William Lloyd Garrison.

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

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you a worthy portion of my down-trodden colored country-
men. Others may shun their presence, and pour con-
tempt upon them, but I am sure that Clarkson and Wilber-
force are too noble .to treat them with indignity. To you
the color of their skin is nothing : it is enough that they have
souls — that they are rational beings — that they belong to
the same common family, and are the children of one com-


mon Parent. The scorn which separates them from society
but serves to increase your attachment for them. Venerable
men! they appreciate your goodness — your toils to effect
their deliverance — all that you have done and suffered in
behalf of their race. Forgive the feebleness of language,
the imperfection of speech. They feel the poverty of words ;
they can give you nothing but the pressure of the hand, the
tear of gratitude, the broken benediction of a full heart.
Their prayers for your preservation and happiness are con-
stantly ascending to the God of the needy. Encouraged by
your example and countenance, they have risen up from the
dust, and are making rapid progress in virtue, in knowledge,
and in piety. The evidence is before you, and you will not
desire a richer reward for your labors.

Your fame is broader than the Atlantic, and shall be as
enduring. It shall blossom and bear fruit in every clime,
among every tribe and nation, to the latest posterity. It
shall be a living impulse to move the moral world. It is not
founded upon rapine and conquest, like an Alexander's or
Napoleon's, but upon benevolence and equity. You have
not, like them, desolated the earth, and sacrificed thousands
of human beings upon the altar of your ambition, but have
actively sought to stop the shedding of blood, break the yoke
of oppression, and prevent the destruction of human life.
You have not, like the priest and the Levite, passed by on
the other side, and left the victim of thieves — poor, bleed-
ing Africa — to perish; but, like the good Samaritan, have
endeavored to heal her wounds and restore her to health.
As yet, your names are not familiar to the lips of her
benighted children ; but when the light of civilization and
Christianity shall illumine her vast empire, and a river of
knowledge, deeper and more fruitful than the Niger or
the Nile, shall flow throughout her borders, then shall they
recognize you as their noblest benefactors, and offer up


incense to God for having raised you up to vindicate their

These things I say, not because you court the applause of
men, nor because I hope to gratify your vanity, or thereby
secure your esteem. Praise to a good man is scarcely less
painful than censure. They are reflections which are
naturally suggested in tracing the relation of cause and
efl?ect — an active and laborious career of philanthropy and

To you, respected sirs, I am personally, and, doubtless,
by reputation, unknown. Cherishing, however, the same
abhorrence to oppression, the same love of justice, the same
attachment to freedom, the same desire to extricate the
enslaved from their terrible condition, as yourselves ; I have
resolved, through divine assistance, and stimulated by your
example, to dedicate my life — all that I have, all that I hope
to be, to the cause of human liberty. Humble as have been
my efforts, I have thus early drawn upon me the maledic-
tions of a large portion of my countrymen, and, like
yourselves, been misunderstood, calumniated, threatened —
branded as a madman and fanatic, and deemed worthy of'
death. If I have not yet experienced enough to put my
sincerity and endurance to the test, I feel no desire to shrink
from any additional trials or perils. In your patient submis-
sion under reproach, your perseverance through every obsta-
cle, your fearless avowal of the truth, your uncompromising
spirit of justice, your willingness to lay down your lives in
this great cause, your final and glorious triumph over the
enemies of injured Africa; and above all, in the examples
of the Son of God, and the apostles and prophets, and the
martyrs to truth in all ages, I derive all the encourage-
ment and confidence I can need in any situation or under
any trials in which I may be placed ; and if I prove recre-
ant to my pledge, if I swerve for a moment from the path


of duty to avoid reproach or conciliate the ill-will of any
living being, I shall deserve the curse of mankind, as I surely
shall receive the retribution of Heaven. No reproaches, no
dangers shall deter me. Wherever Providence may call me,
my voice shall be heard in behalf of the perishing slave, and
against the claims of his oppressor. With you I feel that,
in such a task, it is impossible to tire : it fills my mind with
complacency and peace. At night, I lie down with compo-
sure, and rise to it in the morning with alacrity. I never
will desist from this blessed work.

