Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker (by John Weiss, 1864)
The Collected Works of Theodore Parker (edited by Frances Power Cobbe, 1863)
It would be difficult, but profoundly interesting, to trace the gradual progress of that failure of power amongst theological writers of all schools, which has of late years become so marked that sermons and distinctively theological writings have become a perfect byword for impotence and inanity. Our own Church is probably not worse than others. It is perhaps better than most, inasmuch as its connexion with a powerful political system, and its possession of large endowments, and a certain number of splendid prizes, has always attracted to its ministry a proportion of highly educated men, and has brought them into intimate relations with the real business of life. The decay of ability in the Church of England has, however, been well marked for a great length of time. We have a fair share of clergymen distinguished in general literature. Dr. Milman’s History of Christianity, Mr. Merivale’s Romans under the Empire, the Bishop of St. David’s History of Greece, are books as good as any institution could expect the best of its officers to write; but the amount of power appropriated in the present day to theology, properly so called, is ludicrously small. We have, no doubt, theological works which show considerable learning. The late Archdeacon Wilberforce, for instance, had read a vast number of old-fashioned books, from which he extracted a quantity of theories about the incarnation and other matters; and there are dreary volumes in which any one who has the curiosity, may see any quantity of learning about such a subject as baptism; but this is mere antiquarianism, and has about as much real influence over the mind of any one who can be said to have a mind as treatises on astrology. Many people have read with a sort of wonder considerable parts of the Horae Apocalypticae, with its endless references and masses of authorities; but what person of any real education was ever moved by such a book to attach the faintest importance to the interpretation of prophecies and quasi-prophecies in the Book of Revelation? If the whole of the Bodleian Library were quoted in support of such theories, they would not gain a grain of probability. The general verdict of the bulk of reasonable people is, that such books are only laborious trifles of no real value whatever.
Of those who have actually thought or tried to think upon theological subjects, in this country, in the last generation, the number and the influence has been very small. There have been a few men with a genius for haze or paradox, like Coleridge or Dr. Newman. There have also been several skilful advocates who have produced wonderfully ingenious contrivances for trumping their opponents, and showing everybody who disagreed with them that he ought in consistency to be an atheist. They have not been equally successful in showing why they did not avow that creed themselves. Putting these aside no man has ever attempted for a great length of time to bring his mind fairly to the consideration of questions connected with religion, to discuss them with the same sort of power and boldness to which we are all accustomed in relation to other topics, and to exercise over the mature minds of grown-up men and women anything like the same sort of influence which is claimed and exercised by strong-minded and well-informed people upon other subjects.
This enterprise was the object to which Theodore Parker devoted the whole of his life, bringing at the same time to the task very considerable power, a good deal of learning, and what, to judge by the estimation in which he was held, must be considered as a real gift of eloquence. His life and writings deserve careful attention, not merely for what they teach us about the state of thought and feeling in America, though this is a very curious subject, but also, and chiefly, on account of the questions which they raise, and which press for a solution quite as much on one side of the Atlantic as on the other.
Before entering on the question of his theological views, a few words may be said on his life. It presented few incidents. He was the son of a Massachusetts yeoman of the original Puritan stock; his grandfather having at Lexington, on the 19th April, 1775, given the word of command which produced the first shots fired in the War of Independence, and having also taken the first musket captured in that memorable contest. Theodore Parker was educated as a Unitarian minister, and for some years acted as one at a village called Roxbury, not far from Boston. In his thirtieth year he preached a sermon which was considered as heretical even by that community, and he was denounced by them as worthy of something as like excommunication as they could make it. He succeeded, however, in attracting a certain degree of attention and sympathy by his talents and eloquence, and a congregation was formed which gave him a pulpit of his own at Boston, and which ultimately became the largest and certainly the most remarkable congregation in America. He obtained this position about the year 1844, and held it till 1859, when he was obliged to go to Europe for his health. He died of consumption at Florence in the spring of 1860. The fifteen years of his residence at Boston were greatly diversified by lecturing on all sorts of subjects, chiefly of course, religious and political, over the length and breadth of the Union. It is not said what his terms were, but another eminent lecturer said that for his part he demanded nothing more than FAME, which being interpreted, meant F(ifty dollars) A(nd) M(y) E(xpenses)—£10 a night clear profit.
Parker no doubt made a large income, whatever may have been its exact items. The early part of his life was very studious. He seems to have read with omnivorous enthusiasm from the age of perhaps twenty to that of thirty; but in the later part of his life his time for study was considerably abridged by his numerous avocations. He took a most prominent part in the anti-slavery agitation in its early stages, and carried his opposition to the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law in Boston very nearly to the point of physical force, and to the proposal of a secession from the Union by the Northern States. His hatred to slavery was as fierce and eager in the days when the Abolitionists were regarded as obscure fanatics, as that of any of the zealots who are at present the most powerful section of the whole community. The second volume of his life is filled with correspondence and extracts from journals relating to the proceedings of the Vigilance Committee, which sat in Boston to prevent the extradition of fugitive slaves, and to other points in that long struggle between the North and the South, which at last ended in the election of Mr. Lincoln, the attack on the luckless Fort Sumter, and the civil war, which still rages. Few books give a better insight into the feelings with which the two parties in that great strife regard each other, and none explain so well the grounds on which the more enthusiastic Northerners appear to view their antagonists with something of that ‘I do well to be angry’ spirit with which Samuel may be supposed to have hewn Agag in pieces before the Lord. Parker was a theoretical American. He is constantly insisting in all his writings on ‘the American Idea.’ His belief that it was the mission of the United States to revolutionize the world and inaugurate a political and social millennium, was far more steady and quite as fervent as the opinion to the same effect which the enthusiasts of the French Revolution entertained as to France.
He was full of the notion that mankind were to become infinitely richer than they have ever been, and that this wealth would be the first step in a general career of improvement of which both the general character and the specific constituent elements were matters of conjecture. It is remarkable that the only definite hope that he appears to have entertained as to this paradisaical future of mankind, related to the condition of women. Various things which he considered abuses were to be abolished; but the only new institution which is ever shadowed forth, is the general recognition of the theory of women’s rights. The world as it is, minus some gross abuses, and plus women’s rights, is, it must be owned, rather a thin kind of paradise.
These were a few of the leading opinions of this remarkable and most enthusiastic man. Let us consider the nature of the theories which gave them unity, and their relation to the country and state of society in which they were formed.
