The Nature, Character, and History of the Anti-slavery Movement
THE NATURE, CHARACTER, AND HISTORY OF THE ANTI-SLAVERY MOVEMENT.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN --Had I consulted my own health, or the advice of my physician, I should have been elsewhere, and otherwise employed this evening. I am not well, and have not been so for several weeks. I have usually come to this platform to lecture on slavery--that darkest and hugest of all wrongs—the vilest (in the language of John Wesley) that ever saw the sun. But it has pleased the Rochester Ladies' Anti-slavery Society to have presented here, during the winter, almost every phase of that terrible wrong; and I have, therefore, selected my topic in view of that fact. It will probably amount to the same thing in the end.
Some one has happily said, that it matters very little which path the traveller may take; he has but to go forward to go round the world. In like manner it may be said, that it matters little which path of inquiry a man may pursue, or which great moral or spiritual fact he may investigate, he has but to honestly persevere, to find himself at last at the portals of the whole universe of truth, and speedily walking amidst its golden glories.
The subject of my lecture this evening is the Nature, Character, and History of the Anti-slavery Movement." I own that were I here on any ordinary occasion to deliver a lecture on the question of slavery, I should select topics of a more popular and stirring character than those I propose to touch this evening. When I speak of the anti-slavery movement, I mean to refer to that combination of moral, religious, and political forces, which has long been, and is now operating and co-operating for the abolition of slavery in this country and throughout the world. I wish to speak of that movement to night more as the calm observer than “as the ardent and personally interested advocate. For while I am willing to have it known that every fibre of my soul is enlisted in the cause of emancipation, I would not have it thought that I am less capable than others of calmly and rationally contemplating the movement designed to accomplish that important and much desired end. In making this statement, I am quite aware of the common impression concerning the mental abilities of my race. It has been said that the variety of the human family to which I belong excels less in the intellectual than in the emotional characteristics of men; and the great leader of the anti-slavery movement in our country allowed himself to say, in the columns of his paper, not long ago, that “the anti-slavery movement, both religiously and politically, has transcended the ability of the sufferers from American slavery and prejudice as a class, to keep pace with it, or to perceive what are its demands, or to understand the philosophy of its operations.” Notwithstanding such discouraging considerations, I presume to speak to you to-night on the subject selected. In doing so I have one consolation, and that is, as I apprehend it, the anti-slavery movement is, after all, no cold abstraction, requiring a sharp and flinty intellect to analyze it. While it is a subject of surpassing dignity, and one upon which the wisest and best minds may be employed, it is, nevertheless, a subject upon which the humblest may venture to think and speak without justly being exposed to the reproach of treading upon ground which should be trodden only by men of the "superior race."
One other word for my subject. A grand movement on the part of mankind, in any direction, or for any purpose, moral or political, is an interesting fact, fit and proper to be studied. It is such, not only for those who eagerly participate in it, but also for those who stand aloof from it, even for those by whom it is opposed. I take the anti-slavery movement to be such an one, and a movement as sublime and glorious in its character, as it is holy and beneficent in the ends it aims to accomplish. At this moment I deem it safe to say, it is properly engrossing more minds in this country than any other subject now before the American people. The late John C. Calhoun-one of the mightiest men that ever stood up in the American Senate did not deem ít beneath him; and he probably studied it as deeply, though not as honestly, as Gerrit Smith or William Lloyd Garrison. He evinced the greatest familiarity with the subject; and the greatest efforts of his last years in the senate, had direct reference to this movement. His eagle eye watched every new development connected with it; and he was ever prompt to inform the South of every important step in its progress. He never allowed himself to make light of it; but always spoke of it and treated it as a matter of grave import; and in this he showed himself a master of the mental, moral, and religious constitution of human society, Daniel Webster, too, in the better days of his life, before he gave his assent to the Fugitive Slave Bill, and trampled upon all his earlier and better convictions--when his eye was yet single--he clearly comprehended the nature of the elements involved in this movement; and in his own majestic eloquence, warned the South and the country to have a care how they attempted to put it down. He is an illustration that it is easier to give than to take goed advice. To these two men--the greatest men to whom the nation has yet given birth---may be traced the two great facts of the present --the South triumphant, and the North humbled. Their names may stand thus: Calhoun and domination---Webster and degradation. Yet again. If to the enemies of liberty this subject is one of engrossing interest, vastly more so should it be such to freedom's friends. The latter it leads to the gates of all valuable knowledge, philanthropic, ethical, and religious; for it brings them to the study of man, wonderfully and fearfully made--the proper study of man through all time--the open book, in which are the records of time and eternity!
Of the existence and power of the anti-slavery movement, as a fact, you need no evidence. The nation has seen its face, and felt the controlling pressure of its hand. You have seen it moving in all directions, and in all weathers, and in all places, appearing most where desired least, and pressing hardest where most resisted. No place is exempt -the quiet prayer-meeting, and the stormy halls of national debate, share its presence alike. It is a common intruder, and, of course, has got the name of being ungentlemanly. Brethren, who had long sung, in the most affectionate fervour, and with the greatest sense of security,
- "Together let us sweetly live; together let us die,"
have been suddenly and violently separated by it, and ranged in hostile attitudes towards each other. One of the most powerful religious organizations (I allude to the Methodists) of this country has been rent asunder, and its strongest bolts of denominational brotherhood started at a single surge. It has changed the tone of the Northern pulpit, and modified that of the press. A celebrated divine who, four years ago, was for flinging his own mother or brother into the remorseless jaws of the monster slavery, lest he should swallow up the Union, now recognizes anti-slavery as a characteristic of future civilization. Signs and wonders follow this movement; and the fact just stated is one of them. Party ties are loosened by it, and men are compelled to take sides for or against it, whether they will or not. Come from where he may, or come for what he may, he is compelled to show his hand. What is this mighty force? What is its history? and what is its destiny? Is it ancient or modern, transient or permanent? Has it turned aside, like a stranger and a sojourner, to tarry for a night, or has it come to rest with us for ever? Excellent chances are here for speculation, and some of them are quite profound. We might, for instance, proceed to inquire not only into the philosophy of the anti-slavery movement, but into the philosophy of the law, in obedience to which that movement started into existence. We might demand to know what is that law or power which, at different times, disposes the minds of men to this or that particular 'object--now for peace and now for war-now for freedom and now for slavery; but this profound question I leave to the abolitionists of the superior class to answer. The speculations which must precede such answer would afford, perhaps, about the same satisfaction as the learned theories which have rained down upon the world, from time to time, as to the origin of evil. I shall, therefore, avoid water in which I cannot swim, and deal with antislavery as a fact, like any other fact in the history of mankind, capable of being described and understood, both as to its internal forces, and its external phases and relations.
