Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2013, Volume 34

"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4
Complete Issue: National Anti-Slavery Standard (23 January 1864)
J. C. Hagen, "The Freedman's Offering" National Anti-Slavery Standard (23 January 1864): [4]View Poem Image
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THE FREEDMAN'S OFFERING.

           
Rev. Mr. Frothingham,[2] a few Sundays ago, called the
attention of his congregation to a vase of Autumnal flow-
ers
standing on his pulpit. They were sent to him, he said,
from Newbern,[3] by Scipio and Peggy, two colored people,
late slaves, but who are now free. The flowers were
reared by themselves, in a garden of their own—the first
flowers of freedom![4]
No glittering wreath of jewels rare, No gold to fill thy coffers; A simple vase of Autumn flowers The grateful freedman offers.
And though this humble offering seem As scarcely worth possessing, It bears to thee the freedman's thanks; It bears the freedman's blessing.
These flowers, to us, are Heaven's smile, For freedom has endeared them; Free now's the soil that gave them birth, And free the hands that reared them.
Of those who long had patiently With woes unnumbered striven, They come, a message from the heart, In the heart's language given.
Their bloom shall fade; the hands that reared Their tender growth shall perish; Not so the fruit of generous deeds That grateful bosoms cherish.
And let this humble gift of ours Forever be a token Of all the things that never die, And kind words bravely spoken!
Christian Inquirer.[5]

Notes

  1. John Cole Hagen (1815?–?), author of Foot-prints of Truth; Or, Voice of Humanity (1853) and Ballads of the Revolution (1866). Hagen contributed a handful of pieces to the Christian Inquirer during the war—"The Freedman's Offering" and "The Second Coming of the Truth" (Christian Inquirer, March 14, 1863) suggest that he was a member of the Reverend Octavius Brooks Frothingham's reform-orientated congregation in New York.Go back
  2. Radical Unitarian Octavius Brooks Frothingham (1822–1895) left North Church in Salem, Massachusetts, over an abolitionist sermon he delivered in response to the reenslavement of Anthony Burns (1854). In 1859 he moved to New York and established the Third Unitarian Society (later the Independent Liberal Church); based in the city throughout the war, he ministered to an eclectic congregation united by strong reform impulses. He was one of the founding members of the National Freedmen's Relief Association of New York (est. February 22, 1862) and served as its corresponding secretary. He was later appointed to the Committee on Teachers and Publications (American Freedmen's Union Commission).
     
    After the war, Frothingham cofounded and presided over the Free Religious Association (1867–1878). In addition to his religious discourses, he published Transcendentalism in New England: A History (1876) and biographies of contemporary reformers—including that of his good friend Theodore Parker. These works established his reputation as one of Transcendentalism's earliest historians. See Susan M. Ryan, "Frothingham, Octavius Brooks," in American National Biography Online.
    Go back
  3. A city on the North Carolina coast, situated where the Trent River met the Neuse. New Bern (or "Newbern") was occupied by Union forces in mid-March 1862 as part of General Ambrose Burnside's movement to gain control of North Carolina's coastal region. The town became "a magnet for most black refugees" (Richard M. Reid, Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina's Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008], 221), and camps were set up for those who could not find other accommodation. Henry Clapp's census of the freed black population of North Carolina, completed by March 1863, suggested there were no fewer than 8,500 black refugees in and near New Bern (13). Many of the men enlisted in United States Colored Troops regiments.
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  4. The gift may been an offering to celebrate the first anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.Go back
  5. A leading Unitarian weekly, based in New York City (Frank L. Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1850–1865 [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938], 2:72). Founded by William Kirkland in late 1846, the Inquirer was published under the auspices of the Unitarian Association of the State of New York. After Kirkland's death, Henry Bellows served as "chief editor" until 1850. From 1856 until 1863, the Reverend Abiel Abbot Livermore edited the paper; Livermore passed his responsibilities into the collective "hands of the Unitarian clergymen of New York, Brooklyn, and the vicinity" until a "proper editor" could be found to replace him (Christian Inquirer, September 12, 1863, 2).Go back