NEW ENGLAND A. S. CONVENTION.
SPEECH OF WM. LLOYD GARRISON,
At the New England A. S. Convention, May 31, 1855,
ON THE DISSOLUTION OF THE UNION.
PHONOGRAPHICALLY REPORTED BY J. M. W. YERRINTON.
At the close of our forenoon session, I submitted the following resolution to the Convention:—
Resolved, That the American Union is the supremacy of the bowie knife, the revolver, the slave-driver’s lash, and lynch law, over freedom of speech, of the press, of conscience, of locomotion, in more than one half of the nation—and the degrading vassalage of the entire North to the accursed Slave Power; that no other Union has existed since the adoption of the United States Constitution; that such a Union is to be resisted, denounced and repudiated, by every lover of liberty, until its utter overthrow shall be consummated; and that, to effect this glorious object, there should be one united shout ofNo Union with Slaveholders, religiously or politically!.
It will be in order, at this time, to pursue the discussion of this subject. I desire to make a few remarks upon some of the positions taken, this forenoon, by some of our friends who are not yet prepared to join us, in seeking the overthrow of the American Union.
I give full credit to those gentlemen as desiring to do all they can to liberate those in bonds. They mean to be the truest of the true. They mean to pursue such a course as, in their judgment, they think will best subserve the anti-slavery cause. I grant to them, therefore, all that they claim on the score of purity of motive and benevolence of heart. At the same time, I must express my astonishment that they seem unable, as yet, to comprehend the issue we make before the country; that they fail to appreciate the deep conscientiousness, the high sense of duty, the imperative moral obligation, which are involved in our minds in this question of dissolving the existing bonds between the North and the South. My esteemed friend, Mr. Wasson, deemed it not worth while for us, who are Disunionists, any longer to occupy such a position. Why not, he asks, be more practical? Why not, instead of rejecting the ballot-box, use it as an instrumentality for the overthrow of slavery? As there are in our ranks thousands who refrain from going to the polls, why do not they deposit their votes in favor of John P. Hale or Charles Sumner, and thus do an effectual work in putting down the reign of the slave power? Now, my surprise is that, after so long a time, and so constant a reiteration of the insuperable difficulties lying in our way to the ballot-box, as a matter of conscience, my friend does not see that he is asking us to do what we can neither innocently nor honorably perform, whether as Abolitionists or as men, with our present views of the United States Constitution.
He spoke of some of the disastrous consequences that would probably follow in the wake of disunion. Sir, this is not a question of consequences;—whether, by dissolving the Union, we shall have a civil or servile war, or whether, by preserving the Union, we shall avoid these calamities, and, at some time or other, be permitted to hail the jubilee. The question has every thing to do with principle, and true manhood, and moral consistency. It is—What is the American Union? Did our friend define it? Did he tell us what it is—where it is to be found—whose freedom is protected by it? To descant upon an ideal Union is useless—nay, a mockery! Dealing in generalities will never abolish slavery. Let me tell my friend, Mr. Pierpont, that this tremendous conflict is not a philological, is not a grammatical one, as he seems to think it is. We are dealing, not simply with verbs and nouns, but with facts and figures; not only with dead fathers, but with living tyrants of the worst description; not only with dry parchment, but with an awakened leviathan.
Canst thou draw out leviathan with a hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lattest down? Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee? will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever? His heart is as hard as a piece of the nether millstone. When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid. He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. He maketh the deep to boil as a pot.
This, Mr. Chairman, is the monster with whom we are contending. Is he to be overthrown by a grammatical thrust or a verbal criticism? I tell you nay! Sir, we are engaged in one of the deadliest conflicts the world has ever known. We are to deal with slavery as an outlaw, who cares not for grammar, or rhetoric, or logic, or parchment, or the law of the living God, but is the great lawless fiend of the universe, with whom no alliance is to be formed, no peace can be kept, no truce effected for any purpose.
