There have been times that I have honestly shared some of my findings, and they have, perhaps, seemed so outlandish, or as though I was hyping myself, that I imagine readers just brushed it off and discounted my presentation altogether. One of those times was when I announced that I was pretty sure that in my past life, as Mathew Franklin Whittier in the 19th century, I was a secret agent of some kind. Not for the government--but for an anti-slavery leader or organization. Probably, William Lloyd Garrison.
What I imagine people think, is, "Oh, he makes all those other claims, and now he was a spy, too?
Gradually, this has been coming together as I've been researching his life. I won't go over all the steps. But the latest links in the chain, were that I found a humorous article in a literary newspaper that I knew he often submitted to. He used a variety of pseudonyms, so I routinely Google the interior lines when I find a new piece, to make sure it wasn't written by, or claimed by, some other writer. And I also want to see if there were any previous publications. In this case, there was a previous publication, in an earlier "incarnation" of the same literary newspaper. (By that I mean, before it changed hands--the same paper, with a somewhat different name, under different management.)
So then, I figured that, to be thorough, I should look through that newspaper to see whether I could find anything else of Mathew's. There were only a couple that I felt sure were his. Keep in mind that between my intuitive past-life recognition of my own "literary children," and having studied hundreds of examples of his work over the past eight years, I know what to look for.
But these two pieces were cited as having been taken from another paper--in New Orleans. I already had evidence that Mathew had spent some time there. So assuming the first paper reprinted them not long after they had originally been published in the New Orleans paper, I had my time-frame.
I found them, alright. And I found something else. Mathew, writing under his barely-disguised middle initial, was writing like crazy for that paper, for something over a month. He had the police station beat. But he wasn't doing with it what reporters traditionally do. He wasn't writing sensational copy; he was interviewing the people being arrested, giving them a voice, and presenting them in such a way that the readership might empathize with them and understand them. There were also some poems, and articles about other topics--chiefly, urging reforms of one kind or another. But most of these (I haven't keyed them all, there are about 20 of them) were the stories of the men arrested there.
What comes to mind is the "Life House" project attempted by The Who. The one that was so large it collapsed of its own weight--but the album, "Who's Next," was salvaged from it. The intent, as I understand it, was to have an auditorium full of people of all walks of life, and to write a song expressing the essence of each person, telling his or her story. So that is what Mathew was doing on the police beat, in New Orleans. He was teaching empathy and compassion; and perhaps he was hoping it might rub off, and extend to empathy and compassion for people with a different skin color.
That was in 1846. But I already knew he was also there two years later. Long story short, I was able to confirm that he was there under cover. He had to have been; he couldn't have been there, doing what I know he was doing (including interviewing slaves, and then traveling to an anti-slavery convention in Cincinnati), under his own name. Why? Because his brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, was a known abolitionist newspaper editor. Had anyone known Mathew was the brother of JGW, the gig would have been up.
Back in 2013, I had a hypnotic regression to explore these things. What I seemed to remember, was that Mathew was working for one of his editors. Today, I found that another editor was worried that he hadn't heard from him in awhile--just precisely during the time he would have been interviewing slaves in New Orleans. That means I was right--if he wasn't working for these liberal editors, at least, they were in on it.
The editor is very clever. He writes as though he is addressing Mathew's character, and as though he is pretending to be worried about the character because he hasn't been submitted to the paper in awhile. The public, at this time, didn't know that Mathew was the author of this character. So the editor obviously knew--and he knew that Mathew was under cover in New Orleans interviewing slaves. What was Mathew's method? He tells us, in a later article written for this editor's ultra-liberal paper. He pretended to be interested in buying them, and in the process of ostensible interrogation, he was actually interviewing them and taking down their story verbatim (as he knew shorthand). The editor writes it this way:
We have missed our correspondent Ethan Spike of late, and have been afraid he was dead because we did not hear Hornby's response to the French and Washington Revolutions. But it does not follow that because a wood duck goes down into the water it is drowned. You'll be likely soon to see it up and alive in another place.
I can't really go into all the detail, here. I managed to summarize it in a relatively few pages, today, in my book, but that's because all the background has already been introduced at that point. The gist is, that I can now prove I was right--that Mathew was, indeed, operating as a secret agent before the War, for the cause of Abolition; and at least one of his liberal editors was aware of it.
The point I want to make, is don't be hasty in dismissing me. When I say I can prove something, even if your immediate reaction would be to dismiss it--and me--hold off a bit. I may really be able to do it.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Follow the Drinkin Gourd"
performed by Richie Havens, from the album, "Songs of the Civil War"