Mary Lovell Ware, 1798-1849


Mary Lovell Ware

Of all the saints in the calendar of the Church there is no name more worthy of the honor than that of Mary Lovell Ware. The college of cardinals, which confers the degree of sainthood for the veneration of faithful Catholics, will never recognize her merits and encircle her head with a halo, but when the list of Protestant saints is made up, the name of Mary L. Ware will be in it, and among the first half dozen on the scroll.

The writer was a student in the Divinity School at Cambridge when a classmate commended to him the Memoirs of Mrs. Ware as one of the few model biographies. It was a book not laid down in the course of study; its reading was postponed for that convenient season for which one waits so long; but he made a mental note of the “Memoirs of Mary L. Ware,” which many years did not efface. There is a book one must read, he said to himself, if he would die happy.

Mrs. Ware’s maiden name was Pickard. To the end of her days, when she put herself in a pillory as she often did, she called herself by her maiden name. “That,” she would say, “was Mary Pickard.” I infer that she thought Mary Pickard had been a very bad girl.

Her mother’s name was Lovell,–Mary Lovell,–granddaughter of “Master Lovell,” long known as a classical teacher in colonial Boston, and daughter of James Lovell, an active Revolutionist, a prominent member of the Continental Congress and, from the end of the war to his death, Naval officer in the Boston Custom House. Mr. Lovell had eight sons, one of whom was a successful London merchant, and one daughter, who remained with her parents until at twenty-five she married Mr. Pickard and who, when her little girl was five years old returned, as perhaps an only daughter should, to take care of her parents in their old age. So it happened that the childhood of Mrs. Ware was passed at her grandfather Lovell’s, in Pearl St., Boston, then an eligible place of residence.

Mr. Pickard was an Englishman by birth, and a merchant with business connections in London and Boston, between which cities, for a time, his residence alternated. Not much is said of him in the Memoirs, beyond the fact that he was an Episcopalian with strong attachment to the forms of his church, as an Englishman might be expected to be.

Of Mrs. Pickard we learn more. She is said to have possessed a vigorous mind, to have been well educated and a fine conversationalist, with a commanding figure, benignant countenance, and dignified demeanor, so that one said of her, “She seems to have been born for an empress.” Like her husband she was an Episcopalian though, according to the Memoirs, less strenuously Episcopalian than Mr. Pickard. She had been reared in a different school. Her father,–Mr. James Lovell–we are told, was a free-thinker, or as the Memoirs put it, “had adopted some infidel principles,” and “treated religion with little respect in his family.” The “infidels” of that day were generally good men, only they were not orthodox. Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and Washington were such infidels. After Channing’s day, this kind of man here in New England was absorbed by the Unitarian movement, and, as a separate class, disappeared. Mrs. Pickard was bred in this school and she appears never to have forgotten her home training. “She was unostentatious and charitable,” says an early friend, “and her whole life was an exhibition of the ascendency of _principle_ over mere taste and feeling.”

Her religious attitude becomes interesting, because in an exceptional degree, she formed her remarkable daughter,–who was an only child and until the age of thirteen had no teacher except this forceful and level-headed mother.

With these antecedents, Mary Lovell Pickard was born in Boston, October 2, 1798, John Adams being then President. In 1802, Mary having passed her third summer, Mr. Pickard’s business called him to London, where he resided with his family two years, so that the child’s fifth birthday was duly celebrated in mid-ocean on the homeward voyage. In a letter of Mrs. Pickard, written during this London residence, she says, “Mr. Pickard is even more anxious than I to go home. Mary is the only contented one. She is happy all the time.” There is so much that is sad in this record that, before we have done, the reader will be glad the little girl had at least a bright and sunny childhood to remember. It appears she did remember it. It may not be remarkable, but it is interesting, that the experiences of this early London life,–between her third and fifth year,–made an indelible impression upon her, so that twenty years later when she was again in England, much to her own delight, she “recognized her old London home and other objects with which she was then familiar.”

A lady who was a fellow passenger of the Pickards on their homeward voyage was struck by the gentle management of the mother and the easy docility of the child. To say, “It will make me unhappy if you do that,” was an extreme exercise of maternal authority, to which the child yielded unresisting obedience. This, of course, is told to the credit of the child, but the merit, probably belongs to the mother. Doubtless we could all have such children if we were that kind of a parent. A little tact, unfailing gentleness, and an infinite self control: with these, it would seem one may smile and kiss a child into an angel.

On arriving in Boston, Mrs. Pickard took her family to her father’s, where she remained until her death, and where, we read, “with parents and grandparents, Mary found a home whose blessings filled her heart.” Being an only child, with four elderly persons, Mary was likely to be too much petted or too much fretted. We are glad to know that she was not fretted or over-trained. In a letter of retrospect, she writes, “For many years a word of blame never reached my ears.” An early friend of the family writes, “It has been said that Mary was much indulged; and I believe it may be said so with truth. But she was not indulged in idleness, selfishness, and rudeness; she was indulged in healthful sports, in pleasant excursions, and in companionship with other children.”

Everything went smoothly with her until the age of ten when, rather earlier than most children, she discovered her conscience: “At ten years of age I waked up to a sense of the danger of the state of indulgence in which I was living”; but let us hope the crisis was not acute. It does not seem to have been. According to the testimony of her first teacher, she was simply precocious morally, but not at all morbid. Her school was at Hingham, whither she was sent at the age of thirteen. The teacher says that with her “devotedness to the highest objects and purposes of our existence, she was one of the most lively and playful girls among her companions, and a great favorite with them all.”