Before and above everything else, Theodore Parker was a theologian. His theology was the trunk from which his views of morality and politics branched off. His system was remarkably sim le and perspicuous, and is reproduced in a sufficiently manageable shape, many times over, in different parts of his works. It is expounded systematically in his Discourse of Matters Pertaining to Religion, the first and the only treatise he ever published. It forms the first volume of his works as collected by Miss Cobbe, and is very short, filling only about three hundred and thirty-five small Octavo pages. It is repeated with more or less completeness in several of the sermons contained in the third volume, and entitled Discourses of Theology; and its main outlines may be mastered by any one who will take the trouble to read either the sermon ‘ On the Function of a Teacher of Religion,’ (vol. iii. p. 110-150); the very remarkable ‘Discourse of the Relation between the Ecclesiastical Institutions and the Religious Consciousness of the American People,’ (ib. p. 167-210); or a sermon ‘On False and True Theology,’ (ib. p. 257-273). There is also in the appendix to Mr. Weiss’s Life of Parker, (v01. p. 447-515), a most interesting document called, ‘Theodore Parker’s Experience as a Minister.’ It is in the form of a letter written to his congregation after he had left them, to die, as it turned out, and it contains a review of all the principal features of his life and teaching. It may be read in a couple of hours, and gives a full account of the man and his views. There is also, in the same volume (p. 50-67), a scheme of a book which he was engaged upon at the time of his death, and which he intended to form the crowning labour of his life. It was to have treated of the ‘Development of Religion,’ and was to have consisted of six books, treating respectively, of the grounds of religion in general; of the development of religion in the Caucasian race, to the time of Christ; of the moral and religious condition of mankind at the birth of Christ; of Christianity as compared with other religions; of the historical development of Christianity; and of the problems yet to be solved in the religion of mankind —the probable future of religion. The scheme was too vast to have been executed by any one man; but it is worth studying, as the headings of the chapters and their arrangement, give a clear notion of the relation which, in his opinion, existed between the different parts of the subject. From any one of these references, any person may learn, with little trouble, and in a short time, what Theodore Parker’s views were, and what was the style in which he set them forth; and they will be able to judge of the justice of the following outline.
Theodore Parker differed from the most eminent English thinkers, both of our own and of earlier generations, in belonging to the school of philosophy which believes in innate ideas, and in the power of the mind to take direct cognizance of certain great elementary truths. Amongst the truths which the human mind thus knows of its own knowledge, he reckoned the propositions that there is a God absolutely good and infinitely perfect; that the human soul is immortal; and that there is a moral law. ‘I found,’ he says, ‘certain great primal intuitions of human nature, which depend on no logical process of demonstration; but are rather facts of consciousness given by the instinctive action of human nature itself. I will mention only the three most important which pertain to religion.
‘1. The instinctive intuition of the Divine: the consciousness that there is a God.This was the foundation both of the positive and of the negative part of his creed. Believing that he knew God’s attributes by intuition, and that he also knew justice and right by intuition, he of course believed that he could infer, with absolute certainty, that particular doctrines, being unjust and immoral, were not of divine origin. He could also infer the truth of certain other doctrines with equal certainty. ‘From the primitive facts of consciousness given by the power of instinctive intuition, I endeavoured to deduce the true notion of God, of justice, and futurity.’ His positive creed, based on these foundations, and developed from them, was somewhat as follows:-—There is a God infinitely good, just, and powerful, the creator of the world and all things in it. The world so created was and is perfect, in relation to its object—which object is itself perfect, being perfect benevolence. The apparent imperfection, faults, and vices of men are therefore only apparent, and must in reality be steps in a progress towards such perfection as a finite creature is capable of. There is a normal intercourse between God and man. Man is dependent on God—is sensible of that dependence, and expresses it in various ways, conscious and unconscious: the most important conscious expression of it being prayer. On the other hand, man constantly receives from God guidance and instruction, belief in which constitutes the true doctrine of inspiration. The ordinary exercise of the human faculties is, or perhaps may be said to involve, inspiration; and the world in every sense of the word—the external world of matter, and the internal world of thought and feeling, constitutes the revelation of God to man, the medium through which man gets such illustrations of the divine character as, under the limitations of his nature, he is capable of receiving. This inspiration and revelation address themselves principally to a specific religious faculty in human nature, a faculty which Parker considered to be as distinctive of, and appropriate to, human nature as any other—the faculty of sight, for instance.
‘2. The instinctive intuition of the just and right: a consciousness that there is a moral law, independent of our will, which we ought to keep.
‘3. The instinctive intuition of the immortal: a consciousness that the essential element of man—the individual element—never dies.’
Such was his theology. His theory of morality was closely connected with it. He supposed that men have an intuitive perception of right and wrong, good and evil, as constituting a moral law which they are bound to obey. By a law, he meant a uniform mode of operation; which is Hooker’s definition, or rather explanation, of that most important word. There are laws in the material world, and to those laws all matter conforms. It always operates in strict accordance with them. In the moral world it is not so, because man is possessed of a certain degree of freedom which enables him to deviate from his law. This, however, does not prevent him from intuitively perceiving its nature; and, so far from weakening, imposes and constitutes his obligation to obey it. It is obvious that this conception of morality implies that theory of inherent, absolute, inalienable rights on which the Declaration of Independence is founded, and which supplied Parker with his standing argument against slavery.
The negative side of Parker's theology was what might have been expected from his positive doctrines. Believing the religious faculty to be the most important constituent element of human nature, he was naturally predisposed to disbelieve any theory which made religion exceptional and supernatural, or which narrowed its basis in such a manner as to make its truth depend upon particular questions of fact. Hence he was prepared to go the length of condemning and refuting all ordinary theological opinions on a priori grounds, in so far as they differed from what he described as Absolute Religion, the religion, that is, which is intuitively perceived to be true by the human consciousness. It was not, however, by an appeal to intuition alone that he arrived at this result. It was through a study of the facts, as he says himself, that he rose to a perception of the theory. His first inquiries were directed to the criticism of the Bible. They led him to the conclusion that the books of which it is composed do not differ generically from other books, and that, therefore, assertions which it contains, and which would be incredible in other books, are not to be believed merely upon its authority. This applied as much to the New Testament as to the Old. It is needless to go through his reasoning on this subject. Its application to the Old Testament is sufficiently notorious to all the world. Its application to the New Testament will be equally notorious before the world is many years older. From criticizing the Bible he proceeded to criticize the system of theology which prevails in Christendom, and which, in Protestant countries, is generally supposed to be extracted from the Bible.
