William Lloyd Garrison.

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

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The glorious reign of Holiness begin,

And Satan's empire to the dust be hurled !
Let heavenly Peace her final victory win !

Let War's red banner be for ever furled ! —
Resolve, Mankind ! to love and bless each other ;

Forget each hateful caste, each jarring creed ;
Behold in every man a friend and brother,

And minister to him as he hath need.
Are ye not children of a common Father ?

Then to llis will implicitly give heed : —
So Crime and Poverty shall disappear,
And perfect bliss shall crown each new-born Year.


fotrnrls frnni n /nnrtlj nf 3iili} (ftralioE.

I PRESENT myself as the advocate of my enslaved coun-
trymen, at a time when their claims cannot be shuffled out
of sight, and on an occasion which entitles me to a respect-
ful hearing in their behalf. If I am asked to prove their
title to liberty, my answer is, that the Fourth of July is not
a day to be wasted in establishing ' self-evident truths.' In
the name of the God, who has made us of one blood, and
in whose image we are created ; in the name of the Mes-
siah, who came to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim
liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them
that are bound ; I demand the immediate emancipation
of those who are pining in slavery on the American soil,
whether they are fattening for the shambles in Maryland and
Virginia, or are wasting, as with a pestilent disease, on the
cotton and sugar plantations of Alabama and Louisiana ;
whether they are male or female, young or old, vigorous
or infirm. I make this demand, not for the children merely,
but the parents also ; not for one, but for all ; not with re-
strictions and limitations, but unconditionally. I assert their
perfect equality with ourselves, as a part of the human race,
and their inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of hap-
piness. That this demand is founded in justice, and is
therefore irresistible, the whole nation is this day acknowl-
edging, as upon oath at the bar of the world. And not
until, by a formal vote, the people repudiate the Declaration
of Independence as a false and dangerous instrument, and
cease to keep this festival in honor of liberty, as unworthy
of note or remembrance ; not until they spike every cannon,
and muffle every bell, and disband every procession, and
quench every bonfire, and gag every orator ; not until they
brand Washington, and Adams, and Jefferson, and Hancock,


as fanatics and madmen ; not until they place themselves
again in the condition of colonial subserviency to Great
Britain, or transform this republic into an imperial govern-
ment ; not until they cease pointing exultingly to Bunker
Hill, and the plains of Concord and Lexington ; not, in fine,
until they deny the authority of God, and proclaim them-
selves to be destitute of principle and humanity, will I
argue the question, as one of doubtful disputation, on an
occasion like this, whether our slaves are entitled to the
rights and privileges of freemen. That question is settled
irrevocably. There is no man to be found, unless he has a
brow of brass and a heart of stone, who will dare to contest
it on a day like this. A state of vassalage is pronounced,
by universal acclamation, to be such as no man, or body of
men, ought to submit to for one moment. I therefore tell
the American slaves, that the time for their emancipation is
come ; that, their own taskmasters being witnesses, they
are created equal to the rest of mankind, and possess an
inalienable right to liberty ; and that no man has a right to
hold them in bondage. I counsel them not to fight for their
freedom, both on account of the hopelessness of the effort,
and because it is rendering evil for evil ; but I tell them,
not less emphatically, it is not wrong in them to refuse to
wear the yoke of slavery any longer. Let them shed no
blood — enter into no conspiracies — raise no murderous
revolts ; but, whenever and wherever they can break their
fetters, God give them the courage to do so ! And should
they attempt to elope from their house of bondage, and
come to the North, may each of them find a covert from
the search of the spoiler, and an invincible public sentiment
to shield them from the grasp of the kidnapper ! Success
attend them in their flight to Canada, to touch whose mo-
narchical soil ensiJrcs freedom to every republican slave !
Is this preaching sedition ? Sedition against what ? Not