First, then, let us consider its history. About this there is much error, and little truth in many minds. Some who write and speak on the subject, seem to regard the anti-slavery movement as a recent discovery, brought out for the first time less than a quarter of a century ago. I cannot consent to view it thus. This movement is older and weightier than that. I would deprive WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON of no honour justly his. All credit must for ever redound to him, as the man to whose earnest eloquence-more than to that of any other living man—we owe the revival of the anti-slavery movement in this country; but it is due to truth to say, he neither discovered its principles, originated its ideas, nor framed its arguments. These are all older than the preacher. It is an error to speak of this venerable movement as a new thing under the sun. The causes producing it, and the particles composing it-like the great forces of the physical world, fire, steam, and lightning-have slumbered in the bosom of nature since the world began. There are coal, and iron, and lead, and copper, and silver, and gold, and precious gems in the hillsides whereon the shepherd boy sings unconsciously his evening song. They are all there, though he knows it not, awaiting the thoughtful discoverer and the skilful workman, to bring them forth in the varied and multitudinous forms of beauty, power, and glory, of which they are capable. And so it is with the elements of this history--they are prior to the present anti-slavery movement. Whence are these elements ?-I trace them to nature and to nature's God, From heaven come the rain, the snow, and the crystallizing blast, which pile up the glaciers; and from the same source come also those melting beams and softening breezes which send down the thundering avalanche to awe and astonish the hearts of men. What though one passed by at the moment shall he ascribe to his tiny tread the solemn crash and the stunning reverberation? Rather let him stand awe-struck, ascribing to God all the glory and honour for His wondrous works, It is a thought no less true than consoling, that in fitting out this globe for its mighty and mysterious voyage in time and space, the Great Mind who loosed it from its moorings, foresaw all its perils, and comprehended all its vicissitudes; and, better still, bountifully provided for the moral as well as for the physical safety of its passengers. In the very heart of humanity are garnered up, as from everlasting to everlasting, all those elementary principles whose vital action constitutes what we now term the anti-slavery movement. They are the treasure of our common storehouse. The humblest may approach, enter, and be supplied with arms to meet the ills that flesh is heir to. A thousand moral battles have been fought with them, and they are as good as ever. . Ages of oppression and iron hearted selfishness have rolled over them, and covered them with their blinding dust; but these have had no power to extinguish or to destroy them. Occasional glimpses of these important principles have gladdened the eyes of good men at different stages of the world's progress, who have wisely written down, to be read by after-coming generations, their apprehensions of them. Noble testimonies of this sort may be found all along the way trodden by the race. They are the common inheritance of all men, without money and without price. In reading these ancient testimonies, some of them reaching back to the grand exodus of Israel, and some to the earliest days of our country, more than a century ago, one is filled with veneration for the vast accumulation, the mighty bulwark of judgment, of solemn conviction, of holy protest, reared for the defence of the rights of man, · The anti-slavery movement has little to entitle it to being called a new thing under the sun, in view of any just historical test. I know nothing original about it. Its ideas and arguments were already to the hand of the present workmen ; the oldest abolitionist of to-day is but the preacher of a faith framed and practised long before he was born. The patriots of the American Revolution clearly saw, and, with all their inconsistency, they had the grace to confess the abhorrent character of slavery, and to hopefully predict its overthrow and complete extirpation. Washington and Jefferson, Patrick Henry and Luther Martin, Franklin and Adams, Madison and Monroe, and a host of the earlier statesmen, jurists, scholars, and divines of the country, were among those who looked forward to this happy consummation. But now let us come to the sober record, and it will be seen that the anti-slavery movement in this country is older than the republic. In the records of the churches, especially, we find most important data, showing that the antislavery sentiment was national at the very beginning of the republic, and that this sentiment got its fullest and most earnest expression through the churches at that time. The Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches of the country, stood upon radical antislavery ground. It will not be easy to find anywhere, in the records of any anti-slavery society, testimony more vital and stringent than is found in the proceedings of the Methodist Church against slavery nearly a hundred years ago; and the same is true of the early Baptist churches of the South. The Methodist Church vaulted up to the highest position occupied by the most ultra abolitionist of to-day. It denied slavery all sanction, human and divine; against the laws of God and against the laws of man. In 1780 that denomination said : "The Conference acknowledges that slavery is contrary to the laws of God, man, and nature, and hurtful to society -contrary to the dictates of conscience and true religion, and doing to others that we would not they should do unto us. In 1784 the same church declared, “that those who buy, sell, or give slaves away, except for the purpose to free them, shall be expelled immediately.” In 1785, the Conference spoke even more stringently ou the subject. It then said, “We hold in the deepest abhorrence the practice of slavery, and shall not cease to seek its destruction by all wise and proper means.
Still later, in 1801:
- "We declare that we are more than ever convinced of the great evil of African slavery, which still exists in these United States; and every member of the society who sells a slave, shall immediately, on full proof, be excluded from the society. The conferences are directed to draw up addresses for the gradual emancipation of the slaves to the legislatures. Proper committees shall be appointed, out of the most respectable of our friends, for the conducting of the business. And the presiding elders, deacons, and travelling preachers, shall do all in their power to further the blessed undertaking. Let this be continued from year to year, till the desired end be accomplished.”
So reads the record of the Methodist Episcopal Church of America, more than half-a-century ago. Here was an anti-slavery movement springing out of the very besom of the church. "* In what did this movement differ from the present one? In this, and in this only, as to time. The first looked for the gradual abolition of slavery, and the other looks for immediate emancipation. Under the operation of the one doctrine, nearly sixty thousand have been emancipated in Maryland, and as many in Virginia, and many more in the several Southern States, besides universal emancipation in the Northern States. The only new idea brought to the anti-slavery movement by Mr. Garrison, is the doctrine of immediatism as against gradualism, and thus far, it must be confessed, that fewer slaves have been emancipated under the influence of this doctrine in this country, than under the old doctrine of gradual emancipation. So much as this is due to facts. Nevertheless, I would not give up a just principle because it has been slower of adoption than a principle less just. The doctrine of immediatism was not, however, original with Mr. Garrison. Dr. HOPKINS, of Newport, Rhode Island, had urged that doctrine upon the consideration of his slaveholding, congregation before Mr. Garrison was born. That brave old philanthropist met the slavehoider, face to face, with the stern demand for emancipation " without delay.' Dr. Hopkins was a strong reasoner, and an earnest reformer. The abolitionists of the day will lose nothing by perusing the anti-slavery works of their noble predecessor. The Methodist Episcopal Church, whose course on the slavery question I have been unfolding, was not singular in its position respecting slavery fifty years ago. The Presbyterian Church of that day occupied similar ground. In 1794, the General Assembly of that body pronounced the following judgement on the character of slavery, and that of slaveholders :-
- “1 Tim, i. 10: The law is made for man-stealers.' This crime, among the Jews, exposed the perpetrators of it to capital punishment' (Exod. xxi. 15). And the apostle here classes them with sinners of the first rank. The word he uses, in its original import comprehends all who are concerned in bringing any of the human race into slavery, or in retaining them in it Stealers of men are all those who bring off slaves or freemen, and keep, sell, or buy them. "To steal a freeman,' says Grotius, 'is the highest kind of theft. In other instances we only steal human property, but when we steal or retain men in slavery, we seize those who, in common with ourselves, are constituted by the original grant-lords of the earth.”
