William Lloyd Garrison.

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

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very language of the dealers in human flesh, who are aiming
to eternize slavery on the American soil ; who are eager to
imbrue their hands in the blood of the abolitionists ; who
turn pale whenever they hear their crimes alluded to, and
become frantic at the sight of an Anti-Slavery publication !
The charge is alike absurd and monstrous.

It is in this cool, oracular and audacious manner, that Mr.
Webster, from his high position, pours contempt and scorn


upon the tears of the sympathizhig, the prayers of the afflict-
ed, the labors of the philanthropic. If it were in his power,
he would disband every Anti-Slavery Society, and suppress
all discussion of the subject of slavery. According to his
miserable logic, to demand justice for the wronged, liberty
for the enslaved, is the very way to perpetuate injustice and
to prolong human servitude. How, then, would he abolish
the slave system ? Let him answer: — 'As it has existed
in the country, and as it now exists, I have expressed no
opinion of the mode of its extinguishment or ameliora-
tion . . . I have nothing to propose on that subject.' Pro-
found statesman ! But on one point he feels himself
competent to act : — ' If any gentleman from the South shall
propose a scheme of colonization, to be carried on by this
government upon a large scale, for the transportation of free
colored people to any colony or any place in the world, I
should be quite disposed to incur almost any degree of
expense to accomplish that object' ! ! — an object dastardly,
unjust, inhuman, to the last degree — an object which the
slaveholding perpetualists have for more than thirty years
sought to accomplish, through deception, violence, and perse-
cution, for the purpose of holding their slaves more secure-
ly in bondage ! Mr. Webster prides himself upon his title
of ' Defender of the Constitution.' In what article or clause
of that instrument can he find any warrant, on the part of
Congress, to expend any portion of the national revenue in
transporting to other lands citizens of this country, on
account of their freedom and the hue of their skin ? Accu-
mulated shame upon him for such a proposition !

' New England, it is well known,' says Mr. Webster, ' is
the chosen seat of the abolition presses and the abolition
societies.' Why should it not be ? The struggle for the
abolition of slavery is a moral one, and the moral power of
this nation lies chiefly in New England. ' Here it is,princi-



pally,' continues this distinguished scoffer, ' that the former
cheer the morning by full columns of lamentations over the
fate of human beings free by nature, and by a law above
the Constitution — but sent back, nevertheless, chained and
manacled, to slavery and to stripes ; and the latter refresh
themselves from daily toil by orgies of the night, devoted to
the same outpourings of philanthropy — mingling all the
while their anathemas at what they call ' man-catching,' with
the most horrid and profane abjurations of the Christian
Sahhath, and, indeed, of the whole of Divine Revelation,
They sanctify their philanthropy hy irreligion and profani-
ty ; they manifest their charity ly contempt of God and his

Examine this whole extract. Can its parallel be found on
the score of insensibility to human degradation and suffering,
as experienced by the poor imbruted slave — of misrepre-
sentation and calumny of thousands of as intelligent, virtu-
ous, humane and Christian men and women as were ever
united to extend the reign of justice and mercy — and, at the
same time, of affected regard for the cause of religion ?
Where has so much of barbarity, malice, falsehood, and
cant, ever been compressed into so small a compass ? There
is Satanic skill in the grouping of its several parts. He talk
of the ' Christian Sabbath,' of reverencing a day, who looks
with complacency upon the desecration of the image of
God, and mocks at the ' lamentations ' which are raised by
the pure and tender-hearted over lacerated bodies, and dark-
ened minds, and ruined souls ! He talk of ' Divine Revela-
tion,' who affirms that the Gospel of Jesus Christ contains no
injunction against turning men, women and children into
chattels personal ! He concerned for the honor of God and
keeping his commandments, who laughs at the idea of a
' higher law ' than that enacted at the last session of Congress
for the re-capture of fugitive slaves, and with whom allegi-


ance to a blood-stained compact is the end of the law for
righteousness ! Marvellous assurance !

