Having your own opinions is a good thing. Feeling the need to make your opinions heard is sometimes a good thing. When looking through stacks of newspaper articles from the mid-19th century, sometimes what you really want is a good opinionated article to take you inside the mind of a minister from 1838.
Take Reverend John Todd from Philadelphia. He has a lot of opinions, but the one he felt the need to publish in Christian Register and Boston Observer on October 6th, 1838 was this one: Music is good.
Well, that’s cool.
But why does Todd feel so emphatic about music? What would a minister from Philadelphia in 1838 have to say about music? Probably that it’s a glorious gift from God so therefore must be used to praise God in worship, right? Well, yes, but he says more too.
As I read through this article, I realized that it’s essentially an opinion piece with a clear argument and a bit of rambling.
In his article, Todd brings up religion, as well as national pride and status, as things music can fortify in one’s life. I thought it was interesting that he spent so much time discussing one’s status and national price, especially because the title of the article would lead me to believe that it would be entirely about religion. Just look at the opening line:
“God has created the soul for music, and made provision to supply its desires1 ”.
A few paragraphs later, Todd says: “Any price will be paid for exquisite music”.
He goes on to describe how a famous violinist would make more money in a year than “eighty of our ordained missionaries”. According to Todd, these examples show the strong love we all have for music.
Next, Todd discusses how music contributes to one’s sense of national pride and identity. He talks about “Yankee Doodle” and how the song “will probably create an American feeling as long as our nation exists”.
However, the point which Todd focuses on the most is how music is innate to children. He demonstrates his point by describing instances where music was included in school teachings. According to Todd, German schools commonly taught singing and music, and every child was expected to read, write, and perform music.
In Todd’s view, this has been widely successful, and in the few cases in which it has not, was most likely because the songs were too lengthy or complicated. This can be connected with Eileen Southern’s descriptions of the movements led by Elias Neau at Trinity Church in New York to educate servants in psalmody. According to Southern, Neau at one point taught over one hundred servants in the singing of psalmody2.. However, Todd never explicitly mentions Black musicians – in fact, he never mentions race at all.
I would like to compare this source with some primary sources from Black musicians at the time to see where and how they differ. I wonder how the perception of music would differ by author, and if it does, why? Does it have to do with social status, race, location, occupation, or all of the above?
 Todd, John. “RELIGIOUS MISCELLANY.: VALUE OF MUSIC. SINGING IN SUNDAY SCHOOLS.” Christian Register and Boston Observer (1835-1843), Oct 06, 1838, 1, https://www.proquest.com/magazines/religious-miscellany/docview/89774473/se-2?accountid=351.