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Chapter 15: Random Shots.

The division of the anti-slavery organization into two distinct societies did not immediately terminate the war between them. From New York and the American society the contest over the woman's qnestion was almost directly shifted after the triumph of the Garrisonians in the convention, to London and the World's Convention, which was held in the month of June of the year 1840. To this antislavery congress both of the rival anti-slavery organizations in America elected delegates. These delegates, chosen by the older society and by its auxiliaries of the States of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, were composed of women and men. Lucretia Mott was not only chosen by the National Society, but by the Pennsylvania Society as well. The Massachusetts Society selected Lydia Maria Child, Maria Weston Chapman, and Ann Green Phillips together with their husbands among its list of delegates. England at this time was much more conservative on the woman's question than America. The managers of the World's Convention did not take kindly to the notion of women members, and signified to the American societies who had placed women among their delegates that the company of the women was not expected. Those societies, however, made no alteration [293] in deference to this notice, in the character of their delegations, but stood stoutly by their principle of “the equal brotherhood of the entire human Fami-Ly without distinction of color, sex, or clime.”

A contest over the admission of women to membership in the World's Convention was therefore a foregone conclusion. The convention, notwithstanding a brilliant fight under the lead of Wendell Phillips in behalf of their admission, refused to admit the women delegates. The women delegates instead of having seats on the floor were forced in consequence of this decision to look on from the galleries. Garrison, who with Charles Lenox Remond, Nathaniel P. Rogers, and William Adams, was late in arriving in England, finding, on reaching London the women excluded from the convention and sitting as spectators in the galleries, determined to take his place among them, deeming that the act of the convention which discredited the credentials of Lucretia Mott and her sister delegates, had discredited his own also. Remond, Rogers, and Adams followed his example and took their places with the rejected women delegates likewise. The convention was scandalized at such proceedings, and did its best to draw Garrison and his associates from the ladies in the galleries to the men on the floor, but without avail. There they remained an eloquent protest against the masculine narrowness of the convention. Defeated in New York, the delegates of the new American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society triumphed over their victors in London. But their achievements in the World's Convention, in this regard, was not of a sort to entitle them to point with any special pride in after years; and, as [294] a matter of fact, not one of them would have probably cared to have their success alluded to in any sketch of their lives for the perusal of posterity.

Garrison and his associates were the recipients of the most cordial and flattering attention from the English Abolitionists. He was quite lionized, in fact, at breakfasts, fetes, and soirees. The Duchess of Sunderland paid him marked attention and desired his portrait, which was done for Her Grace by the celebrated artist, Benjamin Robert Haydon, who executed besides a large painting of the convention, in which he grouped the most distinguished members with reference to the seats actually occupied by them during its sessions. Of course to leave Garrison out of such a picture would almost seem like the play of “Hamlet” with Hamlet omitted, a blunder which the artist was by no means disposed to make. Garrison was accordingly invited to sit to him for his portrait. Haydon, who it seems was a student of human nature as well as of the human form, made the discovery of a fact which at first surprised and angered him. In making his groupings of heads he decided to place together the Rev. John Scoble, George Thompson and Charles Lenox Remond. When Scoble sat to him, Haydon told him of his design in this regard. But, remarked Haydon, Scoble “sophisticated immediately on the propriety of placing the negro in the distance, as it would have much greater effect.” The painter now applied his test to Thompson who “saw no objection.” Thompson did not bear the test to Haydon's satisfaction, who observed that “A man who wishes to place the negro on a level must no longer regard him as having been a slave, and feel [295] annoyed at sitting by his side.” But when the artist approached Garrison on the subject it was wholly different. “I asked him,” Haydon records with obvious pleasure, “and he met me at once directly.”

Thompson was not altogether satisfactory to Garrison either during this visit as the following extract from one of his letters to his wife evinces: “Dear Thompson has not been strengthened to do battle for us, as I had confidently hoped he would be. He is placed in a difficult position, and seems disposed to take the ground of non-committal, publicly, respecting the controversy which is going on in the United States.”

