Philosophy of the Abolition movement.1
: I have to present, from the business committee, the following resolution:--
Resolved, That the object of this society is now, as it has always been, to convince our countrymen, by arguments addressed to their hearts and consciences, that slave-holding is a heinous crime, and that the duty, safety, and interest of all concerned demand its immediate abolition, without expatriation.
I wish, Mr. Chairman
, to notice some objections that have been made to our course ever since Mr. Garrison
began his career, and which have been lately urged again, with considerable force and emphasis, in the columns of the London Leader
, the able organ of a very respectable and influential class in England
I hope, Sir, you will not think it waste of time to bring such a subject before you. I know these objections have been made a thousand times, that they have been often answered, though we generally submitted to them in silence, willing to let results speak for us. But there are times when justice to the slave will not allow us to be silent.
There are many in this country, many in England
, who have had their attention turned, recently, to the antislavery cause.
They are asking, “Which is the best and most efficient
method of helping it?”
Engaged ourselves in an effort for the slave, which time has tested and success hitherto approved, we are very properly desirous that they should join us in our labors, and pour into this channel the full tide of their new zeal and great resources.
Thoroughly convinced ourselves that our course is wise, we can honestly urge others to adopt it. Long experience gives us a right to advise.
The fact that our course, more than all other efforts, has caused that agitation which has awakened these new converts, gives us a right to counsel them.
They are our spiritual children: for their sakes, we would free the cause we love and trust from every seeming defect and plausible objection.
For the slave's sake, we reiterate our explanations, that he may lose no tittle of help by the mistakes or misconceptions of his friends.
All that I have to say on these points will be to you, Mr. Chairman
, very trite and familiar; but the facts may be new to some, and I prefer to state them here, in Boston
, where we have lived and worked, because, if our statements are incorrect, if we claim too much, our assertions can be easily answered and disproved.
The charges to which I refer are these: that, in dealing with slaveholders and their apologists, we indulge in fierce denunciations, instead of appealing to their reason and common sense by plain statements and fair argument; -that we might have won the sympathies and support of the nation, if we would have submitted to argue this question with a manly patience; but, instead of this, we have outraged the feelings of the community by attacks, unjust and unnecessarily severe, on its most valued institutions, and gratified our spleen by indiscriminate abuse of leading men, who were often honest in their intentions, however mistaken in their views;--that we have utterly neglected the ample means that lay around us to convert the nation, submitted to no discipline, formed no plan, been guided by
no foresight, but hurried on in childish, reckless, blind, and hot-headed zeal,--bigots in the narrowness of our views, and fanatics in our blind fury of invective and malignant judgment of other men's motives.
There are some who come upon our platform, and give us the aid of names and reputations less burdened than ours with popular odium, who are perpetually urging us to exercise charity in our judgments of those about us, and to consent to argue these questions.
These men are ever parading their wish to draw a line between themselves and us, because they must be permitted
to wait,--to trust more to reason than feeling,--to indulge a generous charity,--to rely on the sure influence of simple truth, uttered in love, &c., &c. I reject with scorn all these implications that ow
r judgments are uncharitable,--that we
are lacking in patience,--that we
have any other dependence than on the simple truth, spoken with Christian frankness, yet with Christian love.
These lectures, to which you, Sir, and all of us, have so often listened, would be impertinent, if they were not rather ridiculous for the gross ignorance they betray of the community, of the cause, and of the whole course of its friends.
The article in the Leader to which I refer is signed “Ion
,” and may be found in the Liberator
of December 17, 1852.
The writer is cordial and generous in his recognition of Mr. Garrison
's claim to be the representative of the antislavery movement, and does entire justice to his motives and character.
The criticisms of “Ion
” were reprinted in the Christian Register, of this city, the organ of the Unitarian
The editors of that paper, with their usual Christian courtesy, love of truth, and fair-dealing, omitted all “Ion's” expressions of regard for Mr. Garrison
and appreciation of his motives, and reprinted only those parts of the article which undervalue his sagacity and influence, and indorse the common objections to
his method and views.
You will see in a moment, Mr, President
, that it is with such men and presses “Ion
” thinks Mr. Garrison
has not been sufficiently wise and patient, in trying to win their help for the antislavery cause.
Perhaps, were he on the spot, it would tire even his patience, and puzzle even his sagacity, to make any other use of them than that of the drunken Helot,--a warning to others how disgusting is mean vice.
Perhaps, were he here, he would see that the best and only use to be made of them is to let them unfold their own characters, and then show the world how rotten our politics and religion are, that they naturally bear such fruit.
” quotes Mr. Garrison
's original declaration, in the Liberator
I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity?
I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice.
I am in earnest,--I will not equivocate,--I will not excuse,--I will not retreat a single inch,--and I will be heard.
It is pretended that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective and the precipitancy of my measures.
The charge is not true. On this question, my influence, humble as it is, is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years,--not perniciously, but beneficially,--not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right.
I desire to thank God that he enables me to disregard “the fear of man, which bringeth a snare,” and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power.
” then goes on to say:--
This is a defence which has been generally accepted on this side of the Atlantic, and many are the Abolitionists among us whom it has encouraged in honesty and impotence, and whom it has converted into conscientious hinderances .....
We would have Mr. Garrison to say, “ I will be as harsh as progress, as uncompromising as success.”
If a man speaks for his own gratification, he may be as “ harsh” as he pleases; but if he
speaks for the down-trodden and oppressed, he must be content to put a curb upon the tongue of holiest passion, and speak only as harshly as is compatible with the amelioration of the evil he proposes to redress.
Let the question be again repeated: Do you seek for the slave vengeance or redress?
If you seek retaliation, go on denouncing.
But distant Europe honors William Lloyd Garrison because it credits him with seeking for the slave simply redress.
We say, therefore, that “ uncompromising” policy is not to be measured by absolute justice, but by practical amelioration of the slave's condition.
Amelioration as fast as you can get it,--absolute justice as soon as you can reach it.
He quotes the sentiment of Confucius, that he would choose for a leader “a man who would maintain a steady vigilance in the direction of affairs, who was capable of forming plans, and of executing them,” and says:--
The philosopher was right in placing wisdom and executive capacity above courage; for, down to this day, our popular movements are led by heroes who fear nothing, and who win nothing ....
There is no question raised in these articles as to the work to be done, but only as to the mode of really doing it. The platform resounds with announcements of principle, which is but asserting the right, while nothing but contempt is showered on policy, which is the realization of right.
The air is filled with all high cries and spirited denunciations; indignation is at a premium; and this is called advocacy. . . .. But to calculate, to make sure of your aim, is to be descried as one who is too cold to feel, too genteel to strike.
Further on, he observes:--
If an artillery officer throws shell after shell which never reach the enemy, he is replaced by some one with a better eye and a surer aim. But in the artillery battle of opinion, to mean to hit is quite sufficient; and if you have a certain grand indifference as to whether you hit or not, you may count on public applause. . .
A man need be no less militant, as the soldier of fact, than
as the agent of swords.
But the arena of argument needs discipline, no less than that of arms.
It is this which the antislavery party seem to me not only to overlook, but to despise They do not put their valor to drill.
Neither on the field nor the platform has courage any inherent capacity — f taking care of itself.
The writer then proceeds to make a quotation from Mr. Emerson
, the latter part of which I will read:--
Let us withhold every reproachful, and, if we can, every indignant remark.
In this cause, we must renounce our temper, and the risings of pride.
If there be any man who thinks the ruin of a race of men a small matter compared with the last decorations and completions of his own comfort,--who would not so much as part with his ice-cream to save them from rapine and manacles,--I think I must not hesitate to satisfy that man that also his cream and vanilla are safer and cheaper by placing the negro nation on a fair footing, than by robbing them.
If the Virginian piques himself on the picturesque luxury of his vassalage, on the heavy Ethiopian manners of his house-servants, their silent obedience, their hue of bronze, their turbaned heads, and would not exchange them for the more intelligent but precarious hired services of whites, I shall not refuse to show him that, when their free papers are made out, it will still be their interest to remain on his estates; and that the oldest planters of Jamaica are convinced that it is cheaper to pay wages than to own slaves.
The critic takes exception to Mr. Garrison
's approval of the denunciatory language in which Daniel O'Connell
rebuked the giant sin of America
, and concludes his article with this sentence:--
When William Lloyd Garrison praises the great Celtic monarch of invective for this dire outpouring, he acts the part of the boy who fancies that the terror is in the war-whoop of the savage, unmindful of the quieter muskets of the civilized infantry, whose unostentatious execution blows whoop and tomahawk to the Devil.
Before passing to a consideration of these remarks of “Ion
,” let me say a word in relation to Mr. Emerson
I do not consider him as indorsing any of these criticisms on the Abolitionists.
His services to the most radical antislavery movement have been generous and marked.
He has never shrunk from any odium which lending his name and voice to it would incur.
Making fair allowance for his peculiar taste, habits, and genius, he has given a generous amount of aid to the antislavery movement, and never let its friends want his cordial “God-speed.”
“ Ion's” charges are the old ones, that we Abolitionists are hurting our own cause,--that, instead of waiting for the community to come up to our views, and endeavoring to remove prejudice and enlighten ignorance by patient explanation and fair argument, we fall at once, like children, to abusing everything and everybody,--that we imagine zeal will supply the place of common sense,--that we have never shown any sagacity in adapting our means to our ends, have never studied the national character, or attempted to make use of the materials which lay all about us to influence public opinion, but by blind, childish, obstinate fury and indiscriminate denunciation, have become “honestly impotent, and conscientious hinderances.”
These, Sir, are the charges which have uniformly been brought against all reformers in all ages.
” thinks the same faults are chargeable on the leaders of all the “popular movements” in England
, which, he says, “are led by heroes who fear
nothing and who win
If the leaders of popular movements in Great Britain
for the last fifty years have been losers
, I should be curious to know what party, in “Ion's” opinion, have won?
My Lord Derby and his friends seem to think Democracy has made, and is making, dangerous headway.
