Letter from William Lloyd Garrison to Webb (1847): On the Mexican-American War

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My dear Webb, Many thanks for your interesting letter to Francis Jackson, detailing your observations during your late philanthropic mission among your famishing countrymen. You will find it in the Libertaor this week. I hope there are not many blunders in it; but, if there are, the fault will not be owing to the manuscript, which was very legibly written—by dear Hannah, I suppose—for you cannot write plain! I have not a good compositor in my office.

You see that we fanatics, here, have been constrained to differ with you, dear Richard Allen, and H. C. Wright, in regard to receiving the donations from the South for the relief of the starving among you; though we all agree with you in pronouncing judgment against the course of the Dublin Committee, in rejecting the aid proferred from London, because it was the proceeds of a theatrical entertainment, and accepting without a scruple whatever may have been given by the slaveholders. I really think there is a broad line of demarcation to be drawn between a case in which money is obtained from the slaveholders solely because they are first recognized as “members of the household of faith,” and that in which it is given voluntarily (as in the Irish case) without any sanction of slaveholding being either required, volunteered, or understood. But perhaps I am wrong.

You must refer to the numbers of the Liberator, for information in regard to the state of the anti-slavery question. We are in good spirits, and serene as heaven itself, though the opposition is still formidable, and the present crisis one of no ordinary trial, especially in regard to the atrocious war with Mexico. It is certainly not a popular war; it was begun and is carried on against the deep moral convictions of the sober portion of the people; its real object, the extension and preservation of slavery, no intelligent man honestly doubts; still, the diabolical motto, “Our country, right or wrong,” gratifies national pride, appears in a patriotic garb, and obtains a sanction practically that is almost universal. Besides, the American arms have been crowned with extraordinary success; and there is little doubt that Generals Scott and Taylor will be “revelling in the halls of the Montezumas,” in the city of Mexico, on the 4th of July, our “glorious day of freedom and national independence.” Again—the religious sectarists, who hate Catholicism, but do not love Christianity, exhibit much resignation, and no slight share of satisfaction, in view of the war. “It is the Lord’s doings, and marvellous in their eyes.” It will help put down the “Man of Sin”—it will riddle with bombshells “the Mother of Harlots”—it will open the way for the circulation of the Bible; the preaching of the gospel, the saving of souls from perdition—&c. &c.

Now, boldly and continually to denounce the war, under such circumstances, as bloody and iniquitous—to impeach the government and the administration—to deplore instead of rejoicing over the victories won by our troops—to wish success to the Mexicans, as the injured party, who are contending for their firesides and their country against enslaving and remorseless invaders—as you can easily imagine, subjects us to great odium, and brings down upon our heads the heavy charge of “treason” and “traitors to the country.” But our testimony is not in vain. It burns like fire upon the national conscience.

Well, O’Connell has left his wide field of popular agitation, and removed to a new and mysterious sphere of existence. Though he had many faults and failings, (Heaven by merciful to us all!) I honor his memory, and regard him with feelings of gratitude and respect. His death, at such a time, in the awful state into which his suffering country is plunged, is truly affecting. Of course, the Repeal movement may be regarded as virtually at an end, I suppose.

How are you and the dear ones at home? How is it with James Haughton and family, and Richard Allen and wife? How is my well-remembered, much admired Maria Waring? How are all the Webbs, a noble race! If I could only leap across the Atlantic, and run no risk of coming short in making it, would I not be with you instanter, to hand you this letter, and to embrace you all? And, sure, I would!

Frederick Douglass and James N. Buffum are by my side, both in fine spirits, and both begging me to proffer to you, and all the Dublin friends, their loving regards.

Lovingly yours,

Wm. Lloyd Garrison

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