There seems to have been really no cloud upon her existence up to this point,–the age of thirteen. I have had a reason for dwelling upon this charming period of her childhood, untroubled by a cloud, because from this date until her death, the hand of God seems to have been very heavy upon her, afflictions fell upon her like rain, and it required a brave spirit to carry the burdens appointed for her to bear. Happily, she had a brave spirit, did not know that her life was hard, “gloried in tribulation,” like St. Paul, and was never more cheerful or thankful than when she was herself an invalid, with an invalid husband to be cared for like a baby, seven children to be clothed and fed, and not enough money at the year’s end to square accounts. Ruskin tells of a servant who had served his mother faithfully fifty-seven years. “She had,” he says, “a natural gift and specialty for doing disagreeable things; above all, the service of the sick-room; so that she was never quite in her glory unless some of us were ill.” It will be seen further on that these were only a part of the accomplishments of Mrs. Ware. It is fortunate if a woman is so made that her spirits rise as her troubles thicken, but the reader of the story will be thankful that her life was not all a battle, that her childhood was more than ordinarily serene and sunny, and that not for a dozen years at least, did she have to be a heroine in order to be happy.

Mary had been in Hingham about half a year, enjoying her school-girl life, when her mother was taken ill, fatally ill as it proved, and the child, then at the age of thirteen, was called home and installed in the sick-room as nurse. This was the beginning of sorrow. The mother lingered through the winter and died in the following May. There remained of the family, the grandparents, one son of fine talents, but of unfortunate habits, and her father, “broken in spirits and in fortune, clinging to his only child with doting and dependent affection.” We can see that it could not have been a cheerful home for a young girl of thirteen. Some thirty years later, she wrote to one of her children, “I think I have felt the want all my life of a more cheerful home in my early childhood, a fuller participation in the pleasures and ‘follies’ of youth.” I put this reflection here, because it does not apply to the years preceding the loss of her mother while it exactly fits the period that now follows.

The year following her mother’s death, Mary attended a girls’ school in Boston. A passage from a letter written at this period will show something of her quality. It is dated February 27, 1813, when she was fourteen and a few months. Besides, she had been at school, six months at a time, a total of about one year. She had been mentioning two or three novels, and then discourses as follows: “Novels are generally supposed to be improper books for young people, as they take up the time which ought to be employed in more useful pursuits; which is certainly very true; but as a recreation to the mind, such books as these cannot possibly do any hurt, as they are good moral lessons. Indeed, I think there is scarcely any book from which some good may not be derived; though it cannot be expected that any young person has judgment enough to leave all the bad and take only the good, when there is a great proportion of the former.” Perhaps I am wrong in thinking this an exhibition of remarkable reflection and expression in a girl well under fifteen, whether she had been at school or otherwise. Mrs. Ware was always a wonderful letter-writer, though, if we take her word for it, she had little of her mother’s gift as a conversationalist. It seems to have been a life-long habit to see the old year out and the new year in, spending the quiet hours in writing letters to her friends. In one of these anniversary letters, written when she was fifteen, she says, “I defy anyone to tell from my appearance that I have not everything to make me happy. I have much and am happy. My little trials are essential to my happiness.” In that last sentence we have the entire woman. Her trials were always, as she thought, essential to her happiness.

On this principle, her next twelve years ought to have been very happy, since they were sufficiently full of tribulation. The two years following her mother’s death, passed in the lonely home in Boston, were naturally depressing. Besides, she was born for religion, and the experience through which she had passed had created a great hunger in her soul. Trinity Church, into which she had been baptized, had not yet passed through the hands of Phillips Brooks, and its ministrations, admirable as they are for the ordinary child, were inadequate for the wants of a thoughtful girl like Mary Pickard. The final effect was, she says, to throw her more upon herself and to compel her to seek, “by reading, meditation and prayer, to find that knowledge and stimulus to virtue which I failed to find in the ministrations of the Sabbath.”

At this critical period, she returned to the school at Hingham, which she had left two years before, and there, in the Third Church, then presided over by Rev. Henry Colman, one of the fathers of the Unitarian heresy, she found peace and satisfaction to her spirit. Ten years later, she spent a week in Hingham, visiting friends and reviving, as she says, the memory of the “first awakening of my mind to high and holy thoughts and resolves.” The crisis which, elsewhere, we read of at the age of ten, was a subordinate affair. This Hingham experience, at the age of sixteen, was really the moral event in her history.

As hers was a type of religion,–she would have said “piety”,–a blend of reason and sentiment, peculiar to the Unitarianism of that generation, hardly to be found in any household of faith to-day, we must let her disclose her inner consciousness. One Saturday morning, she writes a long letter to one of her teachers saying that she feels it a duty and a privilege “to be a member of the Church of Christ,” but she fears she does not understand what the relation implies, and says, “Tell me if you should consider it a violation of the sacredness of the institution, to think I might with impunity be a member of it. I am well aware of the condemnation denounced on those who _partake_ unworthily.” She refers to the Lord’s Supper. It is to be hoped that her teacher knew enough to give the simple explanation of that dark saying of the apostle about eating unworthily. At all events, she connected herself with the church, received the communion, and was very happy. “From the moment I had decided what to do, not a feeling arose which I could wish to suppress; conscious of pure motives, all within was calm, and I wondered how I could for a moment hesitate. They were feelings I never before experienced, and for once I realized that it is only when we are at peace with ourselves that we can enjoy true happiness…. I could not sleep, and actually laid awake all night out of pure happiness.”

