IX. the rise and progress of Abolition.
- Early efforts for Emancipation -- Slave-holders condemn Slavery -- Virginia -- Benjamin Lundy -- Wm. Lloyd Garrison.
the General Congress which convened at Philadelphia in 1774, framed articles of Association between the colonies, one of which was a solemn agreement “that we will neither import nor purchase any slave imported after the 1st of December next;” being moved thereto by State action of like character, wherein Virginia and North Carolina were honorably conspicuous. Most of the States, accordingly, prohibited the Slave-Trade during or soon after the Revolution. Throughout the war for independence, the Rights of Man were proclaimed as the great objects of our struggle. General Gates, the hero of Saratoga, emancipated his slaves in 1780. The first recorded Abolition Society--that of Pennsylvania--was formed in 1774. The New York Manumission Society was founded in 1785: John Jay was its first President; Alexander Hamilton its second. Rhode Island followed in 1786; Maryland in 1789; Connecticut in 1790; Virginia in 1791; New Jersey in 1792. The discovery that such societies were at war with the Federal Constitution, or with the reciprocal duties of citizens of the several States, was not made till nearly forty years afterward. These Abolition Societies were largely composed of the most eminent as well as the worthiest citizens. Among them were, in Maryland, Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration, and Luther Martin, one of the framers of the Constitution; in Delaware, James A. Bayard,1 afterward in Congress, and Caesar A. Rodney, who became Attorney-General. The Pennsylvania Society had Benjamin Franklin for its President, and Benjamin Rush for Secretary — both signers of the Declaration. This,2 among other such societies, memorialized the first Federal Congress, then sitting at Philadelphia, against Slavery, asking
that you will be pleased to countenance the restoration to liberty of those unhappy men who, alone in this land of freedom, are degraded into perpetual bondage, and who, amid the general joy of surrounding freemen, are groaning in servile subjection; that you will devise means for removing this inconsistency of character from the American people; that you will promote mercy and justice toward this distressed race; and that you will step to the very verge of the power vested in you for discouraging every species of traffic in the persons of our fellow-men.Congress courteously received this and similar memorials, calmly considered them, and decided that it had no power to abolish Slavery in the  States which saw fit to authorize and cherish it. There was no excitement, no menace, no fury. South Carolina and Georgia, of course, opposed the prayer, but in parliamentary language. It is noteworthy, that among those who leaned furthest toward the petitioners were Messrs. Parker and Page, of Virginia--the latter in due time her Governor. They urged, not that the prayer should be granted, but that the memorial be referred, and respectfully considered. Vermont framed a State Constitution in 1777, and embodied in it a Bill of Rights, whereof the first article precluded Slavery. Massachusetts framed a constitution in 1780, wherein was embodied a Declaration of Rights, affirming that
All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and inalienable rights, among which are the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties, and that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property.The Supreme Court of that State, upon the first case arising which involved the question, decided that this provision had abolished Slavery. New Hampshire was, in like manner, held to have abolished Slavery by her Constitution, framed in 1783. Pennsylvania passed a Gradual Emancipation Act, March 1, 1780. All persons born in that State after that day, were to be free at the age of twenty-eight. Rhode Island provided by law that all persons born in that State after March, 1784, should be free. Connecticut, in 1784, passed an act providing for gradual Abolition. She had still two thousand seven hundred and fifty-nine slaves in 1790. New York provided for Gradual Emancipation in 1799. In 1817, a further act was passed, decreeing that there should be no Slavery in the State after the 4th of July, 1827. Ten thousand slaves were set free at once by this act. New Jersey passed an act, in 1804, designed to put an end to Slavery. It was so very gradual in its operation, that the census of 1840 reported six hundred and seventy-four slaves as still held in that State. The frequently reiterated Southern assertion that the Northern States “sold their slaves to the South, and then abolished Slavery,” is abundantly refuted. Pennsylvania, New York, and doubtless most other