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Full text of "Anti-slavery before Garrison, An Address before the Connecticut Society of the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America, New Haven, September 19, 1902, being a contribution toward the hitherto unwritten life of the true William Lloyd Garrison"

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Anti-Slavery Before 

SEPTEMBER 19, 1902 




Pastor at Assonet, Mass. 

, . ( 






Anti-Slavery Before 

SEPTEMBER 19, 1902 




Pastor at Assoxet, Mass. 









Among tlie most grateful duties of the Order of the 
Founders and Patriots of America must, of course, be 
reckoned that of commemorating the virtues and hon- 
orable deeds of leaders whose worth is universally 
known and acknowledged. 

An even higher duty is to rescue from negledl and 
oblivion the record of unknown or forgotten patriots. 
It is a duty which this Connedlicut Society of the 
Order has fulfilled, by the graceful pen of its Gov- 
ernor, \rith distinguished fidelity and success. 

A duty still more imperative sometimes emerges — 
that of defending the memory of the fathers from sys- 
tematic defamation and detra6lion. Sedlarian animos- 
ity, partisan rancor, and even the ignoble ambition to 
extol the memory of some favorite by disparaging 
worthier names, have again and again incited to the 
shameful business of covering some of the fairest 
pages of American history with ugly and malicious 
blots. It is this third task, that of defending the 
Founders and Patriots from defamation, which I have 
prescribed to myself to-da}'. 

There is no point on which our Founders and 
Patriots have been more studiously traduced than in the 
misrepresentation, or the non-representation, of their 
record concerning slavery. 

That record is eminently noble and honorable. 
Among the first and most important entries in it is 

that AS. of the General Court of Massachusetts, as 
early as 1641, declaring that with the exception of 
lawful captives taken in just wars, no slavery should 
ever be in the colony. Five years later, it took meas- 
ures for returning to Africa the captives of a slave ship. 
If, thirty years later still, slavery had nevertheless 
gotten some foothold in the colony, it was in face of 
an impassioned protest, in the name of the Lord, from 
the apostolic John Eliot. From that first generation 
down, the succession of anti-slavery agitators has 
never once been interrupted, nor failed to include some 
of the noblest names among the Founders and Patriots. 
It is no disparagement to other sections to claim that 
in this the Founders and Patriots of New England 
took the lead. The popular impression that some 
precedence is to be conceded to the Quakers is a mis- 
taken one. The voice of the " Pennsylvania PilgrSn " 
was not lifted up until nearly a half-centurj- after the 
adl of the General Court of Massachusetts, which was 
the voice of the church as well as of the state. The 
Quakers of Rhode Island learned their anti-slavery 
principles from the Connedlicut deacon who declared 
to " College Tom " Hazard, in 1742, that the Quakers 
were no Christians because they held their fellow-men 
in slaver}' ;'■' and afterward from the two Connedlicut 
pastors at Newport, Samuel Hopkins and Ezra Stiles. 
These names bring us near home, and bring us down to 
the Revolutionary period when generous men, contend- 
ing for their own inalienable rights, were not unmindful 
of the rights of others. It was in 1 774 that Levi Hart, of 

*See the " Life of College Tom," by his grandson's granddaughter, 
Caroline Hazard. 

Preston, was invited to his native town of Farmington 
to preach his anti-slavery sermon to " the corporation 
of freemen ; " and the next year that Aaron Cleveland, 
of Norwich, hatter, poet, legislator, minister of the 
gospel and tribune of the people, published his 
anti-slavery poem. It was distindlly in the line of 
this succession that Jonathan Edwards the Second, 
friend of Hopkins, preached at New Haven, before the 
Connedlicut Abolition Society of which Ezra Stiles 
was president, his powerful and widely influential dis- 
course against the slave trade and the whole system of 

This was in 1 791, and brings us near to the opening 
of the nineteenth century. For brevity's sake I must 
cut short this account of the earlier days of anti-slavery 
effort, although there are noble pages of history still 
un^l^ritten here, and although the first two decades of 
the century include the history of the first great national 
controversy overthe slaver}^ question. But although the 
story has never been adequatel}' written, there really is 
not much that is doubtful about it. It is only when we 
come to the decade from 1820 to 1830, a period hardly 
beyond the memory of some of us, that we find our- 
selves in the presence of most contradictory and con- 
fusing statements. I propose to compare and examine 
these in the interest of the truth of history. 

On the one hand, it is declared, with impressive 
iteration and reiteration, that this period was one of 
general apathy and indifference on the subject of 
slavery and the wrongs and needs of the colored race. 
Mr. Garrison, speaking of the time when he began his 
agitation (which was about 1830), says: 

" There was scarcely a man in all the land who 
dared to peep or mutter on the subje(5l of slavery ; the 
pulpit and the press were dumb ; no anti-slavery organ- 
izations were made; no public . addresses were deliv- 
ered ; no reproofs, no warnings, no entreaties were 
uttered in the ears of the people ; silence, almost un- 
broken silence, prevailed universally. '■' * * Jt 
was necessar\' to wake up a nation then slumbering in 
the lap of moral death." (Life, I, 458.) 

Mrs. Lydia Maria Child, publishing in 1833 her 
" Appeal in favor of the Africans," claims for Mr. Gar- 
rison " the merit of having first called public attention 
to a negledled and very important subjecft," and says : 

" In this country we have not, until very recently, 
dared to publish anything upon the subject (of slavery). 
Our books, our reviews, our newspapers, our alma- 
nacs, have all been silent, or exerted their influence on 
the wrong side. The negro's crimes are repeated, but 
his sufferings are never told. Even in our geographies 
it is taught that the colored race must alwa3's be 
degraded." (Quoted in Qu. Chr. Spectator, VI, 454, 

Mr. Oliver Johnson, who had ample means of inform- 
ing himself, if he had been disposed to use them, says 
of the period from 182 1 to 1829: 

" There was hardly a ripple of excitement about 
slavery in any part of the nation. * * * The 
anti-slavery sentiment of the country had become too 
feeble to utter even a whisper. From one year's end 
to another there was scarcely a newspaper in all the 
land that made the slightest allusion to the subje(ft. 
* ■'' '■' Pulpit and press were generally silent. If 
they spoke at all, it was only to say that slavery was 
too dangerous a subject to be discussed. * * * The 


state was morally paralyzed ; the pulpit was dumb ; 
the church heeded not the cry of the slave." ( Gar- 
rison and His Times, 21-23.) 