If the men who, by popular agitation, outside of Parliament, wrung
from a powerful oligarchy Parliamentary Reform, and the Abolition of the Test Acts
, of High Post Rates, of Catholic Disability, of Negro Slavery and the Corn Laws
, did “not win anything,” it would be hard to say what winning is. If the men who, without the ballot, made Peel
their tool and conquered the Duke
, are considered unsuccessful, pray what kind of a thing would success be?
Those who now, at the head of that same middle class, demand the separation of Church and State, and the Extension of the Ballot, may well guess, from the fluttering of Whig and Tory dove-cotes, that soon they will “win” that same “nothing.”
Heaven grant they may enjoy the same ill success
with their predecessors!
On our side of the ocean, too, we ought deeply to sympathize with the leaders of the temperance movement in their entire want of success!
If “Ion's” mistakes about the antislavery cause lay as much on the surface as those I have just noticed, it would be hardly worth while to reply to him; for as to these, he certainly exhibits only “the extent and variety of his misinformation.”
His remarks upon the antislavery movement are, however, equally inaccurate.
I claim, before you who know the true state of the case,--I claim for the antislavery movement with which this society is identified, that, looking back over its whole course, and considering the men connected with it in the mass, it has been marked by sound judgment, unerring foresight, the most sagacious adaptation of means to ends, the strictest self-discipline, the most thorough research, and an amount of patient and manly argument addressed to the conscience and intellect of the nation, such as no other cause of the kind, in England
or this country, has ever offered.
I claim, also, that its course has been marked by a cheerful surrender of all individual claims to merit or leadership,--the most cordial welcoming of the slightest effort, of every honest
attempt, to lighten or to break the chain of the slave.
I need not waste time by repeating the superfluous confession that we are men, and therefore do not claim to be perfect.
Neither would I be understood as denying that we use denunciation, and ridicule, and every other weapon that the human mind knows.
We must plead guilty, if there be guilt in not knowing how to separate the sin from the sinner.
With all the fondness for abstractions attributed to us, we are not yet capable of that.
We are fighting a momentous battle at desperate odds,--one against a thousand.
Every weapon that ability or ignorance, wit, wealth, prejudice, or fashion can command, is pointed against us. The guns are shotted to their lips.
The arrows are poisoned.
Fighting against such an array, we cannot afford to confine ourselves to any one weapon.
The cause is not ours, so that we might, rightfully, postpone or put in peril the victory by moderating our demands, stifling our convictions, or filing down our rebukes, to gratify any sickly taste of our own, or to spare the delicate nerves of our neighbor.
Our clients are three millions of Christian slaves, standing dumb suppliants at the threshold of the Christian world.
They have no voice but ours to utter their complaints, or to demand justice.
The press, the pulpit, the wealth, the literature, the prejudices, the political arrangements, the present self-interest of the country, are all against us. God has given us no weapon but the truth, faithfully uttered, and addressed, with the old prophets' directness, to the conscience of the individual sinner.
The elements which control public opinion and mould the masses are against us. We can but pick off here and there a man from the triumphant majority.
We have facts for those who think, arguments for those who reason; but he who cannot be reasoned out of his prejudices must be laughed out of them; he who cannot be argued out of his selfishness
must be shamed out of it by the mirror of his hateful self held up relentlessly before his eyes.
We live in a land where every man makes broad his phylactery, inscribing thereon, “All men are created equal,” --“God hath made of one blood all nations of men.”
It seems to us that in such a land there must be, on this question of slavery, sluggards to be awakened, as well as doubters to be convinced.
Many more, we verily believe, of the first than of the last.
There are far more dead hearts to be quickened, than confused intellects to be cleared up,--more dumb dogs to be made to speak, than doubting consciences to be enlightened.
[Loud cheers.] We have use, then, sometimes, for something beside argument.
What is the denunciation with which we are charged?
It is endeavoring, in our faltering human speech, to declare the enormity of the sin of making merchandise of men,--of separating husband and wife,--taking the infant from its mother, and selling the daughter to prostitution,--of a professedly Christian nation denying, by statute, the Bible
to every sixth man and woman of its population, and making it illegal for “two or three” to meet together, except a white man be present!
What is this harsh criticism of motives with which we are charged?
It is simply holding the intelligent and deliberate actor responsible for the character and consequences of his acts.
Is there anything inherently wrong in such denunciation or such criticism?
This we may claim,--we have never judged a man but out of his own mouth.
We have seldom, if ever, held him to account, except for acts of which he and his own friends were proud.
All that we ask the world and thoughtful men to note are the principles and deeds on which the American
pulpit and American public men plume themselves.
We always allow our opponents to paint their own pictures.
humble duty is to stand by and assure the spectators that what they would take for a knave or a hypocrite is really, in American estimation, a Doctor of Divinity or Secretary of State
The South is one great brothel, where half a million of women are flogged to prostitution, or, worse still, are degraded to believe it honorable.
The public squares of half our great cities echo to the wail of families torn asunder at the auction-block; no one of our fair rivers that has not closed over the negro seeking in death a refuge from a life too wretched to bear; thousands of fugitives skulk along our highways, afraid to tell their names, and trembling at the sight of a human being; free men are kidnapped in our streets, to be plunged into that hell of slavery; and now and then one, as if by miracle,
after long years, returns to make men aghast with his tale.
The press says, “It is all right” ; and the pulpit cries, “Amen.”
They print the Bible
in every tongue in which man utters his prayers; and get the money to do so by agreeing never to give the book, in the language our mothers taught us, to any negro, free or bond, south of Mason
The press says, “It is all right” ; and the pulpit cries, “Amen.”
The slave lifts up his imploring eyes, and sees in every face but ours the face of an enemy.
Prove to me now that harsh rebuke, indignant denunciation, scathing sarcasm, and pitiless ridicule are wholly and always unjustifiable; else we dare not, in so desperate a case, throw away any weapon which ever broke up the crust of an ignorant prejudice, roused a slumbering conscience, shamed a proud sinner, or changed, in any way, the conduct of a
Our aim is to alter public opinion.
Did we live in a market, our talk should be of dollars and cents, and we would seek to prove only that slavery was an unprofitable investment.
Were the nation one great, pure church, we would sit down and reason of “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.”
Had slavery fortified itself in a college, we would load our cannons with cold facts, and wing our arrows with arguments.
But we happen to live in the world,--the world made up of thought and impulse, of self-conceit and self-interest, of weak men and wicked.
To conquer, we must reach all. Our object is not to make every man a Christian or a philosopher, but to induce every one to aid in the abolition of slavery.
We expect to accomplish our object long before the nation is made over into saints or elevated into philosophers.
To change public opinion, we use the very tools by which it was formed.
That is, all such as an honest man may touch.
All this I am not only ready to allow, but I should be ashamed to think of the slave, or to look into the face of my fellow-man, if it were otherwise.
It is the only thing which justifies us to our own consciences, and makes us able to say we have done, or at least tried to do, our duty.
So far, however you distrust my philosophy, you will not doubt my statements.
That we have denounced and rebuked with unsparing fidelity will not be denied.
Have we not also addressed ourselves to that other duty, of arguing our question thoroughly?--of using due discretion and fair sagacity in endeavoring to promote our cause?
Yes, we have.
Every statement we have made has been doubted.
Every principle we have laid down has been denied by overwhelming majorities against us. No one step has ever been gained but by the most laborious research and the most exhausting argument.
And no question has ever, since Revolutionary days, been so thoroughly
investigated or argued here, as that of slavery.
Of that research and that argument, of the whole of it, the old-fashioned, fanatical, crazy Garrisonian antislavery movement has been the author.
From this band of men has proceeded every important argument or idea which has been broached on the antislavery question from 1830 to the present time.
[Cheers.] I am well aware of the extent of the claim I make.
I recognize, as fully as any one can, the ability of the new laborers,--the eloquence and genius with which they have recommended this cause to the nation, and flashed conviction home on the conscience of the community.
I do not mean, either, to assert that they have in every instance borrowed from our treasury their facts and arguments.
Left to themselves, they would probably have looked up the one and originated the other.
As a matter of fact, however, they have generally made use of the materials collected to their hands.
But there are some persons about us, sympathizers to a great extent with “Ion
,” who pretend that the antislavery movement has been hitherto mere fanaticism, its only weapon angry abuse.
They are obliged to assert this, in order to justify their past indifference or hostility.
At present, when it suits their purpose to give it some attention, they endeavor to explain the change by alleging that now it has been taken up by men of thoughtful minds, and its claims are urged by fair discussion and able argument.
My claim, then, is this: that neither the charity of the most timid of sects, the sagacity of our wisest converts, nor the culture of the ripest scholars, though all have been aided by our twenty years experience, has yet struck out any new method of reaching the public mind, or originated any new argument or train of thought, or discovered any new fact bearing on the question.
When once brought fully into the struggle, they have found it necessary to adopt the same means, to rely on the same
arguments, to hold up the same men and the same measures to public reprobation, with the same bold rebuke and unsparing invective that we have used.
All their conciliatory bearing, their painstaking moderation, their constant and anxious endeavor to draw a broad line between their camp and ours, have been thrown away.
Just so far as they have been effective laborers, they have found, as we have, their hands against every man, and every man's hand against them.
The most experienced of them are ready to acknowledge that our plan has been wise, our course efficient, and that our unpopularity is no fault of ours, but flows necessarily and unavoidably from our position.
“I should suspect,” says old Fuller
, “that his preaching had no salt in it, if no galled horse did wince.”
Our friends find, after all, that men do not so much hate us as the truth we utter and the light we bring.
They find that the community are not the honest seekers after truth which they fancied, but selfish politicians and sectarian bigots, who shiver, like Alexander
's butler, whenever the sun shines on them.
Experience has driven these new laborers back to our method.
We have no quarrel with them,--would not steal one wreath of their laurels.
All we claim is, that, if they are to be complimented as prudent, moderate, Christian
, sagacious, statesmanlike reformers, we deserve the same praise; for they have done nothing that we, in our measure, did not attempt before.
I claim this, that the cause, in its recent aspect, has put on nothing but timidity.
It has taken to itself no new weapons of recent years; it has become more compromising,--that is all!
It has become neither more persuasive, more learned, more Christian
, more charitable, nor more effective than for the twenty years preceding.
