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Chapter 6: end of ‘the Liberator.’—1865.

The division among the abolitionists as to their proper attitude towards the Administration, and as to the continuance of the Anti-slavery organization and propaganda, culminates in an utter disagreement between Garrison and Phillips and their respective supporters. The American Anti-slavery Society follows Phillips, and Garrison withdraws from it. A lecturing tour to the Mississippi enables him to sustain the Liberator till the close of the thirty-fifth volume, when he pens his valedictory, and terminates his career as an in-dependent journalist.

The debates at the January meetings of the1 Massachusetts Society in Boston had turned almost wholly upon the question of reconstruction and negro suffrage; Mr. Phillips vigorously opposing the readmission of Louisiana or any other of the seceded States with the word white in their constitutions, and declaring that “no emancipation can be effectual, and no freedom real, unless the negro has the ballot and the States are prohibited from enacting laws making any distinction among their citizens on account of race or color.” Lib. 35.18. Mr. Garrison urged that those Northern States which denied suffrage to the blacks within their own borders could not, with any consistency, make a similar denial on the part of the Southern States a sufficient reason for refusing them readmission to the Union, and he therefore proposed the following resolutions as supplementary to the series introduced by Mr. Phillips:

7. Resolved, That if, as reconstructed, Louisiana ought not2 to be admitted to the Union because she excludes her colored population from the polls, then Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and all the Western States ought not to be in the Union for the same reason; and while they are guilty of this proscription, it is not for them to demand of Louisiana a broader scope of republican liberality than they are willing to take in their own case.3 [154]

Whereas, ever since the organization of the National Government till now, every State in the Union has claimed and exercised the right to determine on what conditions any of its inhabitants shall wield the ballot—the General Government taking no cognizance of the special inclusion or exclusion pertaining to its electoral law; and whereas, it is not to be presumed that any State will consent to have this established prerogative wrested from it, and a wholly different rule forcibly prescribed, either on the plea of military occupancy or by act of Congress, without an amendment of the National Constitution; and whereas, by the conflicting laws or constitutions of the several States in the matter of voting, colored citizens who are electors in one State are disfranchised in another, and thus this usage is attended with invidious and oppressive features, and ought not longer to prevail among a people claiming to be one in nationality of spirit, purpose, and destiny; and whereas, with a wise regard to the future peace and welfare of the republic, and especially the allegiance of the Southern section of it, no one class should be left to ostracize another, under the plea of State sovereignty; therefore,

8. Resolved, That Congress should lose no time in submitting to the people an amendment of the Constitution, making the electoral law uniform in all the States, without regard to complexional distinctions.

Both of these resolutions, with a third, providing for the dissolution of the Society on the final adoption and ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, were laid on the table at the final session, while those proposed by Mr. Phillips (which also suggested a Constitutional amendment forbidding all discriminations against color) were adopted. So far as the claims made in behalf of the colored race were concerned, there was no vital difference between the speakers or the resolutions, but there was an essential difference in the spirit in which public men and measures were named and criticised; and this, on the part of some, had become so distasteful to Mr. Garrison that he preferred to absent himself from the second day's sessions [155] which the Society voted to hold, in extension of the original call. ‘Old things have passed away,’ he declared, ‘and behold, all things have become new.’

I recognize the fact, with devout gratitude to God. I will not cast imputations upon the motives of any man, or any body of men, for this sudden change, nor taunt them with being bayoneted up to it by abolitionists. I have no such impeachment to make. I thank God that they are now ‘clothed, and sitting in their right minds’; and that is all I care to know. I give them my heart and my hand—and, instead of prognosticating only evil, and filling the air with doubts and apprehensions of danger in the future, I choose rather to believe that the people have passed the Rubicon, that they have burned the bridge behind them; that they have drawn the sword and thrown away the scabbard, and never mean to make any further compromise with slavery, but do mean to annihilate it. To say that this Government is disposed to put Union first and the black man afterwards, is to assert what is not true. The Government does not say so. The Government affirms, before the civilized world, that it puts liberty with Union!—the liberty of the black man alongside of the Union, or else no Union. What is gained by casting wrong imputations? What is the use of prophesying evil, only evil, and that continually? Is that the way to encourage the people to go forward? If their faces are simply turned Zionward, let us thank God that they are so turned, even if they have not taken a step toward Zion. Their faces are in the right direction; and God speed them onward until they reach Zion and sing its songs of praise! . . . Let us, then, cheer on the vast multitude whose hearts are beginning to palpitate with our own. Let us rejoice that they have entirely changed, in spirit and feeling, towards us and the cause of the oppressed; and not say or insinuate that they will betray freedom for Union the earliest moment they can. Let us be just, magnanimous, hopeful, cooperative, and thus stimulate them to complete the work so well begun. That is the philosophy upon which I act. Lib. 35.26.

Several of the speakers having bluntly intimated, at the same meeting, that he had fallen behind, and, being no longer the man for the crisis, should now yield the leadership to Mr. Phillips, he repudiated any claim to leadership, declaring that he had been ‘one only of a multitude of4 [156] noble men and women in various parts of the country, whose combined efforts have all been necessary to bring about the marvellous change in public sentiment which we now see, and over which we now rejoice.’

