Elsewhere in these reminiscences I have given an account of the evolution of my "History of the Warfare of Science with Theology." It was growing in my mind for about twenty years, and my main reading, even for my different courses of lectures, had more or less connection with it. First given as a lecture, it was then extended into a little book which grew, in the shape of new chapters, into much larger final form. It was written mainly at Cornell University, but several of its chapters in other parts of the world, one being almost wholly prepared on the Nile, at Athens, and at Munich; another at St. Petersburg and during a journey in the Scandinavian countries; and other chapters in England and France. At last, in the spare hours of my official life at St. Petersburg I made an end of the work; and in Italy, during the winter and spring of 1894-1895, gave it final revision.
For valuable aid in collecting materials and making notes in public libraries, I was indebted to various friends whose names are mentioned in its preface; and above all, to my dear friend and former student, Professor George Lincoln Burr, who not only aided me greatly during the latter part of my task by wise suggestions and cautions, but who read the proofs and made the index.
Perhaps I may be allowed to repeat here that my purpose in preparing this book was to strengthen not only science but religion. I have never had any tendency to scoffing, nor have I liked scoffers. Many of my closest associations and dearest friendships have been, and still are, with clergymen. Clergymen are generally, in our cities and villages, among the best and most intelligent men that one finds, and, as a rule, with thoughtful and tolerant old lawyers and doctors, the people best worth knowing. My aim in writing was not only to aid in freeing science from trammels which for centuries had been vexatious and cruel, but also to strengthen religious teachers by enabling them to see some of the evils in the past which, for the sake of religion itself, they ought to guard against in the future.
During vacation journeys in Europe I was led, at various historical centers, to take up special subjects akin to those developed in my lectures. Thus, during my third visit to Florence, having read Manzoni's "Promessi Sposi," which still seems to me the most beautiful historical romance ever written, I was greatly impressed by that part of it which depicts the superstitions and legal cruelties engendered by the plague at Milan. This story, with Manzoni's "Colonna Infame" and Cantu's "Vita di Beccaria," led me to take up the history of criminal law, and especially the development of torture in procedure and punishment. Much time during two or three years was given to this subject, and a winter at Stuttgart in 1877-1878 was entirely devoted to it. In the course of these studies I realized as never before how much dogmatic theology and ecclesiasticism have done to develop and maintain the most frightful features in penal law. I found that in Greece and Rome, before the coming in of Christianity, torture had been reduced to a minimum and, indeed, had been mainly abolished; but that the doctrine in the mediaeval church as to "Excepted Cases"—namely, cases of heresy and witchcraft, regarding which the theological dogma was developed that Satan would exercise his powers to help his votaries—had led to the reestablishment of a system of torture, in order to baffle and overcome Satan, far more cruel than any which prevailed under paganism.
I also found that, while under the later Roman emperors and, in fact, down to the complete supremacy of Christianity, criminal procedure grew steadily more and more merciful, as soon as the church was established in full power yet another theological doctrine came in with such force that it extended the use of torture from the "Excepted Cases" named above to all criminal procedure, and maintained it, in its most frightful form, for more than a thousand years. This new doctrine was that since the Almighty punishes his erring children by tortures infinite in cruelty and eternal in duration, earthly authorities may justly imitate this divine example so far as their finite powers enable them to do so. I found this doctrine not only especially effective in the mediaeval church, but taking on even more hideous characteristics in the Protestant Church, especially in Germany. On this subject I collected much material, some of it very interesting and little known even to historical scholars. Of this were original editions of the old criminal codes of Europe and later criminal codes in France and Germany down to the French Revolution, nearly all of which were enriched with engravings illustrating instruments and processes of torture. So, too, a ghastly light was thrown into the whole subject by the executioners' tariffs in the various German states, especially those under ecclesiastical rule. One of several in my possession, which was published by the Elector Archbishop of Cologne in 1757 and stamped with the archbishop's seal, specifies and sanctions every form of ingenious cruelty which one human being can exercise upon another, and, opposite each of these cruelties, the price which the executioner was authorized to receive for administering it. Thus, for cutting off the right hand so much; for tearing out the tongue, so much; for tearing the flesh with hot pincers, so much; for burning a criminal alive, so much; and so on through two folio pages. Moreover, I had collected details of witchcraft condemnations, which, during more than a century, went on at the rate of more than a thousand a year in Germany alone, and not only printed books but the original manuscript depositions taken from the victims in the torture-chamber. Of these were the trial papers of Dietrich Flade, who had been, toward the end of the sixteenth century, one of the most eminent men in eastern Germany, chief justice of the province and rector of the University of Treves. Having ventured to think witchcraft a delusion, he was put on trial by the archbishop, tortured until in his agony he acknowledged every impossible thing suggested to him, and finally strangled and burned. In his case, as in various others, I have the ipsissima verba of the accusers and accused: the original report in the handwriting of the scribe who was present at the torture and wrote down the questions of the judges and the answers of the prisoner.
On this material I based a short course of lectures on "The Evolution of Humanity in Criminal Law," and have often thought of throwing these into the form of a small book to be called "The Warfare of Humanity with Unreason"; but this will probably remain a mere project. I mention it here, hoping that some other person, with more leisure, will some day properly present these facts as bearing on the claims of theologians and ecclesiastics to direct education and control thought.
Of this period, too, were sundry projects for special monographs. Thus, during various visits to Florence, I planned a history of that city. It had interested me in my student days during my reading of Sismondi's "History of the Italian Republics," and on resuming my studies in that field it seemed to me that a history of Florence might be made, most varied, interesting, and instructive. It would embrace, of course, a most remarkable period of political development—the growth of a mediaeval republic out of early anarchy and tyranny; some of the most curious experiments in government ever made; the most wonderful, perhaps, of all growths in art, literature, and science; and the final supremacy of a monarchy, bringing many interesting results, yet giving some terrible warnings. But the more I read the more I saw that to write such a history a man must relinquish everything else, and so it was given up. So, too, during various sojourns at Venice my old interest in Father Paul Sarpi, which had been aroused during my early professorial life while reading his pithy and brilliant history of the Council of Trent, was greatly increased, and I collected a considerable library with the idea of writing a short biography of him for American readers. This, of all projects not executed, has been perhaps the most difficult for me to relinquish. My last three visits to Venice have especially revived my interest in him and increased my collection of books regarding him. The desire to spread his fame has come over me very strongly as I have stood in the council-rooms of the Venetian Republic, which he served so long and so well; as I have looked upon his statue on the spot where he was left for dead by the emissaries of Pope Paul V; and as I have mused over his grave, so long desecrated and hidden by monks, but in these latter days honored with an inscription. But other work has claimed me, and others must write upon this subject. It is well worthy of attention, not only for the interest of its details, but for the light it throws upon great forces still at work in the world. Strong men have discussed it for European readers, but it deserves to be especially presented to Americans.
I think an eminent European publicist entirely right in saying that Father Paul is one of the three men, since the middle ages, who have exercised the most profound influence on Italy; the other two being Galileo and Machiavelli. The reason assigned by this historian for this judgment is not merely the fact that Father Paul was one of the most eminent men in science whom Italy has produced, nor the equally incontestable fact that he taught the Venetian Republic—and finally the world—how to withstand papal usurpation of civil power, but that by his history of the Council of Trent he showed "how the Holy Spirit conducts the councils of the church" ("comme quoi le Saint Esprit dirige les conciles").
 Since writing the above, I have published in the "Atlantic Monthly" two historical essays upon Sarpi.
Yet another subject which I would have been glad to present was the life of St. Francis Xavier—partly on account of my veneration for the great Apostle to the Indies, and partly because a collation of his successive biographies so strikingly reveals the origin and growth of myth and legend in the warm atmosphere of devotion. The project of writing such a book was formed in my Cornell lecture-room at the close of a short course of lectures on the "Jesuit Reaction which followed the Reformation." In the last of these I had pointed out the beauty of Xavier's work, and had shown how natural had been the immense growth of myth and legend in connection with it. Among my hearers was Goldwin Smith, and as we came out he said: "I have often thought that if any one were to take a series of the published lives of one of the great Jesuit saints, beginning at the beginning and comparing the successive biographies as they have appeared, century after century, down to our own time much light would be thrown upon the evolution of the miraculous in religion." I was struck by this idea, and it occurred to me that, of all such examples, that of Francis Xavier would be the most fruitful and interesting. For we have, to begin with, his own letters written from the scene of his great missionary labors in the East, in which no miracles appear. We have the letters of his associates at that period, in which there is also no knowledge shown of any miracles performed by him. We also have the great speeches of Laynez, one of Xavier's associates, who, at the Council of Trent, did his best to promote Jesuit interests, and who yet showed no knowledge of any miracles performed by Xavier. We have the very important work by Joseph Acosta, the eminent provincial of the Jesuits, written at a later period, largely on the conversion of the Indies, and especially on Xavier's part in it, which, while accepting, in a perfunctory way, the attribution of miracles to Xavier, gives us reasoning which seems entirely to discredit them. Then we have biographies of Xavier, published soon after his death, in which very slight traces of miracles begin to be found; then other biographies later and later, century after century, in which more and more miracles appear, and earlier miracles of very simple character grow more and more complex and astounding, until finally we see him credited with a vast number of the most striking miracles ever conceived of. In order to develop the subject I have collected books and documents of every sort bearing upon it from his time to ours, and have given a brief summary of the results in my "History of the Warfare of Science." But the full development of this subject, which throws intense light upon the growth of miracles in the biographies of so many benefactors of our race, must probably be left to others.
