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Chapter 13: the barometer continues to fall.

Having made trial of the strong arm of the mob as an instrument for putting down the Abolitionists, and been quite confounded by its unexpected energy and unmanageableness, Boston was well disposed to lay the weapon aside as much too dangerous for use. For the wild-cat-like creature might take it into its head, when once it had got a taste of blood, to suppress some other isms in the community besides Abolitionism. No, no, the gentlemen of property and standing in the community had too much at stake to expose their property and their persons to the perils of any further experiments in that direction, even for the sake of expressing their sympathy for their dear brethren in the South, or of saving the dear Union into the bargain. Another method more in accord with the genius of their high state of civilization, they opined, might be invented to put the agitation and the agitators of the slavery question down. The politicians thereupon proceeded to make this perfectly wonderful invention. Not the strong arm of the mob, quoth these wiseacres, but the strong arm of the law it shall be. And the strong arm of the law they forthwith determined to make it.

Massachusetts was hearkening with a sort of fascination to the song of the slave syren. And no wonder. [243] For the song of the slave syren was swelling and clashing the while with passionate and imperious energy. South Carolina had led off in this kind of music. In December following the Boston mob Governor McDuffie, pitched the key of the Southern concert in his message to the legislature descriptive of anti-slavery publications, and denunciatory of the anti-slavery agitation. The Abolitionists were, to his mind, “enemies of the human race,” and the movement for immediate emancipation ought to be made a felony punishable “by death without benefit of clergy.” He boldly denied that slavery was a political evil, and vaunted it instead as “the corner stone of our republican edifice.” The legislature upon the receipt of this extraordinary message proceeded to demand of the free States the suppression, by effective legislation, of anti-slavery societies and their incendiary publications. The burden of this demand was directly caught up by North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, and Georgia. But there were some things which even a pro-slavery North could not do to oblige the South. Neither party, much as both desired it, dared to undertake the violation by law of the great right of free speech and of the freedom of the press. Not so, however, was it with sundry party leaders, notably the governors of New York and Massachusetts, who were for trying the strong arm of the law as an instrument for suppressing Abolitionism. Edward Everett was so affected by the increasing Southern excitement and his fears for the safety of the dear Union that he must needs deliver himself in his annual message upon the Abolition agitation. He was of the opinion that the Abolitionists were guilty [244] of an offence against Massachusetts which might be “prosecuted as a misdemeanor at common law.” He evidently did not consider that in the then present state of political parties and of public opinion any repressive legislation upon the subject could be got through the legislature, and hence the immense utility of the old machinery of the common law, as an instrument for putting down the agitation. But in order to get this machinery into operation, careful preparation was necessary. Proof must not be wanting as to the dangerous and unpatriotic character and tendency of the movement to be repressed. There should be the most authoritative utterance upon this point to warrant the effective intervention of the Courts and Grand Juries of the commonwealth in the prosecution of the Abolitionists, as disturbers of the peace. Ergo the Governor's deliverance in his annual message against them. Now, if the legislature could be brought to deliver itself in tones not less certain, the third coordinate branch of the State government might catch its cue and act with energy in suppressing the disturbers of the peace of the commonwealth and of the dear Union as well. This was the scheme, the conspiracy which was in a state of incubation in Massachusetts in the year 1836. The pro-slavery portion of Governor Everett's message, together with the Southern demands for repressive legislation against the Abolitionists were referred to a joint legislative committee for consideration and report. The chairman of the committee was George Lunt, of Newburyport, a bitter pro-slavery politician, who saw no sign, received no light which did not come out of the South. [245]

The Abolitionists perceived the gravity of the new danger which threatened them, and rallied promptly to avert it. They shrewdly guessed that the object of the committee would not be the enactment of any new law against themselves but the adoption of condemnatory resolutions instead. This course they rightly dreaded more than the other, and to defeat it the managers of the Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society requested a public hearing of the committee, which was granted. On March 4th Garrison and many of the anti-slavery leaders appeared before the committee, with a carefully planned programme of procedure. To each of the selected speakers was assigned a distinct phase of the great subject of discussion before the committee. Samuel J. May was appointed to open with an exposition of the antislavery movement and of the object and motives of its founders; Garrison to follow with an exhibition of the pacific character of the agitation as contained in official publications whereby forgiveness, submission, and non-resistance were steadily inculcated; Ellis Gray Loring was next to demonstrate the perfectly constitutional character of the agitation. The Abolitionists had in no wise contravened the National or the State Constitution, either in letter or spirit, and so on through the programme. It was thus that the Abolitionists dexterously killed two birds with one stone; for, at the same time that they made their defence before the committeee, they managed to present their cause to the attention of the public as well. Appearing before the committee to prevent hostile action on the part of the legislature against their movement, they skillfully turned the occasion into [246] the most notable meeting for agitating the subject of slavery in the State during the year.

