The early decades of the nineteenth century were a millennial age. A surprising number of persons became followers of William Miller, who set a date for the second coming of Christ on earth, and when disappointed, prophesied again and again. Some of his disciples vouchsafed such faith in his predictions that they prepared ascension robes and kept them ready at hand, while a few, fearful that they might die before the great day came, stipulated to be interred on some high place, where they might be off in the van whenever the Angel Gabriel saw fit to sound his horn.

Not many went to these extremes, to be sure, and yet there was a multitude of people who accepted the idea of human perfectibility and foresaw the triumph of holiness and the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth at no far distant time. The reforming impulse of the period stemmed largely from this hope. Weld himself was a millennialist, and so was Finney. A product of evangelical religion, the millennial fantasy sometimes took weird and unusual forms under the stimulus of American exuberance. The Shakers sought salvation in prudent rhythm. Brook Farm, New Harmony, Hopedale, and other private ventures offering the chance of human improvement in a sequestered communal environment sprang up in such profusion that Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked that there was scarcely a reading man "but has a draft of some community in his waistcoat pocket." Reforms of every sort proliferated, with the "benevolent society" as a favored medium of reformist expression.

There were societies for home and foreign missions, societies for the distribution of Bibles and tracts, a society to encourage the establishment of Sunday Schools, another to reform sailors--a craft held to be especially susceptible to Satan's blandishments--still others to espouse world peace, promote prison reform, abolish imprisonment for debt, and to promote a multitude of other causes. The American Temperance Society and the American Colonization Society were among the largest, and among the more idiosyncratic were those which, under the name of "Female Retrenchment Societies," would persuade the weaker sex to eschew "tea, coffee, rich cake, pastry, preserves, snuff and tobacco, as well as wine and cordials.

Many of these societies held annual spring conventions in New York City. In that adolescent metropolis a group of well-meaning rich men had banded together as the "New York Association of Gentlemen." Consecrated to the perfection of mankind through philanthropy, they pledged themselves to forego the unrestricted accumulation of wealth and to devote their surplus gains to good works. Inasmuch as nearly every one of them was active in a number of benevolent causes and served on the boards of several different philanthropic societies, they constituted a sort of interlocking directorate at the core of the benevolent movement.

Arthur and Lewis Tappan, the charitable New York merchants with whom Weld was now to be associated, were leaders of this group. Arthur was the more prominent of the brothers, not because he was abler or more philanthropic, but because of Lewis' abnegation; for Lewis often relieved his brother of the tedium of business affairs in order that Arthur might spare more time for good works.

A heavy-bearded man with hollow, wrinkled cheeks, and shaggy eyebrows shading his sharp, penetrating eyes, a straight nose, firm lips, and rumpled hair, Arthur no longer had the spruceness of his youth, when, with his handsome face, his tidy clothes, and jaunty air, he seemed destined to become a man of the world. But his father had admonished him to associate only with the virtuous and the good, "if it be possible to find any such," and Arthur had taken his counsel to heart. Toward sin he came to feel "as you would if, putting your hand in your pocket, you touched a toad." His personal cleanliness made him shrink from those whose breath or apparel was tainted with tobacco, which he accounted harmful to the stomach and nervous system. He also suspected an affinity between tobacco and strong drink, doubting that addicts of the weed could "content themselves with washing out their throats with cold water."

Arthur was a small man, never robust, and his migraine headaches made him irritable and abrupt. Entirely lacking in humor, he was as stern with himself as with others. As his philanthropies extended and he was importuned for money, he devised the expedient of removing the extra chair from his office so that those who "came not for goods but their proceeds" would tire sooner, being obliged to stand.

Although more self-effacing than Arthur, Lewis was akin to him in temperament. In some respects more zealous in reform, he was also more impetuous and tenacious. When Arthur became discouraged, Lewis often took over. When Arthur hesitated, Lewis plunged in. But impetuosity sometimes forced him to reconsider, so that he was thought to vacillate.

Much of the Tappans' business success derived from their inauguration of the one-price system, a revolutionary practice in merchandising. Customers at their store soon came to realize the futility of haggling. The Tappans sold at an established price, and it was the same for all.

