Chapter 2: the man hears a voice: Samuel, Samuel!
There is a moment in the life of every serious soul, when things, which were before unseen and unheard in the world around him become visible and audible.
This startling moment comes to some sooner, to others later, but to all, who are not totally given up to the service of self, at sometime surely.
From that moment a change passes over such an one, for more and more he hears mysterious voices, and clearer and more clear he sees apparitional forms floating up from the depths above which he kneels.
Whence come they, what mean they?
He leans over the abyss, and lo!
the sounds to which he hearkens are the voices of human weeping and the forms at which he gazes are the apparitions of human woe; they beckon to him, and the voices beseech him in multitudinous accent and heart-break : “Come over, come down, oh!
friend and brother, and help us.”
Then he straightway puts away the things and the thoughts of the past and girding himself with the things, and the thoughts of the divine ought
and the almighty must
, he goes over and down to the rescue.
Such an epochal first moment came to William Lloyd Garrison
in the streets of Boston
Amid the hard struggle for bread he heard the abysmal voices, saw the gaunt forms of misery.
He was a constant
witness of the ravages of the demon of drink-saw how strong men succumbed, and weak ones turned to brutes in its clutch.
And were they not his brothers, the strong men and the weak ones alike?
And how could he, their keeper, see them desperately beset and not fly to their help?
Ah! he could not and did not walk by on the other side, but, stripling though he was, rushed to do battle with the giant vice, which was slaying the souls and the bodies of his fellow citizens.
Rum during the three first decades of the present century was, like death, no respecter of persons, entering with equal freedom the homes of the rich, and the hovels of the poor.
It was in universal demand by all classes and conditions of men. No occasion was esteemed too sacred for its presence and use. It was an honored guest at a wedding, a christening, or a funeral.
The minister whose hands were laid in baptismal blessing on babes, or raised in the holy sacrament of love over brides, lifted also the glass; and the selfsame lips which had spoken the last words over the dead, drank and made merry presently afterward among the decanters on the sideboard.
It mattered not for what the building was intended-whether for church, school, or parsonage, rum was the grand master of ceremonies, the indispensable celebrant at the various stages of its completion.
The party who dug the parson out after a snow-storm, verily got their reward, a sort of prelibation of the visionary sweets of that land, flowing not, according to the Jewish notion, with milk and honey
, but according to the revised version of Yankeedom, with milk and rum
. Rum was, forsooth, a very decent devil, if judged by the exalted character
of the company it kept.
It stood high on the rungs of the social ladder and pulled and pushed men from it by thousands to wretchedness and ruin.
So flagrant and universal was the drinking customs of Boston
then that dealers offered on the commons during holidays, without let or hindrance, the drunkard's glass to the crowds thronging by extemporized booths and bars.
Shocking as was the excesses of this period “nothing comparatively was heard on the subject of intemperance — it was seldom a theme for the essayist — the newspapers scarcely acknowledged its existence, excepting occasionally in connection with some catastrophes or crimes — the Christian
and patriot, while they perceived its ravages, formed no plans for its overthrow-and it did not occur to any that a paper devoted mainly to its suppression, might be made a direct and successful engine in the great work of reform.
expostulations and individual confessions were indeed sometimes made; but no systematic efforts were adopted to give precision to the views or a bias to the sentiments of the people.”
Such was the state of public morals and the state of public sentiment up to the year 1826, when there occurred a change.
This change was brought about chiefly through the instrumentality of a Baptist city missionary, the Rev. William Collier
His labors among the poor of Boston
had doubtless revealed to him the bestial character of intemperance, and the necessity of doing something to check and put an end to the havoc it was working.
With this design he established the National Philanthropist
, March 4, 1826.
The editor was one of Garrison
's earliest acquaintances in the
went after awhile to board with him, and still later entered the office of the Philanthropist
as a type-setter.
The printer of the paper, Nathaniel H. White
and young Garrison
, occupied the same room at Mr. Collier
's. And so almost before our hero was aware, he had launched his bark upon the sea of the temperance reform.
Presently, when the founder of the paper retired, it seemed the most natural thing in the world, that the young journey, man printer, with his editorial experience and ability, should succeed him as editor.
His room-mate, White
, bought the Philanthropist
, and in April 1828, formally installed Garrison
into its editorship.
Into this new work he carried all his moral earnestness and enthusiasm of purpose.
The paper grew under his hand in size, typographical appearance, and in editorial force and capacity.
It was a wide-awake sentinel on the wall of society; and week after week its columns bristled and flashed with apposite facts, telling arguments, shrewd suggestions, cogent appeals to the community to destroy the accursed thing.
No better education could he have had as the preparation for his life work.
He began to understand then the strength of deep-seated public evils, to acquaint himself with the methods and instruments with which to attack them.
was a sort of forerunner, so far as the training in intelligent and effective agitation was concerned, of the Genius of Universal Emancipation
and of the Liberator
. One cannot read his sketch of the progress made by the temperance reform, from which I have already quoted, and published by him in the Philanthropist
in April, 1828, without being
struck by the strong similitude of the temperance to the anti-slavery movement in their beginnings.
