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By a single Act of Parliament, the slaves of the West Indies became at once free; and this great transition was accomplished absolutely without personal danger of any kind to the master. And yet the chance of danger there was greater far than among us. In our broad country, the slaves are overshadowed by a more than six-fold white population. Only in two States—South Carolina and Mississippi—do the slaves outnumber the whites, and these but slightly, while in the entire Slave States, the whites outnumber the slaves by many millions. But it was otherwise in the British West Indies, where the whites were overshadowed by a more than six-fold population. The slaves were 800,000, while the whites numbered only 131,000, distributed in different proportions on the different islands. And this disproportion has since increased rather than diminished, always without danger to the whites. In Jamaica, the largest of these possessions, there are now upwards of 400,000 Africans, and only 37,000 whites; in Barbadoes, the next largest possession, there are 120,000 Africans, and only 15,000 whites; in St. Lucia, 19,500 Africans, and only 600 whites; in Tobago, 14,000 Africans, and only 600 whites; in Montserrat, 6,000 Africans, and only 150 whites; and in the Grenadines, upwards of 6,000 Africans, and less than 50 whites. And yet in all these places, the authorities attest the good behavior of the Africans. Sir Lionel Smith, the Governor of Jamaica, in his speech to the Assembly, declared that their conduct ‘proves how well they deserved the boon of Freedom.’ Another Governor of another island dwells on the ‘peculiarly rare instances of the commission of grave or sanguinary crimes among the [185] emancipated portion of these islands;’ and the Queen of England, in a speech from the throne, has announced that the complete and final emancipation of the Africans had ‘taken place without any disturbance of public order and tranquillity.’ In this example I hail new confirmation of the rule that the highest safety is in doing right; and thus do I dismiss the objection founded on the alleged danger to the master.

2. And I am now brought to the second objection, founded on the alleged damage to the slave. It is common among the partisans of Slavery, to assert that our Enterprise has actually retarded the very cause it seeks to promote; and this paradoxical accusation, which might naturally show itself among the rank weeds of the South, is cherished here on our Northern soil, by those who anxiously look for any fig-leaf with which to cover their indifference or tergiversation.

This peculiar form of complaint is an old device, which has been instinctively employed on other occasions until it has ceased to be even plausible. Thus, throughout all times, has every good cause been encountered. The Saviour was nailed to the cross with a crown of thorns on his head, as a disturber of that peace on earth which he came to declare. The disciples, while preaching the Gospel of forgiveness and good-will, were stoned as preachers of sedition and discord. The reformers, who sought to establish a higher piety and faith, were burnt at the stake as blasphemers and infidels. Patriots, in all ages, who have striven for their country's good, have been doomed to the scaffold or to exile, even as their country's enemies. And those brave Englishmen, who, at home, under the lead of Edmund Burke, even against their own country, espoused the cause of our fathers, shared the same illogical impeachment, which was touched to the quick by that orator-statesman, when, after exposing its essential vice, ‘in attributing the ill-effect of ill-judged conduct to the arguments used to dissuade us from it,’ he denounced it as ‘very absurd, but very common in modern practice, and very wicked.’ Ay, sir, it is common in modern practice. In England, it has vainly renewed itself with special frequency against the Bible Societies; against the friends of education; against the patrons of vaccination; against the partisans of peace, all of whom have been openly arraigned as provoking and increasing the very evils, whether of infidelity, idleness, disease, or war, which they benignly sought to check. And to bring an instance which is precisely applicable to our own, Wilberforce, when conducting the Anti-Slavery Enterprise of England, first against the slave-trade and then against Slavery itself, was told that those efforts, by which his name is now consecrated forevermore, tended [186] to increase the hardships of the slave, even to the extent of riveting anew his chains. Such are the precedents for the imputation to which our Enterprise is exposed; and such, also, are the precedents by which I exhibit the fallacy of the imputation.

Sir, I do not doubt that the Enterprise has produced heat and irritation, amounting often to inflammation, among slave-masters, which, to superficial minds, may seem inconsistent with success; but which the careful observer will recognize at once as the natural and not unhealthy effort of a diseased body to purge itself of existing impurities; and just in proportion to the malignity of the concealed poison, will be the extent of inflammation. A distemper like Slavery cannot be ejected like a splinter. It is, perhaps, too much to expect that men thus tortured should reason calmly—that patients thus suffering should comprehend the true nature of their case and kindly acknowledge the beneficent work; but not on this account can it be suspended.

In the face of this complaint, I assert that the Anti-Slavery Enterprise has already accomplished incalculable good. Even now it touches the national heart as it never before was touched, sweeping its strings with a might to draw forth emotions such as no political struggle has ever evoked. It moves the young, the middle-aged, and the old. It enters the family circle, and mingles with the flame of the household hearth. It reaches the souls of mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, filling all with a new aspiration for justice on earth, and awakening not merely a sentiment against Slavery, such as prevailed with our fathers, but a deep, undying conviction of its wrong, and a determination to leave no effort unattempted for its removal. With the sympathies of all Christendom as allies, it has already encompassed the slave-masters by a moral blockade, invisible to the eye, but more potent than navies, from which there can be no escape except in final capitulation. Thus it has created the irresistible influence which itself constitutes the beginning of success. Already there are signs of change. In common speech, as well as in writing, among slave-masters the bondman is no longer called a slave, but a servant,—thus, by a soft substitution, concealing and condemning the true relation. Even newspapers in the land of bondage blush with indignation at the hunt of men by blood-hounds, thus protesting against an unquestionable incident of Slavery. Other signs are found in the added comfort of the slave; in the enlarged attention to his wants; in the experiments now beginning, by which the slave is enabled to share in the profits of his labor, and thus finally secure his freedom; and, above all, in the consciousness among slave-masters [187] themselves, that they dwell now as never before under the keen observation of an ever-wakeful Public Opinion, quickened by an ever-wakeful Public Press. Nor is this all. Only lately propositions have been introduced into the Legislatures of different States, and countenanced by Governors, to mitigate the existing law of Slavery; and, almost while speaking, I have received the drafts of two different memorials,—one addressed to the Legislature of Virginia, and the other to that of North Carolina,—asking for the slave three things, which it will be monstrous to refuse, but which, if conceded, will take from Slavery its existing character;—I mean, first, the protection of the marriage relation; secondly, the protection of the parental relation; and, thirdly, the privilege of knowledge. Grant these, and the girdled Upas tree soon must die. Sir, amidst these tokens of present success, and the auguries of the future, I am not disturbed by any complaints of seeming damage. ‘Though it consume our own dwelling, who does not venerate fire, without which human life can hardly exist on earth,’ says the Hindoo proverb; and the time is even now at hand when the Anti-Slavery Enterprise, which is the very fire of Freedom, with all its incidental excesses or excitements, will be hailed with a similar regard.

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