Chapter 9: agitation and repression.
William Lloyd Garrison
's return from his English mission was signalized by two closely related events, viz., the formation of the New York City Anti-Slavery Society, and the appearance of the first of a succession of anti-slavery mobs in the North
The news of his British successes had preceded him, and prepared for him a warm reception on the part of his pro-slavery countrymen.
For had he not with malice prepense put down the “most glorious of Christian enterprises,” and rebuked his own country in the house of strangers as recreant to freedom?
And when O'Connell
in Exeter Hall pointed the finger of scorn at America
and made her a by-word and a hissing in the ears of Englishmen, was it not at a meeting got up to further the designs of this “misguided young gentlemen who has just returned from England
whither he has recently been for the sole purpose as it would seem [to the Commercial Advertiser
] of traducing the people and institutions of his own country.”
Had he not caught up and echoed back the hissing thunder of the great Irish orator : “Shame on the American Slaveholders
! Base wretches should we shout in chorus-base wretches, how dare you profane the temple of national freedom, the sacred
fane of Republican rites, with the presence and the sufferings of human beings in chains and slavery!”
The noise of these treasons on a foreign shore, “deafening the sound of the westerly wave, and riding against the blast as thunder goes,” to borrow O'Connell
's graphic and grandiose phrases, had reached the country in advance of Mr. Garrison
The national sensitiveness was naturally enough stung to the quick.
Here is a pestilent fellow who is not content with disturbing the peace of the Union
with his new fanaticism, but must needs presume to make the dear Union odious before the world as well.
And his return, what is it to be but the signal for increased agitation on the slavery question.
The conquering hero comes and his fanatical followers salute him forthwith with a new anti-slavery society, which means a fresh instrument in his hands to stir up strife between the North
and the South
“Are we tamely to look on, and see this most dangerous species of fanaticism extending itself through society?”
shrieked on the morning of Mr. Garrison
's arrival in New York Harbor, the malignant editor of the Courier and Enquirer
The pro-slavery and lawless elements of the city were not slow to take the cue given by metropolitan papers, and to do the duty of patriots upon their country's enemies.
and his antislavery associates outwitted these patriotic gentlemen, who attended in a body at Clinton Hall on the evening of October 2, 1833, to perform the aforesaid duty of patriots, while the objects of their attention were convened at Chatham Street Chapel and organizing their new fanaticism.
The mob flew wide of its
mark a second time, for when later in the evening it began a serenade more expressive than musical before the entrance to the little chapel on Chatham street the members of the society “folded their tents like the Arabs and as silently stole away.”
The Abolitionists accomplished their design and eluded their enemies at the same time.
But the significance of the riotous demonstration went not unobserved by them and their newly arrived leader.
It was plain from that night that if the spirit of Abolitionism had risen, the spirit of persecution had risen also.
A somewhat similar reception saluted the reformer in Boston
An inflammatory handbill announced to his townsmen his arrival.
“The true American
has returned, alias William Lloyd Garrison
, the ‘Negro Champion,’ from his disgraceful mission to the British
metropolis,” etc., etc., and wound up its artful list of lies with the malignant suggestion that “He is now in your power-do not let him escape you, but go this evening, armed with plenty of tar and feathers
and administer to him justice at his abode at No. 9 Merchant's Hall, Congress street.”
In obedience to this summons, a reception committee in the shape of “a dense mob, breathing threatenings which forboded a storm,” did pay their respects to the “true American” in front of his abode at the Liberator
Fortunately the storm passed over without breaking that evening on the devoted head of the “Negro champion.”
But the meaning of the riotous demonstration it was impossible to miss.
Like the mob in New York it clearly indicated that the country was on the outer edge of an area of violent disturbances on the subject of slavery.
The peril which Garrison
had twice escaped was indeed grave, but neither it nor the certainty of future persecution could flutter or depress his spirits.
“For myself,” he wrote subsequently in the Liberator
, “I am ready to brave any danger even unto death.