Of this system, he observed, in general, that it was the growth of many ages, and the product of many minds; that certain parts of it only were to be found in the Bible; and that it had been gradually constructed by the combined efforts of a great number of different persons. It was thus, as a whole, entitled to no other authority than that which belongs to any other set of opinions gradually put together by the wants and reflections of mankind.
Coming to particulars, he allowed that it embodied the cardinal doctrines of natural religion, the existence of God, a future state, prayer, and the obligation of morality; and he recognised the unspeakable services which it had thus rendered to mankind; but, he said, these benefits were mixed with errors of the highest practical importance. These errors were five in number—1. Christian theology gave a false idea of God: teaching that he was imperfect in power, as the devil got the best of him; in wisdom, as the wickedness of the human race thwarted the divine designs; in justice, as Jehovah issued wicked commands to the Israelites and others; in benevolence, as he ‘ continually creates men foredoomed to eternal damnation ;’ and also a devil, who ‘is not merely a mistake and a failure, but an intended marplot to the universe, a premeditated contradiction, devised and intended for no good, helping neither any benevolent purpose of God nor the development of man;’ and in holiness, inasmuch as he did immoral acts, such as hardening Pharaoh’s heart, sending an evil spirit to Saul, &c. 2. Christian theology gave a false idea of man: it taught that man was totally depraved, ‘so that he is substantially good for nothing.’ ‘Man’s body is perfect—his eye, his foot, the nervous system is complete and perfect as the solar system; but his nature, his heart is evil—is only evil, and that continually.’ 3. Christian theology gave a false idea of the relation between God and man: it makes this world the scene of a never-ceasing struggle, and divides the next into a small heaven and large hell, ‘wherein the million generations of men, each millions of millions strong, shall perish everlasting in never-ending fiery rot, while he (God) and the devil alone shall take delight in this flaming massacre, this funeral pile of humanity.’ 4. Theology, gives a false idea of inspiration, reducing the normal intercourse between the creator and the creature to a transient, exceptional, and miraculous communication made once for all to a few particular people. 5. Theology gives a false idea of salvation. ‘God is permanently angry with the human race, and inclined to damn all men to eternal torment; but his wrath has been somewhat mitigated, appeased, and diverted from certain persons ’ by the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. In consideration of this, escape from hell and admission to heaven is offered to men on terms of such a character that, ‘of all who have hitherto lived the saved are a most pitiful fraction compared to the lost. Hell is roomy and crowded, while heaven is narrow, but with many mansions all unoccupied.’ To these five false ideas, common to all Christian theology, the Protestants add that of the infallibility of scripture, the Catholics that of the infallibility of the Church, or practically of the Pope.
This is a summary of the negative side of Parker’s theology, to which it should be added, that one principal feature of his theory consisted in the distinction on which he was accustomed to insist between theology the science, and religion the art. As practice is guided largely by sentiment, and by the unconscious influence of opinions not formally held, it is often much in advance of theory; and thus men have always been better than their creeds, selecting for practical purposes these parts of them which are wholesome and true.
This, according to Parker, has been eminently the case with Christianity. The Christian religion has been, on the whole, the greatest blessing that the world has ever enjoyed; but Christian theology was always largely mixed with evil, and has come at last to exercise a paralyzing influence over the minds of men, and to form one of the greatest of all obstacles to the attainment, on their part, of true elevation and nobility of character.
It is easy to say of all this that there is no novelty in it. This is perfectly true. The pedigree of the Biblical criticism which introduced Parker to his other opinions may be traced, at least as far back as Spinoza, and probably, by inquirers into the curiosities of literature, it might be carried much farther. Most of his moral objections to Christian theology have no doubt been urged repeatedly. A vigorous statement of them will be found, for instance, in Lord Bolingbroke’s writings; and the doctrine of an intuitive knowledge by man of God, and of the distinction between right and wrong, is nearly as old as speculation itself. All this it is easy to point out, but it is equally true that for the last one hundred and fifty years at least such opinions have been steadily increasing, not only in popularity, but in what may be called respectability. They were once confined to a small number of persons who had very little weight with the world at large, and who perhaps neither sought nor deserved more influence than they possessed; they were afterwards professed by furious enthusiasts, whose violence, fruitful both of good and evil, prevented the mass of mankind from judging calmly of the merits of their views; they are now spreading widely and quietly through all classes of the community, and derive great weight from the demonstration supplied by history, science, and criticism of the fact, that whatever else we may or may not possess, there is in the world no such thing as an infallible Church or an infallible book. Probably Theodore Parker may claim the merit of having been one of the first persons who held opinions of this sort in a spirit of piety deep and earnest enough to enable, and indeed to call upon him to lead the life of a minister of religion, and to devote himself sedulously to those duties which belong to that profession. His creed put together did not in its negative results differ widely from that of Voltaire, nor were its principal positive doctrines very different from Voltaire’s, except in regard of the grounds on which they were held. Yet this similarity of opinion was consistent with the widest difference of spirit and temper. No man was less of a scoffer than Parker, no one could have a stronger sense of duty and love towards God and man, no one was less disposed by nature to destroy existing beliefs without recognising and, if possible, saving for the benefit of the world the truth which they contained. It is impossible to read his books, or to study his life and correspondence, without acknowledging that whatever else his opinions were, they were the honest belief of an able and good man who had devoted his life to the study of the subject to which they referred. This is a fact of the greatest importance, and may well excite several reflections.
