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Chapter 4: Pennsylvania Hall.—the non-resistance society.—1838.

Garrison will no longer accept the aid of the Massachusetts Society, and give color to the charge that the Liberator is its organ. But this does not pacify the enemies of the paper. He takes part in the proceedings at the dedication of Pennsylvania Hall, Philadelphia, and is obliged to flee the city when the building is burnt by a mob. At the New England Convention in Boston, his views as to the equality of the sexes in abolition membership prevail, leading to a clerical protest and secession. He also secures the admission of women on equal terms at a Peace Convention called in Boston, and draws up a Constitution and Declaration of Sentiments for a Non-resistance Society thereupon formed.

Shall we say that with his eighth volume the editor of the Liberator turned over a new leaf? Cutting loose from his embarrassing connection with the treasury of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, he resumed the right to conduct his paper without regard to official or private susceptibilities—himself alone the judge of what it was proper to say, or to let others say, in its columns; of what proportion of its space and his attention should be given to abolition, or to the other reforms which he had, and had long had, at heart. This was,1 in fact, rather a return than a new departure, though he had never renounced his editorial independence. Still, the occasion called for a new manifesto, which, in the form of a prospectus, was published with the signatures of the old partners, Garrison and Knapp, in the Liberator of December 15, 1837. Despite its length, the greater part of this important document must be given here. Thus it began:

The termination of the present year will complete the2 seventh volume of the Liberator: we have served, therefore, a regular apprenticeship in the cause of Liberty, and are now prepared to advocate it upon a more extended scale.

In commencing this publication, we had but a single object in view—the total abolition of American slavery, and, as a just consequence, the complete enfranchisement of our colored countrymen. As the first step towards this sublime result, we found the overthrow of the American Colonization Society to be indispensable,—containing, as it did, in its organization, all the elements of prejudice, caste, and slavery. [200]

In entering upon our eighth volume, the abolition of slavery will still be the grand object of our labors, though not, perhaps, so exclusively as heretofore. There are other topics which, in our opinion, are intimately connected with the great doctrine of inalienable human rights; and which, while they conflict with no religious sect, or political party, as such, are pregnant with momentous consequences to the freedom, equality, and happiness of mankind. These we shall discuss as time and opportunity may permit.

The motto upon our banner has been, from the commencement of our moral warfare, “our country is the World— our countrymen are all mankind.” We trust that it will be our only epitaph. Another motto we have chosen is, Uni-Versal emancipation. Up to this time we have limited its application to those who are held in this country, by Southern taskmasters, as marketable commodities, goods and chattels, and implements of husbandry. Henceforth we shall use it in its widest latitude: the emancipation of our whole race from the dominion of man, from the thraldom of self, from the government of brute force, from the bondage of sin—and bringing them under the dominion of God, the control of an inward spirit, the government of the law of love, and into the obedience and liberty of Christ, who is “the same, yesterday, to-day, and forever.”

It has never been our design, in conducting the Liberator, to require of the friends of emancipation any political or sectarian shibboleth; though, in consequence of the general corruption of all political parties and religious sects, and of the obstacles which they have thrown into the path of emancipation, we have been necessitated to reprove them all. Nor have we any intention,—at least, not while ours professes to be an anti-slavery publication, distinctively and eminently,—to assail or give the preference to any sect or party. We are bound by no denominational trammels; we are not political partisans; we have taken upon our lips no human creed; we are guided by no human authority; we cannot consent to wear the livery of any fallible body. The abolition of American slavery we hold to be common ground, upon which men of all creeds, complexions and parties, if they have true humanity in their hearts, may meet on amicable and equal terms to effect a common object. But whoever marches on to that ground, loving his creed, or sect, or party, or any worldly interest, or personal reputation or property, or friends, or wife, or children, or life [201] Lord and of his Christ; consequently, that they are all to be supplanted, whether they are called despotic, monarchical, or republican, and he only who is King of kings, and Lord of lords, is to rule in righteousness. The kingdom of God is to be established in all the earth, and it shall never be destroyed, but it shall “break in pieces and Consume all others:” its elements are righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost: without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolators, and whatsoever loveth and maketh a lie. Its government is one of love, not of military coercion or physical restraint: its laws are not written upon parchment, but upon the hearts of its subjects— they are not conceived in the wisdom of man, but framed by the Spirit of God: its weapons are not carnal, but spiritual. Its soldiers are clad in the whole armor of God, having their loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; their feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; with the shield of faith they are able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked, and they wear the helmet of salvation, and wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Hence, when smitten on the one cheek, they turn the other also; being defamed, they entreat; being reviled, they bless; being persecuted, they suffer it; they take joyfully the spoiling of their goods; they rejoice, inasmuch as they are partakers of Christ's sufferings; they are sheep in the midst of wolves; in no extremity whatever, even if their enemies are determined to nail them to the cross with Jesus, and if they, like him, could summon legions of angels to their rescue, will they resort to the law of violence.

