William Lloyd Garrison.

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humanity. But, controlled by such influences, passions and
interests, is it to be wondered at that our opponents, when-
ever they discourse upon the subject of slavery, and the
rights of the colored race, talk like men in a state of lunacy ;
deny their own faith ; insist that two and two make nine, and
twice nine make forty-five ; grow angry, spiteful, turbulent;
conjure up raw-head and bloody-bones, dire chimeras. Hack
ghosts ; run away from the light of free discussion, as
sheep-devouring wolves troop back to their murky dens at
dawn of day ; substitute rotten eggs for arguments, brick-
bats for syllogisms, and tar and feathers for victorious
appeals ; burn down buildings dedicated to ' Virtue, Lib-
erty and Independence ' ; resort to bowie-knives and pis-
tols as their weapons of defence, and imbrue their hands in
•the blood of innocency ? Why, these things should excite
no marvel ; they are the natural consequence of such prin-
ciples. The measures are adapted to the principles, and
the principles to the measures. Can a corrupt tree bring
forth good fruit? Can that which is evil-disposed, which
is prescriptive, oppressive, cruel, delight in peace, love, and
good-will to all men ?

I have said that abolitionists believe, therefore they now
rejoice ; that their opponents walk by sight, and very short-
sighted they are withal. They wait for intelligence. It will
come by and by ; come to their confusion, let me tell them !
Nay, deride the fact as they may, it has come already !


Thougli the sun of this time-consecrated day has not yet dis-
appeared from the heavens, though it is not twenty-four hours
since the event we are commemorating took place in dis-
tant islands ; yet tidings of the result have been received in
this city, from high authority, which I am permitted to
announce in the cars of the people. They were brought
by no human express, and are authenticated by no fictitious
sign-manual. The messenger is the Spirit of Truth, sent
down from heaven, his documents having the seal and sig-
net of the Lord Almighty ! What was done last night in
Jamaica ? At twelve o'clock, precisely, all the bands of
wickedness were loosed, the heavy burdens undone, the
oppressed set free, and every yoke broken, according to the
command of God ! What has followed in Jamaica ? Its
light broke forth as the morning, and its health shall spring
forth speedily ! Its darkness is as the noonday ! It shall be
satisfied in drought, and its bones made fat ; yea, it shall be
like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose
waters fail not. And they that shall be of it shall build the
old waste places : it shall raise up the foundations of many
generations ; and it shall be called, The repairer of the
breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in ! ' For the mouth
of the Lord hath spoken it.' Who discredits this intelli-
gence ? Who doubts whether the facts are just as they are
represented ? None who take God at his word ; none who
implicitly believe that he is faithful, and cannot lie ; none
but those who are practically infidels ! If it be a dream,
still, ' the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof
sure ! '

But this will not satisfy our opponents ; for, as they regard
not the colored man, so neither in this matter do they fear
God. They want better testimony ; the reports of pro-sla-
very journals and colonization repositories, some four or six
weeks hence, respecting the workings of the free-labor sys-


tern ; then, peradventure, they will believe, even if it con-
firms what God foretold would certainly come to pass !
They leave fanatics and madmen to cant about walking by
faith ; as for themselves, they will take nothing upon trust.
They will believe their own eyes. They will see what the
Journal of Commerce, or the Courier and Enquirer, or the
Commercial Advertiser, or the New York Observer, or the
Washington Globe, and other kindred prints, say of this
affair, and make up their minds accordingly. ' A bird in the
hand is worth two in the bush,' say they.

Very well ; I will not stop to pick a feather from the wing
of that full-fledged adage. Let them have their own way in
the argument, for which ever path they choose, their escape
is impossible. They will hear nothing, it seems, about
faith, promises, light, darlmess, repairs, ruins, or any such
cabalistical nonsense. They are your practical, cautious,
shrewd, calculating men. They know what they know, and
believe what they believe ; among other things, that to steal
a sixpence out of their own pockets is a crime deserving the
frown of heaven, and condign punishment by the magis-
trate, but that to kidnap a whole plantation of negroes is no
crime at all, but a patriarchal exploit, which Heaven smiling-
ly approves ! But I press to the point. Between them and
us, for a long time past, there has been a warm controversy
as to the consequences that would follow the immediate
emancipation of large bodies of slaves, without education,
ignorant even of its lowest rudiments. We have maintain-
ed, that such an act, if voluntarily performed by the mas-
ters, or effected in any peaceful manner, would be safe,
bloodless, profitable, and mutually advantageous to all par-
ties. They have asserted, that it would involve both mas-
ters and slaves in one common ruin ; that the soil would be
left uncultivated, the plantations devastated, and butchery
be the order of the day ; that, in short, it would be ' chaos


