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3 1151 ' 62743' 3279 



, S'foSfo LIBRARY 

Ol- THB 


the gift of 
William Birney, Esq. 



'the genesis of the republican party 

with some account of 

abolition movements in the south before 1828 



The abolition of slavery In the United States 
was neither an accident nor a miracle ; it was a 
result of evolution. 




E 14-0 

^-f-— ^-^ 

* CoiTrjonT. 1S89, 







Slavery agitation in the United States may bo con- 
sidered in two great periods. The first begins with the 
judicial abolition of slavery in Massachusetts in 1783, and 
the anti-slavery Ordinance of 1787 for the government of 
the Territory northwest of the Ohio River, and ends with 
the abolition of slavery in Xew York on the 4th of July, 
1827. In its course the number of free States increased 
from one to twelve, and the number of freedmen nearly 
three hundred fold. It may be called the abohfioii era. 
It was a part of the larger movement wliich began in 
170-4 with the abolition of slavery in the French West 
Indies, extinguished it in numerous Euroj^ean colonies 
and several South American republics, and ended with 
its abolition in j\[exico in 1829, and in the British West 
Indies in 1833 by act of Parliament. 

The second period begins with the accession of General 
Jackson to the presidency in 1829, and ends witli the abo- 
lition of shivery in the War of the Rebellion. 

In the first period freedom was the assailant of slavery, 
seeking to extinguish it by moral and religious influences. 
In the second, tlie slave-power was the assailant, seeking 
to overthrow the freedom of speech, of the press, and of 
the mails, the right of trial by jury, the right of petition, 
and every other bulwark of civil liberty to extend slavery 
over the Territories of the United States and gain undis- 
puted political supremacy in the nation. 


It was Jamks (J. HiitXEY wlio first culletl abolitionists 
away from obsolete issues to the true one. In the summer 
of 1835 he abandoned his Southern home and removed to 
Ohio, declaring that the slavery of the blacks had ceased 
to be the question before the country, and that the liber- 
ties of all American citizens and the safety of the republic 
were in danger. During the following ten years he was 
recognized by the opponents of the slave-power as their 
leader. In 1840, and again in 1844, he was made their 
candidate for the presidency by unanimous national con- 
ventions. Xo other name seems to have been thought of 
in connection with the nomination. His cordial admirer, 
ex-Keprcsentative George W. Julian, of Indiana, writes of 
him and his co-workers : 

Abolitionism, as a working force in our politics, had to have 
a beginning, and no man who cherishes the memory of the old 
Free- Soil party, and of the larger one to which it gave birth, 
will withhold the meed of his praise from the heroic little Vjand 
of sap])ers and miners who blazed the way for the armies whicli 
were to follow, and whose voices, though but faintly heiird in the 
whirlwind of 1840, were made distinctly audible in 1844. . . . 
Their political creed was substantially that of the Free-Soilers of 
1848 and the Republicans of 1856 and 1860. They were any- 
tliing but political fanatics, and history will record that their 
sole offense was the espousal of the truth in advance of the mul- 
titude, which slowly and linally followed in their footsteps. 

James G. Birney was respected even by the enemies 
of his cause. He was universally regarded as without 
fear and without stain. The only charge ever made 
against him by any reputable person was of faithlessness 
to Henry Clay, in the campaign of 1844 ; and that was 
made by Horace Greeley in the white heat of his disap- 
pointment at the failure of the Whig campaign. Mr. 
Greeley afterward retracted it. Mr. Julian says of those 
who voted for Mr. Pirnev : 


Xow, in the clear pcrspeclive of history, they stand vindi- 
cated against their Whig assailants, whose fevered brains and 
party intolerance blinded tlieh- eyes to the truth ("Political 
Recollections," 1884, p. 43). 

Hon. Carl Schurz is eminently fair in liis treatment 
of this subject, lie says, in his admirable biography of 
Henry Clay : 

The Liberty party consisted of earnest anti-slavery men who 
pursued their objects by political action. They were not in sym- 
pathy with those abolitionists who lost themselves in " no- 
government ■' theories, who denounced the Union and the Con- 
stitution as a " covenant with death and agreement with hell," 
and who abhorred the exercise of the suffrage under the Consti- 
tution as a participation in sin. In the language of Birney, they 
"regarded the national Constitution with unabated affection" 
(vol. ii, page 253). 

And again : 

Birney, its candidate for the presidency, was a native of Ken- 
tucky. A slaveholder by inheritance, he liberated his slaves 
and provided generously for them. He was a lawyer of ability, 
a gentleman of culture, and a vigorous and graceful speaker. 
Obeying a high sense of duty, he sacrificed the comforts of 
wealth, home, and position to the cause of universal freedom— 
not as a wild enthusiast or unreasoning fanatic, but as a calm 
thinker, temperate in language, and firm in maintaining his con- 
clusions. His principal conclusion was that slavery and free in- 
stitutions conU not exist together. He has been charged with com- 
mitting an act of personal faithlessness in opposing Clay in 1844. 
This charge was utterly unjust. He had never given Clay or 
Clay's friends any promise of support. It is true, Clay and Bir- 
ney had maintained a friendly intercourse until 1834 ; but in 
June of that year they had a conference on the subject of slavery 
which produced upon Birney a discouraging effect. From that 
time their friendly intercourse ceased, and Clay found in Bir- 
ney only a severe critic (Schurz's " Henry Clay," vol. ii, page 

viii IMiKFACK. 

Aud again : 

The object of Henry Clay's highest ambition escaped liim 
because, at the decisive moment, he was untrue to himself (ib., 
page 265). 

For forty years after the sudden elose of his political 
career the fame of James G. Birney escaped detraction. 
Numerous biographical sketches of him were published 
in magazines, cyclopaedias, and newspapers; and to the 
tone of none of them could the most sensitive of his 
friends take exception. The unfriendly feeling of ilr. 
CJarrison toward him was no secret in the anti-slavery 
world ; but the most devoted of Mr. Garrisoifs friends 
did not appear to share it. Xo praise of ]\Ir. Birney was 
more cordial or appreciative than that bestowed on him 
by ^Samuel J. May, Oliver Johnson, aud Parker Pillsbury. 
The first devotes to eulogistic narrative of him more than 
eight pages of his " Kecollections of the Anti-Slavery Con- 
llict" (pages 203-211); the second indorses Mr. May's 
most eulogistic language, and adds that he was " a calm, 
dignified, and cultured gentleman and Christian"; and 
the third, in his curious volume, "Acts of the Anti- 
Slavery Apostles," mentions him many times and always 
in the most kindly temper. With such a consensus of 
favorable appreciation, there seemed to be no special need 
of a biography of James G. Birney. It transpired, how- 
ever, about 1883, that the sons of Mr. Garrison were pre- 
paring an ample memoir of their father — a work which, 
from a filial standpoint, involved the reproduction and 
expression of Mr. Garrison's theories and prejudices. The 
first two volumes of the memoir appeared in 1885. They 
were noticed as follows by Hon. A. G. Kiddle, of Ohio, 
ex-Iiepresentative in Congress, in his book " The Life of 
Benjamin F. Wade," ex-United States Senator, published 
at Cleveland in 18SG : 


To claim the arousing and marshaling of the force of the 
mind and conscience of the men of the North against slavery, as 
jirc-cminently the work of one man, is a totally unwarranted as- 
sumption. There is a way of writing history lately attempted 
which, if accepted without protest, would for the time seem to 
accomplisli this thing. The writers of the biography of the late 
W. L. Garrison rely quite extensively upon his "Liberator" for 
authority, and, thus sustained, there really was but one champion 
of God and freedom in the North. Should the sons of the late 
J. G. Birney accept the challenge, work as largely and as nar- 
rowly, drawing their authority from a similar source, they would 
for him make a case every whit as strong. Neither work would 
be accepted finally as history ; both would be great contributions 
to it, of value beyond estimation. This last work should be 
at once set about. It would have this unequaled advantage — 
slavery was overthrown hy political means. Mr. Garrison refused 
their use, opposed with the might of his trenchant pen and re- 
sounding voice their employment and the men who used them. 

Mr. Birney was among the first to see that the most effective 
single thing was the employment of political power, backed of 
course by all the moral forces. He was the first to employ it. 
He, too, was a candidate for the presidency in 1840. 

He was hewn from the mountains, rejected of politicians, to 
become — ■ But I am not to anticipate. He was placed in the field 
largely by the clear -seeing MjTon Holley, . . . and received 
but 7,059 votes, provoking gibes and sneers from the Whigs, de- 
rision and sarcasm from Garrison. They were allies against Bir- 
ney ("Life of Wade," page 158). 

The " Life of William Lloyd Garrison " by his sons is 
in four large octavo volumes, the last two having been 
published in October last. They are the product of the 
labor of years, and, in the numerous notes and painfully 
minute references to authorities, most of them to the 
" Liberator," indicate that they were intended for students 
of history in public libraries rather than for the general 
reader. They may be regarded as in the nature of a legal 
brief, fded for posterity, in behalf of William Lloyd Gar- 

X ruKFACi-:. 

rison, af2:;uiist the AnKTieuu people, the South, the Wt'st, 
the Union, the Church, the clergy, tlie press, Benjamin 
Lumly, James G. Birney, and all other political abolition- 

As the sons of Mr. (larri.son have uiu'(iuak'd facilities 
for "sifting" their theories and liliul ciaiins into the pub- 
lic mind, being literary men by lu'ofession and connected 
as editors, contributors, readers, and nuinagers, with pub- 
lijihing houses, magazines, and metropolitan newspapers, 
surviving political abolitionists can not afford to let their 
bi'ief go without answer or protest. In the present vol- 
ume, written in moments taken from the cares of an ex- 
acting profession, the writer has sought to correct tlieir 
mistakes and errors, and to substitute a true for a false 
theory of the anti-slavery and slavery movements, rjion 
the issues made he invokes the impartial judgment of the 
men who write American history. If he shall not have 
the good fortune to win their attention and verdict, he 
trusts that the general reader will rise from the perusal of 
this book with clearer views of the strong currents of 
political opinion that preceded the Great liebellion, and 
with increased respect and admiration for the men who 
dared for the liberties of this people to begin the battle 
Avith the Slave- Power, but who died before the victory 
was won. 

Speak, History, who an- Life's victors ? Unroll tliy long annals 

and say — 
Are tliey those wliom the world called the victors— who won the 

success of a day ? 
The martyrs or Nero ? The Spartans who fell at Thermopyhr's 

Or the Persians and Xerxes ? His judges or Socrates ? Pilate or 

Christ ? 

Washington, D. C, December /J, ISSO. 




I. — Tbe Ancestors .... 

II.— The Father 

III. — Infancy and Youth, 1T92-1S08 . 
IV. — Axti-Slatert Influences in Youth. 
v.— Life at Princeton, 1808-1810 
Yl. — Between College and the Bar, 1810-1814 
YII.— His Life in Kentucky, 1814-1818 

YIII. — Lawyer — Planter — Politician, in Alabama, lSlS-1823 36 
IX.— Life at Huntsville, Alabama, 1823-1826 . . . 44 

X.— Life at Huntstille, 1826-1827 55 

XI. — The Political Campaign of 1828 63 

XII. — Abolition in the South before 1828 . . . .74 
XIII. — Long Visit to the Free States, 1830 . . . .87 
XIV. — Abandons Party Politics — Intended Removal to Illi- 

KOis— Visit of T. D. Wkld, 1830-1832 ... 96 
XV. — Experience as an Agent ok the Colonization Society, 

1832-1833 Ill 

XV!. — From Colonization, through Gradual Emancipation, to 

Immediate Abolition, 1833-1334 .... 131 
XVIL—Anti-Slayery Work IN Kentucky, 1834-1835 . .143 

XVIIL— A Wider Sphere OF Action, 1835 160 

XIX. — IIe is ostracized in Kentucky and goes to Ohio, 1835 . ISO 

XX. — The Genesis of the Republican Party, 1835-1836 . 188 

XXL— The Cincinnati Moa of January, 1836 . . . • 204 




XXII.— TiiK Editor, 1S3G, 1S37 liiiO 

XXIII. — Tin; Mod at Ci.nxi.n.nati, Ji i.y, 183G — Pro-^'lavery 

Mods 240 

XXIV.— LiiK i.\ CixciNXATi, 1836-1837 'jr.O 

XXV. — The No-(jOveunment Vagary iiOy 

XXVI. — The PiiiLOsoruy of Boston Vagaries . . . .281 

XXVII. — The Schism or the Garkisoxians, 1837-1840 . . 295 

XXVIII.— "The Small Extreme Wing" 314 

XXIX. — The Liberty — Free Soil — Repcdlican Party . 332 

XXX. — Traits ok Character 357 

XXXI. — Twelve Years an I.walid — Conclusion . . . 373 

APPEXDIX A.— Anti-Slavep.y Books before 1831 . . .382 
" I>. — Sketch of Benjamin Lcndy's Life . . . 3S9 

" C. — National Anti-Slavery Societies . . . 407 

" D. — James G. Birney's Letter to W. L. Stone . .423 

" E. — Immediate Abolitionists in Ohio before 1830 . 430 

" F. — Writings of James G. Birney .... 435 

LXDEX 437 




The subject of this sketch was of pure Protestant 
Scotch- Irish descent. His ancestors on both sides be- 
longed to that distinct t}-pe of mankind created by two 
centuries of civil wars and exclusive intermarriages out of 
the native Irishmen who had followed Henry YIII into 
the Church of England and the Scotch colonists of James 
I, with some intermixture of Englishmen and Huguenot 
exiles. It was confined to the nine counties in the north- 
eastern part of Ireland which are known as the province 
of Ulster ; and, by its intelligence, thrift, industry, and in- 
ventive talent, has made that province one of the great 
manufactm-ing centers of the world. It has furnished to 
the United States many of the strong men who have 
helped to shape republican institutions. Among these 
may be named Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun, the 
Shelbys, the Logans, the McDowells, A. T. Stewart, and 
Horace Greeley — all distinguished for ability, energy, 
moral courage, and tenacity of purpose. With the aid of 
O'Hart's elaborate work on Irish pedigrees, the author 
might trace the genealogy of James Gillespie Birney to a 
remote period, finding some historical characters among 
his progenitors ; but the facts, even if established, possess 
no anthropological value. Although it is true that each 
man is the result of converging hereditary forces, these 


are too numerous for exiimiiitition, the ancestors vitliin 
ten generations exceeding two thou&and. It will be 
enough for the purposes of this book to give a few authen- 
tic data respecting the grandparents and ])arcnt.s. 

The i)aternal grandfather owned the old family home- 
stead near Cooteliill, County Cavan. lie was a prosper- 
ous farmer and miller, a church vestryman, a magistrate, 
and iniluential in local allairs. Ilis wife was a member of 
the Church of England, and a woman of strongly marked 
character. There were several children. 

The maternal grandfather was John Read, a native of 
Londonderry. Inheriting wealth and high social position, 
he had been liberally educated, and had traveled in for- 
eign countries. His tall and graceful person, handsome 
features, ruddy complexion, blond hair, culture, and court- 
ly manners made him a remarkable individual. For his 
grandson James he always had a strong affection, and, 
for several years, he made the boy his companion and 
pupil. His migration to the United States was a conse- 
quence of the discovery of some political intrigue of his 
against the British Government. He was in Kentucky as 
early as 1770. In that year he built a fort, about two miles 
from Danville, and a mansion wdiich remains to this day. 
He married Lettice "Wilcox. Their youngest son, Thomas 
B. Kead, was, in 182G, United States Senator from ]\Iissis- 
sipi. Their daughters were carefully educated ; they were 
all well married, and among their descendants are found 
many of the distinguished men of Kentucky, including 
Judge John Green, Jutlge Thomas Green, Rev. Lewis W. 
Green, D. 1)., Dr. Willis G. Craig, Dr. Edwards, of St. 
Louis, and General Humphrey ilarshall. ^Ir. Read was 
remarkable for conversational talent, and some of the most 
able men of Kentucky were often his guests. It was in his 
parlors that his grandson received much of the kind of 
education given to youth by the conversation of the wise. 



James Gillespie Birney was an only son. When 
he was three years old his mother died, leaving him and 
an infant sister to the care of the father. The surviving 
parent did all a strong and rugged man could do to sup- 
ply the place of maternal tenderness. The bright and 
sturdy boy awakened a strong paternal pride ; and before 
he had learned his letters the father had marked out for 
him a course of training and studies with a well-formed 
intention to make of him a lawyer and statesman ; and this 
course, with unimportant modifications, was afterwards per- 
sistently adhered to. This singular devotion was an im- 
portant factor in the formation of the character of the 
son, and justifies an account of the father which in most 
biographies would be too minute. 

In September, 1783, an adventurous Irish lad of six- 
teen, whose imagination was aglow with the glories of the 
young American republic, left secretly his father's com- 
fortable home in the County Cavan, and embarked at 
Dublin for Philadelphia. He had little baggage and less 
money, but he was broad-shouldered and active, with a 
manly bearing and pleasing address. On the day of his 
arrival in Philadelphia, with no recommendation except 
intelligence and a clerkly handwriting, he obtained em- 
ployment in a wholesale and retail dry-goods' house. There 
he remained until he was twenty-one years of age, working 
his way up until he was the leading employe of the firm. 


Choosing the frontier settlement of Kentucky as his future 
lionie, he obtained a stock of goods in Philadelphia on 
credit, and, in the autumn of 1788, opened a store at 
Panville, Avhich was then the leading town in Kentucky 
trade, polities, religion, and social life. Each year there- 
after, until the Pennsylvania Canal was ready for use and 
steamboat navigation on the Ohio had facilitated the 
transportation of merchandise from the East to Ken- 
tucky, the young merchant traversed the great wilderness 
with an armed party, camping out at night and sleeping 
on his ritle, purchased his stock in Philadelphia, and con- 
veyed it to Danville, using for part of the route covered 
wagons drawn by Conestoga horses, but for the roadless 
mountains and forests pack-horses and mules. The diffi- 
culties and dangers of this mode of transportation at that 
time required courage and energy on the part of the fron- 
tier merchant. As he prospered he established a branch 
store at Stamford and a bagging factory, with ropcAvalk, 
at Danville. lie organized and became president of the 
local bank, and conducted it successfully for a great many 
years, turning it over to his successor in thrifty and sound 
condition. During the War of 181^ he was a contractor 
on a large scale for furnishing supplies to the Western 
army. All his business engagements were promptly met. 
A note with his name on it was never protested. His 
business enterprises were uniformly successful. For many 
years he was reputed to be the richest man in Kentucky, 
and one of the most cordial in his hospitality. His estate 
of Woodlawn, the front gate of which was but a short 
half-mile from Danville, was as beautiful as blue-grass 
slopes, noble forest trees, and good taste in landscape could 
make it. The view from the house was through the 
glades and avenues of a noble park. In the march of 
improvement railroads have so intersected this property, 
and houses have been so built upon it, that the original 


landmarks have disappeared. His winter residence was a 
large brick mansion in Danville. 

In his day, James Birney was one of the noted men of 
Kentucky. From one end of the State to the other his 
name was familiar in every household, llis sayings were 
quoted where he was not personally known. His char- 
acter was strongly marked. Any old citizen of that State 
will remember him as a very positive man. He had no 
quality of a trimmer. One knew always where to find 
him. No one ever doubted that he would be true to his 
friends, or imagined that he would give back a hair's- 
breadtli before his enemies. His courage, both moral and 
physical, had been proved in the numerous emergencies 
of frontier life. He was full of generous impulses ; easily 
excited by meanness or disingenuousness ; strong in his 
personal attachments ; quick in his resentments ; and 
frank, bold, and vehement in asserting a right or declar- 
ing an opinion. He took great interest in studying theo- 
ries of government and the causes of the rise and fall of 
nations. The " Federalist " was his favorite book, and 
next to it. Gibbon's " Rome." In politics he was a Con- 
servative, with Federalist tendencies. Washington was his 
heau ideal of a patriot and statesman, and Chief Justice 
Marshall of a judge. He dissected Jefferson and his opin- 
ions with a rough-edged scalpel. He believed cordially in 
a protective tariff, and cherished the warmest friendship, 
political and personal, for its advocate, " Harry Clay," re- 
ceiving him as an honored guest on his frequent visits 
to Danville, and reading all his speeches, or, worse still 
[horresco referens), making the writer of this sketch read 
them to him. He admired Calhoun for his intellect, but 
detested his theories. For General Jackson he cherished 
an antipathy that amounted to rancor, and the feeling 
prepossessed him against the general's personal and po- 
litical friends. 


Into the shaping and direction of local affairs, includ- 
ing ])olities, he threw liimself with ardor, firndy refusing, 
liowever, to seek or hold olliee. lie was the mainstay of 
the Clay party in Mercer County up to about 1828, wdien 
his active business life was suddenly interrupted. The 
rustling of a dry corn-blade in a puff of wind caused a 
s])irited horse to sjiring from him as he was mounting ; 
the fall fractured his thigh-bone, and condemned him to 
his bed for a year and to crutches for life. 

In religion he was a zealous rather than orthodox Epis- 
copalian. The support of that Church was Avith him a 
matter of traditional family honor, and when his son 
joined tlie Presbyterians his jiride was deeply wounded. 
This always remained a tender spot Avith him. To his 
efforts and liberality were chiefly due the erection of tlie 
Danville Episcopal Church building, about 1828, and the 
maintenance of a regular ministry. Every Sunday morn- 
ing he occupied his large front pew at the left of the chan- 
cel and joined in the responses ; and, generally, he had the 
minister home with him to a good dinner with friends. 
All this did not prevent his discussing Church history 
with striking disrespect for priestly rule and handling 
some of the Old Testament worthies without gloves. He 
was the first man the writer ever heard descant upon cer- 
tain weaknesses in the characters of David and Solomon. 
It was a pleasure to him to engage theological students or 
ministers in controversy upon points of ecclesiastical his- 
tory or doctrinal differences, and puzzle them with his 
irony, raillery, and thorough acquaintance with the au- 
thorities. His reading had been extensive — chiefly in poli- 
tics, biograpliy, history, and travels — and he used his 
knowledge with shrewd common sense, expressing himself 
with spirit, force, and often with wit. He knew little 
Latin and no Greek, but his conversation was bright 
enough to interest men of learning. Students, tutors, and 


professors from Center College were his frequent visitors, 
and few intelligent travelers passed through Danville with- 
out calling on the invalid. lie received all with a boun- 
tiful hospitality that characterized Kentucky in the first 
half of the century. Though his sarcasm and frankness 
made him a terror to hypocrites and time-servers, he was 
respectful to the sincere and civil to strangers. To women 
he was gentle as summer, and to children, tender and in- 
dulgent. To his poor neighbors he was kind; of poor 
tenants he exacted no rent ; and though one or two stu- 
dents were always members of his family, they were such 
on the footing of friends only. He invited those he liked 
and admired. In money matters he Avas liberal, refusing, 
however, to indorse notes for any except a few intimat^ 
friends. AYoodlawn was the home of twenty-odd slaves. 
These were never punished or sold, being regarded as held 
for their protection as well as his convenience. All the 
harsh features of slavery were toned down. The overseer 
was obliged to manage without the whip, and got along 
peacefully with the slaves if not profitably for the owner. 
Most of the negroes had been born on the estate, and they 
looked upon their master with mingled fear and affection. 
It must be admitted, however, that they took the farming 
and rope-spinning life easily; they were almost as lazy 
as the fifteen to twenty pure- bred mares and colts that 
roamed through the rich pastures, costly pets of the 

It was the custom among the farmers in the neighbor- 
hood of Danville to visit town every Saturday. That was 
the great day for seeing each other on business, pleasure, 
or politics. Early in the morning of that day, during the 
years after his accident, when the weather permitted, 
James Birney was driven to town. His usual seat was in 
the store belonging to David Bell, his former clerk, his 
successor and life-long friend, and there he held a grand 


levee until late in the afternoon. It seemed to the writer, 
who was often hid grandfather's attendant on such occa- 
sions, that hardly any tradesman, professional man, or 
farmer failed to pay his respects to the venerable cripple, 
lie had a kind word or inquiry or jest for each one, and 
his chair was often surrounded by a group amused at his 
repartees, wit, and rollicking humor ; in all which, how- 
ever, he maintained a certain personal dignity, never utter- 
ing a coarse word. The man who forgot himself so far as 
to utter one in his presence never escaped without an 
effective rebuke. 

About two years after James Birney opened his store 
at Danville he married Miss Read, one of the daugliters 
of the political exile mentioned in the first chapter. Tra- 
dition makes her beautiful and intellectual. Iler parents 
did not think the handsome and energetic young merchant 
a suitable mate for her, and the young people were obliged 
to make a Gretna Green affair of the marriage. Her home 
was a happy one, but she died in 1T05, leaving a son and 
infant daughter, James Gillespie and Anna ^Maria. The 
latter married John J. Marshall, w^ell known in Kentucky 
annals as a law reporter and Judge. She was the mother 
of James Birney Marshall, Avho earned distinction as an 
editor, and of Humphrey Marshall, who was successively 
Representative in Congress, j\Iinister to China, and Con- 
federate major-general. For many years she was a leader 
in society at Frankfort, the State capital. Her reputation 
for conversational talent and general ability is one of tlio 
social traditions of Kentucky. 



James Gillespie Birxey was born, February 4, 
1792, at Danville. After the death of his mother, he and 
his sister were placed under the care of Mrs. Doyle, the 
oldest sister of his father. She was a widow and childless, 
and, at the request of her brother, came from Ireland to 
take charge of his two children and preside over his house- 
hold — duties for which an affectionate nature, sound 
sense, good education, agreeable manners, and fervent 
piety peculiarly qualified her. She continued to perform 
them until the children were grown and until the second 
marriage of her brother. His house was her home until 
her decease, about the year 1834. Her nephew could not 
have been dearer to her if he had been her own son ; and 
he returned her affection. Whenever he was at Wood- 
lawn, he passed much of his time with her. During his 
residence in Alabama he wrote to her regularly and fre- 
quently ; and when the writer was sent, in 1828, to 
Woodlawn on a long visit it was strictly enjoined on 
him to do all in his power to amuse and make her 
happy. Dear old lady ! how vividly I remember her ven- 
erable figure, with the shawl, spectacles, knitting, and 
prayer-book ! 

The boy grew up among numerous relatives and con- 
nections. His father's married sisters, Mrs. Gillespie and 


Mrs. Wlieliin, with their husbands and cliildren, migrated 
from Irehiud and settled near Danville, about 1705. 
These families were intelligent and in good circumstances, 
^[r. Gillespie bought a valuable farm about a mile from 
Danville, and Mr. Whelan another, four miles distant, 
and extending to the precipitous bluffs and romantic 
scenery of Dick's River. 

The relatives on the mother's side greatly exceeded in 
numbers those on the father's. There were two uncles 
and five aunts, all of whom had married, and, up to 1808, 
had their homes in Mercer County. There was no lack of 
cousins ; the motherless child had many companions and 
playmates among them. The attachments formed then 
were generally strong enough to survive the political dif- 
ferences of mature years. 

The boy was not timid, shy, or dreamy ; he was sturdy, 
self-possessed, and gifted with strong common sense. He 
had inherited a healthful and robust constitution. He 
was not only vigorous, but active and bright. He took 
pleasure in athletic exercises ; at an early age he learned 
to ride, shoot, swim, skate, and dance. He was fond of 
the companionship of girls. His father was proud of his 
beauty and promise. In his treatment of him the father 
was governed by the maxim of the ancient sage, " Respect 
youth." The intercourse between father and son was 
marked during their lives by affection, confidence, and the 
deferential manner of the old school. It is needless to 
say that the rod was not used. The father's pride and the 
aunt's gentleness alike forbade it. The boy grew up frank, 
truthful, manly, self-respecting, and courageous. In those 
days brutality was tolerated in schools ; the teacher was 
called the " master," and the emblem of his authority, 
the rod, lay on his desk. James did not escape discipline; 
when he had committed a fault he scorned to shelter him- 
self by evasion, but most of his troubles at school were due 


to tlie fact tliat he was always ready with his fists to aid a 
comrade against heavy odds. 

At eleven years of age he was sent to Transylvania 
University, at Lexington. His companions were a son of 
ex-Governor Isaac Shelby and George Eobertson, who 
afterward became a famous judge and Avas honored by hav- 
ing a Kentucky county named after him. He remained 
at that institution, vacations excepted, until the New 
Year's holidays of 1805-'G, when he returned home to en- 
ter a " seminary " which had been opened at Danville by 
Dr. Priestly. During his summer-vacation visit, when 
he was thirteen, there occurred an incident that illustrates 
his character. He went with two other boys, one a cousin, 
to a piece of deep water, to swim. He was a good swim- 
mer, his cousin a beginner. At a distance from the shore 
a rail was driven into the bottom of the pond. Its place 
was marked by a float. On its top, a foot or two below 
the surface, one might pause and rest. On this James 
stood and encouraged his cousin to swim out to him. The 
attempt was a failure. The boy sank. James swam to 
him, and was trying to help him when he was clasped and 
pulled under the water; but he extricated himself and 
succeeded in placing the boy upon the rail. He then 
swam ashore, rested, and returning brought his comrade 
out in safety. While the danger was at its greatest, the 
companion, who was on the shore, shouted to James to 
save himself. Eeferriug to this just after his escape, he 
said, quietly, " It never entered my mind to leave him." 
]\Iany anecdotes of his unselfishness and courage were cur- 
rent among his relatives in the days of my boyhood. I 
give this one because I heard it from the cousin. It is 
given in Green's " Life of Birney," published in 1844. 

The next two years were spent in studies preparatory 
to an intended course in the College of Xew Jersey. Wliat 
these studies were and what his teacher thought of his 


character at tlie close of tliis period, and wliat, nearly a 
half-century later, he thought of his teacher may be gath- 
ered from the following documents : 

On the tirst j)age of a large scrap-book made up liy 
James G. Birney is this entry in his own handwriting, in 

Fehnutry ^th. — For my grandson and namesake (James G. 
Birney, Jr., oldest son of James Birney) at Cincinnati: 

This book, unlike most other things, will be more valuable as 
it advances in age. When you come to be a half-century old, or 
as old as I am, it will be to you a remembrancer of old times. I 
also send you with it a letter which you can keep. You will see 
it was written by a preceptor of mine who, I need hardly tell after 
such evidence as his letter affords, was a learned man. He was 
considerably advanced in age, and had had great experience in 
teaching. He had married, some twenty or tive and twenty years 
before, a Miss McBride, whose family lived in or near llarrods- 
burg, and about that time had taught a school, I think, in Bairds- 
town, which was attended by many young men who afterward 
became distinguished in Kentucky — Felix Grundy, John Eowan, 
John Pope, and, I believe, Joseph V. Davis were among them. 
lie then removed, if I mistake not, to Baltimore, where he had a 
school. Then he returned to Kentucky and settled at Danville. 
He was probably fickle and unsteady as to his residence; for, 
although he had a numerous school when I left it to go to 
Princeton, he had gone away before my return in about two years 
and a half. I have never heard of him since. He was a member, 
though by no means an active one, of the Presbyterian Church, 
and doubtless quite a learned man of those times. 

Letter from James Priestly to J;imes Birney, Esq., father of James 
G. Birney. 

Danville, March, 30, ISOS 
De.\k Sir : As you have determined rightly, I think, in the 
present state of the "Western country, to send your son to a dis. 
tant seat of learning, I will recount to you before he goes, as far 
as I can recollect, the studies he has pursued and the text-books 
he has used under my direction for the last two years. He gave 


but little of his time to the learned languages and none to geog- 
raphy, as I understood he had studied these as far as is common 
before he came to me. Part of Euclid, too, he had learned before. 
With me he studied the fifth and sixth books of Euclid, Simson's 
"Plane Trigonometry," the greater part of common arithmetic 
and algebra, as far as the solution of simple equations, Murray's 
" Grammar " without the exercises, Watts's " Logic " and ''Im- 
provement of the Mind," Ferguson's "Lectures" and "Astrono- 
my," Blair's "Lectures," Adams and Kennefs "Roman An- 
tiquities," Paley's "Moral Philosophy " and "Natural Theology," 
Blackstone's " Commentaries," and part of St. Pien-e's "Studies 
of Nature." In the second year, a little time was employed in 
classical learning, and he read three comedies of Terence, one 
book of Tacitus's "Annals," and went hastily over the critical 
epistles of Horace, and three books of his odes, and read a book 
or two of Homer. A number of these studies have not been re- 
viewed, as I entertained for a while the hope of resuming them 
in a course of lectures, of adding the many important ones that 
have not been touched, of referring to the best authors on each 
subject, and thoroughly investigating the whole. But this I 
found to be, in my situation, impossible. One person is not 
equal to the task of preparing good lectures on every subject ; 
nor, if he even adopts the matured works of the best professors, 
can he study them all and make a proper use of them while he 
must at the same time superintend the conduct of all the classes 
in a seminary from the lowest to the highest, and instruct them 

It is proper, therefore, that James should reside some years at 
a college, where there are many professors, with a good library 
and apparatus. If the rules of the place will allow him to live 
in a private house and to attend the lectures of several professors 
with different classes, as in the universities of Britain, he may 
pass those years with great profit. What he has already done 
will render some studies lighter and more pleasant, and leave him 
time and spirits for others that will be quite new to him, so that 
he may keep way with more than one class. I profited most 
when I began again with those who had never studied the same 
things before. 

I mention a private family, because I think he does not need 


the discipline of academic rules to keep him to proper hours and 
from bad company; and because it would keep hita from those 
intrusions which can not be avoided if he lodges in a collejje. 

As far as I have had an opi)ortunity of observing, his conduct 
has been perfectly correct, and has appeared to jjroceed from right 
dlBposition ; bo that I have reason to hope he will derive from an 
advantageous situation all the benefit it is capable of yielding to 
the most prudent. 

With the best wishes for his good and your satisfaction, 
I am sir, your obedient humble servant, 

James Priestlt. 

James Bikney, Esq. 

The character of this youth, who was held in such 
high respect by his instructor, had been molded under 
uncommon influences. The follies, errors, and bad habits 
so often found in only sons of rich parents had been in 
great part prevented by the strong common sense of his 
father, the watchful love of his pious aunt, the constant 
moral pressure of a respectable family connection, and, 
better than all, by his well-balanced faculties and fortu- 
nate temperament. The social life about him was not that 
of an ordinary frontier settlement. Danville was in the 
very heart of that marvelously fertile region known to 
Americans generally as the " blue-grass country," and to 
Kontuekians as the "garden of the world." Its soil, 
constantly renewed by the decay of the abundant lime- 
stone ingredients, is inexhaustible ; even the Shenandoah 
Valley of Virginia does not reward so richly the labor of 
the farmer. And its pasturage has given to Kentucky 
acknowledged pre-eminence for race-horses and fine beeves. 
To this land of milk and honey the intelligent and advent- 
urous classes of Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland 
began to migrate about the close of the Eevolutionary 
War. Many of the immigrants had been officers in the 
army. Some of them were men of means and substance. 
Xot a few had held civil ofTice and took a live interest in 


public affciirs. They were hardy and courageous men, able 
to bear the severe trials of life in the forest, and to meas- 
ure strength and cunning with the Indian foe. Their 
descendants inherit from them thews, sinews, tall stature, 
and fighting qualities. At an early day the control of the 
site of Danville and its vicinity fell into the hands of men 
of means, who took pains to attract to it a good class 
of settlers. Among them were Isaac Shelby, the hero of 
King's Mountain, afterward governor of the State and 
secretary of war ; Benjamin Sebastian, long a judge of the 
Court of Appeals ; and many others who became promi- 
nent in national or State affairs, including Joshua Barbee 
and the members of the political debating club of which 
an account is given in the next chapter. Some of these 
men were members of the learned professions ; all of them 
had been educated by the sharp experiences of frontier 
life. They were men of thought and action, qualified to 
lay the foundations of a State. 

For a great many years Danville was the thought cen- 
ter of Kentucky. The numerous constitutional conven- 
tions were held there, also the synods. It was the perma- 
nent headquarters of Kentucky Presbyterianism. In 1808 
it had only begun to feel the competition for leadership 
by Lexington and Louisville. 

The social tone of Danville was not favorable to the 
ordinary vices of frontier life. Theology and politics were 
more in favor than the race-course and gaming-table. 


When James G. Birney left home for college he was 
in liis seventeenth year. Every advantage that wealth and 
a father's love could procure had been his ; his literary 
and scientific education had been the best to be had in 
Kontuckv, and his social opportunities and immediate 
surroundings left little to be desired. There are no in- 
dications that he had been spoiled ; he appears to have 
been a robust, intelligent, and ambitious youth of good 

As the interest of his countrymen in his biography is 
due chiefly to his subsequent anti-slavery career, it is im- 
portant to note the influences in which tliis had its origin. 
The foundations of his abolitionism were doubtless laid in 
his early youth. 

Though his grandfather Read and his father had be- 
come slaveholders, they always professed a willingness to 
emancipate, if Kentucky could be made a fi-ee State. In 
1792 they had taken an active part in promoting the elec- 
tion of the Kev. David Rice, a noted abolitionist, to the 
Constitutional Convention, and in lT9i) they voted for 
delegates to a similar convention, who were pledged to 
support a constitutional provision in favor of abolition. 
The pious aunt who reared him had always refused, on 
religious principles, to own slaves or to accept their per- 
sonal services without compensation. 


The home iuflucuces were i^oworfully re-enforced and 
directed by the Eev. David Eice. He was pastor of the 
Danville Presbyterian church for many years during the 
youth of James G. Birney, and there being no Episcopa- 
Kan services in the town, the boy and his aunt generally 
attended that church. Mr. Rice was a friend and a fre- 
quent guest of the family, and ]3aid much attention to the 
son, who conceived an affection for him, and in after life 
gratefully remembered and spoke of him. In the State 
Constitutional Convention of 1792 Mr. Eice was the leader 
of the members who favored immediate abolition. His 
speech was clear and able, his conclusion being in the fol- 
lowing Avords : " Therefore, I give it as my oiDinion that 
the FIRST thing to be done is to resolve uncoxdition- 
ALLT to put an end to slavery in this State." 

The speech was reprinted many times. I have before 
me a copy of an edition published in Xew York in 1812. 
It makes an octavo pamphlet, large size, twelve pages, in 
small type, and double columns. Its reasoning through- 
out classes Mr. Eice with the uncompromising immediate 
abolitionists of his day, and refutes the charge of gradu- 
alism brought against him by Mr. Davidson, the historian 
of Kentucky Presbyterianism. Mr. Eice was an earnest 
man of definite convictions and an eloquent sjoeaker, and 
he frequently preached against the sin of slavery, thus 
sowing the seed which was to yield a harvest many years 

The Eev. David Barrow, of Mount Sterling, preached 
before 1808 several anti-slavery sermons at Danville, which 
were always favorably remembered by my father. He was 
the author of a widely distributed jiamphlet, entitled " In- 
voluntary, Unmerited, Perpetual, Absolute, Hereditary 
Slavery examined on the Principles of Nature, Eeason, 
Justice, Policy, and Scripture," which advocated imme- 
diate abolition ; and in 1808 he was generally regarded as 

18 jamf:s cj. iuuxky and his times. 

the most innuential ami al)lc leader of tlie anti-slavery 
l>ai)tists ill Kentucky. 

The Baptist Church was the first one organized in the 
State; it dates from 1T81. From that year until the 
War of 181"^ it was the most numerous and powerful re- 
lifjious orfjaiiization in Kentucky. About 1787 Joshua 
Carman, a Baptist elder from \'irginia, began a movement 
for the abolition of slavery, which for many years agitated 
both the Church and State. It was doubtless the leading 
cause of the political excitements of 1702 and 1709. 

In 1787 Elder Carman was organizing church socie- 
ties in Kentucky, chiefly in Hardin, La Rue, and Tselson 
Counties. Between that year and 1801, when he emi- 
grated, to Ohio, he was pastor of several leading Baptist 
churches. For fourteen years lie i^reached immediate 
abolition and no Christian fellowship with slave-holders. 
In 1789 his church sent up to Salem Association the 
query : " Is it lawful in the sight of God for a member of 
Christ's Church to keep his fellow-creatures in perpetual 
slavery?" In 1707 he was present at the General Con- 
ference in Ohio, at which the Miami Association was or- 
ganized, " with a view," Dunlevy says in his history of that 
association (page 133), " to prevent the newly organized 
body from holding any correspondence with slave-hold- 
ers " ; and he succeeded in his object. 

Elder Carman was an able man and " an easy, fluent, 
and pleasant speaker," and he made numerous converts 
to abolitionism among the most zealous and efhcient 
preachers of his denomination. The first was Josiah 
Dodge ; and the movement started by Carman spread 
until, before 1808, the following leading Baptist preachers 
were among its adherents : Carter Tarrant, John Sutton, 
Donald Holmes, Jacob Gregg, George Smith, George 
Stokes Smith, Cornelius Duese, John H. Owen, Thomas 
AVhitman, John >ruri)liy, Elijah Davidson, AVilliam Buck- 


ley, David Barrow, William Hickman, James Garrard, and 
Ambrose Dudley. All of these, except the last three, 
maintained the high standard of immediatism during 
their continuance in the pulpit. Collins, in his " History 
of Kentucky " (page 419), states their position as follows : 
They " declared for the abolition of slavery, alleging that 
no friendship should be extended to slave-holders, as slav- 
ery in every branch of it, both in principle and practice, 
was a sinful and abominable system, fraught with peculiar 
evils and miseries, which every good num ought to aban- 
don and bear testimony against." 

It does not enter into the plan of this work to describe 
the schisms in the Baptist Church of Kentucky caused 
bv dissensions in regard to the course to be pursued in 
the treatment of slavery. This was acknowledged to be 
a sin, but the majority of church-members were unwilling 
to make it a cause of exclusion from the Church. In the 
evasive language of a church body in 1789: "The asso- 
ciation judge it improper to enter into so important and 
critical matter at present." The Baptists were divided 
into "regulars" and "separatists." An "Emancipation 
Association" was formed in Nelson County, and the 
" Licking Locust Association," abolitionist, contained a 
large number of churches. For details the reader is re- 
ferred to Spencer's " History of the Kentucky Baptists," 
to the histories of Kentucky by Collins and by Shaler, and 
to Benedict's " History of the Baptists." "Biographical 
Sketches of the Kentucky Emancipationists " were pub- 
lished by the Rev. Carter Tarrant, and short ones may be 
found in the works above referred to. 

The popular sentiment at Danville had been decidedly 
anti-slavery from the first. For many years the town, to 
use Shaler's expression (page 121), "was the center of 
the State life." From 1786 to 1790 a political club ex- 
isted there which " was composed of about thirty of the 


brightest spirits of tlie time wlio were resident in and 
uljout this little town. On its roll we find the names 
of many of those who had already or Avere afterward to 
lead the .State in the paths of peace and war " (Shaler, 
page IV.)). Among its members were AVilliam McDowell 
(lawyer and afterward judge of the United IStates District 
Court), Samuel McDowell (who presided at eight State 
constitutional conventions), Henry Innes, Christopher 
Greenup, Robert Craddock, Thomas Todd, George Mutor, 
Peyton Short, James Sjieed, Abe Buford, Benjamin Se- 
bastian, AVillis Green, and William McClung, whose names 
are identified with the history of Kentucky. The record 
of the club shows that their debates were coutiued to 
great questions of polity. They discussed the proposed 
Constitution of the United States, article by article, and 
voted to strike out the clause prohibiting Congress from 
preventing the importation of slaves until 1808. It was 
probably owing to the influence of the members of this 
club that the Ivev. David llice was elected delegate to the 
Constitutional Convention of 1792. The question whether 
Kentucky should be a free State does not appear to have 
been made a distinct issue in the election. For several 
years the people had been greatly disturbed by questions 
of independence growing out of the strong opposition 
made to their separation from Virginia. There w'cre not 
more than fifteen thousand slaves in Kentucky, and the 
settlers did not appreciate the paramount importance of 
the slavery question. George Nicholas, an able lawyer 
and politician from Virginia and a slave-holder, was the 
controlling spirit of the convention and drafted the Con- 
stitution. This instrument forbade the importation of 
slaves into the State for sale, or of any imported into 
America since 1789, and empowered the Legislature to 
enact laws permitting emancipation. 

The Constitution of 1VJ2 was not submitted to the 


people. It had hardly gone into operation when a strong 
free-State sentiment declared itself. This was general 
among the Baptists, and also among the Presbyterians, the 
next sect in numerical force and influence. It was shared 
by many of the leading men in and about Danville. Pat- 
rick Brown and his brother William, of Nelson County, 
were especially active in extending it. The Constitution 
had provided that the people might vote for or against 
a convention to revise that instrument. A first vote was 
to be taken in May, 1797, and a second in May, 1798. If 
both these should be in favor of a convention, the Legis- 
lature meeting in the winter of 1798-'99 was to order an 
election of delegates to be held in May, 1799 ; and the 
convention was to meet within three months thereafter 
(see Article XI of Constitution of 1793). The Constitu- 
tion needed amendment in several particulars; but the 
abolition of slavery was undoubtedly the dominant issue 
at the polls in 1797 and 1798. The vote in the latter 
year stood 8,804 for the convention, 3,049 against. The 
issue had been fairly made up ; the State had been thor- 
oughly canvassed ; and the result showed that the free- 
State party had a majority of nearly three to one. If the 
convention could have been held in May, 1798, immedi- 
ately after the election, Kentucky would have been made 
a free State and the causes of the civil war destroyed in 
the germ. 

On the 25th of June, 1798, the Alien and Sedition Law 
was passed by Congress. The wave of instantaneous re- 
action against it became a tidal one in Kentucky. George 
Nicholas and John Breckenridge, the defeated leaders of 
the pro-slavery faction, promptly availed themselves of 
the excitement to recover their control of affairs. Public 
meetings were called to denounce the Federalists. At 
these, Henry Clay, then a few months over twenty-one 
years of age, was first revealed as a popular orator. In 


Xovember, when tlie Legislature met, Jolm Breckcuridge 
olTered what liistory knows as "the Kentucky resoki- 
tions of 1708." They were passed by both Houses, ap- 
proved en the IGth of the month, and forwarded to Con- 
gress and the Legislatures of other States. A hot answer 
was returned by Massachusetts. Before the election in 
ilay, II'JO, Kentucky was ablaze with political excitement 
against the Alien and Sedition Law, and John Brecken- 
ridge, Benjamin Logan, John llowan, Felix Grundy, and 
other pro-slavery men who were advocates of the Ken- 
tucky resolutions, were elected delegates to the conven- 
tion called to revise the Constitution. The all-importaub 
measure of making Kentucky a free State had been blown 
out of sight by a gusty side-wind. 

As Henry Clay and his relation to slavery Avill neces- 
sarily be adverted to more than once in subsequent pages, 
it may be well to ascertain here the extent of his co-opera- 
tion in the political movement beginning in 1T9G to make 
Kentucky a free State. Mr. Clay arrived in Lexington in 
November, 1797 (Collinses "History"), about six months 
after the first victory of the free-State party at the polls. 
He was admitted to the bar in April, 1798, a few days after 
he became of age. The second victory of the free- State 
party was in the ]\Iay following. Between the date of his 
arrival and the vote in May, 1798, a period of six months, 
^Ir. Clay had, from time to time, co-operated with the free- 
State party by advocating its objects in a debating society 
of which he was a member, and by writing some favorable 
articles for a local newspaper. There is no proof that he 
nuule any " stump speech" on the subject, and it is im- 
probable that he did so. In the early summer of 1798 he 
was conspicuous as a speaker at the large field meetings 
held near Lexington to denounce the alien and sedition 
laws, working side by side with John Breckenridge and 
George Nicholas, tlie leaders of the pro-slavery faction. 


Oil one occasion of this kind, ho and Nicholas "were put 
in a carriage and drawn by the people through the streets 
of the town amid great shouting and huzzaing" (Schurtz, 
"Life of Clay"). During the Legislative excitements of 
the ensuing winter, and for many years thereafter, he con- 
tinued to be identified with the Jefferson party. In April, 
1799, he married Miss Hart, the daughter of a wealthy 
slave-holder, and became the owner of several slaves. The 
election for delegates to the Constitutional Convention took 
place in the following May and there is no reason to doubt 
that Mr. Clay voted the pro-slavery ticket headed by his 
friend John Breckenridge, the pro-slavery leader, or that he 
was from that time identified politically with the anti-free- 
State men, and owed his rapid success to their friendshij). 
lie had become a slave-owner, and found an easy road to 
success through the excitement caused by the passage of 
the Alien and Sedition Law. In his famous Frankfort 
speech in 1829, intended to open his campaign for the 
presidency, Mr. Clay conciliated Northern sentiment by an 
apology for his course in 1799, which, with studied euphe- 
mism, he described as submitting with grace to the decis- 
ion of the majority. But if during the thirty years pre- 
ceding this apology Mr. Clay did an act evidencing his 
desire for a practical effort to make Kentucky a free State, 
no biographer has found it. 

The free-State sentiment in Kentucky did not die out 
after 1799. Agitation continued. In 1807, a Baptist as- 
sociation that refused Christian fellowship to slave-holders 
numbered twelve churches (I, Spencer, 18(i). Manumis- 
sions for religious reasons became frequent. In the dec- 
ade ending with 1810, as compared with the one preced- 
ing it, the increase in tlic number of freedmen in Ken- 
tucky was one hundred and fifty per cent. In September, 
1807, a State convention was held in Woodford County 
to form the " Kentucky Abolition Society " ; a committee 


was appointed to draft a constitution,* and the society 
was forniL'd and constitution udo])ted in a similar conven- 
tion, held September 'Zl^ 1808, at the same place. The 
members pledged themselves : " First, to pursue such 
measures as may tend to the abolition of slavery in a way 
which will consist with the Constitution and laws of the 

This society existed many years, and nuiy appear again 
in this narrative. 

The facts already given will suffice to show that the 
boyhood of James G. Birney was passed under influences 
which were distinctly anti-slavery. In* his after life, he 
v.'as accustomed to say he could not remember a time 
when he believed slavery to be right. It is not improb- 
able that he had never heard, before he went to Prince- 
ton, such a belief expressed by any respectable person. 
lie may not have heard it at Princeton, for the time had 
not then come when slavery was defended on its merits or 
on Biblical ground. 

* The entire constitution of the " Kentucky Abolition Society" was 
republished October 9, 1822, in the " Abolition IntclliKoncer," a monthly 
paper, published at Shelbyville, Ky., by the Rev. Johu Fliilcy Crowe, 
under the auspices of the society. 



James G. Birxey entered the sophomore class iu the 
College of Xew Jersey, in April, 1808, and was graduated, 
in due course, September 26, 1810. At the time of his 
admission the class numbered eighteen ; in the junior 
year, forty ; and at graduation, twenty-five. Several of 
his classmates became famous in after life as lawyers and 
statesmen : among them were Eichard Stockton, of Mis- 
sissippi, Oliver S. Halstead, of New Jersey, Kensey Johns, 
of Delaware, A. De Witt Bruyn, of New York, Joseph 
Cabell Breckenridge, of Kentucky, and George M. Dallas, 
of Pennsylvania. His room-mate at Nassau Hall was 
young Breckenridge, and the intimacy thus formed rip- 
ened into a life-long friendship. His pleasant relations 
with Dallas led to his studying law in the office of Alex- 
ander J. Dallas, the father, and to a correspondence which 
extended over many years. He was popular with his class- 
mates and fellow-students. Some of these expressed their 
indignation when it was announced that the first honor 
of the class had been given to another, but he calmed 
them by his declaration that the faculty had decided fair- 
ly, because he had always been inferior in mathematics to 
his successful competitor. For the abstractions of science 
he had no taste and a talent not more than respectable, 
but he greatly excelled in history, moral and political phi- 


losophy, general literature, and the classics. lie was espe- 
cially proficient in Latin, and read it easily \vithout a dic- 
tionary — a practice lie kept up during life. Much of his 
time in college was given to preparation for debates and 
to his studies in logic and moral and political jjliilosophy, 
pursued under the direction and instruction of Samuel 
iStanhope Smith, Doctor of Laws, Doctor of Divinity, and 
president of the college. Dr. Smith was a man of strong 
character, extensive learning, and captivating eloquence ; 
he was an expert logician and a most plausible casuist, 
llis qualities gave him great influence over his pupil, an 
influence perceptible for many years in the latter's course 
in life. Tiie doctor was a Princeton graduate ; he had 
been president of a Mrginia college four years, had re- 
turned to Princeton in 1779 as professor, and had been 
made president in 1795. He took a deep interest in all 
questions touching slavery and the African race. In 1787 
he published an elaborate work, "An Essay on the Causes 
of the Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human 
Species," etc. Li 1810 he published, at Xew Brunswick, 
a second and enlarged edition of this work, with an ap- 
pendix. It is remarkable for the ingenuity and varied 
learning displayed by the author in defense of his theory 
of the unity of the race ; and it is still an interesting book 
for the general reader. During the stay of James G. Bir- 
ney at the college, Dr. Smith was preparing for the press 
the great work of his life, " Lectures on Moral and Political 
Philosophy." They were published in 1812, at Trenton, 
in two volumes. Both the " Essay " and the " Lectures " 
formed part of my father's library in Alal)ama, being kept 
on the same shelf with "An Essay on the Treatment and 
Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colo- 
nies," by tlie Pev. James Pamsay, M. A. (London, 1784) ; 
" The History of the Pise, Progress, and Accomplishment 
of the AbolitiDii of the African Slave Trade by the Brit- 


ish Parliament," by Thomas Clarkson, M. A. (2 vols., first 
American edition, I'hiladelphia, 1808). Tlie " Lectures " 
were mementos, and the other works relics of his college 

Dr. Smith tanght his pupils that men are of one blood, 
and that slavery is wrong morally and an evil politically ; 
but that there is no remedy except in voluntary manumis- 
sion by masters ; that citizens acquire slave property under 
the sanction of the laws, and can not equitably be com- 
pelled to sacrifice it ; that property rights of all kinds 
should be held sacred, etc. " What free peojjle," he asks, 
in his " Lectures," " would allow their legislature to dispose 
in the same manner of any other portion of their prop- 
erty ? " This sophistry appears to the modern reader 
wretchedly bald ; but it had its effect in 1810. Imagine 
a youth saturated with it for two years and a half by a 
venerated preceptor ! 

During his college life the discussion of slavery in the 
country went on without intermission. In 1804 the State 
of New Jersey had passed a gradual emancipation act, fol- 
lowing the example set by New York three years before 
and by Pennsylvania at an earlier date. In those three 
States slavery was in process of extinction under a settled 
policy. The institution had been condemned by public 
opinion. In 1808, after several years of exciting debates, 
Congress had prohibited the importation of African slaves 
and declared it piracy, and the year before it had refused 
to consider the suspension for ten years of the free-soil 
clause in the ordinance of 1787, for the purpose of legal- 
izing the temporary introduction of slaves into the terri- 
tory northwest of the Ohio. The subject of slavery was 
the frequent topic of debate in the college literary soci- 
eties. It was in the political atmosphere and Avas daily 
suggested by the presence of the slaves who swept the cor- 
ridors of the dormitori(^s. Professor MacLoan was an out- 


spoken friend of iibolilion, and some of tlie leaders of the 
free-soil movement in the tStute resided at Princeton. 
Many of the students were from the Southern States, and 
it mav ho supposed that the slavery discussions were spir- 
ited. AVhat i)art was taken in them by James G. Birney 
is not known. That he did not defend slavery we know 
by his repeated statements in his manhood that he had 
never done so ; but as to the remedy for it, his judgment 
may have been warped and his generous ardor chilled by 
the plausible fallacies of President Smith. 

In his college career there was little to interest the 
general reader. His few breaches of discipline were not 
serious, and he was in good standing with the faculty. 
With the Rev. Philip Lindsley, tutor in langiiages, he con- 
tracted a friendship which continued through life. Dr. 
Lindsley became afterward president of the University of 
Tennessee, at Nashville, and was my father's guest on sev- 
eral visits to Iluntsville, Alabama. 



Returkixg to Kentucky immediately after taking his 
diploma, he passed a few days at home, and then joined 
the party of Mr. Clay's friends who were escorting him 
during his canvass of the district for a seat in Congress. 
On this excursion, which lasted ahout a month, he became 
acquainted with many of the men who were prominent 
in Kentucky politics. His heart was quite won by the 
tact and kindness of Mr. Clay, and he remained for many 
years thereafter an admirer and friend of that eminent 
orator and statesman. He had expected to study law at 
Danville, but had hardly read a chapter in Blackstone 
before his father made the necessary arrangements for him 
to become a student in the office of Alexander J, Dallas, 
then a celebrated lawyer and the United States District 
Attorney at Philadelphia. The next three years and a 
half were spent in that city, except the time taken for a 
tour through IS'ew England, two visits to Washington 
city, and a yearly visit home. 

Mr. Dallas was an able, but not an attentive instructor, 
his time being much absorbed by his professional duties ; 
but there were in the office several well-educated and zeal- 
ous fellow-students, with whom legal doctrines and cases 
were discussed ; and Mr. Dallas was ever ready to answer 
questions and solve difficulties. Attendance on interest- 


iug triuld and hearings was required, with a full report on 
the points involved. The office library was large and the 
books well chosen. Mr. Birney made good use of his 
opportunities, and was admitted to the rhiladelphia bar, 
passing a creditable examination. 

The social advantages he enjoyed during his long resi- 
dence in rhiladelphia were very great. His purse was 
liberally supplied by a generous father, who insisted that 
he should live in all respects as a man of fashion. His 
dress was costly, and he drove tandem a pair of blooded 
bays sent him from the Woodlawn pastures. After the 
fashion of the day, he wore high, fair-topped, tasseled 
boots when he drove. He had no vices or habits of dis- 
sipation, but he cultivated aesthetic tastes, and was accus- 
tomed to making liberal expenditures to gratify them. 
During life he was noted for his rich and tasteful garb, 
love of fine furniture, beautiful table services, and good 
horses. He frequented the society of people of culture, 
finding them both among the Quakers and the fashiona- 
bles. He made numerous acquaintances among men emi- 
nent for talent. It was then his life-long friendship with 
Abraham L. Pcnnock, the Quaker merchant, was formed, 
and that he made the acquaintance of Mr. Forten, the 
colored sail-maker. For this excellent man he conceived 
a high regard, showing it by calling on him in after years 
Avhenevcr he visited Philadelphia. Mr. Forten was intel- 
ligent, thoughtful, and full of sympathy for his race, and 
was just the man to discuss slavery with his young Ken- 
tucky friend. "We have no proof that he did so, or that 
during the residence of James G. Birney in Pennsylvania 
his attention was especially attracted to the institution of 
slavery, then dying out in that State. In May, ISl-i, he 
returned to Danville and began the practice of law. 




He did not have to wait long for business. The Dan- 
ville Bank made him its regular attorney, and his popular 
manners, thorough preparation, carefulness in details, dili- 
gence, and energy soon secured for him a good clientage. 
He traveled the circuit, which included several counties, 
and practiced in both civil and criminal cases, gaining a 
valuable professional experience. Tlie condition of affairs 
in the State, however, prevented his court practice from 
being lucrative. The war had unsettled trade. The sus- 
pension of the exportation of products by the Mississippi 
Eiver had been calamitous ; money was scarce ; the Bank 
of Kentucky was discredited, and its paper was refused in 
payment of debts. " Relief laws," staying executions on 
judgments, were passed in aid of the debtor class ; and 
they were in force from January, 181G, to February, 1818. 
The young lawyer derived his chief income from the 
amicable adjustment of claims- 
He identified himself with the community in which 
he lived. Soon after his return to Danville he was made 
a Freemason in the local lodge — Franklin, No. 28 — his 
father, a passed master of that order, performing the cere- 
monies of the initiation. At the fall elections in 1814 he 
was elected to the town council, and as a member of that 
body was active in founding the Danville Academy. He 


mixed freely in social life, attemling balls and parties and 
renewing the acquaintanceships of his youth. 

Among the girls he had known from childhood was 
Agatha, the fifth daughter of William McDowell, United 
{States District Judge, and niece of George Madison, Gov- 
ernor of Kentucky, and of Bishop ]\Iadison, of Virginia. 
The admiration he had felt for the pretty and vivacious 
school-girl was changed into love for the accomplished, 
intelligent, and charming wonuui. His wooing was suc- 
cessful. Ivelatives and friends were all pleased. The 
groom's father quite forgot that the lady belonged to a 
family noted for its stanch Presbyterianism. The mar- 
riage took place on the 1st of February, 1816. It proved 
to be a happy one until the decease of the wife in 1838. 
The husband was always loving, considerate, and respect- 
ful ; and the wife was happy in her husband, her children, 
and her home, over which she presided with the love of a 
mother, the grace of a tactful hostess, and the skill of a 
model housewife. She clung to her husband with un- 
wavering faith through his varying fortunes. In the last 
years of her life, Avhile suffering from infirm health, she 
felt keenly the alienation of her kindred and former 
friends from her husband. The plan of this sketch does 
not permit more than the above brief mention of the do- 
mestic life of its subject. 

Among his wedding gifts were several household slaves, 
presented by his father and father-in-law. His acceptance 
of them is logically inconsistent with the anti-slavery 
principles and opinions attributed to him in the previous 
chaiiters of this narrative. It may be palliated, however, 
by the fact that in his day such inconsistency was com- 
mon. Patrick Henry said of slave-holders : " Every think- 
ing honest man rejects it in speculation, but how few in 
practice from conscientious motives ! "Would any one be- 
lieve that I am master of slaves of my own purchase ? I 


am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living 
■without them. I will not, can not, Justify it." 

Washington did not free his slaves except by will ; and 
the Eev. Stanhope Smith, logician, had persuaded himself 
that, though slavery was wrong in principle, it was right 
in practice. It must be admitted that in the James G. 
Birney of 1816 there was no outward indication of the 
future aggressive abolitionist; but the princij^les Avere 
latent in him, and were to be made visible in the fierce 
political heats of the future. In the summer and autumn 
of 1815 he took an active part in the political campaign, 
making stump speeches in favor of Henry Clay for Con- 
gress, and of George Madison for Governor. Both of 
these candidates were elected. 

In August, 1816, at the first election after he became 
twenty-four years of age, and thus eligible under the Con- 
stitution, he was elected member of the Lower House of 
the General Assembly of Kentucky, virtually without op- 
position. He took his seat on the second day of the fol- 
lowing December. There were one hundred and fifty-one 
statutes passed at the session, and in shaping them he 
rendered valuable service. Standing committees were not 
then known in the legislative practice of the State, but 
he was appointed on several special committees to which 
important bills were referred, and repeatedly on privileges 
and elections. He procured the enactment of a law to in- 
corporate the Danville Academy and to appropriate the 
proceeds of certain lands for its endowment ; and of an- 
other to prohibit the circulation of private notes as cur- 
rency. He voted for Martin D. Hardin and John Adair 
for the United States Senate ; but Mr. Adair was defeated 
by John J. Crittenden. He supported a joint resolution 
"commemorating" Jackson's victory at New Orleans; 
and another relating to the free navigation of the river 
Mississippi, protesting against the seizure by the Louisi- 


ana authorities of the "steamboat Enterprise," under 
" the pretended authority of a law enacted by the Legis- 
Liture of the kite Territory of Xew Orleans," declaring 
that Kentucky will maintain inviolate, by all legitimate 
means, the right of her citizens to navigate said river and 
its tributary streams, and requesting the co-operation of 
Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana. 

It was at this session he gave the first sign, so far as 
known, of his unwillingness to be used as a tool by the 
slave-holding interest. The Senate had passed without 
opposition a joint resolution requesting the acting Gov- 
ernor to open a correspondence with the Governors of 
Indiana and Ohio, respectively, with a view to procure in 
each of those States the enactment of laws for the recap- 
tion and delivery of fugitive slaves. In demanding this 
measure, the slave-holders stood upon their alleged legal 
rights as embodied in the United States fugitive slave act 
of 111)3. When it came to the Ilouse it was vigorously 
opposed by James G. Birney, and defeated. " What ! " he 
asked, " shall the State of Kentucky do what no gentle- 
man would — turn slave-catcher?" After the vote the 
pro-slavery men rallied, and, under the able leadership of 
Judge Rowan, succeeded in passing a substitute, which 
omitted the most objectionable language and softened the 
tone of the original resolution. Mr. Birney did not vote 
for the substitute. About twenty years later, he said he did 
not believe his opposition to the measure would have cost 
him a single vote in Mercer County, that cotton was not 
king in 1817, and he was not aware that any unfavorable 
comment on his course had been made by the press. In 
fact, he attached no special importance to it at the time. 

He Mas already sighing for a wider sphere for his am- 
bition. The Kentucky paths to high political place were 
already crowded by distinguished and able aspirants. Clay, 
Crittenden, Adair, Hardin, and others of the generation 


before him would be his competitors for many years to 
come, with fearful odds in their favor. A Mr. Love, a 
friend and fellow-member of the Legislature, was intend- 
ing' to go to Alabama after the adjournment of the ses- 
sion, and pressed him to visit that Territory with him. 
He did so, and was so much pleased with its fertile soil 
and the political and professional prospects open to him in 
the embryo State, that he decided to close up his affairs in 
Kentucky and make his future home in Alabama. His 
plan was to practice law in the Huntsville circuit, and re- 
side on a plantation near that growing town. At that 
day, in the far South every lawyer was a politician, and, 
if he was rich enough, a planter. Clement C. Clay, Arthur 
F. Hopkins, and Reuben Chapman, all of Huntsville, fol- 
lowed the three occupations. James G. Birney bought a 
plantation in Madison Count}', near Triana and the Ten- 
nessee Eiver, and within two hours' ride of Huntsville. To 
this place he removed with his family in February, 1818. 



' 1818-1823. 

In 1818 the roads between Danville and Iluntsville 
were such as are commonly found in new and heavily 
wooded countries. Railroads and even turnpikes were 
then unknown in Kentucky and Tennessee. Rough pas- 
sage-ways were chopped tlirougli the forests by the pioneers. 
The smadl trees were cut away ; stumps and large trees 
were left, and about these the wagon-tracks wound in the 
most convenient curves. There were no ditches, no grad- 
inor the roads on higher levels ; the drainage was as Na- 
ture made it. The favorite tool of the pioneers was the 
axe, not the spade. There were long stretches of flat lands, 
where the water lay a foot deep several months in the 
year. These were made passable by " corduroy causeways," 
constructed of small logs, cut into twelve-foot lengths 
and covered with small branches, the leaves still on. 
Rude bridges of heavy timbers were thrown over narrow 
creeks which Avere too deep to be forded. The broader 
streams were crossed on flat-boats, pulled over by means of 
strong ropes which were stretched from one bank to the 
other and fastened at each end. The transportation of 
goods was effected in covered wagons, each drawn by four 
or six mules or horses. For mutual aid of drivers in case 
of miring, these wagons were driven in trains. When they 
met each other on a causeway, one train was driven as close 


as practicable to tlie left side of the road and halted, 
allowing scant room for the other to pass. When the driv- 
ers met citizens in vehicles, they would often refuse to 
give room, compelling them to turn, drive back, some- 
times for miles, and leave the road until the wagon teams 
had passed by. When a citizen in a light vehicle caught 
np on a causeway with a wagon-train, it was a delicious 
practical joke for the wagoners to keep him from pass- 
ing them. The roads from Kentucky to Alabama were 
crowded with immigrants in February, 1818. 

James G. Birney accomplished safely the removal of 
his family and property, and at once threw himself with 
energy into his new duties. The plantation was in good 
order, and most of the fields intended for crops had been 
plowed ; but there were many cares to absorb his atten- 
tion. Plantation duties did not prevent him from culti- 
vating social relations with the planters of the county, 
the law3'ers at Huntsville, and the leaders in State poli- 
itics. The Territorial Legislature in 1818 was a small 
body. The Senate consisted of a single member, who 
united in himself all its offices. His name was Titus, 
and it was his humor to go punctiliously through all the 
forms of legislation, discussing bills sent up fi'om the 
House, putting them to vote, signing them as Speaker, 
countersigning them as clerk, and forwarding them with 
due formality to the Governor. The Legislature met at 
St. Stephens, a town on the Tombigbee River, about eighty 
miles from Mobile. It was regarded by the leading men 
in north Alabama as important that the Constitutional 
Convention should be held at Huntsville, and this place 
was designated in the " Enabling Act," passed by Congress 
in March, 1819, partly through the intervention of James 
G. Birney with John J.. Crittenden, L'nited States Senator, 
and Henry Clay, then Speaker of the House of Representa- 
tives. In Madison County two tickets were elected — one 


of members of the Conveution ; the other of members of 
the first General Assembly. Clement C. Clay headed the 
first; James G. Biruey, the second.* The Conveution was 
in session from the 5th of July to the ;^d of August, 1819, 
during which time James G. Birney was present almost 
ari regularly as if he had been a member. That he was a 
vuhuible aid, both because of his literary training (which 
was uncommon at that time in Alabama) and his sound 
sense and knowledge of the law, is certain. His liberality 
and humanity, too, have left their traces in the sections of 
the Constitution which relate to slavery. In the Missis- 
sippi Constitution of 1817 the model had been the one 
framed for Kentucky in 1799 ; but the sections relating 
to slavery had been made more harsh. The Kentucky 
model empowered the Legislature to emancipate slaves, 
with or without consent of owners, on making previous 
compensation, and secured an impartial trial by petit 
jury to any slave charged with felony. The Mississippi 
copy limited the legislative power of emancipation with- 
out consent of owners to cases in which the slaves had 
rendered distinguished services to the State, in which cases 
full compensation was to be made ; and it secured an im- 
partial trial by petit jury to slaves in capital cases only. 
On the first point the Alabama Constitution, which in most 
parts was copied from that of Mississippi, rejected the 
harsh and narrow Mississippi provision, and empowered 
the Legislature to abolish slavery on making compensa- 
tion to owners, as in Kentucky ; and on the second it was 
more liberal than either the Kentucky or Mississippi in- 
strument, as it secured to slaves the petit-jury trial in all 
prosecutions for crimes above the grade of petty larceny. 
It adopted from Kentucky the clause so ominous of future 
emancipation : " So long as any person of the same age or 
description shall be continued in slavery by the laws of 

* See rickctt's " Ilistory of Alabama." 


this State." And it udded tlie following section which, it 
is believed, was the first of the kind ever inserted in the 
constitution of a slave State : 

Section 3. Any person who shall maliciously dismember or 
deprive a slave of life shall suffer such punishment as would 
be inflicted in case the like offense had been committed on a 
free white person, and on the like proof ; except in case of in- 
surrection of said slave. 

It is true that tliese words are found in the Georgia 
Constitution of 1798 ; but they are rendered nugatory by 
the addition of a second exception : " And unless such death 
should happen by accident in giving such slave moderate 
correction." Such deaths were not uncommon in Georgia ; 
but, as no master was ever tried, convicted, and hanged for 
the murder of his slave, all the deaths, to use the consti- 
tutional phrase, must have " happened by accident." 

It may be well to note here that the General Assembly 
of Alabama for many years exercised its power to eman- 
cipate slaves. The statute books of the State show the 
number freed at each session for the first eleven years of 
its existence to have been as follows : 

Session. Slaves freed. 

1819 16 

1820 4 

1821 13 

1822 21 

1823 11 

1824 18 

1825 6 

1826 12 

1827 10 

1828 37 

1829 55 

Total 203 

or, an average of more than eighteen for each year. 


In October, 1819, James G. Biruey took his seat as a 
representative in the first General Assembly of Alabama, 
and tie voted several months to the task of legislation. Of 
the large number of organic acts passed at this session, we 
know that he aided in the preparation of the elaborate 
"act to regulate the proceedings in courts of law and 
equity " ; and that he was the author of the " act coi:- 
cerning the trial of slaves," which allowed paid counsel to 
all slaves tried by jury, and wliich excluded from the jury 
both the master and the prosecuting witness and the rela- 
tives of both. This law made effective the constitutional 
provision on the subject ; it was the outcome of a sentiment 
of justice and huinanity toward a class that had few friends. 

At this session circumstances occurred which closed 
the promising political career of James G. Birney. 

The fall races took place in Xovember on the Hunts- 
ville course ; and under the pretext of attending them 
with several fine horses. General Andrew Jackson remained 
two or three weeks in the town, becoming meanwhile inti- 
mate Avith many of the members of the Assembly. After 
his victory at Xew Orleans he had been generally regarded 
at the Southwest as a future President. In November, 
1815, Aaron Burr had suggested him as an available can- 
didate; and in 1819 the idea had assumed a certain force 
in politics. In January and February of that year Gen- 
eral Jackson had passed several weeks at "Washington ; in 
February he had accepted public receptions at New York, 
Philadelphia, and Baltimore ; and in March his journey 
from Knoxville to Nashville, on his return home, was a 
continuous and magnificent ovation, military and civil. 
Though he denied it on several occasions, the presidential 
bee was already buzzing in his bonnet. 

In Alabama the enthusiasm for Jackson was probably 
greater than in any other State of the Union ; he had 
fought battles and won victories on its soil, he had protect- 


ed the men, women, and children of the State from massacre 
bj the Indians, and he was the hero of New Orleans ! He 
was almost a fellow-citizen, too, for he owned a farm near 
Tuscumbia, on the Alabama bend of the Tennessee Kiver. 
In the midst of the festivities incidental to Jackson's visit, 
a Colonel Eose, of Autauga County, a member of the As- 
sembly, offered for adoption a joint resolution of the most 
complimentary character to the general, and indorsing him 
as a nominee for the jiresidency. Mr. Birney had no 2)er- 
sonal hostility to the general. For a resolution of com- 
jjliment to Jackson as a military chieftain he would jirob- 
ably have voted — he had done as much in the Kentucky 
Legislature — but his deepest convictions made it impos- 
sible for him to pledge himself to Jackson's political for- 
tunes. To him the general appeared a contemner of the 
law, a headstrong and violent man, who, in hanging Ar- 
buthnot and shooting Ambi'ister, in April, 1818, had dis- 
regarded evidence and crowned the long series of brutal 
deeds which proved his unfitness to wield power. He not 
only voted against Colonel Eose's resolution, but gave his 
reasons in a calm and forcible speech. From that date 
his election to political office in Alabama was impossible, 
and he did not again become a candidate. In the August 
following, and at several annual elections thereafter, there 
was no opposition in Madison County to the ticket nomi- 
nated by Jackson's friends. 

During the years 1820, 1821, and 1822, Mr. Birney be- 
came embarrassed in his financial affairs. Owing to his 
frequent absences from home, the inexperience of his 
slaves in the methods of cotton culture, and his rei>ng- 
nance to severities in plantation management, his cotton 
crops had not proved profitable. Cotton culture requires 
skilled labor unceasingly applied in some form for at least 
eleven months in the year. It admits of no awkwardness 
in the use of the hoe, no negligence in keeping the Aveeds 


from the plants, no clumsiness in picking, no ignorance 
of the processes of ginning and baling. Kentucky farm- 
hands who had never seen a cotton field could nut at once 
be made profitable oi)erative3 in one. 

The idea of buying a few slaves thoroughly trained 
in cotton culture, and using them to train those he had 
brought from Kentucky farms, does not appear to have 
occurred to him during the five years of his experience as 
a planter. It may be stated here that, although James G. 
Birney was a slave-holder for sixteen years in Alabama, he 
never bought a slave in the market. Those taken with 
him from Kentucky had all been obtained from near rela- 
tives of himself or wife — most of them by gift. Before 
1832 he had no thought of interfering with slavery fur- 
ther than to restrain im2)ortation of slaves into the State, 
to make public slave-markets illegal, and to punish mas- 
tors for cruelties inflicted. These measures were the 
natural result of his early impressions, i)atriotism, train- 
ing for public life, and generosity of temperament ; and 
in none of them did he go beyond what was approved by 
the leaders of public sentiment of that day in Alabama. 
This is proved by the adoption of his measures by the 
Constitutional Convention and the Legislature of the 
State. In 1822 his feelings in regard to buying slaves of 
a professional slave-trader were such that if it had been 
proposed to him he would have answered, " Is thy servant 
a dog, that he should do this thing ? " 

His manner of living at this time was not economical. 
lie did not deny himself the luxuries to which he had 
been accustomed from his youth. A carriage, fine driv- 
ing and saddle horses, expensive furniture, and a lavish 
ho.s])itality, he regarded as indispensable. In Kentucky 
he had fallen into the fashion, universal in those days 
among Southern gentlemen, of playing for stakes and lay- 
in;; wa^cers on horse-races. 


Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were noted exam^iles 
of devotion to the ganiiug-table, and they did not ditTer 
in this resj^ect from other public men of their day, espe- 
cially of the South, who were not members of the Church. 
This fashion is still prevalent in some parts of the South 
among gentlemen. That it is not yet looked on in Ar- 
kansas as a vice may be inferred from the testimony re- 
cently volunteered by Attorney- General Garland, before a 
congressional committee, that he had always "lost at 
poker." For several years Mr. Birney had been so for- 
tunate as neither to lose nor to win ; but a man of his 
generous disposition could not escape the common fate of 
all who tempt chance. Several heavy losses in the j^eriod 
now under review, added to his failures as a j)lanter, com- 
l^elled him to borrow money on mortgage security given 
upon his plantation and slaves. His slaves had all been 
reared in either his own or his wife's family ; and it Avould 
have cut him to the heart to see them sold separately un- 
der the hammer to such masters as chance might provide, 
lie made then two resolves : One, never to bet again, 
which was sacredly kept ; the other, to pay off the mort- 
gage upon his property by the more active practice of the 
law. To carry out the latter, he determined to remove to 
Huntsville, leaving in charge of an overseer until better 
times his plantation and slaves, with the exception of 
Michael, Michael's wife, and three children, whom he 
would take with him as house-servants. 

In January, 1823, he had taken up his residence at 



Madison Couxty, Alabama, bounded on the north 
by Tennessee and on the south by the Tennessee Kiver, is 
remarkable for the depth and fertility of its soil. Its cli- 
mate is genial and healthful, being redeemed from the 
sultriness and blazing heats of the " cotton belt " to the 
southward, by heavily wooded spurs from the mountain- 
ranges of the Alleghanies. Cheap transportation for 
heavy products to New Orleans is afforded by the Tennes- 
see and Mississippi Rivers. The access to it is easy from 
Tennessee, Virginia, and Xorth Georgia. Owing to these 
favoring causes, the stream of immigrants, chiefly from the 
last-mentioned States, began to set into it as early in the 
century as the county was comparatively safe from the 
murderous incursions of the Indians. In 1822, Madison 
was the most thickly populated county in Alabama. 

Iluntsville, the county-seat, was one of the prettiest 
towns in the Southern country. Within two or three 
miles to the south and east a mountainous range, dark 
with cedars, hickories, walnuts, oaks, and other forest 
trees of large growtli, ran up into a lofty peak, which at- 
tracted visitors by its picturesf|ue ruggednoss and sandy 
sea-beaches, shells, and other signs of ancient deluge ; and 
at its northern extremity, flattened into a broad forest- 
covered jilateau, which ended in an abru})t precipice sev- 


oral hundred feet in height. This phiteau, shady, cool, 
and commanding a view of the distant hills of Tennessee, 
was the summer retreat of the wealthy citizens of llunts- 
ville ; it was called IMontesano. The site chosen for 
Huntsville was on high and rolling ground, easily drained. 
It was a high bluff, from the base of which burst one of 
the wonderful springs of the world. At its very source, 
the volume of water was enough to float a vessel of four 
feet draught in a channel forty feet in width ; it was 
transparent as crystal, cool, and pure. On rolling hills, 
falling by gentle sloi3es to the fertile jjlains of the neigh- 
borhood, the town was laid out. The streets were parallel 
and cross ; and the public square, for the court-house and 
county offices, was in the center. The sides of the public 
square were built up in stores and shops. The beauty and 
healtlifulness of Huntsville had attracted a number of 
men of fortune and leisure. General Walker lived in a 
house resembling the Parthenon ; it looked down on the 
town from a height on the east. Ex-Governor Bibb and 
other planters occupied costly mansions. In January, 
1823, the population exceeded two thousand and was in- 
creasing rapidly. 

The sudden growth and many advantages of north 
Alabama had attracted to Huntsville a large number of 
lawyers. Among them were John McKinley, afterward 
Representative in Congress, United States Senator, and 
Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States ; Clem- 
ent C. Clay, Sr., afterward United States Senator ; Arthur 
F. Hopkins, William Kelly, Harry I. Thornton, James 
McClung, Jeremiah Clements, and Caswell E. Clifton, all 
of whom became distinguished in public life. The bar 
was both brilliant and able. It gave a warm welcome to 
James G. Birney, who had already gained a high standing 
as a lawyer by his occasional practice on the circuit. 

McKinley, a Virginian, who had practiced law at Louis- 


ville and known Mr. l^iniov at Frankfort, and tlie genial 
Thornton, a Kentuc-kian, started a movement which re- 
snlted in the almost unanimous election of Mr. Birney by 
the two Houses of tlie Alabama General Assembly as so- 
licitor for tlie Fiftli Circuit. This embraced five of the 
most populous counties in the State. The solicitor prose- 
cuted all criminal cases, and acted as attorney or counsel 
for the State in all civil cases to which it was a party. 
For each service rendered a fee was paid from the State 
treasury. In the hands of an energetic lawyer the office 
"was lucrative. It led, too, to practice in other cases. 

"When it is remembered that Mr. Birney was then 
known throughout the State as an Anti-Jackson man, that 
every member of the Assembly was a Jackson Democrat, 
and that every member of the Huntsville bar, except one, 
belonged to the same party, the compliment of Mr. Bir- 
ney's election will be appreciated. He accepted the posi- 
tion, and entered at once ui)on the performance of its 

At the end of the first year of his residence in Hunts- 
ville ^Ir. Birney concluded not to continue liis ownersliip 
of a plantation wliich he had learned by experience he could 
not in person conduct with profit. 

As to employing again an overseer, he would not do 
that, for during the year of his absence he had been un- 
able to prevent the exercise of brutalities toward the slaves, 
the overseer insisting that he could not manage without 
using the lash. The complaints of these poor creatures 
when he visited the plantation and their appeals to him 
affected him deeply. Mentioning liis difficulties to his 
friend and neighbor, Mr. William Love, the Kentuckian 
who had served with him in the Kentucky Legislature and 
migrated with him to Ahibama, that gentleman ollered to 
buy from him all the slaves, at a low price, to be paid one 
fourth in casli and tlie rest in installments at lonw date. 


Mr. Love was known as a kind-hearted man and liumane 
master who did his own management. The slaves were 
satisfied with the change, and rejoiced that they were not 
to be separated- The arrangement was carried into effect 
at once, the mortgagee accepting part in cash and Mr. 
Love's notes in satisfaction of tlie balance. A subsequent 
sale of the plantation enabled Mr. Birney to satisfy the 
claim secured upon it, and left him free from debts and in 
easy circumstances. About the same time he bought a 
valuable half-acre corner lot in Huntsville, two squares 
from the head of the Big Spring. 

In 182-4 and 1825 Mr. Birney had become so prosper- 
ous in worldly affairs that he erected a large brick house 
as a family residence. With successive additions and im- 
provements it became one of the handsomest and most 
convenient dwellings in Huntsville. It was on the corner 
of two streets. A broad, paved sidewalk, bordered with 
China trees, extended along the street sides of the prop- 
erty, and a high wall sheltered from view a beautiful gar- 
den. This was both ornamental and useful, and was kept 
in excellent order under the supervision of the master and 
mistress, both of whom had a decided taste for horti- 

It was his custom to spend about half an hour after 
tea on spring and summer evenings among the roses, 
vines, and vegetables, giving a touch here and there with 
the hoe or pruning-knife, tying up vines, and trimming 
the young trees. This was his favorite recreation, though 
once in a great while he went out fishing or hunting. 

He and his wife were both fond of social life. Friendly 
relations were cultivated with the best families in the 
town and country. Calls were returned, and dinners and 
parties given. The large double parlors of the house were 
frequently filled with company. ^lembers of the bar from 
abroad were hospitably entertained. At the evening par- 


ties there were often music and duncing. It was the f asliion 
in tliose days for very nice people, even clergymen, to 
drink in moderation ; at dinner jjarties cut-glass decanters 
glittered on the sideboard, and wine-glasses of varied hue 
and thickness were placed near the plate of each guest. 
James (r. Birney followed the fashion in this respect. lie 
no lonirer followed it in having card-tables. These were 
not to be seen in his house ; and, as time rolled on, his 
social circle gradually assumed a more grave and quiet 

His professional practice rapidly increased. He had 
the qualities Avhich attract clients. He Avas always in con- 
dition for business, and always prepared on his case. He 
was methodical. Letters received were promptly an- 
swered, indorsed, and filed. Papers in the same case were 
kept together in properly marked jackets ; he neither lost 
nor mislaid them. He knew how to use files, drawers, and 
pigeon-holes, and could lay his hand without hesitation 
on any paper in the office. His memorandum-book was 
kept and consulted ; he forgot nothing. If he rejected 
business, he did so plainly; if he accepted it, he attended 
to it and thoroughly. He studied each case until he had 
mastered both the facts and the law, and he never, i)roba- 
bly, continued one because he was not ready, lie Avas 
courteous to other attorneys and to witnesses ; he never 
browbeat, but his cross-examinations brought out the 
truth, or exposed the equivocations or perjury of the wit- 
ness. He excelled in the statement of his case and in 
arguments addressed to the court. In addressing juries 
he was unaffected and simple, rising to eloquence in none 
but extraordinary cases. But no man at the bar won 
cases more surely. This was partly because he never know- 
ingly took an unjust one. A son who wished to sue his 
father for a board bill was ordered out of 'Sir. Birney's 
odice. Men went to him with good cases, or with those 


tluit were marked with strong equities. lie compromised 
often, and it was generally understood that a case could 
be settled with him on its merits. 

As a public prosecutor he was fearless, but he would not 
knowingly convict an innocent man. lie would not sacri- 
liee an accused party to professional vanity. He neither 
overstated nor misrepresented the testimony. He repre- 
sented public justice, and not private passions. When the 
proof Avas clear that the accused was guilty, he rarely es- 
caped, for juries came to believe that James G. Birney 
would not ask a conviction if it were liot due. 

In such cases his eloquence rose to the occasion, and 
he was a match for the best counsel. It is probable, how- 
ever, that his remarkable success at the bar was chiefly 
due to his well-established reputation for moral courage, 
integrity, justness, and moderation of thought, candor, and 
perfect truthfulness. He became the most successful 
practitioner in Xorth Alabama, with the largest profes- 
sional income. As early as 1825, his practice had become 
so large that Arthur F. Hopkins, an able lawyer and elo- 
quent speaker, and greatly respected in the State, returned 
to Huntsville from Autauga County to accept the position 
of his junior partner. In 182(J he resigned the office of 
solicitor for the purpose of devoting his attention exclu- 
sively to civil business. 

In a book published long after ^Mr. Birney's death, 
Henry S. Foote, ex-United States Senator, who visited 
Huntsville in 1825, testified as follows : 

The famous James G. Birney was also, at the time mentioned 
(1825), a member of the Huntsville Bar, where he was exceed- 
ingly loved and respected. When he afterward became the zeal- 
ous advocate of African emancipation, though his friends in 
Alabama could not approve this part of his public career, he 
still retained much of their respect and kindness, and his integ- 
rity as a man was never called in question by them ; nor were 


his learning and eloquence as a forensic advocate. Mr. Birney 
■was a singularly fluent and polished speaker, and was known to 
have given much more attention to the niceties of orthoepy than 
was then customary among the lawyers of this newly settled 
region. (See "Bench and Bar of the Southwest," by H. S. Foote, 
of Mississippi.) 

llis practice in the local and appellate courts of Ala- 
bama and Tennessee continued to grow until the date in 
1831, when he began to reduce it, witli a view of remov- 
ing to Illinois. As his professional career is of minor in- 
terest only in this biography, it may be dismissed with the 
following extract from pages 7 and 8 of the sketch of his 
life by the Ilev. Beriah Green, and a fact stated by a towns- 
man : 

A single fact from the history of Mr. Birney's professional 
career in Alabama, illustrating his integrity, courage, magna- 
nimity, and generosity, may be as acceptable to our readers as it is 
refreshing to us. The following statement, from authority on 
which the fullest reliance may be jilaced, we give in the language, 
slightly altered, of our informant. Jackson County lay in his 
circuit. Three years' practice there as solicitor had made him 
acquainted with nearly all the people of the county. He was 
personally popular, though as prosecutor he had acted rigorously. 
The making of counterfeit coin had become quite a business in 
that county, after he had resigned his office as solicitor. One 
day a young man of very humble and rough appearance applied 
to him at Huntsville, where his office was, to bring a suit for 
him against some of the most respectable men in the county, for 
having lynched him on suspicion of liis having aided his father, 
who icas a notorious coiner, and who as such had also been 
lynched. Between eight and nine hundred of the people of the 
county, embracing most of the influential men, had associated 
together as a lynch club; and such was their power, that they 
inflicted punishments openly— knowing that no verdict could be 
had against them in Jackson County, where they would be sure 
to get some of their own friends upon the jury, if they failed to 
intimidate those whom they had injured. It was hinted to him 


that unless liis cause was just and himself free from the stains 
of a bad character, it must be far from desirable to engage for 
him in a struggle with such an influential corps. Satisfied in this 
respect, Mr. Birney undertook for him, and issued his writs 
against the wealthiest and most responsible men in the band, all 
of whom were personally his friends. It had been his custom, 
in order to avoid traveling on Sunday to the court-house, as was 
the custom of his brother lawyers, to go to the village where the 
court was held the Saturday before. He had, of course, to 
travel alone. It was given out that he durst not go to the court- 
house — that he would be lynched, and so on. He proceeded, 
however, as if nothing unusual had happened. Within a few 
miles of the village he met a man who was very anxious that he 
should return and stay with him till IMonday, when the judge 
and the officers of the court would be in the village. His ex- 
posure, then, would be less fearful. He went on, however, and 
put up at the tavern where he usually boarded. On the Sabbath 
he was at church, and on Monday went about his business as 
usual, saluted even those whom he had sued, quietly and in full 
self-possession, as if nothing had happened. Each wondered 
that all except himself did not insult him. But they were confi- 
dent that no jury could be found in that county from which he 
could obtain a verdict. This he understood as well as they. He 
had, therefore, made provision through which the cause was to 
be tried in due season at Huntsville, the place of his residence. 
Before Tie left, however, he brought the defendants to terms agreeable 
to his client; pecuniary remuneration teas made for the trespass, 
and an agreement was entered into Tyy them never more to molest 
him. The lynching business was broken up for that time, and thk 


Rev. William T. Allen, who was brought up at Hunts- 
ville, mentions the following fact in " Slavery as it is " 
(1838) : " While I lived in Huntsville, a slave was killed 
in the mountain near by. The circumstances were these: 
A white man, James Helton, hunting in the woods came 
upon a black man and commanded him to stop. The 
slave kept on running; Helton fired his rifle, and the 
negro was killed " (page 46), 


Mr. Birney, then jirosecuting attorney, drew up an in- 
dictment and procured the finding of a true bill against 
Helton. The murderer escaped and fled the State. 

In the newly poi)ulated State of Alabama, as in the 
young States of the West and Southwest, the moral and 
l)hysical courage of every prominent man was put to fre- 
quent severe tests. Until communities became settled 
and regular, what is called in the Far West " sand " is a 
prime requisite of character. On many occasions of dan- 
ger occuring during the lirst six years of his Alabama 
residence he met every requirement in this respect. So 
well was his reputation for coolness and nerve established 
that the inhabitants of Iluntsville, a year after he became 
a resident of the town, elected him mayor for the purpose 
of securing the suppression of the bloody brawls and af- 
frays which had become of almost daily occurrence in the 
streets and public square. Stabbing and shooting atfairs 
were making the name of Huntsville a by-word in the 
South The officers of the law were helpless and discour- 
aged. The new mayor reorganized the force, headed it 
when necessary, making some arrests of disorderly persons 
with his own hands, and succeeded in establishing the 
supremacy of the law. He served two years as mayor, 
refusing the salary attached to the office. 

James G. Birney was not of a nature to allow his pro- 
fessional pursuits to engross his attention to the injury of 
the interests of the community in which he lived. AVhat 
concerned the public, concerned liini. From tlie time he 
began practice in Kentucky as a lawyer, he had shown 
the liveliest sympathy with educational movements. lie 
had aided in founding and endowing the Danville Acad- 
emy. He had become so identified with this kind of 
public service that, in 1819, he had been appointed one 
of the trustees of Centre College, at Danville, the new 
institution which was expected to grow into the leading 


university of the West ; and each year afterward he timed 
his visits to Kentucky so as to attend the meetings of the 
trustees. Soon after his removal to xVlabama lie had been 
appointed trustee of Greene Academy, a classical school at 
Huntsville, and he performed the duties of that position 
through the entire period of his residence in the State. 
In 1823, one of his first acts after his removal to town 
was to organize the Huntsville Library Company. In 
December, he procured a charter in which he was named 
corporator Avith Dr. Thomas Fearn, Samuel Hazard, John 
Boardman, Miles S. Watkins, and other leading citizens. 
He joined cordially in movements for the improvement 
of the city. Among these were throwing a strong dam 
across the head of the Big Spring ; creating a water- 
power and erecting works which forced the water through 
wooden pipes for the supply of each building with pure 
water for drinking and all domestic purposes; and dig- 
ging a canal from the Big Spring, a distance of eleven 
miles, to the Tennessee Eiver, for the transportation of 
cotton and other heavy products. 