the lives of Southern oppressors for — I renew the solemn
injunction, 'Shed no blood!' — but against unlawful au-
thority, and barbarous usage, and unrequited toil. If slave-
holders are still obstinately bent upon plundering and starv-
ing their long-suffering victims, why, let them look well to
consequences ! To save them from danger, I am not obli-
gated to suppress the truth, or to stop proclaiming liberty
' throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.'
No, indeed. There are two important truths, which, as far
as practicable, I mean every slave shall be made to under-
stand. The first is, that he has a right to his freedom now ;
the other is, that this is recognised as a self-evident truth in
the Declaration of American Independence. Sedition, for-
sooth ! Why, what are the American people doing this day ?
In theory, maintaining the freedom and equality of the
human race ; and in practice, declaring that all tyrants ought
to be extirpated from the face of the earth ! We are giving
to our slaves the following easy sums for solution : — If the
principle involved in a three-penny tax on tea justified a
seven years' war, how much blood may be lawfully spilt in
resisting the principle, that one human being has a right to
the body and soul of another, on account of the color of his
skin ? Again : — If the impressment of six thousand Ameri-
can seamen, by Great Britain, furnished sufficient cause for a
bloody struggle with that nation, and the sacrifice of hun-
dreds of millions of capital, in self-defence, how many lives
may be taken, by way of retribution, on account of the
enslavement, as chattels, of more than two millions of
American laborers ?

Oppression and insurrection go hand in hand, as cause
and effect are allied together. In what age of the world
have tyrants reigned with impunity, or the victims of
tyranny not resisted unto blood ? Besides our own grand
insurrection against the authority of the mother country.



there have been many insurrections, during the last two
hundred years, in various sections of the land, on the part
of the victims of our tyranny, but without the success that
attended our own struggle. The last was the memorable
one in Southampton, Virginia, headed by a black patriot,
nicknamed, in the contemptuous nomenclature of slavery,
Nat Turner. The name does not strike the ear so harmo-
niously as that of Washington, or Lafayette, or Hancock,
or Warren ; but the name is nothing. It is not in the power
of all the slaveholders upon earth, to render odious the
memory of that sable chieftain. ' Resistance to tyrants is
obedience to God,' was our revolutionary motto. We acted
upon that motto — what more did Nat Turner } Says
George McDuffie, ' A people who deliberately submit to
oppression, with a full knowledge that they are oppressed,
are fit only to be slaves. No tyrant ever made a slave —
no community, however small, having the spirit of freemen,
ever yet had a master. It does not belong to men to count
the costs, and calculate the hazards of vindicating their
rights, and defending their liberties.' So reasoned Nat
Turner, and acted accordingly. Was he a patriot, or a
monster.'' Do we mean to say to the oppressed of all
nations, in the 62d year of our independence, and on the
4th of July, that our example in 1776 was a bad one, and
ought not to be followed ? As a Christian non-resistant, I, for
one, am prepared to say so ; but are the people ready to
say, no chains ought to be broken by the hand of violence,
and no blood spilt in defence of inalienable human rights,
in any quarter of the globe .? If not, then our slaves will
peradventure take us at our word, and there will be given
unto us blood to drink, for we are worthy. Why accuse abo-
litionists of stirring them up to insurrection.^ The charge
is false ; but what if it were true ? If any man has a right
to fight for liberty, this right equally extends to all men


subjected to bondage. In claiming this right for themselves,
the American people necessarily concede it to all mankind.
If, therefore, they are found tyrannizing over any part of
the human race, they voluntarily seal their own death-war-
rant, and confess that they deserve to perish.

* What are the banners ye exalt ? — the deeds

That raised your fathers' pyramid of fame ?
Ye show the wound that still in history bleeds,

And talk exulting of the patriot's name —
Then, when your words have waked a kindred flame,

And slaves behold the freedom ye adore.
And deeper feel their sorrow and their shame,

Ye double all the fetters that they wore.
And press them down to earth, till hope exults no more ! '

But, it seems, abolitionists have the audacity to tell the
slaves, not only of their rights, but also of their wrongs !
That must be a rare piece of information to them, truly !
Tell a man who has just had his back flayed by the lash,
till a pool of blood is at his feet, that somebody has flogged
him ! Tell him who wears an iron collar upon his neck,
and a chain upon his heels, that his limbs are fettered, as if
he knew it not ! Tell those who receive no compensation
for their toil, that they are unrighteously defrauded ! In
spite of all their whippings, and deprivations, and forcible
separations, like cattle in the market, it seems that the
poor slaves realized a heaven of blissful ignorance, until
their halcyon dreams were disturbed by the pictorial repre-
sentations and exciting descriptions of the abolitionists !
What ! have not the slaves eyes ? have they not hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions .'' Are they
not fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons,
subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
freemen are } ' If we prick them, do they not bleed ? if


we tickle them, do they not laugh ? if we poison theni, do
they not die ? and if we wrong them, will they not be re-
venged ? '