‘I cannot allow,’ he continued, because it is not true, that Mr. Phillips is more firmly anchored in anti-slavery principle than I am, or more inexorable in the application of that principle. Have I not always declared, that all proscriptive complexional distinctions are cruel, unnatural, and wicked before God? I deny here, not in the spirit of rivalry but as a matter of justice, that he precedes me, or the humblest member of this Society, a hair's-breadth in demanding that equal justice be done to the black man as to the white man. I protest, therefore, against this alleged difference between Mr. Phillips and myself—as though there had been a retreat, or standing still, or getting ‘behind the times,’ on my part, and a bold, radical advance on his part, separating us from each other. There is no such antagonism, isolation, retraction, or precedence. Neither is he in advance, nor am I behind; neither does he lead, nor are the abolitionists led. We all stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, and march in a solid phalanx against the common foe—God alone being our ‘leader.’ Wherein we may chance to differ relates not to the principles we cherish, the doctrines we disseminate, or the claims we make for the colored population, whether bond or free; but solely as to the relative amount of praise or blame, of satisfaction or complaint, to be expressed or awarded concerning certain public men and measures in their bearing upon the cause so dear to us all. And herein we shall differ in opinion, more or less, according to the standpoint we occupy, the information we possess, or the ability we have to perceive and understand the relation of events in this tremendous convulsion of the country. Lib. 35.25.

Mr. Phillips also uttered his protest against the attempt to extol him at the expense of his friend:

‘Allow me,’ he said,

one word, which I utter with the5 greater pleasure and frankness because my friend, Mr. Garrison, has left the hall, that there is nothing more unpleasant to me than any allusion to him and myself as antagonists. Whatever may have been the immediate cause of my anti-slavery life and action, he is, in so true and full a sense, the creator [157] of the anti-slavery movement, that I may well say I have never uttered an anti-slavery word which I did not owe to his inspiration; I have never done an anti-slavery act of which the primary merit was not his. More than that: in my experience of nigh thirty years, I have never met the anti-slavery man or woman, who had struck any effectual blow at the slave system in this country, whose action was not born out of the heart and conscience of Wm. Lloyd Garrison. I do not forget the halfdozen anti-slavery sermons which sparkle along our history,— the quiet scruples of some tender consciences,—the passive disapprobation of Friends, their protection of individual fugitives, or the devoted life of Lundy,—still, the anti-slavery movement is Garrison's work, and, as agitators, we all owe to him the breath of our nostrils; and I do not see to-day, that, in regard to the great principles of the cause, there is any difference between him and myself. . . . Whatever, therefore, may be the conclusion of this debate, I recognize the same leading mind at the head of the anti-slavery struggle. In times past, none but his own modest lips ever dreamed of denying him that title; in time to come, we shall need, find, and welcome the same leader.

The question whether the American Anti-Slavery Society should dissolve or continue its operations caused an unusually large attendance at the annual meeting in May, in New York, not only of the old and long-tried members, but of others, hitherto seldom seen at these meetings, whose attitude towards the Society had suddenly changed from indifference or hostility to a professed conviction that its dissolution would now be an alarming peril to the freedom and enfranchisement of the blacks. Mr. Garrison at once introduced the subject in these resolutions:

Whereas, . . . it is decreed by the nation that all6 fetters shall be broken, every bondman set free; and

Whereas, it is not for Abolitionists to affect exclusiveness, or to seek isolation from the great mass of the people, when the reasons which compelled them to take such a position no longer exist; therefore,

Resolved, That, uniting our thanksgivings to God with those of the emancipated millions at the South for the wonders he has wrought, and rejoicing with joy unspeakable that “the year of [158] jubilee is come,” so that further anti-slavery agitation is uncalled for, we close the operations and the existence of this Society with the present anniversary.

To this, Mr. Phillips opposed the following motion:

Resolved, That since the Constitutional Amendment abolishing slavery is not yet ratified, and consequently the system of slavery stands in the eye of the law untouched; and whereas, there are still thousands of slaves legally held within the United States; therefore, this Society calls upon its members for fresh and untiring diligence in finishing the work to which they originally pledged themselves, and putting the liberty of the negro beyond peril. Lib. 35.81.

The debate on these propositions continued through two7 days, that of Mr. Phillips being supported by C. L. Remond,8 Frederick Douglass, Robert Purvis, S. S. Foster, and Anna E. Dickinson, while Samuel May, Jr., Oliver Johnson, and William I. Bowditch favored continuing the Society only until the Thirteenth Amendment should have been officially ratified. The point having been made that the Society was pledged to continue until negro suffrage should be secured, because the elevation of the free people of color was one of the objects set forth in its Declaration and Constitution, Mr. Garrison rejoined that, as the author of the Declaration, he felt competent to interpret it.

‘This Society,’ he continued,

is “The American Anti-Slavery9 Society.” That was the object. The thought never entered my mind then, nor has it at any time since, that when slavery had received its death-wound, there would be any disposition or occasion to continue the Anti-Slavery Society a moment longer. But, of course, in looking over the country, we saw the free colored people more or less laboring under disabilities and suffering from injustice, and we declared that, incidentally, we did not mean to overlook them, but should vindicate their rights and endeavor to get justice done to them. The point is here. We organized expressly for the abolition of slavery; we called our Society an Anti-Slavery Society. The other work was incidental. Now, I believe slavery is abolished in this country; abolished constitutionally; abolished by a decree of this nation, never, never to be reversed; and, therefore, that it [159] is ludicrous for us, a mere handful of people, with little means, with no agents in the field, no longer separate, and swallowed up in the great ocean of popular feeling against slavery, to assume that we are of special importance, and that we ought not to dissolve our association, under such circumstances, lest the nation should go to ruin! I will not be guilty of any such absurdity.

