Ladies and Gentlemen: An earnest espousal of the Anti-Slavery cause for a quarter of a century, under circumstances which have served in a special manner to identify my name and labours with it, will shield me from the charge of egotism, in assuming to be its exponent—at least for myself—on this occasion. All that I can compress within the limits of a single lecture, by way of its elucidation, it shall be my aim to accomplish. I will make a clean breast of it. You shall know all that is in my heart pertaining to Slavery, its supporters, and apologists.
Of necessity, as well as of choice, I am a "Garrisonian" Abolitionist—the most unpopular appellation that any man can have applied to him, in the present state of public sentiment; yet, I am more than confident, destined ultimately to be honourably regarded by the wise and good. For though I have never assumed to be a leader—have never sought conspicuity of position, or notoriety of name—have desired to follow, if others, better qualified, would go before, and to be lost sight of in the throng of Liberty's adherents, as a drop is merged in the ocean; yet, as the appellation alluded to is applied, not with any reference to myself invidiously, but to excite prejudice against the noblest movement of the age, in order that the most frightful system of oppression ever devised by human ingenuity and wickedness may be left to grow and expand to the latest generation—I accept it as the synonym of absolute trust in God, and utter disregard of "that fear of man which bringeth a snare"—and so deem it alike honourable and praiseworthy.
Representing, then, that phase of Abolitionism which is the most contemned—to the suppression of which, the means and forces of the Church and the State are most actively directed—I am here to defend it against all its assailants as the highest expediency, the soundest philosophy, the noblest patriotism, the broadest philanthropy, and the best religion extant. To denounce it as fanatical, disorganising, reckless of consequences, bitter and irreverent in spirit, infidel in heart, deaf alike to the suggestions of reason and the warnings of history, is to call good evil, and evil good; to put darkness for light, and light for darkness; to insist that Barabbas is better than Jesus; to cover with infamy the memories of patriarchs and prophets, apostles and martyrs; and to inaugurate Satan as the God of the universe. If, like the sun, it is not wholly spotless, still, like the sun, without it there is no light. If murky clouds obscure its brightness, still it shines in its strength. If, at a seems to wane to its final setting, it is only to reveal itself in the splendour of a new ascension, unquenchable, glorious, sublime.
Let me define my positions, and at the same time challenge any one to show wherein they are untenable.
I. I am a believer in that portion of the Declaration of American Independence in which it is set forth, as among self-evident truths, "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Hence, I am an Abolitionist....