Henry Ward Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, June 24, 1813. He was the son of the illustrious Dr. Lyman Beecher, and one of a family of thirteen children, several of whom have become world-renowned on account of abilities, literary and oratorical.
His sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and his brother Edward, the author of “Conflict of Ages” are immortal on the roll of “mighty wielders of the pen for God and man.”
In 1834 young Beecher graduated from Amherst with a poor grade, and pursued theological studies in Lane Seminary, at Cincinnati, then in charge of his father.
In 1887 he accepted a call to become pastor of a church in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and from there he was soon called to Indianapolis, whence, after serving nearly eight years, he went to Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, where his fame became world-wide as a bold and fearless advocate of truth in every line, in the pulpit, through the press, or on the platform.
In the campaign of 1856, Hr. Beecher openly advocated the Republican party, and addressed many public political gatherings. In the long, and trying period of the war, he championed the Union cause at home and abroad.
Probably his most wonderful oratorical achievements were in England, when in 1863, he visited that country on a vacation, but was urged to address meetings in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Liverpool, defending the Union cause in an exposition of the principles which underlay the civil war.
As a preacher, Dr. Beecher was a prince. As one who sat under his ministry said: “Every word tells. His logic is dear. The unexpected descent which he makes upon errors of thought and conduct, frequently excites laughter, yet gravity sits upon him with a native grace.
But his imagination is so rich and strong, his flow of language is so great, and the heart that beats like a great hammer in his breast, is such a volcanic hearty so impetuous, so prone to overflow, that he does sometimes lose the reins of prudence.
The temperament which God gave a man must be considered in judging him; and, considering that of Mr. Beecher, also the multitude of things that he has said, and is forever saying, it is a proof that he possesses a remarkable share of discretion that he has said so few imprudent things as he has said.”
Henry Ward Beecher was the most out-and-out American preacher our times have produced. His congregation, the Plymouth Church, was not only a sincerely religious organization, but a deeply patriotic one as well. It will go down in history as such. In the pulpit of that church national battles were fought, and national victories won.
The preacher’s life and character have become so well-known, and, since his death, March 18, 1887, so many rich eulogies have been pronounced upon him that his is a name which needs no encomium. The world knows him. The world reveres his name.