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course within our reach, we require no alteration in the Constitution, we demand no especial aid from Congress or from uny State Legislature, to induce the slaveholders, by moral motives and by considerations of enlightened self-interest, to rid themselves of this great evil. We require of Government nothing but to be protected in the exercise of one undoubted constitutional right, a right which, as Gerrit Smith justly observes, has a deeper foundation than the Constitution, which solemnly secures it, being grounded on the nature of man and the sovereign decree of his Creator. Let us dismiss all controversy concerning the exciting ques tion, whether, or how far 'the Constitution sanctions slavery, but let us assert and defend the freedom of communication by speaking, writing, and printing, which is the first requisite of the freeman and the last hope of the slave. Slavery and free discussion, Sir, it is well known, cannot live together. They will quarrel until
one of them quits the neighborhood.
We claim freedom of communication with the slave-holder of the South, as well as with the advocates of slavery, and those who think themselves justified in their neutrality at the North. We contend with a national prejudice; we aim at a national reform., Every individual, who is free from the long cherished and deep rooted prejudice, which prevents the white men of the North, as well as those of the South, from looking upon the colored man as a man and a brother, is in duty bound to becoine a fellow-laborer in this work of reform. For this reason, our societies are founded, not on the exclusive principle of election, but on the broad, philanthropic ground of free admission ; we elect no one, but cordially receive every one who may elect himself. Our audiences do not consist of select companies; but as the Report, which you have accepted, eloquently sets forth, in humble imitation of Jesus and the Apostles, we address all who have ears to hear and will hear.
We are told we must not agitate this subject — let it alone, and it will remedy itself. This is not the course of Providence. Such reformations are never accomplished without human means. God will not indulge us in our indolence, and do the work without our instrumentality.
The Declaration of Independence, so far as those in bonds are concerned, is a dead letter; and we must not rest from our labors until it is raised from the dead.
William Goodell of Providence, introduced the following resolution, which was unanimously adopted.
Resolved, That while some men may with impunity commit crimes, which others may not boldly reprove, without violating the fastidious decorum of the age, we commend our brother, William Lloyd Garrison, and the Liberator, to the hearts of all who love the Gospel of peace and good will to men.
I wish, Sir, the adoption of this Resolution because it embodies, by implication, an important principle, and because it reduces that principle to practice. — Abolitionists believe in no abstract principles, which ought not to be made practical. Such principles are not true; and no man can utter a more self-condemnatory sentence than to say I agree in the principle but do not think it expedient to act in conformity with it.'- This is only saying 'I know what is right, but am determined to do wrong!'
The first sentiment involved in the Resolution may be expressed thus:
The fastidious decorum of the age shelters vice from deserved and necessary rebuke.
I need spend no time before this audience, to prove the fact. Nor need I go through a course of argument to convince you that such a state of things ought not to exist. It is a false and sinful decorum that forbids the Scriptural reproof of sin. This principle is too evident to require elucidation. I shall content myself with a few specifications of this false decorum, in some of its more common and modern forms.
Who says so? - What is
He is censorious, I suppose, who censures. This is certainly the primary meaning of the term; and it is plain that those who censure censoriousness so bitterly, now-a-days, apply their strictures to every censure against themselves and their friends. Is it wrong, then, to censure? The answer, I should suppose, would depend upon whether the censures were needed and deserved!But no ! Modern decorum forbids any scrutiny in the case. It is wrong to censure, and so the matter is ended without any inquiry into the righteousness or wisdom of the censure. How exceedingly convenient! Are there no censures in
I know the word censorious' has acquired a secondary meaning. A man may be justly blamed as censorious when his censures are unjust, unnecessary, or uttered with malignant feelings. But modern decorum censoriously condemns every man who censures vice, without instituting any of these perplexing inquiries. To censure virtue is by no means so dangerous or imprudent an experi
1. "It is wrong to be censorious!" Is it?it to be censorious?
2. "It is wrong to impeach men's motives." So says the oracle of fastidious decorum ! Ah! Is it? Then, of course, it is wrong to reprove men's sins; for there is no sin without wicked and selfish motives. What broader shelter can Sin desire than this? Only imagine a Nathan reproving his monarch, with a very courtly disclaimer of impeaching his motives! Listen to the meek and lowly Saviour - "Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites." Did he disclaim an impeachment of their motives? Take a lesson from the courteous Apostle - Thou child of the Devil! Thou enemy of all righteous
But pray do not understand me, good Mr. Simon Magus, as impeaching any gentleman's motives !' What would you think of such an Apostle?