, the head of the Free Soil
movement, after a career in the Senate that would do honor to any man,--after a
six years course which entitles him to the respect and confidence of the antislavery public,--can put his name, within the last month, to an appeal from the city of Washington
, signed by a Houston and a Cass, for a monument to be raised to Henry Clay
If that be the test of charity and courtesy, we cannot give it to the world.
[Loud cheers.] Some of the leaders of the Free Soil
party of Massachusetts
, after exhausting the whole capacity of our language to paint the treachery of Daniel Webster to the cause of liberty, and the evil they thought he was able and seeking to do,--after that, could feel it in their hearts to parade themselves in the funeral procession got up to do him honor!
In this we allow we cannot follow them.
The deference which every gentleman owes to the proprieties of social life, that self-respect and regard to consistency which is every man's duty,--these, if no deeper feelings, will ever prevent us from giving such proofs of this newly-invented Christian courtesy.
[Great cheering.] We do not play
politics; antislavery is no half-jest with us; it is a terrible earnest, with life or death, worse than life or death, on the issue.
It is no lawsuit, where it matters not to the good feeling of opposing counsel which way the verdict goes, and where advocates can shake hands after the decision as pleasantly as before.
When we think of such a man as Henry Clay
, his long life, his mighty influence cast always into the scale against the slave,--of that irresistible fascination with which he moulded every one to his will; when we remember that, his conscience acknowledging the justice of our cause, and his heart open on every other side to the gentlest impulses, he could sacrifice so remorsely his convictions and the welfare of millions to his low ambition; when we think how the slave trembled at the sound of his voice, and that, from a multitude of breaking hearts there went up nothing but gratitude to God when it pleased him to
call that great sinner from this world,--we cannot find it in our hearts, we could not shape our lips to ask any man to do him honor.
[Great sensation.] No amount of eloquence, no sheen of official position, no loud grief of partisan friends, would ever lead us to ask monuments or walk in fine processions for pirates; and the sectarian zeal or selfish ambition which gives up, deliberately and in full knowledge of the facts, three million of human beings to hopeless ignorance, daily robbery, systematic prostitution, and murder, which the law is neither able nor undertakes to prevent or avenge, is more monstrous, in our eyes, than the love of gold which takes a score of lives with merciful quickness on the high seas.
Haynau on the Danube
is no more hateful to us than Haynau
on the Potomac
Why give mobs to one, and monuments to the other?
If these things be necessary to courtesy, I cannot claim that we are courteous.
We seek only to be honest men, and speak the same of the dead as of the living.
If the grave that hides their bodies could swallow also the evil they have done and the example they leave, we might enjoy at least the luxury of forgetting them.
But the evil that men do lives after them, and example acquires tenfold authority when it speaks from the grave.
History, also, is to be written.
How shall a feeble minority, without weight or influence in the country, with no jury of millions to appeal to,--denounced, vilified, and contemned,--how shall we make way against the overwhelming weight of some colossal reputation, if we do not turn from the idolatrous present, and appeal to the human race?
saying to your idols of to-day, “Here we are defeated; but we will write our judgment with the iron pen of a century to come, and it shall never be forgotten, if we can help it, that you were false in your generation to the claims of the slave!”
At present, our leasing men, strong in the support of
large majorities, and counting safely on the prejudices of the community, can afford to despise us. They know they can overawe or cajole the Present; their only fear is the judgment of the Future.
Strange fear, perhaps, considering how short and local their fame!
But however little, it is their all. Our only hold upon them is the thought of that bar of posterity, before which we are all to stand.
there is the elder brother of the Saxon
race across the water,--there is the army of honest men to come!
Before that jury we summon you. We are weak here,--out-talked, out-voted.
You load our names with infamy, and shout us down.
But our words bide their time.
We warn the living that we have terrible memories, and that their sins are never to be forgotten.
We will gibbet the name of every apostate so black and high that his children's children shall blush to bear it. Yet we bear no malice,--cherish no resentment.
We thank God that the love of fame, “that last infirmity of noble mind,” is shared by the ignoble.
In our necessity, we seize this weapon in the slave's behalf, and teach caution to the living by meting out relentless justice to the dead.
How strange the change death produces in the way a man is talked about here While leading men live, they avoid as much as possible all mention of slavery, from fear of being thought Abolitionists.
The moment they are dead, their friends rake up every word they ever contrived to whisper in a corner for liberty, and parade it before the world; growing angry, all the while, with us, because we insist on explaining these chance expressions by the tenor of a long and base life.
While drunk with the temptations of the present hour, men are willing to bow to any Moloch.
When their friends bury them, they feel what bitter mockery, fifty years hence, any epitaph will be, if it cannot record of one living in this era some service rendered to the slaves These, Mr. Chairman
are the reasons why we take care that “the memory of the wicked shall rot.”
I have claimed that the antislavery cause has, from the first, been ably and dispassionately argued, every objection candidly examined, and every difficulty or doubt anywhere honestly entertained treated with respect.
Let me glance at the literature of the cause, and try not so much, in a brief hour, to prove this assertion, as to point out the sources from which any one may satisfy himself of its truth.
I will begin with certainly the ablest and perhaps the most honest statesman who has ever touched the slave question.
Any one who will examine John Quincy Adams
's speech on Texas
, in 1838, will see that he was only seconding the full and able exposure of the Texas
plot, prepared by Benjamin Lundy
, to one of whose pamphlets Dr. Channing
, in his “Letter to Henry Clay
,” has confessed his obligation.
Every one acquainted with those years will allow that the North
owes its earliest knowledge and first awakening on that subject to Mr. Lundy
, who made long journeys and devoted years to the investigation.
His labors have this attestation, that they quickened the zeal and strengthened the hands of such men as Adams
I have been told that Mr. Lundy
prepared a brief for Mr. Adams
, and furnished him the materials for his speech on Texas
Look next at the right of petition.
Long before any member of Congress had opened his mouth in its defence, the Abolition presses and lecturers had examined and defended the limits of this right with profound historical research and eminent constitutional ability.
So thoroughly had the work been done, that all classes of the people had made up their minds about it long before any speaker of eminence had touched it in Congress.
The politicians were little aware of this.
threw himself so gallantly into the breach, it is said he wrote anxiously home to know whether he would be supported in Massachusetts
, little aware of the outburst of popular gratitude which the Northern
breeze was even then bringing him, deep and cordial enough to wipe away tie
old grudge Massachusetts
had borne him so long.
himself was only in favor of receiving the petitions, and advised to refuse their prayer, which was the abolition of slavery in the District
He doubted the power of Congress to abolish.
His doubts were examined by Mr. William Goodell
, in two letters of most acute logic, and of masterly ability.
If Mr. Adams
still retained his doubts, it is certain at least that he never expressed them afterward.
When Mr. Clay
paraded the same objections, the whole question of the power of Congress over the district was treated by Theodore D. Weld
in the fullest manner, and with the widest research,--indeed, leaving nothing to be added: an argument which Dr. Channing
characterized as “demonstration,” and pronounced the essay “one of the ablest pamphlets from the American
No answer was ever attempted.
The best proof of its ability is, that no one since has presumed to doubt the power.
Lawyer and statesmen have tacitly settled down into its full acknowledgment.
The influence of the Colonization Society on the welfare of the colored race was the first question our movement encountered.
To the close logic, eloquent appeals, and fully sustained charges of Mr. Garrison
's Letters on that subject no answer was ever made.
followed with a work full and able, establishing every charge by the most patient investigation of facts.
It is not too much to say of these two volumes, that they left the Colonization Society hopeless at the North
It dares never show its face before the people, and only lingers in some
few nooks of sectarian pride, so secluded from the influence of present ideas as to be almost fossil in their character.
The practical working of the slave system, the slave laws, the treatment of slaves, their food, the duration of their lives, their ignorance and moral condition, and the influence of Southern public opinion on their fate, have been spread out in a detail and with a fulness of evidence which no subject has ever received before in this country.
Witness the works of Phelps
, the “Antislavery record,” and, above all, that encyclopaedia of facts and storehouse of arguments, the “Thousand witnesses” of Mr. Theodore D. Weld
He also prepared that full and valuable tract for the World
's Convention called “Slavery and the Internal Slave-Trade
in the United States
,” published in London
Unique in antislavery literature is Mrs. Child
's “Appeal,” one of the ablest of our weapons, and one of the finest efforts of her rare genius.
The Princeton Review, I believe, first challenged the Abolitionists to an investigation of the teachings of the Bible
That field had been somewhat broken by our English predecessors.
But in England
, the pro-slavery party had been soon shamed out of the attempt to drag the Bible
into their service, and hence the discussion there had been short and somewhat superficial.
The pro-slavery side of the question has been eagerly sustained by theological reviews and doctors of divinity without number, from the half-way and timid faltering of Wayland
up to the unblushing and melancholy recklessness of Stuart
The argument on the other side has come wholly from the Abolitionists; for neither Dr. Hague
nor Dr. Barnes
can be said to have added anything to the wide research, critical acumen, and comprehensive views of Theodore D. Weld
, Beriah Green
, J. G. Fee
, and the old work of Duncan
On the constitutional questions which have at various times arisen,--the citizenship of the colored man, the soundness of the “Prigg” decision, the constitutionality of the old Fugitive Slave Law, the true construction of the slave-surrender clause,--nothing has been added, either in the way of fact or argument, to the works of Jay
, Alvan Stewart
, E. G. Loring
, S. E. Sewall
, Richard Hildreth
, W. I. Bowditch
, the masterly essays of the Emancipator at New York and the Liberator
, and the various addresses of the Massachusetts
and American Societies for the last twenty years. The idea of the antislavery character of the Constitution
,--the opiate with which Free Soil quiets its conscience for voting under a pro-slavery government,--I heard first suggested by Mr. Garrison
It was elaborately argued that year in all our antislavery gatherings, both here and in New York, and sustained with great ability by Alvan Stewart
, and in part by T. D. Weld
The antislavery construction of the Constitution
was ably argued in 1886, in the a “Antislavery Magazine,” by Rev. Samuel J. May
, one of the very first to seek the side of Mr. Garrison
, and pledge to the slave his life and efforts,--a pledge which thirty years of devoted labors have nobly redeemed.
