William Lloyd Garrison.

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

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ment — blazing suns in the great universe of mind, dispens-
ing light and heat over the whole surface of humanhy, and
around which all social and moral affinities revolve in har-
mony. They are to be denied, only as the existence of a
God, or the immortality of the soul, is denied. Unlike
human theories, they can never lead astray ; unlike human
devices, they can never be made subservient to ambition or
selfishness. When Jesus gave this rule of action to a Jew-
ish lawyer, who interrogated him, ' Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself,' and illustrated its meaning by the case
of the man fallen among thieves, aided by one with whom
he was at mortal variance because of sectarian and national
antipathies, the Great Teacher evidently intended to incul-
cate this among other truths, that all men are bound to rally
upon the broad ground of a common humanity, to succor
the distressed, without reference to the caste, the creed, the
country, or the name of the sufferer; — or, in other words,
that when a victim of robbers lies weltering in his blood, he
only is ' neighbor to him,' who pours wine and oil into his
wounds, forgetful of all other considerations ; while he who
passes by on the other side docs but act the priest and the
Levite. We repeat it, therefore, that it is the strength and
glory of the Anti-Slavery cause, that men of all sects not
only ought to unite, but are united in one common phalanx,
to break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free. ^Vhy


should it not be so ? It is a reproach to the name of Chris-
tianity, that while its professors, however widely differing in
their religious or political sentiments, eagerly associate
together for the purpose of money-getting — to establish
banks, build railroads, dig canals, and erect manufactories —
they are slow, almost reluctant, to give each other the right
hand of fellowship in carrying on an enterprise of mercy.
When they themselves are thirsty, they ask not who it is
that proffers them a cup of cold water ; when they are
oppressed, they care not who it is that breaks their fetters ;
when they are threatened with death, they demand not in a
cavilling spirit, who it is that comes to their rescue. When
the mother country attempted to bind the chains of civil des-
potism upon the limbs of our fathers, how ineffectual would
have been their struggle for emancipation, if they had stood
aloof from each other on account of sectarian or political
disagreements, and refused to cooperate en masse for a com-
mon object, to effect a common deliverance ! Would the
war have been finished in seven years ? Would it not have
been ended, disastrously, in less than seven months? If
each religious sect, if each political parly, had resolved to
prosecute the war per se, in an invidious and antagonistical
form, would England have lost the brightest gem that was
ever set in her regal crown ? Never. And what were they
styled, who, in those ' times that tried men's souls,' for any
pretext whatever, refused to stand shoulder to shoulder in
breasting the tide of British despotism? Tories — traitors
to their country — the enemies of liberty. Why were they
bound to forget their creeds and their names, and to throw
themselves, as one man, into ' the imminent deadly breach,'
for the preservation of their liberty ? First, because it was
a common good which was to be secured ; secondly, because
it was a common ground to be occupied by all who were
not willing to wear the yoke of bondage ; thirdly, because


disunion would have been inevitable defeat ; and lastly, and
for the all-conclusive reason, that all sects and parties in
England, the government, the people, were united together
for the subjugation of the colonies, and nothing but a similar
union of the people of the colonies could have procured their

The moral conflict now waging against American slavery
is, in many of its aspects, a parallel case. Its object, like
the love of God, consults the happiness of all men : it is a
common one, in which all sects and all parties have an
equal, the deepest interest. The ground on which it is
fought is a common one, broad enough to contain all who
would occupy it. Disunion in the ranks is defeat — no true
friend to the cause will seek to foment it. Those who refuse
to enlist, because they are not agreed upon other and minor
points with the gallant band who are struggling against the
opposing hosts of despotism — what are they.'' Are they
the friends of emancipation ? No. What are they ? Neu-
trals ? Neutrality in such a struggle is the abhorrence of
God, and active rebellion against his government. The
Moloch of slavery finds worshippers and defenders among
all classes of society throughout the land ; and it is to be
remarked — it is a fact too alarming and too important to be
forgotten, that, wherever they are, at the East or West, the
North or South — whatever the party they espouse, or to
whatever denomination they belong, their sympathies, feel-
ings, interests, opinions, blend together like the drops of
the ocean, to sink the victims of oppression beyond the
fathom line of humanity. Their language is one ; their
shibboleth the same ; their grand hailing sign of distress the
same ; their grip and knock the same. In their spirit, they
are alike ; in their purpose, identical ; in their fellowship,
undivided. Upon almost every other subject, they difTer
wide as the poles asunder; but upon the duty of paying



homage to the bloody idol set up in our land, their agree-
ment is perfect. Are the children of this world to be always
wiser than the children of light ? If Episcopalians, Metho-
dists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, &c. &c., are joined
hand to hand, and heart to heart, in earnest defence of sla-
very ; if they associate together, plot together, co-operate
together, to uphold that execrable system ; shall not, may
not, cannot members of the same religious persuasions, who
desire the utter extirpation of slavery, and will not bow down
to the image of Baal, nor pass through the fire to Moloch,
be as united, as forgetful of their other variances, as ready
to act in concert ? If the friends and the opponents of the
national administration are found in the same phalanx, fight-
ing in defence of the worst oppressors ; shall they not
also be found leagued together for the rescue of the oppress-
ed ? When the standard of Humanity is unfurled to the
breeze, in the sunshine of heaven, who that is created in
the image of God, who that is human, wdll not rally under
its folds'? Let us suppose a case. In the progress of the
revolutionary struggle, there were many dark periods, when
the cause of liberty seemed to be at its last gasp ; when its
champions began to fear, that the night of despotism must
inevitably settle over the land, with no hope that there would
ever be another dawn of Freedom's day. Let us suppose,
that, in the darkest hour, when Washington and his bare-
footed followers, in the midst of winter, were retreating
before their victorious enemy, and tracking their snowy
path with blood, some of them had suddenly thrown down
their arms, and declared that they could no longer be asso-
ciated with men whose religious or political creed difTered
from their own, or who refused to subscribe to any creed.
Suppose they had attempted to seduce others from the cause,
by inflaming their suspicions and alienating their affections,
by artful appeals and slanderous representations. Suppose



they had tried to cut off the supplies which were sent to
enable the tried and faithful few to carry on the war, until
victory perched upon their standard, or the last drop of
blood had oozed from their veins. And suppose that these
factious individuals had boasted of their patriotism, and
professed that they were actuated by love of country, and
gave as one reason for their mutinous conduct, that, m with-
drawing themselves from the army, they believed they
should be able to do more execution, inasmuch as a large
portion of the enemy coincided with them in religious pro-
fession, and would certainly be more willing to be shot down
or taken captive by them, than by those who held to a dif-
ferent creed. What would have been thought, what said of
conduct like this? Would not the whole world, civilized
and savage, have cried out, ' Shame ! shame ! ' But sup-
pose, in addition to all this, that they had eulogized the con-
duct of those torics, who had refused to join the Httle patriotic
army, as ' men who had a quick sense of propriety, and
were not willing to be identified with their movements;'
whose hearts bled for the oppressed colonists, but who were
beaten off from active exertion in their behalf, in conse-
quence of the character and measures of those who were
carrying on the war. Suppose they had declared, that their
feelings had often been exceedingly pained by the abuse
which was heaped upon tory ministers and other excellent
tory Christians, who did not feel prepared to enter fully into
the efforts of the revolutionists. Suppose, further, they had
carried on a secret correspondence with the disaffected in
various parts of the land, as well as made their appeals to
them in public, urging them to come forward in a body, take
the cause into their own hands, and carry it on in a manner
to suit themselves. Suppose, finally, that, in view of this
mutiny, shouts should be heard in all the enemy's camps,
rendincT the very heavens with their exultation. In what


light would the conduct of those disorganizers have appear-
ed to the friends of American Hberty throughout the world ?
As dictated by a superior regard, a more holy concern for
the success of the Right ? Impossible. Nay, they would
have been viewed, despite all their flaming professions of
attachment to the cause, as recreant to it.

