In a community‐building activist junket, Rogers and William Lloyd Garrison hunt for honest souls in the forests and hills of New Hampshire.
The Collected Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers
Anthony Comegna, PhD
Assistant Editor for Intellectual History
America’s “Second Great Awakening” began in the 1820s and fizzled out during the 1850s, so by the time Rogers wrote the following two articles addressing divisions between antislavery and slavery‐tolerating Christians, most of the evangelical work had already concluded. That is: the deed was largely done and most Americans who could be born again were born again. And though burned‐over towns might emerge from the process with new antislavery societies or newspapers, most Christians maintained their preexisting values and merely grafted them onto a new sort of religious lifestyle. Even sects with relatively ancient antislavery traditions like the Quakers seemed hardened into a newfound conservatism, as willing to reproach and ostracize their own radical Friends as they had been a century earlier. In our current number, Rogers recounts the story of one Isaac Hopper—a man, we are told, perhaps best known for looking exactly like Napoleon—who was currently ensnared in an “excommunicatory trap.” Where the first article ends on a note of solemn concern for the soul, the second article is a jubilant expression of all the healthfulness entailed in the abolitionist lifestyle. Our author tells the story of his travels through the New Hampshire countryside with none other than William Lloyd Garrison. And though Rogers has ensured that we do not have to wonder at what their trip was like, surely only the imagination can really render an accurate portrayal. What must it have been like to trounce around Lake Winnipesaukee with these two libertarian lions, roaring to one another in support of persecuted brethren like Hopper? Crossing rivers, passing through townships, climbing hills and small mountains, Rogers and Garrison hiked from one church meeting and abolitionist society gathering to the next, happy warriors all the way.
There is undoubtedly a great deal more to say about both of these articles and their context—Who was this Isaac Hopper? (Among other things, he was a Hicksite Quaker—a radical among radicals—who assisted fugitive slaves, supported prison reform, and helped establish the “Children’s Village” in New York City, a home for runaway or unwanted children.) How did the personal lives of men like these mesh together and connect with their work? How did social relationships formed within the walls of a meetinghouse translate into literal footsoldiering in the abolitionist cause down the line in someone’s life? As historians, we can find a long series of answers to these questions, but as libertarians we can also offer speculations of our own. At this point in our history, no doubt most of us have some sort of experiences which immediately recall memories like those made by Rogers and Garrison. For my own part, I’m taken back about a decade to one January when I spent a week or so trouncing around that very same Lake Winnipesaukee with my own band of merry radicals. I didn’t know it then, but we were traveling many of the same trails as Garrison and Rogers and we were trying to do much of the same work. We visited the same towns and natural monuments, we appreciated the same spirit of liberty that breathed hot across this chilly land, and we forged friendships that have affected us all in deeply important ways ever since. Marriages were made on that jaunt to New Hampshire, careers were determined upon, and innumerable lives were shaped in innumerable, unpredictable ways. More often than we might think, real history is made on a walk from one place to another, with friends and good company.
Concord: John R. French. 1847.
A Collection from the Newspapers Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers
Tales of Oppression
From the Herald of Freedom of June 4, 1841.
We have published numbers of these interesting narratives from time to time, from the National Anti‐Slavery Standard. Our readers find one of them on the last page of to‐day. ISAAC T. HOPPER, the author of them, is a very remarkable man. He resides in the city of New York—is one of the executive committee of the American Anti‐Slavery society, and is connected with the Anti‐Slavery office, in the city. He is a member of the society of Friends, unless they have disowned him. They were “taking steps” after him, when we were in the city recently, at the national meetings. The heresy they are hunting him for, is his connection with the national anti‐slavery paper. For this, they are seeking to cast him out of their broad‐brimmed synagogue. We trust they will succeed,–for Isaac T. Hopper is too much of a working Christian to be a technical Friend, and too much of a MAN to be a Quaker. The traces of sect are not made for limbs like his.