It should be treated with judicial fairness. There should not be a trace of prejudice against the church Xavier served. The infallibility of the Pope who canonized him was indeed committed to the reality of miracles which Xavier certainly never performed; but the church at large cannot justly be blamed for this: it was indeed made the more illustrious by Xavier's great example. The evil, if evil there was, lay in human nature, and a proper history of this evolution of myth and legend, by throwing light into one of the strongest propensities of devout minds, would give a most valuable warning against basing religious systems on miraculous claims which are constantly becoming more and more discredited and therefore more and more dangerous to any system which persists in using them.
Still another project interested me; effort connected with it was a kind of recreation; this project was formed during my attache days at St. Petersburg with Governor Seymour. It was a brief biography of Thomas Jefferson. I made some headway in it, but was at last painfully convinced that I should never have time to finish it worthily. Besides this, after the Civil War, Jefferson, though still interesting to me, was by no means so great a man in my eyes as he had been. Perhaps no doctrine ever cost any other country so dear as Jefferson's pet theory of State rights cost the United States: nearly a million of lives lost on battle-fields, in prisons, and in hospitals; nearly ten thousand millions of dollars poured into gulfs of hatred.
With another project I was more fortunate. In 1875 I was asked to prepare a bibliographical introduction to Mr. O'Connor Morris's short history of the French Revolution. This I did with much care, for it seemed to me that this period in history, giving most interesting material for study and thought, had been much obscured by ideas drawn from trashy books instead of from the really good authorities.
Having finished this short bibliography, it occurred to me that a much more extensive work, giving a selection of the best authorities on all the main periods of modern history, might be useful. This I began, and was deeply interested in it; but here, as in various other projects, the fates were against me. Being appointed a commissioner to the French Exposition, and seeing in this an opportunity to do other work which I had at heart, I asked my successor in the professorship of history at the University of Michigan, who at a later period became my successor as president of Cornell, Dr. Charles Kendall Adams, to take the work off my hands. This he did, and produced a book far better than any which I could have written. The kind remarks in his preface regarding my suggestions I greatly prize, and feel that this project, at least, though I could not accomplish it, had a most happy issue.
Another project which I have long cherished is of a very different sort; and though it may not be possible for me to carry it out, my hope is that some other person will do so. For many years I have noted with pride the munificent gifts made for educational and charitable purposes in the United States. It is a noble history,—one which does honor not only to our own country, but to human nature. No other country has seen any munificence which approaches that so familiar to Americans. The records show that during the year 1903 nearly, if not quite, eighty millions of dollars were given by private parties for these public purposes. It has long seemed to me that a little book based on the history of such gifts, pointing out the lines in which they have been most successful, might be of much use, and more than once I have talked over with my dear friend Gilman, at present president of the Carnegie Institution at Washington, the idea of our working together in the production of a pamphlet or volume with some such title as, "What Rich Americans have Done and can Do with their Money." But my friend has been busy in his great work of founding and developing the university at Baltimore, I have been of late years occupied in other parts of the world, and so this project remains unfulfilled. There are many reasons for the publication of such a book. Most of the gifts above referred to have been wisely made; but some have not, and a considerable number have caused confusion in American education rather than aided its healthful development. Many good things have resulted from these gifts, but some vastly important matters have been utterly neglected. We have seen excellent small colleges transformed by gifts into pretentious and inadequate shams called "universities"; we have seen great telescopes given without any accompanying instruments, and with no provision for an observatory; magnificent collections in geology given to institutions which had no professor in that science; beautiful herbariums added to institutions where there is no instruction in botany; professorships of no use established where others of the utmost importance should have been founded; institutions founded where they were not needed, and nothing done where they were needed. He who will write a thoughtful book on this subject, based upon a careful study of late educational history, may render a great service. As I revise this chapter I may say that in an address at Yale in 1903, entitled, "A Patriotic Investment," I sought to point out one of the many ways in which rich men may meet a pressing need of our universities with great good to the country at large.
 See "A Patriotic Investment," New Haven, 1903.
Yet another project has occupied much time and thought, and may, I hope, be yet fully carried out. For many years I have thought much on our wretched legislation against crime and on the imperfect administration of such criminal law as we have. Years ago, after comparing the criminal statistics of our own country with those of other nations, I came to the conclusion that, with the possible exception of the lower parts of the Italian kingdom, there is more unpunished murder in our own country than in any other in the civilized world. This condition of things I found to be not unknown to others; but there seemed to prevail a sort of listless hopelessness regarding any remedy for it. Dining in Philadelphia with my classmate and dear friend Wayne MacVeagh, I found beside me one of the most eminent judges in Pennsylvania, and this question of high crime having been broached and the causes of it discussed, the judge quietly remarked, "The taking of life, after a full and fair trial, as a penalty for murder, seems to be the only form of taking life to which the average American has any objection." Many of our dealings with murder and other high crimes would seem to show that the judge was, on the whole, right. My main study on the subject was made in 1892, during a journey of more than twelve thousand miles with Mr. Andrew Carnegie and his party through the Middle, Southern, Southwestern, Pacific, and Northwestern States. We stopped at all the important places on our route, and at vast numbers of unimportant places; at every one of these I bought all the newspapers obtainable, examined them with reference to this subject, and found that the long daily record of murders in our metropolitan journals is far from giving us the full reality. I constantly found in the local papers, at these out-of-the-way places, numerous accounts of murders which never reached the metropolitan journals. Most striking testimony was also given me by individuals,—in one case by a United States senator, who gave me the history of a country merchant, in one of the Southwestern States, who had at different times killed eight persons, and who at his last venture, endeavoring to kill a man who had vexed him in a mere verbal quarrel, had fired into a lumber-wagon containing a party coming from church, and killed three persons, one of them a little girl. And my informant added that this murderer had never been punished. In California I saw walking jauntily along the streets, and afterward discoursing in a drawing-room, a man who, on being cautioned by a policeman while disturbing the public peace a year or two before, had simply shot the policeman dead, and had been tried twice, but each time with a disagreement of the jury. Multitudes of other cases I found equally bad. I collected a mass of material illustrating the subject, and on this based an address given for the first time in San Francisco, and afterward at Boston, New York, New Haven, Cornell University, and the State universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota. My aim was to arouse thinking men to the importance of the subject, and I now hope to prepare a discussion of "The Problem of High Crime," to be divided into three parts, the first on the present condition of the problem, the second on its origin, and the third on possible and probable remedies.
Of all my projects for historical treatises, there are two which I have dreamed of for many years, hoping against hope for their realization. I have tried to induce some of our younger historical professors to undertake them or to train up students to undertake them; and, as the time has gone by when I can devote myself to them, I now mention them in the hope that some one will arise to do honor to himself and to our country by developing them.
The first of these is a history of the middle ages in the general style of Robertson's "Introduction to the Life of Charles V." Years ago, when beginning my work as a professor of modern history at the University of Michigan, I felt greatly the need for my students of some work which should show briefly but clearly the transition from ancient history to modern. Life is not long enough for the study of the minute details of the mediaeval period in addition to ancient and modern history. What is needed for the mass of thinking young men is something which shall show what the work was which was accomplished between the fall of Rome and the new beginnings of civilization at the Renascence and the Reformation. For this purpose Robertson's work was once a masterpiece. It has rendered great services not only in English-speaking lands, but in others, by enabling thinking men to see how this modern world has been developed out of the past and to gain some ideas as to the way in which a yet nobler civilization may be developed out of the present Robertson's work still remains a classic, but modern historical research has superseded large parts of it, and what is now needed is a short history—of, say, three hundred pages—carried out on the main lines of Robertson, taking in succession the most important subjects in the evolution of mediaeval history, discarding all excepting the leading points in chronology, and bringing out clearly the sequence of great historical causes and results from the downfall of Rome to the formation of the great modern states. And there might well be brought into connection with this what Robertson did not give—namely, sketches showing the character and work of some of the men who wrought most powerfully in this transition.
During my stay at the University of Michigan, I made a beginning of such a history by giving a course of lectures on the growth of civilization in the middle ages, taking up such subjects as the downfall of Rome, the barbarian invasion, the rise of the papacy, feudalism, Mohammedanism, the anti-feudal effects of the crusades, the rise of free cities, the growth of law, the growth of literature, and ending with the centralization of monarchical power in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. But the lectures then prepared were based merely upon copious notes and given, as regarded phrasing, extemporaneously. It is too late for me now to write them out or to present the subject in the light of modern historical research; but I know of no subject which is better calculated to broaden the mind and extend the horizon of historical studies in our universities. Provost Stille of the University of Pennsylvania did indeed carry out, in part, something of this kind, but time failed him for making more than a beginning. The man who, of all in our time, seems to me best fitted to undertake this much needed work is Frederic Harrison. If the general method of Robertson were combined with the spirit shown in the early chapters of Harrison's book on "The Meaning of History," the resultant work would be not only of great service, but attractive to all thinking men.
