Dred Scott and Disunion

William Lloyd Garrison

March 12, 1858

We are here to enter our indignant protest against the Dred Scott decision-against the infamous Fugitive Slave Law-against all unjust and oppressive enactments, with reference to complexional distinctions-against the alarming aggressions of the Slave Power upon the rights of the people of the North-and especially against the existence of the slave system at the South, from which all these have naturally sprung, as streams of lava from a burning volcano. We are here to reiterate the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence, and to call for their practical enforcement throughout our land. We are here to declare that the men who, like CRISPUS ATTUCKS, were ready to lay down their lives to secure American Independence, and the blessings of liberty-who, in every period of our history, at all times, and in all parts of the country, on the land and on the sea, have ever been prompt in the hour of peril to fill “the deadly, imminent breach,” pour out their blood like water, and repel the minions of foreign tyranny from our shores-are not the men to be denied the claims of human nature, or the rights of citizenship. Alas! what have they reaped for all their patriotic toils and sufferings but contumely, proscription, ostracism? 0, shame on this cruelly unjust and most guilty nation! I trust in God that no colored men will ever again be found ready to fight under its banner, however great the danger that may menace it from abroad, until their rights are first secured, and every slave be set free. If they have no scruples in using the sword in defence of liberty, let them at least refuse to draw it in behalf of those who depise and oppress them.

Our work is before us. It is to disseminate light-to change public opinion-to plead every man with his neighbor-to insist upon justice-to demand equal rights-to “crush out” slavery wherever it exists in the land. Let Massachusetts lead the van. Let her be true to the cause of freedom, cost what it may. She has done well in saying that the Fugitive Slave Law shall not be executed on her soil-at least, not without the intervention of a jury trial. That is one step in the right direction. She has decreed, that none of her official servants shall at the same time be a Slave Commissioner under the United States; and hence the duty of removing Judge Loring for disobedience and contumacy. I am confident we shall all soon have the satisfaction of seeing him walk the plank overboard. (Loud cheering.) But there is one thing more to be done. Massachusetts must not tolerate a slave-hunter on her soil-nor a Slave Commissioner-nor allow a human being to be put on trial to decide whether he has a right to himself, or is the property of another-but she must transform every slave into a free man as soon as he comes within her borders. (Renewed cheering.)

We shall be told that this is equivalent to a dissolution of the Union. Be it so! Give us Disunion with liberty and a good conscience, rather than Union with slavery and moral degradation. What! shall we shake hands with those who buy, sell, torture, and horribly imbrute their fellow-creatures, and trade in human flesh! God forbid! Every man should respect himself too much to keep such company. We must break this wicked affiance with men-stealers, or all is lost. By all the sacred memories of the past-by all that was persistent, courageous, unconquerable in the great struggle for American Independence-by the blood of ATTUCKS and his martyred associates in King Street-by the death of WARREN and the patriotic slain on Bunker Hill-by the still higher and better examples of ancient apostles and martyrs-let us here renew our solemn pledge, that, come what may, we will not lay down our arms until liberty is proclaimed throughout all the land, to all the inhabitants thereof. (Pro-longed applause.)

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