THE WORKS OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, Volume VII. (of VII)
THE CONFLICT WITH SLAVERY, POLITICS AND REFORM, THE INNER LIFE and CRITICISM
By John Greenleaf Whittier
THE CONFLICT WITH SLAVERY JUSTICE AND EXPEDIENCY THE ABOLITIONISTS; THEIR SENTIMENTS AND OBJECTS LETTER TO SAMUEL E. SEWALL JOHN QUINCY ADAMS THE BIBLE AND SLAVERY WHAT IS SLAVERY DEMOCRAT AND SLAVERY THE TWO PROCESSIONS A CHAPTER OF HISTORY THOMAS CARLYLE ON THE SLAVE QUESTION FORMATION OF THE AMERICAN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY THE LESSON AND OUR DUTY CHARLES SUMNER AND THE STATE DEPARTMENT THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 1872 THE CENSURE OF SUMNER THE ANTI-SLAVERY CONVENTION OF 1833 KANSAS WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON ANTI-SLAVERY ANNIVERSARY RESPONSE TO THE CELEBRATION OF MY EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY
REFORM AND POLITICS. UTOPIAN SCHEMES AND POLITICAL THEORISTS PECULIAR INSTITUTIONS OF MASSACHUSETTS LORD ASHLEY AND THE THIEVES WOMAN SUFFRAGE ITALIAN UNITY INDIAN CIVILIZATION READING FOR THE BLIND THE INDIAN QUESTION THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OUR DUMB RELATIONS INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION SUFFRAGE FOR WOMEN
THE INNER LIFE. THE AGENCY OF EVIL HAMLET AMONG THE GRAVES SWEDENBORG THE BETTER LAND DORA GREENWELL THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS JOHN WOOLMAN'S JOURNAL THE OLD WAY HAVERFORD COLLEGE
CRITICISM. EVANGELINE MIRTH AND MEDICINE FAME AND GLORY FANATICISM THE POETRY OF THE NORTH
THE CONFLICT WITH SLAVERY
JUSTICE AND EXPEDIENCY
OR, SLAVERY CONSIDERED WITH A VIEW TO ITS RIGHTFUL AND EFFECTUAL REMEDY, ABOLITION.
"There is a law above all the enactments of human codes, the same throughout the world, the same in all time,--such as it was before the daring genius of Columbus pierced the night of ages, and opened to one world the sources of wealth and power and knowledge, to another all unutterable woes; such as it is at this day: it is the law written by the finger of God upon the heart of man; and by that law, unchangeable and eternal while men despise fraud, and loathe rapine, and abhor blood, they shall reject with indignation the wild and guilty fantasy that man can hold property in man." --LORD BROUGHAM.
IT may be inquired of me why I seek to agitate the subject of Slavery in New England, where we all acknowledge it to be an evil. Because such an acknowledgment is not enough on our part. It is doing no more than the slave-master and the slave-trader. "We have found," says James Monroe, in his speech on the subject before the Virginia Convention, "that this evil has preyed upon the very vitals of the Union; and has been prejudicial to all the states in which it has existed." All the states in their several Constitutions and declarations of rights have made a similar statement. And what has been the consequence of this general belief in the evil of human servitude? Has it sapped the foundations of the infamous system? No. Has it decreased the number of its victims? Quite the contrary. Unaccompanied by philanthropic action, it has been in a moral point of view worthless, a thing without vitality, sightless, soulless, dead.
But it may be said that the miserable victims of the system have our sympathies. Sympathy the sympathy of the Priest and the Levite, looking on, and acknowledging, but holding itself aloof from mortal suffering. Can such hollow sympathy reach the broken of heart, and does the blessing of those who are ready to perish answer it? Does it hold back the lash from the slave, or sweeten his bitter bread? One's heart and soul are becoming weary of this sympathy, this heartless mockery of feeling; sick of the common cant of hypocrisy, wreathing the artificial flowers of sentiment over unutterable pollution and unimaginable wrong. It is white-washing the sepulchre to make us forget its horrible deposit. It is scattering flowers around the charnel-house and over the yet festering grave to turn away our thoughts "from the dead men's bones and all uncleanness," the pollution and loathsomeness below.
No! let the truth on this subject, undisguised, naked, terrible as it is, stand out before us. Let us no longer seek to cover it; let us no longer strive to forget it; let us no more dare to palliate it. It is better to meet it here with repentance than at the bar of God. The cry of the oppressed, of the millions who have perished among us as the brute perisheth, shut out from the glad tidings of salvation, has gone there before us, to Him who as a father pitieth all His children. Their blood is upon us as a nation; woe unto us, if we repent not, as a nation, in dust and ashes. Woe unto us if we say in our hearts, "The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see?"
But it may be urged that New England has no participation in slavery, and is not responsible for its wickedness.
Why are we thus willing to believe a lie? New England not responsible! Bound by the United States constitution to protect the slave-holder in his sins, and yet not responsible! Joining hands with crime, covenanting with oppression, leaguing with pollution, and yet not responsible! Palliating the evil, hiding the evil, voting for the evil, do we not participate in it?
(Messrs. Harvey of New Hampshire, Mallary of Vermont, and Ripley of Maine, voted in the Congress of 1829 against the consideration of a Resolution for inquiring into the expediency of abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia.)
Members of one confederacy, children of one family, the curse and the shame, the sin against our brother, and the sin against our God, all the iniquity of slavery which is revealed to man, and all which crieth in the ear, or is manifested to the eye of Jehovah, will assuredly be visited upon all our people. Why, then, should we stretch out our hands towards our Southern brethren, and like the Pharisee thank God we are not like them? For so long as we practically recognize the infernal principle that "man can hold property in man," God will not hold us guiltless. So long as we take counsel of the world's policy instead of the justice of heaven, so long as we follow a mistaken political expediency in opposition to the express commands of God, so long will the wrongs of the slaves rise like a cloud of witnesses against us at the inevitable bar.
Slavery is protected by the constitutional compact, by the standing army, by the militia of the free states.
(J. Q. Adams is the only member of Congress who has ventured to speak plainly of this protection. See also his very able Report from the minority of the Committee on Manufactures. In his speech during the last session, upon the bill of the Committee of Ways and Means, after discussing the constitutional protection of slavery, he says: "But that same interest is further protected by the Laws of the United States. It was protected by the existence of a standing army. If the States of this Union were all free republican States, and none of them possessed any of the machinery of which he had spoken, and if another portion of the Union were not exposed to another danger, from their vicinity to the tribes of Indian savages, he believed it would be difficult to prove to the House any such thing as the necessity of a standing army. What in fact was the occupation of the army? It had been protecting this very same interest. It had been doing so ever since the army existed. Of what use to the district of Plymouth (which he there represented) was the standing army of the United States? Of not one dollar's use, and never had been.")
Let us not forget that should the slaves, goaded by wrongs unendurable, rise in desperation, and pour the torrent of their brutal revenge over the beautiful Carolinas, or the consecrated soil of Virginia, New England would be called upon to arrest the progress of rebellion,--to tread out with the armed heel of her soldiery that spirit of freedom, which knows no distinction of cast or color; which has been kindled in the heart of the black as well as in that of the white.
And what is this system which we are thus protecting and upholding? A system which holds two millions of God's creatures in bondage, which leaves one million females without any protection save their own feeble strength, and which makes even the exercise of that strength in resistance to outrage punishable with death! which considers rational, immortal beings as articles of traffic, vendible commodities, merchantable property,--which recognizes no social obligations, no natural relations,--which tears without scruple the infant from the mother, the wife from the husband, the parent from the child. In the strong but just language of another: "It is the full measure of pure, unmixed, unsophisticated wickedness; and scorning all competition or comparison, it stands without a rival in the secure, undisputed possession of its detestable preeminence."
So fearful an evil should have its remedies. The following are among the many which have been from time to time proposed:--
1. Placing the slaves in the condition of the serfs of Poland and Russia, fixed to the soil, and without the right on the part of the master to sell or remove them. This was intended as a preliminary to complete emancipation at some remote period, but it is impossible to perceive either its justice or expediency.
2. Gradual abolition, an indefinite term, but which is understood to imply the draining away drop by drop, of the great ocean of wrong; plucking off at long intervals some, straggling branches of the moral Upas; holding out to unborn generations the shadow of a hope which the present may never feel gradually ceasing to do evil; gradually refraining from robbery, lust, and murder: in brief, obeying a short-sighted and criminal policy rather than the commands of God.
3. Abstinence on the part of the people of the free states from the use of the known products of slave labor, in order to render that labor profitless. Beyond a doubt the example of conscientious individuals may have a salutary effect upon the minds of some of the slave-holders; I but so long as our confederacy exists, a commercial intercourse with slave states and a consumption of their products cannot be avoided.
(The following is a recorded statement of the venerated Sir William Jones: "Let sugar be as cheap as it may, it is better to eat none, better to eat aloes and colloquintida, than violate a primary law impressed on every heart not imbruted with avarice; than rob one human creature of those eternal rights of which no law on earth can justly deprive him.")
4. Colonization. The exclusive object of the American Colonization Society, according to the second article of its constitution, is to colonize the free people of color residing among us, in Africa or such other place as Congress may direct. Steadily adhering to this object it has nothing to do with slavery; and I allude to it as a remedy only because some of its friends have in view an eventual abolition or an amelioration of the evil.
Let facts speak. The Colonization Society was organized in 1817. It has two hundred and eighteen auxiliary societies. The legislatures of fourteen states have recommended it. Contributions have poured into its treasury from every quarter of the United States. Addresses in its favor have been heard from all our pulpits. It has been in operation sixteen years. During this period nearly one million human beings have died in slavery: and the number of slaves has increased more than half a million, or in round numbers, 550,000
The Colonization Society has been busily engaged all this while in conveying the slaves to Africa; in other words, abolishing slavery. In this very charitable occupation it has carried away of manumitted slaves 613
Balance against the society . . . . 549,387!
But enough of its abolition tendency. What has it done for amelioration? Witness the newly enacted laws of some of the slave states, laws bloody as the code of Draco, violating the laws of Cod and the unalienable rights of His children?--(It will be seen that the society approves of these laws.)--But why talk of amelioration? Amelioration of what? of sin, of crime unutterable, of a system of wrong and outrage horrible in the eye of God Why seek to mark the line of a selfish policy, a carnal expediency between the criminality of hell and that repentance and its fruits enjoined of heaven?
For the principles and views of the society we must look to its own statements and admissions; to its Annual Reports; to those of its auxiliaries; to the speeches and writings of its advocates; and to its organ, the African Repository.
1. It excuses slavery and apologizes for slaveholders.
Proof. "Slavery is an evil entailed upon the present generation of slave-holders, which they must suffer, whether they will or not!" "The existence of slavery among us, though not at all to be objected to our Southern brethren as a fault," etc? "It (the society) condemns no man because he is a slave-holder." "Recognizing the constitutional and legitimate existence of slavery, it seeks not to interfere, either directly or indirectly, with the rights it creates. Acknowledging the necessity by which its present continuance and the rigorous provisions for its maintenance are justified," etc. "They (the Abolitionists) confound the misfortunes of one generation with the crimes of another, and would sacrifice both individual and public good to an unsubstantial theory of the rights of man."
2. It pledges itself not to oppose the system of slavery.
Proof. "Our society and the friends of colonization wish to be distinctly understood upon this point. From the beginning they have disavowed, and they do yet disavow, that their object is the emancipation of slaves."--(Speech of James S. Green, Esq., First Annual Report of the New Jersey Colonization Society.)
"This institution proposes to do good by a single specific course of measures. Its direct and specific purpose is not the abolition of slavery, or the relief of pauperism, or the extension of commerce and civilization, or the enlargement of science, or the conversion of the heathen. The single object which its constitution prescribes, and to which all its efforts are necessarily directed, is African colonization from America. It proposes only to afford facilities for the voluntary emigration of free people of color from this country to the country of their fathers."
"It is no abolition society; it addresses as yet arguments to no master, and disavows with horror the idea of offering temptations to any slave. It denies the design of attempting emancipation, either partial or general."
"The Colonization Society, as such, have renounced wholly the name and the characteristics of abolitionists. On this point they have been unjustly and injuriously slandered. Into their accounts the subject of emancipation does not enter at all."
"From its origin, and throughout the whole period of its existence, it has constantly disclaimed all intention of interfering, in the smallest degree, with the rights of property, or the object of emancipation, gradual or immediate." . . . "The society presents to the American public no project of emancipation."--( Mr. Clay's Speech, Idem, vol. vi. pp. 13, 17.)
"The emancipation of slaves or the amelioration of their condition, with the moral, intellectual, and political improvement of people of color within the United States, are subjects foreign to the powers of this society."
"The society, as a society, recognizes no principles in reference to the slave system. It says nothing, and proposes to do nothing, respecting it." . . . "So far as we can ascertain, the supporters of the colonization policy generally believe that slavery is in this country a constitptional and legitimate system, which they have no inclination, interest, nor ability to disturb."
3. It regards God's rational creatures as property.
Proof. "We hold their slaves, as we hold their other property, sacred."
"It is equally plain and undeniable that the society, in the prosecution of this work, has never interfered or evinced even a disposition to interfere in any way with the rights of proprietors of slaves."
"To the slave-holder, who has charged upon them the wicked design of interfering with the rights of property under the specious pretext of removing a vicious and dangerous free population, they address themselves in a tone of conciliation and sympathy. We know your rights, say they, and we respect them."
4. It boasts that its measures are calculated to perpetuate the detested system of slavery, to remove the fears of the slave-holder, and increase the value of his stock of human beings.
Proof. "They (the Southern slave-holders) will contribute more effectually to the continuance and strength of this system (slavery) by removing those now free than by any or all other methods which can possibly be devised."
"So far from being connected with the abolition of slavery, the measure proposed would be one of the greatest securities to enable the master to keep in possession his own property."--(Speech of John Randolph at the first meeting of the Colonization Society.)
"The tendency of the scheme, and one of its objects, is to secure slave- holders, and the whole Southern country, against certain evil consequences growing out of the present threefold mixture of our population."
"There was but one way (to avert danger), but that might be made effectual, fortunately. It was to provide and keep open a drain for the excess beyond the occasions of profitable employment. Mr. Archer had been stating the case in the supposition, that after the present class of free blacks had been exhausted, by the operation of the plan he was recommending, others would be supplied for its action, in the proportion of the excess of colored population it would be necessary to throw off, by the process of voluntary manumission or sale. This effect must result inevitably from the depreciating value of the slaves, ensuing their disproportionate multiplication. The depreciation would be relieved and retarded at the same time by the process. The two operations would aid reciprocally, and sustain each other, and both be in the highest degree beneficial. It was on the ground of interest, therefore, the most indisputable pecuniary interest, that he addressed himself to the people and legislatures of the slave-holding states."
"The slave-holder, who is in danger of having his slaves contaminated by their free friends of color, will not only be relieved from this danger, but the value of his slave will be enhanced."
5. It denies the power of Christian love to overcome an unholy prejudice against a portion of our fellow-creatures.
Proof. "The managers consider it clear that causes exist and are operating to prevent their (the blacks) improvement and elevation to any considerable extent as a class, in this country, which are fixed, not only beyond the control of the friends of humanity, but of any human power. Christianity will not do for them here what it will do for them in Africa. This is not the fault of the colored man, nor Christianity; but an ordination of Providence, and no more to be changed than the laws of Nature!"--(Last Annual Report of the American Colonization Society.)
"The habits, the feelings, all the prejudices of society--prejudices which neither refinement, nor argument, nor education, nor religion itself, can subdue--mark the people of color, whether bond or free, as the subjects of a degradation inevitable and incurable. The African in this country belongs by birth to the very lowest station in society, and from that station he can never rise, be his talents, his enterprise, his virtues what they may. . . . They constitute a class by themselves, a class out of which no individual can be elevated, and below which none can be depressed."
"Is it not wise, then, for the free people of color and their friends to admit, what cannot reasonably be doubted, that the people of color must, in this country, remain for ages, probably forever, a separate and inferior caste, weighed down by causes, powerful, universal, inevitable; which neither legislation nor Christianity can remove?"
6. It opposes strenuously the education of the blacks in this country as useless as well as dangerous.
Proof. "If the free colored people were generally taught to read it might be an inducement to them to remain in this country (that is, in their native country). We would offer then no such inducement."-- (Southern Religious Telegraph, February 19, 1831.)
"The public safety of our brethren at the South requires them (the slaves) to be kept ignorant and uninstructed."
"It is the business of the free (their safety requires it) to keep the slaves in ignorance. But a few days ago a proposition was made in the legislature of Georgia to allow them so much instruction as to enable them to read the Bible; which was promptly rejected by a large majority."--(Proceedings of New York State Colonization Society at its second anniversary.)
E. B. Caldwell, the first Secretary of the American Colonization Society, in his speech at its formation, recommended them to be kept "in the lowest state of ignorance and degradation, for (says he) the nearer you bring them to the condition of brutes, the better chance do you give them of possessing their apathy."
My limits will not admit of a more extended examination. To the documents from whence the above extracts have been made I would call the attention of every real friend of humanity. I seek to do the Colonization Society no injustice, but I wish the public generally to understand its character.
The tendency of the society to abolish the slave-trade by means of its African colony has been strenuously urged by its friends. But the fallacy of this is now admitted by all: witness the following from the reports of the society itself:--
"Some appalling facts in regard to the slave-trade have come to the knowledge of the Board of Managers during the last year. With undiminished atrocity and activity is this odious traffic now carried on all along the African coast. Slave factories are established in the immediate vicinity of the colony; and at the Gallinas (between Liberia and Sierra Leone) not less than nine hundred slaves were shipped during the last summer, in the space of three weeks."
April 6, 1832, the House of Commons of England ordered the printing of a document entitled "Slave-Trade, Sierra Leone," containing official evidence of the fact that the pirates engaged in the African slave-trade are supplied from the stores of Sierra Leone and Liberia with such articles as the infernal traffic demands! An able English writer on the subject of Colonization thus notices this astounding fact:--
"And here it may be well to observe, that as long as negro slavery lasts, all colonies on the African coast, of whatever description, must tend to support it, because, in all commerce, the supply is more or less proportioned to the demand. The demand exists in negro slavery; the supply arises from the African slave-trade. And what greater convenience could the African slave-traders desire than shops well stored along the coast with the very articles which their trade demands. That the African slave-traders do get thus supplied at Sierra Leone and Liberia is matter of official evidence; and we know, from the nature of human things, that they will get so supplied, in defiance of all law or precaution, as long as the demand calls for the supply, and there are free shops stored with all they want at hand. The shopkeeper, however honest, would find it impossible always to distinguish between the African slave-trader or his agents and other dealers. And how many shopkeepers are there anywhere that would be over scrupulous in questioning a customer with a full purse?"
But we are told that the Colonization Society is to civilize and evangelize Africa.
"Each emigrant," says Henry Clay, the ablest advocate which the society has yet found, "is a missionary, carrying with him credentials in the holy cause of civilization, religion, and free institutions."
Beautiful and heart-cheering idea! But stay who are these emigrants, these missionaries?
The free people of color. "They, and they only," says the African Repository, the society's organ, "are qualified for colonizing Africa."
What are their qualifications? Let the society answer in its own words:-- Free blacks are a greater nuisance than even slaves themselves."-- (African Repository, vol. ii. p. 328.)
"A horde of miserable people--the objects of universal suspicion-- subsisting by plunder."
"An anomalous race of beings the most debased upon earth."--(African Repository, vol. vii. p. 230.)
"Of all classes of our population the most vicious is that of the free colored."--(Tenth Annual Report of the Colonization Society.)
I might go on to quote still further from the "credentials" which the free people of color are to carry with them to Liberia. But I forbear.
I come now to the only practicable, the only just scheme of emancipation: Immediate abolition of slavery; an immediate acknowledgment of the great truth, that man cannot hold property in man; an immediate surrender of baneful prejudice to Christian love; an immediate practical obedience to the command of Jesus Christ: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them."
A correct understanding of what is meant by immediate abolition must convince every candid mind that it is neither visionary nor dangerous; that it involves no disastrous consequences of bloodshed and desolation; but, on the, contrary, that it is a safe, practicable, efficient remedy for the evils of the slave system.
The term immediate is used in contrast with that of gradual. Earnestly as I wish it, I do not expect, no one expects, that the tremendous system of oppression can be instantaneously overthrown. The terrible and unrebukable indignation of a free people has not yet been sufficiently concentrated against it. The friends of abolition have not forgotten the peculiar organization of our confederacy, the delicate division of power between the states and the general government. They see the many obstacles in their pathway; but they know that public opinion can overcome them all. They ask no aid of physical coercion. They seek to obtain their object not with the weapons of violence and blood, but with those of reason and truth, prayer to God, and entreaty to man.
They seek to impress indelibly upon every human heart the true doctrines of the rights of man; to establish now and forever this great and fundamental truth of human liberty, that man cannot hold property in his brother; for they believe that the general admission of this truth will utterly destroy the system of slavery, based as that system is upon a denial or disregard of it. To make use of the clear exposition of an eminent advocate of immediate abolition, our plan of emancipation is simply this: "To promulgate the true doctrine of human rights in high places and low places, and all places where there are human beings; to whisper it in chimney corners, and to proclaim it from the house-tops, yea, from the mountain-tops; to pour it out like water from the pulpit and the press; to raise it up with all the food of the inner man, from infancy to gray hairs; to give 'line upon line, and precept upon precept,' till it forms one of the foundation principles and parts indestructible of the public soul. Let those who contemn this plan renounce, if they have not done it already, the gospel plan of converting the world; let them renounce every plan of moral reformation, and every plan whatsoever, which does not terminate in the gratification of their own animal natures."
The friends of emancipation would urge in the first instance an immediate abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and in the Territories of Florida and Arkansas.
The number of slaves in these portions of the country, coming under the direct jurisdiction of the general government, is as follows:--
District of Columbia ..... 6,119 Territory of Arkansas .... 4,576 Territory of Florida .... 15,501
Here, then, are twenty-six thousand human beings, fashioned in the image of God, the fitted temples of His Holy Spirit, held by the government in the abhorrent chains of slavery. The power to emancipate them is clear. It is indisputable. It does not depend upon the twenty-five slave votes in Congress. It lies with the free states. Their duty is before them: in the fear of God, and not of man let them perform it.
Let them at once strike off the grievous fetters. Let them declare that man shall no longer hold his fellow-man in bondage, a beast of burden, an article of traffic, within the governmental domain. God and truth and eternal justice demand this. The very reputation of our fathers, the honor of our land, every principle of liberty, humanity, expediency, demand it. A sacred regard to free principles originated our independence, not the paltry amount of practical evil complained of. And although our fathers left their great work unfinished, it is our duty to follow out their principles. Short of liberty and equality we cannot stop without doing injustice to their memories. If our fathers intended that slavery should be perpetual, that our practice should forever give the lie to our professions, why is the great constitutional compact so guardedly silent on the subject of human servitude? If state necessity demanded this perpetual violation of the laws of God and the rights of man, this continual solecism in a government of freedom, why is it not met as a necessity, incurable and inevitable, and formally and distinctly recognized as a settled part of our social system? State necessity, that imperial tyrant, seeks no disguise. In the language of Sheridan, "What he does, he dares avow, and avowing, scorns any other justification than the great motives which placed the iron sceptre in his grasp."
Can it be possible that our fathers felt this state necessity strong upon them? No; for they left open the door for emancipation, they left us the light of their pure principles of liberty, they framed the great charter of American rights, without employing a term in its structure to which in aftertimes of universal freedom the enemies of our country could point with accusation or reproach.
What, then, is our duty?
To give effect to the spirit of our Constitution; to plant ourselves upon the great declaration and declare in the face of all the world that political, religious, and legal hypocrisy shall no longer cover as with loathsome leprosy the features of American freedom; to loose at once the bands of wickedness; to undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free.
We have indeed been authoritatively told in Congress and elsewhere that our brethren of the South and West will brook no further agitation of the subject of slavery. What then! shall we heed the unrighteous prohibition? No; by our duty as Christians, as politicians, by our duty to ourselves, to our neighbor, and to God, we are called upon to agitate this subject; to give slavery no resting-place under the hallowed aegis of a government of freedom; to tear it root and branch, with all its fruits of abomination, at least from the soil of the national domain. The slave-holder may mock us; the representatives of property, merchandise, vendible commodities, may threaten us; still our duty is imperative; the spirit of the Constitution should be maintained within the exclusive jurisdiction of the government. If we cannot "provide for the general welfare," if we cannot "guarantee to each of the states a republican form of government," let us at least no longer legislate for a free nation within view of the falling whip, and within hearing of the execrations of the task-master and the prayer of his slave!
I deny the right of the slave-holder to impose silence on his brother of the North in reference to slavery. What! compelled to maintain the system, to keep up the standing army which protects it, and yet be denied the poor privilege of remonstrance! Ready, at the summons of the master to put down the insurrections of his slaves, the outbreaking of that revenge which is now, and has been, in all nations, and all times, the inevitable consequence of oppression and wrong, and yet like automata to act but not speak! Are we to be denied even the right of a slave, the right to murmur?
I am not unaware that my remarks may be regarded by many as dangerous and exceptionable; that I may be regarded as a fanatic for quoting the language of eternal truth, and denounced as an incendiary for maintaining, in the spirit as well as the letter, the doctrines of American Independence. But if such are the consequences of a simple performance of duty, I shall not regard them. If my feeble appeal but reaches the hearts of any who are now slumbering in iniquity; if it shall have power given it to shake down one stone from that foul temple where the blood of human victims is offered to the Moloch of slavery; if under Providence it can break one fetter from off the image of God, and enable one suffering African
"To feel The weight of human misery less, and glide Ungroaning to the tomb,"
I shall not have written in vain; my conscience will be satisfied.
Far be it from me to cast new bitterness into the gall and wormwood waters of sectional prejudice. No; I desire peace, the peace of universal love, of catholic sympathy, the peace of a common interest, a common feeling, a common humanity. But so long as slavery is tolerated, no such peace can exist. Liberty and slavery cannot dwell in harmony together. There will be a perpetual "war in the members" of the political Mezentius between the living and the dead. God and man have placed between them an everlasting barrier, an eternal separation. No matter under what name or law or compact their union is attempted, the ordination of Providence has forbidden it, and it cannot stand. Peace! there can be no peace between justice and oppression, between robbery and righteousness, truth and falsehood, freedom and slavery.
The slave-holding states are not free. The name of liberty is there, but the spirit is wanting. They do not partake of its invaluable blessings. Wherever slavery exists to any considerable extent, with the exception of some recently settled portions of the country, and which have not yet felt in a great degree the baneful and deteriorating influences of slave labor, we hear at this moment the cry of suffering. We are told of grass-grown streets, of crumbling mansions, of beggared planters and barren plantations, of fear from without, of terror within. The once fertile fields are wasted and tenantless, for the curse of slavery, the improvidence of that labor whose hire has been kept back by fraud, has been there, poisoning the very earth beyond the reviving influence of the early and the latter rain. A moral mildew mingles with and blasts the economy of nature. It is as if the finger of the everlasting God had written upon the soil of the slave-holder the language of His displeasure.
Let, then, the slave-holding states consult their present interest by beginning without delay the work of emancipation. If they fear not, and mock at the fiery indignation of Him, to whom vengeance belongeth, let temporal interest persuade them. They know, they must know, that the present state of things cannot long continue. Mind is the same everywhere, no matter what may be the complexion of the frame which it animates: there is a love of liberty which the scourge cannot eradicate, a hatred of oppression which centuries of degradation cannot extinguish. The slave will become conscious sooner or later of his brute strength, his physical superiority, and will exert it. His torch will be at the threshold and his knife at the throat of the planter. Horrible and indiscriminate will be his vengeance. Where, then, will be the pride, the beauty, and the chivalry of the South? The smoke of her torment will rise upward like a thick cloud visible over the whole earth.
"Belie the negro's powers: in headlong will, Christian, thy brother thou shalt find him still. Belie his virtues: since his wrongs began, His follies and his crimes have stamped him man."
Let the cause of insurrection be removed, then, as speedily as possible. Cease to oppress. "Let him that stole steal no more." Let the laborer have his hire. Bind him no longer by the cords of slavery, but with those of kindness and brotherly love. Watch over him for his good. Pray for him; instruct him; pour light into the darkness of his mind.
Let this be done, and the horrible fears which now haunt the slumbers of the slave-holder will depart. Conscience will take down its racks and gibbets, and his soul will be at peace. His lands will no longer disappoint his hopes. Free labor will renovate them.
Historical facts; the nature of the human mind; the demonstrated truths of political economy; the analysis of cause and effect, all concur in establishing:
1. That immediate abolition is a safe and just and peaceful remedy for the evils of the slave system.
2. That free labor, its necessary consequence, is more productive, and more advantageous to the planter than slave labor.
In proof of the first proposition it is only necessary to state the undeniable fact that immediate emancipation, whether by an individual or a community, has in no instance been attended with violence and disorder on the part of the emancipated; but that on the contrary it has promoted cheerfulness, industry, and laudable ambition in the place of sullen discontent, indolence, and despair.
The case of St. Domingo is in point. Blood was indeed shed on that island like water, but it was not in consequence of emancipation. It was shed in the civil war which preceded it, and in the iniquitous attempt to restore the slave system in 1801. It flowed on the sanguine altar of slavery, not on the pure and peaceful one of emancipation. No; there, as in all the world and in all time, the violence of oppression engendered violence on the part of the oppressed, and vengeance followed only upon the iron footsteps of wrong. When, where, did justice to the injured waken their hate and vengeance? When, where, did love and kindness and sympathy irritate and madden the persecuted, the broken-hearted, the foully wronged?
In September, 1793, the Commissioner of the French National Convention issued his proclamation giving immediate freedom to all the slaves of St. Domingo. Did the slaves baptize their freedom in blood? Did they fight like unchained desperadoes because they had been made free? Did they murder their emancipators? No; they acted, as human beings must act, under similar circumstances, by a law as irresistible as those of the universe: kindness disarmed them, justice conciliated them, freedom ennobled them. No tumult followed this wide and instantaneous emancipation. It cost not one drop of blood; it abated not one tittle of the wealth or the industry of the island. Colonel Malenfant, a slave proprietor residing at the time on the island, states that after the public act of abolition, the negroes remained perfectly quiet; they had obtained all they asked for, liberty, and they continued to work upon all the plantations.--(Malenfant in Memoirs for a History of St. Domingo by General Lecroix, 1819.)
"There were estates," he says, "which had neither owners nor managers resident upon them, yet upon these estates, though abandoned, the negroes continued their labors where there were any, even inferior, agents to guide them; and on those estates where no white men were left to direct them, they betook themselves to the planting of provisions; but upon all the plantations where the whites resided the blacks continued to labor as quietly as before." Colonel Malenfant says that when many of his neighbors, proprietors or managers, were in prison, the negroes of their plantations came to him to beg him to direct them in their work. "If you will take care not to talk to them of the restoration of slavery, but talk to them of freedom, you may with this word chain them down to their labor. How did Toussaint succeed? How did I succeed before his time in the plain of the Cul-de-Sac on the plantation of Gouraud, during more than eight months after liberty had been granted to the slaves? Let those who knew me at that time, let the blacks themselves be asked. They will all reply that not a single negro upon that plantation, consisting of more than four hundred and fifty laborers, refused to work; and yet this plantation was thought to be under the worst discipline and the slaves the most idle of any in the plain. I inspired the same activity into three other plantations of which I had the management. If all the negroes had come from Africa within six months, if they had the love of independence that the Indians have, I should own that force must be employed; but ninety-nine out of a hundred of the blacks are aware that without labor they cannot procure the things that are necessary for them; that there is no other method of satisfying their wants and their tastes. They know that they must work, they wish to do so, and they will do so."
This is strong testimony. In 1796, three years after the act of emancipation, we are told that the colony was flourishing under Toussaint, that the whites lived happily and peaceably on their estates, and the blacks continued to work for them. Up to 1801 the same happy state of things continued. The colony went on as by enchantment; cultivation made day by day a perceptible progress, under the recuperative energies of free labor.
In 1801 General Vincent, a proprietor of estates in the island, was sent by Toussaint to Paris for the purpose of laying before the Directory the new Constitution which had been adopted at St. Domingo. He reached France just after the peace of Amiens, when Napoleon was fitting out his ill-starred armament for the insane purpose of restoring slavery in the island. General Vincent remonstrated solemnly and earnestly against an expedition so preposterous, so cruel and unnecessary; undertaken at a moment when all was peace and quietness in the colony, when the proprietors were in peaceful possession of their estates, when cultivation was making a rapid progress, and the blacks were industrious and happy beyond example. He begged that this beautiful state of things might not be reversed. The remonstrance was not regarded, and the expedition proceeded. Its issue is well known. Threatened once more with the horrors of slavery, the peaceful and quiet laborer became transformed into a demon of ferocity. The plough-share and the pruning- hook gave way to the pike and the dagger. The white invaders were driven back by the sword and the pestilence; and then, and not till then, was the property of the planters seized upon by the excited and infuriated blacks.
In 1804 Dessalines was proclaimed Emperor of Hayti. The black troops were in a great measure disbanded, and they immediately returned to the cultivation of the plantations. From that period up to the present there has been no want of industry among the inhabitants.
Mr. Harvey, who during the reign of Christophe resided at Cape Francois, in describing the character and condition of the inhabitants, says "It was an interesting sight to behold this class of the Haytiens, now in possession of their freedom, coming in groups to the market nearest which they resided, bringing the produce of their industry there for sale; and afterwards returning, carrying back the necessary articles of living which the disposal of their commodities had enabled them to purchase; all evidently cheerful and happy. Nor could it fail to occur to the mind that their present condition furnished the most satisfactory answer to that objection to the general emancipation of slaves founded on their alleged unfitness to value and improve the benefits of liberty. . . . As they would not suffer, so they do not require, the attendance of one acting in the capacity of a driver with the instrument of punishment in his hand. As far as I had an opportunity of ascertaining from what fell under my own observation, and from what I gathered from other European residents, I am persuaded of one general fact, which on account of its importance I shall state in the most explicit terms, namely, that the Haytiens employed in cultivating the plantations, as well as the rest of the population, perform as much work in a given time as they were accustomed to do during their subjection to the French. And if we may judge of their future improvement by the change which has been already effected, it may be reasonably anticipated that Hayti will erelong contain a population not inferior in their industry to that of any civilized nation in the world. . . . Every man had some calling to occupy his attention; instances of idleness or intemperance were of rare occurrence; the most perfect subordination prevailed, and all appeared contented and happy. A foreigner would have found it difficult to persuade himself, on his first entering the place, that the people he now beheld so submissive, industrious, and contented, were the same people who a few years before had escaped from the shackles of slavery."
The present condition of Hayti may be judged of from the following well- authenticated facts its population is more than 700,000, its resources ample, its prosperity and happiness general, its crimes few, its labor crowned with abundance, with no paupers save the decrepit and aged, its people hospitable, respectful, orderly, and contented.
The manumitted slaves, who to the number of two thousand were settled in Nova Scotia by the British Government at the close of the Revolutionary War, "led a harmless life, and gained the character of an honest, industrious people from their white neighbors." Of the free laborers of Trinidad we have the same report. At the Cape of Good Hope, three thousand negroes received their freedom, and with scarce a single exception betook themselves to laborious employments.
But we have yet stronger evidence. The total abolishment of slavery in the southern republics has proved beyond dispute the safety and utility of immediate abolition. The departed Bolivar indeed deserves his glorious title of Liberator, for he began his career of freedom by striking off the fetters of his own slaves, seven hundred in number.
In an official letter from the Mexican Envoy of the British Government, dated Mexico, March, 1826, and addressed 'to the Right Hon. George Canning, the superiority of free over slave labor is clearly demonstrated by the following facts:--
2. It is now carried on exclusively by the labor of free blacks.
3. It was formerly wholly sustained by the forced labor of slaves, purchased at Vera Cruz at $300 to $400 each.
4. Abolition in this section was effected not by governmental interference, not even from motives of humanity, but from an irresistible conviction on the part of the planters that their pecuniary interest demanded it.
5. The result has proved the entire correctness of this conviction; and the planters would now be as unwilling as the blacks themselves to return to the old system.
Let our Southern brethren imitate this example. It is in vain, in the face of facts like these, to talk of the necessity of maintaining the abominable system, operating as it does like a double curse upon planters and slaves. Heaven and earth deny its necessity. It is as necessary as other robberies, and no more.
Yes, putting aside altogether the righteous law of the living God--the same yesterday, to-day, and forever--and shutting out the clearest political truths ever taught by man, still, in human policy selfish expediency would demand of the planter the immediate emancipation of his slaves.
Because slave labor is the labor of mere machines; a mechanical impulse of body and limb, with which the mind of the laborer has no sympathy, and from which it constantly and loathingly revolts.
Because slave labor deprives the master altogether of the incalculable benefit of the negro's will. That does not cooperate with the forced toil of the body. This is but the necessary consequence of all labor which does not benefit the laborer. It is a just remark of that profound political economist, Adam Smith, that "a slave can have no other interest than to eat and waste as much, and work as little, as he can."
To my mind, in the wasteful and blighting influences of slave labor there is a solemn and warning moral.
They seem the evidence of the displeasure of Him who created man after His own image, at the unnatural attempt to govern the bones and sinews, the bodies and souls, of one portion of His children by the caprice, the avarice, the lusts of another; at that utter violation of the design of His merciful Providence, whereby the entire dependence of millions of His rational creatures is made to centre upon the will, the existence, the ability, of their fellow-mortals, instead of resting under the shadow of His own Infinite Power and exceeding love.
I shall offer a few more facts and observations on this point.
1. A distinguished scientific gentleman, Mr. Coulomb, the superintendent of several military works in the French West Indies, gives it as his opinion, that the slaves do not perform more than one third of the labor which they would do, provided they were urged by their own interests and inclinations instead of brute force.
2. A plantation in Barbadoes in 1780 was cultivated by two hundred and eighty-eight slaves ninety men, eighty-two women, fifty-six boys, and sixty girls. In three years and three months there were on this plantation fifty-seven deaths, and only fifteen births. A change was then made in the government of the slaves. The use of the whip was denied; all severe and arbitrary punishments were abolished; the laborers received wages, and their offences were all tried by a sort of negro court established among themselves: in short, they were practically free. Under this system, in four years and three months there were forty-four births, and but forty-one deaths; and the annual net produce of the plantation was more than three times what it had been before.--(English Quarterly Magazine and Review, April, 1832.)
3. The following evidence was adduced by Pitt in the British Parliament, April, 1792. The assembly of Grenada had themselves stated, "that though the negroes were allowed only the afternoon of one day in a week, they would do as much work in that afternoon, when employed for their own benefit, as in the whole day when employed in their master's service." "Now after this confession," said Mr. Pitt, "the house might burn all its calculations relative to the negro population. A negro, if he worked for himself, could no doubt do double work. By an improvement, then, in the mode of labor, the work in the islands could be doubled."
4. "In coffee districts it is usual for the master to hire his people after they have done the regular task for the day, at a rate varying from 10d. to 15.8d. for every extra bushel which they pluck from the trees; and many, almost all, are found eager to earn their wages."
5. In a report made by the commandant of Castries for the government of St. Lucia, in 1822, it is stated, in proof of the intimacy between the slaves and the free blacks, that "many small plantations of the latter, and occupied by only one man and his wife, are better cultivated and have more land in cultivation than those of the proprietors of many slaves, and that the labor on them is performed by runaway slaves;" thus clearly proving that even runaway slaves, under the all-depressing fears of discovery and oppression, labor well, because the fruits of their labor are immediately their own.
Let us look at this subject from another point of view. The large sum of money necessary for stocking a plantation with slaves has an inevitable tendency to place the agriculture of a slave-holding community exclusively in the hands of the wealthy, a tendency at war with practical republicanism and conflicting with the best maxims of political economy.
Two hundred slaves at $200 per head would cost in the outset $40,000. Compare this enormous outlay for the labor of a single plantation with the beautiful system of free labor as exhibited in New England, where every young laborer, with health and ordinary prudence, may acquire by his labor on the farms of others, in a few years, a farm of his own, and the stock necessary for its proper cultivation; where on a hard and unthankful soil independence and competence may be attained by all.
Free labor is perfectly in accordance with the spirit of our institutions; slave labor is a relic of a barbarous, despotic age. The one, like the firmament of heaven, is the equal diffusion of similar lights, manifest, harmonious, regular; the other is the fiery predominance of some disastrous star, hiding all lesser luminaries around it in one consuming glare.
Emancipation would reform this evil. The planter would no longer be under the necessity of a heavy expenditure for slaves. He would only pay a very moderate price for his labor; a price, indeed, far less than the cost of the maintenance of a promiscuous gang of slaves, which the present system requires.
In an old plantation of three hundred slaves, not more than one hundred effective laborers will be found. Children, the old and superannuated, the sick and decrepit, the idle and incorrigibly vicious, will be found to constitute two thirds of the whole number. The remaining third perform only about one third as much work as the same number of free laborers.
Now disburden the master of this heavy load of maintenance; let him employ free able, industrious laborers only, those who feel conscious of a personal interest in the fruits of their labor, and who does not see that such a system would be vastly more safe and economical than the present?
The slave states are learning this truth by fatal experience. Most of them are silently writhing under the great curse. Virginia has uttered her complaints aloud. As yet, however, nothing has been done even there, save a small annual appropriation for the purpose of colonizing the free colored inhabitants of the state. Is this a remedy?
But it may be said that Virginia will ultimately liberate her slaves on condition of their colonization in Africa, peacefully if possible, forcibly if necessary.
Well, admitting that Virginia may be able and willing at some remote period to rid herself of the evil by commuting the punishment of her unoffending colored people from slavery to exile, will her fearful remedy apply to some of the other slaveholding states?
It is a fact, strongly insisted upon by our Southern brethren as a reason for the perpetuation of slavery, that their climate and peculiar agriculture will not admit of hard labor on the part of the whites; that amidst the fatal malaria of the rice plantations the white man is almost annually visited by the country fever; that few of the white overseers of these plantations reach the middle period of ordinary life; that the owners are compelled to fly from their estates as the hot season approaches, without being able to return until the first frosts have fallen. But we are told that the slaves remain there, at their work, mid-leg in putrid water, breathing the noisome atmosphere, loaded with contagion, and underneath the scorching fervor of a terrible sun; that they indeed suffer; but, that their habits, constitutions, and their long practice enable them to labor, surrounded by such destructive influences, with comparative safety.
The conclusive answer, therefore, to those who in reality cherish the visionary hope of colonizing all the colored people of the United States in Africa or elsewhere, is this single, all-important fact: The labor of the blacks will not and cannot be dispensed with by the planter of the South.
To what remedy, then, can the friends of humanity betake themselves but to that of emancipation?
And nothing but a strong, unequivocal expression of public sentiment is needed to carry into effect this remedy, so far as the general government is concerned.
And when the voice of all the non-slave-holding states shall be heard on this question, a voice of expostulation, rebuke, entreaty--when the full light of truth shall break through the night of prejudice, and reveal all the foul abominations of slavery, will Delaware still cling to the curse which is wasting her moral strength, and still rivet the fetters upon her three or four thousand slaves? Let Delaware begin the work, and Maryland and Virginia must follow; the example will be contagious; and the great object of universal emancipation will be attained. Freemen, Christians, lovers of truth and justice Why stand ye idle? Ours is a government of opinion, and slavery is interwoven with it. Change the current of opinion, and slavery will be swept away. Let the awful sovereignty of the people, a power which is limited only by the sovereignty of Heaven, arise and pronounce judgment against the crying iniquity. Let each individual remember that upon himself rests a portion of that sovereignty; a part of the tremendous responsibility of its exercise. The burning, withering concentration of public opinion upon the slave system is alone needed for its total annihilation. God has given us the power to overthrow it; a power peaceful, yet mighty, benevolent, yet effectual, "awful without severity," a moral strength equal to the emergency.
"How does it happen," inquires an able writer, "that whenever duty is named we begin to hear of the weakness of human nature? That same nature which outruns the whirlwind in the chase of gain, which rages like a maniac at the trumpet call of glory, which laughs danger and death to scorn when its least passion is awakened, becomes weak as childhood when reminded of the claims of duty." But let no one hope to find an excuse in hypocrisy. The humblest individual of the community in one way or another possesses influence; and upon him as well as upon the proudest rests the responsibility of its rightful exercise and proper direction. The overthrow of a great national evil like that of slavery can only be effected by the united energies of the great body of the people. Shoulder must be put to shoulder and hand linked with hand, the whole mass must be put in motion and its entire strength applied, until the fabric of oppression is shaken to its dark foundations and not one stone is left upon another.
Let the Christian remember that the God of his worship hateth oppression; that the mystery of faith can only be held by a pure conscience; and that in vain is the tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, if the weihtier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and truth, are forgotten. Let him remember that all along the clouded region of slavery the truths of the everlasting gospel are not spoken, that the ear of iniquity is lulled, that those who minister between the "porch and the altar" dare not speak out the language of eternal justice: "Is not this the fast which I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free?" (Isa. viii. 6.) "He that stealeth a man and selleth him; or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death." (Exod. xxi. 16.1) Yet a little while and the voice of impartial prayer for humanity will be heard no more in the abiding place of slavery. The truths of the gospel, its voice of warning and exhortation, will be denounced as incendiary? The night of that infidelity, which denies God in the abuse and degradation of man, will settle over the land, to be broken only by the upheaving earthquake of eternal retribution.
To the members of the religious Society of Friends, I would earnestly appeal. They have already done much to put away the evil of slavery in this country and Great Britain. The blessings of many who were ready to perish have rested upon them. But their faithful testimony must be still steadily upborne, for the great work is but begun. Let them not relax their exertions, nor be contented with a lifeless testimony, a formal protestation against the evil. Active, prayerful, unwearied exertion is needed for its overthrow. But above all, let them not aid in excusing and palliating it. Slavery has no redeeming qualities, no feature of benevolence, nothing pure, nothing peaceful, nothing just. Let them carefully keep themselves aloof from all societies and all schemes which have a tendency to excuse or overlook its crying iniquity. True to a doctrine founded on love and mercy, "peace on earth and good will to men," they should regard the suffering slave as their brother, and endeavor to "put their souls in his soul's stead." They may earnestly desire the civilization of Africa, but they cannot aid in building up the colony of Liberia so long as that colony leans for support upon the arm of military power; so long as it proselytes to Christianity under the muzzles of its cannon; and preaches the doctrines of Christ while practising those of Mahomet. When the Sierra Leone Company was formed in England, not a member of the Society of Friends could be prevailed upon to engage in it, because the colony was to be supplied with cannon and other military stores. Yet the Foreign Agent of the Liberia Colony Society, to which the same insurmountable objection exists, is a member of the Society of Friends, and I understand has been recently employed in providing gunpowder, etc., for the use of the colony. There must be an awakening on this subject; other Woolmans and other Benezets must arise and speak the truth with the meek love of James and the fervent sincerity of Paul.
To the women of America, whose sympathies know no distinction of cline, or sect, or color, the suffering slave is making a strong appeal. Oh, let it not be unheeded! for of those to whom much is given much will be required at the last dread tribunal; and never in the strongest terms of human eulogy was woman's influence overrated. Sisters, daughters, wives, and mothers, your influence is felt everywhere, at the fireside, and in the halls of legislation, surrounding, like the all-encircling atmosphere, brother and father, husband and son! And by your love of them, by every holy sympathy of your bosoms, by every mournful appeal which comes up to you from hearts whose sanctuary of affections has been made waste and desolate, you are called upon to exert it in the cause of redemption from wrong and outrage.
Let the patriot, the friend of liberty and the Union of the States, no longer shut his eyes to the great danger, the master-evil before which all others dwindle into insignificance. Our Union is tottering to its foundation, and slavery is the cause. Remove the evil. Dry up at their source the bitter waters. In vain you enact and abrogate your tariffs; in vain is individual sacrifice, or sectional concession. The accursed thing is with us, the stone of stumbling and the rock of offence remains. Drag, then, the Achan into light; and let national repentance atone for national sin.
The conflicting interests of free and slave labor furnish the only ground for fear in relation to the permanency of the Union. The line of separation between them is day by day growing broader and deeper; geographically and politically united, we are already, in a moral point of view, a divided people. But a few months ago we were on the very verge of civil war, a war of brothers, a war between the North and the South, between the slave-holder and the free laborer. The danger has been delayed for a time; this bolt has fallen without mortal injury to the Union, but the cloud from whence it came still hangs above us, reddening with the elements of destruction.
Recent events have furnished ample proof that the slave-holding interest is prepared to resist any legislation on the part of the general government which is supposed to have a tendency, directly or indirectly, to encourage and invigorate free labor; and that it is determined to charge upon its opposite interest the infliction of all those evils which necessarily attend its own operation, "the primeval curse of Omnipotence upon slavery."
We have already felt in too many instances the extreme difficulty of cherishing in one common course of national legislation the opposite interests of republican equality and feudal aristocracy and servitude. The truth is, we have undertaken a moral impossibility. These interests are from their nature irreconcilable. The one is based upon the pure principles of rational liberty; the other, under the name of freedom, revives the ancient European system of barons and villains, nobles and serfs. Indeed, the state of society which existed among our Anglo-Saxon ancestors was far more tolerable than that of many portions of our republican confederacy. For the Anglo-Saxon slaves had it in their power to purchase their freedom; and the laws of the realm recognized their liberation and placed them under legal protection.
(The diffusion of Christianity in Great Britain was moreover followed by a general manumission; for it would seem that the priests and missionaries of religion in that early and benighted age were more faithful in the performance of their duties than those of the present. "The holy fathers, monks, and friars," says Sir T. Smith, "had in their confessions, and specially in their extreme and deadly sickness, convinced the laity how dangerous a thing it was for one Christian to hold another in bondage; so that temporal men, by reason of the terror in their consciences, were glad to manumit all their villains."--Hilt. Commonwealth, Blackstone, p. 52.)
To counteract the dangers resulting from a state of society so utterly at variance with the great Declaration of American freedom should be the earnest endeavor of every patriotic statesman. Nothing unconstitutional, nothing violent, should be attempted; but the true doctrine of the rights of man should be steadily kept in view; and the opposition to slavery should be inflexible and constantly maintained. The almost daily violations of the Constitution in consequence of the laws of some of the slave states, subjecting free colored citizens of New England and elsewhere, who may happen to be on board of our coasting vessels, to imprisonment immediately on their arrival in a Southern port should be provided against. Nor should the imprisonment of the free colored citizens of the Northern and Middle states, on suspicion of being runaways, subjecting them, even after being pronounced free, to the costs of their confinement and trial, be longer tolerated; for if we continue to yield to innovations like these upon the Constitution of our fathers, we shall erelong have the name only of a free government left us.
Dissemble as we may, it is impossible for us to believe, after fully considering the nature of slavery, that it can much longer maintain a peaceable existence among us. A day of revolution must come, and it is our duty to prepare for it. Its threatened evil may be changed into a national blessing. The establishment of schools for the instruction of the slave children, a general diffusion of the lights of Christianity, and the introduction of a sacred respect for the social obligations of marriage and for the relations between parents and children, among our black population, would render emancipation not only perfectly safe, but also of the highest advantage to the country. Two millions of freemen would be added to our population, upon whom in the hour of danger we could safely depend; "the domestic foe" would be changed into a firm friend, faithful, generous, and ready to encounter all dangers in our defence. It is well known that during the last war with Great Britain, wherever the enemy touched upon our Southern coast, the slaves in multitudes hastened to join them. On the other hand, the free blacks were highly serviceable in repelling them. So warm was the zeal of the latter, so manifest their courage in the defence of Louisiana, that the present Chief Magistrate of the United States publicly bestowed upon them one of the highest eulogiums ever offered by a commander to his soldiers.
Let no one seek an apology for silence on the subject of slavery because the laws of the land tolerate and sanction it. But a short time ago the slave-trade was protected by laws and treaties, and sanctioned by the example of men eminent for the reputation of piety and integrity. Yet public opinion broke over these barriers; it lifted the curtain and revealed the horrors of that most abominable traffic; and unrighteous law and ancient custom and avarice and luxury gave way before its irresistible authority. It should never be forgotten that human law cannot change the nature of human action in the pure eye of infinite justice; and that the ordinances of man cannot annul those of God. The slave system, as existing in this country, can be considered in no other light than as the cause of which the foul traffic in human flesh is the legitimate consequence. It is the parent, the fosterer, the sole supporter of the slave-trade. It creates the demand for slaves, and the foreign supply will always be equal to the demand of consumption. It keeps the market open. It offers inducements to the slave-trader which no severity of law against his traffic can overcome. By our laws his trade is piracy; while slavery, to which alone it owes its existence, is protected and cherished, and those engaged in it are rewarded by an increase of political power proportioned to the increase of their stock of human beings! To steal the natives of Africa is a crime worthy of an ignominious death; but to steal and enslave annually nearly one hundred thousand of the descendants of these stolen natives, born in this country, is considered altogether excusable and proper! For my own part, I know no difference between robbery in Africa and robbery at home. I could with as quiet a conscience engage in the one as the other.
"There is not one general principle," justly remarks Lord Nugent, "on which the slave-trade is to be stigmatized which does not impeach slavery itself." Kindred in iniquity, both must fall speedily, fall together, and be consigned to the same dishonorable grave. The spirit which is thrilling through every nerve of England is awakening America from her sleep of death. Who, among our statesmen, would not shrink from the baneful reputation of having supported by his legislative influence the slave-trade, the traffic in human flesh? Let them then beware; for the time is near at hand when the present defenders of slavery will sink under the same fatal reputation, and leave to posterity a memory which will blacken through all future time, a legacy of infamy.
"Let us not betake us to the common arts and stratagems of nations, but fear God, and put away the evil which provokes Him; and trust not in man, but in the living God; and it shall go well for England!" This counsel, given by the purehearted William Penn, in a former age, is about to be followed in the present. An intense and powerful feeling is working in the mighty heart of England; it is speaking through the lips of Brougham and Buxton and O'Connell, and demanding justice in the name of humanity and according to the righteous law of God. The immediate emancipation of eight hundred thousand slaves is demanded with an authority which cannot much longer be disputed or trifled with. That demand will be obeyed; justice will be done; the heavy burdens will be unloosed; the oppressed set free. It shall go well for England.
