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mer and autumn, when the Southerners who cannot afford 10 travel are panting and sickening in the glare among sands and swamps, the poorest of the citizens of Massachusetts may refresh himself amid the seabreezes on the bright promontories or cool caverns of his native shore.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES IN MASSACHUSETTS.
« Il ne faut pas une bien grande force d'esprit pour comprendre que ni les richesses ni le pouvoir ne rendent heureux. Assez de gens sentent cette vérité. Mais de ceux qui la connoissent pleinement et se conduisent en conséquence, le nombre en est si petit qu'il semble que ce soit là l'effort le plus rare de la raison humaine.”-Paul Louis COURIER.
Some few years hence it will be difficult to believe what the state of the times was in some parts of the
United States, and even in the maritime cities, in 1835. The system of terrorism seems now to be over. It did not answer its purpose, and is dropped ; but in 1835 it was new and dreadful. One of the most hideous features of the times was the ignorance and unconcern of a large portion of iety about what was being done and suffered by other divisions of its members. I I suppose, while Luther was toiling and thundering, German ladies and gentlemen were supping and dancing as usual ; and while the Lollards were burning, perhaps little was known or cared about it in warehouses and upon farms. So it was in America. The gentry with whom I chiefly associated in New-York knew little of the troubles of the abolitionists in that city, and nothing about the state of the anti-slavery question in their own region. In Boston I heard
. very striking facts which had taken place in broad daylight vehemently and honestly denied by many who happened to be ignorant of what had been done in their very streets. Not a few persons applied to me, a stranger, for information about the grand revolution of the time which was being transacted, not only on their own soil, but in the very city of their residence. A brief sketch of what I saw and experienced in Boston during the autumn of 1835 will afford some little information as to what the state of society actually was.
At the end of August a grand meeting was held at Faneuil Hall in Boston. The hall was completely filled with the gentry of the city, and some of the leading citizens took the responsibility and conducted the proceedings of the day. The object of the meeting was to sooth the South, by directing public indignation upon the abolitionists. The pretext of the assembly was, that the Union was in danger; and though the preamble to the resolutions declared disapprobation of the institution of slavery, the resolutions themselves were all inspired by fear of or sympathy with slaveholders. They reprobated all agitation of the question, and held out assurances to the South that every consideration should be made subordinate to the grand one of preserving the Union. The speeches were a disgrace to the constituents of a democratic republic, pointed as they were against those rights of free discussion and association at the time acted upon by fellow-citizens, and imbued with deference for the South. In the crowded assembly no voice was raised in disapprobation except when a speaker pointed to the portrait of Washington as "that slaveholder;" and even then the murmur soon died into silence. The gentlemen went home, trusting that they had put down the abolitionists and conciliated the South. In how short a time did the new legislature of the State pass, in that very city, a series of thorough-going abolition resolutions, sixteen constituting the minority! while the South had already been long despising the half-and-half doctrine of the Faneuil Hall meeting !
Meantime, the immediate result of the proceeding was the mob of which I have elsewhere given an account.* After that mob the regular meetings of the abolitionists were suspended for want of a place to meet in. Incessant attempts were made to hire any kind of public building, but no one would take the risk of having his property destroyed by letting it to so obnoxious a set of people. For six weeks exertions were made in vain. At last a Boston merchant, who had built a pleasant house for himself and his family, said, that while he had a roof over his head, his neighbours should not want a place in which to hold a legal meeting for honest objects ; and he sent an offer of his house to the ladies of the Anti-slavery Society. They appointed their meeting. for three o'clock in the afternoon of Wednesday, November
* Society in America, vol. i., p. 169–176.
18. They were obliged to make known their intentions as they best could, for no newspaper would admit their ad. vertisements, and the clergy rarely ventured to give out their notices, among others, from the pulpit.
I was at this time slightly acquainted with three or four abolitionists, and I was distrusted by most or all of the body who took any interest in me at all. My feelings were very different from theirs about the slaveholders of the South; naturally enough, as these Southern slaveholders were nothing else in the eyes of abolitionists, while to me they were, in some cases, personal friends, and, in more, hospitable entertainers. It was known, however, that I had declared my intention of attending an abolition meeting. This was no new resolution. From the outset of my inquiry into the question, I had declared that, having attended colonization meetings, and heard all that the slaveholders had to say for themselves and against abolitionists, I felt myself bound to listen to the other side of the question. I always professed my intention of seeking acquaintance with the abolitionists, though I then fully and involuntarily believed two or three charges against them which I found to be wholly groundless. The time was now come for discharging this duty.