Mr. Phillips, with impassioned rhetoric, insisted that the Thirteenth Amendment was not yet legally ratified, belittled the Freedmen's aid and educational movements which were already accomplishing noble results, and declared that he was not going to haul down his flag. “I never shall leave the negro until, so far as God gives me the power, I achieve it [absolute equality before the law—absolute civil equality].” Lib. 35.82. ‘Who proposes to do so?’asked Mr. Garrison, who further punctuated the speech, when printed in the Liberator, with a keen10 running commentary. To him the constant insinuation that those opposed to prolonging the Society's existence were deserters or backsliders, seemed alike offensive and amusing; and when Robert Purvis and Anna E. Dickinson pathetically entreated him to remain at his post, and ‘hold the standard,’ he replied with a dignity, power, and eloquence of which the printed report gives hardly an adequate impression. We can quote only the alpha and omega of his speech:

If this were a struggle about fundamental principles, it11 would be a grave occasion to me, and I should regard this discussion as of very considerable importance. But as there is really nothing of principle at all involved in it—as it is only a question of usefulness, only a matter of opinion whether this Society has essentially consummated its mission, as originally designed—I feel perfectly indifferent as to the manner in which it shall be decided. Nothing is more clear in my own mind, nothing has ever been more clear, than that this is the fitting time to dissolve our organization, and to mingle with the millions of our fellow-countrymen in one common effort to establish justice and liberty throughout the land. (Applause.) . . . [160]

My friends, let us not any longer affect superiority when we are not superior (hear, hear)—let us not assume to be better than other people when we are not any better. (Applause, and cries of Hear, hear.) When they are reiterating all that we say, and disposed to do all that we wish to have done, what more can we ask? And yet I know the desire to keep together, because of past memories and labors, is a very natural one. But let us challenge and command the respect of the nation, and of the friends of freedom throughout the world, by a wise and sensible conclusion. Of course, we are not to cease laboring in regard to whatever remains to be done; but let us work with the millions, and not exclusively as the American Anti-Slavery Society. As co-workers are everywhere found, as our voices are everywhere listened to with approbation and our sentiments cordially endorsed, let us not continue to be isolated. My friend, Mr. Phillips, says he has been used to isolation, and he thinks he can endure it some time longer. My answer is, that when one stands alone with God for truth, for liberty, for righteousness, he may glory in his isolation; but when the principle which kept him isolated has at last conquered, then to glory in isolation seems to me no evidence of courage or fidelity. (Applause.)

Friends of the American Anti-Slavery Society, this is no “death-bed scene” to me! There are some in our ranks who seem to grow discouraged and morbid in proportion as light abounds and victory crowns our efforts (applause); and it seems as if the hour of the triumph of universal justice is the hour for them to feel the saddest and most melancholy! We have had something said about a funeral hereto-day. A funeral because Abolitionism sweeps the nation! A funeral? Nay, thanks be to God who giveth us the victory, it is a day of jubilee, and not a day to talk about funerals or death-beds! It is a resurrection from the dead, rather; it is an ascension and beatification! Slavery is in its grave, and there is no power in this nation that can ever bring it back. But if the heavens should disappear, and the earth be removed out of its place,—if slavery should, by a miracle, come back,—what then? We shall then have millions of supporters to rally with us for a fresh onset!

I thank you, beloved friends, who have for so many years done me the honor to make me the President of the American Anti-Slavery Society. I never should have accepted that post if it had been a popular one. I took it because it was unpopular; because we, as a body, were everywhere denounced, proscribed, [161] outlawed. To-day, it is popular to be President of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Hence, my connection with it terminates here and now, both as a member and as its presiding officer. I bid you an affectionate adieu.

The final vote was taken after another appeal from Mr. Phillips, and resulted in the rejection of Mr. Garrison's resolutions by a vote of 118 to 48, and so the continuance of the Society was decided. Tumultuous applause greeted the announcement of the result, which was renewed when the Nominating Committee reported Mr. Garrison's name for reflection as President for the ensuing year; but he of course declined to serve, and Mr. Phillips, who was then chosen as his successor, offered a resolution of fervid tribute to the retiring President, which was adopted by a rising vote, and acknowledged in a few grateful words by the recipient.12

Thus did Mr. Garrison dissolve his connection with the Society which, more than any other man, he had founded, and over which he had presided for twenty-two years. Doubtless he would have been willing to continue [162] in that position until the last State had ratified the Constitutional Amendment, if he had believed that the Society would then dissolve; but he saw that it had passed under the control of those with whose habitual attitude he could no longer sympathize, and that it was useless to try to cooperate with them. He perceived, too, that the force of habit was strong with many of the old friends of the cause, to whom the annual meetings and festivals and conventions had been meat and drink for many years, and who, reluctant to break up old and delightful associations, inclined a willing ear to the arguments that the Society was never more needed than now. When such came to him almost in tears at having been compelled to vote against his proposition, he cheerily assured them that he was not disturbed in the least by it, and begged them not to be, as it was not a matter of the slightest importance. For himself, his course was clear, and the step resolutely taken of resigning the position he had so long held, and declaring himself a co-worker with the great multitude now in favor of freedom and equality, increased the weight and influence in public estimation which his conduct during the previous year had secured him.