Garrison, Rogers, and Remond in the company of Thompson made a delightful trip into Scotland at this time. Everywhere the American Abolitionists were met with distinguished attentions. “Though I like England much, on many accounts,” Garrison writes home in high spirits, “I can truly say that I like Scotland better.” An instance, which may be coupled with that one furnished by Haydon, occurred during this Scottish tour, and illustrates strongly the kind of stuff of which he was made. On his way to the great public reception tendered the American delegates by the Glasgow Emancipation Society, a placard with the caption, “Have we no white slaves?” was put into his hands. Upon acquainting himself with its contents he determined to read it to the meeting, and to make it the text of remarks when he was called upon to address the meeting. He was presently announced and the immense audience greeted him with every manifestation of pleasure and enthusiasm, with loud cheering and waving of handkerchiefs. [296] Nevertheless he held to his purpose to speak upon the subject of the placard, unwelcome though it should prove to his hearers. “After reading the interrogation, I said in reply: ‘No-broad as is the empire, and extensive as are the possessions of Great Britain, not a single white slave can be found in them all ;’ and I then went on to show the wide difference that exists between the condition of human beings who are held and treated as chattels personal, and that of those who are only suffering from certain forms of political injustice or governmental oppression . . . . ‘But,’ I said, ‘ although it is not true that England has any white slaves, either at home or abroad, is it not true that there are thousands of her population, both at home and abroad, who are deprived of their just rights, who are grievously oppressed, who are dying even in the midst of abundance, of actual starvation? Yes! ’ and I expressly called upon British Abolitionists to prove themselves the true friends of suffering humanity abroad, by showing that they were the best friend of suffering humanity at home.” Truth, justice, duty, always overrode with him the proprieties, however sacredly esteemed by others. Of a piece with this fact of the placard of the white slave was his custom in refusing the wine proffered by some of his British friends to their guests. He was not content with a simple refusal and the implied rebuke which it involved, he must needs couple his declaration with an express rebuke to host and hostess for tempting men into the downward way to drunkenness.

While in attendance upon the sessions of the World's Convention Garrison received tidings, of the [297] birth of his third child. The second, whom he named for himself, was born in 1838. The third, who was also a son, the fond father named after Wendell Phillips. Three children and a wife did not tend to a solution of the always difficult problem of family maintenance. The pressure of their needs upon the husband sometimes, simple as indeed they were owing to the good sense and prudence of Mrs. Garrison, seemed to exceed the weight of the atmospheric column to the square inch. The fight for bread was one of the bitterest battles of the reformer's life. The arrangement made in 1837, whereby the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society assumed the responsibility of the publication of the Liberator, Garrison rescinded at the beginning of 1838, for the sake of giving himself greater freedom in the advocacy in its columns of the several other reforms in which he had enlisted, besides Abolitionism. But Garrison and the paper were now widely recognized as anti-slavery essentials and indispensables. Many of the leaders of the movement perceived, as Gerrit Smith expressed it in a letter enclosing fifty dollars for the editor, that “Among the many things in which the Abolitionists of our country should be agreed, are the two following: (I) The Liberator must be sustained; (2) its editor must be kept above want; not only, nor mainly, for his own or his family's happiness; but that, having his own mind unembarrassed by the cares of griping poverty, he may be a more effective advocate of the cause of the Saviour's enslaved poor.” A new arrangement, in accordance with this suggestion for the support of the paper and the preservation of the editor from want, was made in 1839, and its performance taken [298] in charge by a committee of gentlemen, who undertook to raise the necessary funds for those objects. Thus it was that Garrison, through the wise and generous provision of friends, was enabled to augment the happiness of an increasing family, and at the same time add to his own effectiveness as an anti-slavery instrument.

Garrison found occasion soon after his return from the World's Convention for the employment of all his added effectiveness for continuing the moral movement against slavery. For what with the strife and schism in the anti-slavery ranks, followed by the excitements of the long Presidential canvass of 1840, wherein the great body of the Abolitionists developed an uncontrollable impulse to political action, some through the medium of the new Liberty party which had nominated James G. Birney for the Presidency, while others reverted to the two old parties with which they had formerly acted-what with all these causes the pure moral movement started by Garrison was in grave danger of getting abolished or at least of being reduced to a nullity in its influence upon public opinion. John A. Collins, the able and resourceful general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, wrote in the deepest anxiety to Garrison from New Bedford, September i, 1840, on this head. Says he: “I really wish you understood perfectly the exact position the friends of the old organization hold to the two great political parties, and how generally they have been caught up in the whirlwind of political enthusiasm. Could you but go where I have been, and have seen and heard what I have seen and heard; could you see men-aye, and [299] women, too — who have been and still are your warmest advocates, who have eschewed sectarianism, and lost their caste in the circle in which they moved, for their strong adherence to your views and measures, declare that they would sooner forego their Abolitionism than their party. . . . Now, these are not the views of here and there a straggling Abolitionist, but of seven-tenths of all the voting Abolitionists of the State .... They are entirely unconscious of the demoralizing influence of their course. They need light, warning, entreaty, and rebuke.” Besides this demoralization of the Abolitionists, as described by Collins, the parent society at New York fell into bad financial straits. It was absolutely without funds, and without any means of supplying the lack. What should it do in its extremity but appeal to the Massachusetts Society which was already heavily burdened by its own load, the Liberator. The new organ of the national organization, The Anti-Slavery Standard, surely must not be allowed to fail for want of funds in this emergency. The Boston management rose to the occasion. Collins was sent to England in quest of contributions from the Abolitionists of Great Britain. But, great as was the need of money, the relief which it might afford would only prove temporory unless there could be effected a thorough antislavery revival. This was vital. And therefore to this end Garrison now bent his remarkable energies.