As he grew older, Mr. Birney lost all interest in frivoli- 
ties, and was gradually becoming disinclined to the amuse- 
ments common in the South. His relinquishment of play 
had separated him from many former companions. He 
had never been a profane man or joined in drinking- 
bouts. His views of life were becoming more serious, 
more earnest. In 1825 his children were five in number. 
Under the responsibilities of domestic, social, and profes- 
sional life, he liad grown into the conservative citizen and 
exemplary head of a family. His wife was a faithful 
member of the Presbyterian Church, and for three years 
he had been her companion at the Sunday services. The 
two oldest children sat in the pew with their parents. 
They attended the Sunday-school, and the father sometimes 
went with them. Under the quiet influence of the mother, 


social ties had been formed with many cliurch-membcrs-, 
also, witli the pastor, Dr. Allen, who was an able, learned 
man, and a gentleman who recommended religion in his 
conduct. From his youth up, James G. Birney had rev- 
erenced religion ; he had never been a skeptic, and he 
felt a profound respect for the Church and the duties of 
its ministers. His deep and sincere nature and love of 
truth predisposed him to the acceptance of religious prin- 
ciple as the guide of his life, and his heart had been won 
by the beauty of piety as exemplified in his beloved wife. 
If she had been an Episcopalian, lie might have been 
better content ; but it probably never occurred to him to 
prefer the Church of his fathers to hers. His nature was 
too broad for sectarianism. For two or three years his 
tendencies to a religious life had been so marked that 
Avhcn, in the spring of 18:20, he made a public profession 
and connected himself with Dr. Allen's church his friends 
and the public were not surprised. 

From that event dates his new and better life, his per- 
formance of duty as he saw it, his increasingly intelligent 
conscience. From that time he began that slow moral and 
intellectual growth which, in a few years, brought him to 
the full stature of a philanthropist and statesman. In 
future chapters Avill be traced the almost imperceptible 
degrees by which he rose from measures designed to 
benefit his locality to those for the good of his State, the 
South, and, finally, the country. His growth was organic, 
not spasmodic. In all he did he was clearly the product 
of the best elements of Southern society, and his move- 
ments in advance were on the prolongation of the lines 
on which he started. 



1826, 1827. 

OxE of the first effects of his conversion to the doc- 
trine of doing as you would be done by was the revocation 
of his refusal, made in 1824, to act as attorney or legal 
protector of the Cherokee nation, which occupied the 
northeastern corner of the State. The position was not 
desirable, popular prejudice running high against the 
Indians and manifesting itself in frequent depredations, 
outrages, and crimes against their property and persons. 
To protect them in their legal rights was not easy ; and it 
exposed the protector to the hatred of ruffians. Mr. Bir- 
ney had refused to act in this capacity, but the reasons 
he had offered did not satisfy his sense of duty, and he 
notified the chiefs that he would accept, if they had made 
no other arrangement. They closed joyfully with his 
offer. The plan of this volume will not permit me to re- 
count his acts in behalf of this harrassed and oppressed 
people in the six years beginning with 1826. He caused 
missionaries to be sent and schools to be established 
among them; he encouraged them to cultivate farms, 
build houses, and open roads ; he aided an educated In- 
dian, who had invented an alphabet for the language, to 
start a Cherokee paper ; he defended them in their prop- 
erty rights, and brought to punishment some of the au- 
thors of the outrages upon their persons ; he counseled 


thciu to peace and good behavior; and, most surprising 
of all, he succeeded in introducing, quietly and without 
oj)p()sition, several Indian girls as ])U])ils into the llunts- 
viile Female Seminary. It was said they were daughters 
of chiefs. They attended the Presbyterian Ohurch, and 
were re})uted to be wards of ^Ir. Birney. Two of them I 
remember as beautiful. The Indians visited lluntsville 
from time to time for the sale of pelts, nuts, blow-guns, 
bows and arrows, and game, and they never failed to pass 
by my father's house, and leave for him some token of 
their gratitude. 

Early in 1826 he began to take an interest in the 
American Colonization Society, which he regarded " as a 
scheme of benevolence to the whole colored population, 
and as a germ of effort capable of expansion adecpiate to 
the largest necessities in the extermination of slavery." 
(See his letter on colonization, 1834.) He aided in get- 
ting up a contribution to the funds of the society. This 
is the first indication in his career of sympathy with the 
slave, and a consciousness of his personal duty in regard 
to the evil of slavery. Every year thereafter he and some 
of his neighbors united in making a similar contribution. 

In December, 1820, when he went to the Capitol of 
Alabama to attend the session of the Supreme Court, he 
took with him the rough draught of a bill " to prohibit 
the importation of slaves into this State for sale or hire." 
This was intended to give effect to a clause in the Consti- 
tution of 1819, which gave power to the General Assem- 
bly " to prevent slaves from being brought into this State 
as merchandise" — a clause which had remained a dead 
letter. Tlic bill was passed, with little opposition, Janu- 
ary 12, 1827. The prohibition was to take eifect on the 
first day of the following August. The penalty was — 

To forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand dollars for each 
iK'gro so brought in — one half thereof to the person suing for the 


same, and the other half to the use of the State. . . . And, 
moreover, any person tluis offendinu,- shall be subject to iridict- 
ment, and, on conviction, shall be liable to be fined in a sum not 
exceeding five hundred dollars for each offense, and shall be im- 
prisoned not exceeding three months, at the discretion of the 
jm-y trying said offense. (Alabama Statutes, 1826-'27.) 

This law was not favored by some of tlie large planters, 
who desired unlimited facilities for buying field hands ; 
but it pleased those who desired to limit the introduction 
of slaves into the State, and those who despised slave- 
traders. That this last class was numerous at the South 
is testified to by Henry Clay in his compromise speech in 
January, 1850, as follows : " Sir, it is a great mistake at 
the North, if they suppose that gentlemen living in the 
slave States look upon one who is a regular trader in slaves 
with any particular favor or kindness." 

In February, 1827, Mr. Birney revisited Danville, 
Ky., and spent two weeks with his father and friends. 
He attended the regular meeting of his Masonic lodge 
— Franklin, No. 28 — and met the brethren in a social 
reunion. We may fairly attribute to his efforts the re- 
markable resolution and circular adopted by that lodge, 
and sent to the Masonic lodges in Kentucky. The reso- 
lution was : 

Franklin Lodge, No. 28, 
Danville, March 3, 1S27. 

Whereas the commerce in slaves carried on by importation to 
this State from the other slave-holding States conflicts with 
those feelings of benevolence and philanthropy which it is the 
duty of every Mason to cherish and inculcate, and is also in di- 
rect violation of the laws of the State in which we live, which 
every worthy Mason is bound to respect and obey ; 

Therefore, Resolved, as the opinion of this lodge, that said 
commerce is inconsistent with the principles of Free and Accept- 
ed Ancient York Masonry and ought to be discountenanced by 
every member of the fraternity. 


The circular was temperate and forcible. It closed 
with these words : 

"We feel it to be the duty of tlie craft to warn its members 
from, and to mark with ]K)inted reprobation, all particii)ation in 
that commerce wliich, under the influence of a degraded cupid- 
ity, imports from otlier States Imndreds of slaves every year to 
be soUl as merchandise in this country, in viohition of an express 
law of the land and the best feelings of our nature, and, as we 
believe, against the permanent interest of our country. 

By order, respectfully and fraternally, your brother, 

D. G. Cowan, Master. 

This doctiment is the companion-piece of the Alabama 
law passed in the preceding January, and is evidently 
from the same hand. It was first published, and Avith 
praise, in the " Western Luminary " (Lexington, Ky.,) and 
maybe found in full in Lundy's "■ Genius," etc. (Balti- 
more, Md.,), of November 24, 1827. For many years 
James G. Birney entertained the idea of getting slavery 
into a manageable condition in each State by stopping the 
interstate slave trade. As in 1827 the slave population 
was less than one hundred thousand in Alabama and 
about one hundred and fifty thousand in Kentucky, the 
idea was not, at the first blush, a chimerical one. 

It was during this February visit to Kentucky that the 
first alienation of any of James G. Birney's relatives or 
connections from him took place. He was now thirty- 
five years of age, and had enjoyed their love and friend- 
ship without interruption ; but in one or more of his con- 
versations on slavery — perhaps among the ]\Iasons — he 
had commented with severity, it was alleged, on the con- 
duct of a cousin by marriage, Ninian Edwards, then Gov- 
ernor of Illinois, contrasting him, much to his disadvan- 
tage, with ex-Governor Coles, of the same State. Edwards 
was born in Maryland, but moved to Kentucky about 
1793, before he was of age; he was a lawyer, judge, and 


finally Chief Justice of the State, when, in 1809, he was 
appointed Governor of the new Territory of Illinois, In 
1T92 he had been a zealous advocate of a free constitution 
for the State of Kentucky ; and from 1809 to 1818, the 
whole term of his service as Territorial Governor, he had 
resisted the introduction into Illinois of slaves as property, 
and recommended a free constitution for the future State ; 
but when that constitution was adopted and he was made 
United States Senator, he voted for the admission of Mis- 
souri as a slave State, and the consequent extension of 
slavery — being one of the renegades among Senators from 
the Northern States. In the struggle in Illinois, between 
1822 and 182-4, to prevent the establishment of slavery in 
that State, Senator Edwards had stood aloof, not appearing 
to care whether freedom or slavery should triumph. And 
when a majority of the population, being immigrants from 
slave States, had voted that Illinois should remain a free 
State, Edwards had maintained silence and indifference. 

On the other hand, Edward Coles, a Virginian, heir to 
several hundred slaves, a man of education and talent, 
who had been for six years private secretary to Presi- 
dent Madison, had taken his slaves from Virginia, where 
he could not free them, to Illinois, given them deeds of 
emancipation, bought lands and built cabins for them, 
given them stock and farming-tools, and watched over 
their interests until the freed men were able to take care 
of themselves without aid. In each deed of emancipation 
Mr. Coles had said : 

And whereas Ida not believe that man can have a right of prop- 
erty in his fellow-man, . . . I do, therefore, . . . restore to the 
said . . . that inalienable liberty of which they have been deprived. 
(Deed of July 19, 1819.) 

From that time Edward Coles* had thrown himself, 
* Sec E. B. Washburne's " Sketch of Governor Coles," p. 202. 


with all his weight, into the work of defeating the schemes 
of certain Southern politicians to make Illinois a slave 
State, and in August, 1824, had won victory at the polls.* 

Mr. Birney censured Ninian Edwards as a renegade 
to his own principles, and eulogized Edward Coles as a 
patriot and statesman. His remarks gave great olTense 
to some of the connections common to him and (Jovernor 
Edwards, and the rupture was never wholly healed. The 
incident is important in this biography, as, in the absence 
of contemporaneous proofs, it shows conclusively that his 
sympathies had been with the free-soil men in the ^lis- 
souri controversy. 

In 1827, two of his Democratic friends in Madison 
County, Kobert Chambers and Jeremiah Clemens, both 
lawyers and planters and men of wealth, died, the former 
leaving him co-guardian of an only son and executor of 
his estate, and the latter leaving him sole executor of his 
estate and guardian of his two sons and daughter. These 
sacred trusts were faithfully performed. One of the sons 
of Mr. Clemens, Jeremiah, was elected United States Sen- 
ator in 1849. He wrote several novels of some merit. 
During his life he cherished a warm regard for his former 
guardian, never failing to call on him when in the same 
city. He did what he could to keep Alabama and Tennes- 
see from going out of the Union, but finally adhered to 
the Confederate Government. 

In 182 T Mr. Birney joined, with his usual vigor, in the 
project to establish in Huntsville a free school on the 
Lancastrian plan, then in great vogue ; but protested 
against raising the necessary funds by lottery — a plan au- 
thorized by the Legislature in January, 1828. 

In the same year he sold his handsome residence to A. 
F. Hopkins, Esq., his jiartner, and bought, in the northeast 

* See Brown's " Early Movements in Illinois for the Legalization of 



part of the city, a liandsome lot of more than two acres in 
area, with good but uot fine buildings. On the opposite 
side of the street he bought a ten-acre grass lot. Here 
his taste for building, beautifying, aud gardening had full 
scope. lie drained, leveled, graded, planted shade trees, 
sowed grass seed, built additions, laid out walks, intro- 
duced new varieties of grapes, plums, damsons, figs, pears, 
peaches, melons, etc., made fences, both for fancy and 
utility, painted and arranged, until the place was as beau- 
tiful and attractive as good soil, a genial climate, a south- 
ern sun, aesthetic taste, and liberal expenditure of money 
could make it. In the broad, smooth walks and vine-cov- 
ered arbors of the garden, the young people of Hunts- 
ville found pleasant promenades in the long evenings of 

At a later period he bought between three and four 
hundred acres of fertile land on the Flint River, about ten 
miles east of Iluntsville. It was a romantic spot, on the 
road to Bellefonte, and he had often passed it on his way 
to court. A sugar-loaf mountain, with clear springs near 
its base, the stream from wdiich rippled across the road, 
and rich bottom-land stretching to the small forest-shaded 
river half a mile away. Intending it for a stock-farm, he 
built cabins near the springs, and placed on it a manager 
and a few hired hands. To this place it was his pleasure 
to retire when he needed recuperation from professional 
work. He would join in the labor of clearing up the new 
fields, burning brush and logs, building fences, and put- 
ting in crops. His muscular power was greater than that 
of ordinary men, and the exercise improved his health ; 
but his highest gratification in farming was in bringing 
order and beauty out of chaos and ugliness. He was an 
artist in making homes. 

The manager of this farm chafed a good deal under 
the prohibition of the use of the lash on the servants. On 


one occasion he sent by tlie writer, who had been at the 
farm hiuiling ducks and sfiuirrels, which were numerous, 
a note stilting that Jack, a negro, must be whipped. My 
father was much troubled by this note, but sent me back 
to tell the manager that if Jack would not behave him- 
self he should send him at once to his master. In speak- 
ing with me about the matter, he said : " It is hard to tell 
what one's duty is toward these poor creatures ; but I have 
made up my mind to one thing — I will not allow them to 
be treated brutally." 




From the date of his anti-Jackson speech in the 
Alabama Legislature of 1810, Mr. Birney had been identi- 
fied with the national party that favored a protective tariff, 
internal improvements, and a liberal construction gener- 
ally of the Constitution. His high reputation, socially 
and professionally, gave him influence and prominence in 
the party councils, and in 1828 he was nominated as one 
of the electors on the Adams and Eush ticket for Ala- 
bama. He immediately took the field, and spoke during 
the summer and autumn at numerous political meetings 
held in the chief towns of the State, eulogizing the Con- 
servatism of Adams and attacking the politics of Jackson 
and Calhoun as fatally dangerous to the maintenance of 
the L^nion. 

To understand his course and motives, the reader must 
comprehend the then existing condition of Southern poli- 
tics and sentiment in relation to slavery and its extension. 
The truth on this subject has seldom, if at all, been fairly 
and fully stated. 

The friends of Crawford, Jackson, and Calhoun are 
unwilling to admit inferences unfavorable to them in the 
present state of public opinion ; Avriters with pro-slavery 
sympathies reject the idea that there were Union men and 


abolitionists at the Soutli ; and anti-slavery authors, espe- 
cially most of the Massachusetts ones, concur in this rejec- 
tion, their bias being to exaggerate the importance of the 
Korthern movement against slavery. The average belief 
at the North, owing to these errors of superficial or biased 
writers, is that, after t>he :Missouri struggle of 18--20-'21, the 
nation went fast asleep on the slavery question ; that the 
subject was not discussed at the South because of danger 
to life, or at the North because of apathy; that the 
iSouthern politicituis who had achieved the admission of 
Missouri had at once abandoned their schemes to extend 
the area of slavery ; in short, that, for a decade of years, 
" thick darkness " and ignorance and acquiescence in 
wrong enveloped the nation. This erroneous belief, which 
has become general, has amazing vitality and persistency ; 
I can hardly expect to shake it, but I must do so or fail 
to make intelligible the public career of James G. Birney, 
which began to move on well-defined lines in his anti- 
Jackson campaign in 1828. The reader will indulge me, 
therefore, in a statement of facts that reflects light on the 
Southern politics and sentiment of that period. 

The " Solid South " took its definite form for the first 
time in the Missouri struggle. As John Quiuey Adams 
says (diary, March 3, 1820) : " In this instance the slave 
States have clung together in one unbroken phalanx, and 
have been victorious by means of accomplices and deserters 
from the ranks of freedom." 

The admission of Missouri as a slave State was but a 
small part of the plan of the slavery extensionists, of 
whom Crawford was the most able and ii\triguing. 
Another part was the restoration of slavery in Illinois, 
Indiana, and Ohio. John Q. Adams (diary, :March 3, 
1820) says: " I have had information from the Governor 
of the State of Indiana that there is in that State a party 
countenanced and supported by Crawford, whose purpose 


it is to introduce slavery into that State ; and there is 
reason to believe that the same project exists in Ohio and 
Illinois." This project had been on foot for many years 
in the three States above named. 

The close of the Missouri controversy was the signal 
for renewing with energy the struggle to establish slavery 
in Illinois. A large majority of the voters in the State 
were immigrants from the South, and the pro-slavery 
men expected an easy victory. The contest awakened a 
national interest. Money was contributed freely by 
Southern slave-holders to one party, and by Philadelphia 
Quakers to the other. Pamphlets, some of which were 
written in other States, were circulated broadcast and 
newspapers were established to discuss slavery. In his 
interesting " Sketch of Governor Coles," E. B. Washburne 
has traced this battle from its open beginning to its close. 
On page 191, he says : " It w^as on the first Monday of 
August, 1824, that the election was to take place. The 
hand-to-hand struggle had continued eighteen months, and 
superhuman exertions had been made on both sides. Both 
parties welcomed the arrival of the moment that was fi- 
nally to end a struggle that had evoked so much feeling 
and passion, involved so much labor, and absorbed such 
intense interest." 

The friends of slavery were defeated by a large majority. 
The vote was a deliberate verdict against the institution 
by men who knew all about it. Even " Egypt " decided 
against it. This disaster greatly perplexed the leaders of 
the political South, coming as it did in the midst of a 
campaign for the presidency. The "Southron" and the 
" Telescope," two South Carolina papers of the fire-eating 
class, advised the immediate calling of a convention of 
the planting States, under pretext of opposition to the 
moderate tarifC law, which had been passed on the pre- 
ceding 16th of April. But the wiser heads counseled 


delay and the election in November of a slave-holder to 
the presidency. 

The unexpected defeat of Jackson and election of John 
Quincy Adams by the House of Eepresentatives caused an 
immediate change in slave-liolding tactics. 

Previous to that event, four favorite sons of the South, 
Clay, Calhoun, Crawford, and Jackson, had disputed for 
her favor. Clay was popular among Northern manufact- 
urers and in Virginia and Kentucky ; and, to capture 
Southern support, he could refer to his early champion- 
ship of the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions of 1798 ; 
to his advocacy, in 1820, of setting aside the Florida 
treaty and seizing Texas by force of arms ; and to his suc- 
cessful efforts to effect the admission of Missouri into the 
Union as a slave State. 

Calhoun, by his free-trade, pro-slavery, and ultra 
State-rights doctrines, had alienated the support of the 
North for the presidency. His tendencies w^ere generally 
believed to be toward separation of the South from the 
North. With professions of personal preference for the 
Union, he generally coupled declarations of his belief that 
the South would be forced out of the Union and compelled 
to form an alliance with Great Britain (Adams's diary, 
February 24, 1820). Any refusal to let the South have 
its way in anything was, in his eyes, an application of 
force to that section. All his subtly conceived but illogi- 
cal theories were based upon the right of each State to 
nullify the laws of the nation ; but, with diplomatic cau- 
tion, he expressed the hope that no occasion might be 
presented for the exercise of this right. He was earnestly 
in favor of the acquisition of Texas and the extension of 
slavery westward, and is generally credited with being 
the first to suggest the brilliant scheme afterward incor- 
porated in the creed of the "Knights of the Golden 
Circle " — the creation of a slave-holding empire, includ- 


ing the Southern States, Texas, Mexico, and Central 

Crawford had been for a long time Secretary of the 
Treasury, and had great capacity for intrigue. He was a 
strict constructionist, and could rely upon the support of 
Virginia and Georgia, and of Jeffersonian Democrats 
generally. His devotion to slavery extension was un- 

Jackson was not identified with any theory of politics ; 
he was a man of the people, and had received a majority 
of the popular vote at the election of 1824. Besides, he 
was an illustrious general, and had gained the most brill- 
iant victory in the annals of his country. While his de- 
votion to the extension of slavery w^as undoubted and 
unquestionable, he was opposed to nullification, believing 
that the slave States should remain in the Union and 
rule it. 

Immediately after the election of Adams a coalition 
appears to have been formed by the Southern friends of 
Crawford, Calhoun, and Jackson. The general, as the 
most availaljlc candidate, was to be made President in 
1828; Calhoun was to be Vice-President; and Crawford, 
Avho was in ill-health, was to be suitably provided for in 
case of success of the coalition. Adams appears to have 
been aware of this scheme soon after it was formed. Janu- 
ary 27, 1825, he enters in his diary that Calhoun said " his 
personal wish was for my election. This contrasts sin- 
gularly with the conduct of all his electioneering parti- 
sans." And February 11th, of the same year, he mentions 
Calhoun's plan " to bring in General Jackson as the next 

On Clay's confirmation as Secretary of State, fourteen 
Senators, most of them Southern, including one from Vir- 
ginia, and all from North Carolina and Georgia, voted in 
the negative, which votes, Mr. Adams thought, indicated 


'' the rally iug of the Southern iiitcrests and prejudices to 
the men of the South." 

Another indication of tlie coalition is thus noted by 
Mr. Adams : " Thomas 11. Benton, who, from being a furi- 
ous personal and political enemy of General Jackson, be- 
came, about the time of the recommendation, a furious 
partisan in his favor " (diary, ^Nlarch oth). 

It was in the same year (1825) that Mr. Calhoun said 
to Nathan Sargent that it (the Adams administration) 
" must be defeated at all hazards, regardless of its meas- 
ures." (See Van Hoist's " Life of Calhoun," page 05.) 

From the election of Adams to that of his successor, in 
1828, all means were employed "to fire the Southern 
heart." Public meetings were held in every jjart of the 
Carolinas and the Gulf States, and inflammatory harangues 
were made, until the South was ablaze with excitement. 
The tariff of 1824 was the pretext until the passage of the 
Tariff Act of April, 1828 ; and this was denounced as an 
aggravation of the evils of the first. It was assumed by 
the free-trade orators that manufacturing industries were 
impossible at the South, which could be only agricultural ; 
that Europe was the only market for cotton ; and that the 
tariff was a Xorthern measure, calculated to impose upon 
the cotton-planters the whole burden of the expenditures 
of the National Government. The citizens of Columbia 
and Richland, in a memorial to the South Carolina Legis- 
lature, said, " The Northern and Middle States are to be 
enriched by the plunder of the South." 

In an address to the people of South Carolina, the citi- 
zens of Colleton District said of the tariff : " It lifts them " 
(the North and AVest) " to prosperity, while it sinks us into 
ruin. We have done by words all that Avords can do. To 
talk more must be a dastard's refuge." 

They adAnsed " an attitude of open resistance to the 
laws of the L'^nion." 


It was recommended in a South Carolina paper that 
the Southern States should prohibit the introduction into 
them from the Northern States of horses, mules, hogs, 
beef, cattle, bacon, bagging, and other products; and 
should impose a municipal tax, large enough to be pro- 
hibitory, on all goods, wares, and merchandise, the produce 
of those States. 

A Georgia paper addressed to the Xorth the words of 
Abraham to Lot : " Separate thyself, I pray thee, from 
me," etc. 

A congress was suggested to devise means of protec- 
tion " from the operation of the tariff bill, and prevent 
the introduction and use of the tariffed articles in their 
respective States." (See Young's "American Statesman.") 

At a meeting in Columbia, S. C, in 1827, Dr. Thomas 
Cooper, president of the State college, made a speech 
which contained the following passages : " A drilled and 
managed majority has determined at all hazards to sup- 
port the claims of the Northern manufacturers and to 
offer up the planting interest on the altar of monopoly." 
Protection — " a system by which the earnings of the South 
are to be transferred to the North. . . . We of the South 
hold our plantations under this system as the serfs and 
operatives of the North." " Is it worth our while to con- 
tinue this union of States, where the North demands to 
be our masters and we are required to be their tribu- 
taries ? " 

At a grand tariff banquet in Richmond, Ya., in 1827, 
"William B. Giles, a free- trade leader, proposed and the 
guests drank a toast " to the Tariff Schemer ! The South 
will not long pay tribute." (See Logan's " Great Con- 

January 15, 1828, the Legislature of Alabama passed 
" A joint remonstrance to the Congress of the United 
States against the power assumed to protect certain 


brandies of industry," and denounced tlie proposed wool- 
en bill " as a species of aggression little less than legal- 
ized pillage on her property, to which she can never sub- 
mit until the constitutional means of resistance shall bo 

The enactment in April, 1828, of anotlicr tariff, en- 
abled the polit'oal leaders at the South to heap fresh fuel 
on the fire. Soon after this a public meeting, held at 
^^■ultorborough, S. C, issued an address calling upon the 
people "to resist," repeating in different paragraphs " A\'o 
must resist," and ending with : " Does timidity ask when V 
We answer, now ! " 

About the same time the anonymous nullification 
pamphlet of fifty-six pages, known in political history as 
" The South Carolina Exposition," was printed. Before 
the end of summer it was in the hands of all tlie promi- 
nent pro-slavery politicians of the South. It was a man- 
ual of the arguments for nullification, presented with all 
the ability of its author, John C. Calhoun ; and its influ- 
ence in shaping pro-slavery policy was very great. This 
candidate for the ^'ice-Presidency, on the Jackson ticket, 
was actively and secretly engaged in undermining the 
Union ! 

The outcry against the tariff had its minor-key accom- 
paniment in charges against President Adams of hostility 
to the South. He was not a slave-holder, refused to em- 
ploy slaves at the White House, had appointed abolition- 
ists to office, had recommended sending delegates to the 
Panama Congress, and was opposed to the acquisition of 
Texas and to the extension of slavery. 

Henry Clay did wliat he could to allay apprehensions 
of danger from Adams, and to dissuade the political South 
from forming a pro-slavery party. In his speech at Lew- 
isbiirg, Va., August 30, 182G (see page 380, volume of hia 
speeches, published in 1827), he said: 


There arc persons who would impress on the Soutlicrn States 
the belief that they have just cause of apprehending danger to a 
certain portion of their property from the present Administra- 
tion. It is not difficult to comprehend the object and the motive 
of these idle alarms. Suppose an object of these alarmists were 
accomplished, and the slave-holding States were united in the 
sentiment that the policy of this Government, in all time to 
come, should be regulated on the basis of the fact of slavery, 
would not union on the one side lead to union on the other. The 
slave-holding States can not forget that they are now in a mi- 
nority, which is in a constant relative diminution, and should 
certainly not be the first to put forth a principle of action ly which 
they would he the greatest losers. 

There were not wanting eminent and able men at the 
South who advocated the tariff. Among these w^ere James 
Madison, of Virginia. His two tariff letters to Joseph C. 
Cabell, printed in 1828, still hold an honorable place in 
political literature. James G. Birney went further— he 
not only advocated the tariff, but took issue Avith the 
South Carolina nullifiers and the slavery extensionists. 
In numerous speeches delivered in different parts of the 
State, he exposed the sophistries of the resolutions of 
1798, pointed out the dangers of attempting to control 
national politics in the interest of a single pecuniary inter- 
est, and warned the slave-holders not to invite a national 
discussion of slavery by attempting to extend it over new 
States in Texas, thus destroying the balance of power be- 
tween the North and the South. He appealed to them 
not to repeat the agitations of the Missouri controversy ; 
not to awaken the sleeping lion ; and he developed and 
illustrated the suggestions made by Henry Clay in his 
Lewisburg speech, in 182G. 

If the reader believes in the prevalent error, that, in 
the decade ending with 1830, any and every discussion 
at the South of slavery or its extension, was promptly 
punished with death at the hands of a mob, he will be 

72 JA^iKS (;. iniixKV and jus timp:s. 

incredulous iu regiiul to the eluiractcr of .Mr. Birncy's 
speeclios in 1828. To remove skepticism on this subject, 
I i)n)pose to devote tlie twelftli chapter to stating a few 
of the many facts tending to prove that freedom of speech 
was not unknuwu at the South during and before the 
period in question. It is believed that careful historical 
research -will establish the truth of the following proposi- 
tions in regard to the mobbing of altulitionists in the 
South : 

1. In the border slave States, with the exception of 
Missouri, during the agitations of 18:i0-'21, it had been 
almost unknown before the election of General Jackson 
to the presidency; and in the Gulf States, it was local, 
occasional, and rare before that event. 

2. After the election of Jackson the toleration of 
slavery discussion was rapidly narrowed in its limits ; and 
the prejudice against Yankees led to an increase in the 
number of cases of mob violence. 

3. The horrible slave insurrection of August, 1831, at 
Southampton, Va., caused a panic that resulted in mobs 
and the expulsion from the South of a numlier of persons 
suspected of tampering with the slaves, and in the gen- 
eral strengthening of " the patrol system," organized un- 
der law to keep the slaves in subjection. 

4. The defeat of the nullifiers, in the winter of 1832-'33, 
turned all their activities into the agitation of slavery, for 
the purpose of creating a sectional feeling as a basis for a 
future separation of the States. Hostility to Northerners 
was fomented, and vigilance committees were formed, 
the chief duty of which Avas " to hang abolitionists " on 
short shrift. In this work the Jackson and Clay men vied 
with the nullifiers; and before the end of 1835 the South 
was terrorized into silence, and thoroughly organized to 
support the claims of the slave power. 

That this was the view taken by Thomas II. Benton 


may bo inferred from tlie following passage from the sec- 
ond volume of his " Thirty Years in the JSenate " : 

Mr. Calhoun, when he went home from Congress in the sjjring 
of tliat year (1833), told his friends that "The South could never 
be united against the North on the tariff question — that the sugar 
Interests of Louisiana would keep her out, and that the basis of 
the Southern union must be shifted to the slave question." Then 
all the papers in his interest, and especially the one at Washing- 
ton, published by Mr. DuS Green, dropped tariff agitation and 
commenced upon slavery, and in two years had the agitation rijio 
for inauguration upon the slavery question. 



There were many portions of the South which were 
not under the control of any one of the three scliools of 
shivery extensionists. In East Tennessee, before 1828, the 
stream of anti-slavery opinion was full and strong. It 
was formed of two confluents — the Presbyterian and the 
Quaker — both from North Carolina. 

The most prominent Presbyterian abolitionist in that 
region between 1800 and 1830 was tlie Rev. Samuel Doak, 
D. D. He was born and brought up in Virginia. His 
parents being unable to bear the expense of giving him a 
liberal education, he built for himself a cabin near the 
college at Lexington, Va., supported himself as a stu- 
dent by working and teaching, graduated with honor, 
went to Princeton, and took his theological degree in 
1775; taught as tutor in Hampden Sydney College for 
two years; was licensed as preacher, and migrated in 1777 
to the Holston Valley, in Tennessee. He fought the In- 
dians, taking his rifle and leading his congregation ; was 
member of the Constitutional Convention held in 1784; 
established an academy which grew into Washington Col- 
lege, and was president of it from 1705 to 1818. He thou 
resigned in favor of his son, the Rev. John M. Doak, D. D., 
and established the " Tusculum Academy" at Bethel, 
Tenn., which also developed into a college, in the presi- 
dency of which he was succeeded by another son, the 


Ivev. Samuel W. Doak, D. I). During his whole career he 
taught theology and prepared a large number of students 
for the ministry. He died in 1830. (See Sprague's "An- 
nals," page 303.) 

He was a large and strong man, healthy, and both able 
and willing to do a great amount of work. His striking 
characteristics were manly good sense, calm dignity, in- 
domitable firmness, and powerful intellect ; and his moral 
influence over those brought in contact with him, espe- 
cially the young, was very great. He was commonly 
called the Presbyterian bishop. Though he had been for 
many years opposed to slavery, he did not take the step of 
emancipating his own slaves until about 1818. Eleven of 
his freedmen removed to Brown County, Ohio, and their 
descendants are there at present. From about that time 
he inculcated upon all his students, theological and liter- 
ary, the principles of immediate abolition. It was prob- 
ably due to his teachings that the noted Sam Houston, 
one of his pupils, gave his vote many years later against 
the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and vetoed the Texas ordinance 
of secession ; and that his step-son, Robert McEwen, kept 
the national flag flying over his house at Nash\alle during 
the whole course of the rebellion. It was through his in- 
fluence chiefly that the Presbyterians of his own and the 
neighboring county bought two promising young men of 
color, John Gloucester and George Erskine, freed and 
educated them for the ministry of their Church, and that 
the Union Presbytery of East Tennessee licensed and or- 
dained them. They were eloquent preachers. Gloucester 
became pastor of a colored congregation in Philadelphia, 
and Erskine had charge for a time of a white congrega- 
tion. (See A. T. Rankin's " Truth Vindicated," page 5.) 

The presbytery just named was formed in part of min- 
isters whose ethics had been fashioned in their youth by 
the strong hands of the venerable Dr. Doak, and it was 


always distinguished by liberality on the slavery question. 
Some of his graduates were members of the Al)ing(lon 
Presbytery. The famous abolitionist Rev. John Ixankin 
was his pupil for three years (1813-1810). The He v. Jesse 
Lockhart, who from about 1820 preached immediate 
abolition, and lectured on it in southern Ohio, was taught 
by him. 

For half a century Dr. Doak was recognized as the 
principal column on which rested the Presbyterian Cliurch 
of East Tennessee, and as his inlluence was always thrown 
against slavery, public opinion was liberal on that subject. 

It was principally under Quaker influence that the 
]\Ianumission Society of Tennessee Avas formed in 1814. 
Membership was not limited, however, to that sect. 
Charles Osborn, Quaker, sat in it side by side with John 
Ixankin and Jesse Lockhart, Presbyterians. The State 
legislation urged for compulsory emancipation was that a 
day should be fixed, on and after wdiich every child born 
in the State should be free. Most of the members be- 
lieved in preparing the slaves for liberty ; some, among 
whom were Charles Osborn, John Eankin, and Jesse 
Lockhart, believed in immediate abolition. This society 
held annual conventions and issued annual addresses to 
the people with great regularity; and several times before 
1829 was represented in the American Convention to pro- 
mote the Abolition of Slavery. The minutes of its eleventh 
annual convention, held August 15, 1825 (see Lundy's 
" Genius " for September of that year), show an attendance 
of delegates from twelve auxiliary societies with a mem- 
bership of five hundred and seventy persons, three of 
which societies were county organizations, and that ten 
auxiliaries were not represented. It was resolved by that 
body to establish at Greenville a quarterly pai)er to be en- 
titled " The Manumission Journal." 

In 1820, at Jonesborougli, Tenn., Elihu Luibree, a 


Friend, had established an octavo monthly paper called 
" The Emancipator," probably the first newspaper in the 
United States whose avowed object was the abolition of 
slavery. Mr. Embree was a manufacturer on a large 
scale, belonged to a numerous family, and was a man of 
influence in his county. He died a few months after 
starting his journal, and Benjamin Lundy, of Mount 
Pleasant, Ohio, who had already published at that place 
eight numbers of the " Genius of Universal Emancipa- 
tion," removed to Tennessee and continued its publica- 
tion, first at Jonesborough and afterward at Greenville, in 
the adjoining county, until October, 1824, when it was 
issued at Baltimore. (Appendix B.) 

A Greene County, Tenn., correspondent of the " Gen- 
ius" (No. 9, October IG, 1829) announces the re-elec- 
tion in that county of John Magaughy to the Assembly, 
and adds : " Mr. Magaughy did more in the last Assembly 
on the subject of slavery, in behalf of the Manumission So- 
ciety, than any one ever did at any previous session." 

The fertile flat breadths of land in West Tennessee 
were favorable to large plantations and working numerous 
gangs of slaves ; but the American sentiment of inalien- 
able and equal rights found advocates there also. In De- 
cember, 1824, a number of persons convened at Columbia, 
Maury County, and formed " The Moral, Religious Manu- 
mission Society of West Tennessee." The preamble to 
the constitution* declares that slavery " exceeds any other 
crime in magnitude " ; that instrument declares it " the 
greatest act of practical infidelity," and that " the Gospel 
of Christ, if believed, would remove personal slavery at 
once by destroying the will in the tyrant to enslave," and 
prescribes as follows : 

Art. 8. None that own or hold slaves can be admitted as 
members of this society. 

* Vublirihed in full in the "' Genius " of February, 1825. 


Tliat the movement in Tennessee was not an isolated 
one will be demonstrated by a few facts taken almost at 
random from those occurring in other slave States.* 

Tlie Manumission Society of North Carolina was 
formed in 1816. Ten years later, the number of its 
auxiliaries was forty-five, and its cause was advocated by 
the " Patriot," a newspaper edited with marked ability. 
The most active men in the membership were probably 
the Mendenhalls, the Coffins, and the Swains — A\'illiam 
and Moses. There were several auxiliary societies of la- 
dies not counted in the number above given. 

In the proceedings of this State Society, there is one 
document which establishes conclusively the existence in 
North Carolina of many " immediate abolitionists " in 
1825. It is printed at length in the number of the " Gen- 
ius" for September, 1825. The heading is as follows: 
" Queries proposed by the Board of Managers of the Manu- 
mission Society of North Carolina, to be answered sepa- 
rately by the branches, and forwarded to the next meeting 
of the General Association." 

This " next meeting " was held September 9, 1825. It 
is presumed the answers were all in. A committee was 
appointed to collate them and " prepare general answers." 
The fifth query was in these words : 

5th. Is a majority of the citizens of Korth Carolina opposed 
to slavery ? 

The general answer to this was as follows : 

5th. We suppose the popular sentiment of North Carolina 
may be estimated according to the following view, viz., one thir- 
tieth of the people are crying out for immediate emancipation among 
us; one twentieth are for gradual emancipation ; one fifteenth 
are supporting schemes of emigration and colonization ; three 

* The "Abolition Intdlipjoncer" wn? published in 1822 and 1823 by 
the Rev. John Finley Crowe, D.D., of Shelbyville, Kentucky. 


fifths are ready to support emancipation by paying their money 
and otherwise, provided masters would cheerfully give up their 
slaves and Government would undertake the work on a i:)lan that 
would operate with justice, and insure the safety of all parties ; 
one twentieth have never thought of the subject, and neither 
know nor care anything about it ; three twentieths are moder- 
ately opposed to emancipation, merely because they think it im- 
practicable ; and one twentieth are bitterly opposed to it in al- 
most every shape, not because they expect to sustain a material 
loss in property by the emancipation of slaves, but because they 
are ignorant enough to think that heaping senseless execrations 
on manumission societies, etc., is an excellent way of flattering 
the rich or avaricious. According to this view, it appears that 
three fifths of the people, or sixty in every hundred, are favor- 
ably disposed toward the principle of emancipation, but are sit- 
ting at ease, waiting for some exciting cause to shake oS. the pre- 
vailing apathy and give impulse to that course of policy which 
they know already is just and expedient. We believe about 
three twentieths, or fifteen in every hundred, are at this time 
active supporters of universal emancipation in some way or 

This is the whole answer to the query. In its estimate 
of the proportion of " immediate abolitionists " it must be 
taken to be impartial ; for in the answer to the sixth query 
the opinion of the society as to the best means of abolish- 
ing slavery is in effect formulated thus : 1. Non-impor- 
tation of slaves into the State ; 2. Prohibition of all sales 
of slaves ; 3. Freedom of all born after a fixed date ; and 4. 
Emigration and colonization of the blacks. The queries 
and answers were signed by Richard Mendenhall, Presi- 
dent, and Aaron Coffin, Secretary, and were forwarded 
by order of the society to Benjamin Lundy for publi- 

As the above is the only deliberate census of Southern 
oj)inions on slavery, taken in forty-five different localities 
in a State, made and published before 1828, and as it was 
sanctioned by intelligent and conscientious men, citizens 


ami knowing the facts, it may be safely taken as a sure 
guide to public sentiment at its date, not only in North 
Carolina, but in Tennessee and Virginia. The proportion 
of abolitionists, immediate and gradual, in Maryland and 
Kentucky was, for obvious reasons, much larger. With 
the mention of the single fact that in the years 1824, 1825, 
and 1820, about two thousand slaves were freed in iS'orth 
Carolina, and 726 in one body were removed from the 
State as required by law, by the Society of Friends, we 
will pass to the State of Maryland. 

At the time (October, 1824) Benjamin Lundy began 
the publication, at Baltimore, of the fourth volume of his 
jxiper,* it was generally expected that ^Maryland would 
soon take her jjlace among the free States. Only four 
years had elapsed since the people of the city of Balti- 
more, at a public meeting, the mayor, Edward Johnson, 
presiding, had denounced the admission of Missouri into 
the Union as a slave State, and two thousand of her citi- 
zens had signed a petition to Congress to the same effect ; 
and only eight months since Elisha Tyson, the ])hilanthro- 
pist and emancipator, had fallen at the rijie age of seventy- 
five, after a life whose deeds of heroism entitle him to rank 
among the great souls of our race. lie was born of a 
family of Philadelphia Quakers, but removed to Harford 
County, and afterward to Baltimore, in early manhood. 
When he witnessed the sufferings of the enslaved and per- 
secuted Africans, his soul was seized with a mighty love 
and pity for those wretched people, and he consecrated the 
best energies of his life to their service. If any one was 
illegally held in slavery, he hunted up the proofs and ap- 
pealed to the courts. To this class belonged all those 
brought into the State. Some were freedmen who had 
lost their papers ; others were descended from Indians or 
other free persons; some had mothers who were freed- 

*"Lifuof Tyson,"p. 103. 


women. He was indefatigable in bringing these cases 
before the jndge of the county court, wlio, to liis honor 
be it said, enforced the law. From his biography, pub- 
lished by Lundy in 1825, and written by John S. Tyson, 
his nephew, I extract the following passage : 

The labors of Mr. Tyson were not confined to a single dis- 
trict, they extended over the whole of Maryland. There is not 
a county in it which has not felt his influence, or a court of jus- 
tice whose records do not bear proud testimonials of his triumphs 
over tyranny. Throwing out of calculation the many liberations 
indirectly resulting from his efforts, we speak more than barely 
within bounds when we say that he has been the means, under 
Providence, of rescuing at least two thousand human beings from 
this galling yoke of a slaverj' which, but for him, would have 
been perpetual. 

He exerted himself to put down the traders in slaves 
and turned the business into disgrace. His biograjiher 
says : 

The traffic in human flesh, once so common, and carried on by 
persons looked upon as respectable, came to be of very limited 
extent, and conducted by the lowest and basest of mankind. 
Dungeons for the reception of slaves about to be exported 
dwindled down to two or three. . . . All this haj)py revolution 
was the v;ork of one man . . . (j). 12). 

He i^rocured the passage of several laws ameliorating 
the condition of the slaves and facilitating emancipation, 
persuaded many masters to give deeds of manumission, 
and aided in the erection of churches and schools for the 

Mr. Tyson's whole life proves that he regarded slavery 
as a sin, to be repented of and abandoned instantly by the 
slave-holder. It is probable, however, that when there Avas 
cpicstion of general abolition by compulsory statutes, he 
thought it wiser to follow the example of the States which 


had become free. It must be bonic in mind tluit, in 182-i, 
New York was still a slave State, and there were slaves 
held in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Illinois. 

Another etticient anti-slavery worker in Maryland was 
Daniel Kaymond, a lawyer of high standing and a mem- 
ber of the Baltimore bar. Of liberal education, he had 
devoted much time to the study of political economy. In 
1820 he published the first, and in lH'^'d the second edition 
of an elaborate work on that subject in two octavo vol- 
umes containing eight hundred and fifty-six pages. All 
the implications of the work are against systems of forced 
labor, and he devotes the thirteenth chapter of the second 
volume to the discussion of " The Influence of Slavery 
on National Wealth." A few extracts will show its char- 
acter : 

The mass of human suffering which has been already caused 
by negro slavery. . . . The most ardent philantliropists and the 
most splendid talents have, during the last thirty years, been 
employed in portraying the horrors of slavery. . . . The man 
who should now justify the slave-trade would be looked upon 
as a monster of human depravity. ... It behooves a Christian 
people to use all diligence in purifying itself from this abomina- 
tion. . . . The current of popular ojjinion is against slavery. . . . 
Slavery, a hackneyed, worn-out subject. ... A very little reflec- 
tion, however, will satisfy any man that the scheme [colonization] 
is utterly hopeless, so far as it proposes to rid our country of the 
black population or abolish slavery. ... If the Gordian knot of 
slavery is not untied within a century from this day it will be 
cut. . . . They are here, and have as much right to remain here 
as the whites. . . . There are people enough who would set 
their slaves free provided the hiw allowed it. 

Comparing slavery to a noose about the neck of the 
slave States, he says : 

The only way of getting out of the noose is by forcing the 
.slave-owners to let go their hold upon the slaves and set them 
free. . . . Diffusion [through new slave States] is about as effect- 


ual a remedy for slavery as it would be for the small-pox or the 
plague. ... By procrastinating the day of manumission we in- 
crease the difficulty of manumitting. . . . All that is required 
is a general permission in all the States for masters to manumit 
their slaves whenever they see lit. Such a law would promote 
manumission fast enough for the present ... no great and sud- 
den changes would be produced in society. 

Mr. Eaymond had been a colaborer with Elisha Tyson, 
and he gave a cordial welcome to Benjamin Lundy. On 
the formation of the Maryland Anti- Slavery Society, Au- 
gust 25, 1825, he was elected its president. He was three 
times the candidate nominated by that society on the 
abolition platform for the House of Delegates of Mary- 
land. In 1825 he received six hundred and twenty-four 
votes. In 1826 he was again brought forward. On the 
2d of September the officers of the State Anti-Slavery So- 
ciety published an address " to the independent voters of 
the city of Baltimore (see " Genius " of that date) recom- 
mending Daniel Raymond for their suffrages. It is four 
columns in length. The gist of it is in the following, 
extracts : 

A period must be fixed by law for the termination of slavery. 
. , . Nothing will be adequately effectual [against kidnapping] 
but the total abolition of slavery, nothing but the annihilation of 
the market for slaves. 

The following is valuable historically : 

In our sister State of North Carolina the advocates of general 
emancipation are increasing with a rapidity unparalleled in the 
annals of this nation. It is believed that nearly three thousand 
citizens of that State have enrolled themselves as members of 
anti-slavery societies wivhin a period of two years. . . . 

The Anti-Slavery Society of Maryland consists at this time of 
four respectable branches with several hundred members, although 
thirteen months have not yet elapsed since the first proposition 
was made for its orj^anization. 


In the States of Virginia and Delaware, societies for the abo- 
lition of slavery have also recentlj' been formed, and many in 
fluential individuals therein are actively engaged in promoting 
the doctrines of universal emancipation.* 

There were iiiue candidates. The result was as fol- 
lows : 

J. S. Tyson 3,898 D. Itaymmd 974 

J. Strieker 2,507 

G. U. Steuart 2,420 

C. R. Richardson GIG 

C. S. Walsh 528 

R. Purviance 1,319 M. A. Dysart 39 

C. C. Harper 1,011 1 

The two gentlemen elected were on the National Re- 
publican or Adams ticket. The next two were Jackson 

Among other comments the " Genius " says : 

Walsh, the most violent antagonist we had, was completely 
prostrated, receiving but about half the number of votes that he 
did last year. . . . It is admitted by many that Strieker 
owes his election entirely to the favorable views he took of the 
anti-slavery principle. And Tyson has always been known to be 
zealously opposed to the system of slavery, though he has never 
consented to pledge himself to advocate its abolition upon the 
plan of the Anti-Slavery Society. t 

The abolition party was so encouraged by the result 
of the election that, two days afterward, October 4, 18;2G, 
it put Raymond in nomination for the next year's elec- 
tion, and issued an address to the voters of Baltimore. 
But, alas, for human expectations ! Before the October 
elections of 1827 the storm blew fiercely for General Jack- 
son, the military hero, who was secretly pledged to the 

* " Genius," October Y, 1826. 

f " Genius," October 13, 1827. This gentleman was the biographer 
of Elisha Tyson. 


extension and national ascendancy of slavery; and Mr. 
Raymond was obliged to withdraw from the canvass. 

Lnndy wrote : " There are, it is true, a few advocates 
of emancipation in the Jackson party ; but the number of 
substantial, reflecting men among them is small, compared 
with those favorable to the Administration." 

The Jackson party elected its candidates in Baltimore, 
both city and county. Its victory, however, was a mortal 
blow to the Maryland Anti-Slavery party which languished 
from that time. It did not feel strong enough to nomi- 
nate a candidate in 1828, but it brought forward Mr. 
Raymond again in 1829. He came in at the foot of the 
poll, receiving only one hundred and eighty-six votes. 
That was the last political effort of the abolition party in 
Maryland. After the inauguration of Jackson, blandish- 
ments, honors, and offices were used freely to win the 
State; and gradually a free press and anti-slavery men 
were put under the ban, disappearing almost altogether 
after the Southampton insurrection. It has been argued 
that if the Baltimore abolitionists had nominated and 
voted for their ticket in 1827, they would have increased 
their vote from year to year. But this argument leaves 
out of view the fact that the movement in Maryland was 
subject to the same general causes which impeded and 
finally arrested similar movements in all the more northern 
slave States. The retardation of anti-slavery efforts in 
the South kept even pace with the advance of the slave- 
holding Democracy. Abolitionism lost as Jacksonisra 

One more fact must end this chapter. Between the 
close of the war in 1815 and the end of 1828 the follow- 
ing journals which avowed the extinction of slavery as 
one, if not the chief one, of their objects, were published 
in the Southern States : 

1. " The Emancipator " (Tennessee), 1819. 


x\ " The Abolition Intelligencer " (Kentncky), 1822. 

3. " The Genius of Universal Emancipation " (Ten- 
nessee and Maryland), 1821. 

4. " The Liberalist " (Louisiana), 1828. 

The " Genius," Lundy's paper, was the best of the 
four, and had the largest circulation. It was published 
more than twelve years in the South. 




The manner of conducting in the North the canvass 
of the Adams party in 18;28 had not met the approval 
of Mr. Birney. During its progress, he had repeatedly 
written to the leading men and managers, urging that 
personalities against Jackson should be dropped and 
prominence given in the press and on the platform, to the 
real issues — "Texas annexation and nullification." For 
unexplained reasons his views did not prevail ; Clay was 
irresponsive, and Adams stood coldly aloof. The contest 
was waged mainly on such immaterial issues as the alleged 
bargain for office between Clay and Adams, the degree of 
social polish and literary education of General Jackson, 
his marriage, his execution of Ambrister, Arbuthnot, and 
others, and his military qualifications, in all which the 
popular prejudices were against the Adams party. Coffin 
handbills increased the vote for Jackson. The people 
elected tlie military hero, without inquiring into, or know- 
ing his probable policy in regard to the extension of slave 
territory, or his views touching the right of a State to 
nullify the laws of the Union. 

At this result, Mr. Birney was surprised as well as 
grieved. He had expected better tilings from the North- 
ern and Middle States. Having done his political duty 
with energy in a State in which his party was in a hope- 


k\ss minority, lie wasted no time in idle regrets. Kesum- 
ing ]iis pnietiec in Alabama and Tenuessee, he again 
devoted himself to his professional duties. 

One of the first eileets in Alabama of Jaeksou's elec- 
tion was the repeal, January 22, 1829, of the law of 1827, 
whieh prohibited the introduction of slaves into the State 
for sale or hire. 

The inauguration was promptly followed by measures 
calculated to bring about the acquisition of Texas. 

Soon after the close of the war with Great Britain 
(1815), the emigration of slave-holders to Texas had been 
encouraged by Southern politicians, with a view to the 
ultimate seizure of the country. In 1819, an armed in- 
vasion of Texas from the Southwest had been prevented 
by the United States Government. Between 1825 and 
1829, five insurrections had been attempted by colonists, 
who were acting, the Mexican Government believed, with 
the connivance of Joel 11. Poinsett, of South Carolina, the 
United States Minister to Mexico. After the accession of 
Jackson, the demonstrations of Mr. Poinsett became so 
marked that in August, ^Mexico demanded his recall be- 
cause of his intermeddling with her internal affairs. 

During the same period, it became generally accepted 
by intelligent men in Tennessee and North Alabama that 
the well-known Sam Houston, always a confidential friend 
and political protege of General Jackson's, was actively 
employed in plans for another insurrection in Texas, 
though ostensibly acting as an Indian chief. 

In the summer of 1829 a series of able essa5's, over the 
signature " Americanus," urging the immediate purchase 
of the province of Texas, were published in the " Pieh- 
mond Enquirer,^' and copied into many of the other 
Democratic papers of the South. The author Avas under- 
stood to be Thonuis II. Benton, who was then in the 
President's secret councils. (Lundy's " Genius," Septem- 


ber 25, 1829.) It Avas claimed by him that " five or six 
more slavc-lwldinfj States may thus he added to the Union,'''' 
Avhioh would give the South " a preponderating influence 
in the councils of the nation." The comment of the 
" Enquirer " was : " The statesmen who are at the head of 
our affairs are not the men we take them to be if they 
have not already pursued the proper steps for obtaining 
the cession of Texas, even before the able numbers of 
Americanus saw the light." 

August 25, 1829, President Jackson, through the Sec- 
retary of State, authorized the United States Minister at 
Mexico to offer four million, and, if necessary, five mill- 
ion dollars for the purchase of Texas. One of the argu- 
ments to be used for the sale was the insurgent dispo- 
sition of "the present inhabitants of Texas (not Span- 
ish), which has," says Van Buren's letter, " in the short 
space of five years, displayed itself in not less than four 
revolts, one of them having for its avowed object the in- 
dependence of the country." * 

The offer to buy was indignantly refused by the Mexi- 
can Government, and for the purpose of preventing fur- 
ther efforts by President Jackson to extend slave territory 
by dismembering Mexico, a decree was published by Presi- 
dent Guerrero in the September following abolishing slav- 
ery in that country. This was a heroic remedy for slave- 
holding encroachment. It had the effect of arresting for 
a time open measures by Jackson to effect annexation, 
but it stimulated emigration from the South to Texas. 
The emigrants went armed, and many of them took slaves 
with them in defiance of Mexican law. Another effect 
was greatly to strengthen the influence of the nullifiers or 
separatists over the cotton-planters of the South, always 

* See correspondence in full in Dr. Mayo's " Eight Years in Wash- 


eager to exchange woni-out fields for fertile ones farther 

Mr. Biruey regarded the political situation as growing 
worse instead of better, and frequently made it the topic 
of conversation with his visitors, especially with Nicholas 
Davis and Arthur F. Hopkins, who were Union men, and 
had been his coadjutors in the campaign of the jireceding 

In December, 18'^1), he received from Henry Clay a 
letter introducing Josiah F. Polk, Esq., an agent of the 
Colonizatio7i Society, and inclosing a coj)y of the very able 
colonization speech recently made by Mr. Clay in Ken- 

Mr. Polk was a man of ability. He was Mr. Birney's 
guest for several days, and no doubt developed to him 
fully, as he understood them, the views of Mr. Clay. Up 
to this time Mr. Birney does not appear to have connected 
himself with any colonization society, but, in January, 
he aided Mr. Polk to form one at Huntsville (Dr. Watkins, 
president), and became a subscriber to the " African Re- 
pository," the monthly published by the national organi- 
zation. Not long after he joined in the formation of the 
Madison County Colonization Society, of which he acted, 
as treasurer for about two years. 

In the same month, in the Senate of the United States, 
occurred the bitter attack upon the New England States 
by Colonel Hayne, of South Carolina, and the masterly 
answers by Daniel Webster. These speeches brought out 
strongly at tlie South the lines of demarkation between 
the Union and the secession elements. On which side the 
symjiathies of James Cr. Birney lay was shown in the fact 
that he caused ohe of his sons to memorize and declaim at 
Greene Academy one of the finest passages in Webster's 
speech. At no time in his life did he ever admit the 
thought of disunion. In looking forward to the future he 


saw no divided country. In his patriotism he knew no 
North, no South, no East, no West. For the first time in 
the history of American oratory had the grand idea of 
" the nation " been adequately expressed. He looked 
upon "Webster's speech as affording a basis for the organi- 
zation of all good men, Xorth and South, into a party for 
the defense of the Union and the prevention of slavery 
extension. He determined to visit the free States, confer 
Avith leading Union men, and judge for himself the con- 
dition of public opinion. It was only a few months be- 
fore the opportunity to visit the North on a highly honor- 
able mission Avas extended to him. In the summer of 
1830 the board of trustees of the University of Alabama, 
having received a more liberal endowment, resolved to 
add to the faculty of the institution a president and four 
professors. They unanimously requested Mr. Birney to 
visit the Atlantic States on their behalf, make selections 
of such persons as he should think suitable, and recom- 
mend them for appointment. The request Avas communi- 
cated by Governor ]\Ioore Avith a private letter urging him 
to accept. Such a tribute from political opponents was 
grateful. He accepted. As soon as this was known his 
co-trustees of the Huntsville Female Seminary requested 
him to select three teachers for it. In the performance of 
this double duty he left home about the first of August 
and was absent until the end of October, visiting Virginia, 
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Mas- 
sachusetts, and Ohio. He bore letters of introduction 
from Covernor Moore, 0. C. Clay, Henry Clay, and 
some other men of note, and appears to have visited 
many prominent educators and statesmen in the East. 
His daily memoranda from August 31st to October 1st 
have been preserved. They are very brief and were evi- 
dently intended simply to remind him of dates of 
visits : 


Avgust Slst. — Went this mornintr and delivered a note writ- 
ten by Mr. John Sergeant to his brother Thomas. 

Delivered my letter from Governor 3Ioore to the Hon. Mr. 
IIenii)hill. lie received me very kindly. 

Delivered my letter to Dr. Chapman. It was from Mr. il. 
Clay. Received very kindly. Soon felt as if I were conversing 
with an old aecjuaintance or confidential friend; and yet there is 
at first something very courtier-like in his address. 

Delivered a letter of introduction from President Woods, of 
Lexington, to the Rev. W. T. B. . . . lie conversed with great 
ease as a scholar of good taste. 

In the afternoon Mr. Dallas (Geo. M.) went with me to the 
liouse of Joseph R. Ingersoll. ... I felt much pleased at the 
frank and polite manners of ilr. Ingersoll. 

Dr. McAulcy, who, all men with whom I have conversed who 
know him say, is qualified in a remarkable manner for such a 
presidency, declines being considered as a candidate. He recom- 
mends Dr. Wisncr, of Boston, or Mr. Spencer, of North- 

lie went from Phila(lel2)liia to Princeton, and saw Drs. 
Miller and Alexander ; then to New Brnnswick, where he 
called' on his old college friend, George Wood, " the most 
distinguished lawyer in the State," and made the acquaint- 
ance of the President and professors of Eutgers College ; 
then to New York, where he saw Profs. Charles Anthon, 
Henry Vethake, Renwdck, Griscom, and others ; then to 
New Ilaven, Avhere he saw President Day, Drs. Taylor 
and Fitch, Judge Daggett, ^h\ Ingersoll, and others. 
There, and in the neighborhood, he made the acquaint- 
ance of Messrs. Andrews and Stoddart, afterward distin- 
guished as authors of a Latin grammar. 

In the afternoon, heard Mr. Bacon (Leonard G.), a Congrega- 
tional preacher, a v\;ry superior man. 

At Middletown he saw Wilbur Fisk, president of the 
Methodist college. At llartford he called on Henry 
Hudson, whose wife — 


a very sensible and polite woman, on my expressing a desire to 
see Miss Beecher (Catherine), accompanied me to her home and 
introduced me to her. She is good-looking — not handsome — 
good figm"e. I informed her of my wish to engage teachers for 
a female academy at Huntsville. She recommended three yomig 
ladies in her school, and desired until to-morrow to consult with 
them in relation to the matter. Before I left her lodgings she 
presented me with a copy of her work on education. Retu-ed to 
my room and read it through before bedtime. 

The result of several visits to Miss Beecher and the 
three young ladies was tlie employment of the latter to 
teach at Huntsville. They were Misses Brown, South- 
mayd, and Baldwin. They remained several years at 
Huntsville, and Avere eminently successful. Mr. Birney 
was so much pleased with Miss Emmons's infant school, 
a sort of " kindergarten " affair, that he induced her to go 
to Huntsville with the other ladies and establish her school 
there, guaranteeing a certain pecuniary success. Such a 
school was a novelty in Alabama, and, under the able 
management of Miss Emmons, flourished for many years. 

Mr. Birney visited the famous Eound Hill School, then 
kept by Mr. Cogswell and George Bancroft, now famous 
as a historian ; and he recorded his pleasure in the con- 
versation of Mr. Bancroft, who, among otlier things, " gave 
me some history of the management of German universi- 
ties, showing a very excellent plan." 

He reached Boston September 17th, the second cen- 
tennial anniversary of that city. There he saw many emi- 
nent men. He notes Mr. Evarts as " one of the most 
unostentatious and sensible men I have met," and Dr. 
Wisner as " all he had been represented — fine appearance, 
easy and flowing in language," etc. 

Went to deliver my letter from Dr. Chapman to Daniel Web- 
ster. Received me in his office very courteously. He concluded 
by referring me to Mr. Ticknor, a learned professor of Harvard, 


to whom he addiessed a note, and sent a servant to show me 
the house. 

He dined with Dr. Wisner. Among the guests invited 
to meet him was Dr. Bacon, of New llaven. 

Sept. lOOi. — Heard Dr. Channing in the morning. lie fell 
below my expectations in everything but in the Jinhh of his es- 
say, for it could .scarcely be called a sermon. Heard Dr. Beecher 
(Lyman) in the afternoon. His manner not good, though some- 
times impressive. 

Sept. 20th. — Went to Cambridge this morning and delivered 
my letter from Mr. Clay to President Quincy. , . . Went after 
dinner again to Charlestown to see Mr. Everett (Edward). Found 
hun a most polite and affable gentleman, etc. 

Sept. 21st. — Went in company with Mr. Evarts, Dr. Beecher, 
and others to Andover, this being the "commencement." 

lie revisited Middletown, Hartford, and New Haven, 
and entered into negotiations at New York with Theodore 
D. Woolsey, afterward professor and president at Yale. 

After seeing hundreds of persons, inchiding many puh- 
hc men, and finding that most of tliose he woukl liave 
preferred as professors were unavailable, either because of 
previous engagements or disinclination to make homes in 
the South, he returned home by way of Ohio and Ken- 
tucky. One of the results of his Northern tour was the 
following recommendations to the trustees of the Univer- 
sity of Alabama : 

Rev. Alva "Woods, D. D., President ; Gordon Salston- 
stall and "William AY. Hudson, Professors of Mathematics, 
Natural Philosophy, and Astronomy ; John F. "Wallis, 
Professor of Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology; Henry 
Tutwiler, of the University of Virginia, Professor of An- 
cient Languages ; and Rev. Henry "W. Hilliard, of English 
Literature. All these entered upon the duties of their re- 
spective posts in 1831. The trustees of the university 


unanimously voted a letter of thanks to 'Mr. Birney for 
his services in the selection. 

The most marked eit'ect of his long visit to the North 
was to freshen and strengthen his convictions of the su- 
periority of free over slave institutions. He started on his 
return journey, thinking seriously of the problem of add- 
ing Kentucky and Virginia to the list of free States, but 
greatly disappointed at the apparent unconsciousness 
among Northern public men of any imminent danger in 
the political situation. He returned through Ohio, in 
order to observe for himself the condition of a free State 
in the West. 




Before returning to Alabama ]\Ir. Birney spent two 
weeks in Kentucky. The special jjurpose of this delay 
was to confer with Mr. Clay in relation to the movement 
in behalf of gradual emancipation which had been fore- 
shadowed and outlined in the latter's speech of the pre- 
vious December. Mr. Birney went to Lexington, and made 
several visits to Ashland. AVhat passed between him and 
;^[r. Clay was never stated by eitlier of them. The result, 
however, was that the two never again traveled on the 
same political path. In October, 1830, James G. Birney's 
practical connection with the national Eepublican party 
ceased. He took no part either in the political prepara- 
tions for the candidacy of Henry Clay in 1832, or in the 
campaign; and he did not vote at the election in that 
year. It may be added that when the Whig party was 
formed he did not join it, or act, or vote with it ; he never 
cast a Whig ballot. The contrary has been so often as- 
serted as to have become a conventional statement in 
sketches of his life written by Whigs ; the only foundation 
for it being hi^s political friendship for Henry Clay up to 
the month of October, 1830. 

The personal friendship between them remained un- 
broken. Mr. Birney maintained ever afterward a guarded 


reticence in reference to Mr. Clay, and tlie latter, it is 
believed, never uttered an unkind or disrespectful word 
about his former friend, even under the provocations and 
mortification of his defeat in 1844 — a defeat falsely attrib- 
uted by many of his friends to Mr. Birney. In truth, 
they never saw each other again, except once in 1834 ; 
and the jirevious correspondence between them, in which 
Mr. Clay had repeatedly spoken of him as " one of his 
most esteemed friends," shrunk into a few letters on j)rofes- 
sional business written at long intervals. For several years 
immediately preceding these visits Mr. Birney had not 
seen Mr. Clay, and his idea of the man had been formed 
of youth's illusions crowned with a halo of Mr. Clay's 
fame as an orator and statesman. In these years Mr. Bir- 
ney himself had greatly changed ; his character had been 
jDurified and strengthened by his religious faith ; his knowl- 
edge of men was without selfishness. The interviews at 
Ashland dispelled his illusions in regard to Mr. Clay ; in- 
stead of a statesman, he found a rhetorician and j^olitician. 
He left Ashland deeply disappointed, and, it may be added, 
perplexed and discouraged. 

In October, 1830, the times were propitious for a polit- 
ical movement against the menaced annexation of Texas 
and consequent permanent domination of the slave-hold- 
ing interest, and in favor of a reduction in the number of 
slave-holding States by emancipation in Kentucky and Vir- 
ginia. In such a movement, alone, could the issues tend- 
ered by the Jackson Democrats be fairly met, or a suc- 
cessful appeal be made to that national sentiment which 
had united the North in 1820 against the admission of 
Missouri, excluded slavery from Illinois in 1824, and abol- 
ished it in New York in 1827. The North, which liad 
never listened to the cry of oppressed humanity, might be 
depended upon to resist its own subjugation to the South. 
As to the two principal border States, an influential por- 


tion of the slave-holders themselves favored freedom. At 
its first annual meeting, held in 1830, the Kentucky Colo- 
nization Society had adopted the following statement in 
the manager's report : " The late disposition to voluntary 
emancipation is so increasing that no law is necessary to 
free us from slavery, provided there Avas an asylum acces- 
sible to all liberated. (See "African Repository," May, 

Such a movement was contemplated in 1821, under 
the leadership of Kufus King ; but it was defeated by the 
non-concurrence of the friends of John Quincy Adams, 
who hoped to be made President in 1824, with a Southern 
man as Vice-President — General Jackson being the one 
considered as available. 

Everything pointed to Henry Clay as the leader of 
such a movement in 1830. lie was the favorite son of 
Kentucky, a popular man in his native State of Virginia, 
and the champion of the capitalists and manufacturers of 
the Northern and Eastern States. For his disastrous er- 
rors on the Arkansas and Missouri questions he had apolo- 
gized in declarations, often repeated, against the " curse 
of slavery " ; and, in his December speech in 1829, he had 
sketched a programme of operations for the final extinc- 
tion of slavery which authorized all thinking men to be- 
lieve him ready to join in them. 

But ^Ir. Clay took a different view. For his expected 
candidacy in 1832 he was trimming his sails to catch the 
winds from both North and South, hoping to win General 
Jackson's friends, and work his way to the presidential 
chair by concessions to enemies, glittering but equivocal 
phrases, and waivers of his professed principles, which 
gained for him repeated defeats and the unenviable title 
of " the compromiser." He not only refused to participate 
personally in a gradual emancipation movement in Ken- 
tucky, but advised his friends not to do so ; and it was 


chiefly through his inflnence that the efforts to set one on 
foot were chilled. 

Before calling on Mr. Clay Mr. Birney had talked over 
the gradual emancipation project with the Rev. John C. 
Young, the eloquent President of Centre College ; with 
Rev. J. D. Paxton, Judge John Green, Daniel Yeiser, P. 
G. Rice, Michael G. Yonce, and William Armstrong— all 
of Danville ; with his wife's uncle James McDowell, and 
his long-time friends Thomas T. Skillman, bookseller and 
publisher, and the Rev. Robert J. Breckenridge— all of 

All these were ready to act, and thought many others 
would join them. The following paper was circulated for 
signatures. Fourteen respectable citizens subscribed their 
names. At this point effort ceased until, at the instance 
of Mr. Birney, who wrote from Alabama, Mr. Skillman, 
the proprietor of the " Western Luminary,"- of Lexington, 
published the paper in that journal. 


"We, the undersigned, slave-holders, under a full conviction 
that there are insurmountable obstacles to the general emancipa- 
tion of the present generation of slaves, but equally convinced 
of the necessity and practicability of emancipating their future 
offspring, have determined to form ourselves into a society for 
the purpose of investigating and impressing these truths upon 
fhe public mind, as well by example as by precept ; by adopting 
among ourselves such a system for the gradual emancipation of 
our slaves as we would recommend to our fellow-citizens for their 
adoption as the law of the land ; and by dispersing such writings 
as may be likely to contribute to so good an end. The society 
will not be called together until fifty subscribers are obtained. 

"VVm. R. nines, Bardstown ; Samuel K. Snead, Jefferson Co. ; 
J. M. C. Irvin, R. J. Breckenridge, of Fayette Co. ; A. J. Alex- 
ander, Charles Alexander, J. R. Alexander, Woodford Co. ; James 
McCall, Rockcastle Co.; John Wallace, Fayette Co.; Nornian 
Porter, Thomas T. Skillman, Lexington ; George Clarke, Fay- 


ctte Co. ; Jaim-s Blytlie, Lt-xington ; George W. Anderson, Fay- 
ette Co. ; James G. McKinney, Lexington ; James II. Allen, 
James McDowell, Fayette Co. 

These gentlemen were among the most respected citi- 
zens of Kentucky. Within a few weeks thirty-four more 
shive-liolders sent in tlieir names as members, and, as re- 
ceived, they were published in the " Luminary." They 
were as follows : 

Fayette Co. : J. S. Berryman, Rowland Chambers, Geo. M. 
Chambers, John C. Richardson, Hugh Foster, J. C. Harrison, 
Rev. Robert Stuart, James C. Todd, and John H. Bell ; Mercer 
Co. : Thomas Cleland, Michael G. Yonce, P. G. Rice, President 
John C. Young, William Armstrong, Rev. John D. Paxton, and 
Daniel Y'eiscr ; Lincoln Co. : Judge John Green, John L. Y'antis, 
and Samuel Warren ; Woodford Co. : William E. Ashmore, Samuel 
Wingtield, Samuel V. Marshall, Robert Moffett, Dr. Louis ]\Iar- 
shall, Colonel John Steele, and Dr. C. Wallace ; Franklin Co. : 
C. P. Bacon and Rev. J. T. Edgar ; Hardin Co. : David Weller ; 
and Jefferson Co. : Warrick Miller. 

Any native Kentuckian familiar with the old families 
of the State will recognize the above list as remarkable 
for the intelligence, wealth, and influence of the jiersons 
named in it. Most of them were Presbyterians, and at 
least six of them were Presbyterian preachers, three of 
those Reverends — Robert J. Breckenridge, John C. Young, 
and John I). Paxton — being men of national reputation. 
Mr. Birney, not being a resident of the State did not sign 
the paper; but he was alluded to as follows by his friend 
Mr. Skillman, of the "Luminary": 

In reply to a correspondent in Illinois, who wishes to know 
what Presbyterians are doing in this cause, we remark that the 
first projector of this emancipation scheme, as published in sev- 
eral of our last niunbcrs, is a Presbyterian ; and that, so far as 
we are informed, Presbyterians generally have taken a jirominent 
part in promoting these benevolent schemes, whose object is the 
amelioration of the condition of our colored population. 


But this well-considered scheme came to naught, for 
want of a leader in Kentucky. Among its friends, this 
role might have been taken by Judge Green, K. J. Breck- 
enridge, or John C. Young ; but the Judge was absorbed 
in business, Mr. Breckenridge about that time quit law 
for theology and had his hands full of controversies, and 
Mr. Young was the president of a college. Mr. Clay's 
friends were begging for postponement, until after the 
next presidential election, of a movement likely to com- 
promise him either with the South or the North ; and 
they were full of promises. The opportune moment was 
lost, and the Gradual Emancipation Society was not organ- 
ized when it might have accomplished something. It was 
postponed to a more convenient season. 

Mr. Birney had now exj)erienced three disappoint- 
ments : The trade in slaves between Alabama and the 
slave-breeding States of Kentucky and Virginia had been 
again legalized ; he had been forced to dismiss Henry Clay 
out of his life and hopes ; and his native State appeared 
to be on the downward ro\n^ to vhe abyss. His letters to 
his father in 1831 Avere decidedly pessimistic so far as the 
South was concerned, and that, with his estrangement 
from Clay, caused his father much concern. The writer 
v/as under his grandfather's care at the time, heard these 
letters read as they were received, and has never forgotten 
the impression made by them. The worst elements of 
Southern society seemed to Mr. Birney to be rapidly gain- 
ing the mastery ; and neither the Church nor the state 
indicated any power of resistance. What distressed him 
more than anything else was that circumstances were 
forcing him to bring up his children amid the corrupting 
influences of slavery. He was apparently tied down to 
Alabama by his established profession, his friends, his 
home, his church, his large property, and his usefulness 
in the educational interests of the State. From all these 


lie began to think of separating himself, in order to flee 
from the Sodom of slavery with his large family. It ^vas 
not possible, without heavy pecuniary sacrifices, lie had 
under advisement the project of closing up his business, 
selling out his property, and finding a home for his family 
in a free State, when the startling news of the Southamp- 
ton, Va., insurrection, in August, 1831, burst upon the 
South, with its train of bloody horrors. It may have been 
this that turned the trembling balance in favor of removal. 
In the months of October and November folloM'ing Mr. 
Birney visited Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, with a view to 
the selection of a place in which to rear and educate his 
children. After seeing the principal cities and towns in 
those States, he made choice of Jacksonville, 111. Aside 
from its beautiful site and the fertility of the adjacent 
country, the chief attraction was the intelligence of the 
population and the imminent establishment of a college, 
of which the Kev. Edward Beecher was to be the presi- 
dent. "When he returned to Iluntsville, it was with the 
definite intention to wind up. his law business, sell his 
landed property, and make nil -otlier necessary adjustments 
of his aifairs, so that he might remove his family, includ- 
ing his servants, to Jacksonville. This, he thought, would 
require from eighteen months to two years. He began at 
once, by declining new law business and making sale of 
half his largest piece of real estate in Iluntsville. 

On his journey homeward through Tennessee an inci- 
dent occurred which illustrates his benevolence. After 
supper, one evening, he was sitting on the front porch of 
the tavern at which he was stopping for the night when 
he was startled by piercing shrieks and the sound of blows 
of a whip from an outhouse. The voice was that of a 
woman. Such sounds were not uncommon in the South, 
but ^Ir. Birney could not bear them ; he interfered. The 
person wielding the cowhide was a large and powerful white 


woman ; the victim was a negro woman about twenty-five 
years old, who was tied by her wrists to a joist of the np- 
l^er floor in such a manner that she stood on tiptoe. Her 
clothing was stripped from her shoulders to the waist, 
and her bared back was interlaced with bluish welts, old 
and new. A mulatto girl child of about five years old 
cowered in a corner of the room, terrified and silent. The 
cause of the punishment was explained at once ; the slave- 
woman was the mistress of the tavern-keeper; the child 
was theirs ; and the wronged wife was wreaking her venge- 
ance upon her rival. The voice of sympathy was to the 
poor slave as the voice of an angel of God. She watched 
her opportunity, found Mr. Birney alone, and imjilored 
him to save her and her child from the hell on earth in 
which they had lived for five years. In short, Mr. Birney 
bought the woman and child from his host, who, to do 
him justice, was glad to send them out" of reach of his 
wife, put them into the stage-coach, and took them with 
him to Huntsville. The writer well remembers the 
wretched plight of the woman and child when they ar- 
rived, and that for a year or two afterward the child did 
not entirely lose the nervous, frightened look of a timid 
and hunted creature. 

At the time of this purchase, Mr. Birney was not an 
abolitionist ; no cavils as to the propriety of his action 
perplexed him. Indeed, after he became one, he was not 
given to those subtle quiddities of doctrine which prevent- 
ed some abolitionists from contributing funds to buy the 
freedom of Frederick Douglass, because, forsooth, the pur- 
chase would be a recognition of the right of the master. 
He always, in proper cases, contributed his share of the 
ransom. Like the sisters Grimke, who also were Southern 
abolitionists,* Mr. Birney never reached that sublimation 

* See " The Sisters Grimke," pages 41, 133, 233, 250, and 314. 


of doctrine which made some turn away from the slave 
when he besought aid in the anguish of his soul. 

Early in January, 1832, the news of a bloody slave in- 
surrection in Jamaica, involving the burning of many 
sugar i)lantations and the loss of many lives, reached Tus- 
caloosa, where the Alabama General Assembly was in ses- 
sion. From day to day the wildest rumors spread through 
the State of arson and massacre ; it was said that all the 
slaves of that island had revolted, and were devastating the 
country and massacring the women and children. The 
truth was that the whites were murdering the V)lacks, kill- 
ing in January more than two thousand, and the blacks 
were making feeble defense and reprisals. 

Occurring within a few months after the insurrection 
in Virginia, the event caused a general jianic through the 
slave-holding States. At Tuscaloosa, the effect was a 
strong reaction in favor of re-enacting the law of 1827, 
whicli had been repealed in 1829. Mr. Birney was at 
Tuscaloosa in attendance on the courts. He and others 
prepared an elaborate bill in more than twenty sections, 
entitled "An Act to prevent the introduction of slaves 
into Alabama, and for other purposes " ; and this, with a 
few amendments, was passed and approved by the Govern- 
or on the IGth of January, 1832. It was the expiring 
throb of the free-soil sentiment in Alabama, for the reac- 
tion died out within a few months, and the ten most im- 
portaint sections of the law were repealed by the next 
General Assembly on the 4th day of December, immedi- 
ately after the beginning of the session. It is believed 
that no subsequent effort was made to check the importa- 
tion of slaves into the State. Cotton was king, and ruled 
until its crown was torn off by the bloody hand of war. 

Before ^Nlr. Birney left Tucaloosa, he had informed Mr. 
Clay's friends of his intention to take no part in the pend- 
ing jiresidential campaign ; and during the year 1832 he 


was not present at any meeting held for political purposes, 
nor did he contribute to any party fund. He simply held 
himself aloof, and devoted his energies to closing up his 
business and making sale of his real estate, preparatory to 
removing to Illinois. This intention, however, was not 
yet publicly declared. 

Since his early manhood, his liberalism in regard to 
slavery had been generally recognized ; but during the 
five years preceding 1832 he had become widely known in 
Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama, as a friend of gradual 
emancipation. Among the' Presbyterians his reputation 
in this respect was well established. His wife and older 
children were well aware of his intention to take his slaves 
to Illinois and free them there ; and his sons had been 
carefully taught habits of self-reliance, and forbidden to 
avail themselves of the services of the slaves. 

It is not strange, therefore, that when the famous plat- 
form orator, Theodore D. Weld, was making his arrange- 
ments in Ohio, in the spring of 1832, for a lecturing tour 
on temperance and manual-labor education through Ken- 
tucky, Tennessee, and Alabama, he heard of James G. Bir- 
ney as a Union man and emancipationist, and obtained 
letters of introduction to him. The commendations be- 
stowed on him by the writers of these letters inspired 
Mr. AVeld with a strong desire to make his acquaintance. 
How he did so is best told by himself. In 1882 the author 
wrote Mr. Weld for the details of his conversation with 
Mr. Birney. Under date of September 10th of that year, 
^Ir. Weld answered : 

Your honored father's bearing and spirit in those conversa- 
tions so strongly moved me that now tliat I write that aspect of 
serene right-mindedness is all uudimmed, altliough I look at it 
through the mists of half a century. It seems just as fresh and 
vivid as when, in 1833, it first won my love and reverence at Ilunts- 
ville, whither I went with a letter of introduction to him from 


Prof. Larnibee, of Jackson College, Tennessee, afterward for 
some twenty-five years j)resident of Middlehury College, Ver- 
mont. As Prof. Larrabee handed me the letter, he said : "Mr. 
Birney is one of the noblest men I've ever met. Though a slave- 
holder, he has nothing of the slave-holding spirit.'''' How true to 
the letter I found that testimony during the close intimacy of 
years that followed. When I called at his house to deliver the 
letter, he was away on his judicial circuit, and not to be at home 
for a week.* 

Mr. "Weld became the guest of Dr. Allen, the Presby- 
terian preacher, lie says : 

I found the doctor the holder of two families of slaves, fifteen 
in number — the oldest ones the marriage portion of his wife, the 
younger their children. He said that one of his slaves was a 
Baptist elder, and generally preached on Sunday to the slaves on 
the neighboring plantations. The doctor was quite free to talk 
of slavery. 

Nothing coukl liave suited Mr. Weld better. lie had 
been an immediate abolitionist from early boyhood, was 
versed in the philosopliy of hnman rights, familiar with 
all the aspects of slavery, was full of tire and eloquence, 
and a match for the doctor in argument, although the 
latter was distinguished for his ability. At that time the 
padlock had not become the normal attachment to the 
lips of men in the South. ]\Ir. "Weld says : 

In previous years, while yet in my teens, and just out of them, 
say from eighteen to twenty-one, I had often talked with slave- 
holders about the system — when slavery was not a contraband 
topic. My travels and sojourn were mainly in Maryland, Dela- 
ware, Virginia, North Carolina, and District of Columbia, and 
those with whom my introductions brought me in contact, and 
who often made me their guest, talked about slavery with entire 
freedom, not only tolerating my dissent, but even encouraging it 

* This fact fixes the date of this visit in June. During May the ses- 
sion of the court was in Iluntsvillo. 


by never showing irritation or impatience ; and always (indeed, 
I can recall no exception) condemning it as a system, but gener- 
ally Avere hopeless of deliverance ; and here and there I found a 
slave-holder saying, "I agree with you," and one who pooh- 
poohed at the prophecy that if the slaves were emancipated they 
would cut their masters' throats. "Nonsense ! they might do it 
to get their liberty, but never iecause they had it." But though 
I had thus much talk with slave-holders previously. Dr. Allen 
was the only one with whom I had in such length and minute 
detail discussed the questiou. 

The discussion behveen Mr. Weld and Dr. Allen lasted 
a week, much of it turning on the nature of the right 
under Avhich one man could claim another as a slave. 
When Mr. Birney returned, Dr. Allen invited him to meet 
Mr. Weld at dinner, advising him of the discussion on 
slavery, and informing him that he should now turn Mr. 
Weld over to him. Mr. Birney called in acknowledgment 
of the invitation. The impression he made is thus de- 
scribed by Mr. Weld : 

At this first sight of him, that blended dignity, courtesy, and 
amenity, so characteristic of his uniform bearing, was its own 

The same day, when the three withdrew to the parlor after 
dinner, your father said in substance : "Gentlemen, I learn you 
have been having a week's discussion on slavery, and that I, be- 
ing a slave-holder, am expected to take up the cudgel upon the 
side of slavery." He then said that, before declaring his side, he 
" must know how both sides stand in the discussion thus far ; so 
I must depend upon you to tell me what points have been made, 
how supported, how refuted — in a word, the process you have 
gone through together and brought the question up to its present 

So it was agreed that Mr. Weld should restate the 
arguments ; Avhich he doubtless did in his own bright and 
interesting style. Before he had finished, the summons 
came to tea. 


Meanwhile [says Mr. Weld], the only part taken Ijy your 
father during the afternoon was to ask a variety of questions 
' 'Touching different points made in the discussion. The manner 
and spirit in which these questions were put greatly attracted 
me. They bespoke the utmost candor, a ijimple, earnest intent 
in pursuit of truth, a quick conscience, j)erfect fairness — the 
traits of a mind that could not he jxirtmm. Indeed, during 
the whole afternoon, as I went on in the rehearsal from one point 
to another, I felt assured that he was with me, head and heart, 
in tlic positions which I had taken throughout. 

Mr. Weld judged rightly. lie had given eloquent ex- 
pression to the deepest connctions of his hearer. But 
Mr. Birney said nothing that evening. He excused him- 
self from tea and retired, after inviting Mr. Weld to dine 
■with him next day. At that time he fully indorsed all 
.Mr. Weld had said, and declared that the legal right of 
the slave holder was a " monstrous moral wrong." 

In a conversation with ^Ir. AVeld a few d.iys later he 
said to him: "I shall not live a legal slave-holder any 
longer than till I can devise the wisest and safest way of 
putting my slaves in legal possession of themselves, and 
making such j^rovision for them iu liberty as justice and 
benevolence require." 

This is the testimony of the only surviving witness to 
these conversations. Taken in connection Avith the facts 
heretofore narrated it throws a flood of light upon the 
motives which had influenced Mr. Birney for several 
years. One other fact if it had been known to Mr. Weld 
at the time would have accounted for Mr. Birney's guarded 
language as to the time he would take to emancipate his 
slaves. ]\Iichael, the husband and father of the family 
legally owned by Mr. Birney and who had been brought 
up with him from boyhood, had been unable to conquer 
his appetite for strong liquors, and needed the constant 
watchful care of his master and friend. For some years 


the probability was that if free he would become a con- 
firmed drunkard and beggar his famil\'. The children 
were nearly grown, but had little mental capacity. For 
years Michael had vinderstood that his freedom would be 
restored to him as soon as he could control his love of 
ardent spirits. My father's intention, well understood by 
his family, was to take Michael and his children to Illinois; 
but his habitual reticence did not permit him to speak of 
those matters to a stranger. 

Henry Wilson, in his " Kise and Fall of the Slave 
Power in America," attributes to Mr. Weld the " conver- 
sion of James G. Birney to anti-slavery princiiiles." This 
is flatly contradicted by Mr. Weld in a letter to the author, 
and is inconsistent with the facts of Mr. Birney's life. 
The error, however, has been repeated until it is accepted 
by many as the truth. The effect of the profound discus- 
sions by Mr. Weld was to give Mr. Bii-ney a deeper in- 
terest in the subject of slavery and a conviction in regard 
to its removal. If he had not seen Mr. Weld, he would 
probably have removed to Illinois before the end of the 
year 1833. Having seen him, he was in a state of mind 
favorable to the acceptance of the mission offered him in 
July — to operate against slavery — and which will be the 
subject of our next chapter. Mr. Weld's visit was im- 
portant in its collateral results, and as laying the founda- 
tion of a life-long friendship, but it " converted " Mr. 
Birney to nothing. His anti-slavery principles were the 
organic growth of a lifetime, not a sudden revelation. 

A second accredited theory of this supj^osed " conver- 
sion," the conventional sudden change of heart being as- 
sumed as indispensable, is that Mr. Birney happened to 
read a stray copy of the " Liberator," and that the random 
shaft went home. With reference to this, the author 
inquired of Mr. Weld whether, in his conversations in 
Alabama with Mr. Birney, any allusion was made by 


either party to Mr. Garrison's paper. The following pas- 
sage in Mr. Weld's letter quoted from above is, I presume, 
his answer to the inquiry : " The news of Mr, CJarrison's 
" Liberator," though started some months before, had not 
yet reached Alabama. Indeed / did not myself hear of it 
until my return to Xeto York some months later,"* 

While it is certain that Mr. Birney had never seen the 
little Boston paper, it is not at all improbable that he had 
seen the " Emancipator," published in 182U, at Jonesbor- 
ough, Tenn., by Elihu Embree ; the " Genius of Universal 
Emancipation," published from 1821 to lS2-i, at Green- 
ville, Tenn., by Benjamin Lundy; and the "Abolition 
Intelligencer," published in 18:^2 and 1823. But his very 
accurate knowledge of slavery was the fruit of personal 
observation and experience ; and his repugnance to it 
grew out of an enlightened conscience, early impressions, 
education in free States, a strong sentiment of justice, 
and his conviction that it was undermining the free in- 
stitutions of the country and endangering the Union of 
the States. 

* Seventeen months ; the first number was issued January 1, 1831, 
Mr. Weld did not hear of the " Liberator " until it was nearly two years 




If any reader lias token np this memoir with the idea 
that Mr. Birney's insjDiration to work against slavery was 
instantaneous or even hurried, that he had the divine 
afflatus of one of the Hebrew prophets, or even imagined 
himself specially commissioned of God for any purpose, 
he has probably been stripped of his illusions by this nar- 
rative. Mr. Birney was a man of his time and place ; not 
superior to the limitations that restrain men generally, 
susceptible to social influences, bound to the South by 
the ties of birth and kindred, and devoted to his native 
and adopted States. In his early liberalism on the subject 
of slavery he did not differ from very many of the lead- 
ing men of Kentucky or from many of the most intelli- 
gent citizens of Alabama prior to the reign of Jackson. 
That he always desired the extinction of slavery is prob- 
able; that he did so in 1826 rests on his own testimony.* 

It would be interesting to know the names of the Ala- 
bamians who shared his anti-slavery views and who co- 
operated with him in obtaining the restrictions on slavery 
enacted in 1819, 1827, and 1832 ; but, in the lapse of time, 
the materials for the statement of them have perished or 

* See his letter on Colonization. 


arc inacccdsiblo. ^Ir. Birnoy was a very practical man as 
well as a sincere Christian. lie was prudent as well as 
bold, having regard to possibilities as well as to theories, 
and never forgetting common sense in favor of radical 
abstractions. At the time we have reached his abhorrence 
of slavery was banishing him from his native South, but 
he shuddered at the thought of the horrors he tliouglit 
would follow the general immediate abolition of slavery. 
To him, as to most Southerners, it appeared to involve 
social convulsions, the overthrow of civilization in the 
South, and the substitution of immorality and barbarism. 
His sentiment on these subjects is the key to his course 
in 1832. 

His preparations for removal to Illinois had occasioned 
very vigorous protests from his friends at Huntsville, 
which, however, did not cause him to hesitate. Early in 
July he was greatly surprised at receiving an appointment 
as an agent of the Colonization Society. Ilis district was 
to include Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, 
and Arkansas. His acceptance was urged in a highly 
coniplimentary letter from Rev. E. R. Gurley, who, among 
other kind expressions, had termed him " one of the most 
distinguished lawyers in the South." Mr. Birney answered 
it in a long letter,* dated Huntsville, Ala., July 13, 1832. 
Some extracts will interest the reader : 

The call ^ven by your society, to all appearance ^^rwiVZen^zaZ, 
added to the earnest resistance of my most esteemed religious 
friends to my project of removing from among them, has really 
staggered me not a little. 

The above passage contains perhaps the only indica- 
tion of a belief on Mr. Birney's part in the doctrine of 
special providences. Such an offer, coming unsolicited 

* The originals of this, and several other letters from J. G. Bimey to 
the Rev. Dr. Gurley, have been kindly placed in my hai'ds. 


and unexpected at the only time in his life when he would 
liave considered it, would have shaken the unbelief of the 
most incredulous. He had delayed his answer several 
days, for two reasons : First, to receive a pamphlet which 
Mr. Gurley had promised to send — 

the last annual report of the society, after the perusal of which I 
would be better informed as to its true condition and the pos- 
sibility of my being able to render essential service as an agent. 

He tells Mr. Gurley he has not yet decided to accept, 
and that there is one obstacle to his doing so — 

which I fear will be almost insurmountable. I mean the ne- 
cessity which will be imposed upon me as agent to be absent 
from home, and, of course, prevented from giving any attention 
to the education of my children for such long periods. I appre- 
hend that if I neglect the duty of educating my children, . . . 
as I must necessarily do by annual absences from home of five or 
six consecutive months, the taking upon myself of the agency 
offered would no longer be a duty. 

He writes of his having advertised his property for sale, 
" with a determination to leave the State," and gives the 
reason as follows : 

I had become so fully convinced of the corrupting influences 
of slavery on the character of the young among us, especially 
those of our sex (and six of my seven children are boys), that al- 
though born in Kentucky and always commanding the services 
of slaves, I had visited Illinois and decided to remove there. 

Of the salary offered him, he says : 

The compensation proposed, though very far inferior to my 
professional gains, is liberal. No one who would in the present 
circumstances of the society ask more would be morally qualified 
for so great a work as would devolve upon your agent. His com- 
manding motive must be to do good, because it is the will of God, 
or he will be comjiaratively unsuccessful. 

As his acceptance will be a matter of great moment to 


him und liis fumil}', he wishes to have a clear understaud- 
iug of all that will be expected of him ; and he, therefore, 
asks full answers to ten (luostions. Most of these are not 
now of interest. The lirst is as follows : 

1. Say, I spend each year from three to four months continu- 
ously in the Southern and Southwestern portions of the district, 
attending Legishitures, conferences, synods, etc., of ecclesiastical 
bodies, the rest of the j'ear in the northern part of the State and 
in the Tennessee Valley, ichere I think much may he done; and in 
the State of Tennessee, say within one hundred miles of this 
place, the excursions to be for ten, fifteen, and twenty days, with 
o})i)ortunities for frequently being at home for short periods — 
would this be a compliance, etc., with the society's rules respect- 
ing its agents ? 

The fifth is as follows : 

5. How will the society expect its agents to travel ? In the 
cheapest practicable manner, or by the ordinary modes of con- 
veyance, such as steamboats, stages, etc. ? 3Iy own opinion is 
that in the South he travel as any gentleman in good cir- 
cumstances would do not employed on an agency. He must not 
be jilaced in the attitude of one rendering thanks for what the 
community may do favorable to the society, but rather to receive 
thttnh' from the community. 

He asks to have sent to him all the annual reports, the 
proposed history of the society, the names of its members, 
the opinions of distinguished men about it, some missing 
numbers of his set of the "xVfrican Depository," and other 
documents. lie wants time at the next two or three terms 
of court to vrind up such law business as he could not 
transfer ; and time to study his subject fully. lie wishes 
to make complete preparation, believing that an agent 
" should be possessed of all the material facts in relation 
to the whole scheme of colonization, and have them so 
autlu'utieatod as to ])lace their geiniineness beyond all man- 
ner of doubt in the minds of those ui)OU whom he is to act." 


lie is evidently inclined to accept, but wishes to have 
all the light possible on the subject; and he reserves his 
decision. Toward the close he mentions difficulties, but 
adds, in his great-hearted sanguineness : " And yet I can 
not but believe that, with prudence and diligence, the 
public mind in the South may be awakened to some 
mighty effort." 

