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Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White Volume II by Andrew Dickson White

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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

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

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.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

In Russia I had the opportunity to study a religion of a very
different sort--the Russo-Greek Church. While this church no
doubt contains many devoted Christian men and women, it is, on
the whole, a fossilized system; the vast body of the people being
brought up to rely mainly on fetishes of various sorts. The
services were, many of them, magnificent, and the music most
beautiful; but it was discouraging to reflect that the condition
of the Russian peasantry, ignorant, besotted, and debased, was
the outcome of so many centuries of complete control by this
great branch of the Christian Church. It had for ages possessed
the fullest power for developing the intellect, the morals, and
the religion of the people, and here was the result. Experience
of Russian life is hardly calculated to increase, in any thinking
man, confidence in its divine origin or guidance. One bears in
mind at such times the words of the blessed Founder of
Christianity himself, "By their fruits ye shall know them."

But the most unfavorable impression was made upon me in Italy. It
was the palmy period of reactionary despotism. Hapsburgs in the
north, Neapolitan Bourbons in the south, petty tyrants scattered
through the country, all practically doing their worst; and, in
their midst, Pius IX, maintained in the temporal power by French
bayonets. It was the time when the little Jewish child Mortara
was taken from his parents, in spite of their agonizing appeals
to all Europe; when the Madiai family were imprisoned for reading
the Bible with their friends in their own house; when monks
swarmed everywhere, gross and dirty; when, at the centers of
power, the Jesuits had it all their own way,--as they generally
do when the final exasperating impulse is needed to bring on a
revolution. All old abuses of the church were at their highest
flavor. So far as ceremonial was concerned, nothing could be more
gorgeous than the services at St. Peter's as conducted by Pope
Pius IX. For such duties no one could be better fitted; for he
was handsome, kindly, and dignified, with a beautiful, ringing

During Holy Week of 1856 I was present at various services in
which he took the main part, in the Sistine Chapel and elsewhere;
but most striking of all were his celebration of pontifical high
mass beneath the dome of St. Peter's on Easter morning, and his
appearance on the balcony in front of the cathedral afterward.
The effect of the first ceremony was somewhat injured by the
easy-going manners of some of the attendant cardinals. It was
difficult to imagine that they believed really in the tremendous
doctrine involved in the mass when one saw them taking snuff in
the midst of the most solemn prayers, and going through the whole
in the most perfunctory fashion. At the close of the service, the
Pope, being borne on his throne by Roman nobles, surrounded by
cardinals and princes, and wearing the triple crown, gave his
blessing to the city and to the world. There must have been over
ten thousand of us in the piazza to receive it, and no one could
have performed his part more perfectly. Arising from his throne,
and stretching forth his hands with a striking gesture, he
chanted a benediction heard by every one present, even to the
remotest corners of the square. Many years afterward, Lord Odo
Russell, British ambassador at Berlin, on my mentioning the
splendor of this ceremony to him, said to me, "Yes, you are
right; but it was on one of those occasions that I discovered
that the Pope was mortal." On my asking him how it was, he said,
"I had occasion, as the British diplomatic representative, to
call on Pope Pius IX on Easter Monday, and, after finishing my
business with him, told him that I had been present at the
benediction in front of St. Peter's on the day before, and had
been much impressed by the beauty of his voice; and I added,
'Your Holiness must have been trained as a singer.' At this the
Pope was evidently greatly pleased, and answered, 'You are right,

