The Liberator
Boston: 26 October 1855


From the New York Observer.


   I have been in no slight degree affected by the spirit which has excited so great a commotion in these days, in the Northern mind, concerning Slavery. I have heard, in imagination, the clanking of chains, have shed tears over the pages of Uncle Tom's Cabin, have argued and declaimed with no little vehemence, in favor of speedy emancipation; in fine, I may with all truth say, I have felt the passion which moves the hearts of so many of the speakers at the Anti-Slavery meetings in Boston and elsewhere. If, therefore, I refuse to entertain that passion, and cast it out as evil, it is not from ignorance. I have felt the excitement, the impetus as of a great cause, for the sweeping of Slavery from this land, until it became a prolonged emotion, (if I may be allowed the expression,) and then I became bound as a Christian man carefully to analyze it; for no man, to say nothing of a Christian, has a right to yield himself blindly to the guidance of his feelings or emotions. Several circumstances led me to suspect that the spirit which excited these violent feelings was not of heavenly origin.

  I observed it seemed to come, in largest measure upon certain men who denied the Deity of the Son of God, and that He had himself purged our sins, and sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high:—also, at the very time this spirit was upon them, they would deny the inspiration of the Bible, and the Church to be a divine institution, and would assert that the theatre was a better reformer than the Church. I thought it strange that these should be the priests upon whom the holy annointing should rest, but still I remembered God's ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.

  I was greatly staggered at perceiving that 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' became a favorite book with the men of the theatre, with harlots and blasphemers, and I understood that men who feared not God, neither regarded man, hung entranced over its scenes, as represented in the drama; and yet, thought I, this book is acknowledged to be the highest and purest the spirit of abolition has inspired, the greatest of all its works! Strange it should be adopted into the assemblies of the wicked, where the words spoken by the Son of God can get no access, except to point a jest! The suspicious awakened by these things might, however, have been laid to sleep again, had not certain thoughts, put forth by Isaac Taylor, upon Fanaticism, and read by me several years since, recurred to my mind with peculiar force; in fact, the thoughts were suggested by a very natural association of ideas; for I could but ask myself, is it indeed a pure philanthropy which calls forth these violent harangues, these furious gestures, and leads men to go defiant of law and to entice slaves from their masters? At any rate, thought I, let me examine this spirit in the light of the Gospel and the judgment throne,—this spirit now working in me, what is its origin, and whither does it tend? I came from the examination convinced that it is no other than the FANATICISM, which, for thousands of years, has been roaming the earth; which, with the 'scourge, the brand, the banner, and the symbol,' has filled the world with confusion and violence, and counted its slain by millions. Through all it disguises may be seen the unmistakable features. And now I will give my reasons for the conclusion, and perhaps they may prove as satisfactory to some other mind as they have proved to my own.

  I found this spirit entirely unlike true philanthropy, awakening a mere fruitless excitement, and love of agitation. Always after the immediate effects of an abolition meeting have subsided, the question would return, 'Cui bono?' Why this waste of emotion, from which can rise no practical good! And yet the excitement grew, and the thirst for it grew. I observed, also, that, even in private life, discussions upon slavery could not ordinarily go on, without violent language. I well understood, from past experience, the scorn and rage the abolitionist feels when one dares to differ from him on the question of human rights. I may here remark, too, the effect this excitement had, in hiding from me, at least in diverting my attention from the vital truths of the Gospel(!) It has been thought, I believe, that the mind cannot be exercised by two great emotions at the same time; at any rate, I know that when the slavery question was before me, it claimed the supremacy over all other questions. Slavery was the sin, deliverance from it the one thing; altogether secondary to that was the salvation of the black man's soul (?) Grappling with slavery was the work of the times, the task given us Northern ministers to do. How tame, compared with this, is the preaching the way of salvation by the Atonement, the depravity of the heart, its need of renewal by the Spirit of God, and the infinite peril of man our of Christ! And what, I asked again, is the effect of this agitation, but to turn the attention of both preacher and hearer away from the great and solemn issues of life? and thus we have agitation ant the risk of the soul's eternal destruction, and of no possible benefit to the black man.(!) Not one of my abolition friends has yet, in my hearing, suggested a remedy for slavery, expect agitation. Not one abolitionist minister, with whom I am acquainted, is willing to go, and, upon any of the hundreds of plantations open to the Gospel, proclaim the truth as it is in Jesus. The abolitionist has other work just now!

  But, what struck me with more force still, was the malign hatred which constantly accompanied this spirit in its actings. I found I became exasperated with all who would not agree with me; I made no scruple of sitting in judgment upon other men's conscience; but chiefly, and above all, I hoped for insurrections in the South. I verily fear there was a time when I should have rejoiced at the tidings that the slaves had risen and butchered their masters, and my face would have been lightened with the fanatic's gleam of satisfaction, as are so many faces now, at the tidings that rifles and bowie-knives are imported into Kansas. Do we not every spring hear from philanthropists on the platform, the cry for blood? Do not thousands cheer, as eloquent men call for the dissolution of the Union? What did that New England divine mean, the other day, when he advocated the leaving of the South to itself? when he would not send there the Gospel of salvation? It needs no interpretation; it is the same cruel voice which has spoken a thousand times in the Inquisition and Vatican, (!) and which would fain cut off men and nations from the mercies of God. (!!!)

  But I will not prolong these confessions. There is one other point, however, to which I must allude. I found this spirit leading directly to infidelity. I am told many professing Christians have already under its influence apostatized, and that some even among the ministry have gone over to fatal errors. I do not wonder, as I remember my secret dissatisfaction that the Bible did not speak out against slavery,—that Christ and his Apostles should be silent upon a question of such interest. Still more dissatisfied was I at finding slavery ingrafted into the Covenant with Abraham, which I had been taught to believe was the Covenant upon which the visible Church was founded. I can easily see, therefore, why the abolitionist should cast away the Bible, in which servants are taught to be obedient to their masters, and in which one man is forbidden to judge another's conscience. These, with other considerations, have led me to renounce this spirit with abhorrence, as not from God.