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have spoken to me on this point in the most undoubting tone. In my book, I have only given expressions to the public sentiment of the North, and I as little expected to hear the correctness of my statement questioned, as to hear the existence of slavery denied. I do not, of course, intend to impute the least unfairness to Mr. Leigh, who is known among us only as a virtuous man, who does honour to his country. I presume, that, in the comparison which he made between the Slaveholding States and other parts of the country, he spoke without a sufficient knowledge of the latter. I cannot, therefore, I dare not, expunge from my book the offensive passage, though in the revised edition I have somewhat changed its form. lf I know my own heart, I should rejoice to be able to expunge it.
I have regretted, that a passage, which I prepared for this work at the time of its composition, was not inserted. In the chapter of Explanations, after speaking of the examples of moral and religious excellence to be found in the Slave-holding States, I expressed, in a few sentences, my deep sense of the virtues, as well as the accomplishments of the women of the South. ... I wrote this passage with a fervent heart, because it was dictated, in a measure, by the grateful recollection of unwearied kindnesses received from woman during a residence in that part of the country in my youth. I should be glad to publish it now, had it not been destroyed with the manuscript of which it formed a part, for it expressed feelings which time has only strengthened. After much deliberation I omitted it in the first edition, and did so from considerations which I cannot now approve. I fear that what I had written would be set down by strangers as a common-place of flattery. I feared that I might seem desirous to expiate by this praise the censures contained in other parts of the book, desirous to shield myself from the obloquy to which I was exposing myself in publishing unpopular truth. I did on this occasion what I have too often done. In shrinking from the appearance of vices which I abhor, I was unjust to my convictions and affections. The reader will excuse this reference to myself, when he learns that I have been shamelessly accused of casting reproach on the purity of the women at the South. I should not, however, have noticed this calumny, had not the preceding part of this note almost compelled me to refer to it. I feel too much about the great subject on which I have written, to be very solicitous about what is said of myself. I feel that I am nothing, that my reputation is nothing, in comparison with the fearful wrong and evil, which I have laboured to expose; and I should count myself unworthy the name of a man or a Christian, if the calumnies of the bad, or even the disapprobation of the good, could fasten my thoughts on myself and turn me aside from a cause, which, as I believe, truth, humanity, and God call me to maintain.
The following letter was prepared for “The Philanthropist,” an anti-slavery paper, published at Cincinnati, and edited by James G. Birney—a gentleman, highly respected for his intellectual and moral endowments. It was occasioned by the attempt made in that city to suppress the antislavery party by force. Mr. Birney was driven from Cincinnati, and the press, at which the Philanthropist was printed, was broken up. A particular account of this disgraceful affair may be found in the “Narrative of the late riotous proceedings against the liberty of the press at Cincinnati,” prepared by Mr. Birney and his associates. The following letter, besides appearing in the Philanthropist, has been published as a pamphlet for distribution at the West, and the author now submits | to the community here in the same form, with a few slight changes, and with some new matter n a note.
Boston, November 1, 1836.