And when the stain on our own escutcheon shall be seen no more; when the Declaration of our Independence and the practice of our people shall agree; when truth shall be exalted among us; when love shall take the place of wrong; when all the baneful pride and prejudice of caste and color shall fall forever; when under one common sun of political liberty the slave-holding portions of our republic shall no longer sit, like the Egyptians of old, themselves mantled in thick darkness, while all around them is glowing with the blessed light of freedom and equality, then, and not till then, shall it go well for America!
THE ABOLITIONISTS. THEIR SENTIMENTS AND OBJECTS.
Two letters to the 'Jeffersonian and Times', Richmond, Va.
A FRIEND has banded me a late number of your paper, containing a brief notice of a pamphlet, which I have recently published on the subject of slavery.
From an occasional perusal of your paper, I have formed a favorable opinion of your talent and independence. Compelled to dissent from some of your political sentiments, I still give you full credit for the lofty tone of sincerity and manliness with which these sentiments are avowed and defended.
I perceive that since the adjustment of the tariff question a new subject of discontent and agitation seems to engross your attention.
The "accursed tariff" has no sooner ceased to be the stone of stumbling and the rock of offence, than the "abolition doctrines of the Northern enthusiasts," as you are pleased to term the doctrines of your own Jefferson, furnish, in your opinion, a sufficient reason for poising the "Ancient Dominion" on its sovereignty, and rousing every slaveowner to military preparations, until the entire South, from the Potomac to the Gulf, shall bristle with bayonets, "like quills upon the fretful porcupine."
In proof of a conspiracy against your "vested rights," you have commenced publishing copious extracts from the pamphlets and periodicals of the abolitionists of New England and New York. An extract from my own pamphlet you have headed "The Fanatics," and in introducing it to your readers you inform them that "it exhibits, in strong colors, the morbid spirit of that false and fanatical philanthropy, which is at work in the Northern states, and, to some extent, in the South."
Gentlemen, so far as I am personally concerned in the matter, I feel no disposition to take exceptions to any epithets which you may see fit to apply to me or my writings. A humble son of New England--a tiller of her rugged soil, and a companion of her unostentatious yeomanry--it matters little, in any personal consideration of the subject, whether the voice of praise or opprobrium reaches me from beyond the narrow limits of my immediate neighborhood.
But when I find my opinions quoted as the sentiment of New England, and then denounced as dangerous, "false and fanatical;" and especially when I see them made the occasion of earnest appeals to the prejudices and sectional jealousies of the South, it becomes me to endeavor to establish their truths, and defend them from illegitimate influences and unjust suspicions.
In the first place, then, let me say, that if it be criminal to publicly express a belief that it is in the power of the slave states to emancipate their slaves, with profit and safety to themselves, and that such is their immediate duty, a majority of the people of New England are wholly guiltless. Of course, all are nominally opposed to slavery; but upon the little band of abolitionists should the anathemas of the slave- holder be directed, for they are the agitators of whom you complain, men who are acting under a solemn conviction of duty, and who are bending every energy of their minds to the accomplishment of their object.
And that object is the overthrow of slavery in the United States, by such means only as are sanctioned by law, humanity, and religion.
I shall endeavor, gentlemen, as briefly as may be, to give you some of our reasons for opposing slavery and seeking its abolition; and, secondly, to explain our mode of operation; to disclose our plan of emancipation, fully and entirely. We wish to do nothing darkly; frank republicans, we acknowledge no double-dealing. At this busy season of the year, I cannot but regret that I have not leisure for such a deliberate examination of the subject as even my poor ability might warrant. My remarks, penned in the intervals of labor, must necessarily be brief, and wanting in coherence.
We seek the abolishment of slavery
1. Because it is contrary to the law of God.
In your paper of the 2d of 7th mo., the same in which you denounce the "false and fanatical philanthropy" of abolitionists, you avow yourselves members of the Bible Society, and bestow warm and deserved encomiums on the "truly pious undertaking of sending the truth among all nations."
You, therefore, gentlemen, whatever others may do, will not accuse me of "fanaticism," if I endeavor to sustain my first great reason for opposing slavery by a reference to the volume of inspiration:
"Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you do ye even so to them."
"Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you, take heed and do it; for there is no iniquity with the Lord, nor respect of persons."
"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness; to undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?"
"If a man be found stealing any of his brethren, and maketh merchandise of him, or selling him, that thief shall die."
"Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons."
"And he that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hands, he shall surely be put to death."
2. Because it is an open violation of all human equality, of the laws of Nature and of nations.
The fundamental principle of all equal and just law is contained in the following extract from Blackstone's Commentaries, Introduction, sec. 2.
"The rights which God and Nature have established, and which are therefore called natural rights, such as life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually vested in every man than they are; neither do they receive any additional strength when declared by municipal laws to be inviolable: on the contrary, no human legislation has power to abridge or destroy there, unless the owner shall himself commit some act that amounts to a forfeiture."
Has the negro committed such offence? Above all, has his infant child forfeited its unalienable right?
Surely it can be no act of the innocent child.
Yet you must prove the forfeiture, or no human legislation can deprive that child of its freedom.
Its black skin constitutes the forfeiture!
What! throw the responsibility upon God! Charge the common Father of the white and the black, He, who is no respecter of persons, with plundering His unoffending children of all which makes the boon of existence desirable; their personal liberty!
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."-- (Declaration of Independence, from the pen of Thomas Jefferson.)
In this general and unqualified declaration, on the 4th of July, 1776, all the people of the United States, without distinction of color, were proclaimed free, by the delegates of the people of those states assembled in their highest sovereign capacity.
For more than half a century we have openly violated that solemn declaration.
3. Because it renders nugatory the otherwise beneficial example of our free institutions, and exposes us to the scorn and reproach of the liberal and enlightened of other nations.
"Chains clank and groans echo around the walls of their spotless Congress."--(Francis Jeffrey.)
"Man to be possessed by man! Man to be made property of! The image of the Deity to be put under the yoke! Let these usurpers show us their title-deeds!"--(Simon Boliver.)
"When I am indulging in my views of American prospects and American liberty, it is mortifying to be told that in that very country a large portion of the people are slaves! It is a dark spot on the face of the nation. Such a state of things cannot always exist."--(Lafayette.)
"I deem it right to raise my humble voice to convince the citizens of America that the slaveholding states are held in abomination by all those whose opinion ought to be valuable. Man is the property of man in about one half of the American States: let them not therefore dare to prate of their institutions or of their national freedom, while they hold their fellow-men in bondage! Of all men living, the American citizen who is the owner of slaves is the most despicable. He is a political hypocrite of the very worst description. The friends of humanity and liberty in Europe should join in one universal cry of shame on the American slave- holders! 'Base wretches!' should we shout in chorus; 'base wretches! how dare you profane the temple of national freedom, the sacred fane of republican rites, with the presence and the sufferings of human beings in chains and slavery!'"--(Daniel O'Connell.)
4. Because it subjects one portion of our American brethren to the unrestrained violence and unholy passions of another.
Here, gentlemen, I might summon to my support a cloud of witnesses, a host of incontrovertible, damning facts, the legitimate results of a system whose tendency is to harden and deprave the heart. But I will not descend to particulars. I am willing to believe that the majority of the masters of your section of the country are disposed to treat their unfortunate slaves with kindness. But where the dreadful privilege of slave-holding is extended to all, in every neighborhood, there must be individuals whose cupidity is unrestrained by any principle of humanity, whose lusts are fiercely indulged, whose fearful power over the bodies, nay, may I not say the souls, of their victims is daily and hourly abused.
Will the evidence of your own Jefferson, on this point, be admissible?
"The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise, of the most boisterous passions; the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives loose to the worst of passions; and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot fail to be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his morals and manners undepraved by such circumstances."--(Notes on Virginia, p. 241.)
"Il n'existe a la verite aucune loi qui protege l'esclave le mauvais traitement du maitre," says Achille Murat, himself a Floridian slave- holder, in his late work on the United States.
Gentlemen, is not this true? Does there exist even in Virginia any law limiting the punishment of a slave? Are there any bounds prescribed, beyond which the brutal, the revengeful, the intoxicated slave-master, acting in the double capacity of judge and executioner, cannot pass?
You will, perhaps, tell me that the general law against murder applies alike to master and slave. True; but will you point out instances of masters suffering the penalty of that law for the murder of their slaves? If you examine your judicial reports you will find the wilful murder of a slave decided to be only a trespass!--(Virginia Reports, vol. v. p. 481, Harris versus Nichols.)
It indeed argues well for Virginian pride of character, that latterly, the law, which expressly sanctioned the murder of a slave, who in the language of Georgia and North Carolina, "died of moderate correction," has been repealed. But, although the letter of the law is changed, its practice remains the same. In proof of this, I would refer to Brockenborough and Holmes' Virginia Cases, p. 258.
In Georgia and North Carolina the murder of a slave is tolerated and justified by law, provided that in the opinion of the court he died "of moderate correction!"
In South Carolina the following clause of a law enacted in 1740 is still in force:--
"If any slave shall suffer in his life, limbs, or members, when no white person shall be present, or being present shall neglect or refuse to give evidence concerning the same, in every such case the owner or other person who shall have the care and government of the slave shall be deemed and taken to be guilty of such offence; unless such owner or other person can make the contrary appear by good and sufficient evidence, or shall by his own oath clear and exculpate himself, which oath every court where such offence shall be tried is hereby empowered to administer and to acquit the offender accordingly, if clear proof of the offence be not made by two witnesses at least, any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding."
Is not this offering a reward for perjury? And what shall we think of that misnamed court of justice, where it is optional with the witnesses, in a case of life and death, to give or withhold their testimony.
5. Because it induces dangerous sectional jealousies, creates of necessity a struggle between the opposing interests of free and slave labor, and threatens the integrity of the Union.
That sectional jealousies do exist, the tone of your paper, gentlemen, is of itself an evidence, if indeed any were needed. The moral sentiment of the free states is against slavery. The freeman has declared his unwillingness that his labor should be reduced to a level with that of slaves. Harsh epithets and harsh threats have been freely exchanged, until the beautiful Potomac, wherever it winds its way to the ocean, has become the dividing line, not of territory only, but of feeling, interest, national pride, a moral division.
What shook the pillars of the Union when the Missouri question was agitated? What but a few months ago arrayed in arms a state against the Union, and the Union against a state?
From Maine to Florida, gentlemen, the answer must be the same, slavery.
6. Because of its pernicious influence upon national wealth and prosperity.
Political economy has been the peculiar study of Virginia. But there are some important truths connected with this science which she has hitherto overlooked or wantonly disregarded.
Population increasing with the means of subsistence is a fair test of national wealth.
By reference to the several censuses of the United States, it will be seen that the white population increases nearly twice as fast in states where there are few or no slaves as in the slave states.
Again, in the latter states the slave population has increased twice as fast as the white. Let us take, for example, the period of twenty years, from 1790 to 1810, and compare the increase of the two classes in three of the Southern states.
Per cent. of whites. Per cent. of blacks.
Maryland 13 31 Virginia 24 38 North Carolina 30 70
The causes of this disproportionate increase, so inimical to the true interests of the country, are very manifest.
A large proportion of the free inhabitants of the United States are dependent upon their labor for subsistence. The forced, unnatural system of slavery in some of the states renders the demand for free laborers less urgent; they are not so readily and abundantly supplied with the means of subsistence as those of their own class in the free states, and as the necessaries of life diminish population also diminishes.
There is yet another cause for the decline of the white population. In the free states labor is reputable. The statesman, whose eloquence has electrified a nation, does not disdain in the intervals of the public service to handle the axe and the hoe. And the woman whose beauty, talents, and accomplishments have won the admiration of all deems it no degradation to "look well to her household."
But the slave stamps with indelible ignominy the character of occupation. It is a disgrace for a highborn Virginian or chivalrous Carolinian to labor, side by side, with the low, despised, miserable black man. Wretched must be the condition of the poorer classes of whites in a slave-holding community! Compelled to perform the despised offices of the slave, they can hardly rise above his level. They become the pariahs of society. No wonder, then, that the tide of emigration flows from the slave-cursed shores of the Atlantic to the free valleys of the West.
In New England the labor of a farmer or mechanic is worth from $150 to $200 per annum. That of a female from $50 to $100. Our entire population, with the exception of those engaged in mercantile affairs, the professional classes, and a very few moneyed idlers, are working men and women. If that of the South were equally employed (and slavery apart, there is no reason why they should not be), how large an addition would be annually made to the wealth of the country? The truth is, a very considerable portion of the national wealth produced by Northern labor is taxed to defray the expenses of twenty-five representatives of Southern property in Congress, and to maintain an army mainly for the protection of the slave-master against the dangerous tendencies of that property.
In the early and better days of the Roman Republic, the ancient warriors and statesmen cultivated their fields with their own hands; but so soon as their agriculture was left to the slaves, it visibly declined, the once fertile fields became pastures, and the inhabitants of that garden of the world were dependent upon foreign nations for the necessaries of life. The beautiful villages, once peopled by free contented laborers, became tenantless, and, over the waste of solitude, we see, here and there, at weary distances, the palaces of the master, contrasting painfully with the wretched cottages and subterranean cells of the slave. In speaking of the extraordinary fertility of the soil in the early times of the Republic, Pliny inquires, "What was the cause of these abundant harvests? It was this, that men of rank employed themselves in the culture of the fields; whereas now it is left to wretches loaded with fetters, who carry in their countenances the shameful evidence of their slavery."
And what was true in the days of the Roman is now written legibly upon the soil of your own Virginia. A traveller in your state, in contemplating the decline of its agriculture, has justly remarked that, "if the miserable condition of the negro had left his mind for reflection, he would laugh in his chains to see how slavery has stricken the land with ugliness."
Is the rapid increase of a population of slaves in itself no evil? In all the slave states the increase of the slaves is vastly more rapid than that of the whites or free blacks. When we recollect that they are under no natural or moral restraint, careless of providing food or clothing for themselves or their children; when, too, we consider that they are raised as an article of profitable traffic, like the cattle of New England and the hogs of Kentucky; that it is a matter of interest, of dollars and cents, to the master that they should multiply as fast as possible, there is surely nothing at all surprising in the increase of their numbers. Would to heaven there were also nothing alarming!
7. Because, by the terms of the national compact, the free and the slave states are alike involved in the guilt of maintaining slavery, and the citizens of the former are liable, at any moment, to be called upon to aid the latter in suppressing, at the point of the bayonet, the insurrection of the slaves.
Slavery is, at the best, an unnatural state. And Nature, when her eternal principles are violated, is perpetually struggling to restore them to their first estate.
All history, ancient and modern, is full of warning on this point. Need I refer to the many revolts of the Roman and Grecian slaves, the bloody insurrection of Etruria, the horrible servile wars of Sicily and Capua? Or, to come down to later times, to France in the fourteenth century, Germany in the sixteenth, to Malta in the last? Need I call to mind the untold horrors of St. Domingo, when that island, under the curse of its servile war, glowed redly in the view of earth and heaven,--an open hell? Have our own peculiar warnings gone by unheeded,--the frequent slave insurrections of the South? One horrible tragedy, gentlemen, must still be fresh in your recollection,--Southampton, with its fired dwellings and ghastly dead! Southampton, with its dreadful associations, of the death struggle with the insurgents, the groans of the tortured negroes, the lamentations of the surviving whites over woman in her innocence and beauty, and childhood, and hoary age!
"The hour of emancipation," said Thomas Jefferson, "is advancing in the march of time. It will come. If not brought on by the generous energy of our own minds, it will come by the bloody process of St. Domingo!"
To the just and prophetic language of your own great statesman I have but a few words to add. They shall be those of truth and soberness.
We regard the slave system in your section of the country as a great evil, moral and political,--an evil which, if left to itself for even a few years longer, will give the entire South into the hands of the blacks.
The terms of the national compact compel us to consider more than two millions of our fellow-beings as your property; not, indeed, morally, really, de facto, but still legally your property! We acknowledge that you have a power derived from the United States Constitution to hold this "property," but we deny that you have any moral right to take advantage of that power. For truth will not allow us to admit that any human law or compact can make void or put aside the ordinance of the living God and the eternal laws of Nature.
We therefore hold it to be the duty of the people of the slave-holding states to begin the work of emancipation now; that any delay must be dangerous to themselves in time and eternity, and full of injustice to their slaves and to their brethren of the free states.
Because the slave has never forfeited his right to freedom, and the continuance of his servitude is a continuance of robbery; and because, in the event of a servile war, the people of the free states would be called upon to take a part in its unutterable horrors.
New England would obey that call, for she will abide unto death by the Constitution of the land. Yet what must be the feelings of her citizens, while engaged in hunting down like wild beasts their fellow-men--brutal and black it may be, but still oppressed, suffering human beings, struggling madly and desperately for their liberty, if they feel and know that the necessity of so doing has resulted from a blind fatality on the part of the oppressor, a reckless disregard of the warnings of earth and heaven, an obstinate perseverance in a system founded and sustained by robbery and wrong?
All wars are horrible, wicked, inexcusable, and truly and solemnly has Jefferson himself said that, in a contest of this kind, between the slave and the master, "the Almighty has no attribute which could take side with us."
Understand us, gentlemen. We only ask to have the fearful necessity taken away from us of sustaining the wretched policy of slavery by moral influence or physical force. We ask alone to be allowed to wash our hands of the blood of millions of your fellow-beings, the cry of whom is rising up as a swift witness unto God against us.
8. Because all the facts connected with the subject warrant us in a most confident belief that a speedy and general emancipation might be made with entire safety, and that the consequences of such an emancipation would be highly beneficial to the planters of the South.
Awful as may be their estimate in time and eternity, I will not, gentlemen, dwell upon the priceless benefits of a conscience at rest, a soul redeemed from the all-polluting influences of slavery, and against which the cry of the laborer whose hire has been kept back by fraud does not ascend. Nor will I rest the defence of my position upon the fact that it can never be unsafe to obey the commands of God. These are the old and common arguments of "fanatics" and "enthusiasts," melting away like frost-work in the glorious sunshine of expediency and utility. In the light of these modern luminaries, then, let us reason together.
A long and careful examination of the subject will I think fully justify me in advancing this general proposition.
Wherever, whether in Europe, the East and West Indies, South America, or in our own country, a fair experiment has been made of the comparative expense of free and slave labor, the result has uniformly been favorable to the former.
(See Brougham's Colonial Policy. Hodgdon's Letter to Jean Baptiste Say. Waleh's Brazil. Official Letter of Hon. Mr. Ward, from Mexico. Dr. Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery. Franklin on The Peopling of Countries. Ramsay's Essay. Botham's Sugar Cultivation in Batavia. Marsden's History of Sumatra. Coxe's Travels. Dr. Anderson's Observations on Slavery. Storch's Political Economy. Adam Smith. J. Jeremies' Essays. Humboldt's Travels, etc., etc.)
Here, gentlemen, the issue is tendered. Standing on your own ground of expediency, I am ready to defend my position.
I pass from the utility to the safety of emancipation. And here, gentlemen, I shall probably be met at the outset with your supposed consequences, bloodshed, rapine, promiscuous massacre!
The facts, gentlemen! In God's name, bring out your facts! If slavery is to cast over the prosperity of our country the thick shadow of an everlasting curse, because emancipation is dreaded as a remedy worse than the disease itself, let us know the real grounds of your fear.
Do you find them in the emancipation of the South American Republics? In Hayti? In the partial experiments of some of the West India Islands? Does history, ancient or modern, justify your fears? Can you find any excuse for them in the nature of the human mind, everywhere maddened by injury and conciliated by kindness? No, gentlemen; the dangers of slavery are manifest and real, all history lies open for your warning. But the dangers of emancipation, of "doing justly and loving mercy," exist only in your imaginations. You cannot produce one fact in corroboration of your fears. You cannot point to the stain of a single drop of any master's blood shed by the slave he has emancipated.
I have now given some of our reasons for opposing slavery. In my next letter I shall explain our method of opposition, and I trust I shall be able to show that there is nothing "fanatical," nothing "unconstitutional," and nothing unchristian in that method.
In the mean time, gentlemen, I am your friend and well-wisher.
HAVERHILL, MASS., 22d 7th Mo., 1833.
The abolitionists of the North have been grossly misrepresented. In attacking the system of slavery, they have never recommended any measure or measures conflicting with the Constitution of the United States.
They have never sought to excite or encourage a spirit of rebellion among the slaves: on the contrary, they would hold any such attempt, by whomsoever made, in utter and stern abhorrence.
All the leading abolitionists of my acquaintance are, from principle, opposed to war of all kinds, believing that the benefits of no war whatever can compensate for the sacrifice of one human life by violence.
Consequently, they would be the first to deprecate any physical interference with your slave system on the part of the general government.
They are, without exception, opposed to any political interposition of the government, in regard to slavery as it exists in the states. For, although they feel and see that the canker of the moral disease is affecting all parts of the confederacy, they believe that the remedy lies with yourselves alone. Any such interference they would consider unlawful and unconstitutional; and the exercise of unconstitutional power, although sanctioned by the majority of a republican government, they believe to be a tyranny as monstrous and as odious as the despotism of a Turkish Sultan.
Having made this disclaimer on the part of myself and my friends, let me inquire from whence this charge of advocating the interference of the general government with the sovereign jurisdiction of the states has arisen? Will you, gentlemen, will the able editors of the United States Telegraph and the Columbian Telescope, explain? For myself, I have sought in vain among the writings of our "Northern Enthusiasts," and among the speeches of the Northern statesmen and politicians, for some grounds for the accusation.
The doctrine, such as it is, does not belong to us. I think it may be traced home to the South, to Virginia, to her Convention of 1829, to the speech of Ex-President Monroe, on the white basis question.
"As to emancipation," said that distinguished son of your state, "if ever that should take place, it cannot be done by the state; it must be done by the Union."
Again, "If emancipation can ever be effected, it can only be done with the aid of the general government."
Gentlemen, you are welcome to your doctrine. It has no advocates among the abolitionists of New England.
We aim to overthrow slavery by the moral influence of an enlightened public sentiment;
By a clear and fearless exposition of the guilt of holding property in man;
By analyzing the true nature of slavery, and boldly rebuking sin;
By a general dissemination of the truths of political economy, in regard to free and slave labor;
By appeals from the pulpit to the consciences of men;
By the powerful influence of the public press;
By the formation of societies whose object shall be to oppose the principle of slavery by such means as are consistent with our obligations to law, religion, and humanity;
By elevating, by means of education and sympathy, the character of the free people of color among us.
Our testimony against slavery is the same which has uniformly, and with so much success, been applied to prevailing iniquity in all ages of the world, the truths of divine revelation.
Believing that there can be nothing in the Providence of God to which His holy and eternal law is not strictly applicable, we maintain that no circumstances can justify the slave-holder in a continuance of his system.
That the fact that this system did not originate with the present generation is no apology for retaining it, inasmuch as crime cannot be entailed; and no one is under a necessity of sinning because others have done so before him;
That the domestic slave-trade is as repugnant to the laws of God, and should be as odious in the eyes of a Christian community, as the foreign;
That the black child born in a slave plantation is not "an entailed article of property;" and that the white man who makes of that child a slave is a thief and a robber, stealing the child as the sea pirate stole his father!
We do not talk of gradual abolition, because, as Christians, we find no authority for advocating a gradual relinquishment of sin. We say to slaveholders, "Repent now, to-day, immediately;" just as we say to the intemperate, "Break off from your vice at once; touch not, taste not, handle not, from henceforth forever."
Besides, the plan of gradual abolition has been tried in this country and the West Indies, and found wanting. It has been in operation in our slave states ever since the Declaration of Independence, and its results are before the nation. Let us see.
THE ABOLITIONISTS 79
In 1790 there were in the slave states south of the Potomac and the Ohio 20,415 free blacks. Their increase for the ten years following was at the rate of sixty per cent., their number in 1800 being 32,604. In 1810 there were 58,046, an increase of seventy-five per cent. This comparatively large increase was, in a great measure, owing to the free discussions going on in England and in this country on the subject of the slave-trade and the rights of man. The benevolent impulse extended to the slave-masters, and manumissions were frequent. But the salutary impression died away; the hand of oppression closed again upon its victims; and the increase for the period of twenty years, 1810 to 1830, was only seventy-seven per cent., about one half of what it was in the ten years from 1800 to 1810. And this is the practical result of the much-lauded plan of gradual abolition.
In 1790, in the states above mentioned, there were only 550,604 slaves, but in 1830 there were 1,874,098! And this, too, is gradual abolition.
"What, then!" perhaps you will ask, "do you expect to overthrow our whole slave system at once? to turn loose to-day two millions of negroes?"
No, gentlemen; we expect no such thing. Enough for us if in the spirit of fraternal duty we point to your notice the commands of God; if we urge you by every cherished remembrance of common sacrifices upon a common altar, by every consideration of humanity, justice, and expediency, to begin now, without a moment's delay, to break away from your miserable system,--to begin the work of moral reformation, as God commands you to begin, not as selfishness, or worldly policy, or short-sighted political expediency, may chance to dictate.
Such is our doctrine of immediate emancipation. A doctrine founded on God's eternal truth, plain, simple, and perfect,--the doctrine of immediate, unprocrastinated repentance applied to the sin of slavery.
Of this doctrine, and of our plan for crrrying it into effect, I have given an exposition, with the most earnest regard to the truth. Does either embrace anything false, fanatical, or unconstitutional? Do they afford a reasonable protext for your fierce denunciations of your Northern brethren? Do they furnish occasion for your newspaper chivalry, your stereotyped demonstrations of Southern magnanimity and Yankee meanness?--things, let me say, unworthy of Virginians, degrading to yourselves, insulting to us.
Gentlemen, it is too late for Virginia, with all her lofty intellect and nobility of feeling, to defend and advocate the principle of slavery. The death-like silence which for nearly two centuries brooded over her execrable system has been broken; light is pouring in upon the minds of her citizens; truth is abroad, "searching out and overturning the lies of the age." A moral reformation has been already awakened, and it cannot now be drugged to sleep by the sophistries of detected sin. A thousand intelligences are at work in her land; a thousand of her noblest hearts are glowing with the redeeming spirit of that true philanthropy, which is moving all the world. No, gentlemen; light is spreading from the hills of Western Virginia to the extremest East. You cannot arrest its progress. It is searching the consciences; it is exercising the reason; it is appealing to the noblest characteristics of intelligent Virginians. It is no foreign influence. From every abandoned plantation where the profitless fern and thistle have sprung up under the heel of slavery; from every falling mansion of the master, through whose windows the fox may look out securely, and over whose hearth-stone the thin grass is creeping, a warning voice is sinking deeply into all hearts not imbruted by avarice, indolence, and the lust of power.
Abolitionist as I am, the intellectual character of Virginia has no warmer admirer than myself. Her great names, her moral trophies, the glories of her early day, the still proud and living testimonials of her mental power, I freely acknowledge and strongly appreciate. And, believe me, it is with no other feelings than those of regret and heartfelt sorrow that I speak plainly of her great error, her giant crime, a crime which is visibly calling down upon her the curse of an offended Deity. But I cannot forget that upon some of the most influential and highly favored of her sons rests the responsibility at the present time of sustaining this fearful iniquity. Blind to the signs of the times, careless of the wishes of thousands of their white fellow-citizens and of the manifold wrongs of the black man, they have dared to excuse, defend, nay, eulogize, the black abominations of slavery.
Against the tottering ark of the idol these strong men have placed their shoulders. That ark must fall; that idol must be cast down; what, then, will be the fate of their supporters?
When the Convention of 1829 had gathered in its splendid galaxy of talents the great names of Virginia, the friends of civil liberty turned their eyes towards it in the earnest hope and confidence that it would adopt some measures in regard to slavery worthy of the high character of its members and of the age in which they lived. I need not say how deep and bitter was our disappointment. Western Virginia indeed spoke on that occasion, through some of her delegates, the words of truth and humanity. But their counsels and warnings were unavailing; the majority turned away to listen to the bewildering eloquence of Leigh and Upshur and Randolph, as they desecrated their great intellects to the defence of that system of oppression under which the whole land is groaning. The memorial of the citizens of Augusta County, bearing the signatures of many slave- holders, placed the evils of slavery in a strong light before the convention. Its facts and arguments could only be arbitrarily thrust aside and wantonly disregarded; they could not be disproved.
"In a political point of view," says the memorial, "we esteem slavery an evil greater than the aggregate of all the other evils which beset us, and we are perfectly willing to bear our proportion of the burden of removing it. We ask, further, What is the evil of any such alarm as our proposition may excite in minds unnecessarily jealous compared with that of the fatal catastrophe which ultimately awaits our country, and the general depravation of manners which slavery has already produced and is producing?"
I cannot forbear giving one more extract from this paper. The memorialists state their belief
"That the labor of slaves is vastly less productive than that of freemen; that it therefore requires a larger space to furnish subsistence for a given number of the former than of the latter; that the employment of the former necessarily excludes that of the latter; that hence our population, white and black, averages seventeen, when it ought, and would under other circumstances, average, as in New England, at least sixty to a square mile; that the possession and management of slaves form a source of endless vexation and misery in the house, and of waste and ruin on the farm; that the youth of the country are growing up with a contempt of steady industry as a low and servile thing, which contempt induces idleness and all its attendant effeminacy, vice, and worthlessness; that the waste of the products of the land, nay, of the land itself, is bringing poverty on all its inhabitants; that this poverty and the sparseness of population either prevent the institution of schools throughout the country, or keep them in a most languid and inefficient condition; and that the same causes most obviously paralyze all our schemes and efforts for the useful improvement of the country."
Gentlemen, you have only to look around you to know that this picture has been drawn with the pencil of truth. What has made desolate and sterile one of the loveliest regions of the whole earth? What mean the signs of wasteful neglect, of long improvidence around you: the half-finished mansion already falling into decay, the broken-down enclosures, the weed- grown garden the slave hut open to the elements, the hillsides galled and naked, the fields below them run over with brier and fern? Is all this in the ordinary course of nature? Has man husbanded well the good gifts of God, and are they nevertheless passing from him, by a process of deterioration over which he has no control? No, gentlemen. For more than two centuries the cold and rocky soil of New England has yielded its annual tribute, and it still lies green and luxuriant beneath the sun of our brief summer. The nerved and ever-exercised arm of free labor has changed a landscape wild and savage as the night scenery of Salvator Rosa into one of pastoral beauty,--the abode of independence and happiness. Under a similar system of economy and industry, how would Virginia, rich with Nature's prodigal blessings, have worn at this time over all her territory the smiles of plenty, the charms of rewarded industry! What a change would have been manifest in your whole character! Freemen in the place of slaves, industry, reputable economy, a virtue, dissipation despised, emigration unnecessary!
(A late Virginia member of Congress described the Virginia slave- holder as follows: "He is an Eastern Virginian whose good fortune it has been to have been born wealthy, and to have become a profound politician at twenty-one without study or labor. This individual, from birth and habit, is above all labor and exertion. He never moves a finger for any useful purpose; he lives on the labor of his slaves, and even this labor he is too proud and indolent to direct in person. While he is at his ease, a mercenary with a whip in his hand drives his slaves in the field. Their dinner, consisting of a few scraps and lean bones, is eaten in the burning sun. They have no time to go to a shade and be refreshed such easement is reserved for the horses"!--Speech of Hon. P. P. Doddridge in House of Delegates, 1829.)
All this, you will say, comes too late; the curse is upon you, the evil in the vitals of your state, the desolation widening day by day. No, it is not too late. There are elements in the Virginian character capable of meeting the danger, extreme as it is, and turning it aside. Could you but forget for a time partisan contest and unprofitable political speculations, you might successfully meet the dangerous exigencies of your state with those efficient remedies which the spirit of the age suggests; you might, and that too without pecuniary loss, relinquish your claims to human beings as slaves, and employ them as free laborers, under such restraint and supervision as their present degraded condition may render necessary. In the language of one of your own citizens, "it is useless for you to attempt to linger on the skirts of the age which is departed. The action of existing causes and principles is steady and progressive. It cannot be retarded, unless you would blow out all the moral lights around you; and if you refuse to keep up with it, you will be towed in the wake, whether you will or not."--(Speech in Virginia legislature, 1832.)
The late noble example of the eloquent statesman of Roanoke, the manumission of his slaves, speaks volumes to his political friends. In the last hour of existence, when his soul was struggling from his broken tenement, his latest effort was the confirmation of this generous act of a former period. Light rest the turf upon him beneath his own patrimonial oaks! The prayers of many hearts made happy by his benevolence shall linger over his grave and bless it.
Gentlemen, in concluding these letters, let me once more assure you that I entertain towards you and your political friends none other than kindly feelings. If I have spoken at all with apparent harshness, it has been of principles rather than of men. But I deprecate no censure. Conscious of the honest and patriotic motives which have prompted their avowal, I cheerfully leave my sentiments to their fate. Despised and contemned as they may be, I believe they cannot be gainsaid. Sustained by the truth as it exists in Nature and Revelation, sanctioned by the prevailing spirit of the age, they are yet destined to work out the political and moral regeneration of our country. The opposition which they meet with does not dishearten me. In the lofty confidence of John Milton, I believe that "though all the winds of doctrine be let loose upon the earth, so Truth be among them, we need not fear. Let her and Falsehood grapple; whoever knew her to be put to the worst in a free and open encounter?"
HAVERHILL, MASS., 29th of 7th Mo., 1833.
LETTER TO SAMUEL E. SEWALL.
HAVERHILL, 10th of 1st Mo., 1834.
SAMUEL E. SEWALL, ESQ., Secretary New England A. S. Society
DEAR FRIEND,--I regret that circumstances beyond my control will not allow of my attendance at the annual meeting of the New England Anti- Slavery Society.
I need not say to the members of that society that I am with them, heart and soul, in the cause of abolition; the abolition not of physical slavery alone, abhorrent and monstrous as it is, but of that intellectual slavery, the bondage of corrupt and mistaken opinion, which has fettered as with iron the moral energies and intellectual strength of New England.
For what is slavery, after all, but fear,--fear, forcing mind and body into unnatural action? And it matters little whether it be the terror of the slave-whip on the body, or of the scourge of popular opinion upon the inner man.
We all know how often the representatives of the Southern division of the country have amused themselves in Congress by applying the opprobrious name of "slave" to the free Northern laborer. And how familiar have the significant epithets of "white slave" and "dough-face" become!
I fear these epithets have not been wholly misapplied. Have we not been told here, gravely and authoritatively, by some of our learned judges, divines, and politicians, that we, the free people of New England, have no right to discuss the subject of slavery? Freemen, and no right to suggest the duty or the policy of a practical adherence to the doctrines of that immortal declaration upon which our liberties are founded! Christians, enjoying perfect liberty of conscience, yet possessing no right to breathe one whisper against a system of adultery and blood, which is filling the whole land with abomination and blasphemy! And this craven sentiment is echoed by the very men whose industry is taxed to defray the expenses of twenty-five representatives of property, vested in beings fashioned in the awful image of their Maker; by men whose hard earnings aid in supporting a standing army mainly for the protection of slaveholding indolence; by men who are liable at any moment to be called from the field and workshop to put down by force the ever upward tendencies of oppressed humanity, to aid the negro-breeder and the negro- trader in the prosecution of a traffic most horrible in the eye of God, to wall round with their bayonets two millions of colored Americans, children of a common Father and heirs of a common eternity, while the broken chain is riveted anew and the thrown-off fetter replaced.
I am for the abolition of this kind of slavery. It must be accomplished before we can hope to abolish the negro slavery of the country. The people of the free states, with a perfect understanding of their own rights and a sacred respect for the rights of others, must put their strong shoulders to the work of moral reform, and our statesmen, orators, and politicians will follow, floating as they must with the tendency of the current, the mere indices of popular sentiment. They cannot be expected to lead in this matter. They are but instruments in the hands of the people for good or evil:--
"A breath can make them, as a breath has made."
Be it our task to give tone and direction to these instruments; to turn the tide of popular feeling into the pure channels of justice; to break up the sinful silence of the nation; to bring the vaunted Christianity of our age and country to the test of truth; to try the strength and purity of our republicanism. If the Christianity we profess has not power to pull down the strongholds of prejudice, and overcome hate, and melt the heart of oppression, it is not of God. If our republicanism is based on other foundation than justice and humanity, let it fall forever.
No better evidence is needed of the suicidal policy of this nation than the death-like silence on the subject of slavery which pervades its public documents. Who that peruses the annual messages of the national executive would, from their perusal alone, conjecture that such an evil as slavery had existence among us? Have the people reflected upon the cause of this silence? The evil has grown to be too monstrous to be questioned. Its very magnitude has sealed the lips of the rulers. Uneasily, and troubled with its dream of guilt, the nation sleeps on. The volcano is beneath. God is above us.
At every step of our peaceful and legal agitation of this subject we are met with one grave objection. We are told that the system which we are conscientiously opposing is recognized and protected by the Constitution. For all the benefits of our fathers' patriotism--and they are neither few nor trifling--let us be grateful to God and to their memories. But it should not be forgotten that the same constitutional compact which now sanctions slavery guaranteed protection for twenty years to the foreign slave-trade. It threw the shield of its "sanctity" around the now universally branded pirate. It legalized the most abhorrent system of robbery which ever cursed the family of man.
During those years of sinful compromise the crime of man-robbery less atrocious than at present? Because the Constitution permitted, in that single crime, the violation of all the commandments of God, was that violation less terrible to earth or offensive to heaven?
No one now defends that "constitutional" slavetrade. Loaded with the curse of God and man, it stands amidst minor iniquities, like Satan in Pandemonium, preeminent and monstrous in crime.
And if the slave-trade has become thus odious, what must be the fate, erelong, of its parent, slavery? If the mere consequence be thus blackening under the execration of all the world, who shall measure the dreadful amount of infamy which must finally settle on the cause itself? The titled ecclesiastic and the ambitious statesman should have their warning on this point. They should know that public opinion is steadily turning to the light of truth. The fountains are breaking up around us, and the great deep will soon be in motion. A stern, uncompromising, and solemn spirit of inquiry is abroad. It cannot be arrested, and its result may be easily foreseen. It will not long be popular to talk of the legality of soul-murder, the constitutionality of man-robbery.
One word in relation to our duty to our Southern brethren. If we detest their system of slavery in our hearts, let us not play the hypocrite with our lips. Let us not pay so poor a compliment to their understandings as to suppose that we can deceive them into a compliance with our views of justice by ambiguous sophistry, and overcome their sinful practices and established prejudices by miserable stratagem. Let us not first do violence to our consciences by admitting their moral right to property in man, and then go to work like so many vagabond pedlers to cheat them out of it. They have a right to complain of such treatment. It is mean, and wicked, and dishonorable. Let us rather treat our Southern friends as intelligent and high-minded men, who, whatever may be their faults, despise unmanly artifice, and loathe cant, and abhor hypocrisy. Connected with them, not by political ties alone, but by common sacrifices and mutual benefits, let us seek to expostulate with them earnestly and openly, to gain at least their confidence in our sincerity, to appeal to their consciences, reason, and interests; and, using no other weapons than those of moral truth, contend fearlessly with the evil system they are cherishing. And if, in an immediate compliance with the strict demands of justice, they should need our aid and sympathy, let us open to them our hearts and our purses. But in the name of sincerity, and for the love of peace and the harmony of the Union, let there be no more mining and countermining, no more blending of apology with denunciation, no more Janus-like systems of reform, with one face for the South and another for the North.
If we steadily adhere to the principles upon which we have heretofore acted, if we present our naked hearts to the view of all, if we meet the threats and violence of our misguided enemies with the bare bosom and weaponless hand of innocence, may we not trust that the arm of our Heavenly Father will be under us, to strengthen and support us? And although we may not be able to save our country from the awful judgment she is provoking, though the pillars of the Union fall and all the elements of her greatness perish, still let it be our part to rally around the standard of truth and justice, to wash our hands of evil, to keep our own souls unspotted, and, bearing our testimony and lifting our warning voices to the last, leave the event in the hands of a righteous God.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
In 1837 Isaac Knapp printed Letters from John Quincy Adams to his Constituents of the Twelfth Congressional District in Massachusetts, to which is added his Speech in Congress, delivered February 9, 1837, and the following stood as an introduction to the pamphlet.
THE following letters have been published, within a few weeks, in the Quincy (Mass.) 'Patriot'. Notwithstanding the great importance of the subjects which they discuss, the intense interest which they are calculated to awaken throughout this commonwealth and the whole country, and the exalted reputation of their author as a profound statesman and powerful writer, they are as yet hardly known beyond the limits of the constituency to whom they are particularly addressed. The reason of this is sufficiently obvious. John Quincy Adams belongs to neither of the prominent political parties, fights no partisan battles, and cannot be prevailed upon to sacrifice truth and principle upon the altar of party expediency and interest. Hence neither party is interested in defending his course, or in giving him an opportunity to defend himself. But however systematic may be the efforts of mere partisan presses to suppress and hold back from the public eye the powerful and triumphant vindication of the Right of Petition, the graphic delineation of the slavery spirit in Congress, and the humbling disclosure of Northern cowardice and treachery, contained in these letters, they are destined to exert a powerful influence upon the public mind. They will constitute one of the most striking pages in the history of our times. They will be read with avidity in the North and in the South, and throughout Europe. Apart from the interest excited by the subjects under discussion, and viewed only as literary productions, they may be ranked among the highest intellectual efforts of their author. Their sarcasm is Junius-like,-- cold, keen, unsparing. In boldness, directness, and eloquent appeal, they will bear comparison with O'Connell's celebrated 'Letters to the Reformers of Great Britain'. They are the offspring of an intellect unshorn of its primal strength, and combining the ardor of youth with the experience of age.
The disclosure made in these letters of the slavery influence exerted in Congress over the representatives of the free states, of the manner in which the rights of freemen have been bartered for Southern votes, or basely yielded to the threats of men educated in despotism, and stamped by the free indulgence of unrestrained tyranny with the "odious peculiarities" of slavery, is painful and humiliating in the extreme. It will be seen that, in the great struggle for and against the Right of Petition, an account of which is given in the following pages, their author stood, in a great measure, alone and unsupported by his Northern colleagues. On his "gray, discrowned head" the entire fury of slave- holding arrogance and wrath was expended. He stood alone, beating back, with his aged and single arm, the tide which would have borne down and overwhelmed a less sturdy and determined spirit.
We need not solicit for these letters, and the speech which accompanies them, a thorough perusal. They deserve, and we trust will receive, a circulation throughout the entire country. They will meet a cordial welcome from every lover of human liberty, from every friend of justice and the rights of man, irrespective of color or condition. The principles which they defend, the sentiments which they express, are those of Massachusetts, as recently asserted, almost unanimously, by her legislature. In both branches of that body, during the discussion of the subject of slavery and the right of petition, the course of the ex- President was warmly and eloquently commended. Massachusetts will sustain her tried and faithful representative; and the time is not far distant when the best and worthiest citizens of the entire North will proffer him their thanks for his noble defence of their rights as freemen, and of the rights of the slave as a man.
THE BIBLE AND SLAVERY.
From a review of a pro-slavery pamphlet by "Evangelicus" in the Boston Emancipator in 1843.
THE second part of the essay is occupied in proving that the slavery in the Roman world, at the time of our Saviour, was similar in all essential features to American slavery at the present day; and the third and concluding part is devoted to an examination of the apostolical directions to slaves and masters, as applicable to the same classes in the United States. He thinks the command to give to servants that which is just and equal means simply that the masters should treat their slaves with equity, and that while the servant is to be profitable to the master, the latter is bound in "a fair and equitable manner to provide for the slave's subsistence and happiness." Although he professes to believe that a faithful adherence to Scriptural injunctions on this point would eventually terminate in the emancipation of the slaves, he thinks it not necessary to inquire whether the New Testament does or does not "tolerate slavery as a permanent institution"!
From the foregoing synopsis it will be seen at once that whatever may have been the motives of the writer, the effect of his publication, so far as it is at all felt, will be to strengthen the oppressor in his guilt, and hold him back from the performance of his immediate duty in respect to his slaves, and to shield his conscience from the reproofs of that class who, according to "Evangelicus," have "no personal acquaintance with the actual domestic state or the social and political connections of their Southern fellow-citizens." We look upon it only as another vain attempt to strike a balance between Christian duty and criminal policy, to reconcile Christ and Belial, the holy philanthropy of Him who went about doing good with the most abhorrent manifestation of human selfishness, lust, and hatred which ever provoked the divine displeasure. There is a grave-stone coldness about it. The author manifests as little feeling as if he were solving a question in algebra. No sigh of sympathy breathes through its frozen pages for the dumb, chained millions, no evidence of a feeling akin to that of Him who at the grave of Lazarus
"Wept, and forgot His power to save;"
no outburst of that indignant reproof with which the Divine Master rebuked the devourers of widows' houses and the oppressors of the poor is called forth by the writer's stoical contemplation of the tyranny of his "Christian brethren" at the South.
"It is not necessary," says Evangelicus, "to inquire whether the New Testament does not tolerate slavery as a permanent institution." And this is said when the entire slave-holding church has sheltered its abominations under the pretended sanction of the gospel; when slavery, including within itself a violation of every command uttered amidst the thunders of Sinai, a system which has filled the whole South with the oppression of Egypt and the pollutions of Sodom, is declared to be an institution of the Most High. With all due deference to the author, we tell him, and we tell the church, North and South, that this question must be met. Once more we repeat the solemn inquiry which has been already made in our columns, "Is the Bible to enslave the world?" Has it been but a vain dream of ours that the mission of the Author of the gospel was to undo the heavy burdens, to open the prison doors, and to break the yoke of the captive? Let Andover and Princeton answer. If the gospel does sanction the vilest wrong which man can inflict upon his fellow-man, if it does rivet the chains which humanity, left to itself, would otherwise cast off, then, in humanity's name, let it perish forever from the face of the earth. Let the Bible societies dissolve; let not another sheet issue from their presses. Scatter not its leaves abroad over the dark places of the earth; they are not for the healing of the nations. Leave rather to the Persian his Zendavesta, to the Mussulman his Koran. We repeat it, this question must be met. Already we have heard infidelity exulting over the astute discoveries of bespectacled theological professors, that the great Head of the Christian Church tolerated the horrible atrocities of Roman slavery, and that His most favored apostle combined slave-catching with his missionary labors. And why should it not exult? Fouler blasphemy than this was never uttered. A more monstrous libel upon the Divine Author of Christianity was never propagated by Paine or Voltaire, Kneeland or Owen; and we are constrained to regard the professor of theology or the doctor of divinity who tasks his sophistry and learning in an attempt to show that the Divine Mind looks with complacency upon chattel slavery as the most dangerous enemy with which Christianity has to contend. The friends of pure and undefiled religion must awake to this danger. The Northern church must shake itself clean from its present connection with blasphemers and slave-holders, or perish with them.
WHAT IS SLAVERY
Addressed to the Liberty Party Convention at New Bedford in September, 1843.
I HAVE just received your kind invitation to attend the meeting of the Liberty Party in New Bedford on the 2d of next month. Believe me, it is with no ordinary feelings of regret that I find myself under the necessity of foregoing the pleasure of meeting with you on that occasion. But I need not say to you, and through you to the convention, that you have my hearty sympathy.
I am with the Liberty Party because it is the only party in the country which is striving openly and honestly to reduce to practice the great truths which lie at the foundation of our republic: all men created equal, endowed with rights inalienable; the security of these rights the only just object of government; the right of the people to alter or modify government until this great object is attained. Precious and glorious truths! Sacred in the sight of their Divine Author, grateful and beneficent to suffering humanity, essential elements of that ultimate and universal government of which God is laying the strong and wide foundations, turning and overturning, until He whose right it is shall rule. The voice which calls upon us to sustain them is the voice of God. In the eloquent language of the lamented Myron Holley, the man who first lifted up the standard of the Liberty Party: "He calls upon us to sustain these truths in the recorded voice of the holy of ancient times. He calls us to sustain them in the sound as of many waters and mighty thunderings rising from the fields of Europe, converted into one vast Aceldama by the exertions of despots to suppress them; in the persuasive history of the best thoughts and boldest deeds of all our brave, self- sacrificing ancestors; in the tender, heart-reaching whispers of our children, preparing to suffer or enjoy the future, as we leave it for them; in the broken and disordered but moving accents of half our race yet groping in darkness and galled by the chains of bondage. He calls upon us to sustain them by the solemn and considerate use of all the powers with which He has invested us." In a time of almost universal political scepticism, in the midst of a pervading and growing unbelief in the great principles enunciated in the revolutionary declaration, the Liberty Party has dared to avow its belief in these truths, and to carry them into action as far as it has the power. It is a protest against the political infidelity of the day, a recurrence to first principles, a summons once more to that deserted altar upon which our fathers laid their offerings.
It may be asked why it is that a party resting upon such broad principles is directing its exclusive exertions against slavery. "Are there not other great interests?" ask all manner of Whig and Democrat editors and politicians. "Consider, for instance," say the Democrats, "the mighty question which is agitating us, whether a 'Northern man with Southern principles' or a Southern man with the principles of a Nero or Caligula shall be President." "Or look at us," say the Whigs, "deprived of our inalienable right to office by this Tyler-Calhoun administration. And bethink you, gentlemen, how could your Liberty Party do better than to vote with us for a man who, if he does hold some threescore of slaves, and maintain that 'two hundred years of legislation has sanctioned and sanctified negro slavery,' is, at the same time, the champion of Greek liberty, and Polish liberty, and South American liberty, and, in short, of all sorts of liberties, save liberty at home."
Yes, friends, we have considered all this, and more, namely, that one sixth part of our entire population are slaves, and that you, with your subtreasuries and national banks, propose no relief for them. Nay, farther, it is because both of you, when in power, have used your authority to rivet closer the chains of unhappy millions, that we have been compelled to abandon you, and form a liberty party having for its first object the breaking of these chains.
What is slavery? For upon the answer to this question must the Liberty Party depend for its justification.
The slave laws of the South tell us that it is the conversion of men into articles of property; the transformation of sentient immortal beings into "chattels personal." The principle of a reciprocity of benefits, which to some extent characterizes all other relations, does not exist in that of master and slave. The master holds the plough which turns the soil of his plantation, the horse which draws it, and the slave who guides it by one and the same tenure. The profit of the master is the great end of the slave's existence. For this end he is fed, clothed, and prescribed for in sickness. He learns nothing, acquires nothing, for himself. He cannot use his own body for his own benefit. His very personality is destroyed. He is a mere instrument, a means in the hands of another for the accomplishment of an end in which his own interests are not regarded, a machine moved not by his own will, but by another's. In him the awful distinction between a person and a thing is annihilated: he is thrust down from the place which God and Nature assigned him, from the equal companionship of rational intelligence's,--a man herded with beasts, an immortal nature classed with the wares of the merchant!
The relations of parent and child, master and apprentice, government and subject, are based upon the principle of benevolence, reciprocal benefits, and the wants of human society; relations which sacredly respect the rights and legacies which God has given to all His rational creatures. But slavery exists only by annihilating or monopolizing these rights and legacies. In every other modification of society, man's personal ownership remains secure. He may be oppressed, deprived of privileges, loaded with burdens, hemmed about with legal disabilities, his liberties restrained. But, through all, the right to his own body and soul remains inviolate. He retains his inherent, original possession of himself. Even crime cannot forfeit it, for that law which destroys his personality makes void its own claims upon him as a moral agent; and the power to punish ceases with the accountability of the criminal. He may suffer and die under the penalties of the law, but he suffers as a man, he perishes as a man, and not as a thing. To the last moments of his existence the rights of a moral agent are his; they go with him to the grave; they constitute the ground of his accountability at the bar of infinite justice,--rights fixed, eternal, inseparable; attributes of all rational intelligence in time and eternity; the same in essence, and differing in degree only, with those of the highest moral being, of God himself.
Slavery alone lays its grasp upon the right of personal ownership, that foundation right, the removal of which uncreates the man; a right which God himself could not take away without absolving the being thus deprived of all moral accountability; and so far as that being is concerned, making sin and holiness, crime and virtue, words without significance, and the promises and sanctions of revelation, dreams. Hence, the crowning horror of slavery, that which lifts it above all other iniquities, is not that it usurps the prerogatives of Deity, but that it attempts that which even He who has said, "All souls are mine," cannot do, without breaking up the foundations of His moral government. Slavery is, in fact, a struggle with the Almighty for dominion over His rational creatures. It is leagued with the powers of darkness, in wresting man from his Maker. It is blasphemy lifting brazen brow and violent hand to heaven, attempting a reversal of God's laws. Man claiming the right to uncreate his brother; to undo that last and most glorious work, which God himself pronounced good, amidst the rejoicing hosts of heaven! Man arrogating to himself the right to change, for his own selfish purposes, the beautiful order of created existences; to pluck the crown of an immortal nature, scarce lower than that of angels, from the brow of his brother; to erase the God-like image and superscription stamped upon him by the hand of his Creator, and to write on the despoiled and desecrated tablet, "A chattel personal!"
This, then, is slavery. Nature, with her thousand voices, cries out against it. Against it, divine revelation launches its thunders. The voice of God condemns it in the deep places of the human heart. The woes and wrongs unutterable which attend this dreadful violation of natural justice, the stripes, the tortures, the sunderings of kindred, the desolation of human affections, the unchastity and lust, the toil uncompensated, the abrogated marriage, the legalized heathenism, the burial of the mind, are but the mere incidentals of the first grand outrage, that seizure of the entire man, nerve, sinew, and spirit, which robs him of his body, and God of his soul. These are but the natural results and outward demonstrations of slavery, the crystallizations from the chattel principle.
It is against this system, in its active operation upon three millions of our countrymen, that the Liberty Party is, for the present, directing all its efforts. With such an object well may we be "men of one idea." Nor do we neglect "other great interests," for all are colored and controlled by slavery, and the removal of this disastrous influence would most effectually benefit them.
