Loyalty and Religion. A Discourse for the Times

St. Louis: George Knapp, 1861. Wraps. Complete with 12 pages including the cover. (See Sabin 2217.) In nice shape with some light marginal toning. Very good. Item #009123

William Greenleaf Eliot was born in Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard Divinity School in 1834, he moved to St. Louis where he founded the first Unitarian church west of the Mississippi, the Church of the Messiah (now the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis). Eliot was active in public life and instrumental in founding many civic institutions including the St. Louis Public Schools and the St. Louis Art Museum. A strong proponent of higher education, he co-founded Washington University in 1853, which was initially named Eliot Seminary in his honor, and he served as its chancellor from 1870-1887. He was the grandfather of the modernist poet, T. S. Eliot.

Elliot preached this sermon on August 18, 1862 shortly after eleven Southern states had seceded and while Missouri teetered between joining the Confederacy or remaining in the Union.

Although Eliot was a moderate abolitionist and Union supporter, he rarely, if ever, publically announced his political opinions. Rather, he preached generally about freedom, religion, and loyalty, stressing community unity and encouraging his parishioners to refrain from quarreling an instead search for things upon which they had in common. He believed that the ever-increasing extreme political polarization over slavery was unhealthy for the community, prevented any possibility of reaching a peaceful solution, and could only spell disaster for the nation.

In this sermon, Eliot makes clear that he is a Unionist and argues that citizens have a religious and patriotic duty to their nation that are one and the same. Although, distressed by secession, his optimism shines through:

“But the time will come when the community of interest will again be acknowledged, and we shall be yet again ONE NATION . . . and this great experiment of Republican Institutions now on trial will yet succeed.” Eliot’s efforts along with those of Nathaniel Lyon and Francis P. Blair, tipped public sentiment in favor of the Union and the Missouri Ordinance of Secession proposed by Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson, a southern sympathizer, was never passed by a legally assembled quorum of state legislators.

See Holt’s William Greenleaf Eliot: Conservative Radical for more information

An important and rather scarce piece of Missouri’s Civil War history. As of 2018, no other examples are for sale in the trade and no auction records are found at ABPC or the Rare Book Hub. OCLC shows that the pamphlet is only held by nine libraries.

Price: $200.00