Slike strani



Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society,


JANUARY 22, 1851.




No. 11 Devonshire Street.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]


It has ever been the felicity of the American Abolitionist to discern, at the close of each successive year of his experience, fresh proofs of the wisdom of his philosophy and the sagacity of his method, in the impress they have set upon the character, and the direction they have given to the current, of events. The twelve-month which has just expired is overshadowed with a cloud of these witnesses. The strides of this nation towards its destiny or its doom were never more rapid or more appalling. If there be any element of deliverance, any hope of safety, any way of escape from the fate which analogous crimes have drawn down upon the heads of less guilty because less enlightened nations, of which the memory only survives, it is to be looked for in the bitter but healing antidote which the Abolitionists have mingled with the poisoned cup of the people's abominations. If there be any recovery for it from its present perdition, any possibility of its yet making this continent the theatre of the noblest drama ever presented to God or man, of a true Republic whose laws are equal, beneficent, and just, a human translation of the Divine Government of the Universe, it is only to be achieved by pressing forward in the footsteps by which the Anti-Slavery Movement would lead it on to safety, happiness, and glory. These truths the facts of the past year's history have impressed more deeply than ever upon our minds.

When we addressed you last, the dangers which had been evoked out of the smoke and blood of the Mexican War, like demons rising from the hideous ebullition of a wizard's cauldron, had not yet taken definite shape and tangible substance. The daughters three of injured Mexico, whom we had ravished from her protection, were then the chosen objects of the unequal strife forever waging between the good

and the evil spirits which seek to possess the land. Slavery and Freedom were earnest in the contest, and sanguine of success. Whether the golden sands of California, the broad prairies of Utah, the unexplored mountains and valleys of New Mexico, were to become the fair heritage of freemen or the accursed prison-house of Slaves, was the absorbing thought of all that was fiendish and all that was wise, forecasting, and humane in the American people. The partial solution of this momentous question, the terrible possibilities and the damning disgrace which have balanced the extorted certainty of blessing, form the staple of the chapter of our history which is just finished, - the most important chapter that our Annals have yet disclosed. The latest chapter of the history of any Nation is commonly its most important, because it is the point about which all the light of the past concentres, and from which it must radiate into the future. It is emphatically so with us. Our history is fast taking form unto itself, and they that would help to mould it into a Divine Philosophy, teaching the Nations by high examples, and save it from becoming a dread Nemesis, terrifying them by fearful warnings, must gird themselves to the work, unwearied and undaunted.


At the time when we addressed you last, the Territories of California, New Mexico, and Utah, were standing at the door of the Confederacy asking for admission. California presented herself with a Constitution forbidding Slavery by its Organic Law of political existence. Before the question was finally disposed of, New Mexico stood by her side claiming for all her inhabitants the freedom which the consistent republicanism of Mexico had bestowed upon them. Utah, also demanding Territorial recognition, was understood to be uncommitted upon this point, and not unwilling, perhaps, to purchase what she wanted for immediate need at the cost of entailing the curse of Slavery upon her future. At any rate, she did not present herself to Congress in an attitude likely to arouse the opposition of the dominant power. The first attempt made to settle this question on the principles of justice and freedom was the resolution offered by Mr. Root, of Ohio, almost immediately upon the organization of the House, instructing the Committee on Territories to report Territorial bills, prohibitory of Slavery. The failure which attended the motion, immediately submitted, to lay this resolution on the table, marked as it was

by a considerable majority, gave rise to a temporary hope that there were men enough in the House to enforce this measure of justice. But the hope was only temporary. When it came up for consideration, the wire-pullers had had time to give direction to the political puppets. By the tergiversation of some, and the skulking of others, this just and necessary measure was defeated by about as large a majority as had at first refused to consign it to the oblivion of the table. Among these seceders from their first position were not a few men who had been elected in the belief that they were pledged to the carrying out of the Wilmot Proviso. Such attempted to excuse themselves by the unpopularity of the source from which the proposal emanated, and other weak and wicked devices. But the true ground of their defection is to be traced, doubtless, to that system of mingled cajolery and terrorism by which Slavery has ever carried her ends. The Slaveholders accepted this action as a signal triumph. Their exultation was insulting and unbounded. Threats of assassination on the floor of the House were scarcely veiled under the decencies of parliamentary periphrasis ; and one ruffian intimated that, in case of an attempt at

a resurrection,” there would not be left enough members to make a quorum! As these threats proceeded from the acknowledged sovereigns of our national legislation, they were allowed to pass unpunished and almost unrebuked. And when the admission of California was proposed at a later time, all the devices of frivolous and vexatious delay were resorted to to prevent action being taken upon it.

The most important proceedings in this matter were those originated and completed in the Senate Chamber. This strong hold of Slavery, where the insignificant minority of the Slaveholders in the nation hold nearly one half of the votes of the upper House, and the control of the whole of it, was well garrisoned as well as strongly fortified against any treasonable attempt from within or without. A better time for the purposes of the Slave Power could not have been chosen. The seats of the Senate groaned under the weight of defeated candidates and ardent aspirants for the Presidential Chair. Men who were not disheartened by defeat, more or less frequent and emphatic, from their earnest purpose to serve their country as its Chief Magistrate, contended there for that prize with younger but not less resolute rivals. Men who had grown old in public service, and whose names are the watchwords of warring parties, united together and with fresher competitors for the crown of every American politician's hopes, in paying suit and service to that power which holds in its hands the destinies of presidential

« PrejšnjaNaprej »