Political action is the result and immediate object of moral suasion on this subject. Action, action, is the spirit's means of progress, its sole test of rectitude, its only source of happiness. And should not decided action follow our deep convictions of the wrong of slavery? Shall we denounce the slave-holders of the states, while we retain our slavery in the District of Columbia? Shall we pray that the God of the oppressed will turn the hearts of "the rulers" in South Carolina, while we, the rulers of the District, refuse to open the prisons and break up the slave-markets on its ten miles square? God keep us from such hypocrisy! Everybody now professes to be opposed to slavery. The leaders of the two great political parties are grievously concerned lest the purity of the antislavery enterprise will suffer in its connection with politics. In the midst of grossest pro-slavery action, they are full of anti-slavery sentiment. They love the cause, but, on the whole, think it too good for this world. They would keep it sublimated, aloft, out of vulgar reach or use altogether, intangible as Magellan's clouds. Everybody will join us in denouncing slavery, in the abstract; not a faithless priest nor politician will oppose us; abandon action, and forsooth we can have an abolition millennium; the wolf shall lie down with the lamb, while slavery in practice clanks, in derision, its three millions of unbroken chains. Our opponents have no fear of the harmless spectre of an abstract idea. They dread it only when it puts on the flesh and sinews of a practical reality, and lifts its right arm in the strength which God giveth to do as well as theorize.
As honest men, then, we must needs act; let us do so as becomes men engaged in a great and solemn cause. Not by processions and idle parades and spasmodic enthusiasms, by shallow tricks and shows and artifices, can a cause like ours be carried onward. Leave these to parties contending for office, as the "spoils of victory." We need no disguises, nor false pretences, nor subterfuges; enough for us to present before our fellow- countrymen the holy truths of freedom, in their unadorned and native beauty. Dark as the present may seem, let us remember with hearty confidence that truth and right are destined to triumph. Let us blot out the word "discouragement" from the anti-slavery vocabulary. Let the enemies of freedom be discouraged; let the advocates of oppression despair; but let those who grapple with wrong and falsehood, in the name of God and in the power of His truth, take courage. Slavery must die. The Lord hath spoken it. The vials of His hot displeasure, like those which chastised the nations in the Apocalyptic vision, are smoking even now, above its "habitations of cruelty." It can no longer be borne with by Heaven. Universal humanity cries out against it. Let us work, then, to hasten its downfall, doing whatsoever our hands find to do, "with all our might."
DEMOCRACY AND SLAVERY. (1843.)
THE great leader of American Democracy, Thomas Jefferson, was an ultra-abolitionist in theory, while from youth to age a slave-holder in practice. With a zeal which never abated, with a warmth which the frost of years could not chill, he urged the great truths, that each man should be the guardian of his own weal; that one man should never have absolute control over another. He maintained the entire equality of the race, the inherent right of self-ownership, the equal claim of all to a fair participation in the enactment of the laws by which they are governed.
He saw clearly that slavery, as it existed in the South and on his own plantation, was inconsistent with this doctrine. His early efforts for emancipation in Virginia failed of success; but he next turned his attention to the vast northwestern territory, and laid the foundation of that ordinance of 1787, which, like the flaming sword of the angel at the gates of Paradise, has effectually guarded that territory against the entrance of slavery. Nor did he stop here. He was the friend and admirer of the ultra-abolitionists of revolutionary France; he warmly urged his British friend, Dr. Price, to send his anti-slavery pamphlets into Virginia; he omitted no opportunity to protest against slavery as anti-democratic, unjust, and dangerous to the common welfare; and in his letter to the territorial governor of Illinois, written in old age, he bequeathed, in earnest and affecting language, the cause of negro emancipation to the rising generation. "This enterprise," said he, "is for the young, for those who can carry it forward to its consummation. It shall have all my prayers, and these are the only weapons of an old man."
Such was Thomas Jefferson, the great founder of American Democracy, the advocate of the equality of human rights, irrespective of any conditions of birth, or climate, or color. His political doctrines, it is strange to say, found their earliest recipients and most zealous admirers in the slave states of the Union. The privileged class of slaveholders, whose rank and station "supersede the necessity of an order of nobility," became earnest advocates of equality among themselves--the democracy of aristocracy. With the misery and degradation of servitude always before them, in the condition of their own slaves, an intense love of personal independence, and a haughty impatience of any control over their actions, prepared them to adopt the democratic idea, so far as it might be applied to their own order. Of that enlarged and generous democracy, the love, not of individual freedom alone, but of the rights and liberties of all men, the unselfish desire to give to others the privileges which all men value for themselves, we are constrained to believe the great body of Thomas Jefferson's slave-holding admirers had no adequate conception. They were just such democrats as the patricians of Rome and the aristocracy of Venice; lords over their own plantations, a sort of "holy alliance" of planters, admitting and defending each other's divine right of mastership.
Still, in Virginia, Maryland, and in other sections of the slave states, truer exponents and exemplifiers of the idea of democracy, as it existed in the mind of Jefferson, were not wanting. In the debate on the memorials presented to the first Congress of the United States, praying for the abolition of slavery, the voice of the Virginia delegation in that body was unanimous in deprecation of slavery as an evil, social, moral, and political. In the Virginia constitutional convention--of 1829 there were men who had the wisdom to perceive and the firmness to declare that slavery was not only incompatible with the honor and prosperity of the state, but wholly indefensible on any grounds which could be consistently taken by a republican people. In the debate on the same subject in the legislature in 1832, universal and impartial democracy found utterance from eloquent lips. We might say as much of Kentucky, the child of Virginia. But it remains true that these were exceptions to the general rule. With the language of universal liberty on their lips, and moved by the most zealous spirit of democratic propagandism, the greater number of the slave-holders of the Union seem never to have understood the true meaning, or to have measured the length and breadth of that doctrine which they were the first to adopt, and of which they have claimed all along to be the peculiar and chosen advocates.
The Northern States were slow to adopt the Democratic creed. The oligarchy of New England, and the rich proprietors and landholders of the Middle States, turned with alarm and horror from the levelling doctrines urged upon them by the "liberty and equality" propagandists of the South. The doctrines of Virginia were quite as unpalatable to Massachusetts at the beginning of the present century as those of Massachusetts now are to the Old Dominion. Democracy interfered with old usages and time-honored institutions, and threatened to plough up the very foundations of the social fabric. It was zealously opposed by the representatives of New England in Congress and in the home legislatures; and in many pulpits hands were lifted to God in humble entreaty that the curse and bane of democracy, an offshoot of the rabid Jacobinism of revolutionary France, might not be permitted to take root and overshadow the goodly heritage of Puritanism. The alarmists of the South, in their most fervid pictures of the evils to be apprehended from the prevalence of anti-slavery doctrines in their midst, have drawn nothing more fearful than the visions of such
"Prophets of war and harbingers of ill"
as Fisher Ames in the forum and Parish in the desk, when contemplating the inroads of Jeffersonian democracy upon the politics, religion, and property of the North.
But great numbers of the free laborers of the Northern States, the mechanics and small farmers, took a very different view of the matter. The doctrines of Jefferson were received as their political gospel. It was in vain that federalism denounced with indignation the impertinent inconsistency of slave-holding interference in behalf of liberty in the free states. Come the doctrine from whom it might, the people felt it to be true. State after state revolted from the ranks of federalism, and enrolled itself on the side of democracy. The old order of things was broken up; equality before the law was established, religious tests and restrictions of the right of suffrage were abrogated. Take Massachusetts, for example. There the resistance to democratic principles was the most strenuous and longest continued. Yet, at this time, there is no state in the Union more thorough in its practical adoption of them. No property qualifications or religious tests prevail; all distinctions of sect, birth, or color, are repudiated, and suffrage is universal. The democracy, which in the South has only been held in a state of gaseous abstraction, hardened into concrete reality in the cold air of the North. The ideal became practical, for it had found lodgment among men who were accustomed to act out their convictions and test all their theories by actual experience.
While thus making a practical application of the new doctrine, the people of the free states could not but perceive the incongruity of democracy and slavery.
Selleck Osborn, who narrowly escaped the honor of a Democratic martyr in Connecticut, denounced slave-holding, in common with other forms of oppression. Barlow, fresh from communion with Gregoire, Brissot, and Robespierre, devoted to negro slavery some of the most vigorous and truthful lines of his great poem. Eaton, returning from his romantic achievements in Tunis for the deliverance of white slaves, improved the occasion to read a lecture to his countrymen on the inconsistency and guilt of holding blacks in servitude. In the Missouri struggle of 1819- 20, the people of the free states, with a few ignoble exceptions, took issue with the South against the extension of slavery. Some ten years later, the present antislavery agitation commenced. It originated, beyond a question, in the democratic element. With the words of Jefferson on their lips, young, earnest, and enthusiastic men called the attention of the community to the moral wrong and political reproach of slavery. In the name and spirit of democracy, the moral and political powers of the people were invoked to limit, discountenance, and put an end to a system so manifestly subversive of its foundation principles. It was a revival of the language of Jefferson and Page and Randolph, an echo of the voice of him who penned the Declaration of Independence and originated the ordinance of 1787.
Meanwhile the South had wellnigh forgotten the actual significance of the teachings of its early political prophets, and their renewal in the shape of abolitionism was, as might have been expected, strange and unwelcome. Pleasant enough it had been to hold up occasionally these democratic abstractions for the purpose of challenging the world's admiration and cheaply acquiring the character of lovers of liberty and equality. Frederick of Prussia, apostrophizing the shades of Cato and Brutus,
"Vous de la liberte heros que je revere,"
while in the full exercise of his despotic power, was quite as consistent as these democratic slaveowners, whose admiration of liberty increased in exact ratio with its distance from their own plantations. They had not calculated upon seeing their doctrine clothed with life and power, a practical reality, pressing for application to their slaves as well as to themselves. They had not taken into account the beautiful ordination of Providence, that no man can vindicate his own rights, without directly or impliedly including in that vindication the rights of all other men. The haughty and oppressive barons who wrung from their reluctant monarch the Great Charter at Runnymede, acting only for themselves and their class, little dreamed of the universal application which has since been made of their guaranty of rights and liberties. As little did the nobles of the parliament of Paris, when strengthening themselves by limiting the kingly prerogative, dream of the emancipation of their own serfs, by a revolution to which they were blindly giving the first impulse. God's truth is universal; it cannot be monopolized by selfishness.
THE TWO PROCESSIONS. (1844.)
"Look upon this picture, and on this." HAMLET.
CONSIDERING that we have a slave population of nearly three millions, and that in one half of the states of the Republic it is more hazardous to act upon the presumption that "all men are created free and equal" than it would be in Austria or Russia, the lavish expression of sympathy and extravagant jubilation with which, as a people, we are accustomed to greet movements in favor of freedom abroad are not a little remarkable. We almost went into ecstasies over the first French revolution; we filled our papers with the speeches of orator Hunt and the English radicals; we fraternized with the United Irishmen; we hailed as brothers in the cause of freedom the very Mexicans whom we have since wasted with fire and sword; our orators, North and South, grew eloquent and classic over the Greek and Polish revolutions. In short, long ere this, if the walls of kingcraft and despotism had been, like those of Jericho, destined to be overthrown by sound, our Fourth of July cannon-shootings and bell- ringings, together with our fierce, grandiloquent speech-makings in and out of Congress, on the occasions referred to, would have left no stone upon another.
It is true that an exception must be made in the case of Hayti. We fired no guns, drank no toasts, made no speeches in favor of the establishment of that new republic in our neighborhood. The very mention of the possibility that Haytien delegates might ask admittance to the congress of the free republics of the New World at Panama "frightened from their propriety" the eager propagandists of republicanism in the Senate, and gave a death-blow to their philanthropic projects. But as Hayti is a republic of blacks who, having revolted from their masters as well as from the mother country, have placed themselves entirely without the pale of Anglo-Saxon sympathy by their impertinent interference with the monopoly of white liberty, this exception by no means disproves the general fact, that in the matter of powder-burning, bell-jangling, speech-making, toast-drinking admiration of freedom afar off and in the abstract we have no rivals. The caricature of our "general sympathizers" in Martin Chuzzlewit is by no means a fancy sketch.
The news of the revolution of the three days in Paris, and the triumph of the French people over Charles X. and his ministers, as a matter of course acted with great effect upon our national susceptibility. We all threw up our hats in excessive joy at the spectacle of a king dashed down headlong from his throne and chased out of his kingdom by his long- suffering and oppressed subjects. We took half the credit of the performance to ourselves, inasmuch as Lafayette was a principal actor in it. Our editors, from Passamaquoddy to the Sabine, indited paragraphs for a thousand and one newspapers, congratulating the Parisian patriots, and prophesying all manner of evil to holy alliances, kings, and aristocracies. The National Intelligencer for September 27, 1830, contains a full account of the public rejoicings of the good people of Washington on the occasion. Bells were rung in all the steeples, guns were fired, and a grand procession was formed, including the President of the United States, the heads of departments, and other public functionaries. Decorated with tricolored ribbons, and with tricolored flags mingling with the stripes and stars over their heads, and gazed down upon by bright eyes from window and balcony, the "general sympathizers" moved slowly and majestically through the broad avenue towards the Capitol to celebrate the revival of French liberty in a manner becoming the chosen rulers of a free people.
What a spectacle was this for the representatives of European kingcraft at our seat of government! How the titled agents of Metternich and Nicholas must have trembled, in view of this imposing demonstration, for the safety of their "peculiar institutions!"
Unluckily, however, the moral effect of this grand spectacle was marred somewhat by the appearance of another procession, moving in a contrary direction. It was a gang of slaves! Handcuffed in pairs, with the sullen sadness of despair in their faces, they marched wearily onward to the music of the driver's whip and the clanking iron on their limbs. Think of it! Shouts of triumph, rejoicing bells, gay banners, and glittering cavalcades, in honor of Liberty, in immediate contrast with men and women chained and driven like cattle to market! The editor of the American Spectator, a paper published at Washington at that time, speaking of this black procession of slavery, describes it as "driven along by what had the appearance of a man on horseback." The miserable wretches who composed it were doubtless consigned to a slave-jail to await their purchase and transportation to the South or Southwest; and perhaps formed a part of that drove of human beings which the same editor states that he saw on the Saturday following, "males and females chained in couples, starting from Robey's tavern, on foot, for Alexandria, to embark on board a slave-ship."
At a Virginia camp-meeting, many years ago, one of the brethren, attempting an exhortation, stammered, faltered, and finally came to a dead stand. "Sit down, brother," said old Father Kyle, the one-eyed abolition preacher; "it's no use to try; you can't preach with twenty negroes sticking in your throat!" It strikes us that our country is very much in the condition of the poor confused preacher at the camp-meeting. Slavery sticks in its throat, and spoils its finest performances, political and ecclesiastical; confuses the tongues of its evangelical alliances; makes a farce of its Fourth of July celebrations; and, as in the case of the grand Washington procession of 1830, sadly mars the effect of its rejoicings in view of the progress of liberty abroad. There is a stammer in all our exhortations; our moral and political homilies are sure to run into confusions and contradictions; and the response which comes to us from the nations is not unlike that of Father Kyle to the planter's attempt at sermonizing: "It's no use, brother Jonathan; you can't preach liberty with three millions of slaves in your throat!"
A CHAPTER OF HISTORY. (1844.)
THE theory which a grave and learned Northern senator has recently announced in Congress, that slavery, like the cotton-plant, is confined by natural laws to certain parallels of latitude, beyond which it can by no possibility exist, however it may have satisfied its author and its auditors, has unfortunately no verification in the facts of the case. Slavery is singularly cosmopolitan in its habits. The offspring of pride, and lust, and avarice, it is indigenous to the world. Rooted in the human heart, it defies the rigors of winter in the steppes of Tartary and the fierce sun of the tropics. It has the universal acclimation of sin.
The first account we have of negro slaves in New England is from the pen of John Josselyn. Nineteen years after the landing at Plymouth, this interesting traveller was for some time the guest of Samuel Maverick, who then dwelt, like a feudal baron, in his fortalice on Noddle's Island, surrounded by retainers and servants, bidding defiance to his Indian neighbors behind his strong walls, with "four great guns" mounted thereon, and "giving entertainment to all new-comers gratis."
"On the 2d of October, 1639, about nine o'clock in the morning, Mr. Maverick's negro woman," says Josselyn, "came to my chamber, and in her own country language and tune sang very loud and shrill. Going out to her, she used a great deal of respect towards me, and would willingly have expressed her grief in English had she been able to speak the language; but I apprehended it by her countenance and deportment. Whereupon I repaired to my host to learn of him the cause, and resolved to entreat him in her behalf; for I had understood that she was a queen in her own country, and observed a very dutiful and humble garb used towards her by another negro, who was her maid. Mr. Maverick was desirous to have a breed of negroes; and therefore, seeing she would not yield by persuasions to company with a negro young man he had in his house, he commanded him, willed she, nilled she, to go to her bed, which was no sooner done than she thrust him out again. This she took in high disdain beyond her slavery; and this was the cause of her grief."
That the peculiar domestic arrangements and unfastidious economy of this slave-breeding settler were not countenanced by the Puritans of that early time we have sufficient evidence. It is but fair to suppose, from the silence of all other writers of the time with respect to negroes and slaves, that this case was a marked exception to the general habits and usage of the Colonists. At an early period a traffic was commenced between the New England Colonies and that of Barbadoes; and it is not improbable that slaves were brought to Boston from that island. The laws, however, discouraged their introduction and purchase, giving freedom to all held to service at the close of seven years.
In 1641, two years after Josselyn's adventure on Noddle's Island, the code of laws known by the name of the Body of Liberties was adopted by the Colony. It was drawn up by Nathaniel Ward, the learned and ingenious author of the 'Simple Cobbler of Agawarn', the earliest poetical satire of New England. One of its provisions was as follows:--
"There shall be never any bond slaverie, villainage, or captivitie amongst us, unless it be lawfull captives taken in just warres and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold to us. And these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages which the law of God established in Israel doth morally require."
In 1646, Captain Smith, a Boston church-member, in connection with one Keeser, brought home two negroes whom he obtained by the surprise and burning of a negro village in Africa and the massacre of many of its inhabitants. Sir Richard Saltonstall, one of the assistants, presented a petition to the General Court, stating the outrage thereby committed as threefold in its nature, namely murder, man-stealing, and Sabbath- breaking; inasmuch as the offence of "chasing the negers, as aforesayde, upon the Sabbath day (being a servile work, and such as cannot be considered under any other head) is expressly capital by the law of God;" for which reason he prays that the offenders may be brought to justice, "soe that the sin they have committed may be upon their own heads and not upon ourselves."
Upon this petition the General Court passed the following order, eminently worthy of men professing to rule in the fear and according to the law of God,--a terror to evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well:--
"The General Court, conceiving themselves bound by the first opportunity to bear witness against the heinous and crying sin of man-stealing, as also to prescribe such timely redress for what has passed, and such a law for the future as may sufficiently deter all others belonging to us to have to do in such vile and odious courses, justly abhorred of all good and just men, do order that the negro interpreter, and others unlawfully taken, be by the first opportunity, at the charge of the country for the present, sent to his native country, Guinea, and a letter with him of the indignation of the Court thereabout, and justice thereof, desiring our honored Governor would please put this order in execution."
There is, so far as we know, no historical record of the actual return of these stolen men to their home. A letter is extant, however, addressed in behalf of the General Court to a Mr. Williams on the Piscataqua, by whom one of the negroes had been purchased, requesting him to send the man forthwith to Boston, that he may be sent home, "which this Court do resolve to send back without delay."
Three years after, in 1649, the following law was placed upon the statute-book of the Massachusetts Colony:--
"If any man stealeth a man, or mankind, he shall surely be put to death."
It will thus be seen that these early attempts to introduce slavery into New England were opposed by severe laws and by that strong popular sentiment in favor of human liberty which characterized the Christian radicals who laid the foundations of the Colonies. It was not the rigor of her Northern winter, nor the unkindly soil of Massachusetts, which discouraged the introduction of slavery in the first half-century of her existence as a colony. It was the Puritan's recognition of the brotherhood of man in sin, suffering, and redemption, his estimate of the awful responsibilities and eternal destinies of humanity, his hatred of wrong and tyranny, and his stern sense of justice, which led him to impose upon the African slave-trader the terrible penalty of the Mosaic code.
But that brave old generation passed away. The civil contentions in the mother country drove across the seas multitudes of restless adventurers and speculators. The Indian wars unsettled and demoralized the people. Habits of luxury and the greed of gain took the place of the severe self- denial and rigid virtues of the fathers. Hence we are not surprised to find that Josselyn, in his second visit to New England, some twenty-five years after his first, speaks of the great increase of servants and negroes. In 1680 Governor Bradstreet, in answer to the inquiries of his Majesty's Privy Council, states that two years before a vessel from Madagasca "brought into the Colony betwixt forty and fifty negroes, mostly women and children, who were sold at a loss to the owner of the vessel." "Now and then," he continues, "two or three negroes are brought from Barbadoes and other of his Majesty's plantations and sold for twenty pounds apiece; so that there may be within the government about one hundred or one hundred and twenty, and it may be as many Scots, brought hither and sold for servants in the time of the war with Scotland, and about half as many Irish."
The owning of a black or white slave, or servant, at this period was regarded as an evidence of dignity and respectability; and hence magistrates and clergymen winked at the violation of the law by the mercenary traders, and supplied themselves without scruple. Indian slaves were common, and are named in old wills, deeds, and inventories, with horses, cows, and household furniture. As early as the year 1649 we find William Hilton, of Newbury, sells to George Carr, "for one quarter part of a vessel, James, my Indian, with all the interest I have in him, to be his servant forever." Some were taken in the Narragansett war and other Indian wars; others were brought from South Carolina and the Spanish Main. It is an instructive fact, as illustrating the retributive dealings of Providence, that the direst affliction of the Massachusetts Colony--the witchcraft terror of 1692--originated with the Indian Tituba, a slave in the family of the minister of Danvers.
In the year 1690 the inhabitants of Newbury were greatly excited by the arrest of a Jerseyman who had been engaged in enticing Indians and negroes to leave their masters. He was charged before the court with saying that "the English should be cut off and the negroes set free." James, a negro slave, and Joseph, an Indian, were arrested with him. Their design was reported to be, to seize a vessel in the port and escape to Canada and join the French, and return and lay waste and plunder their masters. They were to come back with five hundred Indians and three hundred Canadians; and the place of crossing the Merrimac River, and of the first encampment on the other side, were even said to be fixed upon. When we consider that there could not have been more than a score of slaves in the settlement, the excitement into which the inhabitants were thrown by this absurd rumor of conspiracy seems not very unlike that of a convocation of small planters in a backwoods settlement in South Carolina on finding an anti-slavery newspaper in their weekly mail bag.
In 1709 Colonel Saltonstall, of Haverhill, had several negroes, and among them a high-spirited girl, who, for some alleged misdemeanor, was severely chastised. The slave resolved upon revenge for her injury, and soon found the means of obtaining it. The Colonel had on hand, for service in the Indian war then raging, a considerable store of gunpowder. This she placed under the room in which her master and mistress slept, laid a long train, and dropped a coal on it. She had barely time to escape to the farm-house before the explosion took place, shattering the stately mansion into fragments. Saltonstall and his wife were carried on their bed a considerable distance, happily escaping serious injury. Some soldiers stationed in the house were scattered in all directions; but no lives were lost. The Colonel, on recovering from the effects of his sudden overturn, hastened to the farm-house and found his servants all up save the author of the mischief, who was snug in bed and apparently in a quiet sleep.
In 1701 an attempt was made in the General Court of Massachusetts to prevent the increase of slaves. Judge Sewall soon after published a pamphlet against slavery, but it seems with little effect. Boston merchants and ship-owners became, to a considerable extent, involved in the slave-trade. Distilleries, established in that place and in Rhode Island, furnished rum for the African market. The slaves were usually taken to the West Indies, although occasionally part of a cargo found its way to New England, where the wholesome old laws against man-stealing had become a dead letter on the statute-book.
In 1767 a bill was brought before the Legislature of Massachusetts to prevent "the unwarrantable and unnatural custom of enslaving mankind." The Council of Governor Bernard sent it back to the House greatly changed and curtailed, and it was lost by the disagreement of the two branches. Governor Bernard threw his influence on the side of slavery. In 1774 a bill prohibiting the traffic in slaves passed both Houses; but Governor Hutchinson withheld his assent and dismissed the Legislature. The colored men sent a deputation of their own to the Governor to solicit his consent to the bill; but he told them his instructions forbade him. A similar committee waiting upon General Gage received the same answer.
In the year 1770 a servant of Richard Lechmere, of Cambridge, stimulated by the general discussion of the slavery question and by the advice of some of the zealous advocates of emancipation, brought an action against his master for detaining him in bondage. The suit was decided in his favor two years before the similar decision in the case of Somerset in England. The funds necessary for carrying on this suit were raised among the blacks themselves. Other suits followed in various parts of the Province; and the result was, in every instance, the freedom of the plaintiff. In 1773 Caesar Hendrick sued his master, one Greenleaf, of Newburyport, for damages, laid at fifty pounds, for holding him as a slave. The jury awarded him his freedom and eighteen pounds.
According to Dr. Belknap, whose answers to the queries on the subject, propounded by Judge Tucker, of Virginia, have furnished us with many of the facts above stated, the principal grounds upon which the counsel of the masters depended were, that the negroes were purchased in open market, and included in the bills of sale like other property; that slavery was sanctioned by usage; and, finally, that the laws of the Province recognized its existence by making masters liable for the maintenance of their slaves, or servants.
On the part of the blacks, the law and usage of the mother country, confirmed by the Great Charter, that no man can be deprived of his liberty but by the judgment of his peers, were effectually pleaded. The early laws of the Province prohibited slavery, and no subsequent legislation had sanctioned it; for, although the laws did recognize its existence, they did so only to mitigate and modify an admitted evil.
The present state constitution was established in 1780. The first article of the Bill of Rights prohibited slavery by affirming the foundation truth of our republic, that "all men are born free and equal." The Supreme Court decided in 1783 that no man could hold another as property without a direct violation of that article.
In 1788 three free black citizens of Boston were kidnapped and sold into slavery in one of the French islands. An intense excitement followed. Governor Hancock took efficient measures for reclaiming the unfortunate men. The clergy of Boston petitioned the Legislature for a total prohibition of the foreign slave-trade. The Society of Friends, and the blacks generally, presented similar petitions; and the same year an act was passed prohibiting the slave-trade and granting relief to persons kidnapped or decoyed out of the Commonwealth. The fear of a burden to the state from the influx of negroes from abroad led the Legislature, in connection with this law, to prevent those who were not citizens of the state or of other states from gaining a residence.
The first case of the arrest of a fugitive slave in Massachusetts under the law of 1793 took place in Boston soon after the passage of the law. It is the case to which President Quincy alludes in his late letter against the fugitive slave law. The populace at the trial aided the slave to escape, and nothing further was done about it.
The arrest of George Latimer as a slave, in Boston, and his illegal confinement in jail, in 1842, led to the passage of the law of 1843 for the "protection of personal liberty," prohibiting state officers from arresting or detaining persons claimed as slaves, and the use of the jails of the Commonwealth for their confinement. This law was strictly in accordance with the decision of the supreme judiciary, in the case of Prigg vs. The State of Pennsylvania, that the reclaiming of fugitives was a matter exclusively belonging to the general government; yet that the state officials might, if they saw fit, carry into effect the law of Congress on the subject, "unless prohibited by state legislation."
It will be seen by the facts we have adduced that slavery in Massachusetts never had a legal existence. The ermine of the judiciary of the Puritan state has never been sullied by the admission of its detestable claims. It crept into the Commonwealth like other evils and vices, but never succeeded in clothing itself with the sanction and authority of law. It stood only upon its own execrable foundation of robbery and wrong.
With a history like this to look back upon, is it strange that the people of Massachusetts at the present day are unwilling to see their time- honored defences of personal freedom, the good old safeguards of Saxon liberty, overridden and swept away after the summary fashion of "the Fugitive Slave Bill;" that they should loathe and scorn the task which that bill imposes upon them of aiding professional slave-hunters in seizing, fettering, and consigning to bondage men and women accused only of that which commends them to esteem and sympathy, love of liberty and hatred of slavery; that they cannot at once adjust themselves to "constitutional duties" which in South Carolina and Georgia are reserved for trained bloodhounds? Surely, in view of what Massachusetts has been, and her strong bias in favor of human freedom, derived from her great- hearted founders, it is to be hoped that the Executive and Cabinet at Washington will grant her some little respite, some space for turning, some opportunity for conquering her prejudices, before letting loose the dogs of war upon her. Let them give her time, and treat with forbearance her hesitation, qualms of conscience, and wounded pride. Her people, indeed, are awkward in the work of slave-catching, and, it would seem, rendered but indifferent service in a late hunt in Boston. Whether they would do better under the surveillance of the army and navy of the United States is a question which we leave with the President and his Secretary of State. General Putnam once undertook to drill a company of Quakers, and instruct them, by force of arms, in the art and mystery of fighting; but not a single pair of drab-colored breeches moved at his "forward march;" not a broad beaver wheeled at his word of command; no hand unclosed to receive a proffered musket. Patriotic appeal, hard swearing, and prick of bayonet had no effect upon these impracticable raw recruits; and the stout general gave them up in despair. We are inclined to believe that any attempt on the part of the Commander-in-chief of our army and navy to convert the good people of Massachusetts into expert slave-catchers, under the discipline of West Point and Norfolk, would prove as idle an experiment as that of General Putnam upon the Quakers.
THOMAS CARLYLE ON THE SLAVE-QUESTION. (1846.)
A LATE number of Fraser's Magazine contains an article bearing the unmistakable impress of the Anglo-German peculiarities of Thomas Carlyle, entitled, 'An Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question', which would be interesting as a literary curiosity were it not in spirit and tendency so unspeakably wicked as to excite in every rightminded reader a feeling of amazement and disgust. With a hard, brutal audacity, a blasphemous irreverence, and a sneering mockery which would do honor to the devil of Faust, it takes issue with the moral sense of mankind and the precepts of Christianity. Having ascertained that the exports of sugar and spices from the West Indies have diminished since emancipation,--and that the negroes, having worked, as they believed, quite long enough without wages, now refuse to work for the planters without higher pay than the latter, with the thriftless and evil habits of slavery still clinging to them, can afford to give,--the author considers himself justified in denouncing negro emancipation as one of the "shams" which he was specially sent into this world to belabor. Had he confned himself to simple abuse and caricature of the self-denying and Christian abolitionists of England--"the broad-brimmed philanthropists of Exeter Hall"--there would have been small occasion for noticing his splenetic and discreditable production. Doubtless there is a cant of philanthropy --the alloy of human frailty and folly--in the most righteous reforms, which is a fair subject for the indignant sarcasm of a professed hater of shows and falsities. Whatever is hollow and hypocritical in politics, morals, or religion, comes very properly within the scope of his mockery, and we bid him Godspeed in plying his satirical lash upon it. Impostures and frauds of all kinds deserve nothing better than detection and exposure. Let him blow them up to his heart's content, as Daniel did the image of Bell and the Dragon.
But our author, in this matter of negro slavery, has undertaken to apply his explosive pitch and rosin, not to the affectation of humanity, but to humanity itself. He mocks at pity, scoffs at all who seek to lessen the amount of pain and suffering, sneers at and denies the most sacred rights, and mercilessly consigns an entire class of the children of his Heavenly Father to the doom of compulsory servitude. He vituperates the poor black man with a coarse brutality which would do credit to a Mississippi slave-driver, or a renegade Yankee dealer in human cattle on the banks of the Potomac. His rhetoric has a flavor of the slave-pen and auction-block, vulgar, unmanly, indecent, a scandalous outrage upon good taste and refined feeling, which at once degrades the author and insults his readers.
He assumes (for he is one of those sublimated philosophers who reject the Baconian system of induction and depend upon intuition without recourse to facts and figures) that the emancipated class in the West India Islands are universally idle, improvident, and unfit for freedom; that God created them to be the servants and slaves of their "born lords," the white men, and designed them to grow sugar, coffee, and spices for their masters, instead of raising pumpkins and yams for themselves; and that, if they will not do this, "the beneficent whip" should be again employed to compel them. He adopts, in speaking of the black class, the lowest slang of vulgar prejudice. "Black Quashee," sneers the gentlemanly philosopher,--"black Quashee, if he will not help in bringing out the spices, will get himself made a slave again (which state will be a little less ugly than his present one), and with beneficent whip, since other methods avail not, will be compelled to work."
It is difficult to treat sentiments so atrocious and couched in such offensive language with anything like respect. Common sense and unperverted conscience revolt instinctively against them. The doctrine they inculcate is that which underlies all tyranny and wrong of man towards man. It is that under which "the creation groaneth and travaileth unto this day." It is as old as sin; the perpetual argument of strength against weakness, of power against right; that of the Greek philosopher, that the barbarians, being of an inferior race, were born to be slaves to the Greeks; and of the infidel Hobbes, that every man, being by nature at war with every other man, has a perpetual right to reduce him to servitude if he has the power. It is the cardinal doctrine of what John Quincy Adams has very properly styled the Satanic school of philosophy,--the ethics of an old Norse sea robber or an Arab plunderer of caravans. It is as widely removed from the sweet humanities and unselfish benevolence of Christianity as the faith and practice of the East India Thug or the New Zealand cannibal.
Our author does not, however, take us altogether by surprise. He has before given no uncertain intimations of the point towards which his philosophy was tending. In his brilliant essay upon 'Francia of Paraguay', for instance, we find him entering with manifest satisfaction and admiration into the details of his hero's tyranny. In his 'Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell'--in half a dozen pages of savage and almost diabolical sarcasm directed against the growing humanity of the age, the "rose-pink sentimentalisms," and squeamishness which shudders at the sight of blood and infliction of pain--he prepares the way for a justification of the massacre of Drogheda. More recently he has intimated that the extermination of the Celtic race is the best way of settling the Irish question; and that the enslavement and forcible transportation of her poor, to labor under armed taskmasters in the colonies, is the only rightful and proper remedy for the political and social evils of England. In the 'Discourse on Negro Slavery' we see this devilish philosophy in full bloom. The gods, he tells us, are with the strong. Might has a divine right to rule,--blessed are the crafty of brain and strong of hand! Weakness is crime. "Vae victis!" as Brennus said when he threw his sword into the scale,--Woe to the conquered! The negro is weaker in intellect than his "born lord," the white man, and has no right to choose his own vocation. Let the latter do it for him, and, if need be, return to the "beneficent whip." "On the side of the oppressor there is power;" let him use it without mercy, and hold flesh and blood to the grindstone with unrelenting rigor. Humanity is squeamishness; pity for the suffering mere "rose-pink sentimentalism," maudlin and unmanly. The gods (the old Norse gods doubtless) laugh to scorn alike the complaints of the miserable and the weak compassions and "philanthropisms" of those who would relieve them. This is the substance of Thomas Carlyle's advice; this is the matured fruit of his philosophic husbandry,--the grand result for which he has been all his life sounding unfathomable abysses or beating about in the thin air of Transcendentalism. Such is the substitute which he offers us for the Sermon on the Mount.
He tells us that the blacks have no right to use the islands of the West Indies for growing pumpkins and garden stuffs for their own use and behoof, because, but for the wisdom and skill of the whites, these islands would have been productive only of "jungle, savagery, and swamp malaria." The negro alone could never have improved the islands or civilized himself; and therefore their and his "born lord," the white man, has a right to the benefits of his own betterments of land and "two- legged cattle!" "Black Quashee" has no right to dispose of himself and his labor because he owes his partial civilization to others! And pray how has it been with the white race, for whom our philosopher claims the divine prerogative of enslaving? Some twenty and odd centuries ago, a pair of half-naked savages, daubed with paint, might have been seen roaming among the hills and woods of the northern part of the British island, subsisting on acorns and the flesh of wild animals, with an occasional relish of the smoked hams and pickled fingers of some unfortunate stranger caught on the wrong side of the Tweed. This interesting couple reared, as they best could, a family of children, who, in turn, became the heads of families; and some time about the beginning of the present century one of their descendants in the borough of Ecclefechan rejoiced over the birth of a man child now somewhat famous as "Thomas Carlyle, a maker of books." Does it become such a one to rave against the West India negro's incapacity for self-civilization? Unaided by the arts, sciences, and refinements of the Romans, he might have been, at this very day, squatted on his naked haunches in the woods of Ecclefechan, painting his weather-hardened epidermis in the sun like his Piet ancestors. Where, in fact, can we look for unaided self-improvement and spontaneous internal development, to any considerable extent, on the part of any nation or people? From people to people the original God- given impulse towards civilization and perfection has been transmitted, as from Egypt to Greece, and thence to the Roman world.
But the blacks, we are told, are indolent and insensible to the duty of raising sugar and coffee and spice for the whites, being mainly careful to provide for their own household and till their own gardens for domestic comforts and necessaries. The exports have fallen off somewhat. And what does this prove? Only that the negro is now a consumer of products, of which, under the rule of the whip, he was a producer merely. As to indolence, under the proper stimulus of fair wages we have reason to believe that the charge is not sustained. If unthrifty habits and lack of prudence on the part of the owners of estates, combined with the repeal of duties on foreign sugars by the British government, have placed it out of their power to pay just and reasonable wages for labor, who can blame the blacks if they prefer to cultivate their own garden plots rather than raise sugar and spice for their late masters upon terms little better than those of their old condition, the "beneficent whip" always excepted? The despatches of the colonial governors agree in admitting that the blacks have had great cause for complaint and dissatisfaction, owing to the delay or non-payment of their wages. Sir C. E. Gray, writing from Jamaica, says, that "in a good many instances the payment of the wages they have earned has been either very irregularly made, or not at all, probably on account of the inability of the employers." He says, moreover:--
"The negroes appear to me to be generally as free from rebellious tendencies or turbulent feelings and malicious thoughts as any race of laborers I ever saw or heard of. My impression is, indeed, that under a system of perfectly fair dealing and of real justice they will come to be an admirable peasantry and yeomanry; able-bodied, industrious, and hard- working, frank, and well-disposed."
It must, indeed, be admitted that, judging by their diminished exports and the growing complaints of the owners of estates, the condition of the islands, in a financial point of view, is by no means favorable. An immediate cause of this, however, must be found in the unfortunate Sugar Act of 1846. The more remote, but for the most part powerful, cause of the present depression is to be traced to the vicious and unnatural system of slavery, which has been gradually but surely preparing the way for ruin, bankruptcy, and demoralization. Never yet, by a community or an individual, have the righteous laws of God been violated with impunity. Sooner or later comes the penalty which the infinite justice has affixed to sin. Partial and temporary evils and inconveniences have undoubtedly resulted from the emancipation of the laborers; and many years must elapse before the relations of the two heretofore antagonistic classes can be perfectly adjusted and their interests brought into entire harmony. But that freedom is not to be held mainly accountable for the depression of the British colonies is obvious from the fact that Dutch Surinam, where the old system of slavery remains in its original rigor, is in an equally depressed condition. The 'Paramaribo Neuws en Advertentie Blad', quoted in the Jamaica Gazette, says, under date of January 2, 1850: "Around us we hear nothing but complaints. People seek and find matter in everything to picture to themselves the lot of the place in which they live as bitterer than that of any other country. Of a large number of flourishing plantations, few remain that can now be called such. So deteriorated has property become within the last few years, that many of these estates have not been able to defray their weekly expenses. The colony stands on the brink of a yawning abyss, into which it must inevitably plunge unless some new and better system is speedily adopted. It is impossible that our agriculture can any longer proceed on its old footing; our laboring force is dying away, and the social position they held must undergo a revolution."
The paper from which we have quoted, the official journal of the colony, thinks the condition of the emancipated British colonies decidedly preferable to that of Surinam, where the old slave system has continued in force, and insists that the Dutch government must follow the example of Great Britain. The actual condition of the British colonies since emancipation is perfectly well known in Surinam: three of them, Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice, being its immediate neighbors, whatever evils and inconveniences have resuited from emancipation must be well understood by the Dutch slave-holders; yet we find them looking towards emancipation as the only prospect of remedy for the greater evils of their own system.
This fact is of itself a sufficient answer to the assumption of Carlyle and others, that what they call "the ruin of the colonies" has been produced by the emancipation acts of 1833 and 1838.
We have no fears whatever of the effect of this literary monstrosity, which we have been considering upon the British colonies. Quashee, black and ignorant as he may be, will not "get himself made a slave again." The mission of the "beneficent whip" is there pretty well over; and it may now find its place in museums and cabinets of ghastly curiosities, with the racks, pillories, thumbscrews, and branding-irons of old days. What we have feared, however, is, that the advocates and defenders of slave-holding in this country might find in this discourse matter of encouragement, and that our anti-christian prejudices against the colored man might be strengthened and confirmed by its malignant vituperation and sarcasm. On this point we have sympathized with the forebodings of an eloquent writer in the London Enquirer:--
"We cannot imagine a more deadly moral poison for the American people than his (Carlyle's) last composition. Every cruel practice of social exclusion will derive from it new sharpness and venom. The slave-holder, of course, will exult to find himself, not apologized for, but enthusiastically cheered, upheld, and glorified, by a writer of European celebrity. But it is not merely the slave who will feel Mr. Carlyle's hand in the torture of his flesh, the riveting of his fetters, and the denial of light to his mind. The free black will feel him, too, in the more contemptuous and abhorrent scowl of his brother man, who will easily derive from this unfortunate essay the belief that his inhuman feelings are of divine ordination. It is a true work of the Devil, the fostering of a tyrannical prejudice. Far and wide over space, and long into the future, the winged words of evil counsel will go. In the market-place, in the house, in the theatre, and in the church,--by land and by sea, in all the haunts of men,--their influence will be felt in a perennial growth of hate and scorn, and suffering and resentment. Amongst the sufferers will be many to whom education has given every refined susceptibility that makes contempt and exclusion bitter. Men and women, faithful and diligent, loving and worthy to be loved, and bearing, it may be, no more than an almost imperceptible trace of African descent, will continue yet longer to be banished from the social meal of the white man, and to be spurned from his presence in the house of God, because a writer of genius has lent the weight of his authority and his fame, if not of his power, to the perpetuation of a prejudice which Christianity was undermining."
A more recent production, 'Latter Day Pamphlets', in which man's capability of self-government is more than doubted, democracy somewhat contemptuously sneered at, and the "model republic" itself stigmatized as a "nation of bores," may have a salutary effect in restraining our admiration and in lessening our respect for the defender and eulogist of slavery. The sweeping impartiality with which in this latter production he applies the principle of our "peculiar institution" to the laboring poor man, irrespective of color, recognizing as his only inalienable right "the right of being set to labor" for his "born lords," will, we imagine, go far to neutralize the mischief of his Discourse upon Negro Slavery. It is a sad thing to find so much intellectual power as Carlyle really possesses so little under the control of the moral sentiments. In some of his earlier writings--as, for instance, his beautiful tribute to the Corn Law Rhymer--we thought we saw evidence of a warm and generous sympathy with the poor and the wronged, a desire to ameliorate human suffering, which would have done credit to the "philanthropisms of Exeter Hall" and the "Abolition of Pain Society." Latterly, however, like Moliere's quack, he has "changed all that;" his heart has got upon the wrong side; or rather, he seems to us very much in the condition of the coal-burner in the German tale, who had swapped his heart of flesh for a cobblestone.
FORMATION OF THE AMERICAN ANTISLAVERY SOCIETY.
A letter to William Lloyd Garrison, President of the Society.
AMESBURY, 24th 11th mo., 1863.
MY DEAR FRIEND,--I have received thy kind letter, with the accompanying circular, inviting me to attend the commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society, at Philadelphia. It is with the deepest regret that I am compelled, by the feeble state of my health, to give up all hope of meeting thee and my other old and dear friends on an occasion of so much interest. How much it costs me to acquiesce in the hard necessity thy own feelings will tell thee better than any words of mine.
I look back over thirty years, and call to mind all the circumstances of my journey to Philadelphia, in company with thyself and the excellent Dr. Thurston of Maine, even then, as we thought, an old man, but still living, and true as ever to the good cause. I recall the early gray morning when, with Samuel J. May, our colleague on the committee to prepare a Declaration of Sentiments for the convention, I climbed to the small "upper chamber" of a colored friend to hear thee read the first draft of a paper which will live as long as our national history. I see the members of the convention, solemnized by the responsibility, rise one by one, and solemnly affix their names to that stern pledge of fidelity to freedom. Of the signers, many have passed away from earth, a few have faltered and turned back, but I believe the majority still live to rejoice over the great triumph of truth and justice, and to devote what remains of time and strength to the cause to which they consecrated their youth and manhood thirty years ago.
For while we may well thank God and congratulate one another on the prospect of the speedy emancipation of the slaves of the United States, we must not for a moment forget that, from this hour, new and mighty responsibilities devolve upon us to aid, direct, and educate these millions, left free, indeed, but bewildered, ignorant, naked, and foodless in the wild chaos of civil war. We have to undo the accumulated wrongs of two centuries; to remake the manhood which slavery has well- nigh unmade; to see to it that the long-oppressed colored man has a fair field for development and improvement; and to tread under our feet the last vestige of that hateful prejudice which has been the strongest external support of Southern slavery. We must lift ourselves at once to the true Christian altitude where all distinctions of black and white are overlooked in the heartfelt recognition of the brotherhood of man.
I must not close this letter without confessing that I cannot be sufficiently thankful to the Divine Providence which, in a great measure through thy instrumentality, turned me away so early from what Roger Williams calls "the world's great trinity, pleasure, profit, and honor," to take side with the poor and oppressed. I am not insensible to literary reputation. I love, perhaps too well, the praise and good-will of my fellow-men; but I set a higher value on my name as appended to the Anti-Slavery Declaration of 1833 than on the title-page of any book. Looking over a life marked by many errors and shortcomings, I rejoice that I have been able to maintain the pledge of that signature, and that, in the long intervening years,
"My voice, though not the loudest, has been heard Wherever Freedom raised her cry of pain."
Let me, through thee, extend a warm greeting to the friends, whether of our own or the new generation, who may assemble on the occasion of commemoration. There is work yet to be done which will task the best efforts of us all. For thyself, I need not say that the love and esteem of early boyhood have lost nothing by the test of time; and
I am, very cordially, thy friend,
JOHN G. WHITTIER
THE LESSON AND OUR DUTY.
From the Amesbury Villager.
IN the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the unspeakably brutal assault upon Secretary Seward slavery has made another revelation of itself. Perhaps it was needed. In the magnanimity of assured victory we were perhaps disposed to overlook, not so much the guilty leaders and misguided masses of the great rebellion as the unutterable horror and sin of slavery which prompted it.
How slowly we of the North have learned the true character of this mighty mischief! How our politicians bowed their strong shoulders under its burthens! How our churches reverenced it! How our clergy contrasted the heresy-tolerating North with the purely orthodox and Scriptural type of slave-holding Christianity! How all classes hunted down, not merely the fugitive slave, but the few who ventured to give him food and shelter and a Godspeed in his flight from bondage! How utterly ignored was the negro's claim of common humanity! How readily was the decision of the slave-holding chief justice acquiesced in, that "the black man had no rights which the white man is bound to respect"!
We saw a senator of the United States, world-known and honored for his learning, talents, and stainless integrity, beaten down and all but murdered at his official desk by a South Carolina slave-holder, for the crime of speaking against the extension of slavery; and we heard the dastardly deed applauded throughout the South, while its brutal perpetrator was rewarded with orations and gifts and smiles of beauty as a chivalrous gentleman. We saw slavery enter Kansas, with bowieknife in hand and curses on its lips; we saw the life of the Union struck at by secession and rebellion; we heard of the bones of sons and brothers, fallen in defence of freedom and law, dug up and wrought into ornaments for the wrists and bosoms of slave-holding women; we looked into the open hell of Andersonville, upon the deliberate, systematic starvation of helpless prisoners; we heard of Libby Prison underlaid with gunpowder, for the purpose of destroying thousands of Union prisoners in case of the occupation of Richmond by our army; we saw hundreds of prisoners massacred in cold blood at Fort Pillow, and the midnight sack of Lawrence and the murder of its principal citizens. The flames of our merchant vessels, seized by pirates, lighted every sea; we heard of officers of the rebel army and navy stealing into our cities, firing hotels filled with sleeping occupants, and laying obstructions on the track of rail cars, for the purpose of killing and mangling their passengers. Yet in spite of these revelations of the utterly barbarous character of slavery and its direful effect upon all connected with it, we were on the very point of trusting to its most criminal defenders the task of reestablishing the state governments of the South, leaving the real Union men, white as well as black, at the mercy of those who have made hatred a religion and murder a sacrament. The nation needed one more terrible lesson. It has it in the murder of its beloved chief magistrate and the attempted assassination of its honored prime minister, the two men of all others prepared to go farthest to smooth the way of defeated rebellion back to allegiance.
Even now the lesson of these terrible events seems but half learned. In the public utterances I hear much of punishing and hanging leading traitors, fierce demands for vengeance, and threats of the summary chastisement of domestic sympathizers with treason, but comparatively little is said of the accursed cause, the prolific mother of abominations, slavery. The government is exhorted to remember that it does not bear the sword in vain, the Old Testament is ransacked for texts of Oriental hatred and examples of the revenges of a semi-barbarous nation; but, as respects the four millions of unmistakably loyal people of the South, the patient, the long-suffering, kind-hearted victims of oppressions, only here and there a voice pleads for their endowment with the same rights of citizenship which are to be accorded to the rank and file of disbanded rebels. The golden rule of the Sermon on the Mount is not applied to them. Much is said of executing justice upon rebels; little of justice to loyal black men. Hanging a few ringleaders of treason, it seems to be supposed, is all that is needed to restore and reestablish the revolted states. The negro is to be left powerless in the hands of the "white trash," who hate him with a bitter hatred, exceeding that of the large slave-holders. In short, four years of terrible chastisement, of God's unmistakable judgments, have not taught us, as a people, their lesson, which could scarcely be plainer if it had been written in letters of fire on the sky. Why is it that we are so slow to learn, so unwilling to confess that slavery is the accursed thing which whets the knife of murder, and transforms men, with the exterior of gentlemen and Christians, into fiends? How pitiful is our exultation over the capture of the wretched Booth and his associates! The great criminal, of whom he and they were but paltry instruments, still stalks abroad in the pine woods of Jersey, where the state has thrown around him her legislative sanction and protection. He is in Pennsylvania, thrusting the black man from public conveyances. Wherever God's children are despised, insulted, and abused on account of their color, there is the real assassin of the President still at large. I do not wonder at the indignation which has been awakened by the late outrage, for I have painfully shared it. But let us see to it that it is rightly directed. The hanging of a score of Southern traitors will not restore Abraham Lincoln nor atone for the mighty loss. In wreaking revenge upon these miserable men, we must see to it that we do not degrade ourselves and do dishonor to the sacred memory of the dead. We do well to be angry; and, if need be, let our wrath wax seven times hotter, until that which "was a murderer from the beginning" is consumed from the face of the earth. As the people stand by the grave of Lincoln, let them lift their right hands to heaven and take a solemn vow upon their souls to give no sleep to their eyes nor slumber to their eyelids until slavery is hunted from its last shelter, and every man, black and white, stands equal before the law.
In dealing with the guilty leaders and instigators of the rebellion we should beware how we take counsel of passion. Hatred has no place beside the calm and awful dignity of justice. Human life is still a very sacred thing; Christian forbearance and patience are still virtues. For my own part, I should be satisfied to see the chiefs of the great treason go out from among us homeless, exiled, with the mark of Cain on their foreheads, carrying with them, wherever they go, the avenging Nemesis of conscience. We cannot take lessons, at this late day, in their school of barbarism; we cannot starve and torture them as they have starved and tortured our soldiers. Let them live. Perhaps that is, after all, the most terrible penalty. For wherever they hide themselves the story of their acts will pursue them; they can have no rest nor peace save in that deep repentance which, through the mercy of God, is possible for all.
I have no disposition to stand between these men and justice. If arrested, they can have no claim to exemption from the liabilities of criminals. But it is not simply a question of deserts that is to be considered; we are to take into account our own reputation as a Christian people, the wishes of our best friends abroad, and the humane instincts of the age, which forbid all unnecessary severity. Happily we are not called upon to take counsel of our fears. Rabbinical writers tell us that evil spirits who are once baffled in a contest with human beings lose from thenceforth all power of further mischief. The defeated rebels are in the precise condition of these Jewish demons. Deprived of slavery, they are like wasps that have lost their stings.
As respects the misguided masses of the South, the shattered and crippled remnants of the armies of treason, the desolate wives, mothers, and children mourning for dear ones who have fallen in a vain and hopeless struggle, it seems to me our duty is very plain. We must forgive their past treason, and welcome and encourage their returning loyalty. None but cowards will insult and taunt the defeated and defenceless. We must feed and clothe the destitute, instruct the ignorant, and, bearing patiently with the bitterness and prejudice which will doubtless for a time thwart our efforts and misinterpret our motives, aid them in rebuilding their states on the foundation of freedom. Our sole enemy was slavery, and slavery is dead. We have now no quarrel with the people of the South, who have really more reason than we have to rejoice over the downfall of a system which impeded their material progress, perverted their religion, shut them out from the sympathies of the world, and ridged their land with the graves of its victims.
We are victors, the cause of all this evil and suffering is removed forever, and we can well afford to be magnanimous. How better can we evince our gratitude to God for His great mercy than in doing good to those who hated us, and in having compassion on those who have despitefully used us? The hour is hastening for us all when our sole ground of dependence will be the mercy and forgiveness of God. Let us endeavor so to feel and act in our relations to the people of the South that we can repeat in sincerity the prayer of our Lord: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," reverently acknowledging that He has indeed "led captivity captive and received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them."
CHARLES SUMNER AND THE STATE-DEPARTMENT. (1868.)
THE wise reticence of the President elect in the matter of his cabinet has left free course to speculation and conjecture as to its composition. That he fully comprehends the importance of the subject, and that he will carefully weigh the claims of the possible candidates on the score of patriotic services, ability, and fitness for specific duties, no one who has studied his character, and witnessed his discretion, clear insight, and wise adaptation of means to ends, under the mighty responsibilities of his past career, can reasonably doubt.