But while these great services at St. Peter's in those halcyon
days were perfect in their kind, the same could not be said of
many others. The worst that I ever saw--one which especially
dwells in my memory--was at Pisa. I had previously visited the
place and knew it well, so that when, one Sunday morning, a
Canadian clergyman at the hotel wished to go to the cathedral, I
offered to guide him. He was evidently a man of deep sincerity,
and, as was soon revealed by his conversation, of high-church and
even ritualistic tendencies; but, to my great surprise, he
remarked that he had never attended service in a Roman Catholic
church. Arriving at the cathedral too late for the high
celebration, we walked down the nave until we came to a side
altar where a priest was going through a low mass, with a small
congregation of delayed worshipers, and we took our place back of
these. The priest raced through the service at the highest
possible speed. His motions were like those of an automaton: he
kept turning quickly to and fro as if on a pivot; clasping his
hands before his breast as if by machinery; bowing his head as if
it moved by a spring in his neck; mumbling and rattling like wind
in a chimney; the choir-boy who served the mass with him jingling
his bell as irreverently as if he were conducting a
green-grocer's cart. My Anglican companion immediately began to
be unhappy, and was soon deeply distressed. He groaned again and
again. He whispered, "Good heavens, is it like this? Is this the
way they do it? This is fearful!" As we came from the church he
was very sorrowful, and I administered to him such comfort as I
could, but nothing could remedy this most painful disenchantment.

And here I may say that I have never been able to understand how
any Anglican churchman can feel any insufficiency in the Lord's
Supper as administered in his own branch of the church. I have
never taken part in it, but more than once I have lingered to see
it, and even in its simplest form it has always greatly impressed
me. It is a service which all can understand; its words have come
down through the ages; its ceremonial is calm, comprehensible,
touching; and the whole idea of communion in memory of the last
scene in the Saviour's life, which brings the worshiper into
loving relation not only with him, but with all the church,
militant and triumphant, is, to my mind, infinitely nobler and
more religious than all paraphernalia, genuflexions, and
man-millinery. How any Protestant, however "high" in his
tendencies, can feel otherwise is incomprehensible to me.

At that first of my many visits to Rome, there had come one
experience which had greatly softened any of my inherited
Protestant prejudices. Our party had been lumbering along all day
on the road from Civita Vecchia, when suddenly there dashed by us
a fine traveling-coach drawn by four horses ridden by postilions.
Hardly had it passed when there came a scream, and our carriage
stopped. We at first took it for granted that it was an attack by
bandits, but, on getting out and approaching the other coach,
found that one of the postilions, a beautiful Italian boy of
sixteen, in jaunty costume, had been thrown from his horse, had
been run over by the wheels of the coach, and now lay at the
roadside gasping his last. We stood about him, trying to ease his
pain, when a young priest came running from a neighboring church.
He showed no deference to the gorgeously dressed personages who
had descended from the coach; he was regardless of all
conventionalities, oblivious of all surroundings, his one thought
being evidently of his duty to the poor sufferer stretched out
before him. He knelt, tenderly kissed the boy, administered
extreme unction, and repeated softly and earnestly the prayers
for the dying, to which fervent responses came from the peasants
kneeling about him. The whole scene did much to tone down the
feelings which had been aroused the previous day by the filth and
beggary at the papal port where we had landed, and to prepare me
for a more charitable judgment of what I was to see in the papal

But an early experience in Rome showed a less beautiful
manifestation of Christian zeal. We were a band of students, six
in number, who had just closed a year of study at the University
of Berlin; and the youngest, whom I will call Jack Smith, was a
bright young fellow, son of a wealthy New England manufacturer.
The evening after arriving in Rome, Jack, calling on an American
aunt, was introduced to a priest who happened to be making her a
visit. It was instantly evident that the priest, Father Cataldi,
knew what Jack's worldly prospects were; for from the first he
was excessively polite to the youth, and when the latter remarked
that during his stay in Rome he would like to take Italian
lessons, the priest volunteered to send him a teacher. Next day,
at the appointed hour, the teacher appeared, and in the person of
the priest himself. Thenceforward he stuck to the young American
like a brother, kept him away from the rest of us as much as
possible, and served not only as his teacher, but as his

Among various dignitaries to whom he presented the young American
was his Eminence Cardinal Tosti; and when the cardinal extended
his hand to be kissed, Jack grasped and cordially shook it. The
two clerical gentlemen were evidently disconcerted; but the
priest said to the cardinal, in an undertone, "e un principe
Americano," whereupon the cardinal seemed relieved and shook
hands heartily.

