An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism - With reference to the duty of American females
by Catharine E. Beecher
1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

- Transcriber's Note: The adjective 'Christian' is sometimes spelled 'christian' and its use is inconsistent throughout the book. The original punctuation, language and spelling have been retained, except where noted at the end of the text. -










Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1837, by Henry Perkins, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.



THE following are the circumstances which occasioned the succeeding pages. A gentleman and a friend, requested the writer to assign reasons why he should not join the Abolition Society. While preparing a reply to this request, MISS GRIMKE's Address was presented, and the information communicated, of her intention to visit the North, for the purpose of using her influence among northern ladies to induce them to unite with Abolition Societies. The writer then began a private letter to Miss Grimke as a personal friend. But by the wishes and advice of others, these two efforts were finally combined in the following Essay, to be presented to the public.

The honoured and beloved name which that lady bears, so associated as it is at the South, North, and West, with all that is elegant in a scholar, refined in a gentleman, and elevated in a Christian,—the respectable sect with which she is connected,—the interesting effusions of her pen,—and her own intellectual and moral worth, must secure respect for her opinions and much personal influence. This seems to be a sufficient apology for presenting to the public some considerations in connexion with her name; considerations which may exhibit in another aspect the cause she advocates, and which it may be appropriate to consider. As such, they are respectfully commended to the public, and especially to that portion of it for which they are particularly designed.






Your public address to Christian females at the South has reached me, and I have been urged to aid in circulating it at the North. I have also been informed, that you contemplate a tour, during the ensuing year, for the purpose of exerting your influence to form Abolition Societies among ladies of the non-slave-holding States.

Our acquaintance and friendship give me a claim to your private ear; but there are reasons why it seems more desirable to address you, who now stand before the public as an advocate of Abolition measures, in a more public manner.

The object I have in view, is to present some reasons why it seems unwise and inexpedient for ladies of the non-slave-holding States to unite themselves in Abolition Societies; and thus, at the same time, to exhibit the inexpediency of the course you propose to adopt.

I would first remark, that your public address leads me to infer, that you are not sufficiently informed in regard to the feelings and opinions of Christian females at the North. Your remarks seem to assume, that the principles held by Abolitionists on the subject of slavery, are peculiar to them, and are not generally adopted by those at the North who oppose their measures. In this you are not correctly informed. In the sense in which Abolitionists explain the terms they employ, there is little, if any, difference between them and most northern persons. Especially is this true of northern persons of religious principles. I know not where to look for northern Christians, who would deny that every slave-holder is bound to treat his slaves exactly as he would claim that his own children ought to be treated in similar circumstances; that the holding of our fellow men as property, or the withholding any of the rights of freedom, for mere purposes of gain, is a sin, and ought to be immediately abandoned; and that where the laws are such, that a slave-holder cannot legally emancipate his slaves, without throwing them into worse bondage, he is bound to use all his influence to alter those laws, and, in the meantime, to treat his slaves, as nearly as he can, as if they were free.

I do not suppose there is one person in a thousand, at the North, who would dissent from these principles. They would only differ in the use of terms, and call this the doctrine of gradual emancipation, while Abolitionists would call it the doctrine of immediate emancipation.

As this is the state of public opinion at the North, there is no necessity for using any influence with northern ladies, in order that they may adopt your principles on the subject of slavery; for they hold them in common with yourself, and it would seem unwise, and might prove irritating, to approach them as if they held opposite sentiments.

In regard to the duty of making efforts to bring the people of the Southern States to adopt these principles, and act on them, it is entirely another matter. On this point you would find a large majority opposed to your views. Most persons in the non-slave-holding States have considered the matter of Southern slavery, as one in which they were no more called to interfere, than in the abolition of the press-gang system in England, or the tythe system of Ireland. Public opinion may have been wrong on this point, and yet have been right on all those great principles of rectitude and justice relating to slavery, which Abolitionists claim as their distinctive peculiarities.

The distinctive peculiarity of the Abolition Society is this: it is a voluntary association in one section of the country, designed to awaken public sentiment against a moral evil existing in another section of the country, and the principal point of effort seems to be, to enlarge the numbers of this association as a means of influencing public sentiment. The principal object of your proposed tour, I suppose, is to present facts, arguments, and persuasions to influence northern ladies to enrol themselves as members of this association.

I will therefore proceed to present some of the reasons which may be brought against such a measure as the one you would urge.

In the first place, the main principle of action in that society rests wholly on a false deduction from past experience. Experience has shown, that when certain moral evils exist in a community, efforts to awaken public sentiment against such practices, and combinations for the exercise of personal influence and example, have in various cases tended to rectify these evils. Thus in respect to intemperance;—the collecting of facts, the labours of public lecturers and the distribution of publications, have had much effect in diminishing the evil. So in reference to the slave-trade and slavery in England. The English nation possessed the power of regulating their own trade, and of giving liberty to every slave in their dominions; and yet they were entirely unmindful of their duty on this subject. Clarkson, Wilberforce, and their coadjutors, commenced a system of operations to arouse and influence public sentiment, and they succeeded in securing the suppression of the slave trade, and the gradual abolition of slavery in the English colonies. In both these cases, the effort was to enlighten and direct public sentiment in a community, of which the actors were a portion, in order to lead them to rectify an evil existing among THEMSELVES, which was entirely under their control.

From the success of such efforts, the Abolitionists of this country have drawn inferences, which appear to be not only illogical, but false. Because individuals in their own community have aroused their fellow citizens to correct their own evils, therefore they infer that attempts to convince their fellow-citizens of the faults of another community will lead that community to forsake their evil practices. An example will more clearly illustrate the case. Suppose two rival cities, which have always been in competition, and always jealous of each other's reputation and prosperity. Certain individuals in one of these cities become convinced, that the sin of intemperance is destroying their prosperity and domestic happiness. They proceed to collect facts, they arrange statistics, they call public meetings, they form voluntary associations, they use arguments, entreaties and personal example, and by these means they arrest the evil.

Suppose another set of men, in this same community, become convinced that certain practices in trade and business in the rival city, are dishonest, and have an oppressive bearing on certain classes in that city, and are injurious to the interests of general commerce. Suppose also, that these are practices, which, by those who allow them, are considered as honourable and right. Those who are convinced of their immorality, wish to alter the opinions and the practices of the citizens of their rival city, and to do this, they commence the collection of facts, that exhibit the tendencies of these practices and the evils they have engendered. But instead of going among the community in which the evils exist, and endeavouring to convince and persuade them, they proceed to form voluntary associations among their neighbours at home, and spend their time, money and efforts to convince their fellow citizens that the inhabitants of their rival city are guilty of a great sin. They also publish papers and tracts and send out agents, not to the guilty city, but to all the neighbouring towns and villages, to convince them of the sins of the city in their vicinity. And they claim that they shall succeed in making that city break off its sins, by these measures, because other men succeeded in banishing intemperance by labouring among their own friends and fellow citizens. Is not this example exactly parallel with the exertions of the Abolitionists? Are not the northern and southern sections of our country distinct communities, with different feelings and interests? Are they not rival, and jealous in feeling? Have the northern States the power to rectify evils at the South, as they have to remove their own moral deformities; or have they any such power over the southern States as the British people had over their own trade and their dependent colonies in the West Indies? Have not Abolitionists been sending out papers, tracts, and agents to convince the people of the North of the sins of the South? Have they not refrained from going to the South with their facts, arguments, and appeals, because they feared personal evils to themselves? And do not Abolitionists found their hopes of success in their project, on the success which crowned the efforts of British philanthropists in the case of slavery, and on the success that has attended efforts to banish intemperance? And do not these two cases differ entirely from the Abolition movement in this main point, that one is an effort to convince men of their own sins, and the other is an effort to convince men of the sins of other persons?

The second reason I would urge against joining the Abolition Society is, that its character and measures are not either peaceful or Christian in tendency, but they rather are those which tend to generate party spirit, denunciation, recrimination, and angry passions.

But before bringing evidence to sustain this position, I wish to make a distinction between the men who constitute an association, and the measures which are advocated and adopted.

I believe, that as a body, Abolitionists are men of pure morals, of great honesty of purpose, of real benevolence and piety, and of great activity in efforts to promote what they consider the best interests of their fellow men. I believe, that, in making efforts to abolish slavery, they have taken measures, which they supposed were best calculated to bring this evil to an end, with the greatest speed, and with the least danger and suffering to the South. I do not believe they ever designed to promote disunion, or insurrection, or to stir up strife, or that they suppose that their measures can be justly characterized by the peculiarities I have specified. I believe they have been urged forward by a strong feeling of patriotism, as well as of religious duty, and that they have made great sacrifices of feeling, character, time, and money to promote what they believed to be the cause of humanity and the service of God. I regard individuals among them, as having taken a bold and courageous stand, in maintaining the liberty of free discussion, the liberty of speech and of the press; though this however is somewhat abated by the needless provocations by which they caused those difficulties and hazards they so courageously sustained. In speaking thus of Abolitionists as a body, it is not assumed that there are not bad men found in this party as well as in every other; nor that among those who are good men, there are not those who may have allowed party spirit to take the place of Christian principle; men who have exhibited a mournful destitution of Christian charity; who have indulged in an overbearing, denouncing, and self-willed pertinacity as to measures. Yet with these reservations, I believe that the above is no more than a fair and just exhibition of that class of men who are embraced in the party of Abolitionists. And all this can be admitted, and yet the objection I am to urge against joining their ranks may stand in its full force.

