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[378]

Chapter 13: the Bible Convention.—1853.

Garrison revisits the West, and attends a large number of conventions; in particular, that at Hartford, Conn., to discuss the authority of the Scriptures, called by Andrew Jackson Davis, and mobbed by divinity students. His reputation among sectarians on both sides of the Atlantic suffers a still further decline. Friendly correspondence as to his heresy with Harriet Beecher Stowe.


From among a dozen conventions which make the year 1853 memorable in Mr. Garrison's career, we choose for a caption the one that most affected his popular reputation. Theologically, his progress had been (from the orthodox point of view) steadily downward. The Chardon-Street Convention of 1840-41 had shown him1 willing to discuss the sanctity of the Sabbath, the Ministry, and the Church. The Anti-Sabbath Convention of2 1848 marked the change from inquiry to open opposition to Sabbatarianism. The Hartford Bible Convention gave public notice of his abandonment of the common view of the inspiration of the Scriptures in which he had been bred. This, though not the lowest possible stage of descent—for an Anti-Bible Convention or Society was conceivable—was practically to touch bottom, and left nothing to be desired by his clerical detractors.

The first quarter of the year had been spent in and about Boston, but by the middle of April Mr. Garrison began his labors in the more distant fields. An antislavery convention had been called in Cincinnati for April 19, 1853, by the women of that city, and he was invited to attend. The scene was new to him, and he3 could visit on the way the friends in Cleveland to whom he had owed his life in 1847. On the day appointed he stood on the banks of the Ohio, and beheld for the first time the slave-cursed soil of Kentucky. For him the stream was perilously narrow, yet words of welcome and of fellowship had been sped across it from an exholder, [379] Cassius M. Clay, living yonder in a perpetual state of siege, and carrying his life in his hands. He had, while a student at Yale, in June, 1831, heard Mr. Garrison's discourse at New Haven against Colonization,4 and then and there resolved to make relentless war on the institution of slavery. Meantime, he had emancipated his slaves and preached abolition, at all hazards to5 his person and property; joined in the Mexican War by a monstrous aberration of principle as of judgment, yet6 holding fast to his main purpose to make Kentucky free; and furnished an example without a parallel both of heroism and of the folly of attempting to undermine the Slave Power from within, even with its own weapons of violence—in other words, of ‘going South,’ as the abolitionists were taunted with not doing. A constant reader of the Liberator, and invited, like its editor, to7 attend the Cincinnati Convention, he wrote to the committee:

You say W. L. Garrison will be present. I wish to say a word of that man. As a man, he stands first among living men, because he has labored most of all in that cause which is of most worth to mankind. It is not for me to say whether, with equal firmness and sensibility to the Right, he might or might not have done more service in a great cause! It is enough that, with whatever talent was loaned him by Deity, with that he has zealously, at all hazard of all things, contended for the highest interests of men. The day for his appreciation has not come! There is, however, one saying of his traducers, and the traducers of those who act with him, which I will notice—that they have set back the cause of emancipation by agitation! Nothing is more false. The cause of emancipation advances only with agitation: let that cease, and despotism is complete. The slaveholders have just as much intention of yielding up their slaves as the sum of the kings of the earth have of laying down, for the benefit of the people, their sceptres! How long will, without agitation, kingdoms last? Lib. 23.70.

At the Convention, Mr. Garrison met, not Clay, indeed, but another abolition Southerner, the Rev. John Rankin, whose ‘Letters’ had stirred him as his own New Haven8 [380] discourse had fired Clay, and to whom he now renewed his public acknowledgments as a disciple. Since the9 economic evils of slavery had been forcibly pointed out in that work, it was meet that Mr. Garrison (in sight, too, and almost within hearing of thriftless Kentucky) should offer the following among other resolutions:

Resolved, That the abolitionists of this country are as much interested in the welfare, prosperity, and safety of the slaveholders as they are in the liberation and elevation of the slaves; that, in the abolition of the entire slave system, no actual property will be impaired or destroyed, but every kind of property will be enhanced and improved in value; that freedom is industrious, economical, enterprising, and fertile in useful expedients and beneficent discoveries, while slavery is indolent, wasteful, turning into barrenness the most fruitful soil, or paralyzing all the inventive and progressive faculties; and that emancipation can be as triumphantly defended on the ground of political economy and material prosperity, as it can be on moral and religious principle. Lib. 23.70.

The Western tour was to have been prolonged to Michigan, but a sharp pleuritic attack confined Mr. Garrison to his bed and made return imperative—to the great disappointment of those who were expecting him at10 Adrian. Not more than a fortnight's rest, however, was allowed him in Boston, for the American Anti-Slavery Society was to hold its anniversary once more in New York city. In the interval, he attended on May 5 a dinner given in Boston by the Free Democracy to John P. Hale,11 whose Senatorial term had expired and his place been filled by Charles G. Atherton, of ‘gag’ memory. Mr.12 Hale's political attitude towards slavery, under the compromises of the Constitution, certainly had not been acceptable to the abolitionists; but his solitary courage amid a contemptuous and murderous pro-slavery body like the Senate of the United States deserved, and had always received, recognition in the Liberator. Mr.13 Garrison, therefore, took his place without scruple beside Charles Sumner, John G. Palfrey, Horace Mann, Henry [381] Wilson, Anson Burlingame, Richard H. Dana, Jr., John Jay, and Joshua Leavitt. On Cassius Clay's offering the toast—‘The True Union: To Benton, to Bryant, to14 Seward, to Greeley, to Garrison, to Phillips, to Quincy— the union of all the opponents of the propaganda of slavery,’ there were loud calls for Garrison, who responded with peculiar felicity, paying just tributes to Hale and to15 Clay,16 yet not forgetting his delenda est Carthago.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen,’ he began,

I am happy to be with17 you on this occasion. Whatever may be our peculiar views as to the best measures to be adopted, or the precise position to be occupied, one thing is true here—we are all “Hale fellows' (enthusiastic applause); and, what is better still, ” Hale fellows well met. “ (Continued cheers.) It is not often that antislavery men are in a majority. (Applause.) I believe we have it all our own way here this evening. It is not possible that there can be a single pro-slavery man or woman in this vast assembly; and I will prove it. Allow me to put it to vote. As many here as are in favor of the immediate and everlasting overthrow of slavery, will please to say Aye! (An almost universal shout of affirmation went up.) As many as are opposed to the abolition of slavery, will say No! (A few voices replied ” No!—evidently through a misconception of the speaker's remarks.) Sir, it is as I thought it would be—the Ayes have it! (Cheers and laughter.) And I hold that those who answered in the negative are bound, by their own rule of action, to come over to our side and make the vote unanimous; for pro-slavery in our country always is looking to majorities, and to be on the popular side. (Laughter and cheers.) . . .