States, by their acts of emancipation, imposed severe penalties on the exportation of slaves. Delaware, though a Slave State, long since did. and still does, the same. The North emerged from the Missouri struggle chafed and mortified. It felt that, with Right and Power both on its side, it had been badly beaten, through the treachery of certain of its own representatives, whom it proceeded to deal with accordingly. Few, indeed — hardly one--of those Northern members who had sided with the South in that struggle were reflected. That lesson given, what more could be done? Missouri was in the Union, and could not be turned out. Arkansas was organized as a Slave Territory, and would in due time become a Slave State. What use in protracting an agitation which had no longer a definite object? Mr. Monroe had just been reflected President, and the harmony of the party would be disturbed by permitting  the feud to become chronic. Those who perpetuated it would be most unlikely to share bounteously in the distribution of Federal offices and honors. Then a new Presidential contest began to loom up in the distance, and all manner of speculations were current, and hopes were buoyant, with regard to it. Yet more: the Cotton culture was rapidly expanding, and with it Southern trade, bringing the Northern seaports more and more under their sway. There had been an effort, in 1817, to secure the passage through Congress of a more effective Fugitive Slave Law, which was defeated, after a most spirited discussion. In 1826 (March 9th), the subject of Slavery was brought before the House by Mr. Edward Everett-then a new and very young member from Massachusetts--who incidentally expressed his hostility to all projects of violent Abolition, his readiness to shoulder a musket to put down a slave insurrection, and his conviction, with regard to Slavery, that, “while it subsists, where it subsists, its duties ares presupposed and sanctioned by religion,” etc., etc. But this strange outburst, instead of being gratefully hailed and welcomed, was repelled and reprobated by the South. Mr. Mitchell, of Tennessee, though himself a slaveholder, pointedly dissented from it. Mr. C. C. Cambreleng, of New York, (a North Carolinian by birth and training), said:
The gentleman from Massachusetts has gone too far. He has expressed opinions which ought not to escape animadversion. I heard their with great surprise and regret. I was astonished to hear him declare that Slavery — domestic Slavery — say what you will, is a condition of life, as well as any other, to be justified by morality, religion, and international law, etc., etc.And John Randolph, of Virginia--himself a life-long slaveholder and opponent of the North--saw fit to say:
Sir, I envy neither the lead nor the heart of that man from the North, who rises here to defend Slavery upon principle.So that, so late as 1826, the doctrine of the essential righteousness and beneficence of Slavery had not yet been accepted in any quarter.3 Virginia, in 1829, assembled4 a Convention of her people to revise their Constitution. Ex-President James Monroe5 was chosen to preside, and was conducted to the chair by ex-President James Madison and Chief Justice Marshall. The first  earnest collision was on the White Basis, so called — that is, on the proposition that representation and political power should be apportioned to the several counties on the basis of their White population alone. The Committee on the Legislative department decided in favor of the White Basis by 13 to 11--James Madison's vote giving that side the majority; but he voted also against the White Basis for the Senate, making a tie on that point. A strong excitement having arisen on this question, General Robert B. Taylor, of Norfolk, an advocate of the White Basis, resigned, and his seat was filled by Hugh B. Grigsby, of opposite views. At length,6 the Convention came to a vote, on the proposition of a Mr. Green, of Culpepper, that the White Basis be stricken out, and the Federal Basis (the white inhabitants with “three-fifths of all other persons” ) be substituted. This was defeated — Yeas 47 (including Grigsby aforesaid); Nays 49--every delegate voting. Among the Yeas were ex-President Madison, Chief Justice Marshall, Benjamin Watkins Leigh, Philip P. Barbour, John Randolph of Roanoke, William B. Giles, John Tyler, etc. Among the Nays (for the White Basis) were ex-President Monroe, Philip Doddridge, Charles F. Mercer, Chapman Johnson, Lewis Summers, etc. As a rule, Western (comparatively Free) Virginia voted for the White Basis, with some help from the East; and it was computed that the majority represented 402,631 of Free Population, and the minority but 280,000. But the minority was strong in intellect, in numbers, and in resolution, and it fought desperately