In like manner Mr. Wendell Phillips (among whose 
unquestionably brilliant endowments the facult}^ of 
exact statement was not included), at Mr. Garrison's 
funeral, glorifying his hero's exceptional and solitary 
keenness of conscience on this subject, at a time when 
** Christianity and statesmanship, the experience, the 
genius of the land, were aghast, amazed and con- 
founded," speaks of "the miracle of that insight" 
amid " the blackness of the darkness of ignorance and 
indifference which then brooded over what was called 
the moral and religious element of the American peo- 
ple." (Eulogy, 2.) 

i might add page after page of quotations on this 
side of the question, but let one more suffice. This 
time it shall be from Mr. Elizur Wright. Referring 
to this same period, he declares : 

" It is no exaggeration to say, this nation, in church 
and state, from President to bootblack — I mean the 
white bootblack — was thoroughly pro-slavery. In the 
Sodom there might have been a Lot or two here and 
there, some profound thinker who wished justice to be 
done though the heavens fall, but he was despondent. 
It seemed as though nearly the whole business of the 
press, the pulpit and the theological seminary was to 
reconcile the people to the permanent degradation and 
slavery of the negro race." (In Life of Garrison, I, 

So much for this side. Now let us compare some 
other statements as to the state of public opinion on 

■12 — 

this same subje(5l in the same community during this 
identical period. 

No man lived at that time who was more competent 
to testify concerning " the moral and religious element 
of the American people " in all parts of the country 
than Jeremiah Evarts. A young New Haven lawyer, 
son-in-law to Roger Sherman, he laid down his prac- 
tice in this city and removed to Boston, where he 
became editor of a religious magazine and Secretary of 
the American Board for Foreign Missions. He was 
father of William M. Evarts and uncle to the " old 
man eloquent," the senior Senator from Massachu- 
setts, and was in some measurements a greater man 
than even his illustrious kinsmen. Never in his life- 
time was there a struggle between public righteous- 
ness and public wrong in which he was not felt and 
feared as a champion of the right. At the end^of 
his brave fight against the extension of slavery into 
Missouri, he rallied the anti-slavery forces from the 
momentary depression of their defeat, in a series of 
powerful and widely influential articles, in which he 
speaks of the compensations of that great failure. 
Says he : 

" A powerful and united testimony has been borne, 
throughout a large part of our nation, against the 
extension of slavery ; reasons have been urged, 
founded in the eternal principles of justice and com- 
mending themselves to the dispassionate judgment not 
less than to the feeling heart ; the country is awake to 
the dangers of slavery ; '"' * * and a great and 
general sympathy is felt for the blacks, and a deep 
interest in all plans for the improvement of their con- 
dition." (Panoplist, XVI, 72.) 


and jhe proceeds to enforce the importance, without 
losing a day, of general, sustained, systematic effort 
for the abolition of slavery. {Ibid.^ 241-5, 481-494.) 

This was in 1820. Three years later we have a 
striking and highly trustworthy indication of the pre- 
cise shade of " the blackness of the darkness of igno- 
rance and indifference which then brooded over what 
was called the moral and religious element of the 
American people." (I quote again Mr. Phillips's 
rhetorical phraseology.) The "Society of Inquiry 
Concerning Missions " of Andover Seminary included 
within the scope of its studies whatever concerned the 
progress of " the kingdom of God and his righteous- 
ness." In the MS. volume of its Transactions for 
about 1823, o^t o^ si^ elaborate dissertations, not less 
than four (a very fair percentage) are devoted to the 
abolition of slavery and the elevation of the colored 
people. One of these discusses the question, "What 
is the duty of the Government, and the duty of 
Christians, with regard to slavery in the United 
States?" The writer, Royal Washburn, began with 
a statement which would have been met with a chorus 
of contradictions from his fellow students if they had 
not known it to be true : 

" Perhaps there is not a more marked feature in the 
history of modem benevolent operations than the 
efforts made in favor of the unfortunate Africans. 
Forty years ago, there were few to weep over the 
wrongs and wretchedness of slavery ; now thousands 
call the sons of Africa brethren, thousands are willing 
to devote their money and their efforts to redeem them 
from their long captivity, and thousands offer the daily 
prayer to him who ' hath made of one blood all nations 


to dwell on the face of the earth,' that he would 
shorten the days of darkness and crime, and hasten 
that day of light and glory when oppressions shall 
cease, and a universal jubilee be proclaimed for all the 
enslaved of the human family." 

Coming down two years later, to 1825, we come to a 
testimony in some respe6ls more impressive and more 
unmistakable still. In that year was published at 
Charleston, S. C, the second edition of a pamphlet 
entitled, " A concise view of the critical situation and 
future prospe(5ls of the slave-holding States, in relation 
to their colored population ; by Whitemarsh B. Sea- 
brook." The " critical situation " therein depidled is 
occasioned by the widespread agitation of the slavery 
question at the North and at the South, and in the 
national Congress. The writer says : 

" Under the specious plea of aiding the cause of The 
free colored population and of efFecling a reformation 
in the condition of this portion of the community, the 
pulpit and the bar, the press and the legislative hall, 
have vied in the delineation of a pi(fture around which, 
like the cross of olden time, the modem crusaders will 
be invited to rally. From these sources it has been 
asserted that slavery contradicts the primary princi- 
ples of our government; that our slaves are wretched, 
and their wretchedness ought to be alleviated ; that 
they are dangerous to the community, and this danger 
ought to be removed ; and that, if the evils attendant 
on the circumstances of our colored population are not 
speedily eradicated, God in his righteous judgment 
will raise up a Touissaint or a Spartacus, or an African 
Tecumseh, to demand by what authorit}- we hold them 
in subje(5lion." 

