William Lloyd Garrison.

An address, delivered before the free people of color, in Philadelphia online

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Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonAn address, delivered before the free people of color, in Philadelphia → online text (page 1 of 2)
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The following Address was written in great haste, and without the remotest
expectation of its being published in its present shape. My colored brethren,
in the various cities, having solicited its publication, I cheerfully comply with their
request ; believing that the matter is solid, and the advice worthy to be treas-
ured up in every heart.

It is not probable that I shall be alile to satisfy the great body of the people of
my own color, otherwise than by entirely abandoning the cause of emancipation.
They who do not hesitate to call me a madman, a fanatic, a disturber of the
peace, a promoter of rebellion, — among other charitable epithets, — for vindica-
ting the rights of the slaves, will naturally be offended if I presume to stand up
in behalf of the free people of color, or to address them on a subject appertain-
ing to their welfare. I am determined, nevertheless, to give slaveholders and
tlieir apologists as much uneasiness as possible. Tliey shall hear me, and of
me, and from me, in a tone and with a frequency that shall make them tremble.
There shall bi" no neutrals : men shall either like or dislike me.

Boston, July 4, 1831.



I NEVER rise to address a colored audience, without feeling
ashamed of my own color ; ashamed of being identified with
a race of men who have done you so much injustice, and who
yet retain so large a portion of your brethren in servile chains.
To make atonement, in part, for this conduct, I have solemnly
dedicated my health, and strength, and life, to your service.
I love to plan and to work for your social, intellectual, political
and spiritual advancement. My happiness is augmented with
yours : in your sufferings I participate.

Henceforth I am ready on all days, on all convenient occa-
sions, in all suitable places, before any sect or party, at whatever
perils to my person, character or interest, to plead the cause of
my colored countrymen in particular, or of human rights in
general. For this purpose, there is no day too holy, no place
improper, no body of men too inconsiderable to address. For
this purpose, I ask no church to grant me authority to speak — I
require no ordination — I am not careful to consult Martin Lu-
ther, or John Calvin, or His Hohness the Pope. It is a duty,
which, as a lover of justice, I am bound to execute ; as a lover
of my fellow-men, I ought not to shun ; as a lover of Jesus
Christ, and of his equalizing, republican and benevolent pre-
cepts, I rejoice to meet.

Countrymen and Friends ! I wish to gladden your hearts,
and to invigorate your hopes. Be assured, your cause is going
onward — right onward. The seed is now sowing broadcast,

w liirli is sliortly lo'yickl you an abundant harvest. Your atl-
viK'ates arc cuns:lantly jiiulliplying: all over the country ; and,
as far as I know tlicni, not one will ever forsake you. New
schemes are agitating for your benefit, ^\ liich will doubtless
be carried into successful operation. The signs of the times
do inileed show forth great and glorious and sudden changes
in the condition of the oppressed. The whole firmament is
tremulous Avith an excess of light — the earth is moved out of
its place — the wave of revolution is dashing in pieces ancient
and mighty empires — the hearts of tyrants are beginning to
fail them for fear, and for looking forward to those things
which are to come upon the earth. There is

" A voice on every wave,

A sound on every sea !

The watch-word of the brave,

Tlie anthem of the free !

From steep to steep it rings.

Through Europe's many climes,

A knell to despot Kings,

A sentence on their crimes :

From every giant hill, companion of the cloud,

The startled echo leaps to give it back aloud :

I Where'er a wind is rusliing,

I ...

I Where'er a stream is gushing, ;

The swelling sounds arc heard, ,'

Of man to freeman calling.

Of broken fetters falling —
And, like the carol of a cageioss bird,
The bursting shout of Freedom's rallying word ! '

Glory to God in the highest, for the prospect which he
holds out to om- vision. Take courage, then, my friends.
Thou'jli viiur enemies appear numerous, and boast themselves
niraiiist you, — fear not: the Lord God is on your side. The
(Joloni/aiion Society may plot your removal to a foreign land
— to Africa — l»ut ihoy will not succeed. I believe, as lirniiy
as I do my own existence, that the time is not far distant,
when you and the trampled slaves will all be free — free in the
Bpirit a.s well as the letter — and enjoy the the same rights in this
country as other citizens. Every one of you shall sit under

your own vine and fig-tree, and none shall molest or make
you afraid.

