7% of the text is displayed below. If you wish to view the entire text, please click here


Chapter 14: the Boston mob (first stage).—1835.

An Americas Union is formed by orthodox clergymen in the vain hope to draw off anti-slavery support from Garrison. Meetings of Southerners in New York and Richmond, denouncing the abolitionists; anti-negro riots in Philadelphia, and supposed slave-insurrections in Mississippi; and finally the rifling of the mails and burning of anti-slavery periodicals at Charleston, with the sanction of the Postmaster-General, cause unparalleled excitement throughout the country. The Mayor of Boston presides at a town meeting called to reprobate the abolition movement, and addressed by Harrison Gray Otis and Peleg Sprague. Garrison leaves the city, but replies in the Liberator to the Faneuil Hall speeches. A double gallows for himself and Thompson is erected before his home in Boston.

Always the opening year brought fresh anxiety to the editor of the Liberator. January, 1835, found him hampered with the expenses of the withdrawn Canterbury suits, and staggering under the load of the1 paper, which had latterly been issued quite irregularly, though without a lapse in the series:
‘The truth is,’ he wrote to his father-in-law on January 12,2 1835, ‘we have been hesitating whether to stop or proceed with it, in consequence of the non-payment of our numerous subscribers, and the faithlessness of a majority of our agents; and on Friday last I went home to write my valedictory, and3 to advertise the world of the downfall of the Liberator! It was truly an afflicting period, and I felt as if I was about cutting off my right arm, or plucking out my right eye. Ascertaining my purpose, several of my anti-slavery brethren rallied together, and have resolved to sustain me and the paper if I will proceed; so, hereafter, I trust, you will get it regularly.’

But now a new danger loomed up—to the cause, to its pioneer, and to his organ. The disaffection in the anti-slavery ranks towards Mr. Garrison on account of his ‘harsh’ and ‘unchristian’ language, as described in the last chapter, had not escaped the clerical supporters of the Colonization Society. They saw in it the means, and the only means, to cheek the advance of abolitionism, by breaking down the editor of the Liberator. To this end they craftily devised a new organization, with a title and with aims vague enough to include everybody who felt any concern for the blacks, and hence [469] calculated to draw off from the bold and specific 4 agitation of the abolitionists such of their number as deplored the separation from colonization philanthropy. After several months of incubation and many announcements in the Boston Recorder, on Christmas Day, 1834, a call was5 issued through that journal for a convention to form an American Union for the Relief and Improvement of the Colored Race, to be held in Boston on January 14, 1835. Among the eight signers were Joseph Tracy and two other editors of the Recorder. Its postulate was: ‘The6 system of slavery is wrong, and ought to be abandoned with the least possible delay.’ Since not only ‘abolitionists’ but ‘Garrisonites’ could subscribe to this, the7 invitation was modified in season so as expressly to except from it those who did not believe a new organization needed to exert ‘a kind moral influence upon the8 community.’

The Congregational clergymen who were managing the convention were certainly displeased and embarrassed, but could hardly have been surprised, by the appearance9 of the Garrisonites asking to be enrolled as members under the original call. However, they promptly voted that organization should proceed under the second call; rebuked Mr. Thompson for his impertinence in obtruding himself upon the meeting; refused to allow any opponent of the proposed organization to be heard;10 and dodged the question formally presented by Amos A. Phelps, Cyrus P. Grosvenor, George Thompson, Joshua V. Himes, Ellis Gray Loring, and Mr. Garrison, whether the organization differed in principle from the existing anti-slavery organizations, or was merely additional and cooperative. They ended by adopting a cut-and-dried constitution, after a debate in which motions to substitute ‘sin’ for ‘wrong’ in describing slavery, and ‘universally and immediately’ for ‘with the least possible delay’ in urging that slavery be ‘abandoned,’ were [470] rejected by large majorities. The Rev. Leonard Bacon was a spectator of the closing scenes, but was not among the officers chosen, who all belonged to some one of the four Northern New England States.

Mr. Garrison was cautioned by estimable abolition brethren ‘not to be too precipitate, or too uncharitable, or too harsh in passing judgment on the new Society.’ Accordingly, he let it off by branding it ‘as cold and11 proud in its spirit, defective in its organization, corrupt in its origin, deceitful in its object, and delusive in its action’; ‘a wretched imposition,’ doomed to come to naught; ‘a soulless organization with a sounding title.’ Its chief promoters were Joseph Tracy, formerly of Vermont, and Leonard Bacon, colonizationists like the majority of their associates, and therefore incapacitated from winning the confidence of the colored population whom they proposed to ‘relieve.’ Their constitution would not prevent cooperation with the Colonization Society in ‘relieving’ that population off the face of the land. Their organization was narrowly sectarian, being almost wholly within the Orthodox-Congregational body;12 and their membership was by election—an odd feature in a philanthropic society.