I feel no uneasiness either in regard to my fate or to the success of the cause of Abolition.
Slavery must speedily be abolished ; the blow that shall sever the chains of the slaves may shake the nation to its center — may momentarily disturb the pillars of the Union-but it shall redeem the character, extend the influence, establish the security, and increase the prosperity of our great.
It was not the rage and malice of his enemies which the brave soul minded, but the ever-present knowledge of human beings in chains and slavery whom he must help.
Nothing could separate him from his duty to them.
neither dangers present nor persecutions to come.
The uncertainty of life made him only the more zealous in their behalf.
The necessity of doing, doing, and yet ever doing for the slave was plainly pressing deep like thorns into his thoughts.
“I am more and more impressed ;” he wrote a friend a few weeks later, “I am more and more impressed with the importance of ‘ working whilst the day lasts.’
If ‘ we all do fade as a leaf,’ if we are ‘as the sparks that fly upward,’ if the billows of time are swiftly removing the sandy foundation of our life, what we intend to do for the captive, and for our country, and for the subjugation of a hostile world, must be done quickly.
Happily ‘our light afflictions are but for a moment.’
This yearning of the leader for increased activity in the cause of immediate emancipation was shared
by friends and disciples in different portions of the country.
Few and scattered as were the Abolitionists, they so much the more needed to band together for the great conflict with a powerful and organized evil.
This evil was organized on a national scale, the forces of righteousness which were rising against it, if they were ever to overcome it and rid the land of it, had needs to be organized on a national scale also.
with the instinct of a great reformer early perceived the immense utility of a national anti-slavery organization for mobilizing the whole available Abolition sentiment of the free States in a moral agitation of national and tremendous proportions.
He had not long to wait after his return from England
before this desire of his soul was satisfied.
It was in fact just a month afterward that a call for a convention for the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society went out from New York to the friends of immediate emancipation throughout the North
As an evidence of the dangerously excited state of the popular mind on the subject of slavery there stands in the summons the significant request to delegates to regard the call as confidential.
The place fixed upon for holding the convention was Philadelphia
, and the time December 4, 1833.
bestirred himself to obtain for the convention a full representation of the friends of freedom.
He sent the call to George W. Benson
, at Providence
, urging him to spread the news among the Abolitionists of his neighborhood and to secure the election of a goodly number of delegates by the society in Rhode Island
He forthwith bethought
him of Whittier
on his farm in Haverhill
, and enjoined his old friend to fail not to appear in Philadelphia
But while the young poet longed to go to urge upon his Quaker
brethren of that city “to make their solemn testimony against slavery visible over the whole land — to urge them, by the holy memories of Woolman
to come up as of old to the standard of Divine Truth, though even the fires of another persecution should blaze around them,” he feared that he would not be able to do so. The spirit was surely willing but the purse was empty, “as thee know,” he quaintly adds, “our farming business does not put much cash in our pockets.”
The cash he needed was generously supplied by Samuel E. Sewall
, and Whittier
went as a delegate to the convention after all. The disposition on the part of some of the poorer delegates was so strong to be present at the convention that not even the lack of money was sufficient to deter them from setting out on the expedition.
Two of them, David T. Kimball
and Daniel E. Jewett
, from Andover, Mass.
, did actually supplement the deficiencies of their pocketbooks by walking to New Haven, the aforesaid pocket-books
being equal to the rest of the journey from that point.
About sixty delegates found their way to Philadelphia
and organized on the morning of December 4th, in Adelphi Hall, the now famous convention.
It was a notable gathering of apostolic spirits-“mainly composed of comparatively young men, some in middle age, and a few beyond that period.”
They had come together from ten of the twelve free States, which fact goes to show the rapid, the almost epidemic-like
spread of Garrisonian Abolitionism through the North
was then scarcely three years old, and its editor had not until the second day of the convention attained the great age of twentyeight!
The convention of 1787 did not comprise more genuine patriotism and wisdom than did this memorable assembly of American Abolitionists.
