Christian Recorder: December 6, 1862
Turner writes on what the enslaved are prepared to do when freedom comes and also gives a report on the contraband dinner.
Keywords: Contraband, Fundraiser, Freedom, Congress,
Mr. Editor: Though I am laboring under a fevered head, yet a few words from the capital might be of interest to some.
Our city is verging back to its usual activity, or to that activity which it usually presents in time of Congress. Senators, Representatives, Clerks, Phonographers, &c., are pouring in continually, preparatory to the opening of one of the most telling sessions which I think will ever convene in Washington. The results of this Congress will touch the nation's heart-strings more than any previous one, not because destinies fraught with more interest should depend upon it, (except to the colored) but because that around which the nation's sympathy twirls, will be touched. I may be mistaken, I hope I am; but if any one will slowly watch the sentiments of this nation as they see expressed in the papers, speeches, orations, and periodicals throughout the entire country, they will see that many who profess loyalty, had rather see the nation severed to atoms, than that the oppressed should go free. The deep concern now with thousands, is what the President is going to do with the Negroes? They will tell you that they ought to be free. But if he is freed, what is he going to do for a livelihood, and where is he going to locate, &c.?
I would like to have the pleasure of whispering into their ears, the following words:
1st. That if we are freed, we intend to do as other men and women do: -Just as we please. Work when we get ready, eat when we have it, wash when we get dirty, sleep when it is night, get up in the morning, get married when we are suited, fight wars if we can't have peace, serve God or the devil, and die when we can't live. But we never intend to be human chattels again, World without end, AMEN.
2d. As to where we are going; we have all the world before us. We are going to visit each other; going to play when we get ready; in short, we are going just where we please; going to church, going to stay here, going away, going to Africa, Hayti, Central America, England, France, Egypt, and Jerusalem; and then we are going to the jail, gallows, penitentiary, whipping post, to the grave, heaven, and hell. But we do not intend to be sent to either place unless we choose. But I tell you what we will have to do; if this nation don't mind, we will have to settle this American war. Talk about the mediation of France and England! We will be the mediator, if things don't change.
But you ask what am I grumbling about- Has not the President issued his emancipation proclamation? Yes, he has, but the hearts of the people have not. The President has, but the country has not; and it must be done; else God will blow out the sun, burn up the sea, and thunder his wrath abroad.
Rev. Bishop Payne preached a missionary sermon last Sabbath afternoon in Israel Church. It had been announced on Saturday through the papers, and consequently it brought together a large concourse of both white and colored. His reasoning was masterly, but did not carry upon it that fervid pathos which often distinguishes his able efforts. He also lectured on Monday night before the Israel Lyceum, an organization lately formed. In this effort the Bishop so far surpassed the most sanguine expectations, that one could hardly value the lecture for admiring the man.
Those who heard it will never forget it. The papers spoke of him the next day, as being acquainted with the encyclopedia of science, and an oriental and modern linguist; as the conclusion of which, he paid a glowing tribute to the industry of the pastor and congregation of Israel Church, for the improvements lately made thereon.
Prof. A. M. Green lectured before the Inland Literary Association on Monday night, 26th inst. The subject was, "Things learned in the School Mythology." Permit me to say, that he handled his subject in a manner that it appears none but the Professor could have done. He went back in the fields of Mythology, and brought out symbols browed with an inferential lustre; and canvassed them in such majestic diagrams, portraying them at the same time, in all that archetypal homogeneousness, which were peculiar in their day; so beautifully, that those present could not forbear saying, You are a smart man.
Thanksgiving Day was celebrated in all circles throughout the city. But we will merely notice the part which relates to the contrabands.
Several members of the Freed Man Association, resolved, with the assistance of the several colored churches, to give the contrabands a dinner, as an expression of our regard, and of their welcome in our midst. However, the different churches last Sabbath collected for that purpose very liberally. The Asbury M. E. Church (colored) collected $51; Union Bethel A. M. E. Church, $30; 15th street Presbyterian, $27. Israel Church took up no collection, but by the advice of the pastor, each one sent whatever they chose to give to the pastor's study; from whence it was carried to the contraband quarters in a wagon. Consequently on Thursday morning his office was thronged with incomers and outgoers, bringing baked chickens, turkeys, pigs, pies, custards, apples, almonds, candies, $c., to the amount of about $50; some estimated it at about $60, but I think it was worth about $50. I did not hear what the first Baptist Church did, but I am certain it acted nobly. Neither did I hear the sum from the other churches. But every thing was in order by 12 o'clock, at which time they commenced dining. The number of contrabands and citizens present were about two thousand, many of whom (I mean citizens) joined in the jaw working operation.
Shortly after one o'clock, a stand was erected, and everybody clustered around. The President of the day introduced Rev. Bishop Payne, whose address was much admired. After which, Senator Pomeroy, Rev. Mr. Mitchell, Emigration Agent, the President's Private Secretary, Professor A. M. Green, Rev. H. M. Turner, and others none less estimable delivered addresses.
The contrabands evinced through the entire course of the many lectures, a great deal of intelligence. The lectures were made up of the best of language, and many points were abstrusely stated, but when any thing suited them, it would be responded to, by glory to God, or Amen, or Hallelujah. It let gainsayers see, that we could understand something else, besides, dis, dat, and dem. But the most contemptible thing about the affair was, that some tried to turn it into an emigration meeting; now I am not so tight brained, as not to want any thing said about emigration. My sentiments are, let it be discussed, and let those go who wish, and those stay who desire; let us have a free expression about it, for all this helps to develop intellect; it sets men to studying the physical and geographical condition of the globe. But to talk about moving the colored people from this country is foolishness. Though Professor Green in his able speech on the occasion, lure the entrails out of those who broached the subject, I am sorry that any thing was said only what tended to their elevation.
The contraband convention met the same evening at Union Bethel Church, but for want of the constitution, adjourned without doing any thing more than discharging the committee which had been appointed to draft it, and appointing another. Some resolutions were offered and passed. I was very much surprised to see them adopt Jefferson's Manual as a parliamentary guide; a book never designed to govern deliberative bodies, but prepared only for Legislative and Congressional halls. The President, however, (Mr. Wm. Slade) entered his protest to it; yet, on the other hand, the house loomed with intelligence: some enrapturing speeches were made. They meet again on next Thursday evening. I have been requested by a member of the C. S. S. Society, to mention the trail of Mr. E. M. Thomas: all I care to say about it is, Felix quem fariunt aliena pericula cantum.
Several marriages came off on the 27th inst., but we will only mention two.
Miss Harriet S. Middleton, to Mr. Wm P. Rides, by Rev. J. D. Brooks.
And Miss Mary Ann Burke, to Mr. Benjamin C. Bennett, by Rev. H. M. Turner.
There was also a grand supper given in Ebenezer Church, Georgetown, D. C., on the evening on the 27th inst.
H. M. T.
Washington, Nov. 28th, 1862.