“When this paper was first proposed,” the young temperance editor records, “it met with a repulsion which would have utterly discouraged a less zealous and persevering man than our predecessor.
The moralist looked on doubtfully — the whole community esteemed the enterprise desperate.
Mountains of prejudice, overtopping the Alps
, were to be beaten down to a level-strong interest, connected by a thousand links, severed-new habits formed; Every house, and almost every individual, in a greater or less degree, reclaimed.
Derision and contumely were busy in crushing this sublime project in its birth-coldness and apathy encompassed it on every side-but our predecessor, nevertheless, went boldly forward with a giant's strength and more than a giant's heart-conscious of difficulties and perils, though not disheartened, armed with the weapons of truth-full of meekness, yet certain of a splendid victory-and relying on the promises of God for the issue.”
What an inestimable object-lesson to Garrison
was the example of this good man going forth singlehanded to do battle with one of the greatest evils of the age!
It was not numerical strength, but the faith of one earnest soul that is able in the world of ideas and human passions to remove mountains out of the way of the onward march of mankind.
This truth, we may be sure, sunk many fathoms deep into the mind of the young moralist.
And no wonder.
For the results of two years agitation and seed sowing were of the most astonishing character.
“The change which has taken place in
public sentiment,” he continues, “is indeed remarkable . . . incorporated as intemperance was
, and still is
, into our very existence as a people . . A regenerating spirit is everywhere seen; a strong impulse to action has been given, which, beginning in the breasts of a few individuals, and then affecting villages, and cities, and finally whole States, has rolled onward triumphantly through the remotest sections of the republic.
As union and example are the levers adopted to remove this gigantic vice, temperance societies have been rapidly multiplied, many on the principle of entire abstinence, and others making it a duty to abstain from encouraging the distillation and consumption of spirituous liquors.
Expressions of the deep abhorrence and sympathy which are felt in regard to the awful prevalence of drunkenness are constantly emanating from legislative bodies down to various religious conventions, medical associations, grand juries, etc., etc. But nothing has more clearly evinced the strength of this excitement than the general interest taken in this subject by the conductors of the press.
to the Mississippi
, and as far as printing has penetrated-even among the Cherokee
Indians-but one sentiment seems to pervade the public papers, viz., the .necessity of strenuous exertion for the suppression of intemperance.”
Such a demonstration of the tremendous power of a single righteous soul for good, we may be sure, exerted upon Garrison
What a revelation it was also of the transcendent part which the press was capable of playing in the revolution of popular sentiment upon moral questions;
and of the supreme service of organization as a factor in reformatory movements.
The seeds sowed were faith in the convictions of one man against the opinions, the prejudices, and the practices of the multitude; and knowledge of and skill in the use of the instruments by which the individual conscience may be made to correct and renovate the moral sense of a nation.
But there was another seed corn dropped at this time in his mind, and that is the immense utility of woman in the work of regenerating society.
She it is who feels even more than man the effects of social vices and sins, and to her the moral reformer should strenuously appeal for aid. And this, with the instinct of genius, Garrison
did in the temperance reform, nearly seventy years ago. His editorials in the Philanthropist
in the year 1828 on “Female influence” may be said to be the courier avant of
the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of to-day, as they were certainly the precursors of the female anti-slavery societies of a few years later.
But now, without his knowing it, a stranger from a distant city entered Boston
with a message, which was to change the whole purpose of the young editor's life.
It was Benjamin Lundy
, the indefatigable friend of the Southern
slave, the man who carried within his breast the whole menagerie of Southern slavery.
He was fresh from the city which held the dust of Fanny Garrison
, who had once written to her boy in Newburyport
, how the good God had cared for her in the person of a colored woman.
Yes, she had written: “The ladies are all kind to me, and I have a colored woman that waits on me, that is so kind no one can tell how kind
she is; and although a slave to man, yet a free-born soul, by the grace of God.
Her name is Henny
, and should I never see you again, and you should come where she is, remember her, for your poor mother's sake.”
And now, without his dreaming of it, this devoted Samaritan in black, who, perhaps, had long ago joined her dear friend in the grave, was coming to that very boy, now grown to manhood, to claim for her race what the mother had asked for her, the kind slave-woman.
Not one of all those little ones of the nation but who had a home in the manymansioned heart of Lundy
He had been an eye and ear witness of the barbarism of slavery.
“My heart,” he sobbed, “was deeply grieved at the gross abomination; I heard the wail of the captive; I felt his pang of distress, and the iron entered my soul.”
With apostolic faith and zeal he had for a decade been striving to free the captive, and to tie up his bruised spirit.
Sadly, but with a great love, he had gone about the country on his self-imposed task.
To do this work he had given up the business of a saddler, in which he had prospered, had sacrificed his possessions, and renounced the ease that comes with wealth; had courted unheard — of hardships, and wedded himself for better and worse to poverty and unremitting endeavor.
