Restricted Henry Ward Beecher Quote

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
I'm absolutely shocked at this. Inciting the ACW? Zany? Always self-righteous? Goodness. Those zany abolitionists, how crazy believing enslaving humans is just, plain wrong.

You shouldn't be shocked, it's plainly evident in the historical record. That is not at all to say that the cause of the Abolitionists wasn't proper and right. They wanted to end slavery, the moral thing to be for. But what's lost there is that there were far more anti-slavery people in the North (and some in the South) than there were actual Abolitionists. Most anti-slavery people did their best to avoid being associated directly with Abolitionists, despite popular parlance lumping all anti-slavery sentiment under that term.

Why were folks leery of the Abolitionists? Because they were effete, always self-righteous (not an exaggeration by period accounts), and some were personally rejecting of blacks (the attitude to provide for them and move them on to Canada or elsewhere, but not have them live next door). Some Abolitionists were very condescending to women in their organizations. Many of the top Abolitionists were independently wealthy, commanding publishing resources and funding some pretty extreme measures (i.e. John Brown), yet being careful not to dirty their own hands in the cause on the ground. Some Abolitionists at that level even advocated secession of the free states from the United States. That's why folks, anti-slavery folks, were leery of the Abolitionists.

You'll notice, for instance, that Frederick Douglass couldn't support John Brown's zany raid because he knew it was doomed to failure, but more importantly he realized it would doom the servant population to overreaction by Southern slaveowners, and that happened. Many Southern servants paid a high price in the crackdown after JBs raid, in effect the Civil War itself which was hard on everybody.

Now to understand your reaction -- Once the Abolitionists had helped to incite the Civil War with their hate speech and terrorist support, the war did after all ultimately lead to the slaves being freed, so who was going to condemn the Abolitionists -- or John Brown -- after the war? Even up to today. The sainthood of Abolitionists is assumed. I won't say politically correct.

But that's to ignore that the real agents of change were the quiet ones on the ground, the more numerous and good Christian anti-slavery folks of all races (Underground Railroaders, slave camp teachers, fund-raisers to support contrabands, forward-thinking Union commanders in the field etc.) who did the real work that set the stage for Emancipation, those who did more than sit in their parlors as figureheads, writing Southern hate literature and funding guns for terrorists.
 
Last edited:
Thanks for your response and the information!
Now if we could only find more about that 1866 speech in New York....

I found the following by doing partial quote search at https://babel.hathitrust.org

This is from pg. 268 of George Edmond's Facts and falsehoods concerning the war on the South, 1861-1865 written in 1904:

Beecher quote pg 268 Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the war on the South.png
 
Last edited:

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
Thanks Copperhead, post #22 provides a reference as to the origin of this quote, in which it's quite clear the left out part of the "quote" was "...that in many important respects..."

Context repaired then, the statement is a bit less of a "shocker." Not such a great T-shirt sound bite after all.

But of more significance is that this apparently is not even a quote of Henry Ward Beecher. It's not actually even a quote, but rather an 1863 cite from a written correspondence (i.e "it has been discovered here") of an unnamed foreign correspondent, his synopsis in his own words of what Beecher and Tilton believed (they didn't both say exactly the same phrase, obviously).*

A non-starter, imho.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
*btw the Wisconsin notes referenced Beechers speech as 1866 -- how could a correspondent in 1863 have quoted a speech that didn't happen until 1866? Will we accept the verbatim 1863 correspondence as Beechers quote itself?
 
Last edited:

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
I am all for the cause that the abolitionists espoused, but it must be noted that among individual abolitionist leaders, there were those who were also anti-semitic and/or opposed to women's rights.
 

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
Finally a possibly reliable source!

Not at all. To review this 1960s Wisconsin Historical Society document it's merely a collection of notes on civil-rights issues and statements, and it rambles. The Beecher quote is merely one of many stock quotes parroted verbatim. There's no further insight or context on our Beecher quote at all, don't even bother.
 
Last edited:

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
...I found two more references using a partial quote search at https://babel.hathitrust.org...Story of the Ku Klux Klan, Col. Winfield Jones, 1874, pg. 72...Authentic History, Ku Klux Klan, Susan Lawrence Davis, 1924, pg. 123...

The first is from an 1874 publication about the Klan but not stating when when the "quote"was said, while the second is also a post-war publication about the Klan which states the "quote" was from "just after the surrender." (in an the earlier post, the cited 1960s source parroted the quote as well, as an 1866 utterance of Beecher).