MY DEAR SIR, I have not the pleasure of knowing you personally; but your history and writings have given me an interest in you, which induces and encourages me to address you with something of the freedom of acquaintance. I feel myself attracted to the friends of humanity and freedom, however distant; and when such are exposed by their principles to peril and loss, and stand firm in the evil day, I take pleasure in expressing to them my sympathy and admiration. The first accounts which reached me of the violence which drove you from Cincinnati, inclined me to write to you; but your “Narrative of those riotous proceedings,” which I have lately received and read, does not permit me to remain longer silent. The subject weighs much on my mind. I feel that I have a duty to perform in relation to it, and I cannot rest till I yield to this conviction, till I obey what seems to me the voice of God. I think it best, however, not to confine myself to the outrage at Cincinnati, but to extend my remarks to the spirit of violence and persecution, which has broken out against the Abolitionists through the whole country. This, I know, will be more acceptable to you, than any expression of sympathy with you as an individual. You look beyond yourself to the cause which you have adopted, and to the much injured body of men, with whom you are associated. It is not my purpose to speak of the Abolitionists as Abolitionists. They now stand before the world in another character, and to this I shall give my present attention. Of their merits and demerits as Abolitionists, I have formerly spoken. In my short work on Slavery, I have expressed my fervent attachment to the great end to which they are pledged, and at the same time my disapprobation, to a certain extent, of their spirit and measures. I have no disposition to travel over this ground again. Had the Abolitionists been left to pursue their object with the freedom which is guaranteed to them by our civil institutions; had they been resisted only by those weapons of reason, rebuke, reprobation, which the laws allow, I should have no inducement to speak of them again either in praise or censure. But the violence of their adversaries has driven them to a new position. Abolitionism forms an era in our history, if we consider the means by which it has been opposed. Deliberate, systematic efforts have been made
not here or there, but far and wide, to wrest from its adherents that liberty of speech and the press, which our fathers asserted unto blood, and which our national and state governments are pledged to protect as our most sacred right. Its most conspicuous advocates have been hunted and stoned, its meetings scattered, its presses broken up, and nothing but the patience, constancy, and intrepidity of its members, has saved it from extinction. The Abolitionists then not only appear in the character of champions of the coloured race. In their persons the most sacred rights of the white man and the free man have been assailed. They are sufferers for the liberty of thought, speech, and the press; and in maintaining this liberty amidst insult and violence, they deserve a place among its most honoured defenders. In this character I shall now speak of them. In regard to the methods adopted by the Abolitionists of promoting emancipation, I might find much to censure; but when I regard their firm, fearless assertion of the rights of free discussion, of speech and the press, I look on them with unmixed respect. I see nothing to blame, and much to admire. To them has been committed the most important bulwark of liberty, and they have acquitted themselves of the trust like men and Christians. No violence has driven them from their post. Whilst in obedience to conscience, they have refrained from opposing force to force, they have still persevered amidst menace and insult, in bearing their testimony against wrong, in giving utterance to their deep convictions. Of such men, I do not hesitate to
Bay, that they have rendered to freedom a more essential service, than
any body of men among us. The defenders of freedom are not those, who claim and exercise rights which no one assails, or who win shouts of applause by well turned compliments to liberty in the days of her triumph. They are those, who stand up for rights which mobs, conspiracies, or single tyrants put in jeopardy; who contend for liberty in that particular form, which is threatened at the moment by the many or the few. To the Abolitionists this honour belongs. The first systematic effort to strip the citizen of freedom of speech they have met with invincible resolution. From my heart I thank them. I am myself their debtor. I am not sure, that I should this moment write in safety, had they shrunk from the conflict, had they shut their lips, imposed silence on their presses, and hid themselves before their ferocious assailants. I know not where these outrages would have stopped, had they not met resistance from their first destined victims. The newspaper press, with a few exceptions, uttered no genuine indignant rebuke of the wrong doers, but rather countenanced by its gentle censures the reign of Force. The mass of the people looked supinely on this new tyranny, under which a portion of their fellow-citizens seemed to be sinking. A tone of denunciation was beginning to proscribe all discussion of slavery; and had the spirit of violence, which selected associations as its first objects, succeeded in this preparatory enterprise, it might have been easily turned against any and every individual, who might presume to agitate the unwelcome subject. It is hard to say, to what outrage the fettered press of the country might not have been reconciled. I thank the Abolitionists, that in this evil day, they were
true to the rights which the multitude were ready to betray. Their purpose to suffer, to die, rather than surrender their dearest liberties, taught the lawless, that they had a foe to contend with, whom it was not safe to press, whilst, like all manly appeals, it called forth reflection and sympathy in the better portion of the community. In the name of freedom and humanity, I thank them. Through their courage, the violence, which might have furnished a precedent fatal to freedom, is to become, I trust, a warning to the lawless, of the folly as well as crime of attempting to crush opinion by Force. Of all powers, the last to be entrusted to the multitude of men, is that of determining what questions shall be discussed. The greatest truths are often the most unpopular and exasperating ; and were they to be denied discussion, till the many should be ready to accept them, they would never establish themselves in the general mind. The progress of society depends on nothing more, than on the exposure of time-sanctioned abuses, which cannot be touched without offending multitudes, than on the promulgation of principles, which are in advance of public sentiment and practice, and which are consequently at war with the habits, prejudices, and immediate interests of large classes of the community. Of consequence, the multitude, if once allowed to dictate or proscribe subjects of discussion, would strike society with spiritual blindness, and death. The world is to be carried forward by truth, which at first offends, which wins its way by degrees, which the many hate and would rejoice to crush. The right of free discussion is therefore to be guarded by the friends of mankind, with peculiar jealousy. It is at once the most sacred, and the most endangered of all our rights. He who would rob his neighbour of it, should have a mark set on him as the worst enemy of freedom. I do not know that our history contains a page, more disgraceful to us as freemen, than that which records the violences against the Abolitionists. As a people, we are chargeable with other and worse misdeeds, but none so flagrantly opposed to the spirit of liberty, the very spirit of our institutions, and of which we make our chief boast. Who, let me ask, are the men, whose offences are so aggravated, that they must be denied the protection of the laws, and be given up to the worst passions of the multitude 2 Are they profligate in principle and life, teachers of impious or servile doctrines, the enemies of God and their race? I speak not from vague rumour, but from better means of knowledge, when I say, that a body of men and women, more blameless than the Abolitionists in their various relations, or more disposed to adopt a rigid construction of the Christian precepts, cannot be found among us. Of their judiciousness and wisdom, I do not speak; but I believe, they yield to no party in moral worth. Their great crime, and one, which in this land of liberty is to be punished above all crimes, is this, that they carry the doctrine of human equality to its full extent, that they plead vehemently for the oppressed, that they assail wrong-doing however sanctioned by opinion or entrenched behindwealth and power, that their zeal for human rights is without measure, that they associate themselves fervently with the Christians and philanthropists of other countries against the worst relic of barbarous times. Such is the offence, against which mobs are arrayed, and which is counted so flagrant, that a summary justice, too indignant to wait for the tardy progress of tribunals, must take the punishment into its own hands. How strange in a free country, that the men, from whom the liberty of speech is to be torn, are those who use it in pleading for freedom, who devote themselves to the vindication of human rights! What a spectacle is presented to the world by a republic, in which sentence of proscription is passed on citizens, who labour, by addressing men's consciences, to enforce the truth, that slavery is the greatest of wrongs Through the civilised world the best and greatest men are bearing joint witness against slavery. Christians of all denominations and conditions, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, are bound in a holy league against this most degrading form of oppression. But in free America, the language which despots tolerate, must not be heard. One would think, that freemen might be pardoned, if the view of fellow-creatures stripped of all human rights should move them to vehemence of speech. But whilst on all other subjects, the deeply stirred feelings may overflow in earnest remonstrance, on slavery the freemen must speak in whispers, or pay the penalty of persecution for the natural utterance of strong emotion. I am aware, that the outrages on the Abolitionists are justified or palliated by various considerations; nor is this surprising; for when did violence ever want excuse ! It is said, that Abolitionism tends to stir up insurrection at the South, and to dissolve the union. Of all pretences for resorting to lawless force, the most dangerous is the tendency of measures or opinions. Almost all men see ruinous tendencies in whatever opposes their particular interests or views, All the political parties which have convulsed our country, have seen tendencies to national destruction in the principles of their opponents. So infinite are the connexions and consequences of human affairs, that nothing can be done in which some dangerous tendency may not be detected. There is a tendency in arguments against any old establishment to unsettle all institutions, because all hang together. There is a tendency in the laying bare of deep-rooted abuses to throw a community into a storm. Liberty tends to licentiousness, government to despotism. Exclude all enterprises which may have evil results, and human life will stagnate. Wise men are not easily deterred by difficulties and perils from a course of action, which promises great good. Especially when justice and humanity cry aloud for the removal of an enormous social evil, it is unworthy of men and Christians to let the imagination run riot among possible dangers, instead of rousing every cnergy of mind to study how the evil may be taken away, and the perils, which accompany beneficial changes, may be escaped. As to the charge brought against the Abolitionists, of stirring up insurrection at the South, I have never met the shadow of a proof that this nefarious project was meditated by a single member of their body. The accusation is repelled by their characters and principles as well as by facts; nor can I easily concieve of a sane man giving it belief. As to the “tendency” of their measures to this result, it is such only