William Lloyd Garrison.

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

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lukewarm friends of humanity, if not her treacherous foes ?


I will show you. It is known throughout the country, that
an abolition experiment is to be made this day, in the British
West Indies, on a scale such as the world has never witness-
ed. All the slaves, belonging to the following islands, rose
up this morning without a chain upon their limbs, free men,
free women, free children ; without an owner to oppress
them, without a driver to order them into the field, without
any other restraints upon them than those which bind all the
subjects of Great Britain, whether at home or abroad !
The cart-whip, the thumb-screw, the yoke, the fetter, all the
infernal devices of slavery to extort unpaid labor and servile
obedience, have disappeared as by enchantment !

Tortola emancipates 5,400 ; Montserrat, 6,200 ; Nevis,
6,600; Dominica, 15,400; St. Vincent, 23,500; Barba-
does, 82,000 ; Jamaica, 323,000 ; making a grand total of

Now, I ask, if the apprehensions expressed by our oppo-
nents are not feigned ; if they are sincere in their opinions ;
if they really credit their own assertions ; if they are not
actuated by selfishness ; if they truly love their neighbors as
themselves ; if their humanity is not restricted by geographi-
cal boundaries ; if, in fine, they believe that to ' turn loose,'
in the twinkling of an eye, large masses of imbruted slaves,
will subject the planters to imminent peril, if not to certain
destruction — why, in the names of consistency and humani-
ty, are they so imperturbable, so entirely indifferent, so abso-
lutely unconscious, as it were, in full view of what is now
transpiring in the West Indies ? How shall we account for
their conduct, except at the expense of their understandings
or their hearts ? Why has not a national fast been ordered }
Why do they not toll the bells, and sing funeral dirges ?
This they do, if but the President of the United States die
a natural death ! And, lovers of mankind as they are, can
they do less when thousands of planters are given up to indis-


criminate butchery, witli their wives and children, by ' turn-
ing loose ' upon them a troop of infuriated slaves ? At least,
can they not refrain from their usual merriment, or wear
upon their countenances a semblance of concern, or aflect
to be horror-stricken ? Do they not know that the abolition-
ists are looking them full in the face, and taking notes of
their behavior, for the very purpose of recording it in print ?
Have they ' remembered to forget ' that this is the first of
August ? Verily, it would seem so, or else that they have
been playing the part of hypocrites, for a long time past, for
a very bad purpose, and with very bad success ! How is it
with the newspaper press ? Are there no editorial wailings,
no lachrymal forebodings, no ebullitions of grief and horror ?
Why are not the Journal of Commerce, the Evening Star,
the New York Gazette, the Commercial Advertiser, the
Courier and Enquirer, the New York Observer, the Chris-
tian Advocate and Journal, dressed in deep mourning? Or
have they already imprinted upon their pages too many
black marks, in testimony of their regard and sympathy for
the robbers of God's poor, to render their multiplication
necessary ? Black marks, indeed, which no chemical liquid
shall be able to efface, nor any element destroy. If these
shrewd, far-sighted, infallible editors shall tell us, as a rea-
son for their present composure, that they mean to wait
until they learn how the experiment works in Jamaica,
before they commit themselves by shedding too many tears,
and uttering too many groans, why then let us acknowledge
that they have some method in their madness ; but while we
commend their discretion, let us inquire after their consist-
ency. Though they have been prophesying 'evil, and only
evil, and that continually,' of any and every scheme of
immediate emancipation ; though they have advanced it as a
self-evident proposition, that bloodshed and ruin must be the
inevitable consequence of letting all the oppressed go free


