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The meeting in Boston was followed by another in Salem, called, according to the terms of the notice, to consider "whether the immense region of country extending from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean is destined to be the abode of happiness, independence, and freedom, or the wide prison of misery and slavery." Resolutions were passed against the admission of any Slave State, being supported by Benjamin T. Pickman, Andrew Dunlap, and Joseph Story, a name of authority wherever found. In the meeting at Worcester, Solomon Strong and Levi Lincoln took a prominent part. Resolutions were adopted here, "earnestly requesting their representatives in Congress to use their unremitted exertions to prevent the sanction of that honorable body to any further introduction of slavery within the extending limits of the United States." By these assemblies the Commonwealth was aroused. To Slavery it presented an unbroken front.
Since these efforts in the cause of Freedom twentyfive years have passed. Some of the partakers in them are still spared to us, I need not add, full of years and honors. The larger part have been called from the duty of opposing slavery on earth. The same question which aroused their energies presents itself to us. Shall we be less faithful than they? Will Massachusetts oppose a less unbroken front now than then? In the lapse of these few years has the love of freedom diminished? Has sensibility to human suffering lost any of the keenness of its edge?
Let us regard the question more closely. Congress is asked to sanction the Constitution of Texas, which not only supports slavery, but contains a clause prohibiting the Legislature of the State from abolishing slavery.
In doing this, it will give a fresh stamp of legislative approbation to an unrighteous system; it will assume a new and active responsibility for the system; it will again become a dealer in human flesh, and on a gigantic scale. At this moment, when the conscience of mankind is at last aroused to the enormity of holding a fellow-man in bondage, when, throughout the civilized world, a slave-dealer is a by-word and a reproach, we as a nation are about to become proprietors of a large population of slaves. Such an act, at this time, is removed from the reach of that palliation often extended to slavery. Slavery, we are speciously told by those who defend it, is not our original sin. It was entailed upon us by our ancestors, so we are instructed; and the responsibility is often, with exultation, thrown upon the mother country. Now, without stopping to inquire into the truth of this allegation, it is sufficient for the present purpose to know that by welcoming Texas as a Slave State we make slavery our own original sin. Here is a new case of actual transgression, which we cannot cast upon the shoulders of any progenitors, nor upon any mother country, distant in time or place. The Congress of the United States, the people of the United States, at this day, in this vaunted period of light, will be responsible for it; so that it will be said hereafter, so long as the dreadful history of Slavery is read, that in the present year of Christ a new and deliberate act was passed to confirm and extend it.
By the present movement we propose no measure of change. We do not offer to interfere with any institution of the Southern States, nor to modify any law on the subject of Slavery anywhere under the Constitution. Our movement is conservative. It is to preserve ex
isting supports of Freedom; it is to prevent the violation of free institutions in their vital principles.
Such a movement should unite in its support all but those few in whose distorted or unnatural vision slavery seems to be a great good. Most clearly should it unite the freemen of the North, by all the considerations of self-interest, and by those higher considerations founded on the rights of man. I cannot dwell now upon the controlling political influence in the councils of the country which the annexation of Texas will secure to slaveholders. This topic is of importance; but it yields to the supreme requirements of religion, morals, and humanity. I cannot banish from my view the great shame and wrong of slavery. Judges of our courts have declared it contrary to the Law of Nature, finding its support only in positive enactments of men. Its horrors who can tell? Language utterly fails to depict them.
By the proposed measure, we not only become parties to the acquisition of a large population of slaves, with all the crime of slavery, but we open a new market for the slaves of Virginia and the Carolinas, and legalize a new slave-trade. A new slave-trade! Consider this well. You cannot forget the horrors of that too famous "middle passage," where crowds of human beings, stolen, and borne by sea far from their warm African homes, are pressed on shipboard into spaces of smaller dimensions for each than a coffin. And yet the deadly consequences of this middle passage are believed to fall short of those sometimes undergone by the wretched coffles driven from the exhausted lands of the Northern Slave States to the sugar plantations nearer the sun of the South. One quarter part are said
often to perish in these removals. I see them, in imagination, on their fatal journey, chained in bands, and driven like cattle, leaving behind what has become to them a home and a country, (alas! what a home, and what a country !) — husband torn from wife, and parent from child, to be sold anew into more direful captivity. Can this take place with our consent, nay, without our most determined opposition? If the slave-trade is to receive new adoption from our country, let us have no part or lot in it. Let us wash our hands of this great guilt. As we read its horrors, may each of us be able to exclaim, with conscience void of offence, "Thou canst not say I did it." God forbid that the votes and voices of Northern freemen should help to bind anew the fetters of the slave! God forbid that the lash of the slave-dealer should descend by any sanction from New England! God forbid that the blood which spurts from the lacerated, quivering flesh of the slave should soil the hem of the white garments of Massachusetts !
Voices of discouragement reach us from other parts of the country, and even from our own friends in this bracing air. We are told that all exertion will be vain, and that the admission of a new Slave State is " a foregone conclusion." But this is no reason why we should shrink from duty. "I will try," was the response of an American officer on the field of battle. "England expects every man to do his duty," was the signal of the British admiral. Ours is a contest holier than those which aroused these stirring words. Let us try. Let every man among us do his duty.
And suppose New England stands alone in these efforts; suppose Massachusetts stands alone: is it not a noble isolation? Is it not the post of honor? Is it not
the position where she will find companionship with all that is great and generous in the past, with all the disciples of truth, of right, of liberty? It has not been her wont on former occasions to inquire whether she should stand alone. Your honored ancestor, Mr. Chairman, who from these walls regards our proceedings tonight, did not ask whether Massachusetts would be alone, when she commenced that opposition which ended in the independence of the Thirteen Colonies.
But we cannot fail to accomplish great good. It is in obedience to a prevailing law of Providence, that no act of self-sacrifice, of devotion to duty, of humanity can fail. It stands forever as a landmark, from which at least to make a new effort. Future champions of equal rights and human brotherhood will derive new strength from these exertions.
Let Massachusetts, then, be aroused. Let all her children be summoned to this holy cause. There are questions of ordinary politics in which men may remain neutral; but neutrality now is treason to liberty, to humanity, and to the fundamental principles of free institutions. Let her united voice, with the accumulated echoes of freedom that fill this ancient hall, go forth with comfort and cheer to all who labor in the same cause everywhere throughout the land. Let it help to confirm the wavering, and to reclaim those who have erred from the right path. Especially may it exert a proper influence in Congress upon the representatives of the Free States. May it serve to make them as firm in the defence of Freedom as their opponents are pertinacious in the cause of Slavery.
Massachusetts must continue foremost in the cause of Freedom; nor can her children yield to deadly dalliance