Do you sigh and pant for the arrival of that period ? I know
you do. It is my object, in this address, to show what you
can do to hasten it.

1st. Respect yourselves, if you desire the respect of others.
A self-love which excludes God and the world from the aflec-
tions, is a different thing from self-respect. A man should
value himself at a high price — not because he happens to be
of this or that color, or rich, or accomplished, or popular, or
physically powerful — but because he is created in the image of
God ; because he stands but a little lower than the angels ;
because he has a spiritual essence, which is destined to live
forever ; Jjecause he is capable of exerting a moral power,
which is infinitely superior to animal strength ; and because
he lives in a world of trial and temptation, and needs the sym-
pathy and aid of his fellow men. If he be dead to all these
lofty considerations ; if, in the words of the poet —

'He lies in dull, oblivious dreams, nor cares
Who the wreathed laurel hears ; '

if his highest'ambilion be to grovel with brutes ; it is not pos-
sible for him to command public or private respect; his com-
pany will be shunned ; he will live and die a libel upon his
Creator. So it will be with a people who arc lost to them-
selves and the world.

Do not imagine that you are onl}^ a blank in creation, and
therefore it is immaterial what you are in conduct or condition.
Remember that not only the eyes of the people in this place,

but the eyes of the whole nation, are fixed upon you. I dare \ 1

not predict how far your example may aflect the welfare of
the slaves ; but undoubtedly it is in your power, by this ex-
ample, to break many fetters, or to keep many of your brethren
in bondage. If you are temperate, industrious, peaceable and
pious ; if you return good for evil, and blessing for cursing ;
you will show to the world, that the slaves can be emancipated

without danger : but if you are turbulent, idle and vicious, you
will jHit arguments into the mouths of tyrants, and cover your
friends with confusion and shame.

Many of you, I rejoice to know, have found out the secret of
preferment. I appeal to your experience and observation : as
a general rule, have you not acijuired the esteem, confidence
and patronage of the wliites, in jiroportion to your increase in
knowledge and moral imi)rovcment ? Who are thcv, com-
monly, tiiat suller the most among you ? They who are in-
temperate, indolent and grovelling. Is it not so? jSelf-re-
spect, my friends, is a lever which will lift you out of the
depths of degradation, and establish your feet upon a rock, and
put a song of victory into your mouths — victory over prejudice,
pride and oppression.

All things considered, you have certainly done well as a
body. There are many colored men whom I am proud to
rank among my friends ; whose native vigor of mind' is re-
markable ; whose morals are unexceptionable ; whose homes
are the abodes of contentment, plenty and refinement. For
my own part, when I reflect upon the peculiarities of your sit-
uation ; what indignities have been heaped upon your heads ;
in what utter dislike you are generally held even by those who
profess to be the ministers and disciples of Christ — and how
difllcult has been your chance to arrive at respectability and
aniueiice, I marvel greatly, not that you arc no more enlight-
ened and virtuous, but that you arc not like wild beasts of the
foresL-;. 1 fully cniiuule with the sentiment of Mr. JcfTerson,
that the n\n\ must be prodigies who can retain their manners
and morals under such circumstances. Surely you ]v,\\c rea-
.^on to bless CJod that his grace has kept you from utter ruin.

I said you had already done well, as a peo]>lc ; but you can
and will do belter. Remember what a singidar relation you
Kuslain to society. The necessities of (he case re(iuire not only
that you slmuld behave as well as (he whites, but better than
the white- — and for (his reason : if you behave no better than
they, (and 1 do not think (he (ask would be difiTicult to excel

them,) your example will lose a great portion of its influence.
It should stand out to the world, like a pillar of light, above
and beyond that of any other people.