So here we have a "Beecher quote" that was first spelled out verbatim in an 1863 correspondence by a British reporter; not actually a quote then but reporting on what two men, Beecher and Tilton, believed at the time, in the reporter's own words. When after all, the correspondent could not have been quoting a speech that didn't happen until 1866, and wouldn't likely credit two different men with the same quote without explaining which one actually said it, so...

a) Why do we still suppose this to be a Henry Ward Beecher quote when apparently it's not even a quote, and

b) even if this was a quote, do we just let it pass that the lead sentence was clipped for a bit more "delicious" effect?

c) shall we not exercise a modicum of due diligence before posting random finds from the internet, such as this Lost Cause T-shirt "quote"?
 
Last edited:

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I appreciate the reply, thank you. There's a lot there. If the word ' zany ' wasn't used in connection to abolitionists it'd be helpful. ' Zany ' implies their intent was off the wall as well as their actions. It's dismissive considering their purpose, you know? Agree, Douglas especially was frustrated by them and with reason. In general they tended to discount input by the very people whose freedom they were intent on obtaining. Maybe obtuse is a better word than ' zany '. It was obtuse of Brown not to consider the consequences for the black population were they to participate in his raid for instance.

Really not sure we can accuse the abolitionists of inciting the war. Seems a stretch. Implication there is it never would have occurred or shouldn't have, that somehow abolitionists alone were responsible. They were not. There must be a gazillion threads on what caused the final rupture- bottom line cause was slavery.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Abolitionists were united in one thing: the demand for the abolition of slavery. Beyond that, their opinions were all over the board, and to lump them all together is not really productive. While most, probably, believed that the freed black man (if he remained in America) should enjoy equal justice before the law, and the opportunity to achieve all that his character, wit, and labor could achieve; many doubted that, save for a very few exceptional individuals, he would ever achieve very much. Believers in true racial equality were very few, indeed, but they did exist, and should be recognized.
 
The first is from an 1874 publication about the Klan but not stating when when the "quote"was said, while the second is also a post-war publication about the Klan which states the "quote" was from "just after the surrender." (in an the earlier post, the cited 1960s source parroted the quote as well, as an 1866 utterance of Beecher).

So here we have a "Beecher quote" that was first spelled out verbatim in an 1863 correspondence by a British reporter; not actually a quote then but reporting on what two men, Beecher and Tilton, believed at the time, in the reporter's own words. When after all, the correspondent could not have been quoting a speech that didn't happen until 1866, and wouldn't likely credit two different men with the same quote without explaining which one actually said it, so...

a) Why do we still suppose this to be a Henry Ward Beecher quote when apparently it's not even a quote, and

b) even if this was a quote, do we just let it pass that the lead sentence was clipped for a bit more "delicious" effect?

c) shall we not exercise a modicum of due diligence before posting random finds from the internet, such as this Lost Cause T-shirt "quote"?

If your comments are directed at me, I make no judgement about the veracity of the quote. I'm only the messenger.
 

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
...Really not sure we can accuse the abolitionists of inciting the war. Seems a stretch. Implication there is it never would have occurred or shouldn't have, that somehow abolitionists alone were responsible...

Don't know that anyone has claimed that Abolitionists alone incited the CW, certainly not me. That Abolition excitements were a factor in inciting the CW there is no doubt -- we have merely to read Antebellum statements in U.S. Congress and the states, and finally the articles of secession to confirm that. Equally inciteful though were the proclamations of the Fire Eaters in Congress and the slave states. It's quite clear that folks were whipped into a frenzy by both of those extreme groups. It's realistic to suppose the war might well have been avoided or delayed had the Abolitionists and Fire-Eaters been ignored.

True enough, that might also have meant that national emancipation might well have been avoided or delayed.

Returning to the topic at hand, see how an 1863 foreign press op ed reporting on the views of two abolitionists was turned into an actual quote made by one of those abolitionists, sharpened by omitting the qualifying statement at the beginning of that "quote," then parroted several times in the following decades such that even today we accept the "quote" at face value because it's been distributed on the internet. (This is the type of maneuvering worthy of either Abolitionists or Fire-Eaters back in the day).

Though this particular "quote" of Beechers didn't happen, it's believable because he and others barely hedged in their cynical proclamations of race love, their intent I think was to counter-balance the cynical proclamations of race hate (i.e. if you can bring your audience to the point of accepting amalgamation of the races how many more will accept simple race equality, the true intent of your promotions).

