He provided a vivid account of the visit in a letter to his friend Abigail Mott (1766-1851), a Quaker in Albany, New York, to whom he had sent his daughter Rosetta, then aged six, to be educated by her and sister Lydia. The relevant portion of the letter was published in the Albany Evening Journal (and subsequently reprinted elsewhere) and is reproduced below.
Douglass knew the poems of Robert Burns well. The first book he purchased after his escape from slavery was an edition of James Currie‘s Works of Robert Burns, which he later gifted to his eldest son Lewis.1
Currie’s influence is evident in Douglass’ assessment of Burns’ life and work, not least because of the way he recognised that Burns’ readers were not exclusively Scottish, but were to be found in many ‘other countries where the English language is spoken or understood.’2 Indeed, one of his nieces told Douglas that their uncle ‘was more highly esteemed in America than in Scotland.’ But because these readers lacked a familiarity with both his ‘dialect’ and the society in which he lived, they might struggle to fully appreciate his writings. And so Currie felt obliged to preface his biographical sketch with‘Some Observations on the Character and Condition of the Scottish Peasantry.’
And Douglass effectively repeats the strategy for his correspondent who, he admitted, was ‘no admirer of Burns’, by sharing with her some of his ‘present knowledge of the country to which be belonged – the times in which he lived, and the broad Scotch tongue in which he wrote.’
But as he does so, the Scottishness of this context fades into the background. For his description of Burns’ situation, struggling against a ‘bigoted and besotted clergy’ and ‘proud, ambitious, and contemptuous aristocracy’ who treated him as ‘little better than a brute’, begins to read more like autobiography. The language Douglass employs here is more like the language he used elsewhere to condemn the class of slaveholders in the United States who often compared themselves to feudal nobility, and the Southern churchmen who defended them.
The antithetical pairing of ‘man’ and ‘brute’ recalls some of the more memorable rhetorical set pieces in Douglass’ writings and speeches. And he comes close to quoting from his own apostrophe to the sailing ships in the Chesapeake Bay in his Narrative, where he wrote: ‘You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains, and am a slave!’3 Anyone recognising the phrase (from what William Lloyd Garrison‘s preface highlights as the most ‘thrilling’ episode in the book4) might be forgiven for thinking that by the end this passage, Douglass has imaginatively fused his own escape from slavery with Burns’ exceptional rise from rural obscurity. Somehow Ayrshire has turned into Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
A Fugitive Slave Visiting the Birthplace of Robert Burns
The following is an extract from a Letter of FREDERICK DOUGLASS, to a Friend, dated April 23, 1846. The writer, be it remembered, is a ‘Runaway Slave,’ who, during his eight years of stolen Freedom, in defiance of all the disadvantages under which his class labor, has qualified himself to think and write thus:–
‘I am now in the town of Ayr. It is famous for being the birth-place of Robert Burns, the poet, by whose brilliant genius every stream, hill, glen and valley in the neighborhood have been made classic. I have felt more intense in visiting this place than any other in Scotland, for, as you are aware, (painfully perhaps) I am an enthusiastic admirer of Robt. Burns.
Immediately on our arrival, Friend Buffum and myself were joined by the Rev. Mr. Renwick, the Minister in whose meeting house we are to lecture during our stay, and proceeded forthwith to see Burns’ Monument. It is about three miles from town, and situated on the south bank of the river “Doon,” and within hearing of its gentle steps as it winds its way over its pebbled path to the Ocean.
The place of the Monument is well chosen, being in full view of all the places mentioned and referred to in the Poet’s famous poem called “Tam O’Shanter,” as well as several others of his most popular poems. From the Monument (which I have not time to describe,) may be seen the Cottage where Burns was born – the old and new bridge across the Doon – “Kirk Alloway,” called by Burns the “Haunted Kirk.” The banks of “Doon” rising majestically from the sea toward the sky, and the Clyde stretching off to the highlands of Arran, whose dim out-line is scarcely discernible through the fog by which it is almost constantly overhung, makes the spot admirably and beautifully adapted to the monument of Scotland’s noble bard.
In the Monument there is a finely executed marble bust of Burns – the finest thing of the kind I ever saw. I never before, looking upon it, realized the power of man to make the marble speak. The expression is so fine, and the face is so lit up, as to cause one to forget the form in gazing upon the spirit.
In another room, there are two statues carved out of free-stone – the one of Souter Johnny and the other of Tam O’Shanter, two characters named in his most famous poem. These were also finely executed and shared my attention, but I was drawn to Burns. In a glass case near his bust there was a bible, given by Burns to his “sweet Highland Mary” – there is also in the same case a lock of her hair neatly fastened to a card.
As I gazed on the hair of her he so dearly loved, and who by death was snatched from his bosom, and up to his bust glowing with expression, I received a vivid impression, and shared with him the deep melancholy pourtrayed in the following lines –
Ye banks and braes of bonnie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair;
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sea weary, fu’ o’ care!
Thou’ll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro’ the flowering thorn:
Thou minds me o’ departed joys,
Departed never to return.
Oft hae I rov’d by a bonnie Doon
To see the rose and woodbine twine.
And ilka bird sang o’ its luve,
And fondly sae did I o’ mine.
Wi’ lightsome heart I pu’d a rose,
Fu’ sweet upon its thorny tree,
And my fause luver stole my rose,
But ah! She left the thorn wi’ me.5
On our way to the Monument we enjoyed a pleasure and a privilege I shall never forget. It was that of seeing and conversing with Mrs. Beggs, an own sister of Robert Burns, and also seeing and talking with the poet’s two nieces, daughters of Mrs Beggs. They live by the road side in a small thatched cottage, humble but comfortable. When Mr. Renwick made them acquainted with the fact that we were from America they received us warmly. One of the nieces said her uncle was more highly esteemed in America than in Scotland. –
Mrs Beggs is the youngest sister of Robert Burns, and though now approaching 80, she does not look to be more than sixty. She enjoys good health, is a spirited looking woman, and bids fair to live yet many days. The two daughters are truly fine looking women. Coal black hair, full, high foreheads, and yet black eyes, sparkling with the poetic fire which illumined the breast of their brilliant uncle.
Their deportment was warm and free, yet dignified and lady-like. They did every thing to make our call agreeable, and they were not ignorant as to the means of putting us fully at ease. Two letters in their uncle’s own hand writing was early put into our hands. An original portrait, said to be excellent, was discoursed upon. I thought it much like those we usually see in his works.
We sat fifteen or twenty minutes. It might have been longer, as happy moments pass rapidly. Too leave – bade farewell. I saw in them so much of what I love in every body else. I felt as if leaving old and dear friends. I have ever esteemed Robert Burns a true soul but never could I have had the high opinion of the man or his genius, which I now entertain, without my present knowledge of the country to which he belonged – the times in which he lived, and the broad Scotch tongue in which he wrote.
Burns lived in the midst of a bigoted and besotted clergy – a pious but corrupt generation – a proud, ambitious, and contemptuous aristocracy, who, esteemed a little more than a man, and looked upon the ploughman, such as was the noble Burns, as being little better than a brute. He became disgusted with the pious frauds, indignant at the bigotry, filled with contempt for the hollow pretensions set up by the shallow-brained aristocracy.
He broke loose from the moorings which society had thrown around him. Spurning all restraint, he sought a path for his feet, and, like all bold pioneers, he made crooked paths. We may lament it, we may weep over it, but in the language of another, we shall lament and weep with him. The elements of character which urged him on are in us all, and influencing our conduct every day of our lives. We may pity him but we can’t despise him. WE may condemn his faults, but only as we condemn our own. His very weakness was an index of his strength. Full of faults of a grievous nature, yet far more faultless than many who have come down to us on the page of history as saints. He was a brilliant genius and like all of his class, did much good and much evil. Let us take the good and leave the evil – let us pursue his wisdom but shun his folly; and as death as separated his noble spirit from the corrupt and corruptible dust with which it was encumbered, so let us separate his good from his evil deeds – thus may we make him a blessing rather than a curse to the world.
The University of Rochester River Campus Libraries’ Department of Rare Books, Special Collections has Douglass’ copy of this edition. Douglass was also presented with another edition when he was in Scotland, inscribed ‘Jany 1846’ by ‘G.C.’ or ‘G.G.’ (the inscription is unclear). This copy is held in the library at the Frederick Douglass home at Cedar Hill, Washington, D.C.
We reproduce below the report of the proceedings by Edinburgh-born John Dick, printer of the North Star, who was closely involved in the running of the paper, and contributed numerous articles. From his account, it is clear Dick attended the gathering as a proud Scot and not just as a dispassionate reporter of his employer’s speaking engagements. Two thirds of the three hundred present, he estimated, had been born in Scotland. ‘I could almost have believed,’ he continued, ‘when I heard the Scotch voices, and saw the Scotch faces, and listened to the wild notes of the pibroch, which was played at intervals during the evening, that I was in the “auld toon of Ayr” itself.’
Douglass was never afraid to flaunt his knowledge of Burns. The first book he purchased after escaping from slavery was an edition of James Currie‘s Works of Robert Burns, which he later gave to his eldest son Lewis.1 In Currie’s biographical essay he would have learnt that in 1786 Burns had made plans to emigrate to Jamaica to take up a position on a sugar plantation before the success of his first volume of poems led him to change his mind. That he even entertained such a move may have troubled Douglass, who also may have noted that the abolitionist campaigns of the 1780s and 90s left little trace in his writings. (The song ‘The Slave’s Lament’, often attributed to Burns, did not appear in collections of his work until the 1850s and evidence of his authorship is not conclusive.2).
But when he spoke at Cathcart St Church in Ayr in March 1846 Douglass chose to end his speech by declaring – diplomatically perhaps – that ‘he was proud of having been in the land of him who had spoken out so nobly against the oppressions and the wrongs of slavery.’ And it is a boldly egalitarian Burns who is celebrated in Rochester nearly three years later. In the address by Mr Sidey, which takes up nearly half of Dick’s report, Burns is described as ‘freedom’s poet […] whose greatest joy was in the triumph of right’, who despised British tyranny and sung the glory of the American and French revolutions; a defender of the oppressed and ‘friend to universal brotherhood.’
Yet there is something about Sidey’s speech that may have bothered Douglass. It employs a rhetoric he had heard all to many times in the United States, not least on that other anniversary when patriots commemorate the Declaration of Independence. As Douglass famously pointed out in his ‘What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?’ speech, delivered in Rochester in 1852, the rights it asserted were not extended to members of ‘the negro race,’ and therefore these celebrations take place as if black people do not exist. In that speech he confronts his audience head on: ‘The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me […] This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.’ On this occasion, Douglass’ tactics are rather more subtle. Rather than confronting his adversary, he outflanks him.
Like Sidey, he begins by declaring his admiration not for Burns, but for Scotland. Just as Sidey praised the country ‘whose every hill and glen bears record of where a martyr fell and patriot died in defence of freedom and fatherland,’ so Douglass, adapting a turn of phrase he had used before, speaks of how, during his travels ‘through that land,’ he ‘learned that every stream, hill, glen and valley, had been rendered classic by heroic deeds in behalf of Freedom.’3 Coming from Sidey’s lips, this invocation of Scotland does nothing to disrupt the convention that such rhetoric is racially exclusive. But the almost identical words spoken by Douglas have a different meaning; they insist otherwise.
Although I am not a Scotchman, nor the son of a Scotchman […] but if a warm love of Scotch character – a high appreciation of Scotch genius – constitute any of the qualities of a true Scotch heart, then indeed does a Scotch heart throb beneath these ribs.
Only then does he go on to mention his ‘pilgrimage’ to Ayr and have the audience picture him ‘seeing and conversing’ with Burns’ sister. (He gives an account of the encounter in this letter.) In doing so Douglass implies he enjoys a closer connection to Burns than many of those present, making a claim not only to be Scottish but more Scottish than this gathering of emigrants. And then, in a coup de grâce, he fashions the perfect response to those who might suspect this Scottish Douglass is rather far-fetched:
But, ladies and gentlemen, this is not a time for long speeches. I do not wish to detain you from the social pleasures that await you. I repeat again, that though I am not a Scotchman, and have a colored skin, I am proud to be among you this evening. – And if any think me out of my place on this occasion (pointing at the picture of Burns,) I beg that the blame may be laid at the door of him who taught me that ‘a man’s a man for a’ that.’
Part of the force of that reference to those who might have considered him ‘out of my place’ may have derived from his experience at another event in Rochester the previous year when he had been initially refused admission to a celebration of Benjamin Franklin‘s birthday on the grounds that it was ‘a violation of the rules of the society for colored people to associate with whites.’4
On this occasion at least he felt he could expect a warmer reception from the devotees of Burns. As others seemed to do so at another Burns anniversary many years later, where he made a posthumous appearance at the Library of Congress in 2009, in which Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, invoked Douglass by quoting these same lines, inserting him in a long line of celebrated admirers of Burns, including Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman and Maya Angelou.5
BURNS ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL
This annual gathering of the sons and daughters of Old Scotia in this city and land of their adoption, took place on the evening of Thursday, the 25th inst. There was, for the occasion, a numerous assemblage – not much under three hundred – perhaps two-thirds of them from the land of Burns; the remainder friends and sympathizers.
It was interesting to have an opportunity of seeing and conversing with so many who had visited the ground made classic by the pen of the poet, and who had been reared amid the scenes which he has described with such inimitable power and pathos. I could almost have believed, when I heard the Scotch voices, and saw the Scotch faces, and listened to the wild notes of the pibroch, which was played at intervals during the evening, that I was in the ‘auld toon of Ayr’ itself, within a short distance of the birth-place of the poet, and the scenes of the disasters of his immortal hero, in Alloa [= Alloway] kirkyard. The association recalled to my kind many a barren crag and leafy rivulet, in that brave, old country. Memory was busily at work conjuring up pictures of early days, and the almost-forgotten events of long-past years. As I wandered, mentally, among many a ruin ‘old and hoary,’ and saw the familiar faces of dear friends, some of whom are separated from me by distance, some by death, it would have been strange indeed had I not felt slightly disposed to philosophize on the vanity and changeableness of all things earthly.
This is one – perhaps the principle advantage of such social gatherings. It serves to strengthen the links that bind friend to friend – man to man – country to country. It serves to refresh and water the green spots on memory’s waste, which are apt, amid the business and hurry of this working world, to be lost sight of, if not forgotten.
My present object, however, is not to moralize, but to eke out some account of this anniversary festival. The President for the evening (Mr. Russell) took the chair at eight o’clock, and commenced the proceedings of the evening with a speech, of which the following is the substance:
FRIENDS AND FELLOW-SCOTCHMEN:
This is our second social meeting. – The object of calling our former one, was then briefly explained. We have now the same general object in view – the promotion of social feeling, brotherly love, and innocent amusement. We hope that this, like the former one, will be a scene of happy enjoyment – a scene to be looked back to and remembered as one of pleasant emotion, a green spot in the desert of memory’s waste.
This meeting has been called on the eve of Burn’s [sic] anniversary, to show our respect to the memory of one who has done so much, by his works, to elevate the people of Scotland in their own minds, and in the estimation of the world. Such meetings tend to warm our social feelings. That heart must be cold indeed that does not respond and dilate with the influence of that soul-stirring music and the bright and happy faces around us. We come here to-night with our hearts free from the cares and troubles of the world, determined, for one night at least, to be happy; and when we look upon this meeting in after years, may it be with pleasure and with profit, inasmuch as it tends to make us love our fellow-men more and ourselves no less.
Such meetings are needed in a physical point of view. Our mothers, our sisters, and our wives, are too much confined to their homes, and their minds too much racked with the constant and unceasing watchfulness required in attending to their domestic affairs. I say, and it must be evident to us all that such meetings are needed more than we do have them. We are aware that our health depends a great deal upon the state of our minds. – Should it not admonish us, then, as the warning of a kind parent, to keep our minds buoyant and happy, and on all fitting occasions to meet together in social compact.
After a short interval, during which several songs were sung, and an amusing Scotch piece, purporting to be a dialogue between man and wife, on the propriety of signing the tee-total pledge, was recited by Mr. McWILLIAMS – the Chairman called upon Mr. SIDEY, who spoke as follows:
Mr. CHAIRMAN AND FRIENDS:
This being a social party, we are all expected to contribute our share to the amusements of the evening. For that reason, with your consent, I will make a few remarks. This recalls to mind the joys which we had in our native land – joys which we neither can nor will forget; and he who loves not the home of his childhood, that land which contains the ashes of his sires, is a being whose presence any land can spare. If it looks to its own honor and weal, such a one, the poet has well said, shall die
All of us who are here, met to spend a night in Scotish [sic] style in the land of our adoption, can look back with pride, to that land whose earliest records give us to know that she alone of nations drove back the troops of the mighty Caesars; and whose every hill and glen bears record of where a martyr fell and patriot died in defence of freedom and fatherland. In this our own time, we can look back to a Watt in Science – a Hume and Macauley in History – a Burns in Poetry. All of her history teems with truths which make her children feel proud of such a native land; and likewise to know that she had some of her sons here when freedom’s foes were strong in their attempts to crush the liberty which Washington so gloriously achieved. – May we never cause Scotland to blush for her offspring in other lands. May we always be found in the van of that march of progress that leaves destroyed in its rear institutions and customs which are a disgrace to the age; and may you always be amongst the first to remove all that degrades our race, or supports a class by practicing an injustice on the many; and may you likewise show that the poet spoke truth when he speaks of home and of birthplace –
That though bleak and barren be the lonely spot,
Its charms can never, never be forgot;7
and when memory leads you back to the haunts of your childhood, may the virtues you saw practiced in the ‘puir man’s hame,’ make you feel as Burns sung –
Time but the impression deeper makes,
As streams their channels deeper wear.8
Ninety years since to-day, Scotland received that child, stamped not with titles or earthly grandeur; but with nature’s mark of genius he was misfortune’s child and Scotland’s glory – nature’s poet and freedom’s poet – a man whose greatest joy was in the triumph of right, wherever asserted. The powerful tyrants of a class government he despised, although at that time his country’s rulers. He could sing the glories of America and the French patriots, even while those glories were reaped at the expense of Britain. – And why? Because he wished to see that principle triumph which says –
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings;
An honest man’s the noblest work of God.9
For such Godlike conduct, he was told his part was to work, not to think. But did he submit? No; he fulfilled his Creator’s plan, that was to set the world a thinking, and mirth a laughing at the baby titles with which born kings decorated the big, but soulless men of his time. When these titles and men are at rest in their kindred clay, Burns’ memory shall be green; and while independence, poetry and benevolence are revered, his memory will be not less so. As long as there is oppression, the oppressed will find in him their defence; and long-faced cant, dressed either as the heavenly chosen or worldly wise, will find such a truth in his poetry as will make them cry, Avaunt – thou art Satan; and while the slave wears the mark of bondage, the songs of Burns will make strong his hope. Where’re freedom finds a home, her praises will be sung with his songs – her brightest robes be independence such as his – her first and proudest worlds –
Burns was a friend to universal brotherhood, an elevator of his race. – He cherished a love for his kind and for freedom, that only found limits where these had no existence. In him we see the victim of the oppressor and the earthly god Mammon. They destroyed the man, but could not crush the spirit which wished and prayed that the time would come
When man to man the world o’er
Would brothers be, and a’ that.11
Let us be like him – in adversity never to think of yielding, but the greater the pressure the greater the strength; and while fortune is kind, like him let us always have a heart to feel and a hand to help the unfortunate.
Before leaving his memory, let us cherish with it the memory of American poets who wreathed around his brows a wreath of poetry which will never fade. So with the words of Halleck, I will leave him where his fame dies not –
And Burns, though brief the race he ran,
Though rough and dark the path he trod,
Lived, died, in form and soul a man,
The image of his God.12
BY ADAM ELDER. – Mr. PRESIDENT: I consider this social gathering as eminently suggestive of thought of the land of our birth, and that of our adoption – suggestive of points of contrast and of agreement, a glance at which many not be inappropriate to this occasion.
Our island home, as she rests, like a wearied dove upon the expanse of waters, presents in territorial extent nothing by which she may become an arbitrator among the nations, or entice to her fields the combatants of the world; though in diversity and grandeur of scenery she yields to none in capacity to charm and captivate the hearts of her sons; nor in the history of martial prowess, since war received its first impulse from the murderous hand of Cain, till the complete development of its enginery under the conduct of Napoleon, have the frequent wars of our country much affected the conduct and destiny of nations; nor in the marts of the business world, have her useful and valuable fabrics, and the extent of her commercial transactions, entitled her to the position of a first power in establishing and maintaining the commercial equipoise, or dictating restrictive measures to estrange mankind; but like many of the choicest enjoyments, the unfolding of her best treasure was deferred until the belligerents in war and its concomitants had proclaimed a truce, and the persuasive voice of home, and school and religion, and the application of these to the practical affairs of life in one short century, has placed our country in the foreground of nations, and Scotland has become a formidable competitor in the discovery and elucidation of principles which are gradually but effectively reconstructing society and religion and governments of the world; demonstrative evidence of which is afforded in the gradual fusion of the diversified character and peculiarity of formerly conflicting peoples, rearing therefrom, as by magic, the present American nation, our adopted home – grander in extent, more potent in power, but dependent alike with the humblest community upon the same fixed rules of action. To us, then, wherever we may go, the discipline of our Scottish homes, and the examples of our countrymen, are an invaluable behest, the application of which, in our American homes, from congeniality, will ensure eminence and respectability.
FREDERICK DOUGLASS, who was present as an invited guest, being called upon by a number of voices, rose and said –
MR. CHAIRMAN: I regard it as a pleasure, not less than a privilege, to mingle my humble voice with the festivities of this occasion. Although I am not a Scotchman, nor the son of a Scotchman, (perhaps you will say ‘it needs no ghost to tell us that,‘) (a laugh,) but if a warm love of Scotch character – a high appreciation of Scotch genius – constitute any of the qualities of a true Scotch heart, then indeed does a Scotch heart throb beneath these ribs. From my earliest acquaintance with Scotland, I have held that country in the highest admiration. As I travelled through that land two years since, and became acquainted with its people, and realized their warmth of heart, steadiness of purpose, and learned that every stream, hill, glen and valley, had been rendered classic by heroic deeds in behalf of Freedom, that admiration was increased. That you may know that I have some appreciation of the genius of the bard whose birth-day you have met to celebrate, I went a pilgrimage to see the cottage in which he was born; and had the pleasure of seeing and conversing with a sister of the noble poet to whose memory we have met to do honor. I can truly say that it was one of the most gratifying visits I made during my stay in Scotland. I saw, or thought I saw, some lingering sparks in the eyes of this sister, that called to mind the fire that ever warmed the bosom of Burns. But, ladies and gentlemen, this is not a time for long speeches. I do not wish to detain you from the social pleasures that await you. I repeat again, that though I am not a Scotchman, and have a colored skin, I am proud to be among you this evening. – And if any think me out of my place on this occasion (pointing at the picture of Burns,) I beg that the blame may be laid at the door of him who taught me that ‘a man’s a man for a’ that.’ (Mr. D. sat down amid loud cries of ‘go on!’ from the audience.)
MR. DEMPSTER, the Scottish vocalist, very opportunely happened to be in the city on this evening, and as became a true Scotchman and admirer of the Scotch poet, hastened to lend the aid of his eloquent voice to add to the interest of the occasion. His ‘Highland Mary brought the sympathizing tear to the eyes of more than one of his delighted listeners; and that song of Burns’ which is, and will always be, the admiration of all men – ‘A man’s a man for a’ that,’ brought raptures of applause from the audience. It was after the singing of this song, that the call for ‘Douglass, Douglass,’ arose,13 and that ‘man for a’ that,’ got upon the platform, and delivered a short speech, of which a sketch will be found above. – Several other gentlemen, and one lady, whose names I did not catch, also volunteered songs. They were all good; but the song by the lady – ‘Let us haste to Kelvin Grove,’ was a peculiarly successful effort.14 The ‘feast of reason,’ was of course the principal part of the entertainment; but Mr Serpell, an English confectioner, who has taken up his residence in this city, to administer to the gastronomical wants of his American cousins, took good care that another kind of feast should not be wanting. May he shadow never be less. The evening passed off pleasantly to all parties. The absence of any beverage stronger than tea, and coffee, prevented the occurrence of any of those scenes that are the bane and the disgrace of social gatherings, in but too many instances, in the land of Burns, much more so formerly than now – though in that respect there is still room for improvement. The assemblage broke up at an early hour, taking with them food for pleasurable reflection, and the anticipation of a future recurrence of Burns’ Anniversary.
– J. D.
The North Star, 2 February 1849
The University of Rochester River Campus Libraries’ Department of Rare Books, Special Collections has Douglass’ copy of this edition. Douglass was also presented with another edition when he was in Scotland, inscribed ‘Jany 1846’ by ‘G.C.’ or ‘G.G.’ (the inscription is unclear). This copy is held in the library at the Frederick Douglass home at Cedar Hill, Washington, D.C.
James Kinsley notes that Burns’ ‘part in this song is uncertain’: The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, ed. James Kinsley (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), Vol. 3, p. 1405. According to Donald Low, ‘possibly not his work’: The Songs of Robert Burns, ed. Donald Low (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 547. Gerry Carruthers suggests that ‘the attribution of the words to Burns merits some re-examination and it is possible that Burns merely collected the song’: Gerard Carruthers, ‘Robert Burns and Slavery’ in Fickle Man: Robert Burns in the 21st Century, ed. Johnny Rodger and Gerard Carruthers (Dingwall: Sandstone Press, 2009), p. 167. The new Oxford Edition of the Works of Robert Burns, Vols II and III: The Scots Musical Museum, ed. Murray Pittock (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) is less sceptical of Burns’ authorship of the song, placing it in ‘Category I or III’ (Vol III, p. 142), Category I being a ‘song wholly by Burns, with no prior antecedents identified, or suspected’, and Category III being a ‘song significantly by Burns, with only isolated lines or a combination of phrases, subject matter, and tune evident from earlier evidence’ (Vol II, p. 12). That it allow the possibility of assigning it to the former is puzzling, given that the notes remark on its resemblance to ‘The Trapann’d Maid’ and ‘The Virginian Maid’s Lament’, suggesting that if Burns had a hand in it, he adapting existing songs rather than composed it anew.
For earlier uses of variations on ‘rendered classic’ see Frederick Douglass to Francis Jackson, Dundee, 29 January 1846: The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series Three: Correspondence, Volume 1: 1842–52, edited by John R. McKivigan (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 89; Frederick Douglass to Abigail Mott, Ayr, 23 March 1846: Ibid., p. 111.
William C. Neil to William Lloyd Garrison, Rochester, 23 January 1848: Liberator, 11 February 1848.