2c11y. Make the Lord Jesus Christ your refuge and exem-
plar. It is out of my province, and far from my object, to ser-
monize ; but, believing as I do, that through Christ strength-
ening you, you may do all thiugs — that His is the only stand-
ard around which you can successfully rally, and He the great
Captain of Salvation in this warfare — I cannot but commend
Him to your imitation and confidence. If ever there were a
people who needed the consolations of religion, to sustain them
in their grievous afflictions, you are that people. You turn to
the right hand for relief, but in vain ; to the left, but no suc-
cor arrives. Your friends, though zealous and confident, are
few in number, and cannot change the hearts of men. Im-
agine, for a moment, that there is no Deity in existence — no
God that rules in all the earth — and what would be your con-
dition or prospect ? But if you do not implore his protection. He
might as well cease to be, so far as your succor is concerned ; for
he is a God that will be entreated. My brethren, it is a bless-
ed thing that you are enabled to exclaim with the worshippers
in Heaven — ' Alleluia ! for the Lord God omnipotent reign-
eth ! ' And when, hke them, you have cried with a loud
voice, ' How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge
and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?'
then, like them, white robes will be given unto every one of
you, and you will shout, ' Salvation, and glory, and honor,
and power, unto the Lord our God : for true and righteous
are his judgments ; — for he hath judged the great whore,
which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath
avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.' Yea, every
one of you Avill be able to say with the Psalmist, ' For lo, thine
enemies, O Lord, for lo, thine enemies shall perish ; all the
workers of iniquity shall be scattered. But my horn shalt thou
exalt, like the horn of the unicorn : I shall be anointed with
fresh oil. Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies.


ami nmie ecus shall hear my clesiie of the wicked that ri^ic up
against me. I called upon tlie Lord in distress : the Lord an-
swered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my
side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The
Lord taketh my jiart with them that help me : therefore shall
I see my desire upon them that hate me. It is better to trust
in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust
in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. Happy is that
people whose God is the Lord ! '

I am happy to inform you, that the late General Convention
of Colored Delegates, in riiiladclpliia, recommended (almost
unanimously) the observance of the ensuing Fourth of July
as a day of Fasting and Prayer among your churches through-
out the land. I hope you will comply with this recommen-
dation, and earnestly call upon God to give you rehef and to
take away your reproach forever. One or two of the Dele-
gates, to my surprise and sorrow, opposed the fast, and spoke
of it as hypocritical and unnecessary. It is unnecessary, if
you and your cause are independent of God ; if you have no
grie\ances to lay l)efore him ; if you are so holy, as to need
no repentance and forgiveness of sin. It is unnecessary, if
you cannot fast except as hypocrites. Ol)jections were made
to the day that was rccomincndic! — the Fourth of July. It
was deemed a matter of great moment to have orations, bar-
bacues, toasts, etc. &.c. on that day. As to this mode of cele-
bration, I rejoice to know that it is going out of fashion among
the whites : it is a |)oor kind of j)atriotism, which approves of
dram-driiiking and rioting. The day is becoming sacred to
benevolent purposes, and to rational worship. If any colored
man can feel happy on the I'ourth of July, it is more than I
can do. To me it is the most unhappy day in the whole throe
hundred and sixty-five. The ringing of bells and the thunder-
ing of cannon arc torture to my feelings. 1 cannot be happy
when I listen to the rant of lying declaimers, or think of the
daring mockery to CJod, in which a whole nation combines.
1 cannot be haj)py when 1 know that those braggarts, who arc


stunning my ears with their boasts of hberty, are holding two
millions of my countrymen in a state of servitude, which, for
cruelty and debasement, nothing in the dark ages can paral-
lel : — two millions, whose carcasses are thrown to the fowls of
heaven ; whose blood drenches the ground which they till ;
whose sighs freight every wind ; who are lacerated with \\ hips ;
who are branded with red hot irons ; who are torn asunder,
and sold like cattle ; who are scantily fed with the coarsest
food ; wbose nakedness is but half concealed by rags ; the eyes
of whose souls are put out, and from whom is hid the glorious
gospel of the blessed God. I cannot be liappy when I look at
the burdens under which the free people of color labor, — fet-
tered by unjust laws, driven beyond the pale of society, shut
out from the path of preferment, cramped in the pursuits of
industry. As a white citizen, I am as tall as any man in the
nation ; my rights are amply secured ; I lack nothing. Yet,
I repeat, if there be a colored man who feels happy on the
Fourth of July, he feels what I cannot.