Nothing did he esteem too dear to relinquish for the slave.
Neither wife nor children did he withhold.
Neither the summer's heat nor the winter's cold was able to daunt him or turn him from his object.
Though diminutive and delicate of body, no distance or difficulty of travel was ever able to deter him from doing what his humanity had bidden him do. From place to place,
through nineteen States, he had traveled, sowing as he went the seeds of his holy purpose, and watering them with his life's blood.
on the dark continent exceeded in sheer physical exertion and endurance the labors of this wonderful man. He belongs in the category of great explorers, only the irresistible passion and purpose, which pushed him forward, had humanity, not geography, as their goal.
Where, in the lives of either Stanley
do we find a record of more astonishing activity and achievement than what is contained in these sentences, written by Garrison
, in the winter of 1828? “Within a few months he has traveled about twenty-four hundred miles, of which upwards of nineteen hundred were performed on foot
! during which time he has held nearly fifty public meetings.
Rivers and mountains vanish in his path; midnight finds him wending his solitary way over an unfrequented road; the sun is anticipated in his rising.
Never was moral sublimity of character better illustrated.”
Such was the marvelous man, whose visit to Boston
, in the month of March, of the year 1828, dates the beginning of a new epoch in the history of America
The event of that year was not the “Bill of abominations,” great as was the national excitement which it produced; nor was it yet the then impending political struggle between Jackson
, but the unnoticed meeting of Lundy
Great historic movements are born not in the whirlwinds, the earthquakes, and the pomps of human splendor and power, but in the agonies and enthusiasms of grand, heroic spirits.
Up to this time Garrison
had had, as
the religious revivalist would say, no “realizing sense” of the enormity of slave-holding.
Occasionally an utterance had dropped from his pen which indicated that his heart was right on the subject, but which evinced no more than the ordinary opposition to its existence, nor any profound convictions as to his own or the nation's duty in regard to its extinction.
His first reference to the question appeared in connection with a notice made by him in the Free Press
of a spirited poem, entitled “Africa
,” in which the authoress sings of:
The wild and mingling groans of writhing millions, Calling for vengeance on my guilty land.
He commended the verses “to all those who wish to cherish female genius, and whose best feelings are enlisted in the cause of the poor oppressed sons of Africa
He was evidently impressed, but the impression belonged to the ordinary, transitory sort.
His next recorded utterance on the subject was also in the Free Press
. It was made in relation with some just and admirable strictures on the regulation Fourth of July oration, with its “ceaseless apostrophes to liberty, and fierce denunciations of tyranny.”
Such a tone was false and mischievous — the occasion was for other and graver matter.
“There is one theme,” he declares, “which should be dwelt upon, till our whole country is free from the curse — it is slavery.”
The emphasis and energy of the rebuke and exhortation lifts this second allusion to slavery, quite outside of merely ordinary occurrences.
It was not an ordinary personal occurrence for it served to reveal in its lightning-like flash the glow and glare of a conscience taking fire.
The fire slumbered until a few weeks
, when there were again the glow and glare of a moral sense in the first stages of ignition on the enormity of slave institutions.
The act of South Carolina
in making it illegal to teach a colored person to read and write struck this spark from his pen: “There is something unspeakably pitiable and alarming,” he writes in the Philanthropist
, “in the state of that society where it is deemed necessary, for self-preservation, to seal up the mind and debase the intellect of man to brutal incapacity .... Truly the alternatives of oppression are terrible.
But this state of things cannot always last, nor ignorance alone shield us from destruction.”
His interest in the question was clearly growing.
But it was still in the gristle of sentiment waiting to be transmuted into the bone and muscle of a definite and determined purpose, when first he met Lundy
This meeting of the two men, was to Garrison
what the fourth call of God was to Samuel, the Hebrew lad,who afterward became a prophet.
As the three previous calls of God and the conversations with Eli had prepared the Jewish boy to receive and understand the next summons of Jehovah, so had Garrison
's former experience and education made him ready for the divine message when uttered in his ears by Lundy
All the sense of truth and the passion for righteousness of the young man replied to the voice, “Here am I.
” The hardening process of growth became immediately manifest in him. Whereas before there was sentimental opposition to slavery, there began then an opposition, active and practical.
convened many of the ministers of the city to expose to them the barbarism of slavery, Garrison
sat in the room, and as
himself records, “expressed his approbation of my doctrines.”
The young reformer must needs stand up and make public profession of his new faith and of his agreement with the anti-slavery principles of the older.
But it was altogether different with the assembled ministers.
, as was his wont on such occasions, desired and urged the formation of an anti-slavery society, but these sons of Eli of that generation were not willing to offend their slave-holding brethren in the South
Eyes they had, but they refused to see; ears, which they stopped to the cry of the slave breaking in anguish and appeal from the lips of this modern man of God.
, eleven years later, after the lips, which were eloquent then with their great sorrow, were speechless in the grave, told the story of that ministers' meeting.
