If William Lloyd Garrison’s impressions of Greenock were less than enthusiastic (‘I am told that it is sadly lacking in intellectual activity and moral life’), he was quick to signal a contrasting attitude to Paisley, where he and Douglass spoke the following evening. ‘On the whole, it surpassed every meeting I have witnessed on this side of the Atlantic,’ he wrote to Irish abolitionist Richard Webb. ‘Cheers for the Paisley weavers!’1 And in a dispatch to his own newspaper, the Liberator, he added: ‘I shall never forget it. Commend me to the weavers and other operatives in Paisley, for intelligence, sagacity, and appreciation of right sentiments.’2
Since Douglass’s last appearances in Scotland, he had attended the the inaugural meeting in London of the Evangelical Alliance, a new association that aspired to forge closer relations between the mainstream Protestant churches on both sides of the Atlantic. A proposal to exclude slaveholders from membership of the Alliance was hotly debated in August and, with no prospect of agreement between the two sides, a decision was postponed. Neither Douglass nor Garrison hardly had to labour the parallels between this and the campaign to persuade the Free Church of Scotlannd to cut its ties with American churches before their audience at the Secession Church on George Street.
For an overview of Frederick Douglass’ activities in Paisley during the year see: Spotlight: Paisley.
A crowded meeting of the inhabitants of Paisley took place on Wednesday evening last in the Rev. Mr. Cairns’s church, George-street, for the purpose of hearing Messrs. Wm. Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass on the subject of slavery.
On the motion of the Rev. PATRICK BREWSTER, George Caldwell, Esq. was called to the chair.
The CHAIRMAN in a few observations introduced
Mr. Wm. LLOYD GARRISON, who was received with great applause. He said, I shall have to throw myself on your indulgence to-night, because I stand before you physically exhausted by the labours I have been called to bear for the last few weeks. Unfortunately for myself, I have a severe cold, and I may say that I am likely not to be well heard. I am sure that under these circumstances you will give me a candid and patient hearing, and I shall try to tell you a little about American slavery, in which I am happy to know you take a deep interest, and about which you already know a good deal. When I remember how many meetings you have had on this subject, I am almost inclined to think that I might as well carry coals to Newcastle, as give you any additional information.
I know you are Scotsmen, and therefore not the friend of slavery. (Applause.) You are on the side of liberty, and it does not require much time on my part to convince you of the iniquity of slavery – (Cheers.) – that it ought not to be tolerated in any part of the wide world. (Great cheering.) But although this be the feeling of the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland, it is not the feeling of those who aspire to be the religious guides of the people, at least not without some exceptions. (Applause.)
In the course of my remarks, if anything shall fall from my lips erroneous or unjust, any one who may detect my error will have an opportunity of making it manifest to this meeting. (Loud cheers.) We have no desire to advance any sentiments here that may not bear the test of investigation and will not square with truth, therefore we feel willing to be searched. I need only say, that slavery as it is found in a land making the highest pretensions to democracy, christianity, it must be supposed to surpass slavery in every other part of the world. (Applause.)
Our people in America think that the hope of the world depends on us. In regard to the civilization and evangelization of the world, America must pioneer the way. Yet with all their boastings, our people have doomed three millions of their brethren to slavery. They traffic in them with the same indifference as you would in any article of property. We are fairly therefore without excuse. We ought to be condemned by the friends of God, the friends of liberty, in all parts of the world, and any man who, on this side of the Atlantic, shall hunt up excuses to palliate such conduct, is a man who is fitted to be a slaveholder himself, without any principle within him, and if transported to America would become a slaveholder. (Cheers.)
The American people declare that God has made all men equal, and yet some of those who declare themselves to be the ambassadors of Christ in that land, are slaveholders, and christian ministers in this country will endeavour to find apologies for their conduct. (Cheers.)
It is time for you, people of Scotland, to see whether you are giving countenance to these men, whether you will have them as your religious teachers and guides, and whether you are yourselves involved in all the guilt of American slavery? (Continued cheering.) When I tell you that slavery makes man a thing of property, I tell you that all crimes have been committed in one act. Beyond the commission of the act it is impossible for man’s depravity to proceed. (Applause.)
The slaveholder is of all men the guiltiest, the farthest removed from the kingdom of God, and the last man in the world to be excused from a want of knowledge. The American slaveholders claim to be christians, but they deserve to be denounced as the enemies of God. (Cheers.) We are a christian people in America, yet if you go over to that country and endeavour to give bibles to the three millions of slaves, you do so at the peril of your lives. Those who deny them bibles are the men who erect many churches, support all the ordinances of religion, and seem to be very divine men. (Laughter.) Is it not simply a pretence? He who will prohibit the circulation of the bible in any corner of the world, is a man who does not care for men’s souls. (Applause.)
Slavery in our country does something more than degrade a man – something more than make people poor – something more than take away civil and political rights – something more than put the lash into the flesh of its victim – something more than withhold the bible as a book to be read – something more than put women and children on the auction-block to be sold to the highest bidder, because these are only some of the atrocities of the system. Never hear it as a single crime spoken of – never consider it injustice, cruelty of itself, but combined with a thousand other things, which we have not time to enumerate.