It is not probable that the distinguished statesman now at the head of the State Department will, under the circumstances, look for a continuance in office. History will do justice to his eminent services in the Senate and in the cabinet during the first years of the rebellion, but the fact that he has to some extent shared the unpopularity of the present chief magistrate seems to preclude the idea of his retention in the new cabinet. In looking over the list of our public men in search of a successor, General Grant is not likely to be embarrassed by the number of individuals fitted by nature, culture, and experience for such an important post. The newspaper press, in its wide license of conjecture and suggestion, has, as far as I have seen, mentioned but three or four names in this connection. Allusions have been made to Senator Fessenden of Maine, ex-Minister Motley, General Dix, ex-Secretary Stanton, and Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.
Without disparaging in any degree his assumed competitors, the last-named gentleman is unquestionably preeminently fitted for the place. He has had a lifelong education for it. The entire cast of his mind, the bent of his studies, the habit and experience of his public life, his profound knowledge of international law and the diplomatic history of his own and other countries, his well-earned reputation as a statesman and constitutional lawyer, not only at home, but wherever our country has relations of amity and commerce, the honorable distinction which he enjoys of having held a foremost place in the great conflict between freedom and slavery, union and rebellion, all mark him as the man for the occasion. There seems, indeed, a certain propriety in assigning to the man who struck the heaviest blows at secession and slavery in the national Senate the first place under him who, in the field, made them henceforth impossible. The great captain and the great senator united in war should not be dissevered in peace.
I am not unaware that there are some, even in the Republican party, who have failed to recognize in Senator Sumner the really wise and practical statesmanship which a careful review of his public labors cannot but make manifest. It is only necessary to point such to the open record of his senatorial career. Few men have had the honor of introducing and defending with exhaustive ability and thoroughness so many measures of acknowledged practical importance to his immediate constituents, the country at large, and the wider interests of humanity and civilization. In what exigency has he been found wanting? What legislative act of public utility for the last eighteen years has lacked his encouragement? At the head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, his clearness of vision, firmness, moderation, and ready comprehension of the duties of his time and place must be admitted by all parties. It was shrewdly said by Burke that "men are wise with little reflection and good with little self- denial, in business of all times except their own." But Charles Sumner, the scholar, loving the "still air of delightful studies," has shown himself as capable of thoroughly comprehending and digesting the events transpiring before his eyes as of pronouncing judgment upon those recorded in history. Far in advance of most of his contemporaries, he saw and enunciated the true doctrine of reconstruction, the early adoption of which would have been of incalculable service to the country. One of the ablest statesmen and jurists of the Democratic party has had the rare magnanimity to acknowledge that in this matter the Republican senator was right, and himself and his party wrong.
The Republicans of Massachusetts will make no fractious or importunate demand upon the new President. They are content to leave to his unbiased and impartial judgment the selection of his cabinet. But if, looking to the best interests of the country, he shall see fit to give their distinguished fellow-citizen the first place in it, they will feel no solicitude as to the manner in which the duties of the office will be discharged. They will feel that "the tools are with him who can use them." Nothing more directly affects the reputation of a country than the character of its diplomatic correspondence and its foreign representatives. We have suffered in times past from sad mismanagement abroad, and intelligent Americans have too often been compelled to hang their heads with shame to see the flag of their country floating over the consular offices of worthless, incompetent agents. There can be no question that so far as they are entrusted to Senator Sumner's hands, the interest, honor, and dignity of the nation will be safe.
In a few weeks Charles Summer will be returned for his fourth term in the United States Senate by the well-nigh unanimous vote of both branches of the legislature of Massachusetts. Not a syllable of opposition to his reelection is heard from any quarter. There is not a Republican in the legislature who could have been elected unless he had been virtually pledged to his support. No stronger evidence of the popular estimate of his ability and integrity than this could be offered. As a matter of course, the marked individuality of his intense convictions, earnestness, persistence, and confident reliance upon the justice of his conclusions, naturally growing out of the consciousness of having brought to his honest search after truth all the lights of his learning and experience, may, at times, have brought him into unpleasant relations with some of his colleagues; but no one, friend or foe, has questioned his ability and patriotism, or doubted his fidelity to principle. He has lent himself to no schemes of greed. While so many others have taken advantage of the facilities of their official stations to fill, directly or indirectly, their own pockets or those of their relatives and retainers, it is to the honor of Massachusetts that her representatives in the Senate have not only "shaken their hands from the holding of bribes," but have so borne themselves that no shadow of suspicion has ever rested on them.
In this connection it may be proper to state that, in the event of a change in the War Department, the claims of General Wilson, to whose services in the committee on military affairs the country is deeply indebted, may be brought under consideration. In that case Massachusetts would not, if it were in her power, discriminate between her senators. Both have deserved well of her and of the country. In expressing thus briefly my opinion, I do not forget that after all the choice and responsibility rest with General Grant alone. There I am content to leave them. I am very far from urging any sectional claim. Let the country but have peace after its long discord, let its good faith and financial credit be sustained, and all classes of its citizens everywhere protected in person and estate, and it matters very little to me whether Massachusetts is represented at the Executive Council board, or not. Personally, Charles Sumner would gain nothing by a transfer from the Senate Chamber to the State Department. He does not need a place in the American cabinet any more than John Bright does in the British. The highest ambition might well be satisfied with his present position, from which, looking back upon an honorable record, he might be justified in using Milton's language of lofty confidence in the reply to Salmasius: "I am not one who has disgraced beauty of sentiment by deformity of conduct, or the maxims of a freeman by the actions of a slave, but, by the grace of God, I have kept my life unsullied."
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 1872.
The following letter was written on receiving a request from a committee of colored voters for advice as to their action at the presidential election of 1872.
AMESBURY, 9th mo. 3d, 1872.
DEAR FRIENDS,--I have just received your letter of the 29th ult. asking my opinion of your present duty as colored voters in the choice between General Grant and Horace Greeley for the presidency. You state that you have been confused by the contradictory advice given you by such friends of your people as Charles Sumner on one hand, and William L. Garrison and Wendell Phillips on the other; and you ask me, as one whom you are pleased to think "free from all bias," to add my counsel to theirs.
I thank you for the very kind expression of your confidence and your generous reference to my endeavors to serve the cause of freedom; but I must own that I would fain have been spared the necessity of adding to the already too long list of political epistles. I have felt it my duty in times past to take an active part--often very distasteful to me--in political matters, having for my first object the deliverance of my country from the crime and curse of slavery. That great question being now settled forever, I have been more than willing to leave to younger and stronger hands the toils and the honors of partisan service. Pained and saddened by the bitter and unchristian personalities of the canvass now in progress, I have hitherto held myself aloof from it as far as possible, unwilling to sanction in the slightest degree the criminations and recriminations of personal friends whom I have every reason to love and respect, and in whose integrity I have unshaken confidence. In the present condition of affairs I have not been able to see that any special action as an abolitionist was required at my hands. Both of the great parties, heretofore widely separated, have put themselves on substantially the same platform. The Republican party, originally pledged only to the non-extension of slavery, and whose most illustrious representative, President Lincoln, avowed his willingness to save the Union without abolishing slavery, has been, under Providence, mainly instrumental in the total overthrow of the detestable system; while the Democratic party, composed largely of slave-holders, and, even at the North, scarcely willing to save the Union at the expense of the slave interest upon which its success depended, shattered and crippled by the civil war and its results, has at last yielded to the inexorable logic of events, abandoned a position no longer tenable, and taken its "new departure" with an abolitionist as its candidate. As a friend of the long-oppressed colored man, and for the sake of the peace and prosperity of the country, I rejoice at this action of the Democratic party. The underlying motives of this radical change are doubtless somewhat mixed and contradictory, honest conviction on the part of some, and party expediency and desire of office on the part of others; but the change itself is real and irrevocable; the penalty of receding would be swift and irretrievable ruin. In any point of view the new order of things is desirable; and nothing more fully illustrates "the ways that are dark and the tricks that are vain" of party politics than the attempt of professed friends of the Union and equal rights for all to counteract it by giving aid and comfort to a revival of the worst characteristics of the old party in the shape of a straight-out Democratic convention.
As respects the candidates now before us, I can see no good reason why colored voters as such should oppose General Grant, who, though not an abolitionist and not even a member of the Republican party previous to his nomination, has faithfully carried out the laws of Congress in their behalf. Nor, on the other hand, can I see any just grounds for distrust of such a man as Horace Greeley, who has so nobly distinguished himself as the advocate of human rights irrespective of race or color, and who by the instrumentality of his press has been for thirty years the educator of the people in the principles of justice, temperance, and freedom. Both of these men have, in different ways, deserved too well of the country to be unnecessarily subjected to the brutalities of a presidential canvass; and, so far as they are personally concerned, it would doubtless have been better if the one had declined a second term of uncongenial duties, and the other continued to indite words of wisdom in the shades of Chappaqua. But they have chosen otherwise; and I am willing, for one, to leave my colored fellow-citizens to the unbiased exercise of their own judgment and instincts in deciding between them. The Democratic party labors under the disadvantage of antecedents not calculated to promote a rapid growth of confidence; and it is no matter of surprise that the vote of the emancipated class is likely to be largely against it. But if, as will doubtless be the case, that vote shall be to some extent divided between the two candidates, it will have the effect of inducing politicians of the rival parties to treat with respect and consideration this new element of political power, from self- interest if from no higher motive. The fact that at this time both parties are welcoming colored orators to their platforms, and that, in the South, old slave-masters and their former slaves fraternize at caucus and barbecue, and vote for each other at the polls, is full of significance. If, in New England, the very men who thrust Frederick Douglass from car and stage-coach, and mobbed and hunted him like a wild beast, now crowd to shake his hand and cheer him, let us not despair of seeing even the Ku-Klux tarried into decency, and sitting "clothed in their right minds" as listeners to their former victims. The colored man is to-day the master of his own destiny. No power on earth can deprive him of his rights as an American citizen. And it is in the light of American citizenship that I choose to regard my colored friends, as men having a common stake in the welfare of the country; mingled with, and not separate from, their white fellow-citizens; not herded together as a distinct class to be wielded by others, without self-dependence and incapable of self-determination. Thanks to such men as Sumner and Wilson and their compeers, nearly all that legislation can do for them has already been done. We can now only help them to help themselves. Industry, economy, temperance, self-culture, education for their children,--these things, indispensable to their elevation and progress, are in a great measure in their own hands.
You will, therefore, my friends and fellow-citizens, pardon me if I decline to undertake to decide for you the question of your political duty as respects the candidates for the presidency,--a question which you have probably already settled in your own minds. If it had been apparent to me that your rights and liberties were really in danger from the success of either candidate, your letter would not have been needed to call forth my opinion. In the long struggle of well-nigh forty years, I can honestly say that no consideration of private interest, nor my natural love of peace and retirement and the good-will of others, have kept me silent when a word could be fitly spoken for human rights. I have not so long acted with the class to which you belong without acquiring respect for your intelligence and capacity for judging wisely for yourselves. I shall abide your decision with confidence, and cheerfully acquiesce in it.
If, on the whole, you prefer to vote for the reelection of General Grant, let me hope you will do so without joining with eleventh-hour friends in denouncing and reviling such an old and tried friend as Charles Sumner, who has done and suffered so much in your behalf. If, on the other hand, some of you decide to vote for Horace Greeley, you need not in so doing forget your great obligations to such friends as William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Lydia Maria Child. Agree or disagree with them, take their advice or reject it, but stand by them still, and teach the parties with which you are connected to respect your feelings towards your benefactors.
THE CENSURE OF SUMNER.
A letter to the Boston Daily Advertiser in reference to the petition for the rescinding of the resolutions censuring Senator Sumner for his motion to erase from the United States flags the record of the battles of the civil war.
I BEG leave to occupy a small space in the columns of the Advertiser for the purpose of noticing a charge which has been brought against the petitioners for rescinding the resolutions of the late extra session virtually censuring the Hon. Charles Sumner. It is intimated that the action of these petitioners evinces a lack of appreciation of the services of the soldiers of the Union, and that not to censure Charles Sumner is to censure the volunteers of Massachusetts.
As a matter of fact, the petitioners express no opinion as to the policy or expediency of the senator's proposition. Some may believe it not only right in itself, but expedient and well-timed; others that it was inexpedient or premature. None doubt that, sooner or later, the thing which it contemplates must be done, if we are to continue a united people. What they feel and insist upon is that the proposition is one which implies no disparagement of the soldiers of Massachusetts and the Union; that it neither receives nor merits the "unqualified condemnation of the people" of the state; and that it furnishes no ground whatever for legislative interference or censure. A single glance at the names of the petitioners is a sufficient answer to the insinuation that they are unmindful of that self-sacrifice and devotion, the marble and granite memorials of which, dotting the state from the Merrimac to the Connecticut, testify the gratitude of the loyal heart of Massachusetts.
I have seen no soldier yet who considered himself wronged or "insulted" by the proposition. In point of fact the soldiers have never asked for such censure of the brave and loyal statesman who was the bosom friend and confidant of Secretary Stanton (the great war-minister, second, if at all, only to Carnot) and of John A. Andrew, dear to the heart of every Massachusetts soldier, and whose tender care and sympathy reached them wherever they struggled or died for country and freedom. The proposal of Senator Sumner, instead of being an "insult," was, in fact, the highest compliment which could be paid to brave men; for it implied that they cherished no vindictive hatred of fallen foes; that they were too proudly secure of the love and gratitude of their countrymen to need above their heads the flaunting blazon of their achievements; that they were as magnanimous in peace and victory as they were heroic and patient through the dark and doubtful arbitrament of war. As such they understand it. I should be sorry to think there existed a single son of Massachusetts weak enough to believe that his reputation and honor as a soldier needed this censure of Charles Sumner. I have before me letters from men, ranking from orderly sergeant to general, who have looked at death full in the face on every battlefield where the flag of Massachusetts floated, and they all thank me for my efforts to rescind this uncalled-for censure, and pledge me their hearty support. They cordially indorse the noble letter of Vice-President Wilson offering his signature to the petition for rescinding the obnoxious resolutions; and if these resolutions are not annulled, it will not be the fault of Massachusetts volunteers, but rather of the mistaken zeal of men more familiar with the drill of the caucus than with that of the camp.
I am no blind partisan of Charles Sumner. I have often differed from him in opinion. I regretted deeply the position which he thought it his duty to take during the late presidential campaign. He felt the atmosphere about him thick and foul with corruption and bribery and greed; he saw the treasury ringed about like Saturn with unscrupulous combinations and corporations; and it is to be regretted more than wondered at if he struck out wildly in his indignation, and that his blows fell sometimes upon the wrong object. But I did not intend to act the part of his apologist. The twenty years of his senatorial life are crowded with memorials of his loyalty to truth and free dom and humanity, which will be enduring as our history. He is no party to this movement, in which my name has been more prominent than I could have wished, and no word of his prompted or suggested it. From its inception to the present time he has remained silent in his chamber of pain, waiting to bequeath, like the testator of the dramatist,
"A fame by scandal untouched To Memory and Time's old daughter Truth."
He can well afford to wait, and the issue of the present question before our legislature is of far less consequence to him than to us. To use the words of one who stood by him in the dark days of the Fugitive Slave Law, the Chief Justice of the United States,--"Time and the wiser thought will vindicate the illustrious statesman to whom Massachusetts, the country, and humanity owe so much, but the state can ill afford the damage to its own reputation which such a censure of such a man will inflict."
AMESBURY, 3d month, 8, 1873.
THE ANTI-SLAVERY CONVENTION OF 1833. (1874.)
In the gray twilight of a chill day of late November, forty years ago, a dear friend of mine, residing in Boston, made his appearance at the old farm-house in East Haverhill. He had been deputed by the abolitionists of the city, William L. Garrison, Samuel E. Sewall, and others, to inform me of my appointment as a delegate to the Convention about to be held in Philadelphia for the formation of an American Anti-Slavery Society, and to urge upon me the necessity of my attendance.
Few words of persuasion, however, were needed. I was unused to travelling; my life had been spent on a secluded farm; and the journey, mostly by stage-coach, at that time was really a formidable one. Moreover, the few abolitionists were everywhere spoken against, their persons threatened, and in some instances a price set on their heads by Southern legislators. Pennsylvania was on the borders of slavery, and it needed small effort of imagination to picture to one's self the breaking up of the Convention and maltreatment of its members. This latter consideration I do not think weighed much with me, although I was better prepared for serious danger than for anything like personal indignity. I had read Governor Trumbull's description of the tarring and feathering of his hero MacFingal, when, after the application of the melted tar, the feather-bed was ripped open and shaken over him, until
"Not Maia's son, with wings for ears, Such plumes about his visage wears, Nor Milton's six-winged angel gathers Such superfluity of feathers,"
and I confess I was quite unwilling to undergo a martyrdom which my best friends could scarcely refrain from laughing at. But a summons like that of Garrison's bugle-blast could scarcely be unheeded by one who, from birth and education, held fast the traditions of that earlier abolitionism which, under the lead of Benezet and Woolman, had effaced from the Society of Friends every vestige of slave-holding. I had thrown myself, with a young man's fervid enthusiasm, into a movement which commended itself to my reason and conscience, to my love of country, and my sense of duty to God and my fellow-men. My first venture in authorship was the publication, at my own expense, in the spring of 1833, of a pamphlet entitled Justice and Expediency, on the moral and political evils of slavery, and the duty of emancipation. Under such circumstances I could not hesitate, but prepared at once for my journey. It was necessary that I should start on the morrow, and the intervening time, with a small allowance for sleep, was spent in providing for the care of the farm and homestead during my absence.
So the next morning I took the stage for Boston, stopping at the ancient hostelry known as the Eastern Stage Tavern; and on the day following, in company with William Lloyd Garrison, I left for New York. At that city we were joined by other delegates, among them David Thurston, a Congregational minister from Maine. On our way to Philadelphia, we took, as a matter of necessary economy, a second-class conveyance, and found ourselves, in consequence, among rough and hilarious companions, whose language was more noteworthy for strength than refinement. Our worthy friend the clergyman bore it awhile in painful silence, but at last felt it his duty to utter words of remonstrance and admonition. The leader of the young roisterers listened with a ludicrous mock gravity, thanked him for his exhortation, and, expressing fears that the extraordinary effort had exhausted his strength, invited him to take a drink with him. Father Thurston buried his grieved face in his cloak-collar, and wisely left the young reprobates to their own devices.
On reaching Philadelphia, we at once betook, ourselves to the humble dwelling on Fifth Street occupied by Evan Lewis, a plain, earnest man and lifelong abolitionist, who had been largely interested in preparing the way for the Convention. In one respect the time of our assembling seemed unfavorable. The Society of Friends, upon whose cooperation we had counted, had but recently been rent asunder by one of those unhappy controversies which so often mark the decline of practical righteousness. The martyr-age of the society had passed, wealth and luxury had taken the place of the old simplicity, there was a growing conformity to the maxims of the world in trade and fashion, and with it a corresponding unwillingness to hazard respectability by the advocacy of unpopular reforms. Unprofitable speculation and disputation on one hand, and a vain attempt on the other to enforce uniformity of opinion, had measurably lost sight of the fact that the end of the gospel is love, and that charity is its crowning virtue. After a long and painful struggle the disruption had taken place; the shattered fragments, under the name of Orthodox and Hicksite, so like and yet so separate in feeling, confronted each other as hostile sects, and
"Never either found another To free the hollow heart from paining; They stood aloof, the scars remaining, Like cliffs that have been torn asunder A dreary sea now flows between; But neither rain, nor frost, nor thunder, Can wholly do away, I ween, The marks of that which once has been."
We found about forty members assembled in the parlors of our friend Lewis, and, after some general conversation, Lewis Tappan was asked to preside over an informal meeting, preparatory to the opening of the Convention. A handsome, intellectual-looking man, in the prime of life, responded to the invitation, and in a clear, well-modulated voice, the firm tones of which inspired hope and confidence, stated the objects of our preliminary council, and the purpose which had called us together, in earnest and well-chosen words. In making arrangements for the Convention, it was thought expedient to secure, if possible, the services of some citizen of Philadelphia, of distinction and high social standing, to preside over its deliberations. Looking round among ourselves in vain for some titled civilian or doctor of divinity, we were fain to confess that to outward seeming we were but "a feeble folk," sorely needing the shield of a popular name. A committee, of which I was a member, was appointed to go in search of a president of this description. We visited two prominent gentlemen, known as friendly to emancipation and of high social standing. They received us with the dignified courtesy of the old school, declined our proposition in civil terms, and bowed us out with a cool politeness equalled only by that of the senior Winkle towards the unlucky deputation of Pickwick and his unprepossessing companions. As we left their doors we could not refrain from smiling in each other's faces at the thought of the small inducement our proffer of the presidency held out to men of their class. Evidently our company was not one for respectability to march through Coventry with.
On the following morning we repaired to the Adelphi Building, on Fifth Street, below Walnut, which had been secured for our use. Sixty-two delegates were found to be in attendance. Beriah Green, of the Oneida (New York) Institute, was chosen president, a fresh-faced, sandy-haired, rather common-looking man, but who had the reputation of an able and eloquent speaker. He had already made himself known to us as a resolute and self-sacrificing abolitionist. Lewis Tappan and myself took our places at his side as secretaries, on the elevation at the west end of the hall.
Looking over the assembly, I noticed that it was mainly composed of comparatively young men, some in middle age, and a few beyond that period. They were nearly all plainly dressed, with a view to comfort rather than elegance. Many of the faces turned towards me wore a look of expectancy and suppressed enthusiasm; all had the earnestness which might be expected of men engaged in an enterprise beset with difficulty and perhaps with peril. The fine, intellectual head of Garrison, prematurely bald, was conspicuous; the sunny-faced young man at his side, in whom all the beatitudes seemed to find expression, was Samuel J. May, mingling in his veins the best blood of the Sewalls and Quincys,--a man so exceptionally pure and large-hearted, so genial, tender, and loving, that he could be faithful to truth and duty without making an enemy.
"The de'il wad look into his face, And swear he couldna wrang him."
That tall, gaunt, swarthy man, erect, eagle-faced, upon whose somewhat martial figure the Quaker coat seemed a little out of place, was Lindley Coates, known in all eastern Pennsylvania as a stern enemy of slavery; that slight, eager man, intensely alive in every feature and gesture, was Thomas Shipley, who for thirty years had been the protector of the free colored people of Philadelphia, and whose name was whispered reverently in the slave cabins of Maryland as the friend of the black man, one of a class peculiar to old Quakerism, who in doing what they felt to be duty, and walking as the Light within guided them, knew no fear and shrank from no sacrifice. Braver men the world has not known. Beside him, differing in creed, but united with him in works of love and charity, sat Thomas Whitson, of the Hicksite school of Friends, fresh from his farm in Lancaster County, dressed in plainest homespun, his tall form surmounted by a shock of unkempt hair, the odd obliquity of his vision contrasting strongly with he clearness and directness of his spiritual insight. Elizur Wright, the young professor of a Western college, who had lost his place by his bold advocacy of freedom, with a look of sharp concentration in keeping with an intellect keen as a Damascus blade, closely watched the proceedings through his spectacles, opening his mouth only to speak directly to the purpose. The portly form of Dr. Bartholomew Russell, the beloved physician, from that beautiful land of plenty and peace which Bayard Taylor has described in his Story of Kennett, was not to be overlooked. Abolitionist in heart and soul, his house was known as the shelter of runaway slaves, and no sportsman ever entered into the chase with such zest as he did into the arduous and sometimes dangerous work of aiding their escape and baffling their pursuers. The youngest man present was, I believe, James Miller McKim, a Presbyterian minister from Columbia, afterwards one of our most efficient workers. James Mott, E. L. Capron, Arnold Buffum, and Nathan Winslow, men well known in the anti- slavery agitation, were conspicuous members. Vermont sent down from her mountains Orson S. Murray, a man terribly in earnest, with a zeal that bordered on fanaticism, and who was none the more genial for the mob- violence to which he had been subjected. In front of me, awakening pleasant associations of the old homestead in Merrimac valley, sat my first school-teacher, Joshua Coffin, the learned and worthy antiquarian and historian of Newbury. A few spectators, mostly of the Hicksite division of Friends, were present, in broad brims and plain bonnets, among them Esther Moore and Lucretia Mott.
Committees were chosen to draft a constitution for a national Anti- Slavery Society, nominate a list of officers, and prepare a declaration of principles to be signed by the members. Dr. A. L. Cox of New York, while these committees were absent, read something from my pen eulogistic of William Lloyd Garrison; and Lewis Tappan and Amos A. Phelps, a Congregational clergyman of Boston, afterwards one of the most devoted laborers in the cause, followed in generous commendation of the zeal, courage, and devotion of the young pioneer. The president, after calling James McCrummell, one of the two or three colored members of the Convention, to the chair, made some eloquent remarks upon those editors who had ventured to advocate emancipation. At the close of his speech a young man rose to speak, whose appearance at once arrested my attention. I think I have never seen a finer face and figure, and his manner, words, and bearing were in keeping. "Who is he?" I asked of one of the Pennsylvania delegates. "Robert Purvis, of this city, a colored man," was the answer. He began by uttering his heart-felt thanks to the delegates who had convened for the deliverance of his people. He spoke of Garrison in terms of warmest eulogy, as one who had stirred the heart of the nation, broken the tomblike slumber of the church, and compelled it to listen to the story of the slave's wrongs. He closed by declaring that the friends of colored Americans would not be forgotten. "Their memories," he said, "will be cherished when pyramids and monuments shall have crumbled in dust. The flood of time which is sweeping away the refuge of lies is bearing on the advocates of our cause to a glorious immortality."
The committee on the constitution made their report, which after discussion was adopted. It disclaimed any right or intention of interfering, otherwise than by persuasion and Christian expostulation, with slavery as it existed in the states, but affirming the duty of Congress to abolish it in the District of Columbia and territories, and to put an end to the domestic slave-trade. A list of officers of the new society was then chosen: Arthur Tappan of New York, president, and Elizur Wright, Jr., William Lloyd Garrison, and A. L. Cox, secretaries. Among the vice-presidents was Dr. Lord of Dartmouth College, then professedly in favor of emancipation, but who afterwards turned a moral somersault, a self-inversion which left him ever after on his head instead of his feet.
He became a querulous advocate of slavery as a divine institution, and denounced woe upon the abolitionists for interfering with the will and purpose of the Creator. As the cause of freedom gained ground, the poor man's heart failed him, and his hope for church and state grew fainter and fainter. A sad prophet of the evangel of slavery, he testified in the unwilling ears of an unbelieving generation, and died at last despairing of a world which seemed determined that Canaan should no longer be cursed, nor Onesimus sent back to Philemon.
The committee on the declaration of principles, of which I was a member, held a long session, discussing the proper scope and tenor of the document. But little progress being made, it was finally decided to entrust the matter to a sub-committee, consisting of William L. Garrison, S. J. May, and myself; and after a brief consultation and comparison of each other's views, the drafting of the important paper was assigned to the former gentleman. We agreed to meet him at his lodgings in the house of a colored friend early the next morning. It was still dark when we climbed up to his room, and the lamp was still burning by the light of which he was writing the last sentence of the declaration. We read it carefully, made a few verbal changes, and submitted it to the large committee, who unanimously agreed to report it to the Convention.
The paper was read to the Convention by Dr. Atlee, chairman of the committee, and listened to with the profoundest interest.
Commencing with a reference to the time, fifty-seven years before, when, in the same city of Philadelphia, our fathers announced to the world their Declaration of Independence,--based on the self-evident truths of human equality and rights,--and appealed to arms for its defence, it spoke of the new enterprise as one "without which that of our fathers is incomplete," and as transcending theirs in magnitude, solemnity, and probable results as much "as moral truth does physical force." It spoke of the difference of the two in the means and ends proposed, and of the trifling grievances of our fathers compared with the wrongs and sufferings of the slaves, which it forcibly characterized as unequalled by any others on the face of the earth. It claimed that the nation was bound to repent at once, to let the oppressed go free, and to admit them to all the rights and privileges of others; because, it asserted, no man has a right to enslave or imbrute his brother; because liberty is inalienable; because there is no difference, in principle, between slave- holding and man-stealing, which the law brands as piracy; and because no length of bondage can invalidate man's claim to himself, or render slave laws anything but "an audacious usurpation."
It maintained that no compensation should be given to planters emancipating slaves, because that would be a surrender of fundamental principles; "slavery is a crime, and is, therefore, not an article to be sold;" because slave-holders are not just proprietors of what they claim; because emancipation would destroy only nominal, not real property; and because compensation, if given at all, should be given to the slaves.
It declared any "scheme of expatriation" to be "delusive, cruel, and dangerous." It fully recognized the right of each state to legislate exclusively on the subject of slavery within its limits, and conceded that Congress, under the present national compact, had no right to interfere; though still contending that it had the power, and should exercise it, "to suppress the domestic slave-trade between the several states," and "to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and in those portions of our territory which the Constitution has placed under its exclusive jurisdiction."
After clearly and emphatically avowing the principles underlying the enterprise, and guarding with scrupulous care the rights of persons and states under the Constitution, in prosecuting it, the declaration closed with these eloquent words:--
We also maintain that there are, at the present time, the highest obligations resting upon the people of the free states to remove slavery by moral and political action, as prescribed in the Constitution of the United States. They are now living under a pledge of their tremendous physical force to fasten the galling fetters of tyranny upon the limbs of millions in the Southern states; they are liable to be called at any moment to suppress a general insurrection of the slaves; they authorize the slave-owner to vote on three fifths of his slaves as property, and thus enable him to perpetuate his oppression; they support a standing army at the South for its protection; and they seize the slave who has escaped into their territories, and send him back to be tortured by an enraged master or a brutal driver. This relation to slavery is criminal and full of danger. It must be broken up.
"These are our views and principles,--these our designs and measures. With entire confidence in the overruling justice of God, we plant ourselves upon the Declaration of Independence and the truths of divine revelation as upon the everlasting rock.
"We shall organize anti-slavery societies, if possible, in every city, town, and village in our land.
"We shall send forth agents to lift up the voice of remonstrance, of warning, of entreaty and rebuke.
"We shall circulate unsparingly and extensively anti-slavery tracts and periodicals.
"We shall enlist the pulpit and the press in the cause of the suffering and the dumb.
"We shall aim at a purification of the churches from all participation in the guilt of slavery.
"We shall encourage the labor of freemen over that of the slaves, by giving a preference to their productions; and
"We shall spare no exertions nor means to bring the whole nation to speedy repentance.
"Our trust for victory is solely in God. We may be personally defeated, but our principles never. Truth, justice, reason, humanity, must and will gloriously triumph. Already a host is coming up to the help of the Lord against the mighty, and the prospect before us is full of encouragement.
"Submitting this declaration to the candid examination of the people of this country, and of the friends of liberty all over the world, we hereby affix our signatures to it; pledging ourselves that, under the guidance and by the help of Almighty God, we will do all that in us lies, consistently with this declaration of our principles, to overthrow the most execrable system of slavery that has ever been witnessed upon earth, to deliver our land from its deadliest curse, to wipe out the foulest stain which rests upon our national escutcheon, and to secure to the colored population of the United States all the rights and privileges which belong to them as men and as Americans, come what may to our persons, our interests, or our reputations, whether we live to witness the triumph of justice, liberty, and humanity, or perish untimely as martyrs in this great, benevolent, and holy cause."
The reading of the paper was followed by a discussion which lasted several hours. A member of the Society of Friends moved its immediate adoption. "We have," he said, "all given it our assent: every heart here responds to it. It is a doctrine of Friends that these strong and deep impressions should be heeded." The Convention, nevertheless, deemed it important to go over the declaration carefully, paragraph by paragraph. During the discussion, one of the spectators asked leave to say a few words. A beautiful and graceful woman, in the prime of life, with a face beneath her plain cap as finely intellectual as that of Madame Roland, offered some wise and valuable suggestions, in a clear, sweet voice, the charm of which I have never forgotten. It was Lucretia Mott of Philadelphia. The president courteously thanked her, and encouraged her to take a part in the discussion. On the morning of the last day of our session, the declaration, with its few verbal amendments, carefully engrossed on parchment, was brought before the Convention. Samuel J. May rose to read it for the last time. His sweet, persuasive voice faltered with the intensity of his emotions as he repeated the solemn pledges of the concluding paragraphs. After a season of silence, David Thurston of Maine rose as his name was called by one of the secretaries, and affixed his name to the document. One after another passed up to the platform, signed, and retired in silence. All felt the deep responsibility of the occasion the shadow and forecast of a life-long struggle rested upon every countenance.
Our work as a Convention was now done. President Green arose to make the concluding address. The circumstances under which it was uttered may have lent it an impressiveness not its own; but as I now recall it, it seems to me the most powerful and eloquent speech to which I have ever listened. He passed in review the work that had been done, the constitution of the new society, the declaration of sentiments, and the union and earnestness which had marked the proceedings. His closing words will never be forgotten by those who heard them:--
"Brethren, it has been good to be here. In this hallowed atmosphere I have been revived and refreshed. This brief interview has more than repaid me for all that I have ever suffered. I have here met congenial minds; I have rejoiced in sympathies delightful to the soul. Heart has beat responsive to heart, and the holy work of seeking to benefit the outraged and despised has proved the most blessed employment.
"But now we must retire from these balmy influences and breathe another atmosphere. The chill hoar-frost will be upon us. The storm and tempest will rise, and the waves of persecution will dash against our souls. Let us be prepared for the worst. Let us fasten ourselves to the throne of God as with hooks of steel. If we cling not to Him, our names to that document will be but as dust.
"Let us court no applause, indulge in no spirit of vain boasting. Let us be assured that our only hope in grappling with the bony monster is in an Arm that is stronger than ours. Let us fix our gaze on God, and walk in the light of His countenance. If our cause be just--and we know it is-- His omnipotence is pledged to its triumph. Let this cause be entwined around the very fibres of our hearts. Let our hearts grow to it, so that nothing but death can sunder the bond."
He ceased, and then, amidst a silence broken only by the deep-drawn breath of emotion in the assembly, lifted up his voice in a prayer to Almighty God, full of fervor and feeling, imploring His blessing and sanctification upon the Convention and its labors. And with the solemnity of this supplication in our hearts we clasped hands in farewell, and went forth each man to his place of duty, not knowing the things that should befall us as individuals, but with a confidence, never shaken by abuse and persecution, in the certain triumph of our cause.
Read at the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the state of Kansas.
BEAR CAMP HOUSE, WEST OSSIPEE, N. H., Eighth month, 29th, 1879.
To J. S. EMERY, R. MORROW, AND C. W. SMITH, COMMITTEE:
I HAVE received your invitation to the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of the first settlement of Kansas. It would give me great pleasure to visit your state on an occasion of such peculiar interest, and to make the acquaintance of its brave and self-denying pioneers, but I have not health and strength for the journey. It is very fitting that this anniversary should be duly recognized. No one of your sister states has such a record as yours,--so full of peril and adventure, fortitude, self-sacrifice, and heroic devotion to freedom. Its baptism of martyr blood not only saved the state to liberty, but made the abolition of slavery everywhere possible. Barber and Stillwell and Colpetzer and their associates did not die in vain. All through your long, hard struggle I watched the course of events in Kansas with absorbing interest. I rejoiced, while I marvelled at the steady courage which no danger could shake, at the firm endurance which outwearied the brutalities of your slaveholding invaders, and at that fidelity to right and duty which the seduction of immediate self-interest could not swerve, nor the military force of a proslavery government overawe. All my sympathies were with you in that stern trial of your loyalty to God and humanity. And when, in the end, you had conquered peace, and the last of the baffled border ruffians had left your territory, I felt that the doom of the accursed institution was sealed, and that its abolition was but a question of time. A state with such a record will, I am sure, be true to its noble traditions, and will do all in its power to aid the victims of prejudice and oppression who may be compelled to seek shelter within its borders. I will not for a moment distrust the fidelity of Kansas to her foundation principle. God bless and prosper her! Thanking you for the kind terms of your invitation, I am, gentlemen, very truly your friend.
WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON.
An Introduction to Oliver Johnson's "William Lloyd Garrison and his Times."
I no not know that any word of mine can give additional interest to this memorial of William Lloyd Garrison from the pen of one of his earliest and most devoted friends, whose privilege it has been to share his confidence and his labors for nearly half a century; but I cannot well forego the opportunity afforded me to add briefly my testimony to the tribute to the memory of the great Reformer, whose friendship I have shared, and with whom I have been associated in a common cause from youth to age.
My acquaintance with him commenced in boyhood. My father was a subscriber to his first paper, the Free Press, and the humanitarian tone of his editorials awakened a deep interest in our little household, which was increased by a visit which he made us. When he afterwards edited the Journal of the Times, at Bennington, Vt., I ventured to write him a letter of encouragement and sympathy, urging him to continue his labors against slavery, and assuring him that he could "do great things," an unconscious prophecy which has been fulfilled beyond the dream of my boyish enthusiasm. The friendship thus commenced has remained unbroken through half a century, confirming my early confidence in his zeal and devotion, and in the great intellectual and moral strength which he brought to the cause with which his name is identified.
During the long and hard struggle in which the abolitionists were engaged, and amidst the new and difficult questions and side-issues which presented themselves, it could scarcely be otherwise than that differences of opinion and action should arise among them. The leader and his disciples could not always see alike. My friend, the author of this book, I think, generally found himself in full accord with him, while I often decidedly dissented. I felt it my duty to use my right of citizenship at the ballot-box in the cause of liberty, while Garrison, with equal sincerity, judged and counselled otherwise. Each acted under a sense of individual duty and responsibility, and our personal relations were undisturbed. If, at times, the great anti-slavery leader failed to do justice to the motives of those who, while in hearty sympathy with his hatred of slavery, did not agree with some of his opinions and methods, it was but the pardonable and not unnatural result of his intensity of purpose, and his self-identification with the cause he advocated; and, while compelled to dissent, in some particulars, from his judgment of men and measures, the great mass of the antislavcry people recognized his moral leadership. The controversies of old and new organization, nonresistance and political action, may now be looked upon by the parties to them, who still survive, with the philosophic calmness which follows the subsidence of prejudice and passion. We were but fallible men, and doubtless often erred in feeling, speech, and action. Ours was but the common experience of reformers in all ages.
"Never in Custom's oiled grooves The world to a higher level moves, But grates and grinds with friction hard On granite bowlder and flinty shard. Ever the Virtues blush to find The Vices wearing their badge behind, And Graces and Charities feel the fire Wherein the sins of the age expire."
It is too late now to dwell on these differences. I choose rather, with a feeling of gratitude to God, to recall the great happiness of laboring with the noble company of whom Garrison was the central figure. I love to think of him as he seemed to me, when in the fresh dawn of manhood he sat with me in the old Haverhill farmhouse, revolving even then schemes of benevolence; or, with cheery smile, welcoming me to his frugal meal of bread and milk in the dingy Boston printing-room; or, as I found him in the gray December morning in the small attic of a colored man, in Philadelphia, finishing his night-long task of drafting his immortal Declaration of Sentiments of the American Anti-Slavery Society; or, as I saw him in the jail of Leverett Street, after his almost miraculous escape from the mob, playfully inviting me to share the safe lodgings which the state had provided for him; and in all the varied scenes and situations where we acted together our parts in the great endeavor and success of Freedom.
The verdict of posterity in his case may be safely anticipated. With the true reformers and benefactors of his race he occupies a place inferior to none other. The private lives of many who fought well the battles of humanity have not been without spot or blemish. But his private character, like his public, knew no dishonor. No shadow of suspicion rests upon the white statue of a life, the fitting garland of which should be the Alpine flower that symbolizes noble purity.
Read at the semi-centennial celebration of the American Anti-Slavery Society at Philadelphia, on the 3d December, 1883.
OAK KNOLL, DANVERS, MASS., 11th mo., 30, 1883.
I NEED not say how gladly I would be with you at the semi-centennial of the American Anti-Slavery Society. I am, I regret to say, quite unable to gratify this wish, and can only represent myself by a letter.
Looking back over the long years of half a century, I can scarcely realize the conditions under which the convention of 1833 assembled. Slavery was predominant. Like Apollyon in Pilgrim's Progress, it "straddled over the whole breadth of the way." Church and state, press and pulpit, business interests, literature, and fashion were prostrate at its feet. Our convention, with few exceptions, was composed of men without influence or position, poor and little known, strong only in their convictions and faith in the justice of their cause. To onlookers our endeavor to undo the evil work of two centuries and convert a nation to the "great renunciation" involved in emancipation must have seemed absurd in the last degree. Our voices in such an atmosphere found no echo. We could look for no response but laughs of derision or the missiles of a mob.
But we felt that we had the strength of truth on our side; we were right, and all the world about us was wrong. We had faith, hope, and enthusiasm, and did our work, nothing doubting, amidst a generation who first despised and then feared and hated us. For myself I have never ceased to be grateful to the Divine Providence for the privilege of taking a part in that work.
And now for more than twenty years we have had a free country. No slave treads its soil. The anticipated dangerous consequences of complete emancipation have not been felt. The emancipated class, as a whole, have done wisely, and well under circumstances of peculiar difficulty. The masters have learned that cotton can be raised better by free than by slave labor, and nobody now wishes a return to slave-holding. Sectional prejudices are subsiding, the bitterness of the civil war is slowly passing away. We are beginning to feel that we are one people, with no really clashing interests, and none more truly rejoice in the growing prosperity of the South than the old abolitionists, who hated slavery as a curse to the master as well as to the slave.
In view of this commemorative semi-centennial occasion, many thoughts crowd upon me; memory recalls vanished faces and voices long hushed. Of those who acted with me in the convention fifty years ago nearly all have passed into another state of being. We who remain must soon follow; we have seen the fulfilment of our desire; we have outlived scorn and persecution; the lengthening shadows invite us to rest. If, in looking back, we feel that we sometimes erred through impatient zeal in our contest with a great wrong, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we were influenced by no merely selfish considerations. The low light of our setting sun shines over a free, united people, and our last prayer shall be for their peace, prosperity, and happiness.
RESPONSE TO THE CELEBRATION OF MY EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY
BY THE COLORED CITIZENS OF WASHINGTON D. C.
To R. H. TERRELL AND GEORGE W. WILLIAMS, ESQUIRES.
GENTLEMEN,--Among the great number of tokens of interest and good-will which reached me on my birthday, none have touched me more deeply than the proceedings of the great meeting of the colored citizens of the nation's capital, of which you are the representatives. The resolutions of that meeting came to me as the voice of millions of my fellow- countrymen. That voice was dumb in slavery when, more than half a century ago, I put forth my plea for the freedom of the slave.
It could not answer me from the rice swamp and cotton field, but now, God be praised, it speaks from your great meeting in Washington and from all the colleges and schools where the youth of your race are taught. I scarcely expected then that the people for whom I pleaded would ever know of my efforts in their behalf. I cannot be too thankful to the Divine Providence that I have lived to hear their grateful response.
I stand amazed at the rapid strides which your people have made since emancipation, at your industry, your acquisition of property and land, your zeal for education, your self-respecting but unresentful attitude toward those who formerly claimed to be your masters, your pathetic but manly appeal for just treatment and recognition. I see in all this the promise that the time is not far distant when, in common with the white race, you will have the free, undisputed rights of American citizenship in all parts of the Union, and your rightful share in the honors as well as the protection of the government.
Your letter would have been answered sooner if it had been possible. I have been literally overwhelmed with letters and telegrams, which, owing to illness, I have been in a great measure unable to answer or even read.
I tender to you, gentlemen, and to the people you represent my heartfelt thanks, and the assurance that while life lasts you will find me, as I have been heretofore, under more difficult circumstances, your faithful friend.
OAK KNOLL, DANVERS, MASS., first mo., 9, 1888.
REFORM AND POLITICS. UTOPIAN SCHEMES AND POLITICAL THEORISTS.
THERE is a large class of men, not in Europe alone, but in this country also, whose constitutional conservatism inclines them to regard any organic change in the government of a state or the social condition of its people with suspicion and distrust. They admit, perhaps, the evils of the old state of things; but they hold them to be inevitable, the alloy necessarily mingled with all which pertains to fallible humanity. Themselves generally enjoying whatever of good belongs to the political or social system in which their lot is cast, they are disposed to look with philosophic indifference upon the evil which only afflicts their neighbors. They wonder why people are not contented with their allotments; they see no reason for change; they ask for quiet and peace in their day; being quite well satisfied with that social condition which an old poet has quaintly described:--
"The citizens like pounded pikes; The lesser feed the great; The rich for food seek stomachs, And the poor for stomachs meat."
This class of our fellow-citizens have an especial dislike of theorists, reformers, uneasy spirits, speculators upon the possibilities of the world's future, constitution builders, and believers in progress. They are satisfied; the world at least goes well enough with them; they sit as comfortable in it as Lafontaine's rat in the cheese; and why should those who would turn it upside down come hither also? Why not let well enough alone? Why tinker creeds, constitutions, and laws, and disturb the good old-fashioned order of things in church and state? The idea of making the world better and happier is to them an absurdity. He who entertains it is a dreamer and a visionary, destitute of common sense and practical wisdom. His project, whatever it may be, is at once pronounced to be impracticable folly, or, as they are pleased to term it, _Utopian._
The romance of Sir Thomas More, which has long afforded to the conservatives of church and state a term of contempt applicable to all reformatory schemes and innovations, is one of a series of fabulous writings, in which the authors, living in evil times and unable to actualize their plans for the well-being of society, have resorted to fiction as a safe means of conveying forbidden truths to the popular mind. Plato's "Timaeus," the first of the series, was written after the death of Socrates and the enslavement of the author's country. In this are described the institutions of the Island of Atlantis,--the writer's ideal of a perfect commonwealth. Xenophon, in his "Cyropaedia," has also depicted an imaginary political society by overlaying with fiction historical traditions. At a later period we have the "New Atlantis" of Lord Bacon, and that dream of the "City of the Sun" with which Campanella solaced himself in his long imprisonment.
The "Utopia" of More is perhaps the best of its class. It is the work of a profound thinker, the suggestive speculations and theories of one who could
"Forerun his age and race, and let His feet millenniums hence be set In midst of knowledge dreamed not yet."
Much of what he wrote as fiction is now fact, a part of the frame-work of European governments, and the political truths of his imaginary state are now practically recognized in our own democratic system. As might be expected, in view of the times in which the author wrote, and the exceedingly limited amount of materials which he found ready to his hands for the construction of his social and political edifice, there is a want of proportion and symmetry in the structure. Many of his theories are no doubt impracticable and unsound. But, as a whole, the work is an admirable one, striding in advance of the author's age, and prefiguring a government of religious toleration and political freedom. The following extract from it was doubtless regarded in his day as something worse than folly or the dream of a visionary enthusiast:--
"He judged it wrong to lay down anything rashly, and seemed to doubt whether these different forms of religion might not all come from God, who might inspire men in a different manner, and be pleased with the variety. He therefore thought it to be indecent and foolish for any man to threaten and terrify another, to make him believe what did not strike him as true."
Passing by the "Telemachus" of Fenelon, we come to the political romance of Harrington, written in the time of Cromwell. "Oceana" is the name by which the author represents England; and the republican plan of government which he describes with much minuteness is such as he would have recommended for adoption in case a free commonwealth had been established. It deals somewhat severely with Cromwell's usurpation; yet the author did not hesitate to dedicate it to that remarkable man, who, after carefully reading it, gave it back to his daughter, Lady Claypole, with the remark, full of characteristic bluntness, that "the gentleman need not think to cheat him of his power and authority; for what he had won with the sword he would never suffer himself to be scribbled out of."
Notwithstanding the liberality and freedom of his speculations upon government and religion in his Utopia, it must be confessed that Sir Thomas More, in after life, fell into the very practices of intolerance and bigotry which he condemned. When in the possession of the great seal under that scandal of kingship, Henry VIII., he gave his countenance to the persecution of heretics. Bishop Burnet says of him, that he caused a gentleman of the Temple to be whipped and put to the rack in his presence, in order to compel him to discover those who favored heretical opinions. In his Utopia he assailed the profession of the law with merciless satire; yet the satirist himself finally sat upon the chancellor's woolsack; and, as has been well remarked by Horace Smith, "if, from this elevated seat, he ever cast his eyes back upon his past life, he must have smiled at the fond conceit which could imagine a permanent Utopia, when he himself, certainly more learned, honest, and conscientious than the mass of men has ever been, could in the course of one short life fall into such glaring and frightful rebellion against his own doctrines."
Harrington, on the other hand, as became the friend of Milton and Marvel, held fast, through good and evil report, his republican faith. He published his work after the Restoration, and defended it boldly and ably from the numerous attacks made upon it. Regarded as too dangerous an enthusiast to be left at liberty, he was imprisoned at the instance of Lord Chancellor Hyde, first in the Tower, and afterwards on the Island of St. Nicholas, where disease and imprudent remedies brought on a partial derangement, from which he never recovered.
Bernardin St. Pierre, whose pathetic tale of "Paul and Virginia" has found admirers in every language of the civilized world, in a fragment, entitled "Arcadia," attempted to depict an ideal republic, without priest, noble, or slave, where all are so religious that each man is the pontiff of his family, where each man is prepared to defend his country, and where all are in such a state of equality that there are no such persons as servants. The plan of it was suggested by his friend Rousseau during their pleasant walking excursions about the environs of Paris, in which the two enthusiastic philosophers, baffled by the evil passions and intractable materials of human nature as manifested in existing society, comforted themselves by appealing from the actual to the possible, from the real to the imaginary. Under the chestnut-trees of the Bois de Boulogne, through long summer days, the two friends, sick of the noisy world about them, yet yearning to become its benefactors,--gladly escaping from it, yet busy with schemes for its regeneration and happiness,--at once misanthropes and philanthropists,--amused and solaced themselves by imagining a perfect and simple state of society, in which the lessons of emulation and selfish ambition were never to be taught; where, on the contrary, the young were to obey their parents, and to prefer father, mother, brother, sister, wife, and friend to themselves. They drew beautiful pictures of a country blessed with peace, indus try, and love, covered with no disgusting monuments of violence and pride and luxury, without columns, triumphal arches, hospitals, prisons, or gibbets; but presenting to view bridges over torrents, wells on the arid plain, groves of fruit-trees, and houses of shelter for the traveller in desert places, attesting everywhere the sentiment of humanity. Religion was to speak to all hearts in the eternal language of Nature. Death was no longer to be feared; perspectives of holy consolation were to open through the cypress shadows of the tomb; to live or to die was to be equally an object of desire.
The plan of the "Arcadia" of St. Pierre is simply this: A learned young Egyptian, educated at Thebes by the priests of Osiris, desirous of benefiting humanity, undertakes a voyage to Gaul for the purpose of carrying thither the arts and religion of Egypt. He is shipwrecked on his return in the Gulf of Messina, and lands upon the coast, where he is entertained by an Arcadian, to whom he relates his adventures, and from whom he receives in turn an account of the simple happiness and peace of Arcadia, the virtues and felicity of whose inhabitants are beautifully exemplified in the lives and conversation of the shepherd and his daughter. This pleasant little prose poem closes somewhat abruptly. Although inferior in artistic skill to "Paul and Virginia" or the "Indian Cottage", there is not a little to admire in the simple beauty of its pastoral descriptions. The closing paragraph reminds one of Bunyan's upper chamber, where the weary pilgrim's windows opened to the sunrising and the singing of birds:--
"Tyrteus conducted his guests to an adjoining chamber. It had a window shut by a curtain of rushes, through the crevices of which the islands of the Alpheus might be seen in the light of the moon. There were in this chamber two excellent beds, with coverlets of warm and light wool.
"Now, as soon as Amasis was left alone with Cephas, he spoke with joy of the delight and tranquillity of the valley, of the goodness of the shepherd, and the grace of his young daughter, to whom he had seen none worthy to be compared, and of the pleasure which he promised himself the next day, at the festival on Mount Lyceum, of beholding a whole people as happy as this sequestered family. Converse so delightful might have charmed away the night without the aid of sleep, had they not been invited to repose by the mild light of the moon shining through the window, the murmuring wind in the leaves of the poplars, and the distant noise of the Achelous, which falls roaring from the summit of Mount Lyceum."
The young patrician wits of Athens doubtless laughed over Plato's ideal republic. Campanella's "City of the Sun" was looked upon, no doubt, as the distempered vision of a crazy state prisoner. Bacon's college, in his "New Atlantis," moved the risibles of fat-witted Oxford. More's "Utopia," as we know, gave to our language a new word, expressive of the vagaries and dreams of fanatics and lunatics. The merciless wits, clerical and profane, of the court of Charles II. regarded Harrington's romance as a perfect godsend to their vocation of ridicule. The gay dames and carpet knights of Versailles made themselves merry with the prose pastoral of St. Pierre; and the poor old enthusiast went down to his grave without finding an auditory for his lectures upon natural society.
The world had its laugh over these romances. When unable to refute their theories, it could sneer at the authors, and answer them to the satisfaction of the generation in which they lived, at least by a general charge of lunacy. Some of their notions were no doubt as absurd as those of the astronomer in "Rasselas", who tells Imlac that he has for five years possessed the regulation of the weather, and has got the secret of making to the different nations an equal and impartial dividend of rain and sunshine. But truth, even when ushered into the world through the medium of a dull romance and in connection with a vast progeny of errors, however ridiculed and despised at first, never fails in the end of finding a lodging-place in the popular mind. The speculations of the political theorists whom we have noticed have not all proved to be of
"such stuff As dreams are made of, and their little life Rounded with sleep."
They have entered into and become parts of the social and political fabrics of Europe and America. The prophecies of imagination have been fulfilled; the dreams of romance have become familiar realities.
What is the moral suggested by this record? Is it not that we should look with charity and tolerance upon the schemes and speculations of the political and social theorists of our day; that, if unprepared to venture upon new experiments and radical changes, we should at least consider that what was folly to our ancestors is our wisdom, and that another generation may successfully put in practice the very theories which now seem to us absurd and impossible? Many of the evils of society have been measurably removed or ameliorated; yet now, as in the days of the Apostle, "the creation groaneth and travaileth in pain;" and although quackery and empiricism abound, is it not possible that a proper application of some of the remedies proposed might ameliorate the general suffering? Rejecting, as we must, whatever is inconsistent with or hostile to the doctrines of Christianity, on which alone rests our hope for humanity, it becomes us to look kindly upon all attempts to apply those doctrines to the details of human life, to the social, political, and industrial relations of the race. If it is not permitted us to believe all things, we can at least hope them. Despair is infidelity and death. Temporally and spiritually, the declaration of inspiration holds good, "We are saved by hope."
