American Abolitionists and Antislavery Activists:
Conscience of the Nation

Updated April 4, 2021

l to r: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips

Encyclopedia of Slavery and Abolition in the United States - A

AARON, b. 1811, African American, former Virginia slave, anti-slavery orator.  Wrote Light and Truth of Slavery: Aaron’s History, 1845. 

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 1, p. 1.)


AARON, Samuel, 1800-1865, Morristown, NJ, educator, clergyman, temperance activist, abolitionist.  Manager, American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), 1840-1842.  Vice President, 1839-1840, Executive Committee, American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, p. 1.  Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936)

AARON, Samuel, educator, b. in New Britain, Bucks co., Pa., in 1800; d. in Mount Holly, N. J., 11 April, 1865. He was left an orphan at six years of age, and became the ward of an uncle, upon whose farm he worked for several years, attending school only in winter. A small legacy inherited from his father enabled him at the age of sixteen to enter the Doylestown, Pa., academy, where he fitted himself to become a teacher, and at the age of twenty was engaged as an assistant instructor in the classical and mathematical school in Burlington, N. J. Here he studied and taught, and soon opened an independent day school at Bridge Point, but was presently invited to become principal of Doylestown academy. In 1829 he was ordained, and became pastor of a Baptist church in New Britain. In 1833 he took charge of the Burlington high school, serving at the same time as pastor of the Baptist church in that city. Accepting in 1841 an invitation from a church in Norristown, Pa., he remained there three years, when he opened the Treemount seminary near Norristown, which under his management soon became prosperous, and won a high reputation for the thoroughness of its training and discipline. The financial disasters of 1857 found Mr. Aaron with his name pledged as security for a friend, and he was obliged to sacrifice all his property to the creditors. He was soon offered the head-mastership of Mt. Holly, N. J., institute, a large, well-established school for boys, where, in company with his son as joint principal, he spent the remainder of his life. During these years he was pastor of a church in Mt. Holly. He prepared a valuable series of text-books introducing certain improvements in methods of instruction, which added greatly to his reputation as an educator. His only publication in book form, aside from his text-books, was entitled “Faithful Translation” (Philadelphia, 1842). He was among the early advocates of temperance, and was an earnest supporter of the anti-slavery cause from its beginning. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. pp. 1.




ABOLITION (1831-1860)

The forces which brought abolition to the front were older than Garrison, and would have made themselves felt if he had never lived. In New England and outside arose anti-slavery men like Adams, who never acted with him, and plenty of abolitionists who never accepted allegiance to him; while many of his earlier followers cast off his leadership and pursued ends of which he disapproved. Three groups of non-Garrisonian abolitionists may be distinguished-the New England, the middle state, and the western. In New England one of the great moral forces was Dr. William Ellery Channing, Unitarian minister in Boston and Newport. His sympathy was naturally with the movement, but he disliked Garrison's severity of tone and method, and was unmoved by a personal appeal from Garrison in January, 1834.1 The great authority of his pen was more successfully sought by others, and in December, 1835, he published a volume setting forth the

1 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 464.

terrible evils of slavery, but suggesting other remedies than immediate emancipation. During the remaining four years of his life Channing continued his argument, quite outside the Garrison movement, and his books furnished an arsenal of material against slavery.

The middle states group was strong in New York City and among the Quakers of Pennsylvania,   and the aged Gallatin, throughout his life an opponent of slavery, in 1844 squarely placed himself as an anti-slavery man.2 William Jay, son of the chief-justice, early joined the movement and wrote effective criticisms of slavery, based on historical data. Horace Greeley, editor of the Tribune, contented himself, during the earlier struggle, with anti-slavery ground.3 Rev. Samuel J. May, of Syracuse, was a sort of New York Garrison, though less caustic and aggressive. In the middle states group were several wealthy and generous friends of the cause. The brothers Arthur and Lewis Tappan, merchants of New York, for years active colonizationists, in 1833 came over to the abolitionist column, and helped to found a New York society. They supported with timely gifts several struggling newspapers, issued tracts, and attempted to form a colored college. 4 Of similar character was Gerrit Smith, of Peterboro, New York,

1 Child, Hopper, passim.

2 Adams, Gallatin, 671.

3 Parton, Greeley, 250.

4 Bowen, A. and L. Tappan; L. Tappan, Life of A. Tappan. VOL. XVI.-13

the son of a New York slave-holder and the owner of about seven hundred and fifty thousand acres of land. At first a colonizalionist, in 1835 he became an abolitionist, and in course of years gave to the national and New York societies at least fifty thousand dollars in cash, besides presenting forty acres of land to each of three thousand colored men. His money gifts were the smaller part of his interest in the cause: his house was a caravansary for abolitionists and a refuge for fugitives; he was one of the earliest political abolitionists in the country, and aided in the formation of the Liberty party in 1839.1

 The third group of abolitionists grew up with little care or knowledge of Garrison.  Slavery was a familiar issue in the west, while New England was still inactive, but a new public excitement on the subject was aroused by the debate in Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati in 1832. The president, Dr. Lyman Beecher, was an eastern man, whose daughter Harriet made some observations during her residence which were later incorporated into Uncle Tom's Cabin. The students were partly drawn from the northern and partly from the southern states, including the sons of slave-holders. At the suggestion of Arthur Tappan, one of the founders of the seminary, the students took up colonization and abolition, and eighteen consecutive nights were spent in hot discussion. Theodore F.

1 May, Recollections, 167-170, 321-329; Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 405, 463; Frothingham, Gerrit Smith

Weld, a student from the east, a disciple of Garrison, much affected the minds of his fellows; and a majority of the students became abolitionists and began to practice their principles by setting up Sunday and day schools for colored children.

The trustees were aroused, and voted that there must be no further public discussions, in which Dr. Beecher concurred, whereupon four-fifths of the students withdrew (May, I833), and fifty-four joined in a public statement that they could not give up their right to inquire into slavery. For some months they set up some sort of institution of their own, listening to lectures by Dr. Gamaliel Bailey.  Asa Mahan, then a minister in Cincinnati, resigned from the board of trustees, and, with Reverend John Morgan, who had been a professor in the seminary, piloted the students to Oberlin.1

This secession was practically the beginning of organized abolition in Ohio, and it resulted in the creation of an abolition centre in the west.  Philo P. Stewart, manufacturer of an excellent cooking-stove in Albany, and the Reverend John J. Shipherd, a minister in Ohio, in 1833 conceived the idea of a Puritan commonwealth on the frontier. Securing a tract of land at some distance from any other village, they named it Oberlin, for a benevolent pastor in the Vosges Mountains, and in December, 1833, opened

1 Lyman Beecher, Autobiography, II., chap. xxxiv.; Stanton, Random Recollections, 43-48; Birney, Birney, 135-137; Statement of Reasons for Withdrawal from Lane Seminary (pamphlet),

a school in which fifteen of the forty-four students were girls. The education of boys and girls together, even in boarding-schools, was not unfamiliar in New England and the west; but when, two months later, the new institution secured a charter as the "Oberlin Collegiate Institute," including among its objects "the elevation of female character, by bringing within the reach of the misjudged and neglected sex all the instructoral privileges which have hitherto unreasonably distinguished the leading sex from theirs," 1 it was evident that here was a new idea; for the first time in the history of the country the opportunity of a thorough college education was given to women; and in due time some of them received from this-college the first degrees of A.B. conferred on women in this country.

Now arose the question of joint education of whites and blacks. In December, 1834, Mr. Shipherd insisted that students must be admitted "irrespective of color." For a time the trustees hung back; but when informed that unless negroes were admitted they could not obtain Professor Morgan from Lane Seminary, nor Mahan, the gifted southerner, to be their president, nor Finney, a noted theologian and revivalist, nor ten thousand dollars that was waiting for them, the trustees, February 9, 1835, voted: "That the education of the people of color is a matter of great interest and should be encouraged and sustained in this institution."

1 Fairchild, Oberlin, 41.

Thereupon the three desired professors appeared, together with thirty Lane students. Weld visited Oberlin, and, by his powerful abolition arguments, revolutionized the sentiment of the place. The students formed anti - slavery societies, began to hold meetings in the neighborhood, and in a few years formed a focus of active anti-slavery sentiment. In the first year only one of the 277 students was colored, but others gathered, and eventually about one-fifth of the population of the place was negro, and it became a great station on the Underground Railroad. 1

Some of the pre-existing Ohio anti-slavery societies, in April, 1835, joined in forming a state society, in which the leaders were Samuel Crothers, John Rankin, and others from the slave states, Elizur Wright, a professor in the Congregational Western Reserve College, and a group of the Lane Seminary seceders. Within a year a hundred and twenty societies had been formed, with more than ten thousand members. The next year the movement was strengthened by the coming of James G. Birney, who had been driven out of Kentucky because he was trying to print an anti-slavery paper, and he set up the Philanthropist, which was soon accepted by the Ohio society and became its organ. A few months later the office of his paper in Cincinnati was sacked by a mob and Birney's life was endangered. The movement was now under full

1 Fairchild, Oberlin, 55-77, 111-115.

headway Although Theodore F. Weld introduced the leaven, it was 1847 before Garrison saw the western slope of the Alleghenies. Then he travelled with Frederick Douglass, held conventions and open-air meetings throughout the Western Reserve, and visited Oberlin, where he found himself opposed in debate by President Mahan; but he was never recognized as the head or leader of the western abolitionists. 1

 The movement soon made itself felt in others of the northwestern states. Indiana had only a small proportion of eastern settlers and was slow in taking up abolition. Illinois began to form local societies in 1835, which were strongest in the northern counties. In Michigan the movement began in 1834, and there may have been thirty societies in 1840 as against several hundred in Ohio. 2 In Illinois there was a young member of the legislature, named Abraham Lincoln, who, on March 3, 1837, joined with one Dan Stone in a formal written protest setting forth that "They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils." 3 The reason for the unequal development of the three areas of abolition is to be found in part in the difference of conditions. In New England abolition

1 Garrisons, Garrison, III., 203.

2 Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties, 13.  Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln I.,140.

dealt with an extraneous motive: slavery had all but disappeared, and few of those engaged in the movement had any personal experience of it. It was not till negroes began to appear on the New England platforms and to be hunted through the streets of New England cities that slavery seemed a personal thing. The middle states had about three thousand slaves in 1830, and they were much more familiar than the New England states with the coming of fugitives and free negroes, and were subject to various sorts of border difficulties; slavery was therefore to them a more practical evil. In the west the relation was still closer and more pertinent, for· though the slaves were but a few hundred, almost the whole length of the Ohio River was a slave-holding frontier. Thousands of northwestern people visited Virginia, Kentucky, or Missouri, and the presence of many anti-slavery "come-outers” from the slave-holding states gave a vividness to the movement ·which it nowhere else possessed. Cincinnati, deeply interested in southern trade and much visited by southerners, was also a centre of anti-slavery discussion, and the home of James G. Birney; the best-known southern critic of slavery; of Gamaliel Bailey, the most vigorous western antislavery editor; and of Salmon P. Chase, the most striking political abolitionist in the west.

A New Hampshire man by birth, educated in Washington, and settled in Ohio in 1830, Chase easily took on the characteristics of that bustling community. He was aroused to anti-slavery by the attempt to silence and to mob Birney in 1836; and in 1841 he threw himself into the movement, attended and addressed anti-slavery meetings, and helped to organize an abolition party.1

One reason for the force which abolition early acquired in Ohio was the fallow field waiting for it in the Western Reserve.  This region, settled by Connecticut people between 1790 and 1820, was still a little New England, its churches, schools, and local government closely modelled on those of Connecticut. Western Reserve College, planted at Hudson, near Cleveland, in 1826, was a western Yale; though at first inclined to hold back in abolition, it became, like its neighbor Oberlin, a seminary of anti -slavery sentiment. In the Western Reserve, abolition societies, meetings, and agitators flourished; and from it, in 1838, was chosen Joshua R. Giddings, the first western abolitionist member of the House of Representatives; eleven years later, through the deciding vote of a member of the legislature from a district which included Oberlin, Salmon P. Chase was elected senator from Ohio.2

All three sections had their part in the great abolition struggle; all three groups contributed forces necessary for the struggle. New England raised up orators, poets, and satirists-the spokesmen of the rights of man and the obligations of

1 Hart, Chase, chap. iii.

2 Hart, ''Anti-Slavery in Ohio," in his Chase, chap. iii.

society. The middle states furnished a considerable part of the sinews of war; kept up the journals, east and west; founded schools and aided colleges; and made a point of resistance to the commercial influences of New York and Philadelphia. The western abolitionists organized the Underground Railroad, which helped to make slavery unprofitable; drew in the aid of southerners themselves; and, above all, devised and set in motion a political abolition party. 1

That Garrison made no effort to build up a following in the middle and western states was partly due to a series of conflicts within the eastern abolitionists, which led, after five or six years of strife, to a weakening split. The main grounds of difference between the Garrisonians and other abolitionists were five---personal disagreements, the status of women, the Bible, non-resistance, and politics

The abolitionists were not all lambs, and not all reasonable; and Garrison was unsparing of his friends as well as of his enemies. He had what his biographers call "an unyielding purpose to expose and refute the errors, fallacies, and misrepresentations of every proselyte to the cause, or every ally, however great his name or desirable his accession." 2 Especially towards Channing he felt all the bitterness of a radical against a liberal, and he characterized Channing's extremely strong and effective attack

1 Smith, Parties and Slavery (Am. Nation, XVIII.), chap. xii. 3 Garrisons, Garrison, II., 90.

on slavery as " moral plagiarisms from the writings of the abolitionists."

Up to this time, except among the Methodists and Quakers, women were not expected to take part in any sort of public meetings, and St. Paul was quoted against them: "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." 1 Nevertheless, when the convention of 1833 was held at Philadelphia, Lucretia Mott and other women took part in the proceedings unrebuked. Thereafter women joined freely in the abolition movement; to whom, as Dr. Channing said, "above all others slavery should seem an intolerable evil because its chief victims are women." 2 A separate women's society was formed in Boston. In many places women entered the local societies as members, officers, and even speakers. The Grimke sisters lent force to the movement by their personal testimony to the iniquities of slavery. Lydia Maria Child, an author of much repute, took up the cudgels in a book-An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans called Africans-which cost her market in the south. Many other women gave their pens and their voices; and some foreign women, by their criticism of slavery as they saw it--especially Fanny Kemble and Frederika Bremer- -much inflamed public opinion. In 1837 an effort was made to stay this tide by a pastoral letter to the churches, issued by the Massachusetts Asso1

1 Timothy, II., 12. 

2 Channing, Works, II., 66.

association of Congregational Ministers, based on the principle that the "perplexed and agitating subjects which are now common amongst us ... should not be forced upon any church as matters for debate at the hazard of alienation and division"; and that it portended changes which "threatened the female character with widespread and permanent injury the vine usurps the role of the elm." 1 With his accustomed wrath, Garrison repelled the charges of disrupting the churches and unsexing women; but when, in 1838, the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society formally accepted women as members, a separate Massachusetts Abolition Society was formed, with Elizur Wright as secretary, stating as "ground of separation from the old that the latter upheld a change in the sphere of woman's action." 2

A serious charge was that Garrison was drifting into infidelity. Always a man of strong religious feeling, and beginning as a very orthodox church member, observant of the forms of prayer and churchgoing, Garrison at one time adhered to perfection--that is, the doctrine of personal holiness; later in life he inclined to spiritualism.  In 1836 he protested against attempting to enforce the observance of the Sabbath "as a positive tyranny which ought to be resisted by all the Lord's freemen." 3 Among the principles thus taken up and urged by Garrison

1 May, Recollections, 237-244; Garrisons, Garrison, II., 133.

2 Garrisons, Garrison, II., 305-307

3 Ibid., 112; III., 375-377.

was that of peace, and the only way to assure it was for all men to practice non-resistance, an idea in our day revived by Tolstoy then Garrison's principle grew till it embraced non-participation in any government which permitted the use of force to restrain the slave. In 1837, in his tribute to the murdered Lovejoy, he lodged a solemn protest because Lovejoy and his friends had armed themselves; and in 1838 he called together a peace convention in Boston, which voted that "we cannot acknowledge allegiance to any human government; neither can we oppose any such government by a resort to physical force. Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind. We love the land of our nativity only as we love all other lands." 1

This hostility to political action, and Garrison's general disposition to combine other causes and reforms with anti-slavery, and to insist that genuine abolitionists must accept them all, were distasteful to both middle state and western abolitionists, and hastened a split in the national organization. In 1839 an attempt was made to oust Garrison from his position of leadership by excluding women from committee positions. It failed, but both parties girded up their loins for the next annual meeting in 1840. Every abolitionist present had a vote, and, as Garrison boasted, an "anti-slavery boatload ... saved our society from falling into the hands of the new organizers." A test vote of 560 Garrisonians

1 Garrisons, Garrison, II., 230.

to 450 dissidents was the signal for the formation of a new national society under the name of the ''American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.'' Garrison declared that the new society was a mere mask for Lewis Tappan, who drew up its annual report and bore the expenses of its single meeting .1 The old society disclaimed any attempt to make nonresistance a test for abolitionists; but it adhered to its women memberships and emphasized its anticlerical principles by voting that "the American church, with the exception of some of its smaller branches, has given its undisguised sanction and support to the system of American slavery.'' 2

The effect of the split was shown by the treasurer's report of the original American society, the annual income dropping immediately from $40,000 to $1000, and for fifteen years it did not rise above $12,000. The number of local societies and of members also at once diminished and was never recovered. The new society never had any such galaxy of journalists and speakers, and was unable to concentrate the western societies, which, by this time, were changing into political organizations; and, after 1840, abolition as a national force was giving way to the anti-slavery movement stirred by the efforts to annex Texas.3

1 Garrisons, Garrison, III., 35; Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 447-462.

2 Garrisons, Garrison, II., 349; defence of Garrison in Chapman, Right and Wrong in Massachusetts.

3 See Garrison, Westward Extension (American Nation), XVII., chap. v.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 188-201. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.

Chapter: “Mobs. Antislavery Activities.  Women's Fairs,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

When the American Antislavery Society was rent in twain in 1840, the hope had been expressed by John G. Whittier that the members' of the old and new organizations, if they could not walk together in unity, could co-operate with each other for the common cause. Catholic and charitable in his views, he recognized the high character, earnestness, and services of such men as Garrison, Phillips, May, Quincy, and Francis Jackson, and such women as Mrs. Child, Mrs. Chapman, Mrs. Mott, the Grimkes, and Abby Kelley, of the old organization, as well as those of such men as the Tappans, Birney, Goodell, Leavitt, Gerrit Smith, Alvan Stewart, Myron Holley, General Fessenden, and Samuel E. Sewall, of the new organization, to which he belonged; and he desired that the influence of  neither should be lost to the cause. But these hopes were not destined to be realized. Divided into two rival, if not hostile, organizations, they too often wasted their forces in mutual criminations and recriminations, which should have been combined against the common foe.

The American and Foreign Antislavery Society and its affiliated societies contained many men of eminence and worth. Many of their members were connected with Christian churches and benevolent associations. Fully aware of the moral power of these organizations over the opinions and convictions of the people, the latter sought both to absolve them from all complicity with slavery and to persuade them to bear their testimony against it. In church conference and convocation, in missionary meetings and on anniversary occasions, they pleaded the cause of humanity as an essential part of the gospel itself. Nor were their efforts without avail; though the full results they aimed at were not secured. Many churches adopted their views, antislavery churches were in some instances formed, and missionary and benevolent associations were organized on the basis of no fellowship with slaveholders; the most important of them being the American Missionary Association, which was formed, in 1846.

Believing, too, in the necessity of political action, they constituted an important and controlling element of the Liberty party. In the use of such means, in addition to their associated efforts in connection with the new organization and its branches, they were active and vigilant in their attempts to infuse their sentiments through these channels of influence into the public mind. Nor were these varied efforts without corresponding results, in no degree to be measured by the number and direct efficiency of the societies which were formed or kept alive. The character and influence of these men in their other relations of life, domestic, social, and ecclesiastical, were often, without doubt, more effective and diffusive than their action in these distinctive and associated efforts. The Abolitionists who adhered to the American Antislavery Society after the separation, claiming that their platform was as wide as the world and as broad as humanity, and that they stood aloof from all political associations and all sectarian biases, asserted that it was their task to enlighten the public mind and awaken the public conscience. Believing that slavery could not be abolished until a change was wrought in the popular mind and heart, they proclaimed it to be, their business, in the words of Edmund Quincy, “to sound forever the tale of the wrongs of the slave, and their own guilt in the ears of the people, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear. Our accents may sometimes seem to be lost in the roar of the world's business or of politics, but their still small voice will make itself heard in the secret chambers of the heart. We may never be numerous; but we shall be always enough to make the general conscience uneasy, until it has purified the nation of its guilt. Our conflict is one in which success is not in proportion to the numbers, but to the faithfulness, of those who engage in it." To the task of carrying into effect these plans, and of endeavoring to make these benign and lofty aspirations realities, they devoted themselves with unflagging resolution. If their forms of expression and modes of action do not always command assent, few will be found to withh0ld from them the meed of an earnest zeal and an honest purpose.

By the labors of their few but earnest presses, of their eloquent orators, by their conventions in city and country, by meetings in church and hall, they endeavored to scatter broadcast the seeds of living truth, the indestructible principles of human rights. Openly welcoming women to their ranks, they were cheered and sustained by the presence, sympathy, and hearty co-operation of a circle of ladies of Boston and vicinity of culture and social position, of stainless purity and active philanthropy, who rendered, by presence and purse, speech and pen, essential service to the cause. Among the agencies employed with signal success was that of Fairs. The first was held in Boston, December 16, 1834, under the lead of Mrs. Ellis Gray Loring, Mrs. Lydia Maria Child, and a few others of kindred sympathies. As the Abolitionists were then shut out from the halls and churches of Boston, they were compelled to hold it at the office of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society on Washington Street. Held in behalf of an unpopular cause, that often subjected its advocates and supporters to social proscription and insult, and in most unattractive quarters, it was deemed a success, although the sum-total of its receipts was but three hundred and sixty dollars.

The next was the year of mobs, the black year on the calendar of Boston, when its men of property and standing were not above the outrage of breaking up a meeting of antislavery women, and of assaulting a young man whose only offence was fidelity to the oppressed. To hold an antislavery fair at such a time was a hazardous experiment. The Female Antislavery Society, which had been, a few weeks before; mobbed and driven from its room, adopted and resolved to hold it, although no hall could be procured, and it was not deemed safe to advertise it. Henry Chapman offered to them his private dwelling, and though the colored people did not dare to attend, for fear that their presence might increase the danger, it was measurably successful, and its managers were encouraged. These Fairs gradually increased in interest and success until the seventh, in 1840, yielded the sum of two thousand dollars. Such an advance had been made that in 1841 they were enabled to procure a large and attractive hall, and secure from home and foreign contributions a fine display of articles of fancy and utility. Although a cloud of opprobrium still rested upon the cause and its friends, persons in the more fashionable circles began to extend their presence and patronage. During this year, too, they were especially gratified by a visit from Lord Morpeth of England, afterward Earl of Carlisle and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who thus gave expression of his sympathy for the object of their efforts.

Faneuil Hall was asked for and obtained, and these annual gatherings were appropriately held in the Cradle of Liberty for many years. Valuable contributions were received from abroad, especially from the antislavery women of England, Scotland, and Ireland. They were visited and patronized by increasing numbers, and were continued until slavery finally; disappeared. Their receipts contributed largely to the support of the American Antislavery Society, and of its organ the “Antislavery Standard." What became an important feature was the publication of a volume entitled “The Liberty Bell," of which fifteen numbers appeared. It was edited by Mrs. Maria W. Chapman, and received the contributions, in prose and verse, of many of the most gifted writers in England, and America. Its very list of contributors was an assurance that the volumes which contained their writings were replete with conclusive reasonings, glowing thoughts, and tender appeals which could not fail to affect the thoughts and feelings of the people, and help forward the sacred cause.

While in no other place except Boston did Fairs become an "institution," they were held in various parts of the country. They were early held in Philadelphia under the direction and impulse of Lucretia Mott, Mary Grew, and others like minded. They, too, were more or less frequently resorted to in other cities and towns, not only in New England, but in the Middle and Western States. Indeed, among the multiplied agencies that were adopted during those years of weary toil to effect the desired change in the public sentiment, this agency was often and in many places put in requisition. Slight record can be made of the labors of these noble women, and their names may never be known to the lowly ones for whom they toiled. But on the tablets of their own souls were inscribed in enduring characters these lessons of love and self -sacrifice, truth and trust, which made them wiser and better, however much or however little their efforts may have advanced the common cause. May not, however, their patient and persistent labors have prepared them and stimulated others of their countrywomen for those exhibitions of sublime and heroic devotion, at home and in the camps and hospitals of the army, which so signalized the late civil war ?

Among other instrumentalities employed by the members of the old organization was the adoption of two addresses, both from the pen of Mr. Garrison, one to the slaves of the South, and the other to President Tyler on the occasion of his visit to Massachusetts at the completion of the Bunker Hill monument. The slaves were assured that the word had gone forth that they should be delivered from their chains. They were invited to transform themselves from things into men by flight from their masters; and the pledge was sacredly given that they should find succor and protection. " If you come to us," said the address," and are hungry, we will feed you; if thirsty, we will give you drink; if naked, we will clothe you; if sick, we will minister to your necessities; if in prison, we will visit you; if you need a hiding-place from the face of the pursuer, we will provide one that even blood-hounds will not sent out." 

President Tyler was requested to liberate his slaves. He was reminded that, though he occupied the highest office in the land, subscribed to the Declaration of Independence, believed in the Christian religion, and was then on a visit to celebrate " the memories of those who bled and died in the cause of human liberty," he was "yet a slaveholder." He was reminded of the influence which such a beneficent example as the emancipation of his own slaves would exert toward the emancipation of three millions held in bondage, and they implored him to perform that great duty. "It might," said the address " subject you temporarily to the ridicule of the heartless, the curses of the profane, the contempt of the vulgar, the scorn of the proud, the rage of the selfish, the hostility of the powerful; but it would assuredly secure to you the applause and acclamation of the truly great and good, and render your name, illustrious to the latest posterity." Such advice from despised Abolitionists President Tyler of course disdained to follow, Had he accepted it, however, and acted up to its benign precepts, he would never have linked his name so indissolubly with the Texas iniquity; he would have saved his character from the taint of treason, and himself from being remembered as the only traitor President.

Another instrumentality which they adopted was the holding a hundred conventions throughout the free States, mainly in the Northwest, at which one or more of their popular orators were present.

Sometimes that oppression which maketh a man mad moved, from their propriety the friends of the oppressed and those who labored for his redemption. His sad fate and cruel wrongs, the indifference of the people, and the coldness of the churches during these years, did not a little to embitter Abolitionists and impel them to the utterance of words and the adoption of measures which were neither wise nor in harmony with the very doctrine of equal rights of which they were such sturdy defenders. Especially was this true of some of that class which felt constrained to come out from the churches, and to separate themselves from the political parties of their day. Impatient at what they regarded the wicked silence of the pulpit concerning the wrongs of the slave, and provoked at their own general exclusion from the Christian temples of the land, in which they sought to plead his cause, they sometimes entered those sanctuaries unbidden, and, in the presence of congregations assembled for religious worship, undertook themselves to supply the lack of service of those who, professing to hold the poorest of men their brethren, children of a common Father, had no plea for the bondman, no rebuke for his oppressor .

Among the most prominent and persistent of those who adopted this policy were Stephen S. Foster and Thomas P. Beach. The latter entered the meeting-houses of the Friends in Lynn and of the Baptists in Danvers, was forcibly ejected; arrested, and fined for a violation of the law against the disturbance of religious worship. In default of his fine, which he would neither pay himself nor allow his friends to pay, he was sent to the Newport jail, where he lay three months. He published there a little paper called “The Voice from the Jail," which increased the popular sympathy in his behalf, and made the shortcomings of the churches more apparent. But, though Mr. Beach was a man of character and culture unquestioned integrity and conscientiousness, he could not but fail to convince many, even among Abolitionists, of the wisdom of his course, or the propriety of such modes of action, though adopted for a good purpose,

Several of their leading advocates visited England and there pleaded the cause, arraigning their country and its institutions, its political parties and sectarian organizations, as recreant to the cause of freedom and the claims of humanity. Nor were they and their British coadjutors any less ready to criticize and censure the shortcomings which there met their eye. The prominent leaders of the Anti-Corn-Law League were in close and friendly correspondence with Calhoun and McDuffie; hailing these champions of slavery as distinguished friends of free trade, and they denounced the inconsistency of recognizing " the enemies of personal liberty as the friends of commercial liberty." They found, too, the Free Church of Scotland receiving contributions from the slaveholding churches of the South, and they demanded that they should return the price of blood. Henry C. Wright was especially persistent, by voice and pen, in his reiterated demands to “send back the blood-stained money."

Though the money was not sent back, and Southern cooperation in the cause of free trade was still welcomed, there was manifested a growing interest in the English mind on the subject of their mission. Nor was this increase due to antislavery efforts alone. As often before and since, the slaveholders themselves added to its intensity. Among their doings which then excited deep feeling were the trial, conviction, and sentence to death; in South Carolina, of John L. Brown, for the sole offence of aiding a female slave to escape. When the news reached England, Lord Brougham brought the subject before the House of Lords. A memorial, signed by Rev. William Jay, to the inhabitants of the United States, was published. The ministers and office-bearers of Christian churches, and benevolent societies in Lancashire and London addressed a memorial to the churches of South Carolina, and to Americans generally. It was signed by thirteen hundred of the most eminent of the ministers and elders, among whom was the venerable Clarkson. Petitions were sent from England to the governor of South Carolina, praying for the release of Brown. A feeling of horror and indignation was felt and freely expressed at the enormity of such a penalty for such an offence. Similar though far less feeling was exhibited in the United States, but it was owing mainly to British efforts that the governor was induced to commute the sentence.

By these and other modes of action the leading and active members of the antislavery societies prosecuted their work; sometimes with and sometimes without their aid. In earnest to secure the object in view, and regarding organizations as only means to an end, they did not cease to seek the end, though that means might be wanting or ineffective for their purpose. For, as distinctive organizations, these societies soon began to diminish in number and efficiency. This was admitted, as early as 1844, by Parker Pillsbury, in the "Herald of Freedom." It was then said by him that they had but a name to live, that “the annual meetings had been a disgrace to humanity, and a scandal to the antislavery cause." Mr. Pillsbury was apt to take gloomy views of affairs, and sometimes to express himself in extravagant and exaggerated language. And yet there is no doubt whatever that at that time they had largely diminished in numbers. At the time of the disruption it was estimated that there were nearly two thousand antislavery societies in the United States, with a membership of some two hundred thousand. Immediately after the organization of the American and Foreign Antislavery Society, auxiliary societies were also formed. But they were never very effective, and most of their members labored for the common cause through political and ecclesiastical associations. Indeed, within five years of the disruption large numbers of antislavery societies had ceased to exist, and their membership had greatly diminished. Some of them, however, especially the American, New England, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Pennsylvania societies were then strong and effective.

But the decrease of antislavery societies, and the diminution of the numbers, interest, and zeal of many that remained, were no indication of the decline of antislavery ideas, but an evidence, rather, that the antislavery cause was assuming larger dimensions, and that the sympathies and views of many found expression in other forms and by other modes of action. The startling issues growing out of the Texas plot, the increasing aggressions of the Slave Power, brought the various questions pertaining to slavery to the hearts and homes of hundreds of thousands who had heretofore given little heed to abolition movements. They broadened and deepened the public interest, so that the conflicts of opinion and the adoption of policies passed, in a large degree, from the arena and control of antislavery societies to the wider domain of general debate and political combinations. Matters involving both slavery and antislavery were no longer mere problems of civil polity and reform, to be calmly considered in the study or on the platform as abstract questions of right and wrong merely; but they became the momentous issues of the hour, instinct with life and importance, involving both peril and guilt on the one hand, duty and safety on the other. They forced themselves upon the attention of statesmen and into the assemblages of the people; they entered the halls of State legislatures and the chambers of Congress. They appealed to the public eye and ear in the columns of the press, in the pulpit, and in meetings of religious assemblies, and at the hustings of political parties. Fiction made them the theme of her most successful efforts, and poetry consecrated to them the magic of its numbers. And thus the subject which had been discussed only by the few became the theme of the many, and that which had been confined to scattered circles overspread the land, until that land trembled under the tread of armies and was reddened with the blood of civil war"

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 559-567.

Chapter: “Antislavery Organizations,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

Nothing affords more striking evidence of the gravity and difficulties of the antislavery struggle than the conflicting opinions and plans of the honest and earnest men engaged in it. It was fashionable to stigmatize them as ultra, pragmatic, and angular, and to hold up their differences and divisions as a foil and shield against their arguments and appeals. Thousands consoled and defended themselves in their inaction because antislavery men were not agreed among themselves. But the facts were that some of the ablest, most honest, practical, and sagacious men of the nation were engaged in that struggle; and their differences of views and plans arose not so much from their infirmities as from the greatness and gravity of the problem they attempted to solve, and the blind and inextricable labyrinth of difficulties into which the compromises of the Constitution, the concessions of the fathers; the persistent policy of the government, and the constant aggressions of the Slave Power, had involved the nation. Slavery had inwrought itself into every department of society, political and commercial, social and religious. It had polluted everything it touched, and poisoned the very fountains of the nation's life. Men could turn in no direction without encountering its pestiferous presence, its malignant and all grasping power. Even in the broad light of this day of freedom, now that the whole system has been swept away, with and the revelations which have been made, he must be a bold ·man who presumes to say exactly what they should and should not have done. How much less could they, in the dark night of slavery, in deadly conflict with the Power itself, never more arrogant and dominating, decide with perfect accuracy what to say or what to do. To err under such circumstances was not only human, but evidently no matter of surprise.

The most radical difference was that which separated those who rejected from those who adopted the principle of political action. The former were generally styled the “old organization," or Garrisonian Abolitionists; the latter embraced the Liberty party and those antislavery men who still adhered to the Whig and Democratic parties.

Having adopted the doctrine of “no union with slaveholders " as the fundamental idea, the corner-stone of their policy and plans, the Garrisonians of that period directed their teachings, their arguments and appeals, to the establishment of the necessity and the inculcation of the duty of disunion. Believing, in the language of Edmund Quincy, the Union to be a " confederacy of crime," that " the experiment of a great nation with popular institutions had signally failed," that the Republic was " not a model, but a warning to the nations," that the hopes of the yearning ages had been mournfully defeated" through "the disturbing element of slavery"; believing, too, that such had become the ascendency of the system that it compelled  the entire people to be slaveholders or slaves "; believing also that " the only exodus for the slave from his bondage, the only redemption of ourselves from our guilty participation in it, lies over the ruin of the American state and the American church," --they proclaimed it to be their "unalterable purpose and determination to live and labor for a dissolution of the present Union by all lawful and just though bloodless and pacific means, and for the formation of a new republic, that, shall be such not in name only, but in full, living reality and truth."

But to destroy such a system as slavery, thus completely interwoven with everything in church and state, permeating the mass and diffusing itself through the very atmosphere of public and private life, involved the breaking up of institutions and associations hallowed by time and the most tender memories.  In attaining the great good sought there could not but be much incidental evil; in rooting up the tares there was manifest danger of injury to the wheat.  But these consequences and conditions this class of reformers promptly accepted, and, with an unsparing iconoclasm, they dashed to the ground whatever idols of popular faith interfered with the people’s acceptance of the doctrines they deemed of paramount importance.  Abjuring party organizations, coming out from the churches, and condemning with unsparing censure whatever in their esteem gave countenance and encouragement to slavery, they necessarily assumed an attitude of antagonism to those they so severely condemned, and uttered many sentiments that grated harshly on the popular ear. But, while thus obnoxious to the charge of indifference to the passions, prejudices, and even the principles, of the dominant classes of society, and committed, as many thought, to theories more abstract than practical, it was always seen that to the sigh of the individual bondman their ear was ever attent, and that for the help of the poor and trembling fugitive their hand was ever open and generous.

From the annexation of Texas, in 1845, to the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law, in 1850, they pursued with a good deal of vigor this line of policy.  Discarding religious and political organizations, the ballot, and all the enginery of its legitimate and effective use, they denied themselves many of the ordinary methods of reaching the popular mind, and relied mainly on the use of the press, the popular convention, and other meetings of the people.  They not only held such convocations by special appointment at various points at the North, but they always observed the anniversaries of national independence and of West India emancipation as days specially appropriate to their mission to the American people.  To the annual meetings of the American, New England, and the several State societies were added fairs, held for the twofold purpose of putting funds into their exchequer and of bringing their ideas before the people. In carrying forward this work, Garrison, Phillips, Quincy, Douglass, Wright, Foster, Burleigh, and Pillsbury were among the recognized leaders and advocates. Theodore Parker and Ralph Waldo Emerson; though not distinctively belonging to their organization, largely sympathized with their efforts, and were occasionally welcomed to their platform. In the same work they were assisted by the pens and voices of several women. Among them were Mrs. Child, Mrs. Chapman, Lucretia Mott, Mrs. Abby Kelly Foster, and Lucy Stone. During a portion of these years, too, Garrison, Douglass, Henry C. Wright, and James Buffum were in Europe, and presented the cause to the British public.

But the men who agreed in the principle of political action were not always in full accord as to the best methods of applying that principle. Exercising for themselves that freedom of thought and speech which they claimed for others, as they considered the great subject, with its really inextricable and insurmountable difficulties, involving principles at once recondite and infinitely delicate and perplexing in their application and adjustment to the fearful problems before them, they often failed to see eye to eye. They differed not only in their estimate of fundamental principles, but frequently in their proposed modes of action. Some had accepted the doctrine of the unconstitutionality of slavery, and several able arguments were prepared in defence of that position. Others held that it was a local system, that its extension was to be resisted, its power overcome, and itself extirpated, under the Constitution and through constitutional modes of action. These diversities of opinion elicited no little feeling; and led to divisions and sometimes to mutual denunciations.

In June, 1845, a State convention was held at Port Byron, in New York. An address was presented, not only setting forth the unconstitutionality of slavery, but, perhaps in deference to the very general criticism that Abolitionists were men of " one idea," stating and elaborating somewhat fully the different objects government should have in view, and some of the more prominent measures that should receive its attention and support. This address, though read and printed, was not adopted. Many, however, of the Liberty party accepted its sentiments, and held a convention in June, 1847, at Macedon, in the same State. The convention nominated Gerrit Smith for President and Elihu Burritt for the Vice-Presidency, separated from the party, took the name of Liberty League, and issued an address to the people.

In October of the same year a national convention of the Liberty party was held at Buffalo. Several members of the Liberty League attended, and sought the indorsement of the convention for the candidates they had just put in nomination, but without success; John P. Hale of New Hampshire and Leicester King of Ohio receiving the nomination. This action was not taken without opposition, though the dissatisfaction was mostly confined to the State of New York. It was regarded as an abandonment of principle to go outside for a candidate, and to select one who had never identified himself or acted with the party; and Chase, Matthews, Lewis, Leavitt, and Dr. Bailey were severely censured for their course.

But this controversy between the two wings of the Liberty party, which resulted in the formation of the Liberty League, militated in no degree against either the earnestness or the honesty of the men who took opposite sides on the questions at issue. It only indicated the different methods suggested to different minds in their endeavor to solve a most difficult, not to say an insoluble problem. Neither hit upon the plan that actually secured the desired result, or that even gave promise of at least immediate success. Nothing now appears why slavery would not to-day be lording it over the land with increasing vigor, had not the South in its madness appealed to arms, and cut with its own sword the Gordian knot which others were vainly attempting to untie.

As distinguished from the other wing, it may be said that the members of the Liberty League were less practical, more disposed to adhere to theories, and more fearful of sacrificing principle to policy.  Like the members of the “old organization” and the French doctrinaires, they seemed to have more confidence in the power of abstract right, and less in the doctrine of expediency. They calculated largely on the power of truth, and on the belief that God is the “majority." Their watchword was: "Duty is ours, results are God's."

On the other side, the men who advised and aided in putting Mr. Hale in nomination had less faith in the policy, safety, or duty of simply adhering to the proclamation of abstract ideas, however correct or forcibly expressed. They saw that, in the presence and in spite of all the arguments, appeals, and fierce invectives of the able and eloquent writers and orators of either the "old organization" or of the Liberty League, the Slave Power was marching on, with relentless purpose and increasing audacity, from victory to victory, until it appeared that, unless it could be checked, Mr. Calhoun's theory would be reduced to practice and the Constitution would carry slavery wherever it went, and slavery would be no longer sectional, but national. Texas had been annexed, vast territory had been acquired; and the question was now upon them:  " Shall this territory be free or slave?" And their past bitter experience had shown that something more than appeals to reason, conscience, and the plighted faith of the fathers was necessary to prevent the final consummation for which all these previous steps had been taken. In settling that question they saw that votes were more potent than words; that an organized and growing party would prove more efficient than any amount of protest and earnest entreaty. To strengthen this purpose, such men as Chase, Leavitt, Whittier, William Jackson, and Dr. Bailey saw that there were hundreds of thousands, in both the Whig and Democratic parties, who were deeply dissatisfied with the state of affairs and the immediate prospect before them, and were anxiously looking for some practical scheme, some common ground on which they could make a stand in resistance to these· aggressions. They hoped much, too, from such men as Dix, Hale, Niles, King, and Wilmot among the Democrats; Giddings, Palfrey, Seward, Mann, and Root among the Whigs; much from the Barnburners in New York and the "conscience" Whigs in Massachusetts. They judged, and the event has proved that they judged wisely, that by narrowing the platform, even if it did not contain all that the most advanced Abolitionists desired, if such, men and their followers could be drawn from the Whig and Democratic parties, and be thus arrayed in a compact and vigorous organization against the Slave Power, there would be great gain. Though they could not exactly forecast the end of such a movement, they felt that it was a step in the right direction, and that, when taken, it would disclose still further the path of duty and place them in a position to go forward therein.

But the Liberty League and dissatisfied members of the Liberty party were not idle. Meeting in convention at Auburn in January, 1848, they called a national convention to meet in Buffalo in June. John Curtis of Ohio presided, and Gerrit Smith was chairman of the Committee on the Address and Resolutions. The committee reported two addresses, --one to the colored people of the free States and one to the people of the United States. In them they censured severely the action of the Liberty party for what they denounced as recreancy to the principles of the party. The colored people were told that it was the " perfection of treachery to the slave " to vote for a slaveholder, or for one who thinks that a slaveholder is fit for civil office; that it was the religious indorsement of slavery that kept it in countenance; and that it was "better, infinitely better for your poor, lashed, bleeding, and chained brothers and sisters that you should never see the inside of a church nor the inside of a Bible, than that you should by your proslavery connections sanctify their enslavement."

Speeches of great earnestness and directness were made by Beriah Green, Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, Henry Highland Garnett, Elizur Wright, and George Bradburn. Mr. Green maintained that when the nation indorses slavery “the most marked inconsistencies creep out of the same lips, the flattest contradictions fall from the same tongues." Civil governments, he said, should be the reflection from the throne of God. To assert the claims of justice, to define and defend rights, to cherish and express a world-embracing philanthropy, to promote the general welfare, to afford counsel and protection, are “the appropriate objects of civil government." "God gave civil government," remarked Mr. Smith, “I had wellnigh said, to be on terms of companionship with the poor. Certain it is that he gave it chiefly for the purpose of protecting the rights of those who are too poor, ignorant, and weak to protect themselves. With their definition of civil government and the purposes for which it was instituted and with their knowledge of what slavery was, such endorsement could, not but seem not only unconstitutional, but inconsistent with and subversive of government itself. "Anti-Slavery men said Mr. Smith,” should identify themselves with the slave, and be willing to be hated and despised; they should not be ashamed to do what slaveholders call slave-stealing. It was not “vulgar," he contended,” low, or mean;" to help slaves to escape from the clutches of their oppressor. '''As I live and as God lives," he continued,” there is net on earth a more honorable employment. There is not in all the world a more honorable tombstone than that on which the slaveholder would inscribe, 'Here lies a slave-stealer.'"

The convention, much against his own avowed wishes nominated Mr. Smith for the Presidency. Mr. Burritt having declined the nomination of the Liberty League for the Vice­ Presidency, C. C. Foot of Michigan was selected as the candidate.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 106-113.

Chapter: “Slavery Aggressions. – ‘Conscience’' Whigs. – ‘Barnburners,’” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

Among the most potent instrumentalities of slaveholding ascendency was the doctrine of State rights as defined and defended by Southern statesmen. By it the slavery propagandists gained concessions, silenced objections, and conciliated support they could not have hoped for without such an auxiliary. And yet this influence was not always adverse, and the advocates and defenders of human rights sometimes gained advantages from their relations to the State they could not have secured single-handed and alone. By a wise use of the power which State organization gave the few friends of freedom, in New Hampshire, John P. Hale was placed on the floor of the United States Senate, there to enunciate principles and to vindicate a policy far in advance of the average sentiment and purpose of the people he represented. Antislavery resolutions and legislation had been adopted by several Northern States more positive and pronounced than were demanded, or hardly justified, by the current opinions and convictions of those Commonwealths. In no State did this policy of using such influence become more effective than in Massachusetts. 

When the legislature of Massachusetts assembled in January, 1846, Governor Briggs laid before it a series of resolutions which had been adopted by the legislature of Georgia concerning slavery and the legislative action of Massachusetts for the protection of its colored citizens in the slave-holding States. On motion of Mr. Wilson of Natick they were referred to a special committee, consisting of two Senators and five Representatives. Soon thereafter Mr. Wilson introduced an order instructing that committee to report a preamble setting forth the crime of slavery and the aggressions of the Slave Power, and a resolution declaring the opposition of Massachusetts to the longer continuance and further extension of slavery in America, and her unalterable determination to use every constitutional power for its entire extinction.

This motion encountered stern opposition, in which both Democrats and Whigs united. It was denounced as a measure to please "a little knot of political Abolitionists." Mr. Wilson urged its adoption in a speech of some length, setting forth the necessities of the case and the importance of taking an advanced position. "The issue," he said,” is now clearly made up. Slavery assumes to direct and control the nation. The friends of freedom must meet the issue. Freedom and slavery are now arrayed against each other. We must destroy slavery, or slavery will destroy liberty. We must restore our government to its original and pristine purity. The contest is a glorious one. Let us be cheered by the fact that the bold and daring efforts of the Slave Power to arrest the progress of free principles has awakened and aroused the nation. That power has won a brilliant victory in the acquisition of Texas; yet it is only one in its long series of victories over the Constitution and liberties of the country. Other fields are yet to be fought; and if we are true to the country, to freedom, and to humanity, the future has yet a Waterloo in store for the supporters of this unholy system." He called upon the members of his party to accept these vital and living issues, and abide the result, whether it were victory or defeat. If we gain the one, he said; let us enjoy and improve it; if the result be adverse, we shall have the glory at least of having “deserved success. Whatever others may do, I am willing to act with any man or set of men, Whig, Democrat, Abolitionist, Christian, or Infidel, who will go for the cause of emancipation."

After a speech expressive of his abhorrence of slavery and his sympathy with the objects of the resolution, Peleg W. Chandler, a leading member of the House, from Boston, moved to strike out the instructing clause of the order. Mr. Wilson accepted this amendment, and the order in that form was referred to the committee. But the committee was reluctant. A reactionary spirit pervaded the legislature, which seemed adverse to further efforts. After a delay of several weeks Mr. Wheatland reported that “the annexation of Texas to the United States, in a moral point of view, was a great evil, and one which Massachusetts resisted as long as resistance would do any good. The evil has come; and a majority of your committee are of the opinion that further action in the matter is not called for." This terse and laconic report was sanctioned by six of its seven members.

Mr. Wilson made a minority report, setting forth that; by the action of the two houses of Congress; Texas had been blended and indissolubly connected with the Republic; that every act in its history, from its first inception to its final consummation, had been a deep disgrace; that the fermenting of discord, the levying of troops; the speculation in lands; the dark intrigues which had been plotted, presented  a mass of rottenness and corruption ; and that the object of annexation was confessed to be the extension and perpetuation of human bondage. Inspired by that purpose; the South, he said, has “won one of the most brilliant victories in her long series of victories over the Constitution of the country and the liberties of the people. Our Union is not the Union our fathers made, That Union has been trampled beneath the iron heel of the triumphant Slave Power. We stand on the threshold of a new Union, which the annexation of a foreign nation has created. A new page is opened in the history of the Republic. Already the victorious hand of the Slave Power points the way to further acquisitions. In this crisis of the country; has Massachusetts nothing to say, nothing to propose, nothing to do? Shall we, indeed, now give up the struggle, confess ourselves vanquished, think that all is lost? Shall Massachusetts, how that annexation is accomplished, erase all her solemn protests, shut up as a great mistake the history of a fifty years struggle against the influences of slavery, and by quiet submission and a change of policy obtain the forgiveness of the Slave Power? Or shall she yet trust in justice and truth, and, however the lights of other States may waver, stand herself unfaltering on the lofty eminence she has never yet deserted or betrayed, and use free speech, the free press, the free ballot, the freedom of remonstrance, and her other rights and powers; narrow though they be, in such a manner as finally to blot out the greatest disgrace and the most fruitful source of danger which was ever entailed on any nation?"

The report of the committee was accepted by the Senate without a division, and sent, together with Mr. Wilson's minority report, to the House. It was at first accepted; but Mr. Wilson, who was absent when the vote was taken, moved a reconsideration. After an animated discussion of some length, the motion to reconsider was agreed to by a majority of twenty-six. Mr. Wilson then moved as a substitute his original resolution, and it was carried by a vote of one hundred and forty-one to fifty-two. The amendment being returned to the Senate, Mr. Willard of Worcester County moved its indefinite postponement. An excited and sharp debate sprung up. Mr. Cary of Suffolk County stoutly opposed the resolution, declaring that Massachusetts “must submit," and cease passing antislavery resolutions.

To this remark E. Rockwood Hoar of Middlesex replied: “It is as much the duty of Massachusetts to pass resolutions in favor of the rights of man as in the interests of cotton,"--a remark from which arose the popular designation of “cotton “Whigs. In the course of the debate Mr. Wheatland, referring to the resolutions of former years, said: "I have voted for some of those resolves, but I have never approved of them." Mr. Shepherd of Bristol County, a representative of the cotton-manufacturing interest, then especially sensitive on all questions which had any bearing upon the tariff, opposed both that and kindred resolutions. Mr. Hopkinson of Middlesex County, Mr. Watts of Suffolk County, and Mr. Borden of Bristol County, advocated the resolution in able, earnest, and manly speeches. But timid counsels prevailed, and the resolution was indefinitely postponed. Thus the reactionary section of the Whig party compelled the legislature to adjourn without putting on record any condemnation of the fresh aggressions of the Slave Power, then becoming so frequent and so flagrant.

This action of the legislature could not but tend further to alienate and divide the party. Mr. Winthrop's vote in favor of the declaration of war against Mexico, a few days afterward, tended in the same direction. Nor did the proclamation of Governor Briggs, inviting the citizen soldiers to enroll themselves, and to be in readiness to respond to the calls of the government, heal or prevent these divisions. But these growing antagonisms revealed themselves more clearly in the Whig State convention, which was held in September in Faneuil Hall. There was no division of opinion on candidates, though there was a sharp contest on the platform. Before it was reported, Mr. Sumner, in response to loud calls, addressed the convention. He spoke with great power and eloquence against slavery in all its forms, against the aggressions of the Slave Power, and in denunciation of the war. With graceful force and beauty he thus appealed to Mr. Webster:--

"There is a Senator of Massachusetts whom we had hoped to welcome here to-day, whose position is one of commanding influence. Let me address him with the respectful frankness of a constituent and a friend: You have, sir, already acquired by your various labors an honorable place in the history of our country. By the vigor, argumentation, and eloquence with which you have upheld the Union and that interpretation of the Constitution which makes us a nation you have justly earned the title of Defender of the Constitution. By the successful and masterly negotiation of the Treaty of Washington, and by your efforts to compose the strife of the Oregon boundary, you have earned another title, - Defender of Peace. There are yet other duties which claim your care, whose performance will be the crown of a life of high public service. Let me ask you, when you next take a seat in the Senate, not to forget them. Dedicate, sir, the golden years of experience which are yet in store for you to removing from your country its greatest evil. In this cause you shall find inspirations to eloquence higher than any you have yet confessed."

At the close of Mr. Sumner's speech there were loud calls from the friends of Mr. Winthrop and the approvers of his course. In an able, adroit, and eloquent speech, besides defining his own course, he took special pains to express his uncompromising opposition to more slave States or more slave territory.

There were two reports from the Committee on Resolutions --one presented by J. Thomas Stevenson, and the other moved by Stephen C. Phillips as a substitute. The series proposed by Mr. Phillips closed by the following unequivocal announcement: that the Whigs of Massachusetts make the declaration that they must be hereafter regarded as the decided and uncompromising opponents of slavery; that they are opposed to " its extension," and " will maintain their opposition at any political hazard "; that they " are opposed to its continuance where it already exists "; and that they will " continue in all constitutional measures that can promote its abolition."

The substitute was opposed by Linus Child, who, though he had previously acted with the antislavery party, and had electrified the anti-Texas meeting in Tremont Temple by the cry of “repeal," now acted with the conservatives. On the other hand, the policy of not only maintaining past declarations, but of taking an advanced position, was forcibly advocated by Charles Francis Adams and Charles Allen. Referring to the recent triumphs of the Slave Power, Mr. Allen said the question is “not whether slavery shall be endured, but whether liberty shall be endured, upon the American Continent," and he said he would “resist to the death any further encroachments on the area of freedom." But Mr. Phillip's amendment was rejected by a majority of forty-seven.

The antislavery men, though in the minority, were strong in character, capacity, confidence, as well as in the justice of their cause. Indeed, so formidable had their demonstration in the convention become, that the conservative leaders trembled for its effect on the integrity of the party. Hurried conferences were held, and it was decided to invoke the presence and potential influence of Daniel Webster,--if not to overawe, at least" to conciliate and persuade. Obeying the summons, the great Senator soon made his appearance, amid the most uproarious applause.

Listening to a speech from the stern and inflexible Charles Allen, and comprehending the situation, he saw that harmony was the great necessity. In a speech of scarcely five minutes length, couched in felicitous and fitly chosen language, and delivered with a mien and manner imposing, impressive, and so peculiarly his own, he uttered the words so often quoted and so well remembered. He said that whenever and wherever the Whigs of Massachusetts assembled there was "an odor of liberty” he loved to inhale, an avowed attachment to our country which warmed a heart then old, but which still beat in accordance with human freedom, whether at home or abroad. Others," he said,” rely on other foundations and other hopes for the welfare of the country; but, for my part, in the dark and troubled night that is upon us I see no star above the horizon promising light to guide us but the intelligent, patriotic, united Whig party of the United States."

But that little speech was little only in length. Its very brevity carried with it its most profound and pregnant meaning. Its silence was more expressive than its utterance; for it revealed, more clearly than words, the policy of the hour,--the statesmanship which had ruled the country for half a century, and of which its author was an acknowledged chief, and one of its last exponents, -the statesmanship of submission, and surrender. Standing in Faneuil Hall, with its thronging memories of early patriotism and heroic sacrifices for liberty, in the presence not only of an excited auditory of the old Commonwealth, deeply moved by the perils of the crisis, but of the flagrant outrage of the Slave Power, dismembering a neighboring republic, involving the nation in a bloody war, professedly to extend slavery, what counsel did he give? Out of the depths of his capacious mind and large experience he could then, as before and afterward, draw no other remedy for the evils of the state than the same that had been urged from the founding of the Republic, and always in the name and behalf' of oppression and wrong.  Union was his only watchword for that dark hour, of strife, his only talisman to heal the diseases of his country, his only charm to conjure with.

Mr. Webster’s counsels and influence prevailed, and the party went into the conflict under the guidance and inspiration of its conservative leaders. Mr. Winthrop was nominated for Congress for the Boston district. The antislavery men, however, would not give him their support, and Mr. Sumner published a sharp letter severely censuring his vote on the Mexican war. He condemned that vote as a violation of obligation, though it had been given with the majority, as voting with the majority cannot of itself make it right.  In all ages supple and insane majorities," he said,” have been found to sanction injustice… Majorities smiled at the persecution of Galileo, stood by the stake of Servetus, administered the hemlock to Socrates, and called for the crucifixion of our Lord aloft on the throne of God, and not below in the footprints of a trampling multitude of men, are to be found the sacred rules of right, which no majorities can displace or overturn." "And the question returns," he adds,” Was it right to vote for an unjust and cowardly war, with falsehood in the cause of slavery? " He reminded him, too, that his famous sentiment, " Our country however bounded," offered in Faneuil Hall, extended, as it were, in advance, the hand of fellowship to Texas, and sharply characterized the pregnant sentence by telling him that he had connected his name " with an epigram of dishonest patriotism." The nomination was offered to Mr. Sumner; but, he declining, it was given to Dr. Samuel G. Howe. He accepted it, though he knew that the votes would be few and the reproaches would be many. But the same heroism which a quarter of a century before carried him to Greece inspired him, in a cause he deemed equally sacred, to accept the leadership of the forlorn hope which now summoned the philanthropic and the patriotic to the rescue. Mr. Winthrop, however, was triumphantly elected by an increased majority.

Defeated in the convention and before the people, the antislavery Whigs still continued the fight; in the face of great odds, however, as the commercial, the manufacturing, and the monetary interests, the party press and party organization, were unmistakably against them. The Boston " Daily Whig," edited by Mr. Adams, and the Dedham " Gazette," edited by Mr. Keyes, --journals of limited circulation, but conducted with great ability, --were their main and almost only channels of communication with the public. The conflict proceeded, and the divergence between the two wings of the Whig party became wider and wider.

The legislature of 1848, like that of 1847, was pervaded by this same reactionary spirit, though the friends of freedom were still active and persistent. A special committee on slavery and the Mexican war was appointed, of which Mr. Hayden, former editor of the Boston “Atlas," was chairman. A series of resolutions, general in their scope and tenor, were reported, and adopted by nearly a unanimous vote. It was thought, however, by the more radical members, that the condition of things growing out of the war demanded that the utterances of the legislature should be more definite and emphatic. Consequently Mr. Keyes, failing to secure such an utterance from the committee, made a minority report, which he asked the Legislature to adopt as the sense of the House. The report and his speech accompanying it were marked with great vigor-and power of argument and language. The House received the report, and ordered it to be printed. Mr. Hayden, regarding this action as a reflection and rebuke upon his committee, resigned his place. Mr. Giles of Boston made another report from the same committee. The House, however, adopted, by a decisive majority, the report and resolutions of Mr. Keyes, slightly amended by the Senate. They were substantially the same in sentiment and spirit as those presented by Mr. Phillips to the Faneuil Hall convention, and which had been rejected by that body. It was therefore felt by die antislavery Whigs, that, though they were in a minority, they had achieved a substantial victory under the bold and skillful leading of Mr. Keyes.

But though resolutions could be forced through the legislature and conventions of the party, it was very evident ·that there was little harmony of feeling and purpose between the two sections. While the " Cotton " Whigs, who were determined to adhere to the national organization, and to sacrifice, if need be, any claim of freedom for that purpose, regarded the action of the " Conscience " Whigs, as the antislavery men were called, factious and disorganizing, the latter began more clearly to comprehend the drift of things; and the position to which the party was tending, and to realize the hollowness of many of the professions that had been made. They saw that many of the resolutions which were often crowded through the one or the other of these bodies were rather strategical than hearty or honest, more for show than use; not fitted, and never intended, to ,bind the party or to resist the strain of political necessity.

The Whig State convention was held at Springfield in September, 1847. George Ashmun of that city presided, and Joseph Bell of Boston was chairman of the Committee on Resolutions. The leaders of both sections were there in force, and a severe struggle ensued. Mt. Palfrey moved, as an amendment to the resolutions of the committee, one declaring that the Whigs would support no candidate for the Presidency not known by his acts and declared opinions to be opposed to the extension of slavery. It gave rise to an exciting debate; Mr. Winthrop sturdily opposing it, and Mr. Adams, Mr. Sumner, Mr. Allen, and Mr. Dwight as earnestly supporting it. Mr. Adams declared that he would rather vote for a Democrat opposed to the extension of slavery than for a Whig in favor of it. The amendment was rejected; though, as a partial compensation, Mr. Phillips secured by a small majority a vote that the convention should not put in nomination a candidate for the Presidency. Mr. Webster was present, and made a speech, in which he took strong ground against slavery extension, claiming the Wilmot proviso as his own. “Sir," said he, “I feel something of a personal interest in this. I take the sentiment of the Wilmot proviso to be that there shall be no annexation of slave territory to this Union. Did I not commit myself to that in the year 1838 fully, entirely? And have I ever departed from it in the slightest degree? I must be permitted, sir, to say that I do not consent that more recent discoverers shall take out a patent for the discovery. I do not quite consent that they shall undertake to appropriate to themselves all the benefit and honor of it. Allow me to say, sir, it is not their thunder." The, antislavery Whigs were again defeated. They, however, went away from that convention more determined and resolute than ever. They felt that a rupture was inevitable, and that it was but a question of time.

As the time for the convention drew near, indications increased that General Taylor would receive the nomination, and that the policy of slavery restriction would be abandoned. Some of the friends of freedom took the alarm, and at once entered upon the adoption of measures to prevent, if possible, such a result, and, in case of failure, to mark out such a course as the exigencies of the case might demand. Charles Allen and Henry Wilson were chosen as delegates to the convention. Their antecedents and generally recognized proclivities made it probable and a matter of popular belief that they would not vote for. General Taylor unless he were pledged to the principles of the Wilmot proviso.

Conferences were at once held by those Whigs who had striven to the last to prevent, the annexation of Texas and the adoption of a reactionary policy. On the 27th of May a meeting was held at the office of Charles Francis Adams. There were present Mr. Adams, Stephen C. Phillips, Charles Sumner, E. Rockwood Hoar, Edward I. Keyes, Francis W. Bird, Edward Walcutt, and Henry Wilson. Though they were not ignorant of the sacrifices implied and involved in their action, they resolved at any and every hazard to abide by their principles. It was unanimously determined, if the convention nominated General Taylor, or any candidate not known by his acts and declared opinions to be opposed to the extension of slavery, that “an organized opposition " should be made and at once begun in Massachusetts. It was agreed to call a State convention of Whigs and of all others who would co-operate in such an effort. On the 5th of June a call, which had been prepared by E. Rockwood Hoar was agreed upon, and held for signature in the event of General Taylor's nomination.

The State of New York had generally exerted a powerful influence on national affairs. Imperial in extent and resources, ably represented by its strong men, occupying a commanding position in the commercial and political world, its voice and. votes had ever exerted a large, if not a controlling influence, sometimes for good, but oftener for evil. This was always and necessarily true. But in 1848, and in connection with the presidential election of that year, there were special reasons therefor. Certain causes had produced disaffection with the national Democracy; and a tendency to revolt, which for a long time had been gathering strength, culminated during that year.

In addition to general reasons was the special motive afforded by the treatment which Mr. Van Buren had received from the national convention of 1844, and the gross ingratitude of those States to whose interests and institutions he had given such evidences of fealty. Mr. Van Buren had made great sacrifices for the South. Though he signalized the earlier years of his public life by giving his voice and vote, in the legislature of his State, against the admission of Missouri as a slave State, he soon yielded to the reactionary movement which followed that violation of the ordinance of '87, and devoted himself so faithfully to slaveholding interests as to merit and receive the name of "a Northern man with Southern principles." And yet, because he faltered in the single matter of Texan annexation, he was abandoned and deprived of the nomination, which not only he, but a decided majority of his party, desired and expected. This was neither forgotten nor forgiven. It intensified the bitter feud then raging between the " Hunker" and'" Barnburner" wings of the New York Democracy, and resulted in the defeat of Silas Wright, whose candidacy for-the gubernatorial chair in 1844 had unquestionably secured the electoral vote of the State for Mr. Polk. His death, occurring soon afterward, added to the indignation already felt in view of his defeat and of the means through which that defeat had been accomplished.

It was under such circumstances that the primary meetings were held at which delegates were chosen for the Democratic State convention to meet in Syracuse in October, 1847. On the assembling of the convention, it was found that there was a large number of contested seats. An informal agreement was entered into between the leaders of the radical and conservative wings of the party that a temporary organization should be effected, for the purpose of disposing of the “frivolously contested" cases, which, it was understood, were to be forced upon the convention. But that agreement was disregarded by the conservatives, a breach of faith that embittered the minority, and led such men as Preston King, James S. Wadsworth, and other leading “Barnburners” to refuse to act as officers of the convention. Indeed, it was claimed by the New York "Evening Post" that it was only this determination to ignore the agreement that gave the conservatives the control of the convention.

The Wilmot proviso was the exciting and controlling issue. The discussion was conducted with great spirit, and ability. A resolution, prepared by James R. Doolittle, afterward United States Senator from Wisconsin was offered by David Dudley Field as an amendment to the report of the Committee on Resolutions. This amendment, while promising fidelity to + '' the compromises of the Constitution" and to “the reserved rights of the States," pledged " uncompromising hostility to the extension of slavery into territory now free."' Mr. Field made' a powerful speech in its support. '"I am willing," he said," that our victorious standard should  be borne to the Isthmus of Darien or planted on the highest peak of the Polynesian Islands.; but the soil on which it advances must be free! Ay, as free as the untrammeled soil on which we stand!"

The amendment was rejected and the resolutions were adopted, though it was, claimed that the latter and the nominations were carried not only by an irregularly organized convention, but by a convention without a quorum. Defeated at Syracuse, the radical Democrats met in convention on the 26th of October, at Herkimer, “to avow their principles and consult as to future action." It was strong in numbers, in talent, and in character, both personal and political. Churchill C. Cambreling was made president, John Van Buren was appointed chairman of the Committee on the Address to the People, and David Dudley Field chairman of the Committee on Resolutions.

The address began by a recital and condemnation of the action of the Syracuse convention, which, it averred, after “its unjust and arbitrary decisions, sustained by partial reports,..shrunk to a little more than a third of its original size and expired." Adverting to its repression of the true sentiments of the people, and also alluding to the early antislavery history of New York, it claimed that, while that great State was “loyal to the Constitution," it was” true to freedom." It also referred to the great change which had taken place in public sentiment since the days of the Fathers; and it entered its protest against the promulgation of opinions so abhorrent in themselves so aggressive in their influence, and leading to "the extension of an institution which is a source of insecurity and poverty in peace and of embarrassment and danger in war." Referring to the fidelity of the Democratic party of New York to the "real rights of the South" as an evidence of its devotion to the Constitution, it proclaimed its purpose to resist aggression from the opposite direction. 

Having discarded the action at Syracuse, the convention declined to nominate candidates for the ensuing election, leaving the matter in the hands of the people. Mr. Field reported a series of resolutions, which were unanimously adopted. Among them was one which had been rejected at Syracuse, and which pledged the uncompromising hostility of the Democracy of New York to the extension of slavery into free territory, then or thereafter to be acquired.

Though defeat followed these dissensions, proceedings equally uncompromising marked the action of that section of the party in regard to the presidential election, then close at hand. Two sets of delegates were chosen to attend the national nominating convention at Baltimore, each claiming to be the sole representatives of the party, and the contest was transferred to the wider theatre of the national organization.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 114-128.



THE Republic of the United States commenced its independent existence by the proclamation of the self-evident truths that all men are created equal, that all have an inalienable right to liberty, and that governments are instituted to secure these rights. Thus, in the Articles of Association and in the Declaration of Independence, pronounced by John Hancock “the ground and foundation of future government," these fundamental doctrines were recognized: that all men are by nature free, and that· the American government was founded oil the rights of human nature. Nor was this comprehensive assertion of rights limited by race or color. “The new republic," in the words of Bancroft, " as it took its place among the powers of the world, proclaimed its faith in the truth, reality, and unchangeableness of freedom, virtue, and right." This "assertion of right was made for the entire world of mankind and all coming generations, without any exception whatever."

When the United States joined the family of nations there were in the country about half a million persons of African descent. Nearly all were slaves; although there were a few, especially in the Eastern States, who had been emancipated. Some of these bore an honorable part in the War of Independence. Crispus Attucks, a colored patriot, was a leader, and the first martyr in the Boston massacre, on the 5th of March, 1770, which so fired the hearts and aroused the patriotism of the people. One of that race mingled his blood with the fallen patriots of the 19th of April, 1775. The sons of Africa fought side by side with their countrymen of the white race at Bunker Hill, where Major Pitcairn, as he stormed the works, fell mortally wounded by the shot of Salem, a black soldier. Indeed, it is hardly too much to say that some of the most heroic deeds of the War of Independence were performed by black men.

Rhode Island raised a colored regiment, commanded by Colonel Christopher Greene, the hero of Red Bank. Of the men of this regiment Governor Eustis, of Massachusetts, who had been Secretary of War under Jefferson, said in Congress, in 1820: "They discharged their duty with zeal and fidelity. The gallant defence of Red Bank, in which this regiment bore a part, is among the proofs of their valor." Tristam Burgess also said, in the House of Representatives, in 1828, that "no braver men met the enemy in battle." Of the conduct of these men in the Battle of Rhode Island, -pronounced by Lafayette "the best fought battle of the war," Arnold, in his "History of Rhode Island," says: "It was in repelling these furious onsets that the newly raised black regiment, under Colonel Greene, distinguished itself by deeds of desperate valor. Posted behind a thicket in the valley, they three times drove back the Hessians, who charged repeatedly down the hill to dislodge them."

Connecticut raised a battalion of black soldiers, and Colonel David Humphrey, attached to the military family of Washington, accepted a command in this corps. The heroic defence of Fort Griswold, on the heights of Groton, by Colonel Ledyard and his brave comrades, was among the most brilliant achievements of the war. When the works were stormed, the British officer, exasperated by the heroic resistance encountered, inquired, “Who commands this fort? “. “I did; you do now," replied Ledyard, handing the officer his sword, which was instantly seized and run through his own body. Lambert, a negro soldier avenged the murder of his commander by thrusting his bayonet through the British officer, and then fell himself, pierced with thirty-three bayonet wounds.

The right of free negroes to bear arms in the country’s defence was not disputed in the more Northern colonies. At the opening of the war the Committee of Safety, in Massachusetts, declared that no slave should be admitted into the army upon any consideration whatever, as it would be "inconsistent with the principles that are to be supported, and reflect dishonor on this colony." Many were emancipated on condition of entering the army. Not always, however, did they receive the reward due to their bravery. In Maryland· and Virginia, some who had served with fidelity to the close of the war were afterward dishonorably and wickedly reduced to slavery. When the heel of British tyranny was resting heavily on South Carolina and Georgia, Colonel John Laurens, a member of Washington's military family, sought to fill the patriot ranks by emancipating slaves and enrolling them in the ranks of the country's defenders. This eminently wise and patriotic effort, though encouraged by Congress, and sanctioned by Washington, met with little success; and that heroic son of South Carolina, whose life, near the close of hostilities, was given to the country, was forced to declare that "avarice, pusillanimity, and prejudice " defeated the measure.

In the midst of the war all the States, with the exception of Connecticut and Rhode Island, framed and adopted constitutions. The settlers of Vermont, in 1777, framed a constitution forever excluding slavery from that Commonwealth; but it did not become a State until after the adoption of the Federal Constitution. The constitution of Massachusetts was adopted in 1780. Its Bill of Rights declares that “all men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and inalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties."

Before the adoption of this constitution several unsuccessful attempts had been made to extirpate slavery and the slave, traffic. A bill for that purpose had been introduced in 1767; and three measures for the prohibition of the slave-trade had failed to receive executive approval. After the commencement of the war petitions were presented to the legislature in favor of emancipation. Among these petitions was one presented in 1777 by several colored persons, praying that they might “be restored to the enjoyment of that freedom which is the natural right of all men." It was referred to a committee, which promptly reported a bill "to prevent the practice of holding persons in slavery." It declared that" the practice of holding Africans, and the children born of them, or any other person in slavery is unjustifiable in a civil government at a time when they are asserting their natural rights to freedom." Before acting upon this bill, the legislature, fearing to give offence to some of the States, addressed a letter to the Continental Congress to ascertain its views concerning the expediency of such action. In this letter they say: "Convinced of the justice of the measure, we are restrained from passing it only from an apprehension that our brethren in the other colonies should conceive there was an impropriety in our determining on a question which may in its nature and operation be of extensive influence, without previously consulting your Honors.'' " And,'' they continue," we ask the attention of your Honors to this matter, that, if consistent with the union and harmony of the United States, we may follow the dictates of our own understanding and feelings ; at the same time assuring your Honors that we have such a-sacred regard to the union and harmony of the United States as to conceive ourselves under obligation to refrain from any measure that should have a tendency to injure that union which is the basis of our defence and happiness." To this communication, breathing the spirit of freedom, the desire to do justly, and their intense anxiety to preserve harmony, and not to break with the other States, no response was returned.

What, however, Massachusetts failed to effect by direct legislation was secured indirectly through the decisions of her Supreme Court based on a clause in her Bill of Rights. Cases soon arose involving the question of the legality of slavery under her new constitution in which such eminent lawyers and statesmen as Levi Lincoln, Caleb Strong, and Theodore Sedgwick were engaged in behalf of those claiming their freedom. By one of these decisions a master had lost ten slaves. In a memorial to the legislature for relief he urged as a reason for his plea that “by the determination of the Supreme Court the said clause in the Bill of Rights is so to be construed as to operate to the total discharge and manumission of all negro servants whatsoever." So Massachusetts, while yet the war was raging for national independence, and before that independence was recognized by the treaty of peace, became a free State ; taking her place in the van, a relative position she has honorably maintained, not indeed without some faltering and mistakes, in the long struggle with slavery and the Slave Power.

In 1780 Pennsylvania, under the lead of George Bryan, and, no doubt, largely influenced by the indefatigable Anthony Benezet, who is said to have had a personal conference with every member of her legislature, passed " an act of gradual abolition," by which the importation of slaves was prohibited, and all persons born or brought into the State were made free. The minority, however, entered their protest; "because," they say,” if the time ever comes when slaves might be safely emancipated, we cannot agree to their being made free citizens in so extensive a manner." These protesting legislators further expressed their belief that the negroes would be satisfied “without giving them 'the right of voting for and being voted into office." In 1784 New Hampshire, like Massachusetts, became a free State by the judicial interpretation of her constitution.

The Virginia Assembly, on motion of Jefferson, in 1778, prohibited the further introduction of slaves; and in 1782 the old colonial statute was repealed, which forbade emancipations except for meritorious services. During this repeal, which continued in force far ten years, a large number of such manumissions took place. It was, however, subsequently re-enacted; and that source of just and humane individual action, being forcibly stopped, gradually dried up and ceased to flow. Maryland, like Virginia, both prohibited the introduction of slaves and removed the restriction on individual emancipation.

In the same year, immediately after the close of the war, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society was resuscitated. It had been organized before the Revolution, being the first abolition society ever formed, as it is now the oldest in the world. Its primary purpose was indicated by its name, "The society for the relief of free negroes, unlawfully held in bondage." In its preamble it was stated that many were unlawfully held in bondage who were "justly entitled to their freedom by the laws and constitution." John Baldwin was its first president. A Committee of Inspection was appointed, whose title, in connection with the name of the society, sufficiently indicates the functions of their office. During the first year of its existence it was eminently successful in its operations. But the breaking out and progress of the war diverted and absorbed public attention. The active prosecution of its chosen work was mostly suspended, and no meetings were held until the year 1784. Although there are no records of its doings, it is not probable that such men were idle during that eventful period.