Sir, you will pardon me for the reference. I have heard something here about our Union, about the value of the Union, and the importance of preserving the Union. Gentlemen, if you have been so fortunate as to find a Union worth preserving, I heartily congratulate you. Cling to it with all your souls! For [382] myself, I have not been so fortunate. With a price set upon my head by one of the Southern States of the Union—outlawed everywhere in the slaveholding South for my hatred of slavery —you will pardon me if I am somewhat lacking in loyalty to the existing Union. (Laughter.)

The Union! What is it? Where is it? Where, as the uncompromising friends of liberty, will you find protection under it? Gentlemen, look well to your language; use it intelligently and truly. The two great pro-slavery parties in the land join with you in glorifying this Union, and pledging to maintain it as a slavery-sustaining compact. If you use the term “Union” in the ordinary political sense, then I ask how it happens that you who are pledged to give [no] support to slavery are thus in perfect agreement with those parties? If you do not, then I ask where is the Union, and what do you mean by preserving it? Why, are you not conscious of the fact that in South Carolina, in Alabama, in any slaveholding State, this anti-slavery gathering would not be tolerated? We should all be deemed worthy of Lynch law, and in all probability be subjected to a coat of tar and feathers! What a glorious Union it is that we are enjoying! How worthy of preservation!

Alas! the Union is but another name for the iron reign of the Slave Power. We have no common country, as yet. God grant we may have! We have no common Union, as yet. God grant we may have! We shall have it when the jubilee comes—and not till then.

The American Anti-Slavery Society met in New York18 city at the Chinese Assembly Room on May 11, 1853, amid the utmost quiet. Calhoun, and Clay, and Webster had, as Mr. Garrison pointed out, been translated since 1850.19 Was there no one to give the signal to Rynders to save the Union once more by mobbing the abolitionists away for another term of years? Could Mr. Garrison, unchecked, mention as signs of progress the blotting out of those pillars of the Slave Power, the Jerry rescue, the armed stand against the Fugitive Slave Law at Christiana, the success of Uncle Tom's Cabin? So it appeared. Douglass, too, was there, but where was his “halfbrother” Ante, p. 294.? Dr. Furness's place was supplied by Henry Ward Beecher, who made his first speech on an abolition20 [383] platform, not in complete sympathy, yet confessing that he would ‘choose dismemberment and liberty, sooner than Union and slavery.’

The best-considered and most effective speech of Mr. Garrison's during the year was that delivered at the New21 England Convention in Boston on May 26. It expounded the constitution and philosophy of the anti-slavery movement, proved its catholicity, and vindicated the criticism meted out on its platform to all who took their stand on it. In form, scope, and strictness of reasoning it was a classical production. But we must pass it by, for the Bible Convention is only a week off.

In the Liberator of April 22, 1853, appeared a call to22 the friends of free discussion, ‘without distinction of sex, color, sect, or party,’ to meet at Hartford, Conn., on Thursday, June 2, to Sunday, June 5, ‘for the purpose of freely and fully canvassing the origin, authority, and influence of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures.’ It was signed by Andrew Jackson Davis, William Green, Jr., and William P. Donaldson. Mr. Green we have already met at the founding of the American Anti-Slavery23 Society. Mr. Davis was definable in a single word as a ‘seer,’ or prophet, possessed of clairvoyant powers,24 and sometimes styled the ‘Great Harmonian,’ in allusion to25 the principal work embodying his philosophy. He was commonly classed among Spiritualists, though not strictly in line with them, and his admirers were Spiritualists for the most part. He had risen from a very humble origin26 without education, and manifested considerable gifts of style as a writer. His manners were amiable, gentle, and attractive. Henry C. Wright accounted him “a Jesus of this day.” Lib. 23.64.

Mr. Garrison gave his open approval to the call not27 long after its appearance, lent his signature to it, and consented to take part in the proceedings. He shared [384] the hospitality of the Davises with H. C. Wright, Parker28 Pillsbury, and Joseph Barker, the last-named being chosen to preside over the Convention. Barker had apparently taken permanent leave of his native England, having purchased a farm in Ohio and removed thither with his29 family. On his preliminary visit to this country he had received from Mr. Garrison in Boston attentions like those30 he had bestowed in England. Once settled, he identified himself with the abolitionists, writing copiously for the31 Liberator, and finding there admission (which Edmund Quincy denied to it in the Liberty Bell) for an article32 showing that; since the Bible sanctioned slavery, the book must be demolished as a condition precedent to emancipation. In November, 1852, he had been prime mover in a Bible Convention held at Salem, Ohio,33 concerning which he reported to Mr. Garrison that the34 meetings had been crowded, with just enough opposition.

At Hartford, likewise, there was a very full attendance, but the opposition was certainly excessive. Not that the clergy of the city appeared in force to deprecate the proposed examination of the Bible, or to maintain its divine origin and authority. With a single exception, they held entirely aloof. The Rev. Joseph Turner, a local Second-Adventist preacher, and the Rev. George Storrs of35 Brooklyn, N. Y., belonging to the same despised denomination,36 alone had the courage of their opinions and stood up for the inspiration of the Bible. They were (considering merely their adversaries) very unequal to the task, yet they served as rallying-points to the disorderly elements in the galleries —notably the divinity students from the adjacent Trinity College. These, as Mr. Garrison testified—

attempted to break up the meeting by stamping, shouting,37 yelling, groaning, grunting, hissing, mocking, cursing, whistling, making indecent and insulting expressions, on one occasion turning off the gas and extinguishing the lights, so that the meeting was for some time compelled to suspend its proceedings, and behaving throughout like a troop of demons let loose from the pit. Every appeal to their sense of propriety, to their [385] self-respect, was met derisively and with shouts of laughter. Even the Sabbath—their holy Sabbath—was no restraint on their38 rowdyism, so that it became necessary for the Mayor to be in attendance with a constabulary force. In the evening, so protracted and outrageous was their interruption, that an attempt was made to arrest one or two of the leading rioters, when a scene ensued that baffles description. The officers were violently assaulted, blows were freely interchanged, knives were drawn, and sword-canes were menacingly flourished, and it was not till two arrests had been made, with great difficulty, that anything like order was restored. And this was the best defence of the plenary inspiration of the Bible that pious, evangelical Hartford had to make on the occasion! After the adjournment, the theological ruffians (some of them the sons of Southern men-stealers and cradle-plunderers) gathered around the doors and took possession of the staircase, uttering foul language and insulting various persons; but the especial object of their murderous spite was “ Garrison! Garrison!” —and they vociferously exclaimed, “Where is Garrison?” “Bring him out!” “Put a halter about his neck!” —etc., etc.39 But we passed through them, unattended, and fortunately without injury—probably not being distinctly recognized.