In the minds of the brothers, however, a more potent factor making for their success was careful supervision of the morals of their clerks. Every morning before the opening hour Arthur or Lewis led devotions in the store. No Tappan employee might drink or smoke, attend the theater, or own acquaintance with an actress. Every clerk must attend devotions twice on Sunday and be prepared on Monday to announce the name of the church, the clergyman, and his text. Prayer meeting twice a week was also prescribed, and at ten o'clock each evening every Tappan employee must be home.

Lewis' letters of his brother Ben, who lived in Steubenville, Ohio, and was something of a freethinker, reflect the reformer's mind. "You ask why I cannot keep my religion to myself," wrote Lewis, when Ben, provoked by Lewis' efforts to reform him, responded with testy bluntness. "I will tell you my dear brother," Lewis explained. "Because I see you are in danger of eternal damnation. Your soul, with its powers & capacity of continual enlargment thro' all eternity, is in peril of being lost! As I love you then, and desire your happiness & usefulness, I urge upon you the obligation of faith in the Son of God. Were I not to do so your blood would be found on my skirts at the Judgment Day."

The assertion is significant to our understanding of the reform impulse of which abolition was one manifestation. As we have noted specifically in the case of Theodore Weld, the nineteenth century reformers were heirs to the Puritan doctrine of community responsibility for sin. To assure one's own salvation, one must save others, too. A man could not ignore an erring brother and still hope to win salvation for himself. When Ben Tappan was elected to the United States Senate, Lewis wrote: "To tell you the honest truth I should have preferred to have heard that you had become a sincere deacon of a church."

The Tappans' benefactions included the American Tract Society, the American Bible Society, Auburn Theological Seminary, Kenyon College, Weld's own school, the Oneida Institute, the American Education Society, various home and foreign missionary endeavors, sundry temperance organizations, and the General Union for the Observance of the Christian Sabbath; at one time or another the brothers gave financial aid to more than one hundred divinity students at Yale. In the late twenties Arthur founded the Journal of Commerce with the aim of bringing a wholesome moral influence to the newspaper field. His paper accepted no "immoral" advertisement, among which he classed those of spirituous liquors, circuses, and theaters. No issue of his sheet appeared on Sunday, and in order that his printers might keep the Sabbath holy, Monday's issue must be ready for distribution by twelve o'clock Saturday night. After losing thirty thousand dollars on this venture, Arthur turned it over to Lewis, a transfer which involved no change of policy. For Lewis, besides sharing Arthur's views on advertising, was even stricter about Sabbath observance, being corresponding secretary of a society to prevent the Sunday conveyance of mail as well as a promoter of a society to oppose the use of illuminating gas in churches in order that gas workers might be free to worship on the Lord's Day.

Weld entered upon his association with the Tappans in the autumn of 1831 and immediately set out to visit schools and colleges throughout the country. His instructions from the trustees of the SocietT for Promoting Manual Labor in Literary Institutions directed him to collect data froin which might be deduced guiding principles for the most successful union of manual labor with study; to ascertain to what extent the manual labor system was suited to conditions in the West; and to compile a journal of his findings. Weld, Lewis Tappan and a few others even cherished the notion of establishing a great national manual labor institution to serve as a pattern, and Weld planned to be on the lookout for the most advantageous site for it.

Almost at the outset of his journey he was laid up with a sprained arm, a bruised head, and an almost dislocated neck, when a drunken driver ran his stagecoach off the road and down an eight-foot bank near Hartford, Connecticut. The coach turned almost completely over, and the driver and all ten passengers were more or less battered and bruised. "The horses were going at a rapid rate," Weld wrote to Lewis Tappan, "--had just descended a hill, when without the warning of an instant, we found ourselves, en masse, with broken fragments of the stage, hats and bonnets in a jam, cloaks, coats and pantaloons, fit furniture for a rag-shop--men groaning--women in hysterics--tears running, and blood too .... I was thrown violentIv against one of the top beams, head first; and but for my thick fur cap and a large pocket handkerchief which I providentially put in it, have little doubt that the blow would have been very serious." As it was, he was laid up for several days and was obliged to visit a doctor twice. "So much for RUM," he moralized.

Weld had scarcely recovered from this mishap when he had his misadventure and miraculous escape in fording Alum Creek, near Columbus, Ohio. Here, along with the rest of his baggage, he lost his journal, and for some reason never resumed it. As a matter of fact, he thought of himself more as a missionary of manual labor education than as an investigator. To be sure, he interviewed educators and collected facts, but his chief activity was speechmaking.