One day, when the priest was not with our companion, we all
visited one of the basilicas, where some great function was going
on, and, though we found a crowd at the doors, obtained a sight
of the high altar,--and there, in magnificent attire, in the
midst of the great prelates, was a person who bore a most
striking resemblance to Jack's clerical guide. We were all struck
by this curious coincidence, but concluded that in the distance
and through the clouds of incense we had simply seen a chance
resemblance, and in the multitude of matters we soon forgot it. A
month afterward, as we were leaving Rome, Jack asked his new
friend for his bill, whereupon the priest drew himself up with a
superb gesture and, presenting his card, said: "You evidently do
not know who I am." The card bore the inscription, "Monsignor
Cataldi, Master of the Papal Ceremonies." The young American was
quite confounded, but listened submissively while this dignitary
expressed the hope that they might yet meet within the pale of
that church which alone could give a claim to salvation.

The condition of Rome at that period was not such as to induce
much respect for priestly government. Anything more dirty,
slipshod, and wretched could hardly be imagined. No railways had
yet been allowed; the Vatican monsignori feeling by instinct the
truth stated by Buckle, that railways promote the coming in of
new ideas. Nor did the moral condition of the people seem to be
any better.

Any one who visits Rome to-day, with the army of monks swept out
of the place, with streets well cleaned, with the excavations
scientifically conducted, with a government which, whatever its
faults, is at any rate patriotic, finds it difficult to imagine
the vileness of the city under the old regime.

But, bad as was Rome, Naples was worse. The wretched Bourbon then
on the throne, "King Bomba," was the worst of his kind. Our
minister of that period, Mr. Robert Dale Owen, gave me some
accounts of the condition of things. He told me, as a matter of
fact, that any young man showing earnest purpose of any sort was
immediately suspected and discouraged, while worthless young
debauchees were regarded as harmless, and therefore favored.

The most cherished counselor of the King was Apuzzo, Archbishop
of Sorrento. In addition to what I have already said of
Leopardi's political catechism, which the archbishop forced upon
the people, I may note that this work took great pains to show
that no education was needed save just enough to enable each man
to accomplish his duties within the little sphere in which he was
born, and that for the great body of the people education was a
curse rather than a blessing. The result of this policy was
evident: the number of persons unable to read or write, which was
from forty to fifty per cent. in Piedmont, was from sixty to
sixty-five per cent. in Rome, from eighty to eighty-five per
cent. in the Papal States, and above eighty-five per cent. in
Naples and Sicily.[38]

[38] See maps in Vol. II, of "L'Italis Economica nel 1873" (Roma,
Tipografia Barbera, 1873). This work was the result of official
surveys and most careful studies made by leading economists and
statisticians. For a copy of it I am indebted to Mr. H. N. Gay,
Fellow of Harvard University.

I also had the advantage of being present at the great religious
function of Naples--the liquefaction of the blood of St.
Januarius, patron of the city. It was in the gorgeous chapel of
the saint which forms part of the Cathedral of Naples, and the
place was filled with devout worshipers of every class, from the
officials in court dress, representing the Bourbon king, down to
the lowest lazzaroni. The reliquary of silver gilt, shaped like a
large human head, and supposed to contain the skull of the saint,
was first placed upon the altar; next, two vials, containing a
dark substance said to be his blood, were also placed upon the
altar, near the head. As the priests said prayers, they turned
the vials from time to time; and, the liquefaction being somewhat
delayed, the great crowd of people burst out into more and more
impassioned expostulations and petitions to the saint. Just in
front of the altar were the lazzaroni who claimed to be
descendants of the saint's family, and these were especially
importunate: at such times they beg, they scold, they even
threaten; they have been known to abuse the saint roundly, and to
tell him that, if he does not care to show his favor to the city
by liquefying his blood, St. Cosmo and St. Damian are just as
good saints as he, and will, no doubt, be very glad to have the
city devote itself to them. At last, as we were beginning to be
impatient, the priest, turning the vials suddenly, announced that
the saint had performed the miracle, and instantly priests,
people, choir, and organ burst forth into a great "Te Deum";
bells rang and cannon roared; a procession was formed, and the
shrine containing the saint's relics was carried through the
streets, the people prostrating themselves on both sides of the
way and showering rose-leaves upon the shrine and upon the path
before it. The contents of these precious vials are an
interesting relic indeed, for they represent to us vividly that
period when men who were willing to go to the stake for their
religious opinions thought it not wrong to "save souls" by pious
mendacity and consecrated fraud. To the scientific eye this
miracle is very simple: the vials contain, no doubt, one of those
waxy mixtures fusing at low temperature, which, while kept in its
place within the cold stone walls of the church, remains solid,
but which, upon being brought out into the hot, crowded chapel
and fondled by the warm hands of the priests, gradually softens
and becomes liquid. It was curious to note, at the time above
mentioned, that even the high functionaries representing the King
looked at the miracle with awe: they evidently found "joy in
believing," and one of them assured me that the only thing which
COULD cause it was the direct exercise of miraculous power.