In the first place, it is one of a vast number of proofs of the cardinal truth, that theology forms no exception to the general rule that wide differences of opinion may and must, if free inquiry be allowed, prevail amongst good and honest men, upon all important subjects, until they have been fully and freely discussed. Many of Parker’s opinions, positive and negative, are open to most serious objections, and, in our judgment, are either false, or at least unproved. But if Parker himself is described as a bad man, or as anything else than a man who, with certain defects of character, was on the whole conspicuously good, the words good and bad must be used in an arbitrary conventional sense. If the mere fact of holding such opinions as he held is a sin, then no doubt he was a great sinner; but if goodness means love to God and man, and a zealous discharge of the duties connected-with those feelings —and this is the sense in which the word is always used on common occasions—then Parker was emphatically a good man. It may be said that a man’s opinions are in a sense actions. If a man forms a false opinion of the character of God, or of his own position in the universe, and of his relation to his Maker and his fellow-creatures, he is led to do so by defects which are in their nature moral. A rash and presumptuous view implies more or less rashness and presumption in the mind which forms it, and rashness and presumption are moral faults. This is true; but if made the foundation of a charge against any particular man, it assumes that his views are false; and when people differ, each has an equal right to assume the falsehood of the views opposed to his own. Parker would have had as much right to say to his opponents, ‘Your immoral views of God proceed from your own wickedness,’ as they to say to him, ‘Your presumptuous views of God arise from your presumption.’ The question is, whether the one set of views are immoral, and whether the other set are presumptuous; and an opinion of the moral character of holders of these views may well be formed without prejudice to that inquiry. If we were all perfect, intellectually and morally, we should probably all agree in our opinions on all subjects, and the differences which exist between us may probably be connected with both moral and intellectual defects; but the very meaning of toleration is the admission that this makes as much against one man as against another, and that we must first show by argument the truth or falsehood of an opinion before we insist upon the moral defects which may have led a man to hold it.
The importance of recognizing in the most ample way the moral innocence of such opinions as Parker’s, whether they are true or false, can hardly be overrated. Until that fact has not only been conceded, but has been conceded in such a way that its assertion is generally recognized as a truism, it is hopeless to expect anything like real progress in the state of our theological belief, or to anticipate any relief from those restless misgivings, and that harassing sense of insecurity which, like a moral sea-sickness, prostrate so many minds at present. The reason for holding this opinion is not that the truth upon such matters is unimportant, but that it is all important, and most difficult to ascertain; and there is, and can be, nothing more certain to prevent its discovery than the habit of shrieking over certain views, denouncing them as dreadful and unfit, and refusing to look them calmly in the face. If the world at large, the common run of people, and especially the common run of educated people, really appreciated the vital importance of holding true theological opinions, if possible, or, at any rate, of not holding, and not professing to hold theological opinions which can be shown to be false, they would not require any argument to prove the necessity of conceding to all classes of men, and especially to the clergy, the most absolute freedom of inquiry on these subjects—freedom not merely from legal restraints, but from those restraints which popular feeling imposes, and which are far more subtle and effective than any which the law can provide.
At present the great mass of educated people waver between two opinions, and, till they have better means of knowledge, cannot be expected to do otherwise.
This state of mind is always stigmatized in sermons as the worst condition in which a man can be. A clergyman is apt to feel that an open antagonist is the next best thing to a zealous and submissive disciple. The amiable moral man, who will go with him a certain way, and confine his influence within certain bounds, who says by his conduct, ‘There is something in what you say, but it is by no means the whole truth,’ is the object of his unceasing denunciations. He is like an earthwork opposed to a cannon-ball: any number of sermons may be expended without overcoming or much affecting that sullen inertia. The laity, however, if they could reply upon the clergyman, in the present state of theology, would find it easy to justify their conduct. They would say, ‘We look on you, the clergy, as we look on other professional men. We allow full swing to no one. Neither the lawyer nor the doctor is permitted to be a tyrant by reason of his superior special knowledge. We know by experience that truth itself is far wider and larger than any technical view of it: we mean to form our own estimate of the amount of influence to be allotted to you, and to give you so much, and no more, if you argue and demonstrate to the end of time. But you are not on the same footing as lawyers and doctors. Your eyes are hoodwinked, and your mouths are shut. You can think only in chains—and how can a guide in shackles expect to be fully honest? Indeed, we appeal to your practice against your doctrine. You preach the Sermon on the Mount; but you have as warm blood in your veins as your neighbours. If a man insulted your wife, if a foreigner invaded your country, you would shoot him first, and settle your account with the New Testament afterwards. You are English gentlemen as well as Christians. We respect you for it, and give you influence on account of it, whatever inconsistency there may be between the characters. If you tried to tread under foot the opinions of your race and generation, you might preach to empty walls, and tyrannize over a few sickly minds, but you would never influence free men.’
This state of mind is universal, and is as old as the Christian Church itself. In Catholic countries the confessor ought to be king. A man who represents God Almighty to the individual conscience, who says with infallible authority this, that, and the other are sins, and must be avoided under pain of damnation, ought to be an absolute master, as much superior to a temporal king as eternity is superior to time. In fact he is not king; people invent subterfuges which restrain him. They draw, for instance, a distinction (which has no real meaning) between temporal and spiritual affairs; and, whilst they concede supremacy in the latter, deny it in the former. This is only a civil way of saying ‘We do not quite believe you. We think it possible you may be right, and therefore, as a sort of compromise, we give you a province in which you may act. We also think it possible that you may be wrong, and therefore we hold you strictly to the terms of your compromise, and rigidly exclude you from the province which we keep to ourselves.’ Where there is a full, absolute conviction, the confessor is king. A devout Roman Catholic woman thinks for herself in politics as little as in theology. She feels that her confessor has the same right to tell her that it is a sin to attack the Pope’s temporal power as that it is a sin to attack his spiritual power. The only reason why her husband thinks otherwise is, that he has less belief in the confessor. No one compromises with real science. The most sceptical of men does not on any occasion act on the supposition that the multiplication table may be wrong; and none but ignorant people would knowingly persist in a line of conduct really opposed to the principles of political economy.
If theological propositions of any, even of the negative kind, could be put upon the same basis as propositions of science, or even of human history, the mute antagonism which at present exists between the clergy and the laity would cease. The province of the one and the duties of the other would be clearly defined; and men would no more rebel against the reasonable directions of the clergy in their own province than they now rebel against the reasonable directions of the lawyer or the doctor. This would be in all respects an unspeakable blessing. It would act on the moral and religious condition of society as the reduction of a dislocated bone would act on the physical body. The clergy would cease to shriek at the laity,- the laity to shrug their shoulders at the clergy. It is, however, perfectly certain that no such result can be obtained without a price, and the price in this case is the recognition of the duty of absolutely free discussion, and of the innocence of any opinion whatever formed in good faith. When that price has once been unreservedly paid; when men, and women too, have opened their eyes to the fact that their present opinions are practical, provisional, and held subject to further inquiry, [See an Article on ‘Women and Scepticism’] the difficulties which at present appear and really are so distressing to thousands, will melt away like clouds before the sun, and people will wonder that they have so long allowed their whole lives to be overshadowed by terrors which have no real foundation. Mankind could, if they chose, take stock of their religious knowledge as well as of their knowledge in other departments of life. They could say, This is certain, that is probable, the other is false, and this again is a subject on which we must be contented to be ignorant. Common candour, good sense, and confidence in the truth—whatever that may be—would be sufficient to make these conclusions as plain as any other conclusions connected with human conduct, with morals—— for instance, politics or history. For the steps which he took in this direction, for his vigorous thoughts, for the manliness with which he lived up to his creed, and for the demonstration which his life supplied that such a creed could be held by a good and even a noble-minded man, Theodore Parker deserved the admiration and gratitude of his contemporaries.