Upon its resuscitation the society commenced operations with great vigor, extending them wherever there were evils, incident to slavery, to be remedied or removed. As it became known and appreciated, men eminent for public service became members. In 1787 it revised its constitution, enlarged both its name .and range of effort, and became "The Pennsylvania Society for promoting the abolition of slavery, the relief of free negroes unlawfully held in bondage, and for improving the condition of the African race." The illustrious Franklin was made its president. By accepting this trust and actively discharging its duties, he not only honored himself and the society, but he did much to vindicate his great reputation. By it he showed that among the statesmen of his day he was unseduced by sophistries and compromises, and remained true to the doctrine of human rights and the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence. It showed him, too, as distinguished for his broad philanthropy as for his practical sagacity; indeed, that his philanthropy was the highest style and development of that sagacity.

Thus reorganized and officered, it entered vigorously upon its long and honorable mission. Among its first acts was the distribution of copies of its constitution and the act for the gradual abolition of slavery in Pennsylvania to the governors of the several States. It also opened a correspondence with eminent men in the United States, England, and France. It was a live society, catholic in its membership, and national and world-wide in the reach and range of its purposes and plans. Thus, learning that vessels were still surreptitiously fitted out in Pennsylvania for the slave-trade, it petitioned the legislature for a supplementary law to prevent it; and the law was enacted. Hearing that slave-ships were fitted out in Rhode Island for a similar purpose, it at once called the attention of the citizens of that State to the disgraceful traffic. In 1790 it addressed a memorial to Congress, signed by its distinguished president, asking that body to “step to the very verge of its power" in behalf of those held in bondage. Year after year, for almost half a century, it continued to memorialize Congress against oppression, and in the interests of humanity and freedom. It brought a case before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania involving the question whether slavery in any modification whatever is not inconsistent with the constitution of the State." Though the decision of the court was adverse, this effort revealed its activity and fidelity.

Ever on the alert, watching Congress, the State legislature, the courts, and the movements in other States, it was always ready, with remonstrance and advice, pecuniary or moral aid, to help forward the cause for which it was organized. And it was doubtless due to that zeal, watchfulness, and wide-spread influence, that the representatives of Pennsylvania occupied a position so honorable in their devotion to freedom and the claims of humanity during the first twenty years under the Constitution. But in the American Convention of Abolition Societies, in 1804, a decline of interest in the cause of emancipation was admitted and deplored, and the absence of delegates and communications from Southern societies was made the subject of regretful allusion. In 1809, after an active service of twenty-five years, it declared that "hitherto the approving voice of the community and the· liberal interpretation of the laws have smoothed the path of duty and promoted a satisfactory issue to our humane exertions. At present, however, the sentiments of our fellow-citizens and the decisions of our courts are less auspicious."

But, in spite of these inauspicious indications, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society toiled bravely on. It made special efforts against kidnapping; educated and secured homes for colored children. It examined laws respecting colored people, noted their defects, and prepared bills for the legislature. It memorialized Congress on the fugitive-slave law and the slave trade. In 1818 it examined and condemned the colonization scheme, then just inaugurated. In 1819 it appointed a committee to watch the struggle for the admission of Missouri; and in 1820 it obtained from the government a portion of the school fund for colored children. In the same year it memorialized the legislature for the total abolition of slavery in that commonwealth. Three years afterward it sent to Congress an elaborate memorial against Southern laws imprisoning colored seamen; and in 1827 it “succeeded in procuring the erasure  of the most obnoxious features" of a fugitive-slave bill introduced into the State legislature. In 1830 it procured a “supplementary law" to the act against kidnapping. Under its lead the American Convention met in Baltimore in 1828, and in Washington in 1829.

In the year 1833 it received a letter from the New Haven Antislavery Society, one of the first of the modern societies on the basis of immediate and unconditional emancipation. This veteran abolition society, which had been the leader in antislavery movements for half a century, cordially welcomed its new coadjutor. It took occasion, however, to refer to "the apathy which has so generally pervaded the United States upon this subject," -" a state of torpor and insensibility." Referring to the year 1794, when a convention of abolition societies was held in Philadelphia, it said, "Since that time we have seen one after another discontinue its labors, until we were left almost alone." From that time the society has continued steadfast in its support of the objects for which it was organized before the formation of the general government. Caring for the lowly ones by such methods as an earnest purpose and the wisdom of experience suggested, it has ever been mindful of the general interests of emancipation. Though long the acknowledged head of movements for the freedom and elevation of the African race, and long among the faithless found faithful only itself, yet, when the antislavery cause came up under other auspices, and on a basis more clearly defined, and better adapted to meet the exigencies of the country and the race, it gracefully relinquished the lead to those who, with fresher impulses, were but carrying out the aims it had so long and so faithfully pursued.

The New York Abolition Society was formed in January, 1785. Its officers were taken from the most illustrious men of that day in that Commonwealth. John Jay, who had characterized slavery as a crime of “crimson dye," was chosen president, and Alexander Hamilton secretary. Among its earlier acts was the printing, for gratuitous circulation, of the masterly argument of Dr. Hopkins, contained in his dialogue. The legislature of New York had refused, in 1785, to adopt 'It system of gradual emancipation. This society petitioned that body year after year, until, in 1799, such an act was passed, declaring all children born thereafter to be free, - males becoming twenty-eight, and females on becoming twenty-five years of age.

The Rhode Island Society was organized in February, 1789. The first meeting for its formation was held at the house of Dr. Hopkins, at Newport, though the organization was completed at Providence. Several gentlemen of Massachusetts, eminent for philanthropy and piety, were members, and a few from other States, among whom was Jonathan Edwards, of Connecticut. Although Rhode Island had provided that all of African descent born after March, 1784, should be free, this society found sufficient scope for its labors in carrying out the objects of its formation, -" the abolition of slavery, the relief of persons unlawfully held in bondage, and for improving the condition of the African race.''

In 1790 the Connecticut Abolition Society was formed. Dr. Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College, and Judge Baldwin, were its president and secretary.  Though Connecticut, like Rhode Island, had passed an act in 1784 providing for the gradual abolition of slavery, and though there were less than three thousand slaves in the State, yet the strong proslavery feeling and conservative interest which obtained there opened a wide and important field for its service. Numbering among its members some of the best and ablest men of a State which could then boast of many distinguished for their piety, learning, and political eminence, it labored with zeal and fidelity.

It was before this society that Jonathan Edwards the younger, in 1791, proclaimed that "every' man who cannot show that his negro hath by his voluntary conduct forfeited his liberty, is obligated immediately to manumit him." Here was clearly promulgated the duty of immediate emancipation, as distinctly as it has ever been enunciated by any antislavery writer, orator, or society before or since. And this is a fact of some significance, as well as of justice, to some of those early· pioneers in the cause of emancipation, because of the impression sometimes conveyed that this is a doctrine of more modern origin. Nor were the reasons assigned for this pronounced and unequivocal opinion less radical and uncompromising. "To hold a man," he solemnly avowed, "in a state of slavery who has a right to his liberty is to be every day guilty of robbing him of his liberty, or of man-stealing, and is a greater sin in the sight of God than concubinage or fornication."

Language more expressive of the essential wickedness of slavery could hardly be employed. And it is to be remembered that this was the opinion, not only of one of the leading minds of New England, but of a class of men which held with him the duty of immediate repentance for sin, and of another smaller but highly cultivated class which had accepted the new philosophy of the French school. 

An Abolition Society was formed in New Jersey in 1792, which largely contributed to the extirpation of slavery in that State. Such societies were formed in the more Southern and more proslavery States of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Belonging to them and their auxiliaries were some of their most eminent jurists and statesmen. They labored earnestly, and looked forward hopefully to the day, then generally anticipated, when slavery would yield to the benign influences of the Christian religion and of republican institutions, and pass away. 

The Baltimore Abolition Society declared the objects of its association to be founded in "reason and humanity," and on "an avowed enmity to slavery in every form." The Virginia Abolition Society was equally clear and explicit in its avowal that righteousness exalteth a nation; and that slavery is not only an odious degradation, but an outrageous violation of one of the most essential rights of human nature, and utterly “repugnant to the precepts of the Gospel."

These early abolition societies embraced in their membership some of the purest philanthropists, the ripest scholars, most eminent jurists and the honored statesmen of that age. They were deeply imbued with the spirit of liberty, and were loyal to the precepts of Christianity. Ever zealous, earnest, and devoted, they labored effectively in the cause of emancipation and of the general elevation of the African race. For several years national conventions, in which these societies were represented, were annually held. Earnest arguments and appeals were made by these conventions to Congress, to the State legislatures, to the free people of color, and to the country, to aid in the suppression of the slave-trade, the repeal of inhuman statutes, the protection of free persons of color, and the promotion of the general interests of freedom.

The antislavery National Convention of 1795 addressed South Carolina, Georgia, and the people of the United States. The address to South Carolina was written by Jonathan Edwards the younger, a delegate from Connecticut. In that address he made an earnest appeal in favor of "a numerous class of men existing among them deprived of their natural rights and forcibly held in bondage." He called upon them to ameliorate their condition, and to diffuse knowledge among them. He declared, as a necessary consequence of the traffic in man, that “the minds of our citizens are debased and their hearts hardened by contemplating these people only through the medium of avarice or prejudice."

In the address to the people of the United States the Convention distinctly avowed its design to be “the universal emancipation of the wretched Africans who were yet in bondage." It thus appealed to the people of all the States: " We cannot forbear expressing to you our earnest desire that you will continue without ceasing to endeavor, by every method in your power which can promise any success, to procure either an absolute repeal of all the laws in your State which countenance slavery, or such an amelioration of them as will gradually produce an entire abolition. Yet, ever should that great end be happily attained, it cannot put a period to the necessity of further labor. The education of the emancipated-the noblest and most arduous· task which we have to perform - will require all our wisdom and virtue, and the constant exercise of the greatest skill and discretion. When we have broken his chains, and restored the African: to the enjoyment of his rights, the great work of justice and benevolence is not accomplished. The new-born citizen must receive that instruction, and those powerful impressions of moral and religious truth, which will render him capable and desirous of fulfilling the various duties he owes to himself and to his country. By educating some in the higher branches of science, and all in the useful parts of learning, and in the precepts of religion and morality, we shall not only do away the reproach and calumny so unjustly lavished upon us, but confound the enemies of truth by evincing that the unhappy sons of Africa, in spite of the degrading influence of slavery, are in no wise inferior to the more fortunate inhabitants of Europe and America."

The Convention, in these thorough and radical sentiments, unquestionably represented the views, principles, and purposes of the abolition societies of those days. As a mode of action, they recommended periodical discourses "on the subject of slavery and the means of its abolition"; and they supported their recommendation by considerations not often exceeded in thoroughness, cogency; and forcible expression. "If to many persons," they say," who continue the hateful practice of enslaving their fellow-men, were often applied the force of reason and the persuasion of eloquence, they might be awakened to a sense of their injustice and startled with horror at the enormity of their conduct."

While enlightened, liberal, and Christian statesmen and philanthropists believed with Franklin that slavery was " an atrocious debasement of human nature," and desired with Washington to see some plan adopted by which it " could be abolished by law," there was a powerful class, especially in the Carolinas and Georgia, that actively and persistently resisted everything that tended to the destruction of a system which secured to them wealth, social distinction, and political power. He is indeed true, that the best portion of the cultivated and Christian mind of that day saw the: essential injustice and enormity of slavery, and the duty of its discontinuance as clearly as they have ever been seen since. But the uneducated and unreflecting masses, taking counsel of their feelings of indolence and avarice, and of those induced, in the language of Jefferson, by their "quiet and monotonous course of colonial life," largely influenced and led, too, by the dominant class, had little sympathy with these abstract ideas of right, justice, and humanity, and, little disposition to legislate in harmony with them. Mr. Jefferson wrote, near the close of life, that he “soon saw that nothing was to be hoped from such"; and he added that, at the first or second session of the Virginia, legislature, of which he himself was a member, Colonel Bland" one of the oldest, ablest, and most respectable members, was denounced as an enemy to his country, and, was treated with the greatest indecorum," for moving " a moderate protection of the laws to these people."

Although the leading men of Virginia-Washington, Jefferson, Henry, and Mason were hostile to slavery, and were pronounced emancipationists, yet so powerful and despotic was  the slaveholding class, and so indifferent were the masses of the people, that Washington, writing to Lafayette in 1785, only two years after the close of the war fought in the name of human equality, confessed that'' petition for the abolition of slavery persecuted, to the Virginia legislature could scarcely obtain a hearing." Thus it happened that. the same people, speaking in the language of their most humane and cultivated men, --divines, philanthropists, statesmen, and illustrious Revolutionary leaders, -uttered  the clear, ringing words of liberty; while by their legislation, under the malign influence of slavery they gave the lie to these utterance and framed iniquity into law.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 18-30.



The abolitionist leaders did not depend on a moral agitation alone; they began at once to use the ordinary methods of appeals to their state governments, secured the early personal liberty laws,1 and agitated with some success against the black codes. Though eventually some extremists arrived at the point of denying that any process of law could make a man another man's chattel, most of the abolitionists accepted the principle laid down in. their declaration of 1833--" the sovereignty of each state to legislate exclusively on the subject of the slavery which is tolerated within its limits."2 Any other principle would limit the right of the northern states to maintain their freedom.

To their own state governments the abolitionists looked also for the protection which "causes; of every kind received. Prison reformers, prohibitionists, and Mormons argued, published, and declaimed; why not abolitionists? But as soon as they attracted the attention of the south, they found

1 See chap. xix., below.  2 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 4rr. 

enemies at home: the community was shocked by what they thought the antics of the abolitionists, their loud and violent speeches, the association of women, the exaltation of the negroes, who were the most despised element in the northern as well as the southern states. And in financial and manufacturing circles a pocket nerve was touched by the outcries of people who had cotton to sell and heavy orders to give.

For a time people proposed to draw the fangs of abolition by showing that good people disliked it. John Quincy Adams records in 1835 that "Mr. Abbott Lawrence told me that they were going to have a very great meeting at Boston to put down the anti-slavery abolitionists" 1 and great lawyers like Rufus Choate, statesmen like Van Buren and Buchanan, frontier leaders like Lewis Cass, alternately pooh -poohed and scolded at the  abolitionists. The demand of southern legislatures for action by their northern brethren caused an effort to discover, in existing law, a means of shutting off this unwelcome discussion. Governor Edward Everett, of Massachusetts, intimated to the legislature that "whatever by direct and necessary operation is calculated to excite insurrection among the slaves, has been held, by highly respectable legal authority, an offence against the peace of this Commonwealth, which may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor at

1 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 487.

common law." 1 And a rural grand jury in New York made a presentment to the effect that those who joined in an abolition society were guilty of sedition.2

To maintain such a position was impossible in the face of the bills of rights in all the state constitutions, protecting liberty of speech and of the press; and in no northern state would the courts hold general utterances against slavery and slave-holders outside that state to be libelous. Hence several efforts to secure new laws which would cover the case. In New York, under a hint from Governor Marcy, a legislative report was made promising the desired legislation; 3 in Rhode Island a bill was introduced, but failed. In Massachusetts a committee, headed by George Lunt, which had a restrictive measure in charge, was compelled by public sentiment to hold a hearing, in which the abolitionists made it evident that they had a right and an intention to express their opinions even in the presence of a legislative committee. 4   So far as the laws of the northern states went, not a single abolitionist seems to have laid himself - liable to prosecution at any time. The opposition nevertheless expressed itself without law and in opposition to law, especially by interfering with schemes for the education of the free negroes. In June, 1831, when an attempt was made to plant a

1 Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 415.

2 Ibid., 409.

3 Garrisons, Garrison, II., 75. Ibid.; II., 102-105.

kind of manual-training school in New Haven, a public meeting declared that "the founding of colleges for educating colored people is an unwarrantable and dangerous interference with the internal concerns of other states, and ought to be discouraged.'' 1 The school had to be given up, as did a similar attempt at Canaan, New Hampshire, where three hundred men appeared with a hundred yoke of oxen and pulled the school-house into a neighboring swamp.2

Miss Prudence Crandall, at Canterbury, Connecticut, admitted colored girls into her school. Her neighbors attempted to boycott her, and then to arrest her pupils as vagrants. As she still persisted, they procured a special act of the legislature, May 24, 1833, prohibiting, under severe penalties, the instruction of any negro from outside the state without the consent of the town authorities, under which Miss Crandall was indicted and imprisoned. The abolitionists at once assumed her defence, but she was convicted, and though the higher courts quashed the proceedings on technicalities, she gave up the contest and the school was closed. 3

The years from 1834 to 1836 were fateful for the abolitionists; throughout the country, from east to west, swept a movement of mob violence, intended to silence them by terror. About twenty-five

1 Niles' Register, XLI., 88.

2 Boston Morning Post, August 18, 1835.

3 May, Recollections, 39-72.

efforts were made within a few years to break up antislavery meetings, and the cry was raised that unless the abolitionists were· silenced the Union could not continue.1 In New York the trouble began with appeals from the newspapers to show that New York was not infested with abolitionists, leading directly to a riot at Clinton Hall, October, 1833, when the place selected for an abolitionist meeting was stampeded by opponents; then from July 7 to 11, 1834, a succession of riots led to the sacking of the house of Lewis Tappan and the destruction of other houses and churches. 2

In Boston the trouble was brought to a head by the arrival, in September, 1834, of George Thompson, a powerful and refined speaker, experienced in the English abolition agitation, 3 assisted by Garrison, who expected the visitor to work, through public sentiment, upon state legislatures and Congress. Thompson at once showed his ability as a speaker, but several of his meetings were disturbed, and, returning to Boston, he found that he was one of the worst-hated men in the country, 4 a state of things hard to understand in these days of international comity and world congresses of philanthropy. The announcement that George Thompson was to speak at a meeting of the Female Anti-

1 B. R. Curtis, in Garrisons, Garrison, I., 501. 2 Greeley, American Conflict, I., 126.

2 Garrison, Lectures of George Thompson [in England], 1836; George Thompson, Speech delivered at Broadmead (1851)

3 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 434-453; 59.

Slavery Society, in 1835, brought out a handbill as follows: "Thompson -·the abolitionist. That infamous foreign scoundrel Thompson will hold forth this afternoon at the Liberator office, No. 48 Washington Street. The present is a fair opportunity for the friends of the Union to “snake Thompson out!”  It will be a contest between the abolitionists and the friends of the Union. A purse of $100 has been raised by a number of patriotic citizens to reward the individual who shall first lay violent hands on Thompson so that he may be brought to the tar-kettle before dark. Friends of the Union be vigilant!" 1

Thompson did not attend, but Garrison did, and found the room beset by an uproarious crowd, whom the mayor harangued in vain; that functionary finally informed the ladies that he could no longer guarantee their safety, and when they were gone the crowd surged in, gutted the office, and then began a man-hunt for Garrison. They put a rope around his body, dragged him through the streets, where, an eye -witness says, "The man walked with head erect, flashing eyes, like a martyr going to the stake, full of faith and manly hope." The mayor sallied forth, sheltered him in the city hall, and then, to save his life, sent him to the, Charles Street jail, in which he was with difficulty lodged, out of the hands of the howling mob.2

1 Niles' Register, XLIX., 145 

2 Garrisons, Garrison, II: l-37.

This outrage overdid itself. Thereafter abolition meetings were sufficiently protected in Boston; but on the very same day came the culmination of a series of riots at Utica, New York, intended to prevent the formation of an abolition society.  As in Boston, an anti-slavery press was wrecked; but Gerrit Smith received the four hundred abolitionists in his own house, where they completed their organization.

In 1836 a similar scene was witnessed in Cincinnati, where the office of the Philanthropist was gutted and desperate efforts were made to kill its editor, James G. Birney. The infection still further spread, in 1837, to Alton, Illinois, to which place Elijah P. Lovejoy, editor of a little abolition paper in St. Louis, had recently been driven for criticising a mob which had burned a negro at the stake. The people of Alton warned him to be silent; they twice destroyed his press; a third time he fitted out a printing-office, and went on building up abolition societies, and a company of volunteers was formed to protect him. On the night of November 7, 1837, a mob of people attacked the building in which his press was stored and fired upon it; the fire was returned, and one of the assailants was wounded; the mob returned to burn the building, and deliberately watched for and shot Lovejoy. In due time twelve of them were tried for the offence, and after ten minutes deliberation the jury brought them in not guilty.

1 Frothingham, “Gerrit Smith”, 164-166.

Lovejoy was honorable and high-minded, and his only offence was a determination to criticize slavery in a state where it was illegal, and to defend his property and life when assailed.

The list of pro - slavery riots was enlarged by Philadelphia, a turbulent and ill-policed city. In one such affair, in 1834, forty-four houses were injured or destroyed.1 Finding it difficult to obtain a suitable place for abolition meetings, the antislavery people of the city in 1838 constructed a building called Pennsylvania Hall. May 16, 1838, Garrison and others addressed an audience there, and the next day it became known that the mob proposed to destroy the building. The mayor attempted to check them by good counsel, but they broke open the doors, set a fire, and staved off the firemen who came to put it out. The city authorities gave no sort of protection to property, and barely to life; so far as the commonwealth and city were concerned, the abolitionists were outlaws.

Nothing could have been more favorable to the abolitionists than this succession of outbreaks, which flashed public attention upon Garrison and Birney and Lovejoy, and placed their personal character in the strongest contrast to the means employed to silence them. Mob violence emphasized the fact that the abolitionists were not acting contrary to law, and it aroused the fighting spirit of thousands of people who knew very little about the controversy

1“Life of Benjamin Lundy”, 272. 

except that the abolitionists had something to say so important that it must be prevented by violence and murder. These were the days of triumph for the abolitionists, who increased in numbers and resources, and had a happy' sense of shaking the whole institution of slavery to its center by their impassioned utterances.

In none of the state legislatures, previous to 1840, did abolitionists make much impression as members, and only one anti - slavery man was sent to Congress-William Slade, from Vermont. Thomas Morris, United States senator from Ohio, about 1835 joined an abolition society and defended the cause in Congress.1 In 1838 Slade was joined by the first out-and-out western abolitionist--Joshua R. Giddings, from a district in the Western Reserve; and before long the abolitionists founded a political organization.2 

So far as the influence of their best-known leader went, the abolitionists would never have elected a representative to Congress, for Garrison was infuriated by the power of the slave-holders in the national government, and worked out a theory to get rid of their domination. It was the custom of the time to look to the federal Constitution as a kind of political Bible, a cyclopedia of public and moral law, from which the rightfulness or unrightfulness of slavery

1 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 455 (northeast) ; cf. Von Holst, United States, II., 289; Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties, 23-26 (west),

2 See chap. xx., below. 

could infallibly be inferred. When the abolitionists insisted that the word "slave" nowhere occurs in the Constitution, the other side pointed to the phrases "free persons or other persons," and "importation of ... persons," and argued that the Constitution was not only compatible with slavery, but recognized slavery, and even gave sanction to slavery.

Granting that the Constitution did recognize the existence of slavery where it existed in 1789, and that the statutes for admitting new states into the Union with slavery constitutions recognized its extension, the abolitionists could fall back on the clauses by which Congress could "exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" over the seat of government, and could " make rules for" the territories, and to several acts of Congress actually prohibiting slavery in the territories--the act of 1789, reaffirming the ordinance of 1787; the statutes organizing free territories in the northwest; and the compromise of 1850. Congress seemed to have the same authority over slavery in a territory that the state governments had within a state; nevertheless, the south denied any constitutional right to prohibit slavery in the District of Columbia, because it was created out of cessions made by Virginia and Maryland; they discovered an unwritten principle of the Constitution that the south must not be humiliated by abolishing slavery in a district which would thus become a center of abolition propaganda in the heart of a slave-holding area. They insisted that the

Southern states had adopted the Constitution only under tacit compact that slavery should not be disturbed by the general government.

To offset the doctrine that the federal Constitution maintained slavery, some of the abolitionists admitted that the Constitution was a pro-slavery document, and therefore abjured the Constitution. The moderate Channing declared, in 1836, that "a higher law than the Constitution protests against the act of Congress on this point. According to the law of nature no greater crime against human being can be committed than to make him a slave"; 1 an argument which, perhaps, suggested Seward's later plea " There is a higher law than the Constitution." 2 

Garrison, in 1835, called God to witness that "we are not hostile to the Constitution of the United States," 3 but was soon carried by his non-resistance principles into the extreme doctrine that abolitionists must withdraw themselves from a government which they believed to be cruel and oppressive. In January, 1843, he came to the point where he placed at the head of his paper the statement that "the compact which exists between the North and the South is a covenant with death, and an agreement with Hell-involving both parties in atrocious criminality and should be immediately annulled." 4

1 Channing, Works, II., 10, V., 29r.

2 Hart, Contemporaries, IV., 58.

3 Liberator, V., 134. 

4 Garrisons, Garrison, III., 88; the reference is to the Hebrew prophet's" Your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand " (Isaiah, xxviii., 18). 

He even went to the point, in 1850, of offering a resolution against Longfellow's appeal to the Union:"

Thou too, sail on, 0 ship of state; Sail on, 0 UNION, strong and great." 1

In 1854 he publicly burned a copy of the Constitution, crying out, "So perish all compromisers with tyranny!" 2 These violent phrases have been quoted a thousand times as stating the position of "the abolitionists." Actually not one abolitionist in twenty for a moment accepted either the dogma that the Constitution was pro-slavery or the consequence that it ought to be destroyed. William Jay, the most active writer among the middle-states abolitionists, in express terms disavowed these extreme theories.3 Salmon P. Chase, the most notable of the western abolitionists, was one of the main defenders of the precisely opposite theory that the Constitution is an anti-slavery document, which nowhere mentions, approves, or protects slavery, and which, like the Declaration of Independence and the Ordinance of 1787, laid down principles incompatible with slavery. To say that the Constitution did anything more than to recognize that for the time being some of the states had slavery was, in his mind, "morally speaking, a black forgery." 4 As for the seat of government

1 Garrisons, Garrison, III., 280.

2 Ibid., 412.

3 Jay, Miscellaneous Writings, 161-166. 

4 Letter to O'Connell, November 30, 1843; Argument in the Van Zandt Case, 1848. VOL. XVI.-17

Chase went so far as to say that "slavery exists in the District of Columbia by virtue of unconstitutional acts of Congress, and may be abolished at any time by the simple repeal of those acts"; 1 and he found in the Fifth Amendment, by which "No persons shall be deprived of their liberty or property without due process of law," an absolute prohibition upon establishing slavery in the territories, and thereby depriving free negroes of their liberty.

If, as Chase believed, the Constitution could be invoked against slavery; or if, as most of the abolitionists believed, the Constitution was neutral as to slavery in the states, but positive in the powers it conferred over the slave-trade, slavery in the District of Columbia, and slavery in the territories, there was every reason for standing by the Union. Garrison's violent language, which simply put a weapon into the hands of his opponents, was no more characteristic of abolition than the violent disunion talk of Thomas Cooper, president of the College of South Carolina. 2 And nothing can be found in the Liberator more antagonistic to union than the message of Governor McDuffie, of South Carolina, in 1835, when he declared that "the refusal of a state to punish these offensive proceedings against another, by its citizens or subjects, makes

1 Chase MSS., in Library of Congress, Diary, May 27, 1848, June 15, 1848, December 15, 1853.

2 Marryatt, Diary in America, 1st series (American edition), 200. 

the state so refusing an accomplice in the outrage, and furnishes a cause of war.'' 1 From that time on the threat or the prediction of disruption of the Union was the”delenda est Carthago” of extreme speeches on both sides.

1 American History Leaflets, No. 10, p. 12.

 Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 242-255. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.



Chapter: “Dissension among the Abolitionists. - Disruption of the American Antislavery Society,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

Another question on which the Abolitionists divided was what is familiarly called the '' woman question." Women early espoused the antislavery cause. They were not at first either officers or members of the national or State societies; but, organizing associations of their own, they entered upon their work with zeal and effectiveness. Several ladies who had spoken ·at meetings of their own sex with much acceptance, afterward addressed promiscuous assemblies. Some earnest antislavery men, however, doubted its propriety; while proslavery individuals and presses condemned it. This voice of remonstrance found expressive utterance in the Pastoral Letter of the Massachus1tts Association of Congregational Ministers, in the year 1837. In this letter very special mention was made of the Misses Grimke, Quaker ladies from South Carolina, who had been slaveholders, had emancipated their slaves, and, having warmly espoused the cause of emancipation, were addressing delighted auditories in the Northern States.

At the annual meeting of the New England Antislavery Convention in 1838, which was attended by delegates from eleven States, it was voted that all persons present, whether men or women, who agreed with the convention on the subject of slavery should be invited to become members, and participate in its proceedings. A motion to rescind this vote, after a long and animated discussion, failed by a large majority. Eight clergymen immediately arose and desired that their names should be stricken from the roll of the convention. A protest was drawn up and signed by Charles T. Torrey, Amos A. Phelps, and five others, against this action of the convention. They pronounced it injurious to the cause of the slave, by connecting with it a subject foreign to it; by establishing the precedent of connecting with it other and irrelevant topics; and by being an innovation on former usages. They therefore disclaimed all responsibility for it. This decision of the convention excited much interest and caused no little ill feeling.

Three persons were appointed by the convention -one of them Miss Abby Kelley, a member of the Society of Friends -as a committee to prepare a memorial to the ecclesiastical associations of New England, beseeching them to testify against the slave system. This memorial was drawn with great care, was respectful in form, and in no way infringed upon the rights and privileges of any ecclesiastical association. It earnestly called upon the ecclesiastical bodies of New England in the name of God to remember them in bonds as bound with them, and entreated them to act as the great interests of humanity and Christ's kingdom demanded.

When this memorial was presented to the Rhode Island Congregational Consociation, and it became known that a woman was a member of the committee that drafted it, a scene of intense excitement ·arose. Members hastened to quote Scripture against this action of women; others, who were willing at first to receive the memorial and act upon it, on learning that a woman was upon the committee that drafted it, "united," said the editor of the " Christian Mirror," who was present, " at once in turning the illegitimate product from the house, and in obliterating from the record all traces of its entrance.

This action of an association of New England clergymen seems, in the light of subsequent events and change of public sentiment, narrow and bigoted, trivia} and weak. But there can be no question that this controversy in the antislavery ranks influenced to a considerable extent a large number of clergymenµ. The " Emancipator,'' the organ of the American Antislavery Society, referring to the fact that a few months previous it seemed as if the mass of the clergy were ready to drop their hostility to the antislavery cause :and come in to its support, expressed the fear 'that many of the ministers of the gospel were " settling down into a fixed hatred of the principles of liberty, and fixed determination, at any hazard, to maintain the lawfulness of slavery, and the criminality of efforts for its removal. They are evincing a readiness to abandon any principle, to impugn any doctrine, to violate any obligation, to outrage any feeling, to sacrifice any interest, heretofore held dear or sacred, if it be found to afford countenance or strength to antislavery."

The "Liberator" had been established by Mr. Garrison, was under his exclusive control, and, of course, expressed his views. In the exercise of his prerogative he uttered and admitted sentiments to which a large number of Abolitionists did not subscribe. While he did not claim that these views were .any part of the antislavery creed, and did not insist that antislavery men should accept 1them as ,such still the public ·mind did, more or less, associate the sentiments enunciated .in his journal with the cause 'of abolition. Many antislavery men, too, deeming them injurious not only to interests they regarded important and sacred, but also to the cause itself, desired the establishment of a new journal. The “Abolitionist," under the editorial charge of Elizur Wright, Jr., was therefore established, in the spring of 1839, in the city of Boston.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 410-412.



Chapter: “No Union with Slaveholders,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

In tracing the history of the antislavery struggle and informing an estimate of the utterances and proposed measures of the men engaged in it, it should never be lost sight of that they were necessarily ignorant of much which is now seen clearly. What, therefore, may now with present lights seem incongruous and extravagant would very likely appear eminently legitimate and proper, did the critic of to-day have no more facts within his reach than did they who, amid its darkness and threatening dangers, were grappling with the momentous problem a generation ago.

After the disruption of the American Antislavery Society, those who adhered to the original organization evinced a more determined opposition to political action than ever. Especially was this true of a small and active body of those who had accepted the extreme doctrines of non-resistance. They were not only opposed to acting with existing political parties, either with or without antislavery pledges, but to the formation of any organization for the purpose of such action. They assumed that personal consistency and duty to the slave required that they should not give voluntary support to the government by holding office themselves, or by voting for others for that purpose. Some were in favor of a dissolution of the Union, and others were fast tending in that direction.

The society was to hold its annual meeting in New York in May, 1842.  Mr. Garrison, in urging a full attendance, suggested that among the questions coming up for consideration, the first in importance would be one concerning " the duty of making the repeal of the union between the North and, the. South the grand rallying-point, until it be accomplished or slavery cease to pollute our soil." Several of the New York presses commented upon this declaration in language calculated to excite popular violence, and Judge Noah charged the grand jury to indict the agitators if such discussions tended to a breach of the peace. But neither the comments of the press nor the charge of the judge prevented a free and full discussion of that question. A resolution was adopted recommending voting Abolitionists to submit to candidates for office the question: Are you in favor of the abrogation of every provision in the Constitution and the laws of the United States requiring the aid of the people or their agents in holding human beings in slavery?

To a resolution setting forth that inasmuch as neither the people, of the United States nor the Abolitionists had ever asked for the abrogation of the slaveholding features of the Constitution, there was no reasonable ground for asking for a dissolution of the Union, Henry C. Wright offered as a substitute that the cause of human rights does imperatively demand this dissolution. Upon this resolution and substitute there sprang up an earnest and able debate, which ran through two days, in which Mr. Wright, Wendell Phillips, Abby Kelley, Charles Lenox Remond, Thomas Earle, and Ellis Gray Loring participated. They were not, however; ready for action, and the resolution and substitute were laid upon the table. But at the eleventh annual meeting of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, in 1843, a resolution was reported by Wendell Philips; asserting that no Abolitionist could consistently demand less than "a dissolution of the union between Northern freedom and Southern slavery, as essential to the abolition of the one and the preservation of the other." This resolution, was amended, on motion of Mr. Garrison, so as to read that the compact which exists between the North and the South is" a-covenant with death and an agreement with hell," involving both parties in atrocious criminalities, and that it should be immediately annulled.

At the twelfth annual meeting of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, Stephen S. Foster presented a protest against the Constitution of the United States, and against the union of the Northern and Southern States, with the reasons for this extreme measure fully enumerated. In the preamble was set forth the declaration that the officers and members of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society '' now publicly abjure our allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Union, and place the broad seal of our reprobation upon this unnatural and unholy alliance between liberty and slavery." The obligations of the Union were declared to be utterly null and void; the pledge was given to seek its peaceful dissolution; and the friends of freedom in the North were invited thereafter to vow for repeal, instead of casting their votes for Abolitionists for office.

Mr. Foster was followed by Mr. Garrison, who also presented a preamble embodying the same propositions in briefer and more concise form, closing ·with a resolution declaring in substance that the national compact was in principle and practice an insupportable despotism; from its inception, before God, null and void; and that it was the right and duty of the friends of impartial liberty to withdraw their allegiance, and effect, if possible, its overthrow by peaceful revolution. These resolutions were discussed with great earnestness, the discussion being held in the evening, in the State House. In both Faneuil Hall and the capitol the speeches of Garrison, Foster, Phillips, Quincy, and Burleigh in favor of the immediate dis-solution of the Union were applauded. But no vote was reached. 

The questions of receding from the government, and of placing on the antislavery banners the war-Cry of "No union with slaveholders," were carried into the meeting of the American Antislavery Society, in New York, early in May, 1844. On the proposition by Mr. Garrison, the declaration was made, after earnest debate, that " henceforth, until slavery be abolished, the watchword, the rallying cry, the motto on the banner of the American Antislavery Society shall be, '' No Union with Slaveholders." The resolution introduced by Mr. Phillips was also adopted, declaring that secession from the government was the duty of every Abolitionist, and that to take office or to vote for another to hold office under the Constitution violated antislavery principles, and made such voter an abettor of the slaveholder in his sin.

This position was not taken by the American Antislavery Society, however, without the most strenuous and persistent opposition. William A. White, then a young, earnest, and active member from Massachusetts, entered his protest, and withdrew his name from the roll of the society. A protest was presented, signed by Ellis Gray Loring, David Lee Child, Joseph Southwick, and others, declaring that this "novel test" prescribed for the members was " intolerant and presumptuous in its spirit and tendency”; that it narrowed the antislavery platform; that it was "not required by enlightened conscience”; was " impracticable," and " calculated justly to impair the character and influence of the society." A protest was also entered by Thomas Earle and Arnold Buffum. They protested on the ground that it was in effect the exclusion of all but non-resistants from the society; that it was a loss of power; that it assumed the province of an ecclesiastical tribunal in settling questions of conscience, not involved in the original design of the society; that it tended to retard the cause of emancipation; and that it proposed to dissolve the American Union without petitioning for a change of the objectionable features of the Constitution.

Two weeks after this position was taken, an address was issued announcing the above action and calling upon the friends of freedom to adopt the policy proposed. It charged that the national compact was formed at the expense of liberty; that it favored a slaveholding oligarchy and an insupportable despotism; that it was at war with God and man; that it could not be innocently supported; and that it deserved to be immediately annulled. In behalf of the society, they called upon their fellow-citizens who believed it to be “right to obey God rather than man to declare, themselves peaceful revolutionists, and. to unite with them under the stainless banner of liberty, having for its motto, ‘Equal Rights for All,--No Union with Slaveholders !' " Up," they say;" with the banner of revolution  Not to shed blood, not to injure the person or estate of any oppressor, not by, force of arms to resist, any law, not to countenance a servile insurrection, not to wield any carnal weapons! No; ours must be a bloodless strife, excepting our blood be shed; --for we aim, as did Christ our leader, not to destroy men's lives, but to save them; to overcome evil with good; to conquer through suffering for righteousness' sake; to set the captive free by the potency of truth. It declined to define or describe the form of government which should succeed the present, leaving that matter for time to determine. But it expressed the opinion that when the people were regenerated and turned from iniquity, when they ceased from oppression and established liberty, what was then fragmentary would in due time be "crystallized and shine like a gem set in the heavens for all coming ages." 

Near the close of the month the New England Antislavery Society adopted the same policy, for substantially the same reasons, by nearly a unanimous vote. But, as in New York, this new position was not taken without earnest protests. One signed by William A. White and Richard Hildreth; the historian, and. concurred in by George Bradburn, was presented against the adoption of these resolutions. It set forth that consistency required of all persons voting for them an absolute renunciation of all the advantages derived from the government; that the repudiation of the Constitution and the purposed dissolution of the Union did not tend in the slightest degree to peaceful abolition; that abjuration of the Constitution did not relieve those persons so abjuring it of any obligations and responsibilities they were under as citizens, so long as they remained in the country.

A protest was entered, too, by Joseph Southwick, a Boston merchant, and an early and devoted friend of the slave. He protested, for the reason that their adoption impaired the efforts of Abolitionists, protracted the time for the removal of slavery, contracted the antislavery platform; and he affirmed that he could not live in the country under the present Constitution, and pay taxes for the support of the government, if he adopted them.

In spite, however, of these and other protests, State and local societies hastened to accept and proclaim the new doctrine. Francis Jackson, the president of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, addressed a long letter to Governor Briggs, asking him to receive his resignation of the office of justice of the peace.  In this letter he set forth, at length and in detail, what he deemed to be the demoralizing influences of the provisions of the Constitution which recognized and protected slavery. "To me," he said, "it appears that the virus of slavery, introduced into the Constitution of our body politic by a few slight punctures, has now so pervaded and. poisoned the whole system of our national government, that literally there is no health in it. The only remedy that I can see for the disease is to be found in the dissolution of the patient." He avowed that he could no longer give voluntary assistance in. holding up the Constitution of the United States, which had become so imbecile for good and so powerful for evil ; that he withdrew all allegiance to it ; and that " henceforth," he said, “it is dead to me, and I to it."

Several members of the American Antislavery Society not only dissented from this action, but took an early occasion to state their objections. George Bradburn denounced it as “a wild crusade against voting under the national Constitution"' and he announced that he should avail himself of the opportunity to act thereafter with the Liberty party, which he regarded as " the most efficient antislavery instrumentality-- as the grand instrument, indeed, by which the institution of slavery is to be overthrown."

Gerrit Smith, in a letter to John G. Whittier, affirmed that the people of the North were as guilty as the people of the South, because they were more aroused to the wickedness of slavery, and sinned against greater light. He said that the fact that the nation in its national capacity upheld slavery proved nothing against the Constitution. Maintaining that the Constitution was an antislavery instrument, it needed, he said, but to be administered in consistency with its principles to effectuate the immediate overthrow of the whole system of slavery. He declared it to be “a power in the hands of the people which they cannot fling away without making themselves guilty of ingratitude to God and of treason to the slave." He regarded the Constitution as a shield given by God to be placed over the head of the slave, and a weapon for: fighting the battles of the oppressed, which had been murderously wielded on the side of the oppressor; and it is, he said, " a fruit of poor repentance, if now, when our hearts are smitten with a sense of our wrong use of this shield and weapon, we shall, from our study of ease and quiet, from om: desire to promote a favorite theory, or from any other cause, throw them away, instead of manfully, courageously, perseveringly, and therefore successfully, putting them to a right use.”

But Garrison, Phillips, Burleigh, Adin Ballou, and others ·replied to all protests and criticisms with their accustomed earnestness and vigor. They persisted in the maintenance and advocacy of the new theories and policy. The parent society and its affiliated associations, having accepted this position·, made it thereafter the distinctive feature of their organization, and the most prominent article of their creed. . ‘“No Union with Slaveholders " was the motto everywhere emblazoned on their banners. Disunion was their recognized remedy.  Other antislavery men of whatever organization were proclaimed to be wanting in an essential element of all true and effective opposition. However earnest and devoted, they were deemed inconsistent, and their labors were regarded as only partial, if not wholly inefficient. This general criticism embraced every class of antislavery men, and every form of antislavery effort. From the adoption of this policy of disunion in 1844, to the opening of the Rebellion, so persistent were they in its promulgation, as the element of all effective -effort, that the supporters of slavery seized upon that fact to identify all antislavery men with them, and to characterize all -opposition to slavery as disorganizing, revolutionary, and unpatriotic. It was indeed a most potent weapon in the hands of the apologists, perpetualists, and propagandists of slavery. Nor did they cease its use until their voices were silenced by the patriotism of the nation, outraged as it was by their own treason or acknowledged complicity with it.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 568-575.



See also Garrison, William Lloyd; American Anti-Slavery Society

Please note that this entry includes three chapters:

·        Hart, “Garrisonian Abolition (1830-1845),” 1906

·        Wilson, “Lane Seminary. - Antislavery Action,” 1872

·        Wilson, “Activity of the Abolitionists. - Action of Northern Legislatures,” 1872.

Chapter: “Garrisonian Abolition (1830-1845),” by Albert Bushnell Hart, in Slavery and Abolition, 1906.

Why did the anti-slavery movement; which had been going on steadily for half a century, apparently die down in 1829 and then suddenly blaze up with renewed fierceness? One reason was that the western world was growing tired of human bondage: the last vestige of serfdom was disappearing in central Europe, and the same spirit extended to the European colonies in America. The influence of the Latin-American revolutions was against slavery. Bolivar emancipated his own slaves, and in 1821 secured a general emancipation in New Granada,1 which was followed by all the Latin-American powers except Brazil. The influence spread to the West Indies, where slavery had long since ceased to exist in Haiti; and in 1848 it was abolished in the French islands by the home government. Spain was soon the only power that retained slavery in the West Indian islands.

 For a powerful movement was working against

1 Jay, Miscellaneous Writings, 169; Genius of Universal Emancipation, VII., 12.

slavery in Jamaica and the other British West Indies. The prohibition of the British slave-trade in 1807 was made effective by a large and active British navy. Then, in 1823, was formed a "Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Dominions,'' in which appeared as leaders Buxton, Clarkson, and Wilberforce. They urged with unrelenting vigor two principles destructive of slavery: one that colonial slavery was contrary to the spirit of the British Constitution; and the other that the remedy was immediate emancipation.1 Under the stimulus of a parliamentary agitation, fed by petitions and public meetings, and by an anti-slavery journal, Parliament passed an emancipation act in 1833, by which colonial slavery was to be gradually extinguished in seven years, with a compensation of twenty million pounds to the owners. The two predictions, that the negro would sit down and die rather than tum his hand to earning his living, and that the blacks and the whites would be drawn into a war of mutual extermination, were both set at naught. For a time the freedmen took a holiday, and the sugar plantations of Jamaica never recovered their importance; but the negroes finally settled down as peaceful small proprietors. 2 This experiment

1 Hopkins, View of Slavery, 258; Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 353-356.

 2 Child, Letters from New York, 2d series, 101-103; Channing, Works, VI., 9-41; Cochin, Results of Emancipation.

so near our shores, so contrary to the arguments and pleas of our slave-holders, could not but affect public sentiment in the United States.

 The rise of abolition was coincident with a change in the attitude of the public mind towards the weak and the helpless, which was shown in reforms in the treatment of paupers, convicts, and the insane, and in the beginnings of public provision for the training of the blind, deaf and dumb, imbeciles, and other defective persons. This sense of public responsibility was as much needed in the south as at the north; but, partly because of a sparse agricultural population, partly because of an unconquerable frontier rudeness, the south was much less affected by these reforms than the northern communities; and the presence of an inferior and servile race which had to be kept under, worked against the humanitarian spirit.

Slavery was also unfavorably affected by the sudden opening-up of new fields of economic activity. The development of manufactures, the growth of large cities, the exchange of products far and wide, called for a kind of labor which was unsuited to slavery, and for a kind of laborer who instinctively felt that the slave was a competitor. On its side, the south, which in the nullification contest reacted into a type of state rights which had been decried in that section since Jefferson came to power in 1801, also reacted from an open discussion of slavery to an intense hostility towards anti-slavery within its own limits or anywhere else.

In 1830 there was little conscious anti-slavery feeling in either section. The few agitators, of whom Benjamin Lundy was the chief, were in despair at the apathy of the north. Even the seizure of two fugitive slaves in Boston in 1830, one of them a woman, raised not a ripple of excitement in New England. The people who felt an interest in. the subject went, with few exceptions, no further than anti-slavery-that is, they believed that slavery was wrong and dangerous, and wished to see a period put to its extension and to its ill effects upon society. Such men, on the northern side, were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Taylor and Talmadge in their attempts to prevent slavery from going into Missouri.1 Such men were eager to be rid of slavery in their own community, and deprecated it wherever it existed, not so much out of sympathy with the oppressed negro, as from the belief that slavery was an injury to their own neighbors and constituents, and that the influence of the slave power in national affairs was harmful. Most of the northern antislavery people disclaimed any intention of interfering with slavery in the southern states, but they instinctively disliked any project for enlarging the boundaries of slave-holding territory: their principle was that slavery and the slave-holding power should remain where they were.

 Very different in their outlook were the abolitionists, a term already made familiar by such agitators  

1 Turner, New West (Am. Nation, XIV.), chap. x. VOL. XVI.-12

as Rankin and Lundy. Their objection was not only to slavery in the abstract, but to concrete slavery, as they saw it in their own communities or in neighboring parts of the country. Every abolitionist was an anti-slavery man, but he went far beyond the ordinary anti-slavery standards: he was heart and soul opposed to slavery as it existed; he was bent on persuading or coercing the master to give up his authority; he had in mind, not a distant political and sectional influence, but the blows of the overseer and the tears of the slave. He wished to get rid of slavery speedily, root and branch, cost what it might, suffer who must, for the salvation of the souls of the masters, for the preservation of the Union, for the rights of man, for the love of Christ. The true abolitionist ignored all difficulties and scoffed at the idea that there could be vested right in the person of man and woman. His ears were deaf to appeals to the authority of ancient custom, of state laws, of the guarantees of the federal Constitution. The abolitionist's creed was, give up your unblessed property, forsake your evil habits, change your laws, alter the Constitution. Anti-slavery was a negative force, an attempt to wall in an obnoxious system of labor so that it might die of itself; abolition was a positive force, founded on moral considerations, stoutly denying that slavery could be a good thing for anybody, and perfectly willing to see the social and economic system of the south disrupted. As time went on, the anti -slavery and abolition movements in the north came closer together and sometimes joined forces, partly through the appearance of political abolitionists like Salmon P. Chase and Charles Sumner, who built up a little anti- slavery party and secured the support of thousands of men who were never conscious abolitionists; and partly by the warming-up of the anti-slavery people, as the contest grew fiercer, to a belief that abolition might, after all, be the only way to stop· the advance of slavery. Yet two such conspicuous champions of anti-slavery as John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln always said that they were not abolitionists. In the heat of the fray southern leaders and speakers got into the habit of calling everybody "abolitionist" who was in any degree opposed to slavery; but the distinction was clear enough, all the way down to the Civil War.1

Abolition, in its extreme form, could not exist in the south, because, after 1830, public sentiment would not permit such aggressive attacks on the property and character of the leaders of the community; but in several parts of the border states anti-slavery men continued to live and even to agitate, and for some years feeble efforts at a gradual emancipation were permitted. To the last, in private conversation, slave-holders and free farmers occasionally admitted that slavery was a bad.

1 On abolition in general, see Hart, Contemporaries, §§ 172-178.

thing for the south,1 and as late as 1850, in the University of Virginia, a student criticised slavery in a public address. 2

In North Carolina, where a strong Quaker influence against negro slavery never quite expired, in 1832, Judge William Gaston, in an address at the State University, called upon the students to aid in the "extirpation" of slavery, because "it stifles industry and represses enterprise ... and poisons morals at the fountain-head." 3 Daniel R. Goodloe, in 1841, published an Inquiry, which was one of the first searching economic arguments against slavery; 4 and as late as 1857, Hinton R. Helper, of that state, published an appeal to the poor whites.5

In Virginia the anti-slavery feeling was intensified by the Nat Turner Insurrection of 1831, which led the Richmond Enquirer to say: "Something must be done, and it is the part of no honest man to deny it -of no free press to affect to conceal it." When the legislature next met, in a debate of many days the strongest opinions were expressed against slavery, especially by members from the mountain counties, though a lowland member said: "Slavery in

1 Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 675; Olmsted, Back Country, 177-186, 270-272.

2 Bremer, Homes of the New World, II., 188-193, 529-531; Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 77.

3 Gaston, Address delivered before the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies.

4 Weeks, in Southern Hist. Assoc., Publications, II., No. 2, 115-130.

5 See Chadwick, Causes of the Civil War (Am. Nation, XIX.).

Virginia” is an evil, and a transcendent evil-a mildew which blights in its course every region which it has touched from the creation of the world." And another member from a slave-holding county charged that "slavery has interfered with our means of enjoying life, liberty, property, happiness, and safety." 1

A curious delusion, oft-repeated with regard to this debate, is that a bill to abolish slavery in Virginia failed in the general assembly by only one vote, and that vote the casting vote of the speaker.2  It is true that four different times within four years the representatives of Virginia carefully discussed certain phases of slavery in that state. The first was the constitutional convention of 1829-1830, in which no proposition was made looking to emancipation; the burning question was whether the lowland slave-holding counties should continue in the enjoyment of a larger representation in proportion to the whites than the people of the mountain counties. The lowlanders triumphed on a tie vote, the presiding officer of the convention casting his vote on their side.3 In the legislative session of 1830 - 1831 a proposition for the more rigorous restriction of free negroes was voted down by 58 to 59, but subsequently passed.4 In the next session, after the Nat

1 Goodloe, Southern Platform, 42-54.

2 Page, The Negro, 235.

3 Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1829-1830, passim.

4 Journals of the House of Delegates, 1829, pp. 30, 74, 139, 156, 157, 176, 187; Journals of the Senate, 129, 130, 135.

Turner insurrection, came the debate from which extracts are quoted above; petitions were presented, respectfully received, and referred, asking for an emancipation act, but a test vote on the proposition to submit to a popular vote the question of whether such an act should be passed was defeated, January 25, 1832, by 58 to 73, and the only vote on a negro question was on a bill for removing free negroes from the state.1  In not one of these four sessions was emancipation squarely faced, though there were several narrow votes on other questions of slavery, the nearest approach to action being a proposition, voted down by a considerable majority, to take the sense of the people on a side question.

 Two out-and-out Kentucky abolitionists stood to their guns to the end. John G. Fee, who founded a little college at Berea for the education of the neighboring mountain whites, and Cassius M. Clay, of Kentucky, a cousin of Henry Clay, who in 1833 set his own slaves free and remained throughout a long life a persistent opponent of slavery. His two avowed principles were: “I proudly aver myself the eternal enemy of slavery, and Kentucky must be free." He even published, at Lexington, an antislavery paper, The True American, and remained

1 Journals of the House of Delegates, 1831-1832, pp. 15, 29, 93, 95, 99, 109, 110; Senate Journal, 110, 112, 134, 136, 137 157, 158; Journal of the House of Delegates, 1832- 1833, pp. 168, 222, 227; Senate Journal, 168-170.

an impassioned ally of the northern abolitionists. Some people in the thirties still expected that Kentucky would emancipate its slaves, and even formed a new Kentucky Anti-Slavery Society as an auxiliary of the general anti-slavery society.2

By far the most effective southern abolitionists were those who shook the dust from off their feet and left the south because they- could not bear to live in the midst of slavery. Angelina and Sarah Grimke, members of a Huguenot family in Charleston, became so convinced of the iniquity of slavery that they came north, published appeals to the women of the south, and were among the earliest women speakers at abolition meetings.3 James G. Birney, an Alabama planter, came north to learn the meaning of the anti-slavery movement, connected himself with a colonization society, and then, about 1834, became an abolitionist and moved to the north. 4 Another group of eager young southern abolitionists included James A. Thome, who became a minister in a Cleveland church, and Asa Mahan, who became president of Oberlin College.

 Nearly all these men joined themselves to an abolition movement which they found in full action

1 Garrisons, Garrison, III., 379-382; Olmsted, Texas Journey, 12; Bremer, Homes of the New World, II., I06-108; Von Holst, United States, III., u8-127.

2 Stuart, North America, II., 184; Jay, Miscellaneous Writings, 167.

3 C. H. Birney, Sarah and Angelina Grimke; May, Recollections, 232-236. 'W. Birney, James G. Birney, passim.

in the north, the originator of which was undoubtedly Benjamin Lundy, who continued his agitation after 1830 to his death in 1838.1 To him must always be ascribed the credit of being the first abolitionist journalist and the first link in a chain  of impulse to which nearly all the other abolitionists traced their beginnings. From his first meeting with Garrison, in 1828, he had a disciple greater than his master, and himself to become an apostle.

That William Lloyd Garrison, young, friendless, without especial literary or forensic training, should have made himself one of the most widely known men of his time, should have established a celebrated newspaper, and should have been the reputed head of a moral movement which convulsed the whole country, is a high tribute to his abilities and character. Returning northward from Baltimore in 1830, he conceived the idea of founding a newspaper of his own, and the first number of the Liberator appeared January l, 1831, in Boston, the very paper on which it was printed bought on credit, and the type set by his own hand. This first number included a brief "address to the public," in which are the key-notes of Garrison's later career: "I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of 0ur slave population-I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice on this subject - I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation-I am in earnest- I will not equivocate-

1 See above, chap. xi.

I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard!" Then followed a copy of a petition for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia; a cutting from a Washington paper criticising the slave-trade in the capital; an account of his own trial in Baltimore; a report of the meeting of the Manumission Society; extracts from correspondents; brief items and clippings from southern newspapers, and several verses. It was a microcosm of the whole abolition agitation.1

The newspaper thus obscurely founded soon found friends, who from time to time provided the modest sums necessary to keep it afloat; and it was at once sent into the citadel of the enemy, for in September, 1831, angry inquiries came from the south to the mayor of Boston, who replied that he could find nobody who had seen the paper, and that it was supported by the free colored people. It was really chiefly supported by its editor's unconquerable spirit. Garrison was a natural journalist, in that he had a keen eye for lively and interesting news, and the influence of the paper was extended through quotations made from it by other newspapers; he excelled in the editorial combats which were the habit of the journalism of that time, and he had a genius for infuriating his antagonists. No banderillero ever more skilfully planted his darts in the flank of an enraged bull. The immediate circulation of the Liberator was never large; it rose to about fourteen 

1 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 224-226.

hundred in 1837, and was given up in 1865, when its work was accomplished. It was always a losing concern, and a journalist who, in the conduct of a political or party newspaper, could have rivalled and excelled Bennett, Dana, and Greeley, drew the barest subsistence from his paper.

Garrison was not only a remarkable writer, he was an effective speaker, and for the same reason in both cases; he put his whole strength and vitality into his addresses, violently and often unfairly attacking foes and even friends, but hammering his principles home. This influence was greatly extended by occasional journeys, though not until 1842 did he tour New York State. He says of one of his meetings on this trip: "The whole town is in a ferment, every tongue is in motion, if an earthquake had occurred, it would not have excited more consternation." 1

Towards the slave-holders Garrison was pitiless; his own mind had no room for excuses or palliation or half-way convictions; he made no fine distinctions between the slave-holder who treated his slaves as balky beasts of burden, and the conscientious man who recognized his responsibility to his slave household but did not see a duty of emancipating them. Upon those who met Garrison he made a variety of impressions. "One sees in his beautiful countenance, and clear eagle eye, that resolute spirit which makes the martyr." 2 And Theodore Parker said of

1 Garrisons, Garrison, III., 170. 2

2 Bremer, Homes of the New World, I., 123. 

him: " I am to thank you for what your character has taught me-it has been a continual Gospel of Strength. I value Integrity above all human virtues. I never knew yours fail,-no, nor even falter." 1 Miss Martineau said: "His speech is deliberate like a Quaker's but gentle as a woman's." 2 On the other hand, Hezekiah Niles called him a "man who is doing all possible injury to the cause of emancipation." 3 Another styled him the "Whip master general and supreme judge of all abolitionists, as though he wore the triple crown and wielded an irresponsible sceptre."4 As for the south, the National Intelligencer said of the agitation of the Liberator: "The crime is as great as that of poisoning the waters of life to a whole community." 5

Just a year after the founding of the Liberator, Garrison organized a New England Anti -Slavery Society; it was an obvious step to proceed thence to a federation like those of the churches and other philanthropic societies. Local societies sent delegates to the meetings of the state society; then, in December, 1833, 6 the American Anti-Slavery Society was founded in Philadelphia to concentrate the agitation of the whole country. This anti-slavery convention, called while Garrison was out of the country, and presided over by Beriah Green, of New

1 Garrisons, Garrison, III., 481.

2 Ibid., II., 70.

3 Niles' Register, XLI., 145.

4 Garrisons, Garrison, II., 271. ,

5 Ibid., I., 238. 8 Ibid., 392-414; May, Recollections, 79-97; Old South Leaflets, No. 81.

York, formed a simple constitution and put forth a declaration of principles, including the statement that "slavery is contrary to the principles of that natural justice, of our republican form of government and of the Christian religion; an organization ought to be formed by appeals to consciences, hearts and interests of the people to awaken a public sentiment throughout the nation." 1

From this time on the local societies rapidly increased throughout the east. In 1835 there were 200; in 1836, more than 500; in 1840, about 2000 auxiliary societies, with between 150,000 and 200,000 members. The income of the society rose from $1000, in 1834, to $47,000 in 1840. The whole organization was on the high-tide of prosperity. All these societies had periodical meetings, local, state, and national, and paid agitators, arousing interest and organizing societies.

 A figure like Garrison, who sprang into the centre of the arena, forced the fighting, and gave and took the hardest kind of blows, at once attracted allies and supporters, and he found himself at the head of a cohort. One of his warm friends and coadjutors was John Greenleaf Whittier, a New England Quaker, who in 1833 came into the agitation and helped to organize the American Anti-Slavery Society. Whittier always had a liking for political organization, in which he showed remarkable aptitude, and during the three years 1835 to 1837

1 MacDonald, Select Documents, 304.

he was a member of the Massachusetts legislature, and had such weight in the Essex district that he compelled Caleb Cushing to make pledges to him as the only means of securing an election to Congress.1 For a time he edited an anti-slavery paper in Philadelphia, and was author of various anti-slavery documents; but his chief service was as the poet of the anti-slavery cause. "The Farewell of a Virginia Slave Mother" is perhaps the best known:

"Gone, gone,-sold and gone? To the rice-swamp dank and lone, From Virginia's hills and waters; Woe is me, my stolen daughters!"

No less than eighty of his poems ·appeared in the National Era alone. Less aggressive, although an out-and-out abolitionist, Longfellow also gave his aid to the cause by his verses, especially the Poems on Slavery (1842).  The man who most resembled Garrison in the fierceness and mercilessness of his attacks was Wendell Phillips, who, in December, 1837, then a young law student, at a meeting held to protest against the recent murder of Lovejoy at Alton, Illinois, 2 sprang into the forefront of the anti-slavery speakers. Possessed of a wonderfully easy and beautiful diction, animated on occasion to the

1 Pickard, Whittier, I., 172-186, confirmed by a personal statement of Whittier to the author of this book.

2 See chap. xvii., below.

highest flights of oratory, and never held back by adhesion to plain and common-sense facts, Phillips, "the silver-tongued orator," was a force in the anti-slavery meetings, and throughout the contest was called upon to electrify and arouse. If he had little or no power of logical reasoning, ne did appeal to the great principles of human liberty; and he sealed his adherence to the unpopular cause of the weak and the oppressed by parting company with his own intimate friends.1

Later to enter the lists and throw an established literary reputation into an unpopular cause, was James Russell Lowell. Earlier in life Lowell took the conventional view of abolition, but when, in 1845, he went to Philadelphia to write for The Pennsylvania Freeman, his first anti-slavery utterance was called out by the capture of some fugitive slaves. Presently he found himself an abolitionist and an editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard; and there followed, in 1846, the unrelenting satire to which he gave the name of The Biglow Papers, in which he fused a fierce hatred of slavery with vigorous anti -slavery arguments against extension of southern territory.  “ Leaving the sin of it to God," said he, " I believe and still believe that slavery is the Achilles heel of our polity; that it is a temporary and false supremacy of the white races, sure to destroy that supremacy at last, because an enslaved people always prove

1 Higginson, Contemporaries, 258-268.

themselves of more enduring fibre than their enslavers." 1

These were the leaders, but with them were associated a host of other men who gave their lives to the cause, some of whom made more impression upon contemporaries than upon posterity; Charles C. Burleigh, for example, celebrated for his apt answers to questions and his objections to razor and shears; John G. Palfrey, of Massachusetts, who inherited fifty slaves, worth about nine thousand dollars, brought them to Massachusetts and set them free;  2 Dr. Charles Follen, exiled from Germany for what would know be called a Nihilist conspiracy, and the one professor of Harvard College who unswervingly gave himself up to anti-slavery; 3  Theodore Parker, the trenchant Boston minister and protector of fugitives. The cause was cheered and strengthened by the adhesion of several members of the old Boston families, especially Edmund Quincy, who, like Phillips, was roused by the attempt to justify the assassination of Lovejoy.  Even Charles Francis Adams, son of the ex-president, wrote at the time: "I wish I could be an entire abolitionist, but it is impossible; my mind will not come down to the point." 4

1 Scudder, Lowell, I., 257. 3 Ibid., 249-258.

2 May, Recollections, 397. Adams, C. F. Adams, 36.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 170-187. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.

Chapter: “Lane Seminary: Antislavery Action,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

These appeals of the new antislavery societies at once attested public attention, though that attention oftener assumed the form of opposition than of acquiescence. Among the first to give this public recognition were the students of Lane Seminary, of which Dr. Lyman Beecher was president and Dr. Calvin E. Stowe a professor. Its students, several of whom were the sons of Southern slaveholders, were of unusual maturity of age and character. Soon after the formation of the American Antislavery Society, an auxiliary was formed in the seminary, embracing most of its members. Two of the number, Henry B. Stanton, and James A. Thome of Kentucky, attended the anniversary meeting of the parent society at New York, in the spring of 1834, at which they made speeches exciting great interest and sanguine hopes, which were more than redeemed by their subsequent career.

In the winter of 1834,- 35 a debate on the slavery question took place, lasting more than a dozen evenings, of which Mr. Stanton occupied two with remarkable eloquence and effect. Several other students participated in the debate with signal ability. But the great orator of that great debate, as conceded by all, was Theodore D. Weld. Subsequently, nearly all the students adopted antislavery views. Dr. Beecher promised to attend the meetings; though he did not do so. It is said that he was much affected when he found the main body of the students adopting sentiments which he foresaw: or at least apprehended, must bring them into collision with the board of trustees, threatening the material injury if not the destruction of the institution. The debate caused much excitement, not only in Cincinnati, but throughout the country. The trustees ordered the disbandment of the Antislavery Society, though accompanying the order with a similar requirement of the Colonization Society. Their real and avowed purpose was to frown upon and check agitation concerning slavery in the seminary. The antislavery students, feeling that they could not, consistently with their self-respect and convictions, remain in the institution, dissolved their connection with it. Before, however, taking this step, they issued an elaborate and eloquent protest against the policy adopted ; and then, as persecution sent the apostles abroad to preach the gospel, so it sent these young ministers of the gospel to proclaim the new evangel of liberty. Several of them labored faithfully for longer or shorter periods; but none rendered services more brilliant and effective than Theodore D. Weld and Henry B. Stanton.

The first anniversary of the American Antislavery Society was held in New York on the 6th of May, 1834. It was largely attended, and its proceedings were spirited .and harmonious. An overture made at this meeting to the American Bible Society subsequently revealed not only the lack of sympathy with their humane object on the part of the latter, but the opposition and the rudeness of its exhibition, even by men standing high in the church. The Bible Society, having been engaged in carrying out the project of supplying every family in the United States with a copy of the Scriptures, had on its completion announced the fact to the British Bible Society; though, of course, no attempt had been made to supply the slaves. The Antislavery Society, being in session in the city of New York at the time of the annual meeting of the Bible Society, made an offer of five thousand dollars if that society would appropriate twenty thousand dollars for the supply of every slave family in the country. 

A committee of seven was appointed to present this proposition to the board of managers. Lewis Tappan, chairman of the committee, having presented it, and seeing that it was about to be summarily disposed of, asked permission to say a few words in explanation. But he received neither permission nor notice from the president. He there remarked that, both as a member of the committee and as a life-director of the Bible Society and ex officio one of the board of managers, he claimed the right of a hearing. But no notice whatever was taken of this appeal. A motion that it be referred to the committee of distribution was carried without debate, and the board proceeded to other business. In the published account of the proceedings, and in its monthly paper, the organ of the society, no reference whatever was made either to the proposition or to the mode of its disposition. The refusal to entertain the generous offer, and its attending discourtesy, revealed the sad demoralization of even the religious men of those days. But though Mr. Tappan, who had ever been distinguished for his active and generous co-operation in every form of Christian and philanthropic effort, was so sadly repulsed by the managers, yet years afterward, at the World's Antislavery Convention in London, when asked to state the particulars of their conduct, he magnanimously refused to do so; because, he says, "I felt unwilling before such an audience to relate a circumstance so disgraceful to the managers of the Bible Society and to my native country."

During that month a circular was issued by a committee of the society, requesting its auxiliaries to hold meetings on the 4th of July; and at the same time an appeal was made to its friends to raise for its funds twenty thousand dollars. On that day the society held a meeting in Chatham Street Chapel. David Paul Brown, a distinguished lawyer of Philadelphia; had been invited to deliver the oration. A meeting, respectable in numbers, assembled; but when the orator rose to speak, his voice was drowned by the riotous demonstrations of those who had gathered to disturb and break it up. Appeals were made in vain to the rioters; and the attempt to commemorate the birthday of the nation in the name of liberty was thus violently defeated by the despotism of the mob.

A few days afterward, another mob, unquestionably incited by the violent language and appeals of some portions of the city press, sacked and damaged the house of Lewis Tappan and destroyed its furniture. Arthur Tappan and several members of the executive committee addressed a letter to the mayor of the city in relation to the unfounded accusations brought against them, disclaiming the charges freely made; and, though they could not recant any principles adopted, they avowed their willingness to live and die by the constitution of their society and its declaration of sentiments.

In that season of feverish excitement, trial, and danger, Judge William Jay, inheriting not only the honored name, but the principles and purity of the illustrious first chief-justice, at first declined a proffered office in the new society, deeming its organization premature, but afterward recalled his declination, and sought to take his share of its labors and responsibilities. His name gave prestige; his talents, learning, and integrity afforded strength; while his cautious and ready pen laid precious gifts upon its altar. His “Inquiry” is a repository of valuable facts concerning the action of the national government, and the principles and purposes of the Colonization and Antislavery Societies. It was read by scholars and statesmen, and exerted a powerful influence by enlightening an ignorant public sentiment upon the great truth that the nation was then and long had been the mere serf of the Slave Power. All his writings were "characterized by the candor of a philosopher, the accuracy of a statesman, the courtesy of a gentleman, and the charity of a Christian." Having taken his position, he became one of the executive committee, and from 1834 to 1840 contributed largely to the wisdom as well as vigor of its proceedings.

But the spirit of lawless violence continued not only in New York, but throughout the North, revealing more and more clearly the magnitude and inveteracy of the evil to be abated. The purposes of the Abolitionists were persistently misrepresented. Even good and fair-minded men, who were generally just and considerate in their opinions, were led to believe, notwithstanding the explicit avowals and disclaimers of the society, through its constitution, Declaration of Sentiments, and official organs, that its members " were pursuing measures at variance not only with the constitutional rights of the South, but with the precepts of humanity and religion." In the year 1835 the executive committee issued an address designed to remove these false impressions. This address was signed by Arthur Tappan, John Rankin, William Jay, Elizur Wright, Jr., Abraham L. Cox, Lewis Tappan, Samuel E. Cornish, S. S. Jocelyn, and Theodore S. Wright. It was written by Judge Jay, and contained a very lucid exposition of the principles and policy of the society, and attracted marked attention both at home and abroad. 

It declared that Congress has no more right to abolish slavery in the Southern States than in the French West India Islands; that the exercise of any other than moral influence to induce abolition by the State legislatures would be unconstitutional; that Congress had the right to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and that it was their duty to efface so foul a stain from the national escutcheon; that American citizens have the right to express and publish their opinions of the constitution, laws, and institutions of any and every State and nation under heaven, asserting that "we never intend to surrender the liberty of speech, of the press, or of conscience, --blessings we have inherited from our fathers, and which we mean, so far as we are able, to transmit unimpaired to our children." It also affirmed that they had uniformly deprecated all forcible attempts on the part of the slaves to recover their freedom; that they would deplore any servile insurrection, on account of the calamities that would attend it, and the occasion it might give for increased severity; that the charge that they had sent publications to the South, designed to incite the slaves to insurrection, was utterly and unequivocally false; that the charge that they had sent any publications to the slaves was false; that they had employed no agents in the slave States to distribute their publications. But they reiterated their conviction that slavery was sinful and injurious to the country, and that immediate abolition would be both safe and wise, and that they had no intention of refraining from the expression of such views in future. They also gave unequivocal expression to their views in regard to the elevation of the colored people. To the accusation that their acts tended to a dissolution of the Union, and that they wished to destroy it, they replied with emphasis: '" We have never calculated the value of the Union, because we believe it to be inestimable, and that the abolition of slavery will remove the chief cause of its dissolution."

The Massachusetts Antislavery Society, too, issued an address to the public. A committee of thirty-one persons signed the address. Among the number were Samuel J. May, Samuel E. Sewall, William Lloyd Garrison, Francis Jackson, Henry C. Wright, Ellis Gray Loring, and David Lee Child. This address was issued because an attempt had been made to fix upon Abolitionists sentiments and intentions they abhorred. They categorically denied the charge made against them of a wish to violate the Constitution of the United States, and avowed their deep attachment to the Union. "No price," they said,” can be paid too great for its preservation, but the sacrifice of honor and principle." To intimations that they were guilty of circulating incendiary publications among slaves, they interposed a flat and peremptory denial and indignantly denounced the charge as false. They solemnly pledged themselves that if it could be shown that any person connected with the antislavery cause had circulated inflammatory tracts among slaves, or with a view to be read by them, "we will publicly renounce him as a foe to the peace of society and to the best interests of the oppressed." They denied that they had ever advocated the right of physical resistance upon the part of the oppressed. “We assure our assailants," they said, "that we would not sacrifice the life of a single slaveholder to emancipate any slave in the United States."

The charge of encouraging amalgamation between whites and blacks they denied, and announced their object to be "to prevent the amalgamation now going on, so far as it can be done, by placing one million of the females of this country under the protection of law." They denied, too, the accusation of interfering with the domestic concerns of the Southern States, by any other force than the creation of a public sentiment that shall " reach the conscience and blend with the convictions of the slaveholder, and thus ultimately work the complete extinction of slavery." .Acknowledging that no  change in the slave laws of the Southern States could be made unless by Southern legislatures, they distinctly declared that " neither Congress nor the legislatures of the free States have authority to change the condition of a single slave in the slave States'." They closed their address by avowing their intention to discuss and promulgate their principles under the sacred privileges guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. "We have violated," they said, '' we mean to violate, no law. We have acted, we shall continue to act, under the sanction of the Constitution of the United States. Nothing that we propose to do can be prevented by our opponents without violating the charter of our rights. To the law and to the Constitution we appeal."

After referring to the unconstitutional usurpations of the national government to protect slavery, and to the efforts made to prevent free discussion and the free transmission of the mails, they uttered these words of prophetic warning: "Surely we need not remind you that if you submit to such an encroachment on your liberties the days of our Republic are numbered; and that, although Abolitionists may be the first, they will not be the last, victims offered at the shrine of arbitrary power." Having set forth their principles and purposes, so completely in harmony with the theory of the government and the precepts of Christianity, in language so concise, clear, and convincing, they put the solemn and significant question to their countrymen: "Are they unworthy of Republicans and of Christians?"

But notwithstanding the declarations of those Christian men, the purity of whose lives was a guaranty of their sincerity and truthfulness, President Jackson, in his annual message of the 7th of December of that year, invited the attention of Congress 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 produce all the horrors of a servile war." He expressed the opinion that no respectable portion of his countrymen could be so far misled as to feel any other sentiment than that of indignant regret at conduct “so destructive of the harmony and peace of the country, and so repugnant to the principles of our national compact and to the dictates of humanity and religion."

This language was intended to be applied to the members and officers of .the American Antislavery Society and its auxiliaries. On the 28th of December the executive committee addressed to the President an elaborate and dignified protest against his accusations. In this paper, from the polished and pungent pen of Judge Jay, the propriety was suggested to the, President of ascertaining the real designs of the Abolitionists before his apprehensions should lead him to sanction any more trifling with the liberty of the press, or to denounce these as misguided persons, engaged in unconstitutional and wicked attempts to effect the massacre of their Southern brethren. He was reminded that there were then three hundred and fifty abolition societies, numbering thousands of members; and the pertinent question was put to him, whether there was anything in “the character and manner of the free States to warrant the imputation on their citizens of such enormous wickedness ?"

“What, sir," they asked, " is the character of those you have held up to the execration of a civilized world? Their enemies being judges, they are religious fanatics. And what are the haunts of these plotters of murder? The pulpit, the bench, the bar, the professor's chair, the hall of legislation, the meeting for prayer, the temple of the Most High. But, strange and monstrous as is this conspiracy, still you believe in its existence, and call on Congress to counteract it. Be persuaded, sir, the moral sense of the community is abundantly sufficient to render this conspiracy utterly impotent the moment its machinations are exposed. Only prove the assertions and insinuations in your message, and you dissolve in an instant every antislavery society in our land. Think not, sir, that we shall oppose any obstacles to an inquiry into our conduct. We invite, nay, sir, we· entreat, the appointment by Congress of a committee of investigation to visit the antislavery office in New York." They pledged themselves to put in possession of such committee copies of their publications and their correspondence, and to answer, under oath, all interrogations.

The committee closed their communication to the President with these words: "We have addressed you, sir, with republican plainness and Christian sincerity, but with no desire to derogate from the respect that is due you, or wantonly to give you pain. To repel your charges and to disabuse the public: was a duty we owed to ourselves, our children, and, above all, to the great and holy cause in which we are engaged. That cause, we believe, is approved by our Maker; and while we retain this belief it is our intention, trusting to his direction and protection, to persevere in our endeavors to impress upon the minds and hearts of our countrymen the sinfulness of claiming property in human beings, and the duty and wisdom of immediately relinquishing it. When convinced that our endeavors are wrong, we shall abandon them; but such conviction must be produced by other arguments than vituperation, popular violence, or penal enactments."

The executive committee of the society held weekly meetings from the time of its organization to the spring of 1840. Important and weighty matters came before it, and were carefully and conscientiously considered. Objects of contumely, often standing in peril of life or limb, subjected to insult and not unfrequently to actual violence, its members discharged its high duties with firmness, dignity, and a calm trust in God. None can fail to respect the men who thus toiled on for the emancipation and elevation of a race scarcely one of whom will know that they ever lived, the honors and rewards of whose office were an ever-present obloquy and constant pecuniary sacrifice.

The activity of those men was prodigious, their labors immense. Thus, during the year 1838 there were circulated from the New York office more than 646,000 publications and documents, some thousands of them being bound volumes; and during the year 1839 more than 724,000 of the like description. In that office, too, a system of petitioning Congress and State legislatures was carried forward on a most extensive scale. During five months of one session of Congress --and that chiefly under the direction of John G. Whittier, Theodore D. Weld, and Henry B. Stanton --it was ascertained by actual count that more than four hundred thousand signatures to petitions were sent to Congress, and it was estimated by Mr. Stanton that there were sent, under the auspices of the executive committee at New York, during the years 1837-39, more than two million signatures to Congress and to the State legislatures.

Another evidence of the earnest purpose and wise forecast of the executive committee was exhibited in their efforts to find and fit suitable agents for the great work they had undertaken. The country was canvassed, chiefly by Mr. Weld, for that purpose, and about seventy persons were brought together in the city of New York for a kind of preparatory training for their new vocation. For some two weeks they listened to the older and more experienced orators and organizers on all the phases of the great cause, and the varied demands and exigencies of the rough and perilous service they had undertaken. It was, in fact, an Institute of Humanity. After receiving their instructions and suggestions, and after being subjected to such drill and discipline as the time and place allowed, they went forth, like the seventy of old, on their mission of liberty to the slave and their errand of peace and good-will to the nation.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 265-273.

Chapter: “Activity of the Abolitionists. - Action of Northern Legislatures,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

Two features of the early stages of the uprising against slavery were peculiarly striking and suggestive. There was the manifest failure of those early pioneers to comprehend the magnitude and inveteracy of the evil to be removed, or the tremendous grasp in which it ·held the nation in its every department of individual and associated life. There was, too, an enthusiastic but unwarranted confidence in a speedy triumph. Evidences abound. They are seen in the proceedings of antislavery conventions and anniversaries, in the antislavery reports, speeches, and journals, of those days. Even Mr. Garrison, whose abilities and opportunities of judging were certainly not small, shared largely in these illusions of hope and in this evident under-estimate of the greatness and severity of the contest on which they had entered. Though much be conceded to the charm of novelty, the enthusiasm of youth, and the pardonable confidence of the neophyte, unhackneyed as yet and without the lessons gained in the stern school of experience, it is difficult to account for these over-sanguine expressions. Especially does this appear in view of the determined opposition they were obliged to encounter, almost always and everywhere, in their attempts to reach the popular ear and heart. Not only were they excluded, as they complainingly asserted, from churches and halls. but they were driven by rioters from their own quarters, and hardly permitted to walk the streets without the hootings and sometimes the more personal and physical violence of the mob. Nor was this the mere temporary ebullition of the hour. It continued until no inconsiderable number of those early and sanguine men and women felt constrained to come out of both churches and parties, as hopelessly in bondage to this haughty and dominating power of the land.

Doubtless it was well that such was the fact. Had they fully comprehended the desperate nature of the struggle, fathomed the depth of their country's degradation and peril, gauged the full measure of its apostasy and the slow progress of truth, had they known the extent of the great and terrible wilderness on which they had entered, and the length of their journeyings to the promised land, the hearts of many would have sunk within them, and they might have relinquished the attempt before it was well begun.

During the years of 1834 - 35 the operations of the New England Antislavery Society, which had, owing to the formation of the American Society, taken the name and become the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, were conducted on a more extended scale than ever. It employed efficient agents, while several other gentlemen of capacity, zeal, and eloquence largely contributed to the advancement of the cause. Its fourth annual meeting was held in January, 1836, in the city of Boston. Its committee of arrangements had been refused the use of all the churches and halls large enough to accommodate its members; and they were compelled to hold the meeting in their little room in Washington Street, used for ordinary purposes, for the meetings of the executive committee, and for other assemblages during the year. Earnest and radical antislavery speeches were made by Professor Charles Follen, William Goodell, Rev. Cyrus P. Grosvenor, Rev. Orange Scott, Henry C. Wright, and others.

Its fifth anniversary was held in January, 1837, in the loft of the stable attached to the Marlborough Hotel. Its report, which was very elaborate, was read by Mr. Garrison. The meeting was addressed by Amos Dresser, who gave a narrative of the cruel treatment he had received in Tennessee, the recital of which excited deep and tearful emotion. Rev. Samuel J. May eloquently referred to the fact that the Society could not secure a comfortable place of' meeting in this native city; that every church and hall had been closed against them, and that they were driven into a stable. The legislature had been applied to for the use of the hall of the House of Representatives for an evening meeting of the Society; and its application had been successful, the members from Boston, however, generally voting against it. Referring to this fact, Henry B. Stanton wittily said “When Boston votes we go into a stable, but when the State votes we go into the State House." ·

On the evening of the 25th of January, the pioneer antislavery society; as its friends affectionately styled it, assembled, for the first time, in the hall of the House of Representatives. Rev. Orange Scott was the first speaker. He maintained that the sum and substance of antislavery doctrines are that “slavery is sin and must be immediately abandoned." Mr. Stanton spoke in support of resolutions in favor of the immediate abolition of slavery and of the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, and of the right of petition. While he was speaking an effort was made to create a disturbance by persons near the entrance of the hall. But Mr. Stanton, after a moment's pause, proceeded in his speech with great eloquence and power, completely subduing the mob spirit and enchaining the attention of the audience. The reporter failed in his task, because, as he said, “he would not attempt to report a whirlwind or a thunder-storm." Ellis Gray Loring made a learned argument in support of a resolution, declaring that allegiance to his country, to liberty, and to God required that every man should be an abolitionist and should openly espouse the antislavery cause.

The debate of granting the use of' the hall to the society, in which several members participated, and' in which Mr. Ruggles of Fall River spoke with commanding eloquence and power for the right of free discussion, and the speeches made during the evening, exerted a potent influence on the members of the legislature, the effects of which were manifested before the close of the session. The society continued its meeting during the next day, and speeches breathing the spirit of self-consecration and devotion to the cause were made. It was especially manifested in the speech of Rev. Mr. Root of Dover, New Hampshire. “The great moral war," he said, "is but begun. The collision of truth with error, of duty with expediency, will produce commotion; but truth and duty must and will prevail. Should my name reach the next generation, let it be found in connection with abolition. I would sooner be execrated as a Tory of the Revolution than be known hereafter as one who stood aloof from the movements now in progress for laying the last stone of the yet unfinished Temple of Liberty. But above all, when I am summoned to judgment, let me then be found to have been the unflinching friend of God's poor."

Mr. May commenced with great plainness of speech upon the fact that in the city of Boston the cause of impartial liberty was shut out from all the halls and churches under the control of its citizens. He referred to the fact that the colored and other citizens of .Massachusetts suffered serious abridgment of their privileges, that slaveholders might not be disturbed in their unrighteousness. He maintained, too, that the citizens of New England were implicated in the sin of slavery, and were forbidden to repent and do works meet for repentance. He avowed his readiness to wear the chain himself, rather than remain silent in view of the great wrongs man was inflicting on his fellow.

Mr. Garrison, referring to the accusation made against him of using harsh language, declared that he was not eager to repel that accusation, for he could not suffer himself to be turned aside from the warfare against merciless oppressors to discuss the proprieties of diction with captious critics. “Who," he asked,” are my accusers? The entire South, reeking with pollution and blood, - slaveholders, slave-dealers, slave-drivers, recreant priests, and lynch committees, Northern apologists for crime, and terror-stricken recreants to liberty, -- all charge me with using hard language! Am I to give heed to such instructors, or aim to suit their tastes? While millions are groaning in bondage, and women are sold by the pound in our country, it is solemn trifling to think of sitting down coolly to criticize the phraseology of those who are pleading and toiling for their deliverance."

Resolutions were introduced by Mr. Stanton censuring the action of members of Congress who had voted to deny the right of petition; applauding John Quincy Adams; calling upon the whole people of the Commonwealth to rally to the rescue of the Constitution and to the cause of God's perishing poor ; invoking the legislature to request their representatives to vote for the immediate abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia; and summoning the people to vote for no member of the national or State legislature who is not in favor of the freedom of speech and of the press, and of the right of petition. He declared that the resolutions were not designed to have a partisan bearing; but that they spoke of the duties, not of a party, but of all parties and creeds.

Rev. Robert B. Hall approved of all the resolutions but the last. That he opposed because he deprecated political action, which would, he thought, excite much clamor and do much harm. Mr. Garrison expressed much surprise at such sentiments from one of the original signers of the declaration adopted by the convention at Philadelph1a, in which it was expressly proclaimed that Abolitionists were to use “moral and political action “for the removal of slavery. He avowed that Abolitionists ought not to vote for any man who would not maintain the right of petition and vote for the abolition of slavery when Congress had the power. Abolitionists, he maintained, had nothing to do with politics, as understood among politicians and political parties of the day; but “they have something to do with politics so far as relates to this question."

Mr. Stanton proclaimed that the motto of Abolitionists is: '' Duty is ours, -- consequences are God's." Political action, he contended, was then bad, and would be, though Abolitionists should remain silent. “Shall the people," he asked, “so act as to renovate the politics of this country, and thus save out liberties; or shall they slumber on until they have passed away forever?" The resolutions were unanimously passed, with the exception of the last, and that passed with only the dissenting vote of Mr. Hall. That vote fully and unreservedly committed the members of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society to political action for the removal of slavery where Congress possessed the power under the Constitution of the United States, and is very significant, especially as viewed in connection with the opposite non-voting policy so loudly and so consistently proclaimed afterward by the same individuals. 

Nor were there wanting similar demonstrations in the other New England States., though in none were they so vigorous and well sustained. Still in all these were societies and active efforts more or less effective; and this was especially true of New York. The city was the headquarters not only of its own, but of the national society. In the central and western portions of the. State, more largely settled from New England, there was much activity. In New Jersey there was little attempted and little accomplished. In Pennsylvania there had been a sad reaction after the days when the old Pennsylvania Abolition Society was a power there and did so much to keep that Commonwealth moored to the principles of its great founder and to those of the Revolution. But its contiguity to the slave States, and its large German element, mainly intent on material good, gave little encouragement or success to antislavery efforts, though there, as elsewhere, they were made.

Indeed, in consequence of antislavery agitation, both within and without the State, a State convention was called, mainly by leaders of the Democratic Party, professedly to strengthen the bonds of the Union, though really to discountenance and put down such agitation. It failed, in the language of Judge Woodward, who was a member and in sympathy with its object, because Thaddeus Stevens, then in the zenith of his powers and popularity, "ridiculed the convention into nothingness.... He was not equally successful, however, in the convention for revising the constitution; for, with all his powers, he could not prevent that body from inserting the word "white” into the suffrage clause of that instrument. The ignominy and partisan profligacy of that action were evinced by the unblushing request, which seems to have been successful, and which was set forth in a memorial from Bucks County, in which it was urged, as a reason why the word " white ,, should be inserted, that negro votes sometimes controlled elections ; "and that at the last election one member of the assembly, the county commissioner, and auditor were returned as elected by the force of the votes of blacks, when the opponents would have been elected except for the negro suffrage."

While Eastern Abolitionists were thus actively engaged in their work, and meeting its peculiar exigencies, their brethren at the West were not idle. Nor were they without their share of vicissitudes, substantially like those in the New England and the Middle States, though affected by the composite character of the population, even then, of that section of the country. The fact, too, that the defenders and abettors of slavery there, as elsewhere, made demands against which many who were not Abolitionists revolted, like John Quincy Adams, in behalf of the right of petition, and Mr. Lovejoy for the freedom of the press, exerted its influence. Concerning Illinois, Dr. Edward Beecher says that in it "there was an original leaven of antislavery: principles in its earliest settlement, and  preceding the discussions at the East; and the influence of this, added to that of papers from the East, awakened an extensive interest in the subject over the whole State." But, while there might have been this "leaven of antislavery," the prevailing tone of thought and feeling, as the great body of its early settlers were from slave-holding States, was the reverse. Accordingly it was seen in the ejection of Mr. Lovejoy's press from St. Louis, that, when the lines were drawn, the vast preponderance of the popular sentiment and influence was on the side of the oppressor.

These facts, more clearly developed by the Alton riots and the murder of Lovejoy than by any previous demonstration, decided many minds, before hesitating, that the time had come for concerted action. Accordingly, when the convention of “the friends of the slave and of free discussion," called to meet at Upper Alton, Illinois, on the 26th of October; 1837, was broken up by the intrusion of  proslavery men, who took the organization of the meeting into their own hands, adopted proslavery resolutions, and then dissolved the meeting, the supporters of law and order, whatever their views upon slavery had hitherto been, saw, in the words of Dr. Beecher, that " some organized, systematic effort was absolutely necessary to save our own liberties from the ruthless hands of unprincipled men."

A new call was issued, and two days later the convention met and formed the "Illinois State Antislavery Society." Having perfected their organization, adopted a constitution, and chosen their officers, Elihu Wolcott being president and E. P. Lovejoy secretary arid chairman of the executive committee, they discussed and adopted a series of resolutions, at once comprehensive and thorough, and based upon the great principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Word of God. Among the resolutions was one declaring that " the cause of human rights, the liberty of speech and of the press, imperatively demand that the press of the ' Alton Observer' be reestablished at Alton, with its present editor"; and pledging its members with the aid of Alton friends and "by the help of Almighty God," to take measures for its re-establishment. A preamble, couched in language of singular solemnity and force, prefixed to the constitution, and also a declaration of sentiments, reported by Dr. Beecher, were adopted. Fifty-five signatures were appended to the constitution.

A committee, consisting of Wolcott, Beecher, and Carter, was appointed to issue an "address to the citizens of the State on the subject of slavery, freedom of speech, of the press," etc. That also was a paper of singular ability and eloquence, placing the cause on the high ground of Christian principle, and enunciating with great clearness and force the primal truths of human rights and the paramount claims of God's Holy Word. But the strong Southern element which entered so largely into the population of Illinois prevented any very general adoption of such sentiments, however scriptural and republican in spirit and purpose. There were, indeed, ever faithful men and women, churches and communities; but the great body joined in the general apostasy, consenting to, if not defending the giant wrong.

Ohio was settled, especially its eastern and northern portions, by a different class of citizens. There the New England element was strong; and, being removed from the corrupting influences of cities and of commercial and manufacturing interests; society, at least in many localities, did not deteriorate as rapidly and fatally as did that which was left behind. There were many strong and earnest men in the abolition ranks, and many active antislavery associations; though the southern portion of the State, like Indiana and Illinois, was strongly tinctured with proslavery sentiments, that had secured legislation and laws which they inspired and which were enacted at their behests. Its State Society, of which Leicester King, some years afterward nominated as a candidate for the Vice-Presidency by the Liberty party, was president, held a convention in April, 1835, continuing three days. At this convention, in addition to a consideration of the general subject, particular attention was paid to the condition of the colored people in the State, as also to the inhuman and barbarous laws which disgraced its statute-books, and which were only too faithfully executed by its inhabitants, especially by those residing in and near Cincinnati and on the borders of the Ohio River.

Indeed, a prominent feature of the meeting was the reading and discussion of two very able and exhaustive reports from committees appointed to consider “the condition of people of color," and the "laws of Ohio” concerning them. These laws forbade the entrance into the State of negroes and mulattoes without giving two freehold sureties to the amount of five hundred dollars for their good behavior and for their support if they should become a public charge. The penalty for not giving such sureties was “to be removed in the same manner as is required in the case of paupers." By another section it was enacted that if " any person being a resident of this State shall employ, harbor, or conceal any such negro," he shall pay a sum not exceeding one hundred dollars, and be liable for his support if he become a public charge. By another statute it was enacted that no black or mulatto person should give evidence in court in a controversy or case in which a white person was involved.

It was easy, of course, for the committee to point out not only the inhumanity and wickedness of such legislation, but its unconstitutionality, -- or, at least, its incompatibility with the constitution of the State, which declares “that ALL are born free and independent, and have certain natural and inalienable rights." Nor was it any less easy to point out the evil workings of such statutes on the people thus hampered and held in check and constraint by them. “Few amongst the whites," they say,” would be able to obtain sureties on such conditions; and much less blacks, who are strangers and penniless, and against whose race there exists a general prejudice." As if to make their condition insupportable, all persons were forbid hiring or employing them. And if, in spite of all such cruel and unjust disabilities, any should succeed in life, and amass wealth, the section confronted them, forbidding their evidence in court on any subject in which a white man is involved. It was, then, but a legitimate inference when the committee declared that the “influence of such laws could not be otherwise than destructive to their moral and intellectual character and their pecuniary interests. Mental debasement, moral degradation, self-disrespect, unyielding prejudice on the part of the whites, and the most distressing poverty, are the natural and necessary consequences of their pernicious, unjust, and impolitic laws."

Nor was it strange that the committee on the condition of the colored people " was obliged to report that of the estimated seven thousand and five hundred in the State, as a class, we find them ignorant, many of them intemperate and vicious," intemperance, ignorance, and lewdness " being their besetting vices; that, instead of seeking to gain freeholds, and depending upon farming for subsistence, they congregate in towns, and become day laborers, barbers, and menial servants." There were, however, redeeming facts, and satisfactory mention was made of “a settlement in Stark County, J where there were three hundred people, mostly farmers," with a meeting-house and school-house, the whole population, with few exceptions; abstaining from intoxicating drinks.

A more specific inquiry was made in the spring of 1835, by the Antislavery Society of Lane Seminary, into the condition of the twenty-five hundred colored people of Cincinnati. From its report it appears that, as far back as 1829, a systematic effort was made by its citizens to aid in the removal of the free people of color from the United States. This movement not only excited the passions and prejudices of the lower stratum of society, but inspired the action of the commanding classes and of the authorities. The trustees of the township issued a proclamation that any colored man who did not fulfil the requirements of the law should leave the city. But, as that was simply impossible, only a small portion could or did leave. The mob then attempted to expel them by force; and for three days riot ran wild in. the city. The colored people, appealing in vain to the city authorities, barricaded their houses, and thus alone the fury of the rioters was resisted. Thus hampered and oppressed in Ohio they sent a deputation to Canada, to find a place of refuge under a monarchy. The reply of the governor was as reassuring to them as it was severe and damaging to the recreant citizens of the Union. “Tell the republicans," he said," on your side of the line, that we royalists do not know men by their color. Should you come to us, you will be entitled to all the privileges of the rest of her Majesty's subjects." In consequence of this gracious permission large numbers emigrated; and, in a few years, more than a thousand found a home in what was called Wilberforce Settlement.

Those who remained, however, suffered every indignity and injustice. Public schools and mechanical associations were closed against them, and the most ordinary labor was refused them, - a clergyman, in one instance, dismissing a member of his church from his employment because it was against the law to employ him. The poor man, spending many days in the unavailing search for employment, and returning to the minister for advice, received the disheartening reply: “I cannot help you; you must go to Liberia." Thus did the spirit of slavery everywhere reveal itself to be the same heartless and fiendish element, disturbing alike the normal condition of society and that of the individuals of which that society was composed. Men under its influence lost much of their manhood, and communities were made willing to exhibit the most revolting features of barbarism itself.

The high-handed measures of Congress, in its denial of the right of petition and freedom of speech, caused much excitement and indignation in the free States. The antislavery men of Massachusetts, sharing largely in these feelings, were among the first to give expression to this sense of wrong, as they were firm in their purpose to resist these encroachments, and to secure, if possible, a reversal of such hostile legislation, Consequently, during the session of the legislature in 1837, a large number of petitions were presented, calling upon that body "to protest without delay, in the name of the people of this Commonwealth," against the rule of Congress which laid upon the table all memorials and other papers concerning slavery, without being printed, read, or referred. These memorials were referred to an able committee of one from each county, of which Artemas Leo of Templeton, Worcester County, was chairman. The committee granted a full, fair, and courteous hearing to the friends and representatives of the memorialists, --a favor made more noticeable and grateful to them by its striking contrast with the insolent and supercilious course of Mr. Lunt, chairman of a similar committee of the previous legislature.

Henry B. Stanton and George S. Hillard appeared in behalf of the petitioners, and urged their claims with ability and eloquence. Mr. Hillard's speech was able and scholarly, exciting in the friends of freedom hopes of future service which his subsequent career did not justify. It was eclipsed, however, by the remarkable effort of his colleague. Mr. Stanton's argument on that occasion was regarded, by those whose good fortune it was to hear it, as one of those rare exhibitions of eloquence which now and then burst upon a delighted and .enraptured auditory. It was a kind of epoch in one's life time, to be remembered, but seldom repeated or paralleled.- It wrought its effects upon the audience, however, perhaps more by its gorgeous diction, vivid coloring, and magnetic power, as the speaker described the ideal possibilities of some coming stage of human progress, than by the vigor of its reasoning, or its special adaptedness to the state of public feeling and sentiment as then existing. Its effects upon the audience, as described by those who heard it, were almost magical. It was stereotyped, and two hundred thousand copies were circulated. Mr. Garrison thus refers to it in his report: "The occasion was one of great moral sublimity. Mr. Stanton, though laboring under physical indisposition, was happily enabled not only to meet, but even to transcend, the high expectation of "the friends of liberty. His words became living coals, and his eloquence bore all things onward like an overflowing stream."

"The effects of antislavery agitation," Mr. Stanton said,” are not hemmed in by State lines, nor circumscribed by local boundaries. They are moral in their nature; obey no laws but those of the human mind; owe allegiance to no constitution but that of the immortal soul. Impalpable, but real, the truths we proclaim overleap all geographical divisions, and lay their strong grasp upon the conscience. Moral light, diffused at the North, is like the Aurora Borealis; it will travel onward to the South.  The slaveholder may entrench himself behind bristling bayonets, but the truth, armed with the omnipotence of its Author, breaks through the serried legions. At Mason and Dixon's line he may pile his prohibitory statutes to the clouds as his wall of defence; but truth, like light, is elastic and impressible, and, mounting upward, will overleap the summit and penetrate his concealment. Yes, sir, if the Union were rent into ten thousand fragments, yet, if on any fragment there was a slaveholder, antislavery agitation would search him out, and scatter upon his naked heart the living coals of truth. God has written the verity of our principles on the inside of every oppressor in the land. He can destroy the record only with his nature. And if the American slaveholder, returning wearied with the destruction of every antislavery pamphlet and press and society and man in the nation, should seek repose in his chamber; these words, written with the finger of God, would flame out from its walls in letters of blinding intensity: ' Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work!"

The buoyant hopes thus eloquently portrayed were, however, hardly fulfilled. The history of the struggle, then commencing and now complete, did not realize the bright anticipations so brilliantly sketched by the fervid orator of that occasion. These words were spoken in 1837; what did twenty years' fighting reveal? The nation rocked from centre to circumference, and on the eve of rebellion and disruption, not upon the question whether slavery should be abolished at the South, but whether it should not be extended to the North. In the mean time Texas had been annexed; the Mexican War had been fought; the Missouri· Compromise had been abrogated; the Fugitive Slave Law had been enacted; the 7th of March Speech had been spoken, and Mr. Webster had been thanked by eight hundred of the prominent citizens of Massachusetts·, including clergymen, president and professors of its leading college and theological seminary, for ''recalling them to their duties under the Constitution." Four years more revealed the nation in the agonies of civil war, the South almost a unit in the strife, at best but a lean minority of its ministers and churches protesting against the treason or condemning its villainous cause.

Where were then the truths overleaping “all geographical divisions," and laying their “strong grasp upon the conscience "? Where was that moral light, diffused like the Aurora Borealis through the North, and travelling onward to the South, penetrating the concealment of the slaveholder, searching him out, and scattering “on his naked heart the coals of living truth "?

"Alas! Leviathan is not so tamed."

Something more is wanting than moral light or the living .coals of truth. There must be a “living” conscience and a loyal heart. They were wanting, and so were the hoped-for and promised results. A slaveholding government, instead of relaxing its grasp, strengthened itself in the high places of power, to be dislodged only by divisions in its own ranks, and not by the greater strength of the friends of freedom; instead of contracting the area of slavery, enlarging it; instead of regarding it, with the fathers, exceptional and sectional, determining to make it national and supreme. And had there been only moral agencies, such would have been the result. It was material, not moral force, the sword of steel and not the sword of truth, that broke the power of the master and struck his fetters from the bondman. It was God who, amid and by the fires and convulsions of rebellion and civil war, undid the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free. The moral forces then invoked and employed were, doubtless, a part of the predetermined plan, and had their place among the measures that were needed for the result to be secured. But the mode finally adopted was so unlike anything planned for or anticipated that the wisest and most earnest Abolitionist will be modest in his claims, and ascribe the victory to God, rather than to man, -- to Him whose prerogative it is to bring good out of evil, and to make even the wrath of man praise Him.

Mr. Stanton thus expressed the unyielding purpose of those for whom he spoke: “Undeterred by official proscription or private denunciation, by prosecution at common law or persecutions without law, by legislative enactments or ecclesiastical anathemas, the friends of the slave, guided by the wisdom, cheered by the favor, and protected by the power of God, will prosecute their work. And that man or that party who shall attempt to arrest this cause in its onward progress will be borne down by the advancing host." It was to this vigorous protest and promised persistence of the antislavery men of those days that was due the manly response of the Massachusetts legislature to the prayer of the memorialists. A favorable report was returned, declaring that " the act of Congress, in refusing to refer and consider the petitions of the people on the subject of slavery, was a virtual denial of the right of petition itself," and " at variance with the spirit and intent of the Constitution, and injurious to the cause of freedom and free institutions." The action of the senators and representatives from Massachusetts was applauded, and the declaration made that “Congress, having exclusive legislation in the District of Columbia, possesses the right to abolish slavery in said District, and that its exercise should only be restrained by a regard for the public good." After an earnest and animated debate, these resolutions were sustained in the House by an almost unanimous vote, only sixteen members voting in the negative.

The Senate, under the lead of Charles Allen, voted unanimously to amend the resolution asserting the power of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, so as to affirm “that the early exercise of such right is demanded by the united sentiment of the civilized world, by the principles of the Revolution and humanity." An additional resolution was adopted, with only one dissenting voice, in favor of circumscribing slavery within the limits of the States where it had already been established, and opposing the admission of any new State with a constitution establishing or admitting it. The Senate finally receded from its action; not from any disposition to retreat from the principles it had avowed, but for the purpose of preserving more unity of action with the House of Representatives.

The legislature of Vermont, too, resolved, and sent its resolutions to each of the States, that neither Congress nor the State governments have any constitutional power to abridge the free expression of opinions, or their transmission through the medium of the public mails; and that Congress possesses the power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia. This action of the legislatures of Vermont and Massachusetts indicated an advance in antislavery sentiment, cheering its friends, exasperating its foes, and stimulating both alike to further endeavors to promote their conflicting purposes and plans.

Other facts cheered and encouraged the friends of the slave. In the month of August, 1836, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts unanimously decided, in the case of the slave-child Med, brought from New Orleans by Mrs. Slater, who came to reside with her father, Thomas Aves of Boston, that "an owner of a slave in another State, where slavery is warranted by law, voluntarily bringing such slave into this State, has no authority to retain him against his will, or to carry him out of the State against his consent, for the purpose of being held in slavery." This important opinion was delivered by Chief Justice Shaw. The suit had been prosecuted with unfaltering zeal by the Boston Female Antislavery Society. Samuel E. Sewall and Ellis Gray Loring, assisted by Rufus Choate, conducted the case for the Commonwealth. The argument of· Mr. Loring was pronounced a masterly and exhaustive effort, worthy of the cause he advocated and the great tribunal before which it was delivered.

This decision was followed by another, hardly less important. On the 20th of January, 1837, the judiciary committee of the Massachusetts House of Representatives was directed to inquire into the expediency of providing some process by which one under personal restraint may try his right to liberty before a jury. The chairman of the committee, James C. Alvord of Greenfield, a young and able lawyer and rising statesman, of whom high hopes were entertained, made an elaborate report, in which the sacred right of trial by jury was vindicated. An act was reported providing that " if any person is imprisoned, restrained of his liberty, or held in duress, unless it be in the custody of some public officer of the law, by force of a lawful warrant or other process, civil or criminal, issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, he shall be entitled, as of right, to a writ of personal replevin, and to be thereby in the manner specified in the act." The legislature, with entire unanimity, gave its sanction to this important bill.

The sixth anniversary meeting of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society was held at Boston in January, 1838. On its application, the hall of the House of Representatives was granted for its use, and it was thronged with members and others anxious to listen to the eloquent advocates of immediate emancipation. At the meeting Edmund Quincy submitted a resolution, gratefully acknowledging the signal manner in which the antislavery cause had been prospered during the past year, and "the bright ray of promise· which assures us that the beams of the Sun of Righteousness will not forever be obscured by the mists which rise from a sensual and mercenary world."

Mr. Quincy and his associates were, doubtless, too sanguine and over-confident; and yet there were cheering signs of progress. Shortly afterward, the legislature of Massachusetts adopted, with little opposition, a series of resolutions against the admission of Texas; against the admission of any more slave States; in favor of the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia and the prohibition of slavery in the Territories. 'These resolutions were reported by James C. Alvord, then a senator from Franklin County. They were accompanied by two reports, in which the questions involved were discussed with great clearness and force. In the autumn of that year Mr. Alvord was elected to Congress, much to the gratification not only of the antislavery men of Massachusetts but of the whole country. He did not live, however, to take his seat in the councils of the nation, and in his early and premature grave were buried the high hopes which had been excited by his brief and brilliant career.

While the questions involved in these resolutions were pending before the legislative committee, Wendell Phillips addressed it against the annexation of Texas, unveiling and properly characterizing the plottings of the Slave Power in that matter. Angelina E. Grimke, the first lady ever permitted to address a legislative committee in the Commonwealth, was allowed to appear before the same. Her appeals were earnest, eloquent, and full of pathos and tenderness. She referred to her self-exile from South Carolina, her native State, because she could not endure the sufferings to which the bondmen were doomed; and she invoked the action of the legislature and the people of the North. Her self-possession and dignity, her facts, arguments, and appeals, deeply impressed the committee, the legislature, and the people of the Commonwealth.

The legislature of Connecticut, under the lead of Francis Gillette, then a young representative from Hartford, afterward a member of the United States Senate, and always an earnest and consistent advocate of freedom, repealed the black law enacted in 1833 for the purpose of suppressing the colored school of Miss Prudence Crandall. The same legislature passed resolutions against the annexation of Texas, the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, and in favor of the right of petition, thus placing Connecticut by the side of Massachusetts in the cause of freedom.

About the same time the legislature of Vermont, after listening to a long and brilliant speech from Alvan Stewart of New York, reported resolutions similar in character to those adopted in Massachusetts. They were passed, too, in the Senate, by a unanimous vote, and in the House without division. Henry B. Stanton and other eloquent champions of the cause addressed the legislatures and legislative committees of other States; and, where such hearings were refused, attended and pleaded the cause of freedom in other capitals while their legislatures were in session. In all the other legislatures of the Northern States, too, there were active and growing minorities interested and engaged in the same great work.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 355-373.



See also Lovejoy, Elijah P.

Please note that this entry includes two chapters:

·        Wilson, “Mobs: Outrages In Cincinnati - Women Mobbed In Boston,” 1872

·        Wilson, “Riotous Demonstrations,” 1872

Chapter: “Mobs: Outrages In Cincinnati - Women Mobbed In Boston,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872: 

All who openly accepted the doctrine of immediate emancipation, or in any way countenanced and defended the measures of the Abolitionists, were called to suffer. Too generally some tie of personal friendship was weakened, if not severed, the hostility of political organizations incurred, and the ban of commercial circles was marked and inexorable. Even in the associations of religion and benevolence, to be tainted with the heresy of freedom involved too often loss of caste, reputation, and influence. To believe in and defend the simple and fundamental principles of the gospel and of the Declaration of Independence generally subjected members to the supercilious sneers of their leaders, if the opposition did not assume a more active and offensive form. Even the sacred name of “liberty " was held in disesteem, became a term of reproach, a badge of disgrace, while fidelity to its claims was branded as the wildest and most mischievous fanaticism. Antislavery meetings were assailed by “gentlemen of property and standing," hand in hand with the drunken and profane rabble. Antislavery lecturers were pelted with eggs, stones, and brickbats. The lowly homes of the proscribed race, the private dwellings of their heroic friends and defenders, and even the churches of the living God, were roughly assaulted, and sometimes sacked and burned. Printing presses and types were broken and scattered, and antislavery papers and publications were treated with undisguised neglect or scorn. Even woman forgot the gentle amenities of her sex, no less than the claims of humanity, and hesitated not to speak bitter and scornful words of their cause who were aiming to rescue her sisters in bondage from a doom more terrible than their fetters and stripes. Indeed, it is difficult, without a shudder, to think of those days of domestic estrangement and social ostracism, of political intolerance and commercial exactions, -- those days "when even churches and missionary and benevolent organizations were felt to be, if not "bulwarks of slavery," serious obstacles in the way of its removal.

In the year 1832 Theodore D. Weld visited Tennessee, · Alabama, and other portions of the South. While at Huntsville, he met at the table of an eminent slaveholding clergyman James G. Birney, who afterward occupied so prominent a place in the antislavery struggle. Mr. Birney was then engaged in raising cotton, and at the same time practicing the legal profession, in which he had gained considerable distinction. At the table slavery and the right of the slaveholder to his slaves were discussed. Mr. Weld put the question to his host by what right he held his slaves --one of whom was a minister of the gospel--in bondage. He endeavored to answer the question; but, although a man of culture, he utterly failed to meet the logic of Mr. Weld. Feeling that he had failed, he asked the opinion of Mr. Birney; but he declined to give it, and continued to listen to the discussion with the deepest interest. Inviting Mr. Weld to call at his office the next day, he retired to his home, and gave the night, not to sleep, but to a deep and anxious examination of this simple but pregnant inquiry. When he called, Mr. Birney informed him that he had deeply reflected through the night upon his question, and had come to the conclusion that he could not show the right of the slave holder to his slaves.

Becoming deeply and concerned for the rights of the bondmen, he relinquished his legal practice, became an active agent of the Colonization Society, and travelled extensively through the Southern States. He soon, however, lost confidence in that society as an antislavery agency, and became convinced that what he had fondly hoped would lead to emancipation tended rather to its prevention. At the close of the year 1833 he returned to his home in Kentucky, dissolved his connection with the Colonization Society, and emancipated his slaves. For the purpose of disseminating the doctrines of immediate emancipation, to which he had become a convert, he purchased a press and types, with the view of establishing a paper in his native State. Learning his purpose, his neighbors resolved at once to baffle his intentions. On the 12th of July, 1835, the slaveholders of Danville assembled in mass meeting, denounced the movement, and addressed to him a letter remonstrating against the establishment of an abolition journal, and avowing their purpose to prevent it. Mr. Birney, aware of his legal rights, firmly refused to yield to their demands; but his printer became alarmed and refused to engage in its publication. Finding he could not issue his paper in Kentucky, he removed his press to Cincinnati, with a view to its establishment there.

But he soon found that the same influences which rendered it impracticable to establish his paper in Kentucky existed in Cincinnati. Removing his press to New Richmond, some twenty miles distant, he commenced the publication of the "Philanthropist." His paper was highly commended for its ability and moderation, and was so well received that he removed it to Cincinnati in April, 1836. All admitted its fairness and ability; even its enemies conceded that its mode of conducting discussions was unexceptionable. Nevertheless, on the 12th of July, at midnight, his office was entered by a band of conspirators, and the press and types were much damaged. Threats were thrown out that, unless the publication of the paper was abandoned, the outrage would be repeated in a more effective manner. The proslavery presses of the city opened in full chorus upon the “Philanthropist," its editor, and friends. Every means of abuse and annoyance was resorted to. Even handbills were posted to the streets, offering rewards for Mr. Birney's arrest and delivery in Kentucky, as a fugitive from justice. But he remained firm and stood undismayed amidst these fearful assaults.

On the 21st of July a meeting of the citizens of Cincinnati was called at the Lower Market House, to see if they “will permit the publication or distribution of abolition papers in this city." This meeting, presided over by the postmaster of the city, also a minister of the gospel, resolved that nothing less than the complete relinquishment of the publication of the paper could prevent a resort to violence. This tumultuous assemblage proclaimed, too, that they would use all lawful means to suppress any publication which advocated the modern doctrine of abolitionism. A committee of thirteen was appointed to wait upon Mr. Birney and his associates, and request them to desist from the publication of their paper; and to warn them, if they did not do so, that the meeting would not be responsible for the consequences. It was stated by the “Cincinnati Gazette," a journal which then honored itself by maintaining the right of free discussion, that eight of the thirteen members of the committee were communicants of Christian churches. They were certainly men of wealth, social position, and large influence. At its head stood Jacob Burnett, an old citizen of the Northwest, a lawyer of eminence, who had been a judge of the Supreme Court of Ohio and a senator in the Congress of the United States.

On the evening of the 28th this committee and the executive committee of the Ohio Antislavery Society, under whose auspices the “Philanthropist” was published, held a conference. The executive committee proposed to discuss the subject in public; but the market-house committee would listen to nothing but the immediate “discontinuance of the ' Philanthropist ' and total silence on the subject of slavery." In case of refusal to comply with their modest request, they predicted “a mob unusual in its numbers, determined in its purpose, and desolating in its ravages." Judge Burnett expressed the opinion that the mob would consist of five thousand persons, and that two thirds of the property-holders of the city would join in it: He thought it would be utterly vain for any man, or set of men, to attempt to restrain it; and he asserted that it would destroy any man who should set himself in opposition to it, - thus revealing both the policy and the power of those riotous demonstrations. The members of this market-house committee were then asked, if the mob could be averted, whether they would be willing that the publications should be continued.

To this pertinent question the chairman and several of its members promptly replied that they would not. The executive committee were then graciously allowed till the noon of the next day to give their final answer whether or not they would discontinue the paper. When that hour arrived, the eight men composing the executive committee of the Ohio Antislavery Society unanimously and firmly declined to comply with the impertinent, insolent, and lawless demand. The market-house committee were hardly prepared for such a reply. Its members found themselves in a predicament they did not anticipate; standing in. the face of law and justice, and also of men who firmly planted themselves on their constitutional and legal rights. They could only turn to the mob, whose representatives they were, and hasten to resign their office, so that its announcement could appear in the morning papers of the next day.

On the evening of that day the rioters assembled, and were regularly organized with a chairman and secretary. They then resolved that the press and type of the “Philanthropist" should be thrown into the streets, and that its editor should be notified to leave the city within twenty-four hours. When darkness had settled upon the city the work of destruction commenced. The office of the obnoxious journal was entered and pillaged, the types scattered, and the press broken and thrown into the Ohio. The mob then rushed to the house of Mr. Birney; but, not finding him, it wreaked its mean vengeance, with cowardly brutality, upon the humble homes of the poor colored people. About midnight, the mayor, who dishonored his name and position by his pusillanimity and imbecility, addressed the mob as “friends," told them they had "done enough for one night," that the Abolitionists must be convinced that they “could not set at naught the public sentiment of Cincinnati," and advised them to go home, as they could not punish the guilty without endangering the innocent. And the mob, thus systematically organized by wealthy and distinguished leaders, hastened to their homes, glorying in their, deed of infamy, to be to them ever afterward a reproach and shame. By this act of lawless violence, however, the ranks of the Abolitionists of Ohio received many accessions and the circulation of the “Philanthropist " was much increased. Its publication was continued, and soon passed under the editorial control of Dr. Gamaliel Bailey, a gentlemen of talent, experience, and character. Although its types and presses were three times broken and scattered, that journal was continued for several years, ever an earnest and effective defender of the rights of the oppressed and the advocate of their deliverance.

As already narrated, the New York City Antislavery Society, organized in the autumn of 1833, was interrupted and driven from its place of meeting; the celebration of the 4th of July, 1834, by the American Antislavery Society, was broken up; the house of Lewis Tappan was sacked; and churches and school-houses, and the homes of colored men, were assaulted and damaged by mob violence. In the city of Philadelphia, also, a terrible riot commenced on the 13th of August, 1834, which continued during three nights. Forty-four houses, inhabited by colored persons, were assaulted, damaged, and many of them destroyed. Many blacks were brutally beaten and seriously injured, one was killed outright, and another was drowned in attempting to swim the Schuylkill to escape his tormentors. Other riotous demonstrations, less serious and fatal in their character, were made in other portions of the country.

These outrages on person and property went on increasing, and the cruel and dastardly assaults upon the Abolitionists were renewed with redoubled fury. Deeds of lawless violence were countenanced and often excited by men of wealth, of high social and political position, and sometimes by members of Christian churches. The public presses were filled with the most scandalous and libelous accusations against leading antislavery men. Their motives, purposes, and acts were grossly misrepresented. Churches and public halls were closed against them. They were everywhere made to feel that they held property and liberty, if not life itself, at the mercy of excited, exasperated, and lawless men. To be an Abolitionist then was to be buffeted, scorned, and outraged. It was, indeed, a reign of terror.

Orange Scott, a clergyman of the Methodist church, an early, consistent, and persistent opponent of slavery, while addressing the citizens of Worcester, Massachusetts, on the 10th of August, was assaulted and his notes seized and torn to pieces by a mob led by a son of Ex-Governor Lincoln. In the same year Rev. George Storrs, another Methodist clergyman, an earnest and effective worker in the cause of emancipation, while delivering a lecture in New Hampshire, was arrested by a deputy sheriff, on the wicked charge of being “a common rioter and brawler." A few months afterward he was arrested at an antislavery meeting, and dragged from his knees while the Rev. Mr. Curtis was at prayer, on a writ of the same character, issued by Moses Norris, afterward a Democratic member of Congress and senator of the United States. This good man, universally known and recognized as such, was tried, convicted, and sentenced by a justice of the peace to the House of Correction for three months. From that unmerited and wicked sentence he appealed to a higher tribunal, and was no more molested.

One hundred and twenty-five of the citizens of Boston petitioned the city authorities for the use of Faneuil Hall for an antislavery meeting. But their prayer was peremptorily denied. Shortly afterward fifteen hundred asked for it, not to speak for liberty, but to apologize for slavery; not to resist the wicked demands of the Slave Power, but to censure and condemn those whose only offence was fidelity to liberty and devotion to the claims of the down-trodden and oppressed.

On the 21st of August, Faneuil Hall was crowded by the excited citizens of Boston. That assemblage was addressed by the aged Harrison Gray Otis, whose presence and voice were always welcome there; and by Peleg Sprague and Richard Fletcher, lawyers of great eminence, in whom the conservative men of those times had unquestioning confidence. These accomplished orators expatiated upon the compromises of the: Constitution and the obligations of citizenship, apologized for  slavery, and so presented and perverted the objects and purposes  of the Abolitionists as to increase the prejudices already existing, and to deepen and intensify passions already aroused against them.

The legitimate effects of the meeting in Faneuil Hall, and of similar meetings in New York, Philadelphia; and other cities, were everywhere visible. Riotous demonstrations and violence increased. Wherever the Abolitionists appeared to· proclaim their doctrines they were· denounced by the press, shunned and censured by the churches, and outraged by the mob.

Several ladies in Boston and its vicinity, of culture and high social position, were early led to take a deep interest in the cause. They formed an antislavery society, and entered upon the work with zeal, resolution, and tireless industry. With different tastes and culture, opinions and beliefs, they found here common ground of action, -- a common bond of union. Of this society Mrs. Maria W. Chapman, a lady of rare executive abilities and accomplishments, its secretary and one of its leading members, says: “Our common cause appears in a different vesture as presented by differing minds. One is striving to unbind the slave's manacles, another to secure to all human souls their inalienable rights; one to secure the temporal well-being, and another the spiritual benefit of the enslaved of our land. Some labor that the benefits which they feel they have derived from their own system of theology may be shared by the bondman; others that the bondman may have light and liberty to form a system for himself. Some that he may be enabled to hallow the Sabbath day by rest and religious observances; some, that he may receive wages for the other six. Some are forcibly urged to the work of emancipation by the sight of scourged and insulted manhood; and others by the spectacle of outraged womanhood and weeping infancy. Some labor to preserve from torture the slave's body, and some for the salvation of his soul. Here are differences; nevertheless our hopes and hearts are one." Deeply grateful that they were among the early called, in those unquiet years, to such a work of self-sacrifice, these gifted and excellent women went forth cheerfully to their self-allotted task, praying " for the sake of the oppressed that God will aid us to banish from our hearts every vestige of selfishness; for in proportion to our disinterestedness will be our moral power for their deliverance." It hardly seems credible, it is certainly not creditable to Boston and its citizens, that a company of its most refined and cultivated ladies, animated by such a spirit and laboring for such purposes could not meet in that city in safety, and that the city government could not afford them protection; and yet such is the historical fact.

It was announced that the Boston Female Antislavery Society would hold a public meeting at their hall in Washington Street, on the 21st of October, 1835. On the morning of that day inflammatory handbills were circulated and threats were freely uttered. Appeals were made to the city authorities for protection. Instead of that these women were reminded by the marshal that they gave the city officials a great deal of trouble. It had been published and posted through the city that " the infamous foreign scoundrel, Thompson," would speak at the meeting, that it would be a fair opportunity for the friends of the Union to "snake him out,'' and one hundred dollars were offered w the individual who would first lay hands on him " so that he could be brought to the tar-kettle." In the autumn of the preceding year, George Thompson, one of the most gifted and eloquent men of his age, came to the United States, at the request of Mr. Garrison and other leading Abolitionists in England and America. He had so grandly distinguished himself by his brilliant and successful advocacy of West India emancipation, that when that great triumph had been won, in 1833, Lord Brougham said: "I rise to take the crown of this most glorious victory from every other head, and place it upon George Thompson. He has done more than any other man to achieve it."

He was an ardent admirer of republican institutions and a sincere friend of the United States, and ever continued his friendship, in spite of the rude buffetings he received, and the unmeasured abuse which had been heaped upon him by proslavery presses, politicians, and people. His coming was welcomed by the Abolitionists; and for more than a year, in New England, the central States, and Ohio, he addressed public meetings in speeches of surpassing eloquence and power. The country was in a heated ferment, and his presence and speeches intensified the excitement and added to the bitterness which everywhere manifested itself. The press, with some honorable exceptions, denounced him as a foreign intruder, intermeddler, British emissary, and “paid agent" of the enemies of republican institutions. He was repeatedly hooted at, insulted, and mobbed; but he never uttered an unfriendly word · toward the country, and he struggled on for the removal of an evil which he pronounced “the nation's disgrace," and what would prove its ruin, if continued. A few days before this meeting he had been mobbed in Plymouth County; and so great was the excitement against him, he was then secreted by his friends in Boston. Baffling his frenzied enemies, he shortly after left the country, and returned to his native land. But when slavery, which, more than a quarter of a century before, he sought so earnestly to destroy, plunged the nation into civil war, though sorely enfeebled by his herculean labors for humanity, he at once and boldly espoused the cause of United America. When and where there were few voices raised in its behalf, his rang out clear and strong for the imperiled land. Welcomed again to the country during its fearful conflict, it was his privilege to see the flag restored over the dismantled walls of Sumter, to look into the glad faces of emancipated thousands, and thrill their souls, as his own must have been thrilled by the scenes before him, with his words of counsel and of cheer.

The belief that he was to be at that meeting increased and intensified the excitement. To “snake out " of a company of Boston ladies that brilliant and eloquent Englishman was unquestionably one of the leading motives which inspired, that mob of self-styled "gentlemen, of property and standing."'

At the hour of meeting, about thirty members of the society assembled in their room. Many others, who had striven to enter the hall, were turned back by the rioters. The president of, the society, Miss Mary Parker, read a portion of the Bible, and then, in tones heard above the yellings of the mob, offered up a fervent prayer to God for his blessing upon the cause of the bondman, his forgiveness of his and their enemies, and his succor and protection in that hour of peril. While the secretary was reading the annual report, amid the noisy demonstrations of the mob, Mayor Lyman entered the room. He requested and entreated the ladies to dissolve their meeting, as he could not otherwise preserve the peace. Surrounded by masses of excited and clamorous men, these ladies demanded of the mayor protection and the dispersion of the mob. But, though confessing it to be his duty to afford them protection, I' he admitted that he could not do so. The meeting then adjourned, and the rioters rushed into the room, fiercely demanding Mr. Garrison.

At the earnest solicitation of the mayor, in order that he might truthfully assure the mob that he was not in the building, Mr. Garrison attempted to retire quietly to his residence by a back passage. But he was quickly discovered, seized, a rope put round him, his hat knocked from his head and cut in pieces, and his clothes torn from his body. Dragged through Wilson's Lane into State Street, he was rescued by the mayor, his posse, and several respectable citizens, and taken into the mayor's room in the old State House. From this place he was conveyed to Leverett Street Jail, to save him from the fury of the mob.

Upon the walls of that prison he inscribed these words; " William Lloyd Garrison was put into this cell on Monday afternoon, October 21st, 1835, to save him from the violence of a respectable and influential mob, who sought to destroy him for preaching the abominable and dangerous doctrine that all men are created equal, and that all oppression is odious in the sight of God." He was discharged the next day "as a blameless citizen,'' and left the city for a few days at the earnest request of the authorities.

Thus a mob of thousands, in the city of Boston, assaulted a meeting of Boston ladies, engaged in a work of self-denying beneficence, tore down and dashed in pieces their office-sign, roughly broke into their hall, dispersed their meeting, laid violent hands upon an unoffending citizen, dragged him like a culprit through the streets, and threatened him with further indignities and injuries, from which he was only saved by the friendly shelter of a prison. And this mob came not from the purlieus of Fort Hill and Ann Street, but from the counting rooms of State Street and the parlors of Beacon Street. And all these discreditable acts were done, in the language of one of their leading organs, “to assure our brethren of the South that we cherish rational and correct notions on the subject of slavery."

On the evening of that day Francis Jackson, a brother and business partner of William Jackson, then in Congress, and a gentleman of great firmness of purpose, addressed a letter to the ladies of the Boston Female Antislavery Society, cordially offering to them the use of his dwelling-house in Hollis Street for their meetings. This generous offer was gratefully accepted, and on the 19th of November about one hundred and thirty ladies and four gentlemen assembled at Mr. Jackson's house. At that meeting Harriet Martineau, the eminent English authoress, then on a visit to this country, was present. After the transaction of business, she, at the request of Ellis Gray Loring, and much to the gratification of the meeting, gave them these words of hearty indorsement: “I had supposed that my presence here would be understood as showing my sympathy with you. But, as I am requested to speak, I will say what I have said through the whole South, in every family where I have been, that I consider slavery inconsistent with the law of God and incompatible with the course of his providence. I should certainly say no less at the North than at the South concerning this utter abomination; and I now declare that in your principles I fully agree." This eminent woman, distinguished alike for her philanthropic and literary works, was soon given to understand that, in associating with the proscribed Abolitionists, and in avowing her assent to their doctrines, she had given offence to the fashionable and leading circles of American society. These facts and incidents convey their own moral, and indicate without commentary the barbarism of slavery and the rigorous rule of the Slave Power.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 274-287.

Chapter: “Riotous Demonstrations,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

THERE may have been nothing striking or peculiar in the fact that similar demonstrations of this violence were exhibited and were encountered by the active friends of freedom throughout the North. Like an epidemic, as perhaps it was, -there being moral epidemics, --the spirit of riot seemed to rule the hour; or, more probable, the disease being generally diffused, consequently, when the proper remedy was exhibited, the disturbance became as general as the malady. Hence, on the same 21st of October on which occurred the disgraceful scenes in Boston, similar demonstrations were made in Central New York and in the capital of Vermont.

On that day there assembled in the city of Utica a large and imposing convention of six hundred delegates for the purpose of forming a State antislavery society. The proposition for it came from Alvan Stewart, a resident of that city and president of a local association there. The court-house had been engaged for the purpose. When it became known that the convention was to he holden in the court-house, by the consent of the city council, certain persons, styled respectable and prominent gentlemen, called a public meeting, and adopted measures for the occupation of the same room on the day the convention was to meet. Samuel Beardsley, a lawyer of that city, a Democratic member of Congress, declared in the most emphatic manner that "it would be better to have Utica razed to its foundations, to have it destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah, than to have the convention meet here."

This absurd declaration so like the man who, in the debate on the United States Bank, won the famous soubriquet of “Perish credit, perish commerce” Beardsley -- received the indorsement of the meeting; and it forthwith resolved to prevent if possible, the assembling of the convention. That most eminent citizen of the place, Joshua A. Spencer, a lawyer of commanding ability, though not an Abolitionist, strenuously opposed the measure, and vindicated the right of free discussion. When the delegates assembled, they found the courthouse occupied by a crowd of excited and maddened citizens. Repairing to the Second Presbyterian church, they organized the convention by the election of Judge Brewster of Genesee County for president, and Rev. Mr. Wetmore of Utica, who had been a soldier of the Revolution, as secretary. Alvan Stewart reported the draft of a constitution, which was adopted, and the State Antislavery Society was formed, while the crowd without was clamoring for admission. Lewis. Tappan then commenced reading the Declaration of Sentiments. While thus engaged, the mob broke into the church and endeavored to prevent the reading; but with his usual persistency he continued until it was finished when the paper was adopted by a rising vote

A committee of twenty-five from the meeting at the court house then came forward, headed by Judge Chester Hayden, and presented a series of condemnatory resolutions. When the resolutions had been read, the rioters, drunk with passion and poor liquor, belched forth their maledictions, The chairman of the committee, addressing the rioters as his friends, expressed the hope that they would permit the convention to answer the accusations ma de against Mr. Beardsley, too, would have his friends exercise patience and long-suffering, even toward such an assembly as this. He wished to know what apology the convention could make. '' They profess,'' he said, "to come here on an errand of religion, while under disguise they are hypocritically plotting the dissolution of the Union. They have been warned beforehand, have been treated with unexampled patience; and, if they now refuse to yield to our demands, and any unpleasant circumstance should follow, we shall not be responsible."

His inflammatory and seditious harangue, whether so designed or not, had the effect to further exasperate the rioters. Curses, imprecations and blasphemies filled the air, and threats of violence were freely made and reiterated. The convention hurriedly adjourned, and members of the committee demanded of the venerable secretary the record of its proceedings. Refusing to yield the record, he was seized by the collar and threatened with violence. “A member of the committee of, twenty-five," says Samuel J. May, “a man holding an important public office, raised his cane over the head of that venerable minister of the gospel, and cried out; ' Give the papers up, or I will strike you on the head.' At this, another of the, committee, a young man, his son, sprang forward and begged him: ' Do, father, give them up, and save your life. Give them to me, and I will pledge myself to give them to you again.'" With this Mr. Wetmore complied, and he was let off without further harm.

The mob triumphed; but the society was formed. Amid those scenes of' lawlessness, brutality, and violence the constitution and Declaration of Sentiments were adopted, though no officers were elected, nor could any more business be transacted. In the public houses, in the streets, wherever they were seen, the members of the convention were insulted. It had been announced in advance that Lewis Tappan would be mobbed if he attended the convention. To a man like Lewis Tappan such a menace acted rather as a provocation than a dissuasive; and, though it had been his purpose not to attend, this threat made him feel that it was his duty to be there. His presence, naturally enough, and that of a few other well-known Abolitionists, exasperated the rioters and excited them to more extreme violence.

Gerrit Smith was present, though not a delegate; nor did he intend to take any part in its proceedings. His large­ hearted benevolence and antecedents, however, prevented indifference and lack of interest in such a meeting, called for such a purpose. His father had been a gentleman of vast wealth, of great landed possessions, and a slaveholder. Though he saw slavery in its mildest forms, he early realized that it was unjust, and he had hailed the day when it was utterly extinguished in his native State. He had welcomed the Colonization Society, largely contributed to its funds, and, though his views had been modified by the discussions which had taken place, had, up to that time, continued to entertain some degree of confidence in it. Becoming convinced, however, that its tendency was proslavery rather than antislavery, he paid into its treasury the balance of a subscription amounting to three thousand dollars, and abandoned it forever. He came to the Utica convention to see for himself. The scenes he there witnessed aroused and alarmed him. He could hesitate no longer. He felt that the time for him to act had come. He invited the members of the convention to meet in his township of Peterboro. A portion accepted his invitation, and on their arrival there were cordially received by Mr. Smith and his neighbors. About three hundred members of the society were present, officers were elected, and its organization completed.

At that meeting Mr. Smith introduced a resolution declaring that the right of free discussion, given by God, and asserted and guarded by the laws of the country, was one so vital to the freedom, dignity, and usefulness of man that it could not be surrendered without consenting to exchange liberty for slavery, and dignity and usefulness for debasement and worthlessness. He supported his resolution in a speech of rare and convincing force. Placing free discussion on the basis of a Divine right, he wanted men to defend it on the ground that God gave it. "It is not to be disguised," he said,” that war has broken out between the South and the North, not early to be terminated. Political and commercial men, for their own purposes, are industriously striving to restore peace; but the peace they accomplish will be superficial and hollow. True and permanent peace can only be restored by removing the cause of the war, --that is, slavery. It cannot ever be established on any other terms. The sword, now drawn, will not be sheathed until the deep and damning stain is washed out from our nation. It is idle, criminal, to speak of peace on any other terms." He declared that he did not wish to muster on their side, in the great battle between liberty and slavery, those who were willing to leave their countrymen to the tender mercies of slavery forever. But they wanted that class, be it ever so small, who “will stand on the rock of Christian principle.'' This language was discriminating and prophetic. Seldom, during the thirty years' struggle then commencing, was it ever more correctly characterized. It placed the cause of emancipation on the high plane of conscience and religious obligation, and foreshadowed a peaceful solution of the great problem before them which only the fewness and Luke warmness of its friends and the madness of its foes prevented.

In October of the same year, Samuel J. May gave several lectures in Vermont, where he was five times mobbed. He was invited to address the Vermont Antislavery Society at Montpelier, during the session of the legislature. The hall of the House of Representatives was obtained for his first meeting, which was held on the evening of the 20th of October. The hall was filled, many members of the legislature being present. Eggs and stones were thrown through the windows, Mr. May only pausing to say, as they passed by: “Ah, we are contending with greater evils than these!” Chauncey L. Knapp, then a publisher of the "State Journal," afterward a member of Congress from Massachusetts, here arose and appealed to the sheriff of the county, who was present, to arrest those outside who were disturbing the meeting. But that functionary shrank from the performance of his duty.

At the close of the meeting Mr. May was invited to address the people in the largest church in the village, and accepted the invitation. The next day placards were posted through the town warning the people against attending the meeting, as it would be broken up by violence. In the afternoon of that day, while the gentlemen of Boston were assaulting the Female Antislavery Society in that "city and, the mob in Utica was dispersing the convention there, the president of the bank, the postmaster, and five other leading citizens of the capital of Vermont addressed a letter to Mr. May, requesting him to leave the town'" without any further attempt to hold forth the absurd doctrines of antislavery, and save them the trouble of using any other measures to that effect." Though a gentleman of marked gentleness 'of manner and speech, he was not the man to be deterred from the performance of a high ·duty by such a request, nor ·by any menace, however violent.

At the hour appointed, a prayer having been offered by Rev. Mr. Hurlburt, Mr. May rose to address the meeting, which thronged the ·house. Scarcely had he uttered a sentence. when the ringleader of the mob, Mr. Hubbard, president of .the bank, rese in the midst of a gang of rowdies, and peremptorily demanded that he should refrain from speaking. To this demand he replied: “Is this the respect paid to the liberty of speech by the free people of Vermont? Let any one of your number step forward and give reasons why his fellow-citizens, who wish, should not be permitted to hear the lecture I have been invited here to deliver. If I cannot show these reasons to be fallacious, I will yield to your demand. But, for the sake of our essential rights, I shall proceed, if I can."

Commencing, his lecture anew, he was again assailed by boisterous outcries from Hubbard and his associates. Mr. Knapp remonstrated against such proceedings, and implored the people to desist from a proceeding so disgraceful. But his words were unheeded by the mob, which, with noisy threats, rushed toward the pulpit. At that moment Colonel Miller, a brave coadjutor of Dr. Samuel G. Howe in the Greek Revolution, a man of well-known courage and great physical power, stepped forward in front of the advancing rioters, and said to Mr. Hubbard, their leader, ''If you do not stop this outrage now, I 'll knock you down." The advancing mob was checked; but the people were alarmed and hurried from the house, the meeting was broken up, and the purposes of the ruffians were accomplished.

An account of these disgraceful proceedings was published by Mr. Knapp, and contributed not a little to the general awakening of the people of the State. This exposure of the rioters and of the disgraceful conduct of their ringleaders, headed by a bank president, brought down upon him threats of violence; but they ended in nothing more serious than the removal of his office-sign, which was flung into the river.

These high-handed outrages, perpetrated on the same day in Boston, Montpelier, and Utica, were noised abroad; and though deprecated and condemned by the faithful few were generally applauded, alike at the North and South, by those who considered Abolitionists out of the pale of legal protection, to be treated as the enemies of their country and race.·

The riotous demonstrations which had marked the year 1834 seemed to culminate in the year 1835, in which a reign of terror prevailed throughout the free States. Churches and public halls were assaulted, life and limb were endangered, antislavery speakers were rudely and roughly handled, and often placed in circumstances of imminent peril. Rev. Jonathan Blanchard, afterward president of Wheaton College, spent a, portion of that year in delivering lectures in Pennsylvania. Within the brief space of one month, twenty-five of thirty meetings were interrupted, and many of them broken up.

Henry B. Stanton, on leaving Lane Seminary, was at once employed as lecturer and agent of the American Antislavery Society. Being earnest, enthusiastic, and eloquent, he took his place at once among the most prominent and popular of the antislavery orators of that day. Between that time and the year 1840, when he was sent to England to attend the World's Convention, he delivered in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania more than one thousand addresses and lectures, Though he was resolute, adroit, and magnetic, and, of course, had uncommon power over popular assemblies, more than one hundred and fifty of those meetings were interrupted and partially or completely broken up by violence.

Theodore D. Weld, leaving Lane Seminary at the same time, engaged for two or three years in the same work, --mainly in the. Central States and the West. He, too, possessed in an eminent degree those rare gifts of oratory whose mission it generally is to soothe and subdue as well as to thrill and convince. And yet the demoniac rage of those proslavery times was too great for even his persuasive powers; and he, too, passed through a continual series of like outrages, many of which, especially at the West, were of a most brutal and violent character. And these are but illustrations of those dark and troublous times in which the early pioneers of immediate emancipation were called to act, and in which they revealed the strength of their principles, the firmness of their purposes, and the heroism of their characters.

Among the deeds of lawlessness which characterized those days, the burning of Pennsylvania Hall stands out in disgraceful pre-eminence, in which the violence of the mob was only equaled by the pusillanimity of the city government. Excluded from churches and halls, the Abolitionists and other friends of free discussion in Philadelphia erected in that city, at the cost of about forty thousand dollars, Pennsylvania Hall. It was dedicated on the 14th of May, 1838, and David Paul Brown was selected as the orator of the occasion. LIBERTY was the theme of his eloquent oration. A poetical address, from the pen of John G. Whittier, was read by Charles C. Burleigh. Letters were received and read from the most eminent lawyers of the State.

Walter Forward, afterward Secretary of the Treasury, in response to the invitation to be present, wrote that the right to speak, to write, and to petition governments must not be abridged, questioned, or surrendered. “They are to be," he said,” fearlessly asserted at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances." Thomas Morris, then senator from Ohio, sent a long, earnest, and eloquent letter, in which the right of "free discussion -discussion without fear of the pistol of the duelist, the knife of the assassin, the fagot of the incendiary, or the still more dangerous fury of the unbridled mob " -- was declared to be a right the people must and would have. The Rev. Dr. S. S. Beman of the State of New York, who, twelve years later, like too many of the early advocates of freedom that faltered and yielded to the fearful pressure, gave in his adhesion to the Fugitive Slave Act, could not be present; but he sent an expression of his abhorrence of chains and stripes, and the joy he felt that there was a spirit in existence and awake in Philadelphia which" will not bow to the altar of slavery, nor tamely submit to the dictation of those who declare in high places that it is a wise and holy institution, and that it shall be perpetual.''

During three days meetings were held and speeches were made to crowded assemblies for temperance, for the Indian, and for the slave. Alvan Stewart spoke of the hall they were then consecrating to free discussion, and which the mob was so soon to give to the flames, as " Pity's home,'' the spot to which "the pilgrim of humanity " would come, the ''resting place of the fugitive," " the slave's audience-chamber,'' around which " the sympathies of noble hearts and the prayers of the poor would gather." Charles C. Burleigh, Alanson St. Clair, Arnold Buffum, and others, joined in dedicating that hall to the rights and interests of humanity.

At that time a national convention of antislavery women was sitting in the same city, and it was announced that some of its members would address the audience on the evening of the third day. The room was thronged, and thousands went away, unable to find entrance. A vast crowd gathered outside of the building, volleys of stones were hurled against the windows, and the audience was interrupted with yells and other riotous demonstrations of a determination to break up the meeting. Many, too, within the hall, joined in this attempt.

 Mr. Garrison, referring to the sneers of the slaveholders and their allies against the labors of the women, maintained that every good cause ultimately triumphed which received their support; and he averred that West India emancipation was “mainly owing, under God, to the quenchless devotion, untiring zeal, and indomitable perseverance of the women of England." In the presence of the disorderly spirits within and without the building, who sought to silence the voice of free discussion, he proclaimed that there should be no silence until the howlings of the bereaved slave-mother were turned into shouts of joy.

In the midst of these shoutings and the tumult of the rioters, Mrs. Maria W. Chapman of Boston arose, and calmly expressed her earnest desire that " the spirit of Divine truth might so far penetrate the hearts of all present that they would be prepared to listen to the wail now coming up to them from the burning fields of the South." Miss Angelina Grimke then addressed the stormy assemblage, pleading with earnest, tender, and persuasive eloquence the cause of the slave. She said she was brought up under the wing of slavery, had seen its horrors and witnessed its demoralizing influences. She had never seen “a happy slave," though she had seen him” dance in his chains." Declaring that men who held the rod over the slave ruled in the councils of the nation, she, as a Southern woman, attached to the land of her birth, appealed to the women of Philadelphia to imitate the zeal and love, faith and works, of their English sisters for the deliverance of the oppressed.

This eloquent Southern woman, self-exiled from her native State because of her abhorrence of slavery, was followed by Miss Abby Kelley of Massachusetts. Miss Kelley was a young lady of superior abilities, personal attractions, and accomplishments. Early accepting the doctrine of immediate emancipation, she zealously espoused the cause of freedom and consecrated to its advocacy time, talent, property, and health. For more than a generation she labored with tireless energy in that self-denying service. If her stern and unsparing denunciations against slaveholders and their allies were sometimes applied, with too little discrimination, to those who did not fully accept her views and adopt her modes of action in their opposition to slavery and the Slave Power, none who knew her failed to recognize the sincerity of her convictions and the integrity of her purpose.

Rising on that occasion to address, as she said, for the first time, a promiscuous assembly, she declared that it was not " the maddening rush of those voices," nor " the crashing of those windows" that called her before them; but it was " the still, small voice within " that bade her open her mouth for the dumb, and plead the cause of God's perishing poor.

Early on the morning of the 17th the mob began again to assemble about the hall. The board of managers called upon the police and the mayor for protection; but the day passed without any efficient measures by these officials for the dispersion of the rioters and the promotion of order. But about sunset the mayor informed the board that he would disperse the mob if the building was placed in his hands. The keys were accordingly given to him: and he addressed the riotous assemblage, assuring them that there would be no meeting that evening, as the building had been given up to the authorities for protection. He reminded the excited and lawless thousands before him that he looked on them as his police; for, he said, "we never call out the military here." Bidding the crowd good night, he retired to his office.

The mob, separating for a short time, immediately re-assembled before the hall, and commenced their assaults upon its doors and windows. Summoning his force of police and fire companies, the mayor found himself utterly powerless for the protection of the hall; and that beautiful building, consecrated to freedom and to free discussion, was soon enveloped in flames. It is estimated that fifteen thousand persons looked on that work of destruction, unable, if willing, to stay its progress. Having accomplished their object, the rioters, with characteristic cowardice, meanness, and brutality, assailed, during the next two days, the negroes of the city. They attacked and set fire to "the shelter for colored orphans," a charitable institution, having no connection with the Abolitionists. Bethel Church was attacked and damaged; and the private dwellings of colored persons were surrounded, and their inmates threatened with violence. The conduct of the mayor and the city authorities throughout this affair was utterly inefficient, and in the highest degree discreditable. Liberty, justice, and law were sacrificed by them on the altar of prejudice against race and color.

The police committee afterward sought to screen themselves from deserved reproach, in an official report, by apologizing for the atrocities of the mob and criminating the Abolitionists as the really guilty parties. The excitement, they contended, was occasioned by the determination of the owners of the building to persevere in openly promulgating “in it “doctrines repulsive to the moral sense of a large majority of our community."

That impotent report, with its false assumptions, reckless assertions, and evasive statements, only demonstrated the feebleness and imbecility of the civil authority and police force of Philadelphia, and was but a poor apology for manifest neglect of public duty. The actors themselves in those scenes of arson and brutality were generally actuated by low, vulgar, and malicious hatred of the African race; while too many of the thousands who witnessed those lawless deeds, stood by inactive, and saw the incendiary torch applied to that magnificent hall, erected and consecrated to freedom of speech, were impelled by the unmanly desire to propitiate Southern favor, the sordid greed of Southern gain, and the ignoble fear of Southern offence.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 288-298.

Chapter: “Mobs. Antislavery Activities.  Women's Fairs,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

The mob spirit seemed to culminate in the murder of Lovejoy and in the burning of Pennsylvania Hall. Subsiding for a time, it burst forth afresh in 1841. In September of that year a terrible riot broke out in Cincinnati against Abolitionists and the colored people. For two days the mob set all law at defiance, and held undisputed sway over the city. Citizens from Kentucky largely participated in the outrage, declaring that they had been sent for, and that there were hundreds who were ready to come and rid the city of negroes and Abolitionists. Bands of armed men patrolled its streets searching for negroes, sending the men to prison under the pretense of protection, leaving the women and children defenceless, to be subsequently outraged and treated with the greatest indignity. Slaveholders hunted among them for runaway slaves, and lawless violence ran riot. The office of the "Philanthropist” was attacked, and its press was destroyed. A colored meeting-house and several dwellings were demolished, the city authorities doing little to prevent, or even restrain, the outrageous proceedings. But, more significant of the spirit that ruled the hour, and indicating pretty clearly where the responsibility for the riot rested, a public meeting was held, the mayor presiding, at which resolutions were adopted, that every negro escaping from his master should be given up; that the negroes should be disarmed; and that the law of 1807, requiring free negroes to give bonds, should be enforced. The meeting also renounced the Abolitionists, and assured their "Southern brethren” that these resolutions were adopted in good faith, and that they would be executed.

The immediate cause of the riot, it was stated by the " Philanthropist,” was the presence of men from Kentucky, who precipitated these scenes of violence upon the city and participated largely in them. But subsequent revelations disclosed the fact that they were greatly encouraged, if not invited, by some of the business men, who had been threatened with loss of trade if the nuisance of free negroes and Abolitionists was not abated, and who took this method of assuring their Southern brethren of their soundness; so that there was far too much of truth in the humiliating confession, which was then made, that Cincinnati was but “a conquered province of Kentucky." A few antislavery men advised Dr. Bailey to suspend its publication. To such advice he nobly replied: No, friends, the ' Philanthropist ' must be published. The war has become now openly a war against free discussion and shall we give back? We are not ambitious to be a martyr, life is precious; but we are willing, Heaven helping us, to suffer all things rather than turn traitor to a cause we have long advocated, a cause identified with the highest interests of man, a cause which God approves, and which he will conduct to a glorious issue, whatever the fate of its advocates." This bold and manly stand taken by Dr. Bailey extorted the admiration and excited the sympathy of those who differed widely from him in their views. Mr. Garrison sent him a hundred dollars to aid him in re-establishing his press, and wrote him a letter urging him not to yield to the violence of his enemies or the timid counsels of his friends.

On the 1st of August, 1842, the colored people of Philadelphia attempted a celebration in commemoration of West India emancipation. Their procession was assailed by a mob made up largely of Irish laborers. Deeds of violence and bloodshed were enacted. A public hall and a church were burned, private houses were demolished, and many families were reduced to abject penury. While the buildings were in flames the fire companies refused to make the necessary effort for their extinguishment; and for three days the mob received but little check from the city authorities, who, as on a previous occasion, either from timidity or base connivance, shrank from a proper performance of their duties. Adding insult to injury, they proclaimed the colored people and their friends responsible for the very outrages of which they were but the victims. A decision of the Court of Sessions gave color to the gravest suspicions concerning the motives of this conduct. .A public hall, which had been erected by the colored people for temperance and religious purposes solely, was ordered to be demolished on a petition representing that there was well-grounded apprehension that it would be burned by the mob, and that it was therefore a nuisance. So overawed by, if not in sympathy with, these outrages, committed at the bidding of the Slave Power, were the civic authorities of one of the leading cities of the Union.

Nor was this spirit of lawless violence confined to Pennsylvania. Similar demonstrations occurred elsewhere. Within a few days of these occurrences, antislavery meetings were broken up in New Bedford and Nantucket in Massachusetts. Early in September, Stephen S. Foster was mobbed at an antislavery meeting in Portland, and was with great difficulty rescued from the hands of the rioters. In other places there were similar outbreaks; meetings were broken up; halls injured, persons wounded, and the spirit of riot and misrule too generally prevailed. 

While the North was thus disturbed and disgraced by these riotous assemblages of Southern sympathizers, the peace of the South was seldom broken by such demonstrations. For the same Power that held in bonds the body of the black man enthralled the spirit of the white man. Few were bold enough there to express words of sympathy for the slave, or to question the authority of the master. To be suspected even of pity for the one, or lack of fealty to the other, was to be in danger. An enforced and submissive silence there reigned, seldom broken by pulpit or press, by public denunciation, or even by private expostulation. But if perchance heart or conscience did impel utterances, and the feelings of humanity did gain the mastery, then the swift hand of violence was sure to fall.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 556-559.


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Chapter: “Meeting of XXXVIIIth Congress. — War Legislation,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1878.

The XXXVIIIth Congress assembled for its first session on the 7tli of December, 1863. The war still raged, making its fearful drafts upon the manhood and resources of the loyal States, and putting to the severest test their patriotism and courage, their persistence and their right to live. The troops at the front had lost the rawness of fresh recruits and were becoming veterans. Instead of what had been called, too truthfully if somewhat ungraciously, considering the noble impulse that led them thither, the "mob," that fled panic stricken from the disasters of Bull Run, they had become, through the discipline and drill of the camp, and the hardships and hazards of the march and the battle-field, compacted into an immense and well-appointed army, of which the people at home were proud, in which they had confidence, and for which they were both willing and anxious to make the most thoughtful and generous provisions. And well they might, for that army was a part of themselves, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, representatives of their families, and linked to them by the tenderest ties of affection, as well as by the strong ties of a common patriotism.

