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Title: Some Recollections of our Antislavery Conflict
Author: May, Samuel J.
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Some Recollections of our Antislavery Conflict" ***

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                                 OF OUR
                         ANTISLAVERY CONFLICT.

                             SAMUEL J. MAY.

                         FIELDS, OSGOOD, & CO.

       Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by
                             SAMUEL J. MAY
     in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of



Many of these Recollections were published at intervals, during the
years 1867 and 1868, in _The Christian Register_. They were written
at the special request of the editor of that paper; and without the
slightest expectation that they would ever be put to any further
use. But so many persons have requested me to republish them in a
volume, that I have gathered them here, together with several more
recollections of events and transactions, illustrative of the temper
of the times as late as the winter of 1861, when our guilty nation was
left “to be saved so as by the fire” of civil war.

My readers must not expect to find in this book anything like a
complete history of the times to which it relates. The articles of
which it is composed are fragmentary and sketchy. I expect and hope
they will not satisfy. If they whet the appetites of those who read
them for a more thorough history of the conflict with slavery in
our country and in Great Britain, they will have accomplished their
purpose. That in the two freest, most enlightened, most Christian
nations on earth there should have been, during more than half of the
nineteenth century, so stout a defence of “the worst system of iniquity
the world has ever known,” is a marvel that cannot be fully studied and
explained, without discovering that the mightiest nation, as well as
the humblest individual, may not with impunity consent to any sin, nor
persist in unrighteousness without ruin.

I am happy to announce that in due time a somewhat elaborate history
of the rise and fall of the slave power in America may be expected
from the Hon. Henry Wilson. He is competent to the undertaking. He
is cautious and candid as well as brave and explicit. He was an
Abolitionist before he became a politician. He has never ignored the
rights of humanity, for the sake of partisan success or personal
aggrandizement. Mr. Wilson, I believe, did as much as any one of our
prominent statesmen to procure the abolition of slavery in the District
of Columbia, and to effect its subversion throughout the country.

My brief sketches have been taken, I presume, from a point of sight
different somewhat from his. Many of my readers may wish that I had not
reported so many of the evil words and deeds of ministers and churches.
I have done so with regret and mortification. But it has seemed to me
that the most important lesson taught in the history of the last forty
years--the influence of slavery upon the religion of our country--ought
least of all to be withheld from the generations that are coming on to
fill our places in the Church and in the State.

My book, I fear, will be displeasing to many because they will not find
in it much that they expect. I can only beg such to bear in mind what
I have proposed to give my readers,--not a history of the antislavery
conflict, only some of my recollections of the events and actors
in it. I have merely mentioned the names of our indefatigable and
able fellow-laborers, Henry C. Wright, Stephen S. Foster, and Parker
Pillsbury. A due account of their valuable services in this country and
Great Britain would fill a volume as large as this. But, for the most
part, these became known to me through _The Liberator_ and _Antislavery

My sphere of operation and observation was confined almost entirely to
Massachusetts and Connecticut, until I removed to Central New York in
1845. My travels as an antislavery agent and lecturer were restricted
to New England, and to the years from 1832 to 1836, before many who
have since become distinguished had given themselves to the work.
The field has been coextensive with our vast country. It cannot be
supposed that I have personally known a tenth part of the individuals
who have done good services, much less that I have been a witness of
their words and deeds. Often have I been encouraged and delighted by
unexpected tidings of noble words uttered and brave deeds done, in one
part and another of the land, by individuals whom I never saw before
nor since. Almost everywhere there was some one who promptly responded
to the demand for the liberation of the enslaved, and dared to advocate
their right to freedom. Could a perfect history be written of the
antislavery labors of the last forty years, hundreds would be named as
having rendered valuable services, of whom I have never heard; whose
good word or work perhaps was not known beyond the immediate circle
that was affected by it. But the memory thereof will not be lost. Every
righteous act, every heroic, generous, true utterance in the cause of
the outraged, crushed, despised bondmen, will be had in everlasting
remembrance, and He who seeth in secret will hereafter, if not here,
openly reward the faithful.

            S. J. M.



  RISE OF ABOLITIONISM                                       1
    Rev. John Rankin and Rev. John D. Paxton                10
    Benjamin Lundy                                          11
    William Lloyd Garrison                                  15
    Miss Prudence Crandall and the Canterbury School        39
    The Black Law of Connecticut                            52
    Arthur Tappan                                           57
    Charles C. Burleigh                                     62
    Miss Crandall’s Trial                                   66
    House set on Fire                                       70
    Mr. Garrison’s Mission to England.--New York Mobs       72
    The Convention at Philadelphia                          79
    Lucretia Mott                                           91
    Mrs. L. Maria Child                                     97
    Eruption of Lane Seminary                              102
    George Thompson, M. P., LL. D.                         108
    His First Year in America                              115

  ANTISLAVERY CONFLICT                                     126
    Reign of Terror                                        131
    Walker’s Appeal                                        133
    The Clergy and the Quakers                             144
    The Quakers                                            147
    The Reign of Terror continued                          150
    Francis Jackson                                        157
    Riot at Utica, N. Y.--Gerrit Smith                     162
    Dr. Channing                                           170
    His Address on Slavery                                 177
    The Gag-Law                                            185
    The Gag-Law.--Second Interview                         194
    Hon. James G. Birney                                   203
    John Quincy Adams                                      211
    The Alton Tragedy                                      221
    Woman Question.--Misses Grimké                         230
    “The Pastoral Letter” and “The Clerical Appeal”        238
    Dr. Charles Follen                                     248
    John G. Whittier and the Antislavery Poets             259
    Prejudice against Color                                266
    A Negro’s Love of Liberty                              278
    Distinguished Colored Men                              285
      David Ruggles, Lewis Hayden, and William C. Nell     285
      James Forten                                         286
      Robert Purvis                                        288
      William Wells Brown                                  289
      Charles Lenox Remond                                 289
      Rev. J. W. Loguen                                    290
      Frederick Douglass                                   292
    The Underground Railroad                               296
    George Latimer                                         305
    The Annexation of Texas                                313
    Abolitionists in Central New York.--Gerrit Smith       321
    Conduct of the Clergy and Churches                     329
    Unitarian and Universalist Ministers and Churches      333
    Unitarians                                             335
    The Fugitive Slave Law                                 345
    Daniel Webster                                         348
    The Unitarians and their Ministers                     366
    The Rescue of Jerry                                    373
    New Persecutions                                       389
    Riot in Syracuse                                       391

  APPENDIX                                                 397


Ever and anon in the world’s history there has been some one who has
broken out as a living fountain of the _free spirit_ of humanity,
has given bold utterance to the pent-up thought of wrongs, too long
endured, and has made the demand for some God-given right, until then
withheld,--a demand so obviously just, that the tyrants of earth have
trembled as if called to judgment, and the oppressed have rejoiced as
at the voice of their deliverer. “It is thus the spirit of a single
mind makes that of multitudes take one direction.”

Such, as the subsequent history of our country has shown, such was
the spirit of the mind of that man who will be honored through all
coming time, as the leader of the most glorious movement ever made in
humanity’s behalf,--the movement for _perfect, impartial liberty_,
which for the last thirty-nine years has rocked our Republic from
centre to circumference, and will continue to agitate it until every
vestige of slavery is shaken out of our civil fabric.

“When the tourist of Europe has descended from the Black Forest into
Suabia, his guide asks him if he does not wish to see the source of
the Danube. Only one answer can be given to such a question. So he is
conducted into the garden of an obscure nobleman of Baden; and there,
within a small stone enclosure, he is shown the highest spring of
that river, which has worn its channel deeper and wider for sixteen
hundred miles, and, receiving on its way the contributions of thirty
navigable streams, enters the Black Sea by five mouths, thus opening
a communication between the interior of Europe and the Mediterranean,
bearing on its bosom the commerce of fifty millions of people, and
bringing them into the community of nations.”

Soon after Mr. Garrison’s assault upon the institution of American
slavery began to be felt, (and that was almost as soon as it began,)
a Southern governor wrote to the mayor of Boston, demanding to know
what was to be expected, what to be feared, from this attack upon “the
peculiar institution of the South.” In due time the gentleman who was
then the high official addressed replied to his Southern excellency,
that there was no occasion for uneasiness. “He had made diligent search
for the would-be ‘Liberator.’ The city officers had ferreted out the
paper and its editor. His office was an obscure hole, his only visible
auxiliary a negro boy, and his supporters a few very insignificant
persons of all colors.”

Undoubtedly to that dainty gentleman the rise of the antislavery
enterprise in our country did seem insignificant,--quite as
insignificant as the little spring of water in the garden at Baden. He
may never have learnt among his nursery rhymes, that

    “Large streams from little fountains flow,
    Tall oaks from little acorns grow,”

and he must have forgotten that Christianity began in a stable,--“that
not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble
were called. But that God chose the _foolish_ things of the world to
confound the wise, and the _weak_ things of the world to confound the
things which are mighty.” Our poet, Lowell, estimated, more justly
“the would-be Liberator,” his office and his humble assistant.

    “In a small chamber, friendless and unseen,
      Toiled o’er his types one poor, unlearned young man;
    The place was dark, unfurnitured, and mean;
      Yet there _the freedom of a race_ began.

    “Help came but slowly; sure no man yet
      Put lever to the heavy world with less.
    What need of help? He knew how types to set;
      He had a dauntless spirit and a press.

    “Such dauntless natures are the fiery pith,
      The compact nucleus round which systems grow;
    Mass after mass becomes inspired therewith,
      And whirls impregnate with the central glow.”

It cannot be denied that the spirit of Mr. Garrison’s mind has made
the minds of multitudes--yes, of the majority of the people of our
country--take a new direction in favor of impartial liberty. Of
course, I do not claim that this new love of liberty originated
with him. He was no more the creator of this moral power, which has
taken our nation in its grasp, and is remoulding all our civil and
religious institutions, than the fountain in the garden at Baden is
the originator of the mighty Danube. Mr. Garrison, no less than that
spring, is but a medium, through which the Father of all mercies pours
from the hollow of his hand the waters that refresh the earth, and,
from the fulness of his heart, the streams that purify the souls,
making glad the children of God on earth and in heaven. But although to
God we must ultimately ascribe all our blessings, yet do we naturally,
and with great reason, revere and love as our _benefactors_ those
persons who have been the means and instruments by which personal,
political, or religious blessings have been conferred upon us.
Especially do we acknowledge our indebtedness to them, if they have
suffered reproach, persecution, loss, death, for the sake of the good
which we enjoy. The time, therefore, is coming, if it be not now, when
the people of our reunited Republic will gratefully own William Lloyd
Garrison among the greatest benefactors of our nation and our race.

However much our gratitude to the fathers of our Revolution may dispose
us to hide their shortcomings of the goal of impartial liberty, however
much we may find or devise to excuse or extenuate their infidelity to
the cause of down-trodden humanity, there the shameful facts stand, and
never can be effaced from the record;--the _fact_ that (notwithstanding
their glorious Declaration) the American revolutionists did not intend
the deliverance of _all_ men from oppression; no, not of all the men
who heroically fought for it side by side with themselves; no, not of
the men who, of all others, needed that deliverance the most;--the
_fact_ that the Constitution of this Republic (notwithstanding its
avowed purpose) did not mean to secure liberty to _all_ the dwellers
in the land over which it was to preside; nor did it provide that
those might depart from under it who were not to have any share in
its blessings, nor allow the spirit of liberty in them to assert its
claims;--the shameful _fact_ that the aim, the tendency, and the
result of that great struggle for freedom were partial, restricted,
selfish;--the terrible fact that the American revolutionists of 1776
left more firmly established in our country a system of bondage, a
slavery, “one hour of which” was known and acknowledged by them to be
“more intolerable than whole ages of that from which they had revolted.”

To complete, _by moral and religious means and instruments_, the great
work which the American revolutionists commenced; to do what they left
undone; to exterminate from our land the worst form of oppression, the
tremendous sin of slavery, was the sole purpose of the enterprise of
the Abolitionists, commenced in January, 1831. In this great work Mr.
Garrison has been the leader from the beginning. Of him, therefore, I
shall have the most to say. But of many other noble men and women I
shall have occasion to make most grateful mention.

Although I claim that Mr. Garrison has done more than any one else for
the liberation of the immense slave population of America, I am not
ignorant or forgetful of those who, before his day, made some attempts
for their deliverance. Not to mention the many eminent divines and
statesmen of England and the Colonies, before the Revolution, who
utterly condemned slavery,--the prominent leaders in that momentous
conflict with Great Britain, and in the institution of our Republic,
felt and acknowledged its glaring inconsistency with a democratic
government. Some of that day predicted, with almost prophetic
foresight, the evils, the ruin, which it would bring upon our nation,
if slavery should be permitted to abide in our midst. Many protested
against the Constitution, because of those articles in it which favored
the continuance and indefinite extension of “the great iniquity.” But
their objections were too generally overruled by plausible expositions
of the potency of other parts of our Magna Charta; and they acquiesced,
in the vain hope that the _spirit_ of the Constitution would prove to
be better than the letter.

For twenty years after the re-formation of our General Government in
1787, true-hearted men and women spoke and wrote in terms of strong
condemnation of slavery, as well as the slave-trade. They spoke and
wrote and published what the spirit of liberty dictated, in Maryland,
Virginia, and North Carolina, not less than in Pennsylvania, New York,
and the New England States. Nay, more, they instituted “societies for
the amelioration of the condition of the enslaved, and their _gradual_
emancipation.” Headed by no less a man than Dr. Franklin, they besieged
Congress with petitions for the suppression of the African slave-trade,
and the _gradual_ abolition of slavery. But after, in 1808, they had
obtained the prohibition of the trade, they subsided, as did the
abolitionists of Great Britain, into the belief that the subversion
of the whole evil of slavery would soon follow as a consequence; not
foreseeing that, so long as the _market_ for slaves should be kept
open, the commodity demanded there would be forthcoming, let the
hazard of procuring it be ever so great. It is now notorious that the
traffic in human beings has never been carried on so briskly as since
its nominal abolition, while the sufferings of the victims, and the
destruction of their lives, have been threefold greater than before.

Owing to this mistaken expectation of the effect of the Act of 1808
abolishing the slave-trade, the attention of philanthropists was
in a great measure withdrawn from the subject of slavery for ten
years or more. Meanwhile, the friends of “the peculiar institution”
were busily engaged in extending its borders and strengthening its
defences. The purchase of the Louisiana and Florida territories threw
open countless acres of _virgin_ soil, on which the labor of slaves
was more profitable than elsewhere. The invention of the “cotton-gin”
rendered the preparation of that staple so easy, that our Southern
planters could compete with any producers of it the world over. Cotton
plantations, therefore, multiplied apace. The value of slaves was more
than doubled. The spirit of private manumission, which in Virginia
alone, between 1798 and 1808, had set free more than a thousand bondmen
annually, was checked by avarice, and then forbidden by law. And
the “Ancient Dominion,” proud Virginia, rapidly became the home of
slave-breeders; and from that American Guinea was carried on a traffic
in human beings as brisk and horrible as ever desolated the coast of

The free colored population at the South were subjected to new
disabilities, were exposed to most vexatious annoyances, and were
denied the protection of law against encroachments or personal injuries
by the “whites”; and very many of them, on slight pretexts, were
reduced to slavery again.

Social intercourse between the Northern and the Southern States
was then infrequent. It was kept up mainly by the wealthy and
pleasure-seeking, who, in their enjoyment of the hospitality of the
planters, could learn little of the condition and character of their
bondmen, and were easily led to take “South-side views of slavery.”

Whatsoever we gathered from these sources of information led us too
readily to acquiesce in the common assumption, that the negroes were
a thick-skulled, stupid, kind-hearted, jolly people, not much if any
worse off in slavery at the South than most of the free people of
color, and some other poor folks were at the North. So, when we were
disquieted at all on their account, it was but for a little time, and
we relieved ourselves of the burden by a sigh or two over the misery
that everywhere “flesh is heir to.”

The first event that fixed the attention of Northern men seriously
upon the subject of slavery, over which they had slumbered since
1808, was the dispute that arose in 1819, upon the proposal to admit
Missouri into the Union as a slave State. The contest was a vehement
one. Mr. Webster was _then_ upon the side of liberty. He led the van
of the opposition that arrayed itself in New England, and would have
averted the catastrophe, but for the cry “dissolution of the Union,”
then first raised at the South, and the necromancy of Henry Clay, who,
with his wand of compromise, conjured the people into acquiescence.
Words, however, significant words, touching the evil and the awful
wrong of slavery, were uttered in that controversy which were not to
be forgotten. And feelings of compassion for the bondmen were awakened
which were not allayed by the result.

Shortly before the Missouri controversy a movement had commenced in
the slave States, which was pregnant with effects very different from
those intended by the projectors of it. Often was it roughly demanded
of us Abolitionists, “Why we espoused so zealously the cause of the
enslaved?” “why we meddled so with the civil and domestic institutions
of the Southern States?” Our first answer always was, in the memorable
words of old Terence, “Because we are men, and, therefore, cannot be
indifferent to anything that concerns humanity.” Liberty cannot be
enjoyed, nor long preserved, at the North, if slavery be tolerated at
the South. But to those who felt so slightly the cords of love and
the bonds of a common humanity that they could not appreciate these
reasons, we gave another reason for our interference with the slavery
in our Southern States, even this: _we were solicited, we were urged,
entreated by the slaveholders themselves to interfere_.

About the year 1816, while intent upon their projects for perpetuating
and extending their “peculiar institution,” the slaveholders were
alarmed by symptoms of discontent among the free colored people,
imagined that they were promoting insubordination amongst the slaves,
and so conceived the project of colonizing them in Africa. To insure
the accomplishment of so mighty an undertaking, it was obviously
necessary to obtain the aid of the general government. In order to
sustain that government in making such a large appropriation of the
public money as would be needed, the people of the North, as well as of
the South, were to be conciliated to the plan; and to conciliate them
it was necessary to make it appear to be a philanthropic enterprise,
conferring great benefits immediately upon the free colored people,
and tending certainly, though indirectly, to the entire abolition of
slavery. Accordingly, agents, eloquent and cunning men, were sent into
all the free States, especially into Pennsylvania, New York, and New
England, to press the claims of the oppressed people of the South upon
the compassion and generosity of the Northern philanthropists. Never
did agents do their work better. Never were more exciting appeals
made to the humane than were pressed home upon us by such men as Mr.
Gurley, Mr. Cresson, and their fellow-laborers. They kept out of sight
the real design, the primal object, the animus of the founders and
Southern patrons of the American Colonization Society. They presented
to us views of the debasing, dehumanizing effects of slavery upon its
victims; the need of a far-distant removal from its overshadowing
presence of those who had been blighted by it, that they might revive,
unfold their humanity, exhibit their capacities, command the respect of
those who had known them only in degradation, and, by their new-born
activities, not only secure comfort and plenty for themselves on the
shores of their fatherland, but prepare homes there for the reception
of millions still pining in slavery, who, we were assured, would be
gladly released whenever it should be known that the bestowment of
freedom would be a blessing and not a curse to them. Such appeals were
not made to our hearts in vain. Suffice it to say that Mr. Garrison,
Gerrit Smith, Arthur Tappan, William Goodell, and all the early
Abolitionists, were induced to espouse the cause of our oppressed
and enslaved countrymen, by the speeches and tracts of Southern

If I were intending to write a complete history of the conflict with
slavery in our country, gratitude would impel me to give some account
of a number of philanthropists who, in different parts of the Union,
some of them in the midst of slaveholding communities, before Mr.
Garrison’s day, had fully exposed and faithfully denounced “the great
iniquity,” I should make especial mention of


The former was a Presbyterian minister in Kentucky, where, in 1825,
having heard that his brother, Mr. Thomas Rankin, of Virginia, had
become a slaveholder, he addressed to him a series of very earnest and
impressive letters in remonstrance. They were published first in a
periodical called the _Castigator_, and afterwards went through several
editions in pamphlet form. He denounced “slavery as a never-failing
fountain of the grossest immoralities, and one of the deepest sources
of human misery.” He insisted that “the safety of our government and
the happiness of its subjects depended upon the extermination of this
evil.” We New England Abolitionists, in the early days of our warfare,
made great use of Mr. Rankin’s volume as a depository of well-attested
facts, justifying the strongest condemnation, we could utter, of the
system of oppression that had become established in our country and
sanctioned by our government.

Mr. Paxton was the pastor of a Presbyterian church in Cumberland,
Virginia. He was a member of the Presbyterian General Assembly, which
in 1818 denounced “the voluntary enslaving of one part of the human
race as a gross violation of the most precious and sacred rights of
human nature,--_utterly inconsistent with the law of God_.” Believing
what that grave body had declared, he set about endeavoring to convince
the church to which he ministered of the exceeding sinfulness of
slaveholding; and that “they ought to set their bondmen free so soon as
it could be done with advantage to them.” His preaching to this effect
gave offence to many of his parishioners, and led to his dismission. In
justice to himself, and to the cause of humanity, for espousing which
he had been persecuted, Mr. Paxton also published a volume of letters,
which were of great service to us. In these letters he faithfully
exposed the abject, debased, suffering condition of our American
slaves,--incomparably worse than that which was permitted under the
Mosaic dispensation,--and pretty effectually demolished the Bible
argument in support of the abomination. However, the labors of these
good men, and of those whom they roused, were erelong diverted into the
seductive channel of the Colonization scheme.

But there was another of the early antislavery reformers, of whom I may
write much more fully in accordance with my plan, which is to give,
for the most part, only my _personal recollections_ of the prominent
actors, and the most significant incidents, in our conflict with the
giant wrong of our nation and age.


In the month of June, 1828, there came to the town of Brooklyn,
Connecticut, where I then resided, and to the house of my friend, the
venerable philanthropist, George Benson, a man of small stature, of
feeble health, partially deaf, asking for a public hearing upon the
subject of American slavery. It was _Benjamin Lundy_. We gathered
for him a large congregation, and his address made a deep impression
on many of his hearers. He exhibited the wrong of slavery and the
sufferings of its victims in a graphic, affecting manner. But the
relief which he proposed was to be found in removing them to some of
the unoccupied territory of Texas or Mexico, rather than in recognizing
their rights as men here, in the country where so many of them had been
born; and in making all the amends possible for the injuries so long
inflicted upon them by giving them here the blessings of education,
and every opportunity and assistance to become all that God has made
them capable of being. Nevertheless, Mr. Lundy had done then, and he
continued afterwards, until his death in 1839, to do excellent service
in the cause of the enslaved. Indeed, his labors were so abundant, his
sacrifices so many, and his trials so severe, that no one will stand
before the God of the oppressed with a better record than he.

Benjamin Lundy was born in New Jersey, of Quaker parents, in 1789,
and was educated in the sentiments and under the influence of the
society of Friends. He was, therefore, from his earliest days, taught
to regard slaveholding as a great iniquity. At the age of nineteen he
went to reside in Wheeling, Virginia, and there learnt the saddler’s
trade. This he afterwards carried on, with great success for a number
of years, in the village of St. Clairville, Ohio, about ten miles from
Wheeling. But he could not banish from his memory the sights he had
seen at Wheeling, which was the great thoroughfare of the slave-trade
between Virginia and the Southern and Southwestern States; nor efface
from his heart the impression that he ought “to attempt to do something
for the relief of that most injured portion of the human race.”

As early as 1815, when twenty-six years of age, he formed an
antislavery society, which at first consisted of only six members,
but in a few months increased to nearly five hundred, among whom
were many of the influential ministers, lawyers, and other prominent
citizens of several of the counties in that part of Ohio. Although
unused to composition, he wrote an appeal to the philanthropists of
the United States, which was published and extensively circulated, and
led to the formation, in different parts of the State, of societies
similar in spirit and purpose to the one he had instituted. He then
engaged in the publication of an antislavery paper; and to promote its
circulation, and to gather materials for its columns, he commenced
his travels in the slave States. These were performed for the most
part on foot. Thus he journeyed thousands of miles, through Virginia,
Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. In most places
where he lectured publicly, or privately, he obtained subscribers to
his paper. In some places he succeeded in forming associations similar
to his own. Not unfrequently he met with angry rebuffs and violent
threats of personal injury. But he was a man of the most quiet courage,
as well as indomitable perseverance. He disconcerted his assailants
by letting them see that they could not frighten him; that the threat
of assassination would not deter him from prosecuting his object.
Several slaveholders were so much affected by his exposition of their
iniquity that they manumitted their bondmen, on condition that he would
take them to a place where they would be free. Twice or thrice he
went to Hayti, conducting such freed ones thither, and finding homes
for others whom he hoped to send there. Afterwards he explored large
portions of Mexico and Texas; and made strenuous endeavors to obtain
by grant or purchase sections of lands, upon which he might found
colonies of emancipated people from this country. In this attempt he
was unsuccessful; but while prosecuting it he gathered much valuable
information respecting the state of that country, of which afterwards
important use was made by the Hon. J. Q. Adams, in his strenuous
opposition in 1836 to the audacious plot by which Texas was annexed to
our Republic.

Mr. Lundy was indefatigable in laboring for whatever he undertook to
accomplish. He learnt the printer’s art, that he might communicate
to the public whatever he discovered by his diligent inquiries of
the condition of the enslaved, and enkindle in others that sympathy
for them which glowed in his own bosom. He was not stationary for
a long while in any one place. His paper, _The Genius of Universal
Emancipation_, was published successively in Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee,
and in Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore. For a considerable
time his lecturing excursions were so frequent, diverse, and distant,
that it was most convenient to him to get his paper printed, wherever
he happened to be, from month to month. So he earned along with him
the type, “heading,” the “column-rules,” and his “direction-book,”
and issued “the Genius,” &c., from any office that was accessible
to him. He often had to pay for the publication of it by working as
a journeyman printer, and at other times had to support himself by
working at his saddler’s trade. Nothing discouraged, nothing daunted
Benjamin Lundy. He possessed, in an eminent degree, the faith,
patience, self-denial, courage, and endurance necessary to a pioneer.
He was frequently threatened, repeatedly assaulted, and once brutally
beaten. But he could not be deterred from prosecuting the work to which
he was called. He was a rare specimen of perfect fidelity to duty, a
conscientious, meek, but fearless, determined man, a soldier of the
cross, a moral hero.


William Lloyd Garrison commenced his literary and philanthropic labors
when a young journeyman printer, in his native place, Newburyport,
Mass. In 1825 he removed to Boston, and labored for a while in the
office of the _Recorder_. In 1827 he united with Rev. William Collier
in editing and publishing the _National Philanthropist_, the only
paper then devoted to the Temperance cause. And soon after he engaged
in conducting _The Journal of the Times_, at Bennington, Vt. In each
of these papers, especially the last, he took strong ground against
slavery. Believing the plan of the Colonization Society to be intended
to remove the great evil from our country, he espoused it with ardor,
and advocated it with such signal ability, that he was recalled to
Boston to deliver, in Park Street church, the annual address to the
Massachusetts Colonization Society, on the 4th of July, 1828.

Mr. Garrison’s writings attracted the attention of that devoted,
self-sacrificing friend of the enslaved, Benjamin Lundy, of whom I have
just now given some account. He urged him in 1828, and persuaded him in
the autumn of 1829, to remove to Baltimore, and assist in editing _The
Genius of Universal Emancipation_. There Mr. G. soon saw, with his own
eyes, the atrocities of slavery and the inter-state slave-trade; there
he discovered the real design and spirit of the Colonization scheme;
there the radical doctrine of _immediate, unconditional_ emancipation
was revealed to him. He soon made himself obnoxious to slaveholders
by his faithful exposure of their cruelties; and his unsparing
condemnation of their atrocious system of oppression.

After he had been in Baltimore a few months, a Northern captain came
there in a ship owned and freighted by a gentleman of Newburyport, Mr.
Garrison’s birthplace. Failing to obtain another cargo, said captain,
with the consent of his owner, took on board a load of slaves to be
transported to New Orleans. Such an outrage on humanity, perpetrated
by Massachusetts men, enkindled Mr. G.’s hottest indignation, and drew
from his pen a scathing rebuke. He was forthwith arrested as both a
civil and criminal offender. He was prosecuted for a libel upon the
captain and owner of the ship “Francis,” and for disturbing the peace
by attempting to excite the slaves to insurrection.

It would be needless to spend time in proving that, in the presence
of a slaveholding judge, before a slaveholding jury, surrounded by a
community of incensed slaveholders, the young reformer did not have a
fair trial. He was found guilty under both indictments. He was fined
and sentenced to imprisonment a certain time, as the punishment for his
alleged crime, and afterward, until the fine imposed for “the libel”
should be paid. It was then and there that his free, undaunted spirit
inscribed upon the walls of his cell that joyous, jubilant sonnet,
which could have been written only by one conscious of innocence in the
sight of the Holy God, of a great purpose and a sacred mission yet to
be accomplished.

    “High walls and huge the body may confine,
      And iron grates obstruct the prisoner’s gaze,
    And massive bolts may baffle his design,
      And watchful keepers eye his devious ways;
    Yet scorns the immortal _mind_ this base control!
      No chain can bind _it_, and no cell enclose.
    Swifter than light it flies from pole to pole,
      And in a flash from earth to heaven it goes.
    It leaps from mount to mount. From vale to vale
      It wanders, plucking honeyed fruits and flowers.
    It visits home to hoar the fireside tale,
      Or in sweet converse pass the joyous hours.
    ’Tis up before the sun, roaming afar,
      And in its watches, wearies every star.”

After seven weeks of close confinement Mr. Garrison was liberated by
the noble, discriminating generosity of the late Arthur Tappan, then in
the height of his affluence, who, so long as he had wealth, felt that
he was an almoner of God’s bounty, and gave his money gladly, in many
ways, to the relief of suffering humanity. The spirit of freedom,--the
true American eagle,--thus uncaged, flew back to his native New
England, and thence sent forth that cry which disturbed the repose of
every slaveholder in the land, and has resounded throughout the world.

It so happened, in the good Providence “which shapes our ends,” that I
was on a visit in Boston at that time,--October, 1830. An advertisement
appeared in the newspapers, that during the following week W. Lloyd
Garrison would deliver to the public three lectures, in which he would
exhibit the awful sinfulness of slaveholding; expose the duplicity
of the Colonization Society, revealing its true character; and, in
opposition to it, would announce and maintain the doctrine, that
immediate, unconditional emancipation is the right of every slave and
the duty of every master. The advertisement announced that his lectures
would be delivered on the Common, unless some church or commodious hall
should be proffered to him gratuitously. If I remember correctly, it
was intimated in the newspapers, or currently reported at the time,
that Mr. G. had applied for several of the Boston churches, and been
refused, because it was known that he had become an opponent of the
Colonization Society. A day or two after the first I saw a second
advertisement, informing the public that the free use of “Julien Hall,”
occupied by Rev. Abner Kneeland’s church, having been generously
tendered to Mr. Garrison, he would deliver his lectures there instead
of the Common. I had not then seen this resolute young man. I had been
much impressed by some of his writings, knew of his connection with Mr.
Lundy, and had heard of his imprisonment. Of course I was eager to see
and hear him, and went to Julien Hall in due season on the appointed
evening. My brother-in-law, A. Bronson Alcott, and my cousin, Samuel E.
Sewall, accompanied me. Truer men could not easily have been found.

The hall was pretty well filled. Among some persons whom I did, and
many whom I did not know, I saw there Rev. Dr. Beecher, Rev. Mr. (now
Dr.) Gannett, Deacon Moses Grant, and John Tappan, Esq.

Presently the young man arose, modestly, but with an air of calm
determination, and delivered such a lecture as he only, I believe, at
that time, could have written; for he only had had his eyes so anointed
that he could see that outrages perpetrated upon Africans were wrongs
done to our common humanity; he only, I believe, had had his ears so
completely unstopped of “prejudice against color” that the cries of
enslaved black men and black women sounded to him as if they came from
brothers and sisters.

He began with expressing deep regret and shame for the zeal he had
lately manifested in the Colonization cause. It was, he confessed, a
zeal without knowledge. He had been deceived by the misrepresentations
so diligently given, throughout the free States by Southern agents,
of the design and tendency of the Colonization scheme. During his few
months’ residence in Maryland he had been completely undeceived. He
had there found out that the design of those who originated, and the
especial intentions of those in the Southern States that engaged in
the plan, were to remove from the country, as “a disturbing element”
in slaveholding communities, all the free colored people, so that the
bondmen might the more easily be held in subjection. He exhibited in
graphic sketches and glowing colors the suffering of the enslaved, and
denounced the plan of Colonization as devised and adapted to perpetuate
the system, and intensify the wrongs of American slavery, and therefore
utterly undeserving of the patronage of lovers of liberty and friends
of humanity.

Never before was I so affected by the speech of man. When he had ceased
speaking I said to those around me: “That is a providential man; he is
a prophet; he will shake our nation to its centre, but he will shake
slavery out of it. We ought to know him, we ought to help him. Come,
let us go and give him our hands.” Mr. Sewall and Mr. Alcott went up
with me, and we introduced each other. I said to him: “Mr. Garrison, I
am not sure that I can indorse all you have said this evening. Much of
it requires careful consideration. But I am prepared to embrace you.
I am sure you are called to a great work, and I mean to help you.”
Mr. Sewall cordially assured him of his readiness also to co-operate
with him. Mr. Alcott invited him to his home. He went, and we sat with
him until twelve that night, listening to his discourse, in which he
showed plainly that _immediate, unconditional emancipation, without
expatriation, was the right of every slave, and could not be withheld
by his master an hour without sin_. That night my soul was baptized in
his spirit, and ever since I have been a disciple and fellow-laborer of
William Lloyd Garrison.

The next morning, immediately after breakfast, I went to his
boarding-house and stayed until two P. M. I learned that he was poor,
dependent upon his daily labor for his daily bread, and intending to
return to the printing business. But, before he could devote himself
to his own support, he felt that he must deliver his message, must
communicate to persons of prominent influence what he had learned of
the sad condition of the enslaved, and the institutions and spirit of
the slaveholders; trusting that all true and good men would discharge
the obligation pressing upon them to espouse the cause of the poor, the
oppressed, the down-trodden. He read to me letters he had addressed to
Dr. Channing, Dr. Beecher, Dr. Edwards, the Hon. Jeremiah Mason, and
Hon. Daniel Webster, holding up to their view the tremendous iniquity
of the land, and begging them, ere it should be too late, to interpose
their great power in the Church and State to save our country from the
terrible calamities which the sin of slavery was bringing upon us.
Those letters were eloquent, solemn, impressive. I wonder they did not
produce a greater effect. It was because none to whom he appealed, in
public or private, would espouse the cause, that Mr. Garrison found
himself left and impelled to become the leader of the great antislavery
reform, which must be _thoroughly accomplished_ before our Republic can
stand upon a sure foundation.

The hearing of Mr. Garrison’s lectures was a great epoch in my own
life. The impression which they made upon my soul has never been
effaced; indeed, they moulded it anew. They gave a new direction to my
thoughts, a new purpose to my ministry. I had become a convert to the
doctrine of “immediate, unconditional emancipation,--liberation from
slavery without expatriation.”

I was engaged to preach on the following Sunday for Brother Young,
in Summer Street Church. Of course I could not again speak to a
congregation, as a Christian minister, and be silent respecting the
_great iniquity_ of our nation. The only sermon I had brought from my
home in Connecticut, that could be made to bear on the subject, was one
on Prejudice,--the sermon about to be published as one of the Tracts
of the American Unitarian Association. So I touched it up as well as I
could, interlining here and there words and sentences which pointed in
the new direction to which my thoughts and feelings so strongly tended,
and writing at its close what used to be called an _improvement_.
Thus: “The subject of my discourse bears most pertinently upon a
matter of the greatest national as well as personal importance.
There are more than two millions of our fellow-beings, children of
the Heavenly Father, who are held in our country in the most abject
slavery,--regarded and treated like domesticated animals, their rights
as men trampled under foot, their conjugal, parental, fraternal
relations and affections utterly set at naught. It is our _prejudice_
against the color of these poor people that makes us consent to the
tremendous wrongs they are suffering. If they were white,--ay, if only
two thousand or two hundred _white_ men, women, and children in the
Southern States were treated as these millions of colored ones are,
we of the North should make such a stir of indignation, we should so
agitate the country, with our appeals and remonstrances, that the
oppressors would be compelled to set their bondmen free. But will our
_prejudice_ be accepted by the Almighty, the impartial Judge of all,
as a valid excuse for our indifference to the wrongs and outrages
inflicted upon these millions of our countrymen? O no! O no! He will
say, “Inasmuch as ye did not what ye could for the relief of these,
the least of the brethren, ye did it not to me.” Tell me not that
we are forbidden by the Constitution of our country to interfere in
behalf of the enslaved. No compact our fathers may have made for us,
no agreement we could ourselves make, would annul our obligations to
suffering fellow-men. “Yes, yes,” I said, with an emphasis that seemed
to startle everybody in the house, “if need be, the very foundations
of our Republic must be broken up; and if this stone of stumbling,
this rock of offence, cannot be removed from under it, the proud
superstructure must fall. It cannot stand, it ought not to stand, it
will not stand, on the necks of millions of men.” For “God is just, and
his justice will not sleep forever.” I then offered such a prayer as my
kindled spirit moved me to, and gave out the hymn commencing,

    “Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve;
      And press with vigor on.”

When I rose to pronounce the benediction I said: “Every one present
must be conscious that the closing remarks of my sermon have caused an
unusual emotion throughout the church. I am glad. Would to God that a
deeper emotion could be sent throughout our land, until all the people
thereof shall be roused from their wicked insensibility to the most
tremendous sin of which any nation was ever guilty, and be impelled
to do that righteousness which alone can avert the just displeasure
of God. I have been prompted to speak thus by the words I have heard
during the past week from a young man hitherto unknown, but who is, I
believe, called of God to do a greater work for the good of our country
than has been done by any one since the Revolution. I mean William
Lloyd Garrison. He is going to repeat his lectures the coming week. I
advise, I exhort, I entreat--would that I could compel!--you to go and
hear him.”

On turning to Brother Young after the benediction I found that he
was very much displeased. He sharply reproved me, and gave me to
understand that I should never have an opportunity so to violate the
propriety of his pulpit again. And never since then have I lifted up my
voice within that beautiful church, which has lately been taken down.

The excited audience gathered in clusters, evidently talking about
what had happened. I found the porch full of persons conversing in
very earnest tones. Presently a lady of fine person, her countenance
suffused with emotion, tears coursing down her cheeks, pressed through
the crowd, seized my hand, and said audibly, with deep feeling: “Mr.
May, I thank you. What a shame it is that I, who have been a constant
attendant from my childhood in this or some other Christian church,
am obliged to confess that to-day, for the first time, I have heard
from the pulpit a plea for the oppressed, the enslaved millions in
our land!” All within hearing of her voice were evidently moved in
sympathy with her, or were awed by her emotion. For myself I could only
acknowledge in a word my gratitude for her generous testimony.

The next day I perceived, on his return from his place of business in
State Street, that my revered father was much disturbed by the reports
he had heard of my preaching. Some of the “gentlemen of property and
standing” who had been my auditors said it was fanatical, others that
it was incendiary, others that it was treasonable, and begged him to
“arrest me in my mad career.” The only one, as he soon afterwards
informed me, who had spoken in any other than terms of censure was
the great and good Dr. Bowditch, who said, “Depend upon it, the young
man is more than half right.” My father tried to dissuade me from
engaging in the attempt to overthrow the system of slavery which Mr.
Garrison proposed. He had come, with most others, to regard it as an
unavoidable evil, one that the fathers of our Republic had not ventured
to suppress, but had rather given to its protection something like a
guaranty. He thought, with most others at that day, that slavery must
be left to be gradually removed by the progress of civilization, the
growth of higher ideas of human nature, and the manifest superiority
and hotter economy of free labor. He admonished me that, in assailing
the institution of American slavery, I should only be “kicking against
the pricks,” that I should lose my standing in the ministry and my
usefulness in the church. I need not add that he failed to convince me
that “the foolishness of preaching” would not yet be “mighty to the
pulling down of the stronghold of Satan.” In less than ten years he was
reconciled to my course.

A few days afterwards I gave my sermon on Prejudice to my most
excellent friend, Rev. Henry Ware, Jr., who was then the purveyor
of tracts for the American Unitarian Association. He accepted the
discourse as originally written, but insisted that the interlineations
and the additions respecting slavery should be omitted. He would not
have done this, nor should I have consented to it, a few years later.
But we were all in bondage then. Unconsciously to ourselves, the hand
of the slaveholding power lay _heavily_ upon the mind and heart of the
people in our Northern as well as Southern States.

What a pity that my words in that sermon, respecting slavery, were not
published in the tract! They might have helped a little to commit our
Unitarian denomination much earlier to the cause of impartial liberty,
in earnest protest against the great oppression, the unparalleled
iniquity of our land. Of whom should opposition to slavery of every
kind have been expected so soon as from Unitarian Christians?

The insensibility of the people of our country to the wrongs, the
outrages, we were directly and indirectly inflicting upon our colored
brethren, when Mr. Garrison commenced the antislavery reform,--the
insensibility of the Northern people, scarcely less than that of the
Southern,--of New England as well as of the Carolinas and Georgia,
of the professing Christians, almost as much as of the political
partisans,--that insensibility, not yet wholly overpast, even in
Massachusetts, is a _moral phenomenon_. A more glaring inconsistency
does not appear in the whole history of mankind.

The love of liberty was an American passion. We gloried in our
Revolution. We thought our fathers were to be honored above all men
for throwing off the British yoke. Taxation without representation was
not to be submitted to. “Resistance to tyrants was obedience to God.”
We regarded the “Declaration of Independence” as the most momentous
document ever penned by mortal man, the herald note of deliverance
to the race. The first sentence of the second paragraph of it was as
familiar to everybody as the Lord’s Prayer; and almost as sacred as
that prayer did we hold the words “All men were created equal, endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And yet few had given a thought
to the fact that there were millions of men, women, and children in
our land who were held under a heavier bondage than that to which the
Israelites were subjected in the land of Egypt, were denied all the
rights of humanity, were herded together like brutes,--bought, sold,
worked, whipped like cattle.

All in our country who were descendants from the Puritans, especially
those of us who claimed descent from the fathers of New England, were
imbued with the spirit of _religious_ liberty, had much to say about
the rights of conscience; but we gave no heed to the awful fact that
there were millions in the land who were not allowed to exercise any of
those rights, were not permitted to read the Bible or any other book,
and were taught little else about God, but that He was an invisible,
ever-present, almighty overseer of the plantations upon which they were
worked like cattle, standing ready at all times, everywhere, to inflict
upon them, if they neglected their unrequited tasks, a thousand-fold
more dreadful punishment than their earthly tormentors were able even
to conceive.

We Americans, especially we New-Englanders, were, or thought we were,
all alive to the cause of human freedom. We were quick to hear the cry
of the oppressed, that came to us from distant lands. We stopped not
to ask the language, character, or complexion of the sufferers. It was
enough for us to know that they were human beings, and that they were
deprived of liberty. We hesitated not to denounce their tyrants.

The call for succor which came to us from Greece was quickly heard and
promptly answered in almost all parts of our country. And why? Not
because the Greeks were a more virtuous or more intelligent people
than their enemies. No; we had little reason to think them better than
the Turks. But they were the _injured_ party, and therefore we roused
ourselves to aid them. How much soever our orators and poets gathered
up the hallowed associations which cluster around that classic land,
they all were but the decorations, not the point, of their appeals. It
was the story of the _wrongs_ of the Grecians which found the way to
our hearts, and stirred us up to encourage and succor them in their
conflict for _liberty_. Dr. Howe will tell you that it was not their
admiration of Greece in her ancient glory, but their sympathy for
Greece in her modern degradation, that impelled him and his chivalrous
companions to fly thither, and peril their lives in her cause.

Coming to us from any other land, the cry for freedom sent through
American bosoms a thrilling emotion. We stopped not to inquire who they
were that would be free. If they were men, we knew they had a right to
liberty. No matter how the yoke had been fastened on them,--whether by
inheritance, or conquest, or political compromise,--we felt that it
ought to be broken. And although to break it the whole social fabric of
their oppressors must be overturned, still we said, _Let the yoke be

Thus we quickly felt, thus we reasoned and acted, in all cases of
oppression excepting one,--the one _at home_, the one in which we were
implicated with the oppressors. We were blind, we were deaf, we were
dumb, to the wrongs and outrages inflicted upon one sixth part of the
population of our own country. In the Southern States the colored
people were held as property, chattels personal, liable to all the
incidents of the estates of their owners, could be seized to pay their
debts, or mortgaged, or given away, or bequeathed by them. To all
intents and purposes, they were regarded by the laws of those States,
and might be legally disposed of, and otherwise treated, just like
domesticated brute animals. In most of the Northern States they were
not admitted to the prerogatives of citizens. In none of them were they
allowed to enjoy equal social, educational, or religious privileges;
nor were they permitted to engage in any of the lucrative professions,
trades, or handicrafts. They were condemned to all the menial offices.
It was impossible not to respect and value many of them as servants
and nurses, but they were not suffered to come nearer to white people
in any domestic or social relations. Intermarriages with them were
illegal, and punishable by heavy penalties. They were not allowed to
travel (unless as servants) in any public conveyances. Their children
were excluded from the schools which white children attended, and they
were set apart in one corner of the places of public worship called
the houses of God,--_the impartial Father_ of all men. A certain shade
of complexion, though much lighter than some brunettes, consigned any
one guilty of it to the grade of the blacks, which was de-gradation.
We were educated to regard negroes as an inferior race of beings,
not entitled to the distinctive rights and privileges of white men.
Ignorance, poverty, and servitude came to be considered the birthright,
the inheritance, of all Africans and their descendants; and therefore
we did not feel the pressure of their bonds, nor the smart of the
wounds that were continually given them.

Prejudice against color had become universal. The most elevated
were not superior to it; the humblest white men were not below it.
_Colorphobia_ was a disease that infected all white Americans. Let me
give my readers one instance of its virulence.

In 1834, being on a visit to my father in Boston, I was requested
to call upon one of his old friends, that he might dissuade me from
co-operating any further with “that wrong-headed, fanatical Garrison.”
The honorable gentleman was very prominent in the fashionable,
professional, and political society of that city. He had always
expressed a kind regard for me, and had shown his confidence by
committing to my care the education of two of his sons.

I did not doubt that he had been moved to send for me by his sincere
concern for what he deemed my welfare. He received me with elegant
courtesy, as he was wont to do, but entered at once upon the subject
of “Mr. Garrison’s misdirected, mischievous enterprise.” He insisted
that, while the negroes ought to be treated humanely, the thought
of their ever being elevated to an equality with white men was
preposterous, and he wondered that a man of common sense should
entertain the thought an hour. He said: “Why, they are evidently an
inferior race of beings, intended to be the servants of those on whom
the Creator has conferred a higher nature,” and adduced the arguments
which were then becoming, and have since been, so common with those
who would maintain this position. At length I said to him: “Sir, we
Abolitionists are not so foolish as to require or wish that ignorant
negroes should be considered wise men, or that vicious negroes should
be considered virtuous men, or poor negroes be considered rich men.
All we demand for them is that negroes shall be permitted, encouraged,
assisted to become as wise, as virtuous, and as rich as they can,
and be acknowledged to be just what they have become, and be treated
accordingly.” He replied, with great emphasis: “Mr. M., if you should
bring me negroes who had become the wisest of the wise, the best of the
good, the richest of the rich, I would not acknowledge them to be my
equals.” “Then,” said I, “you might be laughed at; for, if there be any
meaning in your words, such men would be your superiors. Think, sir, a
moment of your presuming to contemn the wisest of the wise, the best of
the good, the richest of the rich, because of their complexion. This
would be the insanity of prejudice. Why, sir,” I continued, “Rammohun
Roy is soon coming to this country; and he is of a darker hue than
many American persons who are prescribed and degraded because of their
color.” “Well, sir,” he angrily replied, “I am not one who will show
him any respect.” “What,” I cried, “not take pains to know and treat
with respect Rammohun Roy?” “No,” he rejoined,--“no, not even Rammohun
Roy!” “Then,” I retorted, “you will lose the honor of taking by the
hand the most remarkable man of our age.” He was much offended, and, as
I afterwards learnt, chose that our acquaintance should end with that

Such was the prejudice that Mr. Garrison found confronting him
everywhere, and it still is the greatest obstacle in our country to the
progress of liberty and the establishment of peace.

    “Truths would you teach to save a sinking land?
    All fear, none aid you, and few understand.”

Never, since the days of our Saviour, have these lines of Pope been
more fully verified than in the experience of Mr. Garrison. So soon as
it was known that he opposed the Colonization plan, and demanded for
the enslaved immediate emancipation, without expatriation, he was at
once generally denounced as a very dangerous person. Very few of those
who were convinced by his facts and his appeals that something should
be done forthwith for the relief of our oppressed millions ventured,
during the first twelve months of his labors, to help him. Even the
excellent Deacon Grant would not trust him for paper on which to print
his _Liberator_ a month. And most of those who assisted him to get
audiences wherever he went, and who subscribed for the _Liberator_,
and who expressed their best wishes, were intimidated by his boldness,
frequently half acknowledged that he demanded too much for our
bondmen, and could not be made to understand his fundamental doctrine
of “immediate unconditional emancipation,” often and clearly as he
expounded it.

In November, 1831, I happened again to be in Boston on a visit, when
it was proposed to attempt the formation of an antislavery society.
A meeting was called at the office of Samuel E. Sewall, Esq. Fifteen
gentlemen assembled there. We agreed in the outset that, if the
apostolic number of twelve should be found ready to unite upon the
principles that should be thought vital, and in a plan of operations
deemed wise and expedient, we would then and there organize an
association. Mr. Garrison announced the doctrine of “immediate
emancipation” as being essential to the great reform that was needed
in our land, the extirpation of slavery, and the establishment of the
human rights of the millions who were groaning under a worse than
Egyptian bondage. We discussed the point two hours. But though we were
the earliest and most earnest friends of the young reformer, only
_nine_ of us were brought to see, eye to eye with him, as to the right
of the slave and the duty of the master. Only nine of us were brought
to see that a man was a man, let his complexion be what it might be;
and that no other man, not the most exalted in the land, could regard
and hold him a moment as his property, his chattel, _without sin_.
Only nine of us were brought to understand that the first thing to be
done for those men held in the condition of domesticated brutes, was
to recognize, acknowledge their _humanity_, and secure to them their
God-given rights,--those rights of all men set forth as inalienable in
the immortal Declaration of American Independence. Only nine of us were
brought to see that the _first_ thing to be done for the improvement
of the condition of the slave is to break his yoke, to set him free,
and that what needs to be done first ought to be done without delay,
immediately. The rest of the company partook of the fear, common at
that day, that it would be very dangerous to set millions of slaves
free at once. Although liberty was announced to the world, in our
American Declaration, as the _birthright_ of all the children of
men, yet were the people of our country so blinded and besotted by
the influence of our slave system, that it was almost universally
pronounced unsafe to give liberty to adult men, who were slaves, until
they should be prepared for freedom, and deemed qualified to exercise
it aright. Mr. Garrison had had to meet and combat this senseless fear
everywhere, from the commencement of his enterprise. He had shown to
all who could see that slavery was not a school in which men could
be educated for liberty; that they could no more be trained to feel
and act as freemen should, so long as they were kept in bondage, than
children could be taught to walk so long as they were held in the
arms of nurses. Moreover, he argued, that if those only should be
intrusted with liberty who knew how to use it, slaveholders were of
all men the last that should be left free, seeing that they habitually
outraged liberty,--indeed, had been educated to trample upon human
rights. Still, his doctrine was generally misunderstood, egregiously
misrepresented, and violently opposed. And, as I have stated, only nine
out of fifteen of his elect followers, after he had been preaching
and publishing the doctrine a year, fully believed or dared to unite
with him in announcing it to the world as their faith. We therefore
separated in November, 1831, without having organized. I returned
disappointed to my home in Connecticut, eighty miles from Boston;
too far at that day, ere railroads were lain, to come, in the depth
of winter, to assist in the formation of the New England Antislavery
Society, which took place in January, 1832. So I lost the honor of
being one of the actual founders of the first society based upon the
true principle,--_immediate emancipation_.

That there was point, vitality, power, in this doctrine was proved by
the commotion which was everywhere caused by the promulgation of it.
From one end of the country to the other the cry went forth against
the editor of the _Liberator_, Fanatic! Incendiary! Madman! The
slaveholders raved, and their Northern apologists confessed that they
had too much cause to be offended. Grave statesmen and solemn divines
pronounced the doctrines of the New England Abolitionists unwise,
dangerous, false, unconstitutional, revolutionary. Encouraged by these
responses, the slaveholding aristocrats grew so bold as to demand
that “this fanatical assault upon one of their domestic institutions
should be quelled at once,” that the publications of the Abolitionists
should be suppressed, our meetings dispersed, our lecturers and agents
arrested. And scarcely had the _Liberator_ entered upon its second
year before a reward was offered by a Southern Legislature for the
abduction of the person, or for the life of its editor. And no Northern
Legislature expressed its alarm or surprise. No Northern paper, secular
or religious, reproved these assaults upon the liberty of the press and
the freedom of speech. Thus was the viper _cherished_ that has since
stung so deeply the bosom of our Republic, has inflicted a wound that
is still open and festering.

The grossest abuse was heaped upon Mr. Garrison; the vilest aspersions
cast upon his character by those who knew nothing of his private life;
the worst designs imputed to his great enterprise by those who were
interested directly or indirectly in upholding the system of iniquity
which he had resolved to overthrow.

One of the charges brought against him, the one which probably hindered
his success more than any other, was that he was an enemy of religion,
an infidel, and that his covert but real purpose was to subvert the
institutions of Christianity.

Now Mr. Garrison is, and ever has been since I knew him, a profoundly
religious man, one of the most so I have ever known. No one really
acquainted with him will say the contrary, unless it be under the
impulse of a sectarian prejudice, personal resentment, or a sinister
purpose. True, his doctrinal opinions and his regard for rites and
forms have come to differ from those of the popular religionists of
our day, as much as did the opinions of Jesus Christ differ from those
of the temple and synagogue worshippers of his day. It would have been
_politic_ in him not to have incurred, as he did, the opposition and
hatred of so many of the ministers and churches of our country. But
Mr. Garrison knew not how to counsel with the wisdom of this world.
He surely had as much cause and as frequent occasions to expose the
inhumanity and hypocrisy of our country as Jesus had to denounce the
scribes, Pharisees, and priests of Judea. He soon discovered, to his
astonishment, that the American Church was the bulwark of American
slaveholders. The truth of this accusation was afterwards elaborately
proved by the Hon. J. G. Birney. It was emphatically acknowledged by
the Rev. Dr. Albert Barnes, and has since been repeatedly declared by
Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and Rev. Dr. Cheever, all honorable, orthodox
men. Now, pray, how ought a great captain, though his army be a small
one,--how ought he to treat the _bulwark_ of the enemy he means to
subdue? how but to assail and demolish it if he can? God be praised,
Christianity and the American Church were not then, and are not now,
identical. The religion of Jesus Christ is dearer to Mr. Garrison than
his own life. It was only the hollow-hearted pretenders to piety whom
he exposed, censured, ridiculed. He never uttered from his pen or his
lips a word that I have read or heard, or that has been reported to
me,--not a word but in reverence and love of the truth and the spirit,
the doctrines and the precepts, of Jesus Christ.

Many of those who were interested in Mr. Garrison’s holy purpose,
and wished him success, thought him too severe; many more thought
him indiscreet. He was remonstrated with often earnestly. But he
could not be persuaded that it was not right and wise to blame those
persons _most_ for our national sin who had the most influence on the
government, the policy, the prevailing sentiments, the customs, and,
above all, the _religion_ of the nation. Mr. Garrison would sometimes
argue, and argue powerfully, convincingly, with those who found fault
with his words of fiery indignation, and show that tamer language
would be inapt, unfelt. At other times he would say, “Do the poor,
hunted, hounded, down-trodden slaves think my language too severe or
misapplied? Do that wretched husband and wife who have just now been
separated from each other forever by that respectable gentleman in
Virginia,--the one sold to be taken to New Orleans, the other kept at
home to pine in the hovel made desolate,--do that husband and wife
think my denunciation of their master too severe, because he is a
judge, or a governor, or a minister, or because he is a member of a
Christian church, or even because he has been hitherto, and in other
respects, a kind master to them? Until I hear such ones complain of
my severity, I shall not doubt its propriety.” “If those who deserve
the lash feel it and wince at it, I shall be assured I am striking
the right persons in the right place.” “I will be,” are his memorable
words that rung through the land,--“I will be as harsh as truth, and as
uncompromising as justice. On the subject of slavery I do not wish to
think or speak or write with moderation. 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 gradually
extricate her babe from the fire; but urge me not to use moderation
in a cause like the present. I am in earnest. I will not equivocate; I
will not excuse; I will not retreat an inch; and _I will be heard_.”

Mr. Garrison will perhaps remember that, a few months after he
commenced the _Liberator_, when almost everybody was finding fault
with him, or wishing that he would be more temperate, I was one of
the friends that came to remonstrate and entreat. He and his faithful
partner, Isaac Knapp, were at work in the little upper chamber, No. 6
Merchants’ Hall, where they lived, as well as they could, with their
printing-press and types, all within an enclosure sixteen or eighteen
feet square. I requested him to walk out with me, that we might confer
on an important matter. He at once laid aside his pen, and we descended
to the street. I informed him how much troubled I had become for fear
he was damaging the cause he had so much at heart by the undue severity
of his style. He listened to me patiently, tenderly. I told him what
many of the wise and prudent, who professed an interest in his object,
said about his manner of pursuing it. He replied somewhat in the way
I have described above. “But,” said I, “some of the epithets you use,
though not perhaps too severe, are not precisely applicable to the sin
you denounce, and so may seem abusive.” “Ah!” he rejoined, “until the
term ‘slaveholder’ sends as deep a feeling of horror to the hearts of
those who hear it applied to any one as the terms ‘robber,’ ‘pirate,’
‘murderer’ do, we must use and multiply epithets when condemning the
sin of him who is guilty of the ‘_sum of all villanies_.’” “O,” cried
I, “my friend, do try to moderate your indignation, and keep more cool;
why, you are all on fire.” He stopped, laid his hand upon my shoulder
with a kind but emphatic pressure, that I have felt ever since, and
said slowly, with deep emotion, “Brother May, I have need to be _all
on fire_, for I have mountains of ice about me to melt.” From that hour
to this I have never said a word to Mr. Garrison, in complaint of his
style. I am more than half satisfied now that he was right then, and we
who objected were mistaken.

A year or two afterwards I was in the study of Dr. Channing, who,
from the rise of the antislavery movement, watched it with deep and
increasing emotion, and often sent for me, and oftener for the heroic
Dr. Follen, to converse with us about it. I was in the Doctor’s study,
and had been endeavoring to explain and reconcile him to some measures
of the Abolitionists which I found had troubled him, when he said, with
great gravity and earnestness, “But, Mr. May, your friend Garrison’s
style is excessively severe. The epithets he uses are harsh, abusive,
exasperating.” I replied, “Dr. Channing, I thought so once myself. But
you have furnished me with a sufficient apology, if not justification,
of Mr. Garrison’s severity.” And taking from his bookcase the octavo
volume of the Doctor’s Discourses, Reviews, and Miscellanies, published
in 1830, I read parts of the passage commencing on the twenty-second
and closing on the twenty-fourth page, in which he replies to the
charge, brought against the great Milton’s prose writings, of
“party-spirit, coarse invective, and controversial asperity.” I wish
there were room here for me to quote the whole of it, it is all so
applicable to Mr. Garrison; but I will give only the close: “Men of
natural softness and timidity, of a sincere but effeminate virtue,
will be apt to look on these bolder, hardier spirits as violent,
perturbed, uncharitable; and the charge will not be wholly groundless.
But that deep feeling of evils, which is necessary to effectual
conflict with them, and which marks God’s most powerful messengers
to mankind, cannot breathe itself in soft and tender accents. The
deeply moved soul will speak strongly, and ought to speak so as to
move and shake nations. We must not mistake Christian benevolence
as if it had but one voice,--that of soft entreaty. It can speak in
piercing and awful tones. There is constantly going on in our world a
conflict between good and evil. The cause of human nature has always to
wrestle with foes. All improvement is a victory won by struggles. It is
especially true of those great periods which have been distinguished
by revolutions in government and religion, and from which we date the
most rapid movements of the human mind, that they have been signalized
by conflict. At such periods men gifted with great power of thought and
loftiness of sentiment are especially summoned to the conflict with
evil. They hear, as it were, in their own magnanimity and generous
aspirations the voice of a divinity; and thus commissioned, and burning
with a passionate devotion to truth and freedom, they must and will
speak with an indignant energy, and they ought not to be measured by
the standard of ordinary minds in ordinary times.

“Milton reverenced and loved human nature, and attached himself to its
great interests with a fervor of which only such a mind was capable.
He lived in one of those solemn periods which determine the character
of ages to come. His spirit was stirred to its very centre by the
presence of danger. He lived in the midst of battle. That the ardor
of his spirit sometimes passed the bounds of wisdom and charity, and
poured forth unwarrantable invective, we see and lament. But the purity
and loftiness of his mind break forth amidst his bitterest invectives.
We see a noble nature still. We see that no feigned love of truth and
freedom was a covering for selfishness and malignity. He did indeed
love and adore uncorrupted religion and intellectual liberty, and let
his name be enrolled among their truest champions.”

The Doctor bowed and smiled blandly, saying, “I confess the quotation
is not inapt nor unfairly made.”


Often, during the last thirty, and more often during the last ten
years, you must have seen in the newspapers, or heard from speakers in
Antislavery and Republican meetings, high commendations of the _County
of Windham_ in Connecticut, as bearing the banner of equal human and
political rights far above all the rest of that State. In the great
election of the year 1866 the people of that county gave a large
majority of votes in favor of _negro suffrage_.

This moral and political elevation of the public sentiment there is
undoubtedly owing to the distinct presentation and thorough discussion,
throughout that region, of the most vital antislavery questions in
1833 and 1834, called out by the shameful, cruel persecution of
Miss Prudence Crandall for attempting to establish in Canterbury a
boarding-school for “colored young ladies and little misses.”

I was then living in Brooklyn, the shire town of the county, six miles
from the immediate scene of the violent conflict, and so was fully
drawn into it. I regret that, in the following account of it, allusions
to myself and my acts must so often appear. But as Æneas said to Queen
Dido, in telling his story of the Trojan War, so may I say, respecting
the contest about the Canterbury school, “All of which I saw, and part
of which I was.”

In the summer or fall of 1832 I heard that Miss Prudence Crandall, an
excellent, well-educated Quaker young lady, who had gained considerable
reputation as a teacher in the neighboring town of Plainfield, had been
induced by a number of ladies and gentlemen of Canterbury to purchase
a commodious, large house in their pretty village, and establish her
boarding and day school there, that their daughters might receive
instruction in several higher branches of education not taught in the
public district schools, without being obliged to live far away from
their homes.

For a while the school answered the expectations of its patrons, and
enjoyed their favor; but early in the following year a trouble arose.
It was in this wise. Not far from the village of Canterbury there lived
a worthy colored man named Harris. He was the owner of a good farm,
and was otherwise in comfortable circumstances. He had a daughter,
Sarah, a bright girl about seventeen years of age. She had passed,
with good repute as a scholar, through the school of the district in
which she lived, and was hungering and thirsting for more education.
This she desired not only for her own sake, but that she might go
forth qualified to be a teacher of the colored people of our country,
to whose wrongs and oppression she had become very sensitive. Her
father encouraged her, and gladly offered to defray the expense of the
advantages she might be able to obtain. Sarah applied for admission
into this new Canterbury school. Miss Crandall confessed to me that at
first she hesitated and almost refused, lest admitting her might offend
the parents of her pupils, several of whom were Colonizationists, and
none of them Abolitionists. But Sarah urged her request with no little
force of argument and depth of feeling. Then she was a young lady of
pleasing appearance and manners, well known to many of Miss Crandall’s
pupils, having been their class-mate in the district school. Moreover,
she was accounted a virtuous, pious girl, and had been for some time
a member of the church of Canterbury. There could not, therefore,
have been a more unexceptionable case. No objection could be made to
her admission into the school, excepting only her dark (and not very
dark) complexion. Miss Crandall soon saw that she was unexpectedly
called to take some part (how important she could not foresee) in the
great contest for impartial liberty that was then beginning to agitate
violently our nation. She was called to act either in accordance with,
or in opposition to, the unreasonable, cruel, wicked prejudice against
the _color_ of their victims, by which the oppressors of millions
in our land were everywhere extenuating, if not justifying, their
tremendous system of iniquity. She bowed to the claim of humanity, and
admitted Sarah Harris to her school.

Her pupils, I believe, made no objection. But in a few days the
parents of some of them called and remonstrated. Miss Crandall pressed
upon their consideration Sarah’s eager desire for more knowledge and
culture, the good use she intended to make of her acquirements, her
excellent character and lady-like deportment, and, more than all, that
she was an accepted member of the same Christian church to which many
of them belonged. Her arguments, her entreaties, however, were of no
avail. Prejudice blinds the eyes, closes the ears, hardens the heart.
“Sarah belonged to the proscribed, despised class, and therefore must
not be admitted into a private school with their daughters.” This was
the gist of all they had to say. Reasons were thrown away, appeals to
their sense of right, to their compassion for injured fellow-beings,
made no impression. “They would not have it said that their daughters
went to school with a nigger girl.” Miss Crandall was assured that, if
she did not dismiss Sarah Harris, her white pupils would be withdrawn
from her.

She could not make up her mind to comply with such a demand, even to
save the institution she had so recently established with such fond
hopes, and in which she had invested all her property, and a debt of
several hundred dollars more. It was, indeed, a severe trial, but she
was strengthened to bear it. She determined to act right, and leave the
event with God. Accordingly, she gave notice to her neighbors, and,
on the 2d day of March, advertised in the _Liberator_, that at the
commencement of her next term, on the first Monday of April, her school
would be opened for “young ladies and little misses of color.”

Only a few days before, on the 27th of February, I was informed of her
generous, disinterested determination, and heard that, in consequence,
the whole town was in a flame of indignation, kindled and fanned by
the influence of the prominent people of the village, her immediate
neighbors and her late patrons. Without delay, therefore, although a
stranger, I addressed a letter to her, assuring her of my sympathy,
and of my readiness to help her all in my power. On the 4th of March
her reply came, begging me to come to her so soon as my engagements
would permit. Accompanied by my friend, Mr. George W. Benson, I went
to Canterbury on the afternoon of that day. On entering the village
we were warned that we should be in personal danger if we appeared
there as Miss Crandall’s friends; and when arrived at her house we
learnt that the excitement against her had become furious. She had
been grossly insulted, and threatened with various kinds of violence,
if she persisted in her purpose, and the most egregious falsehoods had
been put in circulation respecting her intentions, the characters
of her expected pupils, and of the future supporters of her school.
Moreover, we were informed that a town-meeting was to be held on the
9th instant, to devise and adopt such measures as “would effectually
avert the nuisance, or speedily abate it, if it should be brought into
the village.”

Though beat upon by such a storm, we found Miss Crandall resolved and
tranquil. The effect of her Quaker discipline appeared in every word
she spoke, and in every expression of her countenance. But, as she
said, it would not do for her to go into the town-meeting; and there
was not a man in Canterbury who would dare, if he were disposed, to
appear there in her behalf. “Will not you, Friend May, be my attorney?”
“Certainly,” I replied, “come what will.” We then agreed that I should
explain to the people how unexpectedly she had been led to take the
step which had given so much offence, and show them how she could
not have consented to the demand made by her former patrons without
wounding deeply the feelings of an excellent girl, known to most of
them, and adding to the mountain load of injuries and insults already
heaped upon the colored people of our country. With this arrangement,
we left her, to await the coming of the ominous meeting of the town.

On the 9th of March I repaired again to Miss Crandall’s house,
accompanied by my faithful friend, Mr. Benson. There, to our surprise
and joy, we found Friend Arnold Buffum, a most worthy man, an able
speaker, and then the principal lecturing agent of the New England
Antislavery Society. Miss Crandall gave to each of us a respectful
letter of introduction to the Moderator of the meeting, in which she
requested that we might be heard as her attorneys, and promised to be
bound by any agreement we might see fit to make with the citizens of
Canterbury. Miss Crandall concurred with us in the opinion that, as her
house was one of the most conspicuous in the village, and not wholly
paid for, if her opponents would take it off her hands, repaying what
she had given for it, cease from molesting her, and allow her time
to procure another house for her school, it would be better that she
should move to some more retired part of the town or neighborhood.

Thus commissioned and instructed, Friend Buffum and I proceeded to the
town-meeting. It was held in the “Meeting-House,” one of the old New
England pattern,--galleries on three sides, with room below and above
for a thousand persons, sitting and standing. We found it nearly filled
to its utmost capacity; and, not without difficulty, we passed up the
side aisle into the wall-pew next to the deacon’s seat, in which sat
the Moderator. Very soon the business commenced. After the “Warning”
had been read a series of Resolutions were laid before the meeting,
in which were set forth the disgrace and damage that would be brought
upon the town if a school for colored girls should be set up there,
protesting emphatically against the impending evil, and appointing the
civil authority and selectmen a committee to wait upon “the person
contemplating the establishment of said school, ... point out to her
the injurious effects, the incalculable evils, resulting from such
an establishment within this town, and persuade her, if possible, to
abandon the project.” The mover of the resolutions, Rufus Adams, Esq.,
labored to enforce them by a speech, in which he grossly misrepresented
what Miss Crandall had done, her sentiments and purposes, and threw out
several mean and low insinuations against the motives of those who were
encouraging her enterprise.

As soon as he sat down the Hon. Andrew T. Judson rose. This gentleman
was undoubtedly the chief of Miss Crandall’s persecutors. He was
the great man of the town, a leading politician in the State, much
talked of by the Democrats as soon to be governor, and a few years
afterwards was appointed Judge of the United States District Court.
His house on Canterbury Green stood next to Miss Crandall’s. The idea
of having “a school of nigger girls so near him was insupportable.” He
vented himself in a strain of reckless hostility to his neighbor, her
benevolent, self-sacrificing undertaking, and its patrons, and declared
his determination to thwart the enterprise. He twanged every chord
that could stir the coarser passions of the human heart, and with such
sad success that his hearers seemed to be filled with the apprehension
that a dire calamity was impending over them, that Miss Crandall was
the author or instrument of it, that there were powerful conspirators
engaged with her in the plot, and that the people of Canterbury should
be roused, by every consideration of self-preservation, as well as
self-respect, to prevent the accomplishment of the design, defying the
wealth and influence of all who were abetting it.

When he had ended his philippic Mr. Buffum and I silently presented
to the Moderator Miss Crandall’s letters, requesting that we might be
heard on her behalf. He handed them over to Mr. Judson, who instantly
broke forth with greater violence than before; accused us of insulting
the town by coming there to interfere with its local concerns. Other
gentlemen sprang to their feet in hot displeasure; poured out their
tirades upon Miss Crandall and her accomplices, and, with fists doubled
in our faces, roughly admonished us that, if we opened our lips there,
they would inflict upon us the utmost penalty of the law, if not a more
immediate vengeance.

Thus forbidden to speak, we of course sat in silence, and let the
waves of invective and abuse dash over us. But we sat thus only until
we heard from the Moderator the words, “This meeting is adjourned!”
Knowing that now we should violate no law by speaking, I sprang to the
seat on which I had been sitting, and cried out, “Men of Canterbury,
I have a word for you! Hear me!” More than half the crowd turned to
listen. I went rapidly over my replies to the misstatements that
had been made as to the purposes of Miss Crandall and her friends,
the characters of her expected pupils, and the spirit in which the
enterprise had been conceived and would be carried on. As soon as
possible I gave place to Friend Buffum. But he had spoken in his
impressive manner hardly five minutes, before the trustees of the
church to which the house belonged came in and ordered all out, that
the doors might be shut. Here again the hand of the law constrained
us. So we obeyed with the rest, and having lingered awhile upon the
Green to answer questions and explain to those who were willing “to
understand the matter,” we departed to our homes, musing in our own
hearts “what would come of this day’s uproar.”

Before my espousal of Miss Crandall’s cause I had had a pleasant
acquaintance with Hon. Andrew T. Judson, which had led almost to a
personal friendship. Unwilling, perhaps, to break our connection so
abruptly, and conscious, no doubt, that he had treated me rudely, not
to say abusively, at the town-meeting on the 9th, he called to see me
two days afterwards. He assured me that he had not become unfriendly
to me personally, and regretted that he had used some expressions
and applied certain epithets to me, in the warmth of his feelings
and the excitement of the public indignation of his neighbors and
fellow-townsmen, roused as they were to the utmost in opposition to
Miss Crandall’s project, which he thought I was inconsiderately and
unjustly promoting. He went on enlarging upon the disastrous effects
the establishment of “a school for nigger girls” in the centre of their
village would have upon its desirableness as a place of residence, the
value of real estate there, and the general prosperity of the town.

I replied: “If, sir, you had permitted Mr. Buffum and myself to speak
at your town-meeting, you would have found that we had come there, not
in a contentious spirit, but that we were ready, with Miss Crandall’s
consent, to settle the difficulty with you and your neighbors
peaceably. We should have agreed, if you would repay to Miss Crandall
what you had advised her to give for her house, and allow her time
quietly to find and purchase a suitable house for her school in some
more retired part of the town or vicinity, that she should remove to
that place.” The honorable gentleman hardly gave me time to finish my
sentences ere he said, with great emphasis:--

“Mr. May, we are not merely opposed to the establishment of that
school in Canterbury; we mean there shall not be such a school set up
anywhere in our State. The colored people never can rise from their
menial condition in our country; they ought not to be permitted to
rise here. They are an inferior race of beings, and never can or ought
to be recognized as the equals of the whites. Africa is the place for
them. I am in favor of the Colonization scheme. Let the niggers and
their descendants be sent back to their fatherland; and there improve
themselves as much as they may, and civilize and Christianize the
natives, if they can. I am a Colonizationist. You and your friend
Garrison have undertaken what you cannot accomplish. The condition of
the colored population of our country can never be essentially improved
on this continent. You are fanatical about them. You are violating
the Constitution of our Republic, which settled forever the status of
the black men in this land. They belong to Africa. Let them be sent
back there, or kept as they are here. The sooner you Abolitionists
abandon your project the better for our country, for the niggers, and

I replied: “Mr. Judson, there never will be fewer colored people in
this country than there are now. Of the vast majority of them this is
the native land, as much as it is ours. It will be unjust, inhuman,
in us to drive them out, or to make them willing to go by our cruel
treatment of them. And, if they should all become willing to depart,
it would not be practicable to transport across the Atlantic Ocean
and settle properly on the shores of Africa, from year to year, half
so many of them as would be born here in the same time, according to
the known rate of their natural increase. No, sir, there will never be
fewer colored people in our country than there are this day; and the
only question is, whether we will recognize the rights which God gave
them as men, and encourage and assist them to become all he has made
them capable of being, or whether we will continue wickedly to deny
them the privileges we enjoy, condemn them to degradation, enslave
and imbrute them; and so bring upon ourselves the condemnation of the
Almighty Impartial Father of all men, and the terrible visitation of
the God of the oppressed. I trust, sir, you will erelong come to see
that we must accord to these men their rights, or incur justly the loss
of our own. Education is one of the primal, fundamental rights of all
the children of men. Connecticut is the last place where this should be
denied. But as, in the providence of God, that right has been denied
in a place so near me, I feel that I am summoned to its defence. If
you and your neighbors in Canterbury had quietly consented that Sarah
Harris, whom you knew to be a bright, good girl, should enjoy the
privilege she so eagerly sought, this momentous conflict would not have
arisen in your village. But as it has arisen there, we may as well meet
it there as elsewhere.”