He absented himself (as did Edmund Quincy and Samuel May, Jr.) from the sessions of the New England Convention in Boston, and delivered in Providence, the13 following day, an address on the assassination of14 President Lincoln, before the Union League of Rhode Island. In this he candidly reviewed Mr. Lincoln's course on the15 slavery question, from the time of his election until his death, exposing its fluctuations and inconsistencies, yet recognizing also the vast difficulties by which he was surrounded, and paying a just and discriminating tribute to his lofty traits of character—this man of ‘absolute faith in the people, sound judgment, ready tact, abiding cheerfulness, inflexible perseverance, large common sense, strong powers of reasoning, incorruptible integrity, and unalloyed patriotism.’ He repeated the address in Lynn [163] on the following Sunday to a great audience, and then16 made his annual pilgrimage to the Progressive Friends' Meeting at Longwood, with George Thompson as his17 companion.

‘Think of six long, consecutive sessions, with the mercury ranging towards 90, and the meeting-house packed like a beehive in winter,’ he wrote to his wife. ‘The laboring oar as to18 talking and speechifying fell, as usual, to my lot; in addition19 to which I had to preside as chairman. . . . I drew up nearly all the Testimonies that were adopted by the Yearly Meeting—on Peace, Temperance, the Rebellion, Slavery, etc.’

The remainder of June and the whole of July he spent quietly at Rockledge,20 going daily to the city to attend to his editorial duties, yet contriving to obtain much needed rest, and enjoying the charm and seclusion of his suburban retreat. His letters to his wife, who was spending several weeks at Providence at this time, under treatment for her paralysis, continually allude to his delight in the ‘romantic and cosy home.’ “The foliage of the trees is complete, and the birds are as merry and vocal as though just liberated from bondage.” Mss. July 20, June 22, 1865.21

From the day the Constitutional Amendment was [164] passed by Congress Mr. Garrison took the ground (held also by Senator Sumner) that its ratification by threefourths of the loyal States would be sufficient for its adoption, as the seceded States, which had not yet been readmitted to a place in the national councils, were manifestly incompetent to pass upon it; and as the requisite number had acted before the 4th of July, he regarded the Amendment as legally carried then, and for the first time in many years spent the national holiday in Boston, enjoying its celebration.

The question of giving the ballot to the freedmen was constantly agitated during the summer, and the Republican press and leaders, including some of the most conservative, steadily gravitated towards its adoption as an22 article of party faith. Several of the fall State Conventions declared in favor of negro suffrage, and where23 there was hesitation actually to adopt the principle, the importance of securing the rights of the freedmen before readmitting any State was recognized and affirmed. Nevertheless, the Republican State of Connecticut24 defeated, in October, by a majority of 6500, an amendment to its own Constitution enfranchising its colored citizens, and the new State of Colorado inserted the word white25 in its Constitution. The disloyal element at the South were encouraged by this, and by symptoms that President Johnson regarded them with less disfavor than formerly, and desired their readmission to representation as soon as their legislatures should have endorsed the Thirteenth Amendment and repudiated the rebel debt. Swallowing this bitter pill, they proceeded to enact proscriptive laws26 against the freedmen, and tried to regain control of them by inhuman codes paralleling those which prevailed in slavery days. Outrages upon the blacks were of daily occurrence, and systematic efforts were made to terrorize and subject them. ‘These atrocities excite in us no surprise,’ wrote Mr. Garrison, who regarded them as confirming all27 that the abolitionists had asserted as to Southern barbarity towards the negro. Still, while his heart was saddened [165] by these cruel demonstrations, he felt assured that they would be overruled for good, and would ‘help to consolidate the loyal sentiment of the country in opposition to any relaxation of the strong arm of the General Government,’ and ‘to the admission of any one of the revolted States into the Union for an indefinite period.’ In common with others, he tried to regard hopefully the course of the new President, and to believe that his28 intentions were right;29 but hope grew fainter from month to month, as Johnson's purpose to restore the entire political control of the returning States to the whites, without any guarantees whatever for the protection of the freedmen, became evident. ‘The aspect of things at the South is somewhat portentous,’ he wrote to Henry C. Wright, in30 October. ‘If the rebel States, “reconstructed” so as to leave the colored people at the mercy of the savage whites, are suddenly admitted into the Union, there will assuredly be a terrible state of affairs, perhaps leading to a war of extermination. I begin to feel more uneasy about the President.’

Late in September he attended the Champlain Valley31 Agricultural Fair, at Vergennes, Vermont, in company32 with the Rev. Edwin H. Chapin, and had ‘an unspeakably pleasant’ time and a cordial reception. Both, in their addresses, dwelt upon the questions of the day and the importance of negro suffrage. A fortnight later Mr.33 Garrison was in Philadelphia, on business connected with the American Freedman's Aid Commission, an organization comprising the principal Freedmen's Educational and Aid Associations in the East and West, which had hitherto been working independently of each other, but were now brought into harmonious operation through the34 efforts of J. M. McKim. Of this new organization Bishop Matthew Simpson was made President, and Mr. Garrison First Vice-President, Mr. McKim being the Corresponding [166] Secretary of the Eastern Department.35 Later in the month Mr. Garrison and Mr. McKim visited Maine in behalf of the Commission, holding large meetings and forming auxiliary associations in Portland and Bangor.36

As the autumn advanced, the treasury of the Liberator again ran low, and, in order to replenish it and enable him to carry the paper to the end of the year, the editor reluctantly left his post and undertook a lecture tour in the West, which occupied five weeks and absorbed the month of November and the first week of December.

