The Garfield Assassination, 2 of 4: DeWitt Talmage

By April 15, 2015

As noted in the last post, T[homas] DeWitt Talmage, the histrionic, hyperbolic, famous, and famously anti-Mormon preacher of Brooklyn, was not the first or only figure to claim that Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau, was Mormon or that Guiteau was part of a Mormon conspiracy. However, Talmage’s national presence gave his allegations more reach (see image).

KepplerJF ReasonAgainstUnreason Puck 1882Mar08 v11n261p8t9 detail Talmage 545px

(Due to Talmage’s notoriety, there are many political cartoons of him and I indulged myself: every time a pretext stuck its head out of a paragraph I hung a picture on it; most of the images link to higher-resolution scans and see footnote below for links to more images.) By 1881 Talmage was already famous for his anti-Mormon preaching—see, for example, the 1880 Oct image below [1].

KepplerUJ TheOppositionTabernacles Puck 1880Oct06 v7n187 back cover LoRes

In a sermon on the second Sunday after Garfield’s death, Talmage attempted to explain why so many united prayers did not save Garfield’s life. About one-sixth of the text was devoted to Mormonism, including:

Now I will not say that Guiteau was a Mormon, nor will I dare to say that he was [not] a paid emissary. He says he shot Garfield in the name of the Lord. …[24 words]… I will not say that he was a Mormon, but he has all the Mormon theories. …[24 words]… He had the ugliness of a Mormon, the licentiousness of a Mormon, the cruelty of a Mormon, the murderous spirit of a Mormon, the infernalism of a Mormon. … [91 words] … I should not wonder if, in the great day when all secret things are revealed, it should be found that he was the paid agent of that old hag of hell which sits making mouths at high heaven, between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas. [2]

Talmage’s message seems pretty clear: Guiteau was Mormon in creed and character and he killed Garfield on sponsored assignment from the Church. Talmage presented Mormon violence as a combination of primal compulsions to murder and—somewhat incongruously—emotionally detached, Machiavellian statecraft. [3] It is relatively easy to find figurative language from the 1880s deployed to explain how horrible the Mormons were. Talmage, however, inverted the usual formula: instead of “Mormons are like Guiteau,” he claimed, “Guiteau is like the Mormons.”

KepplerJF ASummerSmokeCloud Puck 1882Aug09 v11n283p364t365 detail Talmage u Ingersoll

Talmage had many enemies (see, for example, the image above). [4] Thus, although both popular and elite opinion were decidedly against Mormonism, the New York Times sarcastically used Talmage’s logic to “prove” that, just as Guiteau was a Mormon assassin, Talmage was, in fact, a Circassian Beauty (see image below). [5]

CircassianBeauty Zublia Aggiola by Moore Brothers carte de visite c1870 collection of Gregory Fried HiRes

Note, though, that the primary driver of this piece was opposition to Talmage; I detect little sympathy for Mormonism in the writing. [6] In a manner similar to the 1883 cartoon below, Mormonism was used to skewer Talmage, rather than Talmage skewered to defend Mormonism. [7]

HamiltonGrantE TheChineseMayStayButTheMormonsMustGoDeWittTalmage Judge 1883Aug27 866px

Talmage’s insinuations rankled Mormons. The Deseret News used “Talmagean logic” to “prove” that it was “the Brooklyn pulpit-harlequin and theological jumping-jack”—Talmage himself—“who instigated the foul murder.” [8] Since, for example, Talmage used “the ugliness of a Mormon” as one of the evidences of Guiteau’s Mormon-ness, the News attacked Talmage’s “mulean auricular appendages” and other physical features. [9] (See image below for more charicature. [10])

GraetzF ASensationAtTheSea Puck 1882Jul26 v11n281p340 HiRes

A missionary in New York asserted that the idea of Guiteau being a paid Mormon agent was “too senseless and extravagant to be credited by any person with the least claim of common sense.” [11] Nevertheless, the idea that Guiteau was a Mormon or an agent of the Church persisted in some circles until at least 1888. [12] Other commentators took views more soberly argued but otherwise similar to Talmage’s in that they identified Guiteau and Mormons as sharing emotional and moral characteristics. [13]

Bonus image: Proto-Rambo faith-healer Francis Ward Monck schools Henry Ward Beecher (left, with gloves) and Talmage (right, on ropes) in the art of sensationalism. [14]

OpperFB BrooklynsNewChampion Puck 1883Apr25 v13n320p113cover Crop

Next week: Guiteau’s trial.

