Niles’ Weekly Register

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Date: October 12, 1833

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An Anti-Slavery Meeting (1833)

FROM THE NEW YORK COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER

WE were not apprised, until after the publication of our paper last evening, of the extent and depth of the excitement prevailing amongst our citizens, in regard to the meeting called by a few individuals, for the purpose of organizing a society of immediate abolitionists. It appears, however, that our most respectable citizens, with one voice, were grieved that such a meeting should have been called in N. York, and many of them had determined to attend, and assist in crushing the dangerous project. Other elements were also stirred into action by the publication of a morning paper, to which we briefly adverted in terms of censure yesterday, and a still greater degree of feeling excited in the course of the day, by the posting of a large placard through the city, of which the following is a copy:—

NOTICE.

To all persons from the south.

All persons interested in the subject of the meeting, called by

J. Leavitt, W. Goodell,

W. Green, jr. J. Rankin,

Lewis Tappan.

At Clinton Hall,

This evening, at 7 o’clock,

Are requested to atte[n]d at the same hour and place.

MANY SOUTHERNERS.

New York, October 2d, 1833.

N. B. All citizens who may feel disposed to manifest the true feeling of the state on this subject, are requested to attend.

It is not to be supposed for a moment, that this inflammatory placard was published at the instigation of any of our southern fellow citizens sojourning temporarily amongst us; but was most probably the work of evil-minded people of our own, who were disposed to create a riot. No doubt the southern gentlemen now in the city felt deeply interested in the meeting; but we question whether any of them would have taken the liberty of thus interfering in the domestic concerns of our city. Be the origin of the handbill what it may, however, the effect of the several publications, and the still deeper and more solemn tone of feeling pervading the bosom of our best citizens, was to produce a general and most uncommon degree of excitement. At a very early hour, therefore, the people began to assemble in crowds in front of Clinton Hall—the place appointed for the meeting. There, for the first time, they were apprised, by a notice upon the door, that no meeting would be held.—Either the gentlemen signing the notice had become convinced that they were raising a storm which they could not control, and had therefore wisely changed their purposes, or the trustees of the hall, foreseeing a tumultuous night, had closed the doors—we know not which. Hundreds, on being apprised that the meeting was given up, retired to their respective homes but the throng still increased to perhaps several thousands, of highly respectable citizens: and as they roused the tempers of each other by mutual expressions of disgust and execration respecting the authors of the projected proceedings, it soon became evident that the latter persons were acting with far the discreetest valor by staying away. In regard to William Lloyd Garrison, the misguided young gentleman who has just returned from England, whither he has recently been for the sole purpose, as it would seem, of traducing the people and institutions of his own country, and who, it was supposed, was to have taken an active part in this meeting, but one sentiment appeared to prevail. We will not record the expressions of disgust and abhorrence which were coupled with his name; and we believe that had he been present, many grave and respectable citizens, who, under other circumstances would have been the last to participate in any disorderly popular proceedings, would at least have assented to his decoration in a coat of tar and feathers. Such were the threats, which we record—by no means with approbation—but merely as historians, and for the purpose of exhibiting to our fellow citizens abroad, the true state of the public sentiment here, upon this interesting and exciting subject. We hope, most sincerely, that not a hair of Mr. Garrison’s head will ever be injured by personal violence; but he will do well to consider that his course of conduct in England, has kindled a spirit of hostility towards him at hornet which cannot be easily allayed. He will act wisely never to attempt addressing a public meeting in this country again. With those foreign rivals who roll every scandal upon the American character as a sweet morsel under their tongues, his orations will doubtless be acceptable.

But to recur to the proceeding of last night. Notwithstanding the notification of "no meeting," above spoken of, "the people"—we now quote the report of the Journal of Commerces—"continued to enter the hall and ascend the staircase, until the place became crowded to suffocation. Here the meeting was organized by the appointment of general Bogardus, as chairman, and P. P. Parsells and M. C. Patterson, esquires, as secretaries. After Waiting Until a quarter after seven, there was an almost unanimous call for an adjournment to Tammany Hall, where, in the course of a few minutes, several hundreds assembled."

A gentleman was about to address the meeting, when a person approached the chair and stated that the meeting which was to have been held at Clinton Hall was at that moment being held in Chatham street chapel. Several voices cried out, "let us go there and rout them!"

The chairman. Gentlemen, that is not the way for us to act. We have met here to give expression to public opinion, and the only proper way to do so is by passing resolutions. Were we to go from this to the meeting at Chatham street chapel, we should be stigmatized as disorganizers. Let us first pass the resolutions, and then every gentleman can act as he thinks proper.

Mr. F. A. Tallmadge said that a meeting had been called by a certain class of citizens for the purpose of passing resolutions. A notice had been published in the papers, stating that the object of the meeting was to promote the emancipation of slaves in the United States; and he was sure every person present would join in it. (Some person present cried out, "No, I will not join in it"—which occasioned much laughter.) It was, however, a very serious question how the object was to be effected. Surely it was not to be done by reducing two millions of slaves to pauperism and rendering them dependent on the northern states for the means of supporting existence. It was not that view only which was to be taken of the question; for if the blacks of the southern states were at once to be set free, the whites would become slaves. Ought there not, then, to be a feeling of conciliation between the people of this part of the United States and their southern neighbors, when it was a question which might lead to a civil war. Even if they had the power of giving freedom to two millions of slaves, could they think of doing so without compensating their owners? And where would those fine philanthropists get money enough for such an object? It would amount to more than the entire taxation of the United States. The only course by which the object could be attained, was a gradual abolition. Let that be done, but at the same time let them conciliate their southern neighbors. With these feelings he would move the following resolutions:

Resolved, That our duty to the country, and our southern brethren in particular, render it improper and inexpedient to agitate a question pregnant with peril and difficulty to the common weal.

Resolved, That it is our duty as citizens and Christians, to mitigate, not to increase the evils of slavery by an unjustifiable interference, in a matter which requires the will and cordial concurrence of all to modify or remove.

Resolved, That we take this opportunity to express to our southron brethren our fixed and unalterable determination to resist every attempt that may be made to interfere with the relations in which master and slave now stand, as guaranteed to to them by the constitution of the United States. . . .

Mr. John Neal, of Portland, Maine, seconded the resolutions, and said that he considered nothing better calculated to perpetuate the union. He came to the meeting in the hopes of seeing Mr. Garrison, who had grossly misrepresented the people of New England, from which part of the country he, (Mr. Neal), had come. There were several hundred honest men in New England, equally friendly to emancipation as Mr. Garrison; but who were far from adopting the opinions of the anti-slavery society. Mr. Garrison had defined the sole purpose of that society to be the immediate emancipation of the slaves. And how did he propose carrying it into effect? Was it by calling the men of the south, kidnappers and slave-stealers? Such a society was well calculated to produce a dissolution of the union, and if the union was to be trampled under foot, he would hold Mr. Garrison accountable for it. Mr. Garrison had not only published his own opinions on the subject in England, but has published British opinions on the subject in America. He, (Mr. N.) would assert that the men of the south were friendly to emancipation. Thomas Jefferson was a slave-holder, and when only twenty-two years of age declared against slavery in the legislature, and published a much admired book on the subject. There was a Mrs. Child, who had written a book in favor of immediate emancipation. Mr. Garrison wrote a book also, but when the anti-slavery society was asked if they were for giving full rights to the slaves at once; they made no answer. If full rights were to be given at once to the slaves, what would be the consequence in Louisiana, where the slaves were two to one in proportion to the whites? Would they not out-vote them on every occasion. Mr. Garrison’s doctrine was, that the slaves should not only be emancipated, but receive compensation for their labor, and have a right to make their own laws. The societies which Mr. Garrison had got up, should be called, not anti-slavery, but anti-colonization societies. His object in getting up those societies was for the mere purpose of supporting a miserable newspaper, and disposing of a pamphlet containing extracts from the writings of John Randolph. He, (Mr. Garrison), had expended all the funds that were collected in New England in his miscalled mission to Great Britain. As a New England man, he felt pleasure in seconding the resolutions. The resolutions were then put from the chair and carried amidst loud acclamations.

