The Carson League, under the date of October 2, 1854, has reported, as a result of their labors, the following cases:
Convictions, 25 single sales, fines and costs . $562 51
[Convictions] 5 common sellers " " " " $549 56
[Total fines and costs] $1,112 07
Cases continued . . . ; 15 single sales (if convicted), say $200
[Cases continued] - 7 common sellers (if convicted) $750
[Grand total fines and costs] $2,062 07
Add to the above the fees paid by liquor-dealers to their counsel in these cases, which probably vary from $10 to $20, and we have a total sum, from $2,800 to $3,000, as the cost to these violators of law. Nearly all this work was done by the Carson League, in about four months, at a cost of about $300 to the members; and the only reason by they have not done more (except for the temporary absence of their agent, Mr. Stowell)* has been that they had no more money to spend. . . .Several houses have been entirely broken up, including one of the most notorious for rumselling, gambling, and gross licentiousness. . . . The first operations of the League created a terror among the liquor-dealers, leading to a whole system of concealment. Those who are dissatisfied with the mode in which evidence has been obtained, are not probably [sic] aware that the choice lay between that evidence and none. If they are aware of it, they must decide for themselves the question, whether to leave the liquor traffic unchecked, or to have purchases made, for the purpose of obtaining testimony. The simple fact is, that the Carson League is a voluntary police, and no police operation could proceed a day without resorting to such means as are here employed. It was very unwillingly that the officers of the League were convinced of this; but being convinced, there was but one course to pursue, and they have pursued it. But they have taken as much care as possible to employ no agents without careful inquiry into their habits and purposes; and it is believed that no one has been employed who has not acted under a sincere desire to serve the cause of temperance. [February 24, 1855] -- Rev. T. W. Higginson, Secretary
If one had to choose a single representative figure for the 1850s, Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, pastor of Worcester's Free Church, would perhaps make the strongest candidate. He was active in the major reform movements of the time and, in fact, played key roles in advancing the causes of woman's rights, anti-slavery, and temperance. His career in the ministry, in addition, traced a path many followed. Most importantly, his career strikingly illustrates the importance of rhetoric, and also its limitations, in antebellum America. The salience of oratory in understanding American history and culture, most emphatically including literature, in the nineteenth century is one of the core contentions of this project.
Temperance was by far the most widely supported, and in many ways the most important, reform movment of the antebellum period. Higginson was not just a temperance advocate, he was the secretary of the Massachusetts Temperance Society which organized the successful campaign for prohibition in the state. He also organized a Carson League, a "private police" to enforce the law, in Worcester. The Massachusetts law, like many of those passed in the 1850s, empowered citizens to bring cases. This was to overcome the problem with enforcement which often arose when the police were less than zealous. The League operated almost entirely on the east side of Worcester in the Irish shanty town. Virtually all of those arrested were Irish. The "houses" referred to in his Report were mostly one-room hovels. The "liquor dealers" whom the League struck with "terror" were often widows eking out a meager living by selling an illegal glass. Henry S. Clubb, Secretary of the Maine Law Statistical Society, an organization which sought to tabulate the costs and benefits of prohibition, remarked of Worcester County:
. . . Perhaps there is no more difficult class to control than the Germans, and next to them the Irish, who form combinations among their respective countrymen to evade the law, and to defeat the ends of justice by either refusing to give evidence or swearing falsely. This is the case in many parts of Worcester County; but the more stringent law just passed is expected to reach even these difficult cases. In other respects the law has been pretty well enforced in this county, and even the evasions alluded to are carried on privately, and do not assume the character of public sales.
Higginson himself commented that drinking had not been completely suppressed, but that was not the goal. ". . . it has been only driven into secret retreats. But what a blessing is even this! How many does it save from the beginnings of vice, which is most attractive only when it becomes reputable."