“That nigger school,” he rejoined with great warmth, “shall never be
allowed in Canterbury, nor in any town of this State.”

“How can you prevent it legally?” I inquired; “how but by Lynch law, by
violence, which you surely will not countenance?”

“We can expel her pupils from abroad,” he replied, “under the
provisions of our old pauper and vagrant laws.”

“But we will guard against them,” I said, “by giving your town ample

“Then,” said he, “we will get a law passed by our Legislature, now in
session, forbidding the institution of such a school as Miss Crandall
proposes, in any part of Connecticut.”

“It would be an unconstitutional law, and I will contend against it
as such to the last,” I rejoined. “If you, sir, pursue the course you
have now indicated, I will dispute every step you take, from the lowest
court in Canterbury up to the highest court of the United States.”

“You talk big,” he cried; “it will cost more than you are aware of to
do all that you threaten. Where will you get the means to carry on such
a contest at law?”

This defiant question inspired me to say, “Mr. Judson, I had not
foreseen all that this conversation has opened to my view. True, I do
not possess the pecuniary ability to do what you have made me promise.
I have not consulted any one. But I am sure the lovers of impartial
liberty, the friends of humanity in our land, the enemies of slavery,
will so justly appreciate the importance of sustaining Miss Crandall
in her benevolent, pious undertaking, that I shall receive from one
quarter and another all the funds I may need to withstand your attempt
to crush, by legal means, the Canterbury school.” The sequel of my
story will show that I did not misjudge the significance of my case,
nor put my confidence in those who were not worthy of it. Mr. Judson
left me in high displeasure, and I never met him afterwards but as an

Undismayed by the opposition of her neighbors and the violence of
their threats, Miss Crandall received early in April fifteen or
twenty colored young ladies and misses from Philadelphia, New York,
Providence, and Boston. At once her persecutors commenced operations.
All accommodations at the stores in Canterbury were denied her; so
that she was obliged to send to neighboring villages for her needful
supplies. She and her pupils were insulted whenever they appeared in
the streets. The doors and door-steps of her house were besmeared, and
her well was filled with filth. Had it not been for the assistance of
her father and another Quaker friend who lived in the town, she might
have been compelled to abandon “her castle” for the want of water and
food. But she was enabled to “hold out,” and Miss Crandall and her
little band behaved somewhat like the besieged in the immortal Fort
Sumter. The spirit that is in the children of men is usually roused by
persecution. I visited them repeatedly, and always found teacher and
pupils calm and resolute. They evidently felt that it was given them to
maintain one of the fundamental, inalienable rights of man.

Before the close of the month, an attempt was made to frighten and
drive away these innocent girls, by a process under the obsolete
vagrant law, which provided that the selectmen of any town might warn
any person, not an inhabitant of the State, to depart forthwith from
said town; demand of him or her _one dollar and sixty-seven cents_ for
every week he or she remained in said town after having received such
warning, and in case such fine should not be paid, and the person so
warned should not have departed before the expiration of ten days after
being sentenced, then he or she should _be whipped on the naked body
not exceeding ten stripes_.

A warrant to this effect was actually served upon Eliza Ann Hammond,
a fine girl from Providence, aged seventeen years. Although I had
protected Miss Crandall’s pupils against the operation of this old law,
by giving to the treasurer of Canterbury a bond in the sum of $10,000,
signed by responsible gentlemen of Brooklyn, to save the town from the
vagrancy of any of these pupils, I feared they would be intimidated by
the actual appearance of the constable, and the imposition of a writ.
So, on hearing of the above transaction, I went down to Canterbury
to explain the matter if necessary; to assure Miss Hammond that the
persecutors would hardly dare proceed to such an extremity, and
strengthen her to bear meekly the punishment, if they should in their
madness inflict it; knowing that every blow they should strike her
would resound throughout the land, if not over the whole civilized
world, and call out an expression of indignation before which Mr.
Judson and his associates would quail. But I found her ready for the
emergency, animated by the spirit of a martyr.

Of course this process was abandoned. But another was resorted to, most
disgraceful to the State as well as the town. That shall be the subject
of my next.


Foiled in their attempts to frighten away Miss Crandall’s pupils by
their proceedings under the provisions of the obsolete “Pauper and
Vagrant Law,” Mr. Judson and his fellow-persecutors urgently pressed
upon the Legislature of Connecticut, then in session, a demand for the
enactment of a law, by which they should be enabled to effect their
purpose. To the lasting shame of the State, be it said, they succeeded.
On the 24th of May, 1833, the _Black Law_ was enacted as follows:--

  “SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of
  Representatives, in General Assembly convened, that no person
  shall set up or establish in this State any school, academy, or
  literary institution for the instruction or education of colored
  persons who are not inhabitants of this State; nor instruct or
  teach in any school, or other literary institution whatsoever, in
  this State; nor harbor or board, for the purpose of attending or
  being taught or instructed in any such school, academy, or literary
  institution, any colored person who is not an inhabitant of any
  town in this State, without the consent in writing, first obtained,
  of a majority of the civil authority, and also of the Selectmen of
  the town, in which such school, academy, or literary institution is
  situated,” &c.

I need not copy any more of this infamous Act. The penalties denounced
against the violation of it, you may be sure, were severe enough. That
the persecutors of Miss Crandall were determined to visit them upon
her, if they might, the sequel of my story will show.

On the receipt of the tidings that the Legislature had passed the law,
joy and exultation ran wild in Canterbury. The bells were rung and a
cannon fired, until all the inhabitants for miles around were informed
of the triumph. So soon as was practicable, on the 27th of June, Miss
Crandall was arrested by the sheriff of the county, or the constable
of the town, and arraigned before Justices Adams and Bacon, two of the
leaders of the conspiracy against her and her humane enterprise. The
trial of course was a brief one; the result was predetermined. Before
noon of that day a messenger came to let me know that Miss Crandall
had been “committed” by the above-named justices, to take her trial
at the next session of the Superior Court at Brooklyn in August; that
she was in the hands of the sheriff and would be put into jail, unless
I or some of her friends would come and “give bonds” for her in the
sum of $300 or $500, I forget which. I calmly told the messenger that
there were gentlemen enough in Canterbury whose bond for that amount
would be as good or better than mine; and I should leave it for them
to do Miss Crandall that favor. “But,” said the young man, “are you
not her friend?” “Certainly,” I replied, “too sincerely her friend
to give relief to her enemies in their present embarrassment; and I
trust you will not find any one of her friends, or the patrons of her
school, who will step forward to help them any more than myself.” “But,
sir,” he cried, “do you mean to allow her to be put into jail?” “Most
certainly,” was my answer, “if her persecutors are unwise enough to let
such an outrage be committed.” He turned from me in blank surprise, and
hurried back to tell Mr. Judson and the justices of his ill success.

A few days before, when I first heard of the passage of the law, I
had visited Miss Crandall with my friend Mr. George W. Benson, and
advised with her as to the course she and her friends ought to pursue,
when she should be brought to trial. She appreciated at once and fully
the importance of leaving her persecutors to show to the world how
base they were, and how atrocious was the law they had induced the
Legislature to enact,--a law, by the force of which a woman might
be fined and imprisoned as a felon, in the State of Connecticut, for
giving instruction to colored girls. She agreed that it would be best
for us to leave her in the hands of those with whom the law originated,
hoping that, in their madness, they would show forth all its hideous

Mr. Benson and I therefore went diligently around to all whom we knew
were friendly to Miss Crandall and her school, and counselled them by
no means to give bonds to keep her from imprisonment, because nothing
would expose so fully to the public the egregious wickedness of the
law, and the virulence of her persecutors as the fact that they had
thrust her into jail.

When I found that her resolution was equal to the trial which seemed to
be impending, that she was ready to brave and to bear meekly the worst
treatment that her enemies would venture to subject her to, I made all
the arrangements for her comfort that were practicable in our prison.
It fortunately so happened that the most suitable room, not occupied,
was the one in which a man named Watkins had recently been confined
for the murder of his wife, and out of which he had been taken and
executed. This circumstance, we foresaw, would add not a little to the
public detestation of the _Black Law_.

The jailer, at my request, readily put the room in as nice order as was
possible, and permitted me to substitute, for the bedstead and mattress
on which the murderer had slept, fresh and clean ones from my own house
and Mr. Benson’s.

About two o’clock P. M. another messenger came to inform me that the
sheriff was on the way from Canterbury to the jail with Miss Crandall,
and would imprison her, unless her friends would give him the required
bail. Although in sympathy with Miss Crandall’s persecutors, he
clearly saw the disgrace that was about to be brought upon the State,
and begged me and Mr. Benson to avert it. Of course we refused. I went
to the jailer’s house and met Miss Crandall on her arrival. We stepped
aside. I said:--

“If now you hesitate, if you dread the gloomy place so much as to wish
to be saved from it, I will give bonds for you even now.”

“O no,” she promptly replied; “I am only afraid they will not put me
into jail. Their evident hesitation and embarrassment show plainly
how much they deprecate the effect of this part of their folly; and
therefore I am the more anxious that they should be exposed, if not
caught in their own wicked devices.”

We therefore returned with her to the sheriff and the company that
surrounded him to await his final act. He was ashamed to do it. He
knew it would cover the persecutors of Miss Crandall and the State of
Connecticut with disgrace. He conferred with several about him, and
delayed yet longer. Two gentlemen came and remonstrated with me in not
very seemly terms:--

“It would be a ---- shame, an eternal disgrace to the State, to have
her put into jail,--into the very room that Watkins had last occupied.”

“Certainly, gentlemen,” I replied, “and you may prevent this if you

“O,” they cried, “we are not her friends; we are not in favor of her
school; we don’t want any more ---- niggers coming among us. It is your
place to stand by Miss Crandall and help her now. You and your ----
abolition brethren have encouraged her to bring this nuisance into
Canterbury, and it is ---- mean in you to desert her now.”

I rejoined: “She knows we have not deserted her, and do not intend
to desert her. The law which her persecutors have persuaded our
legislators to enact is an infamous one, worthy of the Dark Ages. It
would be just as bad as it is, whether we should give bonds for her or
not. But the people generally will not so soon realize how bad, how
wicked, how cruel a law it is, unless we suffer her persecutors to
inflict upon her all the penalties it prescribes. She is willing to
bear them for the sake of the cause she has so nobly espoused. And it
is easy to foresee that Miss Crandall will be glorified, as much as her
persecutors and our State will be disgraced, by the transactions of
this day and this hour. If you see fit to keep her from imprisonment
in the cell of a murderer for having proffered the blessing of a good
education to those who, in our country, need it most, you may do so;
_we shall not_.”

They turned from us in great wrath, words falling from their lips which
I shall not repeat.

The sun had descended nearly to the horizon; the shadows of night were
beginning to fall around us. The sheriff could defer the dark deed no
longer. With no little emotion, and with words of earnest deprecation,
he gave that excellent, heroic, Christian young lady into the hands
of the jailer, and she was led into the cell of Watkins. So soon as
I had heard the bolts of her prison-door turned in the lock, and saw
the key taken out, I bowed and said, “The deed is done, completely
done. It cannot be recalled. It has passed into the history of our
nation and our age.” I went away with my steadfast friend, George W.
Benson, assured that the legislators of the State had been guilty of
a most unrighteous act; and that Miss Crandall’s persecutors had also
committed a great blunder; that they all would have much more reason to
be ashamed of her imprisonment than she or her friends could ever have.

The next day we gave the required bonds. Miss Crandall was released
from the cell of the murderer, returned home, and quietly resumed the
duties of her school, until she should be summoned as a culprit into
court, there to be tried by the infamous “Black Law of Connecticut.”
And, as we expected, so soon as the evil tidings could be carried in
that day, before Professor Morse had given to Rumor her telegraphic
wings, it was known all over the country and the civilized world that
an excellent young lady had been imprisoned as a criminal,--yes, put
into a murderer’s cell,--in the State of Connecticut, for opening a
school for the instruction of colored girls. The comments that were
made upon the deed in almost all the newspapers were far from grateful
to the feelings of her persecutors. Even many who, under the same
circumstances, would probably have acted as badly as Messrs. A. T.
Judson and Company, denounced their procedure as unchristian, inhuman,
anti-democratic, base, mean.


The words and manner of Mr. Judson in the interview I had with him
on the 11th of March, of which I have given a pretty full report,
convinced me that he would do all that could be done by legal and
political devices, to _abolish_ Miss Crandall’s school. His success in
obtaining from the Legislature the enactment of the infamous “Black
Law” showed too plainly that the majority of the people of the State
were on the side of the oppressor. But I felt sure that God and good
men would be our helpers in the contest to which we were committed.
Assurances of approval and of sympathy came from many; and erelong
a proffer of all the pecuniary assistance we could need was made by
one who was then himself a host. At that time Mr. Arthur Tappan was
one of the wealthiest merchants in the country, and was wont to give
to religious and philanthropic objects as much, in proportion to his
means, as any benefactor who has lived in the land before or since his
day. I was not then personally acquainted with him, but he had become
deeply interested in the cause of the poor, despised, enslaved millions
in our country, and alive to whatever affected them.

Much to my surprise, and much more to my joy, a few weeks after the
commencement of the contest, and just after the enactment of the
Black Law and the imprisonment of Miss Crandall, I received from Mr.
Tappan a most cordial letter. He expressed his entire approbation of
the position I had taken in defence of Miss Crandall’s benevolent
enterprise, and his high appreciation of the importance of maintaining,
in Connecticut especially, the right of colored people, not less than
of white, to any amount of education they might wish to obtain, and the
respect and encouragement due to any teacher who would devote himself
or herself to their instruction. He added: “This contest, in which you
have been providentially called to engage, will be a serious, perhaps a
violent one. It may be prolonged and very expensive. Nevertheless, it
ought to be persisted in to the last. I venture to presume, sir, that
you cannot well afford what it may cost. You ought not to be left, even
if you are willing, to bear alone the pecuniary burden. I shall be most
happy to give you all the help of this sort that you may need. Consider
me your banker. Spare no necessary expense. Command the services of
the ablest lawyers. See to it that this great case shall be thoroughly
tried, cost what it may. I will cheerfully honor your drafts to enable
you to defray that cost.” Thus upheld, you will not wonder that I was
somewhat elated. At Mr. Tappan’s suggestion I immediately “retained”
the Hon. William W. Ellsworth, the Hon. Calvin Goddard, and the Hon.
Henry Strong, the three most distinguished members of the Connecticut
bar. They all confirmed me in the opinion that the “Black Law” was
unconstitutional, and would probably be so pronounced, if we should
carry it up to the United States Court. They moreover instructed me
that, as the act for which Miss Crandall was to be tried was denounced
as _criminal_, it would be within the province of the jury of our State
court to decide upon the character of the law, as well as the conduct
of the accused; and that therefore it would be allowable and proper for
them to urge the _wickedness_ of the law, in bar of Miss Crandall’s
condemnation under it. But, before we get to the trials of Miss
Crandall under Mr. Judson’s law, I have more to tell about Mr. Arthur

He requested me to keep him fully informed of the doings of Miss
Crandall’s persecutors. And I assure you I had too many evil things
to report of them. They insulted and annoyed her and her pupils in
every way their malice could devise. The storekeepers, the butchers,
the milk-pedlers of the town, all refused to supply their wants; and
whenever her father, brother, or other relatives, who happily lived
but a few miles off, were seen coming to bring her and her pupils
the necessaries of life, they were insulted and threatened. Her well
was defiled with the most offensive filth, and her neighbors refused
her and the thirsty ones about her even a cup of cold water, leaving
them to depend for that essential element upon the scanty supplies
that could be brought from her father’s farm. Nor was this all; the
physician of the village refused to minister to any who were sick in
Miss Crandall’s family, and the trustees of the church forbade her to
come, with any of her pupils, into the House of the Lord.

In addition to the insults and annoyances mentioned above, the
newspapers of the county and other parts of the State frequently gave
currency to the most egregious misrepresentations of the conduct of
Miss Crandall and her pupils, and the basest insinuations against her
friends and patrons. Yet our corrections and replies were persistently
refused a place in their columns. The publisher of one of the county
papers, who was personally friendly to me, and whom I had assisted to
establish in business, confessed to me that he dared not admit into
his paper an article in defence of the Canterbury school. It would
be, he said, the destruction of his establishment. Thus situated, we
were continually made to feel the great disadvantage at which we were
contending with the hosts of our enemies.

In one of my letters to Mr. Tappan, when thus sorely pressed, I let
fall from my pen, “O that I could only leave home long enough to visit
you! For I could tell you in an hour more things, that I wish you to
know, than I can write in a week.”

A day or two afterwards, about as quickly as he could then get to me
after the receipt of my letter, the door of my study was opened, and in
walked Arthur Tappan. I sprang to my feet, and gave him a pressure of
the hand which told him more emphatically than words could have done
how overjoyed I was to see him. In his usual quiet manner and undertone
he said, “Your last letter implied that you were in so much trouble I
thought it best to come and see, and consider with you what it will be
advisable for us to do.” I soon spread before him the circumstances
of the case,--the peculiar difficulties by which we were beset, the
increased and increasing malignity of Miss Crandall’s persecutors,
provoked, and almost justified in the public opinion, by the false
reports that were diligently circulated, and which we had no means of
correcting. “Let me go,” said he, “and see for myself Miss Crandall
and her school, and learn more of the particulars of the sore trials
to which her benevolence and her fortitude seem to be subjected.”
As soon as possible the horse and chaise were brought to the door,
and the good man went to Canterbury. In a few hours he returned. He
had been delighted, nay, deeply affected, by the calm determination
which Miss Crandall evinced, and the quiet courage with which she had
inspired her pupils. He had learned that the treatment to which they
were subjected by their neighbors was in some respects worse even than
I had represented it to him; and he said in a low, firm tone of voice,
which showed how thoroughly in earnest he was, she must be protected
and sustained. “The cause of the whole oppressed, despised colored
population of our country is to be much affected by the decision of
this question.”

After some further consultation he rose to his feet and said, “You are
almost helpless without the press. You must issue a paper, publish it
largely, send it to all the persons whom you know in the county and
State, and to all the principal newspapers throughout the country.
Many will subscribe for it and contribute otherwise to its support,
and I will pay whatever more it may cost.” No sooner said than done.
We went without delay to the village, where fortunately there was a
pretty-well-furnished printing-office that had been lately shut up for
want of patronage. We found the proprietor, examined the premises,
satisfied ourselves that there were materials enough to begin with, and
Mr. Tappan engaged for my use for a year the office, press, types,
and whatever else was necessary to commence at once the publication
of a newspaper, to be devoted to the advocacy of all human rights in
general, and to the defence of the Canterbury school, and its heroic
teacher in particular.

We walked back to my house communing together about the great conflict
for liberty to which we were committed, the spirit in which it ought
to be conducted on our part, and especially the course to be pursued
in the further defence of Miss Crandall. Soon after the stage-coach
came along. Mr. Tappan, after renewed assurances of support, gave
me a hearty farewell and stepped on board to return to New York. He
left me the proprietor of a printing-office, and with ample means to
maintain, as far as might be necessary, the defence of the Canterbury
school against the unrighteous and unconstitutional law of the State of
Connecticut. I need now only add that the trials at law were protracted
until August, 1834, and that they, together with the conduct of the
newspaper, cost me more than six hundred dollars, all of which amount
was most promptly and kindly paid by that true philanthropist,--Arthur


The excitement caused by Mr. Tappan’s unexpected visit, the hearty
encouragement he had given me, and the great addition he had made to
my means of defence, altogether were so grateful to me that I did
not at first fully realize how much I had undertaken to do. But a
night’s rest brought me to my senses, and I clearly saw that I must
have some other help than even Mr. Tappan’s pecuniary generosity
could give me. I was at that time publishing a religious paper,--_The
Christian Monitor_,--which, together with my pulpit and parochial
duties, filled quite full the measure of my ability. Unfortunately
the prospectus of _The Monitor_, issued a year before the beginning
of the Canterbury difficulty, precluded from its columns all articles
relating to personal or neighborhood quarrels. Therefore, though the
editor of a paper, I could not, in that paper, repel the most injurious
attacks that were made upon my character. Had it been otherwise, there
would have been no need of starting another paper. But, as Mr. Tappan
promptly allowed, another paper must be issued, and to edit two papers
at the same time was wholly beyond my power. What should I do?

Soon after the enactment of the “Black Law” an admirable article,
faithfully criticising it, had appeared in _The Genius of Temperance_,
and been copied into _The Emancipator_. It was attributed to Mr.
Charles C. Burleigh, living in the adjoining town of Plainfield. I
had heard him commended as a young man of great promise, and had
once listened to an able speech from him at a Colonization meeting.
To him, therefore, in the need of help, my thoughts soon turned. And
the morning after Mr. Tappan’s visit I drove over to Plainfield.
Mr. Burleigh was living with his parents, and helping them carry on
their farm, while pursuing as he could his studies preparatory to the
profession of a lawyer. It was Friday of the week, in the midst of
haying time. I was told at the house that he was in the field as busy
as he could be. Nevertheless, I insisted that my business with him
was more important than haying. So he was sent for, and in due time
appeared. Like other sensible men, at the hard, hot work of haying,
he was not attired in his Sunday clothes, but in his shirt-sleeves,
with pants the worse for wear; and, although he then _believed_ in
shaving, no razor had touched his beard since the first day of the
week. Nevertheless, I do not believe that Samuel of old saw, in the
ruddy son of Jesse, as he came up from the sheepfold, the man whom the
Lord would have him anoint, more clearly than I saw in C. C. Burleigh
the man whom I should choose to be my assistant in that emergency. So
soon as I had told him what I wanted of him his eye kindled as if eager
for the conflict. We made an arrangement to supply his place on his
father’s farm, and he engaged to come to me early the following week.
On Monday, the 14th of July, 1833, according to promise, he came to
Brooklyn. He then put on the harness of a soldier in the good fight for
equal, impartial liberty, and he has not yet laid it aside, nor are
there many, if indeed any, of the antislavery warriors who have done
more or better service than Mr. Burleigh.

On the 25th of July, 1833, appeared the first number of our paper,
called _The Unionist_. After the first two or three numbers most
of the articles were written or selected by Mr. Burleigh, and it
was soon acknowledged by the public that the young editor wielded a
powerful weapon. The paper was continued, if I remember correctly,
about two years, and it helped us mightily in our controversy with
the persecutors of Miss Crandall. After a few months C. C. Burleigh
associated with him, in the management of _The Unionist_, his brother,
Mr. William H. Burleigh, who also, at the same time, assisted Miss
Crandall in the instruction of her school; and for so doing suffered
not a little obloquy, insult, and abuse.

It was still the cherished intention of C. C. Burleigh to devote
himself to the law, and without neglecting his duties to _The Unionist_
he so diligently and successfully pursued his preparatory studies,
that in January, 1835, he was examined and admitted to the bar. The
committee of examination were surprised at his proficiency. He was
pronounced the best prepared candidate that had been admitted to the
Windham County Bar within the memory of those who were then practising
there; and confident predictions were uttered by the most knowing
ones of his rapid rise to eminence in the profession. Scarcely did
Wendell Phillips awaken higher expectations of success as a lawyer
in Boston, than C. C. Burleigh had awakened in Brooklyn. But just at
the time of his admission I received a letter from Dr. Farnsworth, of
Groton, Massachusetts, then President of the Middlesex Antislavery
Society, inquiring urgently for some able lecturer, whose services
could be obtained as the general agent of that Society. I knew of no
one so able as C. C. Burleigh. So I called upon him, told him of the
many high compliments I had heard bestowed upon his appearance on the
examination, and then said, “Now I have already a most important case,
in which to engage your services,” and showed him Dr. Farnsworth’s
letter. For a few minutes he hesitated, and his countenance fell. The
bright prospect of professional eminence was suddenly overcast. He more
than suspected that, if he accepted the invitation, he should get so
engaged in the antislavery cause as to be unable to leave the field
until after its triumph. He would have to renounce all hope of wealth
or political preferment, and lead a life of continual conflict with
ungenerous opponents; be poorly requited for his labors, and suffer
contumely, hatred, persecution. I saw what was passing in his mind, and
that the struggle was severe. But it lasted only a little while,--less
than an hour. A bright and beautiful expression illuminated his
countenance when he replied, “This is not what I expected or intended,
but it is what I ought to do. I will accept the invitation.” He did so.
Before the close of the week he departed for his field of labor. And I
believe he ceased not a day to be the agent of one antislavery society
or another, until after the lamented President Lincoln had proclaimed
emancipation to all who were in bondage in our land.

When, in April, 1835, I became the General Agent of the Massachusetts
Antislavery Society, I was brought into more intimate relations with
Mr. Burleigh. We were indeed fellow-laborers. Repeatedly did we
go forth together on lecturing excursions, and never was I better
sustained. With him as my companion I felt sure our course would be
successful. I always insisted upon speaking first; for, if I failed
to do my best, he would make ample amends, covering the whole ground,
exhausting the subject, leaving nothing essential unsaid. And if I
did better than ever, Mr. Burleigh would come after me, and fill
twelve baskets full of precious fragments. He is a single-minded,
pure-hearted, conscientious, self-sacrificing man. He is not blessed
with a fine voice nor a graceful manner. And the peculiar dress of
his hair and beard has given offence to many, and may have lessened
his usefulness. But he has a great command of language. He has a
singularly acute and logical intellect. His reasoning, argumentative
powers are remarkable. And he often has delighted and astonished his
hearers by the brilliancy of his rhetoric, and the surpassing beauty
of his imagery, and aptness of his illustrations. The millions of the
emancipated in our country are indebted to the labors of few more than
to those of Charles C. Burleigh. But to return.


On the 23d of August, 1833, the first trial of Prudence Crandall for
the _crime_ of keeping a boarding-school for colored girls in the State
of Connecticut, and endeavoring to give them a good education,--the
first trial for _this crime_,--was had in Brooklyn, the seat of the
county of Windham, within a stone’s throw of the house where lived
and died General Israel Putnam, who, with his compatriots of 1776,
perilled his life in defence of the self-evident truth that “all men
were created _equal_, and endowed by their Creator with the inalienable
right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It was had at
the County Court, Hon. Joseph Eaton presiding.

The prosecution was conducted by Hon. A. T. Judson, Jonathan A. Welch,
Esq., and I. Bulkley, Esq. Miss Crandall’s counsel were Hon. Calvin
Goddard, Hon. W. W. Ellsworth, and Henry Strong, Esq.

The indictment of Miss Crandall consisted of two counts, which amounted
to the same thing. The first set forth, in the technical terms of the
law, that “with force and arms” she had received into her school; and
the second, that, “with force and arms,” she had instructed certain
colored girls, who were not inhabitants of the State, without having
first obtained, in writing, permission to do so from the majority
of the civil authority and selectmen of the town of Canterbury, as
required by the law under which she was prosecuted.

Mr. Judson opened the case. He, of course, endeavored to keep out of
sight the most odious features of the law which had been disobeyed
by Miss Crandall. He insisted that it was only a wise precaution to
keep out of the State an injurious kind of population. He urged that
the public provisions for the education of all the children of the
inhabitants of Connecticut were ample, generous, and that colored
children belonging to the State, not less than others, might enjoy the
advantages of the common schools, which were under the supervision
and control of proper officials in every town. He argued that it was
not fair nor safe to allow any person, without the permission of such
officials, to come into the State and open a school for any class of
pupils she might please to invite from other States. He alleged that
other States of the Union, Northern as well as Southern, regarded
colored persons as a kind of population respecting which there should
be some special legislation. If it were not for such protection as the
law in question had provided, the Southerners might free all their
slaves, and send them to Connecticut instead of Liberia, which would
be overwhelming. Mr. Judson denied that colored persons were citizens
in those States, where they were not enfranchised. He claimed that
the privilege of being a freeman was higher than the right of being
educated, and asked this remarkable question: “Why should a man be
educated who could not be a freeman?” He denied, however, that he was
opposed to the improvement of any class of the inhabitants of the land,
if their improvement could be effected without violating any of the
provisions of our Constitution, or endangering the union of the States.
His associates labored to maintain the same positions.

These positions were vigorously assailed by Mr. Ellsworth and Mr.
Strong, and shown to be untenable by a great array of facts adduced
from the history of our own country, of the opinions of some of the
most illustrious lawyers and civilians of England and America, and of
arguments, the force of which was palpable.

Nevertheless, the Judge saw fit, though somewhat timidly, in his charge
to the Jury, to give it as his opinion that “the law was constitutional
and obligatory on the people of the State.”

The Jury, after an absence of several hours, returned into court, not
having agreed upon a verdict. They were instructed on some points, and
sent out a second, and again a third time, but with no better success.
They stated to the Court that there was no probability they should
ever agree. Seven of them were for conviction, and five for acquittal.
So they were discharged.

Supposing that this result operated as a continuance of the case to the
next term of the County Court, to be held the following December, a
few days after the trial I went with my family to spend several weeks
with my friends in Boston and the neighborhood. But much to my surprise
and discomfort, the last week in September, just as I was starting
off to deliver an antislavery lecture, at a distance from Boston, I
received the information that the persecutors of Miss Crandall, too
impatient to wait until December for the regular course of law, had
got up a new prosecution of her, to be tried on the 3d of October,
before Judge Daggett of the Supreme Court, who was known to be hostile
to the colored people, and a strenuous advocate of the Black Law. It
was impossible for me so to dispose of my engagements that I could get
back to Brooklyn in time to attend the trial. I could only write and
instruct the counsel of Miss Crandall, in case a verdict should be
obtained against her, to carry the cause up to the Court of Errors.

The second trial was had on the 3d of October; the same defence as
before was set up, and ably maintained. But Chief Justice Daggett’s
influence with the Jury was overpowering. He delivered an elaborate
and able charge, insisting upon the constitutionality of the law; and,
without much hesitation, the verdict was given against Miss Crandall.
Her counsel at once filed a bill of exceptions, and an appeal to the
Court of Errors, which was granted. Before that--the highest legal
tribunal in the State--the cause was argued on the 22d of July, 1834.
The Hon. W. W. Ellsworth and the Hon. Calvin Goddard argued against
the constitutionality of the Black Law, with very great ability and
eloquence. The Hon. A. T. Judson and the Hon. C. F. Cleaveland said all
that perhaps could be said to prove such a law to be consistent with
the Magna Charta of our Republic. All who attended the trial seemed to
be deeply interested, and were made to acknowledge the vital importance
of the question at issue. Most persons, I believe, were persuaded that
the Court ought to and would decide against the law. But they reserved
the decision until some future time. And that decision, I am sorry to
say, was never given. The Court evaded it the next week by finding
that the defects in the information prepared by the State’s Attorney
were such that it ought to be quashed; thus rendering it “unnecessary
for the Court to come to any decision upon the question as to the
constitutionality of the law.”

Whether her persecutors were or were not in despair of breaking down
Miss Crandall’s school by legal process, I am unable to say, but they
soon resorted to other means, which were effectual.


Soon after their failure to get a decision from the Court of Errors,
an attempt was made to set her house on fire. Fortunately the match
was applied to combustibles tucked under a corner where the sills
were somewhat decayed. They burnt like a slow match. Some time before
daylight the inmates perceived the smell of fire, but not until nearly
nine o’clock did any blaze appear. It was quickly quenched; and I was
sent for to advise whether, if her enemies were so malignant as this
attempt showed them to be, it was safe and right for her to expose her
pupils’ and her own life any longer to their wicked devices. It was
concluded that she should hold on and bear yet a little longer. Perhaps
the atrocity of this attempt to fire her house, and at the same time
endanger the dwellings of her neighbors would frighten the leaders and
instigators of the persecution to put more restraint upon “the baser
sort.” But a few nights afterwards it was made only too plain that the
enemies of the school were bent upon its destruction. About twelve
o’clock, on the night of the 9th of September, Miss Crandall’s house
was assaulted by a number of persons with heavy clubs and iron bars;
five window-sashes were demolished and ninety panes of glass dashed to

I was summoned next morning to the scene of destruction and the
terror-stricken family. Never before had Miss Crandall seemed to
quail, and her pupils had become afraid to remain another night under
her roof. The front rooms of the house were hardly tenantable; and it
seemed foolish to repair them only to be destroyed again. After due
consideration, therefore, it was determined that the school should
be abandoned. The pupils were called together, and I was requested
to announce to them our decision. Never before had I felt so deeply
sensible of the cruelty of the persecution which had been carried on
for eighteen months, in that New England village against a family of
defenceless females. Twenty harmless, well-behaved girls, whose only
offence against the peace of the community was that they had come
together there to obtain useful knowledge and moral culture, were to
be told that they had better go away, because, forsooth, the house
in which they dwelt would not be protected by the guardians of the
town, the conservators of the peace, the officers of justice, the men
of influence in the village where it was situated. The words almost
blistered my lips. My bosom glowed with indignation. I felt ashamed
of Canterbury, ashamed of Connecticut, ashamed of my country, ashamed
of my color. Thus ended the generous, disinterested, philanthropic,
Christian enterprise of Prudence Crandall.

This was the second attempt made in Connecticut to establish a school
for the education of colored youth. The other was in New Haven, two
years before. So prevalent and malignant was our national prejudice
against the most injured of our fellow-men!


The subject of this article is very opportune at the present time.[A]
While the roar of the cannon, fired in honor of Mr. Garrison at the
moment of his late departure from England, is still reverberating
through the land, it will be interesting and instructive to recall the
purpose of his mission to that country just thirty-four years ago; and
how he was vilified when he went, and denounced, hunted, mobbed, on
his return. He went there to undeceive the philanthropists of Great
Britain as to a gigantic fraud which had been practised upon them, as
well as the antislavery people of the United States. He has gone now
to the World’s Antislavery Convention as a delegate from our _National
Association_ for the education, and individual, domestic, and civil
elevation of our colored population, whose condition thirty years ago,
and until a much more recent period, it was confidently maintained, and
pretty generally conceded, could not be essentially improved within the
borders of our Republic, if, indeed, on the same continent with our
_superior Anglo-Saxon race_.

The conscience of our country was never at peace concerning the
enslavement of the colored people. It was denounced by Jefferson in
his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, and afterwards
in his “Notes on Virginia.” An effort to abolish slavery was made in
the Convention that framed our Constitution; and strenuous opposition
to that Magna Charta was made in several of the State Conventions
called to ratify it, because the abominable wrong was indirectly and
covertly sanctioned therein. Soon after we became a nation plans were
proposed and associations formed for the improvement of the condition
of the colored population; and the General Government was earnestly
entreated, in a petition headed by Dr. Franklin, “to go to the utmost
limits of its power” to eradicate the great evil from the land. But the
doctrine was industriously taught by our statesmen that the status of
that class of the people was left, in the Constitution of the Union,
to be determined by the government of each of the States in which they
may be found. And still greater pains were taken, by those who were
bent on the perpetuation of slavery, to make it generally believed
throughout the country that negroes were naturally a very inferior
race of men; utterly incapable of much mental or moral culture, and
better off in domestic servitude on our continent than in their native
state in Africa. Notwithstanding this disparagement of them, and the
other inducements pressed upon the white people everywhere to acquiesce
in their enslavement, many colored persons emancipated themselves,
especially in Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Louisiana; and many
more were set free by the workings of the consciences of their owners,
or in gratitude for their services to individuals or the public. Thus,
considerable bodies of freedmen were found almost everywhere in the
midst of the slaves. Not without reason, these persons became objects
of distrust to slaveholders. Devices were therefore sought to get rid
of their disturbing influence, and to prevent the increase of the
number of such persons.

In 1816 the grand scheme was proposed, and readily adopted in most of
the slaveholding States, for colonizing on the coast of Africa the free
colored people of the United States, and prohibiting the emancipation
of any more of the enslaved, excepting upon the condition of their
removal to Liberia.

To carry this great undertaking into complete effect it was necessary
to secure the patronage of the Federal Government. This obviously could
not be done, without first conciliating to the project the approval and
co-operation of the people of the non-slaveholding States. Accordingly,
agents, eloquent and cunning, were sent north, east, and west, to
summon the benevolent and patriotic everywhere to aid in an enterprise
which, it was claimed, would result in the safe but entire abolition of
American slavery.

The dreadful wrongs and cruelties inflicted upon our bondmen were
not kept out of sight by these agents, but sometimes glowingly
depicted. The participation of the Northern States in the original
sin of the enslavement of Africans was pertinently urged. The utter
impracticability and danger of setting free such hordes of ignorant,
degraded people were insisted on with particular emphasis. The
immense good that would be done to benighted Africa was eloquently
portrayed,--how the slave-trade might be stopped, and the knowledge
of the arts of civilized America, and the blessings of our Christian
religion, might be spread throughout that dark region of the earth,
from the basis of colonies planted at Liberia and elsewhere along those
coasts, hitherto visited only by mercenary and cruel white men. All
these considerations were so pressed upon the churches and ministers
and kind-hearted people of the Northern States, that erelong an
enthusiasm was awakened everywhere in favor of colonizing the colored
people of our country “in their native land,” and thus, at the same
time, evangelizing Africa and wiping out the shame of the American
Republic. Without stopping to consider the glaring inconsistencies of
the scheme, it was taken for granted to be the only feasible way of
doing what we all longed to have done,--abolishing slavery. So the
colonization of our colored population became the favorite enterprise
at the North, even more than at the South. Thousands who were so
prejudiced against them that they would never consent to admit them
to the enjoyment of the rights, and the exercise of the prerogatives,
of men in our country were ready to give liberally to have them
transported across the Atlantic, and were deluded into the belief that
it was a benevolent, yes, a Christian enterprise. The very elect were
deceived. The men who have since been most distinguished among the
Abolitionists--Mr. Garrison, Arthur Tappan, Gerrit Smith, James G.
Birney, and hundreds more--were for a while zealous Colonizationists.

Not until Mr. Garrison had been some time resident in Baltimore
as co-editor, with Benjamin Lundy, of the _Genius of Universal
Emancipation_, were the true purpose and spirit of Colonization
discovered. He there found out, as he afterwards made it plainly
appear, that the _intention_ of the originators, and of the Southern
promoters of the scheme, really was, “to rivet still closer the fetters
of the slaves, and to deepen the prejudice against the free people of

So different had been the representations of its purpose by the
agents of the Colonization Society who had labored in its behalf
throughout the free States, and so utterly unconscious were most of the
Colonizationists on this side of Mason and Dixon’s line of harboring
any such designs, that Mr. Garrison’s accusations fired them with
indignation and wrath. They would not give heed to his incontrovertible
evidence. Though his witnesses were numerous and could not be
impeached, yet were they spurned by most of the persons in the free
States who had espoused the cause. It was enough that Mr. Garrison had
come out in opposition to the plan of Colonization. He was denounced as
an infidel, set upon as an enemy of his country. The churches were all
closed against him. Few ministers ventured to give him any countenance,
and the politicians heaped upon him unmeasured abuse. All this made the
more plain to the young Reformer and his co-laborers how thoroughly
the virus of slavery had poisoned the American body ecclesiastic, as
well as the body politic. It was seen that the church was becoming the
bulwark of slaveholders. Mr. Garrison felt that the first thing to be
done, therefore, was to batter down the confidence of the humane in
the Colonization plan. Against this he drove his sharpest points, at
this he aimed his heaviest artillery. So when it became known to us
that the agents of that plan had labored, with sad effect, in Great
Britain; that they had suborned to their purpose the aid of the English
philanthropists, we all felt, with Mr. Garrison, that those friends of
the oppressed must be undeceived without delay. No one was competent
to do this work so thoroughly as Mr. Garrison himself. Accordingly, it
was determined, in the spring of 1833, that he must see personally the
prominent Abolitionists of Great Britain.

In pursuance of this object he sailed from New York on the first day
of this month, thirty-four years ago. He went with the execrations
of the leading Colonizationists, and all the proslavery partisans of
our country upon his head. He was received in England with the utmost
cordiality and respectful confidence by all the friends of liberty; for
although, as he found, many of them had been persuaded by the agents of
the Colonization Society to give their approval and aid to that scheme,
they had done so because they had been made to believe that it was
intended and adapted to effect the entire abolition of slavery in the
United States.

Nothing could have been more opportune than was his arrival in London.
He found there most of the leading Abolitionists of the United Kingdom
watching and aiding the measures in Parliament about to issue in the
emancipation of the enslaved in the British West India Islands. He was
invited to their councils, and interchanged opinions freely and fully
with them on the great questions, which were essentially the same in
that country and our own. It was especially his privilege to become
acquainted with William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson and Fowell
Buxton and George Thompson, to name no more of the noble host that had
fought the battles and won the victory of freedom for eight hundred
thousand slaves. He was there when William Wilberforce was summoned to
lay aside his earthly life, with his antislavery armor, and ascend, we
trust, to the right hand of God. How appropriate that the young leader
of the Abolitionists of America, whose work had just begun, should
be present, as he was, at the obsequies of the veteran leader of the
British Abolitionists just as their work was done!

Mr. Garrison remained in England three or four months, long enough to
accomplish fully the object of his mission. He reached New York on
the 30th of the following September, bringing with him this emphatic
protest, signed by the most distinguished philanthropists, and several
of the most distinguished statesmen of Great Britain:--

  “We, the undersigned, having observed with regret that the American
  Colonization Society appears to be gaining some adherents in this
  country, are desirous to express our opinions respecting it. Our
  motive and excuse for thus coming forward are the claims which
  that Society has put forth to _Antislavery_ support. These claims
  are, in our opinion, wholly groundless; and we feel bound to
  affirm that our deliberate judgment and conviction are that the
  professions made by the Colonization Society of promoting the
  abolition of slavery are delusive....

  “While we believe its precepts to be delusive we are convinced that
  its _real_ effects are of the most dangerous nature. It takes its
  root from a cruel prejudice and alienation in the whites of America
  against the colored people, slave or free. This being its source,
  its effects are what might be expected....

  “On these grounds, therefore, and while we acknowledge the colony
  of Liberia, or any other colony on the coast of Africa, to be _in
  itself_ a good thing, we must be understood utterly to repudiate
  the principles of the American Colonization Society. That Society
  is, in our estimation, not deserving of the countenance of the
  British public.

        and others.

Nothing could have maddened the slaveholders and their Northern
abettors more than Mr. Garrison’s success in England, and their
malignant, ferocious hatred of him broke out on his return. It so
happened that, without any expectation of his arrival at the time, a
meeting of those desirous of the abolition of slavery was called, on
the evening of October 2, in Clinton Hall, to organize a city society.
When it was known that Mr. Garrison would be present, most of the New
York newspapers teemed with exciting articles, and an advertisement,
signed “Many Southerners,” summoned “all persons interested in the
subject” to be present at the same time and place. The Abolitionists,
aware that a meeting at Clinton Hall would be broken up, quietly
withdrew to Chatham Street Chapel, and had nearly completed the
organization of the “New York City Antislavery Society,” when the mob
of _slaveholding patriots_, disappointed of their prey at Clinton
Hall, and finding out the retreat of the Abolitionists, rushed upon
and dispersed them from Chatham Street Chapel, with horrid cries of
detestation and threats of utmost violence, especially aimed at Mr.
Garrison, of whom they went in search from place to place, declaring
their determination to wreak upon him their utmost vengeance. Mr.
Garrison, secure in their ignorance of his person, and curious to learn
all he might of the mistaken notions and corrupt principles by which
they were misled and driven to such excesses, went around with them in
their bootless pursuit until he was tired, and the fire of their fury
had cooled.

The New York newspapers, especially the _Courier and Inquirer_,
the _Gazette_, _Evening Post_, and _Commercial Advertiser_, by
their half-way condemnation of this outrage, and their gross
misrepresentations of the sentiments and purposes of Mr. Garrison and
his fellow-laborers, virtually justified that fearful assault upon “the
liberty of speech,” and inauguration of “the Reign of Terror,” of which
I shall hereafter give my readers some account.


The publication of Mr. Garrison’s “Thoughts on Colonization” had
arrested the attention of philanthropists in all parts of our country.
Everywhere, public as well as private discussions were had respecting
the professed and the real purpose and tendency of the Colonization
plan. Converts to the great doctrine of the young Reformer--“Immediate
emancipation _without expatriation_, the right of the slave and the
duty of the master”--were added daily. Tidings came to us that many
town and several county antislavery societies had been formed in
several States of the Union, and the circulation of the _Liberator_
had greatly increased. There was a growing feeling that Abolitionists
of the whole country ought to know each other, devise some plan of
co-operation, and make their influence more manifest. Repeatedly during
the spring of 1833 Mr. Garrison expressed his opinion that the time had
come for the formation of a National Antislavery Society.

After his departure on his mission to England the need of such an
organization became more and more apparent, and before Mr. Garrison’s
return, on the 30th of September, the call was issued for the
Convention to be held in Philadelphia on the fourth, fifth, and sixth
days of the ensuing December. Had we foreseen the peculiarly excited
state of the public mind at that time, the important meeting might
have been deferred. The success of Mr. Garrison’s labors in England,
in opening the eyes of the British philanthropists to the egregious
imposition which had been put upon them by the Colonization Society,
the protest of the sainted Wilberforce and his most illustrious
fellow-laborers, the stinging sarcasms of O’Connell, the champion of
Ireland and of universal freedom, were working like moral blisters.
More than all, the report of the great Exeter Hall meeting in
London, by which colonization was denounced, and the doctrine of
“immediate emancipation” fully indorsed, had lashed into fury all the
proslavery-colonization-pseudo patriotism throughout the land. The
storm had burst upon us in the mobs at New York; and whether it would
ever subside until it had overwhelmed us, was a question which many
answered in tones of fearful foreboding to our little band. But the
Convention had been called before the outbreak, and we were not “wise
and prudent” enough to relinquish our purpose of holding it.

On my way to the “City of Brotherly Love” I joined, at New York, a
number of the brethren going thither, whom I had never seen before.
I studied anxiously their countenances and bearing, and caught most
thirstily every word that dropped from their lips, until I was
satisfied that most of them were men ready to die, if need be, in the
pass of Thermopylæ.

There was a large company on the steamer that took us from New York
to Elizabethtown, and again from Bordentown to Philadelphia. There
was much earnest talking by other parties beside our own. Presently a
gentleman turned from one of them to me and said, “What, sir, are the
Abolitionists going to do in Philadelphia?” I informed him that we
intended to form a National Antislavery Society. This brought from him
an outpouring of the commonplace objections to our enterprise, which I
replied to as well as I was able. Mr. Garrison drew near, and I soon
shifted my part of the discussion into his hands, and listened with
delight to the admirable manner in which he expounded and maintained
the doctrines and purposes of those who believed with him that the
slaves--the blackest of them--were men, entitled as much as the whitest
and most exalted men in the land to their liberty, to a residence here,
if they choose, and to acquire as much wisdom, as much property, and as
high a position as they may.

After a long conversation, which attracted as many as could get within
hearing, the gentleman said, courteously: “I have been much interested,
sir, in what you have said, and in the exceedingly frank and temperate
manner in which you have treated the subject. If all Abolitionists were
like you, there would be much less opposition to your enterprise. But,
sir, depend upon it, that hair-brained, reckless, violent fanatic,
Garrison will damage, if he does not shipwreck, any cause.” Stepping
forward, I replied, “Allow me, sir, to introduce you to Mr. Garrison,
of whom you entertain so bad an opinion. The gentleman you have been
talking with is he.” I need not describe, you can easily imagine, the
incredulous surprise with which this announcement was received. And so
it has been from the beginning until now. Those who have only heard of
Mr. Garrison, and have believed the misrepresentations of his enemies,
have supposed him to be “a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
But those who have become most intimately acquainted with him have
found him to be “as harmless as a dove,” though indeed “as wise as a

When we arrived in Philadelphia on the afternoon of the 3d of December,
1833, we learnt that a goodly number were already there; and the
newspapers of the day were seeking to make our coming a formidable
affair, worthy the especial attention of those patriotic conservators
of the peace who dealt in brickbats, rotten eggs, and tar and feathers.
The Police of the city had given notice to our Philadelphia associates
that they could not protect us in the evening, and therefore our
meetings must be held by daylight.

A previous gathering was had that evening at the house of Evan Lewis, a
man who was afraid of nothing but doing or being wrong. Between thirty
and forty were there, and we made such arrangements as we could for the
ensuing day. One thing we did, which we were not careful to report, so
you may never have heard of it. It was a weak, a servile act. We were
ashamed of it ourselves, and you shall have a laugh at our expense if
you like.

Some one suggested that, as we were strangers in Philadelphia, our
characters and manner of life not known there, the populace might
the more easily be made to believe that we had come for an incendiary
purpose, and be roused to prevent the accomplishment of it; that, in
order to avert the opposition which seemed preparing to thwart us, it
would be well to get some one of the distinguished philanthropists
of that city to preside over our deliberations, and thus be, as it
were, a voucher to the public for our harmlessness. There was no one
proposed of whom we could hope such patronage, save only Robert Vaux, a
prominent and wealthy Quaker. To him it was resolved we should apply.
Five or seven of us were delegated to wait upon the great man, and
solicit his acceptance of the Presidency of the Convention. Of this
committee I had the honor to be one. Just for this once I wish I had
some wit, that I might be able to do justice to the scene. But I need
not help you to see it in all its ludicrousness. There were at least
six of us--Beriah Green, Evan Lewis, Eppingham L. Capron, Lewis Tappan,
John G. Whittier, and myself--sitting around a richly furnished parlor,
gravely arguing, by turns, with the wealthy occupant, to persuade him
that it was his duty to come and be the most prominent one in a meeting
of men already denounced as “fanatics, amalgamationists, disorganizers,
disturbers of the peace, and dangerous enemies of the country.” Of
course our suit was unsuccessful. We came away mortified much more
because we had made such a request, than because it had been denied.
As we left the door Beriah Green said in his most sarcastic tone, “If
there is not timber amongst ourselves big enough to make a president
of, let us get along without one, or go home and stay there until we
have grown up to be men.”

The next morning as we passed along the streets leading to the place of
meeting, the Adelphi Buildings, we were repeatedly assailed with most
insulting words. On arriving at the hall we found the entrance guarded
by police officers, placed there, I suppose, at the suggestion of some
friends by order of the Mayor. These incidents helped us to realize
how we and the cause we had espoused, were regarded in that City of
Brotherly Love and Quakers.

At the hour appointed, on the morning of the 4th, nearly all the
members were in their seats,--fifty-six in all, representing ten
different States. No time was lost. A fervent prayer was offered for
the divine guidance. If there was ever a praying assembly I believe
that was one.

Beriah Green, then President of Oneida Institute, was chosen President
of our Convention. Lewis Tappan, one of the earliest and most untiring
laborers in the cause of the oppressed, a well-known merchant of New
York, and John G. Whittier, one of Liberty’s choicest poets, were
chosen Secretaries.

The first forenoon was spent in a free but somewhat desultory
interchange of thought upon the topics of prominent interest, and in
listening to a number of cheering letters from individuals in different
parts of the United States, assuring us of their hearty sympathy and
co-operation, though they were unable to be with us in person.

Discussion and argument were not found necessary to bring us to the
resolution to institute an American Antislavery Society, for that was
the especial purpose for which we had come together. Committees were
chosen to draft a constitution and to nominate a list of officers. When
the dining hour arrived, with one consent it was agreed that it was
better than meat to remain in the hall, and commune with one another
upon the interests of the cause we had espoused. And there and thus
did we spend the dinner-time on that and each of the succeeding days.
Baskets of crackers and pitchers of cold water supplied all the bodily
refreshment that we needed.

The reports of the committees occupied us through the afternoon. We
then came unanimously to the conclusion that it was needful to give,
to our country and the world, a fuller declaration of the sentiments
and purposes of the American Antislavery Society than could be embodied
in its Constitution. It was therefore resolved “that Messrs. Atlee,
Wright, Garrison, Joselyn, Thurston, Sterling, William Green, Jr.,
Whittier, Goodell, and May be a committee to draft a Declaration of
the Principles of the American Antislavery Society for publication,
to which the signatures of the members of this Convention shall be

In my next article I will give my readers a particular account of the
conception and production of our Magna Charta.


The committee of ten, appointed at the close of the first day to
prepare a declaration of the sentiments and purposes of the American
Antislavery Society, felt that the work assigned them ought to be most
carefully and thoroughly done, embodying, as far as possible, the
best thoughts of the whole Convention. Accordingly, about half of the
members were invited to meet, and did meet, the committee early at the
house of our chairman, Dr. Edwin P. Atlee.

After an hour’s general conversation upon the importance of the
document to be prepared, and the character it ought to possess, we
agreed that each one present should, in his turn, utter the sentiment
or announce the purpose which he thought ought to be given in the
declaration. This was done, and revealed great unanimity, and at the
same time not a little individuality of opinion among the members. I
cannot now recall many of the suggestions thrown out. One, however, was
so pregnant that it contained the text and the substance of several
of my lectures afterwards. “I wish,” said Elizur Wright, “that the
difference between our purpose and that of the Colonization Society
should be explicitly stated. We mean to exterminate _slavery_ from our
country with its accursed influences. The Colonizationists aim only
to _get rid of the slaves_ so soon as they become free. Their plan is
unrighteous, cruel, and impracticable withal. Our plan needs but a good
will, a right spirit amongst the white people, to accomplish it.”

After a session of more than two hours thus spent a sub-committee of
three was appointed to prepare a draft of the proposed declaration, to
be reported next morning at nine o’clock to the whole committee, in the
room adjoining the hall of the Convention. William L. Garrison, John
G. Whittier, and myself composed that sub-committee. We immediately
repaired to the house of Mr. James McCrummel, a colored gentleman,
with whom Mr. Garrison was at home; and there, after a half-hour’s
consultation, it was of course determined that Mr. Garrison, our
Coryphæus, should write the document, in which were to be set before
our country and the world “the sentiments and purposes of the American
Antislavery Society.” We left him about ten o’clock, agreeing to come
to him again next morning at eight.

On our return at the appointed hour we found him, with shutters closed
and lamps burning, just writing the last paragraph of his admirable
draft. We read it over together two or three times very carefully,
agreed to a few slight alterations, and at nine went to lay it
before the whole committee. By them it was subjected to the severest
examination. Nearly three hours of intense application were given
to it, notwithstanding repeated and urgent calls from the Convention
for our report. All the while Mr. Garrison evinced the most unruffled
patience. Very few alterations were proposed, and only once did he
offer any resistance. He had introduced into his draft more than a page
in condemnation of the Colonization scheme. It was the concentrated
essence of all he had written or thought upon that egregious
imposition. It was as finished and powerful in expression as any part
of that Magna Charta. We commented upon it as a whole and in all its
parts. We writhed somewhat under its severity, but were obliged to
acknowledge its exact, its singular justice, and were about to accept
it, when I ventured to propose that all of it, excepting only the first
comprehensive paragraph, be stricken from the document, giving as my
reason for this large erasure, that the Colonization Society could not
long survive the deadly blows it had received; and it was not worth
while for us to perpetuate the memory of it, in this Declaration of
the Rights of Man, which will live a perpetual, impressive protest
against every form of oppression, until it shall have given place to
that brotherly kindness, which all the children of the common Father
owe to one another. At first, Mr. Garrison rose up to save a portion
of his work that had doubtless cost him as much mental effort as any
other part of it. But so soon as he found that a large majority of
the committee concurred in favor of the erasure, he submitted very
graciously, saying, “Brethren, it is your report, not mine.”

With this exception, the alterations and amendments which were made,
after all our criticisms, were surprisingly few and unessential; and we
cordially agreed to report it to the Convention very much as it came
from his pen.

Between twelve and one o’clock we repaired with it to the hall. Edwin
P. Atlee, the Chairman, read the Declaration to the Convention. Never
in my life have I seen a deeper impression made by words than was made
by that admirable document upon all who were there present. After the
voice of the reader had ceased there was a profound silence for several
minutes. Our hearts were in perfect unison. There was but one thought
with us all. Either of the members could have told what the whole
Convention felt. We felt that the word had just been uttered which
would be mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the strongholds of

The solemn silence was broken by a Quaker brother, Evan Lewis, or
Thomas Shipley, who moved that we adopt the Declaration, and proceed
at once to append to it our signatures. He said, “We have already
given it our assent; every heart here has responded to it; and there
is a doctrine of the ‘Friends’ which impelled me to make the motion
I have done: ‘_First impressions are from heaven_.’ I fear, if we go
about criticising and amending this Declaration, we shall qualify its
truthfulness and impair its strength.”

The majority of the Convention, however, thought it best, in a matter
so momentous, to be deliberate; to weigh well every word and act by
which our countrymen and the world would be called to justify or
condemn us and our enterprise. Accordingly, we adjusted ourselves to
hear the Declaration read again, paragraph by paragraph, sentence
by sentence, and to pass judgment upon it in every particular. The
whole afternoon, from one o’clock until five, was assiduously and
patiently devoted to this review. Discussion arose on several points;
but no one spoke who had not something to say. Never had I heard in
a public assembly so much pertinent speech, never so little that was
unimportant. The result of the afternoon’s deliberations was a deeper
satisfaction with the Declaration. Some expressions in it were called
in question, but few were changed. And just as the darkness of night
had shut down upon us we resolved unanimously to adopt it. On motion of
Lewis Tappan we voted that Abraham L. Cox, M. D., whom the mover knew
to be an excellent penman, be requested to procure a suitable sheet of
parchment, and engross thereon our magna charta before the following
morning, that it might then receive the signatures of each one of the

At the opening of the meeting next morning the Doctor was there, with
the work assigned him beautifully executed. He read the Declaration
once and again. Another hour was expended in the consideration of
certain expressions in it. But no changes were made. It was then
submitted for signatures; and Thomas Whitson, of Chester County,
Pennsylvania, being obliged to leave the city immediately, came forward
and had the honor of signing it first. Sixty-one others subscribed
their names on the 6th day of December, 1833.

If I ever boast of anything it is this: that I was a member of the
Convention that instituted the American Antislavery Society. That
assembly, gathered from eleven different States of our Republic, was
composed of devout men of every sect and of no sect in religion, of
each political party and of neither; but they were all of one mind.
They evidently felt that they had come together for a purpose higher
and better than that of any religious sect or political party. Never
have I seen men so ready, so anxious to rid themselves of whatsoever
was narrow, selfish, or merely denominational. I was all the more
affected by the manifestation of this spirit, because I had been living
for ten years in Connecticut, where every one who did not profess a
faith essentially “Orthodox” was peremptorily proscribed. In the
Philadelphia Convention there were but two or three of my sect, which
you know at that time had but few avowed adherents anywhere except in
the eastern half of Massachusetts, and was then, much more than now,
especially obnoxious to all other religionists in the land. Yet we were
cordially treated as brethren, admitted freely, without reserve or
qualification, into that goodly fellowship. They were indeed a company
of the Lord’s freemen, a truly devout company. And the scrupulous
regard for the rights of the human mind, no less than for the other
natural rights of man, was shown from the beginning to the end of the

Much the largest number of any sect present were what were then, and
are now, called Orthodox, or Evangelical. There were ten or twelve
ministers of one or the other of those denominations that claim to be
Orthodox; yet I distinctly remember that some of them were the most
forward and eager to lay aside sectarianism, and their generous example
was gladly followed by all others. At the suggestion of an Orthodox
brother, and without a vote of the Convention, our President himself,
then an Orthodox minister, readily condescended to the scruples of our
Quaker brethren, so far as not to _call upon_ any individual to offer
prayer; but at the opening of our sessions each day he gave notice that
a portion of time would be spent in prayer. Any one prayed aloud who
was moved so to do.

It was at the suggestion also of an Orthodox member that we agreed to
dispense with all titles, civil or ecclesiastical. Accordingly, you
will not find in the published minutes of the Convention appendages to
any names,--neither D. D., nor Rev., nor Hon., nor Esq.,--no, not even
plain Mr. We met as fellow-men, in the cause of suffering fellow-men.

When the resolution was read recommending the institution of a monthly
“concert of prayer” for the abolition of slavery, a Quaker objected to
its passage, on the ground that he believed not in stated times and
seasons for prayers, but that then only can we truly pray when we are
moved to do so by the Holy Spirit. Effingham L. Capron, a member of
the “Society of Friends,” immediately and earnestly expressed regret
that his brother had interposed such an objection. “For,” said he,
“this measure is only to be recommended by the Convention, not insisted
on, much less to be incorporated into the constitution of the society
we have formed; and such is the liberal, catholic spirit of all here
present,” he added, “that I do not suspect any one wishes to urge the
measure upon those who would have conscientious scruples against it.”
“Certainly not, certainly not,” said the mover of the resolution.
“Certainly not, certainly not,” was responded from all parts of the
hall. On this explanation the brother withdrew his opposition, and the
resolution passed, _nem. con._


A number of excellent women, most of them of the “Society of Friends,”
were in constant attendance upon the meetings of the Convention, which
continued three days successively, without adjournment for dinner. On
the afternoon of the second day, in the midst of a very interesting
debate (I think it was on the use of the productions of slave-labor),
a sweet female voice was heard. It was Lucretia Mott’s. She had risen
and commenced speaking, but was hesitating, because she feared the
larger part of the Convention not being Quakers might think it “a
shame for a woman to speak in a church,” and she was unwilling to give
them offence. Her beautiful countenance was radiant with the thoughts
that had moved her to speak; and the expression was made all the more
engaging by the emotion of deference to the supposed prejudices of her
auditors, with which it was suffused.

Our President, Beriah Green, conferred not with flesh and blood, but,
filled as he was with the liberal spirit of the apostle who wrote,
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female;
for ye are all one in Christ Jesus,” at once, without waiting for the
formal sanction of the Convention, cried out in the most encouraging,
cordial tone, “Go on, ma’am, we shall all be glad to hear you.” “Go
on,” “Go on,” was responded by many voices. She did go on; and no man
who was there will dissent from me when I add that she made a more
impressive and effective speech than any other that was made in the
Convention, excepting only our President’s closing address.

Lucretia Mott afterwards spoke repeatedly; and one or two graceful
amendments of the language of our Declaration were made at her
suggestion. Two other excellent women also took part in our
discussions,--Esther Moore and Lydia White,--and they spoke to good
purpose. Now, that no brother was scandalized by this procedure (and
there were several there who afterwards opposed us on the “woman
question,”) we have evidence enough in the following resolution, which
was passed near the close of the third day, without dissent or a word
to qualify or limit its application: “_Resolved_, that the thanks
of the Convention be presented to our female friends for the deep
interest they have manifested in the cause of antislavery, during the
long and fatiguing session of the Convention.” Was not the fact that
three of our female friends had taken an active part in our meetings,
had repeatedly “spoken in the church”--must not this fact have been
prominent to the view of every one who was called to vote on the above
resolution? And yet I do aver that I heard not a word, either in or out
of the hall, censuring their course, or expressing regret that they
had been allowed to take part in our discussions. Far otherwise. It
seemed to be regarded as another of the many indications we had seen
of the deep hold which the antislavery cause had taken of the public
heart. We remembered in the history of our race that, (although women
had ordinarily kept themselves in the retirement of domestic life,)
in the great emergencies of humanity,--in those imminent crises which
have tried men’s souls, and from which we date the signal advances
of civilization,--women have always been conspicuous at the martyr’s
stake, in the councils of Church and State, and even in the conduct of
armies. We therefore hailed the deep interest manifested by them in
the cause of our oppressed countrymen, as an omen that another triumph
of humanity was at hand. No one suggested that it would be well to
invite the women to enroll their names as members of the Convention
and sign the Declaration. It was not thought of in season. But I
have not a doubt, such was the spirit of that assembly, that, if the
proposal had been made, it would have been acceded to joyfully by a
large majority, if not by all. We had not convened there to shape our
enterprise to the received opinions or usages of any sect or party. We
were not careful to do what might please “the scribes and pharisees and
rulers of the people.” We had come together at the cry of suffering,
wronged, outraged millions. We had come to say and do what, we hoped,
would rouse the nation to a sense of her tremendous iniquity. We were
willing, we were anxious, that all who had ears to hear should hear
“the truth which only tyrants dread.” And I have no doubt, that at
that time all immediate Abolitionists would have readily consented that
every one (man or woman) who had the _power_ had also the _right_ to
utter that truth; to utter it with the pen or with the living voice;
to utter it at the fireside in the private circle, or to the largest
congregation from the pulpit, or, if need be, from the house-top. It
was not then in our hearts to bid any one be silent, who might be
moved to plead for the down-trodden millions in our country who were
not permitted to speak for themselves. We were willing “that the very
stones should cry out,” if they would.

The subjects that elicited most discussion in the Convention were
Colonization; the use of the productions of slave-labor; the doctrine
of compensation; and the duty of relying wholly on moral power. The
results to which we came are expressed in the Constitution, the
Declaration, or the Resolutions that were passed.

No one can read the published minutes of our proceedings, and not
perceive how emphatically and solemnly we avowed the determination not
to commit the cause we had espoused in any way to an arm of flesh,
but to trust wholly to the power of truth and the influence of the
Holy Spirit to change the hearts of slaveholders and their abettors.
This principle, which was repudiated by a portion of the American
Antislavery Society under the excitement caused by the murder of
Lovejoy in 1837, was accounted by a large majority of the Convention
as _the principle_ upon which our enterprise should be prosecuted, or
could be brought to a peaceful triumph. Those only who were ready to
take up the cross, to suffer loss, shame, and even death, seemed to
us then fit to engage in the work we proposed. The third article of
the Constitution was as follows: “This Society will never, in any way,
countenance the oppressed in vindicating their rights by physical
force.” And the pacific spirit and intentions of the Society were still
more distinctively and emphatically set forth in the Declaration, in
exposition of the third article above quoted. That document begins
with an allusion to the Magna Charta of the American Revolution, which
was prepared and signed fifty-seven years before in the very city
where we were assembled. It exhibits clearly the contrast between our
philanthropic enterprise and that of our fathers. It says: “_Their_
principles led them to _wage war_ against their oppressors, 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 entreat
the oppressed to reject, the use of any carnal weapons for deliverance
from bondage; relying solely upon those which are spiritual and ‘mighty
through God’ to the pulling down of strongholds. _Their_ measures were
physical,--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, the abolition of
slavery by the spirit of repentance.”

This language was not adopted hastily or inconsiderately. Its import
was duly weighed. A few of the members hesitated. They were not
non-resistants. They were not, at first, ready to say they would not
fight, if they should be roughly used by the opposers of our cause. But
it was strenuously urged in reply that, whatever might be true as to
the right of self-defence, in the prosecution of our great undertaking,
_violent_ resistance to the injurious treatment we might receive would
have a disastrous effect. It was insisted that we ought to go forth
to labor for the abolition of slavery, in the spirit of _Christian_
reformers, expecting to be persecuted, and resolved never to return
evil for evil. The result of our discussion was that all the members
of the Convention signed the Declaration, thereby pledging themselves,
and all who should thereafter sign the Constitution--“Come what may
to our persons, our interests, or our reputations; whether we live
to witness the triumph of liberty, justice, and humanity, or perish
untimely as martyrs in this great, benevolent, and holy cause.”

Such was the spirit that at last pervaded the whole body. I cannot
describe the holy enthusiasm which lighted up every face as we gathered
around the table on which the Declaration lay, to put our names to
that sacred instrument. It seemed to me that every man’s heart was in
his hand,--as if every one felt that he was about to offer himself a
living sacrifice in the cause of _freedom_, and to do it cheerfully.
There are moments when heart touches heart, and souls flow into one
another. That was such a moment. I was in them and they in me; we were
all one. There was no need that each should tell the other how he felt
and what he thought, for we were in each other’s bosoms. I am sure
there was not, in all our hearts, the thought of ever making violent,
much less mortal, defence of the liberty of speech, or the freedom of
the press, or of our own persons, though we foresaw that they all would
be grievously outraged. Our President, Beriah Green, in his admirable
closing speech, gave utterance to what we all felt and intended should
be our course of conduct. He distinctly foretold the obloquy, the
despiteful treatment, the bitter persecution, perhaps even the cruel
deaths we were going to encounter in the prosecution of the undertaking
to which we had bound ourselves. Not an intimation fell from his lips
that, in any extremity, we were to resort to carnal weapons and fight
rather than die in the cause. Much less did he intimate that it might
ever be proper for us to defend, by deadly weapons, the liberty of
speech and the press. O no! The words which came glowing from his lips
were of a very different import. He exhorted us most solemnly, most
tenderly, to cherish the Holy Spirit which he felt was then in all
our hearts, and go forth to our several places of labor willing to
suffer shame, loss of property, and, if need be, even of life, in the
cause of human rights; but not intending to hurt a hair of the heads
of our opposers, whom we ought to regard in pity more than in anger.
Would that every syllable which he uttered had been engraven upon some
imperishable tablet! Would that the spirit which then inspired him had
been infused into the bosom of every one who has since engaged in the
antislavery cause!


The account I have given above of the valuable services rendered in
the Philadelphia Convention by Lucretia Mott, Esther Moore, and Lydia
White, doubtless reminded my readers of many other excellent women,
whose names stand high among the early antislavery reformers. The
memories of them are most precious to me. If I live to write out half
of my Recollections, and you do not weary of them, I shall make most
grateful mention of our female fellow-laborers in general, of several
of them in particular, though I cannot do ample justice to any.

There is one of whom I must speak now, because I have already passed
the time, at which her inestimable services commenced. In July, 1833,
when the number, the variety, and the malignity of our opponents had
become manifest, we were not much more delighted than surprised by the
publication of a thoroughgoing antislavery volume, from the pen of
Mrs. Lydia Maria Child. She was at that time, perhaps, the most popular
as well as useful of our female writers. None certainly, excepting
Miss Sedgwick, rivalled her. The _North American Review_, then, if
not now, the highest authority on matters of literary criticism,
said at the time: “We are not sure that any woman in our country
would outrank Mrs. Child. This lady has long been before the public
as an author with much success. And she well deserves it, for in all
her works we think that nothing can be found which does not commend
itself by its tone of healthy morality and good sense. Few female
writers, if any, have done more or better things for our literature,
in its lighter or graver departments.” That such an author--ay, such
an _authority_--should espouse our cause just at that crisis, I do
assure you, was a matter of no small joy, yes, exultation. She was
extensively known in the Southern as well as the Northern States, and
her books commanded a ready sale there not less than here. We had seen
her often at our meetings. We knew that she sympathized with her brave
husband in his abhorrence of our American system of slavery; but we
did not know that she had so carefully studied and thoroughly mastered
the subject. Nor did we suspect that she possessed the power, if she
had the courage, to strike so heavy a blow. Why, the very title-page
was pregnant with the gist of the whole matters under dispute between
us,--“Immediate Abolitionists,” and the slaveholders on the one hand,
and the Colonizationists on the other,--“_An Appeal in Favor of that
Class of Americans_ CALLED _Africans_.” The volume, still prominent
in the literature of our conflict, is replete with facts showing, not
only the horrible cruelties that had been perpetrated by individual
slaveholders or their overseers, but the essential barbarity of the
_system of slavery_, its dehumanizing influences upon those who
enforced it scarcely less than upon those who were crushed under it.
Her book did us an especially valuable service in showing, to those who
had paid little attention to the subject, that the Africans are not by
_nature_ inferior to other--even the _white_--races of men; but that
“Ethiopia held a conspicuous place among the nations of ancient times.
Her princes were wealthy and powerful, and her people distinguished
for integrity and wisdom. Even the proud Grecians evinced respect
for Ethiopia, almost amounting to reverence, and derived thence the
sublimest portions of their mythology. And the popular belief, that all
the gods made an annual visit to feast with the excellent Ethiopians,
shows the high estimation in which they were then held, for we are not
told that such an honor was bestowed on any other nation.” Mrs. Child’s
exposure of the fallacy of the Colonization scheme, as well as the
falsity of the pretensions put forth by its advocates, amply sustained
all Mr. Garrison’s accusations. And her _exposé_ of the principles of
the “Immediate Abolitionists” was clear, and her defence of them was

This “Appeal” reached thousands who had given no heed to us before, and
made many converts to the doctrines of Mr. Garrison.

Of course, what pleased and helped us so much gave proportionate
offence to slaveholders, Colonizationists, and their Northern abettors.
Mrs. Child was denounced. Her effeminate admirers, both male and
female, said there were “some very indelicate things in her book,”
though there was nothing narrated in it that had not been allowed, if
not perpetrated, by “the refined, hospitable, chivalric gentlemen and
ladies” on their Southern plantations. The politicians and statesmen
scouted the woman who “presumed to criticise so freely the constitution
and government of her country. Women had better let politics alone.”
And certain ministers gravely foreboded “evil and ruin to our country,
if the women generally should follow Mrs. Child’s bad example, and
neglect their domestic duties to attend to the affairs of state.”

Mrs. Child’s popularity was reversed. Her writings on other subjects
were no longer sought after with the avidity that was shown for them
before the publication of her “Appeal.” Most of them were sent back to
their publishers from the Southern bookstores, with the notice that
the demand for her books had ceased. The sale of them at the North was
also greatly diminished. It was said at the time that her income from
the productions of her pen was lessened six or eight hundred dollars
a year. But this did not daunt her. On the contrary, it roused her to
greater exertion, as it revealed to her more fully the moral corruption
which slavery had diffused throughout our country, and summoned her
patriotism as well as her benevolence to more determined conflict with
our nation’s deadliest enemy. Indeed, she consecrated herself to the
cause of the enslaved. Many of her publications since then have related
to the great subject, viz.: The Oasis, Antislavery Catechism, Authentic
Anecdotes, Evils and Cure of Slavery, Other Tracts, Life of Isaac T.
Hopper, and, more than all, her letters to Governor Wise, of Virginia,
and to Mrs. Mason, respecting John Brown. Those letters had an immense
circulation throughout the free States, and were blazoned by all
manner of anathemas in the Southern papers. Her letter to Mrs. Mason
especially was copied by hundreds of thousands, and was doubtless one
of the efficient agencies that prepared the mind of the North for the
final great crisis.

For several years, assisted by her husband, Mrs. Child edited the
_Antislavery Standard_, elevated its literary character, extended its
circulation, and increased its efficiency.

But, in a more private way, this admirable woman rendered the early
Abolitionists most important services. She, together with Mrs. Maria
W. Chapman and Eliza Lee Follen, and others, of whom I shall write
hereafter, were presiding geniuses in all our councils and more public
meetings, often proposing the wisest measures, and suggesting to
those who were “allowed to speak in the assembly” the most weighty
thoughts, pertinent facts, apt illustrations, which they could not
be persuaded to utter aloud. Repeatedly in those early days, before
Angelina and Sarah Grimké had taught others besides Quaker women
“to _speak_ in meeting,” if they had anything to say that was worth
hearing,--repeatedly did I spring to the platform, crying, “Hear me as
the mouthpiece of Mrs. Child, or Mrs. Chapman, or Mrs. Follen,” and
convulsed the audience with a stroke of wit, or electrified them with
a flash of eloquence, caught from the lips of one or the other of our
antislavery prophetesses.