 

————

[1] The frequency with which Talmage was lampooned in Puck in the year after Garfield’s shooting suggests something of his fame. For example, the image above shows a detail of a March 1882 illustration with Talmage, holding a rolled paper labeled “Talmage Circus,” railing against the light of reason along with other religious figures (none Mormon that I could tell). Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, “Reason against Unreason,” color illustration, Puck 11.261 (1882 Mar 08): 8-9; in situ [cover is mis-printed; says volume 10 when it should be volume 11].

The image below shows Talmage haranguing church president John Taylor. The caption reads: “Brother Taylor to Brother Talmage: – People who live in Brooklyn houses shouldn’t throw stones!” Talmage has what appears to be a wooden cross on a cart. The cart is on a track/road labeled “Across the Continent.” The cart is labeled, “The Non Plus Ultra Flip Flap Harangue.” Papers haphazardly placed on the ground are labeled, “What I know about the Buckingham,” “What I know about church debts,” “…Leadville,” and “…about Mormonism.” John Taylor sits on the left, surrounded by eight women, presumably his wives, who are exhibiting various emotions, some in reaction to Talmage. The Salt Lake Tabernacle is in the background, with a flag, “Salt Lake City.” Talmage is on the right, gesticulating wildly. Talmage’s regular meeting place, the Brooklyn Tabernacle (the other titular tabernacle) is not depicted. Instead there are city buildings with a sign, “Brooklyn,” and a flag, “Special Court for Scandals.” Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, “The Opposition Tabernacles,” Puck 7.187 (1880 Oct 06): back cover.

Note, though, that Puck was headquartered in New York and so featured the New-York-based Talmage more frequently than it might have otherwise. For other examples: Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, “A Mid-Summer Day’s Dream,” Puck 9.231 (1881 Aug 10): 388-390. Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, “A Presidential Conjuror,” Puck 10.240 (1881 Oct 12): 88-89. in situ; alternate scan at LOC. Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, “Puck’s Own Yorktown Celebration,” Puck 10.241 (1881 Oct 19): 104-105. Frederick Burr Opper, “A Sunday Show.—Profit for Pagan and Preacher,” color illustration, Puck 11.269 (1882 May 03): 131 (cover); in situ. Frederick Burr Opper, “Puck’s Pyrotechnics.—Fourth-of-July Fireworks Free to All,” color illustration, Puck 11.278 (1882 Jul 05): 284-285; in situ. Friedrich Graetz, “A Sensation at the Sea,” color illustration, Puck 11.281 (1882 Jul 26): 340. Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, “A Summer Smoke-Cloud,” color illustration, Puck 11.283 (1882 Aug 09): 364-365; in situ. See also a sketch in Judge (by a former Puck artist): JA Wales, “Talmage—The Clown Business Is Done For. I Must Be Aesthetical or Lose My Grip,” color illustration, Judge 1.13 (1882 Jan 21): cover.

