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).
- Edward Young, The Complaint, and the Consolation; or, Night Thoughts (London: R. Nobble, 1797), p. 88.
- 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.
- Henry Lord Brougham, ‘Speech on Negro Slavery. Delivered in the House of Commons, July 13, 1830’ in Speeches of Henry Lord Brougham, Upon Questions Relating to Public Rights, Duties, and Interests, with Historical Introductions (Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1841), Vol 1, p. 438.