And here is the story:
He (Lundy) might as well have urged the stones in the streets to cry out in behalf of the perishing captives.
Oh, the moral cowardice, the chilling apathy, the criminal unbelief, the cruel skepticism, that were revealed on that memorable occasion!
My soul was on fire then, as it is now, in view of such a development.
Every soul in the room was heartily opposed to slavery, but, it would terribly alarm and enrage the South to know that an anti-slavery society existed in Boston.
But it would do harm rather than good openly to agitate the subject.
But perhaps a select committee might be formed, to be called by some name that would neither give offence, nor excite suspicion as to its real design!
One or two only were for bold and decisive action; but as they had neither station nor influence, and did not rank among the
wise and prudent, their opinion did not weigh very heavily, and the project was finally abandoned.
that meeting was a damper to his feelings.
There is no doubt that Garrison
was one of the very few present, who “were for bold and decisive action” against the iniquity.
The grief and disappointment of his brave friend touched his heart with a brother's affection and pity.
The worldly wisdom and lukewarmness of the clergy kindled a righteous indignation within his freedom-loving soul.
This was his first bitter lesson from the clergy.
There were, alas, many and bitterer experiences to follow, but of them he little recked at the time.
As this nineteenthcentury prophet mused upon the horrible thing the fires of a life purpose burned within him. And oftener thenceforth we catch glimpses of the glow and glare of a soul bursting into flame.
The editorials in the Philanthropist
, which swiftly followed Lundy
's visit, began to throw off more heat as the revolving wheels of an electrical machine throw off sparks.
The evil that there was in the world, under which, wherever he turned, he saw his brother man staggering and bleeding, was no longer what it had been, a vague and shadowy apparition, but rather a terrible and tremendous reality against which he must go forth to fight the fight of a lifetime.
And so he girded him with his life purpose and flung his moral earnestness against the triple-headed curse of intemperance, slavery, and war. A mighty human love had begun to flow inward and over him. And as the tide steadily rose it swallowed and drowned all the egoism of self and race in the altruism of an all-embracing humanity.
When an apprentice in the office of the Newburyport
, and writing on the subject of South American affairs he grew hot over the wrongs suffered by American vessels at Valparaiso
He was for finishing “with cannon what cannot be done in a conciliatory and equitable manner, where justice demands such proceedings.”
This was at seventeen when he was a boy with the thoughts of a boy. Six years later he is a man who has looked upon the sorrows of men. His old boy-world is far behind him, and the ever-present sufferings of his kind are in front of him. War now is no longer glorious, for it adds immeasurably to the sum of human misery.
War ought to be abolished with intemperance and slavery.
And this duty he began to utter in the ears of his country.
“The brightest traits in the American
character will derive their luster, not from the laurels picked from the field of blood, not from the magnitude of our navy and the success of our arms,” he proclaimed, “but from our exertions to banish war from the earth, to stay the ravages of intemperance among all that is beautiful and fair, to unfetter those who have been enthralled by chains, which we have forged, and to spread the light of knowledge and religious liberty, wherever darkness and superstition reign. . . . The struggle is full of sublimity, the conquest embraces the world.”
himself did not fully appreciate the immense gain, which his cause had made in the conversion of Garrison
into an active friend of the slave.
Not at once certainly.
Later he knew.
The discovery of a kindred spirit in Boston
exerted probably no little influence in turning for the second time his indefatigable feet toward that city.
He made it a second visit in July, 1828, where again
he met Garrison
His experience with the ministers did not deter him from repeating the horrible tale wherever he could get together an audience.
This time he secured his first public hearing in Boston
It was in the Federal Street
He spoke not only on the subject of slavery itself, the growth of anti-slavery societies, but on a new phase of the general subject, viz., the futility of the Colonization Society as an abolition instrument.
was present, and treasured up in his heart the words of his friend.
He did not forget how Lundy
had pressed upon his hearers the importance of petitioning Congress for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, as we shall see further on. But poor Lundy
was unfortunate with the ministers.
He got this time not the cold shoulder alone but a clerical slap in the face as well.
He had just sat down when the pastor of the church, Rev. Howard Malcolm
, uprose in wrath and inveighed against any intermeddling of the North
with slavery, and brought the meeting with a high hand to a close.
This incident was the first collision with the church of the forlorn hope of the Abolition movement.
Trained as Garrison
was in the orthodox creed and sound in that creed almost to bigotry, this behavior of a standard-bearer of the church, together with the apathy displayed by the clergy on a former occasion, caused probably the first “little rift within the lute” of his creed, “that by and by will make the music mute, and, ever widening, slowly silence all.”
For in religion as in love, “Unfaith in aught is want of faith in all.”
The Rev. Howard Malcolm
's arbitrary proceeding had prevented the organization of an anti-slavery committee.
But this was affected at a second meeting of the friends of the slave.
was one of the twenty gentlemen who were appointed such a committee.
His zeal and energy far exceeded the zeal and energy of the remaining nineteen.
