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Hume, John F. (John Ferguson) / The Abolitionists Together With Personal Memories Of The Struggle For Human Rights
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Victoria Woosley and PG Distributed





The Knickerbocker press


The opening chapter of this work was prepared during the recent
presidential campaign. It was the idea of the author that it should
appear in one of the leading newspapers or magazines before the
election, but maturer reflection brought about a change of purpose. He
realized that its publication at that time, might, not altogether
unreasonably, be looked upon as a political move having as its object
the election or defeat of a particular candidate for office, whereas
he had no desire to play the partisan. His sole aim was to vindicate
the character of a portion of the citizens of this country--some
living, some dead--whom he had always believed to be most deserving of
popular esteem, from what he considered the unmerited aspersions of a
man who has since come into a position so conspicuous and so
influential that his condemnation necessarily carries with it a
damaging effect.

Having gone so far as the preparation of the initial chapter, he
concluded that proofs of his assumptions and assertions might at
certain points be thought desirable, if not necessary, and that he
should so prolong his work as to provide them. His first idea at this
point, as his years went back beyond the beginning of the Abolitionist
movement in this country, and as he had been from early boyhood
identified with this movement, was to contribute such information as
his recollection of events would supply. In other words, he decided to
write a narrative, the matter of which would be reminiscent, with here
and there a little history woven in among the strands of memory like a
woof in the warp. It has ended in history supplying the warp, and the
reminiscence indifferently supplying the woof.

However, the value of the production is, doubtless, greatly enhanced
by the change. A string of pearls--dropping the former simile and
adopting another--is estimated according to the gems it contains, and
not because of the cord that holds it together. The personal
experiences and recollections that are here and there interwoven, by
themselves would be of little consequence; but they will be found to
carry upon them certain historical facts and inferences--some new in
themselves and in their connections--which, as the author hopes and
believes, are of profitable quality and abounding interest.

In consequence of the change of plan just explained, the scope of the
work is materially affected. What was begun as a magazine article, and
continued as a brochure, ends in a volume.


Poughkeepsie, N.Y., July, 1905.
















XIV.--MOBS 108







XXI.--MISSOURI _(Continued)_ 174











The following is an extract from Theodore Roosevelt's biography of
Thomas H. Benton in Houghton, Mifflin, & Co.'s American Statesmen
Series, published in 1887:

"Owing to a variety of causes, the Abolitionists have received an
immense amount of hysterical praise which they do not deserve, and
have been credited with deeds done by other men whom, in reality,
they hampered and opposed rather than aided. After 1840, the
professed Abolitionists formed a small and comparatively
unimportant portion of the forces that were working towards the
restriction and ultimate destruction of slavery; and much of what
they did was positively harmful to the cause for which they were
fighting. Those of their number who considered the Constitution as
a league with death and hell, and who, therefore, advocated a
dissolution of the Union, acted as rationally as would
anti-polygamists nowadays if, to show their disapproval of
Mormonism, they should advocate that Utah should be allowed to
form a separate nation. The only hope of ultimately suppressing
slavery lay in the preservation of the Union, and every
Abolitionist who argued or signed a petition for the dissolution
was doing as much to perpetuate the evil he complained of, as if
he had been a slaveholder. The Liberty party, in running Birney,
simply committed a political crime, evil in almost all its
consequences. They in no sense paved the way for the Republican
party, or helped forward the Anti-Slavery cause, or hurt the
existing organizations. Their effect on the Democracy was _nil_;
and all they were able to accomplish with the Whigs was to make
them put forward for the ensuing election a slaveholder from
Louisiana, with whom they were successful. Such were the remote
results of their conduct; the immediate evils they produced have
already been alluded to. They bore considerable
resemblance--except that after all they really did have a
principle to contend for--to the political Prohibitionists of the
present day, who go into the third party organization, and are,
not even excepting the saloon-keepers themselves, the most
efficient allies on whom intemperance and the liquor traffic can

