July 8, 1864: A challenge from the left

Wendell Phillips

Wendell Phillips writes to the New York Times to confirm his rejection of Lincoln as insufficiently abolitionist.

The Independent of this week contains another letter from Mr. WENDELL PHILLIPS. He says, by way of introduction:
“I have no wish to answer your extended criticism on my letter. If you are content with your position, I am more than satisfied with mine, and stand cheerfully, indeed proudly, on the ground of my letter — not that the Cleveland platform is a faultless creed or an inspired Bible, but that it was the work of Abolitionists, and is the highest Anti-Slavery idea yet reached in American politics.

I write mainly to protest (and an Abolitionist writing to an Abolitionist, you must allow me to do so with some little indignation) against your special pleading in the matter of ROBERT SMALL. His absence or presence at Baltimore does not affect the argument. I supposed him there; so did and still does the country; and the Baltimore Convention acted on the question of rejecting him and his fellow black delegates as if he were present. Neither does the size of the islands we hold in South Carolina affect the argument. There are several thousand Northerners living there, owning plantations and raising crops — perhaps a million of Northern money invested there by private citizens alone. Indeed, a Yankee town has existed there more than two years. The delegates thence were summarily turned out of the Baltimore house. But Florida, without a quarter of the claim — where, indeed, we have nothing deserving the name of a settlement, nothing but a name and its appendage — is admitted to a seat. Florida — where, when Mr. LINCOLN wished to set up a Government, he exported a shipload of Northerners, and they could not get a foothold! Don’t try, then, to throw dust in our eyes by talking about small islands. Every sane man knows that South Carolina was rejected because she sent black delegates. No evasion can rub that spot out of Baltimore garments, and it is of too much significance to be omitted or confused in an Anti-Slavery record.”

Mr. PHILLIPS concludes as follows:

“Remember I am not a politician, but mainly an agitator — my special work being to make party progress possible. I shall never succeed by doing, as you are now doing, filing down my protests against their shortcomings and joining in their support. If LINCOLN is reelected and repeats for another four years the indecision, heartlessness and infamous pandering to negrophobia and the slave power which have marked his last four, no adherent of Baltimore can rebuke him, for Baltimore has renominated him with fulsome and unmixed approbation of his course. I am glad to see your protest, however slight. After another such four years, he will fairly turn to any of them now silent, who shall then blame him, and say, “Have I not gone on to do during my second term just what you praised me for in my first?”

Which party is best serving the country, that which says just what it thinks — ‘Idler, sluggard, open your eyes, wake up and work while it is day’ — or the men of Baltimore, who, kneeling to a man whom half of them believe to be idler, sluggard, and blundering, cry, ‘How admirable your energy! how faultless your policy! Please go on, and be hereafter just what you have been.’
Heaven will not hold such guiltless of the evils unnecessarily brought on this bleeding land.”

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