After a few months, sooner than she expected, she returns to Boston and sits under the ministrations of Dr. Channing, to her an object of veneration. She writes that her heart is too full for utterance: “It will not surprise you that Mr. Channing’s sermons are the cause; but no account that I could give could convey any idea of them. You have heard some of the same class; they so entirely absorb the feelings as to render the mind incapable of action, and consequently leave on the memory at times no distinct impression.” I should like to quote all she says of Channing, both as a revelation of him, and of herself. She heard him read the psalm, “What shall I render unto God for all his mercies?” and says, “The ascription of praise which followed was more truly sublime than anything I ever heard or read.” It must have been an event,–it certainly was for her,–to listen to one of Dr. Channing’s prayers: “It seems often to me, while in the hour of prayer I give myself up to the thought of heaven, as though I had in reality left the world, and was enjoying what is promised to the Christian. I fear, however, these feelings are too often delusive; we substitute the love of holiness for the actual possession.”

There her sanity comes in to check her emotionalism. She is reflecting upon another experience with Dr. Channing when she comes very near making a criticism upon him. She tells us that she does not mean him; he is excepted from these remarks, but she says, “There are few occasions which will authorize a minister to excite the feelings of an audience in a very great degree, and none which can make it allowable for him to rest in mere excitement.” To complete the portraiture of her soul, I will take a passage from a letter written at the age of twenty-five, when death has at last stripped her of all her family, “I believe that all events that befall us are exactly such as are best adapted to improve us; and I find in a perfect confidence in the wisdom and love which I know directs them, a source of peace which no other thing can give; and in the difficulty which I find in acting upon this belief I see a weakness of nature, which those very trials are designed to assist us in overcoming, and which trial alone can conquer.”

Mary Pickards were not common even in that generation, but this creed was then common, and this blend of reason and religious feeling, fearlessly called “piety,” was characteristic of Channing, her teacher, and of Henry Ware, afterward her husband. It was the real “Channing Unitarianism.” Pity there is no more of it.

Mary was sixteen years old,–to be exact, sixteen and a half; the serene and beautiful faith of Channing had done its perfect work upon her; and she was now ready for whatever fate, or as she would have said, Providence, might choose to send. It sent the business failure of Mr. Pickard, in which not only his own fortune was swept away but also the estate of Mr. Lovell was involved. Upon the knowledge of this disaster, Mary wrote a cheerful letter, in which she said: “I should be sorry to think you consider me so weak as to bend under a change of fortune to which all are liable.” Certainly she will not bend, but she is obliged to quit school and return to the shattered home.

Before the summer was over, her grandfather, Mr. Lovell, died; whether the end was hastened by the financial embarrassments in which Mr. Pickard had involved him, is not said. Mrs. Lovell, the grandmother, followed her husband in two years,–for Mary, two years of assiduous nursing and tender care. Perhaps one sentence from a letter at this time will assist us in picturing her in this exacting service. She says that she is leading a monotonous existence, that her animal spirits are not sufficient for both duty and solitude, “And when evening closes, and my beloved charge is laid peacefully to rest, excitement ceases, and I am thrown on myself for pleasure.”

With the death of the grandmother, the home was broken up, and Mary, trying to help her father do a little business without capital, went to New York city as his commercial agent. Her letters to her father are “almost exclusively business letters,” and he on his part gives her “directions for the sale and purchase, not only of muslins and moreens, but also of skins, saltpetre, and the like.”

Details of this period of her career are not abundant in the Memoirs, and the death of her father, in 1823, put an end to her business apprenticeship.

Apparently, she was not entirely destitute. At the time of his disaster, her father wrote, “As we calculated you would, after some time, have enough to support yourself, without mental or bodily exertion.” That is, presumably, after the settlement of her grandfather’s estate. As her biographer says, “Every member of her own family had gone, and she had smoothed the passage of everyone.” But she had many friends, and one is tempted to say, Pity she could not have settled down in cozy quarters and made herself comfortable.

Indeed she did make a fair start. She joined a couple of friends, going abroad in search of health, for a visit to England. She had relatives on the Lovell side, in comfortable circumstances near London, and an aunt on her father’s side, in the north of England, in straightened circumstances. She resolved to make the acquaintance of all these relatives.

The party arrived in Liverpool in April, 1824, and for a year and a half, during which their headquarters were in London, Paris was visited, Southern England and Wales were explored, and finally the Lovell relatives were visited and found to have good hearts and open arms. For these eighteen months, Mary Pickard’s friends could have wished her no more delightful existence. She had tea with Mrs. Barbauld, heard Irving, then the famous London preacher, and saw other interesting persons and charming things in England. There is material for a very interesting chapter upon this delightful experience. It was followed by a drama of misery and horror, in which she was both spectator and actor, when young and old died around her as if smitten by pestilence, and her own vigorous constitution was irreparably broken.

This episode was vastly more interesting to her than the pleasant commonplace of travel, and much more in keeping with what seems to have been her destiny. In the autumn of her second year abroad, she went to discover her aunt, sister of Mr. Pickard, in Yorkshire. The writer of the Memoirs says that this visit “forms the most remarkable and in some respects the most interesting and important chapter of her life.” She found her aunt much better than she expected, nearly overpowered with joy to see her, living in a little two story cottage of four rooms, which far exceeded anything she ever saw for neatness. The village bore the peculiarly English name of Osmotherly, and was the most primitive place she had ever been in. The inhabitants were all of one class and that the poorer class of laborers, ignorant as possible, but simple and sociable. Terrible to relate, smallpox, typhus fever, and whooping cough were at that moment epidemic in that village.

It will be impossible to put the situation before us more briefly than by quoting a passage from one of her letters: “My aunt’s two daughters are married and live in this village; one of them, with three children, has a husband at the point of death with a fever; his brother died yesterday of smallpox, and two of her children have the whooping-cough; added to this, their whole dependence is upon their own exertions, which are of course entirely stopped now…. You may suppose, under such a state of things, I shall find enough to do.”