The disaster at Alum Creek forced him into four weeks of inactivity at Cincinnati. Before he was really able to be up and about, he consented to deliver a temperance speech. His hands were still so benumbed that he could not button his clothes, and it was agreed that he should talk no longer than half an hour. But once he had begun he spoke three times that long, following his initial effort with seven more lectures on seven consecutive nights, then continuing to speak for several evenings more on manual labor. There were times when he could scarcely mount the platform without help, and he clutched the desk for support until, under the stimulus of speaking, his strength seemed to return.

From Cincinnati Weld made his way across Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to St. Louis, still giddy, but scorning to give way to physical weakness. It was a foolhardy stubbornness and he was to pay dearly for it later. Julia Tappan, who remembered his once ruddy and animated countenance, was surprised when next she saw him a few months afterward. For his "fine healthy color" had given place to pallor, his once abundant hair had thinned perceptibly, and his voice was rasping and raw.

After touring the Middle West, Weld headed into the South, where, in his intervals of lecturing, he studied slavery. At Nashville, Tennessee, he had a long discussion about it with Marius Robinson, an able young student at the University of Nashville. Striking ever deeper south, he spent a month at Huntsville, Alabama, as the guest of Dr. William Allan, a slaveholding Presbyterian minister. Here again he discussed the slavery problem with Doctor Allan, his two sons, and their neighbor, James G. Birnev. As yet, Weld favored merely the program of the American Colonization Society--gradual emancipation with transportation of free Negroes to Africa. Throughout the South he found intelligent Southerners quite willing to talk about their "peculiar institution," provided the conversation was out of hearing of the slaves.

Slavery interested him increasingly, but temperance and manual labor education were still his primary concerns. He had expected that manual labor principles might not take too well in the South; they did not accord with planter tradition. Some Southerners did object that they wished their sons to be gentlemen, "not stiflened and spavined, like the slaves, by work." Yet on the whole, Weld thought he encountered no more obiections of this sort in the South than he did in the North. And his retort, when anyone raised the point that aristocratic youths might be above a little honest sweat, was to advise them to take a lesson from the apostle Paul, a tentmaker, from Moses, a shepherd, Cincinnatus, a farmer, the disciple John, a fisherman, or Ben Franklin, a printer. So Weld traveled through the South, talking temperance and manual labor at every opportunity. Food and accommodations were often poor. More than once he put up at rude cabins and even slept under the stars. But he gloried in such hardships as tests of his mettle.

Lewis Tappan still hoped to make him pastor of a "free church," and corresponded with him regularly. Indeed, there was a sharp tug between Weld on the one hand, arguing the importance of the West, and Tappan on the other, urging the claims of the East. While Weld was in Cincinnati, Asa Mahan, a Cincinnati Presbyterian pastor, drew up a petition urging Finney to come to Cincinnati, which twelve ministers and fifteen laymen, including Weld, endorsed. Shortly thereafter, both Mahan and Weld sent Finney personal appeals, Weld pleading that the Ohio Vallev could never be moved from Boston, New York, or Philadelphia, and that Cincinnati was the spot for Finney. "Here is to be the battle field of the world," he wrote; "here Satan's seat is. A mighty effort must be made to dislodge him soon or the West is undone."

On July 28, 1832, Weld wrote to Tappan from Princeton, Kentucky: "You make certain inquiries about my health. In reply I will give you a sketch of my doings for the last 30 days, & leave you to infer whether I am sick or well . . .Since the 28th June I have been on the road traveling 5 days & nights. This subtractcd from 30 leaves 25. During these twenty five days I have spoken in public 32 times--viz. 15 on Man. Lab. 13 on Temperance & 4 times on female Education by special request. Besides this, frequently during the same time [I] spoke every evening in Columbia, Tenn. and in the morning rode into the country 9 miles & spoke every day at 11 o'clock to the Students and Teachers of the M. L. Seminary & citizens of the vicinity; and on the Sabbath, A M & P.M. on another subject--Temperance. So besides riding 18 miles every day under a July sun I was enabled to speak twice, & probably on an average of [an hour and] a half each time for the week. The Lord has seen fit to bless me with great power of physical endurance--a principle of last, little affected by wear and tare, and enabling me to do & endure more than most men. And yet you and brother Finney . . . think I should settle in a city.!! Nay-nay-brother--God has marked out for me a station of another sort. The highways & hedges of the west."

