Boston, July 22, 1859
Bushnell at Home.
The Oberlin Demonstration.
From the Cleveland Leader, July 13.
Yesterday was a proud day for the ‘Oberlin and Wellington Rescuers.’ Previous notice had been given that Bushnell, the last of the jail confined ‘Rescuers’ and ‘Felons,’ was to proceed to his home in Oberlin; and as the hour approached for his departure from the stone castle where for so many weeks he had been confined, an immense crowd gathered in and about the jail to see him off. Both jail and yard were densely crowded with the friends of the prisoner. Mr. John F. Warner was endowed by the sheriff with the power of Marshal, and under his guidance the procession was formed, headed by a guard of colored men with a banner inscribed ‘Oberlin and Wellington Rescuers.’
Then followed the Chaplain, (Rev. J.C. White,) followed by the Hecker Band in full uniform, discoursing lively and spirited national airs. Then came a long line of friends on foot, followed by Mr. Bushnell in a carriage with his baggage; he was accompanied by the ladies of Sheriff Wightman’s family. Several other carriages followed, decorated with banners and flags. A great crowd followed the procession to the depot where there was gathered an immense crowd who welcomed the hero of the occasion with hearty cheers.
At 11:25 the train, with six crowded coaches, left the depot, the band playing national airs as they commenced the journey. On reaching Oberlin, the guns of Artillery Co. A. Capt. W.R. Simmons, who had gone to that place on the early train, spoke forth in booming notes of welcome and triumph. That Company, with the Oberlin Hook and Ladder and Engine Companies, was drawn up to receive the Clevelanders. Besides these, there were thousands of the Lorain citizens ready to grasp their fellow citizens by the hand. One banner, which they carried, was curious and noticeable. And immense horn, labeled ‘U.S. District Court,’ was the principal feature, the ‘Rescuers’ issuing from the large end, while from the little end of the horn the Officials were crawling out upon the ‘Democratic platform,’ at which one was grinding at ‘Public Opinion.’ At a little distance from the Rescuers were friends who greeted them with, ‘Well done, good and faithful servants.’ Besides these there was a pair of scales, with ’Higher Law’ going down in one scale, while ‘U.S. Laws’ were flying up, being weighed in the balances and found wanting. It was expressive.
On leaving the cars, Judge Spalding said to the crowd, ‘My friends, Bushnell had no regrets to express that he had aided in rescuing the boy John; we have no regrets to express that he has been imprisoned.’
Mr. Bushnell was then welcomed home by Prof. Fairchild, nearly as follows:
Mr. Bushnell – We proudly welcome you to the home, which you have heretofore honored; we welcome you heartily: we are not ashamed of you or your conduct. When you returned with the boy John form Wellington, we were not ashamed of you; when you were seized and dragged to Cleveland to be tried before a packed jury for committing a God-like deed, we were not ashamed of you’ we now bid you welcome to your home, and how sincere this welcome is, let the cheers of these 5,000 assembled citizens of Oberlin and Lorain reply. (Three hearty cheers.)
But we should do you and ourselves injustice, were this welcome the only object for which we have met. We wish, too, to pay a tribute to the act for which you have suffered. You went forth nobly to rescue a fellow-man, and violated no laws of God, but merely a base execution of man, to which only tow Senators from the North could be brought to vote. How long we shall follow your example, we will not now tell; we will submit to that law only so long as we lack the moral, political, and physical power to resist. We belong to no new school, but to that which, in our Fathers’ time, announced that ‘Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God,’ – or that more ancient one which said, ‘Whether we ought to obey God rather than man, judge y,’ – or that still more ancient one which said, ‘We will not bow down and worship the golden image.’
Three more cheers were then given, when the procession, headed by the Wellington Sax Horn Band, and including the Artillery, Fire Companies, the Elyria Band, the ‘Rescuers,’ visitors, &c., marched to the immense church, which was most densely crowded with thousands of the best citizens of Lorain county and vicinity. The spacious galleries of the church presented a beautiful spectacle, being almost entirely filled with the ladies of the College and neighborhood. These ladies held a prominent banner inscribed:
Such a beautiful sight as those galleries presented one seldom sees. The fair and blooming young ladies who yesterday filled those seats formed an exhibition surpassed nowhere ‘on this terrestrial ball.’