I have been told on this side of the Atlantic, that the neighbouring people of England are in a bad condition. Is that a reason why American slavery should not be assailed? It is a reason that the labouring class should have their rights, but it is no reason that a warning voice should not be lifted up against American slavery. (Great cheering.) I know the working-classes in this country are depressed – their cause commends itself to every friend of humanity. I desire that all men may be thought of – that wherever oppression may exist it should be denounced and execrated. I desire to give my sympathies to all, and the working men of this country need not unnecessarily degrade themselves to get sympathy, I want them to see that until American slavery is overthrown, there is no hope of their own redemption. I appeal to them, and to those who advocate their cause, if it not be said that American slavery is the legitimate product of American republicanism. Working-men, wherever you are, remember that slavery is the product of despotism, is despotism, and, therefore, has nothing to do with republicanism. (Great applause.)
The Americans hold the truth to be self-evident that all men are born equal – are endowed, not by man, not by Parliament – not by the throne, but by their Creator, with certain inalienable rights, and among others, life, liberty, and the means of attaining happiness. That is republicanism – you can make slavery out of it if you please. (Tremendous cheering.) It is liberty. (Renewed cheering.) It is an impeachment of the common sense of the country, to say that the existence of slavery is consistent with this. (Applause.)
I do not despair of America – I anticipate that the song of jubilee may ere long be sung over the grave of slavery. I have been struck with the incredulity of many persons in regard to the peculiar features of slavery. Many have said it is too bad to be believed. What! Human beings lacerated, irons put into their flesh – torment of this kind without any chance of redress? These things are too bad to be believed, yet there is one thing they believe – that the slave is property. If men have property, they may do with it as they please. Men use their property as they think proper. Why should a man enter into contracts with slaves? Does a man go out into his fields and say he desires to make a bargain with his horse? Of course not. (Cheers and laughter.) Poor as a poor man may be, he can say whether he will work or not. He can say I work, or I wont work. That is something which he has left. Better far to sink in freedom than live in slavery. (Great applause.)
A slave has no dear wife, no beloved children. Why, if even starvation look in at a working man’s door, he has the affections of his family, and may not be broken in upon by the proudest peer of the realm. There is no law here prohibiting the people from reading and discussing matters. I know the people of Paisley would not submit to it. (Cheers.) Oh! if I had never seen any of the cruelties of slavery! With my own choice, one fact alone would have sufficed me in regard to the enormities of that terrible system. Let me know this, that there are in slavery three millions of people from whom there never comes a voice, who cannot tell of their own condition. Although they are said to be happy, and not to desire liberty, you could not take them away from their masters. The slaves never meet, they have no newspaper, no advocates on the spot. They may not think even, if their masters shall know what they are thinking. The system which produces this is a most atrocious one. It must be a system that can bear comparison with no other. It is not of God, it has come from the bottomless pit, and into which we ought to precipitate it as speedily as possible. (Tremendous cheering.)
With regard to marriage, that sacred institution without which our earth would be a wilderness – the marriage institution, given by God to save and perpetuate the race – only think of it being put down at a blow, and see as large a population as that of Scotland compelled to herd together as beasts. (Shame.) It is enough to make heaven stand aghast. But ‘you must not say that slavery under all circumstances is a sin.’ All I say is, that property don’t need to be married. No man thinks of uniting his shovel and tongs in matrimony. (Laughter.)
I feel greatly impressed on this occasion, because the time is so brief, and I am extremely anxious, as I know you are, to hear my friend, to hear him who can plead the cause of the slaver better than any one either on this or on the other side of the Atlantic. (Pointing to Mr. Douglass he said) – I mean that man. (Tremendous cheers.)
I will not say that there not other men as eloquent as himself, but this I will say, that he has been a slave. The lash has been put round his body. The marks of that lash are still on his body. No man may plead for the slave like the slave. No man may reveal the horrors of that prison-house like the man who has gone through them all. (Great applause.)
There are various points on which I wish to say a few words. I have come over to endeavour to beat up for recruits in the cause of emancipation. I wish to present one of its aspects to you, which will convince you, if nothing else will, that you must move as one man for the immediate overthrow of slavery, if you will be true to yourselves and your country. I wish people here to understand that American slavery does not assume the soil of American territory only – it claims to give laws to all nations.
[AMERICAN SLAVERY AND BRITISH SUBJECTS]
I mean to leave no assembly in this country uninformed on this particular topic. By the slave law a coloured person coming to America will be at once seized and thrust into prison, and detained until the vessel in which he came has sailed and gone to its own country. Those who have been imprisoned must pay for their imprisonment. I will make a supposition. You have emancipated the slaves in the West India islands. These men are growing in enterprise and industry. Well, suppose a vessel is manned with coloured men. They sail from Kingston, or Jamaica. They go to Havannah, or any other of the southern ports. What would be done as soon as they arrived and cast anchor in the harbour? The harbour-master would come on board. He would take them ashore, thrust them into prison, and there they would be compelled to remain and await the sailing of the ship, when they would have to pay for their imprisonment, and be obliged to go back as fast as the winds could carry them. If they did not pay they would be brought to the American auction block and there sold into American slavery. (Shame, shame.) You are bound to call upon parliament and the throne to protect every British subject, for the government which does not protect the people has no right to exact allegiance from the people. (Applause.)
