Southern Desperation

William Lloyd Garrison

December 16, 1860

The election of the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, to the Presidency of the United States, has operated upon the whole slaveholding South in a manner indicative of the torments of the damned. The brutal dastards and bloody-minded tyrants, who have so long ruled the country with impunity, are now furiously foaming at the mouth, gnawing their tongues for pain, indulging in the most horrid blasphemies, uttering the wildest threats, and avowing the most treasonable designs. Their passions, “set on fire of hell,” are leading them into every kind of excess, and they are inspired by a demoniacal phrenzy. To the South is strikingly applicable, at this hour, the language of the Revelator:—”Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. Her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. In the cup which she hath filled, fill to her double. In her is found the blood of prophets and of saints. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.” So much for dealing in “slaves, and souls of men,” trampling upon all human rights, defying God and his eternal law, and giving unlimited indulgence to every sensual and devilish inclination! “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.”

Never has the truth of the ancient proverb, “Whom the gods intend to destroy, they first make mad,” been more signally illustrated than in the present condition of the Southern slaveholders. They are insane from their fears, their guilty forebodings, their lust of power and rule, their hatred of free institutions, their consciousness of merited judgments; so that they may be properly classed with the inmates of a lunatic asylum. Their dread of Mr. Lincoln, of his administration, of the Republican party, demonstrates their insanity. In vain does Mr. Lincoln tell them, “I do not now, nor ever did, stand in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law”—”I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the admission of any more Slave States into the Union”—”I do not stand pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia”—”I do not stand pledged to the prohibition of the slave trade between the different States”—they rave just as fiercely as though he were another John Brown, armed for Southern invasion and universal emancipation! In vain does the Republican party present but one point of antagonism to slavery—to wit, no more territorial expansion—and exhibit the utmost cautiousness not to give offence in any other direction—and make itself hoarse in uttering professions of loyalty to the Constitution and the Union—still, they protest that its designs are infernal, and for them there is “sleep no more”! Are not these the signs of a demented people?

Nevertheless, there is “method” in their madness. In their wildest paroxysms, they know precisely how far to proceed. “Will they secede from the Union?” Will they jump into the Atlantic? Will they conflagrate their own dwellings, cut their own throats, and enable their slaves to rise in successful insurrection? Perhaps they will — probably they will not! By their bullying and raving, they have many times frightened the North into a base submission to their demands—and they expect to do it again! Shall they succeed?

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