PECULIAR INSTITUTIONS OF MASSACHUSETTS. (1851.)
BERNARDIN ST. PIERRE, in his Wishes of a Solitary, asks for his country neither wealth, nor military glory, nor magnificent palaces and monuments, nor splendor of court nobility, nor clerical pomp. "Rather," he says, "O France, may no beggar tread thy plains, no sick or suffering man ask in vain for relief; in all thy hamlets may every young woman find a lover and every lover a true wife; may the young be trained arightly and guarded from evil; may the old close their days in the tranquil hope of those who love God and their fellow-men."
We are reminded of the amiable wish of the French essayist--a wish even yet very far from realization, we fear, in the empire of Napoleon III.-- by the perusal of two documents recently submitted to the legislature of the State of Massachusetts. They indicate, in our view, the real glory of a state, and foreshadow the coming of that time when Milton's definition of a true commonwealth shall be no longer a prophecy, but the description of an existing fact,--"a huge Christian personage, a mighty growth and stature of an honest man, moved by the purpose of a love of God and of mankind."
Some years ago, the Legislature of Massachusetts, at the suggestion of several benevolent gentlemen whose attention had been turned to the subject, appointed a commission to inquire into the condition of the idiots of the Commonwealth, to ascertain their numbers, and whether anything could be done in their behalf.
The commissioners were Dr. Samuel G. Howe, so well and honorably known for his long and arduous labors in behalf of the blind, Judge Byington, and Dr. Gilman Kimball. The burden of the labor fell upon the chairman, who entered upon it with the enthusiasm, perseverance, and practical adaptation of means to ends which have made him so efficient in his varied schemes of benevolence. On the 26th of the second month, 1848, a full report of the results of this labor was made to the Governor, accompanied by statistical tables and minute details. One hundred towns had been visited by the chairman or his reliable agent, in which five hundred and seventy-five persons in a state of idiocy were discovered. These were examined carefully in respect to their physical as well as mental condition, no inquiry being omitted which was calculated to throw light upon the remote or immediate causes of this mournful imperfection in the creation of God. The proximate causes Dr. Howe mentions are to be found in the state of the bodily organization, deranged and disproportioned by some violation of natural law on the part of the parents or remoter ancestors of the sufferers. Out of 420 cases of idiocy, he had obtained information respecting the condition of the progenitors of 359; and in all but four of these eases he found that one or the other, or both, of their immediate progenitors had in some way departed widely from the condition of health; they were scrofulous, or predisposed to affections of the brain, and insanity, or had intermarried with blood-relations, or had been intemperate, or guilty of sensual excesses.
Of the 575 cases, 420 were those of idiocy from birth, and 155 of idiocy afterwards. Of the born idiots, 187 were under twenty-five years of age, and all but 13 seemed capable of improvement. Of those above twenty-five years of age, 73 appeared incapable of improvement in their mental condition, being helpless as children at seven years of age; 43 out of the 420 seemed as helpless as children at two years of age; 33 were in the condition of mere infants; and 220 were supported at the public charge in almshouses. A large proportion of them were found to be given over to filthy and loathsome habits, gluttony, and lust, and constantly sinking lower towards the condition of absolute brutishness.
Those in private houses were found, if possible, in a still more deplorable state. Their parents were generally poor, feeble in mind and body, and often of very intemperate habits. Many of them seemed scarcely able to take care of themselves, and totally unfit for the training of ordinary children. It was the blind leading the blind, imbecility teaching imbecility. Some instances of the experiments of parental ignorance upon idiotic offspring, which fell under the observation of Dr. Howe, are related in his report Idiotic children were found with their heads covered over with cold poultices of oak-bark, which the foolish parents supposed would tan the brain and harden it as the tanner does his ox-hides, and so make it capable of retaining impressions and remembering lessons. In other cases, finding that the child could not be made to comprehend anything, the sagacious heads of the household, on the supposition that its brain was too hard, tortured it with hot poultices of bread and milk to soften it. Others plastered over their children's heads with tar. Some administered strong doses of mercury, to "solder up the openings" in the head and make it tight and strong. Others encouraged the savage gluttony of their children, stimulating their unnatural and bestial appetites, on the ground that "the poor creatures had nothing else to enjoy but their food, and they should have enough of that!"
In consequence of this report, the legislature, in the spring of 1848, made an annual appropriation of twenty-five hundred dollars, for three years, for the purpose of training and teaching ten idiot children, to be selected by the Governor and Council. The trustees of the Asylum for the Blind, under the charge of Dr. Howe, made arrangements for receiving these pupils. The school was opened in the autumn of 1848; and its first annual report, addressed to the Governor and printed by order of the Senate, is now before us.
Of the ten pupils, it appears that not one had the usual command of muscular motion,--the languid body obeyed not the service of the imbecile will. Some could walk and use their limbs and hands in simple motions; others could make only make slight use of their muscles; and two were without any power of locomotion.
One of these last, a boy six years of age, who had been stupefied on the day of his birth by the application of hot rum to his head, could scarcely see or notice objects, and was almost destitute of the sense of touch. He could neither stand nor sit upright, nor even creep, but would lie on the floor in whatever position he was placed. He could not feed himself nor chew solid food, and had no more sense of decency than an infant. His intellect was a blank; he had no knowledge, no desires, no affections. A more hopeless object for experiment could scarcely have been selected.
A year of patient endeavor has nevertheless wrought a wonderful change in the condition of this miserable being. Cold bathing, rubbing of the limbs, exercise of the muscles, exposure to the air, and other appliances have enabled him to stand upright, to sit at table and feed himself, and chew his food, and to walk about with slight assistance. His habits are no longer those of a brute; he observes decency; his eye is brighter; his cheeks glow with health; his countenance, is more expressive of thought. He has learned many words and constructs simple sentences; his affections begin to develop; and there is every prospect that he will be so far renovated as to be able to provide for himself in manhood.
In the case of another boy, aged twelve years, the improvement has been equally remarkable. The gentleman who first called attention to him, in a recent note to Dr. Howe, published in the report, thus speaks of his present condition: "When I remember his former wild and almost frantic demeanor when approached by any one, and the apparent impossibility of communicating with him, and now see him standing in his class, playing with his fellows, and willingly and familiarly approaching me, examining what I gave him,--and when I see him already selecting articles named by his teacher, and even correctly pronouncing words printed on cards,-- improvement does not convey the idea presented to my mind; it is creation; it is making him anew."
All the pupils have more or less advanced. Their health and habits have improved; and there is no reason to doubt that the experiment, at the close of its three years, will be found to have been quite as successful as its most sanguine projectors could have anticipated. Dr. Howe has been ably seconded by an accomplished teacher, James B. Richards, who has devoted his whole time to the pupils. Of the nature and magnitude of their task, an idea may be formed only by considering the utter listlessness of idiocy, the incapability of the poor pupil to fix his attention upon anything, and his general want of susceptibility to impressions. All his senses are dulled and perverted. Touch, hearing, sight, smell, are all more or less defective. His gluttony is unaccompanied with the gratification of taste,--the most savory viands and the offal which he shares with the pigs equally satisfy him. His mental state is still worse than his physical. Thought is painful and irksome to him.
His teacher can only engage his attention by strenuous efforts, loud, earnest tones, gesticulations and signs, and a constant presentation of some visible object of bright color and striking form. The eye wanders, and the spark of consciousness and intelligence which has been fanned into momentary brightness darkens at the slightest relaxation of the teacher's exertions. The names of objects presented to him must sometimes be repeated hundreds of times before he can learn them. Yet the patience and enthusiasm of the teacher are rewarded by a progress, slow and unequal, but still marked and manifest. Step by step, often compelled to turn back and go over the inch of ground he had gained, the idiot is still creeping forward; and by almost imperceptible degrees his sick, cramped, and prisoned spirit casts off the burden of its body of death, breath as from the Almighty--is breathed into him, and he becomes a living soul.
After the senses of the idiot are trained to take note of their appropriate objects, the various perceptive faculties are next to be exercised. The greatest possible number of facts are to be gathered up through the medium of these faculties into the storehouse of memory, from whence eventually the higher faculties of mind may draw the material of general ideas. It has been found difficult, if not impossible, to teach the idiot to read by the letters first, as in the ordinary method; but while the varied powers of the three letters, h, a, t, could not be understood by him, he could be made to comprehend the complex sign of the word hat, made by uniting the three.
The moral nature of the idiot needs training and development as well as his physical and mental. All that can be said of him is, that he has the latent capacity for moral development and culture. Uninstructed and left to himself, he has no ideas of regulated appetites and propensities, of decency and delicacy of affection and social relations. The germs of these ideas, which constitute the glory and beauty of humanity, undoubtedly exist in him; but there can be no growth without patient and persevering culture. Where this is afforded, to use the language of the report, "the idiot may learn what love is, though he may not know the word which expresses it; he may feel kindly affections while unable to understand the simplest virtuous principle; and he may begin to live acceptably to God before he has learned the name by which men call him."
In the facts and statistics presented in the report, light is shed upon some of the dark pages of God's providence, and it is seen that the suffering and shame of idiocy are the result of sin, of a violation of the merciful laws of God and of the harmonies of His benign order. The penalties which are ordained for the violators of natural laws are inexorable and certain. For the transgressor of the laws of life there is, as in the case of Esau, "no place for repentance, though he seek it earnestly and with tears." The curse cleaves to him and his children. In this view, how important becomes the subject of the hereditary transmission of moral and physical disease and debility! and how necessary it is that there should be a clearer understanding of, and a willing obedience, at any cost, to the eternal law which makes the parent the blessing or the curse of the child, giving strength and beauty, and the capacity to know and do the will of God, or bequeathing loathsomeness, deformity, and animal appetite, incapable of the restraints of the moral faculties! Even if the labors of Dr. Howe and his benevolent associates do not materially lessen the amount of present actual evil and suffering in this respect, they will not be put forth in vain if they have the effect of calling public attention to the great laws of our being, the violation of which has made this goodly earth a vast lazarhouse of pain and sorrow.
The late annual message of the Governor of Massachusetts invites our attention to a kindred institution of charity. The chief magistrate congratulates the legislature, in language creditable to his mind and heart, on the opening of the Reform School for Juvenile Criminals, established by an act of a previous legislature. The act provides that, when any boy under sixteen years of age shall be convicted of crime punishable by imprisonment other than such an offence as is punished by imprisonment for life, he may be, at the discretion of the court or justice, sent to the State Reform School, or sentenced to such imprisonment as the law now provides for his offence. The school is placed under the care of trustees, who may either refuse to receive a boy thus sent there, or, after he has been received, for reasons set forth in the act, may order him to be committed to prison under the previous penal law of the state. They are also authorized to apprentice the boys, at their discretion, to inhabitants of the Commonwealth. And whenever any boy shall be discharged, either as reformed or as having reached the age of twenty-one years, his discharge is a full release from his sentence.
It is made the duty of the trustees to cause the boys to be instructed in piety and morality, and in branches of useful knowledge, in some regular course of labor, mechanical, agricultural, or horticultural, and such other trades and arts as may be best adapted to secure the amendment, reformation, and future benefit of the boys. The class of offenders for whom this act provides are generally the offspring of parents depraved by crime or suffering from poverty and want,--the victims often of circumstances of evil which almost constitute a necessity,--issuing from homes polluted and miserable, from the sight and hearing of loathsome impurities and hideous discords, to avenge upon society the ignorance, and destitution, and neglect with which it is too often justly chargeable. In 1846 three hundred of these youthful violators of law were sentenced to jails and other places of punishment in Massachusetts, where they incurred the fearful liability of being still more thoroughly corrupted by contact with older criminals, familiar with atrocity, and rolling their loathsome vices "as a sweet morsel under the tongue." In view of this state of things the Reform School has been established, twenty-two thousand dollars having been contributed to the state for that purpose by an unknown benefactor of his race. The school is located in Westboro', on a fine farm of two hundred acres. The buildings are in the form of a square, with a court in the centre, three stories in front, with wings. They are constructed with a degree of architectural taste, and their site is happily chosen,--a gentle eminence, overlooking one of the loveliest of the small lakes which form a pleasing feature in New England scenery. From this place the atmosphere and associations of the prison are excluded. The discipline is strict, as a matter of course; but it is that of a well-regulated home or school-room,--order, neatness, and harmony within doors; and without, the beautiful 'sights and sounds and healthful influences of Nature. One would almost suppose that the poetical dream of Coleridge, in his tragedy of Remorse, had found its realization in the Westboro' School, and that, weary of the hopelessness and cruelty of the old penal system, our legislators had embodied in their statutes the idea of the poet:--
"With other ministrations thou, O Nature, Healest thy wandering and distempered child Thou pourest on him thy soft influences, Thy sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sweets, Thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters, Till he relent, and can no more endure To be a jarring and a dissonant thing Amidst this general dance and minstrelsy."
Thus it is that the Christian idea of reformation, rather than revenge, is slowly but surely incorporating itself in our statute books. We have only to look back but a single century to be able to appreciate the immense gain for humanity in the treatment of criminals which has been secured in that space of time. Then the use of torture was common throughout Europe. Inability to comprehend and believe certain religious dogmas was a crime to be expiated by death, or confiscation of estate, or lingering imprisonment. Petty offences against property furnished subjects for the hangman. The stocks and the whipping-post stood by the side of the meeting-house. Tongues were bored with redhot irons and ears shorn off. The jails were loathsome dungeons, swarming with vermin, unventilated, unwarmed. A century and a half ago the populace of Massachusetts were convulsed with grim merriment at the writhings of a miserable woman scourged at the cart-tail or strangling in the ducking- stool; crowds hastened to enjoy the spectacle of an old man enduring the unutterable torment of the 'peine forte et dare,'--pressed slowly to death under planks,--for refusing to plead to an indictment for witchcraft. What a change from all this to the opening of the State Reform School, to the humane regulations of prisons and penitentiaries, to keen-eyed benevolence watching over the administration of justice, which, in securing society from lawless aggression, is not suffered to overlook the true interest and reformation of the criminal, nor to forget that the magistrate, in the words of the Apostle, is to be indeed "the minister of God to man for good!"
LORD ASHLEY AND THE THIEVES.
"THEY that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick," was the significant answer of our Lord to the self-righteous Pharisees who took offence at his companions,--the poor, the degraded, the weak, and the sinful. "Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice; for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The great lesson of duty inculcated by this answer of the Divine Teacher has been too long overlooked by individuals and communities professedly governed by His maxims. The phylacteries of our modern Pharisees are as broad as those of the old Jewish saints. The respectable Christian detests his vicious and ill-conditioned neighbors as heartily as the Israelite did the publicans and sinners of his day. He folds his robe of self-righteousness closely about him, and denounces as little better than sinful weakness all commiseration for the guilty; and all attempts to restore and reclaim the erring violators of human law otherwise than by pains and penalties as wicked collusion with crime, dangerous to the stability and safety of society, and offensive in the sight of God. And yet nothing is more certain than that, just in proportion as the example of our Lord has been followed in respect to the outcast and criminal, the effect has been to reform and elevate,--to snatch as brands from the burning souls not yet wholly given over to the service of evil. The wonderful influence for good exerted over the most degraded and reckless criminals of London by the excellent and self-denying Elizabeth Fry, the happy results of the establishment of houses of refuge, and reformation, and Magdalen asylums, all illustrate the wisdom of Him who went about doing good, in pointing out the morally diseased as the appropriate subjects of the benevolent labors of His disciples. No one is to be despaired of. We have no warrant to pass by any of our fellow-creatures as beyond the reach of God's grace and mercy; for, beneath the most repulsive and hateful outward manifestation, there is always a consciousness of the beauty of goodness and purity, and of the loathsomeness of sin,--one chamber of the heart as yet not wholly profaned, whence at times arises the prayer of a burdened and miserable spirit for deliverance. Deep down under the squalid exterior, unparticipative in the hideous merriment and recklessness of the criminal, there is another self,--a chained and suffering inner man,-- crying out, in the intervals of intoxication and brutal excesses, like Jonah from the bosom of hell. To this lingering consciousness the sympathy and kindness of benevolent and humane spirits seldom appeal in vain; for, whatever may be outward appearances, it remains true that the way of the transgressor is hard, and that sin and suffering are inseparable. Crime is seldom loved or persevered in for its own sake; but, when once the evil path is entered upon, a return is in reality extremely difficult to the unhappy wanderer, and often seems as well nigh impossible. The laws of social life rise up like insurmountable barriers between him and escape. As he turns towards the society whose rights he has outraged, its frown settles upon him; the penalties of the laws he has violated await him; and he falls back despairing, and suffers the fetters of the evil habit to whose power he has yielded himself to be fastened closer and heavier upon him. O for some good angel, in the form of a brother-man and touched with a feeling of his sins and infirmities, to reassure his better nature and to point out a way of escape from its body of death!
We have been led into these remarks by an account, given in the London Weekly Chronicle, of a most remarkable interview between the professional thieves of London and Lord Ashley,--a gentleman whose best patent of nobility is to be found in his generous and untiring devotion to the interests of his fellow-men. It appears that a philanthropic gentleman in London had been applied to by two young thieves, who had relinquished their evil practices and were obtaining a precarious but honest livelihood by picking up bones and rags in the streets, their loss of character closing against them all other employments. He had just been reading an address of Lord Ashley's in favor of colonial emigration, and he was led to ask one of the young men how he would like to emigrate.
"I should jump at the chance!" was the reply. Not long after the gentleman was sent for to visit one of those obscure and ruinous courts of the great metropolis where crime and poverty lie down together,-- localities which Dickens has pictured with such painful distinctness. Here, to his surprise, he met a number of thieves and outlaws, who declared themselves extremely anxious to know whether any hope could be held out to them of obtaining an honest living, however humble, in the colonies, as their only reason for continuing in their criminal course was the impossibility of extricating themselves. He gave them such advice and encouragement as he was able, and invited them to assemble again, with such of their companions as they could persuade to do so, at the room of the Irish Free School, for the purpose of meeting Lord Ashley. On the 27th of the seventh month last the meeting took place. At the hour appointed, Lord Ashley and five or six other benevolent gentlemen, interested in emigration as a means of relief and reformation to the criminal poor, entered the room, which was already well-nigh filled. Two hundred and seven professed thieves were present. "Several of the most experienced thieves were stationed at the door to prevent the admission of any but thieves. Some four or five individuals, who were not at first known, were subjected to examination, and only allowed to remain on stating that they were, and being recognized as, members of the dishonest fraternity; and before the proceedings of the evening commenced the question was very carefully put, and repeated several times, whether any one was in the room of whom others entertained doubts as to who he was. The object of this care was, as so many of them were in danger of 'getting into trouble,' or, in other words, of being taken up for their crimes, to ascertain if any who might betray them were present; and another intention of this scrutiny was, to give those assembled, who naturally would feel considerable fear, a fuller confidence in opening their minds."
What a novel conference between the extremes of modern society! All that is beautiful in refinement and education, moral symmetry and Christian grace, contrasting with the squalor, the ignorance, the lifelong depravity of men living "without God in the world,"--the pariahs of civilization,--the moral lepers, at the sight of whom decency covers its face, and cries out, "Unclean!" After a prayer had been offered, Lord Ashley spoke at considerable length, making a profound impression on his strange auditory as they listened to his plans of emigration, which offered them an opportunity to escape from their miserable condition and enter upon a respectable course of life. The hard heart melted and the cold and cruel eye moistened. With one accord the wretched felons responded to the language of Christian love and good-will, and declared their readiness to follow the advice of their true friend. They looked up to him as to an angel of mercy, and felt the malignant spirits which had so long tormented them disarmed of all power of evil in the presence of simple goodness. He stood in that felon audience like Spenser's Una amidst the satyrs; unassailable and secure in the "unresistible might of meekness," and panoplied in that "noble grace which dashed brute violence with sudden adoration and mute awe."
Twenty years ago, when Elizabeth Fry ventured to visit those "spirits in prison,"--the female tenants of Newgate,--her temerity was regarded with astonishment, and her hope of effecting a reformation in the miserable objects of her sympathy was held to be wholly visionary. Her personal safety and the blessed fruits of her labors, nevertheless, confirmed the language of her Divine Master to His disciples when He sent them forth as lambs among wolves: "Behold, I give unto you power over all the power of the enemy." The still more unpromising experiment of Lord Ashley, thus far, has been equally successful; and we hail it as the introduction of a new and more humane method of dealing with the victims of sin and ignorance, and the temptations growing out of the inequalities and vices of civilization.
Letter to the Newport Convention.
AMESBURY, MASS., 12th, 8th Month, 1869.
I HAVE received thy letter inviting me to attend the Convention in behalf of Woman's Suffrage, at Newport, R. I., on the 25th inst. I do not see how it is possible for me to accept the invitation; and, were I to do so, the state of my health would prevent me from taking such a part in the meeting as would relieve me from the responsibility of seeming to sanction anything in its action which might conflict with my own views of duty or policy. Yet I should do myself great injustice if I did not embrace this occasion to express my general sympathy with the movement. I have seen no good reason why mothers, wives, and daughters should not have the same right of person, property, and citizenship which fathers, husbands, and brothers have.
The sacred memory of mother and sister; the wisdom and dignity of women of my own religious communion who have been accustomed to something like equality in rights as well as duties; my experience as a co-worker with noble and self-sacrificing women, as graceful and helpful in their household duties as firm and courageous in their public advocacy of unpopular truth; the steady friendships which have inspired and strengthened me, and the reverence and respect which I feel for human nature, irrespective of sex, compel me to look with something more than acquiescence on the efforts you are making. I frankly confess that I am not able to forsee all the consequences of the great social and political change proposed, but of this I am, at least, sure, it is always safe to do right, and the truest expediency is simple justice. I can understand, without sharing, the misgivings of those who fear that, when the vote drops from woman's hand into the ballot-box, the beauty and sentiment, the bloom and sweetness, of womankind will go with it. But in this matter it seems to me that we can trust Nature. Stronger than statutes or conventions, she will be conservative of all that the true man loves and honors in woman. Here and there may be found an equivocal, unsexed Chevalier D'Eon, but the eternal order and fitness of things will remain. I have no fear that man will be less manly or woman less womanly when they meet on terms of equality before the law.
On the other hand, I do not see that the exercise of the ballot by woman will prove a remedy for all the evils of which she justly complains. It is her right as truly as mine, and when she asks for it, it is something less than manhood to withhold it. But, unsupported by a more practical education, higher aims, and a deeper sense of the responsibilities of life and duty, it is not likely to prove a blessing in her hands any more than in man's.
With great respect and hearty sympathy, I am very truly thy friend.
AMESBURY, MASS., 1st Mo., 4th, 1871.
Read at the great meeting in New York, January, 1871, in celebration of the freedom of Rome and complete unity of Italy.
IT would give me more than ordinary satisfaction to attend the meeting on the 12th instant for the celebration of Italian Unity, the emancipation of Rome, and its occupation as the permanent capital of the nation.
For many years I have watched with deep interest and sympathy the popular movement on the Italian peninsula, and especially every effort for the deliverance of Rome from a despotism counting its age by centuries. I looked at these struggles of the people with little reference to their ecclesiastical or sectarian bearings. Had I been a Catholic instead of a Protestant, I should have hailed every symptom of Roman deliverance from Papal rule, occupying, as I have, the standpoint of a republican radical, desirous that all men, of all creeds, should enjoy the civil liberty which I prized so highly for myself.
I lost all confidence in the French republic of 1849, when it forfeited its own right to exist by crushing out the newly formed Roman republic under Mazzini and Garibaldi. From that hour it was doomed, and the expiation of its monstrous crime is still going on. My sympathies are with Jules Favre and Leon Gambetta in their efforts to establish and sustain a republic in France, but I confess that the investment of Paris by King William seems to me the logical sequence of the bombardment of Rome by Oudinot. And is it not a significant fact that the terrible chassepot, which made its first bloody experiment upon the halfarmed Italian patriots without the walls of Rome, has failed in the hands of French republicans against the inferior needle-gun of Prussia? It was said of a fierce actor in the old French Revolution that he demoralized the guillotine. The massacre at Mentana demoralized the chassepot.
It is a matter of congratulation that the redemption of Rome has been effected so easily and bloodlessly. The despotism of a thousand years fell at a touch in noiseless rottenness. The people of Rome, fifty to one, cast their ballots of condemnation like so many shovelfuls of earth upon its grave. Outside of Rome there seems to be a very general acquiescence in its downfall. No Peter the Hermit preaches a crusade in its behalf. No one of the great Catholic powers of Europe lifts a finger for it. Whatever may be the feelings of Isabella of Spain and the fugitive son of King Bomba, they are in no condition to come to its rescue. It is reserved for American ecclesiastics, loud-mouthed in professions of democracy, to make solemn protest against what they call an "outrage," which gives the people of Rome the right of choosing their own government, and denies the divine right of kings in the person of Pio Nono.
The withdrawal of the temporal power of the Pope will prove a blessing to the Catholic Church, as well as to the world. Many of its most learned and devout priests and laymen have long seen the necessity of such a change, which takes from it a reproach and scandal that could no longer be excused or tolerated. A century hence it will have as few apologists as the Inquisition or the massacre of St. Bartholomew.
In this hour of congratulation let us not forget those whose suffering and self-sacrifice, in the inscrutable wisdom of Providence, prepared the way for the triumph which we celebrate. As we call the long, illustrious roll of Italian patriotism--the young, the brave, and beautiful; the gray-haired, saintly confessors; the scholars, poets, artists, who, shut out from human sympathy, gave their lives for God and country in the slow, dumb agony of prison martyrdom--let us hope that they also rejoice with us, and, inaudible to earthly ears, unite in our thanksgiving: "Alleluia! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth! He hath avenged the blood of his servants!"
In the belief that the unity of Italy and the overthrow of Papal rule will strengthen the cause of liberty throughout the civilized' world, I am very truly thy friend.
THE present condition and future prospects of the remnants of the aboriginal inhabitants of this continent can scarcely be a matter of indifference to any class of the people of the United States. Apart from all considerations of justice and duty, a purely selfish regard to our own well-being would compel attention to the subject. The irreversible laws of God's moral government, and the well-attested maxims of political and social economy, leave us in no doubt that the suffering, neglect, and wrong of one part of the community must affect all others. A common responsibility rests upon each and all to relieve suffering, enlighten ignorance, and redress wrong, and the penalty of neglect in this respect no nation has ever escaped.
It is only within a comparatively recent period that the term Indian Civilization could be appropriately used in this country. Very little real progress bad been made in this direction, up to the time when Commissioner Lang in 1844 visited the tribes now most advanced. So little had been done, that public opinion had acquiesced in the assumption that the Indians were not susceptible of civilization and progress. The few experiments had not been calculated to assure a superficial observer.
The unsupported efforts of Elliot in New England were counteracted by the imprisonment, and in some instances the massacre of his "praying Indians," by white men under the exasperation of war with hostile tribes. The salutary influence of the Moravians and Friends in Pennsylvania was greatly weakened by the dreadful massacre of the unarmed and blameless converts of Gnadenhutten. But since the first visit of Commissioner Lang, thirty-three years ago, the progress of education, civilization, and conversion to Christianity, has been of a most encouraging nature, and if Indian civilization was ever a doubtful problem, it has been practically solved.
The nomadic habits and warlike propensities of the native tribes are indeed formidable but not insuperable difficulties in the way of their elevation. The wildest of them may compare not unfavorably with those Northern barbarian hordes that swooped down upon Christian Europe, and who were so soon the docile pupils and proselytes of the peoples they had conquered. The Arapahoes and Camanches of our day are no further removed from the sweetness and light of Christian culture than were the Scandinavian Sea Kings of the middle centuries, whose gods were patrons of rapine and cruelty, their heaven a vast, cloud-built ale-house, where ghostly warriors drank from the skulls of their victims, and whose hell was a frozen horror of desolation and darkness, to be avoided only by diligence in robbery and courage in murder. The descendants of these human butchers are now among the best exponents of the humanizing influence of the gospel of Christ. The report of the Superintendent of the remnants of the once fierce and warlike Six Nations, now peaceable and prosperous in Canada, shows that the Indian is not inferior to the Norse ancestors of the Danes and Norwegians of our day in capability of improvement.
It is scarcely necessary to say, what is universally conceded, that the wars waged by the Indians against the whites have, in nearly every instance, been provoked by violations of solemn treaties and systematic disregard of their rights of person, property, and life. The letter of Bishop Whipple, of Minnesota, to the New York Tribune of second month, 1877, calls attention to the emphatic language of Generals Sherman, Harney, Terry, and Augur, written after a full and searching investigation of the subject: "That the Indian goes to war is not astonishing: he is often compelled to do so: wrongs are borne by him in silence, which never fail to drive civilized men to deeds of violence. The best possible way to avoid war is to do no injustice."
It is not difficult to understand the feelings of the unfortunate pioneer settlers on the extreme borders of civilization, upon whom the blind vengeance of the wronged and hunted Indians falls oftener than upon the real wrong-doers. They point to terrible and revolting cruelties as proof that nothing short of the absolute extermination of the race can prevent their repetition. But a moment's consideration compels us to admit that atrocious cruelty is not peculiar to the red man. "All wars are cruel," said General Sherman, and for eighteen centuries Christendom has been a great battle-field. What Indian raid has been more dreadful than the sack of Magdeburg, the massacre of Glencoe, the nameless atrocities of the Duke of Alva in the Netherlands, the murders of St. Bartholomew's day, the unspeakable agonies of the South of France under the demoniac rule of revolution! All history, black with crime and red with blood, is but an awful commentary upon "man's inhumanity to man," and it teaches us that there is nothing exceptional in the Indian's ferocity and vindictiveness, and that the alleged reasons for his extermination would, at one time or another, have applied with equal force to the whole family of man.
A late lecture of my friend, Stanley Pumphrey, comprises more of valuable information and pertinent suggestions on the Indian question than I have found in any equal space; and I am glad of the opportunity to add to it my hearty endorsement, and to express the conviction that its general circulation could not fail to awaken a deeper and more kindly interest in the condition of the red man, and greatly aid in leading the public mind to a fuller appreciation of the responsibility which rests upon us as a people to rectify, as far as possible, past abuses, and in our future relations to the native owners of the soil to "deal justly and love mercy."
READING FOR THE BLIND. (1880.)
To Mary C. Moore, teacher in the Perkins Asylum.
DEAR FRIEND,--It gives me great pleasure to know that the pupils in thy class at the Institution for the Blind have the opportunity afforded them to read through the sense of touch some of my writings, and thus hold what I hope will prove a pleasant communion with me. Very glad I shall be if the pen-pictures of nature, and homely country firesides, which I have tried to make, are understood and appreciated by those who cannot discern them by natural vision. I shall count it a great privilege to see for them, or rather to let them see through my eyes. It is the mind after all that really sees, shapes, and colors all things. What visions of beauty and sublimity passed before the inward and spiritual sight of blind Milton and Beethoven!
I have an esteemed friend, Morrison Hendy, of Kentucky, who is deaf and blind; yet under these circumstances he has cultivated his mind to a high degree, and has written poems of great beauty, and vivid descriptions of scenes which have been witnessed only by the "light within."
I thank thee for thy letter, and beg of thee to assure the students that I am deeply interested in their welfare and progress, and that my prayer is that their inward and spiritual eyes may become so clear that they can well dispense with the outward and material ones.
THE INDIAN QUESTION.
Read at the meeting in Boston, May, 1883, for the consideration of the condition of the Indians in the United States.
AMESBURY, 4th mo., 1883.
I REGRET that I cannot be present at the meeting called in reference to the pressing question of the day, the present condition and future prospects of the Indian race in the United States. The old policy, however well intended, of the government is no longer available. The westward setting tide of immigration is everywhere sweeping over the lines of the reservations. There would seem to be no power in the government to prevent the practical abrogation of its solemn treaties and the crowding out of the Indians from their guaranteed hunting grounds. Outbreaks of Indian ferocity and revenge, incited by wrong and robbery on the part of the whites, will increasingly be made the pretext of indiscriminate massacres. The entire question will soon resolve itself into the single alternative of education and civilization or extermination.
The school experiments at Hampton, Carlisle, and Forest Grove in Oregon have proved, if such proof were ever needed, that the roving Indian can be enlightened and civilized, taught to work and take interest and delight in the product of his industry, and settle down on his farm or in his workshop, as an American citizen, protected by and subject to the laws of the republic. What is needed is that not only these schools should be more liberally supported, but that new ones should be opened without delay. The matter does not admit of procrastination. The work of education and civilization must be done. The money needed must be contributed with no sparing hand. The laudable example set by the Friends and the American Missionary Association should be followed by other sects and philanthropic societies. Christianity, patriotism, and enlightened self interest have a common stake in the matter. Great and difficult as the work may be the country is strong enough, rich enough, wise enough, and, I believe, humane and Christian enough to do it.
THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.
Read at a meeting of the Essex Club, in Boston, November, 1885.
AMESBURY, 11th Mo., 10, 1885.
I AM sorry that I cannot accept thy invitation to attend the meeting of the Essex Club on the 14th inst. I should be glad to meet my old Republican friends and congratulate them on the results of the election in Massachusetts, and especially in our good old county of Essex.
Some of our friends and neighbors, who have been with us heretofore, last year saw fit to vote with the opposite party. I would be the last to deny their perfect right to do so, or to impeach their motives, but I think they were mistaken in expecting that party to reform the abuses and evils which they complained of. President Cleveland has proved himself better than his party, and has done and said some good things which I give him full credit for, but the instincts of his party are against him, and must eventually prove too strong for him, and, instead of his carrying the party, it will be likely to carry him. It has already compelled him to put his hands in his pockets for electioneering purposes, and travel all the way from Washington to Buffalo to give his vote for a spoilsman and anti-civil service machine politician. I would not like to call it a case of "offensive partisanship," but it looks a good deal like it.
As a Republican from the outset, I am proud of the noble record of the party, but I should rejoice to see its beneficent work taken up by the Democratic party and so faithfully carried on as to make our organization no longer necessary. But, as far as we can see, the Republican party has still its mission and its future. When labor shall everywhere have its just reward, and the gains of it are made secure to the earners; when education shall be universal, and, North and South, all men shall have the free and full enjoyment of civil rights and privileges, irrespective of color or former condition; when every vice which debases the community shall be discouraged and prohibited, and every virtue which elevates it fostered and strengthened; when merit and fitness shall be the conditions of office; and when sectional distrust and prejudice shall give place to well-merited confidence in the loyalty and patriotism of all, then will the work of the Republican party, as a party, be ended, and all political rivalries be merged in the one great party of the people, with no other aim than the common welfare, and no other watchwords than peace, liberty, and union. Then may the language which Milton addressed to his countrymen two centuries ago be applied to the United States, "Go on, hand in hand, O peoples, never to be disunited; be the praise and heroic song of all posterity. Join your invincible might to do worthy and godlike deeds; and then he who seeks to break your Union, a cleaving curse be his inheritance."
OUR DUMB RELATIONS. (1886.)
IT was said of St. Francis of Assisi, that he had attained, through the fervor of his love, the secret of that deep amity with God and His creation which, in the language of inspiration, makes man to be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field to be at peace with him. The world has never been without tender souls, with whom the golden rule has a broader application than its letter might seem to warrant. The ancient Eastern seers recognized the rights of the brute creation, and regarded the unnecessary taking of the life of the humblest and meanest as a sin; and in almost all the old religions of the world there are legends of saints, in the depth of whose peace with God and nature all life was sacredly regarded as the priceless gift of heaven, and who were thus enabled to dwell safely amidst lions and serpents.
It is creditable to human nature and its unperverted instincts that stories and anecdotes of reciprocal kindness and affection between men and animals are always listened to with interest and approval. How pleasant to think of the Arab and his horse, whose friendship has been celebrated in song and romance. Of Vogelwied, the Minnesinger, and his bequest to the birds. Of the English Quaker, visited, wherever he went, by flocks of birds, who with cries of joy alighted on his broad-brimmed hat and his drab coat-sleeves. Of old Samuel Johnson, when half-blind and infirm, groping abroad of an evening for oysters for his cat. Of Walter Scott and John Brown, of Edinburgh, and their dogs. Of our own Thoreau, instinctively recognized by bird and beast as a friend. Emerson says of him: "His intimacy with animals suggested what Thomas Fuller records of Butler, the apologist, that either he had told the bees things, or the bees had told him. Snakes coiled round his legs; the fishes swam into his hand; he pulled the woodchuck out of his hole by his tail, and took foxes under his protection from the hunters."
In the greatest of the ancient Hindu poems--the sacred book of the Mahabharata--there is a passage of exceptional beauty and tenderness, which records the reception of King Yudishthira at the gate of Paradise. A pilgrim to the heavenly city, the king had travelled over vast spaces, and, one by one, the loved ones, the companions of his journey, had all fallen and left him alone, save his faithful dog, which still followed. He was met by Indra, and invited to enter the holy city. But the king thinks of his friends who have fallen on the way, and declines to go in without them. The god tells him they are all within waiting for him. Joyful, he is about to seek them, when he looks upon the poor dog, who, weary and wasted, crouches at his feet, and asks that he, too, may enter the gate. Indra refuses, and thereupon the king declares that to abandon his faithful dumb friend would be as great a sin as to kill a Brahmin.
"Away with that felicity whose price is to abandon the faithful! Never, come weal or woe, will I leave my faithful dog. The poor creature, in fear and distress, has trusted in my power to save him; Not, therefore, for life itself, will I break my plighted word."
In full sight of heaven he chooses to go to hell with his dog, and straightway descends, as he supposes, thither. But his virtue and faithfulness change his destination to heaven, and he finds himself surrounded by his old friends, and in the presence of the gods, who thus honor and reward his humanity and unselfish love.
Read at the reception in Boston of the English delegation representing more than two hundred members of the British Parliament who favor international arbitration.
AMESBURY, 11th Mo., 9, 1887.
IT is a very serious disappointment to me not to be able to be present at the welcome of the American Peace Society to the delegation of more than two hundred members of the British Parliament who favor international arbitration. Few events have more profoundly impressed me than the presentation of this peaceful overture to the President of the United States. It seems to me that every true patriot who seeks the best interests of his country and every believer in the gospel of Christ must respond to the admirable address of Sir Lyon Playfair and that of his colleagues who represented the workingmen of England. We do not need to be told that war is always cruel, barbarous, and brutal; whether used by professed Christians with ball and bayonet, or by heathen with club and boomerang. We cannot be blind to its waste of life and treasure and the demoralization which follows in its train; nor cease to wonder at the spectacle of Christian nations exhausting all their resources in preparing to slaughter each other, with only here and there a voice, like Count Tolstoi's in the Russian wilderness, crying in heedless ears that the gospel of Christ is peace, not war, and love, not hatred.
The overture which comes to us from English advocates of arbitration is a cheering assurance that the tide of sentiment is turning in favor of peace among English speaking peoples. I cannot doubt that whatever stump orators and newspapers may say for party purposes, the heart of America will respond to the generous proposal of our kinsfolk across the water. No two nations could be more favorably conditioned than England and the United States for making the "holy experiment of arbitration."
In our associations and kinship, our aims and interests, our common claims in the great names and achievements of a common ancestry, we are essentially one people. Whatever other nations may do, we at least should be friends. God grant that the noble and generous attempt shall not be in vain! May it hasten the time when the only rivalry between us shall be the peaceful rivalry of progress and the gracious interchange of good.
"When closer strand shall lean to strand, Till meet beneath saluting flags, The eagle of our mountain crags, The lion of our mother land!"
SUFFRAGE FOR WOMEN.
Read at the Woman's Convention at Washington.
OAK KNOLL, DANVERS, MASS., Third Mo., 8, 1888.
I THANK thee for thy kind letter. It would be a great satisfaction to be able to be present at the fortieth anniversary of the Woman's Suffrage Association. But, as that is not possible, I can only reiterate my hearty sympathy with the object of the association, and bid it take heart and assurance in view of all that has been accomplished. There is no easy royal road to a reform of this kind, but if the progress has been slow there has been no step backward. The barriers which at first seemed impregnable in the shape of custom and prejudice have been undermined and their fall is certain. A prophecy of your triumph at no distant day is in the air; your opponents feel it and believe it. They know that yours is a gaining and theirs a losing cause. The work still before you demands on your part great patience, steady perseverance, a firm, dignified, and self-respecting protest against the injustice of which you have so much reason to complain, and of serene confidence which is not discouraged by temporary checks, nor embittered by hostile criticism, nor provoked to use any weapons of retort, which, like the boomerang, fall back on the heads of those who use them. You can afford in your consciousness of right to be as calm and courteous as the archangel Michael, who, we are told in Scripture in his controversy with Satan himself, did not bring a railing accusation against him. A wise adaptation of means to ends is no yielding of principle, but care should be taken to avoid all such methods as have disgraced political and religious parties of the masculine sex. Continue to make it manifest that all which is pure and lovely and of good repute in womanhood is entirely compatible with the exercise of the rights of citizenship, and the performance of the duties which we all owe to our homes and our country. Confident that you will do this, and with no doubt or misgiving as to your success, I bid you Godspeed. I find I have written to the association rather than to thyself, but as one of the principal originators and most faithful supporters, it was very natural that I should identify thee with it.
THE INNER LIFE
THE AGENCY OF EVIL.
From the Supernaturalism of New England, in the Democratic Review for 1843.
IN this life of ours, so full of mystery, so hung about with wonders, so written over with dark riddles, where even the lights held by prophets and inspired ones only serve to disclose the solemn portals of a future state of being, leaving all beyond in shadow, perhaps the darkest and most difficult problem which presents itself is that of the origin of evil,--the source whence flow the black and bitter waters of sin and suffering and discord,--the wrong which all men see in others and feel in themselves,--the unmistakable facts of human depravity and misery. A superficial philosophy may attempt to refer all these dark phenomena of man's existence to his own passions, circumstances, and will; but the thoughtful observer cannot rest satisfied with secondary causes. The grossest materialism, at times, reveals something of that latent dread of an invisible and spiritual influence which is inseparable from our nature. Like Eliphaz the Temanite, it is conscious of a spirit passing before its face, the form whereof is not discerned.
It is indeed true that our modern divines and theologians, as if to atone for the too easy credulity of their order formerly, have unceremoniously consigned the old beliefs of Satanic agency, demoniacal possession, and witchcraft, to Milton's receptacle of exploded follies and detected impostures,
"Over the backside of the world far off, Into a limbo broad and large, and called The paradise of fools,"--
that indeed, out of their peculiar province, and apart from the routine of their vocation, they have become the most thorough sceptics and unbelievers among us. Yet it must be owned that, if they have not the marvellous themselves, they are the cause of it in others. In certain states of mind, the very sight of a clergyman in his sombre professional garb is sufficient to awaken all the wonderful within us. Imagination goes wandering back to the subtle priesthood of mysterious Egypt. We think of Jannes and Jambres; of the Persian magi; dim oak groves, with Druid altars, and priests, and victims, rise before us. For what is the priest even of our New England but a living testimony to the truth of the supernatural and the reality of the unseen,--a man of mystery, walking in the shadow of the ideal world,--by profession an expounder of spiritual wonders? Laugh he may at the old tales of astrology and witchcraft and demoniacal possession; but does he not believe and bear testimony to his faith in the reality of that dark essence which Scripture more than hints at, which has modified more or less all the religious systems and speculations of the heathen world,--the Ahriman of the Parsee, the Typhon of the Egyptian, the Pluto of the Roman mythology, the Devil of Jew, Christian, and Mussulman, the Machinito of the Indian,--evil in the universe of goodness, darkness in the light of divine intelligence,--in itself the great and crowning mystery from which by no unnatural process of imagination may be deduced everything which our forefathers believed of the spiritual world and supernatural agency? That fearful being with his tributaries and agents,--"the Devil and his angels,"--how awfully he rises before us in the brief outline limning of the sacred writers! How he glooms, "in shape and gesture proudly eminent," on the immortal canvas of Milton and Dante! What a note of horror does his name throw into the sweet Sabbath psalmody of our churches. What strange, dark fancies are connected with the very language of common-law indictments, when grand juries find under oath that the offence complained of has been committed "at the instigation of the Devil"!
How hardly effaced are the impressions of childhood! Even at this day, at the mention of the evil angel, an image rises before me like that with which I used especially to horrify myself in an old copy of Pilgrim's Progress. Horned, hoofed, scaly, and fire-breathing, his caudal extremity twisted tight with rage, I remember him, illustrating the tremendous encounter of Christian in the valley where "Apollyon straddled over the whole breadth of the way." There was another print of the enemy which made no slight impression upon me. It was the frontispiece of an old, smoked, snuff-stained pamphlet, the property of an elderly lady, (who had a fine collection of similar wonders, wherewith she was kind enough to edify her young visitors,) containing a solemn account of the fate of a wicked dancing-party in New Jersey, whose irreverent declaration, that they would have a fiddler if they had to send to the lower regions after him, called up the fiend himself, who forthwith commenced playing, while the company danced to the music incessantly, without the power to suspend their exercise, until their feet and legs were worn off to the knees! The rude wood-cut represented the demon fiddler and his agonized companions literally stumping it up and down in "cotillons, jigs, strathspeys, and reels." He would have answered very well to the description of the infernal piper in Tam O'Shanter.
To this popular notion of the impersonation of the principle of evil we are doubtless indebted for the whole dark legacy of witchcraft and possession. Failing in our efforts to solve the problem of the origin of evil, we fall back upon the idea of a malignant being,--the antagonism of good. Of this mysterious and dreadful personification we find ourselves constrained to speak with a degree of that awe and reverence which are always associated with undefined power and the ability to harm. "The Devil," says an old writer, "is a dignity, though his glory be somewhat faded and wan, and is to be spoken of accordingly."
The evil principle of Zoroaster was from eternity self-created and existent, and some of the early Christian sects held the same opinion. The gospel, however, affords no countenance to this notion of a divided sovereignty of the universe. The Divine Teacher, it is true, in discoursing of evil, made use of the language prevalent in His time, and which was adapted to the gross conceptions of His Jewish bearers; but He nowhere presents the embodiment of sin as an antagonism to the absolute power and perfect goodness of God, of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things. Pure himself, He can create nothing impure. Evil, therefore, has no eternity in the past. The fact of its present actual existence is indeed strongly stated; and it is not given us to understand the secret of that divine alchemy whereby pain, and sin, and discord become the means to beneficent ends worthy of the revealed attributes of the Infinite Parent. Unsolved by human reason or philosophy, the dark mystery remains to baffle the generations of men; and only to the eye of humble and childlike faith can it ever be reconciled to the purity, justice, and mercy of Him who is "light, and in whom is no darkness at all."
"Do you not believe in the Devil?" some one once asked the Non-conformist Robinson. "I believe in God," was the reply; "don't you?"
Henry of Nettesheim says "that it is unanimously maintained that devils do wander up and down in the earth; but what they are, or how they are, ecclesiasticals have not clearly expounded." Origen, in his Platonic speculations on this subject, supposed them to be spirits who, by repentance, might be restored, that in the end all knees might be bowed to the Father of spirits, and He become all in all. Justin Martyr was of the opinion that many of them still hoped for their salvation; and the Cabalists held that this hope of theirs was well founded. One is irresistibly reminded here of the closing verse of the _Address to the Deil_, by Burns:--
"But fare ye weel, Auld Nickie ben! Gin ye wad take a thought and mend, Ye aiblins might--I dinna ken-- Still has a stake I'm was to think upon yon den Fen for your sake."
The old schoolmen and fathers seem to agree that the Devil and his ministers have bodies in some sort material, subject to passions and liable to injury and pain. Origen has a curious notion that any evil spirit who, in a contest with a human being, is defeated, loses from thenceforth all his power of mischief, and may be compared to a wasp who has lost his sting.
"The Devil," said Samson Occum, the famous Indian preacher, in a discourse on temperance, "is a gentleman, and never drinks." Nevertheless it is a remarkable fact, and worthy of the serious consideration of all who "tarry long at the wine," that, in that state of the drunkard's malady known as delirium tremens, the adversary, in some shape or other, is generally visible to the sufferers, or at least, as Winslow says of the Powahs, "he appeareth more familiarly to them than to others." I recollect a statement made to me by a gentleman who has had bitter experience of the evils of intemperance, and who is at this time devoting his fine talents to the cause of philanthropy and mercy, as the editor of one of our best temperance journals, which left a most vivid impression on my mind. He had just returned from a sea-voyage; and, for the sake of enjoying a debauch, unmolested by his friends, took up his abode in a rum-selling tavern in a somewhat lonely location on the seaboard. Here he drank for many days without stint, keeping himself the whole time in a state of semi-intoxication. One night he stood leaning against a tree, looking listlessly and vacantly out upon the ocean; the waves breaking on the beach, and the white sails of passing vessels vaguely impressing him like the pictures of a dream. He was startled by a voice whispering hoarsely in his ear, _"You have murdered a man; the officers of justice are after you; you must fly for your life!"_ Every syllable was pronounced slowly and separately; and there was something in the hoarse, gasping sound of the whisper which was indescribably dreadful. He looked around him, and seeing nothing but the clear moonlight on the grass, became partially sensible that he was the victim of illusion, and a sudden fear of insanity thrilled him with a momentary horror. Rallying himself, he returned to the tavern, drank another glass of brandy, and retired to his chamber. He had scarcely lain his head on the pillow when he heard that hoarse, low, but terribly distinct whisper, repeating the same words. He describes his sensations at this time as inconceivably fearful. Reason was struggling with insanity; but amidst the confusion and mad disorder one terrible thought evolved itself. Had he not, in a moment of mad frenzy of which his memory made no record, actually murdered some one? And was not this a warning from Heaven? Leaving his bed and opening his door, he heard the words again repeated, with the addition, in a tone of intense earnestness, "Follow me!" He walked forward in the direction of the sound, through a long entry, to the head of the staircase, where he paused for a moment, when again he heard the whisper, half-way down the stairs, "Follow me!"
Trembling with terror, he passed down two flights of stairs, and found himself treading on the cold brick floor of a large room in the basement, or cellar, where he had never been before. The voice still beckoned him onward; and, groping after it, his hand touched an upright post, against which he leaned for a moment. He heard it again, apparently only two or three yards in front of him "You have murdered a man; the officers are close behind you; follow me!" Putting one foot forward while his hand still grasped the post, it fell upon empty air, and he with difficulty recovered himself. Stooping down and feeling with his hands, he found himself on the very edge of a large uncovered cistern, or tank, filled nearly to the top with water. The sudden shock of this discovery broke the horrible enchantment. The whisperer was silent. He believed, at the time, that he had been the subject, and well-nigh the victim, of a diabolical delusion; and he states that, even now, with the recollection of that strange whisper is always associated a thought of the universal tempter.
Our worthy ancestors were, in their own view of the matter, the advance guard and forlorn hope of Christendom in its contest with the bad angel. The New World, into which they had so valiantly pushed the outposts of the Church militant, was to them, not God's world, but the Devil's. They stood there on their little patch of sanctified territory like the gamekeeper of Der Freischutz in the charmed circle; within were prayer and fasting, unmelodious psalmody and solemn hewing of heretics, "before the Lord in Gilgal;" without were "dogs and sorcerers, red children of perdition, Powah wizards," and "the foul fiend." In their grand old wilderness, broken by fair, broad rivers and dotted with loveliest lakes, hanging with festoons of leaf, and vine, and flower, the steep sides of mountains whose naked tops rose over the surrounding verdure like altars of a giant world,--with its early summer greenness and the many-colored wonder of its autumn, all glowing as if the rainbows of a summer shower had fallen upon it, under the clear, rich light of a sun to which the misty day of their cold island was as moonlight,--they saw no beauty, they recognized no holy revelation. It was to them terrible as the forest which Dante traversed on his way to the world of pain. Every advance step they made was upon the enemy's territory. And one has only to read the writings of the two Mathers to perceive that that enemy was to them no metaphysical abstraction, no scholastic definition, no figment of a poetical fancy, but a living, active reality, alternating between the sublimest possibilities of evil and the lowest details of mean mischief; now a "tricksy spirit," disturbing the good-wife's platters or soiling her newwashed linen, and anon riding the storm-cloud and pointing its thunder-bolts; for, as the elder Mather pertinently inquires, "how else is it that our meeting-houses are burned by the lightning?" What was it, for instance, but his subtlety which, speaking through the lips of Madame Hutchinson, confuted the "judges of Israel" and put to their wits' end the godly ministers of the Puritan Zion? Was not his evil finger manifested in the contumacious heresy of Roger Williams? Who else gave the Jesuit missionaries--locusts from the pit as they were--such a hold on the affections of those very savages who would not have scrupled to hang the scalp of pious Father Wilson himself from their girdles? To the vigilant eye of Puritanism was he not alike discernible in the light wantonness of the May-pole revellers, beating time with the cloven foot to the vain music of obscene dances, and in the silent, hat-canopied gatherings of the Quakers, "the most melancholy of the sects," as Dr. Moore calls them? Perilous and glorious was it, under these circumstances, for such men as Mather and Stoughton to gird up their stout loins and do battle with the unmeasured, all-surrounding terror. Let no man lightly estimate their spiritual knight-errantry. The heroes of old romance, who went about smiting dragons, lopping giants' heads, and otherwise pleasantly diverting themselves, scarcely deserve mention in comparison with our New England champions, who, trusting not to carnal sword and lance, in a contest with principalities and powers, "spirits that live throughout, Vital in every part, not as frail man,"-- encountered their enemies with weapons forged by the stern spiritual armorer of Geneva. The life of Cotton Mather is as full of romance as the legends of Ariosto or the tales of Beltenebros and Florisando in Amadis de Gaul. All about him was enchanted ground; devils glared on him in his "closet wrestlings;" portents blazed in the heavens above him; while he, commissioned and set apart as the watcher, and warder, and spiritual champion of "the chosen people," stood ever ready for battle, with open eye and quick ear for the detection of the subtle approaches of the enemy. No wonder is it that the spirits of evil combined against him; that they beset him as they did of old St. Anthony; that they shut up the bowels of the General Court against his long-cherished hope of the presidency of Old Harvard; that they even had the audacity to lay hands on his anti-diabolical manuscripts, or that "ye divil that was in ye girl flewe at and tore" his grand sermon against witches. How edifying is his account of the young bewitched maiden whom he kept in his house for the purpose of making experiments which should satisfy all "obstinate Sadducees"! How satisfactory to orthodoxy and confounding to heresy is the nice discrimination of "ye divil in ye girl," who was choked in attempting to read the Catechism, yet found no trouble with a pestilent Quaker pamphlet; who was quiet and good-humored when the worthy Doctor was idle, but went into paroxysms of rage when he sat down to indite his diatribes against witches and familiar spirits!