The trip, which began at Lockport, N. Y., was a hard and37 exhausting one for Mr. Garrison. He gave his lecture (a two hours discourse on ‘The Past, Present, and Future of Our Country’) from four to six times each week, and suffered both from hoarseness and ophthalmia; but he lost no appointment, and had the satisfaction of earning fifteen hundred dollars—more than his year's salary—in a single month. As usual, too, the social enjoyments of the journey were more than a compensation for its hardships. In almost every city he was the recipient of courtesies and attentions from old and new friends; beyond Michigan all was new to him, and he saw Chicago and the38 Mississippi River (at Quincy) for the first time. Unexpected39 glimpses of George Thompson (also on a Western lecture tour), at Detroit, and Gerrit Smith, at Chicago, were among the pleasant incidents of the journey. At Princeton, Illinois, he paid his respects to the widow and children40 of Owen Lovejoy, and at Springfield was the guest of W. H. Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, with whom he visited41 the tomb of the martyr-President. On his return journey he travelled with members of Congress on their way to [167] Washington for the opening of the new session. ‘I am constantly urging the importance of not admitting any of the rebel States into the Union until a longer probation,’ he wrote to his wife, “and find leading men to accept my views.” Ms. Nov. 29.

After his long absence at the West,42 Mr. Garrison had hoped to devote the last three weeks of the year wholly to the Liberator, but he had scarcely reached Boston before he was summoned to New York to attend a committee43 meeting of the American Freedman's Aid Commission; and three days later he was compelled to fulfil an engagement at Philadelphia, for a lecture at the Academy of Music. Even while he was speaking, the telegraph wires44 were bearing to every part of the land the official proclamation of Secretary Seward, issued that day, announcing the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, and its consequent incorporation as a part of the Constitution. Hurrying back to Boston, the editor of the Liberator took the composing-stick and himself set up the proclamation for insertion in the number just going to press,—the last issue but one of the paper,—and to it appended this paean:45

With our own hands we have put in type this unspeakably46 cheering and important official announcement that, at last, the old “covenant with death” is annulled, and the “ agreement with hell” no longer stands. Not a slave is left to clank his fetters, of the millions that were lately held in seemingly hopeless bondage. Not a slaveholder may dare to present his claim of property in man, or assume the prerogative of trafficking in human flesh and blood. Henceforth, personal freedom is secured for all who dwell on the American soil, irrespective of complexion or race. It is not merely the abolition of slavery, with the old recognized right of each State to establish the system ad libitum, but it is the prohibition, by “the supreme law of the land,” duly ratified, to enslave a human being in any part of our national domains, or to restore what has been overthrown. It is, [168] consequently, the complete triumph as well as utter termination of the Anti-Slavery struggle, as such.

Rejoice, and give praise and glory to God, ye who have so long and so untiringly participated in all the trials and vicissitudes of that mighty conflict! Having sown in tears, now reap in joy. Hail, redeemed, regenerated America! Hail, North and South, East and West! Hail, the cause of Peace, of Liberty, of Righteousness, thus mightily strengthened and signally glorified! Hail, the Present, with its transcendent claims, its new duties, its imperative obligations, its sublime opportunities! Hail, the Future, with its pregnant hopes, its glorious promises, its illimitable powers of expansion and development! Hail, ye ransomed millions, no more to be chained, scourged, mutilated, bought and sold in the market, robbed of all rights, hunted as partridges upon the mountains in your flight to obtain deliverance from the house of bondage, branded and scorned as a connecting link between the human race and the brute creation! Hail, all nations, tribes, kindreds, and peoples, “made of one blood,” interested in a common redemption, heirs of the same immortal destiny! Hail, angels in glory and spirits of the just made perfect, and tune your harps anew, singing, “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints! Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee: for thy judgments are made manifest.”

For the one remaining number of the Liberator Mr. Garrison's children besought him to at once prepare his valedictory editorial, leaving to others the drudgery of the proof-reading and mechanical details of the paper. The proofs he insisted on reading himself, and the outside pages he also ‘made up’ from the galleys, but the inside pages he finally allowed his friend and assistant, Winchell Yerrinton, to make up, under his direction; a considerable portion of the editorial page being given to letters of congratulation and farewell from old and tried friends. When these were inserted, less than a column's space was left in which to complete his valedictory, and, the number being already late for the press, he wrote the remainder of it with the printers standing at his elbow for [169] ‘copy,’ which he doled out to them a few lines at a time. The final paragraph he set with his own hands, and then stepped to the imposing-table or stone47 to insert it in the vacant place awaiting it. Evening had come, and the little group48 in the printing-office gathered silently about to witness the closing act. As the form was locked for the last time by the senior Yerrinton, all present felt a [170] sense of loss and bereavement. Mr. Garrison alone preserved his wonted cheerfulness and serenity. From the death-bed of the Liberator, he went directly to a Committee meeting of the New England Freedmen's Aid Society, his face towards the resurrection and the life of Freedom.

The last number of the Liberator fitly reproduced the Salutatory from the first, followed by the editor's


The last number of the Liberator.

The last! the last! the last!
     O, by that little word
How many thoughts are stirred
     That sister of the past!

The present number of the Liberator is the completion of its thirty-fifth volume, and the termination of its existence.

Commencing my editorial career when only twenty years of age, I have followed it continuously till I have attained my sixtieth year—first, in connection with the Free Press, in Newburyport, in the spring of 1826; next, with the National Philanthropist, in Boston, in 1827; next, with the Journal of the Times, in Bennington, Vt., in 1828-9; next, with the Genius of Universal Emancipation, in Baltimore, in 1829-30; and, finally, with the Liberator, in Boston, from the 1st of January, 1831, to the 1st of January, 1866;—at the start, probably the youngest member of the editorial fraternity in the land, now, perhaps, the oldest, not in years, but in continuous service,—unless Mr. Bryant, of the New York Evening Post, be an exception.