At the same time that he was leading the campaign to enforce prohibition among the recalcitrant Irish by employing undercover agents to buy drinks in the "Huddles," as the Irish called their shanty town, and then testifying against the seller, Higginson also took the lead in organizing resistance to the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law. In his report for the Carson League, he noted "the temporary absence of their agent, Mr. Stowell." Stowell was in jail in Boston on murder charges. He and Higginson had organized the unsuccessful attempt to rescue fugitive slave Anthony Burns in May of 1854. They and some others charged the jail where Burns was being held, broke down the door, but failed to get near Burns. In the midst of the struggle a "special" marshall, hired to help guard Burns, fell to the floor and bled to death from a wound to the thigh. It was not clear whether he had been shot or stabbed. Stowell was arrested for his murder. Later that year, when a deputy U.S. Marshall came to Worcester to investigate Higginson's involvement in the rescue and in the murder, Worcester citizens, white and black, mobbed the officer in what city historians call the "Butman Riot." Marshall Asa Butman barely escaped with his life. Higginson was one of those who "escorted" him to the safety of the train station. Butman promised never to return. He was as good as his word. Higginson did surrender to Boston authorities. They did not have a case. There were no witnesses to link either him or Stowell to the marshall's death.
A fuller account of the Burns Rescue and its aftermath is here.
Higginson's fellow citizens were heeding one of his sermons when they mobbed Marshall Butman. In the immediate wake of the failed Burns' rescue, he preached on "Massachusetts in Mourning." His peroration called upon the citizens of Worcester to act upon their anti-slavery principles:
The way to make principles felt is to assert them peaceably if you can, forcibly if you must. The way to promote free soil, is to have your own soil free; to leave courts to settle constitutions, and to fall back (for your own part) on first principles; then it will be seen that you mean something. How much free territory is there beneath the stars and stripes? I know of four places, Syracuse, Wilkesbarre, Milwaukee, and Chicago; I remember no others. "Worcester," you say, Worcester has not yet been tried. If you think Worcester County is free, say so and act accordingly. Call a county Convention, and declare that you leave legal quibbles to lawyers, and to politicians, and plant yourselves on the simple truth, that God never made a slave, and that man shall neither make nor take one here! Over your own city, at least, you have power; but will you stand the test when it comes? Then do not try to avoid it. For one thing only I blush, that a fugitive has ever fled from here to Canada. Let it not happen again, I charge you, if you are what you think you are. No longer conceal fugitives and help them on, but show them and defend them. Let the Underground Railroad stop here! Say to the South, that Worcester, though a part of the Republic, shall be as free as if ruled by a Queen! Hear, O Richmond! and give ear, O Carolina! henceforth Worcester is Canada to the slave! And what will Worcester be to the kidnapper? I dare not tell; and I fear that the poor sinner himself, if once recognized in our streets, would scarcely get back to tell the tale.
Why did Higginson, a minister, lead an attack on the Boston Court House? Early in his sermon he proclaimed: "Words are nothing -- we have been surfeited with words for twenty years." This was a blunt denial of an American cultural truism, that speech was extraordinarily potent. It was this conviction that led Americans to incorporate the study of oratory into the public school curriculum. As Lucia Knoles demonstrates,
. . . according to the rhetorical theories of that day, oratory was not simply intended to be rational. It was also intended to take over the imagination, stir the emotions, and take control of the will in order to compell the listener to action. This kind of high-intensity rhetoric was being used to debate the incendiary issues of that day, including temperance, abolitionism, and women's rights. Although the ideal orator of that period was expected to create an appeal to [common] sense in order to convince the mind, he or she was also expected to appeal to the emotions in order to . . . eventually move listeners to action.
Higginson's sermon is itself an example of her point. And it succeeded in stirring its listeners to action. They took exactly the measures against "kidnappers" their minister called upon them to take. Yet, over the preceeding twenty years, as Higginson noted, slave states had succeeded in imposing their "peculiar" institution upon the entire nation. Not only was the cause of abolition no closer, apparently, to its goal, it seemed to have actually lost ground. Talk had typically not led to action:
For myself, I do not believe in these Anti-Slavery spasms of our people, for the same reason that Coleridge did not believe in ghosts, because I have seen too many of them myself. I remember when our Massachusetts delegation in Congress, signed a sort of threat that the State would withdraw from the Union if Texas came in, but it never happened. I remember the State Convention at Faneuil Hall in 1845 where the lion and the lamb lay down together, and Gen. T. Curtis and John G. Whittier were Secretaries; and the convention solemnly pronounced the annexation of Texas to be "the overthrow of the Constitution, the bond of the existing Union." I remember how one speaker boasted that if Texas was voted in by joint resolution, it might be voted out by the same. But somehow, we have never mustered that amount of resolution; and when I hear of State street petitioning for the repeal of its own Fugitive Slave Law, I remember the lesson.