Clarkson ! among the wise, the great, the good,

The friend of Man, whate'er his caste or clime,
Thy memory shall be hailed with gratitude —

Thy labors honored to the end of time !
Thine was a soul with sympathy imbued,

Broad as the earth, and as the heavens sublime;
Thy godlike object, steadfastly pursued,

To save thy race from misery and crime.
Mourn, England ! for the loss thou hast sustained,

And let the nations of the earth lament.
With spirit broken, and with grief unfeigned ;

And to her tears let Liberty give vent ;
A star of glory has in darkness waned —

No more on earth survives the good man eloquent.


IJiniirntinH nf tIjB ICihBratnr.

Bitter enemies and lukewarm friends represent the Lib-
erator as an incendiary publication. I am willing to admit
the propriety of the designation. It is, unquestionably, kind-
ling a great fire ; but it is the fire of sympathy and holy
indignation against the most oppressive system on earth, and
will burn up nothing but the chaff. That fire is spreading
from house to house, from village to village, from city to
city, from State to State. The East is glowing, as if a
new sun had risen in splendid radiance ; and the West has
caught its beams, and is kindling with new intensity. Even
the dark Atlantic, as far as the shores of old England, shows
a luminous path of light, and the philanthropists of that coun-
try are rejoicing as they gaze upon it. Like a vestal fire,
may this never cease to burn. Let those throw water upon
it, who will — love to God and man shall feed ft, and prevent
its extinguishment.

But the Liberator is said to be destructive in its character
and tendency. That charge, also, I admit is true. It is
putting whole magazines of truth under the slave system,
and I trust in God will blow it into countless fragments, so
that not the remnant of a whip or chain can be found in all
the South, — so that upon its ruins may be erected the
beautiful temple of freedom. I will not waste my strength
in foolishly endeavoring to beat down this great Bastile with
a feather. I will not commence at the roof, and throw off
its tiles by piecemeal. I am for adopting a more summary
method of demolishing it. I am for digging under its foun-
dations, and springing a mine that shall not leave one stone
upon another. I leave colonizationists to pick up the leaves
which are annually shed by the Bohon Upas of our land,
with the vain hope of exterminating it ; but as for myself, I


choose rather to assail its trunk with the axe of justice, and
strike with all my nerve such blows as shall cause * this
great poison-tree of lust and blood, and of all abominable
and heartless iniquity, to fall before it ; and law and love,
and God and man, to shout victory over its ruin.'

But the Liberator uses very harsh language, and calls a
great many bad names, and is very personal and abusive.
Precious cant, indeed ! And what has been so efficacious
as this harsh language ? Now, I am satisfied that its strength
of denunciation bears no proportion to the enormous guilt
of the slave system. The English language is lamentably
weak and deficient, in regard to this matter. I wish its epi-
thets were heavier — I wish it would not break so easily — I
wish I could denounce slavery, and all its abettors, in terms
equal to their infamy. But, shame to tell ! I can apply to
him who steals the liberties of hundreds of his fellow-crea-
tures, and lacerates their bodies, and plunders them of all
their hard earnings, only the same epithet that is applied by
all to a man who steals a shilling in this community. I call
the slaveholder a thief, because he steals human beings,
and reduces them to the condition of brutes ; and I am
thought to be very abusive ! I call the man a thief who
takes my handkerchief from my pocket, and all the people
shout, ' Right ! right ! so he is ! ' and the court seizes him,
and throws him into prison. Wonderful consistency !

I am anxious to please the people ; but if, in order 1o do
so, I must violate the plainest precepts of the gospel, and
disregard the most solemn obligations, will the people see
that my name is written in the Book of Life, and that my
sins are blotted out of the Book of Remembrance ? If I
put out my eyes, and stop my ears, and petrify my heart,
and become insensible as a marble statue, to please the com-
munity, will the community rescue me from the charge of
inhumanity, selfishness and cowardice, which will be pre-


ferred against me at the bar of God ? If they cannot, I
must boldly declare the truth, ' whether men will hear, or
whether they will forbear.'