It was from beginning to end an example of love to God and love to men, of fearless scorn of injustice and fearless devotion to liberty.
Not one of those three score souls who made up the convention, who did not take his life in his hand by reason of the act. It was not the love of fame surely which brought them over so many hundreds of miles, which made so many of them endure real physical privation, which drew all by a common, an irresistible impulse to congregate for an unpopular purpose within reach of the teeth and the claws of an enraged public opinion.
The convention, as one man might have said with the single-minded Lundy
, “My heart was deeply grieved at the gross abomination; I heard the wail of the captive; I felt his pang of distress; and the iron entered my soul.”
The iron of slavery had indeed entered the soul of every member of the convention.
It was the divine pang and pity of it which collected from the East
and from the West
this remarkable body of reformers.
The story of how they had to find a president illustrates the contemporary distrust and antagonism, which the anti-slavery movement aroused among the men of standing and influence.
Knowing in what bad odor they were held by the community, and anxious
only to serve their cause in the most effective manner, the members of the convention hit upon the plan of asking some individual eminent for his respectability to preside over their deliberations, and thereby disarm the public suspicions and quiet the general apprehensions felt in respect of the incendiary character of their intention.
So in pursuance of this plan six of their number were dispatched on the evening of December 3d to seek such a man. But the quest of the committee like that of Diogenes
proved a failure.
After two attempts and two repulses the committee were not disposed to invite the humiliation of a third refusal and must have listened with no little relief, to this blunt summary of the situation by Beriah Green
, who was one of the six. “If there is not timber amongst ourselves,” quoth Green
, “big enough to make a president of, let us get along without one, or go home and stay there until we have grown up to be men.”
The next day Green
was chosen, and established in a manner never to be forgotten by his associates that the convention did possess “timber big enough to make a president of.”
Narrow as were the circumstances of many of the members, the convention was by no means destitute of men of wealth and business prominence.
Such were the Winslows, Isaac and Nathan, of Maine
, Arnold Buffum
, of Massachusetts
, and John Rankin
and Lewis Tappan
, of New York.
Scholarship, talents, and eloquence abounded among the delegates.
Here there was no lack, no poverty, but extraordinary sufficiency, almost to redundancy.
The presence of the gentler sex was not wanting to lend grace and picturesqueness
to the occasion.
The beautiful and benignant countenance of Lucretia Mott
shed over the proceedings the soft radiance of a pure and regnant womanhood; while the handful of colored delegates with the elegant figure of Robert Purvis
at their head, added pathos and picturesqueness to the personnel
of the convention.
Neither was the element of danger wanting to complete the historic scene.
Its presence was grimly manifest in the official intimation that evening meetings of the convention could not be protected, by the demonstrations of popular ill — will which the delegates encountered on the streets, by the detachment of constabulary guarding the entrance to Adelphi Hall, and by the thrillingly significant precaution observed by the delegates of sitting with locked doors.
Over the assembly it impended cruel and menacing like fate.
Once securely locked within the hall, the Abolitionists discreetly abstained from leaving it at noon for dinner, well knowing how small a spark it takes to kindle a great fire.
It was foolhardy to show themselves nnnecessarily to the excited crowds in the streets, and so mindful that true courage consisteth not in recklessness, they despatched one of their number for crackers and cheese, which they washed down with copious draughts of cold water.
But they had that to eat and drink besides, whereof the spirits of mischief without could not conceive.
The grand achievement of the convention was, of course, the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society, but the crown of the whole was unquestionably the Declaration of Sentiments.
The composition of this instrument has an interesting history.
seems that the delegates considered that the remarkable character of the movement which they were launching upon the wide sea of national attention demanded of them an expression altogether worthy of so momentous an undertaking.
The adoption of a constitution for this purpose was felt to be inadequate.
A constitution was indispensable, but some other expression was necessary to give to their work its proper proportion and importance.
Such a manifestation it was deemed meet to make in the form of a declaration of sentiments.
A committee was accordingly appointed to draft the declaration.
This committee named three of its number, consisting of Garrison
, and Samuel J. May
to draw up the document.
The sub-committee in turn deputed Garrison
to do the business.
has told in his Recollections of the AntiSlavery Conflict
, how he and Whittier
left their friend at ten o'clock in the evening, agreeing to call at eight the following morning and how on their return at the appointed hour they found Garrison
with shutters closed and lamps burning, penning the last paragraph of the admirable document.
He has told how they three read it over together two or three times, making some slight alterations in it, and how at nine o'clock the draft was laid by them before the whole committee.
The author of the recollections has left a graphic account of its effect upon the convention.
“Never in my life,” he says, “have I seen a deeper impression made by words than was made by that admirable document upon all who were present.
After the voice of the reader had ceased there was silence for several minutes.
Our hearts were in perfect
There was but one thought with us all. Either of the members could have told what the whole convention felt.
We felt that the word had just been uttered which would be mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the strongholds of slavery.”
Such was the scene at the first reading of the Declaration of Sentiments, Dr. Atlee
, the reader.
The effect at its final reading was, if possible, even more dramatic and eloquent.
has depicted this closing and thrilling scene.
He has described how Samuel J. May
read the declaration for the last time.
“His sweet, persuasive voice faltered with the intensity of his emotions as he repeated the solemn pledges of the concluding paragraphs.
After a season of silence, David Thurston
, rose as his name was called by one of the secretaries and affixed his name to the document.
One after another passed up to the platform, signed, and retired in silence.
All felt the deep responsibility of the occasion — the shadow and forecast of a life-long struggle rested upon every countenance.”
The effects, so electrical and impressive, which followed the reading of the declaration were not disproportioned to its merits, for it was an instrument of singular power, wisdom, and eloquence.
Indeed, to this day, more than half a century after it was written it still has virtue to quicken the breath and stir the pulses of a sympathetic reader out of their normal time.
A great passion for freedom and righteousness irradiates like a central light the whole memorable document.
It begins by a happy reference to an earlier convention, held some fifty-seven years before in the same place, and which adopted a
declaration holding “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and how at the trumpet-call of its authors three millions of people rushed to arms “deeming it more glorious to die instantly as free men, than desirable to live one hour as slaves” ; and how, though few in number and poor in resources those same people were rendered invincible by the conviction that truth, justice, and right were on their side.
But the freedom won by the men of 1776 was incomplete without the freedom for which the men of 1833 were striving.
The authors of the new declaration would not be inferior to the authors of the old “in purity of motive, in earnestness of zeal, in decision of purpose, intrepidity of action, in steadfastness of faith, in sincerity of spirit.”
Unlike the older actors, the younger had eschewed the sword, the spilling of human blood in defence of their principles.
Theirs was a moral warfare, the grappling of truth with error, of the power of love with the inhumanities of the nation.
Then it glances at the wrongs which the fathers suffered, and at the enormities which the slaves were enduring.
The “fathers were never slaves, never bought and sold like cattle, never shut out from the light of knowledge and religion, never subjected to the lash of brutal taskmasters,” but all these woes and more, an unimaginable mountain of agony and misery, was the appalling lot of the slaves in the Southern States
The guilt of this nation, which partners such a crime against human nature, “is unequaled by any other on earth,” and therefore it is bound to instant repentance,
and to the immediate restitution of justice to the oppressed.
The Declaration of Sentiments denies the right of man to hold property in a brother man, affirms the identity in principle between the African slave trade and American slavery, the imprescriptibility of the rights of the slaves to liberty, the nullity of all laws which run counter to human rights, and the grand doctrine of civil and political equality in the Republic
, regardless of race and complexional differences.
It boldly rejects the principle of compensated emancipation, because it involves a surrender of the position that man cannot hold property in man; because slavery is a crime, and the master is not wronged by emancipation but the slaves righted, restored to themselves; because immediate and general emancipation would only destroy nominal, not real, property, the labor of the slaves would still remain to the masters and doubled by the new motives which freedom infuses into the breasts of her children ; and, finally because, if compensation is to be given at all it ought to be given to those who have been plundered of their rights.
It spurns in one compact paragraph the pretensions of the colonization humbug as “delusive, cruel, and dangerous.”
But lofty and uncompromising as were the moral principles and positions of the declaration, it nevertheless recognized with perspicuity of vision the Constitutional limitations of the Federal Government
in relation to slavery.
It frankly conceded that Congress had no right to meddle with the evil in any of the States.
But wherever the national jurisdiction reached the general government was bound
to interfere and suppress the traffic in human flesh.
It was the duty of Congress, inasmuch as it possessed the power, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, the National Territories
, along the coast and between the States.
The free States are the particeps criminis
of the slave States.
They are living under a pledge of their tremendous physical force to rivet the manacles of chattel slavery upon millions in the South
; they are liable at any instant to be called on under the Constitution
to suppress a general insurrection of the slaves.
This relationship is criminal, “is full of danger, it must be broken up
So much for the views and principles of the declaration, now for the designs and measures as enumerated therein:
We shall organize anti-slavery societies, if possible, in every city, town and village in our land.
We shall send forth agents to lift up the voice of remonstrance, of warning, of entreaty, and of rebuke.
We shall circulate, unsparingly and extensively, anti-slavery tracts and periodicals.
We shall enlist the pulpit and the press in the cause of the suffering and the dumb.
We shall aim at a purification of the churches from all participation in the guilt of slavery.
We shall encourage the labor of freemen rather than that of slaves, by giving a preference to their productions; and
We shall spare no exertions nor means to bring the whole nation to speedy repentance.
The instrument closes by pledging the utmost of its signers to the overthrow of slavery-“come what may to our persons, our interests, or our reputations
--whether we live to witness the triumph of Liberty, Justice, and Humanity, or perish untimely as martyrs in this great, benevolent, and holy cause.”
Twin pledge it was to that ancestral, historic one made in 1776: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence
, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
has predicted for the Declaration of Sentiments an enduring fame: “It will live,” he declares, “as long as our national history.”
Samuel J. May
was equally confident that this “Declaration of the rights of man,” as he proudly cherished it, would “live a perpetual, impressive protest against every form of oppression, until it shall have given place to that brotherly kindness which all the children of the common Father owe to one another” As a particular act and parchment-roll of high thoughts and resolves, highly expressed, it will not, I think, attain to the immortality predicted for it. For as such it has in less than two generations passed almost entirely out of the knowledge and recollection of Americans
But in another sense it is destined to realize all that has been foreshadowed for it by its friends.
Like elemental fire its influence will glow and flame at the center of our national life long after as a separate and sovereign entity it shall have been forgotten by the descendants of its illustrious author and signers.
The convention was in session three days, and its proceedings were filled with good resolutions and effective work.
was elected President
of the national organization, and William Green
Elizur Wright, Jr.
, was chosen Secretary
of Domestic Correspondence, William Lloyd Garrison Secretary
of Foreign Correspondence, and Abraham L. Cox
Besides these officers there were a Board of Management and a number of Vice-Presidents
For three days the hearts of the delegates burned within them toward white-browed Duty and the master, Justice
, who stood in their midst and talked with divine accents to their spirits of how men were enslaved and cruelly oppressed by men, their own brothers, and how the cry of these bondmen came up to them for help.
And with one accord there fell upon the delegates a pang and pity, an uplifting, impelling sense of “woe unto us” if we withhold from our brethren in bonds the help required of us. This rising tide of emotion and enthusiasm gathering mass at each sitting of the convention, culminated during the several readings of the Declaration of Sentiments.
And when on the third day Beriah Green
brought the congress to a close in a valedictory address of apostolic power and grandeur, and with a prayer so sweet, so fervent, and strong as to melt all hearts, the pent — up waters of the reform was ready to hurl themselves into an agitation the like of which had never before, nor has since, been seen or felt in the Union
Thenceforth freedom's little ones were not without great allies, who were “exultations, agonies, and love, and man's unconquerable mind.”