As a minister, a point to which we will return, Higginson was a man of the Word as well as of words. He was also a popular lecturer and a widely read essayist. Yet, with respect to the great moral issue of the day, "words are nothing." Higginson's personal credo was to live what he thought was true. Given the emptiness of words, he could not content himself with preaching against the Fugitive Slave Law. He had to attempt to rescue Anthony Burns. When that failed, he called upon his fellow citizens of Worcester to act. No more should we send fugitives on to Canada. Let us instead make Worcester "Canada to the slave!" And should federal authorities, aka kidnappers, seek to enforce the law, "I fear that the poor sinner himself . . . would scarcely get back to tell the tale." Nor would the Butman Riot mark an end to his activism. Despite the misgivings he expressed in "Massachusetts in Mourning" over the free soil campaign in Kansas being organized by fellow Worcester resident Eli Thayer, Higginson would go out to Kansas in hopes of taking part in the fighting. Later, back in Worcester, he became one of the "Secret Six," the band of conspirators who supported John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry.
Higginson mixed cavalier defiance of the Fugitive Slave Law with zealous enforcement of prohibition with no sense of inconsistency. "The way to make principles felt is to assert them peaceably if you can, forcibly if you must." His loyalty in each case was to principle. No man might make a slave. No man had the right to harm himself and his family by becoming a drunkard. In Temperance too, words had failed. The great lecturer John Gough, who lived in the nearby town of Boylston, had induced thousands to take the pledge with his powerful recounting of his own battles with "Demon Rum." His celebrity was part of a profound shift in attitudes. In the early 1830s, Americans had regarded the use of alcohol as entirely acceptable. The teetotaller was a crank. Within a decade, all had changed. Temperance was gaining converts. Respectable opinion was turning away from alcohol. Yet, for Higginson as for most committed to the cause, words had failed. Gough reached thousands, but there were other thousands he could not. The Washingtonians enrolled armies of reformed "drunkards," but others remained unreformed. German and Irish immigrants were apparently entirely beyond the reach of persuasion. Again, Higginson turned to action, the Carson League and its "agents" to enforce prohibition.
Prohibition and antislavery did not exhaust his reform energies. Higginson threw himself into every significant crusade of the decade, and into many of the lesser ones as well. He was, in the language of the day, an "Ultra," someone willing to take the most extreme measures and to stand upon principle regardless of consequence. This determination lent a logic even to apparently contradictory actions. Higginson helped organize the 1853 World Temperance Convention in New York City, for example, which he then helped disrupt over the issue of woman's rights. He presided over the Whole World's Temperance Convention several months later, called by woman's rights delegates to the World Temperance Convention, whom he led in walking out. Its success -- over 3,000 attended including many of the major temperance leaders -- gave women a major voice in the most important reform of the day. Unhappy delegates to the first convention were certain that Higginson, fellow Worcester resident and abolitionist Abby Kelley Foster, Lucy Stone (a friend of Kelley Foster who lived in nearby Brookfield), and several others conspired to bring about the disturbance precisely so they could storm out and call for a new meeting. [for a more detailed account of the Conventions and of the abiding link between temperance and woman's rights, see "A Narrative Guide to the Origins of the Woman's Rights Movement."]
As his role in the calling of the Whole World's Temperance Convention demonstrates, Higginson was a leading proponent of woman's rights. Indeed he became the proponent of the cause, aside from Lucy Stone, throughout the decade. In this instance, however, his commitment remained to words. His "Ought Women to Learn the Alphabet?" was, next to Harriet Taylor's "Enfranchisement of Women," the most influential essay of the era. In it he argued that, once women began the process of educating themselves, something that the new public school systems were hurrying forward, there was no way to prevent them gaining ultimate equality. The essay inspired Sophia Smith to found Smith College, Higginson later remembered. "Ought Women to Learn the Alphabet" was one of a series of highly provocative and widely discussed essays he wrote on behalf of woman's rights.
In "Woman and Her Wishes," Higginson concluded that "she must be slave or equal":
The fatal inconsistency of those who protest against any innovation in the position of woman, lies in the fact that they have tolerated so many innovations already. Once admit she has been wronged, and the question recurs, whether she has yet been fully righted. We have conceded too much to refuse further concessions. She must be a slave or an equal; there is no middle ground. If it is plainly reasonable that the two sexes shall study together in the same high school, then it cannot be hopelessly ridiculous that they should study in the same college also. If it is common sense to make a woman deputy postmaster, then it cannot be the climax of absurdity to make her postmaster general, or even the higher officer who is the postmaster's master.