And, last of all, a project which has long been one of my dreams—a "History of Civilization in Spain." Were I twenty years younger, I would gladly cut myself loose from all entanglements and throw myself into this wholly. It seems to me the most suggestive history now to be written. The material at hand is ample and easily accessible. A multitude of historians have made remarkable contributions to it, and among these, in our own country, Irving, Prescott, Motley, Ticknor, and Lea; in England, Froude, Ford, Buckle, and others have given many pregnant suggestions and some increase of knowledge; Germany and France have contributed much in the form of printed books; Spain, much in the publication of archives and sundry interesting histories apologizing for the worst things in Spanish history; the Netherlands have also contributed documents of great value. There is little need of delving among manuscripts; that has already been done, and the results are easily within reach of any scholar. The "History of Civilization in Spain" is a history of perhaps the finest amalgamation of races which was made at the downfall of the Roman Empire; of splendid beginnings of liberty and its noble exercise in the middle ages; of high endeavor; of a wonderful growth in art and literature. But it is also a history of the undermining and destruction of all this great growth, so noble, so beautiful, by tyranny in church and state—tyranny over body and mind, heart and soul. A simple, thoughtful account of this evolution of the former glory of Spain, and then of the causes of her decline to her present condition, would be full of suggestions for fruitful thought regarding politics, religion, science, literature, and art. To write such a history was the best of my dreams. Perhaps, had I been sent in 1879 as minister to Madrid instead of to Berlin, I might at least have made an effort to begin it, and, whether successful or not, might have led other men to continue it. It is now too late for me, but I still hope that our country will supply some man to undertake it. Whoever shall write such a book in an honest, broad, and impartial spirit will gain not only honor for his country and himself, but will render a great service to mankind.
In closing this chapter on "Plans and Projects, Executed and Unexecuted," I know well that my confessions will do me no good in the eyes of many who shall read them. It will be said that I attempted too many things. In mitigation of such a judgment I may say that the conditions of American life in the second half of the century just closed have been very different from those in most other countries. It has been a building period, a period of reforms necessitated by the rapid growth of our nation out of earlier conditions and limitations. Every thinking man who has felt any responsibility has necessarily been obliged to take part in many enterprises of various sorts: necessary work has abounded and has been absolutely forced upon him. It has been a period in which a man could not well devote himself entirely to the dative case. Besides this, so far as concerns myself, I had much practical administrative work to do, was plunged into the midst of it at two universities and at various posts in the diplomatic service, to say nothing of many other duties, so that my plans were constantly interfered with. Like many others during the latter half of the nineteenth century, I have been obliged to obey the injunction, "Do the work which lieth nearest thee." It has happened more than once that when all has been ready for some work which I greatly desired to do, and which I hoped might be of use, I have been suddenly drawn off to official duties by virtually an absolute command. Take two examples out of many: I had brought my lectures on German history together, had collected a mass of material for putting them into final shape as a "History of the Building of the New Germany," and had written two chapters, when suddenly came the summons from President Cleveland to take part in the Venezuela Commission,—a summons which it was impossible to decline. For a year this new work forbade a continuance of the old; and just as I was again free came the Bryan effort to capture the Presidency, which, in my opinion, would have resulted in wide-spread misery at home and in dishonor to the American name through out the world. Most reluctantly then I threw down my chosen work and devoted my time to what seemed to me to be a political duty. Then followed my appointment to the Berlin Embassy, which could not be declined; and just at the period when I hoped to secure leisure at Berlin for continuing the preparation of my book on Germany, there came duties at The Hague Conference which took my time for nearly a year. It is, perhaps, unwise for me thus to make a clean breast of it,—"qui s'excuse, s'accuse"; but I have something other than excuses to make: I may honestly plead before my old friends and students who shall read this book that my life has been mainly devoted to worthy work; that I can look back upon the leading things in it with satisfaction; that, whether as regards religion, politics, education, or the public service in general, it will be found not a matter of unrelated shreds and patches, but to have been developed in obedience to a well-defined line of purpose. I review the main things along this line with thankfulness: First, my work at the University of Michigan, which enabled me to do something toward preparing the way for a better system of higher education in the United States; next, my work in the New York State Senate, which enabled me to aid effectively in developing the school system in the State, in establishing a health department in its metropolis, in promoting good legislation in various fields; and in securing the charter of Cornell University; next, my part in founding Cornell University and in maintaining it for more than twenty years; next, the preparation of a book which, whatever its shortcomings and however deprecated by many good men, has, as I believe, done service to science, to education, and to religion; next, many speeches, articles, pamphlets, which have aided in the development of right reason on political, financial, and social questions; and, finally, the opportunity given me at a critical period to aid in restoring and maintaining good relations between the United States and Germany, and in establishing the international arbitration tribunal of The Hague. I say these things not boastingly, but reverently. I have sought to fight the good fight; I have sought to keep the faith,—faith in a Power in the universe good enough to make truth-seeking wise, and strong enough to make truth-telling effective,—faith in the rise of man rather than in the fall of man,—faith in the gradual evolution and ultimate prevalence of right reason among men. So much I hope to be pardoned for giving as an apologia pro vita mea.
When the colonists from New England came into central and western New York, at the end of the eighteenth century, they wrote their main ideas large upon the towns they founded. Especially was this evident at my birthplace on the head waters of the Susquehanna. In the heart of the little village they laid out, largely and liberally, "the Green"; across the middle of this there gradually rose a line of wooden structures as stately as they knew how to make them,—the orthodox Congregational church standing at the center; close beside this church stood the "academy"; and then, on either side, the churches of the Baptists, Methodists, and Episcopalians. Thus were represented religion, education, and church equality.
The Episcopal church, as belonging to the least numerous congregation, was at the extreme left, and the smallest building of all. It was easily recognized. All the others were in a sort of quasi-Italian style of the seventeenth century, like those commonly found in New England; but this was in a kind of "carpenter's Gothic" which had grown out of vague recollections of the mother-country. To this building I was taken for baptism, and with it are connected my first recollections of public worship. My parents were very devoted members of the Protestant Episcopal Church. With a small number of others of like mind, they had taken refuge in it from the storms of fanaticism which swept through western New York during the early years of the nineteenth century. For that was the time of great "revivals." The tremendous assertions of Jonathan Edwards regarding the tyranny of God, having been taken up by a multitude of men who were infinitely Edwards's inferiors in everything save lung-power, were spread with much din through many churches: pictures of an angry Moloch holding over the infernal fires the creatures whom he had predestined to rebel, and the statement that "hell is filled with infants not a span long," were among the choice oratorical outgrowths of this period. With these loud and lurid utterances went strivings after sacerdotal rule. The presbyter—"old priest writ large"—took high ground in all these villages: the simplest and most harmless amusements were denounced, and church members guilty of taking part in them were obliged to stand in the broad aisle and be publicly reprimanded from the pulpit.
My mother was thoughtful, gentle, and kindly; in the midst of all this froth and fury some one lent her a prayer-book; this led her to join in the devotions of a little knot of people who had been brought up to use it; and among these she found peace. My father, who was a man of great energy and vigor, was attracted to this little company; and not long afterward rose the little church on the Green, served at first by such clergymen as chanced to be in that part of the State.
Among these was a recent graduate of the Episcopal College at Geneva on Seneca Lake—Henry Gregory. His seemed to be a soul which by some mistake had escaped out of the thirteenth century into the nineteenth. He was slight in build, delicate in health, and ascetic in habits, his one interest in the world being the upbuilding of the kingdom of God—as he understood it. It was the time when Pusey, Newman, Keble, and their compeers were reviving mediaeval Christianity; their ideas took strong hold upon many earnest men in the western world, and among these no one absorbed them more fully than this young missionary. He was honest, fearless, self-sacrificing, and these qualities soon gave him a strong hold upon his flock,—the hold of a mediaeval saint upon pilgrims seeking refuge from a world cruel and perverse.
Seeing this, sundry clergymen and influential laymen of what were known as the "evangelical denominations" attempted to refute his arguments and discredit his practices. That was the very thing which he and his congregation most needed: under this opposition his fervor deepened, his mediaeval characteristics developed, his little band of the faithful increased, and more and more they adored him; but this adoration did not in the least injure him: he remained the same gentle, fearless, narrow, uncompromising man throughout his long life.
My first recollections of religious worship in the little old church take me back to my fourth year; and I can remember well, at the age of five, standing between my father and mother, reading the Psalter with them as best I could, joining in the chants and looking with great awe on the service as it went on before my admiring eyes. So much did it impress me that from my sixth to my twelfth year I always looked forward to Sunday morning with longing. The prayers, the chants, the hymns, all had a great attraction for me,—and this although I was somewhat severely held to the proper observance of worship. I remember well that at the age of six years, if I faltered in the public reading of the Psalter, a gentle rap on the side of my head from my father's knuckles reminded me of my duty.
At various times since I have been present at the most gorgeous services of the Anglican, Latin, Russian, and Oriental churches; have heard the Pope, surrounded by his cardinals, sing mass at the high altar of St. Peter's; have seen the Metropolitan Archbishop of Moscow, surrounded by prelates of the Russian Empire, conduct the burial of a czar; have seen the highest Lutheran dignitaries solemnize the marriage of a German kaiser; have sat under the ministrations of sundry archbishops of Canterbury; have been present at high mass performed by the Archbishop of Athens under the shadow of Mars Hill and the Parthenon; and, though I am singularly susceptible to the influence of such pageants, especially if they are accompanied by noble music, no one of these has ever made so great an impression upon me as that simple Anglo-American service performed by a surpliced clergyman with a country choir and devout assemblage in this little village church. Curiously enough, one custom, which high-churchmen long ago discarded as beneath the proper dignity of the service, was perhaps the thing which impressed me most, and I have since learned that it generally thus impressed new-comers to the Episcopal Church: this was the retirement of the clergyman, at the close of the regular morning prayer, to the vestry, where he left his surplice, and whence he emerged in a black Geneva gown, in which he then preached the sermon. This simple feature in the ceremonial greatly impressed me, and led me to ask the reason for it: at which answer was made that the clergyman wore his white surplice as long as he was using God's words, but that he wore his black gown whenever he used his own.