So, too, I had here an opportunity to study one of the
fundamental ideas of the prevalent theology--namely, the doctrine
of "intercession," which has played such a part not only in
Catholic but in Protestant countries,--the idea that, just as in
an earthly court back-stairs influence is necessary to secure
favor, so it must be in the heavenly courts. I was much edified
by the way in which this doctrine was presented in certain great
pictures representing the intervention of the Almighty to save
Naples from the plague. One of them, as I remember it,
represented, on an enormous canvas, the whole transaction as
follows: In the immediate foreground the people of Naples were
represented on their knees before their magistrates, begging them
to rescue the city from the pestilence; farther back the
magistrates were represented as on their knees before the monks,
begging for their prayers; the monks were on their knees before
St. Januarius, begging him to intervene; St. Januarius was then
represented as on his knees before the Blessed Virgin; the
Blessed Virgin was then pictured as beseeching her divine Son;
and he at last was represented as presenting the petition to a
triangle in the heavens behind which appeared the lineaments of a
venerable face.

One can understand, after seeing pictures of this kind, what
Erasmus was thinking of, five hundred years ago, when he wrote
his colloquy of "The Shipwreck," the most exquisite satire on
mediaeval doctrine ever made. After a most comical account of the
petitions and promises made by the shipwrecked to various saints,
Adolphus says: "To which of the saints did you pray?" Antony
answers, "To not one of them all, I assure you. I don't like your
way of bargaining with the saints: 'Do this and I 'll do that.
Here is so much for so much. Save me and I will give you a taper
or go on a pilgrimage.' Just think of it! I should certainly have
prayed to St. Peter, if to any saint; for he stands at the door
of heaven, and so would be likeliest to hear. But before he could
go to the Almighty and tell him my condition, I might be fifty
fathoms under water." Adolphus: "What did you do then?" Antony:
"I went straight to God himself, and said my prayer to him; the
saints neither hear so readily nor give so willingly."

In the city itself were filth, blasphemy, and obscenity
unspeakable. No stranger could take his seat at a cafe without
having proposals openly made to him which would have disgraced
Pompeii. Cheatery and lying prevailed on all sides. Outside the
city was brigandage,--so much so that various parties going to
Paestum took pains to combine their forces and to bear arms.

This, then, was the outcome of fifteen hundred years of Christian
civilization in a land which had been entirely in the hands of
the church authorities ever since the downfall of the Roman
Empire; a country in which education, intellectual, moral, and
religious, had been from the first in the hands of a body,
claiming infallibility in its teaching of faith and morals, which
had molded rulers and people at its own will during all these
centuries. This was the result! It seemed to me then, as it seems
to me now, a reductio ad absurdum of the claims of any church to
superintend the education of a people; and if it be insisted that
there is anything exceptional in Italy, one may point for
examples of the same results to Spain, the Spanish republics,
Poland, and sundry other countries.

Before going to Italy, I had taken pains to read as much as
possible of the history of the country, and, among other works,
had waded through the ten octavo volumes of Sismondi's "History
of the Italian Republics," as well as Gibbon's "Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire"; and this history had served to show me what
any body of ecclesiastics, not responsible to sound lay opinion,
may become. In looking over the past history and present
condition of Italy, there constantly rang in my ears that great
warning by Christ himself, "By their fruits ye shall know them."