[2] Talmage went on to conclude, in furtherance of his larger point, that “If the death of Garfield shall arouse the nation to more hatred of that institution of Mormonism, which was Garfield’s especial disgust, he will not have died in vain, and another section of your prayer is answered.” The “[not]” in the quoted first line is absent in the earliest version of the speech I found (printed the day after) but is included in all other reports I’ve found, including the revised version published by Talmage. T DeWitt Talmage, “Where the Prayers for President Garfield a Failure?” speech, New York City, NY, 1881 Oct 02 Sun, as reported in “Tabernacle Sermons,” New York Evening Express, New York, NY, 1881 Oct 03 Mon, 5th edition (5:00 PM), p 3, col 2 (1-3). The speech was revised slightly (some rewording; some sentences removed, some added) and reprinted in a collection of Talmage speeches in 1892; note the addition of the “not”—“Now, I will not say that Guiteau was a Mormon, nor will I dare to say that he was not a paid emissary.” Thomas DeWitt Talmage, “Prayers for Garfield Answered,” Trumpet Blasts, Or Mountain-top Views of Life (Chicago: North American Publishing, 1892), 565 (560-568). “He prefaced his demonstration that Guiteau is a Mormon by remarking that while he would not positively assert that the assassin was a Mormon, nevertheless he would not dare to say that he was not—which was an effective way of saying to his audience, ‘I want you to believe that Guiteau is a Mormon, though I don’t quite dare to say that he is.’” No author listed, “A Circassian Beauty,” New York Times, New York, NY, 1881 Oct 05, <query.nytimes.com>; reprinted in No author listed, credited to New York Times, “A Circassian Beauty,” The Argonaut 9.18 (1881 Oct 29 [San Francisco, weekly]): 10. “I will not say that Guiteau was a Mormon, nor would I dare to say that he was not….” No author listed, “By Telegraph,” Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Oct 12 Wed, p 590 [issue p 14], col 2 top.

[3] Of course, to Talmage and associates, there was no incongruity at all: the leaders were intelligent masterminds who manipulated their unintelligent, near-bestial followers.

[4] Talmage and Robert G Ingersoll, depicted in the image, had a (financially profitable) antagonism. Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, detail of “A Summer Smoke-Cloud,” color illustration, Puck 11.283 (1882 Aug 09): 364-365; in situ. See also: Frederick Burr Opper, “A Sunday Show.—Profit for Pagan and Preacher,” color illustration, Puck 11.269 (1882 May 03): 131 (cover); in situ.

[5] The piece runs to about 800 words. It concludes with: “Returning once more to the purely Talmagian logic, it would be easy to prove by its means that Mr. Talmage is a Jesuit, a Mohammedan Dervish, a Double-headed Girl, a native Central African King, or a surviving captor of Major Andre. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to claim that, with the help of this wonderful and novel system, one could demonstrate that the Tabernacle preacher is a modest, intelligent, and useful minister of the Gospel, who confines himself strictly to his legitimate duties, and never attacks or insults other people.” No author listed, “A Circassian Beauty,” New York Times, New York, NY, 1881 Oct 05, <query.nytimes.com>; reprinted in No author listed, credited to New York Times, “A Circassian Beauty,” The Argonaut 9.18 (1881 Oct 29 [San Francisco, weekly]): 10. The image is of “Zublia Aggiola,” carte-de-visite, stamped “Moore Brothers,” Springfield, MA, circa 1870, in collection of Gregory Fried, as posted in Gregory Fried, “A Freakish Whiteness: The Circassian Lady and the Caucasian Fantasy,” 2013 Mar 15, Mirror of Race (website: http://mirrorofrace.org/circassian/). More examples here.

[6] Besides the NYT piece I found two more comments on Talmage’s sermon. A California paper later thought that treating Guiteau as a “Mormon avenger” was “[t]he latest flight of Talmage.” No author listed, “General Notes,” Sacramento Daily Record-Union (14.54), Sacramento, CA, 1881 Oct 22 Sat morning, p 1, col 7 bottom. A religious newspaper talked about Garfield’s contra-Mormon statements, described an alleged Mormon vigilante oath and associated violence, and concluded, “Is Guiteau a Mormon, as T. DeWitt Talmage intimates?” “Senex,” “Mormonism,” in “Correspondence,” The Christian Cynosure 14.2 [Whole No 598], Chicago (1881 Oct 13 Thu [weekly]): 5.

