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ATTEMPTS TO STIFLE DISCUSSION.
ration is calculated to excite an insurrection among the slaves, has been held, by highly respectable legal authority, an offense against the peace of this commonwealth, which may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor at common law."
The Legislature referred the subject to a joint Committee, whereof a conspicuous champion of Slavery was Chairman. The Abolitionists perceived and eagerly embraced their opportunity. They demanded a hearing before this Committee—they being accused of grave misdemeanors in the documents whereon it was to act—and their request was tardily acceded to. On the 3d of March, 1836, they wrere apprised that they would be heard next day. They were duly present accordingly—the Committee sitting in the spacious .Representatives' Hall, neither House being in session. Brief addresses in their behalf were heard from Pev. Samuel J. May and Ellis Gray Loring, who were followed by Professor Charles Follen, who, in the course of his remarks, alluded to the mob outrages to which the Abolitionists had recently been subjected, remarking that any legislative enactment to their prejudice would tend to encourage their adversaries to repeat those outrages. The Chairman treated this remark as disrespectful to the Committee, and abruptly terminated the hearing. The Abolitionists thereupon completed promptly their defense, and issued it in a pamphlet, which naturally attracted public attention, and a popular conviction that fair play had not been accorded them was manifested. The Legislature shared it, and directed its Committee to allow them a full hearing. Monday, the 8th, was accordingly appointed for the purpose. By this time, the public
interest had become diffused and intensified, and the Hall was crowded with earnest auditors. The Eev. "William E. Channing, then the most eminent clergyman in New England, appeared among the champions of Free Speech. Professor Follen concluded, and was followed by Samuel E. Sewall, William Lloyd Garrison, and William Goodell—the last-named stigmatizing the demand of the South and its backers as an assault on the liberties of the North. Mr. Bond, a Boston merchant, and Dr. Bradley, from Plymouth, were prompted by the impulse of the hour to add their unpremeditated remonstrances against the contemplated invasion of time-honored rights. Darkness had set in when the Committee rose, and a low murmur of approving multitudes gave token that the cause of liberty had triumphed. The Committee reported adversely to the " agitators" and "fanatics" at the heel of the session, but in evident despair of any accordant action; and none was ever had. Massachusetts refused to manacle her own people in order to rivet more securely the shackles of others.
Bhode Island was the theatre of a similar attempt, ending in a similar failure. And if, in any other State, like efforts were made, they were likewise defeated. No nominally Free State, however hostile to Abolition, consented to make it a crime on the part of her people to "preach deliverance to the captive."
But the systematic suppression of anti-Slavery teaching by riot and mob-violene& was, for a time, wellnigh universal. In New York, a meeting at Clinton Hall, to organize a City Anti-Slavery Soci<Jtj,.having been called for the evening of October 2,1833, there appeared a countercall from "Many Southrons" for a meeting at the same time and place. In apprehension of a riot, Clinton Hall was not opened ; but such of the Abolitionists as could be notified on the instant repaired to the Chathamstreet Chapel. Their opponents met in Tammany Hall, and, after making their speeches and passing their resolves unquestioned, were about to adjourn, when they were apprised of the meeting in the Chapel. "Let us rout them!" was the general cry; and they rushed noisily to the Chapel only to find ihat the Abolitionists had departed. "Ten thousand dollars for Arthur Tajypan!" was shouted; but no one was molested, and the crowd dissolved in the comforting assurance that the Union was safe.
But on the 4th of July, 1834, an attempt to hold an anti-Slavery celebration in Chatham-street Chapel was the signal for a furious and alarming riot. The prayer, the singing, and the reading of the Declaration, were endured with tolerable patience; but a Declaration of the Sentiments of the Anti-Slavery Society by Lewis Tappan was interrupted by hisses; and when David Paul Brown, of Philadelphia, commenced his oration, it was soon manifest that a large portion of the audience had come expressly not to hear him, nor let any one else. Rev. Samuel H. Cox interposed in behalf of Free Speech; but both were clamored down with cries of "Treason! Treason! Hurrah for the Union!" and the meeting quietly dispersed, without awaiting or provoking further violence.
The: leading commercial journals having^ commended this experiment
in Union-saving, the actors were naturally impelled to extend it. At midnight on the 9th, the dwelling of Lewis Tappan was broken open by a mob, his furniture carried into the street, and consigned to the flames. The burning of the house was then proposed; but the Mayor remonstrated, and it was forborne. The riots were continued through the next day; the doors and windows of Dr. Cox's (Presbyterian) church being broken, with those of Dr. Ludlow's church; while a Baptist, a Methodist, and a Protestant Episcopal church, belonging to colored congregations, were badly shattered, and one of them nearly destroyed, as was a school-house for colored children, and many dwellings inhabited by negroes, while others were seriously injured. Many rioters were arrested during these days by the police, but none of them was ever punished.
