indefinite vexation 
of mind. Counsel thought the case looked dark, quoted 
the deceitful adage that where there is smoke there must 
be fire, and advised a composition, even an assignment 
of property ! Poor Mr. Smith ! he might have been 
extinguished entirely, but for his own pluck. Of the 



32 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

debt of one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, 
he recovered perhaps thirty or forty thousand. 

The submarine improvement of " Grampus Bay,** — 
so called from the fate of the ** Grampus ** which disas- 
trously went ashore there, — the building of six wharves, 
slips and a river pier, and the reconstruction of the di~ 
lapidated *^ East Pier,** — work begun in 1852 and com- 
pleted in 1854 at a cost of nearly one hundred thousand 
dollars, quite doubled the value of wharf property in the 
city. Through his influence at Washington a custom 
house was established at Oswego, the third custom 
house in the State, and the Act of Canadian Reciprocity 
pressed by his friend Alvan Bronson, owed much to 
his instance, while in Washington. Thus by degrees 
the business interests were centered in Oswego, which 
became the principal source of his pecuniary supply. 
The income of course, varied much with changing 
seasons in the business world. The best average for 
twenty-five years was from ^{Xy to sixty thousand dol- 
lars a year ; not an enormous income for these days, but 
very large thirty years/ago. During the last ten years 
of his life, it was not far from eighty thousand dollars. 
The work of husbanding and securing all this was by no 
means light. Many hours daily were spent in the office 
with his clerks and books. It was his custom, in the 
busy period of his career, to devote to these affairs nine 
or ten hours a day ; often twelve or fifteen were no more 
than enough; for he superintended the whole, and per- 
formed much labor with his own hand. He was a model 
of minuteness and exactness, a model too, of fairness 
and consideration. The business agent in Oswego, who 
was in his service forty-three years, cannot recall a single 



PARENTAGE, 33 

unpleasant passage, or a single unkind word written or 
spoken to him in all that period of time. His open- 
ness of dealing is illustrated by such a public notice as 
the following, which was issued Nov. 22, 1849. 

'* The Directors and Stockholders of the Canastota and 
Morrisville Plank Road Company^ and indeed, all other 
persons, are desired to feel themselves to be at perfect 
liberty to call at the office of Gerrit Smith and examine 
the maps, profiles and reports of the engineers who have 
been employed upon the several plank road routes 
between Morrisville and Canastota.'* 

The only records he was not willing the public should 
examine were the records of his benefactions. His 
reputation for integrity in financial transactions could 
not be better illustrated than by the incident here rela- 
ted. The Journal of Aug. 10, 1837, contains this mod- 
est entry. ** I this week receive a letter from my friend, 
and my father's friend, John Jacob Astor, in which he 
consents to loan me for a long period the large sum of 
money which I had applied for to him. This money 
will enable me to rid myself of pecuniary embarrass- 
ments, and to extend important assistance to others, 
and especially to extend indulgence to those who owe 
me. This is a great mercy of God to me. It relieves 
my mind of a great burden of anxiety. My pecuniary 

embarrassments, growing out of my liabilities for 

and out of my liabilities for, and advances to have 

often, and for hours together, filled me with painful 
concern." The sum requested was, in all, two hundred 
and fifty thousand dollars. The application, in general 
terms, was made by letter. The letter was answered by 

an invitation to dinner. As the two sat at meat, the 
2* 



34 LIFE OF CERRIT SMITH. 

host was full of reminiscences of former years when he 
went in search of skins with his guest's father, now little 
more than three months deceased. There was no talk 
of business till the cloth was removed, and the two were 
by themselves. Then the visitor opened a tale of dis- 
tress which was short, but heavy. It was a season of 
panic. The banks had suspended specie payments and 
could afford only feeble and precarious relief. Business 
was at a stand-still ; real estate had fallen to a nominal 
value ; land was unproductive. The legal adviser and 
brother-in-law of Peter Smith, his son's counsellor too, 
urged an assignment of property for the benefit of the 
creditors. How much do you need ? asked the million- 
aire. The visitor named the sum. Do you want the 
whole of it at once ? I do. Astor looked grave for a 
moment, then said : **you shall have it.** A mortgage 
was pledged on the Oswego purchase, made ten years 
before, and the relieved guest went home to Peterboro. 
Astor's cheque for two hundred and fifty thousand dol- 
lars came in a few days. The mortgage was executed 
and duly recorded, and Smith went on with his affairs. 
Here comes the most remarkable part of the transaction. 
The county clerk neglected to transmit the papers to 
Mr. Astor. Weeks elapsed, and Smith's part of the bar- 
gain was unfulfilled. A letter from New York, sent Mr. 
Smith to Oswego. The clerk's stupidity was repri- 
manded, and the papers, with satisfactory explanations, 
were sent to their proper destination. Mr. Astor had 
parted with a quarter of a million of dollars on the bare 
word of Gerrit Smith, and had been content with the 
bare word, for weeks ! 

To multitudes Gerrit Smith is vaguely known as the 



PARENTAGE. 35 

man of wealth. Some think that without his wealth he 
would not have been known at all, that his purse was his 
power, that his fortune was his fame. That the wealth 
was a most important factor, that it always is and must 
be an important factor, it were idle to deny. It pro- 
vides the material basis for character. It is opportu- 
nity, patronage, influence. The rich man is sure of a 
hearing and a welcome. He can control the press ; he 
can maintain a press of his own ; he can back his opin- 
ions with gold, and carry his policies with bounties. He 
withdraws his support and enterprises fail; he lends his 
aid and undertakings thrive. His argument prevails ; 
his jest is applauded ; his frown is confusion ; his smile 
makes glad. Gerrit Smith had this power; had he not 
possessed it, he certainly would not have occupied the 
place he did. The remarkable thing is that possessing 
the power he did occupy the place ; that the wealth was 
his help, not his ruin ; that it was his opportunity not 
his temptation ; that it furnished a solid base for his in- 
tellectual and moral operations, not a grave in which his 
manhood was buried ; that he could wear the purple, 
and still be a king. It must be a grand fi:^ure that looks 
grand on a high pedestal. 

Let it be granted that in the remoteness and seclu- 
sion of Peterborohe looked and felt larger than he would 
have done in a city like New York. Let it be granted 
that he was larger there than he would have been in 
the city, by reason of the greater leisure allowed him, 
and the exemption from wasting interruptions and the 
dissipations of social life. All this is no prejudice to the 
man, but it was his advantage. It did not make him, it 
simply permitted him to be all he was meant to be; but 



3^ LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

the spontaneous energy of mind which made him what 
he became, was all his own. Circumstances supply op- 
portunity for this, but do not originate it. Most men 
require the excitement of stimulating conditions to pro- 
voke their latent vigor. They that can dispense with 
these, and grow in thin soil, are the few. Daniel Web- 
ster defined genius as the power to kindle one' s own 
fires. The elm tree that stands in the field, apart, with 
all the air and soil there is for its sustenance, is not to 
be depreciated on this account ; it can appropriate 
only what belongs to it, and its size and symmetry 
attest the fidelity of its obedience to the laws of its 
nature. 

Let it be remembered too, that small places have their 
disadvantages as well as large ones. They feed conceit. 
So that the man's apparent gain from the solitariness of 
his position may be more than counter-balanced by the 
injury he suffers from the flattery of villagers. The 
small man will look, in the city, smaller than he is. In 
the country he will be smaller than he might be. The 
genuine man will prove his value by extracting virtue 
from whatever circumstances he may be thrown in. The 
circumstances will shape the form of the qualities and 
determine their proportion, but the manliness must de- 
cide the character. It is idle to discuss the relative 
advantages of social and private, of city and of country 
life. Either may make and either may mar the man. 
To grow great, or continue great in either is an achieve- 
ment to be honored. The special type of greatness may 
be subject for comment, the greatness speaks for itself. 
The unique or peculiar man will distinguish himself 
wherever stationed. In large places he will be regarded 



PARENTAGE, 3/ 

as an oddity, because so unlike the multitude about 
him. The tall underbrush conceals from view his mas- 
sive qualities. In the small place, his height will seem 
to be greater than it is, but he will at least display his 
full proportions. 



CHAPTER 11. 



HEALTH. 



The promise " in health and wealth long to live 
was given to Gerrit Snnith at his birth. He came of 
strong, mixed races. His father's father and mother 
were Low Dutch. His mother's father was half Dutch 
and half Scotch ; his mother's mother was, though bom 
in Ireland, of Scotch parentage. In temperament he 
might be classed with the sanguine-lymphatic, not a 
fortunate combination, as a rule; implying as it does the 
union of great vitality, ardor, and swiftness of blood, 
with a certain doggedness of purpose and moral obtuse- 
ness which bode ill for elevation of aim or humanity of 
achievement. In this instance, the confidence and elas- 
ticity gained more than they lost from the alliance with 
a resolute persistency that never knew discouragement, 
and never confessed defeat. The frame was stately ; the 
countenance noble ; the massive, well-proportioned head 
was superbly set on broad shoulders ; the chest was 
deep ; the face was expressive ; the eye was large and 
brilliant ; the voice was sonorous and rich, remarkable 
for compass, musicalness and power ; the brown hair, 
worn long in youth, fell in strong masses over the collar, 
which, open in front, displayed the round, smooth throat* 
The man possessed the great advantages of stature and 
weight. He was six feet in height. In 1865 he weighed 



HEALTH, 39 

two hundred and one pounds, against George Thomp- 
son's one hundred and forty-six, — a difference that 
awakened reflections on the subject of light and heavy 
people. At the age of seventy, in mid-summer, in 
thinnest clothes, he weighed more than two hundred 
pounds, two hundred and eight pounds and a half. In 
his college youth, he was the image of health, a model 
of manly beauty and power. And so he always seemed 
to those who saw him in society or in public. They 
who knew him intimately in and after middle life were 
aware of physical ailments that would have pulled down 
a weaker man, and daunted a less resolute one. 

In November, 1832, so the Diary records, he gave up 
the use of tea and coffee ; he had previously ** abjured 
the castors," meaning spices and condiments. In March, 
1835, he began a course of abstinence from "fish, flesh 
and gravies." On the following month all the products 
of slave labor were excluded from his diet. In 1840, 
when transcribing the journal of 1835, Mr. Smith remarks 
" I continue to abstain from flesh. I have, however, 
eaten fish very frequently during the last four years. 
For the last few months I have abstained almost entirely 
from fish and butter." 

The reasons assigned for these rules are that they 
were deemed salutary to sedentary people, and that the 
supply of human food, consequently the increase of the 
human family, would be vastly augmented by the aban- 
donment of flesh diet. 

" The myriads of China could not be subsisted, if they were ex- 
tensively flesh eating". God authorizes the eating of flesh. But it is 
an interestingf question whether he would have us eat it now, when 
the world's population is so comparatively dense, and when the eat- 
ing of it interferes with obedience to his command to multiply and 



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HEALTH, 41 

purpose. The following letter is of interest in this 
connection. 

Philadelphia, Nov. 39, 1853. 

D. H. Frost. 

My Dear Sir — Although it is a fortnight since I left home, I am 
but so far on my way to Washington. I mean to be there at the 
opening of the session ; but it is very far from certain that I shall 
take my seat in Congress at that time. 

The disease in my head continues unabated. My New York 
physicians (how justly I do not know) believe it is a consequence of 
the surgical operation to which I submitted last summer. That 
skilful operation relieved me entirely of a painful disease ; but it is 
perhaps a worse one which has now come upon me. However this 
may be, I am, at least for the present, disqualified for reading or 
writing or public speaking. 

I do not intend to resign my office immediately. I presume that 
my constituents would prefer my holding to it for a month or two 
longer, in the expectation that, during this time, my health may be 
either so improved as to allow me to engage in the duties of my 
office, or so much worse as to make it my obvious duty to resign it. 

Excuse my brevity. The sensations in my drumming head make 
it no small task for me to write even so shjort a letter as this. 

Your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 

• 

Fifteen years before this, Mr. Smith had doubted 
whether his bodily ailments and business occupations 
would permit him to attend public meetings, or make 
speeches any more. Ten years earlier still, his friend, 
Theodore D. Weld, expressed deep concern about his 
health, and recommended a mode of treatment for spinal 
affections, which had proved efficacious in cases of his 
own knowledge. In 1840, he thanks Elizur Wright for 
a warm-hearted letter, *' a'cordial to my spirits, which 
are sometimes a little depressed by my long confinement 
with sickness ;** tells him that he has been in the hands 
of his physician for seven weeks, and expects to be for 



4.4 UFE OF GERRJT SMITH. 

ijuMtivc weeks more. Gerrit Smith did not welcome sick- 
w^i*s.s. Tain he shrank from and faced unwillingly. It is 
pv»s:>ibte that his extreme sensibility to it increased the 
J I cad of it, and gave rise to morbid fears of danger, 
though nothing of this appears in the brief mentions he 
ni^^kte^ of his sicknesses, in his diary. That he was a suf- 
ferer from local disease, that he lost much time through 
it;, <iad was considerably weakened in force by it, may be 
set down as certain. How often the infirmities of the 
body baffle and hinder the man's purpose and energy ! 
How common it is to disregard their effect ! We read 
history, as if the actors on the scene were exempt from 
ill; as if headache and dyspepsia were things unknown ; 
as if food was always digested and sleep never lost ; and 
when the man fails to justify himself in an emergency, 
we ascribe the failure to lack of genius or valor, whereas, 
were the truth known, both genius and valor never shone 
more brilliantly than in the effort to contend against 
some nervous disorder which undermined the moral 
power, and balked the foresight of the intellect. Is it 

Strange that a harp of thousand strings 
Should keep in tune so long? 

It is equally strange that a harp so easily put out of 
tune, should give forth the noble music it does. Some 
have ascribed Mr. Smith's impaired constitution to an 
ascetic and notional way of living. But those who knew 
him most intimately did not. He himself was certain, that 
to features of it, its simplicity and temperance, he owed 
his life at critical periods; and so it may have been. He 
was no ascetic in the ordinary sense of the term. He 
practiced a generous diet such as it was, ate as much as 



HEALTH. 43 

he wanted, and what he thought agreed with him best. 
He knew what health was worth, for he wasted no mo- 
ment of it. Had he known how to obtain more, or how 
to heighten what he had, he was not the man to let 
pleasure or whim stand in the way of such a privilege. 
Life to him was more than meat. 



CHAPTER III. 



RELIGION. 



To understand the character and life of Gerrit Smith, 
it is necessary to have a clear view of the religious prin- 
ciples on which he built. His early years gave no signs 
of spiritual emotion. Though free from stain, kind, 
friendly, generous and just, he was not distinguished for 
the personal consecration to impersonal objects, which 
was so remarkable a feature in his manly career. But 
from his father he inherited a quick religious sensibility, 
which declared itself as soon as the call for it came. On 
March 17th, 1826, so the Diary informs us, he and his 
wife connected themselves with the Presbyterian church 
in Peterboro, making public profession of their faith in 
Jesus Christ as their God and Saviour. He had already 
for one year, acted as superintendent of the Sunday 
school. The journal which he began in 1826 contained, 
he remarks, nearly all the texts of the sermons he had 
heard, for thirteen years. In 1839, ^^^s journal, which 
covered upwards of four hundred pages, was condensed 
into less than a quarter the space ; was made, in fact, 
exceedingly curt and dry ; yet even then, the space 
given to sermon texts, names of preachers, Sabbath inci- 
dents, records of conference and prayer meetings, is out 
of all proportion to that given to any other subject. 
Expressions of religious feeling similar to those quoted 



RELIGION, 45 

from his father's diary, are of very frequent recurrence. 
A few are given to illustrate this peculiar element of 
character. 

April 3, 1828, " She was prepared to die. In the whole circle of 
our friends, there was not one person more precious and estimable 
than herself. Her religion was emphatically the religion of Jesus. 
It exalted the Saviour and abased the sinner. It made redeeming 
love all in all. She was eminently a woman of prayer." 

September 14, 1828, "The first Sabbath after they left us, they 
spent on their way from Albany to New York, and now they have 
profaned a great part of this holy day. May I truly lament this sin 
in members of my family ! " 

January 7, 1833, " Our church assembled agreeably to the re- 
commendation of the General Assembly. The day was observed by 
us as a day of fasting and prayer for the conversion of the world." 

January 16. — " I, this Wednesday, attended the church confer- 
ence. It was a solemn meeting. The question considered was, 
whether we would set about promoting a revival of religion." 

March 6, 1834, "This Friday evening, my dear wife and I, under 
a sense of our sins, resolved to spend the following day in fasting 
and prayer and searchings of heart." 

April 6, " The past week has been a week of great mercies to 
our church, of great humblings of heart, of sincere repentance, of 
many confessing to God and man. My dear son manifested yester- 
day more religious tenderness, more concern for his soul than I ever 
knew him to do before. He even hopes that he is a Christian. O 
God, leave him not to fall under delusion, but may his hope be a 
good hope through grace." 

April 10, " The protracted meeting closed this afternoon. It has 
been a season of great mercy to many out of, as well as in the 
church. I suppose that upwards of one hundred persons have taken 
the * anxious seats.' — Probably not more than one-fourth of them 
have obtained consolation in Christ, but many of the others are very 



serious." 



February 10, 1835, " I find that my dear wife has had great 
struggles with sin and Satan during my absence. But the Lord has, 
in His great goodness, brought her triumphant out of them, and she 
has now more Christian confidence and peace than she has had at 
any previous time for years*" 

September 6, " I fear that I have lost that increased interest in 



46 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

religion which the death of my dear baby was the occasion of pro- 
ducing in me." 

April 21, 1836. "How deficient is my interest in the Bible! 
Since mv dear babv's death, I have not allowed mvself to read on 
the Sabbath any other book than the Bible, excepting sermons ia 
church, or, occasionally and unavoidably, a few paragraphs. Still, 
how little relish I have for the pages of God's Book ! " 

April \y 1837. ** PreWous to my leaving home, there were indi- 
cations that the Lord was about to reWve his work among us. The 
expected blessing has come. During my absence a shower of grace 
has fallen on this village and neighborhood. It is supposed that not 
less than sixty have found the Saviour precious. Amongst them is 

, who has been a member of my family for six months. Thus is 

salvation again brought to my house." 

Aug, 5, 1848, ** In the inten^al of worship Mr. and Mrs. B , 



my dear wife and I were baptized. Mrs. B. was sprinkled, and the 
others were immersed. Though sprinkled in infancy, I had not, 
either in the judgment of Baptists or Pedobaptists, been baptized, — 
neither of my parents being pious at that time." 

Nov. 1857, " I am an unspeakable debtor to God for my recovery 
from this painful and perilous sickness. Oh, that it might be proved 
that I am a still greater debtor to Him for my religious thoughts and 
purposes and many prayers during my sickness. This can be 
proved only by my better heart and better life." 

Notes of like import occur to the end. Thus on March 6, 1871, 
he writes : " I am this day seventy- four years old. I thank my 
Heavenly Father for having spared me another year. I have not 
spent it as I should have done. I still feel that I need to be born 
again. My love of God and my love of man are both weak." 

March 6, 1873, " I this da/ complete my seventy-sixth year, and 
yet, as I feel, my heart is not right in the sight of God," 

May 19, 1874, "Black Friday was the name that the money 
changers gave two or three years ago to a certain day in New York. 
Friday the 15th inst. was my Black Friday. That Friday night 
my sins pressed heavily upon my conscience, and I got very little 
sleep." 

No event of close personal application is mentioned 
without some suggestion of religious feeling ; and pious 
usage to the last accompanied pious expression. The 
Sabbath was conscientiously observed. The Bible was 



RELIGION, 47 

diligently read ; family prayer was constantly practiced. 
The custom of attending church, and interesting him- 
self in evangelical movements stayed by to the last. 
A pious minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 
assigned to the parish at Peterboro in 1873, recalls with 
warm emotion Mr. Smith's presence and demeanor at 
the Lord's Supper, his devout manner of conducting 
service in his own free chapel, his grave dignity in re- 
buking unseemly harshness and looseness of speech in 
meetings for religious discussion, the evangelical tone 
of his occasional addresses at the Methodist meetings, 
his faithfulness and gentleness as superintendent of the 
Sunday School, his reverence for the character, and es- 
timate of the mission of Jesus, his constant effort to 
impress on the young the type of goodness presented 
in the New Testament, the glowing testimonies borne 
on all occasions to the indebtedness of man, not to God 
alone, but to the only being worthy to be called His 
Son. They who have known Mr. Smith at home, bear 
out the witness of the good clergyman. No feature of 
that remarkable household was so impressive as its 
deep, living piety. The bible selection, recited from 
memory, the simple petition spoken with bowed head 
and tremulous voice, the tender spirit of trust and aspi- 
ration, are sweet memories in the minds of even unre- 
ligious people. Over his chamber door hung a framed 
tablet on which was embroidered the sentence " God is 
Love," and near the door was a roll of bible texts, 
called " The Silent Comforter,** so placed that his eye 
fell on it as he went in and out, and caught a lesson of 
strength or consolation. The man's piety was simple, 
unaffected, unreserved. When the flood of feeling came 



40 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

replenish the earth. Canals and railways, by saving the necessity 
of much animal power, — say; millions of horses, — make great room 
for the increase of the human family. But how much more room 
would the relinquishment of flesh food afford ! " 

That the adoption of these practices was harmful is 
not here asserted. The ailments just alluded to may 
have been due to the confinement of a laborious and sed- 
entary life ; some of them tormented his father, and were 
probably ancestral inheritances ; the most agonizing of all 
clearly was. A youth less confined and harassed might 
have eluded them. As it was, his occupations furnished 
the conditions for their early manifestation. It is in- 
teresting to note that signs of weakness and illness occur 
in close connection with the asceticism. The brief diary 
makes distinct records of sickness and disease for almost 
every year between 1836 and 1863. Not ten times is 
the mention omitted. Severe colds and rheumatism ; 
feverish attacks, giddiness, are often spoken of Surgi- 
cal operations at home, in Philadelphia, New York; for 
hydrocele, hemorrhoids, tumor in the back, hernia, 
caused great suffering and weeks of confinement. Ap- 
plications of blisters and ointments severely tried his 
patience and fortitude. In June, 1839, the moxa was 
applied to the back to correct a weakness which he 
feared might imply or involve a curvature of the spine. 
For several years, — from 1842 to 1847, — ^^^ condition 
of his eyes was unsatisfactory; cataract was predicted ; 
he himself apprehended complete or partial blindness. 
At the most important public crisis of his life, the con- 
gressional episode, the rush of blood to the head troub- 
led him so greatly that he kept his place with difficulty, 
and was all but compelled to desist from his meditated 



HEALTH. 41 

purpose. The following letter is of interest in this 
connection. 

Philadelphia, Nov. 29, 1853. 

D. H. Frost. 

My Dear Sir — Although it is a fortnight since I left home, I am 
but so far on my way to Washington. I mean to be there at the 
opening of the session ; but it is very far from certain that I shall 
take my seat in Congress at that time. 

The disease in my head continues unabated. My New York 
physicians (how justly I do not know) believe it is a consequence of 
the surgical operation to which I submitted last summer. That 
skilful operation relieved me entirely of a painful disease ; but it is 
perhaps a worse one which has now come upon me. However this 
may be, I am, at least for the present, disqualified for reading or 
writing or public speaking. 

I do not intend to resign my office immediately. I presume that 
my constituents would prefer my holding to it for a month or two 
longer, in the expectation that, during this time, my health may be 
either so improved as to allow me to engage in the duties of my 
office, or so much worse as to make it my obvious duty to resign it. 

Excuse my brevity. The sensations in my drumming head make 
it no small task for me to write even so short a letter as this. 

Your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 

■ 

Fifteen years before this, Mr. Smith had doubted 
whether his bodily ailments and business occupations 
would permit him to attend public meetings, or make 
speeches any more. Ten years earlier still, his friend, 
Theodore D. Weld, expressed deep concern about his 
health, and recommended a mode of treatment for spinal 
affections, which had proved efficacious in cases of his 
owri knowledge. In 1840, he thanks Elizur Wright for 
a warm-hearted letter, ** a' cordial to my spirits, which 
are sometimes a little depressed by my long confinement 
with sickness ;** tells him that he has been in the hands 
of his physician for seven weeks, and expects to be for 



42 LIFE OF GEKR/T SMITII. 

some weeks more. Gerrit Smith did not welcome sick- 
ness. Pain he shrank from and faced unwillingly. It is 
possible that his extreme sensibility to it increased the 
dread of it, and gave rise to morbid fears of danger, 
though nothing of this appears in the brief mentions he 
makes of his sicknesses, in his diary. That he was a suf- 
ferer from local disease, that he lost much time through 
it, and was considerably weakened in force by it, may be 
set down as certain. How often the infirmities of the 
body baffle and hinder the man's purpose and energy ! 
How common it is to disregard their effect ! We read 
history, as if the actors on the scene were exempt from 
ill ; as if headache and dyspepsia w^ere things unknown ; 
as if food was always digested and sleep never lost ; and 
when the man fails to justify himself in an emergency, 
we ascribe the failure to lack of genius or valor, whereas, 
were the truth known, both genius and valor never shone 
more brilliantly than in the effort to contend against 
some nervous disorder which undermined the moral 
power, and balked the foresight of the intellect. Is it 

Strange that a harp of thousand strings 
Should keep in tune so long? 

It is equally strange that a harp so easily put out of 
tune, should give forth the noble music it does. Some 
have ascribed Mr. Smith's impaired constitution to an 
ascetic and notional way of living. But those who knew 
him most intimately did not. He himself was certain, that 
to features of it, its simplicity and temperance, he owed 
his life at critical periods; and so it may have been. He 
was no ascetic in the ordinary sense of the term. He 
practiced a generous diet such as it was, ate as much as 



HEALTH. 43 

he wanted, and what he thought agreed with him best. 
He knew what health was worth, for he wasted no mo- 
ment of it. Had he known how to obtain more, or how 
to heighten what he had, he was not the nwn to let 
pleasure or whim stand in the way of such a privilege. 
Life to him was more than meat. 



CHAPTER III. 



RELIGION. 



To understand the character and life of Gerrit Smith, 
it IS necessary to have a clear view of the religious prin- 
ciples on which he built. His early years gave no signs 
of spiritual emotion. Though free from stain, kind, 
friendly, generous and just, he was not distinguished for 
the personal consecration to impersonal objects, which 
was so remarkable a feature in his manly career. But 
from his father he inherited a quick religious sensibility, 
which declared itself as soon as the call for it came. On 
March 17th, 1826, so the Diary informs us, he and his 
wife connected themselves with the Presbyterian church 
in Peterboro, making public profession of their faith in 
Jesus Christ as their God and Saviour. He had already 
for one year, acted as superintendent of the Sunday 
school. The journal which he began in 1826 contained, 
he remarks, nearly all the texts of the sermons he had 
heard, for thirteen years. In 1839, ^^^^ journal, which 
covered upwards of four hundred pages, was condensed 
into less than a quarter the space ; was made, in fact, 
exceedingly curt and dry ; yet even then, the space 
given to sermon texts, names of preachers. Sabbath inci- 
dents, records of conference and prayer meetings, is out 
of all proportion to that given to any other subject. 
Expressions of religious feeling similar to those quoted 



RELIGION, 45 

from his father's diary, are of very frequent recurrence. 
A few are given to illustrate this peculiar element of 
character. 

April 3, 1828, *• She was prepared to die. In the whole circle of 
our friends, there was not one person more precious and estimable 
than herself. Her religion was emphatically the religion of Jesus. 
It exalted the Saviour and abased the sinner. It made redeeming 
love all in all. She was eminently a woman of prayer." 

September 14, 1828, "The first Sabbath after they left us, they 
spent on their way from Albany to New York, and now they have 
profaned a great part of this holy day. May I truly lament this sin 
in members of my family ! " 

January 7, 1833, " Our church assembled agreeably to the re- 
commendation of the General Assembly. The day was observed by 
us as a day of fasting and prayer for the conversion of the world." 

January 16. — " I, this Wednesday, attended the church confer- 
ence. It was a solemn meeting. The question considered was, 
whether we would set about promoting a revival of religion." 

March 6, 1834, " This Friday evening, my dear wife and I, under 
a sense of our sins, resolved to spend the following day in fasting 
and prayer and searchings of heart." 

April 6, " The past week has been a week of great mercies to 
our church, of great humblings of heart, of sincere repentance, of 
many confessing to God and man. My dear son manifested yester- 
day more religious tenderness, more concern for his soul than I ever 
knew him to do before. He even hopes that he is a Christian. O 
God, leave him not to fall under delusion, but may his hope be a 
good hope through grace." 

April 10, *' The protracted meeting closed this afternoon. It has 
been a season of great mercy to many out of, as well as in the 
church. I suppose that upwards of one hundred persons have taken 
the * anxious seats.' — Probablv not more than one-fourth of them 
have obtained consolation in Christ, but many of the others are very 



serious." 



February 10, 1835, " I find that my dear wife has had great 
struggles with sin and Satan during my absence. But the Lord has, 
in His great goodness, brought her triumphant out of them, and she 
has now more Christian confidence and peace than she has had at 
any previous time for years*" 

September 6, " I fear that I have lost that increased interest in 



46 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

religion which the death of my dear baby was the occasion of pro- 
ducing in me." 

April 21, 1836, ** How deficient is my interest in the Bible! 
Since my dear baby's death, I have not allowed myself to read on 
the Sabbath any other book than the Bible, excepting sermons in 
church, or, occasionally and unavoidably, a few paragraphs. Still, 
how little relish I have for the pages of God's Book ! " 

April \, 1837, *' Previous to my leaving home, there were indi- 
cations that the Lord was about to renve his work among us. The 
expected blessing has come. During my absence a shower of grace 
has fallen on this village and neighborhood. It is supposed that not 
less than sixty have found the Saviour precious. Amongst them is 

, who has been a member of my family for six months. Thus is 

salvation again brought to my house." 

Ai(g, 5, 1848, *' In the interval of worship Mr. and Mrs. B , 



my dear wife and I were baptized. Mrs. B. was sprinkled, and the 
others were immersed. Though sprinkled in infancy, I had not, 
either in the judgment of Baptists or Pedobaptists, been baptized, — 
neither of my parents being pious at that time." 

Nov. 1857, " I am an unspeakable debtor to God for my recovery 
from this painful and perilous sickness. Oh, that it might be proved 
that I am a still greater debtor to Him for my religious thoughts and 
purposes and many prayers during my sickness. This can be 
proved only by my better heart and better life." 

Notes of like import occur to the end. Thus on March 6, 1871, 
he writes : " I am this day seventy-four years old. I thank my 
Heavenly Father for having spared me another year. I have not 
spent it as I should have done. I still feel that I need to be born 
again. My love of God and my love of man are both weak." 

March 6, 1873, " I this da/ complete my seventy-sixth year, and 
yet, as I feel, my heart is not right in the sight of God," 

May 19, 1874, "Black Friday was the name that the money 
changers gave two or three years ago to a certain day in New York. 
Friday the 15th inst. was my Black Friday, That Friday night 
my sins pressed heavily upon my conscience, and I got very little 
sleep." 

No event of close personal application is mentioned 
without some suggestion of religious feeling ; and pious 
usage to the last accompanied pious expression. The 
Sabbath was conscientiously observed. The Bible was 



RELIGION. 47 

diligently read ; family prayer was constantly practiced. 
The custom of attending church, and interesting him- 
self in evangelical movements stayed by to the last. 
A pious minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 
assigned to the parish at Peterboro in 1873, recalls with 
warm emotion Mr. Smith's presence and demeanor at 
the Lord's Supper, his devout manner of conducting 
service in his own free chapel, his grave dignity in re- 
buking unseemly harshness and looseness of speech in 
meetings for religious discussion, the evangelical tone 
of his occasional addresses at the Methodist meetings, 
his faithfulness and gentleness as superintendent of the 
Sunday School, his reverence for the character, and es- 
timate of the mission of Jesus, his constant effort to 
impress on the young the type of goodness presented 
in the New Testament, the glowing testimonies borne 
on all occasions to the indebtedness of man, not to God 
alone, but to the only being worthy to be called His 
Son. They who have known Mr. Smith at home, bear 
out the witness of the good clergyman. No feature of 
that remarkable household was so impressive as its 
deep, living piety. The bible selection, recited from 
memory, the simple petition spoken with bowed head 
and tremulous voice, the tender spirit of trust and aspi- 
ration, are sweet memories in the minds of even unre- 
ligious people. Over his chamber door hung a framed 
tablet on which was embroidered the sentence " God is 
Love," and near the door was a roll of bible texts, 
called " The Silent Comforter," so placed that his eye 
fell on it as he went in and out, and caught a lesson of 
strength or consolation. The man's piety was simple, 
unaffected, unreserved. When the flood of feeling came 



48 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

in, it bore him easily over all the barriers of mental mis- 
giving, and made him at home in the company of those 
whose life was wholly absorbed in God. In early life he 
was scrupulous to comply with all the requirements of le- 
gal righteousness, in the observance of times and seasons. 
He was a strict Sabbatarian. He lent an ear to the 
figurative arguments of the Millenarians, and was in- 
clined to try whatever experiments in faith and practice 
each new apostle might propose. In 1832, he attends 
a public prayer meeting against cholera. In 1844, he 
anticipates a near end of the world. 

Peterboro, Oct. ai, 1844. Monday Ev'g half past 8. 

My Dearly Beloved, — We have just had family worship — perhaps 
for the last time. To-day's mail brought me four copies of the ex- 
tra Midnight Cry. It declares that the world will end at three to- 
morrow morning. The Midnight Cry which came to-day says that 
time may possibly continue until the 23d or even the 24.th. There 
are precious things in this number. I have read it this evening 
with unusual solemnity and tenderness and prayer, . . 

I know not my dear Nancy, that we shall meet in the air. You 
will be there — for you have long loved and served your Saviour. I 
cast myself on his mercy, like the thief on the Cross. I seek his 
salvation, though it is in the last hour. And how my eyes have 
flowed at the welcome thought that we shall meet our dear Fitzhugh 
and Nanny! Oh, the treasures of religion! How mad have I 
been to make so little account of them ! 

The sincerity of the piety it was that made him 
break with pious organizations. There is no radicalism 
like that of the spirit that is fully alive to real things. 
Gerrit Smith's devoutness was rooted in his natural 
heart and could not be transplanted. He took religion 
seriously, held himself and others to their vows. In 
1829, his reverence for the Sabbath impelled him to 
draw up a petition to the Congress of the United States 
praying that the laws regulating the post-office depart- 



RELIGION, 49 

ment might be so amended, as not to require the trans- 
mission of the mail and the opening of the post-offices on 
the Lord's Day. The petition closes with these impas- 
sioned sentences. 

" Essential as the Sabbath is, in the affairs of this life, it is, in re- 
lation to the things of the life to come, and in its office to prepare 
us for the blessedness beyond the grave, unspeakably more impor- 
tant. It is God's holy day ; and it is His own voice which com- 
mands us to • remember it to keep it holy.* It is a day to be spent 
in the religious service of Him who declares that ' the kingdom and 
nation that will not serve Him shall perish.' Let us conjure yon then, 
by the memory of those holy men who planted this nation, because 
they preferred the savage wilderness to a land of profaned Sabbaths 
and corrupted Christianity ; by the memory of our fathers, whose 
piety, as emphatically as their wisdom and blood, contributed to se- 
cure the independence, and to frame the government under which 
we live ; by your regard for the hundreds of thousands of your con- 
stituents, to whose religious faith the Sabbath is even more dear 
than their lives ; and lastly let us conjure you by that final accounta- 
bility, which will be no less rigid in the public and official, than in 
the private acts of men, to spare the Sabbath, and the inestimable 
temporal and eternal blessings that are bound up in it." 

This was quite consistent with the belief that the 
Sabbath was of divine ordinance, however uncomfortable 
to luxurious Christians who would worship both God 
and Mammon by driving to church in private carriages, 
or by spending the hours between services in reading 
business letters. He took his religion seriously. 

The same stern consistency dictated this bible Chris- 
tian's conduct on the question of excluding the Bible 
from the public schools. In December of 1869, he 
printed and distributed a sheet on " The Common 
School Compromise," in which occurs this sentence: 

" The billows of agitation are rising fearfully high ; and in order 
to sink them to repose, the Bible, hke another Jonah, must be 



50 , LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

thrown overboard. Since it is rending the school, it must, like the 
evil spirits of old, undergo exorcism. . . , Surely, surely, the 
loss in such a compromise would be greater than should be incurred. 
The poor sort of peace which the school would get in exchange for 
the Bible would not pay for the loss. . . But it is said that the 
school will fall if the Bible is allowed to remain in it. Then let it 
fall. However great might be this loss, it nevertheless can be better 
afforded than the insulting of God by singling out this book, and 
this only for expulsion from the school. But must not our children 
be educated ? Not in a school which proscribes the Bible." 

In 1873, he returned to the subject in another sheet 
entitled, *' No School and State, as well as no Church; 
and State,'* and there repeated the sentiment in almost: 
the same words. 

" Any institution maybe regarded as near its end when to prolong 
its life it falls to compromising. One of these proposed compro- 
mises is to forego prayer in the school. Another is to forbid all 
religious teaching in it, and especially to exclude the Bible from it. 
Nothing could justify the ostracising of Shakespeare and Milton from 
the schools, still less can anything justify the ostracising of the Bi- 
ble from it. For admitting all that may be said of the errors in the 
Bible, no other book equals it in specimens of the truest eloquence, 
and in the wisdom and purity of its precepts." 

The last clause shows how the heart could be 
tenacious of positions which the head abandoned ; the 
concession that there might be error in the Bible, being 
fatal to the chief argument in favor of retaining it, 
namely, that it was " God*s book." Mr. Matthew 
Arnold's doctrine that the Bible is invaluable as litera- 
ture, had not, at this time, become familiar. 

Mr. Smith was early brought to see and condemn 
the evils of sectarianism. Among the first entries in the 
journal is the following : 

October 12, 1828, " The church have resolved to meet Wednes 
day next to consider the subject of intemperance, and to take such 
steps regarding this vice as shall appear proper." 



RELIGION, 5 1 

October i6, " Agreeably to appointment, a number of the mem- 
bers of our church met this Wednesday, and discussed the subject 
of intemperance. I presented a paper which binds the subscribers 
to abstain totally from drinking ardent spirits except in cases of 
sickness. It was signed by all present but two." 

October 19, "I find that many members of our church are op- 
posed to our measures for suppressing intemperance. Their eyes are 
not yet opened to the nature and magnitude of the evil. Oh, that 
God would give us all a spirit to inquire of Him what is our duty in 
this matter.'* 

It was Mr. Smith's habit to preserve in scrap books 
everything he printed in papers, whatever the substance 
or form. In the first of these volumes is the following 
remarkable letter: 

Peterboro, June 33, 1839. 

Rev. Luther Myrick: 

My Dear Sir — Instances are continually occurring to remind us 
of the evil influences of sectarianism in the church of Christ, and to 
strengthen the desire for the abolition of all religious sects. 

One of these instances is the disposition which was recently 
made of the slavery question by the New School General Assembly. 
It will not be denied that a majority of the members of that As- 
sembly believed that American slavery is sin — enormous, heaven- 
daring sin. Why then did they refuse to declare this to be its char- 
acter } The debates of the Assembly on the question of slavery show 
why. They conclusively show, that, whilst as men, as abolitionists, 
and as Christians, the majority of the members were ready to ascribe 
to slavery its own awfully and transcendently wicked character ; 
nevertheless as Presbyterians, they were not. The debates show, 
in other words, that the Assembly were willing to merge their 
humanity, their morals and their religion in their Presbyterianism. 
They had the Presbyterian church and the New School General 
Assembly to take care of; and they were just starting on a new 
career of glory to God and advantage to man. That they should, in 
these circumstances, make a declaration of the sinfulness of slavery 
—that they should freight their scarcely righted. New School Pres- 
byterian ship with odious abolition — in a word, that they should 
exceedingly prejudice their cause in the very outset — all this seemed 
in their eyes most inexpedient. It was in this wise, that they con- 
ferred with flesh and blood, leaned to their own understanding, in- 



52 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

stead of trusting in the Lord with all their hearts, took counsel of 
expediency, and, as a matter of course, came to the conclusion, that 
they would '* suffer sin upon " their countrymen, and refuse to *' cry 
aloud and spare not, and show the people their transgression, and 
the house of Jacob their sins." 

I will mention another instance, in which good men have suf- 
fered their concern for a sect to control their Christianity and Abo- 
litionism. In the Anti-slavery Convention held at Auburn the present 
week, I referred to this dereliction of principle in the New School 
Assembly to illustrate the corruption which the doctrines of expedi- 
ency have wrought in the American church. I did not take the 
ground, that the Assembly was bound to discuss the question of 
slavery. For the sake of the argument, I yielded, (what truth for- 
bids) that it was not. But I insisted, that, having agreed to discuss 
it, they were traitorous to the cause of truth, for refusing to express 
their opinion of its moral character — as much so, I said, as I should 
be, if, having consented to discuss the subject of intemperance, I 
should confine myself to the economical and political bearings of the 
vice, and refuse to declare its wickedness. I might have said, more 
so, since it is expected of ecclesiastical bodies, when they discuss 
the merits of an institution or practice, that they will pronounce, not 
only mainly, but almost, if not quite, exclusively, on its moral char- 
acter. I might also have said, that their omission to decide upon 
the moral character of slavery implies that, in the judgment of the 
Assembly, slavery is not condemned of God. 

Now, will you believe it, that some of the dear, ay and of the 
very dearest of the brethren in the convention, were greatly pained 
at my complaints of the New School Assembly? Will you believe 
it, that they even justified the Assembly ? " What," say you, " Ab- 
olitionists justify it ! and that too, in an anti-slavery convention !* 

It is even so, notwithstanding the cause of humanity is bleeding 
and dying for the lack of the testimony of our ecclesiastical bodies 
against the wickedness of slavery ; there are, nevertheless, good men, 
good Abolitionists too, who justify the withholding of that testimony. 

Do you ask me whether any Baptists or Methodists were pained 
at my censures ? None, so far as I know. Though had I visited 
similar censures on Baptists and Methodists, there would very prob- 
ably have been Baptist and Methodist murmurs. I believe none but 
Presbyterians, and they of the New School only, were grieved at my 
plain dealing. 

I need not say, that it made my heart sad to see the dear men, 
who were dissatisfied with me, suffering their religion, their love of 



RELIGION. S3 

impartial and universal liberty, and their very manhood, to bow to 
their sectarianism. The Lord hasten the time for the breaking of 
all party cords in the church ! The word can never have free course 
and be glorified in the midst of sectarian predilections. Baptists, 
Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc. etc., must embrace a 
common and unsectarian Christianity, before they will permit the 
truth to do its perfect work. 

One thing more. What right have they to present themselves as 
ethical instructors and spiritual advisers, who have not the discern- 
ment to see, nor the honesty to say, that slavery is sin ? Common 
sense revolts at the attachment of authority or the manifestation of 
respect to any of the opinions of an ecclesiastical assembly, that re- 
fuses to pronounce as sinful the system which forbids marriage and 
the reading of the Bible, and that markets men, women and children 
as beasts. Whether the refusal proceeds from ignorance or dis- 
honesty, it equally argues the unfitness of those who are guilty of it, 
to be our religious teachers. 

I trust you will not suppose from what I have said, that I have 
less respect for the New School Assembly, than I have for the Bap- 
tist National Convention, or the Methodist General Conference, or 
other ecclesiastical bodies. Least of all, would I have you think, 
that I hold it in less esteem than I do the Old School Assembly. It 
was creditable to the New School Assembly to discuss the question 
of slavery. But, on the other hand, there is no term of reproach too 
severe to bestow on that Resolution of the rival Assembly, which as 
it commends to the support of the churches that wicked and in- 
famous society, whose leading doctrine is, that perpetual slavery is 
to be preferred to unconditional and immediate emancipation, does 
virtually sanction slavery. 

Your friend and brother, 

Gerrit Smith. 

How vital this matter is becoming appears from the 
ensuing note in the journal of May 7, 1843. 

Sabbath morning, " I did not attend the preparatory lecture 
yesterday, and I do not propose to partake to-day of the Lord's 
Supper. I have come to the conclusion that the company of men 
and women with whom I formerly worshipped, do not perform the 
office, and exhibit the character of a Church of Christ. It has long 
been a grief to me that they preferred their sectarianism to Christian 
Union. I was amazed that the churches of Peterboro should show 



54 LIFE OF QERRIT SMITH. 

themselves to be no better than the world in respect to the mob 
which disgraced Peterboro last summer. But still 1 could not bring 
myself to look upon the Presbyterian Church of Peterboro as not a 
Church of Jesus Christ. Last fall, however, and the early part of 
the winter, it was urged to pass resolutions against slavery and 
intemperance and forbore to do so. I then inquired of my heart : 
can the Presbyterian Church of Peterboro be such a company of re- 
form.ers, — such a * light of the world,* — such a ' city set on a hill,* as 
a true Church of Christ must necessarily be ? — and long since my 
heart has answered : It cannot be. It is distinguished indeed, from 
the world in that it statedly prays, sings holy songs, and listens to 
sermons. But is this distinction sufficient to prove that its spirit is 
not the spirit of the world and that it is a Church of Jesus Christ } 
It surely is not. 

•' 1 trust that it is in no spirit of self-righteousness that I have 
separated myself from my fellow worshippers, ' I know I'm guilty, — 
know I'm vile.* There is no part of my hfe, — not a day — not an 
hour — on which I look back with complacency. I know, too, that 
there are precious friends of God in that church ; and when I say 
that collectively, they do not resemble and do not perform the office 
of a Church of Christ, I wish not to be understood as condemning 
this, or that, or the other member of the church. If it be said that 
it does not become one whose sins are so numerous and aggravated 
as mine, to condemn a church, my answer is that the fact that my 
sins are already so numerous and aggravated is a sufficient reason 
why I should not add another to them, — especially the great sin of 
countenancing as a Church of Christ, that which, in my heart, I do 
not believe is a Church of Christ. 

" I shall here mention that one of the greatest trials of my heart, 
in respect to the Presbyterian Church in Peterboro, is its continued, 
though oft remonstrated against connection with the General As- 
sembly, — a body so exceedingly wicked as deliberately to refuse to 
say that slavery is sin. I must not omit to mention that the dis- 
mission of Mr. for no other reason, as I think, than his faithful 

preaching on slavery, intemperance and some other sins, argues 
strongly against the character of the church." 

Many years later, writing in 1865 about the rebellion, 
he said : 

*' We need a better religion. Our laws have been on the side of 
oppression. Our religion has gone to the polls and voted for the 



RELIGION. 5 5 

buyers and sellers of men. How shall we get better laws and a 
better religion ? Only by getting juster and higher conceptions of ■ 
the dignity and grandeur and sacredness of man. Our laws and our 
religion will conform precisely to those conceptions. Contemptible 
will be the laws and religion of every people, who think contemptu- 
ously of man. But beautiful and blessed will be the laws and re- 
ligion which reverence human nature, even when in its lowest con- 
dition — even when in ignorance and rags and chains. This is the 
religion which Jesus taught." 

The evils resulting from sectarianism struck deep, 
and roused in hinn the refornner's zeal. 

Dec. 29, 1840, "This, Tuesday evening, some sixty persons met 
in the session room. Elder Maddock opened with prayer. Captain 
Myers was appointed chairman and Loring Fowler secretary. Rev. 
Mr. Schofield was not present. He is unwilling to countenance it. 
Introduced the following series of resolutions. 

1. "Whereas the Bible teaches that the union, the oneness of 
Christians is important ; — even so important that the world might 
be convinced by it that Jesus is sent of God, and that his disciples 
are beloved of God ; — Resolved, therefore, that the division of 
•Christians into rival sects or parties is unscriptural and wicked. 

2. " Whereas the Bible teaches that a person who is rightfully 
excluded from the fellowship of a Church of Christ should no longer 
be regarded as a Christian, — Resolved, therefore, that it is mani- 
festly anti-bible to exclude from such fellowship or to receive into 
it any person who is admitted to be a Christian. 

3. " Resolved, that Christians have but to adopt and carry out 
the obviously true propositions of the foregoing resolutions, and a 
common Christianity and a common church would take the place of 
the Methodist and Presbyterian and Baptist and other sects which 
now divide and afflict and corrupt Zion.'* 

These resolutions were discussed at frequent meetings 
and found more or less favor, but were never adopted. 
No church was ready for so radical a reform as they 
implied. Outside of Peterboro the mover of them re- 
ceived such welcome as usually awaits the reformer. 
This, from the *' Presbyterian ** of Philadelphia, is an 
•example : 



56 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

** Gerrit Smith's anti-sect meeting has just been held in Oswego, 
New York, and resolutions denouncing the churches of every name 
were adopted. Beyond that, it was of course, impossible to go, as it 
would not be strictly consistent to form a new sect on the ground of 
hostility to all sects. Mr. Smith made a strenuous effort to get the 
convention to avow his peculiar views on the subject of slavery, war, 
etc. ; but the most of the members thought it best to confine them- 
selves to the single business of breaking down church walls. The 
following resolution was discussed by several Presbyterian, Baptist, 
Unitarian, and Universalist clergymen and laymen ; the two latter 
sects in its favor, the two former against it. The Rev. William 
Max, Gerrit Smith, and an old Quaker, named McClintock, spoke 
in the affirmative and it was passed. 

*' Resolved, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes abundant 
provision for the closer and closer union of His disciples with 
each other ; but makes none at all for their separation from each 
other ; and that the dividing of Christians into parties and sects does 
no less violence to that mythical body of which they are all members, 
than it does to the natural or literal body by tearing asunder its 
constituent parts." 

*• We do not know an instance in which is exhibited with more 
clearness and melancholy interest, the downward tendency of ultra- 
ism than is afforded in the case of Gerrit Smith. We remember 
well when he was an eloquent and powerful advocate of every good 
cause, a noble philanthropist and a leading man. Possessed of a 
large fortune, a commanding person, and a persuasive eloquence, 
with a generous spirit and a warm heart, he was evidently endowed 
with the gifts essential to the highest degree of success in the path 
of usefulness and honor which he had marked out for himself. 
Probaoly the impulses of his benevolence were too strong for his 
judgment, and he was consumed in his own zeal. He was natu- 
rally an enthusiast ; he soon became fanatical. And of late years 
there has scarcely been a scheirte of moral reform too visionary for 
his adoption and patronage. A Sabbath lecturer on political aboli- 
tion, and an anti-church preacher on week-days, he now devotes his 
wealth and his mind to the overthrow of institutions that he once 
regarded with the most filial reverence and devoted love. 

** Such a career is worth looking at. It affords a sad illustration 
of the instability of man, and of the power of truth. What has Mr. 
Smith done during the years of his war upon the churches of God ? 
He has made himself conspicuous as a beacon ; but what good has 
he done ? We might also ask, what harm has he done ? Have any 



RELIGION, 5 7 

of the people believed on him ? We do not ask if any of the rulers ; 
but have the people been led away by him? In the midst of a 
region where fanaticism has flourished, he is comparatively alone. 
Few, if any, will be persuaded to adopt his vagaries, and he himself 
may yet be brought to see the folly of the views he sought to propa- 
gate. It is painful to contemplate such a career as his, and yet we 
have no doubt that God will take care of his own cause, and make 
even the efforts of such men to result in the establishment of truth 
and the furtherance of His own glory." 

Mr. Smith has this clipping in his scrap book. It is 
without date. 

The 29th day of November, 1843, was observed as a 
day of fasting and prayer by persons of Peterboro and 
vicinity who believed that the Christians therein did, 
— merely by force of divine organization, all human ar- 
rangements to the contrary notwithstanding, simply 
because they were Christians, — constitute "The Church 
of Peterboro." In the afternoon they held a public 
meeting in the session room in Peterboro, and spent the 
time in prayer, reading the bible, singing and conversa- 
tion. A statement of principles and resolutions was 
submitted to the meeting, with the request that they 
should be made the subject of earnest thought, conver- 
sation and prayer until the time for definite action on 
them. The meeting was adjourned to the second day 
of December. On that day, after deliberation and 
prayer, the statement and resolutions were read, com- 
mented on, and unanimously adopted. Near the close 
of the meeting the request was made that all who, ap- 
proving the principles and the language in which they 
were expressed, beheved themselves to be members of 
" The Church of Peterboro," would give their names to 
the secretary of the meeting. The following is the 

statement of principles : 
3* 



58 LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH. 

** We learn from the Holy Scriptures, which are the only infallible 
• guide in all questions of morality and religion, that Christian and 
church relations spring not from external fellowship and human ar- 
rangements, but from the union of those who are the subjects of 
such relations with Jesus Christ, who is * the Head of the body, the 
church.' (Col. i. i8 : Eph. ii. 20: iv. 15, 16 : v. 23, 30: John xv. 5 : 
I Peter ii. 4, 5, 6 : Rom. vii. 4 : xii. 4, 5.) Hence we believe that the 
Church of Christ on earth is composed of all the Christians on earth ; 
that the Church of Christ in any nation is composed of all the Chris- 
tians in such nation ; and that the Church of Christ in any smaller 
community, even down to a single family, (Rom. xvi. 5 : i Corin. xvi. 
19 :) is composed of all the Christians in such community. Thus 
believing, we declare that the Christians of Peterboro and its vicinity 
compose a church ; and that following apostolic usage, we may 
properly call it * The Church of Peterboro.' The propriety of 
this name, and also the propriety of declaring that a// the Christians 
of a given locality constitute the church of said locality, are justified 
by the following and other texts : Rom. i. 7 : i Cor. i. 2 : Eph. i. i : 
Phil. i. I connected with Phil. 10. 15 : Col. i. 2 : in 2d and 3d Rev. 
• church of Ephesus,'* etc., etc. As a consequence of the beliefs 
which we have expressed, we acknowledge ourselves bound, not to 
vote into our local Church, for we can neither vote into it nor vote 
out of it, but bound to recognize as a member of it any person within 
our territorial limits who affords satisfactory evidence that he is a dis- 
ciple and friend of Christ, and bound too, to do this even in the case 
of those who do not qonsent to our thus recognizing them, and even 
in the case of those who, in their doctrines and practices, or both, are 
peculiar, unscriptural, blameworthy be it to whatever extent it may ; 
and the consequence of the beliefs which we have expressed is, that 
whilst we are to maintain a strict church discipline, and to admonish 
and rebuke each other as occasion may call for such fidelity, we are 
to deem no persons worthy of being disfellowshipped by us, but 
those whom we have ceased to regard as Christians " 

And here are the resolutions that accompanied the 
statement and were adopted with it. 

RESOLUTIONS. 

1st. Resolved, That , , be deacons of this church. 

2d. Resolved, That Samuel Wells, of Vernon, is affectionately in- 
vited to remove into this community, and thereby become a member 



RELIGION. 59 

of this church ; and that in the event of such removal, he be expected 
to officiate as its elder or bishop, and to assume that share of in- 
structing and feeding it, which is appropriate to one whom the Holy 
Ghost hath made an overseer, (Acts xx. 28). 

3d. Resolved, That in view of the abundant means of living in 
this neighborhood, we hope our elder may always be in circum- 
stances to give himself " continually to prayer and to the ministry of 
the word." (Acts vi. 4.) But, whether such shall be his circum- 
stances, or whether he shall be compelled to " labor, working with 
his own hands," ( ist Cor. iv. 12), we can not without guiltily shutting 
our eyes to the glaring evils of the practice of subscribing salaries to 
preachers of the gospel, promise him a salary. We trust that con- 
tributions in money will be made in our place of worship from Sab- 
bath to Sabbath, and that the deacons, in their appropriation of these 
contributions — a part to this needy disciple and a part to that — a part 
to one object and a part to another — will pay especial and constant 
regard to the wants of the elder and his family. 

4th. Resolved, That the elder be expected to keep an account 
of all the contributions, whether in money or otherwise, which shall 
be made to him by his church and congregation, and that he be ex- 
pected to make a public and full report thereof, at the expiration of 
every three months. 

5th. Resolved, That for the edification both of its members and 
others, for the honoring and establishing of the truth — this church 
will, as there shall be occasion for it, express its convictions in relation 
to doctrines and practices. 

6th. Resolved, That a Church of Christ is a company of moral 
reformers ; and, therefore, that a church which refuses to engage in 
the prosecution of moral reforms, especially those that are nearest 
at hand and most urgent, is, however excellent maybe the character 
of individuals in it, not a Church of Christ. 

7th. Resolved, That sectarianism, guilty as it so clearly is of 
rending the seamless garment (John xix. 23) of the Saviour — of di- 
viding the Church of Christ into mutually warring parties — of tearing 
asunder those who should esteem themselves to " be one," even as 
the Father and the Son ** are one " (John xvii. 22) ; guilty also, as it 
so clearly is, of making the strongest and most successful appeals to 
the pride, bigotry, and intolerance of the heart ; is, therefore, the 
mightiest foe on earth to truth and reform, tcf God and man ; that is, 
in its features and spirit, one of the most marked children of its 
^* father, the Devil." 

8th. Whereas there is a prevailing delusion, that a Union Church 



6o LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

requires a surrender of private judgment and a compromise of truth ; 
and that but for this surrender and compromise, the contentions in 
such church would be too great to be endured : Resolved, therefore, 
that the members of a Union or Gospel Church are not only free to 
entertain their respective views, both of doctrine and practice, but 
are bound to inculcate them on their brethren, and to rebuke the 
rejection of them ; Resolved, further, that while, on the one hand, 
such freedom and faithfulness do not only not engender fatal 
strife, but do actually produce assimilation of character and that 
true peace which follows purity (James iii. 17), the barriers which 
sectarianism erects do. on the other hand, by hindering the mutual 
access, and fomenting the mutual jealousies, of Christians, obstruct 
the progress of truth, and maintain an increasing disagreement of 
sentiments and opposition between those who are commanded to be 
** perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judg- 
ment" (i Cor. i. 10), and to merge their diversities of character 
even in oneness itself (John xvii. 2T, 22, 23). 

9th. Resolved, That although, as is evident from the 15th chapter 
of Acts, there are occasions which justify the assembling of Chris- 
tians together from the different parts of a country, or from different 
parts of the world, to discuss and decide on questions of religious in- 
terest ; nevertheless, for a local church to refuse to come into an 
Association of Churches, is a wise precaution for preserving its 
independence and purity. 

loth. Whereas the mob which, in the year 1842, disgraced this 
community, and which is justly supposed to be the most fruitful 
cause of the disorders and lawlessness that have subsequently pre- 
vailed amongst us, was approved, rather than condemned, by the 
great majority of our professing Christians : Resolved, therefore, 
that this church feels itself loudly called on to declare that mob to 
have been, what every other mob is, a most flagrant outrage on hu- 
man and divine laws — on the rigfhts of man and the risfhts of God. 

nth. Whereas there are in this community professing Chris- 
tians, as well as other persons, who defend the use of intoxicating 
liquors as a drink ; and who also defend the selling of grain to the 
bre*ver and distiller : Resolved, therefore, that this church condemns 
such defences as unscriptural and wicked ; and pronounces the 
selling of such liquors for a drink — the licensing sale of them for 
that purpose — the election of officers who license the sale of them 
for that purpose — and the furnishing of materials for the manufac- 
ture of them for that purpose — to be all parts, one of them as cer- 
tainly so as another, in that great and horrid work of death, which 



RELIGION. 6 1 

has already destroyed the bodies and souls of millions of our 
countrymen. 

1 2th. Whereas there are professing Christians amongst us who 
patronize missionary and other societies, which solicit contributions 
from slaveholders : Resolved, ih^rtiovt,. That such professing Chris- 
tians cannot be sinless, unless God has repealed his declaration : 
" I hate robbery for burnt-offering." (Isaiah Ixi. 8.) 

13th. Whereas, there are in this community professing Chris- 
tians, as well as others, who vote to fill civil offices with slaveholders, 
and with persons who wield their official power in behalf of the 
most murderous and diabolical oppression of millions of God's poor : 
Resolved, therefore. That it is the duty of this Church to declare such 
voting to be very guilty treason toward the cause of humanity and 
the cause of God. And whereas the criminality of such voting is 
partially, or entirely, hidden to many eyes by plausible excuses, such as 
that there cannot be great sin in voting with a large party, in voting 
as thousands and millions vote, such as that the person voted for, 
although on the side of the oppressor, will nevertheless, if elected, 
accomplish in his office more good than evil, and will wisely conform 
himself to the maxim which requires the securing of ** the greatest 
good to the greatest number ": Resolved, therefore. That God has 
left his admonitions — " Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil," 
(Ex. xxiii. 2.) : " Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be 
unpunished," (Prov. xi. 21), for the very purpose of teaching men 
that they cannot hide themselves and escape from responsibility in a 
crowd ; and that, in the light of these admonitions and of other 
divine instructions, the whole sin of electing a tyrant, or an upholder 
of tyranny, rests on each of the votes, as well as on the sum of the 
votes which elect him. And Resolved, further. That so long as the 
maxim should be, not " the greatest good of the greatest number," 
but "the greatest good of the whole number;" and so long as 
Christianity forbids our seeking the good even of a universe, at the 
expense of the least right of the least being in it, it cannot be proper 
to clothe a person with official power, when we foresee that it will be 
employed to wrong, though it may be but a single individual, and 
that too, the obscurest individual among the millions subject to such 
power. And Resolved, further. That if the consideration that he 
will exercise his official power justly towards others of his fellow-men, 
can authorize us to set up a tyrant over some of them, then by the 
like reasoning, can that tyrant derive from the justice of his dealings 
with some persons a license to be unjust toward others ; then can 
the adulterer, the slaveholder, the murderer, be able to vindicate 



62 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

their adultery, slaveholding and murder, if they can prove that the 
harm which they have done to some of their fellow-beings by these 
crimes, is overbalanced by the benefit which, in whatever way. they 
have done to others of them. To illustrate and justify tlie positions 
of this resolution, we say, that whoever would estimate the meas- 
ure of his own sin against the tens of thousands of slaves in the 
District of Columbia and in the Territory of Florida, for having voted 
to fill the office of President of the United States with a tyrant who 
uses the power of that office to retain in slavery those tens of thou- 
sands, should hold out of view every other vote cast for that tyrant 
except his own, and make his own wholly responsible for the elec- 
tion ; and should also hold out of view ail, however good or bad of 
the official acts and influences of that tyrant, save only such as bear 
on those tens of thousands of slaves. 

14th. Whereas there is, even amongst professors of religion, a 
prevailing opinion that it is wrong to preach politics on the Sabbath. 
Resolved, That the correctness of this opinion turns wholly on the 
character of the politics which are preached ; for whilst it is clearly 
wrong to preach anti-Bible or unrighteous politics on the Sabbath 
or on any other day, nothing can be clearer than that no day is too 
holy to be used in preaching the politics which are inculcated in the 
Bible. 

It would be hard to put thoughts into plainer words. 
To read them, running, is easy ; yet, from the amount 
of controversy they started, from the letters and leading 
articles, the criticisms and objurgations, the biblical, 
metaphysical, theological, christological effusions that 
deluge the folio pages of the scrap book, one would 
imagine that some problem of unknown depth and dark- 
ness had been thrown down for the confusion of an 
unsophisticated Christendom. And such indeed was the 
case ; for to the believers of that time, as to the believers 
of ours, the mystery of mysteries was the secret of re- 
ligious fellowship. Mr. Smith's plan, — for he was its 
author, formulator and executor — was practical, purely 
and simply practical. The evil he tried to avoid was 
sectarianism ; the good he hoped to secure was moral 



RELIGIOiV. 63 

harmony and cooperation. He wished to detach the 
realm of doctrine, since all could not think alike, and of 
practice too, since all could not reason alike on questions 
of applied ethics, from the realm of desire, aspiration, 
motive, purpose, where all could agree ; where at least, 
their disagreement was beyond dispute. To the ques- 
tions: How are you to know that any particular person 
is a Christian ? How are you to agree in recognizing 
any particular person as a Christian? What is your 
test ? he gave no answer. And he was safe in giving 
none. It was timely to meet such questions when they 
arose. It was not likely that they would arise. None 
but earnest people, Christians at heart, would care to 
connect themselves with a church like this ; and Chris- 
tians at heart, who were sincere in their allegiance to 
Christ, would have no difficulty in clinging together 
when the purpose was to admit none but the most in- 
terior causes of separation. Mr. Smith was not inclined 
to take up the metaphysics of the matter, perhaps he 
was not competent to do it ; whether he was or not, he 
did not care to. Theological dispute was precisely what 
he was determined to avoid. 

Within the circumstances the experiment worked 
reasonably well. The little chapel erected by Mr. 
Smith, about the year 1847, ^^^ ^^^ ^se of the Church of 
Peterboro, was open for that purpose until within two 
years of his death, when failing health, pressing cares 
and the irksomeness of maintaining the interest, almost 
alone, compelled him reluctantly to close its doors. The 
membership had dwindled to a handful, and of this 
handful he was the soul. No change of theological 
views induced him to abandon the enterprise he had 



y2 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

ful imposture is fast drawing to a close. ... I entreat you then, 
in the name of truth and decency, that you no more number your- 
selves with the preachers, but with the betrayers of Jesus Christ ; 
no more with the friends but with the enemies of God ; no more 
with the friends but with the enemies of man ; until you shall 
have repented and have taken your stand by the side of those 
who, in the face of pro-slavery politicians and pro-slavery priests, 
and of devils, are laboring in the strength of their God and of their 
own good cause, to deliver the millions of their enslaved countr}-- 
men.'* 

This is from a letter to Greene C. Bronson — an open 
printed letter, as all these are, — dated Oct. 1 8, 1854. 
" No man's religion is better than his politics. His re- 
ligion is pure whose politics are pure ; whilst his religion 
is rascally whose politics are rascally.** 

This is plain speaking, and the preaching abounded 
in plain speech. But it would be a mistake to suppose 
that it was rude, coarse or violent. Gerrit Smith's ora- 
tory was persuasive ; clear, forcible, correct, but sweet 
and reasonable ; free from logical entanglements and 
asperities ; absolutely free from vituperation. His deep 
human feeling softened his argument, which never had 
the spirit of acrimony, and never took on the air of tri- 
umph. He talked, in a dignified, open, confiding way, 
in the manner of one so full of his purpose, so deeply in 
love with the truth, so profoundly impressed with the 
importance of what he was saying, so sure of its power 
to command the assent of all considerate minds, that the 
extreme boldness of his positions gave no shock even to 
sensitive feelings. The nobleness of his presence, the 
manly grace of his bearing, the kindness of his temper, 
the melodious majesty of his voice, the frankness of his 
concessions, the simplicity of his language, the directness 
of his moral appeal, the burden of emotion that he car- 



RELIGION, 65 

spect and love were entertained for him, as before. The 
church passed resolutions of confidence in — — , and 
desired him to remain with them ; but he, considering 
the question to be a vital one, tendered a final resigna- 
tion, went to New York, and became clerk in a store. 
In June, 1849, ^^^ came to Peterboro and preached in 
the former place. It so happened that at this time he 
served in an establishment in one department of which 
intoxicating drinks were sold. This offence, in Mr. 
Smith's eyes, was exceedingly grave. He protested 
against an apparent and indirect participation of a 
preacher in the demoralizing traffic. A short and sharp 
exchange of letters ensued ; but the controversy did not 
invade the members of the church. At the end of six 
years, the founder of the church was able to give thanks 
that with the single exception of the individual referred 
to, none, since their identification with the " Church 
of Peterboro,'* had been guilty of voting for anti-aboli- 
tionists, or of drinking intoxicating liquors, or of con- 
tributing to the manufacture of them, or of connecting 
themselves with stores or other establishments in which 
the traffic in intoxicating drinks was carried on. 

In the Church of Peterboro the ordinances were ob- 
served — the Lord's Supper, Baptism, the preaching of 
the gospel, the assembling of Christians together, the 
discipline of offending members, the appointment of 
officials, — not, however, as necessary distinctions of a 
Church of Christ, but as ** duties, which could not be in- 
nocently omitted ; *' duties ** the discharge of which is 
among the principal means of giving visibility to the 
church, and of shedding its light upon the world." 

The student of this passage is forced to believe that 

3* 



66 LIFE OF C ERR IT SMITH, 

the " Church of Peterboro *' owed its strength and its 
harmony to Gerrit Smith. But for his dignity and 
sweetness of character, his simplicity, earnestness and 
sincere devoutness, his mental resources and practical 
wisdom, the experiment, instead of lasting thirty years, 
would probably not have endured as many weeks. Some- 
thing no doubt, was due to his commanding wealth and 
social position. But these might have been disqualifica- 
tions in a less noble person. It is too often forgotten, 
that wealth and social position make enemies as well as 
friends ; that one must be himself unconscious of their 
possession, if he w^ould make others unconscious of it ; 
and that none but the truly great because the genuinely 
humble and humane, can reach that unconsciousness. 
The great man of the village might have formed a sect, 
built a church, and made himself a laughing stock- by 
his pious impertinence. The good man of the village, 
the best man of the village, the massiveness of his char- 
acter making his bulk seem- adventitious, planned and 
sustained a religious society on the most radical chris- 
tian principles and made himself respected and beloved, 
most of all by the sincerest and the lowliest. The early 
meetings of the Church of Peterboro were held in a 
room of the hotel.. In 1846, or thereabout, Mr. Smith 
built a plain, inexpensive place of worship, where the 
meetings were held as long as the church continued in 
existence. It was his expectation that this temporary 
structure would be replaced by a worthier one when his 
principle should meet universal acceptance, and secta- 
rian organizations should be abandoned. 

Thus in middle life, in the heart of a severely ortho- 
dox community, himself educated in Calvinistic beliefs 



RELIGION, 67 

and trained in Calvinistic ways, Gerrit Smith clearly saw 
the distinction between substance and form, spirit and 
letter. The next step, to a practical recognition of the 
distinction between religion and theology, was unavoid- 
able. In fact this distinction was already reached. 
Theology was the cause of sectarianism, and therefore, 
indirectly, the cause of indifference to moral reform. 
The first onward movement of the reformer brought him 
in front of the bristling doctrines that defended the 
stronghold of conventional behavior. The temperance 
advocate was confronted at the outset by the recorded 
conduct of Jesus at the marriage feast in Cana, and was 
forced to take issue with the opinion that the example 
of the Christ was good for all time. Being unwilling to 
equivocate, too clear minded to be puzzled or satisfied 
by the chaffer about the probable composition of the 
Saviour's . manufactured beverage ; too sincere to take 
refuge behind the witty repartee that wine made from 
water could harm nobody ; too manly to keep conscience 
waiting in the ante-chamber of christology, he frankly 
said that the action of Jesus on that occasion was no 
model for modern men ; in a word that Jesus, however 
incidentally excusable, was humanly mistaken. The re- 
port of a speech made by Mr. Smith, at a meeting of 
the New York State Temperance Society, at Albany, 
April, 1836, puts into his mouth the following language, 
which is uncorrected in the scrap book: 

" To account for the apostles' use of liquor as a drink, on any 
other ground than the ignorance I have imputed to them, is to make 
them guilty of doing what they must have known it is inexpedient 
to do, and of doing, therefore, what, by the proposition of our oppo- 
nents, * it is morally wrong to do.* If the apostles used intoxicating 
liquor as a beverage, they did so simply because they did not enjoy 



68 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

the light which has revealed to us the uselessness of such a beverage, 
and for us, therefore, to hesitate to pronounce as immoral our use 
of such a liquor as a drink, because the apostles may have made 
such use of it, is utterly unreasonable." 

*' There is something radically wrong, either in our religion or 
our notion of it. I have supposed that our religion is not only suited 
to the apprehensions of faith and of our spiritual perceptions, but 
also responsive to reason and common sense. I have supposed this 
religion to be adapted to man's nature. But there are not a few 
(and among them are those who deny that the use of intoxicating 
liquor as a beverage, and the holding of immortal, blood-bought, 
God-like man in slavery are morally wrong,) who would have us be- 
lieve that the Bible runs counter to the plainest deductions of reason 
and common sense ; for what is plainer than that intoxicating liquor 
is useless, immensely pernicious, and unspeakably ruinous as a drink, 
and that to use it as a drink is therefore morally wrong ? And what 
is plainer than that slavery is an enormous and unequalled outrage 
on great, sacred human rights, against which the very instincts of 
our nature cry out ? Can it be possible that the Bible affords a 
legitimate retreat and hiding place for the rum-maker, rum-seller 
and rum-drinker, and for the guilt-crimsoned slaveholder? It is 
not possible. ..." When the rum drinker goes to the Bible to 
learn whether he may drink rum, and when the slaveholder goes 
there to learn whether he may hold his fellow-men in slavery, they go 
there in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, to make the Bible a 
minister of sin, and to avail themselves of its authority to continue 
in their wickedness." 

In a published letter on temperance, addressed to 
Edward C. Delavan, three years later, 1839, the follow- 
ing language is used to explain the conduct of Jesus: 

•' Save that He was 'without sin,' the man Christ Jesus was like 
other men. As a man He differed from them in holiness only ; not 
in capacity and knowledge. , , • Jesus Christ was not a man 
of science ; the Bible is not a book of science. We are not to go to 
it for scientific instruction, for lessons in astronomy or mechanics or 
physiology. It requires us, however, under fearful penalties for dis- 
obedience, to improve all our* opportunities for acquiring knowledge. 
The Saviour requires us of this favored age, and favored portion of 
the world, to be better astronomers than were He and His cotem- 



RELIGION, 69 

poraries. . . . The question then which we are to put ourselves 
is not whether our personal habits are in all respects like the Sa- 
viour's, but whether we have responded to the concurrent and mutu- 
ally explanatory teachings of the Bible and nature and providence. 
. . . It is our duty to eat and drink what the wisdom of Our age 
pronounces good. If science and observation have settled the fact 
that one particular vegetable is healthful and another injurious, this 
conclusion, and not my palate or my knowledge of Jewish living, is 
to govern my choice between them. So too, if it be settled what 
drinks are and what are not healthful, and this is a point which like 
the other, is to be settled by science and observation, rather than 
by recourse to the habits of the Saviour, I sin if I make the de- 
mands of the palate, however fortified they may be by distinguished 
examples, of paramount authority to the laws of health." 

This common sense strikes at the heart of authority 

as surely as any ** philosophy " does. Mr. Smith does 

not discredit the deity of Christ or the divinity of the 

Bible ; but in Hmiting the supremacy of Christ to the 

sphere of principles and in all human respects judging 

him by natural standards, he, for e very /r^^//^<2/ purpose, 

erects reason and conscience above him ; and in making 

the divinitv of the Bible consist in concurrence with 

natural feeling, he sets its supernatural claims aside. 

To adopt the Bible because it is on one's own side, is to 

reject its authority as effectually as any ** infidelity " 

does. In either case Nature is made the judge of 
Revelation. 

Mr. Smith's habit of preaching politics on Sunday, 
illustrated the completeness of his emancipation from 
traditional views. For the politics he preached were 
live, radical politics, secular, practical, going down to the 
roots and touching all the applications of principle ; and 
he preached them plainly without apology, qualification 
or reserve. In his opinion "the better the day the bet- 
ter the deed." He wished to make politics religious, 



^0 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

and religion political. Bible politics were as dear to his 
heart as bible-temperance and bible-abolition ; and all 
alike occasioned scandal. The question : ** Was Gerrit 
Smith wrong in preaching politics on the Sabbath ?" was 
publicly discussed in Syracuse and other places ; the relig- 
ious papers took it up, and in the tone of condemnation 
invariably. But he persevered, how boldly appears in 
the following extract from an announcement, an example 
of many such. 

LOOK! ! 

According to the public notice which he gave several months ago, 
Gerrit Smith is, Providence permitting, to preach politics in the 
town of Sullivan, Sunday, October 15th, 1843. The friends of the 
slave in that town having referred it to him to designate the place of 
the meeting, he has concluded that Bridgeport is the most suitable 
place for it. One of the considerations which brought him to this 
conclusion, is that he has never yet plead the cause of the slave in 
the north part of Sullivan. 

Mr. Smith, besides speaking se\'eral hours at Bridgeport, must 
travel twenty-four miles to get there. Will not the friends of the 
slave in every part of Sullivan go to the pains of meeting him there ? 

May thousands of people come to Bridgeport to hear Mr. Smith's 
kind of politics ; not the kind that binds millions of his countrymen 
in the chains of slavery, but the Bible kind, the kind that requires 
civil government to " deliver the needy when he crieth, the poor also, 
and him that hath no helper." Mr. Smith would like to see on that 
occasion some of those sham ministers, who are afraid that they 
would lose the public favor and their salaries, if they should preach 
Bible politics ; and who are not only guilty of conniving at, but even 
of voting for pro-slavery politics. 

Mr. Smith is to preach politics in De Ruyter, 8th inst ; in Leb- 
anon, 22d inst., and in Georgetown, 29th instant. October 3, 1843. 

The sharpness of the fire that was opened on him, 
may be judged in part by the sharpness of his return 
volleys. This is from a letter written to Mr. Bailey of 
the ** Liberty Press," in August, 1842 : 



RELIGION, 71 

" J presume, that in the mighty contest between freedom and 
oppression that is now going on in this county, there will not be 
found ten men in all the village of Hamilton, of sufficient philan- 
thropy and courage to vote for the slave. If I am told that they 
have notwithstanding, much religion, I reply that it is their religion 
from which we have most to fear. It is their religion which has 
suffocated their humanity. Could we substitute for that religion the 
religion which dwells in the pitiful heart of Jesus, or could we sub- 
stitute for it even blank infidelity, the anti-slavery cause would quickly 
be crowned with triumph even in the village of Hamilton. 

" How little I thought, when, many years ago, I was in the habit 
of giving money to this, that and the other theological seminary and 
college, that I was thereby contributing to place the mightiest ob- 
stacle in the way of the cause of liberty and religion. Look for in- 
stance at the college where I was educated, and to which I once 
loved to give thousands of dollars. In my gayest moments the 
thought of Hamilton College brings sadness over me. 

This is the same college whose faculty humbled themselves so 
far as to beg pardon of a pro-slavery legislature for the prevalence of 
anti-slavery sentiments amongst their students. And the churches 
which I have helped build, are not a few of them, the enemies of 
the slave, and of course of the true religion." 

The following is from a letter addressed in the same 
month of the same year, " To the pro-slavery Ministers 
of the County of Madison.** 

" My declaration that I am willing to spend my Sabbaths in plead- 
ing for God's enslaved poor, has proved an occasion for a new and 
rich display of your pro-slavery and pharisaism. You are warning 
the people in your respective cages not to hear me " preach politics " 
on the Sabbath, that is, not to hear me explain how wicked and 
murderous is your pro-slavery voting. . . . You have influence 
enough with your trustees and deacons and elders, to get them to 
refuse me the use of the churches under their control. But, thus 
far, the skies have favored us ; and beneath the grateful shelter of 
Cod-made trees, we have felt no need of man-made houses. . . 
The extent to which you presume on the ignorance and stupidity of 
the people is amazing. . . . You rely very much on your sly 
and sanctimonious manner of slipping in your pro-slavery votes to 
exempt you from detection and censure. But the people are waking 
up to your disgusting and abhorrent wickedness ; and your success- 



72 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

ful imposture is fast drawing to a close. ... I entreat you then, 
in the name of truth and decency, that you no more number your- 
selves with the preachers, but with the betrayers of Jesus Christ ; 
no more with the friends but with the enemies of God ; no more 
with the friends but with the enemies of man ; until you shall 
have repented and have taken your stand by the side of those 
who. in the face of pro-slavery politicians and pro-slavery priests, 
and of devils, are laboring in the strength of their God and of their 
own good cause, to deliver the millions of their enslaved countr)'- 
men." 

This is from a letter to Greene C. Bronson — an open 
printed letter, as all these are, — dated Oct. i8, 1854. 
" No man's religion is better than his politics. His re- 
ligion is pure whose politics are pure ; whilst his religion 
is rascally whose politics are rascally." 

This is plain speaking, and the preaching abounded 
in plain speech. But it would be a mistake to suppose 
that it was rude, coarse or violent. Gerrit Smith's ora- 
tory was persuasive ; clear, forcible, correct, but Sweet 
and reasonable ; free from logical entanglements and 
asperities ; absolutely free from vituperation. His deep 
human feeling softened his argument, which never had 
the spirit of acrimony, and never took on the air of tri- 
umph. He talkedy in a dignified, open, confiding way, 
in the manner of one so full of his purpose, so deeply in 
love with the truth, so profoundly impressed wij 
importance of what he was saying, so sun 
to command the assent of all considerate n* 
extreme boldness of his positions gave r 
sensitive feelings. The nobleness 
manly grace of his bearing, the 
the melodious majesty of his vo 
concessions, the simplicity of b* 
of his moral appeal, the bur 





RELIGION. 73 

ried, the practical drift of his aim, which betrayed no 
sign of the forensic gladiator, gave an apostolic character 
to his address. There was no rhetoric for the sake of 
rhetoric ; the impassioned bursts of eloquence came not 
from the lips, but from the heart ; the large stores of in- 
tellectual power were made tributary to the soul. He 
was no fanatic, understanding by fanatic, a man of dark, 
morbid, lurid, despotic and destructive temper, a hater 
of evil rather than a lover of good, a missionary of the 
gospel of Fear ; — he was an enthusiast, hopeful, benevo- 
lent, sunny, expansive, nourishing, an ardent disciple of 
peace and good will, a hearty believer in the substantial 
rectitude of human nature, a prophet of the new and bet- 
ter age. So far from being a doctrinaire was he, that he 
never formulated his opinions, but allowed inconsistent 
thoughts to lie about in his mind ready for use, and 
seemed impatient of the philosophy that demanded a 
severe harmony among the different elements of his 
creed. 

To such a man theology was an object of grave sus- 
picion, as interposing a dogmatic barrier between the 
human heart and the divine principles it lived on, and 
preventing the truth from exerting its rightful authority 
over mankind. It was not the separate article in the 
creed that outraged him so much as the dogmatic char- 
acter of the creed itself. The separate article might or 
might not be true ; — that was not in question, or was 
but incidentally in question ; he left all that to the Bible 
interpreter. The point at issue was, whether any article 
or body of articles was entitled to stand in the place of 
religion ; whether belief in them could be considered 
primary ; whether acceptance of them constituted one a 
4 



74 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

religious man, or was worth counting in the estimate of 
a reb'gious man ; whether the interest in them did not 
rather detract from the value of the religious character, 
and whether the stress laid upon them did not hinder 
progress in the religious life. His suspicions and his 
assaults were directed against the theological, ecclesias- 
tical and clerical spirit^ as leading, to sectarianism, dog- 
matism, assumption, intolerance, party pride and moral 
indifference. 

The hostile feeling towards theology began early and 
increased steadily for many years ; but its outbreak was 
later. What point it reached at last may be inferred 
from the headings of an open letter to William Lloyd 
Garrison, printed in 1865. 

The Theologies the great Enemies of Re- 
ligion. 

The Theologies the great Hindrances to 
Justice and Reform. 

The Theologies the great Curse of Mankind. 

The letter begins with a strong statement of the case 
of Jonathan Edwards, " an unqualified, an unmitigated, 
unrelenting slaveholder,*' and asks how this can be ex- 
plained of a man so learned, deep and conscientious. 
The answer is that, ** his theology called for or permitted 
the relation, and with him the claims were paramount 
to all other claims.'* The letter continues : — " But it 
will be asked, what shall we do with religion, if we throw 
away the theologies ? I answer that they never were 
religion, nor any part of it ; and that they never stood 
in any other relation to it than that of its greatest hin- 
derance and mightiest enemy. Were the theologies of 
the whole world cast aside, the religion of reason and 




Inry of God." It is true that men 
on descend very low ; but their de- 

When Jesus bids us talte up our 

:i,Hure, but only its corruptions, or 

liie place of nature. He requires 

vctum from deserting- our nature 

!■.• born again into that loving nnd 

so widely and foolishly forsaken, 

's from whence our sins and, may 

, lind carried us so far downward ; 

■n he calls for. But who should 

i be accomplished without the 

;;ch we would fain believe are 

'. 'd throughout His universe ? 

■nidation of our religion. But 

■ iaiion? None whatever. And 

. of incalculable value. For, 

1, because they are revolting 

■,o religion, should not have 

i;i.irison, the best of books. 

. arc the lessons that help us 

'indation. And do I make 

on? None at all. Never- 

upon it. I gratefully and 

!iuilder. I often see him 

category with Confucius, 

But he is a teacher so 

jat he should never be 

other teacher so taught 

:irid spiritual character 

■ I's moral and spiritu.tl 

'. may it be said of him 

■.hat he is even "God 

^nt teacher though he 

taught the spirit and 

iiiiis of the one un- 

. Until human nature 

How emphatically 

n.nlure to understand 

:■> the people: "Yea, 

is right ? " Repeat- 



76 LIFE OF GEKRIT SMITH, 

before specifying them, it may be wise to give his gen- 
eral idea of religion as set down in argument delivered 
at a meeting of Liberal Christians held in Canastota, 
Oct. 27. 1869. 

Nothing short of religion can satisfy the demands of our being. But 
is nature sufficient to teach and illustrate religion ? Undoubtedly, 
we should find it so if, instead of having become so unnatural, we 
were still natural. All that religion requires of us is obedience to 
the laws of nature. To be perfect in this obedience is to be perfect 
in religion. Nature reveals religion to us ; and religion, in turn, bids 
us be true to nature ; and exacts nothing else from us than to be 
natural. But these mistaken religions, of which we have been speak- 
ing, have ever disparaged nature, and ever made war upon it. 
Some of them fight it on Shaker planes, and some of them fight it 
on Mormon planes. Some of them crucify it, and some of them 
plead its sacred name for all manner of licentiousness and excess. 
Devotees of some of these religions lacerate and macerate and mu- 
tilate themselves. With most religionists fasting is regarded as a 
high merit. Nevertheless, no fasting is meritorious, nor less than 
positively sinful which brings harm to the body. Nature protests as 
earnestly against wronging one as another of the elements or constit- 
uents of our being. There is no part of it that she does not sacredly 
cherish, and she will accept no plea for benefiting either the under- 
standing or the heart, if the benefiting is to be at the expense of the 
physical health. The religion which sings : 

*' Nature must count her gold but dross, 
If she would gain the heavenly land," 

fancies herself to have sprung from the wisdom of heaven — never- 
theless, she is born of the fanaticisms of earth. Such a religion, irv 
its representing nature to be the enemy of man, necessarily repre- 
sents it to be, also, the enemy of God. But nature, being the work 
of God is (unless like man it has fallen away from Him) the friend 
of God, and can, therefore, be no hindrance to His designs and pro- 
visions for the onward and upward way of His children. More than 
all this, the position that nature is at war with man involves the 
absurdity that God is at war with Himself. 

In this connection let me say, that people should stop talking 
about man's lawer nature. He has no lower nature. His nature is 
all high, since whatever he does with it, even eating or drinking, he 



RELIGIOK 77 

can and should "do all to the glory of God." It is true that men 
forsake their high nature, and often descend very low ; but their de- 
partures from it and their violations of it are anti-nature, and must 
not be confounded with nature. When Jesus bids us take up our 
cross, he bids us crucify not our nature, but only its corruptions, or 
rather that which we have put in the place of nature. He requires 
in this nothing else than that we return from deserting our nature 
and consent to abide in it. To be born again into that loving and. 
beautiful nature which we have so widely and foolishly forsaken, 
and to get up again to those heights from whence our sins and, may 
be, the sins of our progenitors also, had carried us so far downward ; 
this, and this only is the regeneration he calls for. But who should 
wonder, if such a new birth cannot be accomplished without the 
help of those blessed influences, which we would fain believe are 
forever flowing from the bosom of God throughout His universe } 

I have argued that nature is the foundation of our religion. But 
do I give the Bible no place in this foundation } None whatever. And 
is, then, the Bible of no value } It is of incalculable value. For, 
notwithstanding the things in it, which, because they are revolting 
to reason and nature, and, therefore to religion, should not have 
been put into it, it is, beyond all comparison, the best of books. 
Here, far more than in all other books, are the lessons that help us 
build up the true religion on the true foundation. And do I make 
no account of Jesus either in this foundation ? None at all. Never- 
theless, in respect to the superstructure upon it, I gratefully and 
lovingly recognize him to be the master builder. I often see him 
put by radical religionists into the same category with Confucius, 
Socrates, Plato and other eminent teachers. But he is a teacher so 
immeasurably above all other teachers, that he should never be 
classed with any of them. Never was there other teacher so taught 
of God. Never other teacher, whose moral and spiritual character 
so far realizes our highest conceptions of God's moral and spiritual 
character. In respect to such character, well may it be said of him 
that he is filled with his Father's fulness — that he is even *• God 
manifest in the flesh." Nevertheless, preeminent teacher though he 
is, he did not teach a new religion. He but taught the spirit and 
principles and commended and urged the claims of the one un- 
changeable and everlasting religion of nature. Until human nature 
is changed, its religion cannot be changed. How emphatically 
Jesus recognized the competency of human nature to understand 
the religion of human nature, when he said to the people : " Yea, 
and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right ? " Repeat- 



78 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

edly, when he would prove to his disciples the loving and unlimited 
beneficence of God, he goes straight to the teachings of nature. He 
inculcates upon them the duty of being good to all by calling their 
attention to some fact in nature, which goes to prove that God\s 
good to all ; such a fact, for instance, as that sunlight comes to the 
evil and the good, and showers fall upon the just and unjust. And 
it is in connection with his citing this proof in nature of God's im- 
partial goodness, that he reminds them that such goodness on their 
part is one of the ways for them to become perfect even as their Father 
in heaven is perfect. When, too, he would relieve them of anxious care 
for their food and clothing, he again draws from nature the lessons 
they need. He bids them " consider the* ravens and the lilies," and 
to derive from God's feeding and clothing them, the irresistible in- 
ference that he has not failed to put food and clothes within the 
reach of His children, of His own sons and daughters, who are so- 
much *• better," of so much more importance, than fowls and 
flowers. 

There are other and very beautiful recognitions in the Bible, that 
nature teaches the existence and character of God. " The heavens 
declare the glory of God ; and the firmament showeth His handi- 
work." Creation teaches "even His eternal power and godhead, sa 
that they are without excuse," who do not know Him. " The eyes 
of all wait upon Thee : and Thou givest them their meat in due sea- 
son. Thou openest Thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of eveiy 
living thing." 

Miserable world has this ever been because of the conventional 
religions which have ever prevailed in it ! Every religion is conven- 
tional, contemptibly conventional, that overrides reason with au- 
thority and finds its foundation in books or anything else than nature. 
The hanging and burning of innocent women charged with witch- 
craft ; the burning of the intellectual, pure and brave Servetus, at 
the especial instance of the learned but bigoted Calvin ; the Inquisi- 
tion with its three or four hundred thousand victims — all these came 
from ignorantly and superstitiously substituting for the study and 
guidance of unerring nature, misleading books and traditions — in 
other phrase, from substituting man's words for God's words. The 
slaveholding religion, which, so long, ruled our land, was a conven- 
tional or authority religion — not a natural one. For nature makes 
infinitely broad the difference between man and beast, and abhors to 
the last degree the making merchandise of man. Nature could 
never be twisted into the approval of such a religion. Books and 
traditions easily can be. So too, the rum religion which now rules- 



RELIGION, 79 

our land, drenching it with tears and blood, defies and outrages na- 
ture, instead of falling in with it. Her bosom is exuberant to the 
end that food may not be scarce to the mouths of the poor. But the 
rum religion starves the poor. No small share of its professors, in 
additi'on to casting their votes on the side of the dram-shop, yield up 
the products of their fields to the demands of that devourer and 
murderer. And such professors, along with other professors, who 
are steeped in various other iniquities, flatter themselves that they 
are Christians; and find, as they believe, justification in their authori- 
tative books and traditions for stigmatizing as infidels those who 
hold reHgion to be a life rather than a letter, and character instead 
of creeds to be its supreme test. 

An authority religion, heeding none of the remonstrances of 
reason and closing its ears to all pleas for mercy ; its bigoted disciples 
with their huge quivers filled with arrows of all manner of persecu- 
tions ; and its fanatical and frenzied disciples striding over the earth, 
with fire and sword — such is the religion that has ever been the 
great scourge of mankind. But Christendom is confident that it will 
never again see such within her borders. Groundless confidence ! 
Only let the progress of science be arrested, and the lights, which it, 
far more than authority religion, has kindled along the upward way 
of our civilization, become dim and, very soon, in all the length and 
breadth of Christendom, would the civil government again become 
subordinate to the ecclesiastical ; and, here and there, inquisitions, 
autO'de-fes, martyr-stakes, and burnings and hangings for witchcraft 
and other fanciful crimes would re-appear. We often hear it said 
that the church saves the world. This would be well said were the 
religion of the church founded in nature — but, as the case stands, 
the common sense and science in the world are needed to save both 
the world and the church. The particular authority religion, which 
would work this sad change in Christendom to which I have re- 
ferred, might be the Catholic or Presbyterian or Methodist or some 
other. That it would be mainly accomplished by one of the sects, 
can hardly be doubted, since, in the retrograding of science, and the 
deepening darkness of ignorance, one of the sects would be like to 
swallow up all the others. That the present sectarian religions of 
Christendom have not absolute sway over her is because, instead of 
being one with each other, they are all more or less antagonistic to 
each other. Infinite debtor to science is Christendom, if it be only 
that from the freedom of opinion, which science has obtained for 
her, so great a multiplication of religious sects has resulted. Admit 
I hat this multiplication is in itself a great evil. Nevertheless, it has 



8o LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

protected her from an immeasurably greater evil — from the over- 
shadowing despotism of some single, dominant, all-absorbing sect. 
But however true it is, that the freedom of opinion, begotten of sci- 
ence, has led to the multiplying of the types and sects of this au- 
thority or book religion, it must not be forgotten that such religion 
and science are the enemies of each other. Is this mutual enmity 
denied ? — and denied on the ground that sectarian churches abound 
where there is most science ? The answer is that such of these 
churches as are most imbued with science, are the least bound by 
an authority religion and are first to throw it off entirely. It is not 
possible that science can be on good terms with any other religion 
than that of nature and reason." 

Mr. Smith's conception of the reh'gion of Jesus is 
thus expressed in the " Discourses.' 



>> 



** The religion which Jesus so perfectly illustrated with His lips 
and life was no other than the religion of reason — that one and only 
true religion which is adapted to all ages and to all peoples, and 
which stands opposed to all those fabrications of the cunning, and 
all those superstitions of the credulous, which are called religion. 
These fabrications and superstitions, and in short, every other re- 
ligion than that of reason, Jesus confronted. No cabalism or mysti- 
cism found any favor with Him. The religion He taught was so 
obviously true as to make its appeal to natural sense and universal 
intuition. So simple was it that He found no occasion for sending 
men to books and priests to acquire an understanding of it. On the 
contrary. He put them upon their ovm convictions for the solution 
of its problems and asked them : * Why even of yourselves judge ye 
not what is right? ' He found reason outraged by monstrous claims 
in the name of religion ; and the one work of His ministry — the one 
work which, amid all the storms of passion and prejudice and bigotry 
He pursued so unfalteringly and calmly and sublimely — was to rees- 
tablish the dominion of reason. He found common-sense reduced 
to a ruinous discount by its concessions to religious tricks and fool- 
eries ; and He undertook to restore it to par. Such was then and is 
now the whole of the religion of Jesus. It is a common-sense re- 
ligion. Wide as is its realm, it is but commensurate with common- 
sense and one with it. To bring the whole man and the whole life 
under the reign of reason is its sole office. The true religion is 
nothing more or less than a * reasonable service,' and wherever there 
is the most reasonable man, there is the most truly religious man. 



RELIGION, 8 1 

■ 

We deny that Jesus made faith in certain doctrines essential to 
salvation, nor is it true that He made faith in His literal self thus 
essential. What He means bv faith in Himself is faith in the Christ 
principle and Christ character. Hence, salvation may come to him 
who has never heard of Christ. Cordially to believe in that principle 
of divine goodness, and truly to possess the character which grows 
out of this cordial belief, is the sufficient, ay, and the sole salvation." 

The special opinions held under this general con- 
ception need not be dwelt on. It will be enough to 
indicate them in the writer's own language. 

*' For one I would have the friends baptized with water and in 
the manner in which He was. For one I would have them partake 
of His appointed supper, and around a table, and with conversation 
as did He and His disciples. For one, I would have them observe a 
Sabbath, and choose for it the same day of the week which He and 
His disciples did. Even in things which are counted unessential, it 
is safer and happier to walk in His steps than to depart from them." 

Bible Men. 

" It is charged that we are not Bible men. I admit that we are 
not any further than we live according to its great and everlasting 
principles. They are Bible men whose lives are in harmony with 
those principles ; not they who trample upon them, at the same time 
that they make great merit of their pretended or imagined faith 
in the Bible." 

Messiah. 

" Jesus believed not only that the Jewish nation would within a 
few years be overwhelmed and scattered, but that ' then would His 
kingdom be set up and with power and great glory.' The temple. 
Jerusalem, and Judea, did all meet their fate before the generation 
to which Jesus spoke had passed away. But His kingdom has not 
yet been set up, nor have the signs appeared which were to precede 
it. . . . In Matthew xxv. are we not informed of the reward of 
those Jews who welcomed the ministry of Christ and of the punish- 
ment of those Jews who rejected it — especially of the reward of 
those who, during His expected brief disappearance from earth, 
should honor His disciples — even 'the least * of them — and the pun- 
ishment of those who, during that brief period, should neglect those 
disciples — even ' the least ' of them } It is true that the word is 



82 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

translated * nations,' but it is also true that * nations * is not among 
the primary meanings, and that * multitudes,' * companies,' * tribes ' 
are. In the light of Matt. xix. 28, do we not see some evidence 
that * tribes ' would be a proper translation, and that the judgment 
in view was not to be of * all nations/ but only of all the Jewish 
tribes r 

Atonement. 

** It is said that nature and the history of man abound in analo- 
gies to the atonement. I can not admit that any such analogies are 
to be found in either. It is true that oftentimes the guiltless suffer 
for the guilty — now of necessity and now of choice. But in no case 
is there a transference of character from one to the other. The 
guilty party remains no less guilty, and the guiltless party contracts 
no guilt literal or constructive. Remember too, that the human 
sense of justice revolts at visiting on the good man the penalty due 
to the bad man — a strong argument by the way, that the Divine 
sense does also." 

Hell. 

" Eternal hell ! No man does and no man can believe it. It is 
untrue if only because human nature is incapable of believing it. 
Moreover, were such a belief possible, it would be fatal. Let the 
American people wake up with it to-morrow, and none of them 
would go to their fields, and none to their shops, and none would 
care for their homes. All interest in the things of earth would be 
dead. The whole nation would be struck with paralysis and frozen 
with horror. Even the beginnings of such a belief are too much for 
the safety of the brain ; and every step in that direction is a step 
towards the mad-house. The orthodox preacher of an eternal hell 
would himself go crazy did he believe his own preaching." 

Bible. 

" The Bible is really the best book in the world ; though the 
present uses of it make it practically the worst. All other books 
put together are not, so much as the Bible is, the occasion of ob- 
structing the progress of civilization, and of filling the world with 
ignorance and superstition. It is adapted as no other book is, to 
enrich the mind and expand the soul. But misapprehended, misin- 
terpreted, and perverted to the extent it is, no other book, — nay, no 
number of books — does so much to darken the mind and shrivel the 



RELIGION, 83 



Depravity. 

** Radical must be the change in our fallen and depraved nature, 
ere a thorough and gospel honesty can characterize us. I S2c^ fallen 
nature. Let me remark that I do not entertain the common views 
of this subject. Owing to ancestral violations of moral as well as 
physical and intellectual laws, we inherit a constitution morally as 
well as physically and intellectually impaired. This is all I mean 
by a fallen nature, adding thereto what we may ourselves have 
done to degrade it." 

Prayer. 



• " The doctrine of Divine influence admitted, there are prayers 
which all will see to be reasonable ; such as are in effect prayers 
for the opening of the mind to that influence. Do I pray for an in- 
crease of my physical or spiritual health ? If I pray intelligently, it 
is not that God may increase it, but that He may influence me to in- 
crease it by my improvement of the means to that end placed by His 
providence within my reach. In other words it is asking Him to dis- 
pose me to answer my own prayers ;"and surely this is not ignoring 
any general laws with which we are acquainted ; nor is it asking 
Him to come into conflict with them. ... A law is not^mpos- 
sible, which, the conditions precedent being supplied, shall compel 
even the sun and moon to stand still in answer to prayer. I confess 
that it is not for man to limit the Divine possibilities, nor to essay to 
number and comprehend all the laws of the universe. . . 1 will 
say nothing here of * special providences ' except that, if they do occur, 
they must be the result of the unchangeable and eternal laws of the 
unchangeable and eternal God." 

Miracles. 

** To be frank, I suppose that all enlightened and broad-minded 
men do at least doubt the truth of miracles. They have never seen 
any, and hence they are slow to yield to even abounding testimony 
in their behalf. Had they ever seen so much as one miracle, they 
could easily be brought to believe in others, on the same principle 
that, having seen one city, men can be persuaded of the existence of 
others. Moreover, it is especially difficult for him to believe in the 
Christian miracles who reflects that Christianity has done more than 
all things else to dispel belief in miracles." 



92 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

life as it was at the outset of his career, — and along 
with it he had a confidence in his own sentiments and 
moral convictions that no authority of state or church 
could shake. A rare combination of child and hero, he 
never failed to meet the requirements of either charac- 
ter, yet neither excluded or seemed to exclude the 
other ; the hero never forgot to be a child, the child 
was ready for any heroism. His perpetual sense of 
responsibility kept him simple, humble and meek. His 
perpetual feeling of duty kept him braced for action. 
The conviction that he was " nothing " did not impair 
the conviction that he was accountable for unusual 
trusts. Nothing could be more absolutely free from 
self-consciousness than his private journal. It contains 
not a single morbid sentence. He was accused of ego- 
tism, perhaps justly. But the egotism is more than 
justified that counteracts the disabling effects of an 
unusually deep passive piety, and gives the requisite 
self-assertion to a nature that without it, might easily 
have lapsed into lethargy or luxury of soul. 

A Methodist clerofvman, who knew Mr. Smith in his 
declining months, and learned thus late to know him as 
something very different from the ** infidel " he had 
heard of — implores the writer, who had known him and 
about him for twenty years, not to erect a mere ** literary 
monument '* to his memory, but to do justice to his 
spirit of loving faith. The admonition is unnecessary. 
The biographer could not, if he would, build a literary 
monument to one who was in no sense a literary man. 
Gerrit Smith's piety of thought and feeling was too large 
a part of him to be left out of account, even by a literary 
artist. But it may be permitted the biographer to re- 



RELIGION, 85 

wife forbade other than playful criticism of it. His own 

habitual insensibility to the claims of the hereafter was 

» 

confessed in the remark m^ide to a friend that he had 
not quite made up his mind whether he had a soul or 
no. His interest in character was vital to the last, and 
made up for all other interests. 

Revivals. 

*• We believe in revivals of true religion and rejoice in them. 
But we confess that of revivals in general we are ver)' suspicious. 
And why should we not be ? It is true that they serve to fill up the 
churches ; but do they increase the sum total of humanity, and holi- 
ness and happiness } The revival of last year was preeminent for 
extent and commended character. But I am yet to be convinced 
that it has proved a public blessing, through the length and breadth 
of our State. Is not sectarian and party spirit, that power so 
mighty to shrivel and sink the soul, as rampant as ever.^ Was 
there ever a year in which the use of tobacco increased faster, or in 
which there was a more rapid multiplication of dram-shops ? In no 
year among the last thirty has so little interest been taken in the 
cause of temperance. Indeed, at the last election its professed 
friends seemed to delight in pouring contempt upon it. And, al- 
though there is still much talk (part sincere and part hypocritical, 
and nearly all nonsensical) against the extension of slavery, yet has 
there never been a year since the dauntless young hero, William 
Lloyd Garrison, first summoned the nation to abolish it, in which 
has been evinced so little purpose to abolish it.'* 

Creeds. 



*' A religious creed is proper. Every man shbuld have one. 
But a church creed is improper. Fifty^ or a hundred people in Pe- 
terboro or Cazenovia, however much alike in views or spirit, should 
no more be required to adopt a common religious creed, than to 
shorten or stretch out their bodies to a common length." 

The Clerical Order. 

'* Many clergymen are among the best of men. Nevertheless 
such an order is wholly unauthorized, and exceedingly pernicious. 
Their assumption of an exclusive right to teach religion makes the 



86 LIFE Of gerrit smith, 

teachers conceited, dogmatic, arrogant, tyrannical ; and their hearers 
lazy and slavish in spirit. . . Every true Church of Christ is a 
sirople democracy. Its ordinary asseml^lies should be mere con- 
ferences, in which all persons, male or female, are to feel entirely 
free to speak as the spirit moves them. Faith in Christ is the war- 
rant to speak for Christ. . . But in addition to this means of 
grace, and growth within themselves, the collective churches should 
have and should liberally support a powerful itinerant ministry. 
The Pauls and Barnabaces of modern times should travel among 
the churches as did the Pauls and Barnabases of ancient times. 
The obscurest countiy church should be favored as often as every 
month or two with a discourse from a Finney, a Beecher, a Lucretia 
Mott, an Angelina Weld, a Chapin, a Parker, a Beriah Green, an 
Alonzo Potter, or an Abram Pryne." 

Reason and Religion. 

" It is true that the reason of most men is greatly per\'erted. It 
is true that in innumerable instances it is reduced to little better 
than a compound of passion and prejudice ; — or to speak with per- 
haps more philosophical correctness, such a compound is allowed to 
take the place of reason. Nevertheless, reason, poor guide though 
we may make it, is our only legitimate guide. It may lead us to 
ruin. Still we are not able to give it up for any other leader ; no, 
not for church, nor pope, nor Bible. If we have debased and cor- 
rupted our reason, we alone^ are responsible for the wrong, and we 
alone must bear the loss. We cannot cancel our obligations by our 
crimes. . . But is reason sufficient for all these things ? It is. 
Not however unless the Divine influence on it be unceasing. Man, 
as much as the planet, needs to be set in motion and kept in motion 
by God. Vain is an enlightened reason unless there be also the 
God-given spirit of submission to its control. Vain is it that man 
is made with ability to will and to do, unless he allow his Maker to 
work in him to will and to do." 

It is unnecessary to multiply quotations ; it is un- 
necessary to explain. Mr. Smith's thoughts are simply 
expressed so that no attentive reader can fail to compre- 
hend their drift and reach. The discourses are scarcely 
more than notes, — the comments of an acute, clear, 
practical mind, quite free in its movement over the spec- 



RELIGION. 87 

illative field. They are loosely put together and not al- 
ways carefully reconciled in their parts. They make no 
claim to learning, depth, critical accomplishment, or 
philosophical exactness. They are certainly open to 
criticism on several sides. Men like Beriah Green and 
William Goodell had no difficulty in finding the weak 
places in these popular statements. Mr. Smith's method 
was that of common sense ; and common sense, how- 
ever potent as a guide through the labyrinth of practical 
details, is at fault in the region of criticism and spec- 
ulation. But the observations we have quoted are 
wonderfully shrewd ; here and there they anticipate 
by sheer strength of reason, results which criticism 
has only recently obtained, though the wTiter does not 
sufficiently define his terms for scientific purposes, his 
main intention is so evident, his purpose is so honest, 
his conclusions are so broad, that only they who 
are determined to misrepresent can fail- to under- 
stand him. 

There is no good reason for thinking that Gerrit 
Smith ever abandoned or even to the last modified his 
theological opinions, though there may be good rea- 
sons for thinking that he made less account of them in 
his latter days. In fact, he foresaw that he should ; 
and he foresaw that his orthodox opponents would take 
advantage of this diminished interest, to declare that he 
retracted his opinions. Hence he was mindful to say to 
members of his family and others, that his views were 
the result of honest inquiry; and he begged them to re- 
' member his words, that however, in later life, as his in- 
tellect might weaken and his feeling increase, he might 
seem to abandon the beliefs he had promulgated, they 



88 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

were nevertheless, his serious and fixed convictions, the 
conclusions of his mind at its strongest. 

It must, however, be said that his theological opin- 
ions seem never to have affected the tone of his religious 
feeling or spiritual conviction. With him the heart 
was always uppermost, though, as is usual with men as 
they age, the heart increased in vigor whilst the intellect 
declined in activity. The discourses themselves contain 
expressions that show that he was substantially, as far 
2iS feelings went, orthodox, and during the last ten years 
of his life, feeling became more and more prevailing. It 
is quite possible that he lost interest in theological 
speculations, even to the extent of advising friends not 
to read his discourses of Reason. This would not be at 
all inconsistent with his entertaining these views and 
promulgating them. Nay, it may be that some unwil- 
lingness in latter years to distribute his publications on 
the doctrines of the creeds arose in part from an opinion 
of their crudeness and inadequacy to convey his 
thoughts in a systematic and effective form. At all 
events it is certain from the following facts that within a 
few months of his death, his interest in the cause of 
reasonable religion continued. He was near seventy 
when he wrote the following note to the Boston ** In- 
vestigator," the well known organ of what is called 
'' infidelity.' 



»» 

Peterboro, Oct, 36, 1866. 



Mr. J. P. Mendum : 

Dear Sir, — Your paper has been sent to me for several months, 
I now wish to subscribe for it. Enclosed are seven dollars to pay 
for two years' subscription. 

1 was brought up to look only at one side — my side. Hence I 
entered upon my manhood a political and a religious bigot. But, 
for more than the latter half of my life, I have trained myself to look 



RELIGION, . 89 

at all sides and to seek knowledge from all sides. Hence, badly as 
most people think of your paper, I nevertheless read it ; and what is 
more, 1 think I read it with profit. 

Respectfully Yours, 

Gerrit Smith. 

Mr. Smith was a subscriber to the " Index,*' a week- 
ly paper devoted in general to the cause of religious 
emancipation, specially devoted to the complete separa- 
tion of religion from the State, and opposed to ** Chris- 
tianity *' as a system of intellectual oppression. In 1873 
— May I, he wrote a remarkable letter to his kinsman. 
Doctor Fitzhugh, of Livingston County, N. Y. It be- 
gan thus : 

" You like * The Index.' So do I. Its vigorous reasonings and 
its beautiful candor and fairness make it a very attractive and useful 
paper. Its leading position, however, — that Christianity is not the 
true and ultimate religion and that our duty is to stand outside of it, 
— I cannot, as yet, fall in with." 

Then follows a restatement which it is unnecessary 
to copy, of his vindication of Christianity on the ground 
of its identity with the religion of reason and nature. 
In conclusion he says: 

** Perhaps I have done wrong to ' The Index.* For perhaps I have 
unduly magnified the difference between it and myself. This differ- 
ence may be wholly in our definitions of Christianity. My definition 
does not include its unchristian mixtures. But * The Index ' includes 
them all in its definition and holds Christ's religion responsible for 
them all. Were its definition just, there would be no ground to 
complain of its war upon Christianity. But in my view it is exceed- 
ingly though unintentionally unjust. Christianity is what its con- 
structive principles are. It is what these always and everywhere call 
for, — nothing more, nothing less. If they call for any moral wrong, 
then Christianity is wrong, otherwise not. These principles deter- 
mine its theoretical scope and practical character ; and it is unrea- 
sonable to hold it responsible for anything which violates them. It 



90 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

is true that Jesus said somethingr more than sufficed to enunciate 
these principles, — but it was only to illustrate and explain them. It 
was certainly not to overthrow nor invalidate them. In other 
words it is not supposable that Jesus should speak against the tenor 
of the religion He taught, — against the principles of His own 
religion." 

In 1872, Mr. Smith accepted the position of vice- 
president of the ** Fre^ Rehgious Association," which 
was offered to him as being one of the foremost cham- 
pions in the country of the principles it asserted. In 
1871, he had been a sympathetic participant in the dis- 
cussions held at a convention of the association in Syra- 
cuse. That his interest was unabated in 1873, appears 
from the following note addressed to the secretary of 
the association : 

Sept 30, 1S73. 

William J. Potter : 

My Dear Sir, — I have your esteemed letter. The request that 
I preside over the approaching convention of the Free Religious As- 
sociation, does me great honor. But I am too old (76) and infirm to 
serve in this capacity, and your committee must therefore excuse me. 
Allow me to avail myself of this occasion to say that my confidence 
in the association continues unabated. It cannot fail to be eminently 
useful so long as it shall continue to be characterized by its candid 
and earnest seeking after truth. Moreover the promise *' seek and 
ye shall find " is to just this kind of seeking. Please use the en- 
closed in defraying the expenses of the convention. With great 
regard your friend, Gerrit Smith. 

It was Mr. Smith's custom, when passing an occa- 
sional Sunday in New York, to attend the religious 
service of the president of this very ** Free Religious 
Association.*' 

Must we charge with inconsistency the man who 
was thus faithful to two interests so widely separated 
in the common mind, as those of religion and reason.^ 



RELIGION. 91 

It will be more just to say that he, more vitally -than 
perhaps any other conspicuous man, found their har- 
mony in admitting their difference. The distinction 
between religion and theology was not, thirty years ago, 
as familiar as it is now. And even now, they that make 
the distinction are seldom so entirely at home with it 
that they preserve the freshness of their religious feeling 
while allowing free play to their understanding. But 
here was a man whose simple, unaffected piety was an 
example to members of the " evangelical " faith, and 
whose utter frankness of comment on ecclesiastical in- 
stitutions and theological dogmas sometimes had an 
audacious sound even in the ears of rationalists. A 
warm, enthusiastic, praying theist, he had none of the 
blind horror of atheism that led him to denounce or 
shudder at it, but in his own little chapel could calmly 
listen to its argument ; — with an ardent admiration of 
Jesus which allowed him to lavish on his " Saviour" the 
most endearing and adoring epithets, he did not shrink 
from the scholar who denied his transcendent attributes, 
or went so far as to connect him with the less humane 
aspects of his religion ; — a believer in Christianity as 
the highest authentication of the moral law, he read the 
argument of those who regarded it as an obstacle in the 
way of progress ; — believing in a blessed immortality 
for mankind and entertaining a hope of it that breaks 
out in sweet words of trust at every anniversary of a 
dear one's death, he professed openly to be supremely 
interested in the concerns of the present life. He had 
a profound personal humility, a sense of spiritual need 
that was at times pathetic, a longing for interior peace 
and perfection that was as keen the last month of his 



92 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

life as it was at the outset of his career, — and along 
with it he had a confidence in his own sentiments and 
moral convictions that no authority of state or church 
could shake. A rare combination of child and hero, he 
never failed to meet the requirements of either charac- 
ter, yet neither excluded or seemed to exclude the 
other ; the hero never forgot to be a child, the child 
was ready for any heroism. His perpetual sense of 
responsibility kept him simple, humble and meek. His 
perpetual feeling of duty kept him braced for action. 
The conviction that he was " nothing *' did not impair 
the conviction that he was accountable for unusual 
trusts. Nothing could be more absolutely free from 
self-consciousness than his private journal. It contains 
not a single morbid sentence. He was accused of ego- 
tism, perhaps justly. But the egotism is more than 
justified that counteracts the disabling effects of an 
unusually deep passive piety, and gives the requisite 
self-assertion to a nature that without it, might easily 
have lapsed into lethargy or luxury of soul. 

A Methodist clergyman, who knew Mr. Smith in his 
declining months, and learned thus late to know him as 
something very different from the '* infidel " he had 
heard of — implores the writer, who had known him and 
about him for twenty years, not to erect a mere ** literary 
monument " to his memory, but to do justice to his 
spirit of loving faith. The admonition is unnecessary. 
The biographer could not, if he would, build a literary 
monument to one who was in no sense a literary man. 
Gerrit Smith's piety of thought and feeling was too large 
a part of him to be left out of account, even by a literary 
artist. But it may be permitted the biographer to re- 



RELIGION. 93 

mind his uneasy monitor that Gerrit Smith's intellect 
never abandoned its post, and was burly enough even* at 
the last to deal a good blow on the side of human rea- 
son against despotism, whether enthroned in church or 
bible, priest or clergyman. In his old age the weapon 
he had wielded so stoutly, remained in its velvet sheath. 
But it was not rusty or dull. Nobody provoked the 
gracious old man to draw it^ and his loving eyes greeted 
all comers as friends with whom it might be sweet to 
hold communion for an hour. The world now was an 
oasis to him, where he could lay by his weapons and sit 
on the grass beneath the palm, and share the date and 
the water flask with his " dearest foe." 



CHAPTER IV. 



HUMANITY. 

ON the occasion of erecting a monument on the 
grave of Myron Holley, at Rochester, June 13, 
1844, Mr. Smith pronounced a touching eulogy on that 
devoted ** Friend of the Slave," which contained the 
following description of the true philanthropist. Mr. 
Smith himself cannot better be portrayed than in his 
own language. It came directly from the heart when 
he spoke of his friend ; he meant it ; he described quali- 
ties which he honored sincerely in others and tried to 
honor practically himself. Funereal tributes are prover- 
bially extravagant ; but in this instance the eulogium was 
no more than adequate to the virtues of the deceased. 
Scarcely was it adequate to the qualities of the speaker 
himself. 

** The world is in a sad condition, and will continue to be, until 
man, as man, — until man, for his mere manhood, shall be held in 
honor. So long as a man must be rich, or learned, or polished, or the 
subject of some other adventitious attraction, in order to be valued ; 
so long will the world abound in every variety and depth of wrong 
and wretchedness. Inasmuch as a very large proportion of the 
human family have but their manhood, if that shall fail to commend 
them, how can the prospect of a better condition ever open upon 
them ? So long as bare manhood is insufficient to elicit respect, the 
vast majority of our fellow men will be exposed to the clutches of 
slavery ; so long will they be regarded as fit tools for war, or, as 
they are contemptuously called, ' food for powder ; ' and, so long. 



HUMANITY, 95 

tOQ, will deep ignorance and abject poverty be looked upon as their 
appropriate lot. 

" Statesmen and political economists have their schemes for 
getting rid of the poor : but the radical and only remedy is to get rid 
of poverty itself ; or rather to get rid of that spirit of aristocracy 
and caste, which is the disease, of which poverty is but a symptom 
and a fruit. Most persons believe, and claim too that they have 
the Saviour's authority for believing it, that, to the end of time, a 
large portion of the human family must, necessarily, be poor. But, 
poverty is no more necessary than sin ; or, rather, than any other 
sin. I say no more necessary than any other sin ; because to the 
common remark : * It is no sin to be poor,' I do not subscribe. I do 
not say, that the subject of poverty is always, or even generally the 
sinner : but, I dp say, that his poverty argues the existence of a sin 
somewhere. When the Saviour said, that there would always be 
poverty. He virtually said, that there would always be sin. 

England is groaning under the burden, the crushing burden, of 
her multitudinous poor. But, suppose her rich and proud ones were 
to be inspired with the love of man. Obeying the Saviour and the 
impulses of their changed hearts, they would, at once, welcome to 
their hospitalities the inmates of the alms-houses and work-houses, 
the ragged beggars of the streets, and the many, whom poverty has 
been the chief agent in driving to brothels and other dens of iniquity. 
What would be the effect of such a turning of the hearts of those 
rich and proud ones to these poor and despised ones } What less 
than that the hearts of these poor and despised ones should grate- 
fully turn to their benefactors } This association of the rich with 
the poor — of the haughty with the humble — would, indeed, be blest 
both to them who stooped down to it, and to them who were 
raised up to it. On the one hand, it would put the idle and the 
vicious poor on their good behavior ; would stimulate them to a ca- 
reer of industry and virtue ; would supply with new and efficient 
motives for self-improvement both the honest and dishonest poor, 
whose self-respect is now withered, and whose energies are now 
prostrated by the neglect and scorn which they suffer. On the other 
hand, it would teach those who had proudly and disdainfully forsaken 
the masses of their fellow men, how much more of true honor and 
happiness there is in the natural position of standing by the side of 
their brother, than in the unnatural position of standing upon him. 

" Do for the poor what you will — ' though you bestow all your 
goods to feed the poor, and though you give your body to be burned ' 
— all will be vain unless you hold out to them the honest right hand 



96 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

of human brotherhood. But that token of your love for them — 
that recognition of their place in the human family and in your hearts 
— would, as I have already said, bring blessings to yourselves, as 
well as to them. If, among its happy consequences, would be the 
disappearance of their poverty, the giving up of your pride of riches 
would be among them also. You may multiply poor-houses — but it 
will avail nothing. The poor-house, that cruel device, will still prove 
itself to be as useless, as it is ciTiel ; for, instead of arresting the 
spread of poverty, it has the effect of increasing it, by its heart- 
hardening influence on the rich, and by its chilling influence on the 
self-respect, on the hope, on the entire heart, of the poor. The 
poor-house, hke the American Colonization Society, takes from our 
sight, and, in taking from our sight, takes from our sympathy also, 
those, whose presence and association with us are vitally needed for 
their and our mutual welfare — for their and our mutual nourishment 
of their and our wronged and sickly manhoods Like that society 
also, it produces in us a loathing of those whom we should love ; 
and whom we can no more afford to loathe, than they can to be 
loathed. Let us keep the poor with us. ' Out of sight out of mind,* 
is an adage of most emphatic application, in this case. Let us not 
drive them away from us. Let us * hide not ourselves from our own 
flesh.' Let us not be like the statesmen of whom Wordsworth 
speaks, in his Cumberland Beggar : * who ' in their impatience of 
the poor : 

" have a broom still ready in their hands 
To rid the world of nuisances." 

" The rich and the poor should dwell together. Their intermixture 
is for the profit of both. It cannot fail to result in a similarity of 
their circumstances, and in the production of a character common to 
both, and far better than now belongs to either. 

•¥ i(. % if If. 4c 4c 9r 

*' I would, in this connection, advert to the great radical mistake 
on the subject of education. A concern for the public safety, and, 
I admit, a measure of benevolence also, are multiplying schools for 
the enlightenment of what are called the lower classes. I would not 
speak disparagingly of schools. Nevertheless, they are an inferior 
agency in the work of education. The practically admitted equality 
of all men, and the free intercourse of all human minds with all 
human minds, and of all human hearts with all human hearts, would 
contribute to this work unspeakably more than schools can. Besides, 
whilst on the one hand, schools have utterly failed to produce this 



HUMANITY, 97 

admission of equality and this intercourse ; this admission and this 
intercourse would, on the other hand, prepare the way for the am- 
plest supply ot schools. This object — the enlightenment of the 
lower classes — cannot be effected, until the cord of caste is cut, and 
the lower classes are permitted to mingle freely with the higher; — 
until, indeed, all classes are permitted to constitute one class. Under 
the present arrangements of society, the masses must, necessarily, 
remain in ignorance. Boston boasts much of her tree schools, 
and of the accessibility of her fountains of knowledge to all grades 
and classes of her people. But, let the barriers, which aristocracy 
has erected in that city, be thrown down, and more would be done 
in tive years, toward making the diffusion of knowledge and the 
blessing of education commensurate with her whole population, than 
can be done in five hundred years, if these barriers remain. I ad- 
mit, that, even in the present state of the world — that, even in the 
present order, or rather disorder, of things — something is done, and 
more may be, to enlighten, comfort, and bless, the ignorant, the 
poor, and the wretched. But the pride of rank has built thick and 
high its division wall across the human brotherhood ; and to every 
attempt for the welfare of the many, it frowningly replies : *' Hitherto 
shalt thou come, but no farther." 

*' And, not only is aristocracy an insuperable obstacle to the uni- 
versality of education ; but the aristocrats themselves are, by the very 
€xclusiveness of their spirit, prevented from obtaining a sound edu- 
cation. The legitimate end of education, or rather true education 
itself, is an increase of sympathy with God, come that increase from 
whatever sources it may. He is the best educated man, who has 
attained to the deepest and most abiding sympathy with his Maker. 
But that a man should sympathize with his Maker, and not with the 
human family, is an impossibility. " He that loveth not his brother, 
-whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen ? " 
It is, without exception, true, that he whose sympathies are too 
select to embrace the whole human family, is still unacquainted with 
the great heart and real character of God : and it is also true, with- 
out exception, that he who is the subject of this unacquaintance, is, 
in the view of such as rightly define knowledge and education, most 
emphatically ignorant c.nd uneducated — and this too, whatever books 
and schools may have done for him. 

This sincere love of man as man was the character- 
istic trait of Gerrit Smith. It was founded on respect 

S 



93 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

for human nature, faith in human capacity, confidence 
in future progress, assurance of hope in the complete 
destiny of the race. His humanity was not born of 
sentiment or natural feeling, but of religious principle. 
It was not the humanity of the philanthropist who 
makes a trade of doing good to his neighbors. It was 
not the humanity of the Christian who regards believers 
with approval and unbelievers with compassion. It was 
not the humanity of the patriot who loves his countryman^ 
of the white man who loves his race, of the masculine 
beins: who loves his sex. It was love for the human 
creature, without regard to accidents of condition. The 
customary form of charity — that of giving money to the 
needy — was exercised by him with more discretion than 
is supposed, for he knew its tendency to work inhumanly, 
to the degradation of those it seems to help ; but it was 
exercised on a scale rarely equalled in extent, probably 
never equalled in the variety of its objects. It was an 
early saying of his that he meant to die poor. ** God 
gives me money to give away," was his pithy remark at 
the close of his life, when common sympathy becomes 
cool, and ordinary purse strings become stiff. No one will 
ever know how much he gave away ; no record of it was 
made. The tide of benefaction was perpetually flowing, 
in large streams or in small, and must have carried 
away thirty, forty, fifty thousand dollars a year. The 
daily applications from strangers often amounted to tens 
of thousands of dollars. More than once they reached 
a hundred thousand and over. Nor was it dispensed in 
driblets. It is still an open question whether it be wiser 
charity to build an institution for the use of generations, 
like the Cooper Union, or the Peabody Institutes, or to 



HUMANITY, 



University of] 



make happy the multitude of living men and women, 
and thus prepare a present generation for better days. 
Gerrit Smith did both. His private benefactions were 
boundless. He literally gave away fortunes to relieve 
immediate distress. Old men and women asked for 
sustenance in their infirmity. To redeem farms, to buy 
unproductive land, to send children to school, applica- 
tions were made from every part of the country. A girl 
wants a piano; a boy wants money to buy a watch, and 
encloses a photographic likeness of himself, to be re- 
turned, in case the request is declined. A woman so- 
licits the gift of an alpaca dress, and is particular that 
the trimmings be sent with it. The small cheques flew 
about in all directions, carrying in the aggregate thou- 
sands of dollars, hundreds of which fell on sandy or 
gravelly soil, and produced nothing. He was reconciled 
to the seeming waste, for he felt that it would probably 
be wasted if spent otherwise; he was sure it would be 
wasted if spent on selfish pleasure or personal adorn- 
ment, and he thought the waste of charity no worse than 
the waste of passion. The love was edifying if the gift 
was ill bestowed. He did not deliberately pour his water 
on the sand. But permanent institutions, too, bear wit- 
ness to the solid character of his bounty. The public 
subscription papers of his times usually bore his name at 
the head, and for the largest sum. There were $5,000 
to a single war fund. The English destitute received at 
one time $1,000, the Poles $1,000, the Greeks as much or 
more. The sufferers by a fire at Canastota received 
the next morning $1,000. The sufferers by the Irish 
famine were gladdened by a gift of $2,000. A thousand 
w-ent to the sufferers from the grasshoppers in Kansas 



lOO LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH. 

and Nebraska. The Cuban subscriptions took $5,000. 
Individuals in distress, anti-slavery men, temperance 
reformers, teachers, hard v^orking ministers of whatever 
denomination, received sums all the way from $500 to 
$50. In cases where money was required to vindicate 
a principle — as in the Chaplin case — thousands of dollars 
were contributed. To keep slavery out of Kansas cost 
him $i6»ooo. He helped on election expenses, main- 
tained papers, supported editors and their families, was 
at perpetual charge for the maintenance of societies or- 
ganized for particular reforms. The free library at Os- 
wego, an admirable institution, comprising about six 
thousand wisely selected volumes, with less trash than 
any public collection of books we ever saw, owes its ex- 
istence to his endowment of $30,000 in 1853. Judicious 
management, seconded by the liberality of the city, 
makes this library a minister to the higher intellectual 
culture. His own college, Hamilton, received $20,000; 
Oneida Institute thousands at a time; Oberlin, a pet 
with him on account of its freedom from race and sex 
prejudice, was endowed with land as well as aided by 
money. The central college at McGrawville appealed to 
him, not in vain. The Normal School at Hampton ob- 
tained in response to an appeal for help in 1874, $2,000. 
Reading rooms, libraries, academies of all degrees drew 
resources from him. Seminaries in Virginia, Tennessee, 
Georgia, Vermont, tasted his bounty. Gen. R. E. Lee's 
Washington College was as welcome as any to what he 
had to bestow. Berea College in Kentucky received in 
1874, $4,720. Storer College at Harper's Ferry, received 
the same year, two donations each of a thousand dol- 
lars. Fisk University at Nashville, the Howard Univer- 



HUMANITY. lOI 

sity at Washington, drew handsomely from his stores. 
He at one period, shortly before the establishment of 
Cornell University, projected a great university for the 
State of New York, for the highest education of men 
and women, white and black, and would have carried 
his plan into execution but for the difficulty of procuring 
the superintendent he wanted. His donation of $10,000 
to the Colonization Society — because he had pledged it, 
though when he paid the money he had satisfied himself 
that the Society was not what he had been led to be- 
lieve — was considered by many abolitionists a proceed- 
ing the chivalrous honor whereof hardly excused the 
indiscreet support given to what he now regarded as a 
fraud. His charges for the rescue and maintenance of 
fugitives from southern slavery were very heavy ; in one 
year they amounted to $5,000. To meet the incessant 
casual calls that were made on him, it was a custom to 
have checques prepared and only requiring to be signed 
and filled in with the applicant's name, for various 
amounts. No call of peculiar necessity escaped his atten- 
tion, and his bounty was as delicate as it was generous. 
Whole households looked to him as their preserver and 
constant benefactor. A unique example of his benevo- 
lence was his donation, through committees, of a gen- 
erous sum of money, as much as $30,000, to destitute 
old maids and widows in every county of the State. 
The individual gift was not great, $50 to each, but the 
total was considerable; the humanity expressed in the 
idea is chiefly worth considering. 

The primary source of his wealth was land. He was 
one of the great landholders of the country ; and yet he 
was a leader in the cause of land reform. It was his 



102 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

belief that the land should, no more than the air or 
the light, be appropriated by individuals, but that each 
nnan had a right to as much as he needed. This faith 
he openly professed, preached it, printed it, attended 
conventions held to advocate it. Unlike a living 
** friend of the working man," who justifies the keeping 
of his private property on the ground that he received 
It from another and therefore could not call it his own 
to give away, — Gerrit Smith reasoned that he had no 
claim to keep what he had not earned, and could not 
improve. His views of land reform exposed him to ridi- 
cule as a visionary, and to obloquy as a hypocrite. Hi^ 
land titles were disputed ; the value of his gifts was 
questioned ; he was accused of making a reputation for 
philanthropy by giving away worthless tracts. A simple 
narration of facts will best refute these calumnies. On 
the 1st of August, 1846, the following letter was ad- 
dressed to Rev. Theodore S. Wright, Rev. Charles B. 
Ray, and Dr. J. McCune Smith, as representative men 
of their people. 

Dear Friends, — For years I have indulged the thought, that, 
when I had sold enough land 10 pay my debts, I would give away 
the remainder to the poor. 

I am an Agrarian. I would that every man who desires a farm, 
might have one ; and I would, that no man were so regardless of 
the needs and desires of his brother men, as to covet the possession 
of more farms than one. Do not understand that I sympathize 
with lawless, violent and bloody Agrarianism. " My soul, come not 
thou into their secret ; unto their assembly mine honor, be not thou 
united." 

I have, with the Divine blessing, been able to make sales of land 
the present year, so extensive, as to inspire me with confidence, that 
my debts, very great as their sum still is, will be paid, in a few years. 
It is true, that, to make this event more certain, I must sell more 
land. Nevertheless, I feel it safe to make a beginning nmv, in the 



HUMANITY, 103 

work of distributing land. I have, indeed, heretofore given tracts 
of land to public institutions, and a few small parcels to individuals : 
but I have now to enter upon the greater and better work of making 
large donations of land to the poor. 

1 will, at the present time give away but a part of the land, which 
I intend to give away. It will, perhaps, be better not to give away 
the remainder, until my debts are wholly paid. Ihis land was ac- 
cumulated principally by my father, the late Peter Smith. 

I hope to be able to make, in all, some three thousand deeds — 
most of them now, and the remainder within two or three years. 
The deeds will generally convey from forty to sixty acres of land 
each. 

To whom among the poor I shall make these deeds, is a question 
I did not solve hastily. I needed no time to conclude, that, inasmuch 
as my home and the land are both in this State, it would be very suita- 
ble to select my beneficiaries from among the people of this State. 
But, for a long time, I was at a loss to decide, whether to take my 
beneficiaries from the meritorious poor generally, or from the 
meritorious colored poor only. 

I could not put a bounty on color. I shrank from the least ap- 
pearante of doing so ; and if I know my heart, it was equally com- 
passionate toward such white and black men as are equal sufferers. 
In the end, however, I concluded to confine my gifts to colored peo- 
ple. I had not come to this conclusion had the land I have to give 
away been several times as much as it is. I had not come to it, 
were not the colored people the poorest of the poor, and the most 
deeply wronged class of our citizens. That they are so, is evident, 
if only from the fact, that the cruel, killing. Heaven-defying prejudice 
of which they are the victims, has closed against them the avenues 
to riches and respectability — to happiness and usefulness. That 
they are so, is also evident from the fact, that, whilst white men in 
this State, however destitute of property, are allowed to vote for 
Civil Rulers, every colored man v\ it, who does not own landed es- 
tate to the value of two hundred and fifty dollars, is excluded from 
the exercise of this natural and indispensably protective right. I 
confess, that this mean and wicked exclusion has had no little effect 
in producing my preference, in this case. I confess too, that I was 
influenced by the consideration, that there is great encouragement 
to improve the condition of our free colored brethren, because that 
eveiy improvement in it contributes to loosen the bands of the 
enslaved portion of their outraged and afflicted race. 

And, nov/, will you permit me to tax you with no little labor — 



I04 LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH, 

the labor of making out a list of the colored men in certain countieSr 
who shall receive a deed of land from me ? My only restrictions 
upon you in making out this list, is, 

I St. That upon it there be the name of no person younger than 
twenty-one and no person older than sixty. 

2d. That there be upon it the name of no person who is in 
easy circumstances as to property ; and no person, who is already 
the owner of land. 

3d. That there be upon it the name of no drunkard — and I had 
almost added of no person who drinks intoxicating liquor — since 
to drink it, though ever so moderately, is to be in the way to 
drunkenness. 

4.th. That the total number of names in the list be one thousand 
nine hundred and eighty-five ; that 

127 thereof be the names of the persons residing; in the county of Suffolk. 



215 ' 






ti 




tt 


Queens. 


197 






it 




«t 


Kings. 


861 






(t 




tt 


New York. 


32 • 






tt 




tt 


Richmond. 


31 






tt 


tt 


tt 


Rockland. 


IIS ' 






tt 




tt 


Westchester^ 


150 * 






tt 




it 


Dutchess. 


5 * 






tt 




it 


Sullivan. 


106 • 






tt 




tt 


Ulster. 


136 • 






tt 




tt 


Orange. 


10 






tt 




tt 


Putnam. 



I take the liberty to suggest, that the true course, in the case of 
each of the aforesaid counties, will be to have the names of the per- 
sons who are qualified to share in my lands, or rather to share in 
the chance of getting them, written on slips of paper — these slips 
put in a vessel — and as many drawn therefrom as there are persons 
in the county to receive deeds. 

Could I receive the list by the first day of next month (and I 
most earnestly hope that 1 can), I should be able to put a considera- 
ble share of the deeds into your hands by the first day of the follow- 
ing month ; and, in that case, the grantees might be put in possession 
of them by the middle of October. It may be a year or more, ere 
I can supply all with deeds — and it is possible that some may be 
finally unsupplied. A part of the names — that is, an incomplete list, 
you might perhaps be able to send me in a week or two. 

Do not fail to have the names and places of residence written 
very legibly. Should it be so, that, from the death of some of the 



HUMANITY. lOS 

grantees, or from other cause or causes, you cannot deliver all the 
deeds, you will, in that case, promptly return me such as are unde- 
livered, and recommend other persons as worthy of the land de- 
scribed in them. The deeds will come to the grantees clear of all 
fees for drawing them, and taking the acknowledgment of their 
execution. 

For all this service which I ask at your hands, I can make you 
no other compensation than that of thanking you for helping me pro- 
mote a scheme of justice and benevolence. 

There is still a balance of purchase money and interest due to 
the State of New York, on a large proportion of the parcels of 
land. The aggregate is a very large sum. But I propose to begin 
paying it within six months, and I hope to have it all paid within 
two years. 

There is also a great amount of taxes due on them — for which 
they will be sold next year, or the year after, if not previously paid. 
I will pay the taxes so far as to prevent such sale — and this will be 
in full of all taxes up to 1844 or 1845 exclusive. I should be grieved, 
and have abundant reason to be, should any of the grantees suffer 
their parcels of land to be sold for the non-paym.ent of taxes. 

Among the parcels which I give away, will doubtless be found 
some that are unfit for cultivation. Most of these, however, will 
be more or less valuable for timber. 1 hope that the grantees will 
prize their lands sufficiently to guard them against trespassers. 

I have a few large tracts of land, which, because they are either 
very remote from settlements, or very mountainous and sterile, I 
prefer selling for what they will bring, to giving them away to those 
who need lands for agricuhure. 

I write to gentlemen in other parts of the State, asking of them 
services in respect to other counties similar to those which I ask 
of you. Very respectfully 

Your Friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 

Peterboro, September 9, 1846. 

Messrs. Theodore S. Wright, Charles B. Ray, J. M'Cune 
Smith. 

Dear Friends — I have now made out two thousand of the three 
thousand deeds of land which, in my letter to you of the first of Au- 
gust last, I proposed to give to the colored men in this State. A 
large share of them have already been sent to you and the other 



io8 



LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 



inhabitants of the State of New York ; must be between the ages of 
twenty-one and sixty ; must be virtuous, landless and poor ; and 
must be entirely clear of the vice of drinking intoxicating liquors. 
Moreover they must, in each county, be taken from the sexes in 
equal numbers. 

Along with each gift of land there will be a gift of ten dollars in 
money. Where the land is worth removing to, and where there is a 
disposition to remove to it, this money will help defray the expense 
of removal. In perhaps every case, it will be sufficient to pay the 
two or three years taxes now due, and also the taxes for a number 
of years to come. 

Each county, except Madison, is to share in the proposed gifts, 
and each according to the amount of its population. I shall not be 
blamed for making this exception, by any who are aware that, in 
some two hundred and fifty instances, I have given to the inhabitants 
of the county of Madison either land, or money to enable them to 
buy land. Nor shall I be blamed for distributing the thousand par- 
cels among white persons exclusively, by any who are informed that 
three thousand colored persons have received deeds of land from 
me, entirely free of all charge either for the land, or for the expense 
of the perfected deeds thereof. I will remark here, that the deeds 
of the thousand parcels will be made, acknowledged and prepared 
for record at my own expense. 

The number of beneficiaries in each county will be as follows : 



Albany 30 

Alleghany 16 

Broome 10 

Cattaraugus 12 

Cayuga 20 

Chautauqua 18 

Chemung 8 

Chenango 16 

Clinton . 12 

Columbia 16 

Cortland 10 

Delaware 14 

Dutchess 22 

Erie 32 

Essex 10 

F'ranklin 8 

Fulton 6 

Genesee 10 

Greene 12 



Hamilton 2 

Herkimer 14 

Jefferson 26 

Kings 32 

Lewis 8 

Livingston 12 

Monroe 28 

Montgomery 12 

New York 150 

Niagara 14 

Oneida 34 

Onondaga 28 

Ontario 16 

Orange 20 

Orleans 10 

Oswego 22 

Otsego 20 

Putnam 4 

Queens 12 



Rensselaer 24 

Richmond 4 

Rockland 6 

Saratoga 16 

Schenectady .4 

Schoharie 12 

Seneca 10 

St. Lawrence 26 

Steuben 2c 

Suffolk \7 

Sullivan 6 

Tioga 8 

Tompkins i^ 

Ulster 18 

Warren t 

Washington 16 

Wayne 16 

Westchester 18 

Wyoming 10 

Yates 8 

Total 1000 



The next thing in this letter is to say that I have a great favor to 
ask of you. It is that you go to the pains of selecting the beneficia- 



HUMANITY, 107 

whose names the committees have collected? This circular will 
contain your best advice in respect to the habits and duties of the 
grantees. It will, of course, inculcate the deepest abhorrence of 
intoxicating drinks. 

With great regard. 

Your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 

The land alluded to in the above letters was in 
Franklin, Essex, Hamilton, Fulton, Oneida, Delaware, 
Madison and Ulster Counties. 

This generous gift was received with gratitude. The 
three men to whom the letters were addressed pre- 
pared an address to their people impressing upon their 
minds the obligation that such an act laid upon them 
to justify the donor's munificence by their own conduct. 
They set forth in strong language the nature of the op- 
portunity granted, reminded them of the corresponding 
duty to accept it in the spirit cherished by their bene- 
factor, called on them to summon their manhood — to 
practice system, economy, self-reliance, mutual assistance, 
temperance, and hailed the promise of a new career 
on the continent for their oppressed and discouraged 
race. The assertion that the lands were worthless was 
indignantly repelled. 

On the 1st of May, 1849, ^^^ following letter was ad- 
dressed to John Cochran, Isaac T. Hopper, Daniel C. 
Eaton, George H. Evans, and William Kemeys : 

Dear Sirs : — I still have village and city property — but on the 
large share of it there remains and must long remain, a very great 
debt. The debt due to the State of New York on my other land 
will, I hope, be paid within the coming year. All, or nearly ail 
such of this land as shall then remain upon my hands, I shall wish 
to give away. There will perhaps be enough of it to enable me to 
make gifts to a thousand persons. These persons must be white 



io8 



LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 



inhabitants of the State of New York ; must be between the ages of 
twenty-one and sixty ; must be virtuous, landless and poor ; and 
must be entirely clear of the vice of drinking intoxicating liquors. 
Moreover they must, in each county, be taken from the sexes in 
equal numbers. 

Along with each gift of land there will be a gift of ten dollars in 
money. Where the land is worth removing to, and where there is a 
disposition to remove to it, this money will help defray the expense 
of removal. In perhaps every case, it will be sufficient to pay the 
two or three years taxes now due, and also the taxes for a number 
of years to come. 

Each count}', except Madison, is to share in the proposed gifts, 
and each according to the amount of its population. I shall not be 
blamed for making this exception, by any who are aware that, in 
some two hundred and fifty instances, I have given to the inhabitants 
of the county of Madison either land, or money to enable them to 
buy land. Nor shall I be blamed for distributing the thousand par« 
eels among white persons exclusively, by any who are informed that 
three thousand colored persons have receiv^ed deeds of land from 
me, entirely free of all charge either for the land, or for the expense 
of the perfected deeds thereof. I will remark here, that the deeds 
of the thousand parcels will be made, acknowledged and prepared 
for record at my own expense. 

The number of beneficiaries in each county will be as follows : 



Albany 30 

Alleghany 16 

Broome 10 

Cattaraugus 12 

Cayuga 20 

Chautauqua 18 

Chemung 8 

Chenango 16 

Clinton 12 

Columbia 16 

Cortland 10 

Delaware 14 

Dutchess 22 

Erie 32 

Essex 10 

Franklin 8 

Fulton 6 

Genesee 10 

Greene 12 



Hamilton 2 

Herkimer 14 

Jefferson 26 

Kings 32 

Lewis 8 

Livingston 12 

Monroe 28 

Montgomery 12 

New York 150 

Niagara 14 

Oneida 34 

Onondaga 28 

Ontario 16 

Orange 20 

Orleans 10 

Oswego 22 

Otsego 20 

Putnam 4 

Queens 12 



Rensselaer 24 

Richmond 4 

Rockland 6 

Saratoga 16 

Schenectady 4 

Schoharie 12 

Seneca 10 

St. Lawrence 26 

Steuben 2c 

Suffolk ir 

Sullivan 6 

Tioga 8 

Tompkins i^ 

Ulster 18 

Warren i 

Washington 16 

Wayne 16 

Westchester 18 

Wyoming 10 

Yates 8 

Total 1000 



The next thing in this letter is to say that I have a great favor to 
ask of you. It is that you go to the pains of selecting the beneficia- 



HUMANITY, 109 

Ties in your county. And that you do, by the ist of March next, 
let ine know their names and residences. 

To guard the beneficiaries of your county against disappointment. 
I wish you would inform them that most of the land is of inferior 
quality ; that it is probable that in some instances, it will prove to be 
unfit for farming ; in some of little or no value either for farming or 
timber ; and that it is possible (I trust but barely possible) that my 
title may fail. You will, moreover, inform them that in the event of 
my not having land enough to give each of the thousand a parcel, 
some of those chosen in your county may be left unsupplied. You 
are, however, authorized to say to them that whoever of the thou- 
sand shall fail to get a parcel of land from me, shall get, instead 
thereof, forty dollars in money, — and this too, in addition to the ten 
dollars. The fifty dollars will enable its possessor to buy forty acres 
of government land. I hope that it will be expended in some land 
or other ; — for one of my deepest convictions is, that every person 
who can, should make himself the acknowledged owner of a piece 
of land. His doing so would hasten the day, when the right to the 
soil shall be everywhere acknowledged to be as absolute, universal 
and equal as the right to the light and the air. May that blessed 
•day come quickly ! — for, until it does come, our world will be one of 
disorder, oppression, poverty, vice : — and, let me add, it never will 
come, until the religion and politics, the churches and governments 
of the world shall be so imbued with the spirit of justice and 
brotherly love as to call for the coming of that day. 

The parcel for each beneficiary will probably vary from thirty to 
sixty acres. In a few instances it may exceed sixty ; and in a few, 
where its value may be far above the average of the parcels, it may 
be less than half of thirty. All the land is in the State of New York. 

Respectfully your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 

On January 4th, 1850, another letter on the subject 
was addressed to the same men. 

Gentlemen — I proposed, last spring, to make gifts to five hun- 
dred males and five hundred females, inhabitants of this State. I 
requested you to select from the city and county of New York seventy- 
five of each sex ; and I requested persons in the other counties of 
our State, to select the remaining four hundred and twenty-five of 
each sex. You kindly and promptly undertook the labor, which I 



no LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

presumed to assign you ; and I now have the pleasure to receive 
from you the one hundred and fifty names. 

I have come to the conclusion that it is not best for the females 
to receive land from me. What land I have left, and my title to 
which is unquestionable, is with small exceptions, unfit for farming. 
My gifts to colored people took all my large tracts of farming land, 
save one in the county of Franklin ; and this can perhaps, hardly be 
called a farming tract. It is of inferior soil ; and I cannot say that 
it is very valuable in any respect. Notwithstanding some of the lots 
abound in pine, the tract is too far from market to make it very 
desirable for its timber. The Boston and Ogdensburgh Railroad,, 
however, passes within some sixteen or eighteen miles of it. 

This tract, which contains nearly nineteen thousand acres, and 
which my deceased father had his surveyor divide into farm lots, I 
conclude to give to the five hundred men, each of whom will, as I 
formerly proposed, receive ten dollars along with his deed. 

The five hundred females will each receive fifty dollars. This 
sum is sufficient to purchase forty acres of Government land. I hope 
that each one who does not so expend it, will expend it in the pur- 
chase of other lands. To you, who know my heart on this subject, 
I need not say how deeply I feel that every person needs to be the 
admitted owner of a parcel of land. This every person should be, 
without having to pay for it. But if a free ownership be withheld, 
still let there be an ownership whenever it can be bought, if for no 
other reason than that the more who are the admitted owners of 
land, the sooner will that ownership be acknowledged to be a nat- 
ural, universal and inalienable right. I would have every person 
get a parcel of land who can get it. 

Alas, that good men should be so slow to see that the acknowl- 
edged right of every generation and the whole of every generation, 
to the use of the earth, as well as to the use of the sea, the light and 
the air, is necessarily preliminary to that state of universal comfort 
and happiness and holiness for which good men labor and pray ! So 
vitally important, so indispensable is this right, in my view, that no 
person who rejects it can get my vote to be a civil ruler or a moral 
instructor. How long will the people consent to be put off with 
bribes and toys and deceptions in the place of the acknowledgment 
of their right ? The governments of the earth all refuse to acknowl- 
edge the right of the people to the soH. And yet the people, stripped 
though they are of this greatest right, and of this only effectual se- 
curity for all their rights, sustain and honor these governments ! 
And this they do, because their governments help them pay their 



HUMANITY, III 

parsons or their school-masters, or bribe them in some other way. 
Only let the governments of the earth give back to their subjects 
the lights of which they are robbed ; and their subjects will lack 
neither the ability nor the disposition to take the whole care and 
bear the whole burden of their schools and churches. 

I send you herewith seventy-five deeds of land, and seven hun- 
dred and fifty dollars for the seventy-five males you have selected, 
and three thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars for the seventy- 
five females you have selected. Should the grantees wish to make 
inquiries respecting the land, I hope they will make them of you. 
I cannot even read, much less can I answer, all the letters which I 
receive. 

To the committees in the other counties I will send deeds and 
ten dollars with each as fast as I receive from them the names of 
the males whom they select. My gifts to the females whom they 
select, I shall not be able to complete in a less space of time than a 
year or eighteen months, as my first duty with the moneys I receive 
is to employ a large share of them in continuing to reduce the great 
amount of debt which I still owe. It is probable, however, that I 
shall, every month, pay the females of one or more counties. 

With great regard, your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 

Before taking his seat in Congress, Gerrit Smith, as 
if he would go unincumbered into the national arena, 
issued the following circular: 

Peterboro, March aad, 1853. 

To 

Dear Sir — Ere leaving home to take my seat in Congress, I 
should like to dispose of all my remaining lands. They are scattered 
through some twenty counties of the State of New York. Very few 
of them are in the western, and none in the south-eastern part of 
the State. 

These lands are generally of inferior quality, and are worth more 
for fuel and lumber than for farming. I would sell them cheap 
rather than retain them. Descriptions of them can be obtained at 
my office. 

I expect to be at home pretty constantly for the present. Such 
of these lands as I may not be able to sell previously, I will, should 
the collection of people authorize it, offer at auction at my office, 
Wednesday, ist day of June next. 



112 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

In case of the sale of any parcel of land whether on said ist day 
of June or before, for not more than fifty dollars, all the purchase 
money must be paid in hand. Where the sale is for more than fifty 
dollars and not less than one hundred dollars, one-half must be paid 
in hand. Where for one hundred dollars and over, one quarter. 
For the balance the purchaser may have a long credit. 

I have still a little property in the cities of Schenectady and 
Albany, and much in the city of Oswego. I should be glad to 
sell it all. 

Gerrit Smith. 

The experiment of colonizing the blacks in northern 
New York was not successful. Mr. Smith candidly ad- 
mitted that it was not. The failure was due in part, no 
doubt, to the intractability of the land and the harsh- 
ness of the climate. Much of the territory given to the 
blacks, and to the whites as well, was unsuited to agri- 
culture, as Mr. Smith frankly stated. He never con- 
cealed the true character of the acres he gave away ; he 
never took or asked praise for giving away good land, 
when he gave away bad. The failure of the plan was in 
some measure owing to the infelicity of the soil. But in 
a greater measure it was owing to the inefficiency of 
those that accepted it. The disabling infirmities and 
vices of the black people Mr. Smith had the courage to 
admit. He had little hope of them as they were; on 
the best land they would have done nothing. They had 
none of the qualities that make the farmer. He knew 
they had not. Messrs. Wright Ray and McCune Smith 
knew they had not. Their stirring appeal was ineffectual. 
Gerrit Smith's heroic hope that opportunity and necessity 
would rouse the blacks to manhood was illusive. The 
beneficiaries could not respond to the call of the bene- 
factor. Had the land been the richest in the State they 
would not have responded, for they could not ; it was 



HUMANITY, 113 

not in them. Is it fair to lay the blame upon him? 
Would it not be fairer to commend the practical wisdom 
that squandered low priced instead of high priced lands 
in a venture so uncertain? The experience of civiliza- 
tion proves that manliness thrives on hardship. If the 
hardship is shrunk from or shirked, the inference is that 
the elements of manhood are wanting. It does not ap- 
pear that the blacks ever accused their benefactor of 
gaining the reputation of philanthropy at their expense; 
but the whites did. The candid student of the subject 
will probably conclude that the fault lay, not so much 
in the land or its donor, as in the inefficiency of the peo- 
pie who desired a Capua, and rebelled when they found 
a New England. The man who had most cause for dis- 
couragement was Gerrit Smith himself. Many men, 
good men too, would have abandoned all efforts at ele- 
vating the lowly of his race, after so disastrous a result 
of so courageous an attempt. 

It is needless to say, now, that Gerrit Smith's hu- 
manity made no account of the distinctions of race. In 
1836 he wrote to his wife : ** I hope you will have grace 
to set your face like a flint against the accursed spirit of 
aristocracy. I hope our dear Lilly, if she has one par- 
ticle of that wicked thing in her heart called prejudice 
against people of color, will make haste to get rid of it. 
This prejudice is a quarrel with God." To many he is 
known chiefly by his devotion to the Africans, they 
being, in his regard, the most inhumanly treated. His 
consideration of them in gifts of land and money attests 
the warmth of his interest. It was at his instance that 
Peterboro became one of the chief stations of the ** under- 
ground railroad,*' as the arrangement was called by 



114 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

which escaped slaves were passed on through the 
northern States to Canada; and his open invitation was 
heard and caught at with eagerness. It was not so 
much a welcome that he gave as a bidding. He called 
the slaves to come out of their Egypt ; advised them to 
repeat the old device of plundering their masters of the 
means of escape, to take what they needed, food, money, 
horses, that their flight might be swift and their rescue 
sure. " The doctrine that I am to look on every other 
man as my brother, — ay, as another self — is a doctrine 
which bids me peril and suffer and inflict as much for his 
sake, as I would have him peril, and suffer and inflict 
for it. It may not be his duty to lose life or take Hfe in 
order to exempt himself from slavery. But if he is au- 
thorized to go to these extremities, it is absurd to say 
that I sin if I carry my help of him to the like extremi- 
ties." The station at Peterboro was usually full. In 
times of unusual excitement, like those immediately 
succeeding the ** Fugitive Slave Bill,'* it was no uncom- 
mon thing to see negroes in the street asking the way 
to Mr. Smith's house. The busy man left his affairs 
and bestowed immediate care on his guests ; fed them, 
clothed them, gave them money for necessary expenses, 
sent them in his own wagon to Oswego, and saw them 
in safety on their way northward. He was immensely 
cheated, of course ; but he took the cheating patiently, 
saying that he would rather be swindled twenty times 
than miss a single chance of delivering a fellow-man from 
slavery. 

It was wonderful what pains he would be at, what 
trouble he would take, what risks he would incur, what 
money he would spend, to compass this object. Hear- 



HUMANITY, IIS 

ing that a southern slaveholder, dying, had declared his 
slaves, fifty in number, emancipated, on condition of 
their being taken to a northern state and provided for, 
he wrote instantly, directing that they be sent to him. 
Ten only reached Peterboro ; the rest dropped off by 
the way, some tired, some disheartened, some deterred 
by the misstatements of ill wishers, who represented Mr. 
Smith's promises as deceptive. The ten strangers, who 
persevered to the end, being in need of no further trans- 
portation, were quartered in the old ancestral house, 
then unaltered and unoccupied. The descendants of 
these negroes still live in Peterboro. Mrs. Smith was 
born in Maryland, and there a favorite slave remained 
when the family removed to New York. The poor crea- 
ture was sold and resold till the trace of her was nearly 
lost. By the help of a special agent she was found, pur- 
chased, brought to Peterboro, and there cared for during 
the remainder of her life. 

Dr. Alexander Ross, of Toronto, whose remarkable 
exploits in ** running off" slaves between 1855 and 1865, 
caused such consternation in the Southern States, was 
in communication with Gerrit Smith from first to last^ 
was aided by him in his preparations with information 
and counsel, and had a close understanding with him in 
regard to his course of procedure. Both these men 
made the rescue of slaves a personal matter. 

Here is an incident that shows the quality of Mr. 
Smith's concern. A slave called Anderson, taking the 
advice of the northern philanthropist, ran away from his 
bondage in Kentucky and escaped to Ohio. The mas- 
ter pursued, overtook and seized the fugitive ; there 
was a struggle ; the slave killed the master and fled to 



Il6 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

Canada. Some months afterwards, friends of the slain 
man, learning that Anderson was in Toronto, induced 
the Governor of Kentucky to make a requisition on the 
provincial Governor of Canada to deliver the criminal, 
under the provisions of the Ashburton Treaty which 
was signed at Washington, in 1842. The order was 
taken to Canada, and the writ was served. Anderson 
was not unknown in Toronto. He had behaved well, 
and had made friends. The circumstances of his beinsr 
a fugitive from slctvery interested many in his fate. 
Fortunately there was telegraphic communication with 
the States. A message sent to Mr. Smith was carried 
by swift express to Peterboro. Smith remembered the 
man and the incidents of his escape. He left his office 
at once, ordered his horses and was on his way to To- 
ronto in less than two hours from the moment of Ander- 
son's arrest. At Canastota, nine miles from home, he 
sent a message bidding the friends of the fugitive block 
proceedings till he arrived. At Buffalo there was no 
time to stop ; he pushed on and reached Toronto in 
season for the opening of the court. There he offered 
himself as counsel for Anderson. The case being pre- 
sented, the unprofessional advocate, in a speech, une- 
laborated and unpremeditated, except on the hurried 
journey, but of great power and cogency, made his plea- 
The incidental points pressed were these: — i. That An 
derson, in killing his pursuer had been guilty of no mur 
der, but at the worst of justifiable homicide. He hac^ 
obeyed the law of nature, the supreme law, in slaying 
one who would have taken from him what was dearer 
than life ; the alleged crime was therefore no crime, 
rather it was a manly, heroic deed, entitling the man to 



HUMANITY, 117 

praise and not to punishment. 2. The deed was done 
in Ohio, not in Kentucky, and as Ohio had made no 
requisition, the proceedings even though the man could 
be fairly charged with murder, were void. 3. The ques- 
tion whether Anderson should or should not be given 
up was one for the English law to decide. ^The case 
must be tried by English law, which made no recognition 
of slavery. The main argument was, however, addressed 
to the pomt that neither the Ashburton Treaty nor the 
United States Constitution required the surrender of 
fugitive slaves, but that both demanded their freedom. 
Still even this argument, full and cogent as it was, owed 
its compelling power to the devotion to humanity which 
inspired the orator, making his very stature seem gigan- 
tic. The advocate gained his cause triumphantly. 
The speech made a prodigious impression, coming as it 
did from a glowing heart, a mind of great fertility, and 
fortified by a touching power of eloquence. It was print- 
ed, and circulated over all the United States. It was 
commented on in the London Times^ which applauded 
the action of the provincial tribunal, declared that the 
law of England fully sustained the judgment, and char- 
acterized Gerrit Smith as the Robert Peel of America. 

Gerrit Smith was in attendance on a convention of 
the Liberty Party at Syracuse, Oct. I, 1851, when the 
alarm bell told the Vigilance Committee that a black 
man had been seized under the ** Fugitive Slave Law." 
Rev. Samuel J. May was rising from the dinner table 
when the news came, and by making haste reached the 
court house where a crowd had already assembled to 
watch the proceedings. The excitement was gathering. 
The prisoner, Jerry McHenry, manacled and guarded, 



Il8 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

was being put through " the summary process" peculiar 
to those occasions, and his friends were hurriedly taking 
counsel together for his deliverance. Suddenly the lad, 
being loosely watched, slipped from his captors and ran 
for his life. His pursuers were the fleeter ; they over- 
took him, mastered him after a short but furious strug- 
gle, flung him into a wagon and drove him, pinioned to 
the floor of the cart by the weight of two policemen, 
back to the jail. It was now evening and the trembling 
fugitive, hearing the uproar without, thought his hour 
had come. And so it had, — the hour of his deliverance. 
Gerrit Smith was on the field, animating and impelling. 
Sturdy arms drove a battering-ram against the prison 
door ; it yielded ; Jerry was dragged forth, put into a 
light carriage drawn by a fleet span of horses ; money 
was thrust into his hand ; a great voice bade him to 
keep clear of the States, and he was before long safe in 
Canada. The next morning, before the convention, 
Gerrit Smith presented the following resolutions: 

I. Whereas Daniel Webster, that base and infamous enemy of 
the human race, did in a speech of which he delivered himself in 
Syracuse last spring, exultingly and insultingly predict that fugitive 
slaves would yet be taken away from Syracuse, and even from anti- 
slavery conventions in Syracuse ; and whereas, the attempt to fulfil 
this prediction was delayed until the first day of October, i85i,when 
the Liberty Party of the State of New York were holding their An- 
nual Convention in Syracuse ; and whereas, the attempt was de- 
feated by the majestic and mighty uprising of two thousand five 
hundred brave men, before whom the half dozen kidnappers were 
but •• as tow ; " — therefore, 

Resolved, That we rejoice that the city of Syracuse — the anti- 
slavery city of Syracuse — the city of anti-slavery conventions — our 
beloved and glorious city of Syracuse — still remains undisgraced by 
the fulfilment of the satanic prediction of the satanic Daniel 
Webster. 



HUMANITY, 119 

Resolved, That the gratitude of our hearts goes out to the God 
of the oppressed for the defeat of this attempt to replunge a poor 
brother into the horrors and hell of slavery ; and that although we 
are pleased to know that the outraged and indignant people spared 
ihe life of every one of the kidnappers, we nevertheless feel bound to 
declare that if any class of criminals deserve to be struck down in 
instant death it is kidnappers. 

Resolved, That notwithstanding the enactment of the '• Fugitive 
Slave Law," and the general acquiescence in it under the influence 
of the devil-prompted speeches of politicians and devil-prompted 
sermons of priests, give fearful evidence that this is a doomed and 
damned nation, we nevertheless cannot forbear to derive some little 
nope from the recent resistance to kidnappers in Pennsylvania, and 
from the resistance to them yesterday in Syracuse, that a patient 
and long-suffering God has not left this superlatively wicked nation 
to perish. 

Resolved, That every fresh demonstration of the character and 
claims of slavery, serves to bind the principles of the Liberty Party 
still closer and closer to our hearts ; and to make it more manifest 
that we have no right to vote for any person for civil office — how- 
ever high or however low may be the office — who is not an out and 
out abolitionist. 

To those whose memory goes not back to these 
times of dread excitement, the spirit of these resolutions 
will seem fanatical, and their language intemperate. 
But they who lived then, and shared anything of the 
feeling that prevailed, will bear testimony that the sen- 
timents expressed are no stronger than was usual with 
anti-slavery men, nay, hardly so strong. The abolition- 
ists had no words to convey their detestation of the 
** Fugitive Slave Law," its authors, executors and apolo- 
gists. Jn their view it was atheistic and inhuman ; it 
involved an utter practical disbelief in the principles of 
justice and kindness ; a repudiation, not of the Bible 
merely, not of Christianity alone, but of every form of 
religious duty, of every sentiment that had become na- 



120 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

tive to mankind. In Mr. Smith's mind, the feeling was 
one not of anger, not at all of vindictiveness, but of 
moral abhorrence ; it was the feeling that the Christian 
has for the atheist, that the saint has for Satan. His 
faith was in the inherent virtue of man, and slavery as 
the suppression of this virtue, was literally a godless in- 
stitution, a creation of the evil one. 

The following letter, never before published, I think, 
requires no explanation : 

Peterboro, Nov. 31, 1846. 

Mr. William Lee : 

Dear Sir, — Your master, Mr. M writes me that you are a 

ver\' bad man, and that the best thing to do with you is to sell you to a 
severe southern master. I take pity on you as my brother man. and 

send Mr. M one hundred and sixty dollars. Ten dollars of 

the one hundred and sixty, I ask him to hand you to bear your 
expenses here. The remaining one hundred and fifty dollars are for 
himself. He consents to part with you for that sum. 

I write Mr. M to direct you to my home. I shall not be 

here when you arrive. I hope to find you in a good family in my 
neighborhood when I return. ... I do not wish you to return 
me a single dollar of the one hundred and sixty dollars which you 
cost me. You must be content with small wages in the winter, and 
all the smaller as you are a stranger. But if you prove yourself 
to be industrious, sober and good-tempered, you will soon com- 
mand good wages and have money enough to buy yourself a little 
home. 

William ! I don't believe that the best thing to do with you was 
to sell you to a hard master. I believe that the best thing for you 
was to make you a freeman, and now that you are a freeman, you 
will prove yourself to be a good man, an industrious man, an honest 
man, a kind-tempered man. Now William, show your old master 
what a good man a bad slave is capable of becoming when he has 
his freedom. 

Come to see me, William, when I get home. The Lord bless 
and guide you, and give you a good heart. 

