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[107] the watchword in our ranks should be, “no Union with slaveholders!”

The Executive Committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society lost no time in publishing a formal statement of the disunion position, in an Address to the Friends of1 Freedom and Emancipation in the United States. This document, signed by Mr. Garrison as President, was mainly from his pen, with the probable collaboration of his co-signers, the Secretaries, Wendell Phillips and Mrs. Chapman. It drew justification for a measure confessedly revolutionary from the Declaration of Independence and the consequent revolt against the despotism of England. The far greater despotism of the existing national Government—‘a guilty compromise between the free and slaveholding States’—was alleged and demonstrated.

II. The American Constitution is the exponent of the2 national compact. We affirm that it is an instrument which no man can innocently bind himself to support, because its anti-republican and anti-Christian requirements are explicit and peremptory;—at least, so explicit that, in regard to all the clauses pertaining to slavery, they have been uniformly understood and enforced in the same way by all the courts and by all the people; and so peremptory that no individual interpretation or authority can set them aside with impunity. It is not a ball of clay, to be moulded into any shape that party contrivance or caprice may choose it to assume. It is not a form of words, to be interpreted in any manner, or to any extent, or for the accomplishment of any purpose, that individuals in office under it may determine. It means precisely what those who framed and adopted it meant—nothing more, nothing less, as a matter of bargain and compromise. Even if it can be construed to mean something else, without violence to its language, such construction is not to be tolerated against the wishes of either party. No just or honest use of it can be made, in opposition to the plain intention of its framers, except to declare the contract at an end, and to refuse to serve under it.3

1 Lib. 14.86.

2 Lib. 14.86.

3 ‘Every man that is called upon to administer the Constitution of the United States, or act under it in any respect, is bound, in honor, and faith, and duty, to take it in its ordinary acceptation, and to act upon it as it was understood by those who framed it, and received by the people when they adopted it, and as it has been practised upon since, through all administrations of the Government’ (Daniel Webster at Philadelphia, Dec. 2, 1846. “Works,” 2: 312). ‘On the subject of our relations with the South and its slavery, we must—as I have always thought—do one of two things: either keep honestly the bargain of the Constitution, as it shall be interpreted by the authorities to whom we have agreed to confide its interpretation,—of which the Supreme Court of the United States is the chief and safest,—or declare honestly that we can no longer in our consciences consent to keep it, and break it’ (George Ticknor to W. E. Channing, Apr. 20, 1842. “Life of Ticknor,” 2: 200).

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