Tappan was provoked at Weld's perversity. The trouble with a man like Weld, he wrote to Finney, is that he thinks the center of the universe is wherever he acts. The Mississippi Valley was important, to be sure, but the railroads, extending ever farther westward, would soon bring every Western businessman to New York twice a year, and if converted in New York, these business leaders would become effective workers at home. "Do what may be done elsewhere, and leave this city the headquarters of Satan, and the nation is not saved," Tappan declared. ". . . A blow struck here reverberates to the extremities of the republic." Tappan could not understand Weld's attitude. Weld could exert a mighty influence if he would listen to reason.

Weld, on his part, thought Tappan was deluded by New York provincialism. The Western merchants who would visit that expanding business center were merely an insignificant fraction of the vast Western population, and their minds would be on everything else but religion while they were "whirling in all the hustle and bustle and chaffering of purchasing, confused and perplexed with the details and statistics of filthy lucre, in the unfittest mood for receiving a healthful moral influence." Both Weld and Tappan were stubborn men, and each was convinced he was right.

Meanwhile, after a swing back to St. Louis and a six-hundredmile trip on horseback through Missouri, Weld returned to the North, and on October 12, 1832, arrived at Hudson, Ohio, near Cleveland, where he lectured four times on manual labor education and five times on temperance. But far greater than his effect on Hudson was its impact on him, for this backwoods village was the seat of VVestern Reserve College, and there Charles B. Storrs, the college president, Elizur Wright, professor of mathematics, and Beriah Green. another faculty member, were preaching a new type of abolitionism. It was the aggressive abolitionism of William Lloyd Garrison, who branded slavery as a sin and slaveholders as criminals. It was radical and militant and brooked no temporizing. If slavery was a sin, as assuredly it was, then it must go, and at once. The gradual, careful policy of the American Colonization Society was a compromise with sin.

One able student of the abolition movement would have it that Weld converted Storrs, Wright, and Green to this immediate type of abolitionism, but the evidence indicates that they fired Weld to action. Storrs had been receiving Garrison's paper, the Liberator, since February, 1831, and was won to immediatism several months before Weld's visit. Already he was preaching abolition sermons at and near the college, while Wright proclaimed the iniquities of slavery and urged its immediate extinction in a series of articles that appeared periodically in the Hudson Observer and Telegraph from August to November, 1832. In the fall term of that year, Storrs, Wright, and Green discussed colonization versus immediatism with the students in a college lecture hall. By the time of Weld's arrival there was turmoil and contention in the college and the town, and the trustees were voicing displeasure.

Storrs was destined to die within a year, but Wright and Green would become spearheads of abolition. Wright was a sanguine, self-reliant Connecticut Yankee aged twenty-eight, slight of build but wiry and tough. Able, even if insufferablv headstrong, he could wield a pen "keen as a Damascus blade." A mathematical wizard, he first manifested his reform proclivities at Yale, where he led a successful movement to banish liquor from Phi Beta Kappa banquets. Green, too, was a native of Connecticut. Now a man of forty, unprepossessing but reliable and devout, he had graduated from Middlebury College, studied for the ministry at Andover Theological Seminary and turned to teaching when his health began to fail.

Interplay of influence is difficult to gauge, and there was unquestionably a mutual freshening of spirit between Weld and these men. The whole tone of their subsequent correspondence, however, makes it evident that the antislavery impulse came from them, with Weld ripe for conversion by reason of his recent sojourn in the South.

After delivering another series of temperance lectures at Cleveland, Weld went on to New York, where Wright sent him a letter to bring him up to date on events at Hudson. Green had preached a series of abolition sermons in the college chapel. Twenty students had professed abolition convictions and a number of others were wavering. The trustees were becoming increasingly restive, and Wright suspected they would be glad to rid the college of the agitators. It might bolster some of the weaker spirits among the converts to know how the New York philanthropists regarded the matter, and Wright requested Weld to sound them out. If Providence had blessed him with Weld's talents, Wright avowed, he would devote himself to the cause of the colored race--the "great trial cause of human rights." "Immediate emancipation is the Saviour's doctrine," he declared, "and must be preached though it shake the stars of heaven."