(The Quakers appear to have, at a comparatively early period, emancipated themselves in a great degree from the grosser superstitions of their times. William Penn, indeed, had a law in his colony against witchcraft; but the first trial of a person suspected of this offence seems to have opened his eyes to its absurdity. George Fox, judging from one or two passages in his journal, appears to have held the common opinions of the day on the subject; yet when confined in Doomsdale dungeon, on being told that the place was haunted and that the spirits of those who had died there still walked at night in his room, he replied, "that if all the spirits and devils in hell were there, he was over them in the power of God, and feared no such thing."
The enemies of the Quakers, in order to account for the power and influence of their first preachers, accused them of magic and sorcery. "The Priest of Wakefield," says George Fox (one trusts he does not allude to our old friend the Vicar), "raised many wicked slanders upon me, as that I carried bottles with me and made people drink, and that made them follow me; that I rode upon a great black horse, and was seen in one county upon my black horse in one hour, and in the same hour in another county fourscore miles off." In his account of the mob which beset him at Walney Island, he says: "When I came to myself I saw James Lancaster's wife throwing stones at my face, and her husband lying over me to keep off the blows and stones; for the people had persuaded her that I had bewitched her husband."
Cotton Mather attributes the plague of witchcraft in New England in about an equal degree to the Quakers and Indians. The first of the sect who visited Boston, Ann Austin and Mary Fisher,--the latter a young girl,--were seized upon by Deputy-Governor Bellingham, in the absence of Governor Endicott, and shamefully stripped naked for the purpose of ascertaining whether they were witches with the Devil's mark on them. In 1662 Elizabeth Horton and Joan Broksop, two venerable preachers of the sect, were arrested in Boston, charged by Governor Endicott with being witches, and carried two days' journey into the woods, and left to the tender mercies of Indians and wolves.)
All this is pleasant enough now; we can laugh at the Doctor and his demons; but little matter of laughter was it to the victims on Salem Hill; to the prisoners in the jails; to poor Giles Corey, tortured with planks upon his breast, which forced the tongue from his mouth and his life from his old, palsied body; to bereaved and quaking families; to a whole community, priest-ridden and spectresmitten, gasping in the sick dream of a spiritual nightmare and given over to believe a lie. We may laugh, for the grotesque is blended with the horrible; but we must also pity and shudder. The clear-sighted men who confronted that delusion in its own age, disenchanting, with strong good sense and sharp ridicule, their spell-bound generation,--the German Wierus, the Italian D'Apone, the English Scot, and the New England Calef,--deserve high honors as the benefactors of their race. It is true they were branded through life as infidels and "damnable Sadducees;" but the truth which they uttered lived after them, and wrought out its appointed work, for it had a Divine commission and Godspeed.
"The oracles are dumb; No voice nor hideous hum
Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving;
Apollo from his shrine Can now no more divine,
With hollow shriek the steep of Delphus leaving."
Dimmer and dimmer, as the generations pass away, this tremendous terror, this all-pervading espionage of evil, this active incarnation of motiveless malignity, presents itself to the imagination. The once imposing and solemn rite of exorcism has become obsolete in the Church. Men are no longer, in any quarter of the world, racked or pressed under planks to extort a confession of diabolical alliance. The heretic now laughs to scorn the solemn farce of the Church which, in the name of the All-Merciful, formally delivers him over to Satan. And for the sake of abused and long-cheated humanity let us rejoice that it is so, when we consider how for long, weary centuries the millions of professed Christendom stooped, awestricken, under the yoke of spiritual and temporal despotism, grinding on from generation to generation in a despair which had passed complaining, because superstition, in alliance with tyranny, had filled their upward pathway to freedom with shapes of terror,--the spectres of God's wrath to the uttermost, the fiend, and that torment the smoke of which rises forever. Through fear of a Satan of the future,--a sort of ban-dog of priestcraft, held in its leash and ready to be let loose upon the disputers of its authority,--our toiling brothers of past ages have permitted their human taskmasters to convert God's beautiful world, so adorned and fitted for the peace and happiness of all, into a great prison-house of suffering, filled with the actual terrors which the imagination of the old poets gave to the realm of Rhadamanthus. And hence, while I would not weaken in the slightest degree the influence of that doctrine of future retribution,--the accountability of the spirit for the deeds done in the body,--the truth of which reason, revelation, and conscience unite in attesting as the necessary result of the preservation in another state of existence of the soul's individuality and identity, I must, nevertheless, rejoice that the many are no longer willing to permit the few, for their especial benefit, to convert our common Father's heritage into a present hell, where, in return for undeserved suffering and toil uncompensated, they can have gracious and comfortable assurance of release from a future one. Better is the fear of the Lord than the fear of the Devil; holier and more acceptable the obedience of love and reverence than the submission of slavish terror. The heart which has felt the "beauty of holiness," which has been in some measure attuned to the divine harmony which now, as of old in the angel-hymn of the Advent, breathes of "glory to God, peace on earth, and good-will to men," in the serene atmosphere of that "perfect love which casteth out fear," smiles at the terrors which throng the sick dreams of the sensual, which draw aside the nightcurtains of guilt, and startle with whispers of revenge the oppressor of the poor.
There is a beautiful moral in one of Fouque's miniature romances,--_Die Kohlerfamilie_. The fierce spectre, which rose giant-like, in its bloodred mantle, before the selfish and mercenary merchant, ever increasing in size and, terror with the growth of evil and impure thought in the mind of the latter, subdued by prayer, and penitence, and patient watchfulness over the heart's purity, became a loving and gentle visitation of soft light and meekest melody; "a beautiful radiance, at times hovering and flowing on before the traveller, illuminating the bushes and foliage of the mountain-forest; a lustre strange and lovely, such as the soul may conceive, but no words express. He felt its power in the depths of his being,--felt it like the mystic breathing of the Spirit of God."
The excellent Baxter and other pious men of his day deprecated in all sincerity and earnestness the growing disbelief in witchcraft and diabolical agency, fearing that mankind, losing faith in a visible Satan and in the supernatural powers of certain paralytic old women, would diverge into universal skepticism. It is one of the saddest of sights to see these good men standing sentry at the horn gate of dreams; attempting against the most discouraging odds to defend their poor fallacies from profane and irreverent investigation; painfully pleading doubtful Scripture and still more doubtful tradition in behalf of detected and convicted superstitions tossed on the sharp horns of ridicule, stretched on the rack of philosophy, or perishing under the exhausted receiver of science. A clearer knowledge of the aspirations, capacities, and necessities of the human soul, and of the revelations which the infinite Spirit makes to it, not only through the senses by the phenomena of outward nature, but by that inward and direct communion which, under different names, has been recognized by the devout and thoughtful of every religious sect and school of philosophy, would have saved them much anxious labor and a good deal of reproach withal in their hopeless championship of error. The witches of Baxter and "the black man" of Mather have vanished; belief in them is no longer possible on the part of sane men. But this mysterious universe, through which, half veiled in its own shadow, our dim little planet is wheeling, with its star worlds and thought-wearying spaces, remains. Nature's mighty miracle is still over and around us; and hence awe, wonder, and reverence remain to be the inheritance of humanity; still are there beautiful repentances and holy deathbeds; and still over the soul's darkness and confusion rises, starlike, the great idea of duty. By higher and better influences than the poor spectres of superstition, man must henceforth be taught to reverence the Invisible, and, in the consciousness of his own weakness, and sin, and sorrow, to lean with childlike trust on the wisdom and mercy of an overruling Providence,--walking by faith through the shadow and mystery, and cheered by the remembrance that, whatever may be his apparent allotment,--
"God's greatness flows around our incompleteness; Round our restlessness His rest."
It is a sad spectacle to find the glad tidings of the Christian faith and its "reasonable service" of devotion transformed by fanaticism and credulity into superstitious terror and wild extravagance; but, if possible, there is one still sadder. It is that of men in our own time regarding with satisfaction such evidences of human weakness, and professing to find in them new proofs of their miserable theory of a godless universe, and new occasion for sneering at sincere devotion as cant, and humble reverence as fanaticism. Alas! in comparison with such, the religious enthusiast, who in the midst of his delusion still feels that he is indeed a living soul and an heir of immortality, to whom God speaks from the immensities of His universe, is a sane man. Better is it, in a life like ours, to be even a howling dervis or a dancing Shaker, confronting imaginary demons with Thalaba's talisman of faith, than to lose the consciousness of our own spiritual nature, and look upon ourselves as mere brute masses of animal organization,--barnacles on a dead universe; looking into the dull grave with no hope beyond it; earth gazing into earth, and saying to corruption, "Thou art my father," and to the worm, "Thou art my sister."
HAMLET AMONG THE GRAVES. (1844.)
AN amiable enthusiast, immortal in his beautiful little romance of Paul and Virginia, has given us in his Miscellanies a chapter on the Pleasures of Tombs,--a title singular enough, yet not inappropriate; for the meek- spirited and sentimental author has given, in his own flowing and eloquent language, its vindication. "There is," says he, "a voluptuous melancholy arising from the contemplation of tombs; the result, like every other attractive sensation, of the harmony of two opposite principles,--from the sentiment of our fleeting life and that of our immortality, which unite in view of the last habitation of mankind. A tomb is a monument erected on the confines of two worlds. It first presents to us the end of the vain disquietudes of life and the image of everlasting repose; it afterwards awakens in us the confused sentiment of a blessed immortality, the probabilities of which grow stronger and stronger in proportion as the person whose memory is recalled was a virtuous character.
"It is from this intellectual instinct, therefore, in favor of virtue, that the tombs of great men inspire us with a veneration so affecting. From the same sentiment, too, it is that those which contain objects that have been lovely excite so much pleasing regret; for the attractions of love arise entirely out of the appearances of virtue. Hence it is that we are moved at the sight of the small hillock which covers the ashes of an infant, from the recollection of its innocence; hence it is that we are melted into tenderness on contemplating the tomb in which is laid to repose a young female, the delight and the hope of her family by reason of her virtues. In order to give interest to such monuments, there is no need of bronzes, marbles, and gildings. The more simple they are, the more energy they communicate to the sentiment of melancholy. They produce a more powerful effect when poor rather than rich, antique rather than modern, with details of misfortune rather than titles of honor, with the attributes of virtue rather than with those of power. It is in the country principally that their impression makes itself felt in a very lively manner. A simple, unornamented grave there causes more tears to flow than the gaudy splendor of a cathedral interment. There it is that grief assumes sublimity; it ascends with the aged yews in the churchyard; it extends with the surrounding hills and plains; it allies itself with all the effects of Nature,--with the dawning of the morning, with the murmuring of wind, with the setting of the sun, and with the darkness of the night."
Not long since I took occasion to visit the cemetery near this city. It is a beautiful location for a "city of the dead,"--a tract of some forty or fifty acres on the eastern bank of the Concord, gently undulating, and covered with a heavy growth of forest-trees, among which the white oak is conspicuous. The ground beneath has been cleared of undergrowth, and is marked here and there with monuments and railings enclosing "family lots." It is a quiet, peaceful spot; the city, with its crowded mills, its busy streets and teeming life, is hidden from view; not even a solitary farm-house attracts the eye. All is still and solemn, as befits the place where man and nature lie down together; where leaves of the great lifetree, shaken down by death, mingle and moulder with the frosted foliage of the autumnal forest.
Yet the contrast of busy life is not wanting. The Lowell and Boston Railroad crosses the river within view of the cemetery; and, standing there in the silence and shadow, one can see the long trains rushing along their iron pathway, thronged with living, breathing humanity,--the young, the beautiful, the gay,--busy, wealth-seeking manhood of middle years, the child at its mother's knee, the old man with whitened hairs, hurrying on, on,--car after car,--like the generations of man sweeping over the track of time to their last 'still resting-place.
It is not the aged and the sad of heart who make this a place of favorite resort. The young, the buoyant, the light-hearted, come and linger among these flower-sown graves, watching the sunshine falling in broken light upon these cold, white marbles, and listening to the song of birds in these leafy recesses. Beautiful and sweet to the young heart is the gentle shadow of melancholy which here falls upon it, soothing, yet sad, --a sentiment midway between joy and sorrow. How true is it, that, in the language of Wordsworth,--
"In youth we love the darkling lawn, Brushed by the owlet's wing; Then evening is preferred to dawn, And autumn to the spring. Sad fancies do we then affect, In luxury of disrespect To our own prodigal excess Of too familiar happiness."
The Chinese, from the remotest antiquity, have adorned and decorated their grave-grounds with shrubs and sweet flowers, as places of popular resort. The Turks have their graveyards planted with trees, through which the sun looks in upon the turban stones of the faithful, and beneath which the relatives of the dead sit in cheerful converse through the long days of summer, in all the luxurious quiet and happy indifference of the indolent East. Most of the visitors whom I met at the Lowell cemetery wore cheerful faces; some sauntered laughingly along, apparently unaffected by the associations of the place; too full, perhaps, of life, and energy, and high hope to apply to themselves the stern and solemn lesson which is taught even by these flower-garlanded mounds. But, for myself, I confess that I am always awed by the presence of the dead. I cannot jest above the gravestone. My spirit is silenced and rebuked before the tremendous mystery of which the grave reminds me, and involuntarily pays:
"The deep reverence taught of old, The homage of man's heart to death."
Even Nature's cheerful air, and sun, and birdvoices only serve to remind me that there are those beneath who have looked on the same green leaves and sunshine, felt the same soft breeze upon their cheeks, and listened to the same wild music of the woods for the last time. Then, too, comes the saddening reflection, to which so many have given expression, that these trees will put forth their leaves, the slant sunshine still fall upon green meadows and banks of flowers, and the song of the birds and the ripple of waters still be heard after our eyes and ears have closed forever. It is hard for us to realize this. We are so accustomed to look upon these things as a part of our life environment that it seems strange that they should survive us. Tennyson, in his exquisite metaphysical poem of the Two Voices, has given utterance to this sentiment:--
"Alas! though I should die, I know That all about the thorn will blow In tufts of rosy-tinted snow.
"Not less the bee will range her cells, The furzy prickle fire the dells, The foxglove cluster dappled bells."
"The pleasures of the tombs!" Undoubtedly, in the language of the Idumean, seer, there are many who "rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they can find the grave;" who long for it "as the servant earnestly desireth the shadow." Rest, rest to the sick heart and the weary brain, to the long afflicted and the hopeless,--rest on the calm bosom of our common mother. Welcome to the tired ear, stunned and confused with life's jarring discords, the everlasting silence; grateful to the weary eyes which "have seen evil, and not good," the everlasting shadow.
Yet over all hangs the curtain of a deep mystery,--a curtain lifted only on one side by the hands of those who are passing under its solemn shadow. No voice speaks to us from beyond it, telling of the unknown state; no hand from within puts aside the dark drapery to reveal the mysteries towards which we are all moving. "Man giveth up the ghost; and where is he?"
Thanks to our Heavenly Father, He has not left us altogether without an answer to this momentous question. Over the blackness of darkness a light is shining. The valley of the shadow of death is no longer "a land of darkness and where the light is as darkness." The presence of a serene and holy life pervades it. Above its pale tombs and crowded burial-places, above the wail of despairing humanity, the voice of Him who awakened life and beauty beneath the grave-clothes of the tomb at Bethany is heard proclaiming, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." We know not, it is true, the conditions of our future life; we know not what it is to pass fromm this state of being to another; but before us in that dark passage has gone the Man of Nazareth, and the light of His footsteps lingers in the path. Where He, our Brother in His humanity, our Redeemer in His divine nature, has gone, let us not fear to follow. He who ordereth all aright will uphold with His own great arm the frail spirit when its incarnation is ended; and it may be, that, in language which I have elsewhere used,
--when Time's veil shall fall asunder, The soul may know No fearful change nor sudden wonder, Nor sink the weight of mystery under, But with the upward rise and with the vastness grow.
And all we shrink from now may seem No new revealing; Familiar as our childhood's stream, Or pleasant memory of a dream, The loved and cherished past upon the new life stealing.
Serene and mild the untried light May have its dawning; As meet in summer's northern night The evening gray and dawning white, The sunset hues of Time blend with the soul's new morning.
THERE are times when, looking only on the surface of things, one is almost ready to regard Lowell as a sort of sacred city of Mammon,--the Benares of gain: its huge mills, temples; its crowded dwellings, lodging- places of disciples and "proselytes within the gate;" its warehouses, stalls for the sale of relics. A very mean idol-worship, too, unrelieved by awe and reverence,--a selfish, earthward-looking devotion to the "least-erected spirit that fell from paradise." I grow weary of seeing man and mechanism reduced to a common level, moved by the same impulse, answering to the same bell-call. A nightmare of materialism broods over all. I long at times to hear a voice crying through the streets like that of one of the old prophets proclaiming the great first truth,--that the Lord alone is God.
Yet is there not another side to the picture? High over sounding workshops spires glisten in the sun,--silent fingers pointing heavenward. The workshops themselves are instinct with other and subtler processes than cotton-spinning or carpet-weaving. Each human being who watches beside jack or power loom feels more or less intensely that it is a solemn thing to live. Here are sin and sorrow, yearnings for lost peace, outgushing gratitude of forgiven spirits, hopes and fears, which stretch beyond the horizon of time into eternity. Death is here. The graveyard utters its warning. Over all bends the eternal heaven in its silence and mystery. Nature, even here, is mightier than Art, and God is above all. Underneath the din of labor and the sounds of traffic, a voice, felt rather than beard, reaches the heart, prompting the same fearful questions which stirred the soul of the world's oldest poet,--"If a man die, shall he live again?" "Man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?" Out of the depths of burdened and weary hearts comes up the agonizing inquiry, "What shall I do to be saved?" "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
As a matter of course, in a city like this, composed of all classes of our many-sided population, a great variety of religious sects have their representatives in Lowell. The young city is dotted over with "steeple houses," most of them of the Yankee order of architecture. The Episcopalians have a house of worship on Merrimac Street,--a pile of dark stone, with low Gothic doors and arched windows. A plat of grass lies between it and the dusty street; and near it stands the dwelling-house intended for the minister, built of the same material as the church and surrounded by trees and shrubbery. The attention of the stranger is also attracted by another consecrated building on the hill slope of Belvidere,--one of Irving's a "shingle palaces," painted in imitation of stone,--a great wooden sham, "whelked and horned" with pine spires and turrets, a sort of whittled representation of the many-beaded beast of the Apocalypse.
In addition to the established sects which have reared their visible altars in the City of Spindles, there are many who have not yet marked the boundaries or set up the pillars and stretched out the curtains of their sectarian tabernacles; who, in halls and "upper chambers" and in the solitude of their own homes, keep alive the spirit of devotion, and, wrapping closely around them the mantles of their order, maintain the integrity of its peculiarities in the midst of an unbelieving generation.
Not long since, in company with a friend who is a regular attendant, I visited the little meeting of the disciples of Emanuel Swedenborg. Passing over Chapel Hill and leaving the city behind us, we reached the stream which winds through the beautiful woodlands at the Powder Mills and mingles its waters with the Concord. The hall in which the followers of the Gothland seer meet is small and plain, with unpainted seats, like those of "the people called Quakers," and looks out upon the still woods and that "willowy stream which turns a mill." An organ of small size, yet, as it seemed to me, vastly out of proportion with the room, filled the place usually occupied by the pulpit, which was here only a plain desk, placed modestly by the side of it. The congregation have no regular preacher, but the exercises of reading the Scriptures, prayers, and selections from the Book of Worship were conducted by one of the lay members. A manuscript sermon, by a clergyman of the order in Boston, was read, and apparently listened to with much interest. It was well written and deeply imbued with the doctrines of the church. I was impressed by the gravity and serious earnestness of the little audience. There were here no circumstances calculated to excite enthusiasm, nothing of the pomp of religious rites and ceremonies; only a settled conviction of the truth of the doctrines of their faith could have thus brought them together. I could scarcely make the fact a reality, as I sat among them, that here, in the midst of our bare and hard utilities, in the very centre and heart of our mechanical civilization, were devoted and undoubting believers in the mysterious and wonderful revelations of the Swedish prophet,--revelations which look through all external and outward manifestations to inward realities; which regard all objects in the world of sense only as the types and symbols of the world of spirit; literally unmasking the universe and laying bare the profoundest mysteries of life.
The character and writings of Emanuel Swedenborg constitute one of the puzzles and marvels of metaphysics and psychology. A man remarkable for his practical activities, an ardent scholar of the exact sciences, versed in all the arcana of physics, a skilful and inventive mechanician, he has evolved from the hard and gross materialism of his studies a system of transcendent spiritualism. From his aggregation of cold and apparently lifeless practical facts beautiful and wonderful abstractions start forth like blossoms on the rod of the Levite. A politician and a courtier, a man of the world, a mathematician engaged in the soberest details of the science, he has given to the world, in the simplest and most natural language, a series of speculations upon the great mystery of being: detailed, matter-of-fact narratives of revelations from the spiritual world, which at once appall us by their boldness, and excite our wonder at their extraordinary method, logical accuracy, and perfect consistency. These remarkable speculations--the workings of a mind in which a powerful imagination allied itself with superior reasoning faculties, the marvellous current of whose thought ran only in the diked and guarded channels of mathematical demonstration--he uniformly speaks of as "facts." His perceptions of abstractions were so intense that they seem to have reached that point where thought became sensible to sight as well as feeling. What he thought, that he saw.
He relates his visions of the spiritual world as he would the incidents of a walk round his own city of Stockholm. One can almost see him in his "brown coat and velvet breeches," lifting his "cocked hat" to an angel, or keeping an unsavory spirit at arm's length with that "gold-headed cane" which his London host describes as his inseparable companion in walking. His graphic descriptions have always an air of naturalness and probability; yet there is a minuteness of detail at times almost bordering on the ludicrous. In his Memorable Relations he manifests nothing of the imagination of Milton, overlooking the closed gates of paradise, or following the "pained fiend" in his flight through chaos; nothing of Dante's terrible imagery appalls us; we are led on from heaven to heaven very much as Defoe leads us after his shipwrecked Crusoe. We can scarcely credit the fact that we are not traversing our lower planet; and the angels seem vastly like our common acquaintances. We seem to recognize the "John Smiths," and "Mr. Browns," and "the old familiar faces" of our mundane habitation. The evil principle in Swedenborg's picture is, not the colossal and massive horror of the Inferno, nor that stern wrestler with fate who darkens the canvas of Paradise Lost, but an aggregation of poor, confused spirits, seeking rest and finding none save in the unsavory atmosphere of the "falses." These small fry of devils remind us only of certain unfortunate fellows whom we have known, who seem incapable of living in good and wholesome society, and who are manifestly given over to believe a lie. Thus it is that the very "heavens" and "hells" of the Swedish mystic seem to be "of the earth, earthy." He brings the spiritual world into close analogy with the material one.
In this hurried paper I have neither space nor leisure to attempt an analysis of the great doctrines which underlie the "revelations" of Swedenborg. His remarkably suggestive books are becoming familiar to the reading and reflecting portion of the community. They are not unworthy of study; but, in the language of another, I would say, "Emulate Swedenborg in his exemplary life, his learning, his virtues, his independent thought, his desire for wisdom, his love of the good and true; aim to be his equal, his superior, in these things; but call no man your master."
THE BETTER LAND. (1844.)
"THE shapings of our heavens are the modifications of our constitution," said Charles Lamb, in his reply to Southey's attack upon him in the Quarterly Review.
He who is infinite in love as well as wisdom has revealed to us the fact of a future life, and the fearfully important relation in which the present stands to it. The actual nature and conditions of that life He has hidden from us,--no chart of the ocean of eternity is given us,--no celestial guidebook or geography defines, localizes, and prepares us for the wonders of the spiritual world. Hence imagination has a wide field for its speculations, which, so long as they do not positively contradict the revelation of the Scriptures, cannot be disproved.
We naturally enough transfer to our idea of heaven whatever we love and reverence on earth. Thither the Catholic carries in his fancy the imposing rites and time-honored solemnities of his worship. There the Methodist sees his love-feasts and camp-meetings in the groves and by the still waters and green pastures of the blessed abodes. The Quaker, in the stillness of his self-communing, remembers that there was "silence in heaven."
The Churchman, listening to the solemn chant of weal music or the deep tones of the organ, thinks of the song of the elders and the golden harps of the New Jerusalem.
The heaven of the northern nations of Europe was a gross and sensual reflection of the earthly life of a barbarous and brutal people.
The Indians of North America had a vague notion of a sunset land, a beautiful paradise far in the west, mountains and forests filled with deer and buffalo, lakes and streams swarming with fishes,--the happy hunting-ground of souls. In a late letter from a devoted missionary among the Western Indians (Paul Blohm, a converted Jew) we have noticed a beautiful illustration of this belief. Near the Omaha mission-house, on a high luff, was a solitary Indian grave. "One evening," says the missionary, "having come home with some cattle which I had been seeking, I heard some one wailing; and, looking in the direction from whence I proceeded, I found it to be from the grave near our house. In a moment after a mourner rose up from a kneeling or lying posture, and, turning to the setting sun, stretched forth his arms in prayer and supplication with an intensity and earnestness as though he would detain the splendid luminary from running his course. With his body leaning forward and his arms stretched towards the sun, he presented a most striking figure of sorrow and petition. It was solemnly awful. He seemed to me to be one of the ancients come forth to teach me how to pray."
A venerable and worthy New England clergyman, on his death-bed, just before the close of his life, declared that he was only conscious of an awfully solemn and intense curiosity to know the great secret of death and eternity.
The excellent Dr. Nelson, of Missouri, was one who, while on earth, seemed to live another and higher life in the contemplation of infinite purity and happiness. A friend once related an incident concerning him which made a deep impression upon my mind. They had been travelling through a summer's forenoon in the prairie, and had lain down to rest beneath a solitary tree. The Doctor lay for a long time, silently looking upwards through the openings of the boughs into the still heavens, when he repeated the following lines, in a low tone, as if communing with himself in view of the wonders he described:--
"O the joys that are there mortal eye bath not seen! O the songs they sing there, with hosannas between! O the thrice-blessed song of the Lamb and of Moses! O brightness on brightness! the pearl gate uncloses! O white wings of angels! O fields white with roses! O white tents of peace, where the rapt soul reposes O the waters so still, and the pastures so green!"
The brief hints afforded us by the sacred writings concerning the better land are inspiring and beautiful. Eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive of the good in store for the righteous. Heaven is described as a quiet habitation,--a rest remaining for the people of God. Tears shall be wiped away from all eyes; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. To how many death-beds have these words spoken peace! How many failing hearts have gathered strength from them to pass through the dark valley of shadows!
Yet we should not forget that "the kingdom of heaven is within;" that it is the state and affections of the soul, the answer of a good conscience, the sense of harmony with God, a condition of time as well as of eternity. What is really momentous and all-important with us is the present, by which the future is shaped and colored. A mere change of locality cannot alter the actual and intrinsic qualities of the soul. Guilt and remorse would make the golden streets of Paradise intolerable as the burning marl of the infernal abodes; while purity and innocence would transform hell itself into heaven.
DORA GREEN WELL.
First published as an introduction to an American edition of that author's _The Patience of Hope_.
THERE are men who, irrespective of the names by which they are called in the Babel confusion of sects, are endeared to the common heart of Christendom. Our doors open of their own accord to receive them. For in them we feel that in some faint degree, and with many limitations, the Divine is again manifested: something of the Infinite Love shines out of them; their very garments have healing and fragrance borrowed from the bloom of Paradise. So of books. There are volumes which perhaps contain many things, in the matter of doctrine and illustration, to which our reason does not assent, but which nevertheless seem permeated with a certain sweetness and savor of life. They have the Divine seal and imprimatur; they are fragrant with heart's-ease and asphodel; tonic with the leaves which are for the healing of the nations. The meditations of the devout monk of Kempen are the common heritage of Catholic and Protestant; our hearts burn within us as we walk with Augustine under Numidian fig-trees in the gardens of Verecundus; Feuelon from his bishop's palace and John Woolman from his tailor's shop speak to us in the same language. The unknown author of that book which Luther loved next to his Bible, the Theologia Germanica, is just as truly at home in this present age, and in the ultra Protestantism of New England, as in the heart of Catholic Europe, and in the fourteenth century. For such books know no limitations of time or place; they have the perpetual freshness and fitness of truth; they speak out of profound experience heart answers to heart as we read them; the spirit that is in man, and the inspiration that giveth understanding, bear witness to them. The bent and stress of their testimony are the same, whether written in this or a past century, by Catholic or Quaker: self-renunciation,-- reconcilement to the Divine will through simple faith in the Divine goodness, and the love of it which must needs follow its recognition, the life of Christ made our own by self-denial and sacrifice, and the fellowship of His suffering for the good of others, the indwelling Spirit, leading into all truth, the Divine Word nigh us, even in our hearts. They have little to do with creeds, or schemes of doctrine, or the partial and inadequate plans of salvation invented by human speculation and ascribed to Him who, it is sufficient to know, is able to save unto the uttermost all who trust in Him. They insist upon simple faith and holiness of life, rather than rituals or modes of worship; they leave the merely formal, ceremonial, and temporal part of religion to take care of itself, and earnestly seek for the substantial, the necessary, and the permanent.
With these legacies of devout souls, it seems to me, the little volume herewith presented is not wholly unworthy of a place. It assumes the life and power of the gospel as a matter of actual experience; it bears unmistakable evidence of a realization, on the part of its author, of the truth, that Christianity is not simply historical and traditional, but present and permanent, with its roots in the infinite past and its branches in the infinite future, the eternal spring and growth of Divine love; not the dying echo of words uttered centuries ago, never to be repeated, but God's good tidings spoken afresh in every soul,--the perennial fountain and unstinted outflow of wisdom and goodness, forever old and forever new. It is a lofty plea for patience, trust, hope, and holy confidence, under the shadow, as well as in the light, of Christian experience, whether the cloud seems to rest on the tabernacle, or moves guidingly forward. It is perhaps too exclusively addressed to those who minister in the inner sanctuary, to be entirely intelligible to the vaster number who wait in the outer courts; it overlooks, perhaps, too much the solidarity and oneness of humanity;' but all who read it will feel its earnestness, and confess to the singular beauty of its style, the strong, steady march of its argument, and the wide and varied learning which illustrates it.
("The good are not so good as I once thought, nor the bad so evil, and in all there is more for grace to make advantage of, and more to testify for God and holiness, than I once believed."--Baxter.)
To use the language of one of its reviewers in the Scottish press:--
"Beauty there is in the book; exquisite glimpses into the loveliness of nature here and there shine out from its lines,--a charm wanting which meditative writing always seems to have a defect; beautiful gleams, too, there are of the choicest things of art, and frequent allusions by the way to legend or picture of the religious past; so that, while you read, you wander by a clear brook of thought, coining far from the beautiful hills, and winding away from beneath the sunshine of gladness and beauty into the dense, mysterious forest of human existence, that loves to sing, amid the shadow of human darkness and anguish, its music of heavenborn consolation; bringing, too, its pure waters of cleansing and healing, yet evermore making its praise of holy affection and gladness; while it is still haunted by the spirits of prophet, saint, and poet, repeating snatches of their strains, and is led on, as by a spirit from above, to join the great river of God's truth. . . .
"This is a book for Christian men, for the quiet hour of holy solitude, when the heart longs and waits for access to the presence of the Master. The weary heart that thirsts amidst its conflicts and its toils for refreshing water will drink eagerly of these sweet and refreshing words. To thoughtful men and women, especially such as have learnt any of the patience of hope in the experiences of sorrow and trial, we commend this little volume most heartily and earnestly."
_The Patience of Hope_ fell into my hands soon after its publication in Edinburgh, some two years ago. I was at once impressed by its extraordinary richness of language and imagery,--its deep and solemn tone of meditation in rare combination with an eminently practical tendency,-- philosophy warm and glowing with love. It will, perhaps, be less the fault of the writer than of her readers, if they are not always able to eliminate from her highly poetical and imaginative language the subtle metaphysical verity or phase of religious experience which she seeks to express, or that they are compelled to pass over, without appropriation, many things which are nevertheless profoundly suggestive as vague possibilities of the highest life. All may not be able to find in some of her Scriptural citations the exact weight and significance so apparent to her own mind. She startles us, at times, by her novel applications of familiar texts, by meanings reflected upon them from her own spiritual intuitions, making the barren Baca of the letter a well. If the rendering be questionable, the beauty and quaint felicity of illustration and comparison are unmistakable; and we call to mind Augustine's saying, that two or more widely varying interpretations of Scripture may be alike true in themselves considered. "When one saith, Moses meant as I do,' and another saith, 'Nay, but as I do,' I ask, more reverently, 'Why not rather as both, if both be true?"
Some minds, for instance, will hesitate to assent to the use of certain Scriptural passages as evidence that He who is the Light of men, the Way and the Truth, in the mystery of His economy, designedly "delays, withdraws, and even hides Himself from those who love and follow Him." They will prefer to impute spiritual dearth and darkness to human weakness, to the selfishness which seeks a sign for itself, to evil imaginations indulged, to the taint and burden of some secret sin, or to some disease and exaggeration of the conscience, growing out of bodily infirmity, rather than to any purpose on the part of our Heavenly Father to perplex and mislead His children. The sun does not shine the less because one side of our planet is in darkness. To borrow the words of Augustine "Thou, Lord, forsakest nothing thou hast made. Thou alone art near to those even who remove far from thee. Let them turn and seek thee, for not as they have forsaken their Creator hast thou forsaken thy creation." It is only by holding fast the thought of Infinite Goodness, and interpreting doubtful Scripture and inward spiritual experience by the light of that central idea, that we can altogether escape the dreadful conclusion of Pascal, that revelation has been given us in dubious cipher, contradictory and mystical, in order that some, through miraculous aid, may understand it to their salvation, and others be mystified by it to their eternal loss.
I might mention other points of probable divergence between reader and writer, and indicate more particularly my own doubtful parse and hesitancy over some of these pages. But it is impossible for me to make one to whom I am so deeply indebted an offender for a word or a Scriptural rendering. On the grave and awful themes which she discusses, I have little to say in the way of controversy. I would listen, rather than criticise. The utterances of pious souls, in all ages, are to me often like fountains in a thirsty land, strengthening and refreshing, yet not without an after-taste of human frailty and inadequateness, a slight bitterness of disappointment and unsatisfied quest. Who has not felt at times that the letter killeth, that prophecies fail, and tongues cease to edify, and been ready to say, with the author of the Imitation of Christ: "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Let not Moses nor the prophets speak to me, but speak thou rather, who art the Inspirer and Enlightener of all. I am weary with reading and hearing many things; let all teachers hold their peace; let all creatures keep silence: speak thou alone to me."
The writer of The Patience of Hope had, previous to its publication, announced herself to a fit, if small, audience of earnest and thoughtful Christians, in a little volume entitled, A Present Heaven. She has recently published a collection of poems, of which so competent a judge as Dr. Brown, the author of _Horae Subsecivae_ and _Rab and his Friends_, thus speaks, in the _North British Review_:--
"Such of our readers--a fast increasing number--as have read and enjoyed _The Patience of Hope_, listening to the gifted nature which, through such deep and subtile thought, and through affection and godliness still deeper and more quick, has charmed and soothed them, will not be surprised to learn that she is not only poetical, but, what is more, a poet, and one as true as George Herbert and Henry Vaughan, or our own Cowper; for, with all our admiration of the searching, fearless speculation, the wonderful power of speaking clearly upon dark and all but unspeakable subjects, the rich outcome of 'thoughts that wander through eternity,' which increases every time we take up that wonderful little book, we confess we were surprised at the kind and the amount of true poetic _vis_ in these poems, from the same fine and strong hand. There is a personality and immediateness, a sort of sacredness and privacy, as if they were overheard rather than read, which gives to these remarkable productions a charm and a flavor all their own. With no effort, no consciousness of any end but that of uttering the inmost thoughts and desires of the heart, they flow out as clear, as living, as gladdening as the wayside well, coming from out the darkness of the central depths, filtered into purity by time and travel. The waters are copious, sometimes to overflowing; but they are always limpid and unforced, singing their own quiet tune, not saddening, though sometimes sad, and their darkness not that of obscurity, but of depth, like that of the deep sea.
"This is not a book to criticise or speak about, and we give no extracts from the longer, and in this case, we think, the better poems. In reading this Cardiphonia set to music, we have been often reminded, not only of Herbert and Vaughan, but of Keble,--a likeness of the spirit, not of the letter; for if there is any one poet who has given a bent to her mind, it is Wordsworth,--the greatest of all our century's poets, both in himself and in his power of making poets."
In the belief that whoever peruses the following pages will be sufficiently interested in their author to be induced to turn back and read over again, with renewed pleasure, extracts from her metrical writings, I copy from the volume so warmly commended a few brief pieces and extracts from the longer poems.
Here are three sonnets, each a sermon in itself:--
They who from mountain-peaks have gazed upon The wide, illimitable heavens have said, That, still receding as they climbed, outspread, The blue vault deepens over them, and, one By one drawn further back, each starry sun Shoots down a feebler splendor overhead So, Saviour, as our mounting spirits, led Along Faith's living way to Thee, have won A nearer access, up the difficult track Still pressing, on that rarer atmosphere, When low beneath us flits the cloudy rack, We see Thee drawn within a widening sphere Of glory, from us further, further back,-- Yet is it then because we are more near.
Top long have I, methought, with tearful eye Pored o'er this tangled work of mine, and mused Above each stitch awry and thread confused; Now will I think on what in years gone by I heard of them that weave rare tapestry At royal looms, and hew they constant use To work on the rough side, and still peruse The pictured pattern set above them high; So will I set my copy high above, And gaze and gaze till on my spirit grows Its gracious impress; till some line of love, Transferred upon my canvas, faintly glows; Nor look too much on warp or woof, provide He whom I work for sees their fairer side!
When I do think on thee, sweet Hope, and how Thou followest on our steps, a coaxing child Oft chidden hence, yet quickly reconciled, Still turning on us a glad, beaming brow, And red, ripe lips for kisses: even now Thou mindest me of him, the Ruler mild, Who led God's chosen people through the wild, And bore with wayward murmurers, meek as thou That bringest waters from the Rock, with bread Of angels strewing Earth for us! like him Thy force abates not, nor thine eye grows dim; But still with milk and honey-droppings fed, Thou leadest to the Promised Country fair, Though thou, like Moses, may'st not enter there
There is something very weird and striking in the following lines:--
Alone, at midnight as he knelt, his spirit was aware Of Somewhat falling in between the silence and the prayer;
A bell's dull clangor that hath sped so far, it faints and dies So soon as it hath reached the ear whereto its errand lies;
And as he rose up from his knees, his spirit was aware Of Somewhat, forceful and unseen, that sought to hold him there;
As of a Form that stood behind, and on his shoulders prest Both hands to stay his rising up, and Somewhat in his breast,
In accents clearer far than words, spake, "Pray yet longer, pray, For one that ever prayed for thee this night hath passed away;
"A soul, that climbing hour by hour the silver-shining stair That leads to God's great treasure-house, grew covetous; and there
"Was stored no blessing and no boon, for thee she did not claim, (So lowly, yet importunate!) and ever with thy name
"She link'd--that none in earth or heaven might hinder it or stay-- One Other Name, so strong, that thine hath never missed its way.
"This very night within my arms this gracious soul I bore Within the Gate, where many a prayer of hers had gone before;
"And where she resteth, evermore one constant song they raise Of 'Holy, holy,' so that now I know not if she prays;
"But for the voice of praise in Heaven, a voice of Prayer hath gone From Earth; thy name upriseth now no more; pray on, pray on!"
The following may serve as a specimen of the writer's lighter, half- playful strain of moralizing:--
"And where, and among what pleasant places, Have ye been, that ye come again With your laps so full of flowers, and your faces Like buds blown fresh after rain?"
"We have been," said the children, speaking In their gladness, as the birds chime, All together,--"we have been seeking For the Fairies of olden time; For we thought, they are only hidden,-- They would never surely go From this green earth all unbidden, And the children that love them so. Though they come not around us leaping, As they did when they and the world Were young, we shall find them sleeping Within some broad leaf curled; For the lily its white doors closes But only over the bee, And we looked through the summer roses, Leaf by leaf, so carefully.
But we thought, rolled up we shall find them Among mosses old and dry; From gossamer threads that bind them, They will start like the butterfly, All winged: so we went forth seeking, Yet still they have kept unseen; Though we think our feet have been keeping The track where they have been, For we saw where their dance went flying O'er the pastures,--snowy white."
Their seats and their tables lying, O'erthrown in their sudden flight. And they, too, have had their losses, For we found the goblets white And red in the old spiked mosses, That they drank from over-night; And in the pale horn of the woodbine Was some wine left, clear and bright; "But we found," said the children, speaking More quickly, "so many things, That we soon forgot we were seeking,-- Forgot all the Fairy rings, Forgot all the stories olden That we hear round the fire at night, Of their gifts and their favors golden,-- The sunshine was so bright; And the flowers,--we found so many That it almost made us grieve To think there were some, sweet as any, That we were forced to leave; As we left, by the brook-side lying, The balls of drifted foam, And brought (after all our trying) These Guelder-roses home."
"Then, oh!" I heard one speaking Beside me soft and low, "I have been, like the blessed children, seeking, Still seeking, to and fro; Yet not, like them, for the Fairies,-- They might pass unmourned away For me, that had looked on angels,-- On angels that would not stay; No! not though in haste before them I spread all my heart's best cheer, And made love my banner o'er them, If it might but keep them here; They stayed but a while to rest them; Long, long before its close, From my feast, though I mourned and prest them The radiant guests arose; And their flitting wings struck sadness And silence; never more Hath my soul won back the gladness, That was its own before. No; I mourned not for the Fairies When I had seen hopes decay, That were sweet unto my spirit So long; I said, 'If they, That through shade and sunny weather Have twined about my heart, Should fade, we must go together, For we can never part!' But my care was not availing; I found their sweetness gone; I saw their bright tints paling;-- They died; yet I lived on.
"Yet seeking, ever seeking, Like the children, I have won A guerdon all undreamt of
When first my quest begun, And my thoughts come back like wanderers, Out-wearied, to my breast; What they sought for long they found not, Yet was the Unsought best. For I sought not out for crosses, I did not seek for pain; Yet I find the heart's sore losses Were the spirit's surest gain."
In _A Meditation_, the writer ventures, not without awe and reverence, upon that dim, unsounded ocean of mystery, the life beyond:--
"But is there prayer Within your quiet homes, and is there care For those ye leave behind? I would address My spirit to this theme in humbleness No tongue nor pen hath uttered or made known This mystery, and thus I do but guess At clearer types through lowlier patterns shown; Yet when did Love on earth forsake its own? Ye may not quit your sweetness; in the Vine More firmly rooted than of old, your wine Hath freer flow! ye have not changed, but grown To fuller stature; though the shock was keen That severed you from us, how oft below Hath sorest parting smitten but to show True hearts their hidden wealth that quickly grow The closer for that anguish,--friend to friend Revealed more clear,--and what is Death to rend The ties of life and love, when He must fade In light of very Life, when He must bend To love, that, loving, loveth to the end?
"I do not deem ye look Upon us now, for be it that your eyes Are sealed or clear, a burden on them lies Too deep and blissful for their gaze to brook Our troubled strife; enough that once ye dwelt Where now we dwell, enough that once ye felt As now we feel, to bid you recognize Our claim of kindred cherished though unseen; And Love that is to you for eye and ear Hath ways unknown to us to bring you near,-- To keep you near for all that comes between; As pious souls that move in sleep to prayer, As distant friends, that see not, and yet share (I speak of what I know) each other's care, So may your spirits blend with ours! Above Ye know not haply of our state, yet Love Acquaints you with our need, and through a way More sure than that of knowledge--so ye pray!
"And even thus we meet, And even thus we commune! spirits freed And spirits fettered mingle, nor have need To seek a common atmosphere, the air Is meet for either in this olden, sweet, Primeval breathing of Man's spirit,--Prayer!"
I give, in conclusion, a portion of one of her most characteristic poems, _The Reconciler_:--
"Our dreams are reconciled, Since Thou didst come to turn them all to Truth; The World, the Heart, are dreamers in their youth Of visions beautiful, and strange and wild; And Thou, our Life's Interpreter, dost still At once make clear these visions and fulfil;
Each dim sweet Orphic rhyme, Each mythic tale sublime Of strength to save, of sweetness to subdue, Each morning dream the few, Wisdom's first lovers told, if read in Thee comes true.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Thou, O Friend From heaven, that madest this our heart Thine own, Dost pierce the broken language of its moan-- Thou dost not scorn our needs, but satisfy! Each yearning deep and wide, Each claim, is justified; Our young illusions fail not, though they die Within the brightness of Thy Rising, kissed To happy death, like early clouds that lie About the gates of Dawn,--a golden mist Paling to blissful white, through rose and amethyst.
"The World that puts Thee by, That opens not to greet Thee with Thy train, That sendeth after Thee the sullen cry, 'We will not have Thee over us to reign,' Itself Both testify through searchings vain Of Thee and of its need, and for the good It will not, of some base similitude Takes up a taunting witness, till its mood, Grown fierce o'er failing hopes, doth rend and tear Its own illusions grown too thin and bare To wrap it longer; for within the gate Where all must pass, a veiled and hooded Fate, A dark Chimera, coiled and tangled lies, And he who answers not its questions dies,-- Still changing form and speech, but with the same Vexed riddles, Gordian-twisted, bringing shame Upon the nations that with eager cry Hail each new solver of the mystery; Yet he, of these the best, Bold guesser, hath but prest Most nigh to Thee, our noisy plaudits wrong; True Champion, that hast wrought Our help of old, and brought Meat from this eater, sweetness from this strong.
"O Bearer of the key That shuts and opens with a sound so sweet Its turning in the wards is melody, All things we move among are incomplete And vain until we fashion them in Thee! We labor in the fire, Thick smoke is round about us; through the din Of words that darken counsel clamors dire Ring from thought's beaten anvil, where within Two Giants toil, that even from their birth With travail-pangs have torn their mother Earth, And wearied out her children with their keen Upbraidings of the other, till between Thou tamest, saying, 'Wherefore do ye wrong Each other?--ye are Brethren.' Then these twain Will own their kindred, and in Thee retain Their claims in peace, because Thy land is wide As it is goodly! here they pasture free, This lion and this leopard, side by side, A little child doth lead them with a song; Now, Ephraim's envy ceaseth, and no more Doth Judah anger Ephraim chiding sore, For one did ask a Brother, one a King, So dost Thou gather them in one, and bring-- Thou, King forevermore, forever Priest, Thou, Brother of our own from bonds released A Law of Liberty, A Service making free, A Commonweal where each has all in Thee.
"And not alone these wide, Deep-planted yearnings, seeking with a cry Their meat from God, in Thee are satisfied; But all our instincts waking suddenly Within the soul, like infants from their sleep That stretch their arms into the dark and weep, Thy voice can still. The stricken heart bereft Of all its brood of singing hopes, and left 'Mid leafless boughs, a cold, forsaken nest With snow-flakes in it, folded in Thy breast Doth lose its deadly chill; and grief that creeps Unto Thy side for shelter, finding there The wound's deep cleft, forgets its moan, and weeps Calm, quiet tears, and on Thy forehead Care Hath looked until its thorns, no longer bare, Put forth pale roses. Pain on Thee doth press Its quivering cheek, and all the weariness, The want that keep their silence, till from Thee They hear the gracious summons, none beside Hath spoken to the world-worn, 'Come to me,' Tell forth their heavy secrets.
"Thou dost hide These in Thy bosom, and not these alone, But all our heart's fond treasure that had grown A burden else: O Saviour, tears were weighed To Thee in plenteous measure! none hath shown That Thou didst smile! yet hast Thou surely made All joy of ours Thine own.
"Thou madest us for Thine; We seek amiss, we wander to and fro; Yet are we ever on the track Divine; The soul confesseth Thee, but sense is slow To lean on aught but that which it may see; So hath it crowded up these Courts below With dark and broken images of Thee; Lead Thou us forth upon Thy Mount, and show Thy goodly patterns, whence these things of old By Thee were fashioned; One though manifold. Glass Thou Thy perfect likeness in the soul, Show us Thy countenance, and we are whole!"
No one, I am quite certain, will regret that I have made these liberal quotations. Apart from their literary merit, they have a special interest for the readers of The Patience of Hope, as more fully illustrating the writer's personal experience and aspirations.
It has been suggested by a friend that it is barely possible that an objection may be urged against the following treatise, as against all books of a like character, that its tendency is to isolate the individual from his race, and to nourish an exclusive and purely selfish personal solicitude; that its piety is self-absorbent, and that it does not take sufficiently into account active duties and charities, and the love of the neighbor so strikingly illustrated by the Divine Master in His life and teachings. This objection, if valid, would be a fatal one. For, of a truth, there can be no meaner type of human selfishness than that afforded by him who, unmindful of the world of sin and suffering about him, occupies himself in the pitiful business of saving his own soul, in the very spirit of the miser, watching over his private hoard while his neighbors starve for lack of bread. But surely the benevolent unrest, the far-reaching sympathies and keen sensitiveness to the suffering of others, which so nobly distinguish our present age, can have nothing to fear from a plea for personal holiness, patience, hope, and resignation to the Divine will. "The more piety, the more compassion," says Isaac Taylor; and this is true, if we understand by piety, not self-concentred asceticism, but the pure religion and undefiled which visits the widow and the fatherless, and yet keeps itself unspotted from the world,--which deals justly, loves mercy, and yet walks humbly before God. Self- scrutiny in the light of truth can do no harm to any one, least of all to the reformer and philanthropist. The spiritual warrior, like the young candidate for knighthood, may be none the worse for his preparatory ordeal of watching all night by his armor.
Tauler in mediaeval times and Woolman in the last century are among the most earnest teachers of the inward life and spiritual nature of Christianity, yet both were distinguished for practical benevolence. They did not separate the two great commandments. Tauler strove with equal intensity of zeal to promote the temporal and the spiritual welfare of men. In the dark and evil time in which he lived, amidst the untold horrors of the "Black Plague," he illustrated by deeds of charity and mercy his doctrine of disinterested benevolence. Woolman's whole life was a nobler Imitation of Christ than that fervid rhapsody of monastic piety which bears the name.
How faithful, yet, withal, how full of kindness, were his rebukes of those who refused labor its just reward, and ground the faces of the poor? How deep and entire was his sympathy with overtasked and ill-paid laborers; with wet and illprovided sailors; with poor wretches blaspheming in the mines, because oppression had made them mad; with the dyers plying their unhealthful trade to minister to luxury and pride; with the tenant wearing out his life in the service of a hard landlord; and with the slave sighing over his unrequited toil! What a significance there was in his vision of the "dull, gloomy mass" which appeared before him, darkening half the heavens, and which he was told was "human beings in as great misery as they could be and live; and he was mixed with them, and henceforth he might not consider himself a distinct and separate being"! His saintliness was wholly unconscious; he seems never to have thought himself any nearer to the tender heart of God than the most miserable sinner to whom his compassion extended. As he did not live, so neither did he die to himself. His prayer upon his death-bed was for others rather than himself; its beautiful humility and simple trust were marred by no sensual imagery of crowns and harps and golden streets, and personal beatific exaltations; but tender and touching concern for suffering humanity, relieved only by the thought of the paternity of God, and of His love and omnipotence, alone found utterance in ever-memorable words.
In view of the troubled state of the country and the intense preoccupation of the public mind, I have had some hesitation in offering this volume to its publishers. But, on further reflection, it has seemed to me that it might supply a want felt by many among us; that, in the chaos of civil strife and the shadow of mourning which rests over the land, the contemplation of "things unseen which are eternal" might not be unwelcome; that, when the foundations of human confidence are shaken, and the trust in man proves vain, there might be glad listeners to a voice calling from the outward and the temporal to the inward and the spiritual; from the troubles and perplexities of time, to the eternal quietness which God giveth. I cannot but believe that, in the heat and glare through which we are passing, this book will not invite in vain to the calm, sweet shadows of holy meditation, grateful as the green wings of the bird to Thalaba in the desert; and thus afford something of consolation to the bereaved, and of strength to the weary. For surely never was the Patience of Hope more needed; never was the inner sanctuary of prayer more desirable; never was a steadfast faith in the Divine goodness more indispensable, nor lessons of self-sacrifice and renunciation, and that cheerful acceptance of known duty which shifts not its proper responsibility upon others, nor asks for "peace in its day" at the expense of purity and justice, more timely than now, when the solemn words of ancient prophecy are as applicable to our own country as to that of the degenerate Jew,--"Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backsliding reprove thee; know, therefore, it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou bast forsaken the Lord, and that my fear is not in thee,"--when "His way is in the deep, in clouds, and in thick darkness," and the hand heavy upon us which shall "turn and overturn until he whose right it is shall reign,"--until, not without rending agony, the evil plant which our Heavenly Father hath not planted, whose roots have wound themselves about altar and hearth-stone, and whose branches, like the tree Al-Accoub in Moslem fable, bear the accursed fruit of oppression, rebellion, and all imaginable crime, shall be torn up and destroyed forever.
AMESBURY, 1st 6th mo., 1862.
THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS.
The following letters were addressed to the Editor of the Friends' Review in Philadelphia, in reference to certain changes of principle and practice in the Society then beginning to be observable, but which have since more than justified the writer's fears and solicitude.
AMESBURY, 2d mo., 1870.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE REVIEW.
ESTEEMED FRIEND,--If I have been hitherto a silent, I have not been an indifferent, spectator of the movements now going on in our religious Society. Perhaps from lack of faith, I have been quite too solicitous concerning them, and too much afraid that in grasping after new things we may let go of old things too precious to be lost. Hence I have been pleased to see from time to time in thy paper very timely and fitting articles upon a _Hired Ministry_ and _Silent Worship_.
