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Read Frederick Douglass’ 1852 Speech ‘What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?’

The following is a speech given by Frederick Douglass on July fifth, 1852.

He was initially asked to give the speech when the Rochester Women’ Anti-Slavery Affiliation invited him to converse at their July Fourth Independence Day Celebration in Rochester, N.Y. He refused to converse on that day and as an alternative gave his speech on the fifth.

Read the full speech under:

by Frederick Douglass
July 5, 1852

Mr. President, Buddies and Fellow Citizens: He who might handle this viewers with no quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I’ve. I do not keep in mind ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with larger distrust of my means, than I do that day. A sense has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the train of my restricted powers of speech. The duty earlier than me is one which requires a lot previous thought and research for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this type are usually thought-about flat and unmeaning. I belief, nevertheless, that mine won’t be so thought-about. Should I seem comfy, my look would a lot misrepresent me. The little expertise I’ve had in addressing public conferences, in country schoolhouses, avails me nothing on the current event.

The papers and placards say, that I’m to ship a 4th [of] July oration. This definitely sounds giant, and out of the widespread means, for it is true that I have typically had the privilege to converse in this lovely Corridor, and to tackle many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their acquainted faces, nor the good gage I feel I’ve of Corinthian Corridor, seems to free me from embarrassment.

The very fact is, women and gents, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable—and the difficulties to be overcome in getting from the latter to the former, are under no circumstances slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You’ll not, subsequently, be stunned, if in what I have to say. I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little expertise and with much less studying, I have been in a position to throw my thoughts rapidly and imperfectly collectively; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence, I will proceed to lay them earlier than you.

This, for the function of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It’s the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated individuals of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the indicators, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration additionally marks the beginning of one other yr of your nationwide life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years previous. I’m glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so younger. Seventy-six years, although an excellent previous age for a person, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual males; however nations quantity their years by hundreds. According to this reality, you’re, even now, solely in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the interval of childhood. I repeat, I’m glad that is so. There’s hope in the thought, and hope is far needed, underneath the darkish clouds which decrease above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with indignant flashes, portending disastrous occasions; but his coronary heart might nicely beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she continues to be in the impressible stage of her existence. Might he not hope that prime lessons of wisdom, of justice and of fact, will but give course to her future? Have been the nation older, the patriot’s heart may be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future is perhaps shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets exit in sorrow. There’s comfort in the thought that America is younger. Nice streams aren’t easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They could typically rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They could additionally rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their indignant waves, the accrued wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, nevertheless, progressively movement back to the standard channel, and stream on as serenely as ever. But, whereas the river will not be turned aside, it might dry up, and depart nothing behind but the withered department, and the ugly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this present day. The straightforward story of it’s that, 76 years ago, the individuals of this country have been British topics. The type and title of your “sovereign people” (during which you now glory) was not then born. You have been underneath the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the residence authorities; and England as the fatherland. This residence authorities, you understand, although a considerable distance from your property, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial youngsters, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed clever, proper and proper.

However, your fathers, who had not adopted the trendy concept of this present day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, presumed to differ from the residence government in respect to the knowledge and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went thus far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether reminiscent of ought not to be quietly submitted to. I scarcely need say, fellow-citizens, that my opinion of those measures absolutely accords with that of your fathers. Such a declaration of settlement on my part would not be value a lot to anybody. It will, definitely, show nothing, as to what half I may need taken, had I lived during the nice controversy of 1776. To say now that America was right, and England flawed, is exceedingly straightforward. Everyone can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England in the direction of the American Colonies. It is trendy to achieve this; but there was a time when to pronounce towards England, and in favor of the trigger of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so have been accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, harmful males. To aspect with the right, towards the mistaken, with the weak towards the robust, and with the oppressed towards the oppressor! right here lies the benefit, and the one which, of all others, appears unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the males who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.

Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by the house government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and males of spirit, earnestly sought redress. They petitioned and remonstrated; they did so in a decorous, respectful, and constant manner. Their conduct was wholly unexceptionable. This, nevertheless, didn’t reply the function. They noticed themselves handled with sovereign indifference, coldness and scorn. But they persevered. They weren’t the males to look again.

