William Lloyd Garrison.

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owe her our liveliest gratitude for her timely interference.
Suppose, in case of a revolt, that she, or some other Euro-
pean power, should furnish our slaves with guns and ammu-
nition, and pour her troops into our land. Would it be
treacherous or cruel ? Why, according to our revolutionary
credenda.'' The argument, tremendous as it is, is against
us ! Well, it may be done. At a fit moment, a foreign
foe may stir up a rebellion, and arm every black, and take
the lead in the enterprise. The attempt would not be diffi-
cult ; the result can be easily imagined.

We say, that the imprisonment of an inconsiderable num-
ber of our seamen, by Great Britain, authorized the late war ;
and we boast of our promptitude to redress their wrongs.
More than a million of native-born citizens are at this moment
enduring the galling yoke of slavery. Who cries for jus-


tice ? None. ' But they are blacks ! ' True, and they are
also men ; and, moreover, they are Americans by birth.

If it be said, (which assertion is false,) that the present
race are beyond recovery ; then I reply, in the language of
a warm-hearted philanthropist, ' Let us make no more slaves.
Let us shiver to atoms those galling fetters, under the pres-
sure of which so many hearts have bursted. Let us not
shackle the limbs of the future workmanship of God. Let
us pour into their minds the fertilizing streams of piety and
knowledge ; imbue their hearts with gratitude for extending
to them this heaven's best boon ; and suffer their souls to
walk abroad in their majesty.'

It may be objected, that the laws of the slave States form
insurmountable barriers to any interference on our part.

Answer. I grant that we have not the right, and I trust
not the disposition, to use coercive measures. But do these
laws hinder our prayers, or obstruct the flow of our sympa-
thies.? Cannot our charities alleviate the condition of the
slave, and perhaps break his fetters ? Can we not operate
upon public sentiment, (the lever that can move the moral
world,) by way of remonstrance, advice, or entreaty ? Is
Christianity so powerful, that she can tame the red men of
our forests, and abolish the Burman caste, and overthrow the
gods of Paganism, and liberate lands over which the dark-
ness of Superstition has lain for ages ; and yet so weak, in
her own dwelling-place, that she can make no impression
upon her civil code ? Can she contend successfully with
cannibals, and yet be conquered by her own children ?

Suppose that, by a miracle, the slaves should suddenly
become white. Would you shut your eyes upon their suf-
ferings, and calmly talk of constitutional limitations? No;
your voice would peal in the ears of the taskmasters like
deep thunder ; you would carry the Constitution by force,
if it could not be taken by treaty ; patriotic assemblies would


congregate at the corner of every street ; the old Cradle of
Liberty would rock to a deeper tone than ever echoed therein
at British aggression ; the pulpit vi^ould acquire new and
unusual eloquence from our holy religion. The argument,
that these white slaves are degraded, would not then obtain.
You would say, it is enough that they are white, and in
bondage, and they ought immediately to be set free. You
would multiply your schools of instruction, and your temples
of worship, and rely upon them for security.

But the plea is prevalent, that any interference by the free
States, however benevolent or cautious it might be, would
only irritate and inflame the jealousies of the South, and
retard the cause of emancipation.

If any man believes that slavery can be abolished with-
out a struggle with the worst passions of human nature,
quietly, harmoniously, he cherishes a delusion. It can
never be done, unless the age of miracles return. No ; we
must expect a collision, full of sharp asperities and bitter-
ness. We shall have to contend with the insolence, and
pride, and selfishness, of many a heartless being. But these
can be easily conquered by meekness, and perseverance,
and prayer.

