William Lloyd Garrison
June 15, 1855
We are asked, “How is the dissolution of the Union to be effected? Give us your plan!” My answer is, whenever THE PEOPLE are ready for Disunion, they will easily find out a way to effect it. When this sentiment shall spread like a flame, as I trust in God it will, through the length and breadth of the free States, (cheers,) the people will come together in their primary assemblies, and elect such men to represent them in General Convention as they may deem best qualified to devise ways and means for effecting a separation, and to frame a new government, free from the spirit of bondage. In that hour, they will not ask for any plan of mine, or any of my associates on this platform: we shall be as drops in the Atlantic ocean. The chain once broken, the EVERETTS, the CHOATES, the WINTHROPS, will then be as ready to obey the popular sentiment, and to take the lead in the cause of freedom, as they have hitherto been subservient to the will of the Slave Power. Our preliminary work is, not to construct a new government, but first of all to make every Northern man see and confess, that our boasted Union is a snare, a curse, and a degrading vassalage;–in strict verity, that there is no Union for freedom to be dissolved, but ONE TO BE CREATED! For where is the man who will venture to deny any one of the allegations contained in the resolution I have submitted to the Convention? Allow me to read it once more:–
“Resolved, That the American Union is the supremacy of the bowie knife, the revolver, the slave-driver’s lash, and lynch law, over freedom of speech, of the press, of conscience, of locomotion, in more than one half of the nation”–[Is it not so? –“Yes, yes”;]–“and the degrading vassalage of the entire North to the accursed Slave Power”; [Is not that true? — “Yes, yes”;] “that such a Union”–[mark you! “such a Union”–not an ideal one–not something yet to be realized]-“that such a Union is to be resisted, denounced and repudiated by every lover of liberty, until its utter overthrow shall be consummated; and that, to effect this glorious object, there should be one united shout of “No Union with Slaveholders, religiously or politically!”
This declaration cannot be gainsayed. Let us, then, not waste our time in verbal criticism, or legal hair-splitting, as to the meaning of words. DOWN WITH SUCH A UNION! (Cheers, and a few hisses in the gallery.)
Mr. Chairman, this question does not concern me, or the Abolitionists in particular: it concerns every one who means to be a MAN, and to carry a heart in his bosom–every Whig, every Democrat, every Know Nothing, every Free Soiler. I take it for granted, whether they have any bowels of mercy for those in slavery, or not, they mean to assert their own right to freedom of speech and locomotion, in every section of the land; or, if not, then they are dastards. Now, is this a right that they possess? Who, of them all, dares venture south of Mason and Dixon’s line, and fearlessly rebuke the slaveholder to his face, and openly declare that his sympathies are with the enslaved? In vain shall he make his appeal to the “higher law”! The Southern substitute for this, in all such cases, is “lynch law.” In vain shall he assert his constitutional right to speak his own sentiments: the Constitution is powerless! He will fare no better than the most radical Disunion Abolitionist. That being so, where is our Northern manhood? Do we always mean to cower under the Southern lash? Is it coolly said by any in reply, “We do not want to agitate the subject of slavery”? But what if you did? You cannot with impunity. Men are apt to change their minds; and the Whig, or Democrat, or Know Nothing, who to-day cares nothing for those in bonds, may to-morrow feel constrained to plead their cause, even at the South. In that case, he too becomes an outlaw. Ay, the very men who bow down to the Slave Power here–who fill our pulpits and our editorial chairs–who denounce the anti-slavery movement as undeserving of any support or countenance–are them-selves, as the friends of impartial liberty, as much outlaws in the South as any of us. Is such a Union to be perpetuated? By all that is just and equal, no!
Mr. Chairman, declamation and rhetoric, on so grave an issue, are worth little; but facts are irresistible. We are demanding extraordinary action of the people of the North; and in order to induce them to take that action, boldly and understandingly, they need to be shown what are the real facts in the case, especially as affecting their own rights and liberties at the South.
Undeniably, it is a provision of the Constitution of the United States, that “the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens” in the several States. There are no less than eight thousand recognised colored “citizens” in Massachusetts, taxed and rep-resented as such; many of them legal voters, eligible to every office in the gift of the people; all of them to be protected in their rights by the combined power of the Commonwealth, as much as ABBOTT LAWRENCE, or Chief Justice SHAW, or Governor GARDNER–for in Massachusetts one citizen is, by our Bill of Rights, equal to every other; and the faith of the whole people is pledged to stand by each other to the end. Now, there is not one of that large number of citizens who can enter the slave States, whether on business, or in quest of health and recreation, without subjecting himself to fine and imprisonment, and even the liability to be sold on the auction-block into perpetual slavery.