A good deal has been said and written about harsh language, but I think it would be difficult to find, in the writings of any modern abolitionist, language more severe than this, held by a solemn religious assembly. Slaveholders are declared to be sinners of the first rank, man-stealers, worthy of capital punishment, guilty of the highest kind of theft. Prior to this action of the Presbyterian General Assembly, the Baptist Church in Virginia had declared itself opposed to slavery, and actively at work in the cause of emancipation in that state. My assertion can be verified by referring to Semple's History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists of Virginia.
In the year 1783 a general committee, composed of delegates from local associations, was instituted in Virginia, charged with “considering matters that might be for the good of the whole Society." It was especially the duty of this committee to be the medium through which the Baptists should adress themselves to the legislature, for redress of grievances, &c. At a meeting of this general committee, March 7, 1788, delegates from four associations being present, among “the religious political subjects” taken up, was this:
- “3d, Whether a petition should be offered to the General As. sembly, praying that the yoke of slavery be made more tolerable. Referred to the next session."
"I do not discover that at the next session anything was done ; but at the meeting of August 8, 1789, delegates from seven associations being present, the subject was considered, and the account is thus given by Semple, in his History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists of Virginia, p. 79. He says:
- “The propriety of hereditary slavery was also taken up at this session, and, after some time employed in the consideration of the subject, the following resolution was offered by Mr. Seland, and adopted :
- “Resolved, That slavery is a violent deprivation of the rights of nature, and inconsistent with a republican government; and, therefore, (we) recommend it to our brethren to make use of every legal measure to extirpate this horrid evil from the land, and pray Almighty God that our honourable legislature may have it in their power to proclaim the great jubilee, consistent with the principles of good policy.”
A fact like this could not be an isolated one; and there are incidental circumstances scattered in the history of those times which have come down to us, showing that the anti-slavery sentiment was wide-spread and effective. To it, I presume, is to be attributed the rise of the powerful anti. slavery, party which for some time existed among the Baptists of Kentucky, known as Emancipators. For accounts of this party, I must refer you to Benedict's History of the Baptists (edition of 1813), vol. ii., pp. 231, 235, 245-250. This edition of Benedict contains other allusions to the subject of slavery, which are interesting. You will find some account of the Emancipators of Kentucky in the first volume of the Baptist Memorial, edited by Dr. Babcock, under the head “ Kentucky Baptists." The Rev. Dr. Peck, of Illinois, has lately furnished, for the New York Recorder, articles on the Emancipators, which I will send you, if we have spare copies.
In the minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association for the year 1789—the year of the passage of the above-named resolution by the General Committee of Virginia-I find the following (see edition of the American Baptist Publication Society, edited by Rev. A. D. Gillette, p. 247) :
- "Agreeably to a recommendation in the letter from the church at Baltimore, this association declare their high approbation of the several societies formed in the United States and Europe for the gradual abolition of the slavery of the Africans, and for guarding against their being detained or sent off as slaves, after having obtained their liberty; and do hereby recommend to the churches to form similar societies, to become members thereof, and exert themselves to obtain this important object."
I have the above from a distinguished Baptist, who has fully investigated the subject, and I must express my deep gratitude for the assistance that gentleman has rendered me in the collection of these valuable facts, which, though well known to the Baptists of the country, are yet quite unknown to the public generally. Not having at my command the books to which he refers, I have preferred to incorporate his letter to me as it stands.
It is hardly necessary, in this connection, to refer to the Society of Friends in these early times. All who know anything of them, know that they were emancipationists. That venerable Society had made abolitionism a fundamental religious duty, long before the oldest abolitionist now living was on the stage. Wherever that Society obtained a footing in this country, the work of amelioration went on. Slaves were emancipated, and the condition of the free people of colour was improved. The broad brim and the plain dress were a terror to slaveholders, and a praise to the slave. When running from slavery, only seventeen years ago, I had not transferred my confidence from the Quakers to the abolitionists. I believed in them for what they had done, years ago, for my race; and when the abolitionists of modern times have done as much for freedom as the early Friends, they will not have to complain that the confidence of the coloured people has been withdrawn from them. I now deny, in view of the facts of this history, that any man now living has any business to lay claim to the anti-slavery movement as a thing of his invention or of his discovery. We who now work, have inherited, derived, received this movement from the churches of earlier times. Good men, who wrought before us, laid the foundation upon which We are building. All along the pages of the Holy Bible, from Moses to John, may be found the constructive principles upon which this movement is based; and the organizers of the present anti-slavery societies found here an inexhaustible mine of material, ready to be fused into that solid bolt with which they now shake the land. It was here that Godwin, and Sharpe, and Clarkson, and Wilberforce, and Fox, and Benezet, and Wesley, and Woolman, forged the magnificent moral armoury with which they began the mighty struggle, and with which Lundy, Walker, Garrison, and Leavitt, and Elizur Wright, and William Goodell, and Beriah Green, and the Tappans, and Gerrit Smith, and Judge Jay, have nobly continued until now. Honour to the memory of the departed, and honour to those who remain.
But what was the condition of the anti-slavery movement twenty years ago, and how came it in that condition? It is much easier to answer the first than to answer the last question. There were witnesses for freedom in the church, but the church had become comparatively dead on the subject. The Friends continued to work, though with flagging zeal. The other churches hadi become complicated with slavery, and the slave was forgotten by those who were once his friends. Lundy, was at work for an anti-slavery revival, when Mr. Garrison joined him, and raised the note of immediate emancipation. Alas for human frailty. and alas for the poor slave! Present efforts may promise much, but we cannot but remember that one anti-slavery generation nearly died out without leaving men to take their places, and so may the present. The country which had been deploring the existence of slavery, and deeply desiring its abolition, had become like the world. The price of human flesh had risen, and man-stealers had become gentlemen. This brings me to notice the revival of the anti-slavery movement twenty-five years ago. The country was soon in a blaze, as all know; yet nothing strange happened to the early advocates of a cause, new to be sure, but only new by the new zeal and fresh eloquence brought to its service. The plainer the truth, and the more obvious the justice of the demand made, the more stern and bitter is the opposition; and for this reason, the plainer the truth, the brighter the prospect of its realization. The enunciation and persistent proclamation of anti-slavery principles twenty-five years ago demonstrate this. Never was there à cause more just, never one more peaceful and harmless in its character, never truths more self-evident. Immediate and unconditional emancipation was proclaimed as the right of the slave and as the duty of the slaveholder. This demand was enforced in the name and according to the law of the living God. No sword, no bayonet; the simple truth, uttered in the love of it. That is all.