A large choir of ladies and gentlemen occupied the front of the gallery, and by their execution added greatly to the interest of the occasion. The speakers and reporters occupied the pulpit.
Prof. Monroe opened the exercises at half-past one o’clock by calling upon the venerable Father Keep to open with prayer, which he did in an eloquent and stirring appeal to the God of heaven for his blessing upon the meeting, and rendering heartfelt thanks and gratitude for the blessings which had been poured forth on the ‘Rescuers,’ and enabled them to go through that trying ordeal and despotic rule.
Prof. Monroe, as Chairman, first called upon Hon. D.K. Carter, who responded in his usual offhand, sarcastic and impetuous manner.
The speech was followed by singing by the choir of the magnificent quartette and chorus, entitled ‘The Gathering of the Free,’ by George N. Allen: -
O, weep, sons of freedom, your honor lies low,
‘Tis weeping on Liberty’s desolate fane;
They whom you have rescued have bowed to the foe –
Oppression has vanquished your country again.
But, lo! gleaming hosts,
‘Tis the gathering of the free;
With the shout surging on,
Like a swell of the foaming sea.
On then, as one, let us conquer or die,
For God, the Slave, and Liberty!-
From mount and from valley, from cot and from dome
A host of the free we come, we come!
Our banner waves for truth and right,
Our watchword ‘Liberty.’
Our arms are peace, and love, and light –
Then on to victory!
This was most splendidly performed by the choir, setting every heart beating with exultation and sympathy.
A.G. Riddle, Esq., was then called upon, and rehearsed with hearty eloquence the history of the trial and incarceration of those who had so long felt the force of a tyrant’s prison. At one point the speaker brought Bushnell up to the stand, who was greeted with rousing cheers.
At the close of Mr. Riddle’s remarks, which were heartily cheered, the Hecker band gave some of their unsurpassed music. After which Hon. R.P. Spalding was introduced to the audience as the man who, when he was on the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio, announced publicly that should a fugitive slave be brought before him, he would set him free. He was received with cheers, and remarked.
When Bushnell was asked by the Judge if he had any regrets to express for his conduct, how would he have leapt from his seat and shouted, ‘No, sir’ee,’ could he have looked forward to this proud day when 3,000 citizens assemble to bid him welcome! The speaker gave a high tribute to the character of Father Gillett, who told him at Cleveland that should he plead ‘nolle contendere,’ his sons at home should shut the door against him. The speaker then gave a history of slavery from the fifteenth century to the present time, with appropriate and earnest comments.
Mr. Bushnell was then brought up to the stand. The applause and cheers that greeted him spoke truly of the sympathy and welcome, which the audience felt for the noble ‘felon.’ He remarked that while he had felt no regret when before the Court, he did now regret that he could not be fitting language respond to their call.
Music by the Wellington band.
Hon. Joshua R. Giddings was then brought forward.
He thought it ill became one of the previous speakers (Mr. Riddle was meant) to detract from the State Convention which nominated Judge Gholson, who would go for the execution of the Fugitive Law, when that same speaker, rather than go to the Convention himself, sent a delegate who went himself for the execution of that law, and for Democratic principles. He then proceeded to exonerate Judge Gholson from the charge of treachery to the pledges he mad at the Convention to carry out every part of the Republican platform. Mr. Riddle had told his hearers to vote for Judge Gholson as a man who was not pledged – but he should vote for him as a man who was pledged by all the promises and oaths possible to carry out Republican doctrines.
A speaker had said that no man could hold office, and yet be an independent speaker and thinker; but a living refutation of that stood before them, for, for twenty-one years, his constituents had condemned him to Congress on that account.
Humboldt, that greatest man of the nineteenth century, had said that he had always liked Webster until he showed himself the author of the Fugitive Slave Law, but from that time he had hated him.
The speaker went on, pouring forth ‘words that burn and thoughts that breathe,’ in the same fearless manner as upon all occasions and all times, in Congress or out of it, with high tribute to the few noble ones who have stood up for God and the right, and scathing rebuke to those who have been found treacherous to the claims of humanity. Let the Fugitive Law not be repealed, for it has raised us up a thousand Samsons, who, with this law for their weapon, shall go forth conquering and to conquer. The history of these trials will be known and read when these heroes are laid in the dust.
He told his friends to-day that, in coming time, the Congress of the United States shall refund and restore the costs and fines which have been imposed upon them. Let them mark his word – it would be done.
Mr. Giddings thanked the Oberlin Rescuers, from the depth of his manhood, for their noble conduct, and his bold eloquence was not lost upon his bearers. We have not space to do his remarks justice. He related many reminiscences of his twenty years in Congress, and of the eminent minds with whom he was there connected. The audience could also stand n the old halls of Washington, as his thrilling and burning words filled the Church. He said he had shaken hands with Lords and Dukes – had known and talked with those high in station and office – and the only apology he had to offer was that her had shaken hands with James Buchanan, but he could heartily and truly say, that he had never offered his hand to any human being, and felt so proud of the privilege, as he now felt to grasp Simeon Bushnell by the hand.
With a few words of exhortation to his hearers, and of hope and faith for the future, Mr. Giddings closed, to be enthusiastically cheered and applauded.
Judge Spalding remarked that if Judge Gholson was not right on the slave question, he should not vote for him, and many more would not.
The Marseilles Hymn was then executed by the choir, the solo being finely sung by Miss Church, a last year’s graduate, and the full choir, (apparently of one hundred and fifty ladies and gentlemen at least) joining in the chorus with splendid effect.
Hon. Ralph Plumb (one of the Rescuers) was the next speaker. On the 14th of September last, just ten months ago, he had, it is true, been glad to know of the rescue of John Price, but he was ashamed to say that he did nothing to aid in the rescue. It was not these men alone, but it was the spirit of Oberlin, which was opposed to all oppression, which was indicted. But years ago he had been guilty of rescuing. (At this point, Mr. Giddings arose, and said that he remembered one Sunday morning, long years ago, when this man Plumb brought a whole wagonload of slaves to his house on the way to freedom.) The speaker then went on to describe and speak of their prison lives of eighty-five days, of the feelings that actuated the imprisoned, and their trials when thinking of their families at home. He had felt cheered with the thought which his daughter had written him while in prison, that ‘it is a great thing to be the lever, or even the stone pon which the lever rests, that shall raise a whole people up into a pure atmosphere where they shall breathe freedom to the world, and all the inhabitants thereof.’ They should go on until the whole world, from North to South and from East to West, shall be free.
Prof. Monroe announced, at the close of Mr. Plumb’s remarks, that it had bee said that recent events had soured the temper of the Oberlin people, and he must confess that Prof. Fairchild, one of the most amiable of men, had become so soured that he was about to cane a person right there on the stage.
Prof. Fairchild hero announced that the prisoners had found in their confinement many kind friends, and of these there was the Sheriff, who had dared to receive as friends and guests, those whom the officials had condemned as felons. They had found, too, a jailor, whom God made a man first, and man had made a jailor. These men had been good Samaritans, and had not merely looked on their prisoners, but had administered to their wants. The Oberlin people had somewhat relieved their hearts by preparing two canes for presentation. Not that they meant to imply that those men had a lack of backbone, or needed a staff to sustain their manhood, but if in their journey through life they should fall in with what Mrs. Partington called Fugitive Slave Bill, they should drive him back straightway to his own haunts of Pandemonium, from which he was a Fugitive, and in which he owed service and labor.
Prof. Fairchild then presented to John C. Granniss, Esq., to be presented by him to the parties named – a gold-headed cane for Sheriff Wightman; a similar one for H.R. Smith; a set of spoons for Mrs. Smith; a dress for her sister; and a book for Miss Lucy Wightman. These articles Mrs. Granniss delivered, and responded for the recipients in a happy and fitting manner.