"Anti-Slavery men like Giddings, who supported Clay, were doing a
thousandfold more effective work for the cause they had at heart
than all the voters who supported Birney; or, to speak more
accurately, they were doing all they could to advance the cause,
while the others were doing all they could to hold it back.
Lincoln in 1860 occupied more nearly the ground held by Clay than
that held by Birney; and the men who supported the latter in 1844
were the prototypes of those who worked to oppose Lincoln in 1860,
and only worked less hard because they had less chance. The ultra
Abolitionists discarded expediency, and claimed to act for
abstract right on principle, no matter what the results might be;
in consequence they accomplished very little, and that as much
for harm as for good, until they ate their words, and went
counter to their previous course, thereby acknowledging it to be
bad, and supported in the Republican party the men and principles
they had so fiercely condemned. The Liberty party was not in any
sense the precursor of the Republican party, which was based as
much on expediency as on abstract right, and was, therefore, able
to accomplish good instead of harm. To say that extreme
Abolitionists triumphed in Republican success and were causes of
it, is as absurd as to call Prohibitionists successful if, after
countless efforts totally to prohibit the liquor traffic, and
after savage denunciations of those who try to regulate it, they
should then turn round and form a comparatively insignificant
portion of a victorious high-license party. The men who took a
great and effective part in the fight against slavery were the men
who remained with their respective parties."

No word of praise or approval has Mr. Roosevelt for the men and
women--for representatives of both sexes were active sharers in the
work performed--who inaugurated, and for a long period carried
forward, the movement that led up to the overthrow of African slavery
in this country. He has no encomiums to bestow on those same men and
women for the protracted and exhausting labors they performed, the
dangers they encountered, the insults they endured, the sacrifices
they submitted to, the discouragements they confronted in many ways
and forms in prosecuting their arduous undertaking. On the contrary,
he has only bitter words of condemnation. In his estimation, and
according to his dogmatic utterance, they were criminals--political
criminals. His words make it very manifest that, if Mr. Roosevelt had
been a voter in 1840, he would not have been an Abolitionist. He would
not have been one of that devoted little band of political
philanthropists who went out, like David of old, to do battle with one
of the giant abuses of the time, and who found in the voter's ballot a
missile that they used with deadly effect. On the contrary, he would
have enrolled himself among their adversaries and assailants, becoming
a member--because it is impossible to think of Theodore Roosevelt as a
non-partisan--of one of the leading political parties of the day.
There were but two of them--the Whigs and the Democrats. In failing to
support one or the other of these parties, and giving their votes and
influence to a new one that was founded and constructed on
Anti-Slavery lines, the Abolitionists, in Mr. Roosevelt's opinion,
"committed a political crime."

Now, for what did those parties stand in 1840? Who were their
presidential candidates in that year? Martin Van Buren was the
candidate of the Democrats. He had been for eight years in the offices
of Vice-President and President, and in that time, in the opinion of
the Anti-Slavery people of the country, had shown himself to be a
facile instrument in the hands of the slaveholders. He was what the
Abolitionists described as a "doughface"--a Northern man with Southern
principles. As presiding officer he gave the casting vote in the
Senate for the bill that excluded Anti-Slavery matter from the United
States mails, a bill justly regarded as one of the greatest outrages
ever perpetrated in a free country, and as holding a place by the
side of the Fugitive Slave Law. True, he afterwards--this was in
1848,--like Saul of Tarsus, saw a new light and announced himself as a
Free Soiler. Then the Abolitionists, with what must always be regarded
as an extraordinary concession to partisan policy, cast aside their
prejudices and gave him their support. Yet Mr. Roosevelt charges them
with being indifferent to the demands of political expediency.

General William Henry Harrison, candidate of the Whigs, was a
Virginian by birth and training, and an inveterate pro-slavery man.
When Governor of the Territory of Indiana, he presided over a
convention that met for the purpose of favoring, notwithstanding the
prohibition in the Ordinance of '87, the introduction of slavery in
that Territory.

These were the men between whom the old parties gave the Abolitionists
the privilege of pick and choice. Declining to support either of them,
they gave their votes to James G. Birney, candidate of the newly
formed Liberty party. He was a Southern man by birth and a slave-owner
by inheritance, but, becoming convinced that slavery was wrong, he
freed his negroes, giving them homes of their own, and so frankly
avowed his Anti-Slavery convictions that he was driven from his native
State. His supporters did not expect to elect him, but they hoped to
begin a movement that would lead up to victory. They were planting
seed in what they believed to be receptive soil.