As to the governments of this world, whatever their titles or forms, we shall endeavor to prove that, in their essential elements, and as at present administered, they are all Anti-Christ; that they can never, by human wisdom, be brought into conformity to the will of God; that they cannot be maintained except by naval and military power; that all their penal enactments, being a dead letter without an army to carry them into effect, are virtually written in human blood; and that the followers of Jesus should instinctively shun their stations of honor, power, and emolument—at the same time “submitting to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake,” and offering no physical resistance to any of their mandates, however unjust or tyrannical. The language of Jesus is, “My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight.” [202] itself, more than the cause of bleeding humanity,—or expecting to promote his political designs, or to enforce his sectarian dogmas, or to drive others from the ranks on account of their modes of faith,—will assuredly prove himself to be unworthy of his abolition profession, and his real character will be made manifest to all, for severe and unerring tests will be applied frequently: it will not be possible for him to make those sacrifices, or to endure those trials, which unbending integrity to the cause will require. For ourselves, we care not who is found upon this broad platform of our common nature: if he will join hands with us, in good faith, to undo the heavy burdens and break the yokes of our enslaved countrymen, we shall not stop to inquire whether he is a Trinitarian or Unitarian, Baptist or Methodist, Catholic or Covenanter, Presbyterian or Quaker, Swedenborgian or Perfectionist. However widely we may differ in our views on other subjects, we shall not refuse to labor with him against slavery, in the same phalanx, if he refuse not to labor with us. Certainly no man can truly affirm that we have sought to bring any other religious or political tests into this philanthropic enterprise than these:— “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” — “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” — “Remember those in bonds as bound with them.” . . .

Next to the overthrow of slavery, the cause of Peace will command our attention. The doctrine of non-resistance as commonly received and practised by Friends, and certain members of other religious denominations, we conceive to be utterly indefensible in its application to national wars:—not that it “goes too far,” but that it does not go far enough. If a nation may not redress its wrongs by physical force—if it may not repel or punish a foreign enemy who comes to plunder, enslave or murder its inhabitants—then it may not resort to arms to quell an insurrection, or send to prison or suspend upon a gibbet any transgressors upon its soil. If the slaves of the South have not an undoubted right to resist their masters in the last resort, then no man, or body of men, may appeal to the law of violence in self-defence—for none have ever suffered, or can suffer, more than they. If, when men are robbed of their earnings, their liberties, their personal ownership, their wives and children, they may not resist, in no case can physical resistance be allowable, either in an individual or collective capacity.

Now the doctrine we shall endeavor to inculcate is, that the kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our [203] Calling his disciples to him, he said to them, “Ye know that they which are accustomed to rule over the Gentiles, exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so it shall not be among you; but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life at ransom for many.”

Human governments are to be viewed as judicial punishments. If a people turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, or make their liberty an occasion for anarchy,—or if they refuse to belong to the “one fold and one Shepherd,” —they shall be scourged by governments of their own choosing, and burdened with taxation, and subjected to physical control, and torn by factions, and made to eat the fruit of their evil doings, until they are prepared to receive the liberty and the rest which remain, on earth as well as in heaven, for the people of God. This is in strict accordance with the arrangement of Divine Providence.