If it has either merit or truth, they are due to no legal learning recently added to our ranks, but to some of the old and well-known pioneers.
This claim has since received the fullest investigation from Mr. Lysander Spooner
, who has urged it with all his unrivalled ingenuity, laborious research, and close logic.
He writes as a lawyer, and has no wish, I believe, to be ranked with any class of antislavery men.
The influence of slavery on our government has received the profoundest philosophical investigation from th pen of Richard Hildreth
, in his invaluable essay on “Despotism in America
,” --a work which deserves a
place by the side of the ablest political disquisitions of any age.
's survey of “Ten years of antislavery experience,” was the first attempt at a philosophical discussion of the various aspects of the antislavery cause, and the problems raised by its struggles with sect and party.
You, Mr. Chairman
, [Edmund Quincy
,] in the elaborate Reports of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society
foo the last ten years, have followed in the same path, making to American literature a contribution of the highest value, and in a department where you have few rivals and no superior.
Whoever shall write the history either of this movement, or any other attempted under a republican government, will find nowhere else so clear an insight and so full an acquaintance with the most difficult part of his subject.
Even the vigorous mind of Rantoul
, the ablest man, without doubt, of the Democratic party, and perhaps the ripest politician in New England
, added little or nothing to the storehouse of antislavery argument.
The grasp of his intellect and the fulness of his learning every one will acknowledge.
He never trusted himself to speak on any subject till he had dug down to its primal granite.
He laid a most generous contribution on the altar of the antislavery cause.
His speeches on our question, too short and too few, are remarkable for their compact statement, iron logic, bold denunciation, and the wonderful light thrown back upon our history.
Yet how little do they present which was not familiar for years in our antislavery meetings!
Look, too, at the last great effort of the idol of so many thousands, Mr. Senator Sumner
,--the discussion of a great national question, of which it has been said that we must go back to Webster
's Reply to Hayne
, and Fisher Ames
on the Jay Treaty
, to find its equal in Congress,--praise
which we might perhaps qualify, if any adequate report were left us of some of the noble orations of Adams
No one can be blind to the skilful use he has made of his materials, the consummate ability with which he has marshalled them, and the radiant glow which his genius has thrown over all. Yet, with the exception of his reference to the antislavery debate in Congress, in 1817, there is hardly a train of thought or argument, and no single fact in the whole speech, which has not been familiar in our meetings and essays for the last ten years.
Before leaving the halls of Congress, I have great pleasure in recognizing one exception to my remarks, Mr. Giddings
Perhaps he is no real exception, since it would not be difficult to establish his claim to be considered one of the original Abolition party.
But whether he would choose to be so considered or not, it is certainly true that his long presence at the seat of government, his whole-souled devotedness, his sagacity and unwearied industry, have made him a large contributor to our antislavery resources.
The relations of the American Church to slavery, and the duties of private Christians,--the whole casuistry of this portion of the question, so momentous among descendants of the Puritans,--have been discussed with great acuteness and rare common-sense by Messrs. Garrison
, Gerritt Smith
, and Foster
They have never attempted to judge the American Church by any standard except that which she has herself laid down,--never claimed that she should be perfect, but have contented themselves by demanding that she should be consistent.
They have never judged her except out of her own mouth, and on facts asserted by her own presses and leaders.
The sundering of the Methodist
denominations, and the universal agitation of the religious world, are the best proof of the sagacity with which their
measures have been chosen, the cogent arguments they have used, and the indisputable facts on which their criticisms have been founded.
In nothing have the Abolitionists shown more sagacity or more thorough knowledge of their countrymen than in the course they have pursued in relation to the Church
None but a New-Englander can appreciate the power which church organizations wield over all who share the blood of the Puritans.
The influence of each sect over its own members is overwhelming, often shutting out, or controlling, all other influences.
We have Popes here, all the more dangerous because no triple crown puts you on your guard.
The Methodist priesthood brings the Catholic
very vividly to mind.
That each local church is independent of all others, we have been somewhat careful to assert, in theory and practice.
The individual's independence of all organizations which place themselves between him and his God, some few bold minds have asserted in theory, but most even of those have stopped there.
In such a land, the Abolitionists early saw, that, for a moral question like theirs, only two paths lay open: to work through the Church
,--that failing, to join battle with it. Some tried long, like Luther, to be Protestants, and yet not come out of Catholicism; but their eyes were soon opened.
Since then we have been convinced that, to come out from the Church
, to hold her up as the bulwark of slavery, and to make her shortcomings the main burden of our appeals to the religious sentiment of the immunity, was our first duty and best policy.
This course alienated many friends, and was a subject of frequent rebuke from such men as Dr. Channing
But nothing has ever more strengthened the cause, or won it more influence; and it has had the healthiest effect on the Church
British Christians have always sanctioned it, whenever the case has been fairly presented to them.
Mr. John Quincy Adams
, a man far better acquainted with his own times than Dr. Channing
, recognized tho soundness of our policy.
I do not know that he ever uttered a word in public on the delinquency of the churches; but he is said to have assured his son, at the time the Methodist Church broke asunder, that other men might be more startled by the éclat
of political success, but nothing, in his opinion, promised more good, or showed more clearly the real strength of the antislavery movement, than that momentous event.3
In 1838, the British Emancipation
in the West Indies
opened a rich field for observation, and a full harvest of important facts.
The Abolitionists, not willing to wait for the official reports of the government, sent special agents through those islands, whose reports they scattered, at great expense and by great exertion, broadcast through the land.
This was at a time when no newspaper in the country would either lend or sell them the aid of its columns to enlighten the nation on an experiment so vitally important to us. And even now, hardly a press in the country cares or dares to bestow a line or communicate a fact toward the history of that remarkable revolution.
The columns of the Antislavery Standard
, Pennsylvania Freeman
, and Ohio Bugle have been for years full of all that a thorough and patient advocacy of our cause demands.
And the eloquent lips of many whom I see around me, and whom I need not name here, have done their share toward pressing all these topics on public attention.
There is hardly any record of these labors of the living voice.
Indeed, from the nature of the case, there cannot be any adequate one.
Yet, unable to command a wide circulation for our
books and journals, we have been obliged to bring ourselves into close contact with the people, and to rely mainly on public addresses.
These have been our most efficient instrumentality.
For proof that these addresses have been fill of pertinent facts, sound sense, and able arguments, we must necessarily point to results, and demand to be tried by our fruits.
Within these last twenty years it has been very rare that any fact stated by your lecturers has been disproved, or any statement of theirs successfully impeached.
And for evidence of the soundness, simplicity, and pertinency of their arguments we can only claim that our converts and co-laborers throughout the land have at least the reputation of being specially able “to give a reason for the faith that is in them.”
I remember that when, in 1845, the present leaders of the Free Soil
party, with Daniel Webster in their company, met to draw up the Anti-Texas
Address of the Massachusetts Convention, they sent to Abolitionists for antislavery facts and history, for the remarkable testimonies of our Revolutionary great men which they wished to quote.
[Hear I hear!] When, many years ago, the Legislature of Massachusetts wished to send to Congress a resolution affirming the duty of immediate emancipation, the committee sent to William Lloyd Garrison
to draw it up, and it stands now on our statute-book as he drafted it.
How vigilantly, how patiently, did we watch the Texas
plot from its commencement!
The politic South
felt that its first move had been too bold, and thenceforward worked underground.
For many a year, men laughed at us for entertaining any apprehensions.
It was impossible to rouse the North
to its peril.
David Lee Child
was thought crazy, because he would not believe there was no danger.
His elaborate “Letters on Texan annexation”
are the ablest and most valuable contribution that has L .n made towards a history of the whole plot.
Though we foresaw and proclaimed our conviction that annexation would be, in the end, a fatal step for the South
, we did not feel at liberty to relax our opposition, well knowing the vast increase of strength it would give, at first, to the Slave Power
I remember being one of a committee which waited on Abbott Lawrence
, a year or so only before annexation, to ask his countenance to some general movement, without distinction of party, against the Texas
He smiled at our fears, begged us to have no apprehensions; stating that his correspondence with leading men at Washington
enabled him to assure us annexation was impossible, and that the South
itself was determined to defeat the project.
A short time after, Senators
and Representatives from Texas
took their seats in Congress
Many of these services to the slave were done before I joined his cause.
In thus referring to them, do not suppose me merely seeking occasion of eulogy on my predecessors and present co-laborers.
I recall these things only to rebut the contemptuous criticism which some about us make the excuse for their past neglect of the movement, and in answer to “Ion's” representation of our course as reckless fanaticism, childish impatience, utter lack of good sense, and of our meetings as scenes only of excitement, of reckless and indiscriminate denunciation.
I assert that every social, moral, economical, religious, political, and historical aspect of the question has been ably and patiently examined.
And all this has been done with an industry and ability which have left little for the professional skill, scholarly culture, and historical learning of the new laborers to accomplish.
If the people are still in doubt, it is from the inherent difficulty of the subject, or a hatred of light, not from want of it.
So far from the antislavery cause having lacked a manly and able discussion, I think it will be acknowledged hereafter that this discussion has been one of the noblest contributions to a literature really American.
Heretofore, not only has our tone been but an echo of foreign culture, but the very topics discussed and the views maintained have been too often pale reflections of European
politics and European
No matter what dress we assumed, the voice was ever “the voice of Jacob.”
At last we have stirred a question thoroughly American; the subject has been looked at from a point of view entirely American; and it is of such deep interest, that it has called out all the intellectual strength of the nation.
For once, the nation speaks its own thoughts, in its own language, and the tone also is all its own. It will hardly do for the defeated party to claim that, in this discussion, all the ability is on their side.
We are charged with lacking foresight, and said to exaggerate.
This charge of exaggeration brings to my mind a fact I mentioned, last month, at Horticultural Hall.
The theatres in many of our large cities bring out, night after night, all the radical doctrines and all the startling scenes of “Uncle Tom.”
They preach immediate emancipation, and slaves shoot their hunters to loud applause.
Two years ago, sitting in this hall, I was myself somewhat startled by the assertion of my friend, Mr. Pillsbury
, that the theatres would receive the gospel of antislavery truth earlier than the churches.