N. B.--That Mrs. Child, when she became an Abolitionist, did not become
a woman “of one idea” is evinced, not only by her two volumes of
enchanting “Letters from New York,” “Memoirs of Madame de Staël” and
“Madame Roland,” “Biographies of Good Wives,” and several exquisite
books for children, but still more by her three octavo volumes,
entitled “Progress of Religious Ideas,” which must have been the result
of a vast amount of reading and profound thought on all the subjects
of theology and religion. Her later work, “Looking towards Sunset,” is
full of beautiful ideas about that future life, for which her untiring
devotion to all the humanities in this life must have so fully prepared


Lane Seminary was an institution established by our orthodox
fellow-Christians, mainly for the preparation of young men for the
ministry. It attained so much importance in the estimation of its
patrons, that, in 1832, they claimed for it the services and the
reputation of Rev. Dr. Beecher, who left Boston at that time and became
its president. There he found, or was soon after joined by, Prof.
Calvin E. Stowe, another distinguished teacher of Calvinistic theology.
This school of the prophets was placed on Walnut Hill, in the vicinity
of Cincinnati, that it might be near to the Southwestern States, and
was separated from Kentucky only by the river Ohio. It had attracted,
by the reputation of its Faculty, from all parts of the country, quite
a number of remarkably able, earnest, conscientious, and, as they
proved to be, eloquent young men.

At the time when the signal event occurred of which I am now to give
some account, there were in the literary and theological departments
of Lane Seminary more than a hundred students. Eleven of these were
from different slave States; seven of them sons of slaveholders, one
himself a slaveholder when he entered the institution, and one of the
number--James Bradley--had emancipated himself from the cruel bondage
by the payment of a large sum, that he had earned by extra labor.
Besides these, there were ten of the students who had resided more or
less in the slave States, and were well acquainted with the condition
of the people, and the influence of their “peculiar institution”
of domestic servitude. Moreover, that you may appreciate fully the
importance of the event I am going to narrate to you, and know that it
was not (as some at the time represented it to be) a boyish prank, or
mere college rebellion,--“a tempest in a teapot,”--let me tell you that
the youngest student in the seminary was nineteen years of age, most of
the students were more than twenty-six years old, and several of them
were over thirty. They were sober, Christian men, who were preparing
themselves, in good earnest, to preach the Gospel; and they believed
that one of its proclamations was “liberty to the captives, let the
oppressed go free, break every yoke.”

Soon after the seminary was opened, a Colonization Society was formed
among the students. At the time of which I speak most of them were
members of that Society, and were encouraged by the Faculty so to be.
But the publication of Mr. Garrison’s “Thoughts on Colonization,” and
the formation of the “American Antislavery Society,” attracted the
attention of some of their number. Conversations arose on the subject
between them and their fellows. An anxious inquiry was awakened as to
the truth of the allegations brought against the Colonization scheme,
and as to the justice of the new demand made by Mr. Garrison and his
associates for the “immediate abolition of slavery.” At length, in
February, 1834, it was proposed that there should be a thorough public
discussion of two questions:--

1st. Whether the people of the slaveholding States ought to abolish
slavery at once, and without prescribing, as a condition, that the
emancipated should be sent to Liberia, or elsewhere, out of our country?

2d. Whether the doctrines, tendencies, measures, spirit of the
Colonization Society were such as to render it worthy of the patronage
of Christian people?

We were informed at the time, by several who were cognizant of the
fact, that the Faculty, fearing the effect of such a discussion upon
the prosperity of the seminary, officially and earnestly advised
that it should be indefinitely postponed. But many of the students
had become too deeply interested in these questions to consent that
they should remain unsettled. They were therefore discussed,--each
one through nine evenings,--in the presence of the President and
most of the Faculty, fully, faithfully, earnestly, but courteously
debated. The results were, on the first question, an almost unanimous
vote to this effect: that “Immediate emancipation from slavery was
the right of every slave and the duty of every slaveholder.” And on
the second question it was voted, by a large majority, “That the
American Colonization Society and its scheme were not deserving of
the approbation and aid of Christians.” This was the purport, if not
the exact language, of the resolutions at the close of the debate of
eighteen evenings.

The report of the proceeding and the result went speedily through the
land; and, as speedily, there came back, from certain quarters, no
stinted measure of condemnation, warning, threats. These so alarmed the
Faculty that, as soon as was practicable, they formally prohibited the
continued existence of an Antislavery Society among the students of
Lane Seminary; and required that the Colonization Society, which they
had cherished hitherto, should be also disbanded and abolished.

At the next meeting of the Overseers, or Corporation of the Seminary,
this high-handed measure of the Faculty was approved and confirmed. The
remonstrance of the students (all but one of them adult men, thirty
of them more than twenty-six years of age) availed not to procure a
reconsideration of this oppressive decree. Accordingly, nearly all of
them--seventy or eighty in number--withdrew from the Seminary, refusing
to be the pupils of theological professors who showed so plainly that
their sympathies were with the oppressors, rather than with the
oppressed; or that they had not courage enough to denounce so egregious
a wrong, so tremendous a sin, as the enslavement of millions of human

Like the disciples after the martyrdom of Stephen, these faithful young
men were scattered abroad throughout the land, and went everywhere,
preaching the word which they were forbidden to utter within the
enclosure of a school, dedicated to the promulgation of the religion of
Jesus of Nazareth.

Antislavery truth was disseminated far and wide by their agency. Those
who were the sons of slaveholders returned to the homes of their
parents, and besought them and their neighbors to repent of their great
unrighteousness and flee from the wrath to come. These entreaties were
not all lost. Several slaveholders were converted, and gave liberty to
their bondmen. If I mistake not, the attention of that admirable man,
Hon. James G. Birney, of Kentucky, was fixed by the discussions in Lane
Seminary, and by conversations with the students upon the really evil
tendency of the Colonization plan, which, with the best intentions, he
had done so much to promote. At any rate, his conversion about that
time to the doctrine of “immediate emancipation” was an event of signal
importance, as I hope to show you in a future article.

It was not my privilege to become personally acquainted with many
of these young men, whose conscientious, courteous, dignified, yet
determined course of conduct awakened our admiration, and whose
subsequent labors helped mightily the great work projected by the
American Antislavery Society. Several of them were called to announce
and advocate their principles in communities where it was especially
dangerous “to speak those truths which tyrants dread.” We were
delighted from time to time by the accounts that came to us of their
unflinching fidelity. And undoubtedly there were some cases of peculiar
trial and suffering endured by them, which are treasured among the
secret things that are to be made known, when He “who seeth in secret
will reward men openly.”

Amos Dresser, eager to raise the funds he needed to enable him to
pursue his studies and complete his preparation for the ministry, took
of the publishers an agency for the sale of the “Cottage Bible” in
Tennessee. For the transportation of himself and his load he procured
a horse and barouche. He had proceeded without molestation as far as
Nashville. There it was discovered that he was an Abolitionist,--one of
the students that had left Lane Seminary on account of his principles.
He was arrested by order of the Mayor, and brought before the Committee
of Vigilance. By them his trunk was searched, his journal, private
papers, and letters were examined. These showed plainly enough, and he
promptly acknowledged, that he was opposed to slavery; that he pitied
his fellow-men who were in bondage, and regarded those who held them in
chains as guilty of great wickedness.

Therefore, although there was not the slightest proofs that, thus far,
he had done or said anything that did not pertain to his business, he
was condemned by the Committee to be taken out immediately, to receive
twenty lashes upon his bare back, and to depart from the city within
twenty-four hours. Accordingly, that American citizen, for the crime of
believing “the Declaration of Independence,” was taken by the excited
populace to a public square in Nashville, and there on his knees
received upon his naked back twenty lashes, laid on by a city officer
with a heavy cowhide. He was then hurried away, leaving behind him five
hundred dollars’ worth of property, which was never restored.

James A. Thome, the son of a Kentucky slaveholder, was so thoroughly
converted to Abolitionism that, during the pendency of the infamous
decree of the Faculty and Trustees of the Seminary, he was sent as a
delegate from the Antislavery Society which the students had formed
to attend the annual meetings of the Abolitionists in May, 1834. He
came and addressed the public in New York, Boston, and elsewhere. His
heartfelt sincerity, his tender, fervid eloquence, made a peculiarly
deep impression upon his audiences. And having been born and brought
up in the midst of slavery, his testimony to its cruelties, its
licentiousness, and its depraving influences was received without
distrust, though it sustained the worst allegations that had ever been
brought against the domestic servitude in our Southern States.

Henry B. Stanton came with Mr. Thome as another delegate from the Lane
Seminary Antislavery Society to the May meetings of 1834. This then
young man also evinced so much zeal in the cause, so much power as a
speaker and skill in debate, that soon after the dissolution of his
connection with the seminary, in the month of October of that year,
he was appointed an agent of the American Antislavery Society, and,
for ten years or more afterwards, Mr. Stanton continued to do us most
valuable service by his eloquent lectures, his pertinent contributions
to our antislavery papers, and his diligence and fidelity as one of the
secretaries of the National Society.

But Theodore D. Weld was the master-spirit among the Lane Seminary
students. Indeed, he was accused by the Trustees of being the
instigator of all the fanaticism and incendiary movements that had
given them so much trouble and threatened the ruin of the institution.
Accordingly, it was moved that Mr. Weld be expelled. No breach of law
was charged upon this gentleman; no disrespect to the Faculty, nor
anything implicating in the least his moral character, only that he was
the leader of the Abolitionists. Still, the proposition to expel him
was favored by the majority of the Trustees. When, therefore, the final
action of the Board had determined the students to ask for a dismission
from the seminary, Theodore D. Weld, with becoming self-respect, chose
to remain until he should be cleared by the Faculty of all charges of
misconduct. As soon as the Board had had a meeting and withdrawn their
accusation, he applied for and received an honorable dismission.

Then he accepted an appointment as an agent of the Antislavery Society,
at a salary less by half than was offered him by another benevolent
association. And throughout the Western and Middle States, and
occasionally in New England, he lectured with a frequency, a fervor,
and an effect that justify me in saying that no one, excepting only
Mr. Garrison and Mr. Phillips, has done more than Mr. Weld for the
abolition of American slavery.

What a loss it would have been to the cause of liberty, if the Faculty
and Trustees of Lane Seminary had been wiser men!


I am careful to affix his _titles_ to the name of this distinguished
friend of humanity, because they indicate, in some measure, the
estimation to which George Thompson has risen both in England and in
the United States. The former title was conferred upon him in his own
country, the latter in ours. But both nations owe him much more than
_titles_. By each he should be placed high on the list of its public
benefactors, and the two should unite to give him every comfort that he
may need in his old age, and enable him to provide well for all who
are dependent upon him.

George Thompson was born in 1804, the same year that gave birth to
William Lloyd Garrison, and, like our illustrious countryman, has risen
to his high elevation from a lowly estate of life. His native place was
Liverpool, not far from the residence of William Roscoe, his father
being, at the time of his birth, in the service of that distinguished
scholar and philanthropist. He never attended school a day, but, like
Garrison, was indebted to his mother for all elementary instruction.
For the rest of his acquisitions he was left to depend upon himself.

While he was quite young his parents removed to London, and so soon
as he could be made serviceable he was employed as an errand-boy.
Quickened and guided by his excellent mother’s love of knowledge, he
early acquired the habit of reading, and greedily devoured all books
adapted to his age that she could procure for him.

He was so fortunate as to attract the kind regard of the Rev. Richard
Watson, the distinguished writer and preacher in defence of the
doctrines of Methodism. He was taken as a chore-boy into that good
man’s family, and was with him, as his humble assistant in indoor and
outdoor work, during most of the time that Mr. Watson was preparing
his most famous publications. Owing to the influence of this divine,
but more to his mother, at the age of fifteen George Thompson became
the subject of deep, religious convictions, and consecrated himself,
by public profession, to the service of God and the redemption of man.
When sixteen years old he was appointed a Tract distributor, and joined
a society for visiting and nursing the destitute sick. About the same
time he was apprenticed to a grocer, and continued in his employment a
number of years, having in due time become his accountant.

At the age of twenty George Thompson was admitted a member of a large
debating-club. In this connection, he soon disclosed to those about
him the value of the acquisitions he had made by reading, under the
direction of his mother and Mr. Watson; and sometimes gave off more
than sparks of that eloquence which since then has so often electrified
and fired his large audiences, throughout Great Britain and our
Northern and Western States.

In the course of the years 1825, 1826, and 1827, the benevolent people
of England were pretty thoroughly roused by Clarkson, Wilberforce,
Macaulay, and their brother philanthropists, to a consciousness of
their nation’s wickedness, in consenting to the system of West India
slavery under the dominion of the British Crown. The question of
immediate emancipation was agitated everywhere throughout the realm.
It was introduced into the debating-club which George Thompson had
joined. His sympathy for the slaves had been awakened very early in
life. His father, when a young man, ran away from home, and enlisted as
captain’s clerk on board a slave-ship, not knowing what he did. But so
soon as he witnessed the embarkation of the victims of that accursed
traffic, and the treatment of them on the “middle passage,” he was too
much horrified to remain an hour longer, than he was obliged to, in any
way connected with “a business too bad for demons to do.” Immediately,
therefore, on the arrival of his ship in the West Indies, he fled to an
officer of a British man-of-war, and begged that he might be impressed
into the naval service, and so escape the repetition of the horrors
he had seen and unwillingly helped to perpetrate. Often had George
heard his father narrate the cruelties which were inflicted on board
the ship with which he was connected,--cruelties inseparable from the
forcible transportation of human beings, without the least regard to
their personal comfort, from the freedom of their native wilds to the
hell of slavery in America. Thus was his young heart and soul fired
with indignation at the sin of his nation, and baptized into the love
of impartial liberty. He, of course, welcomed the introduction of the
question into the club, and entered upon the debate with holy zeal.
The discussion was continued through twelve evenings. It attracted
much attention; resulted in a resolution, passed almost unanimously,
in favor of _immediate emancipation_; and was deemed of sufficient
importance to be reported to the government. Especial mention was made
of “the heartfelt, impassioned eloquence of a young man, named George
Thompson”; and our friend became the cherished associate of several
gentlemen who have since been widely known among the active friends of
all the reforms and social improvements that have blessed Great Britain
and Ireland within the last forty years.

In 1828 Mr. Thompson was especially invited to join “The London
Literary and Scientific Association,” comprising about a thousand
young men. Here, too, the question of West India emancipation came
up for consideration, was earnestly and ably debated through three
long evenings, and resulted in favor of the _immediate abolition_ of
slavery. This result was attributed mainly to “the masterly logic, as
well as fervid eloquence, of young Thompson.” The newspapers commented
on his success, as an augury of what might be expected from him in _a
more august debating-club_, which in England means Parliament.

And here I must tell you a family secret. The lady who afterwards
became his wife, whose position in society was much higher than his
own (a circumstance of far greater importance in England than in
our country), was present at these debates. She was fired with such
admiration of his powers, and of his consecration of them to the cause
of suffering humanity, that it lighted a kindred flame in his bosom;
or, to speak in plain American English, they there fell in love with
each other, and were soon after married.

About this time the London Antislavery Society was formed. The
directors, or executive committee thereof, advertised for a suitable
man, who was willing to become their lecturing agent. This opened the
door to what has since been the business of his life. He hesitated
several weeks, distrusting his ability. But, encouraged and urged by
his young wife, he at length consented that the Secretary, Mr. Thomas
Pringle, should be informed of his wish to receive an appointment. By
that gentleman he was invited to an interview with Sir George Stevens
and Rev. Zachary Macaulay, who, after satisfying themselves of his
qualifications, commended him to Lord Brougham, Lord Denham, and Sir
George Bunting, the committee that was to decide the question of
appointment. These gentlemen, after an extended conversation with him,
gave him a commission for three months, and sent him forth to agitate
the community on the question of West India emancipation.

Could you but turn to the English papers of that day, you would see
for yourself how rapidly, and to what an unexampled height, rose his
reputation as a lecturer. At the end of three months, the demands
that came from all parts of the kingdom for the services of Mr.
Thompson settled the question with the committee. They gave him an
appointment until “the warfare should be accomplished.” And for three
or four years he was the principal, if not the only, agent of that
Society, performing an amount of labor which seems almost superhuman.
In all parts of the United Kingdom his voice was heard, either in
speeches to the crowds that everywhere thronged to listen to him,
or in debates with Mr. Bostwick and other agents hired by the West
India slaveholders to oppose him. And when, in 1833, the victory was
achieved; when, overpowered by the outward pressure, both Houses of
Parliament were compelled to make a virtue of necessity, and to magnify
the glory of England by that Act which gave liberty to eight hundred
thousand slaves, Lord Brougham rose in the House of Lords and said: “I
rise to take the crown of this most glorious victory from every other
head, and place it upon George Thompson’s. He has done more than any
other man to achieve it.” This tribute was most justly deserved.

Yet for all his labors, his inestimable services, Mr. Thompson received
only pecuniary compensation enough to pay his expenses and support his
small family. He asked no more. He had consecrated himself to the cause
of suffering humanity for its own sake, not expecting to be enriched
thereby. But the friends of that cause which he had served so well, so
nobly, could not be indifferent to his future career. Lord Brougham,
Lord Denham, and others, confident that he would become an ornament
and an honor to the legal profession, offered him all the assistance
he could need to defray his own and his family’s expenses for five
years, while he should be pursuing his preparatory studies, and getting
established as a member of the English bar. The prospect thus opened
was most inviting to him; the proposed profession was congenial to
his taste. Indeed, if I have been correctly informed, the preliminary
arrangements were made, when the claims of the most oppressed of all
men,--the enslaved in the United States,--were forcibly urged upon him.

Mr. Garrison had been in England several weeks, laboring successfully
to undeceive the philanthropists and people of Great Britain as to the
real design and tendency of the American Colonization Society. Their
kindred spirits had met and mingled. He had heard Mr. Garrison’s
exposition, and had become, with Clarkson, Wilberforce, Buxton, and
others, fully satisfied that the expatriation of the free colored
people, their removal from this country, if practicable, would only
perpetuate the bondage of the enslaved, and aggravate their wrongs. Mr.
Garrison, on the other hand, had repeatedly witnessed the surpassing
power of Mr. Thompson’s eloquence on the audiences he addressed, had
heard the tributes everywhere paid to the importance of his services,
and was present at the consummation of his unsparing labors,--the
passage by the British Parliament of the bill for the abolition of
West India slavery. It was manifest to him that the man, who had done
so much for the overthrow of British slavery, could help mightily to
accomplish the far greater work needed to be done in this country;
and his heart was set on enlisting Mr. Thompson in the service of the
American Antislavery Society. He pressed his wish, his demand, upon him
just as Mr. Thompson was about to agree to the above-named arrangement
for the study of the law. Mr. Garrison’s invitation was not to be
accepted hastily, nor could he reject it without consideration. He
revolved it anxiously in his mind, as he went from city to city with
his now beloved brother, hearing him portray the peculiarities of the
American system of slavery, the far greater difficulties against which
Abolitionists here had to contend, the need we felt of a living voice,
potent enough to wake up thousands who were _dead_ in this iniquity.

On the eve of Mr. Garrison’s departure from England in the fall of 1833
Mr. Thompson, with deep emotion, said to him: “I have thought much of
the bright professional prospects opened to me here. I have thought
yet more of the dark, dismal, desperate condition of millions of my
fellow-beings in your country. They are no farther from me than are
the eight hundred thousand whom I have been laboring to emancipate,
and their claims upon me for the help God may enable me to give them
are just as strong. I cannot withhold myself from their service. If,
on your return to Boston, you shall still think I can render you much
assistance, and your fellow-laborers concur with you in that opinion,
command me, and I will hasten to you.”

Mr. Thompson, however, remained in England almost a year after Mr.
Garrison left him, that he might reorganize the antislavery hosts who
had triumphed so gloriously in the conflict for British West India
emancipation, and induce them to engage as heartily in the enterprise
for the emancipation of the millions held in the most abject bondage in
these United States, and for the abolition of slavery throughout the


When, on his return from England in October, 1833, Mr. Garrison
informed us that he had obtained from George Thompson--the champion of
the triumphant conflict for West India emancipation--the promise to
“come over and help us,” if we concurred in the invitation Mr. Garrison
had given him, our hearts were encouraged, our hands strengthened,
our purpose confirmed. Our own great antislavery orators, male and
female, who since then have done so much to convict and convert the
nation, had not yet appeared. Theodore D. Weld and Henry B. Stanton
were studying theology in Lane Seminary; Parker Pillsbury, Stephen S.
Foster, and John A. Collins were doing likewise somewhere in Vermont;
Henry C. Wright had not plucked up quite courage enough to justify Mr.
Garrison’s terrible denunciations of slaveholders and their abettors;
James G. Birney was the Secretary of the Kentucky Colonization Society;
Gerrit Smith had not got wholly out of the toils of that fraudulent
scheme which had deceived “the very elect”; Charles C. Burleigh was an
unknown youth in Plainfield Academy; Wendell Phillips, our Apollo, was
just preparing to leap into his place at the head of the Massachusetts
bar; and Angelina Grimké, Lucy Stone, Abby Kelly Foster, Susan B.
Anthony, Antoinette L. Brown, Sallie Holley, and other excellent women,
who have since rendered such signal services, had not then left “the
appropriate sphere of women.”

That George Thompson would come to our aid, the orator to whose
relentless logic and surpassing eloquence, more than to any other
instrumentality, Lord Brougham had just attributed the triumph of the
antislavery cause in England,--that he was about coming to help us did
seem at that time a godsend indeed. But, as was stated in my last, his
coming was deferred a year, that the Abolitionists of Great Britain
and Ireland might not lay aside their well-used weapons, nor cease
from their warfare, while so many millions of human beings remained
in the most abject slavery, especially in the United States, where
the horrid institution was established by the authority of England.
Having re-enlisted his fellow-laborers throughout the United Kingdom to
co-operate with us, he came to Boston in the fall of 1834.

At that time I was devoting a few weeks of permitted absence from my
church in Connecticut to a lecturing tour in the antislavery cause,
and came to Mr. Garrison’s house in Roxbury an hour after the arrival
of Mr. Thompson. He readily consented to go with us the next day to
Groton, there to attend a county convention. We gladly spent the
remainder of that day together, in earnest and prayerful communion
over the great work in which we had engaged; and at night repaired
to lodge at the Earl Hotel in Hanover Street, that we might not fail
to be off for Groton the next morning at four o’clock, in the first
stage-coach, no conveyance thither by railroad being extant then.

At the appointed hour, the house being well filled, the meeting was
called to order, and business commenced. As all were eager to see
and hear the great English orator, preliminary matters were disposed
of as soon as practicable. Then Mr. Thompson was called up by a
resolution enthusiastically passed, declaring our appreciation of the
inestimable value of his antislavery labors in England, our joy that
he had come to aid us to deliver our country from the dominion of
slaveholders, and our wish that he would occupy as much of the time of
the convention as his inclination might prompt and his strength would
enable him to do. He rose, and soon enchained the attention of all
present. He set forth the essential, immitigable sin of holding human
beings as slaves in a light, if possible, more vivid, more intense,
than even Mr. Garrison had thrown upon that “sum of all villanies.” He
illustrated and sustained his assertions by the most pertinent facts
in the history of West India slavery. He inculcated the spirit in
which we ought to prosecute our endeavor to emancipate the bondmen,--a
spirit of compassion for the masters as well as their slaves,--a
compassion too considerate of the harm which the slaveholder suffers,
as well as inflicts, to consent to any continuance of the iniquity.
He most solemnly enjoined the use of only moral and political means
and instrumentalities to effect the subversion and extermination of
the gigantic system of iniquity, although it seemed to tower above
and overshadow the civil and religious institutions of our country.
He showed us that he justly appreciated the greater difficulties of
the work to be done in our land, than of that which had just been
so gloriously accomplished in England, but exhorted us to trust
undoubtingly in “the might of the right,”--the mercy, the justice, the
power of God,--and to go forward in the full assurance that He, who had
crowned the labors of the British Abolitionists with such a triumph,
would enable us in like manner to accomplish the greater work he had
given us to do.

Mr. Thompson then went on to give us a graphic, glowing account of the
long and fierce conflict they had had in England for the abolition
of slavery in the British West Indies. His eloquence rose to a still
higher order. His narrative became _a continuous metaphor_, admirably
sustained. He represented the antislavery enterprise in which he
had been so long engaged as a stout, well-built ship, manned by a
noble-hearted crew, launched upon a stormy ocean, bound to carry
inestimable relief to 800,000 sufferers in a far-distant land. He
clothed all the kinds of opposition they had met, all the difficulties
they had contended with, in imagery suggested by the observation and
experience of the voyager across the Atlantic in the most tempestuous
season of the year. In the height of his descriptions, my attention was
withdrawn from the emotions enkindled in my own bosom sufficiently to
observe the effect of his eloquence upon half a dozen boys, of twelve
or fourteen years of age, sitting together not far from the platform.
They were completely possessed by it. When the ship reeled or plunged
or staggered in the storms, they unconsciously went through the same
motions. When the enemy attacked her, the boys took the liveliest part
in battle,--manning the guns, or handing shot and shell, or pressing
forward to repulse the boarders. When the ship struck upon an iceberg,
the boys almost fell from their seats in the recoil. When the sails
and topmasts were wellnigh carried away by the gale, they seemed to
be straining themselves to prevent the damage; and when at length the
ship triumphantly sailed into her destined port with colors flying
and signals of glad tidings floating from her topmast, and the shout
of welcome rose from thousands of expectant freedmen on the shore,
the boys gave three loud cheers, “Hurrah! Hurrah!! Hurrah!!!” This
irrepressible explosion of their feelings brought them at once to
themselves. They blushed, covered their faces, sank down on their
seats, one of them upon the floor. It was an ingenuous, thrilling
tribute to the surpassing power of the orator, and only added to the
zest and heartiness with which the whole audience applauded (to use the
words of another at the time) “the persuasive reasonings, the earnest
appeals, the melting pathos, the delightful but caustic irony and
enrapturing eloquence of Mr. Thompson.”

Thus commenced his brilliant career in this country. The Groton
Convention lasted two days, the 1st and 2d of October. Mr. Thompson
went thence immediately to Lowell, where he spoke to a delighted crowd
on the 5th. Four days after, on the 9th of October, he gave his first
address in Boston. It was at an adjourned meeting of the Massachusetts
Antislavery Society. All the prominent Abolitionists, who could be,
were there to see and hear “the almost inspired apostle of negro
emancipation,” who had “come over to help us.” Every one that heard
him then felt that his signal gifts had not been overrated, and joined
in thanksgiving to the God of the oppressed, whose Holy Spirit, we
believed, had moved him to consecrate those gifts to the abolition of

Reports of Mr. Thompson’s eloquence spread rapidly, and invitations
came to him from all quarters. The day after the meeting in Boston he
went into the State of Maine, and lectured on the 12th in Portland,
on the 13th in Brunswick, on the 15th in Augusta. Everywhere he was
heard with delight, and made many converts. At Augusta, it is true,
he received an angry letter from five “gentlemen of property and
standing,” informing him that his “coming to their city had given great
offence,” and admonishing him not to presume to address the public
there again. But his engagements elsewhere, rather than their threats,
obliged him to leave immediately. The next evening he lectured in the
neighboring city of Hallowell, where the people heard him gladly. On
the 17th he delivered an address in Waterville, which was listened to
by most of the students and several of the faculty of the College, and
made deep impressions upon a large number. On the 20th he spoke again
to a crowded audience in Brunswick, with like effect upon the students
and faculty of Bowdoin College. Returning, he lectured at Portland in
six different churches, to large and delighted audiences, before the
close of the month; and then came into New Hampshire and gave lectures
in Plymouth, Concord, and other places, on his way back to Boston.
After a few days’ repose, he went forth again, in answer to many
urgent invitations, and lifted up his voice for the enslaved in Rhode
Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Whoever will
turn over the leaves of the _Liberator_ for 1834 and 1835 will find
on almost every page some admiring mention of Mr. Thompson’s lectures
or speeches, and grateful acknowledgments of the deep impressions his
words had made.

It is true that in the same paper will be found, under the appropriate
head “_Refuge of Oppression_,” extracts from newspapers and letters
from all parts of the country, denouncing, execrating him, and calling
upon the patriotic to put a stop to his incendiary career. He was a
foreign intruder, who had come here to “meddle with a delicate matter
about which he could know nothing.” He was “a British emissary, sent
to embroil the Northern with the Southern States, and break up our
glorious Union.” He was “the paid agent of the enemies of republican
institutions, supported in our midst, that he might do all in his
power to prevent the success of the grandest experiment in national
government ever tried on earth.” The changes were rung on these and
similar charges until those, who could be deceived thereby, were
maddened in their fear and hatred of Mr. Thompson. He was threatened
with all kinds of ill-treatment; yet he went fearlessly wherever he was
invited to speak, and not unfrequently disarmed and converted some who
had come to the meetings intending to do him harm.

In several of his lecturing tours I was his companion; and I wondered
how any persons who heard him speak, in public or in private, could
suspect or be persuaded that he was an enemy of our country. I was
continually surprised, as well as delighted, by the evidences he gave
of his just appreciation of the principles of our government, and the
admiration of them that he always cordially expressed. Having hitherto
contemplated our Republic from a distance, he seemed to have taken
a more comprehensive view of it than too many of our own citizens,
even statesmen, had done, whose regard for the whole nation had been
warped by their concern for the supposed interests of a section or a
State. Mr. Thompson’s detestation of slavery was intensified by his
clear perception of the corruption it had diffused throughout our body
politic and body ecclesiastic; and, if not abolished, the ruin it
would inevitably bring upon our country, called, in the providence of
God, to be “the land of the free and the asylum of the oppressed.” No
American patriot ever felt, for no human heart could feel, a deeper,
more sincere, or more intelligent concern for the honor, glory,
perpetuity of our Republic than Mr. Thompson felt and evinced in his
every word and act. Few home-born lovers of our country have done a
tithe as much as he did to save her from the ruin she was bringing upon
herself by her recreancy to the fundamental principles, upon which she
professed to stand. Not a dozen names, of those who have lived within
the last forty years, deserve to stand higher on the list of our public
benefactors than the name of George Thompson.

Yet was he maligned, hated, hunted, driven from our shores. The story
of the treatment he received is too shameful to be told. During the
last six months of his stay here the persecution of him was continuous.
The newspapers, from Maine to Georgia, with a few most honorable
exceptions, denounced him daily, and called for his punishment as an
enemy, or his expulsion from the country. Those few who dared to tell
the truth testified, not only to his enrapturing eloquence and his
friendliness to our nation, but to his eminently Christian deportment
and spirit. But the tide of persecution could not be stayed. He was
often insulted in the streets. Meetings to which he spoke, or at which
he was expected to speak, were broken up by mobs. Rewards were offered
for his person or his life. Twice I assisted to help his escape from
the hands of hired ruffians.

All this he bore, for the most part, with fortitude and sweet
serenity. He seemed less apprehensive of his danger than his friends
were. Sometimes he overawed the men who were sent to take him by his
dignified, heroic bearing, and at other times dispelled their evil
intentions by his pertinent wit. I will give a single instance. At one
of the last meetings he addressed in Boston, some Southerners cried

“We wish we had you at the South. We would cut your ears off, if not
your head.”

Mr. Thompson promptly replied: “Would you? Then should I cry out
all the louder, ‘He that _hath_ ears to hear let him hear.’” It was
irresistible. I believe the Southerners themselves joined in the
rapturous applause.

On the 27th of September, 1835, we left Boston together in a private
conveyance,--he to lecture at Abington, one of the most antislavery
towns in the State, and I at Halifax, a few miles beyond. On my return
the next morning I learnt that there had been a fearful onslaught
upon Mr. Thompson; and, when I called to take him back to the city, I
found him more subdued than I had ever seen him. He had not expected
ill-usage there. As we passed the meeting-house, from which he and
his audience had been routed the night before, he was overcome by
his emotions. There lay strewn upon the ground fragments of windows,
blinds, and doors, and some of the heavy missiles with which they had
been broken down. He fell back in the chaise, and for several minutes
gave way to his feelings. When able to command himself he said:--

“What does it mean? Am I indeed an enemy of your country? Do I deserve
this at your hands? Testify against me if you can, Mr. May. You know,
if any one does, what sentiments I have uttered, what spirit I have
evinced. You have been with me in private and in public. Have you
ever suspected me? Have you ever heard a word from my lips unfriendly
to your country,--your magnificent, your might-be-glorious, but your
awfully guilty country? What have I said, what have I done, that I
should be treated as an enemy? Have not all my words and all my acts
tended to the removal of an evil which is your nation’s disgrace, and,
if permitted to continue, must be your ruin?”

We rode on in silence, for he knew my answers without hearing them from
my lips. But the outrage at Abington assured us that the spirit of
persecution was rife in the land, and might manifest itself anywhere.

Nevertheless, Mr. Thompson accepted an invitation to lecture a few
days afterwards in the afternoon, by daylight, at East Abington.
Accordingly, on the 15th of October, I went with him to the appointed
place. We had been credibly informed that a number of men were going
thither to take him, if they could do so without harm to themselves.
But the good men and women of the town and neighborhood were up to
the occasion. The meeting-house was crowded, so that, though the evil
intenders were there in force, they soon saw that the capture could not
be made there. And then the wit, the wisdom, the pathos, the eloquence
of the speaker disarmed them, took them captive, and, for the hour, at
least, made them delighted hearers.

This was Mr. Thompson’s last public appearance during his first year in
America. All his friends insisted that he must keep out of sight, and
as soon as practicable return to England. It was well known that his
life was in danger. That we had not attributed too great malignity to
our countrymen--even to the citizens of Boston--was soon made apparent
by their own acts.

It was announced in the _Liberator_, and so became publicly known, that
a regular meeting of the “Boston Female Antislavery Society” would be
held in the Hall, 46 Washington Street, on the 21st of October, 1835.
Without authority, it was reported by other papers that Mr. Thompson
was to address them; and it was more than intimated that then and there
would be the time and place to seize him. On the morning of that day
the following placard was posted in all parts of the city:--


  “That infamous foreign scoundrel, Thompson, will hold forth
  this afternoon at 46 Washington Street. The present is a fair
  opportunity for the friends of the Union to _snake_ Thompson out!
  It will be a contest between the Abolitionists and the friends of
  the Union. A purse of _one hundred dollars_ has been raised by a
  number of patriotic citizens, to reward the individual who shall
  first lay violent hands on Thompson, so that he may be brought to
  the Tar Kettle before dark. Friends of the Union, be vigilant!”

The sequel of the infamous proceedings thus inaugurated will be given
hereafter. Mr. Thompson was not there, and so the mob vented itself
upon another. Mr. Thompson was, and had been for several days, secreted
by his friends in Boston, and afterwards in Brookline, Lynn, Salem,
Phillips Beach, and elsewhere, until his enemies were baffled in their
pursuit of him, and arrangements were made to take him safely out of
the country.

On or about the 20th of November he was conveyed in a small boat,
rowed by two of his friends, from one of the Boston wharves to a
small English brig, that had fortunately been consigned to Henry G.
Chapman, one of our earliest and best antislavery brothers; and in
that vessel he was carried to St. Johns. From that port he sailed for
England on the 28th of the same month. Would that all my countrymen
could read the letter that he wrote to Mr. Garrison on the eve of his
departure. If words can truly express a man’s thoughts and feelings,
the words of that letter were written by a lover of our country, a true
philanthropist, a Christian hero.


There were many noble confessors of the antislavery gospel, and
many self-sacrificing sufferers in the cause, in various parts of
our country, to whom I should be doing great injustice not to speak
particularly of their services, if I were writing a complete history
of our protracted conflict for impartial liberty. But I must confine
myself, for the most part, to my personal recollections of prominent
events and the individuals who were most conspicuous within my own
limited view.

It is to be hoped that a complete history of this second American
Revolution will, erelong, be written by Mr. Garrison, the man of all
others best qualified to write it,--except that he will not give that
prominence to himself in his narrative which he took in the beginning
and occupied until emancipation was proclaimed for all in bondage
throughout our borders. He has been the coryphæus of our antislavery
band. He uttered the first note that thrilled the heart of the nation.
He, more than any one, has corrected the national discord. And he has
led the grand symphony in which so many millions of our countrymen at
last have gladly, exultingly joined.

But so many have, at different periods and in various ways, contributed
to the glorious result that it will not be possible even for Mr.
Garrison to do ample justice to all his fellow-laborers. Indeed, many
of them cannot be known to him, or to any one but the Omniscient.
As in every other war, the fate of many a battle was decided by the
indomitable will and heroic self-sacrifice of some nameless private
soldier, who happened to be at the point of imminent peril, so,
no doubt, has a favorable turn sometimes been given to our great
enterprise by the undaunted moral courage and persistent fidelity of
one and another, who are unknown but to Him who seeth in secret.

In my last article I gave an account of the bitter persecution of Mr.
Thompson. The fact that he was a foreigner was used with great effect
to exasperate the mobocratic spirit against him; but the real gist of
his offence was the same that every one was guilty of, who insisted
upon the abolition of slavery.

At the annual meeting of the American Antislavery Society in May, 1835,
I was sitting upon the platform of the Houston Street Presbyterian
Church in New York, when I was surprised to see a gentleman enter
and take his seat who, I knew, was a partner in one of the most
prominent mercantile houses in the city. He had not been seated long
before he beckoned me to meet him at the door. I did so. “Please walk
out with me, sir,” said he; “I have something of great importance
to communicate.” When we had reached the sidewalk he said, with
considerable emotion and emphasis, “Mr. May, we are not such fools
as not to know that slavery is a great evil, a great wrong. But it
was consented to by the founders of our Republic. It was provided for
in the Constitution of our Union. A great portion of the property of
the Southerners is invested under its sanction; and the business of
the North, as well as the South, has become adjusted to it. There are
millions upon millions of dollars due from Southerners to the merchants
and mechanics of this city alone, the payment of which would be
jeopardized by any rupture between the North and the South. We cannot
afford, sir, to let you and your associates succeed in your endeavor
to overthrow slavery. It is not a matter of principle with us. It is a
matter of business necessity. We cannot afford to let you succeed. And
I have called you out to let you know, and to let your fellow-laborers
know, that we do not mean to allow you to succeed. We mean, sir,” said
he, with increased emphasis,--“we mean, sir, to put you Abolitionists
down,--by fair means if we can, by foul means if we must.”

After a minute’s pause I replied: “Then, sir, the gain of gold
must be better than that of godliness. Error must be mightier than
truth; wrong stronger than right. The Devil must preside over the
affairs of the universe, and not God. Now, sir, I believe neither of
these propositions. If holding men in slavery be wrong, it will be
abolished. We shall succeed, your pecuniary interests to the contrary
notwithstanding.” He turned hastily away; but he has lived long enough
to find that he was mistaken, and to rejoice in the abolition of

We were soon made to realize that the words of the New York merchant
were not an unmeaning threat. He had not spoken for himself, or any
number of the moving spirits of that commercial metropolis alone. He
was warranted in saying what he did by the pretty general intention
of the “gentlemen of property and standing” throughout the country to
put a stop to the antislavery reform. The storm-clouds of persecution
had gathered heavily upon our Southern horizon. Fiery flashes of
wrath had often darted thence towards us. But we were slow to believe
that our Northern sky would ever become so surcharged with hatred for
those, who were only contending for “the inalienable rights of man,”
as to break upon us in any serious harm. The summer and fall of 1835
dispelled our misplaced confidence. We found, to our shame and dismay,
that even New England had leagued with the slaveholding oligarchy to
quench the spirit of impartial liberty, and uphold in our country the
most cruel system of domestic servitude the world has ever known. The
denunciations of the South were reverberated throughout the North. The
public ear was filled with most wanton, cruel misrepresentations of our
sentiments and purposes, and closed, as far as possible, against all
our replies in contradiction, explanation, or defence. The political
newspapers, with scarcely an exception, teemed with false accusations,
the grossest abuse, and the most alarming predictions of the ultimate
effects of our measures. The religious papers and periodicals were
no better. The churches in Boston, not less than elsewhere, were
closed against us. Not a minister[B]--excepting Dr. Channing, and
the one in Pine Street Church--would even venture to read a notice
of an antislavery meeting. Dr. Henry Ware, Jr., was denounced and
vilified for having done so from Dr. Channing’s pulpit. All the public
halls, too, of any tolerable size, were one after the other refused
us. Even Faneuil Hall, the so-called cradle of American liberty, was
denied to our use, though asked for in a respectful petition signed
by the names of a hundred and twenty-five gentlemen of Boston, whose
characters were as irreproachable as any in the city. But a few weeks
afterwards, on the 21st of August, at the request of fifteen hundred
of the “gentlemen of property and standing,” that hall, in which had
been cradled the independence of the United States, was turned into the
Refuge of Slavery. There as large a multitude as could crowd within its
spacious walls, with feelings of alarm for the safety of our country,
and of indignation at the Abolitionists as disturbers of the peace,
already excited by the grossest misrepresentations of our sentiments,
purposes, and acts, industriously disseminated by newspapers and in
reports of public speeches throughout the Southern States,--there, in
Faneuil Hall, thousands of our fellow-citizens were infuriated yet
more against us by harangues from no less distinguished civilians than
the Hon. Harrison Gray Otis, Peleg Sprague, and Richard Fletcher.
These gentlemen reiterated all the common unproved charges against
us, and solemnly, eloquently, passionately argued and urged that the
enslavement of millions of the people in our country was a matter
with which we of the Northern States had no right to meddle. It was a
concern, they insisted, of the Southern States alone, found there when
these portions of our Republic were about to emerge from their colonial
dependence upon Great Britain, and left there by the framers of the
Constitution, which was meant to be the fundamental law of our glorious
Union. They harped upon the guaranties given to the slaveholders,
that they should be sustained and undisturbed in _enforcing_ their
claim of _property_ in the persons and services of their laborers.
And those gentlemen insisted that the endeavors of Abolitionists to
convince their fellow-citizens of the heinous wickedness of holding
human beings in slavery gave just offence to those who were guilty of
the sin; violated the compact by which these United States were held
together, and, if they were permitted to be prosecuted, would cause the
dissolution of the Union.

Meetings of a similar character, in the same or a more violent spirit
of denunciation, were held in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and
most of the cities of the nation. What were the immediate effects of
this general outcry against us I shall narrate as briefly as I may.


The nearly simultaneous uprising of the proslavery hosts in 1835, and
the almost universal outbreak of violence upon our antislavery heads
in all parts of the country, from Louisiana to Maine, showed plainly
enough that Mr. Garrison’s demand for the immediate emancipation of the
enslaved had entered into the ear of the whole nation. All the people
had heard it, or heard of it. It had received a heartfelt response from
not a few of the purest and best men and women in the land. This was
manifest at the Convention in Philadelphia, in December, 1833, where
were delegates from ten of the States of our Union, all of whom seemed
ready to do, to dare, and to suffer whatever the cause of the oppressed
millions might require. It waked at once the lyre of our Whittier,
which has never slumbered since, and inspired him to utter those
thrilling strains which all but tyrants and their minions love to hear.
It drew from Elizur Wright, Jr., Professor in Western Reserve College,
Ohio, in 1833, a thorough searching pamphlet on “the sin of slavery.”
It called out from Hon. Judge William Jay, of New York, that “Inquiry,”
which brought so many to the conclusion that the Colonization plan
tended, if it were not _intended_, to perpetuate slavery, and
satisfied them that “the class of Americans called Africans” (to use
the pregnant title of Mrs. Child’s impressive Appeal) had as much
right to live in this country and enjoy liberty here as any other
Americans. Mr. Garrison’s word gave rise to that memorable discussion
in Lane Seminary, of which I have heretofore given some account, and
which resulted in the departure, from that narrow enclosure, of eighty
preachers of the doctrine of “immediate emancipation,” to repeat and
urge their deep convictions upon the willing and the unwilling in
almost every part of the land, which sent out Theodore D. Weld and
Henry B. Stanton and James A. Thome, sons of thunder, whose voices
reverberated throughout our Middle, Western, and Southern States.
Mr. Garrison’s word came to the ears, and at once found its way
to the hearts, of those admirable ladies in South Carolina, Sarah
and Angelina Grimké, who erelong came to the North, and bore their
emphatic, eloquent, thrilling testimony to the intrinsic, all-pervading
sinfulness of that system of domestic servitude to which they had been
accustomed from their birth. And, more than all, his word had reached
that high-souled, brave, courteous civilian, philanthropist, and
Christian in Alabama, Hon. James G. Birney, who, as I shall hereafter
relate, having for several years devoted his time, his personal
influence, and persuasive eloquence to the Colonization cause, when he
came to see its essential injustice and proslavery tendency, earnestly
renounced his error. He forthwith emancipated his slaves, paid them
fairly for their services, did all he could for their improvement,
and thenceforward consecrated himself, through much evil report and
bitter persecution, to the dissemination of the sentiments and the
accomplishment of the great object of the American Antislavery Society.
Immediately after his conversion he wrote and published two letters
addressed to the American Presbyterians, of whose body he had been a
highly esteemed member. In those letters he set forth most clearly the
sinfulness of slaveholding, and implored his brethren to turn from it,
and rid themselves wholly of the awful guilt of holding, or allowing
others to hold, human beings as their chattels personal, and treating
them as domesticated brutes.

These and other instances might be adduced to show how far and widely
the antislavery doctrines had been made known at the time of which
I am writing. But, alas! there were a great many different and very
disagreeable evidences that _the truth_, which alone could make our
nation _free_, had been heard, or heard of, everywhere.


It should be stated, however, that the excitement which had become
so general and so furious against the Abolitionists throughout the
slaveholding States was owing in no small measure to an individual
with whom Mr. Garrison and his associates had had no connection. David
Walker, a very intelligent colored man of Boston, having travelled
pretty extensively over the United States, and informed himself
thoroughly of the condition of the colored population, bond and free,
had become so exasperated that he set himself to the work of rousing
his fellow-sufferers to a due sense of “their degraded, wretched,
abject condition,” and preparing them for a general and organized
insurrection. In the course of the year 1828 Mr. Walker gathered about
him, in Boston and elsewhere, audiences of colored men, into whom he
strove to infuse his spirit of determined, self-sacrificing rebellion
against their too-long endured and unparalleled oppression. Little was
known of these meetings, excepting by those who had been specially
called to them. But in September, 1829, he published his “_Appeal to
the colored citizens of the world, in particular and very expressly to
those of the United States_.”

It was a pamphlet of more than eighty octavo pages, ably written, very
impassioned and well adapted to its purpose. The second and third
editions of it were published in less than twelve months. And Mr.
Walker devoted himself until his death, which happened soon after, to
the distribution of copies of this Appeal to colored men who were able
to read it in every State of the Union.

Just as I had written the above sentence, Dr. W. H. Irwin, of
Louisiana, came in with an introduction to me. He is one of many Union
men who have been stripped of their property and driven out of the
State by President Johnson’s and Mayor Monroe’s partisans. Learning
that he had been a resident many years in the Southern States, I
inquired if he saw or heard of Walker’s Appeal in the time of it. He
replied that he was living in Georgia in 1834, was acquainted with
the Rev. Messrs. Worcester and Butler, missionaries to the Cherokees,
and knew that they were maltreated and imprisoned in 1829 or 1830 for
having one of Walker’s pamphlets, as well as for admitting some colored
children into their Indian school.

So soon as this attempt to excite the slaves to insurrection came
to the knowledge of Mr. Garrison, he earnestly deprecated it in his
lectures, especially those addressed to colored people. And in his
first number of the _Liberator_ he repudiated the resort to violence,
as wrong in principle and disastrous in policy. His opinions on this
point were generally embraced by his followers, and explicitly declared
by the American Antislavery Society in 1833.

But as we wished that our fellow-citizens South as well as North should
be assured of our pacific principles, and as we hoped to abolish the
institution of slavery by convincing slaveholders and their abettors
of the exceeding wickedness of the system, we did send our reports,
tracts, and papers to all white persons in the Southern States with
whom we were any of us acquainted, and to distinguished individuals
whom we knew by common fame, to ministers of religion, legislators,
civilians, and editors. _But in no case did we send our publications to
slaves._ This we forbore to do, because we knew that few of them could
read; because our arguments and appeals were not addressed to them; and
especially because we thought it probable that, if our publications
should be found in their possession, they would be subjected to some
harsher treatment.

Notwithstanding our precaution, the Southern “gentlemen of property
and standing” denounced us as incendiaries, enemies, accused us of
intending to excite their bondmen to insurrection, and to dissolve
the Union. They would not themselves give any heed to our _exposé_
of the sin and danger of slavery, nor would they suffer others so
to do who seemed inclined to hear and consider. They assaulted,
lynched, imprisoned any one in whose possession they found antislavery
publications. They waylaid the mails, or broke into post-offices,
and tore to pieces or burnt up all papers and pamphlets from the
North that contained aught against their “peculiar institution,” and
significantly admonished, if they did not summarily punish, those to
whom such publications were addressed. Meetings were called in most, if
not all, of the principal cities of the South, at which Abolitionists
were denounced in unmeasured terms, and the friends of the Union, North
and South, and East and West, were peremptorily summoned to suppress
them. By the votes of such meetings, and still more by the acts of
the Legislatures of several States, large rewards--$5,000, $10,000,
$20,000--were offered for the abduction or assassination of Arthur
Tappan, William Lloyd Garrison, Amos A. Phelps, and other prominent
antislavery men. Moreover, letters of the most abusive character were
sent to us individually, threatening us with all sorts of violence,
arson, and murder.

Sad to relate, the corrupting, demoralizing influence of slavery was
not confined to those who were directly enforcing the great wrong
upon their fellow-beings. Those who had consented to such desecration
of humanity were found to be almost as much contaminated as the
slaveholders themselves. “The whole head of the nation was sick, and
the whole heart was faint.” The “gentlemen of property and standing”
at the North, yes, even in Massachusetts, espoused the cause of the
slaveholders. The editors of most of the newspapers, religious as well
as secular, and of some of the graver periodicals, nearly all of the
popular orators, and very many of the ministers of religion, spoke and
wrote against the doctrine of the Abolitionists. They extenuated the
crime of denying to fellow-men the God-given, inalienable rights of
humanity, apologized for those who had been born to an inheritance of
slaves, and insisted that “slavery was an ordination of Providence,
sanctioned by our sacred Scriptures, even the Christian Scriptures.”
This last was the chief weapon with which the religionists throughout
the Northern as well as Southern States combated the Abolitionists. Not
a few sermons were preached in various parts of New England, as well
as New York and other Middle States, in justification of slaveholding.
The professors of Princeton Theological School published a pamphlet in
defence of slavery, and Professor Stuart, of Andover, the great leader
of New England orthodoxy, gave the abomination his sanction. The record
of our Cambridge Divinity School is much more honorable. Dr. Henry
Ware, Jr., evinced a deep interest in our enterprise, and incurred some
censure for manifesting his interest. Dr. Follen identified himself
with us at an early day, and, as I shall tell hereafter, was one of
the sufferers in the cause; and Dr. Palfrey, though at the time of
which I am writing rather privately, expressed an appreciation of our
principles, which a few years afterwards impelled him to pecuniary
sacrifice and a course of conduct in Congress which deservedly placed
him high on the list of the antislavery worthies.[C] All the large,
influential ecclesiastical bodies in our country--the Presbyterian,
the Episcopal, the Methodist, the Baptist--threw over the churches of
their sects throughout the Southern States the shield of their consent
to, if not their approval of, slaveholding; and, I grieve to add, the
American Unitarian Association could not be induced to pronounce its
condemnation of the tremendous sin, the sum of all iniquities.

Most religionists of every name, our own not excepted, insisted that
slavery was a political institution, with which, as Christians,
it would be inexpedient for us to meddle; and the politicians and
merchants did all in their power to disseminate this view of the
matter, and close the doors of the churches and the lips of the
ministers against this “exciting subject.” I need not add they were too

Most of the prominent statesmen, and all the political demagogues
of both parties, took the ground that the great question as to the
enslavement of the colored population of the South was _settled_ by
the framers of the Constitution; that it was a matter to be left
exclusively to the States in which slavery existed; that to meddle
with it was to violate the provisions of the fundamental law of the
land and loosen the bands of the Union. Therefore the Abolitionists
were to be regarded as disturbers of the public peace, incendiaries,
enemies of their country, traitors. And it was proclaimed by many in
high authority, and shouted everywhere by the baser sort, “that the
Abolitionists ought to be abolished,” by any means that should be found
necessary. Thus outlawed, given up to the fury of the populace, we were
subjected to abuses and outrages, of which I can give only a brief

We were slow to believe that our fellow-citizens of the New England
States could be so besotted by the influence of the institution of
slavery, that they would _outrage our persons_ in its defence. We had
had proofs enough that “the gentlemen of property and standing,” “the
wise and prudent,” with their dependants, had shut their ears against
the truth, and turned away their eyes from the grievous wrongs we were
imploring our country to redress. This treatment we had experienced,
with increasing frequency, ever since the formation of the American
Antislavery Society, in December, 1833. But we were unwilling to
apprehend anything worse, certainly in Massachusetts. We trusted that
our persons would be sacred, though we had learned that the liberty of
speech and of the press was not.

Late in the fall of 1833 I delivered, in Boylston Hall, at the request
of the New England Antislavery Society, a discourse “On the Principles
and Purposes of the Abolitionists, and the Means by which they intended
to subvert the Institution of Slavery.” The audience was large, and
among my hearers I was delighted to see my good friend (afterwards
Dr.) F. W. P. Greenwood, then one of the editors of the _Christian
Examiner_. He remained after the meeting was over, and to my great joy
said to me, “I have liked your discourse much. I wish everybody who is
opposed to the antislavery reform could hear or read it. If you will
prepare it as an article for the _Examiner_, I will publish it there.”
Glad of this avenue to the minds and hearts of so many who I especially
wished should understand and appreciate the work to which I had wholly
committed myself, I set about converting my discourse into a review
of our best antislavery publications, and making it, as a literary
production, more worthy of a place in the chief periodical of our
denomination. It was too late for the January number, 1834, so I aimed
to have it in readiness for the March number. In due time I called at
the office and inquired how soon my manuscript would be wanted. The
publisher asked what was the subject of my article; and on learning
that it was to be an explanation of the sentiments and purposes of
the Abolitionists, he said, to my astonishment, with much emphasis,
“We do not want it; it cannot be published.” “Why,” I said, “is not
Mr. Greenwood one of the editors, and do not he and his colleague
decide what shall be put into the _Examiner_?” “Generally they do,”
he replied; “indeed, I never interfered before. But in this case I
must and shall. The _Examiner_ is my property. It would be seriously
damaged if an article favoring Abolition should appear in it. I should
lose most of my subscribers in the slave, and many in the free States.
And I cannot afford to make such a sacrifice.” But I rejoined, “Mr.
Greenwood has heard all the essential parts of the article. He approved
of it, thought it would do good, and requested me to prepare it for
publication.” Mr. B. replied, with more earnestness than before, “Mr.
May, it shall not be published. If I should find it all printed on the
pages of the _Examiner_, just ready to be issued, I would suppress the
number and publish another, with some other article in the place of

I hastened to Mr. Greenwood for redress. With evident mortification
and sorrow he confessed his inability to do me justice. Nevertheless,
in the July number, 1834, there was allowed to be published, on the
397th page, a paragraph, written by one of the Boston ministers, “for
the special instruction of such ardent, but mistaken philanthropists
among us as think they are justified, from their abhorrence of
slavery, and their zeal for universal emancipation, to interfere with
the constitutions of civil governments, or the personal rights of

Having permitted such an assault to be made upon us in their pages,
I could not doubt that the editors of the _Examiner_ would suffer me
to be heard in defence. I therefore prepared carefully a respectful
“letter” to them, trusting it would appear in their next number. But,
to my surprise and serious displeasure, it was excluded. The letter was
accordingly published in the _Liberator_, which, here let me say to
its distinctive honor, always allowed the foes as well as the friends
of freedom and humanity a place in its columns. And the editors of the
_Examiner_, unsolicited, did me the favor, in their November number,
1834, page 282, to refer to my letter, commending its “eloquence
and its good spirit, although circumstances obliged them to decline
publishing it, and advising their readers to procure it and read it,
and the documents to which it refers.” This evinced the willingness of
those gentlemen to deal fairly, but showed that they were _in bondage_.

Immediately after the first New England Antislavery Convention,
which closed on the 29th of May, 1834, I devoted four or five weeks
to lecturing on the Abolition of Slavery in most of the principal
towns between Boston and Portland. In several places there were
strong expressions of hostility to our undertaking. But nothing like
personal violence was offered me. I stopped over Sunday, 8th of June,
at Portsmouth, to supply brother A. P. Peabody’s pulpit, that he
might preach in a neighboring town. I consented to do this, on the
condition that I might deliver an antislavery lecture from his pulpit
on Sunday evening. This he gladly agreed to, and took pains to publish
my intention. But, greatly to my surprise, after the forenoon service,
the Trustees of the church waited upon me, and informed me that, at the
earnest demand of many prominent members, I should not be allowed to
speak on slavery from their pulpit; that the meeting-house would not
be opened that evening. My remonstrance with them was of no avail. So
at the close of my afternoon services I said to the congregation: “You
are all doubtless aware that I had arranged with your excellent pastor
to deliver a lecture on American slavery from this desk this evening.
But during the intermission your Trustees called and peremptorily
forbade my doing so. Has our consenting with the oppressors of the poor
indeed brought us to this? That I, who am striving to be a minister of
Him “who came to break every yoke” am forbidden to plead with you who
are reputed to be an eminently Christian church the cause of millions
of our countrymen who are suffering the most abject bondage ever
enforced upon human beings? I know not, I do not wish to know, who
those prominent members of your church are that have presumed to close
this pulpit, and deny to others the right to manifest their sympathy
for the down-trodden, and to hear what may and should be done for their
relief. The time shall come when those prominent ones will be brought
down, and their children and children’s children will be ashamed to
hear of their act.”

With this exception, and an unsuccessful attempt to disturb a meeting
that I was addressing in Worcester, I met with no serious molestation
in any of the towns of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Maine, where
I lectured during the summer and autumn of 1834. The faces of many of
the rich and fashionable were averted from me; but “the common people”
seemed to hear me gladly. Politicians and would-be statesmen often
encountered me in the stage-coaches and at the hotels where I stopped.
Many of our conflicts were amusing rather than terrible. They always
based themselves upon “the provisions of the Constitution,” about
which it was soon made to appear, that they knew little or nothing.
They took it for granted that the fathers of our Republic agreed that
slavery should exist in any of the States where the white citizens
chose to have it; and that the Constitution of our Union gave certain
guarantees for the protection of their “peculiar institution” to the
States in which it was maintained. Moreover, these political savans
insisted that the Constitution provided that this matter should be
left wholly to the slaveholders themselves; and that all condemnation
of it as a wicked system, and the exposure of its evils and its
horrors, was a violation of State comity, if not of the _rights_ of our
fellow-citizens of the South.

Perceiving how little most of such friends of the Union knew about the
fundamental law of our Republic, and finding, on inquiry, that copies
of the Constitution were in that day very scarce, I not unfrequently
shut up my opponents almost as soon as they opened their mouths upon
the subject. When they ventured to say, “The Constitution, sir, settled
this question in the beginning,” I would inquire, “My friend, have you
ever read the Constitution?” “Everybody knows, sir, that slavery--”
“Have you, yourself, read that document to which you appeal?” “Why,
sir, do you presume to deny that guarantees--” “My friend, I ask again,
have you yourself ever read the Constitution of the United States? I
do not care to go into an argument with you until I know whether you
are acquainted with our great national charter.” In this way, time
and again, I drew from my would-be opponents (sometimes justices of
the peace), the acknowledgment that they had never themselves seen a
copy of the Constitution, but supposed that what everybody, except
the Abolitionists, said of its provisions must be true. Occurrences
of this sort I reported to the managers of the Antislavery Society so
frequently, that they caused a large edition of the United States
Constitution to be printed, so that copies of it might be distributed
with our tracts, wherever the agents and lecturers saw fit. This was
one of the _naughty_ things we did, so inimical to the peace and
well-being of our country.

The discussions which I had with sundry individuals who were acquainted
with the subject led me to study the Constitution with greater care
and deeper interest than ever before. It seemed to me that we owed it
to the memory of those venerated men whose names are conspicuous in
the early history of our Republic--those men who so solemnly pledged
“their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to the cause
of freedom and the inalienable rights of man--to exonerate them, if
we fairly could, from the awful responsibility that was laid upon
them by those who insisted that they _guaranteed_ to the Southern
States the unquestioned exercise of their assumed right to enforce the
_enslavement_ of one sixth part of the population of the land, many
of whom had shared with them in all the hardships and perils of their
struggles for independence. It seemed to me that every article of
the Constitution usually quoted as intended to favor the assumptions
of slaveholders admitted of an opposite interpretation, and that we
were bound by every honorable and humane consideration to prefer
that interpretation. The conclusions to which I was brought on this
subject I gave some time afterwards in the _Antislavery Magazine_
for 1836. But the publication of the “Madison Papers,” in which was
given the minutes, debates, etc., of the convention which framed the
Constitution, I confess, disconcerted me somewhat. I could not so
easily maintain my ground in the discussions which afterwards agitated
so seriously the Abolitionists themselves,--some maintaining that
the Constitution was, and was intended to be, proslavery; others
maintaining that it was antislavery. It seemed to me that it might be
whichever the people pleased to make it. I rejoice, therefore, with joy
unspeakable that the question is at length practically settled, though
by the issue of our late awful war.


The coming of George Thompson to our country in the fall of
1834, and his thrilling eloquence respecting our great national
iniquity, awakened general attention to the subject, and caused more
excitement about it than before. He came, as it were, a missionary
from the philanthropists of Great Britain to show our people their
transgression. The politicians tried to get up the public indignation
against him as “a foreign emissary interfering with our political
affairs.” The religionists resented his coming as an impertinence,
though _they_ were much engaged in sending missionaries to the heathen
to reclaim them from sins no more heinous than ours. Nevertheless,
the people flocked to hear him, and many were converted. The demand
for antislavery lectures came from all parts of New England, and from
many parts of the Middle and Western States. A great work was to be
done. The fields were whitening to the harvest, but the laborers were
few. I therefore accepted the renewed invitation of the Massachusetts
Antislavery Society to become its General Agent and Corresponding
Secretary, and removed to Boston early in the spring of 1835. Many
of my nearest relatives and dearest friends received me kindly, but
with sadness. They feared I should lose my standing in the ministry
and become an outcast from the churches. For a while it seemed as if
their apprehensions were not groundless. None of the Boston ministers,
excepting Dr. Channing, welcomed me. Dr. Follen, Dr. Ware, Jr., and
Dr. Palfrey were then resident in Cambridge; Mr. Pierpont was in
Europe. James Freeman Clarke had not left Louisville, and Theodore
Parker was a student in the Divinity School. I was indeed soon made to
feel that I was not in good repute. Dr. Ware, who had charge of the
Hollis Street pulpit in the absence of the pastor, invited me to supply
it, if I found I could do so consistently with my new duties. I engaged
for two Sundays. But at the close of the first, one of the chief
officers of the church waited upon me, by direction of the principal
members, and requested me not to enter their pulpit again, assuring me,
if I should do so, that a dozen or more of the prominent men with their
families would leave the house. Of course I yielded that, and I was not
invited into any other pulpit in the city, excepting Dr. Channing’s,
during the fifteen months that I resided there.

Soon after my removal to Boston I was informed that a young and very
popular minister in a neighboring town had preached an antislavery
sermon on the Fast Day then just past. I hurried to see him, and
requested him to read to me the sermon. He did so. It was an admirable
_exposé_ of the wickedness of holding men in slavery, and of the
duty incumbent upon all Christian and humane persons to do what they
could to break such a yoke. It was the outpouring of an ingenuous,
benevolent, generous heart, that deeply felt for the wrongs of the
outraged millions in our country.

I begged a copy of the discourse for the press, assuring him it would
be a most valuable contribution to the cause of the oppressed. He
consented to let me have it, promising that, after retouching and
fitting it for the press, he would send it to me. I returned to the
Antislavery office and made arrangements to publish a large edition of
that, which would then have been a remarkable sermon.

After waiting more than a week for the promised manuscript I called
upon the author again. In answer to my inquiry why he had not fulfilled
his promise he said: “I have concluded not to allow the discourse to
be published. Some of the most prominent members of our church have
earnestly advised me not to give it to the press.” “Why,” said I,
“have they convinced you that slaveholding is not as sinful as you
represented it to be, or that you have been misinformed as to the
condition of our enslaved countrymen?” “O no,” he replied, “but then
this is a very complicated, difficult matter between our Northern and
Southern States, and I have been admonished to let it alone.” “Do you
believe,” I inquired, “that those who so admonished you were prompted
to give you such advice by their sense of justice to the enslaved,
their compassion for those millions to whom all rights are denied,
and whose conjugal, parental, filial, and fraternal affections are
trampled under foot? Or were they influenced by pecuniary, or by party
political considerations?” “It is not for me, sir, to say what their
motives were,” he replied, in a tone that intimated displeasure. “They
are among my best friends, and the most respectable members of my
parish. I am bound to give heed to their counsel. I mean so to do. I
shall not allow my sermon to be published. I shall not commit myself
to the antislavery cause.” “Let me only say,” I added, “if you do not
commit yourself to the cause of the _oppressed_, you will probably,
erelong, be found on the side of the _oppressor_.” So we parted. And my
prediction was fulfilled.

Two or three years afterwards it was reported that the same gentleman,
having visited the Southern States and enjoyed the hospitality of the
slaveholders, returned and preached a discourse very like “The South
Side View of Slavery,” by Dr. Adams, of Essex Street.

On Fast Day, 1852, it so happened that I was visiting a parishioner
of this brother minister. I accompanied him to church, and heard from
that very able and eloquent preacher the most unjust and cruel sermon
against the Abolitionists that I had ever listened to or read.

This incident and my reception in Boston prepared me in a measure
for the warning given me by the New York merchant, as related on
page 127. Still, I could not think so badly of my fellow-citizens,
my fellow-Christians of the North, the New England States, as I was
afterwards compelled to do.

That the cancer of slavery had eaten still deeper than I was willing to
believe was soon after made too apparent to me.


We had always counted upon the aid and co-operation of the _Quakers_.
We considered them “birthright” Abolitionists. And many of Mr.
Garrison’s earliest supporters, most untiring co-laborers, and generous
contributors were members of “the Society of Friends,” or had been.
Besides John G. Whittier and James and Lucretia Mott, Evan Lewis,
Thomas Shipley, and others, of whom I have already spoken, in my
account of the Philadelphia Convention, there were the venerable Moses
Brown, and the indefatigable Arnold Buffum, and that remarkable man,
Isaac T. Hopper, and the large-hearted, open-handed Andrew Robeson and
William Rotch, and Isaac and Nathan Winslow, and Nathaniel Barney, and
Joseph and Anne Southwick,[D] and fifty more, whose praises I should
delight to celebrate.

But we had received no expression of sympathy from any “Yearly” or
“Monthly Meeting,” and we felt moved to _seek a sign_ from them.
Accordingly, at the suggestion of some of the Friends who were
actively engaged with us, I went to Newport, R. I., in June, 1835, at
the time of the great New England Yearly Meeting, to see if I could
obtain from them any intimation of friendliness. My wife accompanied
me. When we arrived at the principal hotel in the place, where I was
told we should find “the weighty” as well as a large number of the
lighter members of the Society, we were at a loss to account for the
fluster of the landlord and his helpers, and the tardiness with which
we were informed that we could be accommodated. After we had got
established, I learned from one who had urged my coming, that there had
been quite a commotion in consequence of the report that the General
Agent of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society was about to visit the
“Yearly Meeting.” William ----, and William ----, and Oliver ----,
and Isaac ----, and Thomas ----, wealthy cotton manufacturers and
merchants, had bestirred themselves to prevent such “an intrusion,”
as they were pleased to term it. They had secured the public halls of
Newport against me during the continuance of the “Yearly Meeting,” and
had been trying, on the morning of the day that I arrived, to induce
the landlord to refuse me any accommodation in his house. And they
would have succeeded, had not forty of his boarders informed him that
if he did not receive me they would quit his premises. These forty,
though of less account in the meeting, which, I learned, was governed
by the aristocracy that occupied the high seats, were more weighty in
the receipts of the hotel-keeper. He therefore compromised with the
dignitaries by agreeing to serve their meals in a private parlor, so
that their eyes might not be offended at the sight of the antislavery
agent in the common dining hall.

I sought, through several of their very respectable members,
permission to attend their “Meeting on Sufferings” and present to their
consideration the principles and plans of the American Antislavery
Society and its auxiliaries. This request was peremptorily denied. I
then besought them to give their “testimony on slavery,” as they had
sometimes done in times past. This they also refused.

An arrangement was then made by the members who were Abolitionists,
many of whom boarded with me at “Whitfield’s,” that I should address as
many as saw fit to meet me in the large reception-room of the hotel, in
the evening of the second day of my visit. So soon as this was known,
it was asked of me if I would consent to let the meeting be conducted
somewhat in the manner of “the Society of Friends” so that any who
should be moved to speak might have the liberty. I acquiesced most
cheerfully, not doubting that I should be moved, and should be expected
to address the meeting first and give the direction to it.

Fifty or sixty persons assembled at the hour appointed. Deeming it
respectful to my Quaker brethren to sit in silence a few minutes after
the meeting came to order, I did so, and in so doing lost my chance
to be heard. A wily brother took advantage of my sense of propriety,
rose before me and delivered a long discourse upon slavery, made up of
the commonplaces and platitudes of the subject, about which all were
agreed. He was followed instantly by another in the same vein, and when
the evening was far spent and the auditors were beginning to withdraw,
I was permitted to speak a few minutes upon the vital points in the
questions between the immediate Abolitionists and the slaveholders on
the one hand, and the Colonizationists on the other hand.

However, the next morning, in the presence of twenty or more, I
had unexpectedly a long and pretty thorough discussion with the
distinguished John Griscom, so that my visit to Newport was not wholly

I am sorry that truth compels me to add, that afterwards we had too
many proofs that “the Society of Friends,” with all their antislavery
professions, were not, as a religious sect, much more friendly
than others to the immediate emancipation of the enslaved without
expatriation. They were disposed to be Colonizationists rather than


Rejected as we Abolitionists were generally by the religionists of
every denomination, denounced by many of the clergy as dangerous, yes,
impious persons, refused a hearing in almost all the churches, it was
not strange that the statesmen and politicians had no mercy upon us.

The first most serious opposition from any minister I myself directly
encountered was in the pleasant town of Taunton. I went thither on the
15th of April, 1835, and had a very successful meeting in the Town
Hall, which was filled full with respectable persons of both sexes.
So much interest in the subject was awakened that a large number on
the spot signified their readiness to co-operate with those who were
laboring to procure the abolition of American slavery. To my surprise,
the most prominent minister in the town, a learned and liberal
theologian, and a gentleman of unexceptionable private character, took
the utmost pains to prevent the formation of an auxiliary antislavery
society there. He declared that “the slaves were the property of
their masters,” that “we of the North had no more right to disturb
this _domestic arrangement_ of our Southern brethren, and prevent the
prosecution of their industrial operations, than the planters had to
interfere with our manufactures and commerce.” He dealt out to the
Abolitionists no small number of opprobrious epithets; charged us with
being the cause of the New York mobs of October, 1834, and insisted
that, if we “were permitted to prosecute our measures, it would
inevitably dissolve the Union and cause a civil war.”

This was the substance of the _verbal_ opposition that we met with
everywhere throughout the Northern, Middle, and Western States;
strengthened by the arguments of the civilians and statesmen, intended
to show that the enslavement of the colored population of certain
States was settled by the _founders_ of our Republic, who made several
compromises in relation to it, and gave sundry guarantees to the
slaveholders which must be held sacred.

Many timid persons everywhere, by such assertions and appeals, were
deterred from yielding to the convictions which the self-evident
truths, urged by the Abolitionists, awakened. Still the cause of the
oppressed made visible progress in all parts of the non-slaveholding
States. Alarmed by this, the barons of the South, as Mr. Adams
significantly styled them, stirred up their dependants and partisans
to demand something more of their Northern brethren than denunciation
and opprobrium against the Abolitionists. “They must be put down by
law or _without law_, as the necessity of the case might require.”
And the determination to do _just this_ was at length come to by “the
gentlemen of property and standing” throughout the North, as the New
York merchant, mentioned on the foregoing 127th page informed me.

In pursuance of this determination, the great meeting in Faneuil Hall,
called, as I have said already, by fifteen hundred of the respectable
gentlemen of Boston, was held on the 21st of August, 1835. The grave
misrepresentations, the plausible arguments, the inflammatory appeals
made by the very distinguished civilians who addressed that meeting,
invoked those demon spirits throughout New England that did deeds, of
which I hope the instigators themselves became heartily ashamed.

How devilish those spirits were I was made to know a few evenings
after that never-to-be-forgotten meeting. I went to the quiet town
of Haverhill, by special invitation from John G. Whittier and a
number more of the genuine friends of humanity. I had lectured there
twice before without opposition, and went again not apprehending any
disturbance. The meeting was held in the Freewill Baptist Church,--a
large hall over a row of stores. The audience was numerous, occupying
all the seats and evidently eager to hear. I had spoke about fifteen
minutes, when the most hideous outcries, yells, from a crowd of men
who had surrounded the house startled us, and then came heavy missiles
against the doors and blinds of the windows. I persisted in speaking
for a few minutes, hoping the blinds and doors were strong enough to
stand the siege. But presently a heavy stone broke through one of the
blinds, shattered a pane of glass and fell upon the head of a lady
sitting near the centre of the hall. She uttered a shriek and fell
bleeding into the arms of her sister. The panic-stricken audience
rose _en masse_, and began a rush for the doors. Seeing the danger, I
shouted in a voice louder than I ever uttered before or since, “_Sit
down, every one of you, sit down!_ The doors are not wide; the platform
outside is narrow; the stairs down to the street are steep. If you go
in a rush, you will jam one another, or be thrown down and break your
limbs, if not your necks. If there is any one here whom the mob wish to
injure, it is myself. I will stand here and wait until you are safely
out of the house. But you must go in some order as I bid you.” To my
great joy they obeyed. All sat down, and then rose, as I told them to,
from the successive rows of pews, and went out without any accident.

When the house was nearly empty I took on my arm a brave young lady,
who would not leave me to go through the mob alone, and went out.
Fortunately none of the ill-disposed knew me. So we passed through the
lane of madmen unharmed, hearing their imprecations and threats of
violence to the ---- Abolitionist when he should come out.

It was well we had delayed no longer to empty the hall, for at the
corner of the street above we met a posse of men more savage than the
rest, dragging a cannon, which they intended to explode against the
building and at the same time tear away the stairs; so furious and
bloodthirsty had “the baser sort” been made by the instigations of “the
gentlemen of property and standing.”

