A Friend to God's Poor: Edward Parmelee Smith
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Edition: First Edition
Item Dimensions: 900650195150
Label: Univ of Georgia Pr
Languages: EnglishPublishedEnglishOriginal LanguageEnglishUnknown
Manufacturer: Univ of Georgia Pr
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 518
Publication Date: December 01, 1993
Publisher: Univ of Georgia Pr
Studio: Univ of Georgia Pr
Alternate Versions: Click to Display
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A Friend to God's Poor is the first full-length biography of Edward Parmelee Smith (1827-1876), a Congregational minister from New England and a leading light in forming an evangelical response to the Civil War and Reconstruction. The biography weaves together important strands of American church history: the reform movement, the assistance the churches gave to President Grant's Indian Policy, and the movement to bring the gospel to Africa.
While he was a student at Union Theological Seminary, Smith spent his spare time working for the Children's Aid Society, going among the poorest tenements of New York City seeking out destitute children. One "cold, raw, wet day, passing up Second Street, near First Avenue," Smith noticed a pair of boots exposed under a cart box. Bending down to look in, he saw a young boy preparing for breakfast: "From a deep pocket of his long coat he brought up a dry crust, from the other he pulled out a dirty package and began unwrapping a bit of paper, then a rag, and so on for several layers till he came to the bone, which he gnawed like a dog." During his time with the Children's Aid Society, Smith helped place hundreds of such children in homes.
While serving a church in Pepperell, Massachusetts, he volunteered as a delegate of the United States Christian Commission, established during the war to provide religious and relief services for Union soldiers, black as well as white. After serving in the Army of the Potomac, Smith was sent west to organize the commission's work in the Army of the Cumberland. By the end of the war, he was the commission's field secretary.
After the Civil War, Smith was employed by the American Missionary Association, an "undenominational" organization formed by evangelical Christians who worked for the welfare of freed slaves. In close cooperation with the Freedmen's Bureau, Smith helped organize scores of schools for freedmen, including such institutions as Fisk and Atlanta universities, Hampton Institute, and Tougaloo and Talladega colleges.
When President Grant asked the churches to assist in the reform of the United States Office of Indian Affairs, Smith offered his services and was appointed agent for the Chippewa Indians in Minnesota. Later, Grant appointed him U.S. commissioner of Indian affairs. Smith's appointment was the culmination of Grant's peace policy toward Native Americans. With this appointment, a Protestant minister became guardian of the country's nearly four hundred thousand native peoples, who were considered wards of the nation.
During his two and a half years as commissioner, his conduct was the subject of six official investigations. The story of those investigations not only sheds light on the character of Edward Smith but also illuminates the working of the Indian Office during an administration too simply labeled corrupt. Five days after leaving the position of commissioner, Smith was appointed president of Howard University. He served briefly in this position before his death in Africa at the age of forty-nine.
Using a wide variety of sources, William Armstrong tells the compelling story of one evangelical Christian's public service. In so doing, he provides a perspective on some of the most significant humanitarian movements of the nineteenth century.
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