The death of the husband, whom of course Miss Pickard nursed through his illness, is reported in the next letter, which contains also this characteristic statement, “It seems to me that posts of difficulty are my appointed lot and my element, for I do feel lighter and happier when I have difficulties to overcome. Could you look in upon me you would think it impossible that I could be even tolerably comfortable, and yet I am cheerful, and get along as easily as possible, and am in truth happy.”

Evidently, all we can do with such a person is to congratulate her over the most terrible experiences. In a letter five days later, the baby dies of whooping-cough, and in her arms; a fortnight later, the mother dies of typhus fever; within another month, two boys, now orphans, are down with the same fever at once, and one of them dies. In the space of eight weeks, she saw five persons of one family buried, and four of them she had nursed. By this time, the aunt was ill, and Miss Pickard nursed her to convalescence.

This campaign had lasted three months, and she left the scene of combat with a clear conscience. She was allowed a breathing spell of a month in which to visit some pleasant friends and recuperate her strength, when we find her back in Osmotherly again nursing her aunt. It was the end of December and she was the only servant in the house. Before this ordeal was over, she was taken ill herself, and had to be put to bed and nursed. In crossing a room, a cramp took her; she fell on the floor, lay all night in the cold, calling in vain for assistance. She did not finally escape from these terrible scenes until the end of January, five months from the time she entered them.

Miss Pickard returned to Boston after an absence of about two years and a half, during which time, as one of her friends wrote her, “You have passed such trying scenes, have so narrowly escaped, and done more, much more, than almost any body ever did before.” She went away a dear school-girl friend and a valued acquaintance; she was welcomed home as a martyr fit to be canonized, and was received as a conquering heroine.

In a letter dated from Gretna Green, where so many run-away lovers have been made happy, she playfully reflects upon the possibilities of her visit, if only she had a lover, and concludes that she “must submit to single blessedness a little longer.” Our sympathies would have been less taxed if she had submitted to single blessedness to the end. Why could she not now be quiet, let well enough alone, and make herself comfortable? Destiny had apparently ordered things for her quite differently. One cannot avoid his destiny, and it was her destiny to marry, and marriage was to bring her great happiness, tempered by great sorrows.

The man who was to share her happiness and her sorrows was Rev. Henry Ware, Jr., then the almost idolized minister of the Second Church, in Boston. Mr. Ware was the son of another Henry Ware, professor of theology at Harvard, whose election to the chair of theology in 1806 opened the great Unitarian controversy. Two sons of Professor Ware entered the ministry, Henry and William, the latter the first Unitarian minister settled in New York city. Rev. John F. Ware, well remembered as pastor of Arlington St. Church in Boston, was the son of Henry, so that for more than half a century, the name of Ware was a great factor in Unitarian history.

After Dr. Channing, Henry Ware was perhaps the most popular preacher in any Boston pulpit. One sermon preached by him on a New Year’s eve, upon the Duty of Improvement, became memorable. In spite of a violent snow storm, the church was filled to overflowing, a delegation coming from Cambridge. Of this sermon, a hearer said: “No words from mortal lips ever affected me like those.” There was a difference between Unitarian preaching then and now. That famous sermon closed like this: “I charge you, as in the presence of God, who sees and will judge you,–in the name of Jesus Christ, who beseeches you to come to him and live,–by all your hopes of happiness and life,–I charge you let not this year die, and leave you impenitent. Do not dare to utter defiance in its decaying hours. But, in the stillness of its awful midnight, prostrate yourselves penitently before your Maker; and let the morning sun rise upon you, thoughtful and serious men.” One does not see how the so-called ‘Evangelicals’ could have quarreled with that preaching.

Mr. Ware had been in his parish nine years, his age was thirty-two, he was in the prime of life, and at the climax of his power and his popularity. Three years before, he had been left a widower with three young children, one of whom became Rev. John F. Ware. That these two intensely religious natures, that of Mary Pickard and that of Henry Ware, should have been drawn together is not singular. In writing to his sister, Mr. Ware speaks tenderly of his late wife and says, “I have sought for the best mother to her children, and the best I have found.” Late in life, one of these children said, “Surely God never gave a boy such a mother or a man such a friend.”

Miss Pickard engaged to be a very docile wife. “Instead of the self-dependent self-governed being you have known me,” she writes to a friend, “I have learned to look to another for guidance and happiness.” She is “as happy as mortal can be.” Indeed it was almost too much for earth. “It has made me,” she says, “more willing to leave the world and enjoy the happiness of heaven than I ever thought I should be. Strange that a thing from which of all others, I should have expected the very opposite effect, should have done this.”

The year following the marriage of these saintly lovers,–one can call them nothing less,–was one of exceeding happiness and of immense activity to both. It is not said, but we can see that each must have been a tonic to the other. Considerate persons felt a scruple about taking any of the time of their pastor’s wife. “Mrs. Ware,” said one, “at home and abroad, is the busiest woman of my acquaintance,” and others felt that way. Before the year ended, Mrs. Ware had a boy baby of her own to increase her occupations and her happiness. It lived a few bright years, long enough to become a very attractive child and to give a severe wrench to her heart when it left her. This experience seems to have a certain fitness in a life in which every joy was to bring sorrow and every sorrow, by sheer will, was to be turned to joy.

Of Mr. Ware, it is said that this first year “was one of the most active and also, to all human appearance, one of the most successful of his ministry.” He put more work into his sermons, gave increased attention to the details of his parish, delivered a course of lectures, and undertook other enterprises, some of which are specified; and, during a temporary absence of Mrs. Ware, wrote her that he had hoped he had turned over a new leaf, “but by foolish degrees, I have got back to all my accustomed carelessness and waste of powers, and am doing nothing in proportion to what I ought to do.”

