Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
Sounding the Timbrel
By Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887)
 
[Sermon in the African Church, Charleston, S. C., 16 April, 1865.—Sermons. 1868.]

I REMEMBER that I am speaking where I never expected to preach—at least in my youth. I did not know but I should preach here when I was a very old man—so old that nobody would be afraid of me; but God has permitted me to stand here while I am yet strong. And He is my witness that my joy is not merely the joy of a man who exults over an enemy subdued. I joy in the Holy Ghost. I joy in the wiping out of the disgraceful fact that any worthy citizen of the United States of America—the country that boasts of larger liberty than any other nation on earth—should not be permitted to go where he chose in his own land. There never has been a period in my lifetime when I could go south of Mason and Dixon’s line except at the risk of my life. I have been excluded from half the States of this Union, not because I was convicted of any crime, but merely because I believed in the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence. But things are changed; and I am here in Charleston! And my feeling toward those that have withheld from me privileges which belong to every man under a free government is not, “Ah! now you are down, and we have got our feet on your neck.” I am sorry for them, as I am for all wrong-doers. I would, so far as is consistent with justice, bind up their wounded hearts and help them. No, I do not rejoice in their overthrow. In this is my joy: that Charleston is free, and that there is not a man in the United States, unconvicted of crime, who may not walk through her streets in safety. My joy is in this: that through Georgia, and Alabama, and the Carolinas—through every State in all this land where float the Stars and Stripes, any American, not guilty of misdemeanors, can walk freely and safely. There is now nothing that divides us, and nothing that threatens us. That is the ground of my rejoicing, and in view of that I can never rejoice enough. I never can pay God for the benefits that I have received. But my personal good is as nothing compared with the good of my country, which is the dearest land on earth. And now she has gone through a crisis which, let us hope, will end in perfect health. She has passed the peril of her youth, and is entering upon a sound manhood, and is to be a power on the globe. For this I thank God, and bless his name, and rejoice.
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