- “Weapons of war we have cast from the battle-
- Truth is our armour, our watchword is love;
- Hushed be the sword and the musketry's rattle;
- All our equipments are drawn from above.”
The slaveholder was not then an object of hate and of execration. Had he gone into an abolition meeting, he would have been heard with patience and courtesy in his own defence. Yet, at this point, how was this cause met? How was it met by the American people, and how was it met by the church, to which latter, indeed, the movement owes its origin in this country, as well as in England?
The facts of this history are too recent, too notorious, and too fresh in the minds of all to need minute narration; and even if this were not so, it would scarcely be necessary to dwell long upon this aspect of the subject. Find out what happened on the presentation of any new truth, or any truth, which an age had lost sight of or discarded, and you are masters of the facts which attended the antislavery revival. As with the mission of the Saviour of mankind, so with the anti-slavery movement. The latter could say, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me.” The new gospel of liberty was tried as by fire. The old folly was attempted, of crucifying the body to quench the spirit-of killing men to kill their principles. There was much trial in those early days. Lovejoy, a noble martyr in defence of a free press and a free gospel, weltered in his warm blood at Alton. A brother of his, as true an abolitionist, is now a member of the legislature of the state which received this bloody baptism. Crandal perished in prison, at Washington, for having and carrying a few anti-slavery papers in his portmanteau. The National Era is now published there, and has the largest circulation of any paper at the seat of government. Mr. Garrison was dragged through the streets of Boston by a mob, and took refuge in the common jail; he is now comparatively a popular man in that city, surrounded by friends rich and powerful.
But to drop the present, and to refer exclusively to the past, The country was like a savage drunkard roused from his slumbers. Speaking and writing on the subject of slavery became dangerous. Mob violence menaced the persons and property of the abolitionists, and their very homes became unsafe for themselves and their families. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Utica, were under mob law. Pennsylvania hall was burned with fire, because it had given shelter to the hunted spirit of liberty for a few brief hours. As to the free coloured people, a more than demoniacal bate was roused against them--assault and insult came down upon them without measure and without mixture, and a wild and clamorous cry of blood! blood! came howling over all the broad savannahs of the South.
- "Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
- Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and 'tis prosperous to be just;
- Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
- Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified;
- And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.”
Some one has called the period to which I have been referring, the martyr age of anti-slavery; and not having been an actor in those scenes, I may properly admireas who could do other than admire—the manly heroism displayed by the abolitionists at this trying point of their experience.
Like true apostles, as they were, their faith in their principles knew no wavering. The heathen raged, and the people imagined a vain thing. Conventions were broken up only to be held again ; presses were demolished to be erected again. The anti-slavery lecturer was pelted from one town only to flee into another, and the new faith of the prophets waxed stronger and stronger. For every advocate struck down, ten new ones stood up. With them obstacles were converted into facilities, hinderances into helps, curtailment into increase, and curses into blessings. If you will turn to the letters and speeches of that period, you will find that they burn with love to the slave as a wronged and bitterly abused fellow-man. His sorrows and sufferings were the burden of early anti-slavery eloquence. it was remembering the bondman as bound with him, and the thought that their suffering as freemen was as nothing compared to that of their enslaved brother, which enabled the early abolitionists of this country to persevere, and to make a deep impression on the hearts of men. Mr. Garrison had been so true to the slave that, when in England, he was supposed to be, till seen, a veritable negro. He was proud of it then, and spoke of it in proof of his faithfulness. I shall be pardoned if I say he would scarcely consider this mistake complimentary to him now. I have now glanced at the reception which the anti-slavery revival met at the hands of the world. Now let us see how it was received by the church. Besides the early anti-slavery position of the church, to which I have already directed attention, there were special reasons for anticipating a better reception at the hands of the church than it had received at the hands of the cold and selfish world. The American churches stood already committed to causes analagous in their spirit and purpose to the anti-slavery cause. The heathen in Asia, Africa, and in the isles of the sea, were not only remembered by the church, but were objects of special, earnest, and energetic exertion. Prayers and contribution boxes were abundant for these, to save them from the bondage of sin and superstition. Our church sent Bibles and missionaries " from the rivers to the ends of the earth." Under its outspread wings were warmly sheltered the missionary society, the tract society, the Sabbath school society, and innumerable sewing societies, composed of honourable women connected with the church. These were all apparently animated by an honest desire to improve the condition of the human race in other and distant lands. I say, therefore, it was both reasonable and natural to expect a better reception for the antislavery cause from the church than from the world.
And, yet again, there was something in the condition of the enslaved millions at our own doors which appealed directly to the church--supposing the heart of the church to beat in unison with the heart of the Son of God. At the very outset of his mission among the children of men, he was careful to range himself on the side of the poor, the enslaved, and heart-broken victims of oppression.
- “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," said the Great One, who spake as never man spake, “because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor ; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captive, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised."
The abolitionist could point to this sublime declaration of the Son of God, and then point to the millions of enslaved, captured, bruised, maimed, and heart-broken people, whose cries of anguish ascend to God continually-and this they did. They carried those bleeding and heart-broken millions--poor, helpless, and forlorn--to the very altar of the church, and cried, “Men of Israel, help.” They described their physical suffering--their mental, moral debasement and destitution, and said to the church, “In the name of mercy open unto us." An angel of mercy, with benignant aspect and streaming eyes, stood at the door of the church, veiled in deep sorrow, imploring, entreating, in the name of God and down-trodden man, for entrance; but those who held the key repulsed her with iron bolts.
The cry for mercy disturbed the worship, and it drove the angel away, and went on praying. But this is not all. In imitation, perhaps, of the example set by the world, the church not only rejected but became an active persecutor of the anti-slavery movement. She sent forth some of her ablest champions to battle against it. The Holy Bible, which had furnished arguments against slaveholding seventy years ago, was found to contain now the best arguments for slavery.
So recently as the year 1850, she rained down millions of sermons to prove it right to hunt slaves, and consign them to life-long bondage. The Methodist Church, which, in its infancy and purity, held so high a position, forgot her ancient testimonies, and led off, in a grand crusade, to put down the anti-slavery movement. It undertook to censure and silence such of its members as believed, with John Wesley, that slavery is the sum of all villainies. In what striking, strange, and painful contrast are the resolutions adopted at Cincinnati by the General Conference in 1836, with those adopted by the same Conference in 1801. Here they are, preamble and all:
- "Whereas great excitement has prevailed in this country on the subject of modern abolitionism, which is reported to have been increased in this city by the unjustifiable conduct of two members of the General Conference, in lecturing upon, and in favour of that agitating topic; and whereas such a course, on the part of any of its members, is calculated to bring upon this body the suspicion and distrust of the community, and to misrepresent its sentiments in regard to the point at issue; and whereas, in this aspect of the case, a due regard for its character, as well as just concern for the interests of the church confided to its care, demand a full, decided, and unequivocal expression of the views of the General Conference in the premises; therefore,
- "Resolved, 1st, By the delegates of the Annual Conferences, in General Conference assembled, that they disapprove, in the most unqualified sense, of the conduct of the two members of the General Conference who are reported to have lectured in this city recently upon, and in favour of that agitating topic.