Agents, during this period when money was scarce, were necessarily few. But the pioneer proved a host in himself. Resigning the editorial charge of the Liberator into the capable hands of Edmund Quincy, [300] Garrison itinerated in the r61e of an anti-slavery lecturer in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, reviving everywhere the languishing interest of his disciples. On the return of Collins in the summer of 1841, revival meetings and conventions started up with increased activity, the fruits of which were of a most cheering character. At Nantucket, Garrison made a big catch in his anti-slavery net. It was Frederick Douglass, young, callow, and awkward, but with his splendid and inimitable gifts flashing through all as he, for the first time in his life, addressed an audience of white people. Garrison, with the instinct of leadership, saw at once the value of the runaway slave's oratorical possibilities in their relations to the anti-slavery movement. It was at his instance that Collins added Douglass to the band of anti-slavery agents. The new agent has preserved his recollections of the pioneer's speech on that eventful evening in Nantucket. Says he: “Mr. Garrison followed me, taking me as his text; and now, whether I had made an eloquent plea in behalf of freedom or not, his was one never to be forgotten. Those who had heard him oftenest, and had known him longest, were astonished at his masterly effort. For the time he possessed that almost fabulous inspiration, often referred to but seldom attained, in which a public meeting is transformed, as it were, into a single individuality, the orator swaying a thousand heads and hearts at once, and by the simple majesty of his all-controlling thought, converting his hearers into the express image of his own soul. That night there were, at least, a thousand Garrisonians in Nantucket!” [301]

Here is another picture of Garrison in the lecturefield. It is from the pen of N. P. Rogers, with whom he was making a week's tour among the White Mountains, interspersing the same with anti-slavery meetings. At Plymouth, failing to procure the use of a church for their purpose, they fell back upon the temple not made with hands.

“ Semi-circular seats, backed against a line of magnificent trees to accommodate, we should judge, from two to three hundred,” Rogers narrates, “were filled, principally with women, and the men who could not find seats stood on the green sward on either hand; and, at length, when wearied with standing, seated themselves on the ground. Garrison, mounted on a rude platform in front, lifted up his voice and spoke to them in prophet tones and surpassing eloquence, from half-past 3 till I saw the rays of the setting sun playing through the trees on his head .. They (the auditory) heeded it not any more than he, but remained till he ended, apparently indisposed to move, though some came from six, eight, and even twelve miles distance.” So bravely prospered the revival agitation, under the vigorous preaching of the indomitable pioneer.

In the midst of the growing activities of the revival season of the anti-slavery movement, Garrison had some personal experiences of a distressing nature. One of these was the case of his quondam friend and partner in the publication of the Liberator, Isaac Knapp. He, poor fellow, was no longer the publisher of the paper. His wretched business management of his department tended to keep the Liberator in a state of chronic financial embarrassment. When the committee, [302] who assumed charge of the finances of the paper, took hold of the problem. they determined to let Knapp go. He was paid $150 or $175 as a quid pro quofor his interest in the Liberator. Unfortunate in the business of a publisher, he was yet more unfortunate in another respect. He had become a victim of intemperance. His inebriety increased upon him, accelerated, no doubt, by his business failure. Notwithstanding Garrison's strong and tender friendship for Knapp, the broken man came to regard him as an enemy, and showed in many ways his jealousy and hatred of his old friend and partner. Very painful was this experience to the pioneer.