He did not need the earnest exhortation of Lundy
to impress upon his memory the importance of “activity and steady perseverance.”
He perceived almost at once that everything depended on them.
And so he had formed plans for a vigorous campaign against the existence of slavery in the District of Columbia.
But before he was ready to set out along the line of work, which he had laid down for Massachusetts
, the scene of his labors shifted to Bennington, Vermont
Before he left Boston
had recognized him as “a valuable coadjutor.”
The relationship between the two men was becoming beautifully close.
The more Lundy
saw of Garrison
, the more he must have seemed to him a man after his own heart.
And so no wonder that he was solicitous of fastening him to his cause with hooks of steel.
The older had written the younger reformer a letter almost paternal in tonehe must do thus and thus, he must not be disappointed if he finds the heavy end of the burthen borne by himself, while those associated with him do little to keep the wheels moving, he must remember that “a few will have the labor to perform and the honor to share.”
Then there creeps into his words a grain of doubt, a vague fear lest his young ally should take his hands from the plough and go the way of all men, and here are the words which Paul
might have written to Timothy : “I hope you will persevere in your work, steadily, but not make too large calculations
on what may be accomplished in a particularly stated time.
You have now girded on a holy warfare.
Lay not down your weapons until honorable terms are obtained.
The God of hosts is on your side
. Steadiness and faithfulness will most assuredly overcome every obstacle.”
The older apostle had yet to learn that the younger always did what he undertook in the field of morals and philanthropy.
But the scene had shifted from Boston
, and with the young reformer goes also his plan of campaign for anti-slavery work.
The committee of twenty, now nineteen since his departure, slumbered and slept in the land of benevolent intentions, a practical illustration of Lundy
's pungent saying, that “philanthropists are the slowest creatures breathing.
They think forty times before they act.”
The committee never acted, but its one member in Vermont
did act, and that promptly and powerfully as shall shortly appear.
had gone to Bennington
to edit the Journal of the Times
in the interest of the reflection of John Quincy Adams
to the Presidency.
For this object he was engaged as editor of the paper.
What he was engaged to do he performed faithfully and ably, but along with his fulfillment of his contract with the friends of Mr. Adams
, he carried the one which he had made with humanity likewise.
In his salutatory he outlined his intentions in this regard thus: “We have three objects in view, which we shall pursue through life, whether in this place or elsewhere-namely, the suppression of intemperance and its associate vices, the gradual emancipation of every slave in the republic, and the perpetuity of national peace.
In discussing these topics
what is wanting in vigor shall be made up in zeal.”
From the issue of that first number if the friends of Adams
had no cause to complain of the character of his zeal and vigor in their service, neither had the friends of humanity.
What he had proposed doing in Massachusetts
as a member of the anti-slavery committee of twenty, he performed with remarkable energy and success in Vermont
It was to obtain signatures not by the hundred to a petition for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, but by the thousands, and that from all parts of the State
He sent copies of the petition to every postmaster in Vermont
with the request that he obtain signatures in his neighborhood.
Through his exertions a public meeting of citizens of Bennington
was held and indorsed the petition.
The plan for polling the antislavery sentiment of the State
The result was a monster petition with 2,352 names appended.
This he forwarded to the seat of Government.
It was a powerful prayer, but as to its effect, Garrison
had no delusions.
He possessed even then singularly clear ideas as to how the South
would receive such petitions, and of the course which it would pursue to discourage their presentation.
He was no less clear as to how the friends of freedom ought to carry themselves under the circumstances.
In the Journal of the Times
of November, 1828, he thus expressed himself: “It requires no spirit of prophecy to predict that it (the petition) will create great opposition.
An attempt will be made to frighten Northern “dough-faces” as in case of the Missouri
There will be an abundance of furious declamation, menace, and taunt.
Are we, therefore, to approach
the subject timidly — with half a heart — as if we were treading on forbidden ground?
No, indeed, but earnestly, fearlessly, as becomes men, who are determined to clear their country and themselves from the guilt of oppressing God's free and lawful creatures.”
About the same time he began to make his assaults on the personal representatives of the slave-power in Congress, cauterizing in the first instance three Northern “dough-faces,” who had voted against some resolutions, looking to the abolition of the slave-trade and slavery itself in the District of Columbia.
So while the South
thus early was seeking to frighten the North
from the agitation of the slavery question in Congress, Garrison
was unconsciously preparing a countercheck by making it dangerous for a Northern man to practice Southern principles in the National Legislature.
He did not mince his words, but called a spade a spade, and sin, sin. He perceived at once that if he would kill the sin of slaveholding, he could not spare the sinner.
And so he spoke the names of the deliquents from the housetop of the Journal of the Times
, stamping upon their brows the scarlet letter of their crime against liberty.
He had said in the October before: “It is time that a voice of remonstrance went forth from the North
, that should peal in the ears of every slaveholder like a roar of thunder. . . . For ourselves, we are resolved to agitate this subject to the utmost; nothing but death shall prevent us from denouncing a crime which has no parallel in human depravity; we shall take high ground.