- "Resolved, 2nd, By the delegates of the Annual Conferences, in General Conference assembled, that they are decidedly opposed to modern abolitionism, and wholly disclaim any right, wish, or intention, to interfere in the civil and political relations between master and slave, as they exist in the States of this Union.”
Here, then, was an entire change in the attitude of the Methodist Episcopal Church on the subject of slavery. The traffickers in the bodies and souls of men were set at ease in her Zion, and the victims of the bloody lash were literally driven from her gates.
As went the Methodist Episcopal Church, so went the Baptist and Presbyterian churches. They receded from their anti-slavery ground, despised the claims of the movement which their earlier and holier precepts and example had called into being. The churches which began their career in love for the oppressed, had now become the friends of the oppressor and the bulwark of slavery.
Here arose that crisis in the anti-slavery movement, from the evil effects of which it has not yet recovered. It will never be forgotten. The conflict was terrible to all concerned-flinging the church against man, and some of the advocates of emancipation against God. The church stepped between the slave's chains and the uplifted blow aimed to break them. The alternative presented was to oppose the church or abandon the slave! Here were religion and slavery on the one hand, and freedom and humanity on the other. The church raised the cry of infidelity, and her opponents laughed at her forms and ceremonies, and poured contempt upon her prayers. The church cherished her forms all the more for being assailed, and the advocates of emancipation clung the more to anti-slavery because it was assailed by the church; and thus unbelief and irreligion are seen thickest where this battle has raged hottest. The church, by her professions, should have been the right arm and shield of this beneficent movement; but, alas ! she proved false to her trust, abandoned her high mission of striking down slavery, and attempted to strike down liberty. The slave, under the uplifted lash of the taskmaster, quivering with fear, and imploring mercy, could no longer look to the church for succour or for relief. The buyers and sellers of men were welcomed to her bosom, and the slave, in his chains, was driven away.
Is it strange, then, that those who once loved began, now to loathe the church? Is it strange that their faith in her regard for the souls of men should wane, when they saw her shameless contempt for the bodies of men ? Could they believe that she loved God truly, who hated the image of God so intensely? Had the church of this country welcomed this movement as a long-lost child, which had strayed away from its home in, the church-had she given to it the endorsement of her name, adopted it as her own, lent to it the aid of her co-operation, the influence of her example had she given it the facilities of her wide-spread organization, the support of her press, and the might of her eloquence, the great battle of liberty would, long ere this, have been decided. The slave's chains would have been broken into a thousand fragments, and millions, now pining in bondage, would have been rejoicing in their liberty. Not only was here lost a splendid opportunity for blessing the world, but a golden opportunity was lost for bringing honour to the name of the church, and reverence to her ministry. A new occasion, a new harvest was given unto her, which she might have gathered and garnered up for the days of drought and moral famine which have since rolled over her. An invincible army of sable soldiers, with ample means to scourge and drive back the allied host of infidelity and atheism now marching against her, were foolishly and wickedly left in chains. Three millions of joyful hearts, clapping their glad hands in freedom, ascribing their great deliverance from thraldom to the beneficent interposition of the church of God, would have thundered into silence the clamour of scoffers, and made her name glorious throughout the world,
But she flung away the golden chance, and is now exposed not only to the assaults of sin, but on her hands is a more solemn controversy. The attacks of unbelief are not so galling as the fire from the ramparts of justice and humanity. Not only has the slave been converted into an enemy of the church, and taught to look elsewhere for succour and deliverance, but the sober-thinking philanthropist has been led to raise the dangerous inquiry-Of what use to this sin-cursed world is a church whose religion and gospel are the dread of the oppressed and the delight of the oppressor? This aspect of this history is of the profoundest significance, and deserves to be pondered on. The usefulness and the very existence of the church as an organization, are involved in the use made of this subject. Let the church look to it. Organizations are strong, but there is something in the world much stronger than any human organization. The eternal Spirit is mightier than all the external world ; religion is greater than the form created to express it. Forms and organizations are but the “mint," "anise,” and “cummin." The weightier matters of the law are judgment, mercy, and faith; and the latter are with the oppressed and enslaved everywhere. Forms and ceremonies may pass current for a time, but there is too much love among mankind for what is real, true, and genuine, to endure always what is empty, hollow, and hypocritical. It won't do for the church to weep over the heathen abroad and laugh over the heathen at home. It will not do to send Bibles and missionaries to India, with money wrung from the blood and sweat of the heathen of South Carolina and Georgia, to whom we prohibit, under pains and penalties, the privilege of learning to read the name of Almighty God! It will not do to save souls abroad and enslave souls at home. Let the church, then, look to it; for here is the source of her weakness, attracting, as well from the sky of truth as from the clouds of error, the exterminating bolt and the devouring fire. , Her new moons, appointed feasts, Sabbath days, solemn assemblies, are no atonement for refusing to do justice. She is under the law to cease to do evil, and learn to do well. She must seek justice and relieve the oppressed. In a word, she must abolish slavery, or be abolished by slavery. The voice of one crying in the wilderness has the same lesson to-day as in the days of Jesus, The axe is laid at the root of the tree. Usefulness is the price of existence. Do or die, wear out or rust out, bring forth fruit or be cut down, is the law now and always. Men may go often, but they will not go always to an exhausted fountain; they will not long search for substance where they are only rewarded with shadows. If they do not find God and His eternal attributes among the solemn splendours of the church, they will turn away from its altars and aisles, and go forth into the temple of God's creation, and strive to interpret for themselves the heavenly inscriptions of Divine love.
Many who once stood with delight in the church, apart from the world, go not up with the great congregation to worship now; and they tell us the church must make peace with the slave before it can make peace with God. She must bring back the child of her early love from the wandering exile into which she has driven it. She must return to her early testimonies, and teach the oppressor now, as at the beginning, to "break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free,” and gather around her the affections of those who esteem mercy more than sacrifice.
