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Chapter 2: the Irish address.—1842.

A monster anti-slavery Address to Irish-Americans, headed by O'Connell, leader of the repeal agitation in Ireland, tests the pro-slavery spirit of Irish Catholicism in the United States. Garrison comes out openly for the repeal of the Union of North and South, runs up this banner in the Liberator, and launches the debate in the anti-slavery societies. He makes a lecturing tour in Western New York, and falls desperately ill on his return home. Death of his brother James.

Remond, landing in Boston in December, 1841,1 brought among his undutiable baggage a terse Address of the Irish People to their Countrymen and2 Countrywomen in America on the subject of slavery. It exhorted them to treat the colored people as equals and brethren, and to unite everywhere with the abolitionists. Sixty thousand names were appended,3 Daniel O'Connell's at the head, as Member of Parliament and Lord Mayor of Dublin, with Theobald Mathew's close by. Great4 hopes were entertained of its effect on the Irish-American citizen and voter. George Bradburn wrote from Lowell to Francis Jackson:
‘What is to be done with that mammoth Address from5 Ireland? I know it is to be rolled into the Annual Meeting, but is that to be the end of it? Might not the Address, with a few6 of its signatures, including O'Connell's, Father Mathew's, and some of the priests' and other dignitaries', be lithographed? The mere sight of those names, or facsimiles of them, rather, and especially the autographs of them, would perhaps more powerfully affect the Irish among us than all the lectures we could deliver to them, were they never so willing to hear. It is a great object, a very great object, to enlist the Irish in our cause. There are five thousand of them in this small city. Might not one be almost sure of winning them over to the cause of humanity, could one but go before them with that big Address on his shoulders? I have thought I would like to try the experiment, after our Annual Meeting, and would the more willingly do so from having learned, since coming hither, that [44] your friend is “mightily popular among the Irish of Lowell,” though he is personally unknown to almost every mother's son of them. They have probably heard of his “blarney,” let off in their behalf on sundry occasions and in various places.’

The production of this ark of the covenant was certainly among the thrilling incidents of the three days of “hightoned feeling, triumphant enthusiasm, and complete satisfaction,” Jan. 26-28, 1842; Lib. 12.23. occupied by the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Society. It took place in Faneuil Hall, before a7 great gathering, in which one seemed to discern large numbers of friendly Irishmen in a proper state of8 excitement. Mr. Garrison, who presided, read the Address— with due emphasis, we may be sure. Colonel Miller9 spoke to it, alleging Irish blood in his Vermont veins. Bradburn, confessing himself the son of an Irishman, moved a resolution of sympathy with Ireland, then in the throes of the Repeal agitation. James Cannings Fuller, an actual old-countryman, told how he “stood in our Irish House of Peers when Castlereagh took the bribe for the betrayal of Ireland.” Feb. 5, 1800. Wendell Phillips, with only the credentials of his eloquence, joined in what (but for its sincerity) might be called the ‘blarney’ of the occasion. To no purpose, so far as the immediate object was concerned. On February 27, 1842, Mr. Garrison (whose Irish descent might also have been paraded) wrote to10 Richard Webb by the hand of Thomas Davis:11

‘Our meeting in Faneuil Hall, to unroll the Irish Address,12 with its sixty thousand signatures, was indescribably enthusiastic, and has produced a great impression on the public mind. I am sorry to add, and you will be not less ashamed to hear, that the two Irish papers in Boston sneer at the Address, and13 denounce it and the abolitionists in true pro-slavery style. I fear they will keep the great mass of your countrymen here14 from uniting with us.’

