The Conflict with Slavery Response to the Celebration of my Eightieth Birthday
by John Greenleaf Whittier
by the Colored Citizens of Washington D. C.
To R. H. TERRELL AND GEORGE W. WILLIAMS, ESQUIRES.
GENTLEMEN,--Among the great number of tokens of interest and good-will
which reached me on my birthday, none have touched me more deeply than
the proceedings of the great meeting of the colored citizens of the
nation's capital, of which you are the representatives. The resolutions
of that meeting came to me as the voice of millions of my fellow-
countrymen. That voice was dumb in slavery when, more than half a
century ago, I put forth my plea for the freedom of the slave.
It could not answer me from the rice swamp and cotton field, but now, God
be praised, it speaks from your great meeting in Washington and from all
the colleges and schools where the youth of your race are taught. I
scarcely expected then that the people for whom I pleaded would ever know
of my efforts in their behalf. I cannot be too thankful to the Divine
Providence that I have lived to hear their grateful response.
I stand amazed at the rapid strides which your people have made since
emancipation, at your industry, your acquisition of property and land,
your zeal for education, your self-respecting but unresentful attitude
toward those who formerly claimed to be your masters, your pathetic but
manly appeal for just treatment and recognition. I see in all this the
promise that the time is not far distant when, in common with the white
race, you will have the free, undisputed rights of American citizenship
in all parts of the Union, and your rightful share in the honors as well
as the protection of the government.
Your letter would have been answered sooner if it had been possible. I
have been literally overwbelmed with letters and telegrams, which, owing
to illness, I have been in a great measure unable to answer or even read.
I tender to you, gentlemen, and to the people you represent my heartfelt
thanks, and the assurance that while life lasts you will find me, as I
have been heretofore, under more difficult circumstances, your faithful