Daniel Rice Sermon on Harper’s Ferry

Publication Year: 1860

Rice, Daniel. Harper's Ferry ... Its Lessons: A Sermon Preached in the Second Presbyterian Church, Lafayette, Indiana, Dec. 11, 1859 (Lafayette, IN: Luse & Wilson's Steam Book and Job Printing, 1860).
PHS Call number: PAM HT 917 .P7 R5 1860    

Reading suggestions

See especially pages 15-18. This sermon was preached at a New School congregation in support of John Brown and his cause (although the minister does not condone the attack on Harper's Ferry).

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Source note

Source note: Daniel Rice (1816-1889) was a Presbyterian minister of the Second Presbyterian Church in Lafayette, Indiana at the time he gave this sermon. Born in Conway, Massachusetts, Rice attended Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts and was ordained in 1842. After 14 years as a minister in Lafayette, Rice moved on to Minnesota, where he was a professor, college president, and pastor. 

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Reading questions

1.    Who is the author of this document? Who is his audience? What attitudes towards the raid on Harper’s Ferry might the author’s audience have?

2.    What are the two greatest lessons of Harper’s Ferry, according to Rice (page 15)?

3.    Which of John Brown’s character traits does Rice point to as demonstrating “that in his bosom there beat a noble Christian heart” (page 16)? Why might Rice want to paint Brown as a good Christian in his sermon?

4.    What is John Brown’s message in this passage that Rice quoted from a letter Brown wrote just before his execution: “I cannot remember of a night so dark as to hinder the coming of day; nor a storm so furious or dreadful as to prevent the return of warm sunshine and a cloudless sky” (page 16)?

5.    What is Rice’s opinion about the methods John Brown used at Harper’s Ferry to try to bring about abolition (pages 17-18)?

6.    Why was the raid on Harper’s Ferry, carried out by just 22 men, so terrifying for slaveholders in the south, according to Rice (page 18)?

7.    Near the end of his sermon, Rice says that Americans must “SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE,—and slavery shall end in peace, and not in blood (page 18).” How likely is it that Rice’s congregation expected a peaceful end to slavery in the United States, at the end of 1859 when they heard this sermon?

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Source type
History Topics
Abolition and Anti-slavery
African American History
Presbyterian History
Time Period
Slavery, Sectionalism, and Social Reform (1815-1861)