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William Lloyd Garrison, "To the Public" Edit
Editorial published in the first issue of The Liberator, 1 January 1831.
[1.1] In the month of August, I issued proposals for publishing "THE LIBERATOR" in Washington city; but the enterprise, though hailed in different sections of the country, was palsied by public indifference. [1.2] Since that time, the removal of the Genius of Universal Emancipation to the Seat of Government has rendered less imperious the establishment of a similar periodical in that quarter.
[2.1] During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the minds of the people by a series of discourses on the subject of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of the fact, that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to be effected in the free states -- and particularly in New-England-- than at the south. [2.2] I found contempt more bitter, opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen, than among slave owners themselves. [2.3] Of course, there were individual exceptions to the contrary. [2.4] This state of things afflicted, but did not dishearten me. [2.5] I determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birth place of liberty. [2.6] That standard is now unfurled; and long may it float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe -- yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! [2.7] Let southern oppressors tremble -- let their secret abettors tremble -- let their northern apologists tremble -- let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.
[3.1] I deem the publication of my original Prospectus unnecessary, as it has obtained a wide circulation. [3.2] The principles therein inculcated will be steadily pursued in this paper, excepting that I shall not array myself as the political partisan of any man. [3.3] In defending the great cause of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties.
[4.1] Assenting to the "self-evident truth" maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights -- among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. [4.2] In Park-street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popluar but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. [4.3] I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity. [4.4] A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. [4.5] My consicence in now satisfied.
[5.1] I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? [5.2] I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. [5.3] On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. [5.4] Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; -- but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. [5.6] I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD. [5.7] The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.
[6.1] It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective, and the precipitancy of my measures. [6.2] The charge is not true. [6.3] On this question my influence, -- humble as it is, -- is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years -- not perniciously, but beneficially -- not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. [6.4] I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard "the fear of man which bringeth a snare," and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power. [6.5] And here I close with this fresh dedication:
- Oppression! I have seen thee, face to face,
And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow;
But thy soul-withering glance I fear not now—
For dread to prouder feelings doth give place
Of deep abhorrence! Scorning the disgrace
Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow,
I also kneel—but with far other vow
Do hail thee and thy hord of hirelings base:—
I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,
Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand,
Thy brutalising sway-till Afric’s chains
Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land,—
Trampling Oppression and his iron rod:
Such is the vow I take—SO HELP ME GOD!
- Oppression! I have seen thee, face to face,
Line by Line CommentaryEdit
- Teaching American History http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=576
- Historical Document, The Liberator: "To the Public" (1831) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2928.html