Letters to Catherine Beecher
Angelina E. Grimke
Boston: Isaac Knapp, 1838



NEWBURYPORT, 7th mo. 8th, 1837.

  DEAR FRIEND: As an Abolitionist, I thank thee for the portrait thou hast drawn of the character of those with whom I am associated. They deserve all thou hast said in their favor; and I will now endeavor to vindicate those 'men of pure morals, of great honesty of purpose, of real benevolence and piety,' from some objections thou hast urged against their measures.

  'Much evidence,' thou sayest, 'can be brought to prove that the character and measures of the Abolition Society are not either peaceful or christian in tendency, but that they are in their nature calculated to generate party spirit, denunciation, recrimination, and angry passion.' Now I solemnly ask thee, whether the character and measures of our holy Redeemer did not produce exactly the same effects? Why did the Jews lead him to the brow of the hill, that they might cast him down headlong; why did they go about to kill him; why did they seek to lay hands on him, if the tendency of his measures was so very pacific?


Listen, too, to his own declaration: 'I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword;' the effects of which, he expressly said, would be to set the mother against her daughter, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. The rebukes which he uttered against sin were eminently calculated to produce 'recriminations and angry passions,' in all who were determined to cleave to their sins; and they did produce them even against 'him who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.' He was called a wine-bibber, and a glutton, and Beelzebub, and was accused of casting out devils by the prince of the devils. Why, then, protest against our measures as unchristian, because they do not smooth the pillow of the poor sinner, and lull his conscience into fatal security? The truth is, the efforts of abolitionists have stirred up the very same spirit which the efforts of all thorough-going reformers have ever done; we consider it a certain proof that the truths we utter are sharper than any two edged sword, and that they are doing the work of conviction in the hearts of our enemies. If it be not so, I have greatly mistaken the character of Christianity. I consider it preeminently aggressive; it waits not to be assaulted, but moves on in all the majesty of Truth to attack the strong holds of the kingdom of darkness, carries the war into the enemy's camp, and throws its fiery darts into the midst of its embattled hosts. Thou seemest to think, on the contrary, that Christianity is just such a weak, dependent, puerile creature as thou hast described woman to be. In my opinion, thou hast robbed both the one and the other of all their true dignity and glory. Thy descriptions may suit


the prevailing christianity of this age, and the general character of woman; and if so, we have great cause for shame and confusion of face.

  I feel sorry that thy unkind insinuations against the christian character of Wm. Lloyd Garrison, have rendered it necessary for me to speak of him individually, because what I shall feel bound to say of him may, to some like thyself, appear like flattery; but I must do what justice seems so clearly to call for at my hands. Thou sayest that 'though he professes a belief in the christian religion, he is an avowed opponent of most of its institutions.' I presume thou art here alluding to his views of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper, and the Sabbath. Permit me to remind thee, that in all these opinions, he coincides entirely with the Society of Friends, whose views of the Sabbath never were so ably vindicated as by his pen: and the insinuations of hypocrisy which thou hast thrown out against him, may with just as much truth be cast upon them. The Quakers think that these are not christian institutions, but thou hast assumed it without any proof at all. Thou sayest farther, 'The character and spirit of this man have for years been exhibited in the Liberator.' I have taken that paper for two years, and therefore understand its character, and am compelled to acknowledge, that harsh and severe as is the language often used, I have never seen any expressions which truth did not warrant. The abominations of slavery cannot be otherwise described. I think Dr. Channing exactly portrayed the character of brother Garrison's writings when he said, 'That deep feeling of evils, which is


necessary to effectual conflict with them, which marks God's most powerful messengers to mankind, cannot breathe itself in soft and tender accents. The deeply moved soul will speak strongly, and ought to speak strongly, so as to move and shake nations.' It is well for the slave, and well for this country, that such a man was sent to sound the tocsin of alarm before slavery had completed its work of moral death in this 'hypocritical nation.' Garrison begun that discussion of the subject of slavery, which J. Q. Adams declared in his oration, delivered in this town on the 4th inst. 'to be the only safety-valve by which the high pressure boiler of slavery could be prevented from a most fatal explosion in this country;' and as a Southerner, I feel truly grateful for all his efforts to redeem not the slave only, but the slaveholder, from the polluting influences of such a system of crime.

  In his character as a man and a Christian, I have the highest confidence. The assertion thou makest, 'that there is to be found in that paper, or any thing else, any evidence of his possessing the peculiar traits, of Wilberforce, (benignity, gentleness and kind heartedness, I suppose thou meanest,) not even his warmest admirers will maintain,' is altogether new to me; and I for one feel ready to declare, that I have never met in any one a more lovely exhibition of these traits of character. I might relate several anecdotes in proof of this assertion, but let one suffice. A friend of mine, a member of the Society of Friends, told me that after he became interested in the Anti-Slavery cause through the Liberator, he still felt so much prejudice against its editor, that, although he wished to


labor in behalf of the slaves, he still felt as if he could not identify himself with a society which recognized such a leader as he had heard Wm. L. Garrison was. He had never seen him, and after many struggles of feeling, determined to go to Boston on purpose to see 'this man,' and judge of his character for himself. He did so, and when he entered the office of the Liberator, soon fell into conversation with a person he did not know, and became very much interested in him. After some time, a third person came in and called off the attention of the stranger, whose benevolent countenance and benignant manners he had so much admired. He soon heard him addressed as Mr. Garrison, which astonished him very much; for he had expected to see some coarse, uncouth and rugged creature, instead of the perfect gentleman he now learned was Wm. L. Garrison. He told me that the effect upon his mind was so great, that he sat down and wept to think he had allowed himself to be so prejudiced against a person, who was so entirely different from what his enemies had represented him to be. He at once felt as if he could most cheerfully labor, heart and hand, with such a man, and has for the last three or four years been a faithful co-worker with him, in the holy cause of immediate emancipation. And his confidence in him as a man of pure, christian principle, has grown stronger and stronger, as time has advanced, and circumstances have developed his true character. I think it is impossible thou canst be personally acquainted with brother Garrison, or thou wouldst not write of him in the way thou hast. If thou really wishest to have


thy erroneous opinions removed, embrace the first opportunity of being introduced to him; for I can assure thee, that with the fire of a Paul, he does possess some of the most lovely traits in the character of Wilberforce.

  In much haste, I remain thy friend,