It appears, however, that the purposes for which the meeting had been originally called, were indirectly attained by the gentlemen concerned. Finding, as we have already remarked in effect, that it is much easier to raise a popular whirlwind than to ride securely upon it, they prudently and privately changed their place of meeting. Retiring to the Chatham street chapel, the following proceedings were had, as we find by the record in the morning papers:

ANTI SLAVERY SOCIETY.

At a meeting of the friends of the immediate emancipation of slaves in the United States, held at Chatham street chapel last evening, at half-past seven o’clock, John Rankin was chosen chairman, and Abraham Cox, M. D. secretary.

After an address to the throne of grace, on motion, it was

Resolved, That it is expedient at this time to form a society for promoting the abolition of slavery.

A committee appointed at a preliminary meeting then offered a draft of a constitution, which was read, and its principles discussed, when the same was unanimously adopted, and is as follows:

CONSTITUTION

Of the New York city anti slavery society.

Whereas, our national existence is based on the principle laid down in the Declaration of Independence, "that all mankind are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;" And whereas after the lapse of nearly sixty years since the faith and honor of the American people were pledged to this avowal, before Almighty God and the world, one-sixth part of the nation are held in bondage by their fellow citizens; And whereas, slavery is contrary to the principles of natural justice, of our republican form of government, and of the Christian religion, and is greatly hindering the prosperity of the country, while it is endangering the peace, union and liberties of the states; And whereas, we believe that no scheme of expatriation, either voluntary or by compulsion, can remove this great and increasing evil; And whereas, we believe that it is practicable, by appeals to the consciences, hearts and interests of the people, to awaken a public sentiment throughout the nation that will be opposed to the continuance of slavery in any part of the republic, and by effecting the speedy abolition of slavery, prevent a general convulsion; And whereas, we believe that we owe it to the oppressed, to our fellow citizens who hold slaves, to posterity and to God, to do all that is lawfully in our power to bring about the extinction of slavery, we do hereby agree, (with a prayerful reliance on that great Being who "has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,") to form ourselves into a society to be governed by the following constitution.

Article 1. This society shall be styled the "New York city anti-slavery society."

Article 2. The object of this society shall be to collect and diffuse information on the true character of slavery; to convince our countrymen of its heinous criminality in the sight of God; to show that the duty, safety and interest of all concerned require its abandonment; and to take all lawful, moral and religious means to effect a total and immediate abolition of slavery in the United States.

Article 3. This society shall aim to elevate the character and condition of the people of color, by encouraging their intellectual, moral and religious improvement, by correcting the prejudices of public opinion, and by endeavoring to obtain for our colored fellow citizens an equality with the whites of civil and religious privileges; but will never countenance the oppressed in vindicating their rights by resorting to physical force.

Article 4. Any person who agrees with the principles of this constitution, and contributes to the funds, may be a member of the society, and shall be entitled to vote at its meetings.

, October 3, 1833; reprinted in H [ezekiah] Niles, editor, , October 12, 1833 (Baltimore), XLV, 111–112.

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Chicago: "An Anti-Slavery Meeting (1833)," Niles’ Weekly Register in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 603–608. Original Sources, accessed April 17, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9HWV394D8IWG9AD.

MLA: . "An Anti-Slavery Meeting (1833)." Niles’ Weekly Register, Vol. XLV, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 3, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902, pp. 603–608. Original Sources. 17 Apr. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9HWV394D8IWG9AD.

Harvard: , 'An Anti-Slavery Meeting (1833)' in Niles’ Weekly Register. cited in 1902, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.603–608. Original Sources, retrieved 17 April 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9HWV394D8IWG9AD.