American writer and minister, born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on June 24th, 1813. The eighth son of the Reverend Lyman Beecher, he was also the brother of fellow writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Beecher attended the Lane Theological Seminary, and became a Presbyterian minister in 1837. He first worked in Lawrenceburg (1837-39), and later moved to Indianapolis (1839-47). By the time he moved to Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, he was a well-known orator, and had developed quite a following. Strongly opposed to slavery, while favouring temperance and women's suff
rage, Beecher drew crowds of approximately 2,500 people every Sunday.
After vociferously condemning the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 (which allowed those states to enter the union without abolishing slavery first), Beecher focused his efforts on raising money, which would supply weapons to those willing to fight to abolish slavery within Kansas and Nebraska. These rifles became widely known as Beecher Bibles. Among the volunteers sent over to Kansas was John Brown (along with his five sons), who was later executed for inciting a slave rebellion and murdering a number of pro-slavery settlers.
Initially a supporter of the anti-slavery Free Soil party, Beecher switched over to the Republicans in 1860. During the American civil war, Beecher's church assisted by amassing and equipping their own volunteer regiment, although following the war Beecher himself became a vocal proponent of reconciliation.
Henry Ward Beecher died on March 8, 1887, of a cerebral hemorrhage. His works include:
- Seven Lectures to Young Men (pamphlet) 1844
Summer in the Soul 1858
- Life of Jesus Christ 1871
- Yale Lectures on Preaching 1872
- Evolution and Religion 1885
Beecher was also editor
of The Independent
(1861-63), and The Christian Union