Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

the long contest that followed; men would speak and vote for freedom; when angry enough they would fight-to defeat the master and incidentally to free the slave—but to pay, in cold blood, and in heavy measure, for the ransom of the slaves, was a different matter; and few were they who, like Lincoln, favored that way out. The action of those three Legislatures marked the height of the early antislavery tide, and prompted a hope which was never fulfilled.

In the decade 1820-30, more than 100 anti-slavery societies were established in slave States (see James G. Birney and His Times, an admirable exposition of the conservative anti-slavery movement). The Manumission Society of North Carolina in 1825 took a kind of census of the State, and concluded that of its people 60 in 100 favored emancipation in some form. In the same year a pamphlet published in Charleston, S. C.,

C., on “The Critical Situation and Future Prospects of the Slave-Holding States,” bitterly declared that the whole book and newspaper press of the North and East teemed with articles on slavery. In Maryland, an anti-slavery party in 1826 elected two members to the House of Delegates; but this movement disappeared on the election of Jackson two years later. In Alabama, Birney, a man of a fine type, and growing toward leadership, secured in 1827 the passage of a law forbidding the importation of slaves as merchandise; but this was repealed two years later. So the wave flowed and ebbed, but on the whole it seemed to advance.

Among local societies in the Northern States, one may be instanced in New Haven, Ct., in which, in 1825, five young men associated themselves; among them were Edward Beecher, Leonard Bacon, and Theodore D. Woolsey. They were highly practical; their immediate aims were: First to elevate the black population of New Haven; secondly, to influence public sentiment in the city and State;

and thirdly, to influence the theological students in Yale college. So faithful were their labors in their own city for its black population—described as in most wretched condition, which seems to have been the case with most of the blacks at the North in this period—that six years later Garrison pronounced them more comfortable and less injured by prejudice than in any other place in the Union. The young men of the New Haven and Andover seminaries united in a project of a college for the blacks; strong support was obtained; but the fierce wave of reaction following Nat Turner's revolt swept it away. Lane seminary at Cincinnati, a Presbyterian stronghold, became a center of enthusiastic anti-slavery effort, with the brilliant young Theodore D. Weld as its foremost apostle ; he was welcomed and heard in the border slave States. The authorities of the college, alarmed by the audacity of their pupils, tried to restrain the movement, and the result was a great secession of students.

The seceders proposed to form a theological department at Oberlin College (established two years before) if they could have Charles G. Finney, the famous revivalist, as their teacher. But Finney declined to take the place until the conservative trustees consented to admit colored youths to the College; and thus Oberlin became an anti-slavery stronghold.

As the anti-slavery movement developed, the call for immediate liberation became more insistent and imperative. The colonization method lost credit. Slavery was coming to be regarded by its opponents not merely as a social evil to be eradicated, but as a personal sin of the slave-holder, to be renounced as promptly as any other sin. John Wesleys words were a keynote: “Instantly, at any price, were it the half of your goods, deliver thyself from blood-guiltiness!” A Virginia minister, Rev. George Bourne, pub

lished in 1816 Slavery and the Book Irreconcilable, in which he said: “The system is so entirely corrupt that it admits of no cure but by total and immediate abolition." Two other Southern ministers, James Duncan and John Rankin, wrote to the same effect. In England, the abolition of slavery in the West India colonies was being persistently urged; the impulse was a part of the philanthropic movement that went along with the evangelical revival, and Wilberforce was its leader. These English abolitionists were coming to “immediatism ” from 1824, and their influence told in America.

Among the most unselfish and devoted laborers for the slave was Benjamin Lundy. He was a Quaker by birth and training; he overtaxed his strength and permanently impaired his hearing by prematurely trying to do a man's work on his father's farm in New Jersey, and settled at the saddler's trade in Wheeling, Va., in 1808. With the outlawing of the African slave trade, there was beginning the sale of slaves from Virginia to the Southern cottonfields, and the sight of the sorrowful exiles moved Lundy's heart to a lifelong devotion of himself to pleading the cause of the slave. Infirm, deaf, unimpressive in speech and bearing, trudging on long journeys, and accepting a decent poverty, he gave all the resources of a strong and sweet nature to the service of the friendless and unhappy. He supported himself by his trade, while he lectured and wrote. He established in 1821 a weekly Genius of Universal Emancipation, at Mt. Pleasant, O., starting without a dollar of capital and only six subscribers; and at first walking twenty miles every week to the printing press, and returning with his edition on his back. Four years later he moved his paper to Baltimore. Anti-slavery agitation was still tolerated in the border States, though once Lundy was attacked by a bully who almost murdered him. When

the impending election of Jackson in 1828 came as a chill to the anti-slavery cause, the waning fortunes of his paper sent Lundy to Boston to seek aid. There he found sympathy in a number of the clergy, though fear of arousing the hostility of the South kept them cautious. Dr. Channing wrote to Daniel Webster, expressing the fullest sympathy with Lundy's devotion to freedom, but also the gravest apprehension that unless the slaveholders were approached in a spirit of friendliness rather than denunciation, there would result a sectional strife fraught with the greatest danger. We should say to the South, wrote Channing, “Slavery is your calamity and not your crime"; and the whole nation should assume the burden of emancipation, meeting the expense by the revenue from the sale of public lands. In this brief letter of Channing's there is more of true statesmanship than in all the utterances of the politicians of his day.

But Lundy (himself not given to denunciation) made one convert of a very different temper from Channing's or his own-William Lloyd Garrison, a young man educated in a printing-office, fearless, enthusiastic, and energetic in the highest degree. Quickly won to the emancipation idea, and passing soon to full belief in immediate and uncompensated liberation, he allied himself with Lundy as the active editor of the Genius, while the older man devoted himself to traveling and lecturing. The Genius at once became militant and aggressive. The incidents which constantly fell under Garrison's eye-slave auctions and whippings~fanned the fire within him. One day, for example, a slave came into the office, told his story, and showed the proofs. His master had lately died, leaving him his freedom, which was to be legally effected in a few weeks; but in the meantime the overseer under whom he worked, displeased at his way of loading a wagon, flogged him with

[ocr errors]

a cowhide so severely that his back showed twenty-seven terrible gashes. Garrison appealed to the master's heirs for redress, but was repelled with contumely. Presently he assailed an old fellow-townsman in Newburyport, Mass., because a ship he owned had been employed to transport a cargo of slaves from Baltimore to New Orleans. The denunciation was unmeasured; the ship-owner brought suit, and as some points in the article were not sustained by the evidence, Garrison was fined $100. Unable to pay he went to jail, bearing his captivity with courage and high cheer, till Arthur Tappan, a New York merchant and a leader in the anti-slavery cause, paid his fine and released him. The Genius being ruined, Garrison transferred his field of labor to Boston, where, at the beginning of 1831, he started the weekly Liberator. He and his partner, Isaac Knapp, did all the work of every kind, living principally on bread and water, and with only six hours a week, and those at midnight, for Garrison to write his articles. The paper's motto was: Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind.” In his salutatory Garrison wrote: “I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think or speak or write with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen,—but urge me not to use moderation in a cau like the present. I am in earnest-I will not equivocateI will not excuse—I will not retract a single inch-and I will be heard !”

While Garrison's language was constantly such as to arouse passion to the boiling point, he was always in theory a supporter of peace, opposed to war under any conditions, and even to resistance of force by force. But in 1829 there

« AnteriorContinuar »