It is often despondingly said, that the evil of slavery is
beyond our control. Dreadful conclusion, that puts the seal
of death upon our country's existence ! If we cannot con-
quer the monster in his infancy, while his cartilages are ten-
der and his limbs powerless, how shall we escape his wrath
when he goes forth a gigantic cannibal, seeking whom he
may devour ? If we cannot safely unloose two millions of
slaves now, how shall we bind upwards of twenty millions
at the close of the present century ? But there is no cause
for despair. We have seen how readily, and with what
ease, that horrid gorgon. Intemperance, has been checked in
Let us take courage. Moral influence, when


in vigorous exercise, is irresistible. It has an immortal
essence. It can no more be trod out of existence by the
iron foot of time, or by the ponderous march of iniquity,
than matter can be annihilated. It may disappear for a
time ; but it lives in some shape or other, in some place or
other, and will rise with renovated strength. Let us, then,
be up and doing. In the simple and stirring language of
the stout-hearted Lundy, ' all the friends of the cause must
go to work, keep to work, hold on, and never give up.'

Years may elapse before the completion of the achieve-
ment ; generations of blacks may go down to the grave,
manacled and lacerated, without a hope for their children ;
the philanthropists, who are now pleading in behalf of the
oppressed, may not live to witness the dawn which will pre-
cede the glorious day of universal emancipation ; but the
work will go on — laborers in the cause will multiply — new
resources will be discovered — the victory will be obtained,
worth the desperate struggle of a thousand years. Or, if
defeat follow, woe to the safety of ^ this people ! The nation
will be shaken as if by a mighty earthquake. A cry of
horror, a cry of revenge, will go up to heaven in the dark-
ness of midnight, and re-echo from every cloud. Blood
will flow like water — the blood of guilty men, and of inno-
cent women and children. Then will be heard lamentations
and weeping, such as will blot out the remembrance of the
horrors of St. Domingo. The terrible judgments of an
incensed God will complete the catastrophe of republican

And since so much is to be done for our country ; since
so many prejudices are to be dispelled, obstacles vanquished,
interests secured, blessings obtained ; since the cause of
emancipation must progress heavily, and meet with much
unhallowed opposition, why delay the work ? There must
be a beginning, and now is a propitious time — perhaps the


last opportunity that will be granted us by a long-suffering
God. No temporising, lukewarm measures will avail aught.
We must put our shoulder to the wheel, and heave with

- our united strength. Let us not look coldly on, and see
our southern brethren contending single-handed against an
all-powerful foe — faint, weaiy, borne down to the earth.

/ We are all alike guilty. Slavery is strictly a national sin.
New-England money has been expended in buying human
flesh ; New-England ships have been freighted with sable
victims ; New-England men have assisted in forging the fet-

•' ters of those who groan in bondage.

I call upon the ambassadors of Christ every where to
make known this proclamation : ' Thus saith the Lord God
of the Africans, Let this people go, that they may serve
me.' I ask them to ' proclaim liberty to the captives, and
the opening of the prison to them that are bound ' — to light
up a flame of philanthropy, that shall burn till all Africa be
redeemed from the night of moral death, and the song of
deliverance be heard throughout her borders.

I call upon the churches of the living God to lead in this
great enterprise. If the soul be immortal, priceless, save
it from redeemless woe. Let them combine their energies,
and systematize their plans, for the rescue of suffering
humanity. Let them pour out their supplications to heaven
in behalf of the slave. Prayer is omnipotent : its breath can
melt adamantine rocks — its touch can break the stoutest
chains. Let anti-slavery charity-boxes stand uppermost
among those for missionary, tract and educational purposes.
On this subject. Christians have been asleep ; let them shake
off their slumbers, and arm for the holy contest.

I call upon our New-England women to form charitable
associations to relieve the degraded of their sex. As yet,
an appeal to their sympathies was never made in vain.
They outstrip us in every benevolent race. Females are


doing much for the cause at the South ; let their example be
imitated, and their exertions surpassed, at the North.

I call upon the great body of newspaper editors to keep
this subject constantly before their readers ; to sound the
trumpet of alarm, and to plead eloquently for the rights of
man. They must give the tone to public sentiment. One
press may ignite twenty; a city may warm a State ; a State
may impart a generous heat to a whole country.