The pro-slavery malignity'of the chairman helped not a little to bring this result to pass. He again and again interrupted the speakers with the greatest insolence of behavior. Garrison, for a wonder, was allowed to finish his remarks without interruption. Here is a specimen of the way in which Paul addressed himself to King Agrippa's masterpublic opinion:


spoke he to the committee, “we loudly boast of our free country, and of the union of these States, yet I have no country! As a New Englander and as an Abolitionist I am excluded by a bloody proscription from one-half of the national territory, and so is every man who is known to regard slavery with abhorrence. Where is our Union? . . . The right of free and safe locomotion from one part of the land to the other is denied to us, except on peril of our lives. . . . Therefore it is, I assert, that the Union is now virtually dissolved. . . . Look at McDuffie's sanguinary message! Read Calhoun's Report to the U. S. Senate, authorizing every postmaster in the South to plunder the mail of such Northern letters or newspapers as he may choose to think incendiary! Sir, the alternative presented to the people of New England is this: they must either submit to be gagged and fettered by Southern taskmasters, or labor unceasingly for the removal of slavery from our country.”

This was a capital stroke, a bold and brilliant adaptation of the history of the times to the advancement of the anti-slavery movement in New England. [247] Missing Garrison, the anger of the chairman fell upon Goodell and Prof. Follen, like a tiger's whelp. Follen was remarking upon the Faneuil Hall meeting, how it had rendered the Abolitionists odious in Boston, and how, in consequence, the mob had followed the meeting.

“Now, gentlemen,” the great scholar continued, “may we most reasonably anticipate that similar consequences would follow the expression by the legislature of a similar condemnation? Would not the mob again undertake to execute the informal sentence of the General Court? Would it not let loose again its bloodhounds upon us?”

At this point Mr. Lunt peremptorily stopped the speaker, exclaiming:

Stop, sir! You may not pursue this course of remark. It is insulting to this committee and the legislature which they represent.

The Abolitionists, after this insult, determined to withdraw from the hearing, and appeal to the legislature to be heard, not as a favor but of right. A new hearing was, therefore, ordered, and the reformers appeared a second time before the committee. But the scenes of the first were repeated at the second hearing. The chairman was intolerably insolent to the speakers. His violent behavior to William Goodell, who was paying his respects to the Southern documents lying on the table of the committee, terminated the second hearing. These documents Mr. Goodell described as fetters for Northern freemen, and boldly interrogated the chairman in respect of them thus:

Mr. Chairman, are you prepared to attempt putting [248] them on?

But the chairman was in no mood to listen to the question. His insolence reached a climax as he exclaimed passionately to Mr. Goodell, “Stop, sir! Sit down, sir! The committee will hear no more of this.” But the temper of the Abolitionists had risen also, as had also risen the temper of the great audience of citizens who were present at the hearing which was had in the hall of the House of Representatives. “Freemen we came,” retorted Goodell, “and as freemen we shall go away.” Scarcely had these words died upon the ears when there rose sharply from the auditory, the stern protest “Let us go quickly, lest we be made slaves.”

The attempt to suppress the Abolitionists was a failure. It but stimulated the agitation and deepened the popular interest in the subject. Strong allies within and without the legislature were enlisted on the side of freedom. The turning of the tide of public sentiment in the grand old State had come. Slowly did it rise for awhile, but from that event it never ceased to flow in and with increasing volume. The condemnatory report of the insolent chairman proved as innocuous as the baying of dogs at the moon. The legislature refused to indorse it and the pro-slavery resolutions attached to it. They were both ignominiously laid upon the table, and what is more to the purpose as a straw to show the drift of popular opinion on the slavery question in Massachusetts, their author failed of a renomination as Senator at the hands of hit dissatisfied constituents.