After 1840, the old parties became more and more submissive to the
Slave Power. Conjointly, they enacted those measures that became
known as the compromises of 1850, the principal ones being the
Fugitive Slave Law and the act repealing the Missouri Compromise. Both
of them pronounced these acts to be "a finality," and both of them in
national convention declared there should be no further agitation of
the subject. They set out to muzzle all the Anti-Slavery voices of the

By this time it was perfectly manifest that there was not only nothing
the slaveholders might demand which the old parties would not concede,
but that there was, so far as the slavery issue was involved,
absolutely no difference between them. It is a notable fact that in
the eight years following 1840, of the four presidential candidates
put in nomination by the two parties, three were slaveholders, the
fourth being a Northern "doughface," and both of the two who were
elected held slaves.

For the nomination and election of one of these men, whom he describes
as "a slaveholder from Louisiana" (General Taylor), Mr. Roosevelt is
disposed to hold the Abolitionists accountable. They forced the poor
Whigs into those proceedings, he intimates, probably by telling them
they ought to do nothing of the kind, that being what they actually
did tell them. But as the Abolitionists, four years earlier, in the
same way defeated the Whigs when they were supporting a slaveholder
from Kentucky (Clay), and a man who, in his time, did more for the
upbuilding of slavery than any other person in America, it would
appear that the score of responsibility on their part was fairly
evened up.

In citing the action of Joshua R. Giddings as an anti-third-party
man, Mr. Roosevelt is not altogether fortunate. Subsequent to the
presidential campaign of 1844, the third-party Abolitionists held a
convention in Pittsburg, in which Giddings was a leading actor. As
chairman of the committee on platform, he submitted a resolution
declaring that both of the old parties were "hopelessly corrupt and
unworthy of confidence."

The Abolitionists could not see that they were under obligation to
either of the old parties, believing they could do far better service
for the cause they championed by standing up and being counted as
candidates honestly representing their principles. They fought both of
the old parties, and finally beat them. They killed the Whig party out
and out, and so far crippled the Democrats that they have been limping
ever since. Their action, in the long run, as attested by the verdict
of results, proved itself to be not only the course of abstract right,
but of political expediency.

In 1840, the vote of the third-party Abolitionists, then for the first
time in the political field, was 7000; in 1844 it was 60,000, and in
1848 it was nearly 300,000. From that time, with occasional backsets,
Mr. Roosevelt's "political criminals" went steadily forward until they
mastered the situation. From the first, they were a power in the land,
causing the older parties to quake, Belshazzar-like, at sight of their
writing on the wall.

But according to Mr. Roosevelt, the men of the Liberty-Free-Soil party
had no share in fathering and nurturing the Republican party, to which
he assigns all the credit for crushing slavery. Says he, "The Liberty
party was not in any sense the precursor of the Republican party,
which was based as much on expediency as on abstract right." It is
very true that many Republicans, especially in the earlier days, were
neither Abolitionists nor Anti-Slavery people. A good many of them,
like Abraham Lincoln, were sentimentally adverse to slavery, but under
existing conditions did not want it disturbed. Many of them, having
broken loose from the old parties, had no other place of shelter and
cared nothing for slavery one way or the other, some being of the
opinion of one of the new party leaders whom the writer hereof heard
declare that "the niggers are just where they ought to be." All this,
however, does not prove that the third-party people were not the real
forerunners and founders of the Republican party. They certainly
helped to break up the old organizations, crushing them in whole or
part. They supplied a contingent of trained and desperately earnest
workers, their hearts being enlisted as well as their hands. And what
was of still greater consequence, they furnished an issue, and one
that was very much alive, around which the detached fragments of the
old parties could collect and unite. Their share in the composition
and development of the new party can be illustrated. Out in our great
midland valley two rivers--the Missouri and the Mississippi--meet and
mingle their waters. The Missouri, although the larger stream, after
the junction is heard of no more; but being charged with a greater
supply of sedimentary matter, gives its color to the combined flood of
the assimilated waters. Abolitionism was merged in Republicanism. It
was no longer spoken of as a separate element, but from the beginning
it gave color and character to the combination. The whole compound was

