February 13, 2020
Henry headed to the pulpit as the congregation finished their hymn. As people settled in their seats, Henry looked out among the vast room. A renowned preacher and orator, he had given many, many sermons and speeches. Yet this wasn’t just any ordinary building, it was the Capitol Building. It wasn’t just a typical congregation. It included United States Representatives and Senators their families and from both parties. Henry wasn't just a random preacher. He was specifically chosen for this very special and prominent event.
Taking his text from Matthew 23:4, Henry did not mince words. "They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." His message was poignant and clear as he compared slaveowners to the Pharisees. While the Jewish leaders were placing burdens of laws and traditions on the Jewish people, slaveowners loaded their slaves down with physical labors.
Such messages were expected from Henry, yet this address was particularly meaningful and especially historical. On February 1, 1865, Republican President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment, freeing all slaves throughout the country, which was passed by Congress the day before. (see ) The only amendment signed by a president, Republicans immediately began bringing blacks, both free and former slaves, into positions equal to whites even though the Constitutional Amendment was not yet ratified.
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