To make the position clearer, an illustration may be allowed. Suppose a body of good men become convinced that the inspired direction, "them that sin, rebuke before all, that others may fear," imposes upon them the duty of openly rebuking every body whom they discover in the practice of any sin. Suppose these men are daily in the habit of going into the streets, and calling all by-standers around them, pointing out certain men, some as liars, some as dishonest, some as licentious, and then bringing proofs of their guilt and rebuking them before all; at the same time exhorting all around to point at them the finger of scorn.

They persevere in this course till the whole community is thrown into an uproar; and assaults, and even bloodshed ensue. They then call on all good citizens to protect their persons from abuse, and to maintain the liberty of speech and of free opinion.

Now the men may be as pure in morals, as conscientious and upright in intention, as any Abolitionist, and yet every one would say, that their measures were unwise and unchristian.

In like manner, although Abolitionists may be lauded for many virtues, still much evidence can be presented, that the character and measures of the Abolition Society are not either peaceful or christian in tendency, but that they are in their nature calculated to generate party spirit, denunciation, recrimination, and angry passions.

The first thing I would present to establish this, is the character of the leaders of this association. Every combined effort is necessarily directed by leaders; and the spirit of the leaders will inevitably be communicated to their coadjutors, and appear in the measures of the whole body.

In attempting to characterize these leaders, I would first present another leader of a similar enterprise, the beloved and venerated WILBERFORCE. It is thus that his prominent traits are delineated by an intimate friend.

"His extreme benevolence contributed largely to his success. I have heard him say, that it was one of his constant rules, and on the question of slavery especially, never to provoke an adversary—to allow him credit fully for sincerity and purity of motive—to abstain from all irritating expressions—to avoid even such political attacks as would indispose his opponents for his great cause. In fact, the benignity, the gentleness, the kind-heartedness of the man, disarmed the bitterest foes. Not only on this question did he restrain himself, but generally. Once he had been called during a whole debate 'the religious member,' in a kind of scorn. He remarked afterwards, that he was much inclined to have retorted, by calling his opponent the irreligious member, but that he refrained, as it would have been a returning of evil for evil. Next to his general consistency, and love of the Scriptures, the humility of his character always appeared remarkable. The modest, shrinking, simple Christian statesman and friend always appeared in him. And the nearer you approached him, the more his habit of mind obviously appeared to be modest and lowly. His charity in judging of others, is a farther trait of his Christian character. Of his benevolence I need not speak, but his kind construction of doubtful actions, his charitable language toward those with whom he most widely differed, his thorough forgetfulness of little affronts, were fruits of that general benevolence which continually appeared."

This was the leader, both in and out of Parliament, of that body of men who combined to bring to an end slavery and the slave trade, in the dominions of Great Britain. With him, as principal leaders, were associated CLARKSON, SHARPE, MACAULAY, and others of a similar spirit. These men were all of them characterized by that mild, benevolent, peaceful, gentlemanly and forbearing spirit, which has been described as so conspicuous in Wilberforce. And when their measures are examined, it will be found that they were eminently mild, peaceful, and forbearing. Though no effort that is to encounter the selfish interests of men, can escape without odium and opposition, from those who are thwarted, and from all whom they can influence, these men carefully took those measures that were calculated to bring about their end with the least opposition and evil possible. They avoided prejudices, strove to conciliate opposers, shunned every thing that would give needless offence and exasperation, began slowly and cautiously, with points which could be the most easily carried, and advanced toward others only as public sentiment became more and more enlightened. They did not beard the lion in full face, by coming out as the first thing with the maxim, that all slavery ought and must be abandoned immediately. They began with "inquiries as to the impolicy of the slave trade," and it was years before they came to the point of the abolition of slavery. And they carried their measures through, without producing warring parties among good men, who held common principles with themselves. As a general fact, the pious men of Great Britain acted harmoniously in this great effort.

Let us now look at the leaders of the Abolition movement in America. The man who first took the lead was William L. Garrison, who, though he professes a belief in the Christian religion, is an avowed opponent of most of its institutions. The character and spirit of this man have for years been exhibited in "the Liberator," of which he is the editor. That there is to be found in that paper, or in any thing else, any evidence of his possessing the peculiar traits of Wilberforce, not even his warmest admirers will maintain. How many of the opposite traits can be found, those can best judge who have read his paper. Gradually others joined themselves in the effort commenced by Garrison; but for a long time they consisted chiefly of men who would fall into one of these three classes; either good men who were so excited by a knowledge of the enormous evils of slavery, that any thing was considered better than entire inactivity, or else men accustomed to a contracted field of observation, and more qualified to judge of immediate results than of general tendencies, or else men of ardent and impulsive temperament, whose feelings are likely to take the lead, rather than their judgment.

There are no men who act more efficiently as the leaders of an enterprise than the editors of the periodicals that advocate and defend it. The editors of the Emancipator, the Friend of Man, the New York Evangelist, and the other abolition periodicals, may therefore be considered as among the chief leaders of the enterprise, and their papers are the mirror from which their spirit and character are reflected.

I wish the friends of these editors would cull from their papers all the indications they can find of the peculiarities that distinguished Wilberforce and his associates; all the evidence of "a modest and lowly spirit,"—all the exhibitions of "charity in judging of the motives of those who oppose their measures,"—all the "indications of benignity, gentleness, and kind-heartedness,"—all the "kind constructions of doubtful actions,"—all the "charitable language used toward those who differ in opinion or measures,"—all the "thorough forgetfulness of little affronts,"—all the cases where "opponents are allowed full credit for purity and sincerity of motive,"—all cases where they have been careful "never to provoke an adversary,"—all cases where they have "refrained from all irritating expressions,"—all cases where they have avoided every thing that would "indispose their opponents for their great cause," and then compare the result with what may be found of an opposite character, and I think it would not be unsafe to infer that an association whose measures, on an exciting subject, were guided by such men, would be more likely to be aggressive than peaceful. The position I would establish will appear more clearly, by examining in detail some of the prominent measures which have been adopted by this association.

One of the first measures of Abolitionists was an attack on a benevolent society, originated and sustained by some of the most pious and devoted men of the age. It was imagined by Abolitionists, that the influence and measures of the Colonization Society tended to retard the abolition of slavery, and to perpetuate injurious prejudices against the coloured race. The peaceful and christian method of meeting this difficulty would have been, to collect all the evidence of this supposed hurtful tendency, and privately, and in a respectful and conciliating way, to have presented it to the attention of the wise and benevolent men, who were most interested in sustaining this institution. If this measure did not avail to convince them, then it would have been safe and justifiable to present to the public a temperate statement of facts, and of the deductions based on them, drawn up in a respectful and candid manner, with every charitable allowance which truth could warrant. Instead of this, when the attempt was first made to turn public opinion against the Colonization Society, I met one of the most influential supporters of that institution, just after he had had an interview with a leading Abolitionist. This gentleman was most remarkable for his urbanity, meekness, and benevolence, and his remark to me in reference to this interview, shows what was its nature. "I love truth and sound argument," said he, "but when a man comes at me with a sledge hammer, I cannot help dodging." This is a specimen of their private manner of dealing. In public, the enterprise was attacked as a plan for promoting the selfish interests and prejudices of the whites, at the expense of the coloured population; and in many cases, it was assumed that the conductors of this association were aware of this, and accessory to it. And the style in which the thing was done was at once offensive, inflammatory, and exasperating. Denunciation, sneers, and public rebuke, were bestowed indiscriminately upon the conductors of the enterprise, and of course they fell upon many sincere, upright, and conscientious men, whose feelings were harrowed by a sense of the injustice, the indecorum, and the unchristian treatment, they received. And when a temporary impression was made on the public mind, and its opponents supposed they had succeeded in crushing this society, the most public and triumphant exultation was not repressed. Compare this method of carrying a point, with that adopted by Wilberforce and his compeers, and I think you will allow that there was a way that was peaceful and christian, and that this was not the way which was chosen.

