American Journalist, Crusader, Abolitionist, Suffragist and Social Reformer
William Lloyd Garrison
American Journalist, Crusader, Abolitionist, Suffragist and Social Reformer
Has not the experience of two centuries shown that gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice? Is there an instance, in the history of the world, where slaves have been educated for freedom by their task-masters?
It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question of my influence, -- humble as it is,-- is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years -- not perniciously, but beneficially -- not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard "the fear of man which bringeth a snare," and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power.
The Sabbath, as now recognized and enforced, is one of the main pillars of Priestcraft and Superstition, and the stronghold of a merely ceremonial Religion.
I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to 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 cause like the present. I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.
Let me define my positions, and at the same time challenge anyone to show wherein they are untenable. I am a believer in that portion of the Declaration of American Independence in which it is set forth, as among self-evident truths, "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Hence, I am an abolitionist. Hence, I cannot but regard oppression in every form-and most of all, that which turns a man into a thing-with indignation and abhorrence. Not to cherish these feelings would be recreancy to principle. They who desire me to be dumb on the subject of slavery, unless I will open my mouth in its defense, ask me to give the lie to my professions, to degrade my manhood, and to stain my soul. I will not be a liar, a poltroon, or a hypocrite, to accommodate any party, to gratify any sect, to escape any odium or peril, to save any interest, to preserve any institution, or to promote any object. Convince me that one man may rightfully make another man his slave, and I will no longer subscribe to the Declaration of Independence. Convince me that liberty is not the inalienable birthright of every human being, of whatever complexion or clime, and I will give that instrument to the consuming fire. I do not know how to espouse freedom and slavery together.
The standard of matrimony is erected by affection and purity, and does not depend upon the height, or bulk, or color, or wealth, or poverty of individuals. Water will seek its level; nature will have free course; and heart will answer to heart.
I cherish as strong a love for the land of my nativity as any man living. I am proud of her civil, political and religious institutions ? of her high advancement in science, literature and the arts ? of her general prosperity and grandeur. But I have some solemn accusations to bring against her. I accuse her of insulting the majesty of Heaven with the grossest mockery that was ever exhibited to man ? inasmuch as, professing to be the land of the free and the asylum of the oppressed, she falsifies every profession, and shamelessly plays the tyrant. I accuse her, before all nations, of giving an open, deliberate and base denial to her boasted Declaration, that "all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I accuse her of disfranchising and proscribing nearly half a million free people of color, acknowledging them not as countrymen, and scarcely as rational beings, and seeking to drag them thousands of miles across the ocean on a plea of benevolence, when they ought to enjoy all the rights, privileges and immunities of American citizens. I accuse her of suffering a large portion of her population to be lacerated, starved and plundered, without law and without justification, at the will of petty tyrants. I accuse her of trafficking in the bodies and souls of men, in a domestic way, to an extent nearly equal to the foreign slave trade; which traffic is equally atrocious with the foreign, and almost as cruel in its operations. I accuse her of legalizing, on an enormous scale, licentiousness, fraud, cruelty and murder.
Let Southern oppressors tremble ? let their secret abettors tremble ? let their Northern apologists tremble ? let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.
The success of any great moral enterprise does not depend upon numbers.
I claim to be a human rights man, and wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being whatever may be the sex or the complexion. Our rights are equal, and whoever tramples on them is either a ruffian or a tyrant, unwilling that justice should reign in the world.
Liberty for each, for all, and forever!