The strongest conviction of all this is consistent with the opinion that Parker’s opinions involve many errors, and that his character and career had some considerable and characteristic defects. It would be impossible in the space at our command to enter fully upon such a subject, but we may indicate some of the lines of criticism which his views suggest, and which might be applied in detail to all his opinions.
The first and most obvious objection to his doctrine is that it rests on a basis which the general course of speculation, in this country at all events, does not support. The controversy between those who believe in, and those who deny, the doctrine of innate ideas—the doctrine that the mind has the power of taking direct knowledge of the truth of any proposition whatever, independently of experience furnished either by the senses or by some internal organ corresponding to the senses—— is far too wide to be handled here. It is indeed not easy to see how the contending parties are to come to any decisive issue; for it appears probable that each can give an account of all known facts in terms of their own theory. When a man like Parker says, ‘I mentally see God, immortality and mortality, as distinctly as you see tables and chairs,’ a man like, say, Mr. Mill, can only answer, ‘I do not.’ How Parker could properly reply ‘Yes you do,’ is not easy to understand. At all events, a large number of people assert the negative, and stoutly declare that they believe in the propositions that there is a God, that the soul is immortal, and that there are moral distinctions between different classes of actions, not as universal premisses, but as conclusions from premisses supplied by experience. As Parker admitted, the great majority of thoughtful Englishmen are of this way of thinking, and surely they or we have much to say for ourselves. In all other departments of human knowledge the general propositions which lie at the root 'of sciences are precisely those which are subjected to the greatest amount of scrutiny, and finally settled with the greatest jealousy. we do not set out in geometry by assuming that we know what we mean by such familiar words as a point, a line, a circle; on the contrary, the first condition by which geometry is made possible is that of affixing a precise meaning to those words. So one of the last results of physical science is to fix the meaning of such words as body, force, weight, electricity, magnetism, &c. All other sciences have to go through the inductive stage before they can reach the deductive one; and it would be strange indeed if theology formed an exception, if we knew all about God, the human soul, and right and wrong, without any labour at all, and by a direct intuition. Indeed, there is one short argument on this point, which though it does not satisfy believers in intuitive truths, appears to those who do not believe in them exceedingly difficult to answer. This argument is, If these truths are self-evident, why does any one doubt them when they are stated? To this Parker used to reply that their minds were in an abnormal condition. ‘Historians tell us some nations, with considerable civilization, have no God, no priests, no worship, and therefore give no sign of the existence of the religious element in them. Admitting they state a fact, we are not to conclude the religious element was wanting in the savages, only that they, like infants, have not attained the proper stage when we could discover signs of its action.’ Suppose the savages returned the compliment by telling Parker he had not yet reached the proper stage at which atheism becomes self-evident? Who as between man and man is to say which is the type and. which the anomaly?
It is easy to be too hard on believers in intuitive truths. Indeed, it is difficult, especially for English people, to be entirely just to them.
It must be admitted that the doctrines which Parker described as self-evident were doctrines which every one would wish to believe to be so. It would be an unspeakable blessing to be able to believe that the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are truths of which we are so sure that no evidence and no argument to the contrary can ever disturb our belief. Every one would wish to believe it; and the fact that a certain number of able men actually do believe it is one which is by no means to be overlooked. No doubt our English habits of mind do not favour the opinion; but we should all be glad to be set right. If there is a royal road to the highest and most important of all truths, by all means let us travel on it. Nothing but the fear of being misled by our own strong inclinations can be a reason for abstaining from so pleasant a course. Truth, however, is uncompromising, and truth appears to us, at least, to close this seductive path.
The unsatisfactory nature of Parker’s method extends to every part of his theories, both positive and negative. The application of this to his positive doctrines is obvious, but his positive doctrines formed the vantage—ground from which a great part of his negative doctrines were launched against his antagonists. Nearly all his attacks on common theological opinions were made on it priori grounds. This doctrine conflicts with the absolute goodness, that with the absolute justice of God, this again is opposed to the natural doctrine of inspiration, &c. &c. To a person who does not grant Parker’s premisses there is not much weight in such arguments. If you begin by not believing that we have an intuitive knowledge of the truth of the proposition that God is absolutely just and good; nay, by denying that any distinct meaning can be attached to the phrases absolute justice and absolute goodness, the fact that a doctrine is alleged to be opposed to absolute justice or goodness is not very important.
Does this destroy the force of Parker’s attacks upon common theological opinions? According to some writers it does. They argue, that as man knows nothing by intuition, and as such words as ‘absolute’ and ‘infinite’ are negative, our knowledge of God is and must be confined entirely to what we get from the specific information of some one better instructed than ourselves, authenticated, if possible, by a miracle; and that this information is not to be judged of by our à priori theories, but ought to form and control them. This line of thought has been worked out by men of considerable ability in this country with a sort of malignant zeal which seems to delight in trampling on the feelings and bewildering the understanding. It leads to results more cynical, more grovelling, and more humiliating, than the worst extravagances of the most exaggerated Calvinism. Well— known works of the most orthodox reputation supply abundant illustrations of this. They must mean, if they mean anything, that if Juggernaut would work a miracle—if he would do a little spirit-rapping, for instance, in an authentic way—we ought all to be ready to throw ourselves, or our wives and daughters, under his wheels in the sure and certain hope of a blessed immortality if he was good enough to offer us one. This school of theology teaches only one article of faith,— ‘Needs must when the devil drives.’