come again,' with thick-brooding darkness, and tlu'oiiging
horrors ! Now for a practical trial of our conflicting theo-
ries. Our opponents very well know, that, four years ago,
just such an experiment was made, on a large scale, under
disadvantageous circumstances, where there were fifteen
blacks to one white ; a most unequal disproportion, surely !
In one hour, no less than thirty thousand slaves were trans-
formed into freemen ! Now let them tell us, whether one
of their frightful anticipations has been realized ; whether
all our happy predictions have not been fulfilled to the letter.
One, two, three, four years have elapsed since that advent-
urous step was taken, though the planters might have retain-
ed their authority for the term of six years longer. Well,
during all that time, has a single throat been cut, or a drop
of blood spilt, or lynch law administered in a single case, or
an embryo conspiracy detected, or the ghost of a rebellion
seen ? No. Has the property of the planters been injured
to the amount of a farthing.? No. Has any plantation
been left uncultivated ? No. Have the emancipated slaves
refused to work ? No. Have they shown the slightest dis-
position to be idle, turbulent, or intractable ? No. On the
contrary, has not the measure been attended with the hap-
piest consequences, in detail and in the aggregate ? Yes.
Are not the employers (now masters no longer) enjoying
unwonted security, an enviable peace of mind, and a splen-
did recompense of reward for well-doing ? Yes. Are not
the employed (now unpaid laborers no longer) industrious,
economical, orderly, docile almost to a fault, filled with grate-
ful emotions, aspiring after intellectual and moral cultiva-
tion, and rejoicing continually over the boon of liberty ?
Yes. These facts are notorious. How do our opponents
get over them ? They can neither get over, nor under, nor
around ihcm, nor escape their flaming omnipresence by
flight. How is it that cause and effect have ceased relation-


ship ; that the best possible result has accompanied the
worst possible act ; that a firebrand, thrown into a powder
magazine, creates no explosion ; that water runs up hill, and
a thousand other miracles are witnessed ; that the planters
are not torn limb from limb, and all their property annihi-
lated ; how is it, I repeat, that our opponents have witnessed
the laws of nature reversed, (if we may believe them,) their
own ingenious theories turned topsy-turvy, and every pre-
diction of the ' fanatical abolitionists ' literally fulfilled, and
they have made no confession of error, uttered no exclama-
tion of surprise, attempted no explanation of these remarkable
phenomena ? How is it, that they are so stoical, so phleg-
matic, so dumb ! I have conceded too much to their
humanity. I have said that they are waiting for intelligence
from Jamaica, in regard to the transactions of this day in
that island, before they hail the emancipation act as a bless-
ing. But they will not hail il, thuugh it shall appear that the
very windows of heaven have been upeued, and such a bless-
ing poured out that there was no room to receive it. They
will be filled with chagrin, with ill-digested spleen, with undi-
minished hostility to the emancipation of their own down-
trodden countrymen. They will behave precisely as they
have done in the case of Antigua. They profess to be
humane, patriotic, Christian men, anxious to see the cause
of human freedom advancing in the earth ; yet how have
Ihey welcomed the intelligence, that emancipation w^orks
well in Antigua, and is going on ' in the full tide of success-
ful experiment ' ? Positively in a manner that would be dis-
graceful to barbarians ! They have studiously attempted to
garble and suppress facts, to wink out of sight what an ador-
ing universe will ever contemplate with delight, to forget
what shall be held in everlasting remembrance ! I appeal
to the world, steeped as it is in pollution and iniquity ; I
appeal to heaven, in its immaculate purity and resplendent