This supposition will serve to illustrate a similar defec-
tion which has taken place in the Anti-Slavery ranks, in this
Commonwealth, and in other parts of the country, during
the past year, through clerical chicanery and the spirit of
sectarian narrowness ; yet pretending to be animated by the
deepest solicitude for the integrity and welfare of our great

Whilst we should watchfully see to it, that nothing of

^ human passion, or personal hatred, or sectarian bitterness,
or party policy, enters into our feelings in assailing the
execrable system of American slavery, and in rebuking
the transcendent wickedness of American slaveholders, we
should be equally on our guard not to give heed to the sug-

^gestions of a false charity, or to dilute the pure word of
liberty. Let our single purpose be — regardless whom it
may please or offend among men — to speak the truth of
God in its simplicity and power — not to conceal danger, or
gild over crime, or screen the wrong-doer. It is not light

^ that is needed on this subject, so much as a heart of flesh.
While the chains of millions of our enslaved countrymen
are clanking in our ears, and their cries are piercing the
heavens, and we know that their bodies and spirits (which
are God's) are daily sold under the hammer of the auctioneer
as household goods or working cattle, we need no nice
adjustment of abstractions, no metaphysical reasonings, to
convince us that such scenes are dreadful, and such practices
impious. All the nobility of our manhood, all that is nature


within ns, all the instincts and faculties of our souls, settle
the question instantly. With the indignation that fired the
bosom of a Brougham, each of us exclaims — ' Tell me not
of rights ! talk not of the property of the planter in his
slaves ! I deny the right, I acknowledge not the property !
The principles, the feelings of our nature rise in rebellion
against it. Be the appeal made to the understanding or the
heart, the sentence is the same that rejects it.' O, the
odious inconsistency of the American people ! When the
iron heel of Turkish despotism was planted upon the necks
of the Greeks ; when the Autocrat of Russia was sending
his barbarian hordes to conquer the unconquerable Poles ;
when the incensed populace of Paris contended for the
space of three days with the National Guards, and drove
Charles the Tenth from his throne ; when the news of the
passage of the Stamp Act, and the tax on tea, by the mother
country, was received by our fathers, and insurrections for
liberty broke out in all parts of the colonies ; when, at a
subsequent period, the tidings came that American citizens
had been captured by the Algerines, and were pining in
bondage ; when, at a still later period, the rights of Ameri-
can seamen ceased to be respected by Great Britain, and
some six or seven thousand were said to have been impress-
ed ; on each and on all of those memorable occasions, no
denunciation against the oppressors was regarded as too
strong, no impeachment of motives too sweeping, no agita-
tion too great, no zeal too burning, no sacrifice too dear, no
peril too imminent to be encountered. O, no ! Then weak-
ness became strength ; prudence, noble daring ; moderation,
impetuosity ; caution, a generous disdain of consequences
charity, righteous indignation ! Then the cold blood
philosophy, congealed by icy frigidness, was changed into
the warm fluid of patriotic life ; then the abstractions of
metaphysics became practical realities, affecting life, liberty,


and the pursuit of happiness ; then haUing expediency was
transformed into high, immutable, eternal principle. Then
the man, who, at such a crisis, had dared to mock the agony
of men's minds, and to insult their understandings, by giving
ihem grave and severe homilies upon the duty of being cau-
tious, and prudent, and charitable, and upon the propriet)'"
of excrcisinsr moderation and beincr dumb — such a man
would have been deemed and treated as recreant to God and
liberty. Then the land trembled as Freedom went forth to
battle. Then words, however huge, expostulations, however
earnest, petitions, however importunate, assertions of rights,
however bold and uncompromising in language, were deem-
ed wholly inadequate to such a crisis. Paving-stones in the
streets were taken up, and hurled at the heads of the myr-
midons of tyranny ; human blood was poured out like water,
and the dead bodies of the friends and foes of liberty were
piled up in hecatombs round about. Then the press spoke
out in thunder-tones — the public halls and churches rang
with the shouts of victory, or resounded with heart-stirring
appeals to arms ; and even * ministers of the gospel ' felt
that, in a strife for the rights of man, carnal weapons were
not less efficacious than spiritual weapons, and hence it is
recorded that some of them carried loaded muskets into the
pulpit on the Sabbath day. Now, we do not say that all
this conduct was justifiable — God forbid ! We have not so
learned duty. But, in the name of justice and mercy, we
protest against being condemned for our zeal or language,
our principles or measures, by the men who eulogize such
deeds and such excitements as we have just recited. The
only lesson they can teach us is, that our zeal is tame, our
sensibility obtuse, our language weak, our self-sacrifice noth-
ing, compared to the wrongs to be redressed, the evils to be



If unto marble statues thou hadst spoken,

Or icy hearts congealed by polar years,
The strength of thy pure eloquence had broken —

Its generous heat had melted them to tears ;
"Which pearly drops had been a rainbow token,

Bidding the red men sooth their gloomy fears.


If Honor, Justice, Truth, had not forsaken

The place once hallowed as their bright abode.

The faith of Treaties never had been shaken.

Our country would have kept the trust she owed ;

Nor Violence nor Treachery had taken

Away those rights which Nature's God bestowed.


Fruitless thy mighty efforts — vain appealing

To grasping Avarice, that ne'er relents ;
To Party Power, that shamelessly is stealing.

Banditti-like, whatever spoil it scents ;
To base Intrigue, his cloven foot revealing,

That struts in Honesty's habiliments.


Our land, once green as Paradise, is hoary.
E'en in its youth, with tyranny and crime ;

Its soil with blood of Afric's sons is gory.
Whose wrongs Eternity can tell — not Time ;

The red man's woes shall swell the damning story,
To be rehearsed in every age and clime !


* Jehovah hath triumphed — his people are free ! ' ' Alle-
luia ! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth ! ' Such is the
choral song of praise thundering heavenward, this day, from
millions of voices in the islands of the sea, and on the shores
of Great Britain, in view of the most wonderful transition,
the most sublime achievement, and the noblest experiment,
recorded in the world's history. Of all lands, (excepting,
indeed, the emancipated colonies,) our own republic should
be the most joyfully affected, and present the most animat-
ing spectacle, from its eastern extremity to its last great
western barrier — from its chainless lakes to the topmost
height of the Rocky Mountains ; for the trump of jubilee is
sounding across the waters, above the roar of the Atlantic,
giving freedom to half a million of slaves, and elevating
them from among cattle and creeping things to the privi-
leges and rights of an immortal existence ! And so it would,
if it were not a republic of tyrants and slaves — if it were
not basely recreant to all its professions — if it recognized
man as man universally. Of all people, (excepting, again,
the mighty host who only last night lay entombed in the
cold, damp sepulchre of slavery, but at the earliest dawn of
day obtained a glorious resurrection,) the American people
.should be foremost in celebrating the brightest triumph of
humanity since man began to oppress his brother. And so
they would, if they were true worshippers at the shrine of
freedom — if their hands were not red with innocent blood —
if they were not actually preying upon their own species.
Never were their inconsistency, their hypocrisy, their hard-
heartedness, so apparent, as on this very day. In the West
India islands, slavery has been totally and for ever abol-
ished ! Yet the people of the United States, (excepting a


portion of ihem who are branded as fanatics and madmen,)
not only feel no delight in view of this fact, but are abso-
lutely offended at the experiment ; nay, they hope it will
prove an utter failure ! And why ? Simply because the
victims, who have been released from thraldom, wear a skin
' not colored like their own ; ' and because they dread to be
left without excuse for their oppressive conduct. O, if this
day had been set apart for the restoration of the Poles to
their civil and political rights, so cruelly wrested from them
by the strong arm of Russia, this country would now be
rocking ' from side to side ' with excitement ! But the
peaceful emancipation of five hundred thousand descend-
ants of Africa, not merely from civil disabilities, but from
the most horrible servitude ever borne by any people — from
all that is beastly in rank and treatment, and all that is ter-
rible in irresponsible power — this is an event in which free,
republican. Christian Americans feel no joy, and evince no
interest ! In honor of it, they will not fire a single gun, nor
hoist a single flag, nor ring a single^ bell. They leave it to
the subjects of a monarchical government, to ' agitators,'
' incendiaries,', and ' madmen,' to ' free negroes,' to exult
over it ! O, I blush for my country, to think that an occur-
rence which is filling all heaven with gladness, excites not a
throb in her obdurate heart. But how can she participate in
the general festivity, while she is actively engaged in forg-
ing chains for the limbs of millions of her own children ?
The loudest in her boasts of liberty, she is the vilest of hyp-
ocrites and the worst of oppressors. Let her be clothed in
sackcloth and ashes; let her brow and her lips be prostrate
in the dust, for shame and confusion of face ; and let her
be the scorn of the earth, until she ceases to plunder the
poor and defenceless, and to turn away the stranger from
his right.