at once, it seems, after all, that they knew nothing about the
matter. What was beyond all doubt with them, a short
time since, is now full of uncertainty : they wait for intelli-
gence ! It is possible that the thorns of emancipation will
produce some very fine grapes, that the thistles of liberty
will grow some very nice figs, that a bad tree will bring
forth some very choice fruits. They wish to do nothing
rashly, for they are civilized and Christian men, and as
unlike the wild and headlong abolitionists as lynch-law is
worse than common law. For once they are puzzled ; their
vision is dim ; they falter in their steps ; they really cannot
tell how many throats will be cut, or whether any mischief
will be done this day, in the emancipated colonies. Every
thing with them is in suspense, problematical, betwixt day-
light and dark. They can hardly discern ' men as trees
walking.' Yet these are the keen scrutators, the severe
admonishers, the discerning moralists, the profound logicians,
the wise philosophers, the infallible prophets, the quick-sight-
ed seers, who perceive the end from the beginning, ' looking
before and after ' — these, I say, who are now stumbling,
doubting, waiting, in relation to a result they have all along
asserted to be inevitable, are the very men who have held
up the abolitionists to public scorn as fools or madmen, blind
as to ' consequences,' ignorant of the relation of cause and
effect, and incapable of understanding that bad principles
and bad measures, if successful, (or, in other words, the
sudden overthrow of the slave system,) must inevitably lead
to violence and bloodshed. O, most surely, they are the
people, and wisdom will die with them ! But the sooner such
wisdom perishes from the earth, the better for mankind. So
ends the serio-comico farce enacted three-hundred and sixty-
five times a year, (Sundays not excepted,) for the last five
years, by our unfortunate opponents. In what a pitiable
plight do they stand ! For, in one hour, all their ingenious


sophistry, subtle Jesuitism, metapliysical hair-splitting ; their
confident predictions, tlieir false accusations, their legal pos-
tulates, and their biblical perversions ; together with the
blood-red scourges and galling fetters of that detestable sys-
tem which they impiously labored to uphold ; have been
broken in pieces by the sledge-hammer of Freedom, and
consumed in the fire of immediate emancipation.

Now, look at the abolitionists, and observe with what ex-
ultation they greet this most eventful era ! Where are they,
but where they should be — crowding the public halls and
temples of worship, to return thanks to Almighty God for
the wonderful salvation he has effected for a people ' peeled,
meted out, and trodden under foot ' ? There is no fear in
their hearts, no doubt in thpiir oyes ; for, in their reverence
for the immutablu principles of justice, they looked well to
CONSEQUENCES. For a series of years, they have h^t^n pro.

claiming in the ears of oppressors, in season and out«of
season, the duty of instantly releasing all their slaves from
bondage. They have marshalled together all the facts of
history — the experience of the ages — the testimony of the
wise and good of all nations — proofs without number, and
'strong as holy writ' — to demonstrate the impolicy, dan-
ger and wickedness of exercising oppression over the needy
and defenceless. On the score of personal safety, of self-
interest, they have strenuously urged the planters to give up
their impious claim of property in human flesh. They
have indignantly scouted the notion, as opposed to reason
and revelation, as e(|ually unphilosophical and unscriptural,
that it is perilous to entrust men with their inalienable rights.
They have challenged their opponents, in vain, to produce
a single instance, in any quarter of the globe, from ancient
or modern history, in which disastrous consequences have
followed the removal of heavy burdens from the backs, and


galling yokes from the necks of the oppressed, however
feeble in intellect, or darkened in mind, or unprepared to
enter upon ' liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' ' Give
freedom to all whom you are unjustly retaining in bondage,'
they have said to the masters, ' and, as true as the Lord
liveth, there shall no evil befall you. Not a hair of your
heads shall be injured, not a drop of your blood shall be
shed, not a fragment of your property shall be destroyed.
Instead of darkness, you shall have light ; instead of tribu-
lation, joy ; instead of adversity, prosperity. For barren-
ness, you shall have fertility ; for wasteful, indolent and
revengeful serfs, provident, industrious and grateful labor-
ers ; for liability to servile insurrections, perfect exemption
from danger. The execrations of your victims shall be
turned into blessings ; their wailings into shouts of joy ;
the judgments of God into mercies. Your peace shall
flow like a river, for there shall be none to molest or make
afraid. " For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." '