But man is mortal, and there is a limit to human endurance. Mr. Ware could not lash himself into greater activity; but he was in good condition to be ill. In a journey from Northampton, he was prostrated by inflammation of the lungs, with hemorrhages, and after several weeks, Mrs. Ware, herself far from well, went to him and finally brought him home. This was the beginning of what became a very regular annual experience. I met a lady who was brought up on the Memoirs of Mary L. Ware, and who briefly put what had impressed her most, in this way: She said, “It seemed as though Mr. Ware was always going off on a journey for his health, and that Mrs. Ware was always going after him to bring him home”; if we remember this statement, and add the fact that these calls came more than once when Mrs. Ware was on the sick list herself, we shall be able greatly to shorten our history.

This was the end of Mr. Ware’s parish work. He was nursed through the winter and, in early spring, Mrs. Ware left her baby and took her invalid husband abroad, in pursuit of health, spending a year and a half in England, Holland, Switzerland, and Italy. It was, she afterward said, the most trying period of her life. Mr. Ware alternated between being fairly comfortable and very miserable, so that these Memoirs say “He enjoyed much, but suffered more.” Still the travels would be interesting if we had time to follow them.

Near the close of the first year abroad, Mrs. Ware’s second child was born in Rome, and, although this was as she would have said, “providential,” never was a child less needed in a family. Mrs. Ware had then two babies on her hands, and of these, her invalid husband was the greater care. In the following August, Mrs. Ware arrived in Boston with her double charge, and had the happiness to know that Mr. Ware was somewhat better in health than when he left home, a year and a half before.

His parish, during his absence, had been in the care of a colleague, no other than the Rev. Ralph Waldo Emerson. If you remember the New Year’s Eve sermon of Mr. Ware, it will be evident that he must have left behind him a very conservative parish, and you will not be surprised that in about four years, Mr. Emerson found his chains intolerable.

Mr. Ware had been invited to a professorship in the Harvard Divinity School, and it was to this and not to his parish that he returned. For the steady, one might say monotonous, duties of his professorship, Mr. Ware’s health was generally sufficient. The lecture room did not exact the several hundred parish calls then demanded by a large city church, nor the exhausting effort which Mr. Ware and Dr. Channing put into the delivery of a sermon; and the lectures, once prepared, could be delivered and re-delivered from year to year. Real leisure was impossible to one of Mr. Ware’s temperament, but here was a life of comparative leisure; and for Mrs. Ware, who shared all the joys and sorrows of her husband, the twelve years that follow brought a settled existence and very much happiness. Neither her own health nor that of her husband was ever very firm, and there was always a great emptiness in the family purse, but with Mrs. Ware, these were, as with Paul, “light afflictions” which were but for a moment, and she did not let them disturb her happiness.

Impossible as it may seem, they contributed to her happiness. She made them contribute to it. She says in a letter of 1831, “Of my winter’s sickness I cannot write; it contained a long life of enjoyment, and what I hoped would be profitable thought and reflection.” She repeats this statement to another correspondent, and says, with apparent regret, that the illness did not bring her “to that cheerful willingness to resign my life, after which I strove.” You cannot send this woman any trial which she will not welcome, because she wants to be made to want to go to heaven, and she is as yet not quite ready for it.

Mr. Ware has been dangerously ill, and of course she could not spare herself for heaven until he recovered, but this trial did something quite as good for her: “My husband’s danger renewed the so oft repeated testimony that strength is ever at hand for those who need it, gave me another exercise of trust in that mighty arm which can save to the uttermost, and in its result is a new cause for gratitude to Him who has so abundantly blessed me all the days of my life.” It is good to see what the old-fashioned doctrine that God really is, and is good, did for one who actually believed.

That first baby, whom she left behind when she went abroad with her invalid husband, died in 1831; the mother fainted when the last breath left the little body; but this is the way she writes of it: “I have always looked upon the death of children rather as a subject of joy than sorrow, and have been perplexed at seeing so many, who would bear what seemed to me much harder trials with firmness, so completely overwhelmed by this, as is frequently the case.”

After that, one is almost ashamed to mention the trifle that the income of this family was very small. Mr. Ware, after 1834 _Dr._ Ware, held a new professorship, the endowment of which was yet mostly imaginary. The social demands took no account of the family income; the unexpected guest always dropping in; at certain times, it is said, “shoals of visitors;” and the larder always a little scantily furnished. If one wants to know how one ought to live under such circumstances, here is your shining example. “There were no apologies at that table,” we are told. “If unexpected guests were not always filled, they were never annoyed, nor suffered to think much about it.” “I remember,” says a guest, “the wonder I felt at her humility and dignity in welcoming to her table on some occasion a troop of accidental guests, when she had almost nothing to offer but her hospitality. The absence of all apologies and of all mortification, the ease and cheerfulness of the conversation, which became the only feast, gave me a lesson never forgotten, although never learned.”

The problem of dress was as simple to Mrs. Ware as was the entertainment of her guests. “As to her attire,” says an intimate friend, “we should say no one thought of it at all, because of its simplicity, and because of her ease of manners and dignity of character. Yet the impression is qualified, though in one view confirmed, by hearing that, in a new place of residence, so plain was her appearance on all occasions, the villagers suspected her of reserving her fine clothes for some better class.” There are those who might consider these circumstances, very sore privations. What Mrs. Ware says of them is, “I have not a word of complaint to make. We are far better provided for than is necessary to our happiness.” I am persuaded that this is an immensely wholesome example and that more of this kind of woman is needed to mother the children of our generation. In a letter to one of her daughters, she says she has great sympathy with the struggles of young people, that she had struggles too and learned her lessons young, that she found very early in life that her own position was not in the least affected by these externals, “I soon began to look upon my oft-turned dress with something like pride, certainly with great complacency; and to see in that and all other marks of my mother’s prudence and consistency, only so many proofs of her dignity and self-respect,–the dignity and self-respect which grew out of her just estimate of the true and the right in herself and in the world.”

