William Lloyd Garrison.

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

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it out, force cannot put it down, fire cannot consume it. It
is the spirit of Jesus, who was sent ' to bind up the broken-
hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening
of the prison to them that are bound ; to proclaim the
acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of
our God.' Its principles are self-evident, its measures
rational, its purposes merciful and just. It cannot be di-
verted from the path of duty, though all earth and hell
oppose ; for it is lifted far above all earth-born fear. When
it fairly takes possession of the soul, you may trust the soul-
carrier any where, that he will not be recreant to humanity.
In short, it is a life, not an impulse — a quenchless flame of
philanthropy, not a transient spark of sentimentalism.

Friend of mankind ! for thee I fondly cherish

Th' exuberance of a brother's glowing love ;
And never in my memory shall perish

Thy name or worth — so time shall truly prove !

Thy spirit is more gentle than a dove,
Yet hath an angel's energy and scope ;

Its flight is towering as the heaven above,
And with the outstretched earth doth bravely cope.
Thou standest on an eminence so high,

All nations congregate around its base ;
There, with a kindling soul and piercing eye,

The wrongs and sufferings of thy kind dost trace
Thy country is the world — thou know'st no other -
And every man, in every clime, thy brother I


In a speech delivered in Niblo's Garden, New York, in
1837, Daniel Webster said, witli an emphasis which elicit-
ed from the vast assembly almost deafening cheers, — ' On
the general question of slavery, a great portion of the com-
munity is already strongly excited. The question has not
only attracted attention as a question of politics, but it has
struck a far deeper chord. It has arrested the religious


THE CONSCIENCES OF MEN. He is a rasJi man^ indeed, little
conversant with human nature, and especially has he a very
erroneous estimate of the character of the people of this
country, tcho supposes that a feeling of this kind is to he
trifled ivith or despised. It will assuredly cause itself
TO be respected. It may be reasoned with ; it may be
made willing — I believe it is entirely willing — to fulfil all
existing engagements and all existing duties ; to uphold and
defend the Constitution as it is established, with whatever
regrets about some provisions which it does actually contain.
But, ^0 coerce it into silence — to endeavor to restrain its
free expression — to seek to compress and confine it, loarm as
it is, and more heated as such endeavors ivould inevitably
render it — should all this be attempted, I know nothing
IN the Constitution, or even in the Union itself, which
would not be endangered by the explosion which might

This estimate of the spirit which animates and controls
the Anti-Slavery movement is justified by all the facts con-
nected with the rise and progress of that movement.

Slavery is not only inhuman and anti-christian, but athe-
istical, in the most depraved sense of that term. Indeed,
there has never been any other form of atheism, as a system.


known to the world. This is none the less true, because
slaveholders profess to revere God, to believe in Christ, and
to receive the Bible as an inspired volume. Their religious
profession only deepens their condemnation, and makes their
daily practice all the more appalling. In respect to those
whom they have chattelized, their conduct is thoroughly

Exalting themselves ' above all that is called God,' they
claim and exercise absolute authority over their victims, to
the annihilation of all personality. A slave is one who
must have no other God than his master — no higher law
than the will of him who claims him as his property ; whose
intellect must not be developed ; whose conscience is not to
be governed by moral considerations ; whose soul may lay
no claim to immortality. In slavery, all human ties are
abrogated ; the parent has no child, the child no parent ;
there is neither father nor mother, neither husband nor wife,
neither brother nor sister ; no genealogical descent or rela-
tionship is recognised. Hence the appearance in the South-
ern journals of advertisements like the following: — 'Will
be sold, on Monday and Tuesday, the second and third day
of December next, ... all the right, title, and interest of
the subscriber, in and to the contents of a Country Store,
consisting of a quantity of Dry Goods, Shoes, Umbrellas,
Medicines, Hardware, Wines, Champaign Cider, and a
variety of other articles. Also, three Negroes, Levinia and
her two children. Also, a Horse, Carriage, Dray and Cart.'
What is this but a bold denial of the accountability and im-
mortality of those who are created ' in the image of God ' }