See also Robert Crawford, ‘America’s Bard,’ in Sharon Alker, Leith Davis and Holly Faith Nelson (eds), Robert Burns and Transatlantic Culture (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 99–116, which is partly based on a lecture given at the same event and, judging by the similarities, probably shared with Salmond’s speechwriter. For an excellent survey of Burns’ reception in the United States in the 19th century see Arun Sood, Robert Burns and the United States of America: Poetry, Print, and Memory 1786–1866 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). A detailed account of Douglass’ engagement with Burns is provided in Alasdair Pettinger, Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp.135–60, which draws on Michael Morris, Scotland and the Caribbean, c.1740–1833: Atlantic Archipelagos (New York: Routledge, 2015), pp. 98–140.
‘Douglas, Douglas!’ was the war cry of Sir James Douglas (also known as the ‘Black Douglas’) (c1286-1330), ‘the shout with which that family always began battle’: Walter Scott, Tales of a Grandfather (Edinburgh: Robert Cadell, 1836), Vol. 1, p. 142. The slogan figures repeatedly in the earliest historical sources, for example John Barbour, The Bruce , ed. A.M.M. Duncan (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1997), pp. 207, 385, 601.
On Thursday 29th October, William Lloyd Garrison and George Thompson were the ‘chief speakers’ at a meeting at Edinburgh’s Music Hall. A notice in the Scotsman the previous day indicated that Douglass was scheduled to address the meeting.
There is no record of his contribution, however. Nevertheless the meeting is of great significance, because it was the first time that secret negotiations over the purchase of Douglass’ freedom were made public.
Over the summer, Douglass had spent some time in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a guest of Anna Richardson and her husband Henry. They were abolitionists more sympathetic to (but not uncritical of) the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society than the Garrisonians. Many years later, another visiting American – the civil rights campaigner Ida B. Wells – invited Anna’s sister-in-law Ellen to recall the occasion:
She said that Mr. Douglass, her brother and herself were at the seaside; that while sitting on the sand listening to the fugitive slave’s talk, and observing his sadness, she suddenly asked him, ‘Frederick, would you like to go back to America?’ Of course his reply was in the affirmative and like a flash the inspiration came to her. ‘Why not buy his freedom?’1
She didn’t tell Douglass at first, suspecting that he would not agree to it on principle, but, discreetly, Ellen Richardson wrote letter to ‘different influential persons’ in Britain asking for support. A contribution of £50 from John Bright, the Radical MP for Durham, encouraged her, and only then did she confide to Anna. Communicating through lawyers in Boston and Baltimore, they persuaded Hugh Auld (ownership having passed from his brother Thomas) to agree to a price of £150. The formalities were completed in December and Douglass was now a free man.2
Very few people knew about the plan. Those involved were presumably sworn to secrecy. We do not know when the sisters told Douglass what they were up to, and he may well have read the signs before they did so. But in Edinburgh at the end of October, the news was out.
The reactions of some of Douglass’s supporters were muted, to say the least. In Glasgow, Catherine Paton wrote, ‘I could not aid nor approve of the buying of Frederick, as I thought it compromising of principle, & a recognition of the right of property in man; I could not see how Garrison could approve it.’4 The same day, Mary Welsh of the Glasgow Female Anti-Slavery Society told Maria Weston Chapman in Boston: ‘Some of us have been very much grieved at Anna Richardson getting that money to purchase Frederick Douglass’s ransome.’4
The most forthright response came from Douglass’ fellow campaigner Henry Clarke Wright, who addressed Douglass directly. ‘This is the first letter of advice I ever wrote to you –, ‘ he began. ‘It is the last.’5 Douglass wrote back a considered reply, confirming that he was not only happy that the transaction had been effected, but happy to publicly acknowledge it.6 And when Garrison published the exchange between them in the Liberator, he remarked: ‘We think the reply of Mr. Douglass is not only entirely satisfactory and conclusive, but remarkably pertinent and forcible.’7 Thus Garrison – present at the meeting where plans for the purchase was first announced to the world – defied the Garrisonians. He admitted that the sale breached a general principle – he would never have countenanced negotiating the purchase of the entire slave population (as the British government had effectively done in 1834) – but insisted it was ‘expedient’ and ‘sound policy’ to do so in individual cases. ‘Human liberty,’ he declares, ‘is of incomparably greater value than money.’8
ANOTHER meeting was held on Thursday night in the Music Hall, for the purpose of hearing addresses by the representatives of the American Abolitionists on slavery in general, and on the proceeding of the Free Church and the Evangelical Alliance in regard to the Transatlantic pro-slavery Churches.
The CHAIRMAN announced that the master of Frederick Douglas, in the United States, had offered to give up all claim to him for £150. A lady in Newcastle had raised for this purpose £70, and had written to the friends of the abolition cause in Edinburgh, urging them to make exertions to complete the sum required, so that Douglas might obtain entire freedom. The Chairman therefore recommended that subscriptions should be raised in this city to accomplish this object, and stated that already several pounds had been obtained.
Mr GARRISON then addressed the meeting. He said that he seconded with all his heart the ransom of Frederick Douglas in America. He had always repudiated the doctrine of compensation to slave-holders, as he held them to be man-stealers. Those who contended for compensation, in his opinion recognised the right of slaveholders to keep their fellow-men in bondage; but while he did not recognise this right, he was anxious that Frederick Douglas should be ransomed, that he might return to his native land. Frederick Douglas had lived several years out of bondage in Massachusetts, in sight of Bunker’s Hill, and yet they had to ask the people of Edinburgh to contribute money that he might not be sent back to chains. Mr Garrison then at great length vindicated himself and Mr H.C. Wright from the attacks that had been made upon them on the score of infidelity, in the Witness, the Northern Warder, the Liverpool Courier, &c. He concluded by stating that this was the last meeting which he was likely to address in Scotland. The reception which he had met with throughout Scotland was as gratifying as his heart could desire, and was a thousand times more than he could have anticipated in the circumstances.
Mr MACARA, W.S., here rose, and proceeded to argue at considerable length that the Bible authorised slavery, and in support of this opinion he quoted such passages as Lev. xxv. 4 and 1 Cor. vii. 2.
When Mr Macara had spoken about half an hour, a Mr Gilchrist came forward and addressed the meeting, denouncing the conduct of Mr Thompson and his coadjutors in stirring up religious strife and animosity in the country by their virulent attacks on certain sections of the Christian Church, and particularly in their crusade against the Evangelical Alliance. He said that slavery was entirely a political question, and one with which the Alliance, as a religious body, had nothing to do, and that it was the province of the Congress of the United States to take up and dispose of that subject, as it alone possessed the power to abolish slavery in that country.
Mr GEORGE THOMPSON replied at considerable length, and showed that slavery was not a political, but a moral and religious question. He contended that, as all kinds of theft were immoral, the crime of man-stealing was a sin of the most aggravated kind, and that it became ministers of religion to exclude from their communion all persons who participated in it; and therefore, as the American deputation to the Alliance were aiders and abettors of slavery, they ought to have been excluded from its fellowship. After stating, in answer to Mr Gilchrist, that the Congress of the United States could not abolish slavery, as each state possessed that power within itself, Mr Thompson defended the conduct of himself and his coadjutors for arraigning the procedure of the Evangelical Alliance, which he said would certainly come to nought, unless they acted more in accordance with the religion of Jesus Christ, by renouncing all connection with slave-holders.
Scotsman, 31 October 1846
ANTI-SLAVERY MEETING. – Another meeting was held on Thursday night in the Music Hall, for the purposes of hearing addresses by the representatives of the American Abolitionists on slavery in general, and on the proceeding of the Free Church and the Evangelical Alliance in regard to the Transatlantic pro-slavery Churches. Mr Wigham presided over the vast assemblage, supported by a large number of gentlemen on the platform. Mr Lloyd Garrison and Mr George Thompson were the chief speakers. Two persons, one of them a student, stood up and defended the Free Church and the Evangelical Alliance at considerable length. Their arguments, however, were replied to by Mr Thompson, who also with his accustomed ability and happy tact, succeeded in keeping the audience in great merriment at the expense of the student. The proceedings did not terminate till twelve o’clock, having occupied about five hours, during which the attention and interest of the audience did not seem for a single moment to flag.
Caledonian Mercury, 29 October 1846; Edinburgh Evening Post, 29 October 1846
Ida B. Wells, ‘Newcastle Notes’ (1894) in Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, ed. Alfreda M. Duster (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), p 162.
See William McFeely, Frederick Douglass (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), pp 137–8, 143–4; Leigh Fought, Women in the World of Frederick Douglass (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 90–1.
Catherine Paton to unidentified recipient, Glasgow, 17 November 1846 in British and American Abolitionists: An Episode in Transatlantic Understanding, edited by Clare Taylor (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1974), p. 299.
Mary Welsh to Maria Weston Chapman, Edinburgh, 17 November 1846, in British and American Abolitionists, p. 300.
Henry Clarke Wright to Frederick Douglass, Doncaster, 12 December 1846, in The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series Three: Correspondence, Volume 1: 1842–52, edited by John R. McKivigan (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 179.
Frederick Douglass to Henry Clarke Wright, Manchester, 22 December 1846, in The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series Three: Correspondence, Volume 1, pp. 183–9. The following day Wright and Douglass shared a platform in Leeds. Douglass repeated his defence of the sale in a letter to the Durham Chronicle, which was widely reprinted in the British press: Douglass to editor, Coventry, 22 January 1847, in The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series Three: Correspondence, Volume 1, pp. 196–200.
William Lloyd Garrison, ‘The Ransom,’ Liberator, 29 January 1847.
William Lloyd Garrison, ‘The Ransom of Douglass,’ Liberator, 5 March 1847.
From Perth, Douglass, Garrison and Thompson made their way to Glasgow, where they spoke before a crowded meeting at the City Hall on Wednesday 28th. Garrison wrote:
Last evening, we had one of the largest and most enthusiastic meetings, in regard to the Free Church, the Evangelical Alliance, and the Letter of Dr. Wardlaw, that I have seen on this side of the Atlantic.1 Notwithstanding there was another very popular meeting of the citizens, last evening, the immense City Hall was crowded to its utmost, hundreds of men and women being compelled to stand five hours – i.e. from 7 till 12 o’clock! You will see, by the Argus, what we did – although the report, of course, gives but a faint idea of the meeting. Has not [George] Thompson put Dr. Wardlaw ‘in a fix,’ as we say in America?
We leave, in a few minutes, for Edinburgh, where we are to hold forth this evening.2
The report in the Glasgow Argus that Garrison refers to did not provide details of Douglass’ contribution (and is represented here only by the abridged version that appeared two days later in the Herald); a report in the Fife Herald, however, does give a brief account of his speech and so is reproduced here.
For an overview of Frederick Douglass’ activities in Glasgow during the year see: Spotlight: Glasgow.
THE EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE AND AMERICAN SLAVERY.
On Wednesday evening, the 28th ultimo, at half-past seven o’clock, a public meeting was held in the City Hall, Glasgow, for the purpose of reviewing the conduct of the Free Church, the proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance in their pro-slavery action, and more particularly with reference to the apologetical letter recently published by Dr Wardlaw in defence of that body. The hall was crowded to excess, by a highly respectable audience, nearly four thousand persons being present. On the motion of Mr Lloyd Garrison, Andrew Paton, Esq., was unanimously called to the chair.
The Chairman then briefly explained the causes which led to the present meeting. The Glasgow Anti-Slavery Society had always maintained the proposition that slaveholding, under all circumstances, was a sin, but the Evangelical Alliance had, in their late procedure, infringed on this position, which conduct was now about to be examined. He then referred to the exertions of Mr Garrison, and the manner in which he had been maligned. He had left Glasgow some time ago, for the purpose of returning to America, but he had been induced to delay his departure, by some of the real friends of abolition in this country, and it was most fortunate that it had so happened, as it gave that gentleman an opportunity of replying to the attacks of those enemies who had been so actively engaged in throwing aspersions on his character. (Cheers.) Mr George Thompson would also reply to the letter of their much respected townsman Dr Wardlaw, and he had no doubt but it would be done completely, and at the same time with the best spirit and intentions. (Applause.)
Mr Garrison, on rising, was received with cheers. He said the last time he had the honour of standing before a public audience on that platform he thought it would have been his farewell address, but he was glad that it had been otherwise, for if there was one place more than another on this side of the Atlantic where he wished to stand it was in Glasgow, and before a Glasgow audience. (Cheers.)
He said so with all sincerity, for while the anti-slavery spirit had faded in England after the emancipation of the West India slaves, its lustre had never been dimmed on Scottish soil. He had, in company with his friends, Messrs Thompson, Douglass, and others, visited various parts of Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland, and he was happy to say that wherever he had been he had invariably found that the people were entirely with them, and public opinion had always ratified all their proceedings. Immense multitudes had listened to them with one heart and with one soul, and had expressed their unabated sympathy for them and the cause in which they were engaged.
This was the fair side of the picture, but there was a reverse. They had met with the most violent and abusive opposition, and flagrant and unfounded charges had been sent forth against them. He had seen nothing worse in America than he had recently seen in the pages of the Free Church Magazine and from the apologists of the Evangelical Alliance. But if any one in the audience had charges to bring against him, here was a clear platform, and he would be glad to see him. (Applause.)
But, he would ask, was there a cause for all this malignant abuse of himself personally and the noble body of abolitionists in the United States whom he represented? Was it pretended that he had changed his opinions on the question of slavery in any of its aspects, or were abolitionists on the other side of the Atlantic charged with having compromised the cause of emancipation? No. His and their opinions were precisely what they have ever been. There was some cause for the change which had taken place when he was now reviled by the very men by whom he had formerly been eulogised.
Unfortunately, the Free Church of Scotland had taken up a pro-slavery position. They had sent representatives to the slave-holding churches of America; they had received the money of man-stealers, and had established the closest connexion with them. Hence the secret of the enmity of the Free Church to him – because her pro-slavery position was indefensible.
The Alliance has also identified itself with slavery, and has thus proved itself to be an unprincipled body, and both parties are actively engaged in traducing the true-hearted abolitionists by raising the old cry of ‘infidel!’ But that cry came from those who had passed resolutions to propitiate slave-holders, instead of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ through the world, which had never placed men in bondage, but had set multitudes free. (Cheers.)
Mr G. then defended himself, at length, from the charge of infidelity, and explained his peculiar views in regard to the Sabbath – stating it as his belief that every day was to be alike kept holy to God. The charge of infidelity was absurd and hypocritical when it came from men who buy and sell the image of God, and whose hands are stained with blood. He cared not what the enemies of human liberty said against him – he would bind their calumnies as a wreath of roses around his brow, as an emblem of his fidelity to the cause of human freedom. (Cheers.)
The charges brought against him had been brought by the Pharisees against the prophets of old and against the Saviour himself, and he might be well content to bear them.
Mr G. then went into detail in relation to the charges against American abolitionists, that they rejoiced in the decline of religion. He showed that they rejoiced, and righteously rejoiced, in the decline of American slave-holding, man-stealing, Bible-to-the-slave-denying religion – the religion of Satan – but that they, at the same time, were anxious for the extension of pure and undefiled Christianity. An Infidel newspaper in Boston, called the Investigator, defended slavery, and this m ay show which party is leagued with infidels. (Cheers.)
After some other observations on the malicious and contradictory charges brought against him, Mr G. sat down amid loud cheers.
Mr Douglass then rose and said, that the question, How could Christian masters get rid of their slaves? had much puzzled the Free Assembly; but he would relate to them how Christian slaves sometimes got quit of their masters – and he thought the slaveholders could very well take a lesson from their slaves on that point. He then related, in a humorous manner, the circumstances attending the escape of seven slaves to a free state in America.
Mr George Thompson rose and was rapturously cheered. He said that, as he had a specific duty to perform, he would at once, without replying to attacks upon himself, proceed to discharge it. He would abstain from giving his own opinions as much as possible, as what he had to set before them were historical facts. He would, in all he had to say, desire to be judged by the ultimate standard of appeal of Christianity.
He would now lay before them certain statements which he was sure would win their assent. In the first place he would call their attention to the present position of the Free Church; in the second, to the recent proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance; and, finally, to the letter of the Rev. Dr Wardlaw. (Cheers.)
The history of the Free Church in relation to American slavery is well know. A deputation, soon after the disruption, visited the churches of america, and received the money of slave-holders. They did not hesitate, as they themselves admit – though they were previously well aware of the state of matters in these churches – to ‘cultivate the friendship of the southern churches of the United States,’ and large sums of money were sent to this country. This is a sketch of the true history of the transaction. Mark that the deputation had no scruples to do that. This is the confession of the Free Church herself.
Now let us turn to the United States, to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, which sat at Louisville, Kentucky – which is a slave state – and before which the Rev. Messrs Lewis and Chalmers appeared as a deputation. The deputation was cordially received, but Mr Lewis says in his work entitled ‘Slavery and Slave-holders in the United States,’ that in proportion as they were elated by this reception so were they depressed by the way in which the slavery question was dealt with. By a majority of 117 to 69 it was refused even to allow the discussion of the question. So strong is the feeling against abolition in the southern states, that a celebrated slave-holding minister, who is a popular preacher, told him (Mr Lewis) that were slavery abolished he would go to Texas!
This country (continued Mr Thompson) was torn from Mexico, and is now part of the States, and is full of landsharks, slaveholders, man-stealers, and the vilest wretches in the universe. The Presbyterian Church, in 1818, says brother Lewis, voted slavery to be a great moral evil, but nothing has since been done to abolish it. That church has all the atrocities of slavery lying at its door, for it has been a silent spectator of the separation of husband and wife, the denial of the Bible to the slave, the whips and tortures of slavery, and made no effort to sweep away this abominable system from the face of their country.
How did brother Lewis act when he came home? He found the cry of ‘Send back the money!’ sounding in his ears – yet in the Dundee Presbytery he confessed he had not remonstrated with the American Assembly on this iniquitous system, and defended his conduct – thus deserting the cause of his master, Christ, in that part of his dominions, when he should have boldly spoken out. (Loud cheers.) And what was his excuse? Why, that if he had said anything on the subject he would have been turned out of the country!
After quoting a number of Presbytery reports and other documents, in proof of the inveterate pro-slavery character of the southern churches, Mr T. most lucidly summed up his evidence, by showing that the body with which the Free Church had voluntarily joined itself had long ago been given up by other churches as incorrigible.
He then proceeded to examine the conduct of the Evangelical Alliance. It commenced its sittings on the 19th August last, but the question of slavery was not introduced till the 28th, when it was moved and seconded ‘that the Alliance shall consist of those persons in all parts of the world, who concur in the principles and objects of the conference.’ Upon this, it was moved, and seconded by an American delegate, that after the words ‘those persons’ the words ‘not being slaveholders,’ should be inserted. This threw the Alliance into consternation and alarm.
A long debate ensued, and harmony fled. The Alliance may now be considered as prostrated. It has sacrificed itself to its desire to propitiate the slaveholding power within its bosom. Dr Wardlaw stood up and declared that the Alliance should be true to the cause of God and the oppressed slave. A very warm debate ensued. In the Conference there were between sixty and seventy delegates from America, and these went apart by themselves to deliberate and pray, after which they issued a protest against the introduction into the Conference of the subject of slavery, and informed the Committee that they were determined to stand by the slaveholders of the Southern States, as any action implying a want of confidence in them might endanger our amicable and fraternal relations with that portion of the American Church. Thus the Conference was frankly told that in receiving the American delegates they had also received the slaveholders of the south.
This should have decided the course of the Alliance. It should have withdrawn from all connexion with them. But instead of doing that, it was attempted to conciliate the Americans by moving that the obnoxious resolution should be placed among the miscellaneous proceedings of the Conference, and form no part of the general organisation.
Then another party moved that the whole of the proceedings on the subject of slavery should be rescinded. This the British delegates refused to do suddenly, and the matter was referred to a committee, which recommended that the whole of the documents on the subject of slavery should be struck out of the proceedings of the Conference, and proposing to admit slaveholders who were not so voluntarily and for their own interest. And thus, by this absurd attempt at distinction, they have refused to exclude slaveholders from becoming members of the Alliance.
In consequence of this monstrous conduct, Dr Andrew Reed of London has protested and withdrawn from the Alliance. Mr T. then said he would review Dr Wardlaw’s letter in defence of the Alliance. Nothing could give him more pain than be compelled to do so. The author of that letter he venerated and respected, but these things must yield to his love of truth. Dr Wardlaw has declared in his letter that the Alliance has not sanctioned slavery in its action on that question, that it has not got justice done it, and that the American representatives were ‘anti-slavery men like ourselves.’
This Mr T. demonstrated to be a gross misstatement, proving their connexion with slavery. He was astonished to find Dr Wardlaw’s letter in the Dundee Warder, a journal that had always heaped abuse on the abolitionists. He says he
will not yield in his abhorrence of slavery to any man living, and that slavery with all its characteristics is of all cursed things in the world the most to be abhorred. Nothing should induce us to have any connexion with slaveholders; and if their hands are defiled with blood, that is no reason why we should defile ours. It is foolish to make a distinction between slaveholding and slaveholders, as they are one and the same thing.
This is all exceedingly good from Dr Wardlaw. But he proceeds to say that he was sorry that a friend of his should have brought a charge against him and his British brethren.
Mr T. here distinctly proved that several of the English members of the Alliance were slaveholders. The Rev. Sydney E. Morse was a member of the Alliance. Will he say that he is as much an anti-slavery man as ourselves? They had a slave holding Chairman; and Sir Culling E. Smith has declared he would separate from the Alliance rather than give up fellowship with a certain slaveholder among them. The Rev. Mr Clowes, at Norwich, declared that if his father had left him slaves he would have kept them ‘for their benefit!’ Will Dr Wardlaw now say that these men ‘are anti-slavery like ourselves?’ But he trusted the Doctor would see his error. He could never, on his own principles, again enter the Alliance.
Thus he (Mr T.) had shown the connexion which that body had with slavery. He would now, in conclusion, ask the meeting. Had he satisfactorily proved his case? (Loud cheers, during which Mr Thompson resumed his seat.)
Mr Garrison then moved the following resolution:–
Resolved that this meeting assures the brutal enslavers of the coloured population of the United States that the people of Scotland will never sanction the criminal connexion of the Free Church with slaveholders, and that as the Alliance has allowed itself to be gagged on the subject of slavery, it has lost the confidence of the friends of God and man throughout the world.
Mr Thompson, in seconding it, paid a most eloquent tribute of respect to the memory of the late Reverend Mr M’Tear, whose death had been a great loss to the anti-slavery cause. The resolution was unanimously carried.
Thanks were then voted to the Chairman, and the meeting separated at twelve o’clock.
Fife Herald, 5 November 1846
The Evangelical Alliance and American Slavery. – A large and important meeting was held on Wednesday night in the City Hall, for the purpose of hearing addresses from Messrs. Garrison, G. Thompson, and Douglass, upon the subject of the pro-slavery action of the Evangelical Alliance and the Free Church of Scotland, with reference to American slavery, and, more particularly, in reply to the apologetical letter of the Rev. D. Wardlaw on behalf of the former body. Notwithstanding the occurrence of the important meeting in the Trades’ Hall, upon the same evening, on the interest subject of changing the present mode of assessment of the poors’ rate, which is now found to operate so obnoxiously – the City Hall was crowded in every part, floor and galleries, not less than 4000 persons being present. Among the gentlemen present were – Councillor turner, C. Mackay, ESq., L.L.D., the Reverend Mr. Rose, and Doctor Watson; Messrs. Andrew Paton, Thomas Barr, J.B. Ross, Reid, E. Anderson, Dunn, Stewart, Carid, Cairns, Smeal, Murray, Johnstone, &c. Andrew Paton, Esq., was called to the chair, and thereafter the meeting was addressed at great length, by Mr. Garrison, Mr. F. Douglass, and Mr. George Thompson, when resolutions, in accordance with the evening, were carried. – Abridged from Argus.
Glasgow Herald, 30 October 1846
Ralph Wardlaw, ‘The Evangelical Alliance and Slavery’, London Patriot, 8 October 1846; reprinted Northern Warder, 22 October 1846.
William Lloyd Garrison to Richard D. Webb, Glasgow, 29 October 1846, in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 447.
The day after their meeting in Edinburgh on Wednesday 21st, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison travelled to Kirkcaldy where (as Garrison recounted) they
held a meeting which was got up in the course of a few hours. Notwithstanding the haste, and that every one present had to pay for admission, we had six or eight hundred present, and a “royal time” we had of it.1
The only newspaper report that has come to light is from the hostile Free Church-supporting Northern Warder, reproduced below. The Warder (which estimates the attendance at four or five hundred) says the meeting was called by the Kirkcaldy Anti-Slavery Committee, of which it declares it knows nothing. But it may well have been formed in the wake of Douglass’ previous visit to the town on 1 June. On 24 September the Fife Herald reported:
a number of the ladies of Kirkcaldy, commiserating the unhappy condition of their dark-haired sisters in bondage and subjected to such brutal treatment and revolting degradation, felt themselves called upon to do what lies in their power in the cause of suffering humanity, by aiding and assisting in the furtherance of any scheme that had for its object the extinction of slavery. For this philanthropic purpose, they recently formed themselves into an Anti-Slavery Society, to co-operate with other institutions of the same kind in this country, for the purpose of collecting money or articles of some value to be sent to the American Anti-Slavery Bazaar – the proceeds of which to be applied in the liberating of as many of their fellow-beings in bondage as the funds will overtake. It is to be hoped that they will meet with that encouragement which their laudable object so richly merits.
‘GREAT ANTI-SLAVERY MEETING.’ – Large bills headed thus, were placarded the other day in several of the shop windows, and on other places throughout the town, and the town-crier with his drum also announced the meeting. The meeting took place in Bethelfield Chapel on the evening of Thursday last. The name of George Thompson, Esq., London: W. Lloyd Garrison, Esq., Boston, U.S., and Mr Frederick Douglass, drew together between four and five hundred people into a church which holds about fourteen hundred! George Thompson, however, was not there. The other two were present, and Mr Robertson of Edinburgh with them. In their addresses, they occupied the same ground as when here formerly, with the addition of an attack upon the Evangelical Alliance. The meeting was called by a body calling itself the ‘Kirk[c]aldy Anti-Slavery Committee.’ Who the members are, we presume, scarcely any body knows but themselves.
Northern Warder, 29 October 1846
William Lloyd Garrison to Richard Davis Webb, Dundee, 24 October 1846, reprinted in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 442; see also William Lloyd Garrison to Elizabeth Pease, Perth, 25 October 1846, reprinted in Letters, Vol. 3, p.445.
Following their appearance in Kirkcaldy, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison were rejoined in Dundee by George Thompson and the secretary of the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society, James Robertson. Garrison noted:
All the meeting-houses but one were closed against us, on account of my “infidelity”! We had a good attendance and a spirited meeting nevertheless.1
Only one church (and that not a large one) in the place could be obtained for us. ‘Garrison is an infidel,’ was the cry – ‘he does not believe in our holy Sabbath.’2
The abolitionists had originally been invited to speak at Ward Chapel, but the minister David Russell had blocked the request. However, it was unlikely to have been due to Garrison’s anti-sabbatarianism, as he had also blocked a similar invitation extended to Douglass and Buffum in March.3 Douglass alludes to David Russell, without naming him, in his vote of thanks to the managers of James’ Church, who provided an alternative venue for the meeting at short notice.
When rebuking the leaders of the Free Church of Scotland the abolitionists – as they did on previous visits to Dundee – singled out Rev. George Lewis, minister of St David’s Church, as he was a member of the controversial fund-raising delegation which visited the United States in 1844-45.
The report in the Courier makes only a passing reference to Douglass’ contribution; he is not even acknowledged in what appears to be an abridgement of it in the Edinburgh Evening News. The Advertiser provides a more detailed account of his speech. All three are reproduced below.
For an overview of Frederick Douglass’ activities in Dundee during the year see: Spotlight: Dundee.
On the evening of Friday last, a public meeting was held in James’ Chapel, Bell Street, to listen to addresses from George Thompson, Esq., and William Lloyd Garrison, Esq., on the subject of American Slavery, and on the present position of the Free Church, and the recent proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance on the Slavery question. The Rev. George Gilfillan was in the chair; and on the platform were the Rev. James Robertson, Edinburgh, Frederick Douglass, &c.
Mr Gilfillan shortly eulogised Mr Easson, the gentleman who had presided at the anti-slavery meetings for some time past. He (Mr G.) felt pleasure on many accounts in discharging the duties of Chairman this night. In the absence of one better fitted, he had a kind of prescriptive right. He took the chair himself on the first meeting of this kind connected with the recent agitation in Dundee, when Messrs Buffum and Douglas had literally no where to communicate the message which they brought from their three millions of constituents across the water, till the door of the School Wynd was opened to them; and it proved a great door, and an effectual, although then, as now, there were many adversaries.
His pleasure, however, in acting as Chairman arose from a far deeper source than this. He rejoiced in being permitted to introduce to their notice those distinguished gentlemen William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and George Thompson – (great cheering) names which are known in every part of the civilised world – names which men in after ages will class with the names of Luther, and of Wilberforce, and of Clarkson – names which even now the inhabitants of vast burning zones are employed in blessing as their prospective deliverers, and as their most devoted and warmest friends. (Renewed cheering.)
Mr Garrison said, that when he had the privilege of appearing before a Dundee audience a short time ago, he said it was the first and probably would be the last time he ever should appear in this place. He should never forget that meeting, how hearty and unanimous those assembled at that time were in regard to the great cause of anti-slavery, and the means adopted for overthrowing slavery. He did not intend to take up much of their time this evening. He was rather there as a listener with themselves to hear a gentleman whose powers of persuasion, of rhetoric, and of argument, were unsurpassed by any man living – he meant George Thompson. (Applause.)
Since he arrived in the place he had learned with regret that the friends of anti-slavery had had some difficulty in obtaining a church for their meeting; and one reason assigned for this was, that his (Mr Garrison’s) views on a particular subject, aside from anti-slavery, were not palatable to the community. He lamented that such a spirit should appear in Dundee or anywhere. He would like to know what they had to do with his views, in an anti-slavery meeting, on any subject except the subject of slavery? (Hear, hear.)
He did not come to discuss any question any but slavery as an abolitionist, and it was for them to say whether he stuck to his text or not – whether he was true to the principles he professed or not. He had travelled a good deal since he was here before, and in every place he had been hedged up a good deal on account of his religious views. Now, in all honesty and fairness, why should this be? (Hear.)
He had made the cause of the slave his own – the cause of his wife, and the cause of his children; and he felt that if they were in bonds, he would rejoice at the co-operation of any one to assist in breaking their fetters and setting them free. He would feel so, and he was sure they would all feel so. On the anti-slavery platform on which he stood to-night, and everywhere, he desired the co-operation of all who were willing to labour for the immediate and total overthrow of slavery. He did not care what their other opinions were if they were hostile to slavery, and if they would make no compromise with oppressors. If they would demand the immediate abolition of the slave system, then he would join hands with them, however they might differ on other matters.
Some one had said that it was on account of his views on the Sabbath question that the house had not been granted. Why, the house was not asked for promulgating his views on the Sabbath – it was for an Anti-Slavery meeting. No! but say these gentlemen, ‘let the slaves perish! let women be sold on the auction-block! let babes be torn from their parents! – we care nothing for all these, because we do not like Mr Garrison’s views on some other question.’
If your town is on fire, for instance, and people rushing out, do you refuse to let a man put out the fire because you do not agree with him on the fourth commandment? (Laughter.) When a person is overboard, do you object to a man attempting to save him because you do not like his views on some particular point, and thereby let the person be drowned? The man who would act so would be a murderer, and in the first case an incendiary; and every man who will not come on the anti-slavery platform with those who want slavery put down are the friends of slavery (applause,) whatever they say to the contrary.
When he would stand aloof from any one because they did not agree on some other subject, be they Baptist or Presbyterian, when he would take that ground, then he was willing that the slave should rise up against him as an abettor of the cause of the slaveholder, and as one not actuated by the spirit of common humanity. He had not stopped to ask any man his opinions on any question but slavery, and why, then, was the same catholic spirit not manifested towards him as to others. (Great applause.)
True hearted Abolitionists did work together; and it was only those who loved something else than liberty – who loved something better than they loved man – it was only those who brought forward these things in order to break them up, and put down the agitation on the subject of slavery.
During the Anti-Corn Law movement had any person said that because Cobden held particular views on some religious subject they could not join the League – they could not go with such a man – would not the people have said that that man did not want the Corn Laws repealed? (Applause.)
And so with regard to this senseless hue and cry on this particular subject. His (Mr Garrison’s) views had been falsified by a spirit of pro-slavery, which was not indigenous to the soil. His views had been grossly libelled and caricatured; and when for the sake of that holy cause he represented here he ventured to represent these views, then he was accused of dragging in his religious sentiments on the Anti-Slavery platform.
He went to Belfast, where the Banner of Ulster and another paper misrepresented him, for the purpose of breaking up the meeting on the subject of slavery; and then when he did state what be believed on the particular question, they were the very men who denounced him for dragging in his views.
Really he had never seen impudence and audacity on the other side of the Atlantic – and he had seen a good deal in the United States – equal to this. Every effort was making to destroy his Anti-Slavery influence. They did not want to hear him on the subject of slavery. In regard to the hue and cry on the matter of the fourth commandment, his views were identical with those of Calvin – with those of Martin Luther – with those of Philip Melancthon; and he would call upon the admirers of these venerated persons not to cry out against him on account of his views on that question, while they continued to venerate their names.
He might mention, in addition, a great many luminaries in the religious world – men who are everywhere extolled – whose views were identical to his own. He never went, however, into an anti-slavery meeting to argue these views. He would take another time for that. He was not there to say that his views on the Sabbath were infallible or right; but he held no views which he was not willing to support by a reference to the Bible with any man or any body of men. He might be deceived as to the correctness of these views, but that had nothing to do with the anti-slavery movement; and the men who called them in question there did so for an evil purpose. They could not remember the slave as bound with him – they had no flesh in their hearts.
Mr Garrison then read an attack which had been made upon him in the Christian Witness by Dr Campbell of London, in which the Dr had denounced him as wishing the downfall of Christianity because he sat in the chair while the following resolution was adopted:–
RESOLVED, – That this Society rejoice in the present declining state of American religion, inasmuch as it voluntarily comes forth to baptize and sanctify Slavery, which Mahommedanism abolishes, and Catholicism condems [sic]; and that it will endeavour to warn the world, particularly the so-called heathen portion of it against its influence.4
Dr Campbell surely must be a very ignorant man, or he was desirous to lead away and deceive when he drew from that resolution that the Abolitionists rejoiced in the decline or wished the downfall of Christianity.
For his own part, he rejoiced most sincerely in the spread of Christianity, and he was glad that it was spreading in America. He rejoiced in the spread of true religion. American religion was, however, a different matter, and he rejoiced in its decline, and for the reason given, ‘inasmuch as it voluntarily comes forth to baptize and sanctify slavery.’ American religion is not Christianity, but the grossest libel on Christianity.
Mr Garrison then went on to show that slavery had lately been abolished by the Bey of Tunis; and that a bull of the late Pope of Rome called on all the faithful throughout the world to keep themselves free from slavery and the slave trade. The American religionists would take no warning.
They had sent out missionaries to the Kerims, who would not listen to them. They said they did not want to know anything more about Christianity. They had found out that in the land from whence the missionaries came human beings were bought and sold, and they brought against the missionaries the charge that they wanted to convert them in order to make them slaves. The missionaries had only to disclaim all that slaveholders have done in the name of Christianity, and join with the Abolitionists and the Anti-Slavery Society in denouncing the slaveholder. Christianity enslaves nobody. It never authorised one man to tyrannise over another.
The abolitionists of the United States are those who believe in Christ, by being willing to be of no reputation – to sacrifice all their worldly interests. They have been hunted by bloody men – their property destroyed – their persons thrown into prison, and in some cases put to death. The Abolitionists are the real Christians.
A few evenings after my arrival, I went to a meeting convened in Broadway tabernacle by the American Colonization Society, for the purpose of sending out supplies to 750 slaves who had been landed in their colony of Liberia, from a slaver captured by the United States ship of war, ‘Yorktown.’ The speeches, especially that of Dr Tyng, Episcopalian clergyman, were highly eloquent and creditable to the parties, giving me a very favourable idea of American oratory. The slightest political allusion, however, such as Mr Butler’s casual reference to ‘that great Kentuckian,’ (Henry Clay,) created visible excitement. The sentiment that the cause of humanity had been grievously injured by the conduct of the abolitionist party, was loudly applauded by a decided majority of those present, a circumstance with which I was exceedingly gratified. There never were a set of men whose views were more opposed to reason and common sense, than those who rejoice in that appellation. Had the religious public of America not refused to sanction their proceedings, the whole Union would, long ere this, have been the theatre of desolating civil war.5
The American Colonization Society had been more hostile to the anti-slavery movement in the United States than any other. It is a conspiracy on the part of slaveholders to expatriate the free people of colour out of the country to the coast of Africa, on the ground that it is dangerous to the slave population, who might be tempted to inquire why others of the same colour were free, and possibly to rise up against their masters. He exposed the scheme some 10 or 12 years ago, and he was happy to say that it was now without power.
The Colonization Society had adopted a resolution that coloured people should not live in the United States, that God made the coloured and white population so different that they could never live in the same place; that it was even beyond the power of Christianity to make them live peaceably under the same government; and that no slave should be emancipated unless he was sent out of the country into Africa.
As to what was said about Henry Clay, Who was he? Henry Clay was an incorrigible man thief; he had more than 60 human beings as property. He was opposed both to gradual and immediate abolition. He had done more to extend and perpetuate slavery and the slave trade than any other man in the United States. He is president of the Colonization Society, and he is well fitted to be the representative of that Society.
In regard to the charge that the Abolitionists are incendiaries, Mr Garrison showed from the history of slavery for 200 years back in America, that there had been insurrection after insurrection among the slaves until the rise of the Abolition Society; since which time the slaves had remained quiet, confiding in the efforts of the Society, and believing that the Abolitionists were using every exertion to set them free.
The anti-slavery party are the friends of peace. They have been tried in the fire and have not been found wanting.
Mr G. then concluded with a glowing eulogium on George Thompson.
Mr George Thompson regretted that the article to which Mr Garrison had referred had found its way into that otherwise respectable periodical – the Congregational Magazine; and he would feel it his duty in every meeting which he attended in Scotland to hold it up to ridicule and universal indignation. He regretted to hear that the article emanated from the pen of a son of a distinguished inhabitant of this town;; and he could only account for its having found its way into the Congregational Magazine from the fact of the writer being a son of an intimate friend of the editor. He entered his solemn protest against the sentiments in that article; and if that periodical continued to insert similar articles, like many others in Scotland, it would be ranked among the pro-slavery periodicals in the country.
He would also bear his testimony against the American Colonization Society. In 1833 Mr Garrison, who then paid his first visit to this country, showed the pro-slavery nature of that society; and on his return to America he carried back with him a solemn protest against it signed by William Wilberforce, and by other leading and venerated Abolitionists, after the most impartial consideration. That society is now notoriously repudiated by the coloured population. Now it is patronized by slaveholders at the south, and by those in the north who entertain prejudice against the coloured population; but by all the friends of justice and by all the friends of emancipation the society in question is everywhere loathed and everywhere condemned.
He had taken a conspicuous part in this controversy, and he was not ashamed of the part he had taken. He had felt it his duty to expose and oppose the Free Church of Scotland for her unhallowed league with the slaveholders of America, and for what is even worse – for corrupting the Christianity of this country – (applause) for advancing the notorious doctrine that God had placed men in circumstances in which it would be sinful to set their bondmen free.
Thus far the Free Church has remained incorrigible. From one Free Church magazine to another there have been paragraphs and articles on the subject of slavery, gradually becoming more and more reckless of truth – more and more insulting to the spirit of Christianity – more and more brutal in their attacks on the friends of the slave – uttering the most unmitigated falsehoods (as in the article to which his friend Mr Garrison had referred) declaring that to be true which the writers, ministers of religion though they may be, cannot know to be true, but must know to be false – calling Douglass and himself two hired itinerant orators, what they know to be false.
The spirit of Christianity cannot be in them, but rather the spirit of the father of lies. No Christian man can brand another Christian man with the epithet of a mob popularity hunter and other names unless he knows the motive of action, which he cannot know, and has other evidence. Would he be believed, or would these foul-mouthed slanderers be believed, when in his own behalf and on that of Frederick Douglass, he declared the assertion to be a falsehood – as atrocious a falsehood as ever was penned.
No party had set him on in this matter – no party had paid his expenses. The only reward he had received is that of having travelled at his own expense, and at the sacrifice of much time, convenience, domestic comfort, and neglect of other matters which would have been attended to. There is nothing about this controversy respecting the wicked league which has been formed with the slaveholders of America that is more lamentable than the falsehoods which he had heard uttered with his ears and read in the organs of their body. (Cheers.) The Free Church has sold itself to work all manner of wickedness. (Great applause and a few hisses.)
He liked a few hisses – they assisted him mightily. (Laughter.) They are somewhat unintelligible sounds (a laugh) – scarcely human. Hissers are but imitators of two creatures which do not belong to the human race (laughter) – one of which may be seen on the commons with a long neck, and the other crawls on its belly and licks the dust. (Applause and laughter.) He would not say to which of these two those who hiss tonight are to be likened – whether they possess the malignity of the one of the foolishness of the other, or are equally composed of both. He begged they would hiss; and he would do justice to these persons, seeing they were paying him the highest compliment, and hissing at the conduct of the Free Church which he was exposing.
The Free Church of Scotland had sold itself deliberately to work iniquity. (Applause.) He had proved in large assemblies that the very men who wrote these articles stood side by side with him 12 years ago and cheered him on. Then they were anti-voluntary. His speeches were then copied into the Church of Scotland Magazines, into the Scottish Guardians. Articles on articles were written adopting his views, and outheroding Herod. These men were the Cunninghams, the Candlishes, the Gibsons, the Lorimers, the Beggs, &c.
A book was published under their sanction, in which it was pointed out that the only way to get rid of slavery was to exclude every slaveholder from the Christian Church, no matter what were his other qualifications. The accredited organs of the Free Church are now filled with the vilest libels against himself and his colleagues. He could crush them under the weight of their own testimony twelve years ago.
After further showing the inconsistency of the party, Mr Thompson went on to say that he now found in the Witness and other papers letters not outdone by the vilest documents that he ever read emanating from the slaveholders of America; and what is worst of all – worst for the rising generation – these men band themselves to make Christ and his Apostles the great patrons of slavery throughout the world. (Cheers.)
Drs Candlish and Cunningham had said that Christ and his apostles would have welcomed slaveholders to the Lord’s Table, and that God had placed men in circumstances in which it would be a sin to emancipate their slaves. They should look well to themselves, whether they would follow men whose judgment had been blinded by a gift – whether they would look to the footsteps of our Saviour and walk in them, or walk in the footsteps of the Cunninghams and Candlishes of the present day.
The last ruse which they had adopted was to represent his friend Mr Garrison as an infidel; and the first symptoms of their returning to Christ would be their espousal of his sentiments on the subject of slavery. He is sitting in the chair to teach them that they are corrupting Christianity – that they are causing the stones to cry out against them – that they are causing the children to condemn them. However Doctors of Divinity may go astray and corrupt the law of the Lord, human nature will be true to itself, and they will not merely have to silence the thunders of Sinai – not merely to corrupt the preachings of Christ and his apostles, but to destroy the mind itself – to silence the witness which God has put in every man’s heart against the unutterable crime of slavery. (Cheers.)
Mr Thompson then went on to show the kind of men these Doctors of Divinity had entered into solemn league and covenant with; and in evidence of this referred to the New York Observer, in which a report of the proceedings of the General Assembly of the Old School Presbyterians (the party with whom the Free Church are in terms of communion) was published. From this report it appeared that at their meeting in May last, there came up a fraternal letter to that Assembly from the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The letter dealt faithfully with the subject of slavery, which so annoyed the Assembly that it was proposed not to read the whole of it. Several members spoke on the subject, boasting that they had excluded Abolitionists, and professing views clearly and decidedly in favour of slavery – views which they asserted to be also those of the Free Church. The letter was at last allowed to be read out; but so irritated were the Old School Assembly with the remonstrance of their brethren in Canada on the slavery question, that they determined to cease intercourse with them.
He had little doubt but that, if the Free Church sent out a faithful remonstrance, they would be treated in a similar manner.
After some discussion in the Alliance, the question was referred to a Committee on Friday the 28th August. The Committee were unable to decide this serious question; and, in order to arrive at a decision, they divided themselves into three sub-Committees, – the British party forming one, the Americans another, and the Continentals a third. Still they were unable to settle the matter; and, on the other members of the Alliance looking in on them hour after hour, and asking what had been done, the answer always was ‘Nothing.’
At last, late on Saturday evening, the sub-Committees met, and agreed to recommend to the Alliance the adoption of a resolution condemnatory of slavery as a system, but leaving a loophole for the admission of the slaveholder on account of the difficulty of his position. This was hastily adopted by the Alliance, as if happy to get rid of the matter.
Mr Thompson then went on to show the position in which the Alliance placed themselves by this resolution, the ridiculous nature of which he exposed by substituting adulterers, &c., for slaveholder.
He then refuted the statements advanced there, and by the Free Church, as to the difficulty of emancipating slaves. But even if there were any law forbidding emancipation, does it follow that men must continue to sin against God because human law says so? (Hear, hear.) The Free Church argues thus. Almost their sole argument in May last was the difficult position in which the slaveholders are placed. This is the argument of Drs Candlish and Cunningham, men who have set the civil law at defiance in their native country. (Applause.) These were the men who denied the supremacy of the civil magistrate, who upheld the religious duty of resisting all laws that interfered with conscience or their rights as ministers or people.
These men boast about an alliance with John Knox, and are raising up a monument to his memory.6 John Knox from his grave rebukes such recreants from principle. (Applause.) Such men talk about Knox; they would be the first to assail him, if living. Knox is among them in the person of every honest reformer who prefers principle to paltry gain. How do they treat a man when they see him, however humble, following Knox’s footsteps? Read the pages of their filthy organs, and you will find that they hate and persecute them, and say all manner of evil against them. They are like those of old who built the tombs of the prophets and garnished them, and of whom Christ said, ‘Ye build the tombs of the prophets, and would have slain the prophets had they lived in these times;’ and these very men who were thus garnishing the sepulchres of the prophets were hunting the Redeemer of the world to death.
The duty of the Free Church of Scotland, and of the Evangelical Alliance, was to bear their testimony against slavery. They had nothing to do with mitigating circumstances. These should be left to God. They had to do with the law of God as it stands.
Mr Thompson then went on to narrate that the resolution come to by the Alliance, though acquiesced in for the moment by the Americans, was considered by them, on reflection, one which they could not submit to; and early on Monday the whole question was opened up again, another Committee was appointed, and the Americans remained so firm that every word on the subject of slavery was expunged from the records of the Alliance.
After pointing out the disgrace which attached to the Alliance on this account, and mentioning that he had obtained the almost unanimous verdict of about 23,000 persons against them at meetings which had been held throughout the country, he read a letter of Dr Wardlaw‘s defending the proceedings of the Alliance on this subject, copied into the Warder of last week, and commented on it.7
First let him give Dr Wardlaw credit for speaking faithfully of American slavery. There was little comfort in his letter for the Free Church, and he hoped the friends in Dundee would make good use of it. The Doctor said, –
I must say, for myself, I will not yield in my abhorrence of the infernal system of slavery, to Garrison, to Thompson, or to any man breathing. It is one of those subjects on which I feel it no small trial of temper to speak or write with patience, and am strongly tempted to put violence among the virtues. American slavery in all its characteristics, its bearings, and its results, temporal, spiritual, and eternal. I regard as of all accursed things on the face of the earth one of the most accursed.
* * *
Nothing in their (the slaveholders’) condition can ever be an excuse for our implicating ourselves, more or less, directly or indirectly, in the evil, by any kind, or any measure, either of communion or of connivance. If they cannot keep their hands clean, that can be no reason why we should defile ours, why we should defile them even by clasping theirs. It is foolish to talk of any difference between the sin of slavery and the sin of slaveholding. Few things can be clearer, than that, were there no slaveholding, there would be no slaves. If, therefore, we are to have nothing to do with slavery, we must have nothing to do with slaveholding. They are not only in one category, they are one and the same thing.
The Free Church were strong in condemning the law, the custom, the institution; they call it criminal – they call it accursed – poor institution! (Laughter.) They may say or do what they like, as long as they keep merely to condemning the institution. What does the institution care? They resolve to condemn the system, what does the system care? They call for sentence on the wicked institution. The judge puts on his black cap, and condemns it to be hanged by the neck. The institution has no neck – no soul – (laughter) – but when they talk about the slaveholder – (cheers) – then Drs Candlish and Cunningham turn round.
They are full of love, and pity, and respect, and fraternal tenderness for the slaveholder, and all manner of wrath at William Lloyd Garrison. Yes, he is an infidel, away with him – a pestilent fellow – a nuisance. They have raised the cry of mad dog! (Applause.)
He thanked Dr Wardlaw for his testimony against slaveholders. It had been discovered by a learned philosopher that there was a difference between slaveholding and slavehaving. The thief might say, ‘I do not hold your watch, I only have it.’ The sheep stealer, ‘I am no sheep holder, but a sheep haver – a very respectable man.’ (Laughter and applause.)
He then quoted from Dr Wardlaw –
The American brethren, therefore, are upon their trial. No act of theirs can become the act of the Allinace, without the recognition of its other branches. If, therefore, they are found to introduct slaveholders into the communion of the Alliance, in their branch of it, we are neither answerable for the act, nor bound by it. The repudiation of the deed will then become our duty, and separation from those by whom the pollution has been wilfully contracted. It will be ours to say, with sorrow, but with firmness, ‘We are not responsbible for this act of yours. Your knew our mind. You have done what we cannot recognise and cannot tolerate – we part.’ I speak now for myself. I should mourn the day when that plague-spot should appear on the fair hand of our Alliance. That hand, which now I grasp with fond delight, I should fling indignantly from me; and yet, while with a loathing, not less with a reluctant and aching heart.
* * *
And if my British brethren were to discover a willingness still to keep their hold of the tainted hand, I should be constrained to part with them as well.
After commenting on this, and showing how strongly it condemned the Free Church, and bound down Dr Wardlaw to eschew connection with them – to refuse to sit in the same Alliance, as if he ever did so, he would falsify his own words, he went on to show that the Dr is in gross error in saying that ‘our American brethren who were with us (in the Alliance) are anti slavery men like ourselves.’
As an evidence of this he quoted from the speeches of Dr Olin, Dr Cox, Mr Clowes, Mr Clark, and many other of the American delegates to the Alliance, showing that they were strong pro-slavery men. Indeed, some of the sentiments expressed by them were so blasphemous and horrid as to excite deep shudders in the audience. Dr Wardlaw, if he was true to his word, could never sit down with these men.
After commenting farther upon the letter, Mr Thompson went on to say they had one of the guiltiest members (Mr Lewis) of the Free Church in their own town. They had a man who went to the United States, who landed at New York, who travelled from the Potomac to the Sabine – from cities on the Atlantic coast to cities on the upper waters of the Missouri and the Ohio. He had tracked him in his own book. That man was a recreant minister of Christ, who went over the length and breadth of the land, and never bore his testimony against slavery. He saw the auction block and the slave pen, and came home and bespattered the slaveholder with praise.
What then is the duty of the people of Dundee? Rise and purge yourselves from this corruption. (Applause.) The hour is coming for the Free Churchmen of Scotland to decide whether they will follow a corrupt priesthood. (Cheers.) The priests of old corrupted the law of the Lord, and they did it from the same motive – that they might hold together and increase their influence and gains. The priesthood of the Free Church are doing this at the present moment.
But who is this Mr Lewis? Nobody. He dare not say his soul is his own in the presence of the three great guns of the Assembly. (Applause, and a cry of ‘false.’) He could prove it. He utters falsehoods to please these men. (Cheers.) He (Mr T.) could tell them that the influence of the Free Church was waning. It had become a byeword on the other side of the Tweed. They understood there what was doing, and could get up as hearty a shout as here of ‘Send back the money.’
He advised them not to be drawn away by a nick name, by a cry of mad dog. Do men gather grapes of thorns?
He concluded by eulogising the labours of Mr Garrison, and warning the people not to be led away from the real subject at issue by any endeavour to draw them on a false scent.
Mr Frederick Douglass merely intended to propose a vote of thanks to the managers of the chapel, who had so cordially and unanimously granted them the use of the house. He thanked them in his own name, and in the name of his brethren, three millions of fellow-creatures in chains:–
What, ho! our countrymen in chains!
The whip on woman’s shrinking flesh!
Our soil still reddening with the stains
Caught from the scourging warm and fresh!
What! mothers from their children riven!
What! God’s own image bought and sold!
Americans to market driven,
And bartered, as the brutes, for gold!8
The conduct of the managers contrasted nobly with the mean and cowardly spirit of those who, from fear of offending the Free Church, withheld their countenance. (Great applause.)
The Rev. Mr Robertson of Edinburgh wished to mention one circumstance. A lady in Edinburgh, who was a member of the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society at the commencement of this agitation, was so offended at the exposure of the Free Church’s doings (she being a member of that body) that she then left the Anti-Slavery Society. She had since been so thoroughly convinced of the evil which the Free Church had done, that she had returned to the Society and given a donation of £50 to its funds. She had also, if he remembered right, expressed a wish to become one of the acting committee. The lady to whom he referred and her husband had subscribed £500 towards the Free Church Sustenation Fund; and her conduct now, and that of many similar cases, ought to be a warning to the Free Church.
A vote of thanks was then awarded to Mr Gilfillan for his conduct in the chair, and the meeting separated.
Dundee Courier, 27 October 1846
On Friday evening, a meeting was held in James’ Church, for the purpose of hearing Messrs George Thompson and Lloyd Garrison upon the conduct of the Evangelical Alliance and the Free Church of Scotland, in regard to American slavery, – the Reverend George Gilfillan in the chair.
In opening the business of the Meeting, the CHAIRMAN observed, that he had taken the chair with considerable pleasure, at the request of Mr Alexander Easson, a gentleman who usually presided at their meetings, and one who was always among the foremost to make his appearance when the course of right and justice had to be advocated. He (Mr Gilfillan) considered that he himself had a sort of prescriptive right to the chair; for, when the advocates of American [anti-]slavery came first to this town, the doors of the School Wynd chapel were thrown open to them, and he presided at their meetings.
He did so, as he considered them the advocates of three millions of their fellow-men who were held in bondage. He should this evening have the pleasure of introducing to them Messrs Lloyd Garrison and George Thompson, the former a person whose efforts in the abolition of slavery entitled him to take a place alongside of Wilberforce and Clarkson, the latter one who had proved himself the friend of the oppressed in every quarter of the World. Without detaining them longer, he begged to introduce Mr Garrison to their notice.
Mr GARRISON had great pleasure in again appearing before them. It had been urged against him by some that he ought not to be listened to on this question, or his statements believed, because he entertained peculiar views on Sabbath observance. In his opinion, these had nothing to do with the question at issue. He had never brought them forward at any anti-slavery meeting, and though some might condemn them, he was ready to prove their correctness from Scripture, and from that alone. His opinions were the same as those held by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Philip Melancthon; and he thought it somewhat curious for his opponents to hold up these individuals as saints while they at the same time termed him an infidel for holding their opinions.
Though his opinions were wrong respecting the meaning of the fourth commandment, ought these to hinder the advocates for the abolition of slavery from cooperating with him? What would have been thought if a free trader had refused to assist Mr Cobden to procure a repeal of the corn laws upon the grounds that that gentleman and he did not agree upon some religious points?
In the United States almost all the Christian Churches were in favour of slavery – the Presbyterians, the Baptists, and the Methodists. Mr Garrison then referred to the failure of the missionary efforts by the American Churches, for, when the Heathen discovered that they were in favour of reducing men of Colour to a state of slavery, they very naturally concluded that the religion offered to them was not the true one. In fact, the views which the American Churches held on the question of slavery were not according to the principles of Christianity. Even the Mahommedans would repudiate such views. The Church of Rome had lifted up her testimony against slavery in the bull of the late Pope, in which the faithful throughout the World were called upon to keep aloof from slavery, as a practice contrary to revealed religion and offensive in the sight of Heaven. Yet that was the system practised by the Americans, countenanced by their clergy, and approved of by the priests of the Free Church in this country. He would advise them to judge men by their practice and not by their professions. Could they gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles?
Mr Garrison then alluded to the effects of the American Colonization Society, and declared that its objects were the perpetuation of slavery in the United States, by removing the free Coloured population to Liberia in order that their appearance might not prove an eye-sore in the sight of those held in bondage and in chains. The slave, when he saw another of his own colour free, naturally wished to be placed in the same state. he of course desired to be treated as a man; and the slave-holders being conscious of that, were anxious to get the free Coloured population removed to the coast of Africa. Hence their scheme for the colonization of Liberia, and the support which it had received at their hands.
He had long ago opposed the Colonization Society, as he considered it an engine calculated to promote the continuance of slavery in America. In doing so, he had to encounter the opposition of the American clergy, and hence the hue and cry that had been raised against his religious principles by the man-stealers of America. He was glad however to say, that his opposition to the American Colonization Society had not been altogether unproductive of good effects, and that the eyes of the public were now opened as to its real intentions.
Mr Garrison, after a defence of his views, said that he should not detain the Meeting longer, but give place to Mr George Thompson, who had for years been the eloquent advocate of the West India slave, the defender of the oppressed in Hindostan, and three millions held in the bonds of slavery in the United States of America – one who took the whole World in his embrace, and raised his voice against his fellow-men being kept in bondage in whatever region or whatever clime. (Applause.)
Mr THOMPSON, on presenting himself, was received with loud and lengthened applause. In the commencement of his address he noticed in terms of condemnation an article which had recently appeared in the Congregational Magazine, understood to be from the pen of a son of an influential townsman of their own. He was sorry that such an article had been allowed to pollute the pages of that magazine, and that it should have been the production of an inhabitant of this town.
He had been opposed by the Free Church party, and it had been stated that he was the calumniator of the American Churches; but he might mention that, in 1833 he visited America, and gave his opinion on the state of religion in that country; and in the work which he published on the subject, he stated the views which he had held ever since; but mark the different reception which they then received from the parties composing the Free church from what they did now.
It was then in the heat of the Voluntary controversy, and his book was commended by all the Church Magazines, and in the columns of the Scottish Guardian. An impression of it was brought forward and sold by the same parties in a very short time. It was declared that he had given a far more impartial statement of the state of religion in the American Churches than Doctors Reid and Mathewson had done. He then merely stated what appeared to him to be the truth; but the parties who were so loud in his favour then were placed in a very different position from what they were now. That of itself might explain the difference in their views. His views at that time, which were the same as those held by his friend Mr Garrison, were approved of by the venerable Wilberforce and by all who were eminent for their maintenance of anti-slavery principles.
What had he done now but what he did then, except condemning the Free Church of Scotland for holding communion with the American slave-holders, and blaming the Evangelical Alliance for not taking a decided step, by lifting up their testimony against the accursed system of slavery in America? What was worse the part which the Free Church had taken upon this question had been the means of corrupting and lowering the sentiment of almost all the other religious bodies in the country. In fact, many of the religious bodies which were by no means friendly to the Free Church in many things, had been as it were overawed by her authority in this matter.
With his own ears he had heard within the last twelve months doctrines broached by evangelical clergymen in defence of slavery which formerly would have been held as anti-scriptural and sinful. Indeed, of late the Free Church ministers had become perfectly reckless in their assertions in vindication of slavery, and attempting to prove that that abominable system was countenanced by the doctrines of the New Testament, and by the practice of our Saviour and his Apostles. Such assertions were an insult to the spirit of Christianity, and it was shameful to witness them in the writings and the speeches of the ministers of religion. It was truly lamentable for one to be compelled to see with his eyes the doings of the Free Church regarding slavery, and to be compelled to hear with his ears the doctrines she had uttered upon the subject. In short, he might say that the Free Church of Scotland had sold herself to work all manner of wickedness. (Cheers and hisses.)
He was glad at hearing that hiss – such things inspirited him; and he could assure the individuals who uttered it that he was not the man to be dispirited by opposition of that sort. There were only two of the lower animals who gave vent to their feelings by such sounds as they had heard, – one of them was the long-necked gentleman which they saw upon the common, so remarkable for his stupidity – (laughter) – the other the reptile doomed to walk on his belly, and to lick the dust of the earth, and which was reckoned the emblem of all that was subtle and dangerous. (Cheers.)
What he had said respecting the Free Church did not arise from any malignant feeling. He was only declaring the truth. Did not the Free Church send to America and obtain money from the slave-holding Churches for the support of her schemes; and, had she not even since then been the advocate of slavery in all its horrors? He asserted that, clearly viewing these things, as had been said by his friend garrison in Edinburgh and Belfast, the Free Church had deliberately sold herself to work all manner of wickedness. (Cheers.)
He considered then that the assertion was completely proved. Twelve years ago he declared that the American Churches were the abettors of slavery. His speeches were inserted in all the Church Newspapers, and quoted and commented upon by the Chalmerses, the Candlishes, the Cunninghams, and the Beggs of that day. His speeches were by the efforts of these gentlemen scattered throughout the length and breadth of the land.
It had been said that he had entered upon this agitation for the sake of personal gain. That he denied in the most explicit terms. He had come from home at considerable sacrifice of time, and consequently of money. He did not look for any personal advantage, what he desired was the liberation of the slaves.
In reference to the sentiments of the Churches in America regarding slavery, he would read to them the reception of a Memorial sent by the Presbyterian body in Canada, a body in connexion with the Free Church, at the head of which was Dr Burns, to the old school, or true blue Presbyterians in the United States. The Memorial urged the old school Presbyterians to endeavour to effect an abolition of slavery in America. At first the Clerk pretended that he could not read it owing to the illegibility of the manuscript; when he had proceeded a certain length the Reverend Dr Brackinridge got up and declared that they could not listen to it any longer, as he did not consider that they should allow themselves to be insulted to their face. After some others had delivered themselves in this same style, it was proposed that intimation should be given to the Canadian Presbyterians that all correspondence with foreign churches should cease, should they send such Memorials as they had done. Several of the clergy were for the Assembly to take a decided part, and declared themselves in favour of ceasing to hold correspondence with such Churches; but it was feared a resolution of this nature would break up the intercourse between them and the Free Church of Scotland; the matter then dropped.
In 1834 the Secession Church of Scotland sent a remonstrance to the American Churches upon the question of slavery. That document of course could not be favourably received.
The Free Church also gave a deliverance in 1844 regarding the sin of slavery, and transmitted it to the United States. In a year after a stronger one was agreed to, but was never sent out though the clergy always appealed to it as an evidence of their abhorrence of that sinful traffic. The secret of its not being transmitted was known only to two or three of the Free Church leaders.
At length, in the middle of the nineteenth century – in the month of May, in the year of grace 1846 – a certain eminent clerical philosopher hied down to Canonmills, pregnant with the discovery of having found out the difference between slave-holding and slave-having. Oh! said he, slave-holding may be a sin, but slave-having was not, for a man may be so circumstanced that he cannot prevent himself from being a slave-haver. Upon this principle, the fellow who plundered your watch-pocket was not a thief, but merely a watch-haver. (Laughter and cheers.) It had been said by the same party, that a slave-haver ought not to be blamed for having slaves, as it often happened that he had received them as a legacy, and that the laws of the country prevented him from emancipating them. Though a son was left by his father a room full of stolen property, was that an excuse for his retaining it when he knew that it had not been honestly come by? Now, there was not a slave-holder or slave-haver, if they wished him to be so termed, who did not know that the property he held in his fellow-men was at first procured by theft, and by theft of the worse description With respect to the laws in the United States preventing the emancipation of the slaves, he might remark, that there was nothing to hinder any one who was willing to do so, provided he gave the necessary securities that the emancipated slave should not become burdensome to the Public, and that he would remove to another State. He confessed it was rather curious to perceive the parties who a year or two ago made it their boast that they would set at defiance the decisions of the Supreme Courts, and consequently the law of the land, rather than violate their consciences, now coming forward and defending the American slave-holders for living in open violation of the laws of God, which condemned the man-stealer in the most emphatic manner. (Cheers.)
He should now detain the a little by speaking on the conduct of the Evangelical Alliance, in regard to the question of American slavery. For himself, he had rather unexpectedly fallen into a controversy on this subject with Dr Wardlaw of Glasgow – a person at whose hands he had received every mark of Kindness, and one who he was sure had been directed in the course he had adopted by the best of motives. He entertained neither enmity to the Evangelical Alliance nor to any of its members, hundreds of whom had been his personal friends; and, had they done right on the slavery question, their proceedings would on most others met with his cordial approbation.
On the question of slavery he contended they had done wrong, and therefore their actions on it were deserving of censure. He should in a few words give them the history of that celebrated body, and the manner in which they treated the subject of American slavery.
When that body met in August last, nothing could for a time exceed the unanimity that prevailed among them. Shortly after, the important question of slavery was ‘mooted’ by one or two of their number. Immediately discord arose. The American delegates declared that the Alliance, making any testimony against slavery, was a breach of contract, being contrary to the letters of invitation. The Alliance then, to use their own words, sought counsel at the Lord by engaging in prayer. He believed there was not a Sunday school teacher or Sunday school pupil who now heard him but would have seen his way clearly upon the subject.
After some time the American delegates retired into an apartment by themselves, and, as they remained there a considerable time, a messenger was sent to see what they were about. He returned with an answer that they were engaged in prayer.
Next day a discussion arose on the subject, in which the American clergy strongly opposed anything being inserted on the Minutes condemnatory of the slave system. At length a proposition was agreed to, passing a very light condemnation of it indeed. The American delegates, on their way home, perceiving that they had so far gained their object by firmness, took counsel among themselves, and on the next day of meeting they proposed and ultimately succeeded in carrying a motion, that the former resolution should be rescinded, so that there remains nothing on the Alliance’s Minutes regarding the question of slavery in one shape or another. That the American Churches, whose delegates appeared at the Alliance, were favourable to slavery, was well known to the rest of the members, as was evident from their formerly declared opinions, and by the discussions and deliverances of the bodies with which they were connected.
Mr Thompson read several of them from a sort of scrap book, as he termed it, which he had collected of the opinions of American divines on the subject of slavery. One of them, who was a member of the Alliance, had attempted to prove that slavery was agreeable to the word of God, by the text of ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,’ forgetting however to quote the remainder of the verse. He (Mr Thompson) had no doubt but many of them would be surprised at such an attempt, as every Scotchman well knew that the text was applied by the Saviour to the duty of paying tribute to the State, without any reference to slavery. What said Christ on the subject? When some asked him whether it was proper to pay taxes to the Roman Government, he said, ‘Show me a penny.’ When they had done so, he asked, ‘Whose image and superscription is this?’ They answered, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then said he, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.’ Yes, he (Mr Thompson) would say, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s – look at his image and superscription, and give him what is his own, but look at man, the declared image of his Maker, and render to God the things that are God’s.
Dr Wardlaw had addressed a letter to The Patriot on the question of the conduct of the Evangelical Alliance. The letter was copied into the last number of the Warder, but, as far as he could perceive, the reverend Doctor and he did not differ so far in opinion as one might at first sight imagine. The Doctor had declared that he would have no communion or fellowship with slave-holders; and he (Mr Thompson) would take him at his word. He intended to be in Glasgow in a few days, and he, besides calling upon the Doctor to answer certain questions, would ask him if he still adhered to his declaration?
He and his friends Garrison and Douglas had held meetings in various places, at which the conduct of the Alliance was discussed, and the proceedings of that body uniformly condemned. At Exeter Hall, London, a meeting of 6000 persons disapproved of these. They had held meetings in Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, and Edinburgh. At these meetings about 23,000 people assembled, and at them the proceedings of the Alliance were condemned by all but seven individuals.
The Evangelical Alliance had exercised a discrimination in not admitting into their body the delegates of any one who were not considered to hold evangelical sentiments. In doing so they acted correctly, had they at the same time looked a little more closely after the proceedings of certain churches.
In speaking on this, he would remark that Bishop Meea, a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopalian church in America, a pastor who was not present at the Conference in person, but who sent an epistle to them approving of their proceedings, and who was therefore present by letter, had published a course of sermons in which he directed that they should be read to slaves by their masters at convenient times on Sundays, and recommended that the meeting should sing a hymn and engage in prayer. It must be understood that no person was by the law of the United States allowed to teach a Coloured person to read, and therefore the Bishop’s sermons were intended for the master to read to his slaves, and that they should be listeners.
Mr Thompson read portions from these discourses, in which it was recommended to the slaves to bear correction with patience. He would inform such of his audience as were ignorant of the fact, that correction among American slave-holders meant the application of the cow-skin, the thumb-screw, and all the paraphernalia of torture. Now, that was what was veiled under the gentle name of correction.
The Bishop went on to say that if they were corrected for a fault they ought not to complain; but, even should they be corrected for having done no fault at all, they must remember that they had done many others which had never been brought to light; and, though they ought to bear it with patience in this World, for their doing so would insure them a greater amount of glory in the next.
Another, a Dr Paton, left his charge in order to attend the meeting of the Evangelical Alliance. That gentleman, as a faithful shepherd, left a Mr Page to take charge of the flock in his absence, no doubt remembering the old saying, ‘Weel ken’s the mouse when the cat’s out o’ the house.’ This Mr Page having had some concerns to settle of his won, engaged for a Sabbath or two a notorious slave-holding preacher from the South. The matter was noticed in the Anti-Slavery Observer of New York, the editor of which like his friend Garrison had been described as one who was particularly versed in the science of giving offence.
After stating that Mr Page had hired a notorious slave-holding preacher to officiate for him in his absence, and in giving a description of the Church, he declared that it contained what was termed a Jim Crow gallery, for the accommodation of the Negroes and the Coloured people. Happily his audience were ignorant of what a Jim Crow loft meant, but he should attempt to give them an idea of it, taking the one in Dr Paton’s Church as an example. It was an erection placed several feet above the head, and generally on the right hand of the preacher, where the Coloured people were compelled to sit at worship, and to which they ascended by a separate entrance and by a separate stair. That was what was termed a Jim Crow gallery. An answer was attempted to what he had noticed in one of the American religious Newspapers; and certainly it was one of the most shocking pieces of blasphemy he had ever witnessed. With their indulgence, he should read it. The answer declared that the Negroes, so far from considering themselves degraded by being compelled to sit in the Jim Crow pews, ought to look upon themselves as occupying an elevated and honourable position, as they were by it placed above the heads of the Whites, at the preacher’s right hand, and nearest his heart; and that they occupied a place similar to that at which the Son of God himself was situated. (Cries of ‘Shame, shame!’)
Mr Thompson was glad at that expression of their detestation of the ultra disgusting blasphemy of this passage. It was likewise said, that Coloured people were admitted to the sacrament along with the Whites; but mark the distinction – the Blacks were compelled to communicate apart from the Whites. This Dr Paton, in whose church these things were transacted, was a member of the Evangelical Alliance; and he would again repeat that he would hold Dr Wardlaw to his word, that he could not give the right hand of fellowship to a slave-holder, and of course he must refuse it to such as men as Dr Paton.
Sir Culling Eardley Smith, the Chairman of the Alliance, and the lately defeated candidate for the city of Edinburgh, had attempted at Alyesburgh to defend the conduct of that body, but the question put, why they refused admission to the Quakers, while they admitted American slave-holders? was rather puzzling to the Baronet. The question was put to him in a Scotch manner; and he believed that the person who put it was a Scotchman. Such a man as the Baronet would have been a worthy representative of the Free Church. A young man who intended to come out as a missionary of the Free Church, was so disgusted at their conduct, after he had heard it properly explained at Alyesburgh, that he not only left their connexion, but declared that the name Free, as applied to them, stank in his nostrils whenever he heard it mentioned, and when he thought of their alliance with slave-holders.
Mr Thompson animadverted on the conduct of several other American delegates to the Evangelical Alliance, such as that of Doctors Cox and Smyth, the former of whom was preferred lately to the honour of preaching along with Dr Chalmers, although it was notorious that he was an open advocate of slavery.
He was sorry to observe that, among the ministers of the Free Church who went to America, for the purpose of procuring money from the slave-holders, there should have been one from this town – the Reverend Mr Lewis. That individual might have pretensions to be something here, but when he went to Edinburgh he was as nothing when placed in front of the triumverate who governed the Free Church. (Cries of ‘Not true,’ and ‘Proof, proof.’) Mr Thompson said, some deny that, but he would repeat that Mr Lewis was nobody when placed before those individuals. (Cheers.)
He had traced that man’s travels by his book. He had followed him from the shore of the Atlantic to the banks of the Missouri and the Mississippi. He perceived that he had visited the principal towns in the United States. He preached at many places – took the American slave-holder’s money and then returned home and bespattered them with the most disgusting and fulsome flattery. That man must have witnessed the slave pen, the auction block, the cow-hide, and all the other paraphernalia of torture, but he uttered not a sentence in condemnation of the system. In fact, he spoke and wrote to please the individuals to whom he had referred – to the three great leaders of the Free Church. (Cheers.)
These would-be leaders of the people had proved themselves powerful for evil, but they on the other side of the Tweed understood them and their doings better than they imagined. It was the duty of the members of that Church to purge her from the stain which had thus been affixed to her. (Cheers.)
A cry had been raised against this agitation because Mr Garrison, who was said by its opponents to be an Infidel, had taken a part in it. They were perhaps aware that, when sportsmen wanted to puzzle the dogs, destroy the scent, and preserve the game, they trailed a red herring over the ground, and no sooner did the dogs come upon the scent of it than they forsook the track of an animal they were in pursuit of, and ran about bewildered after the scent of the herring. The people had started to hunt down slavery. Its friends had made Mr Lloyd Garrison’s so called Infidelity the red herring to puzzle them and make the lose the scent. Let them not however be allured away by such things as that, but consider if the agitation was just, and if they found it to be so let them join it irrespective of the theological opinions of some of the agitators. let them not be led away by such nicknames as had been used towards his friend, but when they heard them they should raise the cry, ‘Send back the money.’
It had been said that the abolitionists in America had retarded the empancipation [sic] of the slaves by their indiscretion, but he would remind them that before their agitation commenced insurrections of the slaves broke out every now and then which were not put down without the destruction of a vast amount of life and property. Since the abolitionists had commenced their present career, the slaves, instead of rising in wrath against their oppressors, had consented to wait with patience till their emancipation could be procured by peaceable means. The individuals who had persuaded them to do so could not in justice be said to have retarded the cause of emancipation.
Mr Thompson, in conclusion, observed that some might think that he had been rather severe upon the ministers of the Free Church and the slave-holding Churches in America, but they ought to remember that these men possessed a vast influence, and in proportion to its extent were they responsible for the right exercise of it. To what a degree some of them had abused that influence might be understood from what had been read in their hearing. Let them beware of taking their theology from such clergymen as those belonging to the Free Church, who had attempted to wrest the Scriptures of truth, with a view to vindicate the abominable system of American slavery. (Cries of ‘Hear, hear!’)
Let the friends of abolition pursue the course they had hitherto followed, and they would have the blessings of the slave, and of that God who heareth the cry of the oppressed, and who has said, whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you do ye also unto them. Mr Thompson sat down amidst loud and continued applause.
Mr FREDERICK DOUGLASS said, he was on this occasion so highly satisfied with the opinions delivered by Mr Thompson, that he should not say a word in support of them. He had come among them to-night not for the purpose of speaking but of listening. His reasons for now appearing before them were to move a vote of thanks to the Managers of James’ Church, who had, with one consent, given them the use of it when they were denied accommodation in other places. (Applause.) Here there was no majority of one to hinder them from access. The Managers, for acting as they had done, would have the blessings of the slave and the approbation of their own conscience.
The Free Church party had termed him the mere echo of Thompson and Garrison. He was contented to be called so as long as these gentlemen advocated the principles they did. He would tell them of a party to which he never had been and never would be the echo – the slave-holders of America. (Cheers.) What he demanded was the immediate and unconditional abolition of slavery in that country, and that the slave-master ought no longer to be allowed to carry on a trade in human flesh. Some might sneer at him, but, alas! while he was addressing them the whip was tearing the quivering flesh from the backs of women, slave-holders were dragging the husband from the wife, and the child from the parent.
He should be soon again in Dundee to tell them something about sending back the money – send back the money he would say to the Free Church folks. (Cheers.) Though a concise expression, there was music, poetry, and common sense in it. No argument had such an effect in puzzling or awakening the ire of the Free Churchmen like it. They were proof against the strongest arguments, and could listen to them without emotion, but no sooner were the words ‘Send back the money’ uttered than some began to look confusedly and scratch their heads in this manner (Mr Douglass here suiting the action to the word) – (laughter) – while others flew into a violent passion.
He should tell what happened lately in Edinburgh about sending back the money. When he was there at one time the words were to be seen chalked on every wall of this city. In his absence the rain had descended and the Free Church mops had been in active operation, and thus by the time he came back last almost all marks of the former sensation had been blotted out, but, the day after Mr Thompson had uttered the words send back the money, the phrase was to be seen chalked up in every place, to the great chagrin, no doubt, of the Free Church people. (Cheers.)
He should not detain them longer, except to propose a vote of thanks to the Managers of the church. (Applause.)
The Reverend Mr ROBERTSON, Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, Edinburgh, would state a fact which had lately come to his knowledge, and, were the Editor or Reporter of the Northern Warder present he would call upon him to give it a place in his Paper. A lady in Edinburgh, of considerable wealth and influence, who belonged to the Free Church, was likewise a member of the Ladies Anti-Slavery Association. She was much attached to the Free Church, and in consequence was led to blame the manner in which the agitation against slavery was carried on; she therefore withdrew from the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society; but a few weeks ago she called on the lady of the gentleman from whom he had the fact, and told her that she had been reflecting seriously upon the present position of the Free Church respecting slavery, and the result of her reflections was the belief that that body had been guilty of a great crime in the sight of God and man for the manner in which they had acted, and, as a proof of her repentance and change of mind, she had presented 50l. to the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. He (Mr Robertson) had every confidence in the veracity of his informant, and had no doubt but what he told him was the truth. The lady to whom he alluded had been very liberal to the Free Church. He understood that she and her husband had contributed as large a sum as 500l. since the Disruption to the different Schemes of that body. The Free Church clergy might pretend that they had the universal support of their people on the anti-slavery question, but he had mentioned an instance in which they had not, and he had no doubt, from what he knew of the sentiments of many of his personal friends belonging to the Free Church, he was confident that many more Free Churchmen than was supposed were heartily ashamed and grieved at the actings of their ministers upon American slavery.
On the motion of Mr Garrison, a vote of thanks was awarded to the Chairman for his conduct in the chair, after which the Meeting was declared to be dissolved.
Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 27 October 1846
AMERICAN SLAVERY AND THE FREE CHURCH
The agitation which the conduct of the leaders of the Free Church has excited, is far from being at an end, as those individuals openly boasted it would soon be, no doubt having the greatest interest in such a result. Messrs Douglass and George Thompson, aided by Mr Garrison from America, are [a]gain abroad, and their addresses appear to produce greater enthusiasm than ever, and their public meetings to draw even greater crowds than at first, when the agitation was a novelty. Amongst other important and impressive demonstrations in which these gentlemen have been engaged, we observe that they held a meeting in Dundee on Friday last, which was numerously attended. The various speakers appear to have been heard with the utmost attention and applause, in a town which has been long noted for the Free Church animus of a large proportion of its population.
The following character, which chiefly applies to the American churches, with which the Free Seceders and their Assembly are not fraternising, was given by Mr Garrison:–
For his own part, he rejoiced most sincerely in the spread of Christianity, and he was glad that it was spread in America. He rejoiced in the spread of true religion. American religion was, however, a different matter, and he rejoiced in its decline, and for the reasons given, ‘inasmuch as it voluntarily comes forth to baptize and to sanctify slavery.’ American religion is not Christianity, but the grossest libel on Christianity.
Mr Garrison then went on to show that slavery had lately been abolished by the Bey of Tunis; and that a bull of the late Pope of Rome called on all the faithful throughout the world to keep themselves free from the slavery and the slave trade. The American religionists would take no warning.
They had sent out missionaries to the Kerims, who would not listen to them. They said they did not want to know anything more about Christianity. They had found out that in the land from whence the missionaries came human beings were bought and sold, and they brought against the missionaries the charge that they wanted to convert them in order to make them slaves. The missionaries asked what was to be done? He could tell them. The missionaries had only to disclaim all that slaveholders have done in the name of Christianity, and join with the Abolitionists and the Anti-Slavery Society in denouncing the slaveholder. Christianity enslaves nobody. It never authorised one man to tyrannise over another.
The Abolitionists of the United States are those who believe in Christ, by being willing to be of no reputation – to sacrifice all their worldly interests. They have been hunted by bloody men – their property destroyed – their persons thrown into prison, and in some cases put to death. The Abolitionists are the real Christians.
Mr George Thompson animadverted in his usual effective manner upon the dereliction of principle so shamelessly exhibited by the Free Church party. He and Mr Douglass had been libelled as itinerant orators, and he declared that assertion to be ‘an atrocious falsehood.’ Mr Thompson solemnly asserted on the contrary, that the only reward he had received is that of having travelled at his own expense, and at the sacrifice of much time, convenience, domestic comfort, and neglect of other matters which would have been attended to.
The Free Church of Scotland (he continued) had sold itself deliberately to work iniquity. He had proved in large assemblies that the very men who wrote these articles stood side by side with him twelve years ago and cheered him on. Then they were anti-voluntary. His speeches were then copied into the Church of Scotland Magazines, into the Scottish Guardians. Articles on articles were written adopting his views, and outheroding Herod. These men were the Cunninghams, the Candlishes, the Gibsons, the Lorimers, the Beggs, &c. A book was published under their sanction, in which it was pointed out that the only way to get rid of slavery was to exclude every slaveholder from the Christian church, no matter what were his other qualifications. The accredited organs of the Free Church are now filled with the vilest libels against himself and his colleagues. He could crush them under the weight of their own testimony twelve years ago.
After further showing the inconsistency of the party, Mr Thompson went on to say that he now found in the Witness and other papers letters not outdone by the vilest documents that he ever read emanating from the slaveholders of America; and what is worst of all – worst for the rising generation – these men band themselves to make Christ and his Apostles the great patrons of slavery throughout the world. (Cheers.)
Drs Candlish and Cunningham had said that Christ and his Apostles would have welcomed slaveholders to the Lord’s Table, and that God had placed men in circumstances in which it would be sin to emancipate their slaves. They should look well to themselves, whether they would follow men whose judgment had been blinded by a gift – whether they would look to the footsteps of our Saviour and walk in them, or walk in the footsteps of our Saviour and walk in them, or walk in the footsteps of the Cunninghams and Candlishes of the present day.
The Free Church argues thus. Almost their sole argument in May last was the difficult position in which the slaveholders are placed. This is the argument of Drs Candlish and Cunningham, men who have set the civil law at defiance in their native country. (Applause.) These were the men who denied the supremacy of the civil magistrate, who upheld the religious duty of resisting all laws that interfered with the conscience or their rights as ministers of people. These men boast about an alliance with John Knox, and are raising up a monument to his memory. John Knox from his grave rebukes such recreants from principle. (Applause.)
Such men talk about Knox; they would be the first to assail him, if living. Knox is among them in the person of every honest Reformer who prefers principle to paltry gain. How do they treat a man when they see him, however humble, following Knox’s footsteps? Read the pages of their filthy organs, and you will find that they hate and persecute them, and say all manner of evil against them. They are like those of old who built the tombs of the prophets and garnished them, and of whom Christ said, ‘Ye build the tombs of prophets[‘], and would have slain the prophets had they lived in these times; and these very men who were thus garnishing the sepulchres of the prophets were hunting the Redeemer of the world to death. The duty of the Free Church of Scotland, and of the Evangelical Alliance, was to bear testimony against slavery. They had nothing to do with mitigating circumstances. These should be left to God. They had to do with the law of God as it stands.
Mr Thompson expressed his decided disapprobation of the resolutions of the Evangelical Alliance on this subject; and concluded his address with the following pointed remarks:–
They had one of the guiltiest members (Mr Lewis) of the Free Church in their own town. They had a man who went to the United States, who landed at New York, who travelled from the Potomac to the Sabine – from cities on the Atlantic coast to cities on the upper waters of the Missouri and the Ohio. He had tracked him in his own book. That man was a recreant minister of Christ, who went over the length and breadth of the land, and never bore his testimony against slavery. He saw the auction block and slave pen, and came home and bespattered the slaveholder with praise.
What then is the duty of the people of Dundee? Rise and purge yourselves from this corruption. (Applause.) The hour is coming for the Free Churchmen of Scotland to decide whether they will follow a corrupt priesthood. (Cheers.) The priests of old corrupted the law of the Lord, and they did it from the same motive – that they might hold together and increase their influence and gains. The priesthood of the Free church are doing this at the present moment.
But who is this Mr Lewis? Nobody. He dare not say his soul is his own in the presence of the three great guns of the Assembly. (Applause, and a cry of ‘false.’) He could prove it. He utters falsehoods to please these men. (Cheers.) He (Mr T.) could tell them that the influence of the Free Church was waning. It had become a byword on the other side of the Tweed. They understood what was doing, and could get up as hearty a shout as here of ‘Send back the money!’
The following significant facts were stated by the Rev. James Robertson of Edinburgh, as a wind-up to the meeting:–
A lady in Edinburgh, who was a member of the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society, at the commencement of this agitation, was so offended at the exposure of the Free Church’s doings (she being a member of that body) that she then left the Anti-Slavery Society. She had since been so thoroughly convinced of the evil which the Free Church had done, that she had returned to the society and given a donation of L.50 to its funds. She had also, if he remembered right, expressed a wish to become one of the acting committee. The lady to whom he referred and her husband had subscribed L.500 towards the Free Church Sustentation Fund; and her conduct now, and that of many similar cases, ought to be a warning to the Free Church.
Such arguments, being addressed to the Exchequer of the Free Church, are likely to tell, if extensively applied, as we cannot doubt they will be, by the really honest and humane members of the Free Secession body.
Edinburgh Evening Post, 23 October 1846
William Lloyd Garrison to Richard Davis Webb, Dundee, 24 October 1846, in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 442.
William Lloyd Garrison to Elizabeth Pease, Perth, 25 October 1846, in Letters, Vol 3, p.445.
See Ian McCraw, Victorian Dundee at Worship (Dundee: Abertay Historical Society, 2002), p. 38, drawing on C.M. Falconer, A Hundred Years of Congregationalism: The Story of Ward Chapel. Volume 1: 1833-1883 (Dundee: privately printed, 1934), pp. 26-27. Falconer notes that notwithstanding this: ‘exactly a year after, the Chapel was granted to the Dundee Anti-Slavery Association for a course of lectures.’
[John Campbell], ‘Slavery’, The Christian Witness (1 October 1846), p. 486.
W. E. B., ‘Notes of an American Tour’, Scottish Congregational Magazine (October 1846), p. 482.
The 1846 proposals did not come to fruition and the monument was not erected. See James Coleman, Remembering the Past in Nineteenth-Century Scotland: Commemoration, Nationality and Memory (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), p. 94.
Ralph Wardlaw, ‘The Evangelical Alliance and Slavery’, London Patriot, 8 October 1846; reprinted Northern Warder, 22 October 1846.
After speaking in Liverpool on Monday the 19th, Frederick Douglass, George Thompson and William Lloyd Garrison left the next morning to catch the night steamer from Fleetwood, fifty miles up the Lancashire coast. Garrison recalled:
The voyage from Fleetwood to Ardrossan was very irksome, the sea being much excited, and many of the passengers quick sick. We arrived in Edinburgh on Wednesday afternoon, only a few hours before the evening meeting, very much exhausted, (especially dear Thompson), and quite unfit, both in mind and body, to address a public assembly. The meeting was a very good one, nevertheless.1
Of particular interest perhaps is Douglass’ story about an old friend from Baltimore whom he saw by chance in Liverpool the previous morning. Douglass learned that he was put to work as a ship’s cook, but claimed freedom when his vessel was forced to take shelter from a storm in Nassau in the British Bahamas. The story bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Madison Washington, invoked several times in Douglass’ speeches in Britain and Ireland in 1845-47, and later became the subject of his novella, The Heroic Slave (1852).
The most detailed account of the meeting appeared in the Scotsman. This is reproduced below along with the shorter reports in the Edinburgh Evening Post and Caledonian Mercury, followed by a hostile review by an unnamed ‘Edinburgh correspondent’ of the Dumfries and Galloway Standard.
On Wednesday evening a meeting was held in Brighton Street Church, for the purpose of affording an opportunity to Messrs George Thompson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Frederick Douglas, to defend the position that slaveholding under all circumstances is a crime of unequalled magnitude – that no slaveholder ought to be admitted within the pale of the Christian church; and that the conduct of the Free Church and the recent proceeding of the Evangelical Alliance in reference to American slavery ought to be condemned. John Wigham, jun., Esq., occupied the chair. The church was crowded.
The CHAIRMAN said he desired to say a few words with regard to his friend, William Lloyd Garrison. They were aware that he had been very much traduced, and that reports and insinuations had been forwarded to this country injurious to his character. He had, for the last fourteen or fifteen years, been a most zealous anti-slavery advocate in the United states, but especially in the city of Boston; and Mr Garrison had doubtless felt it to be his duty conscientiously to say some hard things against the pro-slavery party of all descriptions in the Union, but particularly against the clergy; and the consequence of this had been that they had raised a sort of hue and cry against him, with a view to stop his usefulness in the cause in which he was engaged. He (Mr Wigham) did not mean to say that the clergy alone were to blame, but there was no doubt that the circumstance of Mr Garrison having represented their actings in certain terms, was the cause of this dislike; and hence they had brought a number of charges against him – that he was a breaker of the Sabbath, a non-government man, and an infidel.
Now, he (Mr W.) had taken some pains to inquire into these matters, and had, from both Mr Garrison’s enemies and friends, asked for full information. He did not pretend exactly to explain his friend’s political views in regard to the constitution of America, but with regard to the great charge of Mr Garrison being an infidel, he denied it in toto, after this examination. He had satisfied himself that Mr Garrison was a Christian man – that he reverenced the Scriptures – that he held the divinity of Christ, with all the attributes ascribed to him in the New Testament. It was a cruel aspersion of his character to call him an infidel. He had some peculiar views about the first day of the week, or the Sabbath, as it was called. He did not think that day better than other days. He was an every day Christian, and his whole life had been most exemplary.
The chairman then read an extract of a letter from Mr James Buffum, bearing testimony in favour of Mr Garrison’s character and exertions in behalf of the oppressed, and stating, that the impression on his mind was, that Mr Garrison was zealously devoted to the cause of doing good to his fellow-creatures, and of serving his Maker and his Saviour. (Applause.)
Mr FREDERICK DOUGLAS then rose and said, that when he came to this place he did not expect to say one word, but to have the whole time to be occupied by his friends Garrison and Thompson. But he had been requested to relate a circumstance of deep interest to himself, and one which he thought would gratify every British and every Scottish heart. Yesterday morning, while taking breakfast with a friend of his in Liverpool, he happened to look out at the window, and who should he see on the street but a beloved coloured brother – a brother who had been a slave with him, and had wrought side by side with him in Baltimore, eight years ago, but whom he had not seen since that time. He could not tell how he felt at seeing such a brother slave in this land – freed from American republicanism, freed from American democracy, and freed from American religion, standing on the British soil disenthralled. (Applause.)
But they would be more delighted to know how he obtained his freedom. About eight years ago his master saw it for his interest to let him out as a cook on board of a vessel sailing from Boston; and while in this capacity he, one evening, by stress of weather, was driven into the port of Nassau, in New Providence, over which waves the British flag, and under whose waving no slave clanks his fetters, or rattles his chains. (Applause.) Here he met with a coloured man, who asked him if he was a slave. He answered that he was. Then, said this person, if you have not signed the articles of your ship with your own consent, but by the consent of a slaveholder, you are not bound by the contract; you are now on British soil, and you are a free man. Taking the Apostle’s advice, and finding he could have freedom, he preferred to use it rather. (A laugh.) However, the captain, the mate, and the crew, at once made after him on British soil; and pretending that he had stolen something, chased through the town the poor runaway from slavery. Poor Harry made his way to the woods, and coming into contact with a large thicket of briars, he plunged himself into it to avoid detection. He was, however, overtaken; and when he was dragged out, he presented a spectacle that should have moved any human heart. His arms, face, and back, were stuck full of briars. When he came out, he cried with a loud voice that he was a slave, and that these men wanted to carry him back to slavery. This appeal at once warmed the hearts of the persons around him, and they said he should not go back to bondage, and he did not go back. He was now a British seaman, and being a British sailor, wherever he went he was under the protection of British law.
Mr GARRISON – Except he goes to America.
Mr DOUGLAS – Well, but he did not intend to go there. (Laughter.) Almost the last words he said to him (mr D.) were, whoever else might go back to America he would never go back, at least to the slave-holding states. (Applause.)
He thought they would like to hear that story, and he was very glad to have it in his power to tell it to them; for it was but one illustration of the great fact that the British heart was right on the subject of slavery. Here they were meeting, in all parts of the country, coloured men; whence did they come? From the United States! What was their history? Only ask them to exhibit their backs, and they would see that they were scored and lacerated with the lash of slavery. Ask these men how such stripes came there; and they would tell them that it was by the hand of some Christian slaveholder of America. It was a glorious fact that the moment a slave set his foot on British soil he became free. This country may be disgraced by apologists for slavery, but thanks be to God, no slave trader could lay his foul clutches on an American bondsman wherever British law obtains and wherever British institutions exist. (Applause.)
Mr LLOYD GARRISON next came forward, amid great applause, and addressed the meeting. He was amazed that he should be charged with being an infidel by men who held their brother as they property; for surely, if the slave-holder was not an infidel of the worst kind before God and man, there was no such thing as infidelity at all. (Applause.) They had been charged with departing from their proper mission, and entering upon a war with the Free Church and the Evangelical Alliance. But why did they do so? Not because they had forgotten the slave – no; but because the Free Church had placed itself on the side of the slaveholder, and against the slave, and because the Evangelical Alliance had bowed the knee to the Moloch of slavery, and refused to say one word against his bloody and impious reign. (Cheers.)
Mr Garrison next alluded to his late visit to Belfast, and complained that some of the papers there were filled with malignant abuse of him, and with the foulest misrepresentations of his religious principles, solely for the purposes of deterring persons from attending meetings of the anti-slavery deputation. But the real question was as to his fidelity to the anti-slavery movement. Had any one dared to arraign him that he was not a staunch and true abolitionist? No; not one of his traducers had attempted to impeach his character on that point. The emancipation of the slave was their text, and abiding by it, he would ask had the Free Church yet come to the conclusion of sending back the money? (Cheers.) If it had not, then it was to be charged with being one of the great bulwarks which supported and protected slavery in the United States, entertaining with religious friendship men who treat those made in the image of God as marketable commodities.
He did not wish to pick a quarrel with the Free Church, or with any religious denomination whatever; all he asked was, that they should wash their hands of such heinous crimes and have nothing to do with thieves and idolaters.
After some farther remarks, Mr Garrison concluded by remarking that he did not believe that greater pro-slavery men could by possibility have been selected from the twenty millions of American people, than the delegates who were sent over to the Evangelical Alliance. Some of them were slaveholders, all of them gave the right hand of fellowship to men-stealers, and were eager in going with the mobocracy in denouncing the abolitionists, to make them odious to the whole world. (Applause.)
The CHAIRMAN, then, in name of the Anti-Slavery ladies of Edinburgh, presented Mr Garrison with an elegant silver tea service, consisting of tea-pot, coffee-pot, cream-pot, sugar-basin, &c., and also a purse (the work of a young lady who is a daughter of one of the oldest abolitionists in Edinburgh) containing ten sovereigns.3 On the coffee-pot was engraved the following inscription: – ‘Presented to Mr William Lloyd Garrison, Boston, United States, by the friends of freedom in Edinburgh, as an expression of their gratitude for his unwearied and successful exertions in the cause of slavery, and for his labours in exposing the cruelty and wickedness of slaveowners.’ On the tea-pot were inscribed the 12th and 13th verses of the 29th chapter of Job.
Mr GARRISON, in reply, said, any man who assumed to be a reformer, should be careful how he received gifts, lest it might seem to be his object to be remunerated for his labours by the pelf of this world. He would have felt entirely unwilling to accept these generous gifts were it not for the peculiar circumstances in which he was now placed on both sides of the Atlantic; and if the enemies of freedom were not endeavouring to hedge up his way, and to cover him with popular odium, for the purpose of protecting the slave system. But he would receive them, because through him they were a testimony and a proof in behalf of many others associated with him in the anti-slavery cause, and far more worthy to receive them than himself; and they would also be a reply to the aspersions cast upon his character. He would take them, because he wanted the slaveholders, the abolitionists, and the coloured population of America, to see them.
He deserved no credit for what he had done. His conduct was only worthy of notice as a matter of contrast, for, while many persons in the United States were overawed by the presence of slavery, he had been enabled by the grace of God to stand forward and confront it. He did not understand how men, having love to God, could look on thousands of their race deprived of all their rights, and not say one word against the enslavers. He had done nothing but his duty to God and his fellow-men in denouncing this system, and he hoped he would never compromise this duty. He would rather be sacrificed on the altar of popular fury than yield one title of the Christian law.
These gifts were peculiarly agreeable to him, because they came from the anti-slavery women of Edinburgh. (Cheers.) If ever slavery was to be extirpated from the world, it would be because women pioneered the way. They had felt this in America. The women there had made the most generous and courageous sacrifices – they were instant in season and out of season, to cheer the friends of the slave in the darkest hours. It was so, in the agitation in this country for the abolition of West India slavery. His friend, George Thompson, was a witness that he spoke the truth. It was not the published opinions of Clarkson, Wilberforce, or Buxton, and other champions of emancipation, that hurried slavery to its eternal overthrow in the West India colonies; but it was the pamphlet of a woman connected with the Society of Friends, Elizabeth Heyrick, which, urging immediate emancipation, electrified the country, and sent forth advocates to plead the immediate freedom of the slave. She ought to be remembered on every occasion on which the friends of the slavery cause were gathered together.
Mr Garrison then went on to eulogise the exertions of the Society of Friends in the cause of human freedom, and said, that were all the churches throughout the world to take the same position, slavery would soon be sent to the pit from which it emanated.
He concluded by saying, that if ever, in an evil hour, he proved treacherous to the cause of freedom, the gifts before him would be witnesses against him; and if ever he struck hands with slavery, he would justly forfeit all claim to them, and any true friend of liberty might take them from him. Mr Garrison resumed his seat amid great applause.
Mr G. THOMPSON then rose to address the meeting, and was received with enthusiastic applause. This was an occasion which he had long desired to see in Edinburgh – a sight to behold which he had yearned many years – to witness his beloved brother standing in the presence of the assembled thousands of this city to vindicate himself from the foul charges which had been brought against him. (Cheers.) He had thought it a hard and strange thing that those who professed to love the slave, when they cast their eye over the field of battle, and saw the struggle going on for the liberation of three millions of God’s family from bonds, should be more anxious to discharge their weapons at the champion of the oppressed, than at the enemies of these oppressed three millions. (Applause.) If they really loved the slave, they must love the man who was now present. They might deplore his errors in opinion, if there really be any to deplore; but the man they would be constrained to love. He had often looked, but in vain, to see the traducers of Mr Garrison quote some portion of his writings in proof of the various charges which they had brought against him.
The other day, however, the Rev. Mr Lorimer, at a meeting of the Free Church Presbytery of Glasgow, quoted, in proof of the infidelity of the abolitionists of America, a resolution passed at a meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society in New York, at which Mr Garrison presided. The resolution stated that the meeting ‘rejoiced in the present declining state of American religion, inasmuch as it voluntarily came forth to baptise and to sanction slavery, which Mahommedanism had abolished, and Catholicism condemned.’ Mr Thompson, at great length, defended this resolution, and showed that Mr Lorimer had put a construction on it which it did not bear. Who, he asked, would not wish to see the decline of a religion which baptised and sanctioned slavery? and that was all that was meant by the resolution.
After referring to the abolition of slavery by the Bey of Tunis, and the denunciation of it by a bull of the late Pope, as bearing out this resolution, he noticed the proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance, and said he had recently taken the verdict of 20,000 of his countrymen upon that subject, and of these 20,000 persons, only seven had held up their hands in favour of the Alliance.
He then minutely detailed what had been done in the Alliance on the subject of American slavery up to the resolution to which that body came on the 29th of August – that the branches of the Alliance would admit to membership only those slaveholders who were such involuntarily, and not for their own interests. To talk of an involuntary slaveholder was, he said, to make the God the author of the sin which the slaveholder committed, and to say that there were slaveholders in the United States who were so, from no fault of their own, was saying that which was notoriously untrue and nonsensical. In this matter that body was guilt of a most fearful compromise, and its members, scores of whom he could name, voted in defiance of principles which they had deliberately avowed previous to joining the Alliance. Would any one rise in that vast assembly and tell him that the adoption of that resolution was not a deliberate compromise of the convictions and principles of hundreds of the English members of the Alliance? He would prove this from the lips of the members of that body who had confessed that it was so. (Hear.)
This deed was done on Saturday night. The Sabbath meditations of the Americans brought them to the conclusion, that the resolution would not do for them, and they determined to go in a body to the Conference on Monday morning, and have it repealed. They did so. One party in the Conference sought to conciliate them, by moving that the obnoxious resolution should be placed among the miscellaneous proceedings of the Conference, and form no part of the general organisation. This, however, was not enough. Another party moved that the whole of the proceedings on the subject of slavery be rescinded. This the British delegates feared to do suddenly, and the result was, that after another day spent in discussion, the whole matter was referred to a committee, to report to the Conference on the 1st September. This committee came up on the Tuesday morning, and counselled that the whole of the documents on the subject of slavery should be struck out of the proceedings of the Alliance, and that the branches to be hereafter formed should be recommended to form their alliances according to the peculiar circumstances of the countries in which they were formed. This counsel was adopted, and the consequence was, that after four days of incessant deliberation, prayer, reading of the Scriptures, and cogitations of committees, the Conference determined to record no opinion on the question of slaveholding, and deliberately refused to exclude slaveholders from their alliance. (Cries of ‘Shame.’) All this was a concession to the pro-slavery feeing of the American delegates. (Hear, hear.)
Now, the question was, is there any thing to condemn in the conduct of the Alliance? They had been told that there was no slaveholder in the Alliance. There was a slaveholder among them. There was the notorious Dr Smythe from Charlestown – (hisses) – a man who, before he entered the Alliance, had been to Ireland, to the town where he was born (Belfast), and had presented himself before the General Assembly of the Irish Presbyterian Church, and had been refused admission. His name was not even mentioned in that Assembly, though he sat there from day to day listening to the proceedings. He thought proper, while there, to utter a foul libel upon his friend Frederick Douglas, which he persisted in, until he received an intimation from a respectable firm that there was such a thing in this country as a law of libel, when he immediately confessed the falsehood of that which he had before asserted.4(Cheers.)
And yet this man was admitted into the Evangelical Alliance, and his speeches were listened to upon the subject of slavery. Now what was the charge he brought against that Alliance? It was this, that they deliberately refused to pass any sentence of condemnation upon slavery. He knew about a hundred men in that Alliance who had stood with himself upon anti-slavery platforms, to denounce the pro-slavery character of the American Churches. There were leading members of that Alliance who, in 1840 and 1843, in conventions of abolitionists from various parts of the world, voted for resolutions condemning all religious communion with slaveholders.5 (Cheers.)
Among the many who had sought to defend the Alliance, there was one gentleman pre-eminently worthy of respectful notice, and he was the only defender of the Alliance whom he should on that occasion refer to. He could not refer to a writer more respectable or talented, or one whom he more sincerely esteemed, and venerated, and loved. Upon getting to Scotland, he found that there had been most industriously circulated throughout the country a letter from the Rev. Dr Wardlaw, which was originally inserted in the Patriot newspaper.6 That reverend and respected gentleman, in the first place, expressed his own view of slavery, a view in which he (Mr Thompson) most cordially agreed with him.
I must say, for myself, I will not yield in my abhorrence of the infernal system of slavery, to Garrison, to Thompson, or to any man breathing. It is one of those subjects on which I feel it in no small trial of temper to speak or write with patience, and am strongly tempted to put violence among the virtues. American slavery, in all its characteristics, its bearings, and its results, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, I regard as, of all accursed things on the face of the earth, one of the most accursed.
What did he say respecting communion with slaveholders?
Nothing in the condition of the slaveholder can ever be an excuse for our implicating ourselves more or less, directly or indirectly, in the evil, by anything, or any measure, either of communion or connivance. If they cannot keep their hands clean, that can be no reason why we should defile ours – why we should defile them even by clasping theirs.
This was sound doctrine. This was all for which he contended. He did not ask that any man should speak more strongly of slavery than Dr Wardlaw had spoken in the eloquent passage first read. If the Alliance would adopt these words of Dr Wardlaw, he would be as earnest in his condemnations of that Alliance as he was now in sincere in the condemnation of that body.
The doctor, nevertheless, went on to say, that the Alliance had been maligned; and he quoted a short passage from a speech of his (Mr T.’s) in Exeter Hall in which he spoke of the Alliance ‘preferring a union with Drs Cox, Emery, Smythe, and Olin, to the maintenance of principle.’ He did not, if he recollected right, mention Dr Wardlaw in Exeter Hall, unless to express his deep regret that he should be amongst men who had acted as the Alliance had done; for he was given to understand that the doctor had in the Conference expressed similar sentiments to those in the letter which now lay before him. He certainly said on that occasion, and would say not, that the interests of the slave were abandoned – that the abolition principle was compromised to please the American delegates who were present in that assembly.
This he knew, and this Dr Wardlaw, he thought, must know. He knew that if these sixty American delegates had not been there, there would have been no hesitation in sanctioning the amendment of Mr Hinton. But, be that as it might, he knew that that amendment was rejected.
The doctor then went on to say – and he held him to his words –
if the Alliance does indeed consist, in whole or in part, of ‘those who would maintain slavery’ – I at once admit the justice of the conclusion in which you yourself have come, that ‘no consistent anti-slavery man can remain a member of this so-called Evangelical Alliance.’
If Dr Wardlaw would abide by these words, he would prove that he was not, and could not be, according to his own declaration, a member of the Alliance, without falsifying what he had written in this letter. ‘Show me,’ says Dr Wardlaw, ‘in that Alliance any one who maintains slavery.’
Mr Thompson then proceeded to point out from the speeches and actings of Dr Olin and the Rev. Samuel H. Cox of America, that they were uncompromising defenders of slavery.
But to take another specimen of the Alliance. The Rev. Mr Clowes, a clergyman of the Church of England, came forward at Norwich to defend the Alliance, and in his (Mr T.’s) presence declared, that if his father had left him slaves, he would have kept a powerful hand over them for the good of their souls. (Hear.)
Take again the president of the Alliance, Sir Culling Eardley Smith. That gentleman, on being questioned in a public meeting at Aylesbury, boldly said that one of the most Christian minded members of the Alliance was a Brazilian mining slaveholder, and an intimate friend of his, and so highly did he esteem his Christian character, that he would sooner abandon the Alliance than cease to hold Christian fellowship with that slaveholder.
Take the Rev. Mr Ewbank, another member of the Alliance, who, in reply to Dr Wardlaw, distinctly advocated the admission of slaveholders.
Who then were they to take as trustworthy exponents of the principles of the Alliance, and how could Dr Wardlaw belong to it when he found fellow members advocating such views as those which he had brought forward? Was not his rev. friend bound by his own letter to come out from the Alliance? (Cheers.)
Mr Thompson then went on to say that he was ready to confirm what Mr Garrison had said, that out of 60 or 70 American delegates who came to this country, there were not above six of them who would be regarded as abolitionists in the United States, or as aught by practical enemies to the abolition movement. And yet Dr Wardlaw said in another part of his letter,
Our American brethren who were with us are anti-slavery men like ourselves.
Now, of what importance were the doings of the Alliance upon the question of slavery? Of great importance. What had transpired since the Alliance? The Free Church of Scotland had claimed the Alliance as its own. The Free Church of Scotland had boldly declared, through her organs, that herself and the Alliance were one; ergo – and it was a very modest assertion – the voice of Christendom was in favour of the views of the Free Church.
Mr Thompson then called attention to the proceedings of the Old School Presbyterian Assembly of the United States, in reference to a letter from the Synod of Canada, on the subject of slavery. This letter, which very likely emanated from Dr Burns of the Free Church, was treated with the utmost contempt. The American brethren had triumphed; but he would appeal from the Free Church of Scotland to the free people of Scotland, and from the Evangelical Alliance of England to the people of England, and he would ay to them, You must not put your trust in these bodies. Let the cause of the slave be taken up by you. let the anti-slavery character of both be vindicated by you; and in your individual character do what you can to arouse both the one and the other from the domination to which they have subjected themselves by an alliance with slavery.
Hoping to have an opportunity of attending another meeting next week, Mr Thompson concluded a long and able speech by proposing a vote of thanks to the Chairman.
The meeting then separated.
Scotsman, 24 October 1846
A meeting was held on Wednesday night in Brighton Church for the purpose again hearing Messrs George Thompson, William L. Garrison, Henry C. Wright, and Frederick Douglass on the subject of American slavery. Admittance was by tickets at a small charge, and the church was crowded to overflow. Mr John Wigham, jun., was called to the chair.
The Chairman briefly opened the proceedings by referring to the many vile aspersions which the enemies of Mr Garrison and of the slave had advanced against him, with the view of neutralising his efforts in behalf of humanity, and, amongst the rest, that he was an infidel. He (the chairman) had carefully investigated into the character of Mr Garrison, and he denies the charge most emphatically, and in toto. He was satisfied that Mr Garrison was a Christian man who reverenced Holy Scriptures, and held the divinity of Christ with all his attributes, as mentioned in the New Testament.
Mr Douglass related to the fortunate circumstances by which a man, who had been a fellow-slave with him at Baltimore eight years ago, had effected his freedom, and whom he had accidentally met on Monday in Liverpool. The slave in question had been employed by his master as cook on board a vessel, which having been driven by stress of weather into Nassau, New Providence, he with great difficulty gained his freedom, because he was on ground which enjoyed the liberty of the British flag.
Mr Lloyd Garrison next came forward, amid great applause, and addressed the meeting. He was amazed that he should he charge with being an infidel by men who held their brother as their property; for surely if the slaveholder was not an infidel of the worst kind before God and man, there was no such thing as infidelity at all. (Applause.) They had been charged with departing from their proper mission, and entering upon a war with the Free Church and the Evangelical Alliance. But why did they do so? Not because they had forgotten the slave? no; but because the Free Church had placed itself on the side of the slaveholder, and against the slave, and because the Evangelical Alliance had bowed the knee to the Moloch of slavery, and refused to say one word against his bloody and impious reign. (Cheers.)
Mr Garrison next alluded to his late visit to Belfast, and complained that some of the papers there were filled with malignant abuse of him, and with the foulest misrepresentations of his religious principles, solely for the purpose of deterring persons from attending the meetings of the anti-slavery deputation. But the real question was as to his fidelity to the anti-slavery movement. Had any one dared to arraign him that he was not a staunch and true abolitionist? No; not one of his traducers had attempted such a charge. The emancipation of the slave was their test, and abiding by it, he would ask had the Free Church yet come to the conclusion of sending back the money? (Cheers.) If it had not, then it was to be charged with being one of the great bulwarks which supported and protected slavery in the United States, entertaining with religious friendship men who treat those made in the image of God as marketable commodities. He did not wish to pick a quarrel with the Free Church, or with any religious denomination whatever; all he asked was, that they should wash their hands of such heinous crimes and have nothing to do with thieves and idolaters.
After some farther remarks, Mr Garrison concluded by remarking, that the delegates from America at the Evangelical Alliance were all pro-slavery men, some of them being themselves slaveholders, all of them giving the right hand of fellowship to men-stealers, and eager in going with the mobocracy in denouncing the abolitionists, to make them odious to the whole world.
The Chairman then addressed Mr Garrison, and in name of the anti-slavery ladies of Edinburgh, presented him with an elegant silver coffee and teapot, sugar basin, and cream ewer, as a mark of the high estimation in which they held him for his labours in behalf of the slave, more especially those of the United States; and also with a handsome purse containing ten sovereigns, the gift of a lady, daughter of one of the oldest friends of freedom in Edinburgh.
Mr Garrison having received the memento, amid loud and reiterated cheering, proceeded to acknowledge his thanks for so generous a donation. He said he received it as a testimony in behalf of the cause in which he was engaged, and the coadjutors with whom he was associated. It formed their reply to the aspersions made on his character, and he would gladly take it that the American slaveholders might see it – that the apologist of slavery might see it, and because he wanted the coloured population of America to see it. (Cheers.)
Mr Thompson addressed the assemblage at great length. He said that, about ten years ago, every leading church in this country stood up in opposition to slavery, and Dr Candlish, Dr Cunningham, Mr Lorimer, and Mr Begg, and other clergymen, took a prominent part in the cause, never standing up on the platform without denouncing the conduct of the American churches as a curse to man and a defiance of the will of God. He then referred to the present opinions, which were decidedly opposed to those they previously held. Mr Thompson’s address was characterised with his usual eloquence and tact, and frequently elicited enthusiastic applause.
The proceedings did not terminate till late in the evening.
Edinburgh Evening Post, 24 October 1846
AMERICAN SLAVERY. – At the request of the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society, Messrs George Thompson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Frederick Douglass, last night addressed a numerous meeting (admitted by tickets) in Brighton Street Church, on the subject of slavery in the United States, and the conduct of the Free Church and the Evangelical Alliance in reference to its holding followship [sic] with those Churches in America which admitted to the communion those who held their fellow-men in bondage. The chair was occupied by J. Wigham Esq. In the course of the evening Mr Garrison was presented with five handsome pieces of silver plate, consisting of a tea service and tray, the gift of the ladies of Edinburgh, as a token of their esteem and admiration, on behalf of those enslaved. Mr G. was also presented with a very handsome purse, containing L.20, the gift, as the chairman said, of a young lady, the daughter of one of the oldest abolitionists in Edinburgh. Mr Garrison returned thanks, and thanks having been given to the chairman, the meeting separated.
Caledonian Mercury, 22 October 1846
(From an Edinburgh Correspondent.)
On the evening of Wednesday, the 21st inst., Messrs Thompson, Douglass and Garrison held another of their Anti-slavery meetings as they are technically called. When we entered, Douglass, the runaway slave, was haranguing his audience from the pulpit – for Brighton Street chapel was the place of meeting. This ‘fugitive,’ by the bye, is a singularly gifted individual, of whose speeches one may with all safety pronounce this opinion, that what of them is ‘true is now new, and what is new is not true.’
Aware of this, his coadjutors have him, generally speaking, first disposed of, in shape of what, we may venture to call a tentaculum or feeler, wherewith he sounds the moral depths of his audience, so that those who are to come after him may know what hidden shoals to steer clear of. The sea, if we may so speak, or rather the ‘sea of heads,’ is quite of the voluntary ‘caste,’ for no sooner does the orator discern a rock a-head, which may chance to be either the Free Church or Evangelical Alliance, than he may anticipate, as a matter of course, the hoarse murmurings of the troubled waters, when emphatically he calls upon the former to ‘SEND BACK THE MONEY.’
The latter – the Evangelical Alliance – requires more tackling in order to reach, and the method of doing so is quite characteristic. The first thing done is to inform the audience that the American delegates are ‘pro-slavery’ men of the worst stamp, who, if they should hear anything in the Conference in opposition to their sentiments on slavery were prepared at once to break up the Alliance – a consummation this which the British, and especially the Free Church brethren, were not desirous of. The deliberations of the Americans in committee are detailed in such a way, that of course the pious sensibilities of the audience are affected as if by an electric shock. Then, as regards the resolution come to by the Alliance, it is disposed of in a quite off-hand manner. In it the Free Church rejoices, therein finding a pretext for covering its unhallowed fellowship; in fact, were it was passed the resolution was a ‘consummation devoutly to be wished.’ But we are anticipating things as they actually occurred.
When Douglass had sounded the depths before him, the latest importation under the New Tariff, in the person of Lloyd Garrison, Esq., ascended into the pulpit. His appearance is quite characteristic of the race. All the world know, of course, the leading features of an American’s toilette. As regards his locks, they possess that lanky-go-backness peculiar to the nation; and his collar that graceful dependence over the stock which all Americans delight in, when they have, that is to say, a collar to turn down. Our expectations of him were high, but they were sadly disappointed, for we had heard much of his oratorical powers, piety, and godliness. In his call upon the Free Church to ‘Send back the money,’ there was no new feature; we thought perhaps he might have altered the phrase, in order to dissipate the staleness of the expression – for example, he might have said, instead of ‘Send back the money,’ Remit the pecuniary circulation. Doubts, however, as to the capabilities of his audience to comprehend the change might perhaps lead him to retain the old term. In his remarks there was nothing which we hadn’t heard a hundred times before. As for argumentation there was none; the only attempt of the kind was one which at first had some plausibility in it, and it was this: After speaking at some length upon the misrepresentations of his religious sentiments, alluding, of course, as all the world knows, to his infidel views of the Sabbath, (which had been promulgated far and wide to the damage of the anti-slavery cause), he went on to say, and asked ‘what would your own Anti-Corn-Law League have been had some enemy within the camp refused to co-operate with Cobden and Bright, because these gentlemen differed in religious sentiments from him?’ Yes, Mr Garrison, the absurdity of such an exhibition is abundantly manifest. But the same question as regards your own League (which is liberal enough to embrace men of every shade of religious opinion, as you yourself remarked) resolved itself into quite another feature. And it is this: Can I, as a member of one of the noble Churches of Christ, co-operate with you for the annihilation of slavery upon a platform, whence judgment is given forth pronouncing my Church to be no Church at all, because it can and does recognise in many of the slave-holders brethren in the Lord – judgment, I repeat, coming from the lips of men who know not what Socinianism means, and you are one of those, for such was your declaration on the evening of Wednesday, the 21st inst. Had that individual whose case you supposed, so raged against the church of Cobden and Bright, would, think you, the Anti-Corn-Law League ever have carried the day? Take the lesson home to yourself, and, as an ‘honourable man,’ ‘for you are all honourable,’ thunder all your eloquence against the stronghold of slavery itself, rouse the lion in his den, or, like to a skilful physician, exhibit your remedies where they are most needed, in those parts stricken with disease, and not in the extremities or confines of the world; so doing, Ovid’s maxim is your own: Opiferque per orbem Dicor – ‘And am the great physician called.’ – Dryden.
So much on this point, we hasten on. The slavery question, of course, was never mooted. In concluding, he prayed that he might be kept true to his principles, both here and on the other side of the Atlantic.
Having finished, he was on the point of sitting down, when his ‘dear friend’ George Thompson, lifting up a tray on which were placed some silver plate, consisting of a coffee and tea-pot, sugar-basin, and cream-jug, turned round, and handed it to the chairman, Mr Whigham, who presented it to our friend Garrison, in name of the ‘women of Edinburgh,’ as also a purse, wrought by a young damsel, said to contain ten sovereigns.
In acknowledging the gift, he thanked the donors from the bottom of his heart, but said that, in other circumstances, he would have felt it to be his duty not to accept it, inasmuch as there were others far worthier of it than he. (We will wait in patience to see if his disinterestedness will have any weight with the ‘women of Edinburgh’ in remembering the claims of George Thompson upon their generosity.) Meanwhile, however, he would accept of it, as through him it would speak to those upon the other side of the Atlantic. He was anxious that the slaveholders should see his gift, and what is more striking still, he is anxious that the slaves themselves should see it. But how this is to be accomplished we cannot make out, unless he give a series of ‘tea shines’ through the various slave states; breakfasts also would perhaps enable him to get more quickly through with this work. Of course, 3d. a-head is the least that can be expected for the privilege of seeing the plate, and drinking a cup of the Chinese beverage poured out from the tea-pot be honoured. He (Garrison) gave us to understand that, if ever he was tempted to forget his principles, this gift would be no longer his, and any one would have the right to enter into his house and carry off the present as his own. We are not much afraid, however, of him forsaking his principles, or of his ‘right hand forgetting its cunning.’ As to the right of any one entering his abode, and carrying off what was no longer his, because he had made shipwreck of his faith, it teaches some so-called ministers of the Gospel in our own land what they would have suffered had the event of May, 1843, taken place, not in Scotland, but in America.
After Garrison had resumed his seat, we were favoured with a repetition of George Thompson‘s second-hand eloquence and arguments. In seeing him speak, we are forcibly reminded of the poet’s line –
which, when freely translated, means, Much ado about nothing. We left George in the middle of his harangue, after proving that Dr Wardlaw can no longer remain a remember of the Evangelical Alliance, seeing that there are many members thereof with as warm a side to slavery and all its horrors as was ever the veriest taskmaster under Pharaoh of the Egyptians.
We conclude, trusting that we have not trespassed too long upon your patience.
C.G.R., Dumfries and Galloway Standard, 28 October 1846.
William Lloyd Garrison to Elizabeth Pease, Perth, 25 October 1846, reprinted in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 445.
Douglass wrote a letter from here on 30 October 1846. See The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series Three: Correspondence, Volume 1: 1842–52, edited by John R. McKivigan (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 178 n2.
This gift later caused Garrison some difficulty. He was charged duty on it (which he could ill afford) when he arrived in Boston, leading him to write a letter of complaint to the customs official, reprinted in the Liberator (25 December 1846), which, in an appended note, informed readers that the gift was then on display at Faneuil Hall, presumably as part of the annual Christmas bazaar. In a subsequent article we learn that anti-slavery women had clubbed together and made good Garrison’s loss (Liberator, 30 July 1847).
Rev Dr Thomas Smyth, of the Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, was responsible for raising much of the money donated to the Free Church in the American South. In letters to Thomas Chalmers he expressed frustration on hearing mild abolitionist statements from some Free Church leaders, concerned of ‘the possibility of having our gifts reciprocated by anathema and abuse.’ During his visit to Belfast in 1846 (where he was asked to exclude himself from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland) Smyth repeated a rumour he had heard of Douglass visiting a brothel in Manchester. Douglass’ lawyers forced him to retract. See Alasdair Pettinger, Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846: Living an Antislavery Life (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp. 66-7, 79, 92.
It was our intention to hold a meeting in Aberdeen on Monday evening … but we find that we shall be compelled to ride on the outside of the coach all night to-night, and we dare not run this risk to our health. So, we shall send word to this effect to our Aberdeen friends, and hold another public meeting in this place to-morrow evening.1
A notice in the Aberdeen Press and Journal on 28 October confirms that there were plans for a meeting at County Rooms on the 26th, ‘but on account, we believe, of the indisposition of Mr Garrison, no meeting was held, and it has been for the present postponed’.
So a second meeting was held at City Hall on Monday 26th. Newspaper reports covered both the Friday and Monday meetings, but it would seem that George Thompson was the main speaker on the Monday night. He devoted much of his speech responding to a call that he reply to charges outlined in a pamphlet recently addressed to him. The Constitutional estimated an audience of 1500 at least; the less sympathetic Advertiser offered a figure of 600 or 700.
MONDAY EVENING, 26TH OCT.
The meeting this evening was very numerous – 1500 at least. Mr. Thompson delivered a powerfully eloquent address of at least two hours’ duration. Our space will not admit of a report this week. The resolution given notice of on Saturday evening was proposed in the following terms:–
Resolved, that the conduct of the Free Church of Scotland, in receiving the money of man stealers, and in return, receiving those notorious criminals into full communion and of the Evangelical Alliance Conference, in refusing to exclude slaveholders from that body, that they might thereby conciliate the pro-slavery spirit of the American deligation [sic], deserves, and ought to receive, the condemnation of all uncompromising Christians, and of all the friends of freedom and humanity throughout the world.
This was regularly put from the chair, when a forest of hands appeared. A show of hands was called for against it, when not one hand was held up.
Perthshire Constitutional, 28 October 1846
On the evenings of Saturday and Monday, Messrs. Thompson, Garrison, and Douglass delivered addresses in the City-Hall here, on the subject of American slavery, or, more properly, on the shortcomings of the Free Church, the Methodists, the Baptists, the Independents, the ‘Evangelical Alliance,’ and the other bodies that make up the majority of the British religious public.
On the present occasion Mr Thompson‘s usual eloquence did not desert him, but rather rioted in a more abundant harvest of rich expressions, so suasive as to rob his statements and arguments of much of that bitterness which they were intended to convey.
Mr Garrison‘s oratory, though strong and effective, is of a more homely character. His enunciation is slow and pointed, but manly and earnest; and if he wants the power to fascinate, he can certainly command the attention of an audience in no ordinary degree.
Mr Douglass took little part in the proceedings.
As the gist of these gentlemen’s speeches, with all their statements and arguments, are before the public, and have long been so, it is unnecessary to furnish our readers with a report of what was said, for there was nothing absolutely new brought forward on this occasion.
Previous to the breaking up of the meeting on Monday evening, Mr. Robertson, secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society of Edinburgh, who accompanied the above-named gentlemen, proposed a resolution, for which nearly half of the hands of those present were held up.
It was as follows:–
Resolved, that the conduct of the Free Church of Scotland, in receiving the money of men-stealers, and, in return, receiving those notorious criminals into full communion – and of the Evangelical Alliance Conference, in refusing to exclude slaveholders from that body, that they might thereby concilate the pro-slavery spirit of the American delegation – deerves, and ought to receive, the condemnation of all uncompromising Christians, and of all the friends of freedom and humanity throughout the world.
There were from 600 to 700 persons present on Monday evening; but had it not been for the desire to hear Mr. Thompson the concern would undoubtedly have been a total failure.
Perthshire Advertiser, 29 October 1846
AMERICAN SLAVERY. – [continued] The Monday meeting was of a much more pleasing character. Mr Thomson spoke for nearly three hours, and was highly eloquent; and while he did not spare the Free Church, he studiously avoided every thing like an expression or sentiment calculated to give offence. Considerable interest too was excited by an impression that some one was to appear and discuss the subject of the Free Church with Mr Thomson. This arose from a note being handed to him of the following purport.
An auditor is desirous of ascertaining why Mr Thomson refused to accept of the challenge of Mr Cameron of Edinburgh, to discuss the question of American Slavery, as between him and the Free Church, through the medium of the newspapers.2 The auditor felt convinced that the Free Church people of Perth would give every attention to the subject in print; while they would not allow themselves to be led away by platform oratory. The citizens of Perth were a thinking and considerate people, and liked something better to study than mere sound and declamation – a was evinced on the last occasion when Messrs Douglass and Wright addressed them. The auditor knew that Mr Thompson would likely say he had replied to Mr Cameron’s pamphlet, and that triumphantly; but why, he (an auditor) would ask, did Mr Thompson refuse to authenticate that reply as it appeared in the newspapers, or give another to admit of Mr Cameron giving a rejoinder? the more especially as Mr Cameron had promised to follow whithersoever he (Mr Thompson) would lead, and tear all his arguments to pieces.
Mr Thompson stated that an ‘auditor’s’ information was not much extended, or he would have known that he (Mr Thompson) had published a pamphlet, which he now had in his hand, on the connection of the Free Church with Slavery, and which was a sufficient reply to Mr Cameron’s pamphlet, and all other arguments upon the subject by the Free Church besides. He had shown in Edinburgh that the pamphlet of Mr Cameron consisted of a tissue of gross falsehoods and misrepresentations. Mr Cameron had in it given Dr Channing‘s opinion of the Anti-Slavery advocates in America while he was yet unacquainted with their character; and had garbled the extracts which he quoted from Dr Channing in a most unjustifiable manner. He would like the ‘auditor’ to come upon the platform when he was through, and state his views. As to ‘platform oratory’ and ‘declamation,’ he would just say that he would give the ‘auditor’ and the ‘thinking and considerate’ citizens of Perth, documentary facts as to the views held of Slavery by the slave-holding Churches in America, and with whom the Free Church had shaken hands.
Mr Thompson also dwelt at considerable length upon the remarkable assertion, that Mr Cameron would take his arguments to pieces before he had heard them! He then entered in a strain of impassioned eloquence into the merits of the question – quoted a host of documentary evidence to show how the system of Slavery was not only justified, but advocated by the American slave-holding clergy there, and that from the Bible – and concluded with a most brilliant peroration. After remarks were made by the other orators, and a resolution was passed, unanimously, condemnatory of the Free Church as to her connection with Slavery in America, and to the position assumed by the Evangelical Alliance on the subject – the meeting retired.
Perthshire Advertiser, 29 October 1846
William Lloyd Garrison to Elizabeth Pease, Perth, 25 October 1846, in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p.446.
[Andrew Cameron], The Free Church and Her Accusers in the Matter of American Slavery; Being a Letter to Mr. George Thompson, Regarding His Recent Appearances in this City (Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1846).
Frederick Douglass’ appearance in Perth on Saturday 24th must have been organised before he had left Liverpool at the beginning of the week, as this notice appeared in the Perthsire Constitutional on the morning of the 21st:
AMERICAN SLAVERY / PUBLIC MEETING in the CITY HALL, on SATURDAY, the 24th current, when Addresses will be delivered by WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, GEORGE THOMPSON, and FREDERICK DOUGLASS. Chair to be taken precisely t 7 o’clock; Doors open at Half-past 6; and to prevent confusion. Tickets, 2d each, Reserved Seats, 6d, to be had at the Booksellers.
N.B.-The Committee of the Perth Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society beg to intimate that, before despatching to the Boston Bazaar, the many, various, elegant, and FANCY ARTICLES, which have been so kindly contributed, they will be arranged for public inspection in the GUILD HALL, on Friday the 30th curt., betwixt the hours of 11 and 4.
Yesterday, we came to this city, from Dundee, in a steamer borne on the noble river Tay, but the weather was dismal and stormy, so that we lost (what I much desired to see) a good prospect, and saw very little of the river scenery. It was a bad evening for our meeting – for, in addition to the inclement state of the wather, it was Saturday night, preparatory to the administration of ‘the Sacrament,’ and the people were religiously at their several places of worship. We had, nevertheless, about 400 persons present, and a very satisfactory meeting.1
The report in the Perthshire Advertiser gives the impression that only Garrison and Thompson spoke at length, but the Perthshire Constitutional indicates that Douglass made a significant contribution too, delivering perhaps his best-crafted critical response to the debate on slavery at the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland on 30 May, which he attended.2
TO REVIEW THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND AND THE EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE IN REFERENCE TO AMERICAN SLAVERY
On Saturday evening last, a meeting was held in the City Hall, to hear addresses from G. Thompson and W. L. Garrison, Esqs, and Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave in impeachment of the conduct of the Free Church of Scotland and the Evangelical Alliance, in having given their sanction to slavery, by receiving slaveholders into Christian fellowship. Owing to this peculiar time of the week, the unfavourable state of the weather, and the occurrence of the sacramental services, the meeting was not so numerous attended as it otherwise would have been. About 500 persons, however, were present.
Mr. Taylor having been called to the chair, made a few preliminary remarks, and introduced to the meeting
Mr. F. Douglass, who, upon rising, was received with much applause. Having made a few appropriate observations in reference to the circumstances which had occurred in connection with the mission upon which he had come to Scotland since he last had an opportunity of addressing the inhabitants of Perth, he was succeeded by
Mr. W. L. Garrison, who, upon presenting himself, was greeting with the warm plaudits of the meeting. He said he was conscious of standing in the presence of men who had most powerfully assisted in the emancipation of 800,000 slaves in the British colonies, and who were opposed to slavery in every part of the world. He himself was an American abolitionist, who had been outlawed by a very large portion of his countrymen because of his love of universal liberty. Why had the people of Great Britain abolished their own colonial slavery? Because they believed it to be a crime against God, and an outrage upon man, to take away the liberty of a fellow-being.
American slavery was even still worse than British slavery. What a spectacle was presented in the year 1846; – men who began their career by proclaiming to the world that they held it to be a self-evident truth that God had made all men free and equal, and had given to every human being the inalienable right of liberty: and yet, that that people, after seventy years of national existence, should be found the possessors of 3,000,000 of slaves, reduced to the condition of things – beings bought and sold, cropped, maimed, branded, driven by the driver’s lash, and hunted by blood-hounds if they should attempt to gain their liberty by flight, and yet, with all that deep depravity, that the Americans should profess to be influenced by the Gospel of Christ, assuming to be the nation of nations, which was destined to diffuse the light of knowledge, civilization, and Christianity, throughout the whole world! (Hear.)
Oh, he (Mr Garrison) was ashmed of his native land, and of those who talked about their regard to Republicanism, and in one hand flourished their bold declaration of independence, and in the other the slave-driver’s whip. If they consented to make a man a ‘thing,’ then it was of no use talking about abuses in connection with that thing. It was of no use speaking of the guilt of taking away the Bible from a thing, of depriving it of the power of learning to read. It was folly to talk about the awful sin of taking away the institution of marriage from a piece of property. No one ever thought of marrying their shovels and tongs, chairs and tables. All the lacerations and other horrors which slavery presented to the world were but the legitimate fruits of the tree.
In consenting to make a man a slave the slaveholders and their apologists had committed the sin of sins against God, and no other sin which it was possible to commit could be added to that sin. He who struck down a human being, and placed him among four-footed beasts, was a man who, of all others, denied God, attempted to dethrone the Deity, and was the greatest Atheist in the universe.
Mr Garrison then read extracts from advertisements respecting runaway slaves, shewing from the published descriptions of their persons, the dreadful lacerations and mutilations to which the slaves were subjected. Not a word was uttered either by the clergy or the Churches against the diabolical system. Men were admitted to the pulpits of all denominations who bought and sold human beings. The American delegates who came over here represented slavery to be a local institution. Those men wanted to be thought good abolitionists in this country. But the truth was, that slavery was a national crime, a national institution, and the whole country were responsible for its existence. Prisons were built for the specific purpose of holding runaway slaves, at the expense of the whole Union, north as well as south.
Dr. Campbell had charged him (Mr Garrison) with being an opponent of religion, but he pronounced Dr. Campbell to be a calumniator and libeller, and the attempt which he had made to support his allegation had covered him with confusion of face.3 The resolution which had been commented upon by Dr. Campbell in the Christian Witness had reference to the slave-holding, woman-whipping, cradle-plundering religion of America, which baptized and sanctified that slavery; while, upon the other hand, the Mahomedan Bey of Tunis abolished slavery and the slave trade throughout his dominions; and the late Pope had warned the faithful under his spiritual jurisdiction to keep their garments free from the sin of slavery.
Mr Garrison having alluded to the circumstances connected with the Free Church’s reception of the money of slaveholders, and extending to them full Christian fellowship in return, besought his audience to raise their protest against that act of the Free Church, and never to cease agitating that question until they had been compelled to send back the money.
Mr Frederick Douglass then came forward and said, – I happened to be in Edinburgh during the last General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, and then for the first time in my life I had the privilege of attending such an ecclesiastical meeting. I will now state to you the grandest and strongest argument – the argument most loudly applauded in that august assemblage at Canon Mills, in the month of May last, in behalf of American slavery.
I heard the speech of Dr Candlish, and certainly it was Dr. Candlish all over – Candlish at the commencement, Candlish in the middle, and Candlish at the end. It was the most singular, unsearchable, and inscrutable speech I ever listened to. (Hear.) He commenced by stating what he would not do. He would not discuss this question upon any other principles than those ‘great principles:’ by which he meant those principles of Catholicity by which one Church was bound to another Church. He believed that this Church would not consent to discuss the question – that the religious people of Scotland would not consent to discuss the question – ‘upon any other principles than those great principles of Catholicity’ (Laughter.) Over and over again he said ‘he would not consent to discuss this question.’ Still he did consent to discuss it.– He managed to delude his hearers, and continued to mystify the whole question, so that the people when he closed his discourse scarcely knew what side he had taken.
But there was a bold man among them, a Dr. William Cunningham. He was fearless and uncompromising in his defence of the Christian character of the slaveholders. It remained for him to promulgate the blasphemous doctrine that Jesus Christ and his apostles not only invited slaveholders to their communion, but slaveholders who had a legal right to kill slaves. (Cries of ‘Shame.’) He never uttered a whisper of condemnation against them.
I heard that statement myself from Dr. Cunningham. I looked around to see a shudder in the audience. I looked around expecting to behold one universal shudder from the large and apparently intelligent audience. I looked around thinking to find the brows of every man in the audience knit with indignation, that any man should dare to stand up in a Christian assembly in Scotland, and thus libel Christ and his apostles. (Loud cheers.)
But I looked in vain: instead of a shudder of horror, or the loud burst of indignation, shouts of applause were heard on every side. (Hisses and cries of ‘Shame.’) The attempt to bring Christ into fellowship with men-stealers was actually pleaded on the floor of the Free Church General Assembly on the 30th of May last, at Canon Mills. (Cheers.)
But Dr. Cunningham argued the question with Mr. Macbeth. Mr. Macbeth had dared – and it was a bold thing for him to do – to question the soundness of the views of his brother upon this point of man-stealing. He thought that slavery was a sin, and that of necessity, therefore, slaveholders were sinners. Dr. Cunningham took this ground: admitting for argument sake – which he was not altogether disposed to admit – that slavery was a sin, it did not follow that slaveholders were sinners. (Hear and laughter.)
At this point of the discussion all eyes were turned upon the Doctor. He admitted that Mr. Macbeth had stated the subject fairly – (Cries of ‘Oh!’) – that is, the question between the abolitionists and the Free Church was simply this – Is slave-holding necessarily sinful? He should prove that it was not necessarily sinful. Well, the young Free Kirk men, who were sitting all round, seemed astonished at this bold assertion; and they eyed the Doctor to see what great exploit or mighty feat he would do in logic in order to shew, that, after all, slave-holding is not necessarily sinful.
I confess I looked with some degree of solicitude, for I wanted to hear what could be said upon that point, knowing that the Doctor was a very strong and powerful man, both physically and intellectually. (Laughter.)
Well, he supposed a case. ‘Suppose,’ said he, ‘that on the 1st of June next, the Parliament of Great Britain should enact a law declaring all servants slaves to their employers, I then would be a slaveholder, and “by no fault of mine.” “The Law made me a slaveholder.”‘
‘Hurrah, hurrah, my boys!’ said his auditory, ‘the Doctor has proved his point.’ He would not be a ‘slaveholder:’ the law would be the slaveholder.
Well, the Doctor might have sat down at that point and have said to his audience, ‘all further argument is unnecesary; I will submit the case to the jury without any further argument.’
Let us see what this argument amounts to. Why, in order to meet the case it is intended to meet, he must shew that the American slaveholders have, by the laws of America, the slaves imposed upon them, which is utterly untrue. The slaveholders of America themselves make the laws, and among others those by which they hold the slaves. The non-slave-holding part of the population care not a jot or tittle whether the slaveholder holds his slaves or not, so far as troubling themselves to make laws by which the system should be perpetuated. It is the slaveholder who busies himself in obtaining legal enactments by which to enslave his victims, and hold them more securely in bonds.
But suppose the Parliament of Great Britain had, as the Dr. puts the case, passed a Bill consigning all domestic servants as slaves to their employers, and that bill should obtain the royal assent: would Dr. Cunningham dare to sustain the relation of a slaveholder to those domestics? Yes, he would; he has enough of the slaveholder in him to enable him to do that. (Cheers.)
He possesses sufficient of the spirit of the enslaver to permit his sustaining the character of a slave-holder; but the real question is, would Christianity sanction such an act on his part? You know that it would not.
Now let us change the description of sin, and suppose that, instead of slavery, one of the sins comprehended in that most comprehensive crime – for slavery is the sum of all villainies: it is a concentration of violations of all the commands of the Decalogue, not one excepted, – every law of Heaven being broken in the relation of master and slave, – every virtue being broken down, even to the common bond of marriage, as you have already heard – all being swept by the board, and truth, justice, and humanity, all being trampled under foot in the system of slavery; – instead of this comprehensive sin, I say, which Dr. Cunningham would comit in the position he supposes himself placed ‘by no fault of his own,’ we take only one of the sins of which slavery is made up, and test by that single iniquity the soundness of Dr. Cunningham’s position, for if his argument be good in one case, it must be good in another; if sound in reference to one sinful system, it is also true in reference to another sinful system; if it is admitted that what is morally wrong is made righteous by being made legally right. Let us suppose, in the language of Dr. Cunningham that Parliament should enact a law, that upon the 1st of June next all domestic female servants should become concubines to their employers.
‘I then,’ says Dr. Cunningham, ‘should become a fornicator; legally, and by no fault of my own.’ Certainly not, the blame would rest upon the laws! Dr Cunningham would sustain that relation because the law declared its admissibility, because an Act of Parliament justified it. There is nothing in Dr. Cunningham’s speech to lead me to believe that he would not sustain that relation. You will not be shocked at this, my friends. I say there was nothing in his speech to prevent it: for logically he would be bound to sustain that relation. Why not? Is one position less wicked and sinful than the other? Is one sin less revolting to humanity and virtue, and more at war with the eternal mandates of Jehovah, than the other?
Certainly not: every slaveholder is necessarily an adulterer – for what is adultery? It is a disregard of the marriage institution. Every slaveholder in America is an adulterer and a keeper of a brothel. He must of necessity be so because he keeps human beings living in the relation to another where the marriage institution is utterly and entirely obliterated. Go to the plantations of Maryland, and what will you see? Quarters – for what? Where human beings are reared like brutes for the market, without any regard for virtue or marriage; where marriage is actually a crime; where two human beings making a contract with each other and forming a marriage relation, is looked upon as treading against the government of the master. (Hear, hear.)
Do not be shocked, my friends, at the palpable immorality of the case I am supposing. I am merely carrying out the reasoning of Dr. Cunningham. I do not believe, however, that Dr. Cunningham would sustain that relation in all honesty. I believe him to be a holy man, – for he who can apologise for my enslavement, and defend the conduct of my enslavement, although he might profess Christianity until he is black and blue, he will not convince me that he has the spirit of Christianity in him. (Loud cheers.)
I hope I know something of the spirit of Christ. I trust I am acquainted with it by experience. I know that the spirit is love and good will. I know that it proclaims the doctrine of the Deity – doing unto others as we would be done unto. I know it enjoins us to remember those in bonds as bound with them. I know it demands the breaking of every yoke, and the letting of the oppressed go free, and he who strikes hands with tyranny knows nothing of the benignant spirit of Christ. Well, let Dr. Cunningham and his argument go; let the Free Church clap its hands over it – the people of Scotland will see the flimsy character of this miserable sophistry; they will cut it to pieces, and hold it up for ever a brand of infamy by the men who in 1846 could disgrace a Scottish ecclesiastical assembly by making use of so infernal and infamous an argument in behalf of so hellish a system as slavery. When I heard in that assembly argument after argument about involuntary slaveholding, the difficulty of the slaveholder’s position and their ‘unhappy predicament,’ not one word dropped from the lips of this learned Doctor to enforce the observance of that Scriptural injunction, to ‘Remember those in bonds as bound with them.’ No, that was not their purpose; they wanted all their sympathies for the slaveholders.
But a greater [man] than Frederick Douglass is to address you, and I will refrain from making any furter observations.
Mr. G. Thompson, upon rising, was received with loud applause. After alluding to the unfavourable period at which the meeting was held – on the Saturday evening previous to the morrow’s sacrament – he announced that in consequence of the exhaustion of himself and Mr. Garrison, they had been unwillingly compelled to postpone a visit to Aberdeen, where they had proposed to hold a meeting on the Monday, and in order that they might usefully employ the time, they had resolved to hold a second meeting in that hall on Monday evening – (loud cheers) – when he would review the conduct of the Evangelical Alliance upon the subject of slavery – a body whom he had adopted, and whom he meant to pay peculiar attention to. (Laughter.) As advertisements said, ‘nothing should be wanting on his part’ – (laughter) – to give the alliance due publicity.
His friend Mr, [sic] Garrison occupied a position in that country which no other stranger or foreigner ever occupied before him. He came among them with a dearly earned reputation of seventeen or eighteen years’ unremitting toil in the cause of bleeding humanity. He was the sole devoted champion of those who had nothing to give him but their blessings: the love of those whom he had not seen, as well as of all those whom he had seen. In early life he had consecrated himself to the cause of the miilions of his countrymen in bonds; his sympathies at the same time extending to the whole human race, inscribing on his glorious paper, justly termed ‘The Liberator,’ the motto, ‘My country is the world: my countrymen are all mankind.’ (Cheers.)
With the cause also he had embraced the life of the pioneer: toil, proscription, persecution and peril, and the probabilityof a violent death. Not only had he been hunted by the slaveholders, but also by a corrupt priesthood who did their bidding, and who superadded to the malignity of the slaveholder that subtle poison which a corrupt priesthood who alone could administer, in the shape of virulent attacks upon his character, and the holding him up to the anathemas of Christians. If there breathed a man upon the face of the globe who should find a warm welcome from those who love Christ, it was their brother who appeared before them – William Lloyd Garrison. (Cheers.)
But before he left home he had committed the unpardonable offence of daring, single handedly to attack the religious bodies of America. When he looked abroad over the face of that country, to ascertain who were the most determined and successful champions of slavery, he found them to be, not the slaveholders themselves, but the teachers of theology in that country, who had corrupted the word of God, and made the gospel of freedom the handmaiden of slavery. He boldly denounced the pro-slavery religion of America, but carefully discriminatin between pure and undefiled religion and that religion which has been manufactured to serve the special purpose of upholding slavery.
He who troubled the priests of any country rushed into a hedge of briars and thorns. There were no persons in the world more unrelenting than a ministry which had sold itself to work iniquity; and hence those men had for years been endeavouring to blast the reputation of Mr. Garrison in this country by anonymous calumnies, circulated in personal intercourse, in whispers in drawing rooms and vestries, abusing the hospitality of their friends in that country, and poisoning their minds against the advocate of the slave in America, and who for years – and he spoke not unadvisedly, but from actual knowledge upon the subject – had been endeavouring to malign, injure, and destroy the devoted friend of the coloured race.
Great Britain had recently been visited not by a solitary individual who had done the dirty work, but by a cloud of persons from the United States, no less than from sixty to seventy who came over from that country with a deep, settled, determination that whatever else they left undone they would destroy forever the influence and reputation of Mr. Garrison. In America they had been his malignant enemies, fomenting mobs and insurrections for the purpose of effecting his destruction. Those men came over and slandered Mr. Garrison as a man of infidel principles.
He (Mr. Thompson) had mingled with every Christian determination in Great Britain, in all of which he had intimate and endeared friends; he had mingled with the various denominations in the United States, with the missionaries in other parts of the world, and he well knew what infidelity meant in its popular acceptation and its Scriptural and philosophical meaning; and he was there to declare, from a long acquaintance with Mr. Garrison, that he was as far removed from what was meant by infidelity as the arch fiends below were removed in nature and pursuit from the archangels above. (Loud cheers.) The doctrine which Mr. Garrison held upon the question of the Sabbath was the same as that held by Calvin, Luther, Melancthon, Whateley, and others, and had he but held the same views as were held by certain persons upon the question of slavery, the members of the Free Church and the Evangelical Alliance would have pronounced him a good man, and he would have been most acceptable to them.
It would be as reasonable to refuse to sit with a man because your views differed with his upon the subject of phrenology or geology, or other matters of speculation, as to decline to recognize Mr. Garrison as the advocate of the slave because he differs with certain other persons upon the subject of Church government or the Sabbath. There should be a gulf between Christian ministers and the supporters of slavery as wide as the world itself.
It is idle to say that there had existed such a union between the British Churches and the pro-slavery Churches of America for many years: during the last thirty years the ties which bound the denominations in England to those in America had been gradually loosening. At the very time when the Secession Church of Scotland was abjuring for ever all religious intercouse with the slaveholding Churches in America, the leading members of the Free Church in Scotland were unblushingly declaring before the world that they acknowledged the slaveholding Churches of America as in holy communion with themselves.4
For that reason alone, the abolitionists had deemed it their duty to denounce the Free Church of Scotland, nor would they cease their efforts until the people of Scotland had constrained their Free Church to annul the compact into which they had entered, or until the Scottish people had shaken off that Church and left it alone in its unholy confederation with the enslavers of the world.
In America, a population as large as the whole of Scotland were held in chains: what would they say if any body of men were to attempt to enslave them, their wives and children, to the latest generation? Let them remember that it was universally admitted by all enlightened men that without the support of religion, American slavery could not stand. It had been declared by the Rev. Albert Barnes, that no influence but religion could sustain slavery. Let them cease to have fellowship with such a religion as that. (Cheers.)
The Rev. J. Robertson then announced that on Monday, a resolution censuring the Free Church and the Evangelical Alliance for their recent pro-slavery action, would be submitted to the meeting, and on behalf of Mr. Thompson, Mr. Garrison, and the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society he begged to invite any friends of those bodies who chose to defend that conduct to come forward and move such amendment as one might think proper, their platform being open to all.
Thanks having been voted to the Chairman, the meeting separated.
Perthshire Constitutional, 28 October 1846
AMERICAN SLAVERY. – Two meetings were held, one on Saturday, and the other on Monday evening, in the City Hall, to hear addresses on the subject of American Slavery, and the connection of the Free Church and Evangelical Alliance therewith. The addresses were delivered by Messrs George Thomson, Lloyd Garrison, and Frederick Douglass. The audience on Saturday evening would not number more than 350, – that on Monday between six and seven hundred. The speeches were a mere repetition of those delivered by the orators during their last six months’ agitation throughout the country, and with which every one is quite familiar. The conduct of the Free Church was as usual denounced in the most unmeasured terms, as well as the Evangelical Alliance.
Mr Garrison followed Douglass, but with less violence, only affirming that the Free Church, as it had hardened its heart against sending back the money, was going ‘downward, downward to that place where slavery is to be sent in due season.’ He also dwelt at great length upon the horrors of American Slavery, and the support given to the system by the clergymen in the Southern States; and concluded by defending himself against a charge of infidelity which had been insinuated against him by Dr Campbell in the Christian Witness.
Mr Thomson succeeded him, and opened by defending the character of Mr Garrison from the attacks made upon it by different portions of the press, especially in relation to the views he held upon the Sabbath, as what was lawful on one day must necessarily be lawful on any other day. He devoted every day to God. Mr Thomson then said that Mr Garrison held the same views of the Sabbath that Calvin, Luther, Belsham, Barclay,Paley, and a host of other eminent men did. He then proceeded to attack the Free Church, and concluded with announcing another meeting for Monday.
Perthshire Advertiser, 29 October 1846
William Lloyd Garrison to Elizabeth Pease, Perth, 25 October 1846, in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 446
On the 1846 General Assembly, see Iain Whyte, ‘Send Back the Money!’: The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery (Cambridge: James Clarke, 2012), pp. 88-94; and Alasdair Pettinger, Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846: Living an Antislavery Life (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp. 69-72.
[John Campbell], ‘Slavery’, The Christian Witness (1 October 1846), p. 486.
On 8 May 1846 the United Secession Church unanimously approved a motion to withdraw Christian fellowship with the Presbyterian Churches in the United States.The Relief Church approved a similar resolution at its Synod the following week: see, for example, Scotsman, 16 May 1846.
Following their lectures in Edinburgh, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison travelled to Dundee to address a meeting on Monday 28 September at Bell Street Chapel, arranged at short notice – possibly because of the need to change venue. ‘The evening was very dark and stormy,’ reported Garrison, ‘but the hall was crowded, and the enthusiasm great.’1
We reproduce here the reports in the Dundee Advertiser and Dundee Courier. The Northern Warder reprinted the report from the Courier, but on another page carried an editorial which denounced the abolitionists, which is appended here, of interest especially since an article in an earlier issue of the Warder is dissected by Garrison in his speech.
A lot had happened since Douglass’ last visit to Dundee on 10 March – and the speakers devoted much of their speeches to discuss not only the recent inaugural meeting of the Evangelical Alliance in London, but also the deliberations of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland at the end of May.
That March meeting appears to have been organised by Dundee Anti-Slavery Society. Not much is known about this organisation, which was formed in 1832, but it is evident that the chair of the Soiree, Alexander Easson, was an original committee member.2 Yet at this meeting, six months later, Easson proposed that a new Anti-Slavery Society be formed and ‘read the rules proposed for the purpose, which were unanimously agreed to.’ Perhaps the old society had dissolved in the meantime, or perhaps he was proposing the formation of a rival society because the old one had lost its way.
Among the other speakers at the meeting were James Robertson, Secretary of the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society, who had accompanied Douglass and Garrison from Edinburgh, and George Gilfillan, the minister of the Secession Church, School Wynd, who had welcomed Douglass to Dundee in January and March.
For an overview of Frederick Douglass’ activities in Dundee during the year see: Spotlight: Dundee.
EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE AND AMERICAN SLAVERY
Last night a public meeting was held in Bell Street Hall, to hear Messrs William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick douglass, on the relation of the Evangelical Alliance with the American slave-holding Churches and the Free Church, holding religious fellowship with slave-holders. Though the rain fell in torrents at the hour of the meeting, the Hall was filled ere the chair was taken. The platform was occupied by many of our influential citizens. Councillor Easson in the chair.
The CHAIRMAN, in opening the proceedings of the evening, said it was strange that, in a country where such sacrifices for the abolishing of slavery had been made, there should be found men who sought a palliation for it. Yet, such was the case; in an evil hour a Deputation had gone over from the Free Church to America to solicit money from the slave-holders. They had been warned against it, but, in the face of that warning, they took the money, and returned; and since then the united wisom of the Free Church had vindicated their doings. Since then another class had arisen – the Evangelical Aliance – and strengthened for a time the position of the Free Church and retarded the labours of the Abolitionists. A few members from America had got the Evangelical Alliance to overthrow all resolutions relative to slavery; these men formed an alliance between the Free Church and slavery. He regretted they had brought slave-holding in connexion with Christianity. Christianity taught benevolence, philanthropy, good-will to all men, and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you;’ but slavery perverted all these, and gave support to a system disgraceful to humanity as well as to Christianity. He would not occupy farther the time of the Meeting, but would introduce Mr Lloyd Garrison.
Mr GARRISON, in addressing the meeting, assured them that, in obedience to Mr Easson’s admonitions, he would be as cautious, judicious, and temperate on the subject as was in his power to be; but one of their own poets had said, ‘On such a subject it was impious to be calm.’3 He could not talk mincingly on such matters. He came here not to alienate, but to win over to emancipation, and to accomplish such ends truth must be spoken, or his coming was in vain. He then alluded to the great doctrines of our common Redeemer, promulgated eighteen hundred years ago, and among these his injunctions to ‘let the prisoners go free,’ and yet over Christendom their sons had to travel to teach that it was sinful to make traffic of their fellow-men. (Cheers.) He then referred to an article in the Warder, announcing his coming to Dundee, – but, previous to reading this announcement, he would beg his friend, the Reverend Mr Robertson, Secretary to the Edinburgh Anti-Slavery Society, to read another announcement which would place him in higher estimation with the Meeting.
Mr Robertson then read a letter given Mr Garrison by the spontaneous impulse of the Coloured Abolitionists in America, enumerating the services Mr Garrison had done to Emancipation, and the dangers, difficulties, and privations he had voluntarily undergone to forward the cause. The paper concluded with some resolutions relative to the American Abolitionists’ view of the Free Church and the slave oney, one of which run thus, –
Resolved, that we regard it (the Free Church) in its present position as anti-Christian, and its leaders as wolves in sheep’s clothing, its places of worship not as temples of the true God, but dens of oppression and cruelty.
(Great cheering and faint hisses.) Mr Garrison resumed – This was his introduction to the meeting, and he felt he could not have a better one.
He next read an article from the Northern Warder.4 The article alluded to called him many names. It covered him with epithets from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot; but among these names there had never been included that of slave-holder, and, so long as they did not call him that, he cared not for their names.
Mr Garrison alluded to the strength which good principles gain from the result of labour, and the more they fought in the battle against slavery the stronger would they rise from the conflict. There was little fear of a good and true man wearying in the cause of emancipation; but the Free Church had stolen money and struck hands in fellowship with American slave-holders and adulterers, and it felt indignant at being told to send back the money. (Cheering and hisses.) The Free Church had endeavoured to distort this subject; but the question was in regard to the Churches admitting slave-holders – those that made barter of their fellow-men – that would not allow them Bibles to read – these were the Churches he spoke against. Who was it that reproached the Free Church at present? It was not the slave-holder, – it was not the soul-buyer that said, I have some more money for the Free Church kneaded the Evangelical dough relative to slavery.
He then read another extract from the Warder, in which the writer lectured him on the use of gentleness; but the next moment became himself guilty of the most foul-mouthed epithets.
He then referred to the Scriptural defence of slavery resorted to by the American slave-holders and the Free Church, and said, if such doctrines were promulgated in the Bible, he would put it in the fire, and so would the Meeting he addressed; if men could bring a book to prove that we should be made slaves, men would burn that book, and endeavour to become men. Nature, reason, and the aspiration of the heart, declared a better religion. But there was no such doctrine in the Bible; and for eighteen years he had held it forth as an anti-slavery book. Names had now lost their former significations. In olden times the day was when it was declared that man was to give up all and follow Christ, but, that their kingdom of darkness may not be molested, the American slave-holder and the Free Church of Scotland had changed such names. The man who defended slavery from the doctrines of the Bible was no Christian, but an Infidel.
He then read a farther extract from the Warder, relative to a speech delivered by him at Exeter Hall, in which the writer of the article animadverted on the principles advocated by him, but did not tell what he said. He then quoted the portion of the speech alluded to, and held that, had his words been made use of by the Warder, they would have exposed the writer of the article as an unprincipled man. There was nothing baser on American soil that that poor Editor’s jugglery.
He then referred to the false aspersions thrown out by the Northern Warder on George Thompson.5 These aspersions had been long since proved to be false; but the Editor continued to use them, knowing well, while he did so, he was doing a malevolent deed. Mr Garrison, after a long and able defence of Mr Thompson, introduced Mr Douglass to the Meeting, and sat down amidst much applause.
Mr DOUGLASS, on coming forward, was received with loud and continued cheering. He thanked the people of Dundee for the reception which they had given him upon this and former occasions. The state of things had changed considerably since me met them about six months ago. Since that time the General Assembly of the Free Church had met, and the Evangelical Alliance – an alliance composed of all the orthodox Churches in England and America – had met, conferrred, and separated. From what had been done at the Evangelical Alliance, it was to be found that the intercourse which the Free Church held with the American slave-holding Churches had produced a baneful effct on the minds of many ministers not belonging to her communion.
Mr Douglass then entered into a lengthened detail of the manoeuvres practised by the American ministers, in order to get every sentence condemnatory of slavery erased from the Alliance’s records. In narrating the procedure of that body, he excited considerable laughter from the manner in which he gave an account of their proceedings, and their anxiety to discover whether slavery was a sin or not. That body met as was said for opposing Popery and other heresies, but by their actions they had stultified themselves and brought disgrace on the name of Christianity. The Church of Rome, bad as she was, was by far more respectable than the blood-stained Churches of America, whose members and ministers were man-stealers, and as such guilty of every vice that could disgrace our fallen nature. One fault that was found with the Church of Rome was, that she kept the Bible from the laity, but the American slave-holding Churches, to which the Alliance had succumbed, had prohibited three millions of their fellow-countrymen from learning to read the Word of God. He blamed Doctors Hinton, Wardlaw, and several others, who were termed eminent divines, for yielding so far to the pertinacity of the American clergymen, as these individuals, with their previous knowledge, sinned against the light that was in them.
Mr Douglass then gave an account of the proceedings at last Free Assembly, and the behaviour of Doctors Candlish and Cunningham at it. This account called forth bursts of laughter, mixed with a few hisses. Dr Cunningham, he said, was one of the most straightforward men in the Assembly. He was the one that went the whole figure – not one of your Dr Candlish sort of folks who use gentle circumlocutions to varnish a bad cause.
He caught eagerly at Dr Duncan‘s distinction between slave-holding and slave-having, and brought forward a supposition that, were Parliament to enact that, from and after the 1st July next year, the servants of every master should become his slaves, the masters would not be to blame for their being slave-holders. In this manner he attempted to justify the American man-stealers, because, as he said, they were compelled to be what they were from the circumstances in which they were placed.
Should Parliament enact that the people of this country should become worshippers of Juggernaut, would Dr Cunningham be one of those who would run and fall down before that idol? If he did not do that, his reasoning about the powers of Parliament would be the most fallacious that could be imagined. In fact, it appeared to him that Dr Cunningham was one of those men who would not confine slavery to the Blacks, if he found it serve his purpose to extend it to the Whites; and that he would have no more scruple in ordering any of them – their wives, their sons, and daughters – to mount the auction block than he would have in commanding any of the African race to do so.
The Free Church showed plainly, notwithstanding certain protestations which she had made against slavery, that she welcomed slave-holders and held communion with slave-holding ministers. A short time ago, one Dr Smyth, a clergyman from a slave-holding State, – one who desecrates the rite of marriage by performing it in any manner most agreeable to the slave-master, – thus setting at nought that text, ‘What God has joined, let no man put asunder,’ that man had the honour of preaching at the time alluded to in Dr Chalmers’s pulpit. That would tell finely in America, and the slave-holding Churches there could congratulate themselves that, though they had abandoned the principal doctrines of the Bible, they still had the countenance of the principal doctors and eminent divines in the Free Church and among the Evangelical Alliance. Though the Evangelical Alliance had declared against the abolition of slavery, that body by no means represented the feelings of the Christian community in England and Ireland.
The Free Church had fraternized with the slave-holders but the people of Scotland, he was assured, were sound at the core. That people did not belong to those who put their hand to the plough and looked back. Many of the Free Church members were as hostile as any of them to the plans their clergy had adopted in relation to this question, and he was glad in being able to inform them that an Anti-Slavery Society had been formed in the bosom of the Free Church itself. Some time ago, a noble stand against the slavery system was made upon this very platform, and he witnessed with the utmost indignation the respectfully worded petition, drawn up by the leaders in that movement, treated with contempt by the Free Assembly.
Mr Douglass, after calling upon the members of the Free Church to use every means to make their clergy retrace their steps and send back the money, and if they refused to do that, to leave the body as one – that by fraternizing with slave-holders and man-stealers had no right to assume to itself the title of Christian – sat down amidst repeated rounds [of] applause.
The CHAIRMAN said, that it had been agreed on by a number of friends of the abolition of slavery to establish an Anti-Slavery Society in this place, and, with their permission, he would read the rules which had been drawn up by a Committee of their number. The rules having been read and agreed to.
The Reverend Mr GILFILLAN said, he appeared tonight to move, not to speak – for, at this late hour, he supposed that were he to speak they would begin to move. (Laughter.) Mr Gilfillan then proposed a resolution to the effect, That this Meeting view with the deepest indignation the conduct of the Evangelical Alliance in so far as slavery is concerned, and that they declare their conviction that their acts on that subject do not accord with the views of the inhabitants of Dundee. The resolution was then put to the vote, when almost all the persons in the Hall held up their hands in its favour. On taking the vote against it, three or four held up their hands, amidst derisive laughter.
Mr GARRISON then made some observations on the hardships to which men of Colour, British subjects, were exposed on going to America; and, after giving votes of thanks to thim, Mr Douglass, the Chairman, and others, the Meeting broke up.
Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 29 September 1846
ANTI-SLAVERY MEETING: WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON AND FREDERICK DOUGLASS
Last night a public meeting was held in Bell Street Hall, to listen to addresses by Messrs William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, on the subject of American Slavery, the present position of the Free Church, and the recent proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance in regard to the slavery question. Alexander Easson, Esq., was in the chair; and on the platform were the Rev. James Robertson, Edinburgh, Rev. George Gilfillan, Bailie Moyes, Messrs Malcolm M’Lean, John Durham, George Rough, William Halket, junior, &c. &c.
After a few appropriate introductory remarks by the Chairman,
Mr Garrison said that he had been announced to them through the Northern Warder, and he did not object to that form of introduction, but still he had another, and one that he liked a great deal better and that placed him in a far better position before the audience. It emanated from the coloured population of America, in regard to himself and his mission. He would call on Mr Robertson to read it.
Rev. Mr Robertson then read the document referred to. In it were expressed the deep gratitude of the coloured population of of America for the efforts of Mr Garrison in the anti-slavery cause, and their earnest prayer for the success of his mission. Mr Robertson then stated that he had purposely omitted the first resolution at the request of Mr Garrison, as it was couched in strong language; but still he would be inclined to express nearly similar sentiments himself, and he could not see why it should be omitted. (Cries of ‘Read, read.’) Mr R. then read as follows:–
Therefore resolved, that we regard it (the Free Church) in its present position as an anti-Christian Church, and its leaders as wolves in sheep’s clothing (cheers and a few hisses), its places of worship as not being the temples of the living God, but as dens of oppression and cruelty.
Mr Robertson had just to state that he had a copy of the remonstrance addressed to the Free Church deputation previous to their visiting the slave States: and if the Warder would insert it, he would be happy to afford them an opportunity.
Mr Garrison, after referring to the credentials in his favour which had just been read, took up an article in the Warder of last week, commenting on it as he went along, and rebutting the statements and insinuations contained in it; but from the late hour to which the meeting extended, we can do no more than allude to one or two of the points taken up.
On speaking of the Evangelical Alliance, he was declared to have said that its acts stamped it ‘as an un Christian rather than a Christian assembly;’ and if its opinions could be proved from the Bible, he would ‘put their Bible in the fire.’ God having made them in his own image, with faculties to hate slavery with a perfect abhorrence, all would shrink back with terror at the thought of the father, the mother, the child, the sister, the brother, or the friend of any of them being made into an article of merchandize. If a book were set before him, supporting that horrid system, he would put it in the fire.
But did he ever say or ever believe that the Bible was pro-slavery. (Mr Douglass, ‘Never.’) His friend had anticipated him. No, he entertained very different opinions. The Bible was the great armoury from which he had drawn his arguments for eighteen years, vindicating it from the foul aspersions of the American clergy. The Church of Christ is an anti-slavery, and not a pro-slavery Church; and though the ministers might be on the side of the oppressor, the Bible was always on the side of the oppressed. This was what he believed; this might be infidelity but he understood it to be primitive Christianity.
It was in the days of old that for a man to be called a Christian was to endure persecution and the loss of all things. In the present day the world was full of a profession of Christianity, but of a different description. Satan who seldom goes about like a roaring lion, assuming the appearance and the gloss of Christianity, assails those as fanatics who continue faithful. But let them try them by the standard of truth, for if a man say he love God and hateth his brother, the truth is not in him. It is quite easy to make a profession of Christianity, but not so easy to endure privations; but he thanked God that there were in America 7000 who had never bowed the knee to Baal.
To show that his views on this subject were in unison with those of the Rev. Dr Alexander, who surely could not be accused of infidelity, he read extracts from an article by that clergyman in the Scottish Congregational Magazine for September, from which we extract the following sentence:–
It would be well, then, if those who appeal so confidently to the Bible for a sanction of slavery, would pause and reflect on the position in which such an appeal places the sacred book. If slaveholding be an act of injustice and oppression – if it be contrary to all the dearest rights and most sacred immunities of man – if it involve, on the part of him who practises it, theft, cruelty, avarice, and tyranny – and if it bring in its train a whole host of evils, destructive of social morality, of human happiness, and of the bodies, no less than the souls of men – if it be all this (and where is the man who, in the present day, will use the language of Britain to tell us it is not?) then, to assert that such a system has ever received the sanction of the God of purity, the God of mercy, the God of love; or that of such a fruitful source of evil, the religion of God has ever been, or ever can be, the patroness or the apologist, is to affirm that the book in which that sanction appears or that religion is developed, is, if not altogether an imposture, at least fearfully interpolated with false and pernicious doctrines.6
In order to show that the Warder had misrepresented his views and durst not have published his speech, delivered at Exeter Hall, he read various extracts from it, exposing the mis-statements of the Warder, and pointing out the manner in which the Evangelical Alliance had been moulded like dough by the hands of the Free Church. He then took up the charges advanced against George Thompson, rebutting these, and pointing out the efforts Mr Thompson had made in the cause of the slave, and the assistance he had given to every good work, but that all the wealth of Croesus would not, he believed, tempt him to defend the Free Church in taking money from slaveholders, and fellowshipping with them. He also read a challenge to Mr Thompson which had appeared in a Free Church paper, couched in ridiculous terms, and concluding with ‘come on; I am your man; come on Macduff,’ and which was signed ‘D.T.’ D.T., he supposed, meaning, very appropriately, dirty tool of a party. (Applause.) In reference to the denial by the Warder that the Free Church ministers, had ever supported slavery from Scripture, he quoted from the speeches of Drs Candlish and Cunningham; and in regard to one part wherein it is stated that ‘a man may sometimes be a slaveholder without committing sin,’ &c., he substituted the word ‘robber’ – which was but one of the fruits of slavery – making the sentence read ‘a man may sometimes be a robber without committing sin,’ and so on throughout the entire passage. was not this shocking morality? They would not find anything more insane in Bedlam.
He then, after referring to the speech of Dr Duncan and his distinction betwixt slaveholding and slavehaving, spoke shortly on the epistle to Philemon, expressing his belief that Onesimus was never a slave; and that even though he had, he was sent back ‘not as a servant, but as a brother beloved.‘ The proposal of the Reverend Mr Macbeth to break off communion with the Slaveholding Churches could not get a seconder in the Free Church Assembly. Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in Ashkelon, that they could not find in the Free Assembly one person to second it.
Mr Garrison then read the decisions of the Pro Slavery Synod of Virginia and the Presbytery of Carolina on the slavery question, and showed that their deliverances and those of the Free Church were one in sentiment. He also read various extracts from different American divines, to show the sentiments they openly entertained; and among others the following by Dr Bond:–
One of our general rules forbids the buying and selling men, women, and children, with an intention to enslave them. But we cannot buy or sell slaves with an intention to enslave them. Whoever heard of enslaving a slave? It is only the free that can be enslaved. The rule was made by Mr Wesley against the African slave trade, in which free persons were bought to be made slaves of. It was among the general rules of the Methodist societies in this country before we became a Church. Yet it has never been construed to forbid the transfer of one slave from one owner to another.
He then went over various other points, exposing in pointed language the Free Church’s misdoings in the matter of slavers, and concluded by an eloquent appeal on behalf of the three millions of human beings who were held in bonds in America, and expressing his belief, that however the wicked might join hand in hand, the cause would be ultimately successful. (Mr Garrison sat down amidst loud cheering.)
Mr Douglass said, he was glad to be again in Dundee, and he was glad to find that the feeling on the subject of American slavery which pervaded the town six months ago had not departed from it – that they were here to cheer the heart of the anti-slavery advocate, and strike terror into the hearts of the pro-slavery portion of the community. Since he last addressed an assembly in this town, the subject of slavery had assumed a somewhat new phase. The General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland had held its session since that. The Evangelical Alliance has held meetings for a considerable length of time, and has dissolved and gone back to its original elements since that time. The subject of slavery has been presented in various forms to the people of England, Ireland, and Scotland since that time. The Synod of the Secession Church has declared ‘no union with slaveholders’ since that time. (Applause.) The Relief Synod has declared ‘no union with slaveholders’ since that time. (Applause.) The Presbyterian General Assembly in Ireland has declared ‘no union with slaveholders’ since that time. (Continued applause.)
He wished to direct attention for a moment to the proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance. That body met in London a few weeks ago, and one of its first acts, after having assembled, was to declare that it would not be prudent to let it be known what they were going to do or what they did. One of their first acts was to shut out the reporters. It was dangerous to admit them. What would the Protestant people of this country think if a body of Papists meeting together for supporting Popery, were, the very first thing they did, to shut out all reporters? The Evangelical Alliance come to gether for the support of pure and undefiled Christianity, yet they keep the world uninformed of what they are about to do.
Mr Douglass then shortly narrated the proceedings of the preliminary meeting of the Alliance at Birmingham, and the resolution proposed by Dr Candlish to exclude slaveholding ministers, and agreed to. That resolution was looked upon as an insult by the slaveholders in the United States, more especially as coming from one in the position of Dr Candlish; and they resisted it on the ground that the body who passed it had no right to decide what complexion the Alliance should be of.
He then mentioned that great numbers of American divines came over – men of talent and professors of theology, &c. – about 70 of them, and among the number Dr Smyth of South Carolina, a man who marries slaves and leaves out the most important part of the ceremony, ‘Whom God hath joined let no man put asunder.’ This man is now in this country, and preached in Edinburgh for Dr Chalmers. This miserable creature creeped into the Evangelical Alliance, and left the mark of his slime behind him. (Hear, hear.)
The first thing to be settled after the meeting was to determine the basis. They called together the Alliance, and when they met they found they were without a basis. (Laughter.) They were in an unhappy predicament. Dr Hinton then proposed that all assenting to the basis, not being slaveholders, should be admitted. Up to this time things had gone on delightfully. They had prayed – they had said how much they loved each other. The most unbounded love, in fact, was manifested towards each other; but the introduction of the proposal to exclude slaveholders raised a most exciting scene all at once. The proposal to keep out men-stealers from the Evangelical Alliance because they were men-stealers was a most important and difficult point. (Hear, hear.) Dr Wardlaw and Dr Hinton stood by the statement for a time, that there should be no Christian fellowship with slave-holders. Rev. Mr Pringle stood firm to the last. The Rev. Mr Nelson of Belfast, Mr Stanfield of Belfast, also stood up. The great number of the American delegation, stood up as strongly on the other side, and threatened the Alliance, that they who had come 3000 miles, such was their love, would abandon them if a resolution like that of Dr Hinton was agreed to. Such was their firmness that Dr Hinton’s resolution was withdrawn and the whole matter referred to a committee, who sat for a week, the subject was such a difficult one.
During this time the Rev. Dr Smyth, this violator of marriage, a man who has been guilty of the greatest slanders, according to his own confession, this Rev. gentleman very piously rose up, and proposed that they should engage in prayer, so difficult was it for the committee to arrive at a decision. Nay they even went without their breakfast. (Mr Robertson – ‘Dinner.’) They went without their dinner, so great was their anxiety about the committee coming to a decision. Think of that – what fasting. (Great laughter.) How often have the poor slaves not only gone without their dinners and their suppers, but been afterwards driven out to the field, without an expression of sympathy.
Mr Douglass then went on to narrate the farther proceedings of the Alliance on the slavery question – that even the resolution which they did adopt at one time had to be wiped off their books to please the American brethren. How could Dr Wardlaw, or the other English and Scotch divines who had expressed sound views, thus give up their judgment? He held that the decision to which the Alliance had come was the greatest support to Atheism. They had thunders against the Pope of Rome for discouraging the reading of the Bible by the laity; but they had not a word to say in regard to the three millions of human being who were denied the privilege of learning to read the name of their Creator. They sat in Christian fellowship with their oppressors.
Mr Douglass continued to animadvert for some time on the doings of the Alliance, exposing the glaring inconsistency of their conduct.
He then came to the doings of the Free Church Assembly, exciting much laughter by the admirable manner in which he imitated various of the leaders, and carrying the meeting along with him in his comments upon their speeches. On Dr Duncan’s distinction betwixt slave-holding and slave-having, he said he enjoyed the ingenuity of the thing, although he pitied the man. In America they had also fine distinctions. It was the ‘peculiar institution,’ the ‘domestic institution,’ the ‘social institution,’ more recently, ‘the impediment,’ more recently still, ‘unenlightened labour,’ and more recently still, Dr Duncan calls it ‘slave-having.’ What would they think if he was to say, concubine-having was not concubine-holding? How would that sound? Would it not sound as offensive to their sense of morality? There was great joy in the Assembly at the discovery of Dr Duncan – great clapping of hands when Brother Duncan made the notable discovery; Dr Candlish shook him warmly by the hand, and Dr Cunningham congratulated him on his success.
Mr Douglass then referred to Dr Cunningham’s speech. He was what he would call a straightforward man. He not only said that Christ and his apostles had held fellowship with slaveholders, but with slaveholders who had a right to kill their slaves; and Mr George Thompson, for crying hear, hear, to this, and drawing attention to it, was immediately surrounded by a number of the Free Church people: and a cry got up of ‘put him out.’
Mr Douglass then took up Dr Cunningham’s defence of slaveholders on the ground that if an Act of Parliament was passed declaring all servants slaves, their masters would be guiltless; and asked would the Free Church say so if polygamy, concubinage, or the worship of Juggernaut was thus enjoined, although he could not discover from Dr Cunningham’s speech that he would offer resistance? Was it not the duty of all parties to petition and protest against all iniquitous laws; and had the Americans ever done this? Were not the slaveholders the lawmakers themselves?
He then took up the defence that was set on the ground of the laws enjoining slavery, and said he would reply in the words of an eloquent statesman of the country (Lord Brougham) – ‘In vain, you tell me of the rights of the planters. I deny their rights. To the principles and feelings of our common nature I appeal. In vain you tell me of laws and statutes that sanction such a claim. There is a law above all the enactments of human codes – the same throughout the world – the same in all ages – such as it was before the daring genius of Columbus pierced the night of ages, and opened up to one world the sources of power, wealth, and knowledge, and to another all unutterable woes. It is the law written by the finger of God on the heart of man; and by that law, unchangeable and eternal, while men loathe rapine and abhor blood, they will reject with indignation the wild and guilty phantasy that man can hold property in man.’7 (Great cheering.)
Mr Douglass then referred to the sentiments he at one time entertained towards the Free Church, and how much these were changed since he knew the conduct of her leaders. He called on the party who had got up a movement within her on this subject to continue their exertions, and concluded by mentioning that an Anti-Slavery Society had been formed by some of her members, which showed they were in earnest. (He sat down amidst long continued cheering.)
Mr Easson then proposed that the meeting should form themselves into an Anti-Slavery Society, and read the rules proposed for the purpose, which were unanimously agreed to.
Mr Garrison mentioned that not only did the slaveholders govern the United States but they also made laws for British subjects. If a vessel with a coloured British subject was entering a port in the above states, that coloured man would be seized like a felon and lodged in jail; and if the expenses of his food and lodgings were not paid before the sailing of the vessel, he would be sold to defray these. This was a subject which they were entitled to bring before Parliament.
Mr Gilfillan then proposed votes of thanks to Mr Garrison, the father of the anti-slavery movement in America, one who had suffered much in the cause; to Mr Douglass; and to the Chairman and Committee. These were carried by acclamation. He then proposed a vote of disapprobation of the proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance in regard to the slavery question. He was ashamed of them. He was more especially ashamed that ministers belonging to his own denomination, the United Secession Church, who had taken part in the resolutions of their Synod on the subject, should have acquiesced in the proceedings of the Alliance. The vote was carried by a show of hands, only three being held up in favour of the Alliance.
The meeting then separated, the hall having been filled from the commencement of the proceedings until the close – about a quarter past eleven o’clock.
Dundee Courier, 29 September 1846
‘THE ABOLITIONISTS’ versus ABOLITION
We are not sure that we are warranted by the importance of the subject, in again noticing the proceedings of Garrison, Douglass, and the other American ‘abolitionists.’ The aspect of their recently renewed campaign furnishes no equivocal indication that the force of the movement is about spent; and that during the indefinite period to which the wanderers have pledged themselves to continue their agitation, they must ‘plead the cause of humanity,’ as they term it, to audiences constantly diminishing in point of number, and sinking in point of respectability. Such an agitation is best replied to by silence. There are, however, one or two considerations which may be suggested to the few persons, accessible by reason, who are still in the train of Douglass and his party.
We have now had considerable experience of the method in which our American visitors ply the work of assailing slavery, and we are in circumstances to judge with tolerable correctness of its probably efficacy. What is the method which they have adopted? It consists almost exclusively of violent abuse against the Christian Churches of Britain and America.
Every man at all acquainted with the British Churches knows well that upon the subject of slavery not the slightest diversity of sentiment exists among them – that they all long earnestly for its abolition, and that they are ever ready to throw their influence into any movement which will hasten that desirable consummation.
The first duty, therefore, of a prudent abolitionist on visiting Britain must of course be, to secure the friendship and assistance of these powerful organizations. The Americans have not done so. We do not praise or blame either party here; we state the simple fact, that Douglass and his friends have done their little all to alienate the Christianity of Britain and of the world from the cause of the African slave. Had they been the hired agents of the slaveholder, they could not have acted more constantly for his interest than they have done. Arrogating to themselves the distinctive title of abolitionists, they have branded the Free Church, and (through the Evangelical Alliance) all the evangelical churches of the world, as being in secret, spite of their pretensions to the contrary, no friends to the slave – as being in fact hypocritical supporters of the system of slavery.
If it had been possible for any man to create a pro-slavery sentiment in the British churches, this is certain the most likely course. Happily that is not possible, and such insane efforts can be productive of no evil more serious than temporary annoyance. But let the fact be distinctly observed, that these men, who might have united all the churches of Britain in a powerful attack upon American slavery, have failed to do so; have never attempted to do so; nay, have in language as coarse as it was false, from the first, denounced these churches as the allies of the slave-holder. There may be honesty in this, but there is also madness.
Still farther, these men have to the extent of their power, given the American slaveholder the comfort and support of believing that the sympathies of Christendom are with him. We venture to say he never before looked upon the Christian Churches otherwise than as the deadly foes of slaveholding. But now, thanks to the unscrupulous assertions of our American philanthropists, he may actually have begun to think that slavery is countenanced by many of the purest Reformed Churches. We need not say how fatally such a belief must operate upon the cause of abolition.
These are some of the more prominent results of an ‘abolitionist’ agitation technically so called. And now these gentlemen having removed from the field of their operations, the Christian churches and other auxiliaries, stand forward to fight single-handed the battle of the slave! The pretension is ridiculous, and yet it is surpassed in absurdity by the manner in which the doughty warriors apply themselves to their task.
We had one of these ‘battles of humanity’ fought in Dundee a night or two ago. After the skirmishers (the chairman and another) had withdrawn, Mr Garrison opened his fire. He took for a sort of text a short paper which appeared in our last, and favoured the meeting with his opinions regarding it, in the form of a running comment, restating and defending at great length the views he recently expressed in London. This done, he treated several of our cotemporaries [sic] of Edinburgh and America in similar fashion.
When Mr Garrisons two hours of desultory and tedious harangue came to an end, Mr Douglass presented himself. This gentleman employed his very considerable talents as a mimic in caricaturing the manners and personal appearance of Drs Candlish and Cunningham; talked of the ‘diabolism’ of the Free Church; and of the ‘unadulterated atheism and infidelity’ of the Evangelical Alliance. The conduct of the Alliance in regard to slavery was spoken of as ‘doubly base, especially that of Dr Wardlaw,’ who was represented as sinning deliberately and against light, and the prayers offered by the Alliance were made the object of elaborate ridicule.
And this is what they call ‘fighting the battles of humanity’ – this loathsome mingling of buffoonery, profanity, and coarse abuse – this base slandering of the assembled representatives of Christianity, and of a venerable servant of Christ, who has long occupied a distinguished place in the Church and whose name is revered as widely as it is known!
The effrontery of the ‘abolitionists’ is a prominent feature of their character, and is very fully displayed in all their proceedings. We never heard of any act of men who had formed a more mistaken idea of their own value, and of the place they occupy in public estimation. Douglass – to quote but a single instance of this characteristic – stated the other evening, that when the Free Church Assembly learned the intention of his friends to be present at the debate on Slavery, they hastened to stop the issue of tickets; and that a cry of ‘Hear, hear!’ from George Thompson startled and confused Dr Cunningham in the midst of his address! The man stated these things with gravity, and yet it is incredible that he can believe them.
‘With every good-natured allowance for your Grace’s youth and inexperience,’ writes Junius to the Duke of Grafton, ‘there are some things which you cannot know.’ We make a great allowance for Mr Douglass’s exaggerated self-appreciation, and for the necessities of his position, as an orator bound to furnish an exciting pabulum to a not very refined audience. Yet surely ‘he cannot but know’ that Dr Cunningham and the Free Church look upon George Thompson and his party, with regret certainly in so far as the slave is concerned, but with utter indifference and contempt in so far as they themselves are concerned.
We observe that a local Anti-Slavery Society is about to be formed. If this society is to be really an Anti-Slavery one, we heartily wish it success, and shall gladly lend it any assistance in our power. If, however, it is merely intended to echo the cry of ‘Send back the money,’ and repeat the abuse which Garrison and the others heap upon Christian churches and ministers, we must be excused for regarding it with extreme contempt. Its cause is a bad one, and the means at its disposal ludicrously inadequate. The consultations of a few obscure local worthies are not very likely to effect a reversal of the deliberately-formed judgment of Christendom, – more especially as the proceedings of these worthies can scarcely, by any chance, be ever heard of by the parties whose sentiments are meant to be influenced.
Northern Warder, 1 October 1846
William Lloyd Garrison to Richard D. Webb, Glasgow, 30 September; in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 430; see also William Lloyd Garrison to Liberator, Belfast, 3 October 1846; in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3, p. 433. The abolitionists were often forced to change venue at short notice: the meeting in Dundee on 10 March, for instance, was originally to have taken place at Ward Chapel, but, permission withdrawn, it was moved to Gilfillan’s Church on School Wynd.
Report of the proceedings of a public meeting, held in the Steeple Church, Dundee, on the evening of Friday the 23d November 1832: for the purpose of forming and Anti-Slavery Society for the town and neighbourhood (Dundee: Dundee Anti-Slavery Society, 1832).
Garrison is referring to the scathing report of a meeting of the Anti-Slavery League at the Exeter Hall in London on 14 September 1846 entitled ‘Messrs Lloyd Garrison & Co, and the Evangelical Alliance,’ Northern Warder, 24 September 1846.
D.T., ‘To Mr George Thompson,’ Northern Warder, 30 July 1846.
W.L.A., ‘Was Abraham a Slaveholder?’ Scottish Congregational Magazine (September 1846), p. 434.