He "touches again uj^on the bright outlook in a part of 
the district : 

In the Valley of the Tennessee [he says] there is, among many 
professors of Christianity, no small feeling as to their duty to put 
their slaves in a way of final emancipation, with a view of send- 
ing them to Liberia. Their consciences are too much awakened 
again to sleep without some action. 

On the 2Gth of July Mr. Gurley wrote to Mr. Birney 
an answer to his inquiries of the 12th, and inclosing a 
commission to him as agent of the American Colonization 
Society for the Southwestern District. This letter was 
held under advisement until the 23d of August, Mr. Bir- 
ney wishing to consider " the matter calmly, dis^^assion- 
ately, and in all its aspects," before making a decision 
which would involve so great a change to himself and his 
large family. lie then accepted. He writes : 

I am now engaged in preparing myself for active operations 
by a careful study of the whole subject. . , . Facts are the strong 

weapons, and they will, if properly presented, command success 

Fine speeches, embracing generalities only, may do well enough 
for an anniversary meeting, to attract admiration to the speaker, 
but, in my humble judgment, there must be facts, the whole in 
the cause, autlienticated beyond all controversy, and exhibited 
in such a manner as to show the entire practicability of the 
scheme and its good effects upon all jxirties concerned, before 
men will be moved in masses to intelligent and persevering action 
in its favor. 

The first step that should be taken in tliis district, where 


jealousy of the society exists, from an aitprclunsion that its ob- 
ject is an interference with the rights of property, is to gain the 
good-will, at least, of the Legiahttures. This being done, the 
agent will not be looked upon in the country as '"raw head and 
bloody bones," and all undue frar of his influence uj)on the slaves 
will be removed. 

It must be borne iu mind tli:it, altbough tlio Coloniza- 
tion Society had been welcomed by many of the leading 
men in the border slave States, it was viewed with sus- 
picion and alarm by the planters in the " cotton belt," 
and had gained no substantial foothold in tlie States of 
the " far South." The letter continues : 

I have sketched out for myself the following plan : Attend 
the meeting of the Legislature of Mississippi, at Jackson, early 
in November; thence to Xcw Orleans, for the purpose of address- 
ing the Legislature of Louisiana, ... to superintend there the 
contemjilatcd expedition to Liberia ; thence to Tuscaloosa, to 
operate, if possible, upon the Legislature of this State. 

I deem it altogether important that the subject be first fully 
discussed before bodies before it is introduced elsewhere 
among the people, unless very peculiar and favorable circum- 
stances should call for a different course. To make a favorable 
imjjression upon the Legislature of Louisiana and upon the popu- 
lation of New Orleans, in which I include the planters upon the 
coast of the Mississijipi, I consider a matter of prime importance. 

The chief points in the lower part of this State are Tusca- 
loosa, jVIontgomery, Claiborne, and Mobile. The State society, 
established in 1829-'30 by Mr. Polk, has gone entirely to decay •. 
but I doubt not it can be revived. In tlie other places mentioned 
I shall endeavor to establish societies on my first visit. It is my 
intention, at present, to return to Huntsville, after visiting these 
several points in this State, and visit all the points on and near 
the Mississippi River, in January, February, and ^larch. .1 will 
leave for summer ojjerations East Tennessee and that portion of 
West Tennessee which can not be conveniently ])eiu'trated by 
steamboats. . . . The society in this place, considered by me one 


of tlie most important in the whole region, has been recently in 
rather a languid condition. ... I received all the pamphlets you 
sent me, except Mr. Carey's; it had doubtless miscarried. . . . 
Is not Mr. Carey a Roman Catholic ? also Mr. Walsh, of the 
"American Quarterly" ? Tell me the names of any other distin- 
guished Catholics who are friendly to the society. . . . Where 
will I find any approving resolutions of the Protestant Episcopal, 
of the Baptist, the Unitarian, the Roman Catholic Churches ? I 
want, if there be any such, the time, jjlace, and very words of them. 

lie asks for information about opinion in Charleston 
for the latest publications on the subject, and for facts 
with which to answer objections commonly made in the 

The letter next in order of time which has been pre- 
served bears date October 13, 1832. Mr. Birney had vis- 
ited Tennessee and lectured in three different towns. The 
chief object of the letter appears to have been to ask an 
explanation of a discrepancy in the statements of an im- 
portant fact. Mathew Carey, wliose pamphlet, published 
by the society, he had just received, stated the number of 
colonists sent to Liberia as two thousand, and the mana- 
ger, in a recent address to the people of the United States, 
had stated it at a much larger figure. He says : 

Statements on important points varying so essentially and 
made in publications favorable to the society, produce much em- 
barrassment in the mind of one desirous to impart precise infor- 
mation. In the estimates which I have made in some addresses 
which I have lately delivered, taking for their basis the docu- 
ments above mentioned, the whole number of the colonists, in- 
clusive of those sent out by the society, tliose restored to Africa 
by the Government, the natural increase, and those sent out in 
the expeditions since June, has been set down at three thousand. 
Is this within the bounds of the truth ? If it be not, I desire to 
correct it, believing that our cause will, in the long run, be in- 
jured just in proportion as the statements made in its favor are 
unsupported by facts. 


lie remits moneys collected, states that the Coloniza- 
tion Society of lluntsville had appointed a committee to 
draught a memorial to our Legislature on the subject of 
the emancipation laws of the State, and adds : 

The weight of responsibility which the society at Washing- 
ton, by leaving almost everything to my own discretion, has 
thrown upon me, I feel to be very great. ... I will within this 
mouth visit the principal places in the Tennessee Valley. 

The reader will have noticed that between the dates of 
his letters of August and October Mr. Birney has modi- 
fied his jdan of operations. He had intended to go south- 
ward in the first place, reserving Tennessee for his work 
during the next summer ; but, on more full information, 
he has already lectured in several towns in Tennessee, and 
now pro])oses to visit the valley before any other part of 
his district. In the States north of Alabama a good re- 
ception had been generally given to the advocates of col- 
onization ; but sixteen years of effort had failed to remove 
the coldness or allay the irritable jealousy toward them in 
the States of the " Cotton Belt." To employ a native of 
the South, a man of good reputation and social standing 
to present the cause was the last, the only resort. If that 
failed the cause was desperate. To influence the South it 
was important to ship many emigrants from New Orleans 
in the spring expedition. Mr. Birney thought he could 
secure them in Tennessee. 

The letters written by him from Tennessee on his 
visit to that State in the autumn of 1832 have not been 
preserved. That he was successful in securing a num- 
ber of emigrants for the intended expedition from Xew 
Orleans in April will a])pear hereafter. From Tennessee 
he returned to lluntsville. Thence he went to Tusca- 
loosa and Montgomery. His letters from those places 
are missing, but from a statement in one of December 


21st, from Mobile, wo learn that at eaeli of the three 
places he answered objections made to the society, particu- 
larly " the Southern objections, that the American Coloni- 
zation Society is a Northern institution, set on foot by 
fanatics, etc. ; that the subject ought not to be discussed 
in the slave States ; and that it has a tendency to produce 
a restless and agitated state of feeling among the slaves, 
etc." But the subject was one the discussion of which 
was not favored by the public. He writes that at his first 
meeting, Mobile, December 18th : " Quite a small audi- 
ence collected at the appointed time in one of the 

He was heard respectfully. At the close of the lecture 
some intelligent persons expressed their "great satisfac- 
tion at my manner of treating the subject." The subject 
itself, however, seemed to have no friends. A second 
meeting, appointed at the same place for the next evening, 
was attended by so very few that he did not speak. A 
third meeting was also a failure, and he abandoned his 
intention to take uj) a collection and form an auxiliary to 
the State society. In his letter he admits that " appear- 
ances here and all through the southern portions of this 
State are gloomy." 

I shall leave this place to-day on my return to Tuscaloosa and 
Huntsville. I scarcely know what opinion I could give on the 
subject of keeping up an agency in this district, or of making 
for the present any additional effort. Should Virginia act with 
efficiency at the session of her Legislature now holding, it would 
be a fact strongly tending to excite this State to some similar 
course. There is, however, a deadness to the subject of African 
colonization in this portion of Alabama which is altogether dis- 
couraging. I think something beneficial may be done in Ten- 
nessee. ... In counties where slave labor is valuable, it requires 
benevolence to keep up our caiise — Christian benevolence, the 
stock of which is exceedingly small all through this region. It 
was my intention to be in New Orleans during the session of the 


Louisiiina Lei^nslature tliis winter, but I am now doul)tful whetlier 
sucli u visit would be useful. 

The next letter is under date of " Huntsville, January, 
24, 1833." lie details the steps he has taken to have em- 
igrants for Liberia aided to reach New Orleans in time 
fur the April expedition ; * and continues : 

I have read with much satisfaction the article written by Mr. 
Harrison on the slavery (juestion in Virginia. (See 3 Afric. Kei)os.,t 
193.) It will, I apprehend, have a strong tendency to counteract 
the one-sided statements and the very unfair arguments of Mr. 
Dew. I am pleased to see the whole question concerning the 
black population of our country exciting so strong an interest 
and })rovoking such learned discussion. It will eventuate, I 
trust, in something favorable to the cause of humanity, and, of 
course, to the true honor and strength of our country. 

He announces his intention to leave next week for Xew 
Orleans, taking steamboat at Florence, and going via the 
Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. lie a 
wish to visit St. Louis, and Jacksonville, Illinois, stating 
that he has not abandoned his intention " to remove to 
Illinois, that I might rid myself and my posterity of the 
curse of slavery." 

]\Iy mind is ill at ease on tlie subject of retaining my fellow- 
creatures in servitude. I can not, nor do I believe any lionest 
mind, can reconcile the precept "Love thy neighbor as thyself " 

* Before he left for New Orleans, he did propose to his slaves to 
send thetn with the expedition ; but they all refused absolutely, being 
much frii^htened at the proposition. 

f An able defense of the Colonization Society, dehvered at Lynch- 
burg, July, 1827. One passage is noteworthy : 

" The scope of the society is large enough ; but it is in no wise 
mingled or confounded with the broad, sweeping views of a few fanatics 
in .Vmerica who would urge us on to the iniddcn and total abolition of 
slavery.'''' This arrow is aiuicd at Usborn, Lundy, Duucau, Rankin, 
Bourne, d al. 


with the purchase of the body of that neighbor and consigning 
him and his unoffending posterity to slavery, a perpetual bond- 
age, degrading and debasing him in this world, and almost ex- 
cluding him from the happiness of that which is to come. Should 
I remove from this State, I shall scud all the slaves I own to 

He proceeds to suggest the discussion of the " duty of 
Christians in regard to slavery," before the ecclesiastical 
bodies of Kentucky and Tennessee. He says : 

Could the Christian community, or even a respectable part of 
it, be aroused to what, I believe — nay, to what I hnoic — to be 
their duty in this matter, one might almost say of this great 
work of humanity, "/i( isjhiislied.'''' 

He adds : 

If I do [visit Illinois this spring] my object will be to make 
preparations for a removal — perhaps, within a year. ... I 
am anxious to have an opportunity of discussing it [colonization] 
before the Legislature [of Louisiana]. 

His next letter is from New Orleans, under date of 
l^Iarch 18, 1833. His proposition to call a public meeting 
was discouraged as injudicious by the president of the 
State Colonization Society, who represented the state of 
public sentiment as unfavorable. The society had held 
no meeting since its first organization, had appointed no 
executive committee, and collected no funds. He suc- 
ceeded at length in holding a meeting, Sunday evening, in 
IVIr. Clapp's church, A large congregation assembled, and 
listened in a respectful and attentive manner. 

The blacks, both free and slave, were permitted to be present. 
But I could not rouse the society into action, although there 
seemed to be, without exception, indicidwil approbation of what 
had been said. . . . The president of the society was present 
at neither of the addresses. ... I am much afraid that our 
cause will languish unto death here. I know not what to do to 


revive it. . . . They are most deplorably inert. ... I 
shall leave to-morrow for Natchez, where also, I fear, tilings are 
in a languishing state, as I have been informed an unsuccessful 
attempt has been made to secure [a hall for] the regular annual 
meeting of the society at that place. 

Of tlic prospect at Xcw Orleans, he says : " It is 
gloomy enough, yet not so much so as to unnerve us alto- 

Under date of " New Orleans, April 8, 1833," he gives 
an account of his trip to Natchez and Port Gibson, and of 
his lectures at those places. The Xatchez society was in 
good hands and prosperous ; it had sixteen hundred dollars 
in its treasury. lie spoke twice on Sunday — in the after- 
noon, in the Presbyterian church, to a good audience; 
and in the evening, in the Methodist church, to a very 
large one. The result was collections amounting to four- 
teen hundred dollars. The meeting at Port Gibson was 
not large, owing to heavy rains. The collections amounted 
to about sixty dollars. He then hastened to New Orleans, 
met there one hundred and forty-eight emigrants bound 
to Liberia, and chartered a vessel for their transportation. 
He writes : " I am making great exertions to attract public 
attention to the sailing of this expedition ; but the apathy 
here ujion the subject of colonization is almost discourag- 

In a long letter of April 13, 1833, full of suggestions 
and business details, he writes : 

I have determined on returning to Huntsville immediately 
after dispatching the pending expedition, and on publishing? in 
our "Gazette," in weekly numbers of a column or two thirds of 
a column each, the views 1 liave generally presented in my public 
addresses. I trust tliat arrangements can be made for tlieir re- 
publication throughout all my district. 

Those essays he exjiects to issue in pamphlet form for 
circulation among members of the diii'erent .State Legis- 


latures, '■'■ bodies from which alone in the South any effect- 
ual aid can be expected.'''' 

It is evident he lias already given up all hope of suc- 
cess from the action of societies formed at the South. 
Under date of April 15, 1833, he expresses the opinion — 

that the remarks contained in the latter part of Mr. Finley's 
address at the last anniversary will do injury to our cause at the 
South. ... To call the slave-holders — even that class of them 
who are willing to perpetuate the odious relation which my soul 
liates — indeed, to call any description of persons who may be 
opposed to us enemies, to treat them as such by hard names, to 
push them into the ranks of an unrelenting oj)position, is not, in 
my judgment, calculated to promote our success. Rather let us, 
as those are wont to do who are conscious of having a good cause, 
try to convince opposers by forbearance and kindness and sober 
argument that they are wrong, and thus persuade them to be- 
come our friends and co-operators. 

April 20th. — The brig Ajax, with one hundred and 
fifty emigrants, dropped down the river. She sailed April 
23d. On the day last named, Sunday, an afternoon meet- 
ing at Mr. Clapp's church, for which Mr. Birney had made 
all the necessary arrangements, gaining the promise of 
three distinguished gentlemen to speak, advertising it by 
placards and in the newspapers, " failed utterly." " The 
gentleman who was to submit the first resolution " was 
absent. " The other two who were to introduce the sec- 
ond and third resolutions declined going on with the ad- 
dresses." He thinks that " but little must be asked in the 
way of personal effort " from professed colonizationists at 
Xew Orleans. There is no popularity to be obtained by 
openly espousing the cause of colonization." But " in the 
older parts of Mississippi there is a better spirit in all 
benevolent things than in this region." 

The cholera broke out on the steamboat on which he 
took passage to the mouth of the Tennessee. " The boat," 


he says, " was like a hospital for cholera patients." Reach- 
ing lluntsville early in ^lay, he began the pre])aration of 
liis essays on colonization, intended for republication in 
the Southern newspapers. This work was interrupted by 
a trip to Kentucky between the 5th and 2Gth of June, 
intended to establisli " entire co-operation " l)etween the 
Kentucky Colonization Society and those of his district. 
All public meetings in that State were prevented by the 
sudden jirevalence of cholera, lleturning through Xash- 
ville, he took ste2)s there to secure the circulation by all 
the colonization societies in Tennessee of petitions to the 
State Legislature for i)ecuniary aid, and engaged to attend 
the anniversary of the State society to be held in October 
at Nashville during the meeting of the Legislature. On 
this trip he made a short visit to his father, and for this 
reason declined to charge to the society any part of his 
traveling expenses.* 

In a letter of June 29, 1833, he makes a suggestion for 
the consideration of tlie board of managers. The follow- 
ing extracts will sliow its character : 

Proposition : Our great object is to call into effect tie poicers of 
the nation. IIoid can this most surely le done ? AVe have been try- 
ing it since the first institution of the Colonization Society with- 
out success, by appealing directly to Congress. . . . We have 
always met with defeat, and we have always roused Southern 
prejudice. Shall we go on in the same way ? 

The chief cause of the defeat, he thinks, is that the 
method pursued has excited " jealousy and suspicions of a 
settled intention to force Congress to legislate upon a sub- 
ject which the South has declared must remain untouched 
by national legislation." He advises ceasing the direct 
application to Congress : 

* Though he passed through Lexington, his letters make no mention 
of any visit to Ilcm y Clay. 


"We may tlien press upon the individual States to make appro- 
priations. We may, Avhen we have their full confidence, excite 
them to exertion singly ; and having their good icill, if their own 
resources should be insufficient, they will be the very organs of 
carrying their and our wishes before Congress, and of pressing 
upon it for assistance to accomplish them. ... I verily believe 
this is the speediest way of reaching Congress successfully, and 
the best for doing service to our country whose safety is now 
jeoparded, if I mistake not, by the indiscretion and fury of 
Northern abolitionists and the (plots) of Southern nullijiers. . . . 
I have been heretofore always in favor of applications to Con- 
gress ; I am now satisfied I was wrong. Sir, this Union is 
precious to me. If it be destroyed the world may mourn, for its 
liberty is lost. 

On the otli of August he writes to Mr. Gurley : 
Yet sometimes I fear that the South will do nothing until it 
is too late, as it will be in ten years from this. 

About the same date he began the publication in tlie 
" Huntsville Democrat " of a series of newspaper articles 
on colonization. The editor of that sheet said in intro- 
ducing them : " We give place to the communications of 
our respected fellow-citizen James G. Birney, Esq., with 
great pleasure. It is a subject upon which it becomes 
every man to form an opinion, and the materials for 
forming a correct one can nowhere be found in a more 
agreeable form than they will be made to assume in the 
short essays of Mr. Birney." 

The general drift of these essays is apparent in the fol- 
lowing extracts : 

They saw their country suffering under an evil proved by in- 
disputable testimony coming from all parts of it to be great. . . . 
Our country, especially that portion known as the slave-holding 
States, is laboring under a "great and growing moral and po- 
litical disease." 

To the objection that the plan originated in the free 
States, he answers : 


Shall prejudice so narrow as this persuade us to lay aside a 
soheiue salutary and ])rotitable in itself because its inventors have, 
by the jjrovidence of God, their jjlaces of residence in the North 
or East ? Heretofore we have acted a wiser part ; we did not 
say to Whitney, the ingenious inventor of the cotton-gin, " You 
are from the laud of steady habits." 

lie admits that tlie abolitionists are "found almost 
exclusively iu the free States," but claims that the leading 
ones are hostile to colonization. In proof he cites the 
charges made by Mr. Garrison against the society in his 
" Thoughts on Colonization," and quotes from the review 
of that pamphlet in the June number, 1832, of the quar- 
terly " Christian Spectator." 

In his fourth number he refers to "a more recent 
review " in the " Spectator " " of the rhapsodies of Mr. 
Garrison," etc., and makes a quotation from it.* 

In his fifth he says : 

If, on the other hand, to furnish the owner, in the good con- 
duct of the slave, every motive to feel benevolently toward him, 

*In the number for January, 1833, of the "African Repository," 
which paper Mr. Birney read, Rev. Mr. Gurley replies to an article in the 
" Liberator." We make a few extracts ; 

" He " (Mr. Garrison) " states that, in June last, in Philadelphia, he 
put a copy of his ' Thoughts ' into my hand, and that ' a review of it was 
then promised — a triumphant, destructive review ' — and exclaims : 
' After six months, behold the result ! ' It is true that Mr. Garrison very 
obligingly presented me with his book; but in regard to the other part 
of the statement, I apprehend he has been indebted (as I fear he is in 
some other cases) to his imagination for his fact. . . . Mr. Garrison pro- 
nounces the charge that he vilifies the South totally false." Mr. Gurley 
says : " Having selected certain passages from the writings of such men 
as Messrs. Clay, Harper, Mercer, Harrison, of Virginia, Rev. Dr. Cald- 
well, of North Carolina, and others, he exclaims : ' Ye crafty calculators ! 
Ye hard-hearted, incorrigible sinners ! Ye greedy and relentless rob- 
bers ! Ye contemners of justice and mercy I Ye trembling, pitiful, pale- 
faced usurpers, my soul spurns you with unspeakable .^^isgust !' " 
(" Thoughts," p. 107.) 


to treat him kindly, and at last to let him go free, bestowing 
upon him a share of that "wherewith the Lord his God has 
blessed " the master— if, I say, this be to favor emancipation, the 
society can offer no plea but that of "guilty" to the charge. So 
fully do I trust to the efficacy of this process in the States of 
Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee that all that is 
wanting, in my judgment, to disburden them of slavery in a 
reasonable time, is means to defray the cost of a comfortable 
conveyance to a safe and pleasant home of all slaves who may be 
offered by their owners for removal. ... I would not venture 
the opinion that there would, in tMs way, be any sudden extin- 
guishment of slavery in those States, but it would not be hazard- 
ing my reputation for forecast to say that it would be continually 
approaching its termination. 

He proceeds to combat the idea of trying the experi- 
ment of abolition before every other feasible plan is tried ; 
and he lays down a general proposition, " that there is in 
society an inherent power for self-preservation, which it is 
authorized to use /or tlie removal ofamj evil that in its na- 
ture tends to produce social dissolution, although it may 
be unavoidable that another evil be introduced, instead of 
the one removed, provided it be of less magnitude." 

This was a two-edged sword, and it gave great offense, 
as asserting the legislative right to remove slavery. 

In his seventh number he assents to the proposition 
that " the evil of a settled, self -perpetuating system, by 
which a large and increasing number of our race are, 
through all ages, to be debarred of rights declared to be 
indestructible is greater than any evil affecting the gen- 
eral welfare to be produced by their liberation among us " ; 
thinks the South is in a situation " which it is desirable 
to change ; and examines the duty of a slave-holder uneasy 
under the operation of conscientious scruples and desirous 
of releasing himself from the relation of master." He re- 
fers to slavery as " that hydra which, with bloody crest, 
has been well-nigh crushing to death, in its horrid folds, 


the ripening manhood of our country " ; and expresses the 
opinion that " benevolence and wisdom, if properly led on, 
will, at length, enable every part of this enlightened land 
to see that to her greatest strength and highest liappiness 
slavery must, in the nature of tilings, be ever opposed — 
and to throw off the foul clog by which she has been en- 
cumbered as the leader of the nations in their march to 
freedom." i 

It may be easily imagined what a stir and excitement 
these articles caused among Southern politicians. They 
Avere without precedent in the annals of the press of the 
Gulf States. Though opposed to instantaneous, they 
strongly advocated gradual abolition. And they were 
written by a native Soiitherner! A man of standing! 
The first two or three were copied from the Huntsville 
" Democrat " by a great many slave-State papers ; but, as 
the series went on, the number of copying papers fell off; 
at the seventh number there were none ; and the " Demo- 
crat " itself refused the eighth, for prudential reasons ! ! 
The Alabama press was closed to Mr. Birney. The Gulf 
States had refused to hear his appeal. He was forced to 
the conclusion that if he wished to pry up slavery from 
its deep foundations, he must seek farther north for a 
place to plant his lever. 

In a letter to ^Ir. Gurley, under the date of September 
14th, 1833, Mr. Birney writes : 

How greatly shall I be pleased to see you personally, that 
I might communicate to you more fully than I can in a letter the 
results of my observations in the South. The truth is ojypaUing 
to every friend of the Union. . . . Yet I fear I should have noth- 
insf to communicate that would encourage the friends of coloni- 
zation and humanity. I have been greatly disappointed in the 
insensibility of the religious community on the subject of slavery. 
So far from sending their slaves to Liberia, the greater part are 
not slow to justify slavery in our circumstances. ... I must 
give you my opinion candidly as to our prospects in the 


South. I fear nothing effectual will be done here for getting rid 
of slavery until the evil shall cure itself. The only effectual way 
that seems open to my view is the withdrawal of Virginia (or 
Maryland or Kentucky) from the slave States, hy the adoption of 
some scheme of emancipation. Should this be done, the whole 
system of slavery in the United States would, from the very 
pressure of public opinion, be brought — and that in a few years 
— in shivers to the ground. In projDortion as the slave-holding 
territory is weakened in political influence, it will be weakened 
in the power of withstanding the force of public sentiment ; and 
the last State in which slavery shall exist — although its slaves, as 
property, may be hedged around by laws and constitutions, and 
absolutely intangible — yet will it be perfectly odious. ... I 
assure you, sir, I have no hope for the South. . . . There is no 
escape but in doing that which I am almost certain will not be 

What I would now suggest would be, to press icith every 
energy upon Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky for emancipation 
and colonisation. If one of those States be not detached from 
the number of slave-holding States, the slave question must inevi- 
tally dissolve the Union, and that before very long. Should Vir- 
ginia (or Maryland or Kentucky) leave them, the Union will be 
safe, though the sufferings of the South will be almost unto 
death. Indeed, I am by no means certain but that Lower Mis- 
sissippi and the country bordering on the Gulf of Mexico will 
ultimately be peopled almost entirely by blacks. 

In the same letter he gives notice that the official con- 
nection between him and the Colonization Society will 
cease on the 15th of the following Xovembep. 

On the 14th of the following October he was present 
at a meeting at Xashville of the Tennessee Colonization 
Society. He writes : 

Many members of the Legislature, then in session, were pres- 
ent. The meeting was held in the Representatives' Hall, which 
was so crowded that many who came to hear were unable to get 
into the room. I spoke for about an hour and a half, and, going 
beyond what I had done or could with propriety do south of 


Tennessee, I assumed the position that shivery must not be rc- 
j^arded as a jK-rmaiient condition among us ; and I attempted to 
show that there are causes now in very active operation to bring 
it to a termination. . . . My propositions were so much bokler 
than they had ever been elsewliere that I was pre})ared to expect 
some comphiint from the timid and indolent lovers of slavery. 
But there was none at all. 

lie spoke also to crowded houses at Gallatin, Franklin, 
and Elkton. lie writes : 

It is my sincere belief that the South, at least that part of it 
in wliich I have been operating, has within the last year become 
very manifestly more and more indurated on the subject of 
slavery. . . . They (the planters) are as blind to the natural 
rights of theii- slaves as the whites of the AYest Indies ever were. 

With his Tonnessee trip, and tlie promotion of peti- 
tions from all parts of his district to the State Legislatures 
for pecuniar}' aid to the Colonization Society, his oflicial 
relations to it came to an end. In a letter written about 
this time to Mr. Gurlcy he says: 

I am pleased to see all engines at irorTc, for the extirpation of 
slavery from our land. I believe the condition of slavery to be 
altogether unchristian, and that therefore its tendency is to our 
ruin as a people. 

About the 15th of November, 1832, he removed from 
Alabama to his native county in Kentucky, and estab- 
lished his home a mile and a half from Danville, on a pur- 
chased farm of one hundred and thirty acres, immediately 
adjoijiing his father's. 



His reasons for removing to Kentucky are best given 
in the following extract from a letter, dated November 27, 
1833, to a friend, Gerrit Smith, of New York : 

Two years and a half ago, while residing in the State of Ala- 
bama, mj- mind became greatly aroused to the sin of slave- hold- 
ing. This, aided by the malignant influence that I saw slavery 
exerting upo n my ch ildren, determined me to -visit Illinois for 
the purpose of removing thither, of there pursuing my profession, 
and of liberating the few slaves that I had. I authorized a friend 
of mine to purchase property for me in Jacksonville. The owner 
of it refused to sell. Mrs. Birney, whose health has always been 
delicate, was somewhat averse, after residing so long at the 
South, to try so high a latitude and to fall in with habits and 
modes of life so different from those to which she had been ac- 
customed. My father, who is considerably advanced in age and 
a cripple, too, was anxious for me, his only son, to return to 
Kentucky and reside in this neighborhood near him. To all 
these considerations, which I will not say would have been insuffi- 
cient in tliemselves, another was added of commanding impor- 
tance — I looked upon it as the lest site in our whole country for 
talcing a stand against slavery. 

He and his family were received with open arms by 
their numerous relatives and connections and the people 
of ^Mercer County. If he had desired preferment in the 
political world, he was at that time in a position to ob- 


tain it easily. He was in good circumstauces, an only 
son, and the prospective heir to half of a large estate ; his 
experience in pnblic business and legal practice had been 
varied ; he was always a good speaker, often an eloquent 
one ; he was personally popular ; he belonged to an influ- 
ential family which ramified into all parts of Kentucky; 
and no act of public notoriety had as yet separated him 
from the dominant party in the State. His entry into 
politics would have much gratified his father. 

Before he left Alabama he had written to the slave- 
holders in Kentucky, who in 18o()-'31 had pledged them- 
selves to gradual emancipation, urging them to issue a call 
for a convention at Lexington to form a State society. 
The call was issued. The time named was the Gth of De- 
cember. Ilardly had he reached his new home when he 
saw in person or wrote to every Kentucky slave-holder 
likely to join in the movement. At that time he was san- 
guine of success. The whole number of slaves of all ages 
in the State did not exceed one hundred and sixty-eight 
thousand. Under the unceasing agitation of abolition, 
since the formation, about 1807, of the Kentucky Aboli- 
tion Society by Presbyterian and Baptist preachers— by 
James Duncan, John Eankin, John Finley Crowe, R. J. 
Breckenridge,and others; by the "Abolition Intelligencer," 
the " Western Luminary," and " Russellville Messenger " ; 
and by the advocates of the convention to change the Con- 
stitution, the per cent of increase of slaves, which had been 
99 between 1800 and 1810 and 57 in the next decade, had 
been lowered to 20^ in the decade ending with 1830 ; and 
forty-eight slave-holders of influence and standing had in 
1831 publicly declared their intention to accomplish grad- 
ual emancipation in the State. The hour to strike the 
final blow at the decaying institution of slavery seemed to 
Mr. Birney to have arrived. 

That the blow had been too long deferred soon became 


evident to liim. Tlie answers by the reformers of 1831 to 
his letter were generally unsatisfactory. Some of these 
gentlemen avowed a change of opinion, and others de- 
clined to attend or had doubts or thought the convention 
ill timed. A few were willing to attend, but hoped the 
proceedings would be marked with great prudence. Only 
nine persons, all slave-holders, were present at the conven- 
tion. A prolonged discussion elicited many facts which 
were new to Mr. Birney. It appeared that, within the 
two preceding years, a number of secret societies, com- 
posed of members of both political parties, had been 
formed in different parts of the State for the ostensible 
object of protecting the constitutional rights of the slave 
States from the encroachments of the Xorth ; that, in the 
newspapers and in debates and political speeches, the ex- 
istence in the national Constitution of guarantees for 
slavery was widely asserted ; that a jealous sectional feel- 
ing was in process of formation ; that many persons were 
justifying slavery from the Bible as well as on political 
grounds ; that the acquisition of Texas, " peaceably if we 
can, forcibly if we must," was gaining friends ; and that, 
because of the closer organization and aggressive position 
of the large slave-holders, freedom of discussion and action 
in . regard to slavery was greatly narrowed down every- 
where in the State and that emancipationists were sub-s 
jected to social ostracism more or less severe. The result 
of the deliberations was the formation of a society upon 
the principle of emancipating the future offspring of 
slaves at the age of twenty-one. This fell very far short 
of Mr. Birney's expectations ; but he succeeded in obtain- 
ing the adoption of a clause admitting to membership non- 
slave-holders who Avould pledge themselves to promote 
gradual emancipation. The meetings of the convention 
were public, and were continued through two days with- 
out interference. The mob period had not then begun in 


Kentucky. After its tuljuuniniciit ^Ir. IJirney dcvotoci 
himsL'lf for a short time to obtiiiiiing members and organ- 
izing auxiliaries. I^ectures, private correspondence, essays 
for several Kentucky newspapers whose columns were 
open to him, and reading the abundant literature of tlie 
subject, absorbed his attention and energies. 

From the time of his removal from Alabama he en- 
tered upon the most thorough study of the history of 
slavery, of the institution as it existed in the West Indies 
and the United States, and of all the efforts to ameliorate 
or abolish it. For this purpose he obtained a large num- 
ber of British, American, and French books and pam- 
phlets on the subject, both anti-slavery and pro-slavery, 
both for and against gradualism. lie gave special atten- 
tion to the results of British legislation for the regulation 
of slavery in the West India islands, reading carefully not 
only the parliamentary debates and reports relating to 
tlu'iii, but the essays, treatises, and books of travels by 
private persons Avho had visited the islands, and several 
volumes of the " Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter," which 
he sent for to London. Among the works kept on his 
table were " Four Essays on Colonial Slavery," by John 
Jeremy, Esq. ; " An Outline for Immediate Emancipa- 
tion," by Charles Stuart ; Clarkson's " Thoughts " ; George 
Thompson's "Three Lectures on Colonial Slavery"; 
" Facts proving the Good Conduct and Prosperity of 
Emancipated Negroes"; "The Abolitionist's Catechism," 
abridged, published at Bristol, England, in 1830. Wilber- 
force's "Appeal," Clarkson's " History," and several others 
had been in his library many years. (See Appendix A.) 

Though he had been prepossessed by the " rhapsodies 
of Garrison " against Northern abolitionism as unfair in 
argument and malevolent in feeling, he was too li])eral 
and just not to hear that side. lie accordingly subscribed 
for the " New York Evangelist," a Presbyterian or Con- 


gregationalist weekly, and, being pleased with its tone, 
temper, and ability, he added to it the " Emancipator " 
(Xew York), the organ of the American Anti-Slavery 
Society. It was not long before he subscribed to the dif- 
ferent publications of that society, and learned to appre- 
ciate the moderation, candor. Christian spirit, liberality, 
firmness, and devotion to truth with which they were 
conducted. He received and read the poet Whittier's 
admirable tract entitled "Justice and Expediency; or 
Slavery considered with a View to its Rightful and Effect- 
ual Remedy, Abolition " ; Elizur Wright's " Sin of Slav- 
ery and its Remedy " ; Beriah Green's " Four Sermons," 
preached at Western Reserve College in 1832 ; and sundry 
other anti-slavery tracts of the day. Of American anti- 
slavery books, he procured those of Bourne (181G), Ken- 
rick (1816), Torrey (1817), Duncan (1824), Rankin (1824), 
Stroud (1827), and Phelps (1833). For Whittier, as a 
man and reasoner, he conceived a high esteem, which 
ripened into friendship during their intimacy in later 
years; of Rankin, he always spoke with respect; and to 
the Rev. A. A. Phelps, pastor of the Pine Street Church, 
Boston, and author of " Lectures on Slavery and its Rem- 
edy," he gave the praise of having produced the most full 
and satisfactory argument contained in American works 
on the subject. A paper that had great weight with him 
was the one signed in 1833 by one hundred and twenty- 
four clergymen of different denominations, stating reasons 
for repudiating colonizationism, and indorsing immediate 
abolition ; it was reprinted as a preface to Phelps's lect- 
ures. He made also an exhaustive study of legal decisions 
in England and the United States and of the national 
and State Constitutions on questions touching slavery, 
and framed his argument that freedom is national, and 
slavery local only. 

In February, 1834, the famous debate at Lane Semi- 


nary on slavery began, having been suggested and pro- 
moted by Arthur Tappan, wlio was the most generous 
benefactor of the seminary, and wlio, in the preceding 
December, had become president of the newly organized 
American Anti-Slavery Society (Appendix C). It was 
continued through eighteen sittings, held at intervals, and 
closing in April. It was the most able and thorough dis- 
cussion of the subject ever held in this country, Tlie 
participants were eighty students of theology. In age 
they ranged from twenty-one to thirty-five. Some of 
them had been lecturers for religious and benevolent so- 
cieties. A few were noted as i)latform-speakers. Of 
these, Henry B. Stanton was one of the best. The leader, 
however, was Theodore D. Weld. He had already gained 
a reputation throughout the West and Southwest for ef- 
fective oratory. As a speaker on temperance and educa- 
tion, he had no equal. Profoundly religious in tempera- 
ment, sympathetic with all human emotion, nobly simple 
in manner, free from thought of self, he touched the 
springs of the human heart with a sure hand. Xo revival- 
ist—not even Finney or Moody — could bear his hearers 
to such heights of passion or through such a wide range of 
feeling. They wept or laughed with him, and did not sus- 
pect that they had listened to one of Nature's greatest ora- 
tors until they remembered that no one had ever before so 
moved them, and felt a consciousness of living on a higher 
plane than before they had heard him. His diction was 
copious, and his language so apt that every thought found 
natural expression. Poetry, pathos, and humor gave va- 
riety to his eloquence, and purity and love were its atmos- 
phere. He catered to no prurient taste ; uttered no mal- 
ice ; sharpened no phrase so that its venomed point might 
rankle in another's breast. He was incapable of hate; 
his great soul was full of compassion for the oppressor 
and oppressed. Secretary Stanton and Wendell Phillips 


pronounced him the foremost orator of liis time; they 
might have added, " and one of the greatest men." He 
had none of the vanity of leadership, no egotism, no pre- 
tentiousness. He had been an abolitionist from boyhood, 
liad traveled through the South, and was well informed 
in regard to the nature and effects of slavery. His knowl- 
edge and pervasive influence informed the Lane Seminary 
debate, lifting it to the height of its subject. As it pro- 
gressed, its results were published in the "Journal," a 
Cincinnati religious weekly, to which Mr. Birney was a 
subscriber. When in May the Lane Seminary students, 
burning with enthusiasm and well equipped with argu- 
ments, set out to abolitionize the Xorthwest, they carried 
with them the sympathies of the leading emancipationist 
in Kentucky. 

It is impossible to trace with accuracy each step of the 
slow advance of Mr. Birney to immediatism. All the 
prejudices of his youth and early manhood, gained in 
Kew Jersey and Pennsylvania, were in favor of gradual 
emancipation, if effected by compulsory legislation. That 
method of reaching ultimate abolition had been successful 
in the Middle and Eastern States, and had seemed to him 
the most expedient one for the border slave States. Such 
a measure could be made effective by State legislation 
only ; and he appears to have regarded it as a political 
result to be accomplished under a changed state of public 
opinion. After a public advocacy of gradualism extending 
through a few weeks only, he became convinced that the 
political classes were deaf to all appeals on the subject, 
and that the active men of both national parties were for 
the first time united in opposition to any discussion of it. 
Nor could he make any impression on slave-holders by 
arguments addressed to the selfish principle. In a letter 
of this date to Gerrit Smith, then a gradualist and coloni- 
zationist, he savs : 


"We may take the Kentucky slave-liolder, having, say, fifty 
shivcs ; show him from tlie undisputed statistics of our country 
tlie advantages enjoyed by Oliio over liis own State ; prove to 
liim tluit it is owing to free labor and nothing else ; you may 
further, by comparing his number of slaves with their arjfjregate 
in the whole State, demonstrate to him what is his individxud 
loss ; and it will, I apprehend, all amount to nothing. He will 
admit all your facts, that your calculations are correct and your 
" answers " undeniable. Yet he will reply to you, "Sir, I am 
willing, for the sake of my ease and the indulgence of those 
habits in which I have been educated, to pay the sum that you 
have so satisfactorily shown I shall lose by remaining a slave- 
holder." "With such a man, using such a weapon, you can not 
proceed a step further ; he fails you completely. 

On more thorongh study of the subject, he became 
conviuced that a gradual emancipation law in Kentucky 
would result not in the increase of the number of freed- 
mcn, but in the sales to the cotton-raising States of nearly 
all the prospective f reedmen ; that immediate abolition 
would be less dangerous to society and the labor supply 
in the Gulf States than freeing the slaves in classes, say, 
of ten thousand each, and attempting to maintain the 
free and slave labor systems side by side ; and, in short, 
that gradual emancipation would not work in practice as 
well as immediate abolition. To do justice was tlie high- 
est expediency. 

As his speeches were generally made in Presbyterian 
churches, they were naturally addressed rather to religious 
than political motives. 

Ilis arguments to public audiences became more and 
more based on the sinfulness of slavery. He was too 
clear a reasoner not to be conscious of the discrepancy 
between this premise and the conclusion that slavery 
might be continued. The more he thought and spoke on 
gradualism, the more sensible he became of his entangle- 
ment in what was not only bad logic, but false theology. 


His powerful appeals led several slave-holders to give deeds 
of manumissiou to their slaves, and each act of this kind 
tended to convince him of the hollowness of gradualism, 
and to encourage him to have more faith in the might of 
the truth. In a letter to Gerrit Smith, written just after 
he had embraced immediatism, he says : 

The only means of succeeding at all is to apply the irliole truth 
to the conscience. If less be done, it will be as inefficient as 
■would be the preaching of gradual and partial repentance toward 
God. Let there be set up a principle false or unsound in any of 
its parts ; under the false or unsound part slave-holders as well 
as sinners will take refuge. ... If gradual emancipation be in- 
sisted on, the conscience of the slave-holder is left undisturbed, 
and you gain nothing. 

About the first of June, having complied with the 
Kentucky law requiring a bond with sureties, to indem- 
nify the State and county against bad conduct or pauper- 
ism on the part of persons manumitted, he gave a deed of 
emancipation to each of his six slaves. Each paper was 
witnessed by his two oldest sons, and delivered in the 
presence of the assembled family. 

His freed people were strongly attached to him. 
They remained with him on wages until he left Kentucky. 
They were a family of five — Michael, his wife, son, and 
two daughters. Also a mulatto child of six years of age. 
The son he apprenticed to an Ohio blacksmith, and for 
one of the daughters he obtained the place of housemaid 
in a respectable family. The little mulatto girl was ap- 
prenticed to him until her majority. He took her, in 1835, 
with the family to Cincinnati, gave her a good common- 
school education, and had her taught to be a seamstress. 
All of them became respectable working people. To 
Michael he gave for his life work as a slave the wages of 
a free laborer, with interest on the amount for each year. 
With Michael's consent, this sum was invested for him in 


stocking a livery stable at Louisville. In this new busi- 
ness Michael was skillful, ke^it his temperance pledge faith- 
fully, and prospered. 

Two years after this act of justice he was cruelly slan- 
dered by W. L. Stone, Esq., editor of a New York paper. 
Mr. Stone had been, up to 18;:i8, a prominent member of 
the Biennial Conventions to Promote the Abolition of 
Slavery. On the election of General Jackson, he aban- 
doned that organization, and distinguislied himself by his 
hostility to his former associates and their coadjutors. So 
long as he contined himself to general invective he was 
not noticed, but when he made a specific charge Mr. Bir- 
ney wrote him a letter. Mr. Stone refused to publish it, 
and it appeared in the " Emancipator." It is reprinted 
here as the only authentic statement of the matter in ques- 
tion. (See Appendix D.) 

At the time of his removal from Alabama he had lost 
all faith in colonization as a means for the extinction of 
slavery. He did not attend the anniversary meeting of 
the National Colonization Society or the annual meeting, 
in January, of the Kentucky auxiliary. In his absence he 
was elected one of the vice-presidents of the latter, an 
honor of which he was not officially notified. As he did 
not hesitate in his public addresses to allude to the ineffi- 
cacy of colonizatiouism to meet the exigencies then press- 
ing upon the State and country, the change in his opin- 
ions became noised abroad, and inspired no little anxiety 
among the friends of that cause. One of these, Mr. Peers, 
formerly president of Transylvania University, published 
early in 1834 a prospectus for a colonization paper to be 
issued at Lexington. Having relied in some degree on 
Mr. Birney's influence to support it, he was disturbed by 
the reports of his change of opinion, and went to Danville 
for the purpose of ascertaining the truth in a personal con- 
ference. He was treated with frankness and, being at 


heart opposed to slavery, was so shaken by Mr. Birney's 
arguments that on returning home he recalled his pro- 
spectus and abandoned his project. The reasons for his 
course becoming known, some of the Kentucky papers 
mentioned the fact that Mr. Birney was one of the vice- 
presidents of the Kentucky Colonization Society. To re- 
lieve himself from this false position, he wrote out, early in 
May, his resignation. As first written, it was expressed 
in about twenty lines. He had not mailed it when he 
received a letter from a friend at Paris, Ky., suggest- 
ing that a full statement of his reasons was due to his 
former associates. This was followed by a paragraph in 
the " Luminary," expressing the desire of many Presby- 
terians to know his objections to colonization ; and this 
was copied and approved by several religious journals in 
the North. Yielding to these requests, he threw aside his 
first letter and wrote a second and longer one. This, too, 
was nothing but a resignation of oflUce, with reasons as- 
signed. It fell short of what was wanted, and went into 
the waste basket. As he wrote, the fire within him 
burned ; and he took up his pen again and wrote the well- 
known pamphlet which, under the unpretending title of 
"Letter on Colonization," is a most touching, cogently 
reasoned, and powerful appeal to the American people for 
suffering millions and an imperiled Eepublic. It first ap- 
peared in the " Western Luminary," was copied into a 
large number of Xorthern journals, including all the larg- 
er anti-slavery papers proper, and was immediately repub- 
lished in a large edition in ^^amphlot form by the Ameri- 
can Anti-Slavery Society.* 

It appeared July 15, 1834, in Lexington, Ky. The 
time was opportune. Public attention throughout the 

* Many subscqueiit editions were issued in New York and elsewhere, 
and the pamphlet kept its place in anti-slavery bookstores up to 1861. 


coimtry liiid been druwu to the slavery quesliou by tlie 
Lane Seminary debate and the subsequent lectures in the 
"Western States by more than fifty of the students ; by the 
imminence of the emancipation of 8U0,000 slaves in the 
West Indies (it was fixed by law for the 1st of August) ; 
by the riotous proceedings, July 4th, to prevent David 
Paul Brown from delivering an abolition speech in New 
York city ; and by the Chatham Street riots, the sacking 
of Lewis Tappan's house, and the mobs against the col- 
ored peoj)le, all of which had kept New York City in tur- 
moil from the 4th to the 12th of July. These mobs were 
fomented by politicians and led by slave-holders, and they 
had stirred the nation to its depths. The Tappans and 
their co-laborers at New York were in danger of their 
lives. They issued, July 17th, a circular, correcting the 
common misrepresentation of their princiijles ; but their 
houses and persons were still under guard when the " Let- 
ter on Colonization " was republished in the Eastern cities, 
including New York. Its effect on public opinion was al- 
most nuirvelous. To the Tappans, the calm, fearless 
voice from Kentucky was as welcome as the sound of the 
Scotch slogan in the distance was to the beleaguered garri- 
son of Lucknow. It was an appeal by a Christian states- 
num ; it was the first of the kind by a native Southerner ! 
The enthusiasm it excited may be imagined, when a rev- 
erend doctor of divinity, Samuel II. Coxe, of Brooklyn, 
N. Y., could say of it : "A Birney has shaken the conti- 
nent by putting down his foot ; and his fame will be en- 
vied before his arguments are answered or their force for- 
gotten." From this date James G. Birney had a national 
reputation, and was regarded as the leading representative 
of conservative anti-slavery statesmanshipo 


July, 1834, to April, 1835. 

At the time of writing the " Letter," Mr. Birney was 
not a member of any anti-slavery society or in corresjoond- 
ence with Northern abolitionists. It was not long, how- 
ever, before they sought him out. The first to visit him 
was Henry B. Stanton, of Ohio. Then came Prof. 
Mahan from the same State ; and, after him, Charles 
Stuart, of England. Each of these spent from one to 
three days under his roof. About the same time, he made 
a very short visit to Cincinnati, where he saw Weld, Wat- 
tles, Thome, Morgan, Eobiuson, and a few others of the 
Lane Seminary lecturers, encouraged them in their work, 
and exchanged views with them. Some of them urged 
him to take the platform in Ohio ; but he declined, 
thinking his proper field of action was in Kentucky. 
One of the objects of his visit was to renew his personal 
friendship with Theodore D. Weld, whom he had learned 
in Alabama to admire and esteem. From the date of this 
reunion at Cincinnati, until his decease, these two men 
were united in an intimate friendship. 

The following extracts from his letters to Mr. Weld 
will enable us to follow part of his course in Kentucky : 

While I was in Cincinnati an attempt was made in our 
lyceum to have the " immediate abolition of slavery " discussed. 
It was voted out on the ground, as I understood, that it was im- 


proper to discuss it here. The evening before last I presided in 
the lyceum, when, altogether witliout my knowledge beforehand, 
the utility of colonization was j)roposed for the subject of dis- 
cussion at our next meeting. 

AVith a view to his pcriuaiu'iit appointment as Profess- 
or of Ancient Langua<fes, the trustees of Centre College 
liad engaged liini to till the place of Prof. Breckenridge 
during a short absence. All parties were satisfied with liis 
manner of filling the chair. The result, however, is thus 
noticed by him : 

To make a short story of it, everything else was acceptable to 
the trustees save my uholilioii views. On this ground alone, as I 
was informed by President Young, they passed me by. . . . The 
result of tliis has added greatly to the pressure upon me at 
liome ; my nearest friends, though hating slavery in the abstract, 
and wishing there was none of it, think it very silly in me to run 
against the world in a matter that can not in any way do me any 
yuod. ... I do not believe I can remain in Kentucky. ... I 
shall (probably) be compelled to become a citizen of Illinois, 
scuffle along in my jjrofession, and do what good I can, as occa- 
sions may arise. ... I discover that my father would be much 
opposed to my removal ; but how can I stay here at the cost of 
having fetters put upon every attempt that I make ? . . . My 
nearest friends here are of the sort that are always crying out : 
" Take care of yourself — don't meddle with other people's affairs 
— do nothing, say nothing, get along quietly, make money." 
... I glanced over a pamphlet entitled ; ' ' Hints on Coloniza- 
tion and Abolition," ascribed to the Rev. R. J. Breckenridge. It 
is a farrago of incongruities. He thinks slavery a sin, but when 
it should cease is questionable. We want a paper in the West to 
dissect and hold up for public condemnation all such wretched 
conditions. . . . 

[July 26, 1834.] What effect upon our cause will be pro- 
duced by the New York riots ? Good, I tnist. They will not 
deter a single friend worth having ; and, if I mistake not, they 
Avill alarm the considerate who have not been our friends, when 
they are thus brought to see in what danger the very principles 


of our Government stand, when brought into opposition with the 
principle of slavery, even at its present growth. 

He discourages the discussion of the social equality of 
blacks and whites as ill timed, and expresses the opinion 
that the first thing to be looked to is the freedom of the 
slaves. Adverting to a suggestion in a former letter of his 
removal to Illinois, he says : 

I might possibly do more good by remaining here some time, 
provided the state of public sentiment should justify it. This, I 
trust, I shall ascertain in a short time. Should a good effect be 
produced by my publication and any friends appear to be rising 
up, I have thought it would be well for me to \asit all those who 
would be willing to come out openly, and such others of the same 
temper as I might hear of in my trip, and try to effect an em- 
bodying of ourselves for joint action. ... To remove now would 
look like surrendering the cause in Kentucky without having 
made any effort for success and taking refuge, as it were, among 
strangers. I could see many of our friends before the meeting of 
the Kentucky Synod in October. I am now preparing an address 
to the ministers and elders in this synod on the subject of slav- 
ery. ... I desire to publish this before I go out to see such 
as may be our friends. . . . Slavery, emancipation, etc., are 
more and more talked of here, and I am looked upon by many 
pretty much as a disturber of the peace. All begin to complain 
of their slaves that they are getting worse and worse. 

August 19, 183 J^. He writes that he has finished his 
address to the " elders and ministers," and will publish it 
the next week in the Lexington " Luminary." He con- 
tinues : 

Immediately afterward I will go out in quest of abolitionists 
among the Presbyterians, to rally for the meeting of the synod 
on the 2nd Wednesday in October. . . . An onset must be made 
at that time with whatever numbers, few or many, can be 
brought up to the right point. I have no small hope in the 
course that will be taken by the remote and younger members of 
the synod. . . . [About August 7.] There was a discussion of 


abolition before the societies in the college. President Young 
and 1 were the principal debaters. At the conclusion of the ar- 
gument. . . . the vote was ttrotty for and ttrenty-tiro against 
abolition. ... I am much vilitied and abused about Danville. 
I hear none of it myself. . . . Notwithstanding, I begin to think 
it not at all unlikely that I can sustain myself in Kentucky and 
even publish a paper here if the effort in the synod prove at all 
successful. . . . On my trip South, I found two abolitionists — 
])reachers in our Church — one at Glasgow, the other at Greens- 
burg, both highly respectable in every way. [They had been 
converted by bis "Letter."] 

A diary kept by Mr. Birney between September 1 and 
October 23, 183-4, has been preserved. From it we glean 
a few facts and make a few extracts. 

Sept. 1st. — A clergyman, from Talladega County, Alabama, 
owning four slaves, and greatly troubled about his duty to 
them, came to ask my advice, and decided to set them free. 
The clergyman's wife is opposed to slavery, yet she wishes — as I 
discover is the case with nearly all wives who are opposed to it — 
to escape from it by migrating to a free State. 

Sept. Ixt. — I started on my tour among the Presbyterian clergy- 
men, visiting them at their homes. The first was , a 

doctor of divinity, a suitable person, if he were sound on the ques- 
tion of slavery, to introduce it in the synod. He claimed to have 
"always been opposed to slavery, so much so from early man- 
hood that his father had left him by will no part of his slaves, 
but had left him in lieu other property." However, it had so 
turned out that he then owned two women and three children. 
He objected to synods declaring .slavery a sin, "because there 
were many female members of the Church whose husbands were 
not members and who would still retain slaves; many persons 
who held them as guardians for minors, etc. ; and that, as there 
could not be a uniform operation of a rule against slavery, it 
would, on the whole, be well enough to do nothing about 

These objections were repeated by several other clergy- 
men who were visited. 


Sept. J5^7<.— Received a letter from Islv. Weld, accepting my 
invitation to meet me near Georgetowrn, Ky., and informing 
me that the "Address to the Kentucky Ministers and Elders" 
Avill be published entu-e in the Cincinnati "Journal." 

Sept. i4//(.— Conversed with Rev. Mr. Taylor. He has one 
slave according to law, though he has never so regarded her 
in fact. She came to him by his wife, and he agreed to receive 
her on condition that she should consider herself free. He has 
been in the habit of rewarding her for her services. Talked 
also with Rev. John Blackburn.* He did not own slaves; he 
hired them. Thought immediate emancipation of all slaves 
worse than a continuance of slavery. I had several conversa- 
tions with Rev. Robert Davidson, of Lexington [afterward the 
historian of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky], and found 
him greatly prejudiced against the Eastern abolitionists, and 
this, in no small degree, from the fact that they are the very new- 
est of tlie "new school-men." (Meaning the Tappans, Beriah 
Green, Joshua Leavitt, etc.) He has never owned a slave, in- 
tends never to own one, though he has one liired. He has also 
two girls who axe free, hired as servants. He will vote in the 
synod, I think, for a declaration that slavery is sinful. 

Here I also saw Henry Thompson, lately a student of Lane 
Seminary, who turned abolitionist and manumitted his two 
slaves upon whose hire he was educating himself. He has been 
greatly tormented and persecuted in Jessamine County, where 
he lives. 

From this time until his removtil from Kentucky Mr. 
Birney had Mr. Thompson as an inmate of his family, 
while the latter pursued his studies under Dr. Young, of 
Centre College. 

Sept. 15th. — Reached Lexington in the afternoon, wrote a 
note to Mr. Clay, requesting a short interview with him on the 

* A relative of Rev. Gideon Blackburn, D. D., once president of Cen- 
tre College, who had advised a dpng and penitent slave-trader to make a 
will freeing all his slaves and giving all his blood-stained money to 
trustees to be used for benevolent purposes. The will was made. (See 
Davidson's " History of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky.") 


subject of slavery, etc. He did not come home until near sun- 
set — too late for me to see him tliis evening ; but he sent me a 
note inviting me to breakfast witit him to-morrow morning. 

Sept. 10th. — Breakfasted this morning -with ;Mr. and Mrs. 
Clay and one of their sons. Afterward Mr. Clay invited me into 
the parlor, where we conversed, he being the chief speaker, for 
about an hour. He seems never to have gone beyond the outer 
bark of the subject ; his views "vulgar," not "deep." lie said 
that slavery in Kentucky was in so mitigated a foiTU as not to de- 
serve the consideration of a very great evil ; that men's interest 
in property had been found an insurmountable barrier to gradual 
emancipation then (in 1799) ; that now they were more formida- 
ble. The case was hopeless by any direct efiFort, and w^as to be 
left to the influence of liberal princii)k's, as they should jjcrvade 
our land. He spoke of 3Ir. Robert J. Breckcnridge having put 
himself down in popular estimation by his having advocated 
emancipation, and that he and 'Six. John Green— two gentlemen 
of great worth —had disqualified themselves for political useful- 
ness by the part they had taken in reference to slavery. He 
related to me two facts, that 1 have recorded elsewhere, to show 
that the opinion expressed iu his speech before the Kentucky 
Colonization Society in 1829, that the South (Louisiana) main- 
tained her stock of slaves from their natural increase was incorrect. 
He had become satisfied of his error. The impression made upon 
me by this interview was that Mr. Clay had no conscience about 
this matter, and therefore that he would swim with the popular 

As this was the last personal interview that ever took 
place between Mr. Birney and Mr. Clay, the former's 
memorandum of the conversation, made on the same day, 
is given above verhatim et literatim. It will be remem- 
bered that in October, 1830, Mr. Birney had called on Mr. 
Clay to urge him to place himself at the head of a na- 
tional free-soil, gradual emancipation movement, and had 
then, in consequence of what passed between them, lost 
confidence in Mr. Clay as a political leader. From Sep- 
tember 10, 1834, ^Ir. Birney knew that Mr. Clay would 


antagonize liis movements in Kentncky. From that date, 
though their personal relations remained on a friendly 
footing, they were foemen in political measures. Neither 
misunderstood the other on this point. 

Tlie entry for September IGth in the diary continues : 

After tliis interview I proceeded to the place, twenty miles 
north of Georgetown, where I was to meet my dear friend Weld. 
"We had appointed 3 o'clock p. m., and were not more than five 
minutes apart in arriving at the spot. 

A quiet house of private entertainment was near at hand. 
Here we remained until four o'clock in the afternoon of the next 
day, talking over the whole matter, what course it would be best 
to pursue, etc. We parted, greatly refreshed, as I trust, on both 
sides. I have seen in no man such a rare combination of great 
intellectual powei-s with Christian simplicity. He must make 
a powerful impression on the public mind of this country if he 
lives ten years.* 

Sqjt. 17th. — Saw the Rev. Simeon Salisbury, of Georgetown. 
He has never hired nor owned a slave. Is greatly in favor of the 
Church acting in condemnation of slavery. 

Sept. 18th. — Saw Rev. John T. Johnson (Campbellite), Found 
him very favorably disposed, going so far as to say that he did 
not think the approaching winter would pass over without his 
having set his slaves, some eight or nine as I understood him, 

Sept. 19th. — Dined at Lexington. In the evening called upon 
the Rev. Wm. W. Hall, who, I had understood, was very favor- 
ably disposed to the slaves of that city, teaching a negro Sunday- 
school and lecturing the blacks on religious truth. . . . Never 
have I seen one who seemed more willingly to open his heart to 
the truth. Mr. Hall took me to see Mr. James Weir, a Presby- 
terian, who had recently inherited eighty slaves. JMr. Weir had 
thought much about his religious duty to them. He said this 

* In 1832, in the winter, Mr. Weld had been swept away in the icy 
current of Alum River in an attempt to cross, and had been taken out 
apparently drowned and frozen. His voice was never so strong after- 
ward, and he could not use it freely for public speaking after 1836. 


much : if lie were satisfied it would benefit his slaves to manumit 
them he would not hesitate a moment to do so. I think he was 
sincere. Mrs. Weir is willing to give up slavery ou condition 
of removing to a free State. 

Sept. 2Ut. — Saw again the Rev. ]\Ir. Taylor, who requested 
me to write for him a deed of manumission for his negro woman 
Pleasants, as he wished to be able unhesitatingly to say lie was 
not a slave-holder. 

Of another he writes : 

The doctor proposes to send by the next Western expedition 
to Liberia a negro woman with five small children and having no 
husband. He thinks she can support them all there. 

Sept. 25th. — Greatly to my mortification, my father, after hav- 
ing a])peared enlightened on the Christian duty of emancipation, 
has promised to give a negro woman (Maria) and her four chil- 
dren (girls) to 31rs. Polk in Danville. I lament much that he 
has thought proper to leave such a memorial behind him. 

Sept. 30th. — I this day wrote to my father [he had gone to re- 
side with his daughter, the wife of Judge Marshall, at Louisville] 
requesting the })rivilege of paying out of my own means what he 
would say ought to satisfy Mrs. Polk instead of the negroes he 
promised to fjire her. . . . About the close of last session there 
were said to be in Centre College about fourteen young men who 
were firm abolitionists. Dr. Luke I\Iunsell is so decidedly. . . . 
He is .superintendent of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum. 

... I have heard that old ^Ir. Humphrey Marshall is an abo- 
litionist and that he has liberated all his slaves, hiring their serv- 
ices. Abram T. Skillman, bookseller at Lexington, is said to 
be an abolitionist. 

Of the members of the synod lie says : 

The Rev. Messrs, Calvert, of Bowling Green, Woods, of Glas- 
gow, Salisbury, of Georgetown, Sawtcll, of Louisville, and Cole, 
of Augusta, are all tliat I know who are favorable to immediate 
and total emancipation. . . . There may be others of whom I 
am uninformed. And this is the whole number ... to do this 
mighty work in which we have to meet the strongest interests 
and talents. 


Oct. 1st. — A TCiT prominent and wealthy citizen, a 
widower, called on Mr. Birney, told him his suit to a Phila- 
delphia lady had been rejected, and, as he understood, be- 
cause of his being a slave-holder, and requested Mr. Birney 
to write the lady and inform her she might manumit his 
slaves as fast as she pleased if she would marry him. As 
Mr. Birney was a kinsman of the suitor and a friend of 
the lady, he wrote the letter as desired. 

Oct. 6th. — Had an interview with Dr. Munsell and disclosed 
to him my plan of operations prior to commencing a paper. 
Much approved by him. 

Oct. 7th. — Attended as a sjiectator the Presbytery now sitting 
in Danville. Saw Professor Buchanan, who told me that the 
Rev. Mr. Shannon, of Shelbyville, had read my letter to the 
ministers and elders of the Presbyterian Church of Kentucky, 
and had determined to come up to the synod after having disen- 
tangled himself from slavery. 

Oct. 8th. — Synod of Kentucky organized. I conversed with 
several members on the subject of slavery. 

After a discussion of three days, a resolution was 
adopted declaring slavery a sin and to favor all proper 
measures for voluntary, gradual emancipation. The vote 
stood : Yeas, 56 ; nays, 8 ; non-liquet, 7. The year be- 
fore a weaker resolution, substituting " moral evil " for 
" sin," had been postponed indefinitely by a vote of yeas, 
41 ; nays, 36 ; non-liquet, 1. The evident advance in 
opinion was very encouraging to Mr. Birney, who on the 
evening of the 11th addressed the public, including many 
members of the synod, at the Danville Presbyterian 
Church in favor of abolition. Among the converts at 
this meeting was the Eev. Mr. Stamper, the local Meth- 
odist preacher, who recanted in 1836. 

Oct. i'5<'7.— Received a letter from T. D. Weld, informing me 
of his appointment as agent in Ohio.* He is a man of great 

* The Pittsburg " Times," in noticing the rapidly increasing audiences 
flocking to hear a course of lectures by Mr. Weld in that city on free 


mental powers and the most .simpk-hearted and earnest follower 
of Christ that I have known. . . . Prepared to-day to set off to 
Cincinnati in the morning to attend the anniversaries to be held 
there next week. 

At Cincinnati he made many acquaintances among 
men prominent in the various benevolent movements of 
the day, and was much gratified by tlie numerous indica- 
tions of tlie general and deep interest taken at the North 
in his movement against slavery ^n Kentucky. He then 
returned home to continue his work, and especially to 
prepare for the publication at Danville of an anti-slavery 
weekly paper. 

J. O. Birney to Gen'it SmitJi. 

Nop. so, 1834.—. • ■ I do, indeed, thank God and take cour- 
age. Not that I approve of what the synod has done in toto, for 
it has declared the system to be sinful and the continnance of it 
not so, but because it has been moved at all toward the proper 
point. There is no room for despair, for if God continue so to 
prosper the cause of human liberty as he has done here during 
the last year, the next synod will witness, if not the absolute 
death of slavery, at least its con\Tilsive and dying throes in the 
Church of whicli it has supervision. . . . "Whatever may have 
been the errors of Northern abolitionists — and I do not say 
they have been exempt from them, though surely with liberal 
minds the persecution and abuse they have suffered furnish no 
small palliation — they have beyond all doubt the right principle, 
and, if I do not greatly mistake, they are now using it with much 
discretion and effect. Do you not think it probable that very 

discussion and slavery, says " Mr. Weld is one of Nature's orators — not 
a declaimpr, but a logician of great tact and power. His inexhaustible 
fund of anecdote and general information, with the power of being in- 
tensely pathetic, enables him to give the greatest imaginable interest to 
the subject. His powers of teaching are of the first order — that is, his 
facility for generalizing broadly and regularly, for passing into profound 
abstractions and bringing his wealth of ideas into beautiful light by clear, 
striking, and familiar illustrations." 


gentle and calm measures would not have been sufficient to rouse 
up from its toipor the public sentiment of this nation ? 

... In the present state of things surely nothing more is 
•v\auting than the kindest and most Christian course. Why not, 
then, if we tliink so, act upon their principle— gQniXj correct by 
our example their indiscretions whenever they may appear, and 
thus be instrumental in bringing patriots, philanthropists, and 
Christians into one noble and dignified and swelling stream of 
action for God and our country ? , . . Should you desire, . . . 
I will present to you fully all my views. I have no secret as to 
my anti-slavery operations. There is no item in my contemplated 
action on the public mind that is concealed. I am at present 
identified with no free-State anti-slavery association. I think it 
probable that for some time to come I may remain so. My ef- 
forts are now directed to an organization for this State. I am 
not without hoj^e that one may be gotten up by next spring. 
Should this turn out to be the case, the next movement will be 
to get up a paper that will in the main speak the sentiments of 
the society and serve as a point of concentration for all the im- 
mediate emancipation material lying scattered throughout the 

Same to Same. 

Danville^ Ey., Dec. 30, 1834. — • • • I shall look with much 
interest for the essays about to be published (by G. S.) in the 
" Journal of Freedom " — the more because you say that on the 
"immediate emancipation" doctrine and on the subject of anti- 
slavery ' ' there will in all probability be but little difference in 
our views." . . . There is an aspect in which colonization has 
been presented to my mind that I have never yet discussed, ex- 
cept in conversation. ... It is this : The best way to promote 
the kind of colonization that will eventuate in Christianizing 
Africa — and, of course, in civilizing it — is to grant immediate 
emancipation here from Christian principle. 

He develops the idea that intelligent converted negroes 
would go as missionaries : 

Let colonization become strictly missionary in its character. 
. . . One thought more on this subject : Emancipation, to be 


blessed of God and sitfe, must jirocecd from love — love to God 
and man — and must be so conducted that it sliall excite in tlie 
bosoms of the emancipated love for our principle and love for us. 

To a request from Gerrit Smith fur leave to publish 
one of his letters, he says : 

Of the letter to you, I have no copy. I have so much -vN-riting 
to do that really I have not time, if I deemed it necessary, to coj)y 
my letters. Another reason why I do not : I express no o])inion 
that I do not honestly entertain. If I have said that is 
erroneous, I am always willing, when convinced of the error, to 
retract it. The only doubt I have about the propriety of pub- 
lishing it is that I wrote it without expectation of such a 
thing. . . . 

There is yet among even some clever and firm abolitionists 
here a little fearfulness of what has been called "the fanaticism 
of Northern abolitionists.'' However, I think it will in no very 
long time disappear, and there will be a full fraternization. . . . 
I think it not improbable, my dear friend, that I may have the 
pleasure of seeing you in the city of New York next spring. . . . 
How heartily and thankfully would I enjoy the pleasure of a 
long, long conversation with you on the great subject to which 
God, 1 trust, has called us both ! ... All ! if I were to quarrel 
with all who differ from me here on the subject that now so fully 
occupies my mind and interests my feelings, or were I to feel 
uncharitably toward them, I might always be unhappy and 
cheerless ! 

Of Mr. Smith's " Essays," he says : 

I do not know of any paper in Kentucky that would pub- 
lish them. 

Jan. 31, 1835.— Of the sixty-four-page pamphlet, " Ee- 
port of the Synod Committee on Shivery," written by 
President Young, and recommending a phm of gradual 
emancipation,* he writes to Gerrit Smith : 

* For this plan, see Davidson's " Ilistory of the Kentucky Prcsby- 
byterian Church," p. 339, and Stanton's " The Church and the Rebellion," 


I am now almost daily contemplating the injurj^ it has done 
to the cause of emancipation in the Presbyterian Church. I 
know of several instances of brethren whose minds were earnestly 
inquiring for the truth in relation to the sin of slavery who have 
to all appearance sunk to sleep from the anodyne he has admin- 
istered. Young showed me his manuscript before he sent it to 
Cincinnati to be published. I thought, as an argument, it was 
grossly sophistical and unworthy of his mind. I besought him, 
as a brother, to abstain from its publication. ... I was anxious 
that he should not commit himself before the nation on the side 
of the slave-holder. He did refrain for a week. ... I have just 
come from his house, after a conversation of an hour or two con- 
taining nothing encouraging as to his entertainment of more cor- 
rect views. I do very much lament his course ; I wanted to see 
him eminently useful. . . . 

While I was at Frankfort, Judge Underwood delivered the 
annual colonization address. It was intended as an answer to 
the abolitionist and to demonstrate the practicability of ex- 
terminating Kentucky slavery by African colonization. His 
knowledge of abolitionism was very crude. In a few instances 
he was illiberal ; in the main, he is a liberal man. 

Uuderwood's plan was for Kentucky to expend one 
hundred and forty thousand dollars yearly in the trans- 
portation of four thousand negroes — girls and youths from 
seventeeen to twenty years of age. This, continued for 
fifty years, Avould rid the State of slaves. Mr, Birney 
asks : 

Will the people of the State give up this year, for the purpose 
of colonization, four thousand slaves, at the ages when they are 
most valuable, when hmnan flesh is selling in the Kentucky 
market for about four to five dollars a pound ? And will they 

p. 423. The pamphlet was a powerful and fnithful exposure of slavery, 
with the lame conclusion of gradualism. Jolin C. Young, D. D., Presi- 
dent of Centre College, was always acute, ingenious, and eloquent. Ilis 
wife was the daughter of J. Cabell Breckenridge. That fact and his 
many amiable traits had endeared him greatly to Mr. Birney as a friend. 


give from the State coffers one hundred and forty thousand dol- 
lars for their transportation to Africa ? ... It is by liolding up 
such schemes as this, by exhibiting such arithmetical benevolence, 
that the Northern professed friends of freedom are beguiling the 
slave States from that repentance which would save them. . . . 
I do not think it j)rol)able that I shall review your essays. I read 
the first (published in the "Emancipator") with great pleasure. 
. . Would that our excellent Brother Bacon [Dr. Leonard G. 
Bacon] could see his error ! He does us great damage. The 
slave-holder lays hold of any doctrine that furnishes the least 
shadow of excuse, and holds to it with the tenacity of a drown- 
ing man. Notwithstanding the declaration and resolutions of 
the synod, which sat Jiere, since that time slaves have been sold 
to the Southern slaver by a member of the Danville Church. 

/. G. Birney to Leiris Tnppnn. 

Danville, Feb. 3, 1835.— I returned a few days since from 
Frankfort. ... I heard while there most of the debates on the 
" Convention Bill," into which the subject of slavery and eman- 
cipation always entered. I conversed on these subjects with 
many of the members of the Legislature as well as with other 
intelligent gentlemen from different parts of the State. The 
conclusion to which my mind has been brought is this, that 
emancipation in some form or another— in most instances, in the 
crudest form imaginable— occupies the mind of this community ; 
and that the feeling in favor of it is growing. ... I am not 
without hope that the subject of emancipation will be taken up 
in many parts of the State by the candidates for the next Gen- 
eral Assembly. . . . With the political action of political men 
and the holy action of religious men there is no inconsistency 
that is irreconcilable. That the oppressor's reign should end 
from any principle should cause us to rejoice. 

On the 19th of March, 1835, the Kentitcky Anti-Shiv- 
ory Society was oriiauizod at Danville. It numbered forty 
members, most of tliem intelligent men, and all respecta- 
ble. Some of them had been slave-holders. Before ]\ray, 
the number was increased to forty-five. To effect this 


organization, Mr. Birney had devoted much time and 

/. G. Birney to Oerrit Smith. 

Danville, March 21, 1835. — . . . I have been very much en- 
gaged for the last month, not only in preparing for the organiza- 
tion of our State Anti-Slavery Society, but in actually discussing 
publicly the merits of " immediate emancipation." Within that 
time, I have had two debates some distance from home, in which 
my chief adversary was a minister of the Gospel, an aged and 
influential minister. . . . Between two and three weeks since 
I undertook to review in our Danville Lyceum, in the way of 
lecture, the letter of President Y'oung on slavery. I gave no- 
tice in the newspapers of the village, that all who felt an interest 
in the subject of it should read and understand the letter that 
they might come prepared to appreciate the arguments with 
which the principles would be met and to detect any fallacy or 
sophistry more easily, if any should be attempted by me. I was 
a long time in exposing, as I thought it was easy to do, the falla- 
cies of his letter. He was present and so stung that he asked 
an adjournment of the lyceum till the next evening, when he 
would undertake to reply. He did so. I think his effort was 
not considered a successful one in vindication of his cause. . . . 
He greatly abused abolitionism, and, in speaking of Mr. Gar- 
rison, he out- Garrisoned Garrison himself. He went so far as to 
say he would not be an abolitionist because Mr. Garrison 
was one. . . . 

Although I am in the midst of enemies (though I must say, 
not personal, unless they have transferred their malignant feel- 
ings from the cause of freedom to its advocate), and am often 
much perplexed, yet, altogether, I have never had so much 
peace. . . . The day before yesterday was organized the "Ken- 
tucky State Anti- Slavery Society, auxiliary to the American Anti- 
Slavery Society," with Prof. Buchanan,* of Centre College, as its 
president. Our proceedings were very harmonious among our- 
selves and uninterrupted t from without. The fifty dollars which 

* He had just manumitted his three slaves. 

f There would have been few mobs if it had not been for the wire- 
working of politicians. 


you tliought proper to contkle to my discretion tor the advance- 
ment of the cause of immediate emancipation, I liave devoted to 
paying the expenses of printing and distributing our proceed- 
ings. . . . Immediate emancipation will have to be sustained 
liere by the com})aratively poor and huml)le. The aristocracy, 
created and sustained by slavery, will be ugly enemies— aye, and 
they will be so almost to our extermination. ... I do not think 
there is good reason for your refusing to give your name and in- 
fluence to the American Anti-Slavery Society. 

He refers to liis wife's bad health as making it doubt- 
ful whether he could attend the anti-slavery anniversary 
in New York, on ]\Iay l^ith, but " should her situation 
allow of my leaving her, it is my intention to be at Zanes- 
ville, Ohio, at a meeting of the convention " (April 2'^nd, 
to form a State anti-slavery society). 

The state of public opinion in Kentucky in the spring 
of 1835 has some light thrown upon it by the following 
report, in the " New England Spectator," of statements 
by Mr. Birney, at Boston, in May : 

Mr. Birney stated that he had recently received a letter from 
Kentucky, which stated that tlie subject of immediate emanci- 
pation is greatly talked about. A discussion of the subject has 
recently been had in the Young Men's Institute of Louisville. He 
(Mr. Birney) had been written to to take a part in the debate, it 
not being known that he had left [for the East]. Dr. ]\Iarshall, 
brother of the Chief Justice, stated that so strong is the impres- 
sion against slavery in Louisville, that when a slave-holder re- 
cently wished to lay claim to a colored man in Louisville, the 
afifair was so unpopular that he wished the privilege of i)rose- 
cuting his claim in another place. 

No hinderance whatever is thrown in the way of our meetings. 
The church in Danville was freely given to me for the convention 
(to form a State anti-slavery society). The pastor of the church, 
although opposed to me on this subject, yet gave notice of my 
lectures held in that place. No church in that State has ever 
been refused me. (Appendix to "American Report, 1835," of the 
American Anti-Slavery Society, p. 78.) 


Ou the same occasion he said of the race prejudice 
against the negro : 

There is less nfgro hatred in the slave than in the free States. 
They are subject to more insult in the latter than in the former.* 

* At that time a colored person could travel in the stage-coaches of 
the South, but was excluded from public conveyances in the North. As 
late as 186-1, colored servants in attendance on ladies and carrying white 
children were driven from street-cUrs in Philadelphia — a brutality with- 
out example in the South. 


Al'HIL, 1835. 

Events not foreseen by Mr. liirney attracted the atten- 
tion of the whole country to him and his operations in 
Kentucky after the general publication of his letter on 
colonization, in July, 1834. The emancipation of eight 
hundred thousand slaves in the British "West Indies, on 
the first of August in that year, had made the abolition 
of slavery the topic of universal discussion in the United 
States. That measure revived the memories of the eman- 
cipation of half a million in those islands by the first re- 
public of France ; of the abolition of slavery by Chili, in 
1811; by Buenos Ayres, in 1813; by Columbia, in 1821; 
at the Cape of Good Hope, in 1823 ; by Xew York, in 
1827; and by Mexico, in 1829. There were rumors of 
prospective abolition in Brazil and of the emancipation of 
the serfs in Russia. The outlook was that the states of 
this republic and the monarchy of Spain would be the 
last governments to maintain slavery. In the contem- 
poraneous language of a frank South Carolina member 
of Congress, " The sentiment of the Christian world is 
against slavery." That the great majority of the Ameri- 
can people shared this sentiment is also true. Every State 
Constitution contained bills of rights and guarantees of 
personal freedom. Every court administered justice gen- 


orally on the priuciple of equality of rights before the law. 
The orator, the teacher, and the preacher insisted alike 
upon justice between individuals. Slavery was the one 
horrible exception to American law and the American 
sense of right. 

This exception was maintained by a small minority of 
the people of the South. De Bow, a pro- slavery writer, 
makes the following admissions : 

" I am satisfied that the non-slave-holders far outnum- 
ber the slave-holders perhaps by three to one." * 

According to the same author, there were, in 1850, 
only 7,929 slave-holders owning each more than fifty 
slaves. In 1833 the whole number of slave-holders did 
not exceed two hundred and eighty thousand. But they 
possessed the rich lands and the wealth of the Southern 
States ; and their intelligence, social position, and identity 
of interest enabled them when united to control nomina- 
tions to office and the use of the political power of the 
South. The machinations of Calhoun and his friends, 
after the defeat of nullification, to bring slavery to the 
front as a political question, were powerfully aided by the 
emancipation legislation of Great Britain. The slave- 
holders drew together under this double pressure. Brave 
and self-reliant, they defied the moral power of Christen- 
dom ; and, determined to present an unbroken front, they 
tolerated neither criticism nor debate nor the non-com- 
mittalism of silence. Between 1833 and the summer of 
1835, the ordinary lines of political parties were effaced in 
the South, so far as slavery was concerned ; Whigs and 
Democrats vied with each other in professions of loyalty 
to the slave-power; and devotion to slavery became the 
test of Southern patriotism. The obliteration of all anti- 
slavery societies in the slave States, which had begun with 

* 2 " Resources of the South and West," p. 106. See also Van Hoist, 
"State Sovereignty," p. 342 and note. 


the election of Jackson, became an accomplished fact. 
Free speech had perished at the Sonth in 1835. 

But there was one exception — Kentucky. Tonp^ue and 
pen were still free in many parts of that State. Many of 
the churches were open to anti-slavery speakers ; crowds 
listened to discussions of abolition ; several newspapers 
admitted able anti-slavery essays to their columns. The 
synod of the Presbyterian C'hunh had published the most 
eloquent arrai<:^nment of slavery ever issued by an ecclesi- 
astical body and a recommendation of emancipation hardly 
falling short of immediate abolition; and forty respectable 
men, most of them ex-slave-holders, had formed a State 
society auxiliary to the American Anti-Slavery Society ! ! 

This formidable movement, menacing the labor system 
of the South, had for its soul and leader a native South- 
erner, a man of conscience and courage, an ex-slave- 
holder, a lawyer, and statesman. In 1834-o5 the ]\Iorde- 
cai in the king's gate for tlie slave power was James G. 

For the Xorthern States, he was the observed of all ob- 
servers. He was the only abolitionist who was grappling 
with slavery in a slave State ; and the imagination of the 
masses attributed to him all the qualities of a heroic soul, 
while the intelligent admired liis firmness, moderation, 
freedom from exaggeration, and thorough knowledge of 
his subject. 

His famons " Letter" had brought him numerous mes- 
sages and assurances of sympathy, enconragement, and 
admiration from all parts of the North. Friendly travelers 
had called on him at his home ; several prominent aboli- 
tionists had visited him there, and he received from many 
residents of Northern cities invitations to speak on slavery 
in those places, with assurances of good halls and large 
audiences. Among these correspondents were Mr. Gazzam, 
of Pittsburg; David Paul Brown, of Philadelphia; Judge 


William Jay, of New York ; and William Ellcry Clianning, 
of Boston. The prominent abolitionists of Ohio were 
anxious that he should be present at the formation in 
April of the State Anti-Slavery Society ; and the Tappans 
and Joshua Leavitt were urgent for his attendance at the 
May anniversary of the American Anti- Slavery Society, to 
which he had been appointed delegate from Kentucky. 

Yielding to these requests, he left home for Cincinnati, 
reaching that city April 17, 1835, and taking lodgings at 
the Henry House, which was situated on Third near Main 
Street, in the central part of the city. His arrival was 
announced in the daily papers. He was met at the hotel 
by several prominent anti-slavery lecturers, and he re- 
mained there more than two days, during which time he 
received a large number of visitors, among whom were 
Salmon P. Chase and Dr. G. Bailey. His presence in the 
city excited curiosity and interest, but there was no indi- 
cation of a mob spirit. He was pressed to lecture in 
one of the churches, but refused because of want of time 
to give the notices required ; and then, in company with 
the Hamilton County delegation, he journeyed by stage- 
coach to Zanesville to aid in the formation of a State 
society which should be auxiliary to the American Anti- 
Slavery Society. The local societies in Ohio had generally 
been independent, each acting on its own plan. 

The convention consisted of one hundred and ten dele- 
gates, representing Anti-Slavery societies in twenty-five 
counties. Among the societies not represented were some 
of the oldest in the State. They had been established 
without concert, at different times, under different names, 
and with constitutions framed on no common model ; and 
never having affiliated with each other for concerted 
action, they were now reluctant to place themselves under 
the control of State and national societies of recent origin, 
a step that would apparently compel them to change their 


names and constitutions and take date from the change. 
This hist concession was not made, even in subsequent 
years, by such old societies as the Mount Pleasant, the 
West Union, the Monroe County, or the Eipley, which 
was the oldest of all ; and when these became auxiliary, 
they stood without date of origin on the records of the 
American Anti-Slavery Society. (See its " Annual Re- 
ports " for 1836-38.) The date of the organization of the 
first abolition society at Bethel is unknown. It was not 
later than the Missouri Controversy. The town was laid 
out in 1797, by Obed Denham, from Kentucky, a Baptist 
abolitionist. In his deed of dedication and jilat of the 
village (sec Clermont County Ilecords) occurs this sen- 
tence : 

I also give two in-lots, Nos. 80 and 108, for the use of the 
regular Baptist Cluircli, who do not hold slaves, nor commune at 
the Lord's table with those that do practice such tyraimy over 
their fellow-creatures. 

The men who migrated from Kentucky with Obed 
Denham — the Becks, Frazees, Burkes, and others — were 
as stanch Baptists and abolitionists as he was ; and their 
first preachers, the Rev. Moses Ilutchins, and his successor, 
the Rev. Moses Edwards,* always kept the banners well ad- 
vanced. "When the Bethel Society was reorganized in 1836, 
James Denham, a grandson of Obed, was the secretary. 

Lundy had organized the Mount Pleasant Society in 
1815; and Rev. Dyer Burgess that of AVest Union about 
1818. We do not know when the Aiding Abolition So- 
ciety of Monroe County was formed ; but, on the 24tli of 
June, 1826, its chairman and secretary published in 
Lundy's paper a two-column " Memorial " beginning with 
these words : 

* He officiated as clergyman at the marriage of Gen. Grant's father 

to Ilannah Simpson, June 22, 1821. 


" Convinced of the iniqnity of slavery in all its bear- 
ings, as attached to the colored race, and having associated 
together for the purpose of aiding in the immediate aboli- 
tion thereof " etc. 

The Eipley Society, which had been formed early in the 
ceDtury, set the good example to the older societies of 
sending delegates. 

The society at Zanesville had been formed in 182G 
as the Emancipation Society, its expressed object being 
" the total extinction of slavery in the United States at the 
earliest practicable period " (MS.). It had been reformed 
July 4, 1833, as the United States Constitution Society. * 
with the expression of the object strengthened by substi- 
tuting " abolition " for " extinction," and ^^ possible " for 
" practicable." This society had called the convention. 

The Columbiana Abolition Society had been organ- 
ized January 6, 1827, and in the first three months num- 
bered five hundred members. Its doctrine was ahoUtion, 
without condition or qualification. (See "Genius" of 
April 14, 1827.) It sent delegates. When it became 
auxiliary to the American Society, it refused to take a 
date and stood on its old record. A few persons took 
seats, not as delegates, but as recognized abolitionists. 
Two of them were members of the Methodist Eeformed 
Church, wliicli, in 182G, had adopted the following 
rule : 

Article 8th. No person holding a slave shall be admitted into 
this society on anj^ condition. Any member of the society buy- 
ing a slave shall be immediately expelled from it. All persons 
receiving money as heirs, in consequence of the sale of slaves, 
shall be immediately expelled from the society.! 

* In 1836 it became the Putnam Anti-Slavery Society, and dates 
from that year on the records of the American Society. 

f "London Anti-Slavery, Reporter," for July, 1827, which copies it 
from Lundv's " Genius." 


Three of them were members of the Associate Reformed 
Presbyterian Church, which, in 1831, had settled the form 
of its rule against slavery as follows : 

No member shall, from and after this date, be allowed to 
hold a human being in tlie ciiaracter and condition of a slave. 
(" Life of Dr. Crothers," p. 181j. 

Of the veterans who had fought the battles of imme- 
diate abolition in Ohio for more than ten years, there 
were present one farmer, John B. Mahan, of Browu 
County ; two business men. Col. Robert Stewart, of Ross 
County, and Col. William Keys, of Highland ; and five 
clergymen, John Rankin, Samuel Crothers, AVilliam 
Dickey, James II. Dickey, and John Wallace, all members 
of the Chillicothe Presbytery,* and all immigrants from 
slave States. Levi AVhipple, Horace Nye, and Henry C. 
Howell had been in the ranks more than five years. Elizur 
Wright had been 2)ubliely active in the cause since 1831. 
The Lane Seminai-y group present was composed of Theo- 
dore D. Weld, Henry B. Stanton, James A. Thome, Horace 
Bushnell, Augustus Wattles, and William T. Allan (Ala- 
bama). ^Morgan County sent Hiram Wilson, who was so wide- 
ly known in after years as the devoted missionary to the 
colored refugees in Canada ; and Cincinnati sent Augustus 
Wattles, who, as superintendent of the colored schools in 
that city, had, with his self-denying coadjutors, achieved 
a great work of elevation and reform for the negro popu- 
lation. John B. Mahan, a tall, muscular, raw-boned, stal- 
wart, and swarthy man of middle age, had long been one 
of the most active, friends of fugitive negroes. He was a 
farmer and local Methodist preacher. He had not been 
in a slave State since childhood ; but, from about 1820, 
any man fleeing from bondage could rely upon his hospi- 

* In 1826 this Presbytery issued a pamphlet on the evils of slavery 
and the dutv of masters to free their slaves. 


tality and protection. His strength and courage, tested 
in sundry conflicts with slave-catchers, had given them a 
salutary respect for him. lie knew reliable friends in the 
counties adjoining his own to whom he could confide fugi- 
tives. In 1S2G a close connection was formed by him and 
his associates with Levi Coffin (see " Coffin's Reminis- 
cences," page 108) and other Quakers in Wayne County, 
Indiana. An earlier one had been established with West- 
ern Xew York in order to baffle the slave-catchers who 
were stationed at Detroit ; and, after 1826, the recapture 
of a fugitive negro who could cross the Ohio Eiver and 
get five miles north of it, was a rare occurrence. In emer- 
gencies the house of any Quaker was a refuge ; no questions 
were asked, food and lodging were quietly given, and the 
traveler was speeded on his way in the safest manner. * 
Mahan was a taciturn man ; he was no boaster, but his 
somber piety and bravery would have endeared him to 
Oliver Cromwell. Before the convention was over he was 
appreciated by his fellow-members, f 

Eev. Samuel Crothers was a Presbyterian preacher. 
He had been brought up in Kentucky, and left that State 
in 1810, when he was twenty-eight years of age. For ten 
years he was a pastor in Ross County. In 1820 he took 
charge of the church at Greenfield, Highland County, and 
kept it for thirty-six years. His moral and political, as 
well as his religious influence was very great in that part 
of Ohio. From his entrance into the State (we have no 

* Friend Butterworth, a Warren County Quaker, who had come with 
a covered wagon to Cincinnati, was asked in my hearing in 1838, "Can 
you take a poor man as passenger ? " " Yea, I have room." The place 
was named for taking him. " I will call for him at eight." This was all. 
But it saved a man who was hard beset. 

f September 17, 1838, he was kidnapped and taken to Kentucky to 
be tried on a charge of stealing slaves. Acquitted on the criminal charge, 
hi.~ friends paid the amount of the bond in a civil suit, rather than risk 
Kentucky justice. 


record of his life iu Kentucky) he was known as an im- 
mediate ahoUtionist, in full sympathy with Gilliland, 
liurgess, Kunkin, and the Dickeys. His sermons on the 
subject have not been preserved, but we have from his 
pen fifteen letters published between 1827 and 1831 and 
republislied in 1831, entitled "An Appeal to Patriots and 
Christians in Behalf of the Enslaved Africans." The 
sturdiness and thoroughness of his abolitionism is mani- 
fested in his striking answer to the apology, " It is neces- 
sary to keep the Africans in slavery to avoid the evils of 
emancipation." He tolerated no instant of sin. He likens 
it to the fabled apology of a certain Scotch clan for steal- 
ing : " We are an honest race of people ; we never steal — 
except a little now and then, for a living." When Presi- 
dent Young, of Centre College, published his plea for 
gradualism. Dr. Crothcrs answered in five letters, pub- 
lished early in 1835. Those letters were logical, witty, 
and sarcastic ; they utterly riddled Dr. Young's house of 
cards. There was no speaker or writer in the anti- 
slavery ranks between 1825 and 1835 who dug down 
quicker or with surer stroke to the primal granite than 
Dr. Cr others.* 

The most noted abolitionist in the convention was 
doubtless John Rankin. AVhen Henry Ward Beecher 
was asked after the war, " Who abolished slavery ? " he is 
said to have answered, " Rev. John Rankin and his sons 
did it." 

The humor of the answer lies in its quaint exaggera- 
tion of the effects of the services rendered to the cause by 
Rankin. These were very great. Many Western men 
have called him " the father of abolitionism," and it was 
not an uncommon thing in the thirties to hear him called 
"the Martin Luther" of the cause. In 1827, the year in 

* Ritchie's " Life of Dr. Crothcrs." 


■\vliich New York abolished slavery within her limits, John 
Eankin was one of the five most prominent advocates in 
this country of immediaie ahohtion. He was also one of 
the earliest. Charles Osborn and Rev. George Bourne 
date as abolitionists from 1814, John Eankin and Benja- 
min Lundy from 1815, and Eev. James Duncan from 
about 1820. Of the many thousands who joined the 
modern anti - slavery movement within the first twelve 
years after its revival at the close of the War of 1812, 
these five names have been most familiar to abolitionists, 
and the two brightest are those of Lundy and Eankin. 

John Eankin, born Feb. 4, 1793 ; died March 18, 1886, 
a native of East Tennessee, was graduated at Washington 
College in 1816, and licensed to preach in 1817. Having 
become an immediate abolitionist in 1815, he persuaded 
Dr. Doak, whose daughter he married soon after, to manu- 
mit his slaves. In November, 1817, he left Tennessee, 
intending to go to Ohio, but, being unable to get farther 
than Carlisle, Nicholas County, Ky., he preached there 
during the winter and became pastor of the church in 
April, 1818. 

In the next three years he organized at Carlisle and 
other places in Kentucky societies auxiliary to the " Ken- 
tucky Abolition Society," * which had been established in 
1807. In a speech at the anniversary meeting. May, 1839, 
of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Mr. Eankin said : 

* R. M. Johnson, of Kentucky, afterward Vice President, inaj' have 
been a member. In his speech on the Missouri question, Feb. 1, 1820, 
reported in the "National Intelligencer" of April 29, 1820, he advises: 
" Encourage Sunday-schools, multiply Bible societies, increase missionary 
exertions, animate to deeds of benevolence aholilion societies, . . . and 
you will perform the duties of Christians and patriots," etc. 