As the sheet anchor takes a firmer hold, when the ship is tossed by the storm, so did the trigger of your fathers develop stronger, as it breasted the chilling blasts of kingly displeasure. The greatest and greatest of British statesmen admitted its justice, and the loftiest eloquence of the British Senate came to its help. But, with that blindness which appears to be the unvarying attribute of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his hosts have been drowned in the Pink Sea, the British Government endured in the exactions complained of.

The insanity of this course, we consider, is admitted now, even by England; however we worry the lesson is wholly misplaced on our present ruler.

Oppression makes a sensible man mad. Your fathers have been clever men, and if they did not go mad, they turned restive underneath this remedy. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capability. With courageous men there’s all the time a treatment for oppression. Just here, the concept of a total separation of the colonies from the crown was born! It was a startling concept, rather more so, than we, at this distance of time, regard it. The timid and the prudent (as has been intimated) of that day, have been, of course, shocked and alarmed by it.

Such individuals lived then, had lived before, and can, in all probability, ever have a spot on this planet; and their course, in respect to any great change, (regardless of how great the good to be attained, or the flawed to be redressed by it), may be calculated with as much precision as might be the course of the stars. They hate all modifications, but silver, gold and copper change! Of this type of change they are all the time strongly in favor.

These individuals have been referred to as Tories in the days of your fathers; and the appellation, in all probability, conveyed the similar concept that is meant by a more trendy, though a considerably much less euphonious term, which we frequently discover in our papers, applied to some of our previous politicians.

Their opposition to the then dangerous thought was earnest and powerful; but, amid all their terror and affrighted vociferations towards it, the alarming and revolutionary concept moved on, and the nation with it.

On the second of July, 1776, the previous Continental Congress, to the dismay of the lovers of ease, and the worshipers of property, clothed that dreadful concept with all the authority of nationwide sanction. They did so in the type of a resolution; and as we seldom come across resolutions, drawn up in our day whose transparency is in any respect equal to this, it might refresh your minds and assist my story if I learn it. “Resolved, That these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.”

Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The liberty gained is yours; and also you, subsequently, might properly rejoice this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great reality in your nation’s historical past—the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped future.

Delight and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to have fun and to maintain it in perpetual remembrance. I have stated that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, certainly, I regard it. The rules contained in that instrument are saving rules. Stand by those rules, be true to them on all occasions, everywhere, towards all foes, and at whatever value.

From the spherical prime of your ship of state, darkish and threatening clouds may be seen. Heavy billows, like mountains in the distance, disclose to the leeward big varieties of flinty rocks! That bolt drawn, that chain damaged, and all is misplaced. Cling to this present day—cling to it, and to its rules, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.

The approaching into being of a nation, in any circumstances, is an fascinating occasion. However, in addition to basic issues, there were peculiar circumstances which make the creation of this republic an event of special attractiveness.

The whole scene, as I look again to it, was easy, dignified and stylish.

The inhabitants of the nation, at the time, stood at the insignificant quantity of three tens of millions. The nation was poor in the munitions of conflict. The population was weak and scattered, and the nation a wilderness unsubdued. There have been then no means of concert and combination, corresponding to exist now. Neither steam nor lightning had then been decreased to order and self-discipline. From the Potomac to the Delaware was a journey of many days. Beneath these, and innumerable other disadvantages, your fathers declared for liberty and independence and triumphed.

Fellow Residents, I’m not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence have been brave males. They have been nice men too—nice sufficient to give fame to a fantastic age. It does not typically happen to a nation to increase, at one time, such a number of really great males. The purpose from which I’m compelled to view them just isn’t, definitely, the most favorable; and yet I can’t contemplate their nice deeds with less than admiration. They have been statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the rules they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their reminiscence.

They liked their country higher than their own personal pursuits; and, though this isn’t the highest type of human excellence, all will concede that it’s a uncommon advantage, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a person whom it isn’t in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the trigger of their country. Of their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all different pursuits.

They have been peace males; however they most popular revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They have been quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating towards oppression. They showed forbearance; however that they knew its limits. They believed so as; however not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not proper. With them, justice, liberty and humanity have been “final”; not slavery and oppression. Chances are you’ll nicely cherish the memory of such males. They have been nice in their day and era. Their strong manhood stands out the extra as we distinction it with these degenerate occasions.

How circumspect, actual and proportionate have been all their movements! How in contrast to the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship seemed beyond the passing second, and stretched away in power into the distant future. They seized upon everlasting rules, and set an excellent example of their defense. Mark them!