IN LATER YEARS--1856-1905

On my return to America I remained for a short time as a resident
graduate at New Haven, and there gained a friend who influenced
me most happily. This was Professor George Park Fisher, at that
time in charge of the university pulpit, an admirable scholar and
historian. His religious nature, rooted in New England orthodoxy,
had come to a broad and noble bloom and fruitage. Witty and
humorous, while deeply thoughtful, his discussions were of great
value to me, and our long walks together remain among the most
pleasing recollections of my life. He had a genius for
conversation; in fact, he was one of the two or three best
conversationists I have ever known, and his influence on my
thinking, both as regards religious and secular questions, was
thoroughly good. While we did not by any means fully agree, I
came to see more clearly than ever what a really enlightened
Christianity can do for a man.

I had returned to America in the hope of influencing opinion from
a professor's chair, and my dear old friend Professor--afterward
President--Porter urged me to remain in New Haven, assuring me
that the professorship of history for which I had been preparing
myself abroad would be open to me there. A few years later a
professorship at Yale was offered me, and in a way for which I
shall always be grateful; but it was not the professorship of
history: from that I was debarred by my religious views, and
therefore it was that, having been elected to a professorship in
that department at the State University of Michigan, I
immediately and gladly entered upon its duties.

Installed in this new position at Ann Arbor, I not only threw
myself very heartily into my work, but became interested in
church and other good work as it went on about me. From the force
of old associations, and because my family had also been brought
up in the Episcopal Church, I attended its services regularly;
and, while it represented much that I could not accept, there
were noble men in it who became my very dear friends, with whom I
was glad to work.

It has always seemed to me rather an amusing episode in my life
during this period that, in spite of grave doubts regarding my
orthodoxy, my friends elected me vestryman of St. Andrew's Church
at Ann Arbor, and gave me full power to select and call a rector
for the parish at my next vacation excursion in the East. This in
due time I proceeded to do. Attending the convention of the
Episcopal Church in the diocese of Western New York, I consulted
with various clerical friends, visited one or two places in order
to hear sundry clergymen who were recommended to me, and at last
called to our rectorate a man who proved to be not only a
blessing to that parish, but to the State at large. In the annals
of American charitable work his name is writ large, though
probably there never lived a man more averse to publicity. He has
since been made a bishop, and in that capacity has shown the same
self-sacrifice and devotion to works of mercy which marked his
career as pastor.

As to my religious ideas in general, they were at that time
influenced in various ways. I read much ecclesiastical history as
given by leading authorities, Protestant and Catholic, and in
various original treatises by thinkers eminent in the history of
the church. A marked influence was exercised upon me by reading
sundry lives of the mediaeval saints: even the quaintest of these
showed me how, in spite of childlike credulity, most noble lives
had been led, well worthy to be pondered over in these later

The general effect of this reading was to arouse in me admiration
for the men who have taken leading parts in developing the great
religions of the world, and especially Christianity, whether
Catholic or Protestant; but it also caused me to distrust, more
and more, every sort of theological dogmatism. More and more
clear it became that ecclesiastical dogmas are but steps in the
evolution of various religions, and that, in view of the fact
that the main underlying ideas are common to all, a beneficent
evolution is to continue.

This latter idea was strengthened by my careful reading of Sale's
translation of the Koran, which showed me that even Mohammedanism
is not wholly the tissue of folly and imposture which in those
days it was generally represented to be.

Influence was also exerted upon me by various other books, and
especially by Fra Paolo Sarpi's "History of the Council of
Trent," probably the most racy and pungent piece of
ecclesiastical history ever written; and though I also read as
antidotes the history of the Council by Pallavicini, and copious
extracts from Bossuet, Archbishop Spalding, and Balmez, Father
Paul taught me, as an Italian historian phrases it, "how the Holy
Spirit conducts church councils." At a later period Dean Stanley
made a similar revelation in his account of the Council of

The works of Buckle, Lecky, and Draper, which were then
appearing, laid open much to me. All these authors showed me how
temporary, in the sum of things, is any popular theology; and,
finally, the dawn of the Darwinian hypothesis came to reveal a
whole new orb of thought absolutely fatal to the claims of
various churches, sects, and sacred books to contain the only or
the final word of God to man. The old dogma of "the fall of man"
had soon fully disappeared, and in its place there rose more and
more into view the idea of the rise of man.