Sir, the resolution under consideration proclaims the exact truth. It
asserts that the American Union is, in the Southern States, in regard to freedom
of speech, of conscience, and of locomotion, the supremacy of the bowie-knife
and the revolver, the slave-driver’s lash, and lynch law. No man will deny
it! That is the American Union south of Mason and Dixon’s line, and
ever has been, from the formation of the government. North of that line it is,
and ever has been, the absolute vassalage of the entire North to the despotic
commands of the Slave Power. There has been no other Union known to this
people. We stand here, not to deal in abstractions, not to beat the air,
not to indulge in any reverie; but, as practical, common-sense men, looking at
things just as they are, taking the American Union for just what it is, we say
it is, at the South,
a union of the bowie-knife, the revolver, and the
slave-driver’s lash—nothing else; and that it allows complete
freedom to no human being living upon the American soil. When, therefore, one
I am no Disunionist, but go for preserving the Union—if
he means it in the popular, universal sense of the word, then he is for a
pro-slavery Union, for there is no other. If he means something directly the
reverse of it, then he is talking about something that does not
exist,—that is altogether in his brain,—that has never been
actualied in this country; and all the disclaimers he may make are but as the
Our friend, Mr. Wasson, objects to the Disunion position, on the ground that it is making a drawn-battle with the enemy—allowing him to go off with bag and baggage. Indeed! He says that our object, as the friends of the slave, should not be to separate from the slaveholders, but to abolish slavery. Indeed! Now let us see how this is. Let us see whether we do any one of the things here objected to.
Mr. Chairman, I deny that we are for making a drawn-battle with the
enemy, or that we propose to make a truce with him under any circumstances. I
deny that we are for leaving the slaveholder to do what he may with his slaves.
I deny that it is to lose sight of our object—to wit, the abolition of
slavery—to separate from the South. Sir, the Union of this country is
embodied in the Constitution of the United States. Without that instrument,
there would be no Union. The terms are synonomous. Now,
then, what is the Constitution—what are its bearings upon the destiny of
the millions who are in bondage—what are its requirements of the people of
the North, with regard to slavery—what is implied and understood by the
oath taken to sustain it? The whole question is compressed in a nut-shell. How
do we meet it? We look into the history of that instrument; we interrogate the
Convention that framed and the people who adopted it; we inquire of all the
courts, of all the legislatures, of all the Congresses, and, finally, of the
Supreme Court of the United States, its lawful expounder, what, from the hour of
its adoption to the present time, has been the intent and meaning of the
Constitution, as pertaining to slavery; and there has been but one verdict.
Before God, that verdict we believe to be true to the facts in the case. We know
that the people of this country never did make an anti-slavery Constitution. We
affirm it to be a
self-evident truth, that they have been morally
incapable, through prejudice, hatred and oppression, of adopting, delibertely and purposely, a Constitution that should
instantly emancipate every slave, and receive into the great American family, on
equal terms, the colored population, bond and free. In all the States, the
colored people have been treated as a leprous race. Even in the Church, they
have been proscribed, and forced to occupy the
negro pew, as if they
carried contagion in their touch.
Mr. Chairman, the Constitution of the United States is what the people mean it to be. It is not simply to its phraseology, or its grammatical accuracy, we are to look; we are carefully and honestly to ascertain what they understood and intended by it; and not to take undue advantage of its letter, even for a laudable purpose.
Mr. Pierpont asked the speaker if he should
give him a note which read—
For value received, I promise not
to pay Wm. Lloyd Garrison, six months after date, one hundred
dollars, and he should bring an action to recover the amount, and he (Mr.
P.) should show that the party holding the note knew that it was thus worded, if
he thought he could recover.
Mr. Garrison—Let us make the case analogous, and then see whether I ought not to recover. Suppose there were reasons—no matter what—why the phraseology used in the note was made the reverse of what we both understood and meant by it. I ask, in that case, which of us would not stand convicted of a moral outrage, in taking advantage of the literal words, to the injury of the other party? (Applause.)
Mr. Pierpont said it was not a question of morals, but a question of law. Suppose, in the case put, there was no consideration obliging him, on the point of morals, to pay so much money at the time. The holder might have supposed that he had given him a note promising to pay, but he ought not to have supposed so; and of course he ought not to receive it.