Absolutely appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn duty they have been about to assume, correctly measuring the terrible odds towards them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most intentionally, beneath the inspiration of an excellent patriotism, and with a chic religion in the nice rules of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur round you.

Of this elementary work, this present day is the anniversary. Our eyes are met with demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm. Banners and pennants wave exultingly on the breeze. The din of enterprise, too, is hushed. Even Mammon seems to have quitted his grasp on this present day. The ear-piercing fife and the stirring drum unite their accents with the ascending peal of a thousand church bells. Prayers are made, hymns are sung, and sermons are preached in honor of today; while the fast martial tramp of a terrific and multitudinous nation, echoed again by all the hills, valleys and mountains of an enormous continent, bespeak the event one of thrilling and common interests nation’s jubilee.

Pals and residents, I need not enter additional into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you perceive them better than I do. You may instruct me in regard to them. That may be a branch of information during which you are feeling, perhaps, a a lot deeper curiosity than your speaker. The causes which led to the separation of the colonies from the British crown have by no means lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in your widespread faculties, narrated at your firesides, unfolded out of your pulpits, and thundered out of your legislative halls, and are as familiar to you as family phrases. They type the staple of your nationwide poetry and eloquence.

I keep in mind, also, that, as a individuals, People are remarkably acquainted with all information which make in their very own favor. That is esteemed by some as a national trait—perhaps a national weak spot. It’s a reality, that no matter makes for the wealth or for the popularity of People, and might be had low cost! can be found by People. I shall not be charged with slandering People, if I say I feel the American aspect of any query could also be safely left in American arms.

I depart, subsequently, the nice deeds of your fathers to different gentlemen whose declare to have been often descended will probably be much less possible to be disputed than mine!


My enterprise, if I’ve any here to-day, is with the present. The accepted time with God and his cause is the ever-living now.

“Trust no future, however pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present,
Heart within, and God overhead.”

We’ve got to do with the previous solely as we will make it useful to the current and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which could be gained from the previous, we are welcome. But now’s the time, the essential time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have accomplished their work, and have carried out a lot of it properly. You live and should die, and you have to do your work. You haven’t any right to take pleasure in a toddler’s share in the labor of your fathers, until your youngsters are to be blest by your labors. You haven’t any right to put on out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cowl your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that males seldom eulogize the knowledge and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This fact isn’t a uncertain one. There are illustrations of it near and distant, historic and trendy. It was trendy, lots of of years in the past, for the youngsters of Jacob to boast, we’ve “Abraham to our father,” once they had long misplaced Abraham’s religion and spirit. That folks contented themselves underneath the shadow of Abraham’s nice identify, whereas they repudiated the deeds which made his identify great. Need I remind you that a comparable thing is being achieved all over this nation to-day? Want I inform you that the Jews will not be the solely people who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchres of the righteous? Washington could not die till he had damaged the chains of his slaves. Yet his monument is built up by the worth of human blood, and the merchants in the bodies and souls of men, shout—“We have Washington to our father.” Alas! that it ought to be so; yet so it is.

“The evil that men do, lives after them,
The good is oft-interred with their bones.”

“What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?”

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, permit me to ask, why am I referred to as upon to converse here to-day? What have I, or these I symbolize, to do together with your nationwide independence? Are the great rules of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, prolonged to us? and am I, subsequently, referred to as upon to deliver our humble providing to the nationwide altar, and to confess the benefits and categorical religious gratitude for the blessings ensuing from your independence to us?

Would to God, each on your sakes and ours, that an affirmative reply could possibly be honestly returned to these questions! Then would my activity be mild, and my burden straightforward and delightful. For who’s there so chilly, that a nation’s sympathy couldn’t warm him? Who so obdurate and lifeless to the claims of gratitude, that may not thankfully acknowledge such priceless advantages? Who so stolid and selfish, that may not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I’m not that man. In a case like that, the dumb may eloquently converse, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

But, such shouldn’t be the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I’m not included within the pale of this superb anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings through which you, today, rejoice, aren’t enjoyed in widespread. The wealthy inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The daylight that brought life and healing to you, has introduced stripes and demise to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You could rejoice, I need to mourn. To tug a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and name upon him to be a part of you in joyous anthems, have been inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you imply, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to converse to-day? In that case, there’s a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it’s harmful to copy the instance of a nation whose crimes, decreasing up to heaven, have been thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable break! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten individuals!