I call upon the American people to enfranchise a spot,
over which they hold complete sovereignty ; to cleanse that
worse than Augean stable, the District of Columbia, from its
foul impurities. I conjure them to select those as Represen-
tatives, who are not too ignorant to know, too blind to see,
nor too timid to perform their duty.

I will say, finally, that I tremble for the republic while
slavery exists therein. If I look up to God for success, no
smile of mercy or forgiveness dispels the gloom of futurity ;
if to our resources, they are daily diminishing ; if to all his*
tory, our destruction is not only possible, but almost certain.
Why should we slumber at this momentous crisis ? If our
hearts were dead to every throb of humanity ; if it were
lawful to oppress, where power is ample ; still, if we had any
regard for our safety and happiness, we should strive to crush
the Vampyre which is feeding upon our life-blood. All the
selfishness of our nature cries aloud for a better security.
Our own vices are too strong for us, and keep us in per-
petual alarm ; how, in addhion to these, shall we be able to
contend successfully with millions of armed and desperate
men, as we must eventually, if slavery do not cease ?*

* Extracted from an Address, delivered in Park Street Church,
Boston, July 4th, 1829.


CnmmnitnnBtrt nf tljB lihratnr.

In the month of August, I issued proposals for pubhshing
' The Liberator ' in Washington city ; but the enterprise,
though hailed approvingly in different sections of the country,
was palsied by public indifference. Since that time, the
removal of the ' Genius of Universal Emancipation ' to the
Seat of Government has rendered less imperious the estab-
lishment of a similar periodical in that quarter.

During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the
minds of the people by a series of discourses on the subject
of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of
the fact, that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to
be effected in the free States — and particularly in New
England — than at the South. I found contempt more bitter,
opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice
more stubborn, and apathy more frozen, than among slave
owners themselves. Of course, there were individual excep-
tions to the contrary. This state of things afflicted, but did
not dishearten me. I determined, at every hazard, to lift up
the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation,
within sight of Bunker Hill, and in the birth-place of liberty.
That standard is now unfurled ; and long may it float, unhurt
by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe ;
yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free !
Let Southern oppressors tremble ; let their secret abettors
tremble ; let their Northern apologists tremble ; let all the
enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.

Assenting to the ' self-evident truths ' maintained in the
American Declaration of Independence, ' that all men are
created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain
inalienable rights — among which are life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness,' I shall strenuously contend for the


immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In
Park Street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an
address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popular
but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this
opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and
thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and
of my brethren, the poor slaves, for having uttered a senti-
ment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity. A similar
recantation, from my pen, was published in the ' Genius of
Universal Emancipation,' at Baltimore, in September, 1829.
My conscience is now satisfied.

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my lan-
guage ; but is there not cause for severity ? I will be as
harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this
subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with mod-
eration. No ! no ! Tell a man, whose house is on fire, to
give a moderate alarm ; tell him to moderately rescue his
wife from the hands of the ravisher ; tell the mother to grad-
ually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen ;
but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the pres-
ent ! I am in earnest. I will not equivocate — I will not
excuse — 1 will not retreat a single inch — and I will be
HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every
statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection
of the dead.

It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emanci-
pation by the coarseness of my invective, and the precipi-
tancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this
question, my influence, humble as it is, is felt at this moment
to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years —
not perniciously, but beneficially — not as a curse, but as a
blessing ; and posterity will bear testimony that I was
RIGHT. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disre-
gard ' the fear of man which bringeth a snare,' and to speak


his truth in its simplicity and power. And here I close with
this fresh dedication : —

• Oppression ! I have seen thee, face to face,

And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow ;

But thy soul-withering glance I fear not now —

For dread to prouder feelings doth give place,

Of deep abhorrence ! Scorning the disgrace

Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow,

I also kneel — but with far other vow

Do hail thee and thy herd of hirelings base : —

I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,

Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand.

Thy brutalizing sway — till Afric's chains

Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land,

Trampling Oppression and his iron rod : —

Such is the vow I take — so help me, God I '

Boston, January 1, 1831.

