The New York Daily Tribune
Unsigned Article|Frederick Douglass Speech
12 May 1853


American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.

  This Society held its anniversary last evening at the Broadway Tabernacle, there being a very large audience present. The Chairman, Mr. Arthur Tappan, called the meeting to order shortly after 7 1/2 o'clock, and introduced Rev. Mr. Freeman, of Brooklyn, who read selections from Scripture, and offered up prayer. The Secretary, Mr. Lewis Tappan, then read the following annual


  The Report states that agitation on the subject of American Slavery will not cease until it is abolished; that politicians who aim to suppress inquiry, and divines who form an unholy alliance with them, are equally short-sighted on the subject; and that nature cries aloud against the inhumanities of Slavery, while Free Democracy abjures the hateful system, and true Christianity recoils from its leprous touch.

  Indifferent as a majority of the American people are, at the present time, to the claims of justice, honor and humanity, and apostate as we find a large proportion of politicians, ministers and church-members from the principles of Republicanism and Christianity, with reference to the people of color, the report states that it is a cause of profound gratitude that a multitude has been raised up to wrestle against principalities and spiritual wickedness, and that so much success has attended their labors. The Anti-Slavery cause, amid discouragements and obstacles, and retarded as it is by the machinations of its enemies and the support Slavery gains from both political and ecclesiastical bodies, steadily pursues its course toward a glorious consummation. God will break the rod of the oppressor. The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever. The slaves will be brought out of the "furnace of affliction."

  The Report enumerates the acts of the Committee during the past year—alludes to the conventions and meetings that have been attended by delegates from their body—the success of their Anti-Slavery depository of publications—the pamphlets, &c., that have been written by members of the Committee—the large quantities of books and pamphlets that have been circulated, and the correspondence carried on at home and abroad. It alludes to the success of The National Era, a paper established by the Committee, and to the fact that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was originally published in its columns; and also to the success of the American Missionary Association, a Society formed principally by the active members of this Society, with its hundred missionaries and teachers, in the Western free States and in the slave States, and in foreign countries, all preaching and inculcating the principles of emancipation, temperance, and peace. The Committee mention particularly the publication of Goodell's American Slave Code, published by them, a second edition of which has already been called for, and an edition lately issued from the press in London; the expurgations and mutilations of foreign and American publications by publishers, and by the American Tract Society and the American Sunday-School Union, in order to please slave-holding communities.

  A review is taken of the progress of the cause during the past year—of the political and Christian Anti-Slavery Conventions that have been held in different parts of the country—of the spirited resolutions and addresses that have been adopted—and of the elevated tones that have characterized these proceedings. The Report states that Anti-Slavery religious bodies have taken higher ground, and that political conventions have adopted sounder principles. Nominations by the free democracy have been made in all the free and in several of the slave States.

  Encouraging statements are made respecting the cause of free missions and of the formation of a new Book and Tract Society; of the increase of Anti-Slavery newspapers; of the fact that while the secular press is becoming more and more out-spoken on the subject on the subject of emancipation, the pro-slavery, religious and secular press at the North coincide, more than heretofore, with the southern papers that defend Slavery as a Bible institution. It is said that a vast amount of Anti-Slavery matter is contained at the present time, in many of the leading newspapers of the country, and that there has been a very great increase of readers of Anti-Slavery literature. There are indications of a more reasonable spirit in several southern newspapers, a greater disposition to discuss the subject of Slavery in them in its economical and moral bearings, and a willingness to make admissions favorable to the Anti-Slavery side of the question.

  . . .

  After the singing of an appropriate hymn called "A Prayer for the Slave," the Chairman introduced to the audience FREDERICK DOUGLASS, Esq., who was greeted with loud applause and proceeded to speak as follows:

  . . .


  Again: The prospect, Sir, of putting down this discussion is anything but flattering at the present moment. I am unable to detect any signs of the suppression of this discussion. I certainly do not see it in this crowded assembly—nor upon this platform—nor do I see it in any direction. Why, Sir, look all over the North; look South—look at home—look abroad—look at the whole civilized world—and what are all this multitude doing at this moment? Why, Sir, they are reading "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN": and when they have read that, they will probably read "THE KEY TO UNCLE TOM'S CABIN—a key not only to the Cabin, but, I believe, to the slave's darkest dungeon. A nation's hand, with that key, will unlock the slave-prison to millions. Then look at the Authoress of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." There is nothing in her reception abroad which indicates a declension of interest in the great subject which she has done so much to unfold and illustrate. The sending of a Princess on the shores of England would not have produced the same sensation. I take it, then, that the Slavery party will find this item of their programme the most difficult of execution, since it is the voice of all experience that opposition to agitation is the most successful method of promoting it. Men will write—men will read—men will think—men will feel—and the result of all this is, men will speak; and it were as well to chain the lightning as to repress the moral convictions and humane promptings of enlightened human nature. Herein, sirs, is our hope. Slavery cannot bear discussion; it is a matter of darkness; and, as Junius said of the character of Lord Gramby, "it can only pass without censure, as it passes without observation." The second cardinal object of this party, viz: The expatriation of the free colored people from the United States, is a very desirable one to our enemies—and we read, in the vigorous efforts making to accomplish it, an acknowledgment of our manhood, and the danger to Slavery arising out of our presence. Despite the tremendous pressure brought to bear against us, the colored people are gradually increasing in wealth, in intelligence and in respectability. . . . Hence the desire to get rid of us. But, Sir, the desire is not merely to get us out of this country, but to get us at a convenient and harmless distance from Slavery. And here, Sir, I think I can speak as if by authority for the free colored people of the United States. The people of this Republic may commit the audacious and high-handed atrocity of driving us out of the limits of their borders. They may virtually confiscate our property; they may invade our civil and personal liberty, and render our lives intolerable burdens, so that we may be induced to leave the United States; but to compel us to go to Africa is quite another thing. Thank God, the alternative is not quite so desperate as that we must be slaves here, or go to the pestilential shores of Africa. Other and more desirable lands are open to us. . . . Sir, I am not for going anywhere. I am for staying precisely where I am, in the land of my birth. But, Sir, if I must go from this country—if it is impossible to stay here—I am for doing the next best, and that will be to go to wherever I can hope to be of most service to the colored people of the United States. . . . Let not the colored man despair then. Let him remember that a home, a country, a nationality, are all attainable this side of Liberia. But for the present the colored people should stay just where they are, unless where they are compelled to leave. I have faith left yet in the wisdom and the justice of the country, and it may be that there are enough left of these to save the nation. . . . Now, Sir, I had more to say on the encouraging aspects of the times, but the time fails me. I will only say, in conclusion, greater is he that is for us, than they that are against us, and though labor and peril beset the Anti-Slavery movements so sure as that a God of mercy and justice is enthroned above all created things, so sure will that cause gloriously triumph. (Great applause.)