William Lloyd Garrison.

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

. (page 12 of 33)
Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 12 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tion — at other times, it refers to moral obligation. I answer,
then, that we, the people of the United States, have
legislated on the subject of slavery, and we have a right to
legislate upon it, within certain limits. As to our moral
obligation, it belongs to our nature, and is a part of our ac-
countability, of which neither time nor distance, neither
climate nor location, neither republican nor monarchical
government, can divest us. Let there be but one slave on
;the face of the globe — let him stand on one extremity of
the globe, and place me on the other — let every people,
and tribe, and clime, and nation, stand as barriers between
him and myself: still, I am bound to sympathise with him —
to pray, and toil, and plead for his deliverance — to make
known his wrongs, and vindicate his rights. It may not be
in my power, it may not be my duty, directly to emancipate
him ; for the power rests in the hands of the tyrant who
keeps him in chains, and it is his duty to break them asunder.
But it matters not, except to demand an increase of zeal and
activity, if every interposing tribe or nation, if the whole
world is to be changed, before that solitary slave can go
free. Then I will begin with him who stands next by my
side, and with my associates, and with my country ; and if
the impulse must be sent by proxy, if every man, woman
.ar^d child must be abolitionised by detail, before the captive
can be disenthralled, I am nevertheless bound to commence
the work, if no others will, and to co-operate with them if
they have begun it. Why? Because he is my neighbor,
though occupying the remotest point of the earth ; and I am
charged by Him, ' who spake as never man spake,' to
love my neighbor as myself. Because he is my brother,
for whom Christ died ; and if Christ estimated him so highly
as to die for him, then, surely, he is an object worthy of my
sympathy and regard. Because by his enslavement, man is


no longer recognised as man, but as~a brute, and our whole
species is degraded. Because by it the laws of nature and
of spirit are violated, the moral government of the universe
is rebelled against, and God is insulted and dethroned, by
the usurpation of his power and authority. Because by it
an example is set, which, if passively submitted to, may
lead to the enslavement of others — of a community — of a
people — of myself. Enslave but a single human being,
and the liberty of the world is put in peril. Nay, all the
slavery that exists — all the tyranny of past ages — origi-
nated from a single act of oppression, committed upon some
helpless and degraded being. Hence it is, that, whether I
contemplate slavery singly or in the aggregate, my soul
kindles within me — the entire man is moved with indigna-
tion and abhorrence — I cannot pause, I cannot slumber —
I am ready for attack, and will admit of no truce, and of no
compromise. The war is a war of extermination ; and I
will perish before an inch shall be surrendered, seeing that
the liberties of mankind, the happiness and harmony of the
universe, and the authority and majesty of Almighty God,
are involved in the issue.

If, Sir, I am again asked, ' What have we to do with
slavery ? ' I answer by a retort — ' What have we to do
with heathenism ? ' And yet —

• From Greenland's icy mountains,
To India's coral strand ' —

from frozen Labrador to the sunny plains of Palestine —
from the rivers to the ends of the earth — from the rising of
the sun to its going down — our missionary line is extended,
and we are continually sending out fresh troops to invade
the dominions, and destroy the supremacy of the Man of
Sin, and of the false Prophet — and Juggernaut is tottcM-ing
to his fall ; we are disregarding institutions and laws, cus-


toms and ceremonies, governments and rulers, prohibitions
and penalties ; we are setting ' a man at variance against
his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the
daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law ; ' and we make a
man's foes to be they of his own household ; we are troub-
ling the peace of Africa, of Asia, of the isles of the sea,
and seeking to turn the w^orld upside down, that He may
•come whose right it is to reign.

What have we to do with intemperance in England and
France ? And yet, Sir, we sent out to those countries the
Apostle of Temperance, to scatter light, to reveal iniquity,
to prick the consciences of men, to preach of righteousness,
temperance, and a judgment to come — and to sow the
seeds of holy strife between the distillers, the importers, the
rum-sellers and the rum-drinkers, on the one hand, in those
countries, and the friends of sobriety, mercy and good will,
on the other.

