William Weston Patton

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William W. Patton

Rev. William Weston Patton (19 October 1821, New York City - 1889), was president of Howard University, a fierce abolitionist and one of the contributors to the words of John Brown's Body. He was the son of Rev. William Patton and the grandson of Anglo-Irish Congregationalist immigrant and Revolutionary War Major Robert Patton.

Abolitionism[edit]

Patton took an earnest part in the anti-slavery movement, and was chairman of the committee that presented to President Lincoln, 13 September 1862, the memorial from Chicago asking him to issue a proclamation of emancipation. In 1887, Patton read a paper before the Maryland Historical Society entitled "President Lincoln and the Chicago Memorial on Emancipation" recalling the actual dialogue with President Lincoln at that meeting in 1862. The original copy of that paper is held in the Mugar Memorial Library at Boston University. He was vice-president of the Northwestern sanitary commission during the American Civil War, and as such repeatedly visited the eastern and western armies, publishing several pamphlet, reports. In 1886 he went, on behalf of the freedmen, to Europe, where, and in the Orient, he remained nearly a year.

John Brown's Body[edit]

In October 1861 Patton wrote new lyrics to the battle song John Brown's Body. These were published in the Chicago Tribune on December 16, 1861. Even more than the previous words the new words glorify the violent anti-slavery acts of the abolitionist John Brown and his followers. The third verse directly refers to the attack on the armory in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Verse four compares John Brown to John the Baptist.

These themes were further refined two months later by Julia Ward Howe; her version came to be known as The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Where Patton only wrote "of the Christ we are to see", Howe testified that her eyes had already "seen the glory of the coming of the Lord".

Academic career[edit]

Patton graduated at the New York University in 1839 and at the Union theological seminary in 1842. After taking charge of a Congregational church in Boston, Massachusetts, for three years, he became pastor of one in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1846, and in Chicago, Illinois, in 1857. He received the degree of D.D. from DePauw University, Indiana, in 1864, and that of LL.D. from the New York University in 1882. From 1867 till 1872 he was editor of The Advance in that city, and during 1874 he was lecturer on modern skepticism at Oberlin, Ohio, and Chicago theological seminaries. From 1877 to 1889 he was president of Howard University, Washington, D.C., filling the chair of natural theology and evidences of Christianity in its theological department.

Publications[edit]

Patton is the author of The Young Man (Hartford, 1847; republished as The Young Man's Friend, Auburn, New York, 1850) ; Conscience and Law (New York, 1850); Slavery and Infidelity (Cincinnati, 1856); Spiritual Victory (Boston, 1874); and Prayer and its Remarkable Answers (Chicago, 1875).

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