We had the pleasure of staying at his and his wife’s hospitable home while we attended the national anniversary. We had heard of him as an extraordinary man in character and appearance, and were specially curious to see him for his reputed resemblance to Napoleon Bonaparte. And he does indeed resemble him. We met with one of his daughters at Philadelphia before seeing him, and we at once apprehended she was a relative of his, from her Bonapartean features, and so told her on being introduced to her. Joseph Bonaparte is said to have remarked, on seeing Friend Hopper, that he so resembled the Emperor, that with his uniform on, he would be mistaken for him by his own household. He is about seventy years of age, but has all the activity and vivacity of healthy middle life. His eagle “eye is not dimmed, nor his natural force abated.” There is not a gray appearance in his full head of hair, and his form is round and full, and muscular as in the prime of life. He wonderfully resembles the likenesses we have seen of Napoleon. The high, aquiline nose, the flaming eye, the adamantine-marble forehead, the delicate, firm mouth, the same under‐size and peculiar form, the stooping should, neck, and singular set of the head, so distinguished in all the statues and busts of “The Little Corporal.” And he speaks like him, and moves like him. Rapid, clear, sententious in his conversation, without a repetition, or spare word—or any hesitancy of thought or speech. We heard him talk a good deal, and all he said was as trim and fit for the press, as the “Tales of Oppression,”—which, by the by, we understand he narrates from memory, and without any reference to record, except the records made on his vivid recollection by the events themselves. If he had been bred a warrior, he would have been another Bonaparte. But he has lived a Quaker, with the exception that he has been by no means “quiet”—as the baffled kidnapper and the rescued slave could testify. He has been a perpetual “committee of vigilance,” ever since the day mentioned in the number of his “tales” we to‐day publish. The fugitive slaves know him as well as they know the North Star, and the man‐hunters hate him as cordially as they do that constant lamp and guide‐board to the poor bond-man’s city of refuge. He has been the NEGRO’S FRIEND; and now the broad‐brimmed corporation, among whom he has strangely lingered to this late period of his life, are dogging his footsteps with the blood‐hounds of sect. If they overtake him, wo to them. They will find their dogships in the grasp of the Numidian lion. Yet they can “cut him off.” They can vote him “guilt of breach of solemn covenant.” But if they do, he will give the world another number of his “Tales of Oppression.” They had better beware, though we hope they will not.
His son‐in‐law, JAMES S. GIBBONS, another indefatigable friend of the slave, is undergoing the same “labor,” and for the same cause—to wit, undue fidelity to Christ.
They are demurely setting the excommunicatory trap to catch him. Whether they make it out of texts in the XVIII of Matthew or not, we don’t know. The sects all agree, we believe, in that perversion. We apprehend they will become more friendly than they have been. The Quakers have been hung and persecuted a good deal in times past; but now they are beginning to ape their solemn persecutors in “cutting off” their more conscientious members—amputating them to save the sound and healthful and active body, and they will find sympathy and respect, and be admitted into the brotherhood of Christians.
The corporation goes by the name, we believe, of Rose Street or Grace Street, meeting. They had threatened CHARLES MARIOT, another most exemplary member—but expected he would decline a re‐election to the offensive committeeship with Friends Hopper and Gibbons. He has not declined it, and we heard before leaving the city that the gay brotherhood had began to “step” in regard to him.
O what mummery and what a mockery of the Christian profession! Will this age see men delivered from it—or are they irremediably blinded?
Anti‐Slavery Jaunt to the Mountains
From the Herald of Freedom of Sept. 10, 1841.
We meant, from the several stages of our hurried expedition, to drop back for the Herald some of its incidents, detailed while events and impressions were fresh. But we could not find opportunity. The rapidity of our movement and constant occupation during intervals of anti‐slavery action, compelled us to defer attempting it, and we must now give our readers a dull reminiscence.
