Henry Ward Beecher

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And this shocked the nation? By some counts, there were more headlines devoted to the Beecher scandal than there were to the Civil War.

It was a combination of who Beecher was and what he represented. He promoted several ideas, including that love should be the center of Christianity and that politics belongs in the pulpit. He advocated controversial causes, like the emancipation of slaves, and he created a lot of enemies. When you are controversial in a moral way, people are much more likely to point out your faults. Truly, Henry Ward Beecher thought he could get away with it. Even before the Tilton allegations surfaced, did Beecher have a reputation? There were accusations all over. Everyone knew Beecher flirted too much.

She subsequently retracted her recantation. Woodhull published a story in her paper, Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly , exposing the affair of America's most renowned clergyman. The story created a national sensation. As a result, Woodhull was arrested in New York City and imprisoned for sending obscene material through the mail. The Plymouth Church held a board of inquiry and exonerated Beecher, but excommunicated Mr. Tilton in Tilton then sued Beecher: the trial began in January, , and ended in July when the jurors deliberated for six days but were unable to reach a verdict.

His wife loyally supported him throughout the ordeal. A second board of inquiry was held at Plymouth Church and this body also exonerated Beecher. Two years later, Elizabeth Tilton once again confessed to the affair and the church excommunicated her. Despite this Beecher continued to be a popular national figure.

Henry Ward Beecher Quotes

However, the debacle split his family. While most of his siblings supported him, one of his sisters, the nationally known women's rights leader Isabella Beecher Hooker, openly supported one of his accusers. Henry Ward Beecher died of a cerebral hemorrhage in March, The city of Brooklyn where he lived declared a day of mourning upon, and the New York State Legislature went into recess to honor him. An advocate of women's suffrage, temperance and Darwin's theory of evolution , and a foe of slavery , Beecher held that Christianity should adapt itself to the changing culture of the times.

He was also passionately anti-Catholic and was contemptuous towards Irish-Americans in an age that was anti-Irish Catholic due to the waves of Irish immigrants coming to America because of the potato famine. He raised funds to buy weapons for those willing to oppose slavery in Kansas and Nebraska , and the rifles bought with this money became known as "Beecher's Bibles. During the American Civil War , his church raised and equipped a volunteer infantry regiment. Beecher entered it as a frequent guest and friend is a lamentable satire upon the household where he [Tilton] himself, years before, laid the cornerstone of free love, and desecrated its altars.

Beecher; with Mr. Beecher I had a sort of consciousness of being more. I felt myself another woman; I felt that he respected me.

Henry Ward Beecher

Beecher lifted it up? Tilton went back a long time, Tilton said. If Mr. Beecher had held the same religious views that I hold. I do not believe in point of actual moral goodness, barring some drawbacks, that there is in this company so white a soul as Elizabeth Tilton. Among the many friends Tilton had brought to his home on Livingston Street, in Brooklyn Heights, were prominent feminists, including Mrs.

Stanton and Miss Anthony; attempts to portray him as unduly familiar with either of these ladies failed. He admitted that he had sometimes played chess with Mrs. The third major figure in the case to appear before the committee was Frank Moulton, who had preserved a large file of correspondence between the principals. On the day that Tilton testified before the committee, Beecher, in the country, took up Mrs.

One less deserving of such disgrace I never knew [he wrote]. I cherish for her a pure feeling, such as a gentleman might honorably offer to a Christian woman, and which he might receive and reciprocate without moral scruple. Even to be suspected of having offered, under the privileges of a peculiarly sacred relation, an indecorum to a wife and mother, could not but deeply wound anyone who is sensitive to the honor of womanhood. Completely reversing the line he had taken in his defense of Mrs.

At no interview which ever took place. It seemed to me that my life work was to end abruptly. Woodhull formed a part was the center of loathsome scandals—organized, classified, and perpetuated with a greedy and unclean appetite for everything that was foul and vile. The Associated Press alone had thirty reporters covering it. On August 20, , before the committee had issued a report of its findings, Tilton swore out a complaint in Brooklyn City Court against Beecher, charging the sixty-one-year-old pastor with having willfully alienated and destroyed Mrs. The report gave him complete absolution.

Raymond, who was a professional elocutionist, read a summary of the report, to the accompaniment of wild applause. In the midst of the proceedings, Moulton, who was not a member of the congregation, suddenly came in and took a front seat. The crowd became tense. On the way out to his carriage, Moulton had to have the protection of two policemen. By this time, the reaction of the nation was almost as acute and emotional, if not as one-sided, as that of the congregation of Plymouth Church.

In New York, most of the newspapers sided with the pastor, or nursed a pained neutrality. Over sixty years of honest life bear witness for him. Unless this frightful exposition is answered promptly and fully, the most famous pulpit the world has seen since Paul preached on the Hill of Mars is silenced, the life of the greatest preacher in the world is ended.

If not, the pistol shot of Booth caused a national sorrow no deeper and not so hopeless. He stands before us now by his own act, naked, shameless, and unabashed. Or rather, he does not stand, for that is the characteristic attitude of manhood. It is simply horrible. There are almost as many statement-makers as there are candidates for the Vice-Presidency, and they constitute a large proportion of the population.

It lasted for six months, counting the recesses taken when ice on the East River stopped the ferries, making it impossible for lawyers to get there from Manhattan, and also when the heat was so intense that some lawyers and jurors fainted. Beecher called ninety-five witnesses in his defense. The trial was remarkable for the oratory on both sides; almost two entire months were taken up by the opening and closing statements alone, which are still regarded as classics of their kind.

Beecher had six lawyers, of whom the chief was William M. Evarts, widely regarded as the ablest advocate of the day; Tilton had five, one of whom was William Fullerton, widely regarded as the outstanding cross-examiner of the day. A black market sprang up, selling tickets to the courtroom at five dollars apiece, and there were days when as many as three thousand persons were turned away.

Prominent politicians, diplomats, and leaders of society, along with less distinguished visitors, fought for seats and went without their lunch in order to hold them. The audience was often unruly, and the judge, Joseph Neilson, was kept busy issuing warnings against unseemly applause and hisses; there were several arrests for disorderly conduct.

Both Beecher and his wife, Eunice, a formidable woman with commanding features and snow-white hair, attended regularly. Day in and day out, Mrs. Beecher, for his part, carried a nosegay of flowers; even when he was on the stand, he sniffed occasionally at a bunch of violets. Although neither of the two leading women in the case—Mrs. Tilton and Mrs. Woodhull—were called to testify, both made brief, dramatic appearances in court.

Moulton was the first important witness.

TOP 20 Henry Ward Beecher Quotes

I may have told him he was a perjurer and libertine, as he is. Moulton was on the stand ten and a half days. While Beecher resorted nearly nine hundred times on the witness stand to various expressions of uncertainty, forgetfulness, or evasion, Moulton was precise and held his own through a protracted cross-examination. Tilton] is guiltless, sinned against, bearing the transgression of another.

Q: Now, Mr. Moulton, I understand you to say that Mr. Beecher dictated this letter sentence by sentence? Beecher, who knew Moulton only casually, at best, when the letter was written, was cross-examined by Fullerton on the same subject:. Q: Well, under the circumstances.

A: No, I did not; that is, I should have had no objection if he could have recorded it in my language, but I did not expect that he would attempt to do it, more than to catch a figure here and there, or some phrase. Were you not very anxious that the exact state of your feelings should be conveyed to Mr. Q: Did you say anything like this? A: I used, generally, a statement of this kind—that I had, for my error and wrong in the matter, humbled myself before God, and I should not be ashamed to humble myself before Theodore Tilton.

Henry W. Beecher

Q: Well, you say you had humbled yourself before God, in consequence of the wrong you had done? A: If he had the evidence of it, or thought he had, there was no impropriety in charging it upon me. Q: Well, when this letter was written. A: My conclusion was that Mr. Tilton had reason for making that charge, that he had evidence of it from his wife. A: Coercion I should consider a degree of violence that never was pretended upon her.