Strange to say, however, the worst and grossest of the interruptions were directed against a woman, Mrs. Ernestine L. Rose, of great dignity of carriage and of unusual40 ability. Mr. Garrison himself had escaped, even on Sunday evening, with slight discourtesy. “Notwithstanding the pointedness and cutting character of many of the remarks of Mr. Garrison,” Proceedings Hartford Bible Convention, p. 365. says the official report, ‘addressed more particularly to the turbulent, they were listened to with marked attention throughout, demonstrations of any kind being but very few.’ Argumentatively considered, they were not as weighty or, perhaps, as ‘dangerous’ (from the clerical point of view) as Joseph Barker's, who, as an ex-clergyman, had some advantages in a technical discussion. The pith of Mr. Garrison's speech lay in the resolutions with which he introduced it, and which incidentally attest the influence of his antislavery [386] experience on the development of his theological beliefs:

1st.—Resolved, That the doctrine of the American church41 and priesthood, that the Bible is the Word of God; that whatever it contains was given by Divine inspiration; and that it is the only rule of faith and practice, is self-evidently absurd, exceedingly injurious both to the intellect and soul, highly pernicious in its application, and a stumbling-block in the way of human redemption.42

2d.—Resolved, That this doctrine has too long been held as a potent weapon in the hands of time-serving commentators and designing priests, to beat down the rising spirit of religious liberty, and to discourage scientific development—to subserve the interests of blind guides and false teachers, and to fill all Christendom with contention and strife; and, therefore, the time has come to declare its untruthfulness, and to unmask those who are guilty of this imposture.

3d.—Resolved, That “the Word of God is not bound” either within the lids of any book, or by any ecclesiastical edict; but, like its Divine Author, was before all books, and is everywhere present, and from everlasting to everlasting—ever enunciating the same law, and requiring the same obedience, being “quick43 and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” --the Bible itself being witness.

4th.—Resolved, That it is a secondary question as to when, where, or by whom the books of the Old and New Testaments were written; but the primary and all-important question is, What do they teach and command? And in order to ascertain this, they are to be as freely examined, and as readily accepted or rejected, as any other books, according as they are found worthless or valuable.

5th.—Resolved, That it is the climax of audacity and impiety for this nation to pretend to receive the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and then to make it a penal offence to give it to any of the millions who are held as chattel slaves on its soil, thus conspiring to make them miserable here and hereafter.

6th.—Resolved, That, judging them by their course of action toward all the reforms of the age, and their position in society, [387] the clergy of this country, as a body, would as readily burn the Bible to-morrow if public sentiment overwhelmingly demanded it, and persecution and loss of character should be the result of disobedience, as to-day they are found earnest in their endorsement of the plenary inspiration of that book, in accordance with public sentiment.

Three other resolutions—exhibiting the impossibility of the Bible's being a consistent and unchanging rule of faith and practice, and the multifarious conflicting interpretations of it in the strife of ages, and the worthlessness of a profession of faith in it as a clew to character —were offered by Mr. Garrison on the last day. A single extract from his remarks on the first set, just cited in full, is all that we can indulge in—for its personal and prophetic bearing:

Sir, I know well the cost of an appearance in a Convention44 of this kind. I anticipate all that will be said, maliciously and opprobriously, on both sides the Atlantic, in regard to the resolutions which I have read in your hearing, and to my45 participancy in your proceedings. Already I hear the outcry of “Infidel! Infidel! Infidel!” on the part of those occupants of the pulpit who, while they are strong in their “coward's castle,” never dare to make their appearance on a free platform before the people.

I know, moreover, it will be said that this is another evidence of the infidel character of the anti-slavery movement. I know that the American Anti-Slavery Society will, by the bigoted and pharisaical, by the designing and wicked, be held responsible for the sentiments I may utter on this occasion. Shall I, therefore, be dumb? Will it indeed injure the cause of the slave, so dear to my heart, for me to express my thoughts conscientiously about the Bible? I do not believe it. Have I any right to speak on any other subject than American slavery? or am I morally bound to give it my undivided attention? Why, sir, no freedom of speech or inquiry is conceded to me in this land. Am I not vehemently told, both at the North and at the South, that I have no right to meddle with the question of slavery? And my right to speak on any other subject, in opposition to public opinion, is equally denied to me; not, it is true, by the strong arm of Government, but by the cowardly and tyrannical in spirit. Now I stand here, not as an abolitionist, not to represent [388] the anti-slavery cause, but simply as a man, uttering my own thoughts, on my own responsibility; and, therefore, whoever shall avail himself of my presence here to make me odious as the advocate of the slave, or to subject any anti-slavery body to reproach on that account, will reveal himself in his true character—that of a bigot, a hypocrite, or a falsifier.

Those who care may read the outpourings of the press, both secular and religious, on the ‘Infidel Convention,’ as grouped in the Liberator. The mob, as usual, found46 there its justification; and frightened editors even talked47 of securing legislative prohibition of such gatherings in the State of Connecticut, in view of the announcement48 that another Bible Convention would be held in January, 1854.

