The Mote and Beam.

New England, of the bright, green hills;
New England, of the glittering frost,
The granite crags, the bounding rills,
And all the winter’s dazzling host;
New England, proud of storied names
Won ‘midst the battle’s thundering flames,
And up whose bays and on whose shores
Commerce her gay abundance pours,
Pause—it is well to ask if thou
Hast not a stain on hand or brow?
Thy name rings on through every clime,
Thy sails are spread to every breeze,
Thy masts are white with Arctic rime,
They bend before the Tropic seas;
Thine was the dower in other days
Of patriot’s voice and hero’s lays,
And many a lion-heart was found
In thee; thy vales were hold ground;
And from thy many churches rose,
Through mornings’ blaze or evening’s close,
A grateful incense unto Him
Before whose face the sun is dim;
And high-born Honor walked with thee,
And Faith sad sweet-eyed Charity;
But the eternal winds of Change,
That o’er creation’s bosom range,
Have blown on thee, and thou art not
The same in beauty, heart or thought!
Thy laurels now are worn by fools,
Or brawling faction’s mindless tools;
Thy churches, how like empty cells!
Or crammed with rogues and infidels—
Where spiders starve, or Mormons sprawl,
And Garrisons and Cheevers bawl;
Another race now spread thy fame—
Race skilled to play the double game
Of sycophant, or warrior bold,
With lucre bought, for lucre sold.
Yea, tell me, who are they that stand
The foremost in thy councils now?
The men who wear the hateful brand
Of Cain stamped on the brain or brow!
Thou, too, hast gold and copper slaves,
More than thy “green hills” are thy knaves!
With loathing frown and rancorous mouth
You curse your neighbors of the South;
Cease, cease that Puritanic growl,
Put off that hypocritic scowl!
For you the tallow rice-field blooms,
The cotton waves its downy plumes;
For you the luscious cane-juice flows
And negroes wipe their dripping brows;
Forego that spiteful, maniac glare,
Yea, bid your saintly “clergy” tell—
Tell if the thief and they who share
Sink not unto the same red hell;
Slaves till the soil—slaves press the cane,
And pull the snow-white cotton ball;
With iron fist you grasp the gain—
Too pure, you think to catch a stain—
And in that blood-bought luxury roll,
If it be such; but for your gold,
And England’s—motherland of slaves,
Few human heads to-day were sold;
Your ships first brought them o’er the waves,
You first that gloomy traffic planned,
The negro from his native land
Was torn by your piratic hand;
Your merchants love the favouring gales
Which blow to them the Southern bales;
For them no air has such a balm,
Our sound so like a Sabbath psalm,
As that which, with the snowy down,
Tobacco clusters darkly brown,
And sugar-casks their wharves invade,
Though stained with that “Accursed trade;”
They give their wealth and drop a curse
On those who fill their greedy purse,
With gold wrung from the negro’s bands,
But has it ever burnt their hands?
Which think you has the deadlier grip’
Your avarice or the Southern tether?
Which forms the bloodier, fiercer whip,
A lash of gold or braided leather?
They sow the seed, you seize the grain,
They scatter and you reap again;
The hands that share the spoil with those
Which deal the gory murderous blows
Alike shall feel the avenger’s rod,
The curse of man, the fires of God!
New England clergy, breathe a prayer
For Carolina’s bondmen dark,
And one for those whose hands prepare,
By stealth, the swift piratic bark,
From Boston and New London pier
Across the Eastern wave to steer.
And waft its swarthy cargo o’er
From Congo to the Cuban shore.
Some spiteful chronicles have said
Your deacons drive that dubious trade—
Yea, pray for each, and thankful be,
Their sweat will swell your salary;
But cease that Puritanic growl,
Put of that hypocritic scowl,
That sanctimonious vail may blow
Aside; that smile may one day show
The dragon scales that gleam below!

Title:The Mote and Beam.

Author:Rev. T. Hempstead.

Publication:The Crisis

Published in:

Date:July 9th 1862

Keywords:politics, slavery, war


Printed in The Crisis newspaper, this poem appeared six months prior to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863. The poet, Rev. T Hempstead, chastises the Union’s commercial complicity in the evils of slavery, and exposes their sanctimonious hypocrisy. Despite their ‘puritanic growl’, the Northern states, and England, played an active part in upholding the institution of slavery through their willingness to trade and share in its profits. Though published in the Union state of Ohio, The Crisis was edited by Samuel Medary, a prominent Peace Democrat. The paper ran a weekly print between 1861 to 1864, and Medary used it as a platform to criticise the Lincoln administration. Notably, as a Peace Democrat, the editor believed that the Federal Government was in no position to dictate abolitionism to Southern States, as it was a matter to be resolved locally; abolition was considered to be more a political than a moral issue.* This poem, then, can be viewed within this editorial context. Although taking a decidedly moral stance against slavery, the poet lambasts the puritanical hypocrisy of New England the Northern states, placing them in a position of moral equivalence with the Confederacy: ‘Which think you has the deadlier grip’ | Your avarice or the Southern tether?’ JC

Samuel Medary and the Crisis: Testing the Limits of Press Freedom. By Reed W. Smith. (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1995), p.9.