Newark, New Jersey, imitated this riot on the 11th, but with indifferent success. A church was somewhat injured.
Philadelphia followed on the 13th of August. Her riots lasted three nights, and the harmless and powerless blacks were mainly their victims. Forty-four houses (mostly small) were destroyed or seriously injured. Among them was a colored Presbyterian church. Several of the blacks were chased and assaulted, one of them being beaten to death, and another losing his life in attempting to swim the Schuylkill to escape his pursuers.
At Worcester, Massachusetts, August 10,1835, the Eev. Orange Scott, who was lecturing against Slavery, was assaulted, his notes torn up, and personal violence attempted.
At Concord, New Hampshire, on the same day, a mob demolished an academy, because colored boys were admitted as pupils.
At Canterbury, Connecticut, Miss Prudence Crandall having attempted, in 1833, to open a school for colored children, an act was passed by the Legislature forbidding • any teaching within that State of colored youth from other States. She persisted, and was imprisoned for it as a malefactor. Having been liberated, she resumed her school; when it was broken up by mob-violence.
The riots whereof the foregoing are specimens were too numerous and wide-spread to be even glanced at severally. They were, doubtless, multiplied and intensified by the presence in our country of George Thompson, an eminent and ardent English Abolitionist, who—now that the triumph of Emancipation in the British West Indies was secured—came over to aid the kindred struggle in this country. That a Briton should presume to plead for Liberty in this free and enlightened country was not to be endured; and Mr. Thompson's eloquence, fervor, and thoroughness, increased the hostility excited by his presence, which, of itself, was held an ample excuse for mobs. He was finally induced to desist and return to England, from a conviction that the prejudice aroused by his interference in what was esteemed a domestic difference overbalanced the good effect of his lectures. The close of this year (1835) was signalized by the conversion of Gebrit Smith—hitherto a leading and zealous Colonizationist —to the principles of the Abolitionists.
In JSTorthfield, New Hampshire, December 14, 1835, Kev. George
Storrs attempted to deliver an antiSlavery lecture, but was dragged from his knees while at prayer, preliminary to his address, by a deputy sheriff, on the strength of a warrant issued by a justice, on a complaint charging him with being "a common rioter and brawler," "an idle and disorderly person, going about the town and county disturbing the public peace." On trial, he was acquitted; but, on the 31st of March following, after having lectured at Pittsfield, New Hampshire, he was again arrested while at prayer, on a writ issued by one who afterward became a Member of Congress, tried the same day, convicted, and sentenced to three months' imprisonment in the House of Correction. He appealed; and that was probably the end of the matter.
At Boston, October 21, 1835, a large and most respectable mob, composed in good .part of merchants, assailed a meeting of the Female AntiSlavery Society, while its President was" at prayer, and dispersed it, William Lloyd Garrison, having escaped, was found concealed in a cabinet-maker's shop, seized and dragged through the streets with a rope around his body, threatened with tar and feathers, but finally conducted to the Mayor, who lodged him in jail till the next day, to protect him from further violence. At the earnest request of the authorities, he left town for a time.
At Utica, New York, the same day, a meeting, convened to form a State Anti-Slavery Society, was broken up by a most respectable Committee, appointed by a large meeting of citizens. The office of a Democratic journal that had spoken kindly of the Abolitionists was assailed and its press thrown down. The discipline proved effective. No Democratic journal issued in that city has since ventured to speak a word for Freedom or Humanity. The Abolitionists, at Gerrit Smith's invitation, adjourned to his home at Peterborough, Madison County, and there completed their organization.
At the South, there was but one mode of dealing with Abolitionists— that described by Henry A. Wise as made up of "Dupont's best [gunpowder], and cold steel." "Let your emissaries cross the Potomac," writes the Rev. T. S. Witherspoon from Alabama to The Emancipator, "and I can promise you that your fate will be no less than Hainan's."7 Says the Eev. William Plummer, D. D., of Richmond, Virginia, in response (July, 1835) to a call for a meeting of the clergy to take action on the
exciting topic, u Let the Abolitionists understand that they will he caught if they come among us, and they will take good care to stay away."8 The calculation was a tolerably sound one; yet it did not save quite a number of persons—mainly of Northern birth—who were seized at various points throughout the South on suspicion of being anti-Slavery, and very summarily put to death—some with, and some without, a mob trial. Had there been any proof9 against them, they would doubtless have been left to the operation of the laws for such cases made and provided; for these were certainly harsh enough to satisfy even Wise himself.
At Charleston, S. C, July 29, 1835, it was noised about that the mails just arrived from the North contained a quantity of Abolition periodicals and documents. A public meeting was thereupon called, wThich the Reverend Clergy of the
7 At a public meeting convened in the church in the town of Clinton, Mississippi, September 5, 1835, it was
"Besolved, That it is our decided opinion, that any individual who dares to circulate, with a view to effectuate the designs of the Abolitionists, any of the incendiary tracts or newspapers now in the course of transmission to this country, is justly worthy, in the sight of God and man, of immediate death: and we doubt not that such would be the punishment of any such offender, in any part of the State of Mississippi where he may be found."
8 "The cry of the whole South should be death —instant death—to the abolitionist, wherever he is caught."—Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle.
"We can assure the Bostonians, one and all, who have embarked in the nefarious scheme of abolishing Slavery at the South, that lashes will hereafter be spared the backs of their emissaries. Let them send out their men to Louisiana; they will never return to tell their sufferings, but they shall expiate the crime of interfering with our domestic institutions, by being Bubned At The Stake."—New Orleans True American.
"Abolition editors in Slave States will not dare to avow their opinions. It would be instant Death to them."—Missouri Argus.
And Mr. Preston, of South Carolina, who once
delivered a speech at Columbia in reference to a proposed railroad, in which he despondingly drew a forcible contrast between the energy, enterprise, knowledge, and happiness of the North, and the inertia, indigence, and decay of the South, in the U. S. Senate afterward declared:
"Let an abolitionist come within the borders of South Carolina, if we can catch we will try him, and, notwithstanding all the interference of all the governments of the earth, including the Federal Government, we wtll Hang him."—See "iV. Y. Journal of Commerce" June 6, 1838.
9 In 1835, a suspicion was aroused in Madison County, Mississippi, that a conspiracy for a slave insurrection existed. Five negroes were first hung; then five white men. The pamphlet put forth by their mob-murderers shows that there was no real evidence against any of them—that their fives were sacrificed to a cowardly panic, which would not be appeased without bloodshed. The whites were hung at an hour's notice, protesting their innocence to the last. And this is but one case out of many such. In a panic of this kind, every non-slaveholder who ever said a kind word or did a humane act for a negro is a doomed man.
RIFLING THE MAILS.
city attended in a body, "lending," says The Courier of next morning, "their sanction to the proceedings, and adding, by their presence, to the impressive character,of the scene." This meeting unanimously resolved that all the mail matter in question should be burnt, and it was burnt accordingly—the mails being searched and rifled for the purpose; "although," (says The Courier), "arrangements had previously been made at the Post-office to arrest the circulation of incendiary matter, until instructions could be received from the Department at Washington;" and "it might have been better, perhaps, to have awaited the answer before proceeding to extremities." But Mr. Amos Kendall, then PostmasterGeneral, was not the man to "hint a fault, or hesitate dislike," with regard to such mail robbery, though obliged to confess that it was not strictly according to act of Congress.
"I am satisfied," he replied to the Postmaster's application, "that the PostmasterGeneral has no legal authority to exclude newspapers from the mail, nor to prohibit their carriage or delivery on account of their character or tendency, real or supposed." "But I am not prepared to direct you to forward or deliver the papers of which you speak." "By no act or direction of mine, official or private, could I be induced to aid, knowingly, in giving circulation to papers of this description, directly or indirectly. We owe an obligation to the laws, but a higher one to the communities in which we live; and, if the former be permitted to destroy the latter, it is patriotism to disregard them. Entertaining these views, I cannot sanction, and will not condemn, the step you have taken. Your justification must be looked for in the character of the papers detained, and the circumstances by which you are surrounded."
Governor Seward has been widely charged and credited with the authorship of the "higher law" doctrine; but here we find it clearly set forth
in a grave Democratic State paper, fifteen years before he uttered it. And it is yet far older than this.
General Jackson's recommendation of repression by law of the circulation of "incendiary" matter through the mails, was referred by the Senate to a Select Committee, whereof John C. Calhoun was Chairman. The perilous scope of any such legislation was at once clear to the keen intellect of that statesman, who had by this time learned to dread "Consolidation" as intensely as he detested "Abolition." He reported (February 4, 1836), that the measure proposed by the President would violate the Constitution, and imperil public liberty.
"Nothing is more clear," says the Report, "than that the admission of the right of Congress to determine what papers are incendiary, and, as such, to prohibit their circulation through the mail, necessarily involves the Eight to determine what are Not incendiary, and Enforce their circulation. * * * If Congress may this year decide what incendiary publications Are, they may, next year, decide what they are Not, and thus laden their mails with real or covert abolitionism. * * * It belongs to the States, and not to Congress, to determine what is or is not calculated to disturb their security."
He proposed, therefore, that each State should determine for itself what kind of reading it would deem "incendiary," and that Congress should thereupon prohibit the transmission by mail of such matter to that State. He concluded with a bill, which contained this provision:
"Be it enacted, etc., That it shall not be lawful for any deputy postmaster, in any State, Territory, or District, of the United States, knowingly, to deliver to any person whatsoever, any pamphlet, newspaper, handbill, or other printed paper or pictorial representation, touching the subject of Slavery, where, by the laws of the said State, Territory, or District, their circulation is