Jlninrrsul fmaEriptinH,

Though distant be the hour, yet come it must —

Oh I hasten it, in mercy, righteous Heaven !
When Afric's sons, uprising from the dust,

Shall stand erect — their galling fetters riven ;

"When from his throne Oppression shall be driven,
An exiled monster, powerless through all time ;

^\'hen freedom — glorious freedom, shall be given
To every race, complexion, caste, and clime,
And Nature's sable hue shall cease to be a crime !

Wo if it come with storm, and blood, and fire,
"When midnight darkness veils the earth and sky !

"Wo to the innocent babe — the guilty sire —
Mother and daughter — friends of kindred tie !


Stranger and citizen alike shall die !
Eed-handed Slaughter his revenge shall feed,

And Havoc yell his ominous death-cry,
And wild Despair in vain for mercy plead —
While Hell itself shall shrink, and sicken at the deed !

Thou who avengest blood ! long-suffering Lord !

My guilty country from destruction save I
Let Justice sheath her sharp and terrible sword.

And Mercy rescue, e'en as from the grave !

Oh ! for the sake of those who firmly brave
The lust of Power — the tyranny of Law —

To bring redemption to the fettered slave —
Fearless, though few — Thy presence ne'er withdraw.
But quench the kindling flames of hot, rebellious war !

And ye — sad victims of base Avarice !

Hunted like beasts, and trodden like the earth ;
Bought and sold daily, at a paltry price —

The scorn of tyrants, and of fools the mirth —

Your souls debased from their immortal birth. —
Bear meekly — as ye 've borne — your cruel woes ;

Ease follows pain — light, darkness — plenty, dearth : —
So time shall give you freedom and repose,
And high exalt your heads above your bitter foes !

Not by the sword shall your deliverance be ;

Not by the shedding of your masters' blood ;
Not by rebellion — or foul treachery,

Upspringing suddenly, like swelling flood :

Revenge and rapine ne'er did bring forth good.
God's time is best ! — nor will it long delay :

Even now your barren cause begins to bud,
And glorious shall the fruit be ! — Watch and pray,
For, lo ! the kindling dawn, that ushers in the day I



SnUratinii nf IntimBEts


The Convention assembled in the city of Philadelphia, to
organize a National Anti-Slavery Society, promptly seize the
opportunity to promulgate the following Declaration of Sen-
timents, as cherished by them in relation to the enslavement
of one-sixth portion of the American people.

More than fifty-seven years have elapsed, since a band of
patriots convened in this place, to devise measures for the
deliverance of this country from a foreign yoke. The cor-
ner-stone upon which they founded the Temple of Freedom
was broadly this — 'that all men are created equal; that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
rights ; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness.' At the sound of their trumpet-call, three millions
of people rose up as from the sleep of death, and rushed to
the strife of blood ; deeming it more glorious to die instantly
as freemen, than desirable to live one hour as slaves. They
were few in number — poor in resources ; but the honest
conviction that Truth, Justice and Right were on their side,
made them invincible.

We have met together for the achievement of an enter-
prise, without which that of our fathers is incomplete ; and
which, for its magnitude, solemnity, and probable results
upon the destiny of the world, as far transcends theirs as
moral truth does physical force.

In purity of motive, in earnestness of zeal, in decision of
purpose, in intrepidity of action, in steadfastness of faith, in
sincerity of spirit, we would not be inferior to them.

Their principles led them to wage war against their oppres-
sors, and to spill human blood like water, in order to be free.


Ours forbid the doing of evil that good may come, and lead
us to reject, and to entreat the oppressed to reject, the use of
all carnal weapons for deliverance from bondage ; relying
solely upon those which are spiritual, and mighty through
God to the pulling down of strong holds.

Their measures were physical resistance — the marshalling
in arms — the hostile array — the mortal encounter. Ours
shall be such only as the opposition of moral purity to moral
corruption — the destruction of error by the potency of truth
— the overthrow of prejudice by the power of love — and
the abolition of slavery by the spirit of repentance.