A man who should be seen whipping a post in the street
would doubtless , excite the mirth of the passing throng.
For them to be indignant at such treatment would be a per-
version of sympathy, and clearly ridiculous. But if it were
a dog or a horse, instead of a senseless post, which the man
was beating so unmercifully, their feelings ought to be, and
would be, far different. They would warmly denounce
such conduct as inhuman, and exhibit much vehemence in
their manner. But if it were a man, or woman, or child,
instead of a dog or horse, thus suffering under the lash, how
the spectators would flame ! how their indignation would
kindle ! how strong would be their denunciations ! how lib-
erally would they apply the ungracious epithets — ' a brute !
a wretch ! a monster ! '

How," then, ought I to feel, and speak, and write, in view
of a system which is red with innocent blood, drawn from
the bodies of millions of my countrymen by the scourge of
brutal drivers ; which is full of all uncleanness and licen-
tiousness ; which destroys the ' life of the soul ; ' and which
is too horrible for the mind to imagine, or the pen to declare ^
How ought I to feel and speak ? As a man ! as a patriot !
as a philanthropist ! as a Christian ! My soul should be, as
it is, on fire. I should thunder — I should lighten. I should
blow the trumpet of alarm, long and loud. I should use
just such language as is most descriptive of the crime. I
should imitate the example of Christ, who, when he had to
do with people of like manners, called them sharply by
their proper names — such as, an adulterous and perverse
generation, a brood of vipers, hypocrites, children of the
devil, who could not escape the damnation of hell. Modera-
tion under such circumstances is deliberate barbarity, both


to the oppressor and the oppressed — calmness is marble
indifference. No ! no ! I never will dilute or modify my
language against slavery — against the plunderers of my fel-
low-men — against American kidnappers. They shall have
my honest opinions of their conduct.

What the Liberator has been, is a matter of history;
what it now is, every reader can determine ; what it is yet
to be, time must unfold. ' The past, at least, is secure.'
Since the commencement of the paper, many thousands of
persons have been enrolled on its list of subscribers, and
multitudes have been in the habit of perusing it gratuitously.
Its general effect upon their minds and character must be the
surest evidence of its good or evil tendency. The rule is a
good one, that a tree is known by its fruits. It is also a dic-
tate of reason, that whatever enlarges the spirit of human,
sympathy, opposes tyranny in every form, inculcates love
and good will to mankind, and seeks to reconcile a hostile
world, must be in consonance with the Divine Mind.

In the long, dark struggle with national injustice, through
which I have been called to pass, I have been cheered and
strengthened by the knowledge of the reformatory change
which has taken place in the sentiments of thousands, through
the instrumentality of the Liberator. To this they gratefully
testify : — that it has given them more exalted views of God,,
a more just appreciation of man, a truer conception of Chris-
tianity ; that it has emancipated them from the bondage of
party and sect, dispelled from their minds the mists of super-
stition, and made them courageous in the investigation of
truth ; that it has enlarged the limits of their country, and
multiplied the number of their countrymen, so that they no
longer regard geographical boundaries, but truly esteem
every one as ' a man and a brother,' whether he be near or
remote ; that, instead of lowering the standard of moral obli-
gation, or lessening the sphere of human duty, it has quick-


ened their moral sense, and given unlimited scope to their
sympathies, and supplied them with more objects of benev-
olent concern than they can readily discharge. This testi-
mony has been borne by its patrons on both sides of the
Atlantic. Among those patrons are some of the best intel-
lects, the purest spirits, the most devoted Christians, to be
found in Europe or America. With them, the abolition of
slavery is not ' the end of the law for righteousness ; ' nor is
it a solitary or barren idea, but a principle of action as wide
as the universe, and comprehensive as universal and impar-
tial love.

How much the Liberator has accomplished, directly and
indirectly, in the distinctive enterprise to which it is pledged,
(the liberation of an appalling number of the human family
from a horrid servitude,) by giving to it a vital tone and an
unconquerable energy, by arousing multitudes from their
guilty slumbers, by an uncompromising adherence to princi-
ple, by a fearless assault on the fierce spirit of complexional
caste, and by sending dismay into the ranks of the enemies
of emancipation, it is not for me to proclaim. On this sub-
ject, it is for candid and upright men to determine, in ac-
cordance with the facts.

