Emerson at Home and Abroad

By Moncure Daniel Conway | Go to book overview
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XXVII. THE PYTHON.

EMERSON was the first American scholar to cast a dart at slavery. On Sunday, May 29, 1831, he admitted an abolitionist to lecture on the subject in his church, and in the following year another was invited to his pulpit. The dates are important. This was six years before even Channing had committed himself to that side. Garrison was at that time regarded as a vulgar street-preacher of notions too wild to excite more than a smile. The despised group of Boston Common was first sheltered by Emerson, and this action was the more significant because he was chaplain of the Massachusetts Legislature, which could hardly have contained one anti-slavery member. Emerson first drew the sympathy of scholars to the side. The voices of the two popular orators, Channing and Phillips, soon followed, and Longfellow began to write the anti-slavery poems collected in 1842.

When, in 1835, Harriet Martineau was nearly mobbed in Boston, and no prominent citizen ventured to her side, Emerson and his brother Charles hastened to her defence. "At the time of the hubbub against me in Boston," she wrote, " Charles Emerson stood alone in a large company in defence of the right of

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