Well, God be praised ! the planters of Jamaica have this
day resolved, with perfect unanimity, to try the experiment.
Are the abolitionists troubled, that they have been taken at
their word ? Have they not some forebodings that all will
not turn out so well as they have predicted? None at all.
They know whereof they affirm, and accurately perceive
all the consequences of the emancipation act. They have
taken a bond, not of fate, but of Him who cannot lie, and
thus have made ' assurance doubly sure.' Hence it is that,
unlike those who have deprecated the measure as suicidal
on the part of the planters, they do not feel constrained to
wait until they can get intelligence from the West Indies,
before they can pass judgment upon it. Hence it is, in
various parts of the United States, throughout old Eng-
land, among the highlands of Scotland, and in the Eme-


raid Isle, they are now swelling the grand chorus of lib-
erty —

• From every giant hill, companion of the cloud,
The startled echo leaps, to give it back aloud ! '

Now let ' the base of heaven's deep organ blow,' and all
that is harmonious in heaven or on earth take up the thrill-
ing strain, ' Glory to God in the highest!'

Our cautious opponents will perhaps admonish us not to
be premature in our exultation. Perhaps they will sagely
remind us, in the form of a homely adage, that it is not best
to halloo until we get out of the woods. Sanguine as we
are of good results, we may be wofully mistaken ; and
therefore we shall be on the safe side to follow their prudent
example — wait for intelligence ! Now, these admoni-
tory suggestions prove the blindness, ignorance and skepti-
cism of those who aspire to be our teachers and guides. If
they would disburden their minds of prejudice, and calmly
listen to the voice of reason, and believe what God has
spoken, they would feel assured that tranquillity, order and
happiness are reigning throughout the emancipated colonies.
The dificrence between them and ourselves, in this matter,
is, that we walk by faith, they by sight. We believe —
therefore we rejoice! They cannot yet see — hence their
reluctance to change their position ! Now, was there ever
a people so low and brutal as not to rejoice in being set
free from bondage ? Is it not morally impossible, that the
same act which fills them with gratitude and joy should
inflame them with revenge ? If they will patiently suffer
themselves to be

•Yoked to the beasts, and driven to their toil,' —

if they will not lift up a finger in self-defence, when they
arc horribly scourged, branded with hot irons, defrauded of


their earnings, sundered in traffic like cattle, and subjected
to the most dreadful torments, — is it to be supposed, for the
twentieth part of a moment, that, when they are released
from such a condition, and raised to the level of our
common humanity, (by the consent, too, of their masters.)
they will engage in butchery, ' cry havoc, and let slip the
dogs of war,' and make human blood flow like water?
Nay, can it be rationally apprehended, that they will resort
even to the slightest acts of violence ? On the contrary, is
it not to be taken for granted, as a matter of course, that
they will manifest the liveliest gratitude, be docile as lambs,
perform their remunerated labor with alacrity, and make
each field and hill vocal with melody ? ' Instinct is a great
matter ' — what says instinct, in reply to these interroga-
tions ? What says common sense ? What says history ?
What says 'holy writ'? Are we, then, presumptuous in
observing this day as a joyful festival ? Run we any hazard
of being premature in uttering our acclamations ? Is it not
our opponents, who are forced into a painful and ridiculous
attitude ? O, they are anxiously waiting for intelligence !
Why, what has been done in the West Indies, thus to fill
them with perplexity ; thus to shake their theory of right
and wrong ; thus to make it impossible for them to predict,
whether joy or sorrow, order or anarchy, gratitude or re-
venge, a reign of peace or a hurricane of fire and blood, is
to be the consequence ?

In the first place, all the laborers in the seven islands
which have been already specified, — comprising nine-tenths
of the whole effective population, — are henceforth to receive
wages for their work, instead of getting no compensation, as
heretofore. They are no longer to be forced to their labor
under the lash of the driver. No man may now strike or
oppress them with impunity. Their labor is to be volun-
tary ; they may work as many or as few hours as they


please ; they are free to make their own contracts, to choose
their own employers, to acquire and possess as much as
industry and economy will enable them. Slave mothers
are no more to be compelled to toil from dawn of day to the
approach of night, in the open field, beneath a burning sun,
dragging their infants with them. They may now give
heed to the cries of nature, and administer to the wants of
their helpless otispring, without being lacerated for their
motherly tenderness. In short, honesty is to take the place
of robbery, voluntary action that of brute violence, recom-
pense is to go hand in hand with toil, wages are to be sub-
stituted for the whip.