The alarm must be perpertual
A voice of remonstrance, with thunder growl accompaniment, was rising higher and clearer from the pen of the
His tone of earnestness was deepening to the stern bass of the moral reformer, and the storm breath of enthusiasm was blowing to a blaze the glowing coals of his humanity.
The wail of the fleeing fugitive from the house of bondage sounded no longer far away and unreal in his ears, but thrilled now right under the windows of his soul.
The masonic excitement and the commotion created by the abduction of Morgan
he caught up and shook before the eyes of his countrymen as an object lesson of the million-times greater wrong daily done the slaves.
“All this fearful commotion,” he pealed, “has arisen from the abduction of one man
. More than two millions of unhappy beings are groaning out their lives in bondage, and scarcely a pulse quickens, or a heart leaps, or a tongue pleads in their behalf.
'Tis a trifling affair, which concerns nobody.
Oh! for the spirit that rages, to break every fetter of oppression!”
Such a spirit was fast taking possession of the writer.
Of this Lundy
was well informed.
He had not lost sight of his young coadjutor, but had watched his course with great hope and growing confidence.
In him he found what he had discovered in no one else, anti-slavery activity and perseverence.
He had often found men who protested loudly their benevolence for the negro, but who made not the slightest exertion afterward to carry out their good wishes.
“They will pen a paragraph, perhaps an article, or so-and then — the subject is exhausted
It was not so with his young friend, the Bennington
He saw that “argument and useful exertion on the subiect of African
emancipation can never be exhausted
until the system of slavery itself be totally annihilated.”
He was faithful among the faithless found by Lundy
To reassure his doubting leader, Garrison
took upon himself publicly a vow of perpetual consecration to the slave.
“Before God and our country,” he declares, “we give our pledge that the liberation of the enslaved Africans
shall always be uppermost in our pursuits.
The people of New England
are interested in this matter, and they must be aroused from their lethargy as by a trumpet-call.
They shall not quietly slumber while we have the management of a press, or strength to hold a pen.”
The question of slavery had at length obtained the ascendency over all other questions in his regard.
And when Lundy
perceived this he set out from Baltimore
to invite Garrison
to join hands with him in his emancipation movement at Baltimore
He performed the long journey on foot, with staff in hand in true apostolic fashion.
The two men of God met among the mountains of Vermont
, and when the elder returned from the heights the younger had resolved to follow him to the vales where men needed his help, the utmost which he could give them.
He agreed to join his friend in Baltimore
and there edit with him his little paper with the grand name (The Genius of Universal Emancipation
), devoted to preaching the gospel of the gradual abolishment of American slavery.
was to take the position of managing editor, and Lundy
to look after the subscription list.
The younger to be resident, the elder itinerant partner in the publication of the paper.
closed his relations with the Journal of the Times
, March 27, 1829, and delivered his valedictory
to its readers.
This valedictory strikes with stern hammer-stroke the subject of his thoughts.
“Hereafter,” it reads, “the editorial charge of this paper will devolve on another person.
I am invited to occupy a broader field, and to engage in a higher enterprise; that field embraces the whole countrythat enterprise is in behalf of the slave population.”
“To my apprehension, the subject of slavery involves interests of greater moment to our welfare as a republic, and demands a more prudent and minute investigation than any other which has come before the American
people since the Revolutionary struggle --than all others which now occupy their attention.
No body of men on the face of the earth deserve their charities, and prayers, and united assistance so much as the slaves of this country; and yet they are almost entirely neglected.
It is true many a cheek burns with shame in view of our national inconsistency, and many a heart bleeds for the miserable African
It is true examples of disinterested benevolence and individual sacrifices are numerous, particularly in the Southern States
; but no systematic, vigorous, and successful measures have been made to overthrow this fabric of oppression.
I trust in God that I may be the humble instrument of breaking at least one chain, and restoring one captive to liberty; it will amply repay a life of severe toil.”
The causes of temperance and peace came in also for an earnest parting word, but they had clearly declined to a place of secondary importance in the writer's regard.
To be more exact, they had not really declined, but the slavery question had risen in his mind above both.
They were great questions, but it was the
questionhad become his
, after his visit to Garrison
, started on a trip to Hayti with twelve emancipated slaves, whom he had undertaken to colonize there.
awaited in Boston
the return of his partner to Baltimore
The former, meanwhile, was out of employment, and sorely in need of money.
Never had he been favored with a surplusage of the root of all evil.
He was deficient in the moneygetting and money-saving instinct.
Such was plainly not his vocation, and so it happened that wherever he turned, he and poverty walked arm in arm, and the interrogatory, “wherewithal shall I be fed and clothed on the morrow?”
was never satisfactorily answered until the morrow arrived.
This led him at times into no little embarrassment and difficulty.
But since he was always willing to work at the case, and to send his “pride on a pilgrimage to Mecca
,” the embarrassment was not protracted, nor did the difficulty prove insuperable.