Though comparatively little was said by Episcopalians regarding religious experiences or pious states of mind, there was an atmosphere of orderly decency during the whole service which could hardly fail to make an impression on all thinking children brought into it. I remember that when, on one or two occasions, I was taken to the Congregational church by my grandmother, I was much shocked at what seemed to me the unfit dress and conduct of the clergyman,—in a cutaway coat, lounging upon a sofa,—and at the irreverent ways of the sturdy farmers, who made ready to leave the church during the final prayer, and even while they should have been receiving the benediction.
I thus became a devotee. Of the sermons I retained little, except a few striking assertions or large words; one of my amusements, on returning home, was conducting a sort of service, on my own account, with those of the household who were willing to take part in it; and, from some traditions preserved in the family regarding my utterances on such occasions, a droll sort of service it must have been.
In my seventh year the family removed to Syracuse, the "Central City" of the State, already beginning a wonderful career, although at that time of less than six thousand inhabitants. My experience in the new city was prefaced by an excursion, with my father and mother and younger brother, to Buffalo and Niagara; and as the railways through central New York were then unfinished,—and, indeed, but few of them begun,—we made the journey almost entirely on a canal-packet. Perhaps my most vivid remembrance of this voyage is that of the fervid prayers I then put up against shipwreck.
At Syracuse was a much larger and more influential Protestant Episcopal church than that which we had left,—next, indeed, in importance to the Presbyterian body. That church—St. Paul's—has since become the mother of a large number of others, and has been made the cathedral of a new diocese. In this my father, by virtue of his vigor in everything he undertook, was soon made a vestryman, and finally senior warden; and, the rectorate happening to fall vacant, he recommended for the place our former clergyman, Henry Gregory. He came, and his work in the new place was soon even more effective than in the old.
His first influence made me a most determined little bigot, and I remember well my battles in behalf of high-church ideas with various Presbyterian boys, and especially with the son of the Presbyterian pastor. In those days went on a famous controversy provoked by a speech at a New England dinner in the city of New York which had set by the ears two eminent divines—the Rev. Dr. Wainwright, Episcopalian, and the Rev. Dr. Potts; Presbyterian. Dr. Potts had insisted that the Puritans had founded a "church without a bishop and a state without a king"; Dr. Wainwright insisted that there could be no church without a bishop; and on this the two champions joined issue. Armed with the weapons furnished me in the church catechism, in sundry sermons, and in pious reading, I took up the cudgels, and the battles then waged were many and severe.
One little outgrowth of my religious intolerance was quickly nipped in the bud. As I was returning home one evening with a group of scampish boys, one of them pointed out the "Jew store,"—in those days a new thing,—and reminded us that the proprietor worshiped on Saturday and, doubtless, committed other abominations. At this, with one accord, we did what we could to mete out the Old Testament punishment for blasphemy—we threw stones at his door. My father, hearing of this, dealt with me sharply and shortly, and taught me most effectually to leave dealing with the Jewish religion to the Almighty. I have never since been tempted to join in any anti-Semitic movement whatever.
Meanwhile Mr. Gregory—or, as he afterward became, Dr. Gregory—was fighting the battles of the church in many ways, and some of his sermons made a great impression upon me. Of these one was entitled "The Church not a Sect," the text being, "For as to this sect, we know that it is everywhere spoken against." Another sermon showed, especially, his uncompromising spirit and took yet stronger hold upon me; it was given on an occasion when Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists were drawn in large numbers to his church; but, disdaining all efforts to propitiate them, he took as his subject "The Sin of Korah," who set himself up against the regularly ordained priesthood, and was, with all his adherents, fearfully punished. The conclusion was easily drawn by all the "dissenters" present. On another occasion of the same sort, when his church was filled with people from other congregations, he took as his subject the story of Naaman the Syrian, his text being, "Are not Abana and Pharphar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the rivers of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?" The good rector's answer was, in effect, "No, you may not. The Almighty designated the river Jordan as the means for securing health and safety; and so in these times he has designated for a similar purpose the church—which is the Protestant Episcopal Church: outside of that—as the one appointed by him—you have no hope."
But gradually there came in my mind a reaction, and curiously, it started from my love for my grandmother—my mother's mother. Among all the women whom I remember in my early life, she was the kindest and most lovely. She had been brought as a young girl, by her parents, from Old Guilford in Connecticut; and in her later life she often told me cheerily of the days of privation and toil, of wolves howling about the cottages of the little New York settlement in winter, of journeys twenty miles to church, of riding on horseback from early morning until late in the evening, through the forests, to bring flour from the mill. She was quietly religious, reading every day from her New Testament, but remaining in the old Congregational Church which my mother had left. I remember once asking her why she did not go with the rest of us to the Episcopal Church. Her answer was, "Well, dear child, the Episcopal Church is just the church for your father and mother and for you children; you are all young and active, but I am getting old and rather stout, and there is a little too much getting up and sitting down in your church for me." To the harsh Calvinism of her creed she seemed to pay no attention, and, if hard pressed by me, used to say, "Well, sonny, there is, of course, some merciful way out of it all." Her religion took every kindly form. She loved every person worth loving,—and some not worth loving,—and her benefactions were extended to people of every creed; especially was she a sort of Providence to the poor Catholic Irish of the lower part of the town. To us children she was especially devoted—reconciling us in our quarrels, soothing us in our sorrows, comforting us in our disappointments, and carrying us through our sicknesses. She used great common sense in her care of us; kindly and gentle to the last degree, there was one thing she would never allow, and this was that the children, even when they became quite large, should be out of the house, in the streets or public places, after dark, without an elderly and trusty companion. Though my brother and I used to regard this as her one fault, it was really a great service to us; for, as soon as dusk came on, if we were tempted to linger in the streets or in public places, we returned home, since we knew that if we did not we should soon see her coming to remind us, and this was, of course, a serious blow to our pride.
When, then, I sat in church and heard our mediaeval saint preach with ardor and unction, Sunday after Sunday, that the promises were made to the church alone; that those outside it had virtually no part in God's goodness; that they were probably lost,—I thought of this dear, sweet old lady, and my heart rose in rebellion. She was certainly the best Christian I knew, and the idea that she should be punished for saying her prayers in the Presbyterian Church was abhorrent to me. I made up my mind that, if she was to be lost, I would be lost with her; and soon, under the influence of thoughts like these, I became a religious rebel.
The matter was little helped when our good rector preached upon retribution for sin. He held the most extreme views regarding future punishment; and the more he developed them, the more my mind rejected the idea that so many good people about me, especially the one whom I loved so much, could be subjected to such tortures,—and the more my heart rebelled against the Moloch who had established and was administering so horrible a system. I must have been about twelve years old when it thus occurred to me to question the whole sacred theory; and this questioning was started into vigorous life after visiting, with some other school-boys, the Presbyterian church when a "revival" was going on. As I entered, a very unspiritual-looking preacher was laying down the most severe doctrines of divine retribution. In front of him were several of our neighbors' daughters, many of them my schoolmates, whom I regarded as thoroughly sweet and good; and they were in tears, apparently broken-hearted under the storm of wrath which poured over them from the mouth of the revival preacher. At this I revolted entirely, and from that moment I disbelieved in the whole doctrine, utterly and totally. I felt that these kindly girls, to whom I had looked with so much admiration in the classes at school and in our various little gatherings, were infinitely more worthy of the divine favor than was the big, fleshly creature storming and raging and claiming to announce a divine message.
Some influence on my youthful thinking had also been exercised by sundry occurrences in our own parish. Our good rector was especially fond of preaching upon "baptismal regeneration"; taking the extreme high-church view and thereby driving out some of the best "evangelicals" from his congregation. One of these I remember especially—a serene, dignified old man, Mr. John Durnford. After he left our church he took his place among the Presbyterians, and I remember, despite my broad-church tendencies, thinking that he was incurring serious danger by such apostasy; but as I noted him, year after year, devoting himself to the newly founded orphan-asylum, giving all his spare time to the care of the children gathered there, even going into the market and thence bearing provisions to them in a basket, I began to feel that perhaps his soul was safe, after all. I bethought myself that, with all my reading of the Bible, I had never found any text which required a man to believe in the doctrines of the Protestant Episcopal Church; but that I had found, in the words of Jesus himself, as well as in the text of St James regarding "pure religion and undefiled," declarations which seemed to commend, especially, labors for the poor, fatherless, and afflicted, like those of Mr. Durnford.
But still more marked was the influence on my thinking of a painful clash in the parish. It came on this wise. Our rector was one day called to attend the funeral of a little child but a few weeks old, the daughter of neighbors of ours. The father was a big-bodied, big-hearted, big-voiced, successful man of business, well liked for his bluff cordiality and generosity, who went to church because his wife went. The mother was a sweet, kindly, delicate woman, the daughter of a clergyman, and devoted to the church.