We have seen enough of this woman to discover that she could not be made unhappy, and also to discover why. It was because her nature was so large and strong and fine. Sometimes she thinks Dr. Ware would be better and happier in a parish, “But I have no care about the future other than that which one must have,–a desire to fulfil the duties which it may bring.” Surely that is being,

“Self-poised and independent still On this world’s varying good or ill.”

In 1842, Dr. Ware’s health became so much impaired that Mrs. Ware entertains an unfulfilled desire. It is to get away from Cambridge, which had become so dear to them all. “I scruple not to say that a ten-foot house, and bread and water diet, with a sense of rest to _him_, would be a luxury.” The family removed to Framingham, where Dr. Ware died, a year later. Whatever tribulations might be in store for Mrs. Ware, anxiety on his account was not to be one of them.

Death came on Friday; on Sunday, Mrs. Ware attended church with all her family, and the occasion must have been more trying for the minister who preached to her than for herself. A short service was held that Sunday evening at six, and “Then,” she says, “John and I brought dear father’s body to Cambridge in our own carriage; we could not feel willing to let strangers do anything in connection with him which we could do ourselves.” Think of that dark, silent lonely ride from Framingham to Cambridge! But here was a woman who did not spare herself, and did not ask what somebody would think of her doings.

After this event, the Memoirs tell us that a gentleman in Milton gave her a very earnest invitation to go there and take the instruction of three little children in connection with her own. In this occupation she spent six years of great outward comfort and usefulness. There is much in these years, or in the letters of these years, of great interest and moral beauty. Even with young children to leave, she speaks of death as serenely as she would of going to Boston. “I do not feel that I am essential to my children. I do not feel that I am competent to train them.”

Of her last illness, one of her children wrote, “Never did a sick room have less of the odor of sickness than that. It was the brightest spot on earth.” “Come with a _smile_,” she said to a friend whom she had summoned for a last farewell, and so went this remarkable and exceptionally noble woman.

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My May 1963 Interview with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Through the good offices of the Christian Century Magazine, I have obtained a copy of my interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is in the form of an extended report on the situation in Birmingham in May, 1963. The original title of the report was “Test For Nonviolence”. It’s posted word for word below.

Test for Nonviolence

My Christian Century Interview with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham

Birmingham, Ala., May 14.

Copyright © 1963 by the Christian Century. Posted with
permission from the May 29, 1963, issue of the
Christian Century.

WHEN representatives of the Canadian Broadcasting Co. and I sat down for an interview with Martin Luther King, Jr., in the courtyard of the Gaston motel in the heart of downtown Birmingham’s Negro district on May 14, we found him calm, composed and optimistic—qualities which characterize his leadership of the nonviolent resistance movement which has become the most vital force in the struggle to end racial segregation in the United States.

The day before, he had been able to announce completion of a four-point agreement between Negro negotiators and influential representatives of the white business community. He felt that the accord had marked the end of a month of nonviolent demonstrations that centered attention on a city which Dr. King has described as a symbol of the hard core of southern resistance to integration.

The concessions won by the Negroes — minimal at best — were gradual integration of downtown lunch counters, stepping up of job opportunities, release of prisoners and establishment of a permanent line of communication between Negro and white leaders.

Now Dr. King was ready to assess the effects of the drawn-out campaign.

“This is the beginning of the end of massive resistance to integration,” he said. “Other communities will see that insisting on the segregationist position is like standing on the beach of history and trying to hold back the tide.”

That was at noon on Saturday. Less than 12 hours later bombs hurled by white men ripped into the Birmingham home of Dr. King’s brother, A. D. (like-wise a minister), while others tore a gaping hole in the Gaston Motel.

An hour earlier, members of the Ku Klux Klan of Alabama had held an open meeting in suburban Bessemer. By the light of two burning crosses they had prayed for the demise of Dr. King and “the Kennedys” and called on God to maintain separation of the races.

The bombing episode was like some 20 others in recent years in that those responsible were not apprehended. This time a shocked Negro community — disillusioned at what was apparently a sign that the agreement with the business leaders would be repudiated, weary after weeks of demonstrations, jailings, attendance at nightly mass meetings — mobilized once again.

They sought to discover whether the arch-segregationist position of men like lameduck Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor was ready to reassert itself in new and even more oppressive ways.

I was at the scene of both bombings shortly after they occurred. At the A. D. King home I witnessed a few minor incidents directed at the police: air was let out of the tires of squad cars and a few rocks were thrown.

But Mr. King, who was at home with his family when the bombers struck, was able to calm the crowd of Negroes which gathered.

Outside the Gaston motel, however, conditions became explosive—largely because in the crowd that formed there were what one bystander described as “those drunken winos from Fourth avenue”: Negroes who had no relationship to the nonviolent movement but who had been stirred to fever pitch by this latest in-dignity.

The attitude of such Negroes was crystallized in the angry and oft-heard cry “Let’s get Bull Connor.”

There is little doubt that had Connor been present at that time blood would have been shed. However, members of a Negro civil defense unit and the Rev. Wyatt T. Walker, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference headed by Martin Luther King, Jr., made valiant—and successful—efforts to quiet the disturbance.

