Saturday, October 2, 2010

moral infidels...

An activist for social reorganization and justice, William Henry Channing was born in Boston, served churches in New York, Liverpool, and Washington D.C. (during the Civil War) and was the Chaplain of  the House of Representatives in 1863-64.  While in New York, he started a Journal "The Present" from which comes the story I have been excerpting.  "The Norwegian Emigrant" continued...

"And who were Mr. and Mrs. White? If you had asked of the poor of , they would have said, " Who are they ? why they are honest employers who pay a dollar when wages are six shillings, and liberal counsel who give best advice without a fee. Who but he filled his house, parlors and chambers, and all with Irish families when the great fire burned the square in — street ? Who but he, old as he is and sometimes sick, went round with pails of coffee and soup when the flood drove the inhabitants from their homes on the river, and sheds and tents were put up for them on the hill there ? Who but they nursed us when the cholera broke out ? He sent Mrs. Lane's deaf and dumb boy to the Asylum, and put him in the stage himself and paid his fare. He bought the bible printed for the blind in raised letters for Mr. Wise, and Mrs. White sat by him whole afternoons teaching him to read. Who but he got the old jail, which was too dirty for pigs torn down, and the new one yonder built, and carries books to the prisoners and talks with them, and finds them work when they come out ? There are no black dungeons there we can tell you, where the crazy people are kept caged and whipped and starved on dirty straw, for he had all of them sent to the Hospital. And if you should go some day to the public school, you would find him there asking the children questions and bidding them good bye with some pleasant words that they never forget. And his wife, bless her angel heart, is just like him. Whom have they not helped ? It would take all day to tell the half they do of acts of love. They are friends to the friendless, practical Christians." But perhaps some of the " unco guid" as Burns calls them, would have responded : " Nay ! not so ! Mr. and Mrs. White are neighborly, quiet, harmless, kind; but they do not believe right, and are not orthodox. Pity such moral people should be Infidels."

If you had asked now good Mr. and Mrs. W. to give account of themselves against this heavy charge of heresy, they might have changed the subject, or kept silence, or plead guilty, or made a cheerful repartee; but the heart would have said through their calm smiling eyes and cloudless brows, " we are fellow mortals who believe that life as it is, is far too hard for the most, and that there is not the least danger of making it too happy; that we need not be afraid to help others, for we owe all we have and are to others help of us; that men seem worse than they really are, and that even the worst can mend ; that society breeds the crimes it punishes, and that kind words are surer cures of evil than legal penalties. We have too many faults ourselves to judge others; we hope for a time when justice and love will do away with these unnatural and monstrous contrasts of condition; and meanwhile we share as we can what our father has entrusted to our stewardship."

(the conclusion tomorrow...)

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