glory, if they were virtuous men, would they not rejoice to
know that a system of legahzed concubinage and prostitu-
tion had come to an end ? If they were patriotic, would
they not exult at the peaceful overthrow of a worse than
Turkish despotism ? If they were philanthropic, would they
not shout aloud in view of misery assuaged, broken hearts
comforted, wounds and putrefying sores healed up, the lame
leaping like the roe, the blind restored to sight, the deaf
made to hear, and the dumb to speak ? If they were lovers
of justice, would they not delight in the fact, that the lynch
code of slavery, as administered for ages to an immense
multitude of their fellow-creatures, has been superseded by
constitutional law, giving ample protection to the meanest of
them all ? If they were truly pious, would they not give
glory to God, that where it was until recently fettered and
gagged, the gospel may now have free course and be glori-
fied ? that a mighty obstacle to the progress of the Redeem-
er's kingdom has been removed out of the way ? that where
the Bible has been a prohibited book, it may now be freely
circulated ? that where mental and moral improvement has
been forbidden under severe penalties, all restrictions are
taken off, and light and knowledge are abounding ? But
they do not rejoice ; they do not shout aloud, (no, not even
whisper !) they do not give glory to God ! How is their
hypocrisy, their hard-heartedness, their contempt for the
colored race, made manifest! How are they judged in the
presence of angels and mankind !

They walk by sight, forsooth ! Why not look, then, at
Antigua ? That is a sight worth looking at ! But the light
is too strong for their weak vision. If there had been blood
and carnage in that island, they could have beheld it with
' philosophical composure ; ' it would have helped them to
an argument, and arguments with them are very scarce ; it
would have served to make plausible their scare-crow theory


of emancipation, now, alack ! proved, to the satisfaction of
the veriest cowards in Christendom, to be nothing but a
scare-crow, with an air-drawn dagger! They looked, but
hearing songs of praise instead of the agonies of the dying ;
seeing every man's hand, instead of turning against another,
extended in fraternal kindness ; beholding the whole face of
society renovated, and all things presenting an animated
aspect ; why should they look more than once ? Are disa-
greeable objects to be contemplated with satisfaction? Is
the mirror, that clearly reveals one's deformity, a source of
pleasure to the beholder ? No, indeed ! At least, so think
our opponents !

I proceed now, with all brevity, to show in what manner
the boon of freedom was received by the slaves of Antigua
and Bermuda ; and the first witness I shall summon upon
the stand is Lord Brougham, whose gigantic exertions in the
cause of emancipation entitle him to the gratitude of man-
kind. In an eloquent speech, delivered by him in the House
of Lords, February 20th, 1838, on this subject, he testifies
as follows : —

'The first of August arrived — that day so confidently and joy-
ously anticipated by the poor slaves, and so sorely dreaded by their
hard task-masters ; and if ever there was a picture interesting to
look upon — if ever there was a passage in the history of a people,
redounding to their eternal honor — if ever there was a complete
refutation of all the scandalous calumnies which had been heaped
upon them for ages, as if in justification of the wrongs which we
had done them — that picture and that passage are to be found in
the uniform and unvarying history of that people throughout the
whole of the West India islands. Instead of the fires of rebellion
lit by a feeling of lawless revenge and resistance to oppression, the
whole of those islands were, like an Arabian scene, illuminated by
the light of contentment, joy, peace and good-will towards all men.
No civilized people, after gaining an unexpected victory, could have
shown more delicacy and forbearance than was exhibited by the
slaves at the great moral consummation which they had attained.


There was not a look or a gesture which could gall the eyes of
their masters. Not a sound escaped from negro lips, which could
wound the ears of the most feverish planter in the islands. All was
joy, mutual congratulation and hope.'

