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Chapter 23: Rolls of honor

The first honors of Abolitionism unquestionably belong to the organizers of the first societies formed for its promotion. The first of these in the order of time was the New England Anti-Slavery Society, which came into being on the first day of January, 1832. William Lloyd Garrison was chief promoter and master spirit. It consisted at the outset of twelve men, and that was not the only evidence of its apostolic mission. It was to be the forerunner in an ever-memorable revolution. The names of the twelve subscribers to its declaration of views and aims will always have a place in American history. They were William Lloyd Garrison, Oliver Johnson, William J. Snelling, John E. Fuller, Moses Thatcher, Stillman E. Newcomb, Arnold Buffum, John B. Hall, Joshua Coffin, Isaac Knapp, Henry K. Stockton, and Benjamin C. Bacon.

As a suggestion from, if not an offshoot of, the New England organization, came the National Anti-Slavery Society, which was organized in Philadelphia in 1834. It was intended that the meeting of its promoters should be held in New York, but so intense was the feeling against the Abolitionists in that city that no suitable room could there be [202] found, and the “conspirators,” as they were called by their enemies, were compelled to seek for accommodation and protection among the Philadelphia Quakers.

In that circumstance there was considerable significance. Two great declarations of independence have issued from Philadelphia. One was for political freedom; the other was for personal freedom. One was for the benefit of its authors as well as of others. The other one was wholly unselfish. Which had the loftier motive?

Ten States were represented in the Philadelphia meeting, which, considering the difficulties incident to travel at that time, was a very creditable showing. One man rode six hundred miles on horseback to attend it.

The following is the list of those in attendance, who became subscribers to the declaration that was promulgated:

The writer finds it quite impossible to carry out the idea with which this chapter was begun, which was to furnish a catalogue embracing all active Anti-Slavery workers who were Abolitionists. Space [204] does not permit. He will therefore condense by giving a portion of the list, the selections being dictated partly by claims of superior merit, and partly by accident.

As representative men and women of the East-chiefly of New England and New York-he gives the following:

David Lee Child, of Boston, for some time editor of the National Anti-Slavery Advocate. He was the husband of Lydia Maria Child, who wrote the first bound volume published in this country in condemnation of the enslavement of “those people called Africans” ; Samuel E. Sewell, another Bostonian and a lawyer who volunteered his services in cases of fugitive slaves; Ellis Gray Lowell, another Boston lawyer of eminence; Amos Augustus Phelps, a preacher and lecturer, for whose arrest the slaveholders of New Orleans offered a reward of ten thousand dollars; Parker Pillsbury, another preacher and lecturer, who at twenty years of age was the driver of an express wagon, and with no literary education, but who, in order that he might better plead the cause of the slave, went to school and became a noted orator; Theodore Weld, who married Angelina Grimke, the South Carolina Abolitionist, and who as an Anti-Slavery advocate was excelled, if he was excelled, only by Henry Ward Beecher and Wendell Phillips; Henry Brewster Stanton, a very vigorous Anti-Slavery editor and the husband of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the champion of women's rights; Theodore Parker, the great Boston divine; 0. B. Frothingham, another famous preacher; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the writer; Samuel [205] Johnson, C. L. Redmond, James Monroe, A. T. Foss, William Wells Brown, Henry C. Wright, G. D. Hudson, Sallie Holley, Anna E. Dickinson, Aaron M. Powell, George Brodburn, Lucy Stone, Edwin Thompson, Nathaniel W. Whitney, Sumner Lincoln, James Boyle, Giles B. Stebbins, Thomas T. Stone, George M. Putnam, Joseph A. Howland, Susan B. Anthony, Frances E. Watkins, Loring Moody, Adin Ballou, W. H. Fish, Daniel Foster, A. J. Conover, James N. Buffum, Charles C. Burleigh, William Goodell, Joshua Leavitt, Charles M. Denison, Isaac Hopper, Abraham L. Cox.

To the above should be added the names of Alvin Stewart of New York, who issued the call for the convention that projected the Liberty party, and of John Kendrick, who executed the first will including a bequest in aid of the Abolition cause.

And here must not be omitted the name of John P. Hale, of New Hampshire, who was a candidate for the Presidency on the Liberty party ticket, and also a conspicuous member of the U. S. Senate.

Going westward, we come to Ohio, which became, early in the movement, the dominating center of Abolitionist influence. Salmon P. Chase was there. James G. Birney, after being forced out of Kentucky, was there. Ex-United States Senator Thomas Morris, a candidate for the Vice-Presidency on the Liberty party ticket, was there. Leicester King and Samuel Lewis, Abolition candidates for the governorship of the State, were there. Joshua R. Giddings and United States Senator Ben. Wade were there. [206]

One great advantage the Ohio Abolitionists enjoyed was that they were harmonious and united. In the East that was not the case. There was a bitter feud between the Garrisonians, who relied on moral suasion, and the advocates of political action. All Ohio Abolitionists were ready and eager to employ the ballot.