Whether I shall again be connected with the press, in a similar capacity, is quite problematical; but, at my period of life, I feel no prompting to start a new journal at my own risk, and with the certainty of struggling against wind and tide, as I have done in the past.

I began the publication of the Liberator without a subscriber, and I end it—it gives me unalloyed satisfaction to say— without a farthing as the pecuniary result of the patronage extended to it during thirty-five years of unremitted labors.

From the immense change wrought in the national feeling and sentiment on the subject of slavery, the Liberator derived [171] no advantage at any time in regard to its circulation. The original ‘disturber of the peace,’ nothing was left undone at the beginning, and up to the hour of the late rebellion, by Southern slaveholding villany on the one hand, and Northern pro-slavery malice on the other, to represent it as too vile a sheet to be countenanced by any claiming to be Christian or patriotic; and it always required rare moral courage or singular personal independence to be among its patrons. Never had a journal to look such opposition in the face—never was one so constantly belied and caricatured. If it had advocated all the crimes forbidden by the moral law of God and the statutes of the State, instead of vindicating the sacred claims of oppressed and bleeding humanity, it could not have been more vehemently denounced or more indignantly repudiated. To this day—such is the force of prejudice—there are multitudes who cannot be induced to read a single number of it, even on the score of curiosity, though their views on the slavery question are now precisely those which it has uniformly advocated. Yet no journal has been conducted with such fairness and impartiality; none has granted such freedom in its columns to its opponents; none has so scrupulously and uniformly presented all sides of every question discussed in its pages; none has so readily and exhaustively published, without note or comment, what its enemies have said to its disparagement and the vilification of its editor; none has vindicated primitive Christianity, in its spirit and purpose—‘the higher law,’ in its supremacy over nations and governments as well as individual conscience—the Golden Rule, in its binding obligation upon all classes—the Declaration of Independence, with its self-evident truths—the rights of human nature, without distinction of race, complexion, or sex—more earnestly or more uncompromisingly; none has exerted a higher moral or more broadly reformatory influence upon those who have given it a careful perusal; and none has gone beyond it in asserting the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. All this may be claimed for it without egotism or presumption. It has ever been ‘a terror to evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well.’ It has excited the fierce hostility of all that is vile and demoniacal in the land, and won the affection and regard of the purest and noblest of the age. To me it has been unspeakably cheering, and the richest compensation for whatever of peril, suffering, and defamation I have been called to encounter, that one uniform testimony has been borne, by those who have had its weekly perusal, as to the elevating and quickening [172] influence of the Liberator upon their character and lives; and the deep grief they are expressing in view of its discontinuance is overwhelmingly affecting to my feelings. Many of these date their subscriptions from the commencement of the paper, and they have allowed nothing in its columns to pass without a rigid scrutiny. They speak, therefore, experimentally, and ‘testify of that which they have seen and do know.’ Let them be assured that my regret in the separation which is to take place between us, in consequence of the discontinuance of the Liberator, is at least as poignant as their own; and let them feel, as I do, comforted by the thought that it relates only to the weekly method of communicating with each other, and not to the principles we have espoused in the past, or the hopes and aims we cherish as to the future.

Although the Liberator was designed to be, and has ever been, mainly devoted to the abolition of slavery, yet it has been instrumental in aiding the cause of reform in many of its most important aspects.

I have never consulted either the subscription-list of the paper or public sentiment in printing, or omitting to print, any article touching any matter whatever. Personally, I have never asked any one to become a subscriber, nor any one to contribute to its support, nor presented its claims for a better circulation in any lecture or speech, or at any one of the multitudinous anti-slavery gatherings in the land. Had I done so, no doubt its subscription-list might have been much enlarged.

In this connection, I must be permitted to express my surprise that I am gravely informed, in various quarters, that this is no time to retire from public labor; that though the chains of the captive have been broken, he is yet to be vindicated in regard to the full possession of equal civil and political rights; that the freedmen in every part of the South are subjected to many insults and outrages; that the old slaveholding spirit is showing itself in every available form; that there is imminent danger that, in the hurry of reconstruction and readmission to the Union, the late rebel States will be left free to work any amount of mischief; that there is manifestly a severe struggle yet to come with the Southern ‘powers of darkness,’ which will require the utmost vigilance and the most determined efforts on the part of the friends of impartial liberty—etc., etc., etc. Surely, it is not meant by all this that I am therefore bound to continue the publication of the Liberator; for that is a matter for me to determine, and no one else. As I commenced its publication [173] without asking leave of any one, so I claim to be competent to decide when it may fitly close its career.

Again—it cannot be meant, by this presentation of the existing state of things at the South, either to impeach my intelligence, or to impute to me a lack of interest in behalf of that race for the liberation and elevation of which I have labored so many years! If, when they had no friends, and no hope of earthly redemption, I did not hesitate to make their cause my own, is it to be supposed that, with their yokes broken, and their friends and advocates multiplied indefinitely, I can be any the less disposed to stand by them to the last—to insist on the full measure of justice and equity being meted out to them—to retain in my breast a lively and permanent interest in all that relates to their present condition and future welfare?