It happened that, for various reasons, and more especially on account of the absence of the father from home on business, the baptism of the child had been delayed until its sudden death prevented the rite forever.
The family and neighbors being assembled at the house, and the service about to begin, an old maiden lady, who had deeply absorbed the teachings of Dr. Gregory and wished to impress them on those present, said to the father, audibly and with a groan, "Oh, Mr.——, what a pity that the baby was not baptized!" to which the rector responded, with a deep sigh and in a most plaintive voice, "Yes!" Thereupon the mother of the child burst into loud and passionate weeping, and at this the father, big and impulsive as he was, lost all control of himself. Rising from his chair, he strode to the side of the rector and said, "That is a slander on the Almighty; none but a devil could, for my negligence, punish this lovely little child by ages of torture. Take it back—take it back, sir; or, by the God that made us, I will take you by the neck and throw you into the street!" At this the gentle rector faltered out that he did not presume to limit the mercy of God, and after a time the service went on; but sermons on baptismal regeneration from our pulpit were never afterward frequent or cogent.
Startled as I was at this scene, I felt that the doctrine had not stood the test. More and more there was developed in me that feeling which Lord Bacon expressed so profoundly and pithily, in his essay on "Superstition," when he said:
It were better to have no opinion of God at all, than such an opinion as is unworthy of Him; for if the one is unbelief, the other is contumely: and certainly superstition is the reproach of the Deity. Plutarch saith well to that purpose: "Surely, I had rather a great deal that men should say there was no such man at all as Plutarch, than that they should say that Plutarch ate his children as soon as they were born;"—as the poets speak of Saturn: and as the contumely is greater towards God, so the danger is greater towards men.
The "danger" of which Bacon speaks has been noted by me often, both before and since I read his essays. Once, indeed, when a very orthodox lady had declared to me her conviction that every disbeliever in the divinity of the second person in the Trinity must be lost, I warned her of this danger and said, "We lately had President Grant here on the university grounds. Suppose your little girl, having met the President, and having been told that he was the great general of the war and President of the United States, should assert her disbelief, basing it on the fact that she had formed the idea of a much more showy and gorgeous person than this quiet, modest little man; and suppose that General Grant, on hearing of the child's mistake, should cruelly punish her for it; what would you think of him? and what would he think of you, were he to know that you asserted that he could be so contemptibly unjust and cruel? The child's utterance would not in the slightest offend him, but your imputation to him of such vileness would most certainly anger him."
A contribution to my religious development came also from a very different quarter. Our kitchen Bridget, one of the best of her kind, lent me her book of devotion—the "Ursuline Manual." It interested me much until I found in it the reasons very cogently given why salvation was confined to the Roman Catholic Church. This disgusted me. According to this, even our good rector had no more chance of salvation than a Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist minister. But this serious view of the case was disturbed by a humorous analogy. There were then fighting vigorously through the advertisement columns of the newspapers two rival doctors, each claiming to produce the only salutary "sarsaparilla," and each named Townsend. At first one claimed to be "THE Dr. Townsend," then the other claimed to be "THE Dr. Townsend"; the first rejoined that HE was "Dr. JACOB Townsend," whereupon the other insisted that HE was "Dr. Jacob Townsend"; to this the first answered that HE was "the ORIGINAL Dr. Jacob Townsend," and the other then declared that HE was "the ORIGINAL Dr. Jacob Townsend"; and so on, through issue after issue, each supplying statements, certificates, arguments, rejoinders ad nauseam. More and more, then, the various divines insisting on the exclusive possession of the only remedy for sin reminded me of these eminent sarsaparilla-makers,—each declaring his own concoction genuine and all others spurious, each glorifying himself as possessing the original recipe and denouncing his rivals as pretenders.
Another contribution to my thought was made one day in the Sunday-school. While reading in the New Testament I had noticed the difficulties involved in the two genealogies of Jesus of Nazareth—that in Matthew and that in Luke. On my asking the Sunday-school teacher for an explanation, he gave the offhand answer that one was the genealogy of Joseph and the other of Mary. Of course it did not take me long to find this answer inadequate; and, as a consequence, Sunday-school teaching lost much of its effect upon me.
But there was still one powerful influence left in behalf of the old creed. From time to time came the visitation by the bishop, Dr. DeLancey. He was the most IMPRESSIVE man I have ever seen. I have stood in the presence of many prelates in my day, from Pope Pius IX down; but no one of them has ever so awed me as this Bishop of Western New York. His entry into a church chancel was an event; no music could be finer than his reading of the service; his confirmation prayer still dwells in my memory as the most perfect petition I have ever heard; and his simple, earnest sermons took strong hold of me. His personal influence was also great. Goldsmith's lines in the "Deserted Village,"
"Even children follow'd with endearing wile And pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's smile,"
accurately pictured the feelings of many of us as we lingered after service to see him greet our fathers and mothers.
As to my biblical studies, they were continued, though not perhaps as systematically as they might well have been. The Protestant Episcopal Church has for a youth at least one advantage in this respect,—that the services including Introits, Canticles, Psalter, Lessons, Epistles Gospels, and various quotations, familiarize him with the noblest utterances in our sacred books. My mother had received instruction in Bible class and prized Scripture reading; therefore it was that, when I was allowed to stay at home from church on Sunday afternoons, it was always on condition that I should read a certain number of chapters in the Bible and prove to her upon her return that I had read them carefully,—and this was not without its uses.
Here I am reminded of a somewhat curious event. One afternoon, when I had been permitted to remain at home, on the usual conditions, my mother, returning from service, said to me that by staying away from church I had missed something very interesting: that there was a good sermon well given, that the preacher was of fine appearance, dignified,—and an Indian; but that she would never have suspected him to be an Indian were it not for his words at the conclusion of his sermon, which were as follows: "And now, my brethren, I leave you. We shall probably never meet again in this world, and doubtless most of you will forget all the counsels I have given you and remember nothing save that you have to-day heard a sermon from an Indian." The point of interest really was that this preacher, Eleazar Williams, though he gave no hint of it on this occasion, believed himself, and was believed by many, to be the lost Dauphin of France, Louis XVII, and that decidedly skilful arguments in favor of his claims were published by the Rev. Mr. Hanson and others. One of the most intelligent women I have ever known believes to this hour that Eleazar Williams, generally known as a half-breed Indian born in Canada, was the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and that his portly form and Bourbon face were convincing additions to other more cogent testimonies.
At various times I sought light from new sources, and, finding on the family shelves a series of books called the "Evangelical Family Library," I read sundry replies to Hume, Gibbon, and other deists; but the arguments of Hume and Gibbon and those who thought with them seemed to me, to say the least, quite as forcible as those in answer to them. These replies simply strengthened my tendency to doubt, and what I heard at church rather increased the difficulty; for the favorite subjects of sermons in the Episcopal Church of those days, after the "Apostolical Succession" and "Baptismal Regeneration," were the perfections of the church order, the beauty of its services, and the almost divine character of the Prayer-book. These topics were developed in all the moods and tenses; the beauties of our own service were constantly contrasted with the crudities and absurdities of the worship practised by others; and although, since those days, left to my own observation, I have found much truth in these comparisons, they produced upon me at that time anything but a good effect. It was like a beautiful woman coming into an assemblage; calling attention to the perfections of her own face, form, and garments; claiming loudly to be the most beautiful person in the room; and so, finally, becoming the least attractive person present.
This state of mind was deepened by my first experiences at college. I had, from my early boyhood, wished to go to Yale; but, under pressure from the bishop, I was sent to the little church college at Geneva in western New York There were excellent men among its professors—men whom I came to love and admire; but its faculty, its endowment, its equipment, were insufficient, and for fear of driving away the sons of its wealthy and influential patrons it could not afford to insist either on high scholarship or good discipline, so that the work done was most unsatisfactory. And here I may mention that the especial claim put forth by this college, as by so many others like it throughout the country, was that, with so small a body of students directly under church control, both the intellectual and religious interests of the students would be better guarded than they could be in the larger and comparatively unsectarian institutions. The very contrary was then true; and various experiences have shown me that, as a rule, little sectarian colleges, if too feeble to exercise strong discipline or insist on thorough work, are the more dangerous. As it was, I felt that in this particular case a wrong had been done me and charged that wrong against the church system.
I have been glad to learn of late years that the college just referred to has, since my student days, shared the upward progress of its sister institutions and that with more means and better appliances a succession of superior instructors have been able to bring its students into steady good work and under excellent discipline.
Much was made in those days of the "Christian evidences," and one statement then put forth, regarding the miraculous, produced a temporary effect upon me. This statement was that the claims of the religions opposed to Christianity did not rest upon miracles; that there was, at any rate, no real testimony to any except Christian miracles; and that, as a rule, other religions did not pretend to exhibit any. But when I, shortly afterward, read the life of Mohammed, and saw what a great part was played by his miracle at the battle of Beder, during which, on his throwing dust into the air, there came to his rescue legions of angels, who were seen and testified to by many on the field,—both by his friends and by his enemies; and when I found that miraculous testimonies play a leading part in all religions, even in favor of doctrines the most cruel and absurd, I felt that the "evidences" must be weak which brought forward an argument so ill grounded. Moreover, in my varied reading I came across multitudes of miracles attributed to saints of the Roman Catholic Church,—miracles for which myriads of good men and women were ready to lay down their lives in attestation of their belief,—and if we must accept one class of miracles, I could not see why we should not accept the other.
