The Death of Slavery

When I was requested, by our honored chairman, to write upon a slip of paper some of the names of those who had made themselves conspicuous in the Anti-Slavery movement, but who had ascended to a higher sphere of existence, I had but a few moments in which to recall their memories. The list might be extended indefinitely; but I beg leave to add to it, on this occasion, the name of Professor Follen, among the earliest and the truest, the friend and champion of impartial freedom in Europe and America; and him, whose soul is marching on, John Brown. (Enthusiastic cheers.)—At this point, Major General Butler came upon the platform, and was received with a storm of applause from the audience, who rose to their feet, and clapped their hands, and waved hats and handkerchiefs for several minutes. Quietude being restored, Mr. Garrison continued as follows:—

Mr. Chairman, Ladies, and Gentlemen:— In the long course of history, there are events of such transcendant sublimity and importance as to make all human speech utterly inadequate to portray the emotions they excite. The event we are here to celebrate is one of these—grand, inspiring, glorious, beyond all power of utterance, and far-reaching beyond all finite computation. (Applause.)

At last, after eighty years of wandering and darkness,—of cruelty and oppression, on a colossal scale, towards a helpless and an unoffending race—of recreancy to all the heaven-attested principles enunciated by our revolutionary sires in justification of their course; through righteous judgment and fiery retribution; through national dismemberment and civil war; through suffering, bereavement and lamentation, extending to every city, town, village and hamlet, almost every household in the land; through a whole generation of Anti-Slavery warning, expostulation and rebuke, resulting in wide-spread contrition and repentance; the nation, rising in the majesty of its moral power and political sovereignty, has decreed that liberty shall be proclaimed throughout all the land, to all the inhabitants thereof, and that henceforth no such anomalous being as slaveholder or slave shall exist beneath the stars and stripes, within the domain of the republic. (Cheers.)

Sir, no such transition of feeling and sentiment, as has taken place within the last four years, stands recorded on the historic page; a change that seems as absolute as it is stupendous. Allow me to confess that, in view of it, and of the mighty consequences that must result from it to unborn generations, I feel to-night in a thoroughly methodistical state of mind—disposed at the top of my voice, and to the utmost stretch of my lungs, to shout Glory! Alleluia! Amen and amen! (Rapturous applause—Glory! Alleluia! Amen and amen! being repeated with great unction by various persons in the audience.) Gladly and gratefully would I exclaim with one of old, The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad. (Applause.) With the rejoicing Psalmist, I would say to the old and the young, O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever. To him alone that doeth great wonders; for his mercy endureth forever. To him that overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea; for his mercy endureth forever. And brought out Israel from among them, with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm; for his mercy endureth forever. (Loud applause.) Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord!

Mr. Chairman, friends and strangers stop me in the streets, daily, to congratulate me on having been permitted to witnes the almost miraculous change which has taken place in the feelings nd sentiments of the people on the subject of slavery, and in favor of the long rejected but ever just and humane doctrine of immediate and universal emancipation. Ah, sir, no man living better understands or more joyfully recognizes the vastness of that change than I do. But most truly can I say that it causes within me no feeling of personal pride or exultation—God forbid! But I am unspeakably happy to believe, not only that this vast assembly, but that the great mass of my countrymen are now heartily disposed to admit that, in disinterestedly seeking, by all righteous instrumentalities, for more than thirty years, the utter abolition of slavery, I have not acted the part of a madman, fanatic, incendiary, or traitor, (immense applause,) but have at all times been of sound mind, (laughter and cheers,) a true friend of liberty and humanity, animated by the highest patriotism, and devoted to the welfare, peace, unity, and ever increasing prosperity and glory of my native land! (Cheers.) And the same verdict you will render in vindication of the clear-sighted, untiring, intrepid, unselfish, uncompromising Anti-Slavery phalanx, who, through years of conflict and persecution—misrepresented, misunderstood, ridiculed and anathematized from one end of the country to the other—have labored in season and out of season to bring about this glorious result. (Renewed applause.) You will, I venture to think and say, agree with me, that only radical abolitionism is, at this trial-hour, loyalty, justice, impartial freedom, national salvation—the Golden Rule blended with the Declaration of Independence! (Great applause.)

Mr. Chairman, in the early days of the Anti-Slavery struggle, when those who ventured to espouse it were few and far between, we endeavoured to recruit our ranks by singing at our gatherings—

Come, join the abolitionists,
the fair, the old, the young,
And, with a warm and cheerful zeal,
Come, help the cause along!
O, that will be joyful, joyful, joyful,
When all shall proudly say,
This, this is Freedom’s day! Oppression, flee away!
Tis then we’ll sing, and offerings bring,
When Freedom wins the day!

Thanks unto God, that day is here and now! Freedom is triumphant! The people have decreed the death of slavery! All the controlling elements of the country—national, state, religious, political, literary, social, economical, wealthy, industrial—are combined for its immediate extinction. There is no longer occasion, therefore, for the repetition of that persuasive song. As Jefferson said, in his inaugural message to Congress, We are all Federalists, we are all Republicans—so, in view of the dominant Anti-slavery sentiment of the land, it may now be comprehensively declared, We are all abolitionists, we are all loyalists, to the back-bone. (Loud applause.)

Fellow-citizens, we are here, moved as by one electric impulse, to commemorate a radical change in the Constitution of the United States—so radical that, whereas, for more than seventy years, it served as a mighty bulwark for the slave system, giving it national sanction and security, now it forbids human slavery in every part of the republic!