Then, referring to certain legislative proceedings and 



proposals and memorials in Congress, lie puts some 
indignant questions about these agitators : 

" Why have they said to Congress, ' lend us your 
aid to strike the fetters from the slave and to spread 
the enjoyment of unfettered freedom over the whole 
of our favored and happy land ? ' Why have they 
declared that our slaves cannot long be kept in igno- 
rance ; that they are surrounded with the memorials 
of freedom ; that the land which they watered with 
their tears is a land of liberty ; that the}^ are never 
slow in learning that they are fettered ; and that free- 
dom is the birthright of humanity ? " 

And he makes this bitter complaint of the northern 
press : 

'' In the newspapers of the North and East, the 
question of emancipation is as calmly and soberly dis- 
cussed as if it were a subje6l in the decision of which 
the interests of a few individuals alone were concerned. 
There are but few numbers of their numerous period- 
ical works that have not an article on this copious 
topic ; scarcely a book whose pages are not sullied by 
the most distorted representations of the state of 
domestic servitude at the South. Whatever may be the 
nature of the subjedl ; whatever the design of the pub- 
lication, whether to sketch the charadlerof the signers 
of the Declaration of Independence, or to instru6l the 
3'outhful mind in the first rudiments of knowledge ; 
slaver}^, slavery, slavery is there. Against the consti- 
tutional privileges of the slave-holder, to use the hor- 
rible and savage language of the Edinburgh Review, it 
would seem as if they had ' declared interminable war 
— war for themselves and for their children and for 
their grandchildren — war without peace — war without 
truce — war without quarter.' " 

Coming down to particulars, the writer adds that he 

— 16— 

has " read several books for 3'outh, manufaclured at 
Boston and New York, with a page or two devoted to 
the description of the horrors and sin of negro slavery," 
and refers to many newspapers by name as eminently 
obnoxious, and particularly to the Boston Recorder.* 
All this, you will remember, is an account of the fatts 
as they were in that " period of the blackness of the 
darkness of ignorance and indifference," when " the 
pulpit and the press were dumb " and " silence pre- 
vailed universally," when '' it was necessary " for IMr. 
Garrison " to wake up a nation then slumbering in the 
lap of moral death." 

Now the inevitable question arises, How are these 
two different representations to be reconciled ? And 
the answer is equally inevitable : they cannot be 
reconciled. They are not mereU' different, they are 
mutually contradictory. One of them is true; the other 
is false — I do not say mendacious, but flatly, squarely, 
absolutely false. The years immediately preceding 
the advent of Mr. Garrison as an anti-slavery reformer 
were not a period of apathy, ignorance, and ina(5livit\' 
on the subje(5l of slavery. That period was one of 
deep, earnest, intelligent and religious anti-slavery 
convi(5lion, and of earnest, systematic, wise and cffefl- 
ive anti-slaver}' effort. The contrary representation, 
as I have quoted it from Wendell Phillips and Oliver 
Johnson and Mrs. Child, and Mr. Garrison himself, is 
a mere fidlion which there is a persistent attempt to 
force upon history by dint of sturdy reiteration. 

*See quotations in Qu. Chr, Spectator, VI, 453-4. A copy of the 
pamphlet may be found in the Yale Library. 

' III W 


The anti-slavery sentiment and adlivity of the coun- 
try during the agitation of the Missouri question had 
not been confined to any sedlion. The solemn deliv- 
erance of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian 
Church in 18 18, condemning slavery as " a gross vio- 
lation of the most precious and sacred rights of human 
nature ; as utterly inconsistent with the law of God, 
which requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves ; 
and as totally irreconcilable with the spirit and prin- 
ciples of the gospel of Christ," was the unauinwiis a(51: 
of that body which, as much as any other, represented 
the intelligent moral and religious sentiment of the 
South as well as of the North. It was pronounced in 
view of the Missouri question. And the resistance to 
that prohibition of slavery in Missouri, which was 
demanded thus by the moral sense of the nation, was 
based not on the defense of slavery, for slavery then 
had no defenders, but on points of constitutional law. 
Henry Clay, who led the effort for the admission of 
Missouri as a slave State, did so declaring his detesta- 
tion of slavery, that " foul blot," as he afterwards 
called it, " that deepest stain on the character of our 
country."'-' Whether or not he was sincere in these 
protestations is an unimportant question. If sincere, 
they are a striking proof of the state of public opinion 
as exemplified in this most representative man ; if 
insincere, they are a still stronger proof of the state of 
public opinon as estimated by this most accomplished 

The anti-slavery revival, when once the people had 

*Life and Speeches of Clay, N. Y., 1S43, I, 128, 281. 

drawn breath after the Missouri question was settled, 
prevailed with great vigor in the more northern slave 
States. In Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Caro- 
lina, Tennessee and Kentucky, there were more than 
a hundred abolition societies. In Mar^-land, the anti- 
slavery citizens were organized as a political party, 
running their candidates, sometimes successfully, on 
a distiucllv anti-slavery platform. In Virginia, that 
discussion of the slavery question was going forward 
which was to culminate in 1831 in a vote for abolition, 
in the State convention, which narrowly fell short of 
being a majority. In North Carolina and Tennessee 
the anti-slavery sentiment was growing bej'ond all 
precedent, intrenching itself in the deepest moral and 
religious principle, and organizing itself for legislative 

Crossing now to Illinois, we find ourselves in the 
midst of one of the most strenuous anti-slavery strug- 
gles in our history, and one of the most triumphant. 
The new State had been peopled chiefly from the 
South, and the plan was laid, by asserting the same 
claims that had prevailed in Missouri, to establish 
slavery here on free soil. The State was plowed and 
cross-plowed with the agitation, which awakened the 
interest of the whole nation. It continued for eighteen 
months under intense excitement, and ended with the 
complete defeat of the slavery projecfl. The opposi- 
tion to it was led by the Baptist and Methodist clergy, 
most of them Southern men. The vote took place in 
August, 1824. It does not appear that the "apathy, 
indifference and paralysis," by which pulpit, platform 
and press had, as we are told, been " stricken dumb," 



really extended to Illinois, nor to Indiana'^ and Ohio, 
which were involved in the same controvers}^ and deliv- 
ered by the same vidlory. 