There is another name, in speaking of Ohio, that must not be omitted. Dr. Townsend was the man who made Salmon P. Chase a United States Senator, and at a time when the Abolition voting strength in Ohio was a meager fraction in comparison with that of the old parties-numbering not over one in twenty. It happened to be a time when the old parties — the Whigs and the Democrats-had so nearly an equal representation in the State Legislature that Townsend, who was a State Senator, and two co-operating members, held a balance of power. Both parties were exceedingly anxious to control the Legislature, as that body, under the State constitution then in force, had the distribution of a great deal of patronage. The consideration for the deciding vote demanded by Townsend and his associates was the election of Chase to the Senate. They and the Democrats made the deal. Naturally enough, the Whigs expressed great indignation until it was shown that they had offered to enter into very much the same arrangement.

Some years before the events just spoken of, Townsend had been a medical student in Cincinnati. One day he stepped into the courthouse, where a fugitive-slave case was being tried. There he listened to an argument from Salmon P. Chase, the [207] negro's defender, that made an Abolitionist of him. The senatorial incident naturally followed.

There was another Ohioan — not an individual this time, but an institution — that will always hold a high place in the annals of Abolitionism. Oberlin College was a power in the land. It had a corps of very able professors who were, without exception, active Anti-Slavery workers. They regarded themselves as public instructors as well as private teachers. There was scarcely a township in Ohio that they did not visit, either personally or through their disciples. They were as ready to talk in country schoolhouses as in their own college halls. Of course, they were violently opposed. Mobs broke up their meetings very frequently, but that only made them more persistent. Their teachings were viciously misrepresented. They were accused of favoring the intermarriage of the races, and parents were warned, if they sent their children to Oberlin, to look out for colored sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. For such slanders, however, the men and women of Oberlin --for both sexes were admitted to faculty and classes --seemed to care no more than they did for proslavery mobs.

There is another name which, although it belongs exclusively neither to the East nor to the West, to the North nor to the South, should not be omitted from a record like this. Doctor Gamaliel Bailey resided in the District of Columbia, and issued the National Era from Washington city.

Although a journal of small folio measurement and issued but once a week, it was for a considerable time the most influential organ of the Abolitionists. [208] Its circulation was large and its management very able. Of course, it took no little courage and judgment to conduct such a publication in the very center of slaveholding influence, and more than once it barely escaped destruction by mobs.

If there was nothing else to his credit there was one thing accomplished by the Era's owner that entitles him to lasting remembrance. He was the introducer, if not the real producer, of Uncle Tom's Cabin. It first appeared in the Era in serial numbers. It is perfectly safe to say that no other newspaper in the country, of any standing, would have touched it. Without Dr. Bailey's encouragement the work would not have been written. This was admitted by Mrs. Stowe.

Up to this point the people whose names have been mentioned in these pages have, to a certain extent, been public characters and leaders. They were generals, and colonels, and captains, and orderly sergeants, in the army of emancipation. There were, also, privates in the ranks whose services richly deserve to be commemorated, showing, as they do, the character of the works they performed. The writer cannot resist the temptation to refer to two of them in particular, although, doubtless, there were many others of equal merit. A reason for the preference he shows in this case, that will not be misunderstood, is the fact that one of the men was his uncle and the other his father.

James Kedzie and John Hume were plain country farmers residing in southwestern Ohio, neither very rich nor very poor. They were natives of Scotland, and stating that fact is almost equivalent [209] to saying they were Abolitionists. None of the Scotch of the writer's personal knowledge, at the period referred to, were otherwise than strongly Anti-Slavery. There are said to be exceptions to all rules, and there was one in this instance. He was a kinsman of the author, and a “braw” young Scotchman who came over to this country with the expectation of picking up a fortune in short order. Finding the North too slow, he went South. There he met a lady who owned a valuable plantation well stocked with healthy negroes. He married the woman, and became something of a local nabob, with the reputation of great severity as a master. One day, with his own hand, he inflicted a cruel flogging on a slave who had the name of a “bad nigger.” That night, when the master was playing chess with a neighbor by candlelight on the ground floor of his dwelling, all the windows being open, the negro crept up with a loaded gun and shot him dead.

The sad affair was regretfully commented on by the dead man's relatives, who, I remember, referred to his untimely ending as “his judgment,” and as a punishment he had brought upon “himself.”

My uncle and father did not conceal their unpopular views. They openly voted the Abolition ticket. In eight years, beginning with their two ballots, they raised the third party vote in their immediate vicinity to eight, and they boasted of the progress they had made.

They did not make public addresses, but they faithfully listened to those made by others in support of the cause. They attended all Abolition meetings that were within reach. They took the [210] National Era. Not only that, but they got up clubs for it. The first club I recollect my father's securing consisted of half a dozen subscribers, for one half of which he paid. The next year's was double in size, and so was my father's contribution. There was no fund for the promotion of the Abolitionist cause, for which they were called upon, to which they did not cheerfully pay according to their means.

All Abolition lecturers and colporteurs were gratuitously entertained, although their presence was sometimes a cause of abuse, and even of danger. There were other travelers who sometimes applied for help. Their faces were of dusky hue, and their great whitish eyes were like those of hunted beasts of the forest. They went on their way strengthened and rejoicing-always in the direction of the North Star.

The men are dead, but Slavery is dead also, partly through their labors and sacrifices. Their unpretentious, patient, earnest lives were not in vain. They contributed to the final triumph of Freedom's holy cause.

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