- The Conflict with Slavery (Response to the Celebration of my Eightieth Birthday) by John Greenleaf Whittier
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The Conflict with Slavery
Response to the Celebration of my Eightieth Birthday

by John Greenleaf Whittier

by the Colored Citizens of Washington D. C.


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 friend.

first mo., 9, 1888.

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