In Lundy's " Genius," of October, 1822, is printed a circular " sent 
down by the Abolition Society of Kentucky at their late convention to 
the several branches." It is dated Maysville, Sept. 12, 1822, and signed 
by Hugh Wiley, President, and E. Duncan, Jr., Secretary, 


" I rejoice in tlie triumph of the principles of immediate 
emaucipatiou because," etc. ..." I was a member of an 
anti-slavery society in Kentucky twenty years ago om the 
same principle as this. The doctrine of immediate eman- 
cipation is said to be new, but societies were formed all 
over the country twenty years ago, and mcniy members of 
these societies advocated this same doctrine.'''' In January, 
18^2, Mr. Kankin became pastor of the Presbyterian 
Church at Kipley, Ohio, and held the place thirty-three 
years. Most of the members of his church in Kentucky 
removed before 1830 to Decatur County, Indiana, to es- 
cape the evil of slavery, and these formed a church of 
which one of his sons has been pastor for more than 
twenty-five years. Between 1822 and 1830 he preached 
and lectured against slavery. In 1823 he published a 
series of letters on slavery in the " Castigator," Ripley, 
Ohio. They were republished in book-form in 1824, and 
passed througli numy editions, several of Avhicli were is- 
sued by the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1830 
and several previous years, the abolition books of largest 
circulation in the United States were those by Rankin, 
Bourne, Duncan, and Stroud. During the year 18oG ^Ir. 
Rankin Avas a traveling lecturer in the employ of the na- 
tional society, and at a later date he was made one of its 
managers for Ohio. His house at Ripley was situated 
near the town on a hill about three hundred feet high, 
and was visible at a great distance from the Kentucky 
side of the river, especially at night when lighted up. 
Many fugitives reached it, and not one was ever turned 
away. They were alwa)'s conducted to friends by one or 
more of Mr. Rankin's seven sons. These 3'oung men all 
volunteered in the I'nion army and served through the 
w^ar, thus demonstrating the soundness of their anti-slav- 
ery education. Mr. Rankin was a man of judgment, per- 
severance, I'icty, and strong character. His influence in 


Ohio and Kentucky was powerful. Henry Ward Beecher 
knew him intimately, and both he and Mrs. Stowe visited 
him several times at his home and learned to respect him. 
Mr. Eankin would have disclaimed Mr. Beecher's compli- 
ment, for he was free from vanity and his modesty was 
equal to his great merit. 

Our space will not permit us to sketch others of the 
noteworthy men present, though some of them — for in- 
stance, Elizur Wright, H. B. Stanton, and James A. 
Thome — afterward became men of national reputation. 
The impression made upon Mr. Birney by the men pres- 
ent was favorable. They were probably all members of 
the Church. They were temperate. The extremely small 
number of tobacco-chewers among them attracted his 
notice. The discussions were able, moderate in language, 
and to the point. At that stage of the cause speakers 
aiming at personal notoriety only had not sought in any 
large number the anti-slavery platform in Ohio. Sincerity 
and earnestness were in the atmosphere. The visitor from 
Kentucky was, of course, the central object of attention. 
He was invited to a seat as member, and to address the 
convention, and he was made chairman of the principal 
committee — the one charged with the duty of preparing 
and bringing forward business. To Mr. Birney the most 
significant part of the action of the convention was an 
amendment to his reported resolution against the " Black 
Laws." To a denunciation of them as " cruel, impious, 
and disgraceful to a Christian State " was added a pledge 
to vote for such candidates only for legislative office as 
were pledged to repeal them. The latter clause was 
stricken out — a change which appeared in the minutes as 
an adoption of the report " after being slightly amended." 
The " Declaration of Sentiment " was subjected to a simi- 
lar emasculation ; under the head of " Plan of Operations " 
the committee, among other things, had reported : " We 


shall absolve ourselves from the politit-al responsibility of 
uatioual slave-holding by petitioning Congress," etc., and 
had added a clause, equivalent to a pledge, to vote for such 
candidates as would grant the petitions. The clause was 
stricken out, leaving in the " declaration " the absurd 
proposition that a citizen could avoid responsibility for 
bad laws hy pefifionuir/ for their repeal! As Mr. Birney 
expressed it, they had loaded with powder, but forgotten 
to ram down a bullet ! He could not easily comprehend 
how men could have political principles and not vote on 
them. It was represented, on the other hand, that a 
pledge to vote would alienate a certain sect which regarded 
voting as a sin. The strongest reason probably was that 
the clergymen and religious men generally belonged to 
the class, then rapidly increasing in the country, of men 
who do not go to the polls. In his letter to Lewis Tap- 
pan of February 3d, he had claimed that the political 
action of political men and the holy action of religious 
men should be reconciled, and that the " elevated princi- 
ples of holiness " should be brought to bear so as to elTect 
legal abolition. He left the Ohio Convention content 
Avith the character of his coadjutors, but satisfied that a 
vast amount of work would be necessary to make them 
effective for the practical work of abolition by law. 

The fifteen days following the adjournment of the 
convention were devoted to filling the engagements which 
had been made for him to speak at Columbus, Pittsburg, 
Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. At every one of these 
places he was welcomed by crowded and enthusiastic audi- 
ences, and the notices in the press were all favorable to 
him personally, and most of them to his cause. At Phila- 
delphia he spoke three times. In none of the four cities 
were there indications of mob violence. His reception by 
the people was in the nature of an ovation, and he reached 
Xew York crreatlv encourasred. 


The " anniversary week " of May, 1835, at New York, 
of the national benevolent and religious societies elicited 
unusual interest. ]\Iuch of this was due to the peculiar 
circumstances in which the second anniversary of the 
American Anti-Slavery Society was to be held. The pre- 
ceding year had been marked in New York city by mobs, 
which had destroyed the property and sought the lives of 
the Tappans, and it was probable that the assembly of 
anti-slavery men would be dispersed by a rabble, excited 
by inflammatory appeals of political newspapers, encour- 
aged by the immunity promised by politicians, and led by 
custom-house officials, merchants' clerks, kidnappers, and 
slave-holders. It had been marked also by manifestations 
in every part of the North and in one part of the South 
of the national sentiment against slavery. The toleration 
in Kentucky of free discussion, the formation there of a 
State anti-slavery society, the prospect of the early estab- 
lishment at Danville of an uncompromising immediate- 
abolition newspaper, had turned all eyes to that State and 
to the movements of James G. Birney. His speeches on 
his way eastward had been favorably reported by the press. 
His appearance on the New Y^ork platform was therefore 
eagerly awaited by friends, enemies, and the public gen- 
erally. On the 9th of ]\Iay, Mr. Garrison wrote from New 
Y^ork to the " Liberator " : " Of course, Mr. Birney will 
be the observed of all observers." 

When the anniversary meeting was called to order on 
the 12th, the large church was crowded even in the aisles 
and galleries. Elizur Wright, the secretary, read parts of 
the "Annual Report." One of the first passages was in 
the following words, and was received Avitli applause : 

Soon after the last anniversary the anti-slaven*- cause received 
efficient aid from the accession of Mr. Birney, of Kentucky. The 
The fact of his being a Southern man, a distinguished agent of 
the Colonization Society, and of his proving his sincerity by 


emancij)ating liis own slaves, gave great weight to his letters, 
which of themselves were unanswerable arguments for the futility 
of colonization and the truth and efficiency of the doctrine of 
immediate emancipation. If he has not brought all good men 
openly to renounce colonization, he has at least placed the scheme 
in such a light that comparatively few such choose to defend it, 
and fewer still to give it practical support. 

The president, Mr. Arthur Tappan, then introduced 
;^[r. Birnoy to the audience. 

A moment's silence as the speaker stepped forward on 
the platform, and then lie was greeted with thunders of 
applause. A dignilied, imposing presence, a noble coun- 
tenance, self-possession, a handsome, strongly built, and 
graceful figure above middle height,* and the florid com- 
plexion of healthy middle age were the first impression. 
The second was of finely cut and regular features, soft, 
prematurely gray brown hair, blue eyes, broad and high 
forehead, and a mouth expressive of both gentleness and 
firmness. His manner conciliated opponents and awak- 
ened curiosity and interest to hear him. The first round 
of applause was followed by approving murmurs, and the 
managers felt that the meeting was in no danger of inter- 
ruption by mob violence. Mr. Birney read the first reso- 
lution : 

That, for the permanent safety of the Union, it is indispensable 
that the whole moral power of the free States should be concen- 
trated and brought into action for the extermination of slavery 
among us. 

No verbatim report of this speech was made ; the only 
report was the imperfect one furnished to the " New York 
Observer " and the " New York Evangelist." This is to 
be regretted, for the speech struck the key-note of his 
future anti-slavery career. It was a well-considered argu- 

* He was five feet nine iuches in height. 


ment and ii patriotic appeal for tho preservation of the 
Union — a demonstration that free discussion would not 
vend it, but that "slavery, if it continues many years 
longer, must itself dissolve the Union, and that inevita- 
bly. " He pointed to the tendency of slavery to create 
large landed estates ; to drive the poorer whites, mechan- 
ics, and laborers to the Xorth ; to build up a class of non- 
resident proprietors and another of overseers managing 
the cotton and sugar plantations ; to increase the demands 
of the South for protection by the United States through 
standing armies against slave insurrections ; and to cause 
demands by the South for legal restrictions on the right 
of petition, the freedom of speech and of the press, lead- 
ing to the destruction of all the safeguards of personal 
liberty in the free States. These demands can not and 
will not be conceded ; hence strife and disunion. " If 
you wish to preserve the union of these States," said the 
orator, " slavery must go down ! " He was faithful in 
portraj'ing the gathering of the storm-clouds which, if 
not averted, " will burst over the laud with tremendous 
and desolating violence." The remedy he proposed was 
that " the moral power of the free States should be con- 
centrated and brougJii info action'''' for the abolition of 
slavery. It was not enough to " concentrate " it ; the 
further step must be taken of bringing it into effective 
" action.'''' The political power of the- free States should 
be exerted to put an end to slavery in the District of 
Columbia and the Territories and to the interstate slave- 
trade, legislation being the only method known in this 
republic of bringing moral power into action. In his 
view a principle held was a principle to be acted upon ; 
an abolitionist who refused to vote on principle was not 
worthy of respect. From the first of his anti-slavery ca- 
reer to the last he regarded the non-voting abolitionists 
as tinkling cymbals. His nature was too sincere, practical, 


and logical to bear patiently sucli inconsistency between 
professions and practice. That he did not go into detail 
on this point was wise ; a good deal of work was still to 
be done before many abolitionists could be converted to 
the doctrine of "political action" as laid down in the 
constitution of the National Society. In this speech Mr. 
liirney declared his fidelity to the natioiud Constitution : 
" I trust in God that it may ever live ! " At its close he was 
applauded, and the resolution was adopted " unaniDtously.'''' 
His stay in New York was prolonged about ten days. 
During this time he was the guest of the Tappans and of 
Judge William Jay, spending several evenings at the 
country residence of the latter. In the judge he found a 
congenial spirit, and for him he formed a friendship that 
was never clouded. ^Mr. Jay was a son of John Jay, for- 
mer Chief Justice of the United States, and one of the 
most active promoters of abolition in Xew York. The 
son had been an immediate abolitionist from his youth 
np. At the request of the Tappans, Judge Jay had pre- 
pared and they had published his " Inquiry," a compara- 
tive view of the Anti-Slavery and Colonization Societies — an 
admirable work which held its place for many years. In 
the conversations between Mr. Birney and Judge Jay, the 
general plan was suggested of a book on the action of the 
National Government in behalf of slavery. The necessary 
investigations of the facts were subsequently made by the 
judge, and the book was finished and published in 1838, 
under the name of " Jay's View," etc. As a contribution 
to the political literature of the anti-slavery cause, it took 
the leading place. An edition of live thousand was ex- 
hausted in 1838, and a second was published in 1830. The 
book was a vade mecnm of the lecturers appointed by the 
National Society, and contributed greatly to turn the cur- 
rent of anti-slavery thought to political action. It ar- 
rested the attention of many public men, and did much 


to give dignity and weight to the abolition movement as 
one touching practical statesmanship. Jay's writings on 
slavery continued until 1853 (he died in 1858, at the age 
of sixty-nine), and were always forcible as well as timely. 
They fill a closely printed octavo volume of six hundred 
and seventy pages, and will give him name and fame long 
after most of his anti-slavery coadjutors shall have been 
forgotten. He was founder of the Bible Society in 1815, 
and became a member, about that time, of the New York 
Manumission Society. As first judge of Westchester 
County (which office he held from 1820 to 1842, when he 
was superseded because of his anti-slavery writings), he 
charged the Grand Jury in 1835 that it would be the duty 
of every citizen to resist the enforcement of any statute 
that might be passed to restrict the free discussion of slav- 
ery. His manly stand, it is thought, prevented the pas- 
sage of such a statute by the New York Legislature. He 
was a wise, conservative, and statesmanlike abolitionist. 
As a member of the Executive Committee of the Ameri- 
can Anti-Slavery Society, and author of its constitution, 
his services were most valuable. He and Mr. Birney were 
not only personal friends, but stood shoulder to shoulder 
in all the exigencies of the anti-slavery movement. They 
had many qualities in common ; Mr. Jay was at his best as 
counselor and essayist ; Mr. Birney excelled also as a 
speaker and in the practical and executive management of 
the reform. It is safe to say, that after May, 1835, no 
important step was taken or important document issued 
by the Executive Committee, without the previous sanc- 
tion of both of thera. In the month last named, Mr. Bir- 
ney was elected a vice-president, and ]Mr. Jay, foreign 
corresponding secretary for the society. 

During the anniversary week, invitations to lecture in 
different parts of the North were showered upon Mr. 
Birney. He accepted enough to occupy his time for sev- 

178 JAMES a. lillLNEV AND lllS TIMES. 

cral weeks, and visited Connecticut, Rliode Island, Massa- 
chusetts, and Xew llani])shire. llis reception everywhere 
was gratifying. His audiences were large and undis- 
turbed, there being no little curiosity among the people 
to see him and hear liis opinions. At Boston, Dr. Chan- 
ning was one of his hearers. The impression he made was 
reflected in the press. One newsjiaper called him — 

One of the most candid, temperate, and urbane speakers that 
ever addressed a popular assembly. 

Another said of him : 

Mr, Birnej^'s manner of speaking is pleasant, his statements 
candid, his language persuasive. His mind is of a high or- 
der. . . . Such a man. . , in the cause he is engaged in will be 
the means of executing much good. 

As a lecturer, Mr. Birney was not habitually emo- 
tional. By nature, he was intellectual and judicial ; and, 
being free from affectation, he exhibited these qualities in 
llis ordinary speeches. He was creative, but not imitative. 
To seekers after truth he was a safe guide, leading them 
on a path luminous with fact. He gained the implicit 
confidence of his hearers; and without any demonstra- 
tions of oratorical art he carried them, by faultless logic, 
with him to his conclusions. No one ever called him a 
" silver-tongued orator," but he made as many converts as 
any of his brother agitators. Lewis Tappan is reported 
to have said that no other reform movement or church 
could produce five platform orators equal in effectiveness 
to Birney, "Weld, Stanton, Gerrit Smitii, and Alvan Stew- 
art, each differing from the others in method. As a 
sjieakcr, 'Mv. Birney suggested great power in reserve. 
Tliis lu' liad. The passionate depths, the intense earnest- 
ness of his nature, were only revealed in the heat of debate 
or the pressure of some great exigency. The great 
speeches of his life were in defending a client indicted for 
inurdiT ; in debating the slavery question against President 


Jolm C. Young, before a Kentucky audience ; in vindi- 
cating the anti-slavery character of the Constitution of 
Ohio, in the Matilda slave case, before the Common Pleas 
Criminal Court at Cincinnati; and in pleading for the 
right of free discussion before the mob assembled in mass 
meeting at the Cincinnati court-house, in 1836, with the 
intention to destroy his press and take his life. On those 
occasions his reticence and reserve were swept away ; 
every mental faculty was alert ; every nerve tense with 
life ; and the audience was moved to tears and laughter 
and shame at the will of the speaker. No man who heard 
him on any of those occasions ever thought of him again 
except as a consummate orator. But he did not fire up 
Vesuvius to cook a dinner. 

An ejiisode in his Eastern tour was his offering a reso- 
lution at the Xew England Anti-Slavery Convention, at 
Boston, against the use of " personalities " by abolitionists. 
In that locality, and under all the circumstances, this was 
a noteworthy thing to do. It implied a censure of the 
violent language commonly used by the " Liberator," and 
was so understood generally, though H. C. Wright affected 
not to perceive its application. The convention passed 
the resolution. 

But while he was lecturing to the New Englanders, a 
storm was brewing against him in Kentucky. Letters 
from Danville summoned him to return home to meet the 
machinations of emissaries who had come from other places 
and were busy in organizing a movement to prevent the 
publication of his paper, the " Philanthropist," which 
was announced for the 1st of August. With reluctance, 
he canceled appointments to speak in Albany, Utica, and 
other cities in Central New York, and relinquished the 
long-expected pleasure of visiting his friend Gerrit Smitli 
at Peterboro. When he reached home, al)Out the 10th of 
July, he found the county in commotion. 

C IT A ftp: K XIX. 



DrRiNG his absence from home, wliich had been pro- 
longed nearly three months, nothing had been left un- 
done to turn public sentiment against him in Mercer 
County. Several local meetings in different parts of the 
county were followed by a mass meeting at Danville. 
Tliese were addressed in inflammatory speeches by orators 
from other parts of the State. Resolutions were passed 
pledging the citizens present to prevent the publication 
of the '■ Philanthropist," '-'•peaceably if we can., forcibly if 
we must.'''' Threats of personal violence were made against 
any and all men who should countenance the paper or aid 
in its circulation. Rumors of intended slave insurrections 
were spread, and many women and some timid men were 
excited or frightened by them. The mass meeting at 
Danville was composed in large part of persons from other 
counties than fiercer. It appointed an executive com- 
mittee of thirty-three persons to address to Mr. Birney a 
letter of remonstrance and " take such other steps as 
might be necessary." 

From their letter, prepared by a Whig member of 
Congress from another district, we quote the most im- 
portant passages : 


We address you now in the calmness and candor tliat should 
characterize law-abiding men, as willing to avoid violence as they 
are determined to meet extremity, and advise you of the peril 
that must and inevitably will attend the execution of your pur- 
pose. We projjose to you to iwsti^one the setting up of your press 
and the publication of your paper until application can be had to 
the Legislature, who will by a positive law set rules for your ob- 
servance, or, by a refusal to act, admonish us of our duty. "We 
admonish you, sir, as citizens of the same neighborhood, as mem- 
bers of the same society in which you live and move, and for 
whose harmony and quiet we feel the most sincere solicitude, to 
beware how you make an experiment here which no American 
slave-holding community has found itself able to bear. 

To this communication, dated July I'^tli and deliv- 
ered in the evening of that day, ]\Ir. Birney promptly 
answered, suggesting that it would have been more in the 
character of " law-abiding citizens, which they professed 
to be, had the signers abstained entirely from the threat 
that a resort might be had to violence to prevent the 
exercise of one of the most precious rights of an Ameri- 
can — a right which can never for a moment be surren- 

He concluded his answer with : " However desirous I 
may be of obliging you as citizens and neighbors, I can 
not accede to your proposition." 

The gauntlet flung down by the committee of thirty- 
three had been lifted, and the next move, according to 
their programme, was to mob Mr. Birney when he should 
ride into town next morning as it was his habit to do. 
They were busily engaged in marshaling on the main 
street "lewd fellows of the baser sort," when a young 
Kentuckian mounted a store-box, and, reminding the 
crowd that he had opposed Mr. Birney's views, declared 
that he honored him for his sincerity and goodness, and 
no harm should be done him by one or many assailants 
unless they were numerous enough to march over the 


dead bodies of the speaker and many others. The brave 
orator now enjoys an lionored old age. lie is widely 
known as cx-cliaplain of the United States Senate and 
Moderator of the last General Assembly of the Presby- 
terian Chnrch, South, the Rev. Joseph J. Bullock, of 
AVashington city. Friends of law and order rallied on 
his ai^i)eal, and when ]Mr. Birney, half an hour later, rode 
through the street and dismounted at the jjost-ofiice, he 
Avas not molested. 

The next day he wrote to Gerrit Smith : 

Circumstances have occurred since my return that lead me to 
fear that my projected newspa])er will be forcil)ly suppressed and 
that all o])en discussion of the subject of slavery will be inhib- 
ited in Kentucky. ... I am making preparation for the publi- 
cation of the "Philanthropist," a notice of which you have 
doubtless seen. If I am permitted to go on with it I will send 
it to you. It will ])robably be out by the 15th of August. 

Xeither his fear nor his expectation was verified. 
Money effected more than threats. The committee quietly 
bought out the printer. Mr. Birney's arrangements for 
printing his paper had been made with one Dismukes, the 
owner of the " Olive Branch," the Danville weekly news- 
paper, and he had given him a bond of indemnity against 
all damages from mobs. ^Ir. Birney had seen Dismukes 
on the lith of July and found him apparently resolute. 

Xext morning, about eleven, he rode into town. A 
group of people were gathered about the printing-office, 
waiting and curious. Dismukes, with his family, had dis- 
appeared about midnight. TTis office with all its materi- 
als was in the hands of another person, who showed a bill 
of sale in due form, and his dwelling with its furniture 
was held by the same party under a deed properly signed, 
attested, and acknowledged. Dismukes was said to have 
been bought out at a high price and to have gone to Mis- 
souri. The slave-holding party enjoyed its triumph with- 


out open exultation, publisliing widely, however, the 
threat that any man who should attempt to print the 
" Philanthropist " at Danville Avould do so at the risk of 
his life. 

For nearly two months he endeavored, through cor- 
respondence and personal visits to Lexington, Frankfort, 
and Louisville, to procure a practical printer to issue the 
proposed newspaper. 

He did not extend his negotiations outside of Ken- 
tucky. A citizen of the State might join him without 
peril of life ; no man from a free State could. Before the 
middle of September he relinquished the effort as useless. 
It had become manifest that an anti-slavery paper could 
not be published at Danville. 

In July, 1835, Prentice, editor of the Louisville " Jour- 
nal," published the following squib : 

3Ir. James G. Bimey has issued proposals for publishing a 
paper at Danville, in this State, to be called " The Investigator." 
His object is to effect the emancipation of the slave population. 
He is an enthusiastic, but, in our opinion, a visionary philan- 
thropist, whose efforts, though well intended, are likely to be of 
no real service to the cause of humanity. He at least shows, 
however, that he has the courage to reside among the people 
whose institutions he assails. He is not like William Lloyd 
Garrison living in Massachusetts and opening the battery upon 
the States five hundred or a thousand miles off. He is not such 
a coward or fool as to think of cannonading the South and West 
from the steeple of a New England meeting-house. 

During the excitement in July, wishing to speak to 
the people, he tried to rent for that purpose the old Pres- 
byterian church, which was commonly used as a lecture 
hall and in which he had delivered many anti-slavery ad- 
dresses, but it was refused him. Similar applications for 
halls and churches in other towns were also rejected. 
From the time of his return from the East he was unable 


to procure any public building in which to defend him- 
self before the the people. Free speech was brought 
within very narrow limits in Kentucky. 

In the last half of July the irregularity in the delivery 
of his mails li'd him to suspect that liis letters were tam- 
pered with antl his papers destroyed. 1'he explanations 
of the postmaster were not satisfactory. Early in August 
Mr. Biriu'y wrote (ierrit Smith: ''I have just been in- 
formed that our Danville postmaster has determined to 
become my intellectual caterer ! lie is beginning to with 
hold my papers." 

A sharp remonstrance elicited the answer that the 
postmaster would cheerfully obey any order that might 
be given on the subject by Postmaster-General Kendall, 
to whom Mr. Birney was referred for redress. Repeated 
letters to Mr. Keiidall remained unanswered. On the 22d 
of August, however, Amos Kendall wrote as follows to 
the New York city postmaster, who had excluded anti- 
slavery papers from the mails, and reported the fact with 
a request for instructions as to his duty : 

I am deterred from giving an order to exclude the whole 
series of abolition publications from the Southern mails only by 
the want of legal })ower, and if I was situated as you are I would 
do as you have done. 

This letter signed by the Postmaster-Oeneral was ex- 
hibited to ]\Ir. liirney by the village postmaster as his 
authority for a course which personally he disapproved. 
The sigiud for a general refusal by Southern postmasters 
to deliver anti-.slavery papers was given July 20, 1835, by 
the leading citizens of Charleston^ S. C, who broke into 
the post-office of that city, seized all Xorthern papers sus- 
pected of anti-slavery leanings, and burned them on the 
public square. For some two months before his removal 
from Kentucky Mr. Birney did not receive any anti-slav- 


ery papers through the mails. Letters addressed to him 
were delivered. 

He was sorel}' tried, too, by the estrangement of many 
of his friends and relatives and by the genuine grief of 
many who adhered to him socially. He felt that he was 
regarded by many as an enemy to the j^eace of the com- 
munity and that he was the occasion of discord among 
kindred. The younger members of his family were ex- 
posed to rude speeches and unpleasant incidents. His 
usefulness and happiness in Kentucky were at an end. 

On the 13th of September he wrote to Gerrit Smith a 
letter, from which we make a few extracts : 

I have determined to remove to Cincinnati. I am now mak- 
ing preparations for doing so, and expect to have my fomily there 
by the 10th of next month. 

In this letter he speaks of " the exorbitant claims of 
the South on the liberties of the free States, demanding 
that everything that has been heretofore deemed i^recious 
to them shall be surrendered, in order that the slave-holder 
may be perfectly at his ease in his iniquity." 

And he adds a jiassage which was widely published at 
the time, and was the forerunner of Seward's "irrepressi- 
ble conflict " and Lincoln's '' This country can not exist 
half free and half slave." It is as follows : 

The contest is becoming — has become — one not alone of free- 
dom for the blacks, but of freedom for the ichitcs. It has now 
become absolutely necessary tliat slavery shall cease, in order 
that freedom may be jireserved to any portion of our land. The 
antagonist principles of liberty and slavery have been roused into 
action, and one or the other must be victorious. There will be 
no cessation of the strife until slavery sliall he exterminated or lib- 
erty destroyed. 

Several false reports have gained a certinn credence in 
regard to the manner in which Mr. Birney left Kentucky. 


One has it that lie cseapfd at ni^^ht, takin;j^ his family 
Avith liiiii ; another, that he fled for his life, leaving his 
family Ix'hiud him; and tlie third, tliat he narrowly 
avoided falling into tlie haiuls of a mob. In fact, the 
removal involved no dramatic situations whatever. For 
about a month his preparations for changing his residence 
to Cincinnati were made without secrecy, lie bought a 
dwelling-house in that city, sold his farm near Danville, 
wound up his affairs there, made and received parting calls 
from relatives, connections, and friends, a few of whom 
sought by courtesies to make amends for past estrange- 
ment, and, when everything was in readiness, accompanied 
on horseback the carriage that contained his family, pass- 
ing through the main street of the town, and halting there 
to say " Good-by " to some friends wdio were awaiting 
him. It is true he was going into exile from his native 
State, but there were few respectable men in Danville 
who would not even then have stood between him and 
personal danger. 

The feeling cherished toward James G. Birney by the 
best of his Kentucky townsmen is expressed by one of 
them, Hon. Thomas Green, of Maysville, in his " Sketch 
of the McDowells and their Connections : an Historical 
Family " (18T0). He describes him as "a man of whom 
his relatives, State, and country have good reason to be 

The following passage is an extract from a speech 
made by Robert J. Breckenridge, of Kentucky, in his 
famous discussion, in June, 1836, in Glasgow, Scotland, 
with George Tiiompson, the English abolitionist : 

Nor can he who traduces my brethren, my kindred, my home 
— all tliat I most venerate and revere — honor me sv) much as by 
tnidiunif;; me They had been told that Mr. J. G. Birney had 
fled from Kentucky, and left his wife and children behind him 
in great danger, he being obliged to flee for his life ! It was 


true, he believed, that Mr. Birney, excellent and beloved as he 
was, had found it best to emigrate from that State. But that he 
hi\d jfed rested, he believed, on Mr. Thompson's naked assertion. 
That lie had left his wife and children behind, believing them to 
be in personal danger, was a thing ichich it would require amaz- 
ingly clear proof to establish against the gentleman in question (page 
107 of printed report). 

Mr. Breckenridge had kuown Mr. Birney from boy- 




The bonfires of Xorthcrn newspapers, in the evening 
of July 29, 1835, on the public square of Charleston, S. C, 
were lighted by an orderly assemblage of gentlemen of 
both political jiarties, the jwstmaster being present and 
aiding. In the morning of that day he hud written to 
Postmaster-General Kendall for his instructions; but lie 
probably knew in advance what they would be, and that 
he risked nothing by prom])t action. ]\lr. Kendall an- 
swered, August -ith : 

. . . Upon a careful examination of the law, I am satisfied 
that the Postmaster-General has no legal authority to exclude 
newspapers from the mail nor i)rohibit their carriage or delivery 
on account of their character or tendency, real or supposed. . . . 
But I am not prepared to direct you to forward or deliver the 
papers of wliich you speak. The Post-Office Department was 
created to serve the people of each and all of the United States, 
and not to be used as the instrument of their destruction. None 
of the papers detained have been forwarded to me ; . . . but 
you inform me they are in character ''the most inflammatory and 
incendiary and insurrectionary in the hiirhest dei,free." 

By no act or direction of mine, official or ])rivate, could I be 
induced to aid knowingly in giving circulation to papers of this 
description, directly or indirectly. We owe an obligation to the 
laws, but a higher one to the communities in which we live ; 


and if the former be perverted to destroy the latter, it is patriot- 
ism to disregard them. Entertaining these views, I can not 
sanction and will not condemn the step you have taken. . . . 
I am, etc., Amos Kendall. 

This letter was generally published in the newspaper 
organs of the Administration. On the 20th of the same 
month the Postmaster- General published a second letter, 
which purported to be in answer to a request made by 
some citizens of Petersburg, \'a., that he should adopt a 
department regulation to prevent the transmission by mail 
of anti-slavery j)apers and documents. In it he said it 
was not in his power to obviate the evil by regulation, but 
he regarded such transmission " from one State to another 
as a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the Federal 
compact, which Avould Justify on the part of the injured 
States any measure necessary to effect their exclusion." 
For the present the only means of relief was in res2)07isi- 
hilities voluntarily assumed by theposhnasters. He hoped 
Congress would at the next session put a stop to the evil, 
and pledged his exertions to promote the adoption of a 
measure for that purpose. 

On the 24th of the same month he wrote to the post- 
master of Xew York city, advising him to detain anti- 
slavery papers, and making an argument for the propriety 
of such action. 

If [wrote he] in time of war a postmaster should detect the 
letter of an enemy, a spy, passing through the mail, which, if it 
reached its destination, would expose his country to invasion 
and her armies to destruction, ought he not to arrest it ? Yet 
vrhere is his legal jiower to do so ? 

Mr. Kendall's three letters were doubtless intended to 
prepare the public mind for the demands of the slave 
States and of President Jackson for a law of Congress ex- 
cluding anti-slavery papers and documents from the mails. 


and for a law in eacli free State making tlie publication of 
any anti-slavery article a misdemeanor, and providing for 
the delivery of any person in a free State indicted in a 
slave State for circulating there an anti-slavery paper, to 
the agent of such slave State for trial in its courts. A few 
of these demands by Southern Legislatures may be given 
as specimens of all. They were passed early in the winter 
of 1835-'3G, most of them in December : 

liesohed, That the Loffislutvire of South Carolina, havinf; every 
confidence in the justice and friendship of the non-slave-holding 
States, announces her confident expectation, and she earnestly 
requests that the governments of these States will promptly and 
effectually suppress all those associations within their respective 
limits purporting to be abolition societies. (South Carolina). 

The General Assembly of North Carolina: 
Eesolced, That our sister States are respectively requested to 
enact penal laws prohibiting the printing within their respective 
limits all such publications as may have a tendency to make our 
slaves discontented. 

The Alabama Legislature resolved : 

That we call upon our sister States and respectfully request 
them to enact such penal laws as will finally put an end to the 
malignant deeds of the abolitionists. 

The Virginia Legislature : 

Resolved, That the non-slave-holding States of the Union are 
respectfully requested promptly to enact penal enactments or take 
such other measures as will effectually suppress all associations 
within their respective limits, purporting to be or having the 
character of abolition societies. 

The Georgia Legislature : 

Resohed, That it is deeply incuralx'nt on the people of the 
North to crush the traitorous designs of the abolitionists. 

The resolutions of the legislative bodies of the slave 
States were offieiallv commuiiieated to the governors of 


the Xortliern States, and by them laid before their respect- 
ive Legishitures. 

President Jackson, in his annual message to Congress, 
in December, 1835, covered so precisely the two grounds 
taken by the slave- State Legislatures as to demonstrate 
concerted action. He said : 

I must also invite your attention to the painful excitement 
produced in the South by attempts to circulate through the mails 
inflammatory appeals addressed to the passions of the slaves in 
prints and in various sorts of publications calculated to stimulate 
them to insurrection and to produce all the horrors of a ser- 
vile war. 

If " the misguided persons who had engaged in these 
unconstitutional and wicked attempts " should persist, he 

not doubt that the non-slavc-holding States would exercise their 
authority in suppressing this interference with the Constitutional 
rights of the South. 

He recommended to Congress the passage of a law that 

prohibit under severe penalties the circulation in the Southern 
States, through the mail, of incendiary publications intended to 
instigate the slaves to insurrection. 

This part of the message, on motion of Mr. Calhoun, 
was referred to a select committee of five, of whom four 
were from the slave States. The bill reported was as fol- 
lows : 

Be it enacted, etc., that it shall not be lawful for any deputy 
postmaster in any State, Territory, or district of the United 
States knowingly to deliver to any person whatsoever any pam- 
phlet, newspaper, handbill, or other paper, or pictorial represen- 
tation touching the subject of slavery, where, by the laws of said 
State, Territory, or district, their circulation is prohibited ; and 
any deputy postmaster who shall be guilty thereof shall be forth- 
with removed from office. 


This bill was ordered to a third reading in the Senate 
by a tie vote of Senators and Vice-President Van Biiren's 
casting vote in the atfirmative. 

In his report on the Senate bill, Mr. Calhoun spoke of 
the obligation of the States within which — 
the danger [from abolitionism] originates, to arrest its furtlier 
progress, a duty they owe not only to the States whose institu- 
tions are assailed, but to the Union and Constitution . . . and, 
it may be added, to themselves. 

Early in the winter of 1835-'3G an ellort was made in 
every free-State Legislature then in session to pass bills 
against the freedom of the press. These bills were sub- 
stantially the same, and were so nearly alike in form as to 
indicate that they were drawn by the same hand. As a 
specimen of them I give in the note * the text of the one 
urged in Xew York. I copy it from the " Philanthropist " 
of June 17, 183C, which copied it from the "Xew York 
Evening Star," then one of the organs of the Administra- 
tion and edited by a Federal oftice-holder. 

* An act to secure to the several States a more effectual control over 
their slaves. 

Whereas, the Government of the United States was formed in the 
spirit of harmony and good will, for mutual protection and benefit, and 
by the sacrifice of various sectional interests ; and ivhereas the relation 
of master and slave exists in many of the States, the regulation of which 
constitutes an important part of their domestic policy, and that relation 
is liable to be disturbed, and the peace and security of their citizens to 
be put in jeopardy by the agency of individuals beyond their respective 
jurisdictions ; 

Now, therefore, be it enacted by the people of the State of New York, 
represented in the Senate and Assembly, and they do enact as follows : 

Section' 1. All writings or pictures, made, printed, or published with- 
in this State, with a design or intent, or the manifest tendency whereof 
shall be, to excite to, or cause insurrection, rebellion, riot, civil commo- 
tion, or breach of the peace among the slaves in any part of the United 
States of America, or with the design or intent, or the manifest tendency 
whereof shall be, to create on the pait of the slaves an abandonment of 


In his message of January, 183G, W. L. Marcy, Gov- 
ernor of Xew York, wrote on this subject : 

Without the power to pass such laws, the States would not 
possess all tlie necessary means for preserving their external rela- 
tions of peace among themselves. 

The Xew York Legislature responded to the senti- 
ments of the Governor by adopting a report which pledged 
the faith of the State to enact such laws whenever they 
shall be requisite. February 2, 1836, a similar bill was 
reported to the Legislature of Rhode Island. 

the service, or a violation of the duty which the master has a legal right 
to claim, shall be deemed a misdemeanor ; all persons who shall make, 
print, publish, or circulate, or shall subscribe or contribute money or 
other means to enable any other person to make, print, publish, or circu- 
late any such writing or picture, shall be deemed guilty of the offense, 
and shall be punished by fine or imprisonment, or both, in the discretion 
of the court. 

Sec. 2. It shall be the duty of the Executive of this State, when- 
ever a communication shall be made to him by the Executive of any other 
of the United States setting forth that a citizen of this State has been 
engaged in publishing or circulating in any such State any writing or 
picture, the manifest tendency whereof shall be to cause or excite to 
insurrection, rebellion, riot, or civil commotion among the slaves of such 
State, to transmit such communication, with all proofs accompanying the 
same, to the district attorney of the county where such citizen shall 
reside ; and it shall be the duty of said district attorney to lay such com- 
munication before the grand jury, which shall next be summoned in said 
county, and it shall be the duty of said grand jury to examine such com- 
munication and proofs, and if they shall find thereupon, or upon addi- 
tional evidence, that such citizen has been engaged since the passing of 
this act in publishing or circulating, either personally or by an agent, 
within such other State, any such writing or picture, they shall so return 
to the court before which such grand jury was summoned, and thereupon 
such court shall take order for the arrest, safe custody, or forthcoming 
of said citizen ; and the Executive of this State is authorized, upon the 
demand of the Executive making such communication, to cause such 
citizen to be surrendered and delivered up, in like manner as is provided 
in case of fugitives from justice, from any other State." 


Edward Everett, the Whig Governor of Massachusetts, 
recommeiuK'd the passage of a bill, lie said : 

"Whatever by direct and necessary operation is calculated to 
excite an insurrection among the States lias been held by highly 
respectable and legal authority an olTense against the ])eace of 
the Commonwealth, wliich may be presented as a misdemeanor at 
common law. 

About the same time, the lion. William Sullivan of 
Boston, an eminent lawyer and orator and a leading Whig, 
issued a pamphlet on the subject. In this he wrote : 

It is to be hoped and expected that Massachusetts will enact 
laws declaring the printing, publishing, and circulating papers 
and pamphlets on slavery, and also tlie holding of meetings to 
discuss slavery and abolition, to be public indictable otfenses. 

Before and during the efforts in the free States by 
politicians to effect the passage of laws against freedom of 
speech and of the press, fraternal appeals and threats of 
disunion came in rapid alternation from public meetings 
in slave States. The Southern newspapers clamored in- 
cessantly for action by the free-State Legislatures. " Up 
to the mark the Xorth must come if it would restore 
tranquillity and preserve the Union," said the " Richmond 
Whig." The Governor of Alabama made a requisition in 
September, 1835, on Governor Marcy, of New York, for 
the delivery of E. G. Williams, publisher of the "Xew 
York Emancipator," to be tried under the laws of Ala- 

On the Tth of January, 183G, in the United States 
Senate, Mr. Calhoun made another demand on behalf of 
the slave power. This was the suppression of the right of 
petition in any nuittcr touching slavery. He said of the 
petitions : " Nothing will stop them but a stern refusal, 
by closing the doors to them and refusing to receive 


In the House, ^Ir. Piiikne}^ of South Carolina, ob- 
tained February 8, 183G, the appointment of a select com- 
mittee on anti-slavery petitions, and, at a later date, the 
passage of a resolution that all such petitions should be 
laid on the table without being either printed or referred, 
and that no further action shall be had thereon. 

In the summer of 1835, President Jackson sent a mili- 
tary force to compel the Seminole Indians to remove be- 
yond the Mississippi from Florida, without taking with 
them the colored or half-breed members of the tribe. The 
Seminoles refused. On the 21st of January, 1836, by or- 
der of President Jackson, the Secretary of War Avrote to 
the general commanding in Florida : 

I have to ask your particular attention to the measures indi- 
cated to prevent the removal of those negroes, and to insure their 
restoration. You will allow no terms to the Indians until every 
living slave in their possession belonging to a white man is 
given up. 

As the Indians were most of them of mixed blood, half 
and quarter breeds, descendants in part of fugitive slaves, 
the claims could not be accepted by the Seminoles. The 
result was a seven years' war, at a cost to the United 
States of some thirty millions of dollars, brought on by 
President Jackson on his own responsibility. The politi- 
cal object was to place slavery on the footing of a national 
institution, to be protected by the National Government 
with all its power.* 

The next measure on the programme of the slave power 
for 1835 was an insurrection in Texas. This broke out 
in the summer. " Committees of safety " were formed, 
and the organization of rebel troops pushed with great 
activity. Armed bodies of adventurers assembled in dif- 

* For all the facts of the Seminole War, see speeches and works of 
Hon. J. 11. Giddings. 


fercnt parts of the Southwest and crossed the border into 
^lexico without any hindrance by the authorities of the 
United States, From that time hostilities continued until 
Texas was wrested from our sister republic. No one 
doubts now that the movement was fomented and organ- 
ized by secret emissaries from the Administration of the 
United States Ciovernment, with the distinct intention on 
the part of the political South to annex Texas to this 
Union as slave territory, to be divided in time into from 
five to ten States. 

Mob violence wherever practicable was also a part of 
the system of operations. The mobs of July in Philadel- 
phia and Xew York city w^ere instigated and led by 
slave-holders who, by arrangement, had met there in large 
numbers. It was a meeting of this class in New York 
city, on July lUth, that called by advertisement and plac- 
ards a general meeting of Southerners, to be held on the 
20th of the month, in Tammany Ilall. A reporter who 
was taking notes of the proceedings was promptly ejected. 
July 25th, Amos Dresser, an inoffensive Bible agent from 
the North, was publicly whipped on the bare back by a 
mob of leading citizens on the public square of Nashville, 
Tenn. July 29th was the date of burning the Northern 
newspapers by the first citizens of Charleston, S. C. Au- 
gust 11, Dr. Crandall, a respectable physician, was thrown 
into jail in the District of Columbia, and detained there 
eight months on the charge of having an anti-slavery 
newspaper in his trunk. September Gth, five Northern 
men were hung by a mob of gentlemen at Yicksburg, and 
a rumor was spread of an insurrection plotted among the 
slaves. In the resulting, panic, twenty-six men, most of 
them Northern, were hung or shot by mobs in different 
parts of Mississippi. The Yicksburg murders were 
apologized for on the ground that the victims were gam- 
blers, and the others were never investigated, the Missis- 


sippi press passing tlicm without remark. The rumor was 
afterward admitted to have had no foundation in fact; 
and it was doubtless started as a pretext for the murder- 
ous raid on Northern residents and as a means of driving 
the slave-holders generally into a frenzied excitement 
against Northern men. 

September 5th, a town-meeting held at Clinton, Miss., 
passed a resolution which was aimed at Mr. Birney's pro- 
jiosed jjaper. It was : ■ 

Resolved that we would regard the establishment of an aboli- 
tion newspaper among us as a direct attempt to peril the lives 
and fortunes of the whole population, and that it will be the duty 
of every good citizen to break up, by any means that may be 
necessary, any such nefarious design. (" Philanthrojust," June 
10, 183G). 

September ITth, the grand jury of Oneida County, 
N. Y., under the promptings of a law officer of the United 
States, presented abolition publications as nuisances. Oc- 
tober loth, the Committee of Vigilance of Feliciana Par- 
ish, La., offered a reward of fifty thousand dollars for the 
delivery to it of Arthur Tappan. October 21st, the Xew 
York Anti- Slavery Convention at Utica was broken up by 
a body of men headed by Samuel Beardsly, a Democratic 
member of Congress, and two Federal office-holders. On 
the invitation of Gerrit Smith, of Peterboro, the delegates 
adjourned to that village, and organized there the New 
York State Anti-Slavery Society, with a membership of 
nearly a tliousand persons. The object of the Utica rioters 
was to prevent the sitting of the convention in that city ; 
and not to maltreat any of its members. On the same day, 
at Boston, a mob of " gentlemen of property and stand- 
ing " assembled for the purpose of tarring and feathering 
George Thompson, of England, the eloquent lecturer on 
abolition. This gentleman had come to New England in 


Septembc'i-, LSiU, on tlie invitation of Mr. Garrison, and 
had been extremely active as a speaker on slavery as it 
existed in the Southern States. This intervention of a 
foreigner in what was regarded by most Americans as a 
purely domestic question excited a strong prejudice 
against Mr. Thompson. He was followed with persistent 
misrepresentation in the newspapers ; and an unguarded 
hypothetical argument of his, making logical deductions 
from the Declaration of Independence, exposed him to the 
plausible charge of advising slaves to cut their master's 
throats. The excitement caused by this imprudent speech 
oilered the pro-slavery managers a good occasion to foment, 
a mob in Boston — a thing up to that time deemed to be 
an impossibility in that city of law and order, free speech, 
and anti-slavery sentiment. The announcement that Mr. 
Thompson would address a meeting of Boston ladies in 
the afternoon of the 21st of October caused a hue and cry 
to be raised by the city newspapers against " the foreign 
incendiary," the " English cut- throat, etc. Placards were 
jiosted over the city naming the time and place, and stir- 
ring up the mob to " snake him out," and " tar and 
feather " him. ^Ir. Thompson abandoned his intention 
to speak, and in the forenoon the mayor was notified of 
the fact. Under the supposition that ^Mr. Thompson's 
absence would be generally known, and Avould prevent the 
assemblage of the mob, the ladies met in a room adjoining 
the anti-slavery rooms. The doings of this mob have 
been celebrated in anniversary meetings of abolitionists 
and have been the subject of more controversy than those 
of any other of that period. Xo lives were lost', however, 
and very little property. It is memorable as being the 
only mob in Boston in the decennium ending with 1840; 
and as being the only one of any note in the Northern 
States during that period that was not caused mainly by 
the intrigues of politicians. An incidental good result of 


it was to open the eyes of thoughtful unti-sUivery men to 
the unwisdom of inviting pubUc speakers from England 
to take an active part in the agitations of our domestic 
politics. Mr, Thompson went back to England imme- 
diately ; but, good and eloquent though he was, his visit 
exposed the American abolitionists for many years to the 
damaging charge of receiving English gold for promoting 
English policy. The charge appealed strongly to what 
was in that day a powerful popular prejudice. 

The foregoing part of this chapter is a rapid and neces- 
sarily imperfect sketch of the programme devised by the 
slave power for its operations beginning in the early sum- 
mer of 1835. Every measure was aggressive. The cru- 
sade against free mails, freedom of speech and of the 
press, the right of petition and trial by jury ; the costly 
war to enslave the majority of the Seminoles, undertaken 
without authority of Congress ; the connivance of the Ad- 
ministration with the organization within the United 
States of armed parties which avowed the purpose to con- 
quer a j)rovince from a republic with which we were at 
peace and add it as slave States to the Union ; the at- 
tempted ostracism, social and political, of every American 
citizen who would not bow the knee at the new altar 
erected to the dark spirit of slavery ; the reign of terror 
at the South, with its inquisition into opinion, lynchings, 
expulsions, and murders of men from the free States ; the 
mobs excited at the North by the inflammatory appeals 
of the political press and the active exertions of party 
wire- workers — these were war measures in a time of peace 
precipitated upon the country by an oligarchy led by able 
and brave men determined to rule or ruin, wielding all 
the powers and patronage of the Administration with the 
influence of the Federal judiciary, and apparently control- 
ling the majority of each House in the Congress of the 
United States. They were re-enforced by pathetic appeals 


addressed to the humanity, fraternal affection, and gener- 
osity of Northern men and women to save Southern wives, 
mothers, and ehihlren from the bloody horrors of servile 
insurrection ; by arguments to prove slavery a patriarchal 
and biblical institution, the beneficent result of which 
would be to elevate the barbarians of Africa to the high 
plane of Christian civilization ; by new theories of the 
national Constitution which interpolated in that instru- 
ment guarantees for the existence and protection of slav- 
ery and stamped as misprision of treason any opposition 
to that institution. Quiet submission to the demands of 
the slave power was represented as the only means of 
averting the dissolution of the Union ! 

At the time the first of the above great measures — 
the destruction of the freedom of the mails — was an- 
nounced, there was no organization which rei:)resented the 
national sentiment. The leaders of the two political par- 
ties were either involved in the great conspiracy or were 
"dumb dogs that did not bark." Aspirants for presi- 
dential honors dared not risk the loss of the Southern 
vote. The national conventions of the Democratic and 
Whig parties in 1836 passed in silence the pending as- 
saults by the Executive on the liberties of the people ; the 
party press uttered no warning ; and the leading churches 
deprecated agitation as the forerunner of schism, and 
cried " Peace ! Peace I " 

The outlook was gloomy. Until the spring of 183() 
there was hardly a rift in the dark clouds that overhung 
the future of tliis republic. 

Fortunately for the progress of civilization, the sober 
second thought of the people is stronger under democratic 
institutions than any otlier force. Before the end of the 
winter the reaction had become strong enough to satisfy 
members of Congress of the imprudence of establishing a 
despotism over the mails, and to satisfy members of the 


Legislatures of the free States that popular opinion would 
not sustain any law to- muzzle the press or to make extra- 
dition of citizens for trial in slave States on charges of 
circulating anti-slavery documents. Mr. Calhoun's bill in 
relation to the United States mails was defeated on its 
final passage, though the Senate had voted its third read- 
ing. Not a single free State enacted the law against the 
press as demanded. The slave power had underestimated 
the strength of the attachment of the people to its liber- 
ties, and its first combined assault upon them, intended 
and expected to be overwhelming, had failed at the most 
important point. 

The tidal wave of the slave power had broken into 
foam on the solid rock of public opinion, and receded 
never again to rise so high until the rebellion. 

In this reaction of 1835-'36 lay the germ of the Na- 
tional Eepublican party. It was of slow but of sure 
gi'owth, extending unseen its fibrous roots to all parts of 
the Xorth. It first showed itself in politics with the 
motto, " Vote for no man who votes against freedom," 
and in asserting the right of petition and of trial by 
jury, and of freedom of the press and' of speech; next 
in balance-of -power combinations to carry nominations in 
the conventions of the dominant parties, State and na- 
tional ; then in independent nominations for Congress 
and State offices ; afterward in the nomination of candi- 
dates for President and Vice-President and the formation 
of a national party independent of any other which acted 
in 1840 without official name, but under the popular des- 
ignations of " Free Democratic," " Abolition," " National 
Republican," and " Freedom " party ; in 184:4 giving itself 
the name of " Liberty party " ; in 1848 and 1852 of the 
Free-Soil party ; and in 185G, after the beginning of the 
Kansas- Nebraska struggle for freedom, of the " National 
Republican " party — maintaining under all changes of 


name the same principles and substantially the same plat- 

The gradual growth of such a party was a necessary 
result of the formation in 18:^0 of the " Solid South," of 
the determined effort of the slave power in 183o-'36 to 
overthrow the strongest bulwarks of individual liberty, of 
its subsequent persistent and arrogant encroachments on 
the Constitution, and of its repeated attempts to extend 
slavery to the Territories, to establish the right of slave- 
holders to hold their alleged jiroperty in free States in de- 
fiance of the local law, and to make the protection, pres- 
ervation, and extension of slavery the chief object of what 
they were pleased to call the confederacy of States. John 
C. Calhoun foresaw and predicted the formation of such 
a party. In his report to the Senate accompanying the 
bill to destroy the freedom of the mails, he predicts that, 
if the abolitionists should be allowed to persist, " the art- 
ful and profligate " would in time " unite with the fanat- 
ics and make their movements the basis of a jyoicci'ful 
political party that will seek advancement by diffusing 
as widely as possible hatred against the slave - holding 

One of the clearest teachings of the history of the 
United States is that the formation of a " powerful polit- 
ical party " to extend and perpetuate slavery and make 
cotton the absolute king, preceded the formation of the 
party of resistance. The moral reprobation of slavery by 
the North and the Christian world generally had never 
abolished that curse or seemed to affect it. Milton, Cow- 
per, Clarkson, Jonathan Edwards, AVesley, Lundy, Bourne, 
Kenrick, Torrcy, Eankin, Duncan, Doak, Crowe, and 
thousaiids of faithful ministers of the Gospel, had for cent- 
uries hurled against it the thunders of Divine truth and 
the human sense of wrong, but no man stirred to organize 
a national ^^olitical party against it. 


If the slave power had been content to maintain slav- 
ery without extending it, had treated it as local and not 
national, and had kept hands off the liberties of indi- 
vidual citizens and of the free States, no political party 
would have been formed against it. In its inception 
and growth the Ilepublicau party was one for defense 



The removal of Mr. Birney from Kentucky to the 
leading commercial city of Ohio was generally understood 
to have been made for the purpose of publishing there a 
weekly anti-slavery paper. He had hardly established 
himself in his new domicile before the leading political 
Southern dailies opened fire on him and his project. The 
most moderate article was the following by Mr. Prentice, 
of the Louisville " Journal " : 

"VVe have little doubt that his office will be torn down, but we 
trust that Mr. Birney will receive no personal harm. Notwith- 
standing his mad notions, we consider him an honest and benevo- 
lent man. He is resolute, too. Not having been permitted to 
open his battery in this State, he is determined to cannonade us 
from across the river. Isn't it rather too long a shot for execu- 
tion, Mr. Birney ? 

On the 18th of October the slave-holders of Limestone 
County, Alabama, at a public meeting denounced him by 
name, printing it in capital letters, as one of the heads 
" of an organized band of abolition fanatics of the North- 
ern States," and appointed a vigilance committee of twenty 
persons, among whose duties was that of detecting any per- 
son that may attempt to circulate among the community 
"any seditious publications of any kind whatever," and 
" upon proof of such fact to inflict upon such person or 
persons death,'''' etc. 


His visit to Cincinnati in August, 1835, for the pur- 
pose of conferring with friends there, was an occasion for 
the publication of unfriendly paragraphs in three of the 
four city dailies— the " Post," the " Whig," and the " Re- 
publican." In these the abolitionists were termed "fanat- 
ical," " miserable," and " misguided," and their papers 
" vile incendiary publications." " What ought to be done 
with them ? " asked the " Post." " We would say : Send 
them back to the place from whence they came, and if 
any of their authors, or the agents of them, should be 
found here, Ii/)ich them," 

The " Whig " was the recognized organ of the party 
whose name it bore, and the two other dailies named sus- 
tained the same relation to the Democratic party. Mr. 
Birney's arrival in Cincinnati in October was the signal 
for broadsides of malignant abuse in these political sheets, 
whose common object seemed to be to mark Mr. Birney 
as an outlaw and projjer object of violence at the hands of 
the rabble. 

It is not improbable that the united efforts of the three 
papers and of the politicians who supported them would 
have resulted in a mob in October if it had not been for 
the powerful intervention of Charles Hammond, the vet- 
eran editor of the " Gazette," which was the leading com- 
mercial daily in the city. Hammond was an able lawyer, 
a forcible writer, an old citizen, and a man of influence. 
He was noted for his personal independence, which exhib- 
ited itself in his refusal to wear a party yoke without 
trimming it to fit his neck, in wearing a long queue, and 
in contempt for many social usages. In the presidential 
campaign of 1824 he had denounced Jackson as a slave- 
holder and the Southern politicians as aiming at the mo- 
nopoly of political power. He approved the Ohio laws 
that oppressed the blacks, believed in giving up fugitive 
slaves, and thought abolitionists mistaken and fanatical. 


Per contra, lie was a clocidod advocate of free speech, a 
free press, the riglit of petition, and resistance to tlie en- 
croachments of the slave power on the rights of the free 
States. In many points of character and doctrine he 
resembled John Quincy Adams. Unfortunately for his 
permanent fame, he had not taken the temperance pledge. 
In 1835 he rose to the highest point of his career. lie 
rebuked with dignity and force his fellow-editors for their 
course, censured the attempt to excite mob violence, and 
vindicated the rights of freedom of speech and of "the 
press. lie denounced the lynching at Xashville as a 
crime, published Dresser's narrative, and notified the 
South not to ask its Northern friends to justify or even 
palliate such an outrage. As to Mr. Birney, who Avas a 
gentleman of character, intelligence, and property, if he 
should choose to publish a paper at Cincinnati and discuss 
slavery, that was his right ; to deny it to him, or to molest 
him for its exercise, would be the act of men recreant to 
the foundation priucij)le of American institutions. This 
vigorous attack from an expected ally caused a temporary 
halt of the mobocratic forces. 

For some weeks after reaching Cincinnati Mr. Birney 
was busy in furnishing his house and calling on his ac- 
quaintances, lie presented his letters of membership to 
the Sixth Street Presbyterian Church, then under the pas- 
toral charge of the Eev. Heman Norton. His aflability 
and pleasing address extended rapidly his circle of ac- 
quaintances and friends, and his intelligence and social 
tact commended him to the best citizens. Before the end 
of the year he numbered among his visitors Salmon P. 
Chase, Samuel Eells, AVilliam D. Gallagher, the poet, 
Charles Hammond, Henry Starr, United States Senator 
Thomas Morris, Alexander Kinmont, the teacher, Dr. 
Drake, Dr. Nash McDowell, and other men of distinction. 
In October he wrote an " Address to the AVomeu of Ohio," 


a pamphlet of sixteen pages, asking their participation in 
the anti-slavery work. This was in development of a reso- 
lution he had offered at the April meeting of the State 
society. On the 9th of December he published a pam- 
phlet of forty pages, ostensibly as an answer to the denun- 
ciatory resolutions of the slave-holders of Limestone 
County, Alabama. This is known as his "Vindication 
of Abolitionists," and Avas generally regarded as an answer 
to the abusive epithets in the message of President Jack- 
son. It went through several editions, and was republished 
in Boston in 1836 in a collection called " Valuable Docu- 
ments." Meanwhile the political leaders were restless with 
anxiety to find some cause of complaint against him. 
Several of them made pretexts to call on him and talk of 
abolition, hoping to entrap him into some unguarded ex- 
pression ; but his habitual reticence about himself and his 
plans baffled while his courtesy disarmed them. On the 
1st of November the city mayor, the city marshal, and the 
county sheriff, called on him as guardians of the peace, to 
complain of the publication of " a very exciting handbill " 
alleged to have been issued by the City Anti-Slavery So- 
ciety. They assured him that it had caused great popular 
excitement, and that on that very night his house and the 
office, where the handbill had been printed, would prob- 
ably be destroyed. 

He answered good-naturedly, thanking them for the 
personal interest they had expressed for him. He took 
pleasure, he said, in assuring them that no handbill had 
been published, but that the city society had, in accord- 
ance with usage, printed its constitution. Ho thought 
that a contradiction by them of the rumor would allay 
any excitement, and their power was quite sufficient to 
suppress any mob. Then, passing to another subject, he 
detained them in friendly conversation, giving them no 
opportunity to utter the menace they had evidently come 


with tlie purpose of giving. They retired foiled and dis- 
concerted. Tiiere was no mob that night; and Mr. liirney 
had expected none, but he was not surprised when, a few 
days later, he was notified by the mayor, that, in the event 
of his persisting in his design to publish an anti-slavery 
paper in tlie city, the authorities would not be able to pro- 
tect either his property or his person from the fury of the 

This pretense of fright did not impose upon ]\Ir. 
Birney. During his month's residence in the city, he had 
come into contact with many people of all classes ; he had 
visited the shops and manufacturing districts, had trav- 
ersed the streets in every direction, his person was well 
known to thousands, and he had been always treated with 
respectful politeness. His inference from the mayor's noti- 
fication was, not that there was a strong popular feeling 
against him, but that the mayor would connive at violence 
and withhold from him and liis property the protection of 
the police force. In this event, he would be helpless. 

He began to think, therefore, that it might be expedi- 
ent for him to begin the publication of the " Philanthro- 
pist " at some point outside of the jurisdiction of ^Mayor 
Davies. He was confirmed in this %-iew by his recognition 
of the fact that public opinion had been affected by the 
constantlv repeated newspaper charges against him of dis- 
loyalty to the Constitution of the United States and inten- 
tion to excite the slaves to insurrection. He believed that 
a few numbers of the paper would vindicate him in both 
these respects. 

On the 25th of November :Mr. Birney wrote to Gerrit 
Smith : 

The solicitations from various quarters that my paper should 
be published have become so importunate that I have determined 
to go on with such resources as I myself can command. ... I 
shall commence the paper in a small village (New Richmond) 


about twenty miles up the river from this place ; or, if not there, 
at one (Ripley) about fifty miles above, -where I can print without 
being mobbed, but with the expectation of making way for the 
introduction of the press in a few months into this city. . . . All 
I expect is to keep from losing anything by the paper; but a 
paper out here we must have. 

Having selected New Richmond as the place of publi- 
cation, he issued his prospectus early in December, and 
spent the rest of the month in equipping a j^rinting-office, 
engaging printers, writing editorials, and making a flying 
visit to the capital of the State. There he addressed a 
committee of the Legislature in opposition to the Jackson 
bill against the freedom of the press. 

Meanwhile his enemies kept all his movements under 
the closest espionage. A running fire of newspaper para- 
graphs was kept up against him in Cincinnati during De- 
cember. The following is a specimen : 

Alolition Paper. — "We perceive by a notice in the "Chris- 
tian Journal " that James G. Birney is about to commence his 
abolition paper at New Richmond, Clermont County. Finding 
that his fanatical project would not be tolerated at Danville, 
Ky., nor in this city, he has at length settled himself on the 
border of Kentucky, and so near Cincinnati as to make the 
pestiferous breath of his paper spread contagion among our cit- 
izens. We deem this new effort an insult to our slave-holding 
neighhors and an attempt to browbeat public ojnnion in this quarter. 
We do, therefore, hope, notwithstanding the alleged respectabil- 
ity of the editor, that he will find the ijublic so inexorably averse 
to his mad scheme that he will deem it his interest to abandon it. 
("Cincinnati Whig," December 21.) 

On the 31st December he wrote to Gerrit Smith : 
The proceedings in Congress show to my judgment that the 
cause of freedom to the slave, as well as to the tchite, is working 
well. When your Northern folks have their ears pulled a little 
longer by the Southern aristocrats their pluck will doubtless 
begin to rise. I am glad the subject of abolition has been intro- 


duccd iu Congress in any icay. It can not lose, no matter how 
it comes into debate. . . . My paper will probably be issued to- 
morrow. It will be received here the next day after publication. 
I know not how our friends in the West will support it — not well 
enough, I fear, to keep me from losing . . . about $1,000 or 
$1,200 (^to which I have made up my mind) for one years experi- 

The publication of this first iimnher was eagerly await- 
ed by his enemies, Avho hoped to find in it some passage 
that might be quoted to inflame the passions of the popu- 

!No such passage could be found. In his leading arti- 
cle, the editor maintained that " such publications as the 
' Philanthropist ' purposes to be, have become absolutely 
necessary for the preservation of liberty in what are called 
the free States. . . . The truth is, liberty and slavery can 
not both live in juxtaposition.'' 

That the first number of the "Philanthropist" was 
unexceptionable did not prevent the renewal of the at- 
tempts to excite a mob against the editor. The Cincinnati 
dailies, except the " Gazette," quoted paragraphs from the 
Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana papers, calling upon 
the merchants and manufacturers of Cincinnati to prevent 
the publication of the "incendiary" sheet. The proofs 
that the plot against him was confined to a few party 
Avire-workers and their tools were so abundant that, in the 
second number of his paper (issued Jan. 8, 183G) he said : 

It is remarkable that no mob has ever attacked the abolition- 
ists except after special training by politicians who had some- 
thing to hope from the favor of the South. The people of whom 
mobs are composed . . . care not a rush for the abolition of 
slavery, and, if left to themselves, would as soon think of attack- 
ing the phrenologists as the abolitionists. It is to the editors of 
a venal press, to the expectants of office, in the shape of Congress- 
men, judges, postmasters, etc., that we are to look for the cause 
of these frequent and shameful outrages. 


Tliis article will be found by the student of history to 
be the key to the motives of the instigators of mobs in the 
free States during the Jackson and Van Buren Admin- 
istrations, except a few caused directly by slave-holders. 

In the warfare on Mr. Birney, the Democratic and 
Whig newspaper organs worked in concert to inflame the 

January 16th, the " Cincinnati Republican," the Demo- 
cratic organ, devoted an article a column long to Mr. 
Birney. The following is a specimen of its style : 

This new laborer in the unholy and unpatriotic cause of aboli- 
tion goes even beyond Garrison or Thompson in his uncompro- 
mising hostility to slavery, and in his zeal for unqualified and 
immediate emancipation, and, we doubt not, the editor, if en- 
couraged to promulgate his abolition Jirebrands among our citizens 
in the sinrit in which he has commenced, will win for liimself as 
notorious and infamous a character as that which now distin- 
guishes the two individuals above mentioned. . . . But the 
editor of the "Philanthropist" has not the plea of ignorance; he 
is a man of education and talents. . . . The editor rings the 
changes upon "incendiary missiles" and "the dissolution of 
the Union." 

This false and inflammatory article was republished 
next day in the " Whig," and the suggestion made " that 
a meeting of our citizens be called to take this matter into 
consideration." On the 22d the " Eepublican " appealed 
to the capitalists, merchants, and tradesmen to suppress 
the City Abolition Society ; the street corners were posted 
with a placard, and each daily newspaper advertised a call 
for a public meeting, to be held that evening at the court- 
house, of citizens opposed " to the course noAv pursuing by 
those individuals composing abolition and anti-slavery 
societies." The most prominent signatures to the call 
were James F. Conover, editor of the " Whig " ; Charles 
R. Ramsey, editor of tlio " Republican " ; and W. R. 


Thomas, editor of the " Post," a Democratic organ ; William 
Burke, city postmaster ; Robert T. Lytle, ex-member of 
Congress and Surveyor of the Land Office ; John C. 
"Wright, ex-member of Congress ; Richard Fosdick, candi- 
date for sheriff; Elam P. Langdon, Whig expectant of 
the ])ost-office ; Morgan Neville, Receiver of the Land 
Office; E. llulse, candidate for sheriff; J. S. Bcnhani, 
standing candidate for Congress — all office-holders or candi- 
dates for office, and a few merchants and property owners. 
The men who did not sign, but who were busy in making 
arrangements for the mob were N. C. Read, prosecuting 
attorney and Democratic aspirant to judicial office, and 
Timothy Walker, Whig aspirant to judicial or congres- 
sional honors. 

During the day runners were sent through the foun- 
dries, machine-shops, and manufactories to secure the 
attendance of working men at the meeting. The towns 
of Newport and Covington, on the Kentucky side of the 
river, were beaten up for recruits. The principal managers 
met at the office of an ex-Representative in Congress and 
prepared resolutions to be passed by the assembly at the 
court-house. One of them was as follows : " That this 
meeting will exert every lawful effort to supi)ress the publi- 
cation of any abolition paper in this city or neighborhood.'''' 
It was given out that the meeting would be addressed by 
a Whig and two Democrats — John C. Wright, N. G. Pendle- 
ton, and that fiery declaimer Gen. Robert T. Lytle; and 
understood that, after its adjournment, the mob should 
visit the anti-slavery printing-office, the book store where 
anti-slavery pami)hlets were sold, and the house of Mr. 
Birney. The colored people feared that an attack would 
be made upon their dwellings ; some of them left the city 
with their wives and children, others concealed themselves, 
and a few barricaded the doors and windows of their 
houses. One or two of the abolitionists, more obnoxious 


than the rest because of their English birth, betook them- 
selves to the country ; many of the others circulated among 
the leaders and runners of the mob and learned their pro- 
gramme for the violence of the evening. The mayor, 
city marshal, and sheriff, being fully informed as to the 
facts, refused to take any precautions whatever. A night 
of horrors vi^as anticipated. 

In the afternoon Mr. Birney wrote to the correspond- 
ing secretary of the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society : 

. . . An anti-abolition meeting is to be held this evening, called 
by "gentlemen of property and standing." The hand of the 
South has almost benumbed the spirit of freedom. ... I can not 
print my paper here. I lectured here one evening (January 5th) 
to a small audience in a private manner, no notice ha"ving been 
given of it in the papers. This is the exciting cause of the meet- 
ing this evening. It was but yesterday that a wealthy slave- 
holder of Kentucky called to let me know that my press in Ohio 
would be destroyed by a band of his fellow-citizens, who had 
determined upon it, that almost the whole county would be 
summoned to the service, and that my life was in continual dan- 
ger. A few days before a citizen of Cincinnati, a high commis- 
sioned officer of the militia, called to inform me that I would be 
disgracefully punished and abused and my property destroyed if 
I persisted in my anti-slavery movements. ... I pray you press 
on. It is not a time to be indolent. If we are our children may 
wear the livery of the slave. If I fall in this cause I trust it will 
bring hundreds to supply my place. (See appendix to " Proceed- 
ings of Rhode Island Convention.") 

About G o'clock p. m., a meeting of the men employed 
to do the active work of the mob was held in a store in 
Front Street. It was a rough crowd, composed of wharf 
laborers, workers in the Fulton foundries and machine- 
shops, and men from the towns on the Kentucky side of 
the river. They were divided into squads, each under a 
leader, whose orders Avere to be obeyed. The proceedings 
of this meeting were prom})tly reported to my father by a 


frioud who cuine witli a carriage to take liim to a house 
in the country. His offer was gratefully declined. Other 
friends called to offer the shelter of their houses to him 
and his family. He thanked them cordially, but would 
not detain them, lie took tea as usual, talking pleasant- 
ly with me and my mother, but making no allusion to the 
jjrobable events of the evening. 1 knew the danger, and 
was suffering under painful apprehensions. After tea I 
followed him to his study, intending to beg him to go into 
the country, lie anticipated me by saying, " My son, 1 am 
going to the meeting." His tone forbade me to utter my 
request. AYaiting for him at the front door while he bade 
my mother good-evening, 1 passed out with him aiid 
walked by his side to the court-house. An immense 
crowd of people was already there. The approaches were 
thronged ; men stood on the window - sills and looked 
through and talked in groups in the yard. Inside every 
place was filled, from the judge's bench to the gallery. 
We made our way with difficulty to the foot of the steps 
leading to the bench. The recreant Mayor Havies was in 
the chair; four politicians, two Whigs and two Demo- 
crats, including Postmaster Burke, were acting as vice- 
presidents, and, as we were getting through the crowd, a 
committee of fifteen, Surveyor-General Lytic, chairman, 
was appointed to report resolutions. During its supposed 
absence the floor Avas given, evidently by prcarrangement, 
to Colonel Hale of tlie militia, a livery stable-keeper and 
ward politician. This man was an illiterate but fluent 
and passionate dcclaimer, full of bitter prejudices and 
proud of his selection as the orator who was to stir the 
people to acts of violence. He made a most inflammatory 
harangue against Mr. Birney, charging him with amalga- 
mation, incendiarism, and treason to the Constitution of 
his country. To prove the last charge, he flourished be- 
fore his audience what he called a copy of the Boston 


" Liberator," and read, or pretended to read, from it one 
or two passages denouncing the national Constitution and 
advocating disunion.* In the name of all that is sacred 
in love of country, he called upon his hearers to prevent 
the "miscreant Birney" from making Cincinnati the 
place of his intrigues to overthrow the Constitution and 
plunge the South into the blood-reeking massacres of a 
servile insurrection. The roughs cheered him wildly, and, 
at the close of his peroration, Avere ready to rush to the 
work of destruction. 

As the vociferous applause subsided, my father spoke 
in a distinct and clear voice : " Mr. President, my name 
is Birney. INIay I be heard ? " The crowd was silent as 
lie added, "My personal character and my cause have 
been unjustly attacked. May I defend them?" The 
president's answer was lost in the wild clamor and tumult 
that followed. Cries of " Kill him," " Down with him," 
" Drag him out," " Tar and feather him," drowned those 
of " Hear him." A few, among them the zealous livery 
stableman, tried to force their way toward him ; but those 
near him resisted them, calling out " Fair play." In the 
height of this tumult, Surveyor-General Lytle, a man of 
generous and chivalrous temperament, sprang to the 
judge's bench and by gesture demanded silence. As he 
was the recognized chief of the anti-abolition movement, 
quiet was restored. " My friends," said he, " hear before 

* For many years I thought the colonel raust have read passages that 
■were spurious, but on pages 307 and 309 of Garrison's " Life," by his 
sons, I find extracts from the " Liberator " of 1832 which sound like 
those read by the fiery speaker to goad the mob to take vengeance on 
Mr. Birney. In these Mr. Garrison concedes the unfounded claim of the 
slave-holders that there is a "compact" in the Constitution to continue 
and protect slavery, and calls it "a most bloody and heaven-daring ar- 
rangement, ... a high-handed villainy," etc. lie says, too, " So long as 
we continue one body, a union, a nation, the compact involves us in the 
{Tuilt and danger of slavery." 


you strike. Don't disgrace our city and our cause before 
the nation. I oppose abolitionism, but I lionor a brave 
num, and ilr. Birney has to-night shown himself the brav- 
est man I have ever seen." Then, addressing my father 
politely, he asked him to defer his remarks until the reso- 
lutions should be read, and pledged the audience to hear 
him. After the report of the committee was read and 
Judge "Wright had spoken a few minutes. General Lytle 
moved that Mr. Birney be invited to defend abolition. 
The motion was carried by a large majority. 

For three quarters of an hour ]\Ir. Birney held the at- 
tention of the audience. The turbulent interruptions of 
a few were hushed. Point after point was made with 
telling effect. Pathos, wit, argument, and eloquent ap- 
peals followed each other in rapid succession. To the 
charge of amalgamation brought against him by Colonel 
Hale, he answered by giving a statement of the fact on 
which it was based. He hail found, he said. Colonel Hale, 
a venerable person with flowing white hair, at the door of 
his house with a colored man. Both were strangers to 
him, and, supposing they came together, he had invited 
them to enter. The man applied for employment and 
was dismissed. He left it to the gallant colonel to ex- 
l)laiu why he came with such a companion. The tables 
were turned on the colonel, and the crowd laughed at his 
discomfiture and would not hear his explanation. To the 
charge of hostility to the national Constitution, he an- 
swered by a noble vindication of that instrument. He 
denied that it contained any compact with slavery or any 
guarantee or even any mention of it; claimed that the 
nearest approach to a recognition of it was the stigma 
jilaced upon it in the denial of congressional representa- 
tion to two fifths of a certain class of population, and that 
the South would gain and not lose in the number of its 
members of Congress by emancipation; and in a magnificent 

Till-: CI^'CIXNATI MOB OF JANUARY, 1836. 217 

appeal he developed the grand object of the Constitutiou 
to " secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our 
posterity." lie was proceeding to arraign General Jack- 
son, Amos Kendall, Van Buren, and Calhoun for their 
attempts upon the liberties of citizens, when the mayor 
interrupted him to say that the invitation given him ex- 
tended to a personal explanation only. Mr. Birney ap- 
pealed to the audience, and on vote was sustained ; but. 
the i^residiug officer's example was followed by the unruly, 
and the uproar made by the minority was so great that 
the speaker expressed his thanks for having been permit- 
ted to address the meeting and stepjDed from the stand. 

His triumjih, however, was complete. The subsequent 
efforts of orators to excite the crowd were fruitless. The 
meeting passed the resolutions and adjourned sine die. 
As my father left the court-room, which he did a few 
minutes before the adjournment, the crowd made way 
respectfully for him, and he was neither followed nor mo- 
lested on his way home. After locking the front door 
behind us, we inspected each one of about forty muskets 
and double-barreled shot-guns that were kept on the front 
staircase landing and in other parts of the house, getting 
them ready for use, for, said he, " Though nearly all of 
that crowd will go home quietly, the little band led by 
Hale means mischief and may be down on us to-night." 
Then, leaving me at a front window up-stairs on the look- 
out, he went into my mother's room and sat chatting with 
and reassuring her. He was not a non-resistant. There 
was never a time when he would have refused or neglected 
to defend his wife and children. 

The night passed quietly. Tlie city papers of next 
morning had lost somewhat of their truculent tone. The 
" Whig " said : 

The incidents of tlie meeting were exceedingly interesting and 
somewhat peculiar. The celebrated and fanatical abolitionist 


James G. Birnov had tlic boldness and fatuity to attend. Some 
observations were made by Colonel Hale of a severe character 
touching Mr. Birney's abolition proceedings and which were cal- 
culated to produce a very unfavorable impression toward him 
and to render him and his course still more odious. Mr. Birney 
rose to reply. Intlanimable symptoms of hostility toward him 
were instantly manifest, and a good deal of confusion ensued. 
Some were for turning liim out, some for compelling his silence, 
and others for hearing what he liad to say. A vote was then 
taken whether he should be permitted to speak, and was decided 
iu the affirmative by a large majority. 

The " Gazette " gave a short report as follows : 

A good-looking man, past the meridian of life, with liair 
somewhat gray, here rose and said: "My name is Birney; 3Iay I 
be heard ? " The audience appeared confounded by such a re- 
quest coming from such a source. Recovering from their sur- 
prise at the calm fearlessness of the man who dared stand un- 
armed in the midst of his enemies, one cried out "Down with 
him!" others cried, "Kill him 1" others cried, " Tar and feather 
him," For a time there was confusion confounded. iMr. 
Birney, with entire self-possession, remarked that he would not 
proceed if he could not have the ear of the assembly. To go on 
under such circumstances would justify the charge of obstinacy 
that had been laid at the door of abolitionists. 

At this stage. Gen. Lytic, who had great influence with the 
mob, rose and, at the top of liis voice, cried : 

"Hear before you strike." The meeting then resolved to 

^Iv. Birney, thanking them for the unexpected favor, said 
that his sentiments had been misunderstood. It was no i)art of 
the design of the abolitioni.sts to interfere with the Constitution 
of the country. . . . Emancipation was a work that could Ije 
carried on and consummated Avithout touching the Constitu- 
tion. . . . 

He was not indiiTerent to the safety of his fellow-citizens of 
the South. He was from the South. He was born in the South. 
He had spent his life there. He had numerous beloved kindred 
who held slaves. To their safety he was not indiHerent, and lie 


certainly should pursue no course which he thought likely to put 
them in peril. He considered that the ultimate safety of the 
South was more in danger from perpetual slavery than from its 
abolition. See how the blacks increase upon the whites ! This 
disproportionate increase of blacks will finally bring the very 
catastrophe w4iich is now dreaded. It may be slow, but it will 
come if slavery is perpetuated. He desired to save his fellow- 
citizens of the South and his country from the horrors of that 
day. He had reason to believe that such appeals to his fellow- 
citizens on this subject would not be in vain. 

When Mr. Birney concluded, he mingled among the crowd, 
and retired upon adjournment without further molestation. His 
conduct had disarmed the madness of the multitude. 

For several months following the " Great Mob Meet- 
ing " held at the court-house, January 22, 1836, all was 
quiet at Cincinnati. 

Xone of the dailies suggested again a resort to violence. 
It was quite evident that the threatened storm had blown 
over for a time. After this date anti-slavery publications 
were openly sold in Cincinnati ; the City Anti-Slavery So- 
ciety held frequent meetings ; Mr. Birney lectured in the 
city and its suburbs ; his well-known figure still attracted 
attention in his daily walks in the streets, but respect and 
curiosity were more marked than ill-will. To outward 
seeming, the enslavement of the press in the Queen City 
of the West had been defeated. But the snake was only 
scotched, not killed ; it was to regain its venom and vigor 
in the heats of the following July. Then the excitement 
of the presidential campaign would be at its height and 
the city hotels and boarding houses would be full of so- 
journing slave-holders. 


The " riiilantliropist" was named after an anti-slav- 
ery religious paper which had been published in 181T-'18 
at Mount Pleasant, Ohio, by Charles Osborn, a preaching 
member of the Society of Friends. It Avas a folio weekly, 
and was well printed on good paper. At the date of its 
first issue, the whole number in the United States of peri- 
odical publications of all kinds, from dailies to quarterlies, 
was in round numbers twelve hundred, and of these about 
one hundred and twenty, most of them local county pa- 
pers, were published in the States formed out of the 
Northwestern Territory. Cincinnati was the newspaper 
center for the West, issuing three dailies and about twelve 
weeklies, several of which were of a religious character. 
The era of steam-power printing had not then begun ; all 
press-work was done by striking off one impression at a 
time on a press worked by hand. Subscription-lists were 
necessarily small. The average circulation of the eleven 
six-cent dailies then published in Xew York city was sev- 
enteen hundred each, their profits coming from advertis- 
ing patronage. Telegraphic news was not known. 

The standing of the press was not high. I)e Tocque- 
ville, writing in 1835, says : 

The journalists of the United States are usually placed in a 
very humble position with a scanty education and a vulgar turn 
of mind. . . . The characteristics of the American journalist 


consist in an open and coarse appeal to the passions of the popu- 
lace, and lie habitually abandons the principles of political sci- 
ence to assail the characters of individuals, to track them into 
private life and disclose all their weaknesses and errors. . . . The 
personal opinions of the editors have no kind of weight in the 
eyes of the public. 

To this there were numerous exceptions, not numerous 
enough, however, to diminish the public expectation that 
the new paper would take high rank. Admiration of 
James G. Birney was not confined to the friends of his 
cause. The incidents at the mob meeting in January had 
brought into general notice his personal courage and his 
qualities as a leader. People began to believe that he 
would continue to publish his paper notwithstanding the 
opposition. The friends of a free press regarded him as 
their representative, and so did the anti-slavery men. The 
subscription-list, small in January, grew rapidly in Febru- 
ary, and in three months numbered more than seventeen 
hundred. There Avere a few from the South ; the rest 
were from all the free States, but chiefly from Ohio. 
Many distinguished men were on it. Among them were 
"William Ellery Channing and Charles Sumner, Thaddeus 
Stevens and Governor Eitner, Joshua Giddings and Sal- 
mon P. Chase. A fevv' wealthy men of public spirit made 
up a fund to pay the cost of sending three hundred copies 
of each number to as many influential men in State and 
Church for their information. Some of these were sent 
regularly to the same persons, but the greater number 
were sent to different addresses from week to week. Iligh 
officials of the National Government, congressmen, gov- 
ernors of States, prominent members of legislatures, bish- 
ops, and eminent divines, were recipients of papers j^aid 
for out of this fund. The intention was to reach all the 
men who shaped public oj)inion and awaken them to the 
imminent danger of the subjugation of the Xational Gov- 


eminent by the slave power. To this work ilr. ]?irncy 
devoted himself with characteristic energy. 

As neither the limits of this biogra],hy nor the interest 
of the narrative permit a detailed account of his editorial 
labors, their nature will be best suggested by a statement 
of the i)olitical situation in regard to slavery at the open- 
ing of the year 1S3G. 

The unfavorable features of it were as follows : 

1. The slave power was in possession of the patronage 
and power of the National (Jovernment, 

On his accession in 18:^9, President Jackson had 
promptly removed from office every official known to hold 
anti-slavery views, and he had appointed none whose 
fealty to slavery was questionable. If a Xorthern poli- 
tician was known to have become unpopular because he had 
voted to increase slave teri'itory he was rewarded. Bald- 
win, of Pennsylvania, had voted to admit Missouri. His 
constituents burned him in effigy and sent him into pri- 
vate life. Jackson placed him in the United States Su- 
preme Court. In 1810 Eoger B. Taney, in a speech in 
Gruber's case, had said of slavery, "While it continues it 
is a blot on our national character." In 1824 he turned 
a somersault into the Democratic party and became the 
zealous advocate of the political schemes of the slave 
power. In 1831 Jackson made him Attorney-General of 
the L^nited States, and in December, 1835, nominated him 
as Chief Justice. That nomination was pending until 
the following ;March. Its confirmation gave to the slave 
power the majority in the highest tribunal of the nation. 
A not unimportant part of the policy of the Jackson Ad- 
ministration was the corruption of the press by appoint- 
ments of editors to office. More than sixty of this class 
wcTG thus favored. The selections were made among 
those who had been most active in propagating the pro- 
slavery dogmas that the Constitution guaranteed the ex- 


istonce of slavery and authorized all legal measures neces- 
sary to its perpetuation. It was well understood that any 
editor or publisher who favored free discussion would not 
be favored by the Administration. 

Means were found to give preference to friends of the 
South in awarding Government contracts for labor or 
supplies, and, as the Seminole War was being actively 
pushed, opportunities to do this were not wanting. This 
substitution of sectional politics for business principles 
had its natural result in the numerous defalcations under 
Van Buren's administration. 

The military and naval academies were placed under 
pro-slavery administrators, and with such effect that an 
anti-slavery officer in either army or navy was unknown. 
The constitutional doctrines taught in them were jn'o- 
slavery and loyalty to State Governments. 

Many of the most active and enterprising young men 
in the Northern States were led by money and promises 
to engage in forming bands of recruits for the insurgent 
forces in Texas. 

In short, the whole influence of the National Admin- 
istration was thrown aggressively on the side of the exten- 
sion and nationalization of slavery. 

2. The two political parties were bound hand and foot 
to the slave power. 

In profession the Democratic party was the friend of 
the laboring classes, the advocate of the equality of rights 
of all men before the law, and the opponent of sectional- 
ism and centralization in politics. In practice it held that 
two millions and a half of the laboring classes had no 
right to wages, or any rights whatever, sustained the only 
purely sectional party ever known in the United States, 
and was always eager to overthrow the rights of the States 
and vest the National CJovernmcnt with the power to legis- 
late on the personal relations of inliabitants of States to 


oaeli other and to authorize tlie seizure and transportation 
for trial to a distant State of a man charged with owing 
service to another. The Democratic j)arty was thus a com- 
])lex solecism of national extent. Its leaders were Jackson, 
Calhoun, Taney, and Van Buren; and it relied for success 
upon the slave power at the South and the Irish Catholics, 
free traders, and rabble at the Mortli. 

The Whig party represented the banking, manufactur- 
ing, and moneyed interests of the country. It was the 
poll ileal expression of the era of business enterprise and 
material prosperity which opened soon after the close of 
the War of 1812-'15. Unacceptable, because of its pro- 
tective tariff views, to the cotton planters, it sought to 
conciliate them through its leaders. Henry Clay had been 
in 181'J a zealous advocate of Texas annexation, had, by 
liis casting vote as Speaker, fastened slavery on the Terri- 
tory of Arkansas, and, by his zeal and tact, effected the 
admission of Missouri into the Union as a slave Stale 
against the public sentiment of the Xorth. Gen. Harri- 
son, the candidate of the party for the presidency, was a 
native Virginian, and had distinguished himself as Gov- 
ernor in the Northwestern Territory by favoring efforts 
to legalize slavery in Indiana. The choice of the Whig 
party fell on him because of his pro-slavery record, no less 
than because of the simplicity and integrity of his private 
life and popularity as a military hero. 

The common desire of both parties not to antagonize 
the slave power caused them to vie with each other in 
eager and unlimited indorsement of its most indefensible 
views of the national Constitution. 

These views, though nnsnpported by liistory or the 
text of the Constitution, had spread from the politicians 
to the lawyers, and, in a few instances, had extended their 
poison to the courts. The American people are essentially 
law-abiding, and the corrupting iniluence of the false 


constitutional doctrines constantly inculcated upon them 
by men high in power, by political speakers, and a partisan 
press can hardly be estimated at this day. In 1836 it was 
no uncommon belief, even among the intelligent, that 
resistance to the demands of the slave power was unlawful 
and akin to treason. 

3. Maiiy church organizations embraced both free and 
slave territory and most of the good men in their member- 
ship honestly believed it of vast importance to preserve 
them unbroken. All the conservative influences in the 
national religious bodies were arrayed against a discussion 
which was likely to result in schism. This was true also 
of the large secret orders. 

4. The commercial and manufacturing classes were 
generally hostile to agitation. The enormous development 
within the ten preceding years of steamboat and railroad 
transportation had greatly extended internal commerce ; 
and the control of this was rapidly falling into the hands 
of the merchants in a few cities. With peace and quiet, 
large fortunes were in their grasp. They wished to be let 

5. The prejudice among the Xorthern peoj)le against 
negroes indisposed them to resist the slave power. It was 
partly racial and partly due to the ignorance and utter 
destitution of fugitives from slavery. They were black, 
fugitive, and beggared. To betray them was dishonorable ; 
to feed, shelter for a night, and speed them on their way 
to Canada was a Christian duty ; but to give them employ- 
ment and homes was regarded as the act of a bad citizen. 
In all, or nearly all the free States there were laws in- 
tended to prevent the settlement of blacks within their 

These laws were disgraceful in their inhumanity. The 
pro-slavery advocates maintained that if emancipation 
should take place at the South the negroes would migrate 


en ma^se to the North; and this aljsuidity oblained gen- 
eral credence among the imtliiuking and prejudiced them 
against the abolitionists. 

(J. The prevalent aversion among moral and religious 
people to take part in jjolitical action greatly increased 
the dilliculty of organizing resistance to the slave power. 
'I'his was the natural result of the almost purely material 
character of public questions after the war, the general 
absence of ethical elements in them, the coarseness and 
scurrility of the partisan press, the widely known personal 
vices of men prominent in public affairs, the trickiness in 
the presentation of party issues, and the shameless incon- 
gruity between party professions and practice. A consci- 
entious man was out of place in a caucus or primary meeting. 
The number of good men who would not go to the i)olls 
Avas increasing. Several small religious sects forbade their 
members to vote. Politics, in the language of the non- 
voting class, was " a dirty mire " ; and, by a perverse logic, 
the country was to be saved by permitting all its political 
maeiiinery to be controlled by bad men. The non-voters 
in politics were generally " Come-outers " in religion, and 
for all purposes of progress, were useless both in State and 
Church. !Most of them were anti-slavery in profession, 
because of their habit of unstinted censure of things ex- 
isting ; they attended abolition meetings, but were chiefly 
earliest in trying to prevent anti-slavery men from voting. 
Tiiey were as noted for the violence of their tirades against 
slavery as for their stubborn refusal to go to the polls. 
This class, imprudent of speech and useles;: in action, was 
a hindrance to the abolition cause. They pretended to be 
soldiers, but refused to bear arms. 

7. The incongruous and widely divergent opinions 
among anti-slavery men were an element of weakness in 
their cause. They had no coherent body of doctrine ; no 
accepted plan of action. In regard to the national Con- 

THE EDlTOll. 227 

stitution, opinions ranged from conservative to revolu- 
tionary ; and discussion had not yet been general enough 
to separate anti-slavery men into the distinct classes which 
were evolved at a later period. In 1836, constitutionalists, 
consolidationists, and disunionists, met on the same plat- 
form. Those who believed that freedom was national but 
that the rights of States to self-government was guaran- 
teed ; those who believed that Congress could and should, 
without delay, abolish slavery in the States; and those 
who accepted the creed of the slave power that the 
Constitution guaranteed the perpetuity of slavery had not 
yet crystallized into antagonistic groups. The sensational 
declamations of zealots of the two classes last named 
were of a nature to array patriotic feeling against aboli- 
tionists generally and were freely used for this purpose 
by pro-slavery speakers and editors. 

8. In July, 1836, there were twenty-four States, and 
the only ones in which slavery did not exist pradicnUy 
were Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Vermont. The 
census of 1840 reports slaves in all the rest, not excepting 
the States formed out of the JSTorthwestern Territory. This 
practical survival reminded the people of the free States 
that they had abolished the institution without interfer- 
ence and gave point to the argument that the people of 
the slave States would soon follow their example, if not 
exasperated by intermeddlers. This had weight with the 
timid, the easy-going, and those uninformed of the politi- 
cal encroachments of the slave power. 

Against the formidable influences tending to promote 
the designs of the slave power to gain permanent ascend- 
ency in the Union there were working powerful ones 
making for freedom. The tendency of all modern civ- 
ilization to the recognition of hunuin rights and the eman- 
cipation of the individual in both Church and state had 
been marked in the decay of serfdom and feudalism ; in 


tlie outburst and growtli of Protestantism; tlie decadence 
of absolute monarchies; the French revolution; the legis- 
lation against the African slave trade ; the abolition of 
slavery in the French West Indies, the Cape Colony, Mex- 
ico, and all large civilized countries except Brazil and the 
Southern States of the Union. Equality of civil rights 
and the blessings of libei'ty had been recognized in the 
Declaration of Independence, the national Constitution, 
and the Constitution of each State. Every It gal tribunal 
administered the law on the basis of the equal rights of 
individuals. Every church preached justice and human 
brotherhood. Every orator lauded the United States as 
the home of the free and refuge of the oppressed of all 
nations. Twelve States had broken the shackles of slavery 
by law. The institutions, traditions, and instincts of the 
people of this country were inconsistent with anything 
that antagonized freedom of speech, of the press, of or- 
ganization, of locomotion, and of industry. Even in the 
far South, slavery had not been formally established by 
statute in any State. It was a tolerated anomaly, an in- 
congruity, Avhich had grown up, since 1T93, under the 
invention of the cotton-gin and the vast development of 
cotton culture, into a gigantic moneyed interest, and then 
been transformed into a political power. The united po- 
litical South did not exist before the Missouri controversy 
of 1820, after Avhich its existence as a factor in national 
l)olitics was masked until 1835, when it appeared openly 
as the slave power, aiming at the complete subjugation of 
the republic. It was sectional and aristocratic ; conse- 
quently hostile to the genius of American institutions and 
re])ugnant to Americans generally. 

Although merchants and manufacturers, intent on 
present gain, deprecated agitation, the influences of in- 
ternal commerce worked quietly but surely for freedom. 
Planters neither farmed nor S2)un ; they were not me- 


chanics ; they imported horses, mules, provisions, cloth, 
whips, shackles, aud furniture from the North, Northern 
railroads traversed the South, and the steam whistles of 
Northern steamboats were heard on every Southern stream. 
Car-hands, boatmen, contractors, free laborers, merchants, 
drummers, and peddlers from the North were seen in 
every Southern village. Yankees set up shops in the 
Southern towns. Instead of the isolation of plantation 
life necessary to the slave system, there were frequent vis- 
itors canvassing for business ; and these visitors were men 
accustomed to the wages system. 

