Hutchinson Family Singers Web Site
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers (1794-1846), editor, was born in Plymouth, New Hampshire, June 3, 1794, and is tenth in descent from Rev. John Rogers (1500?-1555), the first to suffer martyrdom during the reign of Bloody Mary, in England in 1555. Rogers was graduated with honors from Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1816. He studied law with Richard Fletcher (1788-1861), who was then based at Salisbury, New Hampshire. Speaking of Rogers' home life, Parker Pillsbury said, "Few ever heard Shakespeare, Scott, Byron, and Burns read more beautifully, more thrillingly, than at his fireside, surrounded by his estimable wife and seven children, with sometimes a few invited friends." Rogers practiced his profession in Plymouth from 1819 to 1838, when he became the editor of a pioneer anti-slavery newspaper in Concord called the Herald of Freedom.
"About the year 1833," wrote poet John Greenleaf Whittier, "he became interested in the anti-slavery movement. His was one of the few voices of encouragement and sympathy which greeted [me] on the publication of a pamphlet in favor of immediate emancipation." "In the early autumn [evidently of 1835], in company with George Thompson, (the eloquent reformer, who has since been elected a member of the British Parliament from the Tower Hamlets,) we drove up the beautiful valley of the White Mountain tributary of the Merrimac, and, just as a glorious sunset was steeping river, valley, and mountain in its hues of heaven, were welcomed to the pleasant home and family circle of our friend Rogers. We spent two delightful evenings with him." Since this is a Hutchinson Family Web site, it's worth adding here, as an aside, that this is just the time that Jesse Hutchinson, Jr. took up the antislavery cause. It was also in 1835 that Rogers met abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison.
Parker Pillsbury said this about Nathaniel P. Rogers' early involvement in the Herald of Freedom "He had, from its establishment in 1834, furnished many most brilliant and trenchant articles for its columns." Speaking of Rogers and the Herald of Freedom, Oliver Johnson says, "he made the paper as brilliant as it was able. His style was remarkable for terseness, for vivid flights of imagination, for odd and striking turns of thought, and for a wit all his own." Whittier added this quote: "John Pierpont, than whom there could not be a more competent witness, in his brief and beautiful sketch of the life and writings of Rogers, does not overestimate the ability with which the Herald was conducted, when he says of its editor: 'As a newspaper writer, we think him unequalled by any living man; and in the general strength, clearness, and quickness of his intellect, we think all who knew him well will agree with us that he was not excelled by any editor in the country.'"
One could easily get the idea from Rogers' later writings that he was already friends with Jesse Hutchinson, Jr. by June 7th and 8th, 1842, when a trio of Jesse's younger brothers, Judson, John and Asa Hutchinson, gave concerts in Concord, New Hampshire. In the June 10th issue of the Herald of Freedom, Rogers said that the brothers "performed with such modesty as well as talent, as deeply to interest me in the singers as well as their music." "If I can judge rationally about it, (and if I can't, it is because they have enchanted me) they are musicians of the very highest order, and with the practice and improvement they will naturally experience, before they pass their prime, will reach a rare degree of excellence in their glorious art."
Rogers was particularly important to the Hutchinson Family, because he was a
Douglass was right. Rogers was arguably the best writer among the abolitionists, nation-wide, though Douglass' own eloquence must also be considered. Yet in spite of Rogers' considerable writing skills, he never achieved fame with the general public for, as his friend John G. Whittier said,
In an August 6, 1874 letter to his brother John, Joshua Hutchinson wrote, "I have ardently desired that the memory of the late N.P. Rogers, a devoted friend and adviser of the family, could receive the attention and kindly remembrance it so much deserves, for from his dashing pen, fired with the most disinterested love of humanity, did he couple the early history of the anti-slavery cause with the simple melodies of the Hutchinsons. Indeed, 'twas his persuasive power more than anything else that brought the family's influence as musicians to the aid of that cause."
Rogers, like his friend Jesse Hutchinson, Jr., was very early in encouraging the young Hutchinson Family vocalists to sing in their concerts on behalf of the slave. Up to the spring of 1844, the singers performed the popular and sacred songs of the day in their public entertainments, while reserving their antislavery verses for meetings of the abolitionists. But as far back as the December 9, 1842, issue of the Herald of Freedom, Rogers wrote, "I wish the Hutchinsons had a series of Anti-Slavery Melodies, to sing at their Concerts." He got his wish late, and it didn't come easily.