through weeks of earnest debate and skillful maneuvering. President Monroe, in December, resigned the chair, and his seat, and his constituents offered the latter to General R. B. Taylor aforesaid, who declined, when it was given to a Mr. Osborne. Finally, a proposition by Mr. Upshur (afterward Secretary of State) was so amended, on motion of Mr. Gordon, as to prescribe, arbitrarily, that thirteen Senators should be apportioned to counties west of the Blue Ridge, and nineteen to those east of it, with a corresponding allotment of Delegates in four parcels to the various natural divisions of the State, and was carried by 55 Yeas to 41 Nays — a motion that the Senate apportionment be based on Federal numbers, and that for the House on the White population, having first been voted down--48 to 48. So the effort of the West, and of the relatively nonslaveholding sections of Virginia, to wrest political power from the slaveholding oligarchy of the tide-water counties, was defeated, despite the sanguine promise at the outset; and the Old Dominion sunk again into the arms of the negro-breeders.7  Some years later (in 1831-2), on the occurrence of the slave insurrection in Southampton county, known as Nat. Turner's, her people were aroused to a fresh and vivid conception of the perils and evils of Slavery, and her Legislature, for a time, seemed on the point of inaugurating a system of Gradual Emancipation; but the impulse was finally, though with difficulty, overborne. Several who have since cast in their lot with the Slaveholders' Rebellion — among them Jas. C. Faulkner, late Minister to England — at that time spoke earnestly and forcibly for Emancipation, as an imperative necessity. And this is noteworthy as the last serious effort by the politicians of any Slave State8 to rid her of the giant curse, prior to the outbreak of the Slaveholders' Rebellion. Benjamin Lundy deserves the high honor of ranking as the pioneer of direct and distinctive Anti-Slavery in America. Many who lived before and cotemporary with him were Abolitionists: but he was the first of our countrymen who devoted his life and all his powers exclusively to the cause of the slave. Born in Sussex county, New Jersey, January 4, 1789, of Quaker parents, whose ancestors for several generations had lived and died in this country, he injured himself, while still a mere boy, by excessive labor on his father's farm, incurring thereby a partial loss of hearing, from which he never recovered. Slight in frame and below the common hight, unassuming in manner and gentle in spirit, lie gave to the cause of Emancipation neither wealth, nor eloquence, nor lofty abilities, for he lad them not; but his courage, perseverance, and devotion were unsurpassed; and these combined to render him a formidable, though disregarded if not despised, antagonist to our national crime. Leaving his father's farm at nineteen years of age, he wandered  westward to Wheeling, Virginia, where, during the next four years, he learned the trade of a saddler, and gained an insight into the cruelties and villainies of slaveholding — Wheeling being at that time a great thoroughfare for negro-traders and their prey on their route from Maryland and Virginia to the lower Mississippi. Before he made Wheeling his home, he had spent some time at Mount Pleasant, Ohio, whither he returned after learning his trade, and remained there two years, during which he married a young woman of like spirit to his own. He then, after a long visit to his father in New Jersey, settled at St. Clairsville, Ohio, near Wheeling, and opened a shop, by which in four years he made about three thousand dollars above his expenses, and, with a loving wife and two children, was as happy and contented with his lot as any man need be. But the impression made on his mind by his experiences of Slavery in Wheeling could not be shaken off nor resisted. In the year 1815, when twenty-six years of age, he organized an anti-Slavery association known as the “Union humane Society,” whereof the first meeting was held at his own house, and consisted of but five or six persons. Within a few months, its numbers were swelled to four or five hundred, and included the best and most prominent citizens of Belmont and the adjacent counties. Lundy wrote an appeal to philanthropists on the subject of Slavery, which was first printed on the 4th of January, 1816, being his twenty-seventh birthday. Short and simple as it was, it contained the germ of the entire anti-Slavery movement. A weekly journal entitled The Philanthropist was soon after started at Mount Pleasant by Charles Osborne; and Lundy, at the editor's invitation, contributed to its columns, mainly by selections. In a few months, he was urged by Osborne to join him in the newspaper enterprise, and finally