Washington Correspondence: August 30, 1862

Washington Correspondence

Christian Recorder: August 30, 1862

Turner writes on the meeting Lincoln had with an African American delegation and on the speech of Robert Smalls. 

Keywords: Robert Smalls, Meeting, Lincoln

Mr. Editor:--Things in this city have all changed into new activity. Thousands of soldiers are pouring into the city, and thronging the streets, --drums are heard in every direction, and tents are being pitched upon every hill-top and low dale. Seventy-five or a hundred wagons all in a row, can frequently be seen, either loaded with soldiers, tents, or muskets. One would imagine that treason, with all its abominable forms, would necessarily soon have to be crushed out, and that to an eternal non-existence.

But many of us have now concluded, that the judgment of God will never cease its plagues upon this nation, till slavery and oppression shall be foiled, and right, equity, and justice shall be seen in all its grand regalia, leading on in triumphant conquest the victories of humanity.

This has been one of the most excitable weeks with our people, I suppose, ever known in the history.

The desire of the President of the United States to have an interview with a committee of colored men, and a compliance with that desire on the part of our people, very nearly made some of our citizens frantic with excitement. Many seemed to have thought that it was in the voluntary power of the President to transport at his option all the colored people out of the country. And in this state of excitement every imaginable idea, however absurd to common reason it might be, seemed to have gained a respectable idea of currency in the mind of some class of thinkers.

But the great excitement appears to have grown out of a neglect upon the part of many to sit down and properly read the papers in a spirit of characteristic soberness, and then ascertaining to what extent the President’s power goes to enable him to put in force what he has proposed.

There is no need of such wild excitements arising from a mere suggestion, unless the parties have an absolute power to effectuate their repugnant schemes and plans. And that the President of the United States has not, and I don’t believe that he would use it if he had.

Somehow a report gained currency, that Rev. H. M. Turner was the prime mover of this whole affair, and that he had waited upon the President, in reference to this Central American project, which brought down in the midst of the upstir a heavy tirade of denunciations upon him in every direction. Though none seemed to vent themselves in his presence, yet many seem to be conscientiously persuaded to credit the report. But Mr. Turner has now corrected the false statement, and gave them to understand that he hated the infamous scheme of compulsory colonization as much as they could. Things took a change immediately, and now the great drift of objections appears to be running in another direction.

Last Thursday was the day on which the committee, sent to wait upon the President, was to make their report to the parties who sent them. At 4 o’clock, as had been agreed upon, the committee of five from each of the colored churches in the city, met at Union Bethel church to hear the report of the five who waited on the President. But through some means, the majority of the committee did not appear, for what reason I cannot tell. However, Mr. John T. Castin, one of the committee being present, offered, I am told by several present, to give a minority report, but it was judged best to adjourn, until they could receive information as to the committee’s whereabouts, at which time they will again convene to hear the report of the committee, dismiss them if necessary, and I judge lay the contents of the interview with the President before the colored people of the United States, for their consideration and action. I think there never was a time when a better opportunity offered itself to our people to speak to the civilized world than the present. And I believe as soon as this committee will be able to lay the question before our people in an official manner, (as I hope they will take no action before) that the nation will have a chance to hear from the black man in every direction. I suppose no colored man in the nation would have any objection to going anywhere, if this government pays them for their two hundred and forty years’ work.

Rev. Mr. French, formerly of Wilberforce College, Ohio, but now of Hilton Head, S.C., and the distinguished Robert Smalls, the colored man, who came out of Charleston, S.C., with a warship, guns, cannons, &c., and a large number of other colored people, paid a visit to Israel church on last Sabbath evening. After the sermon, the pastor introduced the Rev. Mr. French, who spoke of his labors South, and gave great satisfaction about that colored regiment which has been so contemptuously spoken of by so many papers, or pro-slavery sheets. After many interesting remarks, Mr. Robert Smalls was introduced, and told the history of his escape, which was mixed with some very sensible details, and created some laughter, and raised any quantity of smiles. It was the first attempt of Mr. Small to speak in public, and taking into consideration his unnatural situation, being placed before an intelligent audience of white and colored, numbering twelve hundred, his effort was a great success, notwithstanding his timidity was discernible.

He will accompany Mr. French through the principal cities north, as a living specimen of unquestionable African heroism. This war seems to be destined by Providence to coin out the rare qualities of the depressed humanity of every nation. The German, the Irishman, the Frenchman, the negro have excited wonder; and though the negro is the last starting out, look out if he does not come out first.

                                                                                                                                      H. M. T.