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An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism by Beecher

Sustained by the northern Abolitionists


Abolition Societies did not exist, men could talk and write, at the South, against the evils of slavery, and northern men had free access and liberty of speech, both at the South and at the North. But now all is changed. Every avenue of approach to the South is shut. No paper, pamphlet, or preacher, that touches on that topic, is admitted in their bounds. Their own citizens, that once laboured and remonstrated, are silenced; their own clergy, under the influence of the exasperated feelings of their people, and their own sympathy and sense of wrong, either entirely hold their peace, or become the defenders of a system they once lamented, and attempted to bring to an end. This is the record of experience as to the tendencies of Abolitionism, as thus far developed. The South are now in just that state of high exasperation, at the sense of wanton injury and impertinent interference, which makes the influence of truth and reason most useless and powerless.

But suppose the Abolitionists succeed, not only in making northern men Abolitionists, but also in sending a portion of light into the South, such as to form a body of Abolitionists there also. What is the thing that is to be done to end slavery at the South? It is to _alter the laws_, and to do this, a small minority must begin a long, bitter, terrible conflict with a powerful and exasperated majority. Now if, as the Abolitionists hope, there will arise at the South such a minority, it will doubtless

consist of men of religious and benevolent feelings,--men of that humane, and generous, and upright spirit, that most keenly feel the injuries inflicted on their fellow men. Suppose such a band of men begin their efforts, sustained by the northern Abolitionists, already so odious. How will the exasperated majority act, according to the known laws of mind and of experience? Instead of lessening the evils of slavery, they will increase them. The more they are goaded by a sense of aggressive wrong without, or by fears of dangers within, the more they will restrain their slaves, and diminish their liberty, and increase their disabilities. They will make laws so unjust and oppressive, not only to slaves, but to their Abolitionist advocates, that by degrees such men will withdraw from their bounds. Laws will be made expressly to harass them, and to render them so uncomfortable that they must withdraw. Then gradually the righteous will flee from the devoted city. Then the numerical proportion of whites will decrease, and the cruelty and unrestrained wickedness of the system will increase, till a period will come when the physical power will be so much with the blacks, their sense of suffering so increased, that the volcano will burst,--insurrection and servile wars will begin. Oh, the countless horrors of such a day! And will the South stand alone in that burning hour? When she sends forth the wailing of her agonies, shall not the North and the West hear, and lift up together the voice of wo? Will not fathers hear the cries of children, and brothers the cries of sisters? Will the terrors of insurrection sweep over the South, and no Northern and Western blood be shed? Will the slaves be cut down, in such a strife, when they raise the same paean song of liberty and human rights, that was the watchword of our redemption from far less dreadful tyranny, and which is now thrilling the nations and shaking monarchs on their thrones--will this be heard, and none of the sons of liberty be found to appear on their side? This is no picture of fancied dangers, which are not near. The day has come, when already the feelings are so excited on both sides, that I have heard intelligent men, good men, benevolent and pious men, in moments of excitement, declare themselves ready to take up the sword--some for the defence of the master, some for the protection and right of the slave. It is my full conviction, that if insurrection does burst forth, and there be the least prospect of success to the cause of the slave, there will be men from the North and West, standing breast to breast, with murderous weapons, in opposing ranks.

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