Let us now turn away from the church, and examine the antislavery movement in its branches, for divisions are here, as well as elsewhere. I will not enter into an examination of their causes. God forbid that I should open here those bitter fountains! I may say, however, that the first grand division took place fourteen years ago, and on the very minor question, “Shall a woman be a member of a committee in company with men ?" The majority said she should be, and the minority seceded. Thus was a grand philanthropic movement rent asunder by a side issue, having nothing whatever to do with the great object which the American Anti-slavery Society was organized to carry forward. Before I would have stood in such an attitude, and taken the responsibility of dividing the ranks of freedom's army, I would have suffered my right arm to be taken off. How beautiful would it have been for that woman, how nobly would her name have come down to us in this history, had she said :-"All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient !" While I see no objection to my occupying a place on your committee, I can, for the slave's sake, forego that privilege. The battle of woman's rights should be fought on its own ground; as it is, the slave's cause, already too heavy laden, had to bear up under this new addition. But I will not go further on that subject, except to characterize it as a sad mistakes
But I propose to speak of the different anti-slavery sects and parties, and to give my view of them very briefly. There are four principal divisions.
1st. The Garrisonians, or the American Anti-slavery Society.
2d. The Anti-garrisonians, or the American and Foreign Antislavery Society.
3d. The Free-Soil Party, or political abolitionists.
4th. The “Liberty party,” or Gerrit Smith school of abolitionists.
There are others, and among them those conscientious men and wonen, principally of the Society of Friends, who may be called "free labour people,” since their remedy for slavery is an abstinence from slave produce. This society formerly published in Philadelphia a periodical, called the Non-Slaveholder, and kept open a store for the sale of free labour goods; and besides this, it promoted the growth of free cotton in several of the more southern states. This society is still in existence, and is quietly doing its work.
I shall consider, first, the Garrisonian Anti-slavery Society. I call this the Garrisonian Society, because Mr. Garrison is confessedly its leader. This society is the oldest of modern anti-slavery societies. It has, strictly speaking, two weekly papers or organs--employs five or six lecturers--and holds numerous public meetings for the dissemination of its views. Its peculiar and distinctive feature is its doctrine of “ No union with slaveholders." This doctrine has of late become its bond of union, and the condition of good fellowship among its members. Of this society I have to say, its logical result is but negatively anti-slavery. Its doctrine of “No union with slaveholders.” carried out, dissolves the union, and leaves the slaves and their masters to fight their own battles, in their own way. This I hoid to be an abandonment of the great idea with which that society started. It started to free the slave. It ends by leaving the slave to free himself. It started with the purpose to imbue the heart of the nation with sentiments favourable to the abolition of slavery, and ends by seeking to free the North from all responsibility for slavery, other than if slavery were in Great Britain, or under some other nationality. This, I say, is the practical abandonment of the idea with which that society started. It has given up the faith that the slave can be freed, short of the overthrow of the government; and then, as I understand that society, it leaves the slaves, as it must needs leave them, just where it leaves the slaves of Cuba or those of Brazil. The nation, as such, is given up as beyond the power of salvation by the foolishness of preaching; and hence the aim is now to save the North, so that the American Anti-slavery Society, which was inaugurated to convert the nation, after ten years' struggle, parts with its faith, and aims now to save the North. One of the most eloquent of all the members of that society, and the man who is only second to Mr. Garrison himself, defines the Garrisonian doctrine thus:-
- “All the slave asks of us is to stand out of his way--withdraw our pledge to keep the peace on the plantation-withdraw our pledge to return him--withdraw that representation which the Constitution gives in proportion to the number of slaves—and then, without any agitation here, without any individual virtue, which the times have eaten out of us, God will vindicate the oppressed by the laws of justice which He has founded. Trample under foot your own unjust pledges, break to pieces your compact with hell, by which you become the abettors of oppression. Stand alone, and let no cement of the Union bind the slave, and he will right himself.”
That is it. "Stand alone;" the slave is to “right himself.” I dissent entirely from this reasoning. It assumes to be true what is plainly absurd, and that is, that a population of slaves, without arms, without means of concert, and without leisure, is more than a match for double its number, educated, accustomed to rule, and in every way prepared for warfare, offensive or defensive. This society, therefore, consents to leave the slave's freedom to a most uncertain and improbable, if not an impossible contingency,
But “ No union with slaveholders"
As a mere expression of abhorrence of slavery, the sentiment is a go one; but it expresses no intelligible principle of action, and throws no new light on the pathway of duty. Defined, as its authors define it, it leads to false doctrines, and mischievous results. It condemns Gerrit Smith for sitting in Congress, and our Saviour for eating with publicans and sinners. Dr. Spring uttered a shocking sentiment, when he said, if one prayer of his would emancipate every slave, he would not offer that prayer. No less-shocking is the sentiment of the leader of the disunion forces, when he says, that if one vote of bis would emancipate every slave in this country, he would not cast that vote. Here, on a bare theory, and for a theory which, if consistently adhered to, would drive a man out of the world theory which can never be made intelligible to common sense--the freedom of the whole slave population would be sacrificed.
But again-NO UNION WITH SLAVEHOLDERS. I dislike the morality of this sentiment, in its application to the point at issue. For instance-A. unites with B. in stealing my property, and carrying it away to California or to Australia, and while there, Mr. A. becomes convinced that he did wrong in stealing my property, and says to Mr. B., "No union with property stealers," and abandons him, leaving the property in his hands. Now, I put it to this audience, has Mr. A., in this transaction, met the requirements of stringent morality? He certainly has not. It is not only his duty to separate from the thief, but to restore the stolen property to its rightful owner, And I hold that in the Union, this very thing of restoring to the slave his long-lost rights can better be accomplished than can possibly be accomplished outside of the Union. This, then, is my answer to the motto, “NO UNION WITH SLAVEHOLDERS."
But this is not the worst fault of this society. Its chief energies are expended in confirming the opinion that the United States constitution is and was intended to be a slaveholding instrument; thus piling up between the slave and his freedom the huge work of the abolition of the government as an indispensable condition to emancipation. My point here is, first, the constitution is, according to its reading, an anti-slavery document; and, secondly, to dissolve the Union, as & means to abolish slavery, is about as wise as it would be to burn up this city, in order to get the thieves out of it. But, again, we hear the motto, “No union with slaveholders ;' and I answer it, as that noble champion of liberty, N. P. Rogers, answered it, with a more sensible motto, namely, “No union with slaveholding." I would unite with anybody to do right, and with nobody to do wrong. And as the Union, under the constitution, requires me to do nothing which is wrong, and gives ine many facilities for doing good, I cannot go with the American Anti-slavery Society in its doctrine of disunion.
But to the second branch of the anti-slavery movement. The American and Foreign Anti-slavery Society has not departed from the original ground, but stands where the American Anti-slavery Society stood at the beginning. The energies of this association are mainly directed to the revival of anti-slavery in the church. It is active in the collection and in the circulation of facts exposing the character of slavery, and in noting the evidences of progress in the church on the subject. It does not aim to abolish the Union, but aims to avail itself of the means afforded by the Union to abolish slavery. The annual report of this society affords the amplest and truest account of the anti-slavery movement, from year to year.