But while my view was thus broadened, no hostility to religion
found lodgment in my mind: of all the books which I read at that
time, Stanley's life of Arnold exercised the greatest influence
upon me. It showed that a man might cast aside much which
churches regard as essential, and might strive for breadth and
comprehension in Christianity, while yet remaining in healthful
relations with the church. I also read with profit and pleasure
the Rev. Thomas Beecher's book, "Our Seven Churches," which
showed that each Christian sect in America has a certain work to
do, and does it well; also, the sermons of Robertson, Phillips
Brooks, and Theodore Munger, which revealed a beauty in
Christianity before unknown to me.

Another influence was of a very different sort. From time to time
I went on hunting excursions with the pastor of the Methodist
Episcopal church at Ann Arbor; and though he made no parade of
religion, there was in him a genial, manly piety which bettered

But I cannot say that this good influence was always exercised
upon me by his coreligionists. There was especially one, who rose
to be a "presiding elder," very narrow, very shrewd, and very
bitter against the State University, yet constantly placing
himself in comical dilemmas. On one occasion, when I asked him
regarding his relations with clergymen of other religious bodies,
he spoke of the Roman Catholics and said that he had made a
determined effort to convert the Bishop of Detroit. On my asking
for particulars, he answered that, calling upon the bishop, he
had spoken very solemnly to him and told him that he was
endangering his own salvation as well as that of his flock; that
at first the bishop was evidently inclined to be harsh; but that,
on finding that he--the Methodist brother--disliked the
Presbyterian Dr. Duffield, who had recently attacked Catholic
doctrine, as much as the bishop did, the relations between them
grew better, so that they talked together very amicably.

At this point in our conversation a puzzled expression overspread
the elder's face and he said, "The most singular experience I
ever had was with a French Catholic priest in Monroe. Being in
that town and having a day or two of vacation, I felt it my duty
to go and remonstrate with him. I found him very polite,
especially after I had told him that his bishop had received me
and discussed religious questions with me. Presently, wishing to
make an impression on the priest, I fixed my eyes on him very
earnestly and said as solemnly as I could, 'Do you know that you
are leading your flock straight down to hell?' To this the priest
made a very singular answer,--very singular, indeed. He said,
'Did you talk like that to the bishop?' I answered, 'Yes, I did.'
'Didn't he kick you out of his house?' 'No, he didn't.' 'Then,'
said the priest, '_I_ won't.'" And the good elder, during the
whole of this story, evidently thought that the point of it was,
somehow, against the PRIEST!

As a professor at the University of Michigan lecturing upon
modern history, I, of course, showed my feelings in opposition to
slavery, which was then completely dominant in the nation, and,
to all appearance, intrenched in our institutions forever. From
time to time I also said some things which made the more
sensitive orthodox brethren uneasy; though, as I look back upon
them now, they seem to me very mild indeed. In these days they
could be said, and would be said, by great numbers of devoted
members of all Christian churches. These expressions of mine
favored toleration and dwelt upon the absurdity of distinctions
between Christians on account of beliefs which individuals or
communities have happened to inherit. Nothing like an attack upon
Christianity itself, or upon anything vital to it, did I ever
make; indeed, my inclinations were not in that direction: my
greatest desire was to set men and women at thinking, for I felt
sure that if they would really think, in the light of human
history, they would more and more dwell on what is permanent in
Christianity and less and less on what is transient; more and
more on its universal truths, less and less upon the creeds,
forms, and observances in which these gems are set; more and more
on what draws men together, less and less on that which keeps
them apart.

I became convinced that what the world needed was more religion
rather than less; more devotion to humanity and less preaching of
dogmas. Whenever I spoke of religion, it was not to say a word
against any existing form; but I especially referred, as my
ideals of religious conduct, to the declaration of Micah,
beginning with the words, "What doth the Lord require of thee?";
to the Sermon on the Mount; to the definition of "pure religion
and undefiled" given by St. James; and to some of the wonderful
utterances of St. Paul. But even this alarmed two or three very
good men; they were much exercised over what they called my
"indifferentism"; and when I was chosen, somewhat later, to the
presidency of Cornell University, I found that they had thought
it their duty to write letters urging various trustees to prevent
the election of so dangerous a heretic.