The event we are assembled to commemorate cannot bo


overrated in importance, *nor adequately described in any
human dialect. Its altitude exceeds the highest flight of
the imagination ; its circumference cannot be measured by
human calculation ; its ramifications extend through time
into eternity. It has terminated such an amount of human
suffering, effaced such frightful stains of blood, healed up so
many wounds, rolled back such a tide of licentiousness,
opened so many fountains of happiness, poured such a light
upon the darkness of ages, rescued so many victims from
destruction, brought such glory to God, and removed such
mountainous obstacles out of the path of the gospel of
Christ, that neither men nor angels can compute the aggre-
gate of blessings bestowed, or of horrors dispersed, by the
extinction of West India slavery. It makes set phrases of
speech, and formal attempts at description, seem almost con-
temptible. Words are for the common transactions of life,
but not for an occasion like this. I tremble to proceed.
The subject should have been committed to some master-
mind, capable of doing something like justice to it. But
what am I, in my poverty of speech, and my tediousness of
manner, and my feebleness of mind, that I should adventure
to grapple with it, or ' soar to the height of this great argu-
ment ' ? I speak, because the loftiest intellects in the land
•are dumb. A question of dollars and cents, respecting a
•modification of the Tariff Bill, or the regulation of the cur-
rency, can induce a Webster loudly to declaim in Faneuil
Hall ; but the transformation of hundreds of thousands of
slaves into freemen is too trifling an affair to extort an
approving sentence from his lips ! And the same thing is
true of other giant minds. Politic men ! Not that they love
freedom less, but that they love popularity, ' that weed of
the dunghill,' more ! Verily, they shall have their reward.
Let them refuse to hail this glorious jubilee, if they will.
Their conduct demonstrates that they have shrivelled" souls,


whatever may be the size of their intellect. Liberty, like
her great author, God, is no respecter of persons ; she
chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise,
and weak things of the world to confound the things which
are mighty. If the rulers in Church and State are not pre-
pared to celebrate the most important victory she has ever
obtained over oppression, it is because they are recreant to
her cause.

Before I proceed any further, let me call attention to a
remarkable exemplification of the insincerity and effrontery
of the anti-abolition party in this country, as manifested this
day. What have they not done, for the last five years, to
cast odium upon our principles and measures ? Have they
not ridiculed, without mercy, our demand for the immediate
abolition of slavery as wild, chimerical, monstrous ? Has
not the idea of ' turning loose ' so many unlettered, penni-
less, homeless creatures, seemingly filled them with horror ?
Have they not a thousand times declared, that a sudden
emancipation would fill the land with blood, and be the sig-
nal for a war of extermination .? Have they not attempted
to show, that slavery is a divine institution, which has been
approved by God, from patriarch Abraham to patriarch
McDufHe, and is therefore perfectly consistent with Christi-
anity ? Have they not claimed to be the only true philan-
thropists, the best friends of the slaves, the most tender-
hearted among mankind ? Have they not represented the
slaves as incapable of taking care of themselves, and vehe-
mently insisted that their simultaneous liberation would
bring forth another St. Domingo tragedy .? Most certainly,
all this they have said and done, and a great deal more,
equally creditable to their common sense, benevolence and
piety ! Now, how do I prove them to be inconsistent, if not
hypocritical ; reckless of consequences, if not hard-hearted ;

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 25 of 33)