consented to do so, removing to Mount Pleasant. Meantime, he made a voyage to St. Louis in a flat-boat to dispose of his stock of saddlery. Arriving at that city in the fall of 1819, when the whole region was convulsed by the Missouri Question, he was impelled to write on the side there unpopular in the journals of the day. His speculation proved unfortunate — the whole West, and, indeed, the whole country, being then involved in a commercial convulsion, with trade stagnant and almost every one bankrupt. He returned to his home on foot during the ensuing winter, having been absent nearly two years, and lost all he was worth. Meantime, Osborne, tired of his thankless and profitless vocation, had sold out his establishment, and it had been removed to Jonesborough, Tennessee, where his newspaper took the title of The Emancipator. Lundy removed, as he had purposed, to Mount Pleasant, and there started, in January, 1821, a monthly entitled The Genius of Universal Emancipation. the commenced it with six subscribers; himself ignorant of printing and without materials; having his work done at Steubenville, twenty miles distant; traveling thither frequently on foot, and returning with his edition on his back. Four months later, he had a very considerable subscription list. About this time, Elihu Embree, who had started The Emancipator  in Tennessee, died, and Lundy was urged to go thither, unite the two journals, and print them himself from the materials of The Emancipator. He consented, and made the journey of eight hundred miles, onehalf on foot and the rest by water. At Jonesborough, he learned the art of printing, and was soon issuing a weekly newspaper beside The Genius, and a monthly agricultural work. He removed his family a few months later, and East Tennessee was thenceforward his home for nearly three years, during which The Genius of Universal Emancipation was the only distinctively and exclusively anti-Slavery periodical issued in the United States, constantly increasing in circulation and influence. And, though often threatened with personal assault, and once shut up in a private room with two ruffians, who undertook to bully him into some concession by a flourish of deadly weapons, lie was at no time subjected to mob violence or legal prosecution. In the winter of 1823-4, the first American Convention for the Abolition of Slavery was held in Philadelphia; and Lundy made the journey of six hundred miles and back on purpose to attend it. During his tour, he decided on transferring his establishment to Baltimore; and, in the summer of 1824, knapsack on shoulder, he set out on foot for that city. On the way, he delivered, at Deep Creek, North Carolina, his first public address against Slavery. He spoke in a beautiful grove, near the Friends' meeting-house at that place, directly after divine worship; and the audience were so well satisfied that they invited him to speak again, in their place of worship. Before this second meeting adjourned, an anti-Slavery society was formed; and he proceeded to hold fifteen or twenty similar meetings at other places within that State. In one instance, he spoke at a house-raising; in another, at a militia muster. Here an anti-Slavery society of fourteen members was thereupon formed, with the captain of the militia company for its President. One of his meetings was held at Raleigh, the capital. Before he had left the State, lie had organized twelve or fourteen Abolition Societies. He continued his journey through Virginia, holding several meetings, and organizing societies — of course, not very numerous, nor composed of the most influential persons. It is probable that his Quaker brethren supplied him with introductions from place to place, and that his meetings were held at the points where violent opposition was least likely to be offered. He reached Baltimore about the 1st of October, and issued on the 10th No. 1 of Volume IV. of the “Genius,” which continued to be well supported, though receiving little encouragement from Baltimore itself. A year afterward, it began to be issued. weekly. Lundy visited Hayti in the latter part of 1825, in order to make arrangements there for, the reception of a number of slaves, whose masters. were willing to emancipate them on condition of their removal from the country — in fact, were not allowed, by the laws of their respective States, to free them otherwise. Being detained longer than he had expected, he was met, on his return to Baltimore, with tidings of the death of his wife, after giving birth to twins, and.  hastened to his dwelling to find it entirely deserted, his five children having been distributed among his friends. In that hour of intense affliction, he renewed his solemn vow to devote his entire energies to the cause of the slave, and to efforts