Travel of Southern men to the North had decupled 
within ten years. Merchants went North to buy goods ; 
planters, to buy provisions, to take their families to Avater- 
ing places, and leave their sons at college and their daugh- 
ters at boarding-schools ; preachers to attend anniver- 
saries, synods, and conferences ; and educators to engage 
teachers. Interstate marriages were numerous. Commer- 
cial and social intercourse with communities enjoying the 
advantages of varied industries and the wealth gained in 
them tended to break uj) the j^rovincialism of Southern 

The marked revival of religious feeling beginning with 
1815 was national. This had given a strong impulse to 
the formation of philanthropic societies. Among these, 
were the Colonization, Tract, Bible, Foreign Mission, 
Home Mission, Sailors' Friends, and Peace Societies. To 
the same cause may be attributed the foundation of nu- 
merous asylums, hospitals, libraries, and the large exten- 
sion of the public-school system. All these organizations 
and methods for the good of mankind were the expres- 
sions of a widely prevailing quickened conscience to Avhich 
the friends of freedom might appeal with hope. Prob- 
ably nine tenths of the abolitionists were church-members. 

Thus the battle was set. On the one side, a compact 


j)luilanx, tli.scii)lined to obedience, tniined in all the arts 
of political warfare, all-powerful in half the States, and 
wii'Iding all the power and inlluence of the National Ad- 
ministration and tribunals. On the other, a people with- 
out recognized leaders, without unity of belief or plan, 
taken by surprise and sudden onslaught, wielding no 
weapon but the ballot, strong only in the national instincts 
and traditions of freedom ; in the letter of national and 
State Constitutions; in the Declaration of Independence; 
in bills of rights ; in the cosmopolitau influences of travel 
and commerce ; in tiie industrial superiority of the wages 
to the slave-labor system ; in the moral sense of the civ- 
ilized world and the teachings of Christianity ; and, more 
than all, in the complex and slow-moving machinery of 
our political institutions. The advantages of the slave 
power, in January, 183G, were so preponderating, that if 
government had been centralized at "Washington, the lib- 
erties of the people would have been trampled down and 
the republic transformed into a slave-holding oligarchy. 
It was the great crisis of American freedom. 

;Mr. Birney placed his paper at once in the forefront 
of tlie conflict. The " Philanthropist " was a special 
journal ; it had no room for literary or miscellaneous arti- 
cles. Every line in it was devoted to the vital questions 
before the people and was alive with earnestness. Vitu- 
})eration and declamation were excluded. His methods 
were fair. In exposing the designs of the slave power he 
made no loose charges. He allowed its representatives to 
speak for it. He published the text of the messages of 
the Governors of Georgia, South Carolina, and other 
Southern States ; of the speeches of Calhoun, Pickens, 
Ik'llinger, and other pro-slavery congressmen ; of the edi- 
torials of leading papers in the slave States; and of the 
laws passed in slave-State Legislatures against freedom of 
speech and of the press. He obtained, principally through 


Hammond, editor of the Cincinntiti " Gazette," a largo 
supi)ly of Southern newspapers, and copied from them 
accounts of the brandings, whippings, and hangings of 
Northern men at the South. He published the text of 
the demands made by Southern governors and Legislatures 
ujion the free States and of the bill to muzzle the North- 
ern press and deliver to Southern governors for trial be- 
fore Southern juries every abolition editor and publisher. 
He printed Jackson's message on the United States mails, 
Avith Kendall's letters and Calhoun's report and speech on 
the same subject. Having laid the original documents 
before his readers he analyzed them, exposing the designs 
of the slave power. 

He showed the spirit of slavery to be essentially and 
of necessity aggressive, " pushing its victories and extend- 
ing its conquests." In his first number he declared, 
" Liberty and slavery can not both live long in juxtaposi- 
tion," and he constantly insisted that the designs of the 
slave power were such as not to admit the existence of 
liberty in any part of the Union, and that the real ques- 
tion of the times was not the abolition of negro slavery, 
but the " preservation of liberty in what were called the 
free States." 

He exposed the narrowness and inadequacy of the two 
great political parties, their avoidance of the real and 
vital questions in politics, their subserviency to the slave 
power, and their drifting with a current that led to rocks 
and w^hirlpools. His criticisms of leading party men were 
as severe as truth. Of Henry Clay, the great compro- 
miser, he said, " He has done more for slavery and said 
more against it than any man in public life " ; and in an 
article of January 8, 183G, commenting on Clay's argu- 
ment that the Northern people had no right to discNss 
slavery because they had no right to decide upon it, he 
wrote : " Mr. Clay has deliberately enrolled himself among 


the opponents of free discussion, unci consequently of tlie 
liberty of the press and of speech." He examined the 
records of Van l^uren, AVhite, and Harrison. Mr. Van 
Bureu had voted in IH^'U for freedom in Missouri, in 18:^1 
for giving the suffrage to colored citizens in New York, 
and in Ititi to prohibit the slave trade with Floriila; but 
he had become a parasite of the political South. Xeithcr 
of the other candidates had done anything to commend 
him to any opponent of the slave i)ower. One department 
of the paper was headed " l*olitical," and was opened 
" that our anti-slavery friends may have such information 
on this subject as they ought to have to enable them to 
vote understandingly. . . . Abolitionists ought to desire to 
see in office men who go for right first, for expediency 
next, no matter in what party they may be found." (June 
10.) He could not understand a man's not voting or 
believing one way and voting another. " Virtuous prin- 
ciple can not exist without correspondent action. The 
sun can not be separated from its light and warmth." 
Sept. 23, 1836, he wrote: "Keither of the candidates (for 
the presidency) will turn to the cause of freedom until the 
people turn, and either of them will when they do. . . . 
li abolitionists unite themselves to cither of the existing 
parties they will weaken their influence in the great revo- 
lution that has begun. ... In all the elections the 
safest rule would be to vote for those Avho are honest and 
cai)ablo and who show the most independent and unwav- 
ering regard for our laws and common liberties." 

October 28th he writes : " ^\e can not forbear making 
a remark as to the inconsistency of many of our abolition 
friends when, in the late congressional elections, they voted 
for :Mr. Storer. How can they one day sign petitions to 
Conffress to abolish slaverv in the District of Columbia 
and on the next vote for one who had declared Congress 
ought to have nothing to do in the matter ? " He warns 


them that such inconsistency will retard their success and 
possibly prevent it. Owing to the active efforts of Mr. 
])irney and the trifling difference in the numerical strength 
of parties ]Mr. Storer was defeated. 

In Appleton's " Cyclopaedia of American Biography" 
Mr. Storer is said to have declined a renomination. He 
ran and was beaten. 

December 30th he tells abolitionists that under certain 
circumstances " it became their religious duty to resort to 
political action." At this period of his career there is 
nothing tending to prove that he contemplated the forma- 
tion of an independent party. Public oiDinion, even among 
professed anti-slavery men, was not yet ripe for such a 
movement. Nor was it yet a necessity. It seemed jjrac- 
ticable at that time to influence the action of existing 
parties by using the abolition vote as a balance of power. 
Taking as texts the series of resolutions joassed by the 
Cincinnati mob meeting of January, he published a series 
of articles in defense of the liberty of the joress. They 
were in the form of letters addressed to Judge John C. 
Wright, the author of the resolutions. The judge read 
them and never attended a mob meeting afterward. The 
articles were widely copied by the press, and their argu- 
ments contributed largely to open the eyes of publishers 
and editors to their own danger and to bring a sound 
public opinion to bear on Congress. 

His most powerful editorials were given to the demon- 
stration of the harmony of abolition measures with inter- 
state law and the national Constitution, a demonstration 
never before attempted. They ran through a series of 
numbers, were carefully prepared, and, after revision, 
were reprinted in pam^ihlet form and distributed among 
anti-slavery lecturers and speakers. Partly historical and 
partly legal, they vindicated the founders of the Constitu- 
tion from the charge of having entered into a compact to 


perpetuiite sluvery, proving by tlicir luemborship of uboli- 
tiou societies and the early abolition laws in several of the 
►States and by other facts tliat the general understanding 
or implied compact among the framers of tlie Constitu- 
tion was that slavery should be abolished in all the States 
before or soon after 1808. Then, in an analysis of the 
instrument itself, he vindicated it from the charge of 
guaranteeing slavery. The argument in these articles 
was, in its main lines, identical with that so ably elabo- 
rated and published in 1845 in book-form by Lysander 
Spooner, of Boston. It was generally adopted by anti- 
slavery lecturers and writers, and it contributed greatly to 
keep the current of anti-slavery effort within constitu- 
tional channels. The rejection of it by a fcAV professional 
reformers of the Boston school led them by easy grada- 
tions into the heresy of " the Constitution a covenant with 
hell " and its corollary, disunionism. 

The power of Congress to abolish slavery in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia, the freedom of a slave brought, and not 
esca})ing, into a free State, the necessity of enacting per- 
sonal-liberty laws in the free States, the necessity of pre- 
cautions against the annexation of Texas, and all the 
means of resisting the encroachments of the slave power 
were vigorously and frecpicntly discussed. 

The proceedings in Congress were closely watched and 
reported, and praise bestowed upon the members of Con- 
gress who were defending the right of petition and the 
freedom of the mails ; among whom were Senator Thomas 
Morris, and Representatives Adams, Evans, and Slade. 
Every member of a State Legislature who stood for the 
right was honorably mentioned ; Leicester King's speech 
against the " Black Laws " of Ohio Avas published and 
specially commended. The action of each church on 
slavery was duly noticed. The ^Michigan Synod, in 1830, 
declared itself for " immediate abolition," as also the Re- 


formed Presbyterian Church which had admitted no slave- 
holder to membership since the year 1800. It was noted 
that the majority of preachers belonging to the New Eng- 
land and New Hamjjshire Conferences of the Methodist 
Church were abolitionists. The discussion of slavery in 
the Methodist General Conference at Cincinnati in ]May 
was reported with hearty appreciation of the noble efforts 
of Eev. Orange Scott and Eev. George Storrs in belialf of 
the right. All anti-slavery movements were clironicled. 
In short, the " Philanthropist," within its scope, was a 
well-edited paper ; and, in all that related to the Constitu- 
tion and laws it was the leader and representative of the 
conservative anti-slavery sentiment of the country. In 
the Northwestern States its influence was without a rival 
in the anti-slavery press. There were numerous laudatory 
notices, both in prose and verse, of the editor in the news- 
papers of the day, but these were never copied into the 
" Philanthropist " while he had charge of it. He had not 
the infirmity of vanity. 

The judgment of intelligent contemporaries on the 
paper and its editor may be inferred from the following 
extracts taken from a pamplet letter of twenty- three pages 
dated NoA'ember 1, 183G, written to Mr. Birney by Dr. "Will- 
iam Ellery Channing, the celebrated Boston theologian. 

My Dear Sir : I have not the pleasure of knowing you person- 
ally, but your history and writings have given me an interest in 
you which induces and encourages me to address you with some- 
thing of the freedom of acquaintance. I feel myself attracted to 
the friends of humanity and freedom, however distant ; and when 
such are exposed by their principles to peril and loss, and stand 
firm in the evil day, I take pleasure in exi)ressing to them my 
sympathy and admiration. . . . Liberty suffers from nothing 
more than from licentiousness, and I fear that abolitionisis are 
not to be absolved from the abuse of it. It seems to me that 
they are particularly open to one reproach — their writings have 
been blemished by a spirit of intolerance, sweeping censure, and 


rash, injurious judgniont. I do not mean to bring this cliarge 
against ail their publications. Yours, as far as I have seen them, 
are honorable exceptions; and others, I know, deserve the same 
praise. But abolitionism, in the main, has spoken in an intoler- 
ant tone, and in this way has repelled luiuiy good minds, given 
advantage to its opponents, and diininislied tlie energy and effect 
of its appeals. I should rejoice to see it purified from this stain* 
(p. 8). 

The aljovo letter appeared in tlie second volume of 
Channing's complete works. The preface, dated Decem- 
ber 20, 183G, begins : 

The following letter was prepared for the "Philanthropist," 
an anti-slaveiy paper, published at Cincinnati, and edited by 
James G. Birney, a gentleman highly respected for his intellect- 
ual and moral endowments. 

Tlie first campaign of the slave-power against the liber- 
ties of the country began with the opening of Congress in 
December, 1835, and. ended with the presidential election 
in November, 1836. The results may be summed uji as 
follows : 

Victories — The ado})lion by the House of liepresenta- 
tives of the rule known as the gag-law and the admission 
of Arkansas as a slave State. 

Defeats — Failure to jiass any law prohibiting anti- 
slavery publications or their transmission through the 
mails or investing the States (Calhoun's plan) with the 
legal right to prescribe Avhat publications might be deliv- 
ered from the post-offices within their respective limits ; 
failure to indtice any free State to pass laws for the sup- 

* Dr. Channing's criticism was intended, no doubt, to apply to the 
'' Liberator," pul>lislied in Boston. It does not apply to the writings of 
Judfre William Jay, or to those of Joshua Loavitt, or of Theodore D. 
Weld, or of William Goodell. The publications issued at New York by 
the American Anti-Slavery Society were marked by candor and freedom 
from the exaggeration of fanaticism. 


pression of anti-slavery papers or for the delivery of abo- 
litionists to slave-State governors on demand ; failure to 
suppress any anti-slavery paper by mob violence ; and fail- 
ure to get Congress to vote that it had no power to abolish 
slavery in the District of Columbia. 

The reaction at the Xorth against the demands of the- 
slave power indicated a state of public sentiment which 
made politicians afraid to vote for them ; it was a very un- 
certain factor in the pending political elections. 

The Legislature of Vermont voted that " neither Con- 
gress nor the State governments have any Constitutional 
right to abridge the free expression of opinions or the 
transmission of them through the public mails," and that 
Congress do possess the power to abolish slavery in the 
District of Columbia. 

The Legislature of Massachusetts sustained by strong 
resolutions the right to petition, and the right of Congress 
to abolish slavery in the District, and declared slavery " a 
great social, moral, and political evil." These were voted 
in the House by a majority of 378 to IG. 

The Judiciary Committee of the lower branch of the 
Pennsylvania Legislature reported (Thaddeus Stevens, 
chairman) the following resolution : " That Congress does 
possess the constitutional power, and it is expedient to 
abolish slavery and the slave trade within the District of 

Governor Ritner, of that State, in his annual message, 
reprimanded " the base bowing of the knee to the dark 
spirit of slavery." 

There w'ere numerous other indications of a rising 
spirit of resistance at the North, and the leaders of the 
slave power thought it waser to postpone effort until after 
the presidential election. Their storming party had failed, 
and they proposed to proceed more cautiously. 

Mr. Birney was greatly encouraged by the result. " The 


people," he wrote, " are sound at heart. They love liberty 
at home more than slavery in the .South." In a letter, 
I)ublished October ;2Sth, " To the Slave-holders of the 
iSoutii," he says : 

If it [slavery] must be relinquished, as I now believe it will 
be in a very few years, I pray you that you so act in the South 
and so control the zeal of your friends in the North that it may 
be relinquished bloodlessly, peaceably, happily. 

In his public speeches about that date, he expressed 
his conviction that slavery would not endure more than 
about twenty-five years; that the encroachments of the 
slave power would be resisted step by step by a constantly 
increasing force ; that it would gain no more clean victo- 
ries, and would finally be overwhelmed ; that the struggle 
would be prolonged if Florida and Texas should be ad- 
mitted as slave States ; and that it might end in war unless 
public opinion in the free States should speedily be re- 
formed so as to exclude " dough faces " from Congress and 
place the National Government firmly on the side of free- 
dom. To restrict slavery to its existing limits, add free 
States as the growth of population might require, and en- 
force the law of freedom in the Territories and District of 
Columbia, Avas sufficient in his view to lead to the abolition 
of slavery by the voluntary action of the slave States them- 

For the first ten months of 183G Mr. Biniey's labors 
were chiefly editorial. His duties, however, in connection 
with the executive committees of the State and national 
anti-slavery societies and as a public speaker became so 
imperative that, in the summer, the minor duties of the 
editorial department were devolved upon Dr. Gamaliel 
Bailey. In October, Dr. Bailey was announced as assistant 
editor ; and although Mr. Birney retained the control of 
the course of the ])aper until he removed to New York in 


the last week of September, 1837, liis contributions gnwl- 
niilly became limited to tlie leaders only. On his removal 
Dr. Bailey * succeeded to the editorship. 

* The doctor had been reared by pious parents. They were members of 
the Methodist Protestant Church, which had never admitted slave-holders 
to membership or the communion. From boyhood he had been an im- 
mediate abolitionist. In 1834 he had fraternized with the Lane Seminary 
students. In 1847 he transferred his paper to Washington city, changed 
its name to the " National Era," and managed it with great ability as the 
organ of the political abolitionists. " Uncle Tom's Cabin " was first pub- 
lished in his paper in chapters. 



SoON" after the mob meeting at the court-liouse in 
January, the editor of the " Philanthropist " announced 
in its columns that after the month of March the paper 
would be printed and published at Cincinnati. It had 
been found impracticable to rent a building in the city at 
an earlier date. At the appointed ,time the office was 
opened in the upper stories of the building on the north- 
east corner of Main and Seventh Streets. The situation 
was central and on the chief business street. The re- 
moval of the press and types was effected by daylight and 
without concealment. It excited little interest. A po- 
liceman looked on from the opposite side of the street. 
Passers-by asked a few questions, but there was no inter- 

From that time until the T^th of July following the 
paper was published without molestation. A sign about 
eighteen feet long and bearing the words " Anti-Slavery 
Ollice " was conspicuous on the Main Street front of the 
building. Abolition pamphlets and books were kept for 
sale, and buyers and subscribers were constantly passing 
in and out. Mr. Birney was there almost daily. His 
figure was a familiar one on ^lain Street and in the cen- 
tral part of the city. He resided on the west side of Race 
Street, the second door above Eighth. He lectured in the 


city and the suburbs, attended the Sixtli Street Pres])y- 
terian Church reguhirly, and was known by sight to thou- 
sands of the inhabitants. He was uniformly treated with 
respect, though he could not but be aware that he was 
often pointed out to strangers as a person to be looked at. 
For two months and twelve days not a single paragraph 
appeared against him in any city newspaper and no move- 
ment was made against his press. July 12th (we quote 
from the " Narrative of Eiotous Proceedings ") : 

At midnight a band of thirty or forty men, including those 
who stood as sentries at different points on the street, made an 
assault on the premises of Mr. Pugh, the j^rinter, scaled a higli 
wall by which the lot was inclosed, and with the aid of a ladder 
and plank mounted the roof of the press-office. They then made 
their way through a window on the roof into the room below, 
intimidated into silence by threats of bodily violence a boy who 
was asleep there, covered his head with the bed-clothes to pre- 
vent him from seeing who were the perpetrators, tore up the 
paper that was prepared for that week's number of the "Philan- 
thropist," as well as a large part of the impression of a number 
that had not been mailed, destroyed the ink, dismantled the 
press, and carried away many of its principal parts. 

Although about two hours were occupied in this vio- 
lence and the premises were on one of the principal streets 
of the city and the noise made was great, no policeman 
made his appearance. Three of the operatives in this 
raid on property came from Covington, Ky., and a large 
number of the band was made up of slave-holders who 
were temporarily stopping at the city hotels. Joseph 
Graham, a city salesman in the Southern trade and mem- 
ber of the Texas Aid Committee, was an active partici- 

On the morning of the 14th, a handbill headed " Abo- 
litionists beware ! " and menacing the abolitionists if they 
should " re-establish their press," was placarded on the 


street corners. It transpired afterward that this was writ- 
ten by Joseph Graham and printed in Covington. In the 
afternoon the "Evening Post," edited by South Caro- 
linians, published an inllainmatory article repeating the 
threats of the handbill. On the 15th the " Philanthro- 
pist " appeared at its usual hour. In the afternoon Mr. 
Birney and two friends called on Mayor Davies, and, on 
his promise to issue a suitable proclamation, deposited one 
hundred dollars with him as a reward for the detection of 
the rioters. The proclamation appeared next day and 
contained the following paragraph : 

And I do earnestly entreat those persons whose proceedings, 
it is alleged, have prompted to the commission of the riot com- 
plained of, as they value the quiet of the city, to abstain from 
the further prosecution of such measures as may have a tendency 
to inflame the public mind and lead to acts of violence and dis- 
order, in contempt of the laws and disgraceful to the city. 

This manifesto, so Avell calculated to assure the rioters 
of liis sympathy, reminded abolitionists that Mayor Davies 
had presided at the mob meeting in January and had done 
his best at that time to excite to violence. It appeared 
also that in private conversations he had frequently de- 
clared his hopes that Mr. Birney Avould be mobbed, and 
tliat on the night of the l-itli instant the policeman on 
tlie beat including the Anti-Slavery Office had been sent, 
by the mayor's orders, to another part of the city. An in- 
terview with Mayor Davies to protest against his proclama- 
tion left the conviction on Mr. Birney's mind that no in- 
terference with the mob could be expected from that 
official. On the 17th a handbill signed " Old Kentucky " 
was posted up in the streets, offering a reward for the de- 
livery of " one James G. Birney." That, too, was after- 
ward shown to have been the literary work of young 
Graham. On the 18th the executive committee published 


a vigorous address to the people of Cincinnati. Its closing 
words were : 

"We have now in some degree, from the force of circum- 
stances, committed to our custody the riglits of every freeman in 
Ohio, of their offspring, of our own. Shall we as cravens volun- 
tarily offer them up, sacrifices to the spirit of misrule and op- 
pression, or as American citizens contend for them till a force 
which we can not withstand shall wrest them from our hands ? 
The latter part of the alternative we have embraced with a full 
determination by the help of God to maintain unimpaired the 
freedom of speech and the liberty of the press, tlie jjalladium 
oj' our rights. 

The interpretation pnt npon this address was that it 
meant resistance by force. The little band of mobocrats 
halted and called for recruits. The politicians came to 
their aid. The "Whig," the " Eepublican " and the 
" Post " published inflammatory articles daily. The " Ga- 
zette," Charles Hammond, editor, said nothing editorially, 
but published anonymous cards as advertisements. One 
of the articles in the " Whig " suggested " dangling from 
a bough " and a " dress of tar and feathers." An anony- 
mous advertisement appeared in the papers calling a meet- 
ing of citizens at six o'clock, Saturday evening, the 23d, at 
the Lower JMarket, " to decide whether they will permit the 
publication or distribution of abolition papers in this city," 
and naming forty-two* respectable citizens to prepare 
resolutions to be voted on. The jilace and time indicated 
an intention to get together a crowd of workingmen and 
Kentuckians and have the mob after the adjournment. 
Xo public meeting had ever been held at the Lower 
Market. The meeting was not more than one third part 
as large as was expected by its projectors — not more than 

* Of those named, twenty-nine took no part in preparing the reso- 
lutions or iu the meeting or in the mob procLodings. 


one thousantl persons were present, including boys, market- 
dealers, passers-by, drawn by the music of a band, tlie idly 
curious and a goodly number of abolitionists ; the mob 
party, including Kentuckians, numbered between two and 
three hundred. The resp-ectable merchants who had been 
expected to act as officers were not present. A change 
of programme was, therefore, made ; William Burke, the 
Democratic city postmaster, Morgan Neville, the Demo- 
cratic receiver, and 1'imothy Walker, a prominent Whig 
and expectant office-holder, were elected i^resident, vice- 
president, and secretary. 

After passing resolutions prepared, it was said, by Mr. 
Xeville, including one pledging the persons i)resent to 
"■ use all lawful means to "discountenance and suppress 
every publication in this city which advocates the modern 
doctrines of abolitionism," it was thought best to post- 
pone the suppression. An impromptu resolution was ac- 
cordingly passed, authorizing the chair to appoint a com- 
mittee of twelve, which, with the officers of the meeting, 
should " wait upon James G. Birney and his associates 
... to remonstrate with him," etc. 

This unexpected move was designed, no doubt, by 
Burke, Neville, and Walker, to force prominent AVhigs 
to come to the front and take their part of the responsi- 
bility. The chair appointed twelve citizens, nine of them 
Whigs. Two of the twelve did not act. The other ten 
were Jacob Burnet, Josiah Lawrence, Eobert Buchanan, 
Nicholas Longworth, 0. M. Spencer, David Loring, David 
T. Disney, Thomas W. Bakewell, John P. Foote, and 
William (Treene. ^^lost of these were wealthy men, iden- 
tified with politii's and contributors to the funds of their 
respective parties. Having been forced by Burke's adroit- 
ness into a false position, the Whigs had not the manhood 
to refuse to stand in it. David 'J'. Disney was a Demo- 
cratic politician, and both he and William (Jreene, with 


Joseph Graham, were then actively engaged in forwarding 
arms and men to aid the Texans. The committee began 
its remonstrances, every member of it knowing that ^U'- 
Birney Avould not hay down his rights at their bidding. 
A week followed of correspondence and interviews, with a 
running accompaniment of daily incendiary articles in the 
'• Whig," " Ivepublican," and " Post," ending in a peremp- 
tory demand by the committee of discontinuance, and a 
firm negative answer by the executive committee of the 
Anti-Slavery Societ}-. A part only of this answer was 
published by the Market House Committee. The follow- 
ing is one of the omitted paragraphs : 

We believe that a large portion of the ijeoijle of Cincinnati 
are utterly opposed to the prostration of the liberty of the press, 
and that there is among us, whatever may be said to the con- 
trary, enough of correct and sober feeling to uphold the laws, if 
our public officers faith/ uUy discharge their duty. 

On the morning of July 30th, it being Saturday, and the 
night the best of the week to get up a mob, the Market- 
House Committee published in every city daily (except the 
" Gazette," which refused to publish it before Monday) the 
failure of its "remonstrances." With the conventional 
hypocrisy of the mobocrats of the period, they closed their 
announcement in the following words : 

They owe it to themselves and those whom they represent to 
express the utmost abhorrence of everything like violence ; and 
earnestly to imi)l()rc their fellow-citizens to abstain therefrom. 

How slyly these Tartutfes must have smiled together 
when they signed that passage ! 

After tendering to the mayor, on Friday, the services 
of themselves and friends for the preservation of order as 
special policemen, and being unable to obtain from him 
any assurance that he would take any steps whatever 
against the mob party, the majority of the executive com- 


mittoe deciik'd to leave to him tlie entire responsibility. 
Mr. Pugh, the owner of the printing-press and type, was 
a Quaker, and he absolutely refused to have any armed 
resi:?tance made to the expected mob. 

At six o'clock p. M., a preparatory meeting of the mob 
operators was held, Joseph (Jraham presiding. It was re- 
solved : 1, that the press should be destroyed and types 
thrown in the street ; and, 2, that Mr. Birney should be 
notified to leave the city in twenty-four hours. About 
fifty persons were present, mostly clerks and Keutuckians. 
Of these, ten or twelve were stout workmen, who took no 
part in the proceedings, and had the air of men receiving 
orders to do work for which they were paid. The follow- 
ing account of the mob was given in the " Gazette " of 
the following Monday : 

Destkuction of Property. 
On Saturday night, July 30th, very soon after dark, a concourse 
of citizens assembled at the corner of Main and Seventh Streets 
in this city, and, upon a short consultation, broke open the 
printing-office of the "Philanthropist," the abolition paper, scat- 
tered the type into the streets, tore down the presses, and com- 
])letely dismantled the office. It was owned by A. Pugh, a 
])eaceable and orderly printer, who published the " Philanthro- 
l)ist '' for the Anti-Slaverj- Society of Ohio. From the printing- 
office, the crowd went to the house of A. Fiigh, where they sup- 
posed there were other printing materials, but found none nor 
offered any violence. Then to the Messrs Donaldson's, where 
ladies only were at home. The residence of Mr. Birney, the 
editor, was then visited. Ko person was at home but a youth,* 

* I was the youth and seventeen years of age at that time. I was 
alone, mv mother with the younjror children being then on a two months' 
visit to relatives in Kentuckv, and my father having gone to Lebanon, 
Ohio, to deliver tlic third of a scries of Saturday evening anti-slavory 
lectures. On seeing the crowd apiiroaching, which it did witliout outcry, 
and quietly as if under control of leaders, I stepped out of the front 
door, closing it behind me and remaining on the door-sill. Joseph Gra- 


upon whose explanatious the house was left undisturbed. A 
shout was raised for Dr. Colby's, and the concourse returned to 
Main Street, proposing to pile up the contents of the office in the 
street and make a bonfire of them. Joseph Graham mounted 
tlie pile and advised against burning it, lest the houses near 
might take fire. A 2)ortion of the press was then dragged down 
the Main Street, broken up, and thrown into the river. The Ex- 
change was then visited and refreshments taken. . . . An attack 
was then made upon the residence of some blacks in Church 
Alley ; two guns were fired upon the assailants and they re- 
coiled. ... It was some time before a rally could be again made, 
several voices declaring that they did not wish to endanger them- 
selves. A second attack was made, the houses w^ere found empty 
and their interior contents destroyed. It was now about mid- 
night, when the party parading down Main Street was addressed 
by the mayor, wlio had Ijeen a silent spectator of the destruction of 
the printing-office. He told them tliey miglit as well now dis- 
perse. A dispersion to a considerable extent followed. 

The mayor's speecli was reported in full. It was short. 
The most striking passage was : 

"We have done enough for one night. . . . The abolitionists 
themselves must be convinced by this time what public sentiment 
is, and that it will not do any longer to disregard or set it at 
naught. ... As you can not punish the guilty without endan- 
gering the innocent, I advise you all to go home. 

Sunday evening, a small crowd of persons collected on 
Main Street, opposite the Franklin boarding-house. It 
was rumored that Mr. Birney was there. The " Gazette " 

ham, who appeared to be in command, asked me: " Who are you?" I 
gave him my name. "Where is your father?" "In Warren County." 
" Is anybody else in the liouse ? " " Xo." He turned to consult with liis 
friends, and I stepped quickly inside, turned the key in tlio door-lock, and 
took my stand on the first stair platform, to give a due reception to the 
expected intruders. I had within reach about forty rounds. After con- 
sulting several minutes, the crowd moved away quietly. From beginning 
to end, there was in its manner no indication of popular excitement. 


of August 4 reported the following most extraordinary 
act on the part of Mayor Davies : The mayor, with one or 
two citizens, " ofliciated as a domiciliary committee to 
examine the house, and reported that the object of search 
was not there."' ]\Ir. Birney returned to the city on Mon- 
day, and remained there without molestation. 

The extraordinary conduct of the mayor illustrates the 
folly of placing in command of a city police force a person 
of neither social standing nor pecuniary responsibility nor 
regard for law. Davies was a servile parasite of the poli- 
ticians who had placed him in office. On Monday, how- 
ever, public opinion declared itself strongly against his 
course. Several volunteer companies organized to preserve 
order, and the mayor reluctantly swore them in as special 
policemen. Disorder ceased at once. Forty leading citi- 
zens, including Charles Hammond, Salmon P. Chase, 
William D. Gallagher, Thomas II. Shreve, E. Hulse, :M. 
Lyon, E. W. Chester, James Calhoun, and J. M. MeCul- 
lough, and not including a single political wire-worker, 
signed the following call : 


The friends of order, of law and the Constitution, having no 
connection with the Anti-Slavery Society, and who are opposed 
to the action of a mob under any possible circumstances, are re- 
quested to meet this afternoon (Tuesday) at three o'clock at the 

It is useless for our purpose to enter into further de- 
tails relating to this mob. A " Narrative of the late Kiot- 
ous Proceedings," etc. (forty-six octavo pages) was WTitten 
and published soon after by ^Mr. Birney, and was widely 
circulated throughout the country. 

Several facts must be evident to every careful reader of 
the foregoing statements : 1, that the movement was be- 
gun by Southern visitors and a few irresponsible and 


obscure persons in trade and would have failed if it had 
not been countenanced by three jDolitical daily newspapers 
and by persons prominent both in trade and politics ; 2, 
that the operatives were men hired to do the work and 
not men who volunteered for the purpose under a strong 
popular excitement; and, 3, that the success of the 
mob was assured in advance by the countenance and co- 
operation of the mayor. 

In the leading editorial of the first number of the 
" Philanthropist " issued after the mob, it is stated : 

A good-looking young man, while the mob were in the office, 
proclaimed from a conspicuous place if six others would join 
him, he would put a stop to the violence. But it was known the 
mayor was there, that he was a quiet spectator of what was doing. 
This discouraged all. Had he summoned aid he would have 
been instantly joined by hundreds. 

In the same article Xr. Birney stated that no Irish 
Catholic,* or Englishman, or German was concerned in 
the mob. At that time about half the population of Cin- 
cinnati were foreigners. The Germans alone numbered 
about ten thousand. He estimated the adult American 
male population of the city at five thousand, and of this 
number that not more than two hundred and fifty could be 
found willing to join in destroying an anti-slavery print- 
ing press. This was a dispassionate view of the facts. 
And yet Cincinnati, by its proximity to Kentucky and 
its large Southern trade and great number of Southerii 
visitors, especially in the summer, was more liable to 
mob violence than any other city in the free States. 
That city and Alton, 111., were the only two Northern 
cities in which a prominent abolitionist could reasonably 

* Bishop Purcell, afterward archbishop, was an Irish Catholic and 
favored anti-slavery opinions. His younger brother, a priest and an able 
man, was an abolitionist of the O'Connell type. 


entertain apprehensions of any attempt ujjon his life or 

And here, in the interest of historical truth, I wish to 
enter a protest against the customary conventional exag- 
gerations of the Northern mobs in " abolition times." 
Having lived in Cincinnati eleven of the years between 
1835 and 1848, and having seen every mob in that city 
and a good many in the other jiarts of Ohio, and lieard the 
facts touching those in other IStates during that period, I 
nnist say they were, as a general thing, not dangerous 
eitlier to life or limb, or beyond the power of the police to 
suppress. Meetings were assailed by missiles thrown by 
thoughtless boys, prompted secretly by their elders. The 
smashing a few panes of glass in a church or town-hall 
was not uncommon. It was a good practical joke to throw 
eggs into a congregation and run away to escape punish- 
ment. Speakers were rudely interrupted. But these 
minor forms of mobocratic annoyance were in a ratio prob- 
ably of less than one to a hundred anti-slavery meetings. 
More serious ones, though much talked of, were very rare. 
" Tar and feathers " figured largely in newspaper articles 
and pro-slavery speeches; but of the thousands of anti- 
slavery lecturers one only was subjected to that indignity, 
and that was as early as 1834. Not a man was hurt seri- 
ously in Xew England. The profuse rhetoric of certain 
Massachusetts WTitcrs about "abolition martyrs" might 
lead a careless reader to imagine that hecatombs of men 
were slaughtered on the altar of slavery ; but I remember 
no abolitionist but Lovejoy who lost his life. The mobs 
were misdemeanors at law and political crimes, being aimed 
at the freedom of the press and of speech, but very few 
persons were hurt. The famous Utica mob of 1835 did 
no physical damage to anybody. Pennsylvania Hall was 
burned in 1S3S, and the houses of the Tappans were sacked 
in 1834; but these mobs were especially dangerous because 


they consisted chiefly of shive-hoklers and their hirelings, 
aided by the idle rabble always ready for any excitement 
which is without danger. 

Though homicidal in intent, they in fact made no 
martyrs. In the dangerous class of mobs must be placed 
those excited against Englishmen where traditional patriotic 
hatred whetted to keenness pro-slavery zeal. If the Boston 
mob of October, 1835, had seized George Thompson, he 
would probably not have escaped alive; but no Boston 
pro-slavery mob from 1830 to 1850 ever harmed any one 
personally. The most dangerous mob at Cincinnati was 
the one in 1841, against the English confectioner, Burnett. 
He was a zealous abolitionist, bold as a lion, and had a 
sharp tongue which he used freely against slave-holders 
and their abettors. He was generous and genial, and had 
warm friends. Having rescued a slave girl and sent her 
safely to Canada, he jeered at the masters and some con- 
stables who were seeking for the fugitive. The anti- 
English mania was aroused. A mob collected on three 
successive evenings to take Burnett from his house and 
hang him. He disdained to run ; besides, his person was 
so generally known that he could hardly have escaped. 
Twelve friends helped him and his two sons to defend his 
house. The numerous assaults were repulsed by throwing 
lumps of stove coal from the upper windows. A large 
quantity was daily transferred from the cellar to the upper 
floors. Firearms were reserved for the last resort. Donn 
Piatt, late editor of " Belford's Magazine," was one of the 
garrison, and the writer personally knows he did his duty. 
Many of the assailants were severely injured ; but the 
assailed, owing to the adjustment of slanting barricades in 
front of the windows and the great strength of the lower 
door and window blinds, escaped with a few bruises. On 
the third night, at a very late hour, the mayor interfered ; 
but not until the garrison had threatened to use its fire- 


arms. Such a conflict never took place, it is believed, in 
any other city, flavor Spencer was a brother of 0. M. 
Spencer. He was a bitter anti-abolitionist, and probably 
thought it desirable that Burnett and his friends should 
be worsted. At any rate, he let the mob run for three 
nights, and the "anti-Burnett mob" took rank with the 
" anti-bank mob " of a previous date.* 

In several accepted accounts of the early struggle 
against the slave power, James G. Birney is represented as 
having often suffered from mob-violence ; this is not true. 
No man ever laid an unfriendly hand upon him during 
his public career. A few of his meetings were interrupted 
or disturbed ; and, on one occasion some missiles were 
thrown at him from a distance as he rode out of a town, 
but he was untouched. He used to say that, notwith- 
standing statements of the great number of anti-abolition 
mobs, not a single abolitionist had been mobbed half as 
often as John Wesley, the jireacher of Methodism — a com- 
parison which he thought was honorable to the American 
people. He published a list of more than thirty mobs 
against Wesley. If he had survived until the present time, 
he might have proved that the saloon interest has quad- 
rupled the mobs excited in the North by the slave power 
and its parasites ; and that the prohibitionists number 
three martyrs among their prominent men to one on the 
roll of abolitionists. While he exposed the persecutions 
directed against himself and other abolitionists, he did not 
exaggerate them or celebrate them in anniversary meet- 
ings ; and he checked a certain tendency among his friends 
to place him on the pedestal of a martyr. He refused to 
pose in that way. The numerous rewards offered in the 
South for the abduction of leading abolitionists caused 

* In the mobs against negroes in Northern cities many lives were 
sacrificed. Tho remarks in the text are not intended to apply to them or 
to the fighting in Kansas. 


him no apprehension. He regarded them as attempts at 
intimidation made by weak men. An abduction, he argued, 
would be a serious bhinder on the part of the slave power, 
and the leaders would not permit it ; nothing would have 
been easier than to seize him by night and take him into 
Kentucky, but such an act would rouse the whole Korth 
as one man. All he could possibly apprehend was assassi- 
nation, perpetrated by some slave-holding zealot, crazed by 
drink or under cover of some mob disturbance — an act 
that would be promptly disclaimed by the pro-slavery 
leaders with suitable expressions of abhorrence. 

For a short time after the re-establishment of his 
paper in September, 1836, he exercised some caution in 
exposing himself at night ; but this soon ceased. His 
temperament did not make him susceptible to panic 

After the destruction of his paper in July, the notices 
of the leading papers of the country were generally kindly. 
We have room for two only. The New York " Evening 
Post " said : 

He is a man of great ardor and resolution of character, and is 
not likely to give up his design but with his life. . . . His ene- 
mies will probably find that nothing short of murder will effect 
their object. 

The Xew York " Journal of Commerce " said : 
Judge Birney's paper was ably conducted, and, although an 
advocate of abolition, was managed with far greater moderation 
than several papers at the East we could mention engaged in the 
same cause. Judge Birney himself is a man of very estimable 
character and possesses talents of a high order. 

Webb, of the " Courier and Enquirer," was character- 
istically truculent and coarse : 

They are a poor miserable set of driveling dastards who are 
as bold as so many Parolles at a distance from danger, but who 


always run into the shavings* like William Lloyd Garrison when 
their own poor pates are in danger. 

The popular reaction against tlie mob was general 
through the North. Mr. Birney wrote in November, 
" The great majority of the people are sound on free dis- 
cussion and a free press." 

After the October elections, the Dayton " Rejmblican," 
a AVliig paper, rejoiced that " the Whig mobocrats " of Cin- 
cinnati had been rebuked " at the polls. Not a mother's 
son of the whole batch of Whig candidates in Hamilton 
County is elected." It expressed the hope that " leading 
and influential Whigs " would not again act as " mobbers." 

The estimate of ^Ir. Birney in 1836 by his anti-slavery 
contemporaries may be inferred from the following ex- 
tracts from important documents. In the next annual 
report of the American Anti-Slavery Society six pages 
were given to the mobbing of the " Philanthropist." Of 
that paper it was said : 

Though fully and unflinchingly advocating the doctrines of 
this society, it could never be reproached for want of forbearance 
or courtesy in its language. Even its enemies were obliged to 
concede that its mode of conducting the discussion was unexcep- 

'J'he New England Anti-Slavery Convention of that 
year, in a formal resolution, mentioned Mr. Birney as one 

* This allusion to Mr. Garrison's concealment of himself in a car- 
penter's shop from the Boston mob in 1835 is inaccurate. Mr. Garrison, 
in his account of the mob, says : " We then went up-stairs, and, finding 
a vacancy in one corner of the room, I got into it and he and a young 
lad piled up some boards in front of me to shield me from observation." 
(See his "Life," ii, 20.) In 1833 Mr. Garrison had written an article 
beginning: "To the charge made against me by the cowardly ruffian 
who conducts the ' Courier and Enquirer,' and by the miserable liar and 
murderous hypocrite of the New York 'Commercial Advertiser,'" etc. 
(Garrison's " Life," li, 3S7.) 


" who so nobly volunteers to jeopard his life in the midst 
of dangers and persecutions," and declared " That the 
convention give their unqualified approbation to that dis- 
tinguished friend of the slave, James G. Birney," etc. 

The New York Anti- Slavery Society, through its ex- 
ecutive committee, published an address of sympathy with 
its Ohio coadjutors. In this it said^ 

The well-known character of the press and editor, . . . the 
universal meed of approbation for candor, courtesy, and kindness 
that have been awarded them from all parties — from opponents 
as well as friends — enhances in no small degree the moral force 
and virtue of the demonstration that has been made. . . . You 
are in the forefront of the battle. . . . Y'oui- brethren are looking 
anxiously toward you. 




Soox after Mr. Birney's removal to Cincinnati lie had 
been made a member of the executive committee of the 
State Anti-Slavery Society. As he possessed the entire 
confidence of his associates and was the only member who 
gave his time and attention to the common cause, the 
management of the business naturally fell into his hands. 
It is no easy matter at this day to ai)preciate the delicacy 
of his varied duties. One of them was to select lecturers 
and give them the stamp of official approval, thus indi- 
rectly discrediting numerous volunteer speakers who were 
working without good results or who did not properly 
represent the anti-slavery cause. In the preceding ten years 
certain zealous anti-slavery clergymen had wasted much 
precious time in expounding the true meaning of doidos 
in the Bible, and expended much learning on slavery 
among the Jews in the time of Moses and much energy 
in arguing against race prejudice as a sin, as if such a 
prejudice had ever yielded to argument. A few of the 
speakers were eccentrics. In that era of religious and 
reformatory excitement and new ideas of progress, mate- 
rial and moral, the natural drift of highly emotional per- 
sons of ascetic temperament and defective logical power 
was into abolitionism, and beyond it into fads and whim- 
seys without end. 


When fluency of declamation and the vanity of notori- 
ety were added to their other qualities it was very difficult 
to keep them from the abolition jilatform. Lacking 
knowledge of history, politics, law, and the Constitution, 
they resorted to personalities, abusive epithets against 
slave-holders, the Church, and the national Constitution, 
and to logical inferences from the Declaration of Inde- 
joendence and the Revolution of 1776 of the riglit of 
slaves to rise and cut their masters' throats, thus exasper- 
ating public sentiment against the abolition cause by giv- 
ing prominence to false or collateral and unimportant 
issues which were offensive to good taste, humanity, and 
patriotism. These men did great harm to the abolition'- 
cause. Some of them were eccentric in their personal 
appearance. One believed he resembled Christ, and wore 
long hair parted in the middle and flowing in curls over 
his shoulders ; another sported a sombrero hat and a long 
beard like a Mexican bandit ; and a third wore no hat at 
all. Some had adopted Dr. Sylvester Graham's recently 
advanced theories of living. They ate coarse bread and 
fruits but no meat, drank no stimulants, not even tea and 
coffee, and, even if delicate, took cold shower-baths every 
morning, winter and summer. Some abjured marriage ; 
others thought it wrong to punish or even restrain chil- 
dren. One anticipated the Christian Scientists of the 
present day. He was becoming perfect like Christ, and 
expected to be able in time to cure disease and work 
miracles. He was as abstemious as an Oriental hermit. 
All these well-meaning persons, who were bringing aboli- 
tion into discredit with people of common sense, were 
quietly and tactfully laid aside by Mr. Birney. They 
were not invited to meetings or conventions, and if they 
appeared at them were ignored. He believed the staff of 
accomplishment was in other hands. The men he select- 
ed to represent the cause to the public were men esteemed 


for practical ability, integrity, and knowledge of public 
affairs. They were Messrs. Thome, Streeter, AVilliam T. 
Allen, of Alabama, Lyman, Weed, Barber, Timothy Hud- 
son, and licv. John Kankiu. These were the paid lectur- 
ers. All of them were able speakers and did much to lay 
deep and broad foundations for future anti-slavery action. 
He adopted a system of appointing as local lecturers with- 
out pay good men in the different counties of the State. 
On this list were such men as Hon. Thomas Morris, Rev. 
Henry Cowles, Albert A. Guthrie, Rev. James H. Dickey, 
Rev. Dyer Burgess, and Dr. "\V. AV. Bancroft. These names 
are given from memory. There were many others. 

As a result of this systematic effort in Ohio, eighty 
anti-slavery societies were formed in that State in the 
twelve mouths beginning with May, 1830. In Indiana, 
where no such effort was made, one society only was 
formed in the same period. 

One of the most active lecturers in Ohio was Mr. Bir- 
ney himself. 

The " Philanthropist " contains almost weekly an- 
nouncements of his engagements. He lectured in almost 
every town of southwestern Ohio without giving occasion 
for any hostile demonstrations worthy of special notice. 
At Cummingsville and Fulton, suburbs of Cincinnati, he 
had good audiences. At Fulton he delivered a series of 
lectures in the Presbyterian church of which the Rev. 
John Dudley, father of Colonel W. W. Dudley, of Indi- 
ana, was pastor. Xo other church in Cincinnati opened 
its doors to him. 

Mr. Birney made it a point to form the acquaintance 
of editors in Ohio whenever occasion served. He had 
personal friends among them in all parts of the State, 
and was sure of a kind reception in their respective locali- 
ties if they could secure it for liim. His social relations 
embraced a great variety of persons. Among the guests 


who enjoyed liis hospittility at Cincinnati were Benjamin 
Lundy, Elijah P. Lovejoy, and Rev. Alexander Campbell, 
an extremely able controversialist and the founder of the 
" Church of the Disciples." Mr. Campbell had a public 
debate with Bishop Purcell on the interpretation of the 
prophecies, in which he attempted to prove that the Ro- 
man Catholic Church was the " scarlet woman," and also, 
as well as I recollect, the little horn of the beast in Daniel. 
I had the honor of accompanying Mr. Campbell and my 
father to the debate on one of the evenings. Mr. Camp- 
bell and Bishop Purcell were very learned theologians, 
but my father was much amused Avith the debate, and 
expressed to me his wonder that such men should spend 
time on such trivialities. He did his best to interest Mr. 
Campbell in the anti-slavery cause, but with little success. 
He accomplished more with Bishop Purcell, whom he vis- 
ited repeatedly. 

About this time a learned Jewish rabbi sought to in- 
terest Mr. Birney in the " testimony of the targums " in 
relation to slavery, but failed to imj^ress him with the 
practical importance of that branch of curious learning. 
To young men of good morals, ability, and promise, Mr. 
Birney made himself agreeable, seeking to win them to 
his cause. Among these were the lawyers Samuel Eells, 
John Jolliife, and Salmon P. Chase. Mr. Eells died in 
early manhood ; Mr. JoUiffe became and remained through 
a long life a thorough political-action abolitionist ; Mr. 
Chase, afterward Chief Justice of the United States Su- 
preme Court, did not connect himself publicly and formal- 
ly with the anti-slavery movement until he joined the 
Liberty party in 1841, but he adopted Mr. Birney's legal 
and constitutional opinions on slavery in 183G. His con- 
version was not rapid. The acquaintance growing out of 
the ordinary relation of lawyer and client became one of 
personal friendship and intimacy in the autumn of 1835, 


and continued on that fooiiiiu. -Mr. Chase spent many of 
his evenings in my father's library, and I was present on 
most of these occasions. As I remember the conversa- 
tions, they turned cliiefly on the legal aspects of slavery. 
Mr. Chase was my father's junior by sixteen years, and, 
although a good practitioner, had made no special study 
of slavery. He was a most attentive listener. I have a 
vivid remembrance of my father's vindication of a de- 
cision by Justice llorublowcr, of New Jersey, that a per- 
son claimed in one State as a fugitive slave from another 
had a right to a trial by jury ; and of one by Justice Shaw, 
of Massachusetts, tliat a slave taken into a free State by 
the master becomes free. His arguments Avere as elabo- 
rate as if made to a court, and were illustrated by cases 
read from books taken from the library shelves.* They 
were impressed upon my memory by the reproduction of 
them by Mr. Chase in his argument, in March, 1837, in 
what is known as the case of the girl ^Eatilda Lawrence, 
claimed as a slave, and the elaboration of them in my 
father's subsequent defense of himself when indicted un- 
der the " Ohio black laws " for harboring her. It was my 
good fortune to hear both of these arguments, so noted in 
their day ; and it derogates nothing from the future Chief 
Justice that James G. Birney was his first and only in- 
structor in anti-slavery law. Mr. Chase did not a])andon 
the Whig party until 1841, but from that time cordially 

* In his eloquent funeral oration on Chief-Justice Chase, Judge Iload- 
ley dates the beginning of Mr. Chase's anti-slavery action in 1829-'30, 
while he was teaching school in Washington city. This is a mistake. 
I knew Mr. Chase intimately from 1841 to 1848, and he never alluded to 
such early action. I have also inquired closely into his life in Washing- 
ton in 1829-'30, and find no evidence tending to sustain Judge Iloadley. 
The facts that he spent a vacation in Virginia as a guest of slave- 
holders, and that his pupils were nearly all sons of slave-holders, are 
inconsistent with the assertion that at that time he was an active abo- 


supported ^Ir. Biruey as a candidate for the presidency, 
taking a very active part in the campaign of 1844. 

The case of Matilda Lawrence iHustrates the extent to 
which the great property interest of shivery, though alien 
to the spirit of republican institutions was able to over- 
bear the common sentiments of humanity and chivalry, 
the principles of law, and the Constitutions of Ohio and 
of the United States. Her father, a resident of southern 
Missouri, was a rich planter. He was an elderly man, un- 
married, and a testy invalid. His daughter, an octoroon, 
had been brought up in his house as his servant and de- 
pendent. At sixteen she lost her mother and succeeded 
her as housekeeper. At twenty she was a beautiful bru- 
nette. There was nothing in her personal appearance to 
excite suspicion of the fatal taint in her blood, but her 
origin was known in the county of her. residence, and she 
was not admitted to the society of the white people in the 
neighborhood. Her father forbade her to associate with 
the blacks. She belonged to neither race. For four years 
she lived in isolation. She had learned to read, and her 
chief solace was in poring over the few books in her 
father's library. In the winter of 183G he decided to spend 
a year in Xew York for the purpose of consulting eminent 
physicians. Being unwilling to lose her services as his 
nurse and attendant, or to meet the many inconveniences 
inseparable from her going with him as his servant, he 
determined to take her with him and represent her as his 
daughter. He was rich enough to disregard the additional 
expense, and cynical enough to enjoy the mystification. 
Her neat apparel, quiet manners, and apparent intelligence 
caused his representations to pass without question ; she 
was received at hotels with the respect due to the daughter 
of a wealthy Southern gentleman. Her remarkable beauty 
attracted admirers, her pensiveness and modesty being 
additional charms. In these unusual circumstances her 


intelligence developed rapidly. She availed herself of 
opportunities to learn what she might about the rights of 
individuals at the North. She was a woman, and no doubt 
conscious of the newly discovered power of her beauty. 
She began to chafe at her servile condition and false posi- 
tion, and to importune her father to set her free. She 
begged not to be taken back to Missouri and the isolation 
of plantation life, with the dreary prospect of the auction 
block at her father's death. Mr. Lawrence, alarmed at 
this unexpected result of his freak, and unwilling to grant 
her request, lost no time in starting for Missouri. Arriv- 
ing in Cincinnati, he stopped at a hotel near the wharf, 
intending to take passage on the first steamboat bound for 
St. Louis. After a vain effort to persuade him to give her 
" free papers," in which case she promised to go with him 
and serve him faitjifully, she left the hotel and found a 
refuge in the house of a colored barber who was well 
known as a friend of the unfortunate of his race. This 
was in May, 1836. A few days later Mr. Lawrence left 
for St. Louis. It is quite doubtful whether ho authorized 
the proceedings for seizure taken in the following March 
in his name by one John W. Iviley, a notorious negro 
hunter and kidnapj)er, no proof of authority having been 
submitted, except the allidavit of Riley himself. 

After remaining a few days in concealment, Matilda 
Lawrence obtained employment as a servant in a white 
family and, in the following October, was engaged by my 
mother as chambermaid and nurse. She was a modest, 
industrious girl, of respectful manners and affectionate 
disposition, and in a short time became a favorite with my 
mother and the children. "We thought her white. She 
was reticent in regard to her past life. She told us that 
she was born in Missouri, that her family and relatives 
lived there but were too poor to help her, that her mother 
was dead, and she did not wish to live with her father and 


would rather not say wliy, and was liappy to be able to gain 
her own living. During the five months of her stay with us 
she gained the esteem of all the members of the family. 

Early in March, having gone into the street on some 
errand, she came rushing back, pale and trembling with 
fright, and begged my mother to save her from being seized 
as a slave. A man she had never seen had spoken to her 
roughly, charging her with being a runaway negro slave. 
Then came the pitiful story in all its details, the story of 
a friendless woman hunted to her hiding place. My father 
was absent from home at the time of the above occurrence, 
but was told all the facts on his return next day. They gave 
him great concern. While he knew she was free, having 
been taken by her master into a free State, he had little 
faith in the even poise of the scales of justice when they 
were held by appointees of the slave power,* He therefore 
advised that Matilda Lawrence should secrete herself from 
pursuit for the present and until she could reach the home 
of one of his friends in western New York. The house 
was watched constantly, however, by Riley and his men. 
Matilda was seized, March 10th, on a warrant issued 
by one Doty, a justice, acting under color of the law 
of 1793, since pronounced unconstitutional by the Su- 
preme Court of the United States. Mr. Chase, who had 
been retained by Mr. Birney for the purpose, applied 
to Judge D. K. Este for a writ of habeas corpus. The 
writ was issued by William Henry Harrison, then clerk of 
the Common Pleas Court. Judge Este was a silver-gray 
Whig, whose strongest sentiments were consciousness of 
his own supreme respectability and veneration for the 

* That slavery can have no legal existence outside of the territory of 
the State that sanctions it or in tlie territory of the State that interdicts 
it had been decided in England (Somerset's case), in Massachusetts, in 
Loui-siana (Lunsford's case, 14 Martin), and in Kentucky (Rankin's case, 
3 Marshall). 


claims of shive-lioklers. Tlie attovnevs for liik-y Avere three 
leading Democrats — M. N. McLean, (ieii. Lvtle, and N. 
C. Read. The learned and able argument of ^Mr. Chase 
"was heard by Este with the ostentatious courtesy of a 
judge who had already made up his mind. The refusal 
to discharge was from the first a foregone conclusion. As 
soon as it was pronounced by the judge, the young girl, 
sobbing in her terror, was seized by three stout hired 
ruffians, hurried through the crowd, placed in a carriage 
in Avaiting, driven rapidly to the Avharf , and taken by ferry- 
boat to Covington, where she was put in jail for safe keep- 
ing. The same night she was transferred to a steamboat 
bound to New Orleans. There she was sold at public auc- 
tion to the highest bidder. What became of her afterward 
was never known. The price she brought was large, and, 
rumor said, was divided equally between the kidnapper 
and his three attorneys. None of the blood money was 
offered to Judge Este, who performed his part of this 
crime against humanity and law without fee or reward 
and with perfect decorum ; and, probably, none of it went 
into the hands of the father. In sending this hajiless girl 
to a fate worse than death, the judge disregarded all laws 
human and divine. He presumed that she was a colored 
person when the law of Ohio declared white all persons of 
more white blood than a mulatto ; that she was a slave, 
though the Ohio Constitution and the Ordinance of 1787 
]irohibited the existence of slavery within the State limits; 
that she was a slave who had escaped from Missouri into 
Ohio, though the evidence proved the contrary ; and that 
Riley represented her former owner, though there was no 
proof of this except Riley's own oath.* But in that era 

* Judge Caldwell, the Democratic successor of Judge Este, admin- 
istered the law as it was. In several cases, brought before him between 
1842 and 1848, he did not hesitate to issue certificates of freedom to 
slaves brou;rht into Ohio bv their masters. 


of political subserviency to the slave power it was not un- 
common that a judge should facilitate the operations of 
professional kidnappers. 

Matilda Lawrence having been judicially declared a 
slave, the next step of Mr. Birney's political enemies, 
headed by Lytle and Eead, was to procure an indictment 
against him for harboring her. This was tried before 
Judge Este. The writer was subpoenaed and examined 
as a witness against his father, proving the facts sub- 
stantially as above narrated. The court-house was 
crowded. The accused spoke about three hours in his 
own defense, admitting the facts, and maintaining that 
Matilda Lawrence was in law a free woman. His argu- 
ment made many converts, especially among the younger 
members of the bar. Judge Este attempted to answer it in 
his charge, and came as nearly as possible to directing the 
verdict of guilty. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Ohio 
quashed the indictment as defective. The majority of the 
judges would have decided the case for the defendant, on 
his exceptions, if that course had been necessary. Chief- 
Justice Hitchcock was well known to indorse cordially the 
propositions of law made by Mr. Birney in the case. He was 
an old-time abolitionist and a good lawyer, and possessed 
uncommon independence of character. 

Thus failed the last great effort of the politicians to 
crush Mr. Birney at Cincinnati. It was noticeable that 
the political dailies of the city, except the " Gazette," 
set on and incited the persecution against him, but not 
one of them was shameless enough to ai3prove the seiz- 
ure of the unfortunate woman. The sympathy excited 
by this case throughout the Xorth was one of the potent 
causes of the passage by free-State legislatures of " jjer- 
sonal-liberty laws," designed to secure the right of trial 
by jury to every person claimed as a slave, and to punish 
as kidnappers all persons aiding or abetting in delivering 


as a slave any person not proved to liave escaped from a 
slave into a free State. To aid in procuring such laws, 
Mr. Birney printed a large edition of a pamphlet contain- 
ing Mr. Cliase's argument, and distributed it among law- 
yers and members of legislatures. 

About the 1st of May, 1837, he went to New York to 
attend the fourth anniversary of the American Anti- 
Slavery Society, and to seek to harmonize leading anti- 
slavery men on important doctrines and methods of work. 
From the outset of hip. public career, he had been in favor 
of using " all lawful means " to accomplish the restriction 
and final extinction of slavery. In the first number of his 
paper he had spoken slightingly of those non-voting abo- 
litionists " who think to accomplish tlie end without using 
the means." He had steadily maintained the duty of po- 
litical action. December 30, 1836, he wrote as editor : 

Slavery in the District and Territories and the domestic slave 
trade are under the control of political action; by political action 
alone can they be terminated. . . . non-interference would be 

His patience was severely tried by men who professed 
to be abolitionists but continued to vote for their old par- 
ties, or who refused to vote at all, preferring to " entreat " 
Whigs and Democrats for abolition measures, or to peti- 
tion Congress for them, or to indulge in wordy denunci- 
ations of men and things. Such abolitionists, he thought, 
were brambles without fruit; a million of them would 
effect nothing. They fought like a Chinese army, rattling 
tin pans to frighten the enemy. He regarded diffusion of 
information, promotion of discussion, and formation of 
public opinion against slavery as the proper functions of 
voluntary anti-slavery societies ; while, from their very na- 
ture, they were not adapted to organize practical political 
movements. It was wroni; in such societies to throw their 


influence against any lawful means of resisting the slave 
power. To obtain for some of his views on kindred sub- 
jects the indorsement of tlie executive committee, he 
wrote for the "Annual Report of 1837 " the first para- 
graph of the part of that report headed " Political Ac- 
tion" (see page 113). The following sentences condense 
his views : 

Our immediatism has led us to appeal to that religion which 
will go immediately to work by all lawful and right means, trust- 
ing that it will enlarge and deepen itseJfhy \i?, ov;tx aciiou. . . . 
The opinions and feelings of the people w'ill not be felt in their 
legislatures till some effort is made to carry them them there. . . . 
That sympathy for the oppressed which does not, from the in- 
stant of its birth, operate to reform and purify the abused and 
perverted law is thrown away, etc. . . . Political action there 
must be. . . . That religion which makes a man shrink from his 
political responsibilities when the foundation principles of justice 
are to be brought to their position in the structure of human so- 
ciety — when the liberties of millions are at stake — will not, we 
are constrained to believe, prove a support to the soul when God 
shall ask, Where is thy brother ? 

This was too strong a stroke at the non- voting abo- 
litionists. The executive committee dulled its edge by 
inserting after the above passage the advice to abolition- 
ists: "While they firmly refuse to vote for a man who 
will not support abolition measures to avoid setting up 
candidates of their own." This solecism in the reports 
reveals the want of harmony then existing among anti- 
slavery leaders. 

The weak advice of the committee implied that no 
abolitionist was fit to hold office, and was based upon an 
opinion widely prevalent among religious men of that day 
of the inherent depravity of all attempts by citizens to 
elect to office men who agreed with them in politics. 

Administration of government was to be abandoned to 


political enemies in the hope that they would not act and 
legislate on their own views ! 

Mr. Birney was treated with great respect by his fellow- 
members, lie presided at three of the seven business 
meetings, Gerrit Smith presiding at two others, and made 
the leading speech at the public anniversary meeting, lie 
availed himself of the occasi(m to place himself publicly 
on record as in favor of " all lawful means." lie said : 

There is now a large and rapidly increasing number of the 
most estimable, jiatriotic, and intelligent of our countrymen who, 
agreeing on the evils of slavery, on . . . the danger with which 
they threaten all that is valuable and worthy to be cherished 
among us — freedom of speech and of. the press, the right to in- 
vestigate truth, to publish its results, and to act consistently with 
them — aye, the Government, liberty, and religion itself — who, 
thus agreeing, are resolved, before it be too late, to act hy all 
lawful means, for the removal of these evils. 

In this speech he declared that the Colonization Soci- 
ety, though wrong in principle, had been a step in the 
necessary evolution of anti-slavery opinion. He demon- 
strated also the impolicy of gradual emancipation of slaves 
in the Gulf States by showing that freedmen in large 
numbers could not be employed as laborers by the side of 

He was elected the Ohio vice-president of the society. 
After a short lecturing tour in New York and the Xew 
England States he returned home. 



In his visit to Xew York and New England, in May 
and June, 1837, Mr. Birney's chief object had been to 
restore harmony among anti-slavery leaders on doctrines 
and measures and especially to check a tendency, already 
marked in Massachusetts, to burden the cause with irrele- 
vant reforms, real or supposed. With this view he had 
attended the Xew England Anti-Slavery Convention held 
at Boston, May 30 to June 2, inclusive, accejDted the posi- 
tion of one of its vice-presidents and acted as a member of 
its committee on business. Eev. Henry C. Wright, the 
leader of the No Human Government, Woman's Eights, 
and Moral Reform factions, was a member of the conven- 
tion, but received no appointment on any committee. Mr. 
Garrison, who had adoj)ted the new theories of Mr. Wright, 
was a member of the committee on business.* But neither 
of these gentlemen brought their peculiar views before the 
convention in any offensive manner. ]\Ir. Garrison, to 
whom the duty had been assigned by the business com- 
mittee, advocated resolutions calling upon statesmen, 
political parties, and legislatures to oppose the admission 
of Texas to the Union, and recommending measures to 
secure the votes of Congressmen against such admission. 
In his speech he advised the people of the non-slave-hold- 

* This was the first and only time Mr. Birncy was ever brought into 
any personal intimacy with Mr. Garrison. 


ing States to " unite their entire political strength " in 
opposition to Texas annexation. This language was incon- 
sistent with the " no human government " notions then 
held by Mr. Garrison, and created the belief on the part 
of Mr. Birney that Mr. Garrison would not use his 
newly adopted vagaries to the injury of the abolition cause. 
He returned to Cincinnati confident that harmony in Xew 
England would be maintaiued. Ilis confidence was, how- 
ever, of brief duration. 

Exciting events occurred in New England in rapid suc- 
cession. June 23, the " Liberator " denounced human 
governments. July 4, Mr. Garrison, in a speech at Prov- 
idence, spoke, as if approvingly, of the overthrow of the 
nation, the dismemberment- of the Union, and the dashing 
in pieces of the Church. July 15, an association of Con- 
gregational ministers issued a "pastoral letter" against 
the new doctrines. August 2, five clergymen, claiming to 
represent nine tenths of the abolitionists of Massachusetts, 
published an " appeal " which was directed more especially 
against the course of the " Liberator." August 3, the 
abolitionists of the Andover Theological Seminary issued 
a similar appeal. Among the complaints were some against 
"speculations which lead inevitably to disorganization, 
anarchy, unsettling the domestic economy, removing the 
landmarks of society, and unhinging the machinery of 
Government." About the same time a new anti-slavery 
society at Bangor passed the following : 

Resolved, That wliile we admit and maintain the right of free 
and full discussion of all subjects, yet, in our judgment, indi- 
viduals rejecting the authority of civil and parental governments 
ought not to be employed as agents and lecturers in promoting 
the cause of emancipation. 

August 17th, the Rev. J. T. "Woodbury, of Acton, pub- 
lished a letter in which he said : 


I am an abolitionist and I am so in the strictest sense of the 
term, but I never swallowed William Lloyd Garrison and I nffv^er 
tried to swallow him. ... I have seen, as I think, in Mr. Gar- 
rison a decided wish, nay, a firm resolve, in laboring to overthrow 
slavery to overthrow the Christian Sabbath and the Christian 
ministry. His doctrine is that every day is a Sabbath and every 
man his own minister. There are no Christian ordinances, there 
is no visible Church. Here I would add also the notion of his 
that the people have no right under God to frame a government 
of laws to protect themselves against those who would injure 
them, and that man can apply physical force to man rightfully 
under no circumstances, and not even the parent can apply the 
rod to the child and not be in the sight of God a trespasser and 
a tyrant. . . . Good men say we are abolitionists and would go 
with you most heartily if your lecturers and writers did not at- 
tack the Sabbath and the Christian ministry and the churches 
and all civil and family government. . . . We are not willing, 
for the sake of killing the rats, to burn down the house with all 
it contains. 

August 14th, the Quaker poet Whittier wrote to the 
sisters Grimke : 

I am anxious, too, to hold a long conversation with you on 
the subject of war, human government, and church and family 
government. The more I reflect upon the subject the more diffi- 
culty I find and the more decidedly am I of opinion that we 
ought to hold all these matters aloof from the cause of abolition. 
Our good friend H. C. Wright, with the best intentions iu the 
world, is doing great injury by a different course. He is making 
the anti-slavery party responsible in a great degree for his, to 
say the least, startling opinions. . . . But let him keep them dis- 
tinct from the cause of emancipation. This is his duty. ... To 
employ an agent who devotes half his time and talents to the 
propagation of "no human or no family government" doctrines 
in connection — intimate connection —with the doctrines of aboli- 
tion is a fraud upon the patrons of the cause. Brother Garrison 
errs, I think, in this respect. He takes the "no church and no 
human government " ground, as, for instance, in his Providence 
speech. Now in his prospectus he engaged to give his subscrib- 


crs an anti-slavery paper, and his subscribers made their contract 
with him on that jj^round. If he tills liis paper with Grahamism 
and uo govermncutism he defrauds his subscribers.* 

To the vigorous protests against the course of the 
" Liberator," Oliver Johnson, the temporary editor, made 
a caustic answer, and Mr. Garrison treated them as " sedi- 
tion," and " rebuked " and " chastised " the authors. In 
his efforts to suppress the " sedition," Mr. Garrison wrote to 
New York, demanding the aid of the executive commit- 
tee of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He wanted a 
manifesto from that body crushing the dissenters, thought 
it could not fairly stand aloof, and that silence on its part 
was not magnanimous. His devoted follower, Maria W. 
Chapman, was aggressive and menacing. She wrote to a 
friend in Xew York in the peculiar style affected by her : 

If the executive of the National should yield ! I pray God 
that I may not be unduly suspicious; but, I beseech you, call it 
a virtuous sin if I do say that I suspect them. . . . "Why will 
they think they can cut away from Garrison without becoming 
an abomination ? . . . I pray they may not fall to confessing 
Garrison's sins. ... If this defection should drink tlie cup and 
end all, we of Massachusetts will turn and abolish them as readily 
as we would the Colonization Society. 

The National Committee refused to take part in the 
Massachusetts quarrel. Its reasons for this course are 
given in a letter from Lewis Tappan, published in full in 
Garrison's " Life " by his sons. (See Garrison, i, 1G3.) In 
the kindest language, Mr. Tappan expressed his disajipro- 
bation of the " appeal " and of the spirit in which it had 
been met by Oliver Johnson and Mr. Garrison, and the 
opinion that " principles and feelings are at work in Mas- 
sachusetts in the abolition ranks that are unknown else- 
where," that the discussion of the Sabbath question was 

* See " Grimk6 Sisters," p. 203. 


injudicious, and the doctrines on national and family gov- 
ernment wrong. 

Other members of the National Committee expressed 
themselves with equal frankness. Elizur Wright wrote to 
Garrison : 

I could have wished, yes, I have washed from the bottom of 
my soul, that you could conduct that dear paper, the ' ' Libera- 
tor, " in the singleness of purpose of its iirst years. . . . without 
broaching sentiments whicli are novel and shocking to the com- 
munity. ... I can not but regard the taking hold of one great 
moral enterprise while another is in hand and but half achieved 
as an outrage upon common sense, somewhat like that of the 
dog crossing the river with his meat. ... To tell the plain 
truth, I look upon your notions of government and religious per- 
fection as dowm-ight fanaticism, as harmless as they are absurd. 
. . , My heart sickens over your letter to Woodbury. . . . You 
meet him in a way which my whole soul tells me is sinful. You 
exalt yourself too much. ... I am as confident as of my exist- 
ence that a few more such letters would open a bottomless gulf 
of distrust between you and the abolitionists. . . . Let the Sabbath 
and the theoretic theology of the priesthood alone for the pres- 
ent. . . . Let the Government alone till, such as it is, all are 
equally protected by it. . . . But, if all this can not be done, 
why come out plainly and say you have left tlie old track and 
are started on a new one, or rather two or three new ones at 

At a later date Elizur Wright wrote to ]\Ir. Phelps : 

I have just received a letter from Garrison which confirms my 
fears that he has finished his course for the slave. At any rate, 
his plan of rescuing the slave by the destruction of human laws 
is fatally conflictive with ours. (Garrison, ii, 169.) 

Theodore D. Weld uttered his protest against the new 
doctrines : 

If you adopt the views of H. C. Wright . . . why, then, we 
are in one point of doctrine just as wide asunder as extremes can 
be. . . . When the devil is hard pushed and likely to be run 


down in the chase, it is an old trick of his to start some smaller 
game, and thus cause his pursuers to strike off from his own track 
on to that of one of his imps. 

And again : 

Every reform that ever foundered in mid-sea was capsized 
by one of these gusty side winds. (Grimke Sisters, p. 209-212.) 

August 24, Gerrit Smith wrote to William Goodell : 

I am glad to see, by the "Friend of Man," that you have laid 
your hand on one of H. C. Wright's extravagances. ... I see no 
way for quitting the old team. 

September 1, 11. B. Stanton wrote to the same 
editor : 

I am glad to see that you have criticised Brother H. C. "Wright. 
I have just returned from a month's tour in eastern JIassachusetts, 
and he has done immense hurt there. Plain, yet kind reproofs 
from your pen will do great good. . . . And such remarks and 
disclaimers are much needed now, and we owe them to the com- 
munity and the cause. You see that everybody — Tray, Sweetheart, 
etc.— is seizing hold of H. C. Wright's notions to injure our pre- 
cious cause. ... No harm, I think, will come out of the Eastern 
schism, though the defection is widespread. 

The apprehensions felt by A. A. Phelps, the able gen- 
eral agent of the ^Massachusetts A. S. Society, were ex- 
pressed in several letters written in August and September, 
and also in one from Boston, dated October 20. I quote 
from the last : 

I write you this in great grief and yet I feel constrained to do 
it. The cause of abolition here was never in so dangerous and 
critical a position before. Mutual jealousies on the part of the laity 
and clergy are rampant ; indeed, so much so on the part of some of 
our lay brethren that, let a clerical brother do what he will, it is 
resolved as a matter of course into some sinister motive. If he 
goes with us it is because it is popular, or something of the kind; 
if he opposes us, his salary or something of the kind is the reason; 


and if he opposes any practical measure, it is clerical jealousy or 
sectarianism. Such a thing as a good motive does not seem, in 
the judgment of some of our friends, to be capable of dwelling 
beneath a black coat. 

Of this stamp, more than ever before, is friend Garrison. And 
Mrs. Chapman remarked to me the other day that she sometimes 
doubted which needed abolition most — slavery or the black- 
hearted ministry. 

For this cause alone we are on the brink of a general split in 
our ranks. . . . And as if to make a bad matter worse. Garrison 
insists, notwithstanding repeated remonstrances, on yoking per- 
fectionism, no governmentism, and woman preaching with abo- 
lition, as part and parcel of the same lump. See the last two 
"Liberators." Now, for one, I can not stand this. I cannot 
merge everything in my abolition ; and if he insists on thrusting 
his peculiar views across mine, mine will and must stand on the 
defensive. . . . The whole question is fast becoming a question 
of persons ; and that, not whether we will sustain W. L. Garrison, 
the abolitionist, but whether we vrill sustain him in the other 
things named. . . . The danger is, and it is by no means small, 
that the quarrel will go through the whole country. Garrison 
threatened some time since to come out upon the American So- 
ciety for their silence. ... I should not be surprised if the 
matter comes up at the annual meeting in New York in the 
spring. We have not seen the end of it yet. (MS.) 

At the outbreak, in July, of the storm in Massachu- 
setts, the executive committee of the American Anti-Slav- 
ery Committee consisted of five clergymen, four merchants, 
a college professor, an editor, and Elizur "Wright, Jr., an 
ex-professor of mathematics, a writer of keen wit, and, in 
after days, a famous insurance actuary. John G. Whittier 
was the secretary. Judge William Jay, the corresponding 
secretary of the society, was the only statesman and lawyer 
connected with the New York management ; and his 
judicial duties and out-of-town residence prevented him 
from devoting his time to the business of the society. In 
the new turn of affairs Judge Jay wrote to Mr. Birney, 


urging him to come to New York and take the helm, and 
offering to resign in his favor the office of corresponding 
secretary. This letter was followed by others of similar 
tenor from members of the executive committee. Mr. 
Birney was loath to assume the responsibilities of the posi- 
tion offered him ; his relations with AVestern abolitionists 
were exceedingly pleasant, and he was established in a 
comfortable home of his own at Cincinnati. After several 
weeks of consideration, the Eastern troubles growing mean- 
while, he finally decided to go. Under his advice the Na- 
tional Committee cautioned the public " not to confound 
their doctrines with such as individual members may occa- 
sionally advance," and acknowledged their "obligation 
not to permit the funds of the society to be used for the 
promotion of any principles or objects whatever, except 
those specified in the constitution," and declared their 
determination to avoid any just censure " in regard to the 
agents they employ and the publications they issue." It 
is probable that this important paper was drawn up by 
Mr. Birney. It was a notice to Mr. II. C. AV right that he 
could no longer act as agent and a disclaimer of the novel 
doctrines " sifted into " the " Liberator." In the " Phi- 
lanthropist " of September 15, Mr. Birney published an 
editorial on " The Boston Controversy." In this he pointed 
out indiscretions on both sides. The article was just and 
conciliatory ; the language of Messrs. Fitch and Towne, 
though unjustly inculpatory of Oliver Jolmson, did not 
justify the language and style of Mr. Johnson's retort. An 
editor should rule liis spia-it and be a peace-maker. " With 
the spirit that breathes through Mr. Garrison's reply we 
have no sympathy." Neither Mr. Garrison nor any 
other abolitionist is authorized to judge and rebuke as 
Clirist did. 

We are much disappointed in the course Mr. Garrison has 
pursued on the present occasion— and we are grieved because we 


are disappointed. ... At New York, in 1835, when Charles Stu- 
art introduced the subject of abstaining from the products of 
slave labor, and in Boston, last spring, when the Peace Question 
was brought up before the convention, we had evidence of Mr. 
Garrison's considerateness and self-control that inspired us with 
liigli confidence in the course he would pursue should he ever be 
placed in circumstances where much was placed at hazard. By 
his reply to Messrs Fitch and others, we have been much disap- 
pointed and our confidence in his prudence much weakened.* 

September 22, Dr. Bailey announced at the head of his 
editorial columns, that Mr. Birney with his family was on 
his way to New York, "A conviction that his efforts 
will be more influential there than here in behalf of abo- 
lition reconciles us in a degree to the loss of his society, 
counsel, and aid." 

It is not probable that at that time Mr. Birney com- 
prehended the nature of the difficulties which were to be 
thorns in his path. His social environment in Kentucky, 
Xew Jersey, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Ohio, differed 
widely from that existing in Boston, and his acquaint- 
ance with professional reformers of all mundane evils had 
not been intimate. His visits to New England had been 
hurried and his mind had been fully occupied with the 
great end he had in view — the abolition of slavery — with 
very little regard, it must be admitted, to the metaphysics 
of reform movements generally. He was eminently of a 
practical turn of mind. For the next few years he was 
to be brought into close contact with the New England 
reformers, a class exceedingly numerous between 1815 and 

* The two instances in which Mr. Garrison, in Mr. Birney's presence, 
liad refrained from disturbing conventions with irrelevant subjects, are 
here specified as the reasons for confidence that he would be eciually con- 
siderate in the future. The passage does not justify the inuendo that Mr. 
Birney had former confidence in his judgment and prudence (Garrison, 
ii, IGG). 


1840 and noticed by Emerson, in liis Amory Hall lecture, 
as follows : 

The Church or religious party, is falling from the Church 
nominal, and is appearing in temperance and non-resistant soci- 
eties, in movements of abolitionists and of socialists, and in very 
significant assemblies called Sabbath and Bible conventions, com- 
posed of ultraists, of seekers, of all the soul of the soldiery of 
dissent, and meeting to call in question the authority of the Sab- 
bath, of the priesthood, and of the Church. In these movements, 
nothing was more remarkable than the discontent they begot in 
the movers. The spirit of protest and of detachment drove the 
members of these conventions to bear testimony against the 
Church, and, immediately afterward, to declare their discontent 
with these conventions, their independence of their colleagues, 
and their impatience of the methods whereby they were working. 
They detied each other, like a congress of kings, each of whom 
had a realm to rule, and way of his own that made concert un- 
profitable. What a fertility of projects for the salvation of the 
world ! One apostle thought all men should go to fanning ; and 
another, that no man should buy or sell ; that the use of money 
was the cardinal evil ; another, that the mischief was in our diet, 
that we eat and drink damnation. These made unleavened 
bread and were foes to the death to fermentation. It was in 
vain urged by the housewife that God made yeast as well as 
dough, and loves fermentation just as dearly as he loves vegeta- 
tion ; that fermentation develops the saccharine element in the 
grain and makes it more palatable and more digestible. No; 
they wish the pure wheat and will die, but it shall not fer- 
ment. . . . Others attacked the system of agriculture, the use of 
animal manures in farming, and the tyranny of man over brute 
nature; these abuses polluted his food. The ox must be taken 
from the plow, and the horse from the cart, the hundred acres 
of the farm must be spaded and the man must walk wherever 
boats and locomotives will not carry him. Even the insect world 
was to be defended ; that had been too long neglected, and a 
society for the protection of ground worms, slugs, and mos- 
quitoes, was to be incorporated without delay. With these ap- 
peared the adepts of homa?opathy, of hydropathy, of mesmerism, 


of phrenology, and their wonderful theories of the Christian 
miracles! Others assailed particular vocations, as that of the 
lawyer, that of the merchant, of the manufacturer, of the clergy- 
man, of the scholar. Others attacked the institution of marriage 
as the fountain of social evils. Others devoted themselves to the 
worrying of churches and meetings for public worship. 

Mr. Emerson notes in the movement a tendency 
to — 

an assertion of the sufficiency of the private man. Thus it was 
directly in the spirit and genius of the age, what happened in 
one instance, when a church censured and threatened to excom- 
municate one of its members on account of the somewhat hostile 
part to the Church which his conscience led him to take in the 
anti-slavery business ; the threatened individual immediately ex- 
communicated the church in a published and formal process. . . . 
Many a reformer perishes in his removal of rubbish— and that 
makes the offensiveness of the class. They are partial; they are 
not equal to the work they pretend. They lose their way ; in 
the assault on the kingdom of darkness, they expend all their 
energy on some accidental evil, and lose their sanity and power 
of benefit. It is of little moment that one or two or twenty er- 
rors of our social system be corrected, but of much that the man 
be in his senses. The criticism and attack on institutions which 
we have witnessed has made one thing plain, that society gains 
nothing while a man, not himself renovated, attempts to renovate 
things around him ; he has become tediously good in some par- 
ticular, but negligent or narrow in the rest ; and hypocrisy and 
vanity are often the disgusting result. . . . The reason why any 
one refuses his assent to your opinion, or his aid to your benevo- 
lent design, is in you ; he refuses to accept you as a bringer of 
truth, because, though you think you have it, he feels that you 
have it not. 

Another writer, adopting the style of a medical formula, 
describes the character of the representative reformer of 
the period under treatment : 

Add to his blood a drop of malignity, to his disposition a 
tinge of melancholy, to his self-worship vanity, to his love of re- 


form a prominent dusire for notoriety, and you have an irre- 
pressible "crank," the curse to any reform he may select for 
his sphere of action, a stumbliug block to the timid and con- 

"When the seed was sown for the crop of Xew England 
reformers, and how it grew and yielded a plentiful harvest, 
will be the subject of the next chapter. 



During the eighteenth century the psychological phi- 
losophy commonly known as Locke's governed the thonght 
of the English-speaking world. Its accepted doctrines 
were that the world external to man has a substantive ex- 
istence ; that knowledge is derived from the senses ; that 
true ideas originate in experience and are not innate ; and 
that the best traditions of the human race are more trust- 
worthy for guidance than the intuitions, imaginary and 
illusory for the most part, of individual minds. Its abuses 
were to honor inductive reasoning overmuch and restrain 
progress by its slow processes ; to exaggerate the value, in 
social and political life, of expediency, conventionalism, 
and conservatism ; and to elevate dogmas, rites, and 
church organizations above the spiritual part of religion. 

About the close of the last century a reaction against 
this sensual system began in N'ew England under the in- 
fluences of the new doctrines taught by Kant and other 
German philosophers, and it gradually extended until in 
the next forty years it embraced the leading thinkers of 
Boston and affected every form of social life in Xew Eng- 

The new school reversed the doctrines of its predeces- 
sors. It held that the only reality is subjective, or, in 
plain words, that objects commonly thought to be exter- 
nal to man exist only in his consciousness ; that all ideas 


are intuitions, tliat tlie soul is the only creator, being di- 
vine, receiving inspiration immediately from God and ac- 
cepting truth from the moral necessity of its own nature ; 
that the true man should look to intuitive and inspired 
princi])Ies without the aid of facts, and, if necessary, in 
disregard of them ; that he should be a law unto himself 
and obedient to his own heart, mind, and conscience with- 
out regard to the intuitions or desires of other men ; that 
his primary duty is self-culture, by means of which he 
could " unfold " himself to perfection according to his 
inward nature ; that the human soul, being divine in its 
essence, is allied to omnipotence, and " the simplest per- 
son who in his integrity worships God becomes God." 

This philosophy asserting so strongly the dignity of 
human nature, the inherent worth of the individual man, 
his supremacy over his surroundings, and his natural right 
to think and act independently of all other men, appealed 
with power to the leading minds of a country fresh from 
the formation of State and National Governments and 
the creation of the only great republic. In 1800 an 
American was conscious of his immense superiority, in 
achieved privileges and possibilities of eminence, to the 
inhabitant of any other country, and an educated citizen 
of Massachusetts was conscious of his advantages over all 
other Americans. Hence the rajiid spread in that State 
of the new ideas. 

Their workings were soon visible in the increase of 
dissent. The belief that religion is the " soul's own sense 
of things divine" discredited the orthodox Church and 
the received dogmas of Bible interpretation. Some of the 
churches discontinued the worship of Christ. Afterward, 
in 1805, the Divinity chair in Harvard University passed 
into the hands of a Unitarian professor, and in 1815 the 
Congregationalist Church was split in twain by the seces- 
sion of the Unitarian congregations. 


Other churches lost members by the growth of tinti- 
nomianism, resulting in schisms more or less important. 
The most striking illustration of the effect upon churches 
of the new sentiment of the supreme dignity of the indi- 
vidual man and his right to express without restraint his 
aspirations, no matter how changeable, is found in the 
men who separated themselves from the Church and were 
known as " Oome-outers." They " had no distinguishing 
tenets, but held opinions of every radical type, taking their 
name from the mere circumstances of their having ' come 
out ' from the regular churches." Frothingham, in the 
seventh chapter of his life of Theodore Parker, describes 
some of them. " Brother Jones was to hold forth . . . 
on the second coming of Christ in 1843." " There was 
Joseph Palmer, a man with a meek face and a fine gray 
beard six or eight inches long, clad in fustian trousers and 
a clean white jacket. He had been a butcher, but had re- 
nounced that calling, partly from the convictions of the 
wrongfulness of eating flesh. Alcott found him full of 
' divine thoughts.' He wore his beard because God gave 
it to him, doubtless for some good end." He thought a 
man got into the Church by giving to the poor, and no 
man but himself could put him out. " Nickerson and 
Davis were two preachers among the Corae-outers, two as 
rough-looking men as you would like to meet on a sum- 
mer's day ; but their countenances were full of the divine. 
Their hands, their dress, their general air, showed that 
they belonged to the humblest class in society." " ]\Ir. 
Bearse was a plain Cape Cod fisherman, a skipper prob- 
ably;, of bright, ruddy, cheerful countenance." He was 
opposed to all sects and to the Church universal, calling 
them " little Babels " and it " one great Babel." 

These men thought little of rites. Said Mr. Bearse : 
" Sometimes a brother wishes to be baptized, and, if the 
spirit moves me, I baptize him, . . . any one into whom 


(i()(l puts the desire may do it." The Lord's Supper they 
held in light estimation. " All our meals are the Lord's 
Supper if we eat with a right heart. . . . "Whoever wished 
to join their company did so without ceremony. No 
questions were asked about his creed. He subscribed to 
no confession, set his name to no paper, was free to come 
and go." Sliould an unbeliever offer to speak in meeting, 
they heard what he had to say, and if he could convince 
them they were ready to be convinced. They had no 
rules for worship; each spoke as moved. They had no 
church edifices and their ministers received no salary. 
Tliey did not consider the Bible inspired, but used it as a 
help. " Men worshiped the Bible just as the old pagans 
worshiped their idols. . . . The Bible is a scripture of the 
AVord, not the AVord itself. . . . They held that men were 
inspired in proportion as they had received the truth, and 
they received the truth through obedience." In all this 
the new philosophy appears in a religious garb put upon 
it by uncultured men. 

But the most intellectual men were not free from the 
spirit of " comeouterism." Emerson would not vail his 
bonnet to circumstance or violate his own moral intuitions ; 
and he resigned his pastorate and abandoned the pulpit 
rather than administer the communion to members of the 
church. l\cv. George Kipley, after preaching for fifteen 
years, threw off his clerical frock in order that his soul 
might not be hampered by possible misunderstandings on 
the part of his parishioners. Xothing would content him 
but freedom to embrace the absolute right as he should 
see it. Both these gentlemen believed that the inviolate 
soul is in perpetual communication with the source of 
events. Rev. W. IL Furness is said to have believed that 
the man perfected by obedience is capable of working 

After the close of the war in 1815, the new philosophy 


was taught in Harvard, with limitations, of course, as to 
its logical results. But the generation growing up at that 
time showed many converts in after days. Among them 
was A. Bronson Alcott, who was the first to apply the 
spiritual views to the practical work of education. His 
first school was established in 1825. Having faith in the 
soul and believing that the soul of a child antedates its 
body, and that its ideas are inspired by God, his object as 
a teacher was to entice the indwelling deity in the child 
forth by sympathy. Instead of being taught, the pupils 
were to evolve all knowledge out of their own conscious- 
ness. All, even the youngest, were required to keep diaries. 
To maintain the free development of the individual soul, 
no punishment was inflicted ; but, if absolutely necessary, 
Mr. Alcott suffered it vicariously — a method that proved 
satisfactory to the pupils. Becoming convinced that eat- 
ing beef encourages bovine qualities in man, he renounced 
flesh diet, and thereafter confined himself to a food com- 
posed of fruits, vegetables, and bran bread. His strong 
anti-slavery sentiments led him to study the condition of 
laboring men, including slaves, and having arrived at the 
conclusion that the wages system is but a modification of 
chattel slavery, and that the root of the evil in servitude 
is the divorce of labor and culture, he determined to unite 
these in his own person and preach abolition by his per- 
sonal example. Thenceforth he supported himself by 
manual labor, chopping wood in winter and working in 
tlie fields and gardens in summer. In his view the alle- 
giance of the free soul was due to God alone ; he was un- 
willing that any human government should intervene be- 
tween him and God ; he asked nothing from the State 
and thought the State had no right to ask anything from 
him ; he therefore refused to pay his taxes and went to 
jail in the serenity of spirit worthy of a philosopher. To 
make actual his ideal of a perfect social life he estab- 


lisliL'cl a cuninmnity. This lasted during one summer and 

He was one of the best talkers ever produced in Massa- 
chusetts; could hold forth for hours after the style of 
Coleridge; was tlie soul of several Boston and Concord 
clubs, formal and informal, for two generations, and a 
brilliant and plausible lecturer. His mystic sayings were 
puzzles in his own age and are hardly yet understood. 
"Tlie poles of things are not integrated," and "Love 
globes, wisdom orbs all things," are examples. He had 
many admiring friends and hearers, among whom were 
Samuel J. May, Edmund Quincy, and Willliam L. Gar- 

A very able man of the same class, but not so well 
known as Alcott, was Eev. Samuel Johnson. Among his 
sayings Avas the following, " Man is divinely prescient of 
his infinity of mind as soon as he begins to meditate and 

Between 1832 and 18-44 Orestes A. Brownson ran at 
Boston the brilliant part of his career. He had been a 
Presbyterian, a Universalist, and a labor reformer. He 
was then a Unitarian, and passed from that through in- 
fidelity, and finally, in 18-44, into the bosom of the Roman 
Catholic Church. He was editor of the Boston " Quarterly," 
and for several years an apostle of the intuitive school. 
He gained great notoriety by his extravagant phrases and 
incisive style, which he studied to make startling and para- 
doxical ; but he had generally the good taste to shun 
personalities. His manner of writing was imitated by 
many feebler men who were anxious to attract public 
notice to themselves. As intuitions may change with 
lightning-like rapidity, Brownson never took the trouble 
to apologize for inconsistencies. One of his admirers says 
of him : " That others thought as he did was enough to 
make him think otherwise ; that he thought as he had six 


months before was a signal that it was time for him to 
strike his tent and move on." 

Brownson was a forcible speaker. It was said, in the 
height of his celebrity, that if one wished to become a per- 
fect orator, he should unite Brownson's strength with 
Edward Everett's diction and delivery. He was an icono- 
clast, and sympathized with the most advanced advocates 
of destructive reforms. 

While all who had drunk the new wine were filled with 
a supreme disgust of the actual, the action of each was modi- 
fied by his personal qualities. The sensitive, fastidious, and 
dreamy Thoreau, averse to contact with abuses, cultivated 
the divine in himself ; he built a hut in a wood on the edge 
of a lake, and communed with Nature and his own soul at 
an annual outlay of some fifteen dollars. George Eipley 
and his associates, benevolent, abhorring oppression, desir- 
ous of superseding the actual and establishing an ideal 
society in which there should be no slaves, no menials, and 
no drudges, dazzled by the day-dreams of St. Simon and 
Fourier, and having boundless confidence in their own 
intuitions of the practical and a corresponding contempt 
for the teachings of human experience, established the 
famous community of " Brook Farm." This attempt to 
reconstruct the social order, with a view to the symmetrical 
development of men as rational beings, exhibited so much 
self-denial, perseverance, and hopefulness on the part of 
the men who made it that it holds the first place in the 
long list of American Utopias. 

It was preceded by the more distinctly anti-slavery com- 
munity of Hopedale, Mass. This was formed by abolition- 
ists who were also Universalists. In an account of it, 
written by Adin Ballon, its principal founder and repub- 
lished in the " History of American Socialisms," by J. H. 
Xoyes, himself a Communistic Socialist, we find the fol- 
lowing : " Xo precise theological dogmas, ordinances, or 


ceremonies are prescribed. ... It enjoins total abstinence 
from ... all intoxicating beverages ; ... all slave-holding 
and proslavery compromises ; all war and preparations for 
war; all capital and other vindictive punishments; . . . 
all voluntary participations in any anti-Christian govern- 
ment, . . . whether by doing military service, commenc- 
ing actions at law, holding office, voting, petitioning for 
jienal laws, aiding a legal posse by force, or asking for pulj- 
lic interference for protection which can be given only by 
such force. . . . It is a moral suasion temperance society 
on a teetotal basis. It is a moral-power anti-slavery socie- 
ty, radical and without com])romise. It is a peace society 
on the only impregnable foundation of Christian non-re- 
sistance. It is a sound theoretical and practical woman's 
rights association." 