What have we to do with Southern slavery ? What has
England to do with it ? And yet, a few years since, the
American Colonization Society (of which, Mr. Sprague, you
are a champion) sent out an agent to that country, to pro-
cure the charities of her philanthropists, in order to under-
mine and abolish American slavery — this being the great
object of the Society, as stated to the British public by that
agent. Now, if Old England may meddle with this ' deli-
cate ' subject, surely New England may venture to do so
likewise. If that which is remote, is or ought to be inter-
ested in the abolition of American slavery, how much more
that which is near !

Sir, what have we — what has Congress — to do with the
oppression of the Greeks and Poles ? And yet, as a people,
how have we prayed for their deliverance ! how warmly
have we denounced Russia and Turkey ! how cheerfully
have we taxed ourselves to send food and raiment, men and


money, banners and arms, in aid of the brave and strug-
gling champions of liberty ! how have we lifted up our
voices to cheer them onward in the strife of blood ! how
have we taken them to our arms, when they were crushed
and scattered abroad, and given them an asylum, and bound
up their wounds, and comforted their souls ! what speeches
have been made in their behalf upon the floor of Congress !
Now, Sir, have we so much to do with foreign, and nothing
to do with domestic oppression — an oppression far more
dreadful than that which the Greek or Pole has ever suf-
fered ?

What had the South to do with the ' three days ' in Paris —
the overthrow of tyranny in France ? And yet, in honor
of that sanguinary event, the patriotic slaveholders of Bal-
timore, and Richmond, and Charleston, kindled bonfires,
illuminated their dwellings, rung the bells, fired cannon,
formed processions, made orations, devoured dinners, and
ingurgitated toasts, even to ebriety !

What had Lafayette to do with the quarrel about liberty
between us and the mother country ? Shall we apply to
him the infamous epithets which you have cast upon our
moral Lafayette ? Shall we call him ' a foreign emissary,'
' a professed agitator,' and talk of his ' audacious interfer-
ence ' ? Should he have been sent back to ' prostrate the
triple power of the Priesthood, the Aristocracy, and the
Throne ? ' Sir, will you answer these questions ?

You venture the assertion, ' that the agitators here are
few, and that even the whole number of those who have
permitted their names to be enrolled in these societies is
small.' Perhaps this conviction furnishes the principal rea-
son why you are found in opposition to them; for, to borrow
the classical language of your admirer, the Richmoni] Whig,
politicians ' know too well which side their bread is buttered
on,' ever to be caught supporting the cause of moral reform


in its unpopular stages. Let New England become thor-
oughly abolitionised, and you, our distinguished opponents
who now tower so loftily, will at once ' hide your diminished
heads,' and become the obsequious followers of public sen-
timent ! Not one of you will be found in the minority !
About once in every six months, the abolitionists are scat-
tered to the winds of heaven by their spasmodic opponents,
who rush upon them like a hurricane, fill the air with feath-
ers, brickbats, and all sorts of argumentative missiles, and
burn and destroy all before them ! Semi-annually, too, the
Constitution is triumphant ! Still, the ghost of murdered
Banquo ' will not down.' In a short time, the abolitionists
are seen in mulitudinous array every where, marching from
village to village, from city to city, from State to State,
augmenting their number at every step, and evidently invig-
orated by the respite from their labors which the storm
enabled them to take. Once more, however, they have
been utterly annihilated — and again has the Constitution
been rescued from the hand of treason ! It is more than
probable, that the world will soon witness another miracle of
restoration; for Truth, like our Savior, may be scourged,
and crucified, and buried — and the tomb maybe sealed,
and a watch set — but it has a divine energy in itself, that
will burst the cerements of the grave, and reign triumphant
over death. Nay, even the Courier and Enquirer begins
already to despond ! Hear it — 'It is dreadful to contem-
plate the short period of time which has elapsed since these
abolitionists were a mere handful, to the multitude they
have since become.' So, then, we derive from our oppo-
nents these instructive but paradoxical facts — that without
numbers, we are multitudinous; without power, we are sap-
ping the foundation of the confederacy ; without a plan, we
are hastening the abolition of slavery ; and without wealth
or talent, we are rapidly converting the nation !