In company with brother Garrison, we left Concord the morning of 23d of August. The morning was clear and pleasant after the rains of Saturday night and Sunday. The air was purified and refreshed from the parching drought, and the earth joyous as the “shining morning face” of a new‐washed school boy. The dust was laid, and travelling beautiful. We crossed the Merrimack, hailing it as our native stream, brother G. at its mouth, and we up its coldest tributary, and rode over Canterbury high hills with that lightness of heart and freedom of spirit, which God vouchsafes, in our land and day, only to the faithful abolitionists. Others may “labor” and “seek rest” as they may. They don’t find it. Kearsarge mountain, looming in the western distance, at solemn height, gave us promise of the mightier peaks in the great chain to which we were journeying, standing alone, in advance of its high peers, like an advance guard, encouraging us by its great, but subordinate elevation, to expect altitudes equal to our loftiest wishes. Speeding on by many a bold home on the hills, and many a valley whose retired beauty recalled to delighted recollection the vales of Scotland, we approached the tributary stream paid to the Merrimack, from our New Hampshire’s chiefest lake, and which bears its name, the Winnipisockee. This, with our own little native river, the cold and swift Pemigewasset, from the Franconia Notch, conspiring a short distance to the left of our way, in the formation of the Merrimack. Just before crossing Winnipisockee river, we passed the brick “steeple house,” where the honorable Samuel Tilton, at the instigation of the honorable Daniel Atkinson, and supported by an honorable mob—“all honorable men”—arrested George Storrs for the felony of an anti‐slavery prayer. What a sign that event of republican and Christian times! And they tried him, for his anticipated anti‐slavery lecture, before a New Hampshire justice of the peace! a fact that will be picked up by the future Belknap for our history, and which will afford a sort of immortality to some on the banks of the Winnipisockee, who otherwise might have enjoyed a comfortable oblivion.
On the high lands of Sanbornton (taking the old road of prospect) the glorious mountains of the North showed us their blue outline, the broad, whale‐like back of Moosehillock, and the pyramid‐looking Haystacks, blending with the sky, and bedimmed with vapor and cloud. They called to mind the first discovered land, last summer, on our voyage to England—the dim Irish shores, and the misty mountains of Wales. Towards sunset our own home‐hills greeted our sight, and the once loved spirits of the village where we were born, their clean white showing picturesquely among the green of the woods beyond them. Old North Hill, with its bare forehead and commanding peak, which in Scotland would have been crowned with immortality in a hundred songs, standing there unhonored and unsung, a bleak hill top, climbed now and then for prospect, but chiefly for the blue‐berries that grow upon its brow, or the sheep and young cattle and wild colts that pasture up its sides. Few places, of so little note, strike the eye of the traveler so pleasantly as the town of Plymouth in Grafton county. A beautiful expanse of intervale opens on the eye like a lake among the hills and woods, and the pretty river Pemigewasset, refreshed with its recent tributary, Baker’s river, from the foot of Moosehillock, and bordered along its crooked sides with rows of maple, meanders widely from upland to upland through the meadows, and realizes to the mind some of the sequestered spots in the valleys of the Swiss cantons. It was with no small interest that we introduced the editor of the Liberator to the scene of our birth and boyhood. It was the birth‐place of New Hampshire anti‐slavery, too. We are sad to say, it is not now anti-slavery’s dwelling place. The spirit that once animated it, has faded under the influence of the pro‐slavery pulpit.
We had been led to expect somewhat that the Congregational meeting‐house, a very tasty synagogue, which we helped largely to erect a few years before our removal from the village, would be opened to brother Garrison for a lecture. We did not expect it from the character of its pulpit, but from the majority of the committee in charge of it, professed abolitionists, as well as from the prudence of the minority, though not interested in the anti‐slavery cause. We supposed all had the necessary curiosity, if not the good taste, to want to hear the man of whom so many bugbear stories had been told in the village, and whose name had, they knew, become renowned on both sides the Atlantic. But a petty bigotry and priest‐ridden prejudice prevailed. Perhaps the church malignity towards his fellow‐traveller moved them to shut the meeting‐house. No matter for the reason. They refused the house, unless upon a condition which abolitionists could not accept, and which honorable men would never have offered.