' For the slaveholders,' we are told, ' there is no peace,
by night or day ; but every moment is a moment of alarm,
and their enemies are of their own household ! ' It is the
hand of a friendly vindicator, moreover, that rolls up the
curtain ! What but the most atrocious tyranny on the part
of the masters, and the most terrible sufferings on the part
of the slaves, can account for such alarm, such insecurity,,
such apprehensions that ' even a more horrible catastrophe '
than that of arson and murder may transpire nightly ? It
requires all the villany that has ever been charged upon.
Southern oppressors, and all the wretchedness that has ever
been ascribed to the oppressed, to work out so fearful a re-
sult ; — and that the statement is true, the most distinguished
slaveholders have more than once certified. That it is true,
the entire code of slave laws — whips and yokes and fet-
ters — the nightly patrol — restriction of locomotion on the
part of the slaves, except with passes — muskets, pistols
and bowie knives in the bed chambers during the hours of
rest — the fear of the intercommunication of colored free-
men and the slaves — the prohibition of even alphabetical
instruction, under pains and penalties, to the victims of
wrong — the refusal to admit their testimony against persons
of a white complexion — the wild consternation and furious
gnashing of teeth exhibited by the chivalric oppressors, at
the sight of an anti-slavery publication — the rewards ofTered
for the persons of abolitionists — the whipping of Dresser
and the murder of Lovejoy — the plundering of the U. S.
mail — the application of lynch law to all who are found
sympathizing with the slave population as men, south of the
Potomac — the reign of mobocracy in place of constitu-
tional law — and, finally, the Pharaoh-like conduct of the


masters, in imposing new burdens and heavier fetters upon
their down-trodden vassals — all these things, together with
a long catalogue of others, prove that the abolitionists
have not ' set down aught in malice ' against the South —
that they have exaggerated nothing. They warn us, as
with miraculous speech, that, unless justice be speedily done,
a bloody catastrophe is to come, which will roll a gory tide
of desolation through the land, and may peradventure blot
out the memory of the scenes of St. Domingo. They are the
premonitory rumblings of a great earthquake — the lava
tokens of a heaving volcano ! God grant, that while there
is time and a way to escape, we may give heed to these
signals of impending retribution !

One thing I know full well. Calumniated, abhorred, per-
secuted as the abolitionists have been, they constitute the
body-guard of the slaveholders, not to strengthen their op-
pression, but to shield them from the vengeance of their
slaves. Instead of seeking their destruction, abolitionists
are endeavoring to save them from midnight conflagration
and sudden death, by beseeching them to remove the cause
of insurrection ; and by holding out to their slaves the hope
of a peaceful deliverance. We do not desire that any
should perish. Having a conscience void of offence in this
matter, and cherishing a love for our race which is ' without
partiality and without hypocrisy,' no impeachment of our
motives, or assault upon our character, can disturb the
serenity of our minds ; nor can any threats of violence, or
prospect of suffering, deter us from our purpose. That we
manifest a bad spirit, is not to be decided on the testimony
of the Southern slave driver, or his Northern apologist.
That our philanthropy is exclusive, in favor of but one
party, is not proved by our denouncing the oppressor, and
sympathizing with his victim. That we are seeking popu-
larity, is not apparent from our advocating an odious and