[7] The image also suggests the degree of Talmage’s anti-Mormonism—so extreme that it was treated as a joke by some non-Mormon commentators. The image shows Talmage, portrayed as a knight in armor, carrying a lance made from “Sermons on Mormonism,” rides a toy horse between “Talmage’s Brooklyn Tabernacle” and the Salt Lake Tabernacle (mislabeled as “Mormon Temple”). He carries with his right arm a miniature, caricatured Chinese male. The caption reads, “‘The Chinese may stay, but the Mormons must go.’—DeWitt Talmage.” Grant E Hamilton, “‘The Chinese may stay, but the Mormons must go’ — DeWitt Talmage,” Judge (1883 Aug 27): 16, courtesy of OSUCGA – The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. I have not examined the magazine from which the image was taken and there is some confusion about the date. For more comment on the image, see W Paul Reeve, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness (New York: Oxford, 2015), 219. Gary L Bunker and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Graphic Image, 1834-1914: Cartoons, Caricatures, and Illustrations (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983), 90. Note that Reeve and Bunker/Bitton date the image as 1883 October 27 while OSU says 1883 August 27; the page “16” comes from Bunker/Bitton.

[8] The Deseret News gave a one-paragraph summary of the Mormon part of the sermon ten days after the fact (Oct 12) but did not give a full response to the “new flight of depraved fancy” until the following week. No author listed, “By Telegraph,” Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Oct 12 Wed, p 590 [issue p 14], col 2 top. No author listed [Charles W Penrose, editor], “Talmage in the Light of His Own Logic,” Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Oct 18 Tue, p 2, col 1 bottom; reprinted in No author listed, “Talmage in the Light of His Own Logic,” Deseret News [30.40, weekly], Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Oct 26, p 614 [issue p 6], col 3. [I did not verify that the articles were exactly the same]. For an editorial that objects to the idea that Guiteau was Mormon but does not mention Talmage, see: No author listed, “The Guiteau Trial,” Deseret News [weekly] 30.46, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Dec 07 Wed, p 712 [issue p 8], col 2.

[9] “Talmage’s open countenance, his annual mouth, his mulean auricular appendages, his lank, angular form, those bony hands and knotty digits, those sharp elbows and jack-knife limbs, those Ethiopian pedal extremities, the whole loose-jointed and ludicrous make-up, are so familiar to the American public, through the pencilings of famous artists, that no one will dispute his title to the premium for ugliness.” No author listed [Charles W Penrose, editor], “Talmage in the Light of His Own Logic,” Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Oct 18 Tue, p 2, col 1 bottom.  The illustrations included in this post back up the Deseret News claim that Talmage had been frequently drawn in national media (though most of the included illustrations came after that editorial); the images also lend credence to the idea of Talmage as ugly (though actual photographs are not nearly as decisive on the point).

[10] Friedrich Graetz, “A Sensation at the Sea,” color illustration, Puck 11.281 (1882 Jul 26): 340 (back cover). The caption reads: “Brother Talmage: —‘I wonder why the people are all so frightened — there must be a Shark around somewhere!’” Earlier in the edition there had been a note: “Do not be afraid; he looks very terrible and makes a great noise, but he can not do you much harm. You may stay in the water and enjoy your bath to your heart’s content. It’s only Talmage, the great Tabernacle preacher from Brooklyn. He looks like a shark, but he is not. He resembles those large gongs that the advance guard of the Chinese army uses to scare the enemy. In Mr. Talmage amusement and instruction are combined. With all his acrobatism and his monstrous truisms and anaethemas he is not nearly the worst of our ‘advertising ministers.’” No author listed, “Cartoons and Comments,” Puck 11.281 (1882 Jul 26): 326. For more criticism of Talmage from Puck, see: No author listed, “Cartoons and Comments,” Puck 10 [printing error: 11].261 (1882 Mar 08): 2. No author listed, “Cartoons and Comments,” Puck 11.269 (1882 May 03): 132 [following the cover by Frederick Burr Opper, “A Sunday Show.—Profit for Pagan and Preacher,” color illustration, Puck 11.269 (1882 May 03): 131 (cover); in situ.]

