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their character of efforts merely in behalf of liberty, of course they are neither unconstitutional nor dangerous; but they may have another character than that; beside being efforts in behalf of liberty they may be efforts which strike against international law. The abolitionist would free the slave. So far so good. But he would free the slave by forgetting that slavery is an institution under the sole control of a State of which he is not a citizen. Here comes the danger to liberty. Here is a blow struck at the rights of communities, and as dangerous to liberty as a blow struck at the rights of individuals. He would free the slaves by combining the non-slaveholding States against the slaveholding States, by collecting in the non-slaveholding States a force sufficient to control the internal policy of the slaveholding States. Let him do this, and where is the independence of the States? Let him do this, and one part of the Union has the complete control of the other; and when this is done, is not our Federal system destroyed ? It is possible then to pursue liberty in such a manner that the pursuit shall be in open violation of free institutions, and this is, as we allege, the case with the abolitionists.
But we can pursue the subject no farther at present. We are sorry to be compelled to separate ourselves from the abolitionists. There is something exceedingly unpleasant in being, even in appearance, opposed to the advocates of freedom. We have ever been with the movement party; our own position, the much we have suffered from things as they are, the wounds yet rankling in our heart, together with our own love of excitement, of new things, to say nothing of certain dreams we indulge concerning a golden age that is to be, strongly dispose us to join with the abolitionists, and to rush on in the career they open up to a bold and energetic spirit. There is something too in the very idea of freeing two or three millions of slaves, which, in these mechanical and money-getting times, is quite refreshing and capa
ble of dazzling many an imagination. It addresses itself to some of the strongest propensities of our nature, and gives us apparently an opportunity to indulge a taste for the adventurous and the chivalric. There is something almost intoxicating in the idea of going forth as a bold knight in the cause of Humanity, to plead for the wronged and the outraged, to speak for the dumb, and to do valiant battle for the weak and the defenceless. Much that is noble, that is generous, that is godlike, naturally combines itself with such an idea, and enters into the motives of him who goes forth at its bidding. It may be that we have felt something of all this. But self-denial, even in the indulgence of what we call noble impulses, or rather the subordination of our impulses to the clearest and soberest convictions of our understandings, is one of the first laws of morality.
So long as we regarded the abolitionists as merely contending for the right to discuss the subject of slavery, we were with them; we spoke in their behalf, and were willing to be reckoned of their number. Later developments on their side, and a closer examination of the bearings of their movements on the political institutions of this country, into which we have entered, have convinced us that the cause of free discussion is not now, if it ever was, at all involved in their proceedings; that the cause of liberty even, is by no means in their hands; and therefore that we ought to separate from them, and to state clearly and boldly, the reasons which we think should induce all lovers of our common country to combine to stay their progress. It may be too late. We fear it is. The ball has been set in motion. It increases in momentum and velocity with every revolution, and the result we pretend not to be able to foresee. Already is it hazardous to one's reputation in this part of the Union to oppose them; already is it nearly impossible for any political party to succeed unless it can secure their suffrages. They have become a power. It is in vain to deny it. They are not likely to become weaker very soon. We have not, therefore, dared to keep our convictions in regard to them to ourselves. In opposing them, we have had to show as much moral courage as they profess to have shown in opposing slavery. We have not, therefore, spoken from considerations we need be ashamed to avow. We may have spoken in vain. But we have said our word, feebly we own, but in sincerity; and we leave the result to God. We see danger ahead. We tremble for the fate of our republic; there are mighty influences at work against it; the money power is seeking to bind its free spirit with chains of gold, and mistaken philanthropy is fast rending it in twain; associations, sectarian and moral espionage are fast swallowing up individual freedom, and making the individual man but a mere appendage to a huge social machine, with neither mind nor will of his own; but we do not, we will not, despair of the republic. We hope with trembling, nevertheless we hope. The destinies of individuals or of nations are not left to blind chance. There is a providence that rules them, and we will trust that in due time the clouds that lower over us shall break and disperse, and the glorious sun of freedom and Humanity shine forth in all his noonday splendors. We cannot go back to the night and gloom of the past; the irresistible law of progress does and will bear us onward; and this republic shall yet prove itself the medium through which the human race shall rise to the knowledge and enjoyment of the inalienable rights of Man.
In conclusion, we would merely add, that in our judgment the first duty of the friends of freedom, of democracy, of progress, is to secure the political institutions established by our fathers. Nothing can come but in its time and its place. There is a method to be followed in taking up and discussing the great questions which concern mankind, or the progress of society. Errors always come from the fact that we take them up in a false order. Our inquiry should be, What is the question for to-day ? Having ascertained
the problem for to-day, we should bend our whole attention to its solution. The answer to the question of to-day, will of itself lead to the solution of the problem which shall come up to-morrow. tion for to-day is the currency question, - not the most interesting question in itself surely, nor a question of the first magnitude; but it is the first in the order of time. It must be disposed of before we can proceed systematically to the disposition of any other. What will be the question for to-morrow, we ask not. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. It will doubtless be a question of magnitude. Great questions are hereafter to be ever expected. Humanity approaches manhood, grows serious, and refuses to trifle. As it regards the slave question, we leave it to those whom it more immediately concerns. If our republic outlive the dangers to which it is now exposed, the gradual unfolding of its spirit will abolish slavery; and we believe slavery will be sooner abolished, that is, the negro race sooner elevated to the rank of freemen, by leaving the whole matter to time, to the secret but sure workings of Christian democracy, than by any violent or special efforts of abolitionists, even if successful in declaring slavery abolished. Leave the whole matter to the slaveholding States, and in proportion as the negro advances internally, the legislature will spread over him the shield of the law, and imperceptibly but surely shall he grow into a freeman, if a freeman he can become.
If we would serve him and hasten that day, we shall best do it, not by direct efforts in his behalf, but by a steady development and realization of democratic freedom within the bosom of the non-slaveholding States. Let us correct the evils at our own doors, elevate the free white laborer, and prove by our own practice, and by the state of our own society, that the doctrine of equal rights is not a visionary dream. O we have much to do here at home. The beggar full of sores lies at our own gate. In our own dark streets, blind courts, narrow lanes, damp cellars, unventillated garrets, are human beings more degraded, and suffering keener anguish, and appealing with a more touching pathos to our compassion, and demanding in more imperative tones our succor, than is the case with the most wretched of Southern slaves. O here are objects enough for our humanity. We walk not through the streets of a single Northern city without a bleeding heart. Wash the faces of those children, Abolitionists, which meet you in our cities incrusted with filth, clothe their shivering limbs, let in light upon their darkened minds, and warm their young hearts, before it is too late, with the hope of being one day virtuous men and women. Instead of poring over the horrors of slavery, read your police reports, and see your own society as it is. You have work enough for all your philanthropy north of Mason and Dixon's line. Do this work, do it effectually, and you shall aid the cause of oppressed Humanity everywhere, and the slave a thousand times more than by your direct efforts for his emancipation.
Art. VII. – An Address delivered before the Senior
Class in Divinity College, Cambridge, Sunday Evening, 15 July, 1838. By Ralph Waldo EMERSON. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 1838. 8vo. pp.
This is in some respects a remarkable address, remarkable for its own character and for the place where and the occasion on which it was delivered. It is not often, we fancy, that such an address is delivered by a clergyman in a Divinity College to a class of young men just ready to go forth into the