« PreviousContinue »
together; but let us remember that if we have departed from Christ and the enjoyment of his fellowship, we can offer no excuse by saying we could not help it while this verse stands true. We do it wilfully, we do it sinfully. It is not to be thrust on the back of circumstances ; it cannot be laid on the devil, nor blamed to this, nor blamed to that, it is our own fault. We need not depart; there never was any need for it, and there never will be. May God's grace descend mightily upon us, so that we may henceforth abide in our Lord. May those who know him not be led to seek him by faith even now and find him, and then even they shall not need to depart from him at the last.
An American Philanthropist.
self-denying character than Arthur Tappan. All who are interested in the cause of the abolition of slavery, the spread of education, the promotion of Christian missions, and the inculcation of habits of sobriety, will gladly learn of one of the ablest advocates of these noble objects. Mr. Newman Hall has done well to introduce the memoir of this remarkable American to English readers; he might, we think, have done better had he advised a more condensed narrative for this country. When will biographers learn that the only way to ensure readers for memoirs, in these days of much publishing, is to give only that which is of general interest to the public ? A little more of that refining literary process, known as “boiling down," might save many a biography from a contemptible position on the shelves of the second-hand bookseller. *
Arthur Tappan was born at Northampton, Massachusetts, May 22nd, 1786, his father being a gold and silver smith, and subsequently a;drygoods merchant. Both father and mother were godly persons, of high character and inflexible principles. Life in Massachusetts was in Arthur's young days full of curious incident. Sabbath-day was rigidly kept until sunset, when all the boys of the town ran out of their houses, trundled their hoops, and made loud and general merriment, while their sisters played in the house, and their parents recommenced domestic work. A curious and barbarous custom prevailed in these days. On the Saturday after the sessions, the criminals were brought into the public street, where a gallows was erected, used for a pillory and whipping post, and in the presence of the sheriffs and civic dignitaries, and the boys, who were let out of school for the purpose, the wrongdoers were either whipped, or branded in their foreheads with a hot iron, or had their ears cropped. As might be expected, this open display of inhumanity embrutalised the boys, who played at the same kind of punishment among themselves. In these somewhat primitive times, nothing delighted boys more than to walk barefoot during the summer months. As with many of our city Arabs, so with these
* "The Life of Arthur Tappan, with Preface by the Rev. Newman Hall.” London: Sampson Low & Co.
respectable children, it was a luxury to be deprived of boots and shoes. “ When you can't see any snow on Mount Holyoke,” the father used to say, " then you may leave your shoes off; ” and to their vision the snow had disappeared long before the parent's eyes were satisfied. It was possible then for mothers to rear large families without much medical assistance. Arthur's mother made her own pills from the bark of the butternut tree, and these pills kept ten children in health. Alas for the doctors !
At fifteen years of age we find Arthur straightening himself up to look as tall as he could, and applying for a situation as clerk in a store in the city of Boston. City life did not corrupt him, and he was soon respected as a young man of stanch principle. At twenty-one he entered into partnership at Portland, and two years afterwards removed to Montreal. Here he and his partner were nearly ruined in business, because they declined, at the time of war between the United States and Great Britain, to take the oath of allegiance to the King of England. After the treaty of peace, they opened a store in New York, where Arthur battled against adversity, living economically, and working laboriously until at last success dawned upon his efforts, and the name of Arthur Tappan became known over the whole country.
The deep solicitude of his mother for his conversion was expressed in many wise and earnest letters; and his avowal of the change which divine grace had effected in his heart must have encouraged her to pray and labour for a like blessing for her other children. He joined, with his wife, the Presbyterian church, and at once resolved to give largely of his substance to the cause of Christ, and to benevolent operations needing aid. He early took a decided stand against slavery. At this time there were many among the merchants of New York professing to be abolitionists who made “cowardly compliances in their intercourse with slaveholding customers.” Tappan was too high principled to sacrifice his convictions. Nor did he lose by his bold avowal of anti-slavery sentiments. The men who sought to compromise themselves by inviting the patronage of slaveholders, lost ground in the great commercial city, and were derided as men who "sold their principles with their goods." While they sank in public estimation, Tappan rose, and when they became embarrassed, his business advanced. He attributed his rapid success, 80 unaccountable to some of his fellow merchants, to the fact that he had but one price, and sold for cash or short credit. This would seem to have been a novelty in the mercantile world of his time, and we think we might find other cities than New York where it is not a generally accepted principle even now. But his friends claim for his success as a merchant the higher cause-rare integrity. “His customers had the fallest confidence that when they made purchases at his store, they would not be cheated by false weights or measures, or fugitive colours. Everything was what it was represented to be. Even those purchasers who disliked his opinions, and also those who professed to hate him, and his philanthropic and religious character, highly prized the principles on which he conducted business, especially when they were the parties benefited." The confidence reposed in his integrity was the life of his trade.