A few remarks on the method to be pursued in theological inquiries will show what is the point at which we diverge from Parker on the one hand and the Englishmen just named on the other. It would require more than one volume to state and to justify all the results to which the application of that method would
We agree with the English doctrine which denies the power of the mind to assert the truth of any fact whatever, à priori, whether that fact be the existence of God, the truth of the multiplication table, or the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne in 1837. These propositions all state facts to be prove by evidence, and to be believed on the ground of that evidence. The evidence that there is a God is to be found partly in the world of matter, partly in the constitution of human nature, partly in the working of what Parker called the religious faculty or sentiment—as to which it may be observed that it is a most difficult question whether that faculty is separate and distinct, or whether it is merely the application of the faculties of wonder, reverence, affection, &c., in a particular direction. All this evidence put together suggests rather than proves the existence of God. It certainly does not disprove atheism; but it renders theism probable, and the degree of its probability may be estimated by the eagerness with which its doctrines have been received in various forms by men of all ages and nations, and by the influence which that belief has exercised over their conduct, especially over their legislation and their views of morality. It is in this point of view that the general consent of mankind upon this subject is important. It proves rather the force and attractiveness of the argument than the truth of the proposition to be established. The belief in God may therefore be described as at the lowest a hypothesis suggested by much evidence, and so probable that it is wise to act upon the supposition of its truth. The difference between this and a self-evident truth is for practical purposes not great, though it is considerable in respect to the degree of confidence in speculation which it authorizes. A probable conclusion affects the conduct of the person who believes it to be true in the same way as if it were free from all doubt whatever; but its value as the basis of an argument is very different. Probable premisses authorize only probable conclusions; and the adoption of a belief in God on the grounds just mentioned, naturally leads to the great question, What character we ought to ascribe to him? The answer to this question is, That we must ascribe to him such a character as the evidence from which we infer his existence suggests. The evidence undoubtedly suggests a Being so infinitely greater than and different from man that many of his attributes must be altogether dissimilar to anything human, and that even where we can make use of human language it is inadequate and to a great extent metaphorical. On the whole, however, it would appear, for familiar reasons, that in so far as the condition of the human race was and is an object with the Creator—and there is no evidence that it was the only or even the chief object in the creation of the world that object was benevolent and wise. The constitution both of the physical and of the spiritual world conduce principally to human happiness, so far as they directly affect it, though perhaps it would be too much to say that they conduce to nothing else, or even that the interests of men, their power of attaining what they might otherwise enjoy, may not in some cases be sacrificed to other objects of which we know nothing. Perhaps it would not be very incorrect to say that the world is arranged as a benevolent Being would have arranged it if he had had to work with imperfect and defective materials. Why are the materials imperfect and defective? It is impossible to say; and in the absence of all evidence it is useless to guess. There may be reasons of which we are ignorant; but the fact remains, and unquestionably forms a limitation on our assertion of the goodness of God, that is, on his disposition to promote human happiness by all means, and under all circumstances whatever. To deny this is gratuitous optimism, which has no other source than the inclination of the person who believes in it. On the other hand, the constitution of things does certainly give a wonderful impression both of goodness and wisdom in the arrangement of the materials both spiritual and physical of which the world is composed; and this is enough to justify men in thinking of God as wise and good, and indeed to call upon them to do so, subject always to the observation that these words are inadequate and incomplete, and that they refer to part only of the attributes of a Being who has other attributes inconceivable by us because they are like nothing human.
All this is antecedent in point of time, and independent in point of logic, of any specific revelation, that is, of any positive statement on the part of some person, alleging that he possesses means of knowledge superior to those of the rest of mankind. Let us consider how such a statement would affect the matter. It might obviously take one or the other of two very different forms. It may either set forth an entirely new account of the nature and attributes of God, or it may assume and recognize the common conception of God, and proceed to give further information about his dealings with men. Whichever course is taken, the probability that the alleged revelation is true will be affected by the relation in which its contents stand to the views of the Divine character which exist independently of it. Suppose an angel were to come flying down upon the earth, to take up his quarters in London, and there proclaim to all mankind that he had come from Sirius, and that he had to tell mankind that all their notions of God were entirely mistaken, that in point of fact the world was created by a being called Moloch, living in Sirius, of such and such an appearance, and of a malignant disposition; that Moloch had determined to put to death all the population of the world, unless he were appeased by a sacrifice of ten thousand men, women, and children, to be chosen by lot and flayed alive; and that as a proof of this he, the messenger, was commissioned to work a variety of miracles. Surely the actual state and constitution and past history of the world would afford strong evidence, as far as it went, that the angel’s statement was improbable, and that whatever else he was, he was not truthful. It is possible to conceive that this might be encountered by other probabilities strong enough at last to outweigh them; but under all conceivable circumstances the question would be one of conflicting evidence, and the probability arising from the general condition of the world, and from our view of the divine character as framed upon it, would be entitled to weigh on the one side or the other.
Suppose next, which is the case with the Christian revelation, that the person who makes it assumes and acquiesces in the conception of God prevalent at the time and place where the revelation is made. If the revelation contains matter inconsistent with this general conception of God, the inconsistency is obviously evidence (as far as it goes) against that part at least of the revelation. Indeed, it is stronger than in the other case, because lit goes to show not merely that the matter revealed is improbable, but that it is contradictory to itself. If the inconsistency is not in the revelation itself, but merely in a second-hand report of it, the weight of this observation is greatly increased; and if a reason can be assigned why the reporter was likely, under the influence of local or personal prejudices, to attribute such opinions to the person whose revelation he was reporting, the improbability would be increased still further.
The application to Christian theology of these observations put together, is, that not only is it a question of evidence whether or not any revelation at all was made (which is universally admitted), but also that the character and probability of each and every article of that revelation as reported to us is evidence of its having or not having formed part of the revelation itself, assuming that there was one, and of its being true or false if it did form part of it. This differs from the view entertained by Parker because it admits that our antecedent notions of the Divine character may be altered or controlled by positive external information. It differs from the view entertained by those who in this country are the most popular antagonists of such views as Parker’s, inasmuch as it asserts that the congruity of any alleged, or of any real part of it, with the conception of God which we have drawn from other sources, is evidence of its truth or falsehood as the case may be.
A specific illustration will show the bearing of this. The doctrine of the atonement is one of the leading doctrines of revealed religion as generally understood. Let us see how the question of its truth would be tried by these three methods. Theodore Parker said at once, ‘I do not care who asserted it. It contradicts my moral intuitions, and is therefore false.’ The other persons to whom we have referred, as we understand them, would look about for some enunciation of it in the Bible, and would then say, ‘It is miraculously asserted to be true, and we cannot criticize what is miraculously asserted to be true.’ According to the principle suggested above, the first step would be to inquire into the probability of the doctrine as stated by those who maintained it. If on the whole it appeared probable—that is, such as our notions of God, as derived from the world at large, would lead us to expect—less evidence would prove its truth. If it appeared directly contradictory to those notions, then no evidence could prove it, unless it were evidence strong enough to show that our whole conception of God was false, and that another must be substituted for it. Short of this, there might be various degrees of improbability requiring corresponding degrees of strength in the evidence.
