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[57]

The New York meeting proved to be ready not only to1 discuss disunion, but to adopt unanimously a resolution involving a modified form of it, in these words—“That the Constitution of the Union ought to be altered so as to prevent the national Government from sustaining slavery, as well as from requiring the people of the several States to sustain it.” Lib. 12.82.2 On the naked issue as presented by Mr. Garrison in the Liberator, the meeting showed a divergence of opinion. The first resolution offered was in the negative:

Resolved, That inasmuch as the people of the Northern States have been guilty, jointly with the South, of enslaving men; and inasmuch as the people of the Northern States in general, nor even the mass of abolitionists, have ever petitioned for the abrogation of the slaveholding features of the Constitution, nor proved that such petitions, if supported by the free States, would be unsuccessful, therefore we see no reasonable ground, at this time, for asking for a dissolution of the Union. Lib. 12.82.

A substitute, moved by Henry C. Wright and seconded by Edmund Quincy, read as follows:

Resolved, That the provisions of the United States Constitution in relation to slavery, and the history of our Government, which shows that free and slave institutions cannot exist distinct and independent under the same Constitution, both prove that fidelity to our principles as abolitionists, and to the cause of human rights, imperatively demands the dissolution of the American Union. Lib. 12.82.

The long and animated debate which ensued, and in which we remark Wendell Phillips and Abby Kelley among the advocates of the Garrisonian doctrine, showed3 a decided majority in its favor, but no action was deemed advisable, and no vote was attempted. Many of the participants returned to renew the discussion at the New England Convention in Boston. Henry C. Wright was4

1 May 10-13, 1842.

2 Compare Channing's proposed ‘modifying of the Constitution so as to release the free States from all action on slavery,’ and ‘dissolving wholly the connection between slavery and our national concerns,’ in his pamphlet on the “ Duty of the Free States ” (Lib. 12: 93).

3 Lib. 12.79.

4 May 24-26, 1842.

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