Sir, the success of any great moral enterprise docs not
depend upon numbers. Slavery will be overthrown long
before a majority of all the people shall have called, volun-
tarily and on the score of principle, for its abolition. Ten
righteous men would have saved Sodom. Even in a physi-
cal campaign, how often is a subordinate force victorious !
What, then, is the promise to those who engage in a moral
contest, that God may be glorified, and a rebellious world
subdued ? ' One shall chase a thousand, and two put ten
thousand to flight.' This has recently been fulfilled before
our eyes, in the cause of temperance — and its faithfulness
is continually verified in the strife of Truth with Error
Cowardice, shame and irresolution are the treacherous com
panions of wickedness, and they readily yield to courage
virtue and integrity. Sir, we may be branded with oppro
brious epithets — we may be called ' agitators,' or ' fanatics,
or ' incendiaries ' — but we deem it a very small thing to be
judged of man's, and especially of a politician's judgment.
Ours is that fanaticism which listens to the voice of God,
which believes his promises and obeys his commandments,
which remembers those in bonds as bound whh them. Ours
is the agitation of humanity in view of cruelty — of virtue
in opposition to pollution — of holiness against, impiety. It
is the agitation of thunder and lightning, to purify a corrupt
atmosphere — of the storm, to give new vigor and freshness
to field and forest. Ours is the incendiary spirit of truth,
that burns up error — of freedom, that melts the fetters of
the bondman — of impartial love, that warms every breast
with the sacred fire of heaven. Could any men but those
of extraordinary moral courage and endurance sustain, un-
flinchingly, a contest which requires such loss of reputation,
and such hazard of property and life ? They are the win-
nowing of the nation. Indeed, a perfect analogy is seen in
the history of the abolition of the foreign slave-trade, as


contrasted with the present anti-slavery struggle. The ven-
erable Clarkson, at the close of his instructive History,
makes the following remarkable statement — remarkable,
because it exactly applies to the moral separation which is
now taking place in our land on the great question of eman-
cipation. Of the conflict in Great Britain, he says —

' It has been useful, also, in the discrimination of moral character.
In private life, it has enabled us to distinguish the virtuous from
Ihe more vicious part of the community. I have had occasion to
know many thousand persons in the course of my travels on this
subject ; and I can truly say, that the part which these took on this
great question was always a true criterion of their moral character.
It has shown the general philanthropist. It has unmasked the vi-
cious, in spite of his pretension to virtue. It has separated the
moral statesman from the wicked politician. It has shown us who,
in the legislative and executive offices of our country, are fit to
save, and who to destroy a nation.'

Sir, the ground that you and your colleagues maintain is,
that the free States are not involved in the guilt of slavery ;
that we have no right, morally, (for as to our political right,
there is no difference of opinion,) to meddle with it ; that
the slave States alone are criminal, if there be any crimi-
nality attaching to the system ; that the doctrine of immedi-
ate emancipation is impracticable and dangerous ; and that
anti-slavery associations are unwarrantable and seditious.
Abolitionists hold that the North and the South are alike in-
volved in guilt, whether past, present or prospective; that,
therefore, it is the right and the duty of the people, every
where, to seek the overthrow of slavery by moral means,
and to wash the blood from their hands individually ; that it
is unjust and pharisaical for one portion of the country to
say to another, — 'Stand by, for I am holier than thou;'
and that the doctrine of immediate emancipation is the doc-
trine of common sense, common honesty, and the Bible.


Sir, you have a strange method of proving that we of the
North are not involved in the guilt of slavery. You express-
ly declare —

1. ' The Constitution provides for the suppressing of in-
surrections ; we should rally under the Constitution, we
should respond to its call : nay, we should not wait for such
a requisition, but on the instant should rush forward whh
fraternal emotions to defend our brethren from desolation
and massacre.' That is, we have agreed to keep the slaves
in bondage, and to crush or exterminate them if they should
rise, as did our fathers, to obtain their freedom by violence :
therefore, we are guiltless of their oppression !

2. ' The Constitution recognises and provides for the con-
tinuance of slavery : ' therefore, we are not guilty !

3. ' It does sanction, it does uphold slavery : ' therefore,
we are not responsible !

4. ' Few parts of the Constitution were more carefully
and deliberately weighed : ' therefore, we are sinless !

Now, Sir, in presenting these facts to prove the innocence
of the North, it seems to me that you must really believe
that ' justice has fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost
their reason.' Or do you mean to mock us, as those who
cannot discriminate between honesty and knavery — liberty
and oppression ? What would you think, if an associate of
thieves should be arrested and brought up for trial, and, to
prove his own and their innocence, should begin to specify
what robberies they had perpetrated, what more they meant
to effect, and what part each had to perform in plundering
the community ? You are a lawyer. Sir, and can readily
decide how this testimony would operate. Your plea is just
as rational : as well might the assassin bring the body of his
victim into court, and brandish the reeking knife over his
head, to prove that he ought not to be accused of murder!
' As for our iniquities, we know tiiem.'


Oh, Sir, when has a nation sinned so perversely, so under-
standingly, against so much hght, as our own ? Say not, as
did certain transgressors of old, ' We are delivered to do all
these abominations.' The whole world must see, that, for
our own aggrandizement, we have most basely sacrificed the
rights and liberties of an immense multitude of our fellow-
creatures — consigning them to a bondage, 'one hour of
which is fraught with more misery than ages of that which
our fathers rose in rebellion to oppose .'

♦ Go, look through the kingdoms of earth,

From Indus, all round to the Pole,
And something of goodness, of honor and worth,

Shall brighten the sins of the soul :—
But we are alone in our shame.

The world cannot liken us there ;
Oppression and vice have disfigured our name.

Beyond the low reach of compare ;
Stupendous in guilt, we shall lend them through time
A proverb, a bye-word, for treach'ry and crime ! '

Now that space for repentance is yet mercifully granted
to us, let us abase ourselves, as did the inhabitants of Nine-
veh, and God will rebuke the destroyer for our sake, and
open the windows of heaven, and pour upon us such bless-
ings that there shall not be room to receive them.

' Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, If ye
thoroughly amend your ways and your doings ; if ye thor-
oughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor ;
if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow,
and shed not innocent blood ; then will I cause dwell
in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.


SfpnrlnrB nf dpmgB ^jjnmjisnn far (gnglnni

He has gone ! The paragon of modern eloquence — the
benefactor of two nations — the universal philanthropist —
is no longer in our midst ! Abandoninir the field of his well-
deserved and ever increasing popularity — bidding adieu to
his native shores, and to a vast multitude of as dear and
estimable friends as one man ever possessed — he com-
mitted himself, with his family, to the perils of the deep,
and fearlessly ventured, in the cause of the bound and
bleeding slave, to encounter the still greater perils which
he was conscious awaited him upon these shores. It was
no ordinary sacrifice of ease, preferment, interest and
popularity, that he made, when he resolved to plead the
heaven-originated cause of universal emancipation in a land
of republican despots and Christian kidnappers. He ex-
changed comfort for severe hardship; he sought abasement
rather than exaltation ; for safety, he substituted peril ;
he sacrificed his interest for the pleasure of doing good ;
and he consented to leave his popularity among good men
at home, that he might be honored with the abuse and pro-
scription of wicked men abroad. His departure from Eng-
land was viewed with regret, yet admiration, by a noble and
philanthropic people. They would have gladly retained
him in their midst, had they not been convinced that Provi-
dence had a great work for him to perform in this hemi-
sphere : they did not love themselves less, but they loved
the perishing slaves more. Wherever he went to bid them
farewell, they rushed in crowds to hang upon the thrilling
accents of his lips, to pay him the respect of grateful hearts,
and to bestow on him the testimonials of their love. Never,
perhaps, did man break through stronger tics to make him-
self an exile, and a by- word and gazing-stock among the