The Methodist meeting‐house was also refused, but more honestly than the other, with a broad, ill‐mannered No, from the temporary divine who tends it. Let them be forever shut against the cause of BLEEDING HUMANITY. They are abandonedto their uses. As is ever the case, in the overruling of Providence, the paltry refusal of the meeting‐houses served greatly to advance our cause, and magnify the occasion. Driven from the synagogues, the abolitionists applied for a grove across the river, on the land of Mr. Joy, of Holderness. He readily allowed them the use of it;–one spot was found in the neighborhood of Plymouth steeples, not dedicated and given over to slavery, and to soulless, hearless, ungodly sect. One temple there was, not made with hands, of God’s own building, roofed with the blue sky and pillared about with the trees of the wood, and floored and carpeted with the glorious, green earth, dedicated, not to imitations of Jewish ceremonials, or the rites of heathenism, but to that worship of the Father, which He requireth of them, who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Thither anti‐slavery repaired to hold her assembly, and hear the advocate of the Savior’s poor. Semicircular seats, backed against a line of magnificent trees, to accommodate, we should judge, from two to three hundred, though we did not think about numbers, were filled principally with women, and the men who could not find seats stood on the green sward on either hand, and at length, when wearied with standing, seated themselves on the ground. Garrison mounted on a rude platform in front, lifted up his voice and spoke to them in prophet tones and surpassing eloquence, from half past three till I saw the rays of the setting sun playing through the trees on his head. It was at his back—but the auditory could see it, if they had felt at leisure to notice the decline of the sun or the lapse of time. They heeded it not, any more than he, but remained till he ended, apparently undisposed to move, though some came from six, eight, and even twelve miles distance. A vastly better impression was made than would have been, had poor, pitiful sect opened its portals. More attended. It was a different and a far better auditory than would have been gathered in the meeting‐house, especially if the pastors had countenanced the meeting and led in their implicit flocks. The auditory was not the village aristocracy from under the eaves of Bank, Court House, Seminary, or the Steeple House, as George Fox used to call it. Such would have had as little heart to hear or to act as any of their corporations which admittedly “have no soul.” Pearls cast before them would have been cast contrary to the scripture injunction. They could not have listened with hearing ears or understanding hearts. Their ears and hearts are kept by their pastors. Driven from the sanctuaries, we had another and freer auditory. They were politicians, to be sure, many of them; but a politician has more of a heart left in him than a sectarian. Politics is not such a soul‐canker as sect. Sect eats the heart all up. It leaves nothing in a man. He can’t say his soul is his own, or that he has one, belonging to any body. He is a poor, creeping, formal idolator, bowing down to an image he has helped to set up, and to the wooden perch on which he mounts his idol for exhibition and worship. No, the politicians have their humanity left, at least a portion of it. And if it appeals to them, they are not afraid to hear it. It is not irreligious in their estimation to have “flesh in their hearts,” and pity for bleeding humanity. The meeting in the grove called out many of them who would not have entered the house, and we confess they have reason to suspect the motives of even an anti‐slavery lecturer, who is admitted by the pastor into a pulpit. We don’t blame them for their jealousy of meeting‐house lecturers. It is a sign, if they are let into pulpits, that they have not at heart the interests of humanity. The rejection from the house gave Garrison many auditors of this kind. And though he told them the stern truth about their politics, they knew it was told in honesty. They knew there was no speculation or hypocrisy or party in it. They felt it was true, or at least honest. They understood it, and can repeat it. And they are the men to spread it among the people, at least some of them. Now let the little papacy of Plymouth’s village prate of Garrison’s infidelity. The people have seen him and heard him, infidelity and all. And they heard more of Christian truth and gospel preaching, in that one, river‐bank discourse, that those yoked and fettered meeting‐houses can ever afford from the day of their dedication to the time when not one stone of them shall be left upon another.
Garrison spoke the better for being driven to the open air. The injustice and meanness of it aroused his spirit, and the beauty of the scene animated his eloquence. We never heard him speak so powerfully; and as he spoke the more earnestly, the people, from like cause, heard with deeper interest. He scarcely alluded to the miserable jesuitry that excluded us from the synagogue. We are thankful it all happened so. To God be the praise.
We must defer, for another week, further account of our journey, our ascent of North Hill, our jaunt to the Franconia Notch, to the Littleton convention—by the way, gloriously attended and conducted—and to Mount Washingtoon, and our passage of its tremendous gap, side by side with the infant Saco, not wider there than the narrow path, but soon expanding into a bridge and boated river in the beautiful champaign region below the mountains.