Under the slave-driving system in the Colonies, it appears,
by returns made to the British Parliament, that not only was
the natural increase of the slave population cut off, but, in
the short space of eleven years, there had been a decrease,
to the frightful amount of fifty-two thousand, eight hun-
dred AND eighty-seven, or about five thousand annually h
Now, this wholesale butchery is to cease ; the laborers can-
not be worked to death with impunity. We turn to our
opponents, and ask, whether this single item is not something
gained to the cause of humanity — something that warrants,
unattended by other favorable circumstances, a jubilee like
the present ? ' Well, they don't know ; honesty may prove
to be the best policy ; fair dealing and humanity are very
good things, if they only turn out well in the end ! ' They
shake their heads doubtingly ; they fear the experiment will
prove ruinous to both the employers and the employed ; at
all events, they wait for intelligence ! Let us try ao-ain.

In the second place, the claim of property, whether abso-
lute or conditional, in the bodies and souls of half a mil-
lion of our race, expired by limitation at twelve o'clock last
night, and can never be renewed. There are to be no more
slave auctions ; no more sunderings of fathers and mothers,


husbands and wives, parents and children, lovers and
friends, by the slave speculator. A legalized system of
concubinage is ended, and upon its ruins is established the
marriage institution, sacred to virtue and love ! The broken
links of parental, filial and conjugal ties are reunited in a
golden chain. O, it is dreadful to contemplate the reeking
licentiousness, the abounding impurity, the Sodom-like beast-
iality, generated by that foul system which abrogated mar-
riage, removed all virtuous restraints, and offered premiums
on pollution ! Blessed be God, it is over the downfall of
that system we are met to rejoice. Its lava tide of desola-
tion is stayed, dried up, for ever ! Now, we turn once
more to our opponents, and demand, whether this is not a
signal gain to the cause of morality — a triumph of purity
over the filthiness of the flesh, in which all the virtuous in
heaven and on earth may participate, never doubting as to
the ' consequences,' either in time or in eternity ? ' Well,
they are not prepared to answer ! They hope for the best,
but fear the worst ! ' ' All 's well that ends well ! ' They
tvait for intelligence !

In the last place, (for it is needless, almost endless, to
recapitulate the benefits of this great measure,) the most
formidable obstacle to the progress of Christianity — greater
than any which the Man of Sin, or the False Prophet, or
Pagan Juggernaut, has been able to cast in her path — is
taken out of the way, so far as relates to the West Indies ;
and the gospel of Christ, not in isolated texts or perverted
expositions, but in its completeness, can now be preached
with all boldness, where but a short time since, the mission-
aries of the Cross were cast into prison, or compelled to flee
for their lives, and their chapels burnt to the ground. The
statutes are repealed, which made it a crime worthy of
stripes, imprisonment, or death, to give light to the blind,
knowledge to the ignorant, succor to the perishing ; which


prohibited instruction in letters, the establishment even of
primary schools, the circulation of the Scriptures, and all
measures for intellectual cultivation and moral improve-
ment ; which estimated the soul of a slave as the life of a
beast, denied the immortality of our race, claimed to be of
higher oblin;ation than the commandments of God, and au-
thorised all manner of inflictions upon our common nature.
Ample protection is now given against violence and wrong ;
all restrictions upon the liberty of the press, of speech, and
of locomotion, are taken ofT; those who, yesterday, had no
will or power of their own, may to-day go where they
please, give free utterance to their thoughts, consult their
own wishes ; all the avenues to human elevation and infinite
progression arc thrown wide open ; the Bible may be read
and circulated without let or hindrance ; mind, intellect and
heart are all permitted to develop themselves in the sunlight
of liberty. Again, therefore, we turn to our opponents, and
ask, whether here is not an incalculable gain to the cause of
justice, virtue and religion ? Can the ' consequences ' of
this change of administration be otherwise than good and
glorious ? May not the followers of Progress, the friends
of Philanthropy, the disciples of Christianity, rejoice over it
with all certainty as to its beneficent effects, even though not
a day has passed since the experiment was put into opera-
tion ? ' O, they arc not inclined to answer ; they are really
puzzled to know whether more harm than good will not
result from it ; by the first of September, they hope to be
able to form an opinion. They zvait for inicUigencc ! '
True, the slave system has been cast into the bottomless
pit ; but then, they are persuaded a state of freedom is
pregnant with far greater evils ! True, the slaves can no
longer be bought, sold, mortgaged, branded, cropped, man-
acled, lacerated, murdered with impunity ; but then, for this
merciful exemption from suficriug, it is to be ajtprehended