Your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 



HUMANITY, 12 i 

The " evangelicar' minister who permits the use of 
this letter pronounces it worthy to rank with Paul's let- 
ter to Philemon. And so it is. There is this notable 
difference however between the two epistles, that the 
one is written to a master, the other to a slave ; the one 
appeals to the " christian ** feeling of a slave-holder for 
a slave who has become a Christian ; the other appeals 
to the spirit of humanity in a slave who has become 
a man. 

This regard for the ** bare man ** was never hidden 
by ceremony or affectation. The anniversary of the 
rescue of Jerry was kept for several years, and Gerrit 
Smith was happy to preside so long as he felt that the 
observance was sincere. When, in his judgment, it be- 
came a mere ceremony, he would have nothing more to 
do with it. To the invitation, which came as usual, in 
1859, ^^ made reply: 

•• My interest in these anniversaries has greatly declined for the 
last two or three years ; and I am now decidedly of the opinion that 
it is unwise to continue to repeat the farce any longer. The rescue 
of Jerry was a great and glorious event. Would God it had been 
duly improved ! But those who achieved it, and I include in this 
number all who cheered it on, and rejoiced in every step of its pro- 
gress, have, with few exceptions, proved themselves unworthy of the 
work of their own hands. We delivered Jerry in the face of the au- 
thority of Congress and courts ; and, as most of us believed, in con- 
tempt also of a provision of the Constitution itself. We delivered 
him believing that there was no law and could be no law for slavery. 
On that occasion our humanity was up ; and in vain would all the 
authorities on earth, even the bible itself included, have bid it down. 
Our humanity owned Jerry for its brother ; and so did it cling to 
him, that all the wealth of the world would not have sufficed to buy 
it off, or taught it to ignore and betray him. 

Oil, had the thousands, who, on that memorable night crowded 
the streets of Syracuse, but maintained the sublime elevation to 
which the spirit of that night exalted them, what a force for the over- 

5 



throw oi siaverr .vGuid niev nee lisive lecunrtiianixL b\' riiis rime! 
Bu: :r.ev soon r'eil rinm ir. T'le^/ aocn sunk it:vvT r-i rhe law :ev«i 
o( :rr»r :3 j^i:icai and chur::ii parties. I'trrj was rcr^tren : rheir 
hu:i!ani:y vas it^ac. . . . 

•* W'e iiad betier ^tve up :>.e :e:ei:ra~cn :c :!':e rescue cf Jem". 
The :hin*^ is quire : oc .^r^a: and ^:Gd :':r as. E.imesc and honest 
men are alone suited ja it. Wi J±rrT rescuers ar» mean, men and 
Siiam men.' 

The coura-e cf this cosiziori will be aoorecLited bv 
those who have known how much harder it is to disagree 
with friends than to n^h: enennies. He x\-x5 aersonallv 
no coward who rescued the a'ave : he was morally no 
coward who reproved the slave rescuers. 

A humanirv so comoletelv unconscious of the dis- 
tinctions cf race, was, naturaliy, unconscious of the civil 
and nioral distinctions of sex. That this lar^e hearted 
philanthropist 6.^\'(:^*:xiA himself less ardently to the cause 
of woman's emancioation than to others, was owin^ 
probably to its less conspicuous and crjdng importance, 
and to the fact that no great battle raged about it. The 
ooDO^ition was not or::anized because the evil was less 
manifest. The orincioie was, however, evident to the 
philanthropist's clear mind, and his enunciation of it was 
decided and unaualined. His complaint was directed 
however a;4ainst women themselves, — that thev were 
wantincj in resoect for their own dis^nitv, were creatures 
of fashion, slothful, capricious, vain of the silken chains 
they wore. Thiir passion for dress, their persistency in 
wearing a dress that condemned them to a life of dis- 
play, made them slow and inactive, injured their physical 
health and doomed them to sedentary occupations, was 
in his judgment, at the root of the whole evil complained 
of. The reform that most concerned him in connection 



HUMANITY, 123 

with women was the dress reform. The first to discard 
the trailing skirt and put on what afterwards was un- 
fortunately called the ** Bloomer " was his own daughter. 
Long, printed letters to, Mrs. E. C. Stanton and Miss S. 
B. Anthony, committed him to the most extreme doc- 
trine on the subject of the equality of the sexes. The 
following letter is interesting : 

Albany, Oct. 25, 1853. 

Miss Pellet, Oberlin, Ohio : 

Dear Friend — On my way to this city, to take part in defend- 
ing- the persons charged with rescuing " Jerry," you were so good 
as to hand me Professor Fairchild's Report, **on the joint education 
of the sexes." I have read it with great interest. It is eloquent and 
able. Nevertheless, I can find some fault with it. 

Professor F. on page 27 admits the doctrine that the sexes differ 
in their " mental constitution." That is as I understand him, that 
they differ 7iaturally in this respect. Now I regard this doctrine as 
very false and very pernicious : and I believe that the wrongs of 
women will never be righted until this doctrine that there is sex in 
mind is exploded. But, if I read the Professor rightly, he does him- 
self virtually tell us, on pages 33 and 34, that this doctrine is not 
founded in truth. He there confronts it with his " experience of 
twelve years " in a school where ** the sexes pursued the entire range 
of academical study in common." 

On page 37 Professor F. would guard well " the feminine in- 
stincts." But why not the masculine also.-^ What means he by 
"feminine instincts?" On page 38 he would have " womanhood 
become more beautiful, and manhood more strong." But why 
would he not have each become both beautiful and strong? Beauty 
is as desirable and attainable an element in male character as in 
" female character ; " and so is strength as desirable and attainable 
an element in "female character" as in male character. On page 
30, the Professor is concerned to preserve the modesty and delicacy 
of woman. And why should he not be as much concerned to have 
man modest and delicate as woman ? 

Heaven speed the day when man shall be expected to blush as 
quick and as deep as woman, at every degree of impurity: and 
when the churches and schools and public sentiment of the whole 
world shall demand the same mental and moral character — the 



124 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

same mental and moral strength, beauty and delicacy— for woman 
as for man — for man as for woman. Gerrit Smith. 

In the same strain is the following extract from a 
letter to Susan B. Anthony, written in 1853 : 

•' I know not why it is not as much the duty of your sex as it is 
of mine, to establish newspapers, write books and hold public meet- 
ings for the promotion of the cause of temperance. The current 
idea that modesty should hold women back from such services is all 
resolvable into nonsense and wickedness. Female modesty ! Fe- 
male delicacy ! I would that I might never again hear such phrases. 
There is but one standard of modesty and delicacy for both men and 
women ; and so long as different standards are tolerated, both sexes 
will be perverse and corrupt. It is my duty to be as modest and 
delicate as you are, and if your modesty and delicacy may excuse 
you from making a public speech, then may mine excuse me from 
making one." 

In a letter addressed to Mrs. Stanton, in 1869, on 
the right of women to vote, the ground taken is absolute 
enough to satisfy any champion of that cause. 

" Women have as full right as men to participate in making the 
laws by which, equally with men, they are governed." . . . 
•* Men are ever defining woman's sphere — but as well might women 
be guilty of the like arrogance in regard to man's sphere." " Every 
one should be left at entire liberty to choose an individual sphere — a 
man to choose to knit or sew — a woman to choose to fell trees or to 
be a blacksmith." The title to vote is claimed for women on four 
grounds, i. As a natural right. 2. As a necessity for complete 
representation. 3. As a help to the enlargement of woman's range 
of thought and action. 4. As a qualification to be a worthy helpei 
of man in the task of promoting progress. 

In the course of argument on these points, thoughts 
of the most radical, searching kind were thrown out. 
The method of forcing the issue by persistent application 
at the polls found favor with him. 

" I wish " he wrote, " women would, everywhere, throng the polls 



HUMANITY. 12$ 

and offer their votes, and do this from year to year, until men can 
no longer withstand the appeal. Such earnestness and such deter- 
mination would not fail to convince men of woman's faith in her 
right to vote ; and this would be quickly followed by their own belief 
in her right to vote, and by a breast full of shame at having with- 
held the ri<rht from her." 



To Mrs. Stanton's inquiry why, with his opinions, he 
had no more faith in the movement, he frankly replied : 

'• It is not in the proper hands ; the proper hands are not to be 
found. The present age, although in advance of any former age, is 
nevertheless very far from being sufficiently under the sway of reason 
to take up the cause of woman and carry it forward to success.*' 

'• Only let woman attire her person fitly for the whole battle of 
life — that great and often rough battle, which she is as much bound 
to fight as man is, and the common sense expressed in the change 
will put to flight all the nonsensical fancies about her inferiority to 
man. No more will then be heard of her being made of a finer ma- 
terial than man is made of: and, on the contrary, no more will then 
be heard of her being but the complement of man, and of its taking 
both a man and a woman (the woman of course but a small part of 
it) to make up a unit. No more will it then be said that there is 
sex in mind — an original sexual difference in intellect. What a pity 
that so many of our noblest women make this foolish admission ! 
It is made by the great majority of the women who plead the cause 
of woman." 

" I am amazed that the intelligent women engaged in the 
'Woman's rights movement' see not the relation between their 
dress and the oppressive evils which they are striving to throw off. 
I am amazed that they do not see that their dress is indispensable 
to keep in countenance the policy and purposes, out of which those 
evils grow. I hazard nothing in saying that the relation between the 
dress and the degradation of an American woman is as vital as be- 
tween the cramped foot and degradation of a Chinese woman ; as 
vital as between the uses of the inmate of the harem, and the ap- 
parel and trainmg provided for her." 

*• Women are holding their meetings ; and with great ability do 
they urge their claims to the rights of property and suffrage. But, 
as in the case of the colored man, the great needed change is in 
himself, so also in the case of woman the great needed change is 
in herself. Of what comparative avail would be her exercise of the 



Il6 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

Canada. Some months afterwards, friends of the slain 
man, learning that Anderson was in Toronto, induced 
the Governor of Kentucky to make a requisition on the 
provincial Governor of Canada to deliver the criminal, 
under the provisions of the Ashburton Treaty which 
was signed at Washington, in 1842. The order was 
taken to Canada, and the writ was served. Anderson 
was not unknown in Toronto. He had behaved well, 
and had made friends. The circumstances of his beinor 
a fugitive from slctvery interested many in his fate. 
Fortunately there was telegraphic communication with 
the States. A message sent to Mr. Smith was carried 
by swift express to Peterboro. Smith remembered the 
man and the incidents of his escape. He left his office 
at once, ordered his horses and was on his way to To- 
ronto in less than two hours from the moment of Ander- 
son's arrest. At Canastota, nine miles from home, he 
sent a message bidding the friends of the fugitive block 
proceedings till he arrived. At Buffalo there was no 
time to stop ; he pushed on and reached Toronto in 
season for the opening of the court. There he offered 
himself as counsel for Anderson. The case being pre- 
sented, the unprofessional advocate, in a speech, une- 
laborated and unpremeditated, except on the hurried 
journey, but of great power and cogency, made his plea. 
The incidental points pressed were these: — i. That An 
derson, in killing his pursuer had been guilty of no mur 
der, but at the worst of justifiable homicide. He hac^ 
obeyed the law of nature, the supreme law, in slaying 
one who would have taken from him what was dearer 
than life ; the alleged crime was therefore no crime, 
rather it was a manly, heroic deed, entitling the man to 



HUMANITY, 117 

praise and not to punishment. 2. The deed was done 
in Ohio, not in Kentucky, and as Ohio had made no 
requisition, the proceedings even though the man could 
be fairly charged with murder, were void. 3. The ques- 
tion whether Anderson should or should not be given 
up was one for the English law to decide. ^The case 
must be tried by English law, which made no recognition 
of slavery. The main argument was, however, addressed 
to the pomt that neither the Ashburton Treaty nor the 
United States Constitution required the surrender of 
fugitive slaves, but that both demanded their freedom. 
Still even this argument, full and cogent as it was, owed 
its compelling power to the devotion to humanity which 
inspired the orator, making his very stature seem gigan- 
tic. The advocate gained his cause triumphantly. 
The speech made a prodigious impression, coming as it 
did from a glowing heart, a mind of great fertility, and 
fortified by a touching power of eloquence. It was print- 
ed, and circulated over all the United States. It was 
commented on in the London Times^ which applauded 
the action of the provincial tribunal, declared that the 
law of England fully sustained the judgment, and char- 
acterized Gerrit Smith as the Robert Peel of America. 

Gerrit Smith was in attendance on a convention of 
the Liberty Party at Syracuse, Oct. i, 1851, when the 
alarm bell told the Vigilance Committee that a black 
man had been seized under the ** Fugitive Slave Law." 
Rev. Samuel J. May was rising from the dinner table 
when the news came, and by making haste reached the 
court house where a crowd had already assembled to 
watch the proceedings. The excitement was gathering. 
The prisoner, Jerry McHenry, manacled and guarded, 



128 LIFE OF CERRIT SMITH. 

3. I have raised a great deal of phlegm this morning. I go again 
to court, hoping my voice may so improve that I can speak to the 
jun'. I return at evening. 

4. To court again, and return at everJng. I slept but half an 
hour last night. 

5. I go to court again. I am ven- sick and my bead aches 
much. I slept but two hours last night. 

The effort was made the followinsr dav, — December 
6. It was the second trial. At the first, the jury had 
disagreed. Another judge was on the bench. Mr. Smith 
spoke between five and six hours, in his hearty, natural, 
ingenuous way, producing great effect on the crowded 
assembly by his open, sincere bearing, and his cordial 
conviction ; at the end of the first half-hour his head be- 
came clear, his voice recovered its tone ; the fullness of 
his heart flooded his mind and brightened his speech. 
The case went to the jur\' at seven oViOck. Mr. Smith, 
hat in hand, approached Zecher, took his hand and said : 
** I have done all I could for vou. I leave vou in the 
hands of an inteiiigent jury who, I believe, will never 
decide that vour life shall be taken for a crime thev are 
not sure vou ever committed. If vou are cleared bv the 
jurv, as vou cannot speak our lan^ua^^e and have no 
home, come to my house at Peterboro, and I will find 
you employment.** Then, bowing to the court and 
bar he withdrew. At eleven o'clock that nis^ht the news 
came to him that Zecher was acquitted. Early the next 
day, the man appeared and received such a welcome as 
Gerrit Smith knew well how to give. There was family 
worship of thanks and prayer, the tears streaming down 
the nob'e man*s face as he turned it heavenward. 

The man remained about a year in Mr. Smith's em- 
ploy. At the end of that time it was thought best to 



HUMANITY, 119 

Resolved, That the gratitude of our hearts goes out to the God 
of the oppressed for the defeat of this attempt to replunge a poor 
brother into the horrors and hell of slavery ; and that although we 
are pleased to know that the outraged and indignant people spared 
ihe life of every one of the kidnappers, we nevertheless feel bound to 
declare that if any class of criminals deserve to be struck down in 
instant death it is kidnappers. 

Resolved, That notwithstanding the enactment of the " Fugitive 
Slave Law," and the general acquiescence in it under the influence 
of the devil-prompted speeches of politicians and devil-prompted 
sermons of priests, give tearful evidence that this is a doomed and 
damned nation, we nevertheless cannot forbear to derive some little 
nope from the recent resistance to kidnappers in Pennsylvania, and 
from the resistance to them yesterday in Syracuse, that a patient 
and long-suffering God has not left this superlatively wicked nation 
to perish. 

Resolved, That every fresh demonstration of the character and 
claims of slavery, serves to bind the principles of the Liberty Party 
still closer and closer to our hearts ; and to make it more manifest 
that we have no right to vote for any person for civil office — how- 
ever high or however low may be the office — who is not an out and 
out abolitionist. 

To those whose memory goes not back to these 
times of dread excitement, the spirit of these resolutions 
will seem fanatical, and their language intemperate. 
But they who lived then, and shared anything of the 
feeling that prevailed, will bear testimony that the sen- 
timents expressed are no stronger than was usual with 
anti-slavery men, nay, hardly so strong. The aboHtion- 
ists had no words to convey their detestation of the 
'* Fugitive Slave Law,'* its authors, executors and apolo- 
gists. Jn their view it was atheistic and inhuman ; it 
involved an utter practical disbelief in the principles of 
justice and kindness ; a repudiation, not of the Bible 
merely, not of Christianity alone, but of every form of 
religious duty, of every sentiment that had become na- 









4 »' 



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^' ;:*r'»' ,^*r !<.-,. ^v.v:.': - ^ ■>r^..'.'-^ c.-i-rr^^ --"=. i^n- 2."^- noi 

• i'/- w ■' n' /,' '.'.X V, r<"* ,' '.i-T ^ ''.-':- 3»!ll.~r ■»'_ S1.X IJ:.!! i 
" ^,' .X ''* '/*' ''^'* ' ',-•*""' '■*''I V," •• <-11 " *"* '^" «■" ~ ■'^■"^"'' "5^ — LIl 'M "i"^ 

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*/. v^ ' *'. > ' ' ' "S*- ^>^ ^ »^" ^ *" *" — ""^ *" r* -S'T"-"?'- *■'-•-»' 'j-^ S.T^ RcT* 

Ih;", ;% th'i itory told in detail by himself. It is 
^jv'iTi in hh ov/n \hir,%u7i.%*z that his whole action may 
h^ und^rr-tood. It is a revelation of the soint of the 
rri?in, That the frrelin^ manifested was no suoerncial or 
/:van':'X':nt one, but deep and earnest, appears in the 
f;i'',t that yearr^ e!ap=ed before the bitterness of the 
recollection parsed away. 

yz/«>? 22, 1^42. I \thrnf'A yesterday morning, that the prenous 
f,';yr.t, ;i xuh\) \jro\c': into H. Dev-an's house — abused his person and 
(\r>iyy^'-A him ofit in thf: prc.v:nce of his family — rode him on a board 

ff»ro'j;'/f» fr.': viliaj^e — and were with difficulty restrained from putting 
t/ir utif\ icidftt^n upon hirn, and torturing him with spirits of tur- 

' '1 1)1 •. 'u\^t^\\'v/nx\(:(z c/,\WA up various emotions in my breast. I was 
ffj^If'd v/jf}» (iify toward rny poor outraged fellow man. I was fired 
•-viifi ifi'!i;.Mi;ifion townrrl thoso* who had visited this outrage upon 
hifii. I v/;i'i hll^Trl with ^ri'rf in view of the deep, if not indelible dis- 
\n:\ir, v/hirh wa'i hrou^^ht upon my beloved Peterboro — a village in 
who-.n ifio};-;jbhorrif»g, and law-abiding and otherwise good char- 
:\(.\t-\\ I h;id t;ik':n so much pride and pleasure. 



HUMANITY, 131 

I went into the village and to my amazement, found it quiet and 
no one ready to sympathize with me in the feelings of my soul. It 
IS true that my friends N. Huntington and F. Dana said that mobs 
were wrong and that the persons engaged in this mob deserv^ed to 
be punished ; but in the same cold breath with which they made this 
remark, they would speak disparagingly of all sympathy with Devan. 
Mr. Dana repeatedly said — •* I have no pity for Devan." His doc- 
trine of course, is that if a man be wicked and vile, his brother man 
is under no obligation to pity him for the blows inflicted upon his 
body or for the insults inflicted upon his manhood. Is this a Chris- 
tian doctrine ? Does not Christ pity the sufferings of the vilest man 
on earth ? Then must not His disciples do likewise ? Is this doc- 
trine learnt of Him, who " maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on 
the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust ? " 

Our county court was in session. But not a neighbor did I see, 
who was desirous to have a complaint made to the grand jury 
against the lawless ruffians. I started for Devan's house — but met 
him, ere I had gone far. As soon as he came up to me, he burst 
into tears. I felt myself honored by his tears — honored by this evi- 
dence that he calculated on my sympathy. He accompanied me 
to my office. I wrote the district attorney, giving him a brief 
account of the outrage, and expressing my earnest hope that the 
offenders would be brought to justice. I handed it to Devan to- 
gether with a little money to bear his expenses during his stay ia 
Morrisville. 

In the afternoon of yesterday, I sat an hour in Major Curtis" 
store. I found him justifying the mob. Said he, to use his own 
words, — "There are no laws to punish Devan's crimes — and there- 
fore we must not complain if the boys make laws for the occasion." 
By "boys" he meant the persons who composed the mob. Mr. 
Perry G. Palmer came in. He was filled with the same spirit which 
animated the Major. To use his precise words, he said : " Perhaps^ 
they might have taken a better way to punish him," I owe it how- 
ever to them to say, that before I left the store they both admitted 
in words, that the mob was not to be approved. 

Mr. Dana, who had been at court both yesterday and to-day, in- 
formed me, this evening, that Devan's complaint to the grand jury 
was ineffectual. He said that he thought the district attorney was 
indisposed to the finding of bills in the case — and he admitted that 
he himself had done nothing to bring the offenders to justice, and 
that he knew of no person beside Devan and myself, who had lifted 
a finger to that end. Indeed, he went so far as to remind me, that 



122 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

throw of slavery would they not have accumulated b\' this time ! 
But thev soon fell from it. Thev soon sunk down to the low level 
of their political and church parties. Jerry was forgotten ; their 
humanity was dead. . . . 

•• We had better give up the celebration of the rescue of Jerry. 
The thing is quite too great and good for us. Earnest and honest 
men are alone suited to it. We Jerry rescuers are mean men and 
sham men." 

The courage of this position will be appreciated by 
those who have known how much harder it is to disagree 
with friends than to fight enemies. He was personally 
no coward who rescued the slave : he was morally no 
coward who reproved the slave rescuers. 

A humanity so completely unconscious of the dis- 
tinctions of race, was, naturally, unconscious of the civil 
and moral distinctions of sex. That this large hearted 
philanthropist devoted himself less ardently to the cause 
of woman's emancipation than to others, was owing 
probably to its less conspicuous and crying importance, 
and to the fact that no great battle raged about it. The 
opposition was not organized because the evil was less 
manifest. The principle was, however, evident to the 
philanthropist's clear mind, and his enunciation of it was 
decided and unqualified. His complaint was directed 
however against women themselves, — that they were 
wanting in respect for their own dignity, were creatures 
of fashion, slothful, capricious, vain of the silken chains 
they wore. Their passion for dress, their persistency in 
wearing a dress that condemned them to a life of dis- 
play, made thein slow and inactive, injured their physical 
health and doomed them to sedentary occupations, was 
in his judgment, at the root of the whole evil complained 
of. The reform that most concerned him in connection 



HUMANITY, 123 

with women was the dress reform. The first to discard 
the trailing skirt and put on what afterwards was un- 
fortunately called the ** Bloomer ** was his own daughter. 
Long, printed letters to. Mrs. E. C. Stanton and Miss S. 
B. Anthony, committed him to the most extreme doc- 
trine on the subject of the equality of the sexes. The 
following letter is interesting : 

Albany, Oct. as, 1852. 

Miss Pellet, Oberlin, Ohio : 

Dear Friend — On my way to this city, to take part in defend- 
ing" the persons charged with rescuing "Jerry," you were so good 
as to hand me Professor Fairchild's Report, "on the joint education 
of the sexes." I have read it with great interest. It is eloquent and 
able. Nevertheless, I can find some fault with it. 

Professor F. on pa^e 27 admits the doctrine that the sexes differ 
in their "mental constitution." That is as I understand him, that 
they differ naturally in this respect. Now I regard this doctrine as 
very false and very pernicious : and I believe that the wrongs of 
women will never be righted until this doctrine that there is sex in 
mind is exploded. But, if I read the Professor rightly, he does him- 
self virtually tell us, on pages 33 and 34, that this doctrine is not 
founded in truth. He there confronts it with his " experience of 
twelve years " in a school where " the sexes pursued the entire range 
of academical study in common." 

On page 37 Professor F. would guard well " the feminine in- 
stincts." But why not the masculine also.'* What means he by 
"feminine instincts?" On page 38 he would have "womanhood 
become more beautiful, and manhood more strong." But why 
would he not have each become both beautiful and strong? Beauty 
is as desirable and attainable an element in male character as in 
" female character ; " and so is strength as desirable and attainable 
an element in " female character " as in male character. On page 
30, the Professor is concerned to preserve the modesty and delicacy 
of woman. And why should he not be as much concerned to have 
man modest and delicate as woman ? 

Heaven speed the day when man shall be expected to blush as 
quick and as deep as woman, at every degree of impurity : and 
when the churches and schools and public sentiment of the whole 
world shall demand the same mental and moral character — the 



124 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

same mental and moral strength, beauty and delicacy— for woman 
as for man — for man as for woman. Gerrit Smith. 

In the same strain is the following extract from a 
letter to Susan B. Anthony, written in 1853 : 

" I know not why it is not as much the duty of your sex as it is 
of mine, to establish newspapers, write books and hold public meet- 
ings for the promotion of the cause of temperance. The current 
idea that modesty should hold women back from such services is all 
resolvable into nonsense and wickedness. Female modesty ! Fe- 
male delicacy ! I would that I might never again hear such phrases. 
There is but one standard of modesty and delicacy for both men and 
women ; and so long as different standards are tolerated, both sexes 
will be perverse and corrupt. It is my duty to be as modest and 
delicate as you are, and if your modesty and delicacy may excuse 
you from making a public speech, then may mine excuse me from 
making one." 

In a letter addressed to Mrs. Stanton, in 1869, on 
the right of women to vote, the ground taken is absolute 
enough to satisfy any champion of that cause. 

*' Women have as full right as men to participate in making the 
laws by which, equally with men, they are governed." . . . 
" Men are ever defining woman's sphere — but as well might women 
be guilty of the like arrogance in regard to man's sphere." " Every 
one should be left at entire liberty to choose an individual sphere — a 
man to choose to knit or sew — a woman to choose to fell trees or to 
be a blacksmith." The title to vote is claimed for women on four 
grounds, i. As a natural right. 2. As a necessity for complete 
representation. 3. As a help to the enlargement of woman's range 
of thought and action. 4. As a qualification to be a worthy helpei 
of man in the task of promoting progress. 

In the course of argument on these points, thoughts 
of the most radical, searching kind were thrown out. 
The method of forcing the issue by persistent application 
at the polls found favor with him. 

*' I wish " he wrote, " women would, everywhere, throng the polls 



HUMANITY, 13s 

standing their avowed indifference to the bruised body and insulted 
manhood and cloven down rights of the victim of the late Peterboro 
mob — who, notwithstanding their avowed pleasure in his suffering — 
<io nevertheless, seek to make themselves and others believe, that 
ttiey warmly disapprove of the mob itself: Resolved, Therefore, that 
the incompatibility of such disapproval with their pleasure in, or un- 
concern for the sufferings of the victim of the mob, is shown not 
only by the nature of things, but by the interest which they, who 
proiess this warm disapproval of the mob, manifest to prevent the 
exposure of those who composed it. 

6. Resolved, That the doctrine that we are not to sympathize with 
the wicked person who suffers wrongs and outrages, is abhorrent to 
humanity and religion — is a doctrine that would, turn man into a 
monster toward his fellow man — is a doctrine that, were it in the 
heart o' God, would ** shut the gates of mercy on mankind." 

7. Resolved, That this village whose citizens have, until the re- 
cent outrage, been conspicuous for their humane and law-abiding 
charactei» is now deeply disgraced, and that the wisest means should 
be immediately and earnestly employed for the recovery of its lost 
character. 

8. Resilvedy That it is not by subjecting to legal penalties the 
person coispicious in the late mob, that our village can be redeemed 
from its dep disgrace. Violated law might be honored in that wise. 
But it is ony by bringing the offenders to feel and deplore and pub- 
licly confess their wrong doing, that Peterboro can be restored to 
the hearts 01 those who dearly loved her, ere the reign of mobocracy 
gave her a ntw and loathsome aspect. 

9. Resolvtd, That the repentance of the offenders, especially if 
coupled with he acknowledgment that they merit legal punishment, 
would not ony remove from our village its deep stains of disgrace, 
but would also confer more honor on the laws than would their 
enforcement. 

10. Resolvd, In conclusion, that we earnestly and affectionately 
invite all who vere concerned in the mob, to make both to the public 
and to Henry Devan, a frank and full acknowledgment of their error, 
that so great ai outrage, which doubtless had its origin in an incon- 
siderate and sprtive state of mind, rather than in a malignant and 
cruel spirit, maf be forgiven and forgotten. 

But Gerri: Smith did not limit his kindness to stran- 
gers. He Wis not one of the " infidels ** who neglect 



126 LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH, 

right of suffrage if she is still to remain the victim of her present 
false notions of herself and of her relations to the other sex ? " 

" The next * woman's rights convention ' will, I take it for granted, 
differ but little from its predecessors. It will abound in righteous 
demands and noble sentiments, but not in the evidence that they 
who enunciate these demands and sentiments are prepared to put 
themselves in harmony with what they conceive and demand. In a 
word, for the lack of such preparation, and of the deep earnestness 
which alone can prompt to this preparation, it will be, as has been 
every other * Woman's rights convention,' a failure." 

That these opinions were heretical in the judgment of 
the advocates as well as of the opponents of the cause, 
was clearly apprehended. That he would be accused of 
breaking down social distinctions, of unsettling moral 
usages, of flying in the face of the Bible, and setting at 
naught the precepts of religion was avowed. But the pen- 
alty of all this enormity is cheerfully encountered. The 
claims of humanity in this regard as well as in regard to 
the questions of temperance and liberty are boldly pre- 
ferred to the claims of church, bible and society. 

The humanity of this man knew absolutely no dis- 
tinction of persons. He respected humanity in the most 
unpromising subjects and under the most adverse cir- 
cumstances. In the adjoining town of Nelson, on the 
Cherry Valley Turnpike, there lived, in 1856, an old 
man, a farmer, named John Buck. He had lived there 
some sixty years. On the evening of the 14th of March, 
Buck was found dead in his barn, which stood opposite 
his house, with an ugly wound in his head. His horse 
was loose in the barn, and it was conjectured might 
have kicked the old man of eighty to death. There 
were no blood stains of consequence anywhere in the 
barn or the house, or on the white snow between, or on 
the dead man's person. There was clearly no attempt 



HUMANITY, 127 

at robbery. But there was a blood-stained axe in the 
house that suggested murder* The last person seen 
with the dead man, who lived quite alone, was George 
William Zecher, a young Dutchman, who lived nearly 
three miles from the scene of the murder in the adjacent 
town of Eaton. Zecher was arrested, examined and 
committed for trial before the grand jury, which met at 
Morrisville. The incident caused great excitement 
through the county. Mr. Smith, learning that Zecher 
came from the same part of Holland with his father, was 
poor, a stranger, friendless and unable to speak English 
intelligibly, went to see him in jail, talked with him, as 
well as he could in Dutch, became interested in him, 
heard his story, was persuaded of his innocence, was 
impressed by his ** harmless, childlike spirit,** ** his sim- 
ple, artless manner,** " his beautiful and sublime stead- 
fastness in the truth,** " his straightforward account of 
himself;'* the "many virtues*' of the prisoner won his 
heart, and he undertook his defence. It was no easy 
task. He, though destined for the law, and acquainted 
with so much of law as concerned the management of 
estates, was not by profession a lawyer, and the district 
attorney, David J. Mitchell, was one of the able lawyers 
of the State. Mr. Smith was even obliged to obtain 
permission to practice at the New York bar in order to 
defend his client. At the time he was ill, as the entries 
in his diary show. 

Dec, I, 1856. I go this morning to court at Morrisville to defend 
poor Zecher. I am suffering much from sickness, and hoarseness. 
I return at evening. 

2, I go again, much depressed by my fears that I shall not be 
able to speak for the poor prisoner. I return at evening. 



128 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

3, I have raised a great deal of phlegm this morning. I go again 
to court, hoping my voice may so improve that I can speak to the 
jury. I return at evening. 

4, To court again, and return at evening. I slept but half an 
hour last night. 

5, I go to court again. I am very sick and my head aches 
much. I slept but two hours last night. 

The effort was made the following day, — December 
6. It was the second trial. At the first, the jury had 
disagreed. Another judge was on the bench. Mr. Smith 
spoke between five and six hours, in his hearty, natural, 
ingenuous way, producing great effect on the crowded 
assembly by his open, sincere bearing, and his cordial 
conviction; at the end of the first half-hour his head be- 
came clear, his voice recovered its tone ; the fullness of 
his heart flooded his mind and brightened his speech. 
The case went to the jury at seven o'clock. Mr. Smith, 
hat in hand, approached Zecher, took his hand and said : 
** I have done all I could for you. I leave you in the 
hands of an intelligent jury who, I believe, will never 
decide that your life shall be taken for a crime they are 
not sure you ever committed. If you are cleared by the 
jury, as you cannot speak our language and have no 
home, come to my house at Peterboro, and I will find 
you employment." Then, bowing to the court and 
bar he withdrew. At eleven o'clock that night the news 
came to him that Zecher was acquitted. Early the next 
day, the man appeared and received such a welcome as 
Gerrit Smith knew well how to give. There was family 
worship of thanks and prayer, the tears streaming down 
the noble man's face as he turned it heavenward. 

The man remained about a year in Mr. Smith's em- 
ploy. At the end of that time it was thought best to 



HUMANITY. 129 

send him back to his native land. Preparations were 
made : passes were secured. The diary tells the tale. 

Wednesday, Jan, 13, 1858, 6 A. M. George William Zecher and 
wife with their two children, Charles or Carl, little more than two 
years old, and William, born last June, left us a few moments ago 
for Germany. His parents sent for him to come and live with them. 
I had Zecher and wife with me in the library this morning. I gave 
them my best advice ; especially full was I in regard to strong drink 
and tobacco. I prayed with them. I received Willie's last assurance 
of his entire innocence in the matter of Mr. Buck's death, and never 
was I so fully convinced of his innocence as when he now told me 
of it and looked upon me with his large and honest (childlike honest) 
eyes. We parted from each other with tears and kisses — and with 
many thoughts and deep emotions. How I toiled for his acquittal, 
when he lay under the charge of murder ! How I carried him for 
nearly a year in my anxious heart, even as a tender mother carries 
her sick child. 

Zecher departed ; on the 19th a letter was received 
from a kinsman in New York saying that he had re- 
ported himself and then disappeared. The surmise was 
natural that he had deserted, either not sailing at all, or 
sailing without his family. On the 23d the good man 
was made unhappy by reports that his protegi was dis- 
honest, quarrelsome, profane ; that he chewed tobacco 
and drank ; that he beat his wife, and threatened to leave 
her. It seemed not unlikely that he was the kind of 
man to commit the crime of manslaughter of which he 
had been acquitted. If Mr. Smith thought so he kept 
his suspicion in his heart, and none the less went on 
putting his faith in human nature. 

A more remarkable case than this of Zecher, as 
showing how completely the humanity of the philan- 
thropist rose above considerations of merit and demerit 
in the individual, and comprehended the vicious as well 
6* 



I30 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

as the suspected — was that of the mob in Peterboro. 
Thus he pours out his feehngs in the diary. 

June 22, 1842. Peterboro, dear Peterboro, is deeply perhaps 
indelibly disgraced ! A mob broke night before last, into the house 
of Henry Devan, abused his person, dragged him out, and rode 
him through the village on a board ; and the worst of all is that I 
find scarce any individual who sympathizes with me in the indigna- 
tion with which this outrage inflames me. Many will say that a 
mob is to be condemned, but will add, in the cold breath with which 
they utter it, that they have no pity for Devan, that he deserved no 
better treatment ; thus do they virtually justify the mob. The provo- 
cation to this outrage is the charge, (I know not how well substan- 
tiated,) that Devan has recently been guilty of fornication. The late 
crime of E. M./ and the late conversion of the Peterboro temperance 
house into a house of death, did much to disgrace our village. But, 
in this instance, not one or two individuals only, but the people 
themselves have disgraced it. 

This is the story told in detail by himself. It is 
given in his ov^n language that his whole action may 
be understood. It is a revelation of the spirit of the 
man. That the feeling manifested was no superficial or 
evanescent one, but deep and earnest, appears in the 
fact that years elapsed before the bitterness of the 
recollection passed away. 

June 11, 1842. I learned yesterday morning, that the previous 
night, a mob broke into H. Devan's house — abused his person and 
dragged him out in the presence of his family — rode him on a board 
through the village — and were with difficulty restrained from putting 
tar and feathers upon him, and torturing him with spirits of tur- 
pentine. 

This intelligence called up various emotions in my breast. I was 
melted with pity toward my poor outraged fellow man. I was fired 
with indignation toward those who had visited this outrage upon 
him. I was filled with grief in view of the deep, if not indelible dis- 
grace, which was brought upon my beloved Peterboro — a village in 
whose mob-abhorring, and law-abiding and otherwise good char- 
acter, I had taken so much pride and pleasure. 



HUMANITY, 131 

I went into the village and to my amazement, found it quiet and 
no one ready to sympathize with me in the feelings of my soul. It 
is true that my friends N. Huntington and F. Dana said that mobs 
were wrong and that the persons engaged in this mob deserv^ed to 
be punished ; but in the same cold breath with which they made this 
remark, they would speak disparagingly of all sympathy with Devan. 
Mr. Dana repeatedly said — " I have no pity for Devan." His doc- 
trine of course, is that if a man be wicked and vile, his brother man 
is under ho obligation to pity him for the blows inflicted upon his 
body or for the insults inflicted upon his manhood. Is this a Chris- 
tian doctrine ? Does not Christ pity the sufferings of the vilest man 
on earth ? Then must not His disciples do likewise } Is this doc- 
trine learnt of Him, who " maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on 
the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust } " 

Our county court was in session. But not a neighbor did I see, 
who was desirous to have a complaint made to the grand jury 
against the lawless ruffians. I started for Devan's house — but met 
him, ere I had gone far. As soon as he came up to me, he burst 
into tears. I felt myself honored by his tears — honored by this evi- 
dence that he calculated on my sympathy. He accompanied me 
to my office. I wrote the district attorney, giving him a brief 
account of the outrage, and expressing my earnest hope that the 
offenders would be brought to justice. I handed it to Devan to- 
gether with a little money to bear his expenses during his stay ia 
Morrisville. 

In the "afternoon of yesterday, I sat an hour in Major Curtis" 
store. I found him justifying the mob. Said he, to use his own 
words, — " There are no laws to punish Devan's crimes — and there- 
fore we must not complain if the boys make laws for the occasion." 
By "boys" he meant the persons who composed the mob. Mr. 
Perry G. Palmer came in. He was filled with the same spirit which 
animated the Major. To use his precise words, he said : " Perhaps^ 
they might have taken a better way to punish him," I owe it how- 
ever to them to say, that before I left the store they both admitted 
in words, that the mob was not to be approved. 

Mr. Dana, who had been at court both yesterday and to-day, in- 
formed me, this evening, that Devan's complaint to the grand jury 
was ineffectual. He said that he thought the district attorney was 
indisposed to the finding of bills in the case — and he admitted that 
he himself had done nothing to bring the offenders to justice, and 
that he knew of no person beside Devan and myself, who had lifted 
a finger to that end. Indeed, he went so far as to remind me, that 



HUMANITY. 133 

press his indignation, and stay his ministering hand while he should 
inquire into the moral character of the wounded man. 

Peterboro, which I have loved very greatly — too much — is no 
longer lovely to me. It is a deeply, perhaps an indelibly, disgraced 
village. But, perhaps not indelibly. It would recover all its lost 
beauty, if its leading citizens were to put upon this outrage the seal 
of their reprobation, and if. as a probable consequence of such tes- 
timony, they who composed the mob should be brought to feel their 
crime, to repent of it, and to humble themselves before the man 
whom they abused and insulted. So great a change, however, I can 
hardly hope for. 

I am not pained about Peterboro, because I think it worse than 
other places — but because I find that it is no better than other 
places. How often I had boasted of its preeminently pure, and 
moral character— and especially of its mob-hating character ! In 
1835 Peterboro was probably the only village in this State to which 
the mobbed Utica Convention could have openly retreated with 
safety. *' How is the gold become dim ! How is the most fine gold 
chanp^ed ! " 

The change in my pecuniar)'' circumstances made it proper for 
me to determine to leave Peterboro. I should have left it with regret, 
but for this horrible outrage and the general acquiescence in it. One 
of the regrets which I shall now feel in leaving it is, that, for the 
prese7it, my business will make it necessary for me to revisit it so 
frequently. Gerrit SMITH. 

The foregoing is Gerrit Smith's memorandum of facts 
connected with the atrocious outrage on" Henry Devan 
the night of June 20, 1842— and of some of his feelings 
and reflections in view of that outrage. 

June 24, 1842. I am happy to find that W. Loring Fowler, who 
at first was indifferent to the outrage, now views it in a just light. 

June 25, I have had a long conversation with W. Scofield 
this morning. He reasons and feels on the subject, just as he 
should do. James C. Jackson is most heartily right. So is George 



Saturday, June 25, 1842. I wrote and put upon my office door 
and on one of the doors of the Presbyterian church copies of the fol- 
lowing notice. I also handed a copy to Mr. Scofield with the request 
that he would read it in the church to-morrow. 



134 ^^F^ OF GERRIT SMITH. 



" NOTICE. 



" The citizens of Peterboro and its vicinity are respectfully invited 
to meet in the Presbyterian church in Peterboro, Saturday 2 P. M., 
July 2, for a friendly consultation respecting the mob by which their 
village has recently been disgraced, and to ascertain the duties 
which at this crisis, they owe to themselves, to violated law and 
violated religion. June 25, 1842." 

yuly 2, 1842. I this day attended the above meeting. There 
were about fifty persons present — only three of them females — viz. : 

. Mr. Scofield opened with prayer. Elder was 

appointed chairman and S. Addison Dana secretary. Mr. N. 

Schofield, Mr. Boyle of Ohio, Mr. Shaw of Vermont and myself took 
the principal part in the discussion. The meeting was of about four 
hours continuance. A series of resolutions introduced by myself 
was unanimously adopted, with the exception of the 5th. One per- 
son, a Mr. Charles Hopkins, as I was informed, voted against that 
resolution, for the reason as he alleged, that Mr. Devan's "body" 
was not " bruised." A series of resolutions was offered by Mr. W. 
P. Clemens, not written, and I believe not approved by himself. 
They were read and discussed — but so generally if not universally, 
were they disapproved of by the meeting, that no one in the meeting 
urged that the sense of the meeting be taken on any one of them. 

1. Resolved, That no crimes, however heinous or clearly proven, 
are to be punished in ways forbidden by the laws. 

2. Resolved, That to deny legal protection to the hated and de- 
spised is to take the ground, that the laws are made for the exclusive 
protection of the respectable and the favorites of public opinion. 

3. Resolved, Th3.i they who, whether through their own or others* 
wrongs, are deprived of that shelter from violence and outrage which 
public opinion affords, are the very persons who most need the pro- 
tection of law, and to whom right-minded men will be especially 
eager to minister that protection. 

4. Whereas there are some persons amongst us, who contend that 
it is necessary to mob fornicators ; and whereas there are persons in 
other parts of our country, who maintain, some, that it is necessary 
to mob and hang abolitionists, and others that it is necessary to mob 
and hang gamblers : Resolved, Therefore, that to admit the plea of 
necessity for mobbing in any one of these cases is to open the doo» 
for mobs in every case, where the lawless may think them necessary. 

5. Whereas, there are some persons amongst us who, notwith- 



HUMANITY, 135 

standing their avowed indifference to the bruised body and insulted 
manhood and cloven down rights of the victim of the late Peterboro 
mob — who, notwithstanding their avowed pleasure in his suffering — 
do nevertheless, seek to make themselves and others believe, that 
ttiey warmly disapprove of the mob itself: Resolved, Therefore, that 
the incompatibility of such disapproval with their pleasure in, or un- 
concern for the sufferings of the victim of the mob, is shown not 
only by the nature of things, but by the interest which they, who 
proiess this warm disapproval of the mob, manifest to prevent the 
exposure of those who composed it. 

6. Resolved, That the doctrine that we are not to sympathize with 
the wicked person who suffers wrongs and outrages, is abhorrent to 
humanity and religion — is a doctrine that would, turn man into a 
monster toward his fellow man — is a doctrine that, were it in the 
heart 0' God, would ** shut the gates of mercy on mankind." 

7. l\esolvedy That this village whose citizens have, until the re- 
cent outrage, been conspicuous for their humane and law-abiding 
charactei, is now deeply disgraced, and that the wisest means should 
be immediately and earnestly employed for the recovery of its lost 
character. 

8. Resilvedy That it is not by subjecting to legal penalties the 
person coispicious in the late mob, that our village can be redeemed 
from its dep disgrace. Violated law might be honored in that wise. 
But it is ony by bringing the offenders to feel and deplore and pub- 
licly confess their wrong doing, that Peterboro can be restored to 
the hearts oi those who dearly loved her, ere the reign of mobocracy 
gave her a ntw and loathsome aspect. 

9. Resolvd, That the repentance of the offenders, especially if 
coupled with he acknowledgment that they merit legal punishment, 
would not ony remove from our village its deep stains of disgrace, 
but would also confer more honor on the laws than would their 
enforcement. 

10. Resolvd, In conclusion, that we earnestly and affectionately 
invite all who vere concerned in the mob, to make both to the public 
and to Henry Devan, a frank and full acknowledgment of their error, 
that so great ai outrage, which doubtless had its origin in an incon- 
siderate and spriive state of mind, rather than in a malignant and 
cruel spirit, ma' be forgiven and forgotten. 

But Gerri, Smith did not limit his kindness to stran- 
gers. He Wis not one of the " infidels ** who neglect 



136 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

their own flesh and blood. While he respected, honored 
and blessed the humanity outside of his circle, those in- 
side enjoyed a perpetual flow of good will. His affec- 
tions were as constant and considerate as they were 
ardent. Words and acts of endearment fell from his 
mouth, dropped from his hands, exhaled from his per- 
son. His devotion to wife, children, grandchildren, great 
grandchildren was proverbial. His diary makes tender 
mention of his ** dear Wealtha" and his little children, 
dead, ten, twenty, thirty, forty years after they had 
passed away. The. wound seems never to heaL He 
follows the apostolic injunction, and owes no debts but 
those of love. 

On the death of his father, in 1837, he paicf to the 
eight children of his brother and sister (Mrs. W. L. Coch- 
ran) twenty thousand dollars each, for their share of the 
property, that being at the time its supposed value. 
Thus he became possessor of the entire estate, jind stood 
acquitted legally of all responsibility to the oicher heirs. 
But in i860, the property meanwhile havi/ig greatly 
increased in worth, he made an apportionnqbnt of one 
hundred and twenty thousand dollars to hi^ nieces and 
nephews. In 1862 a second sum of equal jmount was 
given. In 1864 a further gratuity of eight^ thousand 
dollars, in all constituting three hundred ^nd twenty 
thousand dollars, completed this exhibitioiifof remarka- 
ble conscientiousness. The six children reteived, each, 
thirty thousand dollars. The two children of his elder 
brother, seventy thousand dollars. The 'papers con- 
veying these sums are so unostentatious in form that 
they fail to impart an idea of the transaction to one un- 
familiar with the preceding events. The performance 



HUMANITY, 139 

thriving ; intelligent, active minded people lived there ; 
it was a nucleus of popular spirit ; there were several 
churches, there was an academy, a well-patronized hotel ; 
public meetings were frequent and alive. Judge Smith 
drew and kept about him men of affairs ; Gerrit Smith 
brought people of prominence in political life, and fresh- 
ened the soul of the place with discussions on matters 
of general concern. At present, Peterboro is a quiet, 
inert, dull village. It has no hotel, no activity, no in- 
terest for traveller or sojourner. To play croquet on the 
long common seems to tax the energies of the middle 
aged ; to sit and gossip before the three or four inefficient 
shops on the street is the occupation of the elders. The 
inhabitants are chiefly retired farmers whose wants are 
of the fewest and whose resources are about equal to the 
satisfaction of their wants. A few families of blacks sub- 
sist in humble dwellings. The meeting houses have 
been abandoned, or have changed their use. The Meth- 
odists alone exhibit vitality. The Baptist meeting house 
is dilapidated. The Presbyterian was bought by Mr. 
Smith and converted into an academy; the upper part is 
transformed into a public hall. The Independent chapel 
opens its doors now and then to a preacher who relies on 
the neighboring villages for a congregation. Mr. Greene 
Smith, Gerrit's only son, maintains open house during the 
summer, does what he can to preserve alive the traditions 
of hospitality, and keeps up there the spacious and at- 
tractive bird-house, for the preservation of the specimens 
he had procured on his shooting expeditions in all parts 
of the country. The family still make free with the 
mansion and grounds, but the tide of strangers comes 
no more. How they ever came to the remote village. 



136 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

their own flesh and blood. While he respected, honored 
and blessed the humanity outside of his circle, those in- 
side enjoyed a perpetual flow of good will. His affec- 
tions were as constant and considerate as they were 
ardent. Words and acts of endearment fell from his 
mouth, dropped from his hands, exhaled from his per- 
son. His devotion to wife, children, grandchildren, g;eat 
grandchildren was proverbial. His diary makes tender 
mention of his ** dear Wealtha" and his little children, 
dead, ten, twenty, thirty, forty years after they had 
passed away. The . wound seems never to heaL He 
follows the apostolic injunction, and owes no debts but 
those of love. 

On the death of his father, in 1837, he paic to the 
eight children of his brother and sister (Mrs. W. L. Coch- 
ran) twenty thousand dollars each, for their share of the 
property, that being at the time its supposed value. 
Thus he became possessor of the entire estate, ind stood 
acquitted legally of all responsibility to the ether heirs. 
But \\\ i860, the property meanwhile haviig greatly 
increased in worth, he made an apportionment of one 
hundred and twenty thousand dollars to his nieces and 
nephews. In 1862 a second sum of equal jmount was 
given. In 1864 a further gratuity of eighty thousand 
dollars, in all constituting three hundred and twenty 
thousand dollars, completed this exhibitionof remarka- 
ble conscientiousness. The six children received, each, 
thirty thousand dollars. The two children of his elder 
brother, seventy thousand dollars. The papers con- 
veying these sums are so unostentatious in form that 
they fail to impart an idea of the transacti:)n to one un- 
familiar with the preceding events. The performance 



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HUMANITY, 141 

" William Henry Douglass, of Paterson, New Jersey, son of 
Aaron Douglass, comes to our house this morning. Says he is nine- 
teen years old, and ran away from his home a week ago last Satur- 
day. Has been to Buffalo, repents of his folly, and is on his return 
home. He has no money. I gave him three dollars and some bread 
and cheese. He breakfasts with us, and starts for home." 

** Elder Cook and William Haines of Oneida depot arrive this 
evening. Mr. H. is a * medium,' and speaks in unknown tongues." 

*• Dr. Winmer of Washington City, with five deaf mutes and a 
blind child take supper and spend the evening with us." 

" We find Brother Swift and wife and daughter at our house, 
where they will remain until they get lodgings. There come this 
evening an old black man, a young one and his wife and infant. 
They say that they are fugitives from North Carolina." 

** A man from brings his mother, six children ancj her half 

sister, all fugitives from Virginia." 

*' An Indian and a fugitive slave spent last night with us. The 
Indian has gone on, but Tommy McElligott (very drunk) has come 
to fill his place." 

The family recollect the arrival one night — when the 
house was dark, of a woman whose trunk burst open as 
it was flung upon the steps. Mr. Smith rose and an- 
swered the bell, courteously welcomed the stranger who 
announced herself as a claimant on his hospitality, and 
she stayed until she was ready to go. A friend tells of 
the arrival simultaneously with himself of a trance me- 
dium, who, after the usual " grace " by the host, lifted 
up her voice in oracular discourse. Mr. Smith listened 
courteously till the outbreak had spent itself, then pro- 
ceeded with the meal. The family did not profess ad- 
miration or partiality for this tavernous mode of social 
life and would occasionally object to the master's practice 
of retiring to his library or office and leaving to them 
the entertainment of unbidden guests. But the law of 
hospitality must be respected. The visitor was never 
directly told to go. Occasions are recorded in which 



142 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

the dismissal was indirectly conveyed. In one instance 
■when the claims of the wanderer had been overworked, 
and the household, failing after due lapse of time to 
discover the angel in the stranger who came unawares, 
begged the good man to speed the parting guest, the 
morning prayer contained a special petition that the 
friend who was about to leave them on that day might be 
brought safely on his way. The petition was heard, and 
the circle was diminished by one, ere evening. 

The dinner-table often presented a motley sight. 
The bidding of the New Testament was fulfilled. The 
highways and the byways were represented at the feast. 
High and low, great and small, wise and simple, black 
and white, senators, politicians, farmers, sat down to- 
gether. If any objected to promiscuous association, a 
side table was provided ; but few went into the exile. 
Says one who knew him well : 

" I have seen eating in peace, at one time, at dinner, in his house 
— all welcome guests — an Irish Catholic priest, a Hicksite Quakeress 
minister, a Calvinistic Presbyterian deacon of the Jonathan Edwards 
school, two abolition lecturers, a seventh-day Baptist, a shouting 
Methodist, a Whig pro-slavery member of Congress, a Democratic 
official of the * Sam Young school,' a southern ex-slave holder and 
a runaway slave, Lewis Washington by name, also his wife, one or 
more relatives, and * Aunt Betsy ' Kelty. And he managed them all. 
Not one was neglected. He did the honors of his table, carving his 
meats like a gentleman bred, and to the manner born ; conversing 
with each in such a sweet way as to disarm all criticism, and making 
everyone feel that, if he could be other than himself, he would rather 
be Gerrit Smith than any other living man." 

The dining-room being of moderate size, it was often 
necessary to spread an additional table in the long hall. 
The host knew no distinction of persons. The board 
was abundantly but simply spread. The guest, however 



HUMANITY, 139 

thriving ; intelligent, active minded people lived there ; 
it was a nucleus of popular spirit ; there were several 
churches, there was an academy, a well-patronized hotel ; 
public meetings were frequent and alive. Judge Smith 
drew and kept about him men of affairs ; Gerrit Smith 
brought people of prominence in political life, and fresh- 
ened the soul of the place with discussions on matters 
of general concern. At present, Peterboro is a quiet, 
inert, dull village. It has no hotel, no activity, no in- 
terest for traveller or sojourner. To play croquet on the 
long common seems to tax the energies of the middle 
aged ; to sit and gossip before the three or four inefficient 
shops on the street is the occupation of the elders. The 
inhabitants are chiefly retired farmers whose wants are 
of the fewest and whose resources are about equal to the 
satisfaction of their wants. A few families of blacks sub- 
sist in humble dwellings. The meeting houses have 
been abandoned, or have changed their use. The Meth- 
odists alone exhibit vitality. The Baptist meeting house 
is dilapidated. The Presbyterian was bought by Mr. 
Smith and converted into an academy; the upper part is 
transformed into a public hall. The Independent chapel 
opens its doors now and then to a preacher who relies on 
the neighboring villages for a congregation. Mr. Greene 
Smith, Gerrit's only son, maintains open house during the 
summer, does what he can to preserve alive the traditions 
of hospitality, and keeps up there the spacious and at- 
tractive bird-house, for the preservation of the specimens 
he had procured on his shooting expeditions in all parts 
of the country. The family still make free with the 
mansion and grounds, but the tide of strangers comes 
no more. How they ever came to the remote village, 



I40 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

how the tide ever ran so high above the plain is a mys- 
tery, or would be a mystery, did we not know what at- 
tractive power there is in a warm heart. Gerrit Smith 
was Peterboro, and would have been found out had he 
dwelt among Alpine snows. His door was always open ; 
his greeting was always warm. The guest, bidden or un- 
bidden, friend or stranger, was taken in. Hospitality 
was not irksome to him. His wife, warm-hearted and 
affectionate, sympathetic with all his sentiments, ideas 
and purposes, a moral and spiritual cooperator, delicate 
of constitution and poetic in temperament, devolved 
upon a housekeeper the administration of the large es- 
tablishment, and, as her part, diffused an air of cheerful 
serenity over the household. ** Heaven has broke loose ! " 
the husband would exclaim when the wife came into the 
breakfast room. The younger members helped the 
elders in the discharge of the day's hospitable tasks. 

The diary of Gerrit Smith is a record of arrivals and 
departures. 

•* A man calling himself George Bt"own, of Corning, comes here 
to-night with a very heavy pack on his back. He is accompanied 
by his wife and child. The child is deaf." 

** Mrs. Crampton, a beggar woman, spent last night with us. 
Charles Johnson, a fugitive slave from Hagerstown, took tea at our 
house last evening and breakfasted with us this morning." 

** Mr. William Corning, a wandering pilgrim, as he styles himself, 
dines with us. He is peddling his own printed productions." 

*' Peter Johnson, a colored, illiterate man, calling himself a mis- 
sionary, arrives this afternoon. He has been among the colored 
people in Canada, and is going to Hayti." 

*• Mrs. Phiak of Port Byron, a poor old Dutch woman, arrives. 
She leaves after breakfast. A begging blind man, and a begging 
woman and her son from Cazenovia breakfast at our house." 

•' Poor Graham, the insane literary colored man, has been with 
us a day or two," 



HUMANITY, 141 

" William Henry Douglass, of Paterson, New Jersey, son of 
Aaron Douglass, comes to our house this morning. Says he is nine- 
teen years old, and ran away from his home a week ago last Satur- 
day. Has been to Buffalo, repents of his folly, and is on his return 
home. He has no money. I gave him three dollars and some bread 
and cheese. He breakfasts with us, and starts for home." 

** Elder Cook and William Haines of Oneida depot arrive this 
evening. Mr. H. is a ' medium,' and speaks in unknown tongues." 

*• Dr. Winmer of Washington City, with five deaf mutes and a 
blind child take supper and spend the evening with us." 

" We find Brother Swift and wife and daughter at our house, 
where they will remain until they get lodgings. There come this 
evening an old black man, a young one and his wife and infant. 
They say that they are fugitives from North Carolina." 

*• A man from brings his mother, six children an4 her half 

sister, all fugitives from Virginia." 

*' An Indian and a fugitive slave spent last night with us. The 
Indian has gone on, but Tommy McElligott (very drunk) has come 
to fill his place." 

The family recollect the arrival one night — when the 
house was dark, of a woman whose trunk burst open as 
it was flung upon the steps. Mr. Smith rose and an- 
swered the bell, courteously welcomed the stranger who 
announced herself as a claimant on his hospitality, and 
she stayed until she was ready to go. A friend tells of 
the arrival simultaneously with himself of a trance me- 
dium, who, after the usual " grace " by the host, lifted 
up her voice in oracular discourse. Mr. Smith listened 
courteously till the outbreak had spent itself, then pro- 
ceeded with the meal. The family did not profess ad- 
miration or partiality for this tavernous mode of social 
life and would occasionally object to the master's practice 
of retiring to his library or office and leaving to them 
the entertainment of unbidden guests. But the law of 
hospitality must be respected. The visitor was never 
directly told to go. Occasions are recorded in which 



142 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

the dismissal was indirectly conveyed. In one instance 
■when the claims of the wanderer had been overworked, 
and the household, failing after due lapse of time to 
discover the angel in the stranger who came unawares, 
begged the good man to speed the parting guest, the 
morning prayer contained a special petition that the 
friend who was about to leave them on that day might be 
brought safely on his way. The petition was heard, and 
the circle was diminished by one, ere evening. 

The dinner-table often presented a motley sight. 
The bidding of the New Testament was fulfilled. The 
highways and the byways were represented at the feast. 
High and low, great and small, wise and simple, black 
and white, senators, politicians, farmers, sat down to- 
gether. If any objected to promiscuous association, a 
side table was provided ; but few went into the exile. 
Says one who knew him well : 

** I have seen eating in peace, at one time, at dinner, in his house 
— all welcome guests — an Irish Catholic priest, a Hicksite Quakeress 
minister, a Calvinistic Presbyterian deacon of the Jonathan Edwards 
school, two abolition lecturers, a seventh-day Baptist, a shouting 
Methodist, a Whig pro-slavery member of Congress, a Democratic 
official of the * Sam Young school,' a southern ex-slave holder and 
a runaway slave, Lewis Washington by name, also his wife, one or 
more relatives, and * Aunt Betsy * Kelty. And he managed them all. 
Not one was neglected. He did the honors of his table, carving his 
meats like a gentleman bred, and to the manner born ; conversing 
with each in such a sweet way as to disarm all criticism, and making 
everyone feel that, if he could be other than himself, he would rather 
be Gerrit Smith than any other living man." 

The dining-room being of moderate size, it was often 
necessary to spread an additional table in the long hall. 
The host knew no distinction of persons. The board 
was abundantly but simply spread. The guest, however 



HUMANITY, 143 

accustomed to the daily sherry must dispense with wine 
at Gerrit Smith's table. Of that best of vintage, a cor- 
dial welcome and cheery conversation, there was never 
lack, and they who once had the privilege of sitting 
there wished they might often repeat it. To enjoy it 
once was a thing to be long remembered. It was a les- 
son in practical humanity that could be admired by those 
who could not imitate it. Many a reformer there learned 
how simple was the problem which his philosophy could 
not solve ; and many a philanthropist discovered the dis- 
tinction between love and the doctrine of love. Not to 
have visited Gerrit Smith at home, not to have received 
his hearty greeting at the door, not to have seen him 
glowing and beaming at his porch, not to have heard his 
copious table-talk is to have missed one of the satisfac- 
tions of life. 



CHAPTER V. 



TEMPERANXE. 



GERRIT SMITH was, as has been said, in the full 
sense of the word, a philanthropist; not a philan- 
thropist by profession, but a hearty lover of his fellow- 
men ; a practical lover ; one who had in view certain 
ends to be promoted by all the means at his command. 
These ends were before him continually, from first to 
last. Hence his life had little outward variety ; it does 
not divide into sections or episodes ; dates are only of 
incidental moment. The story is the story of a character, 
and is best told in a way to exhibit the character. 

At the beginning of his career, Gerrit Smith, as we 
know, had an unbounded popularity in his neighborhood. 
Handsome, engaging, frank, impulsive, an attractive 
speaker, public spirited, rich, and of recognized ability, 
any career he might choose was open to him. He was 
not without personal ambition ; used to approbation, ad- 
miration and applause, he loved it. His sense of self- 
approval was keen ; his desire of foreign approbation was 
strong. He enjoyed the feeling that he lived in the 
world's eye. This appears in an address to the elect- 
ors of the county of Madison, written in the winter of 
i823-*24 by ** Juvenis.'* This, which he characterized 
later as a puerile effort, was in fact an earnest, and able 
plea in favor of direct elections by the people — a plea for 



TEMPERANCE. 145 

popular government. He argues that the existing party 
names are meaningless, that the party issues are obsolete, 
that the machinery of caucus nominations and political 
conventions should be disused, that candidates should 
place themselves on their merits, and be accepted on 
their claims. Demagogues and office-seekers are his 
detestation. Corruption and bribery in his judgment, 
arise from the system in practice and threaten republican 
institutions with overthrow. The remedy he proposes, 
** self-nomination ** is the best then suggested. The end 
sought is the redemption of politics from partisanship 
and fraud, the election to office of the best men. Hardly 
was he established as a responsible citizen in Peterboro 
before he was solicited to stand for public office. At 
that time — in i826-*7 — the anti-masonic fury was sweep- 
ing through the State. He, with others, caught the ex- 
citement, and allowed himself to be placed in the front 
rank of a party, as candidate for State senator. The 
step was premature. Whether, as some think, this ex- 
perience disgusted him, or whether, as is more likely, he 
was led to see that the career of the politician was not 
that for which he was best fitted, certain it is that from 
that time he was averse to holding office, or joining any 
of the organized parties. He used politics as an instru- 
ment of reform, but would never be fettered by them, 
and never would permit party measures to be primary in 
his regard. His hostility to Masonry, and to secret so- 
cieties of all kinds, was active to the end of his life, on 
the ground that they were inconsistent with the genius 
of republican institutions. Mr. Smith did indeed ac- 
tively engage in politics as will be told in the appropriate 
place : he accepted nominations for office, served a short 
7 



146 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

term in Congress, ran the course for governor; but on 
every occasion his conduct showed that he was entirely 
destitute of political ambition. They who accuse him 
of that, accuse him also of the extreme of folly, for the 
course he pursued was the one course that was certain 
to be unpopular. 

He was a reformer : how single-hearted a reformer 
will appear as the story goes on. The omnipresent, ob- 
noxious evil of his time and neighborhood was intemper- 
ance. So habitual a vice was this, that none but a very 
sensitive conscience felt it at all. He himself in the 
thoughtless days of his youth looked on it without re- 
proof, and, once or twice in college is said to have tasted 
its fascinations. But from the first hour of his responsi- 
ble manhood till the end of his life he stood committed 
in the most clear and resolute way to the war against it. 
His action was of every sort, personal and political, pri- 
vate and public, domestic and civil. He used all the 
means at his command to discourage the evil and di- 
minish it ; he withdrew support of every kind from those 
who gave it countenance or maintenance. A total ab- 
stainer himself, he carried the presence and the power 
of a total abstainer wherever he went. The strength of 
his feeling on this subject comes out in numerous letters 
published and unpublished, in speeches at conventions, 
efforts \x\ public meetings, remonstrances with church 
members, endeavors, early and late and strenuously 
pushed, to commit the authorities, religious and social, 
to the suppression of the traffic in intoxicating drinks. 
This would seem, from the large place it held in his 
activities, to have been the cause dearest to his heart. 
He spoke and wrote more on it than on any other. 



TEMPERANCE. 147 

His interest in it first suggested doubts in regard to the 
universal and permanent validity of all the allowances 
and prohibitions of Scripture. 

" If it should be proven to me most clearly," he wrote to Edward 
C. Delavan, in 1834, *• that God intended that • strong drink ' and fer- 
mented liquors should be drunk by his rational creatures ; and that 
the inhabitants of Canaan and of many other parts of the world had 
and still have a perfect right to drink them, I would still deny that 
we have a right to drink them. I would say that we have so abused 
these mercies by our inordinate indulgence, and our rioting in them 
— so abused our bodies and our souls with them — that it has become 
necessary for us to be deprived of them altogether. As the high fed 
horse is turned out to winter at the stack, that he may recover his 
natural soundness, and as the diseased glutton is compelled to sub- 
mit to a regimen which the poorest man would despise ; so this 
dram-drinking and drunken nation, if indeed it shall be allowed in 
any future age, the beverages which I have supposed it to be possible 
that other nations may innocently indulge in, must first be deprived 
of them for a season, until it may get back to the healthy state from 
which it has so greatly degenerated. If it shall ever be lawful for 
the people of the United States to take up the wine cup again, they^ 
must previously have become sober, — they must previously have rid; 
themselves of the plague spots and madness of intemperance through 
long abstinence from the cause of them, — they must previously have 
recovered from the deep debasement to which their vile sensuality' 
has reduced them ; and this work will take at least as long as the 
present generation will last. So I see no prospect, my friend, if 
you and I shall live to be sixty years old, that we shall have the 
liberty of drinking each other's health in a glass of wine or even of 
cider. Now, if my speculation in this paragraph is not unsound, and 
if these beverages are really blessings, we see that our intemperance, 
unfitting us for the safe use of them, even in moderate quantities, 
draws after it, in this respect, no small punishment, — a punishment 
of which we can find abundant illustrations in those sufferings and 
privations of manhood which are induced by the excesses of youth. 

** The advocates of wine drinking very often refer us to the tem- 
perance of wine drinking countries. I believe there is less drunken- 
ness in those countries than amongst us. There is however, enough 
of it in them. The opinion is spreading, I know not how justly, 
that even in France, so proverbial for its temperance, wine drinking 



143 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

produces as great an amount of injury to the mind and body, as is 
produced by the drinking of ardent spirits here. But even if wine 
eountries are comparatively temperate, that should not encourage us 
to endeavor to become a wine country. If the objections on the 
score of climate and soil were not fatal to our country becoming 
such, there are other objections that are. Wine, to become the com- 
mon beverage of all classes in this country, must be afforded at 
nearly or quite as low a price as cider. — Now, if we had a soil and 
climate as favorable for the grape as France has, we could not make 
wine anything like as low priced a drink, without first parting with 
our free institutions, which dignify and elevate our laboring classes, 
and to which institutions, more than to all other causes, they are in- 
debted for their high w'ages and the ample rewards for the products 
of their toil. Before this can become a wine country like France, 
the labor of a man must be reduced to a shilling or two a day. and 
the wheels of civilization must revolve backwards, until our wives 
and daughters are turned into cultivators of the soil. — Where is the 
New England farmer, who would be pleased to see his wife and 
daughters laboring for their subsistence under a burning sky, and by 
the side of the hardier sex ; and contracting all that masculine coarse- 
ness which characterizes the women of the laboring classes in France } 
But, if all these objections were surmounted, who but some roman- 
tic wine bibber, would be glad to see as in France, large portions of 
our land covered with the vine ; and the food and clothing of our 
grain and cotton fields diminished in order to make room for the 
production of a drink that never yet warmed a man's back or kept 
him from starving — the virtues of which, unless perhaps when 
used as a medicine, are imaginary — the evils of which are incalcula- 
ble — a drink, in short, which the world — at least in its present cir- 
cumstances — would be indescribably better without, than it is with ? 
France, Italy, Spain and Portugal are the great wine countries ; and 
no other nations in Christendom are half so low as they are upon the 
scale of morals." 

Mr. Smith was ready at all times to meet argument 
with argument, and facts with facts; but the moral 
aspects of the subject interest him most. 

" I have observed with pain," he writes to John Tappan, of Bos- 
ton, " that in some parts of the country, and even in some temper- 
ance papers, the doctrine is inculcated that intemperance is a 



TEMPERANCE, 1 49 

* misfortune,' rather than a * crime * and a * sin.' The tendency of 
such a doctrine to multiply cases of superficial and transient refor- 
mation from drunkenness, and to spread contempt for divine truth 
is obvious. I scarcely need add that this doctrine finds no favor in 
this neighborhood ; and that here the advocates of moral reforms 
would think it infinitely more absurd to attempt to carry on a moral 
reformation and leave God out of it, than to attempt to enact the 
play of Othello, — and leave out the part of Othello." 

To describe in detail, Mr. Smith's action in the tem- 
perance cause would take more space than is warranted, 
and would be unimportant. His efforts began as early 
as 1828, and continued to the end of his life. The 
Madison County temperance society was organized, on 
the total abstinence principle, in 1833. The same year, 
on May 7th, he delivered an address to the same effect 
at a convention of the American temperance .society, 
held in New York. The same year, he wrote a pam- 
phlet giving an account of thirty-eight reformed drunk- 
ards in the village of Peterboro. In 1837*, he complains 
to Edward C. Delavan of a decline of interest in the 
cause of temperance, which he ascribes mainly to laxity 
of doctrine on the part of its friends. The cause will 
never, in his judgment prevail, till the use of ardent 
spirits as a beverage shall be declared immoral, public 
opinion, church usage, and bible countenance to the 
contrary notwithstanding. The precise date of his ex- 
cepting malt liquors and wine from his bill of proscription 
is not on record. 

Gerrit Smith's main reliance in this as in other move- 
ments for the reformation of society, was on moral in- 
fluence. His faith was in the spiritual affections quick- 
ened by divine grace acting through religious belief and 
practice. All regenerating force was, in his opinion, 



ISO LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

latent in the moral sentiments, and the capacity of these, 
when aroused, was simply inexhaustible. So long as he 
believed in the vitality of the Calvinistic system of 
dogma and observance as a means for bringing the di- 
vine power to bear, he held to it and used it. But the 
moment he saw that the Calvinistic system no longer 
possessed the virtue he had imputed to it ; the moment 
he perceived that it did not quicken the souls of unre- 
formed men, he sought elsewhere the communicating 
link between human nature and the sources of life. 
The necessity of that communication he kept in mind, 
always. The immediateness of it he cherished. The 
evidence of it he was willing to see in all men, whatever 
their mode of belief; but such evidence he required 
before he would give sympathy or confidence. 

Hence naturally his ultimate faith was in " moral sua- 
sion.** This is a specimen of his style of talking in 1843. 

" Great honor is accorded to our town for having led the way, ten 
years ago in the reformation of drunkards by the simple and sole 
means of kind moral influence. Let us trust to this influence for 
reforming the dram-seller also. I admit that we have already 
tried it on him. But we have not tried it to the extent of its power ; 
and we have combined legal force with it. Let us now drop the 
force, and confine our efforts within the limits of persuasion. 

" Shall we succeed if we adopt the proposed change ? The an- 
swer to this question turns on the answer to the question whether 
we shall prove ourselves to be well indoctrinated and hearty in the 
cause of temperance. If our concern for this cause is not enough to 
induce us to plead earnestly and frequently with the dram-seller to 
relinquish an occupation which beggars families and breaks Jiearts, 
and kills bodies and kills souls — he will be likely to continue in the 
occupation of blood-red guiltiness. And frequent and seemingly ear 
nest as may seem these pleadings, if they are not sustained by ? 
corresponding life, they will fail of a good effect. Let no man flatter 
himself that he is contributing to breaking up dram-shops, if he 
spends his leisure hours in them ; or if indeed he give to them the 



TEMPERA NCE, 1 5 I 

sanction of his unnecessary presence for a single moment. Let no 
man think that his influence is against the continuance of dram- 
shops if he cannot respond to the remark of the celebrated Judge 
Daggett of Connecticut, that they deserved to be classed with • the 
depositories of stolen goods,' and to have inscribed in great capitals 
over their doors : * The way to hell going down to the chambers of 
death.' Let no man think that he is exerting an influence against 
dram-shops if his temperance feeling be so shallow as to be offended 
by the memorable prediction of our Chancellor Walworth that * the 
time will come when reflecting men will no more think of making 
and vending ardent spirits, than they would now think of poisoning 
a well from which a neighbor obtains water for his family, or of 
arming a maniac to destroy his own life or the lives of those around 
him.' Let me add, that it the farmers of Smithfield would make the 
evidences of their heartfelt temperance irresistible to the dram-seller, 
— as irresistible as the rays of a summer's sun to the ice on which 
they fall — let them, as not only their duty but their interest dictates, 
separate themselves, wholly and forever, from the manufacture of 
the body and soul destroying poison." 

Madison county felt Gerrit Smith's influence in this 
matter, all through. Peterboro was a small village, with 
a population of between three and four hundred, but 
through his influence it became " a city set on a hill," 
visible afar off by people who imagined it a large, con- * 
spicuous and wealthy town. The name of Peterboro' 
called up sentiments that filled and expanded the mind. 
Had its noble-hearted inhabitant been a shrewd tac- 
tician he would have carried more schemes, but he would 
have failed to make so large an impression. His whole 
souled confidence in fine principles, and in the essential 
right-mindedness of his fellow men, made him the victim 
of sharpers ; but that same simple heartfulness was an 
inspiration to good people. The childlikeness that stood 
in the way of his occasional success, was the source of 
his influence. The worldUngs, it must be admitted, en- 
joyed frequent chuckles at his expense. 



152 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

To give an instance. For many years, the only 
tavern in the village stood at the upper end of it, and 
received the patronage of the drovers, teamsters, busi- 
ness and other travellers who passed through the place. 
The ** Old Osgood House '* as it was called, was not con- 
ducted on temperance principles ; on the contrary, the 
greatest source of income was the bar; the whiskey, 
which then cost but twenty cents a gallon, flowed inces- 
santly, and the least pecunious could afford to be gen- 
erously tipsy. The noise and disorder so shocked Mr. 
Smith that he built at the other end of the village, near 
his own residence, a commodious hotel, supplied it with 
the requisite barns, sheds, and out-door conveniences, 
furnished it comfortably throughout, put a Bible in every 
room, set up in the office, instead of the line of decan^ 
ters, a motto, " Temperance and the Bible," gave the 
use of it all to one David Ambler, of Augusta, on condi- 
tion that no intoxicating liquors should be sold, and in- 
augurated the first temperance hotel of which there is 
mention. Though the new inn was in every respect su- 
perior to the old tavern, it did not prove a successful, or 
even a dangerous rival. The people who loved liquor, 
as nearly all did, then, put up at the old place. The 
temperance people, on the groundless pretext that 
board was dearer at the temperance house, but really 
because they liked the gay society, or did not wish to be 
peculiar, or were too lazy to leave the beaten road, did 
the same. At the end of two years, Mr. Ambler be- 
came discouraged and withdrew. His successors fared 
no better. In spite of all the attractions of cleanliness, 
quiet, good food, courteous treatment, the travelling 



TEMPERANCE. 153 

public passed by the door. Finally a ** General *' M 



whom Mr. Smith ** knew " and had employed, made an 
offer for the property which was accepted. The ** Gen- 
eral '* bought the old hotel property, shut up the 
house, transferred the keeper to the new inn, took out a 
liquor license, and Gerrit Smith's experiment defeated 
itself. Instead of crushing the monster, he had given 
him fresh vitality; had brought him to his very door, 
within a few feet of his private office ! The well-appointed 
tavern became the most popular resort for tipplers and 
vagabonds in the whole county. The discomfited phi- 
lanthropist, driven to the last extremity, could only de- 
liver himself from his persecutors by buying back, of 
course at a high price, the property he had already 
staked so much on. He did so; the hotel was again 
conducted for a time, on the temperance plan, still with- 
out encouragement. The travelling public patronized 
the bar-rooms of other villages ; Peterboro lost its former 
visitors : larger and more thriving places took the cus- 
tom ; the buildings were removed ; the foundations were 
destroyed ; and the site was adopted into the owner's 
private grounds. Thus ends the story of Gerrit Smith's 
Temperance Hotel. 

Thus, however, did not end the design to expel in- 
temperance from Peterboro. A temperance hotel, near 
by the first, continued in existence till the time of his 
death. He presented it rent free to the lessee — sus- 
tained there a free reading-room and gave it his patron- 
age ; but it never succeeded — though the keeper sold 
liquor privately, and there was no other hotel in the vil- 
lage. Temperance hotels, for natural reasons, do not 
thrive in competition with inns where the exhilarations 



7* 



154 L^f^ OF GERRIT SMITH. 

and excitements of alcohol can be enjoyed. Temper- 
ance is associated still with a low condition of ani- 
mal spirits. Even in Oswego, where Mr. Smith estab- 
lished a hotel on temperance principles, the property 
yielded nothing. No charm of situation, no excellence 
of accommodations, no influence from the proprie- 
tor's name made amends for the absence of nervous 
stimulus. 

The prohibitory law known as the " Maine Law *' was 
passed in 1851, and was, for several years, the model for 
imitation by those who were of opinion that the gov- 
ernment should interfere to forbid the manufacture and 
sale of ardent spirits. Gerrit Smith was one of these, 
and interested himself much in the adoption of the 
measure by his native State. His industry as writer 
and speaker was, as it always was when his heart was 
engaged, active and incessant. His efforts to create 
public sentiment, and control legislation at Albany, 
were unremitting, as the entries in his diary and the 
clippings in the scrap-book testify. His heart was full 
of the subject, and his whole nature followed his heart. 
Not blindly however ; he was no impulsive enthusiast ; 
a strong practical common sense saved him at last from 
a confusion of ideas into which social reformers are so 
often betrayed. But he had no hesitation about calling 
on the legal authority when it was likely to reinforce the 
dictates of conscience. His theory of the province of 
law was simple. Not to open at present his whole doc- 
trine of government duty — his view on this point may 
be stated briefly and tersely in his own language in 185 1. 
Such language is familiar to all who have read his writ- 
ings, or heard his speech. The substance of it came over 



TEMPERA NCE. 1 5 5 

and over like the points in an orthodox sermon. Gov- 
ernment, he called "a huge bull dog/' guarding the 
house against thieves. 

** Perhaps it will be asked if the duty of abolishing the traffic in 
intoxicating drinks would not be outside of the province of govern- 
ment. I answer thai it would not. I ask government to abolish 
this traffic, not because I would have government enact sumptuary 
laws — for I would not. Nay, I go so far as to say, that if the drink- 
ers of intoxicating liquors would do no more than kill themselves, I 
wculd not have government interfere with their indulgence. It is 
murder, not suicide, that I would have government concern itself 
with. Nor do I ask government to abolish this traffic because I hold 
that government is charged with the care of the public morals. As 
I have already shown you, I hold to no such thing. Why I ask 
government to abolish this traffic is because it is fraught directly, 
immensely, necessarily, with wide and awful peril to person and 
property. Neither property nor life is safe from the presumption, 
the blindness and the fury of the drunken maniac. The drunken 
driver upsets the stage. The drunken engineer blows up the steam- 
boat. It is a drunkard who has ravished our wife or daughter or 
sister. It is a drunkard who has burned our dwelling. It is a 
drunkard who has murdered our family. What is a crime then, if 
the traffic in intoxicating drinks is not one? And what crime is 
there, from which government should be more prompt to shelter the 
persons and possessions of its subjects." 

This argument applies only to the drink that mad- 
dens ; it does not touch the drink which, however harmful 
in other respects, is not an active source of danger to 
the community. If the Frenchman can show that his 
light wines are not responsible for the riotous spirit that 
disturbs the peace ; if the German can show that his beer 
is not responsible for the midnight violence or the 
crowded jail ; — then wine and beer are exempted from 
the application of the statute. The objection to 
sumptuary laws is impertinent. 

•' I had always understood that the temperance societies forbid the 



IS6 LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH 

drinking, not of all liquors in which there is alcohol, but of those 
only which actually intoxicate. It is true that small beer contains a 
little alcohol. So does new bread. But neither intoxicates ; and 
therefore neither falls under the proscription of the temperance so- 
cieties. But even if the temperance societies were to forbid the 
drinking of all alcoholic liquors, as well those that do not as those 
that do intoxicate, most unreasonable would it be nevertheless to call 
on government to prohibit the traffic in liquors which do not intoxi- 
cate the drinker." 

This was written to a prohibitionist journal in 1858. 
Again, writing to a severe prohibitionist clergyman, the 
same year, he says : 

** Let me here say that I do not hold that the sale of all kinds of 
beer and wine is to be proscribed by government — though I would 
that all possessed the clear proof that I do, (after an experience of 
thirty years) that good water is the only good drink. What I do 
hold is that the government should prohibit the sale for a drink of 
all those liquors which make madmen, and which therefore put in 
constant peril life and property; and fill the newspaper columns 
with accounts of murdered wives and murdered children, wrecked 
ships and wrecked cars, burnt stores and burnt dwellings. It is a 
deep delusion where it is not a wicked pretext, which classes such 
prohibition with sumptuary laws. What if there were brought into 
the markets of the world a newly discovered fruit, the maddening ef- 
fects of which should be in kind and degree like those of the liquors in 
question ? Would not all reasonable men be in favor of the imme- 
diate governmental prohibition of the sale of it ? Certainly : — and 
none would have the face to call the prohibition a sumptuary law. 
Why then should the prohibition in the case of liquors fall under 
that odious name ? The force of habit accounts for all this glaring 
inconsistency." 