Weld replied that abolition, immediate and universal, was his "desire and prayer to God." Since his visit to Hudson his soul had been in travail on the subject, and if he had finished his education he would make it his life's work. Since arriving in the East he had had "many pitched battles" with persons who favored caution in dealing with the slavery problem, two of them with agents of the American Colonization Society. The idea of immediate emancipation was unpopular in New York and New England, he reported, but the next few years would mark a change in sentiment.

Since the antislavery meeting that Weld attended in New York in the spring of 1831, the benevolent Tappan brothers had pushed their abolition plan aside. Now, under Wright's prompting, Weld brought it to their attention again, and tried to reinvigorate their interest. Arthur Tappan was ready for action at once, Weld informed Wright, and was delighted that Wright, Storrs, and Green were "scattering light over the Reserve." Lewis Tappan was "offish" when Weld first broached the matter to him, "but I see by a talk of a few minutes with him just now that he's going the whole .... If he gets thoroughly abolitionized he will bear all before him." There were other New York philanthropists with secret antislavery leanings, Weld discovered, but they lacked the fortitude to declare themselves.

The Tappan brothers, however, were not of this timorous type. Once aroused, they did not quail. Inspired by Weld, from this time forth they worked unceasingly to organize the antislavery forces, first bringing together a "New York Committee," then elaborating their designs until they reached fulfillment in the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society in December, 1833.

As for Weld, his manual labor job was not yet finished, and he busied himself with his report. It must have been refreshing to settle down for a while, for in the year of his agency he had traveled a total of 4,575 miles: 2,630 miles by boat and stagecoach, 1,8oo miles on horseback, and 145 miles on foot. En route he made 236 public addresses.

His report to the Society for Promoting Manual Labor in Literary Institutions, while not altogether in line with his instructions, was a masterpiece of its kind. Beginning with a history of the society and a brief account of his own labors, Weld presented voluminous testimony of physicians and educators to prove that study unaccompanied by exercise was detrimental to health, morals, and intellect. Adducing the arguments he had developed in his speeches, Weld cited Demosthenes, Pericles, Sophocles, Xenophon, and Caesar as examples of active thinkers. Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato walked while they lectured. Robert Burns felt the power of the Muse most poignantly while in rapid motion. Franklin, Fulton, Whitney, Paul the Apostle, Peter the Hermit, John Knox, and Patrick Henry were all men "of active bodily habits."

Look at your typical college student, adjured Weld, and you will note "a listless inactivity, a reluctance to locomotion, an aversion to all vigorous, protracted effort, a timid shrinking from all high attempt." A full-length portrait would depict the typical collegian "with his feet elevated upon a mantelpiece as high as his head, body bent like a half-moon or a horse-shoe, lolling, stretching, yawning, smoking, snoring," or, if he were represented in motion, it would be with a lounging air, arms dangling, and a loose-jointed gait. That was what came of neglecting the body while trying to train the mind. A judicious admixture of manual labor was the proper remedy; for it would tone the body, stimulate the intellect, safeguard the student's morals by occupying his spare time. teach him useful skills, promote industry, temperance, originality, and manliness. By cheapening the cost of education it would broaden the country's intellectual base, and by demonstrating the compatibility of physical and intellectual endeavor it would do away with absurd social distinctions between those who work with their brains and those who produce with their hands.

Weld saw the chief danger to the manual labor program in injudicious multiplication of schools. A few strong manual labor schools were what was wanted to begin with, to serve as models for others. "One deep respiration gives more vigor than a thousand gasplngs," was the way Weld put it. "Arm ten full grown men, rather than a myriad of Lilliputians," he advised.

Many of Weld's conclusions seem obvious today. But this was not so in his time. His study was regarded as so significant and advanced that it was printed in a pamphlet of 120 pages and widely disseminated.

