Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
The Key-Note of Abolition
By William Lloyd Garrison (18051879)
[Born in Newburyport, Mass., 1805. Died in New York, N. Y., 1879. Editorial in The Liberator, 1832.From The Story of his Life, Told by his Children. 1885.]
THERE is much declamation about the sacredness of the compact which was formed between the free and slave States, on the adoption of the Constitution. A sacred compact, forsooth! We pronounce it the most bloody and heaven-daring arrangement ever made by men for the continuance and protection of a system of the most atrocious villany ever exhibited on earth. Yeswe recognize the compact, but with feelings of shame and indignation; and it will be held in everlasting infamy by the friends of justice and humanity throughout the world. It was a compact formed at the sacrifice of the bodies and souls of millions of our race, for the sake of achieving a political objectan unblushing and monstrous coalition to do evil that good might come. Such a compact was, in the nature of things and according to the law of God, null and void from the beginning. No body of men ever had the right to guarantee the holding of human beings in bondage.
Who or what were the framers of our Government that they should dare confirm and authorize such high-handed villanysuch a flagrant robbery of the inalienable rights of mansuch a glaring violation of all the precepts and injunctions of the Gospelsuch a savage war upon a sixth part of our whole population? They were men, like ourselvesas fallible, as sinful, as weak, as ourselves. By the infamous bargain which they made between themselves, they virtually dethroned the Most High God, and trampled beneath their feet their own solemn and, heaven-attested Declaration, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rightsamong which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They had no lawful power to bind themselves or their posterity for one hourfor one momentby such an unholy alliance. It was not valid thenit is not valid now. Still they persisted in maintaining itand still do their successors, the people of Massachusetts, of New England, and of the twelve free States, persist in maintaining it. A sacred compact! a sacred compact! What, then, is wicked and ignominious?
It is said that if you agitate this question you will divide the Union. Believe it not; but should disunion follow, the fault will not be yours. You must perform your duty, faithfully, fearlessly and promptly, and leave the consequences to God: that duty clearly is, to cease from giving countenance and protection to Southern kidnappers. Let them separate, if they can muster courage enoughand the liberation of their slaves is certain. Be assured that slavery will very speedily destroy this Union if it be let alone; but even if the Union can be preserved by treading upon the necks, spilling the blood, and destroying the souls of millions of your race, we say it is not worth a price like this, and that it is in the highest degree criminal for you to continue the present compact. Let the pillars thereof falllet the superstructure crumble into dustif it must be upheld by robbery and oppression.