In October it was thought advisable for me to go and lecture in
several of the principal towns of Vermont. I did so, and everywhere
I met with contumely and insult. I was mobbed five times. In Rutland
and Montpelier my meetings were dispersed with violence. Of the last
only shall I give any account, because I had been specially invited
to Montpelier to address the Vermont State Antislavery Society. The
Legislature was in session there at that time, and many of the members
of that body were Abolitionists. We were, therefore, without much
opposition, granted the use of the Representatives’ Hall for our first
meeting, on the evening of October 20. A large number of persons--as
many as the hall could conveniently hold--were present, including many
members of the Legislature, and ladies not a few. There were some
demonstrations of displeasure in the yard of the Capitol and a couple
of eggs and a stone or two were thrown through the window before
which I was standing. But their force was spent before they reached
me, and therefore they were not suffered to interrupt my discourse.
At the close, I was requested to tarry in Montpelier and address the
public again the next evening from the pulpit of the First Presbyterian
Church, the largest audience-room in the village. This I gladly
consented to do. But the next morning placards were seen all about the
village, admonishing “the people generally, and ladies in particular,
not to attend the antislavery meeting proposed to be held that evening
in the Presbyterian church, as the person who is advertised to speak
will certainly be prevented, _by violence if necessary_.” In the
afternoon I received a letter signed by the President of the bank, the
Postmaster, and five other “gentlemen of property and standing” in
Montpelier, requesting me to leave town “without any further attempt
to hold forth the absurd doctrine of antislavery, and save them the
trouble of using any other measures to that effect.” But as I had
accepted the invitation to deliver a second lecture, I determined to
make the attempt so to do, these threats notwithstanding. Accordingly,
just before the hour appointed, with a venerable Quaker lady on my arm,
I proceeded to the meeting-house and took a seat in the pulpit. After
a prayer had been offered by Rev. Mr. Hurlbut, I rose to speak. But I
had hardly uttered a sentence when the ringleader of the riot, Timothy
Hubbard, Esq., rose with a gang about him and commanded me to desist.
I replied, “Is this the respect paid to the _liberty of speech_ by the
free people of Vermont? Let any one of your number step forward and
give reasons, if he can, why his fellow-citizens, who wish, should not
be permitted to hear the lecture I have been invited here to deliver.
If I cannot show those reasons to be fallacious, false, I will yield
to your demand. But for the sake of one of our essential rights, the
liberty of speech, I shall proceed if I can.” While I was saying these
words the rioters were still. But so soon as I commenced my lecture
again, Mr. Hubbard and his fellows cried out, “Down with him!” “Throw
him over!” “Choke him!” Hon. Chauncy L. Knapp, then, or afterwards,
I believe, Secretary of State, remonstrated earnestly, implored his
fellow-citizens not to continue disgracing themselves, the town, and
the State. But his words were of no avail. The moment I attempted a
third time to speak the rioters commenced a rush for the pulpit, loudly
shouting their violent intentions. At this crisis Colonel Miller, well
known as the companion of Dr. Howe in a generous endeavor to aid Greece
in her struggle for independence in 1824,--Colonel Miller, renowned for
his courage and prowess, sprang forward and planted himself in front of
the leader, crying in a voice of thunder, “Mr. Hubbard, if you do not
stop this outrage now, I will knock you down!” The rush for the pulpit
was stayed; but such an alarm had spread through the house, that there
was a hasty movement from all parts towards the doors, and my audience
dispersed. Colonel Miller, Mr. Knapp, and several other gentlemen
urged me to remain in town another day and attempt a meeting the next
evening, assuring me that it should be protected against the ruffians.
But it was Friday, and I had engaged to be in Burlington the next day,
to preach for Brother Ingersoll the following Sunday, and deliver an
antislavery lecture from his pulpit in the evening. So I was obliged to
leave our good friends in the capital of Vermont mortified and vexed at
what had occurred there.

But on my arrival at Burlington I received tidings from Boston of a
far greater outrage that had been perpetrated at the same time, in
the metropolis of New England. On page 127 I made mention of the
“well-dressed, gentlemanly” mob of October 21st, which broke up a
regular meeting of the Female Antislavery Society. The fury of the
populace had been incited to the utmost by articles in the _Commercial
Gazette_, the _Courier_, the _Sentinel_, and other newspapers, of which
the following is a specimen: “It is in vain that we hold meetings in
Faneuil Hall, and call into action the eloquence and patriotism of
our most talented citizens; it is in vain that speeches are made and
resolutions adopted, assuring our brethren of the South that we cherish
rational and correct notions on the subject of slavery, if Thompson and
Garrison, and their vile associates in this city, are to be permitted
to hold their meetings in the broad face of day, and to continue their
denunciations against the planters of the South. They _must be put
down_ if we would preserve our consistency. The evil is one of the
greatest magnitude; and _the opinion prevails very generally_ that if
there is no law that will reach it, it must be reached in some other

Though “the patriots” had been especially maddened by the report that
“the infamous foreign scoundrel, Thompson,” “the British emissary,
the paid incendiary, Thompson,” was to address the meeting, yet, when
assured he was not and would not be there, they did not desist. “But
Garrison is!” was the cry; “snake him out and finish him!” They tore
down the sign of the Antislavery office and dashed it to pieces;
compelled the excellent women to leave their hall, seized upon Mr.
Garrison, tore off his clothes, dragged him through the streets, and
would have hanged him, had it not been for the almost superhuman
efforts of several gentlemen, assisted by some of the police and a
vigorous hack-driver, who together succeeded in getting him to Leverett
Street Jail, where he was committed for safe-keeping.

The disgraceful story was too well told at the time ever to be
forgotten, especially by Mr. Garrison himself, and more especially by
Mrs. Maria Weston Chapman, in a little volume entitled “Right and Wrong
in Boston.”

To show my readers still further how general the determination had
become throughout the Northern States to put down the antislavery
agitation by foul means, I will here only allude to the significant
fact that on the same day, October 21, 1835, a mob, led on or
countenanced by gentlemen of respectability, broke up an antislavery
meeting in Utica, N. Y., and drove out of the city such men as Gerrit
Smith, Alvan Stuart, and Beriah Green. Hereafter I will give a full
account of the infamous proceeding, and of some of its consequences.


There is a most interesting sequel to my brief narrative of the great
outrage upon liberty in the metropolis of New England, which cannot be
so pertinently told in any other connection.

After the first attempt of the Female Antislavery Society to hold their
annual meeting on the 14th of October, in Congress Hall, was thwarted
by the fears of the owner and lessee, Mr. Francis Jackson offered the
use of his dwelling-house in Hollis Street for that purpose. But the
ladies were unwilling to believe that they should be molested in their
own small hall, No. 46 Washington Street, and thought it more becoming
to meet there than to retreat to the protection of a private house. So
the meeting was appointed to be held there on the 21st. The result, so
disgraceful to the reputation of Boston, has just been given.

On the evening of that sad day, while the rioters were yet patrolling
the city, exulting over their shameful deeds, and threatening the
persons and property of the Abolitionists, Francis Jackson, called upon
Miss Mary Parker, the truly devout and brave President of the Boston
Female Antislavery Society, and renewed the offer of his dwelling in
the following letter of invitation:--


  “Having with deep regret and mortification observed the manner in
  which your Society has been treated by a portion of the community,
  especially by some of our public journals, and approving as I do
  most cordially the objects of your association, I offer you the use
  of my dwelling-house in Hollis Street for the purpose of holding
  your annual meeting, or for any other meeting.

  “Such accommodations as I have are at your service, and I assure
  you it would afford me great pleasure to extend this slight
  testimony of my regard for a Society whose objects are second to
  none other in the city.

    “With great respect,
            “FRANCIS JACKSON.”

This heroic act thrilled with joy the hearts of the “faithful,” and
inspired them with new courage. For two or three years Mr. Jackson
had evinced a deep interest in the antislavery cause, but we did not
suspect that he had so much Roman virtue.

His invitation was gratefully accepted, and due notices were published
in the usual form that the meeting would be held at his house on the
19th of November. Renewed efforts were made by our opposers to create
another excitement. The air was filled with threats. But the editors of
the newspapers did not come up to the work as before. Fewer prominent
gentlemen encouraged “the baser sort,” and therefore the mob did not
come out in its strength. About a hundred and thirty ladies and four
gentlemen gathered at the time appointed in Mr. Jackson’s house, and
were not molested on the way thither or while there, excepting by a few
insulting epithets and an occasional ribald shout.

It was an intensely interesting meeting, conducted in the usual manner
with the utmost propriety;[E] and an air of unfeigned solemnity was
thrown over it by the consciousness of the dense cloud of malignant
hatred that was hanging over us, and which might again burst upon us in
some cruel outrage.

Among the ladies present were the celebrated Miss Harriet Martineau,
of England, and her very intelligent travelling companion, Miss
Jeffrey. At the right moment, when the regular business of the meeting
had been transacted, Ellis Gray Loring, from the beginning a leading
Abolitionist,--and one whose lead it was always well to follow, for he
was a very wise, a single-hearted, and most conscientious man,--Mr.
Loring handed me a slip of paper for Miss Martineau, on which was
written an earnest request that she would then favor the meeting with
some expression of her sympathy in the objects of the association. She
immediately rose and said, with cordial earnestness: “I had supposed
that my presence here would be understood as showing my sympathy with
you. But as I am requested to speak, I will say what I have said
through the whole South, in every family where I have been, that I
consider slavery inconsistent with the law of God, and incompatible
with the course of his providence. I should certainly say no less at
the North than at the South concerning this utter abomination, and now
I declare that in your principles I fully agree.”

Hitherto Miss Martineau had received from the _élite_ of Boston very
marked attentions. She had been treated with great respect, as one so
distinguished for her literary works and philanthropic labors deserved
to be. But from the day of that meeting, and because of the words she
uttered there, she was slighted, rejected, and in various ways made to
understand that she had given great offence to “the best society in
that metropolis.”

Two days afterwards the Board of Managers of the Massachusetts
Antislavery Society directed me, their Corresponding Secretary, by
a unanimous vote, to express to Mr. Jackson the very high sense
which they entertained of his generosity and noble independence in
proffering, as he had done unsolicited, the use and protection of his
dwelling-house to the Boston Female Antislavery Society, when they had
just been expelled by lawless violence from a public hall.

My letter, written immediately in pursuance of this vote, drew from Mr.
Jackson the following reply, which, considering the place where and the
time when it was written, as well as its intrinsic excellence, deserves
to be preserved among the most precious deposits in the Temple of
Impartial Liberty, whenever such a structure shall be reared upon earth.

            “BOSTON, November 25, 1835.

  “DEAR SIR,--I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your
  highly esteemed letter of the 21st inst., written in behalf of the
  Managers of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, and expressing
  in very flattering terms their approbation of my conduct in
  granting to the ladies of the Antislavery Society the use of my
  dwelling-house for their Annual Meeting.

  “That meeting was a most interesting and impressive one. It will
  ever be treasured by me, among the most pleasing recollections of
  my life, that it was my good fortune to extend to those respectable
  ladies the protection of my roof after they had been reviled,
  insulted, and driven from their own hall by a mob.

  “But in tendering them the use of my house, sir, I not only had
  in view their accommodation, but also, according to my humble
  measure, to recover and perpetuate the right of free discussion,
  which has been shamefully trampled on. A great principle has been
  assailed,--one which lies at the very foundation of our republican

  “If a large majority of this community choose to turn a deaf ear to
  the wrongs which are inflicted upon millions of their countrymen in
  other portions of the land,--if they are content to turn away from
  the sight of oppression, and ‘to pass by on the other side,’ so it
  must be.

  “But when they undertake in any way to annul or impair my right
  to speak, write, and publish my thoughts upon any subject, more
  especially upon enormities which are the common concern of every
  lover of his country and his kind, so it must not be,--so it shall
  not be, if I can prevent it. Upon this great right let us hold on
  at all hazards. And should we, in its exercise, be driven from
  public halls to private dwellings, one house at least shall be
  consecrated to its preservation. And if in defence of this sacred
  privilege, which man did not give me, and shall not (if I can help
  it) take from me, this roof and these walls shall be levelled to
  the earth, let them fall! If it must be so, let them fall! They
  cannot crumble in a better cause. They will appear of very little
  value to me after their owner shall have been whipped into silence.

  “Mobs and gag-laws, and the other contrivances by which fraud
  or force would stifle inquiry, will not long work well in this
  community. They betray the essential rottenness of the cause they
  are meant to strengthen. These outrages are doing their work with
  the reflecting.

  “Happily, one point seems to be gaining universal assent, that
  slavery cannot long survive free discussion. Hence the efforts of
  the friends and apologists of slavery to break down this right.
  And hence the immense stake which the enemies of slavery hold, in
  behalf of freedom and mankind, in the preservation of this right.
  The contest is therefore substantially between liberty and slavery.

  “As slavery cannot exist with free discussion, so neither can
  liberty breathe without it. Losing this, we shall not be freemen
  indeed, but little, if at all, superior to the millions we are now
  seeking to emancipate.

    “With the highest respect,
        “Your friend,
            “FRANCIS JACKSON.

  “REV. S. J. MAY, Cor. Sec. Mass. A. S. S.”

Well said Mrs. Maria W. Chapman, who was usually the first to give the
most pertinent expression to the best thought of every occasion,--well
said Mrs. Chapman, “Ten such men would have saved our city and country
from the indelible disgrace which has been inflicted upon them by the
outrageous proceedings of the 21st and 24th of October. Mr. Jackson
has by this act done all that _one_ man can do to redeem the character
of Boston.” And were there not nine other men in the metropolis of New
England, where dwelt descendants of Samuel Adams and Josiah Quincy,
and relatives of Joseph Warren and James Otis and John Hancock, and
other men of Revolutionary fame; were there not nine other men there to
spring to the rescue of the ark of civil liberty? Alas! they did not
appear. The abettors of slavery were in the ascendant. “The gentlemen
of property and standing” thought it good policy, both politically and
pecuniarily considered, to trample the Declaration of Independence
under foot. And the people generally seemed willing to perpetrate
wrongs far greater than Great Britain ever inflicted on their fathers.


The resort to mobocratic violence in so many parts of the Middle,
Northern, and Eastern States showed how general had become the
determination of the “gentlemen of property and standing” (as the
leaders everywhere claimed or were reported to be) to put down the
Abolitionists by _foul means_, having found it impossible to do so by
_fair_ discussion. This had been peremptorily demanded of them by their
Southern masters; and they had evidently come to the conclusion that
no other means would be effectual to stay the progress of universal,
impartial liberty. No one fact showed us how almost universally this
plan of operations was adopted, so plainly as the fact that, at the
very same time, October 21, 1835, antislavery meetings were broken up
and violently dispersed in Boston, Mass., Utica, N. Y., and Montpelier,

Societies for the abolition of slavery had been formed in the city of
New York, and in many towns and several counties of the State. And it
had come to be obvious that their efficiency would be greatly increased
if they should be united in a State organization. Accordingly,
invitations were sent everywhere to all known associations, and to
individuals where there were no associations, calling them to meet on
the 21st of October in Utica, then the most central and convenient
place, for the purpose of forming a New York State Antislavery Society.

So soon as it became public that such a Convention was to be held
in their city, certain very “prominent and respectable gentlemen”
set about to avert “the calamity and disgrace.” It was denounced in
the newspapers, and deprecated by loud talkers in the streets. Soon
the excitement became general. When it was known that permission had
been given for the Convention to occupy the Court-room, “the whole
population was thrown into an uproar.” A large meeting of the people
was held on Saturday evening, October 17th, and adopted measures to
preoccupy the room where the Convention were called to assemble; and
in every way, by any means, prevent the proceedings of such a body of
“fanatics,” “incendiaries,” “madmen.” Hon. Samuel Beardsley, member of
Congress from Oneida County, declared that “the disgrace of having
an Abolition Convention held in the city is a deeper one than that of
twenty mobs; and that it would be better to have Utica razed to its
foundations, or to have it destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah, than to
have the Convention meet here.”[F]

Nevertheless, delegates from all parts of the State and individuals
interested in the great cause, at the appointed time, came into Utica
in great numbers,--six or eight hundred strong. On arriving at the
Court house, they found the room pre-occupied by a crowd of their
vociferous opponents, and therefore quietly repaired to the Second
Presbyterian meeting house.

As soon as practicable the Convention was organized by the choice of
Hon. Judge Brewster, of Genesee County, Chairman, and Rev. Oliver
Wetmore, of Utica, Secretary. The Hon. Alvan Stewart, a most excellent
man and distinguished lawyer, as Chairman of the Committee of the
Utica Antislavery Society, which had first proposed the calling of the
Convention, rose, and after a few pertinent and impressive remarks,
moved the formation of a New York State Antislavery Society, and
read a draft of a Constitution. While he was reading a noisy crowd
thundered at the doors for admission. One of the Aldermen of the city,
in attempting to keep them back, had his coat torn to pieces. As soon
as the reading of the draft was finished, it was unanimously adopted as
the Constitution, and the _State Antislavery Society was formed_.

Mr. Lewis Tappan then proceeded to read a declaration of sentiments
and purposes, that had been carefully prepared. But he had not half
finished the document, when a large concourse of persons rushed into
the house and commanded him to stop. He, however, persisted in the
discharge of his duty with increased earnestness to the end, when the
declaration was adopted unanimously by a rising vote.

The Convention then gave audience to the leaders of the mob, who
declared themselves to be a Committee of twenty-five, sent thither by a
meeting of the citizens of Utica, held that morning in the Court-house.
Hon. Chester Hayden, first Judge of the County, was Chairman of this
Committee. He presented a series of condemnatory resolutions, which had
just been adopted at the Court-house. They were respectfully listened
to by the Convention, and then the mob gave loud utterance to their
denunciations and threats. The Judge remonstrated with the rioters,
saying: “We have been respectfully listened to by the Convention, I
hope _my friends_ will permit the answer of the Convention to be heard
in peace.” Mr. Tappan then moved that a committee of ten be appointed
to report what answer should be made to the citizens.

Hon. Mr. Beardsley, mentioned above, one of the Committee of
twenty-five, also said, “It is proper we should hear what the
Convention have to say, either now or by their Committee. We are bound
to hear them; we are bound to exercise all patience and long-suffering,
_even towards such an assembly as this_.... For my part, I should
like to hear what apology can be made for proceedings which we know,
and they know, are intended to exasperate the members of our National
Union against each other. They profess to come here on an errand of
religion, while, under its guise, they are hypocritically plotting the
dissolution of the American Union. They have been warned beforehand,
have been treated with unexampled patience, and if they now refuse to
yield to our demand, and any unpleasant circumstances should follow,
we shall not be responsible.” Such talk, and more of the same sort
that he uttered, was adapted, if it was not intended, to inflame the
mobocrats yet more. So when, in conclusion, he said, “But let us hear
their justification for this outrage on our feelings, if they have
any to offer,” the cry rose, “No! we won’t hear them; they sha’n’t be
heard. Let them go home. Let them ask our forgiveness, and we will
let them go.” Many of the rioters were too evidently inflamed with
strong drink as well as passion; and this was easily accounted for,
though it was in the forenoon of the day, by the fact afterwards stated
in the New York _Commercial Advertiser_, that the grog-shops in the
neighborhood were thrown open and liquor furnished _gratuitously_ to
the tools and minions of “the very respectable citizens, the best
people of Utica,” who were determined their city should not tolerate
a Convention of Abolitionists. It was evident that these leaders
held “the baser sort” under some restraint, for one of them cried
out, “Let _them_ say the word, and I am ready to tear the rascals in
pieces.” Loud threats of violence were reiterated, with imprecations
and blasphemies. The leading members of the Committee of twenty-five
besought the Convention to adjourn, and seeing that it was impossible
to transact any more business, they did adjourn _sine die_.

Most of the members retired unmolested excepting by abusive, profane,
and obscene epithets. A cry was raised by some of the Committee for
“the minutes” of the Convention, and members pressed upon the venerable
Secretary, demanding that he should give them up. But he resolutely
refused, though they crowded him against the wall, seized him by the
collar, and threatened to beat him. A member of the Committee of
twenty-five, a man holding an important public office, raised his cane
over that aged and faithful minister of the Gospel and cried out, “God
damn you! give the papers up, or I will knock you on the head.” At
this, another of the Committee, a young man--his son--sprang forward
and begged him, “Do, father, give them up and save your life. Give them
to me, and I will pledge myself they shall be returned to you again.”
With this Rev. Mr. Wetmore complied, and was let off without any
further harm.

Many of the newspapers, especially those of New York City, exulted over
the results of the riots of the 21st of October in Boston and Utica.
They boasted that, by thus dealing with the Abolitionists, the people
of the Northern States proved themselves to be sound to the core on
the subject of slavery. “Hereafter,” said the New York _Sunday Morning
News_, “hereafter the leaders of the Abolitionists will be treated
with less forbearance than they have been heretofore. The people
will consider them as out of the pale of the legal and conventional
protection which society affords to its honest and well-meaning
members. They will be treated as robbers and pirates, as the enemies of
the human kind.”

The most important incident of the Utica riot was the accession which
it caused of _Gerrit Smith_ to our ranks. The great and good man had,
for many years, been an active opponent of slavery. He had always
been in favor of immediate emancipation, and was unusually free from
prejudice against colored people. But from almost the beginning of the
Colonization Society he had been a member of it, deceived as we all
were by the representations which its agents at the North made of its
intentions and the tendency of its operations. He believed its scheme
was intended to effect and would effect the abolition of slavery.
He therefore joined it, and labored heartily in its behalf, and
contributed most generously to its funds,--_ten thousand dollars_, if
not more. Mr. Smith was repulsed from the American Antislavery Society,
and kept away for nearly two years, because he thought Mr. Garrison and
his associates were unjust in their denunciations of the Colonization
Society, and too severe in their censures of the American churches and
ministers, as virtually the accomplices of slaveholders.

But the outrages committed upon the Abolitionists in the fall of 1834,
and throughout the year 1835, fixed his attention more fully upon them.
He determined to know, to search, and prove those who had become the
subjects of such general and unsparing persecution. When, therefore,
the Convention for the formation of a State Antislavery Society was to
be held in Utica (only twenty-five or thirty miles from his residence),
he could not withhold himself from it. He went thither, not as a member
of any Antislavery Society, not intending to become a member, but
determined to hear for himself what should be said, see what should
be done, learn what might be proposed, and decide as he should find
reason to, between the Abolitionists and their adversaries. Alas, that
the prominent, influential, professedly religious men in every part of
our country did not do likewise! Then would the names of comparatively
few of them have gone down, in the history of this generation, as the
leaders and instigators of a most shameful persecution of the friends
of freedom and humanity.

Mr. Smith was so disgusted, shocked, alarmed, at the proceedings of
“the gentlemen of property and standing” in Utica, that he invited all
the members of the antislavery convention to repair to Peterboro’.
And a large proportion of the members accepted his invitation.
Insults and threats of violence were showered upon them wherever they
were met in the streets of Utica and at the hotels where they had
quartered themselves. The same evil spirit of hatred pursued them on
their way. Especially at Vernon, the hotel at which they had stopped
for refreshment was beset by a mob, with an evident determination to
rout them and drive them from the village. But the resolute action of
Captain Hand, the landlord, dispersed the rioters.

Arrived at Peterboro’, the Abolitionists were most cordially received,
not only at the hospitable and spacious mansion of Gerrit Smith, but
into the houses of most of his neighbors. And the next day was held
in the Presbyterian Church the first meeting of the New York State
Antislavery Society. At that meeting Mr. Smith brought forward the
following resolution:--

  “_Resolved_, That the right of FREE DISCUSSION given us by our God,
  and asserted and guarded by the laws of our country, is a right so
  vital to man’s freedom and dignity and usefulness that we can never
  be guilty of its surrender, without consenting to exchange that
  liberty for slavery and that dignity and usefulness for debasement
  and worthlessness.”

This resolution he supported and enforced by a speech of surpassing
power,--a speech which deserves to be printed in letters of light large
enough to be seen throughout our country.[G]

Ever since that eventful period of our history Gerrit Smith has been
a most zealous fellow-laborer in the antislavery cause, and bountiful
contributor of money in its behalf. He has made as many speeches in
large meetings and small as any man who has not been a hired agent.
He announced the doctrines of the immediate Abolitionists in the
Congress of the United States and maintained them in several speeches
of great ability. He has made frequent donations to some special, or to
the general purposes of our Society of one, two, five, ten thousand
dollars at a time. He has in every way befriended the colored people
of our country, and at one time gave forty acres of land, in the State
of New York, to each one of three thousand poor, temperate men of
that class. I shall have an occasion in another place to speak more
particularly of the acts of this almost unequalled giver.


Another and a most auspicious event signalizes in my memory the year
1835. It was the publication of Dr. Channing’s book on Slavery. He had
for many years been the most distinguished minister of religion in New
England, certainly in the estimation of the Unitarian denomination; and
his fame as a Christian moralist, a philosopher, and finished writer
had been spread far and wide throughout England, France, and Germany by
a large volume of his Discourses, Essays, and Reviews published in 1830.

A few weeks after his graduation from Harvard College in 1798, when
about nineteen years of age, determined to be no longer dependent upon
his mother and friends for a living, he gladly accepted the situation
of a tutor in the family of Mr. Randolph, of Richmond, Virginia. Here
he often met many of the most distinguished gentlemen and ladies of the
city and the State, and visited them freely at their city homes and
on their plantations. He was delighted with their cordial and elegant
courtesy. But he saw also their _slaves_ and the sensuality which
abounded amongst them. These made an impression upon his heart which
was never effaced.

In the fall of 1830 he went to the West Indies for his health, and
passed the winter in St. Croix. There he witnessed again the inherent
wrongs of slavery and the vices which it engenders. On his return
in May, 1831, he spoke freely and with the deepest feeling from
his pulpit of the inhuman system, and its debasing effects upon the
oppressors as well as the oppressed. At that time the public mind in
New England had begun to be agitated upon the subject of slavery,
as it never had been before by the scathing denunciations that were
every week poured from _The Liberator_ upon slaveholders and their
abettors and apologists. Dr. Channing’s sensitive nature shrank from
the severity of Mr. Garrison’s blows, and yet he acknowledged that
the gigantic system of domestic servitude in our country ought to
be exposed, condemned, and subverted. He found his highly esteemed
friend, Dr. Follen, with his excellent wife and several others of the
best women in Boston, and Ellis Gray Loring and Samuel E. Sewall and
others, whom he highly esteemed, giving countenance and aid to the
“young fanatic.” This drew his attention still more to the subject
of slavery. Soon after his return from the West Indies I visited Dr.
Channing, and found his mind very much exercised. He sympathized with
the Abolitionists in their abhorrence of the domestic servitude in our
Southern States, and their apprehension of its corrupting influence
upon the government of our Republic, and the political as well as
moral ruin to which it tended. But he distrusted our measures, and
was particularly annoyed, as I have already stated, by Mr. Garrison’s
“scorching and stinging invectives.” Whenever I was in the city and
called upon the Doctor, he would make particular inquiries respecting
our doctrines, purposes, measures, and progress. Repeatedly he invited
me to his house for the express purpose, as he said, of learning more
about our antislavery enterprise. He always spoke as if he were deeply
interested in it, but he was afraid of what he supposed to be some
of our opinions and measures. I was surprised that he was so slow to
accept our vital doctrine, “immediate emancipation.” But owing, I
suppose, to his great aversion to excited speeches and exaggerated
statements, and his peculiar distrust of associations, he had never
attended any of our antislavery meetings, where the doctrine of
immediate emancipation was always explained. The Doctor, therefore,
as well as the people generally, misunderstood it, and had been
misinformed in several other respects as to the purposes, measures,
and spirit of the Abolitionists. Still he persisted in abstaining from
our meetings until after the alarming course taken by the Governor and
Legislature of Massachusetts, in the spring of 1836, of which I shall
give an account in the proper place.

Late in the year 1834, being on a visit in Boston, I spent several
hours with Dr. Channing in earnest conversation upon Abolitionism and
the Abolitionists. My habitual reverence for him was such that I had
always been apt to defer perhaps too readily to his opinions, or not
to make a very stout defence of my own when they differed from his.
But at the time to which I refer I had become so thoroughly convinced
of the truth of the essential doctrines of the American Antislavery
Society, and so earnestly engaged in the dissemination of them, that
our conversation assumed, more than it had ever done, the character of
a debate. He acknowledged the inestimable importance of the object we
had in view. The evils of Slavery he assented could not be overstated.
He allowed that removal to Africa ought not to be made a condition
of the liberation of the enslaved. But he hesitated still to accept
the doctrine of immediate emancipation. His principal objections,
however, were alleged against the severity of our denunciations, the
harshness of our epithets, the vehemence, heat, and excitement caused
by the harangues at our meetings, and still more by Mr. Garrison’s
_Liberator_. The Doctor dwelt upon these objections, which, if they
were as well founded as he assumed them to be, lay against what was
only incidental, not an essential part of our movement. He dwelt upon
them until I became impatient, and, forgetting for the moment my wonted
deference, I broke out with not a little warmth of expression and

“Dr. Channing,” I said, “I am tired of these complaints. The cause
of suffering humanity, the cause of our oppressed, crushed colored
countrymen, has called as loudly upon others as upon us Abolitionists.
It was just as incumbent upon others as upon us to espouse it. _We_ are
not to blame that wiser and better men did not espouse it long ago.
The cry of millions, suffering the most cruel bondage in our land, had
been heard for half a century and disregarded. ‘The wise and prudent’
saw the terrible wrong, but thought it not wise and prudent to lift a
finger for its correction. The priests and Levites beheld their robbed
and wounded countrymen, but passed by on the other side. The children
of Abraham held their peace, and at last ‘the very stones have cried
out’ in abhorrence of this tremendous iniquity; and you must expect
them to cry out like ‘the stones.’ You must not wonder if many of those
who have been left to take up this great cause, do not plead it in all
that seemliness of phrase which the scholars and practised rhetoricians
of our country might use. You must not expect them to manage with all
the calmness and discretion that clergymen and statesmen might exhibit.
But the scholars, the statesmen, the clergy had done nothing,--did
not seem about to do anything, and for my part I thank God that at
last any persons, be they who they may, have earnestly engaged in this
cause; for no _movement_ can be in vain. We Abolitionists are what we
are,--babes, sucklings, obscure men, silly women, publicans, sinners,
and we shall manage this matter just as might be expected of such
persons as we are. It is unbecoming in abler men who stood by and would
do nothing to complain of us because we do no better.

“Dr. Channing,” I continued with increased earnestness, “it is not
_our fault_ that those who might have conducted this great reform more
prudently have left it to us to manage as we may. It is not _our fault_
that those who might have pleaded for the enslaved so much more wisely
and eloquently, both with the pen and the living voice than we can,
have been silent. We are not to blame, sir, that you, who, more perhaps
than any other man, might have so raised the voice of remonstrance
that it should have been heard throughout the length and breadth of
the land,--we are not to blame, sir, that you have not so spoken. And
now that inferior men have been impelled to speak and act against what
you acknowledge to be an awful system of iniquity, it is not becoming
in you to complain of us because we do it in an inferior style. Why,
sir, have you not taken this matter in hand yourself? Why have you not
spoken to the nation long ago, as you, better than any other one, could
have spoken?”

At this point I bethought me to whom I was administering this
rebuke,--the man who stood among the highest of the great and good in
our land,--the man whose reputation for wisdom and sanctity had become
world-wide,--the man, too, who had ever treated me with the kindness of
a father, and whom, from my childhood, I had been accustomed to revere
more than any one living. I was almost overwhelmed with a sense of my
temerity. His countenance showed that he was much moved. I could not
suppose he would receive all I had said very graciously. I awaited his
reply in painful expectation. The minutes seemed very long that elapsed
before the silence was broken. Then in a very subdued manner and in
the kindliest tones of his voice he said, “Brother May, I acknowledge
the justice of your reproof. I have been silent too long.” Never shall
I forget his words, look, whole appearance. I then and there saw the
beauty, the magnanimity, the humility of a truly great Christian soul.
He was exalted in my esteem more even than before.

The next spring, when I removed to Boston and became the General Agent
of the Antislavery Society, Dr. Channing was the first of the ministers
there to call upon me, and express any sympathy with me in the great
work to which I had come to devote myself. And during the whole
fourteen months that I continued in that office he treated me with
uniform kindness, and often made anxious inquiries about the phases of
our attempted reform of the nation.

Early in December, 1835, Dr. Channing’s volume on Slavery issued from
the press. A few days after its publication, he invited Samuel E.
Sewall and myself to dine with him, that he might learn how we liked
his book. Both of us had been delighted with some parts of it, but
neither of us was satisfied with other parts; much dissatisfied with
some. He requested and insisted on the utmost freedom in our comments.
He listened to our objections very patiently, and seemed disposed to
give them their due weight.

As was to be expected, the appearance of a work on Slavery, by Dr.
Channing, caused a great sensation throughout the land. It was sought
for with avidity. It found its way into many parlors from which a copy
of _The Liberator_ would have been spurned. Most of the statesmen of
our country read it, and many slaveholders.

Not many days elapsed before the responses which it awakened began
to be heard; and they were by no means altogether such as he had
expected. Although he disclaimed the Abolitionists; stated that
he had never attended one of our meetings, nor heard one of our
lecturers; although he made several grave objections to our doctrines
and measures, and unwittingly gave his sanction to several of the
most serious misrepresentations of our sentiments, our objects, and
means of prosecuting them; yet he so utterly repudiated the right of
any man to _property_ in the person of any other man, and gave such
a fearful _exposé_ of the sinfulness of holding slaves and the vices
which infested the communities where human beings were held in such an
unnatural condition, that the Southern aristocracy and their Northern
partisans came soon to regard him as a more dangerous man than even Mr.
Garrison. He was denounced as an enemy of his country, as encouraging
the insurrection of the slaves, and as in effect laboring to do as much
harm as the Abolitionists.

In due time an octavo pamphlet of forty-eight pages was published in
Boston, entitled “Remarks on Dr. Channing’s Slavery.” It was evidently
written by a very able hand, and was attributed to one of the most
prominent lawyers in that city. The writer spoke respectfully of
Dr. Channing, but condemned utterly his doctrines on the subject
of slavery, and found in them all the viciousness of the extremest
abolitionism. The author announced and labored to maintain the
following false propositions: “First. Public sentiment in the free
States in relation to slavery is perfectly sound and _ought not_ to be
altered. Second. Public sentiment in the slaveholding States, whether
right or not, _cannot_ be altered. Third. An attempt to produce any
alteration in the public sentiment of the country will cause great
additional evil,--moral, social, and political.”

Such bald scepticism was not to be tolerated. “A Review of the Remarks”
was soon sent forth. This called out a “Reply to the Review,” and thus
the subject of slavery was fully broached among a class of people who
had given no heed to _The Liberator_ and our antislavery tracts.

In future articles I shall have occasion gratefully to acknowledge the
further services rendered by Dr. Channing to the antislavery cause,
and to show how at last he came nearly to accord in sentiment with the


This was the title of Dr. Channing’s book. It rendered the antislavery
cause services so important that I am impelled to give a further
account of it. It seemed to me at the time, it seems to me now, one
of the most inconsistent books I have ever read. It showed how, all
unconsciously to himself, the judgment of that wise man had been
warped and his prejudices influenced by the deference, which had come
to be paid pretty generally throughout our country, to the Southern
slaveholding oligarchy; and by the denunciations which their admirers,
sympathizers, abettors, and minions in the free States, poured without
measure upon Mr. Garrison and his comparatively few fellow-laborers.

Dr. Channing’s profound respect for human nature and the rights of man,
and his heartfelt compassion for the oppressed, suffering, despised,
were such that he could not but see clearly the essential, inevitable,
terrible wrongs and evils of slavery to the master as well as to his
subject. He portrayed these cruelties and vices so clearly and forcibly
that the pages of his book contain as utter condemnations of the
domestic servitude in our Southern States, and as awful exposures of
the consequent corruption, pollution of families and the community in
those States,--condemnations as utter and exposures as awful as could
be found in _The Liberator_. To his chapters on “Property in Man,”
“Rights,” and “Evils of Slavery,” we could take no exceptions. But his
chapter entitled “Explanations” seems to us, as Mr. Garrison called it,
a chapter in _recantation_,--a disastrous attempt to make it appear as
if there could be sin without a sinner. He says that the character of
the master and the wrong done to the slave are distinct points, having
little or no relation to each other. He therefore did not “intend to
pass sentence on the character of the slaveholder.” Jesus Christ taught
that “by their fruits ye shall know men.” But the Doctor said in this
chapter, “Men are not always to be interpreted by their acts or their
institutions.” “Our ancestors,” he continued, “committed a deed now
branded as piracy,” i. e. the slave-trade. “Were they, therefore,
the offscouring of the earth?” No,--but they were _pirates_, their
good qualities in other respects notwithstanding. They were guilty of
kidnapping the Africans, and made themselves rich by selling their
victims into slavery. Piracy was too mild a term for such atrocious
acts. They were just as wicked before they were denounced by law as
afterwards. And it was by bringing the people of England and of this
country to see the enormity of the crimes inseparable from that trade
in human beings, that they were persuaded to repent of it, to renounce
and abhor it. Again Dr. Channing says under this head, “How many sects
have persecuted and shed blood! Were their members, therefore, monsters
of depravity?” I answer, their spirit was cruel and devilish, utterly
unlike the spirit of Jesus. They were none of his, whatever may have
been their professions. As well might we deny that David was a gross
adulterer and mean murderer, because he wrote some very devotional

A more marvellous inconsistency in the book before us is this. The
Doctor declares “that cruelty is not the habit of the slave States
in this country.” “He might have affirmed just as truly,” said Mr.
Garrison, “that idolatry is not the habit of pagan countries.” What
is cruelty? The extremest is the reducing of a human being to the
condition of a domesticated brute, a piece of mere property. The Doctor
himself has said as much in another part of this volume, see the 26th
page in his excellent chapter on “Property.” Having described what man
is by nature, he adds, “The sacrifice of such a being to another’s
will, to another’s present, outward, ill-comprehended good, _is the
greatest violence which can be offered to any creature of God_. It is
to cast him out from God’s spiritual family into the brutal herd.”
“No robbery is _so great_ as that to which the slave is _habitually_
subjected.” “The slave _must_ meet cruel _treatment_ either inwardly
or outwardly. Either the soul or the body must receive the blow.
Either the flesh must be tortured or the spirit be struck down.” No
Abolitionist, not even Mr. Garrison, has set forth more clearly the
extreme cruelty, inseparable from holding a fellow-man in slavery one

Still Dr. Channing objected to our primal doctrine,--“immediate
emancipation.” But could there have been a more obvious inference than
this, which an upright mind would unavoidably draw from a consideration
of the rights of man, the evils of slavery, and the unparalleled
iniquity of subjecting a human being to such degradation. I ask, could
there have been a more obvious inference than that any, every human
being held in such a condition ought to be _immediately released_ from
it? It is plain to me that Dr. Channing himself drew the same inference
that Elizabeth Heyrick,[H] of England, and Mr. Garrison had drawn,
although he rejected the trenchant phrase in which they declared that
inference. Having exhibited so faithfully and feelingly the wrongs and
the evils of slavery, he says, on the 119th page of this book: “What,
then, is to be done for the removal of slavery? _In the first place_,
the slaveholder should solemnly disclaim the right of property in human
beings. The great principle that man cannot belong to man should be
distinctly recognized. The slave should be acknowledged as a partaker
of a common nature, as having the essential rights of humanity.
This great truth lies at the foundation of every wise plan for his
relief.” Would not any one suppose, if he had not been forbidden the
supposition, that the writer of these lines intended to enjoin the
_immediate_ emancipation of the enslaved? Surely, he would have _the
first thing_ that is to be done for their relief done immediately.
Surely, he would have the foot of the oppressor taken from their necks
_at once_. He would have the heavy yoke that crushes them broken
without delay. Surely, he would have the _foundation_ of the plan for
the removal of slavery laid _immediately_. He would not, could not
counsel the slaveholder to postpone a day, nor an hour, the recognition
of the right of his slave to be treated as a fellow-man. There is a
remarkable resemblance between what Dr. Channing here says ought to
be done _in the first place_, and what the Abolitionists had from the
beginning insisted ought to be done _immediately_.

One of the Doctor’s objections to our chosen phrase was that it was
liable to be misunderstood. But, as we said at the time, “if _immediate
emancipation_ expresses our leading doctrine exactly, it ought to be
used and explanations of it be patiently given until the true doctrine
has come to be generally understood, received, and obeyed.” Now,
_immediate emancipation_ was the comprehensive phrase that did best
express the right of the slave and the duty of the master. In whatever
sense we used the word _immediate_, whether in regard to time or order,
the word expressed just what we Abolitionists meant. We insisted upon
it in opposition to those who were teaching slaveholders to defer to
another generation, or to some future time an act of common humanity
that was due to their fellow-men _at once_; and would be due every
minute until it should be done. We insisted upon it in opposition
to the popular but deceptive, impracticable, and cruel scheme which
proposed to liberate the slaves on condition of their removal to Africa.

Dr. Channing further objected that “the use of the phrase _immediate
emancipation_ had contributed much to spread far and wide the belief,
that the Abolitionists wished immediately to free the slave from _all_
his restraints.” But ought we to have been held responsible for such a
senseless, wanton misconstruction of words that had been explained a
thousand times by our appointed lecturers, in our tracts, and in the
“Declaration of the Sentiments, Purposes, and Plans of the American
Antislavery Society,” which was published three years before Dr.
Channing’s book appeared? Freemen,--Republican freemen were, are, and
ever ought to be subject to the restraints of civil government, equal
and righteous laws. From the commencement of our enterprise, our only
demand for our enslaved countrymen has been that they should forthwith
be admitted to all the rights and privileges of freemen upon the same
conditions as others, after they shall have acquired (those of them who
do not now possess) the qualifications demanded of others.

Still further the Doctor accused us Abolitionists of having “fallen
into the common error of enthusiasts,--that of exaggerating their
object, of feeling as if no evil existed but that which they opposed,
and as if no guilt could be compared with that of countenancing or
upholding it.” We grieved especially that he suffered this censure
to drop from his pen, as, coming from him, it would repress in many
bosoms the concern which was beginning to be felt more than ever
before for the slaves and the slaveholders. There was no danger that
we should esteem or lead others to esteem the evils of their condition
to be greater than they were. All about us there was still an alarming
insensibility or indifference to the subject. This could not have been
made to appear more glaring than by the Doctor himself, on the 137th
page of his book. “Suppose,” he there said, “suppose that millions of
_white_ men were enslaved, robbed of all their rights in a neighboring
country, and enslaved by a black race who had torn their ancestors from
the shores on which our fathers had lived. How deeply should we feel
their wrongs!” Ay, how much more deeply would even the Abolitionists
feel for them! Yet why should we not all feel as much, in the case that
actually existed in our country as in the one supposed? We are unable
to find a reason of which we ought not to be ashamed, because it must
be one based upon a cruel prejudice, the offspring of the degradation
into which we had forced the black men. I really wish if there are any
who think with Dr. Channing that the Abolitionists did _exaggerate_ the
guilt of holding men in slavery, or consenting with slaveholders,--I
really wish such persons would read Dr. Channing’s chapter on the
“Evils of Slavery,” and then show us, if he can, wherein we exaggerated

Dr. Channing repelled with great emphasis the charge often brought
against Abolitionists, that we were endeavoring to incite the slaves
to violence, bloodshed, insurrection. He said, page 131: “It is a
remarkable fact, that though the South and the North have been leagued
to crush them, though they have been watched by a million of eyes,
and though prejudice has been prepared to detect the slightest sign
of corrupt communication with the slave, yet this crime has not been
fastened on a single member of this body.” No, not one of our number,
that I was acquainted with, ever suggested the resort to insurrection
and murder by the enslaved as the means of delivering them from
bondage. And in our Declaration at Philadelphia we solemnly disclaimed
any such intention.

We knew that slavery could be _peaceably_ abolished only by the consent
of the slaveholders and the legislators of their States. We knew
that they could not fail to be affected, moved by the right action
of our Federal Government, touching the enslavement of the colored
population in the District of Columbia, and in the territories that
were entirely under the jurisdiction of Congress. And we knew that
the members of Congress could not be reached and impelled to act as
we wished them to, but by the known sentiments and expressed wishes
of their constituents,--the people of the nation North and South. It
was needful, therefore, to press the subject upon the consideration of
the people throughout the land. Accordingly, we did all in our power
to awaken the public attention, to agitate the public mind, to touch
the public heart. We sent able lecturers to speak wherever there were
ears to hear them, and we sent newspapers and tracts wherever the mails
would carry them.

Dr. Channing reproached us for this, especially for sending our
publications to the slaveholders. But we know not how else we could
have made them sensible of the horror with which their system of
domestic servitude was viewed by thousands in the Northern States; and
inform them correctly of our determination to effect the liberation of
their bondmen; and the peaceful means and legal measures by which we
intended, if possible, to accomplish our purpose. We wondered greatly
at the Doctor’s objection to our course in this direction. To whom
should we have sent our publications, if not to those whose cherished
institution we were aiming by them to undermine and overthrow? Would it
have been open, manly, honorable not to have done so?

One more objection Dr. Channing made, which seemed to us as
unreasonable as the last. It was to our _manner_ of forming our
Antislavery Associations. He said: “The Abolitionists might have formed
an association, but it should have been an elective one. Men of strong
principles, judiciousness, sobriety, should have been carefully sought
as members. Much good might have been accomplished by the co-operation
of such philanthropists.” Alas! such philanthropists, the wise and
prudent men, to whom he probably alluded, seemed to have made up
their minds to acquiesce in the continuance of slavery, so long as
our white brethren at the South saw fit to retain the institution; or
to help them take it down very gradually, by removing the victims of
it to the shores of Africa. Nearly fifty years had passed, and such
philanthropists as he indicated had done little or nothing for the
enslaved, and seemed to be growing more indifferent to their wrongs.
If we had elected them, would they have associated with us? Are they
the men to bear the brunt of a moral conflict? “Not many wise,”--as
this world counts wisdom,--“not many rich, not many mighty,” were ever
found among the leaders of reform. God has always chosen the foolish to
confound the wise. It is left for imprudent men, enthusiasts, fanatics,
to begin all difficult enterprises. They have usually been the pioneers
of reform. Else why was not the abolition of slavery attempted and
accomplished long before by that “better class”?

I have not dwelt so long upon this book, and criticised parts of it so
seriously, in order to throw any shade upon the memory of that great
man, whom I have so much reason to revere and love. But I have done
this in order to reveal more fully to the present generation, and to
those who may come after us, the sad state of the public mind and heart
in New England thirty-five years ago. All the objections Dr. Channing
alleged against us in this book were the common current objections
of that day, hurled at us in less seemly phrases from the press, the
platform, and the pulpit. They would not have been thought of, if we
had been laboring for the emancipation of white men. It was sad that a
man of such a mind and heart as Dr. Channing’s could have thought them
of sufficient importance to press them upon us as he did. Nevertheless,
his book contained so many of the vital principles for which we were
contesting, set forth so luminously and urged so fervently, that it
proved to be, as I have already said, a far greater help to our cause
than we at first expected. And we look back with no little admiration
upon one who, enjoying as he did, in the utmost serenity, the highest
reputation as a writer and a divine, put at hazard the repose of the
rest of his life, and sacrificed hundreds of the admirers of his
genius, eloquence, and piety, by espousing the cause of the oppressed,
which most of the eminent men in the land would not touch with one of
their fingers.


In the winter of 1835 and 1836 the slaveholding oligarchy made a
bolder assault than ever before upon the liberty of our nation, and
the most alarming intimations were given of a willingness to yield to
their imperious demands. The legislatures of Alabama, Georgia, South
Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia passed resolutions of the same
import, only those of Virginia and South Carolina were clothed, as
might have been expected, in somewhat more imperative and threatening
terms. These resolutions insisted that each State, in which slavery
was established, had the exclusive right to manage the matter in the
way that the inhabitants thereof saw fit; and that the citizens of
other States who were interfering with slavery in any way, directly or
indirectly, were guilty of violating their social and constitutional
obligations, and ought to be punished. They therefore “claimed and
earnestly requested that the non-slaveholding States of the Union
should promptly and _effectually suppress_ all abolition societies,
and that they should make it _highly penal_ to print, publish, and
distribute newspapers, pamphlets, tracts, and pictorial representations
calculated or having a tendency to excite the slaves of the Southern
States to insurrection and revolt.”

These resolutions further declared that “they should consider every
interference with slavery by any other State, or by the General
Government, as a direct and unlawful interference, to be resisted at
once, and under every possible circumstance.” Moreover, they insisted
that they “should consider the abolition of slavery in the District of
Columbia as a violation of the rights of the citizens of that District,
and as a usurpation _to be at once resisted_, as nothing less than the
commencement of a scheme of much more extensive and flagrant injustice.”

Resolutions in these words, or to the same effect, passed by the
legislatures of the above-mentioned States, were transmitted by the
governors of those States severally to the governors of each of
the non-slaveholding States, among them to the chief magistrate of
Massachusetts, then the Hon. Edward Everett.

On the 15th of January, 1836, that gentleman delivered his address
to both branches of the Legislature at the organization of the State
Government. In the course of that address, as in duty bound to do under
the circumstances, he alluded particularly to the subject of slavery,
and to the excitement kindled throughout the country by the discussion
of it in the free States.

But instead of showing that the subject of human rights was ever up,
and must needs be ever up, for the consideration of the American
people, in private circles and public assemblies; that it ought not
and could not be prohibited,--instead of conceding the impossibility
(in our country especially) of preventing the freest expression of
the opinion, that such a glaring inconsistency, such a tremendous
iniquity as the enslavement of millions ought not to be tolerated;
that the genius of our Republic, the spirit of the age, the principles
of Christianity, the impartial love of the Father of all mankind,
each and all demanded the abolition of slavery,--instead of availing
himself of the occasion so fully given him, from his high position, to
reiterate the glorious doctrines of the Declaration of Independence,
and to press upon the complaining States the obvious necessity of their
yielding to the self-evident claims of humanity,--instead of this, His
Excellency saw fit to commend the disastrous policy of the framers of
our Republic; to pass a severe censure upon us Abolitionists, and to
intimate his opinion that we were guilty of offences punishable at
common law.

This part of his speech was referred to a joint committee of two
from the Senate and three from the House of Representatives, Hon.
George Lunt, Chairman. By order of the managers of the Massachusetts
Antislavery Society, I addressed a letter to the above-named committee,
asking permission to appear before them by representatives, and show
reasons why there should be no legislative action condemnatory of the
Abolitionists. The request was granted, and on the 4th of March the
proposed interview took place in the chamber of the Representatives, in
the presence of many citizens.

At first a member of the committee, Mr. Lucas, objected to our
proceeding; said we were premature; that we should have waited until
the committee had reported; that we had no reason to apprehend the
Legislature would do anything prejudicial to us, or to the liberties of
the people. I replied, “that formerly it would have been a gratuitous,
an impertinent apprehension, but recent occurrences have admonished
us, that we may not any longer safely rest in the assurance that our
liberties are secure. Alarming encroachments have been made upon them,
even in the metropolis of New England. We do not fear,” I continued,
“that your committee will recommend, or that our Legislature will
enact, a penal law against Abolitionists. But we do apprehend that
condemnatory resolutions may be reported and passed; and these we
deprecate more than a penal law for reasons that we wish to press upon
your consideration.”

After some discussion between the members of the committee Mr.
Lucas withdrew his objection, and we were allowed to proceed. I
commenced, being the General Agent of the Society, and gave a sketch
of the origin, the organization, and progress of the abolition
enterprise,--stating distinctly our purpose and the instrumentalities
by which we intended to accomplish it. I laid before the committee
copies of our newspapers, reports, and tracts,--especially the
constitutions of several State and County Antislavery Societies, and
more especially the report of the convention that met in Philadelphia,
in December 1833, and organized the American Antislavery Society, and
issued a declaration of sentiments and purposes. All these documents,
I insisted, would make it plain to the committee that we were
endeavoring to effect the abolition of slavery by moral means,--not
by rousing the enslaved to insurrection, but by working such changes
in the public sentiment of the nation respecting the cruelty and
wickedness of our slave system, that strong, earnest remonstrances
would be sent from the Legislature, and still more from the
ecclesiastical bodies in all the free States to corresponding bodies
in the slave States, imploring them to consider the awful iniquity of
making merchandise of fellow-men, and treating them like domesticated
brutes; at the same time offering to co-operate with them and share
generously in the expense of abolishing slavery, and raising their
bondmen to the condition and privileges of the free.

Some discussion here ensued as to the character of some of our
publications, and the propriety of certain expressions used by some
of our speakers and writers. And then Ellis Gray Loring was heard in
our behalf. This gentleman had been prominent among the New England
Abolitionists from the very beginning of Mr. Garrison’s undertaking.
There were combined in him the strength and resolution of a man
with the intuitive wisdom and delicacy of a woman. He addressed the
committee more than half an hour in a most pertinent manner, replying
aptly to their questions and objections. “The general duty,” said Mr.
Loring, “of sympathizing with and succoring the oppressed will probably
be conceded. It is enjoined by Christianity. We are impelled to it by
the very nature which our Creator has conferred upon us. What, then, is
to limit our exercise, as Abolitionists, of this duty and this right?
The relations we bear to the oppressor control, it is said, our duty
to the oppressed. If we are bound to abstain from the discussion of
slavery, it must be either because we are restrained by the principles
of international law, or by some provisions of the Constitution of the
United States. But, gentlemen, if the slaveholding States were foreign
nations, it could not be shown that we have done anything which the law
of nations forbids. We have done nothing for the overthrow of slavery
in our Southern States which that law forbids, more than our foreign
missionary societies have for many years been doing for the subversion
of idolatry in pagan lands,--nothing more than was done in this city
and all over our country to aid the Poles and the Greeks in their
struggle for freedom, of which our ancient allies, the Russians and the
Turks, were determined to deprive them. If, then, the Law of nations
does not restrain us, is it in the Constitution of the United States
that such restraint is imposed? Far from it. I find in that, our Magna
Charta, an abundant guaranty for the liberty of speech; but I look in
vain in the letter of the Constitution for any prohibition of the use
of moral means for the extirpation of slavery or any other evil.”

Mr. Loring here took up the three clauses of the Constitution in which
alone any allusion is made to the subject of slavery, and showed
clearly that there was nothing in them which forbade the fullest and
freest discussion of the political expediency or moral character of
that system of oppression. And he confirmed his position by referring
to the fact, that the framers of that great document did not understand
it as the proslavery statesmen and politicians of our day would
have it understood. Washington declared himself warmly in favor of
emancipation. Jefferson’s writings contain more appalling descriptions
and more bitter denunciations of slavery than are to be found in the
publications of modern Abolitionists; and Franklin, Rush, and John Jay
were members of an antislavery society formed a few years after they
had signed the Constitution, and they joined in a petition to Congress
praying for the abolition of that system of domestic servitude, so
inconsistent with our political principles and disastrous to our
national honor and prosperity.”

I have not given, nor have I room to give, anything like a full
report of Mr. Loring’s speech. He closed with these words: “A
great _principle_, gentlemen, is involved in the decision of this
Legislature. I esteem as nothing in comparison our feelings or wishes
as individuals. Personal interests sink into insignificance here.
Sacrifice us if you will, but do not wound liberty through us. Care
nothing for men, but let the oppressor and his apologist, whether at
the North or the South, beware of the certain defeat which awaits him
who is found fighting against God.”

The next one who addressed the committee was the Rev. William
Goodell, one of the sturdiest, most sagacious and logical of our
fellow-laborers. We are indebted to him for “a full statement of the
reasons which were in part offered to the committee,” &c., &c., given
to the public in a pamphlet which was issued from the press a few days
after our interviews with said committee.

I shall here quote only the most important passage in his speech:
“We would deprecate the passage of any condemnatory resolutions by
the Legislature, even more than the enactment of a penal law, for
in the latter case we should have some redress. We could plead the
unconstitutionality of such a law, at any rate, it could not take
effect until we had had a fair trial. Not so, gentlemen of this
committee, in the case of resolutions. We should have no redress for
the injurious operation of such an extra-judicial sentence. The passage
of such resolutions by this and other legislatures would help to
fix in the public mind the belief that Abolitionists are a specially
dangerous body of men, and so prepare the public to receive such a law
as the slaveholding States might dictate. We solemnly protest against a
legislative censure, because it would be a usurpation of an authority
never intrusted to the Legislature. They are not a judicial body, and
have no right to pronounce the condemnation of any one.”

“Hold,” said Mr. Lunt, the Chairman of the committee, “you must not
indulge in such remarks, sir. We cannot sit here and permit you to
instruct us as to the duties of the Legislature.”

Mr. Goodell resumed, justified the remark for which he had been called
to order, and completed his very able argument against any concurrence
on the part of the General Court of Massachusetts with the demands of
the Southern States.

Mr. Garrison next addressed the committee in a very comprehensive and
forcible speech. But he neglected to give any report of it in his
_Liberator_. I can therefore lay before your readers only this brief
passage: “It is said, Mr. Chairman, that the Abolitionists wish to
destroy the Union. It is not true. We would save the Union, if it be
not too late. To us it would seem that the Union is already destroyed.
To us there is no Union. We, sir, cannot go through these so-called
United States enjoying the privileges which the Constitution of the
Union professed to secure to all the citizens of this Republic. And
why? Because, and only because, we are laboring to accomplish the very
purposes for which it is declared in the preamble to the Constitution
that the Union was formed! Because we are laboring ‘to establish
justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and promote the general

Dr. Follen then arose. He was extensively known and very much
respected and beloved by all who had known him, as a Professor in
Harvard College, or as a preacher of true Christianity in several
parishes in the vicinity of Boston. He had done and suffered
much for the sake of civil and religious liberty in his own
country,--Germany,--and had come to our country in the high hope
of enjoying the blessings and privileges of true freedom. He early
espoused the antislavery cause, and rendered us essential services by
his wise counsels and his labors with several prominent persons whom
we had failed to reach. He was selected as one of the nine to maintain
our rights before the legislative committee, and avert the wrong that
seemed impending over us from the unhappy suggestions in the speech of
Governor Everett.

The Doctor evidently felt very deeply the grave importance of the
occasion. He commenced his speech with some profound remarks upon
the rights of man and the spirit and purpose of our republican
institutions, and then proceeded to point out the fearful
encroachments, that had been made on the fundamental principles of
our Republic by slaveholders and their Northern partisans. “And now,”
said he, “they are calling upon the Northern legislatures to abolish
the Abolitionists by law. We do not apprehend, gentlemen, that you
will recommend, or that our General Court will enact, such a law. But
we do apprehend that you may advise, and the Legislature may pass,
resolutions severely censuring the Abolitionists. Against this measure
we most earnestly protest. We think its effects would be worse than
those of the penal law. The outrages committed in this city upon the
liberty of speech, the mobs in Boston last October, were doubtless
countenanced and incited by the great meeting of August, in Faneuil
Hall. Now, gentlemen, would not similar consequences follow the
expression by the Legislature of a similar condemnation? Would not
the mobocrats again undertake to execute the informal sentence of the
General Court? Would they not let loose again their bloodhounds upon

“Stop, sir!” cried Mr. Lunt. “You may not pursue this course of remark.
It is insulting to the committee and to the Legislature which they

Dr. Follen sat down, and an emotion of deep displeasure evidently
passed through the crowd of witnesses.

I sprang to my feet and remonstrated with Mr. Lunt. Mr. Loring and
Mr. Goodell also expressed their surprise and indignation at his
course. But it was of no avail. He would not consent that Dr. Follen
should proceed to point out what we considered the chief danger to
be guarded against. We therefore declined to continue our interview
with the committee; and gave them notice that we should appeal to the
Legislature for permission to present and argue our case in our own way
before them, or before another committee.


We left the committee very much dissatisfied with the treatment we
had received from Mr. Lunt and the majority of his associates. Hon.
Ebenezer Moseley was an honorable exception. From the first he had
treated us in the most fair and gentlemanly manner. And at the last he
protested against the procedure of the Chairman.

We forthwith drew up, and the next morning presented, a memorial to
the Legislature, intimating that we had not been properly treated
by the committee, and asking that our _right_ to be heard might be
recognized, and that we might be permitted to appear and show our
reasons in full, why the Legislature of Massachusetts should not enact
any penal law, nor pass any resolutions condemning Abolitionists and
antislavery societies. The remonstrance was read in both branches of
the Legislature and referred to the same committee, with instructions
to hear us according to our request.

On the afternoon of the 8th, therefore, we met the committee again in
the Hall of the Representatives. The reports which had gone forth of
our first interview had so interested the public, that the house was
now quite filled with gentlemen and ladies, many of whom had never
before shown any sympathy with the antislavery reform.

It was intended that Dr. Follen should address the committee first,
beginning just where he had been, on the 4th, so rudely commanded by
Mr. Lunt to leave off, and that he should press home that part of
his argument which we all deemed so important. But he was detained
from the meeting until a later hour. It devolved upon me, therefore,
to commence. I confined my remarks to two points. First, I contended
that our publications were not incendiary, not intended nor adapted to
excite the oppressed to insurrection. Secondly, I assured the committee
that, whatever they might think of the character of our publications,
we had never sent them to the slaves nor to the colored people of the
South, and gave them our reasons for having refrained so to do.

Samuel E. Sewall, Esq., then made a somewhat extended, but very close
legal and logical argument against the demands of the slaveholding
States,--“arrogant, insolent demands,” as he called them. “To yield to
them would be to subvert the foundations of our civil liberties, and
make it criminal to obey the laws of God, and follow the example of
Jesus Christ.” His excellent speech evidently made an impression upon
the committee as well as his larger audience. But I have not room here
for such an abstract of it as I should like to give.

While Mr. Sewall was speaking Dr. Follen came in, and when he had
ended the Doctor arose and commenced by showing very clearly that we
Abolitionists were accused of _crime_ by the legislatures of several
of our Southern States, and that the Governor of Massachusetts had
indorsed the accusation, because we had exercised in the cause of
humanity that liberty of speech and of the press which was guaranteed
to us in the Constitution of our Republic, not less explicitly than in
the fundamental law of this State. “We have endeavored by persuasion,
by argument, by moral and religious appeals to urge upon the nation,
and especially upon our Southern brethren, the necessity of freeing
themselves from the sin, the evils, and the shame of slavery. You
cannot punish or censure freedom of speech in Abolitionists, without
preparing the way to censure it in any other class of citizens who may
for the moment be obnoxious to the majority. A penal enactment against
us is less to be dreaded than condemnatory resolutions; for these are
left to be enforced by Judge Lynch and his minions, and I must say, as
I said the other day--”

“I call you to order, sir,” said Mr. Lunt, with great emphasis. “This
is not respectful to the committee.”

Dr. Follen replied, “I am not conscious of having said anything
disrespectful to the committee. I beg to be informed in what I am out
of order.”

Mr. Lunt replied, “Your allusion to mobs, for which you were called to
order at our first interview, is not proper.”

“Am I then to understand,” said Dr. Follen, “that deprecating mobs is
disrespectful to this committee?”

Mr. Moseley, one of the committee, here spoke with much feeling;
said he dissented wholly from the action of the Chairman. “I see
nothing in the allusion to mobs disrespectful to the committee or the
Legislature; and I consider Dr. Follen entirely in order.”

Some discussion ensued. Two others of the committee, making a majority,
silently assented to the opinion of Mr. Lunt. So it was decided that
the Doctor was out of order, and must not allude to mobs.

Here I called the attention of Mr. Lunt to the memorial, in answer
to which we were permitted by the Legislature to appear before the
committee, and they were instructed to hear us. “It seemed, on the
fourth instant, that the Chairman considered that we came here by his
grace to exculpate ourselves from the charges alleged against us by the
Legislatures of several of the Southern States; and that we were not
to be permitted to express our anxious apprehensions of the effects of
any acts by our Legislature intended to gratify the wishes of those
States. In order, therefore, that we might appear before you in the
_exercise of our right as free citizens_, we have appealed to the
Senate and House of Representatives, and have received their permission
so to do. Dr. Follen was setting before you what we deem the most
probable and most serious evil to be apprehended from any condemnatory
resolutions which the Legislature might be induced to pass; and if he
is not permitted to press this upon your consideration our interview
with the committee must end here.” Mr. Lunt then consulted with his
associates and intimated that Dr. Follen might proceed. He did so, and
having referred to the disastrous influence of the great meeting in
Faneuil Hall, August, 1835, and of the condemnatory resolutions there
passed, he showed clearly that far greater outrages upon the property
and persons of Abolitionists would be likely to follow the passage of
similar resolutions by the Legislature of the Commonwealth.

Rev. William Goodell then arose and made a most able and eloquent
speech. He ignored for the time being all the personal dangers and
private wrongs of the Abolitionists; he set aside for the moment the
consideration of everything else but the imminent peril that seemed to
be impending over the very life of liberty in our country. “For what,
Mr. Chairman,” said he, “are Abolitionists accused by the Southern
States, and our own Legislature called upon to condemn them? For
nothing else but exercising and defending the inalienable rights of
the people. What have we said that is not said in your Declaration of
Independence? and why are we censured for carrying into practice what
others have been immortalized as patriots for writing and adopting?
In censuring us you censure the Father of our Country. I turn to the
portrait of Washington as it looks upon us in this hall, and remind
you how he declared that he earnestly desired to see the time when
slavery should be abolished. For saying this, and urging it upon our
countrymen, the mandate has come from the South to stop our mouths, and
we are here to avert the sentence our own Legislature is called upon
to pronounce upon us.” Mr. Goodell then went on to quote the strongest
antislavery sentiments uttered by President Jefferson, Chief Justice
John Jay, and Hon. William Pinckney, a distinguished member of the
Legislature of Maryland, the last in stronger language of condemnation
than ever issued from an antislavery press. “Shall the men of the
South speak thus, and we be compelled to hold our peace? Mr. Chairman,
in this hour of my country’s danger, I should disdain to stand here
pleading for my personal security. In behalf of my fellow-citizens
throughout the land, I implore the Legislature of this Commonwealth to
pause before they act on those documents of the South. What are they?
A demand for the unconditional surrender to the South of the first
principles of your Constitution, the surrender of your liberties. It
is a blow particularly aimed at the independence of your laboring
classes.” Mr. Goodell here quoted the declaration of Governor McDuffie
and other distinguished Southern gentlemen, distinctly asserting the
doctrine that “the laboring population of no nation on earth are
entitled to liberty or capable of enjoying it.” “Mr. Chairman, we are
charged with aiming at disunion, because we seek what only can save the
Union. I charge upon those who promulgate the doctrines on your table,
a deep and foul conspiracy against the liberties of the laboring people
of the North.” Mr. Lunt here interrupted him.

“Mr. Goodell, I must interfere,” he said. “You must not charge other
States with a foul conspiracy, nor treat their public documents with
disrespect.” Mr. Goodell replied: “Something may be pardoned to a man
when he speaks for the liberties of a nation.” Mr. Lunt continued:
“The documents emanating from other States are required by our
Federal Constitution to be received with full faith and credit here.”
“Certainly, sir,” responded Mr. Goodell. “I wish them to be regarded as
official, accredited documents, and I have referred to an accredited
document from the Governor of South Carolina, in which he says, _that
the laborers of the North are incapable of understanding or enjoying
freedom, that liberty in a free State best subsists with slavery, and
that the laborers must be reduced to slavery, or the laws cannot be
maintained_. This, sir, is also a document entitled to full faith and
credit,--holding up a report of the doings of the Legislature of South
Carolina, in which they declared an entire accordance with Governor
McDuffie in the sentiments expressed in his message.” Mr. Lunt here
interposed with great warmth. “Stop, sir!” Mr. Goodell stopped, but
remained standing. “Sit down, sir,” said Mr. Lunt; “the committee will
hear no more of this.” Mr. Goodell said: “My duty is discharged, Mr.
Chairman, if I cannot proceed in the way that seems to me necessary
to bring our case properly before the committee and the Legislature.
We came here as free men, and we will go away as freemen should.”
Some one in the vast audience that had been watching our proceedings
with intensest interest cried out, “Let us go quickly lest we be made
slaves.” I here made one more appeal to Mr. Lunt. “Are we, sir, to be
again denied our right of being heard in pursuance of our memorial to
the Legislature?” The Chairman intimated that they had heard enough.

The audience here began to leave the hall, but were arrested by a voice
in their midst. It was that of Dr. Gamaliel Bradford, not a member
of the Antislavery Society, who had come there only as a spectator,
but had been so moved by what he had witnessed that he pronounced an
eloquent, thrilling, impassioned, but respectful appeal in favor of
free discussion. I wish that I could spread the whole of it before
my readers. So soon as he sat down Mr. George Bond, one of the most
prominent merchants and estimable gentlemen of Boston, expressed a
desire to say a few words to the committee. “I am not a petitioner nor
an Abolitionist,” said he; “but, though opposed to some of the measures
of these antislavery gentlemen, I hold to some opinions in common with
them. If under these circumstances the committee will permit, I beg
leave to offer a few remarks.” The Chairman preserved silence; but
another member of the committee intimated to Mr. Bond that he might
proceed. “It strikes me,” said Mr. Bond, “that this is a subject of
deep and vital importance; and I fear as a citizen that the manner in
which it has been treated by the committee will produce an excitement
throughout the Commonwealth. With due respect to the committee, I beg
leave to say that, from the little experience I have had in legislative
proceedings, it is not the practice to require of persons, appearing
before a committee, a strict conformity to rules. They are usually
indulged in telling their own story in their own way, provided it be
not disrespectful. I have certainly heard nothing from the gentlemen
of the Antislavery Society that called for the course that has been
adopted. It does seem to me that some of the committee have been too
fastidious, too hypercritical.”

Mr. Lunt here broke out again. “Be careful, sir, what you say. The
committee will not submit to it.” Mr. Bond replied: “I certainly have
no wish to say anything unpleasant to the committee, but I cannot
help regretting the course that has been taken to withhold a full
hearing from the parties interested. They came here through their
memorial, which had been received by the Legislature and referred to
this committee, and I expected that the committee would have allowed
them to say what they pleased, using proper language. If they state
their case improperly, it will injure them and not the committee. I
may be wrong, but I regret to see the grounds given for the gentlemen
and their friends to say they have been denied a hearing. The action
on this question here is of immense importance in the influence it may
have, not only upon those who have appeared before the committee, but
upon the Legislature, the community, the Commonwealth, and the whole
country.” When Mr. Bond had closed, instead of proffering to us a
further hearing, the committee broke up without a formal adjournment,
the Chairman immediately retiring, conscious, as it seems to me he
must have been, of the very general indignation which his conduct had
excited. Just as he was leaving, Mr. Moseley, one of the committee,
said to him, “I am not satisfied with your course. You have been wrong
from the beginning. I will not sit again on such a committee.”

The large audience retired from the hall murmuring their astonishment,
shame, indignation at the conduct of the Chairman. Many gentlemen and
ladies, who had never shown us favor before, came to assure us that
they had been led, by what they had heard and seen that afternoon, to
take a new view of the importance of the great reform we were laboring
to effect.

Nothing, however, gratified us so much as seeing Dr. Channing approach
Mr. Garrison, whom until then he had appeared to avoid, shake him
cordially by the hand, and utter some words of sympathy. From that time
until his death the larger portion of his publications were upon the
subject of slavery, increasing in earnestness and power to the last.

The conduct of the committee, especially the Chairman, was severely
censured next day in the Senate by Hon. Mr. Whitmarsh, and other
members of that body. Reports of our interviews were published
and republished throughout the Commonwealth, and called out from
almost every part of it condemnatory comments. Many were brought
over to the antislavery faith, and our party became not a little
significant in the estimation of the politicians. Governor Everett’s
too evident inclination to yield to the insolent demands of the
slaveholding oligarchy damaged him seriously in the confidence of
his fellow-citizens, and, if I remember correctly, at the very next
election he was beaten by the opposing candidate, whose sentiments on
slavery were thought to be more correct than his.


Let me again beg my readers to bear in mind, that I am not attempting
to write a complete history of the antislavery conflict. Many
individuals rendered essential services to the cause in different
parts of our country whose names even may not be mentioned on any of
my pages, for the reason that I had little or no personal acquaintance
with them. My purpose is merely to give my recollections of the most
important incidents in the progress of the great reform, and of the
individuals whom I personally knew in connection with those incidents.

Although I did not enjoy a very intimate acquaintance with the
distinguished gentleman whose name stands at the head of this article,
my connection with him was such that it will be very proper, as well as
very grateful to me, to give some account of him and of his inestimable

At the annual meetings of the American Antislavery Society in New York,
and of the Massachusetts Society in Boston in May, 1835, our hearts
were greatly encouraged and our hands strengthened by the presence and
eloquence of the Hon. James G. Birney, then of Kentucky, lately of
Alabama. We had repeatedly heard of him during the preceding twelve
months, and of his labors and sacrifices in the cause of our enslaved
countrymen. As I said in my report at the time, all were charmed with
him. He was mild yet firm, cautious yet not afraid to speak the whole
truth, candid but not compromising, careful not to exaggerate in aught,
and equally careful not to conceal or extenuate. He imparted much
valuable information and animated us to persevere in our work.

Mr. Birney was a native of Kentucky, the only son of a wealthy
planter, who gave him some of the best opportunities that our country
then afforded for acquiring a thorough classical, scientific, and
professional education, to which were added the advantages of extensive
foreign travel. When he had completed his preparations for the practice
of the law he opened an office in Danville, his native place, and
married a Miss McDowell, of Virginia. Thus he was allied by marriage
as well as birth to a large circle of prominent slaveholders in two
States. Soon after he removed to Huntsville, Alabama, where he rapidly
rose to great distinction in his profession and in the estimation of
his fellow-citizens. He was elected Solicitor-General of the State,
and in 1828, when John Q. Adams was nominated for the Presidency,
Mr. Birney was chosen by the Whig party one of the Alabama Electors.
Moreover, he was an honored member of the Presbyterian church, and
was zealous and active as an elder in that denomination. I make these
statements to show that Mr. Birney occupied a very high position, both
civil and ecclesiastical.

He had been accustomed to slavery from his birth. So he purchased
a cotton plantation near Huntsville and directed the management of
it. But his kind heart was ill at ease in view of the condition of
the slaves. He could not regard them as brute animals, and felt that
there must be a terrible wrong in treating them as if they were. He
gladly entered into the project of the Colonization Society, hoping it
would lead ultimately to the deliverance of the bondsmen. He became
so interested in it that he turned from his legal practice, which
had become very lucrative, that he might discharge the duties of
General Superintendent of the Colonization Society in the States of
Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas. He travelled
extensively throughout those States, was everywhere treated with
respect, and had abundant opportunities for forming an opinion of the
real effect of the Colonization scheme upon the institution of slavery.
He saw that it was tending to perpetuate rather than to put an end to
the great iniquity.

Towards the close of 1833 Mr. Birney removed back to his native place,
that he might be near and minister to the comfort of his aged father.
He returned carrying with him his new-formed opinions of Colonization.
He found a few who had come to feel, with him, that something else and
more should be done for the relief of the oppressed. In December of
that year he joined them and formed the “Kentucky Gradual Emancipation
Society.” But the principles of it did not long satisfy him.

Mr. Garrison’s “Thoughts on Colonization,” published more than a
year before in Boston, had reached that neighborhood, and probably
had come under the consideration of Mr. Birney. It contained a
faithful searching review of the purposes, the spirit and tendency
of Colonization. Soon after, the famous discussion arose in Lane
Seminary, of which I have given some account on a previous page,
and which resulted in an eruption that threw eighty “live coals” in
as many directions over the country,--fervent young men, who went
diligently about, kindling up the minds of the people on the question
of _immediate_ emancipation.

That remarkable young man, Theodore D. Weld, leader of the antislavery
party in Lane Seminary, visited Mr. Birney, and found him ready for
conversion, if not already a convert to the highest antislavery truth.
Their interviews resulted in Mr. Birney’s entire conviction that the
Colonization plan tended to uphold rather than to subvert slavery; and
that immediate emancipation, without removal from their homes, was the
right of every slave, and the duty of every slaveholder.

Without delay, he acted in accordance with this conviction. He
addressed an admirable letter to Rev. Mr. Mills, Corresponding
Secretary of the Kentucky Colonization Society, announcing that
he must no longer be considered a member of that association, and
stating, in a very lucid and impressive manner, his weighty reasons
for disapproving of, and feeling impelled to oppose, an enterprise
in which he had taken so much interest, and to which he had devoted
so much time and labor. Better than this, he summoned all his slaves
into his presence, acknowledged that he had been guilty of great wrong
in holding them as his property, informed them that he had executed
deeds of manumission for each and all of them, and that henceforth
they were free men, free women, free children. He offered to retain
in his service all who preferred to remain with him, and to pay them
fair wages for their labor. None left him, and, as he himself told me,
they afterwards toiled not only more cheerfully than before, but more
effectively, and for a greater number of hours. In several instances
he had been impelled to go to them in person, and insist upon their
“hanging up the shovel and the hoe.” In the fall of 1834 he addressed
a letter to the members of the Presbyterian Synod, in the vicinity of
Danville, in which he pressed upon them the sinfulness of holding their
fellow-beings as property, and showed them the true Scripture doctrine
respecting slavery. He also visited the seat of government during the
session of the Kentucky Legislature, and conversed with many members.
He found that most of them regarded slavery as an evil which could not
be perpetual, but most of them recoiled from the plan of immediate

Convinced that this was the vital doctrine, he determined to do all
in his power to disseminate it among the people. For this purpose he
purchased a printing-press and types, and engaged a man to print for
him at Danville a paper to be called _The Philanthropist_. So soon as
his intention became known, his neighbors roused themselves to prevent
the execution of it. While he continued a slaveholder and in favor of
Colonization, it was proper and safe enough for him to express freely
his opinions. But when he became an immediate emancipationist, and
liberated his slaves, he was regarded as a dangerous man. And now that
he was preparing to disseminate his doctrines through the press, he was
to be denounced and silenced.

On the 12th of July, 1835, the slaveholders of his neighborhood
assembled in mass meeting, in the town of Danville, and after rousing
themselves and each other to the right pitch of madness, they addressed
a letter to Mr. Birney, vehemently remonstrating with him, and pledging
themselves to prevent the publication of his paper, by the most violent
means, if necessary. Mr. Birney respectfully but firmly refused to
yield to their demand, assured them that he understood the rights of
an American citizen, and that he should exercise and defend them.
However, their threats, which did not intimidate him, so far excited
the apprehensions of his printer that he utterly refused to undertake
the publication.

When the report reached Alabama that Mr. Birney had become an immediate
Abolitionist, had renounced the Colonization Society, and had liberated
his slaves, most of those who had formerly known and honored him there
united in expressing very emphatically their displeasure, and declaring
their contempt for his new fanatical opinions. The Supreme Court of
that State expunged his name from the roll of attorneys practising at
its bar. And in the University of Alabama, of which he had been a most
useful trustee, several literary societies, of which he had been an
honorary member, hastened to pass resolutions expelling him from their
bodies. These acts convinced him of their hatred, but not of his error.

Finding that he could not get his paper printed in Danville, he removed
his press and types to Cincinnati, in order that he might publish his
_Philanthropist_ as near to his father’s home and his native State as
possible, and under the ægis of Ohio, whose constitution explicitly
guarantees to her citizens freedom of speech and of the press.

But he had not got himself and family settled in Cincinnati, before
he found that the inhabitants of that city were so swayed by Southern
influence that it would be useless to attempt to issue a paper there,
opposed to slavery and to the expatriation of the free colored people.
He therefore removed twenty miles up the river to the town of New
Richmond, where the dominant influence was in the hands of Quakers.
_The Philanthropist_ was much better received by the public than he
expected, and was so generally commended for the excellent spirit
with which the subject of slavery was discussed, that he thought it
best to remove his press back to Cincinnati. But he had hardly got
it established there before “the gentlemen of property and standing”
bestirred themselves and their minions to the determination that the
incendiary paper “must be suppressed by all means, right or wrong,
peaceably or forcibly.” Mr. Birney contended manfully, nobly, for the
liberty of speech and of the press. He met his opponents in public
and in private, refuted their arguments and exposed the fearful
consequences of their conduct, if persisted in. But his facts, his
logic, and his eloquence were of no avail. What had not been reasoned
into them could not be reasoned out of them. His opponents were
fixed in a foregone conclusion that slavery was a matter with which
the citizens of the free States were bound not to meddle, and were
made more impetuous by that dislike of the colored people, which was
intensified by the consciousness that they were living witnesses to the
inconsistency, cruelty, and meanness of our nation. I wish I had room
for a full account of Mr. Birney’s courageous and persistent defence of
his antislavery opinions, and of his right to publish and disseminate

Suffice it to add that, on the evening of the 1st of August, 1836,
Mr. Birney having gone to a distant town to deliver a lecture, large
numbers of persons, among them some of the _most respectable_ citizens
of Cincinnati, went to the office of _The Philanthropist_, demolished
or threw into the streets everything they found there excepting the
printing-press. That they dragged to the bank of the Ohio, half a mile
distant, conveyed it in a boat to the middle of the river and threw it

In the fall of 1837 Mr. Birney removed to New York, and for two years
or more rendered inestimable services as one of the Corresponding
Secretaries of the American Antislavery Society.

While there, some time in 1839, his father died, leaving a large amount
of property in lands, money, and slaves to him and his only sister,
Mrs. Marshall. Mr. Birney requested that all the slaves, twenty-one
in number, might be set off to him at their market value, as a part
of his patrimony. This was done. He immediately wrote and executed a
deed manumitting them all. Thus he sacrificed to his sense of right,
his respect for humanity, that which he might legally have retained
or disposed of as property, amounting to eighteen or twenty thousand

This act, added to all else that he had done and said in the cause
of liberty, and the invaluable contributions from his pen, and the
noble traits of character that were ever manifest in all his deeds and
words, raised Mr. Birney to the highest point in the estimation of
all Abolitionists. When, therefore, they had become weary of striving
to induce one or the other of the political parties to recognize the
rights of the colored population of the country; when they had found
that neither the Whigs nor the Democrats would attempt anything for the
relief of the millions of the oppressed, but what their _oppressors_
approved or consented to; when thus forced to the conclusion that a
Third Party must needs be formed in order to compel politicians and
statesmen to heed their demands for the relief of suffering outraged
millions in our land, James G. Birney was unanimously selected to be
their candidate for the presidency. He unquestionably possessed higher
qualifications for that office than either of the candidates of the
other parties. But, with shame be it said, he had too much faith in
the glorious doctrine of the Declaration of Independence, and in the
declared purpose of the Constitution of the United States to suit
the depraved policy of the nation in 1840. In that year the Liberty
party gave a very significant number of votes for Mr. Birney. And
again in 1844 their votes for him amounted to 62,300. These votes,
if given for Mr. Clay, as they would have been had he been true to
“the inalienable rights of man,” would have secured his election by a
majority of 23,119. This number was too large to be ignored. It showed
that the Abolitionists held the balance of power between the Whigs
and the Democrats. Their opinions and wishes thenceforward were more
respected by politicians and their partisans. Various attempts were
made to conciliate them, which, after several political abortions,
gave birth to the _Republican party_. This party, we hope and trust,
will be guided or forced to pursue such measures as will not only
abolish slavery, but raise the colored population of our country
to the enjoyment of all the privileges and the exercise of all the
prerogatives of American citizens.


Although this gentleman--so prominent for more than half a century
among our American statesmen and scholars--was not a member of our
Antislavery Society, he rendered us and our cause, in one respect, a
most important service. And as I have some interesting recollections of
him, a few pages devoted to them will be german to my plan.

In January, 1835, a petition was committed to Mr. Adams, signed by more
than a hundred women of his congressional district, praying for the
abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. He presented it and
moved its reference to a select committee. Instantly several Southern
representatives sprang to their feet and vehemently opposed even the
reception of it. They insisted that Congress ought not to receive
such petitions, adapted as they were, if not intended, to create an
excitement, and wound the feelings of members from the slaveholding
States. Mr. Adams urged the reception of the petition with earnestness
and eloquence, reminding his opponents that the feelings of his
constituents, and of many of the people of the non-slaveholding States,
were deeply wounded by being held in any way responsible for the
continuance of such a system of oppression as they considered slavery.
No right of the people, he said, could be more vital, or should be held
as more sacred, than the _right of petition_,--the right to implore
their rulers to relieve them of any unnecessary burden, or to correct
what seemed to them a grievous wrong. He besought the representatives
of the American people to show their respect for the right of petition
by receiving the paper he now presented. If there were any expressions
in the language of this petition disrespectful or improper, let the
signers of it be reproved. It might be easy, he added, to show that
this prayer of his constituents ought not to be granted, but that was
no reason for refusing to hear their request. To petition is a right
guaranteed to every one by the Constitution, of our Republic,--yes,
a right inherent in the constitution of man, and Congress is not
authorized to deny it or to abridge it. Such was the effect of his
speech that the petition was received. But it was immediately laid on
the table.

Again in January, 1837, Mr. Adams offered a petition of the same tenor,
signed by a hundred and fifty women. Forthwith several Southern members
passionately objected to the reception of it. Mr. Adams planted himself
as firmly as before in defence of the _right of petition_. He charged
upon the opposers that they were violating most fearfully the federal
Constitution, which they had sworn to support. He besought the House
not to give its countenance, its sanction, to the violent assaults
which had been made in our country within the last eighteen months
upon the freedom of the press and the liberty of speech, by denying
the still more fundamental right,--the _right of petition_; and this
“to a class of citizens as virtuous and pure as the inhabitants of any
section of the United States.”

A violent debate ensued, in which Mr. Adams maintained his part with
so much fortitude, dignity, and force of argument that the petition
was received by a large majority. I am sorry to add that it was soon
after laid on the table by a majority almost as large. And a few days
afterwards, on the 18th of January, 1837, the House of Representatives
passed this infamous resolution: “That all petitions relating to
slavery, _without being printed or referred_, shall be laid on the
table, and no action shall be had thereon.” This resolution, intended
to shut the door of legislative justice and mercy against millions of
the most cruelly oppressed people on earth, was passed in the Congress
of these United States by a vote of 139 ayes to 96 nays.

Petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia
had been sent to Mr. Adams and to other members of Congress, from
various parts of the country. For it was the feeling of Abolitionists
everywhere that we were all, in some measure, directly responsible for
the continuance of slavery in that District, over which Congress had
then, and has now, exclusive jurisdiction. Seeing how such petitions
were to be spurned, by the advice of the managers of the Antislavery
Society, I addressed a letter to Mr. Adams, proposing that thereafter
our petitions should be “for the removal of the national capital to
some place north of Mason and Dixon’s line.” He replied that nothing
would be gained by such a change. Petitions so worded, coming from
Abolitionists, would be treated with the same contempt. And he thought
it better to persist in demanding the abolition of slavery in the
District, and contend for the right of petition on that issue.

Nothing daunted by the high-handed measure of January 18th, Mr. Adams,
on the 6th of the following month, announced to the Speaker that he
held in his hand a petition which purported to come from a number of
slaves, without, however, stating what it prayed for. Before presenting
it, he wished to be informed by the Speaker whether such a paper would
come under the order of the 18th ult. Without waiting for the decision,
several slaveholders rose in quick succession and poured out their
astonishment, their indignation, their wrath at the effrontery of
the man who could propose to offer such a petition,--a petition from
slaves! One said it was so gross an insult to the House that the paper
ought to be taken and burnt. Another insisted that the representative
from Massachusetts deserved the severest censure, yes, that he ought
to be immediately brought to the bar of the House and reproved by the
Speaker. Others demanded that Mr. Adams should be forthwith expelled
from his seat with those he had so grossly insulted.

Amidst this storm Mr. Adams remained as little moved as “the house
that was founded upon a rock.” When it had spent its rage enough for a
human voice to be heard, the brave “old man eloquent” rose and said:
“Mr. Speaker, to prevent further consumption of the time of the House,
I deem it my duty to request the members to modify their several
resolutions so that they may be in accordance with the facts. I did not
present the petition. I only informed the Speaker that I held in my
hand a paper purporting to be a petition from slaves, and asked if such
a petition would come under the general order of January 18th. I stated
distinctly that I should not send the paper to the table until that
question was decided. This is one _fact_, and one of the resolutions
offered to the House should be amended to accord with it.

“Another gentleman alleged in his resolution that the paper I hold is
a petition from slaves, praying for the abolition of slavery. Now,
Mr. Speaker, that is not the fact. If the House should choose to hear
this paper read they would learn that it is a petition the reverse of
what the resolution states it to be. If, therefore, the gentleman from
Alabama still shall choose to call me to the bar of the House, he will
have to amend his resolution by stating in it that my crime has been
attempting to introduce a petition from slaves, praying that slavery
may _not_ be abolished,--precisely that which the gentleman desires.”

A variety of absurd and incoherent resolutions were proposed, and
as many abusive speeches were made, after which the following were
adopted: “_Resolved_, That this House cannot receive the said petition
without disregarding its own dignity, the rights of a large class of
citizens of the South and West, and the Constitution of the United
States.” Yeas, 160. Nays, 35. “_Resolved_, That slaves do not possess
the right of petition secured to the people of the United States by the
Constitution.” Yeas, 162. Nays, 18.

None of the Northern representatives interposed to aid Mr. Adams in the
conflict, excepting only Messrs. Lincoln and Cushing, of Massachusetts,
and Mr. Evans, of Maine. These gentlemen defended his positions with
distinguished ability. But the “old man eloquent” was a host in
himself,--a match for all who rose up against him. Through the whole of
the unparalleled excitement he behaved with exemplary equanimity and
admirable self-possession. “His speech, in vindication of his cause,”
said Mr. Garrison, “was the hewing of Agag in pieces by the hand of
Samuel.” His exposure of the vice and licentiousness of slaveholding
communities was unsparing. His sarcasms were as cutting as the
surgeon’s knife. His rebukes were terrible. He contended that there was
not a word, not an intimation in the Constitution, excluding petitions
from slaves. “The right of petition,” said he, “God gave to the whole
human race when he made them _men_,--the right of prayer,--the right of
those who need to ask a favor of those who can bestow it. It belongs
to humanity; it does not depend upon the condition of the petitioners.
It belongs to the wronged, the destitute, the wretched. Those who
most need relief of any kind have the best right to petition for it,
_enslaved men more than all others_. Did the gentleman from South
Carolina think he could frighten me by his threat of a grand jury? Let
me tell him _he mistook his man_; I am not to be frightened from the
discharge of a duty by his indignation, nor by all the grand juries in
the universe. Mr. Speaker, I never was more serious in any moment of my
life. I never acted under a more solemn sense of duty. What I have done
I should do again under the same circumstances if it were to be done

For this dignified, persistent, heroic defence of the right of petition
Mr. Adams deserved the gratitude of all the suffering, and those who
desired their relief,--of the enslaved and those who were laboring for
their redemption. But in the course of the debate he said, “It is well
known to all the members of this house that, from the day I entered
this hall to the present moment, I have invariably, here and elsewhere,
declared my opinion to be adverse to the prayer of petitions which
call for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. I have,
however, uniformly insisted, and do insist, that such petitions ought
to be respectfully received, duly considered, and our reasons given for
refusing to grant them.”

Such a declaration from the champion of our petitions, it will readily
be believed, disconcerted us Abolitionists not a little. Some denounced
him. Many thought he certainly ought not to be returned to Congress

I was then one of his constituents, living about thirteen miles from
his residence. I was as much disconcerted as any were by Mr. Adams’s
opposition to the prayer of our petition, and could not rest without
hearing from himself his reasons for that opposition. Accordingly,
soon after his return to Quincy, in the summer of 1837, I called at
his house. He received me graciously, and, on being told what was the
object of my visit, he thanked me for coming to himself to learn what
were the principles by which he endeavored to govern his conduct as
a member of the National Legislature, and what the reasons for the
opinion he held respecting the abolition of slavery in the District
of Columbia by an act of Congress. “You cannot doubt,” said he, “that
I desire the abolition of slavery there, and everywhere, as much as
you or any Abolitionist desires it. I am ready to do all that I think
can be done legally to exterminate that great wrong, that alarming
evil, that dark shame from our country. I shall ever withstand any
plan for the extension of slavery in any direction an inch beyond
the limits within which unhappily it existed at the formation of our
Union. I have repeatedly declared myself at any time ready to go for
the most stringent prohibition of our interstate slave-trade, putting
it under the same ban with the foreign slave-trade.[J] But, sir, the
citizens of the District of Columbia are in an anomalous condition,--a
condition not to be reconciled with one of the fundamental principles
of our democratic institutions. They are governed by laws enacted by a
Legislature in which they have no representative, and to the enactment
of which they have given no consent. Whenever, therefore, I am called
upon to act as a legislator for the District of Columbia, I feel myself
to be all the more bound in honor to act as if I were a representative
chosen by the people of that District, that is, to act in accordance
with what I know to be the will of my quasi constituents. Therefore,
until I know that the people of that District generally desire the
abolition of slavery, I cannot vote for it consistently with my idea of
the duty of a representative.”

Of course I demurred at the sufficiency of this reason, and urged
several objections to it. But I need not add a stern old statesman was
not to be moved from his allegiance to a principle which he said had
governed him through his long political life.

I left him dissatisfied and doubting whether I could help by my vote
to re-elect him to Congress. I conferred much with some of the leading
Abolitionists in his district. They were troubled in like manner. But
we could think of no man who could be elected in his place that would
go further in opposition to slavery than Mr. Adams had gone, or could
utter such scathing condemnation of our American despotism. When, too,
we reviewed the course he had pursued in Congress in defence of the
right of petition, and considered his venerable age, his high official
and personal character, his intimate acquaintance with every part of
the history of our country, his unequalled adroitness in the conduct of
a legislative debate, the insults and abuse he had endured in Congress,
because of his words and acts bearing upon the subject of slavery, and
his perfect fearlessness in the midst of the angry, violent, bullying
slaveholders, we came to the conclusion that it would be most unjust,
ungrateful, and unwise in Abolitionists to withhold their support from
Mr. Adams. We determined rather to rally about him.

And first we thought it would be becoming in his constituents to
give some public and emphatic expression of their high and grateful
appreciation of his faithfulness and heroic courage, in advocating and
maintaining the sacred right of petition. Accordingly, we conferred
with the prominent members of the Whig party in his district, who,
after some hesitation, agreed to unite with us in calling a delegated
convention to consider the alarming assaults that had been made in
the Congress of the nation upon the right of petition, and the noble
defence of that right by the venerable and illustrious representative
of the twelfth Congressional District.

Such a convention was held in Quincy, on the 23d of August, 1837.
Seventeen towns were represented by delegates, and a large number of
other citizens were present.

Hon. Thomas Greenleaf, of Quincy, was chosen President. Hon. Cushing
Otis, of South Scituate, and Hon. John B. Turner, of Scituate,
Vice-Presidents. Hon. Gershom B. Weston, of Duxbury, and Orrin P.
Bacon, Esq., of Dorchester, Secretaries. The forenoon was spent in
listening to speeches upon the sacredness of the right of petition, the
assaults made upon that right in the Congress of our nation, and the
persistent, dauntless, noble defence of it by our representative. A
series of appropriate resolutions was passed and a committee appointed
to present a copy of them to Mr. Adams, and request him to favor the
convention with his presence in the afternoon.

We reassembled soon after 2 P. M., and were informed by the committee
that Mr. Adams would be with us at three o’clock. There was no other
business before the convention. Several topics were proposed by
resolutions or motions that were ruled out of order, as not german
to the purpose of the meeting. Members were getting impatient. I
had begun to fear that some of our ardent ones would break over the
agreement under which the convention had been called. Just at this
crisis our excellent friend, Francis Jackson, of Boston, came into
the hall. His face was radiant with his message of glad tidings. He
came straight towards me, and placed in my hand a paper covered with
lines, in the clear, beautiful handwriting of that true philanthropist,
John Pierpont, with which I was familiar. “A Word from a Petitioner.”
Nothing could have been more timely, nothing more appropriate. I seized
it, and commenced reading at once:--

    “What! our petitions spurned! The prayer
      Of thousands, tens of thousands, cast
    Unheard beneath your Speaker’s chair!
      But you _will_ hear us first or last.
    The thousands that last year ye scorned
      Are millions now. Be warned! Be warned!”

The reading of this first stanza brought down the house in rapturous
applause. It struck the key-note to which the feelings of all were
attuned. Every stanza was received with some response of approval or
delight. When the last line was read and I began to fold the paper,
“Encore! Encore!!” resounded from every part of the hall. So I read
the admirable poem again and better than the first time. And just as I
was reading the last stanza, Mr. Adams entered the convention escorted
by the committee. Now the applauses rose in deafening cheers. “Hurrah!
Hurrah!! Hurrah!!! the hero comes!!!!” Three times three and then
again. Mr. Adams tottered to his seat next the President, wellnigh
overcome with emotion. And when the uproar ceased and he rose to speak
he seemed for the moment no more “the old man eloquent.” He could not
utter a word. He stood trembling before us. But the moment passed, and
the orator was himself again. His first words were: “My friends, my
neighbors, my constituents, though I tremble before _you_, I hope, I
trust you know that I have never trembled before the enemies of your
liberties, your sacred rights.” Again was the assembly thrown into an
uproar of applause, which did not die away until his self-possession
had entirely revived. And then he addressed us for nearly an hour,
giving a very graphic account of his conflict with the slaveholders in
Congress, and making it evident, perhaps more evident to us than to
himself, that some of them were determined to rule or else to ruin our

By order of the convention a memorial was sent to our fellow-citizens
of each congressional district in the Commonwealth, commending to their
just appreciation the conduct of Mr. Adams in defence of the right of
petition, and praying them to send representatives who would be equally
true, faithful, fearless in withstanding the enemies of freedom.


Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy was a young Presbyterian minister, a native
of Maine, who soon after his graduation from college settled in the
city of St. Louis, first as a school-teacher, then as a preacher,
and lastly as the editor of a religious paper. In all these offices
he had commended himself to the respect and affectionate regards of
a large circle of friends. He conducted his paper to very general
acceptance, until he became an Abolitionist. An awful, a diabolical
deed perpetrated in or near St. Louis, compelled him to look after the
evil influences which could have prepared any individuals to be guilty
of such an atrocity, and the community in which it was done to tolerate

Some time in the latter part of 1836, or the beginning of 1837, a
slave was accused of a heinous crime (not worse, however, than many
white men had been guilty of). He was tried by a Lynch Court, over
which a man most appropriately named Judge Lawless presided. He was
found guilty, sentenced _to be burned alive_, and actually suffered
that horrid death at the hands of American citizens, some of whom
were called “most respectable.” Mr. Lovejoy faithfully denounced
the horrible outrage as belonging to the Dark Ages and a community
of savages, and thenceforward devoted a portion of his paper to the
exposure of the sinfulness and demoralizing influence of slaveholding.
This was not long endured. His printing-office was broken up, his press
destroyed, and he was driven out of the State of Missouri. He removed
about twenty miles up the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois, and
there commenced the publication of a similar paper, called the _Alton
Observer_. But though in a nominally free State, he was not beyond the
power of the slaveholders. The people of that town, obsequious to the
will and tainted with the spirit of their Southern and Southwestern
neighbors, soon followed the example of the Missourians, demolished his
printing-office and threw his press into the river.

Mr. Lovejoy was a man whose determination to withstand oppression was
a high moral principle rather than a resentful passion. He therefore
set about, with calm resolution, to re-establish his office and his
paper. In this he was encouraged and assisted by the sympathy and the
contributions of some of the best people in Alton, St. Louis, and that
region of country. But he had issued only one or two numbers of his
_Observer_, before the ruffians again fell upon his establishment and
destroyed it.

This second violation of his rights, in a State professedly free,
brought him and his patrons to feel that they were indeed “set for the
defence” of the liberty of the press. They appealed in deeper tones of
earnest remonstrance and solemn warning to their fellow-citizens, to
their countrymen, to all who appreciated the value of our political
institutions, to help them re-establish and maintain their desecrated
press. They called a convention of the people to consider the disgrace
that had been brought upon their town and State, and to awaken a
public sentiment that would overbear the minions of the slaveholding
oligarchy, which was assuming to rule our nation. Dr. Edward Beecher,
of Jacksonville, came to Alton and spoke with wisdom and power in
defence of the _Alton Observer_, and its devoted editor.

Mr. Lovejoy gave notice that he felt it to be a momentous duty
incumbent on him, there to vindicate the precious right which had been
so ruthlessly outraged in his person and property. He gave notice that
he had taken measures to procure another printing-press and materials
for the publication of his paper. He hoped the violent men, who had
twice broken up his office, would see their fearful mistake and molest
him no more. He trusted the good people of Alton and the officials of
their city would see to it that he should be protected, if the spirit
of outrage should again appear in their midst.

Many of the good people of the place gathered about him with assurances
of help, if needed. A Mr. Gilman, by all acknowledged to be one of the
very best men in the community, readily consented to receive the press
into his store for safe-keeping, and many other gentlemen agreed to
come there to defend it, if any attempt to take it away should be made.

As the day drew near on which the press was to arrive, alarming threats
were heard about the city, and evidences of preparation for another
deed of violence were too plain to be mistaken. Mr. Gilman called
upon the Mayor for protection,--to appoint a special police for the
occasion, or to have an armed force in readiness, if the emergency
should require their interposition. That official informed him that he
had no military at his service, and did not feel authorized to appoint
a special police. Then Mr. Gilman craved to know if the Mayor would
authorize him to collect an armed force to protect his property if it
should be assaulted. The Mayor gave him to understand that he would be
justified in so doing.

The boat arrived in the night of the 6th of November, and the press was
safely deposited in Messrs. Godfrey & Gilman’s store. The next evening
a mob assembled with the declared purpose of destroying the press or
the building that contained it, in which were goods valued at more than
$100,000. Mr. Gilman went out and calmly remonstrated with the mob. He
assured them that it was his determination, as it was his right, to
defend his own property and that of another, which had been committed
to him for safe-keeping, and that he was prepared so to do; that there
were a considerable number of loaded muskets in his store and resolute
men there to use them. He had no wish to harm any one, and besought
them to refrain from their threatened assault, which would certainly
be repulsed. They heeded him not, but reiterated their cries for the
onset. It was agreed between himself, Mr. Lovejoy, and their helpers
that they would forbear until there could be no longer any doubt of
the fell purpose of the assailants. The suspense was brief. Stones and
other heavy missiles were thrown against the building and through the
windows. These were quickly followed by bullets. At this several of
the besieged party fired upon the mob, killing one man and wounding
another. After a temporary retreat, the madmen returned bringing
materials with which to fire the store. A ladder was raised and a torch
applied to the roof. Mr. Lovejoy came out and aimed his musket at the
incendiary. So soon as he was recognized he was fired upon and fell,
his bosom pierced by five bullets.

Mr. Garrison and most of the oldest Abolitionists regretted that Mr.
Lovejoy and his friends had resorted to deadly weapons. If he was
to fall in our righteous cause we wished that he had chosen to fall
an unresisting martyr. From the beginning we had determined not to
harm our foes. And though we had been insulted, buffeted, starved,
imprisoned, our houses sacked, our property destroyed, our buildings
burnt, not the life of one of our number had hitherto been lost. But we
doubted not that our devoted brother had been governed by his highest
sense of right. He had acted in accordance with the accepted morality
of the Christian world, and in the spirit of our Revolutionary fathers.
A sensation of horror at the murder of that amiable and excellent young
man thrilled the hearts of all the people that were not steeped in the
insensibility to the rights of humanity which slaveholding produces.
The 7th of November, 1837, was fixed in the calendar as one of the days
never to be forgotten in our country, nor remembered but with shame.

The American Antislavery Society, the Massachusetts, and other kindred
societies took especial and very appropriate notice of the dreadful
outrage, and renewed their solemn pledges to labor all the more
assiduously, for the utter extermination of that system of iniquity in
the land, which could be upheld only at the expense of our freedom of
speech and the liberty of the press.

Rev. Dr. Channing and many more of the prominent citizens of Boston
were moved to call a public meeting in their “Old Cradle of Liberty,”
without distinction of sect or party, there to express the alarm and
horror which were felt at the outrage on civil liberty, and the murder
of a Christian minister, for attempting to maintain his constitutional
and inalienable rights. Accordingly, the Doctor and a hundred other
gentlemen made an application to the Mayor and Aldermen of the city for
permission to occupy Faneuil Hall for that purpose. Their application
was rejected as follows:--

  “City of Boston. In Board of Aldermen, November 29, 1837: On the
  petition of William E. Channing and others, for the use of Faneuil
  Hall on the evening of Monday, the 4th of December,

  “_Resolved_, That in the opinion of this Board, it is inexpedient
  to grant the prayer of said petition, for the reason that
  resolutions and votes passed by a public meeting in Faneuil Hall
  are often considered, in other places, as the expression of public
  opinion in this city; but it is believed by the Board that the
  resolutions which would be likely to be sanctioned by the signers
  of this petition on this occasion ought not to be regarded as the
  public voice of this city.”

This extraordinary conduct of the city authorities kindled a fire
of indignation throughout the city and the Commonwealth, that sent
forth burning words of surprise and censure. Dr. Channing addressed
an eloquent and impressive “letter to the citizens of Boston,” that
produced the intended effect. It was widely circulated, and everywhere
read with deep emotion. A public meeting was called by gentlemen who
were not Abolitionists, to be held in the old Supreme Court Room,
“to take into consideration the reasons assigned by the Mayor and
Aldermen for withholding the use of Faneuil Hall, and to act in the
premises as may be deemed expedient.” A large concourse of citizens
assembled. George Bond, Esq., was chosen chairman, and B. F. Hallett,
Secretary. Dr. Channing’s letter was read, and then a series of
resolutions, “drawn up with consummate ability and strikingly adapted
to the occasion,” were offered by Mr. Hallett, and after an animated
discussion were unanimously adopted. A committee of two from each ward
was appointed to renew the application (precisely in the words of the
former one) for the use of Faneuil Hall, and to obtain signatures to
the same. This request was not to be denied. The Mayor and Aldermen
yielded to the pressure.

On the 8th of December the doors of Faneuil Hall were thrown open, and
as many people as could find a place pressed in. Hon. Jonathan Phillips
was called to the chair, and made some excellent introductory remarks.
Dr. Channing then made an eloquent and impressive address, after
which B. F. Hallett, Esq., read the resolutions which Dr. Channing
had drawn up. These were seconded by George S. Hillard, Esq., in a
very able speech. Then arose James T. Austin, the Attorney-General,
and made a speech in the highest degree inflammatory and mobocratic.
He declared that “Lovejoy died as the fool dieth.” He justified the
riotous procedure of the Altonians, and compared them to “the patriotic
Tea-Party of the Revolution.” What he said of the slaves was really
atrocious. Hear him!

“We have a menagerie in our city with lions, tigers, hyenas, an
elephant, a jackass or two, and monkeys in plenty. Suppose, now, some
new cosmopolite, some man of philanthropic feelings, not only towards
men but animals, who believes that all are entitled to freedom as an
inalienable right, should engage in the humane task of giving liberty
to these wild beasts of the forest, some of whom are nobler than
their keepers, or, having discovered some new mode to reach their
understandings, should try to induce them _to break their cages and
be free_? The people of Missouri had as much reason to be afraid of
their _slaves_ as we should have to be afraid of the wild beasts of
the menagerie. They had the same dread of Lovejoy that we should have
of this supposed instigator, if we really believed the bars would be
broken and the caravan let loose to prowl about our streets.”

Though this was the most disgusting passage in Mr. Austin’s speech,
nearly all of it was offensive to every true American heart, and some
parts were really impious. He likened the Alton and St. Louis rioters
to the men who inspired and led our Revolution. He infused so much of
his riotous spirit into a portion of his audience that at the close of
his speech they attempted to break up the meeting in an uproar. Happily
for the reputation of Boston, there were present a preponderance of
the moral _élite_ of the city. So soon as the disorder had subsided,
a young man, then unknown to most of his fellow-citizens, took the
platform, and soon arrested and then riveted the attention of the
vast assembly to a reply to the Attorney-General that was “sublime,
irresistible, annihilating.” I wish there were room in these columns
for the whole of it. I can give you but a brief passage.

“Mr. Chairman, when I heard the gentleman lay down principles which
placed the rioters, incendiaries, and murderers of Alton side by
side with Otis and Hancock, with Quincy and Adams, I thought those
pictured lips [pointing to the portraits in the hall] would have
broken into voice to rebuke the recreant American, the slanderer of
the dead. [Great applause and counter-applause.] Sir, the gentleman
said that he should sink into insignificance if he dared not to gainsay
the principles of the resolutions before this meeting. Sir, for the
sentiments he has uttered on soil consecrated by the prayers of
Puritans and the blood of patriots, the earth should have yawned and
swallowed him up!”

I need only tell my readers that this was the _début_ of our Wendell
Phillips, who has since become the leading orator of our nation, and
the dauntless champion of our enslaved, down-trodden countrymen. He
was then just established in the practice of law in Boston, with the
most brilliant prospect of success in his profession. No young man
would have risen so soon as he, or to so great a height as an advocate
at the bar and a speaker in the forum, if he had pursued his course as
a lawyer and a politician. But, blessed be the God of the oppressed,
the cry of the millions, to whom in our Republic every right of
humanity was denied, entered into his bosom. He espoused their cause
with no hope of fee or reward, but that best of all compensations, the
consciousness of having relieved suffering, and maintained great moral
and political principles, and throughout the thirty-two years that
have since passed away, he has consecrated his brilliant powers to the
service of the enslaved with an assiduity and effect of which our whole
nation has been the admiring witness.

Another young man, to whom we owe scarcely less than to Mr. Phillips,
was brought into our ranks and impelled to take upon himself the odium
of an Abolitionist by the awful catastrophe at Alton,--a young man
bearing a name illustrious in the history of our country, and still
highly honored in our State and nation. I allude to Edmund Quincy, a
son of Hon. Josiah Quincy, who, having filled almost every other office
in the gift of the people, was then President of Harvard College, and
grandson of Josiah Quincy, Jr., one of the leading spirits of the
American Revolution.

From the beginning of our antislavery efforts Mr. Edmund Quincy had
been deeply interested in our undertaking. But, like very many others,
he distrusted the wisdom of some of our measures, and especially the
terrible severity of Mr. Garrison’s condemnation of slaveholders.

The outrages perpetrated upon Mr. Lovejoy and the liberty of the press
at St. Louis and Alton dispelled all doubt of the unparalleled iniquity
of holding human beings in the condition of domesticated brutes, and
of the sinfulness of all who consent thereto. He has since been one of
the towers of our strength; has presided, often with signal ability, at
our meetings in the most troublous times, and occasionally spoken with
force and marked effect. But he has rendered us especial services by
his able pen. His contributions to _The Antislavery Standard_ and _The
Liberator_ have been numerous and invaluable. His style has been as
vigorous and penetrating as that of Junius, and his satire sometimes as
keen. Thus have the attempts of slaveholders and their minions to crush
the spirit of liberty served rather to bring to her standard the ablest


The title of this article announces a great event in the progress of
our antislavery conflict, and opens a subject the adequate treatment of
which would fill a volume much larger than I intend to impose upon the

From the beginning of Mr. Garrison’s enterprise excellent women were
among his most earnest, devoted, unshrinking fellow-laborers. Their
moral instincts made them quicker to discern the right than most men
were, and their lack of political discipline left them to the guidance
of their convictions and humane feelings. Would that I could name all
the women who rendered us valuable services when we most needed help.
In our early meetings, at our lectures, public discussions, &c., a
large portion of our auditors were females, whose sympathy cheered and
animated us. Among our first and fastest friends in Boston were Mrs.
L. M. Child, Mrs. M. W. Chapman, and her sisters, the Misses Weston,
and her husband’s sisters, Miss Mary and Miss Ann G. Chapman, and their
cousin, Miss Anna Green, now Mrs. Wendell Phillips,--then, as now, in
feeble health, but strong in faith and unfaltering in purpose. There,
too, were Mrs. E. L. Follen and her sister, Miss Susan Cabot, Miss
Mary S. Parker, Mrs. Anna Southwick, Mrs. Mary May, Mrs. Philbrick,
Miss Henrietta Sargent, and others. In Philadelphia we found wholly
with us, Lucretia Mott, Esther Moore, Lydia White, Sarah Pugh, Mrs.
Purvis, the Misses Forten, and Mary Grew. In New York, too, there were
many with whom I did not become personally acquainted. And indeed
wherever in our country the doctrine of “immediate, unconditional
emancipation” (first taught by a woman[K]) was proclaimed there were
found good women ready to embrace and help to propagate it. Often were
they our self-appointed committees of ways and means, and by fairs
and other pleasant devices raised much money to sustain our lecturers
and periodicals. The contributions from their pens were frequent and
invaluable. I have already spoken of Mrs. Child’s “Appeal,” and of her
many other excellent antislavery writings. I ought also to acknowledge
our indebtedness to her as the editor, for several years, of _The
Antislavery Standard_, which, without compromising its fidelity or
efficiency, she made very attractive by its literary qualities and its
entertaining and instructive miscellany.

Mrs. Maria W. Chapman, who wielded gracefully a trenchant pen, plied
it busily in our cause with great effect. Her successive numbers
of “Right and Wrong in Boston” were too incisive not to touch the
feelings of the good people of that metropolis, which claimed to be the
birthplace of American independence, but had ceased to be jealous for
“the inalienable rights of man.” Year after year her “Liberty Bell”
rung out the clearest notes of personal, civil, and spiritual liberty,
and she compiled our Antislavery Hymn Book,--“The Songs of the
Free,”--effusions of her own and her sisters’ warm hearts, and of their
kindred spirits in this country and England.

But though the excellent women whom I have named, and many more like
them, constantly attended our meetings, and often _suggested_ the best
things that were said and done at them, they could not be persuaded
to utter their thoughts aloud. They were bound to silence by the
almost universal sentiment and custom which forbade “women to speak in

In 1836 two ladies of a distinguished family in South Carolina--Sarah
and Angelina E. Grimké--came to New York, under a deep sense of
obligation to do what they could in the service of that class of
persons with whose utter enslavement they had been familiar from
childhood. They were members of the “Society of Friends,” and were
moved by the Holy Spirit, as the event proved, to come on this mission
of love. They made themselves acquainted with the Abolitionists,
our principles, measures, and spirit. These commended themselves
so entirely to their consciences and benevolent feelings that they
advocated them with great earnestness, and enforced their truth by
numerous facts drawn from their own past experience and observation.

In the fall of 1836 Miss A. E. Grimké published an “Appeal to the
Women of the South,” on the subject of slavery. This evinced such a
thorough acquaintance with the American system of oppression, and so
deep a conviction of its fearful sinfulness, that Professor Elizur
Wright, then Corresponding Secretary of the American Antislavery
Society, urged her and her sister Sarah to come to the city of New York
and address ladies in their sewing-circles, and in parlors, to which
they might be invited to meet antislavery ladies and their friends.
No man was better able than Professor Wright to appreciate the value
of the contributions which these South Carolina ladies were prepared
to make to the cause of impartial liberty and outraged humanity. As
early as 1833, while Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
in Western Reserve College, he published an elaborate and powerful
pamphlet on “The Sin of Slave-holding,” which we accounted one of our
most important tracts. Commended by him and by others who had read her
“Appeal,” Miss Grimké and her sister attracted the antislavery women of
New York in such numbers that soon no parlor or drawing-room was large
enough to accommodate those who were eager to hear them. The Rev. Dr.
Dunbar, therefore, offered them the use of the vestry or lecture-room
of his church for their meetings, and they were held there several
times. Such, however, was the interest created by their addresses, that
the vestry was too small for their audiences. Accordingly, the Rev.
Henry G. Ludlow opened his church to them and their hearers, of whom a
continually increasing number were gentlemen.

Early in 1837 the Massachusetts Antislavery Society invited these
ladies to come to Boston to address meetings of those of their own sex.
But it was impossible to keep them thus exclusive, and soon, wherever
they were advertised to speak, there a large concourse of men as well
as women was sure to be assembled. This was an added offence, which our
opposers were not slow to mark, nor to condemn in any small measure.
It showed plainly enough that “the Abolitionists were ready to set at
naught the order and decorum of the Christian church.”

My readers may smile when I confess to them that at first I was myself
not a little disturbed in my sense of propriety. But I took the matter
into serious consideration. I looked the facts fully in the face.
Here were millions of our countrymen held in the most abject, cruel
bondage. More than half of them were females, whose condition in some
respects was more horrible than that of the males. The people of the
North had consented to this gigantic wrong with those of the South, and
those who had risen up to oppose it were denounced as enemies of their
country, were persecuted, their property and their persons violated.
The pulpit for the most part was dumb, the press was everywhere,
with small exceptions, wielded in the service of the oppressors, the
political parties were vying with each other in obsequiousness to the
slaveholding oligarchy, and the petitions of the slaves and their
advocates were contemptuously and angrily spurned from the legislature
of the Republic. Surely, the condition of our country was wretched and
most perilous. I remembered that in the greatest emergencies of nations
women had again and again come forth from the retirement to which they
were consigned, or in which they preferred to dwell, and had spoken the
word or done the deed which the crises demanded. Surely, the friends
of humanity, of the right and the true, never needed help more than
we needed it. And here had come two well-informed persons of exalted
character from the midst of slavedom to testify to the correctness of
our allegations against slavery, and tell of more of its horrors than
we knew. And shall they not be heard because they are women? I saw, I
felt it was a miserable prejudice that would forbid woman to speak or
to act in behalf of the suffering, the outraged, just as her heart may
prompt and as God has given her power. So I sat me down and penned as
earnest a letter as I could write to the Misses Grimké, inviting them
to come to my house, then in South Scituate, to stay with us as long as
their engagements would permit, to speak to the people from my pulpit,
from the pulpit of my excellent cousin, Rev. E. Q. Sewall, Scituate,
and from as many other pulpits in the county of Plymouth as might be
opened to them.

They came to us the last week of October, 1837, and tarried eight days.
It was a week of highest, purest enjoyment to me and my precious wife,
and most profitable to the community.

On Sunday evening Angelina addressed a full house from my pulpit for
two hours in strains of wise remark and eloquent appeal, which settled
the question of the propriety of her “speaking in meeting.”

The next afternoon she spoke to a large audience in Mr. Sewall’s
meeting-house in Scituate, for an hour and a half, evidently to their
great acceptance. The following Wednesday I took the sisters to
Duxbury, where, in the Methodist Church that evening, Angelina held six
hundred hearers in fixed attention for two hours, and received from
them frequent audible (as well as visible) expressions of assent and

On Friday afternoon I went with them to the Baptist meeting-house
in Hanover, where a crowd was already assembled to hear them. Sarah
Grimké, the state of whose voice had prevented her speaking on either
of the former occasions, gave a most impressive discourse of more than
an hour’s length on the dangers of slavery, revealing to us some things
which only those who had lived in the prison-house could have learnt.
Angelina followed in a speech of nearly an hour, in which she made the
duty and safety of immediate emancipation appear so plainly that the
wayfaring man though a fool must have seen the truth. If there was a
person there who went away unaffected, he would not have been moved
though an angel instead of Angelina had spoken to him. I said then, I
have often said since, that I never have heard from any other lips,
male or female, such eloquence as that of her closing appeal. Several
gentlemen who had come from Hingham, not disposed nor expecting to be
pleased, rushed up to me when the audience began to depart, and after
berating me roundly for “going about the neighborhood with these women
setting public sentiment at naught and violating the decorum of the
church,” said “there can be no doubt that they have a right to speak in
public, and they ought to be heard; do bring them to Hingham as soon as
may be. Our meeting-house shall be at their service.” Accordingly, the
next day I took them thither, and they spoke there with great effect on
Sunday evening, November 5th, from the pulpit of the Unitarian Church,
then occupied by Rev. Charles Brooks.

The experience of that week dispelled my Pauline prejudice. I needed
no other warrant for the course the Misses Grimké were pursuing than
the evidence they gave of their power to speak so as to instruct and
deeply impress those who listened to them. I could not believe that
God gave them such talents as they evinced to be buried in a napkin.
I could not think they would be justified in withholding what was so
obviously given them to say on the great iniquity of our country,
because they were women. And ever since that day I have been steadfast
in the opinion that the daughters of men ought to be just as thoroughly
and highly educated as the sons, that their physical, mental, and moral
powers should be as fully developed, and that they should be allowed
and encouraged to engage in any employment, enter into any profession,
for which they have properly qualified themselves, and that women
ought to be paid the same compensation as men for services of any kind
equally well performed. This radical opinion is spreading rapidly in
this country and in England, and it will ultimately prevail, just
as surely as that God is impartial and that “in Christ Jesus there
is neither bond nor free, neither male nor female.” And yet it has
been, and is, as strenuously opposed and as harshly denounced as was
our demand of the immediate emancipation of the enslaved. Men and
women, press and pulpit, statesmen and clergymen, legislative and
ecclesiastical bodies have raised the cry of alarm, and pronounced
the advocates of the equal rights of women dangerous persons,
disorganizers, infidels.

The first combined assault was made upon “The Rights of Women” by
the Pastoral Association of Massachusetts in the fall of 1837 or the
spring of 1838, in their spiritual bull against the antislavery labors
of the Misses Grimké, which it utterly condemned as unchristian and
demoralizing. This, of course, made it the duty, as it was pleasure, of
the New England Abolitionists to stand by those excellent women, who
had rendered such inestimable services to the cause of the enslaved,
the down-trodden, the despised millions of our countrymen. Therefore,
at the next New England Antislavery Convention, held in Boston, May,
1838, attended by delegates from eleven States, it was “_Voted_, That
all persons present, or who may be present, at subsequent meetings,
whether men or women, who agree with us in sentiment on the subject
of slavery, be invited to become members and participate in the
proceedings of the Convention.”

This gave rise to a long and very animated discussion, but was passed
by a very large majority. Immediately eight Orthodox clergymen
requested to have their names erased from the roll of that Convention,
and seven others, including some of our faithful fellow-laborers,
presented a protest against the vote, which, by their request, was
entered upon the records, and published with the doings of the

At that same great gathering a committee of three persons was
appointed to prepare and transmit a memorial to each and all of the
ecclesiastical associations in New England, of every sect, beseeching
them to testify against the further continuance in our country of
slavery, and take such measures as they might deem best to induce the
members of their several denominations who were guilty of the dreadful
iniquity to consider and turn away from it. One of that committee was a
much respected woman, as well qualified as either of her associates to
discharge the duties assigned them. An excellent memorial was prepared
and presented in accordance with the vote. But it was very coldly
received by some, and rudely treated by others of the ecclesiastical
bodies to which it was sent. On the presentation of it to the Rhode
Island Congregational Consociation, a scene of great excitement
ensued. The memorial was treated with all possible indignity. Most of
the brethren who had been earnest for the reception of it, and for
such action as it requested, when they were informed that one of the
committee by whom the memorial was prepared was a woman, united in a
vote “_to turn the illegitimate product from the house, and obliterate
from the records all traces of its entrance_.” No deliberative assembly
ever behaved in a more indecorous manner. And those who were most
active in trampling upon that respectful petition in behalf of bleeding
humanity were the professed ministers of Him who came to preach
deliverance to the captive. “_O tempora! O mores!!_”


Abolitionists from the first were persons of both sexes and all
complexions, of every class in society, of every religious
denomination, of each of the three learned professions, of both
political parties, and of all the various trades and occupations
in which men and women engage. Although it is too true that most
ministers, especially in the cities, were slow to espouse the cause of
the oppressed, yet it is due to them to say that, taking the country
through, there were, in proportion to their numbers, more of that
profession than of either of the others who embraced the doctrine
of “immediate emancipation,” advocated it publicly, wrote columns,
pamphlets, and volumes in its defence, and suffered no little obloquy
and persecution for so doing. And they were, as I have said, of every
Protestant sect. Whenever a complete history of our antislavery
conflict shall be written, grateful and admiring mention will be made
of the valuable services and generous sacrifices of many ministers
whose names may not appear in my slight sketches.

These various individuals were evidently moved by one spirit, drawn
together by the conviction that there was a great, a fearful iniquity
involved in the enslavement of millions of the inhabitants of our
land, that if the God-given rights of humanity were (as the founders
of our Republic declared them to be) inalienable, then those men, who
were holding human beings as their chattels, were setting the will and
authority of the Almighty at defiance, and would bring themselves to
ruin. Moreover, there was a deep conviction awakened in the hearts of
those who openly espoused the cause of the bondmen, that the people
of the North were verily guilty in consenting to their enslavement;
and, as the States and the churches refused to interfere for their
deliverance, it was left for individuals and voluntary associations
to do what might be done, so to correct public opinion and awaken the
public conscience that slavery could not be tolerated in the land.

Further than this there was little agreement among the early
Abolitionists. But this proved to be a mighty solvent. And for
years the wonderful, the beautiful, the Christian sight was
seen,--Trinitarians and Unitarians, Methodists and Universalists,
Baptists and Quakers, laboring together in the cause of suffering
fellow-beings, with so much earnestness that they had set aside, for
the while, their theological and ritualistic peculiarities, and seemed
to rejoice in their release from those narrow enclosures. Coming out
of our hall on the second evening of our Convention in Philadelphia,
in December, 1833, a young Orthodox minister took my arm with an
affectionate pressure, and said, “Brother May, I never thought that I
could feel towards a Unitarian as I feel towards you.” My reply was:
“Dear M., if professing Christians were only real Christians, engaged
in the work of the Lord, they could not find the time nor the heart to
quarrel about creeds and rites.” Wherever I went, preaching the gospel
of impartial liberty, I was as cordially received by Orthodox as by
Unitarian Abolitionists, until I came to have a much more brotherly
feeling towards an antislavery Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist
than I did towards a Unitarian who was proslavery, or indifferent
to the wrongs of the bondmen. And this feeling was obviously
reciprocated. I was repeatedly invited to preach in the pulpits of
Orthodox ministers, and to commune with Orthodox churches. Once I
attended a church in company with Miss Ann G. Chapman, one of the most
single-minded and true-hearted of women. The invitation to the Lord’s
table was given in such words as virtually excluded us. Of course
we arose and departed. But so soon as the service was over both the
minister and deacon (beloved antislavery brethren) came to my lodgings
to assure me that the exclusion was not intended, and that whenever
Miss Chapman and myself might again be at their church on a similar
occasion, they hoped that we would commune there.

I give these facts, and could give many more like them, to show
the anti-sectarian tendency of the antislavery reform. This was
perceived by many of “the wise and prudent” leaders of the sects,
and was evidently watched by them with a jealous eye. As the number
of Abolitionists increased, and our influence in the churches came
to be felt more and more, many of those leaders joined antislavery
societies, partly, no doubt, because they had been brought to see the
truth of our doctrines and the importance of the work we were laboring
to accomplish, but also in part, if not chiefly (as I was afterwards
forced to suspect), because they wished to maintain the ascendency
over their sects, and to prevent the obliteration of the lines which
separated them from such as they were pleased to consider unsound in

We were greatly encouraged and gladdened by the accessions we received
in 1835 and 1836. Many ministers of the evangelical sects joined
us, not a few of them Doctors of Divinity. And the obligations of
Christians to the bondmen in our land, and the discipline that should
be brought to bear on those professing Christians who were holding them
in slavery, became the subjects of earnest debate in several of the
large ecclesiastical bodies. But we found these new-comers were much
disposed to object to the liberty that was allowed on our platform.
Generally the president or chairman of our meetings would call upon
some one to invoke the divine blessing upon our undertaking. Sometimes,
in deference to our Quaker brethren, we would sit in silence until the
Spirit moved some one to offer prayer. Then again, persons who were
not members of any religious denomination, nay, even some who were
suspected of being, if not known to be, unbelievers, infidels, were
permitted to co-operate with us, to contribute to our funds, to take
part in our deliberations, and to be put upon our committees. This
was a scandal in the estimation of those of the “straitest sect.” Our
only reply was, that as so many, who made the highest professions of
Christian faith, turned a deaf ear to the cries of the millions who
were suffering the greatest wrongs, we were grateful for the assistance
of such as made no professions. Not those who cried Lord, Lord, but
those who were eager to do the will of the impartial Father, were the
persons we valued most.

But nothing gave so much offence as the admission of women to speak in
our meetings, to act on our committees, and to co-operate with us in
any way they saw fit. In my last I gave some account of the rupture
it caused in our New England Antislavery Convention in 1838. This was
foreshadowed the year previous. Some time in the summer of 1837 the
General Association of Massachusetts issued a “Pastoral Letter to the
churches under their care,” intended to avert the alarming evils which
were coming upon them from the over-heated zeal of the Abolitionists.
First, the extraordinary document mourns over the loss of deference
to the pastoral office, which is enjoined in Scripture, and which is
essential to the best influence of the ministry. At this day, when
all but Roman Catholics and High Church Episcopalians are wondering
at, if not amused by, the dealing of Bishop Potter with Mr. Tyng, it
may surprise my readers to be told that thirty years ago the Orthodox
Congregational ministers of Massachusetts set up the same claim of
authority in their several parishes, that the diocesan of New York and
New Jersey demands for his clergymen. “One way,” they said in their
Pastoral Letter, “one way in which the respect due to the pastoral
office has been in some cases violated, is in encouraging lecturers or
preachers on certain topics of reform to present their subjects within
the parochial limits of settled pastors, _without their consent_.”
“Your minister is ordained of God to be your teacher, and is commanded
to feed that flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made him overseer.
If there are certain topics upon which he does not preach with the
frequency, or in the manner that would please _you_, it is a violation
of _sacred and important_ RIGHTS to encourage a stranger to present
them.” “Deference and _subordination_ are essential to the happiness
of society, and _peculiarly so_ in the relation of a people to their
pastor.” Happily for those who may come after us, we Abolitionists have
done much to emancipate the people from such spiritual bondage, and
secure to them the privilege of seeking after knowledge wherever it may
be found, and yielding themselves to good influences, let them come
through whatever channel they may.

But the “Pastoral Letter” dwelt at greater length upon the dangers
which threatened the female character with wide-spread and permanent
injury. Forgetting that women were the _bravest_, as well as the
most devoted and affectionate of the first disciples of Jesus, that
in all ages since they have been prominent among the confessors of
Christianity, and that in our day they do more than men to uphold the
churches,--forgetting these facts, the frightened authors and signers
of that letter uttered themselves thus: “The power of woman is in her
_dependence_, flowing from the consciousness of that weakness which
God has given her _for_ her protection, and which keeps her in those
departments of life that form the characters of individuals and of the
nation.... But, when she assumes the place and tone of man as a public
reformer, _our care and protection of her seem unnecessary_; we put
ourselves in self-defence against her; she yields the power which God
has given her for protection, and her character becomes unnatural. If
the vine, whose strength and beauty is to lean upon the trellis-work
and half conceal its clusters, thinks to assume the independence and
the overshading nature of the elm, it will not only cease to bear
fruit, but will fall in shame and dishonor into the dust.” Did not
those ministers know--were there not in their day wives who sustained
their husbands instead of leaning upon them? women who were the stay
and staff of the men of their families--their mental and moral stamina?
There have been such women in all other times; we have known and do
know such women now. If our antislavery conflict has done nothing else,
it has shown that there is neither orthodox nor heterodox, neither
white nor black, neither male nor female, but all _are one in the work
of the Lord_.

Undismayed by the censure and warning of so exalted a body as the
General Association, we Abolitionists continued to labor as we had
done, pursuing the same measures, using the same instrumentalities,
employing as our agents and lecturers women no less than men, whom
we found able as well as willing to do good service. And to several,
besides those I have already named, the bondmen and their advocates
were immeasurably indebted. Abby Kelly (now Mrs. Foster) performed
for years an incredible amount of labor. Her manner of speaking in
her best days was singularly effective. Her knowledge of the subject
was complete, her facts were pertinent, her arguments forcible, her
criticisms were keen, her condemnation was terrible. Few of our agents
of either sex did more work while her strength lasted, or did it better.

Susan B. Anthony was one of the living spirits of our financial
department, indomitable in her purposes, ingenious in her plans,
untiring in her exertions, she not only kept herself continually at
work, but spurred all about her to new effort. She has often herself
spoken to excellent effect, and more frequently stimulated others to
their best efforts.

Miss Sallie Holley has seldom consented to speak in our largest
assemblies, or in our cities. But we have very frequently heard of her
diligent labors in the rural districts, and of the good fruits she has
gathered there. Her eloquence is particularly dignified and impressive.

I should love to tell of Lucy Stone, and Antoinette L. Brown, and Mrs.
E. C. Stanton, and Ernestine L. Rose, all wise women and attractive
speakers, but their word and work has been given more to the advocacy
of “Woman’s Rights.” The reformation for which they have toiled so
long and so well, though the offspring of Abolitionism, is still _more
radical_; and to the history of it volumes will hereafter be devoted.

I can here only name Miss Anna E. Dickinson, now one of the most
attractive of the popular lecturers. Although another of the women who
have been brought out of their retirement by the exigency of the times,
yet she came upon the platform about the period at which I intend these
recollections shall cease.

As surely as the conflict with slavery has been found to be
irrepressible, so surely will it be found to be impossible to suppress
the conflict for the rights of women until they shall be securely
placed where the Creator intended them to stand, on an entire equality
with men in their domestic, social, legal, and political relations.

Not long after the “Pastoral Letter,” there came forth from some of
the members of the Massachusetts General Association a still more
pointed attack upon _The Liberator_, Mr. Garrison and his associates,
one which would have been very damaging if it had not been so easily
repelled. It was entitled the “Appeal of Clerical Abolitionists on
Antislavery Measures,” signed by two Orthodox ministers of Boston, and
three in the vicinity of that city. As these gentlemen had belonged
to the Antislavery Society, and two of them had been vehement if not
fierce in their advocacy of our doctrines, it would seem that they
must have known whereof they affirmed. They prefaced their Appeal with
a declaration of their lively interest in the cause of the oppressed,
their clear perception of the sinfulness and their detestation of
slavery. Then they went on to accuse the leading Abolitionists, 1st,
of hasty, unsparing, and almost ferocious denunciation “of a certain
reverend gentleman because he had resided in the South,” without having
taken pains to ascertain whether he had been a slaveholder or not; 2d,
They accused us of “hasty insinuations” against an Orthodox minister of
high standing in Boston, that he was a slaveholder, without having had
any proof of the _truth_ of the reports we may have heard so damaging
to the reverend gentleman’s reputation. Their third, fourth, and fifth
accusations were, that we had demanded of ministers what we had no
right to require of them; had abused them for not doing as we called
upon them to do, and, through our zeal in the cause of the enslaved,
we had become indifferent to other Christian enterprises, and would
withdraw from them the regards of those who co-operated with us, and
that we had censured and denounced excellent Christian ministers and
church-members because they were not prepared to enter fully into the
work of antislavery societies.

This document, coming from such persons, of course was the occasion of
no little excitement. Our enemies exulted over it as testimony against
us, given by those who had been in our councils and well knew what
spirit animated us. Others who had been timid friends, or half inclined
to join our ranks, were at first repulsed from us by the apprehension
that there was too much truth in these charges.

But as soon as possible elaborate and thorough replies were published
to this Appeal, denying the truth of each of the above-named
accusations, and showing them to be false. One of the replies was
written by Mr. Garrison, in his clear and trenchant style, and showed
up the inconsistency as well as the falseness of the accusations by
ample quotations from the writings and speeches of Mr. Fitch, the
author of the Appeal. The other reply was from the pen of Rev. A. A.

This good orthodox brother was then the General Agent of the
Antislavery Society, and therefore felt it to be incumbent upon him to
repel charges so unjust and so injurious. No one but Mr. Garrison was
so competent as he to do this. From an early period Mr. Phelps had been
engaged in this great reform. In 1833 or 1834 he published a volume on
the subject, which showed how thoroughly he understood the principles,
how deeply he was imbued with the spirit, of the undertaking. He gave
years of undivided attention to the cause, and by the labors of his pen
and his voice rendered essential services. His reply to the Appeal was
complete, exhaustive, unanswerable. And thus what was intended to do us
harm was overruled for our good. It gave a fair and proper occasion for
the fullest exposition to the public of our doctrines, our measures,
and of the spirit in which we intended to prosecute them.

I am most happy to conclude this narrative by stating, because it is so
highly honorable to Rev. Charles Fitch, the author of the Appeal, that
some time afterwards he saw and frankly confessed his fault. On the 9th
of January, 1840, in a letter addressed to Mr. Garrison, after a very
proper introduction to such a confession, Mr. Fitch said:--

“I feel bound in duty to say to you, sir, that to gain the good will
of man was the only object I had in view in everything which I did
relative to the ‘Clerical Appeal.’ As I now look back upon it, in the
light in which it has of late been spread before my own mind (as I
doubt not by the Spirit of God), I can clearly see that in all that
matter I had no regard for the glory of God or the good of man. If
you can make any use of this communication that you think will be an
honor to Him, or a service to the cause of truth, dispose of it at your

It surely will do good to republish this magnanimous, noble, Christian
confession of the wrong that was attempted to be done by that “Clerical


The name of Dr. Follen will send a grateful thrill through the
memory of every one who really knew him. He was a dear son of
God, and attracted all but such as were repulsed by the spirit of
righteousness and freedom. He was a native of that country which gave
birth to Luther. The light of civil and religious liberty kindled
in Wittenberg shone upon his cradle. He was the son of Protestant
parents, and received a religious education with little reference to
the dogmas of any sect. He was born in the early years of the French
Revolution,--that event which at first revived the hopes of the
oppressed subjects of European despots. The Germans, especially those
of the smaller members of the Confederacy, hailed the prospect of more
liberal institutions in France as the harbinger of a better day for
themselves. Charles Follen was just then at the age to receive into the
depths of his soul the generous sentiments that were uttered by the
purest, best men of Germany. His father, an enlightened civilian and
liberal Christian, encouraged the growing ardor of his son in the cause
of freedom and humanity.

When, therefore, the German States, finding themselves deceived by
Bonaparte, united with one accord to oppose him, Charles Follen, then
a student at the University of Giesen, and only nineteen years of
age, came forward to act his first public part in the great struggle
for civil liberty. He entered the allied army in a volunteer corps
of young men, and endured the fatigues and incurred the dangers of
those battle-fields, on which were witnessed the death-throes of the
first Napoleon’s ambition. I have heard him describe his feelings, and
what he believed to be the feelings of his youthful comrades, in that
so-called “holy war of the people.” They refused to wear the trappings
of soldiers. They needed not “the pomp and circumstance of war” to
rouse or sustain the purpose of their souls. They came into the field
of mortal strife as men, not soldiers, to contend for liberty, not
laurels. Whenever he spoke of that momentous period of his life, a
solemnity came over the calm, sweet face of Dr. Follen, his utterance
was subdued, his whole frame pervaded by a deep emotion, so that, much
as I differed from him in my opinion of that resort to carnal weapons,
I could not doubt that he had thrown himself into the dread conflict
with a self-sacrificing, I had almost said, a holy spirit. Körner, “the
patriot poet of Germany,” was his personal friend, and it is a touching
incident that some of his last mental efforts were most successful
translations into our language of the breathing thoughts and burning
words of that enthusiast of liberty.

Although the issue of the French Revolution cast down the hope of the
friends of freedom, that hope was not destroyed. True they had been
deceived. But they could not doubt that freedom was a reality, the
birthright of man. When, therefore, the real design of the self-styled
“Holy Alliance” between Russia, Austria, and Prussia became manifest,
many of the choicest spirits who had united under their banner to
overthrow the tyrant of France uprose to withstand them. None were
more resolute, few became more conspicuous, than the still youthful
Follen, who had scarcely entered upon his professional career. He
boldly claimed for his fellow-subjects of Hesse Darmstadt a mitigation
of the feudal tenures under which they were oppressed. Thus he incurred
the displeasure of the Grand Duke. But the farmers of that country
gratefully acknowledged the importance of his service in letters that
are still extant.

In 1817, when twenty-two years of age, he took his degree of Doctor of
Laws, and became a teacher in the University of Jena. Here he found
an atmosphere congenial to his free spirit. The most distinguished
professors there were friends of liberal institutions. And the Duke of
Saxe-Weimar was for a while indulgent towards them. At Jena appeared
the first periodical publications that disturbed the diplomatists of
Frankfort and Vienna. To these publications Dr. Follen contributed,
and, even among such men as Dr. Oken and Professors Fries and Luden, he
distinguished himself as an advocate of the rights of man.

The sovereigns of Austria and Prussia were alarmed. The professors of
the University at Jena were proscribed, and the young men of Austria
and Prussia who were students there were required to leave the infected
spot. The persecution of Dr. Follen was carried further. An attempt was
made to involve him in the guilt of the deluded murderer of Kotzebue,
“that unblushing hireling of the Russian Autocrat,” and he was arrested
on the charge. He was fully exonerated, but the spirit which dictated
his arrest made it uncomfortable for him to remain in Germany.

He went to Switzerland, the resort of the free spirits of that day,
and was appointed Professor of Civil Law at the University of Basle.
Here he continued, both in his lectures and through the press, to give
utterance to his liberal opinions. Consequently, in August, 1824, the
governments of Prussia, Austria, and Russia demanded of the government
of Basle to deliver him up, with the other Professors of Law in their
university. At first this demand was refused. But, being afterwards
enforced by a threat of the serious displeasure of the allied powers,
it was yielded to, and Dr. Follen was compelled to depart, with no
reproach upon his character but that which was cast upon it by the
enemies of freedom. Exiled from Germany as the dreaded foe of the
oppressors of his country, hunted by the allied sovereigns out of
Europe, as if their thrones were insecure while he dwelt on the same
continent with themselves--surely the man who made himself such a
terror to despots was entitled to a _carte-blanche_ on the confidence
of freemen!

Thus recommended, he came to our country in December, 1824, a few
months after the arrival of Lafayette. The illustrious Frenchman
came to feast his eyes and rejoice his heart with the sight of the
astonishing growth and unexampled prosperity of the nation for whose
deliverance from a foreign yoke he had in his early manhood lavished
his fortune and exposed his life. The illustrious German came, as it
proved, to assist in a great moral enterprise, the success of which was
indispensably necessary to complete the American Revolution, and verify
the truths which it declared to the world.

Nearly a year after his arrival he spent in Philadelphia perfecting
himself in the language of our country. But by the advice of Lafayette,
who highly esteemed him, he came to Boston, and in December, 1825, was
appointed teacher of the German language in Harvard College, where, in
1830, he was raised to a professorship of German literature.

He had not been long in the United States before he was struck by
the contrast between our institutions and our habits of thought and
conversation. He was surprised that he so seldom met with a free mind,
or saw an individual who acted independently. Most persons seemed to
be in bonds to a political party or a religious sect, or both. “I
perceive,” said he to an intimate friend, “that liberty in this country
is a fact rather than a principle.”

Such a soul as Dr. Follen could not be indifferent to any movement
tending to liberate more than three millions of people in the country,
of which he had become a citizen, from the most abject cruel slavery,
and his fellow-citizens from the awful iniquity of keeping them in
such bondage. The bugle-blast of _The Liberator_ in 1831 summoned him
to the conflict. Worldly wisdom, prudential considerations, would have
withheld him if he had been like too many other men. He had then been
in a professor’s chair at Cambridge about a year. He had married a lady
worthy of his love. He had become a father. He had made many friends.
He was admired for his rich and varied endowments, his extensive
and accurate knowledge, and sound understanding. He was honored for
his exertions and sacrifices in the cause of liberty in Europe. He
was cherished as an invaluable acquisition to the literature of our
country, and as a most successful teacher of youth. How obvious, then,
that he had as many reasons as any, and more reasons than most, for
remaining quiet, contenting himself with an occasional sigh over the
wrongs of the slaves, or an eloquent condemnation of slavery in the
abstract, or the utterance of the form of prayer,--that the Sovereign
Disposer of all events would, in his own good time, cause every yoke to
be broken and oppression to cease. He was occupying a sphere of great
responsibility, where, as was intimated to him, he might find enough
to fill even the large measure of his ability for labor. Then he was
wholly dependent upon his own exertions for the support of his family.
Moreover, being a foreigner by birth, he was reminded that it was
less decorous in him, than it might be in others, to meddle with the
“delicate question” which touched so vitally the institutions of a very
sensitive portion of the country.

But Charles Follen was a genuine man. In godly sincerity he felt as
well as said, “that whatever affected the welfare of mankind was a
matter of concern to himself.” He was astonished at the apathy of so
large a portion of the respectable and professedly religious of our
country to the wretched condition of more than a sixth part of the
population, to the disastrous influence of their enslavement upon the
characters of their immediate oppressors, upon the well-being of the
whole Republic, and the cause of liberty throughout the world. When,
therefore, the words of Garrison came to his ears, “he rejoiced in
spirit and said, I thank thee, O Father, that thou hast hid these
things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto the
babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” He sought
out the editor of _The Liberator_. He clambered up into his little
chamber in Merchants’ Hall, where were his writing-desk, his types,
his printing-press; and where, with the faithful partner of his early
toils, Isaac Knapp, he was living like the four children of Israel in
the midst of the corruptions of Babylon, living on pulse and water.
This was a sight to fill with hope Follen’s sagacious soul. While,
therefore, many who counted themselves servants of God and friends of
humanity thought, or affected to think, that no good could come out of
such a Nazareth, he often went to _The Liberator_ office to converse
with and encourage the young man who had dared to brave the contumely
and detestation of the world in “preaching deliverance to the captives
and liberty to them that are bruised.”

He stopped not to inquire how it might affect his temporal interests,
or even his good name, to espouse so unpopular a cause. “Some men,”
said he, “are so afraid of doing wrong that they never do right.” The
shameful fact, that the cause of millions of enslaved human beings
in a country that made such high pretensions to liberty as ours was
_unpopular_, so astonished and alarmed him that he felt all the more
called to rise above personal considerations. Therefore, soon after
the New England Antislavery Society was instituted, he made known his
intention to join it. Some friends remonstrated. They admonished him
that so doing would be very detrimental to his professional success.
He hesitated a little while on account of his wife. But that gifted,
high-minded, whole-hearted lady reproved the hesitation, and bade him
act in accordance with his sense of duty, and in keeping with his
long devotion to the cause of liberty and humanity. He joined the
society, became one of its vice-presidents, was an efficient officer,
and rendered us invaluable services. At that time I became intimately
acquainted with him, and soon learned to love him tenderly and respect
him profoundly.

The apprehensions of his friends proved to be too well founded. The
funds for the support of his professorship at Cambridge were withheld;
and he was obliged to retire from a position which had been most
agreeable to himself, for which he was admirably qualified, and in
which he had been exceedingly useful. It was a severe trial to his
feelings, and the loss of his salary subjected him to no little
inconvenience. But liberty, the rights of man, and his sense of duty
were more precious to him than physical comforts or even life.

In May, 1834, was held in Boston the first New England Antislavery
Convention. It was a large gathering. Dr. Follen was one of the
committee of arrangements, and evinced great interest in making the
meeting effective.[L] He was also appointed Chairman of the “address”
that was ordered “to the people of the United States,” and was the
writer of it. His spirit breathes throughout it. It showed how
wholly committed he was to the enterprise of the Abolitionists, how
thoroughly he understood the principles on which we had from the first
relied, and how unfeignedly he desired to make them acceptable to his
fellow-citizens by the most lucid exposition of them, and the most
earnest presentation of their importance.

In 1835 and 1836 I was the General Agent of the Society. This brought
me into a much closer connection with him. It was during the most
stormy period,--the time that tried men’s souls. I have given some
account of it in previous articles, and have made some allusions to Dr.
Follen’s fidelity and fearlessness. He never quailed. His countenance
always wore its accustomed expression of calm determination. He
aided us by his counsels, animated us by his resolute spirit, and
strengthened us by the heart-refreshing tones of his voice. In this
crisis it was, at our annual meeting in January, 1836, that he made
his bravest speech. There was not a word, not a tone, not a look of
compromise in it. He met our opponents at the very points where some of
our friends thought us deserving of blame, and he manfully maintained
every inch of our ground. That speech may be found in the Appendix
to the Memoir of his life. It is not easy even for us to recall, and
it is impossible to give to those who were not Abolitionists then, a
clear idea of the state of the community at the time the above-named
speech was made. The culmination of our trials was the sanction which
the Governor of Massachusetts gave to the opinion of one of the judges,
that we had committed acts that were punishable at common law. I have
given some description of the scenes that were witnessed in the Hall
of Representatives. Dr. Follen distinguished himself there. We can
never cease to be grateful to him for his pertinacity in withstanding
the aggressive overbearance of the Chairman of the joint-committee of
the Senate and House appointed to consider our remonstrance against
Governor Everett’s condemnation of us. I have sometimes thought it was
the turning-point of our affairs in the old Commonwealth.

Soon afterwards Dr. Follen removed to New York and became pastor of the
first Unitarian church. It was a situation so eligible, and in every
respect so desirable to him, that many supposed he would suffer his
Abolitionism to become latent, or at least would refrain from giving
full and free expression to it in the pulpit. They knew not the man. He
did there as he had done elsewhere. Modestly, mildly, yet distinctly,
he avowed his antislavery sentiments, and endeavored to make his
hearers perceive how imperative was the obligation pressing upon them
as patriots, scarcely less than as Christians, to do all in their power
to exterminate slavery from our country. He was chosen a member of the
Executive Committee of the American Antislavery Society, and promptly
accepted the appointment. The members of that Board testified that “his
sound judgment, his discriminating intellect, his amenity of manners,
and his uncommonly single-hearted integrity greatly endeared him to his
associates.” Yet was the offence he gave by his antislavery preaching
such that, after about two years, his services were dispensed with by
the Unitarian church.

He returned to Massachusetts, and soon interested so highly the
liberal Christians at East Lexington that he was invited to become
their pastor. They set about in 1839 the building of a meeting-house,
in accordance with his taste, and after a plan which I believe he
furnished. The 15th day of January, 1840, was fixed upon as the day for
the dedication, and Dr. Channing was engaged to preach on the occasion.

In December Dr. Follen went to New York and delivered a course of
lectures. On the evening of the 13th of January he embarked on board
the ill-omened steamer Lexington to return. She took fire in the night,
and all the passengers and crew excepting three perished in the flames,
or in their attempts to escape from them. Dr. Follen, alas! was not one
of the three.

The grief and consternation caused by that awful catastrophe need not
be described. Few if any persons in the community had so great cause
for sorrow as the Abolitionists. One of the towers of our strength
had fallen. The greatness of our loss was dwelt upon at the annual
meeting of the Massachusetts Society a few days afterward, and it
was unanimously voted: “That an address on the life and character of
Charles Follen, and in particular upon his early and eminent services
to the cause of abolition, be delivered by such person and at such time
and place as the Board of Managers shall appoint.” Their appointment
fell upon me, and I was requested to give notice so soon as my eulogy
should be written. I gave such a notice early in February, when I was
informed by the managers that they had not yet been able to procure a
suitable place, for such a service as they wished to have in connection
with my discourse. They had applied for the use of every one of the
Unitarian and for several of the Orthodox churches in Boston, and
all had been refused them. It was said that Dr. Channing did obtain
from the trustees of Federal Street Church consent that the eulogy on
Dr. Follen, whom he esteemed so highly, might be pronounced from his
pulpit. But another meeting of the trustees, or of the proprietors,
was called, and that permission was revoked. More sad still the
meeting-house at East Lexington, which had been built under his
direction, which he was coming from New York to dedicate, and in which
he was to have preached as the pastor of the church if his life had
been spared,--even that meeting-house was refused for a eulogy and
other appropriate exercises in commemoration of the early and eminent
services of Dr. Follen to the cause of freedom and humanity in Europe,
and more especially in our country. Such was the temper of that time,
such the opposition of the people in and about the metropolis of New
England to Mr. Garrison and his associates.