Mr. Garrison—The difficulty is, I submit, that our friend has been arguing from false analogies all the way through. His illustration is not to the purpose. We must take the facts as we find them. We must go back to history. Whence came this Constitution? It was agreed upon by independent colonial sovereignties, through mutual concessions, without any doubt as to the pro-slavery guarantees contained therein. Well, how is it to be interpreted? I deny that it is amenable to the common law, any further than that instrument is pleased to recognize the rules of common law. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land; it is sui generis; nothing is to stand before it. In construing it, we must be true to the facts of history, and to the intentions of the parties. To ignore these—to say that we will stick to the letter thereof—to treat it as a legislative enactment, in the manner of its interpretation—is equally unfair and preposterous.
Now, let us see whether our friend is consistent with himself. The Constitution of the United States is to be judged by its letter. [Mr. Pierpont—Certainly.] Very well; and our friend says that, by its letter, the Constitution is anti-slavery. Now, the fugitive slave clause is not the only point that bears upon this question. [Mr. P.—It is the only point I brought in my argument.] Will not our friend relieve our consciences on the other points? [Mr. P.—I will take another day for that.] What shall we do, for instance, with the clause providing for slave representation?
Now, I put it to the intelligence and honesty of every man in this
nation, whether there can be any doubt whatever, that the people of the
different States, in adopting the Constitution, did agree, by that instrument,
to have the foreign slave trade nationalized, and prosecuted for twenty years
under our star-spangled banner. I want to know where the man is, who will
stand up and deny it. I have never yet met him. No man doubts it; no man denies
it. Now, would it not be trifling with the common sense of this nation to
I defy you to prove that any agreement was ever made with regard to
the foreign slave trade? Literally, it cannot be done, because there was
never a word inserted in the Constitution, expressly declaring that the foreign
slave traffic might be prosecuted for a term of years. Nevertheless, the devil
of slavery was hidden in it, in ambiguous terms; and the more hateful a devil,
because robed in language quite unexceptionable. [Mr.
Pierpont—That devil has been cast out.] But we want
to know whether that devil was ever there, and whether there are not other
devils, concealed under equally ambiguous terms. I am glad that even one devil
has been exorcised, though his reappearance is at this hour regarded as
desirable, at the South, and is more than probable, at no distant day.
Now, my argument is this:—It being admitted that this agreement respecting the foreign slave trade was made and fully executed, it shows, in the first place, that we were then a slaveholding nation; and it shows, secondly, that the Constitution did not abolish slavery, and was designed to interfere with it, but rather furnished it with fresh victims for a long period, and provided national safeguards for its perpetuation. As it has never been altered in these particulars, it still remains
I admit that there is not a line in the Constitution providing for a slave representation, in so many words. The language is—Washington, Jefferson, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin—did any body, in any part of the country, at that time—regard it in any other light? Now to say that the men who made and administered the instrument, and the people who adopted it, did not know what they were about, or what they intended by it, is to say the absurdest thing in the world.
So when we come to the article respecting
slaves, but it meant slaves, meant nothing else but slaves; and the design and spirit, not the mere letter of the agreement, constitute in all good faith its binding obligation. It is no answer to say that, being an immoral contract, it is null and void. The question is, can we swear to execute it? Is it not included in the general oath?
Here let me bring a parallel case. It is argued that the Constitution is unexceptionable in its language; that it gives no countenance whatever to slavery; and, therefore, that we ought not to repudiate it, but use it as an anti-slavery instrument. I want those who reason thus to be consistent. There is, for instance, what is called the Fugitive Slave Bill. Now, I know none more ready to denounce that Bill as infernal than our our friends here who dissent from our construction of the Constitution. It is a Bill which has caused even this wicked nation to shudder; it has sent a thrill of horror throughout the civilized world. But what is the meaning of all this? What a grand mistake the country and the civilized world have made! For there never has been a Fugitive Slave Bill passed by Congress! I might stand here, and gravely attempt to prove this, by the rules of logic, and grammar, and criticism, and an appeal to the
Now, I like to see men consistent. I like to see them march up to their own standard. If this is a matter of verbal criticism, be it so to the end! I want our friends Pierpont and Wasson to thank God that Congress did not succeed in passing a Fugitive Slave Bill, though that body meant to do so. I want them to carry out their own theory, and say,
The framers of the Constitution, whatever their intentions, did not succeed in getting slavery into it, and we will not put it in there; Congress failed to get it into the Fugitive Slave Bill, (falsely so called,) and it is not for us to wrest its language so as to make it applicable to fugitive slaves. Both are to be interpreted favorable to liberty.