But perhaps we are too severe in insisting on a 
stricl constru6lion of this language ; perhaps it was 
used in a loose and inexact way, as if applying to the 
country at large, when it was only meant to apply to 
New England, and especially to the region about New- 
buryport and Boston. We may freely- admit that a 
loose and inexact use of language was habitual with 
the class of writers uith whom we are dealing ; and mak- 
ing every concession of this kind that may be claimed, 
we may proceed to examine the evidences and S3'mp- 
toms of that apathy, indifference and paralysis, that 
dumbness and deadness on the subjeA of slavery, that 
is charged against New England, and especially against 
Boston and Essex County, and more especiall}' still 
against the church, the pulpit and the press. 

If we turn back to trace to their sources the quota- 
tions made in the year 1825 by Mr. Whitemarsh B. 
Seabrook of South Carolina, as proving the existence 
of a purpose of implacable, interminable war against 
slavery — " war without peace, war without truce, war 
without quarter," — we find some of them in certain 
strong anti-slavery speeches, memorials, legislative 

*" Those who owned slaves in the primitive community assumed supe- 
riority to those who had none ; but questionings about the peculiar insti- 
tution were in the air, the contest in favor of excluding slavery having 
been settled only about the time the Lincolns moved to Indiana, so that its 
echoes must have resounded in the Gentrj'N-ille grocery. In 1822, when 
Lincoln was thirteen, an abolition newspaper was started about one hun- 
dred miles from the ^•illage ; and during his whole boyhood and youth 
there was plenty to lead his mind, at least occasionally, to the topic." 
Hapgood's Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 16. 


resolutions, etc., by friends of the Colonization Society ; 
but the strongest of the expressions which, circulated 
widely atthe South, excited the indignation and alarm 
of Mr. Seabrook of South Carolina, are traceable, singu- 
larly enough, to this very region of " the blackness 
and darkness of ignorance and indifference," which was 
about to be irradiated by the sudden effulgence of Mr. 
Garrison. They were contained in the report of a com- 
mittee of the Andover " Society of Inquiry concern- 
ing Missions," ''On the Black Population of the United 
States." The report contained such passages as these : 

" We have heard of slavery as it existed in the 
nations of antiquity — we have heard of slavery as it 
exists in Asia and Africa and Turkey — we have heard 
of the feudal slavery under which the peasantry of 
Europe have groaned from the days of Alaric until 
now ; but, excepting only the horrible system of tke 
West India Islands, we have never heard of slavery 
in any country, ancient or modem, pagan, Mohamme- 
dan or Christian, so terrible in its character, so per- 
nicious in its tendency, so remediless in its anticipated 
results, as the slavery which exists in these United 
States. * * * When we use the strong language 
which we feel ourselves compelled to use in relation to 
this subjedl, we do not mean to speak of animal suffer- 
ing, but of an immense moral and political evil." And 
the report goes on to denounce it as " a system so 
utterly repugnant to the feelings of unsophisticated 
humanity — a S3'stem which permits all the atrocities 
of the domestic slave trade — which permits the father 
to sell his children as he would his cattle — a S3'stem 
which consigns one-half of the community to hopeless 
and utter degradation, and which threatens in its final 
catastrophe to bring down the same ruin on the master 
and the slave." Chr. Spectator, 1823, 493, 494, 341- 

— 21 — 

Really, if we were not told that this was a period of 
universal apathy and indifference on the subject of 
slavery, we might be tempted to think that Mr. Sea- 
brook was more than half right in suspe6ling that 
there was a tindlure of anti-slavery sentiment in this 
report. The paper was recast in the form of a review 
article, and published at New Haven in two successive 
numbers of The Christian Spectator, in 1823. -^Y ^^^ 
agenc}^ of the Andover theological students, a pamphlet 
edition of it was widely distributed in New England, 
awakening increased attention among pastors and 
churches to the question what shall be done " to relieve 
and save the African race, so degraded in Africa, so 
wronged and oppressed in America ?"* 

That same year, 1823, was held the first of those 
religious celebrations of the Fourth of Jul}', which 
were continued in Park Street Church, Boston, for sev- 
eral successive years, by a union of Congregationalist 
and Baptist churches. They were anti-slavery cele- 
brations. The appeal made on this occasion in the 
Boston Recorder exhorted Christian citizens at such 
times to " remember those unhappy fellow beings in 
the midst of us, who, in opposition alike to the prin- 
ciples of Christianity and of the charter of our inde- 
pendence, are held in slavery." This year the orator 
was the well-known philanthropist, Louis Dwight. 
The next year, it was the young man from Andover 
Seminary, hardl}- out of his boyhood, whose Report to 
the Society of Inquiry on the State of our Black Pop- 
ulation had made so great an impression throughout 

*"The Earlier Anti-Slavery Days," four articles in The Christian Union 
for December 9 and 16, 1874, and Januarj- 6 and 13, 1875. 