In consequence of this treatment by the churches, and as a protest
against it, the Board of Managers determined to defer the delivery of
the eulogy, until the meeting-house of some religious body in Boston
should be granted for that purpose. No door was unbarred to us for
more than two months. In April one of our fellow-laborers, Hon. Amasa
Walker, having become one of the proprietors of Marlborough Chapel,
succeeded in getting permission for the Massachusetts Antislavery
Society, and other friends of Dr. Follen, to meet in that central
and very ample room on the evening of the 17th of April, there to
express in prayer, in eulogy, and hymns our gratitude to the Father
of spirits for the gift of such a brother, so able, so devoted,
so self-sacrificing; to attempt some delineation of his admirable
character, some acknowledgment of his inestimable services, and thus
make manifest our deep sense of bereavement and loss occasioned by his
sudden and as we supposed dreadful death.

It so happened that the 17th of April, 1840, was Good Friday,--a
most appropriate day on which to mourn the death and commemorate the
glorious life of one who had been so true a disciple of Him, who was
crucified on Calvary for his fidelity to God and to the redemption of

The assemblage was large, estimated by some at two thousand. A prayer
was offered by Rev. Henry Ware, Jr.,--such a prayer as we expected
would rise from the large, liberal, loving, devout heart of that
excellent man. A most appropriate hymn, written by himself, was then
read by Rev. John Pierpont. After my discourse was delivered another
touching hymn from the pen, or rather the heart, of Mrs. Maria W.
Chapman was read by Rev. Dr. Channing, and sung very impressively by
the congregation, after which the services were closed by a benediction
from Rev. J. V. Himes, a zealous antislavery brother of the Christian


All great reformations have had their bards. The Hebrew prophets were
poets. They clothed their terrible denunciations of national iniquities
and their confident predictions of the ultimate triumph of truth and
righteousness in imagery so vivid that it will never fade. Mr. Garrison
was bathed in their spirit when a child by his pious mother. He is a
poet and an ardent lover of poetry. The columns of _The Liberator_,
from the beginning, were every week enriched by gems in verse, not
unfrequently the product of his own rapt soul. No sentiment inspires
men to such exalted strains as the love of liberty. Many of the early
Abolitionists uttered themselves in fervid lines of poetry,--Mrs. M. W.
Chapman, Mrs. E. L. Follen, Miss E. M. Chandler, Miss A. G. Chapman,
Misses C. and A. E. Weston, Mrs. L. M. Child, Mrs. Maria Lowell, Miss
Mary Ann Collier, and others, male and female. In 1836--the time that
tried men’s souls--Mrs. Chapman gathered into a volume the effusions
of the above-named, together with those of kindred spirits in other
lands and other times. The volume was entitled, “Songs of the Free and
Hymns of Christian Freedom.” Many of these songs and hymns will live
so long as oppression of every kind is abhorred, and men aspire after
true liberty. This book was a powerful weapon in our moral welfare. My
memory glows with the recollections of the fervor, and often obvious
effect, with which we used to sing in true accord the 13th hymn, by
_Miss E. M. Chandler_:--

    “Think of our country’s glory
      All dimmed with Afric’s tears!
    Her broad flag stained and gory
      With the hoarded guilt of years!”

Or the 15th, by _Mr. Garrison_:--

    “The hour of freedom! come it must.
      O, hasten it in mercy, Heaven!
    When all who grovel in the dust
      Shall stand erect, their fetters riven.”

Or the 7th, by _Mrs. Follen_:--

    “‘What mean ye, that ye bruise and bind
      My people,’ saith the Lord;
    ‘And starve your craving brother’s mind,
      That asks to hear my word?’”

Or the 102d, by _Mrs. Chapman_:--

    “Hark! hark! to the trumpet call,--
      ‘Arise in the name of God most high!’
    On ready hearts the deep notes fall,
      And firm and full is the strong reply:
    ‘The hour is at hand to do and dare!
      Bound with the bondmen now are we!
    We may not utter the patriot’s prayer,
      Or bend in the house of God the knee!’”

Or that stirring song, by _Mr. Garrison_:--

    “I am an Abolitionist;
      I glory in the name.”

The singing of such hymns and songs as these was like the bugle’s blast
to an army ready for battle. No one seemed unmoved. If there were any
faint hearts amongst us, they were hidden by the flush of excitement
and sympathy.

In 1838 or 1839 Mrs. Chapman, assisted by her sisters, the Misses
Weston, and Mrs. Child, commenced the publication of _The Liberty
Bell_. A volume with this title was issued annually by them for ten or
twelve years, especially for sale at the yearly antislavery fair. These
volumes were full of poetry in prose and verse. The editors levied
contributions upon the true-hearted of other countries besides our
own, and enriched their pages with articles from the pens of all the
above-named, and from Whittier, Pierpont, Lowell, Longfellow, Phillips,
Quincy, Clarke, Sewall, Adams, Channing, Bradburn, Pillsbury, Rogers,
Wright, Parker, Stowe, Emerson, Furness, Higginson, Sargent, Jackson,
Stone, Whipple, our own countrymen and women; and Bowring, Martineau,
Thompson, Browning, Combe, Sturge, Webb, Lady Byron, and others, of
England; and Arago, Michelet, Monod, Beaumont, Souvestre, Paschoud, and
others, of France. It would not be easy to find elsewhere so full a
treasury of mental and moral jewels.

The names of most of our illustrious American poets appear in The
_Liberty Bell_ more or less frequently. To all of them we were and are
much indebted. James Russell Lowell was never, I believe, a member of
the Antislavery Society. He was seldom seen at our meetings. But his
muse rendered us essential services. His poems--“The Present Crisis,”
“On the Capture of Fugitive Slaves near Washington,” “On the Death of
Charles T. Torrey,” “To John G. Palfrey,” and especially his “Lines
to William L. Garrison,” and his “Stanzas sung at the Antislavery
Picnic in Dedham, August 1, 1843”--committed him fully to the cause of
freedom,--the cause of our enslaved countrymen.

Rev. John Pierpont gave us his hand at an earlier day. He took upon
himself “our reproach” in 1836, when we most needed help. I have
already made grateful mention of his “Word from a Petitioner,” sent
to me by the hand of the heroic Francis Jackson in the midst of the
convention of the constituents of Hon. J. Q. Adams, called at Quincy to
assure their brave, invincible representative of their deep, admiring
sense of obligation to him for his persistent and almost single-handed
defence of the sacred right of petition on the floor of Congress.

Mr. Pierpont’s next was a _tocsin_ in deed as well as in name. He
was impelled to strike his lyre by the alarm he justly felt at the
tidings from Alton of the destruction of Mr. Lovejoy’s antislavery
printing-office, and the murder of the devoted proprietor. His
indignation was roused yet more by the burning of “Pennsylvania Hall”
in Philadelphia, and the shameful fact that at the same time, 1838,
no church or decent hall could be obtained in Boston for “love or
money,” in which to hold an antislavery meeting; but we were compelled
to resort to an inconvenient and insufficient room over the stable of
Marlborough Hotel.

His next powerful effusion was _The Gag_, a caustic and scathing
satire upon the Hon. C. G. Atherton, of New Hampshire, for his base
attempt in the House of Representatives at Washington to put an entire
stop to any discussion of the subject of slavery.

His next piece was _The Chain_, a most touching comparison of the
wrongs and sufferings of the slaves with other evils that injured men
have been made to endure.

Then followed _The Fugitive Slave’s Apostrophe to the North Star_,
which showed how deeply he sympathized with the many hundreds of our
countrymen who, to escape from slavery, had toiled through dismal
swamps, thick-set canebrakes, deep rivers, tangled forests, alone, by
night, hungry, almost naked and penniless, guided only by the steady
light of the polar star, which some kind friend had taught them to
distinguish, and had assured them would be an unerring leader to a
land of liberty. They who have heard the narratives of such as have
so escaped need not be told that Mr. Pierpont must have had the tale
poured through his ear into his generous heart.[M]

But of all our American poets, John G. Whittier has from first to last
done most for the abolition of slavery. All my antislavery brethren,
I doubt not, will unite with me to crown him our laureate. From 1832
to the close of our dreadful war in 1865 his harp of liberty was never
hung up. Not an important occasion escaped him. Every significant
incident drew from his heart some pertinent and often very impressive
or rousing verses. His name appears in the first volume of _The
Liberator_, with high commendations of his poetry and his character.
As early as 1831 he was attracted to Mr. Garrison by sympathy with his
avowed purpose to abolish slavery. Their acquaintance soon ripened into
a heartfelt friendship, as he declared in the following lines, written
in 1833:--

    “Champion of those who groan beneath
      Oppression’s iron hand:
    In view of penury, hate, and death,
      I see thee fearless stand.
    Still bearing up thy lofty brow,
      In the steadfast strength of truth,
    In manhood sealing well the vow
      And promise of thy youth.

           *       *       *       *       *

    “I love thee with a brother’s love;
      I feel my pulses thrill,
    To mark thy spirit soar above
      The cloud of human ill.
    My heart hath leaped to answer thine,
      And echo back thy words,
    As leaps the warrior’s at the shine
      And flash of kindred swords!

           *       *       *       *       *

    “Go on--the dagger’s point may glare
      Amid thy pathway’s gloom,--
    The fate which sternly threatens there
      Is glorious martyrdom!
    Then onward with a martyr’s zeal;
      And wait thy sure reward,
    When man to man no more shall kneel,
      And God alone be Lord!”

Mr. Whittier proved the sincerity of these professions. He joined
the first antislavery society and became an active official.
Notwithstanding his dislike of public speaking, he sometimes lectured
at that early day, when so few were found willing to avow and advocate
the right of the enslaved to immediate liberation from bondage
without the condition of removal to Liberia. Mr. Whittier attended
the convention at Philadelphia in December, 1833, that formed the
American Antislavery Society. He was one of the secretaries of that
body, and a member, with Mr. Garrison, of the committee appointed to
prepare the “Declaration of our Sentiments and Purposes.” Although,
as I have elsewhere stated, Mr. Garrison wrote almost every sentence
of that admirable document just as it now stands, yet I well remember
the intense interest with which Mr. Whittier scrutinized it, and how
heartily he indorsed it.

In 1834, by his invitation I visited Haverhill, where he then resided.
I was his guest, and lectured under his auspices in explanation and
defence of our abolition doctrines and plans. Again the next year,
after the mob spirit had broken out, I went to Haverhill by his
invitation, and he shared with me in the perils which I have described
on a former page.

In January, 1836, Mr. Whittier attended the annual meeting of the
Massachusetts Antislavery Society, and boarded the while in the
house where I was living. He heard Dr. Follen’s great speech on that
occasion, and came home so much affected by it that, either that night
or the next morning, he wrote those “Stanzas for the Times,” which are
among the best of his productions:--

    “Is this the land our fathers loved,
      The freedom which they toiled to win?
    Is this the soil whereon they moved?
     Are these the graves they slumber in?
    Are _we_ the sons by whom are borne
    The mantles which the dead have worn?

    “And shall we crouch above these graves
      With craven soul and fettered lip?
    Yoke in with marked and branded slaves,
      And tremble at the driver’s whip?
    Bend to the earth our pliant knees,
    And speak but as our masters please?

           *       *       *       *       *

    “Shall tongues be mute when deeds are wrought
      Which well might shame extremest hell?
    Shall freemen lock the indignant thought?
      Shall Pity’s bosom cease to swell?
    Shall Honor bleed? Shall Truth succumb?
    Shall pen and press and soul be dumb?

    “No;--by each spot of haunted ground,
      Where Freedom weeps her children’s fall,--
    By Plymouth’s rock and Bunker’s mound,--
      By Griswold’s stained and shattered wall,--
    By Warren’s ghost,--by Langdon’s shade,--
    By all the memories of our dead!

           *       *       *       *       *

    “By all above, around, below,
    Be our indignant answer,--NO!”

I can hardly refrain from giving my readers the whole of these stanzas.
But I hope they all are, or will at once make themselves, familiar with
them. As I read them now, they revive in my bosom not the memory only,
but the glow they kindled there when I first pored over them. Then his
lines entitled “Massachusetts to Virginia,” and those he wrote on the
adoption of Pinckney’s Resolution, and the passage of Calhoun’s Bill,
excluding antislavery newspapers and pamphlets and letters from the
United States Mail,--indeed, all his antislavery poetry helped mightily
to keep us alive to our high duties, and fired us with holy resolution.
Let our laureate’s verses still be said and sung throughout the land,
for if the portents of the day be true, our conflict with the enemies
of liberty, the oppressors of humanity, is not yet ended.


If the enslaved millions of our countrymen had been white, the task
of emancipating them would have been a light one. But as only colored
persons were to be seen in that condition, and they were ignorant
and degraded, and as all of that complexion, with rare exceptions,
even in the free States, were poor, uneducated, and held in servile
relations, or engaged in only menial employments, it had come to be
taken for granted that they were fitted only for such things. It
was confidently assumed that they belonged to an _inferior race_ of
beings, somewhere between monkey and man; that they were made by the
Creator for our service, to be hewers of wood and drawers of water; and
pious ministers, and some who were reputed to be wise in the sacred
Scriptures, gave their sanction to the arrogant assumption by proving
(to those who were anxious to believe) that negroes were descendants
from the impious son of Noah, whom that patriarch cursed, and in his
wrath decreed that his posterity should be the lowest of servants.

Our opponents gave no heed to the glaring facts, that the colored
people were not permitted to rise from their low estate, were _held
down_ by our laws, customs, and contemptuous treatment. Not only were
they prevented from engaging in any of the lucrative occupations, but
they were denied the privileges of education, and hardly admitted to
the houses dedicated to the worship of the impartial Father of all men.

I have given in early numbers of this series a full account of the
fight we had in defence of the Canterbury School in Connecticut. More
than a year before that, a number of well-qualified young men having
been refused admission into Yale College and the Wesleyan Seminary at
Middletown, _because of their complexion_, the Rev. Simeon S. Jocelyn,
one of the best of men, generously assisted by Arthur Tappan and his
brother Lewis Tappan, and others, endeavored to establish in New Haven
an institution for the collegiate education of colored young men. The
benevolent project was so violently opposed by “the most respectable
citizens” of the place, Hon. Judge Daggett among them, that it was
abandoned. A year or two afterwards the trustees of “Noyes Academy,” in
Plymouth, New Hampshire, after due consideration, consented to allow
colored pupils to be admitted into the academy. The respectable people
of the town were so incensed, enraged by this encroachment upon the
prerogative of white children, that, readily helped by the rougher
but not baser sort of folks, they razed the building in which the
school was kept from its foundation and carted it off into a meadow
or swamp. In none of our cities, that I was acquainted with before
the antislavery reform commenced, were colored children admitted into
the “common schools” with white children. Hon. Horace Mann and his
fellow-laborers in the cause of humanity, as well as education, put
this injustice to shame in Massachusetts, if not elsewhere, and the
doors of all public schools were opened to the young, without regard to

But this was not the utmost of the contempt with which colored
people were treated. They were not permitted to ride in any public
conveyances, stage-coaches, omnibuses, or railroad-cars, nor to take
passage on any steamboats or sail-packets, excepting in the steerage
or on deck. Many instances of extreme suffering, as well as great
inconvenience and expense, to which worthy, excellent colored persons
were subjected came to the knowledge of Abolitionists, and were pressed
upon the public consideration, until the crying iniquity was abated.

And still there was a deeper depth to the wrong we did to these
innocent victims of prejudice. In all our churches they were set
apart from the white brethren, often in pews or pens, built high up
against the ceiling in the corners back of the congregation, so that
the favored ones who came to worship the “_impartial_ Father” of
all men might not be offended at the sight of those to whom in his
_inscrutable_ wisdom he had given a dark complexion.

There was quite an excitement caused in the Federal Street Church in
1822 or 1823, because one of the very wealthy merchants of Boston
introduced into his pew in the broad aisle, one Sunday, a black
gentleman. To be sure he was richly dressed, and had a handsome person,
but he was black,--very black.

    “That Sunday’s sermon all was lost,
    The very text forgot by most.”

The refined and sensitive were much disturbed, offended, felt that
their sacred rights had been invaded. They upbraided their neighbor
for having so egregiously violated the propriety of the sacred place,
and given their feelings such a shock. “Why,” said the merchant, “what
else could I do? That man, though black, is, as you must have seen,
a gentleman. He is well educated, of polished manners. He comes from
a foreign country a visitor to our city. He has long been a business
correspondent of mine.” “Then he is very rich.” “Why, bless you, he is
worth a million. How could I send such a gentleman up into the negro

In 1835, if I remember correctly, a wealthy and pious colored man
bought a pew on the floor of Park Street Church. It caused great
disturbance. Some of his neighbors nailed up the door of his pew; and
so many of “the aggrieved brethren” threatened to leave the society, if
they could not be relieved of such an offence, that the trustees were
obliged to eject the colored purchaser. Another of the churches[N] of
Boston, admonished by the above-mentioned occurrence, inserted in their
_pew-deeds_ a clause, providing that they should “_be held by none but
respectable white persons_.”

Belonging to the society to which I ministered in Connecticut was a
very worthy colored family. They were condemned to sit only in the
negro pew, which was as far back from the rest of the congregation
as it could be placed. Being blessed with a numerous family, as the
children grew up they were uncomfortably crowded in that pew. Our
church occupied the old meeting-house, which was somewhat larger than
we needed, so that the congregation were easily accommodated on the
lower floor. Only the choir sat in the gallery, except on extraordinary
occasions. I therefore invited my colored parishioners to occupy one of
the large, front pews in the side-gallery. They hesitated some time,
lest their doing so should give offence. But I insisted that none
would have any right to be offended, and at length persuaded them to
do as I requested. But one man, a political partisan of the leader of
Miss Crandall’s persecutors, was or pretended to be much offended. He
said with great warmth, “How came that nigger family to come down into
that front pew?” “Because,” I replied, “it was unoccupied; they were
uncomfortably crowded in the pew assigned them, and I requested them to
remove.” “Well,” said he, “there are many in the society besides myself
who will not consent to their sitting there.” “Why?” I asked. “They are
always well dressed, well behaved, and good-looking withal.” “But,”
said he, “they are niggers, and niggers should be kept to their place.”
I argued the matter with him till I saw he could not be moved, and he
repeated the declaration that they should be driven back. I then said,
with great earnestness: “Mr. A. B., if you do anything or say anything
to hurt the feelings of that worthy family, and induce them to return
to the pew which you know is not large enough for them, so sure as your
name is A. B. and my name is S. J. M., the first time you afterwards
appear in the congregation, I will state the facts of the case exactly
as they are, and administer to you as severe a reproof as I may be able
to frame in words.” This had the desired effect. My colored friends
retained their new seat.

To counteract as much as possible the effect of this cruel prejudice,
of which I have given a few specimens, we Abolitionists gathered up and
gave to the public the numerous evidences that were easily obtained
of the intellectual and moral equality of the colored with the white
races of mankind. Mrs. Child, in her admirable “Appeal,” devoted two
excellent chapters to this purpose. The Hon. Alexander H. Everett
also, in 1835, delivered in Boston a lecture on “African Mind,” in
which he showed, on the authority of the fathers of history, that
the colored races of men were the leaders in civilization. He said:
“While Greece and Rome were yet barbarous, we find the ‘_light of
learning and improvement_ emanating from them,’ the inhabitants of the
degraded and accursed continent of Africa,--out of the very midst of
this woolly-haired, flat-nosed, thick-lipped, coal-black race which
some persons are tempted to station at a pretty low intermediate point
between men and monkeys.” Again he said: “The high estimation in which
the Africans were held for wisdom and virtue is strikingly shown by the
mythological fable, current among the ancient Greeks, and repeatedly
alluded to by Homer, which represented the Gods as going annually in
a body to make a long visit to the Ethiopians.” Referring my readers
to Mrs. Child’s chapters, and Mr. Everett’s oration on this subject, I
will give a few of my own recollections of facts going to establish the
natural equality of our colored brethren.

Since the admission of their children to the public schools, a fair
proportion of them have shown themselves to be fully equal to white
children in their aptness to learn. And surely no one who is acquainted
with them will presume to speak of the inferiority of such men as
Frederick Douglass, Henry H. Garnett, Samuel R. Ward, Charles L.
Remond, William Wells Brown, J. W. Loguen, and many more men and women
who have been our faithful and able fellow-laborers in the antislavery

But I have, recorded in my memory, many touching evidences of the
_moral_ equality, if not superiority, of the colored race. Let
me premise these recollections by stating the general fact that,
notwithstanding the serious disadvantages to which our prejudices have
subjected them, the colored population of our country have nowhere
imposed upon the public their proportion of paupers or of criminals. In
this respect they are excelled only by the Quakers and the Jews.

I shall always remember with great pleasure once meeting the Rev.
Dr. Tuckerman in Tremont Street, in 1835. He hurried towards me, his
countenance beaming with a delight which only such a benevolent heart
as his could give to the human countenance, saying: “O Brother May, I
have a precious fact for you Abolitionists. Never in all my intercourse
with the poor, or indeed with any class of my fellow-beings, have
I met with a brighter instance of true, self-sacrificing Christian
benevolence than lately in the case of a poor _colored_ woman. Two
colored women, not related, have been living for several years on the
same floor in a tenement-house, each having only a common room and a
small bedroom. Each of them was getting a living for herself and a
young child by washing and day-labor. They had managed to subsist,
earning about enough to meet current expenses. Several months ago one
of them was taken very sick with inflammatory rheumatism. All was
done for her relief that medical skill could do, but without avail.
She grew worse rather than better, until she became utterly helpless.
The overseers of the poor made the customary provision for her, and
benevolent individuals helped her privately. But it came to be a case
for an infirmary. The overseers and others thought best to remove her
to the almshouse. When this decision was made known to her she became
much distressed. The thought of going to the poorhouse--of becoming a
public pauper--was dreadful to her. We tried to reconcile her to what
seemed to us the best provision that could be made for her, not only
by assuring her that she would be kindly cared for, but by reminding
her that she had been brought to her condition, as we believed, by no
fault of her own, and by such considerations as our blessed religion
suggests. But she could not be comforted. We left her, trusting that
private reflection would in a few days bring her to acquiesce in what
seemed to be inevitable. In due time I called again to learn if she was
prepared for her removal to the almshouse. I found her not in her own
but in her generous-hearted neighbor’s room. Thither had been removed
all her little furniture. So deep was that neighbor’s sympathy with
her feeling of shame and humiliation at becoming a public pauper,--an
inmate of the almshouse,--that she had determined to take upon herself
the care and support of this sick, infirm, helpless woman, and had
subjected herself to all the inconvenience of an over-crowded room, as
well as the great additional labor and care which she had thus assumed.”

Whatever Dr. Tuckerman thought, or we may think, of the
unreasonableness of the poor helpless invalid’s dread of the almshouse,
or of the _imprudence_ of her poor friend in undertaking to support
and nurse her, we cannot help admiring, as he did, that ardor of
benevolence which impelled to such a labor of loving-kindness, and
pronounce it a very rare instance of self-sacrificing charity. Let it
redound as it should to the credit of that portion of the human race
which our nation has so wickedly dared to despise and oppress.

I have several more precious recollections of elevated moral sentiment
and principle evinced by black men and women whom I have known. Two of
these I will give.

It was my privilege to see much of Edward S. Abdy, Esq., of England,
during his visit to our country in 1833 and 1834. The first time I met
him was at the house of Mr. James Forten, of Philadelphia, in company
with two other English gentlemen, who had come to the United States
commissioned by the British Parliament to examine our systems of prison
and penitentiary discipline. Mr. Abdy was interested in whatsoever
affected the welfare of man, but he was more particularly devoted to
the investigation of slavery. He travelled extensively in our Southern
States and contemplated with his own eyes the manifold abominations
of our American despotism. He was too much exasperated by our tyranny
to be enamored of our democratic institutions; and on his return to
England he published two very sensible volumes, that were so little
complimentary to our nation that our booksellers thought it not worth
their while to republish them.

This warm-hearted philanthropist visited me several times at my home
in Connecticut. The last afternoon that he was there we were sitting
together at my study window, when our attention was arrested by a
very handsome carriage driving up to the hotel opposite my house. A
gentleman and lady occupied the back seat, and on the front were two
children tended by a black woman, who wore the turban that was then
usually worn by slave-women. We hastened over to the hotel, and soon
entered into conversation with the slaveholder. He was polite, but
somewhat nonchalant and defiant of our sympathy with his victim. He
readily acknowledged, as slaveholders of that day generally did, that,
abstractly considered, the enslavement of fellow-men was a great wrong.
But then he contended that it had become a necessary evil,--necessary
to the enslaved no less than to the enslavers, the former being unable
to do without masters as much as the latter were unable to do without
servants, and he added, in a very confident tone, “You are at liberty
to persuade our servant-woman to remain here if you can.”

Thus challenged, we of course sought an interview with the slave, and
informed her that, having been brought by her master into the free
States, she was, by the laws of the land, set at liberty. “No, I am
not, gentlemen,” was her prompt reply. We adduced cases and quoted
authorities to establish our assertion that she was free. But she
significantly shook her head, and still insisted that the examples
and the legal decisions did not reach her case. “For,” said she, “I
promised mistress that I would go back with her and the children.” Mr.
Abdy undertook to argue with her that such a promise was not binding.
He had been drilled in the moral philosophy of Dr. Paley, and in that
debate seemed to be possessed of its spirit. But he failed to make any
visible impression upon the woman. She had _bound_ herself by a promise
to her mistress that she would not leave her, and that promise had
fastened upon her conscience an obligation from which she could not be
persuaded that even her natural right to liberty could exonerate her.
Mr. Abdy at last was impatient with her, and said in his haste: “Is
it possible that you do not wish to be free?” She replied with solemn
earnestness: “Was there ever a slave that did not wish to be free? I
long for liberty. I will get out of slavery if I can the day after I
have returned, but go back I must because I _promised_ that I would.”
At this we desisted from our endeavor to induce her to take the boon
that was apparently within her reach. We could not but feel a profound
respect for that moral sensibility, which would not allow her to
embrace even her freedom at the expense of violating a promise.

The next morning at an early hour the slaveholder, with his wife and
children, drove off, leaving the slave-woman and their heaviest trunk
to be brought on after them in the stage-coach. We could not refrain
from again trying to persuade her to remain and be free. We told her
that her master had given us leave to persuade her, if we could. She
pointed to the trunk and to a very valuable gold watch and chain, which
her mistress had committed to her care, and insisted that fidelity to a
trust was of more consequence to her soul even than the attainment of
liberty. Mr. Abdy offered to take the trunk and watch into his charge,
follow her master, and deliver them into his hands. But she could not
be made to see that in this there would be no violation of her duty;
and then her own person, that too she had promised should be returned
to the home of her master. And much as she longed for liberty, she
longed for a clear conscience more.

Mr. Abdy was astonished, delighted, at this instance of heroic virtue
in a poor, ignorant slave. He packed his trunk, gave me a hearty adieu,
and when the coach drove up he took his seat on the outside with the
trunk and the slave-chattel of a Mississippi slaveholder, that he might
study for a few hours more the morality of that strong-hearted woman
who could not be bribed to violate her promise, even by the gift of
liberty. It was the last time I saw Mr. Abdy, and it was a sight to be
remembered,--he, an accomplished English gentleman, a Fellow of Oxford
or Cambridge University, riding on the driver’s box of a stage-coach
side by side with an American slave-woman, that he might learn more of
her history and character.

    “Full many a gem, of purest ray serene,
      The dark, unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
    Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
      And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

In this connection I must be allowed to narrate an incident (though not
an antislavery one), because it may interest my readers generally, and,
should it come to the notice of any of my English friends, may lead to
the return of a valuable manuscript which I wish very much to recover.

I had been for several years in possession of a letter of seven pages
in the handwriting of General Washington, given me by a lady who
obtained it in Richmond, Va. It was a letter addressed to Mr. Custis
in 1794, while Washington was detained in Philadelphia in attendance
upon his duties as President. He had left Mr. Custis in charge of his
estates at Mount Vernon. The letter was one of particular instructions
as to the management of “the people” and the disposition of the crops.
It showed how exact were the business habits of that great man, and his
anxiety that his slaves should be properly cared for.

Mr. Abdy read it and reread it with the deepest interest, and seemed
to me to covet the possession of it. Just as he was about to take his
departure I longed to give him something that he would value as a
memento of his visit to me. There was nothing I could think of at the
moment but the letter, so I put it into his hand, saying, “Keep it as
my parting token of regard for you.” “What!” said he, seizing it with
surprise as well as delight, “will you give me this invaluable relic?”
“Yes,” I replied; “there are a great many of General Washington’s
letters in our country, but not many in England. Take it, and show your
countrymen that he was a man of method as well as of might.”

Some time after he had gone, and the fervor of feeling which impelled
me to the gift had subsided, I began to regret that I had parted with
the letter. There were in it, incidentally given, some traits of the
character of Washington that might not be found elsewhere. It came to
me that such a letter should not have been held or disposed of as my
private property. It belonged rather to the nation.

A few years afterwards Mr. Abdy died. I learned from an English paper
the fact of his demise and the name of the executor of his estate.
To that gentleman I wrote, described the letter of Washington, the
circumstances under which I had given it to Mr. Abdy, and requested
that, as he had departed this life, the letter might be returned to
me, with my reasons for wishing to possess it again. In due time I
received a very courteous reply from that gentleman, assuring me that
he sympathized with my feelings, and appreciated the propriety of my
reclaiming the letter. But he added that he had searched for it in
vain among Mr. Abdy’s papers, and presumed he had deposited it in the
library of some literary or historical institution, but had left no
intimation as to the disposal of it.

When in England, in 1859, I inquired for it of the librarian of the
British Museum, and of Dr. William’s Library in Red-cross Street, but
without success. If these lines should meet the eye of any friend in
England who may know, or be able to find, where the valuable autograph
is, I shall be very grateful for the information.[P]


A year or two after my removal to Syracuse a colored man accosted me in
the street, and asked for a private interview with me on a matter of
great importance. I had repeatedly met him about the city, and supposed
from his appearance that he was a smart, enterprising, free negro.

At the time appointed he came to my house, and after looking carefully
about to be sure we were alone, he informed me that he was a fugitive
from slavery; that he had resided in our city several years, but nobody
here except his wife knew whence he came, and he was very desirous that
his secret should be kept.

“I have come,” he continued, “to ask your assistance to enable me to
get my mother out of slavery. I have been industrious, have lived
economically, and have saved three hundred dollars. With this I hope
to purchase my mother, and bring her here to finish her days with
me.” “You say,” I replied, “that you are a fugitive slave; from what
place in the South did you escape?” “From W----, in Virginia,” he
answered. I opened my atlas, and found a town so named in that State.
“What towns are there adjoining or near W----?” I asked. He named
several, enough to satisfy me that he was acquainted with that part of
Virginia. “Well,” said I, “how did you get here?” “By the light of the
north-star,” was his prompt reply. “How did you know anything about
the north-star, and that it would guide you to freedom?” I doubtingly
inquired. “I have _heard_ of a great many Southern slaves who have made
their way into the free States and to Canada by the light of that star,
but I have never before seen one who had done so. I am very desirous
to hear particularly about your escape.” “Well, sir,” said he, “a good
man in W----, a member of the Society of Friends, knowing how much I
longed to be free, pointed out to me the north-star, and showed me how
I might always find it. And he assured me, if I would travel towards
it, that I should at length reach a part of the country where slavery
was not allowed. I need not tell you, sir, how impatient I became
to set off. After a while my master left home to be absent several
days, and the next Saturday night I started with a bundle on my back,
containing a part of the very few clothes I had, and all the food I
could get with my mother’s help, and a little money in my pocket--not
three dollars--that I had been gathering for a long time. The first and
the second nights were pleasant, the stars shone bright, and there was
no moon, so I travelled from the moment it was dark enough to venture
out until the light of day began to appear. Then I found some place
to hide, and there I lay all day until darkness came again. Thus I
travelled night after night, always looking towards the north-star.
Sometimes I lost sight of it in the woods through which I was obliged
to pass, and oh! how glad I was to see it again. Sometimes I had to go
a great ways round to avoid houses and grounds that were guarded by
dogs, or that I feared it would not be safe for me to cross, but still
I kept looking for the star, and turned and travelled towards it when I
could. At other times (thank God, not often) the nights were so cloudy
I could not see, and so was obliged to stay where I had been through
the previous days. O sir, how long those nights did seem!

“When the food I had brought away in my bundle was all eaten up, I
was forced to call at some houses and beg for something to relieve
my hunger. I was generally treated kindly, for, as I learnt, I had
gotten out of Virginia and Maryland. Still, I did not dare to stop so
soon, but kept on until I reached this place, where I saw many colored
people, evidently as free as the white folks. So I thought it would be
safe to look about for employment here and a home. Here I have been
living seven or eight years; have married a wife, and we have two
children. As I told you at first, I have saved money enough, I believe,
to buy my mother, and I want you, sir, to help me get her here.”

It cannot be necessary for me to assure my readers that I was deeply
interested in this narrative, which I have repeated so often that I
have kept its essential parts fresh in my memory. But, wishing to test
its truth still further, I asked him what towns he had passed through
in coming from W---- to Syracuse. “O,” said he, “as I travelled at
night and avoided people all I could, and asked few questions of those
I did meet, I learned the names of only a few places through which I
came. I remember M---- and D---- and B----,” and so on, giving the
names of six or eight towns in all. “Ah,” said I, “how did you get to
B----, if you travelled only towards the north-star?”

“O,” he replied, “I got scared there. I thought the slave-catchers
were after me. I ran for luck. I travelled two nights in the road that
was easiest for me, without caring for anything but to escape. Then,
supposing I had got away from those who were after me, I took to the
north-star again, and that brought me here.”

The few towns which he named as having passed through after his last
starting-point, I found on the map lying almost directly in the line
running thence due north to this city.

Being thus assured of the correctness of his story, I began to question
the expediency of his attempting to bring his mother away from her
old home, even if I should be able to get possession of her for him.
“She must be an aged woman by this time,” said I. “You look as if you
were forty years old; she probably is sixty, perhaps nearly or quite

“It may be so,” he replied; “but she used to be mighty smart and
healthy, and may live a good many years yet, and I want to do what I
can for my mother. I am her only child I believe, and I know she would
be mighty glad to see me again before she dies.”

“Very true,” I rejoined; “but you have been so long separated she must
have got used to living without you. Like other old slave-women in our
Southern States (_mammies_ or _aunties_, as they are called), I presume
she is pretty kindly treated, and such a change as you propose at her
time of life might make her much less comfortable than she would be to
continue to the last in her accustomed place and condition.”

“O sir!” he said, with great earnestness, “she is a slave. Every one
in slavery longs to be free. I am sure she would rather suffer a great
deal as a free woman than to live any longer, however comfortably, as a

“Yes,” I replied, with all apparent want of sympathy, “but it will cost
you all the money you have saved, and I fear much more, to buy her and
get her brought on to you here, so that you may then be too poor to
make her comfortable. But your three hundred dollars will enable you to
increase in many ways the comfort of your wife and children. That sum
will go far towards the purchase of a nice little home for them. Now,
do you not owe them quite as much as you do your mother?” “My wife,” he
exclaimed, “is just as anxious as I am to get mother out of slavery.
She is willing to work as hard as I will to make mother comfortable
after we get her here. I am sure we shall not let mother suffer for
anything she may need in her old age. Do, sir, help us get her here,
and you shall see what we will do for her.” Repressing my feelings as
much as possible, I said once more: “But, my good fellow, your mother
is so old she can live but a little while after you have spent your all
and more to get her here. Very likely the excitement and the fatigue
of the journey and the change of the climate will kill her very soon.”
With the deepest emotion and in a most subdued manner, he replied, “No
matter if it does,--buy her, bring her here, and _let her die free_.”
This was irresistible. I seized his hand. “Sanford, you must not think
me as unsympathizing and cold as I have appeared. I have been trying
you, proving you. I am satisfied that you know the value of liberty,
that you hold it above all price. Be assured I will do all in my power
to help you to accomplish your generous, your pious purpose. Nothing
will give me more heartfelt satisfaction than to be instrumental in
procuring the release of your mother and presenting her to you a free

The sequel to my story is sad, but most instructive. It will show
how demoralizing, dehumanizing it has been and must be to hold human
beings, fellow-men, as property, chattels; that, as Cowper wrote long
ago, “it were better to be a slave and wear the chains, than to fasten
them on another.”

How to compass the purpose which had thus been so forcibly fixed in
my heart required some device. It would not have done for Sanford
himself to have gone for his mother. That would have been like going
into the den of an angry tiger. No sin that a slave could commit was so
unpardonable then, in the estimation of a slaveholder, as running away.

I did not, until five years afterwards, become acquainted with that
remarkable woman, _Harriet Tubman_, or I might have engaged her
services in the assurance that she would have brought off the old
woman without _paying_ for what belonged to her by an inalienable
right,--_her liberty_.

I therefore soon determined to intrust the undertaking to John Needles,
of Baltimore, a most excellent man and member of the Society of
Friends. Accordingly, I wrote to him, giving all the particulars of
the case,--the name of the town in Virginia where the slave-woman was
supposed to be still living, usually called Aunt Bess or Old Bess, and
the name of the planter who held her as his chattel. I promised to send
him the three hundred dollars which Sanford had put at my disposal, and
more, if more would be needed, so soon as he should inform me that he
had gotten or could get possession of the woman.

After six or eight weeks I received a letter, informing me that he
had secured the ready assistance of a very suitable man,--a Quaker,
residing in the town of W----, not far from the plantation on which was
still living the mother of Sanford, an old woman in pretty good health.
But alas! his endeavor to purchase her had been utterly unavailing. He
had approached the business as warily as he knew how to. Yet almost
instantly the truth had been seen by the jealous eyes of the planter,
through the disguise the Quaker had attempted to throw around it. “You
don’t want that old black wench for yourself,” said the master. “She
would be of no use to you. You want to get her for Sanford. And, damn
him, he can’t have her, unless he comes for her himself. And then, I
reckon, I shall let Old Bess have him, and not let him have her. He
may stay here where he belongs, the damned runaway!” No entreaty or
argument the Quaker used seemed to move the master. Even the offer
of two hundred dollars and two hundred and fifty dollars--much more
than the market value of the old woman--was spurned. It was better to
him than money to punish the runaway slave through his disappointed
affections, now that he could not do it by lacerating his back or
putting him in irons.

I need not attempt to describe the sorrow and vexation of the son thus
wantonly denied the satisfaction of contributing to the comfort of his
mother through the few last days of her life, in which her services
could have been of little or no worth to the tyrant. Nor need I measure
for my readers the vast _moral superiority_ of the poor black man, who
had been the slave, to the rich white man, who had been the master.


I have given above some instances of exalted _moral_ excellence
which greatly increased my regard for colored men,--instances of
self-sacrificing benevolence, of rigid adherence to a promise under the
strongest temptation to break it, and of their inestimable value of
liberty. I wish now to tell of several colored men who have given us
abundant evidences of their mental power and executive ability.


David Ruggles first became known to me as a most active, adventurous,
and daring conductor on the underground railroad. He helped six hundred
slaves to escape from one and another of the Southern States into
Canada, or to places of security this side of the St. Lawrence. So
great were the dangers to which he was often exposed, so severe the
labors and hardships he often incurred, and so intense the excitement
into which he was sometimes thrown, that his eyes became seriously
diseased, and he lost entirely the sight of them. For a while he was
obliged to depend for his livelihood upon the contributions of his
antislavery friends, which they gave much more cheerfully than he
received them. Dependence was irksome to his enterprising spirit. So
soon, therefore, as his health, in other respects, was sufficiently
restored, he eagerly inquired for some employment by which,
notwithstanding his blindness, he could be useful to others and gain
a support for himself and family. Having a strong inclination to, and
not a little tact and experience in the curative art, he determined to
attempt the management of a Water-cure Hospital. He was assisted to
obtain the lease of suitable accommodations in or near Northampton,
and conducted his establishment with great skill and good success, I
believe, until his death.

Lewis Hayden and William C. Nell were active, devoted young colored
men, who, in the early days of our antislavery enterprise, rendered us
valuable services in various ways. The latter--Mr. Nell--especially
assisted in making arrangements for our meetings, gathering important
and pertinent information, and sometimes addressing our meetings
very acceptably. He was always careful in preserving valuable facts
and documents, and grew to be esteemed so highly for his fidelity
and carefulness, that, when the Hon. J. G. Palfrey came to be the
Postmaster of Boston, he appointed W. C. Nell one of his clerks; and,
if I mistake not, he retains that situation to this day.


While at the Convention in Philadelphia, in 1833, I became acquainted
with two colored gentlemen who interested me deeply,--Mr. James Forten
and Mr. Robert Purvis. The former, then nearly sixty years of age, was
evidently a man of commanding mind, and well informed. He had for many
years carried on the largest private sail-making establishment in that
city, having at times forty men in his employ, most, if not all of
them, white men. He was much respected by them, and by all with whom he
had any business transactions, among whom were many of the prominent
merchants of Philadelphia. He had acquired wealth, and he lived in as
handsome a style as any one should wish to live. I dined at his table
with several members of the Convention, and two English gentlemen who
had recently come to our country on some philanthropic mission. We
were entertained with as much ease and elegance as I could desire to
see. Of course, the conversation was, for the most part, on topics
relating to our antislavery conflict. The Colonization scheme came
up for consideration, and I shall never forget Mr. Forten’s scathing
satire. Among other things he said: “My great-grandfather was brought
to this country a slave from Africa. My grandfather obtained his own
freedom. My father never wore the yoke. He rendered valuable services
to his country in the war of our Revolution; and I, though then a boy,
was a drummer in that war. I was taken prisoner, and was made to suffer
not a little on board the Jersey prison-ship. I have since lived and
labored in a useful employment, have acquired property, and have paid
taxes in this city. Here I have dwelt until I am nearly sixty years of
age, and have brought up and educated a family, as you see, thus far.
Yet some ingenious gentlemen have recently discovered that I am still
an African; that a continent, three thousand miles, and more, from the
place where I was born, is my native country. And I am advised to go
home. Well, it may be so. Perhaps, if I should only be set on the shore
of that distant land, I should recognize all I might see there, and
run at once to the old hut where my forefathers lived a hundred years
ago.” His tone of voice, his whole manner, sharpened the edge of his
sarcasm. It was irresistible. And the laugh which it at first awakened
soon gave way to an expression, on every countenance, of that ineffable
contempt which he evidently felt for the pretence of the Colonization
Society. At the table sat his excellent, motherly wife, and his lovely,
accomplished daughters,--all with himself somewhat under the ban of
that accursed American prejudice, which is the offspring of slavery. I
learnt from him that their education, evidently of a superior kind, had
cost him very much more than it would have done, if they had not been
denied admission into the best schools of the city.

Soon after dinner we all left the house to attend a meeting of the
Philadelphia Female Antislavery Society. It was my privilege to escort
one of the Misses Forten to the place of meeting. What was my surprise,
when, on my return to Boston, I learnt that this action of mine had
been noticed and reported at home. “Is it true, Mr. May,” said a lady
to me, “that you walked in the streets of Philadelphia with a colored
girl?” “I did,” was my reply, “and should be happy to do it again.
And I wish that all the white young ladies of my acquaintance were as
sensible, well educated, refined, and handsome withal as Miss Forten.”
This was too bad, and I was set down as one of the incorrigibles.


was then an elegant, a brilliant young gentleman, well educated and
wealthy. He was so nearly white that he was generally taken to be so. I
first saw and heard him in our Antislavery Convention in Philadelphia.
I was attracted to him by his fervid eloquence, and was surprised at
the intimation, which fell from his lips, that he belonged to the
proscribed, disfranchised class. Away from the neighborhood of his
birth he might easily have passed as a white man. Indeed, I was told
he had travelled much in stage-coaches, and stopped days and weeks at
Saratoga and other fashionable summer resorts, and mingled, without
question, among the beaux and belles, regarded by the latter as one of
the most attractive of his sex. Robert Purvis, therefore, might have
removed to any part of our country, far distant from Philadelphia,
and have lived as one of the self-styled superior race. But, rather
than forsake his kindred, or try to conceal the secret of his birth,
he magnanimously chose to bear the unjust reproach, the cruel wrongs
of the colored people, although he has been more annoyed, chafed,
exasperated by them than any other one I have ever met with. Indeed, he
seems to have grown more impatient and irascible as the heavy burden of
his people has been lightened. Because all their rights have not been
accorded to them, he sometimes seems to deny that any of their rights
have been recognized. Because the _elective franchise_ is still meanly
withheld from them in some of the States, he will hardly acknowledge
that _slavery_ has been abolished throughout the land,--a glorious
triumph in the cause of humanity, which his own eloquence and pecuniary
contributions have helped to achieve. But we must make the largest
allowance for Mr. Purvis. No man of conscious power and high spirit,
who has not felt the gnawing, rasping, burning of a cruel stigma, can
conceive how hard it is to bear.


has distinguished himself as a diligent agent and able antislavery
lecturer in this country and throughout Great Britain and Ireland. He
has also published books that have been highly creditable to him as an


when quite a young man, became a frequent and effective speaker
in our meetings. In 1838 or 1839 he was appointed an agent of the
Massachusetts Antislavery Society, in which capacity he rendered
abundant and very valuable services. He spent the greater part of the
year 1841 in Great Britain and Ireland. He lectured in many of the
most important places throughout the United Kingdom. Everywhere he drew
large audiences, and was much commended and admired for the pertinence
of his facts, the cogency of his arguments, and the fire of his
eloquence. In _The Liberator_ for November 19, 1841, there was copied
from a Dublin paper a speech which Mr. Remond had then recently made
to a large and most respectable audience in that city. Mr. Garrison
commended it to his readers as “a very eloquent production, worthy of
careful perusal and high commendation. Let those,” he added, “who are
ever disposed to deny the possession of genius, talent, and eloquence
by the colored man read that speech, and acknowledge their meanness and


Soon after I removed to Syracuse, in 1845, I became acquainted with
the Rev. J. W. Loguen, then a school-teacher, and for several years
since minister of the African Methodist Church here. His personal
history is a remarkable one, revealing at times no little force
of character. He was born in Tennessee, the slave of an ignorant,
intemperate, and brutal slaveholder. He witnessed the sale of several
of his mother’s children, her frantic but unavailing resistance, the
horrible scourging she endured without releasing them from her embrace,
and her agonizing grief when they were at last violently torn from
her. Twice he was himself beaten nearly to death,--left bleeding and
senseless, to be comforted and brought back to life by the care of
his fond mother. At last he saw his sister (after a terrible fight
with the ruffian slave-traders to whom she had been sold) subdued,
manacled, and forced away, screaming for her children, imploring at
least that she might have her infant. He could endure his bondage no
longer. He resolved to escape to the land of the free, and there earn
the means and find the way to bring his mother to partake with him of
the blessings of liberty. He took his master’s best horse,--one that
he had trained to do great feats, if required,--and, in company with
another young slave of kindred spirit, also well mounted, he started,
on the night before Christmas, 1834, from the interior of Tennessee,
near Nashville, to go to Canada,--a distance of six hundred miles,
half the way through a slaveholding country. They encountered, as they
expected to do, fearful perils and exhausting hardships. At last they
reached a place of safety, but it was in the dead of a Canadian winter.
Their stock of provisions had long since been exhausted; their money
was all spent; their clothing utterly insufficient; and thus they had
come into a most inhospitable climate, unknowing and unknown, at a
season of the year when little employment was to be had. Undaunted by
this array of appalling circumstances, Mr. Loguen persevered, made
friends, got work, and in the spring of 1837, only three years after
his escape from slavery, had so commended himself to the confidence of
an employer that he was intrusted with a farm of two hundred acres,
near Hamilton, which he was to work on shares. Here, and afterwards
by labor in St. Catharine, he laid up several hundred dollars, and
then removed to Rochester, N. Y. In that city he obtained a situation
as waiter in the best hotel, where, by his aptness and readiness to
serve, he so ingratiated himself with all the boarders and transient
visitors that his perquisites amounted to more than enough to support
him, and being totally abstinent from the use of intoxicating liquors
and tobacco, he was able to lay up all his wages,--thirty dollars a
month. At the expiration of two years he found that, together with
what he had brought from Canada, he was possessed of about nine
hundred dollars. As much of this as might be necessary, he resolved
to expend in the acquisition of knowledge. Ever since his arrival at
the North he had availed himself of all the assistance he could get
to learn to read, and had attained to some proficiency in the art. By
plying this, whenever opportunity offered him the use of books and
newspapers, he had added much to his information. But he longed for
more education,--at least sufficient to enable him to be useful as a
minister of religion, or as a teacher of the children of his people. So
he left his lucrative situation in Rochester, and entered the Oneida
Institute, a manual labor school, then under the excellent management
of Rev. Beriah Green.

In 1841 Mr. Loguen came to reside in Syracuse, and undertook the duties
of pastor of the “African Methodist Church,” and of school-teacher to
the children of his people. In both these offices he was successful.
And not in these alone. With the help of one of the best of wives, he
has brought up a family of children, and educated them well. He has
established a good, commodious, hospitable home. In it was fitted up an
apartment for fugitive slaves, and, for years before the Emancipation
Act, scarcely a week passed without some one, in his flight from
slavedom to Canada, enjoyed shelter and repose at Elder Loguen’s. By
industry, frugality, and the skilful investment of his property, he has
gained a good estate. He is respected by his fellow-citizens, and has
so risen in the esteem of his Methodist brethren, that within the last
year he has been made a bishop of their order.


I need give but one more example of a colored man of my acquaintance
who has exhibited great intellectual ability as well as moral worth.
And he is one extensively known and admired throughout our country,
Great Britain, and Ireland. Of course I mean Frederick Douglass. His
well-written, intensely interesting autobiography, entitled “My Bondage
and My Freedom,” has probably been read so generally that I need not
attempt any sketch of his life. Suffice it to say he was born a slave
in Maryland. He experienced all the indignities, and suffered most of
the hardships and cruelties, that passionate slaveholders could inflict
upon their bondmen. When about twenty-one years of age he resolved
that he would endure them no longer, and in 1838 he found his way from
Baltimore to New Bedford, the best place, on the whole, to which he
could have gone. There, with his young wife, he commenced the life of
a freeman. The severest toil now seemed light. He worked with a will,
because the avails of his labor were to be his own. Being, as most
colored persons are, religiously inclined, he soon became a member of a
Methodist church, and erelong was appointed a class-leader and a local

While in slavery Mr. Douglass had contrived, in various ingenious ways,
to learn to read and write. So soon, therefore, as he came to live in
Massachusetts, he diligently improved his enlarged opportunities to
acquire knowledge. Erelong he became a subscriber for _The Liberator_,
and week after week made himself master of its contents, in which
he never found a silly or a worthless line. Of course its doctrines
and its purpose were altogether such as his own bitter experience
justified. And the exalted spirit of religious faith and hope, at all
times inspiring the writings and speeches of Mr. Garrison, awakened
in the bosom of Mr. Douglass the assurance that he was “the man,--the
Moses raised up by God to deliver his Israel in America from a worse
than Egyptian bondage.”

In the summer of 1841 there was a large antislavery convention
held in Nantucket. Mr. Douglass attended it. In the midst of the
meeting, to his great confusion, he was called upon and urged to
address the convention. A number were present from New Bedford who
had heard his exhortations in the Methodist church, and they would
not allow his plea of inability to speak. After much hesitation he
rose, and, notwithstanding his embarrassment, he gave evidence of
such intellectual power--wisdom as well as wit--that all present were
astonished. Mr. Garrison followed him in one of his sublimest speeches.
“Here was a living witness of the justice of the severest condemnation
he had ever uttered of slavery. Here was one ‘every inch a man,’ ay,
a man of no common power, who yet had been held at the South as a
piece of property, a chattel, and had been treated as if he were a
domesticated brute,” &c.

At the close of the meeting, Mr. John A. Collins, then the general
agent of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, urgently invited Mr.
Douglass to become a lecturing agent. He begged to be excused. He was
sure that he was not competent to such an undertaking. But Mr. Garrison
and others, who had heard him that day, joined Mr. Collins in pressing
him to accept the appointment. He yielded to the pressure. And, in
less than three years from the day of his escape from slavery, he was
introduced to the people of New England as a suitable person to lecture
them upon the subject that was of more moment than any other to which
the attention of our Republic had ever been called.

Mr. Douglass henceforth improved rapidly. He applied himself diligently
to reading and study. The number and range of his topics in lecturing
increased and widened continually. He soon became one of the favorite
antislavery speakers. The notoriety which he thus acquired could not be
confined to New England or the Northern States. A murmur of inquiry
came up from Maryland who this man could be. A pamphlet which he felt
called upon to publish in 1845, in answer to the current assertions
that he was an impostor, that he had never been a slave, made it no
longer possible to conceal his personality. The danger of his being
captured and taken back to Maryland was so great that it was thought
advisable he should go to England. Accordingly, he went thither that
year in company with James N. Buffum, one of the truest of antislavery
men, and with the Hutchinson family, the sweetest of singers.

Although not permitted to go as a cabin passenger, many of the
cabin passengers sought to make his acquaintance and visited him
in the steerage, and invited him to visit them on the saloon-deck.
At length they requested him to give them an antislavery lecture.
This he consented and was about to do, when some passengers who
were slaveholders chose to consider it an insult to them, and were
proceeding to punish him for his insolence; they threatened even to
throw him overboard, and would have done so had not the captain of the
steamer interposed his absolute authority: called his men, and ordered
them to put those disturbers of the peace _in irons_ if they did not
instantly desist. Of course they at once obeyed, and shrank back in the
consciousness that they were under the dominion of a power that had
broken the staff of such oppressors as themselves.

This incident of the voyage was reported in the newspapers immediately
on the arrival of the vessel at Liverpool, and introduced Mr. Douglass
at once to the British public. He was treated with great attention
by the Abolitionists of the United Kingdom; was invited to lecture
everywhere, and rendered most valuable services to the cause of his
oppressed countrymen. So deeply did he interest the philanthropists of
that country that they paid seven hundred and fifty dollars to procure
from his master a formal, legal certificate of manumission, so that,
on his return to these United States, he would be no longer liable to
be sent back into slavery. They also presented him with the sum of
twenty-five hundred dollars for his own benefit, to be appropriated,
if he should see fit, to the establishment of a weekly paper edited by
himself, which was then his favorite project.

Soon after his return in 1847 he did establish such a paper at
Rochester and conducted it with ability for several years. He has since
become one of the popular lecturers of our country, and every season
has as many invitations as he cares to accept. He is extensively known
and much respected. Many there are who wish to see him a member of
Congress; and we confidently predict that, if he shall ever be sent
to Washington as a Representative or a Senator, he will soon become a
prominent man in either House.


Everybody has heard of the Underground Railroad. Many have read of its
operations who have been puzzled to know where it was laid, who were
the conductors of it, who kept the stations, and how large were the
profits. As the company is dissolved, the rails taken up, the business
at an end, I propose now to tell my readers about it.

There have always been scattered throughout the slaveholding States
individuals who have abhorred slavery, and have pitied the victims
of our American despotism. These persons have known, or have taken
pains to find out, others at convenient distances northward from their
abodes who sympathized with them in commiserating the slaves. These
sympathizers have known or heard of others of like mind still farther
North, who again have had acquaintances in the free States that they
knew would help the fugitive on his way to liberty. Thus, lines of
friends at longer or shorter distances were formed from many parts
of the South to the very borders of Canada,--not very straight lines
generally, but such as the fleeing bondmen might pass over safely, if
they could escape their pursuers until they had come beyond the second
or third stage from their starting-point. Furnished at first with
written “passes,” as from their masters, and afterwards with letters
of introduction from one friend to another, we had reason to believe
that a large proportion of those who, in this way, attempted to escape
from slavery were successful. Twenty thousand at least found homes in
Canada, and hundreds ventured to remain this side of the Lakes.

So long ago as 1834, when I was living in the eastern part of
Connecticut, I had fugitives addressed to my care. I helped them on to
that excellent man, Effingham L. Capron, in Uxbridge, afterwards in
Worcester, and he forwarded them to secure retreats.

Ever after I came to reside in Syracuse I had much to do as a
station-keeper or conductor on the Underground Railroad, until
slavery was abolished by the Proclamation of President Lincoln, and
subsequently by the according Acts of Congress. Fugitives came to me
from Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana. They came,
too, at all hours of day and night, sometimes comfortably,--yes, and
even handsomely clad, but generally in clothes every way unfit to be
worn, and in some instances too unclean and loathsome to be admitted
into my house. Once in particular, a most squalid mortal came to my
back-door with a note that he had been a passenger on the Underground
Railroad. “O Massa,” said he, “I’m not fit to come into your house.”
“No,” I replied, “you are not now, but soon shall be.” So I stepped in
and got a tub of warm water, with towels and soap. He helped me with
them into the barn. “There,” said I, “give yourself a thorough washing,
and throw every bit of your clothing out upon the dung-hill.” He set
about his task with a hearty good-will. I ran back to the house and
brought out to him a complete suit of clean clothes from a deposit
which my kind parishioners kept pretty well supplied. He received each
article with unspeakable thankfulness. But the clean white shirt, with
a collar and stock, delighted him above measure. He tarried with me a
couple of days. I found him to be a man of much natural intelligence,
but utterly ignorant of letters. He had had a hard master, and he went
on his way to Canada exulting in his escape from tyranny.

In contrast with this specimen, my eldest son, late one Saturday night,
came up from the city, and as he opened the parlor-door, said, “Here,
father, is another living epistle to you from the South,” and ushered
in a fine-looking, well-dressed young man. I took his hand to make him
sure of a welcome. “But this,” said I, “is not the hand of one who
has been used to doing hard work. It is softer than mine.” “No, sir,”
he replied, “I have not been allowed to do work that would harden my
hands. I have been the slave of a very wealthy planter in Kentucky,
who kept me only to drive the carriage for mistress and her daughters,
to wait upon them at table, and accompany them on their journeys. I
was not allowed even to groom the horses, and was required to wear
gloves when I drove them.” Perceiving that he used good language
and pronounced it properly, I said, “You must have received some
instruction. I thought the laws of the slave States sternly prohibited
the teaching of slaves.” “They do, sir,” he replied, “but my master
was an easy man in that respect. My young mistresses taught me to read,
and got me books and papers from their father’s library. I have had
much leisure time, and I have improved it.” In further conversation
with him I found that he was quite familiar with a considerable number
of the best American and English authors, both in poetry and prose.
“If you had such an easy time, and were so much favored, why,” I
asked, “did you run away?” “O, sir,” he replied, “slavery at best is
a bitter draught. Under the most favored circumstances it is bondage
and degradation still. I often writhed in my chains, though they sat
so lightly on me compared with most others. I was often on the point
of taking wings for the North, but then the words of Hamlet would come
to me, ‘Better to bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we
know not of,’ and I should have remained with my master had it not
been that I learned, a few weeks ago, that he was about to sell me
to a particular friend of his, then visiting him from New Orleans. I
suspected this evil was impending over me from the notice the gentleman
took of me and the kind of questions he asked me.

“At length, one of my young mistresses, who knew my dread of being
sold, came to me and, bursting into tears, said, ‘Harry, father is
going to sell you.’ She put five dollars into my hand and went weeping
away. With that, and with much more money that I had received from
time to time, and saved for the hour of need, I started that night
and reached the Ohio River before morning. I immediately crossed to
Cincinnati and hurried on board a steamer, the steward of which was
a black man of my acquaintance. He concealed me until the boat had
returned to Pittsburg. There he introduced me to a gentleman that he
knew to be a friend of us colored folks. That gentleman sent me to a
friend in Meadville, and he directed me to come to you.” “Well,” said
I, “Harry, if you are a good coachman and waiter withal, I can get you
an excellent situation in this city, which will enable you to live
comfortably until you shall have become acquainted with our Northern
manners and customs, and have found some better business.” “O,” he
hastily replied, “thank you, sir, but I should not dare to stop this
side of Canada. My master, though he was kind to me, is a proud and
very passionate man. He will never forgive me for running away. He has
already advertised me, offering a large reward for my apprehension and
return to him. I should not be beyond his reach here. I must go to
Canada.” He tarried with us until Monday afternoon, when I sent him to
Oswego with a letter of introduction to a gentleman in Kingston, and a
few days afterwards heard of his safe arrival there.

Not long after, I one day saw a young lady, of fine person and
handsomely dressed, coming up our front steps. She inquired for me,
and was ushered into my study. A blue veil partly concealed her face
and a pair of white gloves covered her hands. On being assured that I
was Mr. S. J. May she said, “I have come to you, sir, as a friend of
colored people and of slaves.” “Is it possible,” I replied, “that you
are one of that class of my fellow-beings?” She removed her veil, and a
slight tinge in her complexion revealed the fact that she belonged to
the proscribed race,--a beautiful octoroon. “But where were you ever
a slave?” I asked. “In New Orleans, sir. My master, who, I believe,
was also my father, is concerned in a line of packet steamers that ply
between New Orleans and Galveston. He has, for several years past, kept
me on board one of his boats as the chamber-maid. This was rather an
easy and not a disagreeable situation. I was with the lady passengers
most of the time, and by my close attentions to them, especially when
they were sea-sick, I conciliated many. They often made me presents
of money, clothes, and trinkets. And, what was better than all, they
taught me to read. At each end of the route I had hours and days of
leisure, which I improved as best I could. The thought that I was a
slave often tormented me. But, as in other respects I was comfortable,
I might have continued in bondage, had I not found out that my master
was about to sell me to a dissolute young man for the vilest of
purposes. I at once looked about for a way of escape. Being so much of
the time among the shipping at New Orleans, I had learnt to distinguish
the vessels of different nations. So I went to one that I saw was an
English ship, on board of which I espied a lady,--the captain’s wife.
I asked if I might come on board. ‘Certainly,’ she replied. Encouraged
by her kind manner, I soon revealed to her my secret and my wish to
escape. She could hardly be persuaded that I was a slave. But when all
doubt on that point was removed, she readily consented to take me with
her to New York. To my unspeakable relief we sailed the next day. The
captain was equally kind. I was able to pay as much as he would take
for my passage, for I had succeeded in getting all the money I had
saved, with much of my clothing, on board the ship the night before she
left New Orleans. On our arrival at New York the captain took pains to
inquire for the Abolitionists. He was directed to Mr. Lewis Tappan, and
took me with him to that good gentleman. Mr. Tappan at once provided
for my safety in that city, and the next day sent me to Mr. Myers, at
Albany, on my way to you.”

I offered to find a place for her in some one of the best families
in Syracuse; but she was afraid to remain here. She had seen in New
York her master’s advertisement, offering five hundred dollars for her
restoration to him. She was sure there were pursuers on her track. Two
men in the car between Albany and Syracuse had annoyed and alarmed her
by their close observation of her. One had seated himself by her side
and tried to engage her in conversation and look through her veil. At
length he asked her to take off the glove on her left hand. By this
she knew he must have seen the advertisement, that stated, among other
marks by which she might be identified, that one finger on her left
hand was minus a joint. She at once called to the conductor and asked
him to protect her from the impertinent liberties the man was taking
with her. So he gave her another seat by a lady, and she reached our
city without any further molestation, but in great alarm.

We secreted her several days, until we supposed her pursuers must have
gone on. She occupied herself most of the time by reading, and we
observed that she often was poring over a French book, and on inquiring
learnt that she could read that language about as well as English.
So soon as her fears were sufficiently allayed, I committed her to
the care of one of my good antislavery parishioners who happened to
be going to Oswego. He escorted her thither, saw her safely on board
the steamboat for Kingston, and a few days afterwards I received a
well-written letter from her informing me of her safe arrival, and that
she had obtained a good situation in a pleasant family as children’s

I need give my readers but one more specimen of the many passengers
I have conducted on the Underground Railroad. At eleven o’clock one
Saturday night, in the fall of the year, three stalwart negroes came to
my door with “a pass” from a friend in Albany. They were miserably clad
for that season of the year and almost famished with hunger. We gave
them a good, hearty supper, but could not accommodate them through the
night. So at twelve o’clock I sallied forth with them to find a place
or places where they could be safely and comfortably kept, until we
could forward them to Canada. This was not so easily done as it might
have been at an earlier hour. I did not get back to my home until after
two in the morning. The next forenoon, after sermon I made known to
my congregation their destitute condition, and asked for clothes and
money. Before night I received enough of each for the three, and some
to spare for other comers. I need only add, that in due time they were
safely committed to the protection of the British Queen.

Other friends of the slave in Syracuse were often called upon in
like manner, and sometimes put to as great inconvenience as I was in
the last instance named above. So we formed an association to raise
the means to carry on our operations at this station. And we made an
arrangement with Rev. J. W. Loguen to fit up suitably an apartment in
his house for the accommodation of all the fugitives, that might come
here addressed to either one of us. The charge thus committed to them
Mr. Loguen and his excellent wife faithfully and kindly cared for to
the last. And I more than suspect that the fugitives they harbored, and
helped on their way, often cost them much more than they called upon us
to pay.

It was natural that I should feel not a little curious, and sometimes
quite anxious, to know how those whom I had helped into Canada were
faring there. So I went twice to see; the first time to Toronto and its
neighborhood, the second time to that part of Canada which lies between
Lake Erie and Lake Huron. I visited Windsor, Sandwich, Chatham, and
Buxton. In each of these towns I found many colored people, most of
whom had escaped thither from slavery in one or another of the United
States. With very few exceptions, I found them living comfortably,
and, without an exception, all of them were rejoicing in their liberty.

I was particularly interested in the Buxton settlement, called so
in honor of that distinguished English philanthropist, Hon. Fowell
Buxton. It was established by the benevolent enterprise and managed
by the excellent good sense of Rev. William King. This gentleman was
a well-educated Scotch Presbyterian minister. He had come to America
and settled in Mississippi. There he married a lady whose parents soon
after died, leaving him, with his wife, in possession of a considerable
property in slaves. He was ill at ease in such a possession, but, as he
held it in the right of his wife, he did not feel at liberty to do with
it as he would otherwise have done. A few years afterwards she died.
By this dispensation he was made the sole proprietor of the persons of
fifteen of his fellow-beings, and he was brought to feel that the great
purpose of his life should be to deliver them from slavery, and place
them in circumstances under which they might become what God had made
them capable of being. With this purpose at heart he went to Canada.
He purchased nine thousand acres of government land of good quality
and well located, though covered with a dense forest. To this place he
transported, from Mississippi, his fifteen slaves, and gave to each of
them fifty acres. He then offered to sell farms for two dollars and a
half an acre to colored men, who should bring satisfactory testimonials
of good moral character and strictly temperate habits. When I was there
in 1852, about four years after the beginning of his undertaking, there
were ninety families settled in Buxton. Mr. King told me there had not
been a single instance of intoxication or of any disorderly conduct,
and most of them had nearly paid for their farms.

I spent the whole day with this wise man, this practical
philanthropist, in visiting the settlers at their homes in the woods.
I found them all contented, happy, enterprising. Several of them
confessed to me that they had never suffered such hardships as they
had experienced since they came to live in Canada. The severity of the
cold had sometimes tried them to the utmost, and clearing up their
heavy-timbered lands had been hard work indeed, especially for those
who had been house-servants in Southern cities. But not one of them
looked back with desiring eyes to the leeks and onions of the Egypt
from which they had escaped. They seemed to be sustained and animated
by one of the noblest sentiments that can take possession of the human
soul,--the love of liberty, the determination to be free. They had
cheerfully made sacrifices in this behalf. Like the Pilgrim Fathers of
New England, many of them had fled from the abodes of ease, elegance,
luxury, and sought homes in a wilderness that they might be free. Like
them they counted it all joy to suffer,--perils by land and by water,
travels by night, a flight in the winter, and a life in the wilds
in an inhospitable climate, if by so suffering they might secure to
themselves and their posterity the inestimable boon of liberty.


It must be obvious to my readers that I have not been guided in my
narrative by the order of time, so much as by the relation of events
and actors to one another. My last article had to do in part with
occurrences that happened in 1852. I shall now return to 1842.

Much to my surprise, in 1842, I was nominated by Hon. Horace Mann, and
appointed by the Massachusetts Board of Education, to succeed Rev.
Cyrus Peirce as Principal of the Normal School then at Lexington.

At once was heard from various quarters murmurs of displeasure, because
an _Abolitionist_ had been intrusted with the preparation of teachers
for our common schools. Mr. Mann was not a little annoyed. He earnestly
admonished me to beware of giving occasion to those unfriendly to
the school to allege that I was taking advantage of my position to
disseminate my antislavery opinions and spirit. I assured him that I
should not conceal my sentiments and feelings on a subject of such
transcendent importance. But he might depend upon me that I should not
give any time that belonged to the school to any other institution
or enterprise; that I should conscientiously endeavor to discharge
faithfully every one of my duties; but that, as I should not be able
to attend antislavery meetings, or co-operate personally with the
Abolitionists, except perhaps in vacations, I should contribute to
their treasury more money than I had hitherto been able to afford.

Accordingly, I consecrated every day and every evening of every week
of term time to my duties, so long as I was principal of that school,
excepting only the afternoon and evening of every Saturday. Those hours
I always gave up to some kind of recreation. So much as this about
myself, the readers will soon perceive, is pertinent to the tale now to
be unfolded.

Some time in the month of October, 1842, an interesting young man,
calling himself George Latimer, made his appearance in Boston. He was
so nearly white that few suspected he belonged to the proscribed class.
But soon afterwards a Mr. Gray, of Norfolk, Virginia, arrived in the
city, and claimed the young man as his slave. At his instigation a
constable arrested Latimer, and the keeper of Leverett Street Jail took
him into confinement. Their only warrant for this assault upon the
liberty of Latimer was a written order from the said Gray. It was as


  “SIR,--George Latimer, a negro slave belonging to me, and a
  fugitive from my service in Norfolk, in the State of Virginia,
  who is now committed to your custody by John Wilson, my agent and
  attorney, I request and DIRECT you to hold on my account, at my
  costs, until removed by me according to law.

            “JAMES B. GRAY.

  “BOSTON, October 21, 1842.”

To this high-handed assumption of authority was added an indorsement,
by a young lawyer of Boston, of which the following is a copy:--

            “BOSTON, October 21, 1842.

  “I hereby promise to pay to the keeper of the jail any sum due him
  for keeping the body of said Latimer, on demand.

            “E. G. AUSTIN.”

With reason were the good people of Boston and the old Commonwealth
aroused, excited, almost maddened with indignation and alarm at this
insolent, daring assault upon the palladium of their liberty. If such
a proceeding should be allowed, no one would be safe, black or white.
Here comes a man from a distant part of our country, an utter stranger
in our city, and arrests another man about as light-complexioned as
himself, claims him as his negro slave, and, without offering any proof
that he had ever held the man in that condition, hands him over to a
common jailer for safe-keeping. This surely could not be borne with.
Some of the colored people to whom Latimer was known first bestirred
themselves. They attempted to get him out of prison by a writ of
_habeas corpus_. Hon. Samuel E. Sewall, the long-tried friend of the
oppressed, always ready to endure obloquy and encounter danger in
their service, assisted by his friend, C. M. Ellis, Esq., earnestly
endeavored to get that writ allowed. They petitioned for it in the
Court at which Chief Justice Shaw was then presiding, and, strange to
say, their petition was denied. That eminent jurist, on the authority
of the United States Court, in the famous Prigg case, gave it as his
opinion, that, by the supreme law of the land, so expounded, the man
Gray had permission to come to Boston and seize the man Latimer (as he
had done), put him into jail or some other place of confinement, and
keep him there until he could have time to bring on proof that he was
his property, and then take him off by the assistance of any persons
he could get to help him. Accordingly, Judge Shaw refused the writ
of _habeas corpus_, and left Latimer in Leverett Street prison. This
action of the chief justice aggravated the public excitement.

Mr. Gray, alarmed probably by the outcries of indignation that came to
him from so many quarters, brought charges against Latimer of thefts
committed upon his property, both in Norfolk and in Boston, as the
reason for his arrest. If this were true, it was said, he surely should
have proceeded against the criminal, in the ordinary course at common
law, and not under the decision in the Prigg case. But by this step
he got himself into another and graver difficulty. George Latimer,
instructed by his legal advisers, at once commenced the prosecution
of Gray for slander and libel. So the biter, finding he was about to
be bitten, let go this hold upon poor Latimer, and determined to rely
wholly upon the decision of Judge Story of the United States Court, who
was soon to hold a session in Boston.

But the excitement of the public had spread far and wide, and the tones
of indignation were deeper and louder. An immense meeting was held in
Faneuil Hall. Mr. Sewall presided, and made a full, clear statement
of the case, exhibiting all its odious features. Mr. Edmund Quincy
addressed the meeting with great force; and Mr. Phillips spoke most
effectively. Public meetings on the subject were held in Lynn, Salem,
New Bedford, Worcester, Abington, and in many other large towns. And
petitions were prepared and extensively signed and sent to Congress,
praying that we of the free States might be relieved from such outrages
upon the feelings of the people, and such violations of common law, as
could be perpetrated under the exposition of United States law, given
by the court in the “Prigg case.” Petitions were also prepared and
extensively signed to the Massachusetts Legislature, praying that the
prisons and jails of the Commonwealth might not be used by slaveholders
or their agents for the safe-keeping of their fugitive bondmen when
retaken; and that all sheriffs, constables, police officers of every
grade might be peremptorily forbidden, in any way, to assist in the
capture or return of slaves.

The sheriff and the deputy sheriff of Suffolk County and the keeper of
Leverett Street Jail were severely censured for the part they had taken
in Mr. Gray’s service. And the sheriff was about to order the release
of Latimer, when negotiations were entered into with Mr. Gray for the
purchase of his victim’s emancipation. Fearing that he might lose all,
he concluded to take a part, and sold him for four hundred dollars,
although he had declared he would not let him go for three times that

Wholly engrossed as I was by my duties in the Normal School, I could
not help hearing of the great excitement, and sympathizing with those
who were determined Massachusetts should not be made a hunting-ground
for slaves. At length it was reported that there was to be “_a Latimer
meeting_” at Waltham, five or six miles from Lexington. And lo! a few
days afterwards there came letters from Rev. Samuel Ripley, then the
prominent minister of Waltham, and from his son-in-law, the Rev.
George F. Simmons, who a few years before had been compelled to resign
his pastorate of the Unitarian Church of Mobile, and hastily leave the
city, because he had dared to speak from his pulpit of the evils of
slavery and the duties of those who held their fellow-beings in that

Each of those gentlemen cordially invited me, urgently requested me, to
attend the meeting in behalf of George Latimer that was to be held in
their meeting-house, adding that it was appointed on the next Saturday
evening, so as to accommodate the operatives in the factories, who were
not required to work on that evening.

As I have already said, Saturday evening was my _leisure_ time. Always
on closing school at noon of Saturday, I endeavored to lay aside my
cares with my textbooks, and if possible think no more of school until
Sunday evening, when I never failed to examine the lessons I intended
to teach the next day. It seemed to me that nothing would refresh and
recreate me so much as attending an antislavery meeting, and giving
vent to my pent-up feelings. Then I was the more eager to go to
Waltham, because Mr. Ripley was one of those who had been particularly
severe and satirical in their remarks upon _my_ appointment to the
charge of the Normal School. I really wished to see how he would look,
and act, and speak, under the inspiration of his new-born zeal in
the cause of freedom. So I informed my two devoted assistants, who
needed recreation not less than myself, and who I knew were zealous
Abolitionists, of my intention, and invited them to accompany me.
Almost immediately I received the names of twenty of my pupils who
wished to attend the meeting. Accordingly, I procured two double
sleighs, and we started for Waltham, as I supposed in good season. But
we did not reach the meeting-house until just as the exercises were to
begin. We naturally walked in together without the slightest thought of
making a parade. But on opening the door, we found all the pews filled
excepting the conspicuous ones, on either side of the pulpit. To these,
therefore, we went as quietly as possible, but not without attracting
the notice of the audience, and calling out the remark from more than
one, “There comes Mr. May with his Normal School!”