So far the testimony of Lord Brougham. Thus much for
the hqrrors of immediate emancipation ! Thus mucH^ in
proof that slaves are contented and happy, and would not
be free if they could ! O, if there were time, it would be
a delightful task to give the details of events, as they trans-
pired in Antigua, in 1834. But a single extract from
Thome and Kimball's Journal must suffice : it contains an
Alexandrian library of pathos and sublimity in a single par-
agraph : —

« The Wesleyans kept " watch-night " in all their chapels on the
night of the 31st July [the evening preceding the day of emancipa-
tion.] The spacious chapel in St. John's was filled with the candi-
dates for liberty. All was animation and eagerness. A mighty
chorus of voices swelled the song of expectation and joy, and as
they united in prayer, the voice of the leader was drowned in the
universal acclamations of thanksgiving, and praise, and blessing,
and honor, and glory to God, who had come down for their deliver-
ance. In such exercises, the evening was spent until the hour of
twelve approached. The missionary then proposed, that when the
clock on the cathedral should begin to strike, the whole congrega-
tion should fall upon their knees, and receive the boon of freedom
in silence ! Accordingly, as the loud bell tolled its first note, the
immense assembly fell prostrate on their knees. All was silence,
save the quivering, half- stifled breath of the struggling spirit. The
slow notes of the clock fell upon the ears of the multitude ; peal on
peal, peal on peal, rolled over the prostrate throng, in tones of
anf^els' voices, thrilling among the desolate chords and weary
heart-strin"-s ! Scarce had the clock sounded its last note, when
the lightning flashed vividly around, and a loud peal of thunder
roared along the sky — God's pillar of fire, and trump of jubilee I
A moment of profoundest silence passed — then came the burst —
they broke forth in prayer ; they shouted, they sung, •• glory,'-
•« alleluia ; " they clapped their hands, leaped up, fell down, clasped


each other in their free arms, cried, laughed, and ^vent to and fro,
tossing upwards their unfettered hands ; but, high above the whole,
there was a mighty sound, which ever and anon swelled up — it
was the utterings, in broken negro dialect, of gratitude to God.
After this gush of excitement had spent itself, and the congregation
became calm, the religious exercises were resumed, and the remain-
der of the night was occupied in singing and prayer, in reading the
Bible, and in addresses from the missionaries, explaining the nature
of the freedom just received, and exhorting the freed people to be
industrious, steady, obedient to the laws, and to show themselves
in all things worthy of the high boon which God had conferred
upon them.'

Nothing can surpass the sublimity of the scene, or add to
the power of its description : —

* Nought but itself can be its parallel ' !

And yet, how natural the conduct, how reverent the spirit,
how exquisite the sensibility, how overwhelming the grati-
tude of these contemned ones ! I say, how natural their con-
duct ! They had obtained all they wished for ; why should
they think of butchering those who had set them free ?
The idea is preposterous. Yet it is upon record, that several
American vessels, which had lain for weeks in the harbor
of St. John's, weighed anchor on the 31st July, and made
their escape, through actual fear that the island would be
destroyed on the following day ! There is a specimen of
republican reverence for liberty ! That is the way we
encourage tyranny to give up its victims ! What fit subjects
for a ^slaveholding master the captains of those vessels
must have been ! O, the cowardly, recreant unbelievers ;
the liberty-hating, consistent members of a confederacy of
oppressors !

No throats were cut in Antigua ! And an equally aston-
ishing fact is, the slaves wanted to be free, and don't want
to return to bondage ! And, perhaps, what will surprise our


opponents most of all is, the Governor of Antigua being
witness, ' the planters all concede that emancipation has
been a great blessing to the island ; he does not know of a
single individual who wishes to return to the old system."'
' He is well acquainted with the country districts of Eng-
land, and has also travelled extensively in Europe ; yet he
has never found such a peaceable, orderly, and law-abiding
people as the emancipated slaves of Antigua.' On being
interrogated as to the workings of the new system, one of
the planters (Dr. Daniel) said — 'The planters, by giving
immediate freedom, had secured the attachment of their
people ; it had removed all danger of insurrection, confla-
gration and conspiracies.' Another planter (Mr. Ilatley)
said — ' Formerly, it was whip, whip, whip, incessantly, but
now we are relieved from this disagreeable task.' Another
(Hon. Samuel O. Baijer) said — 'I can cultivate my estate
at least one third cheaper by free labor than by slave labor.'
Another (Hon. N. Nugent) said — 'there is not the slight-
est feeling of insecurity ; quite the contrary. Property is
more secure, for all idea of insurrection is abolished for ever.
My family go to sleep every night with the doors unlocked,
and we fear neither violence nor robbery.' Another said —
' Now, the security of property was so much greater in
Antigua than it was in England, he thought it doubtful
whether he should ever venture to take his family thither, as
he had long contemplated doing.' Another (H. Armstrong,
Esq.) said — 'There is no possible danger of personal vio-
lence from the emancipated slaves. Should a foreign power
invade our island, I have no doubt that the negroes would,
to a man, fight for the planters.' Another (Dr. Ferguson)
said — ' The credit of the island has decidedly improved. Its
internal prosperity is advancing in an increased ratio. More
buildings have been erected since emancipation, than for
twenty years before.' An estate which, previous to oman-