While the loyal majorities of those States were making it more and more evident that they were accepting the situation, they were also more fully comprehending what that situation implied and required. While their purpose to fight the war to the bitter end became more inflexible and heroic, they had gained a clearer insight into the grim meaning of that purpose. The history of the twelvemonth preceding had done much to produce that combined result. The lights and shadows, the alternations of hope and fear, of courage and dismay, during those pregnant months could hardly fail of this. While the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and the splendid victory at Gettysburg, greatly inspired their confidence and quickened their hopes, the bloody repulses at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville chastened expectation and taught them to fear at least that the path to final success might yet be a long and bloody one.

And such fears could not but be strengthened by the un welcome but manifest fact that there was an increasing number at the North who, if not traitors, sympathized too much with treason; who, if they did not desire disunion, did not lend that aid to the efforts for its defeat which were demanded. Peace at any price became a common cry, mingled with discordant notes, at least to patriotic ears, and with harsh censures of the President and his policy. "I am ready to compromise at any time," said Mr. Hendricks of Indiana at a mass meeting about this time. "I am ready to say to the people of the South, ' Come in again and we will secure to you your constitutional rights, and, if you desire them, additional guaranties.' If there is any man who desires to continue fighting and spending the people's money and lives, I do not sympathize with him." Though there were War Democrats, as they were termed, and many who had hitherto acted with the Democratic party were serving the nation with signal fidelity and zeal in Congress and in the army, the influence of that organization, through its presses, leaders, and conventions, was hostile rather than friendly to the Union cause. Indeed, so free and fierce were their denunciations of Mr. Lincoln and his policy, that few were surprised in the following year at the pronunciamento of its presidential convention, that the war had proved a "failure," with the "demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities." Illustrations only too numerous abound. Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio had made himself so obnoxious by his treasonable utterances that he was convicted by court-martial and sentenced to close confinement in Fort Warren until the close of the war; a sentence, however, remitted or modified by President Lincoln into a direction that he be sent within the Rebel lines. The Ohio State Democratic convention the next month not only condemned by resolution and speech this action of the Federal government, but nominated, by acclamation, the distinguished convict as their gubernatorial candidate.

In those dark days — perhaps the darkest of the war— immediately preceding the battle of Gettysburg, were these treasonable demonstrations of the party most marked and pronounced, if not avowedly in favor of the Rebels, against any effective policy of suppressing the Rebellion. In the month of June Lee had crossed into Maryland in pursuance of his long meditated and threatened purpose of transferring the war to Northern soil. On the 28th General Meade, on assuming command of the army of the Potomac, issued a proclamation in which he assured it that " the country looks to this army to relieve it from the devastation and disgrace of a hostile invasion." And yet in that hour of extremest peril and of national depression — when every well-informed and thoughtful Northern man opened his morning paper with trembling hands lest he should read of the realization of these fears, and of the march of Lee's victorious legions across the green fields of Pennsylvania or through the streets of Philadelphia — ex-President Pierce was delivering a Fourth of July address in the capital of New Hampshire, which, if not treasonable, could not have failed to lend aid and comfort to the enemy. After saying that "the cause of our calamities is the vicious intermeddling of too many of the citizens of the Northern States with the constitutional rights of the Southern States " ; after describing with all the force of his most impassioned rhetoric the war "in several of the States of the Union," — "war on a scale of a million of men in arms, war horrid as that of barbaric ages "; after reminding his hearers that "even here, in the loyal States, the mailed hand of military usurpation strikes down the liberties of the people, and its foot tramples on the desecrated Constitution," he avowed his belief that all these sorrows brought with them no " compensation whether of national pride or of victorious arms." Federal victories were of no account because they were only the victories of " men from the land of Warren, Stark, and Stockton baring their breasts to the steel of the men from the land of Washington, Marion, and Sumter"; because, "if this war is to continue to be waged, one or the other must go to the wall, — must be consigned to humiliating subjugation." He spoke of this "fearful, fruitless, and fatal civil war, .... fruitless, for it is clear that, prosecuted upon the basis of the proclamations of September 22 and September 24, 1862, — prosecuted, as I must understand those proclamations, to say nothing of the kindred brood which has followed, upon the theory of emancipation, devastation, subjugation, — it cannot fail in everything except the harvest of woe which it is ripening for what was once the peerless Republic."

On the same day Governor Seymour addressed the citizens of New York in the Academy of Music. He, too, depicted the horrors of the war in progress, and enlarged upon the national calamities and perils that were afflicting and impending over them. If his rhetoric was more subdued, his purpose was equally plain, and that was to condemn Republicans for bringing on the war, and for the manner in which they were prosecuting it, and to assure his hearers that there could be no peace until that policy was abandoned. He, too, complained of a violated Constitution, and of the infringement of personal rights they were subjected to. " We stand to-day," he said, " amid new-made graves, in a land filled with mourning; upon a soil saturated with the blood of the fiercest conflict of which history gives us an account. We can, if we will, avert all these calamities and evoke a blessing…. If you would save your country and your liberties, begin right; begin at the hearthstones which are ever meant to be the foundations of American institutions; begin in your family circle; declare that your privileges shall be held sacred; and, having once proclaimed your own rights, take care that you do not invade those of your neighbor." Such was the Democratic diagnosis of the disease, and such was its prescription for a cure; such was its bitter arraignment of the Republicans and their policy, and such the policy its leaders would inaugurate as their own. As both cause and effect of this growing sentiment of disloyalty and of the increasing numbers of those who were more or less open and defiant in their opposition to the government, was the oft-repeated charge that the conflict had been diverted from its original and legitimate purpose, a war for the Union, into a war against slavery. The New York "Journal of Commerce," in an article which appeared near the time of the "draft riots " of that city, after intimating that the war had been thus diverted, added: " Some men may say, ' Now that the war has commenced, it must not be stopped till slaveholding is abolished.' Such men are neither more nor less than murderers. The name seems severe; it is, nevertheless, correct." Saying it would have been criminal to commence a war for any such purpose, it asked: "How can it be any less criminal to prolong a war, commenced for the assertion of governmental power, into a war for the suppression of slavery, which, it is agreed, would have been unjustifiable and sinful if begun for that purpose? " And such was the tone of the Democratic press generally, insidiously insinuating and ascribing sentiments and purposes to the administration which the President at least had not only disclaimed, but which it was known he did not entertain. Ignoring the fact entirely that Mr. Lincoln was openly committed to the policy of gradual and compensated emancipation, coupled with colonization, and that lie never adopted that of the Proclamation until forced to it by Northern entreaties, clamors even, and his own conviction that it had become a military necessity, they could not have censured him more severely had he been a pronounced Abolitionist of the most extreme school, who had determined to administer his high office in the interests and at the behests of sentiments and purposes that were merely personal or at best but partisan. It served its purpose, however, — the purpose of the South and its Northern sympathizers, — and that was to weaken the popular sentiment in behalf of the Union cause. This was seen in the votes of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, which occurred in the "earlier half of 1863," of which Mr. Greeley gave it as his opinion that, "though maintaining the Republican ascendency in each," the result "left no room for reasonable doubt that, apart from the soldiers in the field, a majority of the voters in the loyal States were still — as had been indicated by the results of the elections during the later months of 1862 — opposed to a further prosecution of the war, and certainly opposed to its prosecution on the antislavery basis established by the action of Congress and by the President's two proclamations of September 22, 1862, and January 1, 1863." There were, no doubt, those who cast Democratic votes at those elections who were not prepared to yield everything the South claimed, but they desired peace, and desired it so strongly that they were prepared for its purchase at almost "any price."

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 3.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1878, 415-420.



Chapter: “Abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1878.

Among the earlier victories of the Slave Power was the location of the national capital on the banks of the Potomac. Next to the slave-holding triumph in the convention for framing the Constitution, it was probably one of the most important ever achieved, and inured most decisively to' the growing potency of slavery as an elementary influence in the government. A victory, it carried with itself the moral and natural advantages of triumph; by it the government was located in a community averse to freedom, and the public men of the country were surrounded by an atmosphere tainted with the breath of the slave, and by the blinding and perverting influences of slaveholding society : and, more significant and disastrous still, the fact that the District of Columbia was placed under the special jurisdiction of Congress, compromised the government and committed the nation to the existence and maintenance of slavery, giving it a prestige, if not respectability, it never could have gained as a State institution. So sorely was this felt by the friends of freedom, that petitions to Congress and motions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia were for thirty years among the prominent and persistent measures of the antislavery movement. But the tyrannical oligarchy, appreciating the vast value of such a standing testimony by the general government in behalf of slavery, always made it a condition precedent of allegiance to a national party that slavery should not be interfered with in the District. It was " so nominated in the bond "; it was "the pound of flesh" to be insisted on at all hazards. Deaf to all entreaties, impervious to all appeals, with inexorable pertinacity, it used its political power to protect it, and to shield it from every assault.

Among the early fruits of the secession of the propagandists from their seats in Congress were efforts by the friends of freedom in that body to remove this great offence, and wipe away the stain that had so long disgraced the nation. On the 4th of December, 1861, immediately after the announcement of the standing committees, Mr., Wilson introduced into the Senate a resolution, that all laws in force relating to the arrest of fugitives from service, and all laws concerning persons of color within the District, be referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia; and that the committee be instructed to consider the expediency of abolishing slavery in the District, with compensation to loyal holders of slaves. The committee to which this resolution was referred consisted of Grimes, Dixon, Morrill, Wade, and Anthony, Republicans; Kennedy and Powell, Southern Democrats. Of these, Grimes, Morrill, and Wade were pronounced antislavery men; Dixon and Anthony were regarded as conservative Republicans; Kennedy was a representative of the respectable Whigism of a Southern Border State, but was soon borne into the ranks of the Democracy; and Powell, an earnest and able advocate of the slaveholding school, was soon to become identified with the Rebel cause. On the 16th Mr. Wilson introduced a bill for the immediate emancipation of the slaves of the District; for the payment to their loyal owners of an average sum of three hundred dollars; for the appointment of a commission to assess the sum to be paid; and the appropriation of one million of dollars. This bill was reported back on the 13th of February, 1862, with amendments. On the 24th he introduced a bill which, he said, was supplementary to that already before the Senate, to repeal the act extending the laws of Maryland over the District, and to annul all those statutes which gave the cities of Washington and Georgetown authority to pass ordinances discriminating against persons on account of color. On the 12th of March it came up for debate in committee of the whole.

The debate on these resolutions, the bill, and other cognate measures exhibit elements of interest hardly found in any other session of the American Congress on record. It was emphatically a new departure. New facts, new arguments, new modes of speech, and, above all, a manifest emancipation of the Northern mind and tongue from the painful thraldom in which they had always been held, give it a character peculiarly its own. While it is difficult to prevent feelings of sympathy for those called to confront the grim realities of the occasion, the war assuming every day more and more gigantic proportions, the fearful questions its continuance and prosecution were forcing upon them, and the increasing difficulty of giving those questions practical and satisfactory answers, — these feelings are largely mingled with those of gratulation that its members were really ignorant of the extreme gravity and pregnant issues of the hour. A blindness, no doubt kindly given, hid from their view what, clearly seen, would have appalled; and their ignorance relieved them from a pressure they could have hardly borne, had they fully comprehended the momentous issues involved in the questions discussed, and the consequences dependent upon the conclusions reached. No longer hampered by the compromises of the Constitution and their acknowledged allegiance to their "Southern wing," rid of the hateful espionage of their Southern "brethren," whose prejudices and fancied interests must be consulted at all hazards and at almost every sacrifice. Northern members snuffed the air of freedom from coming events, though profoundly ignorant of those events, and spoke, as never before, with unbated breath and unwonted self-assertion. And yet they spoke with no double meaning, nor did they cloak ulterior purposes under pretences of local and immediate results. Though accused by Southern men of making it an entering wedge of something more comprehensive and radical, — in the language of Mr. Willey of Virginia, "a part of a series of measures already initiated, all looking to the same ultimate result, the universal abolition of slavery by Congress," — they meant only the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, ridding the Federal capital of its guilt and odium, and absolving the nation of its past complicity therein. In the advocacy of this particular measure they indeed enunciated principles of wider application, principles that would logically lead to general emancipation, and no doubt many hoped to see such a result in due time; but then their immediate object was the simple removal of slavery from Washington and its environs. In the debate, too, was witnessed, with much that was earnest and impassioned, the absence, already noted, of any definite and comprehensive policy. If not groping, they were feeling their way in the new and untried circumstances in which they were placed. The friends of freedom spoke for the bill, and enunciated many grand and pregnant principles; the advocates of slavery, still remaining in Congress, opposed it, and with ill-concealed dread of the future, deprecated everything that threatened harm to their cherished system; while the larger number between these extremes revealed their state of incertitude and doubt by the tentative and ill-digested suggestions that fell from their lips.

In favor of the bill, Mr. Wilmot spoke of the great importance of improving the opportune moment, saying, "We should be the most derelict in our duty of any body that ever sat in the seats of power, if we adjourn this Congress without the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia." Mr. Wilkinson of Minnesota spoke of the existence of slavery in "the capital of this free Republic " as "an insult to the enlightened public sentiment of the age." He spoke of "the contumely and contempt" with which "the representatives of the loyal and free North were treated for the performance of their duty through "the slaveholding influence of this District." Mr. Sumner hailed "with unspeakable delight the measure, and the prospect of its speedy adoption." "It is the first instalment," he said, "of the great debt which we all owe to an enslaved race, and will be recognized as one of the victories of humanity." Saying that when slavery gives way to freedom at the national capital, "the good will not stop here, it must proceed," he added: "What God and nature decree, rebellion cannot arrest. And as the whole wide-spread tyranny begins to tumble, then above the din of battle, sounding from the sea and echoing along the land, above even the exultation of victory on well-fought fields, will ascend voices of gladness and benediction, swelling from generous hearts wherever civilization bears sway." "This question of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia," said Mr. Fessenden of Maine, "has been one that has always been near my heart. What claim have the owners of slaves in the District upon us? They have, in my judgment, been holding slaves here without law since the foundation of the government; and they have been able to do it because it has been in their power to secure a majority always in Congress, which was invincible and could not be overcome."

Mr. Wilson spoke at length in advocacy of the bill. "This bill, to give liberty to the bondman," he said, "deals justly, ay, generously, with the master. The American people, whose moral sense has been outraged by slavery and the black codes enacted in the interests of slavery in the District of Columbia, whose fame is soiled and dimmed by the deeds of cruelty perpetrated in their national capital, would stand justified in the forum of nations if they should smite the fetter from the bondman, regardless of the desires or interests of the master. With generous magnanimity, this bill tenders compensation to the master out of the hard earnings of the toiling freemen of America… These colonial statutes of Maryland, reaffirmed by Congress in 1801; these ordinances of Washington and Georgetown, sanctioned in advance by the Federal government, stand this day unrepealed…. Bid slavery disappear from the District, and it will take along with it the whole brood of brutal, vulgar, and indecent statutes; and if tins bill shall become the law of the land, it will blot out slavery forever from the national capital, transform three thousand personal chattels into freemen, obliterate oppressive, odious, and hateful laws and ordinances, which press with merciless force upon persons, bond or free, of African descent, and relieve the nation from the responsibilities now pressing upon it."

The bill, however, encountered bitter opposition from the slaveholders and their sympathizers, who thus not only revealed the alarm and intense hatred that rankled within of everything just and equal, but foreshadowed much that subsequent events soon developed. Among them the most violent and rancorous was Garrett Davis of Kentucky. "You have originated," he said, " in the northeast Mormonism, and free love, and that sort of ethereal Christianity which is preached by Parker and by Emerson and by others, and all sorts of mischievous isms; but what right have you to force your isms on us? What right have you to force your opinions on slavery or upon any other subject on an unwilling people? What right have you to force them on the people of this District? Is it from your love to the slaves, your devotion to benevolence and humanity, your belief in the equality of slaves with yourselves? Why do you not go out into this city and hunt up the blackest, greasiest, fattest old negro wench you can find and lead her to the altar of Hymen? " In a similar, though more decorous strain asked Mr. Kennedy of Maryland: " Why seek to impose on us principles and measures of policy which we do not want, and which tend only to still derange and embarrass us, — tend further to surround us with complicated questions from which we have no escape? " Without disguise he revealed his apprehension of the effect upon his State of such a movement in the District as he impatiently inquired: "What possible benefit can occur to the North by the abolition of slavery in this District, when it is to be so deleterious and so injurious in its results to a sister State of the Union? What earthly consideration of good is to result to the people of the North, that does not bring a tenfold corresponding evil, not only upon the people here, but upon the people of my State? " "Senators," exclaimed Mr. Saulsbury of Delaware, "abandon now, at once and forever, your schemes of wild philanthropy and universal emancipation ; proclaim to the people of this whole country everywhere that you mean to preserve the Union as established by the fathers of the Republic, and the rights of the people as secured by the Constitution they helped to frame, and your Union can never be destroyed; but go on with your wild schemes of emancipation, throw doubt and suspicion upon every man simply because he fails to look at your questions of wild philanthropy as you do, and the God of heaven only knows, after wading through scenes before which those of the French revolution ' pale their ineffectual fires,' what ultimately may be the result." "I regard the bill," said Mr. Powell of Kentucky, " as unconstitutional, impolitic, unjust to the people of the District of Columbia, and in bad faith to the people of Virginia and Maryland." Bayard of Delaware deprecated its passage as " deleterious, and most deleterious first to the city of Washington, next to the State of Maryland, then to the State of Virginia, and then, by the effect of its indirect influence, to the State of Kentucky and the State of Missouri; and if you succeed by force of arms in compel ling the other slaveholding States to return to the Union, the effect will permeate through the entire mass of those States."

Another form of opposition was that of proposed amendments, factious or other, designed to embarrass or defeat. Among them was one, offered by Mr. Davis, that all persons liberated by this act should be colonized out of the United States, and that a hundred thousand dollars should be appropriated for that purpose. In defence of this amendment he made a furious speech. Mr. Doolittle of Wisconsin having moved as an amendment that only those should be colonized who desired to go," he replied, and in his reply enunciated sentiments, feelings, and purposes with which the nation afterward became too painfully familiar. "I am better acquainted," he said, "with negro nature than the honorable Senator from Wisconsin. He will never find one slave in a hundred that will consent to be colonized when liberated. The liberation of slaves in this District and in any State of the Union will be just equivalent to settling them in the country where they live; and whenever that policy is inaugurated, especially in the States where there are many slaves, it will inevitably and immediately introduce a war of extermination between the two races…. The negroes that are now liberated, and that remain in this city, will become a sore and a burden and a charge upon the white population. They will be criminals. They will become paupers." And " the power which undertakes to liberate them ought to relieve the white community in which they reside…. Whenever any power, constitutional or unconstitutional, assumes the responsibility of liberating slaves, where slaves are numerous, they establish as inexorably as fate a conflict between the races that will result in the exile or extermination of the one race or of the other." Assuming the office of prophet, he predicted that no Southern State would " submit to have those slaves manumitted and left among us." He declared, too, that the moment " you reorganize the white inhabitants of those States as States of the Union, they would reduce those slaves again to a state of slavery, or they would expel them and drive them upon you or south of you, or they would hunt them like wild beasts, and exterminate them…. I know what I talk about. Never, never will they submit, by unconstitutional laws, to have their slaves liberated and domiciled with them; and the policy that attempts it will establish a bloody La Vendee in the whole of the slave States, my own included." This foreshadowing of the fiery Southern subsequent events have shown to be only too faithful, while lack of power has alone prevented the accomplishment of what he claimed to "know" would follow the policy of emancipation. Mr. Saulsbury favored the idea of uniting colonization with the emancipation, but he denied the "constitutional" right of Congress to do either, and avowed his purpose to vote against both the amendment and the bill.

Mr. Hale of New Hampshire made a very forcible speech in favor of the bill, in which he criticised with becoming dignity the too general practice of arguing and deciding the question of emancipation on principles of mere expediency. After saying that there were no forms of skepticism so dangerous and insidious as that of not performing " plain and simple duty " for fear of the consequences; and that the question of emancipation had rarely been argued upon " the great and fundamental principles of right," he added: "The inquiry is never put, certainly in legislative circles. What is right? What is just? What is due to the individuals that are to be affected by the measure? But, what are to be the consequences? Men entirely forget to look at the objects that are to be effected by the bill, in view of the inherent rights of their manhood, in view of the great questions of humanity, of Christianity, and of duty; but by what are to be the consequences." Saying that the Senator from Kentucky had predicted the direst consequences from emancipation, he read of very different results from undoing the heavy burdens and of letting the oppressed go free, as enunciated in the prophecy of Isaiah. Though Mr. Davis's proposed amendment of colonizing the freedmen was lost, Mr. Doolittle's amendment of doing it with their consent received quite a majority of the votes cast.

To the objections urged that the bill was unconstitutional, Mr. Fessenden replied that the fundamental law of the land was "broad and clear." "Congress," he said, "under the Constitution, is gifted with all power of legislation over this District, and may do anything in it that any legislature can do in any State of the Union." Mr. Browning of Illinois expressed the same sentiment, and claimed that the right was undoubted. Even Mr. Bayard, though opposing the bill, conceded, "without the slightest reservation," that "no constitutional objection can arise to the action of Congress in abolishing slavery in this District." Various other amendments were introduced and discussed, but no important change was made, and on the 3d of April, 1862, the bill, introduced by Mr. Wilson more than three months before, was passed by a vote of twenty-nine to fourteen.

The bill was taken up in the House the next week, and gave rise to a brief but brilliant debate, in which were enunciated not only great and fundamental truths, but many beautiful and striking thoughts. It of course encountered opposition; but that only served to render the debate more pointed and piquant. Mr. Crittenden deprecated the "mischief " the measure must produce. It would create, he said, "discontent" and be regarded as "an augury of what is to come afterward." Mr. Wickliffe of Kentucky opposed the amendment that no witness should be excluded " on account of color," and expressed the hope that the friends of the bill would " not so far outrage the laws of the District as to authorize slaves or free negroes to be witnesses in cases of this kind." He also moved the amendment, or substitute, offered in the Senate by Mr. Wright, providing for the gradual extinction of slavery. Mr. Vallandigham, after saying that there were not ten men in the XXXVIth Congress who would have recorded their votes in favor of the measure, added: " We have this bill brought forward as the beginning of a grand scheme of emancipation; and there is no calculation where that scheme will end." Mr. Wickliffe's amendment received but thirty-four votes.

Mr. Bingham of Ohio spoke eloquently, and with more than his usual force and fervor. " We are deliberating," he said, " upon a bill which illustrates the great principle that this day shakes the throne of every despot on the globe; and that is whether man was made for government, or government was made for man. Those who oppose this bill, whether they intend it or not, by recording their votes against this enactment, reiterate the old dogma of tyrants, that the people are made to be governed, and not to govern. I deny that proposition. I deny it because all my convictions are opposed to it. I deny it because I am sure that the Constitution of my country is against it. I cannot forget, if I would, the grand utterance of one of the illustrious men of modern times, — of whom Guizot very fitly said that his thoughts impress themselves indelibly wherever they fall, — standing amid the despotisms of Europe, conscious of the great truth that all men are of right equal before the law, that thrones may perish, that crowns may turn to dust, that sceptres may be broken and empires overthrown, but that the rights of men are perpetual, who proclaimed to listening France the strong, true words, ' States are born, live, and die upon the earth ; here they fulfil their destiny ; but, after the citizen has discharged every duty that he owes to the State, there abides with him the nobler part of his being, his immortal faculties, by which he ascends to God and the unknown realities of another life."

The following eloquent and beautiful tribute to Christianity and its Author, and to the indebtedness of our civilization thereto, with the affirmation that the principles of true democracy arc identical with the precepts of the Great Teacher, well-illustrated a new but refreshing feature of the debates of the session, — their seeming recognition at length of the "higher law," and of its paramount authority in matters of human legislation. "They found out," he said, "a wiser, juster, and better policy than pagan ever knew. They learned it from the simple but profound teachings of Him who went about doing good; who was no respecter of persons, who made the distant land of his nativity forever sacred to mankind, and whose intense holiness shed majesty over the manger and the straw, and took from the cross its shame and reproach. By his great apostle came to men and nations the new message, declaring the true God, to whom the pagan inscribed unknown upon His altar; that God who made the world, and giveth to all life and breath, and hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth. From this new message to men has sprung the new and better civilization of to-day. What was your Declaration at Philadelphia on the 4th of July, 1776, that ALL MEN are created equal, but a reiteration of the great truth announced by the apostle of the Nazarene? What but this is the sublime principle of your Constitution, the equality of all men before the law? To-day we deliberate whether we shall make good, by legislation, this vital principle of the Constitution, here in the capital of the Republic. "Magna Charta, he said, "wrung from the trembling, unwilling hands" of the British King, recognized "freemen" alone, but "secured no privileges to vassals or slaves… The later and nobler revelation to our fathers was that all men are equal before the law." And yet, he added, "unhappily, for about sixty years, this provision of the Constitution here upon the hearthstone of the Republic, where the jurisdiction of the government of the United States is exclusive, without State limitation, this sacred guaranty of life and liberty and property to all, has been wantonly ignored and disregarded as to a large class of our natural-born citizens."

This measure, said Mr. Van Horn of New York, "needs no defence. Upon its face it bears the marks of humanity and justice. Every line and every syllable is pregnant with a just and true sentiment, and already hallowed with the sublime spirit of a noble purpose. Throughout there breathes a spirit akin to that which runs through all the wonderful teachings of Him who spake as never man spake, and inspired the hearts of those whose immortal sayings will outlast all the monuments that time can erect." " The struggles and hopes of many long years," said Mr. Ashley of Ohio, " are centred in this eventful hour. The cry of the oppressed, ' How long, Lord, how long? ' is to be answered to-day by the American Congress The golden morn, so anxiously looked for by the friends of freedom in the United States, has dawned. A second national jubilee will henceforth be added to the calendar."

"A great truth," said Mr. Riddle of Ohio, "is weakened by what men call elucidation. Illustration obscures it; logic and argument compromise it; and demonstration brings it to doubt. He who permits himself to be put on its defences is a weak man or a coward. A great truth is never so strong as when left to stand on its simple assertion." Mr. Fessenden of Maine, saying the time for discussion had passed, added: "The hour in which to put upon the bill the seal of the nation has come. I trust it is indeed the harbinger of that brighter, brightest day at hand, when slavery shall be abolished wherever it exists in the land. This will be the one finality which will give us a righteous and a lasting peace."

"Our fathers," said Mr. Hutchins of Ohio, "honestly supposed that slavery would disappear before the march of Christian civilization. They were mistaken. While we strive to imitate their wisdom, and seek to emulate their patriotism, let be warned by their mistake. This bill will make the national capital free; and then the statue of Liberty, fashioned by our own Crawford, will be a fitting monument on the finished dome of the capitol." "It is our duty to abolish slavery here," said Mr. Blake of the same State, " because Congress, by the Constitution, has the power to do it; and slavery being a great wrong and outrage upon humanity, we should at once do right, and pass the bill That it will elevate us in the eyes of all civilized nations, is not doubted; that it will awaken a thrill of patriotic pride and enthusiasm in the great heart of the nation, no man doubts."

"It is one of the most beautiful traits of human nature," said Mr. Rollins of New Hampshire, "that while the sons of men are struggling to bear the burdens of human life, and perform the works assigned to our common nature, they sometimes step aside, or stop in their way, to minister to the wants of the needy who, sitting by the wayside, lift their eyes and hands to beg for charity. This nation, which, like a giant, walks along the pathway of nations, girded as with iron, sternly to meet and overwhelm its fratricidal foes, while marching steadily on to its work, feels it no hindrance to listen to the humble cry of a few hundred of its feeblest children who grind in the prison-house of its deadly foe."

 The temper and purpose of the House were also indicated by several amendments that were proposed, and the votes thereon. Mr. Wright, a Democratic member from Pennsylvania, moved an amendment, providing that the act should not go into operation unless a majority of the qualified voters shall " approve and ratify the same." His amendment did not pass; nor did it escape the keen satire of his colleague, Thaddeus Stevens, who recommended a like " amendment to another document." "It is somewhere provided," said Mr. Stevens, "that the wicked shall be damned. I would suggest to my colleague that he propose a proviso to that, 'providing that they consent thereto.' It would be just as decent an amendment as the one which lie has proposed." Mr. Wadsworth moved to strike out the phrase "loyal to the United States," but this motion was rejected. Mr. Train of Massachusetts moved that any person "feeling himself aggrieved" by the award of the commissioners should be entitled to an appeal to the Circuit Court. His amendment was lost by a vote of fifty-three to sixty-three. Mr. Harding of Kentucky moved to strike out the proviso limiting the sum appraised to three hundred dollars. " You do not consult the people of the District," he said, "as to whether they are willing to sell or not. Not at all. You have the power to buy, and you will buy; you have the power to fix the price, and you will fix it." "The gentleman," said Mr. Lovejoy in reply, "thinks it is worse to take a thing for one half of its value than it is to rob a man of his property outright, if I understood his remarks. I wonder which is worse, to rob a man of his horse or to rob him of his wife and child? That is the question I would like to ask him." Referring to a case of slaveholding atrocity which had just transpired in the District, he said: "And yet here brazen men stand up and talk about robbing, because we give only three hundred dollars apiece, on an average, to deliver these poor oppressed beings from a condition of brutism." The amendment was lost, as also another offered by Mr. Menzies of Kentucky, proposing a scheme of gradual emancipation. The bill then passed the House by a vote of ninety-two to thirty-eight, and received the approval of the President on the sixteenth day of April, 1862.

The President, in his message accompanying his approval of the bill, had stated some objections to it. These objections were that certain classes, such as married women, minors, and persons absent from the District, were not sufficiently protected and provided for; and he suggested that these defects should be remedied by additional legislation. On the 12th of June Mr. Wilson introduced a bill for the purpose, which was referred to the committee, reported back with amendments, and made the subject of debate on the 7th of July. Mr. Grimes explained its provisions, and after remarks of a few of the members, and the adoption of an amendment offered by Mr. Sumner, that there should be no exclusion of any witness on account of color, the bill was passed by a vote of twenty-nine to six. It was taken up in the House on the 9th, and after two or three motions by Democratic members were offered and rejected, it was carried by a vote of sixty-nine to thirty-six, and approved on the 12th.

By the enactment of these bills three thousand slaves were instantly made forever free, slavery was made impossible in the capital of the United States, the black laws and ordinances concerning persons of color were repealed, and the whole black code, which had so long disgraced its statute-book, was swept away. It was indeed, in the language of Mr. Sumner, "the first instalment of that great debt" the nation owed to an enslaved race; and had it not been so soon and so completely overshadowed by the greater and more astounding acts of the same general character and purport, it might well be " recognized in history," as he predicted it would be, "as one of the victories of humanity."

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 3.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1878, 270-284.



Chapter: “Abolishment of Slavery in the Territories,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1878.

From this survey of the Slave Power, now approaching its conclusion, these seem to have been, as already noted, among the conclusions reached by the framers of the Constitution: first, that slavery was an entailed evil for which their fathers were more responsible than themselves; second, that it was temporary, in its decadence, and soon to pass away; and, third, that it was to be restricted to limits already occupied. Being an evil so thoroughly inwrought into the body politic, in its social, domestic, and pecuniary relations and interests, it was felt to be very difficult, if not dangerous, to attempt its immediate removal. It was therefore deemed the wiser policy to tolerate its existence for the time being, and wait for its seeds of weakness and decay to develop their fruits and work its own overthrow. But no one, it is reasonable to conclude, ever dreamed of its being extended beyond the limits within which it then existed. It was deemed a temporary, local, and exceptional matter, which, in their weak, exhausted, and perilous condition, they concluded it would be safer to bear with for a while than to run the risk of anarchy and civil strife they feared, and had great reason to fear, should they insist on emancipation as a condition precedent of forming the Union proposed. Therefore, though they recognized most fully the wrongfulness of the system, its bald and gross inconsistency with their new and vaunted declaration of first principles and of the primal rights of man, they admitted into the proposed Constitution the "guilty fantasy that there could be property in man," and made provision in their organic law and by early legislation for its recognition and protection. But it was distinctly regarded as a compromise, referring to something then existing, and to territory then in possession of the nation. No enlargement of existing limits was contemplated, and the idea that slavery would ever demand additional area was, if entertained by any, most solemnly repudiated by the majority. This was evidenced by the ordinance of 1787, consecrating to freedom in perpetuity the mighty Northwest territory, on whose vast and unexplored expanses were to repose the imperial States of coming generations. But the invention of the cotton-gin and the increasing production of Southern staples had made slavery more valuable as a means of wealth, a source of political power, and more important as a domestic system; and so the idea that it was to be temporary gradually gave place to the thought and purpose to protect and strengthen it. Instead of resting under the stigma implied by restriction and prescribed limitations, it was determined that its area should be enlarged, and that its continued existence should be made less precarious and more sure. As additional territory was secured, it became a question of persistent and sharp debate, and of angry conflict, whether or not that territory should remain free, or be opened to the introduction of this legalized oppression.

Indeed, no question during the existence of the Republic has excited so profound and intense an interest. The vast extent of these territorial possessions, the prospective power of the rising commonwealths which were to be carved therefrom upon the destinies of the nation, rendered this question one of intense solicitude alike to the friends and foes of slavery; though, till the Republican victory of 1860, with fortunes generally adverse to freedom. By the election of Mr. Lincoln, the friends of free territory achieved a national triumph in the choice of a President fully and unreservedly pledged to their policy.  Very naturally, therefore, the minds of those who had struggled unavailingly so long for an object they deemed so important were turned to the necessity of using the power, for the first time possessed, to secure the adoption of a policy for which they had for so many years striven without avail.

On the 24th of March, 1862, Mr. Arnold of Illinois introduced a bill into the House of Representatives to render freedom national and slavery sectional. It was referred to the Committee on Territories, was reported on the 1st of May, with an amendment, and made the order of the day for the 8th. It provided that freedom should be the fundamental law of the land, and that slavery should no longer exist in all places under the direct and exclusive control of the Federal government. It prohibited slavery in all Territories, then or thereafter existing; in all places purchased by the government, with the consent of the legislatures of the several States, for forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings; in all vessels on the high seas, and on all national high ways, beyond the territory and jurisdiction of the several States. The bill further provided that all persons then held, or thereafter attempted to be held, to service in either of the places specified, should be free, and that their claims to freedom could be maintained in any of the courts of the United States.

The debate on the bill, motions, amendments, and final substitute was brief, earnest, and suggestive, and revealed not only the essential difficulties of the situation, but the wide divergence of views, not only between Republican and Democratic, Northern and Southern, representatives, but between men equally anxious to maintain the government and to keep the Union unbroken. It also showed how the com promises of the Constitution and the antecedent proslavery legislation of the government embarrassed those who sought to do nothing unconstitutional, and to maintain the plighted faith of the fathers. It also brought into sharp contrast and conflict the positions of Northern representatives of antislavery constituencies who were impatient of any delay in striking at the guilty cause of all the trouble, and of the loyal men of the border States, who had grave reasons outside of their personal interests and prejudices, whatever they may have been, for quieting the fears of their constituents and keeping out of the mouths of the secessionists of their States the argument that the government had ulterior purposes against the system of slaveholding. Nor did it require any great captiousness or hair-splitting to detect apparent and real conflict between the sweeping measure reported by the committee and what might be called the plighted faith of the fathers and the vested rights resulting therefrom. This was more noticeable in the debates upon those specifications of the bill concerning vessels on the high seas, national highways, forts, magazines, and arsenals. Indeed, so sharp was the criticism of some of the friends of the bill on these particulars, that it was moved, as a final substitute, that the prohibition of slavery should apply to the "Territories" only.

The Democracy, true to its instincts and traditions, could not allow such a proposition to remain unassailed, or pass, without placing on record its earnest and emphatic protest. On a motion to recommit, Mr. Cox of Ohio promptly moved an amendment, the design of which was to defeat the measure entirely. Accompanying his motion with a speech indicative of both his spirit and design, he said: "I move to add to the motion to recommit instructions that neither this bill nor any similar bill shall be reported back to the House. I believe it to be a suicidal bill, — a bill for the benefit of secession and Jeff Davis. The army and the people are against all such aids to the enemy of the country. The conservative men of the House have the power, and ought to ' squelch ' out the whole negro business. They are responsible for this continuous agitation. From the very commencement of the session we have had these bills before us in one shape or another, postponed from time to time, and delayed by dilatory motions and adjournments. Now I want to see the conservative element of the House, if there is any such thing left here, come up and vote this thing right down. I therefore hope the House will send this back to the committee; and, in sending it back to the committee, let us give it such a death-blow as will destroy all similar measures." He closed by moving to recommit the bill, "with instructions" to report it back at the next session, on the very last day." Mr. Wickliffe suggested that it be recommitted with instructions " not to report it back until next session, during the cold weather." He also read largely from the opinion of Justice Story of the Supreme Court "for the benefit of the country people," he said, and for the sake of showing, "he was fool enough to believe that there was property in slaves."

Mr. Crisfield of Maryland made a very violent speech in denunciation of the bill. He characterized it as " an indirect attack upon slavery in the States," as "doing by indirection that which you acknowledge you have no power to do directly." "It is not keeping, in word or in spirit, the pledge which you have made to the country; nor is it consistent with that instrument which we have all sworn to support." Alluding to the naval station at Annapolis, which his State had " confidingly granted to this government for a great national object," he said: "You say to Maryland that you will plant in her very heart a system in violation and destruction of the policy she thinks fit to establish, as of right she may, for her own interests Are constitutional guaranties nothing? Are solemn pledges nothing? Sir, I denounce this bill as a palpable violation of the rights of States, and an unwarrantable interference with the rights of property. I denounce it as a fraud upon the States which have made cessions of land to this government, a violation of the Constitution, and a breach of the pledges which brought the dominant party into power. I denounce it as a usurpation and a tyrannical exercise of power destructive of the peace of the country. Sir, I denounce it to this House and to the American people. I denounce it before the civilized world. I declare that those who seek to accomplish the great wrong this bill perpetrates seek the ruin of all constitutional government on this continent, and are the foes of regulated liberty everywhere."

In a very different strain spoke Mr. Fisher of Delaware, though in opposition to the bill. He avowed his hatred of slavery, expatiated at length on the relative advantages of freedom over slavery as exemplified by the States "on the right and left banks of the Ohio," spoke of "the great and good man whom the providence of God had called to preside over affairs "; approved of and voted for his resolution proffering aid to States for the abolishment of slavery; expressed the hope that he should soon see the day when it was in the process of gradual but sure extinction; and yet he doubted the necessity of any such bill, and deprecated its effect upon the people of his and the other border States, leading them, he feared, "to suspect that you intend more than this, — that you intend, either directly or indirectly, to invade the prerogative of State sovereignty." He deprecated the course of the majority as yielding too much to the cry and pressure of the radicals. " With the taunts of doughface," he said, " and weak-kneed Unionist upon your lips for us who try to hold up the hands of the administration in the border States, you are driven by a selfish, servile, slavish fear of the ultraists among your constituents at home to vote for measures which you admit should not have been brought forward, and to be unwise and impolitic…. If you want to have men in the slave States co-operate with you in the arduous struggle of breaking down the ultraism and madness of proslavery in the border States, you must not yourselves run into the ultraism and madness of Abolition. If you expect to cross the slave line with a party in favor of emancipation, and achieve any sort of success, you must yield something to us in policy, while we acknowledge the justice and humanity of your principles. You must not take extremists for your leaders. If you do, let me warn you that, instead of breaking the fetters of the slave, you will but rivet them more tightly." Alluding again to the President, and the wisdom of his recommendations, he said: " You have in him one whom the people have come to regard as the savior, just as they regard Washington the father, of his country; one whom, if you attempt to ostracize from the leadership of your party, to follow after men of more erratic genius or less purity of purpose, it will be only because, like the fickle and foolish and wicked Athenians, you shall have become tired of hearing him called 'The Just.' " Thus earnestly, frankly, and with no little force, did this representative of the Border-State Unionists deprecate the policy which the antislavery men of the North, and a rapidly growing class not called by that name, saw to be the necessity of the case.

Mr. Diven of New York, though he "wanted Congress to exhaust the last power over this institution, whenever and wherever it can be done," saw "no occasion for the law," because slavery was "purely a State institution," with which Congress had nothing to do. "Let us leave, it," he said, "where it was placed by our fathers, — let us leave it with the States alone. My doctrine is the doctrine of the Republican party. The corner-stone on which the party was founded and built up was, that Congress had no control over the question."

The friends of the bill were not, however, at loss for arguments in its advocacy and defence. Mr. Arnold, its mover, based his plea for its adoption on the acknowledged fact that slavery was in deadly hostility to the national government, and that fealty to the latter demanded the destruction of the former. He declared its purpose to be nothing more than Congress had the "constitutional power" to do under the premises as then existing. He spoke of the sentiments of the fathers, who regarded slavery as temporary, — "a nuisance," to be "tolerated," indeed, but "which was to be as speedily got rid of as practicable"; but, "rising in power and usurping the control of the government, it obtained absolute sway." Regarding it as the great evil of the country, he called it " the gigantic traitor that is now seeking to destroy the nation." "I believe it," he said, "the solemn duty of every man who loves his country to do what he can to destroy this their great enemy."

Various objections had been made and inquiries propounded concerning, and growing out of, the tenure by which the United States held the grants from State legislatures for government purposes, in which were certain conditions, — some expressly prohibit we acquire land for the purpose of a navy-yard, and exclude the States ceding that land from any jurisdiction over it, we take it with the right to control it as we please." But strenuous objection was made to such a sentiment, as being a breach of trust and good faith. Speaking for such, Mr. Olin of New York said, that much as he desired to see slavery crippled and destroyed, he would not "consent to step an inch beyond the plain guaranties of the Constitution to accomplish even that purpose." " Our only justification," he said, " in the eyes of the civilized world for this warfare going on in our midst is that we stand here in obedience to law, in defence of the Constitution and law; and the moment we lay aside that shield of protection, and prosecute the war for other purposes, whatever result may be wrought out by the prosecution of the war, it would be a wicked war. It would be, on every principle of Christianity, an unjustifiable war. Our only defence before God, posterity, and the world is that we fight in defence of the laws, not for their subversion. The wickedness of this Rebellion consists not in the fact that it is treason, always held to be a crime all the world over. Its chief enormity consists in the fact that it is treason against such a government as this, based on the common consent of the governed, with provision in the fundamental law to alter, change, or modify that government in a peaceful way and by forms of law. If such a government can be overthrown by force and violence, there is an end to all government except that of despotism and the sword. Hence it is that rebellion against such a government as this is of a deeper and more damnable dye than any other that has yet stained the annals of history."

 Mr. Sheffield of Rhode Island, although expressing his hatred of slavery, his conviction that freedom was the common law of the Territories, that positive law alone could "carry slavery there," and that we might "as well undertake to re-enact the Decalogue as to enact this law," opposed any action that would violate the good faith of the government. "Because," he said, the Southern States have "cruelly wronged us, are we justified in doing wrong to them? The gentleman seems to think that it is not a great matter for the government to violate the faith on which it received the cession of this land from the States." Mr. Arnold denied that the bill did involve such violation of plighted faith, though he conceded that "the argument in reference to good faith, in view of the action of the Rebels at this particular time, was, perhaps, not as forcible as it might be at another time."

Another subject on which there was sharp division of sentiment was that of compensation for slaves that might be released by the action of the bill. Mr. Thomas of Massachusetts called attention to the fifth amendment of the Constitution providing that private property shall not be taken for public uses without "just compensation"; and he contended that the principle involved in that amendment applied to any slaves that might be freed by the operation of the bill under consideration. Thaddeus Stevens replied with great severity. He declared his belief that there was not any man from the free States, except the gentleman, who ever doubted that the legislative power of any locality, where they have exclusive juris diction, have the right to abolish slavery without compensation; and he added that it was "no credit to a Free-State representative to entertain such an idea." There sprang up a sharp colloquy between the gentlemen upon the mooted point whether John Quincy Adams, whose place in the House Mr. Thomas was filling, did, or did not, recognize the principle of "property in slaves." Mr. Bingham of Ohio referred to the bill abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, and said that it showed conclusively upon its face that it was "a matter of pure election upon the part of the United States what compensation they should give, or whether they should give any at all." " It is a police and political question," said Mr. Stevens, "which the supreme legislature of any locality has a right to decide as it chooses; and to say that it is not constitutional is to inaugurate a new, a strange, and an awful doctrine, especially to come from the district of the sage of Quincy."

Mr. Kelley referred to the constitutional objections in another way. After speaking in appropriate and forceful terms of the horrors of the war, "saturating every acre of Southern land with the best blood of the North," while "the scars and wounds of brave youth will bear honorable testimony to their devotion to constitutional law," he affirmed that it was slavery's war, and that all its enormities were the natural outcome of its diabolical spirit and purpose; and he closed by saying: "While I am unwilling to cast a vote to impair the sanctity of the Constitution of the country, I am no less un willing to cast one that shall favor slavery in any degree or direction. The Constitution does not create it; the Constitution does not in terms recognize it; it only tolerates it, and this law does not propose to interfere with that toleration. It does not propose to abolish slavery anywhere. It only pro poses to say to the slave owner, ' Keep these slaves out of these places as employes; do not interfere with the system of free labor and attempt to force the free mechanic into companionship with your slaves, or we will protect his dignity and interests by making freemen of your instruments.' "

The difficulties, however, real or seeming, constitutional or other, were too great to secure the united action of the friends of the underlying principle of the bill as reported by the committee. Mr. Lovejoy, therefore, moved a substitute restricting its action entirely to the Territories. The substitute was accepted, and the bill as thus amended was carried by a vote of eighty-five to fifty. The preamble was so amended as to read, " An act to secure freedom to all persons within the Terri tories of the United States."

In the Senate, on the 15th of May, Mr. Browning reported the bill from the Committee on Territories with an amendment that, from and after the passage of the act, there should be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any existing Territory, or in any Territory thereafter formed or acquired. It was, substantially, the application of the principle of the ordinance of 1787 to all the territory then possessed or thereafter to be acquired. On the 9th of June the Senate proceeded to its consideration, adopted the amendment, and passed the bill by a vote of twenty-eight to ten. The House agreed to the Senate amendment, and the bill thus amended was passed on the 17th, and approved by the President on the 19th of June, 1862.

By this action the nation retraced the footsteps by which it so long and so lamentably wandered from the position and policy of the fathers, and practically re-enacted the ordinance of 1787. That it was action both radical and summary, for which it was difficult to find provision or precedent either in the Constitution or in previous legislation, is unquestionably true. Nor would it be possible, any more than it is needful, to show that it did not by so doing infringe upon what had been deemed the vested rights of property which, under the "manageable times " of peace, had been recognized and defended by the Federal government. It was only the execution of one of the war powers of the government, placed in its hands and rendered legitimate by the higher law of the nation's safety, before which laws or the enactments of ordinary legislation must remain silent. It was only a legitimate exercise of the right of self-defense. Slavery had assaulted the nation, and they were in deadly grapple. One or the other must die. The nation wisely and rightly decided that it must be slavery. There were captious and carping criticisms made during the debate both in and out of Congress, as there have been since, appeals to the Constitution and to the rulings of courts in op position to the bill; and yet there were Border-State Unionists even then who admitted the necessities of the case, and attributed the destruction of slavery to the real and guilty cause, the crime of the conspirators in seeking the nation's life. Referring to them, said a Baltimore paper, which was quoted in the debate: "But now at length comes the reckoning. They have aroused a thousand enemies to slavery where it had but one before; and their course has been especially fatal to the States that were to serve as their ' bulwark.' They dared to make the issue; they eagerly threw down the gauntlet, and the loyal portion of the nation, called upon to repel their aggressions, has taken it up. And now, after the monstrous crimes of which the cotton States have been guilty, after shrouding the whole land in mourning, and almost burying it under a load of debt, they dare to insult heaven and earth with their indignant cries, because retribution threatens that institution which they avowed should dominate the continent under the lead of Toombs and Stephens and the Rhetts."

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 3.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1878, 320-330.





How far was it possible for the abolitionist to reach the negro and to affect the slave?  So far as their own direct influence went they practiced their own doctrine of equal rights ostentatiously: their negro adherents travelled with them, sat upon the same platforms with them, ate with them, and one enthusiastic abolitionist white couple adopted a negro child. Garrison, in the Liberator, urged the negroes to send their children to school, to build up their own trade, to stand by and protect the fugitives, to get on the voting lists, and in every way to make themselves a part of the community.1 

These relations profoundly stirred the south, partly because they went counter to the conventional belief that if both races were free, "one race must be driven out by the other, or exterminated, or again enslaved";2 partly because southerners

1 Garrisons, Garrison, II., 255-258.

2 Hammond and Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 88-90, 147-14

sincerely believed that the object of the abolitionists was an amalgamation of the two races. On the contrary, Jay demanded whether any person "in the possession of his reasoning faculties can believe it to be the duty of white men to select black wives,"1 though Channing said of amalgamation: "Allowing that amalgamation is to be anticipated, then, I maintain, we have no right to resist it. Then it is not unnatural."2 The southern born abolitionists agreed with John Rankin: "We entirely disclaim any desire to promote or encourage intermarrying between the blacks and whites."3 It was a fair inquiry, which the abolitionists did not hesitate to put-who was responsible for the only amalgamation that had so far taken place?

The free negroes of the south the abolitionists could not reach except by mailing publications to them, a, process which fearfully exasperated the south without reaching the persons addressed. The slave was even further from any direct help; yet it was the belief of the slave-holders that efforts were made by incendiary publications to acquaint the slaves with the fact that they had friends in the north arid to arouse their passions against their masters. Abolitionists were accused of slipping printed handkerchiefs, bearing anti-slavery cuts, into bales designed for the southern markets, and

1 Jay, Miscellaneous Writings, 146.

2 Channing, Works, V., 57.

3 Niles' Register, XXXVI., 461.

of mailing prints and pictures depicting the cruelties of slavery and the delights of emancipation. The south could not understand that the annual anti-slavery almanac, with its crude wood-cuts of floggings and kidnappings, was meant to reach and educate the children of northern people. The pictures would undoubtedly have been suggestive had they reached the slaves, but there is no well -authenticated case in which such materials were found in the hands of slaves. The nearest approach was the discovery of a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin in the house of a free negro in Maryland just before the Civil War, and the danger was then and there stopped by sending him to the penitentiary. 1

The abolitionists were also charged with trying to bring about slave insurrections. In September, 1829, a southern free negro in Boston issued a pamphlet called Walker's Appeal, of which the tone was unmistakable. " For although the destruction of the oppressors God may not effect by the oppressed, yet the Lord our God will bring other destructions upon them for not unfrequently will he cause them to rise up one against another, to be split, divided, and to oppress each other, and sometimes to open hostilities with sword in hand." 2

Walker's pamphlet is known to have reached Virginia, and may possibly have influenced the Nat

1 Brackett, Negro in Maryland, 226.

2 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 159-162; Walker's Appeal, 5.

Turner insurrection of 1831, the most dangerous incident in the history of that period. Nobody had any suspicion of Nat Turner, an obscure slave in Southampton County, Virginia, though he was a preacher, and could read and write. For several years Nat was making preparations to ravage the country, raise the slaves, and take refuge in the Dismal Swamp.  August 21, 1831, with six desperate companions, he rose and spared not a white soul on the plantations that were visited; his force quickly increased to sixty men, and would have probably spread like wildfire but for poor general-ship on Nat's part. Before the insurrection could be headed, sixty white people had been killed. Within forty-eight hours militia were raised and United States troops were called. 1 On the first day of resistance over a hundred blacks were killed, and the bloody work continued for some time. Besides unnumbered floggings, 53 negroes in all were put on trial, of whom 21 were acquitted, 12 convicted and sold out of the state, and 20, including Nat Turner and one woman, were convicted and hanged. For a long time the excitement and lawlessness continued. Charity Bowery said: "The brightest and best men were killed in Nat's time. Such ones are always suspected. All the colored folks were afraid to pray, in the time of the Old Prophet Nat. There was no law about it; but the whites reported it round among themselves, that if

1 Federal Aid in Domestic Disturbance, 56.

a note was heard, we should have some dreadful punishment." 1

The Nat Turner insurrection shook slavery to its foundations; the fact that Nat, though he bore some marks of ill-usage, had not been treated with special cruelty proved that kindness did not bring content; since the plot went on for months without suspicion, similar movements might be pending in any community. Turner had been joined by slaves not previously recruited, so that no one could tell how far a rising, once started, might sweep. The heavy destruction of property and of innocent life, both white and black, suggested some new form of protection, more severe laws against the assembling of negroes, against their learning to read and write, and against any form of anti-slavery agitation by white people. Though negroes thereafter were occasionally whipped, shot, or burned on suspicion of a plot, no other serious rising occurred until the John Brown raid at Harper's Ferry in 1859.2 Inasmuch as the Liberator became known in the south at the time of the Nat Turner insurrection, the cry was raised that the two things had a connection, although in the prison confession of Nat Turner there is not the slightest reference to either

1 Child, Letters from New York (2d series), 55; Cutler, Lynch Law, 92-96; Higginson, Travellers and Outlaws, 276-326; Drewry, Slave Insurrections in Virginia.

2 Life of Benjamin Lundy, 246; Liberator, 1831, 1832, passim; Olmsted, Back Country, 473; Olmsted, Texas Journey, 503; Chambers, Am. Slavery and Colour, 205.

the Liberator or Walker's Appeal. Garrison himself absolutely denied any relation with the insurrection, 1 and there is neither direct proof nor indirect reference which fixes on the abolitionists any share in that insurrection.

Warned by the Vesey and Turner insurrections, the militia in several states was reorganized; and special precautions were taken at fires, because it was commonly believed that discontented slaves often set them.2 To be sure, the apologists for slavery attempted to minimize a terror which might be considered out of keeping with the argument that the slaves were happy and contented. Professor Dew declared that "the population of our slaveholding country enjoys as much or more conscious security than any other people on the face of the globe! . . . A negro will rob your hen-roost or your stye, but it is rare, indeed, that he can ever be induced to murder you. Upon this subject we speak from experience." 3 This confident assertion was out of harmony with the frequent alarms and consequent resort to lynch law, with the tenor of the statutes intended to prevent and suppress risings, and with the utterances of southerners themselves. A lady in Georgia said that "there was not a person on her plantation she dared trust her life with; and she never retired at night without an axe so

1 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 251.

2 Simms, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 202-207.

3 Dew, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 481. 

near her pillow she could lay her hand upon it instantly"; and Buckingham notes that in no part of the south " did the whites seem to be in a greater dread of the rising of the slaves than here in Louisiana." 1

How far did abolition indirectly tend to excite insurrections? May, in 1835, said, rather as a prophecy than a suggestion: " If we do not emancipate our slaves by our own moral energy, they will emancipate themselves and by a process too horrible ... to contemplate"; 2 but many of the abolitionists expressly disclaimed any such purpose, and Channing even declared that it was .the duty of the north to aid the south against such a rising.3

The abolitionist seemed to the south capable of any wicked course, because he systematically helped the slaves to run away. The federal fugitive-slave law of 1793 4 was never popular in the north, and the abolitionists by turns derided its validity and ignored it-though a kind-hearted Boston clergyman, Dr. Gannett, publicly declared that if a fugitive slave came to his door, he should feel it his duty to turn him over to the authorities.5 Dr.  Channing, for himself, held that it was his duty, if applied to, to shelter the fugitive, though he said he drew back at reaching down to the south and

1 Burke, Reminiscences, 156; Buckingham, Slave States, I., 37 5.

2 Liberator, V., 59.

3 Tappan and Rankin, in Niles' Register, XLVI., 360; Jay, Miscellaneous Writings, 148-152; Channing, Works, V., 28.

4 See chap. xix., below.

5 May, Recollections, 367. VOL. XVI , 367

persuading the slave to become a fugitive.1  Some abolitionists did not stick even at that dangerous undertaking. In 1841, Thompson, Burr, and Work, Illinois abolitionists, were captured red - handed when they "made a tour of mercy into Missouri " by trying to persuade slaves to escape from the town of Palmyra; for this crime they served several years in the Missouri penitentiary. Even there, however, they lost no opportunity to talk with the slaves who drifted into that place on the question of liberty, and even to make plans with them for running away north.2

The fugitives not only gave the abolitionists pleasure--they gave pain to the slave--holder. In a thinly settled and wooded region like the south, with mountains in the neighborhood, it was not difficult for a slave to slip away from the plantation into the woods or the swamps. An altercation with the overseer, the promise of a whipping, or a mere love of his own way started many a slave into this practice. Most of such runaways simply "lay out" in the woods or swamps for a time, 3 where it was easy for a fugitive in a few minutes to be beyond the reach of immediate recovery. These "outlying slaves" were likely to come back, at night to the negro quarters, where they got food and comfort;

1 Channing, Works, II., 77, V., 23-28, 3r9-322.

2 Thompson, Prison Life, 159, 168, 335, 344, 348, 367.

3 Edwards, "Two Runaways," in Century, X., 378-387; Burke, Reminiscences, 163-168.

but most of them were forced by hardships and hunger to yield at last and "take their whipping." The Dismal Swamp, in eastern North Carolina, was a favorite rendezvous for such runaways; there they brought up their children, and even got employment from negro lumbermen or the neighboring poor whites.1

Nothing was more common in the southern newspapers than advertisements of runaways; the rude wood-cut of a negro with a bundle slung over his shoulder from a stick was a part of the country printing-office, and many interesting details of slave life are recorded by this unconscious evidence. For example:

"Ran away, a negro girl, called Mary; has a small scar over her eye, a good many teeth missing. The letter A is branded on her cheek and forehead."

"Ran away, negress, Caroline; had on a collar with one prong turned down." 2 "Ran away! Billy is twenty-five years old, and is known as a patroon of my boat for many years; in all probability he may resist; in that event, $50.00 will be paid for his head." 3

Very little attempt was made to find a runaway

1 Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 159

2 Jay, Miscellaneous Writings, 484; many such advertisements in Child, Patriarchal Institution; Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 162. 

3 From the Charleston Courier, February 20, 1836; similar incidents in the Life of Benjamin Lundy, 53; Chambers, American Slavery and Colour, 200-202.

through his friends; for the negroes almost universally aided their own race. If advertising failed, the next step was to hunt with dogs, and professional slave-catchers advertised blood-hounds that "can take the trail twelve hours after the negro has passed and catch him with ease." The use of the "nigger dogs '' was distasteful to the north, but was  not in itself an inhuman method of finding the fugitive, though some slave-holders looked on it as "a kind o' barbarous sport." The difficulty was that the dogs were sometimes. allowed to tear their captures (not sufficiently to injure their market value) when taken, and that the fury of the pursuers and the despair of the quarry sometimes led to resistance and to shooting 1 When brought back, it was usual to make an example, especially if the slave had been out a long time; and the annals of the time are full of cases where slaves carried for the rest of their lives the record of the master's resentment; they were then put in heavy iron shackles or collars, partly as a punishment and partly to prevent escape, and sometimes they suffered more direct tortures, such as drawing out the toe-nails. 2

Perhaps one in twenty of the slaves who broke away was so well informed or so bold as to set forth

1 Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 163; Olmsted, Back Country, 55, 474.

2 Pickard, Kidnapped and Ransomed, 192-195, 308-310; narratives of slaves, enumerated in chapter xxii., below.

with the purpose of never seeing the plantation again. In a very few cases, such fugitives were incited or aided by northern men who went south for that purpose. Besides Burr, Work, and Thompson, sent to the penitentiary, 1. one John L. Brown was sentenced to death, in 1846 (a sentence commuted to whipping), for aiding fugitives; and the Shaker abolitionist, Concklin, carried off the Still family of four persons from Florence, Alabama, into Indiana.2 In a later period, John Brown, of Ossawatomie, crossed into Missouri and helped fugitive slaves away.3  Slaves carried into the northern states by their masters as personal attendants  sometimes slipped away and never returned, unless the master had taken the precaution to keep some of the slave's children behind.

The fugitive slaves were surrounded by a host of watchful enemies; unless provided with a forged pass for this occasion, most of them were stopped within ten miles of home and turned back by the patrollers.4 This danger escaped, every unknown negro found wandering about the country was subject to being taken up and imprisoned, until his captors could advertise him and find his people. If he got clear away from his country or state, he was still far from liberty; he might find his way to some southern

1 See above, p. 222.

2 Pickard, Kidnapped and Ransomed, 280-305, 398-409:

3 Chadwick, Causes of the Civil War (American Nation, XIX.), chap. v.

4 See above, chap. viii.

town or city and there set up as a freeman, but every negro perfectly knew the danger of recapture under such circumstances, and most of the determined  fugitives directed their footsteps north. "We saw the North Star," said Harriet Tubman, "and that told us which way to go." Many escaped by sea; most of the coasters had negro cooks or stewards who could often be induced by sympathy or for a bribe to receive the fugitive and deliver him in a northern port. In the interior, the negro must make his own way from place to place, ignorant of geography and of distance, arid chiefly dependent upon the aid of members of his own race: and he found the great belt of wooded mountains stretching from northern Alabama to Pennsylvania a natural highway.

 Once across the border, and sometimes before he reached it, the negro entered upon a concealed and intricate system of routes, to which the name "Underground Railroad" was commonly applied. The term suggests not only a route, out termini, trainmen, and general officials. There was, however, never any general association, hardly so much as a definite understanding between the abolitionists who carried on this forbidden traffic; nor did the conductors and station-masters know all the links in the routes which ran past, or rather into, their doors. The " U. G." can be traced back to informal committees formed in several of the northern cities; and two veterans in this service-Still, in Philadelphia and the Quaker, Levi Coffin, in Cincinnati-kept a record of the business that went through their stations.1

The Underground Railroad had an advertising agency in the understanding, which somehow permeated the slaves in the southern states, that if they once crossed into the free states they would find friends who would forward them from place to place, until they were free from pursuit or arrived at the haven of Canada. To reach these friends every possible method was employed: Henry Box Brown permitted himself to be nailed up in a packing-case and sent by freight to Philadelphia; another hid himself under the guards of a coasting steamer, enduring days of hunger and chill. Ellen Crafts, a very light woman, impersonated a white planter, while her husband played the role of personal attendant. As she expected, she was called upon at the Baltimore station to make a written statement as to her companion, but she could not write, and had bound up her arm on the pretense that it was injured. In a few hours they not only escaped, but were entertained as heroes, and their freedom was soon purchased for them. In one instance, three slaves who had some money associated themselves together, hired a travelling coach, bribed a white man to act as their master, and actually drove in state from slavery into freedom.2

1 Still, Underground Railroad; Coffin, Reminiscences; Siebert, Underground Railroad

2 McDougall, Fugitive Slaves, §§ 67-69. 

The Underground Railroad was not a route, but a net-work; not an organization, but a conspiracy of thousands of people banded together for the deliberate purpose of depriving their southern neighbors of their property and of defying the fugitive-slave laws of the United States. The geographical area of these operations extended from Maine to Kansas; the routes north of New York began at the seaports and trended towards Canada; in the neighborhood of Philadelphia there was a complexus of routes diverging from two trunk lines, one through Baltimore and the other through Gettysburg.  West of the mountains the Underground Railroad was much more flourishing, both because of the hundreds of miles of contiguity between the free and slave states, and because the Ohio River was a highway from one part of the south to another much used by masters and slave-dealers. More than thirty points have been traced on the line of the 0hio and Mississippi Rivers where fugitives were received and forwarded. Once on the road, they were carried, commonly at night, by short stages from house to house, concealed during the day, and sent to sure places of refuge. 1

in some cases the master himself followed; in other cases he "sold his nigger running "--that is, transferred the title to a person, often a professional slave-catcher, who had never seen the slave before, and had no other interest than to get him back and

1 Siebert, Underground Railroad, passim.

sell him at a profit. This practice, with its cold, commercial calculation, in which there was so little of the patriarchal and dignified respect of slavery, accented the law - breaking spirit of the abolitionists.

Though hundreds of people were perfectly well known to harbor slaves, 1 in order to throw suspicion off the scent, younger members of the family, boys or girls, were often employed to drive through the woods with a fugitive. The Underground Railroad was manned chiefly by orderly citizens, members of churches and philanthropic societies. To such law-abiding folk what could be more delightful than the sensation of aiding an oppressed slave, exasperating a cruel master, and at the same time incurring the penalties of defying an unrighteous law? The Underground Railroad furnished the pleasures of a hunt in which the trembling prey was saved from his brutal pursuers; the excitement of a fight in which there was little personal danger; and the joy of the martyr's crown without the faggot. Hundreds of people deliberately engaged in this work who were not enrolled as abolitionists, and thousands of other people would not lift a hand to help a master recover a slave within a free state. After the British abolition Act took effect, in 1840, the soil of Canada became absolutely free, and the British government would not take the slightest

1 For instance, the author's grandfather and aunt kept stations on the " U. G.," in northern Ohio, and his father was a conductor. 

pains to assist in returning fugitives. Canada, therefore, was a sure refuge, and many of the routes of the Underground Railroad terminated on the Canadian border or on the Great Lakes, across which there were secret ferries. The nucleus of a negro settlement was made here by an exodus of negroes from Ohio, about 1821, and in Canada West, between Lake Erie and Lake Huron, four or five negro settlements sprang up, to which recruits were sent from cities in the states as well as from the fugitives.1

The number of persons aided by this system can only be guessed. Official figures in the census of 1850 and 1860 showed a loss of about a thousand slaves a year; but twelve to thirteen hundred a year passed through the Underground Railroad in Ohio alone, and three to four hundred through Philadelphia. In the thirty years from 1830 to 1860, an average of perhaps two thousand slaves a year got away from their masters, of whom perhaps a tenth lost themselves in the south and another tenth got to Canada. This would leave about fifty thousand negroes who, in the fifty years, took to themselves wings and flew away to the free states. As most of the fugitives were grown people, the money loss to the south was, first and last, perhaps thirty million dollars. Nevertheless, it did not seriously affect the value of the slaves except in the

1 Life of Benjamin Lundy, 240, 251-254; May, Recollections, 303-305; S. G. Howe, Refugees from Slavery.

border counties of the border states. The Underground Railroad, therefore, was calculated not so much to weaken slavery as to strengthen the antislavery feeling throughout the northern states.1

1 On interstate difficulties, arising out of slavery, see chap. xix., below.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 215-231. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.



Please note that this entry includes two chapters:

·        Hart, “Slavery and Abolition,” 1906

·        Wilson, “Proscription, Lawlessness, and Barbarism,” 1872

Chapter: “Slavery and Abolition,” by Albert Bushnell Hart, in The American Nation: A History, 1906.

All the relations of the abolitionist to the negro were intended to bear upon the one purpose of affecting the master either by "moral suasion" or by arousing public sentiment against him. Garrison deliberately chose the latter method, and asked, "What has been so efficacious as this hard language? . .  its strength of denunciation bears no proportion to the enormous guilt of the slave system." 1 Although not one planter in a thousand ever heard an abolitionist speak, and not one in a hundred ever read an abolitionist book or paper, this habitual harshness aroused the fiercest resentment; the rank and file of· the abolitionists were "silly enthusiasts led away by designing characters''; the leaders were "mere ambitious men ... who cloak their designs under vile and impious hypocrisies, and unable to shine in higher spheres, devote themselves to fanaticism as a trade." 2 Calhoun said of them: "It is against this relation between the two races that the blind and criminal zeal of the Abolitionists is directed

1 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 336.

2 Hammond, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 173.

--a relation that now preserves in quiet and security more than 6,500,000 human beings." 1 Even so moderate a slave-holder as Henry Clay wrote, " Abolition is a delusion which cannot last ... in pursuit of a principle ... it undertakes to tread down and trample in the dust an opposing principles however sacred. It arrays state against state. To make the black men free it would virtually enslave the white man." 2 Though " moral suasion" had been going on ever since the days of Justice Sewall, slavery was gaining ground steadily; and Garrison scored a point when he drew up a roll of abolitionists known for their habitual moderation of tone, and asked, "Of the foregoing list, who is viewed with complacency or preferred over another by slave holders or their apologists?" 3 No arguments against slavery pleased the southerners, and no mildness of statements could reconcile them to an habitual questioning of the justice of their practice. A champion of slavery wrote, "Supposing that we were all convinced and thought of slavery precisely as you do, at what era of 'moral suasion ' do you imagine you could prevail on us to give up a thousand millions of dollars in the value of our slaves, and a thousand millions of dollars more in the depreciation of our lands ? '' 4

1 Calhoun, Works, V., 205.

2 Clay to Gibson, July, 1842, Colton, Private Correspondence of Clay, 464.

3 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 461.

4 Hammond, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 141.

Perhaps a stronger argument for the abandonment of moral suasion was that the south would have none of it from its own people, who could speak from experience, and could appreciate the difficulties of the slave-holder. To prevent discussion in print the legislatures enlarged the existing press laws of the south against anything which might have a tendency to cause dissatisfaction among slaves'. By the Georgia code of 1835, publications which tended to incite insurrections were punishable by death.1 The Virginia code of 1849 provided that, "If a free person by speaking or writing, maintain that owners have no right of property in their slaves, he shall be confined in jail not more than one year and fined not exceeding $500." 2 Cassius M. Clay's anti-slavery paper, “The True American”, was driven out of Lexington by an organization of citizens.3 The religious societies of the north found it impossible to carry on their work in the south except through southern men; and northern, and even English books containing criticisms were not allowed to circulate.. In 1856 a member of a Texas legislature was threatened with "consequences to which we need not allude" for saying, in his place in the house, that the "Congress of the United States had the constitutional right to legislate on the subject of slavery in the territories."4

1 Niles' Register, XLVIII., 44r.

2 Virginia Code, 1849, chap. cxcviii., § 22.

3 Niles' Register, LXVIII., 408; Clay, Memoirs.

4 Olmsted, Texas Journey, 504-506. 

Threats of dire punishment if abolitionists showed themselves in the south were frequent. An Alabama minister wrote:  “Let your emissaries dare to cross the Potomac, and I cannot promise you that your fate will be less than Haman's." A very few abolitionists from the north tested these threats. In 1835, Dr. Reuben Crandall, of New York, received some copies of the Emancipator and other anti-slavery papers at Washington, which he lent to a white friend. He was thereupon arrested and imprisoned on the charge of attempting to excite insurrection and riot among the slaves. After eight months in jail he was tried and found not guilty. Charles T. Torrey, a graduate of Yale and Andover Theological Seminary, and an abolitionist speaker and writer, went to Annapolis in 1842 to report a "Slave-holders' Convention," for which he was arrested and obliged to give bail. Subsequently, Torrey was convicted of assisting slaves to escape, and died a prisoner in a. Virginia penitentiary. 1

Seldom did such offences come to trial: they were prevented by threats of punishment or dealt with by a mob violence. The Liberator claimed that from 1836 to 1856 about three hundred white people were mobbed and killed in the south on suspicion of being abolitionists. No such number of authenticated cases can be traced; and those that did occur were usually of people suspected of trying to run off

1 Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 411, 437, 441-443; Buckingham, Slave States, I., 531

slaves, a very different offence.1 The principal cases which attracted attention were the following. Robinson, an English travelling bookseller, was whipped and driven out of Petersburg, Virginia, in 1832, for saying that "the blacks, as men; were entitled to their freedom and ought to be emancipated." John Lamb was tarred and feathered, badly burned, and whipped for taking the Liberator. Amos Dresser, a student of Lane Seminary and of Oberlin, in 1835, while on a colporteur trip to the south, wrapped a copy of the Emancipator around a Bible which he left at an inn in Nashville, and was found in possession of an anti-slavery paper with one of the so called incendiary pictures, for which he was severely whipped and expelled from the south.2

Not satisfied with denunciation or legislation or the quieting effect of enlightened public opinion combined with mob violence, the south came outside of its breastworks and set up a new principle of federal responsibility by demanding that the northern states find means to stop the odious movement; and a succession of public meetings, executive messages, and reports of legislative committees emphasized these demands. Thus the legislature of South Carolina, in 1835, "announces her confident expectation and she earnestly requests, that the government of these [non-slave-holding] States will promptly and effectually suppress all those associations within

1 Cutler, Lynch Law, 100-103, 115-124.

2 Life of Benjamin Lundy, 255-259; Amos Dresser, Narrative.

their respective limits purporting to be abolition societies"; and the North Carolina legislature called for "penal laws prohibiting the printing within their respective limits all such publications as may have a tendency to make our slaves discontented." 1

To make these requests effective, demands were repeatedly put for a boycott against northern cities which permitted abolition meetings.2 The “Charleston Patriot” recommended its citizens to trade with Philadelphia as "the only Northern city which has responded in a proper spirit to the call of the South on the North for energetic action." 3 The highest point in these demands was reached in a message of Governor McDuffie to the South Carolina legislature in 1835, in which he inveighed against the abolition literature, expressing it as his "deliberate opinion,  that the laws of every community should punish this species of interference by death without benefit of clergy."4

 Though abolition was tabooed in the south, the American Colonization Society, with a large clientele of state and local branches, supported by the churches, and receiving indirect money aids from the national government, was put forth as the real and only practicable measure for ameliorating African slavery, and had adherents and support

1 Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 413.

2 Von Holst, United States, II., 111-113.

3 Niles' Register, XLIX., 7

4 Von Holst, United States, II., 118

there till the Civil War. To be sure, in the second decade of colonizing activity, from 1831 to 1840, only 2403 emigrants were actually sent to Africa; 1 but the idea of colonization captivated both slaveholder and reformer: the former by the assurance that the despised free negro was to disappear, the latter by declarations that the colonizationists desired "to hasten as far as they can the period when slavery shall cease to exist." 2 The same contradiction was carried into Africa: the degraded free negro, when settled in Liberia, was to stop the slave-trade and to be the center of a movement of civilization and of missionary activity.3 So alluring was this idea of giving the negro an opportunity to develop a community of his own, that Benjamin Lundy, from 1832 to 1836, was constantly engaged in plans of a negro colony in Texas, 4 and actually carried over to Haiti a small number of negroes, who founded an unsuccessful colony.

The African settlements did not flourish: one after another the agents succumbed to disease; the various little settlements united into the "Commonwealth of Liberia," at first governed by the American Colonization Society; but in 1847 it took on itself the form of an independent government, which received the few colonists sent out by the society.

1 African Repository, XLUI., 110-u2; Alexander, History of Colonization, passim.

2 Maryland Society, in McPherson, Liberia, 53.

3 McPherson, Liberia, 53-59.

4 Life of Benjamin Lundy, 30-168, passim.

It was never prosperous, and furnished a stock argument that under the most favorable conditions negroes could not keep up a government of their own; At home, the society encountered the most determined opposition from the abolitionists. Garrison, in his pamphlet “Thoughts on African Colonization”, published in 1832, criticized their colonies, accused them of trying to maintain slavery, and declared that the society "imperatively and effectually seals up the lips of a vast number of influential and pious men." 1 The attack came at a critical time, when a plan had been formed to secure an annual appropriation of $240,000 from Congress, by which it was estimated the negroes could all be carried out of the country in twenty-eight years; but when the project was presented to Congress, the southern members almost unanimously objected. 2

Colonization never really approved itself either to north or south. The south pooh-poohed at its small results, predicted its failure, and abjured federal aid to help them out of the difficulty; and impartial observers thought the Colonization Society contained too many slave-holding members and did not accomplish anything for its ostensible object 4   Throughout the period the two organizations were at war with each other. The colonizationists gave

1 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 290-302.

2 Ibid., 261, 303.

3 Dew, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 391-420.

4 Reed and Matheson, Narrative, II., 258.

blow for blow, publicly attacked Garrison, and intimated that he ought to be turned over to the civil authorities of some southern state; and the abolitionists scoffed at the fruitlessness of their rivals' efforts.1

As for general emancipation, immediate or remote, its difficulties and its dangers were clearly realized by many impartial observers. Some calculated the immense sums that would be necessary to compensate the owners for their slaves.2 The planters themselves foresaw nothing but ruin for both races: the cultivation of cotton would cease; race war would break out; emancipation could not last, for "the law would make them freemen, and custom or prejudice, we care not which you call it, would degrade them to the condition of  slaves"; when the slaves were gone the land would be worthless ; the free negroes would rapidly increase, and the white population correspondingly decrease.3 These objections applied with equal strength to gradual emancipation; for when the slave property "is gone, no matter how, the deed will be done, and Virginia will be a .desert." 4 Hence, emancipation of any kind would be fatal unless the negroes were all to be deported, for the free negroes would be driven out by white competition. 5 The argument

1 Garrisons, Garrison, I., 324.

2 Von Raumer, America, 125.

3 Harper and Dew, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 85-88, 357-376, 433-436, 444; Adams, Southside View, 119-122. 

4 Ibid., 384.

5 Lyell, Travels, 1st series, I., 191.

focuses in the conclusion that "every plan of emancipation and deportation ... is totally impracticable." 1

Against this battery of argument the abolitionists were conscientiously obtuse: they saw no loss to the community from employing free negroes in fields where they had labored as slaves, except the power of exchange into other forms of property; the experience, on a smaller scale, of the northern states convinced them that it was perfectly possible to get rid of slavery without disturbance of the business or safety of the community ; and they did not for a moment believe that the negroes would cut the throats of their former masters and mistresses. As for the invective of the south, the abolitionists were of the mind of Major Jack Downing: “I met a man from Georgia there, 6 feet 9 inches high, a real good fellow. Most all these Southern folks are good fellows, if you don't say nothin' about the tariff, nor freein the niggers; but they talk pretty big--I know how to manage them, the Gineral tell'd me a secret about that-says he 'Major, when they say they can hit a dollar, tell 'em you can hit a fourpence hapenny."'

1 Dew, in Pro-Slavery Argument 292, 379-384.

2 Davis, Letters of Major J. Downing, 35.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 232-241. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.

Chapter: “Proscription, Lawlessness, and Barbarism,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

THE proscription, lawlessness, and barbarism of slavery were the necessary conditions of its existence. Its essential injustice and inevitable cruelties, its malign and controlling influences upon society and the state, its violence of word and conduct, its unfriendliness to freedom of thought and its repression of free speech even in the presence of the most flagrant enormities, its stern and bloody defiance of all who questioned its action or resisted its behests, were specially manifest during the closing years of its terrible reign. Statutes, however severe, and courts, however servile, were not enough. The mob was sovereign. Vigilance committees took the law into their own hands, prompting and executing the verdicts and decisions of self-constituted judges and self-selected juries. Merchants on lawful business, travellers for pleasure, teachers and day-laborers, all felt alike the prescriptive ban. A merciless vindictiveness prevailed, and held its stern and pitiless control over the whole South. The privileges and immunities of citizenship were worthless, and the law afforded no protection. Southern papers were filled with accounts of the atrocities perpetrated, and volumes alone could contain descriptions of all that transpired during this reign of terror.

Illustrative of this inexorable intolerance and completeness of subjection was the course pursued towards members of the Methodist Church North residing in Texas. Offended by their presence, the mob demanded not only the silence but the ejection of any ministers of its connection. They yielded to the menace, and this lawless action received the indorsement of the religious press. The Texas “Advocate," the organ of the Methodist Church South, urged “the thorough and immediate eradication of the Methodist Church North in Texas, with whatever force may be necessary." If such were the teachings of their religious journals, little surprise need be felt that the mob reigned, and reigned ruthlessly.

In the spring of 1860 Rev. Solomon McKinney, a Campbellite preacher, went from Kentucky to the same State. He was a Democrat, and believed that the Bible sanctioned slavery. In Dallas County, at the request of a slaveholder, he preached on the relative duties of master and slave. Though nothing very radical would be expected from one with his avowed belief, antecedents, and political affiliations, his utterances probably breathed too much of truth and of humanity for that meridian. A public meeting was held, and he was warned not to preach there again. Even his Southern opinions and Democracy could not save him. Heeding the warning, which he knew betokened extreme measures, in company with another preacher of the same denomination, he started for the North. But he and his companion were overtaken, carried back to Dallas County, and imprisoned. They were soon taken from the jail by armed men, and whipped with raw hides, receiving eighty lashes each, until their “backs were one mass of clot ted blood and bruised and mangled flesh." In a memorial sent to the legislature of Wisconsin by Mr. Blount, the companion of McKinney, he made the singular statement that he had never preached against slavery, and that " for more than thirty years he had uniformly supported the Democratic party in both State and nation, and had sustained the views of that party upon the issues between the North and the South." As little creditable as was this statement to himself, it exposed with unmistakable clearness the intense intolerance of his persecutors, and revealed how much better the South loved dark ness than light, and how dense that darkness must be.

Nor was Texas exceptionally intolerant. During the closing days of 1859 Rev. Daniel Worth, a minister of highly respectable family and position, an eloquent and popular preacher, formerly an inhabitant of Indiana and member of its legislature, was arrested in North Carolina for circulating Helper's "Impending Crisis." He was indicted, and commit ted to jail to await his trial in the spring. His bonds, placed at an unreasonable amount, he could not obtain, and he was con signed to a " cell wholly unsuitable for a person to live in, and his only bedding a dirty pallet" ; and all this was for the alleged crime of circulating a book written by a Southerner, in the interests of the white man more than of the black, and devoted mainly to material rather than moral arguments against negro slavery. He was convicted, and sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment, a sentence deemed too light by many, because, they said, he might have been "publicly whipped," according to the law.

Nor was there respect of persons. The day-laborer, no less than the minister, must be silent before this imperious Power. A young Irishman, a stone-cutter, at work on the State House of South Carolina, dropped the casual remark that "slavery caused a white laborer at the South to be looked upon as an inferior and degraded man." This simple expression of a truth known to all, and deeply appreciated by himself, gave mortal offence, and he was at once seized, thrust into jail, taken out and dragged through the streets, tarred and feathered, and then, without other clothing than a pair of pants, put into a negro car for Charleston, whence, after a week's imprisonment, he was banished from the State. And he, too, could urge, though without avail, in extenuation of his con duct, that he had "always voted the Democratic ticket."

Among the few antislavery men afforded by the South was Rev. John G. Fee of Kentucky. A strictly religious and conscientious man, he hated slavery, and would rid his beloved commonwealth of its guilt and damage. Not content with simply enunciating the doctrines of freedom, he would exhibit to his fellow-citizens their practical workings when brought to the test of fair experiment. With others of similar character and purposes, he established a colony, or community, in one of the counties of the State. Beside the church there were a large and flourishing school and a steam saw-mill. These appliances, and the good character, industry, and thrift of its inhabitants, produced their natural results. Intelligent and moral, industrious and law-abiding, being punctilious even in their purpose to “submit to every ordinance of 'man for the Lord's sake," the people of Berea made it a marked neighborhood, extorting from a leading and intelligent slave holder the encomium that “it was the best he had seen in all Kentucky." But no fidelity as citizens, no caution, no unobtrusiveness, could hide their success. Their virtues became trumpet-tongued; their very reticence was eloquent; and the light of that little community made the surrounding darkness more hideous and dense. The slaveholders saw it, winced under the rebuke thus quietly bestowed, “felt how awful goodness is," and determined that that light should be extinguished, and that condemning voice should be silenced. A meeting was held, at which it was resolved to expel them from the State; and a committee of sixty-five, " representing," it was said, " the wealth and respectability of the county," was intrusted with the cruel task of breaking up their homes and banishing them therefrom; not because they had broken the laws, for it was admitted that they had not, but because, as alleged, their " principles were opposed to the public peace." They appealed in vain to the governor for protection, but were advised by that official, "for the sake of peace," to leave the State. This they did without resistance, “preferring exile," it was said, “with the silent preaching their absence would furnish, to the shedding of blood." Similar demonstrations were made in two other counties, for similar reasons, and with like results. The ostracized took legal counsel, and received for advice that, though they could oppose force to force, it was expedient that they should leave. They did; the school-house was closed, the steam-mill was dismantled, and again “order reigned."

The same intolerance and impatience of rebuke, however considerate and qualified, were exhibited towards Cassius M. Clay. Though his views were so moderate, and he made so many admissions that Abolitionists criticised him sharply for his want of sympathy with Mr. Fee and his associates, yet, being opposed to slavery, and a Republican, it was resolved that he, too, must leave the State, or at least he must cease his opposition. And this was put on the ground that it was of little use "to drive out Fee and his companions while Clay was left to agitate the country." But his talents and eloquence, his high social position, his recognized courage and defiant attitude, and above all, no doubt, the growing power of the Republican Party, induced his persecutors to desist, and their threats were not carried into execution.

Even in Delaware, so far north and so little interested in slavery as almost to be called a free State, a similar hostility was exhibited to freedom of speech and a free press. In Milford, where was published a Republican paper, a town-meeting was held to “consider what course should be taken to suppress the ' incendiary sheet ' "; and, in addition, it was also determined to suppress it by violence. But the mob, assembled for that purpose, encountered so determined and well directed a resistance, that it slunk away with its object unaccomplished; and the brave editor, Dr. John S. Prettyman, had the satisfaction of recording, the next year, the vote of the town for Lincoln and Hamlin.

Nor was it enough to banish a free press. Everything Northern that breathed of freedom and humanity must be barred out. Even the mails, that should ever be inviolable, sacred to friendship and business, and devoted to the diffusion of knowledge, were rifled and their contents pillaged. Whatever called in question either slavery or its laws was pronounced " incendiary," and its exclusion from the mails was demanded, though to do it clothed every petty postmaster with the hateful right of espionage and the authority to exclude whatever in his judgment was thus prohibited. The laws of Virginia recognized this right and clothed him with this authority. They also empowered any justice of the peace to “burn publicly” any such condemned matter, and to commit to jail any one knowingly subscribing for and receiving it. These laws were pronounced "constitutional” by the attorney-general of Virginia, and, also by Caleb Gushing, Attorney-General of the United States, under Mr. Pierce's administration. Concerning them, too, Judge Holt, Postmaster-General under Mr. Buchanan, said that this opinion had been “cheerfully acquiesced in by this department, and is now recognized as one of the guides of the administration." Nor were these laws in any manner a dead letter; but, during the closing years of this terrible rule, they were rigorously enforced. Few North ern journals were allowed circulation, except, it was said, organs of “proslavery diabolism and proslavery piety."

The same spirit pervaded the halls of national legislation. From the time of Franklin's memorial to the 1st Congress calling upon the government " to step to the very verge of its power "to discourage the slave-traffic, when, in the words of Hildreth, the slaveholders poured out " torrents of abuse " upon the Quakers and Abolitionists who had sighed it, to the close of the conflict, violence characterized the course of the advocates and defenders of slavery. Whoever opposed its rule were assailed with ferocity and vindictiveness, not always confined to words. These assailants, in the language of Mr. Sumner, “became conspicuous, not less for the avowal of sentiments at which civilization blushed, than for an effrontery of manner when the accidental legislator was lost in the natural overseer, and the lash of the plantation resounded in the voice." "Insult," said John Quincy Adams, more tersely, "bullying, and threats characterized slaveholders in Congress."

The venerable Adams was threatened with the “penitentiary," and the avowal was made that he must be “silenced." The ever-faithful but fearless Giddings was assailed by brutal and indecent words, and menaced with bludgeon, bowie-knife, and revolver. Mr. Sumner, for words spoken in debate, was smitten down in his place, and his blood stained the floor of the Senate chamber. At a later date, in the spring of 1860, when the hosts were gathering for the Presidential conflict of that year, Owen Lovejoy, addressing the House, standing in front of the Speaker's chair, was rudely and fiercely interrupted by Southern members, who crowded around him with menacing attitude and gesture. He spoke indeed with the fiery and uncompromising earnestness which the strong convictions of such a man and his terrible experience could not but beget, as he stood up in that infuriated presence to " vindicate the principles baptized in the blood " of his martyred brother, twenty years before, on the banks of the Mississippi. Maddened by his faithful portrayal, they revealed by their language and manner their principles and purposes of action. Stigmatizing him with rude and vulgar words, as " a black hearted scoundrel and nigger-stealing thief," as "an infamous and perjured villain," as " a mean and despicable wretch," they ejaculated the threat, in the words of Martin of Virginia: "If you come among us, we will do with you as we did with John Brown, hang you up as high as Haman."

These few examples illustrate, too faintly perhaps, the proscription, lawlessness, and barbarism of slavery, especially during the closing years of its domination. By them the “Sunny South," as its partial friends were fond of calling it, was transformed into a land of darkness arid moral desolation, of social and political unrest. They had also been the school where were learned the lessons that were practised with such fearful effect at Belle Isle, Salisbury, and Andersonville. From them resulted, too, that widespread demoralization, individual and social, revealed by the Rebellion, which was a surprise to the oldest and most radical abolitionists, who found that even they had not accurately gauged the monstrous iniquity, or fully fathomed the depths of American slavery.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 666-672.



Chapter: “Dissension among the Abolitionists. - Disruption of the American Antislavery Society,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

But in spite of the stern and relentless opposition encountered by the Abolitionists, they increased in numbers, influence, and power. In consequence, however, of that increase, diversities of opinion began to appear. These became -more and more marked and defined, dissensions arose, and divisions speedily followed.

Nor were these dissensions and divisions a matter of surprise. When the New England Antislavery Society was organized, its members united in declaring themselves in favor of using all means sanctioned by law, humanity, and religion, to effect the abolition of slavery. The National Antislavery Society began its existence by proclaiming that the highest obligation rested upon Abolitionists to remove slavery by moral and political action. Few in numbers, with their eyes intently fixed on the crime and wrongs of slavery, and the pressing necessity of immediate abolition, they were for a time united in sentiment, feeling, and purpose. As their numbers increased and they began to consider the - problem of emancipation as a practical measure, .more difficulties revealed themselves. These difficulties, while they intensified feeling and inspired zeal and courage, were little calculated to secure unity of thought or harmony of action. Men who, under these untoward circumstances, accepted the unpopular doctrine-of immediate abolition, and entered upon the self-sacrificing work it imposed, were not generally the men to yield to the dictates of committees or the decrees of conventions. The very elements of character which made them reformers rendered them positive, sometimes dogmatic and impracticable. Generally with strong conscientious convictions, marked individuality, and not infrequent idiosyncrasies of character, they did not always wisely discriminate between the essentials and nonessentials of the conflict. Some looked chiefly to moral, others to political action; some to ecclesiastical, and others to governmental agencies. Meeting opposition where they had too confidently anticipated aid, some left churches and parties, and strove to found those of a purer and more legitimate character; while others disowned them altogether, adopting loose and disorganizing opinions concerning all governments ·and ecclesiastical institutions. Others still -a few, indeed - entertained the wildest vagaries and the most fantastic notions, and burdened the cause by giving occasion to those who were glad to find it an opportunity to associate their extravagances with the true issue.

Many things conspired to develop these dissensions and differences, which began to manifest themselves in 1838 with painful distinctness. Chief among these was the question of exercising the right of suffrage. In the annual report of the American .Antislavery Society for that year, signed by James G. Birney, Elizur Wright, Jr., .and Henry B. Stanton, corresponding secretaries, the declaration was made that Abolitionists should inquire into the sentiments of candidates for office, and that he was unworthy the name of an Abolitionist who did not put the antislavery qualification above all others in -selecting candidates to receive his vote. This duty was emphatically declared to be vital to the cause. In the autumn of the same year, many Abolitionists in Central and Western New York gave their votes for William H. Seward for governor. These antislavery men had been trained in· the Whig party. They were not ignorant of Mr. Seward's real feelings and sentiments, although his answers to their questionings had not been on all points satisfactory. Entertaining the idea that his election over Governor Marcy, whose adverse opinions had been clearly pronounced and unequivocal, and whose action had been exceedingly offensive, would contribute largely, as it certainly did, to the development of opposition to the Slave Power, they cast their suffrages for him. But this action was deeply regretted by many Abolitionists, and stoutly opposed by some of the leading antislavery men in that section, especially by William Goodell, editor of the "Friend of Man," at Utica, and by Gerrit Smith.

Not a little discouraged by this demonstration, Mr. Smith proposed a new antislavery organization, whose constitution and laws should require antislavery men not to vote for those men who refuse to avow their belief in the duty of immediate deliverance from the yoke of slavery. He thought that, if such an organization was formed, the old antislavery societies, like the wine-tolerating temperance societies, would speedily fall, and that it would be understood that a member of an antislavery society would, under no circumstances, “vote for a slaveholder, or a slaveholder's apologist." He thought, too, that members of the new society, unlike the old ones, would act in concert with each other. These suggestions were accepted by many who saw that the antislavery cause demanded political action, and who were dissatisfied with the existing society.

But the great body of Abolitionists regretted and resisted that movement. The Massachusetts Antislavery Society denied the competency of any antislavery organization, either by its votes or through its organs, to arraign the political or religious views of its members. It denied their right to insist that it was the duty of any Abolitionist to go to the ballot-box or unite with any church. It admitted that there were conflicting opinions entertained by Abolitionists on these points, but strenuously maintained that "all that a society or its organs may rightfully do is to entreat its members to abide by their principle, whether in the church or out of it, at the polls or elsewhere, to vote for no map, who is not in favor of immediate emancipation; to listen to no preacher who apologizes for s1avery." Believing that such an organization would present no new motive for action, and advance no new principles that it would wear a political, rather than a moral aspect; and that existing antislavery societies were slowly but .surely effecting great and salutary changes both in Church and State, it announced its opposition to the adoption “of a doubtful and untried experiment." 

Early in October of that year, while this division of sentiment and action was in progress in Central and Western New York, a Young Men's Antislavery Convention, consisting of more than four hundred delegates, met in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. The convention was called to order by Oliver Johnson, and was presided over by George T. Davis, then a young lawyer, and rising politician of Franklin County, who early accepted antislavery sentiments, but whose adherence did not long withstand the claims of his political associations. This body, at which nearly all the leading Abolitionists were members adopted a series of resolutions drawn by William Goodell. It unanimously declared by a rising vote that by the grace of God no motive of political expediency or partisan interest, of personal friendship or any other consideration, should tempt them to vote for slavery by voting for a member of the national or State legislatures who would not go to the utmost verge of constitutional power for its abolition. This body pledged all who held it proper in any case to exercise the right of suffrage never .to neglect any opportunity to record their vote against slavery. This decided action of the Worcester convention, the election in Western New York, the proposition of Gerrit Smith for the organization of antislavery societies, and the address of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society revealed the unquestionable fact that the largest portion, of the Abolitionists believed in political action in some form. 

Nevertheless, a small but active portion of the Abolitionists, mostly in New England, more or less tinctured with the nonresistant theories, were opposed to the exercise of the right of suffrage. Abjuring all resort to force, on which governments necessarily rest, they, by logical sequence, declined the use of' the ballot. Though undoubtedly conscientious in their course, they not only yielded up an element of power, potent in a government resting on the will and votes of the people, which they had no right to relinquish, but by so doing they weakened their own effective influence upon the people, however truthful, earnest, and vivid were their delineations of slavery and their arraignments of the Slave Power.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 406-410.


ADAMS, Charles Francis, 1807-1886, Vice President, Anti-Slavery Free Soil Party, newspaper publisher and editor.  Son of former President John Quincy Adams.  Grandson of President John Adams.  Opposed annexation of Texas, on opposition to expansion of slavery in new territories.  Formed “Texas Group” within Massachusetts Whig Party.  Formed and edited newspaper, Boston Whig, in 1846.

(Adams, 1900; Duberman, 1961; Goodell, 1852, p. 478; Mitchell, 2007, pp. 32-33; Pease, 1965, pp. 445-452; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 51, 298; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, pp. 12-13. Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 40-48)

ADAMS, Charles Francis, diplomatist, son of John Quincy Adams, b. in Boston, 18 Aug., 1807; d. there, 21 Nov., 1886. When two years old he was taken by his father to St. Petersburg, where he learned German, French, and Russian. Early in 1815 he travelled all the way from St. Petersburg to Paris with his mother in a private carriage, a difficult journey at that time, and not unattended with danger. His father was soon afterward appointed minister to England, and the little boy was placed at an English boarding-school. The feelings between British and Americans was then more hostile than ever before or since, and young Adams was frequently called upon to defend with his fists the good name of his country. When he returned after two years to America, his father placed him in the Boston Latin school, and he was graduated at Harvard college in 1825, shortly after his father's inauguration as president of the United States. He spent two years in Washington, and then returned to Boston, where he studied law in the office of Daniel Webster, and was admitted to the Suffolk bar in 1828. The next year he married the youngest daughter of Peter Chardon Brooks, whose elder daughters were married to Edward Everett and Rev. Nathaniel Frothingham. From 1831 to 1836 Mr. Adams served in the Massachusetts legislature. He was a member of the whig party, but, like all the rest of his vigorous and free-thinking family, he was extremely independent in politics and inclined to strike out into new paths in advance of the public sentiment. After 1836 he came to differ more and more widely with the leaders of the whig party with whom he had hitherto acted. In 1848 the newly organized free-soil party, consisting largely of democrats, held its convention at Buffalo and nominated Martin Van Buren for president and Charles Francis Adams for vice-president. There was no hope of electing these candidates, but this little party grew, six years later, into the great republican party. In 1858 he was elected to congress by the republicans of the 3d district of Massachusetts, and in 1860 he was reelected. In the spring of 1861 President Lincoln appointed him minister to England, a place which both his father and his grandfather had filled before him. Mr. Adams had now to fight with tongue and pen for his country as in school-boy days he had fought with fists. It was an exceedingly difficult time for an American minister in England. Though there was much sympathy for the U. S. government on the part of the workmen in the manufacturing districts and of many of the liberal constituencies, especially in Scotland, on the other hand the feeling of the governing classes and of polite society in London was either actively hostile to us or coldly indifferent. Even those students of history and politics who were most friendly to us failed utterly to comprehend the true character of the sublime struggle in which we were engaged— as may be seen in reading the introduction to Mr. E. A. Freeman's elaborate "History of Federal Government, from the Formation of the Achaean League to the Disruption of the United States" (London, 1862). Difficult and embarrassing questions arose in connection with the capture of the confederate commissioners Mason and Slidell, the negligence of Lord Palmerston's government in allowing the "Alabama" and other confederate cruisers to sail from British ports to prey upon American commerce, and the ever manifest desire of Napoleon III. to persuade Great Britain to join him in an acknowledgment of the independence of the confederacy. The duties of this difficult diplomatic mission were discharged by Mr. Adams with such consummate ability as to win universal admiration. No more than his father or grandfather did he belong to the school of suave and crafty, intriguing diplomats. He pursued his ends with dogged determination and little or no attempt at concealment, while his demeanor was haughty and often defiant. His unflinching firmness bore clown all opposition, and his perfect self-control made it difficult for an antagonist to gain any advantage over him. His career in England from 1861 to 1868 must be cited among the foremost triumphs of American diplomacy. In 1872 it was attempted to nominate him for the presidency of the United States, as the candidate of the liberal republicans, but Horace Greeley secured the nomination. He was elected in 1869 a member of the board of overseers of Harvard college, and was for several years president of the board. He has edited the works and memoirs of his father and grandfather, in 22 octavo volumes, and published many of his own addresses and orations. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. pp. 12-13.


ADAMS, John, 1735-1826, statesman, founding father, second President of the United States, opponent of slavery, father of John Quincy Adams. 

See also Us Congress, Anti-Slavery Petitions, Repression of; Amistad Case

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, pp. 17-23; Encyclopaedia Americana, 1829, Vol. I, pp. 44-52; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 72-82)


ADAMS, John Quincy, 1767-1848, Massachusetts, sixth U.S. President (1825-1829), U.S. Congressman (1831-1848), U.S. Secretary of State, lawyer, anti-slavery leader, activist, abolitionist, son of second U.S. President John Adams.  Opposed the Missouri Compromise of 1819, which allowed the expansion of slavery in southern states.  Fought against the “Gag Rule” in Congress, which prevented discussion of the issue of slavery in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The Gag Rule was revoked in 1844. 

(Adams, 1874; Bemis, 1956; Cable, 1971; Dumond, 1961, pp. 238, 243-244, 367-370; Filler, 1960, p. 57, 80, 82, 96, 98, 102, 104, 105, 107, 108, 164, 168, 208; Goodell, 1852; Hammond, 2011, pp. 25, 175, 176, 240, 248, 272, 273, 276, 380; Mason, 2006, pp. 3., 90, 93, 98, 165, 185, 187, 190, 200, 205, 214-222, 263n31, 383n32, 289n47; Miller, 1996; Mitchell, 2007, pp. 3, 6, 8, 10, 18-19, 24, 33, 39, 45, 137, 197, 248; Pease, 1965, pp. 260-267; Remini, 2002; Richards, 1986; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 40-41, 49, 45, 132, 153-154, 305; Wilson, 1872, Vol. 2, pp. 161-164; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, pp. 24-28. Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 84-92.)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

ADAMS, John Quincy, sixth president of the United States, b. in Braintree, Mass., 11 July, 1767; d. in Washington, D. C., 23 Feb., 1848. He was named for his mother's grandfather, John Quincy. […]

Although now an ex-president, Mr. Adams did not long remain in private life. The greatest part of his career still lay before him. Owing to the mysterious disappearance of William Morgan, who had betrayed some of the secrets of the Masonic order, there was in some of the northern states a sudden and violent prejudice against the Freemasons and secret societies in general. An “anti-mason party” was formed, and by its votes Mr. Adams was, in 1831, elected to congress, where he remained, representing the same district of Massachusetts, until his death in 1848. He was shortly afterward nominated by the anti-masons for the governorship of Massachusetts, but was defeated in the legislature, there being no choice by the people. In congress he occupied a perfectly independent attitude. He was one of those who opposed President Jackson's high-handed treatment of the bank, but he supported the president in his firm attitude toward the South Carolina nullifiers and toward France. In 1835, as the French government delayed in paying over the indemnity of $5,000,000 which had been agreed upon by the treaty of 1831 for plunder of American shipping in the Napoleonic wars, Jackson threatened, in case payment should be any longer deferred, to issue letters of marque and reprisal against French commerce. This bold policy, which was successful in obtaining the money, enlisted Mr. Adams's hearty support. He defended Jackson as he had defended Jefferson on the occasion of the embargo; and this time, as before, his course was disapproved in Massachusetts, and he lost a seat in the U. S. senate. He had been chosen to that office by the state senate, but the lower house did not concur, and before the question was decided the news of his speech in favor of reprisals turned his supporters against him. He was thus left in the house of representatives more independent of party ties than ever, and was accordingly enabled to devote his energies to the aid of the abolitionists, who were now beginning to appear conspicuously upon the scene. At that time it was impossible for the opponents of slavery to effect much. The only way in which they could get their case before congress was by presenting petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Unwilling to receive such petitions, or to allow any discussion on the dreaded question, congress in 1836 enacted the cowardly “gag-rule,” that “all petitions, memorials, resolutions, or papers relating in any way or to any extent whatsoever to the subject of slavery or the abolition of slavery, shall, without being either printed or referred, be laid upon the table; and that no further, action whatever shall be had thereon.” After the yeas and nays had been ordered on this, when Mr. Adams's name was called he rose and said: “I hold the resolution to be a direct violation of the constitution of the United States, the rules of this house, and the rights of my constituents.” The house sought to drown his words with loud shrieks and yells of “Order!” “Order!” but he raised his voice to a shout and defiantly finished his sentence. The rule was adopted by a vote of 117 to 68, but it did more harm than good to the pro-slavery party. They had put themselves in an untenable position, and furnished Mr. Adams with a powerful weapon which he used against them without mercy. As a parliamentary debater he has had few if any superiors; in knowledge and dexterity there was no one in the house who could be compared with him; he was always master of himself, even at the white heat of anger to which he often rose; he was terrible in invective, matchless at repartee, and insensible to fear. A single-handed fight against all the slave-holders in the house was something upon which he was always ready to enter, and he usually came off with the last word. Though the vituperative vocabulary of the English language seemed inadequate to express the hatred and loathing with which the pro-slavery party regarded him, though he was more than once threatened with assassination, nevertheless his dauntless bearing and boundless resources compelled the respect of his bitterest opponents, and members from the south, with true chivalry, sometimes confessed it. Every session he returned to the assault upon the gag-rule, until the disgraceful measure was rescinded in 1845. This part of Mr. Adams's career consisted of a vast number of small incidents, which make a very interesting and instructive chapter in American history, but can not well be epitomized. He came to serve as the rallying-point in congress for the ever-growing anti-slavery sentiment, and may be regarded, in a certain sense, as the first founder of the new republican party. He seems to have been the first to enunciate the doctrine upon which Mr. Lincoln afterward rested his great proclamation of emancipation. In a speech in congress in 1836 he said: “From the instant that your slave-holding states become the theatre of war—civil, servile, or foreign—from that instant the war powers of the constitution extend to interference with the institution of slavery in every way in which it can be interfered with.” As this principle was attacked by the southern members, Mr. Adams from time to time reiterated it, especially in his speech of 14 April, 1842, on the question of war with England and Mexico, when he said: " Whether the war be civil, servile, or foreign, I lay this down as the law of nations: I say that the military authority takes for the time the place of all municipal institutions, slavery among the rest. Under that state of things, so far from its being true that the states where slavery exists have the exclusive management of the subject, not only the president of the United States, but the commander of the army has power to order the universal emancipation of the slaves.”  

After the rescinding of the gag-rule Mr. Adams spoke less frequently. In November, 1846, he had a shock of paralysis, which kept him at home four months. On 21 Feb., 1848, while he was sitting in the house of representatives, came the second shock. He was carried into the speaker's room, where he lay two days, and died on the 23d. His last words were: “This is the last of earth; I am content.” See “Life and Public Services of John Quincy Adams,” by William H. Seward (Auburn, 1849); “Life of John Quincy Adams,” by Josiah Quincy (Boston, 1858); “Diary of John Quincy Adams,” edited by Charles F. Adams, 12 vols., 8vo (Philadelphia, 1874-'7); and “John Quincy Adams,” by John T. Morse, Jr. (Boston, 1882). 

The steel portrait of Mr. Adams, facing page 24, is from a picture by Marchant, in the possession of the New York Historical Society. The mansion represented on page 26 is the Adams homestead at Quincy, in which the presidents lived, now the summer residence of Charles Francis Adams.  Source: Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. pp. 17-23.

Chapter: “John Quincy Adams. - William H. Seward. - Salmon P. Chase,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

On the 21st of February, 1848, John Quincy Adams was stricken with apoplexy in his seat in the House of Representatives. He was borne to the Speaker's room, where, two days afterward, the aged statesman died. It was, in his own touching words, his "last of earth," a striking but fitting close of a long and illustrious career. Indeed, had it been left for him to choose the mode of his departure, he could hardly have chosen a death in richer harmony with his life. On the very spot of his grandest triumphs, under the roof that had so often resounded with his ringing words, “the old man eloquent " passed away.

Though Mr. Adams was distinguished above all others in his earnest, persistent, and finally triumphant vindication of the right of petition and freedom of speech, he was not, at least until near the close of life, in hearty accord with Abolitionists, with whom he never affiliated, from whom he often received severe criticisms and censures, and to whom he sometimes applied words indicating little confidence in their plans, if in their purposes, of action. Yet he was a trusted leader in their great fight for freedom of speech, while it was his voice that first enunciated the doctrine --novel to all, and greatly distasteful to slaveholders--of the right of the government, under the war power, to emancipate the slaves; very right on which President Lincoln based the Proclamation of Emancipation.

As, however, he drew near the close of life, his views changed. If his abhorrence of slavery did not increase, his anxiety for the future of his country deepened, and he became more and more cognizant of the machinations of those who seemed determined either to make the government entirely subservient to the behests of the Slave Power or to destroy it. His long participation in public affairs, his intimate relations with public men his protracted observation of statesmen and their measures, his consummate knowledge of the schemings and the indirect purposes of too many, who, with fair professions, sought merely to promote their own personal and. partisan ends, protected him from, what deceived others, and prepared him to interpret both the utterances and the silences of those who spake as loudly and as intelligibly in his ear by the latter as by the former. John Minor Botts, in his history of the rise, progress, and disastrous failure of the great Rebellion, states that the policy and avowed purposes of Mr. Calhoun converted him, and that the open and brazen avowals that the acquisition of Texas was mainly sought to extend and perpetuate slavery made Mr. Adams an Abolitionist. Mr. Botts gives the substance of an interview, after he had expressed sentiments he had not been understood to entertain. Upon the adjournment of the House," he said,” we walked down together, and I took occasion to refer to his remarks, which I do not now precisely recollect, and said that I thought he did not intend to say all that his language could imply. ‘Yes,' he replied, ' I said it deliberately and purposely.' ‘But’ said I, ' Mr. Adams, you are not an Abolitionist.' ‘Yes, I am,' said he. ' I never have been one until now ; but when I see the Constitution of my country struck down by the South for such purposes as are openly avowed, no alternative is left me. I must oppose them with all the means within my reach. I must fight the Devil with his own fire; and, to do this effectually, I am obliged to co-operate with the Abolition party, who have been hateful to me heretofore. If the South had consulted her true interest, and followed your counsel on the Twenty-first Rule and on the Texas­ question, their institutions would never have been endangered by the North; but, if matters are to take the shape foreshadowed by Mr. Calhoun and others of the Democratic party, then no one can foretell what may be the consequences.'”

Nor did Mr. Adams express his convictions in equivocal and mealy words. In August, 1847, he wrote to Governor Slade of Vermont that the existence of slavery was “a moral pestilence” which "preyed on the human race "; that it was "the great evil now suffered by the race of men,--an evil to be extinguished by the will of man himself and by the operations of that will." He declared his belief, that, “if the will of the free portion of this North American people could be organized for action, the people of the whole American Union would ipso facto become free." He avowed himself in favor of an improvement in "the popular education," which, he said, " shall administer to the soul of every male child born within the free portion of these States the principle of that oath which it is said the Carthaginian Hamilcar administered to his son Hannibal with reference to Rome, --eternal, inextinguishable hatred, not to Rome, nor any existing nation, but to slavery throughout the earth.'' 

“The revolution,'' he said, "to be effected in the North American confederacy, preliminary to the abolition of slavery throughout the earth, is in the will of the portion of the American people already free. They now suffer themselves to be told that slavery is nothing to them, and they sleep in bonds of voluntary servitude. How long they will so sleep it will be of no use for me to inquire. The day of their awakening is reserved for a future age."

Mr. Adams had witnessed for fifteen years the continued aggressions of the Slave Power and its continued successes. No wonder, then, that the venerable statesman looked not to the immediate future, but to a coming age, for that awakening of the people which was to precede and procure that breaking of those " bonds of voluntary servitude " he so much deplored, and of whose speedy rupture he was so hopeless. Indeed, his very hopelessness revealed a deeper insight into the nature, workings, and tenacity of the system than did the more positive and confident utterances and anticipations of those who criticised him for his lack of zeal and want of co-operation. There can be little doubt as to his position, had he lived to see the struggle which at once witnessed and attested that awakening, and which resulted in the destruction of what he so thoroughly deprecated and so evidently understood.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 161-164.



Chapter: “Schools in the District of Columbia,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

Slavery always obtrusive. Brown's bill. Wilson's amendment and speech. Amendments of Clark and Harlan. Southern hostility to the education of the blacks. Brown, Mason. Intolerant sentiments of Jefferson Davis. Wilson's response. Myrtilla Miner. Preparation for her great work. Successful efforts. School for colored girls. Countenance and aid from some of the leading citizens of Washington. Serious and violent opposition. Growth and character of the institution. Profitable investments. Miss Miner's death. Suspension. Subsequent action of Congress. Miss Miner's character and work. Failure of Brown's bill.

The maladies of society, like those of the body, are mainly known by their symptoms. There is, therefore, no surer test of the nature, extent, and inveteracy of the disease that was preying upon the Southern portion of the country, by which, too, the North was largely affected, at the opening of the XXXVIth Congress, than is revealed by the sentiments ex pressed and spirit manifested in that body, especially during its first session. Overshadowing all others, it happened that whatever might be the subject before it, if it could by any means be tortured into such shape, the slavery issue became the topic of discussion, keeping the specific purpose of the debate in the background, if it was not lost sight of altogether. Jefferson Davis, by way of complaint of Republican members, it is true, though his testimony is to the point, petulantly exclaimed: " I have heard no question yet discussed as a great political and constitutional question during the present session of the Senate, but in every instance, sooner or later, and generally by a single bound, they plunge into the question of that species of property which is held in the Southern States."

This was specially apparent in a short and sharp discussion of a bill introduced by Mr. Brown, proposing to surrender a certain portion of fines and forfeitures collected in the District of Columbia "for school purposes." On this seemingly unimportant and innocent proposition there sprung up a de bate that revealed, as few debates of that excited session had done, the hidden life and purpose of slaveholding society. It not only challenged attention and compelled the nation to gaze upon the nakedness of the land it cursed, but it showed how naturally and necessarily such results must follow such a cause.

On the motion to put the bill upon its passage, Mr. Wilson moved, as an amendment, that a million of acres of the public lands should be donated to the District for the instruction of “free children." In his remarks upon this amendment Mr. Wilson stated that there were eleven thousand children between the ages of five and sixteen, that only twenty-five per cent were in the common schools, that fifty-one per cent were in no schools at all, that hundreds of scholars sought admission in vain for lack of accommodations, and that " the schoolhouses owned by the city amount to only about ten thousand dollars." Indeed, according to the testimony of Mr. Brown himself, only some thirty thousand dollars were raised annually for schools. Such was the meagre, the disgraceful showing at the beginning of the year 1860 in the proud but slave-ridden capital of the great Republic.

Mr. Clark of New Hampshire moved to amend by providing that the children of no persons who were taxed under the pro visions of the act should be debarred from attending “some of said schools." This amendment involved the principle of pro viding education for colored children, though no one at that time even suggested the possibility of what has since excited so much acrimonious discussion, “mixed schools." The most that was claimed was embodied in an amendment offered by Mr. Harlan of Iowa, that “separate schools shall be provided for the education of the colored children of the District." The ordinary arguments were urged, deduced from the necessary connection between education and the prosperity and maintenance of free institutions; Mr. Clark pertinently putting the question: “How can you better improve the city than by improving the people, as well as the earth and the streets?” The main significance of the debate, however, appeared in the arguments and admissions of those who opposed the three amendments.

Mr. Brown revealed his impatience by spitefully remarking: “This thing ends where I was fearful it would end at the start. It curls in the head of a nigger." Sneering at “Northern philanthropy" for the negro, he said that the mover of the amendment knew “perfectly well that he was introducing a torpedo into this bill, which must destroy it”; for he well knew that the “thirty Southern Senators on this floor will not consent to take charge of the education of the negroes." He expressed his willingness to exempt the property of the free colored people from the taxation involved in the law; but he said he would not “insult the intelligence and dignity of this enlightened community by a proposition that looks to putting white children on an equal footing with negro children." He recognized and defended the legitimacy of the claim upon the property of the District for whatever was necessary to educate its white children; but he ignored entirely any demand for the improvement of the colored population. He did not object to their taxing themselves for that purpose, but he denied entirely the obligation, and discarded the policy, of the government undertaking it.

Other Southern members were far more outspoken, avowing the most diabolical sentiments, damaging alike to themselves and to the system they championed. Mr. Polk condemned the bill and all its provisions, for white as well as black. “I am opposed," he said, “on principle to the government taking charge of its citizens or the education of their children. I say, let the citizens take care of themselves, and let the fathers educate their own children." Mr. Mason, referring to the admission of Mr. Brown that he had no objection to the colored people taxing themselves for the purposes of education, said: "I dissent from him altogether." And he proceeded to state that the policy of Virginia and Maryland was "to prohibit the education of the negro race," -- a policy he characterized as "wise," and in harmony with those laws of Virginia which made it a " misdemeanor " for a negro to remain in the State after his emancipation. This being the policy in those States, he objected to the introduction of any policy in the District not in harmony with that which they had adopted. Nor would he, he said, depart from the general legislation of the slave States. That this policy and spirit of exclusion and ignorance enunciated by these Senators was that of the slaveholders, and of the great body of the Democratic party as well, was made apparent by the admission of Mr. Brown that he was depending on Republican votes, as he had been able to secure only " two " Democratic votes for his measure. Speaking reproachfully to the Republicans for putting in peril his bill for the white children by their overweening regard for the black, he said: “Seeing that I had no support on this side for educating either whites or blacks, I thought myself justified in appealing to the other side in favor of our own race." Such was the record, not of a few Southern extremists alone; but in the year of grace 1860, such was the humiliating confession which a prominent Democratic politician, at the head of an important committee, was compelled to make of the Democratic Party itself.

Jefferson Davis was no less emphatic in the expression of the extreme opinions that ruled the hour. Speaking of the admission that there might be separate schools, he inquired with lordly impatience: “What right have you to take charge of that race at all? Where do you get your authority? The government was not made for them." “Can it be expected," he asked again, “that we shall sit here and hear the question argued as to the equality of the races?” Contending that the equality had never been admitted in any section of the Union, he exclaimed: “This pseudo philanthropy is an excrescence on the American mind, springing from a foreign germ." A sharp colloquy having sprung up between him and Mr. Wilson on the equality of the races, in which the latter had contended that the negro race had an equal right to life, liberty, and property, Mr. Davis proceeded in a very offensive manner to lecture him on the impropriety and lack of senatorial courtesy in such utterances. “Sir," he said,” as long as Massachusetts chooses to assign the Senator a seat here he has the right to speak. If Massachusetts confers upon him the right to speak, he should be careful that he speaks as becomes the place, and the position which he holds." After speaking of the “bold words" of the Massachusetts Senator, and of the " responsibility " of members for their utterances, he said : " I can feel little respect for that character of con science which permits a man to give offence, but does not permit redress."

Mr. Wilson, in reply, after alluding to the Senator's " tones of arrogance and superiority on this floor," to his " language unworthy of the Senate of the United States," and to his expressed unwillingness to hear " discussions of negro equality," replied that while " he remained here he must listen to these questions when we choose to discuss them." " The gentleman," he said, " is accustomed to come into this chamber, and to bring the teachings, the philosophy, of the slave system, and blurt them into the face of Christian and civilized men ; and when we oppose it, lectures are read to us, to men who stand upon Christian principles taught in God's Holy Word. And when we propose to educate a few colored children in this District, Senators say we are insulting them. I advise Senators to let the humane current of an advancing and Christian civilization spread over this continent." "There is," he continued, " a noble woman here in Washington teaching colored girls; and if the Senator from Mississippi and the Senator from Virginia visited that school and saw the mental culture there, if they would not be proud of it, and thank God that these darkened minds were being cultivated by the efforts of philanthropy, I misunderstand those gentlemen altogether." Alluding to the Senator's remark about "responsibility," and its unmistakable reference to "the barbarous code of the duello," he said: “The Senator talks about a responsibility. Sir, the laws of our country have branded the infamous code to which he has referred as a crime. As a law-abiding man I cannot resort to it. The law of God has put its brand upon it, and I will not accept it. I say here and now to Senators, that, while I repudiate that code, I shall not shrink from uttering my sentiments freely and accepting the full responsibility of them, and I shrink from nothing that is legal and right in their vindication." In closing, he said: “The record is made. I am ready to leave the record of my sentiments avowed here to the country, to civilized, Christian, and enlightened men. I am ready to let his sentiments and my sentiments go out to the American people, and let them see which are most in harmony with the laws of nature, the laws of God, and the laws of a refined Christian civilization."

The " noble woman," referred to by Mr. Wilson, was Myrtilla Miner, one of the heroines of the irrepressible conflict, not because she figured largely upon the theatre of popular discussion, or entered her public protest against the evils of slavery, but because in the humble walks of the lowly she quietly sought out and with patient and protracted effort educated the children of the proscribed and prostrate race. Born to poverty in a farmer's house in Northern New York, and with a feeble body, she sought, and found, the path to an education. Thus fitted in part for her life's work, she went to Mississippi, and was governess in a planter's family. The enormities she there witnessed, the persistent and systematic outrages perpetrated upon the colored race, filled her with unmitigated horror at the nation's sin, and with intense sympathy for its victims. Supplementing the preparations already made, this experience fitted her more fully for her subsequent devotion and self-abnegation in behalf of the objects of her charity.

Casting around for a place in which she could most successfully embody her thoughts in some practical scheme, she selected the District of Columbia because its laws allowed the education of free colored children. Here, in the autumn of 1851, she opened a school for colored girls. Her main idea was “to train up a class of colored girls in the midst of slave institutions, who should show forth in their culture and capabilities to the country and to mankind that the race was fit for something higher than the degradation which rested upon them." She commenced her work with small beginnings --, only two or three girls in a little room fourteen feet square and owned by a colored man. It was, however, soon filled, and in two months new quarters were found. From them they were driven by the threat of conflagration, so that in the course of a few months she occupied no less than four different rooms. Great and gratifying success attended her labors. With wonderful and untiring activity Miss Miner directed her efforts to both the whites and the blacks, to find among the latter the raw material she desired to work up or educate, and among the former the co-operation and means by which she could accomplish this blessed purpose. Nor did she fail of imparting much of enthusiasm to both; for it was a matter of grateful recognition then, and of remembrance since, that among the leading men and families of Washington she found patrons and earnest friends, who lent both countenance and material aid to her mission of love and good works. For even in those dark days of proslavery violence and compromise there were not wanting members of Congress who were won to her support by her welcome importunity and the beauty of her pure and perilous endeavor; while the carriage from the residence of Mr. Seward, often seen standing before her humble school room, attested the interest felt in the work of the brave and heroic woman by the wife and daughters of the New York Senator.

Nor did she need less than this to shield her from the fierce and unrelenting opposition she encountered; for all she did was at much personal hazard. She was insulted, and threatened with personal violence; men visited her school-room with the menace that she continued her work at her peril; coarse boys sought to terrify her unoffending pupils as they emerged from the school-room and passed along the streets. In the spring of 1860, while she was alone and asleep in the second story, her house was set on fire, which, however, she was fortunately enabled to extinguish. And these exhibitions of lawless violence were but the natural outcome of the principles entertained and publicly proclaimed by the leading men of the District. An ex-mayor, who at first had encouraged her enterprise, so far yielded to the terrible despotism which dominated over the public sentiment of the city as to publish over his own signature an article in the " National Intelligencer "discountenancing "raising the standard of education among the colored population," on the ground that it would not be just to the white population " to extend to the colored people a degree of instruction so far beyond their social and political condition ; which condition," he contended, " must continue in this and every slaveholding community."

But notwithstanding her straightened means and small accommodations and the stern opposition she encountered she was neither dismayed nor discouraged. Nothing daunted, she moved on with serene confidence in the successful issue of her plans, -- an issue, as forecasted in her enthusiastic and hopeful imaginings, in signal contrast with anything she had yet experienced. For her plans were comprehensive and contemplated large results. Nor did she seem at all inadequate to her part of what she had undertaken. With untiring energy, devotion, enthusiasm, not to say magnetism, she seemed wonderfully successful in impressing others and winning them to her support. By a fortunate purchase, at the moderate price of four thousand dollars, a whole square, containing some three acres, had been secured in the northwestern part of the city, on which was a small wooden house and three cabins. These became her seminary and home. She gave to each of her pupils a flower-plat, and required her to cultivate it. Here she gathered paintings, engravings, magazines, papers, and apparatus. Here, too, in addition to their ordinary studies, her pupils had the privilege of becoming interested and instructed in matters of literary and aesthetic culture. Her plan was to found a female college, with suitable accommodations for one hundred and fifty boarders, with all the pro vision and appliances of a first-class institution. The war, however, intervened; and soon after its close a severe accident suddenly arrested all effort on her part, and the project she so auspiciously began was never resumed, though Congress in 1863 incorporated an association which succeeded to this trust. This association sold the real estate for more than ten times the amount Miss Miner paid for it. It now has a fund of nearly fifty thousand dollars, the income of which is devoted to the education of colored youth for the profession of teachers.

There is something touchingly impressive in the life and purpose of Miss Miner. To the great and grim tragedy of human affairs they afforded a delightful episode. In this selfish world, with its grasping, jostling throng, she seemed like some angel ministrant on her mission of mercy. On the dark background of the nation's history it seemed an illuminated picture, resplendent with truthfulness and love. Her life of romantic incident was at once redolent and beautiful. It was in itself a sweet poem, a living evangel of a heart yearning toward humanity and filled with a sublime trust in God.

Nothing, however, came of Mr. Brown's bill; nor was it brought up again for discussion. But the record of the debate remains, with its damaging admissions, its outrageous avowals, and its tyrannic demands. And such was slaveholding, its results and proclaimed necessities, in the high noon of the nineteenth century, at the capital of the great Republic, as described, too, by its own advocates themselves in the high places of the land. And it was for this they clamored so vociferously, sacrificed the amenities of friendly debate, the fraternal feelings of good neighborhood, and all the advantages of union; for this they were even then on the eve of rushing into rebellion and all the horrors and risks of civil war.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 578-586.


ALCOTT, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888, abolitionist, educator, writer, philosopher, reformer.  Opposed the Mexican American War and the extension of slavery into Texas.  His home was a station on the Underground Railroad.  His second daughter was noted author Louisa May Alcott, who was also opposed to slavery.  Friend of abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips. 

(Baker, 1996; Bedell, 1980; Dahlstrand, 1982; Matteson, 2007; Schreiner, 2006; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, pp. 40-41; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 139-141)

ALCOTT, Amos Bronson, educator, b. in Wolcott, Conn., 29 Nov., 1799. His father was a farmer. While yet a boy he was provided with a trunk of various merchandise, and set out to make his way in the south. He landed at Norfolk, Va., and went among the plantations, talking with the people and reading their books. They liked him as a companion, and were glad to hold discussions with him on intellectual subjects. They would keep him under their roofs for weeks, reading and conversing, while he forgot all about his commercial duties. But when he returned to the north his employer discovered he had not sold five dollars' worth of his stock. He relinquished his trade in 1823, and established an infant school, which immediately attracted attention. His method of teaching was by conversation, not by books. In 1828 he went to Boston and established another school, showing singular skill and sympathy in his methods of teaching· young children. His success caused him to be widely known, and a sketch of him and his methods, under the title of “A Record of Mr. Alcott's School,” by E. P. Peabody, was published in Boston in 1834 (3d ed., revised, 1874). This was followed in 1836 by a transcript of the colloquies of the children with their teacher, in “Conversations with Children on the Gospel.” His school was so far in advance of the thought of the day that it was denounced by the press, and as a result he gave it up and removed to Concord, Mass., where he devoted himself to the study of natural theology, reform in education, diet, and civil and social institutions. In order to disseminate his reformatory views more thoroughly, he went upon the lecture platform, where he was an attractive speaker, and his personal worth and originality of thought always secured him a respectful hearing. In 1842 he went to England, on the invitation of James P. Greaves, of London, the friend and fellow-laborer of Pestalozzi in Switzerland. Before his arrival Mr. Greaves died, but Mr. Alcott was cordially received by Mr. Greaves's friends, who had given the name of “Alcott House” to their school at Ham, near London. On his return to America, he brought with him two English friends, Charles Lane and H. G. Wright. Mr. Lane bought an estate near Harvard, in Worcester co., Mass., which he named “Fruitlands,” and there all went for the purpose of founding a community, but the enterprise was a failure. Messrs. Lane and Wright soon returned to England, and the property was sold. Mr. Alcott removed to Boston, and afterward returned to Concord. He has since then led the life of a peripatetic philosopher, conversing in cities and villages, wherever invited, on divinity, human nature, ethics, dietetics, and a wide range of practical questions. These conversations, which were at first casual, gradually assumed a more formal character. The topics were often printed on cards, and the company met at a fixed time and place. Of late years they have attracted much attention. Mr. Alcott has all through his life attached great importance to diet and government of the body, and still more to race and complexion. He has been regarded as a leader in the transcendental style of thought, but in later years has been claimed as a convert to orthodox Christianity. He has published “Tablets” (1868); “Concord Days,” personal reminiscences of the town (1872); “Table Talk” (1877); and “Sonnets and Canzonets” (1877), besides numerous contributions to periodical literature, including papers entitled “Orphic Sayings” in “The Dial” (Boston, 1839-'42). After taking up his residence in Concord, he allowed the peculiarities of his mind to find expression in quaint and curious arrangement of his grounds. The fence enclosing them, built entirely by himself, is made wholly of pine boughs, knotted, gnarled, and twisted in every conceivable shape, no two pieces being alike. They seem to be the result of many years of fragmentary collection in his walks. The engraving presented on the previous page is a view of Mr. Alcott's home in Concord, Mass. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


ALCOTT, Louisa May, 1832-1888, writer, opponent of slavery, feminist.  Author of Little Women: Or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (1868).  Daughter of abolitionist Amos Bronson Alcott. Their home was a station on the Underground Railroad. 

(Eisenlein, 2001; MacDonald, 1983; Saxton, 1977; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, p. 41; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, p. 141)

ALCOTT, Louisa May, author, b. in Germantown, now a part of Philadelphia, 29 Nov., 1832. She is a daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott. When she was about two years of age her parents removed to Boston, and in her eighth year to Concord, Mass. At the age of eleven she was brought under the influence of the community that endeavored to establish itself near Harvard, in Worcester co. Thoreau was for a time her teacher; but she was instructed mainly by her father. She began to write for publication at the age of sixteen, but with no marked success for fifteen years. During that time she devoted ten years to teaching. In 1862 she went to Washington as a volunteer nurse, and for many months labored in the military hospitals. At this time she wrote to her mother and sisters letters containing sketches of hospital life and experience, which on her return were revised and published in book form (Boston, 1863), and attracted much attention. In 1866 she went to Europe to recuperate her health, which had been seriously impaired by her hospital work, and on her return in 1867 she wrote “Little Women,” which was published the following year, and made her famous. The sales in less than three years amounted to 87,000 copies. Her characters are drawn from life, and are full of the buoyant, free, hopeful New England spirit which marks her own enthusiastic love for nature, freedom, and life. Her other stories are conceived in the same vein, and have been almost equally popular. They are: “Flower Fables or Fairy Tales” (Boston, 1855); '”Hospital Sketches,” her first book, now out of print, reissued with other stories (1869); “An Old-Fashioned Girl” (1869); “Little Men” (1871); a series called “Aunt Jo's Scrap Bag” (1871-'82), containing “My Boys,” “Shawl Straps,” “Cupid and Chow-Chow,” “My Girls,” “Jimmy's Cruise in the Pinafore,” and “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”; “Work, A Story of Experience” (1873); “Eight Cousins” (1874); “Rose in Bloom” (1876); “Silver Pitchers” (1876); “Under the Lilacs” (1878); “Jack and Gill” (1880); “Moods” (1864), reissued in a revised edition (1881); “Proverb Stories” (1882); “Spinning- Wheel Stories” (1884); “Lulu's Library,” the first of a new series (1885). Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


ALLEN, Reverend George, 1808-1876, Worcester, Massachusetts, educator, theologian, anti-slavery agent.  Lectured extensively against slavery.

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 187, 285, 393n20; Rice, 1883; Zilversmit, 1967, pp. 99, 104, 153; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, p. 52. Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 190-191.)

ALLEN, George, educator, b. in Milton, Vt., 17 Dec., 1808; d. in Worcester, Mass., 28 May, 1876. He was graduated at the university of Vermont in 1827, studied law, and was admitted to practice in 1831. Subsequently he studied theology, and from 1834 to 1837 was rector of an Episcopal church at St. Albans, Vt. In 1837 he became professor of ancient languages in Delaware college, Newark, Del., and in 1845 professor of ancient languages, and then of Greek alone, in the university of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Prof. Allen published a “Life of Philidor,” the chess-player (Philadelphia, 1863). In 1847 he became a Catholic. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. pp. 52.


ALLEN, Richard, 1760-1831, clergyman, free African American, former slave.  Founder, Free African Society, in 1787.  Founded Bethel African Methodist Church (AME) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1794. 

(Allen, 1983; Conyers, 2000; Dumond, 1961, pp. 170, 328-329; George, 1973; Hammond, 2011, p. 75; Mabee, 1970, pp. 133, 187; Nash, 1991, pp. 127, 160, 171, 182, 193, 198-199; Payne, 1981; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 25, 26, 28, 156-160, 294-295, 559-560; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, pp. 54-55. Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 204-205.)


ALLEN, William G., b. 1820, free African American abolitionist, publisher and editor. Manager and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society in December 1833.  Publisher with Henry Highland Garnet of The National Watchman, Troy, New York, founded 1842.

(Filler, 1960, pp. 142, 249, 261; Mabee, 1970, pp. 107, 109; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 48; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 1, p. 346; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 1, p. 127)




ALVORD, John Watson, 1807-1880, abolitionist, anti-slavery agent, clergyman. Congregational minister.  Worked around Ohio area as an anti-slavery agent with abolitionist William T. Allan.  Secretary, Boston Tract Society.  Chaplain with General Sheridan’s Union Forces in Civil War.  Worked with former slaves. 

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 164, 185; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 1, p. 399)



See also Garrison, William Lloyd

Chapter: “National Antislavery Convention at Philadelphia: Organization of the American Antislavery Society,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

The New England Antislavery Society, at its first anniversary, adopted a resolution, introduced by Mr. Garrison, instructing its board of managers to call a meeting of the friends of abolition to form a national antislavery society. No definite action, however, was taken.

In the autumn of 1833 Evan Lewis, a member of the Society of Friends, conductor of" The Friend," an antislavery journal in Philadelphia, and a man of whom it was said " he was afraid of nothing but being or doing wrong," visited the city of New York to persuade leading Abolitionists to unite in calling a national convention. A small meeting was held, at which, after considerable discussion, it was voted, by a mere majority, to call such a convention at Philadelphia, on the 4th of the following December. Many Abolitionists, however, entertained serious doubts whether the time had come for holding a convention for that purpose. Nor is it a matter of surprise that such should have been the fact. It required principle, nerve; moral courage, and a martyr spirit thus to lead the forlorn hope of a then most unpopular cause; more even than when, under the cover of comparative obscurity, the New England society was organized. It was a time, too, of feverish excitement, exasperation, -and intense bitterness of feeling, word, and act; when the mob violence of the street was but the counterpart of the similar though more decorous demonstrations of the counting-room, the parlor, and the church. The Colonizationists had always manifested hostility to the antislavery cause. Their society had declared in 1828, four years before the organization of the New England Antislavery Society, that “it is in no wise allied to any abolition society in America or elsewhere; and is ready, when there is need, to pass a censure upon such societies in America." The organization of societies pledged to immediate emancipation, the successful visit of Mr. Garrison to England, his unaccepted challenge of their champion to public discussion, the protest of Wilberforce and his compeers against their scheme, had so incensed its friends that even professedly Christian men were prepared to justify a resort to almost any measure to oppose and put down what they deemed a pestilent heresy. To go to Philadelphia at such a time and on such an errand was anything but a holiday affair.

On the evening preceding the assembling of the convention, a meeting of some thirty or forty delegates was held at the house of Evan Lewis, who had been chiefly instrumental in its convocation at that time. Lewis Tappan of New York presided. A committee was appointed to secure the services of some well-known citizen and philanthropist of Philadelphia to ' preside over the convention. Thomas Wister, a member of the Society of Friends, declined the invitation. The committee then invited Robert Vaux, of the same denomination; but he declined, though an Abolitionist. As the committee retired, not a little mortified and irritated at their ill success, Mr. May, one of their number, reports that Beriah Green sarcastically remarked; " If there is not timber amongst ourselves big enough to make a president of, let us get along without one, or go home and stay there till we have grown up to be men."

The convention assembled at the Adelphi Buildings, on the 4th of December. Beriah Green of the Oneida Institute, in the State of New York, was elected president; and Lewis Tappan of the city of New York, and John G. Whittier of Massachusetts, were made secretaries. These officers were thus pleasantly characterized by Mr. J. Miller McKim, one of the youngest members of the convention, and ever since an active Abolitionist.

"A better man than Mr. Green could not have been selected. Though of plain exterior and unimposing presence, he was a man of learning and superior ability; in every way above the average of so-called men of eminence. Mr. Tappan; who sat at his right, was a jaunty, 1na11-of-the-world looking person, well dressed and handsome; with a fine voice and taking appearance. Whittier, who sat at his left, was quite as fine-looking, though in a different way. He wore a dark frockcoat with standing collar, which, with his thin hair, dark and sometimes flashing eyes, and black whiskers, - not large, but noticeable in those unhirsute days, -- gave him, to my then unpracticed eye, quite as much of a military as a Quaker aspect. His broad, square forehead and well-cut features, aided by his incipient reputation as a poet, made him quite a noticeable feature in the convention."

It was then voted that delegates from antislavery societies, and all other persons in favor of emancipation without expatriation, be entitled to seats in the convention. Its sessions ·continued during three days. The members were admonished by the police not to hold evening sessions, as they could not be protected after dark. Committees were appointed to prepare a constitution, nominate a list of officers, and draft a ·declaration of principles, to which the signatures of members should be affixed. That committee consisted of Dr. Edwin P. Atlee of Philadelphia, Elizur Wright, Jr. of New York, William Lloyd Garrison of Massachusetts, Simeon S. Jocelyn of Connecticut, David Thurston of Maine, John M. Sterling of Ohio, William Green, Jr. of New York City, John G. Whittier of Massachusetts, William Goodell of New York, and Samuel J. May of Connecticut.

On the second day of its session the convention, on motion of the Rev. Charles W. Denison, editor of the “Emancipator," voted to take measures to ascertain how many clergymen in the United States were slaveholders; and a committee of three was chosen to carry the resolution into effect. It was then moved by John Rankin of New York that the thanks of the convention be extended to those editors who have embarked in the cause of emancipation, and that to their support in the good work the members pledge their individual and collective influence. Upon this resolution the convention resolved itself into a committee of the whole, and Mr. James McCrummell, a colored delegate from Philadelphia, was called to the chair. President Green spoke warmly for editors who had stood erect and· exposed their bosoms to the shafts which calumny had thrown. “They have," he said, " stood out amidst falling missiles and jarring notes of opposition; and, like trumpets, lifted up their voices for the poor and needy, the suffering and the dumb." He expressed to them his gratitude, and avowed his willingness to present his own “bare bosom to the foe, and receive the shafts intended for them."

Lewis Tappan followed in warm and eloquent commendation of the services of Benjamin Lundy and William Lloyd Garrison. He wished the members of the convention by their action to show to posterity that the men contemplated in the resolution were held in high esteem. “Although they are," he said, "held accursed by those who know them not, and who seek to impeach their motives and destroy their lives; yet the coming generations shall hallow their memories and , rise up and call them blessed."

Rev. Amos A. Phelps of Massachusetts earnestly supported the resolution. He referred in words of tender eulogy to the Rev. Charles B. Storrs, late president of the Western Reserve College, who had recently died at Braintree, Massachusetts. He stated that Mr. Storrs, while lying on his death-bed, requested that a pen should be placed in his hands, that he might affix his name to a declaration of antislavery principles about to be issued. "He commenced," said Mr. Phelps, “tracing his name, and had written the first word, 'Charles,' when he discovered that two of the letters had been transposed. Letting the pen fall, and turning to his brother, standing by, he exclaimed, with an energy peculiar to him: 'I can write no more: Brother, do you finish my name. Those principles are eternal truth. They cannot be shaken. I wish to give to them my dying testimony.'" Mr. Phelps expressed the opinion that the death of President Storrs had been hastened by over-exertion in delivering an address of great vigor and power of more than two hours in length, in behalf of the slave. Mr. Storrs was a gentleman of high promise and scholarship, of Christian principle and earnest philanthropy, in whose untimely death freedom lost one of its earliest and ablest champions. The touching scene at his death-bed is one among the evidences that the antislavery struggle in this country was born of a zeal and heroic devotion to principle which finds not many parallels in the world's history.

The convention having unanimously adopted the resolution, Mr. Denison introduced a proposition recommending the youth of the country, without distinction of sex, to form auxiliary antislavery societies, which was unanimously adopted. A. resolution, introduced by Robert B. Hall, recommending that the Christian church throughout the land should observe the last Monday evening of each month in seeking the Divine aid in behalf of the slave and of the free people of color, was then unanimously adopted; as was also another resolution, introduced by Samuel J. May, pledging the members of the convention to an effort to secure from the several denominations to which they belonged solemn and earnest addresses in behalf of the oppressed to affiliated churches in the slave holding States.

Mr. Garrison introduced a resolution in which it was declared that the cause of abolition eminently deserved the countenance and support of American women; and Horace P. Wakefield of Massachusetts introduced another, hailing the establishment of ladies' antislavery societies as the harbinger of a brighter day. These resolutions were also unanimously adopted, as were others, declaring that the fountains of knowledge, like those of salvation, should be opened to every creature; that the laws against teaching colored people were cruel and impious; that the statutes and customs which withhold the Bible from the slave were inconsistent with the first principles of religious liberty ; and that the teachers of religion who failed to lift the warning voice against oppression did not declare the whole counsel of God. Kindred resolutions, breathing the spirit of liberty, justice, humanity, and Christianity, were adopted with great unanimity.

In the constitution adopted, the object of the society was declared to be the entire abolition of slavery in the United States. While admitting that each State had exclusive right to legislate in regard to its abolition, it avowed as its aim to convince the people of the slave States, by arguments addressed to their understandings and consciences, that slaveholding was a heinous crime against God, and that duty and safety required its immediate abandonment, but without expatriation. It favored the abolition of the domestic slave-trade and of slavery in the District of Columbia; and urged the duty of elevating the character and condition of the free people of color, and of giving them equality with whites in civil and religious privileges, though it discountenanced any resort to physical force for the vindication of these rights.

But the most important action of the convention was its declaration of principles. A committee of ten had been appointed on the first day of the session to prepare such a paper. That committee, with several other members, assembled at the rooms of the chairman. Those present were invited to state their views concerning the document which all deemed so important. The suggestions made revealed great unanimity of opinion. The Rev. Samuel J. May states, in his " Recollections of the Antislavery Conflict”, that Elizur Wright, Jr., gave utterance to these pregnant words:” I wish that the difference between our purpose and that of the Colonization Society should be explicitly stated. We mean to exterminate slavery from our country, with its accursed influences. The Colonizationists only wish to get rid of the slaves so soon as they become free. Their plan is unrighteous, cruel, and impracticable withal. Our plan needs but a good will and a right spirit among the white people to accomplish it."

After some time spent in this conference, Mr. Garrison, Mr. Whittier, and Mr. May were appointed a sub-committee to prepare a draft of a paper setting forth the principles, sentiments, and purposes of the new society. The sub-committee immediately repaired to Mr. Garrison's lodgings; and, after a brief consultation, he was requested to prepare it. The sub-committee met early next morning, made a few slight alterations, and submitted the draft to the whole committee at nine o'clock. Alluding to this circumstance, years after, Mr. Whittier thus happily refers to this meeting: " I recall the early gray morning when, with Samuel J. May, our colleague on the committee to prepare a declaration of sentiments for the convention, I climbed to the small ' upper chamber' of a colored friend to hear thee read the first draft of a paper which will live as long as our national history."

For hours this document was subjected to a careful and critical examination; yet but few alterations were found necessary. Mr. Garrison had arraigned the Colonization Society with characteristic severity. But his strictures were omitted, on motion of Mr. May, for the reason that the Colonization Society could not long survive the deadly blows already aimed at it; and it was not worthwhile to perpetuate its memory in this declaration of the rights of man. This omission was resisted by Mr. Garrison; but, finding the committee were favorable to it, he promptly yielded, with the remark, “Brethren, it is your report, not mine."

Edwin P. Atlee, chairman of the committee, reported the declaration to the convention. Its reading produced a profound impression. It was then moved by a member of the Society of Friends that it be adopted, and that the members proceed at once to append to it their signatures. “We have," he said,” already given it our assent; every heart here has responded to it. There is a doctrine of the Friends which impelled me to make the motion I have done. First impressions are from heaven. I fear, if we go about criticising and amending this declaration, we shall qualify its truthfulness and impair its strength." But the convention thought otherwise.  It was read paragraph by paragraph, and discussed for several hours; very few changes, however, were made. The venerable Thomas Shipley, a Quaker, and a long-tried friend of the black man, objected to the word "manstealer," as applied to the slaveholder; but it was suggested by Lucretia Mott that the term be retained, with an amendment inserting before it the words " according to Scripture," and the suggestion was adopted. The document, with this slight modification, was then unanimously adopted.

Thus far the convention had been a success. Its numbers, its character, its harmony, and its enthusiasm were animating and auspicious. But its hours of deliberation and conference were over. Agreeing among themselves, their great work was now to convince others. Framing a platform on which they could stand, they were to go forth, and, in a conservative and captious community, make proselytes who would occupy it with them. Happily blinded to the severity and the length of the contest on which they were entering, they went forth confident in the power of truth and in the favor of the Almighty.

On the morning of the third day the declaration, which had in the meantime been engrossed, was submitted for signatures; and upon it sixty-two members, representing ten States, enrolled their names. Lucretia Mott, Esther Moore, Lydia White, Sydney Ann Lewis, and several other Quaker women, of Philadelphia, were, after the first day, in constant attendance on the convention, and were deeply interested in its work. But their names were not enrolled as members, nor appended to its declaration of principles. While that declaration, however, was under consideration, Mrs. Mott, a woman of fine intellectual development, with a rare combination of firmness, gentleness, and clear moral perceptions, rose and, remarking that she was there by sufferance, said that, if permitted, she would make a suggestion. She paused for a moment, as if unwilling to offend even the prejudices of any of its members, when President Green promptly, and in a voice at once cordial and encouraging, bade her go on, while others seconded his words. She suggested several modifications, and gave the reasons why they should be made with such clearness and precision that they were readily assented to.

The declaration was a paper of great ability and power,-- the power of timely truth and of appropriate and forcible expression. Commencing with a reference to the time, fifty seven years before, when, in the same city of' Philadelphia, our fathers announced to the world their Declaration of Independence, based on the self-evident truths of human equality and rights, and appealed to arms for its defence, it spoke of the new enterprise as one " without which that of our fathers is incomplete," and as transcending theirs in magnitude, solemnity, and probable results, as much " as moral truth does physical force." It spoke of the difference of the two in the means and ends proposed, and of the trifling grievances of· our fathers, compared with the wrongs and sufferings of the slaves, which it forcibly characterized as unequalled by any others on the face of the earth. It claimed that the nation was bound to repent at once, to let the oppressed go free, and to admit them to all the rights and privileges of others, because, it asserted, no man has a right to enslave or imbrute his brother; because liberty is inalienable; because there is no difference, in principle, between slaveholding and manstealing, which the law brands as piracy; and because no length of bondage can invalidate man's claim to himself, or render slave laws anything but " an audacious usurpation."

It maintained that no compensation should be given to planters emancipating slaves, because that would be a surrender of fundamental principles; because '' slavery is a crime, and is, therefore, not an article to be sold “; because slaveholders are not just proprietors of what they claim; because emancipation would destroy only nominal, not real property; and because compensation, if given at all, should be given to the slaves.

It declared ''any scheme of expatriation” to be “delusive, cruel, and dangerous." It fully recognized the right of each State to legislate exclusively on the subject of slavery within its limits, and conceded that Congress, under the present national compact, had no right to interfere; though still contending that it had the power, and should exercise it, "to suppress the domestic slave-trade between the several States," and " to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and in those portions of our territory which the Constitution has placed under its exclusive jurisdiction." Having thus clearly and cogently announced the principles of the enterprise thus solemnly undertaken and avowed; having guarded with scrupulous care against all infringement of the personal or constitutional rights of any person or State, it closed with the following eloquent portrayal of the obligations still admitted, the agencies to be employed, with a pledge of unswerving fidelity to the work undertaken, and an unwavering trust in the guiding hand and final blessing of God:

“We also maintain that there are, at the present time, the highest obligations resting upon the people of the free States to remove slavery by moral and political action, as prescribed m the Constitution of the United States. They are now living under a pledge of their tremendous physical force to fasten the galling fetters of tyranny upon the limbs of millions in the· Southern States ; they are liable to be called at any moment to suppress a general insurrection of the slaves ; they authorize the slave-owner to vote on three-fifths of his slaves as property, and thus enable him to perpetuate his oppression; they support a standing army at the South for its protection; and they seize the slave who has escaped into their territories, and send him back to be tortured by an enraged master or a brutal driver. This relation to slavery is criminal, and full of danger; IT MUST BE BROKEN UP.

“These are our views and principles, -these our designs and measures. With entire confidence in the overruling justice of God, we plant ourselves upon the Declaration of Independence and the truths of Divine revelation as upon the everlasting rock. .

 “We shall organize antislavery soch?ties, if possible, in every city, town, and village in our land.

“We shall send forth agents to lift up the voice of remonstrance, of warning, of entreaty and rebuke.” We shall circulate unsparingly and extensively antislavery tracts and periodicals.

“We shall enlist the pulpit and the press in the cause of the suffering and the dumb. 

"We shall aim at a purification of the churches from all participation in the guilt of slavery.

“We shall encourage the labor of freemen, rather than that of slaves, by giving ·a preference to their productions; and 

“We shall spare no exertions nor means to bring the whole nation to speedy repentance.

“Our trust for victory is solely in God. We may be personally defeated, but our principles never. TRUTH, JUSTICE; RE.A.SON, HUMANITY, must and will gloriously triumph. Already a host is coming up to the help of the Lord against the mighty, and the prospect before us is full of encouragement.

"Submitting this DECLARATION to the candid examination of the people of this country, and of the friends of Liberty throughout the world, we hereby affix our signatures to it; pledging ourselves that, under the guidance and by the help of Almighty God, we will do all that in us lies, consistently with this declaration of our principles, to overthrow the most execrable system of slavery that has ever been witnessed upon earth, to deliver our land from its deadliest curse, to wipe out the foulest stain which rests upon our national escutcheon, and to secure to the colored population of the United States all the rights and privileges which belong to them as men and as Americans, come what may to our persons, our interests, or our reputation; whether we live to witness the triumph of LIBERTY, JUSTICE, and HUMANITY, or perish untimely as martyrs in this great, benevolent, and holy cause." 

The president of the convention made a closing address. Profound silence pervaded the hall as he rapidly glanced at the great work which had been accomplished. He referred to the constitution of the new society, to its list of officers, to the signing and the sending forth to the world of its Declaration of Sentiments, to the union and earnestness which had marked the proceedings, and to the meeting of congenial minds, where heart had beat responsive to heart in the holy work of seeking to benefit the outraged and despised colored race. He closed his speech -- which for eloquence .and thrilling power will never be forgotten by those who heard it -- with these words of heroic self-sacrifice, faith, and trust:-- 

"But now we must retire from these balmy influences, and breathe another atmosphere. The chill hoar-frost will be upon us. The storm and tempest will rise, and the waves of persecution will dash against our souls. Let us be prepared for the worst. Let us fasten ourselves to the throne of God as with hooks of steel. If we cling not to Him, our names to that document will be but as dust.

“Let us court no applause; indulge in no spirit of vain boasting. Let us be assured that our only hope in grappling with the bony monster is in an Arm that is stronger than ours. Let us fix our gaze on God, and walk in the light of his countenance. If our cause be just, and 1 we know it is, his omnipotence is pledged to its triumph. Let this cause be intwined around the very fibers of our hearts. Let our hearts grow to it, so that nothing but death can sunder the bond."