Writing, in 1852, after a defeat in the legislature of 
the ** Maine Law," he says to Edward C. Delavan, his 
correspondent, one of the patriarchs of temperance : 

*' How could you, my dear friend, bring yourself to help defeat a 
law which the world is in such perishing need of .^ The answer is 
at hand. In common with almost all men — good men as well as 



TEMPERA NCE. 1 5 7 

bad' — you will have it that Civil Government is not of God. It would 
seem as if this were the last delusion which Christians are willing to 
have torn from them. I have done many things which make me 
odious to Christians. But nothing has had this effect so much as 
my endeavors to have Civil Government regarded — both theoretically 
and practically — as of God. To have it thus regarded was the ob- 
ject of those discourses, which, when I was much younger and 
stronger than I am now, I was in the practice of delivering before; 
large assemblies in groves and on Sunday. Christians did not 
thank me for these discourses. So far from it, they made them the 
occasion for stigmatizing me with ' preaching politics,' and with 
being a Sabbath breaker ! an infidel ! ! and a demagogue ! I ! In- 
deed, my bad reputation, at this day, is owing far less to all other 
causes put together than to those out-of-door Sunday discourses 
in behalf of the position that Civil Government is of God." 

The ** Anti-Dram-Shop Party *' was formed at Smith- 
field, February 21, 1842, at Gerrit Smith's call. His 
whole heart was in it. For a time his private letters 
were enclosed in envelopes bearing a hideous picture of 
the interior of a dram shop. His lecturing tours ex- 
tended to every county in the State. On winter nights 
he came and went, braving cold and tempest, wading ^ 
through deep snows where the road was impassable to 
horse and wagon. His published correspondence on the 
matter, at this period, as the scrap books bear witness, 
was voluminous. The emphasis, at this time, was laid 
on the duty of bringing the force of moral sentiment to 
bear through the officers of the law. In 1843, persuaded 
of the extreme difficulty of this task, he returns to the 
reliance on moral earnestness, and exhorts the lovers of 
their fellow-men to increased fidelity in the work of sav- 
ing souls from this death. But in 1 871 the Anti-dram- 
Shop Party was alive. 

Thus, once more, Gerrit Smith was a pioneer in radi- 
cal reform. The movement to plant religion upon purely 



158 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

spiritual foundations, detaching it from external author- 
ity whether of church, dogma or book, separating it from 
the State and from the sect, the movement known 
now as Free Religion, was positively inaugurated by 
him, and illustrated in his chapel at Peterboro. The 
practical attitude of the temperance reform, which is 
peculiar in its freedom from fanaticism, which aimed 
at the suppression of tangible mischiefs by the 
force of public opinion expressed in law, an atti- 
tude in these later days assumed as a novelty and 
with some show of bravery, was taken by him 
twenty-five years ago, argued, defended, enforced with 
a clearness of statement that left little to be added 
and with a determination of purpose that knew no 
wavering. 

That the man was greatly indebted in this to the 
prestige of wealth and of social position, is conceded. 
But neither wealth nor social position would have car- 
ried him through or kept him up, if he had not been a 
man of great intellectual and moral power, of strong 
convictions and indomitable will, single-hearted and sim- 
ple. For in the stand he took he was often alone, and 
not alone merely but lonely ; friends on whose judgment 
and courage he in most things relied — the only friends 
he had who were entitled to be called his peers and 
brothers in arms, disapproved his course, privately con- 
demned and even publicly assailed him ; friends whom 
he acknowledged to be his superiors in intellect and 
character withdrew from his side. Still he remained firm 
to his conviction, firm and at the same time cheerful 
and gentle, forbearing and loving. They may call it 



TEMPERANCE. 1 59 

egotism who will. Such egotism when exhibited on the 
popular side is usually called saintliness. He submitted 
his will to what with him was nothing less than the will 
of the Supreme. The seat of that Supreme will was his 
private heart. 



CHAPTER VI. 



SLAVERY. 



GERRIT SMITH was born two years before the 
Act of Emancipation was passed by the legislature 
of New York, by which all children born after the year 
1/99 were free, — the males on reaching the age of 
twenty-eight, the females on reaching the age of twenty- 
five. During his youth, therefore, and past the date of 
his second marriage, he was the son of a slave holder. 
The slavery he grew up with was of mild type, but on 
that account the better calculated to reveal the common 
humanity of the white and black races. The northern 
farmer was not, as a rule, aristocratic, overbearing, labor 
hating or sumptuous. He did not pass a life of idleness, 
or of devotion to politics as the southern " gentleman ** 
did. He was a practical director, if not an actual sharer 
of the labor on his farm. His slaves were brought into 
close daily contact with him and were more or less as- 
similated to him by the association. There was little 
actually revolting in the relation between owner and 
serf under these circumstances. At the same time, and 
for this very reason, the relation itself appeared an un- 
natural one, and the occasional abuses of it by exact- 
ing, violent or careless masters, revealed the possibility 
of evil in it. The degradation of the slave was not 
sufficient to make him contemptible, and the injustice 



SLAVERY, l6l 

was sufficient to exasperate a sensitive mind. Young 
Smith early disclosed his sympathy with , the subject 
race, his sense of the wrong done them by their social 
condition, his faith in their capacities, and his determi- 
nation to do what he could for their elevation. Natu- 
rally, his views were moderate, his feelings quiet. The 
first wave of moral indignation, started in Kentucky, 
Tennessee, North Carolina, Maryland, by Benjamin 
Lundy, soon reinforced by William Lloyd Garrison, did 
not reach his quiet village home. 

On the loth day of June 1828, Mr. Smith attended 
the State Convention, held to nominate a President and 
Vice President of the United States. This was his second 
participation in general politics, the first being on occa- 
sion of the State Convention at Utica, Sept. 21, 1824, to 
nominate De Witt Clinton to the office of governor. 
The exciting subjects at this time were matters of State 
improvement, the development of the canals in par- 
ticular, which Clinton strongly favored. In 1828^ na- 
tional issues were presented, and some allusion to sla- 
very, — if not some declaration about it, at least some 
indication of feeling, — might have been expected. The 
two opposing candidates for the presidency were John 
Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, Yet, in the mas- 
terly, comprehensive, patriotic, even splendidly brilliant 
address, prepared by Gerrit Smith, and unanimously 
accepted by the delegates in convention, — an address 
preferred by the committee to the productions of Am- 
brose Spencer and Edmund H. Pendleton, intellectual 
magnates of the State — scarcely a passing mention is 
made of slavery, — and not even a passing mention is 
made of it as a source of national danger. Mr. Adams 



1 62 LIFE OF GERRir SMITH. 

is warmly commended for moderate, enlightened views 
of statesmanship ; Mr. Clay is eulogized in glowing 
terms, for his unselfish patriotism, his **holy zeal for the 
rights of man," his devotion in the cause of suffering 
Greece, and his share in ** the merciful efforts that are 
making to colonize our emancipated blacks on the 
coasts of Africa, and to kindle up there those fires of 
civil and religious liberty, which are soon to blaze over 
that benighted land ; ** and Mr. Jackson is condemned 
as the incarnation of the violent, military, usurping spirit 
so radically inconsistent with republican institutions. 
Dangers are hinted at, such dangers as a young republic 
might be exposed to from despotism at home and 
abroad, but no peril is apprehended from the institution 
of slavery. 

At this period of his life the Colonization Society, 
the suggestion of Charles Fenton Mercer in 1816. a 
creation of ** Virginia Principles,** whereof Henry Clay 
was president, had Mr. Smith's entire confidence. The 
Tappans, Arthur and Lewis, had begun to distrust it : 
Daniel Webster, in 1825, had retired from a meeting 
held in Boston for the purpose of organizing an auxiliary 
society, with the remark : " Gentlemen, I will have noth- 
ing more to do with the meeting ; for I am satisfied it is 
merely a plan of the slaveholders to get rid of the free 
negroes.** * The intelligent blacks saw through it. 
Honest men of the south, like John Randolph and Hen- 
ry A. Wise, made no secret of its character. Its found- 
ers in plain language avowed the contempt for the free 
blacks on which the society was based, Mr. Clay and 
Bushrod Washington showing, the former by words, the 

* Wilson's " Rise and Fall of the Slave Power." i. p. 219. 



SLAVERY, 163 

latter by deeds, a cordial agreement with Gen. Mercer 
on this cardinal point. But piety outran prudence. Or- 
thodox ministers and laymen in the most enlightened 
States, fascinated by the prospect of planting the gospel 
in Africa, overlooked the ugly features of the plan. Dr. 
Leonard Bacon, the eminent divine of New Haven, 
accepted office in the society, and commended it as " a 
society for the establishment of a colony on the coast of 
Africa," admitting in the same breath, that it was not a 
society for the abolition of slavery, nor a society for the 
improvement of the blacks, nor a society for the sup- 
pression of the slave trade.* Even William Lloyd Gar- 
rison delivered an address before the Colonization So- 
ciety in 1829, which contained no criticism on its pur- 
poses and methods, though the feeling with which he 
spoke of the wrongs and woes of the slaves foreshadowed 
the exposure that soon followed. Gerrit Smith, a fervent 
** evangelical," a devout believer in the Calvinistic sys- 
tem, and a zealous promoter of the cause of ** Gospel 
Truth," was detained longer than others were, in the 
deftly woven snares of the slaveholders. 

Signs of an impending change of view appear in the 
Diary, in 1834. 

July 8. "Elder John Loyd, a native of the West Indies, drinks 
tea with us. He this evening presents in our church the claims of 
Africa. Upwards of ten dollars are contributed. Elder Loyd, his 
wife and their four children, are to go to Africa this season. He is 
sent by the Methodist church as a missionarj'." 

July 12. "I attended this evening the meeting in which our town 
Anti-slavery Society was organized. The constitution is good. 
Nevertheless I did not join the Society. I think I cannot join the 
Anti-slavery Society as long as the war is kept up between it and 

* Wilson, I. p. 215. 



l^H LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

the American Colonization Society — a war, however, for which the 
Colonization Society is as much to blame as the other Society." 

September 1, 1835. "We returned to Utica in time to attend a 

great anti-abolition meeting. My friend J. A. S made a good 

speech in it — in the main very good. The proceedings, aside from 
this speech, were not agreeable to my feelings. Christian morality 
did not characterize them." 

August 29, 1835. " Every mail of late brings accounts of the law- 
less, riotous, murderous spirit which is prevailing over the land. . . . 
Defend, oh Lord, the cause of the oppressed. The friends of the 
righteous doctrine of immediate emancipation are sorely pressed at 
this time. Surround my dear friend Birney with the arms of thy love 
and protection, and shelter beneath the wings of thy mercy, that pre- 
cious child of God, Charles Stuart." 

The storm had been rising for several years. In the 
fall of 1 83 1 a meeting of the friends of the slave was 
called at the Baptist church on West Genesee Street, 
Syracuse. At the hour named, fifteen or twenty per- 
sons, among them Gerrit Smith, were seen wending their 
way to the place. Suddenly the little band of reformers 
were assailed by a select mob, and pitilessly pelted with 
eggs in that melancholy condition of decay that best 
qualifies them to express derision. The unexpectedness 
and fury of the attack rendered a retreat advisable ; Mr. 
Smith and his companions repaired in disarray to the 
neighboring village of Fayetteville. There they held 
their meeting, passed their resolutions, denounced in 
plain terms the outrage that had been put upon them, 
and pledged themselves to new fidelity to the black 
man*s cause. No public man condemned the assault ; 
the press of Syracuse on the whole applauded the deed. 
The popular feeling was on the side of the mob. 

On the 2ist October, 1835, the State Anti-slavery 
Convention was held at Utica. Mr. and Mrs. Smith had 
left home in the morning, purposing to attend the meet- 



SLAVERY. 165 

ing and then go on to Schenectady to visit his father. 
Scarcely had the meeting been called to order when dis- 
turbances began ; the mob crowded in, interrupted the 
proceedings with yells and abuse, threatened violence 
if the speakers went on, and utterly defeated their pur- 
pose. Mr. Smith, who was there merely as a spectator, 
sprang to his feet, protested against the interruption, 
declared that he was no ** abolitionist ** but that he 
loved fair play, and, failing to allay the tumult or prevent 
the dispersion of the assembly, invited the convention 
to adjourn to Peterboro where they should hold an un- 
disturbed meeting the next day ; then he turned back 
instead of going on as he had purposed. At about 
ten o'clock the peaceful household were roused by 
the master and mistress, (who had driven nearly all the 
way in the rain), and were set to making active prepa- 
rations for the entertainment of an indefinite number of 
guests. The night was spent in mixing bread, grinding 
coffee, paring apples for pies, baking rolls and providing 
the other necessaries of hospitality. At about threfe 
o'clock in the morning, Mr. Smith appeared in the 
kitchen, with pen, ink and paper, asked for a stand and 
an extra candle, and poured his hot soul into the reso- 
lutions to be presented and the speech that was to sup- 
port them. In the morning the guests straggled in. 
About thirty arrived in season for breakfast. They were 
in a sorry plight from the mud and rain, the hard jour- 
ney, and the persecutions of the enemy who pursued 
them as far as they could. The younger men turned the 
matter into sport ; but the elders found the experience 
a hard one. The day was beautiful ; the convention was 
well attended by three or four hundred delegates ; Gerrit 



1 66 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

Smith entertained seventy or eighty at dinner, a hun- 
dred or more at tea, and with the help of sofas, lounges 
and softened boards gave rest at night to some forty 
tired bodies. His was the great speech of th^ day, his 
were the thrilling resolutions, and he was the cohvert of 
the occasion ; not the only one probably, for a flood of 
enthusiasm took the village off its feet, but the chief one 
in the whole State. From this hour his stand was taken 
with the Anti-slavery Society. 

October 1^, Sabbath, "The Lord carry much instruction to my 
mind and heart from the scenes of the past week, and may He teach 
me, and enable me to rely on Himself for protection in all the perils 
that surround and threaten me. The Lord inspire my heart with 
holy courage. The Lord make me His humble, confiding, holy little 
child, and profit greatly my dear wife by the instructive providences 
through which we are passing." 

How great was the change through which Mr. Smith 
suddenly passed will be perceived from the following 
letter addressed to the secretary of the American Colo- 
nization Society in November, one month after the scene 
just described. It is a model of frankness, courtesy and 
magnanimity. 

Peterboro, November 34, 1835. 

Rev. R. R. Gurley, Secretary of Ajjrerican Colonization Society. 

My Dear Friend, — Great as the pleasure would be to me of 
meeting, at the approaching Anniversary of the American Coloniza- 
tion Society, with my beloved fellow laborers in the cause of African 
Colonization, I must not, for this alone, make a journey to Wash- 
ington. Could I connect with the anticipation of this i)leasure the 
prospect of gaining over the Society to the views which I have so 
long, but in vain, pressed upon its adoption, the journey would then 
be made most cheerfully ; but the present circumstances and com- 
plexion of the Society afford anything but such a prospect. 

You well know, my dear sir, how faithfully I labored, at the An- 
niversary of the Society in January, 1834, and for a year before ; and 



SLAVERY, 167 

how much I have written to that end since, to bring back the Society 
to its constitutional and neutral ground, respecting the subject of 
slavery. The ineffectualness of these efforts is manifest in the fact, 
that the Society is now, and has been for some time, far more inter- 
ested in the question of slavery than in the work of colonization — in 
the demolition of the Anti-slavery Society, than in the building up of 
its colony. I need not go beyond the matter and spirit of the last 
few numbers of its periodical for the justification of this remark. 
Were a stranger to form his opinion by these numbers, it would be, 
that the Society issuing them was quite as much an anti-abolition, as 
colonization society: and this would be his opinion of a society, which 
has not legitimately anything to do with slavery, either as its op- 
])onent or advocate — of a society of which I said in my speech be- 
fore it, in January 1834, and justl}', I believe, that "such is, or rather 
such should be its neutrality, on the subject of slavery, that its mem- 
bers may be free, on the one hand, to be slaveholders ; and on the 
other to join the Anti-slavery Society." It has come to this, how- 
ever, that a member of the Colonization Society cannot advocate the 
deliverance of his enslaved fellow- men, without subjecting himself 
to such charges of inconsistency, as the public prints abundantly 
cast on me, for being at the same time a member of that Society and 
an abolitionist. 

It was not until some six or eight months since, that I began to 
despair of seeing the Colonization Society cease, within any short 
])eriod, if ever, from its interference with the subject of slavery. No 
more than a year ago, and I was still confident that the Society would 
retrace its errors, and be again simply a Colonization Society : and 
then how soon a harmonious, successful and glorious Society ! 

I still owe a considerable sum on my subscriptions to the funds 
of the Colonization Society. It is true that the conditions on which 
these subscriptions were made, have not been fulfilled, and that it is 
now too late to fulfill them. It is further true, that most of the 
sum I still owe has some years to run before it is due. But I sym- 
l)athize with the Society in its embarrassments, and herewith enclose 
you my check for the whole balance — viz., three thousand dollars. 
It is my wish, though I would not insist on its taking this direction 
at^ainst the judgment of your much esteemed board — that the 
whole sum be applied towards the cancelment of the debts of the 
Society. 

At some future period, and under happier auspices, the American 
Colonization Society may possibly cease to meddle with slavery; 
and to claim that it is the remedy, and the only remedy for th^" 



1 68 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

evil. It may then confine its operations to their constitutional sphere, 
and employ all its means in the benevolent and delightful work of 
aiding" the free people of color in our country to escape from the un- 
relenting prejudice and persecution under which they suffer, and ta 
obtain in a foreign land the honorable and happy home which is 
cruelly and wickedly denied to them in their own. I may then have 
it in my heart and in my power to contribute again to your treasury. 
In the mean time, I cannot conscientiously do so, — nor, indeed, da 
anything else from which my approbation of the Society could be 
justly inferred. 

It is proper for me to say, that I am brought to this determina- 
tion earlier than I expected to be, by the recent increase of my 
interest in the American Anti-Slavery Society. From its organiza- 
tion to the present time, I have looked to that society as, under God, 
the best hope of the slave and of my country. Since the late alarm- 
ing attacks, in the persons of its members, on the right of discussion, 
(and astonishing as it is, some of the suggestions for invading this 
right are impliedly countenanced in the African Repository) I have 
looked to it, as being also the rallying point of the friends of this 
right. To that society yours is hostile, I will not say without cause 
— ^without even as much as the certainly veiy great cause which it 
has for being the enemy of yours. ' However that may be, it is enough 
for my present purpose and to justify me in standing aloof from your 
society, to know that the Anti-Slavery Society has now become iden- 
tified with this threatened right ; and that if it fall, as your society is 
diligently striving that it shall, this great and sacred right of man 
will fall and perish with it. 

With great regard, your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 

It will be seen from this letter that Mr. Smith did 
not take issue with the Colonization Society, as Mn 
Garrison did, on the c^round of its original purpose, but 
on the opposite ground that it h3.d abandoned its original 
purpose. The original purpose is still commended as 
praiseworthy, and Mr. Smith hopes once more to be a 
fellow-worker with the society in promoting it. He was 
offended by the attempt to thwart and crush another 
purpose which he dearly cherished, and which he did 



SLAVERY, 169 

not see was inconsistent with its own. At this time, in 
1 83 1, when he spoke in glowing language of the true 
aims of the Colonization Society, he could contemplate 
with enthusiastic hope the scheme of planting christian 
civilization in Africa, of suppressing the foreign slave 
trade, of improving the lot of the native tribes and the 
future of the free colored race at home. But he could 
not say now as he said in 183 1, of the blacks : ** They 
are incapable of freedom on our soil. They cannot rise 
in our esteem above the level of the moral state of the 
land of their origin, which is their appropriate, their only 
home. It is of first importance as regards our character 
abroad, that we should hasten to clear our land of our 
black population." The urgent question now was the 
freedom of this very population, on our own soil ; and it 
was because the Colonization Society angrily resisted 
the only efforts made to this end, — efforts that he him- 
self had but recently characterized as in a large measure 
*' ill-judged, rash, uncharitable and slanderous,** — that he 
withdrew from it his sympathy and support. He de- 
serted the society because it deserted its principles. 
But he paid in full the dues he had pledged, requesting 
that the money might be used in payment of the socie- 
ty's debts^ not in furtherance of the society's operations — 
that is, might be employed in the interest of its past 
fidelity to its ideas, not in the interest of its present 
infidelity to them. 

Three years later, in 1838, he took stronger ground. 
Then he wrote to President Schmucker, of the theo- 
logical seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: 

'• If the Colonization Society had not come out against the doc- 
trine of immediate emancipation, and inferentially against the doc- 
8 



172 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

wide but not sharply defined channel. Men like Beriah 
Green and William Goodell were forever quarelling with 
his logical vagaries, and forever exulting in his rush of 
rrloral force. The one quality he demanded was earnest- 
ness in radical anti-slavery work. 

For half-way reformers, men of one idea, he had no 
respect. At an anti-sectarian convention held in Peter- 
boro, in 1849, ^^ presented a resolution, " that they, and 
they only are Christians, who love God and man ; and 
that they and they only are to be recognized as Chris- 
tians, who, in the fruits of their lives, evidence that they 
love God and man.*' The resolution was sharply con- 
tested. ** He is an unjust man,*' he said in an address 
to the Liberty Party of the State of New York, ** who 
will espouse but one good cause ; and hence his fidelity 
to that is not to be relied on. He is an unjust man, who 
is a one-idea man ; and hence he may prove traitorous to 
his favorite idea.** To love God was not, in his view, 
to love a definition of God ; to love man was a good 
deal more than loving a particular " brand ** of humanity. 

Gerrit Smith's cardinal doctrine, copiously stated 
and argued, was this : that slavery, being an outrage on 
the first principles of humanity, was a violation of the 
very idea of law ; that law could neither establish it nor 
protect it ; that no State or national code, no constitu- 
tion could give it guarantee ; that the law which justified 
it stultified itself in so doing, and thereby forfeited its 
title to the name of law ; that slavery was always and 
everywhere, under all forms, and in spite of all sanctions, 
an outlaw and should be an outcast. The distinction 
between higher law and lower he refused to recognize. 
The law. all law, had its seat in the bosom of God ; all 



SLAVERY, 171 

on it, and fed by the sources of his reHgious faith, were 
exerted to the utmost. One man was determined to 
discharge the full measure of his responsibility so far as 
thoughtfulness and aspiration revealed it to his mind. 

His genius was practical. He fixed his eye on a 
definite object to be attained, and he welcomed all allies 
to the work of attaining it, made no more foes than were 
necessary, put the best construction on doubtful men 
and measures, waived incidental and subordinate issues, 
encouraged rather than discouraged, and generally used 
the method of the enthusiast where others plied the 
policy of the fanatic. His object was the abolition of 
slavery and the creation of a public sentiment that would 
demand its abolition. Boundless was his faith in moral 
powers. He believed that true principles, if adhered to, 
honored and diffused by two or three hundred thousand 
people, would overmatch the falsities of millions; that 
truth had an inherent advantage over falsehood, right 
an essential superiority over wrong. The moral prin- 
ciple he could feel sure of; the method of policy must 
vary with circumstances. Hence he was at no pains to 
vindicate his consistency to expedients or to preserve it. 
On the contrary, the adherence to old methods in the 
face of new facts or considerations was, in his regard, a 
weakness. His views on even important questions had 
changed greatly; they were continually changing; he 
hoped they would change still more, all the time, as they 
changed, deepening his trust in the principle and increas- 
ing his wisdom to support it. He lacked the absolute 
quality of mind that makes the man of theory. His in- 
tellectual resources were immense, but his intellectual 
fibre was loose. His force was a flood, pouring on in a 



172 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

wide but not sharply defined channel. Men like Beiiah 
Green and William Goodell were forever quarelling with 
his logical vagaries, and forever exulting in his rush of 
moral force. The one quality he demanded was earnest- 
ness in radical anti-slavery work. 

For half-way reformers, men of one idea, he had no 
respect. At an an ti- sectarian convention held in Peter- 
boro, in 1849, ^^ presented a resolution, " that they, and 
they only are Christians, who love God and man ; and 
that they and they only are to be recognized as Chris- 
tians, who, in the fruits of their lives, evidence that they 
love God and man.** The resolution was sharply con- 
tested. ** He is an unjust man,** he said in an address 
to the Liberty Party of the State of New York, " who 
will espouse but one good cause; and hence his fidelity 
to that is not to be relied on. He is an unjust man, who 
is a one-idea man ; and hence he may prove traitorous to 
his favorite idea.'* To love God was not, in his view, 
to love a definition of God ; to love man was a good 
deal more than loving a particular ** brand ** of humanity. 

Gerrit Smith's cardinal doctrine, copiously stated 
and argued, was this : that slavery, being an outrage on 
the first principles of humanity, was a violation of the 
very idea of law ; that law could neither establish it nor 
protect it ; that no State or national code, no constitu- 
tion could give it guarantee ; that the law which justified 
it stultified itself in so doing, and thereby forfeited its 
title to the name of law ; that slavery was always and 
everywhere, under all forms, and in spite of all sanctions, 
an outlaw and should be an outcast. The distinction 
between higher law and lower he refused to recognize. 
The law. all law, had its seat in the bosom of God ; all 



SLAVERY, 173 

law was high ; if low things, policies, expediencies, de- 
vices, utilities took the name of law, they usurped it, 
and must justify their claim to use it by their acquies- 
cence in the decrees of the moral sense. 

Could slavery find shelter behind the Constitution of 
the United States? This was the agitated question. 
** Yes,** replied the abolitionist ; " therefore away with 
the Constitution." ** Yes,** replied the anti-abolitionist ; 
** therefore let slavery alone.** ** No,** said the anti- 
slavery Whigs, ** for the Constitution is not a pro-slavery 
instrument.** ** No,** said Gerrit Smith, ** for slavery, in 
the nature of the case, cannot find shelter behind any- 
thing that bears the name of law ; the Constitution that 
offered shelter to slavery would have no validity. The 
question whether or no slavery finds shelter behind the 
Constitution, is wanting in pertinency : there is no such 
question.** Not without much expense of argument was 
this position maintained. To others it did not seem as 
self-evident as it did to him. The angry letters of cor- 
respondents, published and unpublished — some of them 
from personal friends whom he revered and loved — tes- 
tify to the cost at which he held an opinion so distaste- 
ful not to the extremists alone, on both sides, but to 
moderate men as well. Gentle speech was not common 
in those times ; men were consigned to purgatory and 
worse for the lightest offences against the party stand- 
ards; and Mr. Smith's idea of the Calvinistic hereafter 
must have been clarified by the descriptions of the doom 
from which nothing short of special grace could de- 
liver him. 

His discussions of the constitutional question were 
as temperate in tone as they were affluent, luminous and 



r;2 



LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 



wide but not sharply defined channel. Men like I 
Green and William Goodell were forever quarellinc, 
his logical vagaries, and forever exulting in his ruj 
moral force. The one quality he demanded was eai 
ness in radical anti-slavery work. 

For half-way reformers, men of one idea, he Ji 
respect. At an anti-sectarian convention held in 1 
boro, in 1849, he presented a resolution, " that tho] 
they only are Christians, who love God and mai 
that they and they only are to be recognized .i?|| 
tians, who, in the fruits of their lives, evidence tliaoj 
love God and man," The resolution was ! 
tested. " He is an unjust man," he said in an •■ 
to the Liberty Party of the State of New YorkJ 
will espouse but one good cause; and hence t 
to that is not to be relied on. He is an unjust n 
is a one-idea man ; and hence he may prove tra 
his favorite idea." To love G^d was not, i 
to love a definition of God ; to love man \ 
deal more than loving a particular " brand " 

Gerrit Smith's cardinal doctrine, copioilB 
and argued, was this: that slavery, being an t 
the first principles of humanity, was a violatS 
very idea of law ; that law could neither estdj 
protect it ; that no State or national code, 1 
tion could give it guarantee ; that the law whi 
it stultified itself in so doing, and thereby fa^ 
title to the name of law; that slavery ' 
everywhere, under all forms, and in spite of flj 
an outlaw and should be an outcast. The 1 
between higher law and lower he refused tOi 
The law, all law, had its seat in the bosom of j 



SLAVERY. 175 

a man to the fraction of a man ".being of the nature of | 

an indignity which, but for the existence of slavery, would j 

never have been inflicted ; and that the provision to re- 
turn fugitives, even if applied to slaves, was limited, 
naturally, to the original thirteen States, and in them is 
** null and void " because '* it is contrary to the Divine 
Law.'* The letter ends with this characteristic passage: 



" The constitution is an anti-slavery instrument, and needs but 
to be administered in consistency with its principles to effectuate the 
speedy overthrow of the whole system of American slavery. It is a 
power in the hands of the people which they cannot fling away, with- 
out making themselves guilty of ingratitude to God and treason to 
the slave ; — for God has given it to them ; and the slave vitally needs 
their righteous use of it. It mav cost them much toil and self-denial 
and vexation of spirit to recover that power from the per\'ersions by 
which it has upheld and extended the dominion of slavery ; — but to 
all this they must submit ; and the more readily, because they have 
shared, and largely too, in the guilt of those perversions. This shield 
which God has given us to put over the head of the slave we have 
traitorously made the protection of the slaveholder. This weapon, 
which God has given us for fighting the battles of the oppressed, we 
have murderously wielded on the side of the oppressor. It will be 
a poor fruit of repentance, or, rather, a fruit of poor repentance, if 
now, when our hearts are smitten with a sense of our wrong use of 
this shield and weapon, we shall, from our study of ease and quiet, 
from our desire to promote a favorite theory, or from any other cause, 
throw them away, instead of manfully, courageously, perseveringly, 
and therefore successfully, putting them to a right use." 

In 1850, Mr. Smith made a speech in Albany, on the 
relation of slavery to the Constitution, which he intro- 
duced by reading the following petition, framed by him- 
self and numerously signed, which had been presented 
to the State legislature. 

To the Senafe ajid Assembly of the State of New York : 

What a wonder, what a shame, what a crime, that in the midst 
of the light and progress of the middle of the nineteenth century. 



174 L^P^ OF GERRIT SMITH. 

massive in treatment. The same ground precisely that 
he took in regard to the Bible, that he might have the 
benefit of the popular reverence for the book on the 
side of temperance and freedom, he took in regard to 
the Constitution, in order that the universal veneration 
for the instrument, enhanced by association with the 
moral and religious sentiments, might assist the work of 
reform. Like Sumner, he contended for the anti-slavery 
construction of the organic law of the Republic, rein- 
forcing the usual arguments with ingenious considera- 
tions of his own. He would not allow a shadow of sus- 
picion to lie either on the intent or the letter of the 
document, but claimed that it needed no amendment; 
herein going beyond Mr. Sumner, who cast an implied 
reproach on the Constitution as it stood, by asking that 
it might be improved. To Mr. Smith's mind, it was 
good enough ; it contained all that the most exacting re- 
publican could desire. His views were tersely expressed 
in a letter to John G. Whittier, dated July i8, 1844, and 
published under the title : ** Gerrit Smith's Constitutional 
Argument.** It contended that the faithful application 
of the principles of the Constitution would result in the 
speedy abolition of the whole system of American sla- 
very ; that its framers and acceptors ** believed and joy 
fully believed, that American slavery was to endure but 
a few years;*' that the omission of the words "slave" 
and ** slavery *' is a clear confession that the Constitution 
did not mean to recognize the legal existence of either ; 
that the ** apportionment clause,'* allowing a three-fifths 
representation to slaves, " is a bounty on liberty, and 
presents a strong inducement to every State to raise its 
inhabitants to the rank of freemen,** the ** reduction of 



SLAVERY. 175 

a man to the fraction of a man ".being of the nature of 
an indignity which, but for the existence of slavery, would 
never have been inflicted ; and that the provision to re- 
turn fugitives, even if applied to slaves, was limited, 
naturally, to the original thirteen States, and in them is 
** null and void ** because ** it is contrary to the Divine 
Law.** The letter ends with this characteristic passage: 

" The constitution is an anti-slavery instrument, and needs but 
to be administered in consistency with its principles to effectuate the 
speedy overthrow of the whole system of American slavery. It is a 
power in the hands of the people which they cannot fling away, with- 
out making themselves guilty of ingratitude to God and treason to 
the slave ; — for God has given it to them ; and the slave vitally needs 
their righteous use of it. It may cost them much toil and self-denial 
and vexation of spirit to recover that power from the per\'ersions by 
which it has upheld and extended the dominion of slavery ; — but to 
all this they must submit ; and the more readily, because they have 
shared, and largely too, in the guilt of those per\'ersions. This shield 
which God has given us to put over the head of the slave we have 
traitorously made the protection of the slaveholder. This weapon, 
which God has given us for fighting the battles of the oppressed, we 
have murderously wielded on the side of the oppressor. It will be 
a poor fruit of repentance, or, rather, a fruit of poor repentance, if 
now, when our hearts are smitten with a sense of our wrong use of 
this shield and weapon, we shall, from our study of ease and quiet, 
from our desire to promote a favorite theory, or from any other cause, 
throw them away, instead of manfully, courageously, perseveringly, 
and therefore successfully, putting them to a right use." 

In 1850, Mr. Smith made a speech in Albany, on the 
relation of slavery to the Constitution, which he intro- 
duced by reading the following petition, framed by him- 
self and numerously signed, which had been presented 

to the State legislature. 

To the Senate and Assembly of the State of New York : 

What a wonder, what a shame, what a crime, that in the midst 
of the li;^ht and progress of the middle of the nineteenth century. 



\^t> LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

such an abomination and outrage as slaver}^ should be acknowl- 
edged to be a legal institution ! Who that reverences law, and would 
have it bless the world, can consent that its sanction and support, 
its honor and holiness be given to such a compound of robbery and 
meanness and murder, as is slavery? 

Your petitioners pray that your Honorable Bodies request the 
representatives and instruct the senators of this State in Congress to 
treat the legalization of slaveiy as an impossibility ; and moreover, 
to insist that the Federal Consthution shall, like all other laws, be 
subjected to the strict rules of legal interpretation, to the end that 
its anti-slavery character be thereby seen and established, and all 
imputations upon that character forever excluded. 

The slave-holder will be strong so long as he can plead law for 
his matchless crime. But take from him that plea, and he will be 
too weak to continue his grasp upon his victims. It is unreasonable 
to look for the peaceful termination of slavery while the North, and 
especially while abolitionists of the North, sustain the claim of the 
South to its constitutionality. J3ut let the North, and especially the 
abolitionists of the North, resist, and expose the absurdity of this 
claim — and slavery, denied thereafter all countenance and nourish- 
ment from the constitution, will quickly perish. 

Your petitioners will esteem it a great favor if your Honorable 
Bodies will consent to hear one or more of them in behalf of the 
prayers of their Petition. January 22, 1850. 

The argument that followed was pitched to this key. 
We need not quote from its impassioned pages. They 
who are at all acquainted with the course of reasoning 
pursued by Lysander Spooner in the volume which Mr. 
Smith warmly commended, or by the orators of the Free 
Soil Party, have only to imagine them pressed with the 
fervor and force of Mr. Smith's swelling heart. They to 
whom the discussion is unfamiliar, must go to other 
sources for information. Jt was Mr. Smith's endeavor 
to place the Constitution actively on the side of human- 
ity, as the broad manifesto of democratic institutions. 
Nothing less than this contented him. When the ques- 
tion of amending the Constitution in the interest of 



SLA VER y. I T7 

freedom was up, in 1864, Mr. Smith wrote to Charles 
Sumner a letter of which the following is an extract : 

" An amendment implying that without it, the constitution would 
authorize or even tolerate slavery, would do great injustice to those 
who adopted the constitution. It would be wickedly blotting their 
memory. So much stress has been laid on the history of the con- 
stitution, it may well be said that there are two constitutions, the 
one the historical, and the other the literal. The former is that 
which has ruled the country. Terrible, all the way, has been its 
rule. The cry of many millions to an avenging God has come of it. 
The soaking of our land with blood has also come of it. That the 
history of the constitution has so cursed us is because it is so almost 
universally held to be a pro-slavery history. In other words, that 
this historical constitution has so cursed us is because of the ever 
urged and almost universally accepted claim that the literal consti- 
tution was made in the interest of slavery. Alas for the people to 
whom the angel of the Apocalypse cried 'woe, woe, woe,* if they 
suffered more than America has suffered from this historical con- 
stitution ! That there is much for slavery in the history of the 
constitution I admit. But that there is also much in it against 
slavery I affirm. Pio-slavery interests however have succeeded in 
keeping the latter out of sight. The rejection in the convention, 
which framed the constitution, of the motion to require 'fugitive 
slaves ' to be delivered up, and the unanimous adoption the next day 
of the motion to deliver up, no * fugitive slaves,' but persons from 
whom labor or service is due, is a historical fact against slavery. So 
too is Mr. Madison's unopposed declaration in the convention, that 
it would be 'wrong to admit in the constitution the idea that there 
could be property in man.' And so also is that convention's unani- 
mous substitution of the word 'service' for 'servitude* for the 
avowed reason that servitude expresses the condition of slaves and 
service that of freemen. Nothing however of all this did I need to 
say. What this thing is, which is called the history of the constitu- 
tion — what is this historical constitution as I have termed that his- 
tory — is really of no moment. What it is in the light of the records 
of the convention referred to, or of the records of the ' Virginia 
Convention ' or any other convention, or what it is on the pages of 
the ' Federalist,* or of any other book, or of any newspaper, should 
not be made the least account of. The aggregate of all those whose 
words contributed to make up this historical constitution, is but a 
comparative handful. The one question is — What is the literal 
8* 



178 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

constitution ? For it is that and that only, which the people adopted, 
and which is therefore the constitution. They did not adopt the 
discussions of the convention which framed it. These were secret. 
They did not adopt what the newspapers said of the constitution. 
Newspapers in tliat day were emphatically * few and far between.' 
But even had they been familiar with the newspapers and with the 
discussions, their one duty would nevertheless have been to pass 
upon the simple letter of the constitution. As Judge Story so well 
says : * Nothing but the text itself was adopted by the people.* And 
I add that what the people intended by the constitution is to be 
gathered solely from its text ; and that what the people intended by 
it and not what its framers or the commentators upon it intended, 
is the constitution. So we will take up the text of the constitution 
to learn what and w^hat alone is the constitution. Its very preamble 
tells us that it is made to * secure the blessings of libeny.' Thus, 
even in the porch of her temple doth Liberty deign to meet us. 
Strange indeed would it be were she to desert us in its apartments ! 
She does not. In our progress through the constitution we find it 
pleading the power of the whole nation to maintain in every State 
•a republican form of government.* Pro-slavery men tell us that 
this was no more than a republican government of the aristocratic 
Greek and Roman type ; and that therefore men can consistently be 
bought and sold under it. But when the fathers gave us the con- 
stitution the political heavens were all ablaze with a new light — the 
light of the truth * that all men are created equal,* and that the g^eat 
end of government is to maintain that equality. Ere we get through 
the constitution — ere Liberty has led us all the way throug^h her 
temple — we meet with the slavery-forbidding declaration that : * No 
p>erson shall be deprived of life, liberty or pro|>erty without due 
process of law I " 

What an argument it is in favor of the anti-slavery character of 
the constitution, that not so much as one line, no, nor one word of it, 
need be changed in order to bring it into perfect harmony with the 
most radical and sweeping anti-slaver)^ amendment. And how 
strongly is this character argued from the fact, that were constitu- 
tional phrases, as innocent and inapplicable as these which are re- 
lied on to rcb the noblest black man of his liberty, to be made the 
ground for robbing the meanest white man of his, or even the mean- 
est white man of his meanest ^o'g, such use of them would be in- 
stantly and indiL^nantlv scouted bv all ! And how strongly is it al^o 
argued from the fact, that a stranger to America and to her practice 



SLA VER y. 1 79 

of making church and State and all things minister to slavery, could 
see absolutely nothing, could suspect absolutely nothing in the con- 
stitution, which might be seized on to turn that also to the foul and 
diabolical service ? 

But why should we stop with an anti-slavery amendment ? Im- 
measurably more needed is an amendment to the effect that race or 
origin shall not work a forfeiture of any civil or political rights. 
Even an anti-slavery amendment may not be permanent. A race, 
whilst deprived of rights which other races enjoy, can have no rea- 
sonable assurance that it will be protected against even slavery. But 
make it equal with them, in rights, and it will be able to protect itself. 

Gerrit Smith's views of government corresponded to 
his views of the Federal Constitution — and was, in a sim- 
ilar sense, his own. There are two general theories of 
the province of governnnent ; the theory that would have 
government do everything — the " paternal ** theory, — 
which regards government as a providence, whose care 
may properly be extended over the interests of religion, 
education, charity, social and personal morals, and evea 
the processes of material development ; — and the theory 
that government should do nothings a theory commonly 
called " Laissez faire^ which regards government as a 
hindrance, and would abolish it altogether, or reduce it 
to the function of guarding individual freedom against 
the pressure of society. The first theory, if pushed to 
an extreme, would dispense with personal activity, and 
virtually, if not literally, annihilate private liberty. The 
second, if pushed to an extreme, would leave individuals 
to meet their own wants, in their own way, by single or 
combined effort. The first may be called the theory of 
the old world, the second the theory of the new world. 
Mr. Smith was satisfied with neither. The first was 
the mark of his keenest criticism, as being altogether in- 
consistent with the genius of institutions which rested 



l8o LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

on individual intelligence and self-reliance. The second 
made inadequate provision for the protection of the 
moral interests, against bestiality and inhumanity. Here 
-his strong practical instinct and his impetuous enthu- 
siasm for reform revealed to his eye distinctions where 
the philosophical mind could see none. First of all he 
is a Christian, a believer in the bible, a man relying on 
the gospel, and accepting the New Testament ideas of 
the perfect society ; it could not be expected of him 
therefore, that he should reason like a ** philosopher " or 
a disciple of the later school of social science. ** Bible 
Civil Government " is his motto ; what that is, in his 
estimation, we are left in no doubt of. But while some 
of his contemporaries accepted the Old Testament theo- 
cratic idea, and advocated a spiritual rule in the name 
of ** Him that sate upon the throne,*' he interpreted the 
bible doctrine to mean pure humanity. "We cannot,** 
he says, ** mistake the Bible apprehension of civil gov- 
ernment when it tells us that * rulers are not a terror to 
good works, but to the evil ; ' nor when it says that the 
ruler * is minister of God,' or in other words, acts on and 
acts out the principles of God. And who can mistake 
it, or fail to be touched and melted by it, when he 
reads the injunction upon civil government : *Take coun- 
sel, execute judgment, make thy shadow as the night in 
the midst of the noon-day, hide the outcasts, bewray 
not him that wandereth ; let mine outcasts dwell with 
thee ; be thou a covert to them from the face of the 
spoiler.' Or who can misapprehend it, or not be moved 
by it when he reads : * Thou shalt not deliver unto his 
master the servant which is escaped from his master 
unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among you. 



SLAVEJ^V. l8l 

in that place which he shall choose, in one of thy gates 
where it liketh him best. Thou shalt not oppress him.' 
. . . Civil government is, in the eye of reason, the 
collective people caring for each of the people — the com- 
bination of all for the protection of each one. Such is it 
in spirit and scope on the pages of the Bible. We there 
see it to be, next to God Himself the great Protector; 
and as is reasonable, the special Protector of the inno- 
cent, and helpless poor." Thus the humane soul of the 
philanthropist adopted, accepted so far, the "paternal" 
idea. The independence of the American, however, 
saved the philanthropist from the extreme consequences 
of it. The working reformer is always at odds with the 
social philosopher. Hot feeling and cool logic are never 
quite in accord. Very seldom, we venture to think, do 
they approach so nearly as in the case of Gerrit Smith. 
Had his concern for other social interests been as deep 
and intense as his concern for temperance and emanci- 
pation, they might have touched at fewer points still. 
As it was, the line between what government could and 
could not do, was drawn with reasonable clearness. 
His views on this subject were so little modified in the 
course of many years, that in quoting them, dates are 
of no consequence. The simplest statement of them is 
found in an address on '* The True Office of Civil Gov- 
ernment," delivered at Troy, April 14th, 185 1. It begins 
thus : 

" The legitimate arction of civil government is very simple. Its 
legitimate range is very narrow. Government owes nothing to its 
subjects but protection. And this is a protection, not from compe- 
tition, but from crimes. It owes them no protection from the for- 
eign farmer, or foreign manufacturer, or foreign navigator. As it 
owes them no other protection from each other than from the crimes 



1 82 LIFE OF CERRIT SMITH, 

of each other, so it owes ihem no other proteciion against foreigTiers 
than from the crimes of foreigners. Nor is it from all crimes that 
g-ov^rnment is b'junri to protect its subjects. It is from such Toniy 
as art comrriitted a;^a:nst their persor.s and possessions. Ingratitude 
is a crime ; but as it is not of tr.is class of crimes, g"ovemment is not 
to be cognizant of it. 

"No protection does government owe to the morals of its sub- 
jects. Still less is it bound to study to promote their morais. To 
call on g^overnment to increase trie wealth of its subjects, or to help 
the pro^'ress c-f rt!ig-ion amo-.g" thtm. or. ir. short, to promote any 
of their ir.tertst5>. is to call on it to do that wnich it has no rig-ht to 
do, and wrX-::.. it v: sa:e to add. it has no power to do. Were g'ov- 
emment to aim to secure to its subjects the free and inviolable con- 
trol of tneir persons and proper.y — of life and of the means of sus- 
taining life — it would aim at all that it snouid aim at. And its sub- 
jects, if they get tr.is security, should feel that they need notiiing^ 
more at the hands of government to enable them to work their way 
well through the world. Government, in a word is to say to its sub- 
jects : ' You must do f.-r yourselves. My on*:y part is to defend 
vour ri^rht to do for v ourselves. You must do vour own work. I 
will but protect you in that work..' " 



He contirjues: 

" Whenever the work of the people is taken out of their hands 
by the government — or. since tne people are quite as ready to shirk 
their work as tne govtrr-.ment is to usurp it — I might as well say 
whenev-r the peotle devolve it on government, it is, of course, badiy 
done. Tr.ls is true, because ever\' work to be well done must be 
done by its a;.pr:;r.= te a^tnt. Wne never government builds rail- 
rtais and cmals it bui.:l5 tr.em in'u'iiciously and wastefuliy. 5o 
t '..'-■. wr-jt never governme:-.t n.edi'.ts with schools, it proves that it is 
C'jt -t: its place i.-y tne pernicrous ir.nuence it exer.s upon them. 
Ani to wnatever txter.t cnurchrs are controlled by government, 
to that extent trey a-e :;rrjt*.e- by it. . . . Government iias 
T.aught to CO but t^ ;^r:,tf_t it? su' 'etts ii'^T?, crimes. Tne crimes 
h'.vvcvtr, wn.ch :t ptr:n-t5 agi:n=t tnem — and s'lll more, the crimes 
\\:\':?i :t iutn. riirb an": even perpetrates against tncm — show bow 

" ^.'jie^v :s :; :r:rn€ ; n-n-^r-^/r.^rless, government not only permits 
:*5 s-o'evts to L-e en-lavti. out it actua.iy enarts laws for their 
tr.: aven-r". t. 

•' L.:n.i M.n.i.'r :s a cri'ne ; rovemment positively and 



SLA VER y. 1 83 

pressly permits it. Still worse, it does itself practice it. Government 
is itself the great land monopolist. 

'• T/ie compelling of one generation to pay the debts of another 
is a crime. Government not only suffers its subjects to be robbed 
of their earnings, in order to pay the debts of former generations, 
but it actually compels them to submit to such robbery. 

" To deny woman s right to control her property, to deny woman 
her right to participate in the choice of civil rulers is a crime. But 
government, so far from defending these rights, does itself rob her 
of them. 

*• The violation of the right to buy and sell freely, whenever and 
whereifer we please is a crime. Government does, by its tarifTs, 
annihilate this right." 

Having made these specifications, the speaker further 
enforces them in the most unqualified manner — still tak- 
ing his standard of right and wrong from his own script- 
ure-taught conscience. 

" Do I mean that government shall invariably and absolutely for^ 
bid slavery ? Yes — as invariably and absolutely as it forbids murder. 

" Do I jnean that men have an equal right to the soil? Yes ; — 
as equal as to the light and the air ; and government should without 
delay, prescribe the maximum quantity of land that each family may 
possess. 

'* Do I mean that a people may repudiate their national debt f I 
do. No generation is bound to enter on the race of life, incumbered 
with the dead weights of debt which former generations have en- 
tailed on it. Wars which the people who are carrying them on be- 
lieve to be just, they are willing to pay for ; and therefore, every gen- 
eration may reasonably be expected and required to pay for its own 
wars. Each generation must be left free to choose what wars it 
will engage in, and also what canals and roads it will build ; with 
the proviso in the one case as in the other, that it shall pay as it 
goes — or to say the least, that if it makes debts, it shall pay them. 
If no single generation can build and pay for an Erie Canal, then let 
one generation build it as far west as Utica ; and the next extend it 
to Rochester ; and the next to Buffalo. 

" Do I mean to be understood as condemning all tariffs? I do. 
I would not have a cistom house on the face of the earth. What- 
ever may be the effect on its wealth, every nation is to cultivate the 
Ireest, fullest, friendliest intercourse with every other nation. The 



1 84 LIFE OF GF.RRIT SMITH. 

narionr; of the ear:h constitute, and should feel that they constitute, a 
brotherhood. 

'* D>) I jman t^cit ^c^-^rnrjc'r,* Sfi.z.I hcrji nothing to do 'u:zth 
schooi.i J I d j. A "o;-.'j:ar ar^urrer.: :':r '^overr.ment or district 
schools is that thev are a c.-.-^a-^ :x\:oe. I adroit "that srood schools 
are. And so are s;:od churches. Ar.d sir.ce good fanii'.y-g-overnment 
is also a cheap ro'.ije, ar.d a rhiLisar.d to'.d more important to this 
end tiian either scr.ools or churches, or both put togetner. why should 
not arovernrper.: ta!<e under its 5u:?ep:s:on our familv arfairs also? 

** It is asked — '.vhat -.vih the poor do ro q"e: tlieir chiulren educated 

in case i^overnme-.t aii is 'Aithdra-.vn ? We answer. let them do any- 

ihir.Gf rat:ier thin har.^ u'^cn tirovernment ior an education — for an 

education wh::.^ because i: is governmerta!. is emascuLited of all 

positive, earnest, heirty reh;jion — for an education in which, because 

it is g-overT^.n-itr.tah the substance of morality is exchanged for the 

show of nvDraiitv — ar.d in which w::at is honest and uncomoroniisincr 

and r jbust and maniy in c.^iracter is made to jjive place to pusil- 
... ... ... , 

lanimity, enentmacy, ca.:u.At: '-r., D.iseness. 

•• It is iustice a:vi :t:t c:^ar:rv w;:i.:h the Deonle need at the hands 
of g-:vcrnmcr.t. Let ;.::■:■ ve mm en t restore to them their land, and 
what other rights t.^ev r.ave ''Ci'ttTi roboed of. anJ thev will then be 
able to ':..iv f^r themsch. es — to r.iv their schoolmasters as well as 
tneir nirsons. 

•* Perhaps it will be ashei. whether ijovernm.ent. under my cen- 
nition cf its province. w:;uli ht at li )erty to carry the maii ; build 
asylums : improve h^rbcrs ; and build lighthouses? I answer that 
nothir. 4 of a.l this i-. necL-ss.irHv, t::e work of irovernment. The 
mall can be cirriid as well witi:out as with the lielp of government. 
Some of the best a:-.dm:5t exter.sive asylum.s in our countr\' are 
ti-.oie with which givernment h.is nothing to do. And the interest 
ani huminity of inoivi:iu.ils ani crmniunities might be relied on to 
in-.:.":ve harbors arid btiild lighthouses, as well as to keep bridges 
ar.u r^ads in rei^air. T.:r w-i-rk of civil c:-vernm.ent is not so much 
\} take care cf its sub;-rcts :i5 t: leave them in circumstances in which 
ti-i-jy miy take care -zi t/.:"ns-:l.-:s : — an.i n :t s? much to govern its 
sj'/e:ts as tD leave them i:.:t to -.^ivei'n tiiemselves." 

There remains then so much room for political ac- 
tion, as will allo-A* the rcf-jrmer to use the powers of 
c;overnment for the protection of persons and prop- 
erty against such crimes as encanijer them ; notably 



SLAVEI^Y. 185 

against the manufacture and sale of liquors that infuriate 
men to riotous misconduct, and reduce them to pauper- 
ism, — and against slavery which is all crimes of fraud 
and violence in one. While honoring cordiallv those 
who withdraw from politics, and employ moral action 
alone, he felt, for himself, entire liberty to call in the aid 
of government to do what could not be done otherwise, 
and he worked hard to induce all who felt as he did, to 
organize for the purpose of carrying their views into effect. 
A politician however, in the usual sense of the word, 
— a man that is, who adopts party measures, pursues 
party ends, compromises or qualifies his principle to se- 
cure immediate advantage, accepts candidates according 
to eligibility, and narrows his line of action to the width 
of a single idea, or a single aspect of an idea, — he could 
not be. His philosophy and his conscience alike for- 
bade. He would join no party whose standard was not 
the highest, broadest, holiest. He would vote for no can- 
didate to any office whatever, who was not sound on all 
moral issues, for to be unsound on any one, was to be less 
than sound on every one. He would vote for no slave- 
holder, or apologist for slavery, no dram-seller or distiller, 
no land-monopolist, or man otherwise careless of human 
rights, — be the office granted or sought for what it might 
be ; he would not put a pro-slavery man into the place 
of town surveyor, — or a dram-seller on the board of edu- 
cation. Every candidate for every office must be, at the 
root, a man of principle. The sole function of govern- 
ment being the protection of persons and property, it 
would bje clearly inconsistent to entrust its authority to 
those who were, in any way, implicated in crime. The 
early Puritans of New England were of opinion that the 






^^jij: 



ji - . ... 









*> X 



^ * « « « « « 

v4^ ' , rS-- .., •'. ^ — . — -r.-^ji.- . J ifci'* T^j .^r^V were 

wu,^ , ,.., * **-- .--. -.: — --2 1-- . — r-t:>2 Ck mm. uiic\ 

• '•:• -■*—: '•.-.-i '-A—; r r" •*— ji. 5<**^'"**"^ * •'~-»v T***^ ""O*" a^ 

m 

':.i<n : -. i : n tr t r. t to t li e c : 21 z: : n 'areil : the v were not 
^.f -Air : t'r.*v *-ere r.::t l=r.i n^nr-^? lists : thev were 

i*"'7r.--l /-•• r" *7 -•-«.•-*•«- A— •■ ^■•-c*'/^*** '*i">'*5^ r»r*"**T "^a*** 

v:tv/ to thtir oat. ir.teresrs, 

-S-cr. irr.ar., :: is clear. h.\i r.o dace ax*?n:^aam-ooIf- 
tic'ar.-,. There '.vas no Icve to spare bef.veen them and 
':/.::., Ir. their eves he ^-^3 an intractable vis:or.ar\\ in 
h:-, evTs thev -A-ere shunters, worshioc-ers of exr>ed:enc\". 
:::'. exr.erier.re :n iS-i, '.vhen he was defeated as candi- 
'iaV: for the State Ser.ate, made him sick of oolitical ma- 

^ fC'- -••"•■<■• 5. •" r^ •• *•- ^r'<i- ••■<i^ 'inc^mi *,'V'<7V|*- t -\"- *»1C rt'Vf* Vl'^'li'' 

'\ he *• Lioertv Partv " was formed, under his lead, 
;r. Jar.. 2^, 1^40. at a convention held at Arcade, Wy- 
''.rr.ir '^ Cojr.tv, XeA* Yor'-:. The ob'ect of the oartv, as 
■,r.':';r-/ood r^" him was universal oolitical reform; as 

* m 

or.':';r ,tood 'ov other.=, it '.vas s:mn!v the overthrow of 
'..'iV'-TV. It -:>rjr.''' out of the conviction that neither of 
\:.'i 'Te^it r^ohtica! rjarties was to be trusted to deal with 
'iav'iry, ]';avin;^- other issues aside; that the interrogation 
of th^rir candidates was never satisfactorv; that the 
r/':d''':s '-iven v.ere either loose or dishonest; and that 



SLA VER Y, 1 87 

nothing short of pure moral principles, independent of 
political arts and machinations, would answer the pur- 
pose of reform. In connection with William Jay, he 
had, eighteen months before, — Sept. 1838 — written to 
W. H. Seward and Luther Bradish, candidates for 
Governor and Lieut.-Governor, asking their views on the 
slavery question, and had not felt that the trouble was 
altogether well bestowed. The absence of solid, hearty 
conviction even in right minded, well meaning men, and 
the difficulty which even such men found in resisting the 
wiles or putting by the sophistries of caucus leaders was 
to him wholly discouraging. The motto of the Liberty 
Party, devised by Mr. Smith himself, was ** vote for no 
slaveholder for civil office — nor for any one who thinks 
a slaveholder fit for it." 

The full idea and spirit of the party is expressed in a 
series of resolutions presented by Mr. Smith at a State 
Liberty Party Convention, held at Cazenovia, July 3, 
1849. The importance of the subject justifies a full copy 
of them. They convey the whole mind of their framer : 

1. Resolved, That we recognize the broadest principles of democ- 
racy and the right, irrespective of sex, or color, or character, to par- 
ticipate in the selection of civil rulers. 

Passed unanimously. 

2. Resolved, That when we admit that our hope of the establish- 
ment of righteous civil governments on the earth is in the prevalence 
of Christianity, we, of course, do not mean that spurious, or that 
mistaken Christianity, which upholds unrighteous civil governments, 
and which votes civil offices into the hands of anti-abolitionists, and 
land-monopolists, and other enemies of human rights. 

Passed unanimously. 

3. Resolved^ That by our love of righteous civil government, of 
God and of man, we are bound to frown upon the public missionary 
associations of the world ; — nearly all their politically voting mem- 
bers voting on the side of the diabolical conspiracies which have, in 



1 88 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

all nations, usurped the place and name of civil government — and 
such conspiracies being the preeminent hindrance to the establish- 
ment of righteous civil government, and to the spread of human sal- 
vation and blessedness. 

Passed with but one dissenting voice. 

4. Resolved^ That the government which will not, or cannot, 
protect the lives and property of its subjects from the traffic in 
intoxicating drinks, is utterly unworthy of the name of civil gov- 
ernment. 

Passed unanimously. 

5. Resolved, That it may be better to resort to revolution, than 
to submit to a government which compels its subjects to pay the 
debts of their ancestors. 

Passed unanimously. 

6. Resolved, That while we allow government to draw on pos- 
terity for the expense of wars, it is idle to hope that there will not 
be wars. 

Passed unanimously. 

7. Resolved, That no just nation need lay its account with being 
ever involved in war ; and, hence, that no just nation can have any 
excuse or plea, whatever, for wasting the earnings of its subjects 
upon fortifications and standing armies and navies. 

Passed unanimously. 

8. Resolved, That the Federal Constitution clearly requires the 
abolition of every part of American slaveiy ; and that the Phillipses, 
and Quinceys, and Garrisons, and Douglasses, who throw away this 
staff of anti-slavery accomplishment, and chime in with the popular 
cry, that the constitution is pro-slavery, do, thereby, notwithstanding 
their anti-slavery hearts, make themselves practically and effectively 
pro-slavery. 

Passed unanimously. 

9. Resolved, That law is for the protection, not for the destruction 
of rights ; and that slavery, therefore, inasmuch as it is the preemi- 
nent destroyer of right, is (constitutions, statutes, and judicial 
decisions to the contrary notwithstanding) utterly incapable of 
legalization. 

10. Resolved, ^\\:\\. whether men crv" "no political union with 
slaveholders," or " no political union with gamblers,*' or ** no polit- 
ical union with drunkards," they do, in each case, proceed upon the 
absurd supposition, that, instead of being necessarily identified with 
the whole body politic in which their lot is cast, they are at liberty 
to clioose their partners in it, and to dissolve their national 01 state 



SLA V^R y. 1 89 

tie with this slaveholder in Massachusetts, or that gambler in Penn- 
sylvania, or that drunkard in Virginia. 
Passed unanimously. 

11. Resolved/Y\\:\.\. land-monopoly is to be warred against, not 
only because it is the most wide-spread of all oppressions, but be- 
cause it is preeminently fruitful of other forms of oppression. 

Passed unanimouslv. 

12. Resolved, That the governments which deny to their subjeci> 
the liberty to buy and sell freely in all the markets of the world, are 
guilty of invading a natural and a precious right. 

Passed unanimously. 

13. Resolved, That government will never be administered hon- 
estly and economically, until its expenses are defrayed by direct taxes ; 
and that said taxes, to be justly assessed, must be assessed according 
to the ability of the payers, rather than according to their property. 

Passed unanimously. 

14. Resolved, That not only is it true, that the member of a pro- 
slavery church is untrusty on the subject of slavery, but that, (con- 
sidering how, with rare exceptions, sectarians yield to their strong 
temptations to sacrifice truth and humanity on the altar of sect) it is 
also true, that the member of a sectarian church is not to be fully 
relied on for unswerving fidelity to the cause of righteousness. 

Passed unanimously. 

1 5. Resolved, That the genius both of Republicanism and Chiis- 
tianity forbids concealment', and that secret societies, therefore, do 
not only not promote either, but do hinder and endanger both. 

Passed unanimously. 

16. Resolved, That our only hope of the Whig and Democratic 
panics — parties so long wedded to slavery and other stupendous 
wrongs — is in their breaking up and ruin. 

Passed unanimously. 

17. Resolved, That, whilst we rejoice in the faithful testimonies 
and efficient labors of the Free Soil Party, against the extension of 
slavery, it must, nevertheless, be a poor, unnatural, absurd, inhuman, 
anti-republican, unchristian party, until it array itself against the 
existence as well as against the extensio?i of slavery. 

Passed unanimouslv. 

18. Resolved, That the Liberty Party, though reduced in num- 
bers, is not reduced in principles or usefulness — nor in the confi- 
dence, that its honest and earnest endeavors for a righteous civil 
government, will yet be crowned with triumph. 

Passed unanimously. 



1 82 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

of each other, so it owes them no other protection against foreigners 
than from the crimes of foreigners. Nor is it from all crimes that 
government is bound to protect its subjects. It is from such *only 
as are committed against their persons and possessions. Ingratitude 
is a crime ; but as it is not of this class of crimes, government is not 
to be cognizant of it. 

" No protection does government owe to the morals of its sub- 
jects. Still less is it bound to study to promote their morals. To 
call on government to increase the wealth of its subjects, or to help 
the progress of religion among them, or, in short, to promote any 
of their interests, is to call on it to do that which it has no right to 
do. and wnich, it is safe to add, it has no power to do. Were gov- 
ernment to aim to secure to its subjects the free and inviolable con- 
trol of their persons and property — of life and of the means of sus- 
taining life — it would aim at all that it should aim at. And its sub- 
jects, if they get this security, should feel that they need nothing 
more at the hands of government to enable them to work their way 
well through the world. Government, in a word is to say to its sub- 
jects : * You must do for yourselves. My only part is to defend 
your right to do for yourselves. You must do your own work. I 
will but protect you in that work.' 



> »» 



He continues: 

" Whenever the work of the people is taken out of their hands 
by the government — or, since the people are quite as ready to shirk 
their work as the government is to usurp it — I might as well say 
whenever the people devolve it on government, it is, of course, badly 
done. This is true, because every work to be well done must be 
done by its appropriate agent. Whenever government builds rail- 
roads and canals it builds them injudiciously and wastefully. So 
too, whenever government meddles with schools, it proves that it is 
out of its place by the pernicious influence it exerts upon them. 
And to whatever extent churches are controlled by government, 
to that extent they are corrupted by it. . . . Government has 
naught to do but to protect its subjects from crimes. The crimes 
however, which it permits against them — and still more, the crimes 
which it authorizes and even perpetrates against them — show how 
extensively it fails of its duty. 

" Slavery is a crime ; nevertheless, government not only permits 
its subjects to be enslaved, but it actually enacts laws for their 
enslavement. 

''Land Monopoly is a crime ; government positively and ex- 



SLAVERY. 183 

pressly permits it. Still worse, it does itself practice it. Government 
is itself the great land monopolist. 

'• The compelling of one getter ation to pay the debts of another 
is a crime. Government not only suffers its subjects to be robbed 
of their earnings, in order to pay the debts of former generations, 
but it actually compels them to submit to such robbery. 

'* To deny woman s right to control her property, to deny woman 
her right to participate in the choice of civil rulers is a crime. But 
government, so far from defending these rights, does itself rob her. 
of them. 

*• The violation of the right to buy and sell freely, whenever and 
wherever we please is a crime. Government does, by its tariffs, 
annihilate this right." 

Having made these specifications, the speaker further 
enforces them in the most unqualified manner — still tak- 
ing his standard of right and wrong from his own script- 
ure-taught conscience. 

" Do T mean that government shall invariably and absolutely for^ 
bid slavery f Yes — as invariably and absolutely as it forbids murder. 

** Do 1 7nean that 7nen have an equal right to the soil? Yes ; — 
as equal as to the light and the air ; and government should without 
delay, prescribe the maximum quantity of land that each family may 
possess. 

'• Do I jjtean that a people may repudiate their national debt ? I 
do. No generation is bound to enter on the race of life, incumbered 
with the dead weights of debt which former generations have en- 
tailed on it. Wars which the people who are carrying them on be- 
lieve to be just, they are willing to pay for ; and therefore, every gen- 
eration may reasonably be expected and required to pay for its own 
wars. Each generation must be left free to choose what wars it 
will engage in, and also what canals and roads it will build ; with 
the proviso in the one case as in the other, that it shall pay as it 
goes — or to say the least, that if it makes debts, it shall pay them. 
If no single generation can build and pay for an Erie Canal, then let 
one generation build it as far west as Utica ; and the next extend it 
to Rochester ; and the next to Buffalo. 

''Do I meajt to be uftder stood as condemning all tariffs? I do. 
I would not have a cistom house on the fac6 of the earth. What- 
ever may be the effect on its wealth, every nation is to cultivate the 
freest, fullest, friendliest intercourse with every other nation. The 



1 84 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

nations of the earth constitute, and should feel that they constitute, a 
brotherhood. 

" Do I mean that gm'ernfJicnt shall have nothing to do with 
schools? I do. A popular argument for government or district 
schools is that they are a cheap police. I admit 'that good schools 
are. And so are go^d churches. And since good family-government 
is also a cheap police, and a thousand fold more important to this 
end than either schools or churches, or both put together, why should 
not government take under its supervision our family affairs also? 

** It is asked — what will the poor do to get their children educated 
in case government aid is withdrawn ? We answer, let them do any- 
thing rather than hang upon government for an education — for an 
education which, because it is governmental, is emasculated of all 
positive, earnest, hearty religion — for an education in which, because 
it is governmental, the substance of morality is exchanged for the 
show of morality— and in which what is honest and uncompromising 
and robust and manly in character is made to give place to pusil- 
lanimity, effeminacy, calculation, baseness. 

** It is justice and not charity which the people need at the hands 
of government. Let government restore to them their land, and 
what other rights they have been robbed of, and they will then be 
able to pay for themselves — to pay their schoolmasters as well as 
their parsons. 

*' Perhaps it will be asked, whether government, under my defi- 
nition of its province, would be at liberty to carry the mail ; build 
asylums ; improve harbors ; and build lighthouses } I answer that 
nothing of all this is, necessarily, the work of government. The 
mail can be carried as well without as with the help of government. 
Some of the best and most extensive asylums in our country are 
those with which s^overnment has nothinij to do. And the interest 
and humanity of individuals and communities might be relied on to 
improve harbors and build lighthouses, as well as to keep bridges 
and roads in repair. The work of civil government is not so much 
to take care of its subjects as to leave them in circumstances in which 
they may take care of themselves ; — and not so much to govern its 
subjects as to leave them free to govern themselves." 

There remains then so much room for political ac- 
tion, as will allow the reformer to use the powers of 
government for the protection of persons and prop- 
erty against such crimes as endanger them ; notably 



SLAVERY, 185 

against the manufacture and sale of liquors that infuriate 
men to riotous misconduct, and reduce them to pauper- 
ism, — and against slavery which is all crimes of fraud 
and violence in one. While honoring cordially those 
who withdraw from politics, and employ moral action 
alone, he felt, for himself, entire liberty to call in the aid 
of government to do what could not be done otherwise, 
and he worked hard to induce all who felt as he did, to 
organize for the purpose of carrying their views into effect. 
A politician however, in the usual sense of the word, 
— a man that is, who adopts party measures, pursues 
party ends, compromises or qualifies his principle to se- 
cure immediate advantage, accepts candidates according 
to eligibility, and narrows his line of action to the width 
of a single idea, or a single aspect of an idea, — he could 
not be. His philosophy and his conscience alike for- 
bade. He would join no party whose standard was not 
the highest, broadest, holiest. He would vote for no can- 
didate to any office whatever, who was not sound on all 
moral issues, for to be unsound on any one, was to be less 
than sound on every one. He would vote for no slave- 
holder, or apologist for slavery, no dram-seller or distiller, 
no land-monopolist, or man otherwise careless of human 
rights, — be the office granted or sought for what it might 
be ; he would not put a pro-slavery man into the place 
of town surveyor, — or a dram-seller on the board of edu- 
cation. Every candidate for every office must be, at the 
root, a man of principle. The sole function of govern- 
ment being the protection of persons and property, it 
would he clearly inconsistent to entrust its authority to 
those who were, in any way, implicated in crime. The 
early Puritans of New England were of opinion that the 



1 86 LIFE OF GERRIT SMI Til, 

powers of government should be in the hands of church- 
members alone, they best answering^ to the description 
of the ** saints ** that were to rule the world. Gerrit 
Smith gave a wider interpretation to the term "saints," 
defining it by no creed, profession, or evangelical test. 
Who the saints were, indeed, he would not undertake to 
say. But he would undertake to say who they were 
not; they were not distillers or tipplers of rum; they 
were not half-and-half abolitionists ; they were not de- 
frauders, defaulters, or time servers ; they were not at 
heart indifferent to the common weal ; they were not 
men of war ; they were not land monopolists ; they were 
not hangers on of government, custom house politicians, 
members of secret societies, holders of trusts with a side 
view to their own interests. 

Such a man, it is clear, had np place among party poli- 
ticians. There was no love to spare between them and 
him. In their eyes he was an intractable visionary, in 
his eyes they were shufflers, worshippers of expediency. 
His experience in 1 831, when he was defeated as candi- 
date for the State Senate, made him sick of political ma- 
noeuvring, and thereafter he " fought for his own hand.*' 

The *' Liberty Party ** was formed, under his lead, 
in Jan. 29, 1840, at a convention held at Arcade, Wy- 
oming County, New York. The object of the party, as 
understood by him was universal political reform ; as 
understood by others, it was simply the overthrow of 
slavery. It sprung out of the conviction that neither of 
the great political parties was to be trusted to deal with 
slavery, leaving other issues aside ; that the interrogation 
of their candidates was never satisfactory ; that the 
pledges given were either loose or dishonest ; and that 



SLAVERY, 187 

nothing short of pure moral principles, independent of 
political arts and machinations, would answer the pur- 
pose of reform. In connection with William Jay, he 
had, eighteen months before, — Sept. 1838 — written to 
W. H. Seward and Luther Bradish, candidates for 
Governor and Lieut.-Governor, asking their views on the 
slavery question, and had not felt that the trouble was 
altogether well bestowed. The absence of solid, hearty 
conviction even in right minded, well meaning men, and 
the difficulty which even such men found in resisting the 
wiles or putting by the sophistries of caucus leaders was 
to him wholly discouraging. The motto of the Liberty 
Party, devised by Mr. Smith himself, was " vote for no 
slaveholder for civil office — nor for any one who thinks 
a slaveholder fit for it." 

The full idea and spirit of the party is expressed in a 
series of resolutions presented by Mr. Smith at a State 
Liberty Party Convention, held at Cazenovia, July 3, 
1849. The importance of the subject justifies a full copy 
of them. They convey the whole mind of their framer : 

1. Resolved, That we recognize the broadest principles of democ- 
racy and the right, irrespective of sex, or color, or character, to par- 
ticipate in the selection of civil rulers. 

Passed unanimously. 

2. Resolved, That when we admit that our hope of the establish- 
ment of righteous civil governments on the earth is in the prevalence 
of Christianity, we, of course, do not mean that spurious, or that 
mistaken Christianity, which upholds unrighteous civil governments, 
and which votes civil offices into the hands of anti-abolitionists, and 
land-monopolists, and other enemies of human rights. 

Passed unanimously. 

3. Resolved, That by our love of righteous civil government, of 
God and of man, we are bound to frown upon the public missionary 
associations of the world ; — nearly all their politically voting mem- 
bers voting on the side of the diabolical conspiracies which have, in 



1 88 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

all nations, usurped the place and name of civil g^overnment — and 
such conspiracies being the preeminent hindrance to the establish- 
ment of rij^hteous civil government, and to the spread of human sal- 
vation and blessedness. 

Passed with but one dissenting voice. 

4. Resolved^ That the government which will not, or cannot, 
protect the lives and property of its subjects from the traffic in 
intoxicating drinks, is utterly unworthy of the name of civil gov- 
ernment. 

Passed unanimously. 

5. Resolved, That it may be better to resort to revolution, than 
to submit to a government which compels its subjects to pay the 
debts of their ancestors. 

Passed unanimously. 

6. Resolved, That while we allow government to draw on pos- 
terity for the expense of wars, it is idle to hope that there will not 
be wars. 

Passed unanimously. 

7. Resolved, That no just nation need lay its account with being 
ever involved in war ; and, hence, that no just nation can have any 
excuse or plea, whatever, for wasting the earnings of its subjects 
upon fortifications and standing armies and navies. 

Passed unanimously. 

8. Resolved, That the Federal Constitution clearly requires the 
abolition of every part of American slavery ; and that the Phillipses, 
and Quinceys, and Garrisons, and Douglasses, who throw away this 
staff of anti-slavery accomplishment, and chime in with the popular 
cry, that the constitution is pro-slavery, do, thereby, notwithstanding 
their anti-slavefy hearts, make themselves practically and effectively 
pro-slavery. 

Passed unanimously. 

9. Resolved, That law is for the protection, not for the destruction 
of rights ; and that slavery, therefore, inasmuch as it is the preemi- 
nent destroyer of right, is (constitutions, statutes, and judicial 
decisions to the contrary notwithstanding) utterly incapable of 
legalization. 

10. Resolved, T\\:i\. whether men cry "no political union with 
slaveholders," or •' no political union with gamblers," or " no polit- 
ical union with drunkards," they do, in each case, proceed upon the 
absurd supposition, that, instead of being necessarily identified with 
the whole body politic in which their lot is cast, they are at liberty 
to choose their partners in it, and to dissolve their national 01 state 



SLA V^R y. 1 89 

tie with this slaveholder in Massachusetts, or that gambler in Penn- 
sylvania, or that drunkard in Virginia. 
Passed unanimously. 

11. Resolved, That land-monopoly is to be warred against, not 
only because it is the most wide-spread of all oppressions, but be- 
cause it is preeminently fruitful of other forms of oppression. 

Passed unanimously. 

12. Resolved, That the governments which deny to their subjects 
the liberty to buy and sell freely in all the markets of the world, are 
guilty of invading a natural and a precious right. 

Passed unanimously. 

13. Resolved, That government will never be administered hon- 
estly and economically, until its expenses are defrayed by direct taxes ; 
and that said taxes, to be justly assessed, must be assessed according 
to the ability of the payers, rather than according to their property. 

Passed unanimously. 

14. Resolved, That not only is it true, that the member of a pro- 
slavery church is untrusty on the subject of slavery, but that, (con- 
sidering how, with rare exceptions, sectarians yield to their strong 
temptations to sacrifice truth and humanity on the altar of sect) it is 
also true, that the member of a sectarian church is not to be fully 
relied on for unswerving fidelity to the cause of righteousness. 

Passed unanimously. 

1 5. Resolved, That the genius both of Republicanism and Chiis- 
tianity forbids concealment', and that secret societies, therefore, do 
not only not promote either, but do hinder and endanger both. 

Passed unanimously. 

16. Resolved, That our only hope of the Whig and Democratic 
parties — parties so long wedded to slavery and other stupendous 
wrongs — is in their breaking up and ruin. 

Passed unanimously. 

1 7. Resolved, That, whilst we rejoice in the faithful testimonies 
and efficient labors of the Free Soil Party, against the extension of 
slavery, it must, nevertheless, be a poor, unnatural, absurd, inhuman, 
anti-republican, unchristian party, until it array itself against the 
existence as well as against the extension of slavery. 

Passed unanimouslv. 

18. Resolved, That the Liberty Party, though reduced in num- 
bers, is not reduced in principles or usefulness — nor in the confi- 
dence, that its honest and earnest endeavors for a righteous civil 
government, will yet be crowned with triumph. 

Passed unanimously. 



igO LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

19. Resolved, That, whilst we respect the motives of those who 
propose to supply the slaves with the Bible, we, nevertheless, can 
have no sympathy with an undertaking which, inasmuch as it im- 
plies the pernicious falsehood that the slave enjoys the right of prop- 
erty and the right to read, goes to relieve slaver\', in the public mind, 
of more than half its horrors and more than half its odium. 

Passed, but not unanimouslv. 

20. Resolved, That, instead of sending Bibles among the slaves, 
we had infinitely better adopt the suggestion in the memorable Lib- 
erty-Party Address to the slaves, and supply them with pocket-com- 
passes, and, moreover, if individual or private self-defence be ever 
justifiable, and on their part ever expedient, with pocket-pistols 
also — to the end, that, by such helps, they may reach a land where 
they can both own the Bible and learn to read it. 

Passed, but not unanimously. 

21. Resolved, That we welcome the appearance of the book, en- 
titled, " The Democracy of Christianity ;" and that we should rejoice 
to see every member of the Liberty Party supplpng himself with a 
copy of it. 

Whereas, Lysander Spooner, of Massachusetts, that man of 
honest hean and acute and profound intellect, has published a per- 
fectly conclusive legal argument against the constitutionality of 
slavery : 

22. Resolved, therefore, that we warmly recommend to the friends 
of freedom, in this and other States, to supply, within the coming 
six months, each lawyer in their respective counties with a copy of 
said argument. 

Passed unanimously. 

23. Resolved, That we recommend that a National Liberty Party 
Convention be held in the city of Syracuse, on the 3d and 4th days 
of July, 1850, for the purpose of nominating candidates for President 
and Vice President, and of adopting other measures in behalf of the 
cause of righteous civil government. 

Passed unanimouslv. 

24. Resolved, That a State Liberty Party Convention be held in 
the village of Cortland, on the first Wednesday of next September, 
for nominating State officers, and for other business. 

Passed unanimously. 

25. Resolved, That, not only with our Irish brother and our 
Italian brother, under their hea\7 and galling loads of civil and 
ecclesiastical despotism, do we sympathize, but, also, with our fel- 
low-men ever}'where — for, everjwhere, in our priest, and demagogue. 



SLAVERY. 191 

and despot ridden world, are our fellow-men suffering under civil or 
ecclesiastical despotism, or both ; and nowhere in it is enjoyed the 
priceless and two-fold blessing of Christian democracy in the State, 
and Democratic Christianity in the Church. 
Passed unanimously. 

26. Resolved, That unwillingness to use the products of slave 
labor is a beautiful and effective testimony against slavery. 

Passed unanimously. 

Whereas, we rejoice to see the first number of the " Liberty 
Party Paper"— a paper which, we doubt not, will faithfully rep- 
resent, and ably inculcate the principles of the Liberty Party : 

27. Resolved, therefore, that we call on all the members of the 
Liberty Party to regard it as their first duty to that party, to 
subscribe for, and endeavor to induce others to subscribe for, this 
paper. 

Passed unanimously. 

28. Resolved, That we hear with profound sorrow, of the very 
severe, if not indeed entirely hopeless, sickness of our honored and 
beloved James G. Birney — a man who, for his wisdom, integrity, 
high and heroic bearing, deserves a distinguished place in the regards 
of his fellow-men. 

Passed by a unanimous standing vote. 

29. Resolved, That we honor the memory of Alvan Stewart, who, 
for so many years employed his remarkably original and vigor- 
ous powers in promoting the cause of liberty and the cause of 
temperance. 

Passed unanimously by a standing vote. 

Samuel Wells, Pres. 



A. Kingsbury. 

S. R. Ward, ) ^ , 

W. W. Chapman, f ^^^ ^• 



J. C. Harrington, f ^' ^^^^' 



That a party based on principles so radical and so 
abstract should hold tog^ether long, or achieve defi- 
nite political results, could not be expected. In fact, it 
did neither. At the very first general election after the 
party was organized, many of its enrolled members vo- 
ted for Harrison and Tyler, Whig candidates, neither of 
them anti-slavery men, and the first a soldier. Four 



192 LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH, 

years afterwards, when Henry Clay was the Whig candi- 
date, so many voted for him as to threaten the very 
existence of the Liberty Party. In New Hampshire 
Liberty Party men elected a Whig Governor, to the deep 
disgust of Mr. Smith, who preferred to be beaten with 
his candidate than by him, thinking defeat through fidel- 
ity to principles better than victory through their be- 
trayal. In the same state Liberty Party men helped 
the Whigs elect General Wilson to Congress. In Massa- 
chusetts they preferred John G. Palfrey, whom Mr. 
Smith characterized as ** an unrepentant voter for Henry 
Clay,** to James G. Carter, *' that accomplished, tried 
and able friend of the slave.** Mr. Smith complained 
that Liberty Party men by hundreds and thousands, 
voted pro-slavery tickets that they rhight aid the cause of 
temperance ; that the vast majority of tHem were eager 
to entrust the Whigs with the task of framing the funda- 
mental law of the State, and that he himself had been 
stigmatized by the Liberty Party press as a calumniator 
because he held the party to its highest responsibilities. 
For years the burden of the leader's speeches and let- 
ters was reproach against the party for its infidelities 
and backslidings ; but he would not desert it. In 1847, 
William Goodell pronounced the Liberty Party dead and 
buried, with a solemn verdict of suicide, and adjured 
Mr. Smith to let it rest, and to help in forming anothei 
party on a better basis. But his friend would not con- 
sent. In 1848, at Buffalo, he reiterated the original doc- 
trines of the party, declared that it was popular not 
local, national not sectional, permanent not temporary, 
comprehensive not partisan ; that it simply enunciated 
the principles of the founders of the government, and 



SLAVERY. 193 

though sadly demorah'zed, was not irretrievably ruined. 
In 1849, though the vote in the town of Smithfield had 
been reduced from one hundred and eighty to forty, and 
of the forty all were not faithful to the " whole gospel ** 
of the party, some being members of churches which 
bore no open testimony against slavery, and others en- 
gaged in the business of supplying grain for the distil- 
leries, — still the loyal few met and chose local officers. 
In 1851, at a convention held by the Liberty Party in 
Buffalo, he was nominated as President of the' United 
States, as he had been in 1848. In i860 the party was 
still alive, and he wrote a sympathizing, encouraging 
letter to the convention held at Syracuse in August of 
that year ; but it had no vitality. In fact it was never a 
power in the country. It demanded too much of its 
constituency, and stretched itself along a too extended 
line. Its controlling spirits were enthusiasts, fanatics 
in two or three instances, who could neither follow lead- 
ers nor lead followers. Mr. Smith, the largest of them, 
was no manager, tactician or diplomatist, but a warm- 
hearted, strong-souled agitator who held moral interests 
to be supreme, and despised above all things the arts of 
the politician. In the dispute on the question whether 
one should stand by pure principle at the imminent risk 
of losing a partial advantage, or should secure the par- 
tial advantage at the risk of compromising the pure 
principle, he placed himself unhesitatingly with the de- 
votees of principle, though men whom he revered chose 
the other side. Theodore Parker, in 1848, voted for 
Martin Van Buren in the hope of achieving a partial 
triumph for the ** Free Soil'* party; Gerrit Smith, in 
1844, refused to support Henry Clay and thereby pre- 
9 



194 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

vented an election from which men like W. H. Seward 
anticipated the best results to the anti-slavery cause. 