Mr. Pierpont—I carry out my theory thus: Void as the clause in the Constitution is, upon which the Fugitive Slave Bill professes to be based, the Bill itself is utterly ineffectual, for two reasons: first, because it is a violation of natural right on the part of the slave, and therefore of no force as a law; and secondly, because it is in direct conflict with another clause of the Constitution, which provides for the judiciary part of the government, which part declares that all judicial power shall be vested in judges nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Here is a Court which the Constitution does not recognize, but which it has especially prohibited. That Court is as great a violation of the Constitution as it is in the power of man to make.
C. C. Burleigh—That is not the point. How comes it to pass that the Fugitive Slave Act, so called, is known to be a Fugitive Slave Act? How comes it that our friend argues against it as a Fugitive Slave Act, when it uses the language of the Constitution?
Mr. Pierpont—I do not say that it does mean fugitive slaves. The grammar says that he shall not be given up, though he be a fugitive slave. I say that is an assumption of the Slave Power, which it makes in direct violation of the principles of construction of law. It is a violation of the great principle upon which contracts are construed, namely, that they must have a consideration. Then, again, it is a violation of natural right, and therefore void. But now, after we have shown that part of the Constitution to be a nullity, we are required to look this Fugitive Slave Bill in the face, and call it an Act, and act as if it were binding! When I have abolished a thing, in God’s name, and in the name of common sense, do not ask me to treat it as a living thing! (Applause.)
Mr. Garrison—I submit that the point has not been met. It seems to me very clear and very simple, but I may be confused. It is fair to measure our friends by their own standard, if they are unwilling to be measured by ours. Now, we arem et broadly, in our interpretation of the Constitution, with the assertion, that, according to the language of that instrument, nothing of a pro-slavery character is to be found in it; that we must adhere to the letter thereof, and not travel out of the record; and that we have nothing to do with the intentions of those who framed it. Well, if this position is good in that direction, it is good in another; and what I was endeavoring to show was, that the Fugitive Slave Bill is expressed, from beginning to end, in the language of the Constitution; and that, therefore, there never has been such a Bill passed, if there has never been a pro-slavery Constitution adopted. If that is not perfectly logical, I do not know how to put premise and conclusion together.
Mr. Pierpont—I will show that it is not. Mr. Garrison says that the Fugitive Slave Law, as it is called, cannot be known to be such, except through the language of the Constitution, which is the very language in which the subject of that law is described. Well, so far, admit the premises. Now, he proves this law to be constitutional, and to be known to be a Fugitive Slave Law, because the language in which the subject of the law is described is precisely the same as the language of the United States Constitution; therefore, the Constitution must be a pro-slavery instrument. Now, let me show the fault of the logic. The Fugitive Slave Law is known to be such, because the subject of that Act is described in the language of the clause in the Constitution providing for the return of fugitive slaves, by the admission of our friend on the other side. I admit that this Fugitive Slave Act is known to be intended as such; I admit that the subject of the Act is described in the terms of the section of the Constitution—Art. 2, sec. 4. Now, does it follow, that the Constitution is a pro-slavery instrument, when I have shown that the very clause of the Constitution on which alone the Fugitive Slave Bill is based is not the Constitution; that, though written with that which is the Constitution, it is itself a nullity? That section may be good, if it is intended under it to return fugitives, apprentices, redemptionists, or minors; but if construed as referring to fugitive slaves, it is fundamentally and immediately dead, because in violation of natural right,—the
higher law. It never had any vitality, it never can have any vitality, as a law; and all the parties making and adopting it knew that it never had, and never could have, any vitality, because, at that very time, these great principles of construction were all settled. There were great lawyers in the Convention that adopted the Constitution, and they knew, in their own souls, that there could be no validity in that clause. Then I say, the logic is false, because it takes the clause which, although embodied in the Constitution, was, is, ever has been, and ever must be, a total nullity as a law for the government of human beings, and judges the whole instrument by that; and I say, that to judge the whole Constitution, in which there are hundreds of provisions, by the single provision which we prove to be nothing, is, to my mind, not logic.
Mr. Garrison—We are talking about language now--about the meaning of words—not about the
higher law. Let us keep to the point. If the objection to our position is, that the language of the Constitution is unexceptionable in regard to liberty, and therefore we ought not to construe it in a pro-slavery sense; then we turn to those who take this ground, and ask,
Has there ever been a Fugitive Slave Bill adopted by Congress? Their answer is,
Yes—and they go on to express their horror and indignation in view of the fact. Judging them by their own rules of interpretation, we ask them when and where such a Bill has been passed; we challenge them to prove their assertion; and they are dumb! Their very logic—I call it sophistry—is fatal to their position. For if they say the Fugitive Slave Bill was designed to mean the recapture of fugitive slaves, and is therefore properly designated as such—very well;—so does the Constitutional provision mean, and was designed to mean, precisely the same thing; for the language is the same in both cases. Against the logic, and rhetoric, and grammar, of my respected friend, as to what the Constitution is, I put the uniform judgment and action of this nation for sixty-five years. Every State Legislature is against him; every State Court is against him; all the District Courts of the United States are against him; the Supreme Court of the United States, the Constitutional expounder of the instrument, is against him. Every thing is against him, from beginning to end. The people cannot have erred in so grave a matter; they have neither been deceived nor deluded; the heart of the nation has been inexorably cruel and tyrannical toward the colored population, whether bond or free; and it is useless to deny the fact.
Mr. Chairman, I believe, in my heart and conscience—I cannot believe otherwise, in view of the history of this country, the character of the people, and their treatment of the colored population for two hundred years—I believe that, in the formation of the Constitution, provision was made, in deceitful phraseology, for the continuance of the foreign slave trade for twenty years; for a slave representation in Congress; for the recapture of fugitive slaves; and for the suppression of domestic insurrection in the slave States. That is my judgment of it, and I claim that conscience ought to be respected on this platform. What shocks me is, that while we avow it as our belief, that we should sin against God, and be false to liberty, if we took part in this government, we are still asked to override conscience, to abandon our ideas of duty, for the sake of casting a ballot! If, in our belief, that ballot is stained with the blood of the slave, how can we touch it? We are not allowed to take an oath that we will support the Constitution as far as we can conscientiously. We are as much bound to support one portion of it, in good faith, as another; or else we must refuse to take the oath, and so avoid perjury. Now, I go from place to place, and plead the cause of
remember those in bonds as bound with them/q>; or whether I am compromising their rights for any purpose, or on any pretence, however plausible. Well, under the Constitution, the following is the obligation imposed upon me as a voter:—
Will you swear that slaveholders, because they are slaveholders, shall have extraordinary political power in Congress, in proportion to the number of slaves that they can breed or steal? No; before God, I cannot do it! Therefore, I put my foot on it, as I would upon a reptile. I cannot take the oath to conform to whatever is good in the Constitution, because I cannot take this damning iniquity with it.
Will you swear that no slave shall find a refuge on any part of American soil?—that even on Bunker Hill he shall not stand in safety from his pursuers? No! rather let my right hand perish, and let a thunderbolt from heaven smite me to the dust!
Will you swear that, should the slaves rise up, in imitation of our revolutionary fathers, and seek to secure their freedom by the sword, the entire military and naval power of the country shall be pledged to the oppressors, to put the insurgents back into their chains, or into a bloody grave? No! I would as soon deny my God; I would as soon commit suicide; ay, a thousand times sooner. (Loud cheers.)
 So, then, there is an insurmountable barrier in the way, which prevents me from taking the oath of allegiance:—it is conscience. Away with the oath—it is immoral! Away with the Constitution—it semlls of blood!
