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Bishop Whipple as a Citizen of Minnesota
by the Hon. Greenleaf Clark

An Address on October 14, 1901.

Minnesota Historical Society Collections, 1904, pp 708-712

I am to speak of Bishop Whipple as a citizen of Minnesota. If the subject were narrower I should know better what to say in five or ten minutes. I must perforce generalize, and can make but little mention of specific facts. A man's citizenship is made up of his relations with his fellowmen, and its quality depends upon how he comports himself among them; upon what he does among, with, and for his neighbors, using the latter term in the broad scriptural sense.

A very notable feature of the Bishop's citizenship was its wide scope as respects the sorts and conditions of men with whom he came in contact. It reached all the way from the uncivilized Indian to the kings and potentates of the earth. He came from Chicago to Minnesota to enter upon the duties of his episcopate in the fall of 1859, and he had not been in the State two months, before he visited the Indians in their wigwams. From that day to the day of his death he never ceased1 his labors among and for the Indians, \o civilize and Christianize them, and to prepare them for the changed conditions which the encroachment of the new civilization rendered inevitable.

His labors were of two kinds, and in each kind were notable. He visited the Indian in person, before there were any railroads in the State, and when wagon roads were limited in extent, and poor in construction and bridging. He travelled across the plains and through the desert in carriages, on foot, on horseback, in canoes, through heat and cold, in sunshine and storm and blizzard, camping by the way, or accommodated in the primitive houses of hardy, venturesome, and scattered pioneers, who always received him with generous hospitality and shared their scanty comforts with him. He talked to, counseled with, and taught the Indians in their wigwams and camps, through interpreters, and later in their own language. He was a man of fine physique, six feet and two inches tall, of commanding presence, and of kindly manners, and he won the ear and confidence of the Indians to an encouraging extent. He supplemented his own labors with missionaries and teachers sent to them, some of whom were educated in his schools for the purpose. So intimate was his touch with the red men in their camps, and the results were substantial and beneficial.

The other kind of effort for the Indians was no less notable. It consisted of published letters and statements designed to mould public opinion on the Indian question, and of communications addressed to the Federal authorities, which were supplemented by his personal efforts at Washington. He knew every president from Jackson down, and all quite well from Lincoln down, and fie labored with them for justice to the Indian.

He maintained before the public, and at Washington, that the Indian policy was a mistaken one from the start; that the tribes should not be treated as independent sovereignties, nor treaties made with them as such; that the untutored child of the desert and plain should not be compelled to cope with the authorities of a civilized nation in making treaties; that they should be treated as the wards of the Government, and cared for accordingly, and he referred to the Canadian Indians and their lives of peace as an example of such a policy. He told the authorities at Washington fearlessly, and in good set terms, that the stipulations in Indian treaties had not been performed; that what was the Indian's by treaty stipulations was largely diverted from him by the greed and rapacity of the white men; that the stipulated annuities had not been promptly paid, and that large portions of them had been filched from the Indians on one pretext and another. He told them; that the Indians were dissatisfied, disappointed, and hungry, and were becoming sullen, morose, and dangerous. In a word he told them plainly that the Indians had been deprived of their hunting grounds, so that they could no longer live by the chase, and that they had not been given bread and meat in exchange, nor the means of obtaining them, and that he feared we were "to reap in anguish the harvest we had sowed;" that "where robbery and wrong are the seed, blood will be the harvest." He was "straight tongue" in Washington, as: well as in the camps and councils of the Indians. The President and the heads of the departments were sympathetic, and did what they could to alleviate the wrongs of a vicious system (which Congress alone could change) and to prevent the corrupt practices under it; and some amelioration was accomplished through the non-political appointment of agents, and the Peace Commission, of which I have no doubt that General Sanborn will speak.

Bishop Whipple was the friend and neighbor of the young. What he did for the education of the boys and girls of the State, and of the Indian youth and missionaries in his schools at Faribault, has been told by another. Suffice it to say that the results of his efforts were far-reaching and valuable. He was the friend of the University, and of education generally; and the State has received, and will continue to receive, now that he has gone, the beneficent influence of his labors in this regard.