Having finished his address, he "immediately," to use the words of one who heard him, "lifted up his voice to the Throne of Heavenly Grace in a prayer full of fervor and zeal, imploring the forgiveness and blessing of God to descend and sanctify the convention."

Such were the origin and organization of the American Antislavery Society. Its board of officers embraced many men of marked ability, as well as of recognized position and influence. Arthur Tappan was chosen president, and gave to the new association, not only the benefit of his warm devotion to the cause, but his great practical sagacity and prestige as a leading merchant of New York.

Elizur Wright, Jr., then of the same city, was made secretary of domestic correspondence, and continued in that position till 1838. He was also a member, ex officio, of the executive committee. Its annual reports, with slight contributions from others, were from his pen, and constitute an important part of the antislavery literature of the five eventful years in which he filled the office. Mr. Wright held a bold and incisive pen, which he ever wielded in the interests of humanity. If his words were sometimes curt and caustic, they were always vigorous and effective; and if he was sometimes impulsive and impracticable, there was always an air of refreshing boldness and honesty in what he said and did.

Dr. Abraham L. Cox of New York was made recording secretary. He was earnest, industrious, impulsive, energetic; but not, like his compeers of that day, persistent and unflinching. Mr. Garrison was selected as secretary of foreign correspondence. For this post he was eminently fitted by his knowledge of antislavery leaders abroad, as also by their recognition of him as the foremost among the .Abolitionists of this country.

There were twenty-five vice-presidents. .Among them were the venerable Moses. Brown of Rhode Island, an early Abolitionist and philanthropist, whose well-directed munificence was largely bestowed upon and most honorably associated with the University of that State; General Samuel Fessenden of Maine, a distinguished lawyer and a consistent Christian statesman; and Rev. Samuel J. May, who was among the earliest to espouse the then hated cause of immediate emancipation, and who for forty years was indefatigable in his labors for freedom, devoting without faltering his talents, learning, social and ecclesiastical influence, to its advocacy and defence.

There was also a large board of managers, embracing several gentlemen who had then and who have since taken an important part in the great struggle. Perhaps none have been more distinguished for their persistent and painstaking zeal than were the brothers Arthur and Lewis Tappan, William Goodell, and Joshua Leavitt, whose generous and effective labors are more particularly referred to in another connection.

There, too, was John G. Whittier, the Quaker bard, who early consecrated his genius to the cause of humanity, when to be an Abolitionist was to lose caste in church and state, society and literature. How much he did, and how nobly and beautifully he did it, will be among the most grateful recollections of that stern strife. That he was the right man in the right place may be well conjectured from his own testimony, thirty years later, when, alluding to his signature of the "Declaration of Sentiments," he could say, though wearing the .green chaplet of poetic fame, with which two hemispheres had admiringly crowned him: "I love, perhaps too well, the praise and good-will of my fellow-men; but I set a higher value on my name as appended to the Antislavery Declaration of 1833 than on the title-page of any book. Looking over a life marked with many errors and short comings, I rejoice that I have been able to maintain the pledge of that signature, and that in the long intervening years

“ ‘ My voice, though not the loudest, has been heard Wherever Freedom raised her cry of pain.' "

Unlike most of his coadjutors of that day, he had clear conceptions of the political bearings of slavery. As editor of the '"Pennsylvania Freeman," associate editor of the “National Era,'' and a contributor to other antislavery journals, he did much to prepare the minds of the people for political action. In counsel and action always sagacious and practical, he participated in those movements which finally resulted in the organization of that powerful party which overthrew the system of human bondage and dethroned the Slave Power. In those early days, " the clarion notes from his muse," in the words of Henry B. Stanton " were like the inspired appeals of the Hebrew prophets, summoning the elect of God to do battle with the powers of darkness." All along the struggle, too, these lyrics of the meek-visaged but fiery-souled Quaker rang out their notes of warning and appeal. And even after rebellion had convulsed the land, and civil war had summoned its legions to the field, his strains were heard amid the din of strife, and the loyal soldier often felt their inspiration in the camp, on the march, and in the hour of battle.

Rev. Amos A. Phelps was another member of the board, who afterward evinced the sincerity and strength of his devotion by leaving an eligible position as pastor of a city congregation, to labor exclusively for the lowly and oppressed. A logical speaker and vigorous writer, he rendered invaluable service to the cause of emancipation in the earlier stages of its history. A volume of lectures was published by him in the year 1834, in which questions connected with slavery were elaborately discussed, and an earnest appeal was made to the clergy of all denominations. This work continued for a long time a text-book for antislavery speakers and writers. From this time onward he labored assiduously and earnestly, till the time of his premature death, which occurred in 1847. He, however, not only died without being permitted to see the harvest of the seed he had so faithfully sown, but he fell at his post in that dark hour when the nation, under the inspiration and behests of the Slave Power, was fighting ingloriously on a foreign soil to extend and perpetuate the very system he had labored so faithfully to limit and extirpate.

Theodore D. Weld, perhaps the youngest member of the board, was a descendant of Jonathan Edwards and then a member of Lane Seminary. He was one of the members who were involved in the conflict with its Faculty which then and afterward assumed so much of historic interest in the annals of the antislavery struggle. A cogent reasoner and a glowing rhetorician, he was esteemed one of the most powerful platform speakers of his day. He was the author of several remarkable productions. Among them were “The Bible View of Slavery," "Slavery as it is," and “The Power of Congress over Slavery in the District of Columbia," which exerted a marked influence over the thoughtful, pious, and humane. In 1838 and 1839 he was associated, at the office in New York, with John G. Whittier and Henry B. Stanton in securing and forwarding to Congress antislavery petitions for the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, which so excited the ire of its Southern members.

There, too, was Benjamin Lundy, the early and ever-vigilant and faithful friend of the slave; and Isaac Knapp, a silent but efficient worker, the coadjutor of Mr. Garrison in the publication of the "Liberator." There were also Ellis Gray Loring, David Lee Child, and Samuel E. Sewall, learned and accomplished lawyers of Boston, whose early consecration of personal and professional service to the cause of abolition was followed by a life-long and consistent devotion to the interests of the slave. Mr. Loring died too early to see the glorious consummation which now gladdens the sight of many of his early coadjutors. Upon that list, too, was the name of Dr. Jacob Ide of Massachusetts, who, then in the prime of his powers hand influence, made this public commitment, from which he never afterward swerved. While too many of  his clerical brethren, at least, remained silent in the presence of this giant iniquity, his voice and commanding influence were ever true to the cause of the slave. Robert Purvis of Philadelphia, a young colored gentleman of talents and culture, was also a member. Feeling in his own person the 'wrongs of his brethren, he labored long and earnestly, with fiery zeal and fervid eloquence, to lift the heavy burden from his race.

The executive committee engaged an office in New York City, and at once entered upon the vigorous prosecution of its work. Arthur Tappan, president of the society, subscribed three thousand dollars; John Rankin, likewise a merchant of New York, subscribed twelve hundred; Lewis Tappan, one thousand; and other members and friends lesser sums, payable annually. The “Emancipator” was put upon a firmer basis, under the editorship· of William Goodell, and publications in various form were circulated with unstinted liberality. The society rapidly increased in numbers, strength, and influence. Its lecturers and agents, newspapers and occasional publication, instructed and aroused the country. Auxiliaries, adopting its principles, were rapidly organized; so that they numbered sixteen hundred and fifty, with a membership of nearly a quarter of a. million, at the time of its disruption.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 248-263.

Chapter: “Dissension among the Abolitionists. - Disruption of the American Antislavery Society,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

The imperious demands of the South, summoning the people of the North to surrender the moral right of discussing slavery and the issues growing out of its existence; the threats to imbue their hands in the blood of all Abolitionists who should set their feet on Southern soil;  the violent denunciations of Northern meetings, bringing upon antislavery men not only words of sternest condemnation but acts of personal violence; the denial of the right of petition and of freedom of debate in Congress, --did not quench the zeal nor silence the voice of the men who had consecrated themselves to the work of emancipation. There was no faltering in their ranks. These devoted men calmly and firmly met the issues imposed upon them. They realized, as the storms of denunciation beat upon their heads, that slavery was a crime never to be tolerated in silence. 

In the third annual report of the American Antislavery Society, in May, 1836, they proclaimed to the country that the field before them was one of certain conquest. Admitting that every inch of the way was to be fought through odium and proscription, that they might suffer far more reproach and violence than they had yet experienced, that even death itself might come to them, they proclaimed the strength of their cause to be in the blessing of that God who hath chosen the weak things of this world to confound the mighty.

Nor were they less hopeful and confident at the fourth and fifth anniversary meetings of the national society. Their fifth annual report, of May, 1838, closes with the declaration that in the prosecution of the cause of human liberty by truth and brotherly love they could never tire nor doubt of success. "Our victory," they say,” is no less sure than the laws of seed-time and harvest ; and, though tears may mingle with the seed which is now scattered amidst the frosts and snows of retiring winter, the sheaves shall yet be brought home with shouts of unmingled joy and the sunshine of unclouded peace."

At this anniversary meeting Edmund Quincy proclaimed their warfare to be no wild crusade, but a holy war, a sacred strife; waged not with arms forged by human hands or tempered in earthly fire, “but with weapons fresh from the armory of God. In this contest the green hills of our land are crowned with no mimic volcanoes, sending up from their summits smoke and flame toward heaven, and pouring down their slopes lava-streams of hideous death. The kingdom for which we struggle and where we strive is an invisible kingdom, -its foundations are laid in the hearts and souls of men. It is an empire whose limits reach beyond the flaming walls of the universe, its heights reach up to heaven, its depths descend to hell, its origin is derived from God, its destiny is infinite, its duration eternal. And what are the weapons which we wield in this heavenly conflict? Prayer, which takes heaven by storm; faith, which grasps the palm of victory ere the battle is begun; the Word of God, which makes straight the way to triumph, --which fills up the valleys and brings low the mountains which obstruct our march. Clothed in this panoply, let us press onward to the rescue of our captive brethren, cheerful in the certainty of success, invincible in the justice of our cause, strong in the presence of the Lord. And at last may our voices help to swell the triumphant shout, bursting from millions of hearts on earth, and answered from: the battlements of heaven, which shall proclaim that the victory is won, that the slave is free! "

In these glowing expressions of trust in God, faith in moral power, and confidence in a peaceful triumph, Mr. Quincy-but echoed the sentiments of the noble men and women assembled at that anniversary, and of the leaders of the antislavery cause throughout the land.  Little did he or they foresee, when he gave utterance to these hopes of a peaceful triumph for their sacred cause, that the heart of the nation would be so hardened and its passions so inflamed by slavery, in its struggle for dominion, that, a quarter of a century afterward, the green hills of the land would be crowned by flaming batteries and her fields drenched in the blood of embattled hosts, and that the liberty of the slave would be proclaimed amid the darkening storms of civil war.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 404-406.



Chapter: “Formation and Purposes of the American Colonization Society,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872:

The American Colonization Society was organized in the year 1816, in the city of Washington. Auxiliary societies were soon formed in most of the States. This association, with its affiliated organizations, contributed in no small degree to influence the opinions and actions of men, and to intensify the irrepressible conflict of the last half-century. In its original formation and subsequent progress, in its avowals, arguments, and acts, it was always singularly inconsistent and illogical. It manifestly yielded and pandered to the wicked prejudice against race and color; and yet it called upon churches and Christians to assist in sustaining it as an essential part of the missionary enterprise. It cruelly aspersed and defamed the free people of color; and yet insisted that they were the preordained instruments of Heaven for the civilization of Africa. It evinced the most undisguised hostility to Abolition and Abolitionists; and yet it persistently pressed its claims on the friends of the slave. While it embraced many wise and good men, actuated by philanthropic and Christian principles, its history compels the conviction that, unwittingly or from design, its influence was largely instrumental in producing that sad demoralization of the nation which rendered possible the subsequent aggressions and triumphs of the Slave Power.

How to suppress the slave-trade, how to abolish slavery, and what disposition should be made of free people of color, were questions that early occupied the minds of leading men both North and South. Dr. Hopkins, the ablest champion of the colored race in his day, was in favor of the extinction of the slave-trade; of '" averting the Divine judgments,'' and obtaining “the smile of Heaven” by delivering the country from “the sin and calamity of slavery”; and also of providing for ­the education of colored children in useful learning, that they might be raised to an acknowledged equality with white people. Deeply concerned for the highest welfare of the colored race, and for the advancement of civilization and Christianity, he conceived and suggested the idea, even before the Revolution, of African colonization, In his address on the slave-trade and the slavery of the Africans before the Providence Antislavery Society, in 1793, he more fully developed the idea of a general movement for colonizing such colored persons in Africa as might be desirous of going thither ; in order to " maintain the practice of Christianity in the sight of their now heathen brethren, endeavor to instruct and civilize them, and spread the knowledge of the gospel among them." In an appendix to this powerful address, he expressed his confidence that if a, well-digested plan could he laid before the public, it might be carried into effect. He referred with commendation to the previous action of Massachusetts in resolving that, “when a place can be found in Africa where the blacks of that State may -settle to their advantage, they would furnish them with shipping and provisions sufficient to transport them there, and arms sufficient to defend them, and farming utensils sufficient to --cultivate the land."

During the Revolution Mr. Jefferson proposed to incorporate into the revised code of Virginia a plan for colonizing free pers0ns of color. At that time these were regarded as a “lower caste," and, in the South at least, as “a disturbing element to the peace of society and dangerous to the interests of slavery." Mr. Jefferson and other more advanced Southern men were in favor of general emancipation with colonization. The idea of colonization, too, was entertained by an entirely different class, -by those who wished to be rid of the presence and example of free negroes, but who were opposed to emancipation. This feeling was greatly." stimulated and increased by the discovery, in 1800, of an alleged conspiracy of the negroes, in the country around Richmond, to seize .the magazine, the mills, and bridge across the James River, take possession of the city, and issue a proclamation inviting the blacks to rally to their standard. But the scheme failed, and several of the leaders were tried and executed. The feelings and fears, however, excited by it, were manifested at the next meeting of the legislature. The governor was requested to enter into correspondence with the President relative to the purchase of land out of the limits of that State, “where persons obnoxious to the laws and dangerous to the peace of society may be removed." At the following session the project of obtaining lands beyond the limits of the State was distinctly declared to be for the purpose of securing a place to which " free negroes and such as may be emancipated may be sent."

As no action was taken by the general government, the legislature of Virginia, in 1805, instructed members of Congress from that State to secure a cession of territory in the new Louisiana Purchase for the purposes of colonization. This action of several successive legislatures of Virginia was taken in secret session, revealing the sense of insecurity that prompted it. As no territory for this purpose had been secured by the efforts of the legislature, a law was enacted in 1806, that slaves thereafter manumitted should leave the State within one year, or be again reduced to slavery. This action of four legislatures clearly revealed the feelings and views that then pervaded that State. The same was indicated by the plan of emancipation proposed by Judge Tucker, one of her most learned and distinguished jurists. In his plan, by which all females born after a fixed period should be free, he provided that no free black should hold office, possess real ,estate, keep arms, be a witness against white men, or maintain a suit at law. He gave as a reason for these stern and inhuman provisions, by which the ordinary privileges of freemen would be withheld from them, that he wished "to render it their inclination and their interest to seek those privileges in some other climate."

In 1816 Charles Fenton Mercer introduced a resolution into the legislature, which was unanimously adopted, asking the aid of Congress to procure in Africa, or elsewhere beyond the limits of the United States, a territory " as an asylum for such persons of color as are now free, or may desire the same, and for those who may be hereafter emancipated within this "commonwealth." It was afterward stated by Mr. Mercer that his resolution was introduced prior, but with a view, to the formation of a colonization society. It was stated, too, in a published account of the formation of the American Colonization Society, that the meeting for that purpose was called by those who believed the Virginia legislature had entered upon the work with a spirit and determination to prosecute it with vigor, and who also desired to secure the "aid" of the general government. These facts justify the claims vauntingly put forth in the Virginia Colonization Society, in 1836, that “the plan of colonizing the free blacks, and such as might be made free, originated here. The principles of the society were Virginia principles." While, however, it was the action of the Virginia legislature of 1816 which inspired this movement for the purposes avowed, there were many Northern advocates of colonization who were actuated by other and higher motives.

In the autumn of that year a meeting was held in Princeton, New Jersey, under the lead of Rev. Dr. Robert Finley, who took a deep interest in the organization of such a society, and who was long identified with its operations. Indeed, this gentleman seems to have been the active agent in the movement which resulted in its formation. He visited Washington early in December, and was chiefly instrumental in calling the meeting which assembled on the 21st of that month, in that city, to consider the propriety and practicability of colonizing free people of color, and to forming an association for that purpose. Henry Clay presided, spoke of the condition of the free people of color, and pronounced the cause a noble one, which proposed to '' rid our country of a useless and pernicious, if not a dangerous, portion of its population "; and contemplated, strangely enough, with such materials for factors and agents, " the spreading of the arts of civilized life, and the possible redemption from ignorance and barbarism of a benighted quartet of the globe."

John Randolph distinctly declared that this meeting did not in any wise affect the question of negro slavery; but “must materially tend to secure the property of every master in the United States in his slaves." On the 28th another meeting was held, and on the first day of the year 1817 the society was fully organized by the choice of officers. Judge Bushrod Washington, an associate justice of the Supreme Court, a Virginia slaveholder, was chosen president; twelve of its Seventeen vice-presidents were from the South, and all, or nearly all, of its twelve managers were slaveholders. The spirit of its first president, if not of the society itself, was soon manifested. Learning, in 1821, that his slaves believed, inasmuch as he was the nephew of Washington, and president of the Colonization Society, that he intended to give them their freedom, he called them together, stated what he had heard, and coolly informed them that he had no such intention. Shortly afterward he verified that cruel and wanton declaration by sending fifty-four of them from the very home of the Father of his Country to the New Orleans slave-market.

The constitution had no preamble setting forth the motive and objects of the organization. Nor was there anything in the instrument itself indicating its purpose, excepting the second article, in which it was stated that its attention was "to be exclusively directed" to colonizing free people of color. This omission of all assigned motives indicated its equivocal and double-faced policy, which ever seemed to be to secure at one and the same time the co-operation of both the friends and foes of the colored race,--of those who aided it because they hoped thus to lessen the evils of slavery, and of those who hoped that the removal of the free would strengthen the fetters of the bond-- of those who saw in it a providential means of sending the gospel to Africa, and of those who thought of that gospel only to hate and oppose it.

The general position of the American Colonization Society may be seen, too, in the avowed sentiments and feelings of its leading members, advocates, and presses toward the free people of color. Not only were they wanting in expressions of sympathy and words of encot1ragement and hope, but language highly depreciative, if not defamatory, was employed concerning these victims of an unfeeling ostracism and tyrannous oppression. Mr. Olay declared: "Of all classes of our population, the most vicious is that of the free colored people. Contaminated themselves, they extend their vices to all around them. They are the most corrupt, abandoned and depraved."

General Mercer, who more than any other public man was the master spirit of the enterprise, styled them “a horde of miserable people, the objects of universal suspicion, subsisting by plunder." A memorial of the Kentucky Colonization Society to Congress thus characterized them “They are a mildew on our fields, a scourge to our backs, and a stain on our escutcheon." An editorial in the ''African Repository," the recognized organ of the society, represented them as "ignorant, degraded, mentally diseased, broken-spirited, and scarcely reached in their debasement by the heavenly light." And again: " They must be forever debased, forever useless, forever a nuisance from which it were a blessing for society to be rid."

This cold-blooded characterization, too, was only equaled by the reiterated assertions, and claim even, that there was no remedy, no help, at least in this country. It was proclaimed that “these prejudices of society” against them were “inevitable and incurable," which “neither refinement, nor argument, nor education, nor religion itself can subdue.'' They were considered as belonging to an “inferior caste," as occupying a “station from which” they can never rise, be their talents, their enterprise, their virtues what they may. They constitute a class by themselves, out of which no individual can be elevated and below which none can be depressed." 

To these views of the character of the free people of color and their remediless condition should be added the avowed reasons for seeking their expatriation. The real intent and animus of the movement were never in the interest of freedom, or but exceptionally in that of the free people of color. Its real, its avowed aim was to render slavery and its supporters more secure; or, as Henry A. Wise honestly expressed it," the great original principle " was "friendship for the slaveholders," which, he said, it must continue to " maintain." The same principle was Clearly recognized and avowed by Mr. Webster, in his 7th of March speech, in which, among his other overtures for Southern confidence, he pledged his support to any proposition " or scheme of colonization " the South might see fit to propose, "to relieve themselves from the burden of their free colored population." Though many Northern antislavery men and Christians were lending it their aid, for the promised good to Africa ·and the Africans, its leading members and supporters were characterizing property in man as ''sacred," “as inviolable as any other in the country." They said to the slaveholders: "We know your rights, and we respect them." They claimed Southern support on the ground, as expressed by Randolph at its first meeting, that it “would prove one of the greatest securities" to such property. This idea even the "Repository" expressed, again and again; in different forms and phrases. It declared that removing free people of color " would contribute more effectually to the continuance and strength" of slavery than anything else " would augment instead of diminishing the value of the property left behind "; "would secure slaveholders and the whole Southern country "; would render the slave who remains in America more obedient, more faithful, more honest, and, consequently, more useful to his master; and " would provide and keep open a drain for the excess beyond the occasion of profitable employment."

Corroborative of the same influence was the ill-disguised indifference, not to say hostility, of its advocates to any plan for the improvement and elevation of the very class whose wretched condition they so vividly depicted. While protesting against the manumission of slaves unless coupled with expatriation, calling abolition mere" enthusiasm," an " unsubstantial theory of the rights of man," and abolitionists " fanatics," they expressed their sorrow at the "misguided piety" which sometimes prompted " death-bed " manumissions, and asserted that "it would be as humane to throw slaves from the decks in the middle passage as to set them free in this country." Not only had they no plans for the amelioration of the free people of color - themselves, but they heartlessly pronounced against any which might be proposed by others. Thus the society, in an elaborate address to the public, authoritatively defined its position: “The moral, intellectual, and political improvement of free people of color within the United States are objects foreign to the powers of the society."

Dr. Leonard Bacon, a distinguished clergyman of New Haven, an officer of the society, thus gave his views concerning its mission: “It is not a missionary society, nor a society for the suppression of the slave-trade, nor a society for the improvement of the blacks, nor a society for the abolition of slavery; it is simply a society for the establishment of a colony on the coast of Africa." And these are but samples of the general tone and tenor of its writers and speakers, of the documents and addresses that once abounded for its advocacy and defence.

Among them the religious press was largely represented. Thus a Southern paper declares: “If free people of color were generally taught to read, it might be an inducement for them to remain in this country. We would offer them no such inducements." Nor were the Northern journals without sentiment equally unfeeling. The New Haven " Religious Intelligencer" condemned any measures calculated to bind the colored population to this country by" seeking to raise them to a level with the whites, whether by founding colleges or in any other way," because it would " divert attention and counteract and thwart  the whole plan of colonization."

Among the many short-comings of the Colonization Society was its admitted failure to secure the confidence of the colored people. Though it was ostensibly formed in their interest, and was really incapable of accomplishing the objects of its organization without their voluntary co-operation and willing acceptance of its assistance, it was never regarded with favor by them. On the contrary, they always distrusted its pretensions and dreaded its influence. Nor was it strange. For the more intelligent could not have been unacquainted with something of its history, and with the open and cruel avowals of its founders and early advocates; and all may have known that the same men who were its members and defenders not only oppressed their slaves, but demanded and indorsed those most cruel laws against free colored people which not only disgraced the statute-books of all slaveholding States, but sadly disfigured Northern legislation.

The extreme aversion of slaveholders to the presence of free people of color, and their desire to be rid of them, aided by the general prejudice against color, provoked a vast amount of hostile and wicked legislation, both North and South. The "black laws” of many of the free States were second in disgraceful cruelty and injustice only to the more summary and sanguinary slave-codes of the South itself. The admitted intent of such legislation in both sections was to compel, in reality if not in form, these unfortunate ones to leave their country, where their comfort, success, and security were persistently and systematically disregarded, while they were made the objects of provoking and painful social and legal oppressions.

This identity of interest and purpose, and at the South of constituency even, between the party of slavery and the party of colonization, not only prevented on the part of the later all sympathy with the victims of these laws, but also all discountenance of the policy that demanded their enactment and enforcement. In point of fact, the Colonization Society seemed rather to welcome such legislation as a means of furthering its purposes and making the colored people willing to accept its proffered aid. Thus a writer in the “African Repository” exclaims: “How important that we hasten to clear our land of our black population! What right, I demand, .have the· children of Africa to a home in a white man's country? Let Africans rise to empire; but let it be under the shade of their native palms. Let the Atlantic billow heave its high and everlasting barrier between their country and ours." Even the Massachusetts Colonization Society could speak almost approvingly of the fact that "the colored man's prospects of a happy home here are continually growing darker. The unwillingness to have a large free colored population is steadily increasing in all the States exposed to it "; and it adds, ” such discouragements force them to think of Liberia." 

In 1831 Maryland, in order that the State might be protected from the alleged “evils” growing out of the “connection " of her increasing free colored population with the slaves, enacted some very stringent and barbarous laws, -- one forbidding manumission unless the slaves were sent away, --and it appropriated two hundred thousand dollars to be expended by the Colonization Society of that State. At the next annual meeting of the parent society a resolution was passed expressing the " highest gratification " at the continued effort of Maryland, --embracing, of course, those barbarous laws in regard to her free colored population. " We do not ask," said a memorial of the New York Colonization Society to the" legislature, in language it is hardly credible civilized and Christian men could have used” that the" provisions of our constitution. and statute-book should be so modified as to relieve and exalt the condition of the colored people whilst they remain with us. Let those provisions stand IN ALL THEIR VIGOR, to work out the ultimate and unbounded good of these people."

A society with such an origin and object, constituency and, avowals, could not escape the notice and criticism of the free colored people themselves.  They seemed instinctively to divine its purpose and distrust its aims; for, as early as 1817, they held a meeting in the city of Richmond to express their opposition to the scheme. In the same year a similar meeting was held in Philadelphia, in which they denounced as “cruel" any measure or system of measures having a tendency to banish " them ; expressed their deep abhorrence at the stigma cast upon them as " a dangerous and useless part of the community "; declared that they would never voluntarily separate themselves from the slave population of the country; that, " without arts, without science, or a proper knowledge of government, to cast into the savage wilds of Africa the free people of color seems to us the circuitous route by which they must return to perpetual bondage." Similar meetings were held by the free people of color in Washington, Baltimore, and in all the Northern cities and States. 

A national convention of colored men was held in Philadelphia in 1831. That convention embodied and expressed the sentiments of the free people of color. To the Colonization Society it thus addressed itself: It would " respectfully suggest to that august body of talent, learning, and worth that, in our humble opinion, strengthened, too, by the opinions of eminent men in this country as well as in Europe, they are pursuing the direct road to perpetuate slavery, with all its unchristian concomitants, in this boasted land of freedom; and, as citizens and men whose best blood is sapped to gain popularity for that institution, we would in the most feeling manner beg of them to desist; or, if we must be sacrificed to their philanthropy, we would rather die at home. Many of our fathers and some of us have fought and bled for the liberty, independence, and peace which you now enjoy; and surely it would be ungenerous and unfeeling in you to deny us a humble and quiet grave in that country which gave us birth." This tender and touching appeal was the voice of a quarter of a million of oppressed and suffering men and women, who, though nominally free, were compelled to bear many of the burdens of that terrible system which then held more than two millions of their race in chains. The next year they met again in convention, and again appealed to the colonizationists “to cease their unhallowed persecutions." They declared that it was unnecessary to repeat their “protest against that institution." “Our views and sentiments," they said,” have long since gone to the world, --the wings of the wind have borne our disapprobation to that institution. Time itself cannot erase it. We have dated our opposition from its beginning; and our views are strengthened by time and circumstances, and they hold the uppermost seat in our affections."

The free colored people have ever firmly and persistently continued to avow their opposition to the society, and to enter their solemn protest against its policy. An association, so curiously conglomerate, could not continue harmonious. Men with such conflicting sentiments could not long see in the same agency a legitimate means of promoting purposes so antagonistic. Though it had a Northern face and words for freedom, and numbered among its advocates such men as the Tappans and Gerrit Smith, yet its Southern proclivities and purposes were so much more prominent and pronounced, that men whose philanthropy was something more than a name, one after another, detected the deception and disavowed it. Even Mr. Webster, as early as 1825, retired from a meeting held in Boston to organize an auxiliary society, of which he was chairman, - Lewis Tappan, its secretary, being authority for the statement, - with the remark: " Gentlemen, I will have nothing more to do with the matter; for I am satisfied it is merely a plan of the slaveholders to get rid of the free negroes."

The opposition of the free negroes, the manifest futility of a scheme to effect emancipation, which had sent out in the first dozen years of its history only a single thousand colonists, and the avowals of its Southern advocates and presses, naturally excited the suspicions of the pious and philanthropic, who had early and gladly welcomed it as an agency of promised good, and led them to examine and finally discard its pretensions.

Previous to 1828, Arthur Tappan, an eminent merchant of the city of New York, had generously contributed to its funds. But he was led to distrust its efficacy as an instrumentality of Christian benevolence, because blacks were sent out without any reference to their moral fitness to become pioneers in civilizing Africa; because slaves were liberated on the express condition that they should go to Liberia, thus forcing a consent that should have been free; and because a part of the cargoes of the vessels sent were New England rum, powder, and arms. As late, too, as the 4th of July, 1829, William Lloyd Garrison delivered an address in Boston, before the Massachusetts Colonization Society, in which, however, he dwelt with much force on the woes and wrongs of the slave. In the autumn of that year he became associated with Benjamin Lundy in the publication of the "Genius of Universal Emancipation," in Baltimore. While in that city he saw more clearly the workings of the colonization scheme, and came to the conclusion that, if it were not the intention of its originators, it had nevertheless become its practical result," to rivet still closer the fetters of the slaves and deepen the prejudices against the free people of color," and he became an advocate of the doctrine of immediate emancipation. Returning to the North, he became its champion, and the uncompromising opponent of the Colonization Society. He and others found it difficult, however, to awaken in the minds of the people the same distrust which had taken such full possession of their own. But through their agency the public mind was largely disabused of the idea that it was an antislavery instrumentality, or that it tended, in any degree, to the elevation of the free people of color.

The agents of the Colonization Society had visited England, and appealed for support to the British people. The Abolitionists of that country had generally received, welcomed, and accepted their statements. Eliot Cresson went there in 1830, and for more than three years pressed its claims upon the veteran Abolitionists, who were then engaged in the great work of West India emancipation. .After the organization of the New England .Antislavery Society, and· several of its auxiliaries, it was deemed important to disabuse the British mind of some of these unfounded impressions; and Mr. Garrison was deputed to visit England in the spring of 1833 for that purpose. But he went, in the words of Samuel J. May, his early friend and coadjutor,” with the execrations of the leading colonizationists and all the proslavery partisans on his head."

Cordially welcomed, and burning with the zeal of profound convictions, he was anxious to grapple without delay with the advocates of colonization. He at once challenged Mr. Cresson to meet him for public discussion. That champion, however, whose course Mr. Garrison afterward characterized as "marked with cunning, duplicity, and cowardice," prudently declined the challenge. Mr. Garrison delivered several addresses, in which he exposed the character of the society and of its claims to antislavery support, in either England or America. Having faithfully pointed out to the leading Abolitionists the purposes and tendencies of the society, he received, a few days before his return, a protest, addressed to the British public, signed by Wilberforce, Macaulay, Stephen, Lushington, Buxton, Cropper, O'Connell, and other distinguished antislavery men. While acknowledging the colony of Liberia "to be in itself a good thing,'' they utterly repudiated the principles of the society, declared it to be an obstacle to the “destruction of slavery throughout the world," and pronounced "its pretexts to be delusion," and its" real effects dangerous." These eminent  men averred that the society took " its root from a cruel prejudice and alienation in the whites of America against the colored people, slave or free " ; that " it fosters and increases a spirit of caste " ; " widens the breach between the two races " ; " exposes the colored people to great practical persecutions "  ; and " is calculated to swallow up and divert that feeling which America, as a Christian and free country, cannot but entertain, that slavery is alike incompatible with the law of God and the well-being of man."

In sending this important document to the press, the leading signature to which had been given by the illustrious Wilberforce a few days before his death --one of the closing acts of his eventful life,--Mr. Garrison said: " This protest will hang a millstone about the neck of the American· Colonization Society sufficiently weighty to drown it in an ocean of public indignation." Nor did he miscalculate. Though a colonization society was organized in England, it existed only in name and exerted but little influence. This testimony, too, of those distinguished philanthropists, as cheering to the Abolitionists as it was exasperating to the Colonizationists, became a powerful agency in dispelling the illusion which the latter had cast over the Northern mind. Having aided in accomplishing this purpose, --by which, perhaps, he rendered as great and essential a service to the antislavery cause as by any act of his life, he returned to the United States, and issued an address to the friends of the slave, in which he said: "The great object of my mission -namely, the exposure of the real character and objects of the American Colonization Society-has been accomplished expeditiously, comprehensively, and effectually."

Imbittered by the success which had crowned the mission of Mr. Garrison in England, and by its arraignment and abandonment by many of its former supporters, the friends of the Colonization Society more fiercely than ever denounced the doctrine of immediate emancipation and its advocates. Though many good men, distinguished for their philanthropy and piety, were continually withdrawing from its support and giving their adhesion to the doctrine of immediate emancipation, the society was still strongly intrenched in the confidence and sympathy of the influential classes. Many of the public men, like Mr. Clay, were earnest and eloquent in its defence. Leaders, too, in the churches and institutions of learning were active in its advocacy and support. Occupying positions of commanding influence, they were indignant at the bold and uncompromising annunciation of unpalatable truths, and strove to put under the ban of social and ecclesiastical proscription the humble and devoted men who were placing the antislavery cause on the enduring basis of the rights of human nature and the laws of God. This intolerant and proscriptive action intensified the public feeling, increased the popular excitement, and inspired many of the lawless deeds of that day, which brought such reproach upon free institutions and dishonor upon the country. Prominent men in both church and state consented to these demonstrations of popular violence. At least, if they did not encourage and prompt them, they did not rebuke and oppose them.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 208-222.



Chapter: “Dissension among the Abolitionists. - Disruption of the American Antislavery Society,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

On that day the delegates assembled in great numbers in the city of New York. Arthur Tappan, president of the society, not being present, Francis Jackson of Boston, one of the vice-presidents, took the chair. Mrs. Lydia Maria Child was placed upon the business committee. Not being present, Lewis Tappan suggested that her place be supplied by her husband, David Lee Child. But Miss Abby Kelley being appointed in place of Mrs. Child, Mr. Tappan, Charles W. Denison, and Amos A. Phelps asked to be excused from serving on the committee. After a brief debate the sense of the meeting was taken, and the appointment of Miss Kelley was sustained by more than a hundred majority in favor of the rights of women to take part in the proceedings of the society.

In the evening a meeting was held at the house of Lewis Tappan, and it was unanimously agreed that a division was inevitable, and that a new society should be immediately organized. A committee was appointed of one from each State, of which Rev. David Thurston of Maine was chairman, to draft a constitution. During the forenoon of the next day, by permission of the presiding officer of the society, then in session, notice was given that a meeting of those opposed to its proceeding would be held in the afternoon in the basement of the church. To consider the expediency of forming a new society. When this meeting assembled, Mr. Tappan was made chairman. The proceedings of the preliminary meeting were stated, and a resolution was adopted declaring it expedient to form such a society. During the next two days a constitution was adopted, and a society of nearly three hundred members; from eleven States, was organized. It adopted as its name, The American and Foreign Antislavery Society. Arthur Tappan was chosen president, James G. Birney and Henry R Stanton secretaries, and Lewis Tappan treasurer. A large executive committee was appointed, of which the Tappans, Mr. Birney, Mr. Stanton, William Jackson, Whittier; Gerrit Smith, Judge Jay, Joshua Leavitt, Thomas Morris, William H. Brisbane, Edward Beecher, and many other prominent Abolitionists, were members. 

An address was soon afterward issued by the president of the new society, in which the disturbing elements in the old organization were referred to; and the causes of separation were distinctly stated. Among the reasons assigned for the separation were the action of the society concerning the admission of women to take part in its proceedings, and the non-resistant and no-government views of a portion of its members. The former it declared to be an innovation that seemed “repugnant to the constitution of the society," '' a firebrand in antislavery meetings,"' which was “contrary to the usages of the civilized world," and which “tended to destroy the efficiency of female antislavery action.'' Concerning the latter, it maintained that, though at its formation " the lawfulness of human government was recognized, and it was a fundamental principle that political action was both expedient and proper," the same persons who were contending for the civil and political equality of women with men " deny the obligation of forming, supporting, or yielding obedience to civil government, and refuse to affirm the duty of political action.  Avowing that the members of the new society recognized the “rightfulness of government," and "urge political action as a duty," it affirmed that it would not denounce those" as recreants " who might differ from them in regard to the " best modes of action “; and that, so far as their conduct could influence the future, the two divisions of antislavery men would henceforth plead the cause of the slave without criminating or recriminating each other. It declared that the purpose of the convention which originated the American and Foreign Antislavery Society was not to enforce uniformity of action, subject the widespread antislavery host to the decrees of one central power, follow the footsteps of any earthly leader, or glorify any man of like passions with themselves, but to labor for the speedy and peaceful triumph of liberty, and to give God all the glory. Commencing its career with these avowals of its spirit and purposes, and embracing within its ranks many men of large capacity and experience, it labored several years, and rendered service to the cause.

Lindley Coates of Pennsylvania was chosen president of the old society. The vacancies made by the retiring members were filled by men in harmony with the views of the majority. The " Antislavery Standard," with its motto, " Without concealment, without compromise," was established as its  organ in the city of New York, under the editorial charge of Nathaniel P. Rogers of New Hampshire, one of their most brilliant and vigorous writers. The executive committee soon issued an address in reply to the address of the new society, in which the course of the old organization was vigorously defended, and the action of those who had seceded was sharply criticised. This society continued to advocate the cause of immediate emancipation, and to enunciate the distinctive doctrines of that section of Abolitionists which sustained the views of Mr. Garrison until slavery was abolished by the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

The disruption of the American Antislavery Society, and the formation of the American and Foreign Antislavery Society, excited much feeling among Abolitionists in certain localities, especially in the New England States. Mr. Goodell says of it: " While these divisions, produced a strong sensation in New England and in the seaboard cities, the sound of them going across the Atlantic and awakening kindred responses pro and con among the Abolitionists of Great Britain, the blast died away like a Massachusetts northeaster as-it travelled westward, spending its strength before it had reached the Valley of the Mohawk, and was scarcely felt beyond the waters of Lake Erie."

At the time of the separation there were probably two thousand societies in the country, containing, it was estimated, some two hundred thousand members. They had, however, already attained their maximum of numbers and influence, and had accomplished the largest share of their peculiar work. Afterward their numbers and distinctive labors were diminished, rather than increased. Various causes contributed to produce that result. Such societies had lost the charm of novelty which at first had attracted some to join their ranks. Many, too, had become disheartened by the growing magnitude of the evil and the increasing difficulties which revealed themselves in the way of its overthrow. Besides, antislavery ideas and principles were finding for themselves other modes of expression and action. While, therefore, these distinctive societies were declining in numbers and efficiency, the cause for which they were originally organized was making progress.

Nevertheless these organizations, with all their divisions, dissensions, and mistakes, rendered essential service. They were the pioneers in the great work of emancipation. They were the fore runners of this modern evangel of Liberty. They sounded the alarm which awoke the slumbering nation, to its dangers and its duties. They kindled and kept alive those fires of freedom that revealed more distinctly the darkening shadows which slavery was casting over the land. During the first few years of their active and arduous labors they did much to direct attention to the wrongs of the slave, the crimes of the slave system, and the dangers those wrongs and crimes involved. Though other and subsequent agencies were employed to render more available and practicable the principles of the great conflict, the honor of their first and brave proclamation will ever belong to them.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 419-422.



To describe in detail all the interesting forms of American social life would be a long task; but the anti-slavery movement made such use of appeals to the understanding that some account of the intellectual conditions of the time is necessary. In 1830, though the Americans were still far from being a literary people, they were a reading people: the remotest communities studied and quoted that fountain of English, the King James version of the Scriptures; and in the larger places there was a book-reading public which, first of all, applied itself to the English classics, especially the eighteenth century poets and essayists. The English reviews were imported or reprinted and were widely circulated; and as the new school of English authors sprang up-Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, Macaulay, and Tennyson-they found an eager public in the new world. Outside of the towns there was in New England, and those parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and the west which were influenced by New England, an intelligent reading community of farmers, whose daughters taught the district schools, or, going into the mills of the factory towns, founded little literary journals.1

These rural communities were much aided by schools and academies planted in their midst, though until near 1800 there was no public provision for teaching girls, and during the first third of the nineteenth century even the New England public schools, outside of a few towns, were miserably housed and poorly taught, while the rich states of New York and Pennsylvania founded no general system of free schools till 1812.

When, in 1837, Horace Mann was appointed at the head of what was virtually a Massachusetts department of education, he exhausted his vocabulary in describing the state public schools, which he said were in session a little more than four months on the average, costing the state less than three dollars annually for every child of school age, paying average wages to women teachers of less than twelve dollars a month, and educating not more than two thirds of the school-children.2 His services as secretary of the state board of education did much to remove this stigma and to place the Massachusetts schools in the van. A great step in educating the teacher and giving a professional standing was the

1 Lucy Larcom, New England Girlhood, 209-225; for education and literary life in general, see Hart, Contemporaries, III., §§ 151-157.

2 Horace Mann, Report, 1837 (in Works, IL. 400, 414, 423).

founding of normal schools, soon established throughout the northern states.

Though popular education at public expense was already taken up in the west and made a principle in all the American commonwealths north of Mason and Dixon's line, on the frontier and in the south the conditions were much worse than in New England. Abraham Lincoln said that when he was a boy in Illinois a man who knew algebra was thought to be a wizard; and not a single southern state, previous to the Civil War, set up a general system of free public schools. Outside of the cities, which provided for themselves under state laws, the poor whites had little, opportunity for education. In 1850, of 250,000 adult native whites in Massachusetts, only 1000 were illiterate; out of 500,000 in Virginia, 75,000 were illiterate, as were, of course, nine-tenths of the negroes. 1

This backwardness was not for want of warning, but rather in defiance of the principles which Jefferson laid down. He desired that Virginia should establish free local schools everywhere, that the most promising pupils should be provided with high-school instruction, and the most successful pupils of the· high schools with college training. Yet a northern public man with some experience in the south pooh

1 A. D. Mayo, Common Schools in the Southern States, in U. S. Bureau of Education, Reports, 1900-1901, pp. 357-401; S. B. Weeks, Beginning of the Common School System in the South, in ibid., 1896-1897, II., 1379-1474; Olmsted, Back Country, 330-337.

poohed at schools because it is "the examples in our daily contemplation at home, and in domestic life, not the discipline of schools, that shape the morals of a people; and he adds the familiar argument · that "the attainment of an education superior to our station or the business for which we are destined is very apt to unfit a man for both." 1

For secondary education a few northern cities had public high schools, and boys were often fitted for college by the village parson; but the defects in public instruction were in part supplied by excellent endowed academies, charging moderate fees and serving as an intellectual centre for miles around. Many of them received boarding pupils-in some cases, both in the east and west, boys and girls being educated together. The south was very deficient in education of this grade, especially· for girls; for though academies were early founded, the constituency of people able to send their children away to school was small, and the schools lacked support.

The college education of the time, though in many ways narrow, was encouraging. The half-dozen preRevolutionary colleges in half a century grew to about sixty, of which almost half were in the south. The first provision for a public state university was made by North Carolina in 1791, although it was many years before it became effective; most of the new colleges, north and south, were planted as nurseries of learning and piety by the various

1 Paulding, Letters from the South (ed. of 1835), I., 221-223.

religious denominations. A great impetus was given to southern colleges by the University of Virginia, suggested, fostered, and wisely organized by Thomas Jefferson, who lived to see its buildings opened, almost under the shadow of his seat at Monticello. In its spirit and in its work the University of Virginia was in advance of any other American college of the time; it placed an intellectual stamp on the whole south, set an example to the country, and became the mother of a lively brood of young colleges.

 In the period from 1815 to 1840 a score or more of young American scholars found their way to Gottingen or Tubingen or Heidelberg, and imbibed the German tradition of investigation in search of ultimate truth. Colleges spread rapidly into the west, where, in 1826, Western Reserve University was founded at Hudson, Ohio, as a western Yale; and in the course of the two decades 1830 to 1850 Michigan and some other of the western states laid the foundations of a new type of state university.

The number of southern colleges in this period is striking. In 1830 there were twenty-four; in 1860 they had increased to about seventy, scattered all through the south, including the Tennessee and Kentucky mountains. With the exception, however, of the universities of Virginia and North Carolina and the College of South Carolina at Columbia, none of them had a national reputation, and few more than a hundred students; 1

1 De Bow's Review, X., 477. 

and they lacked good business management, so that their land grants vanished and their invested funds dwindled. The main reason for the want of prosperity was the small number of students who could be drawn from the community and the competition between too many small colleges. There was complaint also of the dissipation in some colleges. 1 The wealthy planters had a habit of sending their sons abroad, 2 or more commonly north, to be educated. Jefferson himself complained that "Harvard will still prime it over us with her twenty professors," 3 and objected to sending students to northern institutions where they would unlearn the lessons of their own community. During the decade 1830-1840 about ten per cent of the students of Harvard and Columbia came from the south; in 1841 twenty per cent of the Yale students and half of the students of Princeton. Among the southerners thus educated were John C. Calhoun, of Yale, and Barnwell Rhett, of Harvard, both of them examples of the small effect of northern colleges in changing the point of view of southerners.

The sixty-odd colleges, so-called, in the Union in 1830 probably did not include more than four thousand students of real collegiate rank, out of a population of thirteen millions; six times that population

1 Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter, 129.

2 Reprehended in De Bow's Review, XXVII., 265; Marshall, Home Education at the South.

3 Jefferson, Works (Washington ed.), VII., 202. 

now has nearly forty times the number of college students. Except in Latin, Greek, and a few mathematical subjects, the colleges of that time were no further advanced than the best high schools and academies to-day; the students entered at fifteen or sixteen years of age, and lived a life of their own, scandalizing neighbors by horse -play which was not then reported in the metropolitan newspapers. It was an era of remarkable college presidents -Eliphalet Nott, of Union; Mark Hopkins, of Williams; Francis Wayland, of Brown; Thomas Cooper, of South Carolina-vigorous men wh9se personality left an undying impression upon their students; but the teaching was perfunctory, the range of studies small, and few of the college professors highly trained.

Of professional and technical schools there is little to say at this time. West Point, founded in r 802, was a good school of its kind, but still narrow and unprogressive. Medical schools sprang up in the principal cities where there was clinical material, two of the most prominent as parts of the universities of Pennsylvania and Harvard, but most of them were private institutions carried on for profit by the preceptors. Separate schools for the training of the clergy arose, notably the Congregational Andover Theological Seminary and the Presbyterian Theological School at Princeton.

The truth, painful to an academic person, that a low state of popular education and a high condition of literature may walk hand-in-hand was made clear in the decade from 1830 to 1840; for it is the beginning of the golden age of American literature. Up to that time the aim of most American writers was not to please, but to convince. The favorite kind of literature was the public speech, for Americans loved oratory. Patrick Henry spoke his appeals; Tom Paine, James Otis, Sam Adams, and John Dickinson put them within the covers of their pamphlets. After the Revolution, men like John Randolph and Josiah Quincy, as a matter of course, approached their countrymen through their speeches in Congress and out-of-doors. The year 1830 marks the climax of American oratory in the Webster-Hayne debate, in which the great New-Englander's splendid sentences and lofty principles placed him alongside Lord Chatham as one of the foremost users of the English tongue.

Nobody knows how life is breathed into the nostrils of the writer who can express the spirit of his countrymen and join in creating a national literature. Perhaps the great literary awakening was due to the different parts of the country coming together so as to give the poet, the essayist, and the journalist a national constituency, just when Americans were beginning to feel the exuberant sense of being a power in the world. Pulpit eloquence took on a new form when William Ellery Channing, Father Taylor the sailors' preacher, and later Henry Ward Beecher, and their compeers aroused, charmed, and convinced. By the lyceum system renowned men were heard from town to town and from village to village; Edward Everett, with his silver tongue, earned sixty-eight thousand dollars for the purchase of Mount Vernon; while John B. Gough made a reformed drunkard so winning that young men were almost tempted to experience the process. If a man had anything that interested the world, his neighbors were eager to hear his eloquence. Town meetings and legislatures were schools of public speaking, the most successful graduates of which went to Congress. The enthusiast found his audience in the convention of his particular cause; the social reformer and the literary critic had a forum in the lyceum. Women came forward as writers and even as platform speakers, among whom Harriet Beecher· Stowe was the only one to achieve a world -wide literary reputation.

The lyceum and the convention trained people to listen; the literary leaders taught them to think. Reward and recognition showed themselves in half a dozen different fields at once. The first American to win national reputation for a literary treatment of American subjects was Washington Irving, who had the triple gifts of humor, a spirit of investigation, and a lively historical style. The two founders of a new school of history were Jared Sparks, almost the first man to realize the necessity of collecting scattered and perishing materials for the nation’s history, and George Bancroft, who deliberately set himself to the mighty task of writing the history of his country up to his own time. In 1834 appeared the first volumes of that immense undertaking, upon which he was engaged for a considerable part of fifty years. 1 

To Bancroft was presently added a group of writers of the same New England origin, and, like him, imbued with the desire of repeating Macaulay's success in bringing history to the comprehension of the average reader and adorning it with graces of style: William H. Prescott began in 1837 to publish his series on the history of Spanish America and of Spain in the colonizing period; later came John Lothrop Motley, who chose for his theme the romantic epoch of the Dutch revolution against Spain. A fourth writer, and the king of American historians, was Francis Parkman; alone of them all he has carried his reputation through three generations, partly from the inextinguishable interest of his topic-the relations of the French and English-but chiefly because of his delightful historical style, his sense of proportion, and his own vigorous and right-minded personality, which has infused his works. ln journalism there was a like notable awakening. In 1830 no daily in America had a circulation of more than two thousand; but a little later several one-cent papers were founded, among which the first success was the New York Sun; it became well known through the "moon hoax," an elaborate deception

1 Hart, in International Monthly, 11., 306. 

intended to advertise the newspaper. Then, in 1835, appeared the first issue of the New York Herald, which developed a novel system of collecting news of every kind-commercial, legal, and religious -and reported all meetings and occurrences of the day. The Evening Post, under the editorship of William Cullen Bryant, appealed to high ideals, but Horace Greeley made the New York Tribune, founded in 1841, the first great metropolitan exponent of moral ideas. Quarrelsome, impertinent, and one-sided as these newspapers were, they nevertheless all had editorial pages written with spirit and often with genuine literary force, and they vastly increased the reading public. 1

The "moon hoax" was but a crude form of the· modem short story and responded to a public interest in the novel, which furnished a field for the greatest names in American fiction, especially for Cooper, Poe, and Hawthorne. Cooper began to publish his historical novels in 1821, and issued in all about seventy books. He was the first American to see the element of romance in the Revolution, and still more in the savage; and immediately caused his idealized Indian to be accepted by the world as a true picture. Not a finished writer, he somehow carries the reader along, and unhappy is the boy who has never stayed away from Sunday-school to read The Last of the Mohicans. W. G. Simms, of South Carolina, was the only prolific southern novelist. Edgar Allan Poe began his literary career with a little volume of poems in 1827, and for some years he edited the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond.1 His verses gave him a large reputation, but he lives as one of the world's writers through his tales-eerie, fanciful, ghastly, and a necessary part of every reading man's experience.

Greater than any other of these writers was Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose Twice-told Tales came out in 1837, but whose first powerful novel, The Scarlet Letter, was issued thirteen years later. Of all American writers, Hawthorne is the most unaccountable, for he revealed neither the Puritan rigor of his ancestors nor the bustling mercantile and seafaring atmosphere of his home town of Salem. A medievalist in his outlook on life, an Italian in his delicate choice of words, a Frenchman in the finish of his sentences, an Englishman in his traditions and standards, he remains through it all the greatest American imaginative writer.

It is easier to account for the American novel of the thirties than for the American verse. Colonial and Revolutionary poets were vague reflections of English writers, and could not write of Columbus and "Old Put" except in the style of Alexander Pope. Where did William Cullen Bryant find his model when, in the year when Sydney Smith asked, "Who reads an American book?" he burst forth with:

1 Cf. Miner, Southern Literary Messenger, an account of the periodical. 

"Whither, midst falling dew,

While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,

For through their rosy depths dost thou pursue Thy solitary way?" 1 

And why, in the six years from 1831 to 1837, should Whittier, Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes have made their first essays as poets? They not only wrote, they were read; for in that youth of the world people watched for the new volume by the author of “Evangeline” or of the “Deacon’s One-Hoss Shay." All the poets appealed to the highest in the hearts of their countrymen, and they all had a hearing; most of them felt a moral responsibility for aiding in the regeneration of the world, and Whittier was the poet of the anti-slavery cause, as Mrs. Stowe was its novelist.

Among these great stars there shone a brighter planet in Ralph Waldo Emerson, philosopher and sage, whose oracles are to be read in his rugged yet fascinating poems and in his gem-studded essays. He shocked conservative New England with a new religious point of view, but he aroused his countrymen with his appeal, "Hitch your wagon to a star"; and he illustrated his own dictum: "In the midst of abuses, in the heart of cities, in the aisles of false churches, alike in one place and in another,-wherever, namely, a just and heroic soul finds itself, there it will do what is next at hand, and by the new quality of character it shall put forth, it shall abrogate

1 Bryant, Lines to a Waterfowl.

that old condition, law', or school in which it stands, before the law of its own mind." 1

Americans have ever been readier to respond to the sober and severe than to the lighter vein; and no example of the humorist can be found in the eighteenth century except Benjamin Franklin. A new lamp of American literature was lighted when Washington Irving's Knickerbocker appeared in 1809; it is still one of the most delightful pieces of good-humored satire that was ever written. In Jackson's administration a popular writer, Major Jack Downing (really Charles A. Davis), was the first to bring out the fun of politics. His professed intimate relations with "Gineral Jackson” amused even that tough old statesman. Then in the forties came the rise of James Russell Lowell in his Biglow Papers, the first application of humor to anti-slavery.

1 Emerson, New England Reformers.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 19-32. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.



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Chapter: “The Disruption of the American Party,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

In the year 1853, a secret Order was organized by a few men in the city of New York. Its professed purpose was to check foreign influence, purify the ballot-box, and rebuke all efforts to exclude the Bible from the public schools. The dissatisfaction in the ranks of the old parties, growing out of the attempted repeal of the Missouri compromise in the winter of 1854, caused it to increase in that city with wonderful rapidity, and to spread into other cities, towns, and States. The disorganization of parties, when that compromise was abrogated, crowded its secret Councils, and it rapidly spread over the Northern States. Hundreds of thousands who cared less for its avowed principles and purposes than for the higher claims of justice and humanity, and had little faith in its permanency, were willing to use its machinery to disrupt the Whig and Democratic parties, in the confident hope that, out of the disorganized masses, there would come a great political party antagonistic to the dominating influences of the Slave Power.

This organization, known as the Know-Nothing or American party, wielded a potent influence in the Northern elections of 1854. In the Western States, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey it largely shaped the nominations, and co-operated at the polls with Whigs, anti-Nebraska Democrats, and Free Soilers. In New York, where it had great strength, and where it was largely under the influence of men who claimed to be conservative on the slavery question, it supported a State ticket, but united with Whigs and antislavery men in the election of members of Congress in most of the congressional districts. The Whig leaders and papers of Massachusetts insisting on maintaining their organization intact, thousands of Whigs, anti-Nebraska Democrats, and Free-Soilers, seeing clearly that a fusion of parties could not then be effected, went into the Councils of the Order and carried the State by an immense majority. When the elections of that year closed, it was found that the Democratic party had been prostrated in nearly all the Northern States, that the Whig party had been completely disorganized and disrupted, and that more than seventy-five members of the new party had been elected to Congress in the Northern States, most of whom were antislavery in sentiment, and afterward gave their adhesion to the rising Republican party.

Though the influences within the American party had been strongly antislavery, and its victories had been hostile to the continued domination of the Slave Power, as soon as the elections were over, Southern politicians and some at the North who were without antislavery convictions, and who had failed to comprehend the full significance of the uprising of the people of that year, sought, they said, to " nationalize " it, which, in the parlance of the times, was but another name for placing it in the attitude of hostility to freedom and its demands, or at best making it neutral thereto.

In November, a national delegation of the Councils of the new organization met at Cincinnati. There were few public men present, but it was, nevertheless, a body strong in intelligence and character. The victories they had achieved or aided in achieving in the Northern States intensified their devotion to a party which had so suddenly assumed such large proportions, as they also inspired them with hope and confidence. At this meeting, too, the third, or Union, degree of the Order was adopted, having been proposed by Kenneth Raynor, of North Carolina. Mr. Raynor had been a Whig member of Congress, and was an eloquent and effective speaker. Although a large slaveholder, and strenuous for what he believed to be the rights of the slaveholding States, he was national in his sympathies, and strongly attached to the Union. He had united with the American party, was a firm believer in its distinguishing doctrines, and was hopeful of its success. He conceived the patriotic idea that the new association might be turned to good account by arresting the disunion sentiment that was manifesting itself in the South. While on his way to the National Council, he resolved to propose a third degree, having for its specific purpose the preservation of the Union. Unfolding his plan to Joseph Segar of Virginia, he received from that gentleman a promise of cordial support.

Arriving at Cincinnati, he suggested his plan to several delegates, both Northern and Southern ; but he met with hesitation and doubt, though on his motion a committee of one from each State was appointed for the purpose of considering the expediency of adding a degree based on this simple idea of uncompromising devotion to the Union. As chairman of the committee, he prepared and reported the obligation or oath, and spoke warmly in support of its adoption. He declared his object to be “the preservation and perpetuity of the Union in all coming time; to maintain and defend it against all encroachments under all circumstances, and to put under the ban of proscription any and all men who might be engaged in impairing its vigor or resisting its authority." The proposition was sustained by several delegates of both sections of the country, and was adopted by a nearly unanimous vote.

This third, or Union, degree, thus authorized, was conferred by Mr. Raynor himself on the delegates present. The ceremonial was imposing and impressive. It bound each member under the most solemn pledges to adhere to, defend, and maintain the Union of the States against any and all assaults, from all and every quarter, without any condition, stipulation, or limitation. The recipients of this degree were welcomed to the brotherhood of the “Order of the American Union." In six months from that time it was estimated that a million and a half of men had taken the degree, and it continued to be administered until the final dissolution of the organization.

Whatever may have been the influence of this Union degree over the mind and heart of Southern men, its tendencies in the Northern States were to foster the interests of slavery and to sustain the Slave Power. A small but active portion of the American organization in the Northern States, especially in the States of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, assumed that fidelity to the Union and devotion to its flag required that they should strive to arrest antislavery movements, defeat antislavery action, and proscribe antislavery men; but in spite of their opposition the great body of the American party remained true to freedom. State legislatures they had helped to elect passed resolutions condemning the repeal of the Missouri compromise, and elected to the Senate of the United States Harlan, Trumbull, Durkee, Seward, Foster, Wilson, Hale, and Bell.

But the American party received a severe, if not fatal, defeat in Virginia in the spring of 1855. Under the lead of Henry A. Wise, the Democracy achieved a victory which, with the well-understood causes thereof, greatly discouraged, if it did not extinguish, the hopes of the Order throughout the South. The Northern successes for freedom, in which Americans had so conspicuously participated, could but exert a damaging influence upon their party at the South, making these Northern victories really tantamount to Southern defeats. So marked had been this result that the Southern members looked forward with great solicitude to the meeting of the National Council, in the hope and with the purpose of relieving the Order from the suspicion and stigma of being an " antislavery party in disguise," which had been so industriously fomented, and adroitly fixed upon it by the Democrats in this election.

Nor were the more observing and thoughtful antislavery men of the North unaware of the significance of the occasion, or less anxious concerning the approaching convocation of the young and rapidly growing party. They foresaw the coming struggle, and sought to prepare therefor. Mr. Wilson, in a letter to Theodore Parker, written after the meeting, thus describes the views and purposes he entertained concerning the exigency in prospect. “I saw," he said, "that one of three things must happen : that the antislavery members must ignore their principles to make a national party ; or they must fight for the supremacy of those principles and impose them upon the organization, which would drive off the Southern men ; or they must break up the party." After saying that it was his purpose to have the party " take a moderate but positive antislavery position," he added : " If not, I determined that it should be broken at the June meeting of the National Council, so that the friends of freedom might have time to rally the people."

The Council met in Philadelphia on the 5th of June, 1855, the representative of a party unparalleled in the rapidity of its growth and the vigor of its action, and possessed of a following in numbers that invested its proceedings with national interest and importance. It claimed to have enrolled in its Councils a million and a half of voters. The New York “Herald," during the meeting, gave it a constituency of one million three hundred and seventy-five thousand; and there can be no doubt that it did number in its ranks at least a million and a quarter. Most of the States were represented, each by seven delegates; the Southern, by men in deadly earnest that their favorite institution should be rescued from the harm shadowed forth by the results of the Northern elections. Nor were their feelings, and those of their Northern sympathizers, in earnest alone upon the general interests of the slave system; they were intensely bitter against Massachusetts and her delegation.

The Americans of that State had elected a delegation to the House of Representatives, nearly all of whom were members of the Free Soil party; had chosen a legislature that elected Mr. Wilson to the United States Senate; had passed resolutions condemning the repeal of the Missouri compromise, and in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act ; had enacted laws to give colored children an equality in the public schools, and to protect personal liberty ; and had adopted an address to the governor, requesting the removal of Judge Loring for the rendition of Anthony Burns.

The opposition to Mr. Wilson was especially strong. He had been an antislavery man for twenty years; had, immediately after his election, declared unrelenting opposition to slavery in all its forms; indorsed Mr. Burlingame's declaration for " an antislavery Constitution, an antislavery Bible, and an antislavery God " ; and had declared, a few days after taking his seat in the Senate, that the North intended to place men in the councils of the nation who could not be seduced by blandishments nor deterred by threats, and who had sworn uncompromising hostility to every form of oppression. In a public meeting in the city of New York, over which Henry Ward Beecher presided, he had just declared : " If my voice could be heard by the whole country to-night, by the antislavery men of the country to-night of all parties, I would say to them: Resolve it, write it over your door-posts, engrave it on the lids of your Bibles, proclaim it at the rising of the sun, and at the going down of the same, and in the broad light of noon, that any party in America, be that party Whig, Democrat, or American, that lifts its finger to arrest the antislavery movement, to repress the antislavery sentiment, or proscribe the antislavery men, it surely shall begin to die; it would deserve to die, it will die, and by the blessing of God I shall do what I can to make it die." Only a few days before the meeting of the National Council, he had said, in an address to the Americans of Vermont, that if that party did not wish a speedy death and a dishonored grave, it must accept the idea that the national government must be relieved from all connection with and responsibility for slavery. He had expressed his gratification at the defeat of the Americans in New York, who had striven to commit the party against antislavery principles, measures, and men.

Of course these utterances brought upon Mr. Wilson sharp criticisms and bitter denunciations. Delegates who came to that convention resolved to make the American party a proslavery organization denounced him as an abolitionist and a disorganizer, and kept him and his associates for one day, on the merest technicalities, out of the convention; and soon after the Massachusetts delegation had taken their seats, Mr. Boiling of Virginia denounced the Americans of that State as abolitionists and disorganizes, whose action had brought disaster upon him and his friends. Referring especially to Mr. Wilson's speeches, he sharply and bitterly criticised his course, and that in language deemed by all personal, indecorous, and highly offensive.

To this assault upon his State and upon himself, Mr. Wilson promptly replied. Massachusetts, he said, stood upon her own State rights; she was competent to take care of her own interests; her goods, and not her principles, were for sale. “Twenty years ago," he added, “I pledged myself to liberty; and I have never spoken or written one word inconsistent with that pledge, and I never will do so to save any party on earth. In public and in private I have freely uttered my antislavery sentiments and labored to promote the antislavery cause, and I will continue to do so. You shall not proscribe antislavery principles, measures, or men, without receiving from me the most determined and unrelenting hostility. The past belongs to slavery, -- the future to freedom. The past is yours, -- the future is ours. We wish you men of the South distinctly to understand that we have the power to prohibit slavery in the Territories and to abolish it in the District of Columbia, and we mean to do it. We intend to repeal the Fugitive Slave Act, and we mean that Kansas shall never come into the Union as a slave State, no, never." The slavery conflict in the convention, thus begun, continued with scarcely any inter mission, day and night, for more than a week.

On the 7th, there was a banquet given to the members of the Council by the citizens of Philadelphia, over which Mayor Conrad presided. It was under the control of the proslavery men of that city, and some of the members of recognized antislavery sentiments were made to feel that they were under the ban. Some of the Northern delegates absented themselves from the banquet, and others declined to speak when called upon. The speeches breathed the spirit of “nationality," and opposition to the demands of slavery was deemed sectional, if not disloyal to the Union.

On the 8th, a sharp struggle took place for the presidency of the Council. The position was sought by his friends for James W. Barker of New York, the temporary chairman; but his proslavery tendencies and those of his delegation were so marked and offensive to many Northern members that he was defeated, and E. B. Bartlett of Kentucky selected.

On motion of Judge Cone of Georgia, a committee on resolutions, consisting of one from each State, the District of Columbia, and the Territory of Minnesota, was appointed. The struggle in the committee was sharp and severe, continuing through three days. Resolutions were presented, written by Vespasian Ellis, editor of the national organ at Washington. They forbade discussion of slavery in any form by the American party, and demanded the rigid enforcement by the national government of the laws, especially of the Fugitive Slave Act. An amendment was proposed demanding of the national government protection to actual settlers; but it was rejected by a majority of two. The resolutions were adopted in committee by one majority, but afterward reconsidered. It was finally agreed, by a vote of seventeen to fourteen, to report resolutions written by Mr. Burwell of Virginia and presented by Mr. Lyon of New York. They denied the power of Congress to prohibit slavery in the Territories, or to abolish it in the District of Columbia, and they demanded that the nation should maintain and abide by the existing laws on the subject. This platform, pledging the American party to slavery, was adopted in the committee by the delegations from fourteen Southern States, the State of New York, the District of Columbia, and the Territory of Minnesota. But the New York delegation was mainly responsible for this majority report, which so discouraged the moderate and fair-minded delegates from the border States, and so emboldened the extreme Southern men in their demands. Mr. Lyon even boasted of his agency in presenting the proslavery platform. Mr. Barker assured Southern delegates that the Americans of New York were sound; that they had expelled thirty thousand members of the American party for voting for Governor Clark, the Whig candidate for governor, and for supporting the re-election of William H. Seward to the Senate; but that they had one hundred and eighty thousand members left, and could control that great State. Mr. Squires avowed that he would join the Democratic Party if the convention failed to adopt a proslavery platform, and he bitterly assailed the friends of freedom and their representatives in the Council. Mr. Sammons was exceedingly anxious that the American party should make a declaration against emancipation in the national capital.

A minority resolution was reported by the members of the committee from fourteen States. It proposed the immediate restoration of the prohibition of slavery in the territory covered by the Missouri compromise of 1820, the protection of actual settlers, and the admission of Kansas and Nebraska as free States. This resolution was written by Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield “Republican," though he was not a member of the Council, and was simply acting as the reporter of the New York “Tribune." It was presented to the committee by John W. Foster of Massachusetts.

The majority and minority reports were made on Monday, the sixth day of the session. Mr. Mallory of New York denied, at the outset, the necessity of discussion, and demanded submission to the will of the majority. Several members of the committee and of the Council rose to respond to this impertinent demand, but all yielded to Governor Gardner of Massachusetts. He declared that the resolutions conceded too much, and that the party could not carry a village in Massachusetts upon them. Governor Fletcher of Vermont followed. He told the convention that if it persisted in the Southern policy proposed, popular indignation would extinguish slavery and extirpate the whole tribe of Northern dough faces. Mr. Clements of Delaware, arraigned by his colleagues for signing the minority report, sustained his position, said he had acted conscientiously, and contended that the demands of the North were right.

The debate on the platform ran through three days, and was able, eloquent, excited, but bitterly personal. Mr. Foster charged that the basis of representation in the Council was wrong, and that it had been deliberately packed to stifle the voice of the free States. He denounced the repeal of the Missouri compromise, declaring it to be " iniquitous in its conception, as it disturbed a time-honored compact; unjust in its passage, wrested as it was from a reluctant Congress by a President with all the spoils and appliances of the nation at his command; and disastrous in its results, as it renewed all the agitating questions and led to scenes of lawless violence." Taking “the restoration of the Missouri compromise as our rallying cry, and inscribing it on our banners," he said,” we can carry every free State from the Atlantic to the Mississippi."

Mr. Wilson opposed the adoption of the illiberal, proslavery, and intolerant platform. “Its adoption," he said,” commits the American party unconditionally to the policy of slavery, to the iron dominion of the black power. The people of the North will repudiate it, spurn it. I here and now tell you to your faces that I will trample with disdain upon your platform. I will not support it; I will support no man who stands upon it. Adopt that platform, and you array against you the noblest pulsations of the human heart, the holiest convictions of the human soul, the profoundest ideas of the human intellect, and the attributes of Almighty God. Your party will be withered by the blasting breath of the people's wrath. The antislavery sentiment is a profound religious conviction, resting upon the commands of Almighty God to ' do unto others as we would that others should do unto us, ' to ' love our neighbors as we love ourselves,' to ' undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free.' Do you think the descendants of the old sturdy Puritan race, that met the demands of priests, nobles, and kings with the stern Thus saith the Lord,' will smother the holiest convictions of their souls, and obey the decrees a body of men like this? I tell you they will do so never."

"Reject this majority platform, adopt the proposition to restore freedom to Kansas and Nebraska and to protect the actual settlers from violence and outrage, simplify your rules, make an open organization, banish all bigotry and intolerance from your ranks, place your movement in harmony with the humane progressive spirit of the age, .and you may win and retain power, and elevate and improve the political character of the country. Adopt this majority platform, commit the American movement to the slave perpetualists and the slave propagandists, and you will go down before the burning indignation and withering scorn of American freemen."

The speech of Mr. Ford of Ohio, afterward lieutenant-governor, was exceedingly effective. Referring to the repeal of the Missouri compromise, he characterized that breach of trust with great plainness of speech, filling the moderate men of that section with shame and making the extreme men furious. He compared the course of the South in regard to the Missouri compromise with that of the man who bought a horse on Sunday, gave his note for it, sold it, pocketed the money, and then turned round and repudiated payment of his note " because, given on the Sabbath, it was illegal." “You acknowledge," he said,” you have had the consideration, you admit the repeal to be unjust and an outrage, and yet you refuse to right it." Several Southern members sprang to the floor to deny that they had admitted that the repeal was an outrage. “Well," said Mr. Ford, "get up and tell us what you think about it; let us hear your confessions." The repeal of the Missouri compromise was defended by Judge Hopkins of Alabama and Mr. Cunning ham of South Carolina, on the ground that it was unconstitutional.

Kenneth Raynor asked if it was expected that Southern gentlemen would give their mental experience, to which Mr. Ford replied: “Yes, sir, let us hear you all." " Well, then," said Mr. Raynor, " I have to say that the repeal of the Missouri compromise was an uncalled-for and unnecessary act, an outrage even, a violation of plighted faith ; and I would have seen my right arm withered, and my tongue palsied, before I would have voted for it." This emphatic declaration was received with surprise, hisses, and denunciatory exclamations from the ultra-Southern men. Mr. Raynor was insolently told that he would he put down at home for such utterances. He bravely replied that he would trust the generosity and justice of his State, and, if his enemies made the issue, he would stump the old North State in defence of his opinion, “from the Atlantic Ocean to the Tennessee Mountains."

Moderate and conciliatory speeches were made by Governor Brown of Tennessee and Governor Johnson of Pennsylvania. Cumback of Indiana, Booth and Sperry of Connecticut, Jennings of Illinois, opposed the majority resolutions; but they were sustained by Burwell of Virginia, Morse and Stewart of Alabama, and Cone of Georgia, chairman of the committee on the platform.

Mr. Raynor offered an amendment proposing to strike out everything relating to slavery, and to declare in substance that the American party was organized to remedy certain existing evils ; that any evil connected with slavery was not among them, and did not come within the purview of the organization ; that it was neither a proslavery nor an antislavery party ; that it recognized the right of private judgment, of freedom of speech and of the press upon the subject of slavery; that all questions touching its agitation should be ignored and discouraged ; but that the American party, should it come into power, would so dispose of that question as to mete out justice to all sections and interests. In support of his amendment, he addressed the convention for a portion of two days in an elaborate, eloquent, and intensely earnest speech. He appealed to the representatives of both sections of the country to say nothing whatever upon the subject of slavery, to respect the private judgment of members, and to leave the issues growing out of that exciting question to the future, when they should have achieved success and assumed the responsibilities of power.

The ultra-Southern men were indignant at such sentiments from a representative of their own section, contemptuous and insolent. The Northern men, who could not follow his counsels, honored him for his liberal action as a Southern man, and for his national and patriotic sentiments. Though he had canvassed the convention, and received pledges from a majority of twenty-one to sustain his amendment, yet it failed of receiving a majority by fifty-four votes. The Northern platform was rejected by a vote of fifty-one to ninety-two. The Southern was then adopted by a vote of eighty to fifty-nine. The vote was taken near midnight, at the close of a session of eight days; and the National Council was rent in twain.

On the morning of the 14th, a meeting of the Northern delegates was held. Mr. Wilson was chairman of the meeting. An address to the people of the United States had been pre pared, in anticipation of the result finally reached. Several members desired that it should be restricted to a simple appeal to the people on the differences in the National Council concerning slavery. A declaration of sentiments was also proposed by Mr. Wilson. It maintained that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were intended to secure the blessings of liberty ; that the Constitution conferred upon Congress no more power to make a slave than to make a king, and no more power to permit the existence of slavery, where it had exclusive jurisdiction, than to permit the existence of an order of nobility ; that slavery was a mere municipal regulation ; that the government should relieve itself from all connection with it ; that the repeal of the Missouri prohibition was a violation of plighted faith, and that its unconditional restoration should be insisted on ; that protection should be extended to the actual settlers in Kansas ; that they would resist the ad mission of any States tolerating slavery, created out of any portion of the territory covered by the Missouri compromise ; and that they could not consent to act with anybody of men on earth who would not redress the great wrong perpetrated by the repeal of that compromise, and who would not unite with them in demanding the protection of the actual settlers of Kansas against lawless violence. This declaration was strenuously opposed by Governor Gardner of Massachusetts, who declared with great emphasis that he would “not be abolitionized, anyhow "; and, to secure unity of action, it was abandoned.

But an address, reported by John W. Foster, was adopted. It declared in favor of the unconditional restoration of the prohibition of slavery under the Missouri compromise of 1820, for the admission of Kansas and Nebraska as free States, for the protection of actual settlers in the free and undisturbed exercise of the elective franchise; and it avowed that its authors could not conscientiously act with those who would not aid in correcting " these national wrongs." This address was signed by fifty-three members. Delegates from Pennsylvania and New Jersey prepared a separate address for their constituents. A committee of correspondence was appointed, and Godlove S. Orth of Indiana was chairman. A protest was laid before the Council on the 14th, signed by Governor Johnson of Pennsylvania and fourteen other delegates. Another protest, signed by Orth, Colfax, Cumback, and other members of the Indiana delegation, was presented, in which they declared that the Americans in Indiana had made the issue against the Kansas-Nebraska bill at the ballot-box; that the edicts of the Council would be powerless to reverse the actions, or to change the opinions of the people of that State. This delegation, too, expressed the deliberate conviction that, immediately upon the publication of the platform which had been adopted, the Order in Indiana would cease to acknowledge the authority of the National Council.