It was not, indeed, the voting strength, although this was
considerable, that the Abolitionists brought to the Republican
organization, that made them the real progenitors of that party. It is
possible that the other constituents entering into it, which were
drawn from the Anti-Slavery Whigs, the "Anti-Nebraska" Democrats, the
"Barnburner" Democrats of New York, the "Know-Nothings," etc.,
numbered more in the aggregate than the Abolitionists it included; but
it was not so much the number of votes the Abolitionists contributed
that made them the chief creators of the Republican party, as it was
their working and fighting ability. They had undergone a thorough
training. For nearly twenty years they had been in the field in active
service. For the whole of that time they had been exposed to
pro-slavery mobbing and almost every kind of persecution. They had to
conquer every foot of ground they occupied. They had done an immense
amount of invaluable preparatory work. To deny to such people a
liberal share of the credit for results accomplished, would be as
reasonable as to say that men who clear the land, plough the ground,
and sow the seed, because others may help to gather the harvest, have
nothing to do with raising the crop. But for the pioneer work of the
Abolitionists there would have been no Republican party.

There had been Anti-Slavery people in this country before the
Abolitionists--conscientious, zealous, intelligent--but somehow they
lacked the ability, in the language of the pugilists, to "put up a
winning fight." They had been brushed aside or trampled under foot.
Not so with the Abolitionists. They had learned all the tricks of the
enemy. They were not afraid of opposition. They knew how to give blows
as well as to take them. The result was that from the time they
organized for separate political action in 1840, they had made steady
progress, although this seemed for a period to be discouragingly slow.
It was only a question of time when, if there had been no Republican
party, they would have succeeded in abolishing slavery without its

Although, as before remarked, the Republican party was made up of a
good many elements besides the Abolitionists, there was among them but
little homogeneousness. They were indifferent, if not hostile, to each
other, and, if left to themselves, would never have so far coalesced
as to make a working party. They had no settled policy, no common
ground to stand on. They would have been simply a rope of sand. But
the Abolitionists supplied a bond of union. They had a principle that
operated like a loadstone in bringing the factions together.

There was another inducement the Abolitionists had to offer. They had
an organization that was perfect in its way. It was weak but active.
It had made its way into Congress where it had such representatives as
John P. Hale and Salmon P. Chase in the Senate, and several brilliant
men in the Lower House. It had a complete outfit of party machinery.
It had an efficient force of men and women engaged in canvassing as
lecturers and stump orators. It had well managed newspapers, and the
ablest pens in the country--not excepting Harriet Beecher
Stowe's--were in its service. All this, it is hardly necessary to say,
was attractive to people without political homes. The Abolitionists
offered them not only shelter but the prospect of meat and drink in
the future. In that way their organization became the nucleus of the
Republican party, which was in no sense a new organization, but a
reorganization of an old force with new material added.

And here would seem to be the proper place for reference to the
historical fact that the Republican party, under that name, had but
four years of existence behind it when the great crisis came in the
election of Lincoln and the beginning of the Civil War--Lincoln's
election being treated by the South as a _casus belli_. The Republican
party was established under that name in 1856 and Lincoln was elected
in 1860.

Now, the work preparatory to Lincoln's election was not done in four
years. The most difficult part of it--the most arduous, the most
disagreeable, the most dangerous--had been done long before. Part of
it dated back to 1840. Indeed, the performance of the Republican party
in those four years was not remarkably brilliant. With the slogan of
"Free soil, free men, and Fremont" it made an ostentatious
demonstration in 1856--an attempted _coup de main_--which failed. It
would have failed quite as signally in 1860, but for the division of
the Democratic party into the Douglas and Breckenridge factions. That
division was pre-arranged by the slaveholders who disliked Douglas,
the regular Democratic nominee, much more than they did Lincoln, and
who hoped and plotted for Lincoln's election because it furnished them
a pretext for rebellion.

The change of name from "Free Soil" or "Liberty" to "Republican" in
1856 had very little significance. It was a matter of partisan policy
and nothing more. "Liberty" and "Free Soil," as party cognomens, had a
meaning, and were supposed to antagonize certain prejudices.
"Republican," at that juncture, meant nothing whatever. Besides, it
was sonorous; it was euphonious; it was palatable to weak political
stomachs. The ready acceptance of the new name by the Abolitionists
goes very far to contradict Mr. Roosevelt's accusation against them of
being regardless of the claims of political expediency.