Let me say, Mr. Chairman, that I should feel none the less called upon to cry,
No Union with Slaveholders! even if the language and object of the Constitution were entirely unobjectionable. We are dealing with a ferocious oligarchy, rather than with a dry parchment. We are ruled by the Slave Power more absolutely than were the colonies by George the Third. It is infatuation to think of preserving our liberties in alliance with that Power. Nor may we hope to bring it to terms. In one thing, at least, let us imitate the example of our revolutionary sires. Of what did they complain? Of parliamentary oppression, of kingly usurpation, of taxation without representation; not of Magna Charta, not of the British Constitution—for to the spirit and provisions of these they appealed in self-defence, until endurance ceased to be a virtue. They declared that the time had come for separation—that
when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is the right, it is the duty of the people to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. They did not say,
We can do better than to secede: let us wait for the repeal of those oppressive enactments: the British Constitution is still ours—Magna Charta and the Common Law still remain, and shall yet be vindicated: other parliaments are to be elected: let us bide our time under the wing of the mother country. No! But so reasoned the tories of that day, (I mean nothing invidious by the reference,) and denounced the proposition for colonial secession as the wildest fanaticism. Had their counsel prevailed, where would have been Bunker Hill, and Lexington, and Concord, in history—where the Independence of America? Our fathers were men of practical good sense. They had to deal with an overshadowing despotism, against which parchment was powerless, and the Constitution a straw. And so they
solemnly published and declared that these United Colonies were, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they were absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all connexion between them and the State of Great Britain was, and ought to be, totally dissolved. Under the domination of the Slave Power, we of the North cannot do better than to imitate their example. As in their case, so in ours—patience, forbearance, expostulation, will avail nothing. If we mean to be freemen, we can never strike hands with those who make merchandise of their fellow-men. The exactions which they demand of us render this impossible.
We are asked,
How is the dissolution of the Union to be effected? Give us your plan! My answer is, whenever the people are ready for Disunion, they will easily find out a way to effect it. When this sentiment shall spread like a flame, as I trust in God it will, through the length and breadth of the free States, (cheers,) the people will come together in their primary assemblies, and elect such men to represent them in General Convention as they may deem best qualified to devise ways and means for effecting a separation, and to frame a new government, free from the spirit of bondage. In that hour, they will not ask for any plan of mine, or any of my associates on this platform: we shall be as drops in the Atlantic ocean. The chain once broken, the Everetts, the Choates, the Winthrops, will then be as ready to obey the popular sentiment, and to take the lead in the cause of freedom, as they have hitherto been subservient to the will of the Slave Power. Our preliminary work is, not to construct a new government, but first of all to make every Northern man see and confess, that our boasted Union is a snare, a curse, and a degrading vassalage;—in strict verity, that there is no Union for freedom to be dissolved, but one to be created! For where is the man who will venture to deny any one of the allegations contained in the resolution I have submitted to the Convention? Allow me to read it once more:—
Resolved, That the American Union is the supremacy of the bowie knife, the revolver, the slave-driver’s lash, and lynch law, over freedom of speech, of the press, of conscience, of locomotion, in more than one half of the nation—[Is it not so?—
and the degrading vasalage of the entire North to the accursed Slave Power; [Is not that true?—
that such a Union—[mark you!
such a Union—not an ideal one—not something yet to be realized]—
that such a Union is to be resisted, denounced and repudiated by every lover of liberty, until its utter overthrow shall be consummated; and that, to effect this glorious object, there should be one united shout of
No Union with Slaveholders, religiously or politically!
This declaration cannot be gainsayed. Let us, then, not waste our time in verbal criticism, or legal hair-splitting, as to the meaning of words. Down with such a Union! (Cheers, and a few hisses in the gallery.)
Mr. Chairman, this question does not concern me, or the Abolitionists in particular; it concerns every one who means to be a man, and to carry a heart in his bosom—every Whig, every Democrat, every Know Nothing, every Free Soiler. I take it for granted, whether they have any bowels for mercy for those in slavery, or not, they mean to assert their own right to freedom of speech and locomotion, in every section of the land; or, if not, then they are dastards. Now, is this a right that they possess? Who, of them all, dares venture south of Mason and Dixon’s line, and fearlessly rebuke the slaveholder to his face, and openly declare that his sympathies are with the enslaved? In vain shall he make appeal to the
higher law! The Southern substitute for this, in all such cases, is
lynch law. In vain shall he assert his constitutional right to speak his own sentiments: the Constitution is powerless! He will fare no better than the most radical Disunion Abolitionist. That being so, where is our Northern manhood? Do we always mean to cower under the Southern lash? Is it coolly said by any in reply,
We do not want to agitate the subject of slavery? But what if you did? You cannot with impunity. Men are apt to change their minds; and the Whig, or Democrat, or Know Nothing, who to-day cares nothing for those in bonds, may to-morrow feel constrained to plead their cause, even at the South. In that case, he too becomes an outlaw. Ay, the very men who bow down to the Slave Power here—who fill our pulpits and our editorial chairs—who denounce the anti-slavery movement as undeserving of any support or countenance—are themselves, as the friends of impartial liberty, as much outlaws in the South as any of us. Is such a Union to be perpetuated? By all that is just and equal, no!