unpopular cause, and vindicating, at the loss of our reputa-
tion, the rights of a people who are reckoned among the
offscouring of all things. That our motives are not disin-
terested, they who swim with the popular current, and
partake of the gains of unrighteousness, and plunder the
laborers of their wages, are not competent to determine.
That our language is uncharitable and unchristian, they who
revile us as madmen, fanatics, incendiaries, traitors, cut-
throats, &c., &c., cannot be allowed to testify. That our
measures are violent, is not demonstrated by the fact, that
we wield no physical weapons, pledge ourselves not to coun-
tenance insurrection, and present the peaceful front of non-
resistance to those who put our lives in peril. That our
object is chimerical or unrighteous, is not substantiated by
the fact of its being commended by Almighty God, and
supported by his omnipotence, as well as approved by the
wise and good in every age and in all countries. If the
charge, so often brought against us, be true, that our temper
is rancorous and our spirit turbulent, how has it happened,
that, during so long a conflict with slavery, not a single in-
stance can be found in which an abolitionist has committed
a breach of the peace, or violated any law of his country ? If
it be true, that we are not actuated by the highest principles
of rectitude, nor governed by the spirit of forbearance, I ask,
once more, how it has come to pass, that when our meetings
have been repeatedly broken up by lawless men, our prop-
erty burnt in the streets, our dwellings sacked, our persons
brutally assailed, and our lives put in imminent peril, we
have refused to lift a finger in self-defence, or to maintain
our rights in the spirit of worldly patriotism ?

Will it be retorted, that we dare not resist — that we are
cowards .'' Cowards ! No man believes it. They are the
dastards, who maintain might makes right ; whose argu-
ments are brickbats and rotten-eggs ; whose weapons are


dirks and bowie-knives ; and whose code of justice is lynch
law. A love of liberty, instead of unnerving men, makes
them intrepid, heroic, invincible. It was so at Ther-
mopylae — it was so on Bunker Hill. Who so tranquil, who
so little agitated, in storm or sunshine, as the abolitionists ?
But what consternation, what running to and fro like men at
their wits' end, what trepidation, what anguish of spirit,
on the part of their enemies ! How Southern slave-mon-
gers quake and tremble at the faintest whisperings of an
■abolitionist ! For, truly, ' the thief doth fear each bush an
<9fficer.' O, the great poet of Nature is right —

' Thrice is he armed who hath his quarrel just —
And he but naked, though locked up in steel,
'Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted ! '

A greater than Shakspeare certifies, that ' the wicked flee
when no man pursueth ; but the righteous are bold as a lion.'
[n this great contest of Right against Wrong, of Liberty
against Slavery, who are the wicked, if they be not those,
who, like vultures and vampyres, are gorging themselves
with human blood ? if they be not the plunderers of the
poor, the spoilers of the defenceless, the traffickers in
' slaves and the souls of men ' ? Who are the cowards, if
not those who shrink from manly argumentation, the light
of truth, the concussion of mind, and a fair field ? if not
those whose prowess, stimulated by whiskey potations or the
spirit of murder, grows rampant as the darkness of night
approaches ; whose shouts and yells are savage and fiend-
like ; who furiously exclaim, ' Down with free discussion !
down with the liberty of the press ! down with the right of
petition ! down with constitutional law ! ' — who rifle mail-
bags, throw types and printing presses into the river, burn
public halls dedicated to ' Virtue, Liberty and Independ-
ence,' and assassinate the defenders of inalienable human


rights ? And who are the righteous, in tliis case, if they be
not those who will ' have no fellowship with the unfruitful
works of darkness, but rather reprove them ; ' who maintain
that the laborer is worthy of his hire, that the marriage in-
stitution is sacred, that slavery is a system accursed of God,
that tyrants are the enemies of mankind, and that immediate
emancipation should be given to all who are pining in bond-
age ? Who are the truly brave, if not those who demand
for truth and error alike, free speech, a free press, an open
arena, the right of petition, and no quarters ? if not those,
who, instead of skulking from the light, stand forth in the
noontide blaze of day, and challenge their opponents to
emerge from their wolf-like dens, that, by a rigid examina-
tion, it may be seen who has stolen the wedge of gold, in
whose pocket are the thirty pieces of silver, and whose gar-
ments are stained with the blood of innocence ?

The charge, then, that we are beside ourselves, that we
are both violent and cowardly, is demonstrated to be false,
in a signal manner. I thank God, that ' the weapons of our
warfare are not carnal,' but spiritual. I thank him, that by
his grace, and by our deep concern for the oppressed, we
have been enabled, in Christian magnanimity, to pity and
pray for our enemies, and to overcome their evil with good.
Overcome, I say: not merely suffered unresistingly, but
conquered gloriously.

