Albert, Octavia V. Rogers
|CHAPTER XIX. -- THE COLORED DELEGATES.|
The General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1888--Negro delegates--Reception tendered them by Mrs. General Grant--Presentation of a Bible to Mrs. Grant--Dr. Minor's great presentation address.
THE following year, during the month of May, I visited the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which was then in session in the city of New York. It was the most representative body I had ever met in my life. There were representatives there from every State and Territory in the united States, from all parts of North and South America, and from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the isles of the sea.
In that assembly were also fifty-three colored delegates, sandwiched promiscuously everywhere like so much black pepper in a vessel of salt. They took part in all the deliberations of the Conference, and were received everywhere with the utmost cordiality. Some of them acted as secretaries of the general body;
Mrs. General U.S. Grant prepared and extended a grand reception, in her palatial mansion, to the colored delegates in the Conference. Among her invited guests, besides the delegates and such of their families and friends as accompanied them, were General John Eaton, ex-United States Commissioner of Education; United States Senator Leland Stanford, the millionaire senator from California, and wife; Bishop and Mrs. John F. Hurst, Bishop and Mrs. John P. Newman, and other distinguished guests. Then there were also present her son, Colonel Fred. D. Grant, now united States Minister to Austria, and wife, and several of her grandchildren. The ladies here mentioned received with the Grand family. The delegates manifested their appreciation
But who do you suppose he was? Why, bless you! it proved to be no other than the Rev. Dr. Daniel Minor, the son of Uncle Jacob Turner, one of Uncle Cephas's fellow-servants, who was willed free by his master, but who was sold in Tennessee at the same time that Uncle Cephas was sold. Dr. Minor was sold from his father when he was only six years old; so he was raised by his master, who gave him the name of Dan Minor. But I tell you, his speech was a real masterpiece of polished eloquence, and was delivered with such marked effect as to charm, subdue, and bring forth tears from many that stood and heard it. I know you would have been glad to have been there and to have heard it; so I shall try to repeat it for you. Said he:
"Mrs. General Grant, the colored delegates to the General Conference of the Methodist
"During the long, weary months of his terrible affliction many sympathizing hearts with tearful eyes watched the daily bulletins giving account of his wonderful struggles between life and death. The nations had their fingers on his pulse. They counted his breathing, watched his temperature, dwelt upon every change in his diet, appetite, strength, and treatment. When the summons came, and he that had never lost a battlement down beneath the conquering hand of death, leaving your heart and home in desolation, a cry of lamentation went up throughout the land. Messages of sympathy and condolence poured in upon you from the palaces of the rich and the hovels of the poor, from every State in this country and from many of the crowned heads of other lands; but we can assure you that no hearts were more deeply wounded, no eyes wept more bitterly, and no mourners were more genuine than those of the people we represent. They, of all the people, next to yourself and immediate family, sustained the greatest loss and experienced the greatest pain.
"Our only comfort came from the knowledge that, through the blessed Gospel which we preach, he had conquered death, and from the knowledge that he had been spared to complete his great book which would make his dear family comfortable. With no mass of wealth at our command, we have not been able to embody our devotion to him in marble or in brass; but, purer and more precious and enduring than the purest marble or the costliest brass, he has, by his own deeds, established in our heart of hearts a throne of power which all the flames and floods of all the succeeding ages can never destroy or impair.
"And now, as a token of our love and eternal devotion to his sacred memory, and of our alliance to his family, we beg you to accept this token, this Holy Book, which General Grant called the sheet-anchor of our liberties; this Holy Book, which teaches us our relation to God as our Father, man as our brother, and which fits us for holy living and prepares us for happy dying. Accept it as the pledge of our devotion to his memory, to yourself, and to all your dear ones".
Now, wasn't that a grand speech? And
Bishop Newman then responded, in behalf of the family, in a very excellent address, which all greatly enjoyed. The delegates and other invited guests were then ushered into the capacious and brilliantly lighted dining-room, where all the choicest delicacies of the season were served them by the distinguished ladies that assisted Mrs. Grant in the offices of the occasion. The many valuable and rare treasures and mementoes presented to the general by princes and potentates of foreign lands were then shown the visitors. An hour or more was spent in the most pleasant recital of reminiscences of the general's attitude toward the colored people, during and since the war, by General Eaton, Bishop Newman, and others; and the delightful and memorable affair passed into history. I need not tell you that I enjoyed the occasion. Who would not?