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

Fellow-citizens; above your nationwide, tumultuous pleasure, I hear the mournful wail of hundreds of thousands! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered extra insupportable by the jubilee shouts that attain them. If I do overlook, if I do not faithfully keep in mind these bleeding youngsters of sorrow today, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To overlook them, to cross frivolously over their wrongs, and to chime in with the in style theme, can be treason most scandalous and surprising, and would make me a reproach earlier than God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this present day, and its well-liked traits, from the slave’s level of view. Standing, there, recognized with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I don’t hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never appeared blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we flip to the declarations of the previous, or to the professions of the current, the conduct of the nation appears equally hideous and revolting. America is fake to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I’ll, in the identify of humanity which is outraged, in the identify of liberty which is fettered, in the identify of the constitution and the Bible, that are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in query and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, every little thing that serves to perpetuate slavery—the nice sin and disgrace of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I’ll use the severest language I can command; and but not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment just isn’t blinded by prejudice, or who just isn’t at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and simply.

However I fancy I hear some one of my viewers say, it’s just on this circumstance that you simply and your brother abolitionists fail to make a positive impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce much less, would you persuade more, and rebuke much less, your trigger can be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, the place all is obvious there’s nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you’ve me argue? On what department of the subject do the individuals of this nation need mild? Should I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That time is conceded already. No one doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for his or her government. They acknowledge it once they punish disobedience on the half of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (regardless of how ignorant he be), topic him to the punishment of dying; whereas solely two of the similar crimes will topic a white man to the like punishment. What is that this however the acknowledgement that the slave is an ethical, mental and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the undeniable fact that Southern statute books are coated with enactments forbidding, underneath extreme fines and penalties, the educating of the slave to learn or to write. When you possibly can level to any such legal guidelines, in reference to the beasts of the subject, then I’ll consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the canine in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle in your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, there will I argue with you that the slave is a person!

For the present, it is sufficient to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, whereas we’re ploughing, planting and reaping, using all types of mechanical tools, erecting homes, setting up bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, whereas we are reading, writing and cyphering, appearing as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having amongst us legal professionals, docs, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and academics; that, while we’re engaged in all method of enterprises widespread to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, dwelling, shifting, appearing, considering, planning, dwelling in families as husbands, wives and youngsters, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and searching hopefully for life and immortality past the grave, we are referred to as upon to show that we are males!

Would you might have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he’s the rightful owner of his own physique? You will have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with nice problem, involving a doubtful software of the principle of justice, arduous to be understood? How ought to I look to-day, in the presence of People, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to present that men have a pure proper to freedom? talking of it comparatively, and positively, negatively, and affirmatively. To take action, can be to make myself ridiculous, and to supply an insult to your understanding. There’s not a man beneath the cover of heaven, that does not know that slavery is mistaken for him.

What, am I to argue that it is mistaken to make males brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them with out wages, to hold them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with canine, to sell them at public sale, to sunder their households, to knock out their tooth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with air pollution, is mistaken? No! I can’t. I’ve higher employments for my time and power than such arguments would suggest.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery shouldn’t be divine; that God didn’t establish it; that our docs of divinity are mistaken? There’s blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, can’t be divine! Who can cause on such a proposition? They that can, might; I can’t. The time for such argument is past.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is required. O! had I the means, and will I attain the nation’s ear, I might, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it isn’t mild that is wanted, but hearth; it isn’t the mild bathe, but thunder. We’d like the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The sensation of the nation have to be quickened; the conscience of the nation have to be roused; the propriety of the nation have to be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation have to be uncovered; and its crimes towards God and man have to be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I reply: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the yr, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant sufferer. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vainness; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hole mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all of your spiritual parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a skinny veil to cowl up crimes which might disgrace a nation of savages. There’s not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more surprising and bloody, than are the individuals of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you might, search the place you’ll, roam by means of all the monarchies and despotisms of the previous world, travel by means of South America, get hold of each abuse, and when you’ve gotten found the final, lay your details by the aspect of the on a regular basis practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns and not using a rival.