Nevertheless, I have somewhat against this society, as well as against the American Anti-slavery Society. It has almost dropped the main and most potent weapon with which slavery is to be assailed and overthrown, and that is speech. At this moment, when every nerve should be strained to prevent a reaction, that society has not a single lecturing agent in the field.
The next recognized anti-slavery body is the Free-soil party, alias the Free Democratic party, alias the Republican party. It aims to limit and denationalize slavery, and to relieve the federal government from all responsibility for slavery. Its motto is, “Slavery local, liberty national.” The objection to this movement is the same as that against the American Anti-slavery Society. It leaves the slave in his fetters--in the undisturbed possession of his master and does not grapple with the question of emancipation in the States.
The fourth division of the anti-slavery movement is the “ Liberty party," a small body of citizens, chiefly in the state of New York, but having sympathizers all over the North. It is the radical, and, to my thinking, the only abolition organization in the country, except a few local associations. It makes a clean sweep of slavery everywhere. It denies that slavery is or can be legalized. It denies that the constitution of the United States is a pro-slavery instrument, and asserts the power and duty of the federal government to abolish slavery in every state of the Union. Strictly speaking, I say this party is the only party in the country which is an abolition party. The mission of the Garrisonians ends with the dissolution of the Union; that of the Free-soil party ends with the relief of the federal government from all responsibility for slavery; but the Liberty party, by its position and doctrines, and by its antecedents, is pledged to continue the struggle while a bondman in his chains remains to weep. Upon its platform must the great battle of freedom be fought out, if upon any short of the bloody field. It must be under no partial cry of “No union with slaveholders," nor selfish cry of “No more slavery extension;" but it must be, “No slavery for man under the whole heavens.' The slave, as a man and a brother, must be the vital and animating thought and impulse of any movement which is to effect the abolition of slavery in this country. Our anti-slavery organizations must be brought back to this doctrine, or they will be scattered, and left to wander and die in the wilderness, like God's ancient people, till another generation shall come up, more worthy to go up and possess the land.
One anti-slavery movement nearly died out fifty years ago, and I am not prepared to deny the possibility of a like fate for this one. The elements of discord and deterioration are already in it, and working their legitimate results. And yet I am not gloomy. Present organizations may perish, but the cause will go on. That cause has a life distinct and independent of the organizations patched up, from time to time, to carry it forward. Looked at apart from the bones, and sinews, and body, it is a thing immortal. It is the very essence of justice, liberty, and love. The moral life of human society--it cannot die while conscience, honour, and humanity remain. If but one man be filled with it, the cause lives. Its incarnation in any one individual man leaves the whole world a priesthood, occupying the highest moral eminence, even that of disinterested benevolence Whoso has ascended this height, and has the grace to stand there, has the world at his feet, and is the world's teacher, as of divine right. He may sit in judgment on the age, upon the civilization of the age, and upon the religion of the age; for he has a test-A sure and certain test--by which to try all institutions, and to measure all men. I say he may do this, but this is not the chief business for which he is qualified. The great work to which he is called is not that of judgment. Like the Prince of Peace, he may say, if I judge, I judge righteous judgment; still mainly, like him, he may say, this is not his work. The man who has thoroughly embraced the principles of justice, love, and liberty, like the true preacher of Christianity, is less anxious to reproach the world of its sins than to win it to repentance. His great work on earth is to exemplify, and to illustrate, and to ingraft those principles upon the living and practical understandings of all men within the reach of his influence. This is his work: long or short his years, many or few his adherents, powerful or weak his instrumentalities, through good report or through bad report, this is his work. It is to snatch from the bosom of nature the latent facts of each individual man's experience, and with steady hand to hold them up, fresh and glowing, enforcing, with all his power, their acknowledgment and practical adoption. If there be but one such man in the land, no matter what becomes of abolition societies and parties, there will be an antislavery cause and an anti-slavery movement. Fortunately for that cause, and fortunately for him by whom it is espoused, it requires no extraordinary amount of talent to preach it, or to receive it when preached. The grand secret of its power is, that each of its principles is easily rendered appreciable to the faculty of reason in man, and that the most unenlightened conscience has no difficulty in deciding on which side to register its testimony. It can call its preachers from among the fishermen, and raise them to power. In every human breast it has an advocate, which can be silent only when the heart is dead. It comes home to every man's understanding, and appeals directly to every man's conscience. A man that does not recognize and approve for himself the rights and privileges contended for in behalf of the American slave, has not yet been found. In whatever else men may differ, they are alike in the apprehension of their natural and personal rights. The difference between abolitionists and those by whom they are opposed, is not as to principles. All are agreed in respect to these. The manner of applying them is the point of difference.
The slaveholder himself-the daily robber of his equal brother-discourses eloquently as to the excellency of justice; and the man who employs a brutal driver to flay the flesh off his negroes, is not offended when kindness and humanity are commended. Every time the abolitionist speaks of justice, the anti-abolitionist assents-says, Yes, I wish the world were filled with the disposition to render to every man what is rightfully due bin. I should then get what is due me. That's right; let us have justice. By all means let us have justice. Every time the abolitionist speaks in honour of human liberty, he touches a chord in the heart of the anti-abolitionist, which responds in harmonious vibrations. Liberty-yes; that is very evidently my right, and let him beware who attempts to invade or abridge that right. Every time he speaks of love, of human brotherhood, and the reciprocal duties of man and man, the anti-abolitionist assents, says, Yes-all right-all true-we cannot have such ideas too often or too fully expressed. So he says, and so he feels, and only shows thereby that he is a man as well as an anti-abolitionist.
You have only to keep out of sight the manner of applying your principles, to get them endorsed every time. Contemplating himself, he sees truth with absolute clearness and distinctness. He only blunders when asked to lose sight of himself. In his own cause he can beat a Boston lawyer, but he is dumb when asked to plead the cause of others. He knows very well whatsoever he would have done unto himself, but is quite in doubt as to having the same things done unto others. It is just here that lions spring up in the path of duty, and the battle once fought in heaven is re-fought on the earth. it is, so hath it ever been, and so must it ever be, when the claims of justice and mercy make their demand at the door of human selfishness. Nevertheless, there is that within which ever pleads for the right and the just.