I shall sound no trumpet and make no parade as to what I shall do for the future. After having gone through with such a struggle as has never been paralleled in duration in the life of any reformer, and for nearly forty years been the target at which all poisonous and deadly missiles have been hurled, and having seen our great national iniquity blotted out, and freedom ‘proclaimed throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof,’ and a thousand presses and pulpits supporting the claims of the colored population to fair treatment where not one could be found to do this in the early days of the antislavery conflict, I might—it seems to me—be permitted to take a little repose in my advanced years, if I desired to do so. But, as yet, I have neither asked nor wished to be relieved of any burdens or labors connected with the good old cause. I see a mighty work of enlightenment and regeneration yet to be accomplished at the South, and many cruel wrongs done to the freedmen which are yet to be redressed; and I neither counsel others to turn away from the field of conflict, under the delusion that no more remains to be done, nor contemplate such a course in my own case.

The object for which the Liberator was commenced—the extermination of chattel slavery—having been gloriously consummated, it seems to me specially appropriate to let its existence cover the historic period of the great struggle; leaving what remains to be done to complete the work of emancipation to other instrumentalities (of which I hope to avail myself), under new auspices, with more abundant means, and with millions instead of hundreds for allies. [174]

Most happy am I to be no longer in conflict with the mass of my fellow-countrymen on the subject of slavery. For no man of any refinement or sensibility can be indifferent to the approbation of his fellow-men, if it be rightly earned. But to obtain it by going with the multitude to do evil—by pandering to despotic power or a corrupt public sentiment—is self-degradation and personal dishonor:

For more true joy Marcellus exiled feels
Than Caesar with a Senate at his heels.

Better to be always in a minority of one with God—branded as madman, incendiary, fanatic, heretic, infidel—frowned upon by ‘the powers that be,’ and mobbed by the populace—or consigned ignominiously to the gallows, like him whose soul is marching on, John Brown. though his ‘body lies mouldering in the grave,’ or burnt to ashes at the stake like Wickliffe, or nailed to the cross like him who ‘gave himself for the world,’—in defence of the right, than like Herod, having the shouts of a multitude crying, ‘It is the voice of a god, and not of a man!’

Farewell, tried and faithful patrons! Farewell, generous benefactors, without whose voluntary but essential pecuniary contributions the Liberator must have long since been discontinued! Farewell, noble men and women who have wrought so long and so successfully, under God, to break every yoke! Hail, ye ransomed millions! Hail, year of jubilee! With a grateful heart and a fresh baptism of the soul, my last invocation shall be:

Spirit of Freedom, on!—
     Oh! pause not in thy flight
Till every clime is won
     To worship in thy light:
Speed on thy glorious way,
     And wake the sleeping lands!
Millions are watching for the ray,
     And lift to thee their hands.
Still “Onward!” be thy cry—
     Thy banner on the blast;
And, like a tempest, as thou rushest by,
     Despots shall shrink aghast.
On! till thy name is known
     Throughout the peopled earth;
On! till thou reign'st alone,
     Man's heritage by birth;
On! till from every vale, and where the mountains rise,
     The beacon lights of Liberty shall kindle to the skies!

Wm. Lloyd Garrison. Boston, December 29, 1865.

1 Jan. 26, 27, 1865.

2 Lib. 35.18.

3 Mr. Garrison had already pointed out, in an editorial reviewing the whole subject of ‘Equal Political Rights,’ that the new Constitution of Louisiana was really more favorable to the colored people than that of any of the Northern States outside of New England, all which (with Connecticut) were more or less prescriptive. See Lib. 35.133. His own position coincided with Sumner's, that the seceded States were in a Territorial condition, and there should be no haste in readmitting them (Lib. 35: 6).

4 Lib. 35.25.

5 Lib. 35.26.

6 Lib. 35.81.

7 May 9, 10.

8 Lib. 35.81, 82, 85, 86.

9 Lib. 35.81.

10 Lib. 35.82.

11 Lib. 35.85, 86.

12 The tribute was certainly sincere and heartfelt on the part of the majority of the Society who voted it, and was accepted in that sense by Mr. Garrison; but the Nominating Committee did not deem it necessary to pay a similar compliment to the retiring members of the Executive Committee, only one of whom was renominated. Edmund Quincy, Anne Warren Weston, Sydney Howard Gay, Samuel May, Jr., and Henry C. Wright, all shared Mr. Garrison's views essentially, and with him withdrew from the Society. A resolution of thanks to the retiring editors of the Standard (Oliver Johnson and Edmund Quincy), with especial commendation of their conduct of the paper during the war, was introduced by S. May, Jr., but was adroitly referred to the new and hostile Executive Committee, who finally passed it in an emasculated form which the subjects of it refused to accept and returned with trenchant letters (Lib. 35: 98). Mr. Quincy could not resist the opportunity to poke a little fun at the Society and its Executive Committee. ‘Regarding, as I do,’ said he, ‘the existence of an Anti-Slavery Society at this time as not merely an anachronism and an absurdity, but as an impossibility, I must regard the ladies and gentlemen in question, officially, as Non-existent, and the Society they profess to represent as a Nonentity. Holding these views, I cannot consent, by accepting this Resolution, at once to deny them and to stultify myself.’ See, also, Oliver Johnson's farewell to the readers of the Standard (Lib. 35: 88), and pp. 387-390 of his “ Garrison and his Times,” for a full and accurate statement of the causes which led to the division in the anti-slavery ranks.