Everywhere the flood of Abolitionism burst upon the land, everywhere the moral deluge spread through the free States.
Anti-slavery societies rose as it were,
out of the ground, so rapid, so astonishing were their growth during the year following the formation of the national society.
In nearly every free State they had appeared doubling and quadrupling in number, until new societies reached in that first year to upwards of forty.
Anti-slavery agents and lecturers kept pace with the anti-slavery societies.
They began to preach, to remonstrate, to warn, entreat, and rebuke until their voices sounded like the roar of many waters in the ears of the people.
Wherever there was a school-house, a hall, or a church, there they were, ubiquitous, irrepressible, a cry in the wilderness of a nation's iniquity.
Anti-slavery tracts and periodicals multiplied and started from New York and Boston
in swarms, and clouds, the thunder of their wings were as the thunder of falling avelanches to the guilty conscience of the country.
There was no State, city, town, or village in the Republic
where their voice was not heard.
The Rev. Amos
A Phelp's Lectures on slavery and its remedy
; “the Rev. J. D. Paxton
's Letters on slavery
; the Rev. S. J. May
's letters to Andrew
, The rights of colored people to education Vindicated
Elizur Wright, Jr
's, Sin of slavery and its remedy
's Justice and Expediency
; and, above all, Mrs. Lydia Maria Child
's startling Appeal in favor of that class of Americans called Africans
were the more potent of the new crop of writings betokening the vigor of Mr. Garrison
's Propagandism,” says that storehouse of antislavery facts the Life of Garrison
by his children.
poured the flood, widespread the inundation of anti-slavery publications.
Money, although not commensurate
with the vast wants of the crusade, came in in copious and generous streams.
A marvelous munificence characterized the charity of wealthy Abolitionists.
The poor gave freely of their mite, and the rich as freely of their thousands.
Something of the state of simplicity and community of goods which marked the early disciples of Christianity seemed to have revived in the hearts of this band of American reformers.
A spirit of renunciation, of self-sacrifice, of brotherly kindness, of passionate love of righteousness, of passionate hatred of wrong, of self-consecration to truth and of martyrdom lifted the reform to as high a moral level as had risen any movement for the betterment of mankind in any age of the world.
The resolutions of the signers of the Declaration of Sentiment, to enlist the pulpit in the cause of the suffering and dumb, and to attempt the purification of the churches from all participation in the guilt of slavery, encountered determined opposition from the pulpits and the churches themselves.
The Abolitionists were grieved and indignant at the pro-slavery spirit which pulpits and churches displayed.
But what happened was as we now look back at those proceedings, an inevitable occurrence, a foregone conclusion.
The pulpits were only representative of the religion of the pews, and the pews were occupied by the same sort of humanity that toil and spin and haggle over dollars and cents six out of every seven days. They have their selfish and invested interests, fixed social notions, relationships, and prejudices, which an episode like Sunday, churches, and sermons do not seriously affect.
Indeed, Sunday, churches,
and sermons constitute an institution of modern civilization highly conservative of invested interests, fixed social notions, relationships, and prejudices.
Who advances a new idea, a reformatory movement, disturbs the status quo
, stirs up the human bees in that great hive called society, and that lesser one called the church, and he must needs expect to have the swarm about his head.
This was precisely what happened in the case of the anti-slavery movement.
It threatened the then status quo
of property rights, it attacked the fixed social notions, relationships, and prejudices of the South
and of the North
The revolution which this new idea involved in the slave States, was of the most radical character, going down to a complete reconstruction of their entire social system.
At once the human hornets were aroused, and in these circumstances, the innocent and the guilty were furiously beset.
Because the new idea which disturbed the South
had originated in the North
, the wrath of the South
rose hot against not the authors of the new idea alone but against the people of that section as well.
But this sectional unpleasantness endangered the stability of the Union
, and menaced with obstructions and diversions the golden stream of Northern traffic, dollars, and dividends.