The " Industrial Congress ** at Philadelphia, nomi- 
nated him for president in 1848; the Land Reformers 
nominated him in 1856. Both invitations were declined 
on the plea of disinclination to public life, and the pres- 
sure of private affairs. The anti-slavery State Conven- 
tion at Syracuse, in 1840, put him in nomination for 
Governor against his will. But when the State mass 
convention, at Syracuse, nominated him in 1858, he ac- 
cepted it with a " hopeful and courageous heart,** in face 
of the fact that not a single paper in the State, daily or 
weekly, advocated the running of an ** abolition or pro- 
hibitory *' ticket. He accepted it on principle, and be- 
cause the circumstances were desperate ; accepted it in 
the faith that frank, bold, persuasive speech backed by 
moral truth would be more than a match for the whole 
power of the press. And, in accepting the nomination 
he accepted the suggestion that the candidate shall 
*' canvass the State, and meet the masses of the people 
m their several counties, to discuss before them, and 
with whomsoever shall question him, the principles, meas- 
ures and policy which should characterize the adminis- 
tration of the government of the great State of New 
York.** 

It was hard work, but he girded himself manfully for 
it. He began his task on the 15th of August, and ended 
it on the 2d of November, having attended fifty-three 
meetings, travelled some four thousand miles, and spent 
between four and five thousand dollars, paying of course 
all expenses from his private purse. The meetings were 
long, exciting and exhausting, for his heart was in the 



SLAVERY. 195 

work, and he answered all questions on all subjects, with 
that absolute candor which was characteristic of him. 
He begged, as on his knees, for votes. Yet the result 
was a complete overthrow. In some counties not a sin- 
gle man voted his ticket. Old friends and fellow-labor- 
ers in the causes of abolition and temperance turned 
the cold shoulder on him, and even reproached him for 
obstructing the measures he was hoping to advocate. 
On the day of election, the Republican candidate receiv- 
ed two hundred and forty-seven thousand eight hundred 
and sixty-eight votes ; the Democratic candidate received 
two hundred and thirty thousand three hundred and 
twenty-nine votes; the ** American*' candidate received 
sixty-one thousand one hundred and thirty-seven ; the 
** Independent " candidate, Mr. Smith, received five 
thousand four hundred and forty-six. 

All the parties were against him ; not alone the great 
parties Democratic and Whig, but the Free Soilers, and 
the Abolitionists who did not vote at all. In fact, as 
family quarrels are proverbially the bitterest, so the an- 
imosity was particularly cordial between these diverse 
champions of a common cause. The following letters, 
one addressed to an eminent abolitionist, the other to a 
conspicuous Free Soiler, disclose the state of feeling 
that existed when they were written. Such was the 
way in which honorable men wrote to and about one 
another. The letters are long, but they represent both 
sides of the controversy, one by implication, the other 
by direct language. No one will be surprised at their 
tone who recalls the political condition of the country 
when they were written ; the years immediateW prq^-ed- 
ing the hour of most imminent peril. 



19^ LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 



■1 



Peterboro, October 33, 1846. 

Hon. Stephen C. Phillips, of Salem, Mass. : 

Dear Sir — This day's mail brings me the speech which you de- 
livered at the meeting" recently assembled at Faneuil Hall to consider 
the outrage of kidnapping a man in the streets of Boston. 

I am not insensible to the ability, eloquence, beauty, of this 
speech : — and yet it fails of pleasing me. The meeting, after I saw 
its proceedings, was no longer an object of my pleasant contempla- 
tions. Indeed, Massachusetts herself has ceased to be such an ob- 
ject. There was a time, when, among all commonwealths, she was 
my beati ideal. Her wisdom, integrity, bravery- — in short, her whole 
histor}', from her bud in the Mayflower to the blossoms and fruits 
with which a ripe civilization has adorned and enriched her — made 
her the object of my warm and unmeasured admiration. But, a 
change has come over her. Alas, how great and sad a one ! She 
has sunk her ancient worth and gXory in her base devotion to Mam- 
mon and Partv. 

When, in the year 1835, one of her sons — that son to whom she, 
not to say this whole nation, owes more than to any other person, 
was, for his honest, just, and fearless assaults on slavery, driven by 
infuriate thousands through the streets of her metropolis with a 
halter round his neck, Massachusetts looked on, applauding. So 
far was she from disclaiming the mob that she boasted, that her 
"gentlemen of property and standing " composed it. Indeed, one 
of her first acts after the mob, was to choose for her governor the 
man who promptly rewarded her for this choice by his official recom- 
mendation to treat abolitionists as criminals. 

Massachusetts was not, however, lost to shame. It was not in 
vain that the finger of scorn was pointed at her for this mob and 
for other demonstrations of her pro-slavery. For very decency's 
sake, she began to adjust her dress, and put on better appearances. 
Indeed, anti-slavery sentiment became the order of the day with 
her : and, from her chief statesman down to her lowest demagogue, 
all tried their skill in uttering big words against slavery. But, the 
hollowest sentiment and the merest prating constituted the whole 
warp and woof of this pretended and unsubstantial opposition to 
slaver}'. Massachusetts still remained the slave of Party and Mam- 
mon. She would still vote for slaveholders, rather than break up 
the national parties to which she was wedded. She would still 
make every concession to the slave power to induce it to spare her 
manufactures. 



SLAVERY. 197 

A fine occasion was afforded Massachusetts, a few years ago, to 
talk her anti-slavery words, and display her anti-slavery sentiment ; 
and right well did she improve it. I refer to the casting of the 
fugitive slave George Latimer into one of her jails. Instantly did 
she show anti-slavery colors. She was anti-slavery all over, and to 
the very core also, as a stranger to her ways would have thought. 
But beneath all her manifestations of generous regard for the 
oppressed, she continued to be none the less bound up in avarice — 
none the less servile to the South. The first opportunity she had to 
do so, she again voted for slaveholders. 

Then came the project to annex Texas. The slaveholders de- 
manded more territory to soak with the sweat and tears and blood 
of the poor African. This was another occasion for Massachusetts 
to make another anti-slavery bluster. She made it : — and ihenvoied 
for Clay — for the very man who had done unspeakably more than 
any other man to extend and perpetuate the dominion of American 
slavery. As a specimen of her heartlessness, in this instance of her 
anti-slavery parade, her present Whig Governor, who was amongf 
the foremost and loudest to condemn this scheme of annexation, 
is now calling, in the name of patriotism, on his fellow-citizens to 
consummate it by murdering the unoffending Mexicans. 

Next came the expulsion of her commissioners from Charleston 
and New Orleans. Again she blustered for a moment. She de- 
nounced slavery and the South. She boasted of herself, as if she 
still were what she had been ; as if " modern degeneracy had not 
reached " her. But, the sequel proved her hypocrisy and baseness. 
After a little time, she quietly pocketed the insult, and was as ready 
as ever to vote for slaveholders. 

I will refer to but one more of the many opportunities which 
Massachusetts has had to prove herself worthy of her former history. 
It is that which called out your present speech. This was emphat- 
ically an opportunity for Massachusetts to show herself to be an 
anti- slavery State. But she had not a heart to improve it. Her 
own citizens in the very streets of her own gloried-in city, had chased 
down a man, and bound him, and pJunged him into the pit of per- 
petual slavery. The voice of such a deed, sufficient to rend her 
rocks, and move her mountains, could not startle the dead soul of 
her people. They are the fast bound slaves of Mammon and Party. 
True, a very great meeting was gathered in Faneuil Hall. Eloquei ' 
speeches were made ; and a committee of vigilance was appointee* 
But nothing was done to redeem herself from her degeneracy : noth- 
ing to recall to her loathsome carcass the great and glorious spirit 



198 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

which had departed from it ; nothing was done for the slave. When 
the year 1848 shall come round, Massachusetts, if still impenitent, 
will be as ready to vote for the slaveholders whom the South shall 
then bid her vote for, as she was to do so in 1 844. 

Your great meeting was a farce ; — and will you pardon me, if I 
cite your own speech to prove it ? That speech, which denounces 
your fellow-citizen for stealing 07ie man, was delivered by a gentle- 
man, who (risum teneatis ?) contends, that a person who steals 
hundreds of men is fit to be President of the United States ! It is 
ludicrous, beyond all parallel, that he, who would crown with the 
highest honors the very prince of kidnappers, should, with a grave 
face, hold up to the public abhorrence the poor man, who has only 
just begun to try his hand at kidnapping. Then, your contemptuous 
bearing towards Captain Hannum and his employers ! — how affected 1 
If you shall not be utterly insensible to the claims of consistency, 
who, when you shall have Henry Clay to dine with you, will you 
allow to be better entitled than this same Captain Hannum and his 
employers to seats at your table ? Cease, my dear sir, from your 
outrages on consistency. You glory in Mr. Clay. How can you 
then despise and reproach those who, with however much of the 
awkwardness of beginners, are, nevertheless, doing their best to step 
forward in the tracks of their " illustrious predecessor.'*" 

It would be ver\' absurd— would it not.^ — for you to denounce 
the stealing of a single sheep, at the same time that you are count- 
ing as worthy of all honor the man who steals a whole flock of sheep. 
But, I put it to your candor, whether it would be a whit more ab- 
surd than is your deep loathing and unutterable contempt of Captain 
Hannum and his employers for a crime, which, though incessantly 
repeated and infinitely aggravated in the case of Mr. Clay, does not 
disqualify him, in your esteem, to be the chief ruler of this nation — 
to be, what the civil ruler is required to be — " the minister of God." 

You intimate, that the State Prison is the proper place for Cap- 
tain Hannum and his employers. And do you not think it the proper 
place for Henry Clay also ? Out upon partiality, if, because he is 
your candidate for the presidency, you would not have this old and 
practical man-thief punished, as well as those who are but in their 
first lessons of his horrid piracy ! 

To be serious, Mr. Phillips— ^y^// arc not the man to have to do 
with Captain Hannum and his employers, unless it is to set them an 
example of repentance. It becomes you not to look down upon them 
— but to take your seat by their side, and to bow your head as low 
as shame and sorrow should bow theirs. No — if Captain Hannum 



SLAVERY. 199 

and his employers should steal a man every remaining day of their 
lives, they could not do as much to sanction and perpetuate the 
crime of man-stealing, as the honored and influential Stephen C. 
Phillips has done by laboring to elect to the highest civil office the 
very man stealer, who has contributed far more than any other living 
person to make man-stealing reputable, and to widen ttie theatre of 
its horrors. 

Alas, what a pity to lose such an occasion for good as was 
afforded by this instance of kidnapping. That was the occasion 
for you and other distinguished voters for slaveholders to employ 
the power of your own repentance in bringing other pro-slavery 
voters to repentance. That was the occasion for your eyes to stream 
with contrite sorrow, and your lips to exclaim : " We have sinned : — 
we have sinned against God and the slave : — we have not sought to 
have Civil Government look after the poor, and weak, and oppressed, 
and crushed : — but we have perverted and degraded it from this 
high, and holy, and heaven-intended use, to the low purposes of 
money-making and to the furtherance of the selfish schemes of am- 
bition : we have not chosen for rulers men who, in their civil office, 
as Josiah in his, 'judged the cause of the poor and needy* — men 
who, in their civil office, could say, as did Job in his, * I was a father 
to the poor ' — * I brake the jaws of the wicked and plucked the spoil 
out of his teeth ' — but we have chosen our Clays and our Polks — 
pirates, who rob, and buy and sell, the poor — monsters, who, with 
their sharks' teeth devour the poor." Deny, doubt, evade it, as you 
will — you may, nevertheless, my dear sir, depend upon it, that it is 
for your repentance and the repentance of all the voters for slave- 
holders, that God calls. He calls, also, for the repentance of the 
American ministry, that so wickedly and basely refuses to preach 
Bible politics, and to insist on the true and heaven-impressed char- 
acter of Civil Government. Depend upon it, my dear sir, that your 
disease and theirs is one which can be cured by no medicine short 
of the medicine of repentance. I am not unaware that this is a most 
offensive and humbling medicine — especially to persons in the higher 
walks of life ; — nevertheless, you and they must take it or remain 
uncurcd. No clamor against Captain Hannum and his employers — 
no attempt to make scape-goats of them — will avail to cure you. 

Alas, what a pity that a mere farce should have taken the place 
of the great and solemn measure which was due from your meeting ! 
Had your meeting felt, that the time for trifling on the subject of 
slavery is gone by ; and had it passed, honestly and heartily, the 
Resolution : " No voting for slaveholders, nor for those who are in 



202 LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH. 

to be the name of the Liberty Party. The columns of the Liberator 
have, most probably, led him into it. Being set right on this point 
yourself, you will of course, take pleasure in setting him right. He 
will thank you for doing so ; for when he comes to know, that 
** Third Party " is but a nickname, and the invention of blackguards, 
he will shrink from the vulgarity and meanness of repeating it. 
Again, were you a reader of the newspapers of the Liberty Party, 
you would not feel yourself authorized to take it for granted, that to 
hold an office under the constitution is to be guilty of swearing to 
uphold slavery. On the contrary, you would be convinced, that nine- 
tenths of the abolitionists of the countrv — nine-tenths, too, of the 
wisest and worthiest of them — believe, that an oath to abide by the 
constitution is an oath to labor for the overthrow of slavery. Were 
you a reader of the newspapers of the Liberty Party, you would 
know, that this position of these nine-tenths of the abolitionists of 
the country is fortified by arguments of William Goodell and Ly- 
sander Spooner, which there has been no attempt to answer, and 
that, too, for the most probable reason, that they are unanswerable. 
I am not sure, that you have ever heard of these gentlemen. Theirs 
are perhaps, unmentioned names in the line of your reading and as- 
sociations. Nevertheless I strongly desire that you may read theii 
arguments. Your reading of them will, I hope, moderate the super 
latively arrogant and dogmatic style in which you, in common with 
the abolitionists of your school, talk and write on this subject. If 
this or aught else, shall have the effect to relax that extreme, turkey- 
cock tension of pride, with which you and your fellows strut up and 
down the arena of this controversy, the friends of modesty and good 
manners will have occasion to rejoice. 

I have not taken up my pen to write another argument for the 
constitution. Two or three years ago, I presumed to write oner 
and the way in which it was treated, is a caution to me not to repeat 
the presumption. I shall not soon forget the fury with which the 
Mr. Wendell Phillips, whom you so highly praise in the letter before 
me, pounced upon it. Nothing short of declaring me to be a thief 
and a liar could relieve his swollen spirit, or give adequate vent to 
his ff)aming wrath. He would, probably, have come to be ashamed 
of himself, had not his review of me been endorsed by Mr. Garrison, 
and also by one, who it is said, is even greater than Mr. Garrison — 
*' the power behind the throne." 

I do not doubt, my dear sir, that you and your associates have 
sincerely adopted your conclusions respecting the constitution. 
That you should be thoroughly convinced by your own arguments 



SLAVERY. 201 

Peterboro, Nov. 33, 1846, 

Edmund Quincy, Esq., of Massachusetts : 

Dear Sir, — I have this evening, read your letter to me, in the last 
Liberator. I am so busy in making preparations to leave home for 
a month or two, that my reply must be brief. A reply I must make 
— for you might construe my silence into discourtesy and unfriend- 
liness. 

From your remark, that you have not seen my " recent writings 
and speeches," I infer, that you do not deign to cast a look upon the 
newspapers of the Liberty Party. Your proud and disdainful state 
of mind toward this party accounts for some of the mistakes in your 
letter. For instance, were you a reader of its newspapers, you would 
not charge me with " irreverently " using the term '* Bible politics." 
You evidently suppose that I identify the federal constitution and 
the Liberty Party with the politics of the Bible. But, in my dis- 
courses on ** Bible politics," which, to no small extent, are made up 
directly from the pages of the Bible, I seek but to show what are the 
Heaven-intended uses of civil government, and what are the neces- 
sary qualifications of those who administer it. So far are these dis- 
courses from commending the constitution, or the Liberty Party, that 
they do not so much as allude either to the one or to the other. 
Again, were you a reader of the newspapers of this party, you would 
know its name. You would in that case know, that ** Liberty 
Party " is the name, which, from the tirst, it has chosen for itself; 
and that *• Third Party " is only a nickname, which low-minded per- 
sons have given to it. You well know, that there are low-minded 
persons, who, seeing nothing in the good man who is the object of 
iheir hatred, for that hatred to seize upon, will try to harm him by 
nicknaming him. It is such as these, whose malice toward the Lib- 
erty Party has, for want of argument against that truth-espousing 
and self-sacrificing party, vented itself in a nickname. Be assured, 
my dear sir, that I have no hard feelings toward you for misnaming 
my party. You are a gentleman ; and your error is, therefore, purely 
unintentional. Upon your innocent ignorance — too easy and credu- 
lous in this instance, I admit — the base creatures who coined this 
nicknam.e, have palmed it as the real name of the Liberty Party. 
You are a gentleman ; and hence, as certainly as your good breeding 
accords to every party, however little and despised, the privilege of 
naming itself, so certainly, when you are awake to this deception 
which lias been practiced upon your credulity, you will be deeply in- 
dignant at it. 1 see, from his late speech in Faneuil Hall, that even 
Mr. Webster has fallen into the mistake of taking ** Third Party " 

9* 



202 LIFE OF GERKIT SMITH. 

to be the name of the Liberty Party. The columns of the Liberator 
have, most probably, led him into it. Bcingf set x\^\ on this point 
yourself, you will of course, take pleasure in seitinj;" him right. He 
wiii thank you for coing^ so ; for when he comes to know, that 
** Third Party " is but a nickname, and the invention of blackguards, 
hie will shrink from the vulgarity and meanness of repeating it. 
Again, were you a reader of the newspapers of the Liberty Party, 
\ou would not fcei yourself authorized to take it for granted, that to 
hold an office under the constiiution is to be guilty of swearing to 
uphold slavery. On the contrar\', you would be convinced, that nine- 
tenths of the abolitionists of the country — nine-tenths, too, of the 
wisest and worthiest of them — believe, that an oath to abide by the 
constitution is an oath to labor for the overthrow of slaver\'. Were 
you a reader of the newspapers of the Liberty Party, you would 
know, that this position of these nine-tenths of the abolitionists of 
the country is fortified by arguments of William Goodell and Ly- 
sander Spooner, which there has been no attempt to answer, and 
that, too, for the most probable reason, that they are unanswerable. 
I am not sure, that you have ever heard of these gentlemen. Theirs 
are perhaps, unmentioncd names in the line of your reading and as- 
sociations. Nevertheless I stron^^lv desire that vou may read theii 

*J •^ mm 

arguments. Your reading of them will, I hope, moderate the super 
latively arrogant and dogmatic style in which you, in common with 
the abolitionists of your school, talk and write on this subject. If 
this or aught else, shall have the effect to relax that extreme, turkey- 
cock tension of pride, with which you and your fellows strut up and 
clown the arena of this controversy, the friends of modesty and good 
manners will have occasion to rejoice. 

I have not taken up my pen to write another argument for the 
constitution. Two or three years ago, I presumed to write one* 
and the way in which it was treated, is a caution to me not to repeat 
the presumption. I shall not soon forget the fury with which the 
^[r. Wendell Phillips, whom you so highly praise in the letter before 
me, pounced upon it. Nothing short of declaring me to be a thief 
and a li.ir could relieve his swoilcn s])irit, or give adequate vent to 
his foamin;^ wraih. lie would, probably, have come to be ashamed 
of himseli, nad not his review of me been endorsed bv Mr. Garrison. 
and alsu by (Hie, wiio it is said, is even greater than Mr. Garrison — 
*'the puAcr b^-hind the throne." 

I do not doui)i, my dear sir, that you and your associates have 
sincerely adopted your conclusions respecting the constitution. 
That you should be thoroughly convinced by your own arguments 



SLA VER V, 20 



'^ 



IS a natural and almost necessary consequence of the self-compla- 
cency, which uniformly characterizes persons who regard themselves 
as «<? ^/us ultra reformers. I wish you could find it in your hearts 
to reciprocate our liberality, in acknowledging your sincerity, and to 
admit, that we, who differ from you, are also sincere. No longer 
then would you suppose us, as you do in your present letter, to be 
guilty of "Jesuitical evasions," or to be capable of being, to use your 
own "capitals "PERJURED LIARS." No longer then would you 
and the gendemen of your school speak of us as a pack of office- 
seekers, hypocntes, and scoundrels. But you would then treat us 
— your equal brethren, as honestly and ardently desirous as your- 
selves to advance the dear cause to which you are devoted — with 
decency and kindness, instead of contempt and brutality. I honor 
you and your associates, as true-hearted friends of the slave ; and 
nor man, nor devil, shall ever extort from my, lips or pen a word of 
injustice against any of you. I honor you also for the sincerity of 
your beliefs, that they, who dissent from your expositions of the con- 
stitution, are in the wrong. But I am deeply grieved at your super- 
ciliousness and intolerance toward those, whose desire to know and 
do their duty is no less strong nor pure than your own. Far am I 
from intimating that the blame of the internal dissensions of the 
Abolitionists belongs wholly to yourselves. No very small share of 
it should be appropriated by such of them as have indulged a bad 
spirit, in speaking uncandidly and unkindly of yourselves. All classes 
of Abolitionists have need to humble themselves before God for hav- 
ing retarded the cause of the slave by these guilty dissensions. 

I would that I could inspire you with some distrust of your infal- 
libility. I should, thereby, be rendering good service to yourself 
and to the cause of truth. Will you bear to have me point out some 
of the blunders in the letter to which I am now replying? And, 
when you shall have seen them, will you suffer your wonder to abate, 
that the great body of Abolitionists do not more promptly and im- 
plicitly bow to the ipse dixits of yourself and your fellow infallibles.^ 
Casting myself on your indulgence, and at the risk of ruffling your 
self-complacency, I proceed to point out to you some of these 
blunders. 

Blunder No. i. You charge me with holding, that the clause of 
the constitution relating to the slave-trade, provides for its abolition. 
What I do hold to, however, is, that the part of the constitution 
which entrusts Congress with the power to regulate commerce, pro- 
vides for the abolition of this trade. That Congress would use the 
power to abolish this trade, was deemed certain by the whole con- 



2P4 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

vention which framed the constitution. Hence a portion of its 
members would not consent to grant this power, unless modified by 
the clause concerning the slave-trade, and unless, too, this clause 
were made irrepealable. When the life-time of this modification 
had expired, Cono^ress, doing just what the anti-slavery spirit of the 
constitution and the universal expectation of the nation demanded, 
prohibited our participation in the African slave-trade. I readily 
admit, that the clause in question is, considered by itself, pro-slavery. 
But it is to be viewed as a part of the anti-slavery bargain for sup- 
pressing the African slave-trade — and as a part, without which, the 
anti-slavery bargain could not have been made. Did I not infer 
from your own words, that you cannot possibly bring yourself to 
condescend to read the " writings or speeches " of Liberty-party 
men, I would ask you to read what I wrote to John G. Whittier 
and Adin Ballou on that part of the constitution now under con- 
sideration. 

Blunder No. 2. But what pro-slavery act can that part of the 
constitution which respects the African slave-trade, require at the 
hands of one who should now swear to support the constitution ? 
None. No more than if the thing, now entirely obsolete, had never 
been. What a blunder then to speak of this part of the constitution, 
as an obstacle in the way of swearing to support those parts of it 
which still remain operative ! 

Blunder No. 3. In your letter before me, as well as in your ap- 
proval of an article in the Liberator of •30th last month, you take the 
position, that the pro-slavery interpretations of the constitution, at 
the hands of courts and lawmakers, are conclusive that the instru- 
ment is pro-slavery. But you will yourself go so far as to admit, 
that all slavery under the national flag, and in the District of Colum- 
bia, and indeed everywhere, save in the old thirteen States, is un- 
constitutional. Nevertheless all such parts of unconstitutional 
slavery have repeatedly been approved by courts and law-makers. 
You say, that the constitution is what its expounders interpret it to 
be ; and that, inasmuch as they interpret it to be pro-slavery, you 
are bound to reject it. But the dignified and authoritative ex- 
pounders of the Bible interpret // to be pro-slavery. Why, then, 
according to your own rules, should you not reject the Bible, also .^ 
Talleyrand, you know, thought a blunder worse than a crime. You 
and I do not agree with him. But we certainly cannot fail to agree 
with each other, that your blunder No. 3, is a very bad blunder. 

Blunder No. 4. You declare, that because the constitution is as 
you allege, pro-slavery, it is inconsistent and unfair to reject a slave- 



SLA VEK Y. 205 

holder from holding office under it. Extend the application if you 
will, that you may see its absurdity. The constitution of my State 
makes a dark skin a disqualification for voting. Hence, in choosing 
officers under it — even revisers of the constitution itself — I am not 
at liberty, according to your rule, to exclude a man from the range 
of my selection, on the ground that he is in favor of such disqualifi- 
cation. Nay, more, I must regard his agreement with the constitu- 
tion on this point, as an argument in favor of his claim to my voic. 
Again — to conform to your rule, a wicked community should, because 
it is wicked, choose a wicked preacher — or because it is ignorant, 
choose an ignorant schoolmaster. Yours is a rule that refuses to 
yield to the law of progress, and that shuts the door against all hu- 
man improvement. You would, for the sake of their consistency, 
have an individual — have a people — remain as wicked as they are — 
and vote for drunkards and slaveholders, because they have al- 
ways done so. The provision of the constitution for its own amend- 
ment, is of itself, enough to silence your doctrine, that the agreement 
of a man's character and views with the constitution, is necessarily 
an argument for, and can never be an argument against, his holding 
office under it. This provision opens the door for choosing to office 
under the constitution, those who disagree with it. This provision 
implies, that in the progress of things, a man's agreement with the 
constitution may be a conclusive objection to clothing him with 
official power under it. 

But I will stop my enumeration of your blunders, and put you a 
few questions. 

1. Do you not believe, that it was settled by the decision in the 
year 1772 of the highest court of England, that there was not any 
legal slavery in our American Colonies 1 

2. Do you not believe, that there was no legal slavery in any of 
the States of this nation, at the time the constitution was adopted ? 

3. Do you not believe, that the constitution created no slavery ; 
and that it is not to be held as even recognizing slavery, provided 
there was, at the time of its adoption, no legal slavery in any of the 
States ? 

4. Do you not believe, that had the American people adhered to 
the letter and spirit of the constitution, chattel slavery would ere 
this, have ceased to exist in the nation ? 

You will of course, be constrained to answer all these questions 
in the affirmative. And I wish that, when you shall have answered 
them, you would also answer one more— and that is the question 
whether, since you are hotly eager for the overthrow ot all civil gov- 



2o6 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

ernment Tthey are not governments whose laws, if laws they may be 
called, are without the sanctions of force) you ought not to guard 
yourself most carefully from seeking unjust occasions against them, 
and from satisfying your hatred of them, at the expense of candor 
and truth ? An atheist at heart is not unfrequently known to publish 
his grief over what he (afflicted soul !) is pained to be obliged to ad- 
mit are blemishes upon the Bible. His words are, as if this blessed 
book were inexpressibly dear to him. Nevertheless, his inward and 
deep desire is, that with or without the blemishes he imputes to it, 
the Bible may perish. Our Non-resistants throw themselves into 
an agony before the public eye, on account of the pro-slaver\* which 
they allege taints the constitution. But, aside and in their confiden- 
tial circles, their language is : *' Be the constitution pro-slavery or 
anti-s'.avcry, let it perish." Were the constitution unexceptionable 
to you on the score of slaver}', you would, being a Non-resistant, 
stili hate it with unappeasable hatred. Now I put it to you, my dear 
sir, whether the Non-resistants, when they ask us to listen to their 
disinterested arjjuments ajsfainst the anti-slaverv character of the 
constitution, do not show themselves to be somewhat brazen-faced ! 
I say naught against your Non-resistance. That I am not a Non- 
resistant myself — that I still linger around the bloody and life-taking 
doctrines in which I was educated — is perhaps, only because I have 
less humanity and piety than yourself. Often have I tried to throw 
off this part of my education ; and that the Bible would not let me, 
was. perhaps, only my foolish and wicked fancy. 

You ask me to join you in abandoning the constitution. My 
whole heart — my whole sense of duty to God and man — forbids my 
doing so. In my own judgment of the case, I could not do so with- 
out being guilty of the most cowardly and cruel treachery toward my 
enslaved countr\'men. The constitution has put weapons into the 
hands of the American people entirely sufficient for slaying the mon- 
ster within whose bloody and crushing grasp are the three millions 
of American slaves. I have not failed to calculate the toil and self- 
tienial and peril of using those weapons manfully and bravely — and 
yet for one, I have determined, God helping me, thus to use them — 
and not, self-indulgently and basely, to cast them away. If the 
j)eople of the north should refuse to avail themselves of their con- 
stitutional power to effectuate the overthrow of American slavery, on 
them must rest the guilty responsibility, and not in that power — for 
it IS ample. To give up the constitution is to give up the slave. His 
hope of a peaceful deliverance is, under God, in the application of 
the anti-slavery principles of the constitution. 



SLA VER y, 207 

No — I cannot join you in abandoning the constitution and over- 
throwing the government. I cannot join you, notwithstanding you 
tell me that to do so is •• the only political action in which a man 
of honor and self-respect can engage in this country." Your telling 
me so is but another proof of your intolerance and insolence — but 
another proof of the unhappy change wrought in your temper and 
manners by the associations and pursuits of your latter years. Your 
telling me so carries no conviction to my mind of the truth of what 
you tell me. It is a mere assertion ; — and has surely, none the more 
likeness to an argument by reason of the exceedingly offensive terms 
in which it is couched. 

Since I began this letter, I have received one from a couple of 
colored men of the city of Alexandria. Never did I read a more 
eloquent, or heart-melting letter. You remember that Congress, at 
its last session, left it to the vote of the whites in that part of the 
District of Columbia south of the Potomac, whether that part of the 
District should be set back to Virginia, and colored people be sub- 
jected to the murderous and diabolical laws which that State has 
enacted against colored people, the free as well as the bond. The 
letter which I have received, describes the feelings of our poor 
colored brethren, as they saw themselves passing from under the 
laws of the nation into the bloody grasp of the laws of a slave State. 
I will give you an extract : 

*' I know that, could you but see the poor colored people of this 
city, who are the poorest of God's poor, your benevolent heart would 
melt at such an exhibition. Fancy, but for a moment, you could 
have seen them on the day of election, when the act of Congress, 
retroceding them to Virginia, should be rejected or confirmed. 
Whilst the citizens of this city and county were voting, God's hum- 
ble poor were standing in rows, on either side of the Court House, 
and, as the votes were announced every quarter of an hour, the 
suppressed wailings and lamentations of the people of color were 
constantly ascending to God for help and succor, in this the hour of 
their need. And whilst their cries and lamentations were going up 
to the Lord of Sabaoth, the curses and shouts of the people, and the 
sounds of the wide-mouthed artillery, which made both the heaivens 
and the earth shake, admonished us that on the side of the op- 
pressor there was great power. Oh sir, there never was such a 
time here before ! We have been permitted heretofore to meet to- 
gether in God's sanctuary, which we have erected for the purpose 
of religious worship, but whether we shall have this privilege when 
the Virginia laws are extended (yver us, we know not. We expect 



208 LIFE OF CERRIT SMITH. 

that our schools will all be broken up, and our privileges, which we 
have enjoyed for so many years, will all be taken away. The laws 
of Virginia can hardly be borne by those colored people that have 
been brought up in a state of ignorance and the deepest subjection : 
but oh sir how is it with us, who have enjoyed comparative liberty ? 
We trust that we have the sympathies of the good and the virtuous. 
We know that we have vours and your associates in benevolence 
and love. Dear friend, can you and yours extend to our poor a 
helping hand, in this the time of our need ? Remember, as soon as 
the leirislature of Virc^inia meets, which is in December, thev will 
extend their laws over us : and in the spring forty or fifty colored 
families would be glad to leave for some free State, where they can 
educate their children, and worship God without molestation. But, 
dear sir, whither shall we go ? Say, Christian brother, and witness 
heaven and earth, whither shall we go ? Do we hear a voice from 
you saying : ' Come here ? ' Or, are we mistaken } Say, brother, 
say, are we not greater objects of pity than our more highly favored 
and fortunate brethren of the North — (Heaven bless and preserve 
them ! ") 

If such, my friend, is the woe, when but a few hundred colored 
persons (and part of them free) find themselves deserted by the 
National Power, what will it not be, when, in the bosoms of three 
millions of slaves, all hope of the interposition of that Power shall 
die ? That Power I would labor to turn into the channel of deliver- 
ance to these millions. That Power you would destroy. Alas, 
were it this day destroyed, what a long, black nighi would settle 
down upon those millions ! Vengeance might, indeed, succeed to 
despair; and its superhuman arm deliver the enslaved. But, such 
a deliverance would be through blood, reaching, in Apocalyptic 
language, " even to the horses' bridles :" and to such a deliverance 
neither you nor I would knowingly contribute. 

But I am extending my letter to double the length I intended 
to give it — and must stop. 

With great regard, your friend. 

Gerrit Smith. 

The period between 1850 and i860 was crowded with 
excitement. In those years the slave power made its 
desperate effort to get control of the government, and 
in the attempt exasperated to fury the people of the 
north. Anti-slavery men of every complexion were put 



SLA VER y. 209 

to their mettle. The " agitators ** went up and down ; 
the preachers thundered ; the politicians worked their 
wires in frenzy ; vigilance committees were unsleeping ; 
the ** underground railroad " laid tracks on the surface 
and opened new connections. A man like Gerrit Smith 
could not restrain himself. In January, 1850, Mason's 
bill to provide for the more faithful execution of the 
clause in the Constitution requiring the return of fugitive 
slaves was introduced. It was referred to the Judiciary 
committee ; reported with amendments ; laid on the 
table ; brought up on the 19th of August ; fiercely deba- 
ted, and finally carried on the i6th of September. The 
intervening months were spent by the negroes and their 
friends in preparing for the worst. The worst came 
soon. William L. Chaplin, general agent of the New 
York Anti-Slavery Society, a publisher of tracts, books 
and other ** revolutionary*' documents, editor of the Al- 
bany Patriot, a man of remarkable intelligence, ability, 
and nobleness of character, personally intimate with 
William Goodell, Beriah Green and their fellow-workers, 
being in Washington, whither he had gone against Mr. 
Smith's advice, was arrested for aiding the escape of two 
young men, slaves of Robert Toombs and Alex. H. 
Stephens, thrown into prison, and after five months of 
incarceration, released on giving bail for twenty-five 
thousand dollars. As the offence was punishable with 
imprisonment, years, if not life long, and as conviction was 
certain, his friends decided that the bail should be for- 
feited. There were lawyers' fees and incidental expenses 
amounting to several thousands of dollars. To indemnify 
the bail in Maryland cost nineteen thousand dollars; 
six thousand were required for the bail in Washington. 



2IO LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

Kven Gerrit Smith, prodigal as he was, winced under the 
imposition. ** I am robbed of these twelve thousand dol- 
lars ; I have been robbed of a great deal from time to time, 
in the sums which I have felt myself morally compelled 
to pay in the purchase of the liberty of slaves. I greatly 
needed all this moncv to expend in other directions." 

His state of mind on the passage of the Fugitive 
Slave Bill is indicated in the resolutions which he of- 
fered at different meetings called at this period. The 
law is called ** the foulest of all blots upon civilization ; 
the greatest of all outrages upon religion and humanity; 
the heaviest of all reproaches upon repubhcanism.*' — It 
is a " diabolical law,*' which receives ** the full measure 
of our contempt and hate and execration, and which 
we pledge ourselves to resist actively as well as passively, 
and by all such means as shall, in our esteem, promise 
the most effectual resistance.** ** If Christianity teaches 
anything, it teaches that the crime of dragging Hamlet, 
and Loner, and Bouldinc^: and Harrison from this State 
into slavcrv was the crime of dracriijinc?" Tesus Christ into 
slavery. They who dragged the poor naked and bleed- 
ing Jerry through the streets of Syracuse for the pur- 
j)ose of rcplunging him into the horrors of slavery, would 
have drag^^ed Jesus Christ to the Cross.** " Were we not 
a nation of atheists we would as soon think of enactinsr 
a law to enslave God Himself, as of enacting a law to 
enslave the bein'^s whom He has made in His imaee : as 
soon think of having kidnappers chase Him through His 
universe, as of havincr them chase the beinors whose 
rights He holds as sacred as His own.*' ** I glory in 
law. With the great Apostle I count it * holy and just 
and good.* With the Ps:ilmist I can say, * it is my de- 



SLAVERY. 211 

light/ When the immortal Hooker so beautifully and 
sublimely says that * law has her seat in the bosom of 
God, and her voice is the harmony of the world/ he 
thrills my whole soul. I will obey law. But I will not 
obey the dictates of devilism, which impudently install 
themselves in the place of law.'* ** When poor Jerry the 
fugitive slave of Syracuse, whispered in my ear : ' I w^ill 
never go back into slavery — I will have every bone in 
my body broken first,* I did not infer that he intended 
violence to any. He may have meant nothing more 
than that he would let his oppressors kill him sooner 
than he would consent to be reduced to a condition 
which he dreaded more than death. It is only t\\Q prin- 
ciple of resistance — without saying whether it should be 
active or passive — whether with the will merely, or with 
weapons a'lso — which I have recommended.** *' It is our 
duty to peril life, liberty and property in behalf of the 
fugitive slave to as great an extent as we would peril 
them in behalf of ourselves.** ** It may not be the 
slave's\duty to lose life or take life in order to exempt 
himself "from slavery. But, if he is authorized to go to 
these extremities, it is absurd to say that I sin, if I carry 
my help to him to the same extremities.** Such an- 
nouncements as these show how he worked. 

PREACHING POLITICS. 

The citizens of the County of Madison are invited to attend a 
meeting in Peterboro, Sunday, Nov, 3, 1850. 

It is expected that Gerrit Smith will on that occasion, present 
the Bible view of Civil Government, and examine the late diabolical 
law for reducing the poor to slavery. 

The exercises are to begin at 10 A. M., and, if the weather be 
pleasant, are to be in the open air. Good singers are especially 
invited to attend. 

October 26, 1850. 



212 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 



FIVE THOUSAND MEN AND WOMEN WANTED. 

To attend the Meetings in 
Canastota, Wednesday, Oct. 23d, 10 A. M. 
Cazenovia, Friday, Oct. 25th, 10 A. M. 
Hamilton, Wednesday, Oct. 30th, 10 a. m. 
Peterboro, Friday. Nov. ist, 10 A. M. 

None but real men and women are wanted. The sham men 
and women who can stick to the Whig and Democratic parties are 
not wanted. These parties made the accursed law under which 
oppressors and kidnappers are now chasing down the poor among 
us, to make slaves of them. Hence there is no hope of good from 
persons who can stick to these Devil-prompted parties. 

We want such men and women to attend these meetings as 
would rather suffer imprisonment and death than tolerate the execu- 
tion of this man-stealing law. We want such as would be glad to 
see William L. Chaplin, now lying in a Maryland prison on account 
of his merciful feelings to the enslaved, made Governor of the State 
of New York. We want, in a word, such noble men and women as 
used to gather under the banners of the good old Liberty Party. 

Let us then, get together again, to speak the truth, and to sing 
the truth. Those were good times when we came together to hear 
warm-hearted speeches for the slave, and to hear Otis Simmons' 
daughters, and Rhoda Klinck, and Miss Cook, etc., etc., sing 

** Come join the Abolitionists" 

" What mean ye that ye bruise and bind ? " 

" The Yankee Girl." 

" There's a good time coming, boys." 
October 10, 1850. 

In the midst of this excitement, while the North 
was ringing with cries of terror and shouts of defiance, 
and the anti-slavery feeling was glowing at fever-heat, 
Mr. Smith was elected to Congress by a plurality of 
votes; — the Whig candidate receiving 5,620; the Dem- 
ocratic 6,206; the ** Independent " 8,049. He was sit- 
ting at table, it is said, when the news was brought. 
His were not the only hands that were raised in aston- 



SLAVERY, 213 

ishment — for the spectacle had not been seen before. 
Here was a simple-hearted bible-Christian going where 
Christianity was a worldly institution, and the bible a 
sealed book ; an independent going where the party 
politician alone was regarded ; a believer in the Laws 
of Nature going where such things were not so much as 
heard of; a servant and friend of his kind going to the 
one place in America where everybody was supposed to 
have his price, and the arts of deception, invented in 
contempt and practiced with heartless cruelty, were 
prized above all others. He never drank, and he was to 
be the associate of men who tippled at all hours of day 
and night. He never smoked or chewed tobacco, and 
he was about to live among people who thought the air 
unfit to breathe until it was thick with the fumes of 
cigars, and in whose opinion the indispensable article of 
furniture was the spittoon. He went to bed with the 
chickens and rose with the birds, and he was to pass 
months in a city where day began in the afternoon, and 
reached the meridian at midnight. The man of prayer 
is sent down to the metropolis of profanity; the free 
soul to the stronghold of slavery; the child of the Spirit 
to the arena of gladiators. The people wondered ; edi- 
tors smiled good-naturedly or sarcastically ; the politi- 
cians derided; the high-minded rejoiced. The "New 
York Times " scouted the nomination : 

*' It seems to us mere wantonness — idle nonsense — to send such 
a man to Congress, to take part in practical legislation upon prac- 
tical subjects. Those who elected him doubtless did it quite as 
much on account of his character or from a desire to see what could 
be done as with an expectation that he would prove influential of 
useful, in his new position. 



214 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

Mr. Greeley, in the " Tribune/* wrote : 

" We are heartily glad that Gerrit Smith is going to Washington. 
He is an honest, brave, kind-hearted Christian philanthropist, whose 
religion is not put aside with his Sunday cloak, but lasts him clear 
through the week. We think him very wrong in some of his notions 
of political economy, and quite mistaken in his ideas that the con- 
stitution is inimical to slavery, and that injustice cannot be legalized : 
but we heartily wish more such great, pure, loving souls could find 
their way into Congress. He will find his seat anything but com- 
fortable, but his presence tiiere will do good, and the country will 
know him better and esteem him more highly than it has yet done." 

His friend, William Jay, hailed his election in a tri- 
umphant strain : 

Bedford, November 9, 1853. 

My Dear Sir — Rarely have 1 been so delightfully astonished as 
by the intelligence of your election. What a rebuke of the vile 
pledge given by the Baltimore convention to resist all anti-slavery 
discussions in Congress or out of it, wherever, whenever, however, and 
under whatever shape or color it may be attempted ! What a scorn 
is it on the atrocious effort of Fillmore and his Cabinet to convict 
of the capital crime of le\'ying war against the United States, a 
peaceful, conscientious man, merely because he refused to aid in the 
villainy of catching slaves, thsiiyou, an undoubted traitor according 
to Webster's exposition of the constitution, should be sent, not to 
the gallows, but to Congress ! 

How must our Cotton Parsons mourn over the irreligion of Madi- 
son and Oswego, represented in the councils of the nation by a man 
who openly avows a higher law than the constitution, and who 
preaches that obedience to an accursed Act of Congress is rebellion 
against God ! 

You and I, my dear sir, very honestly differ in opinion on some 
points, but we cordially agree as to the diabolism of American slavery 
and the fugitive slave act ; and most sincerely do I rejoice in your 
election. 

May the blessings of the Almighty rest upon you, and may He 
give you wisdom from on high, to direct you in the discharge of your 
new duties ; and may he deliver you from that fear of man which is 
at once the snare and the curse of almost all our public men. 

Your friend, 

William Jay. 



SLAVERY. 215 

William H, Seward wrote cordially thus : 

Auburn. Nov. 10, 185,. 
My Dear Sir, — I thank you for your circular. . 1 cannot con- 
gratulate you on your election over the candidate of my own party. 
But I may say that it is full of instruction wliich I think the iwo par- 
ties needed, and that I look to its effect with confidence, as I do to 
your action in the house as full of hope and promise for the cause 
of Liberty and Humanity. 

Faithfully your friend, 

William H. Seward. 

The dosing prayer in Mr. Jay's letter was answered ; 
that all were forced to admit, whatever may be thought 
of the one that preceded it. Whether or no there was 
wisdom, there surely was no fear of man. Mr. Smith 
went to Washington on no false pretences, as is testified 
by the address he issued. 

To tke ■voters of the Counties of Oswego and Madison. — You 

taominated me for a seat in Congress, no i withstanding I besought 

1 do 50. In vain was my resistance to your persevering 

anting purpose. 

I 1 ha(l a'.iched old a;^e. I had never held office. Nothing was 

my expi.clations, and nothing was more foreign to 

!i'j htikling of office. My multiplied and extensive 

ill i^;[inli)yment. My habits, all formed in private 

1111 public life. My plans of usefulness and happi- 

mly in the seclusion in which my years 

iis I supposed it would, has resulted in my elec- 

by ,1 I'ery large majority. And now, I wish that 

the oftice which your partiality has accorded to me. 

To resign it would be a most ungrate- 

teijuital of the rare generosity, which broke through 

" if party, and bestowed your votes on one 

political creed leave him without a party. 

rositjr, which was not lobe repelled by 

leculiariiies of which are : 

lm» and knows no law for slavery ; 




2l6 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

that not only is slavery not in the federal constitution, but that, by 
no possibility could it be brought either into the federal or into a 
State constitution. 

2. That the right to the soil is as natural, absolute and equal 
as the right to the light and air. 

3. That political rights are not conventional but natural, — in- 
hering in all persons, the black as well as the white, the female as 
well as the male, 

4. That the doctrijte of free trade is the necessary outgrowth of 
the doctrine of the human brotherhood ; and that to impose restric- 
tions on commerce is to build up unnatural and sinful barriers 
across that brotherhood. 

5. That national wars are as brutal, barbarous and unnecessary 
as are the violence and bloodshed to which misguided and frenzied 
individuals are prompted ; and that our country should, by her own 
Heaven-trusting ajtd beautiful exaiitple, hasten the day when the 
nations of the earth " shall beat their swords into ploughshares and 
their spears info pruning hooks ; nation shall not lift up sword 
against nation, neither shall they learn war any more,*' 

6. That the province of governjnent is but to protect — to protect 
persons and property ; a7id that the building of railroads and canals 
and the care of schools and churches fall entirely outside of its lim- 
its, and exclusively within the range of " the voluntary principle,** 
Narrow ho7vever as are those limits, every duty within them is to be 
promptly, faithfully, fully performed: — as well, for instance, the 
duty on the part of the federal government to put an end to the 
dram-shop manufacture of paupers and madmen in the city of 

Washington, as the duty on the part of the State government to put 
an end to it in the State. 

7. That as far as practicable, every officer, from the highest to 
the lowest, including especially the President and Postmaster^ should 
be elected directly by the people. 

I need not extend any further the enumerations of the features 
of my peculiar political creed ; and I need not enlarge upon the rea- 
son which I gave why I must not and cannot resign the office which 
you have conferred upon me. I will only add that I accept it ; that 
my whole heart is moved to gratitude by your bestowment of it ; 
and that, God helping me, I will so discharge its duties as neither to 
dishonor mvself nor you. 

Gerrit Smith, 
Peterboro, November 5, 1852. 



SLAVERY, 217 

What the man wrote he meant. These were con- 
victions not opinions with him ; his daily life was founded 
upon them ; he was, in fact, their incarnation. To betray 
or to compromise or to qualify them was morally impos- 
sible. At this time he was out of heahh. For six or 
seven weeks his head had been ** filled with horrors ;" 
now ** swimming/' now " unbalanced and toppling, now 
bursting with fullness, and now as heavy as lead.** The 
journey to Washington was made by slow stages. He 
reached the city on the 1st of December; the session 
began on the 5th, but it was the 12th before he was in 
condition to take his seat. Yet, in this state, so ailing 
and distressed, he had, before leaving Peterboro, made 
ninety-two visits on friends and neighbors, and arranged 
his affairs as if he never expected to return. 

The necessities of his own and his wife's health, aside 
from his habitual demand for space, made it wise for 
him to hire a house and to keep up an establishment. 
The hospitality of his nature, which rendered it a neces- 
sity with him to keep open doors, filled his mansion 
with guests ; his friendliness and courtesy and unaffected 
humanity which knew no distinction of persons, drew 
all kinds to him ; his wonderful resources of conversa- 
tion, his invariable pleasantry, his sincere respect for 
other men's opinions, and his utter freedom from dislike 
to people of views entirely opposed to his own, his uni- 
form dignity, urbanity and sweetness, made his frequent 
entertainments peculiarly attractive. The hospitalities 
of Peterboro were revived in Washington. He gave two 
dinners each week, and invited every member of the 
House. At his table men of all parties and all condi- 
tions met and sat down together. The southerners, in 
10 



2l8 LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH. 

especial, were fascinated by the open-handed, wide- 
hearted welcome the man extended. Aristocratic 
though they were, they enjoyed the atmosphere of this 
genuine Democrat whose humanity embraced all ex- 
tremes with an equal ease ; slaveholders and slave pro- 
pagandists though they were, they felt no rancor to- 
wards the man whose spirit was animated by a love so 
entire. His pleasant association with slaveholders ex- 
posed him to suspicion and criticism, as similar associa- 
tions with Pharisees and women who were " sinners ** 
exposed one who was greater than he ; in these cases 
the fault-finder fails to discern the nobleness which 
exalts the human nature above the conventional classifi- 
cations of State and Church. His father having been a 
slaveholder until he had reached manhood, and formed 
his habits of social intercourse — his wife having come 
from a slaveholding community — several of his friends 
and relatives being slaveholders — he could appreci- 
ate the personal and social quaUties of men whose 
ideas he detested, whose policy he opposed with all his 
might. But to their opinions and habits he made no 
concession. There was no wine on his table ; he offered 
no cigars; he countenanced no rudeness or indelicacy. 
His guests took him as he was, and were glad to, for his 
originality was his charm. They could not fear him, 
and they could not suspect him ; for his complete sepa- 
ration from party organizations made him incapable of 
political harm, and his perfect frankness disarmed mis- 
trust. They dreaded him about as much as they 
dreaded the abstractions of the New Testament. He, 
on his part, was guileless as a saint. There is not the 
least reason to believe that he courted popularity or 



SLAVERY, 219 

sought influence, or did anything but act out his nature. 
The weakest as well as wickedest accusation that was 
made against him was that of trying to outwit politicians 
by giving them cold water dinners! Even he was not 
simple enough to think that the reward promised to the 
proverbial cup offered in the name of discipleship, cov- 
ered cases of that nature. The weakness of the insinua- 
tion that his head was turned by popularity in Washing- 
ton and his simplicity of nature spoiled, is exposed by 
a single incident that occurred there. There was dis- 
cord in the kitchen, and a dispute on the question of 
milking the cow. He settled it, not by dismissing the 
servants, but by going into the yard and milking the 
cow himself. There was plenty of fresh milk after that. 

Had he been sycophantic he would have disguised 
somewhat his opinions in the speeches he made before 
Congress. Or, perhaps his outspokenness there covered 
the same deep design that lurked at the bottom of the 
goblet ! The speeches were frank enough to justify sus- 
picions of only the deepest wile. The longest plummet 
line would come short of the bottom of such deceit. 
They must be astute critics who can detect the diplo- 
matic intent in this little sentence, which occurs in his 
maiden speech on the reference of the President's Mes- 
sage : ** What a disgusting spectacle does the adminis- 
tration present, in its deliberate corruption of the bible, 
for the guilty purpose of sparing so abominable and vile 
a thing as slavery ! '* 

This first speech was made on December 20, 1853, eight 
days only after he took his seat. The speech on War, 
called out by the bill making appropriation for the sup- 
port of the Military Academy for the year ending June 



220 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

30, 1855, was delivered January 18, 1854; the speech on 
the Homestead Bill followed, February 21; the speech 
on government aid in constructing a railroad through 
the Territory of Minnesota came next, March 7 ; the 
speech on the Nebraska Bill was made, April 6; the 
speech on the Pacific Railroad scheme, May 30, im- 
proved the opportunity for declaring further his views 
on the limits of government ; the speech for the Aboli- 
tion of the Postal System was delivered June 15 ; the 
speech on the Mexican Treaty and ** Monroe Doctrine *' 
was pronounced, June 27 ; the speech \\\ favor of pro- 
hibiting all traffic in intoxicating drinks in the city of 
Washington preceded by only three days the speech 
against providing intoxicating drinks for the navy, July 
25. Eight or nine shorter speeches were thrown in^ 
making altogether a full record of work for a man past 
middle age and impaired in health. 

To analyze these speeches would take more space 
than is warranted, for they are at once comprehensive 
and discursive."^ It is sufficient to say that they fully 
declared his mind on all the points presented in his 
manifesto, and which have been already explained. His 
ideas of government, war, slavery, temperance, finance, 
are stated with his usual clearness, fearlessness and 
force. No peculiarity or eccentricity is concealed or 
qualified. Their style is simple, direct, unrhetoricaL 
They are earnest talks, without close arrangement, or 
literary finish ; massive, exuberant, flowing, delivered 
with an air of confidence wholly unlike the studied man- 
ner of this class of productions. Impressive they must 
have been, and interesting; but were probably not con- 

* Gerrit Smith in Congress. New York, 1855. 



SLAVERY. 221 

vincing to the listening politicians, who had never learned 
the force of the pure reason. His general ideas they 
smiled at as visionary ; harmless because impracticable. 
Some of his particular notions, such for instance as that 
of a national police, composed of men strong in intelli- 
gence and character, who should represent the power of 
the country in place of the army, stamped him, in their 
regard, as a crazy enthusiast. It is pretty clear that to 
all but his enemies, Mr. Smith's career in Congress was 
a disappointment. The Chicago Tribune expressed a 
common sentiment when it described him as a wrong 
headed fanatic, wilful and intractable, conceited and 
wayward, whose intellect ran to paradox, whose wisdom 
was akin to folly, and who injured his own side more 
than the opposition. His constituency were indignant 
because he resigned at the end of a single session the 
place he had accepted unwillingly, at great inconvenience 
and sacrifice, and had filled as well as he could, and as 
long as he thought himself useful, and would have held 
longer had not a better man, as he thought, Henry C. 
Goodwin, stood ready to take it. 

•' What member of Congress," he said, " ever worked harder than 
I did ? What one ever made so many speeches and on so great a 
variety of subjects, in a single session ? Remember that you put 
ine in nomination aj^ainst my will. 1 had entertained no more 
thought of j^oing to Congress than to the moon. I went there, leav- 
ing my larj;e private affairs unsettled, and plans unfinished, which, 
in at least my own view, were plans of usefulness to my fellow-men. 
The Congress of which I was a member was in session eleven 
months. Perhaps no member was more constantly in his seat for 
the first eight months. I then resigned, and left my constituents, 
without putting them to the pains and expense of a special election, to 
supply my place for the remaining three months. They did supply it 
with a man of talents, and an earnest friend of the slave. Surely, in the 
light of these facts, I ought not to be censured for my resignation." 



222 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

Criticism on the Congressional career bore upon 
three points. I. His vote against the " Homestead Bill,*' 
which he had advocated in one of his most eloquent 
speeches. 2. His refusal to become a party to the Re- 
publican plan to prevent the taking of a vote on the 
Nebraska Bill. 3. His plea for the annexation of Cuba 
to the United States. The first he justified easily, and 
with the full approval of leading abolitionists, — Judge 
Jay enthusiastically applauding, — on the ground that 
the bill, as voted on, was altered so as to confine the 
homestead privilege to white people, thus excluding the 
blacks from the land, and virtually denying their right, 
as human beings, to the unrestricted gifts of Providence. 
His action in the second case was explained on the idea 
that it was an infringement on the democratic principle 
for a minority, by party tactics, to thwart or obstruct 
the will of the majority. From this position nothing 
could move him ; neither the supplications of the aboli- 
tionists, nor the remonstrances of the Republicans ; nei- 
ther the persuasions of his friends, nor the taunts of his 
enemies. The principle he acted on, when, instead of 
sitting all night in the house that he might count one, 
he went as usual to his quiet bed, was one he had medi- 
tated on for years, and had worked into the very tex- 
ture of his mind ; and he could not, in an hour of feverish 
excitement, desert it. In vain the abolition press abused 
him ; in vain the New York Tribune poured upon him 
its sarcasm, its argument steeped in gall ; in vain some 
taunted him wuth cowardice, others scolded at him for 
wrong-headedness, and others again jeered at his incu- 
rable propensity to go to bed at sundown, though Fate 
was knocking at the door ; he never saw the impropriety 



SLAVERY, 223 

of his action, and consequently never was sorry for it 
The acrid criticism of Horace Greeley did provoke him 
to a reply which called out counter replies, and led to a 
sharp controversy in which he met the fate that always 
befals the assailant of a powerful newspaper, but in which 
he did succeed in putting the real facts of the case before 
the country. His final vote against the bill, taken at 
eleven o'clock at night, amid the fumes of tobacco and 
whiskey, the hissing of spittoons, and the unseemly 
clamor of half drunken representatives, was a sufficient 
vindication of his earnestness, and a sufficient answer 
to the foolish taunt that he consulted his personal ease 
more than the cause he was sent to serve. 

The annexation of Cuba was a side question ; con- 
sequently the position he took in regard to it puzzled 
more than it enraged. He defended his position, not 
as others did, on geographical, commercial or any kin- 
dred considerations; certainly not as the slaveholder did, 
who urged annexation because it would extend the area 
of his darling institution ; but because, as an abolitionist, 
he wished for the overthrow of slavery and believed 
that the annexation of Cuba would help to bring it about. 
His reasoning was original, and may have been fanciful, 
but it was honest. He argued that, Cuban slavery 
being better in theory than the American, though worse 
in practice, each would tend to modify and destroy 
the other ; the American practice ameliorating the con- 
dition of the blacks in Cuba, the Cuban theory mitigating 
the cruelty of the American slave laws, while both were 
brought under the action of republican ideas. Again, 
he argued that the annexation of Cuba would put a stop 
legally to the African slave trade, and would make Spain 



224 LIFE OF CERRir SMITH, 

an anti-slavery nation. The withdrawal of Spanish 
troops from Cuba, and therefore of military support of 
the institution, would follow as a thing of course, and 
the system would take its chance in a population too 
nearly allied by temperament, blood, habits and social 
condition to the blacks to keep them long in bondage. 
The slaveholders would be too few to maintain it, and it 
would disappear. For the project of replacing Spanish 
troops by American could not for a moment be enter- 
tained, even if American troops could be relied on to 
enforce the stricter laws of our slavery in an island where, 
for ages, a milder system had prevailed. The attempt 
would provoke a bloody insurrection which the whole 
force of the United States would be unable to quelL 
These are abstract considerations, resting upon conjec- 
ture merely, and carried no weight against the popular 
instinct, which, on the one side, made the slaveholders 
a unit in favor of annexation, and leagued the aboli- 
tionists as one man in opposition to it. The- reasoning 
may have been good, nevertheless ; at all events its ori- 
ginality does not convict it of folly; still less does it 
convict the reasoner of baseness. 

Gerrit Smith, in. Congress, was precisely what he was 
out of it, what he had always been, what those at all ac- 
quainted with him, might have known he always would 
be. He was himself. 

The following notes indicate Mr. Sumner's feeling: 

Washington, 9th Aug., '54. 

My I\\jr Frinui — Your speech on temperance has made a 
convert in Friinc:sMarkoe, Esq., of the Slate Department, occupjing 
an important bureau tliere, who expresses an admiration of it with- 
out stint. He wishes some twenty-five copies to circulate among 
iViends. Will you send ihcm to him with your frank? 



SLAVERY, 2ZS 

I leave to-morrow for the North, regretting much not to see you 
again before I go — regretting more that you forbid me to hope to 
see you next winter when I return to renew our struggle. 
You ou^/t/ not to desert ! 

Ever yours, 

Charles Sumner. 

Boston, i6th Oct., '55. 

My Dear Gerrit Smith — Pardon me ; but I do not see on what 
ground you can be excused from a public lecture here in Boston and 
also in New York. Here is an opportunity to do much good. Your 
presence would give character and weight to our cause. It cannot 
afford to miss you. 

You excuse yourself on account of your many engagements at 
home. I understand these ; but we have a right to expect you to 
make the necessary sacrifice. You are rich, and can afford it. 
Let your great fortune miss for a short time your watchful eye, and 
come to us in Boston and New York. One lecture will do for both 
places. 

Here also is an opportunity to commend your views by argument, 
and personal presence, which you should not abandon. 

I do long to have our great controversy, which is so much dis- 
credited in the large cities, upheld by your voice. Come among us. 
Let us have those rich tones, and that generous heart, and that un- 
mitigable hatred of slavery to leaven our masses. Come. Do. 

Ever sincerely yours, 

Charles Sumner. 
Honorable Gerrit Smith, 

Washington, s8th March, *56. 

My Dear Gerrit Smith — I have your volume, " Gerrit Smith 
in Congress," and am glad to possess it. 

1 am happy also that it owes its origin in any degree to a hint 
from me. 

Of this I am sure. It will remain a monument of your constant, 
able and devoted labors during a brief term in Congress, and will be 
recognized as an arsenal of truth, whence others will draw bright 
weapons. 

Douglas has appeared at last on the scene, and with him that 
vulgar swagger which ushered in the Nebraska debate. Truly — 
truly — this is a godless place. Read that report, also the President's 
10* 



226 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

messages, and see how completely the plainest rights of the people 
of Kansas are ignored. My heart is sick. 

And vet 1 am confident that Kansas will be a free State. But we 
have before us a long season of excitement, and ribald debate, in 
which truth will be mocked and reviled. 

Remember me kindly to your family, and believe me, 

Mv dear friend, 

Sincerely yours. 

Charles Sumner. 

Mr. Smith's powerful speech against the Nebraska 
Bill, the motto whereof was ** No slavery in Nebraska ; 
no slaverv in the nation ; slavery an outlaw," was de- 
livercd on the 6th of April, 1854; the bill passed the 
house on the 15th of May. The question now arose 
which — the north or the south, democratic or slave insti- 
tutions, should first occupy, possess and control the 
thinly peopled territories, and organize them into States. 
It was a race for conquest between the people who lived 
south and the people who lived north of " Mason and 
Dixon's line." The territory lay close to the south- 
ern boundary, making the access from Missouri easy. 
The sons of freedom lived at a distance, in the Middle 
and Eastern States. Now was the time for men of 
wealth, eloquence, influence and public spirit to bestir 
themselves. They did so, and effectually. Happy was 
Gerrit Smith now, to be at home, on his own ground, 
with his neighbors and friends about him, and his hands 
on the machinery he so well knew how to use. There 
was call for money ; and that was a weapon he could 
wield to some purpose. There was call for plain speech, 
not addressed to lazy legislators, but sent straight to the 
heart of colonists ; and such was the speech that he was 
master of. There was call for close intercourse among 



SLAVERY, 227 

the leaders of the new crusade ; and this intercourse he 
had been forming for years. The centre of the activity 
in sending emigrants to Kansas and Nebraska was New 
England, for there the zeal was hottest ; there the popu- 
lation was most dense, and organizations were compact. 
In the middle of New York, such concentrated action 
was not possible. A man like Gerrit Smith stood alone, 
and worked by his own methods. We have seen enough 
of him to know that he could not use other men's ideas 
or arrangements. With the record of his life before us, 
we cannot agree with Mr. Thurlow Weed, that he was 
** wildly possessed by one idea," that ** he lived for near- 
ly thirty years of his life in a state of political hallucina- 
tion," that ** his mind had hovered on the brink of in- 
sanity for more than a quarter of a century." He was 
as far as it is possible for a man to be from fanaticism ; 
and so many ideas occupied his mind that no one could 
get possession of him. This is one reason why he could 
not work with a party ; he saw too many aspects of every 
question. He was almost, if not quite alone, among 
abolitionists, in reasonableness of sentiment towards the 
south. At the close of the war, when the south was 
beaten and prostrate, he was but one of many to recal 
the fact that the guilt of the rebellion and the responsi- 
bility for the causes which resulted in the rebellion, were 
not exclusively hers. Before the war, and while the vir- 
ulent causes were at work, exasperating the friends of 
freedom, he was able to make allowance for the slave- 
holder, to comprehend his embarrassments, to under- 
stand his position. In the heat of the Kansas trouble, 
at a meeting held at Syracuse, Oct. 1856, to commemo- 
rate the rescue of Jerry, he said : ** I pity the poor 



228 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

slaveholder ! I pity him more than I do the slave ! " 
** More than you do the slave ?" cried an excited lis- 
tener. ** Yes,'* was the reply, ** much more ; for the 
slaveholder is the victim of a fatal delusion which is en- 
dorsed by most of the churches and clergy of this coun- 
try — a delusion which is ruining the slaveholder, soul 
and body, for time and eternity ! God will take care of 
the slave ; but the poor slaveholder will never know till 
he stands before his God, the evil he has done." The 
effects of education in making men unconscious of wrong 
doing and morally protecting them against personal 
contamination from its guilt, should be familiar enough 
to every man never to be forgotten ; but they are for- 
gotten continually ; few remember them when most they 
need to be borne in mind. He was never oblivious of 
them ; nor did he ever lose sight of the fact — this was 
one of the most remarkable features of his unsectarian 
church — that character may be independent, not of creeds 
merely, but even of conduct ; that good men and women, 
— as good as any, perhaps, — may be found among 
people who are implicated in evil institutions, not as 
victims, but as supporters of them. 

Nor was he blind to the weaknesses of the negro 
character. For many years, the vicious moral condition 
of the blacks, whether in slavery or out of it, was a 
heavy burden on his heart. In 1842, he issued an ad- 
dress to the slaves, exhorting them to cultivate the dis- 
positions becoming to poor, afflicted men, patience, 
trust, hopefulness. Dr. Channing found fault with it as 
being disturbing, exciting, even revolutionary in its ten- 
dency ; but really it evinced a deep concern for their ra- 
tional being, and an apprehension lest they might, in 



SLAVERY. 229 

their desire for freedom, neglect the qualities that would 
render them fit for it. To the liberated blacks of the 
northern States, he was unsparing of counsel and admo- 
nition. The ** Address of the Liberty Party to the 
Colored People of the northern States," presented at 
the Buffalo Convention, in 1848, shows no lack of infor- 
mation respecting their infirmities and infidelities, and 
no lack of frankness in imparting it; their natural in- 
clination to idleness and shiftlessness, their carelessness 
of rights and duties, addictedness to animal pleasures, 
dishonesty, untruthfulness, unchastity; their stupid do- 
cility in following the guidance of political and religious 
leaders, their general want of self-respect, their insensi- 
bility to personal and social duties, are set forth with 
a plainness which would have been exceedingly unpal- 
atable, had the censor been less unquestionably a friend. 
The resolutions offered at the National Convention of 
the colored people, at Troy, thanking him for his gift of 
one hundred and forty thousand acres of land, drew 
from him a letter which contains language like this: 

•• The free colored people of this country have lost their self-re- 
spect. Hence my j^ravest doubt of their redemption. Hence too, my 
jirravcst doubt ifiat thev will ever exert an effectual influence for the 
redemption of ihfrir enslaved brethren. . . . Could I but get the 
ear of my nortliern colored brethren, — could I but get it away from 
ihtir flatterers anrl deceivers — I would say to them: * Cultivate self- 
resjjfct ; ciihivate self-resjjfct,' — for by that means, and not without 
that means, can you peaceably recjain your own rights, or the rights 
of your race at the south.' 



1- »» 



III January 1 85 1, there was a meeting at Syracuse, to 
con.sidcr the duties imposed by the Fugitive Slave Bill, — 
Frederick Douglass presiding. — Gerrit Smith presented 
the same address and resolutions he had reported at the 



230 LIFE OF CERRIT SMITH, 

State Convention, in the same city, the day before. 
Again hi-s voice rings out : 

" Would to God, brethren, that vou were inspired with self-re- 
sptct ! Then would otiiers be inspired with respect for you ; — and 
men would the diys of American siaver\' be numbered. We entreat 
you to rise up and quit yourselves like men, in ail your political and 
ecclesiastical and social relations. You admit your degradation ; — 
but you seek to excuse it on the ground that it is forced — that it is 
involuntary. An involuntary degradation I We are half disposed 
to d' ny its poss;bili:y, and lo treat the language as a solecism. At 
any rat'.-, we feel coinoarativelv no concern for wiiat of your degra- 
caion comes from the hands of others. It is your self-dej^radation 
which fills us with sorrow — sorrow for yourselves, and still more for 
the millions whose fate turns so largely on your bearing. We know, 
and it grieves us to know, that white men are your murderers. But, 
our far deeper grief is that you are suicides." 

There is no fanaticism in that. 

Equally manful is the comment on the liberators. 
Thus the Abolitionist writes to Wendell Phillips, the 
prince of Abolitionists, in 1855: 

"Considerable as have been the pecuniary sacrinces of abolition- 
ists in tiieir cause, th'.-y f lil far short of the merits of that precious 
cause. It is but a small j)roportion of ttiem wiio refuse to purchase 
the cotton and sugar and rice tiiat are wet with the tears and sweat 
and blood of the slave. And wiien we count up those who have 
sealed with their blood their consecration to tne anti-slaverv cause, 
we find their wiiole number to be scarcely half a dozen. 

" In none of the qualities of the best style of men — and that is the 
style of men needed to effectuate the bloodless termination of Amer- 
ican slavery — have the abolitionists shown themselves more deficient 
than in magnanimity, confirlence, charity. Tiiey have judged neither 
the slaveholders nor each other, generously. . . . The quarrels 
of abolitionists with each other, and tiieir jealousy and abuse of each 
other would be far less had tiiey more magna iiimity, confidence, 
charity. Manv of them deli'^ht in castin'' each other down, rather 
than in building each other up. Complain of each other they must; 
arul when there is no occasion for complaint, tiieir ill-natured inge- 
nuity can manufacture an occasion oui of the very smallest materials. 



SLAVERY. 231 

Were even you, whose trueness to the slave is never to be doubted, 
to be sent to Congress, many of your abolition brethren would be on 
the alert to find some occasion for calling your integrity in question. 
. . . It is no wonder that slaveholders despise both us and our 
cause. Our cowardice and vacillation, and innumerable follies have, 
almost necessarily, made both us and it contemptible. The way for 
us to bring slaveholders right on slavery is to be right on it ourselves. 
The way for us to command the respect, ay, and to win the love of 
slaveholders, is to act honestly, in regard to slavery and to all things 
else. Do I mean to say that slaveholders can be brought to love 
abolitionists } Oh yes ! and I add, that abolitionists should love 
slaveholders. We are all brothers ; and we are all sinners too ; and 
the difference between ourselves, as sinners, is not so great, as in 
our prejudice on the one hand and our self-complacency on the other, 
we are wont to imagine it to be." 

Another evidence of the temperate character 01 his 
mind is his opinion — entertained until the outbreak of 
the war — that, in the event of emancipation, the North 
should share with the South the expense incident to the 
sacrifice of so much property. This he maintained in a 
speech at a " National Compensation Convention " held 
in Cleveland, Ohio, August 25, 26 and 27, 1857: 

"We are met," he said, "to initiate — I might perhaps, rather 
say, to inaugurate — a great movement, one that is full of promise to 
tiie slave and the slaveholder, and our whole country. It is not so 
much to awaken interest in their behalf that we have come together, 
as it is to give expression to such interest — a practical and effective 
expression. 

*' We are here for the purpose of making a public and formal, 
and, as we hope, an impressive confession that the North ought to 
share with the South in the temporary losses that will result from 
tiie abolition of slaverv. Indeed, such are our relations to the South 
in the matter of slavery, that, on the score of simple honesty, we 
ought to share in these losses." 

No man took stronger ground in regard to Kansas 
than Gerrit Smith ; no man spoke braver words, or 
backed them by more consistent deeds. The scrap- 



232 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

books, about this period — 1855, 1856 — contain a record 
of thouc[hts and actions that mi^ht satisfv the most ar- 
dent warrior. A few extracts from the long printed let- 
ters and speeches are all that can be given here. This 
is from a speech delivered at a Kansas meeting held at 
the Capitol in Albany, March 13, 1856: 

" I hear one thing of the people of Kansas which I am sorr}' to 
hear. I hope it is not true. It is that they shall be willing to sub- 
mit to this ruffian government, provided the Federal government 
shall require them to do so. But in no event, must they submit to 
it. They must resist it, even if in doing so, they have to resist both 
Congress and President. And we must stand by them in their re- 
sistance. Let us bring the case home to ourselves. Suppose the 
legislators who meet in this building-, were to enact a statute depriv- 
ing us of the freedom of speech, and making it a penitentiary offence 
to express an opinion against the rightfulness of slaveholding — would 
we submit to the statute.'' No, we would much rather march into 
this building, and hurl from their seats the men guilty of such a 
perversion of their official powers. And we would be no less prompt 
to do this, even though all the congresses and presidents on earth 
were backing them." 

The following is from a letter printed in the Syracuse 
Daily Journal dated May 31, 1856, addressed to the 
callers of a Kansas Convention there: 

*' I wish the convention would go with me in voting slavery to 
death. But I tell you, gentlemen, with all my heart, that if the con- 
vention is not ready to go with me in voting slavery to death, I am 
ready to go with it in putting slavery to a violent death. , . Con- 
cluding that your convention will decide to fight rather than to vote 
against slavery, I hope it will originate a movement as broad as our 
whole State, and taxing the courdge, energy and liberality of every 
part of the State. 1 hope to hear that it has adopted measures to 
raise one million of dollars and one thousand men. I will not doubt 
that both can be readily obtained. If they cannot be, then are the 
people of New York so degenerate and abject as to invite the yoke 
of slavery on their own necks. 

** A word in regard to the thousand men. They should not be 



SLAVERY. 233 

whiskey drinkers, nor profane swearers. They should have the 
purity and zeal of Cromwell's armies, and, therefore, would they 
have the invincibility of those armies. 

" For myself, I am too old, and too ignorant of arms, to fight. 
I scarcely know how to load a gun, and I am not certain that I ever 
saw a Sharpe's rifle, or a revolver, or a bowie knife. I could not 
have encouraged others to fight, had not slavery invaded the free 
State of Kansas. Which of the Free States it will next seek to con- 
quer, I cannot conjecture. Hitherto I have opposed the bloody 
abolition of slavery. But now, when it begins to march its conquer- 
ing bands into the Free States, I and ten thousand other peace men 
are not only ready to have it repulsed with violence, but pursued 
even unto death, with violence. Remember, however, that anti- 
slavcry voting — real, not sham anti-slavery voting — would have pre- 
vented all need of this. 

" I said that I am unfit to fight. Nevertheless I can do some- 
tiling for the good cause. Some can give to it brave hearts and 
strong arms, and military skill; others can give to it the power of 
prayer with Him * who shall break in pieces the oppressor;' and 
others can give money to it, — the cheapest indeed, and least merit- 
(jiious of all the gifts — nevertheless indispensable. I am among 
those who can help the cause with this poorest of gifts. It is true 
that my veiy frecjuent contributions during the past year in aid of 
our suffering people in Kansas, have exhausted my current means. 
Nevertheless, I authorize you to put me down for ten thousand dol- 
lars of the million." 

On August 16, 1858, when the Kansas war was sub- 
stantially ended, he wrote and spoke thus : 

" I have often thought that the industrious efforts to persuade 
the j)eople that I have been untrue to freedom in Kansas, present 
tiie uiOit remarkable instances of the success of a lie against the 
truth. Having done what I could for her in Congress, I came home 
to (io much more for her. My use of men and money to keep sla- 
very out of that territory has been limited only by my ability. 

•' The true history of Kansas is yet to be written. The impres- 
si')n tiiat she has been preserved from the grasp of slavery by the 
^kiil of |)arty leaders and by speeches in Congress, is as false as it is 
(. t^nunon. Siie has been preserved from it by her own bnave spirits and 
strong arms. To no man living is so much praise due for beating 
i)a< k the tide of border ruffianism and slavery as to my old and dear 



234 I'lff^ OF GEKRIT SMIT//. 

friend John Brown of Osowatomie. Thouc^h he h:is had at no time 
und'T his command more than one hundred and fifty fij^htinj^^ men, 
yet by his unsurpassed skill and courage he has accomplished won- 
ders U)r the cause of freedom. Small as have been the armed for- 
ces, which have saved Kansas, their maintenance has nevertheless 
taxed some persons heavily. My eye at this moment is on one mer- 
chant in Boston, who has contributed several thousand dollars to 
this object. What, compared with him, has gaseous orator}', in or 
out of Conjjress, done for Kansas .''" 

Acrain : 

" No man out of Kansas has done so much as Eli Thayer to 
save her ; and no man in Kansas as John Brown — Old John Brown, 
the fijjhter. Kansas owes her salvation to no party — to no speeches 
and no votes either in Conj^ress or elsewhere. She owes it to her 
ample preparations to repel by physical force the aggressions of 
slavery. She believed slavery to be a pirate — the superlative pi- 
rate ; and she prepared herself to deal with it in just that common 
sense way that every persistent pirate is to be dealt with." 

The tribute to John Brown was sincere. He was 
essentially a man after Gerrit Smith's own heart. They 
were alike, and yet unHke. Both were men of purpose, 
direct, simple, earnest, upright. Both lived for human- 
ity. Both held dear the cause of the poor, the lowly, 
the afflicted, the oppressed. Both believed in justice 
and righteousness. Both revered one law ; the law of 
rectitude. Both believed in the divine institution of 
c^overnment. Both detested slaverv, resfarded it as an 
outlaw, and incessantly prayed and worked for its ex- 
tinction. But they were of different temperaments and 
constitutions. The one was large and stately, of expan- 
sive and superb presence, sunny, beaming, melodious, 
open of hand and heart, trusting and sanguine ; the 
other was also above middle height, but close, concentra- 
ted and intense, taciturn, serious, gentle, but alert and 
circumspect. Both were sincerely religious ; both were 



SLAVERY, 235 

bible men ; but one had watched and waited at the base 
of Sinai, the other had sate among the complacent 
listeners to the Sermon on the Mount. Both were peace 
men, though neither was non-resistant ; yet practically 
their feelings were differently turned, as was strikingly 
apparent in the circumstance that the one was innocent 
of all knowledge of firearms and warlike weapons of any 
sort, while the other was a resolute fighter and a leader 
of armed men. 

They made acquaintance on the 8th of April, 1848, 
when Brown came from Springfield, Mass., where he 
resided, to make a home for himself among the colored 
people to whom the great land-holder had distributed one 
hundred and twenty thousand acres. His kindness to 
the poor colonists as shown in gifts of produce, in coun- 
sel and direction, and in general friendliness gained the 
respect and love of the warm-hearted benefactor. Brown 
bought his own farm and two others besides, and took 
his family to North Elba, in Essex County. On the 
opening of Kansas to the colonizing freemen, Brown 
went there, as is well known, to do his part in rescuing 
the state from slavery. Peterboro lay in his way, and 
lie stopped to talk over his affairs with his friend there. 
Smith gave him money, without asking what uses in 
particular he designed to make of it, being interested in 
his operations at both ends of the line, — small sums at 
first ranging from twenty to fifty dollars, whatever might 
be required, sometimes one or two hundred, but never 
at this time enough for any considerable scheme or en- 
terprise, — in all, it is believed, about one thousand dol- 
lars. In 1855, Brown attended an anti-slavery meeting 
in Syracuse, presented the cause of the Kansas emi- 



236 U^^ OF GEKRIT SMITH. 

grants, described their hardships and dangers, and asked 
for aid to relieve their sufferings and supply them with 
means of resistance to the ruffians who assailed them. 
L^wis Tappan and S. J. May approved of sending relief 
to the sufferers, but opposed gifts of money to be spent 
for arms. Smith in the meeting concurred with them, 
and it was stipulated that a portion of the monev raised 
should be used for charitable purposes alone. It was 
his frequent boast that the rescue of '* Jerry" had been 
accomplished withou: the shedding of blood, and there 
are many to bear witness tint he had ever deprecated 
the resort to violen: measures in liberating slaves. The 
outrages in Kansas more than reconciled him, as we have 
seen, to armed resistance to invasion, and excited him 
to the degree that he avowed his readiness to pursue 
slavery even unto death. But this was not his habitual 
frame of mind ; and when the stress of Kansas peril was 
over, his feeling settled into its usual channels. With 
John Brown's work in Kansas he expressed no discon- 
tent. The militarv operations justified themselves. The 

following? records are in the diarv : 
«j « 

July 2\, 1857. "Col. Hugh Forbes arrives at ii A. M., on his 
wav to Kansas to assi.^t inv friend Cant. John Brown in militan' 
operations. I put some money into his han^is. I have put some 
this season into the iiands of Ca.i:. Brown. 

Fdb. 1 8, 185S. "Our ulJ a:u: noble friend, Captain John Brown 
of Kansas arrivt-s tiiis cve:-i:nij[-." 

22. " F. B. San:)cm cf Concord, Massachusetts, arrives." 

24. *' Mr. Sanborn leaves us this morning'." 

25. "Our Iricnd. Captain Brown, leaves us to-day." 

April 2, 1S58. " My esteemed friend. Captain John Brown and 
his son John came at 10 A. M. Leave nexi niorninir at 6." 

April II. 1859. "Captain John Brown of Kansas, and his friend 
Mr. An.lerson came at 11 A. M." 

14. "Cai^tain Brown and Mr. Anderson leave us at 6 this 
morning." 



