The Great Moral Warfare
May 10, 1864 — American Anti-Slavery Society, Church of the Puritans, New York City
I shall detain the meeting but a few moments. I only wish to express the great interest I have taken in the several speeches that have been made, and to say that I wanted one word should be added, before the meeting closed, in behalf of the warfare which has been carried on by this Society from this platform, and which has resulted, as I believe, in the great change of public sentiment which has been alluded to. The evils of this war were very forcibly presented in the early hour of this meeting, but, as was well expressed, they are inevitable, because we know that war, being of evil, must produce evil, and that continually; still, I would say, I had hoped that better things would accompany our salvation, and the salvation of the country, so that another generation, following this, might be born into a Republic far transcending the Republic that grew out of the Revolutionary War; because the war is now carried on by a people differing very much from the people of that time; an intelligent, instructed people, who have had the advantages of a Republic so far; and when peace shall be restored, they will be prepared to come forward and act unitedly to remove the many evils and wrongs that remain, and the mighty debt which has accumulated in the nation. And then the war has not been a warfare of brute force merely, and the materials that will be brought in with which to build up the Republic will be very different from the materials that were at command after the first war of our country. We shall have a free, liberated people, rather than an agreement that a large portion shall still be held as slaves; there will not be, therefore, that great drawback to our nation’s prosperity. Let us, then, hope that in spite of the evils of this war, there is a day approaching when the Republic will be better understood, and the principles of a truly Christian Democracy better carried out, than ever before. So help us God!
Then, again, in the warfare, as it has been carried on, the Administration has been not only at Washington. It has been acknowledged here that woman has had something to do with it; that woman has been cooperating in the warfare which has been going on. I am desirous that our Anti-Slavery Society, in its annual meetings, and in all its meetings, should keep the standard of liberty and truth high as in the beginning; and if in thus holding it up, it shall become the duty of men like Wendell Phillips to present the errors and short-comings of the Administration, let them do it; and let us rejoice that we, as a Society, are not part and parcel of the Government, the Administration, or the Cabinet, not even as John Bright was; that we are not responsible; that we have not any load upon our shoulders that shall tend to make us compromise. Let us be careful how we commit ourselves, as a body, as a Society, to one candidate or another. We are in danger of becoming partisans in our feelings, by holding up one man or crying down another, any further than their acts warrant us in doing so. I wish we could hold up Frémont a little more for the act he did, but I am glad to hear Abraham Lincoln held up, as we have just now, for the many things that he has done; and where he has fallen short, it is our duty to rebuke him. It is our duty to ourselves to keep the standard high, and to bring the acts of all classes, even of Kings and Governors, to the test of that standard.
I only rose with the desire to express this, and to hold out the hope that we are coming to a great and glorious day, when, I believe, whatever belongs to the great moral warfare of the nation will be commended, not to us, a handful of abolitionists merely, but to the great heart of the people. A proof of this is seen in the willingness, on the part of the people, to sign petitions and send them forth, and to join in the battle armed in the full armor of God; not depending on carnal weapons — knowing, however, that these things must needs be, in a government based, as ours is, and as all nations are, upon the sword — not depending on horses and chariots, but depending on the Lord God; and, going forth with these weapons, we know they will be effective. Let our faith be firm, then, that they will ever be effective; we can never anticipate fearful, deplorable results from such a warfare, because it has its origin in God, in goodness, in love, in plainness of speech, in justice and mercy and truth. I never had anything more to confirm my faith in the infinite and the eternal than the success of our weapons of warfare, wielded as they have been, morally, in season and out of season, full of fight as we have been, using the severest language that our dictionary could furnish us with, or that our thoughts could bring forth, to describe the monster slavery. I remember that Wm. Lloyd Garrison, in his first work, almost — “Thoughts on Colonization” — remarked that when Wilberforce spoke against the African slave trade, how vituperative his language was considered; “but now,” said he, “when the scorn of the whole civilized world is brought against this iniquitous system, how mild and inefficient his speeches do appear.” So with us; we were afraid to use the word “man-stealers” in the beginning; we had been accustomed to speak soft words; but we found that the necessity was laid upon us, from the fact that we had to speak of slavery as it was; to hold it up to the utter execration of mankind, and to enlist the pulpit and the press in behalf of the suffering and the dumb. I say it is this great moral warfare that has been carried on, that has produced this wonderful change which we are now rejoicing in; and I only desire that we may be just as true as Wendell Phillips has been to-day, not praising men unduly because they have done something, but demanding that they should do the whole. And do not let us be so distrustful of human nature, of the good heart in man, as to suppose that if men have done wrong, they have done as nearly right as they could. Why, human nature judges what is right. Let us have confidence in the human heart. Even the Herald came out in defense of Fremont’s proclamation, and the people were ready to say Amen! But we are too much accustomed yet, as our friend said they are in England, to honor people in office. We know them — we know how loyal they are; but we, the people here, we are the administration. Woman is taking her place — here is Susan B. Anthony calling attention to the Women’s National League — and the men and women united, the people united, are to become the administration of the country; and then we shall look on these petty servants of ours that are in office, and while we shall give them all the honor they deserve, we shall feel that we must honor most MAN; MAN, wherever he is found; MAN — the Black man and the white man; yes, and WOMAN, too.
Source: The Liberator, May 20, 1864, p. 2.
Also: Lucretia Mott Speaks: The Essential Speeches and Sermons, ed. Christopher Densmore, Carol Faulkner, Nancy Hewitt, Beverly Wilson Palmer (Urbana: University of Illinois Press), 2017.