This was intolerable, and forthwith the Apiarian brotherhood of the free States put together their heads with those of the slave States to attack, sting, and utterly abolish the new idea, and the new idea's supporters.
The Northern churches were, of course, in the Northern
And when the new fanaticism threatened the financial stability of the pews, the pulpits instead of
exerting themselves in behalf of the suffering and dumb slaves, exerted themselves to preserve the prosperity of the pews by frowning down the friends of the slaves.
They were among the first to stone the new idea and its fiery prophets.
“Away with them!”
shouted in chorus pulpit and pews.
Sad? yes, but alas!
natural, too. These men were not better nor worse than the average man. They were the average men of their generation, selfish, narrow, material, encrusted in their prejudices like snails in their shells, struggling upward at a snail's pace to the larger life, with its added sweetness and humanities, but experiencing many a discomfiture by the way from those foul and triple fiends, the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.
Nowhere in the churches was their opposition to the Abolition movement more persistent and illiberal than in the theological seminaries, whence the pulpits drew their supplies of preachers.
Like master, like servant, these institutions were indentured to the public, and reflected as in a mirror the body and pressure of its life and sentiment.
That a stream cannot rise higher than its source, although a theological stream, found remarkable demonstration in the case of Lane Seminary.
Here after the publication of the “Thoughts on Colonization,” and the formation of the National Society, an earnest spirit of inquiry broke out among the students on the subject of slavery.
It was at first encouraged by the President
, Lyman Beecher
, who offered to go in aild discuss the question with his “boys.”
That eminent man did not long remain in this mind.
The discussions which he so lightly allowed swept through the institution with the
force of a great moral awakening.
They were continued during nine evenings and turned the seminary at their close, so far as the students went, into an anti-slavery society.
This is not the place to go at length into the history of that anti-slavery debate, which, in its consequences, proved one of the events of the anti-slavery conflict.
Its leader was Theodore D. Weld
, who was until Wendell Phillips
appeared upon the scene, the great orator of the agitation.
had no notion of raising such a ghost when he said, “Go ahead, boys, I'll go in and discuss with you.”
It was such an apparition of independence and righteousness as neither the power of the trustees nor the authority of the faculty was ever able to dismiss.
The virtue of a gag rule was tried to suppress Abolition among the students, but instead of suppressing Abolition, it well-nigh suppressed the seminary; for, rather than wear a gag on the obnoxious subject, the students — to between seventy and eighty, comprising nearly the whole muster-roll of the schoolwithdrew from an institution where the exercise of the right of free inquiry and free speech on a great moral question was denied and repressed.
The same spirit of repression arose later in the Theological School at Andover, Mass.
There the gag was effectively applied by the faculty, and all inquiry and discussion relating to slavery disappeared among the students.
But the attempt to impose silence upon the students of Phillips's Academy near-by was followed by the secession of forty or fifty of the students.
Ah! the Abolitionists had undertaken to achieve the impossible, when they undertook to enlist the pulpit in the cause of the slaves, and to purify the
churches from all participation in the guilt of slavery.
For the average man, whether within or without the church, is not controlled in his conduct toward his brother man by the principles aud precepts of Jesus, but by the laws of social and individual selfishness.
These selfish forces may at epochal moments align themselves with justice and liberty, and they not infrequently do, otherwise human progress must be at an end. In advancing themselves, they perforce advance justice and liberty.
Thus do men love their neighbors as themselves, and move forward to fraternity and equality in kingdoms and commonwealths.
The special province of moral reformers, like Garrison
and the Abolitionists, seems to be to set these egoistic and altruistic elements of human society at war, the one against the other, thereby compelling its members and classes, willy nilly, to choose between the belligerents.
Some will enlist on one side, some on the other, but in the furnace heat of the passions which ensues, an ancient evil, or a bad custom or institution, gets the vitality burned out of it, which in due time falls as slag out of the new order that arises at the close of the conflict.