April 27, 1872
On Sunday, April 6th, as the shades of evening were gathering, our former husband and later friend and brother, Canning H. Woodhull, escaped, after a week’s painful struggle, from his confinement in a material form, to the freedom of Spirit Life. This transition, though somewhat sudden, was not wholly unanticipated, either by him or us. Certain unhappy habits of life, with peculiarities of constitution, placed a not indefinite tenure upon the extension of his physical life. Some ten years ago he remarked, "I cannot expect to live longer than till 1875." This prophecy was shortened by only three years, expiring in 1872 instead.
There are various circumstances connected with his life, and ours, some of which, having been snatched from us by the public, sometimes in an unmerciful manner, and at others by duplicity and treachery have placed us in an unfavorable light in the judgment of those who have had no means of justifying their opinions by personal acquaintance. To such, we now have no recriminations to offer, nor any unkind words to say. We leave them all to their consciences and their God, simply remarking that he has taken a departure, called hence by the uncontrollable powers of nature, which they would have had us hasten by leaving him, at the expense of our own sense of right, to abandon himself to his unfortunate habits.
It will scarcely be maintained by any, that all people are ushered into physical being, equally endowed with the germs of greatness and goodness, or their opposites. In other words, people are born to be what they are. There are those who are possessed of peculiarities, which they can never overcome. Even confirmed habits either for good or for ill are not always merely acquired; but usually grow out of inherent tendencies. Some people are constitutionally drunkards; while others, though as fully accustomed to drink, never become drunkards. In either case, there is neither merit or dismerit, since both are alike the result of circumstances and causes beyond individual control; and the former is only to be remedied by a better understanding of the laws of life and generation and the application in general experience.
It is in this sense that we regard the life of the deceased who has just left us. Our acquaintance with him began while yet we were quite young and very unpleasantly situated. Eleven years of unremitting, wifely devotion, tried by every possible species of worldly temptation, and testified to by him upon every occasion, terminated a condition which became unendurable. When he found us inexorable in the determination to separate from him, he made no objection. He permitted us to depart in peace, and never from that day did he either upbraid or complain of us; but on the contrary often wondered that we had not left him before. And we knew that he, though he felt the change severely, was just enough to rejoice in knowing that the changed conditions opened a wider field of usefulness and happiness to us, and in all our movements none were more gratified at our success, or more regretful for our seeming defeats than he. But with the cessation of our marital relation there were others that could not be so easily sundered as this had been. We had our children; for whom he had as warm a love as his nature could know. It was not in our heart to banish him entirely from them. Besides we owed him personally a duty, higher than that which any law can formulate or enforce. It was impossible for us to be indifferent to the needs and necessities of him to whom we had given so many years of our life, and though the world demanded that we should abandon him to all the exigencies of his unfortunate weakness, we thank Heaven that we had the courage to brave its judgments and to perform that which was no more our duty than it was our pleasure to perform He has always had a home with us whenever he has desired to occupy it.
We must confess, however, that this condition was one which, for a long time, we shrank from letting the public know, and it became the rod in the hands of unscrupulous persons, held in terror over our heads to compel us to do their bidding, and most cruelly and unrelentlessly did they make use of it. At length patience and forbearance ceased to be a virtue with us. The sequence has been heralded world-wide and used against us in every possible shape, until, in the minds of those who have had no means of correcting their judgment, we are held as little better than veritable demons. We trust the vindictiveness of the authors of all this, now that the stumbling-block is removed from their way, will cease, and the desperate energy they have devoted to effect our condemnation will be transferred to a nobler purpose.
But they found a fitting close to their career of insatiable vengeance, in endeavoring to convey to the public the impression that he whom we had sheltered and protected in defiance of public opinion, during his life had been foully dealt with by us, in h8is leaving of it. This cruelty was almost more than we could philosophically accept. It seemed to us that with death, such bitterness ought to have ceased. It did not however; but care was taken that the alleged suspicious circumstances of his decease should be telegraphed all over the world, so that in the next morning’s papers, it would be intimated that "one of Mrs. Woodhull’s husbands: had died suddenly, and the coroner was investigating the matter. The refutation of this infamous insinuation will never reach one half the people, who with avidity drank down the first news with a "didn’t I tell you so."
Even some of the city editors had the malignity and maliciousness to state in the columns of their papers what the telegraph had conveyed to all the world beside. There is not an editor in this city; there ought not to be one in the country, who does not know the circumstances regarding Dr. Woodhull’s presence in our house. But notwithstanding this, there were some who could fall so far from their manhood as to resort to deliberate and malicious falsification for the sole purpose of embittering the public mind. We trust that all such will be satisfied with the part they played and feel no compunctions of conscience when they shall meet us hereafter.
It must not be inferred, however, that there were no good traits of character represented by the deceased. In spite of all his unfortunate habits, he was one of the most skillful physicians we ever knew. His presence in our family was a source of great satisfaction in this regard. He was ever ready at a moment’s notice, day or night, to attend to the ailments of any who required his services and no clearer nor better testimony of the deep regard, aye love, he had for our present husband, could be had than the care bestowed upon him during several violent attacks of sickness, and no better assurance of thorough trust and confidence on his part than that he would permit no other physician to prescribe for him. These two people were not rivals. They were brothers; and in spite of all the attempts made to make them enemies, they remained friends to the last, he who is still with us, watching over the death-bed of him who has gone, with all the sleepless anxiety that danger imparts to those who love. But Dr. Woodhull was one who desired no responsibility, not even of his children; he wanted a place of rest, and so far as we could, we relieved him from the first and ministered to the last.
We would not say we do not care for the good opinion of the world. But we must be permitted to first desire the good opinion of ourselves, and to endeavor to secure it. If that gain, that of the world, none can appreciate it more than we do. If in securing our own approval we gain the condemnation of the world, we are consoled by the knowledge that our conscience which God gave us for a monitor does not also condemn us.
We only regret that we awoke to this realization so late as we did. We know we previously failed in many duties to the departed, because we feared to do right. But they were deeds of omission instead of commission, for which we know he will, from his spirit home, regard us leniently and forgivingly. Of this we fell assured, since the last act performed for him by his mortal body was to smile upon us as if in perfect satisfaction and thankfulness that he was permitted to endure the struggles of physical death and spiritual birth in the presence of his only remaining friends on earth.
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