An experience which touched Garrison more nearly arose out of the sad case of his brother James, who, the reader will recall, ran away from his mother in Baltimore and went to sea. He ultimately enlisted in the United States Navy, and what with the brutalities which he suffered at the hands of his superiors, by way of discipline, and with those of his own uncontrolled passions and appetites, he was, when recovered by his brother William, a total moral and physical wreck. But the prodigal was gathered to the reformer's heart, and taken to his home where in memory of a mother long dead, whose darling was James, he was nursed and watched over with deep and pious love. There were sad lapses of the profligate man even in the sanctuary of his brother's home. The craving for liquor was omnipotent in the wretched creature, and he was attacked by uncontrollable desire for drink. But William's patience was infinite, and his yearning and pity at such times were as sweet and strong as a mother's. Death rung the curtain down [303] in the fall of 1842, on this miserable life with its sorry and pathetic scenes.

About this time a trial of a different sort fell to the lot of Garrison to endure. The tongue of detraction was never more busy with his alleged infidel doctrines or to more damaging effect. Collins, in England, seeking to obtain contributions for the support of the agitation in America found Garrison's infidelity the great lion in the way of success. Even the good dispositions of the venerable Clarkson were affected by the injurious reports in this regard, circulated in England mainly by Nathaniel Colver, a narrow and violent sectary of the Baptist denomination of the United States. It was, of course, painful to Garrison to feel that he had become a rock of offence in the path of the great movement, which he had started and to which he was devoting himself so energetically. To Elizabeth Pease, one of the noblest of the English Abolitionists, and one of his stanchest transatlantic friends, he defended himself against the false and cruel statements touching his religious beliefs. “I esteem the holy Scriptures,” he wrote her, “above all other books in the universe, and always appeal to ‘ the law and the testimony’ to prove all my peculiar doctrines.” His religious sentiments and Sabbatical views are almost if not quite identical with those held by the Quakers. “I believe in an indwelling Christ,” he goes on to furnish a summary of his confession of faith, “and in His righteousness alone; I glory in nothing here below, save in Christ and in Him crucified; I believe all the works of the devil are to be destroyed, and Our Lord is to reign from sea to sea, even to the ends of the earth; and I profess to [304] have passed from death unto life, and know by happy experience, that there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” These were the pioneer's articles of faith. Their extreme simplicity and theological conservatism it would seem ought to have satisfied the evangelicals of all denominations. They were in essentials thoroughly orthodox. But in the composition of the shibboleths of beliefs non-essentials as well as essentials enter, the former to the latter in the proportion of two to one. It is not surprising, therefore, that Garrison's essentials proved unequal to the test set up by sectarianism, inasmuch as his spiritual life dropped the aspirate of the non-essentials of religious forms and observances.

But the good man had his compensation as well as his trials. Such of a very noble kind was the great Irish address brought over from Ireland by Remond in December 1841. It was signed by Daniel O'Connell, Father Mathew, and sixty thousand Roman Catholics of Ireland, who called upon the Irish Roman Catholics of America to make the cause of the slaves of the United States their cause. Large expectations of Irish assistance in the anti-slavery agitation were excited in the bosoms of Abolitionists by this imposing appeal. Garrison shared the high hopes of its beneficent influence upon the Ireland of America, with many others. Alas! for the “best laid schemes of mice and men,” for the new Ireland was not populated with saints, but a fiercely human race who had come to their new home to better their own condition, not that of the negro. Hardly had they touched these shores before they were Americanized [305] in the colorphobia sense, out-Heroded Herod in hatred of the colored people and their anti-slavery friends. Indeed, it was quite one thing to preach Abolitionism with three thousand miles of sea-wall between one and his audience, and quite another to rise and do the preaching with no sea-wall to guard the preacher from the popular consequences of his preaching, as Father Mathew quickly perceived and reduced to practice eight years later, when he made his memorable visit to this country. In vain was the monster document unrolled in Faneuil Hall, and many Abolitionists with Irish blood were put forward to sweep the chords of Erin's heart, and to conjure by their eloquence the disciples of St. Patrick to rally under the banner of freedom. There was no response, except the response of bitter foes. Erin's harp vibrated to no breeze which did not come out of the South. The slave-power had been erected into patron saint by the new Ireland in America, and the new Ireland in America was very well content with his saintship's patronage and service. Thus it happened that the great expectations, which were excited by the Irish address, were never realized. But the pioneer had other fish in his net, had, in fact, meanwhile, got himself in readiness for a launch into a new and startling agitation. As to just what this new and startling agitation was we must refer the reader to the next chapter.

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