In short, the "sphere" of woman was changing and in the right direction. Words were leading to action. The public schools, especially the high schools, were particularly important instruments of change. So were women teachers. Further, by commandeering the Temperance Convention in 1853, Higginson and his allies had accomplished two important objectives. One was to give woman's rights a broad new platform from which they could launch powerful arguments for women's property and custody rights. The other was to wrap their arguments inside positions even their opponents embraced. Temperance advocates often highlighted the domestic violence and abuse drinking occasioned. This became a powerful argument for giving wives equal rights over their children and to hold property in their own names. Even the most conservative conceded the points, and the 1850s saw state after state throughout the North pass the needed legislation. In woman's rights, at least, oratory did produce action.
None of this reform activity interfered with Higginson's official profession, pastor of Worcester's Free Church. Modelled on Theodore Parker's congregation in Boston, the Worcester Free Church became one of the city's largest on the first Sunday in 1852 Higginson preached. Some 600 joined. His pulpit was in Horticultural Hall. Higginson and his flock distained the idea of the church as a building. Instead they rented the Hall. In addition to Parker, Higginson modelled himself upon Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson had long since abandoned the ministry. So, in time, would Higginson. But not for another six years. It mattered that he was a minister. In fact, it is a key for understanding his career throughout the decade.
During the Civil War, as colonel of a black regiment, Higginson was one of the first white Northerners to hear Spirituals. Immediately after the war, he wrote an influential appreciation of the music as a major form of folk art. So it is perhaps appropriate to begin a consideration of his religious peregrinations with the words of a Spiritual:
There's somethin' 'bout religion
And I don't know what it is
But I got it!
Higginson and his congregation "had" religion. They had, that is, an imminent sense of connection to a power larger than themselves. That experience carried its own warrant. To have it was to know it was so. But the traditional Christian formulations of that experience no longer satisfied. This was the principle burden of Higginson's inaugural sermon:
. . . some there are always who cling to that which should pass away, as a child clings to the body of his dead parent and will not relinquish it to the grave. Yet the globe must roll on, unchecked by all those passionate tears; those clinging arms must untwine, or share the sepulchre; life goes on, on, through a series of bereavements, and each generation bids farewell to much that the heart holds dear. We must choose between the past forms which once embodied the eternal spirit, and the other forms which are to renew and embody it now.
. . .
We have come together from various religious organizations, to form a new one; we stand, as I think, in the only direct path in which the Future is planning to guide men on. We are passing, as I believe, through the only door out of sectarianism and unreason. Where the next step will lead, we know not, more than others; but in this I think we are secure. In taking this, we enter at once into the sympathies of the most hopeful in all places. I rejoice that so many are here prepared to take it. In looking round upon this large number, I feel that it is not in vain for me to be here, since you are. If I have any shrinking, it is from distrust in myself, not in this enterprise. My few years retirement from the active duties of the ministry, have helped me to see more clearly what I have never doubted, the capabilities of the institution. We cannot spare united worship. We cannot spare preaching. We make too great a concession if we abandon these because they are misused.
. . .
. . . It is not possible that any collection of various books by various writers at various times can be assumed as a whole and so consulted, without introducing the utmost confusion into all moral questions. It has almost come to be a proverb, "You can prove anything out of Scripture." There are, all told, not less than fifty different sects in this country, each claiming to sustain itself by the Bible, to the exclusion of all others. And in all great moral questions, as War, Slavery, Temperance, Capital Punishment, it is unquestionably far easier to decide what is or is not right, than to ascertain what is or is not Scriptural.
What is striking is not just that Higginson, Harvard-educated, product of a prominent family, described his own spiritual longings in these terms but that hundreds of Worcester families, most of them "honest mechanics," found they rang true for them as well. They were, in sum, deeply religious but without doctrinal or Scriptural moorings.