At the close of this first year, for reasons given elsewhere, I broke away from this little college and went to Yale.
IN THE NEW ENGLAND ATMOSPHERE—1851-1853
At Yale I found myself in the midst of New England Congregationalism; but I cannot say that it helped me much religiously. It, indeed, broadened my view, since I was associated with professors and students of various forms of Christianity, and came to respect them, not for what they professed, but for what they really were.
There also I read under an excellent professor—my dear friend the late President Porter—Butler's "Analogy"; but, though it impressed me, it left on my mind the effect of a strong piece of special pleading,—of a series of arguments equally valuable for any religion which had once "got itself established."
Here, too, a repellent influence was exercised upon me by a "revival." What was called a "religious interest" began to be shown in sundry student meetings, and soon it came in with a full tide. I was induced to go into one or two of these assemblies, and was somewhat impressed by the penitence shown and the pledges given by some of my college friends. But within a year the whole thing was dead. Several of the men who had been loudest in their expressions of penitence and determination to accept Christianity became worse than ever: they were like logs stranded high and dry after a freshet.
But this religious revival in college was infinitely better than one which ran its course in the immediate neighborhood. Just at the corner of the college grounds was a Methodist Episcopal church, the principal one in New Haven, and, a professional revivalist having begun his work there, the church was soon thronged. Blasphemy and ribaldry were the preacher's great attractions. One of the prayers attributed to him ran as follows: "Come down among us, O Lord! Come straight through the roof; I'll pay for the shingles!" Night after night the galleries were crowded with students laughing at this impious farce; and among them, one evening, came "Charley" Chotard of Mississippi. Chotard was a very handsome fellow: slender, well formed, six feet three inches tall, and in any crowd a man of mark, like King Saul. In the midst of the proceedings, at some grotesque utterance of the revivalist, the students in the galleries burst into laughter. The preacher, angrily turning his eyes upon the offenders, saw, first of all, Chotard, and called out to him: "You lightning-rod of hell, you flag-staff of damnation, come down from there!" Of course no such grotesque scenes were ever allowed in the college chapel: the services there, though simple, were always dignified; yet even in these there sometimes appeared incongruous features.
According to tradition in my time, an aged divine, greatly and justly beloved, from a neighboring city, had been asked to preach before the students. It was at the time when the whole English-speaking world had been thrilled by the story of the relief of Lucknow, and the cry of the Scotch lassie who heard the defiant slogan and heart-stirring pibroch of the Highlanders coming to the relief of the besieged had echoed across all the oceans. Toward the close of his sermon the dear old doctor became very impressive. He recited the story of Lucknow, and then spoke in substance as follows: "So to-day, my young friends, I sound in your ears the slo-o-o-broch of salvation." The alliteration evidently pleased him, and he repeated it with more and more emphasis in his peroration. When he sat down another clergyman who was with him at the sacred desk reminded him of his mistake, whereupon the good old doctor rose and addressed the students as follows: "My young friends, you doubtless noticed a mistake in my final remarks. I said 'slo-o-o-o-broch'; of course I meant 'pi-i-g-a-a-an.'"
Then, too, it must be confessed that some of the weekday prayers made by lay professors lent themselves rather too easily to parody. One of my classmates—since known as a grave and respected judge—was especially gifted in imitating these petitions, with the very intonations of their authors, and these parodies were in great demand on festive occasions. The pet phrases, the choice rhetoric, and the impressive oratory of these prayers were thus made so familiar to us in caricatures that the originals were little conducive to devotion.
The influence at Yale of men like Goodrich, Taylor, Woolsey, and Porter, whom I saw in their professors' chairs, was indeed strong upon me. I respected and admired them; but their purely religious teaching took but little hold on me; I can remember clearly but two or three sermons which I heard preached in Yale chapel. One was at the setting up of the chapel organ, when Horace Bushnell of Hartford preached upon music; and another was when President Woolsey preached a baccalaureate sermon upon "Righteous Anger." The first of these sermons was very beautiful, but the second was powerful. It has had an influence—and, I think, a good influence—on my thoughts from that day to this; and it ought to be preached in every pulpit in our country, at least once a year, as an antidote to our sickly, mawkish lenity to crime and wrong.
In those days conformity to religious ideas was carried very far at Yale. On week-days we had early prayers at about six in the morning, and evening prayers at about the same hour in the afternoon; but on Sundays we had not only morning and evening prayers in the chapel, but morning and afternoon service at church. I attended St. Paul's Episcopal church, sitting in one of the gallery pews assigned to undergraduates; but cannot say that anything that I heard during this period of my life elevated me especially. I joined in the reading of the Psalter, in the singing of the chants and hymns, and, occasionally, in reciting part of the creeds, though more and more this last exercise became peculiarly distasteful to me.
Time has but confirmed the opinion, which I then began to hold, that, of all mistaken usages in a church service, the most unfortunate is this demand which confronts a man who would gladly unite with Christians in Christian work, and, in a spirit of loyalty to the Blessed Founder of Christianity, would cheerfully become a member of the church and receive the benefit of its ministrations;—the demand that such a man stand and deliver a creed made no one knows where or by whom, and of which no human being can adjust the meanings to modern knowledge, or indeed to human comprehension.
My sympathies, tastes, and aims led me to desire to enter fully into the church in which I was born; there was no other part of the service in which I could not do my part; but to stand up and recite the creeds in all their clauses, honestly, I could not. I had come to know on what slender foundations rested, for example, the descent into hell; and, as to the virgin birth, my reading showed me so weak a basis for it in the New Testament taken as a whole, and so many similar claims made in behalf of divine founders of religions, that when I reflected upon the reasons for holding the doctrine to be an aftergrowth upon the original legend, it was impossible for me to go on loudly proclaiming my belief in it. Sometimes I have refrained from reciting any part of the creed; but often, in my reverence for what I admire in the service, in my love for those whom I have heard so devoutly take part in it in days gone by, and in my sympathy with those about me, I have been wont to do what I could,—have joined in repeating parts of it, leaving out other parts which I, at least, ought not to repeat.
Various things combined to increase my distrust for the prevailing orthodoxy. I had a passion for historical reading,—indeed, at that time had probably read more and thought more upon my reading than had most men of my age in college,—and the more I thus read and thought, the more evident it became to me that, while the simple religion of the Blessed Founder of Christianity has gone on through the ages producing the noblest growths of faith, hope, and charity, many of the beliefs insisted upon within the church as necessary to salvation were survivals of primeval superstition, or evolved in obedience to pagan environment or Jewish habits of thought or Greek metaphysics or mediaeval interpolations in our sacred books; that most of the frightful systems and events in modern history have arisen from theological dogmatism; that the long reign of hideous cruelty in the administration of the penal law, with its torture-chambers, its burnings of heretics and witches, its cruelties of every sort, its repression of so much of sane human instinct and noble human thought, arose from this source, directly or indirectly; and that even such ghastly scenes as those of the French Revolution were provoked by a natural reaction in the minds of a people whom the church, by its theory of divine retribution, had educated for ages to be cruel.
But what impressed me most directly as regards the whole orthodox part of the church was its virtual support of slavery in the crisis then rapidly approaching. Excellent divines, like Bishop Hopkins of Vermont, the Rev. Dr Parker of New Jersey, and others holding high positions in various sects throughout the country, having based elaborate defenses of slavery upon Scripture, the church as a whole had acquiesced in this view. I had become bitterly opposed, first to the encroachments of the slave power in the new Territories of the United States, and finally to slavery itself; and this alliance between it and orthodoxy deepened my distrust of what was known about me as religion. As the struggle between slavery and freedom deepened, this feeling of mine increased. During my first year at college the fugitive-slave law was passed, and this seemed to me the acme of abominations. There were, it is true, a few religious men who took high ground against slavery; but these were generally New England Unitarians or members of other bodies rejected by the orthodox, and this fact increased my distrust of the dominant religion.
Some years before this, while yet a boy preparing for college, I had met for the first time a clergyman of this sort—the Rev. Samuel Joseph May, pastor of the Unitarian church in Syracuse; and he had attracted me from the first moment that I saw him. There was about him something very genial and kindly, which won a way to all hearts. Though I knew him during many years, he never made the slightest effort to proselyte me. To every good work in the community, and especially to all who were down-trodden or oppressed, he was steadfastly devoted; the Onondaga Indians of central New York found in him a stanch ally against the encroachments of their scheming white neighbors; fugitive slaves knew him as their best friend, ready to risk his own safety in their behalf.
Although he was the son of an honored Massachusetts family, a graduate of Harvard, a disciple of Channing, a man of sincere character and elegant manners, he was evidently dreaded by the great majority of the orthodox Christians about him. I remember speaking to him once of a clergyman who had recently arrived in Syracuse, and who was an excellent scholar. Said Mr. May to me, "I should like to know him, if that were possible." I asked, "Why not call upon him?" He answered, "I would gladly do so, but do you suppose he would return my call?" "Of course he would," I replied; "he is a gentleman." "Yes," said Mr. May, "no doubt he is, and so are the other clergymen; yet I have called on them as they have come, and only two or three of them all have ever entered my house since." Orthodox fanatics came to remonstrate and pray with him, but these he generally overcame with his sweet and kindly manner. To slavery he was an uncompromising foe, being closely associated with Garrison, Phillips, and the leaders of the antislavery movement; and so I came to see that there was a side to Christianity not necessarily friendly to slavery: but I also saw that it was a side not welcomed by the churches in general, and especially distrusted in my own family. I remember taking to him once an old friend of mine, a man of most severe orthodoxy; and after we had left Mr. May's house I asked my friend what he thought of the kindly heretic. He answered, "Those of us who shall be so fortunate as to reach heaven are to be greatly surprised at some of the people we are to meet there."
