Spiritualists Endorse Lincoln for a Second Term

Charles M. Plumb, “The National Spiritual Convention,” The Friend of Progress (New York), November, 1864: 16-20.

The first National Convention of Spiritualists, held at Chicago in August last, had a three-fold interest and significance, consequent upon the time at which it convened, the elements of which it was composed, and the character of the proceedings.

Never in our nation’s history was there a period more appropriate for the assembling of all who have faith in the great Hereafter.  We are experiencing a season of national peril and almost universal mourning.  The land of realities to which we hasten from this vale of shadows, gathers a heavy harvest of souls translated by the fiery chariot of war, and the spiritual realms must be quickened in sympathy and affection thereby.

To meet at such a time, and simply reassert faith in immortality, and in the conscious presence of the departed, were indeed a hollow and unmeaning formality—almost a mockery—without some declaration in keeping with the character of the crisis, and with the fact that those who have passed on before are not oblivious to the interests and perils of their earthly friends.

Happily, in the deliberations of this Convention the essential action was in distinct recognition of Spiritualism as a practical power in the world.  There was no vagueness, no transcendentalism, in the resolutions, but a common-sense handling of stern realities.  However distasteful they may have been to some mere phenomenal Spiritualists, they were welcome to all rational, truth-loving philanthropists.

The Convention—How Composed.

The elements comprising an assembly of Spiritualists, gathered by the pure force of individual impulse and attraction, are necessarily exceedingly heterogeneous and diverse.

A Convention is an eddy or whirlpool in the swift current of Life’s stream, which serves to purify the waters, though it acccumulates in a confused mass all the drift and foam which have floated quietly in stray fragments upon the surface or passed unnoticed beneath.  Yet who judges of either the force of a stream or the purity of its waters by the surface accumulations at obstructions, eddies, and pools?

If a National Convention be a representation of all the diverse opinions in the nation—a collection of men and women with an idea, or the fragment of one, gathered in confused mass—then indeed this was not the first national assembly.  For surely there have before been congregated men and women with eyes open and eyes shut—(alas that the mouth as well as eyes were not oftener sealed by mediumistic conditions); sensitives wanting in self-control, and hence unfit to enter a promiscuous assembly; opinionated itinerants and garrulous quacks; artists who never before painted a picture and never ought again; doctors who can see all that afflicts their patients, and vastly more; men with a hobby and women with a mission; people cultured, but over-enthusiastic, and those uncouth and ill-informed, but not less extravagant—all bent upon presenting, if need be obtruding, their peculiar idiosyncracies, at whatever sacrifice of order, harmony, or coherence.

To unreflective observers these “side-exhibitions” completely obscured the main performance, and gave a false and unmeaning character to the proceedings.  Yet it will be observed that the peculiar work of these floating characters was to puff their own wares, spread their own fame, build up their own merits, and ventilate their own theories.  They really had no essential connection with the Convention proper, as they did not mingle in the discussion of any of the leading questions; and hence it need only be said of them, that while there may be meetings at which their attendance and participation in the proceedings would be welcome and appropriate, a delegated or mass National Convention is not the proper place for their appearance.

In justice to all concerned it should be stated that at Chicago these individual representatives, with trifling exceptions, took no part in the actual deliberations of the Convention.  In the consideration of the main questions discussed and resolutions adopted, scarce one of these surface elements presented a thought.

Some who attended protested against establishing a central authority or voice for spiritualists.  They were “non-organizationists” who carried over in spiritualism the same radical individualism which some had applied to the abolitionist movement.  Except to protest the Convention itself and its presumption to speak for spiritualists, they took little part in its deliberations, once the larger faction had decided to organize and consider resolutions.  The split in the Convention was also one between (mostly male) lecturers or writers and (mostly female) trance mediums, with the lecturers more inclined to favor organization and more inclined to argue for the political or other specific consequences of spiritualism, and the mediums more inclined to argue that faith in spiritualism had no specific consequences for the conduct of this life beyond bringing individuals inner peace, by simply adding knowledge of immortality to mere faith.

Action of the Convention.

The first, and in one sense the most important, action of the Convention, was the passage of the anti-slavery, loyal resolutions; or, as their opponents chose to name them, the “political resolves.”  The importance of their passage was largely augmented by the fact that opposition was made to them by members of the Convention.

For the thought that there might have been a National Assembly of American Spiritualists in the year 1864, however alive to spiritual agencies, sufficiently oblivious to the world of existing human relations and actual facts, to ignore the one great theme and cause of the hour, would properly excite surprise, astonishment even, but no such sorrow and regret as if the Convention, after considering the political question, had refused to take action upon it, or had given its voice an uncertain tone, and its expression a weak or compromising spirit.  It was obviously with this feeling that the majority, numbering over three hundred, insisted upon passing over the factious and despotic spirit of a portion of the minority of forty-four, a series of resolutions more decided and far-reaching than at first presentation they would have preferred to adopt.