The present age is one of sensation and excitement, of extreme measures and opinions, of impatience of all slow results. The world about us moves with accelerated impulse, and we move with it: the rest we have enjoyed, whether true or false, is broken; the title-deeds of our opinions, the reason of our practices, are demanded. Our very right to exist as a distinct society is questioned. Our old literature--the precious journals and biographies of early and later Friends--is comparatively neglected for sensational and dogmatic publications. We bear complaints of a want of educated ministers; the utility of silent meetings is denied, and praying and preaching regarded as matters of will and option. There is a growing desire for experimenting upon the dogmas and expedients and practices of other sects. I speak only of admitted facts, and not for the purpose of censure or complaint. No one has less right than myself to indulge in heresy-hunting or impatience of minor differences of opinion. If my dear friends can bear with me, I shall not find it a hard task to bear with them.
But for myself I prefer the old ways. With the broadest possible tolerance for all honest seekers after truth! I love the Society of Friends. My life has been nearly spent in laboring with those of other sects in behalf of the suffering and enslaved; and I have never felt like quarrelling with Orthodox or Unitarians, who were willing to pull with me, side by side, at the rope of Reform. A very large proportion of my dearest personal friends are outside of our communion; and I have learned with John Woolman to find "no narrowness respecting sects and opinions." But after a kindly and candid survey of them all, I turn to my own Society, thankful to the Divine Providence which placed me where I am; and with an unshaken faith in the one distinctive doctrine of Quakerism-- the Light within--the immanence of the Divine Spirit in Christianity. I cheerfully recognize and bear testimony to the good works and lives of those who widely differ in faith and practice; but I have seen no truer types of Christianity, no better men and women, than I have known and still know among those who not blindly, but intelligently, hold the doctrines and maintain the testimonies of our early Friends. I am not blind to the shortcomings of Friends. I know how much we have lost by narrowness and coldness and inactivity, the overestimate of external observances, the neglect of our own proper work while acting as conscience-keepers for others. We have not, as a society, been active enough in those simple duties which we owe to our suffering fellow- creatures, in that abundant labor of love and self-denial which is never out of place. Perhaps our divisions and dissensions might have been spared us if we had been less "at ease in Zion." It is in the decline of practical righteousness that men are most likely to contend with each other for dogma and ritual, for shadow and letter, instead of substance and spirit. Hence I rejoice in every sign of increased activity in doing good among us, in the precious opportunities afforded of working with the Divine Providence for the Freedmen and Indians; since the more we do, in the true spirit of the gospel, for others, the more we shall really do for ourselves. There is no danger of lack of work for those who, with an eye single to the guidance of Truth, look for a place in God's vineyard; the great work which the founders of our Society began is not yet done; the mission of Friends is not accomplished, and will not be until this world of ours, now full of sin and suffering, shall take up, in jubilant thanksgiving, the song of the Advent: "Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth and good-will to men!"
It is charged that our Society lacks freedom and adaptation to the age in which we live, that there is a repression of individuality and manliness among us. I am not prepared to deny it in certain respects. But, if we look at the matter closely, we shall see that the cause is not in the central truth of Quakerism, but in a failure to rightly comprehend it; in an attempt to fetter with forms and hedge about with dogmas that great law of Christian liberty, which I believe affords ample scope for the highest spiritual aspirations and the broadest philanthropy. If we did but realize it, we are "set in a large place."
"We may do all we will save wickedness."
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
Quakerism, in the light of its great original truth, is "exceeding broad." As interpreted by Penn and Barclay it is the most liberal and catholic of faiths. If we are not free, generous, tolerant, if we are not up to or above the level of the age in good works, in culture and love of beauty, order and fitness, if we are not the ready recipients of the truths of science and philosophy,--in a word, if we are not full- grown men and Christians, the fault is not in Quakerism, but in ourselves. We shall gain nothing by aping the customs and trying to adjust ourselves to the creeds of other sects. By so doing we make at the best a very awkward combination, and just as far as it is successful, it is at the expense of much that is vital in our old faith. If, for instance, I could bring myself to believe a hired ministry and a written creed essential to my moral and spiritual well-being, I think I should prefer to sit down at once under such teachers as Bushnell and Beecher, the like of whom in Biblical knowledge, ecclesiastical learning, and intellectual power, we are not likely to manufacture by half a century of theological manipulation in a Quaker "school of the prophets." If I must go into the market and buy my preaching, I should naturally seek the best article on sale, without regard to the label attached to it.
I am not insensible of the need of spiritual renovation in our Society. I feel and confess my own deficiencies as an individual member. And I bear a willing testimony to the zeal and devotion of some dear friends, who, lamenting the low condition and worldliness too apparent among us, seek to awaken a stronger religious life by the partial adoption of the practices, forms, and creeds of more demonstrative sects. The great apparent activity of these sects seems to them to contrast very strongly with our quietness and reticence; and they do not always pause to inquire whether the result of this activity is a truer type of practical Christianity than is found in our select gatherings. I think I understand these brethren; to some extent I have sympathized with them. But it seems clear to me, that a remedy for the alleged evil lies not in going back to the "beggarly elements" from which our worthy ancestors called the people of their generation; not in will-worship; not in setting the letter above the spirit; not in substituting type and symbol, and oriental figure and hyperbole for the simple truths they were intended to represent; not in schools of theology; not in much speaking and noise and vehemence, nor in vain attempts to make the "plain language" of Quakerism utter the Shibboleth of man-made creeds: but in heeding more closely the Inward Guide and Teacher; in faith in Christ not merely in His historical manifestation of the Divine Love to humanity, but in His living presence in the hearts open to receive Him; in love for Him manifested in denial of self, in charity and love to our neighbor; and in a deeper realization of the truth of the apostle's declaration: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
In conclusion, let me say that I have given this expression of my opinions with some degree of hesitation, being very sensible that I have neither the right nor the qualification to speak for a society whose doctrines and testimonies commend themselves to my heart and head, whose history is rich with the precious legacy of holy lives, and of whose usefulness as a moral and spiritual Force in the world I am fully assured.
Having received several letters from dear friends in various sections suggested by a recent communication in thy paper, and not having time or health to answer them in detail, will thou permit me in this way to acknowledge them, and to say to the writers that I am deeply sensible of the Christian love and personal good-will to myself, which, whether in commendation or dissent, they manifest? I think I may say in truth that my letter was written in no sectarian or party spirit, but simply to express a solicitude, which, whether groundless or not, was nevertheless real. I am, from principle, disinclined to doctrinal disputations and so-called religious controversies, which only tend to separate and disunite. We have had too many divisions already. I intended no censure of dear brethren whose zeal and devotion command my sympathy, notwithstanding I may not be able to see with them in all respects. The domain of individual conscience is to me very sacred; and it seems the part of Christian charity to make a large allowance for varying experiences; mental characteristics, and temperaments, as well as for that youthful enthusiasm which, if sometimes misdirected, has often been instrumental in infusing a fresher life into the body of religious profession. It is too much to expect that we can maintain an entire uniformity in the expression of truths in which we substantially agree; and we should be careful that a rightful concern for "the form of sound words" does not become what William Penn calls "verbal orthodoxy." We must consider that the same accepted truth looks somewhat differently from different points of vision. Knowing our own weaknesses and limitations, we must bear in mind that human creeds, speculations, expositions, and interpretations of the Divine plan are but the faint and feeble glimpses of finite creatures into the infinite mysteries of God.
"They are but broken lights of Thee, And Thou, O Lord, art more than they."
Differing, as we do, more or less as to means and methods, if we indeed have the "mind of Christ," we shall rejoice in whatever of good is really accomplished, although by somewhat different instrumentalities than those which we feel ourselves free to make use of, remembering that our Lord rebuked the narrowness and partisanship of His disciples by assuring them that they that were not against Him were for Him.
It would, nevertheless, give me great satisfaction to know, as thy kindly expressed editorial comments seem to intimate, that I have somewhat overestimated the tendencies of things in our Society. I have no pride of opinion which would prevent me from confessing with thankfulness my error of judgment. In any event, it can, I think, do no harm to repeat my deep conviction that we may all labor, in the ability given us, for our own moral and spiritual well-being, and that of our fellow-creatures, without laying aside the principles and practice of our religious Society. I believe so much of liberty is our right as well as our privilege, and that we need not really overstep our bounds for the performance of any duty which may be required of us. When truly called to contemplate broader fields of labor, we shall find the walls about us, like the horizon seen from higher levels, expanding indeed, but nowhere broken.
I believe that the world needs the Society of Friends as a testimony and a standard. I know that this is the opinion of some of the best and most thoughtful members of other Christian sects. I know that any serious departure from the original foundation of our Society would give pain to many who, outside of our communion, deeply realize the importance of our testimonies. They fail to read clearly the signs of the times who do not see that the hour is coming when, under the searching eye of philosophy and the terrible analysis of science, the letter and the outward evidence will not altogether avail us; when the surest dependence must be upon the Light of Christ within, disclosing the law and the prophets in our own souls, and confirming the truth of outward Scripture by inward experience; when smooth stones from the brook of present revelation shall' prove mightier than the weapons of Saul; when the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, as proclaimed by George Fox and lived by John Woolman, shall be recognized as the only efficient solvent of doubts raised by an age of restless inquiry. In this belief my letter was written. I am sorry it did not fall to the lot of a more fitting hand; and can only hope that no consideration of lack of qualification on the part of its writer may lessen the value of whatever testimony to truth shall be found in it.
AMESBURY, 3d mo., 1870.
P. S. I may mention that I have been somewhat encouraged by a perusal of the Proceedings of the late First-day School Conference in Philadelphia, where, with some things which I am compelled to pause over, and regret, I find much with which I cordially unite, and which seems to indicate a providential opening for good. I confess to a lively and tender sympathy with my younger brethren and sisters who, in the name of Him who "went about doing good," go forth into the highways and byways to gather up the lost, feed the hungry, instruct the ignorant, and point the sinsick and suffering to the hopes and consolations of Christian faith, even if, at times, their zeal goes beyond "reasonable service," and although the importance of a particular instrumentality may be exaggerated, and love lose sight of its needful companion humility, and he that putteth on his armor boast like him who layeth it off. Any movement, however irregular, which indicates life, is better than the quiet of death. In the overruling providence of God, the troubling may prepare the way for healing. Some of us may have erred on one hand and some on the other, and this shaking of the balance may adjust it.
JOHN WOOLMAN'S JOURNAL.
Originally published as an introduction to a reissue of the work.
To those who judge by the outward appearance, nothing is more difficult of explanation than the strength of moral influence often exerted by obscure and uneventful lives. Some great reform which lifts the world to a higher level, some mighty change for which the ages have waited in anxious expectancy, takes place before our eyes, and, in seeking to trace it back to its origin, we are often surprised to find the initial link in the chain of causes to be some comparatively obscure individual, the divine commission and significance of whose life were scarcely understood by his contemporaries, and perhaps not even by himself. The little one has become a thousand; the handful of corn shakes like Lebanon. "The kingdom of God cometh not by observation;" and the only solution of the mystery is in the reflection that through the humble instrumentality Divine power was manifested, and that the Everlasting Arm was beneath the human one.
The abolition of human slavery now in process of consummation throughout the world furnishes one of the most striking illustrations of this truth. A far-reaching moral, social, and political revolution, undoing the evil work of centuries, unquestionably owes much of its original impulse to the life and labors of a poor, unlearned workingman of New Jersey, whose very existence was scarcely known beyond the narrow circle of his religious society.
It is only within a comparatively recent period that the journal and ethical essays of this remarkable man have attracted the attention to which they are manifestly entitled. In one of my last interviews with William Ellery Channing, he expressed his very great surprise that they were so little known. He had himself just read the book for the first time, and I shall never forget how his countenance lighted up as he pronounced it beyond comparison the sweetest and purest autobiography in the language. He wished to see it placed within the reach of all classes of readers; it was not a light to be hidden under the bushel of a sect. Charles Lamb, probably from his friends, the Clarksons, or from Bernard Barton, became acquainted with it, and on more than one occasion, in his letters and Essays of Elia, refers to it with warm commendation. Edward Irving pronounced it a godsend. Some idea of the lively interest which the fine literary circle gathered around the hearth of Lamb felt in the beautiful simplicity of Woolman's pages may be had from the Diary of Henry Crabb Robinson, one of their number, himself a man of wide and varied culture, the intimate friend of Goethe, Wordsworth, and Coleridge. In his notes for First Month, 1824, he says, after a reference to a sermon of his friend Irving, which he feared would deter rather than promote belief:
"How different this from John Woolman's Journal I have been reading at the same time! A perfect gem! His is a _schone Seele_, a beautiful soul. An illiterate tailor, he writes in a style of the most exquisite purity and grace. His moral qualities are transferred to his writings. Had he not been so very humble, he would have written a still better book; for, fearing to indulge in vanity, he conceals the events in which he was a great actor. His religion was love. His whole existence and all his passions were love. If one could venture to impute to his creed, and not to his personal character, the delightful frame of mind he exhibited, one could not hesitate to be a convert. His Christianity is most inviting, it is fascinating! One of the leading British reviews a few years ago, referring to this Journal, pronounced its author the man who, in all the centuries since the advent of Christ, lived nearest to the Divine pattern. The author of The Patience of Hope, whose authority in devotional literature is unquestioned, says of him: 'John Woolman's gift was love, a charity of which it does not enter into the natural heart of man to conceive, and of which the more ordinary experiences, even of renewed nature, give but a faint shadow. Every now and then, in the world's history, we meet with such men, the kings and priests of Humanity, on whose heads this precious ointment has been so poured forth that it has run down to the skirts of their clothing, and extended over the whole of the visible creation; men who have entered, like Francis of Assisi, into the secret of that deep amity with God and with His creatures which makes man to be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field to be at peace with him. In this pure, universal charity there is nothing fitful or intermittent, nothing that comes and goes in showers and gleams and sunbursts. Its springs are deep and constant, its rising is like that of a mighty river, its very overflow calm and steady, leaving life and fertility behind it.'"
After all, anything like personal eulogy seems out of place in speaking of one who in the humblest self-abasement sought no place in the world's estimation, content to be only a passive instrument in the hands of his Master; and who, as has been remarked, through modesty concealed the events in which he was an actor. A desire to supply in some sort this deficiency in his Journal is my especial excuse for this introductory paper.
It is instructive to study the history of the moral progress of individuals or communities; to mark the gradual development of truth; to watch the slow germination of its seed sown in simple obedience to the command of the Great Husbandman, while yet its green promise, as well as its golden fruition, was hidden from the eyes of the sower; to go back to the well-springs and fountain-heads, tracing the small streamlet from its hidden source, and noting the tributaries which swell its waters, as it moves onward, until it becomes a broad river, fertilizing and gladdening our present humanity. To this end it is my purpose, as briefly as possible, to narrate the circumstances attending the relinquishment of slave-holding by the Society of Friends, and to hint at the effect of that act of justice and humanity upon the abolition of slavery throughout the world.
At an early period after the organization of the Society, members of it emigrated to the Maryland, Carolina, Virginia, and New England colonies. The act of banishment enforced against dissenters under Charles II. consigned others of the sect to the West Indies, where their frugality, temperance, and thrift transmuted their intended punishment into a blessing. Andrew Marvell, the inflexible republican statesman, in some of the sweetest and tenderest lines in the English tongue, has happily described their condition:--
What shall we do but sing His praise Who led us through the watery maze, Unto an isle so long unknown, And yet far kinder than our own? He lands us on a grassy stage, Safe from the storms and prelates' rage; He gives us this eternal spring, Which here enamels everything, And sends the fowls to us in care, On daily visits through the air. He hangs in shades the orange bright, Like golden lamps, in a green night, And doth in the pomegranate close Jewels more rich than Ormus shows.
. . . . . . . . .
And in these rocks for us did frame A temple where to sound His name. Oh! let our voice His praise exalt, Till it arrive at heaven's vault, Which then, perhaps rebounding, may Echo beyond the Mexic bay.'
"So sang they in the English boat, A holy and a cheerful note; And all the way, to guide their chime, With falling oars they kept the time."
Unhappily, they very early became owners of slaves, in imitation of the colonists around them. No positive condemnation of the evil system had then been heard in the British islands. Neither English prelates nor expounders at dissenting conventicles had aught to say against it. Few colonists doubted its entire compatibility with Christian profession and conduct. Saint and sinner, ascetic and worldling, united in its practice. Even the extreme Dutch saints of Bohemia Manor community, the pietists of John de Labadie, sitting at meat with hats on, and pausing ever and anon with suspended mouthfuls to bear a brother's or sister's exhortation, and sandwiching prayers between the courses, were waited upon by negro slaves. Everywhere men were contending with each other upon matters of faith, while, so far as their slaves were concerned, denying the ethics of Christianity itself.
Such was the state of things when, in 1671, George Fox visited Barbadoes. He was one of those men to whom it is given to discern through the mists of custom and prejudice something of the lineaments of absolute truth, and who, like the Hebrew lawgiver, bear with them, from a higher and purer atmosphere, the shining evidence of communion with the Divine Wisdom. He saw slavery in its mildest form among his friends, but his intuitive sense of right condemned it. He solemnly admonished those who held slaves to bear in mind that they were brethren, and to train them up in the fear of God. "I desired, also," he says, "that they would cause their overseers to deal gently and mildly with their negroes, and not use cruelty towards them as the manner of some hath been and is; and that, after certain years of servitude, they should make them free."
In 1675, the companion of George Fox, William Edmundson, revisited Barbadoes, and once more bore testimony against the unjust treatment of slaves. He was accused of endeavoring to excite an insurrection among the blacks, and was brought before the Governor on the charge. It was probably during this journey that he addressed a remonstrance to friends in Maryland and Virginia on the subject of holding slaves. It is one of the first emphatic and decided testimonies on record against negro slavery as incompatible with Christianity, if we except the Papal bulls of Urban and Leo the Tenth.
Thirteen years after, in 1688, a meeting of German Quakers, who had emigrated from Kriesbeim, and settled at Germantown, Pennsylvania, addressed a memorial against "the buying and keeping of negroes" to the Yearly Meeting for the Pennsylvania and New Jersey colonies. That meeting took the subject into consideration, but declined giving judgment in the case. In 1696, the Yearly Meeting advised against "bringing in any more negroes." In 1714, in its Epistle to London Friends, it expresses a wish that Friends would be "less concerned in buying or selling slaves." The Chester Quarterly Meeting, which had taken a higher and clearer view of the matter, continued to press the Yearly Meeting to adopt some decided measure against any traffic in human beings.
The Society gave these memorials a cold reception. The love of gain and power was too strong, on the part of the wealthy and influential planters and merchants who had become slaveholders, to allow the scruples of the Chester meeting to take the shape of discipline. The utmost that could be obtained of the Yearly Meeting was an expression of opinion adverse to the importation of negroes, and a desire that "Friends generally do, as much as may be, avoid buying such negroes as shall hereafter be brought in, rather than offend any Friends who are against it; yet this is only caution, and not censure."
In the mean time the New England Yearly Meeting was agitated by the same question. Slaves were imported into Boston and Newport, and Friends became purchasers, and in some instances were deeply implicated in the foreign traffic. In 1716, the monthly meetings of Dartmouth and Nantucket suggested that it was "not agreeable to truth to purchase slaves and keep them during their term of life." Nothing was done in the Yearly Meeting, however, until 1727, when the practice of importing negroes was censured. That the practice was continued notwithstanding, for many years afterwards, is certain. In 1758, a rule was adopted prohibiting Friends within the limits of New England Yearly Meeting from engaging in or countenancing the foreign slave-trade.
In the year 1742 an event, simple and inconsiderable in itself, was made the instrumentality of exerting a mighty influence upon slavery in the Society of Friends. A small storekeeper at Mount Holly, in New Jersey, a member of the Society, sold a negro woman, and requested the young man in his employ to make a bill of sale of her.
(Mount Holly is a village lying in the western part of the long, narrow township of Northampton, on Rancocas Creek, a tributary of the Delaware. In John Woolman's day it was almost entirely a settlement of Friends. A very few of the old houses with their quaint stoops or porches are left. That occupied by John Woolman was a small, plain, two-story structure, with two windows in each story in front, a four-barred fence inclosing the grounds, with the trees he planted and loved to cultivate. The house was not painted, but whitewashed. The name of the place is derived from the highest hill in the county, rising two hundred feet above the sea, and commanding a view of a rich and level country, of cleared farms and woodlands. Here, no doubt, John Woolman often walked under the shadow of its holly-trees, communing with nature and musing on the great themes of life and duty.
When the excellent Joseph Sturge was in this country, some thirty years ago, on his errand of humanity, he visited Mount Holly, and the house of Woolman, then standing. He describes it as a very "humble abode." But one person was then living in the town who had ever seen its venerated owner. This aged man stated that he was at Woolman's little farm in the season of harvest when it was customary among farmers to kill a calf or sheep for the laborers. John Woolman, unwilling that the animal should be slowly bled to death, as the custom had been, and to spare it unnecessary suffering, had a smooth block of wood prepared to receive the neck of the creature, when a single blow terminated its existence. Nothing was more remarkable in the character of Woolman than his concern for the well-being and comfort of the brute creation. "What is religion?" asks the old Hindoo writer of the Vishnu Sarman. "Tenderness toward all creatures." Or, as Woolman expresses it, "Where the love of God is verily perfected, a tenderness towards all creatures made subject to our will is experienced, and a care felt that we do not lessen that sweetness of life in the animal creation which the Creator intends for them under our government.")
On taking up his pen, the young clerk felt a sudden and strong scruple in his mind. The thought of writing an instrument of slavery for one of his fellow-creatures oppressed him. God's voice against the desecration of His image spoke in the soul. He yielded to the will of his employer, but, while writing the instrument, he was constrained to declare, both to the buyer and the seller, that he believed slave-keeping inconsistent with the Christian religion. This young man was John Woolman. The circumstance above named was the starting-point of a life-long testimony against slavery. In the year 1746 he visited Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. He was afflicted by the prevalence of slavery. It appeared to him, in his own words, "as a dark gloominess overhanging the land." On his return, he wrote an essay on the subject, which was published in 1754. Three years after, he made a second visit to the Southern meetings of Friends. Travelling as a minister of the gospel, he was compelled to sit down at the tables of slaveholding planters, who were accustomed to entertain their friends free of cost, and who could not comprehend the scruples of their guest against receiving as a gift food and lodging which he regarded as the gain of oppression. He was a poor man, but he loved truth more than money. He therefore either placed the pay for his entertainment in the hands of some member of the family, for the benefit of the slaves, or gave it directly to them, as he had opportunity. Wherever he went, he found his fellow-professors entangled in the mischief of slavery. Elders and ministers, as well as the younger and less high in profession, had their house servants and field hands. He found grave drab-coated apologists for the slave-trade, who quoted the same Scriptures, in support of oppression and avarice, which have since been cited by Presbyterian doctors of divinity, Methodist bishops; and Baptist preachers for the same purpose. He found the meetings generally in a low and evil state. The gold of original Quakerism had become dim, and the fine gold changed. The spirit of the world prevailed among them, and had wrought an inward desolation. Instead of meekness, gentleness, and heavenly wisdom, he found "a spirit of fierceness and love of dominion."
(The tradition is that he travelled mostly on foot during his journeys among slaveholders. Brissot, in his New Travels in America, published in 1788, says: "John Woolman, one of the most distinguished of men in the cause of humanity, travelled much as a minister of his sect, but always on foot, and without money, in imitation of the Apostles, and in order to be in a situation to be more useful to poor people and the blacks. He hated slavery so much that he could not taste food provided by the labor of slaves." That this writer was on one point misinformed is manifest from the following passage from the Journal: "When I expected soon to leave a friend's house where I had entertainment, if I believed that I should not keep clear from the gain of oppression without leaving money, I spoke to one of the heads of the family privately, and desired them to accept of pieces of silver, and give them to such of their negroes as they believed would make the best use of them; and at other times I gave them to the negroes myself, as the way looked clearest to me. Before I came out, I had provided a large number of small pieces for this purpose, and thus offering them to some who appeared to be wealthy people was a trial both to me and them. But the fear of the Lord so covered me at times that my way was made easier than I expected; and few, if any, manifested any resentment at the offer, and most of them, after some conversation, accepted of them.")
In love, but at the same time with great faithfulness, he endeavored to convince the masters of their error, and to awaken a degree of sympathy for the enslaved.
At this period, or perhaps somewhat earlier, a remarkable personage took up his residence in Pennsylvania. He was by birthright a member of the Society of Friends, but having been disowned in England for some extravagances of conduct and language, he spent several years in the West Indies, where he became deeply interested in the condition of the slaves. His violent denunciations of the practice of slaveholding excited the anger of the planters, and he was compelled to leave the island. He came to Philadelphia, but, contrary to his expectations, he found the same evil existing there. He shook off the dust of the city, and took up his abode in the country, a few miles distant. His dwelling was a natural cave, with some slight addition of his own making. His drink was the spring-water flowing by his door; his food, vegetables alone. He persistently refused to wear any garment or eat any food purchased at the expense of animal life, or which was in any degree the product of slave labor. Issuing from his cave, on his mission of preaching "deliverance to the captive," he was in the habit of visiting the various meetings for worship and bearing his testimony against slaveholders, greatly to their disgust and indignation. On one occasion he entered the Market Street Meeting, and a leading Friend requested some one to take him out. A burly blacksmith volunteered to do it, leading him to the gate and thrusting him out with such force that he fell into the gutter of the street. There he lay until the meeting closed, telling the bystanders that he did not feel free to rise himself. "Let those who cast me here raise me up. It is their business, not mine."
His personal appearance was in remarkable keeping with his eccentric life. A figure only four and a half feet high, hunchbacked, with projecting chest, legs small and uneven, arms longer than his legs; a huge head, showing only beneath the enormous white hat large, solemn eyes and a prominent nose; the rest of his face covered with a snowy semicircle of beard falling low on his breast,--a figure to recall the old legends of troll, brownie, and kobold. Such was the irrepressible prophet who troubled the Israel of slave-holding Quakerism, clinging like a rough chestnut-bur to the skirts of its respectability, and settling like a pertinacious gad-fly on the sore places of its conscience.
On one occasion, while the annual meeting was in session at Burlington, N. J., in the midst of the solemn silence of the great assembly, the unwelcome figure of Benjamin Lay, wrapped in his long white overcoat, was seen passing up the aisle. Stopping midway, he exclaimed, "You slaveholders! Why don't you throw off your Quaker coats as I do mine, and show yourselves as you are?" Casting off as he spoke his outer garment, he disclosed to the astonished assembly a military coat underneath and a sword dangling at his heels. Holding in one hand a large book, he drew his sword with the other. "In the sight of God," he cried, "you are as guilty as if you stabbed your slaves to the heart, as I do this book!" suiting the action to the word, and piercing a small bladder filled with the juice of poke-weed (playtolacca decandra), which he had concealed between the covers, and sprinkling as with fresh blood those who sat near him. John Woolman makes no mention of this circumstance in his Journal, although he was probably present, and it must have made a deep impression on his sensitive spirit. The violence and harshness of Lay's testimony, however, had nothing in common with the tender and sorrowful remonstrances and appeals of the former, except the sympathy which they both felt for the slave himself.
(Lay was well acquainted with Dr. Franklin, who sometimes visited him. Among other schemes of reform he entertained the idea of converting all mankind to Christianity. This was to be done by three witnesses,--himself, Michael Lovell, and Abel Noble, assisted by Dr. Franklin. But on their first meeting at the Doctor's house, the three "chosen vessels" got into a violent controversy on points of doctrine, and separated in ill-humor. The philosopher, who had been an amused listener, advised the three sages to give up the project of converting the world until they had learned to tolerate each other.)
Still later, a descendant of the persecuted French Protestants, Anthony Benezet, a man of uncommon tenderness of feeling, began to write and speak against slavery. How far, if at all, he was moved thereto by the example of Woolman is not known, but it is certain that the latter found in him a steady friend and coadjutor in his efforts to awaken the slumbering moral sense of his religious brethren. The Marquis de Chastellux, author of _De la Felicite Publique_, describes him as a small, eager-faced man, full of zeal and activity, constantly engaged in works of benevolence, which were by no means confined to the blacks. Like Woolman and Lay, he advocated abstinence from intoxicating spirits. The poor French neutrals who were brought to Philadelphia from Nova Scotia, and landed penniless and despairing among strangers in tongue and religion, found in him a warm and untiring friend, through whose aid and sympathy their condition was rendered more comfortable than that of their fellow-exiles in other colonies.
The annual assemblage of the Yearly Meeting in 1758 at Philadelphia must ever be regarded as one of the most important religious convocations in the history of the Christian church. The labors of Woolman and his few but earnest associates had not been in vain. A deep and tender interest had been awakened; and this meeting was looked forward to with varied feelings of solicitude by all parties. All felt that the time had come for some definite action; conservative and reformer stood face to face in the Valley of Decision. John Woolman, of course, was present,--a man humble and poor in outward appearance, his simple dress of undyed homespun cloth contrasting strongly with the plain but rich apparel of the representatives of the commerce of the city and of the large slave- stocked plantations of the country. Bowed down by the weight of his concern for the poor slaves and for the well-being and purity of the Society, he sat silent during the whole meeting, while other matters were under discussion. "My mind," he says, "was frequently clothed with inward prayer; and I could say with David that 'tears were my meat and drink, day and night.' The case of slave-keeping lay heavy upon me; nor did I find any engagement, to speak directly to any other matter before the meeting." When the important subject came up for consideration, many faithful Friends spoke with weight and earnestness. No one openly justified slavery as a system, although some expressed a concern lest the meeting should go into measures calculated to cause uneasiness to many members of the Society. It was also urged that Friends should wait patiently until the Lord in His own time should open a way for the deliverance of the slave. This was replied to by John Woolman. "My mind," he said, "is led to consider the purity of the Divine Being, and the justice of His judgments; and herein my soul is covered with awfulness. I cannot forbear to hint of some cases where people have not been treated with the purity of justice, and the event has been most lamentable. Many slaves on this continent are oppressed, and their cries have entered into the ears of the Most High. Such are the purity and certainty of His judgments that He cannot be partial in our favor. In infinite love and goodness He hath opened our understandings from one time to another, concerning our duty towards this people; and it is not a time for delay. Should we now be sensible of what He requires of us, and through a respect to the private interest of some persons, or through a regard to some friendships which do not stand upon an immutable foundation, neglect to do our duty in firmness and constancy, still waiting for some extraordinary means to bring about their deliverance, God may by terrible things in righteousness answer us in this matter."
This solemn and weighty appeal was responded to by many in the assembly, in a spirit of sympathy and unity. Some of the slave-holding members expressed their willingness that a strict rule of discipline should be adopted against dealing in slaves for the future. To this it was answered that the root of the evil would never be reached effectually until a searching inquiry was made into the circumstances and motives of such as held slaves. At length the truth in a great measure triumphed over all opposition; and, without any public dissent, the meeting agreed that the injunction of our Lord and Saviour to do to others as we would that others should do to us should induce Friends who held slaves "to set them at liberty, making a Christian provision for them," and four Friends--John Woolman, John Scarborough, Daniel Stanton, and John Sykes-- were approved of as suitable persons to visit and treat with such as kept slaves, within the limits of the meeting.
This painful and difficult duty was faithfully performed. In that meekness and humility of spirit which has nothing in common with the "fear of man, which bringeth a snare," the self-denying followers of their Divine Lord and Master "went about doing good." In the city of Philadelphia, and among the wealthy planters of the country, they found occasion often to exercise a great degree of patience, and to keep a watchful guard over their feelings. In his Journal for this important period of his life John Woolman says but little of his own services. How arduous and delicate they were may be readily understood. The number of slaves held by members of the Society was very large. Isaac Jackson, in his report of his labors among slave-holders in a single Quarterly Meeting, states that he visited the owners of more than eleven hundred slaves. From the same report may be gleaned some hints of the difficulties which presented themselves. One elderly man says he has well brought up his eleven slaves, and "now they must work to maintain him." Another owns it is all wrong, but "cannot release his slaves; his tender wife under great concern of mind" on account of his refusal. A third has fifty slaves; knows it to be wrong, but can't see his way clear out of it. "Perhaps," the report says, "interest dims his vision." A fourth is full of "excuses and reasonings." "Old Jos. Richison has forty, and is determined to keep them." Another man has fifty, and "means to keep them." Robert Ward "wants to release his slaves, but his wife and daughters hold back." Another "owns it is wrong, but says he will not part with his negroes,--no, not while he lives." The far greater number, however, confess the wrong of slavery, and agree to take measures for freeing their slaves.
(An incident occurred during this visit of Isaac Jackson which impressed him deeply. On the last evening, just as he was about to turn homeward, he was told that a member of the Society whom he had not seen owned a very old slave who was happy and well cared for. It was a case which it was thought might well be left to take care of itself. Isaac Jackson, sitting in silence, did not feel his mind quite satisfied; and as the evening wore away, feeling more and more exercised, he expressed his uneasiness, when a young son of his host eagerly offered to go with him and show him the road to the place. The proposal was gladly accepted. On introducing the object of their visit, the Friend expressed much surprise that any uneasiness should be felt in the case, but at length consented to sign the form of emancipation, saying, at the same time, it would make no difference in their relations, as the old man was perfectly happy. At Isaac Jackson's request the slave was called in and seated before them. His form was nearly double, his thin hands were propped on his knees, his white head was thrust forward, and his keen, restless, inquiring eyes gleamed alternately on the stranger and on his master. At length he was informed of what had been done; that he was no longer a slave, and that his master acknowledged his past services entitled him to a maintenance so long as he lived. The old man listened in almost breathless wonder, his head slowly sinking on his breast. After a short pause, he clasped his hands; then spreading them high over his hoary head, slowly and reverently exclaimed, "Oh, goody Gody, oh!"--bringing his hands again down on his knees. Then raising them as before, he twice repeated the solemn exclamation, and with streaming eyes and a voice almost too much choked for utterance, he continued, "I thought I should die a slave, and now I shall die a free man!"
It is a striking evidence of the divine compensations which are sometimes graciously vouchsafed to those who have been faithful to duty, that on his death-bed this affecting scene was vividly revived in the mind of Isaac Jackson. At that supreme moment, when all other pictures of time were fading out, that old face, full of solemn joy and devout thanksgiving, rose before him, and comforted him as with the blessing of God.)
An extract or two from the Journal at this period will serve to show both the nature of the service in which he was engaged and the frame of mind in which he accomplished it:--
"In the beginning of the 12th month I joined in company with my friends, John Sykes and Daniel Stanton, in visiting such as had slaves. Some, whose hearts were rightly exercised about them, appeared to be glad of our visit, but in some places our way was more difficult. I often saw the necessity of keeping down to that root from whence our concern proceeded, and have cause in reverent thankfulness humbly to bow down before the Lord who was near to me, and preserved my mind in calmness under some sharp conflicts, and begat a spirit of sympathy and tenderness in me towards some who were grievously entangled by the spirit of this world."
"1st month, 1759.--Having found my mind drawn to visit some of the more active members of society at Philadelphia who had slaves, I met my friend John Churchman there by agreement, and we continued about a week in the city. We visited some that were sick, and some widows and their families; and the other part of the time was mostly employed in visiting such as had slaves. It was a time of deep exercise; but looking often to the Lord for assistance, He in unspeakable kindness favored us with the influence of that spirit which crucifies to the greatness and splendor of this world, and enabled us to go through some heavy labors, in which we found peace."
These labors were attended with the blessing of the God of the poor and oppressed. Dealing in slaves was almost entirely abandoned, and many who held slaves set them at liberty. But many members still continuing the practice, a more emphatic testimony against it was issued by the Yearly Meeting in 1774; and two years after the subordinate meetings were directed to deny the right of membership to such as persisted in holding their fellow-men as property.
A concern was now felt for the temporal and religious welfare of the emancipated slaves, and in 1779 the Yearly Meeting came to the conclusion that some reparation was due from the masters to their former slaves for services rendered while in the condition of slavery. The following is an extract from an epistle on this subject:
"We are united in judgment that the state of the oppressed people who have been held by any of us, or our predecessors, in captivity and slavery, calls for a deep inquiry and close examination how far we are clear of withholding from them what under such an exercise may open to view as their just right; and therefore we earnestly and affectionately entreat our brethren in religious profession to bring this matter home, and that all who have let the oppressed go free may attend to the further openings of duty.
"A tender Christian sympathy appears to be awakened in the minds of many who are not in religious profession with us, who have seriously considered the oppressions and disadvantages under which those people have long labored; and whether a pious care extended to their offspring is not justly due from us to them is a consideration worthy our serious and deep attention."
Committees to aid and advise the colored people were accordingly appointed in the various Monthly Meetings. Many former owners of slaves faithfully paid the latter for their services, submitting to the award and judgment of arbitrators as to what justice required at their hands. So deeply had the sense of the wrong of slavery sunk into the hearts of Friends!
John Woolman, in his Journal for 1769, states, that having some years before, as one of the executors of a will, disposed of the services of a negro boy belonging to the estate until he should reach the age of thirty years, he became uneasy in respect to the transaction, and, although he had himself derived no pecuniary benefit from it, and had simply acted as the agent of the heirs of the estate to which the boy belonged, he executed a bond, binding himself to pay the master of the young man for four years and a half of his unexpired term of service.
The appalling magnitude of the evil against which he felt himself especially called to contend was painfully manifest to John Woolman. At the outset, all about him, in every department of life and human activity, in the state and the church, he saw evidences of its strength, and of the depth and extent to which its roots had wound their way among the foundations of society. Yet he seems never to have doubted for a moment the power of simple truth to eradicate it, nor to have hesitated as to his own duty in regard to it. There was no groping like Samson in the gloom; no feeling in blind wrath and impatience for the pillars of the temple of Dagon. "The candle of the Lord shone about him," and his path lay clear and unmistakable before him. He believed in the goodness of God that leadeth to repentance; and that love could reach the witness for itself in the hearts of all men, through all entanglements of custom and every barrier of pride and selfishness. No one could have a more humble estimate of himself; but as he went forth on his errand of mercy he felt the Infinite Power behind him, and the consciousness that he had known a preparation from that Power "to stand as a trumpet through which the Lord speaks." The event justified his confidence; wherever he went hard hearts were softened, avarice and love of power and pride of opinion gave way before his testimony of love.
The New England Yearly Meeting then, as now, was held in Newport, on Rhode Island. In the year 1760 John Woolman, in the course of a religious visit to New England, attended that meeting. He saw the horrible traffic in human beings,--the slave-ships lying at the wharves of the town, the sellers and buyers of men and women and children thronging the market-place. The same abhorrent scenes which a few years after stirred the spirit of the excellent Hopkins to denounce the slave- trade and slavery as hateful in the sight of God to his congregation at Newport were enacted in the full view and hearing of the annual convocation of Friends, many of whom were themselves partakers in the shame and wickedness. "Understanding," he says, "that a large number of slaves had been imported from Africa into the town, and were then on sale by a member of our Society, my appetite failed; I grew outwardly weak, and had a feeling of the condition of Habakkuk: 'When I heard, my belly trembled, my lips quivered; I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble.' I had many cogitations, and was sorely distressed." He prepared a memorial to the Legislature, then in session, for the signatures of Friends, urging that body to take measures to put an end to the importation of slaves. His labors in the Yearly Meeting appear to have been owned and blessed by the Divine Head of the church. The London Epistle for 1758, condemning the unrighteous traffic in men, was read, and the substance of it embodied in the discipline of the meeting; and the following query was adopted, to be answered by the subordinate meetings:--
"Are Friends clear of importing negroes, or buying them when imported; and do they use those well, where they are possessed by inheritance or otherwise, endeavoring to train them up in principles of religion?"
At the close of the Yearly Meeting, John Woolman requested those members of the Society who held slaves to meet with him in the chamber of the house for worship, where he expressed his concern for the well-being of the slaves, and his sense of the iniquity of the practice of dealing in or holding them as property. His tender exhortations were not lost upon his auditors; his remarks were kindly received, and the gentle and loving spirit in which they were offered reached many hearts.
In 1769, at the suggestion of the Rhode Island Quarterly Meeting, the Yearly Meeting expressed its sense of the wrongfulness of holding slaves, and appointed a large committee to visit those members who were implicated in the practice. The next year this committee reported that they had completed their service, "and that their visits mostly seemed to be kindly accepted. Some Friends manifested a disposition to set such at liberty as were suitable; some others, not having so clear a sight of such an unreasonable servitude as could be desired, were unwilling to comply with the advice given them at present, yet seemed willing to take it into consideration; a few others manifested a disposition to keep them in continued bondage."
It was stated in the Epistle to London Yearly Meeting of the year 1772, that a few Friends had freed their slaves from bondage, but that others "have been so reluctant thereto that they have been disowned for not complying with the advice of this meeting."
In 1773 the following minute was made: "It is our sense and judgment that truth not only requires the young of capacity and ability, but likewise the aged and impotent, and also all in a state of infancy and nonage, among Friends, to be discharged and set free from a state of slavery, that we do no more claim property in the human race, as we do in the brutes that perish."
In 1782 no slaves were known to be held in the New England Yearly Meeting. The next year it was recommended to the subordinate meetings to appoint committees to effect a proper and just settlement between the manumitted slaves and their former masters, for their past services. In 1784 it was concluded by the Yearly Meeting that any former slave-holder who refused to comply with the award of these committees should, after due care and labor with him, be disowned from the Society. This was effectual; settlements without disownment were made to the satisfaction of all parties, and every case was disposed of previous to the year 1787.
In the New York Yearly Meeting, slave-trading was prohibited about the middle of the last century. In 1771, in consequence of an Epistle from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a committee was appointed to visit those who held slaves, and to advise with them in relation to emancipation. In 1776 it was made a disciplinary offence to buy, sell, or hold slaves upon any condition. In 1784 but one slave was to be found in the limits of the meeting. In the same year, by answers from the several subordinate meetings, it was ascertained that an equitable settlement for past services had been effected between the emancipated negroes and their masters in all save three cases.
In the Virginia Yearly Meeting slavery had its strongest hold. Its members, living in the midst of slave-holding communities, were necessarily exposed to influences adverse to emancipation. I have already alluded to the epistle addressed to them by William Edmondson, and to the labors of John Woolman while travelling among them. In 1757 the Virginia Yearly Meeting condemned the foreign slave-trade. In 1764 it enjoined upon its members the duty of kindness towards their servants, of educating them, and carefully providing for their food and clothing. Four years after, its members were strictly prohibited from purchasing any more slaves. In 1773 it earnestly recommended the immediate manumission of all slaves held in bondage, after the females had reached eighteen and the males twenty-one years of age. At the same time it was advised that committees should be appointed for the purpose of instructing the emancipated persons in the principles of morality and religion, and for advising and aiding them in their temporal concerns.
I quote a single paragraph from the advice sent down to the subordinate meetings, as a beautiful manifestation of the fruits of true repentance:--
"It is the solid sense of this meeting, that we of the present generation are under strong obligations to express our love and concern for the offspring of those people who by their labors have greatly contributed towards the cultivation of these colonies under the afflictive disadvantage of enduring a hard bondage, and the benefit of whose toil many among us are enjoying."
In 1784, the different Quarterly Meetings having reported that many still held slaves, notwithstanding the advice and entreaties of their friends, the Yearly Meeting directed that where endeavors to convince those offenders of their error proved ineffectual, the Monthly Meetings should proceed to disown them. We have no means of ascertaining the precise number of those actually disowned for slave-holding in the Virginia Yearly Meeting, but it is well known to have been very small. In almost all cases the care and assiduous labors of those who had the welfare of the Society and of humanity at heart were successful in inducing offenders to manumit their slaves, and confess their error in resisting the wishes of their friends and bringing reproach upon the cause of truth.
So ended slavery in the Society of Friends. For three quarters of a century the advice put forth in the meetings of the Society at stated intervals, that Friends should be "careful to maintain their testimony against slavery," has been adhered to so far as owning, or even hiring, a slave is concerned. Apart from its first-fruits of emancipation, there is a perennial value in the example exhibited of the power of truth, urged patiently and in earnest love, to overcome the difficulties in the way of the eradication of an evil system, strengthened by long habit, entangled with all the complex relations of society, and closely allied with the love of power, the pride of family, and the lust of gain.
The influence of the life and labors of John Woolman has by no means been confined to the religious society of which he was a member. It may be traced wherever a step in the direction of emancipation has been taken in this country or in Europe. During the war of the Revolution many of the noblemen and officers connected with the French army became, as their journals abundantly testify, deeply interested in the Society of Friends, and took back to France with them something of its growing anti-slavery sentiment. Especially was this the case with Jean Pierre Brissot, the thinker and statesman of the Girondists, whose intimacy with Warner Mifflin, a friend and disciple of Woolman, so profoundly affected his whole after life. He became the leader of the "Friends of the Blacks," and carried with him to the scaffold a profound hatred, of slavery. To his efforts may be traced the proclamation of emancipation in Hayti by the commissioners of the French convention, and indirectly the subsequent uprising of the blacks and their successful establishment of a free government. The same influence reached Thomas Clarkson and stimulated his early efforts for the abolition of the slave-trade; and in after life the volume of the New Jersey Quaker was the cherished companion of himself and his amiable helpmate. It was in a degree, at least, the influence of Stephen Grellet and William Allen, men deeply imbued with the spirit of Woolman, and upon whom it might almost be said his mantle had fallen, that drew the attention of Alexander I. of Russia to the importance of taking measures for the abolition of serfdom, an object the accomplishment of which the wars during his reign prevented, but which, left as a legacy of duty, has been peaceably effected by his namesake, Alexander II. In the history of emancipation in our own country evidences of the same original impulse of humanity are not wanting. In 1790 memorials against slavery from the Society of Friends were laid before the first Congress of the United States. Not content with clearing their own skirts of the evil, the Friends of that day took an active part in the formation of the abolition societies of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Jacob Lindley, Elisha Tyson, Warner Mifflin, James Pemberton, and other leading Friends were known throughout the country as unflinching champions of freedom. One of the earliest of the class known as modern abolitionists was Benjamin Lundy, a pupil in the school of Woolman, through whom William Lloyd Garrison became interested in the great work to which his life has been so faithfully and nobly devoted. Looking back to the humble workshop at Mount Holly from the stand-point of the Proclamation of President Lincoln, how has the seed sown in weakness been raised up in power!
The larger portion of Woolman's writings is devoted to the subjects of slavery, uncompensated labor, and the excessive toil and suffering of the many to support the luxury of the few. The argument running through them is searching, and in its conclusions uncompromising, but a tender love for the wrong-doer as well as the sufferer underlies all. They aim to convince the judgment and reach the heart without awakening prejudice and passion. To the slave-holders of his time they must have seemed like the voice of conscience speaking to them in the cool of the day. One feels, in reading them, the tenderness and humility of a nature redeemed from all pride of opinion and self-righteousness, sinking itself out of sight, and intent only upon rendering smaller the sum of human sorrow and sin by drawing men nearer to God, and to each other. The style is that of a man unlettered, but with natural refinement and delicate sense of fitness, the purity of whose heart enters into his language. There is no attempt at fine writing, not a word or phrase for effect; it is the simple unadorned diction of one to whom the temptations of the pen seem to have been wholly unknown. He wrote, as he believed, from an inward spiritual prompting; and with all his unaffected humility he evidently felt that his work was done in the clear radiance of
"The light which never was on land or sea."
It was not for him to outrun his Guide, or, as Sir Thomas Browne expresses it, to "order the finger of the Almighty to His will and pleasure, but to sit still under the soft showers of Providence." Very wise are these essays, but their wisdom is not altogether that of this world. They lead one away from all the jealousies, strifes, and competitions of luxury, fashion, and gain, out of the close air of parties and sects, into a region of calmness,--
"The haunt Of every gentle wind whose breath can teach The wild to love tranquillity,"--
a quiet habitation where all things are ordered in what he calls "the pure reason;" a rest from all self-seeking, and where no man's interest or activity conflicts with that of another. Beauty they certainly have, but it is not that which the rules of art recognize; a certain indefinable purity pervades them, making one sensible, as he reads, of a sweetness as of violets. "The secret of Woolman's purity of style," said Dr. Channing, "is that his eye was single, and that conscience dictated his words."
Of course we are not to look to the writings of such a man for tricks of rhetoric, the free play of imagination, or the unscrupulousness of epigram and antithesis. He wrote as he lived, conscious of "the great Task-master's eye." With the wise heathen Marcus Aurelius Antoninus he had learned to "wipe out imaginations, to check desire, and let the spirit that is the gift of God to every man, as his guardian and guide, bear rule."
I have thought it inexpedient to swell the bulk of this volume with the entire writings appended to the old edition of the Journal, inasmuch as they mainly refer to a system which happily on this continent is no longer a question at issue. I content myself with throwing together a few passages from them which touch subjects of present interest.
"Selfish men may possess the earth: it is the meek alone who inherit it from the Heavenly Father free from all defilements and perplexities of unrighteousness."
"Whoever rightly advocates the cause of some thereby promotes the good of the whole."
"If one suffer by the unfaithfulness of another, the mind, the most noble part of him that occasions the discord, is thereby alienated from its true happiness."
"There is harmony in the several parts of the Divine work in the hearts of men. He who leads them to cease from those gainful employments which are carried on in the wisdom which is from beneath delivers also from the desire of worldly greatness, and reconciles to a life so plain that a little suffices."
"After days and nights of drought, when the sky hath grown dark, and clouds like lakes of water have hung over our heads, I have at times beheld with awfulness the vehement lightning accompanying the blessings of the rain, a messenger from Him to remind us of our duty in a right use of His benefits."
"The marks of famine in a land appear as humbling admonitions from God, instructing us by gentle chastisements, that we may remember that the outward supply of life is a gift from our Heavenly Father, and that we should not venture to use or apply that gift in a way contrary to pure reason."
"Oppression in the extreme appears terrible; but oppression in more refined appearances remains to be oppression. To labor for a perfect redemption from the spirit of it is the great business of the whole family of Jesus Christ in this world."
"In the obedience of faith we die to self-love, and, our life being 'hid with Christ in God,' our hearts are enlarged towards mankind universally; but many in striving to get treasures have departed from this true light of life and stumbled on the dark mountains. That purity of life which proceeds from faithfulness in following the pure spirit of truth, that state in which our minds are devoted to serve God and all our wants are bounded by His wisdom, has often been opened to me as a place of retirement for the children of the light, in which we may be separated from that which disordereth and confuseth the affairs of society, and may have a testimony for our innocence in the hearts of those who behold us."
"There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages bath had different names; it is, however, pure, and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion nor excluded from any, when the heart stands in perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows, they become brethren."
"The necessity of an inward stillness hath appeared clear to my mind. In true silence strength is renewed, and the mind is weaned from all things, save as they may be enjoyed in the Divine will; and a lowliness in outward living, opposite to worldly honor, becomes truly acceptable to us. In the desire after outward gain the mind is prevented from a perfect attention to the voice of Christ; yet being weaned from all things, except as they may be enjoyed in the Divine will, the pure light shines into the soul. Where the fruits of the spirit which is of this world are brought forth by many who profess to be led by the Spirit of truth, and cloudiness is felt to be gathering over the visible church, the sincere in heart, who abide in true stillness, and are exercised therein before the Lord for His name's sake, have knowledge of Christ in the fellowship of His sufferings; and inward thankfulness is felt at times, that through Divine love our own wisdom is cast out, and that forward, active part in us is subjected, which would rise and do something without the pure leadings of the spirit of Christ.
"While aught remains in us contrary to a perfect resignation of our wills, it is like a seal to the book wherein is written 'that good and acceptable and perfect will of God' concerning us. But when our minds entirely yield to Christ, that silence is known which followeth the opening of the last of the seals. In this silence we learn to abide in the Divine will, and there feel that we have no cause to promote except that alone in which the light of life directs us."
Occasionally, in Considerations on the Keeping of? Negroes, the intense interest of his subject gives his language something of passionate elevation, as in the following extract:--
"When trade is carried on productive of much misery, and they who suffer by it are many thousand miles off, the danger is the greater of not laying their sufferings to heart. In procuring slaves on the coast of Africa, many children are stolen privately; wars are encouraged among the negroes, but all is at a great distance. Many groans arise from dying men which we hear not. Many cries are uttered by widows and fatherless children which reach not our ears. Many cheeks are wet with tears, and faces sad with unutterable grief, which we see not. Cruel tyranny is encouraged. The hands of robbers are strengthened.
"Were we, for the term of one year only, to be eye-witnesses of what passeth in getting these slaves; were the blood that is there shed to be sprinkled on our garments; were the poor captives, bound with thongs, and heavily laden with elephants' teeth, to pass before our eyes on their way to the sea; were their bitter lamentations, day after day, to ring in our ears, and their mournful cries in the night to hinder us from sleeping,-- were we to behold and hear these things, what pious heart would not be deeply affected with sorrow!"
"It is good for those who live in fulness to cultivate tenderness of heart, and to improve every opportunity of being acquainted with the hardships and fatigues of those who labor for their living, and thus to think seriously with themselves: Am I influenced by true charity in fixing all my demands? Have I no desire to support myself in expensive customs, because my acquaintances live in such customs?
"If a wealthy man, on serious reflection, finds a witness in his own conscience that he indulges himself in some expensive habits, which might be omitted, consistently with the true design of living, and which, were he to change places with those who occupy his estate, he would desire to be discontinued by them,--whoever is thus awakened will necessarily find the injunction binding, 'Do ye even so to them.' Divine Love imposeth no rigorous or unreasonable commands, but graciously points out the spirit of brotherhood and the way to happiness, in attaining which it is necessary that we relinquish all that is selfish.
"Our gracious Creator cares and provides for all His creatures; His tender mercies are over all His works, and so far as true love influences our minds, so far we become interested in His workmanship, and feel a desire to make use of every opportunity to lessen the distresses of the afflicted, and to increase the happiness of the creation. Here we have a prospect of one common interest from which our own is inseparable, so that to turn all we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives."
His liberality and freedom from "all narrowness as to sects and opinions" are manifest in the following passages:--
"Men who sincerely apply their minds to true virtue, and find an inward support from above, by which all vicious inclinations are made subject; who love God sincerely, and prefer the real good of mankind universally to their own private interest,--though these, through the strength of education and tradition, may remain under some great speculative errors, it would be uncharitable to say that therefore God rejects them. The knowledge and goodness of Him who creates, supports, and gives understanding to all men are superior to the various states and circumstances of His creatures, which to us appear the most difficult. Idolatry indeed is wickedness; but it is the thing, not the name, which is so. Real idolatry is to pay that adoration to a creature which is known to be due only to the true God.