Arthur Tappan, to Mr. Garrison's sorrow, was the first and the only prominent abolitionist who fell into a trap set, doubtless, for him more than for any other man. His elder brothers, John and Charles, had had a considerable share in the preparation and direction of the convention, and their private representations to him could hardly have failed of effect. What ensued is thus described in a letter from G. W. Benson to S. J. May: [471]

The news from Boston respecting the abolition movements13 of last week is not very agreeable. You have seen, I suppose, the doings of the convention that formed a society called the American Union, and the course pursued toward them by Garrison. Well, at the close of the convention, Arthur Tappan appeared in Boston, and spent nearly a day or more. The evening before his departure, he met with a large number of the anti-slavery men of that city, and put to them several queries: first, if it was the intention of the Anti-Slavery Society to carry on a war of extermination against the Colonization Society; to which they all answered in the affirmative. Secondly, Does the Anti-Slavery Society mean to endorse and approve of all the sentiments put forth by Garrison? They all assented to the reply of Mr. Sewall, that they did approve of the principles advanced by Mr. Garrison heretofore; that Garrison acted on his own responsibility; that by that they did not feel bound to sustain him in anything he might hereafter do, without they approved of it. He then wished to know what they meant by political action. They explained in reply what they meant—in substance, the same as the Liberator.

At this stage of the interview, Mr. Garrison, who had till then sat in profound silence, rose, and said he felt very much embarrassed. “There,” said he, “is the man who relieved me from a prison, and who has heaped upon me innumerable favors.” He then went on to state his view of duty in relation to the above queries, and what he thought of the American Union; and asked, with considerable emotion, whether he should compromise principle and sacrifice what he believed to be his duty to his colored brethren, to gratify that man to whom he felt under so many and great obligations. He said, after a pause, “No, I cannot,” and immediately left the room.

The conference continued till near midnight, and then broke up, without Mr. Tappan's fully explaining himself, except that he said he did not mean to lower the standard of his principles on this subject, but that he thought we might unite with the Union men so far as they felt disposed. He left Boston the next morning for New Haven, where he penned the letter to the Boston Recorder which you can see by referring to that paper of14 the 23d inst. I give you these facts as I received them from Mr. Prentice, who spent several days in Boston last week. I believe I have got the substance correct. A breach is confidently anticipated by the Boston abolitionists. Several persons have written Mr. Tappan from different places, I understand, enquiring [472] if he meant the sentiments contained in that letter should be received as coming from an individual, or the President of the American A. S. Society. . . . I sincerely hope the difficulty will be healed, if it can be, without yielding principle.

Mr. Tappan's letter to the Recorder, which was eagerly copied by pro-slavery papers, expressed the hope that the15 Union and the anti-slavery societies could work in harmony, as he believed there already existed a substantial agreement in principle. He defended Mr. Garrison against the charge of atheism;16 said his friends were not insensible of his faults, of which ‘the most prominent is the severe and denunciatory language with which he often assails his opponents and repels their attacks,’ but hoped ‘to see this corrected, and that argument will take the place of invective’; and declared that much was due him for his noble and disinterested efforts.

Mr. Garrison replied by denying that the leading17 anti-slavery men were in sympathy or connection with the new organization: it was the laughing-stock of abolitionists. He took the liberty of appending a private letter from Lewis Tappan, in reference to ‘the late convention in Boston to form what I should call an Anti-Garrison Society.’18 To the Liberator's editorial comments on its proceedings this writer gave his approval: ‘They will meet a hearty response from every truehearted emancipationist in the land. The times require decision and courage, and I feel thankful to God for your steadfastness at the post which His providence has assigned you. Go on and prosper, thou friend of the oppressed! The Lord will be thy shield and buckler.’19 [473]

Arthur Tappan's aberration, however, was but momentary. Within a fortnight after his return from

