What Has Been Accomplished?
c.Oct-Nov, 1859 — Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, Philadelphia PA
Thirty years have elapsed since the voice of a prophet of God rang out on the air, calling this nation to repentance, and demanding the emancipation of every American slave. Thirty years! During that period a generation have passed away, while the great conflict then commenced has been earnestly carried on. At this point of time a natural and interesting question is, What has been accomplished? What has been won? Look back to the commencement of this period, we see the nation slumbering over this great fact of slavery. Of those who were startled by the prophet’s voice, some responded in anger, some in scorn, and a few gathered around his uplifted banner, and pledged themselves to work with him for the abolition of American slavery. Little did they then conceive of the greatness of the work before them; little did they foresee that it would extend through all these years. They saw that they stood alone, opposed by mighty forces, but they believe that the Church, as soon as her attention should be directed to the subject, would respond to their call, and come to their help. And none among them looked more confidently to the American Church for such aid than did he who commenced this warfare. Some persons seem to suppose that the early Abolitionists meditated a fierce onslaught on the Church. So far from this, they expected it to be found on the side of the slave. They were in the Church, and of it; pastors, deacons, elders, devout men and women, whose most sacred associations clustered around it. They knew it by the dear names of the Church of God, the Church of Christ, and they believed it would be faithful to humanity. Oh! Cold critic of today, standing, a calm spectator, outside of this great battle-field, censuring the harshness of Abolitionists towards the Church, little do you know the tenacity of the grasp with which they clung to it, or the pain with which they discovered that it was on the side of the oppressor; little do you know with what grief they learned the full meaning of those bitter words, “If it had been an enemy, then I could have borne it, but it was Thou, my own familiar friend, my spiritual guide, my acquaintance, with whom I took sweet counsel, and walked to the house of God in company.” The fathers and mothers of our Israel who have led our enterprise from that hour to this, and their young coadjutors who have unfalteringly toiled by their side, can testify that it was not until the American Church fully revealed herself as in league with oppression, not until it was clearly seen that slavery nestled under her altars, and was consecrated by her most sacred rites, while to the expostulations and entreaties of the friends of the slave, she gave, for all reply, anger, scorn and excommunication, that the abolitionists shook off the dust of their feet against her, and lifted up the cry, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partaker in her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
Is this the whole answer to our question, What has been accomplished? Have we nothing to show but the work of an ithuriel spear? A comparison of the past with the present condition of our country reveals a degree of progress sufficient to encourage the most desponding heart and to strengthen the weakest hands. Thirty years ago the nation was silent on this subject; it might almost be said that no man cared for the slave. Now there is not a legislative body in the land in which it is not an exciting topic of discussion. It has entered into all our large ecclesiastical organizations; it is debated in our lyceums, in our streets, and by our firesides. It has divided the Methodist Church; and though the Methodist Church, North, can, perhaps, claim no great merit on the ground of anti-slavery character in action, it is something that she was willing, even, to decree that her Bishops should not be slaveholders. It has thoroughly disturbed the guilty peace of the Presbyterian and Baptist Churches, and, at last, has forced its entrance into that stronghold of conservatism, the New York Episcopal Convention. It is the one great question of our political parties, those parties which once scorned to notice it. Our movement has created a large political party; and though, perhaps, we are not very proud of this work of our hands, when we consider the low type of its anti-slavery character, still it is most important and valuable as an evidence of progress.
But an arduous work is still before us; the work of carrying on the half-finished moral education of this people, until the emancipation of four millions of slaves shall be accomplished. What are you going to do respecting it! Are you sitting still with folded hands, waiting to see what the Abolitionists will do? Is there any greater responsibility resting upon them than on yourselves to do this work? It is your country which is to be redeemed from this great sin. Oh! Minister, lawyer, merchant, merchant, mechanic, farmer — oh! father, mother, husband, wife — has the slave any stronger claim upon us than he has on you? The slave is a man, and has a man’s claim on your for sympathy and succor. The slave is a father, mother, husband, wife, and as such appeals to you for help. What does that abolitionist own to him that you do not? In his name we ask you to come to his help, and so to labor in his behalf that of each of you it shall one day be said, For the emancipation of millions of slaves, for the redemption of thy country, for the bringing of the world into harmony with God, thou hast done what thou couldst.
Source: The Anti-Slavery Bugle (New-Lisbon, Ohio) November 5, 1859.