that they will cut their masters' throats ! True, learning
may now be encouraged, schools established, the gospel
enforced, extraordinary privileges enjoyed ; but then, as a
consequence of this state of things, plantations may be
ravaged, the dwellings of the planters fired, and the awful
scenes of St. Domingo witnessed ! ! O, well may Bedlam
laugh at such stolidity, and shudder at such insensibility !
What shall we think of such men ? or what shall we say of
them ? It cannot be that they are in their right minds ; or,
if they are, that they are sincere in what they afiirm.
Ignorant they cannot be, for they make high pretensions to
wisdom and knowledge. Talents they certainly possess ;
but talents, ' though angel bright,' may be turned into fool-
ishness by perversion. It is impossible to believe them to
be honest, except at the expense of their understandings.
They deny self-evident propositions. They proclaim that
all men are created free and equal, and endowed with in-
alienable rights, and then mob us for enforcing their own
doctrine! They contend for liberty of speech, and then
subject us to lynch law for exercising that liberty ! They
expatiate upon the blessings of freedom, and then burn
down our dwellings for proposing to extend those blessings
to millions of our countrymen who are kept in the house of
bondage ! But, enigmatical as their conduct may at first
appear, it finds an easy solution. They despise, loathe,
repudiate, the colored man, as a man ; though they value
him, cling to him, extol him, run after him, from the borders
of Texas to our north-eastern boundary, as a slave ! They
hate the colored race, cordially, unceasingly, implacably —
not all of them so much as to desire their perpetual enslave-
ment, but hate them to an extent which requires their ban-
ishment from the soil. They wish them to be out of sight,
out of the land, out of the world, — except they will go to
Liberia, and then they will be pretty sure to be out of it in


a very short time. The fire of their prejudice is unquench-
able ; all the waters of the Atlantic cannot extinguish it.
They declare it to be an offence against good manners,
good morals, Christian decorum, and republican equality, to
treat men irrespective of their complexion — nay, subversive
of the American Union, and destructive of the peace of
Zion ! They maintain that it is * an ordination of Heaven,'
as unalterable as the laws of Nature, that there should be
no intercourse between the white and colored races, except
as masters and slaves : hence, emancipation and expulsion
must be inseparable. The conformation of the black man
is to them a source of merriment. They sometimes affect
to doubt whether he belongs to the genus homo ; whether
he is, in fact, a member of the human family. If they have
enslaved him, the color of his skin is invaluable to identify
him, in case (as will most probably be the case) he shall
take to himself legs, and run away. If he is free in their
midst, his complexion is a nuisance. They send a man to
the hospital if he has the small pox or cholera, but if he has
a sable complexion, he must go to Liberia — and very poor
medical attendance will he receive when he gets there,
though he will need it greatly. The cholera may be cured,
but a sable skin admits of no remedy. Besides all this, a
very large portion of our opponents are slaveholders, and it
would be very strange if they were not found in array
against us. Whoever sides with them in this great contro-
versy, takes part against their victims ; that is, against justice
and humanity. They may, indeed — as we trust they
will — come over to us, in imitation of the cheering exam-
ple which has been set them in the West Indies ; but we
can never go over to them. Subtract from the ranks of the
anti-abolition party all wlio own slaves, or have mortgages
upon slave property, or who are in any way interested in
the system; or their relations and connections, who sympa-


thize with them, or who cherish the brutal spirit of caste
towards the victims of American brutality ; all who love
their denominational or political party more than mankind ;
all who are seeking the loaves and fishes of office in
Church or State ; and all who are licentious, profane, Jaco-
binical in their spirit, — how many unprejudiced, tender-
hearted, noble-spirited souls would be left ? Be they few
or many, they are fast coming over to the sid'e of bleeding

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 26 of 33)