The difference between the method here advocated and that of the persons to whom allusion has been made would by no means stop here. Upon our principle it would be necessary to institute the closest possible inquiry into the channels through which the supposed revelation came, and to criticize not only the revelation itself but their report of it. In the particular case in question, the doctrine is said to be revealed in the Bible; and, for the purpose of illustration, a collection of passages from the Bible, in the fifth chapter of the second part of Butler’s Analogy, will do as well as any other. Butler gives about twenty passages of Scripture which, as he says, ‘seem to comprehend and express the chief parts of Christ’s office as mediator between God and man.’ No one of these passages is alleged to contain a report of any assertion of the doctrine by Christ himself. The references, with hardly an exception, are to the epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter. Now, St. Paul and St. Peter were certainly fallible; and it therefore becomes most important to ask whether the passages in question are divine revelations or expressions of their own opinions. Admit, for the sake of argument, that the doctrine itself is improbable—that is, that it is unlike what our general views of God would lead us to expect—then, if we can account for Paul and Peter having thought as they did by any other supposition than that they were the depositaries of a Divine revelation, the probability will be that that other supposition is the true one. They were both Jews, accustomed to the Jewish law and the sacrifices which formed part of it. Is it not likely that in addressing disciples, many of whom were Jews, their ways of thinking and forms of speech should have been coloured by this circumstance, so that it should have appeared to them that figures drawn from- the Jewish services were the most appropriate and solemn forms of speech that could be used in speaking of Christ? Again, is there any sort of reason to suppose that either the one or the other had any notion of laying down any categorical propositions whatever respecting Christ in those passages, most of which are indirect, rhetorical, or at least epistolary, and more or less obscure? Until full allowance has been made on all these heads, and the doctrine said to be revealed has not only been clearly stated, but has been completely freed from the distorting effects of the human media through which it has passed; until we have allowed for the prejudices of a Jew, the exigencies of a letter, the warmth of rhetoric and affection, the particular circumstances of the persons addressed, and many other matters too numerous to mention, the conflict of probabilities for which such elaborate provision has been made does not arise. It will be time to discuss the question how we ought to act if we had overwhelming external evidence in favour of an improbable dogma, when we have some proof at least that any dogma at all has been propounded by any one claiming supernatural authority.
It is impossible not to feel that this application of criticism would greatly narrow the field of discussion between such writers as Parker and their principal antagonists. A candid review of the matter will show that whether or not the doctrines which Parker denounced with such vehemence could be proved by any evidence whatever, they are in many cases strained inferences from the incidental expressions of fallible writers.
In other cases they rest upon a more stable basis. Christian theology, no doubt, is deeply infected. with the weakness and wickedness of that long series of men, great and small, good and bad, by whom it was slowly elaborated in the course of many centuries; but it also contains the result of a vast amount of the highest form of virtue and wisdom. The Christian views of God and man, and of the relation between them, have, as a fact, deeply influenced for good the whole history of the world, especially the history of modern Europe; and this unquestionably entitles its doctrines to the most serious attention and study; for, whatever writers like Parker may say or think, it is by no means a simple or easy thing to put the doctrines of a God, of a divine providence, and of a future life, before the world in such a way as to command their attention and belief. What appeared to him a set of self-evident truths will appear to most people a set of rash assertions, so contrived as to elude the great standing difficulty and pinch of the whole matter. How are you to deal with evil? To deny its existence, and, with Pope, to call it happiness ill understood, is a mere playing with words, or else a gratuitous assumption. Though the creed of what is vaguely called Christianity includes within its broad limits many bad things, and some things (such as extreme Calvinism) which are not only bad, but infinitely more horrible in some respects than the worst heathenism, it also contains something else which has renewed the world. What is that something else? Which is the wheat, and which is the chaff? There is no other way of finding out than by the most searching inquiry into every article of the Christian creed, into every assertion of the Christian writers, Biblical or not, into the character and nature of the Founder of Christianity, and every other topic relevant to the subject. Of one thing we may be perfectly certain: whatever good Christianity has done, has been done by the truths which it contains. The falsehoods mixed up with it, however old and however venerable they may be, can have done nothing but harm. If the world is to continue to improve, the one must be fearlessly separated from the other—the tares must be burnt, and the wheat gathered into the barn.
This is not a work to be done today or to-morrow, nor can it be performed at a rush. It must be the labour of years, and will require all sorts of difficult and prolonged inquiry. There is hardly any department of human knowledge which does not throw light on one or other of the three questions: How ought man to think of God? how ought he to think of himself? how of the relation between himself and God? Pending this process, the laity would probably do well to follow that form of worship to which they have been accustomed, so long as it is tolerably reasonable and beneficial; but this ought to be done with the fullest consciousness that this acquiescence is practical and provisional, that considerable changes and improvements are necessary, and ought from time to time to be made, and that no religion is more than an approximation to truth, to be checked in its operations by other considerations. It is probable that by these means we might, in course of time, arrive at a state of religious belief and feeling as rational and beneficial as the limits of our nature admit of. What that belief may be no one can at present pretend to guess. It is highly improbable that it should coincide altogether with any form of religion at present known amongst men. Before it could coincide with Theodore Parker’s faith, the whole framework of human nature must be changed. There will always be a dark and harsh side to religion, so long as there is a dark and harsh side to human life. That is no reason for believing that the whole human race, except exceptions, will be frightfully tortured to all eternity— that a scene is being, and always will continue to be acted, to which the execution of Damiens or Ravaillac stands in the same relation as a farthing rushlight to the sun at noonday; but it is a reason for proceeding cautiously and by degrees in an investigation which will require for its completion the labours of many generations.