The next measure of Abolitionism was an attempt to remove the prejudices of the whites against the blacks, on account of natural peculiarities. Now, prejudice is an unreasonable and groundless dislike of persons or things. Of course, as it is unreasonable, it is the most difficult of all things to conquer, and the worst and most irritating method that could be attempted would be, to attack a man as guilty of sin, as unreasonable, as ungenerous, or as proud, for allowing a certain prejudice.

This is the sure way to produce anger, self-justification, and an increase of the strength of prejudice, against that which has caused him this rebuke and irritation.

The best way to make a person like a thing which is disagreeable, is to try in some way to make it agreeable; and if a certain class of persons is the subject of unreasonable prejudice, the peaceful and christian way of removing it would be to endeavour to render the unfortunate persons who compose this class, so useful, so humble and unassuming, so kind in their feelings, and so full of love and good works, that prejudice would be supplanted by complacency in their goodness, and pity and sympathy for their disabilities. If the friends of the blacks had quietly set themselves to work to increase their intelligence, their usefulness, their respectability, their meekness, gentleness, and benevolence, and then had appealed to the pity, generosity, and christian feelings of their fellow citizens, a very different result would have appeared. Instead of this, reproaches, rebukes, and sneers, were employed to convince the whites that their prejudices were sinful, and without any just cause. They were accused of pride, of selfish indifference, of unchristian neglect. This tended to irritate the whites, and to increase their prejudice against the blacks, who thus were made the causes of rebuke and exasperation. Then, on the other hand, the blacks extensively received the Liberator, and learned to imbibe the spirit of its conductor.

They were taught to feel that they were injured and abused, the objects of a guilty and unreasonable prejudice—that they occupied a lower place in society than was right—that they ought to be treated as if they were whites; and in repeated instances, attempts were made by their friends to mingle them with whites, so as to break down the existing distinctions of society. Now, the question is not, whether these things, that were urged by Abolitionists, were true. The thing maintained is, that the method taken by them to remove this prejudice was neither peaceful nor christian in its tendency, but, on the contrary, was calculated to increase the evil, and to generate anger, pride, and recrimination, on one side, and envy, discontent, and revengeful feelings, on the other.

These are some of the general measures which have been exhibited in the Abolition movement. The same peculiarities may be as distinctly seen in specific cases, where the peaceful and quiet way of accomplishing the good was neglected, and the one most calculated to excite wrath and strife was chosen. Take, for example, the effort to establish a college for coloured persons. The quiet, peaceful, and christian way of doing such a thing, would have been, for those who were interested in the plan, to furnish the money necessary, and then to have selected a retired place, where there would be the least prejudice and opposition to be met, and there, in an unostentatious way, commenced the education of the youth to be thus sustained. Instead of this, at a time when the public mind was excited on the subject, it was noised abroad that a college for blacks was to be founded. Then a city was selected for its location, where was another college, so large as to demand constant effort and vigilance to preserve quiet subordination; where contests with "sailors and town boys" were barely kept at bay; a college embracing a large proportion of southern students, who were highly excited on the subject of slavery and emancipation; a college where half the shoe-blacks and waiters were coloured men. Beside the very walls of this college, it was proposed to found a college for coloured young men. Could it be otherwise than that opposition, and that for the best of reasons, would arise against such an attempt, both from the faculty of the college and the citizens of the place? Could it be reasonably expected that they would not oppose a measure so calculated to increase their own difficulties and liabilities, and at the same time so certain to place the proposed institution in the most unfavourable of all circumstances? But when the measure was opposed, instead of yielding meekly and peaceably to such reasonable objections, and soothing the feelings and apprehensions that had been excited, by putting the best construction on the matter, and seeking another place, it was claimed as an evidence of opposition to the interests of the blacks, and as a mark of the force of sinful prejudice. The worst, rather than the best, motives were ascribed to some of the most respectable, and venerated, and pious men, who opposed the measure; and a great deal was said and done that was calculated to throw the community into an angry ferment.

Take another example. If a prudent and benevolent female had selected almost any village in New England, and commenced a school for coloured females, in a quiet, appropriate, and unostentatious way, the world would never have heard of the case, except to applaud her benevolence, and the kindness of the villagers, who aided her in the effort. But instead of this, there appeared public advertisements, (which I saw at the time,) stating that a seminary for the education of young ladies of colour was to be opened in Canterbury, in the state of Connecticut, where would be taught music on the piano forte, drawing, &c., together with a course of English education. Now, there are not a dozen coloured families in New England, in such pecuniary circumstances, that if they were whites it would not be thought ridiculous to attempt to give their daughters such a course of education, and Canterbury was a place where but few of the wealthiest families ever thought of furnishing such accomplishments for their children. Several other particulars might be added that were exceedingly irritating, but this may serve as a specimen of the method in which the whole affair was conducted. It was an entire disregard of the prejudices and the proprieties of society, and calculated to stimulate pride, anger, ill-will, contention, and all the bitter feelings that spring from such collisions. Then, instead of adopting measures to soothe and conciliate, rebukes, sneers and denunciations, were employed, and Canterbury and Connecticut were held up to public scorn and rebuke for doing what most other communities would probably have done, if similarly tempted and provoked.

Take another case. It was deemed expedient by Abolitionists to establish an Abolition paper, first in Kentucky, a slave State. It was driven from that State, either by violence or by threats. It retreated to Ohio, one of the free States. In selecting a place for its location, it might have been established in a small place, where the people were of similar views, or were not exposed to dangerous popular excitements. But Cincinnati was selected; and when the most intelligent, the most reasonable, and the most patriotic of the citizens remonstrated,—when they represented that there were peculiar and unusual liabilities to popular excitement on this subject,—that the organization and power of the police made it extremely dangerous to excite a mob, and almost impossible to control it,—that all the good aimed at could be accomplished by locating the press in another place, where there were not such dangerous liabilities,—when they kindly and respectfully urged these considerations, they were disregarded. I myself was present when a sincere friend urged upon the one who controlled that paper, the obligations of good men, not merely to avoid breaking wholesome laws themselves, but the duty of regarding the liabilities of others to temptation; and that where Christians could foresee that by placing certain temptations in the way of their fellow-men, all the probabilities were, that they would yield, and yet persisted in doing it, the tempters became partakers in the guilt of those who yielded to the temptation. But these remonstrances were ineffectual. The paper must not only be printed and circulated, but it must be stationed where were the greatest probabilities that measures of illegal violence would ensue. And when the evil was perpetrated, and a mob destroyed the press, then those who had urged on these measures of temptation, turned upon those who had advised and remonstrated, as the guilty authors of the violence, because, in a season of excitement, the measures adopted to restrain and control the mob, were not such as were deemed suitable and right.

Now, in all the above cases, I would by no means justify the wrong or the injudicious measures that may have been pursued, under this course of provocation. The greatness of temptation does by no means release men from obligation; but Christians are bound to remember that it is a certain consequence of throwing men into strong excitement, that they will act unwisely and wrong, and that the tempter as well as the tempted are held responsible, both by God and man. In all these cases, it cannot but appear that the good aimed at might have been accomplished in a quiet, peaceable, and christian way, and that this was not the way which was chosen.

The whole system of Abolition measures seems to leave entirely out of view, the obligation of Christians to save their fellow men from all needless temptations. If the thing to be done is only lawful and right, it does not appear to have been a matter of effort to do it in such a way as would not provoke and irritate; but often, if the chief aim had been to do the good in the most injurious and offensive way, no more certain and appropriate methods could have been devised.

So much has this been the character of Abolition movements, that many have supposed it to be a deliberate and systematized plan of the leaders to do nothing but what was strictly a right guaranteed by law, and yet, in such a manner, as to provoke men to anger, so that unjust and illegal acts might ensue, knowing, that as a consequence, the opposers of Abolition would be thrown into the wrong, and sympathy be aroused for Abolitionists as injured and persecuted men. It is a fact, that Abolitionists have taken the course most calculated to awaken illegal acts of violence, and that when they have ensued, they have seemed to rejoice in them, as calculated to advance and strengthen their cause. The violence of mobs, the denunciations and unreasonable requirements of the South, the denial of the right of petition, the restrictions attempted to be laid upon freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, are generally spoken of with exultation by Abolitionists, as what are among the chief means of promoting their cause. It is not so much by exciting feelings of pity and humanity, and Christian love, towards the oppressed, as it is by awakening indignation at the treatment of Abolitionists themselves, that their cause has prospered. How many men have declared or implied, that in joining the ranks of Abolition, they were influenced, not by their arguments, or by the wisdom of their course, but because the violence of opposers had identified that cause with the question of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and civil liberty.

But when I say that many have supposed that it was the deliberate intention of the Abolitionists to foment illegal acts and violence, I would by no means justify a supposition, which is contrary to the dictates of justice and charity. The leaders of the Abolition Society disclaim all such wishes or intentions; they only act apparently on the assumption that they are exercising just rights, which they are not bound to give up, because other men will act unreasonably and wickedly.