In regards the use of "zany" regarding Abolitionist activities, I've read an awful lot about it and chose that word carefully. Some of these plots and proclamations, including John Brown's raid, showed such a disregard for common sense, the human condition, or even intent to succeed that "zany" is appropriate, if that word can be used for anything it is this, imho. It properly distinguishes fringe Abolitionists from the Anti- Slavery movement generally, imho.
 
Last edited:

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
If your comments are directed at me, I make no judgement about the veracity of the quote. I'm only the messenger.

Not at all, we owe you for finding the 1863 origin of the quote that's not actually a quote, filling in the missing qualifier in the first sentence of that "quote" in the process.

The OP might have done a little due diligence before posting something so seemingly shocking at first glance.
 
Joined
Dec 2, 2009
Location
Austin, Texas, U.S.A.
The first is from an 1874 publication about the Klan but not stating when when the "quote"was said, while the second is also a post-war publication about the Klan which states the "quote" was from "just after the surrender." (in an the earlier post, the cited 1960s source parroted the quote as well, as an 1866 utterance of Beecher).

So here we have a "Beecher quote" that was first spelled out verbatim in an 1863 correspondence by a British reporter; not actually a quote then but reporting on what two men, Beecher and Tilton, believed at the time, in the reporter's own words. When after all, the correspondent could not have been quoting a speech that didn't happen until 1866, and wouldn't likely credit two different men with the same quote without explaining which one actually said it, so...

a) Why do we still suppose this to be a Henry Ward Beecher quote when apparently it's not even a quote, and

b) even if this was a quote, do we just let it pass that the lead sentence was clipped for a bit more "delicious" effect?

c) shall we not exercise a modicum of due diligence before posting random finds from the internet, such as this Lost Cause T-shirt "quote"?

Hi. I assure you I meant no disrespect. I was only curious what others knew about it since it was a shocking thing to read from someone in the 1860’s I’m still reading Beecher’s autobiography by the way and even if the quote had been real, I would have presumed it was a joke because Beecher was a very sarcastic and playful man who loved to joke around. He also had a brief background in theater arts as a teenager and was a teacher of teenagers when he was in college.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I'm still not getting the comprehensive presentation of Stowe and other abolitionists in a negative light. The assertion there was a 'cynical proclamation of ' ' race love ' is a sweeping statement presented as fact, a subjective surmise instead of objective conclusion. 'Cynical' presupposes some disingenuous intent and ' race love ' seems rather a sneering reference to the genuine perspective held by quite a few- that the color of human skin is a ludicrous divide.

There's just an awful lot of sweeping generalizations making up some case presenting abolitionists in a negative light. No, they were not all wealthy, no, ' they ' did not practice prejudice against women ( Quakers? A basic tenant of their religion is women/men equal ), and we'll have to continue to disagree about the word ' zany '.
 

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
I'm still not getting the comprehensive presentation of Stowe and other abolitionists in a negative light. The assertion there was a 'cynical proclamation of ' ' race love ' is a sweeping statement presented as fact

Please explain. To my knowledge no one here has made a cynical proclamation of "race love" proclaimed as a sweeping statement presented as fact (though slave politicians back in the day did so). Niether, as far as I know, has anyone here made a comprehensive presentation of Stowe in a negative light. But I'm open as to why your concern there.

Yes I've certainly depicted some of the prominent abolitionists as disingenuous, self-righteous and self-serving -- but not Stowe and the Anti-Slavery movement in general, starting with the Quakers who are to be admired and lauded for their commitment and actions.

John Brown and his cadre of rich abolition backers are quite a different matter. John Brown was not a nice man -- you simply have to get past his legend and sainthood to find that he was as much a horse thief and con man as much as anything, not to mention a bold murderer. Late in his life his delusions overtook him and he became, well, zany. But don't take my word for it. There's quite of bit of material on John Brown and the extreme Abolition movement. Even at the time Anti-Slavers would distance themselves from Abolition until after John Brown was dead -- at which point they all seized on the fame of it all to promote Anti-Slavery causes. They didn't look a gift horse in the mouth, starting with Steven Douglass.

Another thing to factor in is that the newspapers and politicos of the time used the term "abolition" indiscriminately, so it's understandable that we in hindsight are left to sort out and separate the Abolition elite from the much larger Anti-Slavery movement.
 
Last edited:
Top