A word more as to the efficacy of prayer. Perhaps the true
reason why the cause of emancipation progresses so slowly, is
because so few petitions are put up to the Throne of Grace on
the subject. Certainly it is a rare occurrence to hear it referred
to by our white clergymen, in their public supplications ; and,
I fear, few of our white church members ever allude to it. Is
there as much prayer among you as the exigency of the case
demands ? Prayer will forward the work faster than all the
pens in the land : we can do nothing without it. There is no
one so poor but he can give the donation of a prayer.

3dly. Sustain, as far as you can, those periodicals which
are devoted to your cause. I speak on this subject pointedly,
not with any selfish feelings, but because I know that without
the powerful energies of the press, every cause must languish.
It was this tremendous engine which produced and triumphant-
ly effected the American Revolution ; it has twice overthrown
the despotism in France ; it is fanning the flame of liberty in
the bosoms of the Poles ; its power is shaking the government


of Great Britain to its centre. The pre??, in a manner, pos-
sesses the gift of ubiquity : it enables a man to address him-
self to thousands in every State at the same moment, and to
throw his inlhicncc from one end of the country to the other:
it has taken the place of the anrient oracles, and exercises a
hi'iher authority. The press is tlie citadel of liberty — the pal-
ladium of a free people. Multiply periodicals among your-
selves, to be conducted by men of your own color. The cause
of emanci|)ation demands at least one hundred presses.

•Ithly. \Vhenever you can, put your children to trades. A
good trade is better than a fortune, because when once obtain-
ed, it cannot be taken away. 1 know the difliculties under
which you labor, in regard to this matter. 1 know how un-
willing master mechanics are to receive your children, and the
strength of that vulgar prejudice which reigns in the breasts
of the working classes. But by perseverance in your applica-
tions, you may often succeed in procuring valuable situations
for your children. As strong as prejudice is in the human
breast, there is another feeling yet stronger — and that is, sel-
fishness. Place two mechanics by the side of each other —
one colored, and the other white : he w ho works the cheapest
and best, will get the most custom. In making a bargain,
the color of a man will never be consulted. Now, there can
]>e no reason why your sons should fail to make as ingenious
and industrious mechanics, as any white apprentices; and
when the}' once get trades, they will be able to accumulate
money; money begets induence, and i'lllucnce respectability,
Innurure, wealth and character will certainly destroy those
prejudices which now separate you from society.

Hthly. Get as much education as possible for yourselves and
your offspring. Toil long and hard for it as for a pearl of great
price. An ignorant people can never occupy any other than
a degraded station in society : they can never be truly free
until (hey are intelliLjent. It is an old maxim that knowledge
is power; and not only is it |X)wer, l)ut rank, wealth, digjiity
and j)roleclion. That capital brings the highest interest to a


city, state or nation, (as the case may be,) which is invested in
school:!, academies and colleges. The greatest gift which a
parent can bestow upon his child, is a knowledge of the al-
phabet. He who can read, may feel that he is elevated aljovc
all the kingly blockheads in the world. If I bad children,
rather than they should gi'ow up in ignorance, I would feed
upon bread and water, and repose upon the cold earth : 1 would
sell my teeth, or extract the blood from my veins.

I have spoken of the difficulty experienced in getting trades
for your children. Perhaps one important obstacle is, their
want of education. It ought not to surprise us, that master
mechanics (independent of prejudice) prefer white boys to col-
ored ones, when the former are so much better instructed.
When yours become as well versed in the common rudiments
of education, I conceive there will not be the same difficulty
which now exists.

While on the subject of education, it may be proper for me
to make a few remarks in relation to the new College for the
instruction of colored youth, which is proposed to be located in
New Haven, Ct. It is known to some of you at least, that
my principal object in recently visiting Philadelphia, (in com-
pany with two eminent philanthropists,) was for the pur-
pose of commending the College to the approljation of your
General Convention. Of course, I am warmly interested in
its establishment. As many doubtless are present, who would
like to know the why and wlierefore of this project, I shall
briefly give some of the reasons why I cherish it.