New England, and also at the South. It may easih^ 
be believed that he was full of his subjecl ; and his sub- 
jecfl was a great one, being nothing less than the needs 
of the African race, whether in their native continent 
or elsewhere. On both sides of the sea, both in bond- 
age and in freedom, their condition was wretched and 
degraded. He reminded his hearers of the two mil- 
lions of them in our own country, and the two millions 
more in the West India islands, and bids them com- 
pute the amount of the wretchedness of these four mil- 
lions, as a measure of their " claim on the sympathies 
and efforts of those who have been taught to love their 
neighbor as themselves." Then he proceeds : 

" And yet such a computation would fall far short 
of the a(5lual amount of that wretchedness which, if I 
could, I would set before you. Of these four millioi;^, 
the vast majority are slaves. And what is it to be a 
slave ? We know what it is to be free. '^ '''' '■' But 
we know not what it is to be a slave. We can conceive 
indeed of stripes, and corporal endurance, and long 
days of burning toil ; but how can we conceive of that 
bondage of the heart, that captivity of the soul, which 
makes the slave a wretch indeed ? His intelledl is a 
blank, and we ma}^ perhaps form some conception of 
his ignorance. The capabilities of his moral nature 
are a blank, and we may perhaps imagine that blind- 
ness. But even when we have conceived of this intel- 
lectual ignorance and this moral blindness, we know 
not all the degradation of the slave. We sometimes 
find an individual whose spirit has been broken and 
blasted. Some affecftion which engrossed his soul, 
and with which all his other affections were entwined, 
has been withered, and his heart is desolate. The 
hope on which all his other hopes were centered has 


been destroyed, and his being is a wreck. If you have 
ever seen such a man, and noticed how he seemed to 
lose his high attributes of manhood, how his soul died 
within him, and he sunk down, as it were, from the ele- 
vation of his former existence — you may conjecture, 
perhaps, how much of the dignity and happiness of our 
nature, even in minds purified b}- moral cultivation 
and enlarged by intelledlual improvement, depends on 
the love of social enjo3'ment and the softening influ- 
ence of affeclion ; and j^ou may thus be able faintly to 
imagine the degradation of the slave, whose mind has 
scarcely been enlightened by one ra}- of knowledge, 
whose soul has never been expanded by one adequate 
conception of his moral dignity and moral relations, 
and in whose heart hardly one of those affe6lions that 
soften our chara(5ler, or of those hopes that animate 
and bless our being, has been allowed to germinate." 

Then he urges the importance of a large and com- 
prehensive system of pradlical operations aiming at the 
abolition of slavery, the elevation of the colored popu- 
lation at home, and the civilization and Christianiza- 
tion of Africa. And he claims that the elements of 
such a comprehensive system are already in operation 
in America. 

" The means of elementary instru(5lion and the 
apparatus of moral and religious culture which are 
emplo3'ed on our colored population lie at the founda- 
tion of all African improvement. The societies for the 
abolition of slaver}' are continually urging the claims 
of these unfortunates with a zeal which scorns to be 
weary and which gathers impulse from discourage- 
ment. The scheme of an African seminary for liberal 
education, which has been as yet only slightly dis- 
cussed, will not be forgotten ; for there are men 
engaged in its behalf who will never rest, while God 


spares them to the world, till the chasm which they 
now lament shall have been filled up, and the school 
which thev have proje(5led shall be sending forth its 
pupils to become throughout the earth the noblest and 
most efiScient benefa(5lors of Africa." 

Finally, as completing the system of agencies for 
the redemption of the whole African race, was the pro- 
motion of a free colony Which should offer at once a 
career of honorable prosperit}^ to the free emigrant, a 
base for the advancement of civilization in Africa, and 
an influence tending to the abolition of slavery and the 
ennobling of the depressed and disheartened colored 
people in America. 

These annual anti-slavery speeches on the Fourth 
of July were not only continued at Park Street Church ; 
the fashion was imitated elsewhere. As the Fourth 
approached in 1825, John Todd, appointed orator for 
Park Street Church, wrote from Boston to his prede- 
cessor, Leonard Bacon, who was now pastor at New 
Haven, about their enthusiastic plans for the benefit 
of the colored people, especially about the African col- 
lege. And he adds : 

" The subject of Africa is beginning to excite no 
small attention in this region. I suppose Bouton will 
speechify to his people [the people of Concord, N. H.] 
on the Fourth of July next ; Homes, of my class, will 
do the same at Andover ; I suppose, also, some one from 
Andover will go to Salem, and some one to Newbury- 
port on the same errand. '''■ '''• ' * The questions I 
wish you would be so good as to give me your mind 
upon are briefly these : 


" I. Had we Andoverians who speak on this occa- 
sion (for all are expected to take up the subje(5l of 
Africa) better unite our heads and take a similar track 
— have a similar point in view at which to aim ? 

"2. What point or points ? Shall the subjeA of an 
African college be the theme upon which we shall 
harangue ? 

"3. Will it do for us to take up the subject of slavery 
in lis political aspe(fl upon our country ? i, e., shall the 
feelings of patriotism be addressed, or those of the 
Christian ? 

" 4. Shall we plead the cause of Africa in general, or 
confine the attention to the blacks of our own country ? 

"5. How dire6lly and fully shall we take up the 
subje(5l of colonizing the negroes by the American 
Colonization Society?" 

Somebody, it appears, was going to Newburyport 
that Fourth of July, 1825, to make an anti-slavery 
address. The subjedl was very much in the air, 
" exciting no small attention in that region." I won- 
der who made the speech at Newburyport ; and I won- 
der who went to hear it. There was a bright, wade- 
awake, enterprising young fellow of twenty in a 
Newburyport newspaper office at the time, by the 
name of Garrison. The subje(5l was " exciting no 
small attention," but it did not excite his attention, 
and he does not seem to have felt the slightest interest 
in it. But these Andover men were stirred to their 
hearts' depths in opposition to slavery. John Todd, 
at Park Street, gave his reasons for thinking that 
" Slavery must and will soon be removed from off 


the earth," and declared that " the voice of our nation 
was prayini^ for the abolition of the curse of slavery."* 

