May 9, 1865: Antislavery Society — Garrison’s speech

William Lloyd Garrison

The New York Times reports on the meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society. After introductory prayers and hymns, Wendell Phillips spoke; next came William Lloyd Garrison, founder and president of the organization. He announced that abolitionism was over with the victory in the war.


Although I am announced, my friends, as one of the speakers at this meeting, I must confess that there is no need of my saying anything. My vocation as an Abolitionist, thank God, is ended. [Sensation.]

There is no one to be converted — that is, no one who is loyal in spirit, who loves his country and means to stand by it. Four years ago, there was not a village or hamlet in the country that would not have voted down the Abolitionist. Now there is not a village or hamlet where the Abolitionist is not applauded. Then in all these places the enterprise of abolition was hooted at, now it is indorsed and believed in and now there is not a man who is loyal, who is not ready for immediate, unconditional, and everlasting emancipation and abolition. [Applause.] The most outre sentiments are cheered to the echo, and people seem disposed to do full justice to those whose motives they used to malign, and whose acts they falsified. We are now a united people, what we never were before, and I have high hopes of the future, and we may look up to God for his blessing, which will not, cannot fail us.

Where now is that boasted bastard Confederacy? We know where the Union is, and what its power is, and what its flag means. Four years ago, when it went down at Fort Sumter, it went down on four millions of slaves; when it rose a month ago, it proclaimed the eternal death of slavery. Where is and what has become of JEFF. DAVIS? [Laughter.] One hundred thousand dollars reward are offered for him, and the money will be paid.

In the Speaker’s case it was different. Thirty years ago the state of Georgia offered five thousand dollars for him. When SHERMAN was making his march through Georgia I thought of going there and claiming the reward, but it occurred to me that he would have to take Confederate bonds, and so would hardly pay expenses. [Laughter.] Recently I was in Georgia, and not even sixpence was offered for me. On the contrary, my anti-slavery sentiments were listened to attentively, and I was warmly welcomed. Where is that Georgia braggart, who was going to call the roll of his slaves on Bunker Hill? [Laughter.] Where is that Bombastes Ferloso of Virginia, HENRY A. WISE? [Laughter.] Has he been in his parlor within the past year? And if he has, how does he like to see the picture of JOHN BROWN hanging on the walls, and JOHN BROWN’s daughter teaching colored children, within the house?

The Confederate promises have vanished into thin air, and even the rebel Generals admit that their cause is played out. Where is slavery? If the rebellion is put down, slavery is put down; they are one and inseparable. The proclamation of ABRAHAM LINCOLN broke the fetters of three millions of slaves, and for that act alone he will be held in lasting remembrance through all time. [Applause.]

For his willingness to serve the poor and the humble, he laid down his life; and was ever man so mourned as he has been? Not simply because he was honest, and came up from the people; not because he was upright and able alone, but because of the consciousness that he incarnated the great cause of universal freedom, and was willing to lay down his life in defence of his principles.

What has become of slavery in Louisiana? voted down; in Maryland, voted down; in Arkansas and Kentucky it rests on a rope of sand without form; in Delaware there are a baker’s dozen slaves, but Delaware is a very small State, and her slavery is nothing.

It is the nation’s decree that slavery shall die the death, so that twenty-one States have voted for the anti-slavery amendment to the constitution, and only three against. Shall we wait for reconstructed States to come in, and then, perchance, be defeated? No. To twenty-five loyal States and none other was this question submitted; and we might as well wait for the felon’s time to expire in the State’s Prison before we should decide a question of city or town interest, as to wait the action of rebels before we vote and decide on this amendment to the constitution. [Applause.] It is amended beyond all controversy, and if it should be decided in the negative, we know that no more Slave States can come in. The three States which have voted against it are Kentucky, Delaware and New-Jersey. They will yet make haste to come in, and to amend their conduct by falling into line. They stagger now under the weight of their infamy, and cannot long remain. But if they should be perverse, thank God we can do without them, and they are to us of no consequence whatever.

I rejoice to stand no longer isolated, and to be looked at as if I were a monster with seven heads and ten horns, with blasphemy written upon my forehead. But now, lost in the great ocean of public opinion, I am but a drop in the sea. Abolitionism is no longer distinctive, but common; and now that abolitionism is triumphant we wont have any more anti-slavery agitation, and our work being ended we must mingle with the millions of our fellow countrymen putting into the grave of slavery whatever sprang from it.

We still find a prejudice against the colored people — but man, man must be recognized where ever he appears. Aliens and foreigners come over here and we take them into our arms of protection and say this shall be your home and you shall be citizens like us, and shall we say less to those who are native born here, who have made the field gory with their blood, and who in our hour of despair and trouble gave up all, forgave all and came to our rescue? We have not saved ourselves alone. Two hundred thousand stalwart slaves threw themselves into the scale, and rebellion and slavery have kicked the beam and been crushed.

Thank God we have a man at the helm ready for any emergency. ANDREW JOHNSON, of Tennessee. [Applause.] Was ever a more splendid testimony shown than has been evoked in his case? What a hold ABRAHAM LINCOLN had upon the hearts of us all we thought we could not spare him, and we prayed and hoped, and trusted that his life would be spared during his term of office, and that he might reconduct to peace and prosperity; but the spirit of slavery assassinated the noble man, and the nation was parlyzed for the hour. The assassin could take the life of our honored and trusted head, but could not shake the nation in its safety, security or power. ABRAHAM LINCOLN passed away, and nothing was missed, so far as the government was concerned. From ABRAHAM LINCOLN we have ANDREW JOHNSON, and he is, perhaps, in some respects better fitted for the emergency, and to see that justice is done to the traitors.

I like to see people act independently, and then I always judge them by their own measure. For my part, I don’t believe in capital punishment at all, but it seems to me if this nation captures JEFF. DAVIS, and does not hang him, it will be recreant to itself and false to humanity. If we are to punish any one, let us take this colossal criminal whose garments are dyed with the blood of thousands, rather than the less conspicuous and perchance misled.

Thank God, my friends, that we have lived to see this day, that slavery is destroyed and that blissful days are in store for us, our children and for all mankind.

At the conclusion of Mr. GARRISON’s speech the meeting adjourned to 3 1/2 P.M.

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