Scattered through the Michigan university town were a number of
people who had broken from the old faith and were groping about
to find a new one, but, as a rule, with such insufficient
knowledge of the real basis of belief or skepticism that the
religion they found seemed less valuable to them than the one
they had left. Thiers, Voltairian though he was, has well said,
"The only altars which are not ridiculous are the old altars."

Some of the best of these people, having lost very dear children,
had taken refuge in what was called "spiritualism"; and I was
invited to witness some of the "manifestations from the
spirit-land," and assured that they would leave no doubt in my
mind as to their tremendous reality. Among those who thus invited
me were a county judge of high standing, and his wife, one of the
most lovely and accomplished of women. They had lost their only
daughter, a beautiful creature just budding into womanhood, and
they thought that "spiritualism" had given her back to them. As
they told me wonderful things regarding the revelations made by
sundry eminent mediums, I accepted their invitation to witness
some of these, and went to the seances with a perfectly open and
impartial mind. I saw nothing antecedently improbable in
phenomena of that sort; indeed, it seemed to me that it might be
a blessed thing if there were really something in it all; but
examination showed me in this, as in all other cases where I have
investigated so-called "spirit revelations," nothing save the
worthlessness of human testimony to the miraculous. These
miracles were the cheapest and poorest of jugglery, and the
mediums were, without exception, of a type below contempt. There
was, indeed, a revelation to me, not of a spirit-world beyond the
grave, but of a spirit-world about me, peopled with the spirits
of good and loving men and women who find "joy in believing" what
they wish to believe. Compared with this new worship, I felt that
the old was infinitely more honest, substantial, and healthful;
and never since have I desired to promote revolutionary changes
in religion. Such changes, to be good, must be evolutionary,
gradual, and in obedience to slowly increasing knowledge: such a
change is now evidently going on, irresistibly, and quite as
rapidly as is desirable.

There were other singular experiences. One day a student said to
me that an old man living not far from the university grounds was
very ill and wished to see me. I called at once, and found him
stretched out on his bed and greatly emaciated with consumption.
He was a Hicksite Quaker. As I entered the room he said, "Friend,
I hear good things of thee: thou art telling the truth; let me
bear my testimony before thee. I believe in God and in a future
life, but in little else which the churches teach. I am dying.
Within two or three days, at furthest, I shall be in my coffin.
Yet I look on the future with no anxiety; I am in the hands of my
loving Father, and have no more fear of passing through the gate
of death into the future life than of passing through yonder door
into the next room." After kindly talk I left him, and next day
learned that he had quietly passed away.

After about five years of duty in the University of Michigan, I
was brought into the main charge of the newly established Cornell
University; and in this new position, while no real change took
place in my fundamental religious ideas, there were conflicting
influences, sometimes unfortunate, but in the main happy. In
other chapters of these reminiscences I have shown to what unjust
attacks the new institution and all connected with it were
subjected by the agents and votaries of various denominational
colleges. At times this embittered me, but the ultimate result
always was that it stirred me to new efforts. Whatever ill
feelings arose from these onslaughts were more than made up after
the establishment of the Sage Chapel pulpit. I have shown
elsewhere how, at my instance, provision was made by a
public-spirited man for calling the most distinguished preachers
of all denominations, and how, the selection of these having been
left to me, I chose them from the most eminent men in the various
Christian bodies. My intercourse with these, as well as my
hearing their discourses, broadened and deepened my religious
feeling, and I regard this as among the especially happy things
of my life.