SLAVERY. 237 

These entries are made without comment, along with 
others of similar character. Guests were continually 
coming and going without prearrangement. On the oc- 
casion of his last recorded visit, April II-14, 1859, Brown 
held a public meeting, at which he told the story of his 
exploit in carrying a number of slaves from Missouri to 
Canada and asked help to prosecute the work on a larger 
scale. Mr; Smith was moved to tears by the veteran's 
eloquence — headed the subscription paper with four hun- 
dred dollars, and made an impressive speech, in which 
he said — ** If I were asked to point out — I will say it in 
his presence — to point out the man in all this world I 
think most truly a Christian, I would point out John 
Brown. I was once doubtful in my own mind as to 
Captain Brown's course. I now approve of it heartily, 
having given my mind to it more of late.*' 

But all this work in Kansas was incidental and pro- 
visional, in view of a grander scheme which for years 
Brown's mind had been revolving and maturing, and which 
had been already communicated to two or three trusted 
friends. This was no less than an assault on slavery it- 
self in its own dominions by opening a breach in its wall 
and planting freedom in the heart of its territory. His 
purpose was to unsettle the foundations of the institu- 
tion, and so compel its abandonment; and his plan was 
to effect a lodgment in the mountains of a border state 
fortify his position by proper defences, circulate appeals 
to the people, near and far, black and white, summon 
the blacks to his retreat, g\\^Q- thern arms to defend 
themselves against state and government troops, and all 
others, keeping open a way of escape to the North but 
working steadily to the South as events might allow. 



2^8 LIFE OF GERRir SMITH. 

Thus in time the slave country would be, he thought, 
reclaimed and redeemed. It was an immense plan, in- 
volving a multitude of contingencies and embracing 
years, perhaps decades of time, with possibilities, nay 
certainties, of social alarm and bloodshed. But it was 
conceived in such a spirit of faith in the divine provi- 
dence, in the supremacy of justice, and the cooperation 
of moral agencies, that those who heard it were fasci- 
nated in spite of themselves. The encouragements came 
into lii^ht. The discoura^xements fell into shadow. The 
moral aspect was illuminated, the immoral aspects of 
disorder, violence, anarchy and strife were thrown into 
the background ; and the splendor of the anticipated de- 
liverance cast a soft glow over the path through which 
it was to be reached. The enthusiast had meditated 
his scheme until every detail of its execution was com- 
pleted and set in its place. Every objection had been 
. anticipated, every question had been raised and an- 
swered to his satisfaction. He had even gone so far as 
to frame a provisional government for the administration 
of his free dominion, the draft whereof was first sub- 
mitted at a '* very quiet convention " of the ** true friends 
of freedom,** in Chatham, Canada. It was written out in 
January of 1858, at the house of Frederick Douglass in 
Rochester. This plan he was anxious to submit to 
friends, and with this view he, on his own responsibil- 
ity, asked Theodore Parker, George L. Stearns, T. W. 
Ilicfiiinson and F. B. Sanborn to meet him at Gerrit 
Smith's house in Peterboro. Sanborn alone came; he 
had been there before to visit a classmate, Edwin Mor- 
ton, who, as tutor to young Greene Smith, was one of 
the household. This is the visit of February 22, men- 



SLA VER Y. 



239 



tioncd above. In Morton's room, aloof from the other 
guests in the house, Brown detailed his plan ; Smith 
going in and out, but being present during the read- 
ing of the paper, and taking part in the discussion 
tliat followed. The colloquy lasted till late that night, 
and was resumed the following day. The obvious 
objections were disposed of; the old man was pre- 
pared and met them at once, until at last, silenced^ 
awed, fascinated, they succumbed to the hero's faith. 
As the winter sun went down behind the lonely 
snow-covered hills. Smith and Sanborn walked for an 
hour talking over the strange scheme. Smith said to 
Sanborn : " You see how it is ; our old friend has made 
up his mind to this course of action, and cannot be 
turned from it. We cannot give him up to die alone; 
we must stand by him. I will raise so many hundred 
dollars for him ; you must lay the case before your friends 
in Massachusetts, and see if they will do the same." 

Sanborn returned to Boston and laid the matter be- 
fore his friends, with what result is told in the Atlantic 
Monthly for July, 1872. On the 24th of the next May, 
Smith being in Boston on other business, the " secret 
committee*' held a meeting at his room in the Revere 
House, at which Brown was not present, when the situa- 
tion was discussed, and the conclusion reached that the 
enterprise should be deferred, in consequence of threat- 
ened disclosures, till the spring of the next year. Smith 
pledged his share of the sum the committee there agreed 
to raise for Brown. The matter of the rifles which 
l^rown had asked for did not concern him, as they 
belonged to George L. Stearns. On June 4, 1859, '^^ 
wrote a note to Brown, which is printed in the Atlan- 



240 /-//^>^ OF GERRIT SMITH. 

tic Monthly for May, 1875. ^^^ that the thought of 
Ikown's project was then on his mind is all but certain 
from the letter to the chairman of the Jerry Rescue 
Committee, August 27, 1859, ^vhich has already been 
quoted. In that letter he uses the following language 
which discloses an expectation of some impending blow : 

" For many years I have feared, and published my fears that sla- 
very must go out in blood. My speech in Congress on the Nebraska 
Bill was strongly marked by such fears. These fears have grown 
into belief. So debauched are the white people by slavery, that there 
is not virtue enough left in them to put it down. . . . The feel- 
ing among the blacks that they must deliver themselves, gains 
strength with fearful rapidity. . . . No wonder is it that in this 
state of facts which I have sketched (the failure of the Liberty Party, 
the Free Soil Party, the Republican Party to do anything for the 
slaves) intelligent black men in the States and Canada should see 
no hope for their race in the practice and policy of white men. No 
wonder they are brought to the conclusion that no resource is left 
to them but in God and insurrections. For insurrection then we 
may look any year, any month, any day. A terrible remedy for a 
terrible wrong ! But come it must unless anticipated by repentance, 
and the putting away of the terrible wrong. 

** It will be said that these insurrections will be failures — that 
they will be put down. Yes, but nevertheless, will not slavery be 
put down by them ? For what portions are there of the South that 
will cling to slavery after two or three considerable insurrections 
shall have filled the whole South with horror? And is it entirely 
certain that these insurrections will be put down promptly, and be- 
fore they can have spread far? Wilt telegraphs and railroads be 
too swift for even the swiftest insurrections? Remember that tel- 
egraphs and railroads can be rendered useless in an hour. Remem- 
ber too, that many who would be glad to face the insurgents, would 
be busy in transporting their wives and daughters to places where 
they would be safe from that worst fate which husbands and fathers 
can imagine for their wives and daughters." 

It must be believed that the writer of these pas- 
sages had John l^rown's general project in mind. There 
was no visible sign of peril. The blacks. North and 



SLAVERY. 241 

South, were to all appearances quiet. The Secretary of 
War at Washington, Mr. Floyd, a southern man, hating 
and fearing the Abolitionists, did not deign to take 
notice of a menacing letter, putting him on his guard 
against this very redoubtable John Brown. The surface 
of society was not stirred by an uneasy ripple. No one 
suspected an uprising. But Sanborn, Stearns, Higginson, 
Howe, Gerrit Smith, and others who had been long in 
the secret, knew that a scheme was on foot that would 
convulse the country. 

The hue and cry made after the miscarriage at Har- 
per's Ferry caused the destruction of valuable private 
documents relating to John Brown and his confederates. 
His friends and coadjutors were compelled to protect 
themselves by covering over the traces of their opera- 
tions. To escape arrest they took various precautions. 
Dr. Howe went to Canada; so, for a short time did G. 
L. Stearns. F. B. Sanborn was arrested at his house in 
Concord, but released by a writ oi habeas corpus^ backed 
by his fellow-townsmen, who assembled in formidable 
numbers at the sound of the alarm belj and refused to 
let him be taken away; he too had previously found 
refuge in Canada; so had Frederick Douglass; Edwin 
Morton went to England. Theodore Parker was seek- 
ing health in Europe. Gerrit Smith staid at home. 

His friends were more fearful on his account than he 
was on his own. His house was guarded. The male 
occupants of it carried arms by day, and slept with wea- 
pons within reach. The parcels that were left for him, 
at the house, were carefully opened lest they might con- 
tain infernal machines. ** The New York Democratic 



242 LIFE OF CERKiT SMITH. 

Vigilance Association,*' issued a ferocious manifesto de- 
signed to bring condign punishment on him in connec- 
tion with others supposed to be implicated in a plot to 
rouse the slaves. This paper he did not see at the time 
of its publication, and the meditated blow did not fall. 
The intended victim was already beyond the reach of his 
enemiesrv . 

The shock occasioned bv the tidings of the assault 
at Harper's Ferry and its failure, grief for the disaster 
of his friend, agony in contemplation of his inevitable 
doom, horror at the uproar and carnage, distress at the 
prospect of new difficulties in the way of the cause he 
had so deeply at heart, were too much for a nervous sys- 
tem already overstrained. Dr. John P. Gray, the distin- 
guished superintendent of the asylum of Utica, declares 
that in the first half of 1859, ^^ had reached the stage in 
the progress of insanity known as " exaltation of mind.** 
He never read, studied or wrote with more pleasure. 
He never had, so he said himself, such confidence in his 
powers. He boasted that he could do more than at 
forty. An unnatural brilliancy marked all his produc- 
tions. He seemed capable of Hving without food or 
sleep. He was exhausted, and did not know it. With 
feet so swollen that he had to wear moccasins, he per- 
sisted in walking, when always before he had been driven 
in a carriage. In 1857 a severe attack of typhoid fever 
had taken at disadvantage a frame worn by heavy labors 
and incessant cares. This was accompanied by acute 
neuralgic pains in the head. The fever was succeeded 
by dropsy ; the dropsy by dyspepsia. In the year 1858, 
he underwent the immense fatigues of a Gubernatorial 
campaign in which he spoke fifty-three times, each aver- 



SLA VER Y. 243 

aging two hours and a half. This ended, he threw him- 
self into his religious speculations, studying, writing, 
thinking, taking brutal blows from people he loved, 
lampooned, caricatured, cursed, jeered at ; in the worst 
of all excitements, a theological ferment. Overworked, 
sleepless, strung to the point of breaking, the last trouble 
of his noble friend's discomfiture overthrew him, and 
after vainly struggling for several days with the malady 
he went down under a troop of hallucinations. He was 
an outcast; reduced to poverty; he was hunted for his 
life ; those were in pursuit of him who meant to carry 
him about the country in a cage and submit him to 
horrible tortures. He was gentle as usual, but melan- 
choly. Several times he was suspected of having designs 
on his own life. Silent? and brooding he sat for hours 
together. At length on the 7th of November, he was 
taken to the asylum for the insane, at Utica, his consent 
being obtained by humoring the notion that he was 
going to Virginia to vindicate or share the fate of John 
Brown. 

The case was a serious one. On reaching the asylum. 
Dr. Gray remarked that he had not come a moment too 
soon ; that a delay of even forty-eight hours might have 
been fatal. The physical prostration of the patient was 
so extreme that the beating of the pulse was hardly 
perceptible. The whole physical economy was de- 
ranged. The fever, the dyspepsia, the sleeplessness had 
done their work slowly but thoroughly. The stress of 
toil and care and sorrow had been laid on the most sen- 
sitive part of the organization, and it could bear the strain 
no longer. But the constitution being strong, and the 
disorder physical, a judicious use of anodynes and stimu- 



244 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

lants, with quiet, and nourishing food, in a few weeks 
restored sanity though not strength. Four weeks at the 
asylum, and a few days in the family of Dr. Gray, so far 
recruited the system that, on the 29th of December, he 
was driven back to his home. There, still excessively 
weak, too weak to read the daily papers, or to converse 
on public affairs, he was watched and tended till vital 
power returned. The first production of his pen after 
his restoration, was a long letter written May I, i860, 
to his dear abolition friend, and his dire theological foe, 
William Goodell, giving an account of his condition, de- 
tailing the causes of the insanity, moralizing on it, and 
protesting against the cruel insinuations which had been 
thrown out against him on the occurrence of it. As the 
letter rehearses what in substance has been told already, 
the republication may be dispensed with. . 

The excitement incident to this calamity was so terri- 
ble that for years even a casual reference to it or any 
thing connected with it, menaced a return of the insanity. 
In 1872, F. B. Sanborn addressed to him a quiet note 
asking if he did not think it timely to collect and pub- 
lish whatever was known of John Brown's plans, as those 
who knew them were, one after another, passing away. 
To this note Mrs. Smith replied, deprecating any un- 
necessary use of names, for the reason that excessive 
nervous sensibility made dangerous any revival of her 
husband's mental excitement. The experiences of his 
insanity were so closely intertwined one with another, 
that reference to one portion of them, precipitated upo*^ 
him the whole. 

Mr. Smith himself, wrote to Mr. Sanborn, October 
19, 1872, to the same effect : 



SLAVERY. 



245 



•• I am not competent to advise in the case. When the Harper's 
Ferry affair occurred, I was sick, and my brain somewhat diseased. 
That affair excited and shocked me, and a few weeks after I was 
taken to a lunatic asylum. From that day to this, I have had but 
a hazy view of dear John Brown'^ great work. . . . My brain 
has continued to the present time to be sensitive on this John Brown 
matter, and every now and then I get little or no sleep in conse- 
quence of it. It was so when I read the articles in the Atlantic 
you refer to, and now, your bare proposition to write of this matter 
has given me another sleepless turn. In every fresh turn I fear a 
recurrence of my insanity." 

The note closes with the earnest request that the 
full history of the transaction might be withheld from 
the public until after his death; or in the event of its 
being published earlier, that the use of his nanie might 
be as sparing as possible. 

Thus, deepest and uppermost in Gerrit Smith's, 
mind was the sentiment of horror, and a dread of re- 
turning insanity. This impelled him to detach himself 
as much as he could from personal associations with the 
tragedy at Harper's Ferry and its author. 

The first demonstration after his return from the 
Utica asylum was made against the managers of the 
** Democratic Vigilance Committee," whose proclama- 
tion has already been alluded to. It was a wild, 
intemperate, foolish manifesto, an incoherent jumble 
of truth and falsehood, put forth in the main for party 
purposes, and of no significance a.side from them. It 
was dangerous at first, no doubt, because the public 
mind was greatly excited, and extreme measures might 
be carried into effect against individuals who were ob- 
noxious to the administration. The Democratic party 
leaders would have been glad to conciliate favor by ap- 
prehending prominent men, like Wendell Phillips, Dr. 



246 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

S. G. Howe or Gerrit Smith, and shutting them up in 
jail, or worse. But this danger, whatever it may have 
been at first, was over in less than three months. In six 
months the storm had so far passed by that ordinary 
quiet would have ensured safety. But Mr. Smith could 
not remain quiet, weak as he was. The blunders of the 
democratic manifesto wore glaring. In truth, the pre- 
tentled disclosures o\\ which it was grounded had no 
authority. The c«.mimittec were open to assault, and 
the assault was made boldly and with force, by Charles 
D. Miller, Mr. Smith's son-in-law. 

Peterboro, February 13, 1860. 

Watts Sherman, Esq. : 

Sir : — My father-in-law, Mr. Gerrit Smith, has at length so far 
waked up trom the eclipse of his intellect as to be able to read and 
to hear reading-. He has just row seen, for the first time, the 
" Manifesto of the New York Democratic Vigilance Association," 
published last October, in which you connect his name with a certain 
•'Central Association." of bloody and horrible purposes. 

As Mr. S.iiith bcl?ng-s to no society, h.is always opposed secret 
societies, had never bef re heard cf this ** Central Association." and 
conde.T.ns all sii^ddinr k:\ human blocd. save bv irovemment, he 
necessari'y feels i.iir.sclf to be deeply wronL;ed by you and your asso- 
ciates. He r. Ms v. u ar.-i ihem res:ionsible. for calling in ettect 
uD:r. the rer^lc b»::h of ti-.e north and south to detest and abhor 
him. 

Mr. Srrith '.\:s:v.-s to l%now without any d-jlay. whetlier you and 
your associates \Nil'i persist in your lii")ci, or make the unqualified 
and ample retract; :-n whic'i the case calls for. 

Yojrs resneotfullv. 

Chas. D. Miller. 

Similar letters were accressed to Roval Phelos and 
S. L. M. Barlow, calli:;^ forth ciolomatic reolies, which 
Were so Kir from s.i:i?f.ic:orv that Messrs. Sedsfwick, 
Andrews arid Kor.r.cdv were iiistruvtod to brin;j suits 
acrainst those tiirce 't'r.tlc^'iien, lavii^vj tiie damacres at 



SLA VER y, 247 

fifty thousand dollars in each case. It is needless to say 
that the suits were never brought to trial. The corre- 
spondence was published in a little pamphlet, which put 
the Vigilance Committee entirely in the wrong, and 
placed Mr. Smith before the public in the attitude he 
desired. 

With this, he might, as all can see, have been satis- 
fied. His objections had been well taken, his antago- 
nists fairly discomfited. From that quarter no further 
danger was to be apprehended. From no other quarter 
was there a menace. But the newspapers still kept 
alive the memory of John Brown and his exploits ; the 
public curiosity was hungry for more information. Mr. 
Smith, wishing after eight years had elapsed — in 1867 — 
to give a statement of his connection with John Brown, 
l)ut forth a manifesto, as a full, frank, final account of 
his connection with John Brown. At this date there 
was no danger or even inconvenience from an acknowl- 
cdijmcnt of the fullest connection. The war had re- 
.suited triumphantly for the north. It had become the 
fashion for people to call themselves abolitionists. Old 
pro-slavery Democrats were singing ** Glory, Hallelu- 
jah I " and copiously volunteering the information that 
the soul of John Brown was *' marching on." The hero 
would have received an ovation in Wall Street. Gerrit 
Smith takes this time to state his limited knowledge of 
his plans. Here is the Manifesto: 

JOHN BROWN. 

As the newspapers are speaking- of my relations to John Brown 
and of Ills purposes, it may not be amiss for me also to speak of 
ihem. 

April 8, 1848, Brown came to my house. His residence, at that 



2SO LIFE OF GERRFf SMITH. 

Rochester, August 9, 1867. 

Hon. Gerrit Smith : 

My Dear Sir — I wish to say distinctly, that John Brown never 
declared nor intimated to me that he was about to embark in a 
grand or unqualified insurrection ; and that the only insurrection he 
proposed was the escaping- of slaves, and their standing" for their 
lives against any who should pursue them. For years before, Cap- 
tain Brown's long-entertained plan was to go to the mountains in the 
Slave States, and invite the slaves to flee there and stand for their 
freedom. His object was to make slave property unprofitable by 
making it insecure. He told me he had given to you a general idea 
of this plan — but that he had not given you the full particulars, lest 
you might turn from him as a visionary and dangerous man Three 
or four weeks previous to his invasion of Harper's Ferry, Captain 
Brown requested me to have an interview with him at Chambers- 
burg, Pennsylvania. I had it; and in that interview he informed me 
that he had determined upon that invasion, instead of carrying out 
his old plan of going into the mountains. He did not tell me that 
you knew anything of this new plan. I do not suppose that any of 
his friends at the North, outside of his own family, knew of it. 

Captain Brown never told me that you knew anything of his 
guns or other weapons. 

You are at full liberty to make use of this statement in any way 
you may deem proper. 

As ever, yours very truly, 

Frederick Douglass. 

Much has been said of Brown's guns, and how he got them. I 
do not recollect that he ever spoke to me of them. I remember 
how surprised I was to find, after the Harper's Ferry affair, that he 
had obtained possession of the Kansas rifles. As to the pikes — I had 
the strong impression that he had told me, several years before, that 
he purposed getting them to put into the hands of the honest settlers 
in Kansas. I was surprised but, I confess, not at all displeased, 
when I found, among the revelations of Harper's Ferry, that he 
meant to put pikes into the hands of fugitive slaves, with which to 
defend themselves against pursuing dogs, and pursuing men. Of 
course, I would not have it implied from what I have here said, that 
I supposed John Brown would enter upon his work unarmed. I 
add that I distinctly remember having heard (but I cannot recall in 
what way) that, at or about the time Brown entered the land of 
slaves, boxes of disguised arms entered with him. 



SLA VER y. 



249 



Brown left Peterbqro, April 14, 1859; and never returned to it. 
I never saw him again ; and never again had I any communication 
with him, direct or indirect, touching his plans or movements. His 
only letter to me after that time was a few lines respecting his ina- 
bility to obtain the payment of a note I had given him. Thi§ note 
for two hundred and fifty dollars was against one of his old friends 
and fellow-laborers in Kansas. For months after I received that 
letter, I was at a loss to know where he was. When he left Peter- 
boro, he had not yet decided whether to go into an Eastern or a 
Western Slave State. 

I think it was in August, that I learned, in some indirect way — 
perhaps from mere rumor — ^that Brown was in Chambersburg. In 
a similar way, I learned, only a very few weeks, perhaps only a very 
few days, before his descent upon Harper's Ferry, that Brown had 
gone into a Slave State. I well remember looking into an atlas to 
see what mountain or mountains he had probably gone to. I hoped 
that the next news would be the welcome one of tt stampede of slaves. 
But, instead of that, it was the painful news of the Harper's Ferry 
affair. I had not myself the slightest knowledge nor intimation of 
Brown's intended invasion of Harper's Ferry 5 — and when I saw that 
George L. Stearns of Boston (that noble roan who was so intimate 
with Brown) testified before the Senate Committee, that he too knew 
nothing of that intended invasion, I questioned whether a single per- 
son in all the North knew anything of it. Thus, also, testified that 
other excellent friend of Brown — Dr. Howe of Boston. Indeed, not 
one person testified before the Committee that he knew aught of the 
intended invasion. Nor was this universal ignorance in the matter, 
in the least degree strange. For it turns out that it was only a very 
few weeks before his descent upon Harper's Ferry that Brown had 
decided upon it. By the way, BroWn himself, as he was reported, 
expressed deep regret at this change in his plans. 

Having heard that some persons understand that Brown's words, 
in his two-days* interview with Mr. Frederick Douglass at Cham- 
bersburg, serve to connect me with his invasion of Harper's Ferry; 
to convict him of a plot of general insurrection ; and myself of the 
knowledge of it, I asked Mr. Douglass to write me respecting that 
interview. As his letter goes to confirm the most important parts 
of what I have thus far written, I herewith give it to the public : 



250 Z-//-'^' OF GERRIT SMiriL 

Rochester, August 9, 1867. 

Hon. Gerrit Smith : 

My Dear Sir — I wish to say distinctly, that John Brown never 
declared nor intimated to me that he was about to embark in a 
grand or unqualified insurrection ; and that the only insurrection he 
proposed was the escaping- of slaves, and their standing" for their 
lives against any who should pursue them. For years before. Cap- 
tain Brown's lon.g-entertained plan was to go to the mountains in the 
Slave States, and invite the slaves to flee there and stand for their 
freedom. His object was to make slave property unprofitable by 
making it insecure. He told me he had given to you a general idea 
of this plan — but that he had not given you the full particulars, lest 
you might turn from him as a visionary and dangerous man Three 
or four weeks previous to his invasion of Harper's Ferry. Captain 
Brown requested me to have an inter\'iew with him at Chambers- 
burg, Pennsylvania. I had it; and in that inter\'iew he informed me 
that he had determined upon that invasion, instead of carrying out 
his old plan of going into the mountains. He did not tell me that 
you knew anything of this new plan. I do not suppose that any of 
his friends at the North, outside of his own family, knew of it. 

Captain Brown never told me that you knew anything of his 
guns or other weapons. 

You are at full liberty to make use of this statement in any way 
you may deem proper. 

As ever, yours very truly, 

Frederick Douglass. 

Much has been said of Brown's guns, and how he got them. I 
do not recollect that he ever spoke to me of them. I remember 
how surprised I was to find, after the Harper's Ferry affair, that he 
had obtained possession of the Kansas rifles. As to the pikes — I had 
the strong impression that he had told me, several years before, that 
he purposed getting them to put into the hands of the honest settlers 
in Kansas. I was surprised but, I confess, not at all displeased, 
when I found, among the revelations of Harper's Ferry, that he 
meant to put pikes into the hands of fugitive slaves, with which to 
defend themselves against ];ursuing dogs, and pursuing men. Of 
course, 1 would not have it implied from what I have here said, that 
I sup{)()se(l John Brown would enter upon his work unarmed. I 
add that I distinctly remember having heard (but I cannot recall in 
what way; that, at or about the time Brown entered the land of 
slaves, boxes of disguised arms entered with him. 



SLAVERY. 251 

But it is said that I gave money to Brown in the year 1859 ; and 
it is inferred that I gave it to help his invasion of Harper's Ferry and 
to help him produce an insurrection. Unwarrantable inference ! It 
is also inferred from my giving him money in 1859. that I gave him 
much money in that year. Another unwarrantable inference] I 
met Brown in Syracuse in 1855, on his way to Kansas. I handed 
him twenty dollars to buy bread for some starving ones in Kansas 
he might fall in with. Every year from that to his last, he was one 
of the distributors of my surplus means. He often asked me for 
small sums, I never refused him. And yet, the whole amount of 
what I gave him» from first to last, including one gift of two hundred 
dollars, was hardly a thousand dollars — an amount not greater than 
what I might well have given him in return for his gifts and goodness 
to my colored colonists. Ever after he began his brave and effective 
labors in Kansas, I told him to use, at his discretion» what he re* 
ceived from me. I must, however, admit that I trusted he would 
use it chiefly for the deliverance of the oppressed. 

The reader is, perhaps, surprised that I gave by the many thou- 
sands to the Kansas and other Anti-Slavery Associations, and yet, 
made my gifts so small to even the worthiest individuals, who la* 
bored with me in the cause of these associations. The explana- 
tion is found in my far greater reliance on the collective wisdom in 
these associations than in the wisdom of the wisest individual. 

To return, was it wrong in me to give Brown money to help the 
oppressed with ? If so, how then can it be right In me to give money 
to Daniel O'Connell. to Polish Committees, to Italian. Republicans, 
to the Greeks now, and also more than forty years ago? Was it 
wrong because my oppressed countrymen were black men?' But 
with me ** a man's a man.*' Was it wrong because there was law 
for slavery ? I knew no law for any piracy— least of all for slaver\% 
which is the superlative piracy. Not for the less injurious crime of 
murder would I recognize a law. I say less injurious — for what 
right-minded person would not rather his child were murdered than 
enslaved ? Law is a sacred thing— and I, therefore, deny that the 
abomination of slavery can be embodied in it. Such, by the way, 
would be the denial of every man, who should be so unhappy as to 
fall under the yoke of slavery — and, therefore, should it be his denial 
now. 

But my gifts to Brown show only a small part of my relations 
with him. For many years, and down to the last year of his life, he 
had business transactions with me. He borrowed money from me. 
He deposited money with me. He bought farms from me. The 



252 



LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 



title to eighty acres of land, which he bought from me in 1858 and 
then paid for, he left in my name, when he bade me " Farewell ! ** 
on the 14th of April 1859 ; and in my name it remained at the time 
of his death. I did not hold the land subject to the repayment of 
the sums he drew from me in 1858 and 1859. These sums were 
not advances or loans, but gifts — and gifts too, I admit, to help him 
deliver his and mv ensl.ived brethren. 

I must not omit to say that my money dealings and land dealings 
with Brown did not all pass through my own hands. More of them 
passed through the hands of Mr. Calkins, who has been my clerk 
for the last thirty years and my chief clerk for the last twenty-five 
years. He knew more of my business with Brown than I did. I 
might add that he knew more of Brown himself than I did, as he 
saw much of him not only in my land office, but also at Brown's 
residence, where I never saw him. 

Now that I have done speaking of my relations to John Brown 
and of his purposes, let me say that I cast no blame on any one for 
supposing that I had a full knowledge of Brown's plans and of his 
changes in them. That I had is, I admit, a not very unreasonable 
inference from the intimate relations both of business and friendship 
existing between us. Nevertheless, so it is, that I had but a partial 
knowledge of these plans and not the least knowledge of his ex- 
changing them for others. Right here, too, let me say that I do not 
feel myself at all dishonored by the coupling of my name with any 
of Brown's endeavors for the liberation of the slave. Even where 
truth forbids the coupling, regard for my reputation does not forbid 
it. The more the public identifies me with John Brown, the more 
it honors me. As I knew Brown so well and loved him so well, it 
was not unreasonable to suppose that I, too, would give his charac- 
ter to the public. Thank God ! Brown did that himself. His fife, 
crowned by his well-nigh matchless death, shows unmistakably and 
fully, what was his character. His worris, all the way from his cap- 
ture to his death, sweeter or sublimer than which there have been 
none since Jesus walked the earth, leave no room for mistake or ig- 
norance of his character. And here let me say, that Jesus was in 
Brown's heart, the Blessed and Loved One. Were I asked to say, 
in the fewest and plainest words, what Brown was, my answer 
would be that he was a rclh^ioiis man. He had ever a deep sense 
of the claims of God and man upon him and his whole life was a 
])rompt, practical recognition of them. Brown was entirely and I 
might periiaps add, stiffly orthodox. I do not believe that he doubted 
the truth of one line ot the Bible. Twice he attended the religious 



SLAVERY. 



253 



conversational meeting, which we hold in Peterboro, and each time, 
he criticised remarks of mine, which he regarded as theologically 
unsound. His ever favorite hymn was that beginning : ** Blow ye 
the trumpet, blow ! " 

All the members of my family held Brown in high regard. Be- 
neath that stern look beat one of the kindest hearts. He loved chil- 
dren ; and they loved him. My little granddaughter was often in 
his lap. 

A more scrupulously just man in matters of property 1 never 
knew. In 1858 he and a Mr. Thompson, who was his neighbor in 
Essex County, came to my office. He had purchased Mr. Thomp- 
son's interest in a farm. While I was making out the papers which 
they needed. Brown certainly twice and, I believe, three times, asked 
Thompson if the price were great enough : — telling him to make it 
greater if he thought proper. It occurred to me, at the moment, 
that Brovvn went beyond the Christian precept, and cared even more 
for his neighbor's rights than for his own. Let me add that Thomp- 
son beautifully declined to increase the price. 

It is quite probable that John Brown will be the most admired 
person in American history. Washington worked well — but it was 
for his own race — only for his equals. William Lloyd Garrison had 
lived for a despised and outraged race. John Brown both lived and 
died for it : and few names, even in the world's history, will stand as 
high as his. 

Men begin to ask why a monument to the memory of John 
Brown has not yet been built. The day for building John Brown's 
monument has not yet come. It will be built where stood his gal- 
lows ; and it would not yet be welcome there. Its base will be broad 
and its shaft will pierce the skies. But the appreciation of his sub- 
lime character is not yet sufficiently just and widespread, to call for 
the rearing of such a structure. In executing this work of love and 
admiration. Southern hands will join with Northern hands. In ren- 
dering this tribute to the grandest man of the age. Southern zeal 
will not fall behind Northern zeal. Indeed, it may well be expected 
that the generous and ardent South will, ere the cool and calculating 
North is ready to do so, confess the enormous crime of the nation 
— of the whole nation — against the black man. Nay, it is just because 
the North is not yet ready to confess it, that there is not yet peace 
between her and the South. That confession would surely bring 
the peace. For it would involve the further confession of the com- 
mon responsibility of North and South for the cause of the war : 
and it is the sense of that common responsibility which would impel 



254 ^^^^ ^^ GERRIT SMITH. 

the North to afford such relief to the war- impoverished South as 
would win her heart, and result in a true and enduring peace. 

But the North and South wiji both come right. They will both 
repent of having, for generations, trodden out the life of the black 
man. And then they will love each other. And then God wll 
make them the happiest nation in all the earth. And then to have 
enjoyed the confidence of John Brown, as did Howe and Parker 
and Stearns and Douglass and Sanborn and Morton and many 
others, will no longer be counted dishonest, but, on the contrary, 
high honor. Blessed indeed will be the day which shall witness 
these things ! Then John Brown's day will have come : — and then 
will John Brown's monument be built I 

Gerrit Smith. 

Peterboro, August 15, 1867, 

Gerrit Smith's affirmation ** that he had no previous 
knowledge or intimation of John Brown's invasion of 
Harper's Ferry," was made in entire sincerity. A simi- 
lar affirmation might have been made by Dr. Howe, 
^Ir. Sanborn, or anv other of Brown's friends. An 
equivalent affirmation was made under oath, at Wash- 
ington, by G. L. Stearns, one of the old hero's warmest 
supporters. 

The selection of a point of entrance into the do- 
minion of slavery had occupied the minds of Brown 
and his coadjutors, and among the places Harper's 
r\Trv had been mentioned and considered. But the 
determination to begin the enterprise there was taken 
unlv a verv short time before it was acted on, and was 
kept so closely in the leader's breast that the announce- 
ment surprised and partially disconcerted his immediate 
companions. It was new to his two sons, John and 
Owen, who had been intimate with their father's move- 
ments. That the attack itiighi be made at Harper's 
Fcrrv could have been no secret to those whom Brown 
took into his confidence: but that it was decided on, 



SLA VER v. 



255 



or at all likely to be made there, was concealed from 
the most intimate of them. Even the mustering at 
Chambersburg did not of necessity portend that. 

Further, Gerrit Smith's ignorance of the projected 
invasion at Harper's Ferry honestly and fairly covered 
the design which the attack at that particular point 
suggested to such as had no previous knowledge of 
Brown's designs. In his view, the choice of time and 
place was of incidental, not of primary importance ; a 
matter merely of detail. It implied no change or modi* 
fication of his scheme. The design, as described above,, 
was the result of study and reflection, closely applied 
for years, and was not to be- dismissed in a moment. 
The plan involved violence and uproar, though in in- 
tention humane, and in spirit pacific. Social anarchy^ 
though a certain consequence, was not a deliberate 
end. On the contrary, there was no anticipation that 
wild insurrections would ensue, or that innocent blood 
would be shed. It was indeed resolved that none 
should be shed except in self-defense against such as 
interfered by force to defeat a philanthropic enterprise* 
To provoke civil war, to incur the guilt of high treason, 
to defy the authority or assail the power of the United 
States never entered John Brown's mind ; on the con- 
trary he insisted from first to last, and earnestly de- 
clared in the provisions of his constitution, tliat he was 
loyal to the government, and had it9 dignity supremely 
at heart. This he knew, and his friends knew ; but this 
the general public knew not. The general public, get- 
ting all its ideas from Harper's Ferry, imputed to him 
a plot that he never entertained. Unfortunately there 
was at Harper's Ferry a national armory, the seizure of 



256 



Z//A' OF GERRIT SMITH, 



which was an act of high treason. There was fighting 
and bloodshed on the very threshold of the enterprise, 
which made it look desperate and ghastly; for Brown, 
instead of passing swiftly through the town, allowed 
circumstances to detain him, so that his real purpose 
was not developed, and a false idea of his scheme was 
encouraged. Fie was charged with a design to foment 
insurrection and instirate civil war. This design he 
disavowed for himself, and his friends were surely justi- 
fied in denying all knowledge of it. In so far as this 
was the chief, ultimate and only design of which John 
Brown stood accused, it was no departure from the 
truth to declare that one knew nothing of his plans, 
and of course was innocent of complicity with their 
projector. 

Mr. Smith, it appears, shared the popular belief; 
he imputed to Brown a sudden change of plan, which 
was a departure from the defensive one he had himself 
been cognizant of. The bloody collision at Harper's 
l^^erry brought into startling relief issues that had not 
been contemplated. It seems that through dread of 
recurring insanity, through the haziness caused by 
mental hallucination, or through failure of memory, his 
mind recoiled from the subject. His efforts at exact 
recollection were not successful. The vivid remem- 
brance of his insanity, inseparable in his mind from the 
Harper's Ynxxy tragedy, was exasperated by an ever- 
l)resent dread of its return, and his family scrupulously 
avoided the mention of either. 



CHAPTER VIL 

THE WAR. 

GERRIT SMITH was a man of peace and a "peace 
man \* but he was not a non-resistant. That is, 
he believed in the divine institution of government, con- 
sequently in the divine ministration of force. But be- 
lieving that the ministration of force was divine, he would 
take the exercise of it out of profane hands and commit 
it to the best hands. The public executioner should be 
the most honored citizen. The community's ** armed 
police *' should be composed of the most orderly, sober, 
grave, just and humane men. The army should repre- 
sent the disciplined virtue of the country, not its undis- 
ciplined vice. On all occasions he improved his oppor- 
tunity to divulge this idea. When an infatuated Chris- 
tendom was glorifying General Havelock, one of the 
heroes of the Sepoy rebellion, Gerrit Smith wrote : 

" I am free to admit that a few men connected with the army and 
navy have amiable and beautiful traits of character ; that a few of 
them are the subjects of strong religious emotion. Such were Col- 
onel Gardiner, Captain Vicars, and General Havelock, But that 
even Havelock, 'whose praise is in all the churches,* was a Christian. 
I am compelled to doubt. I will not doubt that he deeply loved and 
devoutly worshipped his own ideal of Jesus Christ, that his ortho- 
doxy was valiant for the * doctrine,* that he was full of zeal for his 
Baptist church, and that he abounded in prayers for all men. But in 
that enlightened and better day when the true religion shall be seen 
to be, not a sentiment to weep and joy over, nor a doctrine to quarrel 



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THE WAR. -59 

and abominable character, even, to use your own strong and eloquent 
wonis, • a comprehensive and fundamental degradation of heart and 
mind and soul.' ** 

The civil war did not take Gerrit Smith by surprise. 
He had long anticipated and predicted that slavery 
would come to an end in blood. Being in itself a per- 
petual war against human rights, an outlaw from hu- 
manity, a foe to civilization, the offspring of malignity, 
hard-hearted, violent, savage, no other doom was meet 
or possible for it. The war therefore had been allowed 
for, adopted into his scheme of social development in 
the United States, as the inevitable issue of the barbar- 
ism that had been cherished. This was his theory of 
the war, his whole theory. It was a coming out of dev- 
ils, which tore and convulsed the nation, casting it into 
the fire and water to destroy it. That it was a struggle 
between the principle of States* Rights, and the principle 
of National Union, did not apparently occur to him. It 
was a rebellion of anarchy against order, of iniquity 
against justice, of evil against good. But one event was 
to be looked for, the extermination of slavery. But one 
course was open to the north, the prosecution of the war 
till the south was completely subdued, and slavery utterly 
abolished. This was the only alternative ; but this must 
be pursued in a spirit, resolute and unfaltering indeed, 
but neither vindictive nor pitiless. He writes to Dr. 
Bcckwith, Secretary of the American Peace Society: 

*• Let us thank God that anything, even though it had to be the 
insanity of the whole south, has brought slavery to its dying hour. 
Never more will the American Peace Society witness the need of 
raising armies to put down a treasonable onslaught upon our gov- 
ernment. For the one cause of so formidable an onslaught will be 
gone when slavery is gone. Besides, when slavery is gone from the 



26o LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

whole world, the whole world will then be freed, not only from a 
source of war, but from the most cruel and horrid form of war. For 
slavery is war as well as the source of war. Thus has the Peace 
Society as well as the Abolition Society, much to hope for from this 
grand uprising of the north. For while the whole north rejoices' in 
the direct and immediate object of the uprising — the maintenance 
of government ; and while the abolitionists do, in addition to this 
object, cherish the further one of the abolition of slavery, the Peace 
men are happy to know that the abolition of slavery will be the abo- 
lition of one form of war, the drying up of one source of war, and 
of one source of occasions for raising armies." 

At a war meeting in Peterboro, April 27, 1 861, he 
said: 

" The end of American slavery is at hand. That it is to end in 
blood does not surprise me. For fifteen years I have been constantly 
predicting that it would be. . . . The first gun fired at Fort 
Sumter announced the fact that the last fugitive slave had been 
returned, . . . And what if, when Congress shall come together 
in this extra session, the slave States shall all have ceased from their 
treason, and shall all ask that they may be suffered to go from us. 
Shall Congress let them go } Certainly. But only on the condition 
that those States shall first abolish slavery. Congress has clearly 
no constitutional right to let them go on any conditions. But I be- 
lieve that the people would approve of the proceedings, and would 
be ready to confirm it in the most formal and sufficient manner. A 
few weeks ago I would have consented to let the slave States go 
without requiring the abolition of slavery, . . . But now, since 
the southern tiger has smeared himself with our blood, we will not, 
if we get him in our power, let him go until we have drawn his 
teeth and his claws. ... 

•• A word in respect to the armed men who go south. They 
should go more in sorrow than in anger. The sad necessity should 
be their only excuse for going. They must still love the south. We 
must all still love her. Conquer her, and most completely too, we 
must, both for her sake and our own. But does it not ill become 
us to talk of punishing her? Slavery, which has infatuated her, is 
the crime of the north as well as of the south. As her chiefs shall 
one after another, fall into our hands, let us be restrained from deal- 
ing revengefully, and moved to deal tenderly with them, by our re- 
membrance of the large share which the north has had in blinding 



THE WAR, 261 

them. The conspiracy of northern merchants and manufacturers, 
northern publishers, priests and politicians, against the slave- 
holders, carried on under the guise of friendship, has been mighty 
to benumb their conscience, and darken their understanding in 
regard to slavery." 

He saw no cause for the Rebellion, on the part of the 
south ; none in the tariff, which had never been so low ; 
none in the election of Lincoln, who was constitutionally 
chosen ; none in the northern agitation on the question 
of slavery, for that was simply an exercise of the right 
of free speech which the south indulged in as freely as 
the north ; none in northern legislation against slavery, 
of which there was little enough ; none in the intemper- 
ance of the abolitionists or the invasion of John Brown, 
for the abolitionists were a despised minority of radicals, 
and John Brown was repudiated as a madman by the all 
but entire north. The Rebellion was causeless, save for 
the one essential cause, the irrepressible violence of 
slavery which would have everything or nothing. 

At the outset, therefore, Gerrit Smith's part was ap- 
pointed. He accepted it without hesitation or misgiv- 
ing. He put himself unreservedly on the side of the 
government, spent money, made speeches, published let- 
ters and appeals, all to one end, the putting down of tlie 
Rebellion. Before any one proposed it, before the gov- 
ernment was prepared for it, while yet the idea was new 
and startling, Gerrit Smith offered to equip a colored 
regiment. Instead of objecting to the enlistment of his 
only son, Greene, he applauded it, and insisted that he 
should serve without the soldier's pay. The RebeUion 
must, at all costs, be piit down. Till the Rebellion was 
put down, nothing else was worth thinking of. AH ex- 



26j life of gerrit smith. 

penditure of power, material, intellectual, political, moral, 
that did not promote this object, was, in his opinion, 
wasted. He discountenanced all abstract speculations, 
all general discussions, all internal dissensions, that every 
nerve might be strung to the utmost tension to the work 
of crushing the South. 

When the draft was decreed, in 1863, his only objec- 
tion to it was that the conditions were too merciful. 
With the attempts to evade it he had no patience : 

** Oh, how base must they have become who, when rebels are at 
the throat of their nation, can hie themselves to the constitution to 
see how little it will let them off with doings against those rebels — 
how little with doing" for the Ufe of that nation ! Our noble consti- 
tution should be used to nourish our patriotism ; but alas it is per- 
verted to kill it ! ... I admit the duty of the wealthy to avail 
themselves of this commutation clause to save, here and there, from 
going to the war the man to whom it would be a peculiar hardship 
to go. I also admit that every city disposed to do so, can very prop- 
erly vote the three hundred dollars to ever\' drafted man who serves, 
or to his substitute. I care not how much the cities help the soldiers. 
The more the better. I am glad that Oswego voted ten thousand 
dollars two years ago and tive thousand last spring to the families 
of her soldiers. Let her vote hereafter, as much as she pleases to 
the soldiers and their families. 1 will pay cheerfully what share of 
the tax shall fall on my property in the city; and more cheerfully 
would I take part in voluntary contributions. ... I am not 
sorry that so many rich men have gone to the war. Nevertheless, 
1ft as many rich men as will, remain at home to continue to give em- 
l)ioyment to the poor in manufactories and elsewhere, and to main- 
tain a business and a prosperity which can be heavily taxed to meet 
the expenses of the war. Men of property should be heavily taxed 
to this end ; and my only oi)jection to the iiico-.ne tax is that it is not 
more than half large enough. It should be six and ten, instead of 
three and t'lve per cent. . . . The love of countr)', the love of 
country, this is what we lack." 

As the presidential election of 1S64 drew nigh he 
dreaded and deprecated tlie approaching excitement 
and distraction : 



THE WAR, 263 

f 

" I still say, as through the past winter I have frequently said, 
written and printed — that the presidential question should not have 
been talked of, no, nor so much as thought of, until midsummer. 
The first of September is quite early enough to make the nomina- 
tion ; and in the meantime, undistracted by this so distracting sub- 
ject, we should be working as one man for the one object of ending 
the Rebellion — and of ending it before reaching the perils of the 
presidential election." 

The sanguine prediction that the war would be short 
was not fulfilled. The summer ended, the autumn came 
and we were not saved. The presidential election must 
be met. The two candidates were Lincoln and McClel- 
lan, the former the advocate of war, the latter the ad- 
vocate of peace ; the former the choice of those who 
held the North to be in the right, the latter the choice 
of those who held the North to be in the wrong. This, 
at all events, was Gerrit Smith's view of the situation ; 
and such being his view, he threw his whole weight into 
the scale with Lincoln, as the surest support of the anti- 
slavery party; a fragile support it sometimes appeared, 
this man of exasperating moderation and provoking pru- 
dence, whom the radicals did not bless when alive as 
much as they did when he was dead ; a man whom fanat- 
ics would have put out of the way as too cautious, whom 
the Gerrit Smiths complained of as slow — still, the only 
champion of liberty then on the field. His reelection 
insured, at least a prosecution of the war till the South 
should yield. 

** The President of the United States is both a great and a good 
man. But neither greatness nor goodness would be manifest in 
consenting to a peace, which, however admirable in other respects, 
faUed nevertheless to secure the ballot to the black man, and left 
him therefore, at the mercy of his enemy and ours — of his and our 
demonized enemy. Happily, among the highest proofs that the 
la* 



264 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

President is both great and good, is his willingness to grow and 
change. Such willingness is not found in little and mean men.'* 

On the 22d July, 1 861, the House of Representatives 
adopted, with but two dissenting voices, Mr. Crittenden's 
resolution to the effect that ** this war is waged but to 
defend and maintain the supremacy of the constitution, 
and to preserve the union with all the dignity, equality 
and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that, as 
soon as those objects are accomplished, the war ought 
to cease.** This resolution was, in Gerrit Smith's judg- 
ment, the most pernicious of all the mistakes made in 
the conduct of the war, for it turned the thoughts of 
earnest patriots away from the real issue, and it justified 
the luke-warm in their reluctance to push the war which 
the radicals were using as an instrument for the abolition 
of slavery. Obstructions of this kind made the philan- 
thropist despond. It was the temporizing at the North 
he feared, not the valor at the South ; it was the prudent 
President's deference to the Constitution and the Su- 
preme Court, not the rebels' determination to set up an- 
other constitution, that boded ill for the country. The 
President he had faith in, as an honest, earnest man; 
the people he had faith in as sincerely attached to their 
institutions ; the providential destiny of the nation he 
had faith in, for he could not believe that the fine ex- 
periment of a republic would fail. But the President's 
concessions to established traditions and popular scruples 
played into the hands of the enemy who took advantage 
of his policy to discredit his principle ; the people allowed 
themselves to be duped by demagogues who cried pa- 
triotism and were eager for spoils; and the ways of 
providence were so mysterious and so devious, that it 



THE WAR. 265 

seemed more than once as if the salvation of the coun- 
try was to come, if it came at all, through what, to human 
vision, was defeat and overthrow. 

The excitement consequent on the seizure of Com- 
missioners Mason and Slidell on board of the English 
steamer " Trent " was, in his breast, a tumult of indigna- 
tion ; against England for her arrogant menace of war 
on such a pretext ; against the government for its supine 
submission to England's demand that the commissioners 
be surrendered, and the act of their seizure be disavowed. 

Why is it that the English press threatens us with war? It is 
for compelling the English ship to give up the rebel commissioners, 
so it says. This is the ostensible reason. But would not England 
— she who is so famous for clinging to an almost entirely unqualified 
and unlimited right of search — ^have done the same thing in like 
circumstances ? If she would not, then she would not have been 
herself. Had a part of her home counties revolted and sent a couple 
of their rebels to America for help, would she not have caught 
them if she could? And in whatever circumstances they might 
have been found ? If she says she would not, there is not on all the 
earth one "Jew Apella"^so credulous as to believe her. If she con- 
fesses she would, then is she self-convicted, not only of trampling in 
her boundless dishonesty on the great and never-to-be-violated prin- 
ciple of doing as we would be done by, but of insulting us by claim- 
ing that we ought to be tame and base enough to forbear to do that 
which her self-respect and high spirit would prompt her to do. Her 
naval captains have taken thousands of seamen from our ships— r 
these captains constituting themselves the sole accusers, witnesses 
and judges in the cases. It was chiefly for such outrages that we 
declared war against her in 1 81 2. The instance of the San Jacinto 
and Trent is not like these. In this instance there was no question, 
because no doubt, of personal identity. 

It is not possible that England will make war on us for what we 
did to the Trent. • • • She could not make such a causeless war 
upon us without deeply and broadly blotting her own character and 
Jie character of modem civilization. 

What do I hold that England should do In this case ? 

I. Reprimand or more severely punish the captain of the Trent 



266 /.//.y, OF u/:A'A'/r s.)//://. 

fir hi-» vt-ry -^m^^ iwA vltv '^uiliyviouUion of our rii^hts in furnishing 
«-xt.'j-r«liii'':v im;) Mi.int f.icilities to oMrene:nv. This our cjovemment 
siiouiil h.'ivc: |)ro:n|>uy in>ist;;il on, :uul not hive suffered England to 
j^fi i:;-* »»ia!i ijI u>» wiih htT absurd counier claim. . . . 

2. 1 Ik: next tliiii;^'- that Kiv^laiiJ sluju'.d do is to jjive instructions, 
or raihrr rcju-at tiio-^e in tlie Oin-cn's Proclamation, that no more 
ictxrl cuiiiiiii*»<«ioiK'rs t>e received into her vessels. 

3. And ihfii she siiould inl'orni us whether, in the case of a ves- 
Sfl that Nhall hcit-aiirr oik-iul in this wise, she would have us take 
the vfssil ii^rh', or take but tlie commissioners. It is true that what- 
ever her prcUMvncf, we would probably insist on taking the vessel in 
every cast: :- -for it is not probable that we shall attain expose our- 
selves in such a case to the char-j-e of takin*' too little. . . . 

1 have said that Kn.i^land will not go to war with us in the case 
of the Trent. Ncverihcless I am not without fear that her govern- 
ment will be driven to declare war against us. If an irresistible 
pressure comes upon the i;t)vernmeut, it will come from those por- 
tions of the people who long for the cotton and free trade of the 
South, and who have allowed tiiemselves to get angry with the North 
by foolishly misconstruing our high tarilT i^which is simply a war 

Let us but know that Knglaiul, to whom we have done no wrong, 
has resolved to come to tlie help of t!ie Pro-slavery Rebellion, and 
our deep indignation against her combining with our deeper indigna- 
tion against ourselves, will arm us with the spirit and the power to 
snap the ** cords " and ** green wiihcs " and *' new ropes " with which 
slaverv has bound us, and to dash to the dust the foul idol whose 
worship has so demented and debased us. Yes, let us hear this 
month that England has declared war against us, and this month 
will witness our Proclamation of Liberty to every slave in our land. 
. . , Should Eni^land so causelcsslv, crueliv and meanlv force 
a war u|)on u«;, there will be no divisions among us in regard to that 
war ; — nor indeed will there tlieii be in regard to the other. And so 
di?ep and abiding will be our >ense of her boundless injustice, that 
there will never be any anu)ng ns to welcome propositions of peace 
with England, until her war with us shall have reached the result of 
our subjugaiion <.)r of lier exjnilsion from every part of the continent 
of Nurih Amer.ca. Moreover we shall rejoice to hear of the crush- 
ing of her power everywhere — for we shall feel that the nation which 
can be guilry of such a war is tit to govern nowhere — in the Eastern 
no more than in the Western Hemisphere. 



THE WAR. 267 

When Gerrit Smith was nominated for governor, in 
1858, Horace Greeley remaHced that if the State were 
New Jerusalem instead of New York, such a governor 
would be admirably qualified. His method of adminis- 
tration was, in all cases, prescribed by the Golden Rule : 
an excellent rule for the ideal society of the Millennium 
for which it was intended ; but no political state ever con- 
formed to it, or ever will. 

The story of Andersonville did not surprise him. It 
was precisely what might have been expected. Its hor- 
rors, taken at their worst, were but the naturial result of 
causes that had been active for half a century. The 
counter statement of the southerners, could he have 
heard it, would have been intrinsically incredible to him, 
as contradicting the natural law that makes every effect 
follow its cause. Before he could accept the palliative 
representations of the opposing side, he must recant all 
he had said about the character of slavery ; he must re- 
pudiate the convictions of half a century. 

As long as Andersonville shall live in the world's memory^ (and 
can its sins and sorrows ever be forgotten 7) so long shall it wan 
men not to trample upon nor forget the rights of their fellow-xnen. 
By the way, the guilt of Andersonville rests not alone on the South. 
The North has countenanced and justified the Southern contempt 
and denial of the rights of the black man. Nor was this bf Demo- 
crats only. The Republican Party, though not JK> extensively, was 
also involved in the guilt. The doctrine that the black man has no 
rights, is still virtually subscribed to, not only by the mass of the 
Democrats, but by multitudes of Republicans also. Many a Northern 
church is still defiled by it. The religion and politics, the commerce 
and social usages of the North are all to be held as having a part in 
fashioning the policy which rules at Andersonidlie ; the policy of 
ignoring the rights of prisoners of war, and of stanlng and murder- 
ing them. Moreover, many a prisoner there, if bis sufferings have 
sufficiently clarified his vision for it, is able to see that he is himself 



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The wiir c'..'fri v.;:h the 2>>i>5:~.a:::n of Lincoln; a 
nit in;; symbol of i':::: 5r!r.: tr.a: be^-^r. ::. ar.d pursued it 
till manly rjsi-tir.cc a..? r..-^ l:r.^-jr r:?>:b'e. The power 
which fir-jJ the \'< cri-.r. -.: S-:r:er. cischarged the 
last T:i^tol a: :b- i..J< i-'. the ?^c^:ie::;:. DurinoT this 
time ani the re:r...:r.iL'r z\ :hr ur.-jxrired term wherein 
Andrew Johr..- :i dii his be:^: :? rrmp'.cte Lin coin's un« 
finished r.urp_-e -a ::h. -: L:nr?!::'s ter/.per. Smith grieved 
and watched. The s:t-at:?n c.i;:sed him crave concern, 
but n^ soeciii'. exi^enci-s stirred his spirit till the motion 
to impeach t::e President c.-:'.'.ed him b.ick once more to 
first Drinci'j'.es. T.:.it the tern::n.kti?n oi active hostili- 
ties did n 't Ivii/e nrxt:-">nal a:V.iirs as he hooed and be- 
««£\w.^ *c ii^'^.^« .aLw.* -.w-fc, jw •^«««*...Lv^a ^o ii 4 l1 L n Will DC 
underst::d. T:]3.t the "taking: o;V** of Lincoln seemed 
untin^iC-ly and de::)lor:;ble, may be surmised : that the ad- 
ministration of his successor f.iiled tj carrv out the real 
intentions of the wcir-president mi^ht be inferred from 
the circumstance that it offended every class of the 
ne'^ro's friends. The orooosal to imoeach T oh nson met 
his approval, but it was char.ict eristic of him to come 
out in defence of those who voted ajainst it, with upright 
intention. The one tiling he could not excuse was 
partisan injustice, the proscription of good men because 
thev withstood the pressure of oublic ooinion. He could 
concede the possession of virtue to those who differed 
wid'jlv and fiindamentallv from ir!:ri<clf, to slaveholders. 



THE WAR. 269 

to rebels ; it was easy for him to concede virtue to true 
men whose hearts, he knew, beat in sympathy with his 
own, though their views of policy differed. Thus he 
wrote of the ** calumnious and contemptible treatment " 
of men like Chief Justice Chase and senators Trumbull 
and Fessenden: 

The flood gates of defamation were opened upon Mr. Fessenden 
and Mr. Trumbull because they voted for the acquittal of the Pres- 
ident. I wish they had voted for his conviction. For, although I 
had not, previously, taken much interest in the proposition to im- 
peach him, nevertheless, after reading those parts of his last Annual 
Message, in which he traduces the colored citizens of our country, 
I was quite willing to have him removed from office. Were Victoria 
to take such an outrageous liberty with the Irish, or Scotch or Welsh, 
she would quickly be relieved of her crown. I do not forget that in- 
sulting the neg^o is an American usage. But not with impunity 
should the President of the whole American people insult in his 
official capacity, any of the races which make up that people ; — ^least 
of all that race which is, already, the most deeply wronged. This 
gross violation of the perfect impartiality which should ever mark 
the administration of the President's high office — this ineffid>le mean- 
ness of assailing the persecuted and weak, whom he might rather 
have consoled and cheered, should not have been overlooked, but* 
should have been promptly and sternly rebuked. Nevertheless, in 
the light of their life long uprightness, I have not the least reason to 
doubt, that they voted honestly* Nay, in the light of their eminent 
wisdom, I am bound to pause and inquire of my candid judgment, 
whether they did not vote wisely as well as honestly. 

The clamor against the Chief Justice was not, as is pretended, 
occasioned by his conduct in the impeachment triaL That this con- 
duct was wise and impartial, scarcely one intelligent man can doubt 
This clamor proceeded for the purpose of preventing his nomination 
to the Presidency. It is said that he desires to be Presklent But a 
desire for this high office is not, necessarily, culpable. Instead of 
being prompted in all instances by selfishness, it may in some in- 
stances, be born of a high patriotism and a disinterested philan* 
thropy. For one, I should rejoice to see the Chief Justk:e in the 
Presidency ; — and I say this after a-many years intimatfe acquaintance 
with him — ^after much personal observation of the working of his 






270 LIFE OF GERRir SMITH, 

head and heart. I, however, expect to vote for Grant and Colfax* 
I like them both, and in the main I like the platform on which they 
stand. Nevertheless, if, contrary to my expectations, the democrats 
shall have the wisdom to nominate the Chief Justice and along with 
him a gentleman of similar views and spirit — a gentleman honest 
both towards the nation's creditors and towards the negro— I shall 
prefer to vote for the democratic candidate. If the democrats, at 
last, sick and ashamed, as I have no doubt tens of thousands of 
them are, of ministering to the mean spirit of caste, prating for a 
'* white man's government," and defying the sentiment of the civil- 
ized world, — shall give up their nonsense and wickedness and nomi- 
nate for office such men as republicans have been eager to honor — 
how wanting in magnanimity and in devotion to truth, and how en- 
slaved to party would republicans show themselves to be, were 
they not to welcome this overture, and generously respond to these 
concessions. 

The clause " honest towards the nation's creditors/' 
which occurs in the foregoing passage, in connection 
with the qualities requisite in a candidate for the office 
of Vice-President of the United States, clearly refers to- 
the doctrine of repudiation, openly avowed in certain 
parts of the country, particularly in the western States,, 
and generally associated with the policy of the demo- 
cratic party. It will be remembered that, at an earlier 
period, when the war with Mexico was in question, Gerrit 
Smith countenanced this very doctrine, laid it down, in 
fact, as a fixed rule that each generation should pay its 
own debts, and should contract no debts it could not 
pay; that each generation had a right to enter, unincum- 
bered, on the career appointed to it, and is perfectly jus- 
tified in refusing to pay bills which were contracted' 
without its consent or knowledge. This doctrine how- 
ever, was advanced in view of avoidable expenses, such 
as might be incurred by an administration in pursuance 
of party interests, or by a community planning a project 



THE WAR. 271 

of improvement like an Erie Canal or a Pacific Railroad, 
which can be commenced or not, or can be left at any 
stage uncompleted. The argument that as future gen- 
erations are to share the benefit of the improvement, 
future generations may reasonably be required to bear 
their fair proportion of its cost, is met by the considera- 
tion that one generation cannot foretell whether the 
improvement will be advantageous or not, and even if it 
could, is unjustified in conferring sumptuous favors which 
have not been asked, and may not be acceptable. The 
next generation may, from some unforeseen reason, be 
too poor to pay for the boon, or may wish its money for 
other things, or may be compelled to consult other in- 
terests which have come up since the project was inau- 
gurated. In the case of a wanton war, for party aggran- 
dizement, or national conquest, it is quite likely that na 
public benefit will accrue ; the money may be thrown 
away or worse ; the next generation may be burdened 
not merely with a monstrous debt, but with a monstrous 
evil, which it would be cheaply relieved of at an expense 
of millions. Where it is a matter of choice, the principle 
of free will should be allowed to play its part, and each 
generation be permitted to decide for itself what it will 
have, and when it will have it. Under this rule, people 
will take charge of their own interests instead of corn- 
mittingthem to governments, corporations or companies; 
they will have nothing they do not want, and will. con- 
sider well before beginning what they may be unable to 
finish. The Mexican war would never h^ve been begun 
had the people understood in advance that if they un- 
dertook it, they must pay every dollar of its cost ; for 
in that case, the few who wanted it would be outnum- 



272 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

bered by the thousands who did not want it at all, or 
who wanted it to the amount of six-pence. This was 
the sum of Gerrit Smith's doctrine of repudiation. It 
was a doctrine held in the interest of justice, as a check 
to the powers of government, and an education of the 
people in carefulness and judgment. There was no 
taint, no suspicion of dishonesty in it. It looked to the 
diminution of indebtedness, not to the disclaimer of it. 
It bade people be cautious in contracting debts, not 
slack in paying them when once contracted. Its aim was 
not repudiation, but economy. The school to which 
Mr. Smith belonged, in this particular, is a school of 
thinkers who stand for honesty pure and simple, and at 
the same time for personal independence of the absolute 
sort. They believe in the duty of paying what is due, 
but only what is due, not what other people see fit to 
impose. Have what you want, when you can pay for it, 
— is their motto. On that rule, you will study what you 
really do want, and will test your desires by the sacrifice 
necessary to gratify them. They bid people to forego 
even the things that seem indispensable, rather than in- 
cur debt for them which future ages must pay. Schools, 
academies, libraries, museums, institutes, asylums, hos- 
pitals, however necessary to appearance, must wait, or 
be imperfect, till they are justified by present desire and 
wealth. Canals must remain in project on the engineer's 
table, railroads must be ideas in the schemer's brain 
until they are actually demanded for traffic. Then, as 
they are called for they will be constructed. 

Such a doctrine has nothing in common with the 
doctrine of repudiation which was in vogue immediately 
after the Civil War. For the war was no luxury but an 



THE WAR. "73 

unavoidable necessity. It was not the act of the admin- 
istration, but the doom of the people. It accomplished 
no sectional benefit, but saved the life of the nation. It 
was precipitated upon a single generation, but was the 
concern of all. The generation that had it forced upon 
them, and that spent money and blood to carry it through 
was not the generation that enjoyed its benefits. This 
generation must pass away and perhaps yet another be- 
fore the essential gains will be appreciable ; and in such 
a case the expense may fairly be levied on succeeding 
ages. According to one theory, the people of the South 
who inaugurated and conducted the war, should be com- 
pelled to pay for it by wholesale confiscation of estates ; 
but this solution occurred to few, and was never proposed 
as a party measure ; the thought of conquest was repu- 
diated from the beginning ; every act of the government 
denounced it ; the Democratic party was too friendly to 
the South to oppress it; the Republican party was too 
tenacious of the rights of revolution and the principles 
of humanity to recommend arbitrary and stern reprisals. 
According to another theory, the industry of the coun- 
try, prostrated by the war, required exemption from the 
burden of unusual taxation, in order to recover itself, 
and to this end, the burden should be thrown off with- 
out hesitation or apology. The present generation had 
spent enough in treasure and blood ; the flower of its 
youth and the vigor of its manhood had been destroyed ; 
the fields had been untilled ; the mineral resources were 
undeveloped ; and the means for maintaining, or even 
for starting enterprise were wanting. A few years of 
untaxed labor would work wonders of reparation ; a few 
years of taxed labor would retard if not obstruct hope- 



■ ■. . .' J (. «_ . ^..V...--w^^ >L^«J«.l. ^llC . IC^lL k» 

>:■■... -iw ■■■.. ..>.~' . .._ -v.. ^.tXL ^ib Llbi.LiUIx , 

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■ ' ,■■■' ..'■■■ . ■ '. :.:.'■. i:m v.: ".:•:- jf permit the 
' • . :.■■.. . ■: vi. .Hi.: i..l ■■:-.: v^rrow. ind 

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■ - /• •/ - ••■■ I- ■•■■ = .'■■, 1 ■ . .-.!-. i.-..-..:j.. ":;i -Tn^r.: :ii jur 



THE WAR, 275 

war debt. Moreover both the benevolence and patriotism of our 
rich men should make it a pleasure to them to pay ten per cent on 
incomes exceeding ten thousand dollars, and twenty per cent on in- 
comes exceeding twenty thousand dollars." 

The Golden Rule again. — The validitv of the 

Legal Tender Act, as a war measure, he admitted with- 
out debate. The question of its constitutionality he 
considered to be impertinent, because the war which 
made it necessary, was unimpeachable by the constitu- 
tion. The continuance of the powers of the act beyond 
the period actually covered by the war was demanded, in 
his judgment, by the exigencies of business, which would 
suffer seriously by a sudden return to specie payments, 
lie applauded the existing banking system as the best 
possible in the existing emergency. He advised that 
no limits be set to the creation of new banks, and none 
to the issues of banks, new or old, beyond the present 
restrictions. But he believed in a gradual and fast re- 
turn to specie payments, to begin in 1870 and be com- 
pleted in 1873, the redemption being accomplished in 
four successive instalments. So sanguine was he of the 
energy and recuperative power of the country, of the 
firmness of the national credit, and the rapidity of ac- 
cumulations under an honest administration of govern- 
ment, that up to the date of " the infamous fraud of 
repudiation,*' he foresaw the clearance of the entire debt 
in twenty or thirty years. 

In the darkest days of the war he confessed but one 
fear, and that was lest the people should not be permit- 
ted to think and act freely. His faith in the people 
was so strong, his faith in human nature, in the funda- 
mental rectitude of the " masses," in the saving virtue 



268 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

chargeable with a responsible part in the production of those suffer- 
ings ; — ay, that he is "hoist with his own petard." In his political 
or ecclesiastical party, and elsewhere also, he has contributed to up- 
hold the southern policy of excluding the black man from all rights ; 
and consequently, as events have proved, of excluding himself tea 
from them. 

The war closed with the assassination of Lincoln ; a 
fitting symbol of the spirit that began it, and pursued it 
till manly resistance was no longer possible. The power 
which fired the first cannon at Sumter, discharged the 
last pistol at the back of the President. During this 
time and the remainder of the unexpired term wherein 
Andrew Johnson did his best to complete Lincoln's un- 
finished purpose without Lincoln's temper, Smith grieved 
and watched. The situation caused him grave concern, 
but no special exigencies stirred his spirit till the motion 
to impeach the President called him back once more to 
first principles. That the termination of active hostili- 
ties did not leave national affairs as he hoped and be- 
lieved it would, need not be affirmed ; so much will be 
understood. That the "taking off" of Lincoln seemed 
untimely and deplorable, may be surmised ; that the ad- 
ministration of his successor failed to carry out the real 
intentions of the war-president might be inferred from 
the circumstance that it offended every class of the 
negro's friends. The proposal to impeach Johnson met 
his approval, but it was characteristic of him to come 
out in defence of those who voted against it, with upright 
intention. The one thing he could not excuse was 
partisan injustice, the proscription of good men because 
they withstood the pressure of public opinion. He could 
concede the possession of virtue to those who diff*ered 
widely and fundamentally from himself, to slaveholders^ 



THE WAR, 269 

to rebels ; it was easy for him to concede virtue to true 
men whose hearts, he knew, beat in sympathy with his 
own, though their views of policy differed. Thus he 
wrote of the ** calumnious and contemptible treatment *' 
of men like Chief Justice Chase and senators Trumbull 
and Fessenden : 

The flood gates of defamation were opened upon Mr. Fessenden 
and Mr. Trumbull because they voted for the acquittal of the Pres- 
ident. I wish they had voted for his conviction. For, although I 
had not, previously, taken much interest in the proposition to im- 
peach him, nevertheless, after reading those parts of his last Annual 
Message, in which he traduces the colored citizens of our country, 
I was quite willing to have him removed from office. Were Victoria 
to take such an outrageous liberty with the Irish, or Scotch or Welsh, 
she would quickly be relieved of her crown. I do not forget that in- 
sulting the negro is an American usage. But not with impunity 
should the President of the whole American people insult in his 
official capacity, any of the races which make up that people ; — least 
of all that race which is, already, the most deeply wronged. This 
gross violation of the perfect impartiality which should ever mark 
the admmistration of the President's high office — this ineffable mean- 
ness of assailing the persecuted and weak, whom he might rather 
have consoled and cheered, should not have been overlooked, but 
should have been promptly and sternly rebuked. Nevertheless, in 
the light of their life long uprightness, I have not the least reason to 
doubt, that they voted honestly. Nay, in the light of their eminent 
wisdom, I am bound to pause and inquire of my candid judgment, 
whether they did not vote wisely as well as honestly. 

The clamor against the Chief Justice was not, as is pretended, 
occasioned by his conduct in the impeachment trial. That this con- 
duct was wise and impartial, scarcely one intelligent man can doubt. 
This clamor proceeded for the purpose of preventing his nomination 
to the Presidency. It is said that he desires to be President. But a 
desire for this high office is not, necessarily, culpable. Instead of 
being prompted in all instances by selfishness, it may in some in- 
stances, be born of a high patriotism and a disinterested philan- 
thropy. For one, I should rejoice to see the Chief Justice in the 
Presidency ; — and I say this after a-many years intimate acquaintance 
with him — after much personal observation of the working of his 



'', -> L.rr, OF GEr./.j a S.»I^^ij. 

\i*A\'^'.'i hfrirt. I. r.'>-.vr.*r, expect to vste for Grarit and Colfa 
I l.f'*; irtT, ''>'-*r., ir.c :r. the Hiair. I like the zl^tfcrni en which thcv 

m m 

V^:.i. Neerr.e'.t ==,::', co-.trir*- to rr.y expectations, the democrais 
■-, '. i i. : . a .t t :. e v.-; s 'i o rrj t o r. o rr. : -. a: e t h t C h : t f J - st ! ce ar.d a'.or.g with 

y.'.'-.r 'o vo'e Xr *r.e c; err. '--era::: car.ciicate. if the cenr^ocrats, at 
->.■-*. 1/,/: a-.'i a>r.Si:r,':i, as I hive r.o cci:bt ter.s cf the -sands of 

■ ■- .; <♦•-, -• • Z .Z. ... ^ .J I...T ..._(Sil ly,'.... C. CcL^.w . J-.. Al,..^ lUx A 

• ■■.- •«.-•■ ^''i «^,-^-— ~.fc^."ji^^ ^^r. .:^ — . . V A cft»- -■-p«-'"* ri* T ■■ ^ flVll— 

iz"/: v.ori'i. — r,hi.. ;-.ve -ij tr.eir r. or. sense ar.d wickedness and nomi- 
:.a'e for off.ce s-co men as rer^ubiicans have been ea:::er to honor — 
how v.in'.io'^ in :ni;^-.anirrj::y and in devotion to truth, and how en- 
t.v.ed to ]^'.ir.y wojid republicans show themselves to be, were 
they not to we^conoe tiois ovenure, and generously respond to these 
concessions. 

The clause " honest towards the nation's creditors," 
which occurs in the foregoing passage, in connection 
with tlie qualities requisite in a candidate for the office 
of Vice-President of the United States, clearly refers to- 
the doctrine of repudiation, openly avowed in certain 
parts of the country, particularly in the western States, 
and generally associated with the policy of the demo- 
cratic party. It will be remembered that, at an earlier 
period, when the war with Mexico was in question, Gerrit 
Smith countenanced this very doctrine, laid it down, in 
fact, as a fixed rule that each generation should pay its 
own debts, and should contract no debts it could not 
pay ; that each generation had a right to enter, unincum- 
bered, on the career appointed to it, and is perfectly jus- 
tified in refusing to pay bills which were contracted 
without its consent or knowledcre. This doctrine how- 
ever, was advanced in view of avoidable expenses, such 
as might be incurred by an administration in pursuance 
of party interests, or by a community planning a project 



THE WAR, 2yi 

of improvement like an Erie Canal or a Pacific Railroad, 
which can be commenced or not, or can be left at any 
stage uncompleted. The argument that as future gen- 
erations are to share the benefit of the improvement, 
future generations may reasonably be required to bear 
their fair proportion of its cost, is met by the considera- 
tion that one generation cannot foretell whether the 
improvement will be advantageous or not, and even if it 
could, is unjustified in conferring sumptuous favors which 
have not been asked, and may not be acceptable. The 
next generation may, from some unforeseen reason, be 
too poor to pay for the boon, or may wish its money for 
other things, or may be compelled to consult other in- 
terests which have come up since the project was inau- 
gurated. In the case of a wanton war, for party aggran- 
dizement, or national conquest, it is quite likely that no 
public benefit will accrue ; the money may be thrown 
away or worse ; the ne;xt generation maybe burdened 
not merely with a monstrous debt, but with a monstrous 
evil, which it would be cheaply relieved of at an expense 
of millions. Where it is a matter of choice, the principle 
of free will should be allowed to play its part, and each 
generation be permitted to decide for itself what it will 
have, and when it will have it. Under this rule, people 
will take charge of their own interests instead of com- 
mitting them to governments, corporations or companies ; 
they will have nothing they do not want, and will con- 
sider well before beginning what they may be unable to 
finish. The Mexican war would never have been begun 
had the people understood in advance that if they un- 
dertook it, they must pay every dollar of its cost ; for 
in that case, the few who wanted it would be outnum- 






IjorfMi ;)v ri'.c rinnisanus 'A'iio aid not want it at all, or 
wIm '.v.inrL-i :c :•• *:ic iinount ^n" six-oence. This was 
:lir .u:n 'if « ii-ir:: .-ritr.iii'.^ ■..:oc:rinc »n" repudiation. It 
rv.i- I ■:i>\.'i!i:u.* icid ■:! '.i'.c -rirjrL^^i: t' justice, as a check 
;i) Mil- -inwcr- ••!' .;'n'L'i:^:nc!ir, .ii^.d an education of the 
Mi'cnit: :n vMi-'i'^-^c-i-; ivj ;':Li::::nenr. There was no 
Mint, :i«i iii-riv-'.'^M ^i ::si:'^iicsry :ii :c. It looked to the 
• iiin'.!i:iri-Mi -i" i^i^-br^-'-iivv-'s.-, moc to : he disclaimer of it. 
It ii.i'.:.* -v-^iv.* H' j.ii::ioii5 :ii coiuractini; debts, not 
<,\.wk M 'wv'.u : * :i.-:n 'v:ic:i once coiirnicted. Its aim was 
nckt ri*:->:ii::.ii".'MK '..v.ic v'j-'»n'mv. Hie school to which 
Mr. .-:r.i:h "n!-^::.:-.:, ::i ::i:.s 'Mrticul.ir. is a school of 
rliini^i^r-; -.v-m ^r.iiui ■• r ho:ics:y -nire .ir.d simple, and at 
t\w. Mr.b* '.::ne :^r -H'rs.MMl iiKici^'i^dci^ce of the absolute 
•;c->r-. 'S'.wy "oi-iivvo :\ :he .:ii:v jf ;\iyini;: '-vhat is due, 
i^nr -.niv- -.vi.it is :;u\ -m: wIki: other ::eouie see fit to 
:mT).->^.\ II.iv* -.v'l.i: y.va wMiir, wiieii y-'^u can pay for it, 
— :-; -'.'..'ir -."n'Tio. '"■•] ::iac riio, y..''U'.vi!l study what you 
p?.ii^- :«•> -.vinr, xr.d 'v.ii. :cs: y-nir desires by the sacrifice 
■^f^^■'^■^;l!*'.• 'o 'iMrit"'.' tiij'.ii. Thcv bid T.^eoule to forego 
'*v 'p. ''.v: :>.in ;.^ t'.'.it: seem i:u::s:?e::sable. rather than in- 
.Mr l-')^ :'«.r \\\c,\\\ -.v'.iicii :".i:urj i^js must pay. Schools, 
;i'^ ni'-.-ni'^^, ■.;I")rr/io^ nr.i-eu::is. ::is:itutjs. asylums, hos- 
•>'*r-. h'-'v ^v ".• :',:;:c.:-s.i:*y t' .t:"?;Mr:i::c'j. must wait, or 

,/. ■• -.•,'••:-'. v-.r. \'...\ t'.iv.' i;-.: "ist.i'.od b\' "rL'seiK desire and 
■« - {.•\\ (\ iivi! ^ :r.:^t r vv».i::i ::i ;:r\"cc: on the enijineer's 
'■I-.!-. ri::'->i.!; i-.-^ :-t ^^ ii.MS ::: :::e schemer's brain 

r--;; ''.vy.jr-: .iCt^'.'t.ly v:-^:r..ir.dc.i ::r tramc. Then, as 
'■ii^y are :.i".lo-l for thoy '.viii be c :r. struct ed. 

S-kW a -^loctrino ha-; r.o:->.:r. ^ in coir.mon with the 
r]^.^':-i:^ '')f r ■:>-i-ii '.ri.'>n \v".i:.:.i .vm, in vo'-u,2 immediatelv 
iifv-r rii^: Civil War. For the -.vjir was no Iuxur\- but an 



THE WAR. 273 

unavoidable necessity. It was not the act of the admin* 
istration, but the doom of the people. It accomplished 
no sectional benefit, but saved the life of the nation. It 
was precipitated upon a single generation, but was the 
concern of all. The generation that had it forced upon 
them, and that spent money and blood to carry it through 
was not the generation that enjoyed its benefits. This 
generation must pass away and perhaps yet another be- 
fore the essential gains will be appreciable ; and in such 
a case the expense may fairly be levied on succeeding 
ages. According to one theory, the people of the South 
who inaugurated and conducted the war, should be com- 
pelled to pay for it by wholesale confiscation of estates; 
but this solution occurred to few, and was never proposed 
as a party measure ; the thought of conquest was repu- 
diated from the beginning ; every act of the government 
denounced it ; the Democratic party was too friendly to 
the South to oppress it; the Republican party was too 
tenacious of the rights of revolution and. the principles 
of humanity to recommend arbitrary and stem reprisals. 
According to another theory, the industry of the coun- 
try, prostrated by the war, required exemption from the 
burden of unusual taxation, in order to recover itself, 
and to this end, the burden should be thrown off with- 
out hesitation or apology. The present generation had 
spent enough in treasure and blood; the flower of its 
youth and the vigor of its manhood had been destroyed ; 
the fields had been untilled ; the mineral resources were. 
undeveloped ; and the means for maintaining, or even 
for starting enterprise werd wanting. A few years of 
untaxed labor would work wonders of reparation ; a few 
years of taxed labor would retard if not obstruct hope- 



2/4 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

lessly the future progress of the country. Therefore, the 
policy of repudiation found favor, especially at the West, 
with people who were not concerned about the next 
generation, but were absorbed in the actual situation ; 
they wished, themselves, to be free. The proposal that 
a number of immensely wealthy men, whom the war 
had not impoverished but enriched, should reduce the 
war debt, met with no response from the only gentlemen 
directly interested in such a plan. 

The doctrine of repudiation on the principle of spar- 
ing those that should come aftcty was hardly suggested, 
if at all. Gerrit Smith was ready to do his part and 
more, to make the transmitted burden as little as need 
be, but there is no evidence that he deemed it incum* 
bent on the generation that had saved the nation by sub- 
duing the slave power, to bequeath, along with the un- 
speakable blessings of that achievement, a plenary dis- 
pensation from the necessity of discharging their portion 
of the expense. Feeling as he did about the inestima- 
ble advantage of emancipation to all coming ages of men, 
on this continent and elsewhere in all the world, fidelity 
to his ideas rather required that these coming ages 
should pay their own debt, and not force or permit the 
discharge of it by those who had all the sorrow, and 
could expect little or none of the joy. 

" As a g-eneral thing," he wrote when the continuance or discon- 
tinuance of the validity of the * Legal Tender Act ' was under dis- 
cussion, V They who in the late war fought for the salvation of our 
country, were poor. Included in this salvation were the estates of 
our rich men. It would be an expression of justice and gratitude to- 
ward the poor, and at the same time not at all oppressive to the 
rich, were our larjje estates made to pay, for a few years to come, a 
greater proportion than they now pay of the annual payment on our 



THE WAR, 275 

war debt. Moreover both the benevolence and patriotism of our 
rich men should make it a pleasure to them to pay ten per cent on 
incomes exceeding ten thousand dollars, and twenty per cent on in- 
comes exceeding twenty thousand dollars." 

The Golden Rule again. — The validity of the 

Legal Tender Act, as a war measure, he admitted with- 
out debate. The question of its constitutionality he 
considered to be impertinent, because the war which 
made it necessary, was unimpeachable by the constitu- 
tion. The continuance of the powers of the act beyond 
the period actually covered by the war was demanded, in 
his judgment, by the exigencies of business, which would 
suffer seriously by a sudden return to specie payments. 
He applauded the existing banking system as the best 
possible in the existing emergency. He advised that 
no limits be set to the creation of new banks, and none 
to the issues of banks, new or old, beyond the present 
restrictions. But he believed in a gradual and fast re- 
turn to specie payments, to begin in 1S70 and be com- 
pleted in 1873, the redemption being accomplished in 
four successive instalments. So sanguine was he of the 
energy and recuperative power of the country, of the 
firmness of the national credit, and the rapidity of ac- 
cumulations under an honest administration of govern- 
ment, that up to the date of " the infamous fraud of 
repudiation,*' he foresaw the clearance of the entire debt 
in twenty or thirty years. 

In the darkest days of the war he confessed but one 
fear, and that was lest the people should not be permit- 
ted to think and act freely. His faith in the people 
was so strong, his faith in human nature, in the funda- 
mental rectitude of the " masses," in the saving virtue 



276 LIFE OF GERRIT SMI TIL 

of liberal institutions which left men free to employ all 
the faculty there was in them in the regulation of their 
public and private concerns, in the laws of equity, and 
the regenerating influences of justice, that he was sure 
all would be well, if the politicians, the wire pullers, 
managers, jobbers, demagogues, could be induced or 
compelled to retire from the field, and let affairs regulate 
themselves. Defeat and disaster furnished no evidence 
that the northern cause was bad or weak ; they merely 
confirmed the judgment that it was prevented from dis- 
playing its strength and excellence. There was enough 
of valor, patriotism, generosity, devotion ; there was 
enough of this before the war to make the war needless ; 
but the mercenary ambition of politicians was interested 
that it should not assert itself, and so, to the end, the 
redeeming forces were restrained. Again and again, he 
was driven back upon the resources of hope, when the 
resources of evidence gave out; but the hope was brave 
and bright to the last. 