plunderers and oppressors of the human race. A physical
Lafayette had come to these shores on an errand of patri-
otism, and the applause was universal. A moral Lafay-
ette came hither on a mission of peaceful liberty and holy
love, and the hosts of heaven rejoiced, and gave glory to
God. Both excited the fear and hatred of tyrants : the
former was dreaded for his rank and influence — the latter
for his Christian courage and spiritual might. The former
came equipped with carnal weapons, to sunder the chains of
political oppression by the arm of violence : the latter came
with the whole armor of God, having his loins girt about
with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness,
and his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,
and taking the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and
the sword of the Spirit, to effect a two-fold emancipation,
both of the body and the soul. The former slaughtered op-
posing forces, to vindicate the rights of man : the latter
toiled unceasingly to maintain the justice of God in the
peaceful deliverance of the captive, through conviction of
sin and the spirit of repentance. The former aimed to
overthrow an unjust exercise of monarchical power ; the
latter, to extirpate the most dreadful form of despotism that
the world had ever witnessed — chattel slavery.

He has gone ! And with him will go the prayers and
blessings, the gratitude and love, the respect and admiration,
of all those who cherish an innate and holy hatred of op-
pression, and who hold no fellowship with the unfruitful
works of darkness. Around the hearts of thousands in this
country, his memory is entwined with the ties of a death-
less affection ; for they have known him, and can testify of
his extraordinary worth. What a rich freight of gratitude
would accompany him, more to be desired than the trea-
sures of royal argosies, from millions who yet pine in
slavery, if they could understand how much he has suffered


and hazarded to loose their fetters ! But their emancipated
descendants will not forget the debt !

He has gone ! But not in vain did he come hither. By
his presence, and the power of his victorious eloquence, and
the resistless energy of his movements, he has shaken the
land from side to side. In one year, he has accomplished
the work of many. At the mention of his name, republi-
can tyrants stand aghast, and their knees smite violently
against each other. Unable to hide the bloody stains that
disfigure their polluted garments — conscious of their full
exposure to the detestation and rebuke of a horror-stricken
world — despairing of ever regaining an honorable reputa-
tion, until they emancipate the victims of their lust and
avarice — they have sought to destroy the advocates of
righteous liberty, with wolf-like ferocity and fiendish hate.
Especially have they planned to abduct and murder the
man, who, having been signally instrumental in breaking the
fetters of eight hundred thousand slaves in the British Colo-
nies, heroicjjlly came to these shores to assist in emancipa-
ting a still larger number of bleeding captives. But, thanks
be to God, he has walked unharmed through the fire which
they kindled to consume him, and the smell thereof has not
passed upon his garments.

He has gone ! But not to cease from his labors in the
cause of mercy. He has a mighty work to perform in Eng-
land, and there he will toil like an unbound giant. With
the materials which he has industriously accumulated in this
country, and which he has carried with him, he cannot fail
to rouse up and concentrate the entire sympathies and ener-
gies of the people of Great Britain, in opposition to Ameri-
can slavery ; and it is by the pressure of popular opinion
abroad, as well as at home, that the bloody system is to be
tumbled into ruins. Let the same withering public sentiment
prevail throughout Christendom respecting the guilt of slave-


holding, as now obtains in opposition to the diabolical slave
trade, and the day of jubilee will be ushered in without de-
lay. Our pride, as a nation, will not be able much longer
to bear the taunts and jeers of the world, in view of our
hypocrisy, falsehood and oppression ; and our consciences,
seared though they be as with a hot iron, will yet be
awakened to remorse and repentance by the thunders of
Sinai and the melting accents of Calvary. The Christians
of Great Britain, of all denominations, will multiply their
warnings, rebukes and exhortations to their brethren in this
country, and they cannot speak in vain.

He has gone ! The dagger of a murderous nation has
been pointed at his heart, and he has been hunted like a
partridge upon the mountains. He came to us on an errand
of mercy, drawn by the ties of Christ, and spared no pains
to bring us to repentance for our manifold transgressions.
To flatter us was easy — but he loved the truth, and hated
falsehood ; and for declaring the truth, his life was placed
in continual jeopardy !

He has gone ! But the foreign man-monkey * remains
behind, to show us how exactly he can grin like an ape,
look like an ape, climb and chatter like an ape, and finally
die like an ape — and his popularity is increasing daily !

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 12 of 33)