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An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism by Beecher

Between communities thrown asunder by passion


is the opinion of intelligent and well informed men, that a very large proportion of the best members of the Abolition party were placed there, not by the arguments of Abolitionists, but by the abuse of their opposers. And I know some of the noblest minds that stand there, chiefly from the influence of those generous impulses that defend the injured and sustain the persecuted, while many others have joined these ranks from the impression that Abolitionism and the right of free discussion have become identical interests. Although I cannot perceive why the right of free discussion, the right of petition, and other rights that have become involved in this matter, cannot be sustained without joining an association that has sustained such injurious action and such erroneous principles, yet other minds, and those which are worthy of esteem, have been led to an opposite conclusion.

The South, in the moments of angry excitement, have made unreasonable demands upon the non-slave-holding States, and have employed overbearing and provoking language. This has provoked re-action again at the North, and men, who heretofore were unexcited, are beginning to feel indignant, and to say, "Let the Union be sundered." Thus anger begets anger, and unreasonable measures provoke equally unreasonable returns.

But when men, in moments of excitement rush on to such results, little do they think of the momentous consequences that may follow.

Suppose the South in her anger unites with Texas, and forms a Southern slave-holding republic, under all the exasperating influences that such an avulsion will excite? What will be the prospects of the slave then, compared with what they are while we dwell together, united by all the ties of brotherhood, and having free access to those whom we wish to convince and persuade?

But who can estimate the mischiefs that we must encounter while this dismemberment, this tearing asunder of the joints and members of the body politic, is going on? What will be the commotion and dismay, when all our sources of wealth, prosperity, and comfort, are turned to occasions for angry and selfish strife?

What agitation will ensue in individual States, when it is to be decided by majorities which State shall go to the North and which to the South, and when the discontented minority must either give up or fight! Who shall divide our public lands between contending factions? What shall be done with our navy and all the various items of the nation's property? What shall be done when the post-office stops its steady movement to divide its efforts among contending parties? What shall be done when public credit staggers, when commerce furls her slackened sail, when property all over the nation changes its owners and relations? What shall be done with our canals and railways, now the bands of love to bind us, then the causes of contention and jealousy? What umpire will appear to settle all these questions of interest and strife, between communities thrown asunder by passion, pride, and mutual injury?

It is said that the American people, though heedless and sometimes reckless at the approach of danger, are endowed with a strong and latent principle of common sense, which, when they fairly approach the precipice, always brings them to a stand, and makes them as wise to devise a remedy as they were rash in hastening to the danger. Are we not approaching the very verge of the precipice? Can we not already hear the roar of the waters below? Is not now the time, if ever, when our stern principles and sound common sense must wake to the rescue?

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