Peace Requires Anarchy


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The Liberator: “To the Public” | William Lloyd Garrison

From The Liberator
January 1, 1831

To the Public

In the month of August, I issued proposals for publishing “THE LIBERATOR” in Washington city; but the enterprise, though hailed in different sections of the country, was palsied by public indifference. Since that time, the removal of the Genius of Universal Emancipation [Benjamin Lundy’s anti-slavery newspaper] to the Seat of Government has rendered less imperious the establishment of a similar periodical in that quarter.

During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the minds of the people by a series of discourses on the subject of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of the fact, that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to be effected in the free states — and particularly in New-England — than at the south. I found contempt more bitter, opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen, than among slave owners themselves. Of course, there were individual exceptions to the contrary. This state of things afflicted, but did not dishearten me. I determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birth place of liberty. That standard is now unfurled; and long may it float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe — yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! Let southern oppressors tremble — let their secret abettors tremble — let their northern apologists tremble — let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.

I deem the publication of my original Prospectus unnecessary, as it has obtained a wide circulation. The principles therein inculcated will be steadily pursued in this paper, excepting that I shall not array myself as the political partisan of any man. In defending the great cause of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties.

Assenting to the “self-evident truth” maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights — among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popluar but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My consicence in now satisfied.

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective, and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my influence, — humble as it is, — is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years — not perniciously, but beneficially — not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard “the fear of man which bringeth a snare,” and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power. And here I close with this fresh dedication:

Oppression! I have seen thee, face to face,
And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow;
But thy soul-withering glance I fear not now —
For dread to prouder feelings doth give place
Of deep abhorrence! Scorning the disgrace
Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow,
I also kneel — but with far other vow
Do hail thee and thy hord of hirelings base: —
I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,
Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand,
Thy brutalising sway — till Afric’s chains
Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land, —
Trampling Oppression and his iron rod:
Such is the vow I take —  SO HELP ME GOD!

William Lloyd Garrison

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Reprinted from PBS.


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Frederick Douglass’ “Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave”

I was afraid to speak to any one for fear of speaking to the wrong one, and thereby falling into the hands of money-loving kidnappers.

Frederick_Douglass_Money-Loving_KidnappersThose are the words of Frederick Douglass recalling his state of mind upon his arrival to New York as a fugitive slave on Monday, September 3, 1838.

Yesterday I read Frederick Douglass’ 1845 autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave in one sitting starting around 10:00 pm. I did not intend to read it all at once (I meant to go to bed after reading the first chapter), but I got drawn into it and was not able to put it down until I finished reading about four hours after I started.

The book begins with an introduction by William Lloyd Garrison and a letter from Wendell Phillips. I had read some of each of their works previously and knew that they both were famous for their abolitionist writings and speeches. Upon finishing their introductions and beginning the first chapter of the book, I was thus surprised to find that Douglass’ writing style was more poetic and pleasing to read than either William Lloyd Garrison’s or Wendell Phillip’s writing.

The effect that this had on me as I read Douglass’ narrative of his life as a slave was powerful. Douglass describes how part of the strategy to keep slaves subdued was to make sure that they did not learn how to read or write. As Douglass tells the story of how he learned about this and set out in defiance to learn to read and write no matter the risk, the reader knows, by evidence of the current work that he or she is reading, that Douglass succeeded with flying colors. As I read his narrative I could not help but realize not only how truly remarkable it is that he succeeded at learning to read and write while being treated so inhumanely by all who enslaved him, but also how miraculous it is that he learned to write far better than most people who are brought up free and given access to means of education.

While some readers may use the rarity of Douglass’ case as an excuse to continue holding their belief that children need to be forced to learn to read, write, do math, etc, as many students uninterested in learning these things are forced to do in most schools, I for one see Douglass’ life story as yet another reason to adopt the unschooling philosophy that children have a natural desire to learn and should be free to learn what they want when they want, rather than be forced to learn a certain curriculum grade after grade that does not necessarily even interest them. Parents and educators should provide an environment conducive to learning and help children learn when they want help, but they should not try to force a child to learn something that he or she does not want to learn by imposing a curriculum on them and grading them.

Frederick Douglass’ narrative is inspirational, emotional, educational, and captivating. I highly recommend it.