As a Yale student I found an additional advantage in the fact that I could now frequently hear distinguished clergymen who were more or less outside the orthodox pale. Of these were the liberal Congregationalists of New York, Brooklyn, and Boston, and, above all, Henry Ward Beecher, Edwin Chapin, and Theodore Parker. At various times during my college course I visited Boston, and was taken by my classmate and old friend George Washburn Smalley to hear Parker. He drew immense crowds of thoughtful people. The music-hall, where he spoke, contained about four thousand seats, and at each visit of mine every seat, so far as I could see, was filled. Both Parker's prayers and sermons were inspiring. He was a deeply religious man; probably the most thorough American scholar, orthodox or unorthodox, of his time; devoted to the public good and an intense hater of slavery. His influence over my thinking was, I believe, excellent; his books, and those of Channing which I read at this time, did me great good by checking all inclination to cynicism and scoffing; more than any other person he strengthened my theistic ideas and stopped any tendency to atheism; the intense conviction with which men like Channing, Parker, and May spoke of a God in the universe gave a direction to my thinking which has never been lost.
As to Beecher, nothing could exceed his bold brilliancy. He was a man of genius; even more a poet than an orator; in sympathy with every noble cause; and utterly without fear of the pew-holders inside his church or of the mob outside. Heresy-hunters did not daunt him. Humor played over much of his sermonizing; wit coruscated through it; but there was at times a pathos which pervaded the deep places of the human heart. By virtue of his poetic insight he sounded depths of thought and feeling which no mere theological reasoning could ever reach. He was a man,—indeed, a great man,—but to the end of his life he retained the freshness of youth. General Grant, who greatly admired him, once said to me, "Beecher is a boy—a glorious boy."
Beecher's love of nature was a passion. During one of his visits to Cornell University, I was driving through the woods with him, and he was in the full tide of brilliant discourse when, suddenly, he grasped my hand which held the reins and said peremptorily, "Stop!" I obeyed, and all was still save the note of a bird in the neighboring thicket. Our stop and silence lasted perhaps five minutes, when he said, "Did you hear that bird? That is the——(giving a name I have forgotten). You are lucky to have him here; I would give a hundred dollars to have him nest as near me."
During this visit of his to my house, I remember finding, one morning, that he had been out of doors since daylight; and on my expressing surprise at his rising so early after sitting up so late, he said, "I wanted to enjoy the squirrels in your trees."
Wonderful, too, was his facility, not merely in preaching, but in thinking. When, on another visit, he stayed with me, he took no thought regarding his sermon at the university chapel, so far as one could see. Every waking moment was filled with things which apparently made preparation for preaching impossible. I became somewhat nervous over this neglect; for, so far as I could learn, he had nothing written, he never spoke from memory, and not only the students, but the people from the whole country round about, were crowding toward the chapel.
Up to the last moment before leaving my house for the morning service, he discussed the best shrubs for planting throughout our groves and woods, and the best grasses to use in getting a good turf upon the university grounds. But, on leaving the house, he became silent and walked slowly, his eyes fixed steadily on the ground; and as I took it for granted that he was collecting his thoughts for his sermon, I was careful not to disturb him. As we reached the chapel porch, a vast crowd in waiting and the organ pealing, he suddenly stopped, turned round, lifted his eyes from the ground, and said, "I have been studying your lawn all the way down here; what you need is to sow Kentucky blue-grass." Then he entered the chapel, and shortly was in the midst of a sermon evidently suggested by the occasion, his whole manuscript being a few pencilings on a sheet or two of note-paper, all the rest being extemporized in his best vein, both as to matter and manner.
Chapin, too, was brilliant and gifted, but very different in every respect from Beecher. His way was to read from manuscript, and then, from time to time, to rise out of it and soar above it, speaking always forcibly and often eloquently. His gift of presenting figures of speech so that they became vivid realities to his audience was beyond that of any other preacher I ever heard. Giving once a temperance address, and answering the argument as to the loss of property involved in the confiscation of intoxicants, he suddenly pictured a balance let down from the hand of the Almighty, in one scale all the lucre lost, in the other all the crimes, the wrecks, the miseries, the sorrows, the griefs, the widows' groans and orphans' tears,—until we absolutely seemed to have the whole vast, terrific mass swaying in mid-air before us.
On another occasion, preaching from the text, "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face," he presented the picture of a man in his last illness, seeing dimly, through a half-transparent medium, the faint, dim outline of the Divinity whom he was so rapidly nearing; and then, suddenly, death,—the shattering of the glass,—and the man, on the instant, standing before his Maker and seeing him "face to face." It all seems poor when put upon paper; but, as he gave it, nothing could be more vivid. We seemed to hear the sudden crash of the translucent sheet, and to look full into the face of the Almighty looming up before us.
Chapin was a Universalist, and his most interesting parishioner was Horace Greeley, whose humanitarian ideas naturally inclined him to a very mild creed. As young men, strangers to the congregation, were usually shown to seats just in front of the pulpit, I could easily see Mr. Greeley in his pew on a side aisle, just behind the front row. He generally stalked in rather early, the pockets of his long white coat filled with newspapers, and, immediately on taking his seat, went to sleep. As soon as service began he awoke, looked first to see how many vacant places were in the pew, and then, without a word, put out his long arm into the aisle and with one or two vigorous scoops pulled in a sufficient number of strangers standing there to fill all the vacancies; then—he slept again. Indeed, he slept through most of the written parts of Dr. Chapin's sermons; but whenever there came anything eloquent or especially thoughtful, Greeley's eyes were wide open and fixed upon the preacher.
Greeley's humanitarianism was not always proof against the irritations of life. In his not infrequent outbursts of wrath he was very likely to consign people who vexed him to a region which, according to his creed, had no existence.
A story told of him in those days seemed to show that his creed did not entirely satisfy him; for one day, when he was trying, in spite of numberless interruptions, to write a "Tribune" leader, he became aware that some one was standing behind his chair. Turning around suddenly, he saw a missionary well known in the city slums,—the Rev. Mr. Pease,—and asked in his highest, shrillest, most complaining falsetto, "Well, what do YOU want?" Mr. Pease, a kindly, gentle, apologetic man, said deprecatingly, "Well, Mr. Greeley, I have come for a little help. We are still trying to save souls in the Five Points." "Oh," said Mr. Greeley, "go along! go along! In my opinion, there ain't half so many men damned as there ought to be."
But though Chapin's influence did not restrain Greeley at all times, it undoubtedly did much for him, and it did much for us of the younger generation; for it not only broadened our views, but did something to better our hearts and raise our aims.
In this mention of the forces which acted upon my religious feelings I ought to include one of a somewhat different sort. There was one clergyman whose orthodoxy, though not of an extreme type, was undoubted, and who exercised a good and powerful influence upon me. This was the Rev. Dr. Leonard Bacon, pastor of the First Congregational church in New Haven. He was a man of great intellectual power, a lover of right and hater of wrong, a born fighter on the side of every good cause, at times pungent, witty, sarcastic, but always deeply in earnest. There was a general feeling among his friends that, had he not gone into the church, he would have been eminent in political life; and that is my belief, for he was by far the most powerful debater of his time in the councils of his church, and his way of looking at great questions showed the characteristics of a really broad-minded statesman. His sermons on special occasions, as at Thanksgiving and on public anniversaries, were noted for their directness and power in dealing with the greater moral questions before the people. On the other hand, there was a saying then current, "Dull as Dr. Bacon when he's nothing but the Gospel to preach"; but this, like so many other smart sayings, was more epigrammatic than true: even when I heard him preach religious doctrines in which I did not at all believe, he seemed to me to show his full power.
Toward the end of my college course I was subjected to the influence of two very powerful men, outside of the university, who presented entirely new trains of thought to me. The first of these was Dr. Alonzo Potter, Bishop of Pennsylvania, who had been the leading professor at Union College, Schenectady, before his elevation to the bishopric, and who, both as professor and as bishop, had exercised a very wide influence. He was physically, intellectually, and morally of a very large pattern. There was something very grand and impressive about him. He had happened to come to Syracuse during one of my vacations; on a Saturday evening he gave a lecture upon the tendencies to loose supernaturalism as shown in what were known as "spiritualistic" phenomena; and on the following day he preached a simple, plain, straightforward sermon on Christian morals. Both these utterances impressed me and strengthened my conviction that every thinking young man and woman ought to maintain relations with some good form of religious organization just as long as possible.