Now, if Christianity has any work to accomplish, surely it
is the utter subversion of an atheistical system like this ; if
the religious sentiment is to be arrayed against any form of
iniquity, it must be against this, which is unparalleled for its


Since the advent of the Founder of Christianity, no effort
for the melioration of the condition of man has been more
largely imbued with the religious element, in its purest and
most vital form, than the Anti-Slavery movement. This
declaration may astonish, and even shock, some who have
been taught by their religious teachers to regard this move-
ment as disorganizing in its tendencies and infidel in its spirit.
Are not the abolitionists every where stigmatized as infidels,
fanatics, incendiaries, madmen — equally hostile to the peace
of the nation and the stability of the Christian Church ?
Yes — but this stigma is not less malignant than was the
accusation brought against Jesus — ' He casteth out devils
through Beelzebub, the chief of the devils . . . We found
this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give trib-
ute to Csesar .... He stirreth up the people, teaching
throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.'
In what manner, in any age, is true piety best authenticated ?
Not by professions of reverence for dead saints or heroes ;
not by conformity to the usages of popular religion ; not by
the observance of rites and ceremonies, or of times and
seasons ; not by the surrender of reason to arbitrary author-
ity, or of conscience to ecclesiastical dictation ; not by a
dread of dissent, or fear of change, or dislike of investiga-
tion ; not by making public opinion the standard of action,
or what is customary the rule of duty ; not by exclaiming,
* Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in
thy name done many wonderful works ? ' These things arc
easily said and done. The test is in regarding principles
more than persons, the present more than the past, truth
more than tradition, humanity more than parchment; in
refusing to go with the multitude in any evil way ; in letting
the dead bury their dead ; in stemming the tide of popular
corruption, arraigning unjust laws, exciting the fury of the
oppressor, returning good for evil, and living above that


' fear of man which bringeth a snare ; ' in being willing to be
made of no reputation, and to suffer the loss of all things,
for righteousness' sake.

Consider, now, the actual condition of the colored popu-
lation of this country ; despised, shunned, insulted, outraged,
enslaved, by common consent, with deliberate purpose, sys-
tematically and perseveringly, by all that is respectable,
wealthy, and pow^erful — by all that is vulgar, brutal, and
fiendish ! They are universally treated as a leprous race on
account of their complexion ; so that to such of them as are
nominally free, every avenue to political and social equality,
to wealth and station, to learning and improvement, is closed ;
and it is deemed ridiculous and impudent for them to aspire
to be any thing else than hewers of wood and drawers 'of
water for their white contemners. The great body of them
registered with cattle and swine, and stripped of all their
rights as human beings, to interpose for their deliverance is
to come into collision with a spirit more unrelenting, mur-
derous and God-defying than any other that ever assumed
the despotic form, and which rules this whole nation ' with a
rod of iron.'

Again, consider the degradation, helplessness, and utter
destitution of these oppressed millions. They are ignorant,
and cannot read ; in a hopeless minority as to physical
strength ; cut off from all correspondence, even with those
who desire to befriend them ; without any thing in the world
that they may call their own ; hence the espousal of their
cause requires rare disinterestedness, as well as great moral

Consider, moreover, that in the immediate presence of the
Slave Power, no one can demand the liberation of its vic-
tims, or enter his protest against their enslavement, except
at the imminent peril of his life. So dreadful is that power,
that, of a thousand pulpits on its soil, not one has the martyr-


spirit to confront it — of a thousand churches, whether Cath-
olic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist, or Methodist, not one
has the courage to unchristianize it. No meetings can be
held to discuss tlic question of human rights, in relation to
the slave population ; no press is tolerated to speak out
boldly and uncompromisingly against making man the prop-
erty of man ; a dead silence is everywhere enforced, a gag;
is put into every mouth, except when slavery is to be defend-
ed, or the friends of impartial liberty are to be denounced..
Not only are there the severest legal penalties to be incurred
by agitating the subject, but outrage and death in their most
appalling forms, by what is called the ' lynch ' process. No
parallel to this state of society can be found in any despotic
government on earth.