An excursion to Flushing, Long Island, in August, to take part in the celebration of West India emancipation49 under the management of the New York City Anti-Slavery Society,50 broke for a moment Mr. Garrison's summer rest. By the end of the same month, he was on his way to New York to share in an extraordinary series of meetings crowded into a single week. In May a so-called World's Temperance Convention had been held in that city, under the customary clerical auspices, and, though51 consenting at first to admit certificated delegates from the Women's State Temperance Society, was convulsed by a motion to place one of them on the business committee. A hearing was refused to the women themselves, and they were finally excluded, as not contemplated in the call. A secession accordingly took place, led by the Rev. T. W. Higginson of Worcester, Mass. A fall meeting having been arranged for the same misnamed Convention, on September 6, 7, a counter Whole World's Temperance Convention was projected for September 1, 2, and Mr. Garrison was naturally among the signers of52 the latter call. He took a very subordinate part in the53 [389] proceedings, in which the women were of right conspicuous. Few of the clergy were visible, and no dignitaries. On the next evening (Saturday), he witnessed the54 performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin at the National Theatre. On Sunday morning, he listened to a sermon delivered to a55 great audience in Metropolitan Hall by Miss Antoinette56 L. Brown.57 In the afternoon, he spoke in the same place58 before the New York City Anti-Slavery Society, and attended without addressing the evening meeting, towards the close of which, during the speeches of Lucy Stone, who ‘never acquitted herself better,’ and Lucretia Mott, the rowdyism led by the redoubtable Rynders became so rampant that the session was cut short. But ‘we are all in fine spirits,’ wrote Mr. Garrison to his wife. The59 programme for Monday was a meeting at the Tabernacle in60 aid of the Women's State Temperance Society; for61 Tuesday and Wednesday, a Woman's Rights Convention in62 the Tabernacle, parallel with the bastard World's63 Temperance Convention at Metropolitan Hall.

The woman's rights movement, an outgrowth of the anti-slavery agitation, now first began to succeed to the obloquy, malevolence, and vulgar indignities which the earlier reform had drawn upon itself. All this had been foreshadowed in the anti-slavery experience of the64 Grimkes and of Abby Kelley Foster; but the organization of women in behalf of political equality, and the multiplication of them as speakers on public platforms, the ‘intrusion’ of them into the pulpit (as in the case of Miss Brown), renewed and intensified the persecution, in which, as formerly, the clergy took a leading part. The Bible was explicitly adduced to discredit the innovation, and the lowest ridicule was deemed justifiable as an aid to Scriptural anathema. The wearing of the Bloomer costume by some of the advocates of the cause furnished a ready occasion for this sort of opposition. The same journals, religious and secular, that nursed the mob spirit [390] for the suppression of abolitionism, provoked and fanned65 it for the Woman's Rights Convention at the Tabernacle in this first week of September, 1853. Mrs. Mott presided, and lent to the occasion all the defence that purity of life and charm of person and Quaker dignity could contribute; but in vain. The overruling of the rights of the promoters66 of the Convention and of the vast majority of the audience was unchecked, especially in the evening, although the police made a show of preserving order. Mr. Garrison appears to have spoken twice and to have been heard.67

‘The land,’ he said,

is beginning to be convulsed. The68 opposition to the movement is assuming a malignant, desperate, and satanic character; every missile of wickedness that can be hurled against it is used. The pulpit is excited, the press is aroused; Church and State are in arms to put down a movement on behalf of justice to one-half of the whole human race. (Laughter and cheers.) The Bible, revered in our land as the inspired Word of God, is, by pulpit interpreters, made directly hostile to what we are endeavoring to obtain as a measure of right and justice; and the cry of infidelity is heard on the right hand and on the left, in order to combine public opinion so as to extinguish the movement.

Now, beloved, let us not imagine that any strange thing has happened to us. We are but passing through one of the world's great crises; we, too, in our day, are permitted to contend with spiritual wickedness in high places—with principalities and powers. What reform was ever yet begun and carried on with any reputation in the day thereof? What reform, however glorious and divine, was ever advocated at the outset with rejoicing? And if they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household? (Cheers and stamping.)

I have been derisively called a “Woman's Rights Man.” I know no such distinction. I claim to be a human Rights man; and wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being, whatever may be the sex or complexion.

To the excellence of the movement God has given witnesses in abundance, on the right hand and on the left. Show me a cause anathematized by the chief priests, the scribes, and the pharisees; which politicians and demagogues endeavor to crush; which reptiles and serpents in human flesh try to spread their [391] slime over, and hiss down, and I will show you a cause which God loves, and angels contemplate with admiration. Such is our movement.

In the intervals of the sessions, he visited the World's Temperance Convention, where Wendell Phillips, a delegate, was endeavoring to obtain a hearing for Antoinette Brown, a fellow-delegate. Here the mob was in the governing body, especially the clerical portion of it, which descended to depths of shamelessness not exceeded by the69 gallery disturbers of the Woman's Rights Convention.

‘I have seen many tumultuous meetings in my day,’ reported70 Mr. Garrison subsequently,

but I think on no occasion have I ever seen anything more disgraceful to our common humanity than when Miss Brown attempted to speak upon the platform of the World's Temperance Convention, in aid of the glorious cause which had brought that Convention together.71 It was an outbreak of passion, contempt, indignation, and every vile emotion of the soul, throwing into the shade almost everything coming from the vilest of the vile that I have ever witnessed on any occasion or under any circumstances; venerable men, claiming to be holy men, the ambassadors of Jesus Christ, losing all self-respect and transforming themselves into the most unmannerly and violent spirits, merely on account of the sex of the individual who wished to address the assembly.

On October 3, Mr. Garrison began a tour to the West72 with special reference to Michigan. Cleveland was his first halting-place, for there, on the 6th, 7th, and 8th of the month, the fourth National Woman's Rights Convention was to be held. He served on the business committee and was among the speakers, the nine sessions passing off73 with no sign of popular displeasure, though not without clerical disturbance.74 The first of seven resolutions from his pen read as follows:

Resolved, That the natural rights of one human being are75 those of every other, in all cases equally sacred and inalienable; [392] hence the boasted “Rights of man,” about which we hear so much, are simply the “Rights of Woman,” of which we hear so little; or, in other words, they are the Rights of Humanity, neither affected by, nor dependent upon, sex or condition.

Adrian, Michigan, was reached on October 8.

W. L. Garrison to his Wife.

Adrian, October 10, 1853.
76 At the depot here, I found waiting for us77 with his team Thomas Chandler, the brother of the lamented Elizabeth M.78 Chandler, who took us to his home, about five miles from this city. . . . I was received with all the cordiality of Western hospitality.

Yesterday (Sunday), we had two meetings in a commodious79 hall capable of holding nearly a thousand persons. It was crowded most densely, and many could find no entrance. Over the platform was placed the name of ‘Garrison,’ in well-executed letters in evergreen, surrounded with a wreath. On one side of the room were inscribed the words, ‘I am an abolitionist,’ in a similar manner, and on the other side, ‘Our country is the world—our countrymen are all mankind.’ I forgot to add in its place that, under my name, were two hands clasped together, one white, the other black. . . . I spoke at considerable length at both meetings, and was listened to with the most profound attention; and my remarks seemed to be generally well received. It is impossible to say anything new here on the subject of slavery, as they have had all our able lecturers in superabundance. It is almost like ‘carrying coals to Newcastle,’ and I felt it to be so.

I was agreeably surprised, while speaking in the afternoon, to see Sallie Holley80 come into the meeting, with her travelling [393] companion, Miss Putnam. She has been laboring with great81 success in Detroit and other places, and will probably be induced to remain in the State a short time longer.


W. L. Garrison to his Wife.

Battle Creek, October 15, 1853.
82 On Tuesday last, I spent the day (with Mr. Robinson of the83 Bugle, Sallie Holley, and Caroline Putnam) at Thomas Chandler's. . . . I spent an hour alone at the grave of Elizabeth (the remains of her aunt lying beside those of her own), and pencilled a sonnet on the post of the railing erected around the84 deceased, expressive of my estimate of her virtues, and the feelings of my heart. Sallie Holley had previously paid a brief tribute with her pencil to the exalted worth of the departed. There was nothing else to identify the persons whose remains were lying beneath the sod. They are buried on a rising elevation in a large wheat field, which is seen conspicuously at a considerable distance—half a dozen young and thrifty oak trees standing in a row on one side of the enclosure. To me it was hallowed ground, and, while standing there, I renewed my pledge of fidelity to the cause of the enslaved while life continues. Thomas reminds me somewhat of dear brother George. His heart was well-nigh buried in Elizabeth's grave,85 and his reverence for her memory carries an air of solemnity about it, as though she had been an angelic visitant from another sphere. . . .

This afternoon I leave for Detroit, where I am to speak to-morrow afternoon and evening. There is a good deal of excitement in that place, caused by the recent meetings held there by S. S. and Abby K. Foster. The Detroit papers are full of pro-slavery slang, especially the Free Soil paper, which86 has assailed our friends after the style of Bennett's Herald.87 I expect to be slandered, caricatured, and assailed, in the worst88 manner; but no matter. One of the Detroit papers exults that my nose was pulled at Cleveland!


[394]

W. L. Garrison to his Wife.

Detroit, October 17, 1853.
89 Sallie Holley has recently lectured here, to very general acceptance, as she does everywhere—her addresses being of a religious character, without dealing with persons, churches, and parties in a way to probe them to the quick, yet doing good service to the cause. More recently, our friends the Fosters have held four or five meetings in the City Hall, which were well attended, and which created a good deal of excitement and discussion. They are acting, in various places, as my forerunners; and, by their solicitation, I came this long distance from Battle Creek (about 140 miles) on Saturday, with my90 friend Marius R. Robinson,—they having left a few days previous,—thinking I should find all the necessary arrangements made for my lecturing on Sunday afternoon and evening. But, lo! on our arrival, we found nothing had been done—or, rather, that not a hall in the place could be obtained for me, ‘for love or money.’ Stephen and Abby, instead of91 facilitating my progress, appear to have given me an Irish hoist, ‘a peg lower.’ Indeed, the last evening they lectured here, they were enabled to get into the City Hall only by some persons breaking the lock, and taking possession of it without leave— a measure I would not have sanctioned. The notices of their meetings and persons, by the Detroit papers (especially the Free Soil organ), were abusive, untruthful, and scurrilous, to the last degree. Everywhere the press in this country is as foul as the gutter, and as unprincipled as the father of lies. Most of the proprietors and editors more richly deserve a place in the penitentiary than many of its inmates; for they sin as with ‘a cartrope,’ and on the largest and most comprehensive scale. It is a terrible sign of general corruption.


To pass the time, on Sunday, October 16, Mr. Garrison92 crossed the Detroit River, and first set foot on Canadian soil at Windsor—a fit place, as it was largely populated [395] by fugitives from the United States. He walked also to the neighboring Sandwich, likewise a place of refuge from American tyranny, and ‘saw the barracks (formerly occupied by British soldiers) which, winter before last, were opened to shelter the crowd of fugitive slaves then hastening to that spot, to prevent them from perishing.’ Returning to Detroit, he addressed the colored citizens in the evening in one of their three churches, the Methodist, and was warmly received.

Adrian was revisited on account of the State Anti-Slavery Convention appointed for October 22, 23, at which a Michigan Anti-Slavery Society was founded.93 Thence began Mr. Garrison's homeward journey by way of Ohio, the kindest of hosts being found in Joshua R.94 Giddings at Jefferson. Boston was reached early in November, but home had once more to be abandoned95 before the close of this restless year. The second decade of the American Anti-Slavery Society called for96 commemoration, in Philadelphia, on December 3 and 4. Mr. Garrison presided, Samuel J. May read once more the Declaration of Sentiments of 1833. Noticeable was the number of women speakers. Not less so was the drift of the remarks towards one topic—the public estimation of the abolitionists as infidels.

On this head the following correspondence will be found instructive. Mrs. Stowe had returned in September from97 her foreign tour, during which, if she had been taken under the wing of the Glasgow female sectarian abolitionists, engaged at the very moment in advertising Mr.98 Garrison's infidelity, she had on the other hand been the guest99 of Mrs. Chapman in Paris.

Harriet Beecher Stowe to W. L. Garrison.

[Andover, Mass., November, 1853.]
100 Dear Sir: The letter you were so kind as to address to me101 on my departure for Europe, I was unable to read for some time, owing to ill health. When I could read, I had not strength to reply to it. In Switzerland, I projected the plan of a letter [396] which I meant to have addressed to you publicly through the columns of the Liberator. That was never finished, but I think I shall finish and offer it to your columns at some future time.

In regard to you, your paper, and, in some measure, your party, I am in an honest embarrassment. I sympathize with you fully in many of your positions; others I consider erroneous, hurtful to liberty and the progress of humanity. Nevertheless, I believe you and those who support them to be honest and conscientious in your course and opinions.

I am a constant reader of your paper, and an admirer of much that is in it. I like its frankness, fearlessness, truthfulness, and independence. At the same time I regard with apprehension and sorrow much that is in it. Were it circulated only among intelligent, well-balanced minds, able to discriminate between good and evil, I should not feel so much apprehension. To me the paper is decidedly valuable as a fresh and able expose of the ultra progressive element in our times. What I fear is, that it will take from poor Uncle Tom his Bible, and give him nothing in its place. You understand me—do you not?

In this view I cannot conscientiously do anything which might endorse your party and your paper, without at the same time entering protest against what I consider erroneous and hurtful. With this view I have written the letter of reply to your invitation,102 and I imagine that I give you the greatest possible proof of esteem and regard by thus frankly telling you my whole mind, and expecting you to be well pleased with my sincerity.

For many reasons, I should like to have an opportunity of free conversation with you. Could you not come and make us a call one of these days? If you will appoint a time, I will be sure to be at home.

Very truly yours,


Harriet Beecher Stowe to W. L. Garrison.

[Andover], Cabin, November 30, 1853.
103 Dear friend: I am obliged to you for the frankness and kindness with which you have responded to my note, the more that you are pressed with many engagements. I am not in the least displeased at the frank earnestness of your letter. Thus ever should the friends of truth and goodness speak to each [397] other: life is too short and truth too important for us to do otherwise.

It seems to me that you have not fully apprehended the purport and spirit of my letter to the Anti-Slavery Society. I willingly, in this view of the matter, withdraw the letter.104 I, however, differ from you (if I understand you) in some points very considerably; but as I perceive that you misapprehend me somewhat, it is quite possible that I do not fully understand you. My note to you was hasty—not fully elaborated. It is difficult in letter-writing for people to come to a full appreciation of sentiments on a very extensive and somewhat complicated subject; and this leads me to say that the most satisfactory part of your letter is that in which you allow us to hope for the pleasure of seeing you at our house.

Allow me to give a more tangible shape to the anticipation by proposing that any day this week or next, after closing your daily labors, you should take the cars for Andover and pass one night under the shelter of the ‘Cabin.’ Then I shall be pleased to show you many memorials of the kindness of English friends shown to the cause of the slave through me. I will then frankly lay before you all my views, and perhaps when you see all that is before my mind, you will then think differently of my letter, and perhaps you will succeed in leading me to think differently on many points. I am open to conviction, and hope to learn something daily.

May I trouble you to bring the manuscript of my letter, of which your beautifully written epistle makes me sufficiently ashamed. Writing is to me, in my present state of health, such an effort that I am sadly ashamed of many things which I send out simply because I have not strength to copy them.


Harriet Beecher Stowe to W. L. Garrison.

[Andover], Cabin, December 12, 1853.
105 On one point I confess myself to be puzzled. Why are Wright, etc., so sensitive to the use of the term ‘infidel’? If106 I understand H. Wright's letters in the Liberator, he openly professes to be what is called commonly an infidel. Names are given for conveniencea sake—such as Unitarian, Baptist, Universalist, Infidel. They mark the belief of the individual. If [398] H. Wright is not an infidel, what is he? I inquire honestly, for if anybody had asked me if he was one, I should have answered yes without a moment's hesitation, in the same manner as I should have said that May was a Unitarian. . . .107

I find the following numbers missing from the Liberator of this year, and should like to have them sent me: 27, 28, 29, 30, 39, 41, 49.


Harriet Beecher Stowe to W. L. Garrison.

[Andover, December, 1853 (?).]
108 I see you have published your letter to me in the Liberator. I109 did not reply to that letter immediately because I did not wish to speak on so important a subject unadvisedly and without proper thought and reflection. The course I pursued was to make up my file of the Liberator, and give it a general investigation as to its drift and course of thought for the past summer. I have also read through with attention Theodore Parker's works on religion, which I suppose give me somewhat of a fair view of the modern form of what people have generally denominated ‘infidelity.’ I use the word here for conveniencea sake, without the slightest invidious intention. I also suppose that these works may not present the subject exactly as you view it, since no two persons of independent minds ever view a subject precisely alike; but yet by the two together I can perhaps form a general estimate, sufficiently accurate, of how your mind lies.

I do not answer this letter in the paper, because I think a more private discussion of the matter likely to prove more useful.

Briefly, then, my objection to the Liberator is not its free discussion—for that I approve; not the fact of its inquiring into the Bible and the Sabbath and other things of that kind—but the manner of it. . . . I notice [among] Mr. Parker's sermons one which contains some very excellent thoughts on the uses of the Sabbath. Considered merely as a human institution, according to him, its preservation is exceedingly desirable, and110 its obliteration would be a great calamity. I notice also a very eloquent passage on the uses and influence of the Bible. He considers it to embody absolute and perfect religion, and that no better mode for securing present and eternal happiness can be found than the obedience to certain religious precepts therein recorded. He would have it read, circulated; and considers it, [399] as I infer, a Christ to send it to the heathen, the slave, etc. I presume you.

These things being supp about the Bible and the. Sabbath certainly would make it appear, that if any man deems it his duty to lessen their standing in the eyes of the community, he ought at least to do it in a cautious and reverential spirit, with humility and prayer. My objection to the mode in which these matters are handled in the Liberator is, that the general tone and spirit seems to me the reverse of this. In place of calm, serious inquiry, I see hasty assertions, appeals to passion and prejudice, and a very general absence of proof of many of the things stated. Is this the way the image of eternal truth can be discovered? Can the stars mirror themselves in stormy and troubled water? As an instance of appeal to the passion, I notice your assertion with regard to the American clergy, that if public sentiment required it they would burn the111 Bible to-morrow, etc. This includes all the clergy, without an exception, and accuses them of being unprincipled men, not fit to be trusted in any relation of life. Are assertions like these, which, in the nature of the case, cannot be proved, calculated to lead your hearers, on either side of the question, to that serious and dispassionate frame necessary for the examination of vital religious truth? H. C. Wright's pieces, some of them, contain reflections and assertions on the Jewish Scriptures which no benevolent and just man ought to make without great research and care, and without proper proof. . . .

Your name and benevolent labors have given your paper a circulation among many of the poor and lowly. They have no means of investigation, no habits of reasoning. The Bible, as they at present understand it, is doing them great good, and the Sabbath is a blessing to them and their families. The whole tendency of this mode of proceeding is to lessen their respect and reverence for the Bible while you give them nothing in its place.

It is true that Uncle Tom, having the witness in himself, cannot be shaken; but he has a family whom he is trying to restrain and guide by the motives drawn from this book; and when your paper breaks the bands of reverence and belief—when his sons learn that it (the Old Testament) is a mass of Jewish fables, of absurd and bloody stories, mingled with some good and excellent things, and that the New Testament is a history, of a very low degree of credibility, of a man just as fallible as themselves, and who was mistaken and has misled the whole [400] Christian world on many important nd that he is himself as good a judge of relig Christ—I say, when a Christian ather and mother their children believing such things, of what use will the Bible be to them in education?

I moreover regret these things on account of their inevitable influence on the cause of Human Liberty. It is impossible, while men are what they are, that this course of things should not operate injuriously on the cause. People will connect the sentiments and expressions of your paper with the cause, and we all feel continually this difficulty. . . .

I have no fear of discussion as to its final results on the Bible: my only regrets are for those human beings whose present and immortal interests I think compromised by this manner of discussion. Discussion of the Evidences and of [the] Authenticity and Inspiration of the Bible, and of all theology, will come more and more, and I rejoice that they will. . . .

Once more in regard to the use of the term Infidel. I think every class of men have a right to choose the designation by which they will be called. When a term which has been used as descriptive of their opinions has become a term of odium, they have a right to repudiate it as not fairly expressing their position. The sentiments which Mr. Parker, yourself, and H.112 C. Wright hold, are what have generally been considered infidel; but as that word, as applied to men formerly, implied a certain degree of contempt and defiance towards the Bible and its teachings which you do not feel, you have a right to choose your own name on fairly stating what it is, and what is implied by it. . . .

As to you, my dear friend, you must own that my frankness to you is the best expression of my confidence in your honor and nobleness. Did I not believe that in many respects ‘an excellent spirit is in you,’ I would not take the trouble to write all this. One word more. As to your views of the Bible: Do you examine both sides? Do you take pains to seek and to find the most able arguments against your views as well as for them? I take pains to read and study all upon your side—do you do the same as to mine?

If in any points in this note I appear to have misapprehended or done you injustice, I hope you will candidly let me know where and how.


The letter to which the last of the above-quoted series is a rejoinder, may be read in full in the Liberator. [401] We select one passage to which Mrs. Stowe offers no reply:

You say it is on the Bible you ground all your hopes of the113 liberties, not only of the slave, but of the whole human race. How does it happen, then, that, in a nation professing to place as high an estimate upon that volume as yourself, and denouncing as infidels all who do not hold it equally sacred, there are three millions and a half of chattel slaves, who are denied its possession, under severe penalties? Is not slavery sanctioned by the Bible, according to the interpretation of it by the clergy generally, its recognized expounders? What, then, does the cause of bleeding humanity gain by all this veneration for the book?

My reliance for the deliverance of the oppressed universally is upon the nature of man, the inherent wrongfulness of oppression, the power of truth, and the omnipotence of God— using every rightful instrumentality to hasten the jubilee.

Mrs. Stowe's line of argument will seem, to the readers of the present narrative from the beginning, somewhat anachronistic, as if (which was the truth) proceeding from one who knew nothing of Mr. Garrison's theological evolution, either in its hyperorthodox source or in the causes which led to his spiritual emancipation–such, for example, as are implied in the passage just reproduced. This was not to be learned by a single summer's study of the Liberator.

The friendly meeting at Andover cannot be exactly dated, but it probably took place in the second week of December. ‘I was dreadfully afraid of your father,’ Mrs. Stowe has since said to one of Garrison's children;114 but the conference under her roof dispelled that feeling forever. His spirit captivated her as it had done many another of like prejudices. ‘You have,’ she wrote to him on December 12, 1853, ‘a remarkable tact at conversation.’115116

1 Ante, 2.421.

2 Ante, p. 218.

3 Ms. Apr. 18, 1853, W. L. G. to H. E. G.; ante, p. 207.

4 Ante, 1.260; Autobiography C. M. Clay, 1.55-57. Cf.

5 Lib. 14.34.

6 Lib. 16.99, 103, 105, 111, 114; Autobiography of Clay, 1.110.

7 Lib. 23.66.

8 Ante, 1.305.

9 Lib. 23.70; ante, 1.306.

10 Lib. 23.75.

11 Lib. 23.74.

12 Ante, 2.247-249.

13 Lib. 23:[83].

14 T. H. Benton. W. C. Bryant. W. H. Seward. H. Greeley.

15 Lib. 23.74.

16 The first meeting of Garrison and C. M. Clay, whenever it took place, was not as early as 1844, as the latter records in his Autobiography (1: 99; see Lib. 16: 23). ‘I said to him: “ Why, Garrison, I had expected to see a long-faced ascetic; but I see you patriots are jolly, sleek fellows—not at all debarred of the good things of life.” He replied, in the same vein: “ And therein, Clay, you are wrong, and somewhat confound things. The ascetics are the wrong-doers! Who should be happy, if not those who are always right?” Garrison was a man of great common sense and much wit.’

17 Lib. 23.74.

18 Lib. 23:[78], 81.

19 Lib. 23.81.

20 Lib. 23:[82].

21 Lib. 23:[87], 93.

22 Lib. 23.63.

23 Ante, 1.398, 401, 415.

24 Procuring a lock of Mr. Garrison's rather scanty supply of hair, Mr. Davis evolved the ‘psychometry’ of his new friend with a degree of success in characterization worth noticing (Lib. 23: 139).