Another measure of Abolitionists, calculated to awaken evil feelings, has been the treatment of those who objected to their proceedings.

A large majority of the philanthropic and pious, who hold common views with the Abolitionists, as to the sin and evils of slavery, and the duty of using all appropriate means to bring it to an end, have opposed their measures, because they have believed them not calculated to promote, but rather to retard the end proposed to be accomplished by them. The peaceful and Christian method of encountering such opposition, would have been to allow the opponents full credit for purity and integrity of motive, to have avoided all harsh and censorious language, and to have employed facts, arguments and persuasions, in a kind and respectful way with the hope of modifying their views and allaying their fears. Instead of this, the wise and good who opposed Abolition measures, have been treated as though they were the friends and defenders of slavery, or as those who, from a guilty, timid, time-serving policy, refused to take the course which duty demanded. They have been addressed either as if it were necessary to convince them that slavery is wrong and ought to be abandoned, or else, as if they needed to be exhorted to give up their timidity and selfish interest, and to perform a manifest duty, which they were knowingly neglecting.

Now there is nothing more irritating, when a man is conscientious and acting according to his own views of right, than to be dealt with in this manner. The more men are treated as if they were honest and sincere—the more they are treated with respect, fairness, and benevolence, the more likely they are to be moved by evidence and arguments. On the contrary, harshness, uncharitableness, and rebuke, for opinions and conduct that are in agreement with a man's own views of duty and rectitude, tend to awaken evil feelings, and indispose the mind properly to regard evidence. Abolitionists have not only taken this course, but in many cases, have seemed to act on the principle, that the abolition of Slavery, in the particular mode in which they were aiming to accomplish it, was of such paramount importance, that every thing must be overthrown that stood in the way.

No matter what respect a man had gained for talents, virtue, and piety, if he stood in the way of Abolitionism, he must be attacked as to character and motives. No matter how important an institution might be, if its influence was against the measures of Abolitionism, it must be attacked openly, or sapped privately, till its influence was destroyed. By such measures, the most direct means have been taken to awaken anger at injury, and resentment at injustice, and to provoke retaliation on those who inflict the wrong. All the partialities of personal friendship; all the feelings of respect accorded to good and useful men; all the interests that cluster around public institutions, entrenched in the hearts of the multitudes who sustain them, were outraged by such a course.

Another measure of Abolitionists, which has greatly tended to promote wrath and strife, is their indiscreet and incorrect use of terms.

To make this apparent, it must be premised, that words have no inherent meaning, but always signify that which they are commonly understood to mean. The question never should be asked, what ought a word to mean? but simply, what is the meaning generally attached to this word by those who use it? Vocabularies and standard writers are the proper umpires to decide this question. Now if men take words and give them a new and peculiar use, and are consequently misunderstood, they are guilty of a species of deception, and are accountable for all the evils that may ensue as a consequence.

For example; if physicians should come out and declare, that it was their opinion that they ought to poison all their patients, and they had determined to do it, and then all the community should be thrown into terror and excitement, it would be no justification for them to say, that all they intended by that language was, that they should administer as medicines, articles which are usually called poisons.

Now Abolitionists are before the community, and declare that all slavery is sin, which ought to be immediately forsaken; and that it is their object and intention to promote the immediate emancipation of all the slaves in this nation.

Now what is it that makes a man cease to be a slave and become free? It is not kind treatment from a master; it is not paying wages to the slave; it is not the intention to bestow freedom at a future time; it is not treating a slave as if he were free; it is not feeling toward a slave as if he were free. No instance can be found of any dictionary, or any standard writer, nor any case in common discourse, where any of these significations are attached to the word as constituting its peculiar and appropriate meaning. It always signifies that legal act, which, by the laws of the land, changes a slave to a freeman.

What then is the proper meaning of the language used by Abolitionists, when they say that all slavery is a sin which ought to be immediately abandoned, and that it is their object to secure the immediate emancipation of all slaves?

The true and only proper meaning of such language is, that it is the duty of every slave-holder in this nation, to go immediately and make out the legal instruments, that, by the laws of the land, change all his slaves to freemen. If their maxim is true, no exception can be made for those who live in States where the act of emancipation, by a master, makes a slave the property of the State, to be sold for the benefit of the State; and no exception can be made for those, who, by the will of testators, and by the law of the land, have no power to perform the legal act, which alone can emancipate their slaves.

To meet this difficulty, Abolitionists affirm, that, in such cases, men are physically unable to emancipate their slaves, and of course are not bound to do it; and to save their great maxim, maintain that, in such cases, the slaves are not slaves, and the slave-holders are not slave-holders, although all their legal relations remain unchanged.

The meaning which the Abolitionist attaches to his language is this, that every man is bound to treat his slaves, as nearly as he can, like freemen; and to use all his influence to bring the system of slavery to an end as soon as possible. And they allow that when men do this they are free from guilt, in the matter of slavery, and undeserving of censure.

But men at the North, and men at the South, understand the language used in its true and proper sense; and Abolitionists have been using these terms in a new and peculiar sense, which is inevitably and universally misunderstood, and this is an occasion of much of the strife and alarm which has prevailed both at the South and at the North. There are none but these defenders of slavery who maintain that it is a relation justifiable by the laws of the Gospel, who differ from Abolitionists in regard to the real thing which is meant. The great mistake of Abolitionists is in using terms which inculcate the immediate annihilation of the relation, when they only intend to urge the Christian duty of treating slaves according to the gospel rules of justice and benevolence, and using all lawful and appropriate means for bringing a most pernicious system to a speedy end.

If Abolitionists will only cease to teach that all slave-holding is a sin which ought to be immediately abolished; if they will cease to urge their plan as one of immediate emancipation, and teach simply and exactly that which they do mean, much strife and misunderstanding will cease. But so long as they persevere in using these terms in a new and peculiar sense, which will always be misunderstood, they are guilty of a species of deception and accountable for the evils that follow.

One other instance of a similar misuse of terms may be mentioned. The word "man-stealer" has one peculiar signification, and it is no more synonymous with "slave-holder" than it is with "sheep-stealer." But Abolitionists show that a slave-holder, in fact, does very many of the evils that are perpetrated by a man-stealer, and that the crime is quite as evil in its nature, and very similar in character, and, therefore, he calls a slave-holder a man-stealer.

On this principle there is no abusive language that may not be employed to render any man odious—for every man commits sin of some kind, and every sin is like some other sin, in many respects, and in certain aggravated cases, may be bad, or even worse, than another sin with a much more odious name. It is easy to show that a man who neglects all religious duty is very much like an atheist, and if he has had great advantages, and the atheist very few, he may be much more guilty than an atheist. And so, half the respectable men in our religious communities, may be called atheists, with as much propriety as a slave-holder can be called a man-stealer. Abolitionists have proceeded on this principle, in their various publications, until the terms of odium that have been showered upon slave-holders, would form a large page in the vocabulary of Billingsgate. This method of dealing with those whom we wish to convince and persuade, is as contrary to the dictates of common sense, as it is to the rules of good breeding and the laws of the gospel.

The preceding particulars are selected, as the evidence to be presented, that the character and measures of the Abolition Society are neither peaceful nor Christian in their tendency; but that in their nature they are calculated to generate party-spirit, denunciation, recrimination, and angry passions. If such be the tendency of this institution, it follows, that it is wrong for a Christian, or any lover of peace, to be connected with it.

The assertion that Christianity itself has led to strife and contention, is not a safe method of evading this argument. Christianity is a system of persuasion, tending, by kind and gentle influences, to make men willing to leave off their sins—and it comes, not to convince those who are not sinners, but to sinners themselves.

Abolitionism, on the contrary, is a system of coercion by public opinion; and in its present operation, its influence is not to convince the erring, but to convince those who are not guilty, of the sins of those who are.

Another prominent peculiarity of the Abolitionists, (which is an objection to joining this association,) is their advocacy of a principle, which is wrong and very pernicious in its tendency. I refer to their views in regard to what is called "the doctrine of expediency." Their difficulty on this subject seems to have arisen from want of a clear distinction between the duty of those who are guilty of sin, and the duty of those who are aiming to turn men from their sins. The principle is assumed, that because certain men ought to abandon every sin immediately, therefore, certain other men are bound immediately to try and make them do it. Now the question of expediency does not relate to what men are bound to do, who are in the practice of sin themselves—for the immediate relinquishment of sin is the duty of all; but it relates to the duty of those who are to make efforts to induce others to break off their wickedness.

Here, the wisdom and rectitude of a given course, depend entirely on the probabilities of success. If a father has a son of a very peculiar temperament, and he knows by observation, that the use of the rod will make him more irritable and more liable to a certain fault, and that kind arguments, and tender measures will more probably accomplish the desired object, it is a rule of expediency to try the most probable course. If a companion sees a friend committing a sin, and has, from past experience, learned that remonstrances excite anger and obstinacy, while a look of silent sorrow and disapprobation tends far more to prevent the evil, expediency and duty demand silence rather than remonstrance.

