Imagens das páginas



of their society,—those who considered abolitionism too “ low" a subject for their ears, and the abolitionists too “odd” a set of people for their notice,- the shock of murder has roused even these from their apathy, and carried into their minds some notion that they are living in remarka able times, and that they have some extraordinary neighbours. We believe that no steps have been taken to punish the murderers; but such punishment was urged by the newspapers even in the slave States; and the cry of reprobation of the deed was vehement from all the more enlightened parts of the Union. Dr. Channing did his duty well. The rioters at Alton were heard encouraging one another by reference to old Boston. The time was at band for them to learn that there was right as well as wrong in the time-honoured city.

It was proposed to hold a meeting in Boston, where there should be no distinction of sect or party, and no reference to any anti-slavery organization, to express the alarm and horror of the citizens at the view of the prostration of civil liberty, and at the murder of a Christian minister for daring to maintain his inalienable and constitutional rights. Application was made to the authorities for the use of Faneuil Hall for the occasion, Dr. Channing's name being placed at the head of the requisition. The authorities were intimidated by a counter-petition, and refused the use of the Hall, on the ground of the request not being in accordance with public sentiment !

A spontaneous meeting of citizens was held to discuss the refusal of the authorities. The consequence was that the very same requisition was again tendered to the authorities, with such a mass of signatures to it that its prayer was granted with an obsequiousness as remarkable as the previous insult. Faneuil Hall was thrown open on the 8th of December, and crowded. The chair was taken by a respected citizen, who was allied with no party, -Mr. Jonathan Phillips. The resolutions were prepared by Dr. Channing. Neither he, nor the chairman, nor any one but the organized abolitionists (who have good reason to know their townsmen) was fully aware of the crisis to which this meeting brought the fate of the abolitionists throughout the community. It hung at last, for the space of three minutes, upon the lips of one very young speaker, who was heard only because of his rank. It came to the turn of a hair whether the atrocious mob-speech of the Attorney-General should be acted upon, or whether he should be overwhelmed with the reprobation of society; whether the abolitionists should liave the alternative of being murdered at home, and being driven into the wilderness, or whether liberty of speech and the press should prevail. Happily, the eloquence of young Wendell Phillips secured the victory. Among other discoveries, the Attorney-General announced that Lovejoy died “as a fool dieth,” and that his murderers were patriots of the same order as the Tea-Party of the Revolution. An extract from a private letter will best describe this critical meeting :

“ You will have heard of Dr. Channing's recent exploit. The massacre of one of our beloved friends in the West for being an abolitionist, and acting up to his principles, induced Dr. C. to sign a call for a public-indignation meeting in Faneuil Hall. It was a noble sight,-that hall on that day. The morning



sunlight never streamed in over such a throng. By night it has been closer packed ; but never, they tell me, by day. I went (for the Woman Question), with fifteen others. The indignation at us was great. People said it gave the meeting the air of an abolition gathering to have women there ; it hung out false colours. Shame! when it was a free discussion meeting, and nothing more, that women should have given colour to the idea that it was for abolition purposes.' Good, is it not, that sixteen women can give a character to a meeting of twentyfive hundred men ? O that you had been there ! A hundred women or so in a, gathered together by a new application of religious and democratic, viz. Christian principles, was all that Boston had to show you when you were here. But this Faneuil Hall gathering to protect the minority in the application of their principles, was an imposing spectacle. The meeting began with prayer ; no sound but that sublime one in stirring times—the sound of many feet on a public floor. You know Dr. Channing's voice is low, and Faneuil Hall is empty of seats. The crowd surged up closer round the platform; and ever as they made room the space behind filled in. The counting-houses disgorged for the occasion, and I think Dr. Channing must have seen his mistake as to the good state of heart of his neighbours and townsmen. One-third of the meeting, I think, were abolitionists and free discussionists (small proportion of the former); one-third of bitter opponents; and one-third swayed to and fro by every speaker. The name of Dr. Channing probably kept this floating third up to the pitch of an affirmative note on certain resolutions he had prepared. James T. Austin (Attorney-General). was there, and made a diabolical speech. . It was loudly cheered. I gave up all hopes of a favourable terinination of the meeting then. He tried to raise a storm of indignation, but failed, baffled by the effort of a very dear young friend and connexion of ours, who, from being of a good family (Republicanism !) was enabled to get a hearing, though an abolitionist, and an agent of the abolition society. Wm. Sturgis and George Bond, when he was almost overpowered by the clamour, threw in their weight on the right side, and free discussion of the subject of free discussion prevailed. So much for the local aspect of the cause at present. Stout men-my husband for one--came home that day, and lifted up their voices and wept.' Dr. Channing did not know how dangerous an experiment (as people count danger) he adventured. We knew that we must send the children out of the town, and sleep in our day-garments that night, unless free discussion prevailed. Lovejoy stood upon the defensive, as the Bill of Rights and New England Divinity bear him out in having done. His death lies, in a double sense, at the door of the church; for she trained him to self-defence, and then attacked him. This new aspect of the cause, orthodox church opposition to it as a heresy, has presented itself since you were here, and a most perilous crisis it has been. I think the ship has righted ; but she was on her beam-ends so long, that I thought all was over for this 200 years,' as Dr. Beecher says. I have just sent off 55,000 women's signatures for the abolition in the District, a weary labour. My brain turns with the counting and indorsing. I wrote well on them for the honour of Massachusetts, which is the reason I write so badly to you now. I am thoroughly tired. God be with you evermore !”

The second General Convention of Women was held, as appointed, at Philadelphia, in the spring of 1838. Once, again, has the intrepidity of these noble Christian women been put to the proof; the outrages in this “city of brotherly love” having been the most fearful to which they have yet been exposed. The cause of the extraordinary

* Columbia.



violences of this year is to be found in the old maxim that men hate those whom they have injured. The State Convention, which had been employed for many previous months in preparing a new constitution for Pennsylvania, had deprived the citizens of colour of the political rights which they had held (but rarely dared to exercise) under the old constitution. Having done this injury, the perpetrators, and those who assented to their act, were naturally on the watch against those whom they had oppressed, and were jealous of every movement. When the abolitionists began to gather to their Convention, when the liberal part of the Quaker population came abroad, and were seen greeting their fellow-emancipators in the city of Penn-when the doors of the fine new building, Pennsylvania Hall, were thrown open, and the people of colour were seen flocking thither, with hope in their faces, and with heads erect, in spite of the tyranny of the new laws, the batred of their oppressors grew too violent for restraint. It was impossible to find reasonable and true causes of complaint against any of the parties concerned in the Convention, and falsehoods were therefore framed and circulated. Even these falsehoods were of a nature which makes it difficult for people on this side of the Atlantic to understand how they should be used as a pretext for such an excess of violence as succeeded. The charge against the abolitionists was, that they ostentatiously walked the streets arm-in-arm with people of colour. They did not do this, because the act was not necessary to the assertion of any principle, and would have been offensive; but if they had, it might have been asked what excuse this was for firing Pennsylvania Hall ?

The delegates met and transacted their business, as in the preceding year, but this time with a yelling mob around the doors. The mild voice of Angelina Weld was heard above the hoarse roar; but it is said that the transient appearance of Maria Chapman was the most striking circumstance of the day. She was ill, and the heat of the weather was tremendous; but, scarcely able to sustain lierself under an access of fever, she felt it her duty to appear on the platform, showing once more that where shame and peril are, there is she. Commenting upon the circumstances of the moment, the strain of her exhortation accorded well with the angelic beauty of her countenance, and with the melting tones of her voice, and with the summary of duty which she had elsewhere presented: “Our principles teach us how to avoid that spurious charity which would efface moral distinctions, and that our duty to the sinner is, not to palliate, but to pardon; not to excuse, but to forgive, freely, fully, as we hope to be forgiven." To these principles she has ever been faithful, whether she gathers her children about her knees at home, or bends over the pillow of a dying friend, or stands erect amidst the insults and outrages of a mob, to strengthen the souls of her fellow-sufferers. Her strain is ever the same--no compromise, but unbounded forgive


If the authorities had done their duty, no worse mischief than threat and insult would have happened; but nothing effectual was done in answer to a demonstration on the part of the mob, repeated for three or four nights; so at last they broke into Pennsylvania Hall, heaped together the furniture and books in the middle of the floor, and burned them and the building together. The circumstance which most clearly indicates the source of the rage of the mob was their setting fire to the Orphan Asylum for coloured children ; a charity wholly unconnected with abolitionism, and in no respect, but the complexion of its inmates, on a different footing from any other charitable institution in the Quaker city. The Recorder interposed vigorously; and, after the burning of the Hall, the city firemen undertook the protection of all the buildings in the place, public and private. The morning after the fire, the abolitionists were asked what they intended to do next. Their answer was clear and ready. They had already raised funds, and engaged workmen to restore their Hall, and had issued their notices of the meeting of the third General Convention in the spring of 1839. They have since applied for damages, which we believe the city agreed, without demur, to pay. It is astonishing that the absurdity of persecuting such people as these has not long been apparent to all eyes. Their foes might as well wage a pop-gun war against the constellations of the sky.

The abolitionists, as a body, are now fairly recognized by the South. Mr. Bimey has been applied to by Mr. Elmore, a southern member of Congress, under the sanction of Mr. Calhoun himself, for a fulfilment of his offer to lay open all the affairs of the anti-slavery body. The affairs of the abolitionists bave from the beginning been open to all the world ; the evil has been, that the world would not attend to them. Now, however, “ the South desires to learn the depth, height, and breadth of the storm which impends over her.” She has learned what she wants, for Mr. Birney has forwarded exceedingly full replies to the fourteen queries proposed by the southern representatives and senators. This may be regarded as an extremely fortunate event. It is a most cheering testimony to the progress of the cause; and it affords some hope that the South will take warning in time, and present an honourable exception to the conduct and catastrophe of a struggle for and relinquishment of irresponsible power. The hope is faint ; for instances are rare, if not unknown, of privileged bodies surrendering their total privileges on a merely moral summons. But again, instances are rare, if not unknown, of a privileged class appealing to a magnanimous foe for an exposure of his forces, his designs, and his expectations. Whatever irritability may display itself in the conduct of the appeal, the fact is highly honourable to both parties. To our minds, it is one of the most striking circumstances of this majestic story. Mr. Birney's reply is far too long to be given here, even in ihe briefest abstract. It is extremely interesting, from the honourable accuracy and candour of its statements, and its abstinence from all manifestation of the triumph which its facts might well justify. These important papers go by the name of the • Elmore Correspondence.'

The most melancholy feature of the struggle—more so than even the conduct of the clergy (which has been far more extraordinary than we have had space to relate)-is the degeneracy of Congress. The right of petition has been virtually annihilated for these three years past; and the nation has been left unrepresented on the most important question which has been occupying the nation's mind. The people hold their remedy

[blocks in formation]

in the ballot-box. The elections are now going forward ; and we doubt not the electors will take care that such a suspension of their rights does not happen again. We understand, indeed, that the usual federal and democratic questions are in many cases laid aside at the present elections for the all-important one of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and the prohibition of the inter-state slave-trade.

During the last year, several Halls of State Legislatures have been granted to the abolitionists for their meetings, while the churches have remained closed against them. The aspect of these assemblages has been very remarkable, from the union of religious and political action witnessed there. But the most extraordinary spectacle of all-a spectacle perhaps unrivalled in the history of the world was the address of Angelina Weld before a Committee of the Legislature of Massachu. setts. Some have likened it to the appeal of Hortensia to the Roman Senate; but others have truly observed that the address of Angelina Weld was far the nobler of the two, as she complained not as the voice of a party remonstrating against injuries done to itself, but as the advocate of a class too degraded and helpless to move or speak on its own behalf. The gentle dignity of the speaker's manner, and the power of statement and argument shown in her address, together with the righteousness of her cause, won the sympathies of as large an audience as the State House would contain, and bore down all ridicule, prejudice, and passion. Two emotions divided the vast assemblage of hearers; sympathy in her cause, and veneration for herself. The only fear now entertained by the abolitionists with regard to the cause in the leading State of Massachusetts, is lest it should become too flourishing, and lose something of its rectitude in its prosperity.

The history of this struggle seems to yield a few inferences which must, we think, be evident to all impartial minds; and which are as important as they are clear. One is, that this is a struggle which cannot subside till the right bas prevailed. If this be true, the consequence of yielding to it would be the saving of a world of guilt and woe. Another in, that other sorts of freedom, besides emancipation from slavery, will come in with it; that the aristocratic spirit, in all its manifestations, is being purged out of the community; that with every black slave a white will be also freed. Another is, that republicanism is in no degree answerable for the want of freedom and of peace under which the American nation is now suffering; that, on the contrary, the turbulence and tyranny are the immediate and visible offspring of the old world, feudal, European spirit which still lives in the institution assailed, and in the bosoms of the aristocracy of the country, while the bulwarks of the Constitution, the true republicans, are the “ peacemen,” the sufferers, the moral soldiers, who have gone out armed only with faith, hope, and charity. Another is, that the coloured people have a promising morale on which to ground their civilization. Their whole conduct affords evidences of generosity, patience, and hopefulness, from which fine results of character may be anticipated whenever this unfortunate race shall have leave to exert its unfettered energies under circumstances of average fairness.

« AnteriorContinuar »