The Colored Men and the Draft

Christian Recorder: August 29,1863

*Shared by Thomas H.C. Hinton from the Washington National Republican, August 18, 1863, as recorded by a writer called "D."

I took occasion on Sunday morning to attend the Israel M. E. (colored) church, near the Capital, and hearing a sermon most appropriate to the times, by Rev. H. M. Turner, the pastor. I felt constrained to make a sketch of the same for publication, especially as some of the speaker’s thoughts, with reference to the people of his own color, are peculiarly happy at this time.

The speaker selected as a text, the following words: “I will hear what God the Lord will speak; for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints; but let them not turn again to folly.”—85th Psalm, 8th verse.

These words, said the speaker, were written just after the children of Israel were delivered from the seventy years’ captivity in Babylon. Having felt the judgments of God, that people were now willing to hear what God would speak to them. They had suffered years of captivity with all its degradation, toil, and wo, and they were thus sufficiently humiliated to become willing to listen to God’s voice. In times of trouble we have many advisors. Some will tell you this will relieve you; others, that will relieve you. But no rule of conduct will give such success as God’s rules. None will lead in the right way, save the mighty word of God. We are prone to follow our own devices, but this is mixed with corruption, and leads us astray. Prone to wickedness, we love that which is false and wicked. Thus we waste our lives in this world instead of looking to God, and following his advice. Turn to God and hear what he had to say, and perfect peace will come.

God often sends affliction upon us for our good. Our sick beds, the death of our friends, and the affliction of our bodies are all designed to humble our pride and work for our highest good. So with national chastisements. This great and mighty nation has been full of wickedness. We are being punished. Bloodshed and all the horrors and devastations of war are abroad in the land. It is estimated that over 300,000 souls have gone down to dust during the war. Yet we have not reformed. We are not humbled. Our churches, both white and colored, are even more indifferent than ever amid this dire affliction, while thousands are going down so like grave and to eternal death. What is the matter? The voice of God has not been listened to. All our sorrows are the fruit of sin. We must repent. Individuals cannot be saved without repentance. Nations must repent. The high and mighty as well as the poorest must get down in the dust of humility and repentance before God, or they cannot be saved. We are all disposed to find fault with others, and blame them for our troubles. We are constantly pulling the mote our of our brother’s eye.

We must love our enemies. There is too much hatred in this land, and God will never deliver us while we cherish such hellish feelings. Look at this nation. We are hating each other. The dominant, or white race, are hating us, and abusing us, every opportunity, heaping upon our heads indignities of every kind, and even murdering in cold blood, as they did in New York. And we, in turn, have the same revengeful feeling toward the white race. Think you, my brethren, we can ever obtain the favor of God, with the blessings of peace as a nation, while he witnesses such murder in our hearts, as many of us now cherish? We have got to put away these abominations. It is the cause of our troubles. We have been cherishing the feeling of hatred, until we have gone to butchering each other by the thousands. We must love our enemies and pray for them which despitefully use and persecute us.

But an affliction has come upon us greater than all others. Many of our people are in mourning over the draft. He felt a wish to comfort them in this sorrow. Hearts of mothers, sisters, and friends were bowed in sadness. Has anything served to humble us more than this? We needed this affliction. The war has gone on for nearly three years, and our people have been enjoying it. Many have forgotten the church of God, and gone away to mix in sin, swearing, and breaking God’s holy day. He (Mr. T.) could speak freely of the draft, as he himself had been drafted. We, as colored people, have been praying for the dawn of this very day. We have even been shouting the year of jubilee, when liberty has been proclaimed to the captive. Just as our prayers are being answered, just as victory is dawning, just as God is about to deliver us, we hear the hoarse voice of murmuring and complaint. You are just like the people of Israel, who, though delivered by the wonderful power of God from Egyptian bondage, murmured at God and his servant Moses.

Shall we not take the bitter with the sweet? In all parts of this afflicted country families have been broken—fathers, husbands, and sons have been stricken down, and mourning and desolation have gone into thousands of families. But our race has been free from these afflictions. We have been rejoicing while the whole land has been mourning. Thousands of our people have tasted the precious sweets of freedom. The Colored Churches of this city, in all our meetings, have rung with our hallelujahs and our rejoicings over what God has done for our people. But a short time ago we were full of enthusiasm, and the very arches of heaven rang with our loud hurrahs in our war meetings. Now the scene is changed. Some of our people complain because they are compelled to go and help maintain and preserve our country. Some have even blamed your preacher and others, as the cause of your being drafted.

Am I the President of the United States! Can I go to the War Department and give orders! Or perhaps I went to Congress and they passed the enrollment act just to please me. I beg of you, my brethren, not to be so foolish. “Let them not turn again to folly.” He had been made sick when he heard his people, some of whom had themselves been made free by it, say they were opposed to the war! Why, Copperhead Seymour could say no more than that! Our people should all be in favor of the war until our race is free, God shall be honored, and the rebellion put down. Don’t grumble; if you do, you insult God and put an everlasting stain on your posterity. God will surely speak peace when His work, which this affliction is designed to produce, is accomplished. Then the millennium will dawn. Our race, that has been afflicted and down-trodden, shall then stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. For our little privations now, remember that thousands of our race will be free and enjoy their God-given rights. God is already doing more for us than we deserve. Instead, then, of fault-finding, go to Him with hearts of humility and gratitude. Praise Him for what He has done, and give your lives to His service.


Turner, Henry McNeal. The Colored Men and the Draft. The Henry McNeal Turner Project. (1863, August 29).

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