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.