Doctrine and Scripture -- traditional sources of the Word -- had failed. In what would preaching consist? Higginson and his congregation took to heart Emerson's dictum that the minister's task was to convert his life into truth. In his celebrated "Divinity School Address" in 1837, Emerson had drawn a withering portrait of the "formalist" in the ministry:
I once heard a preacher who sorely tempted me to say, I would go to church no more. Men go, thought I, where they are wont to go, else had no soul entered the temple in the afternoon. A snow storm was falling around us. The snow storm was real; the preacher merely spectral; and the eye felt the sad contrast in looking at him, and then out of the window behind him, into the beautiful meteor of the snow. He had lived in vain. He had no one word intimating that he had laughed or wept, was married or in love, had been commended, or cheated, or chagrined. If he had ever lived and acted, we were none the wiser for it. The capital secret of his profession, namely, to convert life into truth, he had not learned. Not one fact in all his experience, had he yet imported into his doctrine. This man had ploughed, and planted, and talked, and bought, and sold; he had read books; he had eaten and drunken; his head aches; his heart throbs; he smiles and suffers; yet was there not a surmise, a hint, in all the discourse, that he had ever lived at all. Not a line did he draw out of real history. The true preacher can be known by this, that he deals out to the people his life, -- life passed through the fire of thought. But of the bad preacher, it could not be told from his sermon, what age of the world he fell in; whether he had a father or a child; whether he was a freeholder or a pauper; whether he was a citizen or a countryman; or any other fact of his biography.
By this standard Higginson was a "true preacher." His attempt to rescue Anthony Burns, his work with the Carson League to enforce prohibition, his disruption of the World Temperance Convention in the name of woman's rights, all were attempts to "convert life into truth." So was his decade-long fascination with, and advocacy of, Spiritualism. Here was an entirely experiential religion. Such, at least, was the Spiritualism Higginson preached. Attempts to codify it, to explain, via the doctrines of Swedenborg or Cora Hatch or Andrew Jackson Davis, were all premature. What is important, he argued in lectures across the North, is the reality of the communication with spirits. Whether an "Odic" force or a spiritual telegraph or some other power made this possible was unimportant.
Spiritualism has attracted few historians, and those have not followed Higginson's lead in focusing upon the experiences of believers. Instead they have followed out the teachings of Swedenborg and Davis, but not of Hatch. Higginson's view, however, has much to recommend it. It steers us toward a more interesting question than "What did Swedenborg teach?" That question is: Why did so many Americans (and later English and others) of the 1850s pay so much attention to the ideas of a Swedish mystic who had died more than half a century earlier and who wrote in Latin?
Emerson helped introduce the Swedenborg vogue. Like Higginson, he had rejected both doctrine and Scripture. (Theodore Parker travelled this road too but not so far.) Like Higginson, he then turned to experience. This was during the 1830s, the height of the Second Great Awakening. The awakening, in the hands of its leading preacher, Charles Granison Finney, also discounted doctrine but strongly embraced Scripture. Finney used Scripture to confront sinners with the "proof" of their sinfulness. He was a former lawyer who compared effective preaching to summing up a case before a jury. Once convicted in their own minds and hearts, they were ready to condemn themselves and throw themselves upon God's mercy. This was the moment of conversion. What mattered was the experience.
Emerson called for a similar transformation of the individual soul. It could not come via orthodox Christian teaching, however. Each person had to find his own truth. He therefore encouraged a sort of spiritual eclecticism. Read Confucius. Read about the Buddha. Read Zoraster. Read Swedenborg. But seek inspiration, not dogma. Spiritualism fit this prescription. It began and ended in experience. The Fox sisters, the "Rochester rappers," began the whole phenomenon when they claimed that the mysterious rapping noises heard in their presence were a sort of spiritual Morse Code. The telegraph was brand new, the leading wonder of the age. So there was a kind of sense to the notion that spirits were tapping out messages. In fact, the sisters were themselves the source of the raps. They had learned how to crack the joints of their toes. No amount of searching of the room or of their persons could reveal this simple stunt.
Soon P.T. Barnum was promoting them and other spirit "manifestations" began to occur. Tables moved. Trumphets sounded. Spirits actually spoke through "trance mediums." Seances became popular, with or without a professional medium. Houdini would later salute the Davison Brothers, escape artists extraordinaire who claimed that spirits came to their aid and untied the knots. For all of the hoopla and humbug, there were many true believers. Higginson was one.
In December of 1860 the Atlantic Monthly published the anonymous "The Confessions of a Medium." Higginson was associated with the Atlantic from its founding and would serve, after the Civil War, as an editor. The "Confession" told the supposedly true story of a young man who for some seven years (apparently 1852-59) had been active in spiritualist circles. His initial interest was curiosity. He attended a seance. The table moved. Not all of the participants could get it to move, however. Only he and a beautiful young woman. They were particularly receptive, i.e., mediumistic. Startled but unable to deny the plain evidence of his senses, the young man returned again and again. Always the spirits communicated and always through him and the young woman.