On the Monday, two friends, then only new acquaintances, called on me at the house of a clergyman where I was staying, three miles from Boston. A late riot at Salem was talked over, a riot in which the family of Mr. Thompson had been driven from one house to another three times in one night, the children being snatched from their beds, carried abroad in the cold, and injuriously terrified. It was mentioned that the ladies of the Anti-slavery Society were going to attempt a meeting on the next Wednesday, and I was asked whether I was in earnest in saying that I would attend one of their meetings. Would I go to this one if I should be invited ? I replied that it depended entirely on the nature of the meeting. If it was merely a meeting for the Betilement of accounts and the despatch of business, where I should not learn what I wanted, I should wait for a less perilous time; if it was a bonâ fide public meeting, a true reflection of the spirit and circumstances of the time and the cause, I would go. The matter was presently decided by the arrival of a regular official invitation to me to attend the meeting, and to carry with me the friend who was my
VOL. II. -P
travelling companion, and any one else who might be disposed to accompany me.
Trilling as these circumstances may now appear, they were no trifles at the time; and many considerations were involved in the smallest movement a stranger made on the question. The two first things I had to take care of were to avoid involving my host in any trouble I might get into, and to afford opportunity to my companion to judge for her. self what she would do. My host had been reviled in the newspapers already for having read a notice (among several others) of an anti-slavery meeting from Dr. Channing's pulpit, where he was accidentally preaching. My object was to prevent his giving an opinion on anything that I should do, that he might not be made more or less responsible for my proceedings. I handed the invitation to my companion, with a hint not to speak of it. We separately made up our minds to go, and announced our determination to our host and hostess. Between joke and earnest, they told us we should be inobbed; and the same thing was repeated by many who were not in joke at all.
Ai two o'clock on the Wednesday we arrived at the house of a gentleman where we were to meet a few of the leading abolitionists, and dine, previous to the meeting. Our host was miserably ill that day, unfit to be out of his chamber; but he exerted himself to the utmost, being resolved to escort his wife to the meeting. During dinner, the conversation was all about the Southern gentry, in whose favour I said all I could, and much more than the party could readily receive ; which was natural enough, considering that they and I looked at the people of the South from different points of view. Before we issued forth on our expedition I was warned once more that exertions had been made to get up a mob, and that it was possible we might be dispersed by violence. When we turned into the street where the house of meeting stood, there were about a dozen boys hooting before the door, as they saw ladies of colour entering. We were admitted without having to wait an instant on the steps, and the door was secured behind us.
The ladies assembled in two drawing-rooms, thrown into one by the folding-doors being opened. The total number was a hundred and thirty. The president sat at a small table by the folding-doors, and before her was a large Bible, paper, pens, and ink, and the secretary's papers. There
were only three gentlemen in the house, its inhabitant, the gentleman who escorted us, and a clergyman who had dined with us. They remained in the hall, keeping the front door fastened, and the back way clear for our retreat, if retreat should be necessary. But the number of hooters in the streets at no time exceeded thirty, and they treated us to nothing worse than a few yells.
A lady who sat next me amused me by inquiring, with kindness, whether it revolted my feelings to meet thus in assembly with people of colour. She was as much surprised as pleased with my English deficiency of all feeling on the
subject. My next neighbour on the other hand was Mrs. Thompson, the wife of the anti-slavery lecturer, who had just effected his escape, and was then on the sea. The proceedings began with the reading of a few texts of Scripture by the president. My first impression was that the selection of these texis gave out a little vainglory about the endurance of persecution ; but when I remembered that this was the reunion of persons who had been dispersed by a mob, and when I afterward became aware how cruelly many of the members had been wounded in their moral sense, their domestic affections, and their prospects in life, I was quite ready to yield my too nice criticism. A prayer then followed, the spirit of which appeared to me perfect in hopefulness, meekness, and gentleness. While the secretary was afterward reading her report, a note was handed to me, the contents of which sunk my spirits fathom deep for the hour. It was a short pencil note from one of the gentlemen in the hall; and it asked me whether I had any objection to give a word of sympathy to the meeting, fellow-labourers as we had long been in behalf of the principles in whose defence they were met. The case was clear as daylight to my conscience. If I had been a mere stranger, attending with a mere stranger's interest to the proceedings of a party of natives, I might and ought to have declined mixing myself up with their proceedings. But I had long before published against slavery, and always declared my conviction that this was a question of humanity, not of country or race; a moral, not a merely political question ; a general affair, and not one of city, state, party, or nation. Having thus declared on the safe side of the Atlantic, I was bound to act up to my declaration on the unsafe side, if called upon. I 1 thought it a pity that the call had been made, though I am