Slike strani
PDF
ePub

upon

whole people in condemnation of slavery, pronounced by the highest legislative court of the nation. It would be AMERICA, deliberately judging slavery to be worthy of death. The system could not survive the sentence five years. Well has the Hon. Mr. Preston, of South Carolina, said, that the question must be met here; for the District is the main gate at the entrance of the citadel; it is the bridge over the moat,and every aggression here must be resisted.' Ah, said Mr. S., I respond to the eloquent Senator, that it is indeed the main gate; it is truly the bridge over the moat, and girded in the panoply of Heaven, and led onward by the same moral Buonaparte, we will assault that gate until it falls, and then, through that gate, and over this bridge of Lodi, we will march such an array of moral power, as will take captive the intellect, the sympathy, the conscience, the soul of the entire South. 5. Recent events in the House of Representatives of the United States have clothed this question with vital importance. Every man in the nation, in his own person, is deeply interested. The District of Columbia has become the Thermopylæ of American freedom. But for this, I would not have detained this assemblage a single moment.

On the 18th inst. the House passed the following resolution :

• Resolved, that all petitions, memorials, resolutions, propositions, or papers, relating in any way, or to any extent whatever, to the subject of slaverv, or the abolition of slavery, shall, without either being printed or referred, be laid the table, and that no further action whatever shall be had thereon.'

By this act, they have virtually denied to the people the right of petition. By the Ist article of the amendinents to the United States' Constitution, it is declared that • Congress shall make no law * * abridging * * the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.' Mark the words ! . no law abridging.' If our memorials are not read nor referred, but thrown aside, unnoticed, among the waste paper of the House, is not the right “ubridged?? Yea, it is tually annihilated. Mark again! * Shall make no law abridging the right of the people,' &c. Does this mean that the government'may decide what for and when the people'may petition ? 'That the people shall exercise their rights only when the government please ? Is the will of our servants, the tenure by which we the people hold our rights? And is not the right of petition not only abridged but virtually denied, when, if we petition on a certain subject, our memorials are not even read, or referred, so that their contents may be known? The vital essence of this constitutional guaranty is, that we the people may petition for what we please. We are the sole judges. We are to decide what are grievances. In this particular, every man is a sovereign, the sole arbiter of his own choice. And Congress, who are but the hired men of the people, are bound to give his petition a respectful hearing.– After they have read and considered his memorial, then, and not till then, are they competent to decide whether or not the thing complained of be a grievance. The genius of our government, and all precedent, determine this to be the invariable rule.

And why are the Abolitionists made an exception, and their memorials thus treated? Evidently because they are the minority, the weaker party, and vader the ban of popular proscription. Strange reason ! To abridge the rights of such a party, and for such cause, establishes a principle at war with the end and object for which the Constitution was framed. Constitutions are framed to protect minorities in the exercise of their rights. Those who have few natural safeguards,—the weak, the proscribed, the uppopular—they need the shield of Constitutional protection. The strong, the popular, the majorily, those who have numerous natural safeguards, do not need Constitutional protection. Their strength, their popularity, shield them from aggression. Constitutional guaranties, then, are the sworn guardians of the weaker party. Hence, the guaranty in

the 1st Article of Amendments is our guaranty: it was made to meet just such a cause as ours. And the House of Representatives, by abridging our right of petition, has stabbed the vitals of the Constitution. By denying this right to the hunublest, to be exercised freely and fearlessly, they have tarnished the glory of the Constitution.They have made it a rotten parchment not fit to be trampled in the mire. Its beauty, its harmony, its admirable adaptation of part to part, are gone, and it has become an engine of oppression.

Furthermore, the principle established by this resolution, when legitimately carried out, leads to universal despotism. Where is this abridgement of the right of petition to end ? Where, and only where, Congress shall please. They have assumed 10 themselves the right to determine, concerning what matters the people shall petition. They have kindly taken upon themselves the burden of deciding what are and what are not the people's grievances. They have, from pure love to the people, put the hooks into the nostrils of the democracy. Ah, truly—the servant has turned lord ;-and all for the good of his lordship! But there's one, who spurns their collar, and cries, • TO THE RESCUE!' And will THE PEOPLE falter?

• Is the old Pilgrim spirit quenched within us?
Stoops the proud manhood of our souls so low,
That Mammon's lure or Party's wile can win us

To silence now?
Nomwhen our land to ruin's brink is verging,
In God's name, let us speak, while there is time!
Now, when the padlocks for our lips are forging,

SILENCE IS CRIME!

Yes,-the principle involved in this act of Congress, is a locomotive which will drag the rights of all parties to ruin. Petitions relating to slavery may be proscribed today:—but, the same arbitrary power will proscribe petitions relating to the Currency to-morrow; and the Public Lands the next day; and the transportations of the Mails the next; and soon, the Tariff is a subject too delicate to be touched by the rough hands of the people;—and then, Congress may declare their own acts infallible, throw petitions for their repeal back into the faces of the people, decree themselves a perpetual assembly, cut the constitution into shreds, and bid defiance to the popular will. Ay, by submitting tamely to one aggression after another, the popular will may become subservient, and the mass of the people bow the neck,

And kiss the yoke in kindness made,

And clank their needsul chains together! How easy is it to bring any subject under the Congressional ban! Only get up an excitement about it; mob its friends; proclaim Lynch law without benefit of clergy, for all who dare to open their lips in its favor, and the work is done. Congress proscribes the memorialists, hurls their petitions under the table; and says to the people, • Speak only when your masters please.' Detestable doctrine ! Odious tyranny ! • I'd rather be a dog and bay the inoon, than such a' Republican. The resolution of the House is despotisin, full grown and to the life. And it is a mean despotism. It is saying to us, ' You may petition if WE please.' And who says it? The hired men of the people. The servant has slamned the door of the palace in t!re face of the Sovereign. It is time the men who voted for this resolution, were sent back to the honorable station of private citizens. They are recreant to the trusts confided to sher. They are worse than sleeping sentinels; they have turned their arms against

the citadel they had sworn to defend; THEY ARE TRAITORS. Let the waichword then be, Onward to the Rescue! Our reliance, under God, is in THE PEO. PLE. The working men are honest. They have identified themselves with usThey control the popular will. The piety of the Commonwealth will rally; and ecclesiastical tyranny shall be buried in the same grave with political treachery.

T'hen let the Legislature of the Commonwealth protest, in the name of holy freedom and impartial righteousness, against this alarming usurpation of power. Let them protect the weaker party, in the full, free and unawed exercise of their rights. Let Toleration to the minority, Free Discussion,' be written on all their acts, and then this persecuted and despised minority shall,

• Prayer-strengthened for the trial, come together :
Put on the harness for the moral fight,
And with the blessing of their Heavenly Father,

MAINTAIN THE RIGHT !' [Here the disturbance about the doors became so great that the speakers could not proceed. After a short pause, however, during which the resolutions passed, Mr. Stanton made a bold and successful attempt to chain the attention of the audience; and held them in almost breathless attention as long as he chose to address them. If there were any mob spirits in the house, they were taken by a coup de main, and completely routed. The reporter, however, made no attempt to report this part of his speech, for the same reason, that he would not attempt to report a whirlwind or a thunder-storm. After Mr. S. sat down, it being after nine o'clock, a notice was read, that Mr. Dresser would address the ladies' meeting next day. The name of Dresser was immediately responded by the audience — Dresser ! Dresser now!' so that he was forced to come forward. He repeated his narrative, which was listened to with attention and deep emotion.)

ELLIS GRAY LORING, Esq. of Boston, offered the following resolution, which, he observed, had been handed hiin since he entered the meeting :

Resolved, That true allegiance to his country, to liberty, and to God, requires that every man should be an Abolitionist, and openly espouse the anti-slavery cauze.

When any man or set of men differ from the majority on questions of important practical bearing, a respect for the feelings of that majority should make them solici. tous to state the reasons for their opinions. Repeated and vigorous have been the efforts of Abolitionists to make known their sentiments, and the grounds of them. These efforts have been partially successful. But seldom has so favorable an oppor. tunity as this preseated itself, for making known our views. Now, every man may have his particular reasons for his abolition faith. I state my own. So far as I am known, I believe it is conceded that I have sustained the character of a moderate man. I propose, then, to state some of the reasons why I, as a moderate and cautions man, have found it my duty to be an Abolitionist.

1. Nothing in the Constitution of the United States forbids it. There is a great deal of loose assertion on this point. One man finds abolitionism to be contrary to the letter, another, to the spirit of the Constitution. Surely it was '10 secure the blessings of liberty,' that the Constitution was formed. But it is well known that there is not one word in the Constitution which forbids the discussion of slavery. The existence of slavery is recognized there, but only incidentally and as a matter of fact. But can any one force out of it a prohibition of this discussion? I defy him to produce the clause. Abundant evidence might be given to show, that the framers

jot, in trying to hold their slaves ? No. The South would lose the protection they now have from the Constitution, in regard to runaways. Their bondmen would pass over the live and free. The whole property of the South, so to speak, would get up, some morning, and walk off.

But what would the South gain, by a dissolution of the Union ? Will she gain exemption from anti-slavery discussions and anti-slavery doctrines ? Mr. Preston, of South Carolina, admitted, on the floor of Congress, that all the literature of the world, the whole religious sentiment of Christendom, all philosophy, were opposed to slavery. Do our Southern friends intend to shut all this out? Will they draw about them a cordon sanitaire to exclude the literature and philosophy and religion of all the rest of mankind? This is somewhat difficult in the nineteenth century. Mr. Preston gave an account of the origin of the anti-slavery mania abroad. It began with a few obscure individuals in England. Now, said he, a man cannot be in the cabinet who is not an abolitionist. So in France. The officers of anti-slavery societies in France, are cabinet ininisters. Wirat did Mr. Preston propose ? Alas! that the Southern States should bug the instilution, and stand up against the world. This, Mr. President, is easier said than done. If the North would do its duty, every Southern man would go back from his visits to the free States, humbled and thoughtful, a missionary in the cause of freedom.

But there is another difficulty among Mr. Preston's friends. They find they are not sound at bome. One half the slaveholders in Virginia were a liule while ago talking about abolishing slavery. The storm of opposition to anti-slavery movements has hushed their voices for a while; but let the tempest raised by their own demagogues subside, they will again be heard. There is a party at the South, who will not submit to the doctrines of McDuffie. At the head of tbis party is Mr. Clay, who has recently openly avowed his repugnance to the new doctrine of the South, on this subject. No; the real danger lies nearer home. The advocates of slavery find a great and growing antagonist in the consciences of slaveholders themselves. One of the most distinguished men of South Carolina, on receiving a copy of Dr. Channing's work on Slavery, committed it to the flames; and on being remonstrated with, for so illiberal an act, replied to a friend of mine who was present, that he was afraid it would fall into the hands of his daughters, and that its specious eloquence might create uneasiness in their minds. Gen. Duff Green is a man of far reaching views. He has lately been appointed editor of the Southern Review,'a work got up to sustain the present position of the South. He bas, in a labored article, exhibited the true ground of their fears. I will read an extract :

• We are of those who believe the South has nothing to fear from a servile war. We do not believe that the Abolitionists intend, nor could they, if they would, excite the slaves to insurrection. The danger of this is remote. We believe that we have most to fear from the organized action upon the consciences and fears of slaveholders themselves; from the insinuations of their dangerous heresies into our schools, our pulpits, and our domestic circles. It is only by alarming the consciences of the weak and feeble, and diffusing among our people a morbid sevsibility on the subject of slavery, that the Abolitionists can accomplish their object. Preparatory to this, they are now laboring to saturate the non-slaveholding states with the belief that slavery is a sin against God; that the national compact” involves the non-slaveholders in that sin; and that it is their duty to toil and suffer, that our country may be delivered from what they term its blackest slain, its foulest reproach, its deadliest curse.' President, I wish our Northern opposers had the candor to represent as fairly our object and measures.

-Mr.

But, it is said, your means are inadequate-you have not legal authority; nor hare these, your advocates, an opportunity of speaking to the South directly. It was the remark of a wise man, · Let me make a nation's ballads, and I don't care who makes the laws.' Give us tongue and pen, and I don't care if all the laws of all the oppressors on earth are against us. Give us a fair field, and we will overthrow slavery. People underrate the efficacy of discussion. What good will your talking do ? say they. I reply: Did you ever hear of any great reform which was not brought about by talking ? Certainly, the strangest remedy for a great wrong like slavery, I erer heard proposed, was, never to say a single word about it. Look at the reformation in the church; at the abolition of the African slave trade; at the abolition of slarery in Great Britain. These reformations were set on foot by talking. Thought is greater and elder than action; and when the public mind is sufficiently prepared, by discussion, the legitimate action follows, of course. We have just the means in our hands that have effected all reformations. Look at the first awakening of public sentiment in regard to the African slave trade. The whole world was slumbering over its enormities. Even religion tolerated it. The great and good Jolin Newton wrote home from the coast of Africa, while pursuing this business, which is now outlawed as piracy, that he had been enjoying sweet seasons with his God! A quiet student in a University was appointed to write a theme; and the subject given him for his task, by his professor, was the African slave trade. He studied the subject; began to col. lect matter; his soul kindled at thc enormities that met him; be imparted his knowledge and poured forth his feelings into kindred bosoms. The advocates of the abolition of the slave trade, among his humble friends, at length numbered twelve. The great men, the rulers, the 'wise and the prudent,' stood aloof; the commercial interests, the religion of the nation,—every thing seemed against them. But they persevered, in the midst of obloquy and opposition; they talked, they wrote, they went on

conquering and to conquer.' Aster a twenty years conflict, the slave trade was overthrown. That student was THOMAS CLARKSON. Posterity looks upon such men and deeds in a vastly different light from cotemporaries. Five or six years ago, a poor and solitary individual of the working class came among ts, with nothing to depend upon but his God, and the native powers wbich God gave him. He raised the thrilling cry of immediate emancipation. His encouragement was at first small indeed. But the grand, the true, the vital idea of immediate freedom to the slave, barned bright within him, and supported him. He, too, at length, had his twelve associates, and the first Anti-Slavery Society was formed. From this small beginning, and owing mainly, I believe, under God, to the clear vision, the purity of character, the energy, and the intrepidity of that individual, our cause has advanced till it numbers 800 societies. An Anti-Slavery Society has been formed in the United States every day, for the last two years. There are 300 societies in the single state of Ohio, one of which numbers 4000 members. Yet, the individual who started this miglity movement is rejected and scorned by the great and little vulgar of our day. No matter. Posterity will do justice to the name of WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON. (Tremendous and long continued applause.)

But, the fact is, those who contemn our means can have little studied human nature or bistory. The apostle Paul was taunted with relying on the foolishness of preaching. Wbich is the more powerful, the sword or the pen ? Public sentiment is the great moving power; and public sentiment-what is it, but the opinions of you and me, Mr. President, and of the men and women round us in the community ? Ay, sir, of women too, I say. The Hon. Balic Peyton, of Tennessee, was lately talking

« PrejšnjaNaprej »