Of this action of the Council, the New York “Times” said: “The Know-Nothings are entitled to the credit of having been the first to meet the aggressive proslavery spirit with bold and manly courage, and to refuse obedience to its behests. Their example, we trust, will not lack imitators in the other political parties. Their noble adherence to principle, we are sure, will be held in everlasting remembrance. Up to the present time a national convention, has been equivalent to a national surrender. The Know-Nothings have inaugurated a new era." Of the action of the Northern delegates the New York “Tribune," in an article entitled “The Event of the Day," said: “We cannot withhold our applause from the manly and gallant conduct of Massachusetts, Ohio, and the Northern States generally. There has never been a similar collection of delegates from all parts of the Union where so cheering a spectacle could be witnessed." The tone of the Northern press, opposed to the repeal of the Missouri com promise, was well expressed by the Boston “Atlas," when it said of that convention, “The North has maintained the perpendicularity of its spinal column."

On the adoption of the Southern platform a conference was held between Mr. Wilson, Mr. Bowles of the Springfield “Republican," and Colonel E. Lincoln. Mr. Bowles had been an earnest and effective Whig; but he understood the purposes of those who had disrupted the American party, and was ready to unite with them in forming a party of freedom. Colonel Lincoln had been, too, one of the most earnest and sagacious leaders of the Whig party in Massachusetts. It was his judgment that the time had arrived for the disbandment of that organization, and for the formation of a new party, not only in Massachusetts, but throughout the country, on the basis of the Republican platform. Fully according in the sentiment, as expressed by Mr. Wilson, that the time had come for combining the few thousand avowed Republicans, anti-Nebraska Democrats, and antislavery Americans, and that all that was necessary was for the Whigs to unite in the movement to control the policy of the State, they agreed that Mr. Winthrop was the man to take the lead in such an effort. Mr. Wilson urged these gentlemen to hasten home, see Mr. Winthrop, and urge upon him the necessity of prompt action. “Tell him," said Mr. Wilson, " that we antislavery men want him and his Whig friends to take the lead in forming a victorious Republican party in Massachusetts, that we are ready to make any sacrifices for the cause of freedom, that we will go into the ranks and work for victory, and that he and others may win and wear the honors of success." But, though pressed to do so, Mr. Winthrop declined to join the movement proposed.

After the disruption of the Order, those members who had forced the proslavery resolutions upon the Council dissolved and went to their homes, but they were disappointed at the result. Those who had left the Council made their appeal with more confidence, however, than the facts warranted, to the people of the free States to unite on the basis of opposition to the further extension of slavery and the ulterior de signs of the Slave Power. For broken as the party was, and crushed as were its hopes of national success, it was strong enough to so embarrass the Republican movement as to enable a Democratic administration to recover that year the States of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Illinois, and itself to carry the States of New York, California, and Massachusetts.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 419-434.



In most periods of American history a central thread can be discovered about which are arranged the events of the times; but in the administrations of Jackson and Van Buren a variety of questions struggled for precedence. A previous writer in this series has undertaken to disentangle the political and economic controversies of that interesting time, leaving the complexities of the anti-slavery movement for this separate treatment; but it must not be supposed that in the people's minds slavery was disconnected from other economic problems which pressed upon the country, or that abolition was entirely different from the other social agitations of the period, or that even the agitators realized that slavery had the latent power of dividing the Union and bringing about civil war.

Many other sectional problems arose in that period: the seaboard and the interior squabbled over internal improvements; east and west were sometimes in antagonism over public lands; north and south were at odds on nullification. Why should not the slavery conflict also come up and go down again like other passionately disputed questions? Why did the controversy, once fairly started, grow fiercer every year and bring in new and still more divisive issues? Why was the national government, which did its best to keep out of the controversy, drawn in deeper and deeper, till Congress became the forum of an excited discussion over slavery? These questions involve many disputed points which still perplex people, states, sections, and the Union; and the only way to answer them is to make clear the moral, social, and economic conditions peculiar to slavery which caused the rising feeling of sectional bitterness and distrust; to reconstruct a vanished civilization; to breathe the breath of life into master, slave, and abolitionist, years since in their graves.

No American in the thirties undertook to analyze and describe the standards and aspirations of his countrymen; for the social life of the period we must depend on the testimony of many observers, each of whom saw only a part. Several foreigners undertook a more general task. Mrs. Trollope's book 1 was accepted by many people in England as a typical account of a disagreeable people. This

1 Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans.

Englishwoman in 1827 dropped into a boardinghouse in Cincinnati, saw the crude side of a frontier community-the "quick feeders," the emptyheaded young women, and the tobacco chewer--and too late discovered a more refined and intellectual society in the east. Of characteristic American life she saw far less than Harriet Martineau, who came over in 1834, and in her two years stay travelled widely north and south. She found plenty to criticize in American life, yet appreciated the vigor and the advance of the nation.1 A third foreigner, accepted as one of the most farseeing observers and critics of American character and statecraft, was Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman, who came over in 1831, with the express purpose of studying the institutions of the Americans, and in 1835 and 1840 published his Democracy in America. This was the first scientific estimate of popular government in America, going beneath the self-satisfaction of a successful republic to discover the real forces which animated it, and to find out how far it swerved from its own standards. He saw in America a big, bustling community, intensely self-conscious, yet in general sticking to its basal principle of equality of opportunity and encouraging the individual to make the most of himself.

All three of these critics noticed the lack of harmony between free democratic government and slavery, and Tocqueville foresaw a menace to American

1 Martineau, Society in America, passim.

democracy in the presence of a servile race, so that, even if slavery were to disappear, the prejudices to which it had given birth would remain; and his final generalization was that slavery, which is "unjust and by political economy is prejudicial, and which is now contrasted with democratical liberties and the information of our age, cannot survive.'' 1

No foreign or home-grown criticism could much affect either the vigorous growing democracy or the slave-holder; but their attention was caught by the sectional rivalry of the north and south. For this rising hostility new material was furnished by the censuses of 1830 and 1840, which revealed the fact that the free states had permanently forged ahead of the slave-holding communities in numbers: from about 2,000,000 each in 1790, the north in fifty years rose to 9,100,000 natives, besides 600,000 immigrants, a gain of 40 per cent over 1830; while the south showed 7,300,000, a gain of 27 per cent. The main difference was the rapid birth-rate in the northeastern and northwestern states, where cheap land and variety of employment made the conditions of life easy. New York State increased in ten years by more than half a million; while Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina were nearly at a stand-still.

The urban population was growing faster than the average, but most of it was in the north. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were still big, sprawling

1 Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Reeves' translation), I., 364, 388.

towns, ill-paved, faintly lighted, and miserably policed, and outside of half a dozen places the south had no cities at all ; even Washington was still a dirty country town, where hogs ran at large. Charleston seemed more to "resemble a city of the European continent, at least in the style of its houses, than either Boston or New York." 1 Savannah was a winter resort for southerners, and some people foresaw a migration of invalids and winter visitors from the north. New Orleans was the southern city par excellence, and the only one in the lower south except Charleston which had a lively commerce and direct relation with the old world. Most visitors were interested in the old French town, and the St. Charles Hotel, "with its large and elegant Corinthian portico, and the lofty swelling dome which surmounts it." 2

Social life in the United States was much influenced by the prosperity of the decade from 1827 to 1837, but as yet there were few men of large fortune in the country: the richest planters probably had net incomes of less than fifty thousand dollars a year; and Stephen Girard, of Philadelphia, and John Jacob Astor, of New York, were almost the only reputed millionaires. In the north there were few owners of large estates divided into farms; most of the northern money came from trade and manufacturing, although the foundations of some great fortunes,

1 Bremer, Homes of the New World, I., 263. 2 Mackay, Western World, II., 78. 

such as the Astor's, were being laid by the purchase of real-estate in growing cities. In the north, new individuals were constantly pushing to the front, and society was in a state of flux; in the south, hereditary family dignities were better established, and it was hard to break into the charmed circle.

Social life in 1830 was not essentially different from that of 1820.1 The most significant thing was the contrast within the same nation, and even the same state, between the traditional civilization derived from England and the robust life of the frontier: in wealth, in the appliances of trade and manufactures, in education and in literature, the Atlantic coast was closely allied with Europe; but the west and southwest was almost all frontier, and in northern New England and New York, in central Pennsylvania, and in the heart ,of all the southern states were large areas with a population of hundreds of thousands still in the rude conditions of the early eighteenth century.

These conditions were reflected in an impatience with orderly government. Though laws and constitutions were changed with amazing rapidity, people could not wait for the law to take its effect. No yellow journal of to-day has a more revolting list of crimes than could be made up from the press of that time.2 The duello had not yet disappeared from any part of the country, and in 1838 Jonathan Cilley, a

1 See Turner, New West (Am. Nation, XIV.), chaps. ii.-vi. 'See extracts in Brothers, United States, 261-385.

member of Congress from New Hampshire, provoked a quarrel which resulted in his being challenged and killed by Graves, a member from Kentucky.1 Altercations in the legislature and in Congress were not uncommon. Elections were frequently scenes of petty civil war. 2 Fires were regular occasions for a fight between rival fire companies, who often let the buildings burn while they were settling their differences. In 1834 came the burning of the Ursuline Convent, within sight of Bunker Hill monument, by an anti-Catholic mob, who drove out the nuns and their pupils, with the eventual loss of two lives; and the only prisoner convicted for a share in the outrage was pardoned by the governor. 3 The negroes in the northern cities, as the poorest and most friendless of the population, usually suffered from any mob, no matter what had been its original occasion; and the abolitionists came in for the most determined assaults of these lawless efforts to secure law and order.4 Foreign immigration, which pushed men out of previous employment, organization of strikes on a larger scale than had been known before, attempts to get political control of city governments, all contributed to this reign of misrule. Perhaps the most decisive reason for it was the weakness of the local governments: not a single city had a disciplined

1 Mass. Hist. Soc., Proceedings, 2d series, XII., 287-292.

2 Brothers, United States, 297-316, 422-432. 1 Ibid., 503-508; Mrs. Whitney, Burning of the Convent. 'See chap. xvii., below.

police force, and the state militia could not be relied upon to fight a mob.

In the south the few cities were no better governed than those of the north, and there was a greater indifference to human suffering, and brutal treatment of prisoners and other defenceless people. Alongside the strength, vigor, and hopefulness of the frontier was the uncouthness, the ignorance, the prejudice, and the latent barbarism of the man who spent his life in conquering nature and the savage.1 This was shown in the ordinary administration of the criminal law: at a time when the Pennsylvania separate-cell penitentiary was known throughout the world as a model of humane treatment, the Georgia state-prison was a dirty place where "a piece of cooked meat was laid on the table for each prisoner without knives, forks, or plates." 2 An abolitionist inmate of the Missouri penitentiary from. 1841 until 1845 found it an awful place of cruelty and wretchedness, in which the warden came home drunk at midnight to drag white men out of their cells to be whipped before him, and where white women prisoners were sometimes chained to the wall.3 As late as 1854 a traveller saw a pillory and stocks in a Mississippi town, and was told that "a white man had been recently stripped, whipped and

1 See Turner, New West (Am. Nation, XIV.), chaps. iv.-viii.

2 Saxe-Weimar, Travels, IL, 20.

3 Thompson, Prison Life, passim.

branded with a red hot iron by officers of the law." 1

The worst prison, however, was more merciful than lynch law. During the Revolution there was an actual Judge Charles Lynch in Virginia who took the responsibility of whipping loyalists, and gave his name to a system; but after 1830 the term "Lynch Law" came to be applied also to killings.2 The one justification of such a system is that frontier communities which have not provided themselves with the machinery of the law are subject to desperate and organized malefactors, and hence the practice gained headway in the west and southwest; but in the south the thing grew while the chief reason for it was disappearing. At first applied to ordinary criminals, such as murderers and gamblers, 3 it soon began to reach negroes: one was burned alive by a mob near Greenville, South Carolina, in 1825, and fifty-six ascertained cases of lynching negroes occurred between 1823 and 1860.

If one looks for the most distinctive feature of the American people in 1830, it will not be home life or social disorder, but the religious and philanthropic life and experiences of the time. Depravity and crime were common enough from end to end of the Union, and though people were squeamish about theatres and dancing, social life was in most ways

1 Olmsted, Back Country, 246.

2 Cutler, Lynch Law, 23-40, 116.

3 Stuart, North America, II., 169; Cutler, Lynch Law, 98-100.

grosser and ruder than at present; but in most communities, next to getting a living, the most important thing in life was religion, or at least religious observances. Puritanism, as a political force, was not yet dead in New England; not until 1835 was the Congregational church disestablished in Massachusetts, its last stronghold; and a severe type of piety was common throughout the country. For the ruder element, Sunday might be a period of carousal or of cock-fighting, according to the latitude, but to most respectable people it was a serious and depressing day. A morning and an afternoon sermon were the ordinary provision, combined in many communities with a "Thursday Lecture," which was a third sermon; and on Sundays and week-days was added a variety of religious exercises prayer meetings, conference meetings, class meetings, and love-feasts. For the children a door of hope was opened in the Sunday-school, which by 1830 was making its way throughout the country; but it was not a place of perfect ease: children were expected weekly to learn and repeat not less than ten verses of Scripture and were encouraged to prodigious feats of Biblical memory. The Sunday school book of the time was not the washed-out novel now furnished to good children, but an account of the early piety of some poor little creature, whose reward for goodness it was to be taken away from his parents untimely.

On the frontier the religious exercises were perforce simpler and less frequent, though the camp meeting, by its intensity, furnished plenteous excitement. It was an era of revivals: great movements of religious fervor swept over states and cities, or, as in the panic year of 1857, over the whole country, arousing and quickening thousands of persons who thenceforward took their part in the work of the churches. In this day of many interests ·and few enthusiasms it is hard to realize the immense force of religion and religious organizations upon the minds of the people. "Hell and brimstone" preaching was still common. Revivalists like Finney and Nettleton 1 preached the tortures of damned souls until people shrieked and dropped fainting in their pews. Hell was a place very near at hand to the unbeliever, and even the faithful might under some systems of theology "fall from grace" and lose his birthright eternally. The theological schools ran to "systems" which were a combination of philosophy, logic, and St. Paul, accounting for the beginning and end of all things; and men like the Hodges, of Princeton, or Park, of Andover, sent out a school of disciples.

Throughout the country the churches were more than religious organizations: they were ganglia of social life and intellectual influence, strengthened by fifty years of national organization. The Congregational church, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church were the strongest denominations in New England, the middle, and the older southern

1 Davenport, Primitive Traits in Religious Revivals, chap. x.   

states; the Methodist and Baptist churches took root in the west, where indomitable men like Peter Cartwright went, riding circuit, holding camp-meetings, arising the impenitent, comforting the seeker for salvation, and thrashing the rowdies who disturbed his meetings.1 Most of the great churches threw off fragments which formed new sects: such were the Unitarians, seceders from the Congregational church; and several offshoots of the Methodists and Baptists. The Catholic Church, maintained up to that time chiefly by descendants of English or French colonial settlers, now began to receive accessions, particularly from the Irish immigrants.

All the churches were touched by a new feeling of responsibility to mankind. Foreign missions, first suggested at Williams College in 1806, were taken up by most of the strong denominations; and in 181 2 they began to organize home missions upon the frontiers, both western and southern.2 The American Bible Society, founded in 1816, carried on a beneficent circulation of the Scriptures, which lasted on a large scale for more than half a century. In all these movements the south, thinly settled and in many places unable to support a paid or educated ministry, profited less than the north, although the devotion to the churches was as strong and active as in the north. 

1 Cartwright, Autobiography, 141-143, 231, 311-316.

2 McMaster, United States, IV., 551. 

The chief characteristic of the religious life of the time was its sincere effort to make religion effective, to apply the touchstone of Christ's teachings and life to all moral questions, to make individual and community correspond to the principles of Christianity. Hence, in a country where all forms of state aid to religion disappeared, church buildings were multiplied, missionaries were supported, denominational colleges sprang up. To the amiable it was an unspeakable grief that millions of people should be doomed to everlasting perdition because the gospel had not been brought to their ears; and one of the main taproots of abolition was the feeling of horror and responsibility that hundreds of thousands of negro slaves, because outside the fold of accredited believers, should be going down to the pit of endless punishment. 1

This passionate desire to save the perishing, as well as to raise the standards of the people, led directly to reform by legislation, such as the movement against the recognized excess in the use of intoxicating liquor, begun in 1817, enlarged by the Washington societies in 1830, and later developed into a demand for state statutes forbidding the liquor traffic altogether.2 In the thirties also sprang up the Woman's Rights movement; at first directed

1 Cf. Martineau, Society in America, II., pt. iv.

2 Cf, Smith, Parties and Slavery (American, Nation, XVIII.), chap. 111, 

to the improvement of girls' schools and the placing of a married woman's property in her own hands, it speedily went much further, and in 1848 extended to a demand for woman suffrage.1

One of the characteristics of all these reform movements was the feeling that each was "a cause" to which people might well devote their whole lives; and they were organized in national societies, furnished with newspaper organs, and supported by frequent meetings and appeals to the public. Between 1820 and 1840 this uneasy spirit took form in a series of socialistic communities. When the old statutes against strikes and combinations of working-men were being modified, it was an easy transition to the idea that those who worked with their hands might set themselves apart into self-supporting communities. The Shakers, founded half a century earlier, were still organizing vigorous societies which were practically medieval convents over again. Another communistic society was that of the Rappists, at New Harmony, Indiana; their work was taken over in 1826 by Robert Dale Owen, an enthusiastic Englishman, who made a declaration in favor of free love and saw his community melt away. Later the influence of Fourier was felt in the organization of little communities called phalansteries, especially in western New York and northern Ohio; and various attempts were made

1 On the reform movements, cf. Martineau, Society in America, II., chap. iv. 

to found religious socialistic bodies in the far west.1

Joseph Smith, of Vermont, in 1827, according to his account, began to receive "revelations," one of which directed him to certain golden plates which through two stones, the Urim and Thummim, he was able to read, and to translate into a book, published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. It was written in Biblical style, an interminable account of the lost tribes of Israel in North America, and included many prophecies apt for the times.2 First organized at Manchester, Vermont, in April, 1830, with six members, the Mormons moved in 1831 to Kirtland, Ohio, where they took the name of "Latter Day Saints." After attempting to settle in Missouri, Smith gathered in 1840, at Nauvoo, Illinois, a settlement of about fifteen thousand people. He aroused the hostility of the local authorities, and in 1844 was put in jail, and there killed by a mob. This obscure sect, founded on the materialistic basis that God is a material being, "having a body, parts and passions," 3 supported by a system of tithes, and inspired by timely revelations, had a success and endurance which makes it stand out from all other socialistic communities of the time.

At the other pole of reform through social organization

1 McCarthy, Early Social and Religious Experiments in Iowa; Perkins and Wick, The Amana Society; Saxe-Weimar, Travels, II., chap. xxi.

2 Linn, Mormons, chap. xi.

3 Lalor, Cyclopaedia, II., 910.

was Brook Farm, which sprang out of an idealism traceable in the ruggedest Puritans of the New England colonies; the force reappeared in the "transcendental" movement, partly philosophical, partly religious, and partly social, headed by Ralph Waldo Emerson. A band of enthusiastic men and women gathered in 1841 at Brook Farm, near Boston, among whom as residents or sympathetic visitors were Charles A. Dana, later editor of the New York Sun, Margaret Fuller, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, G. W. Curtis, Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, who in his Blithedale Romance idealized this community. After six years' existence a fire quenched the spirits of the Brook-Farmers, who did not know how to farm, and the institution ceased to be; though the influence of those who experienced it has remained an intellectual and moral force in New England and throughout the country.1

1 Wendell, Literary History of America, 304-3 10.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 3-18. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


AMES, Oakes, 1804-1873, manufacturer, businessman, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd Massachusetts District 1862-1873, voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.  Ardent Free Soiler and Director of the Emigrant Aid Company in the conflict in Kansas.  Early member of the Republican Party.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. I, pp. 65-66; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 251-253; Oakes, Ames, A Memoir, 1883; Congressional Globe)

AMES, Oakes, manufacturer, b. in Easton, Mass., 10 Jan., 1804; d. in North Easton, Mass., 8 May, 1873. He was the eldest son of Oliver Ames, a blacksmith, who had acquired considerable reputation in the making of shovels and picks. After obtaining a public-school education, he entered his father's workshops and made himself familiar with every step of the manufacture. He became a partner in the business, and with his brother, Oliver, Jr., established the firm of Oliver Ames & Sons. This house carried on an enormous trade during the gold excitement in California, and again a few years later in Australia. During the civil war they furnished extensive supplies of swords and shovels to the government. In the building of the Union Pacific railroad they were directly interested, and obtained large contracts, which were subsequently transferred to the Credit Mobilier of America, a corporation in which Oakes Ames was one of the largest stockholders. In 1861 he was called into the executive council of Massachusetts. He served continuously in congress from 1862 to 1873 as representative from the 2d Massachusetts district. His relations with the Credit Mobilier led to an investigation, which resulted in his being censured by a vote of the house of representatives. Subsequent to his withdrawal from political life he resided at North Easton, where he died of apoplexy. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. pp. 65-66.



Chapter: “The “Amistad " Captives,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

The year 1839 was signalized by an event which, with its antecedent and attending circumstances and consequent results, produced a deep and wide-spread feeling throughout the country. Involving other .nations and people, it afforded a marked illustration of what had been made manifest by other developments, -- that slavery, though a local system and confined to a particular section of the country, extended its influence and urged its demands not only in other portions of the land, but in other lands. Not content with dominant control over that particular section cursed with its immediate presence, it would subsidize and subvert every section, and make every interest subservient to its exacting behests. Nor, reaching farther than its own territorial limits, did it hesitate to embroil friendly nations with its inhuman demands and unrighteous claims.

By the laws of Spain the slave-trade was prohibited; and Africans introduced by slavers, in contravention of such laws, were declared to be free. In violation of those laws, however, in June, 1839, a slaver, under Portuguese colors, landed a cargo of kidnapped Africans near Havana. A few days after, Ruiz and Montes, Spanish slave-dealers, purchasing a number of them, obtained license from the government to transport fifty" two, of, them as " legal slaves " from Havana to Principe, about a hundred leagues distant. Of course, being confined in barr- raccoons, they had no one to represent their case to the government or captain-general, and to vindicate their rightful claim to freedom. But failing to secure their liberty by legal process they took the matter into their own hands. Embarked on "board the “Amistad," five days out, they rose upon the captain and crew, under the lead of Cinque, one of -their number, and made an attempt to regain their liberty. In the struggle which ensued they killed the captain and cook, but spared the lives of the crew and passengers, including the slave-dealers themselves. They then ordered the vessel to be steered for their native land; but, unacquainted with navigation, they, were deceived by those who profited by their ignorance, and the "Amistad” was taken into American waters. Nor did they discover their mistake until they reached Long Island Sound; and their vessel was taken into New London, Connecticut; by Lieutenant Gedney, of the United States brig “Washington." Here they were seized and committed to prison 'on the charge of murder, by a warrant issued by the district judge of the United States Court. Ruiz and Montes claimed the ship, cargo, and Africans, though the latter represented that they were free men. Lieutenant Gedney and some of the inhabitants of Long Island, who had arrested a number of the negroes going on shore for water, claimed salvage, as if they had been so many bales of merchandise; showing that even Northern men, when they could profit by ignoring the claims of humanity and the rights of man, were only too ready to do it. 

The Spanish minister at Washington, seemingly oblivious of the infraction of the laws of his government involved in this transaction, demanded the vessel and cargo under the treaty of 1795, and also claimed that the negroes should be conveyed to Havana under the pretense of their being tried by the Spanish laws which they had violated. He pressed his claim on the ground, of the preservation of order and peace in Cuba. He even went so far as to maintain that if they were to-be tried, convicted, and executed as pirates and assassins in Connecticut, the effect would not be so salutary as if they were tried, convicted, and executed in Cuba.

Mr. Holabird was at that time district attorney of Connecticut, and Mr. Judson was district judge. The latter had made himself notorious, a few years before, by his opposition to Miss Prudence Crandall's colored school, and his zeal on that occasion had, unquestionably, secured his appointment. The district attorney hastened to write to the Secretary of State that these Africans could not be tried for murder in the courts of the United States. In his anxiety to procure their conviction, he inquired whether there were not treaty stipulations with Spain that would authorize “our government” to deliver them up to Spanish authorities; and, if so, “whether it would be done before our court sits." Of course, the Secretary of State knew there was no such treaty, and that the Constitution gave the President no power to supersede the criminal warrants of the United States. But he instructed the district attorney “to take care that no proceedings of your Circuit Court, or any other judicial tribunal, place the vessel, cargo; or slaves beyond the control of the Federal Executive." This assumption by the Secretary of State that these Africans were slaves afforded but another illustration of the influence of slavery over the government, as it indicated the stern control of the Slave Power.

The demands of Mr. Calderon, the Spanish minister, for the surrender of .these Africans, who were held in slavery without eyen the forms of law, and who had so heroically asserted their freedom and struck brave blows to effect their return to their native land, were strenuously advocated by the Southern press and by the proslavery journals of the North. These homeless strangers found, however, humane, generous, and discreet friends. A committee, consisting of S. S. Jocelyn, Joshua Leavitt, and Lewis Tappan, was appointed in New York to solicit funds, employ counsel, and see that their interests and rights were faithfully cared. For, Seth P. Staples and Theodore Sedgwick, Jr., who had been employed by this committee to act as their counsel, addressed a letter to President Van Buren, denying that these Africans were slaves; contending that in rising they only obeyed the dictates of self-defense ; and praying that their case should not be decided " in the recesses of the Cabinet, where .these unfriended men can have no counsel and can produce no proof; but in the halls of Justice, with the safeguards she throws around the unfriended and oppressed." This letter was submitted to Mr. Grundy, the Attorney-General of the United States. He was a devotee of slavery and a violent and bitter opponent of emancipation. As a senator he had manifested his hatred of antislavery men, and had shamelessly avowed his approval of lynching Abolitionists. Of course, he looked with horror upon the heroic conduct of these black men, and was in favor of surrendering them to the Spanish authorities. He avowed that he could not see any " legal principle upon which the government would be justified in going into an investigation for the purpose of ascertaining the facts set forth in the papers clearing the vessel from one Spanish port to another " as evidence whether or not these negroes were slaves.

The lives and liberties of these Africans were in peril; but the first law officer of the United States government saw no legal principle involved, on which the courts of the country could inquire into the genuineness of papers believed to be spurious by all persons not influenced by interest or passion. He even went so far as to say that, as these negroes were charged with violating Spanish laws, it was proper that they should be surrendered to that government, so that, if they had violated any of its laws, “they might not escape punishment." Mr. Grundy had the reputation in Tennessee of being a skillful criminal lawyer. But he went so far as even to avow it as his opinion that the proper mode of executing the treaty would be for the President to issue his order directing the marshal to deliver the vessel and cargo to such persons as might be designated by the Spanish minister. Thus, in his opinion, the President was to constitute himself “court and jury." Was it not strange indeed that he should have forgotten that the President of the United States had no authority to surrender fugitives from justice to foreign governments unless authorized to do so by treaty stipulations? 

The Circuit Court assembled at Hartford on the 17th of September. The Africans were held in custody on the charge of murder. An attachment was also issued from the District Court against the “Amistad " and her cargo in behalf of Ruiz and Montes, and of Lieutenant Gedney for salvage on vessel and cargo. The district attorney, in behalf of the government, claimed possession of the vessel; so that the negroes if they were slaves could be returned to their Spanish owners, and if they were free could be returned to Africa, according to the provisions of the treaty of 1819. Justice Thompson, of the Circuit Court, decided that the Africans could not be held for trial for murder committed on the seas, on board of a Spanish vessel; but he refused to discharge them, on the ground that they were held in custody by the District Court in consequence of libels and attachments against them.

The new Spanish minister, De Argaiz, on the 26th of November, in a communication to the Secretary of State, denied the right of the courts of the United States to take cognizance of the case, and complained that, in consequence of delay, public vengeance had not been satisfied; "for, be it recollected," he added, " that the legation of Spain does not demand the delivery of slaves, but of assassins." In another communication he states that the Secretary of State informed him that the District Court, when it should meet on the 7th of January, might order the restitution of the vessel, cargo, and negroes, and that it would be necessary for the Spanish government to charge of them as soon as the court should pronounce its sentence. Thus the Secretary of State not only anticipated the action of the District Court, but warned the Spanish minister to take charge of these negroes as soon as the decision of the court should be known.

This minister also preferred the bold request that the President should order the transportation of the negroes in a government vessel to Cuba, immediately on their release. Nor did the President refuse even this extraordinary demand, but gave immediate orders that such a vessel should be readiness to receive and convey them to Cuba; with instructions to deliver them to the captain-general of that island. And that vessel was actually anchored off the harbor of New Haven three days after the court assembled; to be in readiness, as falsely alleged, to give these negroes an " opportunity to prove their freedom," when it had been asserted by the minister himself that they were " claimed as assassins, and not as slaves." Before the court assembled Lieutenants Gedney and Meade' were ordered to hold themselves in readiness to go to Cuba with the negroes. They had captured the “Amistad”; and they were ordered to go · to Cuba, at the expense of the United States, "for the purpose," as alleged, "of affording their testimony in any proceedings that may be ordered by the authorities of Cuba in the matter." They were not sent to Cuba to prove the freedom of the negroes; but to establish the fact that the vessel was in their possession,-- a fact that would aid, not in giving them their freedom, but in sending them to death. 

The court, however, decided that the papers of Ruiz and -Montes were fraudulent; that the negroes were native Africans illegally imported; that they were not slaves; and that they should be sent back to Africa, according to the treaty of 1819. No sooner was the decision made than, by order of the Secretary of State; the district attorney took an appeal to the Circuit Court. Indeed, every facility was afforded by the officials of the government to the Spanish minister and to the pretended owners of the negroes to carry out their inhuman and illegal purpose. The district attorney had requested assistant counsel, and the sum of two hundred dollars was allowed for that purpose; and for that paltry amount Ralph I. Ingersoll, a Democratic politician and lawyer, who afterward represented the government at the Court of St. Petersburg, undertook the task.

The district attorney, who seemed equally intent with the Spanish minister and the administration to secure the return to Cuba and to death of these victims of slaveholding and piratical zeal, sent a messenger to Washington to correct a clerical mistake in the President's warrant; so that they might be held, it was said, " should the pretended friends of the negroes obtain a writ of habeas corpus." Mr. Forsyth hastened to have the error corrected, and in returning it betrayed the spirit and purpose of the President and his Cabinet by this unmistakable declaration: " I have to state, by direction of the President, that, if the decision of the court is such as is anticipated, the order of the President is to be carried into execution, unless an appeal shall actually have been interposed. You are not to take it for granted that it will be interposed." The meaning of this instruction was that, if the counsel for the Africans did not instantly make an appeal, they were to be hurried on board the “Grampus," a national vessel, sent for the purpose, and carried to Cuba for trial. Indeed, so much in earnest were the friends of the measure that on the very day the court assembled the order had been sent by the President to the marshal for that very purpose. And so flagitious and barefaced was deemed this order, that some of Mr. Van Buren's friends afterward represented that it was issued without his knowledge by his sanguine and not over scrupulous secretary, who seemed to have acted on the assumption of the Spanish minister that the trial and conviction of the Africans in Cuba would exert a more salutary influence than their trial and conviction here.

An appeal had been taken to the Circuit Court which, through Justice Thompson, affirmed the decision of the District Court. An appeal was then taken to the Supreme Court. Consequently, when an effort was made by Mr. Baldwin, one of the counsel for the Africans, at the September term, to have the appeal dismissed, the judge decided that, as an appeal had been taken, by the consent of both parties, to the Supreme Court, that motion could only be made there. At the same time unsuccessful efforts were made by Mr. Tappan and others, through Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Kimberly, to secure from the judge their release from prison in order that they might be more comfortably cared for by their friends, and that proper attention might be given to their education.

For this trial before the Supreme Court the most ample preparations were made. The committee, without stint of care or money, had determined that no means within their reach should be spared to make it worthy of the august tribunal, and the more august cause. In addition to the four able lawyers already engaged, they sought the aid of John. Quincy Adams, the venerable ex-president, the old-man eloquent. He promptly responded to the call; and, without other fee than the consciousness of doing good, brought his great learning and forensic ability, his commanding position and well-earned reputation, to the advocacy of the cause of these helpless men.

In his plea, of great ability, learning, and eloquence, of some three hours' length, he presented the case not only with a cogent argument in behalf of his pagan clients, but with stern condemnation of the government and its obsequious officials, from the President downward, who were exhibiting such unseemly a1acrity to do the bidding of the fishmongers, and who were, he showed, carrying out, in law and fact, the slave-pirate’s voyage that began on the coast of Africa. He maintained that these Africans had been torn from their own country, shipped against the laws of Spain, against the laws of the United States, against the laws of nations; that their passage on the " Amistad" was, in law and in fact, a continuance of the original voyage; that sixteen had perished through the cruel treatment they had received from Ruiz and Montes, and that their ghosts must sit heavy on their souls through the closing hours of life. He referred to the extraordinary order of the Secretary of State to the district attorney of Connecticut to take care lest the decisions of that court or any other court should place these Africans beyond the control of the President, He said it was in consequence of that order the case had reached the Supreme Court. Instead of the course he had pursued, it was the duty of the Secretary of State to have instantly answered the Spanish minister, and to have told him that his demands were utterly inadmissible, and that the President of the United States had no power to do the things he required. He should have said that he could not deliver up the ship to the owner, because that owner was dead; that the question depended upon the courts; that a declaration to the President that the courts of the United States had no, authority to try the case involved an offensive demand ; and that delivering up the negroes by the President, as required, and sending them beyond the sea for trial, thus making the President a mere " constable, a catchpole," was also inadmissible, as the President had no power to arrest and deliver up any person whatever. He said the Secretary of State should have set the President right in this matter; but that he had never answered one of these demands, had never corrected one of these representations, nor asserted the rights of the nation against these extraordinary and unauthorized demands. 

"He has degraded the country," said Mr. Adams,” in the face of the whole civilized world, not only by allowing these demands  to remain unanswered, but by proceeding, I am obliged to say, throughout the whole transaction, as if the Executive were earnestly desirous to comply with every one of ,these .demands." Inquiring why the Spanish minister persisted in his pretensions, he answered his own question by saying that it was because "he was not told instantly, without the delay of an hour, that this government could never admit such a claim, and would be offended if they were repeated, or any portion of them." " Yet all these claims," he said, " monstrous, absurd, and inadmissible as they are, have been, urged and repeated for eighteen months on our government, and an .American Secretary of State evades answering them, -- evades it to such an extent that the Spanish minister reproaches him for not answering his arguments." He also referred to the singular conclusion to which Mr. Grundy, the .Attorney-General, arrived in advising that the President should give an order for the delivery of the slaves, as he assumed them to be, to the Spanish authorities. He said that the American Secretary of State had  told the Spanish minister that the Cabinet had adopted that opinion; and he asked why the President and his Cabinet had not acted upon it, --why they had not delivered these men, being at that time in the judicial custody of the courts of the United States, to the Spanish government. "Why," he asked, "did not the President send an order at once to the marshal to seize these men, and ship them beyond the seas or deliver them to the Spanish Minister? I am ashamed. I am ashamed of my country that such an opinion should have been delivered by any public officer, especially by the legal counsellor of the Executive. I am ashamed to stand up before the nations of the earth with such an opinion recorded before us as official; and, still more, adopted by the Cabinet; which did not dare to do the deed."

This terrible arraignment by Mr. Adams of the administration and its official advisers will seem to be richly merited by those who have read the correspondence. Mr. Forsyth was an. able man, both in the Senate and in the Cabinet, ready in debate, and a leading much in his party. Deeply imbued with its spirit, like the extreme men of his section, he was· blindly devoted to the slave system.  This clouded his judgment, perverted his conscience; and led him to indorse conduct and defend positions which otherwise his training and experience in public affairs must have shown him to be wholly untenable and wrong. And yet, with, all this explanation, none can read the correspondence evoked by this case not merely of Southern men like Forsyth and Grundy, but of a Northern President and his officials in Connecticut --without sharing largely in the feeling of shame which Mr. Adams confessed in his plea before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Adams closed with a tender allusion to the change in ·the ·personnel and surroundings of the court since his admission to practice before it, thirty-seven years before, which greatly affected all present. The opinion of the court was delivered by Justice Story. It held that the Africans were kidnapped and unlawfully transported to Cuba; that they ·were purchased by Ruiz and Montes with a knowledge of the fact; that they were free; that they did not become pirates and robbers in taking possession of the " Amistad," and in attempting  to regain their native country; that there was nothing in the treaty with Spain that justified the claim for their surrender; and that the United States was bound to respect their rights, as much as, those of Spanish subjects. The decision was pronounced in these words: " Our opinion is, that: the decree of the Circuit Court affirming that of the District Court, ought to be affirmed except so far as it directs the negroes to be delivered to the President, to be transported to Africa, in pursuance of the Act of the 3d of March, 1819; and as to this it ought to be reversed, and that the said negroes be declared to be free, and be dismissed from the custody of the court and go without day."

As soon as the decision of the court was pronounced, Mr. Adams addressed to Lewis Tappan this exultant note: “The captives are free. The part of the decree of the. District Court which placed them at the disposal of the President of the United States, to be sent to Africa, is removed. They are to be discharged from the custody of the marshal –FREE. The rest of the decision of the court below is affirmed."

 This result was very gratifying to the better portion of the country; but it must have been especially gratifying to Mr. Tappan, to whom by common consent, more than to any other man in America, were the Africans indebted for their deliverance and freedom. Mr. Leavitt, a member with Mr. Tappan of the committee, well expressed the general sentiment of those who knew: " His determined benevolence, his untiring vigilance, his never-failing resources in times of difficulty, his immovable decision of character, and his facility in the despatch of business, have often stood humanly speaking, between them and-defeat…There is not another man who both could and would have done what he has done." Nor did he cease his labors when they were rescued from the very jaws of impending destruction. Leaving his large and exacting business, he spent days, and weeks even, in visiting New England and other portions of the North in their behalf, counselling with friends, soliciting subscriptions, and perfecting arrangements, which were afterward carried into effect, for making their return to Africa the beginning of the Mendi Mission, which has been sustained to the present time.

Though the Claims of Ruiz and Montes, the demands of the Spanish minister, and the machinations of the administration had been baffled, and the captives restored to their native land additional efforts were made in behalf of the claimants. In 1844, Charles J. Ingersoll of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives, reported a bill to pay the sum of seventy thousand dollars to the pretended owners of the "Amistad “captives. The report was long and elaborate, and its author moved the printing of ten thousand copies. Mr. Giddings at once assailed and demolished its baseless assumptions and fallacious reasonings. A motion was made to lay it on the table; but its author recoiling from the well-directed blows of Mr. Giddings, learning that Mr. Adams was intending to follow, and seeking to avert the still further damage he justly apprehended from his learning; logic, and fervid eloquence, voted himself for the motion.

Though Mr. Ingersoll's cowardly action prevented Mr. Adams from making his speech in the House, it did not prevent its publication in the papers as a speech intended to be made. Master of the subject, his feelings deeply interested by his former connection with the case, and exasperated by the dastardly and dishonorable proposition to pay these base and bloody men, his speech was a merciless exposure of the falsehoods of the report, and a deserved excoriation of him who was willing to prostitute the power and property of the government for ends so mercenary and mean. He fitly characterized the zeal manifested by the committee in behalf of these infamous slave-traders; the unfair dealing of their report with the laws of the land, its treaties, and the judges of its courts; its sympathy with slavery and the slave-trade, betrayed in its assertion that the act of Congress declaring the slave-trade piracy to be a "preposterous enactment"; and that the article in the treaty of Ghent for the entire abolition of the traffic was put in by Great Britain, from sinister motives and for selfish purposes.

Referring to Mr. Giddings's speech, he said that it "had exposed to the scorn and contempt of the House some of the false and spurious principles of international law thick sown throughout the report "; but " the putrid mass of personal slander" poured upon the district attorney and judge, and upon the judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, has not been exposed as it deserves. Mr. Ingersoll had stated that Lieutenant Gedney had taken possession of the." Amistad" on the 26th of August, 1840, instead of the 26th of August, 1839; and on this mistake or misstatement he had teared his argument and made his arraignment. With scathing denunciation and withering sarcasm Mr. Adams thus characterized this change of date  " The masterpiece," he said, " of the whole report is the falsification, on its first page, of the date of their seizure of the  'Amistad ' and the negroes by Lieutenant Gedney. Upon that falsehood hinges all the subsequent semblance of an argument to discredit the decision of the courts that the negroes were persons just landed, and not persons longer in the country and familiar with the language, --freemen, and not slaves. Restore the true date, August 26, 1839, and the long train of subsequent' argumentation to vilify the judges and shatter their righteous judgment loses even the brightness of ingenious sophistry. It is coarse, glaring, stupid, shameless, unmitigated falsehood - Restore the true date,

‘And all the demon starts up from the toad.' "

Nor did Mr. Adams spare President Van Buren, or his Secretary of State, Mr. Forsyth, or his Attorney-General, Mr. Grundy. Referring to the order of Mr. Van Buren, which he characterized as the most extraordinary act of despotism ever performed by a President of the United States, to the marshal of Connecticut to deliver on board the schooner " Grampus " the negroes of the " Amistad," he asked: " Was this order given in a country where the rights of person are words without meaning?  in the Kingdom of Dahomey ? in the region where the bowstring is the warrant of execution? It was given in the land of the Declaration of Independence, in the land of the self-evident truths. It was given by the President of the United States. It was, of course, null and void; and 'If before the decision of the court it had been· delivered to the marshal, and he had executed it; he would have staked not only the lives of the negroes, but his own head, and that of Martin Van Buren, the signer of the order, upon the event." The report and bill were never acted upon, and the country was spared the disgrace of paying a claim so preposterous and wicked;" but not the disgrace of an administration and any of the leading members of the government who favored it and gave it their personal and official sanction.

In all the acts of slavery's grim tragedy there have been few scenes which presented more elements of interest than that of the "Amistad” captives. With two continents and the wide Atlantic for its theatre; with the" robber chiefs of Africa, the slave-pirates of the ocean, the representatives of a European monarchy, and an American republic for actors, seemingly engaged in a common cause and inspired by a common spirit; it presented through the whole, with dramatic variety and force, the strangest contrasts and the most unlooked-for and contradictory combinations. It presented barbarism in its rudest and most repulsive aspects, and Christianity in its most attractive and lovely attitude. It began with the midnight hunt for captives in the wilds of Africa; it closed by Christian men and women sending and accompanying these captives back to Africa, to plant churches and schools among their benighted countrymen. Through the whole, however, the one dark and hideous fact stands out that slavery is essentially the same, its adherents substantially alike. A system of violence, impatient of all restraints, whether of reason or of conscience, humanity or religion, the laws of the heart or the laws of the State, it seems mainly intent on compassing its own ends, by whatever means and at whatever hazards. It was the same in Africa and in America; in the barracoon and in the middle passage; under a monarchy or in a republic; in a Pagan, Catholic, or Protestant country.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 456-469.


ANDERSON, John, b. c. 1831, African American, fugitive slave, abolitionist. 

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 1, p. 171)


ANDERSON, Osborne Perry, 1830-1872, African American abolitionist, member of African American Chatham Community in Ontario, Canada.  Wrote anti-slavery articles for Provincial Freedman for Black community.  Was part of John Brown’s raid at the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, October 16, 1859; hanged with John Brown, 1859.

(Rodriguez, 2007, p. 327; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 1, p. 181)


ANDREW, John Albion, 1818-1867, reformer, anti-slavery advocate, Governor of Massachusetts, member Conscience Whig, Free Soil Party, Republican Party.  Supported John Brown in legal defense. 

(American National Biography, Vol. 1, 2002, p. 489; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, p. 279; Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. pp. 72-73)

ANDREW, John Albion, statesman, b. in Windham, Me., 31 May, 1818; d. in Boston, Mass., 30 Oct., 1867. His father, descended from an early settler of Boxford, Mass., was a prosperous merchant in Windham. John Albion was graduated at Bowdoin in 1837. He was a negligent student, though fond of reading, and in his professional life always felt the lack of training in the habit of close application. He immediately entered on the study of the law in the office of Henry H. Fuller, in Boston, where in 1840 he was admitted to the bar. Until the outbreak of the war he practised his profession in that city, attaining special distinction in the fugitive-slave cases of Shadrach Burns and Sims, which arose under the fugitive-slave law of 1850. He became interested in the slavery question in early youth, and was attracted toward many of the reform movements of the day. After his admission to the bar he took an active interest in politics and frequently spoke on the stump on behalf of the whig party, of which he was an enthusiastic member. From the year 1848 he was closely identified with the anti-slavery party of Massachusetts, but held no office until 1858, when he was elected a member of the state legislature from Boston, and at once took a leading position in that body. In 1860 he was a delegate to the Chicago republican convention, and, after voting for Mr. Seward on the early ballots, announced the change of the vote of part of the Massachusetts delegation to Mr. Lincoln. In the same year he was nominated for governor by a popular impulse. Many feared that the radicalism of his opinions would render him unsafe in action, and the political managers regarded him as an intruder and opposed his nomination; yet he was elected the twenty-first governor of Massachusetts since the adoption of the constitution of 1780 by the largest popular vote ever cast for any candidate. He was energetic in placing the militia of Massachusetts on a war footing, in anticipation of the impending conflict between the government and the seceded states. He had announced this purpose in his inaugural address in 1861, and, upon being inducted into office, he sent a confidential message to the governors of Maine and New Hampshire, inviting their cooperation in preparing the militia for service and providing supplies of war material. This course of action was not regarded with favor at the time by a majority of the legislature, although his opponents refrained from a direct collision. On receiving the president's proclamation of 15 April, 1861, he despatched five regiments of infantry, a battalion of riflemen, and a battery of artillery to the defence of the capital. Of these, the Massachusetts 6th was the first to tread southern soil, passing through New York while the regiments of that state were mustering, and shedding the first blood of the war in the streets of Baltimore, where it was assailed by the mob. Gov. Andrew sent a telegram to Mayor Brown, praying him to have the bodies of the slain carefully sent forward to him at the expense of the common wealth of Massachusetts. He was equally active in raising the Massachusetts contingent of three years' volunteers, and was laborious in his efforts to aid every provision for the comfort of the sick and wounded soldiers. He was four times reëlected governor, holding that office till January, 1866, and was only then released by his positive declination of another renomination, in order to attend to his private business, as the pecuniary sacrifice involved in holding the office was more than he was able to sustain, and his health was seriously affected by his arduous labors. In 1862 he was one of the most urgent of the northern governors in impressing upon the administration at Washington the necessity of adopting the emancipation policy, and of accepting the services of colored troops. In September, 1862, he took the most prominent part in the meeting of governors of the northern states, held at Altoona, Penn., to devise ways and means to encourage and strengthen the hands of the government. The address of the governors to the people of the north was prepared by him. Gov. Andrew interfered on various occasions to prevent the federal authorities from making arbitrary arrests among southern sympathizers in Massachusetts previous to the suspension of the habeas-corpus act. In January, 1863, he obtained from the secretary of war the first authorization for raising colored troops, and the first colored regiment (54th Massachusetts infantry) was despatched from Boston in May of that year. Gov. Andrew was particular in selecting the best officers for the black troops and in providing them with the most complete equipment. Though famous as the war governor of Massachusetts, he also bestowed proper attention on the domestic affairs of the commonwealth. In his first message he recommended that the provision in the law preventing a person against whom a decree of divorce has been granted from marrying again, should be modified; but the proposition met with strong opposition in the legislature, especially from clergymen, and it was not till 1864 that an act was passed conferring power upon the supreme court to remove the penalty resting upon divorced persons. He also recommended a reform in the usury laws, such as was finally effected by an act passed in 1867. He was strongly opposed to capital punishment, and recommended its repeal. A law requiring representatives in congress to be residents of the districts from which they are elected was vetoed by him on the ground that it was both unconstitutional and inexpedient, but was passed over his veto. Of the twelve veto messages sent by Gov. Andrew during his incumbency, only one other, in the case of a resolve to grant additional pay to members, was followed by the passage of the act over the veto. His final term as governor expired 5 Jan., 1866. In a valedictory address to the legislature he advocated a generous and conciliatory policy toward the southern states, “demanding no attitude of humiliation; inflicting no acts of humiliation.” Gov. Andrew was modest and simple in his habits and manner of life, emotional and quick in sympathy for the wronged or the unfortunate, exceedingly joyous and mirthful in temperament, and companionable with all classes of persons. The distinguished ability that shone out in his administration as governor of Massachusetts, the many sterling qualities that were summed up in his character, his social address, and the charm of his conversational powers, together with his clear and forcible style as an orator, combined to render him conspicuous among the state governors of the war period, and one of the most influential persons in civil life not connected with the federal administration. Soon after the expiration of his last term as governor he was tendered, but declined, the presidency of Antioch college, Ohio. He presided over the first national Unitarian convention, held in 1865, and was a leader of the conservative wing of that denomination—those who believed with Channing and the early Unitarians in the supernaturalism of Christ's birth and mission, as opposed to Theodore Parker and his disciples. After retiring from public life Mr. Andrew entered upon a lucrative legal practice. In January, 1867, he represented before the general court about 30,000 petitioners for a license law, and delivered an argument against the principle of total prohibition. His death, which occurred suddenly from apoplexy, was noticed by public meetings in various cities. He married, 25 Dec., 1848, Miss Eliza Jane Hersey, of Hingham, Mass., who with their four children survived him. See “Memoir of Gov. Andrew, with Personal Reminiscences,” by Peleg W. Chandler (Boston, 1880), “Discourse on the Life and Character of Gov. Andrew,” by Rev. E. Nason (Boston, 1868), and “Men of Our Times,” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. A life of Gov. Andrew, by Edwin P. Whipple, was left unfinished at the time of Mr. Whipple’s death in 1886. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


ANDREWS, Stephan Pearl, 1812-1886, abolitionist, anarchist, philosopher, linguist, writer, labor advocate, lawyer, ardent opponent of slavery, lectured publicly on the evils of slavery.

(Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 298-299; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 25-26; Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. p. 76)

ANDREWS, Stephen Pearl, author, b. in Templeton, Mass., 22 March, 1812; d. in New York city, 21 May, 1886. He studied at Amherst college, and then, removing to New Orleans, became a lawyer. He was the first counsel of Mrs. Myra Clark Gaines in her celebrated suits. He was an ardent abolitionist, and in 1839 removed to Texas, where he converted many of the slave-owners, who were also large land-owners, by showing them that they would become rapidly rich from the sale of land if immigration were induced by throwing the country open to free labor. Here he acquired considerable wealth in the practice of his profession. His impetuous and logical eloquence gained him a wide repute and great personal popularity; but, on the other hand, his seemingly reckless and fanatical opposition to slavery aroused an intense feeling of opposition, and his life was seriously endangered. In 1843 he went to England in the hope that, with the aid of the British anti-slavery society, he might raise sufficient money there to pay for the slaves and make Texas a free state. He was well received, and the scheme was taken up and favorably considered by the British government; but, after some months of consultation, the project was abandoned through fear that it would lead to war with the United States, as the knowledge of it was already being used to strengthen the movement that ultimately led to the annexation of Texas and to the Mexican war. Mr. Andrews went to Boston and became a leader in the anti-slavery movement there. While in England he learned of phonography, and during seven years after his return he devoted his attention to its introduction, and was the founder of the present system of phonographic reporting. He removed to New York in 1847, and published a series of phonographic instruction-books and edited two journals in the interest of phonography and spelling reform, which were printed in phonetic type, the “Anglo-Saxon” and the “Propagandist.” He spoke several languages, and is said to have been familiar with thirty. Among his works are one on the Chinese language, and one entitled “New French Instructor,” embodying a new method. He was a tireless student and an incessant worker; but his mental labor was performed without effort or fatigue. While yet a young man he announced the discovery of the unity of law in the universe, and to the development of this theory he devoted the last thirty-five years of his life. The elements of this science are contained in his “Basic Outline of Universology” (New York, 1872). He asserted that there is a science of language, as exact as that of mathematics or of chemistry, forming a domain of universology; and by the application of this science he evolved a “scientific” language, destined, he believed, to become “the universal language.” This scientific universal language he called “Alwato” (ahl-wah'-to). It was so far elaborated that for some years before his death he conversed and corresponded in it with several of his pupils, and was preparing a dictionary of Alwato, a portion of which was in type at the time of his decease. The philosophy evolved from universology he called “Integralism.” In it he believed would be found the ultimate reconciliation of the great thinkers of all schools and the scientific adjustment of freedom and order, not by a superficial eclecticism, but by a radical adjustment of all the possible forms of thought, belief, and idea. In 1882 he instituted a series of conferences known as the “Colloquium,” for the interchange of ideas between men of the utmost diversity of religious, philosophical, and political views. Among those associated with him in this were Prof. Louis Elsberg, Rev. Dr. Rylance, Rev. Dr. Newman, Rabbi Gottheil, Rev. Dr. Sampson, Rev. Dr. Collyer, Prof. J. S. Sedgwick, T. B. Wakeman, and Rabbi Huebsch. Mr. Andrews was a prominent member of the Liberal club of New York, and for some time was its vice-president. His contributions to periodicals are numerous. He was a member of the American academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Ethnological Society. His works include “Comparison of the Common Law with the Roman, French, or Spanish Civil Law on Entails and other Limited Property in Real Estate” (New Orleans, 1839); “Cost the Limit of Price” (New York, 1851); “The Constitution of Government in the Sovereignty of the Individual” (1851); “Love, Marriage, and Divorce, and the Sovereignty of the Individual: a Discussion by Henry James, Horace Greeley, and Stephen Pearl Andrews,” edited by Stephen Pearl Andrews (1853); “Discoveries in Chinese; or, The Symbolism of the Primitive Characters of the Chinese System of Writing as a Contribution to Philology and Ethnology and a Practical Aid in the Acquisition of the Chinese Language” (1854); “Constitution or Organic Basis of the New Catholic Church” (1860); “The Great American Crisis,” a series of papers published in the “Continental Monthly” (1863-'64); “A Universal Language” (“Continental Monthly,” 1864); “The Primary Synopsis of Universology and Alwato” (1871); “Primary Grammar of Alwato” (Boston, 1877); “The Labor Dollar” (1881); “Elements of Universology” (New York, 1881); “Ideological Etymology” (1881); “Transactions of the Colloquium, with Documents and Exhibits” (vols. i and ii, New York, 1882-'83); “The Church and Religion of the Future,” a series of tracts (1886); and text-books of phonography. His dictionary of Alwato was published posthumously by his sons. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


ANTHONY, Daniel Read, 1824-1904, newspaper publisher, abolitionist, member Hicksite Quakers, opposed slavery, active in temperance and women’s rights movements, brother of Susan B. Anthony.  Publisher of the Leavenworth Times newspaper in Leavenworth, Kansas. Lieutenant Colonel, 7th Regiment, Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, 1861-1862.  Mayor, Leavenworth, Kansas, 1863.

(Rodriguez, 2007, p. 169)


ANTHONY, Susan Brownell, 1820-1906, American Anti-Slavery Society, reformer, abolitionist, orator, leader of the female suffrage movement, radical egalitarian, temperance movement leader, founded Women’s National Loyal League with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1863 to fight for cause of abolition, co-founded American Equal Rights Association (AERA) in 1866 to fight for universal suffrage. 

(Anthony, 1954; Barry, 1988; Harper, 1899; Harper, 1998; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 169-170, 291, 465, 519; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, p. 82; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 318-321; Harper, Ida Husted, 1899, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony; Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 1885, Our Famous Women)

ANTHONY, Susan Brownell, reformer, b. in South Adams, Mass., 15 Feb., 1820. Daniel Anthony, her father, a cotton manufacturer, was a liberal Quaker, who educated his daughters with the idea of self-support, and employed skilful teachers in his own house. After completing her education at a Friends' boarding-school in Philadelphia, she taught in New York state from 1835 to 1850. Her father removed in 1826 to Washington co., N. Y., and in 1846 settled at Rochester. Miss Anthony first spoke in public in 1847, and from that time took part in the temperance movement, organizing societies and lecturing. In 1851 she called a temperance convention in Albany, after being refused admission to a previous convention on account of her sex. In 1852 the Woman's New York State Temperance Society was organized. Through her exertions, and those of Mrs. E. C. Stanton, women came to be admitted to educational and other conventions with the right to speak, vote, and serve on committees. About 1857 she became prominent among the agitators for the abolition of slavery. In 1858 she made a report, in a teachers' convention at Troy, in favor of the co-education of the sexes. Her energies have been chiefly directed to securing equal civil rights for women. In 1854-'55 she held conventions in each county of New York in the cause of female suffrage, and since then she has addressed annual appeals and petitions to the legislature. She was active in securing the passage of the act of the New York legislature of 1860, giving to married women the possession of their earnings, the guardianship of their children, etc. During the war she devoted herself to the women's loyal league, which petitioned congress in favor of the 13th amendment. In 1860 she started a petition in favor of leaving out the word “male” in the 14th amendment, and worked with the national woman suffrage association to induce congress to secure to her sex, the right of voting. In 1867 she went to Kansas with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone, and there obtained 9,000 votes in favor of woman suffrage. In 1868, with the cooperation of Mrs. Stanton and Parker Pillsbury, and with the assistance of George F. Train, she began, in New York city, the publication of a weekly paper called “The Revolutionist,” devoted to the emancipation of women. In 1872 Miss Anthony cast ballots at the state and congressional election in Rochester, in order to test the application of the 14th and 15th amendments of the U. S. constitution. She was indicted for illegal voting, and was fined by Justice Hunt, but, in accordance with her defiant declaration, never paid the penalty. Between 1870 and 1880 she lectured in all the northern and several of the southern states more than one hundred times a year. In 1881 she wrote, with the assistance of her co-editors, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage, “The History of Woman Suffrage” in two volumes. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. pp. 82.



Chapter: “Northern Legislation Demanded,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

Deeds of violence and the reign of riot did not, however, repress agitation or crush out Abolitionists. The declaration of Charles King, son of the illustrious Rufus King, and editor of the "New York American," that "fire could not burn the convictions of these men out of them," had been clearly demonstrated. Their spirits rose as the storm of popular violence beat more fiercely on their heads. In the face of their maddened countrymen they exhibited the unconquerable spirit of devotion, courage, and martyrdom.

Other agencies were, therefore, invoked. Legislation was demanded of the national and State governments. Grand juries made presentments, and the judicial tribunals were invoked to suppress and to punish. In the summer of 1835, when mob violence was manifesting itself in every form, and the laws were defied even by gentlemen of property and standing, a pamphlet, written by William Sullivan, was published in Boston, in which the hope was expressed that " Massachusetts will enact laws declaring the printing, publishing, and circulating pamphlets on slavery, and also the holding meetings to discuss slavery and abolition, to be public, indictable offences, and to provide for the punishment thereof in such a manner as with more effectually prevent such offences. " This startling proposition, put forth by a learned lawyer and gentleman of high social position, received the censure of neither the press, the pulpit, nor the people.

The "Literary and Theological Review," published in the city of New York, and edited by Leonard Woods, Jr., afterward president of Bowdoin College, affirmed that the Abolitionists were "justly liable to the highest civil penalties and ecclesiastical censures." Though the "Review" was largely supported by the Congregational and Presbyterian clergymen of the New England and Middle States, even this extreme position met with little opposition or dissent. While many, however, of those who then approved and applauded this sentiment changed their views, and adopted and defended more liberal opinions, this editor continued, even amid the subsequent developments of rebellion and civil war, to exhibit a spirit which justly subjected him to the suspicion of disloyalty to his government.

At a public meeting at Newport, Rhode Island, Mr. Hazard of that city presented resolutions in favor of legislation against the Abolitionists. At the October session of the legislature a committee was appointed, of which he was made chairman, for the purpose of reporting a bill against abolitionism, and of subjecting Abolitionists to the infliction of legal penalties. Politicians and public presses, men learned in law and divinity, gave utterance to like sentiments, and manifested their readiness to repress by laws what violence had failed to crush.  Was it then a matter of surprise that Southern men should demand what so many Northern men seemed forward to proffer?

 On the 29th of July, 1835, the post-office at Charleston, South Carolina, was forced open· by a mob, the mails rifled, and antislavery publications destroyed. A few days afterward a public meeting was held to complete the work already begun, by ferreting out and punishing any Abolitionists that might be found, or any persons in sympathy with them. A.t that meeting the clergy, of all denominations, attended in a body to give their sanction to its proceedings. Their services were gratefully acknowledged by the damaging compliment of a resolution adopted by that lawless assemblage. The postmaster took the responsibility of arresting the circulation of antislavery publications until he should receive special instructions from Washington. Other postmasters in the South immediately followed his example. The postmaster in New York proposed to the American Antislavery Society that it should 'voluntarily desist from attempting to send its publications by mail. It, however, promptly and peremptorily refused to yield its legal rights.

Amos Kendall was then Postmaster-General. A native of Massachusetts, he had taken up his residence in Kentucky, became connected with the press, and was distinguished for his zeal and ability in support of General Jackson, who had placed him at the head of the Post-Office Department. In his reply of the 5th of August to the postmaster of Charleston, he admitted that the Postmaster-General had “no legal authority to exclude newspapers from the mail, nor to prohibit their carriage or delivery on account of their character or tendency, real or supposed." He expressed himself, however, unprepared to direct the postmaster to deliver antislavery papers. “By no act or direction of mine, official or private," said this high official, sworn to obey the laws, " could I be induced, knowingly, to aid 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 permitted to destroy the latter, it is patriotism to disregard them. Entertaining these views, I cannot sanction and will not condemn the step you have taken." To Samuel L. Gouveneur, the postmaster of New York, who had consulted him in regard to suppressing anti-slavery papers through the mails, he replied, approving what he had done, but declaring that he was " deterred from giving --an order to exclude the whole series of antislavery publications from the Southern mails only by a want of legal power." This position of that high functionary, so indefensible and revolutionary, encouraged his subordinates to set at defiance the laws of their country, violate the sanctity of the mails, and subject their contents to the surveillance of every petty postmaster, whatever his motives or character might be.

President Jackson, in his annual message of that year, suggested to Congress “the propriety of passing such a law as will prohibit, under severe penalties, the circulation in the Southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection." This proposition was referred to a select committee, of which John C. Calhoun was chairman. On the 4th of February, 1836, this committee made an elaborate report, accompanied by a bill. In this report it was maintained that it belonged " to the States, and not to Congress, to determine what is and what is not calculated to disturb their security"; that, if Congress might decide that year what incendiary publications were, they might decide next year what they were not, and thus enforce the circulation of abolition documents. This report maintained that when the States had determined what incendiary publications were, Congress must enact a law prohibiting their transmission through the mail. By the doctrines of that report, when any State pronounced certain publications to be “incendiary” in their character, Congress and State legislatures were bound to act in' conformity with its decisions. By the provisions of the act reported it was declared that it should “not be lawful for any deputy postmaster in any State, Territory, or District, knowingly to deliver to any person whatsoever any pamphlet, newspaper, handbill1 or other printed paper or pictorial representation touching the subject of slavery, when by the laws of such State, Territory, or District such circulation is prohibited."

In his message to the legislature of South Carolina, in December, 1835, Governor McDuffie elaborately defended slavery as “the corner-stone of the republican edifice”; declared the laboring population, " bleached or unbleached, a dangerous element in the body politic"; and affirmed of the Abolitionists and their measures that “the laws of any community should punish this species of interference with death without benefit of clergy." The legislature, accustomed to lead wherever slavery had a service to be performed, immediately adopted a resolution in accord with his suggestion. Presuming on what it chose to regard the justice and friendship of the non-slaveholding States to carry out such measures, it called upon them to “effectually suppress," by legislation, all abolition societies within their respective limits.

During the same month North Carolina called upon its sister States to pass penal laws against printing anything that might have a tendency to make their slaves discontented. During the next month Alabama called upon them to “enact such penal laws as will finally put an end to the malignant deeds of the Abolitionists." Virginia earnestly requested the non-slaveholding States promptly to “adopt penal enactments, or such other measures as will effectually suppress all associations within their limits purporting to be or having the character or abolition societies." Georgia, too, resolved that it was incumbent on the people of the North "to crush the traitorous designs of the Abolitionists."

By such resolutions these Southern States demanded, in effect, that the non-slaveholding States should suppress abolition societies, and make it penal to print, publish, or distribute antislavery newspapers, pamphlets, or tracts. They proclaimed, too, that they should consider the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, or any interference with slavery by any State or the general government, to be at once and under every possible circumstance resisted. Their demands were officially communicated to the governors of the several States, and by them brought to the notice of their respective legislatures. In communicating these demands Governor Ritner of' Pennsylvania was the only one of the Northern chief-magistrates to resist these arrogant demands, and to defend the sacred rights of freedom of speech and of the press, thus menaced and endangered. 

Governor Gayle of Alabama had already gone so far as to demand of the governor of New York that Mr. Williams, the publishing agent of the American Antislavery Society, should be surrendered to him, to be tried by the laws of Alabama on an indictment found against him by its grand jury, for publishing in the "Emancipator," in the city of New York, the sentiment that " God commands and all nature cries out that man should not be held as property. The system of making men property has plunged two and a quarter millions of our fellow countrymen into the deepest physical and moral degradation, and they are every moment sinking deeper." Mr. Williams had never been in the State of Alabama, and of course had never fled from it; and this was distinctly admitted by the governor when he made the demand for his surrender. But this audacious demand was not complied with.

There were those who believed that the Abolitionists might be punished under existing laws; while others were ready to enact such laws as the slave-masters required. The governor and legislature of New York were Democratic. They desired the election of Mr. Van Buren to the presidency, and hence were ready to make almost any concessions to their Southern allies and friends. The legislature met early in January, 1836. Governor Marcy, in his message, affirmed that the States would not possess all the necessary means for preserving their external relations of peace among themselves “without the power to pass such laws “as were required by the Southern States. He relied, however, for the present, on the influence of public opinion which, he said, had already been manifested with unexampled energy and unanimity in striking exhibitions of popular reprobation, elicited by the just fear of "the fatal issues in which the uncurbed efforts of the Abolitionists may ultimately end." The committee to whom the subject was referred made a report, near the close of the session, in: response to this declaration of the governor, in which they pledged the faith of the State to enact such laws whenever they should be deemed necessary. Early in February Mr. Hazard, chairman of the committee appointed at the October session of the legislature of Rhode Island, reported a bill embodying provisions he had suggested even before the demands of the Southern legislatures were made. This bill, however, was defeated, mainly by the efforts of George Curtis and Thomas W. Dorr, then representatives of the city of Providence.

Governor Ritner standing alone, as already stated, in defence of free speech and a free press, commented in language of deserved severity upon this cowardly timidity and disgraceful subserviency of Northern men, characterizing it as "the base bowing of the knee to the dark spirit of slavery." “While we admit and scrupulously respect," he said,” the constitutional rights of other States on this momentous subject, let us not, by either fear or interest, be driven from aught of that spirit of independence and veneration which has ever characterized our beloved Commonwealth. Above all, let us never yield up the right of free discussion of any evil which may arise in the land or any part of it." These noble utterances of the honest and worthy governor of Pennsylvania were penned by Thomas K. Burrows, then secretary of State, now president of an agricultural college in Centre County. In those days of Northern sycophancy the manly words honored alike the heart and head of him who penned them, as well as of him who put upon them the seal of his official sanction. In a congratulatory letter, Thaddeus Stevens compared this brave message to the "shadow of a great rock in a weary land."

Mr. Stevens was chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. To that committee were referred the resolutions of the Southern legislatures. Its report, unlike that of the legislative committee of Massachusetts, was brave, manly, and independent. It unequivocally denied the right of the slaveholding States to claim legislation against free discussion. "Could any other State;" it affirmed, " maintain the right to claim from us such legislation, we and our citizens would be reduced to a vassalage but little less degrading than that of the slaves whose condition we assert the right to discuss." It proclaimed as a fundamental truth, never to be surrendered that “every citizen of the non-slaveholding states has a right to think and freely to publish his thoughts on the subject of national and State policy.” 

This report took issue, too, with the Southern legislatures vouching the power of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and the Territories. The report closed with two resolutions, affirming' that the slaveholding States alone had the right to legislate on the subject of slavery within their own limits; while Congress had the constitutional power to abolish slavery and the slave-trade within the District of Columbia, a power it was expedient for it to employ.

This attempt of Southern legislatures and compliant politicians to secure hostile legislation against the Abolitionists signally failed. Not one Northern State complied with their unreasonable and unconstitutional demands. Though executive officials counselled submission, the more popular branches of the State governments hesitated, and refused to yield. Antislavery men, who had been filled with well-grounded apprehension, took courage from these defeats. They began to realize that their endurance, courage, and constancy were impressing themselves upon the public mind. " In the dark and troubled night " through which they were passing they saw, or thought they saw, in these facts, " a star of hope " through the rifted clouds, as if a less stormy and sanguinary future was opening before them.

The zeal, activity, and uncompromising character of the Abolitionists of Massachusetts had brought upon them in an especial manner the hostility of the slave-masters and the condemnation of Northern men with Southern principles. The bold, outspoken, and unsparing criticisms of the “Liberator " upon slavery in all its forms, and upon all who countenanced that iniquity, incensed its friends and encouraged its enemies. At that time, perhaps, the most thorough and radical antislavery men in the country were found in Massachusetts, and nowhere was hostility to them more distinctly proclaimed.

Edward Everett was then governor of Massachusetts. Trained for the pulpit, he early yielded to the claims of literature and public affairs. He was a ripe and accurate scholar, a gentleman of large attainments, a brilliant and polished rhetorician, a graceful and impressive orator. He entered Congress the earnest supporter of the administration of John Quincy Adams. On the 9th of March, 1826, in response to an imputation upon Northern representatives that they desired to change the basis of representation, and would refuse to suppress a. servile rebellion, he took occasion to make an elaborate speech, avowing his opposition to any such purpose, and his readiness to render any aid the latter might require. “Sir," he said,” I am no soldier. My habits and education are very unmilitary; but there is no cause in which I would sooner buckle a knapsack on my back and put a musket on my shoulder than that of putting down a servile insurrection at the South." He rendered more sad and significant the tenor of such a pledge by his defence of slavery in the same speech. “The great relation of servitude," he said,” in some form or other, with greater or less departure from the theoretic equality of men, is inseparable from our nature. Domestic slavery is not, in my judgment, to be set down as an immoral and irreligious relation. It is a condition of life as well as any other to be justified by morality, religion, and international law."

These sentiments created no little surprise. Churchill C. Cambreling, a native of North Carolina, then a leading member of the House from New York, sharply and eloquently rebuked these gratuitous admissions, defences, and pledges. If he had learned, he said, in the University of Gottingen, such sentiments, instead of returning to his native land, he would have journeyed eastward, would have "followed the course of the dark-rolling Danube," '' crossed the Euxine," and " laid his head upon the footstool of the Sultan, and besought him to place his feet upon the neck of the recreant citizen of a recreant republic."

Entering the gubernatorial chair with such sentiments and antecedents, it is not strange that Mr. Everett's response to these Southern demands should have been humiliating in the extreme. Though mortified and indignant, antislavery men were not, therefore, surprised to read in his annual message of that year these admissions and recommendations: " Whatever by direct and necessary operation is calculated to excite an insurrection among the slaves has been held by highly respectable legal authority an offence against the peace of the commonwealth, which may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor at common law." And again : "The patriotism of all classes must be invoked to abstain from a discussion which, by exasperating the master, can have no other effect than to render more oppressive the condition of the slave ; and which, if not abandoned, there is great reason to fear, will prove the rock on which the Union will split."

This portion of the message was referred to a joint committee of five, of which George Lunt, then a senator from the county of Essex and a resident of Newburyport, was chairman. To the same committee were also referred the communications which had been received from the legislatures of the several slaveholding States, requesting the enactment of laws making it penal for citizens of non-slaveholding States to speak or publish sentiments such as had been uttered in antislavery meetings and printed in antislavery tracts and newspapers. It was a dark and trying hour for the friends of the slave. Everywhere spoken against, bitterly assailed by the public press, and subjected to mob violence, they had reason to be alarmed at these demands for penal legislation. The board of managers of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society took immediate action. By their order, Rev. Samuel J. May, the corresponding secretary, addressed a letter to the legislative committee, asking permission to appear before it, and give reasons why there should be no action against the freedom of speech and of the press, or condemnatory of the Abolitionists. The request was granted, and on the 4th of March a hearing was had in the hall of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Lucas, a member of the committee, thought the gentlemen who had sought a hearing were premature in their action; that they had no reason to suppose that the committee would do anything prejudicial to them; and that they should have waited until the committee had reported. To this objection Mr. May replied that he and his associates belonged to that class of persons censured by the governor in his message, and referred to in the communications from the Southern States. 

To avert any action of the legislature that might infringe upon the liberty of speech or of the press, or any legislative censures upon the Abolitionists, they had sought an interview with the committee. Mr. Lucas then remarked that it was very improper for the gentlemen of the Antislavery Society to proceed upon the supposition that the legislature would enact any laws abridging the liberty of speech and of the press, which it could not constitutionally do. To these remarks Mr. May replied that the Abolitionists did not fear the enactment of any penal laws; but they were apprehensive that condemnatory resolutions might be adopted, which they would deprecate even more than penal laws. Mr. Moseley, member of the committee from Newburyport, expressed the hope that nothing would preclude the committee from giving a hearing, as he wished for information, -- desired to know what Abolitionism was, to what it was tending, and how far it went.  Mr. Lucas having withdrawn his objection, Mr. May then proceeded to sketch the origin and history of the abolition movements in the United States. The antislavery societies, he said, consisted of a band of men associated together to overthrow the system of American slavery by intellectual and moral means. This position of the Abolitionists was thus presented to the committee with great accuracy and clearness by one who had been among the, very earliest to accept the doctrine of immediate emancipation, and who, having been thus identified with the antislavery cause, was familiar with its origin, principles, and history.

Ellis Gray Loring followed in a well-defined, clear, and forcible argument. He denied the right of the legislature to enact penal laws, or pass votes of censure upon the doings of _abolition societies. He strenuously denied, too, that the Abolitionists had done anything inconsistent with the law of nations or the Constitution of the United States. He also claimed the moral right to labor for the extirpation of slavery, or any other evil. He closed his speech with these words: “A great principle is involved in the decision of the legislature. I esteem as nothing, in comparison, our feelings or wishes as individuals. Personal interests sink into insignificance here. Sacrifice us, if you will; but do not wound liberty through us. Care nothing for men; but let the oppressor and his apologist, whether at the North or the South, beware of the certain defeat which attends him who is found fighting against God."