Later that evening units of the state highway patrol, which operates on orders from militantly segregationist Gov. George Wallace, moved into the motel area. Both Negroes and white moderates place heavy responsibility on the state patrol for the riot conditions which subsequently developed.

Its members blocked off the area, and during the period of their domination they administered several beatings; as the result of one Mrs. Walker had to be hospitalized. (Significantly, when Pres. Kennedy on Sunday evening dispatched federal troops to stand by to assist local and county law enforcement officers in maintaining order, he did not say that the troops would be available to help the state patrol.) Fortunately, so far no deaths have resulted from the weekend disturbances.

The bombings revealed an ambivalence in attitude on the part of the city’s civic leadership. Recently elected Mayor Albert Boutwell deplored the outrage and issued a plea for the cessation of violence. On the other hand, Art Hanes, who continues as mayor on the triumvirate commission which cannot be officially unseated until the state supreme court confirms Boutwell’s right to hold office, declared in a public statement that he hoped any drop of blood shed in Birmingham would “stick in Robert Kennedy’s throat” (The attorney general is blamed by many segregationists in Birmingham for much of what has happened.)

On Sunday Martin Luther King, Jr., returned from his home in Atlanta, where he had gone on Saturday, and issued a plea for an end to any violence on the part of Negroes. He reiterated what has been a cardinal principle of the nonviolent movement: any blood shed should be Negro blood; any act of violence perpetrated by a Negro serves only to damage the Negro’s cause.

On Monday he led a group through pool halls and streets in the disturbed area, repeating the call for nonviolence.

The Birmingham situation raises the question of the future of nonviolence as a tactic in the struggle for justice under the Constitution. Argument over the tactic has been intensified by the outbreak of violence in Birmingham, by the presence on the scene of Black Muslim leaders, and by the widely publicized remarks on television and else-where by Malcolm X, Black Muslim spokesman who considers nonviolence a cowardly evasion. So far the Muslim movement seems to have made little impact on the south; its leaders’ presence here was largely ignored. And as for Atlanta, a Negro observer there notes: “They are here, of course, but they are making little headway.”

Dr. King estimates that 90 per cent of Birmingham’s Negroes are committed to “tactical nonviolence”—nonviolence resorted to as a strategy in obtaining civil rights and equal opportunity. Actually about 3,000 people have received training in nonviolent workshops and accepted the “ten commandments for volunteers,” among which are these: “Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love” and “Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue or heart.”

At a mass meeting following the Saturday night bombings one speaker unwit-tingly revealed the ambivalence which must surely affect all but the most saintly adherents of the movement when he cried to a responsive audience: “We’re going to love the hell out of these [white] people!”

As in other southern cities, minor but provocative acts on the part of Negro onlookers at demonstrations — rock throwing, for instance — have led the general public wrongly to assume that the non-violent movement is responsible. Though it seems possible that the movement does serve as a catalyst releasing pent-up resentments among Negroes outside its ranks, it is unfair to suggest that members of the movement have participated in violent acts. And its leaders have taken all steps within their power to re-strain any possible violence by other Negroes.

The basic question is whether the movement can continue to be the main-stay of the fight for Negro rights in the south.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is committed to the nonviolent approach, and Dr. King, its leader, has accepted nonviolence not just as a tactic in the current struggle but as a way of life. The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, which has given front line support to many demonstrations in the struggle for racial justice in the south, is committed to non-violence—as its name implies—but some observers consider it more militant and impatient than the parallel organization; apparently the younger generation of students wants more rights in less time.

In our interview on Saturday we asked Dr. King to comment on our observation that among some of his young lieutenants there exists a pride and color-consciousness that may lead them to draw away from white persons rather than try to work with them. He replied: “There is this new race pride not only among my lieutenants but among the Negro race as a whole—a great sense of dignity and even destiny, a new self-respect. Within the vast majority of Negroes, however, there is reasonable self-restraint. I do not believe this majority would exchange black supremacy for white supremacy. That would be to exchange one tyranny for another.”

Asked about the conviction of some white people that for the present there is a need to “go slow” in the fight for integration, Dr. King said that the shape of the world today does not permit the luxury of such relaxation: “We see the new nations of Africa and Asia moving at jet speed toward independence and, on the other hand, we seem our-selves to be moving at horse-and-buggy speed just to get a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.”

No doubt another reason Dr. King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference cannot afford to “go slow” is the pressure from younger elements in the nonviolent movement. Still an-other may be the fact of life Dr. King has acknowledged in public references to the Black Muslim movement: that movement symbolizes the Negro’s utter impatience with the white man’s hypocrisy, paternalism and bigotry—impatience which could erupt in the future, as it has in the past, in full-scale displays of raw force.

This is more likely in the northern cities where the Black Muslim movement is strong than in the south. Dr. King believes the risk of serious outbreaks is intensified by the white man’s unwillingness to change the status quo in response to peaceful overtures from the Negro community. It may well be that white people who criticize his strategy will have reason in the future to look back longingly on his leadership—for there is little question that the American Negro is determined to gain his rights by some method. The tide of racial justice is indeed sweeping in on the beach of history. Efforts to hold it back are likely to serve only to change its character, intensify its force.

This thesis is being illustrated in Birmingham today. Only recently white residents were maintaining that “our Negroes were just fine” until Dr. King came to town. Some of them still hold that view. But a prominent white attorney with whom I talked said: “You just can’t say that the Negroes are contented when they are willing to let their children go to jail.”

And a white woman at whose car a rock had been thrown as she drove near the motel after the bombing expressed surprise: “I didn’t know niggers were like that. I thought they just stood back.”

Birmingham just now is in a state of shock, and one element in that shock is the sudden realization that Negroes are willing to fight for their rights.

The use of large numbers of children and youth in last week’s demonstrations is cited by the Rev. Will D. Campbell, one of the most perceptive Protestant observers of the racial struggle, as a decisive factor in bringing the accord reached by Negro leaders and white businessmen. Not only did the children fill up the jails; they presented a grave problem for law enforcement officials, who were aware of the explosive reac-tion that would follow news that fire hoses and dogs had been turned loose on defenseless children. But was this strategy ethical?

In our Saturday interview Dr. King emphasized that the children and young people took part on their own volition, and that they had been trained in nonviolence and discipline. He further justified the step by contending that the experience would have educational value for children and youth “who have the right to responsible protest against a system which is as harmful to them as to their parents.”

A headline in Monday’s Birmingham News read: “City Pastors Deplore Racial Violence . . . Urge Peace.” That sums up the position of most local pastors; they have indeed spoken out—for maintenance of the status quo and a return to “peace.” Almost uniformly they have failed to conceive of their ministry as one which calls for proclamation of racial equality under both human and divine imperatives. Significantly, not one of the ministers quoted in the Monday newspaper story mentioned the question of racial justice.

There is a small nucleus of white persons in Birmingham, many of them related to the Alabama council on human relations, from which a different voice has been heard. But that voice has been largely unreflected in the local news media and so far as the people responsible for it know, it has not been reported in the national press. On April 14 nine Birmingham pastors—five white and four Negro—issued a public statement:

“We, an interracial group of Christian ministers speaking as individual citizens, wish to express our concern over . . . the ongoing problems in race relations in our city. . . . We would reaffirm the constitutional right of every American citizen to demonstrate peaceably for what he believes to be his just rights. We would further affirm the rightness of the aims of all who seek equal employment opportunities and equal access to all public facilities regardless of color or creed. These aims we believe to be rooted .. . in the historic Christian teaching of the oneness of humanity in Christ.”

The statement concluded with a call to elected officials and “other persons of influence” to open communications with “responsible Negro leaders” and urged “all citizens to speak and act for justice honestly and without fear in their various spheres of activity.” The ministers who signed: Paul E. Cosby, Joseph W. Ellwanger, Robert Brank Fulton, Harold D. Long, Louis L. Mitchell, Er-vin R. Oermann, J. E. Robinson, G. L. Terrell and H. C. Terrell.

Of different nature was the refusal of the executive committee of the city ministerial association to endorse the terms of the four-point agreement drawn up by the Negro leaders and the white businessmen. They had been asked, along with other civic groups, to do so.

At this writing the most pressing question in the complex situation is whether the state supreme court will decide in favor of the city government headed by incumbent Mayor Hanes or that headed by more moderate Mayor-Elect Boutwell. If the decision goes to Hanes, the crisis will continue, probably in aggravated form.

Another major question is whether Gov. Wallace’s resentment at Pres. Kennedy’s intervention will develop into a feud such as existed between the President and the governor of Mississippi during the racial crisis at that state’s university.

Then there is the ever present possibility that violence will break out again—though the proximity of federal troops has served to ease the fears of Negroes and whites alike. Finally, there is the very real issue of whether in the end victory for the principle of nonviolence will be achieved in Birmingham.

Gains have indeed been won — at great price — by the Negro community. Its members are apparently willing to continue nonviolent resistance if the terms of the agreement are not carried out within the time limits set. As to that agreement, reliable voices in the white community indicate that the business representatives were sincere in their negotiations with the Negro leaders. It is still uncertain, however, whether the city government eventually seated will cooperate in implementation of the steps agreed on.

Of one thing there is little doubt. Dr. King is utterly correct in his belief that the segregationist is standing on the beach of history trying to hold back the wave of the future. The more determinedly the waves are held back now, the more resounding will be the crash when they finally over-sweep the sand castle which is the illusion of white supremacy.


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Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X — An Apt Reflection from James Cone

Malcolm and Martin: Still Teachers of Resistance

The most common misperception about Martin King is that he was nonviolent in the sense of being passive. That is incorrect and he would have rejected it absolutely. In fact, Martin King would say that if nonviolence means being passive, he would rather advocate violence. Nonviolence for him meant direct action, not passivity in the face of violence, so the world would understand how brutal the system is upon those who are poor and weak.

The most common misunderstanding of Malcolm X is that he advocated violence. Malcolm did not advocate violence but rather self-defense. He did not believe that oppressed people could gain their dignity as human beings by being passive in the face of violence.


My hope for the future is to see people from all over the world learning from each other how to resist cultural domination, economic and environmental exploitation, how to resist all forms of human injustice. I would like to see people learn how to resist by getting resources from as many places as possible. I think what is most needed is for the people of the world who are resisting exploitation to learn from each other and pool their resources so that they can become a more effective force of resistance.

James Cone

Bill Moyers talks with James Cone

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Stephen C. Rose Home Most Popular Pages

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Remembering Reinhold Niebuhr

In his excellent 1905 New York Times piece “Forgetting Reinhold Niebuhr”, the late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. there is the following salient quote from Niebuhr’s “Irony of American History”.

“If we should perish, the ruthlessness of the foe would be only the secondary cause of the disaster. The primary cause would be that the strength of a giant nation was directed by eyes too blind to see all the hazards of the struggle; and the blindness would be induced not by some accident of nature or history but by hatred and vainglory.”

Prescient, when you consider it was written in 1952.

Schlesinger’s article also shows how Reinhold Niebuhr championed a relativism regarding earthly things. Niebuhr said:

“There is no greater human presumption than to read the mind of the Almighty, and no more dangerous individual than the one who has convinced himself that he is executing the Almighty’s will.”

Schlesinger died in 2007.

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