So long as men contemn the perfect government of the Most High, and will not fill up the measure of Christ's sufferings in their own persons, just so long will they desire to usurp authority over each other—just so long will they pertinaciously cling to human governments, fashioned in the likeness and administered in the spirit of their own disobedience. Now, if the prayer of our Lord be not a mockery; if the Kingdom of God is to come universally, and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven; and if, in that kingdom, no carnal weapon can be wielded, and swords are beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks, and there is none to molest or make afraid, and no statute-book but the Bible, and no judge but Christ; then why are not Christians obligated to come out now, and be separate from “the kingdoms of this world,” which are all based upon the principle of violence, and which require their officers and servants to govern and be governed by that principle? . . .

These are among the views we shall offer in connection with the heaven-originated cause of Peace,—views which any person is at liberty to controvert in our columns, and for which no man or body of men is responsible but ourselves. If any man shall affirm that the anti-slavery cause, as such, or any anti-slavery society, is answerable for our sentiments on this subject, to him may be justly applied the apostolic declaration, [204] “the truth is not in him.” We regret, indeed, that the principles of abolitionists seem to be quite unsettled upon a question of such vast importance, and so vitally connected with the bloodless overthrow of slavery. It is time for all our friends to know where they stand. If those whose yokes they are endeavoring to break by the fire and hammer of God's word, would not, in their opinion, be justified in appealing to physical force, how can they justify others of a different complexion in doing the same thing? And if they conscientiously believe that the slaves would be guiltless in shedding the blood of their merciless oppressors, let them say so unequivocally—for there is no neutral ground in this matter, and the time is near when they will be compelled to take sides.

As our object is universal emancipation,—to redeem woman as well as man from a servile to an equal condition,—we shall go for the rights of woman to their utmost extent.

Such was the first outcome of Mr. Garrison's ‘Perfectionism,’ whose agreement, be it more or less—or not at all—with Noyes's, it is needless to discuss here. ‘Perfectionism’ is a dark subject, and attempts to throw light upon it may easily end in leaving it more obscure than ever. Mrs. Child, for example, wrote to her brother, December 22, 1838:

Something is coming toward us (I know not what), with3 a glory round its head, and its long luminous rays are even now glancing on the desert and the rock. The Unitarian, busily at work pulling down old structures, suddenly sees it gild some ancient pillar, or shed its soft light on some mossgrown altar; and he stops with a troubled doubt whether all is to be destroyed; and if destroyed, wherewith shall he build anew? He looks upward for the coming dawn, and calls it Transcendentalism. The Calvinist, at work with strong arm and sincere heart at his fiery forge, fashioning the melted metal in time-honored moulds, sees a light before which his fires grow dim, and the moulded forms seem rigid and uncouth. Perplexed, he asks if the martyred fathers did die for a faith that must be thrown aside like a useless stove of last year's patent. His grim iron forms return no answer, for there is not in them that which can answer the earnest questionings of the human soul. He too looks upward, sees the light, and calls it Perfectionism.


As a definition, this does not help matters much, even when illumined by the fact that both Perfectionism and Transcendentalism, as applied to the conduct of life, led up to socialism—the Oneida Community and Brook Farm. The passage just quoted, however, does bear upon the charge of fanaticism already brought by Elizur Wright against Mr. Garrison. No one has accused Dr. Channing of being a fanatic because he gave the initial4 impulse to the Brook Farm experiment. Nobody saw fanaticism in that portion of his letter to the abolitionists in which he said: ‘The liberation of three millions of5 slaves is indeed a noble object; but a greater work is the diffusion of principles by which every yoke is to be broken, every government to be regenerated, and a liberty more precious than civil or political is to be secured to the world.’ This, coming a week after Mr. Garrison's prospectus, sounds like a plagiarism, or, regarded as (what it was meant to be) an exhortation and a rebuke, like a jest. So does the patronizing repetition of the idea a few periods later:

I am not discouraged by the fact that this great truth6 [‘the unutterable worth of every human being’] has been espoused most earnestly by a party which numbers in its ranks few great names. . . . The less prosperous classes furnish the world with its reformers and martyrs. These, however, from imperfect culture, are apt to narrow themselves to one idea,7 to fasten their eyes on a single evil, to lose the balance of their minds, to kindle with a feverish enthusiasm. Let such remember that no man should take on himself the office of a reformer whose zeal in a particular cause is not tempered by extensive sympathies and universal love.8


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