There is much declamation about the sacredness of the compact which was formed between the free and slave states, on the adoption of the Constitution. A sacred compact, forsooth! We pronounce it the most bloody and heaven-daring arrangement ever made by men for the continuance and protection of a system of the most atrocious villainy ever exhibited on earth. Yes?we recognize the compact, but with feelings of shame and indignation, and it will be held in everlasting infamy by the friends of justice and humanity throughout the world. It was a compact formed at the sacrifice of the bodies and souls of millions of our race, for the sake of achieving a political object?an unblushing and monstrous coalition to do evil that good might come. Such a compact was, in the nature of things and according to the law of God, null and void from the beginning. No body of men ever had the right to guarantee the holding of human beings in bondage. Who or what were the framers of our government, that they should dare confirm and authorize such high-handed villainy?such flagrant robbery of the inalienable rights of man?such a glaring violation of all the precepts and injunctions of the gospel?such a savage war upon a sixth part of our whole population??They were men, like ourselves?as fallible, as sinful, as weak, as ourselves. By the infamous bargain which they made between themselves, they virtually dethroned the Most High God, and trampled beneath their feet their own solemn and heaven-attested Declaration, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights?among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They had no lawful power to bind themselves, or their posterity, for one hour?for one moment?by such an unholy alliance. It was not valid then?it is not valid now. Still they persisted in maintaining it?and still do their successors, the people of Massachussetts, of New-England, and of the twelve free States, persist in maintaining it. A sacred compact! A sacred compact! What, then, is wicked and ignominious?
A man's country is the world.
I do not know how to worship God and Mammon at the same time. If other men choose to go upon all fours, I choose to stand erect, as God designed every man to stand. If, practically falsifying its heaven-attested principles, this nation denounces me for refusing to imitate its example, then, adhering all the more tenaciously to those principles, I will not cease to rebuke it for its guilty inconsistency. Numerically, the contest may be an unequal one, for the time being; but the author of liberty and the source of justice, the adorable God, is more than multitudinous, and he will defend the right. My crime is that I will not go with the multitude to do evil. My singularity is that when I say that freedom is of God and slavery is of the devil, I mean just what I say. My fanaticism is that I insist on the American people abolishing slavery or ceasing to prate of the rights of man.
Little boldness is needed to assail the opinions and practices of notoriously wicked men; but to rebuke great and good men for their conduct, and to impeach their discernment, is the highest effort of moral courage.
These are solemn times. It is not a struggle for national salvation; for the nation, as such, seems doomed beyond recovery. The reason why the South rules, and the North falls prostrate in servile terror, is simply this: with the South, the preservation of slavery is paramount to all other considerations above party success, denominational unity, pecuniary interest, legal integrity, and constitutional obligation. With the North, the preservation of the Union is placed above all other things-above honor, justice, freedom, integrity of soul, the Decalogue and the Golden Rule-the infinite God himself. All these she is ready to discard for the Union. Her devotion to it is the latest and the most terrible form of idolatry. She has given to the slave power a carte blanche, to be filled as it may dictate-and if, at any time, she grows restive under the yoke, and shrinks back aghast at the new atrocity contemplated, it is only necessary for that power to crack the whip of disunion over her head, as it has done again and again, and she will cower and obey like a plantation slave-for has she not sworn that she will sacrifice everything in heaven and on earth, rather than the Union?
And now let me give the sentiment which has been, and ever will be, the governing passion of my soul: 'Liberty for each, for all, and forever!'
I have a need to be all on fire, for I have mountains of ice about me to melt.
My country is the world; my countrymen are mankind.
To say that everything in the bible is to be believed , simply because it is found in that volume, is equally absurd and pernicious... To discard a portion of scripture is not necessarily to reject the truth, but may be the highest evidence that one can give of his love of truth.
Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependent upon popular opinion?
I have not come here with reference to any flag but that of freedom. If your Union does not symbolize universal emancipation, it brings no Union for me. If your Constitution does not guarantee freedom for all, it is not a Constitution I can ascribe to. If your flag is stained by the blood of a brother held in bondage, I repudiate it in the name of God. I came here to witness the unfurling of a flag under which every human being is to be recognized as entitled to his freedom. Therefore, with a clear conscience, without any compromise of principles, I accepted the invitation of the Government of the United States to be present and witness the ceremonies that have taken place today. And now let me give the sentiment which has been, and ever will be, the governing passion of my soul: "Liberty for each, for all, and forever!"
No chains can bind it, and no cell enclose.
Unhappily, to borrow the words of Ganganelli, a large majority of mankind are "mere abortions": calling themselves rational andintelligent beings, they act as if they had neither brains nor conscience, and as if there were no God, no accountability, no heaven, no hell, no eternity.
Assenting to the "self-evident truth" maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights -- among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-Street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this moment to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice, and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My conscience is now satisfied.