Take the American slave-trade, which, we’re advised by the papers, is particularly prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the worth of males was by no means larger than now. He mentions the reality to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American establishments. It is carried on in all the giant cities and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and tens of millions are pocketed every year, by dealers in this horrid visitors. In several states, this trade is a chief supply of wealth. It is referred to as (in contradistinction to the overseas slave-trade) “the internal slave trade.” It is, in all probability, referred to as so, too, so as to divert from it the horror with which the overseas slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this authorities, as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words, from the excessive places of the nation, as an execrable visitors. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense value, on the coast of Africa. In all places, in this nation, it is protected to converse of this overseas slave-trade, as a most inhuman visitors, opposed alike to the laws of God and of man. The obligation to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our DOCTORS OF DIVINITY. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should depart this nation, and set up themselves on the western coast of Africa! It’s, nevertheless, a notable proven fact that, while a lot execration is poured out by People upon these engaged in the overseas slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states move with out condemnation, and their enterprise is deemed honorable.

Behold the practical operation of this inner slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American faith. Right here you will notice women and men reared like swine for the market. You recognize what is a swine-drover? I’ll present you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the nation, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human inventory. You will notice one of these human flesh-jobbers, armed with pistol, whip and bowie-knife, driving a company of 100 males, ladies, and youngsters, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched individuals are to be bought singly, or in tons, to go well with purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field, and the lethal sugar-mill. Mark the unhappy procession, as it moves wearily alongside, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-chilling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the previous man, with locks thinned and gray. Forged one glance, should you please, upon that younger mom, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching solar, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that woman of 13, weeping, sure! weeping, as she thinks of the mom from whom she has been torn! The drove strikes tardily. Heat and sorrow have almost consumed their power; all of the sudden you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles concurrently; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its method to the middle of your soul! The crack you heard, was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard, was from the lady you noticed with the babe. Her velocity had faltered underneath the weight of her youngster and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Comply with the drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see males examined like horses; see the types of ladies rudely and brutally uncovered to the surprising gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove bought and separated perpetually; and always remember the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me residents, WHERE, beneath the solar, you’ll be able to witness a spectacle extra fiendish and surprising. Yet that is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling half of the United States.

I was born amid such sights and scenes. To me the American slave-trade is a terrible actuality. When a toddler, my soul was typically pierced with a sense of its horrors. I lived on Philpot Road, Fell’s Level, Baltimore, and have watched from the wharves, the slave ships in the Basin, anchored from the shore, with their cargoes of human flesh, waiting for favorable winds to waft them down the Chesapeake. There was, at that time, a grand slave mart stored at the head of Pratt Road, by Austin Woldfolk. His agents have been sent into each city and county in Maryland, saying their arrival, by way of the papers, and on flaming “hand-bills,” headed CASH FOR NEGROES. These men have been usually properly dressed males, and very fascinating in their manners. Ever prepared to drink, to deal with, and to gamble. The destiny of many a slave has depended upon the turn of a single card; and lots of a toddler has been snatched from the arms of its mother by bargains arranged in a state of brutal drunkenness.

The flesh-mongers gather up their victims by dozens, and drive them, chained, to the common depot at Baltimore. When a adequate quantity have been collected right here, a ship is chartered, for the objective of conveying the forlorn crew to Cellular, or to New Orleans. From the slave prison to the ship, they are often pushed in the darkness of night time; for since the antislavery agitation, a sure warning is noticed.

In the deep nonetheless darkness of midnight, I have been typically aroused by the lifeless heavy footsteps, and the piteous cries of the chained gangs that passed our door. The anguish of my boyish heart was intense; and I used to be typically consoled, when speaking to my mistress in the morning, to hear her say that the customized was very depraved; that she hated to hear the rattle of the chains, and the heart-rending cries. I was glad to discover one who sympathized with me in my horror.

Fellow-citizens, this murderous visitors is, to-day, in lively operation on this boasted republic. In the solitude of my spirit, I see clouds of mud raised on the highways of the South; I see the bleeding footsteps; I hear the doleful wail of fettered humanity, on the method to the slave-markets, where the victims are to be bought like horses, sheep, and swine, knocked off to the highest bidder. There I see the tenderest ties ruthlessly broken, to gratify the lust, caprice and rapacity of the consumers and sellers of males. My soul sickens at the sight.

“Is this the land your Fathers loved,
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the earth whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?”

However a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of issues stays to be introduced.