Before long I was invited by Rev. Mr. Ripley, who presided, to address
the meeting. I did so for twenty minutes or more, and I have no doubt
that my words and manner, my accents and emphases, showed plainly
enough how deep was my abhorrence of slavery, and how sincerely I
sympathized in the public alarm caused by the high-handed procedure of
the claimant of Latimer and his abettors.

I returned to Lexington revived, invigorated, knowing that I had
neglected no duty to the school, and utterly unconscious that I had
violated any obligations, expressed or implied by my words, when I
accepted the appointment. But a few days afterwards I received a letter
from Mr. Mann, complaining of what I had done, informing me that I
had given serious offence to several prominent gentlemen of Waltham,
and had lost as a pupil a bright, fine girl who was intending to
enter my school at the beginning of the next term. I replied stating
the circumstances of the case just as I have done above,--that I had
taken no time, withheld no attention, no thought, which was due to the
school; adding that I did not believe any concealment of my sentiments,
or other unreasonable concessions to the prejudices of the proslavery
portion of the community, would conciliate them. But, as it seemed my
understanding of my duties differed so much from his, I thought it best
for me to retire from the position; and therefore I tendered him my
resignation. This he would not communicate to the Board, and requested
me to withdraw it. I did so. But scarcely a month had elapsed before it
was announced in the newspapers that I was to deliver one in a course
of antislavery lectures in Boston, without stating, as I had requested,
that it would be given _during my vacation_. This brought a still more
earnest remonstrance from Mr. Mann, showing how hard pressed he was
on every side by the conflicting influences, in the midst of which
he was striving so nobly to infuse into our common schools the right
spirit, and to establish our system of public instruction upon the
true principles of human development and culture. In this instance he
was more easily satisfied that I had not departed from even the letter
of our agreement, though I have no doubt he wished I would keep my
antislavery zeal in abeyance through my vacations, as well as in term

I have given this recollection, that my readers may be more fully
informed to what extent the so-called free States of our Union,
not excepting Massachusetts, were permeated by the spirit of the
slaveholders, or rather by the disposition to acquiesce in their most
overbearing demands.

Let it not, however, for a moment be inferred, from what I have
related, that Horace Mann was ever willing, for any consideration, to
abandon the rights of the enslaved to the will of their oppressors, and
suffer the dominion of slaveholders to be extended over the whole of
our country. Far otherwise. A few years after the arrest of Latimer,
Mr. Mann became a member of Congress; and there he uttered some of the
boldest words for freedom and humanity ever heard in our Capitol. As he
assured his constituents, in convention at Dedham on the 6th November,
1850, “with voice and vote, by expostulation and by remonstrance, by
all means in his power, to the full extent of his ability, he resisted
the passage of all the laws” proposed in Mr. Clay’s Omnibus Bill,
especially the one respecting fugitives from slavery. He emphatically
declared that “he regarded the question of human freedom, with all the
public and private consequences dependent upon it, both now and in all
futurity, as first, foremost, chiefest among all the questions that
have been before the government, or are likely to be before it.”

But in 1842 Mr. Mann could not foresee, nor be persuaded to apprehend,
that the senators and representatives of the Southern States would
become audacious enough in 1850 to demand that the people of the free
States should do for them the work of slave-catchers and bloodhounds.
And he was, at that time, so intent upon his great undertaking for
the improvement of our common schools, that he thought it our duty to
repress our interest in every other reform that was unpopular.


He who knew so well what is in man said: “The children of this world
are wiser towards their generation than the children of light.” And
certainly the slaveholders of our country and their partisans have
been incomparably more vigilant in watching for whatever might affect
the stability of their “peculiar institution,” and far more adroit in
devising measures, and resolute in pressing them to the maintenance and
extension of _Slavery_, than their opponents have been in behalf of

Slave labor has ever been found wasteful and exhaustive of the soil
from which it has taken the crops. Therefore, it used to be a common
saying, “the Southern planter needs all the lands that join his
estate.” Ample as was the territory of that portion of the United
States in which slavery was established, the “barons of the South”
early looked beyond their borders for new acquisitions of land. Partly
to gratify their cupidity, the immense tract of land between the
Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, with the valley of the Columbia
River, was purchased by our Federal Government in 1803. Sixteen years
afterwards Florida was given them. And then they began to turn their
desiring eyes upon the rich and fertile plains of Texas. They gained
admission to these by an artifice worthy of men who were accustomed to
set at naught all the rights of humanity. In 1819 a man named Austin,
then living in Missouri, went to Spain, represented to the King that
the Roman Catholics in the United States were subjected to grievous
persecutions, and supplicated for them an asylum in Mexico. His pious
Majesty, deeply moved by this appeal, made a very large and gratuitous
grant of land of the finest quality to Austin and his associates on
this one condition, that they should introduce within a limited time a
certain number of Roman Catholic settlers “of good moral character.”
This condition was complied with, and thus our Southern slaveholders
gained a foothold in Texas. They were diligent to confirm and extend
their possession by the sale of immense quantities of land to intended
settlers and to land jobbers throughout the Southern States. Thus
commenced what erelong became “one of the most stupendous systems of
bribery and corruption ever devised by man.”

In 1821 Mexico became independent of the Spanish crown, and soon after
confirmed the royal grant to the settlers in her province of Texas. In
1824 the Mexican Government adopted some measures preparatory to the
manumission of slaves, and in 1829 decreed the complete and immediate
emancipation of all in bonds throughout their borders.

The vigilant Southerners were of course alarmed. A nation of freemen
adjoining them on the Southwest! A door thrown wide open for the
easy escape of fugitives from their tyrannous grasp!! Something
must be done to avert the threatened evil. Mr. Benton, of Missouri,
in 1829, broached the scheme of the annexation of Texas, and the
re-establishment of slavery there. He urged this as obviously
necessary: first, in order to prevent the easy and continual escape of
their slaves into an adjoining free country, the government of which
had persistently refused to return the fugitives; second, to open a
new field for slave labor, which was rapidly exhausting the soil of
the old States, and a new market for the slaves of those States which,
no longer capable of producing large crops, might still be sustained
in population and political power by becoming the nurseries of slaves
for the immense territory, to be obtained from Mexico by purchase or
force; third, by adding to the number of slave States, to provide new
securities for the continued ascendency of the slaveholders’ influence
in the government of the nation.

This last reason was probably the most momentous in the estimation of
Southern statesmen. For the Texas, which they aimed to annex to our
country, they foresaw might from time to time be divided and subdivided
into seven States as large as New York, or into forty-three States
as large as Massachusetts. Thus might the majority of the United
States Senate be kept always ready to support any measure favorable
to the interests of the slaveholding aristocracy, which had assumed
the government of our Republic. Mr. Calhoun openly declared that
“the measure of annexation is calculated and designed to uphold the
institution of slavery, extend its influence, and secure its permanent

The devoted, indefatigable, self-sacrificing, Benjamin Lundy, was
living in Missouri at the time when Mr. Benton first proposed the
Texas scheme, and at once gave him battle, so far as he was permitted
to do it, in the newspapers of that State. Afterwards on removing to
Maryland and establishing there his own paper, _The Genius of Universal
Emancipation_, he did all in his power to alarm the country. He went
to Texas and, at great personal hazard, traversed that country and
gathered a large amount of most important information, revealing the
spirit of the settlers there and the designs of the projectors and
managers of the scheme.

He did not labor in vain. The leading National Republican papers in
the free States seconded his efforts. Especially my good friend and
classmate David Lee Child, Esq., as early as 1829, when editor of _The
Massachusetts Journal_, emphatically denounced the dismemberment and
robbery of Mexico for the protection and perpetuation of slavery in
the United States. And he manfully contended against that nefarious,
execrable plot until further opposition was made useless, as we shall
see, by the perpetration of the great iniquity in 1845. In 1835 Mr.
Child addressed a number of carefully prepared letters to Mr. Edward
S. Abdy, a philanthropic English gentleman, hoping thereby to awaken
the attention of British Abolitionists. In 1836 he wrote nine or
ten able articles on the impending evil, that were published in a
Philadelphia paper. The next year he went to France and England. In
Paris he addressed an elaborate memoir to the “Société pour l’Abolition
d’Esclavage,” and in London he published in the _Eclectic Review_ a
full exposition of the interest which the British nation ought to
take in utterly extinguishing the slave-trade, and preventing the
re-establishment of slavery in Texas, and the aggrandizement of the
unprincipled slaveholding power in that country, larger than the whole
of France. No two persons did so much to prevent the annexation of
Texas as did Benjamin Lundy and David L. Child. They undoubtedly
furnished the Hon. John Q. Adams with much of the information and
some of the weapons that he plied with so much vigor on the floor
of Congress; but, alas! as the event proved, with so little effect
to prevent the great transgression which the Southern statesmen
led our nation to commit. At first the indignation of the people
in many of the free States at the proposed extension of the domain
of slaveholders, and the confirmation of their ascendency in the
government of our nation, seemed to be general, deep, and fervent. In
1838 the legislatures of Massachusetts, Ohio, and Rhode Island, with
great unanimity, passed resolutions, earnestly and solemnly protesting
against the annexation of Texas to our Union, and declaring that no act
done, or compact made for that purpose, by the government of the United
States would be binding on the States or the people.

For a while it seemed as if the villany was averted; but it was started
again in 1843, and from that time until its consummation the protests
of the above-named States were renewed with frequent repetition and,
if possible, in still more emphatic language. No party within their
borders ventured to take the side of the slaveholders. Connecticut and
New Jersey at that time joined in the protest. Massachusetts of course
took the lead. Meetings of the people, to declare their opposition to
the proposed outrage upon the Union, were held in many of the principal
towns of the State. At length, when the resolutions providing for the
annexation were pending in both Houses of Congress, a great convention
of her citizens met in Faneuil Hall, to make known their displeasure
in a still more impressive tone and manner. The call to the meeting
was signed by prominent men of all parties. It invited the cities and
towns of the Commonwealth to send as many delegates to the Convention
as they could legally send representatives to the General Court. This
took place in January, 1845, only three months before my removal to
Syracuse. I was then living in Lexington. A town-meeting was held there
to respond to the call to Faneuil Hall, by the choice of two delegates.
To my great surprise I was chosen one of the two, and General Chandler,
high sheriff of the county, was the other. But unutterable was my
astonishment when, on coming into the Convention, I found William Lloyd
Garrison seated among the members, sent thither with other delegates
by the votes of a large majority of the Tenth Ward of the city of
Boston, where he resided. This did, indeed, betoken a marvellous
change in the sentiments and feelings of the community. He, who a
few years before had been dragged through the streets with a halter,
by a mob of “gentlemen of property and standing,” clamoring for his
immediate execution, was there in the “Cradle of Liberty,” member of a
Convention that comprised the men of Massachusetts who were accustomed
to represent, on important occasions, the intelligence, the patriotism,
and weight of character of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Garrison addressed the Convention, and was listened to with
respectful attention. I need not say that he spoke in a manner worthy
of the place and the occasion, and in perfect consistency with his
avowed principles. The chief business done by the Convention was the
issuing of an elaborate, carefully prepared Address to the people of
the United States, setting forth the reasons why Texas should not be
annexed to our Republic, and why we ought not to submit to such a
violation of the Constitution of our Union, and such an outrage upon
the territory and institutions of an adjoining nation. Mr. Garrison
published the document in his _Liberator_ of the next week and said,
“The Address of the Convention was, as a whole, a most forcible and
eloquent document, worthy to be read of all men, and to be preserved to
the latest posterity. It was adopted unanimously, after a disclaimer by
Samuel J. May and myself of that portion of it which seeks to vindicate
the United States Constitution from the charge of guaranteeing
protection to slavery.” I was irresistibly impelled to ask that that
part of the otherwise admirable Address might be omitted, because it
would obliterate the most momentous lesson taught in the history of
our nation,--namely, that the reluctant, indirect, inferential consent
given by the framers of our Republic to the continuance of slavery in
the land--not any deliberate explicit guaranty--had countenanced and
sustained the friends of that “System of Iniquity,” from generation
to generation, in violating the inalienable rights of millions of our
fellow-beings, and had brought upon us, who are opposed to that system,
the evils of political discord, national disgrace, and the fear of
national disruption and ruin.

I urged the Convention to acknowledge distinctly that, “under the
commonly received interpretation of the Constitution, we have hitherto
been giving our countenance and support to the slaveholders in their
outrages upon humanity, the fundamental rights of man,--an iniquity
of which we will no longer be guilty. We have been roused from our
insensibility to the wrongs we have wickedly consented should be
inflicted upon others--”the least of the brethren“--by the discovery
of the evils we have thereby brought upon ourselves, and the ruin
that awaits our nation if we do not stay the iniquity where it is,
and commence at once the work “meet for the repentance” that alone
can save us,--the extermination of slavery from our borders.” “Let
this Convention declare, that we certainly will not consent to the
extension of slavery,--no, not an inch. And if they urge to its
consummation the annexation of Texas, in the way they propose, they
will, by so doing, trample the Constitution under foot, set at naught
some of its most important provisions, grossly violate the compact of
our United States, and therefore absolve us from all obligations to
respect it or live under it any longer.”

Mr. Garrison urged that the Address should be further amended by adding
that, if our protest and remonstrance shall be disregarded, and Texas
be annexed, then shall the Committee of the Convention call another at
the same place; that then and there Massachusetts shall declare the
union of these States dissolved, and invite all the States, that may be
disposed, to reunite with her as a Republic based truly upon the grand
principles of the Declaration of Independence. Although his motion was
not carried by the Convention, it was received with great favor by a
large portion of the members and other auditors; and he sat down amidst
the most hearty bursts of applause.

It seemed as if the opposition of Massachusetts and other States to
annexation was too strong, and the reasons urged against it were too
weighty, to be disregarded by the legislators, the guardians of the
nation. The contest waxed and waned throughout the whole of the year
1845. A petition signed by fifty thousand persons was sent to Congress
at its opening in December of that year. But several prominent Whig
members of Congress from the Southern States were found, in the end, to
care more for the perpetuation of slavery than for their party or their
principles. And certain members from the free States (one even from
Massachusetts) were plied by considerations and alarmed by threats,
which the Southern statesmen knew so well how to wield, until they gave
way, and suffered the nefarious, the abominable, unconstitutional,
disastrous deed to be done,--_Texas to be annexed_.

Late in the year 1845, when some of the hitherto opposers were
evidently about to yield, Mr. D. L. Child, as a final effort against
the consummation of the great iniquity, prepared an admirable article
for the _New York Tribune_, under the title,--“Taking Naboth’s
Vineyard.” But alas! “considerations” had affected Mr. Greeley’s mind
also, and he refused to publish it. Mr. Child then hired him to publish
the article in a supplement to his paper, and paid him sixty dollars
for the service. But instead of treating it as a supplement is wont to
be treated, instead of distributing it coextensively with the principal
issue, my friend tells me that Mr. Greeley, having supplied the members
of the two Houses of Congress each with a copy, sent the residue
of the edition to him. So strangely have political considerations,
particularly those suggested by slaveholding statesmen, influenced the
politicians of the North.

Other besides political considerations were no doubt plied to affect
the votes of the representatives of the free States. It was reported at
the time that no less than forty of them had their pockets stuffed with
Texas scrip, which would become very valuable if annexation should be


In April, 1845, I came to reside in Syracuse. Having visited the place
twice before, I was pretty well acquainted with the characters of
the people with whom I should be associated, and the rapidly growing
importance of the town, owing to its central position and its staple
product. During each of my visits I had delivered antislavery lectures
to good audiences, and found quite a number of individuals here who had
accepted the doctrines of the Immediate Abolitionists. Mr. Garrison,
Gerrit Smith, Mr. Douglass, and others, had lectured in Syracuse
several times, and, though at first insulted and repulsed, they had
convinced so many people of the justice of their demands for the
enslaved, and of the disastrous influence of the “peculiar institution”
of our Southern States, that the community had come to respect somewhat
the right of any who pleased to hold antislavery meetings. The minister
and many of the members of the Orthodox Congregational Church, as well
as the Unitarian, were decided Abolitionists, and several members of
the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist churches openly favored the
great reform.

On the first of the following August, at the invitation of a large
number of the citizens, I delivered an address on British West India
Emancipation from the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church, and it
was published by the request of a large number of the auditors,--half
of them members of one or another of the orthodox sects.

On the 10th of the next month a large meeting was held in the
Congregational Church to uphold the freedom of the press, and to
protest against the alarming assault that had been made upon that
palladium of our liberties in Kentucky, by the violent suppression of
_The True American_,--a paper established and edited by Hon. Cassius
M. Clay, to urge upon his fellow-citizens the self-evident truths of
our Declaration of Independence, and their application to the colored
population of that State. Our meeting was officered by some of the most
prominent and highly respected citizens of Syracuse. And after several
excellent speeches, a series of very pertinent, explicit, emphatic
antislavery resolutions was unanimously adopted. Thus was my great
regret at being removed so far from the New England Abolitionists
assuaged by the sympathy and co-operation of many of my new neighbors
and fellow-citizens.

On another account I had reason to rejoice in my removal to this
place. Here I found myself within a few miles of the residence of
Gerrit Smith, and very soon was brought into an intimate acquaintance
with that pre-eminent philanthropist. Here I must indulge myself in
telling some of the much that I have known of the benefactions of this
magnificent giver.

If I have been correctly informed, Mr. Smith obtained by inheritance
from his father and by purchase from his fellow-heirs (besides much
other property) _seven hundred and fifty thousand acres of land_ lying
in various parts of New York and of several other States. Erelong he
became deeply impressed by a sense of his responsibility to God for
the right use of such an immense portion of the earth’s surface,--the
common heritage of man. He could not believe that it had been given him
merely for his own gratification or aggrandizement. He received it as a
trust committed to him for the benefit of others. He felt as a steward,
who would have to give an account of the estate intrusted to his care.
He contrasted his condition with that of others,--he the possessor of
an amount of land which no one man could occupy and improve,--millions
of his fellow-men, inhabitants of the same country, without a rood
that they could call their own and fix upon it the humblest home. He
profoundly pitied the landless, and earnestly set himself to consider
the best way in which to bestow portions of his estate upon those who
needed them most.

The father of Mr. Smith, like most other gentlemen of his day in New
York, was a slaveholder until many years after the Revolution. Gerrit
was accustomed to slavery through his childhood, and until he was old
enough to judge for himself of its essential and terrible iniquity. He
has repeatedly assured me that, although the bondage of his father’s
negroes was of the mildest type, he early saw that slaveholding was
egregiously wrong, and sympathized deeply with the enslaved. He
rejoiced when the law of the State, in 1827, prohibited utterly its
continuance, and immediately felt that all that could be should be
done to repair the injuries it had inflicted upon those who had been
subjected to it. He longed for the entire, immediate abolition of the
great iniquity throughout the land. He early joined the Colonization
Society, believing that the tendency of the plan, as well as the
intention of many of its Southern patrons, was to effect the subversion
and overthrow of that gigantic system of wickedness. Notwithstanding
the exposures of its duplicity made by Mr. Garrison and Judge William
Jay, he retained his confidence in the Colonization Society, and
contributed generously to its funds, until near the close of the year
1835. At that time, as I have stated heretofore, Mr. Smith became fully
convinced that the Society was opposed to the emancipation of our
enslaved countrymen, unless followed by their expatriation. Thereupon
he paid three thousand dollars, the balance due on his subscription to
its funds, and withdrew forever from the Colonization Society, to which
he had contributed at least _ten thousand_ dollars.

This discovery that even these professed friends of our colored people,
with whom he had been co-operating, were planning to get them out
of the country, and proposed to make their _removal_ the condition
of their release from slavery, roused Mr. Smith to new efforts and
still more generous contributions of money for their relief. He not
only joined the American and the New York Antislavery Societies, and
gave very largely to the funds of each,--in all not less than _fifty
thousand_ dollars,--but, he set about endeavoring to get as many free
colored men as possible settled upon lands and in homes of their own.
Before the middle of 1847 he had given an average of forty acres apiece
to three thousand colored men, in all one hundred and twenty thousand
acres. He did me the honor to appoint me one of the almoners of this
bounty, so I am not left merely to conjecture how much time and caution
were put in requisition to insure as far as practicable the judicious
bestowment of these parcels of land. The only conditions prescribed by
the donor were, that the receivers of his acres should be known to be
landless, strictly temperate and honest men.

Mr. Smith exerted himself in various ways to secure the blessings of
_education_ to those of the proscribed race who were at liberty to
receive them. He established and for a number of years maintained a
school in Peterboro’, to which colored people came from far and near.
He was an early and very liberal patron of Oneida Institute, the
doors of which were ever open, without any respect to complexion or
race. He gave to that school several thousand dollars, and upwards of
three thousand acres in Vermont, besides land contracts upon which
considerable sums were still due.

Mr. Smith did much more for Oberlin College, because of its hospitality
to colored pupils and those of both sexes as well as all complexions.
He gave to it outright between five and six thousand dollars, and
twenty thousand acres of land in Virginia, from the sales of which the
college must have derived more than fifty thousand dollars.

Moreover, the unsuccessful attempt to establish and maintain New York
Central College at McGrawville, where colored and white young men and
women were well instructed together for a few years, cost Mr. Smith
four or five thousand dollars.

But I cannot leave my readers to infer from my silence that his
benefactions were confined wholly or mainly to colored persons. His
gifts to other needy ones, and to institutions for their benefit, were
more numerous and larger than he himself has been careful to record.
Many of them have come to my knowledge, and I will so far depart from
the main object of my book as to mention two.

In 1850 Mr. Smith called upon me and other friends to assist him in
selecting five hundred poor white men, strictly temperate and honest,
to each of whom he would give forty acres. And having learnt that some
of his colored beneficiaries had been unable to raise means enough to
remove with their families to the lands he had given them, he added ten
dollars apiece to the portions that he gave to the white men.

Not satisfied with these bestowments, yearning over the poverty of
the many who had little or nothing in a world where he had so much,
and having given fifty dollars to each of a hundred and forty poor,
worthy women, whose wants had been brought to his consideration, he
again requested me and others to find out in our neighborhoods five
hundred worthy widowed or single poor white women, to whom such a
donation would be especially helpful, that he might have the pleasure
of bestowing upon them also fifty dollars apiece. I need not say that
these unasked, unexpected gifts carried great relief and joy wherever
they were sent.

But such labors of love, although so grateful to his benevolent
heart, were _labors_. Then Mr. Smith’s sympathy with his suffering
fellow-beings, whom he could not immediately relieve, and his lively
interest and hearty co-operation in all moral and social reforms,
were unavoidably wearing. As might have been expected, his health was
impaired and at length gave away. In the latter part of 1858 he had a
serious attack of typhoid fever, which was followed by months of mental
prostration. And after his recovery he was obliged for a long while to
be sparing of himself, especially avoiding exciting scenes and subjects.

This incident in the life of my noble friend came upon him when he was
planning a magnificent enterprise for the public good. His enlightened
benevolence prompted him to devise an institution for the highest
education of youths of both sexes, and all complexions and races. It
was to be a university based upon the most advanced principles of
intellectual and moral culture. He disclosed his intention to his
intimate friend and legal adviser, the late Hon. Timothy Jenkins, of
Oneida, and to myself, informing us that he meant to appropriate five
hundred thousand dollars to its accomplishment. At his request I made
known his purpose to the late Hon. Horace Mann, whom we regarded as
the best adapted to develop the plan and preside over the execution
of it, and who we thought would like to take charge of an educational
institution that might from the beginning be ordered so much in
accordance with his own enlarged ideas; but he promptly declined the
invitation, being, as he said, too far committed to Antioch College.

Mr. Mann’s refusal deferred the undertaking, and no other one,
who could be had, appearing to Mr. Smith to be just the person to
whose conduct he should be willing to commit the university, it was
postponed until his alarming sickness and protracted debility, and the
threatening aspect of our national affairs, led him to dismiss the
project altogether. So he distributed among his nephews and nieces the
larger part of the money he had intended to expend as I have stated

Shortly after, our awful civil war broke out. Of this he could not be a
silent or inactive spectator. He freely gave his money, his influence,
himself, to the cause of his country in every way that a private
citizen of infirm health could. He not only gave many thousand dollars
to promote the enlistment of white soldiers in his town and county,
but he offered to equip a whole regiment of _colored_ men, if the
governor of the State would put one in commission. But, alas! the chief
magistrate of New York was not another John A. Andrew.

Mr. Smith contributed largely to the funds of the Sanitary Commission,
and not a little to the Christian Commission; and he kindly cared
for many families at home that had been called to part with fathers,
husbands, or sons, on whom they were dependent.

So soon as the grand project of establishing schools for the freedmen
was started, Mr. Smith entered into it with his wonted zeal and
generosity. I have heard often of his donations larger or smaller, and
have not a doubt that he has contributed as much as any other person in
our country.

I need not say that it has indeed been a great benefit, as well as joy,
to me to have been brought to know so intimately, and to co-operate
so much as I have done, for more than twenty years, with such a
philanthropist as Gerrit Smith.

Not alone by his bountiful gifts of land and money has he mightily
helped the cause of our cruelly oppressed and despised countrymen.
He has spoken often, and written abundantly in their behalf,--always
faithfully, sometimes with exceeding power. I am sure there is not an
individual in Central New York, I doubt if there be one in our whole
country, unless he has been an agent or appointed lecturer of some
Antislavery Society, who has attended so many antislavery meetings,
has made so many antislavery speeches, and written and published so
many antislavery letters, as has our honored and beloved brother of
Peterboro’, always excepting, of course, those devotees, Mr. Garrison
and Mr. Phillips. I shall have occasion hereafter to tell of one or
more of his timely and most effective speeches.

Mr. Smith has entertained and freely expressed some opinions that have
been peculiar to himself, and has done some things that have appeared
eccentric; but I believe that he has never consciously done or said
anything unfriendly to an oppressed or despised fellow-being, white or


The most serious obstacle to the progress of the antislavery cause was
the conduct of the clergy and churches in our country. Perhaps it would
be more proper to say the churches and the clergy, for it was only too
obvious that, in the wrong course which they took, the shepherds were
driven by the sheep. The influential members of the churches,--“the
gentlemen of property and standing,”--still more the politicians, who
“of course understood better than ministers the Constitution of the
United States, and the guaranties that were given to slaveholders
by the framers of our Union,”--these gentlemen, too important to be
alienated, were permitted to direct the action of the churches, and
the preaching of their pastors on this “delicate question,” “this
exciting topic.” Consequently the histories of the several religious
denominations in our country (with very small exceptions) evince, from
the time of our Revolution, a continual decline of respect for the
rights of colored persons, and of disapproval of their enslavement.
In the early days of our Republic--until after 1808--all the
religious sects in the land, I believe, gave more or less emphatic
testimonies against enslaving fellow-men, especially against the
African slave-trade. But after that accursed traffic was nominally
abolished, the zeal of its opponents subsided (not very slowly) to
acquiescence in the condition of those who had long been enslaved and
their descendants. “They are used to it”; “they seem happy enough”;
“unconscious of their degradation”; it was said. Then “the labor of
slaves is indispensable to their owners, especially on the rich, virgin
soils of the Southern States.” “It is sad,” said the semi-apologists,
“but so it is. The condition of laboring people everywhere is hard,
and we are by no means sure that the condition of the slaves is worse,
if so bad as, that of many laborers elsewhere who are nominally free.”
“Many masters,” it was added, “are very kind to their slaves; feed them
and clothe them well, and never overwork them, unless it is absolutely
necessary.” But the consciences of the doubting were quieted more than
all by the plea that “in one respect certainly the condition of the
enslaved Africans has been immensely improved by their transportation
to our country. Here they are introduced to the knowledge of ‘the way
of salvation’; here many of them become Christians. As Joseph through
his bondage in Egypt was led to the highest position in that empire,
next only to the king, so these poor, benighted heathen, by being
brought in slavery to our land, may be led to become children of the
King of kings, so wonderful are the ways of Divine Providence.” By
these and similar palliations and apologies, the people of almost
every religious sect at the South, and their Methodist or Baptist
or Presbyterian or Episcopalian brethren at the North, were led to
overlook the _essential_ evil, the tremendous wrong of slavery, and to
hope and trust that God would, in due time, by his inscrutable method,
bring some inestimable good out of this great evil.

Accordingly, we find, on turning to the doings of the great
ecclesiastical bodies of our country, that they have descended from
their very distinct protests against the enslavement of men, in 1780,
1789, 1794, &c., to palliations of the “sum of all villanies,” as
Wesley called it,--and apologies for it, and justifications of it, and
explicit, biblical defences of it, until at length--after Mr. Garrison
and his co-laborers arose, demanding for the slaves their inalienable
right to liberty--the churches and ministers of all denominations
(excepting the Freewill Baptists and Scotch Covenanters) gathered
about the “Peculiar Institution” for its _protection_; and vehemently
denounced as incendiaries, disunionists, infidels, all those who
insisted upon its abolition.[Q]

This, I repeat, was the most serious obstacle to the progress of our
antislavery reform. In 1830, and for several years afterwards, the
influence of the clergy and the churches was paramount in our Northern,
if not in the Southern communities; certainly it was second only to
the love of money. The people generally, then, were wont to take for
granted that what the ministers and church-members approved must be
morally right, and what they so vehemently denounced must be morally
wrong. Accordingly, the most violent conflicts we had, and the most
outrageous mobs we encountered, were led on or instigated by persons
professing to be religious.

If the clergy and churches have less influence over the people now than
they had forty years ago, it must be in a great measure because the
people find that they were wofully deceived by them as to the character
of slavery, and misled to oppose its abolition, until the slaveholders,
encouraged by their Northern abettors, dared to attempt the dissolution
of our Union, and so brought on our late civil war, in which hundreds
of thousands of the people were killed, and an immense debt imposed
upon this and succeeding generations.

In justice, however, to the professing Christians of our country,
it should be recorded that very much the larger portions of our
antislavery host were recruited from the churches of all denominations,
though some persons who made no pretensions to a religious character
rendered us signal services. It ought also to be stated that more of
the antislavery lecturers, agents, and devoted laborers had been of the
_ministerial_ profession than of any other of the callings of men, in
proportion to the numbers of each. Still, it cannot be denied that the
most formidable opposition we had to contend against was that which was
made by the ministers and churches and ecclesiastical authorities. When
the true history of the antislavery conflict shall be fully written,
and the sayings and doings of preachers, theological professors,
editors of religious periodicals, and of Presbyteries, Associations,
Conferences, and General Assemblies, shall be spread before the people
in the light of our enlarged liberty, no one will fail to see that,
practically, the worst enemies of truth, righteousness, and humanity
were of those who professed to be the friends and followers of Christ.
Had _they_ been generally faithful and fearless in behalf of the
oppressed, no other opponents would have dared to withstand the just
demand for their immediate emancipation.

Mr. Garrison, who was and is by nature and education an unfeignedly
religious man, felt that he ought to look first to the clergy and the
professing Christians for sympathy, and should confidently expect their
co-operation. Indeed, he knew that if they would heartily espouse the
cause of our enslaved countrymen, he might, without unfaithfulness
to them, retire to some printing-office, and get his living as he
had been trained to do. His disappointment and astonishment were
unspeakable when he found how blind and deaf and dumb the preachers of
the Gospel were in view of the unparalleled iniquity of our nation,
and the inestimable wrongs that were allowed to be inflicted upon
millions of the people. It was as painful to him and his associates
as it was necessary, to expose to the people the infidelity of their
religious teachers and guides; to show them that, not only had the
statesmen and politicians of our country become fearfully corrupted by
consenting with slaveholders, but also the bishops, priests, ministers
of religion. All, with few exceptions, had lost faith in the true and
the right, and in the God of truth and righteousness. They were afraid
to obey the Divine Law, and bowed rather to the commandments of men.
They respected a compromise more than a principle, and trusted to what
seemed politic rather than to that which was self-evidently right. “The
whole _head_ of our nation was sick, and the whole _heart_ was faint.
From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there seemed to be no
soundness in it.” “Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very
small remnant, we should have been as Sodom; we should have been like
unto Gomorrah.”


It must have been observed by my readers that, in speaking above of
the sympathy and co-operation of the Northern ministers and churches
with their slaveholding brethren in the Southern States, I did not name
Universalists and Unitarians among the guilty sects. This was because I
reserved them for a separate, and the Unitarians for a more particular
notice. Of the course pursued by the Universalists I have known but
little. There are very few churches of their denomination in any of the
slaveholding States; in most of them, I believe, not one. They claimed
the Rev. Theodore Clapp, of New Orleans, a preacher of distinguished
ability, and in some respects a very estimable gentleman, but who was
one of the most unblushing advocates of slavery in the country. In a
sermon preached at New Orleans, April 15, 1838, he said: “The venerable
patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others were all slaveholders.
In all probability each possessed a greater number of bondmen and
bondwomen than any planter now living in Louisiana or Mississippi.”
“The same God who gave Abraham sunshine, air, rain, earth, flocks,
herds, silver, and gold _blessed him with a donative of slaves_. Here
we see God dealing in slaves, giving them to his favorite child,--a
man of superlative worth, and as a reward for his eminent goodness.”
These extracts are not an exaggerated specimen of the whole discourse.
A few years afterwards, it was rumored that Mr. Clapp had essentially
modified his opinions as above expressed. This rumor brought out an
explanation in _The New Orleans Picayune_ (probably from himself),
to the effect that, “Christian philanthropy does not require the
immediate emancipation of slaves.” “Whilst one lives in a slave State,
he is bound by Christianity to submit to its laws touching slavery.”
“Christianity does not propose to release the obligations of slaves to
their masters.” I am not informed that his Universalist brethren at
the North ever passed any censure upon him for such misrepresentations
of our Heavenly Father, and of the duty of men to their oppressed


In commencing the discreditable account I must give of the proslavery
conduct of the Unitarian denomination, I may as well record the fact,
of which the mention of Rev. Theodore Clapp reminds me. Notwithstanding
the utterance of such sentiments as I have just now quoted, none of
which had been retracted or apologized for, a few years afterwards Mr.
Clapp was specially invited by a committee of Boston Unitarians to
attend their religious anniversaries; and his letter in reply was read
in their principal meeting, where, perhaps, a thousand persons were
present, including a large number of ministers and prominent laymen,
without any remonstrance or rebuke to those who had invited him.

But before I proceed further with the disagreeable narrative, let
me state, to the honor of the sect, that though a very small one
in comparison with those called Orthodox (having at this day not
more than three hundred and sixty ministers, and in 1853 only two
hundred and seven), we Unitarians have given to the antislavery cause
more preachers, writers, lecturers, agents, poets, than any other
denomination in proportion to our numbers, if not more without that
comparison. Of those Unitarian ministers no longer on earth, we hold in
most grateful remembrance Dr. N. Worcester, Dr. Follen, Dr. Channing,
Dr. S. Willard, Theodore Parker, John Pierpont, Dr. H. Ware, Jr., and
A. H. Conant. Others, though less outspoken, were always explicitly
on the side of the oppressed,--Dr. Lowell, Dr. C. Francis, Dr. E. B.
Hall, G. F. Simmons, E. Q. Sewall, B. Whitman, N. A. Staples, S. Judd,
B. Frost. Of those who are still in the body, we gratefully claim as
fellow-laborers in the antislavery cause Drs. J. G. Palfrey, W. H.
Furness, J. F. Clarke, T. T. Stone, J. Allen, G. W. Briggs, R. P.
Stebbins, O. Stearns, and Rev. Messrs. S. May, Jr., C. Stetson, W. H.
Channing, M. D. Conway, O. B. Frothingham, J. Parkman, Jr., J. T.
Sargent, N. Hall, A. A. Livermore, J. L. Russell, J. H. Heywood, T. W.
Higginson, R. W. Emerson, S. Longfellow, S. Johnson, F. Frothingham,
W. H. Knapp, R. F. Wallcut, R. Collyer, E. B. Willson, W. P. Tilden,
W. H. Fish, C. G. Ames, John Weiss, R. C. Waterston, T. J. Mumford,
C. C. Shackford, F. W. Holland, E. Buckingham, C. C. Sewall, F.
Tiffany, R. R. Shippen. All these are or were Unitarian preachers,
and did service in the conflict. Many of them suffered obloquy,
persecution, loss, because of their fidelity to the principles of
impartial liberty. I may have forgotten some whose names should stand
in this honored list. I have mentioned all whose services I remember to
have witnessed or to have heard of. How small a portion of the whole
number of our ministers during the last forty years!

The Unitarians as a body dealt with the question of slavery in any
but an impartial, courageous, and Christian way. Continually in
their public meetings the question was staved off and driven out,
because of technical, formal, verbal difficulties which were of no
real importance, and ought not to have caused a moment’s hesitation.
Avowing among their distinctive doctrines, “The _fatherly character_
of God as reflected in his Son Jesus Christ,” and “_The brotherhood of
man with man everywhere_,” we had a right to expect from Unitarians
a steadfast and unqualified protest against so unjust, tyrannical,
and cruel a system as that of American slavery. And considering their
position as a body, not entangled with any proslavery alliances, not
hampered by any ecclesiastical organization, it does seem to me that
they were _pre-eminently guilty_ in reference to the enslavement of
the millions in our land with its attendant wrongs, cruelties, horrors.
They, of all other sects, ought to have spoken boldly, as one man,
for _God our Father_, for _Jesus the all-loving Saviour and Elder
Brother_, and for _Humanity_, especially where it was outraged _in the
least of the brethren_. But they did not. They refused to speak as a
body, and censured, condemned, execrated their members who did speak
faithfully for the down-trodden, and who co-operated with him whom a
merciful Providence sent as the prophet of the reform, which alone
could have saved our country from our late awful civil war. Let no
honor be withheld from the individuals who were so prominent and noble
exceptions to the general policy of the denomination,--the ministers
whom I have named above, together with those faithful laymen, Samuel
E. Sewall, Francis Jackson, David L. Child, Ellis Gray Loring, Edmund
Quincy, A. Bronson Alcott, Dr. H. I. Bowditch, William I. Bowditch,
with others; and those excellent women, Mrs. L. M. Child, Mrs. Maria W.
Chapman, Mrs. Follen, Miss Cabot, Mrs. Mary May, Misses Weston, Misses
Chapman, Miss Sargent, and more who should be named; let no honor be
withheld from these and such as they were. But let the sad truth be
plainly told, as a solemn warning to all coming generations, that even
the Unitarians, as a body, were corrupted and morally paralyzed by our
national consenting with slaveholders, even the Unitarians to whose
avowed faith in the paternity of God, the brotherhood of all mankind,
and the divinity of human nature, the enslavement of men should have
been especially abhorrent. On a subsequent page I shall have occasion
to tell of their most glaring dereliction of duty to the enslaved, and
those who were ready to help them out of bondage. Meanwhile I must
state some facts in support of my allegations against the sect to
which I belong and with which I shall labor for the dissemination of
our _most precious faith_ so long as life and strength remain.

In 1843 the subject of the slavery of millions in our land was brought
before the American Unitarian Association by Rev. John Parkman, Jr. But
it was not discussed. It was put aside as a matter about which there
were serious differences of opinion among the members, and with which
that body, therefore, had better not meddle.

Early in 1844 an address on the subject was sent from British
Unitarians to their brethren in America. It was an able, affectionate,
respectful appeal to us, signed by one hundred and eighty-five
ministers. A meeting of the Unitarian clergy was held in Boston to
consider and reply to it. But it seemed to be regarded by many, and
was spoken of by some, as an _impertinence_. “Our British brethren,”
it was said, “are interfering in a matter which is beset with peculiar
difficulties in this country, about which they know little or nothing.”
And my cousin, Rev. Samuel May, Jr., of Leicester, who had visited
England the year before, was severely censured for having encouraged
our brethren there thus to meddle. Here let me say, few have labored so
diligently, faithfully, disinterestedly, as Mr. May has in the cause of
the slaves. And no one of our denomination has taken so much pains to
prevent the Unitarians from committing themselves to the wrong side, or
failing to do their duty on the right side, of every question relating
to slavery. For this fidelity he has received anything but the thanks
of most of the brethren. Here and elsewhere I am bound to tell what I
know of him, for owing to the similarity of our names, and the sameness
of our connections with the Antislavery Societies, many of _his_ good
words and deeds have been attributed to _me_ by those who do not know
both of us.

At the Autumnal Unitarian Conference held at Worcester, Mass., October,
1842, he offered a series of resolutions, setting forth the great
extent, the appalling evils, and fearful wickedness of slavery, and
endeavored to bring the Conference to resolve: “That, as ministers and
disciples of Jesus Christ, we feel bound to declare our solemn opinion,
that the institution of slavery is radically and inherently opposite
to his religion; that it ought to be immediately abandoned by all
who profess to be Christians; and that we do affectionately admonish
and entreat all who hold ‘the like precious faith’ with us, to free
themselves at once from the guilt of sustaining this evil thing.” There
was manifested a great unwillingness to express any opinion upon the
subject, and the Conference adjourned without taking action upon it.

When in England, in the summer of 1843, Mr. May attended a large
meeting of Unitarians. Having been invited to address them, and to
speak particularly upon the subject of slavery in America, and of
the attitude of our denomination towards the great iniquity, he did
speak at considerable length. But he gave a very truthful and candid
statement of the case as it then was. He set before his British hearers
the influences which tended to mislead even the most kindly disposed
in this country, and the obstacles and difficulties that beset the
way of those who were most resolute in the cause of the enslaved. He
acknowledged gratefully, generously, the important services which
Dr. Follen, Dr. Channing, and other Unitarian ministers and laymen
had rendered. But he was obliged, as a man of truth, to confess that
our denomination as a whole had been recreant to their duty. And he
encouraged our English brethren to address a letter of fraternal
counsel and entreaty to us, not doubting that such a communication
would be gratefully received by the American Unitarians as coming from
those who had had to contend against a similar system of iniquity, and
had helped their national government to abolish it. But I have already
stated how utterly disappointed he was in the result.

Soon after his return from England, at the annual meeting of the
American Unitarian Association in May, 1844, he again brought up the
subject, and earnestly endeavored, with others, to induce that body to
vote that slaveholding was anti-republican, inhuman, and unchristian.
It led to a protracted discussion of two days or more, which resulted
in nothing else than a vote of censure passed upon the Unitarian Church
in Savannah, Georgia, because they refused to receive the services of
the Rev. Mr. Motte, sent to them by the Executive Committee of the
Association, having heard that he had protested in a sermon against the
wrongs inflicted upon the colored people both at the North and South.

Henry H. Fuller, of Boston, strenuously opposed the introduction of
the subject of slavery to the consideration of the Association in
any way. “We of the North have nothing to do with it. It is a system
of labor established in some of our sister States by their highest
legislative authority. It was consented to by the framers of our
National Constitution, and guaranties given for its protection,” &c.,
&c. After much more of the same sort, he gave way for Mr. May to offer
the following resolutions, instead of those by which he had called up
the debate:--

  1. “_Resolved_, That the American Unitarian Association, desirous
  that the pecuniary or other aid rendered by them from time to time
  to individuals and societies in the slaveholding sections of our
  country should not be misunderstood or misconstrued, do hereby
  declare their conviction that the institution of slavery, as
  existing in this country, is contrary to the will of God, to the
  Gospel of Christ (especially to the views which _we_ entertain
  of it), to the rights of man, and to every principle of justice
  and humanity; and in a spirit not of dictation, but of friendly
  remonstrance and entreaty, would call upon those whom they may
  address, as believers in one God and Father of all, to bear a
  faithful testimony against slavery.

  2. “_Resolved_, That the Executive Committee be, and they hereby
  are, requested to transmit a copy of the preceding resolution to
  each of our auxiliary Associations, and to such societies in the
  slaveholding sections of the country as may from time to time
  receive pecuniary aid from this Association.”

Dr. J. H. Morison objected to any action by the meeting. “1st. Because
we shall thereby lose our influence at the South. 2d. Because we shall
convert the Association into an Abolition Society. 3d. Because it would
be a dastardly proceeding, at our distance from the scene of danger, to
utter sentiments hostile to slavery, with which the Southern Unitarian
societies might be identified.”

Dr. E. S. Gannett said that the Association never contemplated any
action on slavery. It was contrary to the objects of its formation.
It would also be an invasion of the rights of conscience,--being
the setting up of a creed with reference to this subject. Moreover,
he said, it would be injurious to the slaves. Ten years ago their
bondage was much lighter than at present. And then it would be to
identify ourselves with the Abolitionists of the free States, whom he
most unsparingly and vehemently condemned, and said there was little
comparative need for us to go South to rebuke an evil, when we had such
a “hellish spirit alive and active here in our very midst, even in New

Hon. S. C. Phillips, of Salem, was not in favor of such action as the
resolutions proposed, but still thought we should take some action, and
very properly in connection with this case of the Savannah church we
should present, as we fairly might, our views on the whole subject of
slavery. He said there had been great error in our so long silence on
the subject. Our leading policy had been to avoid it, and much injury,
and the prevention of much good, had been the consequence. “The time
has come,” said he, “when no man can be silent everywhere, and at all
times, on this subject without guilt.”

Mr. Phillips offered a series of resolutions instead of Mr. May’s.

Rev. Mr. Lunt, of Quincy, opposed any action, and spoke with great
severity of the Abolitionists, whom he charged with being bent on the
dissolution of our Union and also the subversion of Christianity.

My cousin vindicated the Abolitionists from Mr. Lunt’s charges,
reminding him and the audience of the ground which Dr. Channing and
other true friends of our country had taken respecting disunion, in
case of the annexation of Texas. Mr. May showed that the Abolitionists
had opposed only a false and corrupt church, not the Church of Christ,
and still less Christianity itself, in which they gloried as the basis
and impelling principle of their movement.

The resolutions were ably supported by the mover, Mr. Phillips, and
four other laymen, and by eleven ministers, and finally passed by a
majority of forty to fifteen, and were in part as follows:--

After a preamble, setting forth the offensive conduct of the Savannah

  “_Resolved_, That, viewing the institution of slavery in the light
  of Christianity, we cannot fail to perceive that it conflicts with
  the natural rights of human beings as the equal children of a
  common Father, and that it subverts the fundamental principle of
  human brotherhood.

  “_Resolved_, In the necessary effects of slavery upon the personal
  and social condition, and upon the moral and religious character
  of all affected by it, we perceive an accumulation of evils over
  which Christianity must weep, against which Christianity should
  remonstrate, and for the removal of which Christianity appeals to
  the hearts and consciences of all disciples of Jesus to do what
  they can by their prayers, by the indulgence and expression of
  their sympathy, and by the unremitting and undisguised exertion of
  whatever moral and religious influence they may possess.”

Then follows a resolution that it should not be considered, in any
part of our country, a disqualification of any minister or missionary
for the performance of the appropriate duties of his office, that he
is known to have expressed antislavery sentiments, and approving the
course of the Executive Committee in withdrawing their assistance from
the church in Savannah because of their rejection of Rev. Mr. Motte.

The discussions at that meeting were seasoned with many vehement
denunciations of the Abolitionists, uttered by several prominent
Unitarian ministers. William L. Garrison was denounced as one
“instigated by a diabolical spirit.” “The Abolitionists,” it was said,
“were aiming to subvert Christianity, to extirpate it from the earth.”
Dr. Francis Parkman, of Boston, loudly declared that “no letter or
resolution condemning slavery should ever go forth from the American
Unitarian Association while he was a member of it.” And he highly
commended a New England captain, of whom we had then recently heard,
because “he put his ship about and carried back to the master a slave
whom he had found secreted on board the vessel.” Dr. Parkman openly
and personally denounced those who introduced the subject, as “born
to plague the Association.” And he, together with Dr. G. Putnam, and
other prominent ministers, spoke of Dr. Channing’s earnestness in the
antislavery cause as a great weakness.

Later in the same year, 1845, at a meeting of Unitarian ministers in
Boston, “A Protest against American Slavery,” prepared I suppose by
Rev. Caleb Stetson, John T. Sargent, and Samuel May, Jr., was adopted
and sent out to be circulated for signatures. It received the names
of one hundred and seventy-three ministers, of whom one hundred and
fifty-three were of New England. It was publicly stated at the time
that about eighty, comprising many of the most influential ministers
of the denomination, refused to sign the Protest. Among the recusants
were the Rev. Drs. Gannett, Dewey, Young, Parkman, Lothrop, G. Putnam,
Lamson, N. Frothingham, S. Barrett, E. Peabody, G. E. Ellis, Bartol,
Morison, and Lunt.

Of those who did sign the Protest, I am sorry to add not a large
proportion can with truth be said to have been faithful to the solemn
pledge they therein gave, as follows: “We on our part do hereby pledge
ourselves, before God and our brethren, never to be weary in laboring
in the cause of human rights and freedom, until slavery shall be
abolished and every slave set free.”

Once or twice afterwards Mr. May pressed the subject upon the Unitarian
Association, but with little better results. Subsequent events,
however, have shown, too plainly to be denied or doubted, that it
would have been more creditable to themselves, and far better for
our country, if “the older and wiser” men of our denomination had
listened to his counsels and followed his noble example. Alas, our land
is filled with testimonies written in blood, that if the ministers
of religion had only been fearless and faithful in declaring the
impartial love of the Heavenly Father for the children of men of all
complexions, and their equal, inalienable rights, which would assuredly
be vindicated by Divine justice, our late civil war would have been

In 1847 Mr. May was appointed _General Agent of the Massachusetts
Antislavery Society_, and continued in that responsible and laborious
office until after the abolition of slavery in 1865. He was instant
in season and out of season, and in co-operation with his devoted
assistant, Rev. R. F. Wallcut, rendered services the amount and value
of which cannot easily be estimated.


The awful iniquity of our nation culminated in the enactment of the
_Fugitive Slave Law_, which, as Edmund Quincy said at the time,
stood, as it now stands, “a piece of diabolical ingenuity, for the
accomplishment of a devilish purpose, _without a rival_ among all the
tyrannical enactments or edicts of servile parliaments or despotic
monarchs.” It was the essential article of a political conglomerate,
prepared by the Arch Compromiser, Henry Clay, which was called the
Omnibus Bill; some parts of which, he vainly thought, would conciliate
the Northern States to the reception of the whole. It provided for
the admission of California into our Union, with an antislavery
Constitution; for the organization of two other Territories without
the prohibition of slavery; the extension of the southwestern boundary
of Texas to the Rio Grande; the abolition of the slave-trade in the
District of Columbia, with the guaranty of slavery to its inhabitants
until they should see fit to abolish it; and the perpetuity of the
interstate slave-trade; but infinitely worse than any of these
objectionable parts were the stringent measures it proposed for the
recovery of fugitives from slavery. Stripped of the verbiage of legal
enactments, the provisions of this abominable law were as follows:--

  1. The claimant of any person who had escaped, or should escape
  from slavery in any State or Territory, might apply to any Court
  of Record or Judge thereof, describe the fugitive and make
  satisfactory proof that he or she owed service or labor to said
  claimant. Thereupon the Court, or in vacation the Judge, was
  required to cause a record to be made of the description of the
  alleged fugitive, and of the proof of his or her enslavement, and
  give an attested copy of that record to the claimant; which copy
  was required to be received by any court, judge, or commissioner in
  any other State or Territory of the Union, as full and conclusive
  evidence that the person claimed, and so described, was a fugitive
  from slavery and owed service to the claimant, and therefore should
  be delivered up.

  Any marshal or deputy who should refuse to arrest such a fugitive
  was to be fined _one thousand dollars_. And if, after having
  arrested him or her, the fugitive should in any way escape from his
  custody, the marshal or deputy should be held liable to pay to the
  claimant the value of the runaway.

  And any person who should in any way prevent the claimant or his
  agent or assistants from getting possession of the fugitive, by
  hiding him or helping him to escape, or by open opposition to his
  would-be captor,--such offender was to be fined _one thousand
  dollars_ for violating this _righteous_ law; and be liable to pay
  another _thousand dollars_ to the claimant of the fugitive.

In order that every facility should be afforded to _our slaveholding
brethren_ to retake their fleeing property, many commissioners were
ordered to be appointed in all suitable places (in addition to the
courts and judges) whose especial duty it should be to attend to cases
that might arise under the Fugitive Slave Law. And each commissioner or
judge, who found the accused guilty of having fled from bondage, was to
receive a fee of ten dollars. But if the proof adduced by the claimant
did not satisfy him that the accused was a fugitive from his service,
then the judge or commissioner was to receive only five dollars. Thus
bribery was by this law superadded to every other device to enable the
American slaveholder to recover his escaped slave, and return him or
her to a still more cruel bondage.

Nor was this all that was atrociously wicked in the enactment. It
provided further that, while the claimant or his agent might give
testimony or make affidavit to the enslavement of the arrested one,
“in no trial or hearing under the Act was the testimony of the alleged
fugitive to be admitted in evidence” that he was not the one that his
claimant called him, or that he had been emancipated by the will of a
former owner, or by the purchase of his liberty.

If there be among the laws of any other nation, in any other part and
in any other age of the world, an enactment, a decree, a ukase, so
profoundly wicked, so ingeniously cruel, as this law which the Congress
of the United States passed in 1850,--the very middle of the nineteenth
century,--I beg to be informed of it, for I confess at the close of
this recital I feel as if, in my shame and misery, I should be relieved
for a moment by bad company.

At first it may seem strange that Mr. Clay should have supposed the
people of the Northern States would conform to the requirements
of such a law; would consent that their States should be made the
hunting-grounds, and themselves the bloodhounds of Southern oppressors
in pursuit of their fleeing slaves. And yet was he not justified in
this low opinion of us by the conduct of many of those who were elected
to be representatives of the opinions and wishes of the majority of our
communities? The execrable bill could not have become a law, without
the concurrence of Northern members in both Houses of Congress; for, in
both, the larger number were from the non-slaveholding States. Yet it
was enacted by the votes of twenty-seven of the Senators against only
twelve; and by one hundred and nine of the Representatives opposed by
seventy-five. And many of these recreants to the fundamental principles
of justice and humanity had led Mr. Clay, and the Southern politicians
generally, to expect such votes as they gave by the sentiments they
uttered in the preceding debates.


The man who did more than any one, if not more than all of the members
of Congress from the free States, to procure the passage of the Bill of
Abominations, was _Daniel Webster_, who had represented Massachusetts
in the United States Senate for twenty-five years; who led her in
opposition to the Missouri Compromise in 1819, and for nearly twenty
years afterwards was regarded as a leader of the advanced guard of
liberty and humanity. But when, in 1838, he went into the Southern
States to make his bids for the presidency, he uttered words that
foretold his moral declension, though not to so deep a depth as he
descended in his advocacy of the Fugitive Slave Law. The infamy of his
speech on the 7th of March, 1850, can never be forgotten while he is
remembered. He then declared it to be his intention “to support the
Bill with all its provisions to the fullest extent.”

Another fact which adds a sting of bitterness to the shame of the North
was, that this Act, the baseness, meanness, cruelty of which no epithet
in my vocabulary can adequately express, became a law by the signature
of the President, subscribed by _Millard Fillmore_, a New York man and
a Unitarian withal.

Notwithstanding the general expressions of indignation and disgust at
Mr. Webster’s baseness and treachery in supporting the Fugitive Slave
Bill throughout the North, especially from all parts of his own State,
Massachusetts, he and other members of the Senate and the House of
Representatives persisted until, as we have seen, the Act became a law.
The arch-traitor was rewarded with the office of Secretary of State.
Such was his gratitude for this small compensation that, on taking
leave of the Senate, he pledged himself anew to the infamous principles
he had avowed on the 7th of March.[R]

No sooner was the deed done, the Fugitive Slave Act sent forth to be
the law of the land, than outcries of contempt and defiance came from
every free State, and pledges of protection were given to the colored
population. It is not within the scope of my plan to attempt an account
of the indignation-meetings that were held in places too numerous
to be even mentioned here. They will make a proud episode in the
history of our nation since 1830, whenever it shall be fully written.
Meanwhile, let me here refer my readers to the admirable Reports of
the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, especially those written by the
piquant pen, under the guidance of the astute mind, of Edmund Quincy,
for the last ten or fifteen years of our fiery conflict.

I must confine myself to my personal recollections, and in this
particular they are most grateful to me, and honorable to the city of
Syracuse, where I have resided since 1845.

The Fugitive Slave Act was signed by the President on the 18th of
September. Eight days afterwards, a call was issued through our
newspapers summoning the citizens of Syracuse and its vicinity, without
respect to party, to meet in our City Hall on the 4th of October
ensuing, to denounce and take measures to withstand this law. As the
time of the meeting approached the popular excitement increased, and
at an early hour the hall was crowded to its utmost capacity. Hon. A.
H. Hovey, the Mayor of the city, was elected to preside, sustained
by eight vice-presidents of the two political parties, three of whom
had been then, or have been since, mayors of Syracuse, and the other
five, gentlemen of the highest respectability, though only one of them
had been active with the Abolitionists,--Hon. E. W. Leavenworth, Hon.
Horace Wheaton, John Woodruff, Esq., Captain Oliver Teall, Robert Gere,
Esq., Hon. L. Kingsley, Captain Hiram Putnam, Dr. Lyman Clary.

The President addressed the meeting very acceptably, declared himself
to be with us in opposition to the law, adding: “The colored man must
be protected,--he must be secure among us, come what will of political
organizations.” A series of thirteen resolutions was read, three of
which will make known sufficiently the spirit of them all. The second

  1. “_Resolved_, That the Fugitive Slave Law, recently enacted by
  the Congress of these United States, is a most flagrant outrage
  upon the inalienable rights of man, and a daring assault upon the
  palladium of American liberties.”

  3. “That every intelligent man and woman throughout our country,
  ought to read attentively, and understand the provisions of this
  law, in all its details, so that they may be fully aware of its
  diabolical spirit and cruel ingenuity, and prepare themselves to
  _oppose_ all attempts to enforce it.”

  13. “_Resolved_, That we recommend the appointment of a Vigilance
  Committee of thirteen citizens, whose duty it shall be to see
  that no person is deprived of his liberty without ‘due process of
  law.’ And all good citizens are earnestly requested to aid and
  sustain them in all needed efforts for the security of every person
  claiming the protection of our laws.”

The meeting was addressed in a very spirited strain by two colored
gentlemen,--Rev. S. R. Ward and Rev. J. W. Loguen. They each declared
that they and their colored fellow-citizens generally had determined to
make the most violent resistance to any attempt that might be made to
re-enslave them. They would have their liberty or die in its defence.

Mr. Charles A. Wheaton, Chairman of a Committee, then read an Address
to the citizens of the State of New York, setting very plainly
before them the degradation to which this law would reduce them. It
showed them how the law would nullify all the provisions made in the
Constitution for the protection of our dearest rights, as well as the
liberties of any amongst us who might have complexions shaded in any
measure. And it called upon the citizens of the Empire State to rise in
their majesty and put down all attempts to enforce this law.

Hon. Charles B. Sedgwick then rose and advocated the Resolutions and
Address in an admirable speech. He exposed the atrocious features of
the slave-catching law in detail, demonstrated its unconstitutionality
as well as cruelty, and awakened throughout his audience the keenest
indignation against it. He said it was the vilest law that tyranny
ever devised. He would resist it, and he called on all who heard him
to resist it everywhere, in every way, to the utmost of their power.
Rev. R. R. Raymond, of the Baptist Church, then spoke stirring words in
thrilling tones. “How can we do to others as we would that they should
do to us, if we do not resist this law? Citizens of Syracuse! shall
a live man ever be taken out of our city by force of this law?” “No!
No!!” was the response loud as thunder. “Let us tell the Southerners,
then, that it will not be safe for them to come or send their agents
here to attempt to take away a fugitive slave. [Great applause.] I will
take the hunted man to my own house, and he shall not be torn away, and
I be left alive. [Tremendous and long cheering.]”

I was then called up. But I shall leave my readers to imagine what I
said, if they will only let it be in very strong opposition to the law.

The Report of the Committee on Resolutions, and an Address, was then
put to vote, and adopted with only one dissenting voice. The Vigilance
Committee of thirteen was appointed, and the meeting was adjourned to
the evening of the 12th.

Our second meeting was, if possible, more enthusiastic than the first.
All the seats in the hall were filled, and the aisles crowded before
the hour to which the meeting was adjourned. The Mayor called to order
precisely at seven o’clock. It devolved upon me, as Chairman of the
Committee, to report Resolutions. There were too many of them to be
repeated here. Two or three must suffice.

  1. “_Resolved_, That we solemnly reiterate our abhorrence of the
  Fugitive Slave Law, which in effect is nothing less than a license
  for _kidnapping_, under the protection and at the expense of our
  Federal Government, which has become the tool of oppressors.”

  6. “_Resolved_, That now is the day and now the hour to take our
  stand for liberty and humanity. If we now refuse to assert our
  independency of the tyrants who aspire to absolute power in our
  Republic, we may hope for nothing better than entire subjugation
  to their will, and shall leave our children in a condition little
  better than that of the creatures of absolute despots.”

  10. “_Resolved_, That as all of us are liable at any moment to
  be summoned to assist in kidnapping such persons as anybody may
  claim to be his slaves, and to be fined one thousand dollars if
  we refuse to do the bidding of the land-pirates, whom this law
  would encourage to prowl through our country, it is the dictate of
  prudence as well as good fellowship in a righteous cause, that we
  should unite ourselves in an Association, pledged to stand by its
  members in opposing this law, and to share with any of them the
  pecuniary losses they may incur, under the operation of this law.”

  11. “_Resolved_, That such an Association be now formed, so that
  Southern oppressors may know that the people of Syracuse and its
  vicinity are prepared to sustain one another in resisting the
  encroachments of despotism.”

William H. Burleigh first spoke in support of the resolutions. One of
the newspapers the next day said: “We can do no justice to the ability
and surpassing eloquence of Mr. Burleigh’s speech; the deep feelings
of his soul were poured out in terms of consuming oratory.” Judge Nye,
then of Madison County, was present, and being called to address the
meeting, said, among many other good things: “I am an officer of the
law. I am not sure that I am not one of those officers who are clothed
with anomalous and terrible powers by this Bill of Abominations. If I
am, I will tell my constituency that I will trample that law in the
dust, and they must find another man, if there be one who will degrade
himself, to do this dirty work.” “Be assured, Syracusians, there is
not a man among the hills and valleys of Madison County who would take
my office on condition of obedience to this statute.” These sentences,
and other good things that Judge Nye said, were received with great

Hon. C. B. Sedgwick then presented a petition to Congress for the
repeal of the Act, and called upon his fellow-citizens to sign it. He
enforced this call by a very impressive speech, declaring again and
again his fixed determination to oppose to the utmost any attempt to
carry back from Syracuse a fugitive slave. “A man (no, a dog) may come
here scenting blood on the track of our brother Loguen; shall we let
him drag him off to slavery again? No! never!! Loguen has been driven
and stricken from childhood to manhood. He has been literally a man of
sorrows. His soul was trodden upon by oppression. But he rose in the
might of his manhood, and made his way across rivers, through swamps,
over mountains, to our city. And it shall be a place of safety to him.
We will not give him up. He is a husband and a father on our free soil,
and will you give him back to the hell of slavery? No! never!!

                            ‘Dear as freedom is,
    And in my soul’s just estimation prized above all price, I had
          rather be myself the slave,
    And wear the bonds, than fasten them on him.’”

I wish I could convey to the ears of my readers the hearty, deep-toned
notes of applause that welcomed these declarations.

I then presented a pledge, binding those who might sign it to stand by
one another, and share equally all pecuniary penalties they might be
made to suffer because of their opposition to this oppressive and cruel

Rev. Mr. Raymond was afterwards called up, and he spoke in a manner
that was very affecting. I have room for only a brief extract from the
report of it.

“Oh! the hardships this law has brought upon the fugitives from slavery
that have sought an asylum with us! I attended the other day a meeting
of Baptist ministers in Rochester. There was a colored brother there
in the depths of distress. He arose in our midst and gave voice to
the agonies of his soul. A few years since he escaped from one of the
richest slaveholders in Kentucky. With him, he had been brought up
in ignorance. Since coming among us he had learnt to read, and had
become so well educated as to be able to teach others. In the course
of two years he had gathered a church in a meeting-house that had been
built mainly by his instrumentality. He had a comfortable homestead in
Rochester, and a happy family about him. But now his master had sent
for him, declaring he would have him under this law. ‘Oh!’ he cried,
‘what have I done? what is my crime? All the power and cunning and
sagacity of this great nation are moving to drag me back again into
slavery,--worse than death.’ His head fell upon his bosom, he sobbed
aloud, and we wept with him, and a deep groan of execration went up
from the souls of us all to the God of mercy against this law.” This
recital awakened intense feeling throughout our meeting and murmurs
of indignation. “And now,” Mr. Raymond continued, “suppose that while
we were glowing with sympathy for that brother and abhorrence of the
law,--suppose the man-thief had come into that meeting and put his hand
upon that brother to bear him off to the South. What would have been
the result? I tell you we would have defended him, if we had had to
tear that man-thief in pieces.” This was received with great applause.
“What,” continued Mr. Raymond, “what if the officers should come here
and put their hand on me as one claimed to be the property of another
man, would you let me go?” “No! No!! No!!!” from every quarter was the
hearty response. “And yet why not me as readily as a man of darker
skin? If ever there was a law which it was right to trample upon, it is
this. You are counselling revolution, some may say. Revolution indeed!
O, my fellow-citizens, blood has been flowing, not in battle-fields,
but from the backs of our enslaved countrymen ever since 1776, and
is flowing now. [Deep sensation.] Yes, and that blood has gone up to
Heaven and provoked God against us. Yes, and blood will flow profusely
on the battle-fields of a civil war if we carry out this accursed
law,--if we do not proclaim freedom throughout the land.”

Several other gentlemen addressed the meeting in a similar strain;
among them, Colonel Titus, who said: “With all my heart I concur in
the sentiments and spirit of the resolutions and in the speech of Mr.
Raymond. I am for suspending the operation of the bill until it shall
be repealed. If the Southerners or their Northern minions undertake to
enforce its provisions, and attempt to carry off our friend Loguen,
or any other citizens, I am prepared to fight in their defence. I
would advise our colored neighbors not to remove to Canada, but to
rely on the patriotism of the citizens of Syracuse for protection. The
Assistant United States Marshal is in the hall, and it is well to have
him understand what are the real sentiments of his fellow-citizens,
which I trust will be found to be almost unanimous in favor of
resistance to this execrable law.”

Such was the very general uprising of the people of Syracuse in
opposition to the rendition of fugitives from slavery.

My own sentiments and feelings were very fully declared, a few days
afterwards, from my own pulpit, and subsequently in Rochester and
Oswego. I trust my readers will bear with a somewhat extended abstract
of my sermon.

  “If there be a God, almighty, perfectly wise, and impartially
  just and good, his will ought to be supreme with all moral beings
  throughout his universe. To teach otherwise,--to teach that we or
  any of his moral offspring are bound or can be bound by any earthly
  power to do what is contrary to _divine law_, is virtually Atheism;
  it is to enthrone Baal or Mammon in the place of Jehovah. _And
  this is just what the people of this country are now called upon
  by our Federal Government to do._ The legislators of this Republic
  have enacted a law which offends every feeling of humanity, sets
  at naught every precept of the Christian religion, outrages our
  highest sense of right. And now they and their political and
  priestly abettors demand that we shall conform to the requirements
  of this law, because it was enacted by the government under which
  we live.

  “Brethren, are any of you ready to bow and take this yoke upon
  your necks, and do the biddings of these wicked men? I hope not.
  You shall not be, if I can convince you that you ought not. The
  iniquity of our country has culminated in the passage of this
  infernal law. Fearful encroachments have successively been made
  upon our liberties. This last is the worst, the most daring. If
  we yield to it, all will be lost. Our country will be given up
  to oppressors. There can be no insult, no outrage upon our moral
  sense, which we shall be able to withstand; no spot on which we can
  raise a barrier to the tide of political and personal pollution
  that must ever follow in the wake of slavery. Our government will
  become a despotism or a cruel oligarchy, and our religion will be
  in effect, if not in name, the worship of Baal, which means ‘him
  that subdues.’...

  “This horrible law, which in the middle of the nineteenth century
  of the Christian era the legislators of the most highly favored
  nation on earth have had the effrontery to enact,--this law
  peremptorily, under heavy fines and penalties, forbids us to give
  assistance and comfort to a certain class of our fellow-men in
  the utmost need of help,--those who have fled and are longing
  to be saved from the greatest wrongs that can be inflicted upon
  human beings,--_the wrongs of slavery_. And yet we are told
  by many--many who profess to be Christians, even teachers of
  Christianity, ah! Doctors of Divinity--that the pulpit may not
  remonstrate against this tremendous iniquity, because, forsooth,
  it has passed into a law. What, are we, then, to allow that there
  is no authority higher than that of the earthly government under
  which we live,--a government framed by our revered but fallible
  fathers, and which we administer by agents of our own election,
  who are by no means incorruptible? Has it come to this? Is this
  the best lesson our Republican and Christian wisdom can teach the
  suffering nations of earth? Nay, are we to submit to this human
  authority without question? May we not so much as discuss the
  justice of its demands upon us? Must even those men be silent who
  were set in our midst for the defence of the Gospel,--the Gospel
  of Him who was ‘anointed to preach to the poor, who was sent to
  heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, to
  set at liberty them that are bruised?’ Such is the doctrine of our
  politicians and of our politico-religious ministers. But a more
  heartless, demoralizing, base, antidemocrat, and antichristian
  doctrine could not be preached. I repudiate it utterly.... _The
  pulpit has no higher function than to expound, assert, and
  maintain the rights of man._ The assumption of Mr. Webster and his
  abettors--that there is no higher law than an enactment of our
  Congress or the Constitution of the United States--is glaringly
  _atheistical_, inasmuch as it denies the supremacy of the Divine
  Author of the _moral constitution_ of man....

  “It is a matter of great interest to me personally, that my
  attention was first powerfully called to the subject of slavery,
  and my resolution to do my duty regarding it, was first roused by
  Daniel Webster, when he was a _man_, and not a mere selfseeking
  politician. The first antislavery meeting I ever attended was
  one in which Mr. Webster took a conspicuous part. It was on the
  3d of December, 1819, in the State House at Boston, called to
  oppose the Missouri Compromise. Then and there generous, humane,
  Christian sentiments respecting slavery were uttered by him and
  others that kindled in my bosom a warmth of interest in the cause
  of the oppressed that has never cooled. But the next year, on the
  22d of December, 1820, a few days before I entered the pulpit as
  a preacher, Mr. Webster delivered his famous oration at Plymouth.
  It was an admirable exposition of the rise, characteristics, and
  spirit of our free political and religious institutions. Towards
  the close, having alluded to slavery and the slave-trade, he said,
  with deep solemnity: ‘_I invoke the ministers of our religion, that
  they proclaim its denunciation of these crimes. If the pulpit be
  silent wherever or whenever there may be a sin bloody with this
  guilt within the hearing of its voice, the pulpit is false to its

  “Thus solemnly charged by one whom I _then_ revered as a good man,
  no less than as a great statesman, the following Sunday I commenced
  preaching. Tremblingly alive to the weighty responsibilities I was
  about to incur, I fully resolved that the pulpit which might be
  committed to my charge should not be silent respecting slavery or
  any other great public wrong....

  “And now, that same Daniel Webster, who first roused me to feel
  somewhat as I ought for the enslaved, has done more than any
  other man to procure the enactment of a law, under the provisions
  of which, if I do my duty, and by my preaching incite others to
  do their duty, to those who are in danger of being enslaved, I
  and they may be subjected to unusually heavy fines, or may be
  thrown into prison as malefactors. Have I not, then, a personal
  controversy with that distinguished man,--distinguished now, alas!
  for something else than splendid talents and exalted virtues? If I
  have gone wrong, did not Mr. Webster misdirect me? If I have done
  no more than he solemnly charged all preachers to do, has he not
  basely deserted and betrayed me? Verily, verily I say unto you, he
  bound the burden of this antislavery reform, and laid it upon the
  shoulders of others, but he himself has not helped to bear it,--no,
  not with one of his fingers. Nay, worse, he has done all he could
  to prepare the prison, and to whet the sword of vengeance for those
  sons of New England who shall obey the injunction he gave them from
  Plymouth Rock, that spot hallowed by all who truly love liberty and
  hate oppression....

  “Tell me, then, no more that the pulpit has nothing to do,--that
  I as a Christian minister have nothing to do with politics, when
  I see how politics have corrupted, yes, utterly spoiled the once
  noble (we used in our admiration to say), godlike Daniel Webster!
  If that man, with his surpassing strength of intellect and once
  enlarged, generous views of the right and the good,--if he has not
  been able to withstand the demoralizing influences of political
  partyism, but has been shrivelled up into a mere aspirant for
  office, basely consenting to any and every sacrifice of humanity
  demanded by the oppressors of our country, and at last pledging
  himself to sustain all the provisions of a law more ingeniously
  wicked than the stimulated fears of the most cowardly tyrants ever
  before devised,--I repeat, if such a man as Daniel Webster once was
  has been corrupted and ruined by politics, shall I, a minister of
  the Christian religion, fail to point out as plainly as I may, and
  proclaim as earnestly as I can, the moral dangers that beset those
  who engage in the strife for political preferment?...

  “For one, I will not help to uphold our nation in its
  iniquity,--no, not for an hour. If it cannot be reclaimed, let
  it be dissolved. The declaration so often made by the professed
  friends of our Union, that it cannot be preserved unless this
  horrible law can be enforced, is unwittingly a declaration that
  it is the implacable enemy of liberty,--an obstacle in the way of
  human progress. If it really be so, it must be, it will be removed.
  And he who attempts to prevent its dissolution will find himself
  fighting against God. If such a law as this for the recapture of
  fugitive slaves be essential to our Republic as now constituted,
  let it be broken up, and some new form of government arise in its
  stead. A better one would doubtless succeed. A worse one it could
  not be, if the enslavement, continued degradation and outlawry of
  more than three millions of our people, be indeed the bond of our
  present Union....

  “Suppose that a considerable proportion of the States in this Union
  were, or should become, idolatrous heathen. Suppose that they
  worshipped Moloch, or some other false deity who delighted in human
  sacrifices. And suppose that, to propitiate the people of those
  States, and to secure the pecuniary and political advantages of a
  continued Union with them, Congress should enact that the people
  of the Christian States should allow those idolaters to come here
  when they pleased and offer human sacrifices in our midst, or carry
  away our children to be burnt on their altars at the South; would
  Mr. Webster or Mr. Clay, or the editors of _The New York Observer_,
  or _The Journal of Commerce_, or the Doctors of Divinity who have
  endeavored to array the public on the side of wrong,--would even
  they call upon us to obey such a law? I am sure they would not. And
  yet I fain would know wherein such a law as I have supposed would
  be any worse than this law which they are laboring to enforce....
  Why, then, if it would be reasonable and proper, in the view of Mr.
  Webster and his reverend abettors, to nullify a law requiring us to
  permit human beings to be offered as burnt sacrifices,--why is it
  not equally reasonable and proper for us to set at naught this law
  which commands us to do something worse,--that is, to assist in
  reducing human beings to the condition of domesticated brutes?...
  Nay, further, I insisted that the Fugitive Slave Law violates
  the religious liberty, interferes with the faith and worship of
  Christians, just as much as the law I have supposed would do....
  A law of the land requiring you, as this Fugitive Slave Law
  does, to disobey the Golden Rule is, indeed, a far more grievous
  encroachment upon your liberty of conscience than a law prescribing
  to your faith any creed, or any rites and ceremonies by which you
  must worship God....

  “Fellow-citizens! Christian brethren! the time has come that is to
  test our principles, to try our souls. I would not that any one
  in this emergency should trust to his own unaided strength. Let
  us fervently pray for wisdom to direct us, and for fortitude to
  do whatever may be demanded at our hands, by the Royal Law,--the
  Golden Rule....

  “I would counsel prudence, although this evil day demands of us
  courage and self-sacrifice.... We should spare no pains through the
  press, by conversation, and by public addresses, particularly by
  faithful discourses from the pulpits, to cherish and quicken the
  sense of right and the love of liberty in the hearts of the people.
  A correct public sentiment is our surest safeguard....

  “Do you inquire of me by what means you ought to withstand the
  execution of this diabolical law? It is not for me to determine
  the action of any one but myself. ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as
  thyself,’ is the second great command which all should faithfully
  try to obey. Every man and woman among you is bound, as I am, to do
  for the protection or rescue of a fugitive from slavery what, in
  your hearts before God, you believe it would be right for you to do
  in behalf of your own life or liberty, or that of a member of your
  family. If you are fully persuaded that it would be right for you
  to maim or kill the kidnapper who had laid hands upon your wife,
  son, or daughter, or should be attempting to drag yourself away to
  be enslaved, I see not how you can excuse yourself from helping, by
  the same degree of violence, to rescue the fugitive slave from the
  like outrage....

  “Before all men, I declare that you are, every one of you, under
  the highest obligation to disobey this law,--nay, oppose to the
  utmost the execution of it. If you know of no better way to do this
  than by force and arms, then are you bound to use force and arms
  to prevent a fellow-being from being enslaved. There never was,
  there cannot be, a more righteous cause for revolution than the
  demands made upon us by this law. It would make you kidnappers,
  men-stealers, bloodhounds....

  “It is known that I have been and am a preacher of the ‘doctrine
  of non-resistance.’ I believe it to be one of the distinctive
  doctrines of Christianity. But I have never presumed to affirm that
  I possessed enough of the spirit of Christ,--enough confidence
  in God and man,--enough moral courage and self-command to act in
  accordance with the Gospel precept in the treatment of enemies.
  But there is not a doubt in my heart that, if I should be enabled
  to speak and act as Jesus would, I should produce a far greater
  and better effect than could be wrought by clubs, or swords, or
  any deadly weapons.... I shall go to the rescue of any one I may
  hear is in danger, not intending to harm the cruel men who may
  be attempting to kidnap him. I shall take no weapon of violence
  along with me, not even the cane that I usually wear. I shall go,
  praying that I may say and do what will smite the hearts rather
  than the bodies of the impious claimants of property in human
  beings,--pierce their consciences rather than their flesh....

  “Fellow-citizens, fellow-men, fellow-Christians! the hour is
  come! A stand must be taken against the ruthless oppressors of
  our country. Resistants and non-resistants have now a work to do
  that may task to the utmost the energies of their souls. We owe it
  to the millions who are wearing out a miserable existence under
  the yoke of slavery; we owe it to the memory of our fathers who
  solemnly pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred
  honor to the cause of liberty; We owe it to the expectations, the
  claims of oppressed and suffering men the world over; we owe it to
  ourselves, if we would be true men and not the menials of tyrants,
  to trample this Fugitive Slave Law under foot, and throw it
  indignantly back at the wicked legislators who had the hardihood to
  enact it.”

It was obvious enough that some parts of the discourse were not
relished by quite a number of my auditors. Several seemed to be
seriously offended. It is therefore to be cherished among my many
grateful recollections that, as I was coming down from the pulpit the
late Major James E. Heron, of the United States Army, then one of the
prominent members of our society, came up to me glowing with emotion,
gave me his hand, and said, quite audibly: “Mr. May, I thank you. I was
once a slaveholder. I know all about the Southern system of domestic
servitude. I am intimately acquainted with the principles of the
slaveholders, and the condition of their bondmen. You have never in my
hearing exaggerated the wrongs and the vices inherent in the system.
You cannot overstate them. And the bold attempt which is now making to
subjugate the people of the Northern States to the will and service of
the slaveholders ought to be resisted to the last.” He must have been
heard by many. His words were repeated about the city, and his full
indorsement of my antislavery fanaticism helped to make it much more
tolerable, in the regards of some who were ready to revolt from it.

The Vigilance Committee appointed on the 4th of October, and the
Association we formed on the 12th, to co-operate with that committee,
and to bear mutually the expenses that might be incurred in resisting
the law, kept the attention of our citizens alive to the subject. And
their interest was quickened and their determination confirmed by the
reports that came to us from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and many
other places, of the preparations that were making to protect the
colored people, and set at defiance the plan for their re-enslavement.
The historian of our country, if he be one worthy of the task, will
linger with delight over the pages on which he shall narrate the
uprising of the people generally, in 1850 and 1851, throughout the
Northern States, in opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law. There were
not wanting fearless preachers who took up the arms of the Gospel
and faithfully fought against the great unrighteousness. Only a few
days after the infamous speech of Mr. Webster on the 7th of March,
Theodore Parker addressed a crowded audience in Faneuil Hall, and
exposed to their deeper abhorrence the atrocious provisions of the Bill
which the Massachusetts senator had had the effrontery to advocate
and pledge himself to maintain. On the 22d of September following he
preached to his hearers in the Melodeon a thrilling discourse on “The
Function and Place of Conscience in Relation to the Laws of Men,”
which must have fired them all the more to stand to the death in
defence of any human being who had sought, or should seek, an asylum
in Massachusetts. And again on the 28th of November, 1850, the day of
annual Thanksgiving, he delivered his comprehensive, deep-searching
discourse on “The State of the Nation,” showing the reckless impiety
of rulers who could frame such unrighteousness into law, and the
folly of the people who could suppose themselves bound to obey such
a law. Oh! if the ministers of religion generally, throughout our
country, had said and done, before and after that date, a tithe as
much as Mr. Parker said and did against the “great iniquity” of our
nation, the slaveholders could never have gained such an ascendency
in our Government, nor have become so inflated with the idea of their
power, as to have attempted the dissolution of the Union, which it
cost all the blood and treasure expended in our awful civil war to
preserve. Mr. Parker was not indeed left alone to fight the battle of
the Lord. Rev. Dr. Storrs, of Brooklyn, N. Y., Rev. G. W. Perkins,
of Guilford, Conn., Rev. J. G. Forman, of West Bridgewater, Rev.
Charles Beecher, Rev. William C. Whitcomb, of Stoneham, Rev. Nathaniel
West, of Pittsburg, each spoke and wrote words of sound truth and
great power, as well as those whose services I have acknowledged in
another place, and others no doubt whose names have escaped my memory.
But of the thirty thousand ministers of all the denominations in the
United States, I believe not one in a hundred ever raised his voice
against the enslavement of millions of our countrymen, nor lifted a
finger to protect one who had escaped from bondage. And many, very
many of the clergy openly and vehemently espoused the cause of the
oppressors. Not only did the preachers in the slaveholding States, with
scarcely an exception, justify and defend the institution of slavery,
but there were many ministers in the free States who took sides with
them. The most distinguished in this bad company were Professor
Stuart, of Andover, Dr. Lord, President of Dartmouth College, New
Hampshire, Bishop Hopkins, of Burlington, Vt., and Rev. Dr. Nehemiah
Adams, of Boston. But I must refer my readers to the books mentioned
at the bottom of page 349, if they would know how “the orthodox and
evangelical” ministers of the free States contributed their influence
to uphold “the peculiar institution of the South.” And it must be left
for the future historian of our Republic in the nineteenth century to
tell to posterity how fearfully the American Church and ninety-nine
hundredths of the ministers were subjugated to the will and behest of
our slaveholding oligarchy. My purpose is to give, for the most part,
only my personal recollections. And on this point, I am sorry to say,
they are numerous and mortifying enough.


When the Fugitive Slave Law was first promulgated, there was, as I
have stated, a very general outburst of indignation throughout the
North,--a feeling of dreadful shame, a sense of a most bitter insult.
The first impulse of the Unitarians, as of others, was to denounce it.
At their autumnal convention in Springfield, October, 1850, they did
so, though not without strong opposition to any vote or action on the
subject. Probably the opposers would have prevailed, and the law have
been left unrebuked, had not that venerable man, the late Rev. Dr.
Willard, of Deerfield, risen and earnestly--yes, solemnly--protested
against passing lightly over a matter of such fearful importance. Dr.
Willard was old, and had long been blind. Would to God that the moral
sight of many of his younger ministerial brethren had been half as
clear and pure as his! With tremulous eloquence he called upon them to
reconsider their motion. He appealed to their pity for men and women
over whom was impending the greatest calamity that could befall human
beings. He appealed to their regard for the honor of their country,
and besought them to avert her shame, by doing what they might to
show the world, that it was the statesmen and politicians, not the
people of the Northern States, who approved of this wicked, cruel law.
His words roused others, who spoke to the same effect; and so that
Convention was persuaded to adopt resolutions condemning the law. But
quite a number of the prominent ministers of the denomination soon
after gave strong utterance to an opposite opinion. I need mention but
three. Rev. Dr. Lunt, of Quincy, preached a discourse on the “Divine
Right of Government,” in which he endeavored to bring his hearers to
the conclusion that, “wise, practical men would allow the laws of the
land, which have been enacted in due form, to have their course and be
executed, until we can so far change the current of public opinion that
what is objectionable in those laws may be corrected.” He conceded,
indeed, that “there are cases when rulers may be rightfully resisted,
and when revolution is a duty; yet these are extreme cases, and require
for their justification the most imperative necessity.” He said this
all unconscious, it would seem, that such an extreme case was upon us;
unconscious, and leaving his hearers unconscious, that the Fugitive
Slave Law must be resisted, or the people of Massachusetts would
consent to become menials of the slaveholders, kidnappers, robbers of
men, bloodhounds.

The excellent Dr. E. S. Gannett, of Boston, was heard to say, more
than once, very emphatically, and to justify it, “that he should feel
it to be his duty to turn away from his door a fugitive slave,--unfed,
unaided in any way, rather than set at naught the law of the land.”

And Rev. Dr. Dewey, whom we accounted one of the ablest expounders and
most eloquent defenders of our Unitarian faith,--Dr. Dewey was reported
to have said at two different times, in public lectures or speeches
during the fall of 1850 and the winter of 1851, that “he would send his
_mother_ into slavery, rather than endanger the Union, by resisting
this law enacted by the constituted government of the nation.” He
has often denied that he spoke thus of his “maternal relative,” and
therefore I allow that he was misunderstood. But he has repeatedly
acknowledged that he did say, “I would consent that my own brother,
my own son, should go, _ten times rather_ would I go myself into
slavery, than that this Union should be sacrificed.” The rhetoric of
this sentence may be less shocking, but the principle that underlies
it is equally immoral and demoralizing. It is, that the inalienable,
God-given rights of man ought to be violated, outraged, rather than
overturn or seriously endanger a human institution called a government.

Although our denomination at that time was numerically a very small
one, yet it was so prominent, not only in Boston and its immediate
vicinity, but before the whole nation, and in view of all the world,
that it seemed to me to be a matter of great moral consequence that
it should take and maintain a truly Christian stand respecting this
high-handed, glaring attempt to bring our Northern free States into
entire subjection to the slaveholding oligarchy. Therefore, at the next
annual meeting of the American Unitarian Association, in May, 1851, I
offered the following Preamble and Resolution:--

  “Whereas, his Excellency, Millard Fillmore, whose official
  signature made the Fugitive Slave Bill a law, is a _Unitarian_;
  and the Hon. Daniel Webster, who exerted all his official and
  personal influence to procure the passage of that bill, has
  been until recently, if he is not now, a member of a Unitarian
  church; and whereas, one of the only three Representatives from
  New England, who voted for that bill, is the Hon. S. A. Eliot, a
  distinguished Unitarian of Boston, known to have been educated for
  the Unitarian ministry; and whereas, the present representative of
  the United States Government at the Court of the British Empire is
  a Unitarian, and his two immediate predecessors were once preachers
  of this Gospel, and one of them, Hon. Edward Everett, has publicly
  declared his approval of Mr. Webster’s course touching this most
  wicked law; and whereas, the Hon. Jared Sparks, President of
  Harvard College, and President of the Divinity School at Cambridge,
  formerly a distinguished minister, and a very elaborate and able
  expounder of our distinctive doctrines, is one of the number who
  addressed a letter to Mr. Webster, commending him for what he had
  said and done in behalf of the Fugitive Slave Law; and still more,
  because the late President of this American Unitarian Association
  (Dr. Dewey), one of the most popular preachers, expounders, and
  champions of the Unitarian faith, has been more earnest and
  emphatic than any man in his asseveration that this law, infernal
  as it is, ought nevertheless to be obeyed; and because the
  gentleman who this day retires from the highest position in our
  ecclesiastical body, the Rev. Dr. Gannett, is understood to have
  given his adhesion to this lowest of all laws, and several of the
  distinguished, titled ministers of our denomination in and near
  Boston, the head-quarters of Unitarians, have preached obedience to
  _this law_,--

  “We, therefore, feel especially called upon by the highest
  considerations, at this, the first general gathering of our body,
  since the above-named exposures of the unsoundness of our members,
  to declare in the most public and emphatic manner that we consider
  the Fugitive Slave Law a most fearful violation of the law of God,
  as taught by Jesus Christ and his apostles, and, therefore, all
  obedience to it is practical infidelity to the Author and Finisher
  of the Christian faith, and to the impartial Father of the whole
  human family.

  “_Resolved_, Therefore, that we, the American Unitarian
  Association, earnestly exhort all who would honor the Christian
  name, but especially all who have embraced with us views of human
  nature similar to those held up by our revered Channing,--to
  remember those in bonds as bound with them; ever to attempt to do
  for them, as we would that the now enslaved or fugitive should do
  for us in an exchange of circumstances,--to comfort and aid them in
  all their attempts to escape from their oppressors, and by no means
  to betray the fugitives, or in any way assist or give the least
  countenance to the cruel men who would return them to slavery.”

Both the Preamble and Resolutions were cordially seconded by Rev.
Theodore Parker, and their adoption urged in a brief but most
significant speech. The moment he had ceased speaking Henry Fuller,
Esq., of Boston, sprang to his feet, and, in an impassioned manner,
moved that the paper just read by the Rev. Mr. May, of Syracuse, be not
even received by the Association. “This ecclesiastical body had nothing
to do with such a political matter. The entertaining of the subject
here would be indecorous, and only help to increase the alienation
of feeling between the South and the North.” With equal warmth of
manner and speech Rev. Joseph Richardson, of Hingham, seconded Mr.
Fuller’s motion, and cut off all debate by calling for the “previous
question.” So the motion not to receive my paper was put, and carried
by twenty-seven to twenty-two.

The next day, at a meeting of the “Ministerial Conference,” which
comprised all the clerical members of the American Unitarian
Association, I proposed for adoption the same Preamble and Resolution,
and am happy to add, with a much more gratifying result. The following
is a very brief report of the discussion and action of that body, taken
from _The Commonwealth_ of June 2, 1851:--

  “Rev. Mr. Judd, of Augusta, Me., thought it the duty of the clergy
  to speak freely upon the question of slavery, but with perfect
  plainness to all parties. He approved of the sentiment of the
  resolve, but disliked the preamble, as too personal in its language.

  “Rev. Mr. May, of Syracuse, N. Y., said reference was made in the
  resolve to those only whom the Conference had a right to mention,
  namely, prominent Unitarians who had sustained the Fugitive Slave

  “Rev. Dr. Hall, of Providence, R. I., thought that, as citizens, as
  Unitarians, and as Christians, they were called upon to speak in
  opposition to the law, but the right place should be selected, in
  order that no false impression should be given in case the topic
  should not be acted upon. For himself, he should not obey the law,
  though the country went to pieces.

  “Rev. Mr. Parker, of Boston, read extracts from an English paper,
  showing the action of an ecclesiastical body abroad that had
  resolved not to countenance or admit to its pulpits any of the
  American clergy who uphold the Fugitive Slave Law or slavery.

  “Rev. Mr. Holland, of Rochester, N. Y., deemed obedience to the law
  a violation of conscience and duty. His voice and prayer were for
  progress and liberty.

  “Rev. Mr. Frost, of Concord, Mass., had had a committee of his
  society ask him to abstain from preaching on slavery thenceforth.
  He replied, that when the slave power had taken possession of the
  departments of Government, controlled the decisions of our courts,
  and influenced the moral position of the Church itself, glossing
  over all the iniquities of the system, he should not keep silence.
  Obedience to the Fugitive Law was treason to God; he preferred to
  be disloyal to man.

  “Rev. William H. Channing, of New York City, thought the Church
  should take common ground against this national sin. But to the
  slaveholder he would be fair and candid. He would meet him in
  conclave, show him the evils of slavery, the worth of freedom,
  and join with him in removing the willing free colored population
  to the lands of the West, and as a remuneration give them the
  blessings of free labor and social prosperity.

  “Rev. Mr. Osgood, of New York City, admitted the iniquity of the
  Fugitive Slave Law, and the sin of slavery, and thought them proper
  subjects for pulpit discussion; but he wanted a moral influence to
  be exerted, without a violation of Christian gentleness. He said
  Rev. Mr. Furness, of Philadelphia, and Rev. Dr. Dewey, of New York,
  had had a correspondence in reference to the latter’s position on
  political questions, and he (Mr. Osgood) honestly believed, from
  the results of that correspondence, and from conversations he
  himself had held with the Doctor, that, in his support of the Slave
  Law, he was making self-sacrifice to what he conceived his duty.

  “Rev. Mr. Pierpont, of Medford, proclaimed the superiority of God’s
  law to man’s law. He would not obey the latter when it interfered
  with the former. The government might fine and imprison, but it
  could do no more; he was mindful of the penalty, but he would
  not obey. If all would act with him the law would fail of being

  “Rev. Dr. Gannett, of Boston, was impressed with the immensity
  of this question, the terrible awfulness that lay behind it, and
  he would discuss it with all solemnity and seriousness in view
  of the impending evil. He believed in his heart the maintenance
  of government, the comfort of the people, _and the perpetuity of
  our Union depended on the support of the Fugitive Law_. He would
  not have the subject treated lightly, but prayerfully, fearfully,
  in view of the great responsibilities resting upon it. We should
  respect private convictions, and allow the integrity of motives of
  those who differ with us.

  “Rev. Mr. Ellis, of Charlestown, hailed that day as the first
  when these differences had been rightly discussed. But if the
  Conference, comprising members of different though honest views,
  should take ground on this question, he should leave it. As an
  organized body we have nothing to do with it. No action could be
  binding, and he was unwilling to have the Conference interfere
  with the question. He had himself ever entertained ultra-abolition
  views, and did now; but he had no such fears for the Union as
  Brother Gannett. If the Union was held together by so feeble a
  tenure as here presented, he thought it was not worth saving; and
  further, if our Northern land is to be the scouring-ground of
  slave-hunters, the sooner the Union was sundered the better. But
  our sphere of action did not allow interference with the question.

  “Dr. Gannett spoke of the character of that parishioner of his who
  returned a slave (Curtis). He had done so from convictions of his
  constitutional obligations as an upholder of law and as a good
  citizen, and he esteemed that a wrong was done him in stigmatizing
  him as a ‘cruel’ man, because of that return, as the resolution
  expressed it.

  “On motion of Mr. Pierpont, the word ‘cruel’ was stricken out, and
  the resolution having been previously altered so as to make it a
  proposition for discussion rather than as a test for votes, it was
  entered upon the records.

  “The debate (of which I have given a very limited sketch) here
  terminated by general consent, the feeling being almost unanimous
  as expressed by the majority of the speakers.”

But the Unitarians as a body were by no means redeemed from the moral
thraldom in which the whole nation was held. There was still among them
so little heartfelt abhorrence of slavery and the Fugitive Slave Law,
that the year after Mr. Fillmore was dropped from the presidency of
the nation, which he had so dishonored, he was specially invited to
preside at the Annual Festival of the Unitarians, to be given, if I
remember correctly, in Faneuil Hall. He declined the honor proffered
him, but our denomination was left to bear the shame of having asked
him to receive an expression of our respect, as there was no protest
against the action of the Committee.


I should love to tell of the generous, daring, self-sacrificing
conflicts with the abettors and minions of the slaveholders in
different parts of our country. But I must leave those bright pages to
be written by the historian of those times, and confine myself to that
part of the field where I saw and was engaged in the fight.

In the early part of the summer of 1851 Mr. Webster travelled quite
extensively about the country, exerting all his personal and official
influence, and the remnants of his eloquence, to persuade the people
to yield themselves to the requirements of the Fugitive Slave Law. On
the 5th or 6th of June he came to Syracuse. He stood in a small balcony
overlooking the yard in front of our City Hall and the intervening
street. Of course he had a large audience. But his hearers generally
were disappointed in his appearance and speech, and those who were
not already members of the proslavery party were much offended at his
authoritative, dictatorial, commanding tones and language. There is
no need that I should give an abstract of what he said. It was but a
rehash of his infamous speech in Congress on the 7th of March, 1850.
At or near the close he said, in his severest manner, “Those persons
in this city who mean to oppose the execution of the Fugitive Slave
Law are traitors! traitors!! traitors!!! This law ought to be obeyed,
and it will be enforced,--yes, it shall be enforced; in the city of
Syracuse it shall be enforced, and that, too, in the midst of the next
antislavery Convention, if then there shall be any occasion to enforce
it.” Indignation flashed from many eyes in that assembly, and one might
almost hear the gritting of teeth in defiance of the threat.

I stated on page 354 that at the meeting on the 12th of October, 1850,
we commenced an association to co-operate and to bear one another’s
burdens in defence of any among us who should be arrested as slaves.
Many came into our agreement. We fixed upon a rendezvous, and agreed
that any one of our number, who might know or hear of a person in
danger, should toll the bell of an adjoining meeting-house in a
particular manner, and that, on hearing that signal, we would all
repair at once to the spot, ready to do and to dare whatever might
seem to be necessary. Two or three times in the ensuing twelve months
the alarm was given, but the cause for action was removed by the time
we reached our rendezvous, excepting in one case, when it was thought
advisable to send a guard to protect a threatened man to Auburn or

But on the first day of October, 1851, a real and, as it proved to
be, a signal case was given us. Whether it was given on that day
intentionally to fulfil Mr. Webster’s prediction is known only to those
who have not yet divulged the secret. There was, however, on that day
an antislavery convention in Syracuse, and, moreover, a meeting of the
County Agricultural Society, so that our city was unusually full of
people, which proved to be favorable to our enterprise.

Just as I was about to rise from my dinner on that day I heard the
signal-bell, and hurried towards the appointed place, nearly a mile
from my home. But I had not gone half-way before I met the report that
Jerry McHenry had been claimed as a slave, arrested by the police, and
taken to the office of the Commissioner. So I turned my steps thither.
The nearer I got to the place, the more persons I met, all excited,
many of them infuriated by the thought that a man among us was to be
carried away into slavery.

Jerry was an athletic mulatto, who had been residing in Syracuse
for a number of years, and working quite expertly, it was said, as
a cooper. I found him in the presence of the Commissioner with the
District Attorney, who was conducting the trial,--a one-sided process,
in which the agent of the claimant alone was to be heard in proof,
that the prisoner was an escaped slave belonging to a Mr. Reynolds,
of Missouri. The doomed man was not to be allowed to state his own
case, nor refute the testimony of his adversary, however false it
might be. While we were attending to the novel proceedings, Jerry, not
being closely guarded, slipped out of the room under the guidance of
a young man of more zeal than discretion, and in a moment was in the
street below. The crowd cheered and made way for him, but no vehicle
having been provided to help his escape, he was left to depend upon his
agility as a runner. Being manacled, he could not do his best; but he
had got off nearly half a mile, before the police officers and their
partisans overtook him. I was not there to witness the meeting; but it
was said the rencounter was a furious one. Jerry fought like a tiger,
but fought against overwhelming odds. He was attacked behind and before
and soon subdued. He was battered and bruised, his clothes sadly torn
and bloody, and one rib cracked, if not broken. In this plight he was
thrown upon a carman’s wagon, two policemen sat upon him, one across
his legs, the other across his body, and thus confined he was brought
down through the centre of the city, and put into a back room of the
police office, the whole _posse_ being gathered there to guard him.
The people, citizens and strangers, were alike indignant. As I passed
amongst them I heard nothing but execrations and threats of release.
Two or three times men came to me and said, “Mr. May, speak the word,
and we’ll have Jerry out.” “And what will you do with him,” I replied,
“when you get him out? You have just seen the bad effect of one
ill-advised attempt to rescue him. Wait until proper arrangements are
made. Stay near here to help at the right moment and in the right way.
In a little while it will be quite dark, and then the poor fellow can
be easily disposed of.”

Presently the Chief of the Police came to me, and said, “Jerry is in a
perfect rage, a fury of passion; do come in and see if you can quiet
him.” So I followed into the little room where he was confined. He was
indeed a horrible object. I was left alone with him, and sat down by
his side. So soon as I could get him to hear me, I said, “Jerry, do
try to be calm.” “Would you be calm,” he roared out, “with these irons
on you? What have I done to be treated so? Take off these handcuffs,
and then if I do not fight my way through these fellows that have got
me here,--then you may make me a slave.” Thus he raved on, until in a
momentary interval I whispered, “Jerry, we are going to rescue you; do
be more quiet!” “Who are you?” he cried. “How do I know you can or will
rescue me?” After a while I told him by snatches what we meant to do,
who I was, and how many there were who had come resolved to save him
from slavery. At length he seemed to believe me, became more tranquil,
and consented to lie down, so I left him. Immediately after I went to
the office of the late Dr. Hiram Hoyt, where I found twenty or thirty
picked men laying a plan for the rescue. Among them was Gerrit Smith,
who happened to be in town attending the Liberty Party Convention. It
was agreed that a skilful and bold driver in a strong buggy, with the
fleetest horse to be got in the city, should be stationed not far off
to receive Jerry, when he should be brought out. Then to drive hither
and thither about the city until he saw no one pursuing him; not to
attempt to get out of town, because it was reported that every exit was
well guarded, but to return to a certain point near the centre of the
city, where he would find two men waiting to receive his charge. With
them he was to leave Jerry, and know nothing about the place of his

At a given signal the doors and windows of the police office were to
be demolished at once, and the rescuers to rush in and fill the room,
press around and upon the officers, overwhelming them by their numbers,
not by blows, and so soon as they were confined and powerless by the
pressure of bodies about them, several men were to take up Jerry and
bear him to the buggy aforesaid. Strict injunctions were given, and it
was agreed not intentionally to injure the policemen. Gerrit Smith and
several others pressed this caution very urgently upon those who were
gathered in Dr. Hoyt’s office. And the last thing I said as we were
coming away was, “If any one is to be injured in this fray, I hope it
may be one of our own party.”

The plan laid down as I have sketched it was well and quickly executed,
about eight o’clock in the evening. The police office was soon in
our possession. One officer in a fright jumped out of a window and
seriously injured himself. Another officer fired a pistol and slightly
wounded one of the rescuers. With these exceptions there were no
personal injuries. The driver of the buggy managed adroitly, escaped
all pursuers, and about nine o’clock delivered Jerry into the hands of
Mr. Jason S. Hoyt and Mr. James Davis. They led him not many steps to
the house of the late Caleb Davis, who with his wife promptly consented
to give the poor fellow a shelter in their house, at the corner of
Genesee and Orange Streets. Here they at once cut off his shackles,
and after some refreshing food put him to bed. Now the excitement was
over, Jerry was utterly exhausted, and soon became very feverish. A
physician was called, who dressed his wounds and administered such
medicine as was applicable. But rest, sleep, was what he needed, and
he enjoyed them undisturbed for five days,--only four or five persons,
besides Mr. and Mrs. Davis, knowing what had become of Jerry. It
was generally supposed he had gone to Canada. But the next Sunday
evening, just after dark, a covered wagon with a span of very fleet
horses was seen standing for a few minutes near the door of Mr. Caleb
Davis’s house. Mr. Jason S. Hoyt and Mr. James Davis were seen to
help a somewhat infirm man into the vehicle, jump in themselves, and
start off at a rapid rate. Suspicion was awakened, and several of
the “patriots” of our city set off in pursuit of the “traitors.” The
chase was a hot one for eight or ten miles, but Jerry’s deliverers had
the advantage on the start, and in the speed of the horses that were
bearing him to liberty. They took him that night about twenty miles to
the house of a Mr. Ames, a Quaker, in the town of Mexico. There he was
kept concealed several days, and then conveyed to the house of a Mr.
Clarke, on the confines of the city of Oswego. This gentleman searched
diligently nearly a week for a vessel that would take Jerry across
to the dominions of the British Queen. He dared not trust a Yankee
captain, and the English vessels were so narrowly watched, that it was
not until several days had elapsed that he was able to find one who
would undertake to transport a fugitive slave over the lake. At length
the captain of a small craft agreed to set sail after dark, and when
well off on the lake to hoist a light to the top of his mast, that his
whereabouts might be known. Mr. Clarke took Jerry to a less frequented
part of the shore, embarked with him in a small boat, and rowed him
to the little schooner of the friendly captain. By him he was taken
to Kingston, where he soon was established again in the business of
a cooper. Not many days after his arrival there we received a letter
from him, expressing in the warmest terms his gratitude for what the
Abolitionists in Syracuse had done in his behalf. After pouring out a
heartful of thanks to us, he assured us that he had been led to think
more than ever before of his indebtedness to God,--the ultimate Source
of all goodness,--and had been brought to the resolution to lead a
purer, better life than he had ever done. We heard afterwards that he
was well married, and was living comfortably and respectably. But, ere
the fourth year of his deliverance had closed, he was borne away to
that world where there never was and never will be a slaveholder nor a

Foiled in their attempt to lay a tribute at the feet of the Southern
oligarchy, the officers of the United States Government set about to
punish us “traitors,” who had evinced so much more regard for “the
rights of man conferred by God” than for a wicked law enacted by
Congress. Eighteen of us were indicted. The accusation was brought
before Judge Conkling at Auburn. Thither, therefore, the accused
were taken. But we went accompanied by nearly a hundred of our
fellow-citizens, many of them the most prominent men of Syracuse, with
not a few ladies. So soon as the indictment was granted, and bailors
called for, Hon. William H. Seward stepped forward and put his name
first upon the bond. His good example was promptly followed, and the
required amount was quickly pledged by a number of our most responsible
gentlemen. Mr. Seward then invited the rescuers of Jerry and their
friends, especially the ladies, to his house, where all were hospitably
entertained until it was time for us to return to Syracuse.

But the hand of law was not laid upon the friends of Jerry alone. James
Lear, the agent of his claimant, and the Deputy Marshal who assisted
him, were arrested on warrants for attempting to kidnap a citizen of
Syracuse. They, however, easily escaped conviction on the plea that
they were acting under a law of the United States.

Many of the political newspapers were emphatic in their condemnation
of our resistance to the law, and only a few ventured to justify it.
_The Advertiser_ and _The American_ of Rochester, _The Gazette_ and
_Observer_ of Utica, _The Oneida Whig_, _The Register_, _The Argus_,
and _The Express_ of Albany, _The Courier and Inquirer_ and _The
Express_ of New York, although of opposite political parties, were
agreed in pronouncing “the rescue of Jerry a disgraceful, demoralizing,
and alarming act.”

A mass convention of the citizens of Onondaga County, called to
consider the propriety of the rescue, met in our City Hall on the 15th
of October, and with entire unanimity passed a series of resolutions
fully justifying and applauding the deed.

Ten days afterwards, an opposing convention of the city and county was
held in the same place, and sent forth an opposite opinion, but not
without dissent.

In one of our city papers I was called out by three of my
fellow-citizens as the one more responsible than any other for the
rescue of Jerry, and was challenged to justify such an open defiance of
a law of my country. Thus was the subject kept before the public, and
the questions involved in it were pretty thoroughly discussed.

Meanwhile the United States District Attorney was not neglectful of
his official duty. He summoned several of the indicted ones to trial
at Buffalo, at Albany, and at Canandaigua. But he did not obtain a
conviction in either case. Gerrit Smith, Charles A. Wheaton, and myself
published in the papers an acknowledgment that we had assisted all we
could in the rescue of Jerry; that we were ready for trial; would give
the Court no trouble as to the fact, and should rest our defence upon
the unconstitutionality and extreme wickedness of the Fugitive Slave
Law. The Attorney did not, however, see fit to bring the matter to that
test. He brought a poor colored man--Enoch Reed--to trial at Albany,
and summoned me as one of the witnesses against him. When called to the
stand to tell the jury all that I knew of Mr. Reed’s participation in
the rescue, I testified that I saw him doing what hundreds of others
did or attempted to do, and that he was not particularly conspicuous in
that good work. The Attorney was much offended. He assured the Judge
that I knew much more about the matter than I had told the jury, and
requested him to remind me of my oath to tell the whole truth. When
the Court had so admonished me, I bowed and said: “May it please your
Honor, I do know all about the rescue of Jerry; and if the prosecuting
officer will arraign Gerrit Smith, Charles A. Wheaton or myself, I
shall have occasion to tell the jury all about the transaction. I have
now truly given the jury all the testimony I have to give respecting
the prisoner at the bar.”

Of course Enoch Reed was acquitted, and no other one of those indicted
was convicted. The last attempt to procure a conviction was made at
Canandaigua, before Judge Hall, of the United States District Court,
in the autumn of 1852. A few days before the setting of that Court,
Mr. Gerrit Smith sent copies of a handbill to be distributed in that
village and the surrounding country, announcing that he would be in
Canandaigua at the time of the Court, and speak to the people who might
assemble to hear him, on the atrocious wickedness of the Fugitive Slave

On his arrival at Canandaigua, Mr. Smith found all the public buildings
closed against him. He therefore requested that a wagon might be drawn
into an adjoining pasture, and notice given that he would speak there.
At the appointed hour a large assembly had gathered to hear him. He
addressed them in his most impressive manner. He exposed fully the
great iniquity that was about to be attempted in the court-room hard
by,--the iniquity of sentencing a man as guilty of a crime for doing
that which, in the sight of God, was innocent, praiseworthy,--yes,
required by the Golden Rule. He argued to the jurors, who might be in
the crowd surrounding him, that, whatever might be the testimony given
them to prove that Jerry was a slave; whatever words might be quoted
from statutes or constitutions to show that a man can be by law turned
into a slave, a chattel, the property of another man, they nevertheless
might, with a good conscience, bring in a verdict acquitting any one of
crime, who should be accused before them of having helped to rescue a
fellow-man from those who would make him a slave. “If,” said he, “the
ablest lawyer should argue before you, and quote authorities to prove
that an article which you know to be wood is stone or iron, would you
consent to regard it as stone or iron, and bring in a verdict based
upon such a supposition, even though the judge in his charge should
instruct you so to do? I trust not. So neither should any argument or
amount of testimony or weight of authorities satisfy you that a man is
a chattel. Jurors cannot be bound more than other persons to believe an

The United States Attorney, Mr. Garvin, found that he could not empanel
a jury upon which there were not several who had formed an opinion
against the law. So he let all the “Jerry Rescue Causes” fall to the
ground forever.

At the time of this his boldest, most defiant act, Mr. Smith was a
member of Congress. For this reason “his contempt of the Court,” “his
disrespect for the forms of law, the precedents of judicial decisions,
and the authority of the constitution,” was pronounced by “the wise and
prudent” to be the more shameful, mischievous, and alarming. But “the
common people” could not be easily convinced that any wrong could be so
great as enslaving a man, nor that it was criminal to help him escape
from servile bondage.

My readers will readily believe that we exulted not a little in the
triumph of our exploit. For several years afterwards we celebrated the
1st of October as the anniversary of the greatest event in the history
of Syracuse. Either because, in 1852, there was no hall in our city
capacious enough to accommodate so large a meeting as we expected,
or else because we could not obtain the most capacious hall,--for
one or the other of these reasons,--the first anniversary of the
Rescue of Jerry was celebrated in the rotunda of the New York Central
Railroad, just then completed for the accommodation of the engines.
John Wilkinson, Esq., at that time President of the road, promptly,
and without our solicitation, proffered the use of the building, large
enough to hold thousands. It was well filled. Gerrit Smith presided,
and the speeches made by him, by Mr. Garrison, and other prominent
Abolitionists, together with the letters of congratulation received
from Hon. Charles Sumner, Rev. Theodore Parker, and others, would fill
a volume, half the size of this, with the most exalted political and
moral sentiments, and not a few passages of sublime eloquence.

After our triumph over the Fugitive Slave Law, we Abolitionists in
Central New York enjoyed for several years a season of comparative
peace. We held our regular and our occasional antislavery meetings
without molestation, and were encouraged in the belief that our
sentiments were coming to be more generally received. The Republican
party was evidently bound to become an abolition party. Hon. Charles
Sumner was doing excellent service in the Senate of the United States,
and Hon. Henry Wilson and others in Congress were seconding his
efforts, to bring the legislators of our nation to see and own that the
institution of slavery was utterly incompatible with a free, democratic
government, and irreconcilable with the Christian religion.

Still we could perceive no signs of repentance in the slaveholding
States, and had despaired of a _peaceful_ settlement of the great
controversy. How soon the appeal to the arbitrament of war would come
we could not predict; but we saw it to be inevitable. All, therefore,
that remained for the friends of our country and of humanity to do, was
diligently to disseminate throughout the non-slaveholding States a just
appreciation of the great question at issue between the North and the
South; a true respect for the God-given rights of man, which our nation
had so impiously dared to trample upon; and the sincere belief that
nothing less than the extermination of slavery from our borders could
insure the true union of the States and the prosperity of our Republic.
To this work of patriotism, as well as benevolence, therefore, we
addressed ourselves so long as the terrible chastisement which our
nation had incurred was delayed.

Wellnigh exhausted by my unremitted attention to the duties of my
profession, and to the several great reforms that have signalized the
last fifty years, I was persuaded to go to Europe for recreation and
the recovery of my health. I spent six months of the year 1859 on the
Continent, and three months in England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Numerous as are the interesting places and persons to be seen in
each of these last-named countries, I must confess that my greatest
attraction to them was the expectation of seeing many of the friends of
liberty, who had co-operated so generously with us for the abolition
of slavery. And in this respect I was not disappointed. I lectured
by request to large audiences in several of the chief cities of the
kingdom. But, what was much better, I had meetings for conversation
with the prominent Abolitionists, especially in London, Glasgow, and
Dublin. These were numerously attended, and the intelligent questions
put to me, by those who were so well informed and so deeply interested
in the cause of my enslaved countrymen, saved me from misspending a
minute on the commonplaces of the subject, and led me to give our
friends the most recent information of the kinds they craved.

I remember particularly the conversations that I had in Glasgow
and Dublin. The former was held in the ample, well-stored library
room of Professor Nichol of the University of that city. His wife
was, a few years before, Miss Elizabeth Pease, one of the earliest,
best-informed, and most liberal of our English fellow-laborers. He
promptly concurred with her in cordially inviting me to his home. And
on my second or third visit, he had gathered there to meet me the
prominent Abolitionists of the city and immediate neighborhood. He
presided at the meeting, and introduced me in a most comprehensive and
impressive speech on human freedom,--the paramount right of man,--of
all men,--demanding protection wherever it was denied or endangered
from all who can give it aid, without consideration of distance or
nationality. That well-spent evening I shall never forget, especially
his and his wife’s contributions of wise thought and elevated
sentiment. But my too brief personal acquaintance with them is kept
more sacred in my memory by his death, which happened soon after, and
an intensely interesting incident connected with it.

At Dublin and its vicinity I spent a fortnight,--too short a time. But
I had the happiness, while there, of seeing face to face several of
our warm-hearted sympathizers and active co-laborers, especially James
Haughton, Esq., and Richard D. Webb. The former I found to be more
engaged in the cause of Peace, and much more of Temperance, than in
the antislavery cause. Indeed, in the cause of Temperance he had done
then, and has done since, more than any other man in Ireland, excepting
Father Matthew. Still, he had always been, and was then, heartily in
earnest for the abolition of slavery everywhere.

But Richard D. Webb could hardly have taken a more active part with
American Abolitionists, or have rendered us much more valuable
services, if he had been a countryman of ours, and living in our
midst. The readers of _The Liberator_ cannot have forgotten how often
communications from his pen appeared in its columns, nor how thorough
an acquaintance they evinced with whatever pertained to our conflict
with “the peculiar institution,” that great anomaly in our democracy.
Mr. Webb was afterwards the author of an excellent memoir of John
Brown, whose “soul is still marching on,”--the spirit of whose hatred
of oppression, and sympathy with the down-trodden, is spreading wider
and descending deeper into the hearts of our people, and will continue
so to spread, until every vestige of slavery shall be effaced from
our land, and all the inhabitants thereof shall enjoy equal rights
and privileges on the same conditions. Mr. Webb’s memoir shows how
justly he appreciated and how heartily he admired the intentions of
John Brown, whatever he thought of the expediency of his plan of
operations. For a week I enjoyed the hospitality of Mrs. Edmundson, and
at her house met one evening many of the moral _élite_ of Dublin, for
conversation respecting the conflict with slavery in our country. Their
inquiries showed them to be very well informed on the subject, and
alive to whatever then seemed likely to affect the issue favorably or

Lord Morpeth, who was at that time Lord Lieutenant of Ireland,
graciously invited me to lunch with him. He had visited our country a
few years before, and had manifested while here the deepest interest
in the principles and purposes of the Abolitionists. I was delighted
to find that he and his sister, Lady Howard, continued to be as much
concerned as ever for our success.

On my return from Europe, early in November, 1859, the steamer stopped
as usual at Halifax. There we first received the tidings of John
Brown’s raid, and the failure of his enterprise. I felt at once that
it was “the beginning of the end” of our conflict with slavery. There
were several Southern gentlemen and ladies among our fellow-passengers,
and Northern sympathizers with them, as well as others of opposite
opinions. During our short passage from Halifax to Boston there was
evidently a deep excitement in many bosoms. Occasionally words of
bitter execration escaped the lips of one and another of the proslavery
party. But there was no dispute or general conversation upon the
subject. The event, of which we had just heard, was a portent of too
much magnitude to be hastily estimated, and the consequences thereof
flippantly foretold.

On my arrival in Boston, and the next day in Syracuse, I found the
public in a state of high excitement; and for two or three months the
case of John Brown was the subject of continual debate in private
circles as well as public meetings. The murmurs and threats that came
daily from the South, intimated plainly enough that the slaveholding
oligarchy were preparing for something harsher than a war of words.
They were gathering themselves to rule or ruin our Republic. Under
the imbecile administration of Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of War,
John B. Floyd, could do as he saw fit in his department. It was
observed that the arms and ammunition of the nation, with the greater
part of the small army needed in times of peace, were removed and
disposed of in such places as would make them most available to the
Southerners, if the emergency for which they were preparing should
come. They awaited only the issue of the next presidential contest.
The first ten months of the year 1860 were given to that contest. All
the strength of the two political parties was put in requisition,
drawn out, and fully tested and compared. And when victory crowned
the friends of freedom and human rights,--when the election of Mr.
Lincoln was proclaimed,--then came forth from the South the fierce
cry of disunion, and the standard of a new Confederacy was set up. It
is not my intention to enter upon the period of our Civil War. These
Recollections will close with occurrences before the fall of Fort

In pursuance of a plan adopted several years before, by the American
Antislavery Society, arrangements were made early in December, 1860, to
hold our annual conventions during the months of January and February,
in Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, and in a dozen other of the principal
cities and villages between the two extremes. We who had devoted
ourselves so assiduously for a quarter of a century or more to the
subversion of the slavery in our land, of course had many thoughts and
feelings upon the subject at that time, which pressed for utterance.
We were the last persons who could be indifferent to the state of our
country in 1860, or be silent in view of it. Nor had we any reason then
to suppose that our counsels and admonitions would be particularly
unacceptable to the people, as we were then frequently assured that the
public sentiment of New York, as well as New England, had become quite

We were not a little surprised, therefore, at the new outbreak of
violent opposition in Boston, and afterwards in Buffalo and other
places. About the middle of January I attended the convention at
Rochester, where we were rudely treated and grossly insulted. I could
no longer doubt that there was a concerted plan, among the Democrats
everywhere, to evince a revival of their zeal in behalf of their
Southern partisans by breaking up our meetings. And it appeared that
the Republicans were afraid to take the responsibility, and incur the
new odium of protecting our conventions in their constitutional rights.
Still I hoped better things of Syracuse.

But a few days before the time appointed for our Convention, I was
earnestly requested by the Mayor of the city to prevent the holding of
such a meeting. I replied I would do so, if there was indeed so little
respect for the liberty of speech in Syracuse that the assembly would
be violently dispersed. In answer to this, his Honor assured me that,
much as he wished we would forbear to exercise our undoubted right,
still, if we felt it to be our duty to hold the convention, “he would
fearlessly use every means at his command to secure order, and to
prevent any interference with our proceedings.” Thus he took from me
the only apology I could offer to our Committee of Arrangements for
interposing to prevent the assembling of a meeting, which they had
called in accordance with the duty assigned them.

A day or two afterwards I received a letter, written probably at the
solicitation of the Mayor, and signed by twenty of the most respectable
gentlemen of Syracuse (ten of them prominent members of my church),
urging me to prevent the holding of the convention, as “they were
credibly informed that an organized and forcible effort would be made
to oppose us, and a collision might ensue between the police force
of the city and a lawless mob.” Still, they assured me that they
recognized our right to hold such a convention, and “that they should
be in duty bound to aid in protecting us if we did assemble.” I felt
obliged to answer them very much as I had answered the Mayor, and added
what follows:--

“In common with my associates, I am very sincere in believing that the
principles we inculcate, and the measures we advise, are the only ones
that can (without war) extirpate from our country the root of that evil
which now overshadows us, and threatens our ruin. We have much to say
to the people, much that we deem it very important that they should
hear and believe, lest they bow themselves to another compromise with
the slaveholding oligarchy, which for many years has really ruled our
Republic, and which nothing will satisfy but the entire subjugation of
our liberties to their supposed interests.

“We perceive that the ‘strong’ men of the Republican party are
trembling, and concession and compromise are coming to be their policy.
We deprecate their fears, their want of confidence in moral principle
and in God. We therefore feel deeply urged to cry aloud, and warn the
people of the snare into which politicians would lead them. We are
bound at least to _offer_ to them the word of truth, whether they will
hear or whether they will forbear.

“If, gentlemen, you had assured me that our proposed meeting will be
violently assaulted; that those who may assemble peacefully to listen
will not be allowed to hear us; that they will be dispersed with insult
if not with personal injury; and that you, gentlemen of influence as
you are, shall stand aside and let the violent have their way; then I
should have felt it to be incumbent on me to advertise the friends of
liberty and humanity that it would not be worth their while to convene
here, as it would be only to be dispersed.

“But, gentlemen, as you generously ‘affirm,’ in the letter before me,
‘that your duties as citizens will require you to aid in extending
protection to our convention, in case it shall be convened, in the
exercise of all the rights which all deliberative bodies may claim,’
and as the Mayor of our city has assured me that ‘he shall fearlessly
use every means at his command to secure order and to prevent any
interference with our proceedings,’ I should not be justified in
assuming the responsibility of postponing the convention. For,
gentlemen, if you will do what you acknowledge to be your duty, and if
the Mayor will fulfil his generous promise, I am confident the rioters
will be overawed, the liberty of speech will be vindicated, and our
city rescued from a deep disgrace.

“Yours, gentlemen, in great haste, but very respectfully,

            “SAMUEL J. MAY.”

Just before the hour appointed for the opening of the convention, on
the 29th of January, 1861, I went to the hall which I had hired for its
accommodation. It was already fully occupied by the rioters. A meeting
had been organized, and the chairman was making his introductory
speech. So soon as he had finished it, I addressed him: “Mr. Chairman,
there is some mistake here, or a greater wrong. More than a week ago I
engaged this hall for our Annual Antislavery Convention to be held at
this hour.” Immediately, several rough men turned violently upon me,
touched my head and face with their doubled fists, and swore they would
knock me down, and thrust me out of the hall, if I said another word.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Mr. Strieby, of the Plymouth Church, had succeeded
in getting upon the platform, and had commenced a remonstrance, when he
was set upon in like manner, and threatened with being thrown down and
put out, if he did not desist at once.

The only police officer that I saw in the hall soon after rose,
addressed the chairman and said: “I came here, Sir, by order of the
Mayor, who had heard that there was to be a disturbance, and that the
liberty of speech would be outraged here. But I see no indications of
such an intended wrong. The meeting seems to me to be an orderly one,
properly organized. I approve the objects of the meeting as set forth
in your introductory speech, and trust you will have a quiet time.”

Thus dispossessed, we of course retired, and, after consultation,
agreed to gather as many of the members of the intended convention,
as could be found, at the dwelling-house of Dr. R. W. Pease, who
generously proffered us the use of it. A large number of ladies
and gentlemen assembled there early in the evening, and were duly
organized. Pertinent and impressive addresses were made by Beriah
Green, Aaron M. Powell, Susan B. Anthony, C. D. B. Mills, and others,
after which a series of resolutions was passed, of which the following
were the most important:--

  “_Resolved_, That the only escape for nations, as well as
  individuals, from sin and its consequences, is by the way of
  unfeigned repentance; and that our proud Republic must go down
  in ruin, unless the people shall be brought to repentance,--shall
  be persuaded to ‘cease to do evil, and learn to do well; to seek
  justice, relieve the oppressed.’ Compromises with the wrong-doers
  will only plunge us deeper in their iniquity. Civil war will not
  settle the difficulty, but complicate it all the more, and superadd
  rapine and murder to the sin of slaveholding. The dissolution of
  the Union, even, may not relieve us; for if slavery still remains
  in the land, it will be a perpetual trouble to the inhabitants
  thereof, whether they be separate or whether they be united;
  slavery must be abolished, or there can be no peace within these

  “_Resolved_, That our General Government ought to abolish all
  Fugitive Slave Laws; for, unless they can dethrone God, the people
  will ever be under higher obligations to obey him than to obey any
  laws, any constitutions that men may have framed and enacted. And
  the law of God requires us to befriend the friendless, to succor
  the distressed, to hide the outcast, to deliver the oppressed.

  “_Resolved_, That as the people of the free States have from the
  beginning been partakers in the iniquity of slavery,--accomplices
  of the oppressors of the poor laborers at the South,--therefore we
  ought to join hands with them in any well-devised measures for the
  emancipation of their bondmen. Our wealth and the wealth of the
  nation ought to be put in requisition, to relieve those who may
  impoverish themselves by setting their captives free; to furnish
  the freed men with such comforts, conveniences, implements of labor
  as they may need; and to establish such educational and religious
  institutions as will be indispensable everywhere, to enable them,
  and, yet more, their children and children’s children, to become
  what the free people, the citizens of self-governing states, ought
  to be,--_intelligent_, _moral_, _religious_.

  “_Resolved_, That the abolition of slavery is the great concern of
  the American people,--‘the one thing needful’ for them,--without
  which there can be no union, no peace, no political virtue, no
  real, lasting prosperity in all these once United States.

  “_Resolved_, That, so far from its being untimely or inappropriate
  to stand forth for unpopular truths, in seasons of great popular
  excitement, apprehension, and wide passionate denial of them,
  it is then pre-eminently timely, appropriate, and all vitally
  important, whether regarded in view of the paramount obligations
  of fealty to the Supreme King, or the sacred considerations of the
  redemption and welfare of mankind; and as it behooved then most of
  all to speak for Jesus, when Jesus was arraigned for condemnation
  and crucifixion, as it has ever been the bounden and, sooner or
  later, the well-acknowledged duty of every friend of the truth in
  past history to stand firm, and ever firmer in its behalf, amid
  whatever wave of passion, malignity, and madness, even though the
  multitude all shout, Crucify! and devils be gathered thick as tiles
  on the house-tops of Worms to devour; so at the present hour it
  sacredly behooves Abolitionists to abide fast by their principles,
  and in the very midst of the present storm of passion and insane
  folly, in face of every assault, whether of threat or infliction,
  to speak for the slave and for man; and, with an earnestness
  and pointed emphasis unknown before, to press home upon their
  countrymen the question daily becoming more imminent and vital,
  whether the few vestiges of freedom yet remaining shall be blotted
  out, and this entire land overswept with tyranny, violence, and

The members of the Convention refused to make any further attempt to
hold a public meeting, but the citizens who were present at Dr. Pease’s
house resolved to attempt a meeting the next forenoon in the hall from
which the convention had been expelled, for the express purpose of
testing the faithfulness of the city authorities, and manifesting a
just indignation at the outrage which had been perpetrated in our midst
upon some of the fundamental rights of a free people. But the attempt
was frustrated by the same rioters that had ruled the day before.

And the following night the mob celebrated their too successful
onslaught upon popular liberty by a procession led by a band of music,
with transparent banners, bearing these inscriptions:--




                    “THE JERRY RESCUERS PLAYED OUT.”

Prominently in the procession there were carried two large-sized
effigies,--one of a man the other of a woman,--the former bearing
my name, the latter Miss Anthony’s. After parading through some of
the principal streets, the procession repaired to Hanover Square,
the centre of the business part of our city, and there amid shouts,
hootings, mingled with disgusting profanity and ribaldry, the effigies
were burned up; but not the great realities for which we were

       *       *       *       *       *

For more than thirty years the Abolitionists had been endeavoring to
rouse the people to exterminate slavery by moral, ecclesiastical,
and political instrumentalities, urging them to their duty by every
religious consideration, and by reiterating the solemn admonition of
Thomas Jefferson, that “If they would not liberate the enslaved in the
land by the generous energies of their own minds and hearts, the slaves
would be liberated by the awful processes of civil and servile war.”
But the counsels of the Abolitionists were spurned, their sentiments
and purposes were shamelessly misrepresented, their characters
traduced, their property destroyed, their persons maltreated. And
lo! our country, favored of Heaven above all others, was given up to
fratricidal, parricidal, and for a while we feared it would be suicidal

God be praised! the threatened dissolution of our Union was averted.
But discord still reigns in the land. Our country is not surely saved.
It was right that our Federal Government should be forbearing in their
treatment of the Southern Rebels, because the people of the North had
been, to so great an extent, their partners in the enslavement of our
fellow-men, that it would have ill become us to have punished them
condignly. But our Government has been guilty of great injustice to the
colored population of the South, who were all loyal throughout the war.
These should not have been left as they have been, in a great measure,
at the mercy of their former masters. Homes and adequate portions of
the land (they so long had cultivated without compensation) ought to
have been secured to every family of the Freedmen, and some provision
for their education should have been made. With these and the elective
franchise conferred upon them, the Freedmen might safely have been left
to maintain themselves in their new condition, and work themselves out
of the evils that were enforced upon them by their long enslavement.

May the sad experience of the past prompt and impel our nation, before
it be too late, to do all for the colored population of our country,
South and North, that righteousness demands at our hands.



On page 137 I have alluded to Hon. J. G. Palfrey. He evinced his
respect for the rights of man by an act which was incomparably more
significant and convincing than the most eloquent words could have
been. On the death of his father, who was a slaveholder in Louisiana,
he became heir to one third of the estate, comprising about fifty
slaves. His co-heirs would readily have taken his share of these
chattels and have given him an equivalent in land or money. But he
was too conscientious to consent to such a bargain. If his portion of
his father’s bondmen should thereafter continue in slavery, it must
be by an act of his own will, and involve him in the crime of making
merchandise of men. From this his whole soul revolted. Accordingly,
he requested that such a division of the slaves might be made as
would put the largest number of them into his share. The money value
of the women, children, and old men being much less than that of the
able-bodied men, twenty-two of the slaves were assigned to him. I
presume their market value could not have been less than nine thousand
dollars. All of them were brought on, at Mr. Palfrey’s expense, from
Louisiana to Massachusetts.

Assisted by his Abolitionist friends, especially Mrs. L. M. Child,
Mrs. E. G. Loring, and the Hathaways of Farmington, N. Y., and their
Quaker friends, he succeeded after a while in getting them all well
situated in good families, where the old were kindly cared for, the
able-bodied adults were employed and duly remunerated for their labors,
and the young were brought up to be worthy and useful. It has been my
happiness to be personally acquainted with some of them and their
friends, and to know that what I have stated above is true. Their
transportation from Louisiana to Massachusetts; their maintenance here
until places were found for them; and their removal to their several
homes, must have cost Mr. Palfrey several hundred dollars,--I suppose
eight or ten hundred. If so, he nobly sacrificed ten thousand dollars’
worth of his patrimony to his sense of right and his love of liberty.

In 1847 this excellent man was elected a Representative of
Massachusetts in the Congress of the United States. As those who knew
him best confidently expected, he early took high antislavery ground

The following are extracts from his first speech in Congress: “The
question is not at all between North and South, but between the many
millions of non-slaveholding Americans, North, South, East, and West,
and the very few hundreds of thousands of their fellow-citizens who
hold slaves. It is time that this idea of a geographical distinction
of parties, with relation to this subject, was abandoned. It has no
substantial foundation. Freedom, with its fair train of boundless
blessings for white and black,--slavery, with its untold miseries for
both,--these are the two parties in the field.... I will now only
express my deliberate and undoubting conviction, that the time has
quite gone by when the friends of slavery might hope anything from an
attempt to move the South to disunion for its defence.... I do not
believe it is good policy for the slaveholders to let their neighbors
hear them talk of disunion. Unless I read very stupidly the signs of
the times, _it will not be the Union they will thus endanger, but the
interest to which they would sacrifice it_. If they insist that the
Union and slavery cannot live together, they may be taken at their

At its close, the Hon. J. Q. Adams is reported to have exclaimed:
“Thank God the seal is broken! Lord, now lettest thou thy servant
depart in peace.” And “the old man eloquent” died at his post a month


On page 147 I have named, among other members of the Society of Friends
who gave us efficient support in the day when we most needed help,
Nathaniel Barney, then of Nantucket. He was one of the earliest of
the immediate Abolitionists, was most explicit and fearless in the
avowal of his sentiments, most consistent and conscientious in acting
accordingly with them. He denounced “the prejudice against color as
opposed to every precept and principle of the Gospel,” and said, “It
betrays a littleness of soul to which, when it is rightly considered,
an honorable mind can never descend.” Therefore, he would not ride in a
stage-coach or other public conveyance, from which an applicant for a
seat was excluded _because of his complexion_.

He was a stockholder in the New Bedford and Taunton Railroad. In 1842
he learned that _colored_ persons were excluded from the cars on
that road. Immediately he sent an admirable letter, dated April 14,
1842, to the New Bedford _Mercury_ for publication, condemning such
proscription. It was refused. He then offered it to the _Bulletin_,
where it was likewise rejected. At length it appeared in the New
Bedford _Morning Register_, and was worthy of being republished in
every respectable newspaper in our country. In it he said: “The
thought never entered my mind, when I advocated a liberal subscription
to that railroad among our citizens, that I was contributing to a
structure where, in coming years, should be exhibited a cowardice and
despotism which I know the better feelings of the proprietors would, on
reflection, repudiate.... I cannot conscientiously withdraw the little
I invested, neither can I sell my share of the stock of this road,
while the existing prescriptive character attaches to it; and with my
present views and feelings, so long as the privileges of the traveller
are suspended on one of the accidents of humanity, I should be recreant
to every principle of propriety and justice, _were I to receive aught
of the price_ which the directors attach to them. In the exclusion,
therefore, by the established rules of one equally entitled with myself
to a seat, _I am excluded from any share of the money_,--the profit of
said infraction of right.”

Surely, the name of such a man ought to be handed down to our posterity
to be duly honored, when the great and mean iniquity of our nation
shall be abhorred.


Speech of Gerrit Smith, referred to on page 169. I have omitted a few
passages for want of room.

“On returning home from Utica last night, my mind was so much excited
with the horrid scenes of the day, and the frightful encroachments made
on the right of free discussion, that I could not sleep, and at three
o’clock I left my bed and drafted this resolution:--

“‘_Resolved_, That the right of free discussion, given to us by God,
and asserted and guarded by the laws of our country, is a right so
vital to man’s freedom and dignity and usefulness, that we can never be
guilty of its surrender, without consenting to exchange that freedom
for slavery, and that dignity and usefulness for debasement and

“I love our free and happy government, but not because it confers any
new rights upon us. Our rights spring from a nobler source than human
constitutions and governments,--from the favor of Almighty God.

“We are not indebted to the Constitution of the United States, or of
this State, for the right of free discussion. We are thankful that they
have hedged it about with so noble a defence. We are thankful, I say,
that they have neither restrained nor abridged it; but we owe them no
thanks for our possession of rights which God gave us. And the proof
that he gave them is in the fact that he requires us to exercise them.

“When, then, this right of free discussion is invaded, this home-bred
right, which is yours, and is mine, and belongs to every member of the
human family, it is an invasion of something which was not obtained by
human concession, something as old as our own being, a part of the
original man, a component portion of our own identity, something which
we cannot be deprived of without dismemberment, something which we
never can deprive ourselves of without ceasing to be MEN.

“This right, so sacred and essential, is now sought to be trammelled,
and is in fact virtually denied.... Men in denying this right are not
only guilty of violating the Constitution, and destroying the blessings
bought by the blood and toil of our fathers, but guilty of making war
with God himself. I want to see this right placed on this true, this
infinitely high ground, as a DIVINE right. I want to see men defend
it and exercise it with that belief. I want to see men determined to
maintain, to their extremest boundaries, all the rights which God has
given them for their enjoyment, their dignity, and their usefulness.

       *       *       *       *       *

“We are even now threatened with legislative restrictions on this
right. Let us tell our legislators, in advance, that we cannot bear
any. The man who attempts to interpose such restrictions does a
grievous wrong to God and man, which we cannot bear. Submit to this,
and we are no longer what God made us to be,--MEN. Laws to gag men’s
mouths, to seal up their lips, to freeze up the warm gushings of the
heart, are laws which the free spirit cannot brook; they are laws
contrary alike to the nature of man and the commands of God; laws
destructive of human happiness and the divine constitution; and before
God and man they are null and void. They defeat the very purposes for
which God made man, and throw him mindless, helpless, and worthless at
the feet of the oppressor.

“And for what purpose are we called to throw down our pens, and seal up
our lips, and sacrifice our influence over our fellow-men by the use of
free discussion? If it were for an object of benevolence that we are
called to renounce that freedom of speech with which God made us, there
would be some color of fitness in the demand; but such a sacrifice the
cause of truth and mercy never calls us to make. That cause requires
the exertion, not the suppression, of our noblest powers. But here we
are called on to degrade and unman ourselves, and to withhold from our
fellow-men that influence which we ought to exercise for their good.
And for what? I will tell you for what. That the oppressed may lie more
passive at the feet of the oppressor; that one sixth of our American
people may never know their rights; that two and a half millions of our
countrymen, crushed in the cruel folds of slavery, may remain in all
their misery and despair, without pity and without hope.

“For such a purpose, so wicked, so inexpressibly mean, the Southern
slaveholder calls on us to lie down like whipped and trembling spaniels
at his feet. Our reply is this: Our republican spirits cannot submit to
such conditions. God did not make us, Jesus did not redeem us, for such
vile and sinful uses.

“I knew before that slavery would not survive free discussion. But
the demands recently put forth by the South for our surrender of the
right of discussion, and the avowed reasons of that demand, involve
a full concession of this fact, that free discussion is incompatible
with slavery. The South, by her own showing, admits that slavery cannot
live unless the North is tongue-tied. Now you, and I, and all these
Abolitionists, have two objections to this: One is, we desire and
purpose to employ all our influence lawfully and kindly and temperately
to deliver our Southern brethren from bondage, and never to give rest
to our lips or our pens till it is accomplished. The other objection
is that we are not willing to be slaves ourselves. The enormous and
insolent demands put forth by the South show us that the question is
now, not only whether the blacks shall continue to be slaves, but
whether our necks shall come under the yoke. While we are trying to
break it off from others, we are called to see to it that it is not
fastened on our own necks also.

“It is said: ‘The South will not molest our liberty if we will not
molest their slavery; they do not wish to restrict us if we will cease
to speak of their peculiar institution.’ Our liberty is not our _ex
gratia_ privilege, conceded to us by the South, and which we are to
have more or less, as they please to allow. No, sir! The liberty which
the South proffers us, to speak and write and print, if we do not touch
that subject, is a liberty we do not ask, a liberty which we do not
accept, but which we scornfully reject.

“It is not to be disguised, sir, that war has broken out between
the South and the North, not easily to be terminated. Political and
commercial men, for their own purposes, are industriously striving
to restore peace; but the peace which they may accomplish will be
superficial and hollow. True and permanent peace can only be restored
by removing the cause of the war,--that is, _slavery_. It can never
be established on any other terms. The sword now drawn will not be
sheathed until that deep and damning stain is washed out from our
nation. It is idle, criminal, to speak of peace on any other terms.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Whom shall we muster on our side in this great battle between liberty
and slavery? The many never will muster in such a cause, until they
first see unequivocal signs of its triumph. We don’t want the many, but
the true-hearted, who are not skilled in the weapons of carnal warfare.
We don’t want the politicians, who, to secure the votes of the South,
care not if slavery is perpetual. We don’t want the merchant, who, to
secure the custom of the South, is willing to applaud slavery, and
leave his countrymen, and their children, and their children’s children
to the tender mercies of slavery forever.

“We want only one class of men for this warfare. Be that class ever
so small, we want only those who will stand on the rock of Christian
principle. We want men who can defend the right of free discussion on
the ground that God gave it. We want men who will act with unyielding
honesty and firmness. We have room for all such, but no room for the
time-serving and selfish.”


Notwithstanding the caution I have given my readers in the Preface
and elsewhere, not to expect in this volume anything like a complete
history of our antislavery conflict, many may be disappointed in not
finding any acknowledgment of the services of some whom they have
known as efficient, brave, self-sacrificing laborers in our cause. I
was reproached, accused of ingratitude and injustice, because I did
not give in my articles in _The Christian Register_ any account of
the labors of certain persons, whose names stand high on the roll of
antislavery philanthropists. The following is a copy of a part of one
of the letters that I received:--

            BOSTON, April, 1868.

  DEAR SIR,--The writer of this is a subscriber to _The Christian
  Register_, and has there read your “Reminiscences of the
  Antislavery Reformers.” The numbers thus far (including the
  thirty-eighth) contain no notice of, or allusion to, our late
  lamented friend, Nathaniel P. Rogers, editor of _The Herald of
  Freedom_. His numerous friends in New England have been waiting and
  wondering that his name did not appear in your papers. Mr. Rogers
  gave up a lucrative profession, in which he had attained a high
  rank, and devoted himself _soul, body, and estate_, to the service
  of the antislavery cause, in which he labored conscientiously
  during the rest of his life, and left his family impoverished in
  consequence. That Mr. Rogers was one of the few most talented
  Abolitionists no one will deny who knew them; and that he was the
  intimate friend and fellow-laborer of Mr. Garrison was equally
  well known. He went to Europe with Mr. Garrison, and together
  they visited the most distinguished Abolitionists in England and
  Scotland; and, after his return, George Thompson, on his first
  visit to this country, was received by him in his family, and
  passed several days with him.

  You have mentioned many names in your papers quite obscure, and of
  very little account in this movement, and why you have thus far
  omitted one of such prominence has puzzled many of your readers.

  Notwithstanding, the writer will not allow himself to doubt that it
  is your intention in the end to do to all equal and exact


I cordially indorse my unknown correspondent’s eulogium of Nathaniel P.
Rogers. I remember hearing much of his faithfulness and fearlessness
in the cause of our enslaved countrymen, and of liberty of speech
and of the press. Between the years 1836 and 1846 he wrote much,
and so well that his articles in the _Herald of Freedom_ were often
republished in the _Antislavery Standard_ and _Liberator_. I generally
read them with great satisfaction. They were racy, spicy, and unsparing
of anything he deemed wrong. Mr. Rogers, I have no doubt, rendered
very important services to the antislavery cause, especially in New
Hampshire, and was held in the highest esteem by the Abolitionists
of that State. But it was not my good fortune to know much of him
personally. I seldom saw him, and never heard him speak in any of our
meetings more than two or three times. The only reason why I have
only named him is that I really have no personal recollections of
him. A volume of his writings, prefaced by a sketch of his life and
character from the pen of Rev. John Pierpont, was published in 1847 and
republished in 1849. It will repay any one for an attentive perusal,
and help not a little to a knowledge of the temper of the times,--the
spirit of the State and the Church,--when N. P. Rogers labored,
sacrificed, and suffered for impartial liberty, for personal, civil,
and religious freedom. The fact that he was a lineal descendant of the
never-to-be-forgotten Rev. John Rogers--the martyr of Smithfield--and
also one of the Peabody race, will add to the interest with which his
writings will be read.


An intimation is given on page 272 that I have known some remarkable
colored women. I wish my readers had seen, in her best days, _Sojourner
Truth_. She was a tall, gaunt, very black person, who made her
appearance in our meetings at an early period. Though then advanced
in life, she was very vigorous in body and mind. She was a slave in
New York State, from her birth in 1787 until the abolition of slavery
in that State in 1827, and had never been taught to read. But she was
deeply religious. She had a glowing faith in the power, wisdom, and
goodness of God. She had had such a full experience of the wrongs of
slavery, that she could not believe they were permitted by God. She
was sure He must hate them, and would destroy those who persisted in
perpetrating them. She often spoke in our meetings, never uttering many
sentences, but always such as were pertinent, impressive, and sometimes


On page 283 I have spoken of Harriet Tubman. She deserves to be placed
first on the list of American heroines. Having escaped from slavery
twenty-two years ago, she set about devising ways and means to help
her kindred and acquaintances out of bondage. She first succeeded in
leading off her brother, with his wife and several children. Then
she helped her aged parents from slavery in Virginia to a free and
comfortable home in Auburn, N. Y. Thus encouraged she continued for
several years her semi-annual raids into the Southern plantations.
Twelve or fifteen times she went. Most adroitly did she evade the
patrols and the pursuers. Very large sums of money were offered for her
capture, but in vain. She succeeded in assisting nearly two hundred
persons to escape from slavery.

When the war broke out she felt, as she said, that “the good Lord has
come down to deliver my people, and I must go and help him.” She went
into Georgia and Florida, attached herself to the army, performed
an incredible amount of labor as a cook, a laundress, and a nurse,
still more as the leader of soldiers in scouting parties and raids.
She seemed to know no fear and scarcely ever fatigue. They called her
their _Moses_. And several of the officers testified that her services
were of so great value, that she was entitled to a pension from the
Government. The life of this remarkable woman has been written by a
lady,--Mrs. Bradford,--and published in Auburn, N. Y. I hope many of
my readers will procure copies of it, that they may know more about
Harriet Tubman.


The saddest, most astounding evidence of the demoralization of our
Northern citizens in respect to slavery, and of Mr. Webster’s depraving
influence upon them, is given in the following letter addressed to him
soon after the delivery of his speech on the 7th of March,--signed by
eight hundred of the prominent citizens of Massachusetts. I have given
the names of a few as specimens of the whole.

  From the Boston Daily Advertiser of April 2, 1850.


  SIR,--Impressed with the magnitude and importance of the service
  to the Constitution and the Union which you have rendered by your
  recent speech in the Senate of the United States on the subject of
  slavery, we desire to express to you our deep obligation for what
  this speech has done and is doing to enlighten the public mind, and
  to bring the present crisis in our national affairs to a fortunate
  and peaceful termination. As citizens of the United States, we wish
  to thank you for recalling us to our duties under the Constitution,
  and for the broad, national, and patriotic views which you have
  sent with the weight of your great authority, and with the power of
  your unanswerable reasoning into every corner of the Union.

  It is, permit us to say, sir, no common good which you have thus
  done for the country. In a time of almost unprecedented excitement,
  when the minds of men have been bewildered by an apparent conflict
  of duties, and when multitudes have been unable to find solid
  ground on which to rest with security and peace, you have pointed
  out to a whole people the path of duty, have convinced the
  understanding and touched the conscience of a nation. You have met
  this great exigency as a patriot and a statesman, and although the
  debt of gratitude which the people of this country owe to you was
  large before, you have increased it by a peculiar service, which is
  felt throughout the land.

  We desire, therefore, to express to you our entire concurrence
  in the sentiments of your speech, and our heartfelt thanks for
  the inestimable aid it has afforded towards the preservation and
  perpetuation of the Union. For this purpose, we respectfully
  present to you this, our Address of thanks and congratulation, in
  reference to this most interesting and important occasion in your
  public life.

  We have the honor to be, with the highest respect,

            Your obedient servants,

    T. H. PERKINS,
    J. A. LOWELL,
    J. W. PAGE,
    WM. P. MASON,
    C. C. FELTON,[U]

    And over seven hundred others.


Cambridge: Electrotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.


[A] This chapter was written in June, 1867, and I give it here as it
first came from my pen.

[B] Rev. Mr. Pierpont, who afterwards did good service, was absent in
Europe during 1835.

[C] See Appendix.

[D] See Appendix.

[E] See “Right and Wrong in Boston,” by Mrs. M. W. Chapman.

[F] I have been told, and I record it here to his honor, that Hon.
Joshua A. Spencer made an earnest, excellent speech, in behalf of free

[G] See Appendix.

[H] Of Leicester, England, who first demanded “immediate emancipation.”

[I] See Appendix.

[J] On that occasion, or another, I am not sure which, Mr. Adams
announced another very pregnant opinion which he was ready to maintain;
namely, that slaveholders had no right to bring or send their slaves
into a free State, and keep them in slavery there; but that whenever
slaves were brought into any State where all the people were free, they
became partakers of that freedom, were slaves no longer.

[K] Elizabeth Heyrick, of Leicester, England.

[L] I am most happy to preserve and make known the fact that Dr. Henry
Ware, Jr., then at the head of the Divinity School, and Professor
Sidney Willard, of the college in Cambridge, were also members of that

[M] Would that justice would allow shame to wipe forever from the
memory of man the disgraceful fact that, on the 27th of July, 1840,
the Rev. John Pierpont was arraigned before an Ecclesiastical
Council in Boston, by a committee of the parish of Hollis Street, as
guilty of offences for which his connection with that parish ought
to be dissolved,--and was dissolved. His offences were “his too
busy interference with questions of legislation on the subject of
prohibiting the sale of ardent spirits, his too busy interference with
questions of legislation on the subject of imprisonment for debt, _and
his too busy interference with the popular controversy on the subject
of the abolition of slavery_.”

[N] The one of which Rev. Baron Stow, D. D., was pastor.

[O] See Appendix.

[P] I advertised my request in “Notes and Queries” for August, 1859.

[Q] See “The American Churches the Bulwarks of American Slavery,” by
J. G. Birney, “Slavery and Antislavery,” by W. Goodell, and “The Church
and Slavery,” by Rev. Albert Barnes.

[R] See Appendix.

[S] Of the Theological Institution at Andover.

[T] President of Harvard University.

[U] Professor of Greek in Harvard University.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

The entries in the Table of Contents for pages 389 and 391 do not have
corresponding sub-headings on the referenced pages, and the sub-heading
on page 85 is not mentioned in the Table of Contents.

Page 28: “de-gradation” was printed with the hyphen; in context, this
appears to be intentional.

Page 40: “through the school” was printed as “though the school”;
changed here.

Page 111: Extraneous opening quotation mark removed before “Here, too,

Page 191: Unmatched closing quotation mark retained after “national
honor and prosperity.”

Page 237: Unmatched opening quotation mark removed before “Pastoral
Association of Massachusetts”.

Page 354: The second line of poetry, beginning “And in my soul’s just
estimation”, was printed as one very long line. In other books, those
lines are in several different ways.

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