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  • Oct. 14, 1871


    DEAR WOODHULL AND CLAFLIN: Among the current items of this week’s Ledger, I find the following: "A man in West Albany, Vt. lately whipped one of his boys till the flesh was lacerated from the small of the child’s back to his knees. He was complained of by a neighbor for cruelty to the boy, and the Justice of the Peace before who he was brought fined him two dollars. The father paid the money, remarking that he thought it was cheap. The indignant neighbors thought so too."

    Cheap! Yes, it was indeed cheep, pecuniarily speaking, to that brutal fiendish father, but how dear to the poor boy, God and the angels only can know. Cheap for the father, but how dear must it have been for that mother, who doubtless, through fear, was forced to silence, while her darling boy was enduring such inhuman treatment. My soul is filled with deepest sympathy for her and for the child, and I can but ask, When will parents learn to train and govern their children by kindness and love, and not by harsh treatment and fear? When will they learn to spare the rod , and save the child?

    Again: Is this man, or, rather, this fiend in human shape, qualified to be a father, or a husband? . . .

    The minds of many great and noble men and women have been, and are yet, greatly exercised about cruelty to animals. Papers have been published, many able articles have been written and eloquent lectures given upon that subject, but what has been said about cruelty to children? What paper has been published vindicating the rights and privileges of the little ones of our land? Are they not of as much importance as the beasts of the field? Does the above extract not show that man may abuse his power in regard to his child, to a certain degree, if not to the extent that he does toward his animals? . . .

    No matter how much deformed and diseased a man may become a father. So a woman may be diseased and deformed—as nearly all fashionable women are—and yet she may become a mother. A man may chew tobacco, get drunk, swear and debauch to the fullest extend, and still he feels himself at perfect liberty to become a father, and to transmit and entail upon his child all the above-named evils; and because it commits a fault he has a right and the power to whip it till its flesh is all mangled and lacerated, as per extract. This supposed right is sometimes carried to the extent of maiming, or even of taking the child’s life, as in the case of the minister who, a few years ago, whipped his child till it died because it would not pray. . . .


    [Correspondence of the Troy Whig.]

    I went yesterday to see Mrs. Woodhull-prompted, I confess, by the most vulgar curiosity, just as I might walk a block to see Jim Fisk, Beelzebub, or a two-headed monstrosity. I had never been more violently prejudiced against any person, man or woman. It was not along that I considered her impure in character. Private immorality may be viewed with pity, sometimes with contempt. But accepting, with Stuart Mill and Beecher, the principle of Woman’s Rights, I loathed Mrs. Woodhull for disgracing a good cause for brazenly hitching this cause, as I supposed, to the business card of a tramping broker. A thousand things in the general press, and some things in that chaotic sheet, WOODHULL & CLAFLIN’S WEEKLY, seemed to justify this conviction. On reaching the lyceum hall of the Spiritualists, I found that Mrs. Woodhull had just finished her remarks to the Convention, and had retired with some friends to an ante-room. Seeing an editorial acquaintance, I asked him to stroll with me into the room and point her out. I refused an introduction, thinking at first that, in Mrs. Woodhull’s case, it would answer to forget the manners of a gentleman, and simply stare at her. But, once in the room, this attitude became ridiculous, and so I was presented to her.

    Doubtless no person in America has lately been so misjudged as this young woman. Everybody has written harshly of her. I have done so with the rest. But as Tilton heads his biography of Mrs. Woodhull, "He that uttereth a slander is a fool." I had not even taken the trouble to read Mr. Tilton’s article, until after I saw his heroine. But I now think that in telling the sad story of her life, he has done the American people a noble service.

    Mrs. Woodhull is certainly not what is called a "well balanced mind." To use the common word—she is "crazy"—a little so, but in the same sense in which Joan of Arc and Swedenborg were "out of their heads." But she is not coarse, not vain, not selfish; she is not even self-conscious in the meaning of ordinary egotism. She has just the reverse of all these qualities. She is simply an enthusiast—the most rapt idealist I have ever met. In conversation she never seems to think of herself, and scarcely of her listener; she is entirely lost, absorbed heart and soul, in the ideas she advocates. Her very financial schemes seem a crusade against Wall Street, rather than endeavors to prosper by its vicious gambling.

    Mr. Tilton’s description of her person is accurate. Her face is not sensuously attractive, but its intellectual beauty is much more than remarkable. I know of no other public character with such a transparent expression of impassioned thought. Even Anna Dickinson, whose moral earnestness is almost the whole secret of her power, has an inexpressive face compared with this sibyl of politics and Spiritualism.

    I should hesitate a long time before joining the Victoria League." The country can probably do well without Mrs. Woodhull for President. She would be scarcely superior in that position to Horace Greeley himself. But that she believes implicitly in her destiny, feels that she was born for a great work, is evident at the glance of an eye.

    Tilton thinks she occasionally writes English—whether by aid of her spirit, "Demosthenes," or otherwise—"not unworthy of Macaulay."

    A passage is given for example, eloquent enough, but rather "spritual" in vocabulary, and treating, among other things, of "consonant harmony." Such figures of speech I don’t remember to have seen in Macaulay, and I doubt that "Demosthenes" ever used to employ them in his more careful Greek orations. No, Mrs. Woodhull is not nicely cultivated in her diction, and Demosthenes loses elegance when she speaks English for him. She is such an intense nature, however, that I presume she sees visions—as many angels as Saint John, perhaps, as many devils as Luther. Had she been carefully trained from childhood, I must think she would have been a wonderful scholar, poet and thinker. As it is, she is an abnormal growth of democratic institutions—thoroughly sincere, partly insane and fitted to exaggerate great truths, like self-denying love, into theoretical free love and some practical mischief.

    But now that Mr. Tilton has shown her personal character to be as pure as that of any woman married after divorce; now that the story of her two husbands has been exploded, in all but the most generous pity and charity for the outcast Woodhull, American editors should heal the wound they have caused by their ignorant slanders. If the press of this nation has not settled into a hopeless oligarchy of gossips, a "coward’s castle" filled with blackguards, it will make the atonement that common decency demands. E.H.G.C.




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    Webmaster's Note: Except for some headings, these are actual extracts from the Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly. Some spelling and punctuation has been changed. If an article was too long, some sentences were removed. Sentences or paragraphs that have been removed are indicated with the ellipsis (....)