By an act of the American Congress, not but two years previous, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting type. By that act, Mason & Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has turn into as Virginia; and the power to maintain, hunt, and sell men, ladies, and youngsters as slaves remains not a mere state institution, however is now an establishment of the entire United States. The facility is co-extensive with the Star-Spangled Banner and American Christianity. Where these go, may go the merciless slave-hunter. The place these are, man isn’t sacred. He’s a hen for the sportsman’s gun. By that the majority foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and individual of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is searching floor for males. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, however for men guilty of no crime. Your lawmakers have commanded all good residents to interact on this hellish sport. Your President, your Secretary of State, your lords, nobles, and ecclesiastics, enforce, as a duty you owe to your free and superb nation, and to your God, that you simply do this accursed factor. Not fewer than forty People have, inside the past two years, been hunted down and, and not using a second’s warning, hurried away in chains, and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives and youngsters, dependent on them for bread; but of this, no account was made. The suitable of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights on this republic, the rights of God included! For black males there are neither regulation, justice, humanity, nor religion. The Fugitive Slave Regulation makes MERCY TO THEM, A CRIME; and bribes the decide who tries them. An American JUDGE GETS TEN DOLLARS FOR EVERY VICTIM HE CONSIGNS to slavery, and five, when he fails to achieve this. The oath of any two villains is adequate, beneath this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can deliver no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is sure by the regulation to hear but one aspect; and that aspect, is the aspect of the oppressor. Let this damning reality be perpetually informed. Let it’s thundered round the world, that, in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America, the seats of justice are crammed with judges, who hold their workplaces underneath an open and palpable bribe, and are sure, in deciding in the case of a man’s liberty, hear solely his accusers!

In obvious violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the varieties of administering regulation, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenseless, and in diabolical intent, this Fugitive Slave Regulation stands alone in the annals of tyrannical laws. I doubt if there be another nation on the globe, having the brass and the baseness to put such a regulation on the statute-book. If any man on this meeting thinks in a different way from me on this matter, and feels in a position to disprove my statements, I’ll gladly confront him at any appropriate time and place he might choose.


I take this regulation to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the church buildings and ministers of our nation were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.

At the very second that they’re thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and non secular liberty, and for the right to worship God in accordance to the dictates of their very own consciences, they are completely silent in respect to a regulation which robs religion of its chief significance, and makes it completely nugatory to a world lying in wickedness. Did this regulation concern the “mint, anise and cummin”—abridge the proper to sing psalms, to partake of the sacrament, or to interact in any of the ceremonies of faith, it will be captivated with the thunder of a thousand pulpits. A basic shout would go up from the church, demanding repeal, repeal, immediate repeal! And it will go exhausting with that politician who presumed to solicit the votes of the individuals with out inscribing this motto on his banner. Additional, if this demand were not complied with, another Scotland can be added to the history of spiritual liberty, and the stern previous Covenanters can be thrown into the shade. A John Knox can be seen at every church door, and heard from each pulpit, and Fillmore would haven’t any more quarter than was proven by Knox, to the lovely, but treacherous queen Mary of Scotland. The truth that the church of our nation, (with fractional exceptions), does not esteem “the Fugitive Slave Law” as a declaration of struggle towards spiritual liberty, implies that that church regards religion simply as a type of worship, an empty ceremony, and not an important precept, requiring lively benevolence, justice, love and good will in the direction of man. It esteems sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above proper doing; solemn conferences above practical righteousness. A worship that may be carried out by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothes to the bare, and who enjoin obedience to a regulation forbidding these acts of mercy, is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such individuals as “scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe of mint, anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith.”


However the church of this nation is just not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it truly takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the defend of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines. who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the entire slave system. They have taught that man might, correctly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the obligation of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.

Personally, I might say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome something! in choice to the gospel, as preached by these Divines! They convert the very identify of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty, and serve to affirm extra infidels, on this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke, put together, have completed! These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted factor, having neither rules of right motion, nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty, and depart the throng of religion an enormous, horrible, repulsive type. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man-stealers, and thugs. It isn’t that “pure and undefiled religion” which is from above, and which is “first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” However a faith which favors the wealthy towards the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two courses, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a faith which can be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great fact of the brotherhood of man. All this we affirm to be true of the widespread church, and the widespread worship of our land and nation—a faith, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of impressed knowledge, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church may be nicely addressed, “Bring no more vain ablations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea! when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOOD; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”

The American church is guilty, when seen in connection with what it’s doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively responsible when seen in reference to its capability to abolish slavery. The sin of which it’s guilty is one of omission as well as of fee. Albert Barnes but uttered what the widespread sense of each man in any respect observant of the precise state of the case will receive as fact, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”

Let the spiritual press, the pulpit, the Sunday faculty, the conference meeting, the nice ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers towards slavery and slave-holding; and the entire system of crime and blood can be scattered to the winds; and that they do not do this includes them in the most awful duty of which the mind can conceive.