I am in favor of the College, first, for the very obvious reason'
that colored young men, however suitably prepared for admis-
sion, are generally excluded from our white colleges. If this
were the only reason, I should not want anotlier. Until your
children can enter into competition with the whites, on equal
grounds, they can never come up to the whites ; consequently
the assertion will still be confidently made, that they are of in-
ferior capacity. Now, it is high time to have the question
settled, whether you are as intellectual as your white skeptics.


Interest, pelf-respect, ambition, glory, all demand the trial. I,
for one, have no fears of the result. .Should the College go
into operation, I have no doubt colored young men will be
graduated whom the country, yea the world, will delight to
honor; who will put to open shame your incredulous tra-
ducers, and finish the controversy which has so long divided
public opinion.

' The spirit Mnnot always sleep in dust,
Whose essence is ethereal ; they may try

To darken and degrade it ; it may rust
Dimly awhile, but cannot wholly die ;

A nd, when it wakens, it will send its fire

Intcnscr forth and higher.'

I offer another reason. After the first four years, there will
annually be graduated a band of educated men, who will be
prepared to measure quills with the mightiest writers in the
land; and to vindicate your rights in a manner which no white
man is able to do. It is exhilarating to imagine the amount
of moral infiuence which they will accumulate and disburse.
Is it a small matter to send out a company of intellectual giants
every year, to give battle to oppression / Recollect that as
they rise in public estimation, so will your whole body.

A third reason is, that, at the College, labor will be combined
with study, just so far as to make it a pleasant recreation, and
yet productive of gain. By this means, the poorest youth will
be enabled to procure a first-rate education, and to stand on an
equality with the son of the wealthiest individual. This sin-
gle consideration should commend the College to all classes,
and j)articulariy to the poor ; — but there is another (juite as im-
portant. The students will be filled to jnirsue not only the
professions of Law, Medicine and Divinity, but mercantile,
mechanical and agi icultur;il cmploynieiils. This will increase
the vulur of the institution a IumuIuhI Ibid.

My fourth reason 1 conceive to l)e an iiiqwrtant one. At
present, nearly all your primary and intermediate schools, in
every j)lace, arc in a languishing state. Your children can


advance only to a short and an imperfect line of education,
and there they are cut oiY. There is little to stimulate tiiem
to exertion. I am certain, therefore, that a College which se-
cures equal advantages to them, whatever may be their con-
dition, will infuse new vigor into your common schools, and
kindle a flame of emulation which shall spread to the utmost
boundaries of your population. It will give an accession of
learners, from those who are beginning to encounter the perils
of the alphabet up to those who begin to discern the mysteries
of grammar and arithmetic. If any colored teachers imagine
that the College wall hurt tlieir own schools, they are mistaken ;
it will put money into their pockets.

The last reason which I shall offer at this time is, that such
an institution will be to you, as a people, what the sun is to the
world. Its light will be seen in every land, chasing the mists of
prejudice, and blazing with unquenchal)le lustre. Where now
all is darkness and desolation, it will illumine and renovate.
Barren soils shall be clothed with a beautiful vegetation, and
the germs of knowledge spring up in desert places. What
Yale College, at New Haven, has done for the whiles, (and it
has been the great ocean of literature and science, whose
streams have fertilised the shores of this country and of all
Europe with an annual inundation like the ISile) — I say, what
that venerated institution has done for the whites, may in time
be done by the new College for the colored people. My heart
enlarges in contemplating this subject. I lose sight of your
present situation, and look at it only in futurity. I imagine
myself surrounded by educated men of color, the Websters,
and Clays, and Hamillons, and Dwights, and Edwardses of
the day. I listen to their voices as Judges, and Representa-
tives, and Rulers of the people — the whole people.

6thly. As it is by association that the condition of man is
made better, and bodies of men rise up simultaneously from
a state of degradation, I recommend to you the formation of
societies for moral improvement. The v.hites have their Read-
ing Societies, their Debating Societies, their Literary Associa-


t'lons ami Lyceums. What is the con?ef|nencc ? These are
buistini^ open the arcana of knowledge, and distiihuling
the hidden treasures of ages among the working-classes.
Ever}'^ member goes to give what information lie has got, and


Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonAn address, delivered before the free people of color, in Philadelphia → online text (page 1 of 2)