William Lloyd Garrison.

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

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meant, had they so understood him, his praise had been
small on that day ; their tumult had been great. Yet, that
injustice is the distinguishing feature of our government, all
men know. For what is implied in the fact, that, under it,
three millions of people lie crushed and bleeding, if it be
not injustice in its most dreadful form ? There was no sin-
cerity, therefore, in the words of the orator ; no self-convic-
tion in the minds of his hearers.

Be it conceded, that this was an occasion that justified
praise — even high-wrought panegyric. It also called for
solemn warning, stern rebuke, strong condemnation. These
being omitted, the praise becomes no less dangerous than
flattery. ' Credit to whom credit,' but also censure to whom
censure is due. ' We may praise what we cannot equal,'
says Mr. Webster, ' and celebrate actions which we were
not born to perform.' This is true ; but when he avers that
' Heaven has not allotted to this generation an opportutiity of


rendering high services, and manifesting strong personal
devotion, such as they [the patriots of the Revolution] ren-
dered and manifested, and in such a cause as roused the
patriotic fires of their youthful breasts, and nerved the
strength of their arms,' he shows that, while he is able to
describe the past, he is unable to appreciate the present, or
to take a large survey of the future. These are more
solemn, more eventful, far more grand and sublime times —
times requiring a more self-sacrificing spirit, a higher and
better kind of courage, a holier zeal, a loftier devotion —
times incomparably more trying to the souls of men — than
those which our revolutionary fathers were called to experi-
ence. But, having eyes, the boasted ' Defender of the Con-
stitution ' is blind ; having ears, he hears not. What to him
is the present ? Nothing. What is he doing to advance
the welfare of the future.^ Nothing. The past — the
past — the past! On that he can dwell with exultation,
expatiate eloquently, and flourish abundantly. The giant in
intellect is a pigmy in heart. His courage is of the most
craven character ; his regard for human rights incompar-
ably less than for his own popularity ; his estimation of the
cause of freedom low, partial, false, American. Another
struggle, mightier than of old, for the emancipation of three
millions of people from servile chains, is going on in the
land ; but in the eyes of the purchased Webster, it is as
despicable, as unjustifiable, as treasonable, as was the revo-
lutionary war, for a time, in the eyes of the tories of Eng-
land. It is a struggle on the part of the few against the
many — the weak against the mighty — the poor against the
rich — the friends of universal liberty against the supporters
of a worse than absolute despotism. It is a struggle to
secure to all the full enjoyment of those rights, which the
patriots of 1776 fought and bled in vain to establish ; not
limited by any geographical boundaries, nor actuated by any


local considerations, nor animated by any vindictive feelings
towards those who are enacting the part of tyrants ; waged
with ethereal weapons, stained with no other blood than that
of its own martyrs, full of stirring incident, rich prospect-
ively in historic renown, glorious in its object, magnanimous
in its spirit, sublime in its moral majesty, on the speedy tri-
umph of which, the prosperity, the harmony, the very exist-
ence of the republic depend ! In every one of its features,
it wears a nobler aspect than any of those which character-
ised the revolutionary war. Laurels are to be gathered in
it, that never fade ; a name and a fame, that shall survive
those ever obtained by diplomatic skill or political success,
or on the battle-field of blood-spilling war. Yet Mr. Web-
ster has the fatuity to declare, that * Heaven has not allotted
to this generation an opportunity of rendering high services,
and manifesting strong personal devotion,' such as they ren-
dered and manifested, who rushed to the strife of blood sixty
years ago ! O, this is a melancholy exhibition of mingled
cowardice and slothfulness, under circumstances which ad-
mit of no palliation ! Yet, how all tongues are extolling the
' godlike ' intellect and spirit of Daniel Webster ! ' How
great, wide-spread, enduring is his reputation ! ' they exclaim.
' The pride of America ! a prodigy among mankind ! ' It
is on such flatteries that he is attempting to feed his immor-
tal nature, while he rejects the bread and water of life.
The greatness of his intellect cannot save his memory from
the corruption of mortality. Nothing can perpetuate that
memory, but its connection with every righteous reform,
every virtuous struggle for liberty, every just testimony
against wrong-doing, during the remainder of his life. For
politicians and time-servers, for warriors and chieftains, there
remains no honorable place on the scroll of fame, or in the
annals of time. Their memories shall fade away in the


pure, noon-tide light of a new dispensation, as the stars of
night retire before the blaze of day.

Thus it shall be with the name even of Washington,
who, in the remembrance, affection and grathude of the
American people, has been made by them more than a rival
of Christ, and practically exaUed ' above all that is called
God.' The language of panegyric has long since been
exhausted to describe his merits ; but, as if emulous of sur-
passing all panegyrists who have gone before him, and of
drawing a portraiture that should immortalize the artist as
well as the subject, Mr. Webster has tasked his genius and
imagination to the utmost, adequately to represent the heroic
glory and moral grandeur of the character of Washington.
Vain, though brilliant attempt ! From the low eminence on
which he stood to survey that character, looking at it through
the disordered medium of a carnal vision, and measuring it
by the imperfect rule of worldly patriotism, Mr. Webster
has given utterance to sentiments that challenge the assent
and admiration of all who are subjects of ' the kingdoms of
this world.' From the high eminence of Christianity, and
in the light of universal and perfect love, the character of
Washington is seen to be radically defective. See what has
long been proudly claimed for him ! ' First in war, first in
peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen ! ' First in
war ! The first to give the blow, to spill human blood, to
lead others to the conflict of death ! What a eulogy ! How
incongruous, how impious it would sound to apply it to the
Son of God ! ' First in war ! ' Can that which is degrad-
ing to the character of Christ, be worthy of praise and hom-
age in that of Washington.'' But let us be just. It is also
claimed for the latter, that he was ' first in peace.' Absurd
paradox! At best, it amounts only to this — that, having
the disposition to be the first to resort to arms in defence of


his own rights, he was also disposed to be first in efiecting a
truce; but only on this condition: — 'If you will let me
alone, I will let you alone. If you will not strike me, I will
not strike you. If you will not attack the liberties of my
country, I will not kill and destroy by way of retaliation. If
you will be peaceable, I will ; if not, remember I am first
ix^ WAR.' How different the spirit of Flim, ' who left us an
example, that we should follow his steps ; who, when he was
reviled, reviled not again ; when he suffered, he threatened
not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteous-
ly ! ' Either Jesus or Washington must be rejected, as
unworthy to receive the homage of mankind ; for their traits
of character were utterly dissimilar. ' First in the hearts of
his countrymen.' This is a terrible fact. It is far more
unpopular and hazardous to arraign the conduct of Wash-
ington, than to speak against Jesus. He is incompar-
ably before Jesus in the esteem of the American people ;
and they regard his ' Farewell Address ' with far higher
reverence than they do ' the glorious gospel of the blessed
God.' They are patriotic idolaters. No matter who comes
next — Washington must stand 'first.' I know how angry
my countrymen will be with me, for presuming to dispute
the right of Washington to be first in their hearts ; but will
they do well to be angry ? I readily concede to him all that
worldly patriotism claims in his behalf; but I say that worldly
patriotism, though it is something preferable to cowardice
and a slavish spirit, is not Christianity, and, therefore, not to
be applauded as worthy of imitation. It may be said, that
Washington was a pious man. In a popular sense, this is
true ; but his piety was made compatible with oppressive and
sanguinary acts.

Mr. Webster vauntingly says of Washington — Ho is all,
all our own. I claim him for America.' The boast and the
claim are equally derogatory. Washington gave himself for


his country, not for the world. He was strictly ' an Ameri-
can production.' His philanthropy was not expansive ; his
regard for the rights of man was not founded on principle ;
for while he would not submit to wear even a political yoke
himself, and was inciting his countrymen to throw off that
yoke by physical force, and was professedly the champion
of the Declaration of Independence, he was basely enslav-
ing men, women and children, and living on the fruits of
their unrequited toil ! Nor did he release his grasp upon
them, till he felt that of death on himself And he is the
paragon, the idol of America ! the ' first in the hearts of his
countrymen ' !

What shall be said of the example of Washington as a
swarrior and slaveholder? Say, ye friends of peace — say,
ye friends of impartial liberty — is it worthy of imitation?
Has it not been disastrous to the cause of Humanity, as
sanctioning war and slavery ? Is it not time to exhibit it in
its true light — to assert its utter incompatibility with a great
soul, a true life, a Christian disposition ? Shall a stain be
cast on the character of Jesus, in order to screen the repu-
tation of Washington ? ' The gospel requires us to suppress
every angry emotion, to forgive every injury, to revenge
none. Shall we forgive as individuals, and retaliate as com-
munities ? Shall we turn the other cheek as individuals, and
plunge a dagger into the heart of our enemy, as nations ?
We might as well be sober as individuals, and drunk as
nations. We might as well be merciful as individuals, and
rob as patriots. We must not deceive ourselves. To be a
patriot is one thing ; to be a Christian, another. The char-
acters are irreconcilable. They demand conflicting duties.
We cannot serve our country in war, and serve God in
peace. We cannot love our enemies, and kill them.'



Self-taugut, unaided, poor, reviled, contemned —

Beset with enemies, by friends betrayed ;
As madman and fanatic oft condemned,

Yet in thy noble cause still undismayed !
Lconidas could not thy courage boast ;

Less num'rous were his foes, his band more strong ;
Alone, unto a more than Persian host,

Thou hast undauntedly given battle long.
Nor shalt thou singly wage th' unequal strife ;

Unto thy aid, with spear and shield, I rush,
And freely do I offer up my life,

And bid my heart's blood find a wound to gush !
New volunteers are trooping to the field —
To die they are prepared — but xot ax inch to yield !

Thank God, that though thy body Death has slain,
Thy quenchless spirit nothing could subdue ;
That though thou art removed from mortal view,

Thou livest ever more — and not in vain !

Of Freedom's friends, the truest of the true

Wast thou, as all her deadly foes well knew !
For bravely her good cause thou didst maintain.
No threats could move, no perils could appal.

No bribes seduce thee, in thy high career :
O, many a fettered slave shall mourn thy fall,

And many a ransomed one let drop the tear ;
A nation wakened by thy trumpet-call —

The world itself — thy memory shall revere !


The first great step in aid of the prisoner was taken by
John Howard. It was his mission to explore the prisons of
his own country and of Europe, and to reveal their horrors
to the world — to demand, in the name of justice, and by the
claims of our common humanity, a change in their struc-
ture, discipline and administration. For this, he has immor-
talized his memory. The effect of his example, and the
result of his labors, have been prodigious.

To take the convict by the hand, in the spirit of good-
will, and to lead him back to virtue and respectability, as
soon as he is discharged from his confinement, is the second
step in the march of criminal reform ; and it is essential to
secure the object aimed at by the first.

But there is another, a more comprehensive, and a far
more radical step yet to be taken, not in disparagement or
neglect of the others, but as a truly philosophical and Chris-
tian corollary. It is, for those who are injured not to call
upon the State, with its inexorable, arbitrary and murderous
power, to punish the criminal, but for themselves to forgive
him, with all the magnanimity and long-suffering of Christ,
and promptly to return good for the evil that may have been
done. If this course were pursued, in an overwhelming
majority of cases, the immediate result would be reconcilia-
tion, and the reclamation of the offender ; and few indeed
would be the instances, in which it would be found neces-
sary to exercise even the slightest bodily restraint. It con-
stitutes no part of the mission of Christ to incarcerate men
in cells and dungeons, as a punishment for their crimes.
He came to open prison-doors, not to bolt and bar them.
He has left those who would be his followers a plain an
glorious example as to the manner in which he would have


even the vilest ofTenclcrs treated. (II. Peter, 2:19-25.)
See his Sermon on the Mount. See his entire life, his
affecting death. The forgiveness (which certainly is not
the punishment) of enemies, or of those who are criminally
disposed, is the hinge on which turns the door of admission
into the kingdom of God, wherein is no violence, no retalia-
tion, no reliance upon brute force for safety or redress. O,
it is phiable to see the eagerness with which the professed
disciples of Christ rush to the criminal courts, to have
arrested and thrust into horrid places of confinement, those
who have injured them in person, reputation or property,
however slightly ! In this particular, between them and the
most unblushing worldlings, there is no perceptible differ-
ence. If a debt be withheld, if an article be stolen from
them, if an assault be made upon them, if they be defamed
in their character, straightway they cry out for the interven-
tion of the murderous power of the State, and exact all that
the law allows in such cases, however sanguinary or de-
moralizing ! And then they will get down on their knees,
and pray to the God whose laws they so frequently
violate — 'Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those
who trespass against us ' ! They will gravely talk about
filling up the measure of Christ's sufferings, bearing the
cross, overcoming evil with good, and counting all things as
dross that they may win Christ ! Tliere cannot be a greater
mockery than this. What the magnanimous Paul thought
of all this is plainly indicated by his sharp admonition to
his Corinthian brethren: — 'Dare any of you, having a
matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not
before the saints ? . . . Now, therefore, there is utterly
a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another.
Why do ye not rather take wrong ? Why do ye not


do wron^.'



Who talks of weariness in Freedom's cause,

Knows nothing of its life-sustaining power ;
Who in the conflict for the right would pause,

Beneath a tyrant's rod was made to cower ;
"Who something loves more than his brother man,

Holds it more sacred, at a higher price, —
Fails to discern Redemption's glorious plan,

Or in what sense Christ is our sacrifice ;
Who stands aloof from those who are agreed

In charity to aid and bless mankind,
Because they walk not by his narrow creed,

Himself among the fallen spirits shall find ;
AVho would show loj-alty to God must be
At all times true in man's extremity.

There is nothing which excites more unfeigned astonish-
ment in the old world, than the prejudice which dogs the
footsteps of the man of color in this pseudo republic.
True, there are many absurd, criminal, aristocratic distinc-
tions abroad, which ought to cease ; but these are also found,
to a great extent, in the United States, and have been com-
mon to all countries, and in every age. They originate in
the pride of wealth, in successful enterprise, in educational
superiority, in official rank, in civil, military, and ecclesias-
tical rule. For these, there may be framed some plausible
excuses. But to scorn, insult, brutalize and enslave human
beings, solely on account of the hue of the skin which it has
pleased God to bestow on them; to pronounce them ac-


cursed, for no crime on their part ; to treat them substan-
tially alike, whether they are virtuous or vicious, refined or
vulgar, rich or poor, aspiring or grovelling ; to be inflamed
with madness against them in proportion as they rise in self-
respect, and improve in their manners and morals ; this is
an act so unnatural, that it throws into the shade all other
distinctions known among mankind. Thank God, it is con-
fined to a very small portion of the globe ; though, strange
to tell, it is perpetrated the most grossly, and in a spirit the
most ferocious and inexorable, in a land claiming to be the
pattern-land of the world — the most enlightened, the most
democratic, the most Christian. Complexional caste is tol-
erated no where, excepting in the immediate vicinage of
slavery. It has no foundation in nature, reason, or uni-
versal custom. But, as the origin of it is to be traced to
the existence of slavery, so its utter eradication is not to be
expected until that hideous system be overthrown. Nothing
but the removal of the cause can destroy the effect. That,
with all its desperate eflJbrts to lengthen its cords and
strengthen its stakes, the Slave Power is continually grow-
ing weaker, is most clearly demonstrated in the gradual
abatement of the prejudice which we have been deploring;
for strong and terrible as that prejudice now is, it has
received a very perceptible check within the last ten years,
especially in New England.

No one can blame the intelligent and virtuous colored
American for turning his back upon the land of his nativity,
and escaping from it with the precipitancy that marked the
flight of Lot out of Sodom. To remain in it is to subject
himself to continual annoyance, persecution, and outrage.
Tn fifteen or twenty days, he can place his feet on the
shores of Europe — in Great Britain and Ireland — where,
if he cannot obtain more food or better clothing, he can
surely find that his complexion is not regarded as a crime.


and constitutes no barrier to his social, intellectual, or polit-
ical advancement. He who, with this powerful temptation
to become an exile before him, is resolved to remain at
home, and take his lot and portion with his down-trodden
brethren — to lay his comfort, reputation and hopes on the
altar of freedom — exhibits the true martyr spirit, and is
deserving of a world's sympathy and applause. Such a
man, in an eminent degree, is Frederick Douglass.
Abroad, beloved, honored, admitted to the most refined cir-
cles, and eulogised by the Jerrolds, the Hewitts, and a host
of Britain's brightest intellects; — at home, not without
numerous friends and admirers, it is true, yet made the
object of popular contumely, denied the customary rights
and privileges of a man, and surrounded by an atmosphere
of prejudice which is enough to appal the stoutest heart,
and to depress the most elastic spirit. Such is the difference
between England and America ! — O what crimes are per-
petrated under the mask of democratic liberty ! what out-
rages are consummated under the profession of Christianity !

« Fleecy locks and dark complexion
Cannot forfeit Nature's claim ;
Skins may differ, but affection

Dwells in white and black the same.'

It is a very disgusting fact, that they who cannot tolerate
the company or presence of educated and refined colored
men, are quite willing to be surrounded by ignorant and
imbruted slaves, and never think of objecting to the closest
contact with them, on account of their complexion ! The
more of such the better ! Their ' odor ' is more coveted
than the perfume wafted by ' the gales from Araby, the
blest' ! It is only as they are free, educated, enlightened,
that they become a nuisance, between whom and their white
despisers the broad Atlantic should for ever interpose !


a Ijinrt Cutnjiism;


1. Why is American slaveholding not in all cases sinful ?
Because its victims are black.

2. Why is gradual emancipation right ?
Because the slaves are black.

3. Why is immediate emancipation wrong, dangerous,
impracticable .''

Because the slaves are black.

4. Why ought one-sixth portion of the American popula-
tion to be exiled from their native soil ?

Because they are black.

5. Why would the slaves, if emancipated, cut the throats
of their masters ?

Because they are black.

6. Why are our slaves not fit for freedom ?
Because they are black.

7. Why are American slaveholders not thieves, tyrants
and men-stealers ?

Because their victims are black.

8. Why does the Bible justify American slavery ?
Because its victims are black.

9. Why ought not the Priest and the Levite, * passing by
on the other side,' to be sternly rebuked ?

Because the man who has fallen among thieves, and lies
weltering in his blood, is black.

10. Why are abolitionists fanatics, madmen and incen-
diaries ?

Because those for whom they plead are black.

11. Why are they wrong in their principles and mea-
sures ?

Because the slaves are black.


12. Why is all the prudence, moderation, judiciousness,
philanthropy, piety, on the side of their opponents ?

Because the slaves are black.

13. Why ought not the free discussion of slavery to be
tolerated ?

Because its victims are black.

14. W^hy is Lynch law, as applied to abolitionists, better
than common law ?

Because those, whom they seek to emancipate, are black.

15. Why are the slaves contented and happy ?
Because they are black.

16. Why don't they want to be free ?
Because they are black.

17. Why are they not created in the image of God ?
Because they are black.

18. Why are they not cruelly treated, but enjoy unusual
comforts and privileges ?

Because they are black.

19. Why are they not our brethren and countrymen ?
Because they are black.

20. Why is it unconstitutional to plead their cause ?
Because they are black.

21. Why is it a violation of the national compact to
rebuke their masters ?

Because they are black.

22. Why will they be lazy, improvident, and worthless,
if set free ?

Because they are black.

23. Why will the whites wish to amalgamate with them
in a state of freedom ?

Because they are black.

24. Why must the Union be dissolved, should Congress
abolish slavery in the District of Columbia ?

Because the slaves in that District are black.


25. Why are abolitionists justly treated as outlaws in one
half of the Union ?

Because those whose cause they espouse are black.

26. Why is slavery ' the corner-stone of our republican
edifice ' ?

Because its victims are black.

27. Why ought the slaves to be obedient to their nnas-
ters, and never to attempt to emancipate themselves by vio-
lence ?

Because they are black.

28. Why, though reduced to the level of brutes, are they,
when emancipated, the best qualified to go as missionaries
to Africa ?

Because they are black.

29. Why are the slaveholders the best judges of the time

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 22 of 33)