Not only was the Irish press everywhere unanimous in this attitude, but the foremost Catholic prelate in the land, Bishop Hughes of New York, impugned the genuineness15 of the Address, and, genuine or not, declared it the duty [45] of every naturalized Irishman to resist and repudiate it with indignation, as emanating from a foreign source. All the Irish Repeal associations—at the South16 particularly—took the same line, with explicit devotion to the existing ‘institutions’ of their adopted country, however much they might deprecate slavery in the abstract. In short, the Address was no more successful than we can suppose a similar one, headed by Parnell in these days, would be, urging the Irish to abjure the ‘spoils system’ and to cling to the civil-service reformers. At a second, widely advertised exhibition of the Address in Boston in April, with Bradburn ‘trying the experiment’ and Phillips assisting, hardly any Irish were visible even to the17 eye of faith. The instinct of this, the lowest class of the white population at the North, taught it that to acknowledge the brotherhood of the negro was to take away the sole social superiority that remained to it, to say nothing of the forfeiture of its political opportunity through the Democratic Party. When the summer heat had brought the customary tendency to popular turbulence in this country, the Irish rabble of Philadelphia made their inarticulate, but perfectly intelligible, reply to the Address, by18 murderous rioting, directed in the first instance against a peaceable colored First of August procession, and ending with the burning of a ‘Beneficial Hall’ built for moral purposes by one of the more prosperous of the persecuted —a close parallel to the destruction of Pennsylvania19 Hall.20

The meeting in Faneuil Hall (for we must return to it) had for its main object to urge abolition in the District21 of Columbia. As it fell to Mr. Garrison to preside, so to him was intrusted the drawing up of the resolutions. [46] These asserted once more the power of the Federal Government over the District; noticed the insolent exclusion of memorials on this subject emanating from the Legislatures of Massachusetts and Vermont; and (amid immense applause) returned thanks to John Quincy Adams for his bold and indefatigable advocacy of the right of petition. The following may not be summarized:

7. Resolved, That when the Senators and Representatives of22 this Commonwealth, in Congress, find themselves deprived of the liberty of speech on its floor, and prohibited from defending the right of their constituents to petition that body in a constitutional manner, they ought at once to withdraw, and return to their several homes, leaving the people of Massachusetts to devise such ways and means for a redress of their grievances as they shall deem necessary. (Applause.)

8. Resolved, That the union of Liberty and Slavery, in one just and equal compact, is that which it is not in the power of God or man to achieve, because it is a moral impossibility, as much as the peaceful amalgamation of fire and gunpowder; and, therefore, the American Union is such only in form, but not in substance—a hollow mockery instead of a glorious reality. (Applause.)

9. Resolved, That if the South be madly bent upon perpetuating her atrocious slave system, and thereby destroying the liberty of speech and of the press, and striking down the rights of Northern citizens, the time is rapidly approaching when the American Union will be dissolved in form as it is now in fact.

At the moment alike when these resolutions were prepared and were “adopted by an almost unanimous vote and in the most impressive manner,” Lib. 12.18. it is clear from internal evidence that news had not yet been received of closely related proceedings in Congress. That body had, as usual, at its opening, in Edmund Quincy's happy phrase, been “resolved into a national Anti-Slavery Debating Society, with John Quincy Adams as leader” Lib. 12.31.; the petitions of his presenting being (also as usual) flatly not received, or the question of their reception being regularly laid upon the table. On the 24th of January, 1842,23 however, the ex-President offered a petition from Haverhill, [47] Mass., praying for a peaceable dissolution of the Union. It was the first of the kind that had ever reached Congress, and, curiously enough, it did not proceed from professed abolitionists: the first signer was a Locofoco24 (alias Democrat) of high standing. Nor were the motives alleged ostensibly anti-slavery, but economic: there were, it affirmed, no reciprocal advantages in the Union; the revenues of one section were drained ‘to sustain the views and course of another section, without any adequate return.’ Moreover, Mr. Adams moved the reference of the petition to a committee with instructions to report adversely. What followed, therefore, would have been in the highest degree extraordinary but for the Southern consciousness that a Northern proposal of disunion was deadly to slavery.

Wise of Virginia, with a Border State precipitancy,25 hotly declared that the person who presented such a petition ought to be censured, and his colleague Gilmer lost26 no time in making a motion to that effect. This was superseded on the following day by resolutions concocted

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