Henry Ward Beecher

The Scandal


"It is not the going out of port, but the coming in, that determines the success of a voyage."
                                                                                                                  __  Henry Ward Beecher

Quote found at <http://www.cp-tel.net/miller/BilLee/quotes/Beecher.html>.


        Henry Beecher was a popular minister and active in many current issues. He was an abolitionist and worked for women's suffrage movement. Two of the journals that he edited was The Independent and The Christian Union.  Beecher resigned as editor of The Independent and gave the job to Theodore Tilton. Beecher remained the editor of  The Christian Union. The two worked together but their friendship ended in 1870 when Mr. Tilton accused Beecher of having an affair with Mrs. Tilton. Beecher denied the affair and refused to give in to Tilton's demand that he resign as minister of Plymouth Church and editor of the journal. Tilton was slow to respond, not bringing charges against Beecher until 1874. In 1875 Reverend Henry Ward Beecher went on trail for adultery and damages caused to Tilton because of the affair. The trail lasted for several months and according to Thomas Knox "a curious public gloated over the daily details of the great scandal." 33 Finally the trial ended with the jury ruling barely in favor of Mr. Beecher. It took the jury eight days to reach a decision.34 His character was greatly shadowed by the trail. He was acquitted by a council of Congregational churches but still the fact that he had been accused of adultery followed him around the rest of his life. Henry still continued to be a popular minister of the day but some members of his congregation felt that he was a hypocrite.35    

        Henry Beecher was one of the first public figures to undergo a sex scandal and have it broadcast in the media. He was a pioneer in this area too. The scandal that he went through was often brought up and compared to the  recent Clinton scandal. 


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Introduction                Family Influence                Early Years                Preaching Style 

         Abolitionism               Women's Suffrage             The Scandal                 His Works                  

 His Impact                   Bibliography


Created by N. Hewitt                       Contact Me                    Return to History 338 Page                Last Edited 03/30/01


       33. Knox, Life., 404.

        34. Ibid., 404. 

        35. James M. Wall, "Public Passions," Christian Century 117 (2000).  10 par.,  <http://www.ehostvgw20.epnet.com> (18 March 2001) : par. 2.