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



HOLLISTON, Mass. 10th mo. 23d, 1837.

  MY DEAR FRIEND: I resume my pen, to gather up a few fragments of thy Essay, that have not yet been noticed, and in love to bid thee farewell.

  Thou appearest to think, that it is peculiarly the duty of women to educate the little children of this nation. But why, I would ask—why are they any more bound to engage in this sacred employment, than men? I believe, that as soon as the rights of women are understood, our brethren will see and feel that it is their duty to co-operate with us, in this high and holy vocation, of training up little children in the way they should go. And the very fact of their mingling in intercourse with such guileless and gentle spirits, will tend to soften down the asperities of their characters, and clothe them with the noblest and sublimest Christian virtues. I know that this work is deemed beneath the dignity of man; but how great the error! I once heard a man, who had labored extensively among children, say, 'I never feel so near heaven, as


when I am teaching these little ones.' He was right; and I trust the time is coming, when the occupation of an instructer to children will be deemed the most honorable of human employment. If it is drudgery to teach these little ones, then it is the duty of men to bear a part of that burthen; if it is a privilege and an honor, then we generously invite them to share that honor and privilege with us.

  I know some noble instances of this union of principles and employment, and am fully settled in the belief, that abolition doctrines are pre-eminently calculated to qualify men and women to become faithful and efficient teachers. They alone teach fully the doctrine of human rights; and to know and appreciate these, is an indispensable prerequisite to the wisely successful performance of the duties of a teacher. The right understanding of these will qualify her to teach the fundamental, but unfashionable doctrine, that 'God is no respecter of persons,' and that he that despiseth the colored man, because he is 'guilty of a skin not colored like our own,' reproacheth his Maker for having given him that ebon hue. I consider it absolutely indispensable, that this truth should be sedulously instilled into the mind of every child in our republic. I know of no moral truth of greater importance at the present crisis. Those teachers, who are not prepared to teach this in all its fullness, are deficient in one of the most sterling elements of moral character, and are false to the holy trust committed to them, and utterly unfit to train up the children of this generation. So far from urging the deficiency of teachers in this country, a reason why


women should keep out of the anti-slavery excitement, I would say to my sisters, if you wish to become preeminently qualified for the discharge of your arduous duties, come into the abolition ranks, enter this high school of morals, and drink from the deep fountains of philanthropy and Christian equality, whence the waters of healing are welling forth over wide desert wastes, and making glad the city of our God. Intellectual endowments are good, but a high standard of moral principle is better, is essential. As a nation, we have too long educated the mind, and left the heart a moral waste. We have fully and fearfully illustrated the truth of the Apostle's declaration: 'Knowledge puffeth up.' We have indeed been puffed up, vaunting ourselves in our mental endowments and national greatness. But we are beginning to realize, that it is 'Righteousness which exalteth a nation.'

  Thou sayest, when a woman is asked to sign a petition, or join an Anti-Slavery Society, it is 'for the purpose of contributing her measure of influence to keep up agitation in Congress, to promote the excitement of the North against the iniquities of the South, to coerce the South by fear, shame, anger, and a sense of odium, to do what she is determined not to do.' Indeed! Are these the only motives presented to the daughters of America, for laboring in the glorious cause of Human Rights? Let us examine them. 1. 'To keep up agitation in Congress.' Yes—for I can adopt this language of Moore of Virginia, in the Legislature of that State, in 1832: 'I should regret at all times the existence of any unnecessary excitement in the country on any subject; but I confess,


see no reason to lament that which may have arisen on the present occasion. It is often necessary that there should be some excitement among the people, to induce them to turn their attention to questions deeply affecting the welfare of the Commonwealth and there never can arise any subject more worthy their attention, than that of the abolition of slavery.' 2. 'To promote the excitement of the North against the iniquities of the South.' Yes, and against her own sinful copartnership in those iniquities. I believe the discussion of Human Rights at the North has already been of incalculable advantage to this country. It is producing the happiest influence upon the minds and hearts of those who are engaged in it; just such results as Thomas Clarkson tells us, were produced in England by the agitation of the subject there. Says he, 'Of the immense advantages of this contest, I know not how to speak. Indeed, the very agitation of the question, which it involved, has been highly important. Never was the heart of man so expanded; never were its generous sympathies so generally and so perseveringly excited. These sympathies, thus called into existence, have been useful preservatives of national virtue.' I, therefore, wish very much to promote the Anti-Slavery excitement at the North, because I believe it will prove a useful preservative of national virtue. 3. 'To coerce the South by fear, shame, anger, and a sense of odium.' It is true, that I feel the imminent danger of the South so much, that I would fain 'save them with fear, pulling them out of the fire for, if they ever are saved, they will indeed be as a brand pluck-


ed out of the burning.' Nor do I see any thing wrong in influencing slaveholders by a feeling of shame and odium, as well as by a sense of guilt. Why may not abolitionists speak some things to their shame, as the Apostle did to the Corinthians? As to anger, it is no design of ours to excite so wicked a passion. We cannot help it, if, in rejecting the truth, they become angry. Could Stephen help the anger of the Jews, when 'they gnashed upon him with their teeth'?

  But I had thought the principal motives urged by abolitionists were not these; but that they endeavored to excite men and women to active exertion,—first, to cleanse their own hands of the sin of slavery, and secondly, to save the South, if possible, and the North, at any rate, from the impending judgments of heaven. The result of their mission in this country, cannot in the least affect the validity of that mission. Like Noah, they may preach in vain; if so, the destruction of the South can no more be attributed to them, than the destruction of the antediluvian world to him. 'In vain,' did I say? Oh no! The discussion of the rights of the slave has opened the way for the discussion of other rights, and the ultimate result will most certainly be, 'the breaking of every yoke,' the letting the oppressed of every grade and description go free,—an emancipation far more glorious than any the world has ever yet seen,—an introduction into that 'liberty wherewith Christ hath made his people free.'

  I will now say a few words on thy remarks about Esther. Thou sayest, 'When a woman is placed in


similar circumstances, where death to herself and all her nation is one alternative, and there is nothing worse to fear, but something to hope as the other alternative, then she may safely follow such an example.' In this sentence, thou hast conceded every thing I could wish, and proved beyond dispute just what I adduced this text to prove in my Appeal. I will explain myself. Look at the condition of our country—Church and State deeply involved in the enormous crime of slavery: ah! more—claiming the sacred volume, as our charter for the collar and chain. What then can we expect, but that the vials of divine wrath will be poured out upon a nation of oppressors and hypocrites? for we are loud in our professions of civil and ecclesiastical liberty. Now, as a Southerner, I know that reflecting slaveholders expect their peculiar institution to be overthrown in blood. Read the opinion of Moore of Virginia, as expressed by him in the House of Delegates in 1832:—'What must be the ultimate consequence of retaining the slaves amongst us? The answer to this enquiry is both obvious and appalling. It is, that the time will come, and at no distant day, when we shall be involved in all the horrors of a servile war, which will not end until both sides have suffered much, until the land shall everywhere be red with blood, and until the slaves or the whites are totally exterminated. If there be any truth in history, and if the time has not arrived when causes have ceased to produce their legitimate results, the dreadful catastrophe in which I have predicted that our slave system must result, if persisted in, is as inevitable as any event which has already transpired.'


  Here, then, is one alternative, and just as tremendous an alternative as that which was presented to the Queen of Persia. 'There is nothing worse to fear' for the South, let the results of abolition efforts be what they may, whilst 'there is something to hope as the other alternative;' because if she will receive the truth in the love of it, she may repent and be saved. So that, after all, according to thy own reasoning, the women of America 'may safely follow such an example.'

  After endeavoring to show that woman has no moral right to exercise the right of petition for the dumb and stricken slave; no business to join, in any way, in the excitement which anti-slavery principles aye producing in our country; no business to join abolition societies, &c. &c.; thou professest to tell our sisters what they are to do, in order to bring the system of slavery to an end. And now, my dear friend, what does all that thou hast said in many pages, amount to? Why, that women are to exert their influence in private life, to allay the excitement which exists on this subject, and to quench the flame of sympathy in the hearts of their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons. Fatal delusion! Will Christian women heed such advice?

  Hast thou ever asked thyself, what the slave would think of thy book, if he could read it? Dost thou know that, from the beginning to the end, not a word of compassion for him has fallen from thy pen? Recall, I pray, the memory of the hours which thou spent in writing it! Was the paper once moistened by the tear of pity? Did thy heart once swell with


deep sympathy for thy sister in bonds? Did it once ascend to God in broken accents for the deliverance of the captive? Didst thou ever ask thyself, what the free man of color would think of it? Is it such an exhibition of slavery and prejudice, as will call down his blessing upon thy head? Hast thou thought of these things? or carest thou not for the blessings and the prayers of these our suffering brethren? Consider, I entreat, the reception given to thy book by the apologists of slavery. What meaneth that loud acclaim with which they hail it? Oh, listen and weep, and let thy repentings be kindled together, and speedily bring forth, I beseech thee, fruits meet for repentance, and henceforth show thyself faithful to Christ and his bleeding representative the slave.

  I greatly fear that thy book might have been written just as well, hadst thou not had the heart of a woman. It bespeaks a superior intellect, but paralyzed and spell-bound by the sorcery of a worldly-minded expediency. Where, oh where, in its pages, are the outpourings of a soul overwhelmed with a sense of the heinous crimes of our nation, and the necessity of immediate repentance? Farewell! Perhaps on a dying bed thou mayest vainly wish that 'Miss Beecher on the Slave Question' might perish with the mouldering hand which penned its cold and heartless pages. But I forbear, and in deep sadness of heart, but in tender love though I thus speak, I bid thee again, Farewell. Forgive me, if I have wronged thee, and pray for her who still feels like

  Thy sister in the bonds of a common sisterhood,



  P. S. Since preparing the foregoing letters for the press, I have been informed by a Bookseller in Providence, that some of thy books had been sent to him to sell last summer, and that one afternoon a number of southerners entered his store whilst they were lying on the counter. An elderly lady took up one of them and after turning over the pages for some time, she threw it down and remarked, here is a book written by the daughter of a northern dough face, to apologize for our southern institutions—but for my part, I have a thousand times more respect for the Abolitionists, who openly denounce the system of slavery, than for those people, who in order to please us, cloak their real sentiments under such a garb as this. This southern lady, I have no doubt, expressed the sentiments of thousands of the most respectable slaveholders in our country—and thus, they will tell the North in bitter reproach for their sinful subserviency, after the lapse of a few brief years, when interest no longer padlocks their lips. At present the South feels that she must at least appear to thank her northern apologists.

A. E. G.