The absorbing interest of the war did not make this 
man unmindful of the other interests that lay near his 
heart. The cause of temperance was as dear as ever. 
The cause of intellectual emancipation from the bondage 
of superstition and sectarianism had its share of his at- 
tention. The controversy with Albert Barnes on the 
dogmas of the Christian theology began in 1867 and con- 
tinued till August, 1868. His letter to John Stuart Mill 
on the subject of temperance was written in 1869, subse- 
quent, indeed, to the close of the war, but during the 
heat of the discussions which the war encrendered. The 
letter to Mill, though scarcely more than a recapitulation 
of positions sufficiently indicated already, is worth 



THE WAR. 2yy 

printing,' as exhibiting the points of agreement and the 
points of contrast between the man of feeling and the 
man of thought, the warm-blooded friend of human na- 
ture and the clear-headed student of human opinions. 

State of New York, Peterboro, February 5, 1869. 

John Stuart Mill, England : 

Honored and Dear Sir, — A gentleman in England, who is ren- 
dering eminent service to the cause of temperance, requests me to 
criticise your attitude toward that cause. So profound is my sense 
of your preeminent wisdom — perhaps, well-nigh as profound as was 
Buckle's sense of it — that I could not, without heavily taxing my 
diffidence, presume to criticise you in any respect. Nevertheless, I 
venture to comply with the request. 

The gentleman I refer to would have government shut up the 
dramshop. You would have government leave it open. How shall 
so wide a difference on a subject of so vast importance be explained? 
Is he more radical in his theories than you are? Probably not. 
Few of the world's great writers are less cramped than yourself by 
the spirit of conservatism. Are you less disposed than he to reduce 
radical theories to practice? Your admirable pleas for woman's 
voting prove that you do not shrink from the boldest practical inno- 
vations. This wide difference must be otherwise accounted for. 
Perhaps, while his philanthropy is particularly moved by intemper- 
ance, yours is by some other vice or suffering. Or, perhaps, it is to 
be accounted for, in part or entirely, by the supposition that you are 
especially jealous of the interference of society with the rights and 
practices of the individual, and he, of the interference ot the individual 
with the interests and welfare of society. On this supposition it is 
quite natural that one of you should argue the right of the individual 
to buy or sell drams, and the other the right of society to punish 
him for such buying or selling. 

You make the province of civil government much narrower than 
most do. I (though not forgetting that, in doing so, I go against 
the judgment of many a man far wiser and better than myself) make 
it still narrower. For instance, while you would have government 
compel the idler to work, I would let him remain an idler, should 
moral influences prove inadequate to change him : and while you 
would have the parent compelled to educate his child, I, with my 
dread of all possibly avoidable compulsion, would look to his en- 



2^8 LIFE OF CERRIT SMITH. 

Tightened and benevolent nei^jbhors to supply, as far as ihey can, 
the unnatural parental lack. Ag^ain, I would have government shut 
out not onlv from the church but also from the school. It should 
have nothing to do with either. Then, too, I would have the right 
to buy and sell so free, as not to leave a custom-house upon the 
earth. Nor would I allow government to concern itself with the 
cause of temperance, nor with any other moral reform, nor with 
asylums for the blind or the deaf mutes, nor with any other benevo- 
lent insuiutions. Why, tiien. you will ask me, am I in favor of the 
enactment of sumptunry laws? I am not. Families should be left 
to dress as they please, and to eat and drink wr.at they please. There 
should be no laws to rev^uiate living. If. in saying so, I open the 
way for the question— how I can taen consistently be in favor ol 
government's shutting up the «.iramshops — my reply is that tr.is ques- 
tion will he answered in what I shall say of the province of govern- 
ment. 1 have said what is not its province — in other words, what it 
should not do. I will now say what is its province — in other words, 
what it should do. It should protect persons and property; and it 
should attempt nothing more. Its one work is to hold a shield over 
its subjects beneath which they can, unjosiled by each other, and 
secure from foreign aggressions, pursue each his own chosen calling, 
and each live out his own views of life. The protection of person 
and property being its sole otiioe, government is to protect society 
not only from liie criminal but from the insane, be it liquor or dis- 
ease that has pr^xluced the insanity. Hence, while we are to look 
to enlightened and benevolent persons for asylums for the sick and 
poor, we are to regard lunatic asylums, including inebriate asylums, 
as a part of the machinery of government. V>\ the way, the alms- 
house and kindred instituiions would scarcely be needed were the 
liramshops abolished. Rare, in that case, woulvi be the person who 
is so impoverishcil or debased, as to cast himself upon the public 
ciiarity; and rare too. in tiiat case, would be the person, whose 
frieniis are so impoverished or debased as to allow him to be cast 
upon it. 

If I have rightly denned the office of civil government, then, 
manifestly, were every part of the earth to be blessed with a true 
civil government, there wouM not be so much as one dramshop left 
in any part of the earth. For what is the dramshop but the great 
manufactorv of incendiaries, madmen and murderers ? Its staqfvrer- 
ing army in Great Britain cou:Us up nearly a million ; in America 
scarcely less, liecause of the liramshop hun.lreds of thousands of 
British and American families are deejvsunk in miserv, stricken with 



THE WAR, 279 

terror, and not a very small proportion of them besmeared with 
blood. Because of the dramshop night is so often made hideous in 
Britain and America by screams of *' murder," and sunrise made 
sorrowful by its revelations of the deeds of drunkenness. And, yet, 
even John Stuart Mill will not have government suppress the dram- 
shop ! Its evils, surpassing the sum total of all other evils, stare him 
in the face — and, yet, he allows himself to be swayed by the micro- 
scopic view, which detects in such suppression a particle of seeming 
sumptuary legislation ! Pardon me for being reminded by your 
hypercritical and fastidious objection to the only w^y of salvation in 
this life and death case, of the old story of the extreme ceremonious- 
ness of the gentleman, who made his never- having-been-introduced 
to the drowning man his excuse for not rescuing him. Even if there 
is in this proposed suppression of the dramshop something of the 
f(;rni or st^mhlance of sumptuary legislation, there nevertheless is 
not the least of the spirit of it. Moreover, were it so that, incidental 
to this supposition, there must be violations of some minor rights 
and inconsiderable interests, no account should be made of the vio- 
lations, but all of them should be forgotten in the joy of the accom- 
plished object. 

I admit that the shutting up of the dramshops might put some 
f imilies to a little inconvenience, if not also to a slightly additional 
expense, in obtaining alcoholic liquor. I admit, too, that, while it is 
)iot only unnecessary but pernicious to persons in health, there is 
occasionally a bodily ailment, in which, provided there are not other 
remedial agents of similar effect at hand, such liquor is useful. But 
to make trifles like these excuses for keeping open the flood-gates 
of tlie deadly dramshop argues the impossibility of finding worthier 
excuses for continuing the murderous wrong. 

I do not forget that, altiiough you would leave the dramseller un- 
j)unished for keeping a soul-and-body slaughter-house, you would 
have his customer punished for the violence of which he may have 
l)ccn guilty in his drunkenness. But to make this the only security 
aL;ainst such violence is too much like stipulating with the men.reck- 
1 ^s or malignant enough to bring fire into the powder-house, that 
I my shall not be punished until an actual explosion has come of 
Uieir recklessness or malignity. Surely, surely, London is entitled to 
more security against dramshop-violence than this which you pro- 
pose — yes, to immeasurably more, seeing that, probably, never a day 
passes without some of her dramshops being chargeable with one or 
more deaths. The deaths may be from suicide or murder — produced 
suddenly or gradually — nevertheless, they are all dramshop deaths. 



286 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

this connection, say that since I have not, for between thirty and 
forty years, belon);jed to any one of the great political parties of the 
country, my speaking against the democratic party cannot be 
attributed to a party spirit. 

Third, and when you surrendered, how little did you apprehend 
that you would claim, as you do in your letter, " their rights under 
the constitution," for those who had defied it and trampled it under 
foot. Preposterous claim ! They have no rights at all under the 
constitution. As well might a devil in hell plead his rights under 
the Bible he has scouted. They have no ri^^hts under any law, save 
the law of war — no rights but those which t^ie conqueror is bounds 
in justice and humanity, to concede to the conquered. Scarcely 
anything in the republican party has disgusted me more than its 
occasional loose talk about the constitutional mode of settling mat- 
ters between the north and the south. The word " constitution," 
should never have been spoken between the north and the south 
until the war between them had ceased, and the return of peace had 
been mutually recognized. The war is not yet ended ; and there can 
never be peace in our land, until this alliance between northern de- 
mocracy and southern pro-slavery shall be effectually and forever 
broken up. Never was their «illiance closer than now ; and never 
was their purpose to crush the negro deeper or more malignant thaa 
now. 

If the Southern uprising amounted to no more than a rebellion^ 
then all involved in it were rebels and traitors. Then all of them 
had, still, rights under the constitution — especially and emphatically, 
the right to be punished under it. But if it is, as you assert, and as, 
in numberless arguments I have asserted, that this uprising attained 
to the dimensions and dignity of a civil war, then did it pass from 
under the constitution, and take its place under the "Law of War." 
Of course, it did not surprise me to find the northern democratic 
I'aders telling the south, that she was still under the constitution. 
No falsehood, no baseness, on their part can surprise me. But, I 
confess, that it did surprise me to find high-minded southern gen- 
tlemen accepting this version of the matter ; and thus degrading 
their valorous and mighty movement into a mere rebellion ; and, 
thus, with their own hands, putting halters around their own necks, 
by which to be hung as traitors, whenever the government might 
choose to hang them. Respectfully yours, 

Gerrit Smith. 
P. S. — In looking over what I have written, I see that I have not 



THE WAR. 287 

so much as mentioned the name of your presidential candidate. 
But the omission is not important. For, in the first place, there is 
scarcely a possibility that the Seymour and Blair ticket will be elected ; 
and, in the next place, if it should be, Mr. Seymour would not be 
President. In that event, the shedding of blood would, as was as 
frankly as brutally foretold by Mr. Blair, be the policy of the demo- 
cratic party. But the gentle nature, bland manners and persuasive 
lips of Mr. Seymour would be entirely out of harmony with this bar- 
barous policy. Whatever the difficulties to be disposed of, and how- 
ever hard the knots to be untied, his reliance will ever be upon 
Blarney instead of Blood. Hence, Mr. Seymour, even if elected 
President, would not be the President. He would have either ta 
stand aside, or be put aside. If this murder-party, which has, within 
the last three years, murdered for their political opinions, more than 
a thousand men at the south, shall come to be in the ascendant all 
over the land, murder may be well-nigh as common in the north as 
in the south. Human life in this country would be made cheap by 
the success of the party which, not in spite, but in consequence of 
his murderous programme, nominated General Blair for Vice Presi- 
dent — ay, and emphatically, for President also. 

The triumphant election of General Grant to the 
Presidency, in 1868, with Schuyler Colfax as his second, 
seemed the natural conclusion of the war. In his hands, 
one might expect the northern interests to be safe. It 
might be presumed that the man who had brought the 
conflict to a successful close, would guard, better than 
any civilian could do, the results which the war obtained. 
The crushing defeat of the democratic party justified 
the belief, at all events the hope, that the principles with 
which it had so strangely allied itself, were expelled from 
the poHtical arena, and would no more dare to lift their 
serpent heads. Four years of peace, with an adminis- 
tration pledged to justice towards the freedmen, to 
equity towards the south, to honesty towards the na- 
tional creditors, to the law of righteousness and the in- 
dustries of peace, would, it might be confidently pre- 

13* 



282 LIFE OF CERRIT SMITH. 

and especially when it is the only disfranchised race, would be a 
superfluity insulting to your excellent understanding. Slavery at- 
tended the disfranchisement of your blacks before the war. It also 
attended it, after the war. Under the governments, which President 
Johnson set up at the south — and which, by the way, he had no 
more right to set up than you or I had— under, in other words, his 
policy of confining all the political power to the whites — a policy 
immediately espoused by the whole democratic party — a type of 
slavery, more cruel and crushing than the former one, was at once 
entered upon. As a matter of course, if this party shall succeed at 
the coming election, and shall be able to execute its General Blair 
threat of bloody disfranchisement, and of bloody restoration of the 
white man's government, your blacks will, because, amongst other 
things, of the deep and undying enmity kindled against them by their 
having taken up arms against their oppressors, be more grievously 
oppressed than they were when in chattel-slaver)'. 

But why should it be doubted that you and such as sisrned vour 
letter, would, if circumstances invited it, be in favor of reviving 
chattel-slaver\- ? Your letter virtually denies that to enslave your 
fellow-men is to " oppress them." Nay it goes so far as, in effect, 
to declare that to doom them and their endless posterity to strip)es 
and chains and unrequited toil and rayless ignorance and the loss 
of every right, is ** to look upon them with kindness." If you gen- 
tlemen do not see that to enslave men in the past was to " oppress 
them," and to lack "kindness " toward them, why should it be sup- 
posed that you would see oppression or unkindness in their future 
enslavement ? If you justify, instead of condemning yourselves for 
having heretofore crushed the negro, what is there in your hearts 
to hold you back from crushing him hereafter } If slavery is pleas- 
ant to look back upon, why should it not, also, be pleasant for you 
to look forward to } 

Deeply have I deplored the short-comings of the north toward 
the south. When the south, because less than the north, not in 
braveiy, but in numbers and resources, had to surrender, the north 
should have recognized and confessed herself to be the fellow-sinner 
of the south — to be as guiltily responsible for its cause. The north 
should not have found it in her heart to charge any one with 
treason for his part in the war. She should have felt herself to be 
morally incompetent to put any of the southern leaders, even yourself 
or Jefferson Davis, on trial for treason ; and she should have been 
eager to expend, if need be, a hundred millions from the national 
treasury in relieving the most urgent wants of her war-impoverished 



THE WAR, 283 

sister. But, General Lee ! the lack of the north, in these and other 
respects, does not justify the failure of the south to repent of 
slavery ;Vleast of. all, does it justify the union df her white men 
with the democratic party foi» the purpose of reestablishing slavery. 
It is true that the republican party did not do its whole duty toward 
the south. It would, however, ere this time, have relieved your dis- 
franchised classes, and produced peace between the north and south, 
and restored the credit of the nation, and reduced to four or less 
than four per cent the interest she pays, had it not been for the hin- 
derance it encountered in a hostile President and the encouragement 
to embarrass and resist it, afforded by those hinderances. It was 
this encouragement which stirred up the whites of the south to their 
unreasonable demands. Did ever any other conquered people take 
so insulting an attitude toward their conqueror, as did this toward 
the mildest of conquerors ? But I would not judge my southern 
brethren too harshly at this point. They were, at first, entirely 
willing to *' accept the situation." But they were tempted by the 
northern democrats to cast off a becoming modesty and decency, 
and to be guilty of bad faith and a defiant spirit. 

How sad that the white men of the south should look upon the 
republican party as the enemy of the south ! In the success of this 
party — in the election of those just and wise men, Grant and Colfax 
— is the salvation of the south. Peace — a righteous and enduring 
Peace— would come of it. The white men of the south have but 
two enemies. The republican party is neither of them. Their own 
wicked hearts— wicked because still refusing to repent of slavery — 
is one of them ; and the other, and far wickeder one, is the demo- 
cratic party, which, its only hope of re-ascendancy being in the re- 
surrection of slavery, is ever at work to inflame those wicked hearts, 
and to counsel and contrive that resurrection. 

Ydu white men of the south have made vour choice. This choice 

m 

is to go for the democratic party. You will, probably, be disap- 
pointed in the election. For the north, though extensively corrupted 
by the arts of the leaders of the democratic party, can hardly be 
brought to give a majority of her votes to a party which goes* openly 
for cheating the nation's creditors and for taking up arms to bring 
back under the yoke of slavery a race to whose magnanimous for- 
getfulness of their immeasurable wrongs and to whose brave hearts 
and stalvvart arms the salvation of our country is so largely due. 

I said that you would, probably, be disappointed in the election. 
Happy, thrice happy, for you if you shall be. For the war that 
would come of the success of the democratic party, would be very 



284 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

different in its character and results from what vou dream of. You 
who were slave-masters, are deceived in your calculations by the 
facility with which you formerly disposed of your blacks. You for- 
get that, whilst they were then but your disposable chattels, they 
are now, your self-disposing fellow-freemen. You ignore histor\*. 
You overlook the fact that the African, though easily kept under 
foot, is not easily after his rights have been restored to him, brought 
under foot again. You forget the torrents of blood in which France 
learned the lesson, when near the beginning of this century, she 
sought to bring back a few hundred thousand freedmen in the west- 
em part of St. Domingo, under the yoke of slavery, and in which 
Spain also learned it when, only a few years ago, she attempted a 
substantially like oppression in the case of a fir smaller number of 
the same race in the eastern end of the same island. You will not 
succeed in wresting the ballot and freedom from four millions of 
blacks, whose women are as brave and hardy as their men, and all 
of whom can live in mountains and marshes. 

I see, in a menacing and mean address of the democrats of 
Charleston to the blacks of that city, that the democrats of New 
York have again promised you help to fight your pro-slavery battles. 
They failed to fulfil their promise before. They will fail to fulfil 
their 'promise now. As before, they will talk for you, but shrink 
from fighting for you. If they have no conscience ** to make cow- 
ards " of them, nevertheless they have a wholesome dread of en- 
countering the millions, who will be as enraged by such a nefarious 
attempt to rob them of rights which it is for their life to retain, as 
would be the she bear or lioness by the attempt to rob her of her 
young. 

Pro-slavery gentlemen of the south ! you cannot too soon give 
up your purpose to plunder the blacks of the ballot. Your attempt 
to put it in execution will bring on a scene of horrors, such as living 
man has never witnessed. There will be " blood even unto the 
horse bridles." Besides that it will be an attempt against an infuriate 
foe, it will encounter the sympathies of ne \x\s all of Earth as well as 
quite all of Heaven. Give up the attempt ! Cease from your hatred 
and scorn of vour colored brother. Take him bv the hand. In- 
struct and guide him — and so will he bless you by his freedom and 
his ballot. The sooner you bring yourself to admit that the right to 
vote is entirely irrespective of complexion, the better. You sir, and 
the other gentlemen, who signed your letter, would have us believe 
that the blacks of the south are too ignorant to vote. Allow me to 
reply, that it does not lie in the mouth of those who used their supe- 



THE WAR. 285 

rior knowledge to destroy their country, to speak disparagingly of 
the inferior knowledge which others used in saving that country. 

But I need write no more. Indeed, I had no encouragement to 
write at all. For, when was it ever known that the oppressing race 
did not underrate and despise the strength and resources of the 
oppressed race ? And when, too, was it ever knovvn that the op- 
pressor accustomed as he ever is, to flatter himself and be flattered 
by others, would consent to open his ear to the words of warning ? 
Ere closing however, I must say three things to you, which if not as 
polite as they are personal, are nevertheless, things which I trust, 
can be said vvithout going counter to the rule of good-breeding. 

First, when you accepted the easy terms on which Gen. Grant, 
as generous as he is brave and just, allowed you to surrender, nei- 
ther the prophet who foretold the crimes of Hazael, nor any other 
prophet, could have persuaded you that, in little more than three 
years, you would in return for the generosity shown to you and your 
army, be found in league with the worst enemy of this nation. For 
the democratic party is incomparably its worst enemy. By the way, 
I rejoiced in those easy terms of surrender ; and one of my strongest 
desires for the election of Grant springs from my confidence, that 
President Grant will be as generous and conceding to the south as 
was Gen. Grant. H$ will be as ready in his civil, as he was in his 
military capacity to make every concession to her that is not forbid- 
den by justice and reason. 

Second, bred as you were, in a school of honor, and all your life 
disdaining to do aught, which your judgment pronounced dishonor- 
able, you could not have foreseen that you woud be guilty of calling 
on this nation to do a meaner, as well as wickeder thing, than has 
ever been done by any nation. The crimes of this nation against 
the colored race are beyond description, and yet this race, surpassing 
every other in affectionateness and patience and forgiveness, dropped 
those crimes from its memory, and took up arms to save the nation 
that had so wronged it. Now, for this nation to undertake to throw 
this race under the feet ot its old oppressors is to undertake to reach 
the very climax of perfidy and meanness and wickedness. Never- 
theless, this is just what you advise it to do. I know that the lead- 
ers of the democratic party are but in keeping with their character, 
when they go forward in this undertaking — for there is no wrong, 
however fidgrant, which they hesitate to perpetrate, if only the in- 
terests of their party call for the perpetration. But I also know that 
whoever else can consistently have part in this cruelty and baseness, 
a man of honor should refuse to stain himself with it. Let me, in 



2^C) LIFE OF uFKKIT SMITH. 

this connection, say that since I have not, for between thirty and 
torty yi*ars, bclonj^ed to any one of the great political parties of the 
country, my speaking" against the democratic party cannot be 
ailribiiU'd to a party spirit. 

Third, and when you surrendered, how little dSti you apprehend 
that yi)u wmild claim, as you do in your letter, " their rights under 
the constitution." for those who had detied it and trampled it under 
foot. Trcpostcrous claim ! They have no rights at all under the 
(•onstituiion. As well might a lievil in hell plead his rights under 
the liihlc ho has scoutetl. They have no rii^hts under any law, save 
the law of war — no rights but those wiiich the conqueror is bound, 
in justice and humanity, to concede to the conquered. Scarcely 
anuhing in the republican party has disgusted me more than its 
occasional loose talk about the constStutzonal moda of settling mat- 
ters between the north and the south. The word ** constitution," 
should never have been spoken between the north and the south 
until the war between them had ceased, and the return of peace had 
been mutually recognized. The war is not yet ended ; and there can 
never be peace in our land, until this alliance between northern de- 
mocracy and southern pro-slavery shall be effectually and forever 
broken up. Never was their «alliance closer than now ; and never 
was their purpose to crush the negro deeper or more malignant than 
now. 

If the Southern uprising amounted to no more than a rebellion, 
then all involved in it were rebels and traitors. Then all of them 
had, still, rights under the constitution — especially and emphatically, 
the right to be punished under it. But if it is, as you assert, and as, 
in numberless arguments I have asserted, that this uprising attained 
to the dimensions and dignity of a civil war, then did it pass from 
under the constitution, and take its place under the **Liw of War." 
( )f course, it did not surprise me to find the northern democratic 
1 aders telling the south, that she was still under the constitution. 
No falsehood, no baseness, on their part can surprise me. But, I 
confess, that it did surprise me to find high-minded southern gen- 
tlemen accepting this version of the matter; and thus degrading 
their valorous and mighty movement into a mere rebellion ; and, 
thus, with their own hands, putting halters around their own necks, 
by which to be hung as traitors, whenever the government might 
choose to hang them. Respectfully yours, 

Gerrit Smith. 
P. S. — In looking over what I have written, I see that I have not 



THE WAR. 287 

so much as mentioned the name of your presidential candidate. 
But the omission is not important. For, in the first place, there is 
scarcely a possibility that the Seymour and Blair ticket will be elected ; 
and, in the next place, if it should be, Mr. Seymour would not be 
President. In that event, the shedding of blood would, as was as 
frankly as brutally foretold by Mr. Blair, be the policy of the demo- 
cratic party. But the gentle nature, bland manners and persuasive 
lips of Mr. Seymour would be entirely out of harmony with this bar- 
barous policy. Whatever the difficulties to be disposed of, and how- 
ever hard the knots to be untied, his reliance will ever be upon 
Blarney instead of Blood. Hence, Mr. Seymour, even if elected 
President, would not be the President. He would have either to 
stand aside, or be put aside. If this murder-party, which has, within 
the last three years, murdered for their political opinions, more than 
a thousand men at the south, shall come to be in the ascendant all 
over the land, murder may be well-nigh as common in the north as 
in the south. Human life in this country would be made cheap by 
the success of the party which, not in spite, but in consequence of 
his murderous programme, nominated General Blair for Vice Presi- 
dent — ay, and emphatically, for President also. 

The triumphant election of General Grant to the 
Presidency, in 1868, with Schuyler Colfax as his second, 
seemed the natural conclusion of the war. In his hands, 
one might expect the northern interests to be safe. It 
might be presumed that the man who had brought the 
conflict to a successful close, would guard, better than 
any civilian could do, the results which the war obtained. 
The crushing defeat of the democratic party justified 
the belief, at all events the hope, that the principles with 
which it had so strangely allied itself, were expelled from 
the political arena, and would no more dare to lift their 
serpent heads. Four years of peace, with an adminis- 
tration pledged to justice towards the freedmen, to 
equity towards the south, to honesty towards the na- 
tional creditors, to the law of righteousness and the in- 
dustries of peace, would, it might be confidently pre- 

13* 



288 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

dieted, suffice to place the country in a condition to 
make good its noblest pledges to the civilized world. In 
his usual outspoken way, Gerrit Smith congratulated 
the new President : 

Peterboro, November 4, 1868. 

President Grant: 

Honored and Dear Sir — Pardon this letter. Pardon my irre- 
pressible impatience to write it. I learn to-day, that you are made 
President of the United States: and I cannot wait, even until to- 
morrow, to say to you what my whole soul urges me to say to you. 

Before the election, your exhortation to your countr)men was : 
** Let us have Peace ! " To this exhortation, as sublime as it is con- 
cise, their reply, in the voice of the election, is also, " Let us have 
Peace ! " What you then asked of them, they now ask of you. What 
you then called on them to do, they have now put it in your power to 
do, and now call on vou to do. 

What, however, is the peace which you asked for, and which in 
turn, you are asked for ? Is it of a superficial and evanescent char- 
acter ? or is it that deep and enduring peace, whose foundations are 
in nothing" short of nature and reason, justice and religion? The 
pride of race, of rank, of wealth has ever stood in the way of realiz- 
ing this true peace. The pride of race is by far the greatest of these 
obstacles, and it is of this one that I would speak to you. Our New 
England fathers brought much religion with them to America. 
Unhappily, it was more of the Jewish than the Christian type; for 
never w^s there a people in whom so much as in the Jews, the pride 
of race was controlling, contemptuous and cruel. These fathers 
saw in the American tribes only another set of heathen : and the 
laws of the Jews in dealing with their heathen became (more, it is 
true, in spirit than in letter), the laws for dealing with ours. By 
these laws the most learned and influential of the New England 
divines insisted that the family of even King Philip should be ad- 
judged — of that King Philip, who wept when he heard that an Indian 
had shed the blood of a white man. The wife of Philip was sold 
into slaver)', and into a foreign land. These Judaized teachers and 
judges, instead of entering upon the case with human hearts, pored 
upon the bloodiest pages of the Old Testament ; and instead of im- 
buing themselves with the spirit of that Blessed One to whom the 
Samaritan was as dear as the Jew, and in whose religion "there is 
neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, 



THE WAR. 289 

Sq^hian, bond nor free," set their revenge all ablaze by gazing at 
the worst examples of revenge. 

There has never been a thorough peace between our white man 
and our red man. The lack of it is, doubtless, to be traced more or 
less, to this mistake of the white man in regarding him.self as of the 
heaven-loved and heaven- favored race, and the red man as of the 
heaven-hated and heaven-cursed race. Perhaps we are never to 
have peace with our Indians. Perhaps no however just treatment 
of them on our part could avail to regain their confidence. There 
is but too much reason to fear that this confidence is lost forever ; 
and that, in their utter distrust and undying hatred of us, they will 
continue to dash themselves against our superior power, until little 
or nothing shall remain of them. How different from all this would 
it have been had we and our ancestors, instead of indulging this 
pride of race, cordially recognized the ecjuality of all men in the sight 
of their common Father ! 

Even more proudly and cruelly have we borne ourselves toward 
the black man than toward the red man. Very extensively has the 
belief obtained among us, that the Jewish part of our religion author- 
ized us to make not only *' a servant of servants " but property of 
him, and to strip him as bare of rights as is any kind of property. 
In that monstrous side of our religion we found, or fancied we 
found, that God had laid peculiarly heavy curses upon the black 
man. 

Alas, what sorrow has come to our country from the indulgence 
of this murderous caste spirit toward the black man ! For many 
generations he has wet with his tears and blood the soil he has 
tilled. At length came the war, which was the natural, if not in- 
deed necessary, culmination of our guilty nation's sufferings — a war 
costing many thousands of millions of dollars and filling several hun- 
dred thousands of graves. This war is not yet ended — and, mainly, 
for the reason that the indulgence of this hatred of race is not yet 
ended. So rife and so ruling is this hatred, that murder is committed 
in our nation every day, if not indeed every hour. 

Because of this hatred between races, how full of bloody conten- 
tions, for centuries, was Spain ! — and how disastrous to her in all 
her subsequent history was the final victory of the Spaniard over the 
Moor! How Greeks and Turks have hated and wasted each other! 
And how severe and protracted has been the oppression of the Irish 
because they were Irish instead of English I Until the Irish and 
English shall know each other as men rather than as Irishmen and 
Englishmen, there cannot be a sound and permanent peace between 



2QO LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

them. The treatment of the Chinese immigrants upon our western 
coast comes, also, of this pride of race. How cruel and infamous 
that treatment ! 

We often hear even men of culture declare that, in a war between 
their own and another race, they would take the side of their own, 
be it or be it not the side of justice. How base is such a declara- 
tion ! On ihe other hand, how beautiful is the following of justice 
whithersoever it leads, and the honoring of it in whatever variety or 
section of our grand common humanity it may be found. 

The chief thing for which I took up my pen was to remind you 
of the deep desire of many hundred thousands who voted for you, ta 
have your administration signalized by its cordial recognition of the 
equal rights of all races of men : by its downright and effective as- 
sertion that no man loses rights by being born in a skin of one color 
instead of another; and by its faithful, warm-hearted and successful 
endeavors to rid our country of this low and brutal antagonism of 
races. What your administration shall be in other respects is of 
comparatively little consequence. Confident, however, may all be 
that, if right in this most comprehensive and vital respect, it will be 
right in every other essential one. No wonder that the democratic 
party was in favor of robbing the nation's creditors. The party 
that can rob a race of all the rights of manhood, and build and main- 
tain itself on such robbery, is of course capable of every other rob- 
bery, because every other is infinitely less than this sweeping one. 
I said that this party was in favor of robbery — for it is, now, a party 
of the past only. It was not killed by the vote of yesterday. It was 
killed when slavery was killed. In losing slavery it lost its tap root, 
its indispensable nourishment. Its partial resurrection was solely 
because of the prospect of the reanimation of slavery. The prospect 
of this reanimation was blighted yesterday ; and this pro-slavery 
democratic party has therefore fallen back into its grave, never 
again to rise, nor even to attempt to rise, from it. Many a '* Demo- 
cratic Party" there may, hereafter, be in our country — but no one of 
them will be a pro-slavery party, and, therefore, no one of them will 
be like this party, which was killed several years ago, and which 
lost yesterday all hope of a re5?urrection. Yesterday's vote has left 
no room for a pro-slavery party, either now or hereafter. Most em- 
phatically true is this, if the measures and influence of your adminis- 
tration shall be withering and fatal to the caste-spirit — to that spirit 
which, more than all things else, begets and fosters slavery. 

Entirelv reasonable is the confidence that vour administration, if 
it maintain the equal rights of all our races of men, will not fail of 



THE WAR, 291 

responding to all the essential claims of justice. Of no wrong- to the 
nation's creditors will it be guilty. For universal suffrage it will be 
unyielding — not merely because, as the right to life, liberty, and 
property is natural, so participation in the choice of those at whose 
official disposal these possessions so largely lie, must also be a 
natural right; but, because all have seen that nothing short of the 
ballot in the hands of those who have recently emerged from slavery 
can save them from being thrust back into it. The governments 
which President Johnson set up in the south recognized no political 
rights in black men : and straightway these governments set to 
work to reenslave them. It matters not, as regards my argument, 
that this new slavery was not literal chattel-slavery. It has none of 
the alleviations incident to chattel-slaveiy, and was, on the whole, 
more oppressive and cruel. 

In this connection let me add that, far above all the other good 
which will come from the purging of the nation of this malignant 
and cruel caste-spirit, will be the removal thereby of the greatest ob- 
stacle in the way of the Christ- religion. For the spirit of this religion 
cannot dwell in the bosom that cherishes the hatred of race. And, 
then, what so much as the spirit of this religion of nature and rea- 
son, justice and goodness, prepares the bosom to welcome sound 
political principles and cultivate sound political sentiments ? 

1 saw, in your letter of August 1863, that you had not, in your 
early life, made human rights one of your studies. Nevertheless,, 
that, in the high office to which you were chosen yesterday, you willi 
prove yourself to be their enlightened, impartial and successful de- 
fender, I cannot doubt. For like the martyred and immortal Lin- 
coln, you are above the stupidity of not being able to change, and 
above the weakness of being ashamed to change. Indeed, while \w 
your letter to which I have referred, you say that formerly you had 
not been *' an abolitionist — not even what could be called anti- 
slavery " — you do, in the same letter, acknowledge yourself to have 
advanced so far as to insist on the abolition of slavery, and on there 
being no peace which permits the existence- of slavery. Moreover, 
in another of your letters written in the same month, you reach the 
altitude of declaring that " Human Liberty is the only foundation of 
Human Government." Better still is your recent declaration to Mr. 
Colfax that, in your Presidency, " we shall have the strong arm of 
the executive, representing the will and majesty of a mighty people, 
declaring and insuring to every citizen, black or white, rich or poor, 
be he humble or exalted, the safeguard of the nation, and protecting 
him from every wrong with the shield of our national strength." 



292 LIFE OF CERRIT SMITH. 

But, best of all to prove your discernment and appreciation of human 
rights, and your fidelity to them, was your acceptance of your nom- 
ination and of the righteous principles of the republican party. The 
grandest of all these principles is not no-sla^'ery — but universal suf- 
frage : for the ballot is the mightiest protection of its possessor not 
only from slavery but from every other wrong. That universal suf- 
frage is pne of the principles of the republican party is manifest from 
its being set up in the District of Columbia. Had this party as clear 
a constitutional right to set it up in the loyal states, all those states 
would, also, have been blessed with it. The acting of Congress on 
the question of suffrage in the disloyal states was under the Law of 
War — was the exercise of the right of the conqueror. 

Nor in your early life did you take the lead in saving a nation. 
But, when the time came for you to do so, you did so ; and did so 
successfully, triumphantly. Nor in early life, had you heard the call 
to help drive out of your country this mean and murderous antag- 
onism of races. Since then however, you have heard it, and have 
been obeying it. And now, safely can your country rely on your 
wisdom and justice for what more she needs at your hands. The 
qualities so eminent- in you, have faithfully and fully met all the 
claims which your country has in quick succession laid upon you. 
Not less faithfully and fully will they meet all her remaining claims 
upon you. And well too, may she trust Ihat He who has brought 
you into the Chief Magistracy '* for such a time as this," will both 
show you your true work, and give you head, heart and hand to it. 

I cannot forbear saying that no small ground of my rejoicing in 
your election is your charitable judgment and generous treatment of 
the south. Warmly did I approve the easy terms on which you al- 
lowed General Lee to surrender. Your subsequent report of the 
temper of the south, after a too hasty tour through it, showed that 
you were capable of forming a charitable judgment of even a recent 
foe. Far too favorable as this report was thought to be, it neverthe- 
less would have been borne out in a high degree, had not these bad 
men amongst the leaders of the northern democracy held back the 
south from accepting the situation, and pushed her forward to the 
indecent and preposterous inversion of claiming for the conquered 
the right to dictate <^erms to the conqueror. And how monstrous 
these claims ! Nothing less than that the nation should again put 
under the teet of the wicked white men, the black men who had 
taken up arms to save her ! No fear need be entertained that, in 
your measures for peaceable and atTtctionate relations between the 
north and the south, you will lay all the blame of our civil war on 



THE WAR. 293 

the south. Inasmuch as the north is scarcely less responsible than 
the south for slavery, you will judge and rightly too, that she is 
scarcely less responsible for the war, which grew out of it. Where- 
ever there is a man who, because he became the enemy of his coun- 
try, was subjected to political disabilities, there is a man whom you 
would have relieved of them as soon as there is proof that he has 
again become its friend. But, on the other hand, you will regard no 
man as the friend of the country, who wars upon his neighbor be- 
cause that neighbor is from a race different from his own, or because 
that neighbor stands up for the equal rights of all the races of men. 

I close mv letter with saying that I like to believe that the motto 
of your administration will be : "A man's a man." The spirit of 
such a motto pervading our land will make it a land of peace. The 
white man and the black man will be at peace with each other ; the 
north and the south ; — and this peace, because founded in un- 
changeable nature instead of shifting human expediency, — in the 
Divine constitution of things instead of human and conventional 
arrangements, will be a thorough and a permanent peace. I scarcely 
need add that the identifying of your administration with the sub- 
lime and Christian doctrine of the oneness of the children of men — 
with the sublime and Christian doctrine that every man is every 
other man's brother and God the common and equal Father of them 
all — will not only make ours the happiest nation on earth, but will 
make it to all other nations a surpassingly grand and influential ex- 
ample of casting down the barriers of race and setting up in their 
stead the law of impartial justice and the reign of fraternal love. 

With the highest respect for your virtues, and the deepest grati- 
tude for your services to our beloved country. 

Gerrit Smith. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE PEACE. 

ALL problems are simple to the Idealist. From the 
mount of beatitudes one looks out on a world un- 
clouded by sorrow or sin. " Blessed are the pure in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." *' Blessed are the 
meek, for they shall inherit the earth." *' Blessed are 
the persecuted for righteousness* sake." " Blessed are 
the pure in heart." Gerrit Smith's panacea for the ills 
of the time was Love, — love for the southern enemv. If 
we only could love to order! If simply, we were some- 
thing else than men and women ! If we were past being 
human ! Or if the prophet had the power to make men 
fulfil his prophecy ! 

Dates are of small consequence here. Principles are 
not regulated by epochs, do not consult time tables. 
Some of the words we shall quote were written at the 
close of the war, others several years later, but the tone 
of them all is the same. The declarations of principle 
lack variety. 

" How unseemly not to say how intensely hypocritical, for the 
north to punish the south for holding the doctrine of secession, when 
those eminent advocates of it, Jefferson and Madison, have ever 
been as hij^h political authorities for it at the north as at the south ; 
and when too, the doctrine had become so popular at the north 
that some of her national conventions endorsed it, and how unseem- 
Iv, not to say how intensely hypocritical, for the north to punish the 
south for putting the doctrine in practice ! For what impelled the 



THE PEACE, 295 

south to do so but the spirit of slavery ? that spirit for the generating 
and fostering of which the north is scarcely less responsible than 
the south ? Nay, in the light of her smaller and less direct tempta- 
tion, she is far more wickedly responsible for that spirit. . . 

*• Were the north penitent, she would instantly recoil from the 
proposition to punish the south. For she would see, in the light of 
such facts as I have glanced at, her partnership with the south in 
the political fallacies and moral wrongs which have brought this 
great sorrow on the land. . . . 

" There is nothing in this connection in which the north appears 
worse than in her endeavors by the pulpit and the press, by popular 
meetings and by visiting committees, to fire the President with ven- 
geance. How she repeats and gloats over his admission that trea- 
son is a crime to be punished ! No one denies that treason is a 
crime— a great crime — and that, as a general proposition, it should 
be punished — severely punished. But in this case there is no treason 
to punish. I do not sriy that there is no moral treason in this case. 
Of this there is an abundance. What I say is that there is no trea- 
son in the eye of law. When the Rebellion broke out, all the rebels 
were traitors ; and we had the legal right to punish them as such. 
But, however slowly and reluctantly, we nevertheless became at 
last, convinced that we could not carry on the contest and save our 
country unless we allowed these rebels to come up from traitors in a 
Rebellion into enemies in a civil war, — and a civil war, too, differing 
in respect to none of its rights from a war with a foreign nation." 

From a letter to Chief Justice Chase, dated May 
28, 1866: 

" I have said that we must deal with the south in the spirit of im- 
partial justice. We must also deal with her in the spirit of great 
generosity and great love. We must claim no indemnity for the 
past. We must exact no unnecessary security for the future. We 
must subject her to no changes and no disabilities which are not 
indispensable. If the breaking up of her large landed estates to 
parcel them out to her white and black poor is not demanded by 
her people, we must not insist on it. If, by putting the ballot into 
the hands of her blacks, it will not be necessary, in order to save 
her, to withhold it for a season, from her whites who were involved 
in the guilt of the war, then are there strong reasons why we should 
not insist upon the probation. One thing more, the south is poor, 
and the north is still rich. Would it be too large" an expression of 



2C6 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 



\ 



paternal love, to save the south for some five or ten years from the 
iAiposition of direct national taxes ? '* '* 

^ TJiat such views were interesting to prominent men 
of various schools of opinion, and were thought of suf- v 
ficient importance to be presented formally to the pub- 
lic, is proved by the correspondence printed herewith : 

June, 1865. 

GerrIt Smith, Esq., New York : 

Dear Sir, — The events which, with increasing emphasis are 
inscribing our national history, attract and impress the public mind. 
We tj[iink that information is needed and counsel required. We ^ 
knoW that the interest wl^ch you have felt in the conflict which is 
passed, continues to the stages- of its pacification and close. 

Understanding your willingness to communicate with your fellow 
citizens on national topics, we would be pleased could yop address 
a public meeting in this city, at the Cooper Institute, on the eveniog^ 
of next Thursday, the 8th instant, on the present attitude of the 
country. -, v ^ * 

Horace Greeley, C. Godfrey Gunther, 

E. H. Chapin, Henry Ward Beecher, ^ 

Rich'd O'Gorman, David DuiTley Field, 

Sam'l L. M. Barlow, Henry W. Bellows, . -^ 

Hiram Ketchum. t 

Bearing in mind the sharp controversy between Ger- ^ 
rit Smith and Horace Greeley on the subject of the 
course of the former, when in Congress, in relation to 
the Nebraska Bill ; — remembering that S. L. M. Barlow 
was a member of the ** Democratic Vigilance Associa- 
tion,** which arraigned and would have tried Gerrit Smith 
for treasonable complicity with John Brown ; — consider-* 
ing the keen criticism that Gerrit Smith had visited on 
Henry Ward Beecher for his culogium on *' Stonewall" 
Jackson, and for his impulsive expressions of sentimental 
compassion with the south ; taking into account the 
political attitude of other signers of the invitation, this 



THE PEACE. 297 

tribute is remarkable. Mr. Smith accepted it without 
hesitation. 

Gentlemen — An invitation from such names to make a speech 
on "National Affairs" I regard as a great honor. Gladly do I 
accept it. Gerrit Smith. 

The speech was given, and it contained a repetition 
of the views with which we are familiar on the causes of 
the war, the past and present relations of the north and 
the south, the duty of conciliation, reconstruction by 
the frank recognition of the rights of the freedmen. A 
speech of like purport was delivered in the autumn of 
the same year at Chicago. A long letter to William 
Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips on the attitude of 
the abolitionists toward the impending issues, dated 
September 12, 1865, puts the question from their point 
of view, and contends, 1st. That the nation is perishing 
because she persists in not letting the negro into the 
human family, 2d. That the horrors of the worst of wars 
— a war of races — await the south in return for the 
nation's crime of withholding the ballot from the black 
man. Letters to Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner,^ 
Herschel V. Johnson and numerous communications to 
newspapers are evidence that this matter was uppermost 
in his mind. 

In the spring of 1867, Mr. Smith made a remarkable 
speech in the city of Richmond, in which he reiterated 
his cardinal belief that **love will everywhere, and even 
in the province of statesmanship, prove itself to be * the 
fulfilling of the law.* " The north and the south must 
be bound together in mutual love. The south must not 
try to get away from the moderate terms imposed by 
the conpueror, but must in good faith accept the situa- 



298 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

tion, and make not the worst, but the best of it. The 
north must deal with the south justly and generously; 
must honestly admit her complicity in guilt, and confess 
licr share of responsibility ; must feel deep pity for the 
south in view of her impoverishment and desolation, and 
do what she can to heal her wounds, by handsome ap- 
propriations of money and by exempting the prostrate 
states from taxation. The whites, remembering the un- 
paid toil of the blacks, their suffering and tears, should 
in every just and reasonable way, assist them to secure 
homes of their own, sell them land at moderate prices, 
make them welcome to the ballot, provide them with 
schools, and promote impartial legislation. The blacks, 
remembering that their former masters inherited the in- 
stitution that had so lately been broken up, and bearing 
in mind the lasting influence of prejudice and the stub- 
bornness of habit, must be patient, considerate, gentle, 
ready to believe that the wrongs of the past will not be 
perpetuated in the future. 

*' Do not cultivate, nor let others cultivate in you, a spirit of jeal- 
ousy. Far better will it be both for your own temper and the temper 
of vour best friends, that vou ijenerouslv conlide in them. Let me 
here say, to the end of i^uarding you against an undiscriminating and 
unwise confidence : Trust no man, white or black, vote for no man, 
be he of the republican or democratic party, who does not acquiesce 
in your possession of the ballot, and rejoice in your deliverance from 
the yoke of slavery. Respect yourselves and you are safe. Failing 
of this, you are lost, (/ive no countenance to confiscation. . . . 
A numerously sii^ned petition to Congress from the blacks of the 
souiii to relieve the old leaders of the south of their political disabil- 
ities, would be one of the handsomest and happiest things in the 
world. . . . Black men of the south, give no occasion for even 
your rnemies to call you rioters. Never, never again, let a black 
man disijrace himself and mortitv his northern and southern friends, 
by either an open or a sly part in a mob. . . . Keep clear of 



THE PEACE. 299 

rum. Keep clear of it if you would keep clear of riots. Keep clear 
of it, if you would have homes of your own. I would that all negroes 
kept themselves so clear of rum as to make a man who doestCt drink 
rum a suitable definition of a negro." 

The first condition of peace, in Gerrit Smith's judg- 
ment, should be that *' no people in the rebel states 
shall ever either lose or gain civil or political rights by 
reason of their race or origin." The next condition 
should be 

" that our black allies in the south — those saviours of our nation — 
shall share with their poor white neighbors in the subdivisions of the 
large landed estates of the south. And this, not merely to compen- 
sate them for what we owe them ; and not merely because they are 
destitute of property ; and not merely because they have ever been 
robbed of their earnings, and denied the acquisition of property ; — 
but, more than all these, because the title to the whole soil of the 
south is equitably in them who have ever tilled it, and profusely shed 
upon it their sweat and tears and blood. There are who would have 
our soldiers also, share in these subdivisions. But, besides that such 
a quartering of soldiers and strangers upon the south would be offen- 
sive to her ; we are abundantly able to reward them otherwise." 

The third and last condition should be, " that the rebel masses 
shall not, for, say a dozen years, be allowed access to the ballot box, 
or be eligible to office ; and that the like restrictions be for life on 
their political and military leaders. ... I do not say that I 
would have all black fnen vote, I certainly would, were the rebels 
allowed to vote. But with the proposed restrictions on rebel suf- 
frage, I would be quite content that none, black or white, who can- 
not read their vote, should be permitted to cast it. As a general 
principle, and in ordinary circumstances, I would not have the ability 
to read a qualification for voting." 

The adoption of Gerrit Smith's doctrine of the ballot 
would have prevented the disgrace and demoralization 
of the past ten years. He contended that, in a normally 
constituted society, the right to the ballot was universal 
and natural, not a creation of the social state, not a con- 
ventional privilege, but a prerogative incident to human- 



300 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

ity, corresponding with the right to life and property, 
like that unlimited, though, like that, alienable for cause. 
But the condition of the southern States after the war 
was in every respect abnormal ; — the whites were in a 
mood of anger and rebellion ; the blacks were too re- 
cently, as a rule, emancipated from a disabling and de- 
moralizing servitude. In such a predicament, only the 
calm and intelligent, of either race, were capable of 
voting judiciously. The only test of calmness and in- 
telligence being some measure of education, an ability 
to read became indispensable as a prerequisite to the 
ballot ; — an inadequate test, to be sure, but the best at 
command. The application of it would disfranchise 
many whites and exclude many blacks, but the disfran- 
chisement would neutralize the exclusion, and the ad- 
mission of both races on equal terms would place both 
upon the same plane of advantage, and ensure, so far as 
any thing could, their mutual consideration. The point 
to be gained was the elevation of the blacks to the 
same political level with the whites ; the recognition of 
the common manhood, the abolition of the principle of 
caste. The thought of placing the blacks above the 
whites, of reducing the whites to an inferiority, — the 
notion that astute politicians hit on, and acted on, and 
committed the ruling party to — was not entertained by 
this ** visionary," who was satisfied with the admission 
that one man was as good as another, without addition 
of the clause *' and better too." 

Gerrit Smith had no fear lest the blacks, still being 
under the influence of the whites whom they had so 
long served as a superior race, should vote as their former 
masters advised. 



THE PEACE, 301 

" Why should they not ? When the blacks shall be possessed of 
the ballot, they will be respected by the whites, and will be advised 
by them to do but what is respectable. The ballot in the hand of 
the black man will gain for him the respect of the white man ; and 
in return for this respect will be the confidence of the black man in 
the white man. And so full will be this confidence that he will fol- 
low the superior intelligence of the white man at the polls as well as 
elsewhere. Say not that he will follow it to wrong. For the putting 
of the ballot in the hand of the black man will extensively have the 
effect to bring the white man to consecrate that superior intelligence 
to the right. It is by this way, far more than any other, that the 
southern white can be brought up into a just man." 

The Golden Rule again.— The recognition of the 
African's manhood was the beginning, niiddle and end 
of the true plan of reconstruction. That involved every 
thing else ; and the symbol of the recognition of the 
African's manhood was, in Gerrit Smith's eyes, the be- 
stowal on him of the ballot, on a perfect equality with 
the whites, the conditions of loyalty and intelligence 
being the same with both. The ballot meant responsi- 
bility, self-reliance and self-respect. It was a summons 
to independent action, a call to the school, the reading 
room, the newspaper. It was a lien on civilization. 
Every gift was subordinate in value to this. Even the 
Civil Rights Bill was of secondary importance, for all the 
Civil Rights Bill promised to secure would be won by 
the ballot, and rights won were better than privileges 
conferred. In a letter to Henry Wilson, dated March 
26, 1866, Mr. Smith says with his usual emphasis: 

"The Civil Rights Bill, like much other legislation in our country, 
and in the world, proceeds on the false principle that government. is 
to be the main reliance for the protection of its subjects. But the 
true principle is that in the main, they are to be left to be their own 
protectors. Now, in a Republic, the great means of self-protection 
is the ballot. Hence, when our government robs one of our races 



302 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

of the ballot or suffers the robber\% all in vain will it attempt to 
make up for the robbery by promising- protection to the victims. 
The Civil Rights Bill cannot serve the black man in place of the 
ballot. But the ballot in his hands would make the bill superfluous. 
" Can you believe that the * Civil Rights Bill ' will suffice to pro- 
tect the negro and the white loyalist of the south ? Strange if you 
can. You well know that no laws sufficed to protect from being- 
sold into slavery your Massachusetts black seamen, who, in their 
lawful pursuits were so unfortunate as to touch southern soil. You 
well know, too, that Massachusetts sent her eminent citizens, Mr. 
Hoar and Mr. Hubbard to the south to look after the rights of these 
outraged seamen ; and that notwithstanding the abundant and even 
organic law on the side of those commissioners, they had to fly 
back to the north to save themselves from being- murdered. Do 
you say that the Rebellion has improved the temper of the south y 
It has made that temper much worse. Never before was her hatred 
of the negro and the white loyalist so intense. . . . Rely on 
that bill or upon anything short of impartial suffrage for peace and 
justice at the south, and there will be no peace or justice there." 

This was written in a mood of despondency. The 
hope of the philanthropist is weakening. He is antici* 
pating nothing better than persistence in the foolishness 
of inhumanity, and the defeat of the efforts made by the 
friends of the negro. He does not believe that "a God 
of Justice" will permit the nation to prosper in such 
wickedness or to long survive in defiance of the law of 
equity. " Her survival would supply the atheist with a 
new argument.*' 

Had suffrage been honestly granted to the blacks by 
the States as well as by the National government, and 
practically secured to him, this view of the Civil Rights 
Bill would not probably have been modified. But the 
right of suffrage was embarrassed by conditions which 
rendered it virtually inoperative. Political casuistry 
found a distinction with a difference between national 
and state citizenship. By virtue of this discrimination^ 



THE PEACE, 303 

the ^IY^V. conferred b}' national citizenship could be de- 
feated br the laws of any state not republican in its Con- 
stitution. No black man or woman, having occasion to 
go ^o Washington on business, could pass through one 
of the old slave states without encountering obstacles of 
a formidable if not absolutely disconcerting and forbid- 
ding character. The owner of horses would let no 
vehicle or beast ; the inns refused hospitality ; the tav- 
erns refused refreshment ; the story told was not cred- 
ited ; the proofs of national citizenship were not ac- 
cepted. The blacks were liable to annoyances that 
none but the most resolute could face, and to insults 
such as none but the most hardened or the most saintly 
could submit to. At home, where they were known, the 
obstacles though less formidable were serious, and to 
people so recently emancipated and still timid, were dis- 
couraging. Evidently, the boon of the ballot was one 
of doubtful value in such cases, indeed, in all cases, and 
the friends of the negro, however hostile to the paternal 
theory of government, were driven to the resort of addi- 
tional and special regulation in behalf of the freedmen. 
Hence the zeal for the " Civil Rights Bill *' that grew so 
hot and strong in the breasts of anti-slavery people. 
Gerrit Smith at last felt it as much as anybody, though 
he did not speak of it in terms as unqualified as some of 
its partisans employed. He disclaimed for it all bearing 
on matters purely social — matters that concerned per- 
sonal preference, private partialities, likes and dislikes, 
the sympathies and antipathies natural to temperament, 
culture, condition, blood and breeding. The power he 
claimed for the bill was the guarantee of full protection 
for the blacks in the exercise of the rights bestowed on 

Til 



304 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

them as citizens of the United States, the enforcement 
of this security, where such enforcement was necessary, 
by the authority of the national government. The re- 
peated outrages against the freedmen in the south excited 
his indignation. Not so much however, as the outrages 
against the blacks, at the north, in places where the 
spirit of caste still prevailed as it had prevailed before 
the war. The Military Academy at West Point was the 
chief of these places. The spirit of the south was, and 
always had been, military. The southern whites were 
trained in the use of arms, and in the habit of carrying 
deadly weapons. The practice of duelling was popular 
in their best circles ; their institutions rested on force. 
Like all ** barbarians,** as Mathew Arnold calls the no- 
bility of England, and as one is fairly entitled to call the 
quasi nobility of Virginia and the Carolinas, they em- 
ployed their leisure in war and the chase. The Academy 
at West Point was, as a rule, filled with the sons of the 
southern gentry. The south furnished the large propor- 
tion of cadets; it inspired the* institution with its senti- 
ments ; it kept alive the distinctions of caste, and the 
notions of ** honor," which distinguish the army and navy 
all over the earth. 

In his speech of January i8, 1854, in Congress, on 
the bill making appropriations for the Academy, Mr. 
Smith spoke earnestly against the war-spirit, implored 
the house not to pass aijy war-bills, and deprecated the 
existence of such institutions as that at West Point on 
the ground that they perpetuated the enormities of war 
by making war a profession. Not that he would, if he 
could, abolish military and naval schools where fit men 
should receive the scientific, literary and moral education 



THE PEACE. 305 

that would qualify them for effective service against the 
enemies of the human race ; he believed such schools to 
be necessary, but he would have them detached from 
the war-system ; schools for the humanities not for the 
inhumanities; schools for the maintenance of the princi- 
ples of peace ; schools where the arts of peace should be 
cultivated, and the sacredness of peace should be re- 
spected ; where the civility which is the soul of peace 
should be studied, and the brotherhood which is the 
bond of peace, should be practiced ; schools of gentle- 
manliness and character. Such the Academy at West 
Point never had been, and never promised to be. If 
this was his feeling before the war, it was more intense 
afterward, when the south, beaten in the field, insisted 
on maintaining its social supremacy in places where it 
had never been disputed. The mean persecutions of the 
black cadets by the whites, simply on the ground of race, 
aroused in him a hot indignation. He called now for 
the complete suppression of the Academy as a nursery 
of the caste spirit. Its liabit of scorn was incorrigible. 
Cruelty, cowardice and contempt were inseparable from 
it. Its existence implied the perpetual violation of prin- 
ciples which lie at the foundation of republican institu- 
tions. Neither religion nor society can be what they 
should be in America so long as such an institution is 
maintained by government, for its maintenance by gov- 
ernment is its countenance by the nation. New princi- 
ples must take on new forms, and new forms cannot be 
fashioned while old forms are accepted. Philanthropy 
is radical or it is nothing. 

Gerrit Smith's offer to put his name to the bail bond 
for Jefferson Davis brought on him as well as on Mr. 



306 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

Greeley a storm of abuse from the patriots, so called, of 
the north. But no intelligent person, who had the least 
understanding of the men, was surprised ; and no sound- 
hearted person, capable of distinguishing between par- 
tisanship and principle, had reason to be offended. As 
this is a point of historical importance, the following 
papers will be of interest : 

Private. OflBce of the Tribune, New York, August 23, 1866. 

To the Hon. Gerrit Smith : 

Dear Sir, — I enclose a memorial of which Mr. Greeley is the 
author, and which I send to you at his request, hoping that it will 
receive your signature also. It explains itself. It is proposed with 
no mere political purpose, but in the cause of humanity and justice ; 
and therefore it is designed that it shall be subscribed by those only 
who have been persistent friends of the black man and who urged 
his emancipation. I trust, and in this hope Mr. Greeley shares, 
that it will be promptly signed by you. 

Let me say for myself that I know it would add greatly to the 
efficiency of the memorial if it were presented by yourself personally 
to the President. And if you could go at once to Washington on 
this mission you would, whether the prayer is successful or not, do 
an act which would have a happy and healing effect upon the pros- 
trate people of the south, and be another step in that magnanimous 
cause which has already won for you their abiding gratitude. 

Please send the memorial to Mr. Greeley, Tribune office, by 
return mail and believe me. 

Yours with great esteem, 
Geo. Shea. 
Of counsel for Jefferson Davis. 

PeterborOf Aug. 34, z866. 

George Shea, Esq. : 

Dear Sir, — This morning's mail brings me your esteemed and 
welcome letter, accompanied by a memorial to the President. 
Without hesitancy and with great satisfaction I have put my name 
to the memorial. 

Were I convinced (which I cannot be) that one of so little influ- 
ence as my own with public men, could by visiting the President, 
promote the object of the memorial, I would not delay to visit him. 



THE PEACE. 307 

Some one of a name and faith less offensive than mine, must be the 
bearer of the memorial. I venture however, to address a note to 
the President which, as you and Mr. Greeley may prefer, can be sent 
or withheld. I am, dear sir, 

Very respectfully yours, etc., 

Gerrit Smith. 

MEMORIAL. 

To THE President of the United States: 

The undersigned earnestly solicit your attention to the condition 
of Jefferson Davis, a citizen of Mississippi, now held a prisoner of 
state in Fortress Monroe. 

We understand these to be facts : that Jefferson Davis was captured 
on the nth day of May 1865, and has for over fifteen months been a 
close prisoner in the fortress aforesaid. 

That he stands publicly charged on the highest authority with 
the atrocious crime of conspiracy to murder our late President Lin- 
coln, and is popularly accounted guilty of other high crimes and 
misdemeanors. 

That he persistently and vehemently declares himself not guilty 
of any of the offenses laid to his charge, and most earnestly demands 
an early and impartial trial on any indictment that has been or may 
be found against him. 

That learned and able counsel believe him to be innocent at least 
of the more heinous offense wherewith he is charged, and unite in 
the demand that he be speedily accorded a fair trial by a court of 
civil judicature. 

That though he was fifteen months in prison awaiting and calling 
for a trial, he has not even been indicted except for treason, nor can 
we learn that even an attempt has been made to indict him on any 
other charge. 

That his counsel have duly endeavored by all the means known 
to the law to bring his case before some competent legal tribunal 
for adjudication whether by writ of habeas corpus or otherwise, and 
have been baffled and defeated therein. 

That they have been unable to obtain from the legal representa- 
tives of the government even a promise that he should be put on trial 
at some specified future day. 

That his health is suffering from his protracted confinement, sc 
that his physicians deem his life endangered thereby. Believing 
these to be facts, the undersigned, having neither personal nor po- 



308 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

litical affinities with the prisoner, but on the contrary utterly and in- 
tensely adverse to the political views which have led him to his 
present position, do yet most respectfully represent, in the interest 
alike cf humanity, public justice and the rights of person secured 
to every citizen by law, that Jefferson Davis the prisoner aforesaid 
should either be speedily arraigned and tried, or else admitted 
to bail. 

We are your fellow-citizens. 
Dated Aug. 14, 1866. 

Peterboro, N. Y., August 34, x866. 

President Johnson: 

Honored Sir — I have this day subscribed a memorial to your- 
self in behalf of Jefferson Davis. I have done so with great satis- 
faction ; for I deem his very long confinement in prison, without a 
trial, an insult to the south, a very deep injustice to himself, and a 
no less deep dishonor to the government and the country. 

I trust that Mr. Davis may either have a speedy trial or be ad- 
mitted to bail. There are many men who have no sympathy with 
his political views, and who opposed slavery as strenuously as he up- 
held it, that would eagerly become his bail. I am one of them. 

Your obedient servant, 

Gerrit Smith. 

This was strictly in accordance with the belief that 
none of the leaders of the Rebellion could be legally 
punished or tried for treason. The acknowledgment of 
the state of war took them out of the category of con- 
spirators against the government, and ranked them with 
strangers or foreigners. This point Mr. Smith had ar- 
gued in a letter to Chief Justice Chase, dated May 28, 
1866, wherein he fortified his position by the authority 
of Hallam, Vattel, Welcker, Macaulay, Lieber. The 
position was natural to him. His religious, moral and 
personal sentiments enforced it upon him. The law of 
love constrained him, so that he could not have done 
otherwise. Horace Greeley was notoriously a politician, 
and therefore exposed to the suspicion of political inten- 



THE PEACE. 309 

tions. But both men were notoriously philanthropists, 
and were on this ground unassailable. 

It was not out of character for these men to plead 
for kindness towards " Ku KIux " prisoners, as the let- 
ters which follow, written at the suggestion of Mr. 
Greeley, did. 

Long Branch, N. J., July 38, 1873. 

Dear Sir, — Your letter of the 9th inst. in relation to your visit 
to the Ku Klux convicts in the Albany penitentiary was duly re- 
ceived. I should have acknowledged the receipt of it and of the 
copy or copies of your admirable speech to your neighbors of the 
22d of June, earlier. I shall send your letter to the Attorney Gen- 
eral, with directions to send some one to Albany to visit those pris- 
oners, and from the report made, together with the testimony against 
them, in his possession, submit such recommendation in regard to 
them as he may think proper. Any pardon now before the North 
Carolina election, would be misinterpreted. I therefore should not 
like to act now. But if any mnocent persons are being punished, 
or any whose punishment is not calculated to spare innocent persons 
for the future from the acts of the K. Ks, I have no desire to keep 
them loncrer in confinement. 

My oft expressed desire is that all citizens, white or black, native 
or foreign born, may be left free in all parts of our common country 
to vote, speak or act, in obedience to law, without intimidation or 
ostracism on account of views, color or nalivity. With these privi- 
leges secured, there is no particular offence that I would not advo- 
cate forgiveness and forgetfulness of, so far 4s the latter is possible. 

I thank you very kindly for giving me the result of your observa- 
tions during your visit to these prisoners, and also for the many 
kind words I have read of your utterance towards my official acts. 
Wiih great respect, your obedient servant, 

U. S. Grant. 

Long Branch, N. J., Aug. 36, 187a. 

Hon. Gerrit Smith : 

My Dear Sir, — I received your letter enclosing applications 
for the pardon of the Ku Klux prisoners, and have handed the peti- 
tion to the Attorney General, who is daily in receipt of many similar 
ones, but who thinks, with you, that such pardons should be few 
and far between. 



3IO LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

Please accept my thanks for your kindness and thought fulness 
in sending copies ot your letter. The President has read, with 
great interest, all you have uttered in regard to the present cam- 
paign, and has been deeply touched by the kind mention you have 
made of him. It really seems now that honest men are arranging 
themselves on one side and knaves on the other ; and during Gen. 
Grant's next four years, he will not only not be likely to appoint any 
rascals to office, but none of them will have sufficient political affili- 
ation with him to be in a condition to ask him for office. 

Very respectfully and truly yours, 

Horace Porter. 

The note that follows seems to be in reply to a 
letter of abuse or of misconception on this subject. 

Peterboro, N. V., August 19, 1872. 

Dear Sir, — This evening's mail brings me your letter of the 
14th inst. So far from my believing that *' a majority of the Ku 
Klux prisoners now confined at Albany are innocent of any crime," 
I do not believe that even one of them is innocent. I take it for 
granted that they all had fair trials and were justly convicted. 

'I here is amongst these prisoners a youth who, because he is 
hopelessly sick, I should like to have pardoned ; and also a man past 
middle age who, because of his weak intellect, I would commend 
to the President's clemency. There is also, an aged man who, per- 
haps, but only perhaps, should be left in prison not more than a 
year or two longer. 

I can have no part in white-washing Ku Kluxism. I deem it the 
greatest crime on earth, and the party that upholds it or is identified 
with it, as the crudest and worst party on earth. 

Respectfully yours, 

Gerrit Smith. 

In 1854 Gerrit Smith had favored the acquisition of 
Cuba as a part of the United States, in the belief that 
the humanity of repubhcan institutions would redeem 
the island from its wretched condition under the Span- 
ish laws, and secure the emancipation at once of the 
whites and the blacks. In 1870, when the question of 
the acquisition of San Domingo was agitated, his views 



THE PEACE, 311 

had changed. The experience of fifteen years, especially 
the exhibition of the whites, northern and southern, 
towards the blocks, had satisfied him that the rapacity 
of the whites was more than a match for the humanity 
of republican institutions, and that no good to the 
dwellers in the tropics would come from the annexation 
of any portion of them to the United States. While 
he had no prejudice against the intermingling of blacks 
and whites and saw no objections to it in the nature of 
things, he had come to think that the joint partnership 
of blacks and whites in the same soil, and their joint 
possession of the same territory, could not be fortunate. 
The blacks, if not enslaved, would be robbed, plundered, 
crowded out, and at length annihilated. Their only 
chance for such existence as was to them desirable, lay 
in their having to themselves the climate and land of 
the tropics where they lived happily, and where the 
white races could not live at all, except with the institu- 
tion of slavery to supply their labor. The President's 
scheme of annexation therefore had no favor in his 
sight. On the President's patriotism he cast no reflec- 
tion ; none on his integrity or humanity. That he was 
making political capital or seeking party diversion, or 
playing recklessly the game of empire does not seem to 
have occurred to him. He may have thought that the 
President's imagination was dazzled by visions of na- 
tional splendor or national wealth, but that he would 
willingly sacrifice any great human interest was far from 
his suspicion. His own conviction was that before an- 
nexing new territories we had better learn to establish 
equal laws over what we had. Expansion northward 
might be well enough if expansion were necessary, be- 
14* 



312 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

cause in that direction there was legitimate field for con- 
quest over Nature and brute mankind. But expansion 
southward implied the annihilation of docile races and 
the robbing of islands which Providence has destined to 
be homes for the otherwise harmless. The pity for the 
negro is still uppermost in this man's heart. No national 
aggrandizem^ent, no national wealth are in his estimation 
sufficient to compensate for any additional wrong done 
to these unfortunates. 

The condition of the blacks in the United States 
was far from satisfactory, and excited the philanthropist's 
utmost solicitude. As the first term of General Grant's 
administration drew to a close the prospect became ap- 
palling. All that the war had accomplished seemed to 
be at stake. The aspiration to power of the democratic 
party threatened to overturn the achievements and defeat 
the hopes of the abolitionists. General Grant, it was 
felt, could be relied on, at least so far as to maintain the 
ground already won, and to prevent the undoing of the 
work the completion whereof was his title to renown. 
His name was still a powerful one to conjure by. No 
other roused enthusiasm at all, and it mustbe under his 
leadership that the army of the republic must still move 
on, if victory is finally to perch upon its banners. Gerrit 
Smith threw himself with his usual ardor into the cam- 
paign for Grant's reelection, deploring and resisting all 
the efforts that were made to thwart his career, more 
especially the efforts of the independents to create a 
diversion in favor of Mr. Greeley, which, he was confi- 
dent could not succeed as a separate movement, and 
must strengthen the democrats in proportion as it weak- 
ened the republicans. 



THE PEACE. 313 

In judging the conduct of Gerrit Smith during the 
years 187 1 and 1872, it is but fair to bear in mind the 
natural working of his disposition, as illustrated in the 
** eccentricities " as they were called, of his earlier career. 
He was a man of feeling, and consequently not amena- 
ble to the rules of ordinary consistency. His guide was 
moral conviction which men of his school dignified by 
the title of " natural instincts.** He said and did things 
in perfect honesty and good will, unconscious of their 
effect on others, and careless of their inconsistency with 
the act of his previous career. He was not stupid ; he 
was not deceitful ; he was not vacillating. He was sim- 
ply self-assured. And his self-assurarfce proceeded from 
that reliance on the " moral sense ** which gives its 
possessor the much overrated, much abused prerogative 
of prophecy. He was never a party-man ; never re- 
mained long in any party; never would be bound by 
party nominations ; always felt at liberty to adopt and 
support any candidate who represented his idea, whether 
set up by one party or another. Thus, in 1868, he an- 
nounced his intention of voting for S. P. Chase, should 
the democratic party give him the nomination, conclud- 
ing that the candidate in that instance committed the 
party which set him up. In 1872 he refused to follow 
Sumner, Schurz and Greeley, because they would help 
indirectly the success of the democratic party, which 
they abhorred as much as he did. The press charged 
him with inconsistency, and tauntingly magnified the 
f^randcur of the intellect that could rise so superior to 
the vice of small minds. But he saw no inconsistency, 
and for him there was none. In 1868 he was persuaded 
that moral causes were disintegrating party combinations 



314 ^^F^ OF GERRIT SMITH. 

to such a degree that the entire conversion of the dem- 
ocrats was not too strange an occurrence to be looked 
for. He would have hailed the nomination of Chase as 
conclusive evidence of a change of heart. In 1872 this 
illusion had been dispelled, and the democrats, though 
placing a saint's name on their banner, would have been 
distrusted. 

" May not the democratic party be allowed to put up and vote for 
republicans ? Yes. But republicans should, as a general thing, 
pause long before voting for them. But suppose that party puts up 
for president so pronounced and eminent a republican as Horace 
Greeley — cannot republicans consistently vote for him? Certainly 
not. For his election would as surely be the success of the demo- 
cratic party as the election of President Grant will be the success of 
the republican party. The election of Mr. Greeley will not turn the 
democratic party into a republican party, but it will turn him into a 
democrat — not, I trust, into one of the worst type — but still into a 
democrat. Mr. Greeley's election would not assimilate the demo- 
cratic party to him, but him to it. So it has ever been in such cases 
— and how, with his kindly and obliging spirit, can he prove an ex- 
ception ? . . . But what if Mr. Greeley should notwithstanding 
his candidacy and election, remain miraculously unchanged } It 
does not follow that his election would not be the success of the 
democratic party. The President is not all the government. Con- 
gress is far more nearly all of it : and Mr. Greeley's election would 
be quite likely to result in a democratic Congress. ... As the 
candidate for however high an office at the hands of the republican 
party. I would readily have voted for Mr. Greeley. I only lament 
that he should have sought his honors by lending his name and in- 
fluence to the democratic party, and by damaging and endangering 
that other party which he had lovt^d so long and so well.'* 

Mr. Sumner's quarrel with the President implicated 
Gerrit Smith at the very beginning. Constitutionally 
unable to suspect evil of any, constitutionally inclined to 
think the best of all, having before him the one invalua- 
ble service which General Grant had rendered to the 
country in compelling the surrender of General Lee, full 



THE PEACE, 315 

of the conviction that he and he only could maintain 
the supremacy of the republic over the oligarchy in 
which lay the moral triumph of the north over the south, 
and persuaded, that whatever Grant's personal deficien- 
cies might be, he was sincerely loyal to the cause he had 
led to final victory ; in a word, having his heart fixed on 
a single issue, and being certain that this issue was pos- 
sible in but one way, what Mr. Sumner said, though he 
could not answer it, made no impression on his mind 
that remained when the weight of his friend's hand was 
withdrawn. 

He honored Mr. Sumner, respected him, loved him ; 
never imputed unworthy sentiments or motives to him, 
never believed him to be actuated by private animosities 
or moved by personal ambition, had no sympathy with 
the partisans who ascribed his invectives to jealousy or 
pique or base detraction, and explained the mutual re- 
pulsion between him and the President by the natural 
antipathy between two men so differently endowed, nur- 
tured, trained and dealt with ; so unlike in temperament, 
capacity, taste and purpose ; so dissimilar as to be pre- 
cisely the opposites of each other, and standing more 
sharply over against one another as years and experi- 
ence, conflict and struggle, disappointment and success 
brought their characteristic traits into relief, and threw 
out the craggy masses above the stormy waters of cir- 
cumstance. During the war General Grant had shown 
the qualities of the soldier, which military life fostered, 
and none could foresee what qualities latent so far in him, 
civil life might develop. For twenty years Charles Sum- 
ner had been piling up the massive structure of moral 
will, until at length he had become the embodiment of 



31^ LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

intellectual purpose, straight, uncompromising, unsympa- 
thetic, ponderous, stately and impressive, but forbidding. 
Even his admirers looked on him with awe. His dislikers, 
who were many, accused him of arrogance, intolerant and 
intolerable. His egotism was of the kind most offensive 
to cold natures and most easily offended by coarse ones. 
Sumner and Smith were warm friends of many years. 
Though in nearly every respect unlike, in every respect^ 
excepting their devotion to the slave, they met cor- 
dially at this central point of sympathy, the hopeful 
enthusiasm of the one happily contrasting with the un- 
bending integrity of the other. Sumner had borne hon- 
orable testimony to the value of Smith's service in Con- 
gress, and Smith had written from Washington to 
Frederick Douglass, in 1854, ** Sumner is as guileless and 
ingenuous as a child, and hence my astonishment at the 
base and ferocious feelin^r manifested toward him at one 
period of the session. Chase and Sumner are gentle- 
men — Christian gentlemen. Great is my love of them ; 
and were I to add * passing the love of women * I should 
not be guilty of great extravagance." The hospitality 
of Peterboro had been repeatedly pressed on the Massa- 
chusetts senator, and, once had been accepted, in what 
spirit the following note of acknowledgment gives 
evidence. 

Private. Senate Chamber, 7th December, '70, 

My Dear Friend — I think often of the pleasant Sunday I passed 
under your roof. 

What you told me of your son interested me much. I wish that 
he could be encouraged to persevere and apply his rare gifts to that 
branch of science for which he has shown such attachment. In this 
way he can do much to acquire a good renown. 

Can you not help the colored people in Hayti ? The Minister of 



THE PEACE, 317 

the Black Republic is much disturbed by the attempts of our gov- 
ernment to establish itself on their island. The persistence of the 
President must be encountered. Will you not write one of your 
letters or make an appeal for the colored race? Let us hear 
from you. 

Ever sincerely yours, 

Charles Sumner. 

In August 1871, Gerrit Smith printed a "broadside " 
entitled ** The anti-Dramshop Party," calling on its 
members for fidelity to its name and principles, urging 
the claims of the temperance cause and the necessity of 
enlisting political forces on its side. In his argument, 
he criticised the attitude of the republican party as a 
party of progress in reform. He says : 

'• It is but too probable that the republican party will sink down 
into a low chase with the democratic party after votes. So far from 
going forward, and making itself more and more a reform party, its 
murmurings against President Grant and frequent signs of disaffec- 
tion toward him reveal its declining appreciation of even those 
great moral ideas it had already espoused. For to which of the 
grand undertakings and precious interests of the republican party, 
at the time of his election, has he been found unfaithful? To not 
one of them. Identified, therefore, as he is, with them all, and the 
vtost projnijtent upholder of them all every one of them is necessa- 
rily disparaged when he is traduced or undervalued. For the re- 
publican party to turn its back upon President Grant is to turn its 
back upon its honorable past — upon the past of its better and more 
patriotic days. He remains the same man he was in those days. 
He has proved himself to be free from the accursed spirit of caste, 
and true to the equal rights of all men — of the red man and black 
man as well as the white man. He has deferred to the popular will, 
instead of moulding and fostering a policy of his own. He has 
proved, with what entire sincerity it was that, in entering upon its 
office, he expressed his desire for peace. The late treaty between 
England and America /;/ the credit of which he shares so largely, 
is the grandest and most auspicious peace measure the w^orld has 
ever seen. The rapidity with which we are paying our national 
debt is a high proof of his wisdom and honesty. And yet, such a 



3l8 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

President, no very small share of the republican party — certainly na 
very small share of its leaders — seem willing to drop ! We hear 
them say that General Grant cannot be re-elected. But if he, who 
confessedly, did more than any other man to save our country in the 
perils of war, and whose great ijtflitettce iti peace has all gone ia 
make that peace more perfect and more blessed^ cannot be made our 
next President, what republican can be? Manifestly^ either he or 
the democratic candidate will be our next President; and if the 
democratic candidate shall be, and shall represent and be a specimen 
of the bad, very bad democratic party, what then can save our 
country from ruin ? '* 

The italics in the above passage are Mr. Sumner's ; 
he underlined the words, marked on the margin of the 
paper expressions of surprise or protest, and enclosed 
the sheet to the author. The ensuing letters came 
immediately. 

Private. Nahant, Mass., aolh Aug:. '71. 

My Dear Friend, — Your note and its enclosure reached me at 
this retreat where I am with my friend Longfellow. I regret much 
that I cannot see the Presidential question as you see it. 

I know few politicians who think that Grant can be re-elected. 
Greeley told me last week that he looked upon his defeat as inevita- 
ble, and Forney, who is friendly to him and has just accepted the 
collectorship of Philadelphia, told me that he did not see how he 
could be re-elected, although he thought he would obtain the nomi- 
nation ; — to which I replied that he would not be renominated if it 
appeared that he could not be re-elected. 

Therefore when you ask me to withdraw opposition to Grant, you 
ask me to aid in the defeat of the republican party. I have too 
much interest in this party to do any such thing. 

But waiving the question of his success — he does not deserve the 
nomination. " One term " is enough for any body — especially for 
one who, being tried, is found so incapable — so personal — so selfish 
— so vindictive, — and so entirely pre-occupied by himself. All who 
have known him best testify to his incapacity. Don't forget Stan- 
ton's judgment. 

It is hard to see the Ku Klux raging, and a good people dying 
through his luke-warmness and indifference. It is my solemn judg- 
ment, which at the proper time I shall declare, that the much criti- 



THE PEACE, 319 

cised legislation of the last Congress would have been entirely un^ 
necessary, if this republican President had shown a decent energy in 
enforcing existing laws and in manifesting sympathy with the op- 
pressed there. On htm is that injiocent blood, which flowed while 
he circulated at entertainments, excursions, horse-races. Instead 
of being at Long Branch, a good President would have been at Sa- 
vannah, and Mobile, or at least he would have made himself felt in 
those places. 

Consider then, the insincerity of his message about St. Domingo. 
One million of blacks are now kept in anxiety and terror by the 
republican President, whom you hail as representing •* moral ideas ! " 
Instead of abandoning his ill-omened scheme, he is now pressing it 
— working at home, Hke Hamlet's ghost, under ground and at the 
island with a most expensive fleet. His war-dance about the island 
has cost several millions. Instead of making peace between the two 
contending parties, and setting each on its legs, in the spirit of dis- 
interested benevolence, he sends money to Baez under pretence of a 
sham treaty, to keep alive civil war. Nothing has aroused me more 
since the Fugitive Slave Bill and the outrages in Kansas. The 
same old spirit is revived in the treatment of the Haytien Republic. 

And I am asked to help the re-nomination of such a man. Im- 
possible ! I love the republican party — love my country too well to 
have a hand in such a thing. 

In these conclusions I am governed by no personal feelings — 
more than I had to Franklin Pierce or James Buchanan ! How can 
I, an old public servant, devoted to a cause, turn aside on any per- 
sonal feeling.^ No, my dear friend, I write in sadness and sincerity, 
hoping yet to do something by which the cause of our country shall 
be saved. Think of five years under his vindictive imperialism f 
Surely you must hesitate. 

Grant is full of personal enmities. He has quarrelled with two 
members of his cabinet — a minister to England — a chairman of a 
senate committee — one or two of the diplomatic corps — the governor 
of a territory — and numerous others, all good and faithful repub^ 
licans or friendly to him. I was always his true friend — never breath- 
ing a word except in kindness and respect — anxious for the welfare 
of his administration — and yet when I felt it my duty to oppose his 
St. Domingo scheme, always without one word of allusion to him, 
he was moved to vindictiveness. Ask any member of the committee 
or any senator, if in the debate of the committee on extra service I 
made any allusion to him, except to express a regret that he had en- 
tered upon this mistaken policy. And yet the vengeance came. 



*> '» 



_20 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

Afterwards when he still persevered, I felt it my duty to arraign 
him openly. Had I been a representative I should have felt it my duty 
to move his impeachment. 1 shall be astonished if at the next session 
his impeachment is not moved. His chance of impeachment is bet- 
ter than that of reelection. Why, then, press him for candidate.^ 
Unquestionably the hardest possible to elect — and unquestionably 
the poorest caliing" himself republican ! There are forty good repub- 
licans in the Union, anv one of whom can be nominated without 
hazard to the party, and, when elected will be a better president. So 
I believe on my conscience, and on this belief I must act. At proper 
time I shall comnmnicate Mr. Stanton's and my judgment. 

Ever sincerely yours, 

Charles Sumner. 

Hon. Charles Sumner : Peterboro, Aug. as, 1871. 

My Dear Friend — I thank you for your long, frank and friendly 
letter. I thank you also for the printed sheets you have recently 
sent to me. 

We have both the same paramount object in view — viz., the pre- 
clusion of a democrat from the presidency. You are certain that 
this cannot be accomplished by the nomination of Grant: and I own 
that vour letter makes me less confident that it can bv this means. 
I must still think, however, that if his nomination would not have 
this effect, no nomination would. I must still think that more per- 
sons could be brought to acquiesce in his nomination than in Gree- 
ley's, or Trumbull's or your or any other person's nomination. The 
republican party unhappily seems to be breaking up. I fear that 
there is no one man for whom the whole party will go. 

