American anti-slavery society.

Annual report ... 1st-6th,[22d]-28th; 1834-39, 1855-61 online

. (page 1 of 8)
Online LibraryAmerican anti-slavery societyAnnual report ... 1st-6th,[22d]-28th; 1834-39, 1855-61 → online text (page 1 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


• ^-^-^




•vT* A


"V r*


'^^♦•HO* ^^















. v,j o ^- \



The first public anniversary of this Society was held
in Chatham-street chapel, on Tuesday the 6th of May,
1834. The house was filled by a very select audience,
a large proportion being clergymen, and other visitors
from abroad.

At 10 o'clock, A. M., Mr. Arthur Tappan, the Pre-
sident, took the chair.

Prayer was offered by the Rev. Cyrus P. Grosve-
nor, of Salem, Mass.

Rev. S. H. Cox, of New- York, read the 58th chap-
ter of Isaiah. An appropriate hymn was then sung
by a choir composed partly of colored singers.

Extracts from the Annual Report were then read
by Elizur Wright, Jr., Secretary for Domestic Cor-

Rev. S. L. PoMEROY, of Bangor, Me. moved that the
report be accepted, and published under the direction
of the committee.

He said he had great pleasure in doing it, because he believed the principles
laid down in the report are the principles of eternal truth and justice. They
stand on the chapter we have just heard. If any one asks us for the principles
of the Anti-Slavery Society, we point to that chapter and say. There are our prin-
ciples. Would they know the means on which we rely, under God, for the
accomplishment of our intentions, we reply. We follow the example of Him, who
when he would reduce chaotic elements into order and beauty, said, "Let there
be light." So say we, let there be light on the subject of slavery; investigate
and publish abroad the truth. These are our means.

Rev. Stephen Peet, of Euclid, Ohio, said he felt
great satisfaction in seconding the motion.

Rev. Amos A. Phelps, of Boston, moved the follow-
ing resolution ;

Resolved, That inasmuch as foreign slave-trading has been justly decreed by-
civilized nations to be piracy, slave-holding is a sin of no less atrocity ; and
that, existing as it does in our country, it brings the Declaration of American
Independence and our republican institutions into contempt, and gives just oc-
casion to apprehend the judgments of a righteous God, if it be not speedily abo-

This resolution, said Mr. P., it will be perceived, takes very high ground. But
it takes it not for the purpose of calumniating those who are more immediately
concerned in slavery. I know that there are many who are very noble men in
other respects, whom we consider very guilty in this. Nor is it because we, non-
slave-holders, are innocent in regard to our colored brethren. But we take this
ground, because it is the only true ground to take, and because it presents us the
only efficient principle of reform. We are told we should press considerations of
interest, we must make it plain to the slave-holder that it is for his interest to
emancipate his slaves. But mere interest can never carry on a moral reform.
You may go to the profligate man, and tell him it is for his interest to re-
form, and he will be a profligate still. So with the slave-holder. You must
reach his conscience ; and in order to this, you must tell him the plain truth in
regard to the moral character of his conduct.

The resolution puts slave-holding and slave trading on the same footing of guilt.
We make no difference, for these reasons :

1. All slave-trading is the legitimate result of slave-holding. It is one of the
most obvious of principles, that where there is no market there will be no trade;
if no demand, then no supply. The history of the African slave trade shows
that it is the child of slavery. The natives of the West India islands were sub-
jected to a servitude so severe as to destroy the race-, and the Africans were
enslaved in order to save the natives from entire extinction.