Their grievances, great as they were, were trifling in com-
parison whh the wrongs and sufferings of those for whom we
plead. Our fathers were never slaves — never bought and
sold like cattle — never shut out from the light of knowl-
edge and religion — never subjected to the lash of brutal

But those, for whose emancipation we are striving — con-
stituting at the present time at least one-sixth part of our
countrymen — are recognized by law, and treated by their
fellow-beings, as marketable commodities, as goods and chat-
tels, as brute beasts ; are plundered daily of the fruits of
their toil without redress ; really enjoy no constitutional nor
legal protection from licentious and murderous outrages upon
their persons; and are ruthlessly torn asunder — the tender
babe from the arms of its frantic mother — the heart-broken
wife from her weeping husband — at the caprice or pleasure
of irresponsible tyrants. For the crime of having a dark
complexion, they suffer the pangs of hunger, the infliction
of stripes, the ignominy of brutal servitude. They arc
kept in heathenish darkness by laws expressly enacted to
make their instruction a criminal offence.

These are the prominent circumstances in the condition
of more than two millions of our people, the proof of which


may be found in thousands of indisputable facts, and in the
laws of the slaveholding States.

Hence we maintain — that, in view of the civil and reli-
gious privileges of this nation, the guilt of its oppression
is unequalled by any other on the face of the earth ; and,
therefore, that it is bound to repent instantly, to undo the
heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free.

We further maintain — that no man has a right to enslave
or imbrute his brother — to hold or acknowledge him, for one
moment, as a piece of merchandize — to keep back his hire
by fraud — or to brutalize his mind, by denying him the
means of intellectual, social and moral improvement.

The right to enjoy liberty is inalienable. To invade it is
to usurp the prerogative of Jehovah. Every man has a
right to his own body — to the products of his own labor — to
the protection of law — and to the common advantages of
society. It is piracy to buy or steal a native African, and
subject him to servitude. Surely, the sin is as great to enslave
an American as an African.
y Therefore we believe and affirm — that there is no differ-
ence, in principle, between the African slave trade and Amer-
ican slavery :

That every American citizen, who detains a human being
in involuntary bondage as his property, is, according to Scrip-
ture, (Ex. xxi. 16,) a man-stealer :

That the slaves ought instantly to be set free, and brought
under the protection of law :

That if they had lived from the time of Pharaoh down to
the present period, and had been entailed through successive
generations, their right to be free could never have been
alienated, but their claims would have constantly risen in
solemnity :

That all those laws which are now in force, admitting the
right of slavery, are therefore, before God, utterly null and


void ; being an audacious usurpation of the Divine preroga-
tive, a daring infringement on the law of nature, a base over-
throw of the very foundations of the social compact, a
complete extinction of all the relations, endearments and
obligations of mankind, and a presumptuous transgression of
all the holy commandments ; and that therefore they ought
instantly to be abrogated.

We further believe and affirm — that all persons of color,
who possess the qualifications which are demanded of others,
ought to be admitted forthwith to the enjoyment of the same
privileges, and the exercise of the same prerogatives, as
others ; and that the paths of preferment, of wealth, and of
intelligence, should be opened as widely to them as to per-
sons of a white complexion.

We maintain that no compensation should be given to the
planters emancipating their slaves :

Because it would be a surrender of the great fundamental
principle, that man cannot hold property in man :

Because slavery is a crime, and therefore is not an article
to be sold :

Because the holders of slaves are not the just proprietors
of what they claim ; freeing the slave is not depriving them
of property, but restoring it to its rightful owner ; it is not
wronging the master, but righting the slave — restoring him
to himself:

Because immediate and general emancipation would only
destroy nominal, not real property ; it would not amputate a
limb or break a bone of the slaves, but by infusing motives

Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonSelections from the writings and speeches of William Lloyd Garrison. With an appendix .. → online text (page 5 of 33)