Leading the circle was a sinister, older man, a mesmerist. Soon events started to trouble our hero. Spirits would take active possession of the young woman. She was apparently in a trance state, but this did not inhibit her from acting. Far from it. She would demand, or the spirit possessing her would demand, a glass of brandy and drain it off in a swallow. She would then passionately embrace the sinister leader. Just how far these embraces extended, the writer leaves to the reader's imagination. But the moral tenor of the seances went from bad to worse. The young man was standing on the edge of a moral precipice. Fortunately, the love of a pure young woman, not a member of the circle, saved him. What is most interesting about the "Confessions" is the writer's insistence upon the reality of spiritualism. He turned away not because he doubted but because it led to moral ruin.
Was Higginson the author of the "Confessions"? The writer describes himself as one whose name had been occasionally mentioned in the spiritualist press but not otherwise closely connected with spiritualism. He could just have walked away without any public gesture. But he felt an obligation to the tens of thousands in the same spiritual danger. This could describe Higginson. And his active involvement coincides nicely with the years the author gives for his own. On the other hand, there is little reason to take any of the particulars of the story as being autobiographical. Higginson was already married, for example; the young narrator was not. Nor did Higginson ever himself experience moving tables. He did, however, claim to have communicated with spirits.
What are we to make of the brandy and the sexual license? As a lecturer, Higginson came into contact with numerous spiritualist "circles." Some did espouse the soon-to-be notorious doctrine of "spiritual affinity." It applied to sexual relations Emerson's test of religion. Did it convert life into truth? Unless two people experienced an overwhelming attraction, they were not truly married. If they did, the affinity itself was the strongest possible bond, one infinitely more binding than any marriage vows. Many spiritualists heatedly denied they held to this doctrine. In many cases, they were undoubtedly telling the truth. But some did believe that there were special spiritual affinities between people. Higginson could not have avoided encountering uch adherents. They behaved exactly as the "spirits" moved them.
This came to a head with the notorious Hatch divorce case in early 1859. Cora L. V. Hatch was a teenage trance medium and undoubtedly the most famous and influential spiritualist in the country. She sued her husband, a fifty-year old mesmeric physician, for divorce alleging various improprieties and immoralities. He denied all but published a pamphlet, Spiritualists' Iniquities Unmasked, which detailed widespread profligacy within the spiritualist community. The beautiful young woman in the "Confession" bears a more than passing resemblance to Cora Hatch.
Spiritualism posed a dilemma for Higginson. His experience told him it was true. He never expressed any doubt as to that. But it seemed more productive of evil than of good. A pillar of the temperance campaign such as himself had to have been as affronted by Cora Hatch's taste for oysters and champagne (according to her husband) as by allegations of promiscuity. In this case, deeds proved as treacherous as words.
Higginson nonetheless remained true to the Emersonian creed. He would continue to convert life into truth. This stance enabled him to resist the lure of the emerging Republican Party. In 1857, after Fremont's presidential campaign demonstrated that the party might gain the presidency without any southern support, he tried to organize a Disunion Conventioin in Worcester in the hopes of creating a secession movement in the North. When the economic Panic of 1857 made the convention impractical, Higginson threw in his lot with John Brown who personified for many frustrated antislavery activists the "man of action" rather than of words. Higginson helped him to raise money and became one of the "Secret Six," the band of confidants and advisors who encouraged Brown's military plans which were to begin with the capture of the federal armory at Harper's Ferry.
Ironically, it was war that transformed Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Ultra par excellance, into a moderate reformer and man of letters. For its duration he led a black regiment. Doing so fulfilled his dream of striking a blow against slavery. It also restored his faith in the political process, even though the war was itself the result of the breakdown of that process. Decades later he would write an autobiography with a long section on the 1850s. With no sense of incongruity he titled it Cheerful Yesterdays. He recounted the attempt to rescue Burns, described the "Butman Riot" as an "amusing incident," wrote of his contacts with John Brown and of the influence of Emerson and Theodore Parker. He discussed his support of woman's rights and of temperance, including prohibition, which he attributed to a youthful lack of moderation. He did not mention spiritualism. Rarely has an autobiography revealed so little about its author.