2. All the reasons which decide the African slave-trade to be piracy, are
equally valid to prove that slave-holding is a crime of the same character. What
is piracy ? The dictionaries define it to be, " the act of taking property on the
high seas without authority." It is on the sea what robbery is on the land.
What then is it that constitutes the African slave trade piracy? It is not fitting
out ships to Africa. That is lawful. Nor is it transporting 100 or 1000 persons
across the ocean. That is lawful. Nor that they are subjected to hardship and
suffering in the middle passage. That might be by the dispensation of Heaven.
Or if you say cruelty is the test, then I can prove that slave-holding is equally

Mr. P. then alluded to the recent occurrence at New-Orleans. He also men-
tioned the case of a man named Smith, a constable of Alexandria, D. C, who,
having arrested a colored man for debt, incautiously took him over the Virginia
line, and when the man said he was now out of his jurisdiction, the enraged con-
stable drew a knife and literally cut out his heart. There was indeed a great
excitement at the moment, the man was tried, and it was found necessary to call

out the militia to protect him from the mob. But the court decided that the deed
was done out of their jurisdiction, in Virginia, and there the matter ended. The
man still lives unmolested. We have the full declaration of the students in
Lane Seminary, that cruelty is the rule, kindness the exception.

If it is separating families, or the use of violence in obtaining victims, that
makes up piracy, then is slave-holding piracy. The slave-holder puts his hand
on the little infant that is born on his plantation, and says, " That is mine." Why
does he not use violence ? Simply because there is no need. Suppose it was
born an adult; would he not resort to violence ? Legalized violence, perhaps, as
we see done in New-York, but still overpowering force, as truly as in Africa.

What then is it that constitutes slave-holding the crime of piracy ? It is the one
simple act of reducing a freeman to the condition of a slave — wresting from a
human being the ownership of himself. It is this, divested of all its circumstan.
ces. And is not slave-holding just as much a usurpation — the setting up of an
assumed claim to the ownership of a human being ?

It needs no argument to prove that slavery dishonors Christianity and our free
institutions. Look at its influence. See how it trammels the press, locks up the
pulpit, controls elections, exerts an overwhelming influence in our national coun-
cils. All our national collisions owe their origin to slavery. Who can measure
the influence of slavery in counteracting and destroying the influence of our
example on other lands in favor of free institutions? The standing plea of the
advocates of despotism, when they would warn their votaries against the desire of
liberty, is to point out the inconsistency of our example, and our national dissen-
tions and commotions that grow out of slavery. Sir, it puts back the march of
freedom, nay, of religion, over the whole earth. Let the story be told to the
heathen, according to strict truth, by any Christian missionary of the cross, and
what native would listen to the gospel from his lips ? If the infidel wants to coun-
teract effectually our labors to spread the gospel, let him go and tell the heathen
that in this Christian land one sixth of the people are held in bondage, and your
missionary may almost as well go home.

Does the slave-holder refer to the Bible for justification ? The slave-trader has
done the same. When that was a subject of discussion the defenders of the
slave-trade were always telling about the curse of servitude denounced upon Ca-
naan and his posterity, how Abraham had servants bought with money, and the
Jews were allowed by God himself to enslave the nations around them. The
slave-trader used to plead law, and constitution too ; for it should be remembered
that the slave-trade was once as constitutional as slave-holding, although we and
the civilized world now treat it as piracy.

There are two particulars in which slave-holding stands pre-eminent. 1. When
and where did the slave-trade ever develope such a system of licentiousness ?
2. The slave-trade never produced a system of laws to shut out the light of the
Bible from its victims, and lock up the mind to darkness and paganism ? It
never laid its iron grasp upon the intellect of man, nor attempted to crush and
obliterate the immortal principle. If there is any difference in criminality then,
slave-holding is the worse of the two.

Mr. P. then spoke of a recent visit he had made to the jail in Washington city.
The United States government have just paid five thousand dollars for repairmg
it. The debtors and criminals are located in rooms above, and below are 16
solitary cells, used and constantly occupied for the confinement of slaves and per-


sons taken up on suspicion of being slaves. On inquiring of one and another,
My lad, what are you here for? it was affecting to hear the reply, "For my
freedom, sir." Just down the hill in the other direction, and like the jail, within
sight of the capitol, is the slave tavern of William Robie, a depot for the Ameri-
can slave-trade. And seven miles distant, in Alexandria, and under the exclusive
jurisdiction of Congress, is the larger establishment of Franklin and Armfield.
One of the partners told me he had probably sold a thousand slaves already this
year. And he told a gentleman, who told me, that he had made not less than
thirty thousand dollars by his operations. According to the city laws of Wash-
ington, every slave-trader pays four hundred dollars for a license, and this goes
to support the city government.

