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XI. the pro-slavery Reaction.

  • Rifling the mails
  • -- persecution and murder of Rev. E. P. Lovejoy -- the struggle in Congress for the right of petition.

The Liberator, by its uncompromising spirit and unsparing denunciations, soon challenged and secured, to an extent quite unprecedented, the attention of adversaries. Treating Slavery uniformly as a crime to be repented, a wrong to be righted at the earliest moment, if it did not convince the understanding of slaveholders, it at least excited their wrath. Before it had been issued a year, while it had probably less than a thousand subscribers, and while its editor and his partner were still working all day as journeymen printers, sleeping, after some hours' editorial labor, at night on the floor of their little sky-parlor office, and dreaming rather of how or where to get money or credit for the paper required for next week's issue than of troubling the repose of States, they were flattered by an act of the Legislature of Georgia, unanimously passed, and duly approved by Governor Lumpkin, offering the liberal reward of $5,000 to whomsoever should arrest, bring to trial, and prosecute to conviction, either of them under the laws of that State--the arrest being the only difficult matter.1 There was no reason to doubt that the proffer was made in good faith, and that the stipulated reward would have been more promptly and cheerfully paid than Southern debts are apt to be. Other such rewards of $10,000, $50,000, and even $100,000, for the bodies or the heads of prominent Abolitionists, were from time to time advertised; but these plagiarisms were seldom responsibly backed, and proved only the anxiety of the offerers to distinguish themselves and cheaply win a local popularity. Their aspect was not business-like. In several instances, Southern grand juries gravely indicted Northern “agitators” for offenses against the peace and dignity of their respective States; and in at least one case a formal requisition was made upon the Governor of New York for the surrender of an Abolitionist who had never trod the soil of the offended State; but the Governor (Marcy), though ready to do what he lawfully could to propitiate Southern favor, was constrained respectfully to decline.

That “error of opinion may be safely tolerated where reason is left free to combat it,” 2 is a truth that does not seem to have occurred either to the Southern or Northern contemners of the Garrisonian ultras. In fact, it does not seem to have irradiated the minds of the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees of Christ's day, nor those of the hereditary champions of established institutions and gainful traditions at almost any time. The Southern.

1 Harrison Gray Otis, the wealthy and aristocratic Mayor of Boston, being required by a Southern magistrate to suppress The Liberator--which was probably the first he had heard of it — in due season reported that his officers had “ferreted out the paper and its editor, whose office was an obscure hole, his only visible auxiliary a negro boy, his supporters a few insignificant persons of all colors” --whence the said Otis concluded that his paper ought not to disturb the slumbers of the quite significant and potent Southrons. The superficial, purblind Mayor!

2 Jefferson's Inaugural Address.

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