Toward the end of my Yale course came an influence of a very different sort. It was at the consecration of a Roman Catholic church at Saratoga. The mass was sung by an Italian prelate, Bedini, who as governor and archbishop at Bologna had, a few years before, made himself detested throughout the length and breadth of Italy by the execution of the priest patriot Ugo Bassi; and he was now, as papal nuncio to Brazil, environed by all the pomp possible. The mass did not greatly impress me, but the sermon, by Archbishop Hughes of New York, I shall always remember. His subject was the doctrine of transubstantiation, and, standing upon the altar steps, he developed an argument most striking and persuasive. He spoke entirely without notes, in a straightforward way, and at times with eloquence, though never with any show of rhetoric: voice and bearing were perfect; and how any one accepting his premises could avoid his conclusions I could not see then and cannot see now. I was proof against his argument, for the simple reason that I felt the story of the temptation of Jesus by Satan, which he took for his text, to be simply a legend such as appears in various religions; still, the whole was wonderfully presented; and, on my return to the hotel, my father was greatly encouraged as to my religious development when I gave to him a synopsis of the whole sermon from end to end.
Next day there resulted a curious episode. Notices were posted throughout Saratoga that Father Gavazzi, the Italian patriot and heretic, famous for his oratory, would hold a meeting in the grove back of Congress Hall Hotel, at three in the afternoon, and would answer the archbishop's argument. When the hour arrived an immense crowd was assembled, and among them many Catholics, some of whom I knew well,—one of them a young priest to whom I had become strongly attached at school. Soon appeared the orator. He was of most striking presence—tall, handsome, with piercing black eyes and black hair, and clad in a long semi-monastic cloak. His first line of argument was of little effect, though given with impassioned gestures and a most sympathetic voice; but soon he paused and spoke gently and simply as follows: "When I was a priest in Italy I daily took part in the mass. On festivals I often saw the fasting priest fill the chalice as full as he dared with strong wine; I saw him pronounce the sacred words and make the sacred sign over it; and I saw, as everybody standing round him clearly saw, before the end of the service, that it flushed his face, thickened his voice, and enlivened his manner. My fellow-Christians" (and here his voice rang out like a trumpet), "who is the infidel, who is the blasphemer,—I who say that no change took place in the wine before the priest drank it, and that no miracle was performed, or the man who says that his fellow-man can be made drunk on the blood of the blessed Son of God?"
The effect was startling, even on Protestants: but on the Roman Catholics present it was most thrilling; and I remember that an old Irishwoman, seated on the steps of the platform as these words were uttered, clapped her hands to her ears and ran from the place screaming. I must confess that my sympathies were with her rather than with the iconoclast, despite his gifts and graces.
IN THE EUROPEAN ATMOSPHERE—1853-1856
Leaving Yale in 1853, I passed nearly three years in Europe; and observation of the effects resulting from the various orthodoxies in England, France, Germany, Russia, and Italy developed my opinions in various ways. I was deeply susceptible to religious architecture, music, and, indeed, to the nobler forms of ceremonial. I doubt whether any man ever entered Westminster Abbey and the various cathedrals of Great Britain—and I have visited every one of them of any note—with a more reverent feeling than that which animated me; but some features of the Anglican service as practised at that time repelled me; above all, I disliked the intoning of the prayers, as I then heard it for the first time. A manly, straightforward petition made by a man standing or kneeling before his Maker, in a natural, earnest voice, has always greatly impressed me; but the sort of whining, drawling, falsetto in which the Anglican prayers were then usually intoned simply drove out all religious thoughts from my mind. I had a feeling that the Almighty must turn with contempt from a man who presumed thus to address him. Some prayers in the church service had from a very early period taken a deep place in my heart: the prayer of St. Chrysostom in the morning service, the first prayer in the ante-communion service, the prayer "for the whole state of Christ's church militant," and some of the collects had become, as it were, part of me; so much the more disappointed and disgusted was I, then, to hear prayer made in what seemed to me a sickly, unmanly whine.
Although the feelings thus aroused by religious observances in England and other parts of Europe were frequently unedifying, there was one happy exception to the rule. Both in the Church of England and in the Roman Catholic churches of the Continent I always greatly enjoyed the antiphonal chanting of the Psalter. To me this has always been—the imprecatory psalms excepted—by far the noblest feature in Christian worship as worship; for, coming down as it does from the Jewish Church through the whole history of the Christian Church, and being practised by all the great bodies of Jews and Christians, it had, and still has, to me a great significance, both religious and historic. In the cathedrals of the continent of Europe—and I have visited every one of note except those of Spain—I cared little for what Browning's bishop calls "the blessed mutter of the mass," but the chanting of the Psalter always attracted me. Many were the hours during which I sat at vespers in abbeys and cathedrals, listening to the Latin psalms until they became almost as familiar to me as the English Psalter. On the other hand, I was at times greatly repelled by perfunctory performances of the service, both Protestant and Catholic. The "Te Deum" which I once heard recited by an Anglican clergyman in the chapel at the castle of Homburg dwells in my memory as one of the worst things of its kind I ever heard, and especially there remains a vivid remembrance of the invocation, which ran as follows:
"Ha-a-ow-ly, Ha-a-a-ow-ly, Ha-a-ow-ly: La-a-rd Gawd of Sabbith!"
But this was not the only thing of the kind, for I have heard utterances nearly, if not quite, as bad in various English cathedrals,—as bad, indeed, as the famous reading, "He that hath yeahs to yeah, let him yeah."
As to more important religious influences, I had, during my first visit to Oxford in 1853, a chance to understand something of the two currents of thought then showing themselves in the English Church. On a Sunday morning I went to Christ Church Cathedral to hear the regius professor of Hebrew, Dr. Jacobson, whom, years afterward, I saw enthroned as bishop in the cathedral at Chester. It is a church beautiful in itself, and consecrated not only by the relics of mediaeval saints, but by the devotions of many generations of scholars, statesmen, and poets; and in front of the pulpit were a body of young men, the most promising in Great Britain; yet a more dull, mechanical discourse could not be imagined. The preacher maundered on like a Tartar praying-mill; every hearer clearly regarding his discourse as an Arab regards a sand-storm.
In the afternoon I went to St. Mary's, and heard the regular university sermon, before a similar audience, by Fraser, a fellow of Oriel College. It was not oratorical, but straightforward, earnest, and in a line of thought which enlisted my sympathies. The young preacher especially warned his audience that if the Church of England was to remain the Church of England, she must put forth greater efforts than any she had made for many years; and he went on to point out some of the lines on which these exertions should be made,—lines which, I am happy to say, have since been taken by great numbers of excellent men of the Anglican communion.
During the evening, in the dining-room of the Mitre Inn, I happened to be seated at table with an old country clergyman who had just entered his son at Oxford and was evidently a rural parson of the good old high-and-dry sort; but as I happened to speak of the sermons of the day, he burst out in a voice gruff with theological contempt and hot toddy: "Did you hear that young upstart this afternoon? Did you ever hear such nonsense? Why couldn't he mind his own business, as Dr. Jacobson did?"
Nor did sermons from Anglican bishops which I heard at that period greatly move me. The primate of that day, Dr. Sumner, impressed me by his wig, but not otherwise. He was, I think, the last archbishop of Canterbury who used this means of enhancing his dignity. Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, was far better; but, after all, though his preaching showed decided ability, it was not of the sort to impress one deeply, from either the religious or the intellectual point of view.
Then, and at various times since, I have obtained more from simpler forms of worship and less pretentious expositions of the Gospel.
As to religious influence in France, there was little. I lived in the family of a French professor, a devout Catholic, but Gallican in his ideas,—so much so that he often said that if he could wake up some morning and hear that the Pope had been dispossessed of his temporal power, it would be the happiest day of his life, since he was persuaded that nothing had so hampered the church—and, indeed, debased it—as the limits imposed upon the papacy by its sovereignty over the Roman states.
A happy impression was made upon me by the simple, philanthropic character of the Archbishop of Paris at that period—Sibour. Visiting a technical school which he had established for artisans in the Faubourg St. Antoine, I derived thence a great respect for him as a man who was really something more than a "solemnly constituted impostor"; but, like the archbishops of Paris who preceded and followed him, he met a violent death, and I have more than once visited and reflected over the simple tablet which marks the spot in the Church of St. Etienne du Mont where a wretched, unfrocked priest assassinated this gentle, kindly, affectionate prelate, who, judging from his appearance and life, never cherished an unkind feeling toward any human being.
The touching monuments at Notre Dame to his predecessor, Affre, shot on the barricades in 1848 when imploring a cessation of bloodshed, and to his successor Darboy, shot by the Communards in the act of blessing his murderers, also became, at a later period, places of pilgrimage for me, and did much to keep alive my faith that, despite all efforts to erect barriers of hatred between Christians, there is, already, "one fold and one shepherd."
As to my life on the Continent in general, German Protestantism seemed to me simple and dignified; but its main influence upon me was exercised through its music, the "Gloria in Excelsis" of the morning service at the Berlin Cathedral being the most beautiful music by a choir I had ever heard,—far superior, indeed, to the finest choirs of the Sistine or Pauline chapel at Rome; and a still deeper impression was made upon me by the congregational singing. Often, after the first notes given by the organ, I have heard a vast congregation, without book of any kind, joining in the choral, King Frederick William IV and his court standing and singing earnestly with the rest. It was a vast uprolling storm of sound. Standing in the midst of it, one understands the Lutheran Reformation.
The most impressive Roman Catholic ceremonies which I saw in Europe were in Germany, and they were impressive because simple and reverential; those most so being at Wurzburg and Fulda, where, in the great churches, large bodies of the peasantry joined simply and naturally in the singing at the mass and at vespers.