A hiss went up from the galleries, and many in the audience were shocked by the remark.
I asked myself whether I could indorse such a statement, and felt that I could not. I could not believe it to be true.
Only two years have passed, and what was then deemed rant and fanaticism, by seven out of ten who heard it, has proved true.
The theatre, bowing to its audience, has preached immediate
emancipation, and given us the whole of “Uncle Tom” ; while the pulpit is either silent or hostile, and in the columns of the theological papers the work is subjected to criticism, to reproach, and its author to severe rebuke.
Do not, therefore, friends, set down as extravagant every statement which your experience does not warrant.
It may be that you and I have not studied the signs of the times quite as accurately as the speaker.
Going up and down the land, coming into close contact with the feelings and prejudices of the community, he is sometimes a better judge than you are of its present state.
An Abolitionist has more motives for watching and more means of finding out the true state of public opinion, than most of those careless critics who jeer at his assertions to-day, and are the first to cry, “Just what I said,” when his prophecy becomes fact to-morrow.
” thinks, also, that we have thrown away opportunities, and needlessly outraged the men and pay — ties about us. Far from it. The antislavery movement was a patient and humble suppliant at every door whence any help could possibly be hoped.
If we now repudiate and denounce some of our institutions, it is because we have faithfully tried them, and found them deaf to the claims of justice and humanity.
Our great Leader, when he first meditated this crusade, did not
At once, like a sunburst, his banner unfurl!
O no I he sounded his way warily forward.
Brought up in the strictest reverence for church organizations, his first effort was to enlist the clergymen of Boston
in the support of his views.
On their aid he counted confidently in his effort to preach immediate repentance of all sin. He did not go, with malice prepense
, as some seem to imagine, up to that “attic” where Mayor Otis
with difficulty found him. He did not court hostility or seek exile.
He did not sedulously endeavor to cut himself off from
the sympathy and countenance of the community about him. O no!
A fervid disciple of the American Church, he conferred with some of the leading clergy of the city, and laid before them his convictions on the subject of slavery.4
He painted their responsibility, and tried to induce them to take from his shoulders the burden of so mighty a movement.
He laid himself at their feet.
He recognized the colossal strength of the Clergy; he knew that against their opposition it would be almost desperate to attempt to relieve the slave.
He entreated them, therefore, to take up the cause.
But the Clergy turned away from him!
They shut their doors upon him!
They bade him compromise his convictions,--smother one half of them, and support the colonization movement, making his own auxiliary to that, or they would have none of him. Like Luther, he said: “Here I stand; God help me; I can do nothing else” But the men who joined him were not persuaded that the case was so desperate.
They returned, each to his own local sect, and remained in them until some of us, myself among the number,--later converts to the antislavery movement,--thought they were slow and faltering in their obedience to conscience, and that they ought to have cut loose
much sooner than they did. But a patience, which old sympathies would not allow to be exhausted, and associations, planted deeply in youth, and spreading over a large part of manhood, were too strong for any mere argument to dislodge them.
So they still persisted in remaining in the Church
Their zeal was so fervent, and their labors so abundant, that in some towns large societies were formed, led by most of the clergymen, and having almost all the church-members on their lists.
In those same towns now you will not find one single Abolitionist, of any stamp whatever.
They excuse their falling back by alleging that we have injured the cause by our extravagance and denunciation, and by the various other questions with which our names are associated.
This might be a good reason why they should not work with us, but does it excuse their not working at all?
These people have been once awakened, thoroughly instructed in the momentous character of the movement, and have acknowledged the rightful claim of the slave on their sympathy and exertions.
It is not possible that a few thousand persons, however extravagant, could prevent devoted men from finding some way to help such a cause, or at least manifesting their interest in it. But they have not only left us, they have utterly deserted the slave, in the hour when the interests of their sects came across his cause.
Is it uncharitable to conjecture the reason?
At the early period, however, to which I have referred, the Church
was much exercised by the persistency of the Abolitionists La
not going out from her. When I joined the antislavery ranks, sixteen years ago, the voice of the clergy was: “Will these pests
never leave us?
Will they still remain to trouble us?
If you do not like us, there is the door!”
When our friends had exhausted all entreaty, and tested the Christianity of that body, they shook off the dust of their feet, and came out of her.
At the outset, Mr. Garrison
called on the head of the Orthodox denomination,--a man compared with whose influence on the mind of New England
that of the statesman whose death you have just mourned was, I think, but as dust in the balance,--a man who then held the Orthodoxy of Boston
in his right hand, and who has since taken up the West
by its four corners, and given it so largely to Puritanism,--I mean the Rev. Dr. Lyman Beecher
. Mr. Garrison
was one of those who bowed to the spell of that matchless eloquence which then fulmined over our Zion
He waited on his favorite divine, and urged him to give to the new movement the incalculable aid of his name and countenance.
He was patiently heard.
He was allowed to unfold his plans and array his facts.
The reply of the veteran was, “Mr. Garrison
, I have too many irons in the fire to put in another.”
My friend said, “Doctor
, you had better take them all out and nut this one in, if you mean well either to the religion or to the civil liberty of our country.”
The great Orthodox leader did not rest with merely refusing to put another iron in his fire; he attempted to limit the irons of other men. As President
of Lane Theological Seminary, he endeavored to prevent the students from investigating the subject of slavery.
The result, we all remember, was a strenuous resistance on the part of a large number of the students, led by that remarkable man, Theodore D. Weld
The right triumphed, and Lane Seminary lost her character and noblest pupils at the same time.
She has languished ever since, even with such a President.
Why should I follow Dr. Beecher
into those ecclesiastical conventions where he has been tried, and found wanting, in fidelity to the slave?
He has done no worse, indeed he has done much better, than most of his class.
His opposition has always been open and manly.
But, Mr. Chairman
, there is something in the blood which, men tell us, brings out virtues and defects, even when they have lain dormant for a generation.
Good and evil qualities are hereditary, the physicians say. The blood whose warm currents of eloquent aid my friend solicited 12 vain in that generation has sprung voluntarily to his assistance in the next,--both from the pulpit and the press,--to rouse the world by the vigor and pathos of its appeals.
[Enthusiastic cheers.] Even on that great triumph I would say a word.
Marked and unequalled as has been that success, remember, in explanation of the phenomenon,--for “Uncle Tom's cabin” is rather an event than a book,--remember this: if the old antislavery movement had not roused the sympathies of Mrs. Stowe
, the book had never been written; if that movement had not raised up hundreds of thousands of hearts to sympathize with the slave, the book had never been read.
[Cheers.] Not that the genius of the author has not made the triumph all her own; not that the unrivalled felicity of its execution has not trebled, quadrupled, increased tenfold, if you please, the number of readers; out there must be a spot even for Archimedes
to rest his lever upon, before he can move the world, [cheers,] and this effort of genius, consecrated to the noblest purpose, might have fallen dead and unnoticed in 1835.
It is-the antislavery movement which has changed 1835 to 1852.
Those of us familiar with antislavery literature know well that Richard Hildreth
's “Archy Moore
,” now “The white Slave,” was a book of eminent ability; that it owed its want of success to no lack of genius, but only to the fact that it was a work born out of due time; that the antislavery cause had not then aroused sufficient numbers, on the wings of whose enthusiasm even the most delightful fiction could have risen into world-wide influence and repute.
To the cause which had changed 1835
to 1852 is due somewhat of the influence of “Uncle Tom's cabin.”
The Abolitionists have never overlooked the wonderful power which the wand of the novelist was yet to wield in their behalf over the hearts of the world.
only expressed the common sentiment of many of us, when she declared that “the fate of the negro is the romance of our history.”
Again and again, from my earliest knowledge of the cause, have I heard the opinion, that in the debatable land between Freedom and Slavery, in the thrilling incidents of the escape and sufferings of the fugitive, and the perils of his friends, the future Walter Scott
would find the “border-land” of his romance, and the most touching incidents of his “sixty years since” ; and that the literature of America
would gather its freshest laurels from that field.
So much, Mr. Chairman
, for our treatment of the Church
We clung to it as long as we hoped to make it useful.
Disappointed in that, we have tried to expose its paltering and Hypocrisy on this question, broadly and with unflinching boldness, in hopes to purify and bring it to our aid. Our labors with the great religious societies, with the press, with the institutions of learning, have been as retiring, and almost as unsuccessful.
We have tried to do our duty to every public question that has arisen, which could be made serviceable in rousing general attention.
The Right of Petition, the Power of Congress, the Internal Slave-Trade
, Texas, the Compromise Measures
, the Fugitive Slave Law
, the motions of leading men, the tactics of parties, have all been watched and used with sagacity and effect as means to produce a change in public opinion.
has thanked the Abolition party, in the name of all the lovers of free thought and free speech, for having vindicated that right, when all others seemed ready to surrender it,--vindicated it at the cost
of reputation, ease, property, even life itself.
The only blood that has ever been shed, on this side the ocean, in defence of the freedom of the press, was the blood of Lovejoy
, one of their number.
In December, 1836, Dr. Channing
spoke of their position in these terms:--
Whilst, in obedience to conscience, they have refrained from opposing force to force, they have still persevered, amidst menace and insult, in bearing their testimony against wrong, in giving utterance to their deep convictions.
Of such men, I do not hesitate to say, that they have rendered to freedom a more essential service than any body of men among us. The defenders of freedom are not those who claim and exercise rights which no one assails, or who win shouts of applause by well-turned compliments to Liberty in the days of her triumph.
They are those who stand up for rights which mobs, conspiracies, or single tyrants put in jeopardy; who contend for liberty in that particular form which is threatened at the moment by the many or the few. To the Abolitionists this honor belongs.
The first systematic effort to strip the citizen of freedom of speech they have met with invincible resolution.
From my heart I thank them.
I am myself their debtor.
I am not sure that I should this moment write in safety, had they shrunk from the conflict, had they shut their lips, imposed silence on their presses, and hid themselves before their ferocious assailants.
I know not where these outrages would have stopped, had they not met resistance from their first destined victims.
The newspaper press, with a few exceptions, uttered no genuine indignant rebuke of the wrongdoers, but rather countenanced by its gentle censures the reign of force.
