[From the Herald of Freedom of April 8, 1842; Miscellaneous Writings 210-221]
Anti-slavery is a more serious matter than a great many took it to be, who niminally enlisted in it, at the outset. It does not consist in thinking slaveholding is a sin, or as the self-worshipping clergy say, with dismal work, and sacerdotal pucker, a wrong. Nor in thinking it would be safe, or profitable, or expedient, to have it stopped at once. Nor in shuddering at thought of a cart whip and paddle. Nor in thinking the Right of Petition a constitutional one. Nor in the opinion that Madison Washington had as good a right to rise against a three-penny encroachment of that old, fighting monarchy on the deck of the Creole, as George Washington had to rise against a three-penny encroachment of that old, fighting Monarchy, the other side of the Atlantic.[i] All these matters, which the slave-master holds to, in the abstract, as he calls it - (that is, as never to be practised on) do not constitute anti-slavery, and will never abolish slavery, to dooms-day. Anti-slavery holds to the perfect equality of the human family, in the matter of rights - to the inalienabilty of that equality. And since this is denied, violated and trampled on, - anti-slavery will morally annoy all those who in any way have been guilty of the violation, until they not only repent and reform, but help, to their utmost, in completing the reformation of the country. Anti-Slavery practises all that is necessary to the speediest abolition of slavery. Any thing short of this, will oppose genuine anti-slavery. And the higher its anti-slavery pretensions, the more impatient and strenuous will be its hostility.
Anti-Slavery demands the abolition of slavery on the grounds that slaves are human, and therefore must not be enslaved; - that masters are human (or would be if they did not banish all their humanity,) so cannot be masters. It goes to work upon the pro-slavery community, to infuse these principles into it. It goes to work too in earnest. It strips to the work. It does not go to it with a cloak on - but disencumbered of coat even, and with arms bared to the elbow, and collar opened to the breeze. And as it strikes, you can hear its loud expirations, like the woodchopper's at the trunk of the Royal Oak. The noise of its agency is heard early and late, disquieting the pro-slavery tranquility of the land. Nothing is anti-slavery, that does not thus earnestly and annoyingly work. True anti-slavery is disquieting. Nothing is disquieting but moral annoyance. Physical aggression is at once met by physical resistance, and overpowered and quelled. Political effort effort produces no permanent disquietude in community. Public disquietude is anti-slavery success. The more it disturbs and agitates a wicked pro-slavery quiet, the sooner the slave has his liberty. This most promoted, we think, by touching the church, which is the apple of the community's eye. The church is its favorite institution, and touching it is inflicting a mortal wound. It is like hitting the whole in his vital part. It is the lancing, that makes slavery spout blood. It breeds that commotion in society, which makes it surge and foam, as the sea does not round the whale in his death-throes, when he makes it boil like a pot.
What is the moral effect of political effort? Is it agitation, or quiescence? The latter, surely. It has no tendency to stir the great moral deep. It tends to apathy or torpidity. It generates a superficial and fictitious animation, like the stimulus of alcohol, but torpor and lethargy follow, and become the permanent condition of community. It is this that the clergy desire, and therefore if any anti-slavery agitation must be had, they decidedly prefer a political to a moral one. A moral agitation they will not countenance or permit. And they are shrewd in this, for they could not control it, or long survive it. They deprecate moral agitation beyond all things. They rather have a civil war. They would prefer a dozen foreign wars, to which such agitation as is now going on for the slave, at the movement of old-organized abolitionism. And they could well afford to. Foreign wars make work for the clergy, and are without danger them. Their prayers are in demand in the army, or at least for the army, and they are copiously furnished, if they happen to like the war. A civil war would be personally hazardous. But war-pestilence, (among the laity) famine, (not extending to the parsonage) earthquakes, inundation - any thing, rather than the dreadful moral agitation now shaking the land, and putting in mortal jeopardy the very divinity of their hoary order. If you wish to annoy slavery out of the community, touch the pro-slavery church with the Ithuriel spear. Bore out her Polyphemian eye, with the red-hot iron of Truth. You may touch any of her institutions but the church, and she will take it insensibly.
And yet the professed abolition cries out - Beware how you disrespect the Church and the Ministers. Anti-Slavery must not lose its reverence for them - come of the slave what may. Abolish slavery if you can, but reverence the Clergy, and the Pulpit, and the Steeple, whether or no. Our conscience and judgment answer NO. "God speed the right."
[i] [Wikipedia 4.23.2008] Madison Washington was the instigator of a slave revolt onboard the Brig Creole in 1841. This slave ship was transporting Washington, the ship's slave cook, as well as 134 other slaves from Virginia to New Orleans. Washington incited 18 of his fellow slaves into rebellion, where they took control of the Creole and commanded that it be sailed to British-controlled Nassau. Despite American protests, the British did not return the slaves and declared them to be free persons. However, Washington and his 18 conspirators were imprisoned under charges of mutiny. The British, sympathizing with Washington and his fellows, eventually released them after several weeks of imprisonment. Washington is the eponymous hero of Frederick Douglass's 1852 novel, The Heroic Slave.