The conflic was raging not alone in Massachusetts but all through the free States. In Congress the battle was assuming an intensely bitter character. [249] Here the South was the agitator. Here she kept the political waters in a state of violent ebullition. As the discord grew, sectionalism threw darkening and portentous shadows over the face of the Union. The South was insisting in all stages of passion that the tide of Abolition be checked in the North, that the flood of incendiary publications be suppressed at their sources in the free States. The Southern slaveholding President had suggested the suppression of these by Congress. He would “prohibit, under severe penalties, the circulation in the Southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection.” But when Webster and a few Northern leaders objected to such a proceeding as unconstitutional and in derogation of the freedom of the press, the South treated the objection as inimical to Southern interest and security. Thereupon the Southern excitement increased all the faster. The slave-power was not disposed to accept anything short of complete submission on the part of the North. And this the North could not well yield. While the slave-holding States were clamoring for the suppression of Abolitionism in the free States, Abolitionism was giving evidences of extraordinary expansion, and activity. It had risen well above the zero point in politics. It was gaining numbers and it was gaining votes. A new element had appeared at the polls and both of the old parties began to exhibit a certain degree of impressibility to the latest attraction. The slavepower with quick instinct recognized in the new comer a dangerous rival, and schemed for its destruction. Southern jealousy took on the character of [250] insanity. Neither Northern Whigs nor Northern Democrats were permitted to show any regard for the rival. They were to snub and utterly abolish her, otherwise they should be snubbed and utterly abolished by the slave-power. They could not with impunity give to Abolitionism the scantiest attention or courtesy. Not even a gallant like John Quincy Adams, who was able to see nothing attractive in the little band of reformers. They seemed to him, in fact, “a small, shallow, and enthusiastic party preaching the abolition of slavery upon the principles of extreme democracy.” If Mr. Adams had little love for the South, he had none whatever for the Abolitionists. By no stretch of the imagination could he have been suspected of any sentimental attachment to the Abolition movement. For his unvarying attitude towards it was one of grim contempt. But if the old Roman had no love for the Abolitionists, he did have a deep-seated attachment and reverence for certain ancient rights appertaining to free institutions, which nothing was able to shake. Among these was the great right of petition, viewed by the ex-President as a right of human nature. For a dozen years he stood in Congress its sleepless sentinel. And herein did he perform for freedom most valiant service. It made no difference to the dauntless old man whether he approved of the prayer of a petition or not, if it was sent to him he presented it to the House all the same. He presented petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and one, at least, against it, petitions from black and white, bond and free, with superb fidelity to the precious right which he championed. [251]

This characteristic of the aged statesman kept the Southern membersin a state of chronic apprehension and excitement. They bullied him, they raged like so many wild animals against him, they attempted to crush him with votes of censure and expulsion all to no purpose. Then they applied the gag: “That all petitions, memorials, and papers touching the abolition of slavery, or the buying, selling, or transferring slaves, in any State, or district, or territory of the United States, be laid on the table without being debated, printed, read, or referred, and that no action be taken thereon.” Mr. Adam's denunciation of this action as a violation of the Constitution, of the right of the people to petition, and of the right to freedom of speech in Congress, found wide echo through the North. The violence, intolerence. and tyranny of the South were disgusting many of the most intelligent and influential minds in the non-slave-holding States, and driving them into more or less close affiliation with the anti-slavery movement.

And so it was wherever one turned there were conflict and uproar. Everywhere contrary ideas, interests, institutions, tendencies, were colliding with inextinguishable rage. All the opposites and irreconcilables in a people's life had risen and clashed together in a death struggle for mastery. Freedom and slavery, civilization and barbarism had found an Armageddon in the moral consciousness of the Republic. Now the combatants rallied and the battle thickened at one point, now around another. At Washington the tide rolls in with resounding fury about the right of petition and the freedom of debate, then through the free States it surges and beats [252] around the right of free speech and the freedom of the press. Storm clouds are flying from the East and from the West, flying out of the North and out of the South. Everywhere the chaos of the winds has burst, and the anarchy of the “live thunder.”