As for the charge, that the Abolition Societies of New
England indulge in ' the most horrid and profane abjurations
of the Christian Sabbath,' it is utterly and inexcusably false.
Mr. Webster is challenged to produce a particle of evidence
to substantiate it. Let him show when or where any one of
those societies ever used the abjurations alleged, or stand
before the world a convicted libeller. In regard to their
members, they are composed of persons differing more or
less as to their religious opinions, (like the temperance and
peace societies,) but united for one common object — the
liberation of the fettered bondman. They have never enter-
tained for discussion, they have never adopted, any other
question than that which relates legitimately to their enter-
prise. Without attempting to determine any extraneous sub-
ject — whether the first, or seventh, or any other day, is
peculiarly holy time — they unite in sentiment with the
Great Teacher, that ' it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath
day,' and therefore commendable in the sight of God to
endeavor to extricate, on that day, the millions of our coun-
trymen who are perishing in the pit of slavery. As for
' horrid and profane abjurations,' they leave all such to be
made by those, who, like Mr. Webster, ' strike hands with
thieves, and consent with adulterers'; who, being on the
side of tyranny, have neither argument nor fact wherewith
to justify themselves ; whose weapons of defence are lies
and forgeries, sophistries and shams, tar and feathers, brick-
bats and rotten eggs, pistols and bowie knives ; who hunt
for the life of him who pleads for those who are appointed
to destruction, and riotously trample all law and order under
their feet. It is this wicked accuser and his man-stealing
confederates — not abolitionists nor Abolition Societies —
who manifest ' contempt of God and his commandments,'


and whose ' irreligion and profanity,' intemperance and lewd-
ness, are corrupting the nation.

In 1837, when his vision was clear and his judgment sound,
Mr. Webster could testify that it ' was the religious feeling
of this country' that was struggling for the overthrow of
slavery, and could do homage to it. In 1850, now that he
has wholly apostatized from the cause of freedom, he brands
that feeling as irreligious and profane, makes its ' lamenta-
tions ' over the woes of the slave a subject of merriment,
treats it as ' a spirit of faction and disunion, of discord,
crimination and recrimination,' and stigmatizes those who
are animated by its spirit as ' shallow, ignorant, and factious
men ' ! Nay, more — as for the general excitement against
slavery, it is utterly inexplicable to him ! ' I suspect all this,'
he says, with feigned ignorance of its cause and aim, ' to
be the effect of that wandering and vagrant philanthropy
which disturbs and annoys all that is present, in time or
place, by heating the imagination on subjects distant, remote,
and uncertain (!)... A spirit should prevail, which shall
look to things important and real, and less to things ideal
and abstract (!)... I shall support no agitations having
their foundations in unreal, ghostly abstractions (!) . . . May
my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, before it may
utter any sentiment which shall increase the agitation in the
public mind on such a subject ! '

' The wandering and vagrant philanthropy,' which so ' dis-
turbs and annoys ' Mr. Webster, is kindred to that which was
manifested by Jesus and his disciples, eighteen hundred
years ago, to the consternation and displeasure of scribe,
pharisee, and ruler ; for which the memories of Howard,
Oberlin, Wilberforce, Clarkson, and other illustrious
benefactors of their race, are now venerated ; and which
makes human redemption the absorbing object of its solici-
tude. It does not 'heat the imagination' — it warms the


heart. It ' wanders' only to save — it is ' vagrant' only as
it is persecuted from city to city. It is not, (as is foolishly
alleged by Mr. Webster,) that it looks to ' things ideal and
abstract,' that it creates general uneasiness ; it is, that it
deals with ' things important and real,' and calls for the sup-
pression of all abuses.

What can be more preposterous than the assertion, that
the Anti-Slavery agitation has its foundations in ' unreal,
ghostly abstractions ' ? Is the slave system or the slave
code an abstraction ? Are whips and chains, padlocks and
thumb-screws, branding-irons and blood-hounds, ' unreal ab-
stractions ' ? Are slave-holders, slave-breeders, slave-buyers,
overseers and drivers, only ' ghostly ' illusions ? It would be
much to his credit, if Mr. Webster should let his tongue cleave
to the roof of his mouth, rather than to use it so absurdly
and basely.

In one breath, he asserts that ' the slavery question New
England can interfere with only as a meddler : she has no
more to do with it than she has to do with the municipal gov-
ernment of a city on the island of Cuba ' ! In the next, he
insists that constitutional safeguards should be thrown around
that system as much by Massachusetts as by Georgia ; that
no fugitive slave should receive food or raiment, or any pro-
tection whatever, in all the free North ; that such as have
escaped from the Southern house of bondage ought to have
long since been arrested, and returned to their masters ; and
that to be the abettors and allies of the traffickers in human
flesh should be regarded by the people of the Free States as
' a duty, an affair of high morals and high principles ' !
This incohercncy of the brain is the consequence of deprav-
ity of the heart.

IIow Mr. Webster stands in Southern estimation is not a
doubtful matter. Where on that blood-stained soil a true,
out-spoken friend of freedom would be instantly lynched, he


is regarded with favor, and greeted with applause. At the
present time, the South relies on him for the protection of
her ' peculiar institution ' more than on any other man in the
nation — not excepting Henry Clay.

At the North, the supporters and admirers of Mr. Web-
ster are those who have bought him with a price — those who
pay that homage to rare intellect, however perverted, which
is essentially devil-worship — those who bow down to the
shrine of Mammon, and believe in the trinity made up of
'the gold eagle, the silver dollar, and the copper cent' —
those who have ' stolen the livery of the court of heaven '
wherein to serve the great Adversary — those who are pro-
fane, drunken, lewd, riotous.

In May last, the American Anti-Slavery Society attempted
to hold its sixteenth anniversary in New York. Its meetings
were invaded and broken up by a band of rioters utterly
lost to shame, led on by the notorious ruffian, ' Captain
Isaiah Rynders,' and connived at by the city authorities.
In the midst of their profanhy, obscenity and violence, they
repeatedly gave three cheers — for whom? For Daniel
Webster !

On the fifteenth of November, 1850, an immense meet-
ing of the friends of international amity and universal eman-
cipation, drawn together spontaneously from all parts of New
England, was held in Faneuil Hall, Boston, to welcome the
arrival to these shores, after an absence of fifteen years,
of George Thobipson, the noble advocate of impartial lib-
erty, the present distinguished member of the British Parlia-
ment for the Tower Hamlets, London. That meeting, at an
early period of the evening, was invaded by an organized
body of rioters, who, for the space of two hours, (like their
lawless predecessors at Ephesus,) by their groans and yells,
prevented any speaker from being heard — the city authori-
ties interposing no restraint whatever. ' We never heard,'


said one of the city journals of the next morning, • such
unearthly, inhuman, strange, uncouth, hideous noises, in all
our born days. One would have thought Babel was let
loose, and all the black fiends of the lower region out on a
frolic' Another journal, equally in favor of this dastardly
outrage, testified as follows: — 'Rings were formed in the
centre of the floor, in which individual and general fights
took place ; hats were smashed, and ivory-headed canes flew
briskly ; then came a series of dances, with Indian war-
hoop accompaniments. It was hell let loose, and no


For whom did these miscreants send up cheer after cheer,
throughout the entire evening ? Who was the recreant and
fallen man whom, on that occasion, they were proud to recog-
nise and eager to applaud, as one with him in spirit and fel-
lowship ? Daniel Webster !

W^here shall we look in history for a more melancholy
instance of human degradation ?

• So fallen, so lost ! the light withdrawn
Which once he wore !
The glory from his gray hairs gone
Forevermore !

Of all wo loved and honored, nought

Save power remains —
A fallen angel's pride of thought,

Still strong in chains.

All else is gone : from those great eyes

The soul has fled :
When faith is lost, when honor dies.
The man is dead ! '


(KljB (Crisis.



Why, like a sluggard, sleeps the Bay State now,

As lost to hope, and dead to scorn and shame?

A blot is on th' escutcheon of her fame ;
Dishonor stamps its brand upon her brow ;
Porgotten is her old and solemn vow,

To keep for ever burning Freedom's flame,

Maintain her rights, and vindicate her name.
And never at the shrine of Slavery bow.
Insensate as the shaft on Bunker's Hill,

And harder than its granite, seems her breast ;
The tyrannous South her sons enslave and kill.

Yet moves she not to have their wrongs redressed : —
Then let her of oppression have her fill.

And be, henceforth, the Southron's mock and jest !


Hold ! give not up, as lost, this free-born State !

For Pilgrim blood yet courses in her veins ;

The Pilgrim spirit brooks no servile chains.
As they shall find, her rights who violate !
Slow unto wrath, magnanimously great.

Nor fear, nor lack of might, her hand restrains ;

Cool, firm, resolved — to bluster she disdains ;
But when she acts, 'tis with the force of fate !
In this great trial-hour she will not blench.

But, single-handed, should all others flee,
The ruffian hosts of Slavery meet, and wrench

All chains asunder, and th' oppressed set free :
Nought shall her courage daunt, her ardor quench,

In battling for thy cause, O Liberty !


BintHB autlinriti[ nf l\)t 3oihU.

It cannot be denied, that the question of the divine author-
ity of the Bible is one of grave importance, and therefore
worthy of searching investigation. The right of private
judgment is, theoretically, the cardinal doctrine of Protest-
antism ; and it is a doctrine fatal to every form of spiritual
infallibility. It allows no mtin, no conclave of men, to
determine arbitrarily, whether the Bible is of heaven or of
men ; how much of it is in accordance with the truth, or
how much mixed with error ; what portion of it is genuine,
or what spurious ; how this precept is to be understood, or
that declaration interpreted. It leaves the human mind ( as
it should be left) free to judge of the origin, authenticity,
inspiration, authority, value of the Bible, according to its
own perception of right, its own conviction of duty. The
natural result is, a wide diversity of opinions respecting the
book, and the duties it inculcates. Men equally sincere
arrive at diametrically opposite views as to its teachings.
Some find in it the doctrine of the trinity, of total depravity,
of the atonement, of eternal reprobation, in the Calvinistic
sense. Others find no such doctrines. Some derive from
it divine sanctions for polygamy, war, slavery, wine-bibbing,
capital punishment, the lex talionis, governments upheld by
military and naval power, aristocracy, monarchy, autocracy.
Others construe it in direct opposition to all such views*
Some believe in its plenary, some in its partial inspiration ;
others reject the popular notion of inspiration, whether
plenary or partial. Some reverence the volume as holy
and divine, and with superstitious awe ; others esteem it as
of incomparable worth ; while others treat it with contemj)t,
and pronounce it a pernicious book. A multitude of rival
sects find in its puges any quantity of ])roof-tcxts in support


of their own peculiar faith, and each one makes out at least
a plausible case for itself. In this Babel confusion of
tongues, the questions arise — Who is right ? what is truth ?
who is it that believes in the Bible ? Is it the Episcopalian,
or the Presbyterian, or the Baptist, or the Methodist, or the
Swedenborgian, or the Unitarian, or the Universalist, or the
Quaker? If any of these, which — and how do you prove
it ? If all of them, who, then, rejects the Bible ? To what
does it all amount, in the last analysis, except that the Bible
is variously interpreted by the various readers of it ? But
whose interpretation is to be oracular, absolute, final, in this
matter ? Who shall play the Pope among us ? or coolly
accuse another of rejecting the Bible, merely because of a
difference of opinion respecting some particular passages ?
There are plenty of such, and a very ludicrous and con-
temptible appearance they make, in the guise of Protestants.
They are swollen with conceit, stultified through supersti-
tion, contracted by ignorance. For one, I shall not heed
their fulminations, nor submit to their rule, for one moment.
When I am prepared to give up my own independent judg-
ment, and to pin my fahh upon any man's sleeve, I will
repudiate Protestantism, turn Catholic, and do homage to
the genuine, unadulterated Pope at Rome.

It is to use language in a very loose sense to talk of any
one rejecting the Bible, for there is an immense amount of
truth in it, which no one has ever sought to invalidate. It is
true,' some parts of it are deemed incongruous, inaccurate,
spurious, or doubtful ; other parts clearly impossible to un-
derstand or interpret ; other parts obsolete, exclusive,
Jewish — deemed so by eminent theologians, devout schol-
ars, enlightened Christians. They neither accept nor reject
the book, as such; but they study it as a compilation of
books, written in different ages of the world ; and each one
claims and exercises the right to decide for himself what


he finds therein compatible with his sense of justice,
humanity, and right. True, they often accuse each other
of rejecting the Bible ; but it amounts only to this, that, in
some of their interpretations of Scriptural language, they
differ very widely.

Much of this confusion arises from the common error of
regarding the Bible as a unit — a work prepared by one
mind, (and that a divine one,) consecutively, for the guid-
ance of all mankind ; instead of realizing the fact, that it is
a compilation of Jewish and Christian manuscripts, written
in different parts of the world, in ages more or less remote
from each other — written nobody know-s by whom, beyond
what supposhion and probability may suggest. As it is not
one production, but many productions — as it is neither
exclusively Jewish nor wholly Christian, but a mixture of
both — as it relates to different people, under different laws
and usages, possessing various degrees of light and knowl-
edge — it is easy to sec why it is that, treating it as a unit,
and every portion of it as alike sacred, so many jarring sen-
timents and so many conflicting practices are attempted to
be justified from its pages. A dexterous theologian, having
full liberty to range, in the name of God, from Genesis to
Revelation, finds it an easy matter to cull out such passages
as seem to substantiate the doctrine, or defend the practice,
that he is zealous to maintain. It is true, he may be beaten
with his own weapons, and yet neither the victor nor the
vanquished be enlightened as to the truth.

The Bible, then, is the product of many minds, and was
never designed to be a single volume, to be received as of
infallible authority or divine origin. The Jewish portion of it
is supposed to have been collated by Ezra. The Christian
portion was decreed to be canonical by the Council of Nice.
' What is writ, is writ,' and it must stand or fall by the test
of just criticism, by its reasonableness and utility, by the


probabilities of the case, by historical confirmation, by
human experience and observation, by the facts of science,
by the intuition of the spirit. Truth is older than any
parchment, and would still exist, though a universal confla-
gration should consume all the books in the world. To dis-
card a portion of Scripture is not necessarily to reject the
truth, but may be the highest evidence that one can give of
his love of the truth.

As yet, mankind are not governed by reason ; they do
not reason, particularly in regard to matters of religion;
they are taught by their crafty leaders to be afraid of rea-
son, and hence dare not give heed to its voice. As a gen-
eral fact, they are wholly influenced by imitation, by tradi-
tion, by education, by custom. They believe or disbelieve,
not from the results of their own independent investigation,
but because it is the fashion to do so in the community or
nation in which they happen to reside. No wonder the
earth is covered with mental darkness, and crowded with
all forms of superstition, and groaning under the dominion
of religious and political tyranny. Of the millions who
profess to believe in the Bible as the inspired word of God,
how few there are who have had the wish or the courage to
know on what ground they have formed their opinion !
They have been taught that, to allow a doubt to arise in
their minds on this point, would be sacrilegious, and to put
in peril their salvation. They must believe in the plenary
inspiration of the ' sacred volume,' or they are ' infidels,'
who will justly deserve to be ' cast into the lake of fire and
brimstone.' Imposture may always be suspected when rea-
son is commanded to abdicate the throne ; when investiga-
tion is made a criminal act ; when the bodies or spirits of
men are threatened with pains and penalties, if they do not
subscribe to the popular belief ; when appeals are made to
human credulity, and not to the understanding.


Now, nothing can be more consonant to reason than that
the more valuable a thing is, the more it will bear to be ex-
amined. If the Bible be, from Genesis to Revelation,
divinely inspired, its warmest partisans need not be con-
cerned as to its fate. It is to be examined with the same
freedom as any other book, and taken precisely for what it
is worth. It must stand or fall on its own inherent qualities,
like any other volume. To know what it teaches, men
must not stultify themselves, nor be made irrational by a
blind homage. Their reason must be absolute in judgment,
and act freely, or they cannot know the truth. They are
not to object to what is simply incomprehensible, — because
no man can comprehend how it is that the sun gives light,
or the acorn produces the oak ; but what is clearly mon-
strous, or absurd, or impossible, cannot be endorsed by rea-
son, and can never properly be made a test of religious
faith, or an evidence of moral character.

To say that every thing contained within the lids of the
Bible is divinely inspired, and to insist upon this dogma as
fundamentally important, is to give utterance to a bold fic-
tion, and to require the suspension of the reasoning facul-
ties. To say that every thing in the Bible is to be believed,

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 17 of 33)