Chapter 3: the ‘covenant with death.’—1843.After a summer at the water-cure, Garrison makes his home in Boston, and renews with vigor the disunion campaign. He is followed by the Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society in pronouncing the Constitution “ a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” he is made President of the American Society, of which the direction passes over to Boston.
Zzzr. Garrison returned to his editorial duties in the latter part of January, 1843, but his health1 was far from restored. He struggled on till June, when a mysterious distress in the left side again caused him2 grave apprehensions that he had not long to live. His latest residence in Cambridgeport, though very healthfully situated, was associated with an extraordinary amount of sickness and fatality. As the lease would expire on July 1, it was decided to remove for the summer to the country, and no place offered such attractions as the Community at Northampton, Mass. This was the third of those original experiments by which Massachusetts, as J. H. Noyes says, “appears to have anticipated the advent of Fourierism, and to have prepared herself for or against the rush of French ideas,” Am. Socialisms, p. 154. throwing them out “on her three avenues of approach— Unitarianism [Brook Farm], Universalism [Hopedale], and Nothingarianism.” Ante, p. 25. The Northampton Association of Education and Industry was, indeed, committed to no creed, not even to communism, as it was a joint-stock concern. All its prominent members were known personally to Mr. Garrison, who vouched for them as “among the freest and best spirits of the age,” Lib. 12.143. when publishing their manifesto. Organization was effected on April 8,3 1842, and as George W. Benson was one of the founders,4 the progress of the enterprise was constantly reported to his brother-in-law. ‘The subject of social reorganization,’ wrote the latter on December 16, 1843, to R. D.5  Webb, ‘is attracting general attention, and exciting a growing interest. Many schemes are in embryo, and others have had a birth, and are now struggling for an existence. As experiments to bless our race, I feel an interest in them all, though I am not very sanguine as to the result of this new species of colonization.’ Mill River, some two or three miles from the town, in the suburb now known as Florence and as a  great manufacturing centre. Mr. Garrison's delight in the natural scenery of the Connecticut Valley was shared for a week in August by N. P. Rogers, with whom he18 drove in a gig on both sides of the river from Greenfield to Springfield. Shortly afterwards an accident occurred which sadly marred the pleasure of the sojourn at the Community. In watering his horse at a wayside brook, Mr. Garrison, by some maladroitness, upset his wife, with19 her three-year-old boy in her arms, and her aged mother, who all narrowly escaped drowning.20 Mrs. Garrison's right arm was dislocated at the elbow, but was maltreated by an ignorant doctor as if broken, so that weeks of suffering ensued till the limb could be set. This was made the occasion of special visits to Dr. Stephen Sweet,21 the famous bone-setter, at Franklin, Conn., who succeeded in the difficult operation, though a subsequent dislocation of the same joint was carried through life. By the end of October the family had returned to Boston, occupying a new house on Pine Street, with Oliver Johnson and his22 wife as welcome co-tenants. The Liberator, all this time, had been supplied editorially by several friends—by Quincy and Mrs. Chapman above all—with no loss to the readers of the paper. Mr. Garrison's physical condition and various distractions during the past two years had confirmed his native habit of procrastination, and laid him open to friendly criticism: Mr. Garrison's time and strength merely as a journalist were greater than Mr. Quincy could realize. He had no editorial assistant. The volume of matter, in manuscript and in print, relating to the cause was growing with tremendous rapidity. As a rule, besides reading proof, he shared in the mechanical work of the paper. Add the interruptions to which he was exposed as the leader of the abolitionists; his lecture engagements; his anti-slavery31 hospitality; his domestic cares; his constant anxiety concerning his means of support, and the wonder is that he found leisure to write as much as he did, whether for the Liberator, the Massachusetts Board, the American Society, or in his private correspondence.32 In a more important particular he was never delinquent. As a reformer, he was never dispirited; he never lost his grip on leading principles. He came directly from his sick-room to his post in January, with a cheering survey of recent events during his absence. It had33 consoled him while ill to reflect that his removal would be of no consequence to the cause. He affirmed anew the irrepressible conflict betwixt freedom and slavery, and advanced fresh arguments for disunion:
‘The proposition,’ said he, ‘may be ridiculed and denounced,34 and some who call themselves abolitionists may be loudest in their condemnation of it; but all this will avail nothing. The hour is coming when men of all sects and of all parties at the North will rally under one banner—the banner of Liberty;  and a similar coalition will be seen at the South rallying under the Black flag of slavery. It will not be a strife of blood but a conflict of opinions, and it will be short and decisive. Possibly, in that hour, the South may yield (and such a surrender would be to her victory and renown)--possibly, the spirit of desperation may triumph over her instinct of selfpreservation; but, in either case, the fate of slavery would be sealed, the character of the North redeemed, and an example given to mankind worthy to be recorded on the brightest page of history. Thus much, at least, I am bold to prophesy.’At the annual meeting of the Massachusetts 35 Anti-Slavery Society in Faneuil Hall, he secured the passage of the following resolution, of his own phrasing, which was shortly hoisted at the Liberator masthead in place of the less pungent declaration which had hitherto been kept flying there:
‘Resolved, That the compact which exists between the North36 and the South is “a covenant with death and an agreement with37 hell” —involving both parties in atrocious criminality—and should be immediately annulled.’44 which Wendell Phillips offered at the anniversary of the45 American Society at New York, and which read as follows: ‘That anti-slavery is only to be advanced by trampling under foot the political and ecclesiastical links which bind slavery to the institutions of this country.’ Mr. Garrison reported, from the business committee, ‘That we  cannot regard any man as a consistent abolitionist who, while holding to the popular construction of the Constitution, makes himself a party to that instrument, by taking any office under it requiring an oath, or voting for its support.’ This was laid on the table, but its future triumph was ensured by the election of its mover to be46 President of the Society for the ensuing year. South as an infringement of the Constitution, the progress of disunion was considerable in the year 1843. Massachusetts passed, in53 answer to the Latimer petition, a Personal Liberty Act forbidding judges and justices to take part in the capture54 of fugitive slaves, and sheriffs, jailors, and constables to detain them. The Governor of Vermont recommended a55 similar measure. Maine rejected it, as being tantamount56 to disunion; but imitated Massachusetts in appointing an agent to protect the State's colored seamen in Southern57 ports.58 In his admirable report recommending a Personal Liberty Act, Charles Francis Adams said: “It is the slave representation which . . . is effecting, by slow but sure degrees, the overthrow of all the noble principles that were embodied in the Federal Constitution.” Lib. 13.35. Joint resolves were accordingly passed by the Massachusetts Legislature, praying that the clause of the Constitution  providing for the representation of slaves might be removed from that instrument;59 and these were presented to Congress–in the House by the elder Adams, and not60 received. In the Senate they were received with reluctance, and leave to print was refused. King of Alabama61 termed them ‘a proposition to dissolve the Union,’ and62 so did the General Assembly of Virginia in a counter memorial, which was promptly printed by the Senate.63 John Quincy Adams, in conjunction with Giddings, Slade, Gates, Borden, and Hiland Hall, had, earlier in the year, issued an address to the people of the free States,64 warning them that an attempt would be made at the next session of Congress to annex Texas. The ‘real design and object of the South,’ they declared, ‘is to add new weight to her end of the lever. . . . We hesitate not to say that annexation, effected by any act or proceeding of the Federal Government or any of its departments, would be identical with dissolution’—as being in violation of the national compact. ‘We not only assert that the people of the free States “ought not to submit to it,” but we say, with confidence, they would not submit to it.’65  So Judge Jay, about to sail for Europe, wrote to Gerrit Smith: “Rather than be in union with Texas, let the confederation be shivered. My voice, my efforts will be for dissolution, if Texas be annexed.” Lib. 13.191; of. Lib. 15; 58, . ‘We go one step further,’ commented Mr. Garrison, ‘dissolution now, Texas out of the question.’ The sequel will show which of these classes of disunionists had root, and which would66 wither away before the glare of the Slave Power. But it may be noticed here that the group of anti-slavery Whigs led by Adams, who were content with the Union as it had been formed, and even as it had been altered by the admission of fresh slave States, but drew the line at Texas, did not find an enthusiastic response to their disunion67 menace in the Liberty Party. As usual, Mr. Garrison's mind had been occupied with many subjects besides that which claimed his chief attention. Great was the popular fermentation over Millerism,68 which drew off many abolitionists from the ranks, including Charles Fitch and J. V. Himes, and was controverted by the editor of the Liberator in two elaborate articles. Communism and socialism also diverted many. In June, Mr. Garrison attended as a spectator two meetings, in the Chardon-Street Chapel, “for the discussion of the questions pertaining to the reorganization of society and the rights of property,” Lib. 13.91. in which Collins took a leading part. He heard nothing which attracted him to the doctrines advocated.69 A few weeks previously he had replied to  some urging for an expression of his views on “the property question” Lib. 13.47.: ‘We can only say that we have, at present, “no thunder” to expend upon its discussion, pro or con, for reasons that are satisfactory to our own mind. We hope to be always ready to give our cooperation to every Christian and feasible attempt “to regenerate and redeem our species,” come what may.’ In December, Charles Burleigh saw him at the Fourierite Convention of Friends70 of Social Reform held in Boston, where he spoke, ‘and spoke well, but not in accordance with the views of the Community leaders.’ Capital punishment, too, was a frequent topic of the Liberator's editorial page, owing to a rather flagrant clerical demonstration in support of it—71 so that the Massachusetts Legislature was satirically petitioned to make the hangman's office a ministerial perquisite. Finally, amid all these phases of opinion, a revolution was taking place which is thus described in a letter of Edmund Quincy's to R. D. Webb:
‘I am told that Garrison's opinions, as well as Rogers's, have72 been greatly modified of late with regard to the Bible. He is ZZZ27 pretty well satisfied that God has not grown wiser by73 experience, and that he did not command people to cut their brothers' throats a thousand years before he commanded them to love one another. As a man I rejoice at his progress, but I don't know whether I do as an abolitionist. It was so convenient to be able to reply to those who were calling him infidel, that he believed as much as anybody, and swallowed the whole Bible in a lump, from Genesis to Revelation, both included. They say that in Connecticut they always keep one member of every pious family unconverted to do their wicked work for them. I suppose my policy is something of the same sort.’