If it must be so, let the defenders of slavery still have
all the brickbats, bowie-knives and pistols, which the land
can furnish ; but let us still possess all the arguments, facts,
warnings and promises, which insure the final triumph of
our holy cause.

Nothing is easier than for the abolitionists, if they were

so disposed, as it were in the twinkling of an eye, to ' cry

havoc and let slip the dogs of war,' and fill this whole land

with the horrors of a civil and servile commotion. It is



only for them to hoist but one signal, to kindle but a single
torch, to give but a single bugle-call, and the three millions of
colored victims of oppression, both bond and free, would
start up as one man, and make the American soil drunk
with the blood of the slain. How fearful and tremendous
is the power, for good or evil, thus lodged in their hands !
Besides being stimulated by a desire to redress the wrongs
of their enslaved countrymen, they could plead, in extenua-
tion of their conduct for resorting to arms, (and their plea
would be valid, according to the theory and practice of re-
publicanism,) that they had cruel wrongs of their own to
avenge, and sacred rights to secure, inasmuch as they are
thrust out beyond the pale of the Constitution, excluded
from one half of the Union by the fiat of the lynch code,
deprived of the protection of law, and branded as traitors,
because they dare to assert that God wills all men to be
FREE ! Now, I frankly put it to the understandings of
Southern men, whether, in view of these considerations, it
is adding any thing to their safety, or postponing the much
dreaded catastrophe a single hour, — whether, in fact, it is
not increasing their peril, and rendering an early explo-
sion more probable, — for them to persevere in aggrava-
ting the condition of their slaves by tightening their chains
and increasing the heavy burdens — or in wreaking their
.malice upon the free people of color — or in adopting every
■base and unlawful measure to wound the character, destroy
the property, and jeopard the lives of abolitionists, and thus
leaving no stone unturned to inflame them to desperation ?
All this, Southern men have done, and are still doing, as if
animated by an insane desire to be destroyed.

The object of the Anti-Slavery association is not to de-
stroy men's lives, — despots though they be, — but to pre-
vent the spilling of human blood. It is to enlighten the un-
derstanding, arouse the conscience, afl^ect the heart. We


rely upon moral power alone for success. The ground
upon wliich we stand belongs to no sect or party — it is holy
ground. Whatever else may divide us in opinion, in this
one thing we arc agreed — that slaveholding is a crime
under all circumstances, and ought to be immediately and
unconditionally abandoned. We enforce upon no man
either a political or a religious test, as a condition of mem-
bership ; but, at the same time, we expect every abolitionist
to carry out his principles consistently, impartially, faith-
fully, in whatever station he may be called to act, or
wherever conscience may lead him to go. I hail this union
of hearts as a bright omen, that all is not lost. To the
slaveholding South, it is more terrible than a military army
with banners. It is indeed a sublime spectacle to see men
forgetting their jarring creeds and party affinities, and em-
bracing each other as one and indivisible, in a struggle in
behalf of our common Christianity and our common nature.
God grant that no root of bitterness may spring up to divide
us asunder ! ' United we stand, divided we fall ' — and if
we fall, what remains for our country but a fearful looking
for of judgment and of fiery indignation, that shall con-
sume it ? Fall we cannot, if our trust be in the Lord of
hosts, and in the power of his might — not in man, nor any
body of men. Divided we cannot be, if we truly ' remem-
ber them that are in bonds as bound with them,' and love
our neighbors as ourselves.

Genuine abolitionism is not a hobby, got up for personal or
associated aggrandizement ; it is not a political ruse ; it is
not a spasm of sympathy, which lasts but for a moment,
leaving the system weak and worn ; it is not a fever of en-
thusiasm ; it is not the fruit of fanaticism ; it is not a spirit
of faction. It is of heaven, not of men. It lives in the
heart as a vital principle. It is an essential part of Chris-
tianity, and aside from it there can be no humanity. Its


scope is not confined to the slave population of the United
States, but embraces mankind. Opposition cannot weary

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 15 of 33)