Mr. P. enumerated other acts of oppression, and violation of right. And these,
said he, occur at Washington, the head quarters of colonization, and we hear
nothing of any complaint.

Need I ask whether such things bring us and our declaration of independence
into contempt? Sir, look at Europe. The Christians — the infidels — the support-
ers of tyranny — the friends of liberty — point the finger of scorn at our inconsis-
tency. We boast that our coimtry is the home of the oppressed, and yet there is
not a nation on earth that holds so many slaves. We cheer on the Greeks to
break the Turkish yoke, and we make contributions in aid of the Poles; and yet
hold greater numbers in more cruel and crushing bondage. We boast of our
freedom of speech and of the press; and yet, in the District of Columbia, a free
citizen, if he has a colored skin, is liable to a fine of twenty dollars for taking the
Emancipator. And we have seen the legislature of a sovereign state at the south,
offering a reward of five thousand dollars for the head of a citizen at the north,
who undertook to awaken public attention to the enormities of this system.

Does not all this give us reason to apprehend the judgments of Heaven? Sir,
judgments have already come, giving indications of severer judgments in store,
unless we repent. The light has come now ; let us hear, and we shall be " the
repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in."

Mr. James A. Thome, of Kentucky, a delegate from
the Anti-Slavery Society of Lane Seminary, was in-
troduced to the meeting, and moved the following re-
solution :

Resolved, That the principles of the American Anti-Slavery Society com-
mend themselves to the consciences and interest of slave-holders ; and that re-
cent developments indicate the speedy triumph of this cause.

Of the truth of the first proposition contained in this resolution, that our prin-
ciples commend themselves to the consciences and interest of slave-holders, I
have the honor to stand before you a living witness. I am from Kentucky. There
I was born and wholly educated. The associations of youth, and the attach,
ments of growing years — prejudices, opinions and hat)its forming and fixing
during my whole life, conspire to make me a Kentuckian indeed. More than
this — I breathed my first breath in the atmosphere of slavery ; I was suckled at
its breast and dandled on its knee. Black, black, black was before me at every
step — the sure badge of infamy. The sympathies of nature, even in their spring

tide, were dried up ; compassion was deadened, and the heart was steeled by
repeated scenes of cruelty and oft taught lessons of the colored man's inferiority.

What I shall say is the result either of experience or of personal observation.

Abolition principles do take strong hold of the conscience and of interest too.
Permit me to say, sir, I was for several years a member of the Colonization
Society. I contributed to its funds, and eulogised its measures ; and now, thofigh
I would not leave my path to attack this institution, yet duty bids me state,
solemnly and deliberately, that its direct influence upon my mind was to lessen my
conviction of the evils of slavery, and to deepen and sanctify my prejudice against
the colored race.

But, sir, far otherwise with abolition. Within a few months' residence at
Lane Semiary, and by means of a discussion imparallelled in the brotherly feel-
ing and fairness which characterized it, and the results which it brought out, the
great principles of duty stood forth, sin revived and I died. And, sir, though I
am at this moment the heir to a slave inheritance, and though I, forsooth, am
one of those unfortunate beings upon whom slavery is by force entailed, yet I
am bold to denounce the whole system as an outrage — a complication of crimes
and wrongs and cruelties that make angels weep. This is the spirit which your
principles inspire. Indeed, I know of no subject which takes such strong hold
of the man as does abolition. It seizes the conscience with an authoritative
grasp — it runs across every path of the guilty, haimts him, goads him, and rings
in his ear the cry of blood. It builds a wall up to heaven before him and around
him; it goes with the eye of God, and searches his heart with a scrutiny too
strict to be eluded. It writes a " thou art the man" upon the forehead of every

It also commands the avenues to the human heart, and rushes up through them
all to take the citadel of feeling. All the sympathies are its advocates, and every
susceptibility to compassionate outraged humanity stands pledged to do its work.

Will you permit me to state some of the vantage grounds upon which we
stand in the public discussion of this question?

1. The duty of the slave-holder. The duty of the slave-holder — what a wea-
pon I a host in itself! sure as the throne of God, and strong as the arm of God.
It is untrue that this consideration loses its force in slave states. It is the power
of God there and on this subject, as it is elsewhere and on every other. Facts
are daily occurring which show that when every other motive fails, this is
efficient. It is a libel upon the western character, to say that duty there must
bow before expediency ; and this miserable policy will soon be visited with a just
rebuke from the people it has slandered.

2. Again — The sufferings of the slaves. It is well known that in Kentucky
slavery wears its mildest features. Kentucky slave-holders are generally ignorant
of the cruelties which are practised further south, and on this score are little
aware of the bearings of the system. Those good matter-of-fact patriots, who
call such recitals "the poetry of philanthropy," and who in the south have the
control of the press, have studiously refrained from instructing the public on this
point. A noble expedient this, to close the ear of the oppressor against the wail
of the oppressed. But it will not avail. The voice of their lamentations is wax-
ing louder, and it will he heard. Sir, is it not imquestionable that slavery is the
parent of more suffering than has flowed from any one source since the date of
its existence ? Such sufferings too ! Sufferings inconceivable and innumerable —

anguish from mind degraded — hopelessness from violated chastity — bitterness
from character, reputation, and honor annihilated — unmingled wretchedness from
the ties of nature rudely broken and destroyed, the acutest bodily torture in every
muscle and joint — groans, tears and blood — lying forever " in perils among rob-
bers, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils among false
brethren, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst,
in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."

What! are these our brethren? And have we fattened, like jackalls, upon
their living flesh? Sir, when once the great proposition, that negroes are hu-
man beings — a proposition now scouted by many with contempt — is clearly de.
monstrated and drawn out on the southern sky, and when underneath it is written
the bloody corollary — the sufferings of the negro race — the seared conscience
will again sting, and the stony heart will melt.

But, brethren of the north, be not deceived. These sufferings still exist, and
despite the efforts of their cruel authors to hush them down, and confine them
within the precincts of their own plantations, they will, ever and anon, struggle
up and reach the ear of humanity.

A general fact — though I would by no means intimate that Kentucky slave-
holders are themselves free from cruelty — far from it ! — yet I have foimd, in
narrating particular cases to them, as evident expressions of horror and indigna-
tion as men ordinarily feel in other sections of our country. Such facts have their
effect upon them.

3. Licentiousness. I shall not speak of the far south, whose sons are fast
melting away under the unblushing profligacy which prevails. I allude to the
slave-holding west. It is well known that the slave lodgings — I refer now to
village slaves — are exposed to the entrance of strangers every hour of the night,
and that the sleeping apartments of both sexes are common.

It is also a fact, that there is no allowed intercourse between the families and
servants after the work of the day is over. The family, assembled for the even-
ing, enjoy a conversation elevating and instructive. But the poor slaves are
thrust out. No ties of sacred home thrown around them — ^no moral instruction
to compensate for the toils of the day — ^no intercourse as of man with man; and
should one of the younger members of the family, led by curiosity, steal out into
the filthy kitchen, the child is speedily called back, thinking itself happy if it
escape an angry rebuke. Why this ? The dread of moral contamination. Most
excellent reason; but it reveals a horrid picture. The slaves, thus cut off" from
all commimity of feeling with their master, roam over the village streets, shock-
ing the ear with their vulgar jestings and voluptuous songs, or opening their
kitchens to the reception of the neighboring blacks, they pass the evening in gam-
bling, dancing, drinking, and the most obscene conversation, kept up until the
night is far spent, then crowoi the scene with indiscriminate debauchery. Where
do these things occur ? In the kitchens of church members and elders !

But another general fact. After all the care of parents to hide these things
from their children, the young inquisitors pry them out, and they are apt scholars
truly. It's a short-sighted parent who does not perceive that his domestics
influence very materially the early education of his children. Between the female
slaves and the misses there is an unrestrained communication. As they come in
conta.ct through the day, the courtesan feats of the past night are whispered into
the ear of the unsuspecting girl, to poison her youthful mind.