Whittier wrote, "The tendency of his mind was to extremes. A zealous Calvinistic church-member, he became an equally zealous opponent of churches and priests; a warm politician, he became an ultra non-resistant and no-government man. In all this, his sincerity was manifest." In later years, he carried his ideas of individual freedom so far that he objected to a presiding officer in an anti-slavery meeting. This brought him into conflict with the New Hampshire Anti-Slavery Society; an unfortunate controversy ensued, which resulted in alienating him from Mr. Garrison, and he died without a reconciliation.
On June 4, 1845, the Hutchinsons attended a sad antislavery meeting in Concord, New Hampshire. This is the way John W. Hutchinson told the story:
The main trouble was over the Herald of Freedom. The paper was edited by N.P. Rogers[;] and his son-in-law, John R.
Sometime later, I'll have to go looking for a source for this next information. But as I understand it, the 1845 controversy over the Herald of Freedom centered on John R. French, not on N.P. Rogers; but Rogers took it personally to a surprising degree.
Mr. Rogers married a daughter of Daniel Farrand (1760-1825), of Burlington, Vt., and both he and his wife were members of the N.E. Non-Resistance Society. At a peace meeting which he attended toward the close of his life, the president argued in favor of taking life if commanded by God. Rogers was too feeble to take an active part in the meeting; it was well known that he was a devout Christian, and that he disapproved of capital punishment. He asked: "Does our brother yonder say that if God commanded him he would take a sword and use it in slaying human beings and innocent, helpless human beings?" "Yes, if God commanded," was the answer. "Well, I wouldn't," Rogers replied.
Nathaniel P. Rogers died at his home in Concord, New Hampshire on Friday, October 16, 1846. An early Hutchinson Family biography, The Book of Brothers, said, "At the time when this good friend was lying on his death-bed, the
Speaking of Rogers, John G. Whittier said, "He had faith in human progress - in the ultimate triumph of the good; millennial lights beaconed up all along his horizon." That, of course, is a great description of what Jesse Hutchinson, Jr. called "the Good Time Coming," a world and spiritual view which appeared time and time again in Hutchinson Family songs.
In 1847 a collection of Rogers' fugitive writings was published, with a memoir by Rev. John Pierpont.
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers. A Collection from the Newspaper Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers. Concord [N.H.]: John R. French, 1847.
This book was reprinted at least twice. The National Cyclopaedia author's phrase, "fugitive writings," has puzzled me. After his split with William Lloyd Garrison, Rogers edited his own newspaper which he called THE Herald of Freedom. I believe he also wrote for the Lynn, Massachusetts Pioneer which, for a time, was called the Lynn Pioneer and Herald of Freedom. As "The Old Man of the Mountain," Rogers contributed often to Horace Greeley's New York Daily Tribune. Since Rogers was estranged from Garrison, perhaps it is Rogers' writings of that period which are being called "fugitive."
Asa B. Hutchinson dedicated his song, "Recollections of Home, New England," to Nathaniel P's daughter, Ellen Rogers. Ellen and her sister Caroline Rogers sang as members of a Hutchinson Family group known as the "New Branch" through part of the 1848-1849 concert season.
There's some reason to think that, long after Rogers died, the Hutchinsons stayed in touch with members of his family or reestablished contact with them. Partly for that reason, I have tracked some branches of Nathaniel P. Rogers' family through the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. If you're interested in one of Rogers' family lines, from his children down toward the present, you might want to send me an e-mail. Perhaps we could compare notes.
I used the National Cyclopaedia of Biography article about Nathanial Peabody Rogers as an outline, for starters, since at the time I had no other guide to the general course of Rogers' life and career. I'll be adding to it, here and there, from my own research. With any luck, eventually this profile will take a very different form.
George Fullerton kindly referred me to John Greenleaf Whittier, Old Portraits, Modern Sketches, Personal Sketches and Tributes Complete, Volume VI., The Works of Whittier, Chapter 9, "Nathaniel Peabody Rogers," which I accessed by way of
and used as an important information source for this page.
George also suggested "Nathaniel Peabody Rogers" (Chapter 2), in Rev. Parker Pillsbury, Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles (Concord, N.H., 1883), which I accessed via
and used here as an information source.
One of my regular e-mail correspondents would like, one day, to write a biography of Nathaniel P. Rogers. I hope it happens.
Since December 7, 2004
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