The writer has shown, as he believes, that without the preparatory
work of the political Abolitionists there would have been no
Republican party. He will now go a step further. He believes that
without that preliminary service there would not only have been no
Republican party, but no Civil War in the interest of free soil, no
Emancipation Proclamation, no Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to
the Federal Constitution. There might have been and probably would
have been considerable discussion, ending in a protest, more or less
"ringing," when slavery was permitted to overstep the line marked out
by the Missouri Compromise. There might even have been another
"settlement." But no such adjustment would have seriously impeded the
northward march of the triumphant Slave Power. Indeed, in that event
it is more than probable that ere this the legal representatives of
the late Robert Toombs, of Georgia, would, if so inclined, have made
good his boast of calling the roll of his slaves at the foot of Bunker
Hill monument.

So far we have dealt with Mr. Roosevelt's indictment of the
Abolitionists for abandoning the old pro-slavery political parties,
and undertaking to construct a new and better one. That, in his
judgment, was a political crime. But he charges them with another
manifestation of criminality which was much more serious. He accuses
them of hostility, to the Union, which was disloyalty and treason. The
evidence offered by him in support of his accusation was the
Anti-Unionist position taken by William Lloyd Garrison, who branded
the Union as a "league with hell," and some of his associates. But
Garrison was not a leader, or even a member, of the third or Liberty
party. He denounced it almost as bitterly as Mr. Roosevelt.

Garrison was a Quaker, a non-resistant, and a non-voter. He relied on
moral suasion. He saw no salvation in politics. The formation of a new
Anti-Slavery party excited his fiery indignation. He declared that it
was "ludicrous in its folly, pernicious as a measure of policy, and
useless as a political contrivance."

Far and away the most potential member and leader of the political
Abolitionists was Salmon P. Chase. Instead of denouncing the
Constitution as "a league with death and hell," he claimed that it
was an Anti-Slavery document and should be so construed. As for the
Union, by his services in successfully managing the finances of the
country in its great crisis, he did as much to sustain the Union as
any other man of that time. To accuse him of hostility and infidelity
to the Union, is something that no one can do with impunity. In fact,
so clear and so clean, as well as so bold and striking, is the record
of Chase and his associates, beginning in 1840 and continuing down
until the last shackle was stricken from the last bondsman's limbs,
that even the shadow of the White House cannot obscure it.

Nor is Mr. Roosevelt happy in his illustration, when, in his
concluding arraignment of the Abolitionists, he seeks to discredit
them as an organization of impracticables by comparing them to the
political Prohibitionists of to-day. When the latter, if that time is
ever to be, shall become strong enough to rout one or both of the
existing main political parties, and, taking the control of the
Government in their hands, shall not only legally consign the liquor
traffic to its coffin, but nail it down with a constitutional
amendment, then Mr. Roosevelt's comparison will apply.



In selecting those who are to receive its remembrance and its honors,
the world has always given its preference to such as have battled for
freedom. It may have been with the sword; it may have been with the
pen; or it may have been with a tongue that was inflamed with holy
rage against tyranny and wrong; but whatever the instrumentality
employed; in whatever field the battle has been fought; and by
whatsoever race, or class, or kind of men; the champions of human
liberty have been hailed as the bravest of the brave and the most
worthy to receive the acclaims of their fellows.

Now, if that estimate be not altogether inaccurate, what place in the
scale of renown must be assigned to those pioneers in the successful
movement against African slavery in this country who have commonly
been known as "Abolitionists"--a name first given in derision by their
enemies? It should, in the opinion of the writer hereof, be the very
highest. He is not afraid to challenge the whole record of human
achievements by great and good men (always save and except that which
is credited to the Saviour of mankind) for exhibitions of heroism
superior to theirs. Nay, when it is remembered that mainly through
their efforts and sacrifices was accomplished a revolution by which
four million human beings (but for the Abolitionists the number to-day
in bondage would be eight millions) were lifted from the condition in
which American slaves existed but a few years ago, to freedom and
political equality with their former masters; and, at the same time
when it is considered what qualities of heart and brain were needed
for such a task, he does not believe that history, from its earliest
chapters, furnishes examples of gods or men, except in very rare and
isolated cases, who have shown themselves to be their equals.

In the matter of physical courage they were unsurpassed,
unsurpassable. A good many of them were Quakers and non-resistants,
and a good many of them were women, but they never shrank from danger
to life and limb, when employed in their humanitarian work. Some of
them achieved the martyr's crown.

In the matter of conscience they were indomitable. Life to them was
worth less than principle.

In the matter of money they were absolutely unselfish. Those of them
who were poor, as the most of them were, toiled on without the hope of
financial recompense. They did their work not only without the promise
or prospect of material reward of any kind, but with the certainty of
pains and penalties that included the ostracism and contempt of their
fellows, and even serious risks to property and life.

All these sacrifices were in the cause of human liberty; but of
liberty for whom? That is the crucial point. In all ages there have
been plenty of men who have honorably striven for liberty for
themselves. Some there have been who have risen to higher planes. We
have an example in Lafayette. He fought to liberate a people who were
foreign in language and blood; but they were of his own color and the
peers of his compatriots.

The Abolitionists, however, espoused the cause, and it was for that
that they endured so much, of creatures that were infinitely below
them; of beings who had ceased to be recognized as belonging to
humanity, and were classed with the cattle of the field and other
species of "property." So low were they that they could neither
appreciate nor return the services rendered in their behalf. For their
condition, the Abolitionists were in no sense responsible. They had no
necessary fellowship with the unfortunates. They were under no
especial obligation to them. They were not of the same family. It was
even doubted whether the races had a common origin. And yet, to the
end of securing release for these wretched victims of an intolerable
oppression, not a few of them dedicated all they possessed--life not

True it is that they had no monopoly of benevolence. Many noble men
and women have gone as missionaries to the poor and benighted, and
have sought through numerous hardships and perils to raise up those
who have been trodden in the dust. But, as a rule, their services have
been rendered pursuant to a secular employment that carried financial
compensation, and behind their devotion to the poor and oppressed has
been the expectation of personal reward in another world, if not in
this. But such motives barely, if at all, influenced the
Abolitionists. No element of professionalism entered into their work.
They were not particularly religious. They neither very greatly
reverenced nor feared the Church, whose leaders they often accused of
a hankering for the "flesh-pots" that induced them to lead their
followers into Egypt, rather than out of it. They were partly moved by
a hatred of slavery and its long train of abuses that was
irrepressible, and which to most persons was incomprehensible, and
partly by a love for their fellows in distress that was so insistent
as to make them forget themselves. Their impulses seemed to be largely
intuitive, if not instinctive, and if called upon for a philosophical
explanation they could not have given it.

In such a struggle for freedom and natural human rights as was carried
on by the Abolitionists against tremendous odds and through a term
covering many long years, it does seem to the writer of this essay
that mortal heroism reached its height.

Nor am I by any means alone in the opinion just expressed. As far back
as 1844, when the Abolitionists were few in number and the objects of
almost savage persecution in every part of our country, the Earl of
Carlisle, who, in his day was one of the most capable leaders of
British public opinion, declared that they were engaged "in fighting a
battle without a parallel in the history of ancient or modern

I am moved to write the story of the Abolitionists, partly because it
is full of romantic interest, and partly because justice demands it.
Those doughty file leaders in the Anti-Slavery fight do not to-day
have an adequate acknowledgment of the obligations that the country
and humanity should recognize as belonging to them, and they never
have had it. Much of the credit that is fairly theirs has been
mis-applied. Writers of history--so called, although much of it is
simple eulogy--have been more and more inclined to attribute the
overthrow of slavery to the efforts of a few men, and particularly one
man, who, after long opposition to, or neglect of, the freedom
movement, came to its help in the closing scenes of a great conflict,
while the earlier, and certainly equally meritorious, workers and
fighters have been quite left out of the account. The writer does not
object to laborers who entered the field at the eleventh hour, sharing
with those who bore the heat and burden of the day; but when there is
a disposition to give to them all the earnings he does feel like

The case of the Abolitionists is not overstated when it is said that,
but for their labors and struggles, this country, instead of being all
free, would to-day be all slaveholding. The relative importance of
their work in creating, by means of a persistent agitation, an
opposition to human slavery that was powerful enough to compel the
attention of the public and force the machine politicians, after long
opposition, to admit the question into practical politics, cannot well
be overestimated.

They alone and single-handed fought the opening battles of a great
war, which, although overshadowed and obscured by later and more
dramatic events, were none the less gallantly waged and nobly won. It
is customary to speak of our Civil War as a four years' conflict. It
was really a thirty years' war, beginning when the pioneer
Abolitionists entered the field and declared for a life-and-death
struggle. It was then that the hardest battles were fought.

I write the more willingly because comparatively few now living
remember the mad excitement of the slavery controversy in ante-bellum
days. The majority--the living and the working masses of to-day--will,
doubtless, be gratified to have accurate pictures of scenes and events
of which they have heard their seniors speak, that distinguished the
most tempestuous period in our national history--the one in which the
wildest passions were aroused and indulged. Then it was that the
fiercest and bitterest agitation prevailed. The war that followed did
not increase this. It rather modified it--sobered it in view of the
crisis at hand--and served as a safety-valve for its escape.

For the same reason, the general public has now but slight
comprehension of the trials endured by the Abolitionists for
principle's sake. In many ways were they persecuted. In society they
were tabooed; in business shunned. By the rabble they were hooted and
pelted. Clowns in the circus made them the subjects of their jokes.
Newspaper scribblers lampooned and libelled them. Politicians
denounced them. By the Church they were regarded as very black sheep,
and sometimes excluded from the fold. And this state of things lasted
for years, during which they kept up a steady agitation with the help
of platform lecturers, and regularly threw away their votes--so it
was charged--in a "third party" movement that seemed to be a hopeless

Another inducement to the writer to take up the cause of the
Abolitionists is the fact that he has always been proud to class
himself as one of them. He came into the world before Abolitionism, by
that name, had been heard of; before the first Abolition Society was
organized; before William Lloyd Garrison founded his _Liberator_, and
before (not the least important circumstance) John Quincy Adams
entered Congress. He cannot remember when the slavery question was not
discussed. His sympathies at an early day went out to the slave. He
informed himself on the subject as well as a farmer boy might be
expected to do in a household that received the most of its knowledge
of current events from the columns of one weekly newspaper. He cast
his first vote for the ticket of the Abolitionists while they were yet
a "third party."

The community in which he then lived, although in the free State of
Ohio, was strongly pro-slavery, being not far from the Southern
border. The population was principally from Virginia and Kentucky.
There were a few Abolitionists, and they occasionally tried to hold
public meetings, but the gatherings were always broken up by mobs.

The writer very well remembers the satisfaction with which he, as a
schoolboy, was accustomed to hear that there was to be another
Abolition "turn-out." The occasion was certain to afford considerable
excitement that was dear to the heart of a boy, and it had another
recommendation. The only room in the village--"town" we called
it--for such affairs, except the churches, which were barred against
"fanatics," was the district schoolhouse, which, by common consent,
was open to all comers, and as the windows and doors, through which
missiles were hurled during Anti-Slavery gatherings, were always more
or less damaged, "we boys" usually got a holiday or two while the
building was undergoing necessary repairs.

As might be surmised, the lessons I learned at school were not all
such as are usually acquired at such institutions. My companions were
like other children, full of spirit and mischief, and not without
their prejudices. They hated Abolitionists because they--the
Abolitionists--wanted to compel all white people to marry "niggers."
Although not naturally unkind, they did not always spare the feelings
of "the son of an old Abolitionist." We had our arguments. Some of
them were of the knock-down kind. In more than one shindy, growing out
of the discussion of the great question of the day, I suffered the
penalty of a bloody nose or a blackened eye for standing up for my

The feeling against the negroes' friends--the Abolitionists--was not
confined to children in years. It was present in all classes. It
entered State and Church alike, and dominated both of them. The
Congressional Representative from the district in which I lived in
those days was an able man and generally held in high esteem. He made
a speech in our village when a candidate for re-election. In
discussing the slavery question--everybody discussed it then--he spoke
of the negroes as being "on the same footing with other cattle." I
remember the expression very well because it shocked me, boy that I
was. It did not disturb the great majority of those present, however.
They cheered the sentiment and gave their votes for the speaker, who
was re-elected by a large majority.

About the same time I happened to be present where a General Assembly
of one of our largest religious denominations was in session, and
listened to part of an address by a noted divine--the most
distinguished man in the body--which was intended to prove that
slavery was an institution existing by biblical authority. He spent
two days in a talk that was mostly made up of scriptural texts and his
commentaries upon them. This was in Ohio, and there was not a
slave-owner in the assembly, and yet a resolution commendatory of the
views that had just been declared by the learned doctor, was adopted
by an almost unanimous vote.

In the neighborhood in which I lived was an old and much respected
clergyman who was called upon to preach a sermon on a day of some
national significance.

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Main -> Hume, John F. (John Ferguson) -> The Abolitionists Together With Personal Memories Of The Struggle For Human Rights