That same Fourth of July, 1825, young Mr. Bacon 
repeated, in his Xew Haven pulpit, the " Plea for 
Africa " which he had delivered twelve months before 
at Boston. It was printed in a pamphlet, and in this 
form, and in large extracfls in newspapers and maga- 
zines, was circulated alike through the North and 
through the South. In concluding his argument, he 
said to his people : ''I have not spoken of the awful 
curse of slavery on our land, or of the measures which 
must speedily be adopted for its complete and eternal 
abolition. These things, if God shall give me strength 
and opportunity, I will bring more distinc^ll}' to 3'our 
notice at some future period." And both the oppor- 
tunity and the strength were given him that day twelve 
months, July 4th, 1S26. "^ 

Meanwhile some interesting incidents had occurred. 
Two days after the " Plea for Africa " had been deliv- 
ered, there was a meeting of five young men at Mr. 
Bacon's study, at which (I quote from the record made 
at the time) it was '' Voted, that we, the Rev. Leonard 
Bacon, Mr. Luther Wright, Mr. Alexander C. Twining, 
Mr. Edward Beecher, and Mr. Theodore D. Woolsey 
do form ourselves into a club to be entitled The Anti- 
Slavery Association. You will recognize some of 
these names. One of them stood for many illustrious 
years at the head of Yale College. x\nother is traced 
to-day in the name of Arthur Twining Hadley, written 
in the same honorable eminence. Another is the name 
of the man who stood by the side of Lovejoy when he 

*Report iu Boston Recorder of the time. 


fell pierced with five bullets, a martyr to the freedom 
of the press. By and by they added two or three more 
to their number, one of whom was Josiah Brewer, after- 
ward missionary, father of Justice Brewer of the 
Supreme Court. Without advertising itself to the 
public. The Anti-Slavery Association set itself to work 
along three different lines at once to promote the 
abolition of slaver}-. 

The second incident which I will mention introduces 
to you another of these early anti-slavery men — the 
Rev. Ralph Randolph Gurley, secretary of the Amer- 
ican Colonization Society. One of his sen-ices to the 
anti-slavery cause had been the printing of an edition 
of the sermon of the second Jonathan Edwards against 
the Slave-trade and Slavery, for circulation at the 
South. Among the papers of Leonard Bacon is a letter 
to him from Mr. Gurley, which illustrates two things 
at once : 

Office of the Colonization Society, 
Washington, March 13, 1826. 

My Dear Sir : Mr. Everett's speech in the House of Rep- 
resentatives last Thursday was an exhibition of talent and elo- 
quence which I have never known equaled in that place. It 
has crowned him with the glory of the highest genius. But 
will you believe that he gave us his creed, uncalled for, unneces- 
sary to his argument, on the subjedl of slavers-, and such a one 
as would have branded the advocate of the allied despotisms of 
Europe ? If he dares to publish these sentiments, which go to 
sustain a most iniquitous system, our friends at the North must 
not be silent. There is a great battle to be fought, not in Tur- 
key only, or in the old, kingly establishments of the East, but 
in our republic, in the cause of justice and for the defense of 
what are in the city of Washington much ridiculed, impre- 
scriptible rights. Have you read John Randolph's great 



speech ? and if so, did you ever find such a medley of wit, 
absurdity, genius and wickedness bound up together, before? 
* * * But I have more apprehension of the consequences of 
Everett's influence. You and all the faithful at the North 
will, I hope, be prepared to counteract it. 

The apology for slavery which roused the Coloniza- 
tion Secretary to such towering indignation, and (as 
we shall see) drew forth a fit response from the young 
pastor at New Haven, did not give like offense in all 
quarters. A copy of it came to the editor of The New- 
burj^port Free Press ; and he did not see any harm in it. 
He thought it was a good speech, and copied it into 
his newspaper, without one syllable of protest or objec- 
tion. The editor's name was Garrison. 

I have no doubt that it was a sense of the peril of 
public demoralization threatened by this novel appari- 
tion of an apology for slavery, which helped to rouse 
the preacher's eloquence as he ascended the high pulpit 
for his Fourth of July sermon of 1826. But there was 
enough beside to move him. That was the fiftieth 
anniversary of American independence, and while the 
cannon and the shouting were glorifying the half-cen- 
tury of liberty, a sorrowful and shameful contrast was 
in the minds of thoughtful men everywhere. In the 
evening of that day of jubilee, he announced for his 
text the words of Isaiah : 

Cry .A.LOUD ; spare not ; lift thy voice like 
A trumpet, and show my people their trans- 

" When (said he) I hear of the jubilee of American 
freedom ; when I hear of the twelve millions of happy 



citizens who hail this jubilee with the loudest demon- 
strations of rejoicing ; I cannot forget that of these 
twelve millions, two millions are slaves — aye, slaves 
in the bitterest meaning of that bitter word. The 
thought is enough to pour darkness over the exulting 
spirit of the patriot. It is enough to make the 
Christian tremble for the wrath of Him who said of 
old, ' Ye have not hearkened unto me in proclaiming 
liberty every one to his brother and every man to his 
neighbor ; Behold, I proclaim a liberty for you to the 
sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine.' " 

I wish there were time for me to read you the whole 
of this Fourth of July sermon. You would not find it 
dull ; you would find it full of the spirit of universal 
justice and liberty. The thesis of it is this : that the 
duty of promoting the abolition of slavery is a duty 
binding on every citizen of the United States. The 
reason of this duty is that the evil of slavery is a 
nafw7tal e.\\\. i. It diminishes the national strength. 
2. It diminishes the national wealth. 3. That it is a 
national evil is apparent from the indirect acknowl- 
edgments of the Southern people. Therefore the duty 
of promoting the abolition of it is the duty of every 

"In this great community to which you belong, 
there is a deadly evil — an evil at war with all the prin- 
ciples of our national happiness, at war with the very 
essence of our political institutions, at war with the 
spirit and influence of the gospel, at war with purity, 
and industry, and intelligence, and whatever gives 
human society order, or peace, or security, or moral 
beauty — an evil threatening by its moral turpitude to 
bring down upon our nation from above the wrath of 
heaven — an evil which continually gives warning that 

— 30— 

by its own inherent influences it will ere long explode 
beneath us, scattering in fragments the fabric of our 
institutions, and sending over the wide land the fiery- 
waves of a volcanic flood. And is it for you * * * 
to look coolly on an evil which is advancing with rapid 
strides to ruin this inheritance ? '■' '^ * 

'' ' But what can I do? I am only an individual citi- 
zen, I have no slaves to liberate or provide for. I am 
remote from those districts of our country in which 
slavery exists, and in which, of course, it is to be 
checked and abolished. What can I do?' 