One of his earliest religious efforts was to promote the circulation of the Scriptures through the agency of the American Bible Society, in whose formation he took a deep interest. He offered the sum of five thousand dollars if the society would supply all the destitute families in the United States with a copy of the Bible, if they were unwilling to purchase one. He subscribed fifteen thousand dollars to one college for ministers, and paid for the tuition of one hundred students in another. Nor was he satisfied with giving of his substance to the interests of religion. He sought by means of personal conversatiou and by visiting the poor to bring souls to a knowledge of the gospel. The distribution of tracts in neglected districts of the city, the visitation of prisoners—a work in which American Christians have engaged with praiseworthy zeal-seeking for scholars for the Sabbath-school, and inducing their pareuts to enter the house of God, were works of love in which he delighted. · He also started a daily journal of commerce, which exists to this day, from which all advertisements relating to spirituous liquors, circusses, and theatres, are rigidly excluded. No Sunday work was allowed, and thus a proof was afforded that a daily paper could be produced without any labour on the Lord's dav. Twelve months after the commencement of the paper it passed into other hands, and certain modifications in its management were made to ensure, what the paper had not then attained, a financial success. But perhaps Mr. Tappan threw himself even more heartily into the temperance movement. Our temperance friends are universally zealous in the propagation of their views, and it is due to them to admit, as we cheerfully do, that their carnest advocacy of abstinence has been productive of the highest good to the working classes. Mr. Tappan was i thorough” in his temperance views; he even waged war against the use of fermented wine at the Lord's Supper; he had no confidence in the licensing system, and believed that sound policy required stern prohibitory laws against the traffic in intoxicating drinks. He was equally " thorough ” in his anti-tobacco notions, and saw a necessary connection between smoking and drinking, an opinion which more fully proves his ingenuity than his accuracy.
A visit to England, when he attended a religious service at the Magdalen Asylum, then in the Blackfriars road, determined him to seek the establishment of means for the rescue of the sinful women of New York. In this work he encountered much opposition, and his statistics of the evil in question were regarded as a libel upon the city. The agent employed had, it would seem, more zeal and courage than judgment, but there was no doubt that the evil was so largely developed that it needed suppression. Many good men, however, would question the wisdom of publishing the details of such cases, and especially putting into the hands of youths corrective physiological pamphlets.
To one of Mr. Tappan's temperament, the slavery question could hardly fail to secure a deep and sorrowful interest. This great blot upon the escutcheon of America was regarded at the time of his correspondence with William Wilberforce with almost general complacency. He opposed the exportation of the free negroes of America to Liberia, according to the scheme of the Colonisation Society, on wise and sufficient grounds. The negroes did not wish to go-why should they be compelled? The scheme of expatriation was based on the false and absurd principle that it was “an ordination of Providence," "and no more to be changed than the laws of nature,” that Christianity could not do for the free blacks in the United States what it was able to do in Africa. And yet there were friends of the negroes who could entertain such peculiar, if not, as Tappan believed them, “ atrocious" sentiments. This battle Tappan helped greatly to fight; and at the same time he applied himself with much vigour to the improvement of the condition of the coloured people both in New York and elsewhere. Believing in the equality of all men before God, he resented the prejudices of many of his fellow countrymen, and taught them by his own personal endeavours that it was possible very greatly to elevate the poor ignorant blacks, both morally and religiously. He excited an extraordinary feeling of antagonism by proposing to open a negro academy by the side of Yale College. The usually calm judgments of certain well-known philanthropists were led astray by the popular clamour against the odious institution.” A public meeting was called by the mayor of New Haven, at which the indignation of the crowd was loudly expressed. One or two dared to defend the project, but the inflammatory spirits gained the victory, and a resolution was passed by a unanimous vote to resist the establishment of the proposed college by every lawful means. Probably unlawful means would also have been used had not Mr. Tappan abandoned the project. Subsequently an improved state of feeling was manifested ; but in other parts of the State so strong was the prejudice, that a lady, member of a Baptist church, excited the ire of the inhabitants of Canterbury by opening a school exclusively for coloured girls. They sought her ruin, and succeeded in persuading the legislature of Connecticut to pass an Act making it an indictable offence to keep a school for coloured children. Miss Crandall decided to disregard so unjust a law. She was imprisoned, slandered, abused, and made the subject of several trials in the law courts. Happily Mr. Tappan befriended the school governess, and promptly paid all the expenses which she had incurred in her own defence. He also took in hand the coloured young men of New York, and paid a Methodist minister to devote himself to their interests.