"He betrays an unchristian spirit.” So says modern decorum, whenever any one manifests any moral indignation against oppression and crime ! Our old fashioned Divines used to tell us of a holy and an unholy indignation. Modern decorum has rendered the distinction obsolete; except, perhaps, when "gentlemen of property and standing" give demonstrations of their wrath against the reprovers of sin !
Go, ye fastidious ones, and learn what this meaneth. God is angry with the wicked every day.' 'Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children.' I beheld the transgressors and was grieved.' Do I not hate them that hate thee?' 6 Ye that fear the Lord hate evil.' " Be angry and sin not.' Jesus looked round upon them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts.' The courtly Caiaphas perhaps might have thought he manifested an unchristian spirit!
4. But the most attractive and subtle form of this modern decorum is found
- to save
in the very acute and philosophical distinction which separates the sinner from his sin; the actor from the action. The guardians of our Churches, a few years ago were valiant in combatting the ingenious theory, which talked of punishing the sin without touching a hair on the head of the sinner! But the greater part of them have since made wonderful proficiency in the same school, and have left their polemic tutors altogether in the back ground! Our most strenuous contenders for the faith!— at least a large portion of themthe risk of punishing the sin as it alights from the back of the sinner, have fairly made the discovery that sin exists WITHOUT any sinner at all! Oh, yes! There is theft without a thief! — Robbery without a robber ! — Instead of saying, as in olden time-Thou art the man,' we must now say, thou art the sin -No! Not the sin ! The mistake, the calamity!'-Instead of saying, "By their fruits shall ye know THEM," we should rather say "By the fruits ye shall not know whether the tree be good or evil, or whether there be any tree at all!"
It is humiliating to find so splendid, and in many respects, so admirable a work as that of Dr. Channing, despoiled of its beauty, and rifled of its power by so miserable a fallacy. Many of our friends, I am aware, have criticized the other errors of the book, without seeming to have detected this primary source of them all. Nayin some instances, while seeming almost to swallow the gilded hook themselves. Dr. Channing takes many exceptions to our statements and measBut it would be easy to show that every one of them originates in this fallacy. Yes! If Dr. Channing could only be persuaded to say that he who commits robbery is a robber, and that he who steals is a thief, he would become, not almost, but altogether, such an Abolitionist as ourselves. Little children, let no man deceive you' by this fanciful separation of the actor from the action.'He that doeth righteousness is righteous.' But he that committeth sin is of the Evil One.'
It is said in support of this theory that men sin without knowing it. I grant that the sin of comparative ignorance is, comparatively speaking, winked at. I grant that the guilt of transgression may be in proportion to the light resisted. But I deny that men, and especially Christians, can commit robbery all their lives long, without knowing it. If I believed it I should believe that they have no consciences to be reached. I should give them up in despair. But what mean, Sir, those loaded pistols, under the pillow? What mean those nightly patrols? those vigilance Committees? these threats of violence and blood? They prove, Sir, the oppressor is a man, with the conscience of a man, and not the mere animal his apologist would make him, less capable of moral culture than the slave !
I protest, Sir, against this casuistry, because it disarms the truth of its native power. Let facts be consulted on this point. I can give you one incident, Sir, deserving a place among the experiments, which ought to be made and registered preparatory to that inductive moral philosophy, which should have found, ere this, a place among the Sciences. I know of the man, Sir, remotely connected with slave-holding, who commenced the reading of Channing with intense interest. Nothing before had succeeded in riveting his attention. His high esteem for Dr. Channing forbade him to pass his book unread. The Chapters on "Property and on "Rights" were full of arrows which went through his soul. As he read the "Evils of Slavery" his spirit withered. In one of the coldest days in Jan
uary he sought repeatedly the doors and windows for the fresh air, and resumed his reading with a pale cheek. But mark, Sir. When he came to the Chapter of" Explanations" and learned how the sinner could be divorced from his sin, or rather, how there could be robbery without a robber, his color came again. He concluded his Southern friends were in a less dangerous and guilty condition than he had supposed. He made himself quiet, and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
This is the practical effect Sir, of the fastidious decorum of which I have been speaking. A decorum which reconciles the Church to a carcass of rottenness, which binds the earth in the strong bands of sin, and bids her lie steeped in human blood. This is the decorum which so beseechingly invites the friends of the Anti-Slavery cause to cut adrift from the censorious, the vituperative, and exceedingly indecorous and ungentlemanly WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON.
I stand not here, Mr. President, as the apologist, or as the eulogist of any man, and certainly it does not appear to me that the fair fame of our friend Garrison requires either eulogy or apology at my hands. Another generation of men, not ours, will write his epitaph, and whether it be written or not, matters little to him or to us. But the work, Sir, in which we are engaged, requires us to estimate correctly the instruments with which we are laboring, and the laborers with whom we associate. And I wish, Sir, to say that the Liberator and William Lloyd Garrison are auxiliaries, which the cause cannot spare and of whose aid we should be wise, more effectually and more extensively to avail ourselves. I say not that they are faultless. I know of no faultless human instruments. But I do say that by far the greater part of the complaints urged against them would never have been uttered by a Bunyan, a Baxter, or a Paul - would never have been conceived, but for the fastidious decorum of this age of hypocrisy and crime.
My mind runs back, Sir, to nearly seven years ago, when I used to walk with our friend Garrison across yonder Common, and to converse on the great enterprize for which we are now met. The work, then, was all future. It existed only in the ardent prayer and the fixed resolves. How rapid and wonderful have been the developments of the last seven years! They flit before me like a confused shadow. But I have a distinct impression of the course of William Lloyd Garrison. Never, for a moment, amid the smoke and dust of the battle has his path been obscured or dubious. Whoever else has half wavered or faultered, it was not he. Whoever else has, for a moment, mistaken the standard of darkness for the banner of light, it was not he. Whoever else has unwarily pointed our pursuing legions to the wrong track, it has seldom, if ever, been he.
I said, Sir, the cause needed the Liberator' of Mr. Garrison. Yet I appreciate the advantages to be derived from the circulation of periodicals emanating from an official source, speaking in the name of the great National Society, and moving with dignified and solemn pace. They can be prepared with deliberation, they can be guarded by joint counsel. They can be confidingly circulated by many, perhaps among many, with whom the work of a lone individual would find less favor. I rejoice that our cause is supplied with these aids. But I know too, the mighty power of the individual, as he stands braced in his self-collected strength, fresh from the mount of communion, and asking counsel only of his God. The eloquent Channing has not overdrawn the picture. We know, Mr. President, if he did not, where we may place our eyes on the original of that picture, or one who justly may claim the portrait; and I trust we shall show by
our manner of using the power of affiliated association, that it can be wielded without the destruction of personal identy or the annihilation of indivdual independence and energy.
The task of such an Fditor, Mr. President, is an arduous and a thankless one. He must shield his friends by movements, for which they will be sure to censure him. He must save the cause by the very blows, from which the apparently judicious will anticipate its annihilation. He must stand on an eminence from whence he can see what other men cannot see; he must be eyes to the blind, whose want of eye-sight will lead them to make war upon their benefactor. He must rouse men from their dangerous sleep who, while they begin to see men as trees walking, will murmur because they are waked, and instead of thanking their deliverer, find fault with the rudeness that disturbed them, and assume to give directions, when they should be beginning to learn. To such an Editor, defeat is disgrace as well as discomfiture; and the anticipation of success is the anticipation of the period when he must be forgotten, and the triumph be led forward by more popular and courtly leaders.
Alene on his watch tower he must survey the whole field of the conflict with a glance that comprehends the universe - yet he is expected to explore every corner of it with the precision that would analyze a mole-hill! As the countless forms of deception and sin play around him, he must adjust his blow and poise his aim. If he strikes one moment too soon, he strikes the empty space to which his adversary has not quite arrived. If a moment too late, the Demon has passed on, and seized its prey, or has ascended perchance, the sacred desk, transformed to an angel of light! He must strike with his whole strength, or he will fail of thorough execution. The blow must be levelled with the accuracy that would dissect a feather, or the monster will be missed; or else - alas! alas ! what is far worse, some good man, yes! some surpassingly good man will be making dolefully wry faces on account of his poor toes or fingers, which were, very innocently and "prudently" concealed beneath the snaky folds !
I said, Mr. President, the Liberator should be supported. But what is support? Let me tell you, Sir, what it is not. I have had some experience in these matters. The support of a paper is not to subscribe and never think of paying till some one calls for the money, at an expense of collection amounting to more than the profits. It is not to tax a publisher with postage which should be paid by the subscriber.
The adequate support of a paper devoted to the work of reform can never be found in its subscription list. Men do not pay away money for the means of changing their own opinions, still less, for the reproof of their own sins. Experience teaches that Temperance papers must be supported, as a tract circulation is supported, by the gratuities of the friends of the cause. The "Emancipator" and "Human Rights" are now circulated in this way, and I see no reason why the Liberator should not be circulated in the same manner. Its being published by an individual instead of a Society should make no difference, for it is not published for private emolument. At least 2,500 dollars should be raised the present year for this purpose. And 300 dollars I am persuaded, can be raised in Rhode Island.
The exigencies of our country, Mr. President, if I mistake not, require a vast increase of effort, immediate, vigorous effort, if she is to be saved from destruction. I know it is common to praise our great achievments and anticipate our glorious