The Liberator
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Boston: 15 August 1862



  "They laid hold on one Simon, a Cyrenian, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus."—LUKE xxiii. 26.

  It has been ingeniously remarked by a certain commentator, that all the three great portions of the then known world had a representative hand in the death of Christ.

  Asia accused and delivered him, in the person of the Jews; Europe judged and sentenced him, in the person of the Roman governor; and Africa came after him bearing his cross, in the person of Simon, the Cyrenian.

  There is something significant in the very form of the narrative. "And they laid hold on one Simon, a Cyrenian, and on him they laid the cross." As if one should say, Here is a fellow without rights, without business—a stray chattel, to be caught and impressed into any service among his betters that may happen to want him. He is good enough to bear the cross—that will just do for him. And so on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.

  And so ever since, as ages rolled on, Africa has been following after, wearily carrying that cross.

  We talked once with a slave woman—a woman of noble figure and proportions, and of a soul grand and sweet as ever lived in a womanly frame.

  She had in girlhood formed the resolution of celibacy, that she might not be a mother of slaves. Her master had forced her to marry, that she might bring forth children for him to sell. And she had borne eighteen boys and girls, and had seen them sold, one after another.

  "Ah, ma'am," she said, "I have borne this heavy cross many, many years." But there was in this great soul, with a full consciousness of her wrongs, no revenge, no resentment. She bore the cross silently, in the very spirit of him who went before her.

  There came a black man to our house a few days ago, who had spent five years at hard labor in a Maryland penitentiary for the crime of having a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin in his house. He had been sentenced for ten years, but on his promise to leave the State and go to Canada, was magnanimously pardoned out. Everybody cheated him of the little property he had. A man for whom he had cut sixty cords of wood, paid him two dollars for the whole job—another found a pretext to seize on his little house; and so he left Maryland without any acquisition, except an infirmity of the limbs, which he had caught from prison labor. All this was his portion of the cross; and he took it meekly, without comment, only asking that as they did not allow him to finish reading the book, we would give him a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin—which we did.

  Who can speak the multitude, the variety, of woes and agonies which have gone to make up that cross? God is reminding us now, by our own experiences, what some of these woes may be like. Thousands of homes now have eyes that fail in looking for sons that shall return no more. Thousands of wasted, dismantled houses—thousands of untilled and desert farms—thousands of riven and shattered homesteads—make us a little aware in our own hearts what the dark man has been suffering for ages.

  For that silent Sufferer who walked before the Cyrenian is one who never forgets—whose day of vengeance is the year of his redeemed.

  He was the God, the King, the Sacrifice, both of the Jewish priests, the Roman governor, and the despised African; and the time is coming when they that have suffered, must also reign with him.

  Silently he sits above, and calmly looks down on the turbulent crowd of senators, politicians, generals, soldiers—all surging to and fro in their blind and passionate endeavors, and every one of them in turn repudiating their black brother.

  "I do not care for the negro—but I care for the whites," is now the very advance cry of those who take the side of Simon, the Cyrenian. "At least, let him have the privilege of digging our trenches where white men cannot work."

  "Ah, now, you have philanthropic views toward him," shout the opposite party. "Look there, now, these men actually are getting philanthropic."

  "Not a bit of it," is the rejoinder; "only twenty thousand white men died in the trenches before Richmond, and I had rather it had been twenty thousand niggers—that's all."

  But high above all sits the King who wore the crown of thorns. Let us tremble at the vision of him which the Apocalypse opens: "And I saw the heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written that no man knew but himself. And he was clothed with a vesture of dipped in blood: and his name is called the Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."

  That awful wine-press of the wrath of Almighty God: what is it? who can measure it?

  Who can measure the wrath of pure love, of sensitive tenderness—the wrath of a father or a mother heart that has seen its children crushed, scattered, wronged, cheated, torn with scourges, pining with hunger, wasted with pain, through the slow coming of ages?

  Fathers and mothers of this country! God loves the poor despised African as you loved those sons whose sufferings—sick, wounded, mangled prisoners, dying—you mourn.

  The sons of the lonely slave-mother, torn from her to die in Carolina rice-swamps, are precious in her eyes as your sons that died in the trenches before Richmond. And to that nation, despised and cast out, reviled, abhorred of all, God says, "Since thou hast been precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life."

  How long must this people wait in their hardness and impenitence with this great arrear of of crime and injustice unrighted? The time has come when the nation has A RIGHT to demand, and the President of the United States a right to decree, their freedom; and there should go up petitions from all the land that he should do it. How many plagues must come on us before we will hear the evident voice, "Let this people go, that they may serve me"?

  Must we wait for the tenth and last? Must we wait till there be not a house where there is not one dead?—New York Independent.