" In answering this question * * * let me first 
point out some of the ways in which slavery cannot be 
abolished or remedied, i. It cannot be abolished by 
any legislation by the free States. Nor, 2, by any a(5l 
of the national legislature. Nor, 3, by any immediate 
legislation of the slave States ; first, because the people 
of those States do not want such legislation, and then, 
because, even if it could be enacled against their w;ll, 
it could not be enforced. 

" We come then to this result : In order to the abo- 
lition of slavery, there must be a change of public 
opinion in the slave States. To this end, first, the 
subjecl: must be better understood, and existing dif- 
ficulties must be obviated, and misconceptions must 
be rectified. The people of the South must be made 
to understand that the system of slavery which they 
maintain is absurd in principle and pernicious in all 
its tendencies. * ''' '''' They must be made to under- 
stand also that though they of the present generation 
do not sustain the guilt of having originated that 
state of society in which they now find themselves, 
yet if the}' do nothing to alleviate these evils, if they 
make no beginning which may terminate in the entire 
removal of the curse, they will sustain the guilt of 
having perpetuated to their children, and of having 
fastened upon unborn generations, a system of which 


the foundation is injustice and all the tendencies are 
misery and crime. In order to this, there must not 
only be discussion, but the discussion must be so con- 
ducted as to show that those who are bent on the 
removal of the evil, while they are determined in prin- 
ciple and immovable in resolution, are neither unkind 
in spirit nor rash in effort. It must be seen and known 
that while the principle of slavery is regarded with ab- 
horrence and relentless opposition, there can be and is a 
spirit of liberal kindness towards those who have been 
born and whose opinions and feeling have been formed 
under the malignant influence of a system so pernicious. 
In other words, public opinion throughout the free 
States must hold a different course on the subje6l of 
slavery from that which it now holds. Instead of 
exhausting itself fruitlessly and worse than fruitlessly 
upon the operation of the system, it must be dire(5led 
towards the principle on which the system rests. It 
must become such that on the one hand the man who 
indulges his malignity or his thoughtlessness in so 
exaggerating the evils attendant on the operation of 
the system as to implicate the body of the slaveholders 
in the charge of cruelty and tyranny, shall find him- 
self rebuked and shamed by the nobler spirit that per- 
vades his fellow citizens ; and such that, on the other 
hand, the man who dares to stand up in Congress and, 
presuming on the forbearance of those who sent him, 
attempts to purchase popularity by defending the prin- 
ciple of slavery, shall find himself greeted, on his return 
to his constituents, with one loud burst of indignation 
and reproof." 

It has seemed necessary to give this large abstra(5l 
of a specimen sermon of that period of *' the blackness 
of darkness of ignorance and indifference," of which 
Mr. Phillips says that it is so difficult for us to have 
any conception — that period when, according to Mr. 


Garrison and his biographers generally, " there was 
scarcel}^ a man who dared to peep or mutter on the sub- 
je(5l of slavery ; when the pulpit and the press were 
dumb ; when no public addresses were delivered, no 
reproofs, no warnings, no entreaties were uttered in the 
ears of the people ; when silence, almost unbroken 
silence, prevailed universally," 

Now I am sure that certain questions will rise in your 
minds in \'iew of the contrast between these represen- 
tations and this fa(5l. You are asking yourselves, 
whether this was not an exceptional man, breaking the 
" universal silence " with his solitary voice ; whether 
this was not an exceptional sermon, a 3'outhful indis- 
cretion which experience taught the young man not to 
repeat ; whether that notably conservative community 
of New Haven did not give the young zealot to under- 
stand that he must use more caution in speaking* of 
this delicate subje(5l. Know then that the preacher 
was that Leonard Bacon who is vilipended to this day 
as one of the most flagrant examples of griilty silence 
or connivance concerning slavery ; and for the rest, 
he shall speak for himself. Forty years later, as he 
was unbuckling the harness at the end of his long and 
vi(5lorious fight, he gave, from the same pulpit, his tes- 
timony about the beginning of it : 

" At that time, the religious feeling of the country- 
was strongly and, I may say, unanimously pronounced 
against the institution of slavery. ''' '■' ''' Certainly 
there was in Conneclicut no party, religious or polit- 
ical, that dared to speak for slavery as if it were a just 
or beneficent arrangement, or as if the institution was 
capable of any defense, either on grounds of natural 


justice or in tlie light of the Christian religion. * '•' * 
From the beginning of my official ministry, I spoke 
without reserve, from the pulpit and elsewhere, against 
slavery as a wrong and a curse, threatening disaster 
and ruin to the nation. Many years I did this without 
being blamed, except as I was blamed for not going far 
enough. Not a dog dared to wag his tongue at me for 
speaking against slavery. I have always held and 
always asserted the same principles on that subjedl 
which I held and asserted at the beginning." 