We have a treaty of amity between the two countries. Now, British subjects, if of a certain complexion, instead of being protected, are seized as criminals of the worst kind, and under the circumstances to which I have alluded, are sold into slavery. I want to know if you make any distinction among yourselves. Is not
‘A man a man for a’ that?’ (Cheers.)3
A British subject is a British subject, and as good as a British Queen. See your Queen upon the auction block. How does she look – an excellent wench in good condition – (laughter) – sound – (laughter) – a hundred dollars is offered – now, just look at her – two hundred, three hundred, three hundred and fifty – it’s a bargain – she’s gone. (Laughter.)
Rise up as one man and call on Government – ask why it is that Government does not protest against such laws? Why has parliament not moved in the matter? One thing slavery will do, she will never allow England to interfere with her imperious mandates and bloody decrees.
[THE FREE CHURCH AND AMERICAN SLAVERY]
I need not tell you of the conduct of the Free Church in regard to this matter of American slavery. (Cheers.) You know how the delegates were sent over from the Free Church – how they were met so kindly at New York and admonished not to go to the slaveholding States. They were met in a spirit of brotherly kindness and christian love, yet these men would go and did go to to the slaveholding States. (Cheers.) They went there not to prove themselves to be the true ambassadors of Christ by denouncing slavery, but to give the right hand of christian fellowship to men-stealers. (Great applause.) They got some money – not a great deal. (Laughter.) They that steal from others don’t give a great deal. (Cheers and laughter.) They knew what the bargain was, and they said, if you will scratch our backs, we will tickle your elbows. (Laughter.) If you will vindicate the slaveholder, in the name of the Lord we will give you some of our money. (Cheers.)
It was a sickening spectacle to behold. I have no desire to go into personalities with regard to the men connected with the Free Church. I have never seen them, but since I found myself an abolitionist, I have resolved never to be respecter of persons. Never will any party cause me to swerve from the straight line of eternal justice.
In the course of my experience I have found many things standing in the way. I was once a warm political party man. I thought the destinies of the world depended on our party. I did not know what I would be called on to part with. I knew that the equality of man was from above – that the doctrine of liberty was divine doctrine, and that whatever should come in the way of it could not be of God. Well, I have found this party in the way – they would not go out of it, and I had no more to do with it. I found the religious body with which I was connected in the way. It would not take up the cause of the slaver. I therefore declared it an unchristian body. (Cheers.)
I stand here to arraign the Free Church simply on the ground of its being a pro-slavery church. Its position is one of the deepest criminality before God – (cheers) – is one that is causing the hearts of the slaves to sink within them – is one which is weakening the hands of the abolitionists in America.
Why did they do this? They did not say that slavery was a good thing. The slaveholder did not say so. (Cheers.) Slavery, they say, is not under all circumstances sinful. There are some cases of christian slaveholding. They might sin economically. God has empowered us to sin economically – we can do so with less extravagance. (Continued cheering.)
The laws compel no man to assume the character of a slaveholder. Do not be beguiled by the foolish sophistry of men who are too proud to retract. The slaveholder is a slaveholder – always the same thing, never another thing. The eagle is, under all circumstances, an eagle, and never a dolphin; a dolphin is never a whale, or a shark, and slavery is slavery. (Great applause.)
The laws stand in the way of benevolent men giving their slaves their liberty. These laws are either righteous laws or they are not. If they are righteous, they ought to be obeyed – if unrighteous, I ask if they ought to be obeyed? (Applause.) By obeying an unrighteous law, are we not acting an unrighteous part? And may we not be told that men may innocently be unrighteous? This is the doctrine of Dr. Candlish and Dr. Cunningham, and that kind of cunning of which it is declared they shall be caught in their own craftiness.
Every man knows that slavery is a crime – every man who enslaves another is a villain, and any man who apologises for one who enslaves another is a villain. None the less for that. (Cheers.) He may be an ordained villain – all the worse for that. (Cheers.) He may be a divine villain, but his divinity never came from God. (Great applause.) This is not hard language, or personal language. If your fathers, mothers, brothers, or sisters, who are endeared to you by the most sacred ties, were enslaved, you could not call the person who did so anything but a villain, and he who apologises for such a character could be a villain. (Great cheering.) Let us be like God – no respecters of persons – then will our vision be cleared. Let us remember those in bonds as bound with them. (Cheers.)
If I get you to realize their condition, then I have no fear in regard to the verdict you will render in regard to my views of slavery. You have set us a very bad example by saying that, slaveholding is not sinful under all circumstances. We have been imitating your example – we have admired your Wilberforce – and are we to be held up reproachfully for doing what you told us? (Cheers.) Does the Free Church repent of her sins? Is she willing to acknowledge that she has been in the wrong?
If that church would acknowledge the wrong that it has done, it would be an example of humility for all. God would smile on it. It would not be deemed anything derogatory to its character. (Cheers.)
Let us see that the subject is fully discussed. The facts are beyond dispute. What is the position of the Free Church? (Mr. Garrison here read a passage from a speech of Dr. Candlish, in which he maintained the propriety of holding communion with the American slaveholding churches, and said, that the Free Church of Scotland had many things to learn from these churches.)
Here then, said Mr. Garrison, we have them glorying in acts that have been done. The connection is good. It has come about through the providence of God. It is that the Free Church may get new graces from the churches of America that the connection is maintained. Is it a church of Christ where half a million of slaves are held by church members, denied the marriage institution, and, in other respects, treated as brutes? Slavery is a bible instititution – it is doing a benefit for the Free Church, therefore, it is not to cease between the parties. So much for Dr. Candlish. (Cheers.)
Mr. Garrison then read a passage from an Edinburgh Free church paper, stating, that so far from the Free Church people being with these agitators (alluding to Mr. Douglass and his coadjutors) they held them in detestation and scorn, and Dr. Cunningham, the special object of their attacks, was received with enthusiasm everywhere, and so far from large numbers leaving the Free Church, they had not heard of two individuals who had done so.
Mr. Garrison proceeded. He said, that must either be a true or a false witness. I do not believe that the Free Church people are as they are represented. It would, however, go over to America, and they would rejoice in it. The slaveholders would be inspired by it. (Cheers.) Members of the Free Church who are here, do you not know the charge of our Lord? It is, ‘Come out from her, my people.’ Come out, organise, and go for liberty in the name of Christ. (Cheers.) What, although all your seeming prosperity should come to a stand? Come out and you will prosper, and your example will not be lost. In its own nature slavery could not be justified. The call of Christ, hitherto, on us, is to advance. It is a true doctrine which does not leave slavery in existence at all (Cheers) – and all I have to lament is, that the Free Church does not now act upon the doctrine.
If any of their delegates had dared to utter such doctrine where they got that money they have not yet sent back – (Cheers.) – they would have got, instead of the dollars, tarred and feathered. (Cheers and laughter.) They would have been driven out of the slave states in disgrace. (Cheers.) They love the praise of men more than the praise of God. Let us, endeavour to bring them to repentance. The worst thing we can do for the Free Church is to allow them to go on as they are doing. He who wants to make that church an object of reproach and scorn, will be careful not to call on them to SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Cheers.) He who wishes to see it prosperous will be anxious to have it sent back. I wish I could take it with me. It would be a day of jubilee on our side with those who are endeavouring to overthrow slavery. I can anticipate the feelings of those ferocious men of the south on seeing it go back. I can anticipate the hissings of the serpent as it passes. I am afraid that it will never go back. It is not often that the chief priests repent. (Cheers and laughter.) Let us all be priests unto the Lord and the money will go back. (Great applause.) If we are the priests of Baal, of course it wont.
[THE EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE]
The people of America are looking over to this country with anxiety – the friends of freedom hoping and praying that the right thing may be done, and the slaveholders fearing that the right thing may be done. It was not until after the step was taken that they commenced to hunt up apologies for slavery.
A body of men, calling themselves the Evangelical Alliance, claiming to be divinely sent of the Lord, came over to London, making the highest pretensions to religion, and too good to have others with them, such as the Quakers, or the Plymouth brethren. They could only have Evangelical men. (Laughter.)
There could be no doubt as to what was the result when the subject of slavery came before that body. So long as they kept from discussing the subject, how much they loved each other. It was all in the abstract. The moment the dispute arose they divided, and went to pieces, and now the Alliance does not exist. What destroyed it? American slavery destroyed it.
I say once for all that the love of God could not animate that body, because they had no bowels of compassion. We must put down the influence, growing out of your alliance, and endeavour to give a right direction to the truth in regard to slavery. Let us resolve that we will not take the hand of the slaveholder as a christian brother. We will acknowledge the slave as our brother, and God will own us as his children. (Applause.) We are called infidels – I go for the religion of peace and God, for that religion which never forged a fetter. If this be infidelity I must glory in it. (Cheers.)
I must thank you for your kind attention. I have only to ask your sympathy for the American abolitionists. Let me assure you that they are a most remarkable body of men and women, as remarkable as can be found in the world. They are those who have been tried in the fire – those whom you ought to admire, and to whom you ought to give the right hand of fellowship. Let us pray for the freedom of the slave. It is coming, it is coming.
Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a’ that –
That sense and worth o’er a’ the earth
May bear the gree and a’ that.
For a’ that and a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that –
That man to man the to man the warld o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.4
Mr. FREDERICK DOUGLASS then came forward, amidst tremendous cheering, which lasted for several minutes. He said – Ladies and Gentlemen – I am very glad I came to Paisley – (Cheers) – glad to be in Scotland.
You know my object – I have been here before. Since I addressed an audience here last, the question of slavery has assumed not a new form, but some additional points have been started. The Evangelical Alliance has held its sittings in the city of London – and the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland has held its meetings at Cannonmills in Edinburgh. There were remarks made and speeches delivered, to which I will draw your attention for the short time I am to address you.
[THE FREE CHURCH ASSEMBLY]
I heard at the Free Church Assembly speeches delivered by Duncan, Cunningham, and Candlish, and I never heard, in all my life, speeches better calculated to uphold and sustain that bloody system of wrong. (Cheers.)
I heard sentiments such as these from Dr. Candlish – that christians would be quite justified in sitting down with a slaveholder at a communion table – with men who have a right, by the law of the land, to kill their slaves. That sentiment, as it dropped from the lips of Dr. Candlish, was received by three thousand people with shouts of applause. I heard other sentiments equally objectionable to this. Every imaginable excuse for slaveholding was brought forward by these men eminent for their learning – men who claim to be the heaven-appointed instruments for the removal of all sin. I heard these men standing up there, appealing to the sympathies of those who heard them, to remember the slaveholder, and not one rose who spoke of remembering those in bonds as bound with them. (Great cheering.) They were called on to look on the difficulties in which the slaveholder was placed. Their manacled bondmen were not thought of for a single moment, but like the Levite of old, they passed by on the other side. (Applause.) They had struck hands with the slaveholder in christian fellowship. They would not listen to the voice of Scotland demanding, in tones which could not be mistaken – SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Applause.)
Dr. Duncan, for instance, who, some two years ago, stood faithfully by the cause of emancipation, stood up at Edinburgh and asked, ‘Shall every Free Church have a slave stone? Have we separated ourselves from our moderate brethren to strike hands with man-stealers? As for himself he could not eat a common meal with them, for he said it would choke him.’ But the Doctor has had his organs expanded. (Cheers and laughter.) Now he can not only sit down at a common meal, but sit down at the Lord’s table with the slaveholders of America. (Cheers.)
But they are not slaveholders. He has coined a new name – he calls them slave-havers. Oh! what delight flashed through the whole assembly when the discovery was made. (Applause.) Were I a slavehaver? Candlish smiled, so did Cunningham, and all the younkers of the Free Church opened their mouths. (Laughter and cheers.) I won’t ask Dr. Duncan what has changed his heart, but what has changed his stomach? (Laughter.)
He could dare to ridicule the only true anti-slavery man among them, who was Mr. M’Beth.5 (Cheers.) He brought in a proposition to SEND BACK THE MONEY and dissolve the fellowship existing between the Free Church and the slaveholders of America. He did not even get a seconder. He was ridiculed. Dr. Candlish ridiculed him – Dr. Cunningham spoke contemptuously of him – Dr. Duncan said he was ashamed of the arguments he used.
Dr. Cunningham was the lion of the occasion. He was the only man in the Assembly who put forward anything like an argument. Hence, he was considered as the able man. He maintained that slaveholding was not necessarily sinful. Mr. M’Beth took the ground that it was sinful. Cunningham took the ground that it was not sinful in itself, and he would undertake to prove that the relation of master and slave might exist and not be sinful. My eyes were fixed on him. I thought he resembled me somewhat. (Cheers and laughter.) I thought I was almost as good looking as he – (Laughter) – I was anxious to hear what this man, apparently coloured, would say – I don’t mean any disrespect to him. (Cheers.) I wanted to hear what he could say in defence of slaveholding not being necessarily sinful. (Continued cheering.)
Suppose, said he, that on the first of January net Parliament were to pass a law by which the domestics in every family should become the slaves of their employers. Suppose it received the Royal sanction. (Loud cheers.) I should in that case become a slaveholder by no act of my own, and he asked in triumph, would I in such a case be a sinner? That was his argument; and again the younkers clapped their hands and shouted aloud, and looked at me as I sat in the General Assembly. (Great applause.) We have got out of this point nicely. (Laughter.) Dr. Cunningham has proved this point nicely. (Cheers and laughter.) The question arises – who makes the laws? The slaveholder is the interested person, and the law-maker in America, and all this talk about the slaveholder being compelled to hold the slaves.
Let us examine a little further this supposition of Dr. Cunningham. Let us apply it to concubinage, if you please. Let us suppose that the law should make all domestics the concubines of their employers – that he would be bound to sustain the relation, would Dr. Cunningham do it? I consider there is nothing in his speech which leaves me to believe that he would not. (Great cheering.) I know he would not sustain the relation, because he believes it to be wrong, and that it would not be sanctioned by the morality of the religious sentiment of Scotland for a moment. (Applause.)
Is slavery less sinful than concubinage? A million and a half of women are subject to the entire control of brutal slaveholders, and dare not commit any violence in vindication of their own chastity, or they may be struck dead on the spot. Suppose a law of the land declared all domestics the slaves of their employers, I dare Dr. Cunningham to say he could be justified in being a slaveholder. Conscious of his difficulty he said, at the end of his supposition, ‘if I treated them as I treated them before.’ His argument means nothing. (Cheers.) If he is to give men freedom of action, education, and treat them in every way as brethren, then he is not a slaveholder. Dr. Cunningham meant that his argument might sustain something more. (Applause.)
Mr. GARRISON, interrupting Mr. Douglass, read a declaration of Dr. Candlish on this point, and showed the audience what meaning it bore by substituting the words ‘robber and robbery’ for ‘slaveholder and slaveholding.’
Mr. DOUGLASS resumed – I was going on to illustrate the argument of Dr. Cunningham. Suppose that it referred to idolatry instead of slavery. Suppose that Parliament enact a law that at the sound of a certain instrument, they should fall down and worship a golden image, and that that law should receive the royal sanction, would he fall down and worship that image? He would not.
Why does he do otherwise with this compendium of all crimes – American slavery? (Cheers.) I tell you why he does it. He’s got the bawbees. (Loud and long-continued cheering.)
Dr. Cunningham published a book – at least it is his, so far as this country is concerned – and in that book, he says, Is there not some chosen curse, some hidden thunder in the stars of heaven ready to blast him who gains his fortune by the blood of slaves? He goes on to say – How are we to get rid of this system? Every slaveholder ought to be excluded from christian communion. What has changed him? Contact with his American brethren. What is the value of that contact? The getting of money was his only object. (Applause.)
He went there to get money, and as a condition of getting it, he pledged himself to be silent with reference to this great sin. (Great applause.) He went to the Southern States – was taken by the hand by such evangelical man-stealers as Dr. Smyth.6 He was there welcomed to their pulpits and their hospitality. He ate of their bread, received of their money, and brought it to Scotland. He put it into the sustenation fund. He got it that he might make out a good character for the slaveholder. Scotland is indignant at this outrage on her name. (Loud cheers.) She feels that her soil should be stained by a single church built up by robbery and wrong. (Applause.)
The Free Church is built up by robbery and wrong – (Loud and long continued cheering) – and I am here to tell the Free Church people that we are not to be silenced, or compelled to leave the country by their dogged adherence to fellowship with the slaveholders of America. (Great cheering.) We are not to be confused and confounded by their adherence to the slaveholder. We will take counsel together, and gather strength to expose them, until they shall be divided among themselves, or divided from the slaveholder. If they continue to harden their hearts and stiffen their necks, we shall continue to persevere in exposing their wickedness to the world. (Great applause.)
I do not intend to lose a single opportunity in exposing the guilty portion of that church. (Cheers.) When I was here before I made certain charges against them. I wish to repeat them again, and again, and again, until they become family or household words. The Free Church went to the United States in the name of freedom, to injure the cause of the slaves in their own country. They never raised a whisper in condemnation of the traffic, or one word of sympathy for the poor bondman. (Cheers.) They united in christian fellowship with the slaveholder – spread around him the sanctification of christianity – told him they had many things to learn of them – that the Scottish religionists would do well to take a lesson from them. (Cheers.)
Friends, these charges shall be rung from one end of Scotland to another, if there be any shame left in her. (Cheers.) I believe she is beyond shame. Why do they dare to stand up in Scotland to advocate this union? Your own liberties are in danger – the liberty of your own children is in danger. (Loud cheers.) For men who can defend those who embrace three millions of their fellow-creatures, would even reduce to slavery those who tread your own soil. He who steals a black man will steal a white man, and he who steals a white man will steal a black man. (Applause.)
I look upon the slaveholders as being dastardly, infernal, in their character, but I consider the Free Church incomparably worse, for what they have done is with less temptation. Their crime is greater then [sic] even that of the slaveholders themselves. (Loud cheers.) They have taken the ground that deliberate slavery is not in itself sinful. This is awful ground, which they never would have taken but for their contact with the slaveholders. I hope you will not allow this matter to stop with this meeting. I hope you mean what you look to mean – that you are now in earnest that no slaveholders’ apologists shall be allowed to tread the soil of Scotland unattacked – and while there is a single individual left in Scotland who will dare to lift his voice in favour of the American slaveholder, he will not be allowed to go without your rebuke. (Cheers.)
The Free Church, it appears, considers that Scotland might be reduced to slavery on christian grounds. They won’t deny it. Even brother Macnaughtan won’t.7 (Laughter.) He may do it probably while I am not in town. He went off to Newcastle to meet me when I was at Edinburgh. (Laughter.)
We did not know. We heard of him replying at Newcastle to the speeches made in the Music Hall, Edinburgh. (Great laughter.) We were not worth his notice here. He showed off, however, to great advantage there. (Cheers and laughter.)
The friends of the cause sent for me to come and see what I could do in reply to brother Macnaughtan, who has called me a poor, miserable, fugitive slave. How kind he must feel to a fugitive slave. How delighted he must be with the thought that a human being has got his liberty. (Laughter.) He does not rejoice, for a very good reason. He is with the slaveholders, and not with the slave. Being with them, he cannot be with the slave. (Cheers.)
Why brother Macnaughtan. (Great laughter.) Why, he is my brother. (Laughter.) You look as if I were claiming an unnatural connection. I tell you candidly Mr. Macnaughtan is my brother, and yet Mr. Macnaughtan would strike hands with men who would reduce his brother to slavery. Is it not strange – passing strange – unnatural for a brother to strike hands in christian fellowship with men who would reduce his own brother to slavery. (Great applause.) True, yet Mr. Macnaughtan is my brother. (Laughter.)
Brother Macnaughtan went to Newcastle-on-Tyne, and there poured out his vials of wrath on the head of George Thompson, Henry C. Wright, and last on the head of his brother Frederick Douglass. (Applause and laughter.) He was said to have replied most successfully to the arguments we used at Edinburgh, and the newspaper came out and characterised his address as being a brilliant vindication of the truth, and a successful reply to the arguments at Edinburgh. (Laughter.) Brother don’t always like to meet brother. He passed me through Edinburgh, and was very successful at Newcastle-on-Tyne. (Cheers.)
I wish he would come out here, where he is best known and best beloved. (Laughter.) Where he is best known he would be most likely to get an impartial hearing, because every one knows his good qualities, and would be willing to hear what he has got to say. (Cheers and laughter.) I have made these remarks because Mr. Macnaughtan has made very free with me elsewhere. He characterised me as a poor miserable fugitive slave at the time he was pocketing the money wrung from the souls of my own brethren in slavery. (Applause.) He denounces me for my ignorance. I say such a man is not worthy to be called a christian minister, when he can speak thus of brethren deprived of their privileges. (Cheers.)
I have one other remark to make. It relates to the sending of bibles to America. Let a subscription be raised, a vessel full of bibles be despatched to the slave population of the United States, together with missionaries to teach them to read these bibles. So soon as the ship appeared on the coast, the Americans would shoulder their weapons of war, and they would beat off the bibles or else destroy them. I can tell you, however, who would receive them. You might carry them to Hindostan and circulate them there; you cannot circulate them among the slaveholders; you cannot circulate them among Duncan Cunningham and Candlish christians, but you may go into the very presence of Juggernaut. The slaveholder is worse than the deluded worshippers of Juggernaut, for while they disown Juggernaut they hug slavery to their communion. (Cheers.)
I have to express my gratitude to you for your willingness to hear. I shall, wherever I go, remember the reception Paisley has given me. I have many kind friends, who are earnest for the overthrow of slavery, in this good town. (Applause.) Let us all unite in saying to the Free Church, SEND BACK THE MONEY.
Mr Douglass craved the Company to unite with him in three shouts SEND BACK THE MONEY, which having been done, he sat down amidst great applause.
Rev. PATRICK BREWSTER, who was received with loud cheering, said he wished to know if any one had a resolution to propose to the meeting; because if not, he had one to propose. (No one coming forward, he proceeded.) He thought they should adopt a resolution condemnatory of the conduct of the Free Church, and the Evangelical Alliance. He need not assure them that he was no enemy to the Free Church. He had attended to the cool argument and towering sentiment of truth and fact which Lloyd Garrison had laid before them, and to the inspiriting argument they had heard from the speech of Frederick Douglass, a speech which it would tax more than the eloquence of Johnny Macnaughtan, Cunningham, or Candlish to answer. (Great applause.)
They would all agree with him that they ought to condemn that church when it did wrong, such wrong as it had that night been charged with, and had been proved against it. He was sorry that the Free Church, which contained some of the most valued friends and relatives he had in the world, should be guilty in this respect. He was sorry, also, that the Evangelical Alliance should have fallen into the snare laid for them by their brethren in America. (Applause.) The Free Church had been charging other churches with robbery, and considered they were oppressed, while they themselves were guilty of the worst crime of the man-stealer; for he held that robbery on the public highway was not so criminal as man-stealing, which concentrated all crimes in one act. (Loud and continued cheering.) Was the Free Church guilty of this crime? He had no more doubt that the Free Church was guilty in abetting man-stealing, guilty of the act of man-stealing, than he had that he is a murderer who stood by and saw the murder committed without offering to prevent it. (Great applause.) The Free Church, so long as she maintained her present position, was guilty of man-stealing. (Cheers.)
He agreed with Mr. Garrison, that the worst enemy of the Free Church, was the man who would allow her to sleep in her iniquity. (Cheers) He concluded a speech of considerable length and ability, by proposing the following resolution for the adoption of the meeting:– ‘That this meeting express their strong and just condemnation of the course taken by the Free Church and Evangelical Alliance in regard to American slavery; that it is the opinion of this meeting that a church commencing its separate state, and a religious alliance commencing its proceedings, with an act involving the fearful guilt of man-stealing, do not deserve, and cannot expect, the blessing of God,” (Great applause.)
Rev. C. J. KENNEDY said it was with great pain he rose to express his general concurrence with what had been said, both in reference to the Free Church, and the Evangelical Alliance. (Cheers.) He had taken the first opportunity of warning the Free Church before the money was in the treasury. He had rejoiced, to a certain extent, at the position they had assumed. In many things they had done well, but they had joined hands with the slaveholders or havers, who denied the command of Christ to preach the gospel to every creature. (Cheers.) In reference to the Evangelical Alliance, he thought it was the part of Christians to show that they did not entertain the same sentiments. That Alliance seemed to have been overcome by feeling. (Mr Kennedy then went on to review the proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance, and concluded a very able speech, by suggesting a modification of the terms of Mr. Brewster’s motion. To this Mr. Brewster did not agree, and Mr. Kennedy moved the folowing as an amendment, being the first part of Mr. Brewster’s motion) – ‘That this meeting express their strong and just condemnation of the course taken by the Free Church and Evangelical Alliance, in regard to American slavery.’
A person to the right of the pulpit was understood to ask if Mr. Brewster was willing to give back the quoad sacra churches. (Confusion.)
Several persons objected to the introduction of such a question.
Mr. BREWSTER allowed that the question was perfectly fair, and he was anxious to answer it. They might bring Mr. Macnaughtan – they might bring the best men of their church, and he would answer them. (Great applause.) He would gladly avail himself of the present opportunity, but he did not expect that this meeting would give him three hours. Give him the opportunity, and he would be bound to say they would be met, aye, and answered too. (Great applause.)
Some little amusement was created at this stage of the proceedings, by a young man with a white hat, who, after adjusting his vest and watch-guard, proceeded up the pulpit stair, and brandishing his fist, looked unutterable things at Mr. Brewster. We understood him to be on the subject of the quoad sacra churches, but the only words which reached our ears were ‘speeches we published.’ He was eventually pulled down by the coat-tails by some persons near.
An individual in the body of the meeting asked them to point out the church that had done more than the Free Church for the abolition of slavery. (Great laughter.)
Mr. BREWSTER said that Mr. Kennedy’s speech was very much to his mind, with the exception of that part where he condemned the use of strong language. He thought that in speaking of such crimes as mean-stealing they ought to be guided by their friends. They ought to use strong language. None of the motions having been seconded, Mr. Brewster asked if any person seconded his motion. (Cries of I second it, I second it.)
It was then asked if any one seconded Mr. Kennedy’s amendment. (Cries of no, no.) The individual to the right of the pulpit rose and said, he seconded Mr. Kennedy’s amendment.
Mr. BREWSTER – Yes, the Free Churchman seconds it.
The same person then rose and stated, that had some other person than Mr. Brewster proposed the resolution he might have agreed to it. He was proceeding to speak of the quoad sacra churches again, when he was met by a storm of hisses and cries of SEND BACK THE MONEY.
The amendment and motion were then severally put to the vote, when seven voted for Mr. Kennedy’s amendment. A forest of hands were held up in favour of Mr. Brewster’s motion, which was declared carried amidst tremendous cheering, which lasted several minutes.
When the cheering had subsided, Mr. Garrison came forward and observed, that he had come to the conclusion that they were a remarkable body of people. He felt that they were friends of free discussion. (Cheers.)
A vote of thanks to the Chairman, Messrs. Douglass and Garrison, and the managers of the church, closed the proceedings.
Renfrewshire Advertiser, 26 September 1846.
- William Lloyd Garrison to Richard Davis Webb, Edinburgh, 25 September 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. 428.
- William Lloyd Garrison to Liberator, Belfast, 3 October 1846; Liberator 30 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. 433.
- Robert Burns, ‘For A’ That and A’ That’, in James Currie, ed. The Complete Works of Robert Burns (Halifax: William Milner, 1845), Vol 2, pp. 230–1. Douglass had quoted the line in a letter to Garrison earlier in the year: see Frederick Douglass to William Lloyd Garrison, London, 23 May 1846, reprinted inThe Frederick Douglass Papers, Series Three: Correspondence, Volume 1: 1842–52, edited by John R. McKivigan (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 132.
- Robert Burns, ‘For A’ That.’
- James MacBeth was one of the leading critics within the Free Church of its position on slavery. After the Free Church Assembly in 1846 he and Michael Willis formed the Free Church Anti-Slavery Society.
- 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.’ See Alasdair Pettinger, Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846: Living an Antislavery Life (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp. 66-7.
- Rev. John MacNaughtan was the Free Church minister at Paisley’s High Church, Orr Square). Douglass had taken him to task on previous occasions, notably in Paisley on 25 April and in Edinburgh on 1 May. As Douglass goes on to observe here, MacNaughtan renewed his defence of the Free Church position in a speech at the Music Hall in Newcastle on 7 July (reported in the Newcastle Guardian, 11 July 1846), which prompted critical comment in subsequent issues of the paper, some of them, no doubt, inspired by Douglass’ own response to MacNaughtan in his speech in Newcastle on 3 August (reported in the Guardian, 8 August 1846).