"He who professeth to believe in one Almighty Creator, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and is yet more intent on the honors, profits, and friendships of the world than he is, in singleness of heart, to stand faithful to the Christian religion, is in the channel of idolatry; while the Gentile, who, notwithstanding some mistaken opinions, is established in the true principle of virtue, and humbly adores an Almighty Power, may be of the number that fear God and work righteousness."
Nowhere has what is called the "Labor Question," which is now agitating the world, been discussed more wisely and with a broader humanity than in these essays. His sympathies were with the poor man, yet the rich too are his brethren, and he warns them in love and pity of the consequences of luxury and oppression:--
"Every degree of luxury, every demand for money inconsistent with the Divine order, hath connection with unnecessary labors."
"To treasure up wealth for another generation, by means of the immoderate labor of those who in some measure depend upon us, is doing evil at present, without knowing that wealth thus gathered may not be applied to evil purposes when we are gone. To labor hard, or cause others to do so, that we may live conformably to customs which our Redeemer discountenanced by His example, and which are contrary to Divine order, is to manure a soil for propagating an evil seed in the earth."
"When house is joined to house, and field laid to field, until there is no place, and the poor are thereby straitened, though this is done by bargain and purchase, yet so far as it stands distinguished from universal love, so far that woe predicted by the prophet will accompany their proceedings. As He who first founded the earth was then the true proprietor of it, so He still remains, and though He hath given it to the children of men, so that multitudes of people have had their sustenance from it while they continued here, yet He bath never alienated it, but His right is as good as at first; nor can any apply the increase of their possessions contrary to universal love, nor dispose of lands in a way which they know tends to exalt some by oppressing others, without being justly chargeable with usurpation."
It will not lessen the value of the foregoing extracts in the minds of the true-disciples of our Divine Lord, that they are manifestly not written to subserve the interests of a narrow sectarianism. They might have been penned by Fenelon in his time, or Robertson in ours, dealing as they do with Christian practice,--the life of Christ manifesting itself in purity and goodness,--rather than with the dogmas of theology. The underlying thought of all is simple obedience to the Divine word in the soul. "Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father in heaven." In the preface to an English edition, published some years ago, it is intimated that objections had been raised to the Journal on the ground that it had so little to say of doctrines and so much of duties. One may easily understand that this objection might have been forcibly felt by the slave-holding religious professors of Woolman's day, and that it may still be entertained by a class of persons who, like the Cabalists, attach a certain mystical significance to words, names, and titles, and who in consequence question the piety which hesitates to flatter the Divine ear by "vain repetitions" and formal enumeration of sacred attributes, dignities, and offices. Every instinct of his tenderly sensitive nature shrank from the wordy irreverence of noisy profession. His very silence is significant: the husks of emptiness rustle in every wind; the full corn in the ear holds up its golden fruit noiselessly to the Lord of the harvest. John Woolman's faith, like the Apostle's, is manifested by his labors, standing not in words but in the demonstration of the spirit,--a faith that works by love to the purifying of the heart. The entire outcome of this faith was love manifested in reverent waiting upon God, and in that untiring benevolence, that quiet but deep enthusiasm of humanity, which made his daily service to his fellow- creatures a hymn of praise to the common Father.
However the intellect may criticise such a life, whatever defects it may present to the trained eyes of theological adepts, the heart has no questions to ask, but at once owns and reveres it. Shall we regret that he who had so entered into fellowship of suffering with the Divine One, walking with Him under the cross, and dying daily to self, gave to the faith and hope that were in him this testimony of a life, rather than any form of words, however sound? A true life is at once interpreter and proof of the gospel, and does more to establish its truth in the hearts of men than all the "Evidences" and "Bodies of Divinity" which have perplexed the world with more doubts than they solved. Shall we venture to account it a defect in his Christian character, that, under an abiding sense of the goodness and long-suffering of God, he wrought his work in gentleness and compassion, with the delicate tenderness which comes of a deep sympathy with the trials and weaknesses of our nature, never allowing himself to indulge in heat or violence, persuading rather than threatening? Did he overestimate that immeasurable Love, the manifestation of which in his own heart so reached the hearts of others, revealing everywhere unsuspected fountains of feeling and secret longings after purity, as the rod of the diviner detects sweet, cool water-springs under the parched surfaces of a thirsty land? And, looking at the purity, wisdom, and sweetness of his life, who shall say that his faith in the teaching of the Holy Spirit--the interior guide and light--was a mistaken one? Surely it was no illusion by which his feet were so guided that all who saw him felt that, like Enoch, he walked with God. "Without the actual inspiration of the Spirit of Grace, the inward teacher and soul of our souls," says Fenelon, "we could neither do, will, nor believe good. We must silence every creature, we must silence ourselves also, to hear in a profound stillness of the soul this inexpressible voice of Christ. The outward word of the gospel itself without this living efficacious word within would be but an empty sound." "Thou Lord," says Augustine in his Meditations, "communicatest thyself to all: thou teachest the heart without words; thou speakest to it without articulate sounds."
"However, I am sure that there is a common spirit that plays within us, and that is the Spirit of God. Whoever feels not the warm gale and gentle ventilation of this Spirit, I dare not say he lives; for truly without this to me there is no heat under the tropic, nor any light though I dwelt in the body of the sun."--Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici.
Never was this divine principle more fully tested than by John Wool man; and the result is seen in a life of such rare excellence that the world is still better and richer for its sake, and the fragrance of it comes down to us through a century, still sweet and precious.
It will be noted throughout the Journal and essays that in his lifelong testimony against wrong he never lost sight of the oneness of humanity, its common responsibility, its fellowship of suffering and communion of sin. Few have ever had so profound a conviction of the truth of the Apostle's declaration that no man liveth and no man dieth to himself. Sin was not to him an isolated fact, the responsibility of which began and ended with the individual transgressor; he saw it as a part of a vast network and entanglement, and traced the lines of influence converging upon it in the underworld of causation. Hence the wrong and discord which pained him called out pity, rather than indignation. The first inquiry which they awakened was addressed to his own conscience. How far am I in thought, word, custom, responsible for this? Have none of my fellow-creatures an equitable right to any part which is called mine? Have the gifts and possessions received by me from others been conveyed in a way free from all unrighteousness? "Through abiding in the law of Christ," he says, "we feel a tenderness towards our fellow-creatures, and a concern so to walk that our conduct may not be the means of strengthening them in error." He constantly recurs to the importance of a right example in those who profess to be led by the spirit of Christ, and who attempt to labor in His name for the benefit of their fellow-men. If such neglect or refuse themselves to act rightly, they can but "entangle the minds of others and draw a veil over the face of righteousness." His eyes were anointed to see the common point of departure from the Divine harmony, and that all the varied growths of evil had their underlying root in human selfishness. He saw that every sin of the individual was shared in greater or less degree by all whose lives were opposed to the Divine order, and that pride, luxury, and avarice in one class gave motive and temptation to the grosser forms of evil in another. How gentle, and yet how searching, are his rebukes of self-complacent respectability, holding it responsible, in spite of all its decent seemings, for much of the depravity which it condemned with Pharisaical harshness! In his Considerations on the True Harmony of Mankind be dwells with great earnestness upon the importance of possessing "the mind of Christ," which removes from the heart the desire of superiority and worldly honors, incites attention to the Divine Counsellor, and awakens an ardent engagement to promote the happiness of all. "This state," he says, "in which every motion from the selfish spirit yieldeth to pure love, I may acknowledge with gratitude to the Father of Mercies, is often opened before me as a pearl to seek after."
At times when I have felt true love open my heart towards my fellow- creatures, and have been engaged in weighty conversation in the cause of righteousness, the instructions I have received under these exercises in regard to the true use of the outward gifts of God have made deep and lasting impressions on my mind. I have beheld how the desire to provide wealth and to uphold a delicate life has greviously entangled many, and has been like a snare to their offspring; and though some have been affected with a sense of their difficulties, and have appeared desirous at times to be helped out of them, yet for want of abiding under the humbling power of truth they have continued in these entanglements; expensive living in parents and children hath called for a large supply, and in answering this call the 'faces of the poor' have been ground away, and made thin through hard dealing.
"There is balm; there is a physician! and oh what longings do I feel that we may embrace the means appointed for our healing; may know that removed which now ministers cause for the cries of many to ascend to Heaven against their oppressors; and that thus we may see the true harmony restored!--a restoration of that which was lost at Babel, and which will be, as the prophet expresses it, 'the returning of a pure language!'"
It is easy to conceive how unwelcome this clear spiritual insight must have been to the superficial professors of his time busy in tithing mint, anise, and cummin. There must have been something awful in the presence of one endowed with the gift of looking through all the forms, shows, and pretensions of society, and detecting with certainty the germs of evil hidden beneath them; a man gentle and full of compassion, clothed in "the irresistible might of meekness," and yet so wise in spiritual discernment,
"Bearing a touchstone in his hand And testing all things in the land By his unerring spell.
"Quick births of transmutation smote The fair to foul, the foul to fair; Purple nor ermine did he spare, Nor scorn the dusty coat."
In bringing to a close this paper, the preparation of which has been to me a labor of love, I am not unmindful of the wide difference between the appreciation of a pure and true life and the living of it, and am willing to own that in delineating a character of such moral and spiritual symmetry I have felt something like rebuke from my own words. I have been awed and solemnized by the presence of a serene and beautiful spirit redeemed of the Lord from all selfishness, and I have been made thankful for the ability to recognize and the disposition to love him. I leave the book with its readers. They may possibly make large deductions from my estimate of the author; they may not see the importance of all his self-denying testimonies; they may question some of his scruples, and smile over passages of childlike simplicity; but I believe they will all agree in thanking me for introducing them to the Journal of John Woolman.
AMESBURY, 20th 1st mo.,1871.
Letter to President Thomas Chase, LL. D.
AMESBURY, MASS., 9th mo., 1884.
THE Semi-Centennial of Haverford College is an event that no member of the Society of Friends can regard without deep interest. It would give me great pleasure to be with you on the 27th inst., but the years rest heavily upon me, and I have scarcely health or strength for such a journey.
It was my privilege to visit Haverford in 1838, in "the day of small beginnings." The promise of usefulness which it then gave has been more than fulfilled. It has grown to be a great and well-established institution, and its influence in thorough education and moral training has been widely felt. If the high educational standard presented in the scholastic treatise of Barclay and the moral philosophy of Dymond has been lowered or disowned by many who, still retaining the name of Quakerism, have lost faith in the vital principle wherein precious testimonials of practical righteousness have their root, and have gone back to a dead literalness, and to those materialistic ceremonials for leaving which our old confessors suffered bonds and death, Haverford, at least, has been in a good degree faithful to the trust committed to it.
Under circumstances of more than ordinary difficulty, it has endeavored to maintain the Great Testimony. The spirit of its culture has not been a narrow one, nor could it be, if true to the broad and catholic principles of the eminent worthies who founded the State of Pennsylvania, Penn, Lloyd, Pastorius, Logan, and Story; men who were masters of the scientific knowledge and culture of their age, hospitable to all truth, and open to all light, and who in some instances anticipated the result of modern research and critical inquiry.
It was Thomas Story, a minister of the Society of Friends, and member of Penn's Council of State, who, while on a religious visit to England, wrote to James Logan that he had read on the stratified rocks of Scarborough, as from the finger of God, proofs of the immeasurable age of our planet, and that the "days" of the letter of Scripture could only mean vast spaces of time.
May Haverford emulate the example of these brave but reverent men, who, in investigating nature, never lost sight of the Divine Ideal, and who, to use the words of Fenelon, "Silenced themselves to hear in the stillness of their souls the inexpressible voice of Christ." Holding fast the mighty truth of the Divine Immanence, the Inward Light and Word, a Quaker college can have no occasion to renew the disastrous quarrel of religion with science. Against the sublime faith which shall yet dominate the world, skepticism has no power. No possible investigation of natural facts; no searching criticism of letter and tradition can disturb it, for it has its witness in all human hearts.
That Haverford may fully realize and improve its great opportunities as an approved seat of learning and the exponent of a Christian philosophy which can never be superseded, which needs no change to fit it for universal acceptance, and which, overpassing the narrow limits of sect, is giving new life and hope to Christendom, and finding its witnesses in the Hindu revivals of the Brahmo Somaj and the fervent utterances of Chunda Sen and Mozoomdar, is the earnest desire of thy friend.
A review of Mr. Longfellow's poem.
EUREKA! Here, then, we have it at last,--an American poem, with the lack of which British reviewers have so long reproached us. Selecting the subject of all others best calculated for his purpose,--the expulsion of the French settlers of Acadie from their quiet and pleasant homes around the Basin of Minas, one of the most sadly romantic passages in the history of the Colonies of the North,--the author has succeeded in presenting a series of exquisite pictures of the striking and peculiar features of life and nature in the New World. The range of these delineations extends from Nova Scotia on the northeast to the spurs of the Rocky Mountains on the west and the Gulf of Mexico on the south. Nothing can be added to his pictures of quiet farm-life in Acadie, the Indian summer of our northern latitudes, the scenery of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, the bayous and cypress forests of the South, the mocking-bird, the prairie, the Ozark hills, the Catholic missions, and the wild Arabs of the West, roaming with the buffalo along the banks of the Nebraska. The hexameter measure he has chosen has the advantage of a prosaic freedom of expression, exceedingly well adapted to a descriptive and narrative poem; yet we are constrained to think that the story of Evangeline would have been quite as acceptable to the public taste had it been told in the poetic prose of the author's Hyperion.
In reading it and admiring its strange melody we were not without fears that the success of Professor Longfellow in this novel experiment might prove the occasion of calling out a host of awkward imitators, leading us over weary wastes of hexameters, enlivened neither by dew, rain, nor fields of offering.
Apart from its Americanism, the poem has merits of a higher and universal character. It is not merely a work of art; the pulse of humanity throbs warmly through it. The portraits of Basil the blacksmith, the old notary, Benedict Bellefontaine, and good Father Felician, fairly glow with life. The beautiful Evangeline, loving and faithful unto death, is a heroine worthy of any poet of the present century.
The editor of the Boston Chronotype, in the course of an appreciative review of this poem, urges with some force a single objection, which we are induced to notice, as it is one not unlikely to present itself to the minds of other readers:--
"We think Mr. Longfellow ought to have expressed a much deeper indignation at the base, knavish, and heartless conduct of the English and Colonial persecutors than he has done. He should have put far bolder and deeper tints in the picture of suffering. One great, if not the greatest, end of poetry is rhadamanthine justice. The poet should mete out their deserts to all his heroes; honor to whom honor, and infamy to whom infamy, is due.
"It is true that the wrong in this case is in a great degree fathered upon our own Massachusetts; and it maybe said that it is afoul bird that pollutes its own nest. We deny the applicability of the rather musty proverb. All the worse. Of not a more contemptible vice is what is called American literature guilty than this of unmitigated self- laudation. If we persevere in it, the stock will become altogether too small for the business. It seems that no period of our history has been exempt from materials for patriotic humiliation and national self- reproach; and surely the present epoch is laying in a large store of that sort. Had our poets always told us the truth of ourselves, perhaps it would now be otherwise. National self-flattery and concealment of faults must of course have their natural results."
We must confess that we read the first part of Evangeline with something of the feeling so forcibly expressed by Professor Wright. The natural and honest indignation with which, many years ago, we read for the first time that dark page of our Colonial history--the expulsion of the French neutrals--was reawakened by the simple pathos of the poem; and we longed to find an adequate expression of it in the burning language of the poet. We marvelled that he who could so touch the heart by his description of the sad suffering of the Acadian peasants should have permitted the authors of that suffering to escape without censure. The outburst of the stout Basil, in the church of Grand Pre, was, we are fain to acknowledge, a great relief to us. But, before reaching the close of the volume, we were quite reconciled to the author's forbearance. The design of the poem is manifestly incompatible with stern "rhadamanthine justice" and indignant denunciation of wrong. It is a simple story of quiet pastoral happiness, of great sorrow and painful bereavement, and of the endurance of a love which, hoping and seeking always, wanders evermore up and down the wilderness of the world, baffled at every turn, yet still retaining faith in God and in the object of its lifelong quest. It was no part of the writer's object to investigate the merits of the question at issue between the poor Acadians and their Puritan neighbors. Looking at the materials before him with the eye of an artist simply, he has arranged them to suit his idea of the beautiful and pathetic, leaving to some future historian the duty of sitting in judgment upon the actors in the atrocious outrage which furnished them. With this we are content. The poem now has unity and sweetness which might have been destroyed by attempting to avenge the wrongs it so vividly depicts. It is a psalm of love and forgiveness: the gentleness and peace of Christian meekness and forbearance breathe through it. Not a word of censure is directly applied to the marauding workers of the mighty sorrow which it describes just as it would a calamity from the elements,--a visitation of God. The reader, however, cannot fail to award justice to the wrong-doers. The unresisting acquiescence of the Acadians only deepens his detestation of the cupidity and religious bigotry of their spoilers. Even in the language of the good Father Felician, beseeching his flock to submit to the strong hand which had been laid upon them, we see and feel the magnitude of the crime to be forgiven:--
"Lo, where the crucified Christ from his cross is gazing upon you! See in those sorrowful eyes what meekness and holy compassion! Hark! how those lips still repeat the prayer, O Father, forgive them! Let us repeat that prayer in the hour when the wicked assail us; Let us repeat it now, and say, O Father, forgive them!"
How does this simple prayer of the Acadians contrast with the "deep damnation of their taking off!"
The true history of the Puritans of New England is yet to be written. Somewhere midway between the caricatures of the Church party and the self-laudations of their own writers the point may doubtless be found from whence an impartial estimate of their character may be formed. They had noble qualities: the firmness and energy which they displayed in the colonization of New England must always command admiration. We would not rob them, were it in our power to do so, of one jot or tittle of their rightful honor. But, with all the lights which we at present possess, we cannot allow their claim of saintship without some degree of qualification. How they seemed to their Dutch neighbors at New Netherlands, and their French ones at Nova Scotia, and to the poor Indians, hunted from their fisheries and game-grounds, we can very well conjecture. It may be safely taken for granted that their gospel claim to the inheritance of the earth was not a little questionable to the Catholic fleeing for his life from their jurisdiction, to the banished Baptist shaking off the dust of his feet against them, and to the martyred Quaker denouncing woe and judgment upon them from the steps of the gallows. Most of them were, beyond a doubt, pious and sincere; but we are constrained to believe that among them were those who wore the livery of heaven from purely selfish motives, in a community where church-membership was an indispensable requisite, the only open sesame before which the doors of honor and distinction swung wide to needy or ambitious aspirants. Mere adventurers, men of desperate fortunes, bankrupts in character and purse, contrived to make gain of godliness under the church and state government of New England, put on the austere exterior of sanctity, quoted Scripture, anathematized heretics, whipped Quakers, exterminated Indians, burned and spoiled the villages of their Catholic neighbors, and hewed down their graven images and "houses of Rimmon." It is curious to observe how a fierce religious zeal against heathen and idolaters went hand in hand with the old Anglo-Saxon love of land and plunder. Every crusade undertaken against the Papists of the French colonies had its Puritan Peter the Hermit to summon the saints to the wars of the Lord. At the siege of Louisburg, ten years before the onslaught upon the Acadian settlers, one minister marched with the Colonial troops, axe in hand, to hew down the images in the French churches; while another officiated in the double capacity of drummer and chaplain,--a "drum ecclesiastic," as Hudibras has it.
At the late celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims in New York, the orator of the day labored at great length to show that the charge of intolerance, as urged against the colonists of New England, is unfounded in fact. The banishment of the Catholics was very sagaciously passed over in silence, inasmuch as the Catholic Bishop of New York was one of the invited guests, and (hear it, shade of Cotton Mather!) one of the regular toasts was a compliment to the Pope. The expulsion of Roger Williams was excused and partially justified; while the whipping, ear- cropping, tongue-boring, and hanging of the Quakers was defended, as the only effectual method of dealing with such devil-driven heretics, as Mather calls them. The orator, in the new-born zeal of his amateur Puritanism, stigmatizes the persecuted class as "fanatics and ranters, foaming forth their mad opinions;" compares them to the Mormons and the crazy followers of Mathias; and cites an instance of a poor enthusiast, named Eccles, who, far gone in the "tailor's melancholy," took it into his head that he must enter into a steeple-house pulpit and stitch breeches "in singing time,"--a circumstance, by the way, which took place in Old England,--as a justification of the atrocious laws of the Massachusetts Colony. We have not the slightest disposition to deny the fanaticism and folly of some few professed Quakers in that day; and had the Puritans treated them as the Pope did one of their number whom he found crazily holding forth in the church of St. Peter, and consigned them to the care of physicians as religious monomaniacs, no sane man could have blamed them. Every sect, in its origin, and especially in its time of persecution, has had its fanatics. The early Christians, if we may credit the admissions of their own writers or attach the slightest credence to the statements of pagan authors, were by no means exempt from reproach and scandal in this respect. Were the Puritans themselves the men to cast stones at the Quakers and Baptists? Had they not, in the view at least of the Established Church, turned all England upside down with their fanaticisms and extravagances of doctrine and conduct? How look they as depicted in the sermons of Dr. South, in the sarcastic pages of Hudibras, and the coarse caricatures of the clerical wits of the times of the second Charles? With their own backs scored and their ears cropped for the crime of denying the divine authority of church and state in England, were they the men to whip Baptists and hang Quakers for doing the same thing in Massachusetts?
Of all that is noble and true in the Puritan character we are sincere admirers. The generous and self-denying apostleship of Eliot is, of itself, a beautiful page in their history. The physical daring and hardihood with which, amidst the times of savage warfare, they laid the foundations of mighty states, and subdued the rugged soil, and made the wilderness blossom; their steadfast adherence to their religious principles, even when the Restoration had made apostasy easy and profitable; and the vigilance and firmness with which, under all circumstances, they held fast their chartered liberties and extorted new rights and privileges from the reluctant home government,--justly entitle them to the grateful remembrance of a generation now reaping the fruits of their toils and sacrifices. But, in expressing our gratitude to the founders of New England, we should not forget what is due to truth and justice; nor, for the sake of vindicating them from the charge of that religious intolerance which, at the time, they shared with nearly all Christendom, undertake to defend, in the light of the nineteenth century, opinions and practices hostile to the benignant spirit of the gospel and subversive of the inherent rights of man.
MIRTH AND MEDICINE
A review of Poems by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
IF any of our readers (and at times we fear it is the case with all) need amusement and the wholesome alterative of a hearty laugh, we commend them, not to Dr. Holmes the physician, but to Dr. Holmes the scholar, the wit, and the humorist; not to the scientific medical professor's barbarous Latin, but to his poetical prescriptions, given in choice old Saxon. We have tried them, and are ready to give the Doctor certificates of their efficacy.
Looking at the matter from the point of theory only, we should say that a physician could not be otherwise than melancholy. A merry doctor! Why, one might as well talk of a laughing death's-head,--the cachinnation of a monk's _memento mori_. This life of ours is sorrowful enough at its best estate; the brightest phase of it is "sicklied o'er with the pale cast" of the future or the past. But it is the special vocation of the doctor to look only upon the shadow; to turn away from the house of feasting and go down to that of mourning; to breathe day after day the atmosphere of wretchedness; to grow familiar with suffering; to look upon humanity disrobed of its pride and glory, robbed of all its fictitious ornaments, --weak, helpless, naked,--and undergoing the last fearful metempsychosis from its erect and godlike image, the living temple of an enshrined divinity, to the loathsome clod and the inanimate dust. Of what ghastly secrets of moral and physical disease is he the depositary! There is woe before him and behind him; he is hand and glove with misery by prescription,--the ex officio gauger of the ills that flesh is heir to. He has no home, unless it be at the bedside of the querulous, the splenetic, the sick, and the dying. He sits down to carve his turkey, and is summoned off to a post-mortem examination of another sort. All the diseases which Milton's imagination embodied in the lazar-house dog his footsteps and pluck at his doorbell. Hurrying from one place to another at their beck, he knows nothing of the quiet comfort of the "sleek-headed men who sleep o' nights." His wife, if he has one, has an undoubted right to advertise him as a deserter of "bed and board." His ideas of beauty, the imaginations of his brain, and the affections of his heart are regulated and modified by the irrepressible associations of his luckless profession. Woman as well as man is to him of the earth, earthy. He sees incipient disease where the uninitiated see only delicacy. A smile reminds him of his dental operations; a blushing cheek of his hectic patients; pensive melancholy is dyspepsia; sentimentalism, nervousness. Tell him of lovelorn hearts, of the "worm I' the bud," of the mental impalement upon Cupid's arrow, like that of a giaour upon the spear of a janizary, and he can only think of lack of exercise, of tightlacing, and slippers in winter. Sheridan seems to have understood all this, if we may judge from the lament of his Doctor, in St. Patrick's Day, over his deceased helpmate. "Poor dear Dolly," says he. "I shall never see her like again; such an arm for a bandage! veins that seemed to invite the lancet! Then her skin,--smooth and white as a gallipot; her mouth as round and not larger than that of a penny vial; and her teeth,--none of your sturdy fixtures,--ache as they would, it was only a small pull, and out they came. I believe I have drawn half a score of her dear pearls. (Weeps.) But what avails her beauty? She has gone, and left no little babe to hang like a label on papa's neck!"
So much for speculation and theory. In practice it is not so bad after all. The grave-digger in Hamlet has his jokes and grim jests. We have known many a jovial sexton; and we have heard clergymen laugh heartily at small provocation close on the heel of a cool calculation that the great majority of their fellow-creatures were certain of going straight to perdition. Why, then, should not even the doctor have his fun? Nay, is it not his duty to be merry, by main force if necessary? Solomon, who, from his great knowledge of herbs, must have been no mean practitioner for his day, tells us that "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine;" and universal experience has confirmed the truth of his maxim. Hence it is, doubtless, that we have so many anecdotes of facetious doctors, distributing their pills and jokes together, shaking at the same time the contents of their vials and the sides of their patients. It is merely professional, a trick of the practice, unquestionably, in most cases; but sometimes it is a "natural gift," like that of the "bonesetters," and "scrofula strokers," and "cancer curers," who carry on a sort of guerilla war with human maladies. Such we know to be the case with Dr. Holmes. He was born for the "laughter cure," as certainly as Priessnitz was for the "water cure," and has been quite as successful in his way, while his prescriptions are infinitely more agreeable.
The volume now before us gives, in addition to the poems and lyrics contained in the two previous editions, some hundred or more pages of the later productions of the author, in the sprightly vein, and marked by the brilliant fancy and felicitous diction for which the former were noteworthy. His longest and most elaborate poem, _Urania_, is perhaps the best specimen of his powers. Its general tone is playful and humorous; but there are passages of great tenderness and pathos. Witness the following, from a description of the city churchgoers. The whole compass of our literature has few passages to equal its melody and beauty.
"Down the chill street, which winds in gloomiest shade, What marks betray yon solitary maid? The cheek's red rose, that speaks of balmier air, The Celtic blackness of her braided hair; The gilded missal in her kerchief tied; Poor Nora, exile from Killarney's side! Sister in toil, though born of colder skies, That left their azure in her downcast eyes, See pallid Margaret, Labor's patient child, Scarce weaned from home, a nursling of the wild, Where white Katahdin o'er the horizon shines, And broad Penobscot dashes through the pines; Still, as she hastes, her careful fingers hold The unfailing hymn-book in its cambric fold: Six days at Drudgery's heavy wheel she stands, The seventh sweet morning folds her weary hands. Yes, child of suffering, thou mayst well be sure He who ordained the Sabbath loved the poor."
This is but one of many passages, showing that the author is capable of moving the heart as well as of tickling the fancy. There is no straining for effect; simple, natural thoughts are expressed in simple and perfectly transparent language.
_Terpsichore_, read at an annual dinner of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge, sparkles throughout with keen wit, quaint conceits, and satire so good-natured that the subjects of it can enjoy it as heartily as their neighbors. Witness this thrust at our German-English writers:--
"Essays so dark, Champollion might despair To guess what mummy of a thought was there, Where our poor English, striped with foreign phrase, Looks like a zebra in a parson's chaise."
Or this at our transcendental friends:--
"Deluded infants! will they never know Some doubts must darken o'er the world below Though all the Platos of the nursery trail Their clouds of glory at the go-cart's tail?"
The lines _On Lending a Punch-Bowl_ are highly characteristic. Nobody but Holmes could have conjured up so many rare fancies in connection with such a matter. Hear him:--
"This ancient silver bowl of mine, it tells of good old times, Of joyous days, and jolly nights, and merry Christmas chimes; They were a free and jovial race, but honest, brave, and true, That dipped their ladle in the punch when this old bowl was new.
"A Spanish galleon brought the bar; so runs the ancient tale; 'T was hammered by an Antwerp smith, whose arm was like a flail; And now and then between the strokes, for fear his strength should fail, He wiped his brow, and quaffed a cup of good old Flemish ale.
"'T was purchased by an English squire to please his loving dame, Who saw the cherubs, and conceived a longing for the same; And oft as on the ancient stock another twig was found, 'T was filled with candle spiced and hot and handed smoking round.
"But, changing hands, it reached at length a Puritan divine, Who used to follow Timothy, and take a little wine, But hated punch and prelacy; and so it was, perhaps, He went to Leyden, where he found conventicles and schnaps.
"And then, of course, you know what's next,--it left the Dutchman's shore With those that in the Mayflower came,--a hundred souls and more,-- Along with all the furniture, to fill their new abodes,-- To judge by what is still on hand, at least a hundred loads.
"'T was on a dreary winter's eve, the night was closing dim, When brave Miles Standish took the bowl, and filled it to the brim; The little Captain stood and stirred the posset with his sword, And all his sturdy men-at-arms were ranged about the board.
"He poured the fiery Hollands in,--the man that never feared,-- He took a long and solemn draught, and wiped his yellow beard; And one by one the musketeers--the men that fought and prayed-- All drank as 't were their mother's milk, and not a man afraid.
"That night, affrighted from his nest, the screaming eagle flew, He heard the Pequot's ringing whoop, the soldier's wild halloo; And there the sachem learned the rule he taught to kith and kin, 'Run from the white man when you find he smells of Hollands gin!'"
In his _Nux Postcoenatica_ he gives us his reflections on being invited to a dinner-party, where he was expected to "set the table in a roar" by reading funny verses. He submits it to the judgment and common sense of the importunate bearer of the invitation, that this dinner-going, ballad- making, mirth-provoking habit is not likely to benefit his reputation as a medical professor.
"Besides, my prospects. Don't you know that people won't employ A man that wrongs his manliness by laughing like a boy, And suspect the azure blossom that unfolds upon a shoot, As if Wisdom's oldpotato could not flourish at its root?
"It's a very fine reflection, when you're etching out a smile On a copperplate of faces that would stretch into a mile. That, what with sneers from enemies and cheapening shrugs from friends, It will cost you all the earnings that a month of labor lends."
There are, as might be expected, some commonplace pieces in the volume,-- a few failures in the line of humor. The _Spectre Pig_, the _Dorchester Giant_, the _Height of the Ridiculous_, and one or two others might be omitted in the next edition without detriment. They would do well enough for an amateur humorist, but are scarcely worthy of one who stands at the head of the profession.
It was said of James Smith, of the Rejected Addresses, that "if he had not been a witty man, he would have been a great man." Hood's humor and drollery kept in the background the pathos and beauty of his sober productions; and Dr. Holmes, we suspect, might have ranked higher among a large class of readers than he now does had he never written his _Ballad of the Oysterman_, his _Comet_, and his _September Gale_. Such lyrics as _La Grisette_, the _Puritan's Vision_, and that unique compound of humor and pathos, _The Last Leaf_; show that he possesses the power of touching the deeper chords of the heart and of calling forth tears as well as smiles. Who does not feel the power of this simple picture of the old man in the last-mentioned poem?
"But now he walks the streets, And he looks at all he meets Sad and wan, And he shakes his feeble head, That it seems as if he said, 'They are gone.'
"The mossy marbles rest On the lips that he has prest In their bloom, And the names he loved to hear Have been carved for many a year On the tomb."
Dr. Holmes has been likened to Thomas Hood; but there is little in common between them save the power of combining fancy and sentiment with grotesque drollery and humor. Hood, under all his whims and oddities, conceals the vehement intensity of a reformer. The iron of the world's wrongs had entered into his soul; there is an undertone of sorrow in his lyrics; his sarcasm, directed against oppression and bigotry, at times betrays the earnestness of one whose own withers have been wrung. Holmes writes simply for the amusement of himself and his readers; he deals only with the vanity, the foibles, and the minor faults of mankind, good naturedly and almost sympathizingly suggesting excuses for the folly which he tosses about on the horns of his ridicule. In this respect he differs widely from his fellow-townsman, Russell Lowell, whose keen wit and scathing sarcasm, in the famous Biglow Papers, and the notes of Parson Wilbur, strike at the great evils of society and deal with the rank offences of church and state. Hosea Biglow, in his way, is as earnest a preacher as Habakkuk Mucklewrath or Obadiah Bind-their-kings- in-chains-and-their-nobles-in-fetters-of-iron. His verse smacks of the old Puritan flavor. Holmes has a gentler mission. His careless, genial humor reminds us of James Smith in his _Rejected Addresses_ and of Horace in _London_. Long may he live to make broader the face of our care- ridden generation, and to realize for himself the truth of the wise man's declaration that a "merry heart is a continual feast."
FAME AND GLORY.
Notice of an Address before the Literary Society of Amherst College, by Charles Sumner.
THE learned and eloquent author of the pamphlet lying before us with the above title belongs to a class, happily on the increase in our country, who venture to do homage to unpopular truths in defiance of the social and political tyranny of opinion which has made so many of our statesmen, orators, and divines the mere playthings and shuttlecocks of popular impulses for evil far oftener than for good. His first production, the _True Grandeur of Nations_, written for the anniversary of American Independence, was not more remarkable for its evidences of a highly cultivated taste and wide historical research than for its inculcation of a high morality,--the demand for practical Christianity in nations as well as individuals. It burned no incense under the nostrils of an already inflated and vain people. It gratified them by no rhetorical falsehoods about "the land of the free and the home of the brave." It did not apostrophize military heroes, nor strut "red wat shod" over the plains of battle, nor call up, like another Ezekiel, from the valley of vision the dry bones thereof. It uttered none of the precious scoundrel cant, so much in vogue after the annexation of Texas was determined upon, about the destiny of the United States to enter in and possess the lands of all whose destiny it is to live next us, and to plant everywhere the "peculiar institutions" of a peculiarly Christian and chosen people, the landstealing propensity of whose progressive republicanism is declared to be in accordance with the will and by the grace of God, and who, like the Scotch freebooter,--
"Pattering an Ave Mary When he rode on a border forray,"--
while trampling on the rights of a sister republic, and re-creating slavery where that republic had abolished it, talk piously of "the designs of Providence" and the Anglo-Saxon instrumentalities thereof in "extending the area of freedom." On the contrary, the author portrayed the evils of war and proved its incompatibility with Christianity,-- contrasting with its ghastly triumphs the mild victories of peace and love. Our true mission, he taught, was not to act over in the New World the barbarous game which has desolated the Old; but to offer to the nations of the earth, warring and discordant, oppressed and oppressing, the beautiful example of a free and happy people studying the things which make for peace,--Democracy and Christianity walking hand in hand, blessing and being blessed.
His next public effort, an Address before the Literary Society of his Alma Mater, was in the same vein. He improved the occasion of the recent death of four distinguished members of that fraternity to delineate his beautiful ideal of the jurist, the scholar, the artist, and the philanthropist, aided by the models furnished by the lives of such men as Pickering, Story, Allston, and Channing. Here, also, he makes greatness to consist of goodness: war and slavery and all their offspring of evil are surveyed in the light of the morality of the New Testament. He looks hopefully forward to the coming of that day when the sword shall devour no longer, when labor shall grind no longer in the prison-house, and the peace and freedom of a realized and acted-out Christianity shall overspread the earth, and the golden age predicted by the seers and poets alike of Paganism and Christianity shall become a reality.
The Address now before us, with the same general object in view, is more direct and practical. We can scarcely conceive of a discourse better adapted to prepare the young American, just issuing from his collegiate retirement, for the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. It treats the desire of fame and honor as one native to the human heart, felt to a certain extent by all as a part of our common being,--a motive, although by no means the most exalted, of human conduct; and the lesson it would inculcate is, that no true and permanent fame can be founded except in labors which promote the happiness of mankind. To use the language of Dr. South, "God is the fountain of honor; the conduit by which He conveys it to the sons of men are virtuous and generous practices." The author presents the beautiful examples of St. Pierre, Milton, Howard, and Clarkson,--men whose fame rests on the firm foundation of goodness,--for the study and imitation of the young candidate for that true glory which belongs to those who live, not for themselves, but for their race. "Neither present fame, nor war, nor power, nor wealth, nor knowledge alone shall secure an entrance to the true and noble Valhalla. There shall be gathered only those who have toiled each in his vocation for the welfare of others." "Justice and benevolence are higher than knowledge and power It is by His goodness that God is most truly known; so also is the great man. When Moses said to the Lord, Show me Thy glory, the Lord said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee."
We copy the closing paragraph of the Address, the inspiring sentiment of which will find a response in all generous and hopeful hearts:--
"Let us reverse the very poles of the worship of past ages. Men have thus far bowed down before stocks, stones, insects, crocodiles, golden calves,--graven images, often of cunning workmanship, wrought with Phidian skill, of ivory, of ebony, of marble, but all false gods. Let them worship in future the true God, our Father, as He is in heaven and in the beneficent labors of His children on earth. Then farewell to the siren song of a worldly ambition! Farewell to the vain desire of mere literary success or oratorical display! Farewell to the distempered longings for office! Farewell to the dismal, blood-red phantom of martial renown! Fame and glory may then continue, as in times past, the reflection of public opinion; but of an opinion sure and steadfast, without change or fickleness, enlightened by those two sons of Christian truth,--love to God and love to man. From the serene illumination of these duties all the forms of selfishness shall retreat like evil spirits at the dawn of day. Then shall the happiness of the poor and lowly and the education of the ignorant have uncounted friends. The cause of those who are in prison shall find fresh voices; the majesty of peace other vindicators; the sufferings of the slave new and gushing floods of sympathy. Then, at last, shall the brotherhood of man stand confessed; ever filling the souls of all with a more generous life; ever prompting to deeds of beneficence; conquering the heathen prejudices of country, color, and race; guiding the judgment of the historian; animating the verse of the poet and the eloquence of the orator; ennobling human thought and conduct; and inspiring those good works by which alone we may attain to the heights of true glory. Good works! Such even now is the heavenly ladder on which angels are ascending and descending, while weary humanity, on pillows of storfe, slumbers heavily at its feet."
We know how easy it is to sneer at such anticipations of a better future as baseless and visionary. The shrewd but narrow-eyed man of the world laughs at the suggestion that there car: be any stronger motive than selfishness, any higher morality than that of the broker's board. The man who relies for salvation from the consequences of an evil and selfish life upon the verbal orthodoxy of a creed presents the depravity and weakness of human nature as insuperable obstacles in the way of the general amelioration of the condition of a world lying in wickedness. He counts it heretical and dangerous to act upon the supposition that the same human nature which, in his own case and that of his associates, can confront all perils, overcome all obstacles, and outstrip the whirlwind in the pursuit of gain,--which makes the strong elements its servants, taming and subjugating the very lightnings of heaven to work out its own purposes of self-aggrandizement,--must necessarily, and by an ordination of Providence, become weak as water, when engaged in works of love and goodwill, looking for the coming of a better day for humanity, with faith in the promises of the Gospel, and relying upon Him, who, in calling man to the great task-field of duty, has not mocked him with the mournful necessity of laboring in vain. We have been pained more than words can express to see young, generous hearts, yearning with strong desires to consecrate themselves to the cause of their fellow-men, checked and chilled by the ridicule of worldly-wise conservatism, and the solemn rebukes of practical infidelity in the guise of a piety which professes to love the unseen Father, while disregarding the claims of His visible children. Visionary! Were not the good St. Pierre, and Fenelon, and Howard, and Clarkson visionaries also?
What was John Woolman, to the wise and prudent of his day, but an amiable enthusiast? What, to those of our own, is such an angel of mercy as Dorothea Dix? Who will not, in view of the labors of such philanthropists, adopt the language of Jonathan Edwards: "If these things be enthusiasms and the fruits of a distempered brain, let my brain be evermore possessed with this happy distemper"?
It must, however, be confessed that there is a cant of philanthropy too general and abstract for any practical purpose,--a morbid sentimentalism,--which contents itself with whining over real or imaginary present evil, and predicting a better state somewhere in the future, but really doing nothing to remove the one or hasten the coming of the other. To its view the present condition of things is all wrong; no green hillock or twig rises over the waste deluge; the heaven above is utterly dark and starless: yet, somehow, out of this darkness which may be felt, the light is to burst forth miraculously; wrong, sin, pain, and sorrow are to be banished from the renovated world, and earth become a vast epicurean garden or Mahometan heaven.
"The land, unploughed, shall yield her crop; Pure honey from the oak shall drop; The fountain shall run milk; The thistle shall the lily bear; And every bramble roses wear, And every worm make silk."
(Ben Jenson's Golden Age Restored.)
There are, in short, perfectionist reformers as well as religionists, who wait to see the salvation which it is the task of humanity itself to work out, and who look down from a region of ineffable self-complacence on their dusty and toiling brethren who are resolutely doing whatsoever their hands find to do for the removal of the evils around them.
The emblem of practical Christianity is the Samaritan stooping over the wounded Jew. No fastidious hand can lift from the dust fallen humanity and bind up its unsightly gashes. Sentimental lamentation over evil and suffering may be indulged in until it becomes a sort of melancholy luxury, like the "weeping for Thammuz" by the apostate daughters of Jerusalem. Our faith in a better day for the race is strong; but we feel quite sure it will come in spite of such abstract reformers, and not by reason of them. The evils which possess humanity are of a kind which go not out by their delicate appliances.
The author of the Address under consideration is not of this class. He has boldly, and at no small cost, grappled with the great social and political wrong of our country,--chattel slavery. Looking, as we have seen, hopefully to the future, he is nevertheless one of those who can respond to the words of a true poet and true man:--
"He is a coward who would borrow A charm against the present sorrow From the vague future's promise of delight As life's alarums nearer roll, The ancestral buckler calls, Self-clanging, from the walls In the high temple of the soul!"
(James Russell Lowell.)
THERE are occasionally deeds committed almost too horrible and revolting for publication. The tongue falters in giving them utterance; the pen trembles that records them. Such is the ghastly horror of a late tragedy in Edgecomb, in the State of Maine. A respectable and thriving citizen and his wife had been for some years very unprofitably engaged in brooding over the mysteries of the Apocalypse, and in speculations upon the personal coming of Christ and the temporal reign of the saints on earth,--a sort of Mahometan paradise, which has as little warrant in Scripture as in reason. Their minds of necessity became unsettled; they meditated self-destruction; and, as it appears by a paper left behind in the handwriting of both, came to an agreement that the husband should first kill his wife and their four children, and then put an end to his own existence. This was literally executed,--the miserable man striking off the heads of his wife and children with his axe, and then cutting his own throat.
Alas for man when he turns from the light of reason and from the simple and clearly defined duties of the present life, and undertakes to pry into the mysteries of the future, bewildering himself with uncertain and vague prophecies, Oriental imagery, and obscure Hebrew texts! Simple, cheerful faith in God as our great and good Father, and love of His children as our brethren, acted out in all relations and duties, is certainly best for this world, and we believe also the best preparation for that to come. Once possessed by the falsity that God's design is that man should be wretched and gloomy here in order to obtain rest and happiness hereafter; that the mental agonies and bodily tortures of His creatures are pleasant to Him; that, after bestowing upon us reason for our guidance, He makes it of no avail by interposing contradictory revelations and arbitrary commands,--there is nothing to prevent one of a melancholic and excitable temperament from excesses so horrible as almost to justify the old belief in demoniac obsession.
Charles Brockden Brown, a writer whose merits have not yet been sufficiently acknowledged, has given a powerful and philosophical analysis of this morbid state of mind--this diseased conscientiousness, obeying the mad suggestions of a disordered brain as the injunctions of Divinity--in his remarkable story of Wieland. The hero of this strange and solemn romance, inheriting a melancholy and superstitious mental constitution, becomes in middle age the victim of a deep, and tranquil because deep, fanaticism. A demon in human form, perceiving his state of mind, wantonly experiments upon it, deepening and intensifying it by a fearful series of illusions of sight and sound. Tricks of jugglery and ventriloquism seem to his feverish fancies miracles and omens--the eye and the voice of the Almighty piercing the atmosphere of supernatural mystery in which he has long dwelt. He believes that he is called upon to sacrifice the beloved wife of his bosom as a testimony of the entire subjugation of his carnal reason and earthly affections to the Divine will. In the entire range of English literature there is no more thrilling passage than that which describes the execution of this baleful suggestion. The coloring of the picture is an intermingling of the lights of heaven and hell,--soft shades of tenderest pity and warm tints of unextinguishable love contrasting with the terrible outlines of an insane and cruel purpose, traced with the blood of murder. The masters of the old Greek tragedy have scarcely exceeded the sublime horror of this scene from the American novelist. The murderer confronted with his gentle and loving victim in her chamber; her anxious solicitude for his health and quiet; her affectionate caress of welcome; his own relentings and natural shrinking from his dreadful purpose; and the terrible strength which he supposes is lent him of Heaven, by which he puts down the promptings and yearnings of his human heart, and is enabled to execute the mandate of an inexorable Being,--are described with an intensity which almost stops the heart of the reader. When the deed is done a frightful conflict of passions takes place, which can only be told in the words of the author:--
"I lifted the corpse in my arms and laid it on the bed. I gazed upon it with delight. Such was my elation that I even broke out into laughter. I clapped my hands, and exclaimed, 'It is done! My sacred duty is fulfilled! To that I have sacrificed, O God, Thy last and best gift, my wife!'
"For a while I thus soared above frailty. I imagined I had set myself forever beyond the reach of selfishness. But my imaginations were false. This rapture quickly subsided. I looked again at my wife. My joyous ebullitions vanished. I asked myself who it was whom I saw. Methought it could not be my Catharine; it could not be the woman who had lodged for years in my heart; who had slept nightly in my bosom; who had borne in her womb and fostered at her breast the beings who called me father; whom I had watched over with delight and cherished with a fondness ever new and perpetually growing. It could not be the same!
"The breath of heaven that sustained me was withdrawn, and I sunk into mere man. I leaped from the floor; I dashed my head against the wall; I uttered screams of horror; I panted after torment and pain. Eternal fire and the bickerings of hell, compared with what I felt, were music and a bed of roses.
"I thank my God that this was transient; that He designed once more to raise me aloft. I thought upon what I had done as a sacrifice to duty, and was calm. My wife was dead; but I reflected that, although this source of human consolation was closed, others were still open. If the transports of the husband were no more, the feelings of the father had still scope for exercise. When remembrance of their mother should excite too keen a pang, I would look upon my children and be comforted.
"While I revolved these things new warmth flowed in upon my heart. I was wrong. These feelings were the growth of selfishness. Of this I was not aware; and, to dispel the mist that obscured my perceptions, a new light and a new mandate were necessary.
"From these thoughts I was recalled by a ray which was shot into the room. A voice spoke like that I had before heard: 'Thou hast done well; but all is not done--the sacrifice is incomplete--thy children must be offered--they must perish with their mother!'"
The misguided man obeys the voice; his children are destroyed in their bloom and innocent beauty. He is arrested, tried for murder, and acquitted as insane. The light breaks in upon him at last; he discovers the imposture which has controlled him; and, made desperate by the full consciousness of his folly and crime, ends the terrible drama by suicide.
Wieland is not a pleasant book. In one respect it resembles the modern tale of Wuthering Heights: it has great strength and power, but no beauty. Unlike that, however, it has an important and salutary moral. It is a warning to all who tamper with the mind and rashly experiment upon its religious element. As such, its perusal by the sectarian zealots of all classes would perhaps be quite as profitable as much of their present studies.
THE POETRY OF THE NORTH.
THE Democratic Review not long since contained a singularly wild and spirited poem, entitled the Norseman's Ride, in which the writer appears to have very happily blended the boldness and sublimity of the heathen saga with the grace and artistic skill of the literature of civilization. The poetry of the Northmen, like their lives, was bold, defiant, and full of a rude, untamed energy. It was inspired by exhibitions of power rather than of beauty. Its heroes were beastly revellers or cruel and ferocious plunderers; its heroines unsexed hoidens, playing the ugliest tricks with their lovers, and repaying slights with bloody revenge,--very dangerous and unsatisfactory companions for any other than the fire- eating Vikings and redhanded, unwashed Berserkers. Significant of a religion which reverenced the strong rather than the good, and which regarded as meritorious the unrestrained indulgence of the passions, it delighted to sing the praises of some coarse debauch or pitiless slaughter. The voice of its scalds was often but the scream of the carrion-bird, or the howl of the wolf, scenting human blood:--
"Unlike to human sounds it came; Unmixed, unmelodized with breath; But grinding through some scrannel frame, Creaked from the bony lungs of Death."
Its gods were brutal giant forces, patrons of war, robbery, and drunken revelry; its heaven a vast cloud-built ale-house, where ghostly warriors drank from the skulls of their victims; its hell a frozen horror of desolation and darkness,--all that the gloomy Northern imagination could superadd to the repulsive and frightful features of arctic scenery: volcanoes spouting fire through craters rimmed with perpetual frost, boiling caldrons flinging their fierce jets high into the air, and huge jokuls, or ice-mountains, loosened and upheaved by volcanic agencies, crawling slowly seaward, like misshapen monsters endowed with life,--a region of misery unutterable, to be avoided only by diligence in robbery and courage in murder.
What a work had Christianity to perform upon such a people as the Icelanders, for instance, of the tenth century!--to substitute in rude, savage minds the idea of its benign and gentle Founder for that of the Thor and Woden of Norse mythology; the forgiveness, charity, and humility of the Gospel for the revenge, hatred, and pride inculcated by the Eddas. And is it not one of the strongest proofs of the divine life and power of that Gospel, that, under its influence, the hard and cruel Norse heart has been so softened and humanized that at this moment one of the best illustrations of the peaceful and gentle virtues which it inculcates is afforded by the descendants of the sea-kings and robbers of the middle centuries? No one can read the accounts which such travellers as Sir George Mackenzie and Dr. Henderson have given us of the peaceful disposition, social equality, hospitality, industry, intellectual cultivation, morality, and habitual piety of the Icelanders, without a grateful sense of the adaptation of Christianity to the wants of our race, and of its ability to purify, elevate, and transform the worst elements of human character. In Iceland Christianity has performed its work of civilization, unobstructed by that commercial cupidity which has caused nations more favored in respect to soil and climate to lapse into an idolatry scarcely less debasing and cruel than that which preceded the introduction of the Gospel. Trial by combat was abolished in 1001, and the penalty of the imaginary crime of witchcraft was blotted from the statutes of the island nearly half a century before it ceased to disgrace those of Great Britain. So entire has been the change wrought in the sanguinary and cruel Norse character that at the present day no Icelander can be found who, for any reward, will undertake the office of executioner. The scalds, who went forth to battle, cleaving the skulls of their enemies with the same skilful hands which struck the harp at the feast, have given place to Christian bards and teachers, who, like Thorlakson, whom Dr. Henderson found toiling cheerfully with his beloved parishioners in the hay-harvest of the brief arctic summer, combine with the vigorous diction and robust thought of their predecessors the warm and genial humanity of a religion of love and the graces and amenities of a high civilization.
But we have wandered somewhat aside from our purpose, which was simply to introduce the following poem, which, in the boldness of its tone and vigor of language, reminds us of the Sword Chant, the Wooing Song, and other rhymed sagas of Motherwell.
THE NORSEMAN'S RIDE. BY BAYARD TAYLOR.
The frosty fires of northern starlight Gleamed on the glittering snow, And through the forest's frozen branches The shrieking winds did blow; A floor of blue and icy marble Kept Ocean's pulses still, When, in the depths of dreary midnight, Opened the burial hill.
Then, while the low and creeping shudder
Thrilled upward through the ground, The Norseman came, as armed for battle, In silence from his mound,-- He who was mourned in solemn sorrow By many a swordsman bold, And harps that wailed along the ocean, Struck by the scalds of old.
Sudden a swift and silver shadow Came up from out the gloom,-- A charger that, with hoof impatient, Stamped noiseless by the tomb. "Ha! Surtur,!* let me hear thy tramping, My fiery Northern steed, That, sounding through the stormy forest, Bade the bold Viking heed!"
He mounted; like a northlight streaking The sky with flaming bars, They, on the winds so wildly shrieking, Shot up before the stars. "Is this thy mane, my fearless Surtur, That streams against my breast?
(*The name of the Scandinavian god of fire.)
Is this thy neck, that curve of moonlight Which Helva's hand caressed? "No misty breathing strains thy nostril; Thine eye shines blue and cold; Yet mounting up our airy pathway I see thy hoofs of gold. Not lighter o'er the springing rainbow Walhalla's gods repair Than we in sweeping journey over The bending bridge of air.
"Far, far around star-gleams are sparkling Amid the twilight space; And Earth, that lay so cold and darkling, Has veiled her dusky face. Are those the Normes that beckon onward As if to Odin's board, Where by the hands of warriors nightly The sparkling mead is poured?
"'T is Skuld:* I her star-eye speaks the glory That wraps the mighty soul, When on its hinge of music opens The gateway of the pole; When Odin's warder leads the hero To banquets never o'er, And Freya's** glances fill the bosom With sweetness evermore.
"On! on! the northern lights are streaming In brightness like the morn, And pealing far amid the vastness I hear the gyallarhorn *** The heart of starry space is throbbing With songs of minstrels old; And now on high Walhalla's portal Gleam Surtur's hoofs of gold."
* The Norne of the future.
** Freya, the Northern goddess of love.
*** The horn blown by the watchers on the rainbow, the bridge over which the gods pass in Northern mythology.