Benton with his customary optimism from a Southern standpoint, rejoiced in the year 1836 that the people of the Northern States had “chased off the foreign emissaries, silenced the gabbling tongues of female dupes, and dispersed the assemblies, whether fanatical, visionary, or incendiary, of all that congregated to preach against evils that afflicted others, not them, and to propose remedies to aggravate the disease which they pretended to cure.” Calhoun's pessimism was clearer eyed. The great nullifier perceived at once the insuppressible nature of the Abolition movement and early predicted that the spirit then abroad in the North would not “die away of itself without a shock or convulsion.” Yes, it was as he had prophesied, the anti-slavery reform was, at the very moment of Benton's groundless jubilation, rising and spreading with astonishing progress through the free States. It was gaining footholds in the pulpit, the school, and the press. It was a stalwart sower, scattering broadcast as he walked over the fields of the then coming generation truths and antipathies of social principles, which were to make peace impossible between the slave-holding and the non-slave-holding halves of the Union.

In the year 1836 the anti-slavery leaven or residuum for instance, was sufficiently potent to preserve the statutes of the free States, free from repressive laws directed against the Abolitionists. This was much [253] but there was undoubtedly another phase of the agitation, a phase which struck the shallow eye of Benton, and led him into false conclusions. It was not clear sailing for the reform. It was truly a period of stress and storm. Sometimes the reform was in a trough of the sea of public opinion, sometimes on the crest of a billow, and then again on the bosom of a giant ground swell. In Boston in this selfsame year which witnessed Benton's exultation over the fall of Abolitionism, the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society was not able to obtain the use of hall or church for its annual meeting, and was in consequence forced into insufficient accommodations at its rooms on Washington street. The succeeding year the society was obliged, from inability to obtain the use of either hall or church in the city, to occupy for its annual meeting the loft over the stable connected with the Marlborough Hotel. It is a long way from this rude meeting-house to the hall of the House of Representatives, but in this storm and stress period the distance was traversed in a few brief hours. The society applied in its exigency for the use of the hall for an evening meeting, and the application was granted by the members. It was a jeu d'esprit of Henry B. Stanton, “That when Boston votes we go into a stable, but when the State votes we go into the State House.” It was even so, for the incident served to reveal what was true everywhere through the free States that the anti-slavery reform was making fastest progress among people away from the great centres of population. It found ready access to the simple American folk in villages, in the smaller towns, and in the rural districts of New England and the North. And [254] already from these independent and uncorrupted sons and daughters of freedom had started the deep ground swell which was to lift the level of Northern public opinion on the question of slavery.

This Walpurgis period of the movement culminated on November 7, 1837, in a terrible tragedy. The place was a little Illinois town, Alton, just over the Mississippi River from St. Louis, and the victim was Elijah P. Lovejoy. He was a minister of the Presbyterian Church, and the editor of a weekly religious newspaper, first published in St. Louis and removed by him later to Alton. His sin was that he did not hold his peace on the subject of slavery in the columns of his paper. He was warned “to pass over in silence everything connected” with that question. But he had no choice, he had to cry aloud against iniquities, which, as a Christian minister and a Christian editor, he dared not ignore. His troubles with the people of St. Louis took in the spring of 1836 a sanguinary turn, when he denounced the lynching of a negro by a St. Louis mob, perpetrated under circumstances of peculiar atrocity. In consequence of his outspoken condemnation of the horror, his office was broken into and destroyed by a mob. Lovejoy thereupon removed his paper to Alton, but the wild-cat-like spirit pursued him across the river and destroyed his press. He replaced his broken press with a new one, only to have his property a second time destroyed. He replaced the second with a third press, but a third time the mob destroyed his property. Then he bought a fourth press, and resolved to defend it with his life. Pierced by bullets he fell, resisting the attack of a mob bent on the destruction [255] of his rights. Lovejoy died a martyrto free speech and the freedom of the press.

The tidings of this tragedy stirred the free States to unwonted depths. The murder of an able and singularly noble man by a mob was indeed horrible enough, but the blow which took his life was aimed at the right of free speech and the freedom of the press. He was struck down in the exercise of his liberties as a citizen of the town where he met death, and of the State and country to which he belonged. What brave man and good in the North who might not meet a similar fate for daring to denounce evils approved by the community in which his lot was cast? Who was safe? Whose turn would it be next to pay with his life for attempts to vindicate the birthright of his citizenship? What had Lovejoy done, what had he written, that thousands of people who did not agree with Garrison would not have done and have written under like circumstances? He was not a disciple of Garrison, he did not accept the doctrine of immediate emancipation, and yet a proslavery mob had murdered him. Yes, who was safe? Who was to be the next? A great horror transfixed the North, and bitter uncertainty, and tremendous dread of approaching perils to its liberties.