13 May 31.

14 June 1.

15 Lib. 35.108.

16 June 4, 1865.

17 June 8-10.

18 Ms.

19 June 11.

20 At the end of August, 1864, the Garrison family left the house in Dix Place which they had occupied for eleven years, and removed to Roxbury, where a pleasant frame house, situated on high ground near the old Roxbury fort of Revolutionary days, was purchased. A picturesque ledge of rocks adjoined the estate, which consisted of nearly half an acre of ground, and the whole region was one of much natural beauty. The house, which was soon christened ‘Rockledge,’ was elevated by terraces thirty feet above Highland street, and had abundance of air and sunlight, which the surrounding foliage in no wise interrupted, while the upper windows commanded extensive views of the harbor and country. The change from city life was beneficial not on sanitary grounds alone. The distance from town (a half-hour's ride by horse-car) was sufficient to check the constant stream of callers and visitors to whom Dix Place had been of such convenient access, and to abate that liberal hospitality which Mrs. Garrison's disablement now forbade.

21 In July he was surprised by receiving an official notice of his having been made an honorary member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge. This was brought about by his old friend, Dr. Henry I. Bowditch, who thought it time that Harvard should honor the founder of the antislavery movement (Ms. July 23, 1865, W. L. G. to H. E. G.).

22 Lib. 35.101, 105, 106, 118, 121, 125.

23 Lib. 35.173.

24 Lib. 35.159, 161, 162.

25 Lib. 35.159.

26 Wilson's Rise and Fall of Slave Power, 3.600-602.

27 Lib. 35.134.

28 Andrew Johnson.

29 No one was more hopeful than Mr. Phillips. ‘I have never expressed a doubt with regard to President Johnson,’ he said in May; ‘I believe in him. I believe he means suffrage’ (Lib. 35: 86).

30 Ms. Oct. 2.

31 Sept. 28.

32 Lib. 35.163.

33 Oct. 11.

34 Lib. 35.170.

35 Its object was ‘to promote the education and elevation of the Freedmen, and to cooperate to this end with the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands,’ which had been established early in the year by Congress, with General O. O. Howard as Chief Commissioner.

36 At Portland, Mr. Garrison's early antagonist, John Neal (ante, 1: 99, 383), entered heartily into the movement. ‘Mr. Garrison and I used to have some hot contests,’ said Mr. Neal. ‘Who was wrong and who was right?’ asked Governor Israel Washburne. ‘I was wrong;’ said Mr. Neal, frankly, ‘and Mr. Garrison was right’ (Lib. 35: 174).

37 Nov. 2.

38 Nov. 16-20.

39 Nov. 22.

40 Nov. 20.

41 Nov. 26.

42 During this and many previous absences, Charles K. Whipple kindly assumed much of the editorial care of the paper. Samuel May, Jr., and Edmund Quincy contributed editorials, the latter giving an admirable review of the Liberator's career, in the last number before Mr. Garrison's return (Lib. 35.190).

43 Dec. 15.

44 Dec. 18.

45 Dec. 22.

46 Lib. 35.202.

47 This old stand, which had done duty in the Liberator office for twenty-five or thirty years, was purchased by a brother printer and abolitionist, George W. Stacy of Milford, Mass., and subsequently (1885) returned by him to Mr. Garrison's family. ‘How many days and nights have I wearily bent over it in getting ready the paper for prompt publication!’ wrote Mr. Garrison to Mr. Stacy (Ms. Oct. 23, 1878). ‘What a “stone of stumbling ” and a “rock of offence” it was to all the enemies of emancipation!’

48 Consisting, besides Mr. Garrison, of his sons George and Frank, and J. B. and J. M. W. Yerrinton, the printers of the paper. In expressing his sadness at the termination of their long business connection, Mr. Garrison wrote to the senior Yerrinton: ‘The little printing-office has daily brought us together, and enabled us to know each other as intimately as it is possible, in every phase of human thought and feeling. I wish to improve this opportunity to testify to the unfailing good temper and kindness of spirit and manner which you have manifested amidst all the annoyances and perplexities connected with type-setting, bad proof, illegible manuscript, etc., etc. Never has there been a sharp or hasty word between us. Your disposition has been so good that mine must have been crabbed indeed at any time to have caused a ripple upon the surface of our feelings towards each other. Blessed with good health, you have been always at your post-not even indulging, for once, in that occasional recreation which seems to be almost indispensable to the recuperation of mind and body. Such assiduity and steadiness I have never known, and call for especial recognition. But your work on the Liberator has not been a mere mechanical performance. You have mingled with it the liveliest interest in the welfare of the paper, in the principles it has inculcated, in the humane and godlike object it has aimed to achieve. . . . For many a year it was anything but reputable to be even the printer of the Liberator; but that reproach is now wiped out, and in the future will make your memory honored’ (Ms. Jan. 1, 1866). To the son, J. M. Winchell Yerrinton, Mr. Garrison sent this tribute: ‘I have known you ever since you were a little boy; and in all the wide range of my acquaintance there is no one I more highly respect and esteem. . . . The best phonographic reporter in this country, you have held an important relation to those grand reformatory changes which have taken place within the last quarter of a century. But for your marvellous skill, where would have been the eloquent speeches of Phillips and others but in the dim remembrance of those who listened to them? And your heart has been in the work. In many ways and on an extended scale, you have been a public benefactor, and a most efficient instrument in disseminating light and knowledge— “thoughts that breathe, and words that burn” ’ (Ms. Jan. 1, 1866).

49 Lib. 35.206.

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