In prosecuting the anti-slavery enterprise, we’ve been asked to spare the church, to spare the ministry; but how, we ask, might such a thing be executed? We’re met on the threshold of our efforts for the redemption of the slave, by the church and ministry of the nation, in battle arrayed towards us; and we’re compelled to battle or flee. From what quarter, I urge to know, has proceeded a fireplace so lethal upon our ranks, throughout the final two years, as from the Northern pulpit? As the champions of oppressors, the chosen men of American theology have appeared-men, honored for his or her so-called piety, and their real studying. The LORDS of Buffalo, the SPRINGS of New York, the LATHROPS of Auburn, the COXES and SPENCERS of Brooklyn, the GANNETS and SHARPS of Boston, the DEWEYS of Washington, and other nice spiritual lights of the land, have, in utter denial of the authority of Him, by whom the professed to he referred to as to the ministry, intentionally taught us, towards the instance or the Hebrews and towards the remonstrance of the Apostles, they train “that we ought to obey man’s law before the law of God.”

My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how such males could be supported, as the “standing types and representatives of Jesus Christ,” is a mystery which I depart others to penetrate. In talking of the American church, nevertheless, let it’s distinctly understood that I imply the great mass of the spiritual organizations of our land. There are exceptions, and I thank God that there are. Noble men could also be discovered, scattered all over these Northern States, of whom Henry Ward Beecher of Brooklyn, Samuel J. Might of Syracuse, and my esteemed pal on the platform, are shining examples; and let me say additional, that upon these males lies the obligation to inspire our ranks with high spiritual religion and zeal, and to cheer us on in the nice mission of the slave’s redemption from his chains.


One is struck with the difference between the angle of the American church in the direction of the anti-slavery movement, and that occupied by the churches in England in the direction of an identical motion in that nation. There, the church, true to its mission of ameliorating, elevating, and enhancing the situation of mankind, came forward promptly, sure up the wounds of the West Indian slave, and restored him to his liberty. There, the query of emancipation was a high[ly] spiritual query. It was demanded, in the identify of humanity, and according to the regulation of the dwelling God. The Sharps, the Clarksons, the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, and Burchells and the Knibbs, have been alike famous for his or her piety, and for their philanthropy. The anti-slavery motion there was not an anti-church motion, for the cause that the church took its full share in prosecuting that motion: and the anti-slavery movement in this country will stop to be an anti-church motion, when the church of this nation shall assume a positive, as an alternative or a hostile place in the direction of that motion. People! your republican politics, not lower than your republican faith, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the entire political energy of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties), is solemnly pledged to help and perpetuate the enslavement of three tens of millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the topped headed tyrants of Russia and Austria, and delight yourselves on your Democratic institutions, when you yourselves consent to be the mere instruments and bodyguards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from overseas, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, shield them, and pour out your cash to them like water; but the fugitives from your personal land you promote, hunt, arrest, shoot and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal schooling yet you keep a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation—a system begun in avarice, supported in satisfaction, and perpetuated in cruelty. You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make the unhappy story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen and orators, till your gallant sons are prepared to fly to arms to vindicate her trigger towards her oppressors; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave, you’d enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the topic of public discourse! You’re all on hearth at the mention of liberty for France or for Eire; however are as chilly as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you maintain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You’ll be able to bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a threepenny tax on tea; and but wring the last hard-earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your nation. You profess to consider “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, all over the place to love each other; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all males whose skins usually are not colored like your personal. You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you simply “hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”; and yet, you maintain securely, in a bondage which, according to your personal Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh half of the inhabitants of your nation.

Fellow-citizens! I can’t enlarge further in your nationwide inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this nation brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral energy overseas; it corrupts your politicians at house. It saps the basis of faith; it makes your identify a hissing, and a by word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic drive in your authorities, the only factor that significantly disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it’s the enemy of enchancment, the deadly foe of schooling; it fosters delight; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it’s a curse to the earth that helps it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it have been the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty tens of millions crush and destroy it eternally!


