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Anti-Slavery Poems
___To the Thirty-Ninth Congress

by John Greenleaf Whittier

The thirty-ninth congress was that which met in 1565 after the close of
the war, when it was charged with the great question of reconstruction;
the uppermost subject in men's minds was the standing of those who had
recently been in arms against the Union and their relations to the
freedmen.

O People-Chosen! are ye not
Likewise the chosen of the Lord,
To do His will and speak His word?

From the loud thunder-storm of war
Not man alone hath called ye forth,
But He, the God of all the earth!

The torch of vengeance in your hands
He quenches; unto Him belongs
The solemn recompense of wrongs.

Enough of blood the land has seen,
And not by cell or gallows-stair
Shall ye the way of God prepare.

Say to the pardon-seekers: Keep
Your manhood, bend no suppliant knees,
Nor palter with unworthy pleas.

Above your voices sounds the wail
Of starving men; we shut in vain *
Our eyes to Pillow's ghastly stain. **

What words can drown that bitter cry?
What tears wash out the stain of death?
What oaths confirm your broken faith?

From you alone the guaranty
Of union, freedom, peace, we claim;
We urge no conqueror's terms of shame.

Alas! no victor's pride is ours;
We bend above our triumphs won
Like David o'er his rebel son.

Be men, not beggars. Cancel all
By one brave, generous action; trust
Your better instincts, and be just.

Make all men peers before the law,
Take hands from off the negro's throat,
Give black and white an equal vote.

Keep all your forfeit lives and lands,
But give the common law's redress
To labor's utter nakedness.

Revive the old heroic will;
Be in the right as brave and strong
As ye have proved yourselves in wrong.

Defeat shall then be victory,
Your loss the wealth of full amends,
And hate be love, and foes be friends.

Then buried be the dreadful past,
Its common slain be mourned, and let
All memories soften to regret.

Then shall the Union's mother-heart
Her lost and wandering ones recall,
Forgiving and restoring all,--

And Freedom break her marble trance
Above the Capitolian dome,
Stretch hands, and bid ye welcome home
November, 1865.

*  Andersonville prison.
** The massacre of Negro troops at Fort Pillow.
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