There are cases also, where differences in age, and station, and character, forbid all interference to modify the conduct and character of others.

A nursery maid may see that a father misgoverns his children, and ill-treats his wife. But her station makes it inexpedient for her to turn reprover. It is a case where reproof would do no good, but only evil.

So in communities, the propriety and rectitude of measures can be decided, not by the rules of duty that should govern those who are to renounce sin, but by the probabilities of good or evil consequence.

The Abolitionists seem to lose sight of this distinction. They form voluntary associations in free States, to convince their fellow citizens of the sins of other men in other communities. They are blamed and opposed, because their measures are deemed inexpedient, and calculated to increase, rather than diminish the evils to be cured.

In return, they show that slavery is a sin which ought to be abandoned immediately, and seem to suppose that it follows as a correct inference, that they themselves ought to engage in a system of agitation against it, and that it is needless for them to inquire whether preaching the truth in the manner they propose, will increase or diminish the evil. They assume that whenever sin is committed, not only ought the sinner immediately to cease, but all his fellow-sinners are bound to take measures to make him cease, and to take measures, without any reference to the probabilities of success.

That this is a correct representation of the views of Abolitionists generally, is evident from their periodicals and conversation. All their remarks about preaching the truth and leaving consequences to God—all their depreciation of the doctrine of expediency, are rendered relevant only by this supposition.

The impression made by their writings is, that God has made rules of duty; that all men are in all cases to remonstrate against the violation of those rules; and that God will take the responsibility of bringing good out of this course; so that we ourselves are relieved from any necessity of inquiring as to probable results.

If this be not the theory of duty adopted by this association, then they stand on common ground with those who oppose their measures, viz: that the propriety and duty of a given course is to be decided by probabilities as to its results; and these probabilities are to be determined by the known laws of mind, and the records of past experience.

For only one of two positions can be held. Either that it is the duty of all men to remonstrate at all times against all violations of duty, and leave the consequences with God; or else that men are to use their judgment, and take the part of remonstrance only at such a time and place, and in such a manner, as promise the best results.

That the Abolitionists have not held the second of these positions, must be obvious to all who have read their documents. It would therefore be unwise and wrong to join an association which sustains a principle false in itself, and one which, if acted out, would tend to wrath and strife and every evil word and work.

Another reason, and the most important of all, against promoting the plans of the Abolitionists, is involved in the main question—what are the probabilities as to the results of their movements? The only way to judge of the future results of certain measures is, by the known laws of mind, and the recorded experience of the past.

Now what is the evil to be cured?


That this evil is at no distant period to come to an end, is the unanimous opinion of all who either notice the tendencies of the age, or believe in the prophecies of the Bible. All who act on Christian principles in regard to slavery, believe that in a given period (variously estimated) it will end. The only question then, in regard to the benefits to be gained, or the evils to be dreaded in the present agitation of the subject, relates to the time and the manner of its extinction. The Abolitionists claim that their method will bring it to an end in the shortest time, and in the safest and best way. Their opponents believe, that it will tend to bring it to an end, if at all, at the most distant period, and in the most dangerous way.

As neither party are gifted with prescience, and as the Deity has made no revelations as to the future results of any given measures, all the means of judging that remain to us, as before stated, are the laws of mind, and the records of the past.

The position then I would aim to establish is, that the method taken by the Abolitionists is the one that, according to the laws of mind and past experience, is least likely to bring about the results they aim to accomplish. The general statement is this.

The object to be accomplished is:

First. To convince a certain community, that they are in the practice of a great sin, and

Secondly. To make them willing to relinquish it.

The method taken to accomplish this is, by voluntary associations in a foreign community, seeking to excite public sentiment against the perpetrators of the evil; exhibiting the enormity of the crime in full measure, without palliation, excuse or sympathy, by means of periodicals and agents circulating, not in the community committing the sin, but in that which does not practise it.

Now that this method may, in conjunction with other causes, have an influence to bring slavery to an end, is not denied. But it is believed, and from the following considerations, that it is the least calculated to do the good, and that it involves the greatest evils.

It is a known law of mind first seen in the nursery and school, afterwards developed in society, that a person is least likely to judge correctly of truth, and least likely to yield to duty, when excited by passion.

It is a law of experience, that when wrong is done, if repentance and reformation are sought, then love and kindness, mingled with remonstrance, coming from one who has a right to speak, are more successful than rebuke and scorn from others who are not beloved, and who are regarded as impertinent intruders.

In the nursery, if the child does wrong, the finger of scorn, the taunting rebuke, or even the fair and deserved reproof of equals, will make the young culprit only frown with rage, and perhaps repeat and increase the injury. But the voice of maternal love, or even the gentle remonstrances of an elder sister, may bring tears of sorrow and contrition.

So in society. Let a man's enemies, or those who have no interest in his welfare, join to rebuke and rail at his offences, and no signs of penitence will be seen. But let the clergyman whom he respects and loves, or his bosom friend approach him, with kindness, forbearance and true sincerity, and all that is possible to human agency will be effected.

It is the maxim then of experience, that when men are to be turned from evils, and brought to repent and reform, those only should interfere who are most loved and respected, and who have the best right to approach the offender. While on the other hand, rebuke from those who are deemed obtrusive and inimical, or even indifferent, will do more harm than good.

It is another maxim of experience, that such dealings with the erring should be in private, not in public. The moment a man is publicly rebuked, shame, anger, and pride of opinion, all combine to make him defend his practice, and refuse either to own himself wrong, or to cease from his evil ways.

The Abolitionists have violated all these laws of mind and of experience, in dealing with their southern brethren.

Their course has been most calculated to awaken anger, fear, pride, hatred, and all the passions most likely to blind the mind to truth, and make it averse to duty.

They have not approached them with the spirit of love, courtesy, and forbearance.

They are not the persons who would be regarded by the South, as having any right to interfere; and therefore, whether they have such right or not, the probabilities of good are removed. For it is not only demanded for the benefit of the offender, that there should really be a right, but it is necessary that he should feel that there is such a right.

In dealing with their brethren, too, they have not tried silent, retired, private measures. It has been public denunciation of crime and shame in newspapers, addressed as it were to by-standers, in order to arouse the guilty.

In reply to this, it has been urged, that men could not go to the South—that they would be murdered there—that the only way was, to convince the North, and excite public odium against the sins of the South, and thus gradually conviction, repentance, and reformation would ensue.

Here is another case where men are to judge of their duty, by estimating probabilities of future results; and it may first be observed, that it involves the principle of expediency, in just that form to which Abolitionists object.

It is allowed that the immediate abolition of slavery is to be produced by means of "light and love," and yet it is maintained as right to withdraw personally from the field of operation, because of consequences; because of the probable danger of approaching. "If we go to the South, and present truth, argument, and entreaty, we shall be slain, and therefore we are not under obligation to go." If this justifies Abolitionists in their neglect of their offending brethren, because they fear evil results to themselves, it also justifies those who refuse to act with Abolitionists in their measures, because they fear other evil results.

But what proof is there, that if the Abolitionists had taken another method, the one more in accordance with the laws of mind and the dictates of experience, that there would have been at the South all this violence? Before the abolition movement commenced, both northern and southern men, expressed their views freely at the South. The dangers, evils, and mischiefs of slavery were exhibited and discussed even in the legislative halls of more than one of the Southern States, and many minds were anxiously devising measures, to bring this evil to an end.

Now let us look at some of the records of past experience. Clarkson was the first person who devoted himself to the cause of Abolition in England. His object was to convince the people of England that they were guilty of a great impolicy, and great sin, in permitting the slave-trade. He was to meet the force of public sentiment, and power, and selfishness, and wealth, which sustained this traffic, in that nation. What were his measures? He did not go to Sweden, or Russia, or France, to awaken public sentiment against the sins of the English.—He began by first publishing an inquiry in England whether it was right to seize men, and make them slaves. He went unostentatiously to some of the best and most pious men there, and endeavoured to interest them in the inquiry.

Then he published an article on the impolicy of the slave-trade, showing its disadvantages. Then he collected information of the evils and enormities involved in the traffic, and went quietly around among those most likely to be moved by motives of humanity and Christianity. In this manner he toiled for more than fourteen years, slowly implanting the leaven among the good men, until he gained a noble band of patriots and Christians, with Wilberforce at their head.

The following extract from a memoir of Clarkson discloses the manner and spirit in which he commenced his enterprise, and toiled through to its accomplishment.

"In 1785 Dr. Peckhard, Vice-Chancellor of the University, deeply impressed with the iniquity of the slave-trade, announced as a subject for a Latin Dissertation to the Senior Bachelors of Arts: 'Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare?' 'Is it right to make slaves of others against their will?' However benevolent the feelings of the Vice-Chancellor, and however strong and clear the opinions he held on the inhuman traffic, it is probable that he little thought that this discussion would secure for the object so dear to his own heart, efforts and advocacy equally enlightened and efficient, that should be continued, until his country had declared, not that the slave-trade only, but that slavery itself should cease.

"Mr. Clarkson, having in the preceding year gained the first prize for the Latin Dissertation, was naturally anxious to maintain his honourable position; and no efforts were spared, during the few intervening weeks, in collecting information and evidence. Important facts were gained from Anthony Benezet's Historical Account of Guinea, which Mr. Clarkson hastened to London to purchase. Furnished with these and other valuable information, he commenced his difficult task. How it was accomplished, he thus informs us.

"'No person,' he states,[1] 'can tell the severe trial which the writing of it proved to me. I had expected pleasure from the invention of the arguments, from the arrangement of them, from the putting of them together, and from the thought, in the interim, that I was engaged in an innocent contest for literary honour. But all my pleasure was damped by the facts which were now continually before me. It was but one gloomy subject from morning to night. In the day-time I was uneasy; in the night I had little rest. I sometimes never closed my eyelids for grief. It became now not so much a trial for academical reputation, as for the production of a work which might be useful to injured Africa. And keeping this idea in my mind ever after the perusal of Benezet, I always slept with a candle in my room, that I might rise out of bed, and put down such thoughts as might occur to me in the night, if I judged them valuable, conceiving that no arguments of any moment should be lost in so great a cause. Having at length finished this painful task, I sent my Essay to the Vice-Chancellor, and soon afterwards found myself honoured, as before, with the first prize.

[1] History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

"'As it is usual to read these essays publicly in the senate-house soon after the prize is adjudged, I was called to Cambridge for this purpose. I went, and performed my office. On returning, however, to London, the subject of it almost wholly engrossed my thoughts. I became at times very seriously affected while upon the road. I stopped my horse occasionally, and dismounted, and walked. I frequently tried to persuade myself in these intervals that the contents of my Essay could not be true. The more, however, I reflected upon them, or rather upon the authorities on which they were founded, the more I gave them credit. Coming in sight of Wade's Mill, in Hertfordshire, I sat down disconsolate on the turf by the road-side, and held my horse. Here a thought came into my mind, that if the contents of the Essay were true, it was time some person should see these calamities to their end. Agitated in this manner, I reached home. This was in the summer of 1785.

"'In the course of the autumn of the same year I experienced similar impressions. I walked frequently into the woods, that I might think on the subject in solitude, and find relief to my mind there. But there the question still recurred, 'Are these things true?' Still the answer followed as instantaneously,—'They are.' Still the result accompanied it; 'Then, surely, some person should interfere.' I then began to envy those who had seats in parliament, and who had great riches, and widely extended connexions, which would enable them to take up this cause. Finding scarcely any one at that time who thought of it, I was turned frequently to myself. But here many difficulties arose. It struck me, among others, that a young man of only twenty-four years of age could not have that solid judgment, or knowledge of men, manners, and things, which were requisite to qualify him to undertake a task of such magnitude and importance: and with whom was I to unite? I believed also, that it looked so much like one of the feigned labours of Hercules, that my understanding would be suspected if I proposed it. On ruminating, however, on the subject, I found one thing at least practicable, and that this was also in my power. I could translate my Latin Dissertation. I could enlarge it usefully. I could see how the public received it, or how far they were likely to favour any serious measures, which should have a tendency to produce the abolition of the slave-trade. Upon this, then, I determined; and in the middle of the month of November, 1785, I began my work.'

"Such is the characteristic and ingenuous account given by Clarkson of his introduction to that work to which the energies of his life were devoted, and in reference to which, and to the account whence the foregoing extract has been made, one of the most benevolent and gifted writers of our country[2] has justly observed,—

[2] Coleridge.

"'This interesting tale is related, not by a descendant, but a cotemporary; not by a distant spectator, but by a participator of the contest; and of all the many participators, by the man confessedly the most efficient; the man whose unparalleled labours in this work of love and peril, leave on the mind of a reflecting reader the sublime doubt, which of the two will have been the greater final gain to the moral world,—the removal of the evil, or the proof, thereby given, what mighty effects single good men may realize by self-devotion and perseverance.'

"When Mr. Clarkson went to London to publish his book, he was introduced to many friends of the cause of Abolition, who aided in giving it extensive circulation. Whilst thus employed, he received an invitation, which he accepted, to visit the Rev. James Ramsay, vicar of Teston, in Kent, who had resided nineteen years in the island of St. Christopher.

"Shortly afterwards, dining one day at Sir Charles Middleton's, (afterwards Lord Barham,) the conversation turned upon the subject, and Mr. Clarkson declared that he was ready to devote himself to the cause. This avowal met with great encouragement from the company, and Sir C. Middleton, then Comptroller to the Navy, offered every possible assistance. The friends of Mr. Clarkson increased, and this encouraged him to proceed. Dr. Porteus, then Bishop of Chester, and Lord Scarsdale, were secured in the House of Lords. Mr. Bennet Langton, and Dr. Baker, who were acquainted with many members of both houses of parliament; the honoured Granville Sharpe, James and Richard Phillips, could be depended upon, as well as the entire body of the Society of Friends, to many of whom he had been introduced by Mr. Joseph Hancock, his fellow-townsman. Seeking information in every direction, Mr. Clarkson boarded a number of vessels engaged in the African trade, and obtained specimens of the natural productions of the country. The beauty of the cloth made from African cotton, &c. enhanced his estimate of the skill and ingenuity of the people, and gave a fresh stimulus to his exertions on their behalf. He next visited a slave-ship; the rooms below, the gratings above, and the barricade across the deck, with the explanation of their uses, though the sight of them filled him with sadness and horror, gave new energy to all his movements. In his indefatigable endeavours to collect evidence and facts, he visited most of the sea-ports in the kingdom, pursuing his great object with invincible ardour, although sometimes at the peril of his life. The following circumstance, among others, evinces the eminent degree in which he possessed that untiring perseverance, on which the success of a great enterprise often depends.

"Clarkson and his friends had reason to fear that slaves brought from the interior of Africa by certain rivers, had been kidnapped; and it was deemed of great importance to ascertain the fact. A friend one day mentioned to Mr. Clarkson, that he had, above twelve months before, seen a sailor who had been up these rivers. The name of the sailor was unknown, and all the friend could say was, that he was going to, or belonged to, some man-of-war in ordinary. The evidence of this individual was important, and, aided by his friend Sir Charles Middleton, who gave him permission to board all the ships of war in ordinary, Mr. Clarkson commenced his search:—beginning at Deptford, he visited successfully Woolwich, Chatham, Sheerness, and Portsmouth; examining in his progress the different persons on board upwards of two hundred and sixty vessels, without discovering the object of his search. The feelings under which the search was continued, and the success with which it was crowned, he has himself thus described:—

"'Matters now began to look rather disheartening,—I mean as far as my grand object was concerned. There was but one other port left, and this was between two and three hundred miles distant. I determined, however, to go to Plymouth. I had already been more successful in this tour, with respect to obtaining general evidence, than in any other of the same length; and the probability was, that as I should continue to move among the same kind of people, my success would be in a similar proportion, according to the number visited. These were great encouragements to me to proceed. At length I arrived at the place of my last hope. On my first day's expedition I boarded forty vessels, but found no one in these who had been on the coast of Africa in the slave-trade. One or two had been there in king's ships; but they never had been on shore. Things were now drawing near to a close; and notwithstanding my success, as to general evidence, in this journey, my heart began to beat. I was restless and uneasy during the night. The next morning I felt agitated again between the alternate pressure of hope and fear; and in this state I entered my boat. The fifty-seventh vessel I boarded was the Melampus frigate.—One person belonging to it, on examining him in the captain's cabin, said he had been two voyages to Africa; and I had not long discoursed with him, before I found, to my inexpressible joy, that he was the man. I found, too, that he unravelled the question in dispute precisely as our inferences had determined it. He had been two expeditions up the river Calabar, in the canoes of the natives. In the first of these they came within a certain distance of a village: they then concealed themselves under the bushes, which hung over the water from the banks. In this position they remained during the day-light; but at night they went up to it armed, and seized all the inhabitants who had not time to make their escape. They obtained forty-five persons in this manner. In the second, they were out eight or nine days, when they made a similar attempt, and with nearly similar success. They seized men, women, and children, as they could find them in the huts. They then bound their arms, and drove them before them to the canoes. The name of the person thus discovered on board of the Melampus was Isaac Parker. On inquiring into his character, from the master of the division, I found it highly respectable. I found also afterward that he had sailed with Captain Cook, with great credit to himself, round the world. It was also remarkable, that my brother, on seeing him in London, when he went to deliver his evidence, recognized him as having served on board the Monarch, man-of-war, and as one of the most exemplary men in that ship.'

"Mr. Clarkson became, early in his career, acquainted with Mr. Wilberforce. At their first interview, the latter frankly stated, 'that the subject had often employed his thoughts, and was near his heart,' and learning his visitor's intention to devote himself to this benevolent object, congratulated him on his decision; desired to be made acquainted with his progress, expressing his willingness, in return, to afford every assistance in his power. In his intercourse with members of parliament, Mr. Clarkson was now frequently associated with Mr. Wilberforce, who daily became more interested in the fate of Africa. The intercourse of the two philanthropists was mutually cordial and encouraging; Mr. Clarkson imparting his discoveries in the custom-houses of London, Liverpool, and other places; and Mr. Wilberforce communicating the information he had gained from those with whom he associated.

"In 1788, Mr. Clarkson published his important work on the Impolicy of the Slave-Trade.

"In 1789, this indefatigable man went to France, by the advice of the Committee which he had been instrumental in forming two years before; Mr. Wilberforce, always solicitous for the good of the oppressed Africans, being of opinion that advantage might be taken of the commotions in that country, to induce the leading persons there to take the slave-trade into their consideration, and incorporate it among the abuses to be removed. Several of Mr. Clarkson's friends advised him to travel by another name, as accounts had arrived in England of the excesses which had taken place in Paris; but to this he could not consent. On his arrival in that city he was speedily introduced to those who were favourable to the great object of his life; and at the house of M. Necker dined with the six deputies of colour from St. Domingo,—who had been sent to France at this juncture, to demand that the free people of colour in their country might be placed upon an equality with the whites. Their communications to the English philanthropist were important and interesting; they hailed him as their friend, and were abundant in their commendations of his conduct.

"Copies of the Essay on the Impolicy of the Slave-Trade, translated into French, with engravings of the plan and section of a slave ship, were distributed with apparent good effect. The virtuous Abbe Gregoire, and several members of the National Assembly, called upon Mr. Clarkson. The Archbishop of Aix was so struck with horror, when the plan of the slave ship was shown to him, that he could scarcely speak; and Mirabeau ordered a model of it in wood to be placed in his dining-room.

"The circulation of intelligence, although contributing to make many friends, called forth the extraordinary exertions of enemies. Merchants, and others interested in the continuance of the slave-trade, wrote letters to the Archbishop of Aix, beseeching him not to ruin France; which they said he would inevitably do, if, as the president, he were to grant a day for hearing the question of the abolition. Offers of money were made to Mirabeau, if he would totally abandon his intended motion. Books were circulated in opposition to Mr. Clarkson's; resort was had to the public papers, and he was denounced as a spy. The clamour raised by these efforts pervaded all Paris, and reached the ears of the king. M. Necker had a long conversation with his royal master upon it, who requested to see the Essay, and the specimens of African manufactures, and bestowed considerable time upon them, being surprised at the state of the arts there. M. Necker did not exhibit the section of the slave ship, thinking that as the king was indisposed, he might be too much affected by it. Louis returned the specimens, commissioning M. Necker to convey his thanks to Mr. Clarkson, and express his gratification at what he had seen.

"No decided benefit appears at this time to have followed the visit: but though much depressed by his ill success in France, Mr. Clarkson continued his labours, till excess of exertion, joined to repeated and bitter disappointments, impaired his health, and, after a hard struggle, subdued a constitution, naturally strong and vigorous beyond the lot of men in general, but shattered by anxiety and fatigue, and the sad probability, often forced upon his understanding, that all might at last have been in vain. Under these feelings, he retired in 1794 to the beautiful banks of Ulleswater; there to seek that rest which, without peril to his life, could no longer be delayed.

"For seven years he had maintained a correspondence with four hundred persons; he annually wrote a book upon the subject of the abolition, and travelled more than thirty-five thousand miles in search of evidence, making a great part of these journeys in the night. 'All this time,' Mr. Clarkson writes, 'my mind had been on the stretch; it had been bent too to this one subject; for I had not even leisure to attend to my own concerns. The various instances of barbarity, which had come successively to my knowledge within this period, had vexed, harassed, and afflicted it. The wound which these had produced was rendered still deeper by the reiterated refusal of persons to give their testimony, after I had travelled hundreds of miles in quest of them. But the severest stroke was that inflicted by the persecution begun and pursued by persons interested in the continuance of the trade, of such witnesses as had been examined against them; and whom, on account of their dependent situation in life, it was most easy to oppress. As I had been the means of bringing them forward on these occasions, they naturally came to me, as the author of their miseries and their ruin.[3] These different circumstances, by acting together, had at length brought me into the situation just mentioned; and I was, therefore, obliged, though very reluctantly, to be borne out of the field where I had placed the great honour and glory of my life.'"

[3] The father of the late Samuel Whitbread, Esq., generously undertook, in order to make Mr. Clarkson's mind easy upon the subject, "to make good all injuries which any individuals might suffer from such persecution;" and he honourably and nobly fulfilled his engagement.

It was while thus recruiting the energies exhausted in the conflict, that Clarkson, and the compatriot band with which he had been associated in the long and arduous struggle, were crowned with victory, and received the grateful reward of their honourable toil in the final abolition of the slave-trade by the British nation, in 1807, the last but most glorious act of the Grenville administration.

The preceding shows something of the career of Clarkson while labouring to convince the people of Great Britain of the iniquity of their own trade, a trade which they had the power to abolish. During all this time, Clarkson, Wilberforce, and their associates avoided touching the matter of slavery. They knew that one thing must be gained at a time, and they as a matter of expediency, avoided discussing the duty of the British nation in regard to the system of slavery in their Colonies which was entirely under their own control. During all the time that was employed in efforts to end the slave-trade, slavery was existing in the control of the British people, and yet Clarkson and Wilberforce decided that it was right to let that matter entirely alone.

The following shows Clarkson's proceedings after the British nation had abolished the slave-trade.

"By the publication of his Thoughts on the Abolition of Slavery, Mr. Clarkson showed that neither he nor those connected with him, considered their work as accomplished, when the laws of his country clasped with its felons those engaged in the nefarious traffic of slaves. But the efforts of Mr. Clarkson were not confined to his pen. In 1818, he proceeded to Aix la Chapelle, at the time when the sovereigns of Europe met in congress. He was received with marked attention by the Emperor of Russia, who listened to his statements (respecting the slave-trade,) and promised to use his influence with the assembled monarchs, to secure the entire suppression of the trade in human beings, as speedily as possible. Describing his interview with this amiable monarch, in which the subject of peace societies, as well as the abolition of the slave-trade was discussed, Mr. Clarkson, in a letter to a friend, thus writes:

"'It was about nine at night, when I was shown into the emperor's apartment. I found him alone. He met me at the door, and shaking me by the hand, said, 'I had the pleasure of making your acquaintance at Paris.' He then led me some little way into the room, and leaving me there, went forward and brought me a chair with his own hand, and desired me to sit down. This being done, he went for another chair, and bringing it very near to mine, placed himself close to me, so that we sat opposite to each other.

"'I began the conversation by informing the emperor that as I supposed the congress of Aix la Chapelle might possibly be the last congress of sovereigns for settling the affairs of Europe, its connexions and dependencies, I had availed myself of the kind permission he gave me at Paris, of applying to him in behalf of the oppressed Africans, being unwilling to lose the last opportunity of rendering him serviceable to the cause.

"'The emperor replied, that he had read both my letter and my address to the sovereigns, and that what I asked him and the other sovereigns to do, was only reasonable.

"'Here I repeated the two great propositions in the address—the necessity of bringing the Portuguese time for continuing the trade (which did not expire till 1825, and then only with a condition,) down to the Spanish time, which expired in 1820; and secondly, when the two times should legally have expired, (that is, both of them in 1820,) then to make any farther continuance piracy. I entreated him not to be deceived by any other propositions; for that Mr. Wilberforce, myself, and others, who had devoted our time to this subject, were sure that no other measure would be effectual.

"'He then said very feelingly in these words, 'By the providence of God, I and my kingdom have been saved from a merciless tyranny, (alluding to the invasion of Napoleon,) and I should but ill repay the blessing, if I were not to do every thing in my power to protect the poor Africans against their oppression also.'

"'The emperor then asked if he could do any thing else for our cause. I told him he could; and that I should be greatly obliged to him if he would present one of the addresses to the Emperor of Austria, and another to the King of Prussia, with his own hand. I had brought two of them in my pocket for the purpose. He asked me why I had not presented them before. I replied that I had not the honour of knowing either of those sovereigns as I knew him; nor any of their ministers; and that I was not only fearful lest these addresses would not be presented to them, but even if they were, that coming into their hands without any recommendation, they would be laid aside and not read; on the other hand, if he (the emperor,) would condescend to present them, I was sure they would be read, and that coming from him, they would come with a weight of influence, which would secure an attention to their contents. Upon this, the emperor promised, in the most kind and affable manner, that he would perform the task I had assigned to him.

"'We then rose from our seats to inspect some articles of manufacture, which I had brought with me as a present to him, and which had been laid upon the table. We examined the articles in leather first, one by one, with which he was uncommonly gratified. He said they exhibited not only genius but taste. He inquired if they tanned their own leather, and how: I replied to his question. He said he had never seen neater work, either in Petersburg or in London. He then looked at a dagger and its scabbard or sheath. I said the sheath was intended as a further, but more beautiful specimen of the work of the poor Africans in leather; and the blade of their dagger as a specimen of their work in iron. Their works in cotton next came under our notice. There was one piece which attracted his particular notice, and which was undoubtedly very beautiful. It called from him this observation, 'Manchester,' said he, 'I think is your great place for manufactures of this sort—do you think they could make a better piece of cotton there?' I told him I had never seen a better piece of workmanship of the kind any where. Having gone over all the articles, the emperor desired me to inform him whether he was to understand that these articles were made by the Africans in their own country, that is, in their native villages, or after they had arrived in America, where they would have an opportunity of seeing European manufactures, and experienced workmen in the arts? I replied that such articles might be found in every African village, both on the coast and in the interior, and that they were samples of their own ingenuity, without any connexion with Europeans. 'Then,' said the emperor, 'you astonish me—you have given me a new idea of the state of these poor people. I was not aware that they were so advanced in society. The works you have shown me are not the works of brutes—but of men, endued with rational and intellectual powers, and capable of being brought to as high a degree of proficiency as any other men. Africa ought to have a fair chance of raising her character in the scale of the civilized world.' I replied that it was this cruel traffic alone, which had prevented Africa from rising to a level with other nations; and that it was only astonishing to me that the natives there had, under its impeding influence, arrived at the perfection which had displayed itself in the specimens of workmanship he had just seen.'"

Animated by a growing conviction of the righteousness of the cause in which he was engaged, and encouraged by the success with which past endeavours had been crowned, Mr. Clarkson continued his efficient co-operation with the friends of Abolition, advocating its claims on all suitable occasions.

It would be superfluous to recount the steps by which, even before the venerated Wilberforce was called to his rest, this glorious event was realized, and Clarkson beheld the great object of his own life, and those with whom he had acted, triumphantly achieved. The gratitude cherished towards the Supreme Ruler for the boon thus secured to the oppressed—the satisfaction which a review of past exertions afforded, were heightened by the joyous sympathy of a large portion of his countrymen.[4]

[4] This account of Clarkson, and the preceding one of Wilberforce, are taken from the Christian Keepsake of 1836 and 1837.

The History of the Abolition of the Slave-trade, by Clarkson himself, presents a more detailed account of his own labours and of the labours of others, and whoever will read it, will observe the following particulars in which this effort differed from the Abolition movement in America.

In the first place, it was conducted by some of the wisest and most talented statesmen, as well as the most pious men, in the British nation. Pitt, Fox, and some of the highest of the nobility and bishops in England, were the firmest friends of the enterprise from the first. It was conducted by men who had the intellect, knowledge, discretion, and wisdom demanded for so great an enterprise.

Secondly. It was conducted slowly, peaceably, and by eminently judicious influences.

Thirdly. It included, to the full extent, the doctrine of expediency denounced by Abolitionists.

One of the first decisions of the "Committee for the Abolition of the Slave-trade," which conducted all Abolition movements, was that slavery should not be attacked, but only the slave-trade; and Clarkson expressly says, that it was owing to this, more than to any other measure, that success was gained.

Fourthly. Good men were not divided, and thrown into contending parties.—The opponents to the measure, were only those who were personally interested in the perpetuation of slavery or the slave-trade.

Fifthly. This effort was one to convince men of their own obligations, and not an effort to arouse public sentiment against the sinful practices of another community over which they had no control.

I would now ask, why could not some southern gentleman, such for example as Mr. Birney, whose manners, education, character, and habits give him abundant facilities, have acted the part of Clarkson, and quietly have gone to work at the South, collecting facts, exhibiting the impolicy and the evils, to good men at the South, by the fire-side of the planter, the known home of hospitality and chivalry. Why could he not have commenced with the most vulnerable point, the domestic slave-trade, leaving emancipation for a future and more favourable period? What right has any one to say that there was no southern Wilberforce that would have arisen, no southern Grant, Macaulay or Sharpe, who, like the English philanthropists, would have stood the fierce beating of angry billows, and by patience, kindness, arguments, facts, eloquence, and Christian love, convinced the skeptical, enlightened the ignorant, excited the benevolent, and finally have carried the day at the South, by the same means and measures, as secured the event in England? All experience is in favour of the method which the Abolitionists have rejected, because it involves danger to themselves. The cause they have selected is one that stands alone.—No case parallel on earth can be brought to sustain it, with probabilities of good results. No instance can be found, where exciting the public sentiment of one community against evil practices in another, was ever made the means of eradicating those evils. All the laws of mind, all the records of experience, go against the measures that Abolitionists have taken, and in favour of the one they have rejected. And when we look still farther ahead, at results which time is to develope, how stand the probabilities, when we, in judging, again take, as data, the laws of mind and the records of experience?

What are the plans, hopes, and expectations of Abolitionists, in reference to their measures? They are now labouring to make the North a great Abolition Society,—to convince every northern man that slavery at the South is a great sin, and that it ought immediately to cease. Suppose they accomplish this to the extent they hope,—so far as we have seen, the more the North is convinced, the more firmly the South rejects the light, and turns from the truth.

While Abolition Societies did not exist, men could talk and write, at the South, against the evils of slavery, and northern men had free access and liberty of speech, both at the South and at the North. But now all is changed. Every avenue of approach to the South is shut. No paper, pamphlet, or preacher, that touches on that topic, is admitted in their bounds. Their own citizens, that once laboured and remonstrated, are silenced; their own clergy, under the influence of the exasperated feelings of their people, and their own sympathy and sense of wrong, either entirely hold their peace, or become the defenders of a system they once lamented, and attempted to bring to an end. This is the record of experience as to the tendencies of Abolitionism, as thus far developed. The South are now in just that state of high exasperation, at the sense of wanton injury and impertinent interference, which makes the influence of truth and reason most useless and powerless.

But suppose the Abolitionists succeed, not only in making northern men Abolitionists, but also in sending a portion of light into the South, such as to form a body of Abolitionists there also. What is the thing that is to be done to end slavery at the South? It is to alter the laws, and to do this, a small minority must begin a long, bitter, terrible conflict with a powerful and exasperated majority. Now if, as the Abolitionists hope, there will arise at the South such a minority, it will doubtless consist of men of religious and benevolent feelings,—men of that humane, and generous, and upright spirit, that most keenly feel the injuries inflicted on their fellow men. Suppose such a band of men begin their efforts, sustained by the northern Abolitionists, already so odious. How will the exasperated majority act, according to the known laws of mind and of experience? Instead of lessening the evils of slavery, they will increase them. The more they are goaded by a sense of aggressive wrong without, or by fears of dangers within, the more they will restrain their slaves, and diminish their liberty, and increase their disabilities. They will make laws so unjust and oppressive, not only to slaves, but to their Abolitionist advocates, that by degrees such men will withdraw from their bounds. Laws will be made expressly to harass them, and to render them so uncomfortable that they must withdraw. Then gradually the righteous will flee from the devoted city. Then the numerical proportion of whites will decrease, and the cruelty and unrestrained wickedness of the system will increase, till a period will come when the physical power will be so much with the blacks, their sense of suffering so increased, that the volcano will burst,—insurrection and servile wars will begin. Oh, the countless horrors of such a day! And will the South stand alone in that burning hour? When she sends forth the wailing of her agonies, shall not the North and the West hear, and lift up together the voice of wo? Will not fathers hear the cries of children, and brothers the cries of sisters? Will the terrors of insurrection sweep over the South, and no Northern and Western blood be shed? Will the slaves be cut down, in such a strife, when they raise the same paean song of liberty and human rights, that was the watchword of our redemption from far less dreadful tyranny, and which is now thrilling the nations and shaking monarchs on their thrones—will this be heard, and none of the sons of liberty be found to appear on their side? This is no picture of fancied dangers, which are not near. The day has come, when already the feelings are so excited on both sides, that I have heard intelligent men, good men, benevolent and pious men, in moments of excitement, declare themselves ready to take up the sword—some for the defence of the master, some for the protection and right of the slave. It is my full conviction, that if insurrection does burst forth, and there be the least prospect of success to the cause of the slave, there will be men from the North and West, standing breast to breast, with murderous weapons, in opposing ranks.

1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse