William Lloyd Garrison.

Selections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. online

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Th' enslaved to disenthral ;
I am a soldier for the war,

"Whatever may befall !


I am an Abolitionist !

Oppression's deadly foe ;
In God's great strength will I resist,

And lay the monster low ;
In God's great name do I demand,

To all be freedom given,
That peace and joy may fill the land,

And songs go up to heaven !


I am an Abolitionist!

No threats shall awe my soul —
No perils cause me to desist —

No bribes my acts control ;


A freeman will I live and die,

In sunshine and in shade,
And raise my voice for liberty,

Of nought on earth afraid.


I am an Abolitionist —

The tyrant's hate and dread —
The friend of all who are oppressed —

A price is on my head !
My country is the wide, wide world,

My countrymen mankind : —
Down to the dust be Slavery hurled !

All servile chains unbind!

They tell me, Liberty ! that, in thy name,
I may not plead for all the human race ;
That some are born to bondage and disgrace.

Some to a heritage of wo and shame,

And some to power supreme, and glorious fame.
With my whole soul, I spurn the doctrine base,
And, as an equal brotherhood, embrace

All people, and for all fair freedom claim !

Know this, O man ! whatc'er thy earthly fate —
God never made a tyrant, nor a slave :

Wo, then, to those Avho dare to desecrate
His glorious image ! — for to all He gave

Eternal riglits, which none may violate ;
And by a mighty hand, th* oppressed He yet shall save.


Cost what it may, every slave on the American soil must
be liberated from his chains. Nothing is to be put in com-
petition, on the score of value, with the price of his liberty ;
for whatever conflicts with the rights of man must be evil,
and therefore intrinsically worthless. Are we to be intimi-
dated from defending his cause by the fear of consequen-
ces ? Is it, then, safe to do wrong ? $ Has a just God so
ordered it, that the strong may oppress the weak, the rich
defraud the poor, the merciless torture the innocent, not only
without guilt, but with benefit to mankind ? Is there no
similitude between the seed that is sown, and the harvest
which it brings forth ? Have cause and effect ceased to
retain an indissoluble connection with each other .? On such
a plea, what crime may not be committed with impunity ?
what deed of villany may not demand exemption from
rebuke .'' what system of depravity may not claim protection
against the assaults of virtue ?

Let not those who say, that the path of obedience is a
dangerous one, claim to believe in the living and true God.
They deny his omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence. It
is his will, that the bands of wickedness should be loosed, the
heavy burdens of tyranny undone, the oppressed set free.
They reject it as absurd, impracticable, dangerous. It is his
promise, that the results of emancipation shall be noon-day
light for darkness, health for disease, fertility for barrenness,
prosperity like a spring of water whose waters fail not, the
building up of old waste places, the restoring of paths to dwell
in, the glory of the Lord for a rereward, and his guidance
continually ! They affirm, that the promise is worthless, and
to disregard it is a duty. They exalt the Spirit of Evil above
all that is called God, and raise an Ephesian clamor against


those who will not fall down and worship it. Yet they put
on the garb of religion ; they extol faith, hope, charity ; they
build and dedicate temples of worship, in the name of Christ ;
they profess to be the disciples of Him who came to pro-
claim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison
to them that are bound. Unblushing hypocrites ! think not,
by your pious dissembling, to hide your iniquity from the
pure in heart, or to ' circumvent God ' ! Impious contem-
ners of Divine wisdom and goodness ! from your compan-
ionship, the spirits of the free shrink with horror !

For more than two centuries, slavery has polluted the
American soil. It has grown with the growth, and strength-
ened with the strength of the republic. Its victims have
multiplied, from a single cargo of stolen Africans, to three
millions of native-born inhabitants. In our colonial state, it
was deemed compatible with loyalty to the mother country.
In our revolutionary struggle for independence, it exchanged
the sceptre of monarchy for the star-spangled banner of
republicanism, under the folds of which it has found ample
encouragement and protection. From the days of the Puri-
tans down to the present time, it has been sanctified by the
religion, and upheld by the patriotism of the nation. From
the adoption of the American Constitution, it has declared
war and made peace, instituted and destroyed national banks
and tariffs, controlled the army and navy, prescribed the
policy of the government, ruled in both houses of Congress,
occupied the Presidential chair, governed the political parties,
distributed offices of trust and emolument among its worship-
pers, fettered Northern industry and enterprise, and trampled
liberty of speech and of conscience in the dust.

It has exercised absolute mastery over the American

Church. In her skirts is found ' the blood of the souls of

the poor innocents.' With the Bible in their hands, her

priesthood have attempted to prove that slavery came down



from God out of heaven. They have become slave-owners
and dealers in human flesh. They have justified robbery,
adultery, barbarity, man-stealing and murder, on a frightful
scale. They have been among the foremost to crush the
sacred cause of emancipation, to cover its advocates with
infamy, to oppose the purification of the Church. They
have become possessors of the flock, whom they slay, ' and
hold themselves not guilty ; and they that sell them say,
Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich : and their own shepherds
pity them not.'

If slavery be thus entwined around the civil, social, and
pecuniary interests of the republic — if the religious sects and
political parties are banded together for its safety from inter-
nal revolt and external opposition — if the people, awed by
its power and corrupted by its influence, are basely bending
their knees at its footstool — is it wonderful that Church and
State are shaken to their foundations by the rallying cry of
Liberty, ' To the rescue ! ' in behalf of imbruted humanity ?
Or should it be accounted marvellous, that they who have
sternly resolved to efiect the utter overthrow of this frightful
usurpation are subjected to persecution, reproach, loss of
character, and the hazard of life ? Constituting the ' forlorn
hope ' in the struggling cause of freedom, they must be pre-
pared to meet all the vicissitudes of the conflict, and to
make whatever sacrifices may be needed to achieve the vic-
tory. Hereafter, when the song of jubilee shall be sung by
those for whose deliverance they toiled so devotedly, their
deeds and their memories shall be covered with a halo of
glory, and held in grateful remembrance by enfranchised

Slavery must be overthrown. No matter how numerous
the difficulties, how formidable the obstacles, how strong the
foes to be vanquished — slavery must cease to pollute the
land. No matter, whether the event be near or remote.


whether the taskmaster ^willingly or unwillingly relinquish
his arbitrary power, whether by a peaceful or a bloody pro-
cess — slavery must die.. ^No matter, though, to effect it,
every party should be torn by dissensions, every sect dashed
into fragments, the national compact dissolved, the land filled
with Ihe horrors of a civil and a servile war — still, slavery
must be buried in the grave of infamy, beyond the possibility
of a resurrection.""/ If the State cannot survive the anti-sla-
very agitation, then let the State perish. If the Church
must be cast down by the strugglings of Humanity to be free,
then let the Church fall, and its fragments be scattered to
the four winds of heaven, never more to curse the earth. If
the American Union cannot be maintained, except by immo-
lating human freedom on the altar of tyranny, then let the
American Union be consumed by a living thunderbolt, and
no tear be shed over its ashes. If the Republic must be
blotted out from the roll of nations, by proclaiming liberty
to the captives, then let the Republic sink beneath the waves
of oblivion, and a shout of joy, louder than the voice of many
waters, fill the universe at its extinction.

Against this declaration, none but traitors and tyrants will
raise an outcry. It is the mandate of Heaven, and the voice
of God. It has righteousness for its foundation, reason for
its authority, and truth for its support. It is not vindictive
but merciful, not violent but pacific, not destructive but pre-
servative. It is simply asserting the supremacy of right
over wrong, of liberty over slavery, of God over man. It
is only raising the standard of rectitude from the dust, and
placing it on the eternal throne.

The Party or Sect that will suffer by the triumph of jus-
tice cannot exist with safety to mankind. The State that
cannot tolerate universal freedom must be despotic ; and no
valid reason can be given why despotism should not at once
be hurled to the dust. The Church that is endangered by



the proclamation of eternal truth, and that trades in slaves
and souls of men, is ' the habitation of devils, and the hold
of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hate-
ful bird ; therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death,
and mourning, and famine ; and she shall be utterly burned
with fire : for strong is the Lord God who judge th her.'
The Union that can be perpetuated only by enslaving a por-
tion of the people is ' a covenant with death, and an agree-
ment with hell,' and destined to be broken in pieces as a
potter's vessel. When judgment is laid to the line, and
righteousness to the plummet, the hail shall sweep away the
refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place.
The Republic that depends for its stability on making war
against the government of God and the rights of man, though
it exalt itself as the eagle, and set its nest among the stars,
shall be cast into the bottomless deep, and the loss of it shall
be a gain to the world.

There must be no compromise with slavery — none
whatever. Nothing is gained, every thing is lost, by subor-
dinating principle to expediency. The spirit of freedom
must be inexorable in its demand for the instant release of
all who are sighing in bondage, nor abate one jot or tittle of
its righteous claims. By one remorseless grasp, the rights
of humanity have been taken away ; and by one strong blow,
the iron hand of usurpation must be made to relinquish its
hold. The apologist for oppression becomes himself the
oppressor. To palliate crime is to be guilty of its perpetra-
tion. To ask for a postponement of the case, till a more
convenient season, is to call for a suspension of the moral
law, and to assume that it is right to do wrong, under present
circumstances. Talk not of other questions to be settled,
of other interests to be secured, of other objects to be attain-
ed, before the slave can have his fetters broken. Nothing
can take precedence of the question of liberty. No interest


is SO momentous as that which involves ' the life of the soul ; '
no object so glorious as the restoration of a man to himself.
It is idle to talk of human concerns, where there are not
human beings. Slavery annihilates manhood, and puts down
in its crimson ledger as chattels personal, those who are cre-
ated in the image of God. Hence, it tramples under foot
whatever pertains to human safety, human prosperity, human
happiness. Hence, too, its overthrow is the primary object
to be sought, in order to secure private advantage and pro-
mote the public weal.

In the present struggle, the test of character is as infalli-
ble as it is simple. He that is with the slaveholder is against
the slave : he that is with the slave is against the slaveholder.
He that thinks, speaks, acts, on the subject of slavery, in
accordance with the feelings and wishes of the tyrant, does
every thing to perpetuate the thraldom of his victims.
When was it ever known for tyranny to devise and execute
effective measures for its own overthrow ? Or for the
oppressor and the oppressed to be agreed on the great ques-
tion of equal rights ? Who talks of occupying neutral
ground between these hostile parties ? of reconciling them,
by prolonging the sufferings of the one, and the cruelty of
the other ? of mutually satisfying them as to the means and
the plan by which the rod and the chain shall be broken ? I
tell such vain babbler, or crafty hypocrite, that he is acting
the part of a fool or a knave. Impossibilities are impossi-
bilities ; and to propose their adoption, as the only rational
methods by which to dethrone injustice, is an insult to
human intelligence. Slavery cannot be conquered by flat-
tery or stratagem. Its dying throes will convulse the land
and sea.

Abolitionists! friends of liberty ! remember that the foe
with whom you are in conflict is full ' of all deccivableness
of unrighteousness,' and will resort to every artifice to make


you quit the field. Put on the whole armor of God ; so
shall you be invulnerable and invincible ; so shall no weapon
against you prosper. The war admits of no parley. No
flag of truce must be sent or received by you ; you must
neither give nor take any quarters. As Samuel hewed Agag
in pieces, so, with the battle-axe of Truth, you must cleave
Slavery to the ground, and give its carcass to the fowls of
the air. May Heaven reinspire your hearts, give new vigor
to your arms, direct you blows aright, fill the breast of the
enemy with dismay, and grant you a splendid victory !

)n rnmplHitig mtt (Kljirttj-/iftli ^^But;

DECEMBER 10, 1840.

If, to the age of threescore years and ten,

God of my life ! thou shalt my term prolong,
Still be it mine to reprobate all wrong,

And save from wo my suffering fellow-men.

"Whether, in Freedom's cause, my voice or pen
Be used by thee, who art my joy and song,
To vindicate the weak against the strong,

Upon my labors rest thy benison !

O ! not for Afric's sons alone I plead.
Or her descendants ; but for all who sigh

In servile chains, whate'er their caste or creed :
They not in vain to Heaven send up their cry ;

For all mankind from bondage shall be freed,
And from the earth be chased all forms of tyranny.


Sir — Whatever respect I have cherished, hitherto, for
your character as a patriot and statesman, has fled on
perusing your late speech in Faneuil Hall. In my opinion,
there is not more of moral turpitude in firing a whole city,
than in the delivery of such a speech, in such a place, on
such an occasion, and under such circumstances. There
seems to be no flesh in your heart. You are a man — and
yet the eulogist of those tyrants, who are trampling your
brother in the dust ! You are a husband — a parent —
and yet join in upholding a traflic and a system, which ruth-
lessly sunder the holiest ties of life ! You are an Ameri-
can — and yet can look complacently, nay, approvingly,
upon the brutal enslavement of more than one-sixth portion
of YOUR OWN COUNTRYMEN ! I was about to add, you are
a Christian — but I dare not thus libel Christianity. ' He
that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in

* The speech which elicited this Letter was made at the groat
Anti- Abolition Meeting which -was held in Faneuil Hall, August
21, 1835. Among other speakers on that occasion were Hon.
Harrison Gray Otis and Richard Fletcher, Esq. The period
was one of the hottest excitement against the abolitionists, in
Boston, and in all parts of the country. Among the evil conse-
quences of this meeting was the memorable mob, boastingly com-
posed of 'five thousand gentlemen of property and standing,' on
the 21st of October, which, in broad daylight, assailed a meeting of
the Female Anti-Slavery Society, held at 46 Washington Street,
violently dispersed it, overawed the city authorities, and seized Mr.
Garrison, for the purpose of wreaking their fury upon him, who,
after being nearly stripped of his clothing, was with dilHculty
rescued out of their hands, and had to be temporarily committed to
the jail in Leverett Street, to save his life ! [See Appendix.]


darkness even until now.' ' If a man say, I love God, and
hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his
brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he
hath not seen.^ ' You have dared to stand up, even in the
Old Cradle of Liberty, hostile to human freedom ; you
have sought to base the pillal's of your popularity upon the
necks of down-trodden millions ; and you have uttered sen-
timents, which elicit thunders of applause from all that is
loathsome in impurity, hateful in revenge, base in extortion,
dastardly in oppression. You are in amicable companion-
ship and popular repute with thieves and adulterers ; with
slave-holders, slave-breeders, slave-dealers, slave-destroyers ;
with those who trample law and order beneath their feet ;
with the plunderers of the public mail ; with ruffians who
insult, pollute and lacerate helpless women ; and with con-
spirators against the lives and liberties of New England
citizens. These facts are undeniable. Talk not of more
honorable associates : none are honorable, who throw the
weight of their influence into the scale of oppression.

You affect to thhik that the abolitionists are laboring in
the wrong section of the Union. You insinuate, that, while
they preach the doctrine, ' We must do right, regardless of
consequences,' none are more craven in spirit ; and add —

* They insist, that it is right that they should urge their doctrines
for the conviction of the South. Ask them why they do not go
and preach them there, where they most desire to make converts —
they reply, Why ! we should be in danger of our lives ! Then
they begin to think of consequences. So that the practical result
of that proposition, which sounds so well in the abstract, is, that
they are to go on regardless of consequences to others, but not
without a due regard to themselves.'

Sir, there may be wit, but there is little truth, in the above
extract. To do right, is always to regard consequences,
both to ourselves and to others. Since you are pleased to


banter us for prosecuting our labors at the North, I will take
for my text the interrogation that is so constantly, either by
ignorance or impudence, propounded to us. It is this : —

' Why don't you go to the South ? '

I proudly answer — Not because we are afraid to go
there. Not because we are not prepared for danger, per-
secution, outrage, and death. Not because the dungeon or
the halter, the rack or the stake, appals us. Yet the ques-
tion is sneeringly put, and sometimes with murder evidently
in the heart, as if we were deficient in fortitude and courage,
with all our seeming boldness. ' O, forsooth ! it is very safe
and convenient for Mr. Garrison to denounce the holders of
slaves a thousand miles off, in Boston ! A great deal of
heroism is required to do this ! But he is very careful to
keep out of the slave States. Why don't he go to the
South ? Let him go there, and denounce slavery, and we
will then believe that he is sincere.' This is the language
which is constantly uttered — by men, too, permit me to say,
who have never peculiarly signalized themselves in any
hazardous enterprise, whether moral or physical. I am vain
enough to believe, that those who bring this charge of cow-
ardice against me do not doubt my readiness to go wherever
duty requires. Will they give me no credit for having pub-
lished an anti-slavery publication in Maryland, as long as it
could be sustained by a meagre patronage ? — a publication
in which my denunciations of slavery and slaveholders were
as severe as any to be found in the Liberator. Did my
spirit quail under my imprisonment in a Southern cell ? Is
it true, that I am hazarding nothing by my advocacy of the
cause of emancipation, even in Boston ? Has no endurance,
no unusual courage, been required to oppose all classes of
society, and to sustain the odium, derision and hatred of a
slaveholding nation ? Is it nothing to have large rewards
offered by a Southern legislature, and by private combina-


tions, for my seizure and destruction ? Sir, the slavehold-
ers of the South may call me a fanatic — they may call
me a madman, or an incendiary, or an agitator, and believe
me to be such ; but to call me a coward — that is an epithet
which they have too much good sense to apply to me.
They regard me in any other light than that of a craven :
all the trembling, and shrinking, and alarm, is felt and man-
ifested on their part — not on mine. I may be rash — I
may be obstinate — but no fear of man shall deter me from
a faithful discharge of my duty to the oppressed. As for
mere animal courage, it is nothing to excel in it — no proof
of true bravery.

* Why don't you go to the South?'

Why, Sir, when we denounce the tyranny exercised over
the miserable Poles, do we not go into the dominions of the
Russian autocrat, and beard him to his face ? Why not go
to Constantinople, and protest against the oppression of the
Greeks ? Why assail the despotic governments of Europe
here in the United States.? Why, then, should we go into
the slaveholding States, to assail their towering wickedness,
at a time when we are sure that we should be gagged, or
imprisoned, or put to death, if we went thither.? Why
rashly throw ourselves into the ocean, or commit ourselves
to the flames, or cast ourselves into the jaws of the lion ?
Understand me, Sir. I do not mean to say, that even the
certainty of destruction is, in itself, a valid reason for our
refusing to go to the South ; for we are bound to take up
any cross, or incur any peril, in the discharge of our duty
to God and our suffering brother. Prove to me that it is
imperatively my duty, in view of all the circumstances of
the case, to locate myself among slaveholders, and I will
not hesitate to do so, though (to borrow the strong language
of Martin Luther) every tile upon their houses were a
devil. Moral courage — duty — self-consecration — all have


their proper limits. When He who knew no fear — the im-
maculate Redeemer — saw that his enemies intended to cast
him down from the brow of a hill, he prudently withdrew
from their midst. When he sent forth his apostles, he said
unto them, ' When they persecute you in one city, flee ye
into another.' Was there any cowardice in this conduct, or
in this advice ?

' Why don't you go to the South ? '

If we should go there, and fall — as fall we certainly
should — martyrs to our zeal, our enemies would still call
us, what we then should deserve to be called, fanatics and
madmen. Pointing at our mangled bodies, they would com-
mence their derisions afresh. ' Poor fools ! ' they would
exclaim — ' insane enthusiasts! thus to rush into the cage of
the tiger, with the certain knowledge that he would tear them
in pieces ! ' And this, Sir, would be the eulogy which they
would pronounce over us !

'Why don't you go to the South?'

Because it is essential that the beam should first be cast
out of the eyes of the people of the free States, before they
attempt to cast out the mote in the eyes of the people of the
slave States. Because they who denounce fraud, and
cruelty, and oppression, should first become honest, and
merciful, and free, themselves. ' Thou that sayest, a man
should not steal — dost thou steal ? ' Thou that preachest,
a man should not be a slaveholder — art thou a slaveholder?
' Physician, heal thyself! '

' Why don't you go to the South ? '

Have I answered the question satisfactorily ? If not, Sir,
you will help me to additional reasons for our staying here
at the North, in my answer to another question, which is
iterated on all occasions, as if it for ever ended the contro-
versy — viz. :

' What have we to do with Southern slavery ? '


This question is put, sometimes with reference to legisla-

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 11 of 33)