The mass of the people looked supinely on this new tyranny, under which a portion of their fellow-citizens seemed to be sinking.
A tone of denunciation was beginning to proscribe all discussion of slavery; and had the spirit of violence, which selected associations as its first objects, succeeded in this preparatory enterprise, it might have been easily turned against any and every individual, who might presume to agitate the unwelcome subject.
It is hard to say to what outrage the fettered press of the country might not have been reconciled.
the Abolitionists that, in this evil day, they were true to the rights which the multitude were ready to betray.
Their purpose to suffer, to die, rather than surrender their dearest liberties, taught the lawless that they had a foe to contend with whom it was not safe to press, whilst, like all manly appeals, it called forth reflection and sympathy in the better portion of the community.
In the name of freedom and humanity, I thank them.
No one, Mr. Chairman
, deserves more of that honor than he whose chair you now occupy.
Our youthful city can boast of but few places of historic renown; but I know of no one which coming time is more likely to keep in memory than the roof which Francis Jackson
offered to the antislavery women of Boston
, when Mayor Lyman
confessed he was unable to protect their meeting, and when the only protection the laws could afford Mr. Garrison
was the shelter of the common jail.
Sir, when a nation sets itself to do evil, and all its leading forces, wealth, party, and piety, join in the career, it is impossible but that those who offer a constant opposition should be hated and maligned, no matter how wise, cautious, and well planned their course may be. We are peculiar sufferers in this way. The community has come to hate its reproving Nathan so bitterly, that even those whom the relenting part of it is beginning to regard as standard-bearers of the antislavery host think it unwise to avow any connection or sympathy with him. I refer to some of the leaders of the political movement against slavery.
They feel it to be their mission to marshal and use as effectively as possible the present convictions of the people.
They cannot afford to encumber themselves with the odium which twenty years of angry agitation have engendered in great sects sore from unsparing rebuke, parties galled by constant defeat, and leading men provoked by unexpected exposure.
They are willing to confess,
privately, that our movement produced theirs, and that its continued existence is the very breath of their life.
But, at the same time, they would fain walk on the road without being soiled by too close contact with the rough pioneers who threw it up. They are wise and honorable, and their silence is very expressive.
When I speak of their eminent position and acknowledged ability, another thought strikes me. Who converted these men and their distinguished associates?
It is said we have shown neither sagacity in plans, nor candor in discussion, nor ability.
Who, then, or what, converted Burlingame
, and Phillips
Who taught the Christian Register, the Daily Advertiser, and that class of prints, that there were such things as a slave and a slaveholder in the land, and so gave them some more intelligent basis than their mere instincts to hate William Lloyd Garrison
[Shouts and laughter.] What magic wand was it whose touch made the toadying servility of the land start up the real demon that it was, and at the same time gathered into the slave's service the professional ability, ripe culture, and personal integrity which grace the Free Soil
We never argue!
These men, then, were converted by simple denunciation!
They were all converted by the “hot,” “reckless,” “ranting,” “bigoted,” “fanatic” Garrison
, who never troubled himself about facts, nor stopped to argue with an opponent, but straightway knocked him down!
[Roars of laughter and cheers.] My old and valued friend, Mr. Sumner
, often boasts that he was a reader of the Liberator
before I was. Do not criticise too much the agency by which such men were converted.
That blade has a double edge.
Our reckless course, our empty rant, our fanaticism, has made Abolitionists of some of the best and ablest men in the land.
We are inclined
to go on, and see if even with such poor tools we cannot make some more.
[Enthusiastic applause.] Antislavery zeal and the roused conscience of the “godless come-outers” made the trembling South
demand the Fugitive Slave Law
, and the Fugitive Slave Law
“provoked” Mrs. Stowe
to the good work of “Uncle Tom.”
That is something!
[Cheers.] Let me say, in passing, that you will nowhere find an earlier or more generous appreciation, or more flowing eulogy, of these men and their labors, than in the columns of the Liberator
No one, however feeble, has ever peeped or muttered, in any quarter, that the vigilant eye of the Pioneer
has not recognized him. He has stretched out the right hand of a most cordial welcome the moment any man's face was turned Zionward.
I do not mention these things to praise Mr. Garrison
, I do not stand here for that purpose.
You will not deny -if you do, I can prove it — that the movement of the Abolitionists converted these men. Their constituents were converted by it. The assault upon the right of petition, upon the right to print and speak of slavery, the denial of the right of Congress over the District
, the annexation of Texas
, the Fugitive Slave Law
, were measures which the antislavery movement provoked, and the discussion of which has made all the Abolitionists we have.
The antislavery cause, then, converted these men; it gave them a constituency; it gave them an opportunity to speak, and it gave them a public to listen.
The antislavery cause gave them their votes, got them their offices, furnished them their facts, gave them their audience.
If you tell me they cherished all these principles in their own breasts before Mr. Garrison
appeared, I can only say, if the antislavery movement did not give them their ideas, it surely gave the courage to utter them.
In such circumstances, is it not singular that the name
of William Lloyd Garrison
has never been pronounced on the floor of the United States Congress linked with any epithet but that of contempt!
No one of those men who owe their ideas, their station, their audience, to him, have ever thought it worth their while to utter one word in grateful recognition of the power which called them into being.
When obliged, by the course of their argument, to treat the question historically, they can go across the water to Clarkson
,--yes, to a safe salt-water distance.
[Laughter.] As Daniel Webster, when he was talking to the farmers of Western New York, and wished to contrast slave labor and free labor, did not dare to compare New York with Virginia
,--sister States, under the same government, planted by the same race, worshipping at the same altar, speaking the same language,--identical in all respects, save that one in which he wished to seek the contrast; but no; he compared it with Cuba
,--[cheers and laughter,]--the contrast was so close!
[Renewed cheers.] Catholic — Protestant; Spanish--Saxon
; despotism — municipal institutions; readers of Lope de Vega
and of Shakespeare
; mutterers of the Masschildren of the Bible
is too near home!
So is Garrison
One would have thought there was something in the human breast which would sometimes break through policy.
These noble-hearted men whom I have named must surely have found quite irksome the constant practice of what Dr. Gardiner
used to call “that despicable virtue, prudence” ! [Laughter.] One would have thought, when they heard that name spoken with contempt, their ready eloquence would have leaped from its scabbard to avenge even a word that threatened him with insult.
But it never came,--never!
[Sensation.] I do not say I blame them.
Perhaps they thought they should serve the cause better by drawing a broad black line between themselves and him. Perhaps they thought
the Devil could be cheated;--I do not think he can. [Laughter and cheers.]
We are perfectly willing — I am, for one--to be the dead lumber that shall make a path for these men into the light and love of the people.
We hope for nothing better.
Use us freely, in any way, for the slave.
When the temple is finished, the tools will not complain that they are thrown aside, let who will lead up the nation to “put on the topstone with shoutings.”
But while so much remains to be done, while our little camp is beleaguered all about, do nothing to weaken his influence, whose sagacity, more than any other single man's, has led us up hither, and whose name is identified with that movement which the North
still heeds, and the South
still fears the most.
After all, Mr. Chairman
, this is no hard task.
We know very well, that, notwithstanding this loud clamor about our harsh judgment of men and things, our opinions differ very little from those of our Free Soil friends, or of intelligent men generally, when you really get at them.
It has even been said, that one of that family which has made itself so infamously conspicuous here in executing the Fugitive Slave Law
, a judge, whose earnest defence of that law we all heard in Faneuil Hall, did himself, but a little while before, arrange for a fugitive to be hid till pursuit was over.
I hope it is true,--it would be an honorable inconsistency.
And if it be not true of him, we know it is of others.
Yet it is base to incite others to deeds, at which, whenever we are hidden from public notice, our own hearts recoil!
But thus we see that when men lay aside the judicial ermine, the senator's robe, or the party collar, and sit down in private life, you can hardly distinguish their tones from ours.
Their eyes seem as anointed as our own. As in Pope
At all we laugh they laugh, no doubt;
The only difference is, we dare laugh out.
Caution is not always good policy in a cause like ours.
It is said that, when Napoleon
saw the day going against him, he used to throw away all the rules of war, and trust himself to the hot impetuosity of his soldiers.
The masses are governed more by impulse than conviction; and even were it not so, the convictions of most men are on our side, and this will surely appear, if we can only pierce the crust of their prejudice or indifference.
I observe that our Free Soil friends never stir their audience so deeply as when some individual leaps beyond the platform, and strikes upon the very heart of the people.
Men listen to discussions of laws and tactics with ominous patience.
It is when Mr. Sumner
, in Faneuil Hall, avows his determination to disobey the Fugitive Slave Law
, and cries out, “I was a man before I was a Commissioner,” when Mr. Giddings
says of the fall of slavery, quoting Adams
, “Let it come; if it must come in blood
, yet I say let it come!” --that their associates on the platform are sure they are wrecking the party,--while many a heart beneath beats its first pulse of antislavery life.
These are brave words.
When I compare them with the general tone of Free Soil men in Congress, I distrust the atmosphere of Washington
and of politics.
These men move about, Sauls
and Goliaths among us, taller by many a cubit.
There they lose port and stature.
's speech in the Senate unsays no part of his Faneuil Hall pledge.
But, though discussing the same topic, no one would gather from any word or argument that the speaker ever took such ground as he did in Faneuil Hall.
It is all through, the law
, the manner
of the surrender, not the surrender itself, of the slave, that he objects to. As my friend Mr. Pillsbury
so forcibly says, so far as anything in the speech shows, he puts the slave behind the jury trial, behind the habeas corpus
act, and behind the new interpretation of the Constitution
says to the slave claimant: “You must get through all these, before you reach him; but if you can
get through all these, you may have him!”
It was no tone like this which made the old Hall rock!
Not if he got through twelve jury trials, and forty habeas corpus
acts, and constitutions built high as yonder monument, would he permit so much as the shadow of a little finger of the slave claimant to touch the slave!
[Loud applause.] At least, so he was understood.
In an elaborate discussion, by the leader of the political antislavery party, of the whole topic of fugitive slaves, you do not find one protest against the surrender itself, one frank expression on the constitutional clause, or any indication of the speaker's final purpose, should any one be properly claimed under that provision.
