Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

BOSTON:
WEEKS, JORDAN & CO. – OTIS, BROADERS & CO.
NEW YORK :-JOHN S. TAYLOR. .

1839.

[blocks in formation]

[In consequence of the repeated demands for the No. the London and Westminster Review containing Miss Martineau's Martyr Age in the United States, the Publishers have been induced to issue the article in a separate form, without any alteration.]

T H E M A R TY R A G E.

1. Right and Wrong in Boston in 1835. Boston, U. S.:

Isaac Knapp 2. Right and Wrong in Boston in 1836. Boston, U. S.:

Isaac Knapp. 3. Right and Wrong in Boston in 1837. Boston, U. S.:

Isaac Knapp. There is a remarkable set of people now living and vigorously acting in the world, with a consonance of will and understanding which has perhaps never been witnessed among so large a number of individuals of such diversified powers, habits, opinions, tastes and circumstances. The body comprehends men and women of

every

shade of color, of every degree of education, of every variety of religious opinion, of every gradation of rank, bound together by no vow, no pledge, no stipulation but of each preserving his individual liberty ; and yet they act as if they were of one heart and of one soul. Such union could be secured by no principle of worldly interest; nor, for a terms of years, by the most stringent fanaticism. A well-grounded faith, directed towards a noble object, is the only principle which can account for such a spectacle as the world is now waking up to contemplate in the abolitionists of the United States.

Before we fix our attention on the history of the body, it may be remarked that it is a totally different thing to be an abolitionist on a soil actually trodden

[ocr errors]

by slaves, and in a far-off country, where opinion is already on the side of emancipation, or ready to be converted ; where only a fraction of society, instead of the whole, has to be convicted of guilt ; and where no interests are put in jeopardy but pecuniary ones, and those limited and remote. Great honor is due to the first movers in the anti-slavery cause in every land : but those of European countries may take rank with the philanthropists of America who may espouse the cause of the aborigines : while the primary abolitionists of the United States have encountered, with steady purpose, such opposition as might here await assailants of the whole set of aristocratic institutions at once, from the throne to pauper apprenticeship. Slavery is as thoroughly interwoven with American institutions—ramifies as extensively through American society, as the aristocratic spirit pervades Great Britain. The fate of Reformers whose lives are devoted to making war upon either the one or the other must be remarkable. We are about to exhibit a brief sketch of the struggle of the American abolitionists from the dawn of their day to the present hour, avoiding to dwell on the institution with which they are at war, both because the question of slavery is doubtless settled in the minds of all our readers, and because our contemplation is of a body of persons who are living by faith, and not of a party of Reformers contending against a particular social abuse. Our sketch must be faint, partial, and imperfect. The short life of American abolitionism is so crowded with events and achievements, that the selection of a few is all that can be attempted. Many names deserving of honor will be omitted ; and many will receive less than their due : and in the case of persons who are so devoted to others as to have no thoughts to bestow on themselves, no information to proffer regarding their own lives, it is scarcely possible for their describers

to avoid errors about their history. Though an extraordinary light is shed from their deeds upon their lives, it scarcely penetrates far enough into the obscurity of the past to obviate mistake on the part of a foreign observer. Ten

years ago there was external quiet on the subject of slavery in the United States. Jefferson and other great men had prophesied national peril from it; a few legislators had talked of doing something to meliorate the “ condition of society” in their respective States ; the institution had been abolished in some of the northern States, where the number of negroes was small, and the work of emancipation easy and obviously desirable : an insurrection broke out occasionally, in one place or another; and certain sections of society were in a state of perplexity or alarm at the talents, or the demeanor, or the increase of numbers of the free blacks. But no such thing had been heard of as a comprehensive and strenuously active objection to the whole system, wherever established. The surface of society was heaving ; but no one surge had broken into voice, prophetic of that chorus of many waters in which the doom of the institution may now be heard. Yet clear sighted persons saw that some great change must take place ere long; for a scheme was under trial for removing the obnoxious part of the negro population to Africa. Those of the dusky race who were too clever, and those who were too stupid, to be safe or useful at home, were to be exported ; and slave-owners who had scruples about holding man as property might, by sending their slaves away over the sea, relieve their consciences without annoying their neighbors. Such was the state of affairs previous to 1829.

The Colonization Society originated abolitionism. It acted in two ways.

It exasperated the free blacks by the prospect of exile, and it engaged the attention

1*

« AnteriorContinuar »