I had no doubt that it had been procured from her when she was weak and sick. Q: Then I will ask you again, when you came to that conclusion. Q: During your entire acquaintance with Mrs. Tilton, Mr. Beecher, and up to this month of December, [the adultery charge covered the period from October, , to the spring of ], had there ever been any undue personal familiarity between yourself and her?

Q: Did you ever, during this period. A: I was when I had been absent any considerable time. I kissed her as I would any of my own family. Q: I beg your pardon. I want to know if you kissed her. Q: Were you in the habit of kissing her when you went to her house in the absence of her husband?

The Beecher–Tilton Affair | The New Yorker

A: It may be that the children were there then; it might be that she did not seem in the— to greet me in that way. Q: Then, by silence, and going right on, you meant to leave this keen suspicion afloat through the whole congregation? An unexpectedly effective witness at the trial was Mrs. He expressed great sorrow for the misery that he had brought upon himself and Mrs. Tilton, and upon everybody connected with the case, but said that he felt that he had thoroughly repented, and that he had been forgiven, and that he was better fitted now to preach than ever before. After lying on the sofa a little while, he got up and walked up and down the room in a very excited manner, with the tears streaming down his cheeks, and said that he thought it was very hard, after a life of usefulness, that he should be brought to this fearful end.

He sat down in the chair. I will always be your friend. I am convinced. I cannot express to you the anguish and the sorrow that it has caused me to know what I have of your life. I believed in you since I was a girl, believed you were the only good man in this world. Beecher was in a very excited condition of mind on that day. He told me very positively that he should take his life, and I believed him when he said so. Beecher denied that this talk ever took place and said he had received the kiss in question three days earlier.

A: Well, I said that I did not say that, positively, and that something akin to it I did not say either. Q: Now, I ask you whether you will go beyond your best recollection, and say positively that you did not? The defense lawyers enthusiastically explored the relationship between Tilton and Mrs. Woodhull, and the way was made easier for them by Mrs. Woodhull herself. Tilton, for he was my devoted lover for more than half a year. Woodhull replied. A woman who is before the world as I am would not make such a flagrant statement, even if it were true.

The defense called three of Mrs. One said that Tilton was a constant visitor at Mrs. Elizabeth La Pierre Palmer, an associate of Mrs. Tilton denied that he had had adulterous relations with Mrs. Woodhull but admitted that he had stayed overnight at her house once, when they were working on her biography. Woodhull in an attempt to keep her quiet about the scandal. Beecher is as much responsible for my connection with Mrs. Woodhull three times during the trial, but each time decided not to call her, because of the risks involved in submitting such an unpredictable witness to cross-examination.

The letters proved innocuous, and Mrs. Woodhull left immediately, as mysterious a figure as ever, if a somewhat less wicked one. As for Mrs. Judge Neilson refused the request. The summations were as much contests in classical erudition and oratory as they were legal arguments. Johnson, Hawthorne, Saint Paul, and the Scriptures.

The quotations sometimes ran to thousands of words, and the audience applauded them as if they were stage readings by well-known actors. You have struck a blow not at Mr. Beecher, not at Mrs. Tilton, but at your own wives and your own daughters. Beecher may have been, he is yet, in the eye of God and in the eye of man, a fallible sinner.

Are we to have a new version of the Scriptures? Are we to have new teachings in regard to the nature and the fall of man? Are we to be told that there is no sin among the apparently pure and great? There is no fear from the fall of Henry Ward Beecher for the progress of Christian civilization and Christian influence. The Church will survive.


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Beecher, if innocent, should have garnered up in his heart all that pain and fear so long, when he might have made proclamation to the world and trampled out the scandal as with iron boots. Beecher had preached regularly throughout the long trial. Beecher remained in Brooklyn and kept a day-and-night vigil at the courthouse. The city was sweltering in the first heat wave of the summer. The jury, which consisted of twelve retail merchants, headed by a flour dealer, deliberated for eight days, during which it did not leave the building.

The jurors took turns sleeping on two old mattresses for a few hours a night, and food and changes of clothing were sent in to them after being carefully inspected by Judge Neilson.


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