It was under no such uncertain trumpet that the antislavery host was originally marshalled.
The tone is that of the German soldiers whom Napoleon
They did not care, they said, for the defeat, but only that they were not beaten according to rule.
[Laughter and cheers.] Mr. Mann
, in his speech of February 15, 1850, says: t “The States being separated
, I would as soon return my own brother or sister into bondage, as I would return a fugitive slave.
Before God, and Christ
, and all Christian men, they are my brothers and sisters.”
What a condition!
from the lips, too, of a champion of the Higher Law
Whether the States be separate or united, neither my brother nor any other man's brother shall, with my consent, go back to bondage.
[Enthusiastic cheers.] So speaks the heart
's version is that of the politician.
's recent speech in August, 1852, has the same non-committal tone to which I have alluded in Mr. Sumner
's. While professing, in the most eloquent terms, his loyalty to the Higher Law
, Mr. Sutherland
asked: “Is there, in Mr. Mann
's opinion, any conflict between
that Higher Law and the Constitution
If so, what is it?
If not so, why introduce an irrelevant topic into the debate?”
avoided any reply, and asked not to be interrupted!
Is that the frankness which becomes an Abolitionist?
Can such concealment help any cause?
The design of Mr. Sutherland
If Mr. Mann
had allowed there was no conflict between the Higher Law
and the Constitution
, all his remarks were futile and out of order.
But if he asserted that any such conflict existed, how did he justify himself in swearing to support that instrument?--a question our Free Soil friends are slow to meet.
saw the dilemma, and avoided it by silence!
The same speech contains the usual deprecatory assertions that Free-Soilers have no wish to interfere with slavery in the States; that they “consent to let slavery remain where it is.”
If he means that he, Horace Mann
, a moral and accountable being, “consents to let slavery remain where it is,” all the rest of his speech is sound and fury, signifying nothing.
If he means that he, Horace Mann
, as a politician and party man, consents to that, but, elsewhere and otherwise, will do his best to abolish this “all-comprehending wickedness of slavery, in which every wrong and every crime has its natural home,” then he should have plainly said so. Otherwise, his disclaimer is unworthy of him, and could have deceived no one.
He must have known that all the South
care for is the action, not in what capacity the deed is done.
is more careful in his statement; but, judged by his speech on the “Platforms,” how little does he seem to understand either his own duty or the true philosophy of the cause he serves!
“We, Sir, would drive the slave question from discussion in this hall.
It never had a constitutional existence here.
Separate this government from all interference with slavery; let
power wash its hands from that institution; let mu purify ourselves from its contagion; leave it with the States, who alone have the power to sustain it,--then, Sir, will agitation cease in regard to it here; then we shall have nothing more to do with it; our time will be no more occupied with it; and, like a band of freemen, a band of brothers, we could meet here, and legislate for the prosperity, the improvement of mankind, for the elevation of our race.”
speaks in the same strain.
“ The time will come when courts or Congress will declare, that nowhere under the Constitution
can man hold property in man. For the republic, such a decree will be the way of peace and safety.
As slavery is banished from the national jurisdiction, it will cease to vex our national politics.
It may linger in the States as a local institution, but it will no longer endanger national animosities when it no longer demands national support. .... For himself, he knows no better aim under the Constitution
than to bring the government back to the precise position which it occupied” when it was launched.
This seems to me a very mistaken strain.
Whenever slavery is banished from our national jurisdiction, it will be a momentous gain, a vast stride.
But let us not mistake the half-way house for the end of the journey.
I need not say that it matters not to Abolitionists under what special law slavery exists.
Their battle lasts while it exists anywhere, and I doubt not Mr. Sumner
and Mr. Giddings
feel themselves enlisted for the whole war. I will even suppose, what neither of these gentlemen states, that their plan includes, not only that slavery shall be abolished in the District
, but that the slave basis of representation shall be struck from the Constitution
, and the slave-surrender clause construed away.
But even then, does Mr. Giddings
or Mr. Sumner
really believe that slavery, existing in its full force in the States, “will cease to vex our national politics” ? Can they
point to any State where a powerful oligarchy, possessed of immense wealth, has ever existed, without attempting to meddle in the government?
Even now, does not manufacturing, banking, and commercial capital perpetually vex our politics?
Why should not slave capital exert the same influence?
Do they imagine that a hundred thousand men, possessed of two thousand millions of dollars, which they feel the spirit of the age is seeking to tear from their grasp, will not eagerly catch at all the support they can obtain by getting the control of the government?
In a land where the dollar is almighty, “where the sin of not being rich is only atoned for by the effort to become so,” do they doubt that such an oligarchy will generally succeed?
Besides, banking and manufacturing stocks are not urged by despair to seek a controlling influence in politics.
They know they are about equally safe, whichever party rules,--that no party wishes to legislate their rights away.
Slave property knows that its being allowed to exist depends on its having the virtual control of the government.
Its constant presence in politics is dictated, therefore, by despair, as well as by the wish to secure fresh privileges.
Money, however, is not the only strength of the Slave Power
That, indeed, were enough, in an age when capitalists are our feudal barons.
But, though driven entirely from national shelter, the slaveholders would have the strength of old associations, and of peculiar laws in their own States, which gives those States wholly into their hands.
A weaker prestige, fewer privileges, and less comparative wealth, have enabled the British
aristocracy to rule England
for two centuries, though the root of their strength was cut at Naseby
It takes ages for deeply-rooted institutions to die; and driving slavery into the States will hardly be our Naseby
Whoever, therefore, lays the flattering unction to his soul, that, while slavery exists anywhere in the
States, our legislators will sit down “like a band of brothers,” --unless they are all slaveholding brothers,--is doomed to find himself wofully mistaken.
, ten years ago, refused to sanction this doctrine of his friend, Mr. Giddings
, combating it ably and eloquently in his well-known reply to Ingersoll
Though Mr Adams
touches on but one point, the principle he lays down has many other applications.
But is Mr. Giddings
willing to sit down with slaveholders, “like a band of brothers,” and not seek, knowing all the time that they are tyrants at home, to use the common strength to protect their victims?
Does he not know that it is impossible for Free States and Slave States to unite under any form of Constitution, no matter how clean the parchment may be, without the compact resulting in new strength to the slave system?
It is the unimpaired strength of Massachusetts
and New York, and the youthful vigor of Ohio
, that, even now, enable bankrupt Carolina to hold up the institution.
Every nation must maintain peace within her limits.
No government can exist which does not fulfil that function.
When we say the Union
will maintain peace in Carolina
, that being a Slave State, what does “peace” mean?
It means keeping the slave beneath the heel of his master.
Now, even on the principle of two wrongs making a right, if we put this great weight of a common government into the scale of the slaveholder, we are bound to add something equal to the slave's side.
But no, Mr. Giddings
is content to give the slaveholder the irresistible and organic help of a common government, and bind himself to utter no word, and move not a finger, in his civil capacity, to help the slave!
An Abolitionist would find himself not much at home, I fancy, in that “band of brothers” !
And Mr. Sumner
“knows no better aim, under the Constitution
, than to bring back the government” to
where it was in 17891 Has the voyage been so very honest and prosperous a one, in his opinion, that his only wish is to start again with the same ship, the same crew, and the same sailing-orders?
all he claims as to the state of public opinion, the intentions of leading men, and the form of our institutions at that period; still, with all these checks on wicked men, and helps to good ones, here we are, in 1853, according to his own showing, ruled by slavery, tainted to the core with slavery, and binding the infamous Fugitive Slave Law like an honorable frontlet on our brows!
The more accurate and truthful his glowing picture of the public virtue of 1789, the stronger my argument.
If even all those great patriots, and all that enthusiasm for justice and liberty, did not avail to keep us safe in such a Union, what will?
In such desperate circumstances, can his statesmanship devise no better aim than to try the same experiment over again, under precisely the same conditions?
What new guaranties does he propose to prevent the voyage from being again turned into a piratical slave-trading cruise?
None! Have sixty years taught us nothing?
In 1660, the English
thought, in recalling Charles II., that the memory of that scaffold which had once darkened the windows of Whitehall
would be guaranty enough for his good behavior.
But, spite of the spectre, Charles II.
repeated Charles I., and James outdid him. Wiser by this experience, when the nation, in 1689, got another chance, they trusted to no guaranties, but so arranged the very elements of their government that William III. could not
repeat Charles I. Let us profit by the lesson.
These mistakes of leading men merit constant attention.
Such remarks as those I have quoted, uttered from the high places of political life, however carefully guarded, have a sad influence on the rank and file of the party.
The antislavery awakening has cost too many years and too much labor to risk letting
its energy be turned into a wrong channel, or balked by fruitless experiments.
Neither the slave nor the country must be cheated a second time.
, when I remember the grand port of these men elsewhere, and witness this confusion of ideas, and veiling of their proud crests to party necessities, they seem to me to lose in Washington
something of their old giant proportions.
How often have we witnessed this change!
It seems the inevitable result of political life under any government, but especially under ours; and we are surprised at it in these men, only because we fondly hoped they would be exceptions to the general rule.
It was Chamfort, I think, who first likened a republican senate-house to Milton
's Pandemonium;--another proof of the rare insight French writers have shown in criticising republican institutions.
always brings to my mind that other Capitol, which in Milton
's great epic “rose like an exhalation” “from the burning marl,” -- that towering palace, “with starry lamps and blazing cressets” hung,--with “roof of fretted gold” and stately height, its hall “like a covered field.”
You remember, Sir, the host of archangels gathered round it, and how thick the airy crowd
Swarmed and were straitened; till, the signal given, Mr. Chairman
Behold a wonder!
They but now who seemed
In bigness to surpass earth's giant sons,
Now less than smallest dwarfs, in narrow room
Throng numberless, like that pygmean race
Beyond the Indian mount; or fairy elves,
Whose midnight revels, by a forest side
Or fountain, some belated peasant sees.
Thus incorporeal spirits to smallest forms
Reduced their shapes immense, and were at large,
Though without number still, amid the hall
Of that infernal court.
, they got no further than the hall
[Cheers.] They were not, in the current phrase, “a healthy party
” ! The healthy party-the men who made no compromise in order to come under that arch — Milton
describes further on, where he says:
But far within,
And in their own dimensions, like themselves,
The great seraphic lords and cherubim,
In close recess and secret conclave, sat;
A thousand demigods on golden seats
Frequent and full.
These were the healthy party!
[Loud applause.] Thest are the Casses and the Houstons, the Footes and the Souls, the Clays, the Websters, and the Douglases, that bow no lofty forehead in the dust, but can find ample room and verge enough under the Constitution
Our friends go down there, and must be dwarfed into pygmies before they can find space within the lists!
It would be superfluous to say that we grant the entire sincerity and true-heartedness of these men. But in critical times, when a wrong step entails most disastrous consequences, to “mean well” is not enough.
Sincerity is no shield for any man from the criticism of his fellow-laborers.
I do not fear that such men as these will take offence at our discussion of their views and conduct.
Long years of hard labor, in which we have borne at least our share, have resulted in a golden opportunity.
How to use it, friends differ.
Shall we stand courteously silent, and let these men play out the play, when, to our thinking, their plan will slacken the zeal, balk the hopes, and waste the efforts of the slave's friends?
No! I know Charles Sumner
's love for the cause so well, that I am sure he will welcome my criticism whenever I deem his counsel wrong; that he will hail every effort to serve our common client more efficiently.
[Great cheering.] It is not his honor nor mine that is at issue; not his feeling nor mine that is to be consulted.
The only question for either
of us is, What in these golden moments can be done?
where can the hardest blow be struck?
[Loud applause.] I hope I am just to Mr. Sumner
; I have known him long, and honor him. I know his genius, I honor his virtues; yet if, from his high place, he sends out counsels which I think dangerous to the cause, I am bound to raise my voice against them.
I do my duty in a private communication to him first, then in public to his friends and mine.
The friendship that will not bear this criticism is but the frost-work of a winter's morning, which the sun looks upon and it is gone.
His friendship will survive all that I say of him, and mine will survive all that he shall say of me; and this is the only way in which the antislavery cause can be served.
Truth, success, victory, triumph over the obstacles that beset us,--this is all either of us wants.
If all I have said to you is untrue, if I have exaggerated, explain to me this fact.
In 1881, Mr. Garrison
commenced a paper advocating the doctrine of immediate emancipation.
He had against him the thirty thousand churches and all the clergy of the country,--its wealth, its commerce, its press.
In 1831, what was the state of things?
There was the most entire ignorance and apathy on the slave question.
If men knew of the existence of slavery, it was only as a part of picturesque Virginia
No one preached, no one talked, no one wrote about it. No whisper of it stirred the surface of the political sea. The Church
heard of it occasionally, when some colonization agent asked funds to send the blacks to Africa
Old school-books tainted with some antislavery selections had passed out of use, and new ones were compiled to suit the times.
Soon as any dissent from the prevailing faith appeared, every one set himself to crush it. The pulpits preached at it; the press denounced it; mobs tore down houses, threw presses into the fire and the stream, and
shot the editors; religious conventions tried to smother it; parties arrayed themselves against it. Daniel Webster boasted in the Senate, that he had never introduced the subject of slavery to that body, and never would.
, in 1839, makes a speech for the Presidency, in which he says, that to discuss the subject of slavery is moral treason, and that no man has a right to introduce the subject into Congress.
, in 1844, laid down his platform, and he not only denies the right, but asserts that he never has and never will discuss the subject.
Yet Mr. Clay
, from 1839 down to his death, hardly made a remarkable speech of any kind, except on slavery.
, having indulged now and then in a little easy rhetoric, as at Niblo's and elsewhere, opens his mouth in 1840, generously contributing his aid to both sides, and stops talking about it only when death closes his lips.
's six or eight speeches in the United States Senate have all been on the subject of slavery in the Southwestern
section of the country, and form the basis of whatever claim he has to the character of a statesman, and he owes his seat in the next Congress somewhat, perhaps, to antislavery pretensions!
The Whig and Democratic parties pledged themselves just as emphatically against the antislavery discussion,--against agitation and free speech.
These men said: “It sha'n't be talked about, it won't be talked about!”
These are your statesmen
!--men who understand the present, that is, and mould the future!
The man who understands his own time, and whose genius moulds the future to his views, he is a statesman, is he not?
These men devoted themselves to banks, to the tariff, to internal improvements, to constitutional and financial questions.
They said to slavery: “Back!
no entrance here!
We pledge ourselves against you.”
And then there came up a humble printer-boy, who whipped them into the traces, and made them talk, like Hotspur's
starling, nothing but slavery.
He scattered all these gigantic shadows,--tariff, bank, constitutional questions, financial questions,--and slavery, like the colossal head in Walpole
's romance, came up and filled the whole political horizon [Enthusiastic applause.] Yet you must remember he is not a statesman; he is a “fanatic.”
He has no discipline,--Mr.
” says so; he does not understand the “discipline that is essential to victory” ! This man did not understand his own time,--he did not know what the future was to be,--he was not able to shape it,--he had no “prudence,” --he had no “foresight” Daniel Webster says, “I have never introduced this subject, and never will,” --and died broken-hearted because he had not been able to talk enough about it. Benton
says, “I will never speak of slavery,” and lives to break with his party on this issue!
says it is “moral treason” to introduce the subject into Congress, and lives to see Congress turned into an antislavery debating-society, to suit the purpose of one t “too powerful individual” I
These were statesmen, mark you!
Two of them have gone to their graves covered with eulogy; and our national stock of eloquence is all insufficient to describe how profound and far-reaching was the sagacity of Daniel Webster!
Remember who it was that said, in 1831, “I am in earnest,--I will not equivocate,--I will not excuse,--I will not retreat a single inch,--and I will be heard
[Repeated cheers.] That speaker has lived twenty-two years, and the complaint of twenty-three millions of people is, “Shall we never hear of anything but slavery?”
[Cheers.] I heard Dr. Kirk
, of Boston
, say in his own pulpit, when he returned from London
,--where he had been as a representative to the “Evangelical alliance,” --“I went up to London
, and they asked me what I thought of the question of immediate emancipation.
They examined us all. Is an American never to
travel anywhere in the world but men will throw this troublesome question in his face?”
Well, it is all his fault [pointing to Mr. Garrison
]. [Enthusiastic cheers.]
Now, when we come to talk of statesmanship, of sagacity in choosing time and measures, of endeavor, by proper means, to right the public mind, of keen insight into the present and potent sway over the future, it seems to me that the Abolitionists, who have taken — whether for good or for ill, whether to their discredit or to their praise this country by the four corners, and shaken it until you can hear nothing but slavery, whether you travel in railroad or steamboat, whether you enter the hall of legislation or read the columns of a newspaper,--it seems to me that such men may point to the present aspect of the nation, to their originally avowed purpose, to the pledges and efforts of all your great men against them, and then let you determine to which side the credit of sagacity and statesmanship belongs.
busied himself, at St. Helena, in showing how Wellington
ought not to have conquered at Waterloo
The world has never got time to listen to the explanation.
Sufficient for it that the Allies entered Paris
In like manner, it seems hardly the province of a defeated Church and State to deny the skill of measures by which they have been conquered.
It may sound strange to some, this claim for Mr. Garrison
of a profound statesmanship.
Men have heard him styled a mere fanatic so long, that they are incompetent to judge him fairly.
“The phrases men are accustomed,” says Goethe
, “to repeat incessantly, end by becoming convictions, and ossify the organs of intelligence.”
I cannot accept you, therefore, as my jury.
I appeal from Festus
; from the prejudice of our streets to the common sense of the world, and to your children.
Every thoughtful and unprejudiced mind must see that such an evil as slavery will yield only to the most radical
If you consider the work we have to do, you will not think us needlessly aggressive, or that we dig down unnecessarily deep in laying the foundations of our enterprise.
A money power of two thousand millions of dollars, as the prices of slaves now range, held by a small body of able and desperate men; that body raised into a political aristocracy by special constitutional provisions; --cotton, the product of slave labor, forming the basis of our whole foreign commerce, and the commercial class thus subsidized; the press bought up, the pulpit reduced to vassalage, the heart of the common people chilled by a bitter prejudice against the black race; our leading men bribed, by ambition, either to silence or open hostility;in such a land, on what shall an Abolitionist rely?
On a few cold prayers, mere lip-service, and never from the heart?
On a church resolution, hidden often in its records, and meant only as a decent cover for servility in daily practice?
On political parties, with their superficial influence at best, and seeking ordinarily only to use existing prejudices to the best advantage?
Slavery has deeper root here than any aristocratic institution has in Europe
; and politics is but the common pulse-beat, of which revolution is the fever-spasm.
Yet we have seen European
aristocracy survive storms which seemed to reach down to the primal strata of European
Shall we, then, trust to mere politics, where even revolution has failed?
How shall the stream rise above its fountain?
Where shall our church organizations or parties get strength to attack their great parent and moulder, the Slave Power
Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
The old jest of one who tried to lift himself in his own basket, is but a tame picture of the man who imagines that, by working solely through existing sects and parties, he can destroy slavery.
Mechanics say nothing but an earthquake,
strong enough to move all Egypt
, can bring down the Pyramids.
Experience has confirmed these views.
The Abolitionists who have acted on them have a “short method” with all unbelievers.
They have but to point to their own success, in contrast with every other man's failure.
To waken the nation to its real state, and chain it to the consideration of this one duty, is half the work.
So much we have done.
Slavery has been made the question of this generation.
To startle the South
to madness, so that every step she takes, in her blindness, is one step more toward ruin, is much.
This we have done.
and the Fugitive Slave Law
. To have elaborated for the nation the only plan of redemption, pointed out the only exodus from this “sea of troubles,” is much.
This we claim to have done in our motto of immediate, unconditional emancipation on the soil.
The closer any statesmanlike mind looks into the question, the more favor our plan finds with it. The Christian
asks fairly of the infidel, “If this religion be not from God, how do you explain its triumph, and the history of the first three centuries?”
Our question is similar.
If our agitation has not been wisely planned and conducted, explain for us the history of the last twenty years! Experience is a safe light to walk by, and he is not a rash man who expects success in future from the same means which have secured it in times past.