Mr. Chairman, declamation and rhetoric, on so grave an issue, are worth little; but facts are irresistible. We are demanding extraordinary action of the people of the North; and in order to induce them to take that action, boldly and understandingly, they need to be shown what are the real facts in the case, especially as affecting their own rights and liberties at the South.
Undeniably, it is a provision of the Constitution of the United States, that
the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States. There are no less than eight thousand recognised colored
citizens in Massachusetts, taxed and represented as such; many of them legal voters, eligible to every office in the gift of the people; all of them to be protected in their rights by the combined power of the Commonwealth, as much as Abbot Lawrence, or Chief Justice Shaw, or Governor Gardner—for in Massachusetts one citizen is, by our Bill of Rights, equal to every other; and the faith of the whole people is pledged to stand by each other to the end. Now, there is not one of that large number of citizens who can enter the slave States, whether on business, or in quest of health and recreation, without subjecting himself to fine and imprisonment, and even the liability to be sold on the auction-block into perpetual slavery.
Nor wife nor children more shall he behold,
Nor friends, nor sacred home.
The last number of the New York Tribune calls the attention of the philanthropic to the fact, that two colored citizens of New York are now lodged in jail, in Goochland County, Virginia, and will be sold into slavery, unless persons who know to their being freemen testify to the fact. Their names are Henry Hin and Isaiah Broomfield. Besides the proof of freedom, money will be required to pay the jail-fees of these men!
Both of these men were hands on board of a vessel which has broken the laws, by entering the royal dominions of Democratic Virginia with free negroes on board.—Within the last eighteen months, no less than three colored seamen, who shipped from this port for Galveston, (Texas,) have been thrust into prison on their arrival at that place, and, on pretence of having attempted to secrete a slave, were sold into life-long bondage, and have disappeared forever! What if this worse than murderous outrage had been done to Abbot Lawrence, to Judge Shaw, to Gov. Gardner! Would not Faneuil Hall have rocked, and Bunker Hill thundered and lightninged, with popular excitement? And why not these as well as the victims alluded to? What if Southern slaveholders should be prohibited, by a law of Massachusetts, from coming into this State?—or, if disregarding the law, any should venture to come, and at once be seized, thrust into prison, compelled to pay the jail fees, and then be banished from the Commonwealth? How many days would transpire before the whole South would rise up as one man, and proclaim the Union at an end?
To show yet more plainly where we stand—to illustrate still further the spirit of our Southern masters—let me present some documentary evidence on this point.
First, I will read an extract from a recent letter of the Rev. Henry M. Denison, of Louisville, Ky., (a son-in-law of Ex-President Tyler,) elicited by the fact that his female slave was declared free, in consequence of his bringing her into Ohio. He says:—
I know that personal rights are dearer to the people of the South than the barren glory derived from a union with strangers, from which too many already think they have nothing to gain, and much to lose. And I know that this growing dissatisfaction is confined to no one class of men, but that it is shared in by the vicious and the virtuous, the rich and the poor, the cultivated and the ignorant; that it is found among professional men and mechanics, godless worldlings and devout Christians, lawyers, and merchants, and clergymen, and legislators of the State and federal governments. The adherence of slaveholders to their rights of person and property is stronger than all their political preferences or combinations, whether as Whigs, Democrats, or Know Nothings, or even as citizens of the United States.
Mark the language of this insolent divine—
a union with strangers, meaning the people of the free States! What beautiful fraternity! Mark, too, the declaration, that slavery is dearer to the South than all party ties, or even the Union itself.
Hear what the Richmond Examiner says of slavery—of its relation to the Union—and of the people of the North:—
Slavery is the one only and last bond that holds the bursting Union together. Look at the North—what a horrible scene it presents! What an example of terrible, palpable, contemporary warning!—a wretched, miserable conglomeration of every sect, and clime, and people, and nation, under heaven—society utterly degraded, and disorganization universal. The mass of those who have no property legislate for those who have: thus all security for property is gone; and the society is scarcely comparable to that of the mongrel Mexican Indian and Spaniard. Would ye be like them? Then abolish Slavery. Each day you are becoming more like them. Every other step has been taken, and the abolition of Slavery alone is wanting, that you may be even as they are. But cherish and preserve this institution, and you may yet be saved. It is the last plank for the sinking Union to grasp; and, aswhile there is life there is hope,it may yet bear the reeling Government safely into port.
