HumanitiesWeb.org - The Conflict with Slavery (Anti-Slavery Anniversary.) by John Greenleaf Whittier
HumanitiesWeb HumanitiesWeb
WelcomeHistoryLiteratureArtMusicPhilosophyResourcesHelp
Periods Alphabetically Nationality Topics Themes Genres Glossary
pixel

Whittier
Index
Biography
Selected Works
According To...
Chronology
Related Materials

Search

Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

& etc
FEEDBACK

(C)1998-2012
All Rights Reserved.

Site last updated
28 October, 2012
Real Time Analytics

The Conflict with Slavery
Anti-Slavery Anniversary.

by John Greenleaf Whittier

Read at the semi-centennial celebration of the American Anti-Slavery
Society at Philadelphia, on the 3d December, 1883.


OAK KNOLL, DANVERS, MASS.,
11th mo., 30, 1883.

I need not say how gladly I would be with you at the semi-centennial of the American Anti-Slavery Society. I am, I regret to say, quite unable to gratify this wish, and can only represent myself by a letter.

Looking back over the long years of half a century, I can scarcely realize the conditions under which the convention of 1833 assembled. Slavery was predominant. Like Apollyon in Pilgrim's Progress, it "straddled over the whole breadth of the way." Church and state, press and pulpit, business interests, literature, and fashion were prostrate at its feet. Our convention, with few exceptions, was composed of men without influence or position, poor and little known, strong only in their convictions and faith in the justice of their cause. To onlookers our endeavor to undo the evil work of two centuries and convert a nation to the "great renunciation" involved in emancipation must have seemed absurd in the last degree. Our voices in such an atmosphere found no echo. We could look for no response but laughs of derision or the missiles of a mob.

But we felt that we had the strength of truth on our side; we were right, and all the world about us was wrong. We had faith, hope, and enthusiasm, and did our work, nothing doubting, amidst a generation who first despised and then feared and hated us. For myself I have never ceased to be grateful to the Divine Providence for the privilege of taking a part in that work.

And now for more than twenty years we have had a free country. No slave treads its soil. The anticipated dangerous consequences of complete emancipation have not been felt. The emancipated class, as a whole, have done wisely, and well under circumstances of peculiar difficulty. The masters have learned that cotton can be raised better by free than by slave labor, and nobody now wishes a return to slave-holding. Sectional prejudices are subsiding, the bitterness of the civil war is slowly passing away. We are beginning to feel that we are one people, with no really clashing interests, and none more truly rejoice in the growing prosperity of the South than the old abolitionists, who hated slavery as a curse to the master as well as to the slave.

In view of this commemorative semi-centennial occasion, many thoughts crowd upon me; memory recalls vanished faces and voices long hushed. Of those who acted with me in the convention fifty years ago nearly all have passed into another state of being. We who remain must soon follow; we have seen the fulfilment of our desire; we have outlived scorn and persecution; the lengthening shadows invite us to rest. If, in looking back, we feel that we sometimes erred through impatient zeal in our contest with a great wrong, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we were influenced by no merely selfish considerations. The low light of our setting sun shines over a free, united people, and our last prayer shall be for their peace, prosperity, and happiness.
Personae

Terms Defined

Referenced Works