Another feature of the university was not so helpful to me. I
have spoken in another chapter regarding the establishment of
Barnes Hall at Cornell as a center of work for the Christian
Association and other religious organizations of the university,
and of my pleasure in aiding the work there done and in noting
its good results. At various times I attended the services of the
Young Men's Christian Association; and while they often touched
me, I cannot say that they always edified me. I am especially
fond of the psalms attributed to David, which are, for me, the
highest of poetry; and I am also very fond of the great and noble
hymns of the church, Catholic and Protestant, and especially
susceptible to the best church music, from Bach and Handel to
Mason and Neale: but the sort of revival hymns which are
generally sung in Christian Associations, and which date mainly
from the Moody and Sankey period, do not appeal to my best
feelings in any respect. They seem to me very thin and gushy.
This feeling of mine is not essentially unorthodox, for I once
heard it expressed by an eminent orthodox clergyman in terms much
stronger than any which I have ever used. Said he, "When I was
young, congregations used to sing such psalms as this:

"The Lord descended from above,
And bowed the heavens most high;
And underneath His feet He cast
The darkness of the sky.

"On cherubim and seraphim
Right royally He rode,
And on the wings of mighty winds
Came flying all abroad.

"His seat is on the mighty floods,
Their fury to restrain;
And He, our everlasting Lord,
Forevermore shall reign.

"But now," he continued, "the congregation gets together and a
lot of boys and girls sing:

"Lawd, how oft I long to know--
Oft it gives me anxious thought--
Do I love Thee, Lawd, or no;
Am I Thine, or am I nawt!

"There," said he, "is the difference between a religion which
believes in a righteous sovereign Ruler of the universe, and a
maudlin sentiment incapable of any real, continued, determined

I must confess that this view of my orthodox friend strikes me as
just. It seems to me that one of the first needs of large
branches of the Christian Church is to weed out a great mass of
sickly, sentimental worship of no one knows what, and to replace
it with psalms and hymns which show a firm reliance upon the Lord
God Almighty.

It is with this view that I promoted in the university chapel the
simple antiphonal reading of the psalms by the whole
congregation. Best of all would it be to chant the Psalter; the
clergyman, with a portion of the choir, leading on one side, and
the other section of the choir and the congregation at large
chanting the responses. But this is, as regards most Protestant
churches, a counsel of perfection.

Staying in London after the close of my university presidency, I
was subject to another influence which has wrought with power
upon some strong men. It was my wont to attend service in some
one of the churches interesting from a historical point of view
or holding out the prospect of a good sermon; but, probably, a
combination which I occasionally made would not be approved by my
more orthodox fellow-churchmen. For at times I found pleasure and
profit in attending the service before sermon on Sunday afternoon
at St. Paul's, and then going to the neighboring Positivist
Conventicle in Fetter Lane to hear Frederic Harrison and others.
Harrison's discourses were admirable, and one upon Roman
civilization was most suggestive of fruitful thought. My tendency
has always been strongly toward hero-worship, and this feature of
the Positivist creed and practice especially attracted me; while
the superb and ennobling music of St. Paul's kept me in a
religious atmosphere during any discourse which succeeded it.

My favorite reading at this period was the "Bible for Learners,"
a book most thoughtfully edited by three of the foremost scholars
of modern Europe--Hooykaas, Oort, and Kuenen. Simple as the book
is, it made a deep impression upon me, rehabilitating the Bible
in my mind, showing it to be a collection of literature and moral
truths unspeakably precious to all Christian nations and to every
Christian man. At a later period, readings in the works of Renan,
Pfleiderer, Cheyne, Harnack, Sayce, and others strengthened me in
my liberal tendencies, without diminishing in the slightest my
reverence for all that is noble in Christianity, past or present.

Another experience, while it did not perhaps set me in any new
trains of thought, strengthened me in some of my earlier views.
This was the revelation to me of Mohammedanism during my journey
in the East. While Mohammedan fanaticism seems to me one of the
great misfortunes of the world, Mohammedan worship, as I first
saw it, made a deep impression on me. Our train was slowly moving
into Cairo, and stopped for a time just outside the city; the
Pyramids were visible in the distance, but my thoughts were
turned from them by a picture in the foreground. Under a
spreading palm-tree, a tall Egyptian suddenly arose to his full
height, took off an outer covering from his shoulders, laid it
upon the ground, and then solemnly prostrated himself and went

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