The Infidelity of Abolitionism

Every great reformatory movement, in every age, has been subjected alike to popular violence and to religious opprobium. The history of one is essentially that of every other. Its origin is ever in obscurity; its earliest supporters are destitute of resources, uninfluential in position, without reputation; it is denounced as fanatical, insane, destructive, treasonable, infidel. The tactics resorted to for its suppression are ever the same, whether it be inaugurated by the prophets, by Jesus and his apostles, by Wickliffe, Luther, Calvin, Fox, or any of their successors. Its opponents have scornfully asked, as touching its pedigree, Is not this the carpenter’s son? They have patriotically pronounced it a seditious attempt to play into the hands of the Romans, to the subversion of the State and nation. They have piously exclaimed against it as open blasphemy. They have branded it as incomparably more to be feared and abhorred than robbery and murder. (¶ 1)

No other result has been possible, under the circumstances. The wrong assailed has grown to a colossal size: its existence not only implies, but demonstrates, universal corruption. It has become organic—a part of the habits and customs of the times. It is incorporated into the State; it is nourished by the Church. Its support is the test of loyalty, patriotism, piety. It holds the reins of government with absolute mastery—rewarding the venal, stimulating the ambitious, terrifying the weak, inflaming the brutal, satisfying the pharisaical, ostracising the incorruptible. It has its temple, its ritual, its priesthood, its divine paternity, in the prevailing religion, no matter what may be the title or pretension thereof. (¶ 2)

Such, then, was the system,—so buttressed and defended,—to be assailed and conquered by the Abolitionists. And who were they? In point of numbers, as drops to the ocean; without station or influence; equally obscure and destitute of resources. Originally, they were generally members of the various religious bodies, tenacious of their theological views, full of veneration for the organized church and ministry, but ignorant of the position in which these stood to the sum of all villanies. What would ultimately be required of them by a faithful adherence to the cause of the slave, in their church relations, in their political connections, their social affinities, their worldly interest and reputation, they knew not. Instead of seeking a controversy with the pulpit and the church, they confidently looked to both for efficient aid to their cause. Instead of suddenly withdrawing from the pro-slavery religious organizations with which they were connected, they lingered long and labored hard to bring them to repentance. They were earnest, but well-balanced; intrepid, but circumspect; importunate, but long-suffering. Their controversy was neither personal nor sectional; their object, neither to arraign any sect nor to assail any party, primarily. They sought to liberate the slave by every righteous instrumentality—nothing more. But, to their grief and amazement, they were gradually led to perceive, by the terrible revelations of the hour, that the religious forces on which they had relied were all arrayed on the side of the oppressor; that the North was as hostile to emancipation as the South; that the spirit of slavery was omnipresent, invading every sanctuary, infecting every pulpit, controlling every press, corrupting every household, and blinding every vision; that no other alternative was presented to them, except to wage war with principalities, and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places, and to separate themselves from every slaveholding alliance, or else to daub with untempered mortar, substitute compromise for principle, and thus betray the rights and liberties of the millions in thraldom, at a fearful cost to their own souls. (¶ 3)