William Lloyd Garrison was, in 1830, in gaol for a libel upon a shipowner who was stated to have taken slaves as freight to New Orleans ; and Tappan, assured of his innocence, quietly paid the fine and costs, and so liberated the anti-slavery agitator. He assisted in the wide circulation of the best tracts on the abolition question, and the discussion of the subject became so general that it was deemed wise at once to start an American Anti-slavery society in New York. This was done, Mr. Tappan being chosen president. The society was, as might be expected, at first extremely unpopular—it aimed a direct blow upon the national selfishness and crime. The public press denounced it with savage vigour, but the more it was attacked the stronger it grew, and the more numerous and efficient did its auxiliaries become.
Now that the sad curse, for the abolition of which the society was formed, has been swept away, we should not fail to honour the brave souls who, when the cause was most distasteful, dared the rising tide of opposition. Let it be remembered that the press was against them; that
society ostracised them and their families ; literary tribunes inveighed against the enthusiasts, and alas! the pulpit, too, was loud in fulminations against the fanatics. British emancipationists were, however, fighting with success the great battle for freedom in the West India Islands, and their triumph stimulated the zeal of their American brethren. They needed every encouragement, for misrepresentation was rife, and the most absurd stories were propagated regarding their intentions. Heated controversy only quickened their efforts. Free negroes were “excluded from the public schools, academies, and colleges; they were forced to sit in "negro pews,” and in houses of public worship often obliged to partake of the bread and wine at the Lord's Supper after they had been served to the white communicants, and they were denied the privilege of obtaining instruction in theological seminaries to qualify them to preach the gospel. They were refused seats in omnibuses and cars. They were compelled to remain on the decks of steamboats, while other passengers were taking repose in cabins and state rooms. Indeed, the whole community, official and officious, were against them; and no vestige of right was allowed them. The following anecdote is told by Frederick Douglass :—He attended a service at some conventicle, and was placed in a "negro pew" under the
all the white brothers and sisters to come forward and partake of the elements; and when they had thus partaken, he looked up to the negro pew, and with outstretched arms exclaimed, “We now invite our coloured friends to come down and partake of this holy feast, for the Lord is no respecter of persons." . Pity that professed ministers of Christ should thus demean themselves by adopting the wicked prejudices of their churches; for the churches were to blame as well as the ministers. As an instance, Mr. Tappan mentions in a letter to a Scotch correspondent that he once gave a seat in his pew at a Presbyterian church to a minister, “who, as I entered the church, was humbly waiting at the door for some one to invite him in, though he lived in the city, had a congregation (coloured) of his own, and was but slightly tinged with the despised colour, and I may add was highly respected as a coloured man ; yet so great was the offence that I committed, that the occupants of one or more neighbouring pews withdrew from the society, and a great ferment was occasioned.” This he calls an overt act,” for he was prepared to defend the use of great prudence in bringing about the desired change in public feeling on this subject.
The mob riots in New York and other cities, instigated by a servile press, were intended to stifle all discussion on the subject of slavery. In one of these fits of violence, the people, by a preconcerted arrangement, rushed to Tappan's brother's house, broke open the door, smashed the blinds and windows, the crockery-ware and looking-glasses, and turning the furniture into the street, set it on fire and fed the flames with the bed and bedding. Of course a strong body of police came in time to see some of the last dying embers. On another occasion, his store was attacked, every pane of glass in the front end smashed, and had the rioters not been apprised of a force at hand, the consequences might have been serious. Some of the churches, where abolitionists were known to assemble, were similarly treated ; and