The Doom of the Black Power

Frederick Douglass

July 27, 1855

The days of the Black Power are numbered. Its course, indeed, is onward, but with the swiftness of an arrow, it rushes to the tomb. While crushing its millions, it is also crushing itself.–The sword of Retribution, suspended by a single hair, hangs over it. That sword must fall. Liberty must triumph. It possesses an inherent vitality, a recuperative energy, to which its opposite is a stranger. It may to human appearances be dead, the enemy may rejoice at its grave, and sing its funeral requiem, but in the midst of the triumphal shout, it leaps from its well guarded sepulchre, asserts the divinity of its origin, flashes its indignant eye upon the affrighted enemy, and bids him prepare for the last battle, and the grave.

We were never more hopeful, than at the present time, of the final triumph of the great Principles which underlie the Abolition movement. We rest our hopes upon a consciousness of their inherent Righteousness. Truth is mighty, and will prevail. This is a maxim, which we do not regard as a mere rhetorical flourish. We are conscious that there is a black side to our picture. The developments of the Slave Power, are anything but pleasant to contemplate. The Present, with its inflexible realities, seems to be but an echo of the terribleness of the Past. We have lived through the one, we are now grappling with the other. We should not, as an oppressed People, grow despondent. Fear and despondency prevent us from working for the overthrow of our common enemy, with that hopeful spirit which causes us to keep our head above the waters, despite the raging of the elements. If we can at the present crisis, catch but one soft, low whisper of peace to our troubled souls, let us cling to it. Let us rejoice in Hope. The arm of the enemy will yet be paralyzed, and with our withered arm made whole, we’ll rise in all the majesty and might of Freemen, and crush the crushers of the dangerous element of Abolitionism.

Whoever will contemplate the diversified phases of the Abolition Movement, from its inception to the present, will readily discern, that at no period of its history, has it presented so favorable an aspect as at the present. Truth is progressive. It ever has been; it always will be. Retrogression cannot be written on its brow. To the gaze of the world, error may appear, robed in the habiliments of gladness, and riding upon the wings of the wind. Truth may seemingly lag behind, and stop to rest upon the weeping willow. But the progress of the latter is sure and steady. The race is not to the swift; Error will soon lie down and die, but Truth will live forever. Let these reflections continually inspire us while battling with the oppressor.

Again: we should rejoice that the People are beginning to read, mark, and inwardly digest the truth. The attention of the masses is being directed to the enormity, the crushing cruelty, the ever-grasping cupidity of Slavery.–They begin to feel and know that Slavery is as relentless as the greedy grave, that its thirst for human blood can only be satiated for the time being; even a gift of nearly a half a million square miles only cools, pro tempore, the ardor of its ferocity. They have found out to their hearts’ content, the utter inutility of attempting to compromise, or enter into any kind of contract with it, that so soon as compromises and contracts cease to conduce to its own aggrandizement, it spurns the compromise, and those who were gulled by it, and tramples on the contract. They have also found out that the Slavery question is one in which white men, as well as black men, are immediately interested, that Slavery invades the rights of man, irrespective of color and condition. They now begin to realize as Truth, that which a short time ago, they were wont to regard as the freak of disordered imaginations. Hence, the wolfish cry of “fanaticism,” has lost its potency; indeed the “fanatics” are looked upon as a pretty respectable body of People. Some consolation can be deduced from this reflection.

Another thought: we regard the present developments of the Slave Power as precipitating the era of its disastrous doom. It has overreached itself, in its efforts to abolish Freedom in the United States, and erect its black standard upon every hill-top and valley in the land. It never wore an aspect so repulsive, as it does to-day. It has made such a frightful noise of late, that the attention of the world is directed toward it. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, and the Nebraska Bill; the recent marauding movements of the oligarchy in Kansas, all the ebullitions of its pent-up wrath, are fatal stabs in the monster side. The Anti-Slavery sentiment of the North has been strengthened and increased by these developments; indeed, the Abolitionists have now a most potent ally in the Slave Power. Slaveholders are unconsciously performing good service in the cause of Liberty, by demonstrating in their conduct, the truthfulness of the sentiments advanced and advocated by Abolitionists. The Anti-Slavery men of the land have faithfully admonished the whole country, and held up the Slave Power, as an Oligarchy determined on swaying the sceptre of universal dominion. But they have been regarded fanatics, and enthusiasts, crying wolf, when there was no wolf, inciting peaceful citizens to Rebel-lion, turning the country upside down, striving to destroy the Union. These and a host of similar allegations have been brought against them.

But now the great masses of the People find out by experience, that the wolf is indeed among them. They see his red, glaring eyes, and they cry out, “kill the wolf; he must not be permitted to go any farther in his depredations; our eyes have been opened.” Thanks to the Fugitive Slave and Nebraska Bills. They have sealed the doom of the Black Power.

Lastly, we behold that doom written in unmistakable characters, by the great Republican Movement, which is sweeping like a whirlwind over the Free States. We rejoice in this demonstration. It evinces the fact of a growing determination on the part of the North, to redeem itself from bondage, to bury party affinities, and predilections, and also the political leaders who have hitherto controlled them; to unite in one grand phalanx, and go forth, and whip the enemy. We cannot join this party, because we think it lacks vitality; it does not go far enough in the right direction; it gives aid and comfort to the Slaveholder, by its concessions, and its willingness to “let Slavery alone where it is”–This is the very place where it should be attacked. We cannot attack it very well where it is not. But we have in former articles commented at length on the inconsistency and absurdity of that phase of Anti-Slavery sentiment and action, denominated Free-Soilism. We are, however, hopeful that this Republican Party as it grows in numbers, will also grow “in the knowledge of the Truth.” A few more pro-Slavery demonstrations, a few more presses thrown into the river, a few more northern ministers driven from the South and West, a few more recaptures of Fugitives, near Bunker Hill, and Plymouth Rock, causing the People to see the system in all its native ugliness, and hate it with indescribable intenseness, and all will be well. We have no fears of ultimate success. Let each man do his duty. Let him continue to agitate in the circle in which he moves. Let him not lose sight of his individual responsibility, for this gives tone and vigor to associated action. The Slave’s complaint must be heard at the fireside, in the street, in the counting house, in the prayer meeting, in the conference room, from the pulpit, in synods, and associations, and conferences, and especially at the Polls. We must follow the oppressor whithersoever he goeth, irrespective of the form in which he may develop himself, or the habiliments he may assume. Use the proper means, fight with the right weapons, let there be no cessation of the warfare, no diversion from the real cause of the battle, and we shall yet witness the end of the Black Power in America.

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