President Grant is certainly very far from faultless. And yet, in 
the light of his successful leadership of our armies, but little account 
should be made of most of his faults. 

You and Schurz and Morrill showed the error of his scheme of 
annexation, and of, at least, a part of the means by which he sought 
to accomplish it. But I am not sure that, in all this, he was guilty 
of anything worse than a mistaken judgment. A mistaken judg- 
ment will probably account for his other missteps. I hope that you 
do not give credit to the story of his having three hundred thousand 
dollars in blooded stock. 1 hope, indeed, that you do not doubt his 
honesty in money matters. 

I remember your telling me of Stanton's bad opinions of Grant. 
But Stanton was sick when he expressed them — and they were, at 
the most, but the opinions of one man. 



THE PEACE. 3-1 

With your very unfavorable, I trust too unfavorable, view of 
Grant, I cannot ask you to vote for him, nor even to forbear voting 
against him. 

God bless you, my dear friend ! May your wisdom, integrity 
and eloquence long continue to serve your still deeply imperilled 
country ! 

My kind regards to Mr. Longfellow, and my repeated thanks to 
him for the youthful and beautiful likeness of yourself which he so 
kindly sent me, several years ago. 

With love as well as esteem, 

Your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 

Private. Nahant, 28th Aug. *7x. 

My Dear Friend, — I am happy that you do not take unkindly 
my very positive difference from yourself on an important question. 

The more I reflect on the question, the more I am distressed for 
my country and the republican party at the idea of Grant's re-nomi- 
nation. We could better have lost one of his bloody victories. His 
rule for the second term would be the imperialism of selfishness 
and vindictiveness, — without moral sense, without ideas, without 
knowledge. 

I think you will admit that he is the lowest President, whether 
intellectually or morally, we have ever had. Undoubtedly he is the 
richest since Washington, although he was very poor at the begin- 
ning of the war. 

Mr. Stanton's judgment of him was positive and given under 
circumstances of singular solemnity, and the same thing he said at 
great length and with much detail to Mr. Hooper some months be- 
fore. He said that he knew Grant better than any other man or the 
country could know him — that it was his duty to study him, and he 
did study him night and day, — when he saw and when he did not 
see him he then declared his utter incapacity. And you are election- 
eering for this person's re-election ! 

Think of his vindictive quarrels, since he has been President. 
God does not quarrel. What right has the President of the United 
States to quarrel and pursue supporters with vindictive hate ? 

Do not charge me with personal feelings. My life is my witness, 
I am an old servant, who has always thought of the cause and of 
my country ; never have I sought any thing for myself. I have sim- 
ply worked and served. I was so doing when I felt it my duty to 
oppose what seemed to me a mistaken policy of the President ; — 



3-2 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

never in my life did I act more simply and sincerely. I could not 
have done othen\'ise without failing in my duty. Then came at- 
tacks, and all that a small nature surrounded and prompted by 
small men. could do ! Such a man President for a second term* 
God forbid ! 

Is not the course for us plain ? 

(i) Do not nominate a man with a mill-stone about his neck. 

(2) Find somebody whose capacity is above question. 

(^3) Somebody who will not insult and quarrel with his sup- 
porters. 

(4) Somebody who can surely be elected. 

(5) Somebody whose election will not be a real defeat. 

(6) Somebody who will elevate politics, instead of degrading 
them. 

(7) Somebody who will scorn to use patronage for the subjuga- 
tion of Congress to his personal will. 

Ever sincerely yours, 

Charles Sumner. 

How any colored person can support the man who offers indig- 
nity to the Black Republic, I cannot understand. The ablest col- 
ored man in Massachusetts declares his indignant disgust at him. 
At the proper time, I shall appeal to the colored voters to reject him. 



Peterboro» August 31, 1871. 

Hon. Chas. Sumner : 

My Dear Friend^ — I have yours of 28th ult. You are happy 
to find that I take your words kindly. Why should 1 not, when I 
know that they all proceed from deep convictions and an honest 
heart } 

The idea of Grant's renomination would be as painful to me as 
it is to you, if I held your exceedingly unfavorable opinions of him. 
Your long continued and intense brooding over his faults has trans- 
Ibrmed him into a weak-brained monster. You put him " intellect- 
ually " and " morally " below all our former Presidents — intellectually 
below the garrulous Harrison, and morally below the infernally 
pro-slavery Pierce I 

Grant is not an educated statesman. But when, a few years 
ago, I read in the public letters of Sherman and Sheridan their high 
praises of his ability as a general, I could not doubt that he was a 
man of superior intellect. 1 felt that he was great, not alone by the 
accidents and good fortune of war, but also by his intrinsic merits. 
Then as to his morality, I do not suppose that he is a saint — but I 



THE PEACE, 323 

certainly lack evidence that he is a corrupt man. He could be guilty 
of all his errors in the annexation matter, and yet not be corrupt. 
In receiving his rich presents, in his nepotism and bad appointments 
to office, he was not necessarily corrupt. 

It was not necessary for you to vindicate yourself to me. You 
have lived for your country and for all mankind — and I thank God 
that he made you capable of doing this with such eminent (can I not 
truly s?cj preeminenf) efficiency. 

I see that you continue to make great (too great) account of Mr. 
Stanton's condemnation of Grant. 

The seven requirements with which you close your letter are, I 
admit, well put and very imposing. The fourth requirement is to 
nominate "somebody who can sure/yho elected." I apprehend that 
this cannot be done. All we can do is to nominate some decent 
somebody who will stand the best chance of being elected. I am 
aware that you do not let Grant come into the category of decent 
somebodies— but just here, you are at war with the judgment of 
the world. I wish that you or our old friend Chase could be our 
next president — but, as yet. the popular current does not run strong 
enough for such pronounced abolitionists to bring that about. 

You say that 1 am '* electioneering" for Grant — I answer that I 
am too old (seventy-four) to electioneer for any one. All I have 
said or done for him is to be found in the few words in my paper on 
the dramshop. 1 repeat it — my concern is not to elect Grant, but 
to keep out a democrat. You and I do nojt count Chase among 
democrats. 

With the highest regard, 

Your friend forever, 

Gerrit Smith. 



Nahant, 3d Sept., 'yi* 

My Dear Friend — I know not why my opinions expressed in 
answer to an appeal from you should be characterized as proceeding 
from "long continued and intense brooding over his (Grant's) 
faults." You asked me to abandon an opposition to which I have 
been driven by solemn conviction or knowledge with constant op- 
portunities of information, and when I ventured to assign reasons 
for these opinions you attribute them to " long-continued and intense 
brooding." Here you do me injustice. My opinions are honestly 
formed — on my conscience — and communicated to you only in reply 
to your appeal. Had you not written to me on the subject be as- 
sured I should have said nothing about it. 



•^ 1 



24 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

I am here with friends seeking repose, and, in such time as I 
can command, reviewing the history of our Anti-slavery struggle, 
thinking little of count, except when my opinion is challenged, 
as by yourself. If I am "brooding" it is on our great battle 
where you did so qnuch, and revising my own humble contribu- 
tions to it. 

You think Grant cannot be below the " infernally pro-slavery 
Pierce 1 ** Why not ? Was he not in the time of Pierce just as " in- 
fernally pro-slaver}'," and has he not done things worse than any 
attributed to Pierce ? 

1 say nothing of him as a military character. I leave that to 
others. How rarely in history has a good general been a good 
statesman ! See Buckle. 

As for " morals," all his thoughts, ideas and sentiments are on a 
low plane — lower than any president before has reached. 

You inquire if he is " corrupt." I have never said anything on 
this head. You know well that he does not hesitate to buy men by 
office, as no other president has done ; nor does he hesitate to re- 
ceive " gifts ! " 

You discard the testimony of Stanton, who had the best oppor- 
tunity of knowing Grant, and you discard mine, although I have had 
some opportunity. Whose will you take ? Will you name any per- 
son, not an actual present member of his cabinet, whose judgment 
of testimony is of any weight. Ask Chase, who knows him well. 
He will speak to you of his incompetency. Unhappily this incom- 
petency runs into the moral region. 

And yet you not only become his partisan, but rebuke me, in my 
seclusion, because I frankly confess that I cannot see the idol as 
ycu see it. 

I tremble for my country at the thought of a second term bythis 
vindictive selfish personality. I tremble for the African, whose Hay- 
tien relatives he keeps in distress, like another Kansas plagued by 
another Pierce ! Never since tiiose Kansas days has my soul been 
so tried as by his conduct to Hayti. To me it is heart-rending. 
The tears flow at the thought of it. And yet YOU sustain the 
author of this distress. 

When the presidential contest came on, Mr. Smith 
took the field for Grant, and, in explanation of Mr. Sum- 
ner's opposition, laid stress on the contrast between the 
two men in point of birth, education and character. Mr. 



THE PEACE. 325 

Sumner, meeting with a version of his remarks in a 
western paper hostile to himself, addressed to him the 
following sharp letter. 

Washington, gth July, ^a* 

Dear Mr. Smith — You supposed that I should call your re- 
marks unjust ? Did you not feel that they were unjust ? 

I write for no controversy. You make a personal assault on me 
and charge me with personal motives — forgetting the elaborate con- 
versations at your house and afterwards at my own, where I disclosed 
to you my deep sense of General Grant's unfitness and the extent 
to which my conscience had been shocked by his conduct. You for- 
get how I unfolded to you my interest in Hayii and her struggling 
people, which I was taught in childhood to cherish, and how happy 
I was in carrying through the act acknowledging the independence 
of the Black Republic — how from that time 1 watched its fortunes 
and tried to serve it— how, when I became aware of the utterly 
heartless and insensate conduct of Grant to that people, I was in- 
dignant, as when Kansas was assailed, the case being as bad as that 
of Kansas — you forget how sympathetically you listened then; and 
when acting simply according to these convictions, hoping to do 
something for my country, you assail me by substituting personal 
motives for that honest judgment which on my conscience I was 
obliged to give. I never deserved your sympathy and support more 
than now, and never in the course of a life which has had your praise, 
was I more sincere and simple in the discharge of my duty. 

In sustaining your allegation of personal ** dislike," you are 
])leased to invent with regard to my early life. If you will kindly 
ask any body familiar with it, you will see how imaginative you have 
been. But I am at a loss to understand what my early life has to 
do with this. 

I never disliked Grant. When you allege that you again invent. 
On the contrary I was his sincere friend and supporter until I became 
aware of his course in Hayti, and the more I think of that, the more 
utterly indefensible it appears. It is rez^olttng — so I see it, and for 
lliis reason I began to judge him. 

Is it just, when these things were known to you, that you should 
hunt for personal motives ? I deny the whole imputation, in gross 
and detail. 

Would it not have been more candid, more in accordance with 
the friendship which I had supposed safe against decay so long as 



326 LIFE OF CERRIT SMITH. 

life lasted, for you to have recognized the strength of my convictions, 
and not questioned their honesty or sought to weaken them by in- 
vention about my early life ? 

1 believe Grant essentially unjust, and I am sorry to see that his 
defenders seem inspired by his character. This is natural. 

I send you a speech marked, and ask if you are just to me with 
regard to the Douglass incident. It was because Douglass had re- 
ceived indignity on board the boat, that the neglect of the president 
became conspicuous. You say " certain it is that Mr. Douglass is 
insensible of it.'* Believe me I did not refer to this incident until 
Mr. Douglass in my own house, a fortnight before the speech, had 
complained of it. 

You are mistaken about Mr. Stanfon. I have abundance of con- 
curring testimony. His most intimate friend during the latter months 
of his life. Mr. Hooper, confirms it fully, and so do many others. 
And whv should it not be known 1 I am in earnest. I wished to 
save the republican party from the infliction of a second term, and 
what I said was true. 

In defending his gift-taking, you forget that it is "gift-taking 
compensated by office " which is the unprecedented offense. 

I have before me your letters of last autumn, very different from 
the assault you now make, where you say in reply to my frank state- 
ments that you " kiiaiu that they all proceed from deep convictions 
and an honest heart." You then add ; *• The idea of Grant's nomi- 
nation would be as painful to me as it is to you, if I had your ex- 
ceedingly unfavorable opinions of him." Then again you say; "It 
was not necessary for you to vindicate yourself to me. You have 
lived for your country and for all mankind." I will not quote the 
praise that follows. Besides all this you say, " I cannot ask you to 
vote for Grant, nor even to forbear voting against him." 

Theji you were not disposed to assail me and to find excuses in 
imagined contrasts of early life. 

It is very painful for me to write this. But it seems to me that 
your own sense of justice will recognize its truth. 

Once you stood by the slave ; stand by Hayti now, which repre- 
sents the slave. 

Sincerely yours, 

Charles Sumner. 



Washington, 7th Aujf., '7a. 

My Dear Friend —I have yours of August 4. You denounce 
me as joining democrats, because I declare my preference for Hor- 



THE PEACE. 327 

ace Greeley. But you would have been open to the same charge, 
had you supported Chase if nominated by them. Have I not as 
much right to vote for Horace Greeley as you would have to vote 
for Chase without any denunciation ? The cases are identical. / 
have entire faith in Horace Greeley, I am at a loss to understand 
how a lover of peace like Gerrit Smith can resist the opportunity of 
reconciliation and put back the outstretched hand. Think of demo- 
crats adopting the Cincinnati platform and an abolition candidate 
and you holding back instead of closing with them and keeping them 
to their promises I "Blessed are the peace-makers." My life has 
been of controversy. It is with infinite pain that I find it continued 
and with personality and vindictiveness unequalled. But I could 
not do otherwise. Mv conscience spoke and I obeyed. 

Sincerely yours, 

Charles Sumner. 

I have a good letter from Chase to-day approving especially my 
letter to the colored people and declaring that he shall vote for Hor- 
ace Greeley in whom he has entire trust. 



Washington, 6th Aug. '7a. 

My Dear Friendy — The kindness of your note is grateful. 

Let me confess, — your speech seemed to me a strange assault. I 
saw no reason why you should seek to account for my opposition to 
Grant when I assigned specifically the reasons, which had been com- 
municated to you one or two years ago, — and when you went further 
and to sustain your theory, assumed to make a statement about my 
early life, inconsistent with the fact, — I thought your course very 
strange and unfriendly. 

The injury is done. Your speech enters into the bundle of mis- 
representations which I must endure, at a moment when I am 
seeking to save the country from misrule and to restore concord. 

Sincerely yours, 

Charles Sumner. 

This mournful episode may be concluded by a letter 
from Andrew D. White, President of Cornell University, 
which gives his view of the controversy between U. S. 
Grant and Charles Sumner, and also his feeling toward 
Gerrit Smith as a peacemaker. 



3-*S LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH. 

U. S. Steamer Tennessee, Jan'y 17, xSyx. 

My Dear Friend, — On leaving^ Mr. Sumner niijht before last, in 
Washlnj^ton, I said to him, " I leave the countr)- with a sad heart, 
indeed, for 1 have this day seen the two men in Washington, who 
have helped m )st directly lo save the nation, and they misunderstand 
each other, antl that misunderstanding" is sure to cost the country 
dear. I shall write this to Gerrit Smith." 

That is my feeling. I talked fully with President Grant ! I am 
not very old. but 1 have had to see many men, and judge their main 
qualities. President Grant is honest and patriotic, I know. He pre- 
sents the St. Domingo question from his side, in a manner that 
shows him sincere. Think whatever we may of his theory, it is that 
of a sincere man, and earnestly held, and as such entitled to respect. 

As to Mr. Sumner, I need not speak of his qualities and services. 
I love and honor him. But the sad thing is to see these two men 
separated and hostile— to hear the adherents of either filling the air 
with charges which cannot be true — to hear them stimulating the 
amour propre of each, and devising plans of vengeance. 

I have stated my own conviction that President Grant is honest. 
I had gone to Washington with many misgivings. I had feared 
that, in the heat of this contest, it might be signified to me that the 
authorities at Washington hoped or trusted that the Report of the 
Commissioners would be favorable, — or that it might be hinted that 
duty to party or country might require some forbearance, etc., etc. : 
and had this been done, the rejoinder on my part must have been a 
painful one to make ; for I iiad quietly determined that I would make 
no sacrifice of mv manhood in this matter. 

But I am bound to say thai there was not the shade of a hi^'t or 
suggestion of the kind. The President said : '• Probe everything to 
the bottom." ** Make your investigations as full and fair as possible." 
" I am as ready to be converted to anti-annexationist doctrines as I 
hope others are ready to be converted to annexationist doctrines." 
** 1 want all the light I can get,"— and this with a manner that be- 
spoke earnestness, if any man's manner ever did. 

And now, my friend, 1 feel better to have told you this, even 
though it does no good. Neither can be approached now ; but if 
ever a moment comes for you to earn the blessing for the Peace- 
makers, 1 trust that you will not let the chance go by. I remain. 

Most heartily yours. 
To Gerrit Smith. And. D. White. 

We are just leaving port. Good bye, and God bless you and 
yours. A. D. W. 



THE PEACE, 



329 



Gerrit Smith's interest in the President and in his 
reelection, assumed, as usually was the case with him, a 
personal form. Mr. Smith was never impersonal. It was 
not in his nature to be so. Whatever he felt towards 
individuals he spoke out. He felt the force of his own 
individuality, and recognized the worth of theirs. Gen- 
eral Grant was not left in ignorance of this man's honest 
opinions. 

Long Branch, N. J., Sept. 4, 2871. 

My Dear Sir — Your favor of the nth of August enclosing me 
a few copies of an article from your pen, favoring my re-nomination 
and election to the office of President, was duly received. I have no 
valid excuse for not acknowledging the receipt of it earlier and thank- 
ing you for your good opinion which I prize very much. The fact is 
I put your letter in my pocket, with many others, to prevent it being 
mislaid until an opportunity occurred to answer it. It has been 
there ever since. Please accept my thanks at this late day and over- 
look my negligence. 

With great respect. 

Your obedient servant. 
Honorable Gerrit Smith. U. S. GRANT. 



Peterboro, Sept. 13, 1871. 

President Grant 

My Dear Sir — On my return home after a short absence, I 
was happy to find myself honored with a letter from you. It is a 
much esteemed and very welcome letter. 

The republican party saved our nation. But if this party shall 
now break up into factions and have a different presidential candi- 
date for each faction, it will make itself guilty of giving up the nation 
to destruction. God grant that it may be kept back from such 
suicidal folly and sin ! There are a dozen men in the land, any one 
of whom would make a good President. But the republican party 
must unite on one of them, or fail. Manifestly, they can unite on no 
one but yourself — and on yourself I firmly believe they will unite. 

Please make my very kind regards to Mrs. Grant. 

Very respectfully, your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 



330 LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH. 

Peterboro, Norcmber 13, 187a. 

President Grant: 

My Dear Sir — My congratulations on your reelection a-re none 
the less warm and sincere because coming so late. I delayed send- 
ing them, for the reason that you must have been deluged with let- 
ters immediately after the election. 

1 rejoice in your reelection for your own sake — for the sake of its 
ample vindication of your assailed wisdom and assailed integrity — 
but I rejoice in it more for our country's sake. What our country 
most needs is not prosperity in business, the speedy payment of her 
great debt and the increase of her wealth. Far more than this and 
than all things else she needs the cordial recognition and full pro- 
tection of the equal rights of all her children — the black and red as 
well as the white. In the light of what you have already done to 
this end, I believe that ere the close of your next Presidential term, 
this recognition will be gained and this protection enjoyed. Then 
and not till then shall we be a favored nation. For then and not 
till then can God be at peace with it. May His wisdom contmue to 
guide you ! With the highest regard. 

Your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 



Peterboro, March 6th, 1873, 

President Grant : 

Dear Sir, — I felt myself to be too old (seventy-six this day) to 
attend the inauguration. But I am not too old to appreciate your 
inaugural address. For one thing especially in that address, which 
contains so many good things, I cannot forbear to thank you. This 
one thing is your calling attention to the nation's persistent wronging 
of the black man in continuing to withhold from him equal civil 
rights. To cease from this injustice and this ingratitude toward him 
and from this great sin against God is the nation's first duty. The 
nation cannot be safe, — most emphatically the republican party can- 
not be safe, — if the discharge of this duty shall be delayed much 
longer. 

Congratulating you that you enter upon the second term of your 
great office under auspices so favorable, 

I remain, your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 



CHAPTER IX. 

PHILANTHROPY. 

ALL this time the works of general philanthropy 
went on. The daily calls for charity were listened 
to. The hungry were fed, the naked clothed, the poor 
provided for, the sick visited. It was said of a promi- 
nent reformer, a friend of Gerrit Smith, that, being 
asked to contribute to the necessities of an individual 
sufferer, he replied that he was too much occupied 
with masses of wrong to heed particular instances of 
misfortune. On hearing which remark a witty woman 
exclaimed : ** Well, that beats the divine Providence ! 
God Almighty has not come to that!" Gerrit Smith 
never merited nor provoked such a criticism. No matter 
how severe the strain or how intricate the perplexities 
of public affairs, he had leisure for the unnoticed little 
ones, and in blessing them he found an unfailing solace. 
During the latter years of his life, his business required 
less of his personal attention, his chief clerk in Peter- 
boro and his agent in Oswego being men of competency, 
in whom he had entire confidence, so that he was able 
to give his heart out freely at the invitations of human 
kindness. The providence that had so faithfully be- 
friended the fugitive slaves was now extended to the 
freedmen, whose elevation he was greatly concerned for. 
The schools, academies, seminaries which sprang up in 



, .L 



• .1 — 






L.:::ur 

iii. :)■'.■ 



L. . I ^ 



L.. ..I .'...•J. 



!il'*- 



: V 



L: '"X 



PHiLAy TiiROP y. 333 

view of the vast use it will be put to ! and how can you find it in 
your heart to postpone their enjoyment of it ! " 

Then after arguing at some length, the advantages 
of the canal, he concluded : 

" Is it not high time for us to rise up out of this unenlightened, 
selfish, narrow policy, which makes m.ore account of tolls than of 
commerce, of local interests than of the general good, of a State 
than of a Nation? If men will build us canals more useful than 
those we have, I do not say that we should help them, — but I do say 
that we should let them. Our present improvements are to be 
prized by us ; but we must not make them a finality. On the con- 
trary, the door for greater improvements must be constantly left 
open." 

In 1867 he wrote to Alvan Bronson, of Oswego: 

" For one I, never suspected that the Midland Road was to be 
turned aside for the benefit of any interests, even those of Oswego. 
We understood that the one great object in building it was to open 
to the products of the great west an avenue to the city of New York 
cheaper than any other which there was or could be in the State of 
New York. . . , Scarcely will the construction of the Niagara 
Ship Canal have been commenced, ere will also have commenced 
the construction of a railroad from New York across Chenango and 
Madison Counties to Oswego. It will be a road far more substantial 
and expensive than the contemplated one. It will not be a road zig- 
zagging after bonds, — but the shortest there can be. The zigzagging 
road would not remove nor at all lessen the necessity of building the 
other. And when the other were built, what then would the zigzag- 
ging road be worth to its stockholders ? . . . There is complaint 
in some quarters that 1 do not increase to twenty-five thousand dol- 
lars my subscription to the Midland Road. I cannot see that, in 
any point of view, it is my duty to increase it. Had the proper 
route of the road been adopted, I should, from the fact of my own- 
ership of property in Oswego, be morally bound to make a large sub- 
scription to the stock of the road. I should not then have objected 
to its being as large as twenty-five thousand dollars. But, a grossly 
improper route having been chosen, I am, on the other hand, morally 
bound not to add to my subscription. Nothing in my stewardship 
must I be guilty of wasting ; and I must not, by adding to the sub- 



34- LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

aimed " To maintain the right of every country to a 
republican government, and the consequent duty of all 
republicans to unite for a solidarity of republics." The 
needful information respecting means of efforts and rules 
of affiliation is given. The date is January, 1867. A 
scheme like this fired the imagination of Gerrit Smith. 
The vision of Utopia was always in view, gladdening and 
consoling. While toiling at the most unremunerative 
and disheartening causes in a " topsy-turvey world," he 
could contemplate a future when the vice of intemper- 
ance, the guilt of slavery, the brutality of war should 
cease ; when four hours of daily labor w^ould be suffi- 
cient to supply man's natural wants, and the general cul- 
tivation of the intellectual nature should be carried joy- 
ously on. 



PHILANTHROPY. 335 

Road came true and justified the moral grounds of his 
objection. Had the building of the Niagara Ship Canal 
been undertaken, his beloved city of Oswego might have 
risen, according to his prediction, to be the great and 
beautiful city of his dreams. 

The faith in human brotherhood, in the harmony of 
human interests, in the mutual dependence of the races, 
and the absolute safety of justice, made him an easy 
convert to the principles of free trade. Exclusive rights, 
private privileges, local prerogatives and monopolies 
were his detestation. He believed that all mankind 
flourished and were happy together ; no profit, he was 
sure, could be lasting or solid that was gained by a sec- 
tion, at the expense of the community. He ascribed to 
the teaching of Alvan Bronson his allegiance to free 
trade ; but he must have come to it sooner or later 
bv his unaided instinct. He could not have been a 
protectionist and remained, in other respects, what 
he was. 

Why was he not, by a similar instinct of humanity, 
an advocate of the unqualified abolition of the penalty 
of death for the crime of murder?- He was not. He 
gave money in aid of the advocacy of this reform. He 
favored its discussion, and would have been glad to be 
convinced by the arguments of its champions. But he 
stopped short of being persuaded, because the commu- 
nity was, in his view, of more consequence than the in- 
dividual; safety demanded the suppression of crime, 
and the doom of death was the surest deterrent from 
crimes of the darkest character. The doctrine that vice 
was an infirmity of the blood to be pardoned, and crime 

a misfortune to be pitied, was a scandal to his moral 
i6* 



33^ LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

sense. He believed in moral responsibility, in freedom 
of choice, in the power of the roused will ; and he be- 
lieved, consequently, in the restraining force of punish- 
ment. His doctrine on this subject, so fully stated in 
the address before the American Peace Society,' at Bos- 
ton, May 24, 1858, remained his doctrine to the end. 

*' The inviolability of human life ! Much is said in favor of it, and 
not a little very beautifully and strongly said ; but after all the doc- 
trine seems not to be reasonable. I readily admit that the life of 
our brother is not to be taken unless there be the utmost necessity 
for it. Even he who is convicted of murder should be led to prison 
rather than to the gallows if thereby society shall be made equally 
safe from him, and others shall be no less deterred from committing 
the crime. But that he who has murdered has forfeited his life, and 
placed it at the absolute disposal of the brotherhood I cannot doubt. 
. . . To say the least, is there not a very disproportionate con- 
cern for the welfare of the murderer? His fellow-man into whose 
hands his crime has put him, have their own welfare to see to ; and 
this they must do most thoroughly, be it at whatever expense it may 
to him who has been guilty of invading it. The rights of the inno- 
cent must be maintained, cost what it will to the guilty. The com- 
mon thief must be visited with a punishment adequate to restrain 
his further violations of the sacredness of property. And so too, 
must life go for life, if in that wise murder can be most effectually 
prevented." 

Gerrit Smith was one of the many petitioners to Gov- 
ernor Dix, in 1873, for the life of the convict Foster whom 
he thought possibly guiltless of the crime of murder. 
But he apparently had not the matter much at heart; for 
the note was a very short one, without form of argu- 
ment, or warmth of appeal. In a letter to his wife, he 
merely alludes to the case: ** So poor Foster must be 
hung ! I hoped the Governor would spare his life.'* 
Many a loud voiced champion of the gallows, whose per- 
sonal feelings proved, in this case, stronger than the 



PHILANTHROPY, 337 

sense of duty to society, cried more pathetically over the 
fate of the criminal than did this gentle, but just spirit. 
His love of humanity was too sincere, and his abhor- 
rence of evil too deep for him to grieve because a habit- 
ual disturber of the peace was removed. 

Peterboro, Nov. ai, 1868. 

Hon. M. H. BovEE : 

My Dear Sir — I have never taken the ground that human life 
is " inviolable." Nevertheless, I have, for many years held that 
there should be no capital punishment in a nation or state where 
the imprisonment of the convict can be made sure. 

I believe that capital punishment exerts a depraving" influence on 
the public mind ; and that, while it deters from the commission of no 
crime, its tendency is to make all crimes more frequent. Still, should 
it turn out that the safety of the innocent requires the taking of the 
life of the guilty, then let it be taken ; for the safety of the innocent 
is the first consideration. But I do not believe it will require it 
where the guilty can be shut up beyond the power of escape. 

I trust that you will be in Albany the coming winter to argue 
with our legislature for the abolition of capital punishment. 

With great regard, your friend, 

Gerrit Smith. 

The changes in opinion that followed the abandon- 
ment of the Calvinistic theology were not confined to 
the speculative region, or to the usual departments of 
reform, but extended to the intricate problems of social 
life. A few years ago, on the occasion of a celebrated 
case of divorce and marriage, when a neglected and out- 
raged woman found escape through the laws of another 
state from the brutality of a drunkard, and married, on 
his death bed, the man who had been her best friend, 
and her deliverer in painful straits, Gerrit Smith es- 
poused the woman's cause against an infuriated press 
and an insane public opinion. At this time he wrote 



33^ LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

and published an article declaring that his early convic- 
tions in favor of the severe limitation, if not the absolute 
prohibition of divorce had undergone revision and cor- 
rection. He had come to think that the doctrine of 
the New Testament which he had held to be authority 
was, on rational grounds, open to criticism, besides being 
inapplicable to modern society. He had long been of 
the opinion that the ethics of Jesus, being adapted to a 
new state of things, being the moral code for the ** King- 
dom of Heaven ** which He came to establish, must be 
modified and readjusted to meet the problems of our 
civilization. Some of the precepts, notably this one 
respecting marriage and divorce, were probably intended 
for the instruction of Jews, whose customs of divorce 
had become exceedingly lax. He regarded as illogical 
the practice of judging Western society by Eastern max- 
ims, the usages and needs of the nineteenth century by 
the traditions. of the first ; and considered as ** ludicrously 
inconsistent the tens of thousands who, in defiance of 
the whole Gospel, are willing that government should 
multiply without limit death -and -damnation-dealing 
dramshops, and protect slaveholders in making merchan- 
dise of men, and who are at the same time shocked at 
governments being so anti-Gospel as to allow a broken- 
hearted woman to be divorced from the drunken hus- 
band who beats her, and threatens and attempts to kill 
her." 

The discussion of the Alabama treaty called from 
Gerrit Smith words of earnest confidence in the good 
will of the English people, and in the maintenance of 
peace between the two nations. They were printed in 
his own little paper, *• The anti-Dramshop,** and were 



PHILANTHROPY. 339 

probably read by few people ; but they were significant 
of the generous temper of the man. 

*' Come, England, make your offer ! Make it in a generous 
spirit, and it will be accepted in a generous spirit. Stand no longer 
on your interpretation of the treaty ! Stand no longer on your de- 
cision that it would be contrary to the dealings of the nations with 
each other to make these indirect losses a part of our account 
against you ! *' 

The cause of Cuba enhsted his warmest enthusiasm. 
To Miguel De Aldama, Thomas Jordan, and Charles A, 
Dana, he sent his cheque for one thousand dollars in 
1873 : ** This is neither the first nor the second time you 
have spontaneously given equal sums to the Cuban 
cause ;*' the committee wrote. ** But upon this occasion 
your donation is accompanied by such warm expressions 
of sympathy for the rights and afflictions of the Cubar^ 
people, that they must indubitably find an echo not 
only in the gratitude of the Cubans, but also in the. 
hearts of all lovers of liberty and justice." At great 
pains he arranged public meetings in the aid of Cuba, 
at Peterboro and Canastota, writing and circulating 
hand bills, and making the occasions attractive by his 
hospitality. The ill success of these efforts gave him 
bitter pain. ** What will these people do," he observed 
plaintively to a friend and neighbor, ** when I am gone ! 
All my life, I have labored to interest them in the best 
things and the best people ; they allow me to do it, un- 
assisted. I am old and soon shall leave them. Yet, 
even now, they take no interest." 

What will they do indeed! They did nothing. 
When he died, there were no signs of life remaining in 
them. 



340 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

Earnest men in foreign lands showed more apprecia- 
tion of the great-hearted American, than did his neigh- 
bors in the little village of Peterboro. 

My Dear Friend^ — I have been, from day to day, delaying my 
answering you and acknowledging your very liberal gift of seventy- 
tive pounds sterling to our cause, hoping to find time for a letter such 
as you ask, to your countrymen. I cannot write it now^ and will not 
delay any more sending a few words of gratefulness. I shall cer- 
tainly write and send a letter for publication in a few days ; you may 
reckon on it. But I am overwhelmed with work, and threatened 
with giddiness and other ominous symptoms when I write too much. 

I fancy your spontaneous gift will bring good luck to my plans. 
I feel deeply grateful not only for the money, which is most useful, 
but for the spirit in which it is given, and for the good, loving, and 
earnest words which accompany it. Bless you ! 

I am absorbed in an actual crisis, and in the Roman question. I 
hope that, with God's help, we shall solve it in a way beneficial not 
only to ourselves, but to mankind. 

Ever faithfully yours, 

Joseph Mazzini. 

Feb'y 2i~'67, 18 Fulham Road, London, S. W. 



London, Aug^ust 8. 

Dear Sir — From my friend Bulowski and others I know how 
our ideas concerning the immense advantages of a close alliance 
between the republicans of the new world are harmonizing, and I 
know that you belong to that class of men who understand that to 
be a man is to be one in thought and action, to strive to embody 
what we believe to be truth, into reality. The alliance proposed by 
us and accepted by the New York and Boston Committees, is doubt- 
less a good and great thought, but requiring, to bear fruit, a great 
deal of active energy, and a capability for feeling the sacredness of 
the principle and the practical way through which it can become a 
powerful yiz^/. You have both. Let me reckon on you as upon one 
of the principal workers in and for the alliance. Lend a hand to 
what I call the laving down of the moral Atlantic Cable. Your help 
is needed. 

The alliance wants organization, propagandism, a press, travel- 
lers, plenty of things requiring funds. Let us strike the coin of the 



PHI LAN THROP Y, 34 ^ 

Republican Alliance. We have proposed to both the committees 
the issue of subscription notes for one, five, ten, twenty dollars, 
representing the admission to the Association, or the sympathy of 
those who will not, through some individual reason, formally belong 
to it. It stems to me almost essential that an American name 
should in these notes, be added to ours. The specimen of the note 
is by this time in the hands of the New York Committee ; and I trust 
you will see it, think of it, and strongly advocate, with or without 
modifications, a speedy realization of the scheme. 

Believe me, dear sir, ever faithfully yours, 

Joseph Mazzini. 



i8 Fulham Road, Nov. 5. 

My Dear Sir — I come back from a three months* journey to 
Switzerland and Italy, and find such an arrear of work to be done 
that I have no time to write to you as I should wish. But I avail 
myself of the opportunity of my friend Mr. Linton leaving for the 
United States, to tell you that I am very grateful to you for your 
kind, good friendly letter, to tell you that I have read *' The Theolo- 
gies," and that I should feel ready to sign almost everything you 
say there, and that I value above all, the frank, fearless way in which 
you state what you believe or disbelieve in. 

Mr. Linton, whom I beg to introduce to you, will inform you of 
our actual views and prospects as far as our Alliance is concerned. 
I feel disheartened at the prolonged silence of the two committees. 
I have never had an answer to my proposals. I regret it for both 
your sake and ours. To us a material help, just as that you speak 
of, would now be of the highest importance to yourself. The practical 
positive organization of the Alliance would be the initiation of a 
high, noble task, the fulfilment of which would strengthen you and 
consecrate as it were, even the internal struggle through which you 
now must go. 

Do what you can in the right direction, and believe me, my dear 
sir, ever faithfully yours, 

Joseph Mazzini. 

The little package containing these letters from the 
great Italian reformer, contains with them a copy of the 
circular announcing "The Universal Republic** which 



342 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

aimed "To maintain the right of every country to a 
republican government, and the consequent duty of all 
republicans to unite for a solidarity of republics." The 
needful information respecting means of efforts and rules 
of affiliation is given. The date is January, 1867. A 
scheme like this fired the imagination of Gerrit Smith. 
The vision of Utopia was always in view, gladdening and 
consoling. While toiling at the most unremunerative 
and disheartening causes in a " topsy-turvey world," he 
could contemplate a future when the vice of intemper- 
ance, the guilt of slavery, the brutality of war should 
cease ; when four hours of daily labor would be suffi- 
cient to supply man's natural wants, and the general cul- 
tivation of the intellectual nature should be carried joy- 
ously on. 



CHAPTER X. 



THE END. 



GERRIT SMITH'S health was, to all appearances 
completely restored after his return from the asy- 
lum at Utica. The diary, which for many years recorded 
ailments, colds, hoarseness, giddiness, is nearly silent on 
the subject during the last ten years of his life. He 
called himself an old man, and spoke of the infirmities 
of his age more than was necessary ; this was his habit. 
His friends rallied him upon it, as they had always 
done. His physical strength had visibly declined. His 
gait had become shambling, his movement slow ; but 
his mind continued clear; his faculties worked easily; 
his feelings were warm, his impulses fresh and generous 
as of old. He was ripe, mellow and juicy ; grander than 
ever in personal aspect, patriarchal in bearing and look, 
courteous in demeanor. He brought to mind the figures 
of ancient worthies who were at the same time priests 
and kings, their white beards betokening the dignity of 
the sacred office, their stalwart forms suggesting the 
sword and battle axe. His eye was soft, his skin ruddy, 
his voice deep and unctuous. As he stood, listening or 
talking, he was a man majestic and beautiful to look 
upon. On the 24th of December, 1874, he left his home 
in Peterboro to pass the Christmas holidays in New 
York, at the house of his kinsman, John Cochrane, 60 



344 ^IP^ OF GERRIT SMITH, 

Clinton Place, leaving a paper on his desk giving direc- 
tions about his letters and papers. He was in excellent 
spirits. The Christmas eve was happy ; the Christmas 
day was passed cheerfully in social chat. At the dinner- 
table he exhibited his usual liveliness, though it was re- 
marked that he had less than his wonted readiness in 
responding to " sentiments.'* It was already his early 
bed time when the company rose from table. His day's 
task was not completed. Calling on his niece, Mrs. 
Walter, to get her writing materials, he then dictated 
four letters ; the first was to his old housekeeper at Peter- 
boro, charging her not to neglect his poor in the village, 
to see that the children of the orphan asylum had their 
holiday supplies, and that papers were sent to the free 
reading room which he maintained ; the other three were 
kindly answers to applications for charity. He then 
went to bed, with plans in his mind to visit Thurlow 
Weed, Charles O'Conor, and other old friends the next 
day, and with pleasant thoughts about the happiness of 
the day just ended. The night was undisturbed. He rose 
as usual, at half-past six o'clock, and was dressing him- 
self, when his wife, who had not risen, was surprised by 
an incoherent remark that escaped him. She raised her 
head to look, and saw him feeling vaguely about in the 
air. She hastened to him, spoke but received no answer, 
tried to move him, but he was inert. Suddenly, with 
his accustomed dignity of bearing, he rose from his chair 
— walked unsupported to the bed, slowly, saying as if 
to himself, " weak, very weak," laid himself straight, on 
his back, his right hand at his side, his left hand on his 
breast. So he lay till he died, a movement of the left 
hand in response to his wife's repeated and agonized cry 



THE END. 345 

for recognition being the last sign of conscious life. The 
household was alarmed ; the family flocked in : the physi- 
cian came ; everv brain was active in devisinsf allevia- 
tions; every hand and foot was ready to help him who 
had been hands and feet to so many; he lay still, heavily 
breathing, unconscious. All day Saturday, all day Sun- 
day, till Monday noon he lay thus. Then the glassy 
eyes started open to make the face look more soulless ; 
the head turned mechanically, and then sank heavily 
into the pillows; the breath rallied for a final effort, then 
ceased. The man was dead. Fifty-three hours death 
had been extinguishing the vital spark. Slight premoni- 
tions of cerebral disturbance in the form of sudden wak- 
ings from sleep, nightmare, and fright, would have 
alarmed him, had they been more pronounced. As it 
was he had no apprehension or pain of dissolution. 

The first mourner was Thurlow Weed, his old ac- 
quaintance who knew him in college, and stood by him 
when he made his first appearance in State politics, at 
Utica, in 1824. The next day — December 29 — the body, 
surrounded with fresh flowers, the grand head embedded 
in roses, lih'es, pinks, violets and ferns, was visited by 
troops of friends, Vice President Wilson, the President 
and Treasurer of Hamilton College, Highland Garnet, 
Christopher Brown, John D. Mulford, Peter S. Porter, 
Charles B. Ray, and other representatives of the black 
people, by Commissioner Echeverria, and General Queral- 
to of the Cuban army, bringing expressions of respect and 
gratitude from their countrymen. Men of all the profes- 
sions and laymen of every degree, came to look at the 
dead face of the philanthropist. A night train carried 
the body and a company of relatives to Canastota, 



346 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

where carriages were in waiting to finish the last 
journey. 

In spite of the bitter cold — thirty degrees below zero 
— a crowd was collected at the railway station and at 
the house. The whole village was present at the nian- 
sion when the body arrived, men and women of all ages 
and degrees, the oldest and poorest being most conspic- 
uous, because most bereaved. Flowers adorned the 
rooms; the Cuban cross stood on the table in the li- 
brary, mottoes from the good man's speeches and letters 
hung in the hall, the library, and over Huntington's por- 
trait in the parlor. The children of the Orphan Asylum, 
thirty in number, white and black — special wards of Ger- 
rit Smith, inmates of an institution which he founded, 
came in, looked one after another on the face of their 
benefactor, and, ranged in a semi-circle about the coffin, 
sang a favorite hymn of his. 

Let us gather up the sunbeams 

Lying all around our path ; 
Let us keep the wheat and roses 

Casting out the thorns and chaff. 
Let us find our sweetest comforts 

In the blessings of to-day, 
With a patient hand removing 

All the briars from the way. 

The funeral services were brief and simple. The 
family consulted the well known feelings of the dead, 
by excluding everything of a showy, expiatory, or peni- 
tential character. He regarded death as a natural and 
gracious ordinance, not as the doom for sin, or the result 
of transgression ; not as the close of earthly probation, 
or the opening of the dreadful door to the Hall of Judg- 
ment ; but rather as one passage in the human creature's 



THE END, 347 

career; a passage which all must pass through, and 
which one was as likely to pass through calmly as an- 
other. He had always considered the present as the 
fruit of the past and the seed of the future; had always 
been more concerned with what was than with what 
was to come. If he thought of the hereafter, it was 
with expectation and confidence, never with fear or 
foreboding. It is remarkable that, being the religious; 
man that he was, he did not, even in his Calvinistic days," 
dwell on the hideous alternatives of death. Though 
the diary records the decease of many people, the saintly 
and the passionate, the good and the bad, the believing 
and the unbelieving, there is no allusion in it to the 
frightful hereafter, depicted by the popular creed. Of- 
ten the departed is spoken of as having gone to heaven, 
as being with the Saviour, but never as having gone to 
hell, as being with Satan and his fiends. The natural 
faith of the man was unclouded by the views he pro- 
fessed. He anticipated in feeling the brighter day that 
has come when the Love of Christ is the heart of the 
Gospel and a gracious God is all in all. 

Nothing was said at the house or grave, that was out 
of keeping with the benignant, beneficent life of the man. 
The Rev. S. R. Calthrop, a Unitarian minister of Syra- 
cuse, a liberal, cultivated, wise, and sympathetic man, 
the successor of the venerable Samuel J. May, the be- 
loved friend of the deceased, read hopeful passages from 
Scripture, gratefully acknowledged the divine mercy and 
besought the heavenly peace, and addressed cheerful 
words to the mourners. A sentiment of mournful sym- 
pathy pervaded the house. The more bitterly bereaved 
broke into loud lament for their lost benefactor. The 



348 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH, 

relations and personal friends stood in the soft shadow 
of recollections. Old ** Aunt Betsy," the early protegee, 
the confidential inmate and trusted friend, now past 
eighty, stood, in complacent sorrow by the coffin, her 
sense of bereavement being chastened by the universal 
respect which all classes manifested towards her bene- 
factor. The members of the village Sunday school sang 
hymns from their song book which had been sweet to 
the good man's ear, songs of kindness and compassion. 
The lid of the casket was closed, and the procession fol- 
lowed the body, through the snow, to the unpretending 
cemetery on the summit of a neighboring hill. Gen. 
John Knox, of Knoxboro ; Charles B. Sedgwick, of 
Syracuse ; Henry A. Foster, Dewitt C. Littlejohn and 
Hamilton Littlefield, of Oswego ; F. F. Petrie, Caleb 
Calkins, John Campbell, Jeremiah Bump, and Noah 
Frister, (colored) of Peterboro ; William Kenny and 
George Bland, (colored) of Geneva ; Dr. Milton B. Jarvis, 
of Canastota : and Bergamin Chapman, of Clockville, 
acting as pall-bearers. A plain block of granite, with 
his name cut on it, marks the spot where Gerrit Smith 
lies. Next him, covered by a block of white marble, lies 

the wife who survived him but three months. On the 
other side a more ambitious, but less becoming, monu- 
ment of marble indicates the burial-place of his first 
wife Wealtha. At a little distance, a broad marble slab 
commemorates his f:ither, and two m<Jnuments his mother 
and two brothers. The large plot has no enclosure 
about it. The stranger's feet may stand there. It is 
the one plot in the burial ground that is evidently tended 
by careful hands. The rest are too little cared for, in 
some instances overgrown with weeds and coarse grass. 



^ THE END, 349 

Here the grass is closely* cut, the weeds are eradicated, 
the dead leaves are removed as if in deference to the 
man who lived a sweet, open and cleanly life, 

With a patient hand removing 
All the briars from the way. 

The death of Gerrit Smith excited a profound feeling 
in the community. All classes were touched. The 
press of the country, far and near, religious and secular, 
political, reformatory, social, took notice of him. The 
metropolitan papers devoted columns to a description 
of his life and character. His last hours and his obse- 
quies were detailed with much minuteness by special 
reporters. The Board of Trade at Oswego met and 
passed resolutions in honor of him. The colored citi- 
zens of New York, with the old abolitionists, met in the 
Shiloh Presbyterian Church, on Sixth Avenue, to listen 
to a Memorial prepared by Highland Garnet, and to 
speeches gratefully celebrating the services rendered to 
the oppressed of all nations by the departed philan- 
thropist. On all sides the tribute was paid to the man 
who loved his fellow-men. The politicians forgot their 
animosities, the reformers their jealousies, even the di- 
vines their rancor, and said a hearty, if a brief, word in 
praise of one who held party, reform and church connec- 
tions subordinate to the welfare of humanity. The 
Nation^ consecrated opponent of sentimentalism, quoted 
Dr. Channing's description of Mr. Smith, as ** A man 
worthy of all honor for his overflowing munificence, for 
his calm yet invincible moral courage," for his Christian 
liberality, embracing men of every sect and name, and 
for his deep, active, inexhaustible sympathy with the 



352 LIFE OF G ERR IT SMITH. 

Its wise deeds like the ripe and garnered fruit 
Its wild hopes chastened and its tumults stilled 
In air serene of thought entranced and mute. 
O friend ! this hand in flattery unskilled, 
For thee alone thus strikes the wandering lute. 

£UZA SCUDDER. 
Peterboro, Oct. 30, 1S66. 

The joined hands pictured at the end of the volume 
are the hands of Gerrit Smith and his beloved wife. 
They were modeled from life. Hand in hand the two 
went through life together, sharing and counseling, and 
supporting. The union was perfect. Both were large in 
brain and heart. The wife was the more poetical and 
delicate in mental structure, but she was equally simple 
and brave ; equally earnest in her humanity and resolute 
in her devotion. Her interests and his corresponded in 
all respects. Their differences were as friendly and sweet 
as their sympathies. Her religion, like his, was interior 
and practical ; but while his was the more practical, hers 
was the more interior. Her interest in Spiritualism 
pleasantly teazed, but did not vex him. They were in 
truth, all in all to each other. They left but two chil- 
dren, Greene and Elizabeth, (Mrs. C. D. Miller). Their 
grandchildren and great-grandchildren were precious to 
them as their own ; and the memory of those that had 
died in infancy and childhood was so vivid as to keep 
them always near. Love ruled and blessed the home. 

Few words are necessary to sum up the peculiarities 
of the character whose deeds have been described in the 
foregoing chapters. To say that Gerrit Smith was not a 
philosopher, a close scientific thinker, a student of theo- 
ries about human society, or of human societv itself as 
an organic product of time, is superfluous. The most 



THE END. 351 

language of eulogy, often so absurdly or tumidly applied, may in 
this instance, be used in its strongest form without danger of exag- 
geration. No description of sublime deeds can match their per- 
formance. Truly, in the Peterboro philanthropist and reformer was 
seen: 

* A combination and a form, indeed, 

Where every god did seem to set his seal, 

To give the world assurance of a man.' 

Of a man not only remarkable for the beauty and stateliness of his 
person, the suavity of his manners, and the charm of his social in- 
tercourse, but exceptional among millions in what he achieved in the 
matter of self-conquest over the strongest temptations and the most 
ample opportunities to lead a luxurious and purely worldly life." 

There were tributes in verse, many ; but wisdom 
counsels not to print them. Mr. Smith, besides medi- 
tating the Muse, himself, on a very slender reed, was an 
inspiration, all through his life, to the muse of others. 
Even those who were never suspected of indulging in 
poetic flights, ventured, in his honor, upon the empyrean. 
The book of family rhymes contains many an effusion 
which the authors \ypuld not care to see in type. Among 
the rest Miss Emily Faithful appears, in wonted prose 
rhythmically divided. The following sonnet, by a real 
poet, Miss Eliza Scudder, is an example of the best sen- 
timent called out by this noble life. 

TO GERRIT SMITH. 

Of all the days that gild the gladsome year. 
Not the first freshness of the vernal time 
Nor the refulgent pomp of summer's prime 
Giveth to me such warm and heartfelt cheer. 
As the sweet season that hrings in the dawn. 
With roseate flush tempered with golden haze, 
And on the glowing woods and harvest lays 
The fabled splendors of an Orient mom. 
How like a life by purest goodness filled, 
16 



354 LIP^ OF GERRIT SMITH. 

English were there, not one, ancient or modern, original 
or translated. There were no essays, no treatises on the 
constitution of the human mind or on social ethics. Sav- 
ing two popular volumes by Darwin, there was no science. 
A handsomely bound set of Campbell's British Poets 
comprehended all the poetry ; and this, it may be ob- 
served by the way, was the only sumptuous looking 
work in the collection. It was apparently a gift copy, 
and had not been much enjoyed. There was no drama, 
no fiction, no travel. What was there ? the astonished 
reader will ask. There was religious literature, so called, 
in good store ; there were sermons, homilies, commenta- 
ries, the works of Wesley, the works of the " pious John 
Newton." Three or four of Kenan's books in the bad 
English translation, were encountered ; a set of Theodore 
Parker's writings ; Mrs. Child's ** Development of Reli- 
gious Ideas ;" some volumes by A. J. Davis ; Jacolliot's 
"Bible in India," translated; Appleton's American Cy- 
clopedia. It was a singularly unintellectual library, even 
for a small and miscellaneous reader, who desired only a 
superficial acquaintance with books. With the excep- 
tion of a few primary books, there was nothing in any 
foreign tongue, ancient or modern. The books there 
were evinced no decided or distinctive taste. They were 
not selected, but were evidently picked up; many were 
sent by authors or publishers. It was not the library 
of a cultivated, educated, or deeply thoughtful man. 

The truth is that Gerrit Smith was not a man of 
books ; not a reader even of such books as he possessed ; 
not a reader of reviews or of magazines. The news-i 
papers, of which he took many, of all sorts, furnished his 
intellectual material. They made him acquainted with 



THE END. 355 

the events of the day, and, having a good memory, he 
was equipped for the chief emergencies of practical hfe. 
A faithful reader of the best of the daily papers will seem 
to be a wise and well-endowed man. It will be a mis- 
take to call Gerrit Smith, on this account, a superficial 
man. That he was not, because his own mind was any- 
thing but shallow. He was gifted with extraordinary 
intellectual force. His resources were abundant and 
ready at command. His mental impulse was great. He 
was always awake and alive ; eager to receive and to im- 
part. His faculties played easily. To think, write, 
speak, cost him no effort ; he enjoyed the exercise. His 
thoughts came quickly, faster often than he could ar- 
range them. They crowded one upon another, pushed 
one another from the track of argument. He was mas- 
sive and keen at the same time ; with a perspicacity that 
a pleader might envy, and a momentum that would 
make a fortune at the bar. In business clearness, decis- 
ion and despatch he was almost without a peer. The 
business men who knew him held him in the highest 
admiration. Constitutional lawyers acknowledged his 
preeminent ability in dealing with fundamental principles 
and interpreting nice questions. One who knew him 
well and long said of him : " Without doubt, his was one 
of the profoundest and most fertile minds America has 
produced, and viewed from any point which human 
vision can open, it is a great pity that he had to spend 
the rich aboundings of his nature in caring for wealth 
which in a large degree fettered his genius and cramped 
his powers, and without which both he and the world — 
so far as his influence in it is concerned — would have 
been better off this day.*' 



354 LIP^ OF GERRIT SMITH. 

English were there, not one, ancient or modern, original 
or translated. There were no essays, no treatises on the 
constitution of the human mind or on social ethics. Sav- 
ing two popular volumes by Darwin, there was no science. 
A handsomely bound set of Campbell's British Poets 
comprehended all the poetry; and this, it maybe ob- 
served by the way, was the only sumptuous looking 
work in the collection. It was apparently a gift copy, 
and had not been much enjoyed. There was no drama, 
no fiction, no travel. What was there ? the astonished 
reader will ask. There was religious literature, so called, 
in good store ; there were sermons, homilies, commenta- 
ries, the works of Wesley, the works of the " pious John 
Newton.** Three or four of Renan*s books in the bad 
English translation, were encountered ; a set of Theodore 
Parker's writings ; Mrs. Child's ** Development of Reli- 
gious Ideas ;*' some volumes by A. J. Davis ; JacoUiot's 
** Bible in India,'* translated; Appleton's American Cy- 
clopedia. It was a singularly unintellectual library, even 
for a small and miscellaneous reader, who desired only a 
superficial acquaintance with books. With the excep- 
tion of a few primary books, there was nothing in any- 
foreign tongue, ancient or modern. The books there 
were evinced no decided or distinctive taste. They were 
not selected, but were evidently picked up ; many were 
sent by authors or publishers. It was not the library 
of a cultivated, educated, or deeply thoughtful man. 

The truth is that Gerrit Smith was not a man of 
books ; not a reader even of such books as he possessed ; 
not a reader of reviews or of magazines. The news-i 
papers, of which he took many, of all sorts, furnished his 
intellectual material. They made him acquainted with- 



THE END. 355 

the events of the day, and, having a good memory, he 
was equipped for the chief emergencies of practical life. 
A faithful reader of the best of the daily papers will seem 
to be a wise and well-endowed man. It will be a mis- 
take to call Gerrit Smith, on this account, a superficial 
man. That he was not, because his own mind was any- 
thing but shallow. He was gifted with extraordinary 
intellectual force. His resources were abundant and 
ready at command. His mental impulse was great. He 
was always awake and alive ; eager to receive and to im- 
part. His faculties played easily. To think, write, 
speak, cost him no effort ; he enjoyed the exercise. His 
thoughts came quickly, faster often than he could ar- 
range them. They crowded one upon another, pushed 
one another from the track of argument. He was mas- 
sive and keen at the same time ; with a perspicacity that 
a pleader might ^x\vy^ and a momentum that would 
make a fortune at the bar. In business clearness, decis- 
ion and despatch he was almost without a peer. The 
business men who knew him held him in the highest 
admiration. Constitutional lawyers acknowledged his 
preeminent ability in dealing with fundamental principles 
and interpreting nice questions. One who knew him 
well and long said of him : " Without doubt, his was one 
of the profoundest and most fertile minds America has 
produced, and viewed from any point which human 
vision can open, it is a great pity that he had to spend 
the rich aboundings of his nature in caring for wealth 
which in a large degree fettered his genius and cramped 
his powers, and without which both he and the world — 
so far as his influence in it is concerned — would have 
been better off this day.*' 



.33^^ LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

To this unqualified jud^jmcnt the biographer demurs 
From one point of view opened by human vision, the 
(.ircumstances amid which Gerrit Smith lived, from boy- 
hood up, were singularly calculated to develop his 
f.^cnius. His wealth was his opportunity. His business 
talent was part of his endowment, and not the least re- 
markable part of it. The work of increasing, investing, 
administering money, was a professional occupation from 
whicli he derived the advantages that a professional oc- 
cupation gives. Nature made him a philanthropist, and 
wealth enabled him to do what philanthropists love to 
do. His name among men is, as a matter of fact, due to 
his wealth, and to the use he made of it. The grandeur 
of his character, as was attested by the universal tribute 
that men paid him after death, consisted in his power to 
master great wealth, to bind it to service, to make it the 
instrument of his manhood, to extract from it the golden 
quality, to ** make friends of the mammon of unright- 
eousness.** He knew what it was to make money, and 
so knew what it was to lose it. To be rich was not so 
much a thing of course with him that he looked on 
riches with habitual indifference bordering on contempt. 
He knew what money was worth, and because he knew 
it, thought it no mean employment to labor for it, and 
no unworthy aim to consecrate it to the needs of hu- 
manity. Because he so prized its capabilities, he would 
place none of it at the disposal of his lower nature, spent 
nothing on pleasure, nothing on amusement, next to 
nothing on dress. Pie bought no luxuries, ornaments or 
trinkets, purchased neither pictures nor bronzes, forbade 
needless household decorations, gave no holiday presents, 
indulged his family in no expensive dainties. His per- 



THE END. 357 

sonal expenses were absurdly small, even for a man of 
moderate means, not for the reason that he was ascetic, 
but for the reason that money, in his opinion, was worth 
too much to be wasted on frivolities, on things that the 
rust corrupted and the moth devoured. His house was 
large, for it answered the demands of his hospitality. 
His table was bountiful, as it must have been to feed the 
people who came in from the highways and byways ; 
but there was never the least ostentation. There was 
all that hospitality required, but nothing more. Mr. 
Smith himself considered wealth to be an opportunity, 
not a clog, and used to speak of it as the divinely ap- 
pointed means of his influence. 

As regards mental discipline and culture he had time 
for that, had he been so disposed. His business engage- 
ments were no more engrossing than the business or 
professional engagements of other men, lawyers, physi- 
cians, clergymen, journalists, writers. There was a pe- 
riod, lasting three or four years, when the cares of busi- 
ness consumed his whole time ; but usually, it was other- 
wise. He attended conventions, made speeches, wrote 
articles, published letters to people of all conditions. A 
portion of the time spent in this way would have been 
enough to make him accomplished as a man of thought 
and letters. But his bent was not in this direction. 
His mind was full and flowing. Not closeness and com- 
pression, but looseness, and copiousness were his talent. 
His was an urgency for expression, not an eagerness for 
acquisition. He was a talker, not a student; more at 
home on the platform, in the social circle, even in the 
pulpit, the lecture-room, the Sunday school, than in the 



35S LIFE OF CEKRIT SMITH, 

library. His affluent mind supplied him with materials 
for public and private uses. 

He was, essentially, a man of Heart. The deepest, 
most exacting element in his nature was Feeling. His 
warmth, exuberance, generosity, were conspicuous in his 
college days, and they were equally conspicuous in his 
maturity and age. His abounding, sympathetic, over- 
flowing disposition mantled in his countenance, suffused 
his eyes, beamed in his smile, imparted heartiness to his 
manner, mellowed the tones of his voice. His affections 
were ardent and constant. His lovingness had no 
changes of mood. His letters to his wife and children 
are perfect in their simplicity and natural overflow of 
expression. He had a passion for children. His eyes 
moistened at the least mention of suffering or sorrow. 
The mere thought of the divine goodness filled his 
cup of emotion to the brim. He was exceedingly sen- 
sitive to pain, in his own person or in that of others, 
even of strangers. He could not resist a tear. His 
wife having in one of her letters, spoken of the necessity 
she had been under to punish one of the children, he 
said in his answer : ** The next time the necessity oc- 
curs, save the whipping for me." Like other and all men 
of heart, he allowed feeling to dictate and direct the 
movements of intellect. The wish was father to the 
thought. Feeling is positive, arbitrary, dictatorial ; it 
speaks with authority, announces, proclaims, judges. 
Assertions arc confounded with arguments ; impressions 
stand for facts ; sentiments are laws. Feehng is pro- 
phetic, overworks the categorical imperative, exaggerates 
the importance of the personal pronoun. 

This quickness of sensibility made Mr. Smith an easy 



THE END. 359 

subject for religious impression, and the religious impres- 
sion moulded the sensibility. The feeling became most 
intense in the direction of God and Christ. The direc- 
tion was given by his orthodox inheritance and educa- 
tion, but so strong was the element of pure natural feel- 
ing in him that the theology did not bar the passage to 
the divine love. The veneration, awe, holy fear it in- 
spired were never qualified by terror, but filled his soul 
with reverence, trust and gratitude. Religion subdued 
and exalted all his emotions. A moral cast was given 
to his feelings. A sense of personal responsibility over- 
ruled passion. He was still the man of heart, but sancti- 
fied and consecrated. Love with him was all in all, but 
the love was heavenly, like the sunshine and the sum- 
mer rain. God was the perfect justice ; Christ was the 
absolute mercy, authenticating the instincts of his own 
bosom. 

All his life, whatever his dogmatic opinions, whether 
orthodox or heterodox, presbyterian or rationalist, Gerrit 
Smith was a practical, earnest, hearty Christian, as good 
an example of a Christian man as our modern times 
afford. He made the Christian life his law ; he accepted 
Jesus as his master; he aspired to be perfect after the 
standard set up in the New Testament. The Sermon 
on the Mount contained the sum of his philosophy; the 
Beatitudes kept before him the vision of happiness ; the 
Golden Rule was his motto. He assumed the posture 
of a servant; his desire was not to be ministered unto, 
but to minister; he gave his goods to the poor; he fed 
the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the imprisoned, 
loosed the fetters of those who were bound. He forgave 

his enemies, blessed those that cursed him, prayed for 
1 6* 



360 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

those who despitefully used him, made himself poor 
that the poor might be rich. An old friend testifies that 
he never, but once, saw him in a fit of anger. Then he 
begged him to pause an instant and repeat the ** Lord's 
Prayer." The bare recollection of the awful petition : 
** Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that 
trespass against us,'* subdued the wrath and melted the 
man. The diary, entirely free from self-consciousness, 
as unaffected a record as was ever penned, abounds in 
expressions of touching humility. ** Heavenly Father, 
may the year on which I have entered, be my best 
year! " is the usual opening of each twelve month. His 
candor was perfect ; so was his meekness. We came 
across this record in the diary : " I preached this morn- 
ing. This afternoon Mr. Copeland preached. Others 
followed. Mr. Bliss spoke strongly against myself; 
against my preaching politics on the Sabbath, and 
warned Christians to cease from following me." The 
scrap books contain insulting letters to himself, and his 
replies. Here is a specimen : 

Nelson, March 3, 1838. 

Dear Sir — You will recollect that you sent four colored people 
with your team to my house on Saturday, the i8th day of last month, 
and left th^m on my premises, without inquiring whether I could 
keep them or not, when you was well aware that they were paupers, 
very poorly clad, and destitute in everything, and after your teamster 
had left them on my hands and returned homeward, a man or a 
priest informed and requested me, in your behalf, to keep and furnish 
them until Monday morning. I told him I could not keep them any 
longer than Sunday. I accordingly kept them until Sunday, and 
furnished them with victuals and lodging at your expense, and for 
which I charged you two dollars, and expect that you will send 
the money soon, or at least will give an answer as soon as you 
receive this. 

N. B. In the first place, I should not have thought that you 



THE END. 361 

would have sent a filthy load of black paupers to a public house, to 
be kept over the Sabbath. 

And in the second place, that a man who pretends to be as 
friendly to the blacks as you do, would have sent them away as 
needy as they were, without clothes to keep them comfortable. 

Yours respectfully, 

William W. Clough. 

To which Mr. Smith replies as follows : 

Peterboro, March 7, 1838. 
Mr. W. W. Clough, Innkeeper, Nelson. 

Sir — On my return home last evening from Albany, your letter 
was handed to me. I recollect that one of my hired men took my 
friend, Rev. Mr. Wilson, to Nelson two or three weeks ago. And I 
was told after they had gone, that a colored family had availed them- 
selves of this opportunity to get thus far on their way to Cazenovia. 
I never saw this colored family, sir, more than a minute or two. 
They stopped at my house while on their way to Gazenovia, and 
stopped, so far as 1 know, simply to get their dinner. Mrs. Smith 
informs me that they ate their dinner, and that having received from 
her hands a present of a dollar, and of food sufficient to last them a 
couple of days, they left in the manner referred to. I knew nothing 
of this at the time. And, as I am much confined to my office, I know 
but little of many similar transactions in my family. 

Whether, under these circumstances, I ought to pay you the two 
dollars which you say you have charged against me, I leave to your- 
self to decide. If you write me that in your judgment I should pay 
the two dollars, I will send you the money. 

On the subject of your allusions to my having wronged and im- 
posed on yourself, and to the sincerity of my professions of regard for 
my colored brethren, I have nothing to say. That we may both do 
justly and love mercy, is the desire of 

Yours respectfully, 

Gerrit Smith. 

This man was subjected to something more than t?ie 
common vulgar persecutions that are visited on the in- 
dependent and unpopular. The prediction of the Mas- 
ter that his followers should have all manner of evil 



S62 L:FE of GFR.-^Il' ^MITIL 

things said against them I'alsoiy, was fulfilled in him, and 
the blessinjT pronounced on them who receive it gently, 
was his also. We give a sample of the letters he re- 
ceived. There is a striking familv likeness in all these 
productions, as everv man has reason to know who has 
tasted the cuo of oublic disfavor: 

•* It is impossible to fimi !an;^'jaic:e :o express the indignation and 
contempt with which ever/ ho'iorable man !ooks upon your conduct 
in re;2:'ird to the election t::a: has lust passed. Vou mean, contemot- 
ibie, fawnin-j" hvno<:r:te. a;:ostate : we can see throucrn vou as easilv 
as we can throug^h an old sieve. Vou are marked and will be at- 
tended to wherever you ;^o." 

On which Mr. Smith remarks: *' The whole letter 
makes it obvious that its writer, with whose plain deal- 
in cr I must not be offended, is a Whiij." 

The publication of his religious opinions brought 
upon him attacks of the most virulent description, and 
from persons be loved and had worked with m causes of 
reform. He took them patiently, replying to the argu- 
ment if there was any, acknowledging the courtesy, if 
it could be extracted, and keeping the insolence himself. 
The broken friendships were grieved over in secret. The 
bitt^:rnc.-T of hate was accounted for without casting re- 
proach on men he had honored, and still felt that he must 
rr;-,[)cct. lie was a Christian in believing that love was 
the fulfilling of the law, and that the kingdom of heaven, 
which is the reign of love, must come, as Jesus meant it 
shouM come, on earth. He was a Christian in believing 
that he must do his part in making that kingdom come. 
His was a genuine life, pure, obedient, trusting ; man- 
like and childlike ; honorable, chivalrous, spotless; a life 
of aspiration and of service His faults were those of a 



THE END, 363 

large, full, self-assured, self-reliant nature. He was not sor- 
did, or cunning. He had no private vices. He was proud, 
and confident, but neither arrogant nor overbearing. 
He asserted himself with the air and tone of authority 
that belong to men who are strong in feeling whether 
strong in intellect or weak ; but being, himself, strong in 
intellect, his self-assertion had the self-sufficient cast that 
is easily mistaken for conceit. He seemed to dictate 
and lay down the law and don the imperial purple. But 
at heart he was simple, humble, sympathetic, unselfish. 
Perhaps, as is the way of men of his temperament, he 
associated somewhat too closely his private feelings with 
the Eternal will. But it was the Eternal will he revered. 
The beauty of such a character will hardly be disputed 
among thoughtful people. The value of such a life to 
society will be estimated differently according to the 
school of philosophy to which the judge belongs. By 
the scientific it will be pronounced nearly, if not alto- 
gether worthless. By some it will be called injurious to 
the permanent welfare of modern communities. To the 
professors of the latest current theories of social progress, 
the habitual service of others is harmful to their self- 
respect, and demoralizing to their self-reliance ; the pro- 
fuse expenditure of money in works of charity is waste- 
ful, and productive only of idleness ; the appeal to moral 
sentiment as the ground and authority for action, instead 
of to the generalizations of recorded fact, is set down as 
hopelessly misleading; the fundamental position that 
the issues of life are from the heart is dismissed as fan- 
ciful, in view of the discovery that progress, with all it 
implies, is the result of man's adaptation to his environ- 
ment, and that this process of adaptation, slow and paii»- 



364 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

ful from ncccssitv, must not be interfered with bv indi- 
viduals. Herbert Spencer objects to the common, and 
almost instinctive sui;i;estion in cases of emergency that 
** something must be d«^ne/* that it is in precisely these 
cases that nothin^z sh<nild be done ; the meddlers should 
retire, and allow matters to adjust themselves, or to re- 
main for an indctinite time unadjusted. Things it is 
thought will instinctively work themselves into their pla- 
ces if let alone. Ilamlet fancies the world to be out of 
joint and curses tiie fate that calls him to set it right. 
Did he bless fate for so ordaining instead of cursing it, 
the situation would not be improved ; for the world is not 
**out of joint ;" it only looks so to Hamlet's diseased im- 
agination. The world is simolv chaotic, immature, unde- 
vcloDcd. N») one is called to ** set it ricrht." Everv one 
is called to keen hi-; intrusive hands off, and let it come 

A. 

natural". }• ri;:;ht of irsclf. The reformers and philanthro- 
pists do whatever is done to put the world ** out of joint" 
by their officious tinkering. ^len like Gerrit Smith, say 
these philosoniier-, <!o more harm than good in the world 
by their ]')ians and cff )rLS. In proportion to their wealth, 
their talent, their z.mI, the n'')bieness and sincerity of 
tiu:ir character, is tiicir mischiev')usness. Their failure 
is nature's repudiation of a niethod which is impractica- 
ble accordin:^ to the Liws of creation. Take the fine 
example r)f the man just [K)rtrayed. \\'\^ career was not, 

in this judgment, successful ; for the reason that feeling 
dors not govern the world ; goodness does not justify im- 
providence or make error harmless. His demand for 
ideal perfection in men singly or combined was incom- 
patible with sober expectation and reasonable perform- 
ance. His independence of such political organizations 



THE END. 3^5 

/ 

as there were was glorious, but inoperative and weaken- 
ing. He lost the attainable in striving for the unattain- 
able. His " Liberty Party " was a chimera ; his " Anti- 
Dram-shop Party** was a fanaticism. His negro colonies 
wasted away ; his runaway slaves came to no good in 
northern cities ; he ruined his beloVed Peterboro by ex- 
cessive indulgence, doing so much for the villagers that 
they became quite incapable of doing anything for them- 
selves. His generosity lowered the sources of public 
spirit and made men positively sordid. He proposed to 
build and endow a public library there, and the owners 
of desirable land sites were, all at once, misers, who held 
their ground at prices so exorbitant that the scheme was 
abandoned. He opened a free reading-room, and the 
thirst for information, being anticipated, was discouraged. 
He offered to erect a fountain on the common, and the 
jealousy of the residents, who could not agree where 
it should stand, caused a bitterness which the waters 
of Bethesda would not cure. He presented a town 
clock to the authorities, and they grew at once so parsi- 
monious that he was requested to provide a man to wind 
it up. The common railing was dilapidated, and re- 
mained so, because he did not choose to repair it at his 
own expense. A brood of foreign parasites hung on 
this branching oak. Tramps, swindlers, cheats multi- 
plied. Liars sprang up like weeds. Beggars infested 
the county. His bounty would in many cases, if not in 
most, have been more wisely bestowed on the devouring 
sea which it could not poison, or buried in the ground 
where it would lie forever hid. The charity he most 
congratulated himself on, the bounty given to worthy 
widows and old maids, throve because it provoked stingy 



366 LIFE OF GERRIT SMITH. 

people to provide better for their poor relations. He 
set flowing the natural streams of good-will. 

All this proves to the satisfaction of the social sci- 
ence philosophy that the life of Gerrit Smith was based 
on a false principle, and could not therefore be produc- 
tive of wholesome results. A conclusion which believ- 
ers in the authority of the New Testament and in the 
divine ethics there inculcated, will promptly repudiate. 
For these it is sufficient that the rules he practiced on 
were laid down by Jesus. Beyond or behind His word 
they do not care to go. Their duty consists in obedience 
to the written precept. The consequences of such obe- 
dience are not their concern. The consequences must, 
indeed, be salutary since they proceed from divinely in- 
stituted principles. The evils complained of must be 
apparent only, temporary in their duration, and over- 
balanced by benefits that are out of sight. Of the con- 
stitution of society they profess to know little and doubt 
whether any body knows much. The material aspects 
of life are not the most important ; the material progress 
of mankind does not chiefly excite the interest of men 
deeply in earnest. At all events, they say, obedience to 
the will of the Christ is commendable. The sentiments of 
compassion, benevolence, kindness, pity, are the glory and 
loveliness of human nature ; the impulse to help, to be- 
stow, to serve, is worthy of universal praise ; the reformer, 
the philanthropist, the saint, are held in veneration by all 
mankind. Gerrit Smith succeeded because his obedience 
to principle was universal. To mental eyes he seemed 
to fail ; the work .of his hands has perished. But he was 
true to his orders. He fulfilled the law. He enacted 
the Golden Rule. The Deity who disposes will see to- 



THE END, 367 

It that the water he poured upon the sands, becomes 
beneath them a living fountain to which fainting pil- 
grims will come in their thirst. 

One other class of people will justify and glorify 
Gerrit Smith, the people who regard man as a spiritual 
and immortal being, with limitless capacities of moral 
development, and with dormant powers, which when 
stirred, will effect his personal regeneration. These, call 
them by what name you choose, have an invincible faith 
in human nature, in the worth and significance of the 
individual soul, in the potency of the spiritual laws. 
They have no patience with the ethics of expediency or 
the philosophy of circumstance. Utilitarianism, in its 
noblest form, is folly, in their opinion. Their hope of 
society lies in the prevalence of great ideas, the sudden 
quickening of the moral sentiments. They are revival- 
ists, though not of the Methodistic or other " Evangeli- 
cal " school. They trust in pentecosts of enthusiasm^ 
in sudden outbursts and steady outgoings of religious 
feeling. They are disciples and apostles of Individualism 
in its spiritual form ; look on the world as lying in igno- 
rance, apathy and sensuality, on men and women as im- 
prisoned souls, on existence as a phase of the eternal 
being, on character as the fulness of divinity and the 
source of power. Such as these make little account of 
the apparent failures in a life like that of Gerrit Smith, 
but much account of his real successes as a stimulator 
of endeavor, an instigator of nobleness, a promoter of 
unadulterated justice and love. 

It is not the biographer's province to decide which 
of these interpretations of life is the just one. His work 
is done when the character is delineated. Such it was. 



INDEX. 



A. 



AGRARIANISM, I02. 

Alabama claims, The, 33S. 
Anderson, argument for in Toronto, 

115. 
Andersonville, 267. 
Anti-dram Shop Party, 157. 
Asceticism, 38, g. 
Atonement, views on, 82. 
Astor, John Jacob, engages in the fur 

trade, 67. Transaction with Ger- 

rit Smith, 33 & 4. 



B. 



Ballot, importance of to the Blacks, 
299, 300. 

Beecher, H. W. rebuke of, 25S. 

Bible, views on, 82. 

Brown, John and Gerrit Smith, 234. 
Goes to North Elba, 235. Deeds 
in Kansas, 236. 7. Plan of South- 
ern invasion, 23S. The attack on 
Harper's Ferry, 254-5. ^'^ con- 
nection with Gerrit Smith, 247. 



C. 



Capital punishment, Gerrit Smith's 

view of, 336. 
Criaplin, \Vm. L., 209. 
(_'har'ty, 9S. 

Chi-c S. P. letter to, 295. 
(.'hri-t vie-A's on, 81. 
Cnri.-tian Union, 55. 
Church of Pf.-terboro, 59. Organiza- 

li'jii, 60, 4. Working of, 65, 6, 7. 



Church, Presbyterian of Peterboro, 

Church, Presbyterian and Temper- 
ance, 67, 8. 

Civil Rights Bill, 302, 303. 

Clerical order, the views on, 85. 

Colonization Society, the, 162-170. 

Compensation for Slaves, 231. 

Creeds views on, 85. 

Cuba, annexation of, 223. Independ- 
ence of, 339. 



D. 



Davis, Jefferson, memorial con- 
cerning, 307. Bailing of, 307, 308. 
Death, views on, 84. 
Debt, The War, pajnment of, 275. 
Democratic Vigilance Committee. 

245. 
Depiavity, views on, 83. 

Divorce and marriage, Gerrit Smith's 
view of, 338. 

Douglass Frederick, letter from in 
regard to Gerrit Smith's connec- 
tion with John Brown, 250. 



tt 



Trent 



»» 



E. 

England's position in the 
affair, 265, 6. 



F. 



Free Religious Association, Mr. 

Smith's Membership in, 90. 
Fugitive Slave Bill, 118. 200. 



370 



INDEX, 



G. 



Government, Theories of, 179. 
Grant Gen. elected President, 287. 

Letter to from Gcrrit Smith, 28S. 

His re-election, 312. Letters to 

Gerrit Smith, 329. 
(iurley. Rev. K. K. letter to. 166. 

H. 

Havelock Gen. criticism on, 258. 
Hell, views on. 82. 
llolley Myron, 94. 
Humanity spirit of, 95, 6, 7. 



I. 



Immortality, 84. 

* Index" The opinion of, 89. 

* Investigator," The letter to, 88. 



J. 



Jackson " Stonewall," criticism on, 
25S. 

Jerry McIIcnnr', rescue of, 117. 

Jesus, how far an authority in practi- 
cal temperance reform, 69, 70. 

Johnson Andrew, impeachment of, 
26S, 9. 



K. 



Kansas, struggle for, 226. 

Ku Klux prisoners, petition for, 309. 



L. 



Lanp, deeds of to Colored People, 
102. 

Land, deeds of to White People. 107. 

Law and Slavery, 172. 

Lee R. E. Letter to on reconstruc- 
tion, 29. 

Lci^al Tender act, 275. 

Lil)erty Party, formation and spirit 
of. 1S6. 



Lincoln Abraham, Gerrit Smith's 

opinion of, 263. 
Livingston James, 19. 



M. 



•* Maine Law," The, 154. 

Mazzini Joseph, Letters to Gerrit 

Smith, 340, I. 
Mill J. S., Letter to on Temperance, 

277. 
Miracles, 83. 

Mob, The Peterboro, 130. 

Money, Gifts of, 99. 



Niagara Ship Canal, 332. 



O. 
Oswego, Public Library of, 100. 



P. 



Peace principles, 257, 8. Condi- 
tions of, 294. 
Peterboro, description of, 139. 
Philanthropy, 98. 
Prayer, 83. 

Preaching Politics, 69, 70. 
Prohibitory Legislation, 155, 



Q. 

QuiNCY Edmund, letter to, 201. 



I 



^. 



Reason in religion, 86. 
Reconstruction, 295, 6. 
Religion, Nature of, 76-So. 

*' Natural, 76. 
Religious opinions and feelings, 87, 

as. 
Repudiation, 270. 
Ross Alexander, 115. 



INDEX. 



371 



S. 



San Domingo, annexation of, 310. 

Slavery in New York, 160. 

Slavery and the New York Constitu- 
tion, 173, 178. 

Smith Petrus, 5. Peter, birth place, 5, 
youth, 6. Partnership with J. J. 
Astor, 6. Land purchases, 7, 8. 
Influence with the Indians, 8, 9. 
Religious character, 10, 19. 

Smith, Gerrit. Birth and education, 
22. College life, 23. Interest in 
Hamilton College, 24, 7. Mar- 
riage, 27. Business capacity, 28,9. 
Land speculations, 29. Enter- 
prises at Oswego, 30. Hard Times, 
31. Wealth, 32. Personal appear- 
ance and health, 38. Religious 
ideas and character, 44, 48. Views 
of the Sabbath, 49. The Bible in 
Schools, 49. Opposition to Secta- 
rianism, 50, 53. Power of charac- 
ter, 67, 8. Final views on religion 
88, 91. Home Life, 137. Con- 
duct to his nephews and nieces, 
136. Hospitality, 140. Avfisixin 
to_Politic.s^i45. Faith in moral 
icTeas, 150. Attends the State Con- 
vention in 1828, 161. Conversion 
to Abolitionism, 164. Anti Slavery 
zeal, 170. Candidate for Governor 
in 1858, 194. Letter to S. C. 
Philips, 196. Letter to Edmund 
Quincy, 201. Sent to Congress, 

212. Comments on his election, 

213, 214. Social position, 218. 
Speeches, 220. Congressional Ca- 
reer, 221, 226. On the negro char- 
acter, 228, 9. Magnanimity to the 
South, 227, 8. Leiter to Wendell 
Phillips, 230. Intimacy with John 
Brown, 234, 5, Insanity, 242, 256. 
Features of character, 258. The- 
ory of the Civil War, 259. Speech 



in New York, 296. Speech in 
Richmond, 296. Upholds Gen. 
Grant, 32a, 322. Letters to Pres- 
ident Grant, 329, 330. Old age 
and death, 343-345- Funeral, 347. 
Grave, 348. Summary of traits, 352, 
363. Judgments upon, 363, 368. 

Spiritualism, 84. 

Sumner Charles, Controversy with 
President Grant, 315, 6. Corre- 
spondence with Gerrit Smith, 317. 
Letters from, 318, 327. 



T. 



Tappan John, letter to, 148. 
Temperance speech before the New 

York State Society, 1846, 69. 

Letter to E. C. Delavan, 1839, 70, 

147, 8. Hotels, 152. Theology, 

evils of, 74, 75. 



U. 
Utica Convention of 1835, 165. 



W. 

War the Civil, Gerrit Smith's view 

of, 259. 
Wealth, power and advantage of, 

35, 6. 
West Point Academy, 305. 
White Andrew D., letter to Gerrit 

Smith on the quarrel between 

Grant and Sumner, 328. 
Woman's Rights, 122. 



Z. 

Zecher, George William, 127. 



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