We have spoken at so much length of Parker’s theological views that we must describe in a more summary way his moral and political influence. He was, however, at least as remarkable in these matters as in relation to the principal subject of his thoughts. He believed in absolute politics and absolute morals as firmly as in absolute religion, perhaps more firmly. It is impossible to exaggerate the effect of this belief on his mind. It made him rage against things and people of whom he did not approve (more against things than people, for he was a most generous and charitable man) in a way which is by no means consistent with the gratuitous optimism which formed the basis of his whole creed. His readers are constantly compelled to ask, if everything is so very good, what is the harm of slavery? The American Idea, the Higher Law, the absolute, eternal, inalienable, imprescriptible Rights of Man appear at every point in all his writings. A well-known Boston lawyer, Mr. Rufus Choate, described the maxims of the declaration of independence as ‘glittering generalities.’ [See Reminiscences of Rufus Choate, the Great American Advocate. By E. G, London: Sampson Low and Son. 1860. It is a most characteristic and instructive book, putting one side of the American character into as strong relief as that into which Parker’s life puts another. It is impossible to say that Parker’s estimate of Choate was wrong. He seems to have been a thorough selfish man, with very little principle.] Parker never forgave him. Choate died whilst Parker was on his last voyage to Europe; and Parker in his letters frequently refers to him, sometimes rejoicing and sometimes half regretting that he was not at Boston to preach his funeral sermon. To Parker, what Choate — and most Englishmen — described as glittering generalities appeared to be eternal truths of the deepest importance. They were the foundation of his attacks on slavery. That slavery is a very bad thing, and produces very bad results, is unquestionably true. Parker preached that doctrine as vigorously as any one, but he could not be satisfied with it. He seemed to himself not to have done the business till he had thrown one of his fundamental truths at the institution which he hated. It is easy to be too severe on this. It is better that a man should disapprove of slavery because it contradicts a platitude than that he should not disapprove of it at all. Strong language is like strong liquor. Some people cannot do their work without it. If it must be so, so be it; we must not grudge the hangman his glass of brandy. It is, however, a great misfortune to be obliged to do business in this manner. It is much better to be able to take things quietly. The Americans are anything but an unkind or ferocious people. Notwithstanding the outcries made about their behaviour in the present war, there is really wonderfully little proof of any other inhumanity than that which is inseparable from the employment of a vast army of undisciplined troops, containing a proportion of the scum of the earth. It is the furious gnashing of teeth, the frantic assertion of principles— in a word, the bombast, that makes people in Europe think them such ferocious men-eaters; and there is no doubt that writers like Parker are answerable for some of this. Miss Cobbe, who has prefixed a sort of adoring preface to her edition of his works, observes:—‘As to the extraordinary clearness and didactic lucidity of Parker’s style . . . there is no need to apologize for it. . . . . Always we find him stating the major term of his syllogism, “God is infinitely good. Now what follows?”’ This is just the kind of style which women admire, and which they ought to learn to hate, if, like Miss Cobbe, they wish to see the female intellect take its place by the side of the male intellect. There is no greater heretic than a man who is always ‘stating the major term.’ ‘Dolosus versatur in generalibus.’ General propositions are hardly ever true, unless you put in a ‘perhaps’ or a ‘probably.’ The answer to Parker’s supposed question would be: ‘I am sure I do not know, and I do not think you do.’
Parker’s absolute morality has produced one singular result. It makes its advocates every bit as intolerant as the most intolerant theologian, and that with quite as little reason. Mr. Francis Newman, who is substantially of much the same way of thinking, has lately published a pamphlet, called The Character of the Southern States of America, which exactly illustrates this. After denouncing the slaveholders as worse than Thugs, cannibals, and buccaneers, and deliberately and elaborately justifying what might have been charitably supposed to be merely a verbal phrase, he concludes a long attack on the Southern States and on the policy of England by a peroration, of which the following passage is the key-note:—‘Morality is dogmatic, and must be “preached,” not timidly whispered. Crimes must be denounced without dissembling indignation.’ Couple this with the doctrine that every man has a guide in his own heart to tell him what is right and wrong, and that it is his right and duty to neglect altogether any one else who says that his internal guide tells a different story, and you have the elements of a moral tyranny, founded on some fanciful higher law, and likely in the present state of society to be at least as effective as any theological tyranny. There must be a strange fascination in the theory of infallibility when men whose lives are passed in protesting against the infallibility of books and institutions, set up the infallibility of their own consciences in matters of the most complex kind, such as the relation between the sexes, or the institution of slavery.
In conclusion, we may say a few words on the literary merits of Parker’s works. They are considerable, but we should not rate them very high. All of them are distinguished by that thinness which belongs to American writers, as meagreness belongs to American bodies. There is a lean and hungry air about them all. They give the impression that the writer has said all he had to say, and has put it in the most impressive shape in which he could put it. His books are like the shops in the Palais Royal, with all the stock in the window. He does not give the impression of any reserved fund of thought or observation, or write like a man who has a full mind constantly replenished. The excessive vehemence of Parker’s assertions, and the fact that his views required such vehemence, account for a good deal of this; but the eagerness of his temperament, no doubt, had much to do with the vehemence of his views.
He had a bad ear. His prose constantly falls unconsciously into metre, or something like it, and the effect of this is to produce a tiresome jingle. The following illustrations occur in one page of a sermon:--
‘Misguided men had told you soThe flat prose of the concluding line makes the rhythm of the others very unpleasant. Sometimes the prose changes its tune like a horse changing his leg:—
In sermon and in song.
Names dear and honoured in my boyish heart.
When I began to feel
Your spirits prayed with mine,
A prayer for truth and life,
As I looked down into your faces,
Thoughtful and almost breathless,
I forgot my self-distrust;
I saw the time was come
That, feebly as I know I speak,
My best thoughts were ever the most welcome.’
‘Then, too, came forth those priestly companies(This is a little bit of prose)
Of monks and nuns. The master mind
New organized in mortal men
Unarmed and armed the most
Who tyrannized over tyrants’
‘And ruled the world by hope and fear,Perhaps the most interesting part of Parker’s works are those funeral discourses, amongst which he meant to have inserted one on Rufus Choate. They are extremely interesting, and give accounts of eminent Americans which it would be hard to find elsewhere, and which are singularly fair and able. It jars on some of our feelings, no doubt, to take a man’s death as the occasion for a minute analysis of his character; but this, after all, is a question of taste, and if Americans like it, there is no reason why those who want to understand the Americans should not profit by it. Parker’s Discourses of Politics, including his funeral orations on J. Q. Adams, Zachary Taylor, and Daniel Webster, give in a compendious form the whole theory, and most of the history of the Abolition controversy, up to the time of the Civil War.
With tragic witchery of thought.’
Fraser’s Magazine, February 1864.