designed to awaken his countrymen to a sense of their responsibility and their danger. In 1828, he traveled eastward, lecturing and soliciting subscribers to his “Genius,” and calling, in New York, on Arthur Tappan, William Goodell, and other anti-Slavery men. At Boston, he could hear of no Abolitionists, but made the acquaintance, at his boarding-house, of William Lloyd Garrison, a fellow-boarder, whose attention had not previously been drawn to the Slavery question, but who readily embraced his views. He visited successively most of the clergymen of Boston, and induced eight of them, belonging to various sects, to meet him. All of them, on explanation, approved his labors, and subscribed for his periodical; and, in the course of a few days, they aided him to hold an anti-Slavery meeting, which was largely attended. At the close of his remarks, several clergymen expressed a general concurrence in his views. He extended his journey to New Hampshire and Maine, lecturing where he could, and obtaining some encouragement. He spoke also in the principal towns of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut; and, on his homeward route, traversed the State of New York, speaking at Poughkeepsie, Albany,9 Lockport, Utica, and Buffalo, reaching Baltimore late in October. Lundy made at least one other visit to Hayti, to colonize emancipated slaves; was beaten nearly to death in Baltimore by a slave-trader, on whose conduct he had commented in terms which seemed disrespectful to the profession; was flattered by the judge's assurance, when the trader came to be tried for the assault, that “he [L.] had got nothing more than he deserved ;” and he made two long journeys through Texas, to the Mexican departments across the Rio Grande, in quest of a suitable location on which to plant a colony of freed blacks from the United States, but without success. He traveled in good part on foot, observing the strictest economy, and supporting himself by working at saddlery and harness-mending, from place to place, as circumstances required. Meantime, he had been compelled to remove his paper from Baltimore to Washington; and finally (in 1836), to Philadelphia, where it was entitled The National Inquirer, and at last merged into The Pennsylvania Freeman. His colonizing enterprise took him to Monclova, Comargo, Monterey, Matamoras, and Victoria, in Mexico, and consumed the better part of several years, closing in 1835. He also made a visit to the settlements in Canada, of fugitives from American Slavery, to inquire into the welfare of their inhabitants. On the 17th of May,  1838, at the burning by a mob of Pennsylvania Hall — built by Abolitionists, because they could be heard in no other — his little property, consisting mainly of papers, books, clothes, etc., which had been collected in one of the rooms of that Hall, with a view to his migration westward, was totally destroyed. In July, he started for Illinois, where his children then resided, and reached them in the September following. He planted himself at Lowell, La Salle county, gathered his offspring about him, purchased a printing-office, and renewed the issues of his “Genius.” But in August, 1839, he was attacked by a prevailing fever, of which he died on the 22d of that month, in the 51st year of his age. Thus closed the record of one of the most heroic, devoted, unselfish, courageous lives, that has ever been lived on this continent.10 William Lloyd Garrison, born in obscurity and indigence, at Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1805, and educated a printer, after having tried his boyish hand at shoe-making, wood-sawing, and cabinet-making, started The Free Press, in his native place, directly upon attaining his majority; but Newburyport was even then a slow old town, and his enterprise soon proved unsuccessful. He migrated to Boston, worked a few months as a journeyman printer, and then became editor of The National Philanthropist, an organ of the Temperance movement. He left this early in 1828, to become editor, at Bennington, Vermont, of The Journal of the Times, a National Republican gazette, and about the ablest and most interesting newspaper ever issued in that State. Though earnestly devoted to the reelection of John Quincy Adams, as President, it gave a hearty support to the Temperance, Anti-Slavery, and other Reform projects, and promoted the extensive circulation and signature of memorials to Congress, urging the banishment of Slavery from the District of Columbia. But its patronage was unequal to its merits; and, Mr. Adams having been defeated, its publication was soon afterward discontinued. Mr. Garrison was, about this time, visited by Lundy, and induced to join him in the editorship of The Genius at Baltimore, whither he accordingly proceeded in the