Consider, finally, that by its professed expounders and-
teachers in this country, generally, Christianity has been:
made to sanction the right to ' trade in slaves and the souls
of men,' to any extent! Yes, in the Law given by Moses,.
in the Gospel as promulgated by Christ, they maintain that
divine authority is given to one portion of the human family
to enslave another ! Hence to own a thousand slaves is no>
barrier to religious fellowship, no stain upon the Christian
profession, no cause for church discipline. Hence it is com-
mon for ministers and church members at the South to be
slaveholders; and none are more angry than they at any
proposition for emancipation, or more ready to instigate to the
infliction of summary and cruel punishment on any one
suspected of being an abolitionist.

It is under such circumstances, that slavery must be assail-
ed — with the certainty of no reward on the part of its vic-
tims, as they have nothing to give, and know not when or
by whom their claims arc advocated — with the certainly of
being derided, caricatured, hated, calumniated, in the North,
and tarred and feathered, or hung, at the South — with the


certainty of being branded with ' infidelity,' and charged
with rejecting the Bible, in all parts of the country !

Now, then, when was it ever known that bad men became
the advocates of suffering humanity, in the midst of fiery
trials like these ? Never ! If an unfaltering faith in the
promises of God — the deepest sympathy with Christ, and
love for his character — were ever demanded or exemplified,
it has been in the prosecution of the Anti-Slavery movement,
from its commencement to the present hour. As, on the
other side of the Atlantic, in the struggle for the abolition of
British West India slavery, the purest, the most disinterested,
the most philanthropic, the most truly pious, rallied together ;
so, on this side, the same elements have mingled for the
deliverance of a much larger number from bondage, but
through tribulation and peril unknown abroad. The men
and the women whom God has inspired to demand liberty
for the enslaved in this land are worthy of the apostolic age.
They need no defence. The position which they serenely
maintain in the midst of a scoffing and merciless nation ;
feared, abhorred, proscribed by the pharisaical, the power-
ful, and the despotic ; howled at and hunted by the lewd,
the profane, and the riotous ; honored and blest by the suf-
fering and the oppressed, is their noblest eulogy. They are
neither fanatical nor mad, neither foolish nor ignorant, neither
violent nor impracticable, but speak ' the words of truth and
soberness,' plainly and unequivocally. They ask nothing
more than that liberty may be ' proclaimed throughout all
the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.' As friends, neigh-
bors, citizens, in all the relations and duties of life, they have
no cause to shrink from a comparison with their traducers.
In their company, the ungodly take no delight. It is their
aim to keep their consciences void of offence towards God
and towards man. Nor is the abolition of slavery the only
enterprise in which their sympathies are enlisted. The tem-


perance cause has no more thorough and reliable supporters ;
they constitute the backbone of the peace enterprise, in its
radical form ; in all the reform movements of the age, they
feel a friendly interest. For the last twenty years, they
have been ' a spectacle to angels and to men' — but where
is the evidence of their misconduct to be found, except in
opening their mouths for the suffering and the dumb r The
cry of ' fanaticism ' and ' infidelity ' against them is raised
to divert attention from the true issue, to excite popular
odium, and to hide conscious guilt. Their fanaticism is all
embraced in the American Declaration of Independence ;
they are infidel to the Slave Power, and will not bow down
to a corrupt public sentiment. What motive, but reverence
for God and love for man, could have induced them to take
their position by the side of the imbruted slave ? Were they
not connected with the various religious sects and political
parties — clinging to these with characteristic tenacity, and
highly esteemed for their zeal and fidelity > And what have
they not yielded to their convictions of duty, their regard for
principle, their love of right ? The ties of sect and of par-
ty, reputation, the hope of worldly preferment, pecuniary
interest, personal safety, in some instances, life itself. They
are intelligently and deeply religious, without cant or pre-
tence ; but neither expect nor desire any recognition of
their Christian character on the part of a people ' whose
feet run to evil, and who make haste to shed innocent