The Congregational societies of Boston
invited him in June to deliver before them a Fourth of July address in the interest of the Colonization Society.
The exercises took place in Park Street Church. Ten days before this event he was called upon to pay a bill of four dollars for failure to appear at the May muster.
Refusing to do so, he was thereupon summoned to come into the Police Court on the glorious Fourth to show cause why he ought not to pay the amercement.
He was in a quandary.
He did not owe the money, but as he could not be in two places at the same time, and, inasmuch as he wanted very
much to deliver his address before the Congregational Societies
, and did not at all long to make the acquaintance of his honor, the Police Court Judge
, he determined to pay the fine.
But, alack and alas!
he had “not a farthing” with which to discharge him from his embarrassment.
Fortunately, if he wanted money he did not want friends.
And one of these, Jacob Horton
, of Newburyport
, who had married his “old friend and playmate, Harriet Farnham
,” came to his rescue with the requisite amount.
On the day and place appointed Garrison
appeared before the Congregational Societies
with an address, to the like of which, it is safe to say, they had never before listened.
It was the Fourth of July, but the orator was in no holiday humor.
There was not, in a single sentence of the oration the slightest endeavor to be playful with his audience.
It was rather an eruption of human suffering, and of the humanity of one man to man. What the Boston
clergy saw that afternoon, in the pulpit of Park Street Church, was the vision of a soul on fire.
burned and blazed as the sun that July afternoon burned and blazed in the city's streets.
None without escaped the scorching rays of the latter, none within was able to shun the fervid heat of the former.
Those of my readers who have watched the effects of the summer's sun on a track of sandy land and have noted how, about midday, the heat seems to rise in sparkling particles and exhalations out of the hot, surcharged surface, can form some notion of the moral fervor and passion of this Fourth of July address, delivered more than sixty years ago, in Boston
Through all the pores of it, over all the length and
breadth of it, there went up bright, burning particles from the sunlit sympathy and humanity of the young reformer.
In beginning, he animadverted, among other things, on the spread of intemperance, of political corruption, on the profligacy of the press, and, amid them all, the self-complacency and boastfulness of the national spirit, as if it bore a charmed life.
“ But,” he continued,
there is another evil which, if we had to contend against nothing else, should make us quake for the issue.
It is a gangrene preying upon our vitals — an earthquake rumbling under our feet — a mine accumulating material for a national catastrophe.
It should make this a day of fasting and prayer, not of boisterous merriment and idle pageantry — a day of great lamentation, not of congratulatory joy. It should spike every cannon, and haul down every banner.
Our garb should be sackcloth-our heads bowed in the dust-our supplications for the pardon and assistance of Heaven.
Sirs, I am not come to tell you that slavery is a curse, debasing in its effects, cruel in its operations, fatal in its continuance.
The day and the occasion require no such revelation.
I do not claim the discovery as my own, that “all men are born equal,” and that among their inalienable rights are “ life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Were I addressing any other than a free and Christian assembly, the enforcement of this truth might be pertinent.
Neither do I intend to analyze the horrors of slavery for your inspection, nor to freeze your blood with authentic recitals of savage cruelty.
Nor will time allow me to explore even a furlong of that immense wilderness of
suffering which remains unsubdued in our land.
I take it for granted that the existence of these evils is acknowledged, if not rightly understood.
My object is to define and enforce our duty, as Christians and philanthropists.
This was, by way of exordium, the powerful skirmish line of the address.
Assuming the existence of the evil, he advanced boldly to his theme, viz., the duty of abolishing it. To this end he laid down four propositions, as a skillful general plants his cannon on the heights overlooking and commanding his enemies' works.
The first, broadly stated, asserted the kinship of the slave to the free population of the republic.
They were men; they were natives of the country; they were in dire need.
They were ignorant, degraded, morally and socially.
They were the heathen at home, whose claims far outranked those in foreign lands; they were higher than those of the “Turks or Chinese
, for they have the privileges of instruction; higher than the Pagans, for they are not dwellers in a Gospel land; higher than our red men of the forest, for we do not bind them with gyves, nor treat them as chattels.”
Then he turned hotly upon the Church
What has Christianity done by direct effort for our slave population?
She has explored the isles of the ocean for objects of commiseration; but, amazing stupidity!
she can gaze without emotion on a multitude of miserable beings at home, large enough to constitute a nation of freemen, whom tyranny has heathenized by law. In her public services they are seldom remembered, and in her private donations they are forgotten.
end of the country to the other her charitable societies form golden links of benevolence, and scatter their contributions like rain drops over a parched heath; but they bring no sustenance to the perishing slave.
The blood of souls is upon her garments, yet she heeds not the stain.
The clanking of the prisoner's chains strike upon her ear, but they cannot penetrate her heart.
Then, with holy wrath upon the nation, thus:
Every Fourth of July our Declaration of Independence is produced, with a sublime indignation, to set forth the tyranny of the mother country, and to challenge the admiration of the world.