In conclusion, I have taken a sober view of the present anti-slavery movement. I am sober, but not hopeless. There is no denying for it is everywhere admitted that the anti-slavery question is the great moral and social question now before the American people. A state of things has gradually been developed by which that question has become the first thing in order. It has got to be met. ' Herein is my hope. The great idea of impartial liberty is now fairly before the American people. Anti-slavery is no longer a thing to be prevented. The time for prevention is past. This is great gain. When the movement was younger and weaker-when it wrought in a Boston garret to human apprehension-it might have been silently put out of the way. Things are different now. It has grown too large-its friends are too numerous—its facilities too abundant its ramifications too extended its power too omnipotent to be snuffed out by the contingencies of infancy. A thousand strong men might be struck down and its ranks still invincible. One flash from the heart-supplied intellect of Harriet Beecher Stowe could light a million camp fires in front of the embattled hosts of slavery, which not all the waters of the Mississippi, mingled as they are with blood, could extinguish. The present will be looked to, by after-coming generations, as the age of anti-slavery literature, when supply on the gallop could not keep pace with the ever-growing demand--when a picture of a negro on the cover was a help to the sale of a book when conservative lyceums, and other American literary associations, began first to select their orators, for distinguished occasions, from the ranks of the previously despised abolitionists. If the anti-slavery movement shall fail now, it will not be from outward opposition, but from inward decay. Its auxiliaries are everywhere. Scholars, authors, orators, poets, and statesmen give it their aid. The most brilliant of American poets volunteer in its service. Whittier speaks in bụrning verse to more than thirty thousand in the National Era. Your own Longfellow whispers, in every hour of trial and disappointment-"Labour and wait.” James Russell Lowell is 'reminding us that “men are more than institutions.” Pierpont cheers the heart of the pilgrim in search of liberty, by singing the praises of - the north star.' Bryant, too, is with us; and though chained to the car of party, and dragged on amidst a whirl of political excitement, he snatches a moment for letting drop a smiling verse of sympathy for the man in chains. The poets are with us. It would seem almost absurd to say it, considering the use that has been made of them, that we have allies in the Ethiopian songs, those songs that constitute our national music, and without which we have no national music. They are heart songs, and the finest feelings of human nature are expressed in them. “Lucy Neal," "Old Kentucky Home,” “Uncle Ned,” can make the heart sad as well as merry, and can call forth a tear as well as a smile. They awaken the sympathies for the slave, in which anti-slavery principles take root, grow up, and flourish. In addition to authors, poets, and scholars at home, the moral sense of the civilized world is with us. England, France, and Germany, the three great lights of modern civilization are with us, and every American traveller learns to regret the existence of slavery in his country. The growth of intelligence, the influence of commerce, steam, wind, and lightning are our allies. It would be easy to amplify this summary, and to swell the vast conglomeration of our material forces; but there is a deeper and truer method of measuring the power of our cause, and of comprehending its vitality. This is to be found in its accordance with the best elements of human nature. It is beyond the power of slavery to annihilate affinities recognized and established by the Almighty. The slave is bound to mankind by the powerful and inextricable net-work of human brotherhood. His voice is the voice of a man, and his cry is the cry of a man in distress, and man must cease to be man before he can become insensible to that cry. It is the righteousness of the cause--the humanity of the cause--which constitutes its potency. As one genuine bank bill is worth more than a thousand counterfeits, so is one man with right on his side, worth more than thousands in
“One may chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.” It is, therefore, upon the goodness of our cause, more than upon all other auxiliaries, that we depend for its final triumph.
Another source of congratulation is the fact that, amid all the efforts made by the church, the government, and the people at large, to stay the onward progress of this movement, its course has been onward-steady, straight, unshaken, and unchecked from the beginning. Slavery has gained victories, large and numerous; but never as against this movement-against a temporizing policy, and against northern timidity, the slave power has been victorious; but against the spread and prevalence in the country of a spirit of resistance to its aggression, and of sentiments favourable to its entire overthrow, it has accomplished nothing. Every measure yet devised and executed, having for its object the suppression of anti-slavery, has been as idle and fruitless as pouring oil to extinguish fire. A general rejoicing took place on the passage of the "compromise measures" of 1850. Those measures were called peace measures, and were afterwards termed by both the great parties of the country, as well as by leading statesmen, a final settlement of the whole question of slavery; but experience has laughed to scorn the wisdom of pro-slavery statesmen, and their final settlement of agitation seems to be the final revival, on a broader and grander scale than ever before, of the very question which they vainly attempted to suppress for
The Fugitive Slave Bill has especially been of positive service to the anti-slavery movement. It has illustrated before all the people the horrible character of slavery toward the slave, in hunting him down in a free state, and tearing him away from wife and children, thus setting its claims higher than marriage or parental claims. It has revealed the arrogant and overbearing spirit of Slave States towards the Free States---despising their principles, shocking their feelings of humanity, not only by bringing before them the abominations of slavery, but by attempting to make them parties to the crime. has called into exercise among the coloured people--the hunted ones - a spirit of resistance, well calculated to surround them with a bulwark of sympathy and respect hitherto unknown; for men are always disposed to respect and defend rights when the victims of oppression stand up manfully for themselves.
There is another element of power added to the anti-slavery movement, of great importance; it is the conviction, becoming every day more general and universal, that slavery must be abolished at the South, or it will demoralize and destroy liberty at the North. It is the nature of slavery to beget a state of things all around it favourable to its own continuance. This fact, connected with the system of bondage, is beginning to be more fully realized. The slaveholder is not satisfied to associate with men in the church or in the state, unless he can thereby stain them with the blood of his slaves. To be a slaveholder is to be a propagandist from necessity; for slavery can only live by keeping down the undergrowth morality which nature supplies. Every new-born white babe comes armed from the Eternal presence to make war on slavery. The heart of pity, which would melt in due time over the brutal chastisements it sees inflicted on the helpless, must be hardened. And this work goes on every day in the year, and every hour in the day.
What is done at home is being done also abroad here in the North. And even now the question may be asked, Have we at this moment a single free state in the Union ? The alarm at this point will become more general. The slave power must go on in its career of exactions. Give, give, will be its cry, till the timidity which concedes shall give place to courage, which shall resist. Such is the voice of experience; such has been the past, such is the present, and such will be that future, which, so sure as man is man, will come. Here I leave the subject; and I leave off where I began, consoling myself and congratulating the friends of freedom upon the fact that the anti-slavery cause is not a new thing under the sun - not some moral delusion which a few years' experience may dispel. It has appeared among men in all ages, and summoned its advocates from all ranks. Its foundations are laid in the deepest and holiest convictions, and from whatever soul the demon selfishness is expelled, there will this
cause take up its abode. Old as the everlasting hills, immovable as the throne of God, and certain as the purposes of eternal power against all hinderances, and against all delays, and despite all the mutations of human instrumentalities, it is the faith of my soul that this anti-slavery cause will yet gloriously triumph.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am not superstitious; but I recognize an arm stronger than any human arm, and an intelligence higher than any human intelligence, guarding and guiding this anti-slavery cause through all the dangers and perils that beset it, and making even auxiliaries of enemies, and confounding all worldly wisdom for its advancement. Let us trust that arm-let us confide in that intelligence, in conducting this movement; and whether it shall be ours to witness the fulfilment of our hopes—the end of American slavery--or not, we shall have the tranquil satisfaction of having faithfully adhered to eternal principles of rectitude and duty, and may lay down life in the triumphant faith that those principles will ultimately prevail.