The canes are heavy ebony, with elegant chased gold heads, inscribed on them ‘from the citizens of Oberlin.’ They are valuable articles, bot intrinsically and for their associations.
Prof. Morgan then read the following resolution, which was carried:
Resolved, that the people of Oberlin in mass meeting assembled, tender to R.Pl Spalding, F.T. Backus, AG. Riddle, and S.O. Griswold, our heartfelt gratitude for the unwearied zeal and devoted self-sacrificed with which, refusing all compensation, they have conducted their very able defence of the rescuers before the U.S. Courts and the Supreme Court of the State. We feel that no fees could have bought such services, and that o gift can duly express our sense of the debt we owe; but by us and by countless others of the friends of right and freedom, the names of these able jurists and their noble services will be had in everlasting remembrance.
Esq. Goodwin, of Sandusky, was then introduced, and spoke of the present contest between common and higher law – claiming that nothing was ‘law’ save that which commanded what is right, and prohibitive what is wrong – with words of counsel and hope for the future, and with a prophetic eye looking through the coming ages to the last day, when kings and beggars, black and white, bond and free, should meet together before the great white throne, to be judged for the deeds of the body. Mr. Goodwin held the attention of his audience.
John Langston, Esq., rose in response to a call, to apologize for the absence of his brother Charles, and to speak a word for himself. In his characteristic bold eloquence, he spoke fearless and startling words in opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law. He paid a high and proud tribute to the speech of his brother in the United States Court, which was received with loud applause. He thanked his noble friends who had gone up to Cuyahoga county jail – thanked them in his character as a negro – as a white man – as one in whom the blood of both races joined - as a man – and as an American citizen. We wished that the wide world could all have seen him standing there, pouring forth in clarion-notes his noble, man-like and Godlike thoughts. No more eloquent speech was made yesterday than his.
Prof. Monroe then introduced Prof. Peck, expressing his doubt in the mathematical assertion that eight quarts were equal to one Peck.
Prof. Peck remarked ‘that he had been put into intimate association with the noble men who had brought eloquence and talent to bear upon their defence, and expressed his gratitude to them in touching words and kind remembrances, and also in the highest and tenderest terms of Jailor Smith, his family, and those associated with him in imprisonment, expressing as his will and testament, that those brethren should be the first to follow his body to its burial, and the ones to offer up the last prayer over his lifeless clay.
Judge Spalding and Mr. Riddle, for the counsel for the defence, expressed their thanks for the compliments paid them, but asserted that the Bar of Cuyahoga, with possibly a few exceptions, were entitled to equal gratitude, for they were ready and eager to leap forward for the defence of such men – ‘so bring on your Rescuers.’
With music by the Hecker Band, the immense congregation of not less than 3,000 persons was then dismissed, it being 6 o’clock, and at 7:50 the Cleveland delegation returned to the city. ‘satisfied.’
The meeting was n earnest and a good one – not less than 5,000 persons gathered to do honor to the occasion. Notwithstanding the dust – the intense heat of the sun’s rays – the time in the middle of harvesting – and the fact of its being the first working day of the week, the hosts of freedom came up and encamped in the stronghold of liberty and equality. Oberlin is not ‘subdued,’ and never will be.
Of all the features of the day, there was nothing that was of more interest than the singing by vast and well-trained choir. It was, without exception, the most grand and glorious singing – the nearest to our conception of a grand choral harmony, of any thing we ever heard.
A lady remarked to us on the homeward passage, she ‘didn’t believe we would hear better singing in the other world.’ We do believe there is no choir like that one in the country. No words, no language can express the beauty and sublimity of the execution of the Marseilles Hymn, or the ‘Gathering of the Free,’ and so we will not attempt it. It was beyond all praise.
The day was intensely hot, and the congregation presented a general appearance of white dresses, fair faces and flitting fans in the portions principally occupied by the ladies.
After partaking of a bountiful supper at Prof. Peck’s, we returned home, hearty cheers rising as the excursionists left the station; and when next Oberlin celebrates, and her 1,100 students are ‘out of school,’ and the latch-strings are out, ‘may we be there to see.’