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
New England (United States) (9)
United States (United States) (5)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (4)
Concord (Massachusetts, United States) (4)
Providence, R. I. (Rhode Island, United States) (3)
New Hampshire (New Hampshire, United States) (3)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (3)
West Indies (2)
Vermont (Vermont, United States) (2)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (2)
Plymouth, N. H. (New Hampshire, United States) (2)
Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Niles (Michigan, United States) (2)
Maine (Maine, United States) (2)
Lynn (Massachusetts, United States) (2)
Louisiana (Louisiana, United States) (2)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (2)
Canterbury (Connecticut, United States) (2)
Windham (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Waterford, Me. (Maine, United States) (1)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Sheffield (United Kingdom) (1)
Scotia (1)
Rochester (New York, United States) (1)
Richmond (Virginia, United States) (1)
Pocotaligo (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Plainfield, Mass. (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Plainfield (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
New York State (New York, United States) (1)
Middlesex County (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Illinois (Illinois, United States) (1)
Haverhill (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Hartford (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Gulf (Texas, United States) (1)
Gouverneur (New York, United States) (1)
Duxbury (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Charleston (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Charleston (California, United States) (1)
Canaan, N. H. (New Hampshire, United States) (1)
Bunker Hill (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Boston Harbor (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Boston (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Baltimore, Md. (Maryland, United States) (1)
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Lib (117)
William Lloyd Garrison (39)
George Thompson (24)
Somebody Garrison (20)
Peleg Sprague (19)
Arthur Tappan (18)
Foreigner Thompson (10)
James Otis (10)
Harrison Gray Otis (8)
George William Benson (7)
Jesus Christ (6)
Henry Benson (6)
Daniel Webster (5)
Lewis Tappan (5)
Samuel Joseph May (5)
J. H. Garrison (5)
F. A. Cox (5)
Theodore Lyman (4)
Isaac Knapp (4)
Amos Kendall (4)
Boston Atlas (4)
John Quincy Adams (4)
Elizur Wright (3)
Hugh Lawson White (3)
Human Rights (3)
Abbott Lawrence (3)
William Jay (3)
J. Hoby (3)
Reuben Crandall (3)
Leonard Bacon (3)
Aug (3)
Theodore S. Wright (2)
Wise (2)
Sidney Willard (2)
John G. Whittier (2)
J. G. Whittier (2)
Bushrod Washington (2)
Joseph Tracy (2)
Lynch (2)
Ellis Gray Loring (2)
Kennedy (2)
Thomas Jefferson (2)
Jan (2)
Francis Jackson (2)
William Goodell (2)
Joshua R. Giddings (2)
Richard Fletcher (2)
Edward Everett (2)
Mary Moody Emerson (2)
Dickson (2)
Benjamin Robbins Curtis (2)
Samuel E. Cornish (2)
Henry Clay (2)
Rufus Choate (2)
Lydia Maria Child (2)
Joseph T. Buckingham (2)
George Benson (2)
Charles Bartlett (2)
Austin (2)
E. A. Andrews (2)
York (1)
Levi Woodbury (1)
Isaac Winslow (1)
Hubbard Winslow (1)
Henry Ware (1)
Amasa Walker (1)
Unitarian (1)
John Tyler (1)
George Ticknor (1)
Moses Thacher (1)
Charles Tappan (1)
A. Tappan (1)
Moses Stuart (1)
John G. Stewart (1)
A. S. Soc (1)
Shackford (1)
Samuel E. Sewall (1)
Rousseau (1)
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers (1)
John Rankin (1)
Josiah Quincy (1)
William H. Prescott (1)
S. S. Prentiss (1)
George D. Prentice (1)
Amos A. Phelps (1)
Luther Paine (1)
H. G. Otis (1)
Oct (1)
A. B. Muzzey (1)
Mordecai (1)
Monroe (1)
Cardinal McCloskey (1)
Samuel May (1)
Martin Luther (1)
Joshua Leavitt (1)
Kirkland (1)
Julien (1)
Simeon S. Jocelyn (1)
Simeon Jocelyn (1)
Henry Ibbotson (1)
W. Ferguson Hutson (1)
Sylvester Hovey (1)
Charles F. Hovey (1)
Joshua V. Himes (1)
Robert Y. Hayne (1)
Haman (1)
Benjamin F. Hallett (1)
Robert B. Hall (1)
R. R. Gurley (1)
Cyrus P. Grosvenor (1)
Grimkeas (1)
Thomas S. Grimke (1)
Angelina E. Grimke (1)
Harrison Gray (1)
Latin Grammar (1)
Samuel L. Gouverneur (1)
N. Y. Gazette (1)
Ezra S. Gannett (1)
Fillmore (1)
Evarts (1)
Drs (1)
B. R. Curtis (1)
Prudence Crandall (1)
Samuel H. Cox (1)
Abraham L. Cox (1)
Correspondence (1)
Christian (1)
L. M. Child (1)
George B. Cheever (1)
W. F. Channing (1)
Roman Catholic (1)
John C. Calhoun (1)
Rinaldo Burleigh (1)
Charles C. Burleigh (1)
Charles Burleigh (1)
Buren (1)
Arnold Buffum (1)
Buell (1)
P. C. Brooks (1)
William Bradford (1)
Lydia Bradford (1)
Boston (1)
James Gillespie Birney (1)
Henry Eliza Benson (1)
Baptist (1)
Benjamin C. Bacon (1)
Arthur (1)
J. S. C. Abbott (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: