On Sunday 25th, William Lloyd Garrison wrote from Perth:
It was our intention to hold a meeting in Aberdeen on Monday evening … but we find that we shall be compelled to ride on the outside of the coach all night to-night, and we dare not run this risk to our health. So, we shall send word to this effect to our Aberdeen friends, and hold another public meeting in this place to-morrow evening.1
A notice in the Aberdeen Press and Journal on 28 October confirms that there were plans for a meeting at County Rooms on the 26th, ‘but on account, we believe, of the indisposition of Mr Garrison, no meeting was held, and it has been for the present postponed’.
So a second meeting was held at City Hall on Monday 26th. Newspaper reports covered both the Friday and Monday meetings, but it would seem that George Thompson was the main speaker on the Monday night. He devoted much of his speech responding to a call that he reply to charges outlined in a pamphlet recently addressed to him. The Constitutional estimated an audience of 1500 at least; the less sympathetic Advertiser offered a figure of 600 or 700.
MONDAY EVENING, 26TH OCT.
The meeting this evening was very numerous – 1500 at least. Mr. Thompson delivered a powerfully eloquent address of at least two hours’ duration. Our space will not admit of a report this week. The resolution given notice of on Saturday evening was proposed in the following terms:–
Resolved, that the conduct of the Free Church of Scotland, in receiving the money of man stealers, and in return, receiving those notorious criminals into full communion and of the Evangelical Alliance Conference, in refusing to exclude slaveholders from that body, that they might thereby conciliate the pro-slavery spirit of the American deligation [sic], deserves, and ought to receive, the condemnation of all uncompromising Christians, and of all the friends of freedom and humanity throughout the world.
This was regularly put from the chair, when a forest of hands appeared. A show of hands was called for against it, when not one hand was held up.
Perthshire Constitutional, 28 October 1846
On the evenings of Saturday and Monday, Messrs. Thompson, Garrison, and Douglass delivered addresses in the City-Hall here, on the subject of American slavery, or, more properly, on the shortcomings of the Free Church, the Methodists, the Baptists, the Independents, the ‘Evangelical Alliance,’ and the other bodies that make up the majority of the British religious public.
On the present occasion Mr Thompson‘s usual eloquence did not desert him, but rather rioted in a more abundant harvest of rich expressions, so suasive as to rob his statements and arguments of much of that bitterness which they were intended to convey.
Mr Garrison‘s oratory, though strong and effective, is of a more homely character. His enunciation is slow and pointed, but manly and earnest; and if he wants the power to fascinate, he can certainly command the attention of an audience in no ordinary degree.
Mr Douglass took little part in the proceedings.
As the gist of these gentlemen’s speeches, with all their statements and arguments, are before the public, and have long been so, it is unnecessary to furnish our readers with a report of what was said, for there was nothing absolutely new brought forward on this occasion.
Previous to the breaking up of the meeting on Monday evening, Mr. Robertson, secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society of Edinburgh, who accompanied the above-named gentlemen, proposed a resolution, for which nearly half of the hands of those present were held up.
It was as follows:–
Resolved, that the conduct of the Free Church of Scotland, in receiving the money of men-stealers, and, in return, receiving those notorious criminals into full communion – and of the Evangelical Alliance Conference, in refusing to exclude slaveholders from that body, that they might thereby concilate the pro-slavery spirit of the American delegation – deerves, and ought to receive, the condemnation of all uncompromising Christians, and of all the friends of freedom and humanity throughout the world.
There were from 600 to 700 persons present on Monday evening; but had it not been for the desire to hear Mr. Thompson the concern would undoubtedly have been a total failure.
Perthshire Advertiser, 29 October 1846
AMERICAN SLAVERY. – [continued] The Monday meeting was of a much more pleasing character. Mr Thomson spoke for nearly three hours, and was highly eloquent; and while he did not spare the Free Church, he studiously avoided every thing like an expression or sentiment calculated to give offence. Considerable interest too was excited by an impression that some one was to appear and discuss the subject of the Free Church with Mr Thomson. This arose from a note being handed to him of the following purport.
An auditor is desirous of ascertaining why Mr Thomson refused to accept of the challenge of Mr Cameron of Edinburgh, to discuss the question of American Slavery, as between him and the Free Church, through the medium of the newspapers.2 The auditor felt convinced that the Free Church people of Perth would give every attention to the subject in print; while they would not allow themselves to be led away by platform oratory. The citizens of Perth were a thinking and considerate people, and liked something better to study than mere sound and declamation – a was evinced on the last occasion when Messrs Douglass and Wright addressed them. The auditor knew that Mr Thompson would likely say he had replied to Mr Cameron’s pamphlet, and that triumphantly; but why, he (an auditor) would ask, did Mr Thompson refuse to authenticate that reply as it appeared in the newspapers, or give another to admit of Mr Cameron giving a rejoinder? the more especially as Mr Cameron had promised to follow whithersoever he (Mr Thompson) would lead, and tear all his arguments to pieces.
Mr Thompson stated that an ‘auditor’s’ information was not much extended, or he would have known that he (Mr Thompson) had published a pamphlet, which he now had in his hand, on the connection of the Free Church with Slavery, and which was a sufficient reply to Mr Cameron’s pamphlet, and all other arguments upon the subject by the Free Church besides. He had shown in Edinburgh that the pamphlet of Mr Cameron consisted of a tissue of gross falsehoods and misrepresentations. Mr Cameron had in it given Dr Channing‘s opinion of the Anti-Slavery advocates in America while he was yet unacquainted with their character; and had garbled the extracts which he quoted from Dr Channing in a most unjustifiable manner. He would like the ‘auditor’ to come upon the platform when he was through, and state his views. As to ‘platform oratory’ and ‘declamation,’ he would just say that he would give the ‘auditor’ and the ‘thinking and considerate’ citizens of Perth, documentary facts as to the views held of Slavery by the slave-holding Churches in America, and with whom the Free Church had shaken hands.
Mr Thompson also dwelt at considerable length upon the remarkable assertion, that Mr Cameron would take his arguments to pieces before he had heard them! He then entered in a strain of impassioned eloquence into the merits of the question – quoted a host of documentary evidence to show how the system of Slavery was not only justified, but advocated by the American slave-holding clergy there, and that from the Bible – and concluded with a most brilliant peroration. After remarks were made by the other orators, and a resolution was passed, unanimously, condemnatory of the Free Church as to her connection with Slavery in America, and to the position assumed by the Evangelical Alliance on the subject – the meeting retired.
Perthshire Advertiser, 29 October 1846
- William Lloyd Garrison to Elizabeth Pease, Perth, 25 October 1846, in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p.446.
- [Andrew Cameron], The Free Church and Her Accusers in the Matter of American Slavery; Being a Letter to Mr. George Thompson, Regarding His Recent Appearances in this City (Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1846).