The enemies of the Liberator are ever at work for its
suppression. Are its friends as resolutely determined that
it shall be sustained, ' a terror to evil-doers, and a praise to
them that do well ' ? If so, they must not merely resolve —
they must act ; for never has it been called to stem such a
flood of opposition as is now swelling and dashing against it.
Those who have seceded from the anti-slavery platform are
peculiarly hostile to it. The clergy, as a body, spare no
pains to cripple its circulation ; and their influence is very
powerful. The radical reforms of the day have exhibited
them in their true character, as blind leaders of the blind —
as those who love the praises of men more than the praise of


God — as the most faithless and skeptical of men. Hence
their fierce opposition to the Liberator, which has been the
principal instrument of their exposure, and their ceaseless
efforts to silence its warning voice. For them to be ad-
dressed like other men — to be examined, impeached and
censured, as though they were no better than others — to
be placed on the dead level of our common humanity, with-
out any regard to their claims to superior sanctity — is an
outrage not to be endured ! In order to shield themselves
from utter condemnation, to avoid the necessity of repent-
ance and confession of sin, and to intimidate such as are
under their domination from searching for the truth, they
have artfully raised the odious cry of ' Infidelity' against
those who have been called to unmask them, and misrepre-
sented their religious sentiments in the most flagrant manner.
In too many instances, this artifice has been successful ; and
there are not a few, who ' ran well for a time ' as abolition-
ists, and who once rejoiced to mingle with persons of every
shade of religion on the anti-slavery platform, but who have
been frightened into a withdrawal from the ranks, in conse-
quence of this appeal to sectarian exclusiveness. But the
cunning shall yet be caught in their own craftiness.

Not having been dismayed by the ciy of ' madman ! fa-
natic ! incendiary ! ' at the commencement of my anti-
slavery career, I shall not allow my peace to be disturbed
by this cry of ' infidelity.' My infidelity consists in this ;
I do not happen to agree with the majority in regard to
certain outward forms and observances; — I have refused
to connect myself with any religious sect, and to adopt a
human creed as the standard of my faith ; — I do not
believe that the clergy are impeccable — nay, I have dared
to aflTirm that, as a body, they love the fleece better than
they do their flocks, as their treatment of every righteous
but unpopular reform plainly indicates; — I do nut believe


that men can have the spirit of Christ, who hold their fel-
low-creatures in bondage; — I do not believe it is right or
consistent for abolitionists to support a pro-slavery priest-
hood, or recognise a pro-slavery church as a religious
body ; — I do not believe that it is right for Christians to
imprison, hang or butcher their enemies ; — I do not believe
that governments of human contrivance, upheld by military
power, and administered by wicked rulers, are divine ; — I
do not believe in the necessity of sinning against God, or
being always more or less in bondage to the devil — I do
not believe that Christ is unable to save his people from
their sins in the present life, or that the world may not be
overcome, through faith, by those who dwell in it ; — I do
not believe in holiness of time, but in holiness of heart ; —
I do not believe in a worldly sanctuary and ordinances of
divine service, but in the true tabernacle which the Lord
pitched, and not man, and in spiritual worship and commu-
nion, without the intervention of any types or figures ; —
and, finally, I do not believe in making religion a thing of
circumstance, time or place — something distinct from the
every-day pursuits and avocations of life — but earnestly
maintain, with Him who was ranked among the ofTscouring
of all things, that, whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever
we do, we should do all to the glory of God. This is the
head and front of my ' infidelity.' How far it is dishonor-
able to God, or hostile to the temporal or eternal interests of
man, I leave the reader to decide, according to the light
that is in him.