And this is the estimation in which the freemen of the North are held by the slaveholding oligarchy of the South! This is the sketch drawn of their manners, morals, and social condition! This is the Union!
You have all read the particulars of the destruction of the Parkville (Missouri) Luminary by an armed mob—how that the press was thrown into the river, its editors narrowly escaped being lynched, and the following resolutions were adopted by the lawless villains of that place.
Resolved, 1. That the Parkville Industrial Luminary is a nuisance, which has been endured too long, and should now be abated.
3. That we meet here again, on this day three weeks, and if we find G. S. Park and W. J. Patterson in this town then, or at any subsequent time, we will throw them into the Missouri river, and if they go to Kansas to reside, we pledge our honor as men to follow them and hang them wherever we can take them.
4. That, at the suggestion of our Parkville friends, we will attend to some other Free Soilers not far off.
5. That we will suffer no person belonging to the Northern Methodist Church to preach in Platte county, after this date, under penalty of tar and feathers for the first offence, and a hemp rope for the second.
6. That we earnestly call on our sister counties throughout the State to rise in their might, and clean themselves of Free Soilism.
What was the Parkville Luminary—a sheet imbued with an anti-slavery spirit? No—it occupied Nullifiers of the South. Why was it destroyed? Simply because it had the manliness to protest against the ruthless invasion of Kansas, on the day of election, by the armed ruffians from Missouri. It dared to ask,
Is the flag of our country to be no longer a protection? or are individuals or companies of men to declare, we will! and it must be so without regard to law? And for this it was destroyed, and its proprietors compelled to flee for their lives! Glorious Union!
Another atrocious outrage has since been perpetrated. On the 17th of May, Mr. Phillips, of Fort Leavenworth, a Free Soiler, was decoyed to the bank of the Missouri river, where he was suddenly seized and forced into a skiff, and carried across the river to Missouri; thence he was carried seven miles to Weston. An old warehouse stands just below the town; he was taken there, his head was shaved, his face was blacked, he was tarred and feathered, and then ridden upon a rail through the streets of Weston, while music horrible and hideous accompanied the proceedings. Before the hotel they exhibited him, and then a negro was compelled to sell him to the lowest bidder!!
Here is what the Washington Sentinel says in regard to the next Congress:—
In the next House of Representatives, the abolitionists will have a majority. Should such a vile and infamous proposition be made; should the vote be taken; should that vote show a majority for the incendiaries of whom we have spoken—then, and we say it solemnly, we would not answer for the consequences. They would deserve, majority though they be, to be driven from the Hall of Legislation, as Cromwell drove the corrupt men of his day from their seats in the Halls of English Legislation.
If the act of Massachusetts goes into effect, it will be the duty of the South to resist the entrance of the members of either branch of Congress from the State into the Capitol, until it is expunged from her code book! The South remains in its bearings to the North precisely where it stood when Washington first entered upon his presidential duties. It has never been guilty of the slightest aggression on any one of the so called free States. (!!!) From this position it must not swerve a line. The metropolis of the Republic is located within its limits. That metropolis it must control, and expel therefrom the Goths and Vandals who are undermining our great political edifice. No member of either House who comes from a State which sets at defiance a constitutional provision, or a law palpably in conformity with that constitutional provision, should be permitted to take his seat.
From the origins of the Government to the present time, the antagonism between the North and the South has been steadily developing itself in all the departments of feeling and of thought—in sundering religious associations, controlling literature, and embittering section against section. To counteract this antagonism, all sorts of expedients have been tried. Party organizations, patched up truces, and shallow compromises, have all had their day, and have all fallen beneath the violence of an inborn, incurable, hopeless malady. The North and the South were never one people, and nothing can ever make them so.
This last declaration is as true as it is frank, and covers the whole ground. Meeting the issue here presented, with an unfaltering spirit, once more I give to the winds the rallying-cry,
No Union with Slaveholders, religiously or politically! (Cheers.)