A similar community, omitting Universalism, was 
formed about the same time at ]S'orthampton, Mass. 

These organizations were outgrowths of the all-pervad- 
ing anti-slavery sentiment in ^lassachusetts, rij^ened int-o 
rankness by the warmth of the new philosophy. For 
proof read the following passage from a speech by Charles 
A. Dana : 

We have an association at Brook Farm, of whicli I now speak 
from my own experience. We have there abolished domestic 
servitude. This institution of domestic servitude was one of the 
first considerations; it gave one of the first impulses to the move- 
ment at Brook Farm. ... It was a deadly sin — a thing to be 
escaped from. (Xoyes, p. 222.) 

The communities were not organized until after 1840, 
but they were crystallizations of opinions and aspirations 
which had been growing into definite form since 1830. 
One path to them began in anti-slavery Unitarianism and 
passed through Fourierism ; the other began in anti-slav- 
ery orthodoxy and passed through perfectionism. This 
was the one followed by Mr. Garrison. At the beginning 


of his career he was a Calviiiistic Baptist in theory, though 
not a church-member or professor of personal religion. 
Having become hostile to the Sabbath and other Christian 
ordinances and to all churcli organizations, he became an 
easy convert to perfectionism. J. H. Noyes, afterward the 
founder of the Oneida Community, but in 1837 the editor 
of the " Perfectionist " (New Haven, Conn.), called on Mr. 
Garrison on March 20th of that year. Of this interview 
Mr. Noyes (see G. ii, 145) writes : 

He spoke with interest of the perfectionist, said his mind was 
heaving on the subject of holiness and the kingdom of heaven, 
and he would devote himself to them as soon as he could get anti- 
slavery off his hands. I spoke to him especially on the subject 
of government, and found him, as I expected, ri23e for the loyalty 
of heaven.* 

This last was tlie cant phrase of the period for disa- 
vowing all allegiance to human governments and declaring 
one's allegiance to God alone, Hiiman laws and institu- 
tions had no binding force on a man in whom " the God- 
life was infolded." March 22d, Mr. Noyes developed his 
views in a letter to Mr. Garrison abounding in delicate 
strokes of flattery and betraying a reasoned hostility to the 
Government of the United States. Among other tilings 
he said : " My hope of tlie millennium begins where Dr. 
Beecher's expires, viz., at the overthrow of this nation." 
He claimed authority " to stand in readiness actively to 
assist in the execution of God's purposes." (G. ii, 147.) 

April IGtli, ;Mr. Garrison, in a letter to H. C. Wright, 
tlien in Xew York, avows liis no-human government prin- 

* That Mr. (iarri>on wished to abandon the anti-slavery cause about 
this time, and to devote himself to his new hobby of no-human govern- 
ment, is proved by the concurrent testimony of Mr. Noyes, Angelina 
Grimke, Lewis Tappan, II. B. Stanton, and others. It is probable that 
nothing was lacking except money. Capital is shy of anarchical doc- 



ciples and ullni-pacific views, and says of his "religious 
views " : " My own are very simple, but they make havoc 
of all sects and rites and ordinances of the priesthood of 
every name and order." ((r. ii, 149.) 

August 20th, Mr. Garrison wrote to his brother-in-law : 
" I feel somewhat at a loss to know what to do, whether to 
go into all the principles of holy reform and make the 
abolition cause subordinate or whether still to persevere in 
the one beaten track as hitherto." (G. ii, 160.) The next 
day Angelina Grimke, having just received a visit from 
Mr. Garrison, in which she had gained his adhesion to 
woman's rights, wrote to Mr. "Weld : " What wouldst thou 
think of the 'Liberator' abandoning abolitionism as a 
primary object and becoming the vehicle of all these 
grand principles?" (G. ii, 101.) 

Mr. Weld would doubtless have been much gratified 
to have the abolition cause disburdened of the " Liber- 
ator," but the plan was impracticable, i)robably for want 
of pecuniary means, the friends of the " grand principles " 
of Nihilism having no money to support another newsjia- 
per organ. 

It is a noteworthy fact in the evolution of ideas that 
the men who favored sweeping away all human govern- 
ments and institutions generally ended by organizing on 
a small scale governments and institutions of their own. 
Mr. Noyes, it has been already said, became the founder 
of the Oneida Community, but he was preceded several 
years in this kind of work by a bosom friend of Mr. Gar- 
rison's. The Skaneatelcs Community had its tap-root in 
the very office of the " Liberator." "We quote from Noyes's 
" History of Socialisms " the following : 

It was time for anti-slavery, tl)e last and most vigorous of 
Massachusetts nurslings, to enter the socialistic field. . . . John 
A. Collins, tlie founder of the Skaneateles Connnunity, was a 
Boston man, and had been a working abolitionist up to the sum- 


mer of 1843. He was, in fact, the general agent of the Massa- 
chusetts Anti-Slavery Society, and in that capacity had superin- 
tended the one hundred national conventions ordered by the 
society for that year. During the latter i)art of this service he 
had turned his own attention and that of the conventions he 
managed so much toward his 2>rivate schemes of association that 
he had not the face to claim his salary as anti-slavery agent. His 
way was to get up a rousing anti-slavery convention and conclude 
it by calling a socialistic convention to be held on the spot im- 
mediately after it. At the close of the campaign he resigned, 
and the Anti-Slavery Board gave him the following certificate of 
character : 

^^ Voted, That the board, in accepting the resignation of John 
A. Collins, tender him their sincercest thanks and take this oc- 
casion to bear the most cordial testimony to the zeal and disin- 
terestedness with which at a great crisis he threw himself a will- 
ing offering on the altar of the anti-slavery cause as well as to 
the energy and rare ability with which for four years he has dis- 
charged the duties of their general agent, and in parting offer 
him their best wishes for his future haj^jjiness and success." 
(P. 163.) 

As Mr. Collins was leaving Mr. Garrison's board for 
the purpose of establishing his community, and Mr. Gar- 
rison himself had attended the series of conventions, this 
certificate must be regarded as an indorsement both of 
Mr. Collins's proposed enterprise and of the bold fraud 
upon the anti-slavery public by which he had sought to 
identify abolitionism and communism. What the creed 
of the new society was may be inferred from the following 
passages copied from it as published in Noyes's " History 
of Socialisms" (p. 163). After styling it a "community 
of property and interest by which we may be brought into 
love relations," the " fundamental principles " are stated : 

1. Religion. — A disbelief in any special revelation of God to 
man touching his will and therisby binding ujion man as authority 
in any arbitrary sense ; that all forms of worship should cease ; 
that all religions of every age and nation have their origin in the 


same great falsoliooil, viz., God's special providence. . . . We 
regard the Sabbath as other days, the organized Church as 
adapted to produce strife and contention ratlier than love and 
peace, the clergy as an imposition, the liible as no authority, 
miracles as unphilosophical, and salvation from sin . . . tlirough 
a sacrificed God as a remnant of heathenism. 

2. Governments. — A disbelief in the rightful existence of all 
governments based upon physical force, that they are organized 
bands of banditti whose authority is to be disregarded. There- 
fore we will not vote under such governments or ])etition to 
them, but demand them to disband ; do no military duty, pay no 
personal or property taxes, sit upon no juries, refuse to testify in 
courts of so-called justice, and never appeal to the laws for a re- 
dress of grievances, but use all peaceful and moral means to 
secure their complete destruction. 

3. That there is to be no individual property, but all goods 
shall be held in common. 

The Chicago Anarchists of our day have never put 
these doctrines in a clearer light. That Mr. Collins 
learned them in the four years of his service in the Anti- 
Slavery Office at Boston is certain. Before he became 
agent there his friend Mr. Garrison had declared himself 
as follows : 

We can not acknowledge allegiance to any human govern- 
ment, neither can we oppose any such government by a resort to 
physical force. . . . Our country is the world, our countrjTuen 
are all mankind. We love the land of our nativity only as we 
love all other lands. . . . We can allow no appeal to patriotism 
to revenge any national insult or injury. . . . If a nation has no 
right to defend itself against foreign enemies, no individual pos- 
sesses that right in his own case. . . . We register our testimony 
not only against all wars, whether oflFensive or defensive, but all 
preparations for war, . . . we deem it unlawful to bear arms or 
to hold a military office. ... As every human government is 
upheld by physical strength, and its laws are enforced at the 
point of the bayonet, we can not hold any office. . . . We there- 
fore voluntarily exclude ourselves from every legislative and 


judicial body and repudiate all Imman politics, worldly honors, 
and stations of authority. If we can not occupy a seat in the 
legislature or on the bench, neither can we elect others to act as 
our substitutes in any such capacity. 

It follows that we can not sue any man at law to compel him 
by force to restore anything which he may have wrongfully taken 
from us or others. . . . The triumphant progress of the cause of 
temperance and of abolition in our laud . . . encourages us to 
combine our own means and efforts for the jiromotion of a still 
greater cmise. (See "Declaration of Sentiments of the Peace 
Convention," September, 1838, Writings of Garrison, p. 72.) 

Mr. Garrison had entered bis " solemn j^rotest against 
every enactment " forbidding labor on Sunday (see " Writ- 
ings," p. 99), and declared against the clergy and the 

The views of H. C. Wright, expressed in and after 1837, 
are summed uj) in his book, entitled " Ballot - box and 
Battle-field." A few extracts will show their character : 

Suppose the abolition of slavery throughout the world de- 
pended on a presidential election, and that my vote would throw 
the scale for abolition. Shall I vote ? . . . I may not vote for 
the war system that is founded in guilt and blood and utterly 
wrong in its origin, its principles and means, even to abolish 

The ranks of impracticables in IMassachnsetts were 
swelled by Second Adventists, Mesmerists, Grahamites, 
Fourierites, Spiritualists, and advocates of free love, and 
of the substitution of barter for the use of money. All of 
them were few in numl^er compared with the whole popu- 
lation, and their extreme notions, tolerated at first, soon 
grew offensive or ridiculous in the eyes of nine tenths of 
the people of Xew England. Emerson shot at them a 
few of his bolts of satire : 

They withdraw themselves from the common labors and com- 
petitions of the market and the caucus. . . . They are striking 


work and callinif out for sonietliini^ worthy to do. . . . They 
are not good citizens, not good members of society ; unwillingly 
they bear their part of the private and public burdens. They do 
not even like to vote. . . . They filled the world with long 
words and long beards. . . . They began in words and ended in 

Frotliingham says of their self-culture that they car- 
ried it *' to the point of seliishness, sacrificing in its behalf 
sympathy, brotherly love, patriotism, friendship, honor, 
producing a ' mountainous me,' fed at the expense of life's 
sweetest humanities." 

Their strongest aspiration was to express in stinging 
epithets and vituperative language their infinite devotion 
to the cause of the slave ; but they were serenely indilTerent 
to its success or failure. They Avould not cast a ballot if 
the act would free three million slaves ! 



After his arrival in Xew York Mr. Birney devoted 
his attention partly to checking the no-government defec- 
tion at Boston. The evil proved, however, to be much 
more deeply seated than he had thought. Its progress 
must be indicated here in a very cursory manner 

November 16, 1837, A. A. Phelps wrote from Boston : 

If I can get on without a public censure upon friend Gamson 
I will do so ; if not, I shall give full and free expression to my 
dissent. ... I had not noticed Garrison's omission of the para- 
graph you mentioned. I think he has omitted other things — not 
many — of the same character. If I mistake not, Judge Jay sent 
him a letter about his Providence speech, which has never yet 

About this time Lewis Tappan went to Boston on a 
peace mission, to confer with the authors of the " Clerical 
Appeal " and restore harmony. November 17th he wrote : 

We kept the appeal out of the discussion until the last day. 
Mr. Garrison and Mr. Oliver Johnson were violent against Fitch, 
Towne & Co., calling tliem "hjiiocrites," " traitors," etc. . . . 
At the last moment Mr. Garrison, at the instigation, it is said, of 
his brother-in-law Benson, introduced a resolution condemning 
the appeal. It was thought best not to oppose it. Think of his 
introducing it ! a party concerned and not a member of the so- 
ciety ! Every one I heard speak of the matter, even O. Johnson, 
regretted its introduction. 


In .Mr. Garrison's remarks lie was full of perfectionism doc- 
triius. It is evident that thut is tlie aljsorbing tliiu<; with him at 
present. In Boston Mr. Knapp told me that (Jarrison wonld, 
after January, relinqnisli the "Lil)erator" or cliange its char- 
acter, unless the controversy should be continued, and then he 
would think it his duty to continue the "Liberator" as now on 
that account. . . . Messrs. Towne and Fitch, so far as I could 
k'arn, have no intention of lowering the abolition standard ; but 
tliey say that Garrison is so much disliked by the orthodox in 
Massachusetts on account of his views on the Sabbath, on gov- 
ernment, etc., that none of them will join the Anti-Slavery So- 
ciety while he holds the reins here. . . . 

I endeavored to show Towne, etc., that if Mr. Garrison is haul- 
ino" off to engage in other hobbies — us he icill if they let him alone 
— a glorious opportunity presented itself of taking hold of the 
old society with new vigor. ... I believe they (the ai)i)ellants) 
simply intended to show that the views and spirit of the ''Lib- 
erator " were such that they could go no further with its editor 
as the leader of the society in Massachusetts. . . . "W. L. Garri- 
son attacks the clergy as sruch, when the fact is they have come 
into the anti-slavery ranks ten to one compared with any other 
class of men, A. A. Phelps says. . . . W. L. Garrison told me a 
year since, that as soon as he saw the anti-slavery cause going on 
Avithout the need of his labors, he should attend to some other 
objects he deemed paramount. He then opposed family prayer, a 
regular clergy, etc. ; of late his views have been more developed. 
As an abolitionist, therefore, his zeal is on the wane. . . . Oliver 
Johnson, agent of the Rhode Island Society, will do well "if he 
does not sympathize too much with the new isms of W. L. Gar- 
rison." • 

February 8, 1838, Judge TTilliani Jay writes from 
Bedford : 

Having sworn to support the Constitution of the United 
Ltates, I could not hold communion with any society that was 
seeking to violate it. 

AVhat Mr. Garrisou was doing about the same time is 
pictured in a letter written nearly two years later by John 


E. Fuller, of Boston. ]\[r. Fuller was one of the original 
members of the New England Anti-Slavery Society (1832), 
had been counselor and treasurer of the Massachusetts 
Anti-Slavery Society, one of the supporters of the " Lib- 
erator," and a friend of Mr. Garrison in time of need. 
(G. ii, 12, 47, 69.) The accuracy of the statements in the 
letter was never questioned by Mr. Garrison or his biog- 
raphers. November 25, 1839, Mr. Fuller writes to the 
editor of the " Massachusetts Abolitionist " : 

Satisfied that the present state of the anti-slavery cause de- 
mands a publication of the facts in the case, I do not feel at 
liberty to shrink from the responsibility of giving them to the 
public in answer to your inquiries. They are briefly these : 

Some two years since Mr. Garrison received a letter from Mr. 
James Boyle of Ohio,* which was subsequently published in the 
"Liberator" (March 23, 1838), under the caption of "A Letter 
to William Lloyd Garrison touching the Clerical Appeal, Sec- 
tarianism, and True Holiness." 

The character of the letter may be judged from the following 
extracts : "For your independent expression of your sentiments 
respecting human governments — a pagan - originated Sabbath 
(Sun's day) — your wise refusal to receive the mark of the beast 
either in your forehead or in your right hand, by practically 
sanctioning the irreligious sects which corrupt and curse the 
world, your merited denunciation of these sects, of the sordid, 
dough-faced popish leaders ; but, above all, for your Christ- 
exalting poetry, 'Christian Rest.' you are in my heart. 

"It would seem from the sj-mpathy manifested by clerical men 
in this country toward the religion and priesthood that were 
abolished in France that they would rather have a priesthood 
from hell than none at all. 

* Mr. Boyle was from New England, He was an ex-clergyman and 
perfectionist. He afterward became a quack doctor in New York city, 
and advertised himself by wearing on the streets a cocked hat, long black 
frock coat, colored silk knee-breeches, large gold buckles on his shoes, 
and gold-rimmed spectacles. A very long and large gold-headed cane 
completed his equipment. 


"I have observed of late that you have become satisfied that 
moral influence will necer abolish slarery in this country. [In a 
note Mr. Fuller says : " Tliis was Mr. Garrison's opinion at that 
time."] Of this I have \oi\<r been certain. The signs of the times 
indicate clearly to my mind that God has given up the sects and 
parties, political and religious, of this nation into the hands of a 
perverse and lying spirit, and left them to fill up the measure of 
their sins." 

In publishing this letter Mr. Garrison said (editorially): " It 
is one of the most powerful epistles ever written by man. We 
alone are responsible for its publication. It utters momentous 
truths in solemn and thrilling language, and is a testimony for 
God and his righteousness which can not be overthrown." 

Mr. Garrison had the letter on hand some time previous to its 
publication, and read it repeatedly to individual and particular 
friends. On one occasion, before its appearance in the " Liber- 
ator," myself and several others were invited to meet at a room 
in the Marlborough Hotel to hear it read. Mr. Garrison, having 
read it, spoke of it in terms of the highest commendation, saying 
in .substance that, however unpopular its doctrines, they were true 
and would yet be received by the people. That they were not 
now prepared for them — that if a new publication were started 
for the jHirpose of promulgating them (a measure which he had 
had under consideration some months before, and in respect to 
which he consulted some of his most confidential friends), it 
would not get sufficient circulation to sustain it ; that the abo-, indeed, were the only class of the community that had 
been so trained to free discussion as to bear their discussion, and, 
therefore, said he, "as our enemies saj', " referring to the charge 
of Mr. "Woodbury some time previous, "we must sift it into the 
' Liberator.' " This is the substance of what he said. 

The impression I received from it at the time was that it was 
then his deliberate design to take advantage of the abolition 
character of his paper to "sift" his peculiar opinions on other 
subjects into ])ublic favor . As I had never before believed that 
Mr. Garrison had any such design, and had repelled the charge 
as a slander upon him, I was of course surprised at this avowal 
of it by himself. That he made what amounted to such an avowal 
I am sure from three facts : 


1. I mentioned it to Mrs. Fuller the same evening. 

2. My confidence up to that time in Mr. Garrison's integrity 
was entire and implicit, and from that time it began to be 
shaken. And 

3. The columns of the ' ' Liberator " have since been in exact 
keeping with such a design. ... I make these statements in no 
ill-will to ]\Ir. Garrison, but solely because I believe that the cause 
of truth and freedom demand it. 

Yours for the bondman, John E. Fuller. 

:Mr. Fuller promptly refused to march under false 
colors with Mr. Garrison. Many other abolitionists fol- 
lowed his example ; the people of Massachusetts held 
aloof from the cause, and before the anniversary of the 
American Anti-Slavery Society, held at New York, May 
2-8 inclusive, it had become plain that the no-government 
faction, though in possession of the " Liberator " and the 
machinery of the State society, would not be able to con- 
trol the majority of the abolitionists of the State. Under 
Mr. Birney's counsel the national society, after refusing 
to renew H. C. Wright's commission as agent, forbore to 
take part in what was still a purely local affair. The cause 
was progressing so well in the other Northern States that 
it was highly desirable to avoid dissension at the anniver- 
sary meeting. The no-government leaders attended in 
force — Henry C. Wright, Oliver Johnson, Edmund Quin- 
cy, Samuel J. May, Orson S. Murray, ^Y. L. Garrison, 
George W. Benson, and A. Dresser, were all present. Their 
only demonstrations were to offer a resolution expressing a 
desire that agents and members should not defend them- 
selves by physical strength against violence, which was 
defeated, receiving only nineteen votes ; and another to ap- 
point a committee which should " announce the judgment 
of the American Anti- Slavery Society concerning the 
common error that our enterprise is of a political and not 
religious character." The explosion of this bomb-shell was 


prevented by an adjournment. Oliver Johnson offered an- 
other deprecating the imposition by any anti-slavery society 
of " a religious or political test for the purpose of render- 
ing the anti-slavery cause subservient to the interests of 
a sect or party, or of ojjposing existing organizations." 
What this meant was not understood then and can not 
be understood now ; it was ambiguous enough to satisfy 
everybody, and was not voted against by anybody. Mr. 
CJarrison tendered the olive branch by moving the accept- 
ance and publication of the annual report, saying it 
ought to be circulated through the length and breadth 
of the land. Most of the report had been written by Mr. 
Birney. It gave many facts to show that abolitionism 
was " rapidly becoming a part of the religion of our 
country," quoting the abolition resolutions of Methodist 
and Free-Will Baptist conferences, of two Presbyterian 
synods, and of five Congregational associations. The 
Connecticut clergy were complimented. " The Methodist 
Episcopal Church in the Northern States is rapidly com- 
ing upon abolition ground. In six out of sixteen confer- 
ences there is already a majority of abolitionists, and in 
four a very large majority." Thirty-five pages were de- 
voted to the political aspects of the sitnatiou. The su- 
premacy of the laws and Constitution was implied in every 
page. On " the right use of suffrage " the report said : 

As honest and determined men abolitionists will not fail sea- 
sonably to exercise this right, and he is not worthy the name of 
an abolitionist who does not put the anti- slavery qualification 
above any and all others in selecting the candidate to receive his 
vote. The princi]ilc of usinrf our suffrage in favor of emancipa- 
tion while we neither organize a distinct party nor attach our- 
selves to any already existing is vital to our cause. . . . Every 
party predilection must be merged or the cause is lost. 

That Mr. Garrison, with his declared views of the 
clergy, the Church, the laws, the Constitution, and voting, 


should iiulorso the report without reservation, or indorse 
it at all, was an inconsistency startling to persons of com- 
mon sense, but quite to be expected from a philosopher of 
the intuitive school. Such a one acts from supposed 
divine inspiration at the moment ; but whether Mr. Gar- 
rison did so or not, in this instance he did right. He re- 
lapsed after his return to Boston. 

The " no-government " men made up in activity what 
they lacked in numbers. While refusing for themselves 
to vote at the ballot-box, they voted in conventions and 
formed coalitions with women who wished to vote at the 
ballot-box. January 25, 1839, H. B. Stanton wrote from 
Boston : 

An effort was made at the annual meeting of the Massachu- 
setts society, which adjourned to-day, to make its annual report 
and its action subservient to the non-resistant movement, and, 
through the votes of the women and of Lynn and Boston it suc- 

February 18th, IMr. Stanton wrote to William Goodell 
from Haverhill, Mass. : 

I have taken the liberty to show yoiu- letter to brothers Phelps, 
George Allen, George Russell, O. Scott, N. Colver, and a large 
number of others, and they highly approve its sentiments. They, 
with you, are fully of the opinion that it is high time to take a 
firm stand against the non-government doctrine. They are far 
from regarding it merely as a humbug. 

No ! coming out, as it does, attached to our glorious cause 
and ushered into being under the sanction of Brother Garrison, 
it will be subscribed to from that simply by hundreds without 
examination. But though great evil will result from it, yet, 
thank Heaven, the practice of these men will be much better 
than their theory. 

The non-government doctrine, stripped of its disguises, is 
worse than Fanny Wrightism, and, under a Gospel garb, it is 
Fanny Wrightism with a white frock on. It goes to the utter 
overthrow of all order, yea, and of all purity. 


When carried out it goes not only for a community of goods 
but a community of wives. 

Strange that such an infidel theory should find votaries in Xew 
England! . . . And then the name and influence of the "Libera- 
tor " and its editor have greatly forwarded its destructive ends. 

I fully concur with your remarks as to the influence of praise 
upon the mind of Brother Garrison. It has, indeed, bewildered 
him. Had it not been for the self-confidence with which this 
has ins])ired him he might have been held back from his wild 
notions of government. . . . Brother Garrison is now using 
weapons we have thoughtlessly placed in his hands, and the cause 
we love is feeling the wounds. . . . How humiliating to his ad- 
miring friends that we are compelled to say he has departed from 
the standards ! 

Same to same : 

Boston, April 8, 1839. 

. . . You will see by the last "Liberator," containing the 
letters of O. Scott, Birney, and myself, the state of things here. 
We were compelled to say thus much in self-defense. Brother 
Garrison seems sometimes almost reckless of the truth of his 
statements if so be he can excite prejudice against such as take 
ground against him on his no-government doctrine. Our cause 
in this region is in a sad plight. . . . Garrison told Whittier two 
or three days since that, at the annual meeting of the American 
Society, he should move to amend the Constitution by striking 
out all which relates to the power of Congress, ... in a word, 
all that relates to political and governmental action, etc. . . . 
After this alteration who would remain in the society ? Bimey 
[Jay], Phelps, Scott, Colver, Allen, the Tappans, Leavitt, Whit- 
tier, Weld, E. Wright, et id genus omne, would quit it instantly. 
Not a member of the executive committee at New York would 
remain, I presume. ... I beg you to notice the last clause in 
Birney's letter in the "Liberator," . . . where he speaks of the 
anti-slavery cause in New England being greatly embarrassed by 
attaching to it other and irrelevant matters. He speaks what I 
know to be true ; and as to separating our cause from these wild 
ultraisms — non - government, perfectionism, anti-clergy, anti- 
church, anti-marriage, anti-money, etc. — I agree with him fully. 


And I wish I were not compelled to utter what I religiously 
believe, viz., that W. L. Garrison, H. C. Wright, and others are 
determined to rule or ruin, to make the anti-slavery cause, and 
especially the associations, subservient to their ends or destroy 
the latter. Of this I have not a shadow of doubt. . . . Some 
men are fond of new theories simply because they are new. Some 
have taken hold of abolitionism merely because it ministered to 
their appetite for intense excitement. Mobs, etc. , having passed 
away, the present excitement on that subject is not strong enough 
for them, and so they must get up something else. 

lu Massachusetts the breach between the no-govern- 
ment faction and the mass of the abolitionists was rapidly 
widening. In December, 1838, Henry C. Wright pub- 
lished a characteristic document, intended no doubt as an 
assault upon voting. In a letter of December 23d (G. ii, 
253) Garrison wrote of him : 

He has prepared a tract on human governments which when 
published will doubtless stir up the feelings of community. It 
shows in a simple and lucid manner that national organizations 
as now constructed are essentially anti-Christian. 

Edmund Quincy wrote to II. C Wright, December 
31st : 

I received your missive, full of combustible matter enough to 
set the whole United States mail on fire, in due course. I was 
well content with the doctrine therein laid down. 

The voting abolitionists were not idle. Some anti- 
slavery conventions held in January resolved in favor of 
going to the polls and voting, and recommended to the 
State Anti-Slavery Society to establish a weekly paper to 
sustain this policy. Garrison responded with his custom- 
ary arrogance and insinuations against persons. Charles 
T. Ton-cy replied with anger, speaking of Garrison's 
"brassy brow." Alanson St. Clair pronounced Garrison's 
references to himself " an unprovoked and vile attack on 


one 3'0ii professed to regard as a friend," and said : " I 
shall take the liberty to appeal from your imperial de- 

Amos A. Phelps replied, claiming a right to work for 
the cause " without doing it through your paper and with- 
out coming and kneeling devoutly to ask your holiness * 
whetlier I may do so or not." He said that Mr. Garrison's 
charges were natural to " one whose overgrown self-con- 
ceit had brought him into the belief that his mighty self 
was abolition incarnate." 

In another letter to Mr. Garrison 'Mr. Phelps said : 
" You seem still to be possessed with the old idea that you 
and your paper are abolition incarnate, so that no man 
can dislike- or reject either without disliking and reject- 
ing abolition." (See G. ii, 270.) 

John Le Bosquet thought Mr. Garrison might be "so 
elated with his elevation as to think that he was monarch 
of all he surveyed." Daniel Wise reported Mr. Garrison 
to have spoken " as if he were whip-master-general and 
supreme judge of all abolitionists, as though he wore the 
tri])le crown and wielded an irresponsible scepter over all 
the embattled hosts of anti-slavery troops." George Allen 
declared Mr. Garrison resolved " to cripple the influence 
of all who will not come under the yoke which he has 
bent for their necks." Benjamin Lundy, who had for 
several years lost his confidence in 'Mr. Garrison, wrote in 
his paper of the course of the " Liberator " as " erratic 
and dogmatical," " whimsical and unreflecting," and of 
its editor as arrogant. ^Ir. Garrison answered by charg- 
ing Lundy with being " jealous and envious." 

February 7, 1839, the first number of the "Massachu- 
setts Abolitionist," a paper " devoted exclusively to the 
discussion of slavery," appeared. In the first three months 

* This was an allusion to the nickname of Pope, commonly applied to 
Mr. Garrison in derision of his ejroism. 


the subscribers to it outnumbered those to the " Libera- 
tor." March 2Gth, the Massachusetts Society met in Bos- 
ton. Messrs. Birney and Lewis Tappan were present from 
the Xational Committee. Mr. Tappan advised a division 
of the society into two parts. Mr. Birney approved the 
establishment of the newspaper, and declared that under 
the constitution of the national society every member 
who was a legal voter was morally bound to go to the 
polls, and if he had conscientious scruples against so doing 
ought to leave the society. He said also that the cause 
ought to be relieved of all the extraneous questions which 
had been connected with it diiring the past year or two. 
The meeting settled no differences. 

After his return to New York in April, Mr. Birney 
prepared " A Letter on the Political Obligations of Abo- 
litionists." It appeared May 2d in the "Emancipator" 
over his signature and afterward in a pamphlet of twelve 
pages. This was generally regarded as an unofficial dec- 
laration by the Xational Committee, and exciied the most 
lively interest in the abolition world. Its sub-title was 
" View of the Constitution of the American Anti-Slavery 
Society as connected with the ' Xo- Government ' Ques- 
tion." It was an expansion of his views expressed at the 
recent Boston meeting and which had been misrepre- 
sented in the " Liberator." A very brief statement of 
points made, with a few extracts, must suffice for our 
notice of this closely reasoned and powerful tract of the 
times. " The ohject of the American Society w^as the en- 
tire abolition of slavery in the Ignited States. The means 
for effecting it were : " 

1. The admission that each slave State has the exclu- 
sive right to legislate on its abolition. 

2. Arguments against slavery. 

3. "In a constitutional way to influence Congress to 
put an end to the domestic slave trade ; and 


4. To abolish slaviTv in tlie Territories and in tlie Dis- 
trict of Columbia ; and 

5. To prevent the extension of slavery to new States. 
"Under tha terms of the constitution of the society no 

person can be a member of it who does not consent to the 
above principles. 

Iniluencing the action of Congress " in a constitutional 
■way" implies of necessity the use of the elective franchise. 

The declaration of sentiments, signed by the makers 
of the constitution of the society, contains the following 
passage : 

We also maintain that tliere are at the present time tlie high- 
est obligations resting upon the people of the free States to re- 
move shivery by moral and political action as prescribed in the 
Constitution of the United States. 

The constitution of the Massachusetts Society binds 
the members "to endeavor by aU means sanctioned by 
law, humanity, and religion," etc. 

In 1834 the editor of the " Liberator " voted in person 
and strenuously upheld in his columns the propriety of 
abolitionists carrying out their principles at the ballot- 
box. The constitutions of none of the State societies are 
inconsistent with political action. Xo opposition worthy 
of mention was made to this means of furthering aboli- 
tion until recently. He says : 

Within the last twelve or eighteen months, it is believed after 
efforts, some successful some not, had been begun to aflcct the 
elections, and while the most indefatigable exertions were being 
made by many of our influential, intelligent, and liberal friends 
to convince the great body of the abolitionists of the necessity — 
the indispensable necessity — of breaking away from their old 
^^ parties'' and uniting in the use of the elective franchise for the 
fidvancement of the cause of human freedom, . . . at this very 
time, and mainly, too, in that part of the country where political 
action had been most successful, and whence from its promise of 


so(m leing icholly triumphant* great encouragement was de- 
rived by abolitionists everywhere, a sect, has arisen in our midst 
where members regard it as of religious obligation in no case to 
exercise the elective franchise. 

This persuasion is part and parcel of the tenet which it is be- 
lieved they have embraced, that as Christians have the precepts 
of the Gospel to direct, and the spirit of God to guide them, ail 
human governments, as necessarily including the idea oi force to 
secure obedience, are not only superfluous, but unlawful encroach- 
ments on the Divine government as ascertained from the sources 
above mentioned. 

Therefore they refuse to do anytliing voluntarily by which 
they would be considered as acknowledging the lawful existence 
of human governments. Denying to civil governments the right 
to use force, they easily deduce that family governments have no 
such right. Thus they would withhold from parents any jiower 
of personal chastisement or restraint for the correction of their 
children. They carry out to the full extent the "non-resistance " 
theory. To the first ruffian who would demand our purse or 
oust us from our houses they are to be unconditionally surren- 
dered unless moral suasion be found sufficient to induce him to 
decline from his purpose. Our wives, our daughters, our sisters, 
our mothers, we are to see set upon by the most brutal without 
any effort on our part except argument to defend them ! And 
even they themselves are forbidden to use in defense of their 
purity such powers as God has endowed them with for its pro- 
tection if resistance should be attended with injury or destruction 
to the assailant ! 

In short, the "no-government" doctrines, as they are be- 
lieved now to be embraced, seem to strike at the root of the 
social structure, and tend, so far as I am able to judge of their 
tendency, to throw society into entire confiision and to renew, 
imder the sanction of religion, scenes of anarchy and license that 
have generally heretofore been the offspring of the rankest infi- 
delity and irreligion ! 

* John Quincy Adams and several other members of Congress owed 
their election to abolition voters, who held the balance of power in their 
respective districts. 


To the sui)pose(l objection that non-voting persons 
liad joined the society and were still members of it, ^Ir. 
liiruey answered that, nnder the constitution, anybody 
who chose might join and no method of exjnilsion had 
been provided. In this state of things the honorable 
course for no -government men Avas either to move to 
amend the constitution or withdraw from membership. 
To the claim that voters and no-government men could 
get along together quietly he answered : 

But is this really so ? Is tlie diference between those who 
seek to abolish any and every government of human institution 
and tliose who jirefcr any government to a state of things in 
wliich every one may do what seemeth good in his own eyes . . . 
so small that they can act harmoniously under the same organiza- 
tion ? When, in obedience to the principles of the society, I go 
to the polls and there call on my neighbors to unite with me in 
electing to Congress men who are in favor of human rights I am 
met by a no-government abolitionist inculcating on them the 
doctrine that Congress has no rightful authority at all to act in 
the premises, how can we proceed together ? When I am ani- 
mating my fellow-citizens to aid me in infusing into the Govern- 
ment salutary influences which sliall put an end to all oppression 
my no-government brother calls out at the top of his lungs "All 
governments are of the devil," where is our harmony ? 

no denied that uo-government men could consistently 
petition Congress or advise people, who believed in vot- 
ing how to vote, comparing this last to angels advising 
devils how to sin for the glory of God. He concluded : 

But it is high time that something was done to bring this 
subject diicctly before the great body of the abolitionists, in 
order that they may relieve their cause from an incubus that has 
so mightily oppressed it in some parts of the country during the 
last year. It is in vain to think of succeeding in emancipation 
without the co-operation of the great mass of the intelligent 
mind of the nation. This can be attracted only by the reason- 
aljleness, the religion, of our enterprise. To multiply catisei of 


repuhion is Imt to drive it from us and insure our own defeat- 
to consign the slave to perdurable chains, our country to iniper- 
isliable disgrace. James G. Bikney. 

Of this essay, the tone was judicial and dispassionate. 
Mr. Garrison was not mentioned by name. The only 
alhision to him was as " editor of the ' Liberator.' " But 
he answered in a pamphlet twice as long as Mr. Birney's. 
The allusion to him was noticed as follows : 

I am quoted by Mr. Birney as "having set the example of 
voting for a professed abolitionist and encouraging others to do 
the same." As to this citation, cui lono? I humbly conceive 
that it concerns no man, or body of men, to know how many or 
how few times I have voted since the adoption of the anti-slavery 
constitution ; or whether I have, or have not, changed my views 
of politics within a few years,* 

Mr. Birney had carefidly and fairly stated the tenets 
of the new sect as to human and divine governments, but 
in his sub-title had used the phrase " no-government ques- 
tion," and had applied the same hyphened adjective to the 
words " scheme," " enterprise," and once only to the word 
" party." Mr. Garrison answers in the following strain : 

He calls us a "no-government " party. He might as honestly 
style us a banditti. . . . We deny the accusation. We relig- 
iously hold to government — a strong, a righteous, a perfect gov- 
ernment, a government which is indestructible, which is of 
Heaven, not of men. . . . How monstrous, then, the representa- 
tion, that we are " for destroying all government ? 

In such verbal cavils and simulated rage, Mr. Garrison 
took pleasure. Ilis want of logical power struck Von 
Hoist, the German historian of this country, as " wonder- 

* Up to 183.5, Mr. Garrison had not only voted, but advocated the 
formation of an anti-slavery political party. (See testimony of Whittier 
and other proofs given in the " Second Annual Report of the Massachusetts 
Abolition Society.") 


ful," nor ditl lie lot slip the oiiportiniity for writing about 
himself, llis answer bristles with capital /'s and my and 
me. In the last fonr sentences of one paragraph there 
are nine of these cropjiings-out of egotism. The last sen- 
tence is : " But how coldly, how invidiously, how like an 
abhorred Samaritan, have I been treated by many in the 
anti - slavery ranks, on account of my religious opin- 


The feelings of the Xew York leaders toward ^Ir. 
Garrison were the natural result of his waywardness, un- 
reliableness, splenetic temper, jealousy of others, schem- 
ing disposition, and arrogant vanity, and not at all of his 
" religious opinions." Such misrepresentation must have 
sorely tried the Christian patience of the orthodox Lewis 
Tappan, who had done all in his power to get the much 
younger Garrison to work kindly in abolition traces ! 
Again he Avrites : 

It is quite remarkable that some of those who have been 
foremost in protesting against being reckoned my followers, . . . 
who have been unwilling that I should be regarded as the mouth- 
piece of the Anti-Slavery Society in any sense, who have repelled 
the slightest intimation from the enemies of abolition, that the 
society is responsible for the sayings and doings of the "Libera- 
tor " — I say, it is quite remarkable that all at once, in the eyes 
of those persons, I have become an official organ, an unerring 
oracle, the vuignus Apollo of the whole land. 

To impute to Mr. Birnoy such an estimate of Mr. Gar- 
rison was an inference much too wide for the premises. 
The same may be said of Mr. Garrison's argument for 
" non-resistance," drawn from the advice given to slaves 
by the national society, not to vindicate their rights by 
physical force, meaning insurrection. If every man who 
shudders at the massacres of a servile war, thinking peace- 
ful abolition attainable, or advises unarmed Ireland not to 
declare war against the British Empire, may be held to be 


a non-resistant in any and all circumstances, it is only in 
that " wonderful " Garrisonian logic. 

There are passages of plausible reasoning in the answer, 
and Mr. Birney might have replied to them, but they were 
seasoned with so many epithets, such as " unfair," " im- 
proper," "libelous," "absurd," "folly closely allied to 
cool effrontery, "ridiculous,"" a disorganizing spirit," 
"untrue," that a reply was out of the question. Mr. 
Birney never bandied epithets. Besides, Mr. Garrison's 
admissions made a reply unnecessary for intelligent read- 
ers. He said : 

As men, as citizens, as Christians, we confess that we have 
advocated the heaven-originated cause of non-resistance, . . . 
lut not as abolitionists* . . . Non-resistance is destined to pour' 
new life blood into the veins of abolition . . . though not ne- 
cessarily connected with it. 

An example of the peculiar boldness of Mr. Garrison 
in controversy is his assertion (see page 35 of pamphlet) 
that, at its annual meeting in 1838, the national society 
had adopted a resolution appointing a committee of nine 
to prepare a declaration of the judgment of the society 
" concerning the common error that our enterprise is of a 
political and not religious character." Mr, Garrison's 
very positive assertion is not sustained by the published 
minutes of the meeting (page IG). The resolution was 
offered, but does not appear to have been adopted. No 
such committee ever met ; and no such declaration was 
ever prepared or presented. Mr. Garrison was one of the 
nine members named to constitute the committee, and 
should have known these facts. 

* This subtle distinction between what Mr. Garrison did as an aboli- 
tionist and what as a private gentleman, reminds one of the distinction 
made in the "Mikado" between Poohbah's action in the different capaci- 
ties of Lord High Treasurer and Lord Chief Justice. 


Tlic chasm between the no-government faction and 
the leaders of tlie constitutional movement was too broad 
and deep to be bridged. Separation was inevitable. 
A\'hen and how it should be etfected were the only ques- 
tions. Instead of quietly withdrawing, the no-govern- 
ment men decided to seize upon the organization of the 
national society. This was made easy by the provision 
of its constitution, which in effect enabled any one to vote 
as a member who would sign that instrument and con- 
tribute any sum, however small, to the funds of the so- 
ciety. All that was necessary was to get voters enough. 
The no-government men decided to do this at the anni- 
versary meeting in ]\Iay, 1840. Tlie practical work of 
this movement was placed in the hands of that active no- 
government man and Communist John A. Collins, with 
Oliver Johnson as his assistant. Mr. Collins raised a fund 
and chartered a steamboat for the cheap or gratuitous 
transportation of their voters from Boston to Xew York. 
In regard to the number, the " Liberator " afterward said : 
" On making an enumeration, it appeared there were about 
four hundred and fifty anti-slavery men and Avomen in our 
company, of whom about four hundred were from Massa- 
chusetts. Probably one hundred went by other routes." 

Goodell, in his history "Slavery and Anti-Slavery," 
says of this : 

This would make 550 in all. The proceedings afterward 
showed only 1,008 recorded votes from all in attendance from 
all the States. Of these, Mr. Garrison's rally of 550 would, if 
unanimous, secure a majority of 92, without any votes from any 
of the other States. Yet the business to be transacted was that 
of a society scattered in all the free States, and numbering, por- 
haps, one or two hundred thousand, the majority of whom antici • 
pated nothing of what was going forward; and if they had 
known, could have had no opportunity of attending. 

The character of the Garrison raid in ib-iU can be in- 


ferred from the number of Massachusetts members of the 
national society in the seven years of its existence. In 
the respective 3-ears between 1834 and 1840 inclusive, the 
delegations from that State numbered as follows : 6, 23, 
26, 18, 22, 118, and 550. 

It goes without saying that the no-governmeut men 
captured the machinery * of the national society. They 
captured nothing else. The pro-government men retired 
quietly. Some of them formed a new national society;. 
but the abolition cause had already outgrown the crude 
methods of its earlier days and was becoming a part of 
the political life of the nation. Outside of Massachusetts 
and in New York and the great West, among men who 
knew little and cared less about the dissensions in and 
around Boston, who had never seen the " Liberator " or 
its editor, there was rapidly extending a sentiment that 
the existing political parties could not de'fend the republic 
against the slave power and that a necessity existed for 
laying the foundations of a party broad as the Constitu- 
tion itself and enduring as the republic. Before describ- 
ing the growth of this new party we wull devote a chapter 
to the non-government sect and its leader. 

* This they accomplished by a coalition with women suffragists. 
The real issue of Nihilism versus Government and Law was adroitly kept 
in the background. 




In liis remarkable ■work on the " Constitutional His- 
tory of the United States," Prof. Von Hoist, the German 
historian, says : " The abolitionists generally were held 
responsible for every word uttered by Garrison, who, after 
all, was only the leader of tlie small extreme wing.'''' 

In its annual report (page 14) for 1851, the Glasgow 
(Scotland) Female Kew Anti-Slavery Association, speak- 
ing of the relative number of the Garrisonians to the whole 
number of American abolitionists, says : " Mr. Garnet 
[Henry Highland Garnet, the eloquent colored preacher] 
unhesitatingly declared that they do not amount to one 
in one hundred and fifty." 

The liev. John Guthrie, of Scotland, in a pamphlet 
(1851) on the subject, said: "We stated last week, in 
order to keep thoroughly within bounds, that the Garri- 
sonians, as compared with the evangelical abolitionists in 
America, are not 07ie in ^ew." 

In a letter of July, 1839, Lewis Tappan speaks of " W. 
L. Garrison and his cliqne,^'' and in August of the same 
year Amos A. Phelps wrote from Boston : '' ^Irs. Chap- 
man's influence in this city is dead. At the last meeting 
of the Boston Female Society, on a test vote, she could 
muster but eighteen colored people in all, and six of the 
eighteen were members of her own family. The same is 
true to a considerable extent in regard to Garrison. The' 


sober, serious, prayerful, and religious abolitionists are 
mostly with us in the city. The weight of character is 
with us in the country." (MSS.) 

In 1839 the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society (old 
organization) declared in a manifesto the doubt of its 
managers " whether the one hundredth part of its mem- 
bers held the peculiar views of Mr. Garrison." (Goodell, 
page 46;^.) 

The son of Samuel Lewis, the eloquent Ohio abolition- 
ist, in his biography of his father (1857) speaks of "that 
largest portion of the abolitionists who acted with the 
Liberty party." He says also : " The fact was that the 
Garrison party formed the smallest segment of the aboli- 
tionists; but the opponents of the abolitionists, either 
from ignorance or convenience, found it the easiest method 
to confound the two and lay the opprobrious character of 
disunionists upon all," etc. (page 339). 

In a pamphlet entitled "Truth vindicated" (1883), 
A. T. Eankin, of Ohio, an old abolitionist and brother of 
John Rankin, says : " Mr. Garrison did some good in the 
cause of anti-slavery, but it is a question whether he did 
not do it more damage than good. . . . On page 119 of 
his book of selections are recorded ten curses he hurled at 
the Government of the L^nited States. For bitterness of 
hate they are rarely equaled. Any lover of his "country 
who reads them will not wonder that good men fled from 
him. . . . "When the Anti-Slavery party divided, onhj a 
fragment adhered to himy 

If Mr. Garrison had not possessed a peculiar faculty 
for gaining the personal friendship of the few whom 
he wished to conciliate, he would have had no follow- 
ing whatever. ]\Iiss Martineau says of his conversa- 
tion : " It has none of the severity, the harshness, the 
bad taste of his writing." Throughout his career a few 
persons of wealth adhered to him, furnished him with 


money when necessary, and tlie poet Wliittier, though 
often obliged to dissent from and rebuke him, always con- 
tinued to liim his friendship. The same may be said of 
the gentle Quaker I^ucretia Jlott. To his friends he 
knew not liow to stint his praise. He wrote verses in 
their honor and commended them in his speeches. Some 
of them reciprocated, especially Quincy and Wendell 
Piiillips, and the clique became known as " the mutual 
admiration society." 

But Mr. Garrison had never been able to gain the con- 
fidence of the public or of abolitionists generally. His 
first newspaper, the one at Xewburyport, had failed partly 
because of his reckless personal attacks on eminent men in 
the State. He had been rebuked in the newspapers of 
Boston in 1827, because, although he had resided there 
but six months and was an unknown and very young man, 
he had had " the impudence " to appear in a Federal party 
congressional caucus, composed of i)rominent citizens and 
party leaders, and nominate before nominations were called 
for a successor to Daniel Webster. At Bennington the 
"Gazette" nicknamed him '• Lloyd Garrulous" and said 
of him : " He is withal a gi'eat egotist, and when talking 
of himself displays the pert loquacity of a blue jay." 

In IS'^O he made a speech at Boston, and the " Trav- 
eler " of that city described him as " of quite a youthful 
appearance and habited in a suit of black, with his neck 
bare and a broad linen collar spread over that of his 

When in Baltimore he wrote the libel on his townsman 
and former acquaintance Francis Todd, for which he was 
indicted and sentenced to pay fifty dollars and costs, he 
incurred the blame of all judicious persons who knew the 
facts. Mr. Allen, of Xewburyport, under whom he had 
served his apprenticeship and who knew Mr. Todd, 
" thought that in assailing Todd he had stepped aside to 


wound those who were not and never would be guilty of 
joining in the traffic, and that his charge had been based 
on vague rumor, hasty conversation, and scattered facts." 
(G. i, 185.) 

Moses Sheppard, an anti-slavery Quaker, resident in 
Baltimore, was still more severe. He said that Garrison 
" had promulgated statements utterly destitute of the 
slightest foundation in truth in relation to a transaction 
of which, as it took place at his very door, the most care- 
less inquiry would have supplied him with the correct de- 
tails." (See his pamphlet, 1834.) 

That theanti-slavery Quakers of Baltimore agreed with 
Mr, Sheppard is proved by the fact that not one of them 
came forward to relieve Mr. Garrison from imprisonment, 
though he lay in jail forty-nine days and until Arthur 
Tappan paid the small fine. 

In the " Genius " for May, 1832, Benjamin Lnndy, in 
answering an attack made on him in the " Liberator," 
gave his opinion of Garrison in the following language : 
" His course is sometimes rather headlong and reckless. 
When mounted on his favorite hobby, scorning to touch 
the reins and leaning forward with his cap extended in 
one hand and a barbed goad in the other (to say nothing 
of the rowels at his heels), he thinks of neither rocks nor 
quagmires, but rides as though he would distance the 
winds. It is true he may be safe in pursuing the path 
that others have beaten.'''' 

The pressing need of another anti-slavery newspaper 
in 1831 would have made the " Liberator " a success from 
the first if its editor had abstained from sensational per- 
sonalities and indiscriminate vituperation. Txemonstranccs 
were unavailing, and the paper was obliged to depend for 
its small circulation nearly altogether upon the colored 
people. In 1842, eleven years after its first number, Mr. 
Garrison, writing of the " Liberator " and its want of buc- 


cess, said that it had " sunk one or two thousand dollars 
per annum over and above its receipts." (G. ii, 332.) 

In its whole course the " Liberator," it is said, never 
paid expenses. As early as 1832 Arthur Tappan wanted 
Garrison to employ himself in promoting the education of 
colored youth. (G. i, 313.) 

In 1833 a proposition had been made to merge the 
"Liberator" in the "Philadelphia AVorld," and later the 
national executive committee had suggested merging it in 
the "Emancipator." In 1832, when Garrison was about 
to sail for England, he made himself a laughing-stock by 
having himself locked up for three days at Xew Haven 
and as long at ^'ew York to prevent the colonizationists 
from ahducti)iy and destroying him ! The role he played 
in England was that of a reformer who had narrowly es- 
caped becoming the victim of a murderous plot. A pretty 
full account of this pretended panic is given in the biog- 
raphy of him by his sons. Before December, 1833, be- 
tween twenty-five and thirty abolition newspapers had been 
started in the Northern States, and none of them, it is 
believed, imitated the style peculiar to the " Liberator." 
1'hat paper was regarded by abolitionists generally as a 
fire-ship in the abolition fleet, unmanageable, and dan- 
gerous to its friends rather than to the enemy, and its 
editor had the reputation of being erratic and without 
judgment. This state of opinion is clearly indicated in 
Lewis Tappan's speech before the convention that or- 
ganized the American Anti-Slavery Society in December, 
1833. In it he said: " There is good evidence to believe 
that many professed friends of abolition would have been 
here had they not been afraid that the name of William 
Lloyd Garrison would be inserted prominently in our pro- 
ceedings." (G. i, 402.) (See also G. i, 457, for Lewis 
Tappan's letter of January 2, 1835.) 

The formation of a national society had been called for 


since 1830 by the abolition sentiment of the country, and 
Mr. Garrison had sought to take the initiative by making 
a motion, at the meeting of tlie New England Anti-Slav- 
ery Society in January, 1833, to authorize the managers 
to call a convention for the purpose ; but no call was is- 
sued, the managers becoming aware, probably, that it 
would not be responded to. The call was issued in Octo- 
ber by the officers of the Xew York City Anti-Slavery So- 
ciety. It had not been shown to Mr. Garrison nor had 
he been asked to sign it. Both Lewis Tappan, in his life 
of his brother Arthur, and William Goodell in his history, 
narrated the facts relating to the call for the convention, 
and neither of them mentions or alludes to any connection 
of Mr. Garrison therewith. Every precaution was taken 
by the men who called the convention to prevent Mr. Gar- 
rison from obtaining undue prominence in its proceed- 
ings. He was not made one of the officers nor placed on 
the committee on credentials nor made chairman of any 
committee. His friend, R. B. Hall, was indignant when 
he found that Garrison was not to be one of the per- 
manent officers of the society, and demanded that if there 
was no office for Garrison to fill, " one ought to be and 
must he made.^* (G. i, 415.) 

Under this pressure the office of secretary of foreign 
correspondence was created and Garrison elected to it; 
but he was soon informed that his official " letters must 
first be submitted to the executive committee." The pro- 
ject, too, of discontinuing the " Liberator " was again 
suggested. ( G. i, 415.) 

Mr. Garrison's feelings were deeply wounded, and he 
promptly resigned the office. No one conversant with 
anti-slavery history and familiar Avith the proceedings of 
conventions can look over the minutes of the convention 
of 1833 without rejecting the thesis so stoutly maintained 
bv the Garrisonian writers that Mr. Garrison was the 


fountler of the American Anti-Slavery Society. A single 
fact condemns it. The constitution formed was in direct 
contradiction to Mr. Garrison's declared opinioiis on the 
Federal Constitution. Our view is confirmed by the fact that 
from 1833 to its disruption in 1840, the American Anti- 
Slavery Society never elected Mr. (Jarrison either presi- 
dent or one of the many vice-presidents or secretary or 
member of the executive committee. He rose no higher 
than to be one of the managers for Massachusetts. At 
the seven public anniversaries of the society held during 
the same period, he appeared but twice on the platform, 
once to make a speech of twelve lines, and once to make a 
motion and a speech which is reported in four lines. (1st 
Eep., IG ; 5th Kep., 18.) In the hundreds of pamphlets, 
newsjiapers, magazines, almanacs, records, and reports of 
the society, it is barely possible to find Mr. Garrison's 
name. In the annual report of 183G it appears in neces- 
sary connection with the Boston mob of 1835, but without 
commendation either of the "Liberator" or the methods 
of its editor. In those days it Avas an open secret that 
the leaders of the national society were averse from giving 
to Mr. Garrison the prominence he sought while they 
recognized him as a factor in the local movements in 
Massachusetts. They were imwilling to be responsible 
for his words or acts. As a boy writer he had taken Ju- 
nius for his exemplar and libeled like his English proto- 
type. His earliest ambition was to be the American Ju- 
nius without being anonymous. His vanity displayed his 
name at its full length on all occasions. The same senti- 
ment caused him to multiply drawings, paintings, photo- 
graphs, sketches, and busts of himself. While he was a 
printer's apjircntice he spent part of his earnings in havi}ig 
his portrait painted, representing him in fashionable garb 
and ruffled shirt. During his flight and concealment in 
1833 from the imaginary abductors and assassins hired by 


the Colonizationists, he sat twice for his portrait, once in 
Philadelphia and once in New Haven. He was then 
twenty-seven years of age. It goes Avithout saying that 
he was a subject for English artists. He had his portrait 
engraved and put on the market. Copies were placed in 
every anti-slavery book-store for sale on commission. He 
practiced all the arts of personal notoriety. To be talked 
of, no matter how, seemed to be his aim in life. A 
dramatic situation was his delight ; he posed at the grave 
of Calhoun and in the gallery of the World's Convention. 
At twenty-one he had published in a Boston paper, " If my 
life be spared my name shall be known to the world," and 
a year later he had repeated this gasconade. It seemed to 
matter little to him whether his professions and practice 
were in accord. In early manhood he quoted Scripture 
and talked religion like a clergyman, but he was not then 
and never became a communicant in any church, (G. i, 
56.) He advocated immersion, but was never immersed. 
Claiming to be a Christian, he denied the inspiration of 
the Bible and the divinity of Christ, and said at the second 
decade anti-slavery meeting in 1853 : " We are infidels, 
are we? Well, who wovild be recognized otherwise in a 
land like tliis? Who that is honest, manly, humane, who 
that loves God and loves his race, would desire for one 
moment to pass current in this blood-stained nation as a 
religious man ? He who is willing to be popularly recog- 
nized as such ought to hang his head for shame and hide 
himself until he is willing to come out and be branded as 
an ' infidel.' " (" Proceedings," page 00.) 

His professions at one time were in conflict with those 
at another. He called the Sabbath " our moral sun," and 
apostrophized it as follows : " If thou wert blotted out . . . 
earth would resemble hell." Afterward he did his best to 
blot it out, denouncing it as fervently as ho had praised it. 

In a printed address in 1831 (page 15) ho bursts into 


ejaculations of euthusiasin for the Federal Constitution: 
'* Tluuiks be to (Jod that we have sueh a Constitution ! " 
He called it a " high refuge from oppression." In 1832 
he called it '' the most bloody and heaven-daring arrange- 
ment ever made by man " (G. i, 308) ; and later in his 
career he flaunted at tiie head of liis newspaper the gibe 
that it was a " covenant with death and agreement with 
hell." His inconsistencies in action and frequent changes 
of doctrine gave an air of unreality and insincerity to liis 
professions as a reformer. This was added to by his num- 
berless whims and the facility of his adoption of novelties 
in belief. 

His sons speak of the " faith in advertised remedies 
which was ever characteristic of him " (G. i, 37). Many 
amusing stories were told of his use of quack medicines. 
He was an easy convert to all the crotchets of his day, 
among which were Grahamism and Spiritualism. It is 
said, he was a firm believer in photo-spiritism and the ma- 
terialization of spirits, following in this the example of II. 
C. Wright. We learn from Oliver Johnson's biography of 
him that he was " thoroughly satisfied that he had re- 
ceived many communications from friends in the spirit 
world " (page STG). 

Von Hoist, in his "Constitutional History" (vol. i, 
page 225), gives a carefully studied api)reci:ition of Mr. 
Garrison : 

With a mind capable of logical tliinkiiiLT neither by natural 
endowment nor from education, his judgment, in the hand of 
his unl)ridled feeling, wiis lost in a labyrinth of senseless abstrac- 
tions. . . . Clambering upon the ladder of his wonderful logic 
toward pure principles, without looking to the right or the left, 
he soon completely lost the ground of tlio real world under 
bis feet. 

After the separation of the Garrisonians from the main 
body of the abolition army, the tendency of their doctrines 


became more marked. Senseless abstractions led to ex- 
travagances in language and conduct. The fine-spun 
casuistries of " no-human government " unsettled some of 
the finest intellects in New England. N. P. Eogers, the 
poet-editor of New Hampshire, and who for years had 
been an efficient worker in the anti-slavery cause, fell a 
victim to the cloudy metaphysics of religious nihilism. 
He would have no president, no secretary, no business 
committee, no resolutions, at his meetings ; each man was 
to act as he might think best, without being influenced by 
others. Among the converts to the same doctrine was 
the logical Palmer, who refused to touch coin or note or 
bond, or to pay taxes or recognize human government in 
any manner. Trade was to be conducted by barter. 
There were enough like him to start a small paper as 
their organ, but its existence was brief, there being trouble 
in paying and collecting subscriptions. Some, of whom 
Abby Folsom was the type, became crazed on free speech. 
A meeting for humanity was everybody's meeting and, of 
course, everybody had a right to speak. As Abby wanted 
to speak all the time and others wanted a part of the 
time, there was conflict. Meetings were broken up. This 
becoming unbearable, the principle was suspended, and 
Abby was lifted up gently and carried out of doors. On 
one occasion, when she was being carried out by Oliver 
Johnson, W. A. White, and Wendell Phillips, she cried 
out : " I am more blessed than my lord ; he had but one 
ass to carry him and I have three." 

A favorite speaker of the sect was flattered into a con- 
ceit that his profile resembled Christ's. He parted his 
hair in the middle, let it grow until it covered his shoul- 
ders, cultivated a rather scanty beard, and with liberal use 
of crimping-irons, curling-tongs, and " thy incomparable 
oil. Macassar ! " effected a transformation of himself which 
would have been creditable to a theatrical costumer. His 


audiences liacl the pleasure of frequent profile views of the 
orator. At a later period, a blonde rival, equal to him in 
every point except the curled and tufted beard, divided 
with him the admiration of aesthetic souls. 

" Father Lamson," who, in his better days, was noticed 
by Theodore Parker as a " beautiful soul," went clean daft 
under the pressure of the new ideas, lie had long white 
locks which he wore uncovered, and being deeply im- 
pressed with the necessity of mowing down this wicked 
world and its ways, i)rocured a large scythe with a long 
handle to perfect his resemblance to Time. He was a fre- 
quent attendant at the Garrisonian meetings, where, if 
permitted, he stood upon the platform, leaning on his 
weapon and looking sadly at the audience. 

If it had not been a principle of this sect of professional 
reformers to say and do shocking things for the purpose 
of attracting attention, the sanity of several of their leaders 
might well be doubted. Tlie language of 11. C. Wright 
increased in violence as he grew older. In the " Libera- 
tor" for October and Xovember, 1849, were published 
letters from him which savor of a disordered intellect. 
Of the Christian's God, he says : " Such a being is to me 
a devil," etc. . . . What they call ' God ' is but an almighty 
convenience to slave-holders and warriors and their allies." 
There is other language too indecently blasphemous for 
reproduction here. At what was called a " Peace Meet- 
ing," he offered the following : " Eesolved that fidelity . . . 
demands that we should deny the existence and scorn the 
Avorship of any being as God, who ever did, or ever can, 
sanction war or authorize the destruction of human life at 
the hand of man for any cause." 

That was the kind of resolution passed by non-resis- 
tants at their meetings, in order, as they said, to create 
'' moral power " in behalf of their cause ! It Avas, how- 
ever, the expression of a sympathetic nervous excitement 


caused by an intense and narrow fanaticism of the same 
generic class as the " jerks " prevalent in Kentucky, in a 
single sect, in the early part of the century. Parker Pills- 
bury was worse, if possible, than Wright ; he compared 
churches to gambling houses and brothels ("Liberator," 
Xovember 2, 1848). Pillsbury's book, "Acts of the Anti- 
Slavery Apostles " (1884, 503 pages), gives a very frank 
and interesting, though confused, account of the doings of 
himself and five or six other Garrisonian lecturers in New 
England, beginning about 1839. They hit upon a new 
plan of "creating moral power"; it was to go into 
churches at the time of regular services and lecture the 
congregations without leave and until put out by force ! 
On this plan, tliey acted systematically, regardless of the 
indignation excited among the persons whose rights they 
so recklessly invaded. Indeed, they do not appear to have 
imagined that other persons had any rights to be respected. 
They were ejected, of course; sometimes gently, some- 
times roughly. Fines were inflicted upon them by magis- 
trates, and imprisonment on non-payment. This they 
called persecution for righteousness' sake. These cranks 
must have been intolerable nuisances to the people ; and 
it is wonderful that they escaped with little bodily injury. 
One of these very aggressive non-resistants was S. S. Fos- 
ter, the author of a vigorous assault on the Church and 
clergy entitled "The Brotherhood of Thieves." If 
there had not been a strong anti-slavery sentiment among 
the people, and a certain tenderness toward the trespassers 
as persons supposed to be crazed by the abolition agitation, 
Messrs. Pillsbury, Foster, and their colleagues would have 
fared badly. 

Before the end of 1843, the Garrisonians found they 
were flailing thrice-thrashed straw. Perfectionism, non- 
resistance, and no-human government theories had been 
condemned bv the common sense of the public. Ameri- 


cans rejected doctrines tliat left wives and daughters 
without protection from ruflians and prevented the weak 
from associating themselves to restrain the strong. That 
shallow fallacy, " the world is my country " the motto of 
the " Liberator," did not rouse the heart like the lines : 

Breathes there a man with soul so dead 
Who never to himself hath said 
This is my own, my native land I 

" In 18-il or 1842 it was alleged that there were not, 
probably, more than one or two hundred non-resistants in 
all New England.'' (Goodell's " History," page 462.) 

The distinctive doctrines of the Garrisonian faction 
would have caused its early extinction. It was kept in 
existence by its continued professions of desire to abolish 
slavery. As, however, every convert refused to vote, it 
was plain that if two thirds of the people of Massachu- 
setts became Garrisonians the political power of the State 
would be wielded by the pro-slavery minority and the 
Legislature and members of Congress would be chosen 
from among the most pliant tools of the slave i)ower. 
Discussion had laid bare the absurdity of denouncing the 
national evil and refusing to take the only j^ractical action 
to get rid of it, and in 1843 it had become evident that a 
change of programme was indispensable to the further vi- 
tality of the faction. Internal divisions also threatened 
disaster. Wendell Phillips and his friends, possessing the 
best ability and constituting the large majority of the 
faction, had never accepted Mr. Garrison's peculiar notions 
about government, and they reprobated the disorderly as- 
saults of Pillsbury, Foster, and others upon the churches. 
A compromise between these conflicting elements was 
effected. Secessio/n'sm was adopted as the future platform. 
This lay half-way between the contracting parties. Phil- 
lips, it is evident from the result, waived his liberty of re- 


sorting to constitutional methods to gain abolition, and 
Garrison waived his no-government and non-voting theo- 
ries and consented to advocate a political movement that 
involved State action and much voting. This compromise 
was a last and desperate struggle of a moribund faction 
for life. Oliver Johnson, in " Garrison and his Times " 
(page 337), describes what Garrison did in this matter : 

He began with the Massachusetts society in January, 1844, 
but even that society was not then quite ready to follow his lead. 
He brought the subject before the American Society in May, and, 
after a long and very exciting discussion, that society, by a vote 
of 59 to 21,* put itself squarely on the ground of disunion. The 
New England Convention followed two weeks later, voting the 
same way, 250 to 24. Then the whole Garrisonian phalanx 
swung solidly round to the same iwsition, and the movement 
thenceforth carried aloft the banner No Union with Slave-holders. 

This Avas in ]\[ay, 1844, and the campaign for the presi- 
dency was in progress. The Whig newspapers, from one 
end of the North to the other, immediately charged seces- 
sionism and disunionism upon the Liberty party as its 
logical result if not its avowed doctrine, and the charge 
was reiterated by the numerous speakers of that party. 
The members of the Liberty party defended by denial 
and by the countercharge that the passage of the secession 
resolution in the American Anti-Slavery Society was an 
electioneering trick concocted between Garrison, a former 
"Whig and ardent friend of Henry Clay, and Horace 
Greeley, the Whig manager, to whom had been assigned 
the task of defeating the Liberty party and winning the 
anti-slavery vote for Clay. They pointed also to the fact 
that David Lee Child, an intimate fi'iend of Garrison and 
editor of his anti-slavery organ at New York, had aban- 

* This falling olf in the numbers reveals the decadence of the Ameri- 
can Anti-Slavery Society under Garrison's rule. It had lost its hold on 
the country at large. 


doned his post in order to devote his whole time to pro- 
mote tlie success of Henry Chiy and to the further fact 
tluit the negroes of Boston and tlie non-resistants generally 
were ranging themselves in the Whig plialanx. In after 
years they regarded Mr. (jreeley's frequent praise of Gar- 
rison and the appointments on the "Tribune" staff of 
several sub-editors of the " Liberator " as so many recog- 
nitions by Mr. Greeley of his secret political obligations 
to ^Ir. Garrison. Von Hoist intimates obscurely his be- 
lief in such a bargain when he says of Mr. Garrison's 
heresies : " These differences and heresies were, so to 
speak, traded in open market from the very beginning " 
(page -I'Z^). 

If traded at any time it was in 184-4. The result of 
the move, however, was that the Liberty party was gen- 
erally held responsible for the treasonable declarations of 
its bitterest enemy and was greatly damaged in public es- 

From this time to the breaking out of the rebellion 
the true leader of the Boston secessionists was Wendell 
Phillips. The humble role of his companion on lecturing 
tours was filled by Garrison. 

Xature had endowed him with wonderful gifts as an 
orator, and his youthful aspiration was to excel Edward 
Everett and wdn the fame of being the most eloquent 
American. He found the needed theme in slavery and 
identified himself with abolitionists before their separa- 
tion. Hereditary wealth gave him leisure, which he used 
in the preparation of his speeches. He sharpened and 
polished his phrases until they were keen as razors and 
bright as diamonds. He would not speak before he was 
quite ready, and his speech was an event. Though lack- 
ing the pathetic element he attracted as large crowds as 
Ingcrsoll. He spoke seldom and generally in the large 
cities. He had no talent or taste for organization. He 


was vox ef preferea nihil There was no disunionist party 
at the Xorth except, perhaps, A^alhindigliam and the 
Knights of the Golden Circle, and Wendell Phillips ad- 
vocated secession from a standpoint which was not theirs. 
He was the only prominent advocate of a withdrawal of 
the Northern States from the Union, Garrison in this 
matter being merely a foil to his brilliant companion. To 
the people generally the proposition appeared nnpatriotic 
and treasonable, and the moral power of the Xorth was 
arrayed against the phrase-maker whose sole object in life 
seemed to be to burn down the temple of liberty by shoot- 
ing blazing arrows npon its roof. "When the agitations of 
the incipient rebellion began to shake the country, the 
Xorthern people ceased to tolerate Phillips's set speeches 
as innocuous oratorical displays. For the first time in 
Boston he was in danger of mob violence. "When he an- 
nounced his great disunion speech for Sunday, January 
20, 1861, in the Boston Music Hall, a popular outbreak be- 
came imminent. The authorities took every precaution to 
maintain the public peace and order. Police officers were 
scattered through the crowded hall, and a large reserve 
force was secretly held ready a few rods distant. The 
Governor, the adjutant-general, the county sheriff, and 
the mayor of the city, were stationed close by. ]\Ir. Phil- 
lips was well protected from the fury of the populace. 
He advocated letting " the erring sisters go in peace." He 
exclaimed : 

Sacrifice anything to keep the slave-holding States in the 
Union ! God for1>id ! We will rather build a bridge of gold 
and pay their toll over it, accompany them out with glad noise 
of trumpets and "speed the parting guests." Let them not stand 
on the order of their going, but go at once ! Take the forts, 
empty our arsenals and sub-treasuries, and we will lend them be- 
sides jewels of gold and jewels of silver, and Egypt be glad when 
they are departed. 


The Union was termed a " monstrous nightmare." 
For the first three years of the war Wendell Phillips 
and his corporal's squad of secessionists gave " aid and 
comfort " to the rebels by persistent efforts to undermine 
the influence of Abraham Lincoln. Their choicest sneers 
and epithets* of ridicule were reserved for him. At the 
hist hour, when the doom of slavery had been sealed and 
the triumph of the Government assured, they somer- 
saulted awkwardly into the Union camp, joined in the 
national huzzas for Lincoln, stripped themselves of their 
tattered non-resistant and secession garments, donned 
hastily the Union uniform, and have ever since boldly 
claimed that all their professions of disunion sentiments 
for twenty years before the war were false, and they were 
at heart loyal citizens, and ready to take arms for their 
country ! 

Not a single distinctive doctrine of the Garrisonian 
" extreme wing" was ever accepted by the American people 
or Government. It was the most utter abortion known in 
the history of this country. It advocated the abolition of 
tlie clergy, the overthrow of the Church, of the Union, of the 
Government ; but the clergy are still numerous, the Church 
stands firm, the Union is preserved, and the pillars of the 
Government are as solid as those of the earth. It besought 
men not to take up arms, but to abjure their manhood and 
yield their rights to the violent. Free Americans responded 
by defending with Sharp's rifles the free soil of Kansas and 
stretching their line of battle against rebellion from ocean 
to ocean. It opposed slavery as it opposed imprisonment 
for crime or parental coercion of children because it was 
one form of force wliich they held to be sinful per se. 
The Government abolished it because it was a political 
monster dangerous to the safety of the republic. The 

* One of these was " bloodhound of slavery." 


only use Garrison found for the national Constitution was 
to burn it at Framingham on a Fourth of July ; but Abra- 
ham Lincoln found in it the war powers under which he 
put an end to slavery by military order. Garrison spent 
the best years of his life in trying to transform American 
citizens into political eunuchs, urging them not to vote or 
organize a political party against slavery. The people 
have answered by building np a political party based upon 
the Constitution he burned. 

Historians will follow the lead of Von Hoist in his es- 
timate of "the small extreme wing." They will assign to 
it the same relation to the anti-slavery movement which 
is borne by the dynamite faction of O'Donovan Kossa to 
the legitimate movement for Irish home rule. They will 
declare it to have been from its inception, about 1836, to 
its final recantation and disappearance in the civil war 
an unmitigated curse to the abolition cause, acting in its 
name, but discrediting it by noisy crotchets and blatant 
treason. They will adopt as true the saying of Charles 
Sumner : " An omnibus load of Boston abolitionists has 
done more harm to the anti-slavery cause than all its ene- 



A PEUMAXEXT national party in a republic governed 
by suffrage must be in harmony with the genius of the 
institutions and laws of the country. In this essential 
element the slave power was wanting. Unceasing struggle 
was the condition of its existence, and from its birth, in 
1820, it was doomed to perish soon or late — peaceably or 
in the struggles of civil war. 

That its antagonist, the Constitutional Anti-Slavery 
party, embodied all the elements of final success, is evi- 
dent from its record. It Avas a powerful national senti- 
ment which in the winter of 1835-'3G forced a reluctant 
Congress to defeat the attempt of President Jackson and 
Senators Calhoun and Preston on the freedom of the 
mails, and to enact a law punishing with fine and impris- 
onment any postmaster guilty of tampering with them ; 
w^hich brought an average of sixty-six representatives to 
vote against each of the four " gag " rules passed by the 
House in 183G, 1837, and 1838 ; which brought Vermont 
and Massachusetts boldly to the front in 1830 and 1837, 
as favoring abolition in the District of Columbia, the vote 
in the Legislative Assembly of the latter standing 378 to 
IG. Beginning in 183G with efforts in some localities to 
affect the choice of members of State Legislatures and to 
punish pro-slavery candidates for re-election to Congress, 
it grew stronger from year to year, acting first as a " bal- 


ance-of-power" party, and voting for the best Whig or 
Democratic candidate until the sycophancy of the two 
great parties to the slave power compelled it to place its 
own candidates in the field. From that time it gained 
steadily in influence, compelling the passage of personal- 
liberty laws in all the Northern States, electing Governors, 
United States Senators and Eepresentatives, and casting 
an increasing vote for its candidate at each presidential 
election, until its success in 18G0. 

In round numbers, its presidential vote was as follows, 
subject to allowance for votes not counted in the first four 
elections : 

1840 .... Birney 7,100 

1844 .... Birnev 62,300 

- '^^b-Ig'hZ,..'! ^""■»»» 

1852 .... John P. Hale 155,900 

1856 Fremont 1,341,000 

1800 .... Lincoln 1,900,000 

A party of such steady growth had its roots deep down 
in national soil ; and it rapidly grew strong under the 
fierce heat of Southern aggression. James G. Birney did 
not plant it. Xor Avas he the first who unfurled the ban- 
ner of "political action." Eufus King, Talmadge, and 
others, had unfurled it in 1820 ; Governor Coles, in Illi- 
nois, in 1824 ; Luudy and Raymond, in Maryland, in 1826, 
1827, 1828, and 1229 ; and William Jay, Joshua Leavitt, 
and their coadjutors, in the constitution of the American 
Anti-Slavery Society, in 1833. But when historians shall 
have cleared away the rubbish heaped by vanity, ignorance, 
and family pride upon the facts of the early opposition to 
the slave power, they will award this honor to James G. 
Birney ; that he saw more clearly than any other one man 
of his times the true path, followed it more closely, kept 
the end more steadily in view, and by conunon recognition 


of frii'iulri and enemies, became, ami reinaiiifd until the 
sudden close of his public career, the trusted and honored 
leader of the party of constitutional resistance. 

Some marked changes in the practical oj)erations of 
the national executive committee followed immediately 
upon the removal of Mr. Birney to New York, in Sej)tem- 
ber, 1837. The organization of auxiliary local societies 
by means of agents was discontinued, the cause being 
sufficiently advanced to leave this to the spontaneous 
action of the people. The result was the voluntary for- 
mation of G44: auxiliaries in less than two years, in ad- 
dition to the 1,0UG already existing, and of many other 
societies, not auxiliary. All of these, without distinction, 
were encouraged to be active in independent propa- 
gandism, by means of the circulation of documents, plac- 
ing the best anti-slavery books in town and school libraries, 
and causing their best talkers to take part in debates and 
public discussions on topics relating to slavery. As a 
part of the same policy, the committee resorted to the em- 
ployment of a large number of local agents (Annual Re- 
port, 1838, page 4T). These were most of them profes- 
sional men who lectured in their respective neighborhoods. 
Encouragement was given in the summer of 1837 and the 
ensuing winter to petitioning Congress, with a result of 
414,571 signatures to petitions presented in the House in 
the six months following the 1st of December. After 
that session, it was regarded as safe to leave this means 
also of influencing public opinion to the spontaneous action 
of the people. 

Increased care was given to the character of the publi- 
cations of the society. The year 1838 was remarkable 
for the value and timeliness of the anti-slavery books. 
Among them were the admirable argument of T. D. Weld, 
on the power of Congress to abolish slavery in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia, and his famous book '' Slavery as it is," 


a collection of facts from Southern newspapers ; Thome 
and Kimball's report of the results of emancipation in the 
AVest Indies ; and Judge Jay's view of the " Action of the 
Federal Government in behalf of Slavery." Each of 
these ran tlirough several editions. The number of issues 
in the twelve months ending with April, 1838, was 646,- 
502 ; and in the following year, 724,863. By unceasing 
effort, these were distributed, through agents, friends, 
and societies, into every nook and corner of the Northern 

One of the greatest dangers to the anti-slavery cause 
was warded off by Mr. Birney at the May anniversary of 
the national society, in 1838. Alvan Stewart, Esq., of 
Utica, N. Y., a devoted abolitionist and eloquent speaker, 
had written him that he would offer a resolution to amend 
the society constitution, by striking out the cause assert- 
ing that, by the Constitution of the United States, each 
slave State had the exclusive right to legislate in regard 
to the abolition of slavery in its own limits. He asserted 
the right of Congress to abolish slavery in the South. Mr. 
Birney, on the other hand, believed, with the consensus of 
nearly all jurists, that Congress had no such power in 
time of peace. For four years he had maintained, in 
speech and in the press, that the Constitution had been 
formed by States independent of one another, no one of 
them having any right to legislate on slavery in any other, 
and that such a right could be acquired only by express 
grant; that while by the Constitution freedom was 
stamped as law upon all territory under national jurisdic- 
tion, the States, all * of them being slave-holding in prac- 
tice, had entered in that instrument into no compact, in 

* This has been denied in regard to Massachusetts ; but see " Notes 
on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts," by George H. Moore, pub- 
lishpd by D. Appleton & Co. ; also authorities cited by Mr. Moore in an 
article in the " Historical Magazine," December, 186G. 


regard to slavery in tlie States, except to grant the power 
to Congress to prohibit the importation of skives and sus- 
pend its exercise until 1808 ; and that though what may 
be done by a nation for self-preservation is practically un- 
limited, war powers are not to be regarded as ordinary 
constitutional ones. He thought it revolutionary to hold 
that Congress could establish or abolish slavery in a State, 
and that the passage of Mr. Stewart's resolution would be 
such a radical change in the anti-slavery constitution as 
to amount to a breach of faith with members and would 
greatly damage the cause ; and entreated him not to pre- 
sent it. Mv. Stewart persisted. An arrangement was 
made by Mr. Birney with Judge Juy, under which both 
of them made careful ]ireparation to meet ]\Ir. Stewart's 
arguments. The question was debated for two days and 
was finally decided affirmatively.* The vote stood 46 
yeas to 38 nays. It fell short of the two-thirds vote 
required by the constitution. This unexpected defeat 
greatly shook the confidence of Mr. Birney in the good 
judgment of many of the men who habitually attended 
the annual meetings, not as delegates selected for their 
sound sense, but as volunteers abounding in zeal. From 
that date he redoubled his exertions to popularize the 
movement and make it independent of the influences of a 
central society whose membership and policy were alike 

The famous " Elmore Letter," though written by ^Mr. 
Birney in ^larch, 1838, was not published until nearly the 
last of the following May. The correspondence is of his- 
torical value. Mr. Elmore was a member of the House 
from South Carolina, and an intimate friend of John C. 
Caliioun. In January Mr. Birney had sent an anti-slavery 

* The writer had the good fortune to hear all this debate. It was 
extremely able on both sides. Mr. Garrison was present but said 


publication to Mr. Calhoun with a note, stating that it 
was sent because Mr. Calhoun had appeared more solicit- 
ous than most other Southern jioliticians to get accurate 
information about anti-slavery movements, and adding : 
" We have nothing to conceal, and should you desire any 
information as to our j)rocedure, it will be cheerfully com- 
municated on my being apprised of your wishes." 

This note was handed to Mr. Elmore. Thereupon the 
slave-power Eepresentatives in Congress, after conferring 
together, appointed a committee to obtain authentic infor- 
mation touching anti-slavery associations, and Mr. Elmore 
was selected as the South Carolina member of the com- 
mittee. February IGth Mr. Elmore addressed Mr. Birney 
a courteous letter, quoting from his note to Mr. Calhoun 
and asking full information " as to the nature of yours 
and similar associations." May 5th, in a letter closing the 
correspondence, Mr. Elmore refers as follows to his reasons 
for soliciting the correspondence : 

I heard of you as a man of intelligence, sincerity, and truth — 
who, although laboring in a bad cause, did it with ability and 
from a mistaken conviction of its justice. ... I was induced to 
enter into a correspondence with you, who, by your official station 
and intelligence, were knowm to be well informed on these points, 
and from j-our well-established character for candor and faii-ness 
would make no statements of facts which were not known or be- 
lieved by you to be true. 

This tribute of respect paid by a South Carolina Con- 
gressman to the leading abolitionist of the country, tends 
to exonerate the public men of the South from the 
common imputation of underestimating their opponents. 
There is no doubt that ^Iv. Elmore expressed the senti- 
ment of Mr. Calhoun and the other slave-holding repre- 

In his first letter Mr. Elmore propounded fourteen 
questions, searching and exhaustive in regard to the 


iiaturo, ol)j(.H't, minibers, int'tliods of propagandism, print- 
ing-presses, funds, and hopes of the anti-shivery associa- 
tions. They were answered fully and in their order by 
Mr. Birney. The lucid statements made by him have 
passed into every history of the times ; they need not be 
repeated here. We make an exception, however, of one or 
two expressions in regard to the national Constitution : 

The abolitionists regard the Constitution with unabated affec- 
tion. They hold in no common veneration the memory of those 
who made it. They would be the last to brand Franklin* and 
Kinff and Morris and Wilson and Sherman and Hamilton with 
the ineffaceable infamy of intending to ingraft upon the Consti- 
tution, and therefore to perpetuate, a system of oppression in 
absolute antagonism to its high and professed objects (p. 28). 
... In the political aspect of the question they [the abolition- 
ists] have nothing to ask excej)t what the Constitution authorizes 
— no change to desire but that the Constitution may be restored 
to its pristine repuljlican purity. 

The distance between these sentiments and the motto 
of the " Liberator," " The Federal Constitution — a covenant 
with Death and agreement with Hell," is the measure of 
the chasm that already separated the abolitionists of the 
country from the Garrisonian clique. 

The number of members of anti-slavery societies was 
estimated at one hundred and twelve thousand four hun- 
dred and eighty ; but it was added, that noiv societies are 
"not deemed so necessary for the advancement of our 
cause " (page 7). . . . " Within the last ten months I have 
traveled extensively in both these geographical divisions 

* In a letter to a bosom friend Franklin apologized for consenting to 
a Constitution which left the abolition of slavery in the control of the 
States. He said : " It is a little sop to Cerberus, the best thing that can 
be done at present. It (slavery) can not last long, there is too much 
virtue in the country. As fast as men become honest they will drop 
slavery." He was president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. 


(the Xorthern and Middle free States). I liave had wliat- 
ever advantage this, assisted by a strong interest in the 
general canse and abnndant conversations with the best 
informed abolitionists, could give for making a fair esti- 
mate of their numbers. In the Northern States, I should 
say, they are one in ten; in New York, New Jersey, and 
Pennsylvania, one in tioenty, of the whole adult popu- 

The Elmore correspondence was published in a neat 
pamphlet of sixty-eight pages, in a very large edition, and 
a copy of it was placed in the hands of every public man, 
especially of every Southern member of Congress. 

A large share of Mr. Birney's attention was devoted to 
legislative bodies. In the winter of 1837-38 he visited 
every State capital, from Maine to Ohio and Michigan, in 
which the legislative body was in session, and he obtained 
a hearing everywhere. The results of his labors and of 
more general causes contributing to the rapid extension 
among politicians of sound opinions on slavery and corre- 
lated political questions may be summed up as follows : 
A jury trial was secured in Massachusetts and Connecticut 
to every person claimed as a slave ; Connecticut repealed 
her black act ; and the Legislatures of Maine, Vermont, 
Massachusetts, Ehode Island, New York, Ohio, and Michi- 
gan passed vigorous resolutions in favor of the right of 
petition and against the admission of Texas, every Demo- 
cratic member except one of the Lower House in Ohio, 
voting with the majority. Mr. Birney was encouraged by 
these signs of the times. In the " Annual Eeport " made 
in May, 1838, he said : " We have never for a moment de- 
spaired of republicanism or of our country" (page 97). 

With characteristic energy and tact he applied himself 
to political action to affect the result of the fall elections 
in 1838. Agents lectured in Rhode Island creating a 
popular sentiment that resulted in the election as Governor 


of William Sprugue, the only candidate wlio had placed 
himself squarely on the anti-slavery platform. The earnest 
supi)ort given to Luther liradish, the V>'\n'^ anti-slavery 
candiilate in New York for Lieutenant-Governor, hardly 
sufficed to compensate for the loss of the votes of the pro- 
slavery men of his party. A decided and successful effort 
was made to defeat the re-election of Governor ^'ance, of 
Ohio, who had hastily surrendered John B. Mahan to the 
Governor of Kentucky, to be tried for abducting slaves. 
It was considered very important to keep in the United 
States Senate that noble abolition Democrat Thomas 
Morris, of Ohio ; but this was not found feasible. The 
election of Benjamin Tappan, brother of Arthur and 
Lewis 'J'appan, as Morris's successor, was, liowever, a com- 
promise by the Democratic party with anti-slavery senti- 

The main effort of the campaign was to accomplish the 
return to the House of Representatives of several anti- 
slavery members. ^Ir. Biniey was wont to say : 

One good Congressman can do more for our cause than a hun- 
dred lecturers. lie has almost daily occasions for agitation, and 
he speaks to the whole people. We can reach the South through 
no other means. The slave-holders gain their advantages in na- 
tional politics and legislation, and should be met in every move 
they make. 

"With these views he used freely the agencies under his 
control to influence public o})inion in the Congressional dis- 
tricts represented by John Quincy Adams and by William 
Slade, of Vermont. The election of both these was re- 
garded as certain. It was desirable, however, to give them 
able coadjutors. The nomination by ^lassachusetts Whigs 
of James C. Alvord, who was distinguished as an anti- 
slavery writer and orator, was arranged, and he was elected 
by a large majority, ^[r. Alvord died before taking his 
seat. In the Genesee district (Xew York) the anti-slavery 


voters holding the " bahmce of i)ower," compelled the 
noniiuation of Seth M. Gates, and carried his election tri- 
umjjhautly. Mr. Gates was re-elected in 1840. During 
the four years of his service in Congress he was a tower of 
strength to the abolition cause. In the Western Eeserve 
District, Ohio, settled chiefly by men from Connecticut 
and other Xew England States, the people were opisosed 
to slavery by tradition and education. Abolition lecturers 
from Lane Seminary had visited them in 1834 and 1835 
and enlightened them on the religious aspects of the sub- 
ject. In 183G and 1837 Mr. Biruey, under his matured 
policy of gaining representatives in legislative bodies by 
gaining districts, had sent into the Western Eeserve the 
best political lecturers in the employ of the Ohio Anti- 
Slavery Society. He had himself lectured in the principal 
towns. The eloquent T. D. Weld had traversed every part 
of the district. When Elisha Whittlesey resigned his seat 
in Congress, in 1838, it needed but a few letters to leading 
abolitionists in the district to show them their opportu- 
nity. The Whig managers felt the political necessity of 
nominating a candidate who Avould receive the anti-slavery 
vote. Their convention nominated and the peojjle elected 
Joshua R. Giddings, one of Mr. Weld's converts. From 
the time Mr. Giddings took his seat in Congress he stood 
shoulder to shoulder with William Slade, and both of 
them were in advance of John Quincy Adams. In De- 
cember, 1839, the accession of Seth M. Gates completed 
the " Big Four " of the early anti-slavery agitation in 
Congress. While these successes were Avon by the anti- 
slavery party by the judicious use of the "balance of 
power," defeats and disappointments were the general 
rule. The plan of questioning the candidates nominated 
by Whigs and Democrats was proved by the experience of 
three years to be a mistake. If both the opposing can- 
didates answered fairly, abolitionists voted each for his 


old party ticket ; if they answered defiantly, abolitionists 
stayed at home on election day. In either case no special 
anti-slavery influence was exerted in politics. In nearly 
every instance of the election of a State Legislator or a 
Congressman by an anti-slavery " balance-of-power " vote, 
the otTice-holder regarded his obligations to his party as 
paramount. And as the fixed policy of the AVhig and 
Democratic parties was to conciliate the favor of the slave 
power and secure the vote of the South, members of those 
parties could not redeem pledges made by them to abo- 
litionists. Beginning with 1836, the anti-slavery voters 
were known as a party in politics. For the first three 
years it worked on the radically vicious plan of having no 
candidates of its own, and voting for the least hostile can- 
didates nominated by its enemies ; and in that time it had 
made little progress in gaining representatives in Congress 
and the State Legislatures. The necessity of abandoning 
that plan and adopting the more effective one of nomi- 
nating from its own body, was apparent to those leaders 
who were in earnest to accomplish the proposed end. 
Such a change, it was evident, would cause the falling 
away of talkers who would not vote, and of that large 
class of men who were mananuring for position between 
the anti-slavery and jiro-slavery i)artics ; but a Gideon's 
band was likely to accomplish more than a discordant 

The occasion and one of the causes of !Mr. Birney's 
adoption of the plan of independent nominations was 
the announcement, January 21st, in the House by John 
Quincy Adams, that he was not prepared to favor the abo- 
lition of slavery in the District of Columbia ! He regarded 
this as unfaithfulness. Mr. Adams's usefulness to the anti- 
slavery cause he regarded as ended forever. This opinion 
was justified by the subsequent course of that leading 
"Whig in regard to slavery. This Avas reviewed in 1843 


by ]\rr. Birney over his own signature, with liis accus- 
tomed candor, courage, and power ; and as Mr. Adams 
will not reappear in these pages, we copy from the article 
the following extracts : 

His course, in mj^ judgment, has been eccentric, whimsical, 
inconsistent ; defended in part by weak and inconclusive, not to 
say frivolous, argiunents ; and taken as a whole thus far, is un- 
worthy of a statesman of large views and a right temper in a 
great national conjuncture. 

lie cites facts to prove that, while Mr. Adams had jjro- 
fessed sympathy with the abolitionists, he had ojDposed 
each of their special measures, and that they, in violation 
of their rule, had ]3ut confidence in his words, though flatly 
contradicted by his deeds. 

This departure in Mr. Adams's case from the rule has been 
followed by the consequences that usually attend . . . depart- 
ures from rules which have been deliberately adjusted for the 
management of large affairs. The abolitionists in electing Mr. 
Adams made him their own witness, hoping, like an eager but 
an inexperienced litigant, that his testimony would be favorable 
to them, because he was heard to speak freely of the bad charac- 
ter of their adversary. But the upshot of the matter is that 
everything substantial in his testimony is favorable to their ad- 
versary. To them he gives words — words — words. 

Do the abolitionists assault slavery in Florida — in the District 
of Columbia ? There is Mr. Adams, the main reliance of their 
adversary, placed in his position of power by abolitionists, play- 
ing ' ' fast and loose " at pleasure between the contending parties 
— amusing the one with speeches and letters against slavery, all 
very interesting and eloquent to be sure, but serving the other 
day and night defending the citadel of their abominations. 

Do the abolitionists labor so to correct public sentiment that 
Congress, possessing unlimited discretionary power in the prem- 
ises, shall be persuaded to refuse Florida admission into the 
Union as a slave State ? ^Mr. Adams is unceasingly impressing 
on the public mind that this would be a breach of the national 


Do tluy toil to produce the general conviction that slavery 
can not long withstand tlie influence of a fast rising public senti- 
ment against it { Mr. Adams, in his cold response to the warm 
greetings of the colored population of Cincinnati, assures us that 
"as long as Africa encourages slavery it is impossible to put an 
end to it in America. . . . The abolitionists insist on immediate 
emancipation as the most practicable and safest mode for all par- 
ties.'' Mr. Adams dispatches it as a "moral and physical impos- 
sibility." . . . 

For the logic by which ]\Ir. Adams, after asseverating in almost 
every variety of form our language can supply that no law can 
confer or sanction jrroperty in human leings, has arrived at the 
conclu.sion that this barbarian, brutal usurpation ought to be 
endured at the heart of the Government until the wrong-doers 
voluntarily relinquish their hold on their victims ; that Florida 
ought to be admitted into the Union with a slave-holding Consti- 
tution ; . . . that immediate emancipation is a moral and physi- 
cal impossibility ; that slavery must first be abolished among the 
l^Iohammedan and pagan chiefs of Africa before it can be possible 
to put an end to it in Christian America ; for such logic, I say, I 
can entertain but little respect. . . . Mr. Adams owes much of 
his present popularity —may I not say nearly all— to his connec- 
tion with the anti-slavery agitation. Abolitionists have contrib- 
uted more than any other class of persons to swell the tide of his 
influence. That influence is now active in fortifying against 
them every practicable point at which they have attacked slavery 
in this country, and his ^?/r/«/-sympathy with them gives it an 
independent and unusual force. There is no one who is doing 
so much— I assume not to say it is so intended— to deaden the 
awakening sensibilities of our countrymen against the private 
iniquity and public disgrace of slavery, as Mr. Adams, 

Tliis arraignment of Mr. Adams was made by a nuin 
Avho had supported l)im earnestly up to his sudden change 
of front on tlie 21st of January, 1839. The surprising 
dedaration of Mr. Adams sliook tlic confidence of many 
thoughtful abolitionists in the wisdom of voting for can- 
didates nominated' by the otlior political parties. lie had 
been regarded as the '' faithful among the faithless." The 


idea of independent nominations received anotlier strong 
impulse from Mr. Clay's speech on the ensuing 7th of 
February. lie said : 

It is because these ultra-abolitionists have ceased to employ 
the instruments of reason and persuasion, have made their cause 
political, and have appealed to the ballot-box, that I am induced 
upon this occasion to address you. . . . That is property which 
the law declares to he property. Two hundred years of legisla- 
tion have sanctioned and sanctified negro slaves as property. 