When, therefore, Mr. Webster, thirteen years ago, con-
fessed that the subject of slavery had ' taken strong hold on
the consciences of men,' and 'arrested the religious feeling
of the country,' his vision was clear, his understanding
sound, his testimony true ; when he admonished those who
listened to him, that ' a feeling of this kind was not to be
trifled with or despised,' but would ' assuredly cause itself


to be respected,' he uttered a sentiment which cannot be
too deeply impressed upon the public mind, and especially
upon the legislation of the country, at the present time ;
when he declared, as his conviction, that ' to coerce it into
silence, to endeavor to restrain its free expression, to seek to
repress and confine it, there is nothing even in the Constitu-
tion, or in the Union itself, which would not be endangered
by the explosion that might follow,' he evinced a familiar
.acquaintance with the martyr-history of the ages, and show-
•ed a deep insight into human nature. For as the Anti-Sla-
very movement rests on an eternal basis, and challenges the
support of all those who fear God, it is sure in the end to
triumph ; and in proportion to the resistance made against it
will be the convulsion attending its irresistible progress.
Nothing can overturn it ; nothing hold it back. Govern-
mental edicts for its suppression will be as chaff before the
whirlwind ; compromises and combinations to deceive or
crush it will all be in vain. If American slavery can be
perpetuated, then there is no essential difference between a
man and a beast ; then every form of despotism may con-
tinue to the end of time ; then Christ has died in vain ;
ithen the Creator is weaker than the creature whom he has

Within the last twelve months, a radical change appears
.to have taken place in the feelings and sentiments of Mr.
Webster on the subject of slavery. No case of apostacy is
comparable to it since the days of Judas Iscariot. In view
of it, conscientious and enlightened men of all sects and
parties are filled with sadness and amazement. There is
nothing to mitigate its turpitude — no assignable cause for it,
except the desperate hope of filling the Presidential Chair
as the reward of the blackest treachery to the cause of Lib-

On the 7th of March, 1850, in his place in the Senate of


the United States, at a crisis when every blow struck for
freedom was of incalculable importance — when the slight-
est defection from the path of rectitude was pregnant with
momentous consequences — Mr. Webster threw off the mask,
turned his back upon the free North, humbled himself even
to the dust in the presence of the Slave Power, and has ever
since been prostituting his great powers to the work of
crushing the Anti-Slavery spirit of the age ! It is not for
him any longer to exclaim, ' Where shall I go ? ' He has
reached the lowest depths of moral depravhy. He may
boast that he ' takes no steps backwards' — his strides from
Plymouth Rock to Carol ina lead as surely to perdition. There
are steps downwards as well as backwards.

• Since he, miscalled the Morning Star,
Nor man, nor fiend, hath fallen so far.'

To sustain this grave impeachment, a brief reference to
the sentiments avowed in his recent speeches and letters must
suffice, the limits necessarily assigned to this article forbid-
ding an extended review.

There is no man, who has professed higher veneration for
the memories and deeds of our Pilgrim Fathers and Revo-
lutionary Sires, than Mr. Webster. The names of Carver,
and Standish, and Bradford — of Washington, and Hancock,
and Warren — are ever on his lips. He was the chosen
Orator of Liberty at the laying of the Monumental Corner-
stone on Bunker Hill. He is one of twenty millions of
people, who are never weary of extolling the Declaration of
Independence. Yet, to reconcile the whole country to the
most hideous system of oppression attainable, he says — as
though ancient villany were time-honored virtue — ' Wo all
know that slavery has existed in the world from time imme-
morial.' And it is not less certain that the spirit of violence
and murder has prevailed ever since Cain slew his brother