When all, even the most conservative religious bodies, have offered distinct testimonies in behalf of the national cause, and the principles imperiled with it, what a profound sarcasm, a stinging reproof, would have been conveyed by the fact of a meeting of Spiritualists—self-styled Progressive Reformers—so rapt in contemplation of a future life as to be utterly unconscious of the fearful realities of this!

A true Spiritual Philosophy can no more ignore political questions than it can the laws of physical health.  The absurdity of a religion unmixed with politics belongs to the past, not to the conquering Republic of the Nineteenth Century.

All true Friends of Progress may rejoice in the declaration which the Convention made, that American Spiritualism means something more than table-tipping and trumpet-blowing, trance-speaking and sight-seeing—that the highest conditions it imposes are not abnormal states of beatified unconsciousness; but that its meaning and purpose are human elevation and redemption, and that its best condition is a vigorous, healthful working state, for the practical attainment of physical and spiritual freedom, purity, and growth.


The question next in importance—perhaps in its primary relations the most vital subject before the Convention—was that of National Organization.  A few persons present evidently came prepared to urge strongly and persistently the immediate adoption of some plan of organization, as the legitimate work of the Convention.  They were faithful to this idea; but while a majority of the members of the Convention were interested in Organization as a topic, it was evident, from the outset, that, as a purpose, it had not entered the hearts and minds of any considerable number.

There were carefully devised and logically elaborated schemes, which were eagerly put forward by individual minds, but the Convention was not kindled into enthusiasm by any one or all of them.  Hence, while at first the plan of immediate national organization had strong and earnest, if not numerous friends, at the close few could be found still advocating the measure as wise or practicable.

It would be difficult and unnecessary to attempt an analysis of the causes contributing to this result.  The variety and contrariety of opinions, and the outward inharmony consequent upon their free and forcible presentation and comparison, may have driven a few from the conviction that Spiritualists were prepared to organize.  With the many, however, the objections to such a step were of older growth and a more formidable character.  Most present had escaped the bondage of religious organizations, and they were slow to resume the fetters.  Sects and sectarian methods held out few attractions to those once emancipated from their thraldom.

Probably very few, if any, contemplated the adoption of a creed, or any distinctive articles of faith, beyond a simple definition of terms employed.  But with or without a test of membership, the popular conviction was against any central organization, as tending to, if not directly encouraging, speedy fossilization.  Few were willing to adopt any stereotyped form, to fence in or wall up their field of action, to confine or even define their faith, resources, and purposes.  The deep, earnest, and spontaneous feeling, was for freedom, because through this alone could any movement continue living and progressive.

All that preliminary intent, deliberation, studied plan, and combined movement, could effect, were brought to bear in behalf of some central scheme.  But in vain.  The Convention was above the dicta of cliques, beyond the direction of central powers, and superior to the designs of ambition or selfish intrigue.  By fair and open discussion and adjudication the question was settled, and once more was there a triumph of free, progressive principles, over narrow, sectarian tendencies.

The Resolution finally adopted by a very large vote, clearly expresses the sense of the Convention, and defines its action, which seems eminently wise and reasonable: Local business organizations and national association was the key-note to the rallying-cry of the large body present.  All the possible advantages claimed for a central National Organization will be secured by the local business corporations, and the hazards of centralized power be avoided.  The holding of property, bequeathed or acquired, the education of children, by Progressive Lyceums or other desirable methods, the prosecution of philanthropic purposes, by Moral Police or other agencies, can all be made more practicable by local than by central business organizations.  Such bodies will, by means of delegated Conventions, meet for consultation and fraternal interchange.  The Committee chosen by the Convention—scattered over thirteen States—represent a variety of interests and opinions, but are all, it is to be hoped, animated by the single laudable purpose of securing to this new national movement, inaugurated at the Chicago Convention, a wise, progressive, and beneficent influence upon American government, society, and theology.

General Results.

The length of this article precludes detailed mention of the other Resolutions passed, many of which were important, though none of them were discussed at length.

The marked feature of the Convention was the sterling good sense of the men and women of the West, comprising the majority of the members.  They were eager listeners, and ready to examine the claims of any new faith, theory, or principle, but too intelligent to be easily led, cajoled, or menaced.  Animated by a spirit of loyalty to truth, and self-reliant in their independence, they can be neither misled or betrayed by the most skillful generalship of ambitious leaders.  As the hope of the Republic rests rather with the people than the politicians, so clearly the body of American Spiritualists are above the majority of those who claim leadership over them.

One grand result of this Convention was to illustrate and confirm this independence and stability of the masses.  Those who covet the position of leaders—who make nice calculations upon ends to be attained—would do well to heed this lesson.