But it’s answered in reply to all this, that exactly what I’ve now denounced is, in truth, assured and sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States; that the proper to maintain and to hunt slaves is part of that Constitution framed by the illustrious Fathers of this Republic.

Then, I dare to affirm, notwithstanding all I’ve stated before, your fathers stooped, basely stooped “To palter with us in a double sense: And keep the word of promise to the ear, But break it to the heart.”

And as an alternative of being the trustworthy males I have earlier than declared them to be, they have been the veriest imposters that ever practiced on mankind. This is the inevitable conclusion, and from it there isn’t a escape. But I differ from those that charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. It is a slander upon their memory, a minimum of, so I consider. There’s not time now to argue the constitutional question at length—nor have I the capacity to talk about it as it ought to be discussed. The subject has been handled with masterly energy by Lysander Spooner, Esq., by William Goodell, by Samuel E. Sewall, Esq., and final, although not least, by Gerritt Smith, Esq. These gentlemen have, as I feel, absolutely and clearly vindicated the Structure from any design to help slavery for an hour.

Fellow-citizens! there isn’t a matter in respect to which, the individuals of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon, as that of the pro-slavery character of the Structure. In that instrument I maintain there’s neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful factor; however, interpreted because it ought to be interpreted, the Structure is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, contemplate its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither. While I don’t intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it’s not considerably singular that, if the Constitution have been meant to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can anyplace be found in it. What can be thought of an instrument, drawn up, legally drawn up, for the objective of entitling the city of Rochester to a monitor of land, by which no mention of land was made? Now, there are specific guidelines of interpretation, for the correct understanding of all authorized devices. These guidelines are properly established. They’re plain, common sense guidelines, reminiscent of you and I, and all of us, can understand and apply, without having passed years in the research of regulation. I scout the idea that the query of the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of slavery just isn’t a question for the individuals. I hold that each American citizen has a right to type an opinion of the constitution, and to propagate that opinion, and to use all honorable means to make his opinion the prevailing one. With out this proper, the liberty of an American citizen can be as insecure as that of a Frenchman. Ex-Vice-President Dallas tells us that the constitution is an object to which no American mind might be too attentive, and no American heart too devoted. He further says, the constitution, in its words, is obvious and intelligible, and is meant for the home-bred, unsophisticated understandings of our fellow-citizens. Senator Berrien tell us that the Constitution is the elementary regulation, that which controls all others. The charter of our liberties, which each citizen has a personal curiosity in understanding completely. The testimony of Senator Breese, Lewis Cass, and lots of others that may be named, who are in all places esteemed as sound legal professionals, so regard the constitution. I take it, subsequently, that it isn’t presumption in a personal citizen to type an opinion of that instrument.

Now, take the structure in accordance to its plain studying, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the different hand it is going to be found to include rules and functions, totally hostile to the existence of slavery.

I have detained my viewers completely too long already. At some future interval I’ll gladly avail myself of a chance to give this subject a full and truthful discussion.

Permit me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the darkish picture I have today introduced of the state of the nation, I don’t despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which should inevitably work The downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is for certain. I, subsequently, depart off where I started, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great rules it accommodates, and the genius of American Establishments, my spirit can also be cheered by the apparent tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the similar relation to one another that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the standard path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such might be carried out. Lengthy established customs of hurtful character might formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Information was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have turn into retro. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the robust city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and beneath the sea, in addition to on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans not divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday tour. Area is relatively annihilated. Ideas expressed on one aspect of the Atlantic are, distinctly heard on the different. The far off and virtually fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our ft. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not but spent its pressure. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now disguise itself from the all-pervading mild. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China have to be seen, in contrast with nature. Africa should rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let each coronary heart join in saying it:

God velocity the yr of jubilee
The extensive world o’er
When from their galling chains let loose,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And put on the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no extra.
That yr will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights once more

God velocity the day when human blood
Shall stop to movement!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to finish.
And change into a trustworthy pal
Every foe.

God velocity the hour, the superb hour,
When none on earth
Shall train a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
However all to manhood’s stature tower,
By equal delivery!
THAT HOUR WILL, COME, to each, to all,
And from his prison-house, the thrall
Go forth.

Till that yr, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and coronary heart, and hand I’ll attempt,
To interrupt the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive-
So witness Heaven!
And by no means from my chosen publish,
Whate’er the peril or the value,
Be pushed.