According to biographer Robert Peel, “Mrs. Eddy was brought up a Jacksonian Democrat [one who believes in more democracy for the citizenry, as seen in the politics of President Andrew Jackson], switched her sympathies to the new Republican Party at the time of the Civil War, managed to sound remarkably like William Jennings Bryan [the thrice-nominated Democratic Party candidate] in some of her public pronouncements at the turn of the century, but in general stayed clear of partisan judgements and commitments in her later years.”1
Eddy’s most succinct statement about her political beliefs can be found in one of her published writings, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany. When asked in 1908 about her politics she stated, “I have none, in reality, other than to help support a righteous government; to love God supremely, and my neighbor as myself.”2
Looking at Eddy’s letters and articles can provide further insight into her political views. In 1845, a poem titled “Death of Jackson” was published in a New Hampshire newspaper. It was written in commemoration of President Jackson, who had passed away that year. Later in her life, in an undated, unpublished manuscript, she added to her line of thought in Miscellany, stating, “The peace and prosperity of a people largely depend on the morals of their leaders and equity of their laws.”3
However to properly put Eddy’s political views in context, it’s important to understand the political environment and its changes during the time that she lived (1821-1910). The abolition of slavery, temperance, and women’s suffrage were important issues during her life. The Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War were all fought during her lifetime. When she was born, the president of the United States was James Monroe, a Democratic-Republican, a party that didn’t even exist when she passed away. Eddy’s lifetime saw the rise of the Republican Party, and it was a Republican, William Howard Taft, who was president when she passed away.
As Peel noted, Eddy was a supporter of the Republican Party and of Abraham Lincoln. This can be seen in a letter she wrote to the editor of The Portland Daily Press and that ran in the January 29, 1864, issue of the paper. In it she states “…we hope our faithful Abraham [Lincoln] will continue to blend justice with victory….”
Her support of Lincoln is also written of in a poem she wrote on January 1, 1866, titled “To the Old Year—1865.”
Chill was thy midnight day,
While Justice grasped the sword to hold her throne,
And on her altar our loved Lincoln’s own
Great willing heart did lay.4
Eddy also had pictures of the former President in her home. She had an etching of Lincoln reading the Emancipation Proclamation before the Presidential Cabinet when she lived at Pleasant View in Concord, New Hampshire, and 400 Beacon Street in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Eddy also displayed a photo of Lincoln without his beard in her downstairs classroom at 12 Broad Street in Lynn, Massachusetts.
(Interestingly, Lincoln’s daughter-in-law, two granddaughters and a great-grandaughter all became Christian Scientists.)
From the beginning of the Civil War, the Republican Party controlled the Presidency for the rest of Eddy’s life with the exception of Grover Cleveland’s two terms. (He was a Democrat.) Based on a letter written in 1895 from Eddy to her son, George Glover II, it would appear that she was not a fan of Cleveland. “All business is suffering great depression because of the administration of our national government.”5 Here Eddy is referring to the Panic of 1893, a severe economic crisis that was followed by an economic recession that lasted through Cleveland’s departure from office in 1897. Given that the Democratic Party was, in the late nineteenth century, primarily associated with the South, it’s not surprising that Eddy, a Northerner, was not a supporter of it.
Two letters show Eddy’s views on involvement in politics by Christian Scientists. Judge Septimus Hanna, a Christian Scientist who was the Editor of The Christian Science Journal, and a Christian Science teacher, wrote to Eddy in a letter dated June 8, 1892. In it he explained that he had left the Republican Party and allied himself with the Prohibition Party, as it was “based upon a higher and better human principle than any other.”6 (The Prohibition Party is a political party dedicated to the prohibition of alcohol.) He was asked to speak at a Prohibition Party state convention in Pennsylvania and did so, but later felt conflicted about his involvement in the process. He asked Eddy,
Shall we as Scientists cease to vote? Shall we retire from the active duties of citizenship, and cease to interest ourselves in the affairs of our country? Can we better bring about the desired condition as well in the political world, as in other departments of mortal mind, by keeping aloof from all participation in the ordinary affairs of life, or can we better advance the cause of Truth by commingling with our fellow mortals somewhat on their plane of consciousness and activity?7
Hanna went on to ask whether the opportunity to be involved in the Prohibition Party was a gift given from God or a serpent trying to draw him away from Truth. He closed his letter to Eddy stating, “My only purpose is to do that which is best for our grand cause.”
Eddy, herself a longtime supporter of prohibition (it was on the way to a temperance meeting in February 1866 that Eddy had her life-changing fall on the ice in Lynn, Massachusetts), responded on June 11, 1892, noting the importance and weight of Hanna’s question.
There is more present good done by being in the midst of error and neutralizing the old with the new. The old bottle of dishonesty in politicians needs emptying, and it needs your purpose poured into it, purpose to accomplish the most good for the largest number. If you are now sufficiently rooted and grounded in Christ, Truth, and all its sweet savors of patience, wisdom, grace, to bear the strain, you can do more good by occasionally working among politicians than to taking yourself away from them.8
Fifteen years later, Eddy offered another opinion about the place of Christian Scientists in politics. In a letter to Eddy from a student, Augusta Stetson, dated April 30, 1907, Stetson wrote that she had recently met President Theodore Roosevelt and was concerned with his position on peace and the military arms race that was occurring around the world at that time.9 In a letter dated the next day, Eddy responded,
Avoid being identified pro or con, in politics. If you do otherwise it will hinder our cause, remember this. Keep out of the reach of such subjects. Give all your attention to the moral and spiritual status of the race. God alone is capable of government; you are not, I am not, but God has governed through His anointed and appointed one in the way of divine Science; — not politics nor the making or breaking of national laws or institutions. He, God, alone is capable of this.10
- Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1977), 420 n.24.
- Mary Baker Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany (Boston: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1913), 276.
- Mary Baker Eddy, n.d., A10599.
- Mary Baker Eddy, Poems (Boston: Trustees under the Will of Mary Baker G. Eddy, 1910), 26.
- Mary Baker Eddy to George W. Glover, 19 February 1895, L02113.
- Septimus J. Hanna to Eddy, 8 June 1892, IC 33.
- Eddy to Hanna, 11 June 1892, L04928.
- Augusta Stetson to Eddy, 30 April 1907, IC 92f.
- Eddy to Stetson, 1 May 1907, L13516.