Autumn of 1829. Lundy had been a zealous supporter of Adams; and, under his auspices, a single Emancipation candidate for the Legislature had been repeatedly presented in Baltimore, receiving, at one election, more than nine hundred votes. Garrison, in his first issue, insisted on immediate and unconditional Emancipation as the right of the slave and the duty of the master, and disclaimed all temporizing, all make-shifts, all compromises, condemning Colonization, and everything else that involved or implied affiliation or sympathy with slaveholders. Having, at length, denounced the coastwise slave-trade between Baltimore and New Orleans as “domestic piracy,” and stigmatized by name certain Baltimoreans concerned therein, he was indicted for “a gross and malicious libel” on those worthies, convicted, sentenced to pay fifty dollars' fine and costs, and, in default thereof, committed to jail. A judgment  in behalf of one of these aggrieved persons of $1,000 and costs was likewise obtained against him on a civil suit, but never enforced. He remained forty-nine days in prison, during which his case excited much sympathy, a protest against his incarceration having been issued by the Manumission Society of North Carolina. At length, the fine and costs were paid by Arthur Tappan, then a wealthy and generous New York merchant, who anticipated, by a few days, a similar act meditated by Henry Clay. Separating himself from Lundy and The Genius, Mr. Garrison now proposed the publication of an anti-Slavery organ in Washington City; but, after traveling and lecturing through the great cities, and being prevented by violence from speaking in Baltimore, he concluded to issue his journal from Boston instead of Washington; and the first number of The Liberator appeared accordingly on the 1st of January, 1830. It was, from the outset, as thorough-going as its editor; and its motto--“Our Country is the World — Our Countrymen are all Mankind” --truly denoted its character and spirit. “No Union with slaveholders” was adopted as a principle some years later; as was the doctrine that “The [Federal] Constitution is a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell.” To wage against Slavery an uncompromising, unrelenting war, asking no quarter and giving none — to regard and proclaim the equal and inalienable rights of every innocent human being as inferior or subordinate to those of no other, and to repudiate all creeds, all alleged revelations, rituals, constitutions, governments, parties, politics, that reject, defy, or ignore this fundamental truth — such is and has been the distinctive idea of the numerically small, but able and thoroughly earnest class, known as “Garrisonians.” 11 They for many years generally declined, and some of them still decline, to vote, deeming the Government and all parties so profoundly corrupted by Slavery, that no one could do so without dereliction from principle and moral defilement. And, though the formal and definitive separation did not take place till 1839, the alienation between the Garrisonians and the larger number of Anti-Slavery men had long been decided and irremediable. A very few years,  dating from 1832-3, when the New England and the American Anti-Slavery Societies were formed respectively, sufficed to segregate the American opponents of Slavery into four general divisions, as follows: 1. The “Garrisonians” aforesaid. 2. The members of the “Liberty party,” 12 who, regarding the Federal Constitution as essentially anti-Slavery, swore with good conscience to uphold it, and supported only candidates who were distinctively, determinedly, pre-eminently, champions of “Liberty for all.” 3. Various small sects and parties, which occupied a middle ground between the above positions; some of the sects agreeing with the latter in interpreting and revering the Bible as consistently anti-Slavery, while refusing, with the former, to vote. 4. A large and steadily increasing class who, though decidedly anti-Slavery, refused either to withhold their votes, or to throw them away on candidates whose election was impossible, but persisted in voting, at nearly every election, so as to effect good and prevent evil to the extent of their power. An artful and persistent ignoring of all distinction between these classes, and thus covering Abolitionists indiscriminately with odium, as hostile to Christianity and to the Constitution, was long the most effective weapon in the armory of their common foes. Thousands, whose consciences and hearts would naturally have drawn them to the side of humanity and justice, were repelled by vociferous representations that to do so would identify them with the “disunion” of Wendell Phillips, the “radicalism” of Henry C. Wright, and the “infidelity” of Pillsbury, Theodore Parker, and Garrison.