Indeed, for a few years it seemed that Weld's efforts in behalf of the manual labor principle might give a new direction to education. The idea was well adapted to the country at that time, especially to the West, where land and building materials, particularly lumber, were abundant and cheap, but where labor was a scarce commodity. On the frontier there was need of unskilled labor to clear forests, erect school buildings, and raise food for the students; and the new system offered means whereby the students could perform these tasks themselves. In 1832, a committee of the Pennsylvania legislature reported favorably on a proiect to establish a manual labor academy for training the state's teachers. In 1836, a resolution was introduced in the United States Senate directing the committee on public lands to inquire into the feasibility of making a grant of land to each new state for the establishment of colleges designed to educate the poor under a manual labor plan. A number of schools and colleges contemplated conversion to the new scheme.

With Weld's resignation as agent, the Society for Promoting Manual Labor in Literary Institutions ceased to function, but Weld's labors had some permanent results. The idea of manual labor education, exerting a strong appeal for many years, was not only a factor in the establishment of land grant colleges later in the century but also provided the impetus for the foundation of a number of other colleges, some of them of unquestioned standing and proved accomplishment, which still operate upon a self-help manual labor plan today. And rare indeed nowadays is the educational institution that makes no provision for the student's physical welfare.

At the time that Weld rendered his report to the trustees of the Society for Promoting Manual Labor in Literary Institutions he was twenty-nine years old and had had a varied experience. He could have continued as the society's agent had he so desired, but he had never given up his aspiration to the ministry. At the conclusion of his report he announced his resignation. "Gentlemen of the Committee," he declared, "the experience of a year has convinced me that the agency to which I was called by your appointment furnishes a field of usefulness wide as human interests. Nothing could induce me to leave it but the most settled convictions of duty. My heart cleaves to the manual labor system; and though I can no longer publicly advocate it as an agent of your society, I hope soon to plead its cause in the humbler sphere of personal example, while pursuing my professional studies, in a rising institution at the West, in which manual labor is a DAILY REQUISITION."

Weld's valedictory was a rousing manual labor speech in New York City. Marshaling his favorite arguments, he pleaded for the training of vigorous, self-reliant men to work in the West. The great valley of the Mississippi was like a sleeping giant. Soon it would wake and sway the world. And it would need a host of lusty leaders.

With Weld's convictions of the future greatness of the West, it was natural that he should choose a western school to complete his training. With opportunity to study all the manual labor colleges, the one he settled upon was Lane Seminary, at Cincinnati. Weld had visited it twice on his lecture tour, the first time in February or March, 1832, when he spoke at Cincinnati, then again in September; and while Weld made no specific recommendations regarding the establishment of a model national institution, his letters make it evident that he hoped Lane would assume that role. Already a number of his former classmates at Oneida had enrolled at Lane upon his recommendation and had been urging him to join them. Several young men with whom he had become acquainted in the South also planned to matriculate, among them Marius Robinson and the two sons of Doctor Allan. A new college, unencumbered by tradition and located in the thriving Ohio valley, it impressed Weld as a place where he might make his influence effectual.

Indeed, he had already counseled with the trustees regarding faculty appointments, and might even have had a teaching position himself had he so desired; for when Weld became agent for the Manual Labor Society, F. Y. Vail, Lane's financial agent, knowing that Weld would be influential in directing the flow of Tappan money, had turned his blandishments upon him, pleading that "we only need your plan and efforts identified with our own in order to make it strictly a national, model institution ....We want now, my dear brother, just such a man as you are (I do not flatter you) to be the mainspring in the whole concern. We want the funds promised you exceedingly for buildings for 500 or 600 students, for more land if necessary, for workshops, tools, etc." Importuning him again, Vail wrote: "And remember that, by God's blessing, you are yet to bear one of the four corners of our institution by occupying the chair of Sacred Rhetoric and Oratory." But with his usual self-abasement Weld declined the offer. He still had much to learn, and chose to enroll as a student.

After a brief visit with his family in New York state, Weld and three other prospective Lane students traveled overland to the headwaters of French Creek where they bought a boat for six dollars and floated down to the Allegheny River, then down that stream to Pittsburgh. "We had good times," Weld remembered, "discussing antislavery, and stopping occasionally to get supplies, hold prayer-meetings, or find a place to sleep; if we could not, we got along on the boat." From Pittsburgh they took passage on a river steamer to Cincinnati, sleeping on deck and earning their way by helping to load wood. "I believe there were some other of the Oneida boys that hired on flat-boats," Weld recalled, "and earned some money to begin their studies."


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