Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]


FEBRUARY 22, 1839,


Anniversary of the birth of yu ashington.

William Dexter

“ He whom God moves to speak, expresses himself openly and freely, careless whether he
be alone or has others on his side.”-Martin Luther.


Concord :

Opposite the State House.



I have not thought it best to encumber the pages of this discourse with references to authorities, either in the text or in marginal notes. The principal authorities, beside the few references in the page where the quotation occurs are, the Bible, Jahn's Archæology,

Eschenburg's Manual of Classical Literature, Bancroft's United States, Kent's Commentaries, and Jay's Inquiry

W. D. W.


Mr. President and Gentlemen :

I accept with pleasure the invitation you have been pleased to give me, to come up here and speak to you at this time on the subject of human slavery. The birth-day of Washington brings with it, to every lover of freedom, and especially to every freeman of America, associations calculated to awaken in his bosom the noblest and holiest emotions. The recollections of a man great, almost beyond human weakness, a nation's father and idol, who had been their pillar of fire by night and of cloud by day, to guide them during their long and perilous struggle for liberty, and who, when that struggle was ended, planned and reared a form of government to which all eyes are turned in admiration, and on which the trembling hopes of the world yet hang, till they may see if it be not too like heaven to be long realized here on earth, seem to call us forth from the homely routine of every day thought and feeling, to set apart this hour to the entertainment of holier and nobler emotions. When we think of him whose life and energies were spent in the cause of human freedom, without a taint of selfishness, avarice or ambition, but who even refused the emoluments and power that the fond idolatry of the people he had served would gladly have given him, we seem to shut our eyes upon the avarice, corruption and oppression that is around us, and for a while persuade ourselves that it is not so. It cannot be that a nation, before whose eyes has been displayed so much greatness, such purity, such devotion to the cause of man, should still rob three millions of their fellow-men of their dearest rights. It cannot be that men made of the same clay, and in the same image with Washington, can be so unlike him as to hear calmly the chains of the slave clank upon their native soil, and in their own dwellings; the bread of a soil watered by the tears and blood of slaves cannot be sweet to their mouths; the shrieks and groans of the chain-galled African cannot be music to their ears.

But, alas! it is so; it is no dream. Oh ! that it were.

It does seem that the mention of human slavery in connection with the name of Washington would be enough to make any man an abolitionist. It does seem that the thought of three millions of slaves in our own country, occurring amidst the thoughts and feelings inspired by this day and occasion, would be enough to call every heart and hand to the assistance of the oppressed. It does seem that every apology for slavery, and every plea or excuse for its continuance, must shrink

with shame from that mind where the thought of Washington is. “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? What communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial,” or Washington with Slavery ? No; that mind through which recollections of Washington are passing is too much purified by their sacred presence to harbor a thought of continuing slavery.

Let us then seize this auspicious moment to examine the subject of human slavery. Let us direct the thoughts suggested by the recurrence of an anniversary so dear to freedom to the cause of those who pine in bondage and servitude. It will be well to bring the subject of slavery into our minds at this time, and look at it as it lies beneath the blaze of glory shining there from Washington's life and character. It will be well for us to look at it from a point of view so elevated as that to which the recollections of Washington can carry us, and with minds purified and ennobled by their sanctifying influence. I ought to say in the outset, that I do not come here as the


of the Anti-Slavery Society. I have not stretched my views upon the Procrustes-bed of any society, or any man. I have scanned my language by no measure but that of my own thoughts and feelings. It is but justice to myself and to the abolitionists to say, that they are not responsible for any thing I may say, nor am I for any of their doctrines or measures. I expect, as a matter of course, that the views I am about to offer will coincide with theirs. But I have not sought such a coincidence. My only aim has been to be the mouth-piece of Truth and Justice. Truth is one ; and all who seek it will agree if they seek aright. The dictates of justice are identical,and the same to all men who will hear with reverence; therefore it is that my views coincide with the views of the abolitionists, in the main ; and I do not see how any man can hold up his head in this enlightened, liberty-loving country, and dissent from them. That man must be awfully depraved, and awfully unconscious of his depravity, who can in this age apologize for slavery. How much worse is the case of him who objects to having the subject thought of and discussed in public! What but unrighteousness shuns the light ? Who are they that love darkness rather than light? and why?

There is a numerous and daily increasing party, who have professed to take the part of the slave ; and while I can see nothing to dissent from in their principles, and while I believe their cause to be the cause of justice and truth, I dare not withhold my assistance. There may be something in their measures to disapprove of: there may be something uncharitable, undignified and unchristian, and unworthy so noble

But they are men and not angels. They have a nobleness of principle at bottom that gives them unwavering confidence. It gives them a boldness that leads to those very measures that call forth disapprobation. It will make them irresistible and triumphant over all the opposition they may meet with. They plant themselves upon the eternal principles of Truth and Justice; and though they may sometimes fight with unlawful weapons, still the cause of humanity, which they have espoused, will give them a mouth and wisdom that all their ad

a cause.

Let an

versaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist. They appeal to the hearts and consciences of men, and their words go to the hearts and consciences, and stir the depths of the soul ; while those who oppose them address the cupidity and fears of men, by portraying the evils which they fear may come from emancipation.

There is no case, perhaps, in which the superiority of the heart over calculation, of conscience and principle over cupidity and seeming expediency, is so manifest as in the case of the abolitionists. apologist for slavery get up and portray all the profits of slavery, all the difficulties and hindrances in the way of emancipation, and the evils of it when it shall have come, in all the eloquence his subject can command, and it will be sufficient to do away the effect of all that he can say, to have a person whose heart swells with humanity and love, address the higher sentiments and appeal to the consciences of men in favor of the oppressed. He will arouse them from the slumber into which the apologist for slavery would rock their consciences, that so the lower nature may rule the man. He will raise them above all the fears, and cupidity, and love of ease, which the slave-holder would address in pleading for the continuance of slavery. All that is or can be said against emancipation is like fuel to the fire. It reveals more of those very evils that called forth the abolition enterprize. The motives which are urged for the continuance of slavery, and the considerations by which the appeals of the abolitionists are met, are like stone walls to stop the birds. An abolitionist will arise, and by appealing to the higher nature, he will raise them at once above all the considerations of avarice. He is able, by the eloquence with which his subject inspires him, to soar with them above all that the opponent of freedom can present, and carry them over all the mountain difficulties that make the foot path to the desired land of liberty impassable. It is only when one is tired, or lazy, or drunk, that he hits his foot against the inequalities of the road and falls; but let there come over his heart some all-engrossing enterprize, and he moves on unimpeded by those very banks against which he was just before stumbling. Let a man be animated by some ennobling sentiment, and the difficulties in the way of attaining his object disappear, or even become advantages. It is the slothful man only, or the self-interested, that sees a lion in the way. The cause of humanity does thus engross and animate. It is the glory and the recommendation of the abolition principles that they can and do raise men above the stumbling stones in the way of the stupid and thoughtless ; that they can and do raise men above avarice, conservatism and an indolent fear of consequences. I know that this fact is regarded by many as a proof of fanaticism in the abolitionists. I do not know what men mean to insinuate by calling the abolitionists fanatics; I simply know that it is the nature of truth and justice to make what the sober, calculating, ease-loving votaries of 'Expediency call fanatics, especially if they are opposed. The river that runs quietly and noiselessly when undisturbed, becomes the thundering cataract only when it is provoked by the rocks and dams that obstruct its course.

This state of the case and these considerations prove to him who

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »