Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America

By Dwight Lowell Dumond | Go to book overview

Chapter 36
THE LIBERTY PARTY (CONTINUED)

The Liberty Party and its affiliate, the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, superseded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1840. Garrison fumed in Boston, but his fulminations meant little west of the Hudson, where the equality of women was accepted and political action was regarded as a necessity. The platform of the party may be found in Birney's letter of acceptance: "The security -- of life -- of liberty -- of civil and religious privileges -- of the rights of conscience -- of the right to use our own faculties for the promotion of our own happiness -- of free locomotion -- all these, together with the defense of the barriers and outposts thrown around them by the laws constitute the highest concerns of a government. These, for the last six years, we have seen invaded one after another -- the administration aiding in the onset -- till the feeling of security for any of them has well nigh expired. A censorship of the mail is usurped by the deputy postmasters throughout more than half the country, and approved by the administration under which it takes place. The pillage of the Post Office is perpetrated in one of our principal cities, and its contents made a bonfire of in the public square; -- no one is brought in question for the outrage. Free speech and debate on the most important subject that now agitates the country, is rendered impossible in our national legislature; the right of the people to petition Congress for a redress of grievances is formally abolished by their own servants! And shall we sit down and dispute about the currency, about a sub-treasury or a no-sub-treasury, a bank or no- bank, while such outrages on constitutional and essential rights are enacting before our eyes?"1

The platform of the party, also, is to be found in the character of the man who was its candidate for the presidency. He had sacrificed a promising political career, a rich monetary inheritance, and life in the land of his own people. He had associated himself with an almost universally despised group of humanitarians and braved the fury of countless mobs to uphold the priceless heritage of free enquiry and discussion. Antislavery men were not fools -- they were men of wealth, education, respectability, and intelligence -- and, of all the giant intellects among them, none moved with more dignity, nor spoke with more moderation, yet with more Christian charity. He was endowed, not only with a brilliant intellect, but with a warm humanitarianism and a great courage. In the fullness of manhood and professional attainment, he had dedicated his all to achieving and preserving unimpaired equality for all men before the law.

Antislavery men from Benezet to Birney had espoused the doctrine of natural rights. All persons were born free, and slavery was contrary to natural law, contrary to moral law, contrary to the fundamental law of the land. Slavery must be contained. Somehow it must be abolished. It must be kept out of the territories. It must be abolished in the District of Columbia. There must be no more slave states created, and Texas must be excluded. The interstate slave trade must be abolished. Government at all levels must be made to perform its primary, function of protecting the

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