Bring together these three facts — 1st, that slave lodgings arc exposed, and botli
sexes fare promiscuously — 2d, that the slaves are excluded from the social,
moral and intellectual advantages of the family, and left to seek such enjoyments
as a debased appetite suggests — and 3d, that the slaves have free interchange of
thought with the younger members of the family; and ask yourselves what must
be the results of their combined operation.

Yet these are only some of the ingredients in this great system of licentious-
ness. Pollution, pollution ! Young men of talents and respectability, fathers, pro-
fessors of rehgion, ministers — all classes! Overwhelming pollution I I have
facts ; but I forbear to state them — facts which have fallen under my own
observation, startling enough to arouse the moral indignation of the com-

I would not have you fail to understand that this is a general evil. Sir, what I
now say, I say from a deliberate conviction of its truth ; let it be felt in the north
and rolled back upon the south, that the slave States are Sodoms, and almost every
village family is a brothel. (In this, I refer to the inmates of the kitchens, and
not to the whites.) And it is well ! God be blessed for the evils which this
cursed sin entails. They only show that whatever is to be feared from the aboli-
tion of slavery, horrors a hundred fold greater cluster about its existence. Heap
them up, all hideous as they are, and crowd them home ; they will prove an
effectual medicine. Let me be understood here. This pollution is the offspring
of slavery: it springs not from the character of the negro, but from the condition
of the slave.

I have time merely to allude to several other considerations.

4. The fears of slave-holders. These afford strong evidence that conscience
is at work. In the most peaceful villages of Kentucky, masters at this time sleep
with muskets in their bed-rooms, or a brace of pistols at their head.

5. Their acknowledgments. The very admissions which they make for the
purpose of silencing their growing convictions of duty, may be successfully turned
upon them. They almost unanimously say that slavery is a great evil — that it is
abstractly wrong; yet there is no help for it — or their slaves are better off than
tliey are — or, or, or.

Now be they sincere or insincere, out of their own mouth we can condemn
them. I met, the other day, in travelling a short distance on the Ohio river, with
a good illustration of the manner in which these admissions are made. It is
also a pretty faithful exhibition of the uneasy, conscience-struck spirit which is
begiiming to pe'rvade Kentucky. The individual was a citizen of that State, and a
slave-holder in it. He was free in conversation on the subject of slavery. He
declared in the outset that slavery was wrong — a most iniquitous system, and
ought to be abolished. Quite a point gained, thought I, and I proceeded very
confidently to the application. But I soon found that my friend had deserted his
position. " The old dispensation, sir — what d'ye think of that ? Didn't Abra-
ham hold slaves? and besides, what does Paul say ?"

You perceive he was a Christian, sir, quite orthodox withal.

Soon again he returned to his post, and asserted as roundly as before the
wickedness of slavery. " Wrong — totally wrong ! I would free all my slaves
if — but — tell me, sir, were not the Jews permitted to hold slaves because they
were a favored people ; and are not we a favored people ? Abraham, Paul, the
old dispensation" — and thus he rung the changes, stung on the one hand by a


guilty conscience, and met on the other by opposing selfislmess. It may be said
this man was not intelligent. He was unusually so on every other subject.

6. Safety of emancipation. On this point, the slave-holder is more than igno-
rant — he is deplorably misinformed. Who have been his counsellors, judge ye.
It is remarkable what a unanimity of sentiment prevails on this subject.

You would suppose that they had long been plied with stories of butchered
parents, murdered children, and plundered houses. This might be discouraging
if the short history of emancipation did not furnish us with so many conclusive
facts. With these facts you are quite familiar ; and yet there is no objection more
common than the dangers, the dangers of emancipation. Travel in slave-holding
States, and talk with masters, and you will find, in a great majority of cases, they
will point to St. Domingo, and exultingly say, " Behold the consequences of your

7. Slave-holders are not so inaccessible as they are thought to be in the north.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryAmerican anti-slavery societyAnnual report ... 1st-6th,[22d]-28th; 1834-39, 1855-61 → online text (page 1 of 8)