He was answered by tliat stout old abolition Democrat, 
Tliomas Morris, United States Senator from Ohio : 

I have noticed for some time past that many of the public 
prints in this city, as well as elsewhere, have been filled with es- 
says against abolitionists for exercising the right of freemen. 

Both political parties, however, have courted them in private 
and denounced tliem in public, and both have equally deceived 
them. And Avho shall dare say that an abolitionist has no right 
to carry his principles to the ballot-box ? . . . Let me then pro- 
claim here from this high arena to the citizens not only of my 
own State, but to the country, to all sects and parties who are 
entitled to the right of suffrage : To the lallot-lox ! . . . Fear 
not the frowns of power. It trembles while it denounces you. 

Mr. Clay's strong pro-slavery speech shocked the anti- 
slavery Whigs and was the chief cause of his losing the 
party nomination in the following December. Senator 
]\Ion-is's " trumpet call " found the abolition leaders ready 
to buckle on their armor for the battle. The system of 
independent party nominations had already been discussed 
in New York. James G. Birney, Joshua Leavitt, Elizur 
Wright, H. B. Stanton, and others, had declared in its 
favor, and an active private correspondence to promote it 
had already been entered upon with prominent anti-slavery 
men in different parts of the country. In February Alvan 
Stewart urged it upon the executive committee of the New 
York Anti-Slavery Society. About the same time, in a 


private letter to a pruiniiient ubulitionirit, Mr. Jiirncy 
wrote : 

Our political movement heretofore may be compared to the 
wake of a vessel at sea, never increasing in leugtli no matter how 
many thousands of miles she may sail. But the present move- 
ment shows that we have discovered our mistake ; that there is 
enough life and spirit among us to attempt its correction ; that 
we are willing to act as well as to talk, to overshadow with this 
great question minor ones that have for a long time distracted 
portions of our friends and alienated tliem from each other ; and 
that, instead of resting satis-tied with still longer committing our 
sacred cause to the hands of its enemies or of mere partisans who 
almost uniformly thus far have either baffled, befooled, or be- 
trayed us, we have confidence enough in it and in ourselves to 
take the political as well as the otlier parts of it into our own 
keeping and under our own management. I look on the inde- 
pendent party movement as proof not only of the greater force 
and energy of the anti-slavery cause, but of its greater expansion, 
and I am not more surprised at it than I would be at seeing the 
young of a noble bird, grown too large for the nest and feeling 
its strength and courage equal to the attem])t, committing itself 
to the bosom of the air and training its powers in the region of 
thunders and lightnings and storms. 

In this letter Mr. Birney expressed the conviction 
which was felt by that small number of men who, regard- 
ing resistance to the slave power as the paramount politi- 
cal duty of the time, had been as individuals casting their 
votes as the " balance-of-power " party. Having no sepa- 
rate organization they could not act in concert, and in 
general anti-slavery meetings they were greatly outnum- 
bered by men who still adhered to the old political parties 
or who for different reasons Avould not go to the polls. In 
every political campaign the rumor was industriously cir- 
culated that the anti-slavery men would vote every man 
for the candidates of his old party. The mutual distrust 
excited by this prevented the increase of the abolition 


vote. Its gains since 1836 were scarcely perceptible. The 
necessity began to be felt strongly of cutting loose from 
non-voting abolitionists and from those who voted with 
their former parties. The policy of independent anti- 
slavery nominations for State oflftcers and congressmen 
was readily and generally concurred in by voting aboli- 
tionists before the month of July, 1839, the responses to a 
lithographed circular sent out from New York and urging 
it having been for the most part favorable. 

To the nomination of a candidate for the presidency, 
the expenses incident to a national political campaign and 
a thorough organization presented difficulties apparently 
insurmountable. It was therefore not contemplated by 
any respectable number of persons until after Mr. Clay's 
pro-slavery speech in February and the resulting aliena- 
tion from him of anti-slavery Whigs. This apparent de- 
fection looked like a permanent one, and occasioned one 
of equal or larger proportions from the ranks of the 
Democrats. The propriety of national nominations began 
to be talked of. With discussion the sectional policy of 
the Whig and Democratic parties, their unlimited servility 
to the slave power, endangering the republic by the ad- 
mission of new slave States and the erection of slavery 
into the law of the nation, were impressed more deeply 
upon the minds of leading abolitionists as making impera- 
tive the organization of a separate and permanent na- 
tional party upon the principle, " freedom national, slav- 
ery local." 

This tendency of opinion was shown in the resolutions 
passed at a national anti-slavery convention of some five 
hundred delegates held at Albany, N. Y., July, 31, 1839, 
to vote for no man who would not avow his immedia- 
tism, entreating all abolitionists to vote and to adopt such 
a course in respect to presidential nominations as seemed 
best for the cause in each section. In the last proceed- 


ings of tlie coiivt-utioii :i resolution was passed looking to 
independcut iioniinalions for President and Vice-Presi- 
dent. On the :i8th of September following the Monroe 
County (N. Y.) convention adopted a series of resolutions 
and an address in favor of nominating a national ticket 
for abolition suffrages. These were prepared by ^lyron 
llolley, who since the 1st of January of that year had 
taken an active interest in the anti-slavery movement, 
lie was a public man who had earned the gratitude of the 
l^eople of his State by his devotion to its greatest internal 
improvement, the Erie Canal. His public spirit, ardent 
tem})erament, and moving eloquence designated him as a 
proper person to advocate a movement which had already 
been decided upon by Alvan Stewart, Gerrit Smith, AVill- 
iam Goodell, Joshua Leavitt, Elizur AYright, and other 
leading men. 

October 53d, at a national anti-slavery convention of 
four hundred delegates held at Cleveland, Ohio, the sub- 
ject was discussed on a resolution offered by Myron llolley 
proposing a nominating committee ; bt;t, as it had not 
been mentioned in the call and nearly all the delegates 
were from Ohio, the convention being for special objects, 
it was laid on the table, the friends of independent nomi- 
nations voting for this disposition of it. November 13th, 
a State convention of about five hundred delegates met at 
AVarsaw, N. Y., and nnanimoiishj nominated James (t. 
Birney for President. 

This action indicated the strength of the new move- 
ment, but it was not that of a national convention. On 
that ground Mr. Birney declined the nomination. There 
were two other grounds not mentioned — the inexpediency 
of nominating before the Whig party had done so and his 
desire that Judge "William Jay should be the anti-slavery 
standard bearer if it should be necessary to choose one. 
In the event of the nomination of Henry Clay or any 


other sliivo-hokler by the Whigs, he thought tlie AVliig 
abolitionists might be relied on ; but that if the AVliig 
party should nominate General Scott, Avho was known to 
be opposed to the extension of slavery and admission of 
Texas as a slave State, and to be willing to approve a bill 
for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, 
the Wliig abolitionists would support the AVhig candidate. 
This would cause a stampede of Democratic abolitionists 
to their old party, and the independent ticket would fall 
to the ground. 

In view of this state of things, he would not have re- 
garded it as expedient to nominate an indej^endent ticket 
if General Scott had been the Whig candidate. 

Matters remained therefore at a standstill until after 
the Whig convention of December 4th at Harrisburg had 
nominated General William Henry Harrison. It is con- 
ceded by Henry Clay's friends that he was dropped be- 
cause of his unpopularity at the North, caused by his pro- 
slavery speech in February and his identification with the 
cause of the United States Bank. There was in the free 
States a strong repugnance among intelligent men to an 
alliance through Clay between the great moneyed power of 
the country and the slave power of the South. Abolition- 
ists especially feared Clay because he was plausible and 
adroit and would be able not only to procure the admission 
of Texas to the Union, but the division of the territory 
into several slave States. General William H. Harrison 
was nominated without a platform ; but he was a Virgin- 
ian by birth, had antecedents as favoring the re-establish- 
ment of slavery in the Indiana Territory while he was 
Governor there, and had declared the discussion of slavery 
unconstitutional and that " the schemes of the abolition- 
ists were fraught with horrors upon which an incarnate 
devil only could look with approbation." 

Nothing could be hoped for the anti-slavery cause 


from either Harrison or Van I'uren, and there was immi- 
nent danger that if an independent nomination were not 
made the anti-shivery voters would disappear altogether. 
The campaign promised to be one of extraordinary viru- 
lence and vigor on both sides. The Democrats were 
struggling to retain power, but were weakened by the 
numerous defalcations of office-holders and the "hard 
times " caused by the bad condition of the banking system. 
The Whigs were emboldened by the distress of their 
adversaries, and were already preparing to win by a cam- 
paign not of political principles, but of secret anti-slavery 
promises made to be broken and of clamor, log-cabins, 
hard cider, and coon-skins. To the abolitionists it had 
become a vital necessity to keep together. If they were 
swallowed up in the pro-slavery parties their cause was 
lost. Independent nominations were the only means to 
maintain the identity and perpetuation of the anti-slavery 
party in politics. January 28, 1840, a State convention, 
held at Arcade, X. Y., issued a call for a national conven- 
tion to be held April 1st at Albany, X. Y., for the purpose 
of deciding whether nominations should be made for 
President and Vice-President. In spite of a very inclem- 
ent season delegates from six States were present. After 
a full discussion the convention decided to make the 
nominations. In the selection of candidates no one was 
mentioned for the presidency except James G. Birney. 
He was unanimously nominated. Thomas Earle, of Phil- 
adelphia, was put on the ticket as nominee for the vice- 
presidency. No name was given to the new party. For 
several years it was known by sundry names, and in ISl-t 
it was christened " Liberty," which was dropped in 1848 
for "Free Soil." Its organization cleared the abolition 
cause of do nothings, trading politicians, and false friends, 
brought about concert of action, gave to every man some- 
thing practical to do, swelled local contributions, deepened 


interest, put a stop to Xortliern mobs, and increased dis- 
cussion a liundred fold. Mere talkers gave way to work- 
ers. Under the new impulse the old anti-slavery societies 
fell into decay and active local clubs sj)rang up over the 
country. As an independent party opening a convenient 
refuge for the dissatisfied it exerted a largely increased 
infl^^ence over the nominations by the Whigs and Demo- 
crats. The appearance in 2:)olitics of such men as Charles 
Sumner, Henry Wilson, David Wilmot, and Thaddeus 
Stevens, was due to it. At one time the Xew York Barn- 
burners, at another the Wilmot Proviso men came to it, 
and at last, when all reasons for the further existence of 
the Whig party had ceased, that party dissolved. Its pro- 
slavery members found a congenial home in the Demo- 
cratic party, and its freedom-loving members went natu- 
rally into the party formed in 1840 to repel the aggressions 
of the slave power. For many years the bad effects of the 
" balance-of-power " policy in its embryonic days weakened 
the general confidence in the stability of the new party, 
and many looked to see it absorbed into one or the other 
of the old organizations. Xew converts were not stead- 
fast ; but as time wore on it became clearer that the prin- 
ciples of the new party were the only broadly national 
ones, the only ones strong enough to curb the slave power 
and prevent the enslavement of the laboring classes and 
the overthrow of the wages system and of the republic. 
When the slave power attempted to seize upon Kansas, 
the sentiment created by the Free-Soil party was strong 
enough to resist and conquer it. This conflict caused the 
reformation of political parties and the absorption of the 
Whig into the two others. The election of Lincoln, prov- 
ing to the slave power that it could no longer dictate the 
national policy, led to secession. The Government took 
up arms to preserve the Union, and, as one of the means 
to that end, the abolition of slavery in the States was ef- 


fected cliiefly by militury power. Tliough slavery was the 
cause of the war, the United .States did not take up arms 
for the purpose of abohshing it. If the controlling power 
in the slave States had been willing in 18G0 to accept re- 
striction of slavery to its existing limits, freedom in the 
Territories, in all new States, and in tlie District of Colum- 
bia, it is probable that slavery would still exist in the 
Southern States. The final abolition of it was a political 
not a moral measure, adopted for national unity and 
peace, not as benevolence to the negroes ; but it became 
necessary, because the slave power would not submit to 
the reasonable and constitutional policy declared in the 
constitution of the American Anti - Slavery Society in 
1833, by the Anti-Slavery party in 1840, the Liberty party 
in 1844, the Free-Soil party in 1848 and 1852, and the 
liepul)liean party in 1850 and 1800. 

Many volumes have been written on the history of the 
anti-slavery political movement between 1840 and 1862. 
The jdan of this sketch does not embrace that period. 

A brief notice of the cam])aign of 1844 will close the 
political ])ortion of our task. 

^riie three candidates for the presidency were James 
K. Polk, Henry Clay, and for the abolitionists, James G. 
Birney, who had again been unanimously nominated by a 
national convention. Mr. Polk carried seven free, and 
ei(/Jii slave States and a popular majority of about 39,000; 
Mr. Clay carried /i' ye free, and six slave States; and 02,300 
votes were returned * for Mr. Birney. After the election 
the claim was made by Horace Greeley that the abolition- 
ists ought all to have voted for Mr. Clay, and if they had 

* A few thousand votes more were certainly given ; but the election 
laws were weak, party spirit hijrh, and the judges were all Whigs or 
Democrats. From many precincts where abolitionists had voted no 
votes were returned ; from Rhode Island, where many abolition votes 
had been cast, only five were returned. 


done so Mr. Clay Avonld liave been elected. Mr. Greeley 
had tlie manliness to retract this afterward and to attribute 
Mr. Clay's defeat to the right cause * — his pro-slavery 
record and his several disingenuous letters on the Texas 
question ; but the claim is still made by some superficial 
politicians. It might be answered in the same spirit by 
saying that if all who voted for Clay had voted for Birney 
the latter would have been elected ; and that if the 874,534 
AVhigs who voted for Fillmore in 1850 had voted for 
Fremont the latter would have been elected. Such hy- 
potheses are puerile. A better answer is that if the abo- 
litionists had all voted for Clay the strong jorobability is 
that, with his tact and personal and official influence, he 
would have i^robably secured the admission of Texas as 
five or more slave States, and thus given the joolitical pre- 
ponderancy to the slave States. This would have been 
the logical extension of his record in gaining the admission 
of Missouri as a slave State and the congressional recogni- 
tion of slavery in Arkansas. The true and sufficient 
answer is that the abolitionists were engaged in laying 
the foundations of a jiermanent national party and ought 
not to have abandoned that work for any transient reason 
whatever. Their action has been fully justified by the 
subsequent triumph of the Republican party. 

The contest of 1844 was one of the most closely con- 
tested in the history of presidential elections. As the 
campaign waxed hot and chances were seen to be about 

* In 1860 Mr. Greeley in a letter to Hiram Ketchum, published in the 
" Tribune," referred to the Whig defeat of 1844 thus : " Unfortunate as 
you and I thought because Mr. Clay interposed to deranpe our order of 
battle and prevent our fighting it on the anti-slavery ground we had 
chosen." In the " Tribune" of January T, 1864, Mr. Greeley wrote: "It 
has long been my decided conviction that but for Mr. Clay's own unfor- 
tunate and sadly perverted letters to Alabama, with regard to the annexa- 
tion of Texas, his election could not have been prevented." 


oqiuil, Democrats and AVhigs alike appealed to the anti- 
slavery men for votes. As the election drew near and Clay's 
chances were seen to be growing less, the appeals of the 
AVhigs became almost frantic. Horace Greeley, then a 
violent Whig partisan, but who had for years, in the New 
York " Tribune," adopted a friendly tone toward the abo- 
litionists, and who had thought himself able to deliver 
their votes to his chief, Mr. Clay, redoubled his entreaties, 
arguments, and appeals. David Lee Child, editor of the 
" Anti-Slavery Standard," the Garrisonian organ at Xew 
York, threw his influence jiublicly for Clay. The Whig 
papers abounded in false statements. Mr. Birney was 
abused and cajoled by turns. The last resort of the 
Whigs was the " Garland forgery," concocted by the Whig 
Central Committee of Michigan. It purported to be a 
letter from James G. Birney to one Garland, a resident of 
his legislative district in Michigan, soliciting the Demo- 
cratic nomination for the Legislature, and declaring his 
democracy and his intention to defeat Henry Clay. It 
purported to be duly sworn to and to be printed on an 
extra of the " Oakland Gazette." This infamous docu- 
ment was printed at New York by the Whigs in immense 
quantities, and sent in packages to active AVhigs in every 
county in the Northern States, with instructions not to 
circulate it until after the 1st of November. In western 
New York it was withheld until the 3d, on which day it 
was known that Mr. Birney, who had been in the State 
for about a month, expected to leave Buffalo in a steam- 
boat for Detroit. Owing to the accidental detention of 
the boat, he did not leave on that day, and a copy of the 
forgery fell into his hands. As far as possible he contra- 
dicted it ; but it was too late to expose the political crime 
fully. In those days railroads and telegraph lines were 
few. The " National Intelligencer," " Portland Adver- 
tiser," and " Ohio State Journal " were among the jiapers 


that published this forgery, and tlie Whig State Com- 
mittee of Indiaaa issued a public address containing it ; 
but the original contrivers of the forgery were doubtless 
at New York. The probable knowledge by Horace Gree- 
ley of this electioneering trick and the evasiveness of his 
disclaimer put an end to the friendly relations between 
him and ]\Ir. Birney. Mr. Greeley gave orders that Mr. 
Birney's name should not be mentioned in the " Tribune " 
thereafter,* and carefully avoided all mention of it in his 
large work on the history of the anti-slavery conflict, ex- 
cept in the election returns. His malice ended only with 
Mr. Birney's death. The effect of the " Garland forgery " 
probably was to diminish Mr. Birney's vote at least half. 
In Ohio, where it was not exposed except in one or two 
counties of the northeastern part of the State, Mr. Birney 
lost several thousand votes, most of which went to Mr. 
Clay. The "Whigs carried the State by a plurality of more 
than six thousand. In New York the Whigs gained 
largely, cutting down to 15,812 the Liberty party vote of 
16,275 cast in 1843 at the State election. In spite of the 
forgery the Liberty party polled 62,203 votes in all the 

This campaign was the last in Mr. Birney's public 
career ; it left the party well organized, harmonious, hope- 
ful, and nearly nine hundred per cent stronger than in 
1840. What it might have accomplished under his wise 
and able leadership, if his health had been spared, how 
many false moves and schisms it would have avoided, can 
only be conjectured. In the summer of 1845 he was dis- 
abled by an accident. From that time to his death he 
was an invalid. He had given twelve years of his life to 
save the country of his love from slavery, disunion, and 

* This is stated on the authority of Mr. Robert Carter, then one of 
the sub- editors of the " Tribune." 


civil war. Becoming aware in IHXl of the dreams of 
political ascendency in the Union or of secession and a 
Soutliern empire cherished by the leaders of the slave- 
l)()wer, he had devoted himself to the task of transforming 
Kentucky and Virginia into free States. Finding it too 
late to accomplish this or to maintain a foothold in his 
native State, and that liberty in the Northern States was 
menaced, he addressed himself to the task of arousing the 
country to a sense of its danger. After the freedom of 
mails and of the press was made sure, he strove to rally 
the North against the extension of slavery. The weak- 
ness shown by Northern Congressmen in the admission of 
Arkansas, in 1836, was to him ominous of further disas- 
ters in the probable admission of Florida and Texas as 
slave States. With each added slave State, he knew that 
the aggressiveness of the slave power would be increased 
and the peaceable solution of the slavery question made 
more improbable, lie tlid not doubt that slavery would 
go down, if the Union were dissolved ; but he knew it 
would go down in blood. For his country, he feared the 
horrors of civil war. Hence the intensity of his reproba- 
tion of John Quincy Adams for refusing to vote against 
the admission of Florida as a slave State and for the 
abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Such 
weakness he regarded as contributing to the chances of 
civil war — it was imstatesmanlike and unpatriotic. Mr. 
liirney knew Southern men, their aspirations, plans, and 
power, better than any other leading abolitionist. He 
never depreciated them. If he had succeeded in the 
movement to exclude Florida and Texas as slave States, 
and to stamp freedom upon the national territory and 
national policy, the civil war, with its horrors, might have 
been averted. The last years of his life were saddened by 
the thought that slavery would not be peaceably abol- 



The facts already narrated illustrate some of the quali- 
ties of James G. Birney. They do not show the whole 
man. From the date of his first marriage to the death of 
his wife in 1839, he lived with her in harmony and love. 
His manner to her was always expressive of respect and 
affection. The children were taught to honor and obey 
her. There was no divided authority. Her orders were 
never interfered with. She was his best friend, aiding 
him with her counsel and encouraging him with her sym- 
pathy. In his moods of depression — for he Avas human 
and subject to discouragement — she would sit by him, 
clasping his hands in hers, and read to him softly from 
the Psalms of David or the promises of Scripture. This 
chased away the evil spirit. How much of his strength 
and courage he owed to her brave heart the world can 
never know. 

In early manhood he spent much of his time with his 
children. lie joined them in their boyish sports, taught 
them many games of manly exercise, and entered heartily 
into their glee. His uncommon bodily activity made him 
enjoy running, jumping, and the games at ball then in 
vogue. He showed them how to ride and to row, to make 
bows and arrows, snares and traps, to handle the shot-gun, 
and to hunt game. A broad veranda in the rear of his 
dwelling was used for play in rainy weather, being fur- 


nished ^villl swings ami trapezes, hattledores aiul sliuttle- 
cocks. He was fond of music and played the flute. In 
every innocent way, home was made attractive to the 

After he began his career against slavery, his cheerful 
religious faith gradually deepened into Puritan gravity, 
the joyous com])anion gave way to the earnest man, and 
^he children pursued their sports without his guidance. 
Hut to them he w'as always the object of love and venera- 
tion. His W'ishes were their law, the penalty of rare viola- 
tion being a look varying from grave to severe. The art of 
command was to him a natural faculty. As he grew older 
and years of conflict began to tell on him, he was less 
demonstrative of affection, but the undercurrent ran 
always deep and strong. To his only surviving daughter,* 
he gave his whole heart. When she was ten years old, 
the writer, passing through Detroit, where she was at 
boarding-school, found her on the eve of an unexpected 
holiday and took her with him to Bay City. She was not 
expected. AYe reached our father's house after dark, and 
seeing a light in the study, tapped at the door. Florence 
entered first. When her father saw her, he clasped her to 
his breast and sobbed as if his heart would break with joy. 
It was the only time the writer ever saw him lose utterly 
his self-control. His love for the motherless little girl 
was one of the deep passions of his strong nature. 

In the spring of 1841, he married Miss Fitzhugh, the 
sister of Mrs. Gerrit Smith, and reassembled his younger 
children under his own roof-tree. This marriage, also, 
was a happy one. The lady had a large property. This 
w-as secured by !Mr. Birney, against her expressed wishes, 
to her separate use and control ; and he ever after re- 
frained from using any part of it, or doing anything in 

* Now Mrs. Florence B. Jennison, of Bay City, Michigan. 


regard to it, except advising as to investmcuts and man- 

His own fortune, largely increased by judicious invest- 
ments after leaving Kentucky, was mostly spent in his 
public career. When he returned from England in 
November, 1840, he found his means so much reduced 
that it was necessary for him to replenish. He effected 
this by purchasing a large quantity of land on the Sagi- 
naw River, Michigan. Part of it is now within the limits 
of the flourishing Bay City. The rise in value of these 
lands placed him in comfortable circumstances and en- 
abled him to convey, during his life, a moderate property 
to each of his children, reserving enough for his own 
ample support. He thought this much better than devis- 
ing it to them by will. In his business arrangements, he 
was exact. His papers were drawn with legal skill, and 
his bargains were made so clearly that differences were 
avoided. So far as the writer knows, Mr. Birney was 
never party to a civil suit, either as plaintiff or de- 
fendant. Between 1840 and 1845 he sold in small par- 
cels, partly for cash and partly on time, some fifteen thou- 
sand acres of land in western Ohio and eastern Indiana. 
Many of the purchasers defaulted on the deferred pay- 
ments, and some had lost their bonds for title ; but he 
had duplicates of the papers, and the wliole business was 
adjusted without complaint on the part of the debtors. 
He was^a generous creditor. 

Very early in life he adopted the maxim, "Pay as 
you go." He had no store accounts, no small debts, 
except the grocer's bill, which was paid weekly or 
monthl}^ He gave no notes, except on large transac- 
tions, and these were met punctually. So were the wages 
of employes. 

We copy from the " Life of Birney," published in 1844, 
the followinsr : 


In Au<j;ust, 1839, Mr. Birney's father closed his earthly career. 
A father and a son — an only son — seemed to have regarded each 
other with a true and tender love. The great enterprise to 
which the latter was devoted and which could not be endured in 
Kentucky liad for a long tinxe withdrawn them from each" other's 
presence. Just before his fatlier's death, Mr. Birney visited him 
and was received by him, as well as by otlier friends, with all 
cordiality. lie was intent on making such arrangements as 
would bring his son into the bosom of his old age, where he 
might feel the soothing and sustaining influence of his many 
virtues. But all such designs, however warmly cherished, death 
defeated. In the division of his father's estate, his slaves — twentj'- 
in number — were, at Mr. Birney's request, all set off to him ; 
and set oil to him that to their benefit he miglit apply the prin- 
ciples by which he was controlled. Accordingly, he at once re- 
stored to them the freedom of which they had been robbed. The 
deed through which their emancipation was effected — a sub- 
stantial and ever enduring monument of his philanthropy, a de- 
cisive and emphatic proof of his wisdom and integrity — can not 
be read without the most grateful emotion and the most heathful 
impressions. Here it is : 

Know all men by these presents, 

Thtt, /, James O. Birney, late of Kentucky, hut now having my 
residence in the city of New J'o/-^, believing that slave-holding is 
inconsistent with natural justice, with the precepts and spirit of 
the Christian religion, and with the Declaration of American In- 
dependence, and wishing to testify in favor of them all, do here- 
by emancipate, and forever set free, the following named slaves 
which have come into my possession as one of the heirs of my 
father, the late James Birney, of Jefferson County, Kentucky, 
they being all the slaves held by said James Birney, deceased, at 
the time of his death. 

Then follow their names and descrijitious, and the 
deed concludes : 

In testimony of the above, I have hereunto set my name and 
affi.xed my seal this third day of Sei)tember, in the year of our 
Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-nine. 

[seal.] James G. Birney. 


The only condition on which he could effect this ar- 
rangement with his co-heir was that twenty thousand dol- 
lars should be set off against the value of the slaves. This 
was much in excess of their value in the market. He 
knew them all well and that they expected freedom for 
such of them as should be inherited by him, and he was 
unwilling to abandon any of them to the chances of slav- 
ery. He did not leave Kentucky befors he had procured 
employment and made a moderate pecuniary provision 
for them all, and in after years he ever took a kindly in- 
terest in their welfare. 

In manner, language, and action he was always natu- 
ral. There was no approach to affectation or eccentricity. 
He had the refinement which comes from usage in society, 
extensive knowledge, absence of selfishness, regard for 
the rights of others, and a strong feeling of piety. He 
had no egotism. Without ajjpearing to avoid it he never 
spoke of himself except when necessary. In all his public 
life he never compared himself with his fellow- workers in 
the anti-slavery cause. It is true that, in a report of re- 
marks made in 1837 by ^Mr. Walker at an anti-slavery 
convention in Boston, Mr. Birney is represented as having 
said that his " trumpet would never have roused the coun- 
try. Garrison alone could do it." Some statement of the 
kind may have been made by Mr. AValker or it may have 
been due to the zeal and imagination of the secretary, Mr. 
Garrison, or the person who condensed his long speech 
into a few lines. ]Mr. AValker's object was to obtain aid 
and relief for the " Liberator," which was then in a mori- 
bund condition, and Mr. Birney's indorsement was a valu- 
able one. Mr. Walker must have spoken from hearsay 
among the friends of Mr. Garrison, with whom trumpet 
and trumpet call were pet phrases. He gave neither time 
nor place nor occasion of the imputed remark, and Mr. 
Birney was in the West when Mr. Walker made his speech. 


No one wlio knew ^h: Birncy would believe that he ever 
spoke of his "trumpet" or com])art'(l himself with any 
otlier worker in the abolition cause. His modesty and 
dignity both forbade it. 

That he ever approved the peculiar methods of Mr. 
Garrison is untrue. In 1833, in a published essay, he 
had applied the term "rhapsodies" to Mr. Garrison's 
" Thoughts " (see page 120). In 1835, in a speech at Bos- 
ton, he had deprecated the use of personalities by anti- 
slavery writers, and the implied estimate of Mr. Garrison 
was never modified in any of his letters, reports, speeches, 
or pamphlets. If he had changed his opinion he was 
magnanimous enough to say so, and there were numerous 
occasions when he might have done so publicly ; but his 
kindness of heart never led him to say or write what he 
did not believe. 

He took pleasure in speaking well of prominent anti- 
slavery men and of their writings and labors. There was 
no trace of jealousy in his nature. He was appreciative 
of the talents of Bailey, Chase, Sumner, the Tappans, 
Weld, Stanton, Phelps, Alvan Stewart, Samuel Lewis, 
Goodell, and others. The fiery poetry of Whittier awak- 
ened all his enthusiasm, and the pathetic tenderness of 
Mrs. Stowe touched his sensibilities. In regard to Mr. 
Garrison, however, he was silent. The only departure 
from this course remembered by the writer was in his 
answer to an urgent demand by a friend for his opinion. 
It was, in effect, that Mr. Garrison was sincere in his con- 

He cultivated social relations with anti-slavery leaders. 
For them he kept open house after the fashion of old 
Kentucky hospitality. Xearly all of them were his guests 
during his residence in New York. Among the few ex- 
ceptions Mr. Garrison must be numbered. 

A remarkable peculiarity in Mr. Birney's character 


was his freedom from censoriousness. On religious prin- 
ciple he judged not. In his family he discountenanced 
disparaging remarks about acquaintances. Gossip was 
offensive to him. Thinking evil, he was wont to say, 
grows on us by speaking of it. Avoid both.* 

Mr. Birney had no quarrels with his coadjutors. He 
had no slights to resent, no controversies to fight out, no 
personal grievances to avenge. He was true to his 
friends and they were true to him. To the enemies of 
his cause he was urbane and just. In all his relations 
with his fellow-men he well sustained " the grand old 
name of gentleman." 

He had no personal vanity. Though he kept himself 
in vigorous physical condition and was always faultless in 
his dress, he was shy of daguerreotypers, photographers, 
portrait painters, and sculjDtors. The only two engravings 
of him were both made without his knowledge or consent 
— the first from a replica surreptitiously made by the artist 
of a portrait,! for which he sat at the request of a very 
dear friend, a wealthy merchant of Cincinnati, who wanted 
it for his parlor, and the second from a daguerreotype 
taken for a friend in New York. AVhile he esteemed 
highly the appreciation of good men he was not accessible 
to flattery, and his look of amused surprise was enough to 
arrest at once the gushing language of a sycophant. In 
the days of his celebrity he received many poems of jn-aise, 
printed and written, from enthusiastic admirers ; but he 

* Garrison's sons (1 G., pacrc 431) charge Mr. Birney with having been 
active in " poisoning the English mind against Mr. Garrison '• in 1840. No 
proof is given, and the charge is absurd. Garrison had discredited him- 
self in England by refusing to sit in the World's Convention because it 
declined to admit women as members and by taking at its daily meetings 
a conspicuous position in the gallery with the rejected women around 
him. This attitudinizing for notoriety was not pleasing to the English. 

f See frontispiece. 


published iioue of them aud preserved none except W'hit- 
tier's. He used to say that a reformer was like an orator, 
unable to do liis best work unless he was wholly uncon- 
scious of the " little me." lie assumed no honors not his 
due antl ilid not permit them to be thrust u])on him. On 
one occasion he entered the World's Convention while 
O'Connell was speaking. The Irish orator, who had con- 
ceived a high regard for him, welcomed him with, " I see 
my friend Judge Birney coming in." The answer came 
promptly, " I am not a judge." " You well deserve to be 
one," replied O'Connell amid the cheers of the audience. 

Mr. Birney was one of the vice - presidents of the 
World's Convention of 18-40, having been unanimously 
designated for that honor by the American delegates. His 
reputation as an honorable presiding officer had been al- 
ready established. He had in rare degree that combina- 
tion of dignity, firmness, courtesy, promptitude of de- 
cision, tact, and knowledge of parliamentary rules which 
enables a man to guide the proceedings of large delibera- 
tive bodies, a combination which few speakers of the 
American House of Eepresentatives, except Henry Clay 
and James Gillespie Blaine, have possessed. The last act 
of his public life was to preside over the Southern aud 
Western Liberty Convention, held at Cincinnati, June 11th 
and 12th, 1845. Two thousand delegates were present 
and as many more spectators. A stormy discussion was 
anticipated over the proposed " Address to the People of 
the United States." This important paper had been pre- 
pared mainly by the Hon. S. P. Chase, and had been sub- 
mitted by him to the executive committee of the Ohio 
Liberty party. Several members of that committee, the 
writer included, had strongly disapproved certain passages 
which they thought would be interpreted as overtures to 
the Democratic party for coalition. Mr. Chase was well 
known to favor such a movement. Under the counsel of 


Mr. Birney, who had read Mr. Chase's paper, a motion 
was passed to appoint a committee to prepare an address 
to the people. That body promptly expurgated Mr. 
Chase's production and reported it without mention of 
the omitted passages. It was adopted by acclamation. 
As published it is one of the best political essays of the 

The convention, under the wise guidance of Mr. Bir- 
ney, was a gigantic and harmonious popular demonstra- 
tion. Arthur Tappan was accustomed to say of Mr. Bir- 
ney that he was the best presiding officer in the country 
for large conventions. 

An amusing account, somewhat colored by prejudices 
contracted by the author in her after life, is given of 
him by Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the leader of the 
woman's suffrage movement, in her recently published 
" Reminiscences." The reader should bear in mind that 
Henry B. Stanton was one of Mr. Birney's most intimate 
friends, that the two were on their way to a convention 
composed chiefly of grave Englishmen, and that the young 
wife was a spirited American girl, whose gay and frolic- 
some humor was not restrained by conventionalities. She 
has forgotten to put into her " Reminiscences " the fact 
that on a public occasion she had pinned jiapers to her 
husband's coat and joined in the laugh at his expense. 
Imagine her doing such a thing at the World's Conven- 
tion I She certainly " needed considerable toning down 
before reaching England." Mr. Birney enjoyed her play- 
ful badinage very much, and ever after spoke of her with 
high appreciation of her intellect and kind regard for her 
personally. He gave her credit, too, for being the pink of 
propriety while in England. Here is what Mrs. Stanton 
says : 

* See edition of 1867, published by Bancroft & Co., Philadelphia. 


James G. Birney, the anti-slavery nominee for the presidency, 
joined us in New York, and was a fellow-passenger on tlie Mon- 
treal for England. He and my imsband were alike delegates to 
the World Anti-Slavery Convention, and alike interested them- 
selves in my anti-slavery education. They gave me books to 
read, and as we jjaced the deck day by day it was the chief 
theme of our conversation. 

Mr. Birney was a polished gentleman of the old school, and 
excessively proper and punctilious in manner and conversation. 
I soon perceived that he thought I needed considerable toning 
down before reaching England. I was quick to see and under- 
stand that his criticisms of others in a general way, and the drift 
of his discourses on manners and conver.'^ation had a nearer appli- 
cation than lie intended I should discover, though he hoped I 
would profit by them. I was always grateful to any one who 
took an interest in my improvement, so I laughingly told him 
one day that he need not make his criticisms any longer in that 
roundabout way, but take me squarely in hand and polisli me 
up as speedily as possible before the end of the voyage. Sitting 
in the saloon at night, after a game of chess, in which per- 
chance I had been the victor, I felt complacent, and would 
sometimes say : 

" Well, what have I done or said to day open to criticism ?" 

So, in the most gracious manner, he replied, on one occasion : 

"You went to mast-head in a chair, which I think very 
unladylike ; still worse, you rolled up a bread-ball at dinner and 
hit Captain Montgomery square on the nose. I heard you call 
your husband ' Henry ' in the presence of strangers, which is not 
permissible in polite society. Y^ou should always say ' Mr. Stan- 
ton.' Y'ou have taken three moves back in this game." 

"Bless me," I replied, " what a catalogue in one day I I 
fear my mentor will despair of my ultimate perfection." 

"I should have more hope," he replied, "if you seemed to 
feel my rebukes more deeply, but you evidently think them of too 
little consequence to be much disturbed over them." . . . 

As the voyage lasted eighteen days — for we were in an old- 
fashioned sailing-vessel — we had time to make some improve- 
ment, or at least to consider all friendly suggestions. However, 
as we traveled with Mr. Birney for nine months in England, 


Scotland, and France, and liad tlic advantage of liis strict ideas 
of etitiuetto at every turn, we really were improved in manj' minor 
points of manner we had considered unimportant. Mr. Birney 
often quoted Chesterfield's remarks. Being asked the secret of 
success in life, he replied : "It depends, more than any one thing, 
on manner, manner, manner." Hence I conjure all my young 
readers to cultivate polite affable manners. . , . 

When within sight of the distant shore a pilot-boat came 
along and offered to take any one ashore in six hours. I was so 
delighted at the thought of seeing land that after much per- 
suasion Mr. Stanton and Mr. Birney consented to go. Accord- 
ingly we were lowered into a boat in an ann chair, with a lunch- 
eon consisting of cold chicken, a bottle of wine, and a few 
pickles. Thus provisioned, we started with just wind enough for 
that light craft in the direction we were going ; but instead of 
six hours we were all day, and as the twilight deepened and the 
last breeze died away the pilot said : ' ' We are now only two 
miles from shore, but the only way you can reach there to-night 
is by a row-boat." 

As we had no provisions left and nowhere to sleep, we were 
glad to avail ourselves of the row-boat. It was a bright moonlight 
night, the air balmy, the waters smooth, and with two good, 
stout oarsmen we glided swiftly along. As Mr. Birney made the 
last descent and seated himself, doubtful as to our ever reaching 
the shore, turning to me, he said, " The woman tempted me and 
I did leave the good ship." However, we did reach the shore 
at midnight and landed at Torquay, one of the loveliest spots in 
that country, and our journey to Exeter the next day lay through 
the most beautiful scenery in England. 

While iu England Mr. Birney visited different parts of 
the kingdom and addressed audiences under the auspices 
of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. In an- 
swer to a claim made in hehalf of the American churclics 
that their influence was thrown against slavery, he pub- 
lished in a London daily paper authentic evidence of pro- 
slavery acts of some of the leading churches. It is be- 
lieved that no error of diminution, exaggeration, or mis- 


Btatcment was ever attributed to this document. He was 
careful to give due credit to several sects for their anti- 
slavery action. In conclusion he asked the reader to — 

bear in mind that the foregoing presents but one side of the 
anti-slavery cause in the several churches whose proceedings have 
been considered, and that in them all there are abolitionists 
earnestly laboring to purify them from the defilements of slavery 
and that they have strong encouragement to proceed. . . . Last- 
ly, we take pleasure in assuring him that there are considerahle 
portions of the Methodist, Bajjtist, and Presbytei-ian Churches, as 
well as the entire membership of some of the smaller religious 
bodies in America, that maintain a commendable testimony 
against slavery and its abominations. 

Tills is the language of a friend of the Church, anxious 
for purity first, then peace. The article made a sensa- 
tion. It was published in pamphlet-form in London, and 
was subsequently republished in several editions in this 

When Parker Pillsbury, Garrison, S. S. Foster, and 
others, made their onslaught on the Church itself, they 
sought to cover themselves under the authority of Mr. 
Birney and identify him with their cause. Tiiey made 
some impression on the public mind by quoting the title 
which luid been given to the pamphlet, " The American 
Churches the Bulwarks of American Slavery." This quo- 
tation was misleading. Mr. Birney had no sympathy with 
^Ir. Pillsbury and his associates. Up to 18-40 it was prob- 
ably true that ninety-nine abolitionists out of a hundred 
were church-members and that the clergy as a body con- 
tained more abolitionists than any other class in propor- 
tion to their nuiuljcr. This was recognized fully by Mr. 

After he left England, the executive committee of the 
British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society passed the fol- 
lowinjr resolution : 


That this committee are deeply sensible of the services ren- 
dered to the anti-slavery cause by their esteemed friend and co- 
adjutor James Gillespie Birney, Esq., while in this country, in a 
course of laborious efforts, in which his accurate and extensive 
information, his wise and judicious counsels, and his power of 
calm and convincing statement, have become eminently con- 

He shared the hospitalities of many of the eminent 
men of England and became widely known. Two years 
afterward President Kellogg, of Illinois, traveled through 
England. On his return he described as follows the im- 
pression left there by Mr. Birney : 

It was truly refreshing to me while I was in Great Britain, 
amid the many complaints against my countrymen to which I 
was obliged to listen, to hear our excellent friend James G. Bir- 
ney so frequently spoken of and always in terms of unqualified 
approbation and respect. The mention of his name in those cir- 
cles in which he was known, and they were both numerous and 
extensive, invariably imparted pleasure, and many were the in- 
quiries which were made in respect to his welfare. I could not 
but observe that intelligent men both in England and Scotland 
very highly appreciated him for that trait in his character which 
I have always from my first acquaintance with Mr. Birney re- 
garded as exhibited by him in a remarkable degree. You will 
doubtless understand me as referring to his candor. He never 
deals in exaggeration or sophistry. In his public addresses and 
discussions, which were numerous in that country as well as in 
his private conversations, by the sobriety of his own views, by 
the fairness and fullness with which he stated the positions and 
arguments of his opponents, and by the manliness with which he 
met and refuted them, he ever impressed his auditors with a con- 
viction of the soundness of his sentiments and of the perfect re- 
liance which might be placed upon his statements. The visits of 
such men to foreign lands are an honor to our country, and leave 
behind them a savor which is grateful to an American citizen. 

The quality of character which made such a lasting 
impression on the English was recognized by his own 


eountrvmeii. Tlic Kev. Bcriuh (ircon, D. D., writing of 
liim in 1S44, testified as follows: 

lie had access to <rrcat numbers of his fellow-citizens, upon 
whom he was enabled to urge the claims of the enslaved. The 
iutluence he exerted was as benign as it was powerful. His in- 
telligence, truthfulness, and candor, his magnanimity and fidel- 
ity, all who had the privilege of an acquaintance with him were 
not a little struck with. They were admitted to be noteworthy 
traits of his character. He was generally listened to with re- 
spectful attention. If his doctrines were not subscribed to his 
character ^Yas admired. We well remember that an old lawyer 
from New England, after a discussion with him on points on 
which they were at variance, exclaimed, " lie is the most candid 
man I ever saw ! " On those who were often in his presence and 
enjoyed his confidence his words and deeds made the impression 
of great wisdom. They looked up to him for counsel. Wher- 
ever he applied his hand they expected well-advised plans and 
valuable results. 

In funiiliar conversation he was a sympathetic listener 
and good talker. A delicate humor, inherited it may be 
from his Irish ancestors, a gentle irony pointing a repartee 
or suggesting an argument, a human interest in all sub- 
jects, and entire freedom from biting sarcasm, scandal, and 
censoriousness made him a delightful companion. He 
was not a man of one idea. Intelligent women liked to 
talk with him. Sometimes he was epigrammatic, con- 
densing much wisdom in a few words. To one of his 
sons he said : 

When you are conscious that it will gratify you to say some- 
thnig to the discredit of another don't say it. 

To a man who asked him why he did not go South to 
fight slavery, he answered : 

If a man were hired to kill a den of venomous snakes it 
would show that he was insane if he jumped into the den. 

His opinion of good story-tellers was thus expressed : 


One who can keep the whole company in u roar while the 
muscles of his own face are entirely under his control ought not 
to be sought as a friend. He will be found wanting in heart. 

His views on the civil service were in advance of his 
times : 

Rotation in office is radically unsound as a dogma. Offices 
are created for the ^lublic good, not for the incumbents. 

He admired Daniel O'Connell as a man, but thought he 
failed because he had made the mistake of relying on the 
Roman Catholic Church as his main auxiliary. Said he : 

O'Connell has had his heels tripped up by the politicians. 
Peel, and the Pope, and he must submit to it. 

He criticised Daniel Webster for eulogizing the de- 
ceased General Jackson, and thought it inconsistent with 
Webster's declaration in 1830 that " Jackson always looked 
as if he were anxious to escape from the society of gentle- 
men," and also with Webster's published opinions respect- 
ing Jackson's Administration. 

The following illustrates his shrewdness of observation : 

An eccentric man, one affectedly so, is pleased with your no- 
tice of his peculiarities. One who is really so laments them and 
is mortified when they are pointed out to him, looking on them, 
as they truly are, as evidences of a want of good sense. 

One or two other sayings of his must close our se- 
lection : 

"Working for the benefit of the human race is a surer path to 
true fame than high office is. Jesus Christ is better known than 
Pontius Pilate. . . . Moral suasion, as it is called, is about as in- 
effectual and ridiculous as any plan can be for putting down 
slavery. It makes its advocates appear as if they were very ig- 
norant of men, of large affairs, or of the just powers of govern- 
ment. It is only fit for visionaries. . . . The Whig party in 
Congress gives what men and money Mr. Polk calls for to carry 


on with Mexico a war wliich tlicv say is unconstitutional. This 
is a mistake. Mr. Polk will he as sure to concjuer Mexico and 
compel her to give a large portion of her territory to us as a re- 
muneration for our expenses as might prevails over right ; and in 
final .success the nation will condone his faults. 

In endeavoring to present the leading traits of one so 
dear we liave deferred to the prejudices of general readers 
against biographies written under the bias of filial affec- 
tion and relied upon facts and the representations of 
friends who knew him. AVe close this part of our subject 
with an extract from page 116 of the "Life of Birney," 
written by Beriah Green, President of Oneida Institute, 
New York : 

An affectionate regard for the Divine authority cherished in a 
manly soul is the root of every human virtue. It is the secret of 
sound character. Wisdom, strength, and beauty — these are the 
natural fruits. Where this is, there you may find veracity, sim- 
plicity, modesty, candor, united with courage, decision, fidelity; 
there you may find disinterestedness, generosity, and magna- 
nimity. And we demand of those who are best acquainted with 
him, for which of these qualities is not James G. Birney remark- 
able ? 



Ix August, 1845, on the inviiation of my father, I 
spent a few weeks with liini at his home on the Saginaw 
River, Michigan. He was in fine health and spirits, and 
joined me in the sports of hunting and fishing. The rice 
grass on the farther side of the river was a favorite feed- 
ing-ground for ducks. Through this we worked our way 
in a light canoe, getting shots as the birds rose into the 
air. He M'as generally successful in dropping them just 
as they turned to a horizontal flight from an upward 
movement to clear the tall grass. When we had bagged 
game enough for next day's dinner he would take the 
paddle and speed the frail vessel homeward. At other 
times he would troll for large fish. In this sport a line 
from fifty to a hundred feet long, with a strong triple 
hook covered with bits of red and white flannel, is trailed 
behind the canoe. To this the simple muskallonge rises, 
seizing the deceptive bait and rushing away with it. A 
pull upon the line, strong enough if it were made at right 
angles to upset the unstable bark, shows the game is 
hooked. Then the battle begins. Skill and judgment 
are on one side, desperation and strength on the other. 
The man " plays " out his line and avoids all direct con- 
tests ; the great fish dashes to the bottom of the river and 
exhausts its strength in vain efforts to free itself by flight 
from the barbed torment in its mouth. Then it is brought 
to the surface by a steady pull on the line. As it nears 


the caiioc, its glaring eyes and givat \\u\v ojk'Ii red mouth 
garnished with double rows of sharp teeth seen amid the 
foam made by the flurries of its tail give it the aspect of a 
monster. A scoop net passed adroitly under it aids in 
getting it into the canoe, where it is quickly dispatched 
with a hatchet. Into this sport my father entered with 
great zest. He generally took the line while 1 kept the 
canoe in proper position, no easy task. The cajjture of 
one or two fish ended the excursion for the day. lie took 
no more than enough for the supi)ly of his own family. 
If there was a surplus it was sent to some neighbor. 

Tart of each day was devoted to the cultivation of the 
garden and the labor of l)urning the brush and logs from 
a lot near tlie house. His tastes, expcrtncss, and strength 
made these employments pleasant to him. His evenings 
were generally spent in his library, and were given to cor- 
respondence, study, and conversation, 

A favorite amusement of his was riding on liorseback. 
He owned a pair of jet-black Canadian ponies. They were 
swift and moved well under the saddle. Mounted on 
these we galloped over the prairies, enjoying the bracing 
air of early morning or the breezes of the evening. On 
our last ride we were moving rapidly, side by side. My 
father, with extended hand, was pointing out to me a ves- 
sel in the distant horizon making her way under full sail 
when a prairie chicken, rose with a whirr from under the 
feet of his pony. The animal shied, springing to one side, 
and my father was thrown heavily to the ground. I dis- 
mounted and ran to him. He was already on his feet. 
To my in(|uirics he answered, " It was a bad jolt, my son, 
but no bones are broken," He held my bridle while I 
caught his pony. Declining my assistance he remounted. 
Tlie place of the accident was about two miles from 
home. We rode back at an easy gallop, my father mak- 
ing no complaint. 


Two hours Liter ho liad a stroke of nervous paralysis. 
This was the beginning of the end. For the rest of his 
life, twelve years and three mouths, he was an invalid. 
Partial recoveries alternated with relapses. All that medi- 
cal science could do for him was done. The best special- 
ists in nervous diseases Avere consulted but were unable to 
effect more than partial and intermittent relief. AVhile 
for several years his general health was apparently unim- 
paired and his physical strength little diminished, he was 
subject at long and irregular intervals to recurrences of 
paralysis or to si;dden and painful affections of the digest- 
ive organs. These were so violent that for years before 
his death he predicted one of them would prove fatal, 
and his prediction proved true. Another effect of the 
disease was to deprive him of the power of articulate 
speech. His tongue refused its office. The man whose 
enunciation had been so distinct that his every word could 
be heard by thousands was unable in the more severe 
states of his complaint to make himself intelligible to his 
wife and children, or in his best condition to any except 
to them and very intimate friends. His only medium, 
except gesture, of communication with others was in 
writing. Even this was imj^racticable much of the time 
owing to the tremulousness of his hand, which he was un- 
able to hold steady except by grasping the wrist with his 
left hand. This physical difficulty was greater or less ac- 
cording tO the state of his nerves. In their best condition 
writing was for him a slow and laborious process, and his 
penmanship lacked the firm lines of former days ; in their 
worst he could scarcely write his name legibly. 

The news of his disability brought several of his old 
personal friends and some of his iJolitical supporters to 
his bedside. The mingled pleasure and pain to him of 
these visits may be imagined by the reader. He grasped 
each one by the hand and looked his grateful apprecia- 


tion, but his answers to their kind speeches were con- 
veyed by a deprecatory wave of tlie liand or a look toward 
one of the family which was a reqnest to speak for him. 
Gerrit Smith, who was a beloved friend, had not until his 
visit comprehended the extent of the calamity and gave 
way to his feelings. My father was much moved, but by a 
simple gesture expressed his resignation to the Divine will. 
Before the winter of 1845 he had visited the Eastern 
cities for medical advice, and became convinced that ho 
would never be able to speak again in public and probably 
never to articulate well enough for the jnirposes of con- 
versation. From that time by all practicable means he 
made known to the members of the Anti-Slavery political 
party that he had absolutely and permanently withdrawn 
from ])ublic life, and of his friends he nuule the special 
request to prevent the offering or passage by anti-slavery 
conventions of resolutions of sympathy with him. He 
gave this matter in charge to me for Ohio, and it was not 
without difliculty that Salmon P. Chase, Samuel Lewis, 
and other leaders, were persuaded to comj)ly with his re- 
quest. From the time of his paralysis to his decease he 
never made or attemjited to make a speech in public or 
attended or wrote a letter to any anti-slavery meeting or 
convention or signed his name to any publication of a 
nature to influence political action. Though often ur- 
gently requested to be present or to give his counsel in 
writing, he thought it best not to interferfere with the 
men who Avere actively engaged in the cause.* The clear- 

* In the index to Garrison's " Life "' by his sons, under the name of 
James G. Bimey, there arc the following entries : " Secedes from Liberty 
party." The passajrc referred to (vol. iii, p. 211) reads thus : 

"In the second week in June [1847] a fourth party had pone out 
from it [the Liberty party], forming a T,ibeity League at Macedon Lock, 
N. Y., under the auspices of James G. Bimey." 

The next index entry is "nesrlected as nominee." with reference to a 
passage on page 215 of the same volume: 


ness and vigor of his mind did not perceptibly diminisli. 
In his writing intervals he jotted down his thoughts in a 

" Cimcy's claim*, too, whether for perpetual nomination or for in- 
cense or (now that he was physically disabled) for sympathy, were wholly 
ignored by the convention (at Buffalo, January, 1847). All this fur- 
nished food for conversation between Wright and Garrison as they jour- 
neyed eastward." 

The next index entry is " favors colonization," voh iii, p. 362, where 
it is charged that Mr. Birney in 1852 "scandalized his old associates by 
counseling expatriation. . . . Mr. Garrison felt it incumbent on him to 
make a set speech against colonization." 

The charges made and insinuated in the above extracts are that James 
G. Birney made claims upon the Buffalo Convention for nomination, in- 
cense, or sympathy ; that, not getting what he wanted, he seceded from 
the Liberty party and aided in the establishment of another party ; and 
that he recanted his opposition to the Colonization Society as a proposed 
remedy for slavery. It is hardly necessary to state that the above scan- 
dals, published twenty-two years after the death of James G. Birney, 
have no foundation in fact. There were in the Buffalo Convention at 
least a hundred of his warm friends, every one of whom knew that he 
had permanently withdrawn from public life and desired that his name 
should not be mentioned in that or any other convention. That he was 
at Macedon Lock or took any part in the formation of a fourth party or 
seceded from the Liberty party is untrue. With the exception of Martin 
Van Buren, in whose sincerity he lacked confidence, he voted the Free 
Soil and Republican tickets. State and national, as long as he lived. The 
charge touching colonization is a violent misrepresentation of a letter 
written by him in answer to some colored men who wrote to ask his ad- 
vice as to their emigration to some other country. lie thought that, in 
view of the bitter prejudice in the United States against the blacks, each 
one of them should act in that matter as he might think best for the in- 
terest of his family. Xot one word was said in favor of the Colonization 
Society or of colonization as a remedy for slavery. (See ante, p. 268.) 

If it were not plain from the context that these scandals emanated 
from William Lloyd Garrison, their insidious malice and blundering in- 
accuracy would indicate him as the author. Much of his life was spent 
in misrepresenting the acts and blackening the character of his coadju- 
tors. He wronged Benjamin Lundy so deeply that an eager offer to 
write his biography was indignantly rejected by Lundy's relatives. His 
partner in the " Liberator " for eight or nine years was Isaac Knapp ; 


l.l;iuk-lj(t(»k or wrnte sliort articles, always anonymous, for 
leading newspapers. In 1850 he managed to write, a few 

but in a private letter in 1812 to a lady in Lunilon he brands Knapp 
as a jranibler and drunkard. (CJ., iii, p. 41.) Knapp hud charjjed him 
with " selfish and deceptive conduct." (G., iii, p. 38.) He professed 
warm friendship for N. P. Rogers; but aided in depriving him of his 
newspaper and broke his heart. (G., iii, p. 11^7.) He professed friend- 
ship for Frederick Douglass, but abused him without stint when Douglass 
refused to follow him in his secession movement in 1844. He spoke 
harshly of the sisters Grinike and provoked Sarah's retort : 

" His spirit of intolerance toward those who did not draw in his traces 
and his adulation of those who surrendered themselves to his guidance 
have always been exceedingly repulsive to n.o." ("The Sisters Grimke," 
p. 220.) 

Among those whom he libeled in the " Liberator " were Dr. William 
E. Channing, Henry B. Stanton, Elizur Wright, Amos A. Phelps, Henry 
Ward Beecher, Lewis Tappan, and Arthur Tappan. These were but a 
few of the whole number. The jealousy with which he looked ujJon the 
unprecedented success and influence of '• Uncle Tom's Cabin " is reflected 
in his biography. (G., iii, p. 304.) Of such a man the poet Churchill 
drew the picture when he wrote : 

" With that malignant envy which turns pale 
And sickens even if a friend prevail, 
Which merit and success pursues with hate, 
And damns the worth it can not imitate." 
Mr. Garrison had a peculiarity which his sons pass over wi.h the fol- 
lowing euphemism : 

" As he had a very poor memory for past events even in his own ex- 
perience, he seldom indulged in reminiscence." (G., iv, p. 334.) 

Other writers have not been so lenient. Rev. Leouaid (J. Bacon, in a 
review of his "Thoughts," charged him with garbling and false state- 
ments ; Rev. R. R. Gurley with being indebted " to his imagination for 
his fact" {ante, p. 12G); and between him and Frederick Douglass there 
was an issue of veracity (G., iii, p. 211). It would have been much bet- 
ter for Mr. Garrison's reputation if he had never " indulged in reminis- 
cence," for he was one of those unfortunate individuals in whose memory 
facts have no fixity of outline ; especially should he have avoided in- 
dulging in it in relation to James G. Birney, toward whom he bore a 
deadlv hatred which grew stronger with years, and which he appears to 
have transmitted in all its venom to his descendants. 


scntencos at a time, liis "Examination of the Decision of 
the United States Supreme Court in the Case of Strader 
et al. vs. Graham." This was legibly copied and published 
in pamphlet-form with his name on the title-jiage. It is 
the argument of an able lawyer. The labor of its prepara- 
tion aggravated his malady, and he finally abandoned a 
long cherished scheme of writing a historical work on 
slavery in the United States. 

Ilis interest in the anti-slavery struggle was not abated. 
He followed the proceedings in Congress and the course 
of public men on the subject. His fears that civil war 
would result were ripened into certainty by the outbreak 
of the troubles in Kansas. Deploring this as a national 
calamity which might have been averted by wisdom and 
manly courage on the part of statesmen, he thought it 
should be used for the suppression of the slave power and 
the immediate abolition of slavery ; and he wrote his hope 
that his descendants would all do their duty when the 
conflict should come.* 

The monotony of his isolated life at Bay City was 
varied by frequent visits to his married sons, to Gerrit 
Smith, and Theodore D. Weld. About 1853, he broke up 

* When the rebellion broke out there were six of James G. Birnej's'^ 
descendants who were of age to bear arms. James, the eldest son was 
acting Governor of Michigan and was afterward actively employed in send- 
ing regiments to the field. Ilis son, James Gillespie, a youth of twenty, 
went as cavalry lieutenant, became captain, and served as staff officer for 
both Custer and Sheridan. William enlisted, was elected captain and 
rose to be brevet major-general, serving in all the intermediate grades. 
David Bell entered as lieutenant-colonel, and rose by regular promotion 
to be major-general (see his biography by 0. M. Davis). Dion, a phy- 
sician, was lieutenant and captain. Fitzhur/h left Harvard University 
to join the army. He served on McClellan's staff and rose from lieuten- 
ant to colonel (see his biography by Prof. Cutler). All these, ex- 
cept the writer, died, in or soon after the war, of wounds received or 
diseases contracted in the service. Without exception, they were deeply 
imbued with the principles and patriotic spirit of James G. Birney. 

380 .lAMKs (;. p.iK.\i:v and his times. 

liousekeeping luul ivinoved to EagleswooJ, near Perth 
Amboy, N. J. At this place Mr. Weld had established 
his celebrated school, or academy, occupying for that 
purpose one end of an immense building. The other 
end and the very long central part was built in " flats." 
These were occupied by the families of patrons of the 
school. Mr, Birney leased and furnished one of the best 
suites of apartments in the building and occupied it dur- 
ing the rest of his life. His youngest son was a pupil in 
tlie school. His surroundings in this place freshened up 
his life. The daily visits of his friend AVeld cheered him. 
He attended the debates and literary exercises of the stu- 
dents, the Saturday evening lectures delivered by distin- 
guished strangers, and the eloquent Sunday morning 
religious addresses by Mr. Weld. Occasionally he went 
to the opera or visited other places of public amusement 
or listened to some celebrated preacher at Mew York. In 
this mode of living he was comparatively free from the 
curiosity of the vulgar who wished to know to what de- 
gree his organs of speech were affected, a curiosity which 
he was not disposed to gratify. His attempts to articulate 
were reserved for his family and very intimate friends, and 
with them were generally for the purpose of discovering 
whether he was improving or not. 

Under his affliction his temper became more genial. 
The sternness which had been contracted in the latter 
part of his active career disappeared altogether. He took 
pleasure in listening to the conversation of the intelligent, 
the lively talk of young ladies, and the prattle of children. 
With these last, he was a great favorite. My children 
liked nothing better than to have a romp with their 
grandfather. He understood perfectly the rare art of 
making himself an agreeable visitor for a long time, be- 
ing considerate of the feelings and circumstances of others 
and with sure intuitions of the right thing to do. His 


daugliters-iu-liiw lovod liim as dearly as his sons did. He 
was never morose or impatient or low spirited ; nor did he 
complain of his affliction. He controlled himself so as 
not to distress those who loved him. The only expression 
during his long malady of his desire to die was made to 
me as I sat by his bedside, holding his hand after one of 
his excruciatingly j^ainful attacks, " I had hoped this 
would be the last." 

His resignation was due to his piety. The Bible was 
his constant companion and a part of each day was spent 
by him in silent prayer. But God heard him. After 
more than twelve years of bodily and mental suffering and 
anguish, in Avhich he showed how a sincere Christian 
should bear affliction, his spirit was released from its 
earthly prison. On the 25th of November, 1857, he died 
at Eagleswood, New Jersey, surrounded by his wife, chil- 
dren, and friends. 


As an answer to the claim that Mr. Garrison was the first to 
reveal to Americans the nature of slavery, and that the reader 
may have something like an adeciuate idea of the quantity and 
comprehensiveness in 1830 of tl\e American literature relating to 
slaver}', I subjoin an incomi)lete list of publications then extant 
on the subject. A perfect list would probably comprise from ten 
to twenty times as many. The rapidity with which pamphlets 
and even books disappear is well known to every man who has 
attempted to make a collection on any special subject ; they per- 
ish like autumn leaves. Important American Avorks on slavery 
published before 1830, such as those of George Bourne, John 
Kenrick, Jesse Torrey, James Duncan, John Rankin, and George 
M. Stroud, which expressed the best anti-slavery convictions of 
the day and contributed greatly to purify public opinion and 
sentiment, have become exceedingly rare. ^lany of the works 
published in England circulated freely in this country. The 
most important ones were repu1)lished here — some in Philadel- 
phia, others in Kentucky, and Elizabeth Ileyrick's in Baltimore 
and Philadelj)hia. The following list, incomplete as it is, may 
aid some bibliographer to make a perfect one. The one given 
in the appendix to the "Proceedings of tlie Third American 
Anti-Slavery Society Decade ]\Iceting " contains twenty-three 
items only, it was published under the auspices of Mr, Gai-- 

Books and pamphlets on slavery, published or republished be- 
fore the year 1831 in the United States. Xo English works are 
included unless tliey were republished or had large circulation in 
this country. French ones are omitted. 

Godwyn, Rev. Morgan, "The Iscgoes' and Indians' Advo- 
cate," treatise, ICuO, 


Baxter, Kicluird. " Friendly Advice to Planters," " Negroes' 
Complaint/' etc., about 1C51. 

Southern. " Oronooko," a tragedy, 1G96. 

Sir Richard Steele's story of ' ' Inkle and Yarico " was pub- 
lished about 1715. 

Sandiford, RaljA, Philadelphia. " The Mystery of Iniquity," 

Atkins, Surgeon. "Voyage to Guinea and the West Indies," 

Whitefield, George. ' ' Address to the Inhabitants of Mary- 
land and Virginia," 1739. 

Hughes, Rev. Griffith. " Xatural History of Earbadocs," 

Benezet. "Tracts en Slavery," 1750 to 1774. 

Woolman, John. " Considerations on the keeping of Ne- 
groes," 1754 to 1703. 

JefFery, Thomas. "Account of a Part of North America," 

Sharp, Granville. "Memoirs and Representation of the In- 
justice of Slavery," 1709. 

Anthony Benezet's -writings on slavery, with extracts from 
the writings of several noted authors on the subject of slavery, 
viz., George Wallace, Francis Hutcheson, James Foster, and 
Granville Sharp, and from an address to the Assembly of Vir- 
ginia, Philadelphia, 1771. 

Lay, Benjamin. " Treatise on Slave-keeping," 1773. 

Rush, Benjamin. " Address to the Inhabitants of the British 
Settlements on the Slavery of the Negroes," 1773. 

Wesley, John. "Thoughts on Slavery," 1774. 

Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Act of incorporation. In- 
stituted in 1775 ; incorporated in 1789; 1775 and 1789. 

Day, Thomas. " Slavery of the Negroes," 1770. 

Miller, Prof. "Origin of Ranks," 1777. 

"A Serious Address to the Rulers of America on the Incon- 
sistency of their Conduct respecting Slavery," etc., by a farmer, 
London, 1783. 

Woods, Joseph. " Thoughts on the Slavery of the Negroes," 

Gregory, Dr. "Essays, Historical and :\Ioral," 1784. 


Ramsay, James. "Essay on the Treatment and Conversion 
of tlie African Slaves in the British Sujj^ar Colonics," 1784. 

Clark-son, Thomas. "Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of 
the Human Species," 178G. 

Jollerson, Thomas. ''Notes on Virginia," 1787. 

Cowper, poet. 

Sharp, Granville. "Law of Retribution," 1778. 

Newton. "On the Slave Trade," 1788. 

" Constitution of a Society fur abolishing the Slave Trade," 
Providence, 1789. 

" Oration upon the Necessity of establishing at Paris a So- 
ciety for the Promotion of the Abolition of the Trade and Slav- 
ery of the Negroes." By J. P. Brissot de Warville, 1789. Re- 
published in Philadelphia in 1791 (translation). 

' ' Memorial Presented to Congress by the Different Societies 
instituted for the Promotion of the Abolition of Slavery, etc., in 
the States of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New 
York, Maryland, and Virginia," 1790 to 1791. 

"Debates on the Slave Trade," 1791, 1792. 

Buchanan, George. "Oration on Slavery," 1791. Baltimore, Md. 

Edwards, Jonathan, Jr. " Injustice and Impolicy of the 
Slave Trade," 1791. 

Rice, David, Rev. "A Kentucky Protest against Slavery," 
1792. (Immediate abolition.) 

" Proceedings of Conventions of Delegates from the Abolition 
Societies of the United States," 1794 to 1828. 

"Memoirs of Waimbamma, an African Priest," 1799. 

Collins. "Professional Planter," 1804. 

"Congressional Debates on the Slave Trade," 1806 and 1807. 

Rev. Archibald Cameron's "Slavery justified by Scripture" 
("Monitor"), Lexington, Ky., 1806. 

Branagan, Thomas. "The Penitential Tyrant, or Slave- 
Trader Reformed." A pathetic poem in four cantos. 290 pp. 
New York, 1807. (Immediate abolition.) 

"Select Speeches" (including some of Wilberforce. Fox, 
North, and Pitt, on slavery), published by N. Chapman, M. D., 
Philadelphia, 1807. 

Clarkson's " History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade," 
republished, 2 vols., octavo, pp. 455, 468, Philadelphia, 1808. 


Dicksou's "Mitigation of Slavery,'' 1814. 

Rev. David Barrow's paini)lilot against slavery- (out of print), 
Paris, Ky., 1815. (Immediate abolition.) 

Pinckard's "Notes on the "West Indies," 1815. 

Rev. George Bourne (Va). "The Book and Slavery Irrecon- 
cilable," Philadelphia, 181G. (Immediate abolition.) Also au- 
thor of "Picture of Slavery in America." 

TVatson. "Defense of Methodist Missions in West Indies," 

Coster "On the Amelioration of Slavery," 1816. 

Kenrick, John. "Horrors of Slavery," Boston, 1816. 

Thomas Clarkson's "Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of 
the Human Species, particularly the African." Republished, 
Georgetown, Ky., by J. N. Lyle, 1816. 

Torrey, Jesse, physician. "A Portraiture of Domestic Slav- 
ery in the United States, etc., including Memoirs of Facts on the 
Interior Traffic in Slaves and on Kidnapping," Philadelphia, 

Thorpe, Robert, LL.D. "Present Increase of the Slave 
Trade," 1818. 

"The Exclusion of Slavery from the Territories and new 
States," 1819. 

"Memorial to Congress on Restraining the Increase of Slav- 
ery," 1819. 

"The Bible justifies Slavery." By Duff Green, St. Louis, 1819. 

Robert Walsh's " Appeal from the .Judgments of Great Britain 
re.'^pccting the United States," etc. 512 pp. Philadelphia (j)to- 
slavery), 1819. 

"Dialogue on Slavery." By the Rev. James Gilliland, Ripley, 
Ohio, 1820. (Immediate abolition.) 

Congressional speeches of Rufus King, J. Tallmadge, Jr., 
and others on the admission of Missouri, with numerous pam- 
phlets on the subject (most of these have perished), 1818, 1819, 
and 1820. 

Shai-p, Granville. "Memoirs," etc., reprint from 1769, 1820. 

Raymond, Daniel. "Political Economy," 2 vols., octavo, 
Baltimore, 1820 and 1823. 

Learned, Joseph D. "View of the Policy of permitting 
Slaves in the States West of the Mississippi," 1820. 


Plunier, M. ('. " Speecli on tlie ^.lissouri Question," 1820. 

'"Achatt's," Charleston, S. C " lietlcctions coucc'rnin{.f Late 
Disturbances in Cliarleston," 1822. 

Cropper's "Letters to "Wilberforce," 1822. 

Singleton's ''Keport of the State of Sierre Leoue," 1822. 

Rev. John Rankin's "Letters on Slavery in America." (Im- 
mediate abolition.) 118 pp., 1823-'24. 

Hodgson. "Letter to Say on the Comparative E.xpense of 
Free and Slave Labor," 1823. 

"Declaration of the Objects of tiie Liverpool Society for 
abolishing Slavery," 1823. 

"NVilberforce. "Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Hu- 
manity of the Inhabitants of the British Empire in behalf of the 
Negro Slaves in the West Indies," 1823. 

Clarkson, Thomas. "Thoughts on the Necessity of im])rov- 
ing the Condition of Slaves iu the British Colonies," etc., 

Cooper. "Letter to R. Ilibbcrt, Jr., E.xposure of False- 
hood," etc., 1823. 

Cooper. "Facts Illustrative of the Condition of the Negroes 
in Jamaica," 1823. 

Cropjjcr, James. " Support of Slavery investigated," 1823. 

"Impolicy of Sla%'ery," illustrated, 1823. 

"Pictures of Slavery in the West Indies, I'nited States, and 
especially in Jamaica." Published by the Anti-Slavery Society, 

Gloucester, Jcrcmi.<ih. "Oration on the Abolition of the 
Slave Trade," 1823. 

Birkbeck, Morris. "An Appeal to the Peoi)le of Illinois on 
the Question of a Convention," 1823. 

"Brief View of the Nature and Effects of Negro Slavery as it 
exists in the Colonies of Great Britain." Committee of the 
Methodist Wesleyan Conference. 

"First Report of the Committee of the Society for the Miti- 
gation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery," June 25, 1824 and 

Stephen, James. "The Shivery of the British West India 
Colonies delineated," 1824. 

" India Free Labor Sugar," 1824. 


" luformatioa conceruinjj the Present Condition of Slave 
Trade," 1824. 

" Treatise on Slavery." By Rev. James Duncan, of Kentucky, 
Yevay, Ind., 1824. (Immediate abolition.) 

RemarJis to Citizens of Illinois on the Proposed Introduction 
of Slavery," 1824. 

"An Im])artial Appeal to the People of Illinois on the Injuri- 
ous Effects of Slave Labor," 1824. 

" Ilayti, Rural Code of," 1826. 

HejTick, Elizabeth. "Immediate not Gradual Emancipa- 
tion," London, 1824. Republished December 3 and 10, 1825, in 
Lundy's "Genius"; first edition in Philadelphia in 1824, second 
in 1836. (See preface to latter.) "Thoughts on the Extinction 
of Colonial Slavery." By Miss Heyrick. 

Quoted from by Miss Chandler and indorsed in "Genius" of 
January 1, 1830. 

Clarkson, Thomas. The argument "That the Colonial Slaves 
are better oflf than the British Peasantry," 1825. 

" Brief View of the Nature and Effects of Slavery," 

"Impolicy of Slavery illustrated," 1825. 

"Negroes' Memorial or Abolitionist's Catechism," London, 

Lundy, Benjamin. "Life of Elisha Tyson," a IMar^'land abo- 
litionist, 1835. 

"Picture of Slavery, drawn by the Colonists themselves," 

Stroud, George M., Philadelphia. "Sketch of the Laws re- 
lating to Slavery in the Several States of the United States of 
America," 1827. 

"Minutes of the Twentieth Session of the American Conven- 
tion for promoting the Abolition of Slavery," held in Pliiladel- 
phia, October 2, 1827. 

"Remarks on Slavery in the United States," 1827. 

Dyer Burgess's "Pamphlet against Slavery," Ripley, Ohio, 
1827. (Immediate abolition.) 

Wilson's "Thoughts on Slavery," 1827. 

Wilberforce's "Appeal." 

Winn on "Emancipation," 1827. 


" Sketclics and Anecdotes of Persons of Color." By A. Mott, 
York, England, 1828. 

" Scripture Evidence of the Sinfulness of Injustice and Op- 
pression," London, 1828. 

"Anti-Slavery Petitions," 1828. 

"Auti-Slavery Monthly Ileporter " from 1825 to 1827 and 

'• Investigator," Providence, October 11, 1827. 

''Philanthropist and Investigator," Boston, January IG to 
August 26, 1829. 

"Investigator and Genius of Temperance," October 28, De- 
cember 30, 1829. 

"Treatise on tlie Patriarchal System of Slavery," 1829. 

Walker. "Appeal," Boston, 1829. 

Walsh, Rev. Dr. " Xotes on the Brazils," 1830. 

Godwin. "Lectures on Slavery," 1830. 

Hicks, Ellas. "Remarks on Character of," 1830. 

Hodgson on "Free and Slave Labor," 1830. 

New York. "Selections from the Revised Statutes of Laws 
relative to Slaves and Kidnap])ing," 1830. 

"Negro Slavery Tracts," Nos. 1 to 17, 1830. 

"Address to the Clmrches," by the Chillicothe (Oliio) Presby- 
tery, excluding slaveholders from the communion, 183^. 



Benjamin Lundy (1789-1839), editor and publisher of the 
"Geuius of Universal Emancipation," was the most conspicuous 
abolitionist in Maryland during the six years beginning with Oc- 
tober, 1824. His anti-slavery work began in 1815 in Ohio, and 
ended in 1839 in Illinois, having been prosecuted in the mean 
time in Tennessee, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. His prominent 
anti-slavery contemporaries prior to 1830 were Dr. Doak, Charles 
Osborn, John Rankin, and Jesse Lockhart, of Tennessee ; the Ken- 
tucky Presbyterians David Rice, James Duncan, and John Fin- 
ley Crowe ; the Kentucky Baptists, "Friends of Humanity," 
David Barrow, Carter Torrant, John Sutton, Donald Holmes, 
Jacob Gregg, and George Smith; William Swaim and R. Men- 
denhall, of North Carolina ; James Gilliland, of South Carolina; 
Edward Coles and George Bourne, of Virginia ; Elisha Tyson, 
Daniel Raymond, John Needles, and Edward Needles, of Balti- 
more ; the ministers of the seventeen "emancipating Baptist 
churches " of Illinois and of the Methodist Reformed Church ; 
with Rufus King, J. Tallmadge, Jr., and the other opponents of 
the admission of Missouri as a slave State. Lundy's place in 
abolition history is unlike that of any other man. To understand 
it his career must be studied. 

He was born and reared a Quaker in New Jersey. His edu- 
cation was of the narrowest — a little reading and ciphering and 
a great deal of hard work. Having injured his health and per- 
manently impaired his hearing l>y trying to do as much work as 
any man on his father's farm, he left home in 1808. At Wheel- 
ing, Va., he remained four years, working at the saddler's trade 
and reading diligently. Owing to the suppression of the African 


slave trade the Southern deniaiul for Virginia slaves was becom- 
ing active, and Lundy while apprentice and journeyman saw 
many chained cotlics of slaves on their waj' to the Southern mar- 
ket. Ilis pity for them made him an abolitionist. This was 
about 1810. Having married and established himself in his trade 
at St. Claii-sville, Ohio, he called a few friends together at his 
house, in 1815, and organized for anti-slavery purposes "The 
Union Humane Society." It is significant of the liberal public 
opinion of that day that in a few months the number of members 
had increased to "nearly five hundred," among whom were 
"most of the influential preachers and lawyers." * Under date of 
January 4, 1816, he published an address to the philanthropists of 
the United States, recommending the general formation of anti- 
slavery societies under a common title and constitution, with co- 
operation and, for important business, a general convention. At 
the close he stated that he "had had the subject long in contem- 
plation, and that he had now taken it up fully determined never to 
lay it down while he breathed or until the end should be ob- 

In 1817 he began his work as editor. On the 12th of Septem- 
ber in that year, Charles Osborn, the Quaker preacher from Ten- 
nessee, issued at Mount Pleasant, Chio, the first number of the 
" Philanthropist," a weekly paper of a religious tone and intended 
to aid in the warfare then waged by reformers generally against 
the three great national evils — war, slavery, and intemperance. 
Two years before that date, Charles Osborn, John Undorhill, 
Jesse Willis, John Canaday, John Swain, Elihu Swain, David 
Maulsby, and Thomas Morgan had formed the Tennessee Manu- 
mission Society. Either because of a difference of opinion on 
the question between immediatism and gradualism or to leave all 
members at liberty as to the manner of emancipation, the consti- 
tution was silent on the subject. The three first named, how- 
ever, were in favor of immediate, uncompensated emancipation 
on the soil. Osborn removed to Ohio in 181G, and Underhill 
and Willis to Indiana at a later day. Osborn w^as a preacher, his 
editing taking a minor place in his life. In his first number he 
hopefully declares in regard to slavery that the time "is fast ap- 

* Earlc's " Life of Lundy," p. 16. f Ibid., p. 17. 


preaching when the United States shall no longer be stained with 
tliis foul pollution." In his sixth he thus speaks of the Coloniza- 
tion Societ}': 

"The editor has great doubts of the justice of the plan pro- 
posed. It appears to him calculated to rivet closer the chains 
that already gall the sons of Africa and to insure to the miserable 
objects of American cruelty a perpetuity of bondage." 

Osborn found in Lundy a kindred spirit and trustworthy 
man, and encouraged him to send to the paper selected and 
original articles on slavery. In 1818 he proposed a partnership 
in the printing business. Lundy accepted, asking time to get 
rid of his stock in trade. To effect this he made two trips to 
St. Louis, reaching that city on the second trip late in the fall of 
1819, when the Missouri controversy was at its height. He en- 
gaged in it with all his energy, writing numerous articles on the 
evils of slavery for the newspapers of Missouri and Illinois. He 
remained at St. Louis until about the 1st of December, 1820, at 
which time, having lost nearly all his property and exhausted 
the patience of Charles Osborn, who sold his paper before Lundy's 
return, he set out on foot to return home. On the road he heard 
of the death (December 4, 1820) of Elihu Embree, the editor of 
the "Emancipator," of Jonesborough, East Tennessee. Osborn's 
successor did not come up to Lundy's standard of anti-slavery 
doctrine, and he decided to establish a monthly periodical at 
]\Iount Pleasant, Ohio, under the title of "The Genius of Uni- 
versal Emancipation," a sounding name suggested by a passage 
in one of Curran's speeches. The first number was issued in 
January, 1821. "In four months," he says, "my subscription 
list had become quite large." At that time he was well aware 
that the best vantage ground for attacking slavery was the State 
of Maryland. In his "proposals," published in the number for 
July 29, 1824, of "The American Economist and East Tennessee 
Statesman," he says : 

" I had fully determined on removing to Baltimore as soon 
as necessary aiTangements could be made. . . . But finding that 
the Manumission Society of Tennessee had procured a press for 
the purpose of exposing the pernicious effects of slavery and dis- 
seminating the principles of universal emancipation, and that 
thev were likely to fail in the attainment of their object for the 


want of assistance in conducting their printing establishment, I 
conchuled that, jKTliaps, it was a duty incumbent on me to ren- 
der them my feeble aid in so hiudable an undertaking, especially 
as I had received an invitation from tiiem to that purjjort." 

Lundy could not do as he would. He had no money and 
owned neither press nor types ; his monthly edition was printed 
ten miles off and he lugged it home on his back. He went, 
September, 1821, to the press and types in East Tennessee, and 
there he learned the practical part of a printer's business and es- 
tablished at Greenville a weekly local and a monthly agricult- 
ural i)apcr besides the '* Genius." In the winter of 1823-'24 he 
attended the biennial convention of the American Abolition So- 
ciety at Philadelphia, and became acquainted with some of the 
Eastern abolitionists. Encouraged by the increasing circulation 
of his paper and disgusted with the irregularities of mail trans- 
portation* in the South, he resolved to carry out his original 
design of publishing in Baltimore. Having issued at Greenville 
his number for August, 1824, he started eastward on foot. En 
route he delivered numerous anti-slavery lectures in North Caro- 
lina and Virginia, forming several abolition societies. One of 
the places in which he spoke was Raleigh. He says : 

"Before I left the State (North Carolina) there were some 
twelve or fourteen anti-slavery societies organized." 

Several others were formed in the middle section of Virginia. 
The public impression that, prior to Jackson's first term, there 
was in the South no freedom of speech on slavery is contradicted 
by Lundy in these words : 

"I afterward, during that visit to North Carolina, held some 
fifteen or twenty anti-slavery meetings at different places. My 
discourses were similar to all that I have since delivered in other 
parts of the United States, and as ultra-orthodox in anti-slavery 
sentiment as any of modern times." t 

The establishment of the "Genius" caused no excitement in 
Baltimore. The abolitionists received Lundy "civilly enough." | 
His personal presence was not imposing. He was of medium 
height, plain in dress, hard of hearing, and not fluent in speech. 

* Sec the " proposals " for publishinjj the " Genius " in Baltimore. 
\ " Life," p. 22. X Ibid., p. 23. 


It took time for the public to appreciate the scrupulous truth- 
fulness, good judgment, firmness, industry, and sledge-hammer 
style of the unpretending Quaker. Uis initial article painted in 
lively colors the impending dangers from the ' ' grievous curse " 
of slavery, adding : 

"Yea, all Nature cries aloud that something mtist he done to 
appease the kindling wrath of outraged humanity and violated 
justice ere the fate of ancient Egypt or of modern St. Eomingo 
shall be ours." 

He pledged himself to expose the vile management of those 
■who endeavor ' ' to uphold and perpetuate the hoiTors of the sys- 
tem " that men might see "what manner of Christians or repub- 
licans are those who cherish the infamous practice of enslaving 
their fellow-mortals." He declared that nothing less was con- 
templated than the "complete and final extinguishment" of 

The first number was an excellent paper. It contained the 
editor's address, an article on Hayti, "Backing out," triumph of 
principle in Illinois, accounts of the formation of six new eman- 
cipation societies, notices of General Lafayette, slavery in Brazil, 
Rev. James Duncan's new work on slavery. Manumission Society 
of North Carolina, letter from Illinois, revivals in North Carolina, 
the constitutions of six abolition societies, "Mr, Adams and 
Slave-holding," the black list, on kidnapping, etc., Hayti circu- 
lar, British anti-slavery meeting in London, poetry on Hayti and 
Africa, and notices to patrons and correspondents. 

To get out this number required all Lundy's pluck and spirit 
of self-sacrifice. He had neither money nor type nor press. He 
worked as journeyman for the printer in whose office the "Gen- 
ius " was set up and struck off ; lived cheaply, paid as he went, 
and kept out of debt — a rule which he always conscientiously 
observed. The paper made a good impression ; subscriptions 
came in rapidly, the editor was a good canvasser; the funds for 
the publication of the following six numbers were easily ob- 
tained. Prospects were so bright that in tlie March number 
proposals were published for a weekly edition of the paper. 
The monthly was a sixteen page octavo, of which the printed 
matter on each page was about Al by 7^ inches. The weekly 
■was to be a sixteen page quarto, the size of the printed page to 


be GJ by 9| inches. The first and specimen number of the week- 
ly was issued July 4, 1825, and its rei,nilar publication began 
September 5, 1825, and was continued until January 3, 1829, 
having been enlarged July 4, 1827, to 8^ by 11 inches printed 
page. The monthly paper was not again published after Sep- 
tember, 1825, until April, 1830. The pecuniary success of the 
paper was large enough in the first three years to encourage 
Lundy greatly. He brought his family from Tennessee and went 
to housekeeping, rented a good ])rinting-office, furnished it with 
cases, type, and press. He employed several journeymen printers, 
did a fair job business, and published a book (the "Life of Ty- 
son ") and sundry pamphlets. His income was from subscrip- 
tions and job-work. There is no trace of his having received 
donations or pecuniary aid of any kind. His prosperity was 
solid, being based ujion a public sentiment rejjresented in 182G 
by 974 abolition votes at the Baltimore polls. It appears to 
have steadily increased in 1825, 182G, and in 1827, until the Oc- 
tober election, which defeated the Adams candidates and placed 
Jackson Democrats in the Legislature. 

From that time the "Genius" was doomed. The signs of 
the times indicated the overthrow of Adams, a non slave-holder, 
under whom free discussion had been the rule, and the incoming 
of Jackson, the slave-holder, with the ascendency of the slave 
power. Time-servers and tmcklers were preparing to change 
jiarties. Fence men descended on the Southern side. Timid 
men did not like to have it known that they took Lundy's ])aper, 
and business men who were abolitionists thought it prudent to 
be so secretly. The subscription list fell oil and old subscribers 
did not pay up. 

In March, 1828, Southern patronage had fallen off to such an 
extent that it was necessary to do what Lundy had never before 
done-appeal to the North. In March, 1828, he visited Phila- 
delphia, New York, Providence, and Boston, seeing Arthur 
Tappan, William Goodell, and other well-known friends of the 
slave. jMarch 17th he explained his views to eight Boston cler- 
gymen. They "cordially approved," and Mr. Garrison, "who 
sat in the room, also expressed his approbation of my doctrines." 
("Life." page 25, and "Life of William Lloyd Garrison," page 93.) 
Having been successful in getting subscriptions he returned home. 


In a few ^vceks he made a second * and last visit to the North. 
His journal, the substance of which is published in his "Life" 
by Earlc (pages 2G, 27, and 28) shows that he started May Ist 
and returned to Baltimore October 25th, having held forty-three 
public meetings, going as far as "New Hampshire, Maine, and 
New York," and having "considerably increased his subscrip- 
tion list." 

The relief from Northern subscriptions was but temporary. 
Tlie heavy ground swell of the slave-power democracy in 1827 
had become a tidal wave in 1828, and the little bark, the "Gen- 
ius," already loosed from its moorings, was driven high and 
dry on shore, a hopeless wreck. The election of Jackson, a 
slave-holder and cotton-planter, over Adams by a vote of 178 to 
83 struck the chill of the grave into Maryland abolitionism. 
Lundy found himself on the road to bankruptcy and suspension. 
He was obliged to mortgage his press and type and to let the 
press and part of the type go to his creditors. 

* It was on this " second " visit that Mr. Lundy says he invited Mr. 
Garrison to be his assistant editor, which invitation was deciined. (See 
Earlc, p. 28.) Writing from memory, he errs in fixing the date of the 
visit in " November " and saying that Mr. Garrison was then "conduct- 
ing a paper in Vermont from which he could not then disengage him- 
self." The second visit is shown by his published diary (Earle, p. 26) to 
have continued until the 25th of October. As Lundy's public meetings 
in Boston were held on the 7th and 11th of August and were attended by 
Mr. Garrison, the two meeting doubtless every day, and as Mr. Lundy 
needed an assistant at that time, an offer was quite in the natural order 
of tilings, as was also the refusal by Mr. Garrison becnuse of his engage- 
ment to go to iieuuington. (Compare Earle and Garrison's " Life " for 
the dates.) 

The story so often repeated by Mr. Garrison and his friends of Lundy's 
traveling afoot, staff in hand and knapsack on back, to Bennington, Vt., 
to invite Mr. Garrison to join him, is romantic and sensational, but it has 
no foundation in fact. It was not told during his life and his relatives re- 
ject it. He was never in Bennington. That city was six hundred miles 
f lom Baltimore by the nearest roads, and forty days of foot travel would 
not have been undertaken by Lundy to accomplish what he could have 
(lone as well by letter. The foot-trip was never mentioned in either of the 
papers edited by the parties or by Mr. Garrison until after Lundy's death. 


The last number of the "Genius," before its suspension, was 
issuid January 3, 1829. In it he shows liis indomitable jjluck 
by declaring his intention to resume its puljlication at a future 
day, and that "it shall never be abandoned while the labor of 
his own hands will support life and produce a revenue srifficient 
to print and pull ink one sheet per annum.'''' 

Such a cry of desperate failure was not of a nature to bring 
in subscriptions. The next eight months were spent in prepara- 
tions to resume, with the exception of the time taken for a trip to 
Ilayti. He renewed, doubtless by letter, his invitation to Mr. 
Garrison to join him, and gained his promise to do so. By dili- 
gent canvassing he managed to get a few new subscribers and 
collect some arrears of old subscriptions, so that he was ready to 
begin again on the 5th of September. It was, however, on a 
reduced scale. Having no printing-office, he had the printing 
done by contract in the office of Lucas & Deaver, who were 
abolitionists. By the use of larger type he cut down the cost of 
composition. By adding the space of fourteen lines to the length 
of the column he gave the paper a better form, though it did 
not contain as much printed matter as before the suspension. 
The old subscription price was retained. 

The Baltimore public did not respond to Lundy's appeal. 
The wind was raw and chilly. The shadow of the incoming 
slave-holding President darkened the sky. Money was scarce, 
and in order to live Lundy was forced to sell the remains of his 
former office. In the number of January 22d the assistant editor 
wrote : 

'' The voluntary remittances of our subscribers for more than 
four months do not exceed the sum of fifty dollars." 

As the terms were "three dollars per annum, payable in ad- 
vance," the attempt to resuscitate the weekly* "Genius "was 

* In a speech at the third decade meeting of the American Anti- 
Slavery Society, Mr. Garrison, speaking of editing the "Xational Philan- 
thropist " at Boston, in 1827, says: 

" Among my exchange papers I received a little, dingi^ monthly peri- 
o<lical called the ' Genius of Universal Emancipation,' " etc. 

And again, speaking of Lundy's invitation to join him in editing "the 
little, dingy monthly," he says : 

" The proposition upon his part was that we should convert the little 


evidently a disastrous failure from the very first. It was aban- 
doned after a trial of six months. Tlie octavo monthly was re- 
sumed by Lundy alone in April, 1830. 

It was published in Baltimore until the end of that year, then 
nominally for a few months and really after that time at Wash- 
ington city until October, 1833, when its further publication 
there was to be effected only at the daily risk of life, and it was 
removed to Philadelphia. 

The historical value of Lundy's paper for the period begin- 
ning with 1821 and ending with 1830 can hardly be overesti- 
mated. It is the repository of all plans for the abolition of slav- 
ery, of all laws, opinions, arguments, essays, speeches, and views, 
statistics, constitutions of societies, etc., manumissions, congres- 
sional proceedings, notices of books and pamphlets, colonization 
efforts, political movements, in short, of everything relating to 
slavery. To such a writer as Von Hoist it would be a rich mine 
of suggestive information. 

As a newspaper it is better than any reform journal of the 
same period. The "Harbinger of Peace " compared with it is a 
rush-light to the sun. It is interesting. The style of the editor 
improves from year to year. So does his taste in making selec- 
tions. The reader becomes insensibly absorbed in gazing upon 
the life-like panorama presented to him of the doings of a former 

monthly into a larc^e and handsome weekly paper. (See " Third Decade 
Proceedings," p. 120.) 

This authority is followed by Oliver Johnson and the sons of Mr. Gar- 
rison ("Life" of W. L. G., p. 120). It is incorrect in every particular. 
At the time spoken of (1827 and 1828) there was no monthly in ex- 
istence, and had not been since September, 1825, and the weekly, 
though the columns were a little longer, contained no more matter and 
was not " handsome." / vrite with the files of the " Genius " on the table 
before me. 

In the same speech Mr. Garrison claims that ho ruined Lundy's paper 
by advocating immediate emancipation. As Miss Heyrick's pamphlet 
had been published in the " Genius " in December, 1825, and the doctrine 
constantly presented in the paper from about that time, and as Miss 
Chandler had devoted more space to it than ^Ir. (iarrison, his conscience 
might well have been easy on that score. Mr. Lundy never attributed 
his failure to Mr. Garrison. 


generation, and Avlicn lie at la.>t lays aside the paper it is with 
genuine respect for the nulile sincerity, unselfishness, and sure 
judirment of Benjamin Lundy. His paper bears no trace of per- 
sonal quarrels, of envy or jealousy of co-workers. 
"He did not find his sleep less sweet 
For music in some neighboring street, 
Nor rustling hear in every breeze 
The laurels of Miltiades." 

This was one of the causes of his success. His single purpose 
made him see cler.rly. In Osborn's "Philanthropist" (1817) he 
took ground against colonization. December 20, 1825, he says 
of the Colonization Society : 

" Its direct effect, even to remove (he nominally free blacks, 
is next to nothing ; . . . as a means to do away the system of 
slavery, ... it furnishes not the least hope." 

The same year (vol . v. No. 5) he denounces it as aiming at 
the "expatriation of the free people of color" and as ''■inade- 
quate to the object I have ever kept in view and the attainment 
of which is the end and aim of all my exertions, viz., the total 
abolition of slavery in the United States." 

In this opinion he never wavered. His soundness on the 
doctrine of immediate emancipation has been slurred by Mr. 
Garrison and questioned on the same authority since his death ; 
but a few remarks on this subject may aid to a more just con- 

The doctrine was not new to him. Milton had asserted it : 
" But man over man 
He made not lord ; such title to himself reserving, 
Human left from human free." 

That "slavery is a sin," imposed, in theology, the duty of 
immediate abandonment. Wesley had said, "■Instantly, at any 
price, were it the half of your goods, deliver thyself from blood 

In 1789 Bishop Burgess had advocated immediate abolition 
and denounced those who wished to "modify" and "amelio- 
rate" slavery. (See "Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter," 1829.) 

In 1792 David Rice had delivered an address to the Kentucky 
Convention, urging it "to resolve unconditionally \o \>\\t an end 
to slaverv in this State." 


To his anti-slavery jwem, "The Penitential Tyrant," jmb- 
lished in Xew York in 1807, Branagau had added a note (page 

"I deny that, in the sight of God, any human being can be 
the property of another." 

In 1816, Rev. George Bourne (Virginia), in "The Book and 
Slavery Irreconcilable," had said : 

" The system is so entirely corrupt tluit it admits of no cure 
but by a total and immediate abolition.'''' 

From about 1824 immediatism was accepted by the majority 
of English abolitionists. In 1824, Rev. James Duncan (Ken- 
tucky), in his "Treatise on Slavery," showed the fallacy of grad- 
ualism and advocated immediate abolition on the soil without 
compensation to the naaster. (See G., i, p. 144.) 

In the same year. Rev. John Rankin (Tennessee, Kentucky, 
and Ohio), in his "Letters on Slavery," had argued that "less 
inconvenience and danger would attend their liberation at the 
present than at any future time " (page 25). 

The same doctrine had been preached in Ohio many years by 
the Revs. James Gilliland, Jesse Lockhart, J. Dunlavy, John 
Rankin, the two Dickeys, and by Charles Osborn. It was, 
therefore, a familiar one to Lundy ; but his intention was to ef- 
fect practical abolition through manumission by masters and 
through legislation by slave-holding States, compelling masters 
to emancipate, and he went into those States to accomplish his 
object. His appeal to masters was always. Manumit at once, for 
slave-holding is a sin. His appeal for compulsory statutes was, 
Fix a time now. He recognized the fact that the States already 
free had adopted the gradual plan, and that it would be imprac- 
ticable to obtain from any State unconditional and instantaneous 
emancipation on the soil. He expressed this well in his "pro- 
posals " for issuing his paper at Baltimore. These appeared in 
his Greenville weekly local paper of July 29, 1824. In them he 
declares himself in favor of means whereby slavery "may be 
completely annihilated," and adds, "The editor is well aware 
that this must be effected gradually.'''' 

In this he refers rather to what icill be than to what ouglit to 
be ; to what can be done rather than to what is best to be done. 
In all his writings, it is believed, he never pointed out any bad 


results likely to flow from unconditional emancipation by law, 
but tliought such a proposition to the Southern people was dii- 
merical. As time wore on, liowever, he modified his views on tliis 
point. In the "Genius" for December 3 and 10, 1825, he re- 
publislied the whole of Elizabeth lleyrick's pamphlet, "Immedi- 
ate, not Gradual Emancipation," and about the same time he 
republished Rev. James Duncan's book and aided actively in 
circuhitiuij it. In 1827 he proposed to issue in book-form a re- 
print of Miss Ileyrick's second book, "The Prompt Extinction," 
etc. (See "Genius" of September 11, 1827.) In the later pro- 
spectuses of his paper (see those of September 2, 1826, and June 
16, 1827) he omits all mention of gradualism. In the number of 
August 5, 1826, he ])ublishes an article from a Presbyterian 
preacher advocating immediate abolition. Tlie following lines 
show its tenor : 

"What has God told you about crime or sin? To desist 
from it or to persevere ? To desist, when ? Kow ! now ! . . . 
We are required to do it immediately." 

In August and September, 1826, he copies six radical articles 
from the (New York) "Recorder and Telegraph." They contain 
such passages as these : "The point to be aimed at is the entire, 
speedy abolition of slavery, for whether we choose it or not the 
thing will be done. . . . Emancipation must take place on the 
spot where slavery exists. . . , The slave has a right to immedi- 
ate liberty paramount to every claim of his master." 

November 11, 1826, a North Carolina correspondent urges as 
"the next step " to call on the legislatures " to make an immedi- 
ate, unconditional, and indiscriminate destruction of tlie slave 

Miss Elizabeth M. Chandler, who in 1825 had written "The 
Slave Ship," a prize poem, and, after writing literary pieces for 
the "Genius " in 1826, had become, early in 1827, a frequent con- 
tributor to it of articles on slavery, showing the tender heart of 
woman and rare poetical genius, had never penned a line in favor 
of gradualism. She was always in favor of immediate abolition. 
In her second letter "to the ladies of Baltimore" she says: 
"What is -wanted, therefore, is not so much an acknowledge- 
ment of its wickedness as a general desire for its immediate ex- 
tinction," etc. ("Memoir," page 45.) 


In his memoir of Iut, written iu 1836, Lundy saj's : ''She 
was the first American female autlior that ever made this subject 
tlie principal theme of her active exertions. . . . She ranked as 
second to none among the female philanthropists of modern 
times who have devoted their attention to it, if we except the 
justly celebrated Elizabeth Heyrick, of England." 

During the six months' effort in 1829-'30 to re-establish the 
"Genius," she freely advocated in her department of the paper 
the doctrine of immediate abolition, devoting at least twice as 
much space to it as Mr. Garrison did, and quoting freely from 
the last and most able w^ork of Miss Heyrick '* on the subject. 

Mr. Garrison announced the doctrine in his salutatory and ap- 
proved it in some half-dozen other articles, none of which were 
elaborate. He qualified it, however, as follows : "Let me here 
remark that I do not advocate total and instantaneous abolition 
Avithout at the same time urging the duty of the States to make 
liberal provisions and suitable regulations hj law for the mainte- 
nance and government of the emancipated blacks. For every 
imaginary or real evil I propose a safe antidote." 

That Mr. Lundy not only acquiesced in but cordially approved 
the doctrine is proved by his republication, in the "Genius" of 
December, 1825, of Miss Heyrick's pamphlet, by his indorse- 
ment (September 11, 1827) of that lady's second work on the 
same subject, and of Rev. James Duncan's book, by his con- 
tinued publication of Miss Chandler's articles, by numerous 
" enunciations " of it by other writers, and by his special indorse- 
ment of Garrison's articles in the last number (March 5, 1830) of 
the "Genius," which was edited by them jointly. In reference 
to these articles he says : "I fully acquit him [Garrison] of in- 
tentionally inserting anything hioiring that it trould he tli2is dis- 

* In his speech at the " Third Decade Meeting " (p. 121) Mr. Garrison 
says : " From the moment that the doctrine of immediate emancipation 
was enunciated in the columns of the ' Genius,' as it had not been up to 
that hour, it was like a bombshell," etc. In comparison with the columns 
themselves, with which Garrison was familiar, this statement is seen to 
be without foundation in fact. These bombshells had been exploding 
during the five years preceding]; Mr. Garrison's arrival in Baltimore. Had 
Mr. Garrison never seen the files of the " Gcnuis " ? 


As the doctrine had been fully discussed between them and 
was of the first importance, as the "Genius" had advocated it 
for four years and Lundy had acquiesced for six months in its 
editoiial advocacy by both Mr. Garrison and ]Miss Chandler and 
continued for the rest of his life to advocate it himself, and as lie 
made an arrangement soon after Mith Garrison to join him in 
editing the "Genius" at Washington, the above indorsement 
fully covers Garrison's articles on immediate abolition. lie knew 
that Benjamin Lundy would approve them,* and that in all mat- 
ters regarding slavery they were united. In his parting editorial 
notice Garrison says : "Although our ])artnership is at an end, 
I trust we shall ever remain one in sjririt and pitrpose and tiiat the of emancipation will suffer uo detriment." 

* The articles inserted in Mr. Lundy's absence and of which he dis- 
approved were on sundry political subjects, especially those favoring 
Henry Clay for the presidency. lie had no faith in Mr. Clay as a states- 
man, and had so stated in the " Genius." Mr. Garrison's faith in Clay 
was ardent. In his prospectus of August, 1830, for a paper at Washing- 
ton, IAt. Garrison savs : " I shall give a dignified support to Henry Clay 
and the American system." (See vol. i of " Life," p. 201.) 

5Ir. I.undy, on the contrary, regarded Mr. Clay as chiefly responsible 
for the admission of Missouri as a slave State, the greatest error in 
American statesmanship up to that time, and he treated him as an enemy 
of the cause of the slave. 

In his "Third Decade Speech" (186,3) Mr. Garri.'son attributes his 
signing his editorials in the " Genius " w ith his initials to the common 
desire of himself and Mr. Lundy that the latter should be relieved from 
responsibility for the doctrine of immediatism. At the time that speech 
was delivered Mr. Lundy had been in his grave twenty-four years and 
could file no caveat against Mr. Garrison's attempt at pre-emption. If 
Mr. (iarrison had signed his initials to no other editorials than the very 
few on immediatism, his statement might be accepted ; but the fact that 
he signed them to his nmnerous notices of books, magazines, newspapers, 
and sermons, and to articles long or short on embezzlers, Indians, swift 
steamboats, Mr. Clay, intemperance, popular bombast, his own birthday, 
etc., indicates vanity of authorship and not a desire to assume exclusive 
responsibility for unpopular views. The fact that in the same numbers 
of the " Genius" immediatism was advocated in the ladies' department 
without initials, proves that benjamin Lundy was nt;t shirking responsi- 
bility fur that doctrine. 


This contemporaneous, mutual recognition of their unity re- 
futes the insinuations made by Garrison against Lundy in his 
life which have grown into definite charges since his deatli. 

In 1831 he copied in full Garrison's explanation of the doctrine 
and indorsed it as plainly as he could. To an imputation made in 
1833 by Garrison against his soundness of doctrine he answered: 

" My sentiments have ever been adverse to the principle that 
tolerates the monstrous anomaly in our free institutions that man 
can be viewed as the property of man. I deny its correctness in 
toto. I have asserted, and the assertion has been recorded a 
hundred times, that no man can in justice hold anotlier as a slave 
a single moment.'''' (" Genius" for 1832, page 208.) 

In Earle's "Life of Lundy " (page 308) his half-sister writes : 

"He was much grieved that the advocates of the cause of 
emancipation seemed not to enter into the view of Elizabeth 
Heyrick respecting immediate emancipation as he did. He 
talked much to me about it and lamented it, for, said he, the 
view was a sound one. ... He has sometimes been represented 
as opposed to the measure of immediate emancipation. This, I 
believe, was not true.'''' 

That Lundy was sound to the core on all questions affecting 
human liberty will not be doubted by any unbiased, intelligent 
reader of the " Genius." In the matter of political action against 
slavery he was in advance of most of his contemporaries. From 
a very early date, even during his residence in Tennessee, he ad- 
vocated a resort to the ballot-box, and in Maryland he aided in 
tlie most effective movement of the kind made before 1830 except 
the exclusion of slavery from Illinois by popular vote in 1824. 
He was one of the first in 1828 and 1829 to expose the designs of 
the Jackson party managers to acquire Texas and to answer the 
articles in which Thomas H. Benton, Duff Green, and the 
"Richmond Inquirer " advocated the creation of six to nine new 
slave States and tl'.e ascendency of the slave power. After his re- 
turn from Mexico his pamphlet against the annexation of Texas and 
the abundant information on that subject given by him to John 
Quincy Adams were among the strongest causes (after Guerrero's 
abolition of slavery in Texas and his refusal in 1829 to sell that 
Territory to the United States) of the temporary defeat of that 
measure of the slave power. 


In the prosecution of his reform he steadily invoked the active 
aid of the women of the country. lie established free labor 
produce stores in several cities and accomplished a great deal, 
particularly among the Friends, in the matter of abstention from 
the products of slave labor. Though he was not an eloquent 
public speaker, he lectured on slavery to more than two hundred 
assemblies of people, moving them to action by his thorough 
knowledge of his subject, his earnestness, and his array of facts; 
but his permanent reputation must rest on his journal, which is 
the most valuable record of anti-slavery opinions and movements 
in the times of which it treats. 

Between the close of the war in 1815 and the year 1830 there 
were published the following journals which avowed the extinc- 
tion of slavery as one, if not the chief one, of their objects : 

1. The Pliilanthropist (Ohio), 1817. 

2. The Emancipator (Tennessee), 1819. 

3. The Abolition Intelligencer (Kentucky), 1822. 

4. The Genius of Universal Emancipation (Ohio, Tennessee, 
and Maryland), 1821. 

5. Edwardsville Spectator (Illinois),* 1822. 
G. Illinois Intelligencer,* 1823. 

7. The African Observer (Philadelphia\ 1826. 

8. Freedom's Journal (New York city), 1827. 

9. The Investigator (Goodell's), 1827. 

10. The National Philanthropist (Boston),t 1827. 

11. The Journal of the Times (Vermont), 1828. 

12. The Liberalist (New Orleans), 1828. 

This list docs not include the "African Repository" (1826) 
and other distinctively colonization papers. Of the twelve, 
"The Genius of Universal Emancipation" must be assigned to 
the head of the column for substantial merit. 

The only way to form an adequate idea of the extent and 

* See Washburne's " Sketch of Edward Coles," p. 167. 

f In "The Genius of Universal Emancipation" of March 3, 1827, 
is the foUowmg extract from an editorial in the " National Philan- 
thropist " : 

"We had in view when we adopted it (our title) the three great evils 
with which the world is cursed — war, slavery, and intemperance, especially 
the latter." 


depth of anti-slavery sentiment in the United States in the period 
under consideration is to glean from these papers the articles ex- 
pressing it which are copied from other newspapers. Charles 
Osborn republished in the " Philanthroiiist " anti-slavery articles 
from the following papers : Chester and Delaware Federalist, 
Federal Republican and Baltimore Telegraph, Alexandria (Va.) 
Gazette, Providence Gazette, Westchester Record, and Freeman's 

Lundy copies similar articles from the following : Richmond 
Whig, Alexandria Gazette, Winchester (Va.) Republican, Vil- 
lage Record (Pennsylvania), Baltimore American, The Berean, 
United States Gazette, Abolition Intelligencer, New York Re- 
corder, Christian Observer, Saturday Evening Post, New York 
Observer, American Economist, Western Luminary (Kentucky), 
Richmond Family Visitor, Freedom's Journal, American Farmer, 
Ohio Repository, Saturday Evening Chronicle, Maryland Repub- 
lican, Zion's Herald, Greensborough (N. C.) Patriot, New Lisbon 
Patriot, Frederick (Md.) Political Examiner, Washington (Pa.) 
Examiner, National Advocate, Russellville (Ky.) Messenger, New 
York Daily Advertiser, Pennsylvania Gazette, Baltimore Gazette, 
Visitor and Telegraph, Genius of Temperance, Baltimore Patriot, 
African Repository, American, National Philanthropist, Lebanon 
Gazette, Democratic Press, Cincinnati Gazette (Hammond's), 
Journal of the Times (Vermont), Vertical Press, and the New 
England Enquu-er. (43.) (For books, etc., during and before 
this period on slavery, see Appendix A.) Considering that the 
American press was then in its infancy, the era of the " Herald" 
and the "Tribune" and other modern journals not having then 
begun, that Lundy had few exchanges and probably did not 
copy for want of space in his paper more than one tenth of the 
anti-slavery articles published, it is clear that the sentiment of 
the American press, except in the extreme South, was against 
slavery between 1817 and 1830. This harmonizes with the fact 
that wdthin that period the legislatures of three States (Ohio, 
Pennsylvania, and Ncav Jersey) passed joint resolutions recom- 
mending the abolition of slavery by national compensation to the 
masters and professing willingness to bear their proportion of 
the expense. 

It would be a departure from the plan of this book to enter 


into any biographical details in regard to Mr. Liuuly except such 
as illustrate the public opinion of liis day. lie richly merits a 
revised and imjHoved edition of the hastily written sketch by 
Thomas Earle. We must part here with the heroic Quaker.* 

* Tbe confidence inspired by the personal character of Lundy was so 
great that a large number of slaves, in one case eighty-eight, were manu- 
mitted and sent to suitable refuges under liis advice. In that day nearly 
all, if not all, the free States had what were called " Black laws," pro- 
hibiting under heavy penalties the bringing of negroes within their lim- 
its, while of the slave States that permitted uiamimission at all some re- 
cpiired heavy bonds, with sureties for their good behavior and support, 
and others, for instance North Carolina, required them to leave the State 
within ninety days under penalty of being sold again into slavery. The 
freed negroes were left without a safe refuge from persecution except in 
Canada. Lundy's heart was deeply touched by their wretched condition. 
He went twice to Hayti in their behalf and made arrangements for their 
reception. By his means, direct and indirect, about two thousand slaves 
were manumitted and placed in security. These acts of noble devotion 
to the oppressed have been tortured by jealousy into a foundation for 
the charge against him of being a colonizationist, a charge refuted by the 
" Genius," but necessary to Mr. Garrison's claim to ire-empt the doctrine 
of anti-colouizationism. Let Lundy have his laurels ! Is there not glory 
enough for all abolhionists? It is noteworthy that the three individuals 
who in the history of the struggle for abolition effected freedom for the 
largest number of slaves were Elisha Tyson, Benjamin Lundy, and Levi 
CotKn, the president of the Cincinnati Underground Kailroad Company. 
Each wrought by his own methods, and not one of them probably ever 
saw either of the two others. 



In the first forty years caftcr the formation of the national 
Constitution abolition societies were active in nine of the original 
thirteen States. There were none in Massachusetts and New 
Hampshire because there was no need of them, or in Georgia and 
South Carolina because those States were completely under the 
control of the slave-holding interest. Either they or the influ- 
ences that created them abolished slavery in the five States of 
Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New 
York, ending with the last named on the 4th of July, 1827. 
They failed in the four States of Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, 
and North Carolina. 

Originally each of these organizations acted in the State in 
which it existed. Practically it did not need the co-operation of 
the others for its special purposes. There was, therefore, no af- 
filiation between them until the common sentiment in favor of 
putting an end to the African slave trade made them feel the ab- 
solute necessity of a closer union. In December, 1791, the abo- 
lition societies of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Penn- 
sylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, sent separate memorials to 
Congress praying for action against the slave trade. In tlie 
House these jiapers were referred to a special committee. No 
further action was had, a neglect which excited the indignation 
of the memorialists. A correspondence between them ensued 
which resulted in an agreement of the societies to send delegates 
to meet in convention at Philadelphia on the first day of Janu- 
ary, 1794. The societies represented on this occasion were the 
six above named and those of New Jersey, Delaware, Wilming- 


ton (Del.), and Chestertovvn (Md.). \Vitli tlie exception of 1799, 
1803, 1805, and 1807, similar conventions of delegates were held 
every year until 1808, after which, owing partly to the abolition 
of the African slave trade in tiiat year, but chiefly to the troubled 
condition of the country — the embargo and the war with Great 
Britain— they were not resumed until 1814. lieginning with 
that year they were regularly held biennially until 1824. Though 
the system of stated conferences of delegates of local societies, 
without organization during the long intervals of adjournment, 
without funds, newspajjcr presses, or lecturers, was the natural 
one so long as the object of each society was to abolish slavery 
in the State within which such society existed, that system was 
altogether inadequate to meet the necessities of the situation 
after the great upheaval of the North in the Missouri contro- 
versy. William Goodell, the historian of " Slavery and Anti- 
Slavery," says : * 

" If Henry Clay could but have known how many were made 
uncompromising abolitionists by their disgust with that unholy 
compromise he would have found less occasion to congratulate 
himself with the results. The present (1852) anti-slavery excite- 
ment may be distinctly traced in part to the earnest debates 
among tlie peoi)le elicited by that same Missouri Compromise. 
The ' settlement ' of the (question by Congress was only the signal 
for its agitation among their constituents.'" 

Of Rhode Island, the State of his residence at that time, Mr. 
Goodell says : 

" Party lines for the time being were well nigh erased and 
the terms ' anti-slavery ' and ' pro-slavery ' took the place of Fed- 
eralist and Republican. The files of newspapers, particularly 
the Providence 'Gazette,' bear testimony that the discussion be- 
came as ' radical ' then as it is now, and that nearly the same ar- 
guments pj'o and con were then in use. Some who commenced 
writing against slavery and compromise then t have not ceased 

* Pafro 384. 

t William Goodell, Jo.4iiia Leavitt, Rev. James Duncan, and John 
Rinkin, began to publish articles against slavery about "that time. Ben- 
jamin Lundy issued his " Genius " in 1821, and John Finley Crowe " The 
Abolition Intelligencer " (Kentucky) in 1822. 


■writing against them still. The author may be permitted to 
record Jiimself among these." (Page oi54.) 

The year 1824 was marked by the removal of Lundy's press 
to Baltimore, the anti-slavery victory at the jioUs in Illinois, the 
declaration of the Ohio and New Jersey Legislatm-es in favor of 
abolition by national legislation, and the election of John Quincy 
Adams to the presidency. Under the magnetic influence of these 
favorable events the anti-slavery societies wakened into vigorous 
activity. The annual conventions of delegates were resumed 
and were held in each year of the Adams Administration. The 
tendency in them to the assumption of the relation of parent so- 
ciety to auxiliaries became more and more marked ; but they 
could not rid themselves of the original feature of the delegate 
principle. Their operations were not openly indorsed by the 
Administration nor were they discountenanced. To be an abo- 
litionist was no disqualification for office under the National 
Government under Adams. Among the agents for Lundy's paper 
there were nine postmasters, most of them in the South, and 
their names were published in its columns. Among the officers 
and delegates of the abolition conventions there were several men 
of national reputation who were noted friends of the national 
Administration. William Rawle (president), Horace Binncy, and 
John Sergeant, of Philadelphia ; William L. Stone, Hiram 
Ketchum, and Cadwallader D. Colden, of New York, were of 
this number, and they attended or were officers of the conven- 
tions in 1824, 1825, 1826, and 1827. When the political skies 
began to darken over Adams in the disastrous presidential cam- 
paign of 1828, and it became manifest that Clay with his slave- 
holding policy would succeed to the Whig leadershijo, the above- 
named gentlemen with one accord abandoned the abolition 
movement. Not one of them appeared at Baltimore in the dele- 
gate convention of 1828, and not one of their names is mentioned 
in the proceedings of that body. The convention itself was a 
failure. Both the president and vice-president were absent, and 
of the thirteen delegates present six were residents of the city of 
Baltimore. Evan Lewis was there from New York. Thomas 
Shipley was elected president joro tern., and Edwin P. Atlee sec- 
retary. Both of these were from Philadelphia. This sudden 
and unexpected defection of the Whig politicians must have 


been extremely discouraging to the societies. Its full meaning, 
that llerod and Pilate were ahout to combine against C'lirist, 
they may not have comprehended and measured in its proljable 
results. The hundred and six Southern auxiliaries still re- 
mained. These could not be deserted.* 

Another convention (the twenty-first) was called to meet at 
Washington city, December 3, 1829. This was the exi)iring ef- 
fort of the d'.'legate system. Kot only were the Whig i)oliticians 
absent, but there was not a single delegate present from any of 
the societies formerly existing in the slave States south of the 
District of Columbia. In 1827 there had been more than a hun- 
dred of these. Lundy was there. He was ashamed to own the 
dismal failure of the convention. In the "Genius" of Decem- 
ber 25, 1829, he says the number present was "smaller than had 
been anticipated." It must have been very small. The general 
defection of the Southern societies, following upon that of the 
Whig politicians, should have opened the eyes of the few who 
remained faithful. Left without leaders or constituency, having 
achieved the abolition of slavery in the Northern States, but 
having no strength to lift the gage of battle for national suj)rem- 
acy through Texas annexation which had been thrown down by 
the slave power in the election of Jackson, they should have 
abdicated the leadership, terminated the delegate system, and 
joined in an effort to unite all the abolitionists of the coun- 
try in an army strong enough to fight the national battle then 

But they did not see. Men cling long to outworn forms. 
The old abolition societies which had supported the delegate 
system for forty years could not give it up at once. They could 
not believe that the prospects of emancipation in Maryland, Vir- 
ginia, and North Carolina which had been so bright in 1827 

* These were distributed in 1827 as follows: Delaware, 2; District 
of Columbia, 2; Kentucky, 8 ; Virginia, 8; Maryland, 11; Tennessee, 
25 ; and Xorth Carolina, 50. Tlio nicnibci ship comprised 6,025 persons. 
There were 12 au.xiliaries in Illinois, and 12 more in Pennsylvania, New 
Yoik, and Ohio. All these were reported to the American Abolitionist 
Convention in 1827. (?ce " Procoedinfrs.") Of unreported anti slavery 
societies there were probably between 50 and 70. Con.^ult Poole's pam- 
phlet, p. 72. 


were utterly overclouded in 1838. Xor could they comprehend 
that in electing General Jackson without previous discussion of 
slavery extension and Texas annexation the country had jiracti- 
cally changed its policy, and the nation had without shout of 
command or blare of trumpet executed a left wheel upon its cen- 
ter, marched into the camp of the slave power, and surrendered 
at discretion ; and so, being blind, they issued a call for another 
convention. But this never convened. The delegate system had 
had its day ; it iras dead. 

From the time of the Missouri controversy, which had re- 
vealed the inherent weakness of the delegate system, the aboli- 
tion sentiment of the North was growing away from it. In the 
exciting battle of 1822-24 for the rescue of Illinois, the conven- 
tion was not known in the leadership of the anti-slavery forces ; 
nor was its primacy acknowledged by the greater number of the 
societies which were organized between 1820 and 1830 under 
the names of Abolition, Aiding Abolition, Manumission, Eman- 
cipation, Gradual Emancipation, Anti-Slavery, Constitution, Free 
Labor, Free Produce, Union Humane, Benevolent, African Pro- 
tection, Friends of Humanity, Moral and Religious, and others 
more or less expressive of their anti-slavery character. The as- 
sumption that the few societies which sent delegates to the con- 
vention were almost the only ones of the kind in existence before 
1830 is an error into which many worthy writers have fallen. In 
truth, from the time of the revival of anti-slavery action in 1814, 
the discussion of slavery increased from year to year in geomet- 
rical progression, and until 1830 the formation of societies kept 
pace with the discussion ; nor did the convention contribute in 
any perceptible manner to the triumphs of anti-slavery sentiment 
in the legislatures of the Nortliern States. Between 1824 and 
1827 the General Assemblies of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jer- 
sey, had each passed resolutions in favor of the abolition of slav- 
ery by national legislation, and professed willingness that those 
States should bear their respective proportions of the necessary 
expenditure. In 1828 the Pennsylvania Legislature, by an almost 
unanimous vote, '' IfesoJved, That the Senators of this State, in 
the Senate of the United States, are hereby requested to procure, 
if practicable, the passage of a law to abolish slavery in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia in such a manner as they may consider consist- 


I'lit with tlio rights of inclividiials and the Coustitution of the 
United States."* 

On the 28tli of January, 1829, the New York Assembly '' Re- 
aohed, If the Senate concur herein, that the Senators of this 
State in the Congress of the United States be and are hereby in- 
structed, and the representatives of this State are requested to 
vial:e every possible exertion to eHect the passage of a law for the 
abolition of slavery in th.e District of Columbia." t 

On the 9th of January, 1829, the of Representatives, 
United States, '^ Itesolced, That the Committee of the District of 
Columbia be instructed to incjuire into the erpedienq/ (not the 
right) of providing by law for tlie gradual abolition of slavery in 
the District in such manner that no individual .shall be injured 
thereby." J 

Tile statement tliat '• after the 3Iissouri Compromise of 1820 
a paralysis fell on the anti-slavery sentiment of the country " 
(G., i, 90) is not justified by the facts. The truth is that for 
substantial anti-slavery victories no subsequent decade up to 1850 
can compare with the one ending in 1830. Tlie final exclu.sion 
of .slavery from Illinois in 1824, its total abolition in New York 
in 1827, the formation of more than a hundred abolition societies 
in slave States, and the anti-slavery action of three Northern 
legislatures in and before 1829, are facts which alone should 
vindicate the healthy state of anti-slavery opinion in the North 
during that decade. The old convention system did not expire anti-slavery sentiment was suffering "paralysis," but be- 
cause it was inadequate to meet the demands of the vigorous 
sentiment which dated from 1820. The old shell was sloughed 
off that the new life miglit have free i)lay. The sickle gave 
place to the mowing-machine ; the stage coach to the railror.d 

The quotation in Appendix B from the "Genius" of July, 
1831. proves that "men of wealth and influence are [were] about 
to engage in forming an American Anti-Slavery Society." The 
project was delayed in its execution by the Nat Turner insurrec- 
tion of August 21st, the expectation of a successful emancipation 
movement in Virginia during the winter of 1831-'32, the intense 

* Jay's Inquiry, p. ICl. f Ibid., p. IGl. J Ibid., p. 161. 


activity infused into anti-slavery movements by the attempt of 
President Jackson in March, 1829, to purchase Texas, the rehic- 
tance of the convention men to assume a leadership not recognized 
by the recently formed societies, and the necessity of correspond- 
ence and interviews between the many persons interested. Mean- 
while, between 1829 and November, 1833, many new anti-slavery 
societies * had been formed ; about thirty newspapers f were 
actively advocating the abolition cause ; in 1829 Mexico had 
foiled President Jackson by abolishing slavery ; on the 1st of 
August, 1833, the Parliament of Great Britain had passed the 
act for emancipation the following year in the British West In- 
dies ; and the whole North was stirred to its depths on the slav- 
ery question. To bring all the societies and presses into effective 

* The lists of auxiliaries published with the annual reports of the 
American Anti-Slavery Society for 1836, 183*7, and 1838, show by dates 
that 36 had been organized before the national society, and enumerate 
more than twice as many without date of organization. Of this last class 
at least 50 were in existence before December, 1833. Not reckoning the 
130 auxiliaries of the Abolition Convention, there were nearly if not 
quite 100 anti-slavery societies whose organization antedates that of the 
American Anti-Slavery Society. 

f In the annual report of the managers of the New England Anti- 
Slavery Society, read January 15, 1S34, and probably written at an earlier 
date, there is the following note : 

" The following is an imperfect list of the newspapers and periodicals 
in the United States which advocate the cause of abolition : ' Philanthro- 
pist,' Brownsville, Pa. ; ' Observer,' Lowell, Mass. ; ' State Journal,' Mont- 
pelier, Yt. ; ' Anti-Masonic Enquirer,' Rochester, N. Y. ; ' Workingman's 
Press,' New Bedford, Mass. ; ' Rights of Jlan,' Rochester, N. Y. ; ' Free 
Press,' Hallowell, Me. ; ' Gazette,' Haverhill, Mass. ; ' Friend,' Philadel- 
phia, Pa. ; ' Emancipator,' New York city; ' Massachusetts Spy,' Worces- 
ter, Mass. ; ' Unionist,' Brooklyn, Conn. ; ' Record,' Lynn, Mass. ; ' Evan- 
gelist,' New York city ; ' Canonsburg Luminary,' Pennsylvania ; ' New 
England Telegraph,' North Wrentham, Mass. ; ' Genius of Universal 
Emancipation,' Washington, D. C. ; ' Christian Watchman,' Boston, Mass.; 
'Messenger,' Indiana; 'Liberator,' Boston; ' Palladium,' Bethania, Pa. ; 
'Freeman,' Greenfield, Mass.; 'Reporter,' Watertown, N. Y. ; 'Philan- 
thropist,' Providence, R. I. ; ' Christian Secretary,' Hartford, Conn. ; ' We, 
the People,' Plymouth, Mass." 


unity was the need of the hour. It is believed that everj^ anti- 
slavery society and press then in existence favored the formation 
of a national society. Several resolutions to that effect had been 
passed. On the 21st of January, 18'S'-i, about ei<^hteen months 
after the notice quoted in our thirteenth chapter from the " Gen- 
ius," the New England Anti-Slavery Society liad authorized its 
managers "to call a national meeting of the friends of abolition 
for the purpose of organizing such a society [national] at such 
time and place as they shall deem expedient."' (Report of 1833, 
page 8.) But as the managers, in their rej^ort for 1834 (page 12), 
mention the formation of the American society without report- 
ing any action of their own contributing to it, the inference is 
unavoidable that they took none. 

During the summer of 1833, the general demand for a new 
national organization suited to the wants of the times and con- 
trolling funds and presses became so urgent that meetings were 
held among the abolitionists in Philadel])hia to consider the sub- 
ject. Those of them who had figured prominently in the old 
convention were Thomas Shipley, Dr. Edwin P. Atlee, James 
Mott, David Paul Brown, Isaac Barton, Peter Wright, Thomas 
Earle, Thomas Parker, Jr., Abram L. Pennock, Dr. Joseph Par- 
rish, Isaac Parrish, Dilwyn Parrish, "William S. Ilallowell, Evan 
Lewis, Enoch Lewis, and Charles S. Cope.* It was agreed in 
their conferences that Evan Lewis, who had formerly resided in 
New York city, should go to that city and urge the Tap- 
pans to take the lead in the formation of a national society. 
He went upon this mission in the summer of 1833, saw the Tap- 
pans, and prevailed upon them to take the matter into consid- 

For many years Arthur Tappan had been known throughout 

* All these favored immediate abolition and were identified with the 
cause both before and after the formation of the new society. It is be- 
lieved, indeed, that, with the exception of the Southern delegates and the 
six Whig politicians named in the text, all the able and energetic men 
who had acted as delegates to the old conventions continued their anti- 
slavery efforts in the new organization. Evan Lewis, Edwin P. Atlee, Ed- 
win A. Atlee, Thomas Shipley, Peter Wriglit, John Sharp, Jr., and Isaac 
Barton, were among the men who formed it, and Edwin A. Atlee and 
Evan Lewis were among its vice-presidents. 


the country as a wealthy merchant, fervent Christian, and liberal 
contributor to the Church and to the Bible, Tract, Missionary, Ed- 
ucation, and other religious and benevolent associations. He was 
an officer in several of them. He was widely known, too, as opposed 
to slavery. In the twenties he aided the Colonization Society. 
He subscribed to Lundy's paper, and in 1828 he made a small 
donation of money to help it out of its embarrassments. In 1830 
he was elected a vice-president of the African Education Society 
and paid Garrison's fine at Baltimore to release him from prison, 
and in 1831 he endeavored to establish an African high scliool at 
New Haven. In March, 1833, he and his brother Lewis estab- 
lished the "Emancipator" (Goodell's "Slavery and Anti- Slav- 
ery," p. 392), which soon gained an extensive circulation. He aided 
the "New York Evangelist," which was both Presbyterian and 
anti-slavery. About the same time he printed and circulated at 
his own expense five thousand copies of Whittier's excellent pam- 
phlet against slavery. Goodell (page 392) says : "By co-opera- 
tion between the Messrs. Tappan and a few others, very large issues 
of anti-slavery tracts were circulated monthly during the greater 
part of this year and sent by mail," etc. Lewis Tappan adopts 
this statement in his brother's "Life" (page 168). It was chiefly 
through the munificence, discretion, and activity of the Tappans, 
aided by the counsel of William Jay and the editorial ability of 
William Goodell, Joshua Leavitt, and Elizur Wright, that before 
General Jackson's first presidential term had expired New York 
had become the head center of abolition influence. By general 
recognition of the public Arthur Tappan was the leader, and his 
brother Lewis ranked next. Arthur's strength lay in his wisdom, 
firmness, discretion, and liberality ; Lewis's in his ready tact, 
will-power, strong convictions, and indefatigable activity. Ar- 
thur was not a public speaker ; Lewis was fluent, clear, and forci- 
ble. Arthur had no taste for public business ; Lewis, if he had 
been elected representative in Congress, would have led the 
house. There was no jealousy between the brothers, and the 
two were strong enough to lead the strong men who composed 
the abolition army between 1829 and 1834. 

The visit of Evan Lewis to New York was the abdication of 
the Philadelphia abolitionists who had led to the Tappans who 
were to lead. The former capital ceded precedence to the new 


metropolis. The project was discussed in August and Septom- 
teniber, but no detinite action was taken before the Keic Toric 
citij Anti-Slavery Society was formed. How, when, and why 
tliis occurred we will let Lewis Tajjpan tell. He says : 

"The abolitionists of the city had made such progress in the 
diffusion of their sentiments that they were encouraged in the 
belief that the time had come to form a society and thus combine 
and extend their influence. Accordingly a call was made for a 
meeting of the friends of immediate emancipation, to be held at 
Clinton Hall on the second day of October, 1833. The notice 
was published in the papers of the day and by show-bills put up 
in the streets and on public buildings."* 

He then gives an account of the mob, the manner in whicli it 
was foiled in its purposes, the formation of the society at Chat- 
ham Street Chapel, and the names of its officers. These were 
Arthur Tap[)an, W. Green, John Kankin, Elizur AVright, Charles 
W. Denisou, Joshua Leavitt, Isaac T. Hojiper, Abram L. Cox, 
Lewis Tappan, and William Goodell. 

In the last half of September brief intimations were made 
through the anti-slavery papers that a convention was to be held 
to form a national anti-slavery societj' and a future official notice 
was promised. Keferring to the formation of the New York city 
Anti-Slavery Society, October 2, Lewis Tappan writes : 

* " Life of Arthur Tappan," p. 168. The honor of causing the forma- 
tion of this society is claimed for Mr. Garrison by his sons on the ground 
that, on the eve of sailing for England, May 2, he directed it. "It must 
be organized, he said, and his words gave the needed resolution." (G., 5, 
346.) The authority for this claim is given in a foot-note, " Related by 
William Green in 1880." As the supposed order lay five months with- 
out execution and forty seven years without being te.-^tified to, it can not 
Itc taken against Lewis Tappan's plain statement ; nor was tliis claim 
intimated at the time by Mr. (Jarrison, though in October, 1833, he no- 
ticed the formation of the New York city Anti-Slavery Society several 
times in his paper and copied its constitution in part. The Tappans, 
Leavitt, Isaac T. Hopper, Wright, Goodell, and others who did form that 
society were men of undaunted courage, and the inucndo that in the pre- 
ceding May they were hesitating to act because "of a hostile and lawless 
public sentiment" (G., i, 340) is unjust to them. Imagine Isaac T. Hop- 
per, the lion-hearted, charged with timidity ! 


" Shortly afterward Mr. Tappan met with a few friends to 
consider the propriety of issuing a call for an auti-slavery con- 
vention to form a national society." ("Life of Arthur Tappan," 
page 175.) 

An unsigned circular, nearly a newspaper column in length, 
written, it is said, by Joshua Leavitt and Lewis Tappan, and set- 
ting forth the reasons for such a step, was published in the first 
week of October. It mentioned neither time nor place, being 
intended to elicit expressions of opinion by societies, news- 
papers, and individuals. These were favorable. The time was 

The call was issued under the auspices of the New York city 
Anti-Slavery Society on the 29th of October. It was signed by 
Arthur Tappan, President, Joshua Leavitt, one of the managers, 
and Elizur Wright, Jr., Secretary, and was published in the anti- 
slavery newspapers, while letters were addressed to friendly in- 
dividuals in different parts of the country inviting their attend- 

In the first paragraph of the official report of the proceedings 
of the convention, made out by Lewis Tappan and John G. 
Whittier, secretaries, the statement is made that the delegates 
and other friends of emancijiation had convened at Philadelphia 
''on the fourth day of December, Anno Domini, 1833, for the 
purpose of forming a national anti-slavery society pursuant to an 
invitatian from the Ifew TarTc city Anti-Slavery Society.'''' 

The official report of the "roll of the convention" shows 
names* as follows : From Maine, 5 ; New Hampshire, 1 ; Ver- 
mont, 1 ; Massachusetts, 12 ; Rhode Island, 3 ; Connecticut, 5 ; 
New York, 9 ; New Jersey, 3 ; Pennsylvania, 22 ; and Ohio, 3. 
From ten States, total, 64. Of the members, three were colored 
men — Pursis, Barbadoes, and ]McCrummell. The religious ele- 
ment was largely predominant, if it did not absorb all others. 

* Sixty-two names are signed to the Declaration of Sentiments, as 
published in the "Proceedings of the Second Decade Meeting " (1853), 
p. 169. Of these, three (Daniel S. Southmayd, George Hourne, and James 
Mott) do not appear on the official roll, and six that do appear on the 
roll are wanting, to wit, Thomas Shi|)ley, Peter Wright, Isaac Barton, 
Ed\'.in Fussell, Sumner Stebbins, and W. II. Johnson. 


There were at least twenty-one Presbyterians or Congregational- 
ists, of whom six were preachers (not counting George Bourne, 
who was not present at the convention), nineteen Quakers, and 
one Unitarian preacher (S. J. May). It is j^robable that every 
person ])resont was a member of some religious denomination 
except Mr. Garrison. He was not. (G., i, oG.) Every one of 
the seven preachers and a dozen or more of the others, it is be- 
lieved, were platform speakers, and some of them were distin- 
guished as such. There was not a single statesman or man of 
experience in public affairs. There were merchants, tlieological 
students, a college president, an ex-professor, and a poet. It 
was an assembly of remarkably intelligent and sensible men who 
were without experience in practical politics and whose bias was 
to give undue prominence to the religious aspect of the anti- 
slavery movement. 

The dominating influence was that of tlie Tappans, John Ran- 
kin, "William Goodell, Beriah Green, and Elizur Wright. Ar- 
thur Tappan had counseled great discretion, and Judge "William 
Jay, the only statesman at that time identified with them, had 
written urging them to make an explicit declaration of sound 
political principles. (See page 134 of "Third Decade Proceed- 
ings.") The clmrges generally brought against the abolitionists 
were that they advocated — 

1. Violation of the national Constitution ; 

2. Dissolution of the Union ; 

3. The right of Congress to abolish slavery in the States ; 

4. Insurrection of the slaves. 

To meet these charges three distinct propositions were incor- 
porated into the constitution of the American Anti-Slavery So- 
ciety, viz. : 

1. That each State in which slavery exists has by the United 
States Constitution the exclusive right to Jeghhte in regard to 
its abolition in said State. 

2. That the society would endeavor in a constitutional way 
to influence Congress to prohibit the interstate slave trade, to 
abolish slavery in the Territories and the District of Columbia, 
and to prevent the extension of it to any State that might be ad- 
mitted to the Union. 


3. That it would not countenance any insurrection of slaves. 

The constitution is an instrument in ten articles, preceded by 
an elaborate preamble. It covers three and a quarter pages of 
tlie official pamphlet report. The fact that it was reported at 
the first session of the convention and promptly adopted without 
amendment indicates previous and carefvil preparation. Tradi- 
tion says that it had been drafted by Judge Jay. The doctrine 
of immediate * emancipation is contained in the preamble. 

The criticism of more than half a century has failed to detect 
a flaw in this admirable instrument. The doctrines of consti- 
tutional law embodied in it were reiterated by the anti -slavery 
men in all the stages of their grand struggle as a Liberty party 
in 1840 and 1844, a Free Soil party in 1848, and a Republican 

* The expediency of taking this position is well set forth in the fol- 
lowing letter to Dr. E. P. Atlee, written twenty days after the convention 
adjourned. The original lies before me : 

"New York, 23 Dec, 1833. 

" Mr DEAR Siu : Illness has prevented an earlier reply to your es- 
teemed favor of the 11th Inst. I have read your letter once and again, 
and it has been read in the executive committee. 

" We differ with you in opinion that it is incumbent on us to present 
a specific plan for the government of emancipated slaves or that it is ad- 
visable to recommend the separation of a territory exclusively for that 
class of our fellow-citizens. The moment we offer a plan objections will 
be made to it by those who are in favor of perpetual slavery (and they 
are not a few), and the minds of the community will be turned off from 
the great duty of emancipation to altercations about the mode in which 
it shall take place and the measures to be taken in consequence. By 
presenting any specific plan, we pledge ourselves to it when time might 
unfold a better plan which we could not advocate without a charge of in- 
consistency. If we recommend a separate territory we admit that a re- 
moval of the colored (people) is expedient, a doctrine we have over and 
again denied. Thus we aid the argument of colonization and introduce 
division into our own ranks. 

"By advocating simply the doctrine of emancipation wc move on 
with united hearts ; but whenever we propose plans of subsequent meas- 
ures we produce division. . . . These are the reasons, so far as I think 
of them, that seem to oppose the design you have suggested. Perhaps 
on further reflection they will have weight on your mind. . . . 

" Very truly yours, Lkwis TArrAN." 


partj' in ISoG ; and they were finally adopted by the nation in the 
uk'ctiou of Abraham Linc(jlu to the presidency on a i)latform 
containing them. 

After the convention had adopted the constitution and elected 
its olHcers, and at tlie close of its first day's session, a motion was 
made to appoint a committee to draw up for the signature of 
members a declaration of principles of the society. This had not 
been in the regular programme of intended proceedings ; but as it 
was understood that Mr. Garrison had prepared one a committee 
of ten, including him, was appointed. Dr. Atlee was chairman, 
and Eli/ur Wriglit, John G. Whittier, and William Goodell, were 
members. The first draft was rejected. Another was prepared 
during the night by Mr. Garrison. This was amended first by a 
sub-committee, then by the committee of ten, and finally by the 
convention in committee of the whole. Naturally enough it 
bears traces of ha.sty preparation, and also of its mixed author- 
ship. In more than one instance the wrong word is used, or a 
passage inserted out of its proper j)lace. The recapitulation of 
divers human measures to secure success is followed, oddly 
enough, by our " trust for victory is solely in God.'''' The style is 
partly terse and partly turgid ; the imitation of the literary form 
of the Declaration of Independence is in bad taste ; and the 
statement of doctrines of constitutional law, though embracing 
those already adopted by the society, is more rhetorical than pre- 
cise.* Why six members of the convention did not sign the dec- 
laration does not ap])ear. With its obvious faults it was a noble 
document as finally adopted. The following sentence, though 
ojien to verbal criticism, was worthy of a place as a motto at the 
head of every anti-slaven,' paper in the country : " We also main- 
tain that there are, at the present time, the highest obligations 
resting upon the people of the free States, to remove slavery by 
moral and politicnl action, as prescribed in the Constitution of 
the United States." 

Of this declaration ^Ir. Garrison said at the third decade 
meeting (" Proceedings,'' etc., page 22), "It is a collection of 
the merest truisms." Borne of his friends, attributing to him 

* The ri'jht of the National Government to suppress a slave iusurrcc- 
tiun by proclaiming freedom mijilit have bcca mentioned. 


the exclusive authorsliip, exaggerate its merits, and tlie truth 
seems to lie about half-way between the two. In the same 
speech he says : "The result" (of the adoption and signing of 
the declaration) "was the immediate formation of the American 
Anti-Slavery Society, which," etc. 

This is a mistake ; the official record shows that the society 
was formed and the officers elected "Wednesday, and that the 
declaration was not reported until Thursday, the 5th. S. J. 
May, in his "Recollections," (page 88), saj's it was reported in 
the afternoon of Thursday and signed on Friday, The American 
Anti-Slavery Societj' had then been in existence two days. 

The officers chosen were Arthur Tappan, President ; twenty- 
six vice-presidents, representing ten States ; Elizur Wright (New 
York), Secretary of Domestic Correspondence ; W. L. Garrison,* 
Secretary of Foreign Correspondence ; Abraham L. Cox (New 
York), Recording Secretary ; W. Green (New York), Treasurer ; 
and seventy-two managers, rej)resenting ten States. 

* Mr. Garrison was at once placed by the executive committee under 
the " vexatious restriction " of submitting to it for approval all his official 
letters before sending them. He resigned the same month or early in 
January. His friend E. B. Hall, who was a member of the convention, 
wrote to him January' 21, 1834, upon hearing of his resignation : "I will 
give you succinctly the history of that office. When the committee to 
form a constitution at Mr. Sharpless's were about to retire, I had reason 
to suppose that the form of constitution wldch they had in their hands 
provided but one secretary to the society. I knew, too, what was to be 
the management about that office, that Mr. Wright was tofdlif, and thus 
be the mouth of all anti-slavery men in the United States. This did not 
exactly suit me. / /cneic your claims. I knew, too, that you would be 
placed on the board of managers or as vice-president — in other word.-;, 
would be second fiddle — and this did not suit me. I laid hold on the com- 
mittee, and urged and entreated them to create the office to which you 
were subsequently appointed." . . . (G. i, 415). 

Mr. Hall's testimony shows that the men who framed the con.<titution 
and formed the society had no intention to put Mr. Garrison into any im- 
portant position. They yielded to Mr. Hall's insistence, but the "vexa- 
tious restriction" immediately imposed on him as secretary shows they 
were determined that Mr. Garrison should not only play " second fiddle," 
but no tunes except of their choosing. 


The convention adjourned on December 6th, and the National 
Society entered at once upon its wonderful career of agitation. 
Arthur Tappan made an annual subscription of three thousand 
dollars*; John Rankin, the New York mercliant, one of twelve 
hundred ; and each ])aid in j)romptiy the first installment. Other 
parties subscribed and paid smaller amounts. Men like William 
Jay were pleased witli the conservative and law-abiding character 
of the society, and gave it earnest support. Up to the date of its 
disruption, in 1840, the activity of the American Anti-Slavery 
Society was unparalleled among the reformatory associations of 
the United States. 

* This was increased in 1835 to five thousand dollars. 


To Colonel Stone— 

Sir : A few days since I was told by a friend tliat he had 
read in the New York " Spectator," of which you are the editor, 
this assertion : "Mr. Birney is not the only brawler who has sold 
his slaves and turned abolitionist." He had not the paper with 
him, but he assured me that I might rely on the substantial accu- 
racy of the words as above quoted. The accusation it involves 
is a serious one to myself individually, and may, if unanswered, 
have an injurious influence on the cause of human liberty, in 
which, with many others much more distinguished than myself, 
I am employing the humble powers with which it has pleased 
God to endow me. It is only in the latter view — for, as to my- 
self, I believe I could bear patiently the wrong you have incau- 
tiously inflicted— that I have thought it proper to transmit to 
you for publication the following statement, which I ought not 
to doubt, from your Christian profession, you will take pleasure 
in laying before the public through the same medium you used 
in acquainting them with your accusation. 

At the time (1818) I determined to remove from Kentucky to 
Alabama. I was the holder of a few slaves, principally domes- 
tics or house-servants, given to me by my grandfather, my father, 
and the father of Mrs. Birney. Intending to engage in jjlantiug, 
I sold nearly all my property in Kentucky with the view of in- 
vesting the proceeds in slaves and land in the South. Including 
those obtained by purchase and those already mentioned, I had 
on my settlement in Alabama as a planter, as nearly as I can now 
remember, about thirty. Two or three years afterward I received 
from my father //re more. 

My habits at this period of my life tended more to the dissipa- 
tion than to the accumulation of wealth. In a few years my circum- 


stances became embarrassed, though not insolvent, and I found 
it necessary to resume the practice of the h\w, which from tlie 
time of my removal to Alabama I had relinquished. It became 
necessary, also, in order to meet my responsibilities and preserve 
my credit, that I sliould sell my land and slaves. Before making 
any contract for the .sale of tlie slaves I informed them of my 
situation, and consulted tlieir wishes in their selection of a pur- 
chaser. They had less aversion to being sold than they would 
formerly have had, because I had found it necessary to the prose- 
cution of my professional pursuits to remove from my plantation 
to Iluntsville, sixteen miles distant, thus leaving them for the 
last year entirely in the charge of an overseer. In the sale I made 
a short time afterward to a planter whose land adjoined mine, 
and wliose character as a humane master was well known to my 
slaves, I reserved my domestic servants, five in number, a man, 
his wife, and their three children. This sale was made in 1S24, 
at a time when my opinions on tlie subject of slave-holding did 
not materially diHer from tliose which prevailed among the gen- 
erality of planters. My religious profession and connection with 
the Church took place in the spring of 182G. 

For several years I had no other slaves than the five I have 
mentioned as domestics. In the autumn of 1829, an elderly man 
and his wife, held by an innkeeper at whose house I usually 
boarded while attending a neighboring court, became solicitous 
that I should buy thcni. The innkeeper was addicted to fits of 
intemperance, and while they were on him he would comjiel the 
old negro to amuse him by exercising his skill — acquired in his 
younger days — in playing vulgar tunes on the fiddle. The old 
man being a member of the Methodist Church, and an occasional 
exhorter, considered his participation in such things as incon- 
sistent witii his religious station, and felt the necessittj under 
which he was placed as a great grievance. This, in addition to 
other reasons, induced me to purchase him and his wife at the 
price set on them by the innkeeper. They were not very long 
in my possession till the husband found in Huntsville an old ac- 
quaintance in a gentleman who was about removing from Hunts- 
ville to the neighborhood of Louisville in Kentucky. They 
expressed a desire to remove witli him, on account, as they 
stated, of their being thus brought into the neighborhood of 


some of their friends and relatives who resided near Louisville. 
They persuaded the gentleman to offer for them the same price I 
had given, though it was not all to be paid in cash, as I had paid 
it. A part of it was to be paid in furniture, for which I had no 
pressing necessity. However, this was made no impediment to 
the accomplishment of their wishes, though they would doubt- 
less have brought much more had they been set up for sale to the 
highest bidder. 

Up to 1831 my professional business had been profitable, and 
my pecuniary means had again begun to accumulate. I deter- 
mined to expend them, together with a gift of money I had re- 
ceived from my father about this time, in the establishment of a 
stock-farm, because it could be conducted with comparatively few 
slaves. To this end I bought, partly from an individual and 
partly from the Government, several hundred acres of cheap 
land. In November of that year I bought from a Tennesseeau 
a negro woman with her child, a little girl about four years old. 
Before I had made any other pm-chases of slaves, a lady in Hunts- 
ville, who had secured to her several slaves, proposed to me, 
through her husband, to pledge to me two of them for a sum of 
money of which he stood in need. The sum to be advanced 
was supposed to be their value, taking into tlie estimate the risk 
of their lives during the time the money should be retained. I 
acceded to the proposition, took into my use the two slaves, and 
kept them on this contract till within a short time of my removal 
to Kentucky, in the autumn of 1833, T^ie money was then re- 
turned and the slaves redelivered to the lady. In the beginning 
of 1833 I hired from an administrator for that year five slaves, a 
man, his wife, and tlieir three children. They remained on my 
farm till I was about leaving Alabama, At tlie proper time they 
were delivered up to the gentleman from whom they were hired. 
These circumstances in relation to the pledged and hired slaves 
are mentioned to correct misrepresentations that have been fre- 
quently made at the North by some of my Southern acquaint- 
ances as to the extent of my connection with slavery at the time 
I prepared to remove from Alaljama. Tliey have represented me 
as holding slaves to some considerable extent, and as selling all 
or nearly all of them in order to avoid loss in my conversion to 
abolitionism. These misstatements have doubtless been often 


made inconsiderately and ignorantly by those who would do 
more to injure the cause of emancipation than they would to in- 
jure me. Yet in a few instances, if my information be correct, 
they have been made by persons whose knowledge of my circum- 
stances at that time takes away every excuse which charity can 
I)lead for them on the ground of itjnorunce. 

At this time, the autumn of 1833, I held as slaves the woman 
and child above mentioned and five house-servants. I was then, 
and had been more than a year before, the agent and advocate of 
the American Colonization Society. I do not now remember that 
my views as to the right of the slave to his liberty and the duty 
of the master to emancipate were much in advance of those usu- 
ally entertained by colonizationists. Certain it is I looked for- 
ward to no time, I anticijjated no circumstances which would 
ever bring me to consider them as I now do. I had then no ex- 
pectation that I should at any ])eriod of my life deserve the name 
of an abolitionist or draw on me persecutions of sufficient rigor 
to banish me from Kentucky, where I was born— persecutions 
from which the constitutional tegis of the free State of Ohio have 
not yet availed to defend me. 

Before breaking up my establishment in Alabama. I proposed 
to the woman to send her and her child to Liberia, after she had, 
by the services she had already performed and by her future hire, 
returned me the price 1 had paid for her. She objected utterly 
to going to Liberia. I then proposed to bring her with me to 
Kentucky, where, after being remunerated by her services for 
the sum I had paid for her, I would manumit her and her child 
without any condition of removal, in the mean time giving to 
the child such education as I could under existing circumstances. 
To this, so far as she herself was concerned, to my great surprise, 
she objected, urging that she was an entire stranger in Kentucky, 
and that she did not wish to leave the acquaintances she had 
made since her residence in Alabama. Believing her conduct to 
be altogether injudicious, I said to her, that while I felt no de- 
sire to compel her to either of the courses I had jjroposcd, I could 
not permit hsr to make for the child the election of remaining 
behind. So far from being displeased with this she expressed 
her full concurrence, saying she knew her child irould he well talen 
care of, and every provision made for her that could he expected. 


She preferred being sold to being hired, on account of the better 
treatment she -would receive from a master than from a hirer. I 
permitted her to select her own master, and in order that she 
might have no difiiculty in inducing such a one as she might 
select to purchase her, I put her price at eighty-five dollars less 
than I had given for her and her child. The advance on the 
price of negroes at this time would have enabled me to have sold 
her alone at public sale for from seventy-five to one hundred dol- 
lars more than the sum I asked. The gentleman whom she se- 
lected, and of whose character for humanity to his slaves 1 had 
received, on inquiry, satisfactory assurances, purchased her with- 
out hesitation. I was not informed of the reasons for her con- 
duct — so singular, as it appeared to me — till she had rejected 
both my propositions leading to her ultimate manumission. I 
was afterward told by my overseer, who was wannly attached to 
my interests, and who, I believe, thought that I was already 
somewhat fanr.tical in my desire to oblige the woman who 
wanted me to sell her, believing if I took her to Kentucky I 
would finally emancipate her, that her conduct proceeded from 
an attachment she had formed for a negro man who, he sup- 
posed, had persuaded her to object to every proposition which 
contemplated her removal from that part of the country. The 
little girl, her child, I brought with me, together with the do- 
mestic servants already mentioned, to Kentucky in 18C3. 

I had already lost much of my first confidence in the efiicacy 
of colonization principles for the extirpation of slavery among 
us. I assisted, in December, 1833, in the organization at Lexing^ 
ton of a gradual emancipation society, thinking its principles 
were somewhat stronger than those of colonization and would be 
more effectual. I entered on this scheme with ardor and became 
its active advocate. A short trial of it soon convinced me of its 
inefiicacy to move the hearts of men. During this winter and 
the ensuing spring my mind was deeply interested in the whole 
subject of slavery. I read almost every work I could lay my 
hands on ; I talked much of it in public and in private. In the 
month of May, 1834, I became so fully convinced of the right of 
my slaves to their freedom and of my duty as a Christian to give 
it to them that I prepared, as well as I now remember, on the 
first day of June, a deed of emancipation for the six I brought 


with me from Alabama and had it duly entered of record in the 
office of the county court of the county in which I lived. They 
all remained with me, receiving such wages, with the exception 
of the little girl, as were customary in the country. 

In tiie previous mouth of January or February, a young negro 
man held by the executors of the late Judge Boyle, of Kentucky, 
earnestly solicited me to buy him lest at the sale of the estate he 
might be sold to some person of whose character and temper he 
knew nothing. At first I objected on the ground that I intended 
never again to purchase a slave to be held in the absolute sense. 
He left me, but returned again, bringing as an aid to his own 
importunity the recommendation of the brother-in-law of Judge 
Boyle, who held as slaves some other members of the family. 
He prevailed on this second application, and I paid the price of 
him to the executors. Before I consented to do so we had this 
understanding, that, so soon as b}' the allowance of fair wages he 
should return me tiie money I had advanced he should go free ; 
that in the mean time I would have taught him to read, and, if 
he proved apt to learn, writing and the elementary rules of arith- 
metic ; that I would ask of him no unreasonable services, but 
that if he should fail to perform with fidelity what I required of 
him I should return him to the state of absolute slavery from 
which I considered I was taking him. It was but a short time 
before I became satisfied that his character had been grossly, 
though I will not suffer myself to think intentionally, misrepre- 
sented to me. He proved trifling, lazy, and troublesome among 
tlie rest of my servants. Especially provoking to me was his re- 
iterated harsh treatment of the little girl above mentioned, for 
whom, as she had no relative near her, I felt almost a parental 
tenderness. After bearing with him for several months, and 
often persuading and admonishing him, I found it was out of 
the question to keep him about me any longer. In the month 
of July, I think it was, I gave him a writing authorizing him to 
obtain for his master any one who would give me within one 
hundred dollars of the price I had ])aid for him, although I 
think it probable had I olTered him for the highest price without 
regard to the character of the purchaser I might have received 
for him one hundred dollars more than I gave. It turned out 
that the gentleman who had imwarily recommended him to me 


offered to become tlie purchaser if I would grant a longer credit 
for part of the sura than I had proposed in my written note. To 
tills I assented. The same gentleman had a short time previous 
become the owner by purchase of the farm belonging to the es- 
tate of Judge Boyle, so that the young man was returned to the 
very jilace from which I had taken him. Before the last pay- 
ment fell due I became convinced, notwithstanding what I had 
done was nothing more than a literal execution of the an-ange- 
ment to which he had assented (if such a thing can be predicated 
of a slave), that I had done wrong in selling him. I wrote to 
the gentleman who had bought him that I wished to repurchase 
the slave that I might give him his freedom. His reply informed 
me that he was out of his power, as he had sent him down the 
Mississippi with a Southern planter. This case has given me 
more uneasiness of mind than any of the others. While most 
persons under the same pressure of influences which was then 
bearing on me would probably have acted as I did, yet do I not 
seek to justify it. The influences which warped and obscured 
my moral vision I ought to have resisted. 

The above statement shows my connection with slavery for 
nearly twenty years. There has been no concealment or sup- 
pression on my part of any of the facts since I have become an 
abolitionist. I have often repeated them to friends who have in- 
quired concerning them. The enemies of abolition have often 
perverted or misunderstood them and trumpeted them to the 
world in a manner not unlike that which it has pleased you to 
adopt. I should have published them in the journalg^ of the 
country had I not thought it would be impertinent to consider 
such small matters as at all affecting the magnificent and awful 
cause which has brought in opposition the friends of liberty and 
the upholders of slavery. At present I think differently. An 
importance has been given to my conduct which renders an ex- 
position of it necessary. While God has granted me, as I trust, 
repentance for its errors, he has not altogether withheld from 
me the humility which can bear their exposure. 

Had you been as careful as it seems to me you ought to have 
been before venturing so deadly an assault on the reputation of 
a Christian brother, you would either previously have asked of 
me if the facts on which it was to proceed were true or you 


would have given the authority on wliich you liavi- made your 
injurious accusation. Hereafter, sir, should you deem any jjart 
of my private history worthy of publicatiou through the journals 
under your control, I will at your request, and on my own con- 
sent to its propriety, furnish you with statements which will 
stand any test your friends or mine may choose to apply to them. 
With due respect, James G. Birney. 

CiNCDfNATi, May 2, 1836. 


The facts alluded to in the text, although -well known to 
many of the old inhabitants of Indiana and Ohio, have been ig- 
nored by most of the writers of abolition history. They possess 
a value, however, that entitles them to permanent record. It is 
to be hoped they will all be preserved in the local annals of the 
counties of those States so that the future historian may trace 
the strong currents of anti-slavery opinion early in the century. 
The limits prescribed to this volume do not permit the author to 
group any facts except a few of those relating to immediate abo- 
litionists in the adjoining counties of Adams, Brown, Clermont, 
and Highland in Ohio. These will suffice, however, to throw 
light on the times treated of in the text. An equally interesting 
statement might perhaps be made in relation to the county of 
Belmont, in which in 1815 Lundy organized the Union Humane 
Society, an abolition organization that soon numbered five hun- 
dred members, to Jelferson County, in which in 1817 Charles 
Osborn published his abolition paper the "Philanthropist," or 
to "Warren County or Wayne County (Indiana), the homes of 
numerous Quakers, who in early days were stanch friends of 
the slave. The author's selection is determined mainly by per- 
sonal knowledge gained during a long residence in Ohio of many 
of the facts and the facility of ascertaining the others from reli- 
able persons and local publications. 

Before 1805 the following families had migrated from slave 
States into Brown County : The Ellisons, the Shepards, the 
Campbells, the Dunlavys, and the Dunlops. All tliese were im- 
mediate abolitionists and Presbyterians, and witli the exception 
of two individuals remained such. Rev. Dyer Burgess, one of 
the most noted abolitionists in Ohio between 1800 and 1840, 
married a Miss Ellison. He was for about forty years pastor of 
the Presbyterian church at West Union, Adams County. His 


sermons against slavery were uncompromising, and for years be- 
fore 1817 he had refused to admit slave-holders to the eommuu- 

The Shepards were numerous. The original settlers of tliat 
name had three sons — John, Abraham, and Jacob. Tlie Rev. 
J. Dunlavy from Virginia preached in Brown County against 
slavery from 1790 to 1805. There were six Campbells who came 
from Virginia in 1796. The sons were Joshua W., Charles, Jo- 
sei^h N., and Samuel— all men of standing. 

"William Duulop migrated from Fayette County, Kentucky, 
to Brown County in 1796, bringing a large number of slaves 
with him. He set them free and established them on land about 
three miles north of Ripley. When the Rev. John B. Mahan 
was kidnapped and taken to Kentucky for trial on the charge of 
abducting slaves, Mr. Uunlop went on his appearance bond for 
$1,600 and paid the money rather than have Mahan go back to 
sure condemnation. 

Dr. Alexander Campbell (1769-1857) was a native of Vir- 
ginia ; began the practice of medicine at Cynthiana, Ky. ; served 
as representative in the Kentucky General Assembly in 1799- 
1800 ; favored a free Constitution ; removed to Ripley, Ohio, in 
1803, taking with him several slaves and giving tiiem their free- 
dom ; was a member of the Ohio Legislature in 1806, Senator of 
the United States from 1810 to 1813, and State Senator for the 
following ten years ; and was always an unwavering immediate 
abolitionist. In 1835 he Avas made the first of twenty-one vice- 
]M-esidents of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society. 

Thomas Morris (1770-1844). a Virginian, removed to Ohio in 
1795, resided in Clermont County from about 1800 to the time of 
his death, was a member of the Ohio Legislature from 1806 to 
1830, chief judge of Ohio from 1830 to 1833, Senator of the 
United States from 1833 to 1839, and during his whole life a 
sturdy, uncomj)romising immediate abolitionist. In 1838 he re- 
fused to follow his ]);)rty in its subserviency to slavery and cut 
loose from it, ))referring to sacritice his oftice to his principles. 
His speech in 1839 in opposition to Clay's on abolition was man- 
ly and able. In 1840 he was nominated for Vice-President by 
the Anti-Slavery, then called Liberty, party. Though a Virgin- 
ian he never owned a slave. 


Rev. James Giililaud (1769-1845) vias born and brought up 
in South Carolina. His teacher in boyhood was the Rev. Will- 
iam C. Davis of that State, and from him he learned to regard 
slave-holding as a sin. He was graduated at Dickinson College, 
Pennsylvania, in 1792, licensed to preach in 1794, and ordained 
as pastor of the Broadway church in 1796. Twelve members of 
the congregation presented to the presbytery a remonstrance 
against his ordination, charging him with preaching "against 
the Government." This he denied. He admitted, however, 
that he had preached against the sin of slavery both before and 
after his call to the Broadway church. The case was taken by 
him to the synod on appeal. A minute of that body, at its ses- 
sion of November, 1796, is in these words : 

'•A memorial was brought forward and laid before the synod 
by the Rev. James Gilliland, stating his conscientious difficulties in 
recognizing the advice of the Presbytery of South Carolina, wiiich 
has enjoined upon him to be silent in the pulpit on the subject of 
the emancipation of the Africans, which injunction IVlr. Gilliland 
declares to be in his apprehension contrary to the counsel of God. 
"Whereupon synod, after deliberation upon the matter, do concur 
with the presbytery in ad^^sing Mr. Gilliland to ccnt«nt himself 
with using his utmost endeavors in private to open the way for 
emancipation so as to secure our hapisiness as a people, preserve 
the peace of the Church, and render them (the slaves) capable of 
enjoying the blessings of liberty. Synod is of the opinion that 
to preach publicly against slavery in present circumstances and 
to lay down as the duty of every one to liberate those who are 
under their care is that which would lead to disorder and open 
the way to great confusion." (See 4, Sprague's "Annals of the 
American Pulpit," page 137.) 

Mr. Gilliland obeyed the mandate of his Church until 1804, 
not ceasing meanwhile his private teachings against slavery. 
Unable to endure longer the restrictions placed upon him, he re- 
signed his pastorship, took his credentials to Washington Pres- 
bytery, and traveled West in search of a free pulpit. Hearing of 
the state of opinion in Brown County, Ohio, he went there in 
1805, and was the pastor of Red Oak church for thirty-nine 
years. During all that time he preached the doctrine of immedi- 
ate abolition without dilution. About 1820 he published a pam- 

431 JAMES G. I5IRX?:y and his timhs. 

plilet, settin*;^ it fortli in tlic form of •liaioufue. lli-^ cliurch, 
made up in great part of ex-slave-holders and ininiijrrants from 
slave States, including South Carolina, adhered to him, and the 
four Presbyteriau churches of Kiplcy, Russellville, Decatur, and 
Georgetown, known through Ohio for their stalwart abolition- 
ism, were offshoots from the one at Red Oak. That the Rev. 
Mr. Gilliland, during his wliole term as the pastor of Red Oak, 
often i)rcached abolition and always " immcdiatism " is a Brown 
County tradition, and the fact would be testified to by every old 
resident. In a letter to me of May 2, 1884, one of his sons writes 
that his father was preaching immediate abolition before Gar- 
rison was born. Of the thirteen children of Mr. Gilliland one is 
a clergyman and two are lawyers. Like most abolitionists of 
Southern origin Mr. Gilliland was an advocate of political action 
against slavery and voted the Liberty party ticket. He was an 
effective speaker and a good man and the membership of his 
church was large. From 1805 to 1823 he was the recognized 
abolition leader in southern Ohio. In 1835 he was placed second 
on a list of twenty- one vice-jiresidents of the Ohio Anti-Slavery 

In 180G the Rev. "VTilliara "Williamson moved from South Caro- 
lina to Adams County, Ohio, bringing his slaves with him and 
emancipating them, lie sent the younger ones to school ; to two 
of them be gave a liberal education. One of these, Benjamin 
Templeton, studied theology and was licensed to preach by the 
Chilicothe Presbj-tery. 

In the same year Colonel Thomas Means moved from South 
Carolina to Adams County. He was a man of wealth, had many 
slaves, freed them all, taught them to read and write, and was 
true as steel to the cause of liberty. 

Thomas Kirker left Kentucky in 1806 to escape the evils of 
slaverj'. He settled in Adams County, and in time became Gov- 
ernor of Ohio. He and ]\Iessrs. Williamson and Cleans were 
members of Dyer Burgess's church. Colonel Means was an older. 
Governor Kirker had five sons : William, John, James, Thomas, 
and George. All of them became respectable citizens. 

Rev. Jesse Lockhart migrated from Tennessee to Brown 
County, and was for forty years pastor of the Presbyterian church 
at Russellville. He was a zealous coadjutor in the anti-slavery 


work of Gilliland, Williamson, Dyer Burgess, Dr. Campbell, 
and others, up to 1823, and after that date of those named and 
of Messrs. Rankin and Gilmer. Under the pro-slavery violence 
of Jackson's Administration he faced several mobs with courage. 

In 1810 the four McCoys (John, William, George, and 
James) were added to the Brown County list of heroes, and in 
1811 Robert Miller came in from Kentucky with the Menaughs, 
John and William. 

At the very time Mr. Birney was opposing the Kentucky As- 
sembly joint resolutions for recaption of slaves, Samuel Grist, of 
Virginia, was pm-chasing two large tracts of land in Brown 
County, Ohio, with a view to making homes there for one thou- 
sand slaves. He brought them on a few months afterward, gave 
them farms, farming implements, and stock, superintended their 
settlement, and remained ever after theu- fast friend. He be- 
came poor for conscience' sake. (See Harrison's ''History of 
Ohio," page 100.) 

It would give me pleasure to add accounts of the Hopkinses, 
Salsburys, Snedigers, Dickeys, and Kii-kpatricks, w^ho belonged 
to this band of Christian workers, but my space and plan will 
not permit. All whose names I have mentioned were immediate 
abolitionists — unmitigated, pm-e, zealous, and efficient. They 
were ever ready to give food, shelter, and aid to fugitive slaves, 
and before 1817 they had forwarded to Canada, through trust- 
worthy friends, more than one thousand of this wretched class, 
besides finding elsewhere safe homes and work for many others. 
They were all Presbyterians and nearly all emigrants from slave 
States, and the record of their disinterested benevolence is one 
of the noblest that belongs to the history of Southern society. 


The chief writings of Mr. Birney were as follows : 

1. Ten letters on Slavery and Colonisation, addressed to U. R. 
Gurley, the first dated July 12, 1832, the last December 11, 1833. 

2. Six essays on same, published in the Iluutsville, Ala., Ad- 
Tocate in May, June, and July, 1833. 

3. Letter on Colonization, resigning vice-presidency of Ken- 
tucky Colonization Society, July 15, 1834. 

4. Letters to Preshyterian Church, 1834. 

5. Addresses and Speeches, 1835. 

6. Vindication of the Aholitionists, 1835. 

7. The Philanthropist, a weekly new.^i):!per, 183G, and to Sep- 
tember, 1837. 

8. Letter to Colonel Stone, IMay, 1836. 

9. Address to Slave-holders, October, 1836. 

10. Argument on Fugitive Slave Case, 1837. 

11. Letter to F. H. Elmore, of South Carolina, 1838. 
13. Political Oliligations of Abolitionists, 1839. 

13. lieport on the Duty of Political Action, for Executive Com- 
mittee of the American Anti- Slavery Societj', May, 1839. 

14. American Churches the Bidu:arls of American Slavery, 

15. Speeches in England, 18-iO. 

16. Letter of Acceptance. 

17. Articles in Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine and in the 
Emancipator, 1837-1844. 

18. Examination of the Decision of the United States Supreme 
Court in the case of Strader et al, vs. Graham, 1850. 


Adams, John Q., C4 ; on Benton, 68, 
340, 342 ; censured by Birne}', 

Alabama, Senate, Constitutional 
Convention, 37 ; Constitution, 
38 ; slaves freed by Legislature, 
89, 44 ; repeals non-importation 
law, 88 ; professors, 94 ; non- 
slave importation, 104. 

Albany conventions, 347, 350. 

Allen, Rev. William, 7, 51 ; Dr., 

Alien and sedition law, 21-23. 

Anti-slavery books, 26, 334, Ap- 
pendix A. 

Abolition by governments before 
1830, 160, 228. 

Abolition papers, 23, 76, 77, 78, 86, 
318, Appendix C. 

Abolition societies, Kentucky, 23 ; 
Tennessee, West Tennessee, 76, 
77; North Carolina, 78; perish 
in South, 161; auxiliary, 334, 
Appendix C. 

Abolitionism in South before 1820, 
74, 76, 78. 

Abolitionists, Baptist, 18, 23, 338. 

Abolitionists, immediate, before 
1830: Rev. David Rice, David 
Barrow, 17; Joshua Carman, 18; 

Miami Association, 18; sixteen 
Baptist preachers in Kentucky, 
18, 19, 23; Samuel Doak, 75; 
Charles Osborn, 76 ; John Ran- 
kin, 76, 386, Appendix E ; Jesse 
Lockhart, 76 ; one thirtieth of 
people of North Carolina, 78, 120, 
note; in Ohio, 164-166, 170, Ap- 
pendixes C and E; Baptist, 164; 
Crothers, Gilliland, Dyer Burgess, 
Dickey, 168, 170 ; Associate 
Reformed Presbyterian Church, 
166 ; Anthony Benezet, John 
Woolman, Benjamin Lay, Benja- 
min Rush, John Wesley, 383 ; 
George Buchanan, Jonathan Ed- 
wards, Thomas Branagan, 384 ; 
George Bourne, John Kenrick, 
385; Morris Birkbeck, 386; James 
Duncan, Edward Coles, Elizabeth 
Ileyrick, Miss Chandler, Benja- 
min Lundy, 387; Thomas God- 
win, William Goodell, Joshua 
Leavitt, William Jay, and Chilli- 
cothe Presbytery, 388. 

Alvord, James C, 340. 

Alcott, A. Bronson, 283-285. 

Bacon, Dr. Leonard G., 92, 156, 
378. ' 



Blackburn, Rev. Giilcon, 1 i7. 

r.ailoy, Dr. Uamalifl, 'liiS. 

IJlaiiio, Juiues Ciillospic, ",C>i. 

llalaiice of-power party, o4C. 

r.allou, Adin, 2S7. 

Baltimore, 80. 

IJaiicioft, George, 93. 

Daptists, anti-slavery, 18, 1G4. 

Barrow, Rev. David, 17. 

Beceher, Catheriuc, 90 ; Edward, 

Breckcnridge, John, 21, 22. 

Breckenridge, Joseph Cabell, 25 ; 
Robert J., 99, 101, 14S, 186. 

Benton, Thomas H., 73, 88. 

Birney, James G., birth, 9; rcla- 
lativcs, boyhood, 10 ; saves com- 
rade, 1 1 ; studies, teacher, and 
school-fellows, 1 2 ; early anti- 
slavery influences, 10; college, 
25; bar, 80; freemason, 31; 
councilman, marriage, slaves, 32 ; 
6t»imp-sj)eaker, 33 ; legislator, 
33 ; votes, 33, 34 ; opposes slave- 
catching, 34 ; removes to Ala- 
bama, 35 ; in Convention, 38 ; 
member of Assembly, 40 ; gets 
counsel for slaves, 40; speaks 
against Gen. Jackson, 41 ; goes 
out of politics, 41 ; embarrassed, 
41 ; expensive habits, gaming, 
42 ; quits cards, removal to 
Iluntsvillc, 43; solicitor, elected 
by Lcgi.<lature, gives up cotton 
planting, 40; builds house, gar- 
dening, social life, 47 ; law prac- 
tice, 48; mayor of Iluntsvillc, 
52 ; public spirit, 53 ; joins 
church, 54 ; attorney for Chero- 
kces, 55 ; colon! zationist, gets 
bill passed to prohibit slave im- 

portation into .^'tatc, 50 ; masonic 
circular, 57 ; alieniatcs some rela- 
tives, 58 ; praises Governor Coles, 
60 ; guardian of children, estab- 
li.shcs free school, sells home, CO ; 
buys town residence and farm, 01 ; 
humanity to slaves, 02 ; opposes 
disunion, presidential elector, 
63 ; speaks against extension of 
slavery, 71 ; joins Colonization 
Society, 90; visits free States, 
91 ; separates from Clay, politi- 
cally, 96 ; purposed removal to 
Illinois, 102, 113, 120; benevo- 
lence, 103; emancipationist, 105- 
110; Weld's visit, 105; coloni- 
zation agent, 112 ; work on legis- 
latures, 110; lectures in Ten- 
nessee and Alabama, 118,119; 
Louisiana, 120; Natchez and 
Port Gibson, 122 ; disapproves 
hard names and abuse of oppo- 
nents, 12'); sends one hundred 
and fifty negroes to Liberia, 123 ; 
cholera on boat, 124 ; visits Ken- 
tucky, 124; political action, 124, 
125; Union sentiments, 125; 
anti-slavery essays in newspapers, 
125-128; rhapsodies of Garri- 
son, 126; emancipation practi- 
cable in Maiyland, Virginia, 
Kentucky, and Tennessee, 127, 
129; Union in danger, 128, 129; 
resigns agency, 129; removes to 
Kentucky, 130; gradual emanci- 
pation eftort, 132-124; studies 
of slavery, 134, 135; adopts im- ■ 
mediatlsm, 138; manumits slaves, 
139 ; letter on colonization, 141 ; 
visits Cincinnati, 143; address 
to elders and ministers, 145; 



visits Kentucky ministers, MG ; 
last visit to H. Clay, 147; Mrs. 
Polk, 150; lyceum debate, IT)?; 
visits Ohio, speaks in four cities, 
no mobs, 172 ; at American Anti- 
Slavery Society, 17-1; lectures in 
New England, 178; rebukes per- 
sonalities, 179; troubles at Dan- 
ville, 180 ; printer bought off, 
182; mob threatened, 181; os- 
tracized in Kentucky, 184-186; 
irrepressible conflict, 185; "Phi- 
lanthropist," 208 ; speaks to mob, 
215; editor, 220; views, 238; 
chooses lecturers, 256 ; editors, 
258 ; removal to Xew York, 277 ; 
letter against the no-government 
vagaries, 305 ; controversy with 
A. Stewart, 335 ; Elmore letter, 
336 ; addresses legislatures, 339 ; 
influences elections, 340 ; cen- 
sures J. Q. Adams, 343 ; favors 
an independent party, 346 ; nomi- 
nated, 347, 350, 352 ; votes for, 
352 ; the Garland forgery, 354 ; 
his views, 356 ; traits, 357 ; sec- 
ond marriage, 358 ; emancipates 
slaves, 360 ; relations to Garri- 
son, 361, 363 ; portraits, 363 ; 
presiding officer, 364 ; on pro- 
slavery churches, 368 ; English 
opinion of, 369 ; sayings, 370 ; 
character, 372 ; hunting and fish- 
ing, 373, 374 ; fall from a horse, 
374 ; paralysis, 375 ; withdrawal 
from public life, 376 ; slanders 
by the Ganisons, 376 ; sons and 
grandson in the Union army, 379 ; 
death, 381. 
Cooks, anti-slavery, 134, 135, Ap- 
pendix A. 

Brownson, Orestes A., 286. 
Boyle, James, 297. 

Calhoun, John C, 5, 66, 70, 161; 

bill against freedom of the mails, 

191, 337. 
Chapman, Mrs. Maria W., 275, 314. 
Carolina, North, 78. 
Channing, William E., 94 ; letter to 

James G. Birney, 235. 
Chase, Salmon P., 259, 364, 377. 
Classmates, 25. 
Crawford, William H., 67. 
Clay, Henry, 5, 21-23, 29, 33, 34, 

57, 66 ; on " solid Soutii," 71, 91, 
96, 98 ; fastens slavery on Ar- 
kansas and Missouri, 224 ; slaves 
are property speech, 345, 349, 

Clergy, 296, 300 ; anti-slavery senti- 
ment of, 368. 
Christ, imitations of person of, 323. 
Child, David Lee, 327, 328, 354, 
Coffin, Levi, 167. 
College life, 25, 28. 
Coles, Edward, Governor of Illinois, 

58, 59. 

Colonization, 112, 116; a step in 
evolution, 268, 377. 

Collins, John A., 291, 312. 

Come-outers, 226, 283. 

Communities, 287, 288, 290, 291. 

Constitutional Conventions, Ken- 
tucky, 20, 21 ; Alabama, 37. 

Constitutions on slavery, Kentucky, 
Alal)ama, Mississippi, Georgia, 
38, 39. 

Constitution, national. Garrison de- 
nounces, 215; Birney supports, 

Conventions, 347-3."0, 364. 



Corduroy road;;, 36. 

Cotton, culture of, 41. 

Crothcrs, Kcv. Sainutl, 1C7. 

Cotton-gin, 228. 

Coxo, Rev. Samuel II., 11 J. 

Churches, Associate Keforined Pres- 
byterian, 166; Michigan Synod, 
234 ; Methodist, 235 ; disturb- 
ance of, 325 ; tribute to, by 
James G. Birney, 368. 

Dallas, George M., 25 ; Alexander 

J., 20. 
Dana, Charles A., 288. 
Danville, 4, 7, 14 ; anti-slavery, :9; 

bank, 4, 31. 
District of Columbia, 332. 
Disunion in 1827-'23, 68. 
Doak, Samuel, 74. 
Dudley, Rev. John, 258. 

Earle, Thomas, 350. 
Emancipation, New Jersey, New 

York, Pennsylvania, 27. 
"Emancipator" (Tennessee), 77. 
Eccentrics, 257, 293, 323, 324. 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 278, 279, 

284. 293. 
Este, Judge David K., 263. 
Everett, Governor Edward, 101. 
Elmore letter, 336. 

Franklin, Denjamin, 338. 

Freemason, ceased to be one after 
1833, 31. 

Folsom, Abby, 323. 

Foote, ox United States Senator, 40. 

Forten, 30. 

Foster, S. S., 325, 368. 

Fuller, John E., letter about Garri- 
son, 207. 

"Gag" rules, 105, 332. 

Garland forgery, 354. 

Garrison, W. L., 126, 157, 182; on' 
national Constitution, 215; hides 
from mob, 254 ; inconsistency, 
269, 321 ; denounces the nation, 
the Union, and the Church, 270- 
273, 279; about to abandon the 
abolition cause, 289, 293, 296; 
no-government views, 292-297, 
309, 311 ; "Liberator," 298; in- 
fluence of flattery upon, 302 ; 
opinions of, by Stanton, Torrey, 
St. Clair, Lc Bosquet, Daniel 
Wise, George Allen, and Amos A. 
Phelps, 303, 304; egotism, 310; 
bad memory, 311, 378; small 
following, 314; opinions of, by 
Lewis, A. T. Rankin, the Boston 
and Bennington newspapers, etc., 
315-317 ; by Lundy, 317 ; alleges 
conspiracy of colonizationists to 
kill him, 318-320 ; not the found- 
er, 318-320, Appendix C; Von's opinion of, 322 ; morbid 
vanity, 320, 321 ; not a church- 
member, 321 ; claims to be an 
infidel, 321 ; faith in quack medi- 
cines and spirit manifestations, 
322 ; views and principles not 
accepted, 330, 361 ; slanders 
James G. Birney, 377; and lead- 
ing abolitionists, 378 ; treatment 
of Lundy, Appendix B. 

Gates, Seth M., 341. 

"Geniusof Universal Emancipation," 
Lundy's, 76, 80, Appcn dix B. 

Greeley, Horace, 327, 328; retracts, 

Green, Judge John, MS; Judge 
Thomas, 186. 



Giddings, Joshua R., 341. 
Gillespie, Mrs., 10. 
Grimke, the sisters, 290. 
Goodell, William, 312. 315, 348. 
Gurley, Ralph Randolph, 112. 

Hammond, Charles, 20?, 245, 248. 
llarrison, \Yilliam Henry, 349. 
Historical errors, 64. 
Hitchcock, Chief Justice, 205. 
HoUcy, Myron, 348. 
Hopkins, Arthur F., 35, 49, CO. 
Houston, Samuel, 75. I 

Huntsville, lawyers, 45 ; Big Spring, | 
45, 53. I 

Hlinois, TOte excluding slavery, 65. j 
Insurrections, Virginia, 72, 102; 
Jamaica, 104. 

Jackson, Andrew, 5 ; at races, presi- 
dential aspirant, 40; speech of 
James G. Birney against, 41, 67 ; 
coalition, 67 ; election, 87 ; mes- 
sage against freedom of the mails 
and press, 191 ; policy of, 222. 

Jacksonism, 85. 

Jay, Judge William, 176, 177, 275, 
296, 335, 336, 348. 

Johnson, Oliver, 276, 312. 

Johnson, Rev. Samuel, 286. 

Kansas, 351. 

Kendall, Amos, 188, 189. 

Kentucky, hard times in, 31 ; eman- 
cipation, 99 ; Abolition Society, 
156, 169; public opinion, 158; 
free speech in, 162. 

Knights of the Golden Circle, 66, 

Lamsoa, " Father," 324. 

Lane Seminary debate, 135. 

Law studies, 29 ; practice, 30, 135. 

Law, proposed against the press, 

Lawrence, Matilda, 261. 

Leavitt, Joshua, 345, Appendix C. 

Lecturers, 256. 

Legislatures, 339. 

Lewis, Samuel, of Ohio, 315, 377. 

"Liberator," 109; a failure finan- 
cially, 318. 

Lincoln, Abraham, 330. 

Louisiana, Kentucky resolution 
against, 33. 

Love, William, 35, 46. 

Lovejoy, Elisha P., 250, 259. 

" Luminary, Western,"' of Lexing- 
ton, Ky., anti-slavery, 99, 141, 

Lundy, Benjamin, 76, 80, 83, 80, 
Appendix B. 

Madison, George, 32, 33 ; James, 70. 

Mahan, John B., 166, 340, Ap- 
pendix E. 

Marshall, Humphrey, 2, 8; Anna 
Maria, 8. 

Maryland laws, 81. 

Massachusetts, 332, 335. 

Missouri controversy, 64, 65. 

Mobs, in South, before 1828, 72 ; in 
Mew York city, 142 ; no mobs in 
1835, in four cities, 172; at 
Charleston, 188; systematized, 
196; at Utica and Boston, 197; 
Cincinnati, 204, 240; political 
and commercial, 211, 244; con- 
siderations on, 250 ; against Wes- 
ley, 252 ; H. B. Stanton on, 303. 

Morris, United States Senator 
Thomas, 340, 345. 



New Jcr.-oy, emancipation in, 27. 

Nicholas, George, of Kentucky, 
20, 11. 

No-t;ovei-nmcnt doctrines, 3i>7 ; con- 
demned by public opinion, 325. 

Nuiliticutiou pamplilet, Calhoun's, 

O'Connell, Daniel, 3G1. 
Ohio, innuediate abolitionists, 1G3- 
170, Appendix E. 

Parties, dumb, 200; description of, 

223, 350. 
Party name, 350. 

" Patriot," a North Carolina aboli- 
tion weekly, 78. 

Peers, Rev. Dr., UO. 

Pennock, Abraham L., 30. 

Pheli^, Amos A., 135, 274, 295, 
301, 314. 

Presbytery, Union, East Tennessee, 
75 ; Abingdon, 70 ; Chillicothe, 

Presbyterians, 100; Kentucky syn- 
od, 151 ; anti-slavery report, 154. 

Press, freedom of, menaced, 192; 
standing of, 220. 

Petition, right of, 194, 334. 

Philadelphia, trading with, 4 ; life 
at, 29. 

" Philanthropist," 230. 

PilNbury, Parker, 325, 368. 

Pliiilips, Wen.lell, 326, 328, 329. 

Princeton, life at, 25. 

Pulk, James K., 352. 

P(jwer, moral, 325. 

Political action, 71, 90, 110, 119, 
124, 127-130, 148, 156, 171, 174, 
175; "a dirty mire," 226; non- 
voters, 266, 300, 305, 333, 342. 

Purccll, Archbishop, 249, 259. 

Rankin, Rev. John, 1C8, 171, Ap- 
pendix E. 

Raymond, Daniel, of .Maryland, 82, 
S3 ; abolition candidate, 84. 

Reaction of public opinion, 2u0. 

Read, John, 2, 16 ; Thomas IJ., 2. 

Republican party, genesis of, 188- 

Rice, Rev. David, of Kentucky, 16, 
17, 20. 

Ripley, Rev. George, 284, 287. 

Roads in the South, 36. 

Rogers, N. P., 378. 

Slade, William, 340, 341. 

Stanton, Henry B., 136, 143, 274, 
301, 302, 345. 

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 3 Co. 

Slaves in Kentucky, 20; freed in 
North Carolina, 80. 

Slavery in Kentucky, movements 
against, 20, 21. 

Slave power, 190, 332, 

Slave-holders, number of, 161. 

States, slave, demands of, 1 90. 
I States, free, Vermont, Massachu- 
setts, and Pennsylvania, 237. 

Secession, 66, 68-71; adopted as 
Garrisonian platform, 326. 

Seminole War, 195. 

Stevens, Thaddcus, 351. 

Stewart, Alvan, 335, 345, 318. 

Smith, Gcrrit, 151, 152, 1.-.4, 157, 
348, 376, 379. 

Smith, Dr. Samuel Stanhope, 26, 27. 

Scotch-Iiish, 1. 
' Scott, General Winficld, 849. 
' Schools, 91. 

Solid South, 64, Chapter XI. 



Southern opiuious on slavery, 18. 
Southampton insurrection, 72, 102. 
Stone, William L., 140, Appendixes 

C and D. 
Stroud, George 51., on slavery laws, 

135, 170. 
Stowe, Harriet Beccher, 3G2. 
Sumner, Charles, 331, 351. 

Taney, Roger B., 222. 

Tappan, Lewis, 142, 156, 295, 314, 
318; Arthur, 136, 365; Benja- 
min, 340. 

Tennessee, abolition, 74-77, 115, 

Texas, insurrections in, 88 ; at- 
tempted purchase of, by Jackson, 
89; insurrection fomented, 195. 

" Tribune," New York, staff of, 328. 

Titus, Alabama Senator, 37. 

Thome and Kimball's book, 335. 

Thompson, George, 197, 251. 

Thoreau, 287. 

Tyson, Elisha, of Maryland, anti- 
slavery philanthropist, 80. 

Underground railroad, in 1826, 
5Iah;;n and Coffin, 167. 

A^agaries, philosophy of Boston, 282. 
Van Buren, 377. 

Van Hoist, historian, 314; esti- 
mate of Garrison, 322, 328, 331. 
Vote of Liberty party, 333, 

Webster, Daniel, 90. 

Weld, Theodore D., 105, 110, 136, 

143, 149, 151, 334, 341, 379, 380. 
Whittier, John G., 275, 316, 362. 
Whig, defection, 347 ; campaign, 

350, 351. 
Wing, the small extreme, 314. 
Wilmot, David, of Teunsylvania, 

Wilson, Henry, 351. 
Writings of James G. Birney, 125, 

141, 206, 207, Appendix F. 
Wright, Henry C, 269, 276, 293, 

299, 303 ; extravagant language, 

Wright, EUzur, 275, 348. 




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