Before the Liberator was established, I doubt whether, on
either side of the Atlantic, there existed a newspaper or
periodical that admitted its opponents to be freely and im-
partially heard through its columns — as freely as its friends.
Without boasting, I claim to have set an example of fairness
and magnanimity, in this respect, such as had never been


set before ; cheerfully conceding to those who were hostile
to my views, on any subject discussed in the Liberator, not
only as much space as I, or as others agreeing with me,
might occupy, but even more, if they desired it. From
this course, I have never deviated. Nay, more ; I have not
waited for opponents to send in their original contributions,
but, in the absence of these, have constantly transferred
their articles, published in other periodicals, to my own
paper, without prompting from any quarter. In this man-
ner, I have laid before my readers thousands of columns of
matter, strongly denunciatory of my sentiments, crowded
with sweeping misrepresentations of my designs, and bit-
terly unjust in regard to the anti-slavery enterprise. To
these, I have seldom appended a word of comment, to show
their folly or malignity. Can any other editor in the world
say as much ?

For the hundredth time I repeat it, — the Liberator is an
independent journal, devoted to the abolition of slavery in
particular, and the cause of humanity in general ; that it is
not, never has been, and, while it is mine, I am quite sure,
never will be, the organ of any anti-slavery society, or any
other organization whatever ; that, for its support, it is solely
dependent on its subscription list ; that its aim is to reform,
not merely to please ; and that it claims to be animated by
the apostolic injunction, 'Prove all things — hold fast that
which is good.' Hence it is not only unjust, but extremely
base, to make any anti-slavery society responsible for what
.appears in its columns, and equally absurd and unreasona-
ble to complain that it is open to the discussion of other
questions besides that of chattel slavery; and most unjust is
it to hold me responsible for the views of my correspondents,
any further than they are approved by me. Those who do
not want, or cannot tolerate such a paper, have a very
simple remedy at hand, so far as they are concerned —


either not to subscribe for it, or, if they are subscribers, to
discontinue it whenever they think proper. I mean that the
Liberator shall be a free press, in a comprehensive and
manly sense ; and I advise those who cannot endure free
discussion to beware how they give it any countenance.
But to those who believe with Jefferson, that ' error of
opinion may be safely tolerated where reason is left free to
combat it,' I present the Liberator as a journal conducted
in the spirit of absolute independence and entire impartiality.
It is as free to those who believe in eternizing slavery, as it
is to the friends of immediate emancipation ; as free to the
advocates of war, as it is to those of peace ; as free to the
believers in the necessity of the gallows, as it is to those
who plead for the entire abolition of capital punishment ; as
free to those who maintain the holiness of the first or
seventh day of the week, as it is to those who esteem every
day alike ; as free to those who believe in the plenary in-
spiration of the Bible, as it is to those who do not ; as free
to those who regard woman as subordinate to man, as to
those who believe that the rights of the sexes are equal ;
and so on to the end of the catalogue. Now, then, when-
ever any person withdraws his subscription, or refuses any
longer to contribute to the National Anti-Slavery Bazaar, or
the funds of the American Anti-Slavery Society, on account
of both sides of every question being allowed an impartial
hearing in the Liberator, or because he discovers in the
paper sentiments which he deems heretical, I find no difficul-
ty in reading the mind and spirit of that person, like an open
book, printed in very legible characters ; and at once come
to the conclusion, that his mind is narrow, or his spirit cow-
ardly, or his confidence in the truth weaker than a bulrush,
or his regard for the perishing bondman of a very superfi-
cial stamp. For whoever is strong in the truth, never runs
from the advocate of error ; whoever delights in progress,


believes in probing and testing ail things ; whoever admires
freedom, likes equally well free discussion ; whoever ' re-
members them that are in bonds as bound with them,' will
never sacrifice their cause to gratify a sectarian spirit.

I sincerely pity all bigots, pharisees, formalists, time-
servers, and the like ; for they are ever querulous, uncom-
fortable, suspicious, cowardly, and prescriptive of the true
and good. These I expect to anathematise the Liberator,
and to be utterly unable to read its pages with composure.
To my ears, their mingled outcries against me of ' infi-
delity, incendiarism, treason, fanaticism,' are like strains of
melody ; and so long as these fill the air, I shall neither ask
nor desire better evidences of the rectitude of my course,
or the efficacy of my labors.

Now let there be on earth an end of sin,

And all oppression cease throughout the world ;

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 14 of 33)