Ah! had not Garrison spoken much plain truth at the public hearing of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society before the insolent chairman and his committee when he said: “The liberties of the people of the free States are identified with those of the slave population. If it were not so, there would be no hope, in my breast, of peaceful deliverance of the latter class [256] from their bondage. Our liberties are bound together by a ligament as vital as that which unites the Siamese twins. The blow which cuts them asunder, will inevitably destroy them both. Let the freedom of speech and of the press be abridged or destroyed, and the nation itself will be in bondage; let it remain untrammeled, and Southern slavery must speedily come to an end.” The tragedy at Alton afforded startling illustration of the soundness of this remark. Classes like individuals gain wisdom only by experience; and the murder of Lovejoy was one of those terrific experiences which furrow themselves in the soul of a people in frightful memories and apprehensions which do not disappear but remain after long lapse of years.

Twelve days after the murder — it was before the development of the telegraph and rapid postal facilities — the news reached Boston. It produced the most profound sensation. Many of the leading citizens felt straightway that if the rights assailed in the person of Lovejoy were to be preserved to themselves and their section, immediate action was required. A great meeting was proposed, and Faneuil Hall applied for. The application was denied by the municipal authorities on the plea that its use for such a purpose might provoke a mob. The city was, however, dealing now not with the despised Abolitionists, but with men of property and standing in the community and was soon brought to its senses by the indignant eloquence of Dr. Channing, appealing to the better self of Boston in this strain: “Has it come to this? Has Boston fallen so low? May not its citizens be trusted to come together to express the great [257] principles of liberty for which their forefathers died? Are our fellow-citizens to be murdered in the act of defending their property and of assuming the right of free discussion? And is it unsafe in this metropolis to express abhorrence of the deed?”

A second application for the hall was granted, and a meeting, which is an historical event in the annals of the old town, was held December 8, 1837-a meeting memorable as an uprising, not of the Abolitionists, but of the conservatism and respectability of the city in behalf of the outraged liberties of white men. Ever memorable,too, for that marvelous speech of Wendell Phillips, which placed him instantly in the front rank of minds with a genius for eloquence, lifted him at once as an anti-slavery instrument and leader close beside William Lloyd Garrison. The wild-cat-like spirit which had hunted Thompson out of the coun-Iry and Lovejoy to death, had more than made good the immense deficit of services thus created through the introduction upon the national stage of the reform of this consummate and incomparable orator.

The assassination of Lovejoy was an imposing object lesson to the North, but it was not the last. Other and terrible illustrations of the triumph of mobs followed it, notably the burning of Pennsylvania Hall in Philadelphia on the evening of May 17, 1838. As the murder of Lovejoy formed the culmination of outrages directed against the rights of person, the burning of Pennsylvania Hall furnished the climax of outrages committed against the rights of property. The friends of the slave and of free discussion in Philadelphia feeling the need of a place [258] where they might assemble for the exercise of the right of free speech in a city which denied to them the use of its halls and meeting-houses, determined to erect for themselves such a place. At a cost of forty thousand dollars they built Pennsylvania Hall and devoted it to “Free Discussion, Virtue, Liberty, and Independence.”

Two days after the dedicatory exercises were had the hall was occupied by the annual convention of American Anti-Slavery Women. On the evening of May 16th, Garrison, Maria Weston Chapman, Angelina Grimk6 Weld and others addressed the convention in the new temple of freedom. The scenes of that evening have been graphically described by the first speaker as follows:

The floor of the hall was densely crowded with women, some of the noblest specimens of our race, a large proportion of whom were Quakers. The side aisles and spacious galleries were as thickly filled with men. Nearly three thousand people were in the hall. There seemed to be no visible symptoms of a riot. When I rose to speak I was greeted with applause by the immense assembly, and also several times in the course of my remarks. As soon, however, as I had concluded my address, a furious mob broke into the hall, yelling and shouting as if the very fiends of the pit had suddenly broken loose. The audience rose in some confusion, and would undoubtedly have been broken up, had it not been for the admirable self-possession of some individuals, particularly the women. The mobocrats finding that they could not succeed in their purpose, retreated into the streets, and, surrounding the building, began to dash in the windows [259] with stones and brick-bats. It was under these appalling circumstances that Mrs. Chapman rose for the first time in her life, to address a promiscuous assembly of men and women-and she acquitted herself nobly. She spoke about ten minutes, and was succeeded by A. E. G. Weld, who occupied nearly an hour. As the tumult from without increased, and the brick-bats fell thick and fast (no one, however, being injured) her eloquence kindled, her eye flashed, and her cheeks glowed, as she devoutly thanked the Lord that the stupid repose of that city had at length been disturbed by the force of truth. When she sat down, Esther Moore (a Friend) made a few remarks, then Lucretia Mott, and finally Abby Kelley, a noble young woman from Lynn.

The meeting broke up about 10 o'clock, and we all got safely home. The next day the street was thronged with profane ruffians and curious spectators — the women, however, holding their meetings in the hall all day, till towards evening. It was given out by the mob that the hall would be burnt to the ground that night. We were to have a meeting in the evening, but it was impossible to execute our purpose. The mayor induced the manager to give the keys of the building into his hands. He then locked the doors, and made a brief speech to the mob, assuring them that he had the keys, and that there would be no meeting, and requesting them to retire. He then went home, but the mob were bent on the destruction of the hall. They had now increased to several thousands, and soon got into the hall by dashing open the doors with their axes. They then set fire to this huge building, and in the course of an [260] hour it was a solid mass of flame. The bells of the city were rung, and several engines rallied ; but no water was permitted to be thrown upon the building. The light of the fire must have been seen a great distance.

At midnight Garrison was spirited out of the city, and conveyed in a covered carriage by a friend to Bristol, about twenty miles, where in the morning he took the steamboat for Boston. The light of that fire was visible a great distance in more senses than one. The burning of Pennsylvania Hall proved a public enlightener. After that occurrence the gentlemen of property scattered through the free States devoted themselves less to the violent suppression of Abolitionism and more to the forcible suppression, upon occasion, of the alarming manifestations of popular lawlessness, which found significant demonstration just a week later in the city of Boston.

Mr. Garrison has preserved for us an instructive account of this affair, too, and here is the story as told by him to his brother-in-law, George W. Benson, in a letter dated May 25th: “The spirit of mobocracy, like the pestilence, is contagious; and Boston is once more ready to reenact the riotous scenes of 1835. The Marlboroa Chapel, having just been completed, and standing in relation to our cause just as did Pennsylvania Hall, is an object of pro-slavery malevolence. Ever since my return, threats have been given out that the chapel should share the fate of the hall. Last evening was the time for its dedication; and, so threatening was the aspect of things, four companies of light infantry were ordered to be in readiness, [261] each being provided with oo ball cartridges, to rush to the scene of riot on the tolling of the bells. The Lancers, a powerful body of horsemen, were also in readiness. During the day placards were posted at the corners of the streets, denouncing the Abolitionists, and calling upon the citizens to rally at the chapel in the evening, in order to put them down. An immense concourse of people assembled, a large proportion doubtless from motives of curiosity, and not a few of them with evil designs; but owing to the strong military preparations, the multitude refrained entirely from any overt acts of violence. They did not disperse till after io o'clock, and during the evening shouted and yelled like a troop of wild savages. Some ten or twelve were seized and carried to the watch-house, and this morning fined for their disorderly conduct.”

The frightful excesses of the Walpurgis period of the agitation reacted through the free States to an extraordinary extent in favor of Abolition. The greater the horror committed by the wild-cat-like spirit, the greater the help which the reform derived therefrom. The destruction of property, and the destruction of life instead of putting down the hated Abolitionists aroused in the public mind apprehensions and antagonisms in respect of mobs, which proved, immediately and ultimately, of immense advantage to freedom. This revulsion on the part of the North from lawless attemptsto abolish Abolitionism, affected almost unavoidably, and in the beginning of it almost unconsciously, the friendly dispositions of that section toward slavery, the root and mainspring of these attempts. Blows aimed at [262] the agent were sure, regardless of the actor's intention, to glance and strike the principal. In spite of mobs then, and to a remarkable degree because of mobs, Abolitionism had become a powerful motor in revolutionizing public opinion in the free States on the subject of slavery.

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