Abel ! Ought all efforts therefore to be frowned upon, which
aim to promote peace on earth and good will among men ?
' There was slavery,' he continues, ' in the earliest periods
of history, in the Oriental nations.' The best of all reasons
why it should no longer be suffered to curse any portion of
the earth. ' There was slavery among the Jews ; the theo-
cratic government of that people made no injunction against
it.' As Mr. Webster doubtless regards that form of govern-
ment as having proceeded directly from God, he means to
be understood as saying, that God regarded with approbation
the act of his chosen people in reducing others to chattel
bondage ! What, then, becomes of free agency, conscience,
reason, accountability ? Where are the inalienable rights
of man ^ At what period did it become a ' self-evident truth,
that all men are created equal ' ? The imputation thus cast
upon Him ' who has made of one blood all nations of men,'
and ' whose tender mercies are over all the works of His
hand,' is ever to be repelled as in the highest degree impious.
The nature of man has been the same in all ages, and it has
ever rebelled against oppression. God never yet made a
human being for the chains and stripes of servitude. Over
the head of the oppressor, the clouds of divine retribution
are constantly impending, and his doom is sealed.

To the assertion, that ' there was slavery among the Jews,'
-we reply that, if so, it was because they forsook ' the ordi-
nances of justice,' and * built high the places of Tophet.'
Why did Mr. Webster forget to inform the Senatorial body
whom he was addressing, that these Jewish oppressors were
admonished and rebuked by their prophets, (the abolitionists
of their times,) in the following style: — ' Seek judgment,
relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the
widow ' — ' Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the heavy
burdens, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke.'

Not satisfied with staining the Law with cruel injustice,


Mr. Webster proceeds to sully the Gospel. He says: —
' At the introduction of Christianity into the world, the Roman
world was full of slaves ; and I suppose there is to be found
no injunction against that relation between man and man,
(i. e. the relation of one man as a piece of property ta
another man as the owner of it !) in the teachings of the
Gospel of Jesus Christ, or any of his Apostles.' The mean-
ing of this language is, that Christianity lays no prohibition
upon the strong enslaving the weak ; and the object of this
reference is, to soothe the troubled conscience of this nation
by making slavery and the Gospel compatible with each
other ! No marvel, therefore, that, in this besotted state of
mind, Mr. Webster denies that there is any such thing as
absolute justice, and sneeringly says — ' There are men who
are of opinion, that human duties may be ascertained with
the exactness of mathematics. They deal with morals as
with mathematics, and they think what is right may be distin-
guished from what is wrong with the precision of an alge-
braic question.' Hence, there are no natural relations of
life, no permanent rules of justice, no fixed and immutable
laws of God ! Morality is a shifting sand-bar, which makes
safe navigation at all times difficult ! Right differs so Ihtle
from Wrong, in its spirit, aspect and claims, that it is
extremely difficult to determine wherein they conflict ! This
is a very convenient doctrine for one who has put principle
under his feet, and thrown away his manhood to gratify a
wicked ambition ; but in theory it is atheistical, in practice
profligate, and in its consequences appalling.

However perplexing in casuistry some questions may be,
there are such things as ' self-evident truths ; ' there are some
human duties too plain to be mistaken. The slave is a

' Though by his brother bought and sold,
And beat, and scourged, and a' that.


His wrongs can ne'er be felt nor told,

Yet he's a man, for a' that !
For a' that, and a' that,

His bod)' chained, and a' that,
The image of his God remains —

The slave's a man, for a' that ! '

In him, therefore, the Divine image is to be revered, not des-
ecrated ; his rights are all that pertain to any human being ;
to enslave him is to be guilty of man-stealing.

But, in the estimation of Mr. Webster, the slave is noth-
ing — three millions of slaves are nothing — nothing, cer-
tainly, humanly considered — nothing but personal property,
and only as such worthy of any solicitude — nothing deserv-
ing of prayer or effort for their deliverance ! His sympa-
thies, affinities, energies, associations, are wholly with their
remorseless oppressors. He sees nothing in slavery re-
proachful to the character, injurious to the prosperity, or
dangerous to the stability of the Republic ; it is the effort
making to abolish it that alarms and inflames him ! Of the
Anti-Slavery societies he says, without qualification — ' I do
not think them useful. I think their operations for the last
twenty years have produced nothing good or valuable ... I
cannot but see what mischiefs their interference with the
South has produced . . . The result of it has been, not to
enlarge, but to restrain, not to set free, but to bind faster the
slave population of the South. That is my judgment.' The

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 16 of 33)