But what a pitiful detail of grievances does this document present, in comparison with the wrongs which our slaves endure?
In the one case it is hardly the plucking of a hair from the head ; in the other, it is the crushing of a live body on the wheel — the stings of the wasp contrasted with the tortures of the Inquisition.
Before God I must say that such a glaring contradiction as exists between our creed and practice the annals of six thousand years cannot parallel.
In view of it I am ashamed of my country.
I am sick of our unmeaning declamation in praise of liberty and equality; of our hypocritical cant about the inalienable rights of man. I would not for my right hand stand up before a European assembly, and exult that I am an American citizen, and denounce the usurpations of a kingly government as wicked and unjust; or, should I make the attempt, the recollection of my country's barbarity and despotism would blister my lips, and cover my cheeks with burning blushes of shame.
Passing to his second proposition, which affirmed the right of the free States to be in at the death of slavery, he pointed out that slavery was not sectional but national in its influence.
If the consequences of slave-holding did not flow beyond the limits of the slave section, the right would still exist, on the principle that what affected injuriously one part must ultimately hurt the whole body politic.
But it was not true that slavery concerned only the States where it existed — the parts where it did not exist were involved by their constitutional liability to be called on for aid in case of a slave insurrection, as they were in the slave representation clause of the national compact, through which the North
was deprived of its “just influence in the councils of the nation.”
And, furthermore, the right of the free States to agitate the question inhered in the principle of majority rule --the white population of the free States being almost double that of the slave States, “and the voice of this overwhelming majority should be potential.”
He repelled in strong language the wrongfulness of allowing the South
to multiply the votes of those freemen by the master's right to count three for every five slaves, “because it is absurd and anti-republican to suffer property to be represented as men, and vice versa
, because it gives the South
an unjust ascendancy over other portions of territory, and a power which may be perverted on every occasion.”
He looked without shrinking upon the possibility of disunion even then.
“ Now I say that, on the broad system of equal rights,” he declared, “this inequality should no longer be tolerated.
If it cannot be speedily put
down — not by force but by fair persuasion — if we are always to remain shackled by unjust constitutional provisions, when the emergency that imposed them has long since passed away; if we must share in the guilt and danger of destroying the bodies and souls of men as the price of our Union;
if the slave States will haughtily spurn our assistance, and refuse to consult the general welfare, then the fault is not ours if a separation eventually takes place.”
Considering that he was in his twenty-fourth year, and that the Abolition movement had then no actual existence, the orator evinced surprising prescience in his forecast of the future, and of the strife and hostility which the agitation was destined to engender.
“But the plea is prevalent,” he said,
that any interference by the free States, however benevolent or cautious it might be, would only irritate and inflame the jealousies of the South, and retard the cause of emancipation.
If any man believes that slavery can be abolished without a struggle with the worst passions of human nature, quietly, harmoniously, he cherishes a delusion.
It can never be done, unless the age of miracles returns.
No; we must expect a collision, full of sharp asperities and bitterness.
We shall have to contend with the insolence, and pride, and selfishness of many a heartless being.
Sirs, the prejudices of the North are stronger than those of the South; they bristle like so many bayonets around the slaves; they forge and rivet the chains of the nation.
Conquer them and the victory is won. The enemies of emancipation take courage from our criminal timidity. . . . We are . . . afraid of our own shadows, who have been driven
back to the wall again and again; who stand trembling under their whips; who turn pale, retreat, and surrender at a talismanic threat to dissolve the Union. . . .
But the difficulties did not daunt him, nor the dangers cow him. He did not doubt, but was assured, that truth was mighty and would prevail.
Moral influence when in vigorous exercise, “he said,” is irresistible.
It has an immortal essence.
It can no more be trod out of existence by the iron foot of time, or by the ponderous march of iniquity, than matter can be annihilated.
It may disappear for a time; but it lives in some shape or other, in some place or other, and will rise with renovated strength.
Let us then be up and doing.
In the simple and stirring language of the stout-hearted Lundy, all the friends of the cause must go to work, keep to work, hold on, and never give up.
The closing paragraph is this powerful peroration:
I will say, finally, that I despair of the republic while slavery exists therein.
If I look up to God for success, no smile of mercy or forgiveness dispels the gloom of futurity; if to our own resources, they are daily diminishing; if to all history our destruction is not only possible but almost certain.
Why should we slumber at this momentous crisis?
If our hearts were dead to every thought of humanity; if it were lawful to oppress, where power is ample; still, if we had any regard for our safety and happiness, we should strive to crush the vampire which is feeding upon our life-blood.
All the selfishness of our nature cries aloud for a better security.
Our own vices are too strong for us, and keep us in perpetual alarm; how, in addition to these, shall we be able to contend
successfully with millions of armed and desperate men, as we must, eventually, if slavery do not cease?
Exit the apprentice, enter the master.
The period of preparation is ended, the time of action begun.
The address was the fiery cry of the young prophet ere he plunged into the unsubdued wilderness of American slavery.