[11] Although Mormons had “too important a mission and too much business on hand” to take time to deal with “all the bosh lies and venomous twaddle” that was said about them, Hart spent three newspaper columns on the “Rev[erend] calumniator” and “other ‘Mormon-eaters’.” Hart was a Mormon missionary in New York but he had previously been an editor at the Democrat, where the letter was published. He said that he submitted the piece to the New York Sun, but whether or not it would be published was not yet known; I have not been able to locate it in the Sun. James H Hart, New York, NY, 1881 Oct 05, “Calumny Met and Refuted,” Bear Lake Democrat, Paris, Idaho Territory, 1881 Oct 22, p 2, as transcribed by Larry D Christiansen. I have not examined the original article; I know it only from a partial transcription.

[12] Selah W Brown, “Five Indictments Against Mormonism,” The Gospel in All Lands [no volume, no number] (1888 May): 198 (196-198).  William Jarman, U.S.A., Uncle Sam’s Abscess; Or, Hell Upon Earth for U.S., Uncle Sam (Exeter, England: H Leduc, 1884), 85. No author listed, reporting on lecture by Kate Field in Kansas City, credited to the Journal of Kansas City, “Two Sides of a Story,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 49.20 (1887 May 16 Mon): 318 (317-319). Talmage’s original Mormon/Guiteau speech was reprinted in 1892: Thomas DeWitt Talmage, “Prayers for Garfield Answered,” Trumpet Blasts, Or Mountain-top Views of Life (Chicago: North American Publishing, 1892), 565 (560-568).

[13] He interpreted Mormonism in light of the idea that “erotic tendencies” led to “pietistic excesses,” of which Guiteau provided “the most conspicuous instance.” No author listed, “Fanaticism and Sensuality,” Medical News 40.11 (1882 Mar 18): 304-304. An author for a Catholic journal used both Mormons and Guiteau, without ever explicitly comparing them, as examples of how lust leads to violence. John Gilmary Shea, “The Lesson of President Garfield’s Assassination,” American Catholic Quarterly Review 6.24 (1881 Oct): 689 (683-690).

[14] Frederick Burr Opper, “Brooklyn’s New Champion,” color illustration, Puck 13.320 (1883 Apr 25): 113 (cover); in situ; alternate LOC scan. The sign in the back says “Tournament of Sensationalism.” Monck’s head band reads “Holy Healing Power”; his belt reads “Rev. Dr. Monck”; his right hand has “Worth $50,000 a year” printed on it. The title/caption is: “Brooklyn’s New Champion—The Old-Timers ‘Knocked Out’ by the Prayer-Cure ‘Pounder.’” The associated text reads: “Those reverend gentlemen, Messrs. Henry Ward Beecher and T. De Witt Talmage, must feel a little anxious. A formidable rival has taken the field in the person of the Rev. F. Monck, L.L.D., F.A.S., who professes to heal sick persons by laying on of hands. The old and effete methods of Messrs. Beecher and Talmage must now give way before those of the new spiritual guide, who has already made Brooklyn medical men green with envy by his marvelous instantaneous prayer-cures. As for the proprietors of the drug-stores, they have, we believe, already decided to call a meeting to take steps to suppress Dr. Monck.” No author listed [HC Bunner, editor], “Cartoons and Comments,” Puck 13.320 (1883 Apr 25): 114.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Goodness, Edje, this is amazing!

    Luckily nowadays the people of Brooklyn are so busy decorating their apartments and growing hipster beards that they don’t have much time left over for worrying about Mormons.

    Comment by Amy T — April 15, 2015 @ 8:36 am

  2. Your footnotes are a joy to behold. Thanks, Edje.

    Comment by Saskia T — April 15, 2015 @ 2:20 pm

  3. Thanks, Amy and Saskia.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — April 15, 2015 @ 3:04 pm

  4. You’re the hero that we don’t deserve, Edje. Thanks!

    Comment by J Stuart — April 15, 2015 @ 5:50 pm

  5. Awesome stuff, as usual.

    Comment by WVS — April 18, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

  6. Thanks, J Stuart and WVS.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — April 18, 2015 @ 6:06 pm


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