Church & Turf

by

General Abe Buford
April 30th 1882

As I was doing the research for my 2005 "Buford Families in America" book I kept finding Newspaper articles mocking and jabbing Abe about wanting to join the Campbell Street Church. I felt rather badly that so-called Christian Church people could be so callus and mean by refusing him membership for the simple reason of having race horses that people could make bets of money on.   I eventually ran across this Lecture/Speech at the Library of Congress and thought it such a perfect retaliation on Abe's part.  Had I been a member of that pious, unchristian-like  church I would have left it straight-a-way with out looking back.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.  For a teen age boy whose father put him in the hands of Daniel Boone to learn about the wilderness beyond Kentucky and later to spend 14 years in the Army after graduating from West Point in '41 to be as enlightened about the Bible as this speech shows was not only surprising but prideful to me.

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He was interviewed on the 25th of July 1882 by the
Chicago Daily Inter Ocean newspaper before delivering his speech and this is the interview - I will post his Church and
Turf
 
Lecture after the interview.

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General Buford, who has undertaken the task of showing that horse-racing is compatible with good Christianity, is in the city and stopping at the Grand Pacific Hotel.  This evening he lectures at Hershey Hall and the novelty of his subject will no doubt attract a large audience.  The General is well known in the South but in the North where he is, perhaps not so well known, an introduction may be necessary.  His title is not a mere ornamental handle to his name.  He is a graduate of West Point of the class of 1841, and during his four years residence there, was associated with many of the men who have since become famous including  Generals Grant, Sherman, Hancock, Buell, Rodman, and others.  General Hancock is his political ideal.

"I am for Hancock yet." said he last evening to a reporter of the Inter Ocean, "and never took any interest in politics except to help to get the nomination for him.  What was the objection against him?  It was on the tariff question, and that he opened his mouth too much.  Well, I am for a protective tariff.  I never was  a secessionist, but I fought in the Confederate Army.  I couldn't fight against my people.  I advocate religion now, but I can't fight against my old companion, the horse.  I served fourteen years in the regular army, and was in the Mexican war.  I was one of the 13 men in my country that voted for Douglas against Breckinridge.  I advised against the policy of secession, but never denied the right to secede and am as strong in that as ever."

"How did you come to be drawn into this subject of the church and the turf?"

"I joined the Church.

but a lady said to me that I seemed to hold myself aloof from it.  That was a widow.  "Madam, said I, "you put on the halter and I will follow."  She invited me to a prayer meeting and I spoke there.  My point was to make the two things consistent and look at the reasons why a Christian could have race horses.  I sent Brother Talmage a copy of my lecture and wrote him a private letter in which I stated that there was a little uneasiness in my church.  The turf was perfectly willing to discuss the subject, but the church took it up with some reluctance.  Brother Talmage replied to my lecture and went even further than I did.  Some people said he plagiarized from my lecture.  He did not.  I was very much gratified at what he said.  On the part of some in the church there is a reluctance to discuss the subject, a feeling of intolerance, which I attribute to want of information.  My sole object is to elevate the turf, and have the church throw her mantle over the turf with a view of correcting the abuses of the turf.  It is only the abuse of the turf that the church can object to.  The abuse of the turf is like the abuse of gold but we cannot do without gold.  The abuse of and the lust for gold is the father of sin.  Betting men will bet, and especially on elections.  It is certainly the duty of Christians to vote at all elections.  They certainly would not stay at home and let the sinners elect the President of the United States.  (I wonder where the Christians were in 2008 and 2012?)  So don't let us give up the horse because we see others bet on him.  Don't let us give up commerce because we see men betting on wheat margins.  I am

AGAINST THE POOL-POT

and all that sort of gambling.  I think it is no more harm for a man to win a stake on his horse than to take a prize at a fair for fat cattle."

"How is your lecture received.?"

"Eight out of ten men approve it.  What I find fault with is the abuse of horse-racing as such."

"Do you expect to engage in horse-racing again?"

"No,  The talk about that is all stuff.  I expect to go back to my farm in the fall, and raise some blooded stock.  I have one of the finest farms in the blue-grass country.  It is called Bosque-bonita which means pretty woods.  I spent my time from 1854 to 1881 with the exception of the period during which I was in the war, on my farm.  This lecturing is a new business to me and I can't talk as well as some others.  But as far as military men are concerned, I can beat General Grant in that respect." 

The reporter left the General busily engaged in the preparation of his lecture for this evening.  He is a personal friend of the Hon. Thomas A. Hendricks and as the latter is at present in the city, he expects to have the honor of his presence on the platform this evening.

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