The committee was then briefly addressed by Mr. Garrison. He maintained that the Abolitionists were laboring to accomplish the very object for which the Union was formed; and that their doctrines, if obeyed, and not too late, would save it. He declared that the alternative was presented to the people of New England either to submit to be gagged by Southern taskmasters or to labor unceasingly for the removal of slavery from the country. “We loudly boast of our free country," he said, " and of the union of these States; yet I have no country! As a New-Englander and as an Abolitionist, I am excluded by a bloody proscription from one half of the national territory; and so is every man who is known to regard slavery with abhorrence. Where is our Union? and of what value is it to me, or to anyone who believes that liberty is the inalienable right of every man, independent of the color of his skin or the texture of his hair? We cannot enjoy the privileges of the Union. The right of free and safe locomotion from one part of the land to the other is denied to us, except on peril of our lives! They who preach that slaveholding. is sin, and that immediate emancipation is the duty of every master, might as safely leap into a den of lions, or into a fiery furnace, as to go into the Southern States ! "

William Goodell reminded the committee that, as the people were not prepared to receive a law which should infringe the liberty of speech, the opposers of abolition were driven to the necessity of operating indirectly against them. He protested against any legislative censure, because it would be a usurpation of authority. The legislature was not a judicial body, and had no right to pronounce condemnation on any one. He was here interrupted by Mr. Lunt, who sharply said: “You must not indulge in such remarks, sir. We cannot sit here and permit you to instruct us as to the duties of the legislature." In spite, however, of this interruption, Mr. Goodell proceeded, and maintained with great force that the Constitution secured to the Abolitionists the fight to do all they had done or intended to do.

Professor Charles Follen had been selected by the board of managers as one of the committee to appear before the legislative committee. Born in Germany, he had joined in his youth the young men of that country in emancipating his native land from French domination. Devoted to liberty, he was driven by persecution to seek a home in the United States. Honored for his profound scholarship and beloved for his private virtues, he was made an instructor in Harvard University. On the establishment of the “Liberator" he early sought out its editor, and at great personal sacrifice took and maintained his position among the despised Abolitionists. He commenced his speech with a series of philosophical remarks upon the rights of man, the spirit and purposes of republican institutions in the United States, and maintained that liberty of speech was essential to the maintenance of the government. He alluded to the attempts to excite odium against the Abolitionists and to the demands of Southern legislatures for the suppression of their doctrines by penal laws. He referred to the Faneuil Hall meeting of the citizens of Boston, and to its censure of the Abolitionists; which the mob regarded as a warrant for its proceedings on the 21st of October. "Now, gentlemen," he asked, "may we not reasonably anticipate that similar consequences would follow the expression by the legislature of a similar condemnation? Would not the mob again undertake to execute the informal sentence of the general court? Would it not let loose again its bloodhounds upon us? "

“Stop, sir! “exclaimed Lunt. " You may not pursue this course of remark. It is insulting to this committee, and the legislature which they represent." ·

Dr. Follen calmly remarked that he had not intimated, nor did he believe, that the legislature would countenance an act of violence.  But Mr. Lunt curtly replied: “The committee consider the remarks you have made very improper, and cannot permit you to proceed." Dr. Follen then sat down, amid evidences of deep emotion and displeasure on the part of the audience at this conduct of the chairman. Mr. Moseley earnestly remonstrated with Mr. Lunt; and Mr. May explicitly declared his dissatisfaction at the curse pursued by the committee. He expressed his regret that the chairman had stopped Dr. Follen, and concurred entirely with that gentleman inexpressing the opinion that a vote of censure by the legislature would give encouragement to such scenes of violence.

To these remarks Lunt sharply replied: “Whatever you, sir, and your associates, may think of the remarks of Dr. Follen, it is for the committee to decide whether they were proper or improper. You are not to dictate to us in what manner we shall conduct the proceedings of this examination." He told the representatives of the Antislavery Society that they had no right to claim a hearing, and that it was a matter of special favor that they had been admitted to that interview at all. Mr. May reminded the committee that the Senate Chamber was then occupied by committees listening to individuals touching the interests of moneyed institutions ; that they had sought an interview on a subject infinitely greater than all the moneyed interests in the land, - the cause of freedom and humanity. To this Lunt tartly answered: " I conceive, sir, that you are here to exculpate yourselves, if you can, from the charges laid against you; and not to instruct us as to what we are to do in reference to the communications we have received from certain other States."

To this impertinent and gratuitous remark Mr. May responded: ''We are not here, sir, as culprits. We do not feel like culprits, nor do we mean to act as such. We know that we are aiming to accomplish a great public good, and to avert great national evils. We feel that we are standing up before the world in the defence of high moral and religious principles, -- principles the continued disregard of which must bring ruin on our country. We have come in the hope that we may do something to induce the State of Massachusetts to take a stand worthy of herself, to stand up as a bulwark that shall stay and turn back the proud waves of oppression which are rolling over the land." After consultation, Mr. May notified the committee that they would present a remonstrance to the legislature the next day, and hoped that they might hereafter meet the committee with a better understanding of their rights.

The next day a memorial was presented to the legislature, complaining of this treatment by the committee, and asking the recognition of their right to appear and give their reasons why the legislature should not pass resolutions of condemnation against the Abolitionists. This memorial was referred to the committee, and another hearing was granted in the hall of the House of Representatives, which was thronged by gentlemen and ladies, who manifested the deepest interest in the proceedings. 

Samuel E. Sewall addressed the committee against yielding to the demands of the slaveholding States, which would, he said, be to subvert the foundation of civil liberties, and make it criminal to obey the laws of God and follow the example of Jesus Christ. He maintained that, if Massachusetts were to pass the laws required of her, punishing her citizens for speaking and writing against slavery, it would not repress the opinions of Abolitionists. “Who and what," he asked, “are the men whose mouths it is proposed to stop by violence and unconstitutional laws? Men of integrity, of piety, of zeal, of perseverance, of intelligence, -- men who are conscientiously devoted to  their opinions, and as ready to suffer imprisonment, fines, stripes, persecutions, and death for the sake of their opinions and their consciences, as ever was any persecuted sect."

Dr. Follen maintained, with mingled mildness and firmness, the sacred rights of free discussion. The legislature, he contended, could not censure freedom of speech in the Abolitionists without preparing the way to censure it in other citizens who might for, the moment be obnoxious to the majority. He expressed the opinion that the mobs which had brought so much discredit upon the country had acted under the delusion that the Abolitionists wanted to infringe the compacts of the Constitution and destroy the Union. " As a friend of liberty," he said, " I am glad to be able to look upon the popular excitement from which my friends have suffered in this light; but when Judge Lynch has presided, I must say as I said the other day--" " I call you to order! " passionately exclaimed the chairman. “This is not respectful to the committee." Dr. Follen expressed his unconsciousness of saying anything disrespectful to the committee, and significantly asked if he must understand that speaking disrespectfully of mobs was speaking disrespectfully of the committee. To this inquiry Lunt replied that the allusion was improper, and could not be permitted while he occupied the chair. Mr. Moseley expressed his dissent from the decision of the chairman, saw nothing disrespectful in Dr. Follen's remarks, and pronounced him entirely in order. The Doctor then proceeded, and closed without further interruption.

William Goodell followed in a terse, able, and eloquent speech, in which he charged upon those who promulgated the doctrines embodied in the documents from the Southern States before the committee an attempt “to destroy the free labor of the North, and reduce our free laboring citizens to the physical and moral condition of their slaves." He quoted the .language of Mr. Leigh of Virginia, then in the Senate of the United States, and of Mr. McDuffie of South Carolina, in which they maintained, in substance, that the laboring population of no nation on earth is entitled to liberty, or capable of enjoying it. He then charged the Southern legislatures with a deep and foul conspiracy against the liberties of the free laboring people of the North. Here he was interrupted by the chairman, and told that “he must not charge Southern States with a foul conspiracy, nor treat their public documents with disrespect." Mr. Goodell, proceeding, quoted the language of Governor McDuffie's message and the action of the South Carolina legislature; and, pointing to the Southern documents lying upon the table of the committee, characterized them as fetters for Northern freemen, and asked this pregnant question: "Mr. Chairman, are you prepared to attempt putting them on ? "

Here Mr. Lunt cried out with great warmth, “Stop, sir! Sit down, sir! The committee will hear no more of this." Mr. Goodell firmly remarked that his duty was discharged; that they came there as freemen, and they would go away as free-men should. The audience had watched the proceedings with the deepest interest; and some one exclaimed, as the voice of Mr. Goodell fell upon the ear: "Let us go quickly; lest we be made slaves!" Mr. May appealed again to the chairman for a hearing, but the latter intimated that the committee had heard enough.

As the excited and indignant audience was retiring, Dr. Gamaliel Bradford of Plymouth County, not a member of the Antislavery Society, came forward and made an earnest appeal for liberty of speech and of the press, and of the right of private judgment. When he sat down, George Bond, a prominent merchant and a gentleman of high character and influence, asked leave to address a few words to the committee. Leave having been granted, he expressed his fears that the action of the committee would produce excitement throughout the commonwealth. "I have certainly heard nothing," he remarked " from the gentlemen of the Antislavery Society, that called for the course that has been adopted ; and it does seem to me that the committee are too fastidious, - too hypercritical." " Be careful of what you say, sir," ejaculated Mr. Lunt, in spite of this interruption, Mr. Bond went on, and implored the committee to allow the antislavery gentlemen to say what they wished to say, although their language might not be such as to suit the committee. But the committee broke up without a formal adjournment; and, as the chairman was retiring, Mr. Moseley, one of his own townsmen, said to him: "I am not satisfied with your course. You have been wrong from the beginning. I will not sit again on such a committee."

Many persons who witnessed the discreditable conduct of the chairman of that committee freely expressed their indignation, and from that time committed themselves to the cause of liberty, then so imperiled Dr. William Ellery Channing who had attended the hearing, much to the gratification of the Abolitionists, with whom he had not co-operated, approached Mr. Garrison and offered him his hand, adding expressions of sympathy and encouragement. Seth Whitmarsh, a Democratic member of the Senate from the county of Bristol; Robert Rantoul, Jr., a leading Democratic member of the House; and George S. Hillard, a Representative from Boston, - sharply criticised, in their places, the action of the ' committee.

Mr. Lunt, in his report, spoke of the demands of Southern legislatures for the enactment of penal laws for the suppression of antislavery societies, meetings, and publications, as " of the most solemn and affecting character ; as appeals to our justice as men, to our sympathies as brethren, to our patriotism as citizens ; to the memory of the common trials and perils of our ancestors and theirs ; to all the better emotions of our nature ; to our respect for the Constitution ; to our regard for the laws ; to our hope for the security of all those blessings which the Union and that only can preserve to us." The committee further declared that " the right of the master to his slave is as undoubted as the right to any other property “; that " any attempt, whether direct or indirect, to deprive him of this property is a violation of the fixed laws of social policy, as well as of the ordinary rules of moral obligation “; and that " his argument that the property is his own would seem to be unanswerable." The conduct of the Abolitionists was declared to be "not only wrong in policy, but erroneous in morals”; and the charges brought against the Abolitionists by the South were declared to be strictly applicable to them. To the report was appended a series of resolutions expressing “entire disapprobation of the doctrines avowed and the general measures pursued by such as agitate the general question of slavery." This report and resolutions were laid upon the table and never acted upon.

This course of Mr. Lunt excited so much feeling against him in Essex County that he was not put in nomination for the Senate the next year; but he was elected to the House. Both in public and private life, however, he has persistently adhered to the position he then assumed, and all measures for emancipation and the overthrow of the Slave Power have encountered his bitter and relentless opposition. Nor during the slaveholders Rebellion did his tongue or pen ever meet the true demands of loyalty.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 321-338.





Chapter: “Intermarriage Law of Massachusetts. - Caste,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

The Divine declaration that what a man soweth that also shall he reap is quite as true of nations as of, individuals. Nowhere has the retributive nature of sin appeared more manifest than in the history of American slavery. For long years after the guilty cause has disappeared have the wretched effects remained. Even in Massachusetts, first among the old thirteen States to discard slavery, did the consequences linger in some of her laws, in the customs of society, and in prejudices which in many minds, with unreasoning and unfeeling pertinacity, set at naught the principles of justice and humanity, to say nothing of the sublime principles of Christianity. Like the vicious indulgences of youth, though discarded in riper years, it left its enfeebling effects in the system. Though early in form removed, it left many bitter legacies behind to test the temper of the people and make work for after generations. The law against the intermarriage of blacks with whites, the rules in many cities and towns against colored children attending the same schools with whites, and the regulations on some railroads excluding blacks from the cars of whites, were examples.

These invidious discriminations and obnoxious regulations were among the early objects of assault by the Abolitionists. In the session of 1839 several petitions were presented, praying for the repeal of the act against intermarriage. Some of these petitions were from women,--a fact which subjected them to special reproach not only in the public press, but in the legislature itself. The petitions were referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, which reported that the petitioners have leave to withdraw. This report was made by William Lincoln of Worcester, brother of the ex-governor, Levi Lincoln. Its spirit and purport may be gathered from a single paragraph: " Lest future historians should form an erroneous estimate of the manners and morals of the age, it is desirable to afford these persons, styling themselves ladies, an opportunity to reconsider their opinions on matrimonial and constitutional rights, and to remove their names from the rolls on which they are written."

The repeal of the law was vigorously resisted by Franklin Dexter, an eminent lawyer of Boston. Minot Thayer, too, a veteran member of the House, opposed' any legislation in a vituperative speech. Referring to a petition signed by a large number of ladies in Dorchester, he had the bad taste to express the opinion that there were not ten virtuous women among them.

George Bradburn, then a representative from Nantucket, defended the petitioners, and advocated the principle embodied in their petition. He replied with merciless severity to the arguments of Dexter and Thayer; and in response to their assertion that the repeal would encourage amalgamation, he asserted that, on the contrary, it would most effectually discourage it.

At the session of 1840, George T. Davis, then a representative from Greenfield, reported in favor of repealing the law. The report maintained that the act sprung from social prejudices; was based on the idea of social inequality; was unequal and invidious in its operations; facilitated injustice and promoted licentiousness. "This law," it said, “is the last relic of the old slave code of Massachusetts, and is the only legislative recognition to be found in our statute-book of inequality among the different races of our citizens. It stands in direct and odious contrast with all our principles and our practice in other particulars. It gives the lie to the sentiments which we have heretofore expressed to Congress and the world on the subject of slavery; for, by denying to our colored fellow-citizens the privileges and immunities of freemen, we virtually assert their inequality, and justify that theory of negro slavery which represents it as a necessary state of tutelage and guardianship."

In the debate that followed, Mr. Bradburn maintained that the law had not the word "white " in it originally, but provided that no person of a Christian nation should marry a negro or mulatto; and that in 1786 Indians were included, and the word " white " then inserted. He asserted that the law was unconstitutional, authorized robbery, encouraged amalgamation and abrogated the law of God. Mr. Theophilus Parsons, then a member from the city of Boston, admitted that he had been opposed to the passage of the bill; but his objections had been overcome, and he should then vote for it. Thayer, Dexter, and Lincoln, who had so strenuously opposed the repeal at the preceding session, continued their opposition. If they were less vituperative, they were no less determined in their hostility. The bill passed the House by a majority of one. It then passed the Senate; but was defeated in the House on its engrossment.

But the Abolitionists and the other friends of equal rights were persistent. Petitions were presented in 1841; and Mr. Bradburn, from a committee to which they were referred, brought in a bill to repeal the obnoxious law, accompanied by an elaborate report. It failed, however, in the House. A similar bill was reported to the Senate by General Appleton Howe. It passed that body by the casting vote of its president, Daniel P. King, afterward a representative in Congress. It was, however, defeated in the House by a majority of thirty-six. Not discouraged by this defeat, the antislavery men of Massachusetts again appealed to the people and to the legislature. At the next session a bill was reported in the Senate by Seth Sprague, Jr., and passed that body by a vote of twenty-four to nine.

In the House an earnest debate arose. Mr. Marcy, a Democratic member from Greenwich, denounced the bill as an innovation, which would be speedily followed by another, allowing the blacks to ride in the cars with the whites. Mr. Gibbens, a merchant of Boston, declared that he would rather follow his daughter to the tomb than that she should be married to a black man. He denounced the measure as an experiment fraught with the most disastrous consequences to the manners and morals of the people. John C. Park of Boston vehemently opposed the passage of the bill, and maintained the constitutionality and expediency of the existing law. The legislature, he said, could pass laws for the preservation of hens and fishes, and for the improvement of the breeds of cattle, sheep, and pigs; but when the question came of preserving their own race from the deterioration which must inevitably follow amalgamation, their constitutional scruples were interposed.

Seth J. Thomas, a representative from Charlestown, one of the leaders of the Democratic party, declared that conservatism was the " party of yesterday "; but he belonged to the party of to-day, and ,was in favor of turning the 'world topsy turvy, providing things were made better by it. " The black man," he said,” will have his day, and I want him to have it peaceably, else he will be obliged to use force, which is the last resort of kings. And if that necessity is resorted to, although I should regret it, yet in the great cause of human rights I should rush into the battle as gladly as I would to a bridal-feast." His subsequent course hardly warranted quite so confident a boast. He did not anticipate, when he uttered it, that in a few years he would be found, not rushing to the rescue of the fearful and fainting fugitive, but as the paid attorney in the ignoble work of remanding him back to the bondage from which he was vainly striving to escape.

Charles Francis Adams, complimenting Mr. Park on his eloquent speech, proceeded to reply to it in a clear and unanswerable argument. Henry Wilson, a representative from Natick, avowed himself in favor of the repeal of the act, as it was founded on inequality and caste. No act of that kind, he asserted, dishonored other New England "States. He declared that the bill was not inspired by political, but by humane motives; and, though it might be defeated then, it would ultimately be enacted. It was only a question of time. It was shown by John P. Robinson of Lowell that the law had been passed as a protection against heathenism and paganism, that the question of its constitutionality had been evaded by the Supreme Court, that it had become a dead letter, and that it ought to be repealed. Prejudice and passion, however, again triumphed, and the bill was defeated by a majority of four.

At the next session the Democrats had a majority in both houses of the legislature. A bill repealing the law was reported in the Senate by George Hood of Essex County, which passed without a division. In the House it was opposed by Gibbens and Park of Boston, and supported by Whitmarsh of Seekonk, Prince of Essex, Wheatland of Salem, and Adams of Boston; but it passed by a decided majority.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 487-492.



Chapter: “Mobs. Antislavery Activities.  Women's Fairs,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

By the labors of their few but earnest presses, of their eloquent orators, by their conventions in city and country, by meetings in church and hall, they endeavored to scatter broadcast the seeds of living truth, the indestructible principles of human rights. Openly welcoming women to their ranks, they were cheered and sustained by the presence, sympathy, and hearty co-operation of a circle of ladies of Boston and vicinity of culture and social position, of stainless purity and active philanthropy, who rendered, by presence and purse, speech and pen, essential service to the cause. Among the agencies employed with signal success was that of Fairs. The first was held in Boston, December 16, 1834, under the lead of Mrs. Ellis Gray Loring, Mrs. Lydia Maria Child, and a few others of kindred sympathies. As the Abolitionists were then shut out from the halls and churches of Boston, they were compelled to hold it at the office of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society on Washington Street. Held in behalf of an unpopular cause, that often subjected its advocates and supporters to social proscription and insult, and in most unattractive quarters, it was deemed a success, although the sum-total of its receipts was but three hundred and sixty dollars.

The next was the year of mobs, the black year on the calendar of Boston, when its men of property and standing were not above the outrage of breaking up a meeting of antislavery women, and of assaulting a young man whose only offence was fidelity to the oppressed. To hold an antislavery fair at such a time was a hazardous experiment. The Female Antislavery Society, which had been, a few weeks before; mobbed and driven from its room, adopted and resolved to hold it, although no hall could be procured, and it was not deemed safe to advertise it. Henry Chapman offered to them his private dwelling, and though the colored people did not dare to attend, for fear that their presence might increase the danger, it was measurably successful, and its managers were encouraged. These Fairs gradually increased in interest and success until the seventh, in 1840, yielded the sum of two thousand dollars. Such an advance had been made that in 1841 they were enabled to procure a large and attractive hall, and secure from home and foreign contributions a fine display of articles of fancy and utility. Although a cloud of opprobrium still rested upon the cause and its friends, persons in the more fashionable circles began to extend their presence and patronage. During this year, too, they were especially gratified by a visit from Lord Morpeth of England, afterward Earl of Carlisle and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who thus gave expression of his sympathy for the object of their efforts.

Faneuil Hall was asked for and obtained, and these annual gatherings were appropriately held in the Cradle of Liberty for many years. Valuable contributions were received from abroad, especially from the antislavery women of England, Scotland, and Ireland. They were visited and patronized by increasing numbers, and were continued until slavery finally; disappeared. Their receipts contributed largely to the support of the American Antislavery Society, and of its organ the “Antislavery Standard." What became an important feature was the publication of a volume entitled “The Liberty Bell," of which fifteen numbers appeared. It was edited by Mrs. Maria W. Chapman, and received the contributions, in prose and verse, of many of the most gifted writers in England, and America. Its very list of contributors was an assurance that the volumes which contained their writings were replete with conclusive reasonings, glowing thoughts, and tender appeals which could not fail to affect the thoughts and feelings of the people, and help forward the sacred cause.

While in no other place except Boston did Fairs become an "institution," they were held in various parts of the country. They were early held in Philadelphia under the direction and impulse of Lucretia Mott, Mary Grew, and others like minded. They, too, were more or less frequently resorted to in other cities and towns, not only in New England, but in the Middle and Western States. Indeed, among the multiplied agencies that were adopted during those years of weary toil to effect the desired change in the public sentiment, this agency was often and in many places put in requisition. Slight record can be made of the labors of these noble women, and their names may never be known to the lowly ones for whom they toiled. But on the tablets of their own souls were inscribed in enduring characters these lessons of love and self -sacrifice, truth and trust, which made them wiser and better, however much or however little their efforts may have advanced the common cause. May not, however, their patient and persistent labors have prepared them and stimulated others of their countrywomen for those exhibitions of sublime and heroic devotion, at home and in the camps and hospitals of the army, which so signalized the late civil war ?

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 561-563.





MOST of the arguments in favor of slavery can be traced to the eighteenth century; and two centuries before the anti-slavery movement of 1831 protests had been heard against slavery in America. Half a century later the subject was taken up by Richard Baxter, an English devotional author, who, in his Christian Directory, in 1678, declared that "to go as pirates and catch up poor negroes or people of another land that never forfeited life or liberty and to make them slaves and sell them is one of the worst kinds of thievery in the world." 1  As slavery spread through the colonies, these objections became more and more animated both from northern and southern men, especially the Quakers, who began to make "slave keeping" a reason for disfellowship; their anti-slavery apostle, John Woolman, made it his life-work to go about the country and to argue against slavery, because contrary to Christianity and because "liberty was the natural right of all men equally." 2

1 Locke, Anti-Slavery, 16.

2 Hart, Contemporaries, II., 305.

A second line of argument was intensified by the American Revolution and its political results. In the first draught of the Declaration of Independence the slave-trade was styled a "cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty.'' 1 When the pressure came for raising troops for the Revolution, negroes were freely enlisted, receiving their freedom, and then that of their families. The Revolution was also based on a lofty assertion of the natural rights of man, phrased in such terms as that of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, that “all men are by nature free and independent." To be sure, negro slaves were not in the minds of those who penned these splendid generalizations; but it became difficult to explain why nature should take account only of white men, especially when many negroes were actually enjoying the political equality described by those documents. The Revolution gave a leverage for the movement against slavery by bestowing on the states authority over slavery denied while...they were colonies. April 14, 1775, the first anti-slavery society was formed in Philadelphia, and at once began to memorialize the legislature of Pennsylvania to set the slaves free. Meanwhile two states in the Union uprooted slavery --Vermont, in 1777, and Massachusetts, in 1780 both by constitutional provisions, a method initiated by New Hampshire in 1783.2 The Pennsylvania

1 Jefferson, Works (Washington ed.), I., 23.

2 Bassett, Federalist System (American Nation, XI.), chap. xii.

legislature passed a gradual emancipation act in 1780, an example followed by Rhode Island and Connecticut in 1784, and in 1799 and 1804 by New York and New Jersey. This movement, which several southern states seemed likely to follow, had an unexpected effect upon the Union. As early as July, 1776, Congress discovered that northern and southern members were at odds over slavery: one side persisting that the negroes should not be considered as members of the state more than cattle; to which a northern member replied that in that case they ought not to be included in the basis of representation under the proposed confederation. With regard to the western territory, Congress three times faced the issue of prohibiting or permitting slavery. The passage of Jefferson's Ordinance of  1784 for gradual emancipation in the western territories was lost for lack of a single vote; Rufus King's Ordinance of 1785, which included a clause for the return of fugitives, did not come to a vote; in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Congress, with the approval of every member except one New-Yorker, made it a matter of fundamental compact with the people of the northwest that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall be permitted except for the punishment of crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.''

1 McLaughlin, Confederation and Constitution (American Nation, X.) chaps. vii., viii.

By this ordinance, which practically extended westward the status of freedom resulting from state enactments in the east, the Union was practically divided into two belts, a northern free area and a · southern slave-holding region. Inasmuch as the expectation was that the southern territories would share the fortunes of the southeastern states, the eleven years between the 'first rising of the slavery question in Congress and the Northwest Ordinance marks the separation of the newly created union into two well-defined and sharply contrasted sections. The rivalry and jealousy between those two sections was clearly revealed in the work of the federal convention of 1787. It led to the "federal ratio" for the House of Representatives, which was a sectional compromise on the slave-trade. South Carolina threatened to break up the whole plan, and the convention was obliged to postpone that power for twenty years. The existence of free states made necessary a clause for the delivery of "fugitives from service or labor" who might escape from one state into another. In addition, Congress received power over the territories, over the seat of government, and over interstate commerce; and a provision for giving to citizens of one state "all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states" included some negroes. On the whole, the convention dealt wisely with the slavery question in not committing the new federal government to a policy upon what seemed a declining institution.

In the organization of the government no seriously contested questions arose out of slavery. The Northwest Ordinance was, without opposition, reenacted in 1789; and the next year the territory south of the Ohio River (Tennessee) was organized with the purposeful omission of any restriction on slavery; for the District of Columbia an act of Congress of 1801 simply re -enacted the existing Maryland statutes in the part north of the Potomac, and the Virginia statutes in the part across the river, thus making a slave code without mentioning slavery 1 In 1793 Congress accepted federal responsibility for the capture of fugitives by passing a fugitive-slave act, 2 and a strong public sentiment, shared by the border slave states, led to a succession of minor statutes regulating the trade. Congress re-enacted the Ordinance of 1787 for the successive territories-Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin--carved out of the Northwest Territory, and resisted the repeated efforts, between 1796 and 1811, to repeal that ordinance for the Indiana Territory, which then extended to the Mississippi; so that both Indiana and Illinois were admitted into the Union on ant-slavery constitutions. In the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Congress reiterated its right to prohibit slavery in any territory at its discretion.

The distinct anti-slavery spirit of Congress was a

1 Tremain, Slavery in the District of Columbia, 11-14.

2 Bassett, Federalist System (American Nation, XI.), 187-89. 

reflex of a powerful movement which showed itself in pamphlets, public addresses, organized societies, anti-slavery journals, and a few acts of state legislatures, and was encouraged by the contemporary fight against the British slave-trade. It was discouraged by the first instance of an emancipated colony in America. The island of Haiti was the seat of a sugar industry employing about six hundred thousand slaves and busying eight hundred vessels. A civil war between the whites and the free negroes led to a slave insurrection in 1791. The English invaded the island in 1793, and the French authorities, to whom the Spanish end of the island was ceded in 1795, declared the slaves free. 1 Haiti was for a time blotted out of political life, and emerged in 1801 with a negro government. Hundreds of refugees reached the United States, and specific point was given to their warnings, in 1800, by an insurrection planned by a negro named Gabriel, in Henrico county, Virginia.

"It is evident," said a contemporary, "that the French principles of liberty and equality have been effused into the minds of the negroes." 2 Before the insurrection could be consummated, Gabriel was betrayed, arrested, duly tried, and convicted, and, four days afterwards, executed. The outbreak increased both the American and English objections to the slave-trade; and twenty-three days after the

1 Jay, Miscellaneous Writings, 171-178.

2 Higginson, Travellers and Outlaws, 197.

United States act of 1807, Parliament, led by Clarkson and Wilberforce, absolutely prohibited the slave-trade either by English subjects or to English colonies; the two statutes seemed to strike hands for the destruction of the traffic and for the assertion of the principle that it was iniquitous to buy and sell Africans. Congress enacted in 1819 that slaves taken in transit should be returned in freedom to Africa; and in 1820 declared the slave-trade to be piracy, which made the trader liable to the penalty of death.

This work accomplished, the hostility to slavery became a distinct propaganda, which took on three different forms: an attempt through churches and other existing means to arouse public sentiment; an organized emancipation agitation directed by a national society; and colonization. Unlike later abolition, this whole movement was carried on by people who lived in or adjoining the slave-holding states, who worked upon their own legislatures and were able to reach the slave - holders with their literature. Thus James G. Birney set himself with success to securing acts of the Alabama legislature for the more humane treatment of slaves, and William Swaim freely published anti-slavery articles in North Carolina.1

 By far the most interesting figure in this movement is Benjamin Lundy, born a New Jersey Quaker, but later a resident of several slave states. In 1850

1 Weeks, Southern Quakers and Slavery, 240,

he began to organize anti-slavery societies, some of them in southern states; in 1821 he founded an abolition paper,” The Genius of Universal Emancipation”. He was sure that the open discussion of slavery would bring about its downfall, and he made many long journeys through the southern states to gather experience and to preach his doctrines. In 1828 a journeyman printer, named William Lloyd Garrison, fell in with Lundy in Boston, and said of him afterwards: "His heart is of a gigantic size. Every inch of him is alive with power ...  Within a few months he has travelled about twenty-four hundred miles, of which upwards of sixteen hundred were performed on foot! during which time he has held nearly fifty public meetings." 1

 Several other anti-slavery papers appeared between 1815 and 1829, especially The Philanthropist, .published in St. Clairsville, Ohio, and The Freeman's Journal, published by a negro in New York City; and there is a literature of formal books attacking slavery, most of them by members of slave-holding families. Thus John Rankin preached and wrote against slavery in Kentucky, and then settled in Ohio, where he published a volume of Letters on Slavery, which became a sort of text-book for abolitionists. Another group was made up of middle-states men, who argued against slavery on general principles -among them William Rawle, a renowned constitutional 'lawyer, and Isaac T. Hopper,

1 Garrison, Garrison I., 92.

for fifty seven years a public opponent of slavery.

Upon such moral questions the best way of concentrating public opinion was through the state and national assemblies of the great churches. In 1812 the Methodist General Conference voted that no slave-holder could continue as a local elder. The Presbyterian General Assembly in 1815 urged that the slaves be educated, as a step towards emancipation, and in 1818 unanimously resolved that slavery was "a gross violation of the most precious and moral rights of human nature, as utterly inconsistent with the law of God ... and as totally irreconcilable with the spirit and principles of the gospel of Christ." 1 Some of the Baptist churches withdrew from their loose general organization because of a lack of testimony against slavery; and a few separate congregations refused to admit to Christian brotherhood any holder of slaves. The Quakers were, as always, the most constant and resolute opponents of slavery.

The anti-slavery agitators were among the first to discover the usefulness of organized societies, encouraging each other, spreading information and arguments from community to community, and combining in a national convention. The Pennsylvania Society continued unbroken existence from 177 5. By 1808 societies had appeared in New Jersey, Kentucky, and New York; in Delaware, in

1 Niles' Register, XVI., Supt., p. 153.

1809; in Tennessee, in 1814; in Ohio and North Carolina, in 1816; in Maryland, in 1817; in Virginia, in 1823. The total number of local societies under the labors of Lundy and others increased towards 1830 to upward of one hundred, representing every state in the Union except only New England, the extreme southern states, and Indiana. Such societies held meetings, issued addresses, memorialized legislatures, protected negroes, and sustained anti-slavery publications. 

The strongest anti-slavery force was the organization first called the "American Convention of Delegates from Abolition Societies," but after 1818 "The American Convention for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and Improving the Condition of the African Race." 1 From 1794 to 1806 the convention met annually; then every three years till 1815; thereafter, at least as often as once in two years. The local societies were all free to send delegates, but after 1809 none came from beyond North Carolina and Tennessee. The middle states furnished about half the delegates; the other half came from the six southern states lying nearest to the border.

The convention was an active and forth-putting body: it heard reports on the condition of the reform; its minutes were published and distributed; it bought, encouraged, and sent out anti-slavery

1 For details with regard to this and the local societies I am indebted to an unpublished monograph by Alice Dana Adams, Anti-Slavery, 1808-1831-a Study of a Neglected Period.

publications and its own resolutions; it addressed petitions to state legislatures and to Congress. No phase of slavery was left out of its discussions. The convention urged the education of slaves and their training to take care of themselves, so that they might safely be set free. It tried to create public sentiment against slavery in the District of Columbia, and memorialized Congress to abolish it there and also in the territory of Florida. It kept the discussion alive and did something to arouse the public conscience of the south; but the meetings grew less vigorous, till in the last convention of 1829 only seven societies were represented, and of those only two were from the south.

 This decay of the American Convention was due to the rise of cotton culture, which made slavery profitable, and to the counter -movement of the American Colonization Society. The idea of carrying the negroes out of the country can be traced back to Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, in 1784.  In 1816 was formed "The American Society for the Colonization of the Free People of Color of the United States," under the presidency of Judge Bushrod Washington, subsequently of Henry Clay. It founded an organ called The African Repository, and raised money to send out agents to Africa, in 1818, to select a site for a colony.  Great impetus was given to the movement in 1819 when Congress passed an act providing that negroes captured while being illegally imported into the United States should be returned to Africa, and appropriating one hundred thousand dollars, which was intended to be used by the new society.

A new reason for the movement was furnished in 1822, at Charleston, by Denmark Vesey, a free negro, who made an elaborate plot to rise, massacre the white population, seize the shipping in the harbor, and, if hard pressed, to sail away to the West Indies. One of the negroes gave evidence, Vesey was seized, duly tried, and, with thirty-four others, was hanged. The desperate plan was so nearly successful that it left an ineradicable distrust of the free negroes and a desire to get them out of the country.1

 Backed up by the approving resolutions of several state legislatures, north and south, by a small appropriation from Virginia, and a much larger one from Maryland-which went, however, to a separate state society-supported by many state auxiliary societies, and with the national government in the background, the Colonization Society proceeded to plant its colony. In 1820 eighty-six negroes were sent to Africa, and in 1822 a settlement was made on the west coast to which the name of Liberia was later given. These powerful influences, however, were not sufficient to overcome distance, malaria, savage neighbors, and a tropical climate. In the ten years from 1820 to 1830, with an expenditure of one hundred thousand dollars, the society was

1 Niles' Register, XXII., 320; Higginson, Travellers and Outlaws, 215-275.

able to transfer only 1162 people, all but two hundred from the coast border states; of these the greater part died within a few years after landing.

Till 1830 there seems to have been no notion that slavery was a subject which must not be discussed in Congress, and a variety of national and international questions brought it up. Contrary to a clause in the peace of Ghent of 1814, the retiring British carried away several hundred slaves, in behalf of whose owners the federal government at once demanded compensation, and eventually the British government paid twelve hundred thousand dollars. Having prohibited the slave-trade to their own colonies, it became the interest of the British government to stop it to other American colonies, and treaties were made with Denmark, Holland, Spain, and Portugal to that effect. By the treaty of 1814 the United States agreed to "use their best endeavors" to bring about a general abolition of the detested trade, a promise which slumbered for some years; but in 1824 John Quincy Adams negotiated a treaty giving to British cruisers the right, which was absolutely necessary if the trade were to be stamped out, to search American vessels engaged in the trade. The Senate threw over the treaty on a technicality, and it was eighteen years before the two parties again came together on the question. 2

After 1825 the southern leaders in Congress began to grow

1 American Colonization Society, Fiftieth Annual Report, 64, 65; McPherson, Liberia, passim.

2 See below, chap. xix. I

more nervous. In 1826 they objected to sending delegates to the Panama Congress because the negro republic of Haiti was to be invited, and the meeting might lead to an insurrection in Cuba; for the freeing of slaves so near our coast was thought likely to be a dangerous object-lesson for the southern slaves. The abolitionists opened up a good point of attack against slavery in the District of Columbia, where the three municipalities of Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria made a series of local ordinances for the discipline of the negroes, and the law of the District permitted negroes who could not give an account of themselves to be sold for their jail-fees. About 1828, Miner, of Pennsylvania, made himself the leader in the movement, introducing petitions and bills for gradual emancipation in the District, which the legislature of Pennsylvania instructed its senators to vote for; and a petition from the District was presented with a thousand signatures. The number of slaves in the District in 1830 was only 6060, and slavery might easily 'have been extinguished; but the south was awake to the moral effect of such action, and Congress ignored the movement.

 When Jackson became president, in 1829, antislavery seemed, after fifty years of effort, to have spent its force. The voice of the churches was no longer heard in protest; the abolitionist societies were dying out; there was hardly an abolitionist militant in the field; the Colonization Society absorbed most of the public interest in the subject, and it was doing nothing to help either the free negro or the slave; in Congress there was only one anti-slavery man, and his efforts were without avail. It was a gloomy time for the little band of people who believed that slavery was poisonous to the south, hurtful to the north, and dangerous to the Union.

 The arguments against slavery during this period were substantially the same as those used by the later abolitionists, and turned mainly on natural right, Christianity, humanity, the 'bad effects on the southern whites, and the injury to the whole Union. The argument of natural right was in accord with the text of all the slave-state constitutions and of the principles of government in the south. If there were any "inalienable" rights, property in man was impossible; to exclude negroes from the principles of the Declaration of Independence they must be looked on as something else-than men; 1 and, therefore, pro - slavery writers sometimes abjured the Declaration of Independence as false and unthinkable.2 Human rights were expanding both in content and extent: Anglo-Saxons were being relieved from the arbitrary control of employers and jailers, and the alien was admitted to both the old and the new privileges. To hold that men could be excluded from the beneficent principles of free government

1 Channing, Works, II., 11-50.

2 Hopkins, View of Slavery, 19-29.

because they were inferior to other men was a doctrine which struck at the basis of free government in America.

 The anti-slavery argument from Christianity appealed to the principles of Christianity. Who was to shut the negro out from the Golden Rule, from the glorious message of the gospel, from the building -up of his own character through the grace of God?  It was hard to escape from the dilemma that if the negro was a hopeless pagan, incapable of civilization and of the Christian virtues, his presence was an unspeakable curse to the community; and if he was a man who could respond to the divine truths, who made the white man his keeper? 1

 Africa might perhaps be held responsible for the low morals of the slave; but it was a fair argument that slavery denied both Christianity and civilization when it broke up families. To say that negroes "are themselves both perverse and comparatively indifferent about this matter, ... the negroes forming those connections, knowing the chances of their premature dissolution," was to admit the damaging charge that slave life paralyzed the natural family instincts even of the savage.2

The cruelty of slavery was also an unfailing argument; from the southern newspapers themselves, from every-day advertisements, from the reports of

1 Cheever, Guilt of Slavery, passim. 2 Channing, Works, I., 41, II., 69-72; Hammond, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 132.

travellers, incidents could be gleaned which sickened and appalled the reader. The rejoinder that cruelties occurred constantly in northern institutions, such as jails, poor - houses, and orphan - asylums, was not conclusive; in the northern states public sentiment was watchful, and nobody felt that the whipping of defenceless people was necessary for the preservation of society.

Anti-slavery people took exceptions to the restrictions, legal and practical, on the intellectual improvement of the negro, and to the cynical defences of those restrictions.,1

The anti-slavery argument covered not only the slaves, but the white men. It criticised the imperiousness of the master, the demoralizing effect of the relations of the sexes, the setting-up of the great slave-holding families as the head of social and political life, the effect on the poor whites of the degradation of labor. In the national government the influence of the great slave-holders was paramount during the whole period from 1815 to 1860. Of the five northern presidents-John Quincy Adams, Van Buren, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan- one stood against the pro-slavery men while in office. No recognized abolitionist and few out-and-out anti-slavery men, after 1840, were appointed to a foreign mission or a consulate, or a collectorate or important post-mastership, or to the federal bench. In Congress, the southerners, by their abilities, their

1 See Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 51.

long terms of service, their habit of standing together, and their success in holding a part of the northern men, almost always had their will.

The most telling argument against slavery in the long-run was that it did not pay. Inasmuch as it did pay some people, as the wealth of the south increased from decade to decade, it was hard to make anybody believe that slavery was really a drain on the community.1 The census of 1850, the accumulated materials in journals like Niles' Register and De Bow's Review, and the criticisms of Olmsted brought out the fact that the south was gaining wealth slowly, and that in value of land, value of crops, value of buildings, miles of railroad, and extent of shipping, and also in schools, journals, and other evidences of intellectual growth, had fallen behind the rest of the Union. The antislavery people were sure that the only reason was that the north had free labor and the south had slave labor. The experience of the last forty years has shown that slavery was not a complete explanation. The negro could not be made as efficient as the intelligent, well-rewarded, and productive labor of the north simply by setting him free. The south was equally mistaken in insisting that slavery was the only thing that made the negro efficient; it was clinging to a cast-iron and rigid system which America had outgrown.

1 Buckingham, Slave States, I., 201-204, 399-404.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 152-169. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.



See also Congress, Slavery Debates, Eighteenth Century

TILL the extensive cultivation of cotton opened a vast field of rapid development in the lower south, there was in all the Union a steady progress in anti-slavery sentiment. This was due chiefly to the fact that slavery did not pay in the middle and eastern colonies, to the acceptance in the revolutionary period of the theories of the rights of man; to the continual fear of negro insurrections; and to the fact that most of the American slave-markets were overstocked. 1 This tendency manifested itself in two movements: one against the foreign slave-trade, by which that source of slavery was at length cut off from the whole country; and the other for the actual extinction of slavery, by which all the north and northwest except Delaware were made free territory. 2

The attack on the slave-trade began with the

1 Du Bois, Suppression of the Slave-Trade, 41.

2 On earlier conditions of slavery, see Andrews, Colonial Self-Government, chap. xviii.; Greene, Provincial America, chap. xiv. (Am. Nation, V., VI.).

first Continental Congress. In the famous "Association," or non-importation resolutions of 1774, it was agreed that no slaves should be imported into any of the thirteen colonies after December 1, 1774, and that no colony vessels should engage, or be hired to others to engage, in that traffic.1 In 1776 the Congress, now committed to resistance, reaffirmed their position in a special resolution. The war which followed throughout a period of seven years cut off importations so generally that it is impossible to estimate the precise effect of these restrictions; but it is certain that till 1783 slave importations almost entirely ceased.2 No further restriction was placed on the traffic by the national government till the formation of the Constitution.

In the meantime individual states passed laws against the foreign slave-trade, and did much to rid the country of the evil. By 1778 all the north, and Virginia and Maryland as well, had by statute, or as a result of other action, made importations impossible. When the war was over there was a tendency for the far south to revive the trade; but in q86 North Carolina laid a prohibitive duty on slaves brought into her borders, and in 1787 South Carolina declared for absolute prohibition. For a time Georgia held out for slaves; but the Haytian insurrection of 1791 created in the south a lively

1 Journals of Continental Congress (Ford's ed.), I., 7 5-80; cf. Howard, Preliminaries of the Revolution (Am. Nation, VIII.), chap. xvii.

2 Locke, Anti-Slavery in America, 73. 

suspicion of all newly imported negroes. South Carolina passed a new prohibitory law in 1792; North Carolina, who had repealed her high duties in 1790, declared against all importations in 1794; and Georgia came reluctantly to the same position in 1798.1 Thus by state action the country was rid of the slave-trade before the close of the eighteenth century.

Nevertheless, any of these states might, if left to themselves, repeal their prohibitions and restore the traffic, to prevent which result many people desired that the new national government be given control over the slave-trade. In the Constitutional Convention of 1787 such a proposition was made and supported by the northern states and by Virginia and Maryland; but the extreme south resisted it stoutly. It was well enough, they said, for the north, which had no slaves, and for Virginia and Maryland, which were overstocked with them, to desire to check importations, but for the lower south the matter was different. Georgia was still an unsettled region, and the same was true to a less extent in the Carolinas. So earnestly did these three states resist that the delegates were convinced that they would not ratify the Constitution if it contained the objectionable clause. The majority, therefore, did not dare force them, but adopted a compromise, the purport of which was to give the three states mentioned an opportunity to acquire

1 Du Bois, Suppression of the Slave-Trade, 51, 71. 

the desired stocks of negroes before the trade was forbidden by national statute.1 Congress declared the Constitution as finally framed, should not, before 1808, prohibit the introduction to the Union of such persons as any state saw fit to admit, but they might impose a tax of ten dollars on each imported person.2 In 1807 a law was passed by which Congress put into effect the powers granted to it. Four years earlier the nation received an illustration of how much the power was needed when South Carolina repealed her law restricting the trade. Various attempts were made to lay the ten-dollar duty authorized in the Constitution, but for several reasons they all failed. 3

In another relation slavery proved a source of dissension in the Constitutional Convention. When the apportionment of members of the popular branch of Congress was taken up, conflicting opinions quickly appeared over the counting of the slaves in the south. Delegates from that section urged that the whole population, black and white, ought to be the basis of representation. The northern delegates generally opposed this claim. The south, they urged, did not let the slaves vote and should not expect to count them in fixing its share of representation. Much angry debate followed, till the

1 See McLaughlin, Confederation and Constitution (Am. Nation, X.) I 262-266.

2 Du Bois, Suppression of the Slave-Trade, chap. vi.; cf. United States Constitution, art. i., sec. 18.

3 Locke, Anti-Slavery in America, 136-139, 145, 148-155.

amicable conduct of the proceedings seemed in danger, when Madison and some of his intimate friends proposed a compromise. In 1777 a similar controversy had arisen over the apportionment of direct taxes, with the difference that at that time the north had desired and the south had opposed the counting of the slaves. The question, under the delicate adjustments of the old constitution, could not be settled; but it was now revived, and a compromise was made by which it was agreed that three-fifths of the slaves should be counted for the purpose of representation and three-fifths for apportioning direct taxes. The infrequency with which these taxes have been laid by the national government made the compromise result to the benefit of the south.1

While the slave-trade was being disposed of by state and national enactment an important movement was in progress against the very existence of slavery in a large 'part of the Union. One by one the northerµ states came to legislate against the legal basis of bondage, till by the time the traffic was forbidden every state but one lying north of Mason and Dixon's historic line had either established freedom or taken steps for its gradual accomplishment. It was not difficult for the north to do this, since slavery was not wide-spread or

1 Bancroft, Formation of the Constitution (ed. of 1885), 264-266; cf. McLaughlin, Confederation and Constitution (Am. Nation, X.), 255-260.

economically profitable in that section. The non-slaveholders in the south were always numerous, but they were not people of influence. In the north they were both numerous and influential; and when  those earnest men, like the Quakers, who believed it a duty to rid the country of slavery, set out to organize public opinion on the subject, they had no great difficulty in succeeding. They sought to destroy slavery by three methods -by constitutional enactment, by laws for immediate emancipation, and by laws for gradual liberation.

The first of the American states to declare for freedom was Vermont, the state in which slavery was weakest. In a bill of rights adopted in 1777, when the people declared themselves a state, slavery was forbidden.1 New Hampshire in 1784 declared in her organic law that "all men are born equally free and independent," and in the face of so plain a declaration slavery, essentially weak in that state, made no contest. 2 In. Massachusetts it had a stronger hold, but here the anti-slavery faction was also strong and aggressive. Several attempts for emancipation by legislative enactment having failed, the friends of freedom now turned to a clause in the Constitution of 1780 which declared that “all men are born free and equal." A case was made up for the courts, by which it was claimed that the import of the clause was to establish freedom; and these finally held, about 1783, that the contention

1 Locke, Anti-Slavery in America, 80.

2 Ibid., 116. 

was a good one. Thus Massachusetts became free territory, and with it went Maine, then under its jurisdiction. 1

Immediate emancipation by state statute was frequently attempted, but only successful in New York, and then not till 1827, which was many years after a law for gradual emancipation had been passed. All the other northern states but Delaware adopted this latter form of abolition. Pennsylvania, urged to it by the activity of the Quakers, acted first, passing her law in 1780. Connecticut and Rhode Island followed in 1784, and New Jersey in 1804.2 Gradual emancipation is defined as "the extinction of slavery by depriving it of its hereditary quality." 3 In all those states in which slavery was forced out of existence it was defended earnestly by the general body of slave-holders and slave-traders; and when it had been defeated it was necessary in some of the states to pass laws to prevent these disappointed ones from sending their slaves out of the states, presumably in order to sell them.

In the south there was considerable anti-slavery feeling, especially in Virginia, where most of the leading public men were opposed to the institution. But the mass of the people clung to their slaves, because they were an important form of wealth, and the wisest of the liberators could not suggest a practicable method of disposing of the negroes after they

1 Locke, Anti-Slavery in America, 80-82.

2 Ibid., 77-79, 123-125, 127, 128.

3 Ibid., 124. 

were freed; so the movement, although favored by so influential a man as Jefferson, came to naught. The failure here marked the point which peaceful emancipation was to reach in its southward course. 1 From the fading of hope in Virginia the country was committed to a free and a slave section. In the one was an aggressive element which proclaimed its hostility to slavery and expressed freely its opinion that it made the nation responsible for the crime of denying liberty to human beings. In the other was an increasing feeling that slavery was condemned, and that all southerners must act together if it were not overridden. Out of this grew a solidifying of the sections, an opposition of north to south and south to north, and a sensitiveness on the slave question which, although for a time subservient to other issues, was never quite forgotten, and which eventually became the cause of secession and civil war.

While the opponents of slavery contended against it in the original thirteen states they did not fail to try to forestall it in the west. In the part north and west of the Ohio they won an easy victory, southerners and northerners uniting to dedicate it to freedom, and Jefferson led the movement. In 1784 he and others supported a bill in the old Congress to prohibit slavery after 1800 in all the west; but this was defeated by one vote. In 1787 the demand was limited to the prohibition of slavery in the north-

1 Ballagh, Slavery in Virginia, 130-136; Locke, Anti-Slavery in America, 129. 

west, and this attempt was successful.1 Five states were later hewn out of the region to which this Northwest Ordinance applied, and all of them were free states. Since nothing was done to prohibit slavery in the territory south of the Ohio, slave-holders went into it freely, and when it reached the stage of statehood it came into the Union as slave territory, thus preserving the sectional character of the Union. When Mississippi became a territory in 1798, an attempt was made in Congress to have it declared free territory, but so strong was the feeling that the south was reserved for slavery and the north for freedom that only twelve votes were given in support of the proposition.2 In another instance the same determination was manifested in 1805, when a bill was introduced in Congress to secure gradual emancipation in the District of Columbia. It was rejected by a vote of 77 to 31. 3

Soon after the organization of the new Congress there began that series of petitions for the restriction of slavery in one way or another which was not to cease till 1865. The petitioners knew that many of the things asked for were impossible or politically improbable, but they continued their petitions, thinking that this would crystallize anti-slavery sentiment and believing that in the long run constitutional

1 McLaughlin, Confederation and Constitution (Am. Nation, X.), 120-126.

2 Annals of Cong., 5 Cong., 1306-1312.

3 Tremain, Slavery in the District of Columbia, 58; Annals of Cong:, 8 Cong., 2 Sess., 995.

restrictions and adverse public opinion would give way before their demands for what they felt was right. Many of the petitioners were Quakers, a people always active against slavery and at this time unpopular in sections where they had no political influence, because they would not fight in the Revolutionary armies.

In February, 1790, three petitions came to Congress for the prohibition or the restriction of the slave-trade. This was not unexpected by the southerners, who particularly desired that the first utterance of Congress on a question so dear to them should recognize the rights of the states over slavery. Cautious southerners, even those who like Madison were opposed to slavery, hoped that the southern congressmen would be reasonable and secure a clear statement of their rights.1 They were already caught in the great solidifying movement of the south on this question, and there could be no doubt that the petitions referred to were against the compromise of the Constitution on the prohibition of the slave-trade, an agreement to which Madison and the group of southern opponents· of slavery had given their assent. The south, therefore, stood together, but they did not show the temperateness which Madison had hoped for. There were ever some southerners who would not be quiet when slavery was criticised, and these were soon on their feet demanding that the anti-slavery petitions should not

1 Madison, Works (Congress ed.), I., 513 

be referred to a committee. Defeated on this point, they were thrown into a rage when the committee reported with a decided leaning towards emancipation in the abstract. A heated discussion followed in which the report of the committee was modified. Resolutions including the following important princ1ples were adopted:

"1. That the migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, cannot be prohibited by Congress prior to the year 1808.

 "2. That Congress have no power to interfere in the emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of them within any of the states, it remaining with the several states alone to provide any regulations therein which humanity and true policy may require.

"3. That Congress have authority to restrain the citizens of the United States from carrying on the African trade for the purpose of supplying foreigners with slaves, and of providing by proper regulations, for the humane treatment during their passage of slaves imported by the said citizens into the states admitting such importation.

 "4. That Congress have also authority to prohibit foreigners from fitting out vessels in any port of the United States for transporting persons from Africa to any foreign port." 1

The resolutions plainly declared that Congress would do all it could under the Constitution to

1 Annals of Cong., 1 Cong., 1182, 1197, 1413, 1414, 1450-1474. 

restrain the foreign slave-trade; and in 1794 it did pass a law in keeping with the third resolution.

The recovery of fugitive slaves was provided for in 1793 in a law concerning extradition,1 and in this case the south got all that it could expect. It was provided that a master or his agent might recover a fugitive by taking him before a federal judge or local magistrate, who, without a jury and by oral testimony or by affidavits, was to determine the question of ownership. This law was made to meet a serious difficulty. A northern Jury was not likely to be entirely unprejudiced, to carry before them ordinary witnesses from the south was practically impossible, and in the usual procedure the delays which the defendant could secure would be very trying to the claimant. All of this could make the recovery of a real fugitive slave so expensive that it would not pay the owner.

On the other hand, the law worked a hardship to the negroes. It made kidnapping of free negroes in the north easy and profitable. Even in the south a negro was treated as a. freeman in a trial for his freedom; but as a fugitive in the north he was deprived of the rights of a freeman in anticipation of a verdict as to his freedom. The master's rights and the slave's conflicted, and the master was the law-maker. It was ever the habit of slavery to balance one wrong by another.

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, I., 302; McDougall, Fugitive Slaves (Radcliffe Monographs, No. 6), chap. ii.; Hart, Slavery and Abolition (Am. Nation, XVI.), chap. ii.

Source:  Bassett, John Spencer, The Federalist System. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 11, 178-189. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


APPLETON, General James, 1785-1862, temperance reformer, abolitionist leader, soldier, clergyman.  Leader of the anti-slavery Liberty Party.  Candidate for Governor of Maine, 1842, 1843, 1844.  Wrote against the Missouri Compromise for the New England Anti-Slavery Tract Association.  Supported abolitionist James Birney.  

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 301, 405n12; Wiley, 1886; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, p. 82; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, p. 327)

APPLETON, James, temperance reformer, b. in Ipswich, Mass., 14 Feb., 1786; d. there, 25 Aug., 1862. When a young man he was elected to the legislature of his native state, and during the war with Great Britain he served as a colonel of Massachusetts militia, and after the close of the war was made a brigadier-general. During his subsequent residence at Portland, Me., he was elected to the legislature in 1836-'37, but he returned finally to his native town, where he died. By his speeches and publications he exercised great influence upon public sentiment in favor of abolition and total abstinence. In his report to the Maine legislature in 1837 he was the first to expound the principle embodied in the Maine law. See his “Life,” by S. H. Gay. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. pp. 82.



Chapter: “Incendiary Publication Bill. - Admission of Arkansas. Conversion of Free Soil into Slave Soil. -Attempt to Censure Mr. Adams. - Right of Petition Denied,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

The Territories of Arkansas and Michigan applied to Congress for enabling acts, but Congress neglected or refused their application. The people of these Territories, failing to obtain authority to hold conventions, had framed State constitutions, and in the winter of 1836 asked admission into the Union. A bill for the admission of Michigan was reported by Mr. Benton, and another for the admission of Arkansas was reported by Mr. Buchanan. One was a free State, the other a slave State. It was the purpose of the supporters of the administration that they should go through together, so as to keep up the equilibrium between the free and the slave States.

Mr. Morris of Ohio, believing slavery to be wrong in principle and mischievous in practice, said he would vote against the admission of Arkansas, if he thought he had the right to do so. But he considered that his political obligations and the duties he owed to the Constitution required him to vote for its admission. Holding such views, he announced that he could not refuse his vote, though the constitution of that State did recognize the existence of slavery. On the other hand, Mr. Swift of Vermont declared that as he found by the constitution of Arkansas that slavery was made perpetual, he could never give his assent to her admission.

The bills for the admission of Arkansas and Michigan were promptly passed by the Senate, with slight opposition. In the House, after a brief debate, they were committed to the committee of the whole, and on the 9th of June a struggle commenced which continued twenty-five hours. Several members participated in the debate. The constitution of Arkansas provided that the general assembly should have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves without the consent of the owners, or laws to prevent immigrants from bringing slaves with them. Mr. Adams moved to amend the bill so as to declare that nothing in the act should be construed as an assent by Congress to the articles of the constitution relating to slavery and the emancipation of slaves. Mr. Adams held that Arkansas had a right to come into the Union "with her slaves and her slave laws." "It is written," he said, "in the bond; and, however I may lament that it ever was so written, I must faithfully perform the obligations. I am content to receive her as one of the slaveholding States of the Union; but I am unwilling that Congress, in accepting her constitution, should even be under the imputation of assenting to an article in the constitution of a State which withholds from its legislature the power to give freedom to the slave."

During the debate which followed, Mr. Wise inquired of Mr. Adams whether, if his amendment should be adopted, Arkansas would be admitted by the bill as a State. To this inquiry Mr. Adams replied: "Certainly, sir; there is not in my amendment the shadow of a restriction proposed upon the State. It leaves the State, like all the rest, to regulate the subject of slavery within herself by her own laws."

Declaring that upon the subject he could not go " the breadth of a hair " beyond the obligations imposed upon him by the Constitution, Mr. Briggs of Massachusetts emphatically avowed that he could not give ·his sanction to the constitution of Arkansas, which doomed a large portion of her present and future population to unconditional and interminable slavery; nor could he betray his own sense of propriety, or be treacherous to the freemen who sent him there.

During that excited and disorderly debate, Mr. Wise of Virginia announced that, as a Southern man, he felt it his duty to take a stand in behalf of slavery, which he dignified as an institution of the South. He announced that, if the members from the North sought to impose restrictions upon slavery, the men of the South might be impelled to introduce slavery in the heart of the North.

To this menace Mr. Cushing of Massachusetts, after expressing the hope that it was not a deliberate and cherished purpose, but a hasty thought struck out in the ardor of debate, thus eloquently replied: "To introduce slavery into the heart of the North! Vain idea! Invasion, pestilence, civil war, may conspire to exterminate the eight tnilli6hs of free spirits who now dwell there. This, in the long lapse of ages incalculable, is possible to happen. You may raze to the earth the thronged cities, the industrious villages, the peaceful hamlets of the North. You may lay waste its fertile valleys and verdant hillsides. You may plant its very soil with salt, and consign it to ever lasting desolation. You may transform its, beautiful fields into a desert as bare as the black face of the sands of Sahara. You may reach the realization of the infernal boast with which Attila the Hun marched his barbaric hosts into Italy, demolishing whatever there is of civilization or prosperity in the happy dwellings of the North, and reducing their very substance to powder, so that a squadron of cavalry shall gallop over the site of populous cities, unimpeded as the wild steeds on the savannas of the West. All this you may do; it is within the bounds of physical possibility. But I solemnly assure every gentleman within the sound of my voice, I proclaim to the country and to the world, that until all this be fully accomplished to the uttermost extremity of the letter you cannot, you shall not, introduce slavery into the heart of the North.

The amendment of Mr. Adams received but thirty-two votes. Fifty members only voted against the admission of Arkansas; and most of their votes were cast not on account of the cruel provision of her constitution, dooming her slaves to hopeless and perpetual servitude, but for other reasons, personal, political, or prudential. Indeed it is to be feared that very few were governed in their votes by the fixed and unalterable purpose of opposing a provision so abhorrent to human nature, the doctrines of liberty, and the precepts of Christianity.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 343-345.


ARMAT, Thomas (Armatt), abolitionist leader, Committee of Twenty-Four/Committee of Guardians, founding member, Electing Committee, Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 1787 

(Basker, 2005, pp. 92, 102; Nash, 1991, p. 129; Nathan, 1991)


ARNOLD, Isaac Newton, 1815-1884, lawyer, historian, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives 1860-1864, voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.  Republican.  Introduced anti-slavery bill in Congress.  Served as an officer in the Union Army.  Active in Free Soil movement of 1848. Protested Fugitive Slave Law, October 1850. Outspoken opponent of slavery. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. p. 96; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 368-369; Congressional Globe)

ARNOLD, Isaac Newton, lawyer, b. in Hartwick, Otsego co., N. Y., 30 Nov., 1815; d. in Chicago, 24 April, 1884. His father, Dr. George W. Arnold, was a native of Rhode Island, whence he removed to western New York in 1800. After attending the district and select schools, Isaac Arnold was thrown on his own resources at the age of fifteen. For several years he taught school a part of each year, earning enough to study law, and at the age of twenty was admitted to the bar. In 1836 he removed to Chicago, where he spent the rest of his life, and was prominent as a lawyer and in politics. He was elected city clerk of Chicago in 1837, and, beginning in 1843, served several terms in the legislature. The state was then heavily in debt, and Mr. Arnold became the acknowledged champion of those who were opposed to repudiation. In 1844 he was a presidential elector, and in 1860 was elected to congress as a republican, serving two terms. At the battle of Bull Run he acted as volunteer aide to Col. Hunter, and did good service in caring for the wounded. While in congress he was chairman of the committee on the defences and fortifications of the great lakes and rivers, and afterward chairman of the committee on manufactures, serving also as member of the committee on roads and canals. He voted for the bill abolishing slavery in the district of Columbia, and in March, 1862, he introduced a bill prohibiting slavery in every place under national control. This bill was passed on 19 June, 1862, after much resistance, and on 15 Feb., 1864, Mr. Arnold introduced in the house of representatives a resolution, which was passed, declaring that the constitution of the United States should be so amended as to abolish slavery. His ablest speech in congress was on the confiscation bill, and was made 2 May, 1862. In 1865 President Johnson appointed him sixth auditor to the U. S. treasury. Mr. Arnold was an admirable public speaker, and delivered addresses before various literary societies, both at home and abroad. Ha had been intimate with Abraham Lincoln for many years before Mr. Lincoln's election to the presidency, and in 1866 he published a biography of him (new ed., rewritten and enlarged, Chicago, 1885). This was followed in 1879 by a “Life of Benedict Arnold,” which, while acknowledging the enormity of Arnold's treason, vindicates and praises him in other respects. The author claimed no relationship with the subject of his work. His life of Lincoln is valuable for the clearness with which it shows the historical relations of the president to the great events of his administration; and the author's death is said to have been caused, in part, by his persistent labor in completing his last revision of this work. Mr. Arnold was for many years president of the Chicago historical society, and Hon. E. B. Washburne delivered an address on his life before the society, 21 Oct., 1884 (Chicago, 1884). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. pp. 96.



Chapter: “Calhoun's Resolutions. --Atherton's Resolutions.--Ashburton Treaty,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

From the year 1806 England had sought the active cooperation of the United States for the suppression of the slave-trade; but these efforts were unavailing. The American government kept in the African waters only the inadequate force of two or three small vessels. . It also steadily refused to consent to any arrangement for the right of mutual visitation and search; and the American flag, even by the acknowledgment of Mr. Stevenson, minister to the Court of St. James, was prostituted by the slave pirates of all nationalities to cover their nefarious trade.

The leading European powers seeking the entire extirpation of the infamous traffic, a treaty was formed on the 20th of December, 1841, between Great Britain, Austria, France, Prussia, and Russia, for the complete suppression of the African slave-trade. It was called the Quintuple Treaty. It provided that certain cruisers belonging to those countries should be instructed to visit and detain within certain specified limits merchant vessels of the other contracting parties, suspected of being engaged in the unlawful commerce, and to co-operate with each other for its complete suppression. This treaty excited much interest in the United States, on whose government, it was believed, the high contracting parties would exert their moral power in an attempt to persuade it to join the effort.

But there was existing in this country a traditional distrust of England and dislike of her policy in regard to the right of search, which had been intensified by the war of 1812, and in which the whole country largely shared. The slaveholders, irritated, if not alarmed, by the position of England on the question of slavery, shrewdly seized upon this American jealousy as a potent agency in their attempts to defeat the treaty. General Cass, then minister to France, protested, and prepared a pamphlet against its ratification. Nor is there much doubt that his influence and efforts aided the Anti-British party, which was then large and active, in securing its defeat.

On the 9th of August, 1842, what is known as the Ashburton Treaty was signed at Washington. Among its provisions was one that the United States should keep a force of eighty guns, requiring about a thousand men, on the coast of Africa, for the suppression of the slave-trade. This provision was bitterly assailed in Congress, and strenuous efforts were made to defeat it. Mr. Benton took the lead in this attempt, mingling argument, denunciation, and sarcasm in his opposition: He spoke of it as madness and folly,--" a roaming philanthropy" that had taken the negroes of Africa for objects of protection. He characterized the President's message accompanying the treaty as "a mass of ambiguities and, obscurities." The measure, he said, appeared to be an American proposition, but he denounced it as certainly a British proposition; “it is certainly a British proposition “that yokes America with England on the coast of Africa. He afterward avowed his purpose to defeat all appropriations for the African squadron; for it was, he said, a tribute in men, money, and ships to England for five years' exemption from British search. The speech was a bitter and malignant assault upon England, and little creditable to its author either on the score of statesmanship or good feeling, its insinuations having been proved to be unfounded, a1id its prophecies remaining unfulfilled. 

Buchanan also joined in the opposition, and if his denunciations were less extravagant, they were equally decided and unequivocal. Concerning the article providing for a naval force on the African coast, he complained that they were compelled to· grope their way, a1Jd that “all was obscurity, all was darkness." "Did the British government," he inquired," demand this sacrifice at our hands? Was it necessary to appease the wounded pride of England at the disappointment she experienced when France, our ancient and faithful ally, refused to ratify the Quintuple Treaty and identified herself with us in resisting the right of visitation and search? " He said the ratification of the treaty would be to ratify the unjust claim of the British government to be " the supreme protector of the rights of humanity."

The treaty was also bitterly assailed by Mr. Conrad of Louisiana, afterward a member of Mr. Fillmore's cabinet, and an actor in the slaveholders' rebellion. The executive committee of the American Antislavery Society, fearing that one of the provisions of the treaty would endanger the safety of the colored people of Canada, many of whom were fugitives from slavery, appointed a committee to wait upon Lord Ashburton to confer with him upon the subject. He assured them that he had taken every precaution in behalf of the people of color; and that, if he had been willing to introduce an article providing for the payment of escaping slaves, it would not have been ratified at home, as his government was especially solicitous to guard all such rights against infringement. Mr. Conrad referred to, this conference as evidence of a connection between the Abolitionists of Great Britain and of this country. Nor did he think that peace could be permanent so long as these agitating questions remained unsettled. He thought, indeed, that the forbearance of this government would increase the intolerance of Great Britain. “She will," he said,” unfurl the banner of abolition still more conspicuously before the eyes of your slaves; she will accustom them to consider her as their benefactor, the champion of their rights, the avenger of their wrongs. And when war does come, as come it will, she may then hope to realize her threat of being welcomed by them as their deliverer, and her flag, when it appears, becoming the signal of a servile insurrection." Other members of Congress and a portion of the press joined in denouncing this provision of the treaty as a surrender of American rights, an annual tribute, “a prostration of the interests and rights of American citizens, and a dishonor to the American name." The treaty, however, notwithstanding this violent opposition, was ratified, receiving the strong vote of thirty-nine to nine. 

Nor was failure all.  The men and presses who stood forth; so prominent and so violent in opposition gained little credit by their factious course. Many saw their true character, but none more fitly described them than Rufus Choate, who spoke of them as " restless, selfish, reckless,  the cankers of a calm world and a long peace, pining with thirst of notoriety, slaves to their hatred of England, to whom the treaty is distasteful; to whom any treaty and all things but the glare and clamor, the vain pomp and hollow circumstance, the toil and agony and inadequate results of war, --all but those would be distasteful and dreary."

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 400-403.


ASHLEY, James Mitchell, 1824-1896, Ohio, lawyer, newspaper editor, Underground Railroad activist. Republican Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.  Adamant opponent of slavery.  Member, Free Soil Party, 1848.  Joined Republican Party in 1854.  Elected to Congress in 1858.  Co-authored bill in Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, April 11, 1862.  Leader in Congress in support of the Thirteenth Amendment. 

(Dumond, 1961, p. 339; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, p. 110; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 389-390; Congressional Globe)

ASHLEY, James Monroe, congressman, b. near Pittsburg, Pa., 14 Nov., 1824. His education was acquired while a clerk on boats on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Later he worked in printing-offices, and became editor of the “Dispatch,” and afterward of the “Democrat,” at Portsmouth, Ohio. He then studied law, and was admitted to the bar of Ohio in 1849, but never practised. Subsequently he settled in Toledo, where he became interested in the wholesale drug business. He was elected to congress as a republican in 1859, and was reelected four times, serving continuously from 5 Dec., 1859, till 3 March, 1869. He was for four terms chairman of the committee on territories, and it was under his supervision that the territories of Arizona, Idaho, and Montana were organized. He was nominated for the 41st congress, but was defeated, and in 1869 was appointed governor of Montana. In 1866 he was a delegate to the loyalist convention held in Philadelphia. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I. pp. 110.


ASHMUN, George, 1804-1870, Massachusetts, statesman, lawyer, Congressman.  In Congress, opposed the war with Mexico and the extension of slavery into the territorires.  Supported the Wilmot Proviso. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, p. 111; Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 1, p. 393)

ASHMUN, George, statesman, b. in Blandford, Mass., 25 Dec., 1804; d. in Springfield, Mass., 17 July, 1870. He was graduated at Yale in 1823, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1828 at Springfield, Mass. In 1833, 1835, 1836, and 1841 he was elected a member of the lower branch of the Massachusetts legislature, and during the last term he was speaker of the house. He was a state senator in '38-'9. He was elected to congress in 1845, and served continuously until 1851, being a member of the committees on the judiciary, Indian affairs, and rules. He was a great admirer of Daniel Webster, and although he did not follow the latter in his abandonment of the Wilmot proviso, defended him in the ensuing quarrels; his replies to Charles J. Ingersoll, of Pennsylvania, and Charles Allen, of Massachusetts, when they assailed Webster with personal and political bitterness, were among the strongest efforts of his career in congress. Subsequent to his retirement from political life he devoted his attention to the practice of his profession. In 1860 he was president of the Chicago convention that nominated Lincoln for president. It is said to have been through his influence that in 1861 Senator Douglas, of Illinois, was won over to the support of the administration, and the results of a subsequent interview at the White house between Lincoln, Douglas, and Ashmun, were of great importance to the country. In 1866 he was chosen a delegate to the national union convention, held in Philadelphia, but he took no part in its deliberations. He was also for some time a director of the Union Pacific railroad. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I.


ASHMUN, Jehudi, 1794-1828, Washington, DC, educator, editor, missionary.  Published The African Intelligencer, a paper for the American Colonization Society. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. I, p. 111; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 1, Pt. 1, p. 394; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 73-74, 94-95, 101, 150-162)

ASHMUN, Jehudi, missionary, b. in Champlain, N. Y., in April, 1794 ; d. in Boston, Mass., 25 Aug., 1828. He was graduated at the university of Vermont in 1816, taught for a short time in the Maine charity school, prepared for the Congregational ministry, and became a professor in the Bangor theological seminary. Removing to the District of Columbia, he united with the Protestant Episcopal church and became editor of the “Theological Repertory,” a monthly magazine published in the interest of that church. His true mission was inaugurated when he became agent of the colonization society, and took charge of a reënforcement for the colony at Liberia, on the western coast of Africa. He sailed 19 June, 1822, and found the colony in a wretched state of disorder and demoralization, and apparently on the point of extinction through incursions of the neighboring savages. With extraordinary energy and ability he undertook the task of reorganization. In November he was attacked by a force of savages, whose numbers he estimated at 800. With only 35 men and boys to help him, he repelled the attack, which was renewed by still greater numbers a few days later, with a like result. He displayed remarkable personal valor throughout these encounters, and when, six years later, his health compelled him to leave Africa, he had established a comparatively prosperous colony 1,200 strong. He died almost immediately after his arrival in the United States. He was author of “Memoirs of Samuel Bacon” (Washington, 1822), and of many contributions to the “African Repository.” His life was written by R. R. Gurley (New York, 1839). Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.



Chapter: “Calhoun's Resolutions. --Atherton's Resolutions.--Ashburton Treaty,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

The second session of the XXVth Congress commenced in December, 1838.  A caucus of the Democratic Party was immediately held to decide the course to be pursued upon the vexed and threatening question. Resolutions were drawn up, and Mr. Atherton of New Hampshire was selected to present them to the House. Being presented, the previous question on their adoption was ordered. A separate vote on each resolution being ordered, the first, declaring that Congress had no power over slavery in the States, was adopted by a vote of one hundred and ninety-four to six. In this small minority was Mr. Adams, who held that in case of war the government would have power to abolish slavery, in order that the nation might be saved; a doctrine abundantly verified and illustrated by recent events.

The second resolution, declaring that petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District were intended indirectly to destroy it in the States, was agreed to. The last resolution, requiring that " every petition, memorial, resolution, proposition, or paper touching or relating, in any way, or to any extent whatever, to slavery or the abolition thereof, shall, on presentation, without any further action thereon, be laid upon the table, without being debated, printed, or referred," was adopted by a vote of one hundred and thirty-six to seventy-three. This resolution was known as the “Atherton gag “; though it was suspected that the New Hampshire senator was but the hand, while Mr. Calhoun was the brain.

The members who had voted against this suppression of the freedom of debate and the right of petition being nearly .all of them Northern Whigs, their action enabled the Southern Democrats to question the fidelity of the Southern Whigs to slavery. Consequently, many Southern Whigs were anxious to have it appear that they were more devoted to that interest than their Democratic rivals. Henry A. Wise, then in full fellowship with the Whig party, made most" earnest efforts to reassure its Southern wing of the fidelity of the national party. Among other extreme propositions made by him were those declaring that petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District or in the Territories " were in violation of the Federal constitution"; and that slaveholding citizens had the right to take their slaves voluntarily to and through non-slaveholding States, and to " sojourn and remain with them temporarily in any of the States." An unsuccessful effort was made by Mr. Slade of Vermont to introduce a series of resolutions rescinding a portion of those introduced by Mr. Atherton. .

During this session, a Maryland slaveholder, mounted on horseback, armed with pistols, and bearing the plantation whip, marched by the Capitol about thirty men, in double files, each, fastened by the wrist to a long chain passing between them from front to rear. Several women followed in the same order, but without the chain. This sad and mournful procession, illustrating the revolting barbarism of the slave traffic in the nation's capital, was shielded by the Democratic Party and the Southern Whigs, not only from unfriendly legislation, but also from the criticisms of the humane and the just. Mr. Slade submitted a resolution, reciting the facts of the disgraceful spectacle, and proposing a committee to report what legislation might be necessary to prevent the recurrence of such scenes. But the Speaker promptly decided that the resolution came within the restrictions of the “Atherton gag." While a scene of this character could not be discussed or even inquired into, a petition of the mayor of Washington and other individuals against the reception of antislavery petitions was presented by Mr. Moore of New York, a representative of what was then called the '' subterranean Democracy," and he was permitted to speak at length in denunciation of the Whigs as. Abolitionists. He characterized the Whig party as the Federal party; saying that it had joined the Abolitionists for the purpose of conferring on the black laborer nominal freedom, and on the white laborer virtual bondage.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 394-396.


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