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,or the abolition of slavery. That a culpable insensibility to the evils and wrongs of this nefarious institution is too common in the class of which I now speak, I do not mean to deny. Still, how vast a proportion of the intelligence, virtue, and piety of the country is to be found in their ranks! To speak of them slightly, contemptuously, bitterly, is to do great wrong, and such speaking, I fear, has brought much reproach on Abolitionism.
The motives which have induced me to make this long communication to you will not, I trust, be misunderstood. I earnestly desire, my dear Sir, that you and your associates will hold fast the right of free discussion by speech and the press, and, at the same time, that you will exercise it as Christians, and as friends of your race. Sir, will not fail in these duties, I rejoice to believe. Accept my humble tribute of respect and admiration for your disinterestedness, for your faithfulness to your convictions, under the peculiar sacrifices to which you have been called. It is my prayer, that by calm, fearless perseverance in well-doing, you may guide and incite many to a like virtue.
It may be said, that it is easy for one, living, as I do, at a distance from danger, living in prosperity and ease, to preach exposure and suffering to you and your friends. I can only say in reply, that I lay down no rule for others, which I do not feel to be binding on myself. What I should do in the hour of peril may be uncertain ; but what I ought to do is plain. What I desire to do is known to the Searcher of all hearts. It is my earnest desire, that prosperity may not unnerve me, that no suffering may shake my constancy in a cause which my heart approves. I sometimes indeed fear for myself, when I think of untried persecutions. I know not what weaknesses the presence of great danger may call forth. But in my most deliberate moments, I see nothing worth living for, but the divine virtue which endures and surrenders all things for truth, duty, and mankind. I look on reproach, poverty, persecution, and death, as light evils compared with unfaithfulness to pure and generous principles, to the spirit of Christ, and to the will of God. With these impressions, I ought not to be deterred by self-distrust, or by my distance from danger, from summoning and cheering others to conflict with evil. Christianity, as I regard it, is designed throughout to fortify us for this warfare. Its great lesson is self-sacrifice. Its distinguishing spirit is Divine Philanthropy suffering on the cross. The Cross, the Cross, this is the badge and standard of our religion. I honour all who bear it. I look with scorn on the selfish greatness of this world, and with pity on the most gifted and prosperous in the struggle for office and power ; but I look with reverence on the obscurest man, who suffers for the right, who is true to a good but persecuted cause. With these sentiments, I subscribe myself your sincere friend,
WILLIAM E. CHANNING.
As the preceding letter was prepared for a newspaper, I was obliged, by the narrowness of my limits, to pass over some topics, on which I should have been glad to offer a few remarks.-In expressing my conviction of the moral worth of the Abolitionists, I wished to say, that they are in danger, as a body, of forfeiting this praise. Let them gather numbers and strength, and they may be expected to degenerate. The danger is greater, now that they have begun to add the ballotbox, or political action, to their other modes of operation. i. is one of the evils attending associations and an argument against them, that by growing popular, they attract to themselves unworthy members, lose their original simplicity of purpose, become aspiring, and fall more and more under the control of popular leaders. Intriguers will never be wanting to press them, if possible, into the service of one or another of the great parties which divide the country, and by becoming political machines, they only increase the confusion of public affairs.
I have spoken in the letter, of “the fettered press” of the country, a subject of much moral interest. The newspaper press is fettered among us by its dependence on subscribers, among whom there are not a few intolerant enough to withdraw their patronage, if an editor give publicity to articles which contradict their cherished opinions, or shock their party prejudices, or seem to clash with their interests. In such a state of things, few newspapers can be expected to afford to an unpopular individual or party, however philanthropic or irreproachable, an opportunity of being heard by the public. Editors engage in their vocation, like other men for a support; and communications, which will thin their subscription-lists, will of course find little favour at their hands. Much reproach is sometimes thrown on them for their want of moral independence; but the root of the evil lies in the intolerance of the community. One result of this state of things is, that the newspaper press fails of one of its chief duties, which is to stem corrupt opinion, to stay the excesses of popular passions. It generally swells, seldom arrests, the violence of the multitude. The very subjects, on which the public mind may most need to be reformed, are most likely to be excluded from its columns. Another evil result is, the increase of the number and violence of parties. Conscientious men, who cannot obtain a hearing through the common newspapers, are compelled to league for the support of papers of their own, and in speaking through these organs, they are tempted to an extravagance and bitterness which they would have shunned, had they used other vehicles. It may be doubted, whether Abolitionism would have taken the form of organised and affiliated societies, if the subject of slavery could have been discussed in the common papers with the same freedom as other topics. That Abolitionism has owed not a little of its asperity to its having been proscribed from the beginning, and to its having been denied the common modes of addressing the public mind, I cannot doubt. Toleration seems to be the last virtue which individuals or communities learn. One would think, that experience had sufficiently taught men, that persecution is not the way to put down opinions. The selfish may indeed be disheartened by opposition; but conscientious men are strengthened by it in their convictions. Persecution drives and knits them together; and when formed into a party by this bond, their zeal becomes more intense, their prejudices more inveterate, their opinions more extravagant, their means more violent, than if they had continued to be scattered through the community. If Abolitionism should convulse the country, as some seem to fear, a large share of the blame will belong to that intolerance, which has heaped on the most respectable men ever, epithet of scorn and vituperation, and has driven them to assume a separate and belligerent attitude in the community.
I cannot easily conceive of a greater good to a city, than the establishment of a newspaper by men of superior ability and moral independence, who should judge all parties and public measures by the standard of the Christian law, who should uncompromisingly speak the truth and adhere to the right, who should make it their steady aim to form a just and lofty public sentiment, and who should at the same time give to upright and honourable men an opportunity of making known their opinions on matters of general interest, however opposed to the opinious aud
passions of the day. In the present stage of society, when newspapers form the
and religious feeling. The Southern States would be grievously wronged by being Q
made responsible for this insane estimate of Slavery. It is confined, I trust, to a small number, who have been hardy enough to set at defiance the judgment of the Christian and civilised world, and whom nothing but oblivion can screen from that
condemning sentence, which future times will pass more and more sternly on the 9.
advocates of oppression, on the foes of freedom and human rights.
I trust that you will excuse the liberty which I take in thus publicly addressing you. If you could look into my heart, I am sure you would not condemn me. You would discover the motives of this act, in my respect for your eminent powers, and in my confidence that you are disposed to use them for the honour and happiness of your country. Were you less distinguished, or less worthy of distinction, I should not trouble you with this letter. I write you, because I am persuaded, that your great influence, if exerted in promoting just views on the subject of this communication, would accomplish a good, to which, perhaps, no other man in the country is equal. I am bound, in frankness, to add another reason for addressing you. I hope that your name, prefixed to this letter, may secure to it an access to some, perhaps to many, who would turn away, were its thoughts presented in a more general form. Perhaps by this aid it may scale the barrier, which now excludes from the South a certain class of the writings of the North. I am sure your hospitality would welcome me to Kentucky; and your well-known generosity, I believe, will consent that I should use your name, to gain a hearing in that and the neighbouring States.
It is with great reluctance that I enter on the topic of this lotter. My tastes and habits incline me to very different objects of thought and exertion. I had hoped, that I should never again feel myself called to take part in the agitations and exciting discussions of the day, especially in those of a political character. I desire nothing so much as to devote what remains of life to the study and exposition of great principles and universal truths. But the subject of Texas weighs heavily on my mind, and I cannot shake it off. To me, it is more than a political question. It belongs eminently to morals and religion. I
have hoped, that the attention of the public would be called to it by some more powerful voice. I have postponed writing, until the national legislature is about to commence the important session, in which, it is thought, this subject may be decided. But no one speaks, and therefore I cannot be silent. Should Texas be annexed to our country, I feel that I could not forgive myself, if, with my deep, solemn impressions, I should do nothing to avert the evil. I cannot easily believe, that this disastrous measure is to be adopted, especially at the present moment.
The annexation of Texas, under existing circumstances, would be more than rashness; it would be madness. That opposition to it must exist at the South, as well as at the North, I cannot doubt. Still, there is a general impression, that great efforts will be made to accomplish this object at the approaching session of Congress, and that nothing but strenuous resistance can prevent their success. I must write, therefore, as if the danger were real and imminent; and if any should think that I am betrayed into undue earnestness by a false alarm, they will remember that there are circumstances, in which excess of vigilance is a virtue.
In the course of this discussion, I shall be forced to speak on one topic, which can hardly be treated so as to give no offence. I am satisfied that in this, as in all cases, it is best, safest, as well as most right and honourable, to speak freely and plainly. Nothing is to be gained by caution, circumlocution, plausible softenings of language, and other arts, which, in destroying confidence, defeat their own end. In discussions of an irritating nature, the true way of doing good is, to purify ourselves from all unworthy motives, to cherish disinterested sentiments and unaffected good-will towards those from whom we differ, and then to leave the mind to utter itself naturally and spontaneously. How far I have prepared myself for my work, by this selfpurification, it becomes not me to say ; but this I may say, that I am not conscious of the slightest asperity of feeling towards any party or any individual. I have no private interests to serve, no private passions to gratify. The strength of my conviction may be expressed in strong, perhaps unguarded language ; but this want of caution is the result of the consciousness, that I have no purpose or feeling which I need conceal.
I shall, in one respect, depart from the freedom of a letter. I shall arrange my thoughts under distinct heads; and I shall do this, because I wish to put my reader in full possession of my views. I wish to use no vague declamation, to spread no vague alarm, but to bring out as clearly as possible the precise points of objection to the measure I oppose.
* It may be well to state the principal authorities on which I rely for the statements in this letter. I am most indebted, perhaps, to an article on Mexico and Texas, in the July number of the North American Review for the year 1836. This article, as I understood at the time, was written by an enlightened and respected citizen of the South. The quotations in the first head of this letter, without a marginal reference, are taken from this tract, with a few unimportant exceptions. I have also made use of a pamphlet, bearing the title of the “War in Texas," written by Mr. Benjamin Lundy, a man of unimpeachable character, and who professes to have given particular attention to the subject. With his reason