Spiritualism per se is barren of precious fruit, save as it leads to popular education and advancement in practical directions.  The benefits of religious organizations are seen under Popish rule; the advantages of ecclesiastical supervision—in all Protestant denominations.  The benefits of universal education—physical, mental, and spiritual—are to accrue in the coming era, when our government will be a true democracy and our religion free and enlightened individual opinion.

C. M. P.
Resolutions passed at the National Spiritual Convention.

State of the Country.

Whereas, In a crisis so distressing and so perilous in relation to our beloved country, the government has the right to expect and receive the sympathetic expression of cordial support of every popular body, whether religious, literary, commercial, or political, therefore

Resolved, That this Convention readily improves the present occasion to declare, as indicative of the position it holds and the spirit by which it is animated,

1. That the existing rebellion against the government, having avowedly for its object—first, the denial of the democratic theory of the right of the people to decide who shall administer their public affairs, and consequently, the substitution of the oligarchic rule; and secondly, the enslavement of millions of the human family and their posterity, herding them with the beasts that perish, and trafficking in their bodies and souls, is to be abhorred and denounced by every patriot, Christian, and friend of justice and humanity, and resisted and crushed by all legitimate and rightful instrumentalities—no matter how long the struggle, how great the cost, or how fearful the sacrifice.

2. That no compromise is to be offered or accepted, and no terms of peace agreed upon, which leaves in existence the oligarchic or slaveholding element in any part of the land; for otherwise it will be a virtual triumph of despotism over freedom, wrong over right, and of treason over loyalty, to be followed in due season by another convulsion still more bloody and exterminating.

3. That as it was against the election of Abraham Lincoln, in whose veins runs the blood of the common people, that the slaveholding aristocracy of the South rose in arms, so the re-election of Abraham Lincoln at the approaching presidential struggle will be a special vindication of the right of popular suffrage, and a signal triumph of the forces of Liberty over the hosts of tyranny, in which the oppressed of all nations are deeply interested.

4. That whatever may have been the mistakes or errors of President Lincoln in conducting the war, whether through excess of caution or slowness of decision, every truly magnanimous and disinterested patriotic spirit will charitably remember the endless difficulties and perplexities of his position, the terrible perils which have beset his path, the fearfully divided state of public sentiment, even at the North, and the crushing burdens that have been imposed upon him.

5. That however slow and circumspect, he has never taken a step backward, but has steadily proceeded onward in the right direction, striking at the root of the rebellion, and seeking to secure the unity of our now dismembered republic, upon the basis of universal freedom and impartial justice, without which there can be no peace.

6. That his best certificate of character as to his honesty and administrative ability is to be found in the fact that all that is slaveholding and treasonable at the South, and all that is pro-slavery, factious, and seditious, at the North, is fiercely seeking to defeat his re-election—regarding it as the sure sign that the doom of the rebellion and of slavery is sealed.

7. That as the loyal sentiment of the country, even when concentrated upon one candidate, is none too strong to secure success at the polls at the coming election, and as that sentiment has been overwhelmingly expressed in favor of re-electing Abraham Lincoln, therefore any division, on any pretext, in favor of any other candidate, will practically operate to encourage the rebellion, imperil the safety of the republic, and strengthen, extend, and perpetuate the sum of all villainies—American Slavery; hence this is no time for the indulgence of personal preferences, of partisan animostities, or selfish ambition.

Whereas, Their one great argument against him to-day is that he has actually used the power conferred upon him by the people, by the constitution, and by the rebellion, for the destruction of slavery and slave labor, and the preservation of freedom and free labor; and

Whereas, By the action of his political friends, and also by the universal assertion of his pro-slavery political enemies, Abraham Lincoln stands before this nation, and before all Europe, as the political embodiment of the spirit and principle of freedom and free instruments, and as the political representative of the anti-slavery sentiment of the nation; therefore,

Resolved, That this Convention deem it incumbent upon all the friends of impartial justice and liberty, and of universal progress, to use all the social, moral, religious, and political influence, which, in their opinion, they possess, to secure the re-election of Abraham Lincoln in the impending presidential canvass.


Resolved, That we, American Spiritualists in Convention assembled, recommend no national or central organization at this time, and propose the adoption of no general constitution or code, for either government, propagandism, or supervision; but we do recommend to all Spiritualists, Friends of Progress, and Reformers, of each and every locality, to establish such organizations as shall afford the needed facilities for the friends of free thought and free expression to hold public meetings, with free platforms; for the discussion of all subjects, and for receiving and holding property bequeathed and acquired, and for the prosecution of educational, benevolent, and reformatory enterprises; each locality to choose its own form of organization, without creed or articles of faith.  We recommend all such bodies to meet by popular representation in annual convention, for discussion and appropriate action upon all current vital questions, and we especially recommend the friends of free platforms, wherever practicable, to construct, economically, public halls, which shall be used for public meetings assembled for every commendable purpose.