25 Lib. 23.96.

26 Lib. 27.94.

27 Lib. 23:[83].

28 Lib. 23.95.

29 Lib. 23.11.

30 Ms. Albany, Apr. 19, 1851.

31 J. Barker to W. L. G.; ante, p. 174.

32 Lib. 22.80; Ms. Jan. 13, 1853, E. Quincy to R. D. Webb.

33 Nov. 27-29.

34 Lib. 22.174, 183; Ms. Dec. 21, 1852, Barker to W. L. G.

35 Ante, 2.67.

36 Lib. 23.90.

37 Lib. 23.90.

38 June 5, 1853.

39 In the euphemism of the N. Y. Herald report, there were many ‘affectionate inquiries for Mr. Garrison’ (Lib. 23: 96).

40 Lib. 23.114.

41 Lib. 23.95; Proceedings Hartford Bible Convention, p. 142.

42 I. e., ‘Progression in knowledge, in wisdom, and in truth; thus perfecting ourselves; simply a matter of progression—redemption from a low and fallen state, bringing us up to a high and exalted one’ ( “Proceedings Hartford Bible Convention,” p. 204).

43 Heb. 4.12.

44 Proceedings Hartford Bible Convention, p. 167.

45 Cf. Lib. 26.42.

46 Lib. 23.96.

47 Lib. 23.95.

48 Proceedings Hartford Bible Convention, p. 371.

49 Aug. 4, 1853; Lib. 23.129.

50 This organization was consequent upon the transfer of Oliver Johnson from the editorship of the Pennsylvania Freeman to the associate editorship (with S. H. Gay) of the National Anti-Slavery Standard (Lib. 23: 47, 50, [78], 107).

51 Lib. 23:[84]; Hist. Woman Suffrage, 1.499.

52 Lib. 23.115.

53 Ms. Sept. 5, 1853, W. L. G. to H. E. G.; Lib. 23.146.

54 Sept. 3.

55 Sept. 4.

56 Lib. 23.146.

57 A graduate of Oberlin. She was shortly ordained pastor of the Congregational Church at South Butler, N. Y. (Lib. 23: 151).

58 Lib. 23.142, 146.

59 Ms. Sept. 5.

60 Sept. 5.

61 Lib. 23.146.

62 Sept. 6, 7.

63 Hist. Woman Suffrage, 1.564.

64 Ante, 2.133-135, 297, 348, 349; Lib. 26.3; 28.9.

65 Hist Woman Suffrage, 1.546, 547.

66 Lib. 23.148; Hist. Woman Suffrage, 1.547-577.

67 Ibid., 1.548, 570.

68 Ibid., 1.549.

69 Lib. 23.146, 147, 149, 150.

70 Hist. Woman Suffrage, 1.160.

71 The political coalition of Prohibitionists and Woman Suffragists in our day throws a curious light on the worldly wisdom of the treatment of Miss Brown.

72 Lib. 23.158.

73 Hist. Woman Suffrage, 1.125, 136; Lib. 23.174, 182.

74 Joseph Barker, having maintained that the Bible was opposed to woman's rights and was therefore to be got rid of (Lib. 23: 174), was fallen foul of as an infidel and a renegade priest by the Rev. Edwin H. Nevin, already known to Mr. Garrison for his assurance and duplicity (Lib. 14: 90; 23: 182). Nevin's outrageous behavior at length drew from Mr. Garrison the open remark: ‘He is manifestly here in the spirit of a blackguard and rowdy’ ( “Hist. Woman Suffrage,” 1: 140). This led to a laughable vindication of the clergyman at the hall door after the session, where his younger brother ‘concluded to take an apology from his [Garrison's] nose, as he could not obtain one from his lips’—to quote the reverend gentleman's own account of this ‘undesirable affair’ (Lib. 23: 178, 182).

75 Hist, Woman Suffrage, 1.818.

76 Ms.; Lib. 23.190.

77 Viz., W. L. G., and Marius R. Robinson, editor of the Anti-Slavery Bugle (Lib. 23: 190).

78 Ante, 1.145.

79 Oct. 9.

80 Daughter of Myron Holley, for some two years past a very acceptable anti-slavery lecturer.

81 Caroline F. Putnam.

82 Ms.; Lib. 23.190.

83 Oct. 11.

84 Lib. 23.190.

85 G. W. Benson.

86 Free Democrat.

87 On November 9, 1853, Mrs. Foster wrote from Plymouth, Mich., to Samuel May, Jr. (Ms.): ‘We are doing over again, in Michigan, what we did nearly fifteen years ago in New England, and eight years ago in Ohio— fighting ‘New Organization,’ here under the cover of Free Democracy. We little dreamed, when we came here, what we should have to encounter. It never occurred to us that, as a matter of course, this conflict must be passed [through] everywhere before genuine anti-slavery could get a substantial footing. When we went to Detroit, we did not even know that the Free Soil paper was edited by two priests. Indeed, we knew almost nothing about it, though, since, we have learned that it has always been thrusting a stab at Garrison when it could find opportunity. But since Garrison and ourselves were there, it has kept a constant stream running from its vials of wrath, mainly on Garrison. St. Clair, the veritable Alanson, of New Organization memory, is lecturing for the party and obtaining subscribers for the paper. . . .’

88 J. G. Bennett.

89 Ms.

90 Oct. 15.

91 Foster.

92 Ms. Oct. 17, 1853, W. L. G. to H. E. G.

93 Lib. 23.179.

94 Lib. 23.190; Nov. 3.

95 Lib. 23.182.

96 Lib. 23.170, [194], [195]; Pamphlet Proceedings Am. A. S. S. at its 2d Decade.

97 Sept. 18, 1853; Lib. 23.151.

98 Lib. 23.73.

99 Lib. 23.155.

100 Ms., no date. Cf.

101 Lib. 23.202.

102 Presumably, to attend the celebration of the Twentieth Anniversary of the American Anti-Slavery Society. See next page.

103 Ms.

104 This accounts for its non-appearance in the pamphlet report of the anniversary proceedings.

105 Ms.

106 Henry C. Wright.

107 S. J. May.

108 Ms. no date.

109 Lib. 23.202, Dec. 23, 1853.

110 Ante, p. 226.

111 Ante, p. 387.

112 Theodore Parker.

113 Lib. 23.202.

114 To F. J. G., at the Garden Party given her by her publishers in 1882.

115 On Aug. 7, 1854, Wendell Phillips wrote to Elizabeth Pease Nichol (Miss Pease had married Prof. John Nichol of the Glasgow Observatory on July 6, 1853): ‘Mrs. Stowe has been so intimate, confidential and closely allied with us all here, visiting W. L. G. often, and sending for him still oftener, . . .’(Ms.)

116 Ms.

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