cipation, could not be sold for ^600 current, lately brought
.£2000. ' All persons, of all professions, testify to the fact,
that marriages are rapidly increasing. In truth, there was
scarcely such a thing as marriage before the abolition of
slavery. The whole number of marriages, during ten years
previous to emancipation, was but half as great as the num-
ber for a single year following emancipation.' The effect
wrought upon prejudice is very remarkable. Before eman-
cipation, the spirit of caste was strong and rampant. How
is it now ? ' All distinctions,' says the Governor of Antigua,
' founded in color, must be abolished every where. We
should learn to talk of men, not as colored men, but as men,
as fellow citizens and fellow subjects.' His secretary is a
colored gentleman. The language of one of the Wesleyan
missionaries to Messrs. Thome and Kimball was, ' Tell the
American brethren, that, much as we desire to visit the
United States, we cannot go, so long as we are prohibhed
from speaking against slavery, or while that abominable
prejudice is encouraged in the churches. We could not
administer the sacrament to a church, iu which the distinc-
tion of color was maintained.' The revolution of opinion
in the midst of the planters, respecting slavery and the abo-
litionists, is worthy of especial observation. Says the Hon.
N. Nugent, ' The anti-slavery party in England were detest-
ed here for their fanatical and reckless course. Such was
the state of feeling previous to emancipation, that it would
have been certain disgrace for any planter to have avowed
the least sympathy with anti-slavery sentiments. The hu-
mane might have their hopes and aspirations, and they might
secredy long to see slavery ultimately terminated ; but they
'did not dare to make such feelings public. They would
at once have been branded as the enemies of their country.'
Says another planter, (James Scotland, sen.) ' The opinions
of the clergymen and missionaries, with the exception of, I


believe, a few clergymen, were favorable to emancipation ;
but neither in their conduct, preaching or prayers, did they
declare themselves openly, until the measure of abolition
was determined on. Whoever was known, or suspected of
being an advocate for freedom, became the object of ven-
geance, and was sure to suffer, if in no other way, by a loss
of part of his business.' Now, how changed is the scene !
' Anti-Slavery is the popular doctrine among all classes. He
is considered an enemy to his country, who opposes the prin-
ciples of liberty. The planters look with astonishment at
the continuance of slavery in tlie United States, and express
their strong belief that it must soon terminate here, and
throughout the world. They hailed the arrival of the French
and American visitors on tours of inquiry as a bright omen.
Distinguished abolitionists are spoken of in terms of respect
and admiration. An agent of the English Anti-Slavery
Society now resides in St. John's, and keeps a book-store,
well stocked with anti-slavery books and pamphbts. The
bust of George Thompson stands conspicuously upon the
counter, looking forth upon the public street.' At a public
meeting attended by the agents of the American Anti-Sla-
very Society, a resolution approving of their mission was
adopted by rising. ' Not an individual in the crowded con-
gregation kept his seat. The masters and the slaves of yes-
terday all rose together — a phalanx of freemen — to t^^stify
" their sincere sympathy " in the efforts and objects of
American abolitionists ! ' At a dinner party in Barbadoes,
the planters complimented Messrs. Thome and Kimball, by
jxivin"; their health, and ' wishinf; success to their most laud-
able undertaking.' Though the contrary was pretended
before the abolition of slavery, (as it is now in our country,
in order to stop ' agitation,') the planters now ingenuously
confess, that there was far less cruelty exercised by them
during the anti-slavery excitement in England. ' They


were always on their guard to escape the notice of the abo-
litionists. They did not wish to have their names published
abroad, and to be exposed as monsters of cruelty.'

There are many other equally instructive facts. ' Before
emancipation, martial law invariably prevailed on the holi-

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 27 of 33)