The National Committee.

The following persons were appointed by the Chicago Spiritual Convention a committee to call the next Convention: S. S. Jones, St. Charles, Ill., Chairman; F. L. Wadsworth, Maine, Secretary; Warren Chase, Michigan; Mrs. S. E. Warner, Berlin, Wis.; Selden J. Finney, Plato, O.; Mary F. Davis, Orange, N. J.; H. B. Storer, Connecticut; Dr. H. T. Child, Philadelphia, Pa.; Dr. H. F. Gardner, Boston, Mass.; Amanda M. Spence, New York; M. F. Shuey, Elkhart, Ind.; Mrs. M. M. Daniels, Independence, Iowa; Milo O. Mott, Brandon, Vt.

Friend of Progress, December 1864: 37.

New York Times, August 22, 1864

The Spiritual Convention.
From Chicago

Correspondence of the New-York Times.
Chicago, Monday, Aug. 15, 1864.

Chicago has been highly honored.  The first National Convention of the Spiritualists commenced its session in this city on Tuesday last, and is still in operation.  Five or six hundred delegates are present from all parts of the country, about one-half of whom are women.  The men are distinguished by the number of bald heads and large abdomens, and the women by sharp noses and vinegary aspect.  There are, however, exceptions, and the spirits have occasionally shown the good taste to take up their abode with a pretty face and graceful form.

The proceedings have been interesting—decidedly so.  We do not expect they will be beat by the Democratic Convention which is to come off on the 29th.

Among the first business of the convention was the introduction of some well-expressed patriotic resolutions on the state of the country.  These called out an elaborate discussion, which consumed the sittings of two days.  The opposition was had by a Judge CARTER, of Ohio, a bitter disciple of VALLANDIGHAM, who threatened that the delegation of that State, of which he was chairman, would withdraw in the event of the passage fo the resolutions.  The resolutions were at length adopted by a most emphatic vote, but there was no withdrawal.  The debate assumed at times an acrimonious, Congressional character.

On the subjects of “Women’s Rights,” “Free Love,” the “Marital Relations,” &c., the convention defined its position in the adoption of the resolutions which follow:

Resolved, That we recognize perfect and entire equality of rights as between the sexes, including equal property, equal marital, parental, educational, civil, political and religious rights; and that we reject the absurd pretext that sex, in any instance, whatever, confers the slightest authority.

Resolved, That the true marriage is the free, loving, life-long union of one man with one woman; and all modern as well as all ancient attempts to institute any other less sacred and permanent relation in its place, under whatever name it may be called, meet at our hands only prompt, unqualified rejection and refutation.

Several remarked sotto voce that these resolutions—especially the last one, were passed for buncombe—that it did not express the private views of a large majority of the Spiritualists.  One lady speaker intimated as much in her public speech.  There were many speeches, set lectures, spiritually inspired poems and rhapsodies delivered, some of which exhibited marked ability, especially on the female side of the house.  On the whole it was a melancholy spectacle to look in upon several hundred men and women thus engaged.

On Saturday Judge CARTER, of Ohio, offered a protest for himself and about forty Democratic friends regarding the passage of the patriotic resolutions on Thursday.  He stigmatized the action of the convention as unfair, a breach of trust, tyrannical, and intended to prostitute the glorious truths of spiritualism to political ends.  They protested that it was unfair to cram adverse political sentiments down the throats of a minority, and affirmed that the vote had been taken in an unjust manner, at an hour when most of their party were known to be absent.

The subject of a general and permanent organization of the Spiritualists of the country, has been deemed of the greatest importance, and has been discussed at length and with much warmth.  The following is the plan:

Resolved, That this Convention proceed to constitute itself an Association of Spiritualists, by electing a United States Central Committee, consisting of—, whose duty shall be to call a National Convention of Spiritualists, at such time and place as they think necessary, during the next year, to present a specific plan or plans for general organization of Spiritualists; said Convention to consist of regularly appointed delegates, to be appointed by local organizations or Associations of Spiritualists throughout the country, in the ratio of one delegate to every one hundred members; provided, always, that every society or association shall have the right to send one delegate.

The introduction of this resolution was the signal for a “flare up.”  A warm and animated debate ensued between the advocates and opponents of the measure, and no little ill-blood was shown.  The question has not yet been decided.

The convention has resolved to enter upon an aggressive work for the conversion of the world.  A missionary has been appointed for Chicago, and a Sabbath School organized for the purpose of inculcating the doctrines of the new religion into the minds of the young.  Well, we have fallen upon strange times.

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