At this point I might rest, as having reached the 
end of my theme, which is Anti-Slavery before Garri- 
son. For about this time occurs the first awakening 
of Mr. Garrison's conscience from its unaccountable 
protradled torpor concerning slavery. His boyhood, 
up to the age of fifteen, had been passed in the midst 
of an anti-slavery agitation that convulsed the conti- 
nent. As a boy of ten, and afterwards as a young man 
of eighteen, he had passed considerable time at Balti- 
more, where the presence of slavery and the shocking 
scenes of the slave trade were a continual public hor- 
ror. Returning to the North, he found himself again 
in an atmosphere all reeking with anti-slavery senti- 
ment. The pulpits were resounding with anti-slavery 
appeals. The press was teeming with anti-slavery 
books, pamphlets and articles. In the words of Mr. 
Whitemarsh B. Seabrook of South Carolina, " slavery, 
slavery, slavery was everywhere." The zealous young 
abolitionists from Andover came down to Mr. Garri- 
son's own village, preaching their crusade against 
slavery. But nothing of all this seems to have come 
to Mr. Garrison's ears. A brisk young newspaper 
man, interested in pretty much evety other public 


question, he, according to his own confession, remained 
till the year 1827 sunken in ignorance and indiffer- 
ence regarding that slavery question in which every 
one except himself was interested. He says of himself, 
in a public speech : 

"In 1 82 7 I went to Boston and edited a paper called 
The National Philanthropist. It was devoted to the 
cause of temperance. Up to that hour I had known 
little or nothing of slavery, as to the number of slaves 
held, or as to where they were held. So completely 
had the whole question been put out of sight that I 
was almost wholl}- ignorant in respect to it.'"'' 

'^ The question put out of sight !" It does not appear 
that it was out of the sight of any man in New Eng- 
land except Mr. Garrison himself. 

Two facts in Mr. Garrison's career have received no 
adequate attention from his biographers and eulogists : 
first, the long asphyxia of his conscience on the subjedl 
of slavery ; and secondly, when his moral sense was 
at last aroused from its torpor, his apparently sincere 
impression that nobody but himself had any moral 
sense on the subject at all ; so that at last, standing in 
the Park Street pulpit, the seventh in a series of 
annual anti-slavery orators, as if he were a lone voice 
crying in the wilderness, he could repeat the familiar 
commonplaces of his six predecessors as if they were 
startling novelties, and speak of the slaves, the sub- 
je(5ls of more thought, sympathy, prayer and self- 
denying effort than any other class of people in the 
country, as those " over whose sufferings scarcely an 

* Proceedings of the .\m. Anti-Slavery Society at its third Decade. 
Speech of W. L. Garrison, p. 120. 

IHIifll,»J,IIIIJ H |l«.llimiMIII.Lin I ■-_ lllllMLI.IIMIll .1 .11- I ■Jlli-MIII I WIJ I 


eye weeps, or a heart melts, or a tongue pleads either 
to God or man," for whom " Christianity has done by 
diredl effort comparatively nothing." He is a psycho- 
logical puzzle, to be turned over to the Society for 
Psychical Research. 

From the tardy entrance of Mr. Garrison into the anti- 
slavery movement, we may date a growing change in 
the methods and results of that movement. Up to this 
time, it had been earnest, unremitting, unsparing, in 
denouncing slavery, while temperate and considerate 
in dealing with those involved in relations with 
slavery. It had been urgent in demanding an imme- 
diate beginning of the work of abolition, while recog- 
nizing that it would take time to complete the work. 
It had never degenerated into a sedlional controversy ; 
— ^ven in the intense excitement over the Missouri 
question, says Jeremiah Bvarts, '' there was less of 
what could be called party spirit, or local jealousy, or 
sedlional prejudice, than we ever knew in any great 
national question."* The North was solid against 
slavery, and if there was division at the South, the 
sober intelligence and the moral and religious princi- 
ple of that sedlion were unanimous on the same side, 
and there was heart}^ co-operation \vith Southern aboli- 

And the sober, conscientious, reasonable anti-slavery 
of that time had been nobly successful. Its earliest 
triumph had been the Ordinance of i787,drawm by the 
hand of Thomas Jefferson. It had secured the aboli- 
tion of slavery, or measures ultimating in the abolition 
of it, in every State north of Maryland. It was carry- 

♦Panoplist, XVI, 487. 


ing forward efforts that gave good promise of like 
results in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Ten- 
nessee and Kentuck3^ It had failed indeed in exclud- 
ing slavery from Missouri, but had secured the vast 
residue of the Missouri Territory, by the pledge of the 
public honor, against the entrance of it. By the stren- 
uous labors of such fearless abolitionists as Robert 
Breckinridge, and John D. Paxton, and President 
Young, and John Rankin, and especially of Benjamin 
Lundy, it had covered a great part of the slaveholding 
country with a network of abolition societies, repre- 
sented by anti-slavery newspapers. Free discussion 
was in the air. Manumissions were taking place by 
hundreds and thousands in a year. The hearts of good 
men were glowing with the hope that that which had 
been secured in more than half the original States 
might ever3'Avhere be achieved — the lawful, peac"eful 
abolition of slavery. 

At this point. Enter William Lloyd Garrison, and 
presto, change 1 Within a strangely short time, instead 
of a solid North and a divided South, the North became 
divided and the South at one. At the North, the 
leaders of anti-slavery effort, who for long years had 
been bearing the burden and heat of the confli6l, were 
repelled with foul vituperation by shamefully tardy 
recruits who through the long struggle had not lifted 
one finger on the side of freedom ; and by schism 
within schism the force of anti-slavery effort was dis- 
sipated. Meanwhile under an incessant storm of 
menaces and maledicftions pelting indiscriminately 
upon friend and foe at the South, the terror of the 
Southern people was awakened ; the Southern aboli- 


tion societies were extinguished and their platforms 
and. presses were silenced; manumissions ceased ; a 
spirit of suspicion and vindidlive hatred toward the 
North was engendered ; the hope of a peaceful and 
bloodless abolition of slavery was at an end. 

The descriptions of prevailing demoralization on the 
subje6l of slavery which Mr.Garrison and his eulogists 
delight in, so far as there is any truth in them (and 
reall}^ they are not entirel}^ mendacious) are misdated. 
This demoralization was not the antecedent of Mr. 
Garrison's work ; it was the sequel of it. But it would 
be unjust to his memory to infer that he was the sole 
cause of that calamitous revolution in public opinion 
which arrested the progress of emancipation and abo- 
lition and finally plunged the nation into civil war. 
He was by no means the sole author of this enormous 
mischief ; he only wrought towards it in more or less 
unconscious combination with other diabolic agencies.