He was the neighbor of the unfortunate, defective and stricken ones of the State; and the schools at Faribault for the deaf, dumb, blind, and feeble-minded, had the help of his sympathetic influence and cordial co-operation and support. He was the friend of the soldiers enlisted in the war for the suppression of the Rebellion, and he visited them. He held service for the First Regiment at Fort Snelling, and was elected its chaplain, which he declined, being held at home by the duties of his episcopate. He held service for the First Regiment again after the battle of Antietam, and in 1864 in the camps of Generals McClellan and Meade, at their request, on the banks of the Potomac. I cannot speak of the general administration of his episcopate further than to say that it developed the qualities of a statesman, in the healing of all dissensions, and in the educating and bringing into it a body of able co-workers, eight of whom went from his diocese to assume the control of other sees, and that he personally visited all parts of the State and held services and confirmations in all of his churches, and that he was constant in pointing men home to God and in leading the way. But whatever the results of his efforts in preparing his people for immortality, of which we can have no ken, I say without fear of contradiction that hundreds of mortal lives of men, women, and children were saved in the great massacre of 1862 by the Indians who had been educated, civilized, and Christianized through his personal efforts and the instrumentalities which he put in motion.

Bishop Whipple's citizenship was also notable for its cosmopolitan character. He frequently visited the eastern states, where he held many services, made many addresses, became widely known and was universally honored and esteemed. He was listened to with especial interest when he spoke of the Indians in his diocese, as he was frequently called upon to do.

In early life he was temporarily in charge of a church in St. Augustine, and in his later years, from considerations of health, he spent all or a part of the winters at his winter home at Maitland, Florida, and during his residence there impressed his personality upon considerable portions of the south.

More than once he visited England. He attended the Lambeth conferences in London, which were convocations, held triennially of all the bishops of the Anglican Church throughout the world. He was received with distinguished attention. He held services at Cambridge and Oxford, and at Windsor where the Queen was an auditor, and he had a personal interview with her at the castle at her request. He told in England, as he did in America, the story of the Indians who inhabited his diocese of Minnesota when he took it; of their character and habits, of their wrongs and massacres, of his missions among them and their results, and of the efforts made for the amelioration of their condition; and his personal connection with these matters brought him honor and distinction. He could not well tell this story in America or England without dwelling upon the goodly heritage of which the Indians were dispossessed by the advancing tide of civilization, and so he spread wide the knowledge of the resources, capabilities, and beauties of Minnesota, both at home and abroad. He was the widest known prelate of the Protestant church in Minnesota, and, perhaps I may add, as widely known as any in the United States, and he spread the knowledge of the State accordingly.

Bishop Whipple led what President Roosevelt has been pleased to call the "strenuous life." While his strength lasted, he was unremitting in his labors upon the lines I have indicated, and when, under the burden of years, his strength began to fail, he gave to the same objects the remainder of his strength. He was a man of admirable courage and persistency. When things looked dark he did not quail or lie down. He worked on and waited for the dawn. He was an optimist and never a pessimist.

Hope abided with him amid all discouragements. Even in the shadow of the awful massacre of 1862, he maintained in public papers and communications that it was the result of a pernicious system, fraudulently administered, and he pleaded for its reformation. He did not for a moment excuse the savage slaughter, but he did stoutly maintain that it came because the Indians had been stirred to frenzy by their wrongs.

For this he was abused and even threatened, but he disregarded both abuse and threats; and detraction ne'er lit on him to stay, for there was none to believe it. In my view the one notable labor in his life work, which overshadowed the rest and should keep his memory green, is his untiring persistent work for the amelioration of the lot of the Indian. Well, what kind of a citizen was Bishop Whipple?

"Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise," if the earnest pursuit and inculcation of these things make a good citizen, then surely Bishop Whipple was among the best of citizens.

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