The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

52.
Speech by Samuel Ringgold Ward Delivered at Exeter Hall, London, England 16 May 1853

British antislavery gatherings attended by standing-room-only crowds were frequently described as "monster" meetings by the reform press. Such assemblies invariably depended on the presence of a celebrated American antislavery figure, particularly a well-publicized black personality. The fourteenth annual meeting of the British and Foreign Anti- Slavery Society at Exeter Hall on the evening of 16 May 1853 was one such event. An estimated six thousand people crammed into a building designed to seat five thousand. Had there been room enough, one reporter observed, ten thousand people would have been there to demonstrate their abhorrence of American slavery and to see two American antislavery celebrities, best-selling author Harriet Beecher Stowe and the provocative Canadian fugitive Samuel Ringgold Ward. Stowe arrived during the proceedings and sat in the left gallery. Her husband, Calvin, later spoke briefly in support of the free produce movement. Ward preceded him at the rostrum. PtL, 19 May 1853.

There were eight millions of slaves in different parts of the world at present. There were 3,300,000 in the United States, and about the same number in the Brazils. According to the estimate of Mr. Henry Clay, in 1820, it would take twelve hundred million dollars to redeem them. 1 Why should the slaveholders be paid such a sum for ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well? (Loud cheers.) The Rev. gentleman then showed the antisocial tendencies of Slavery in breaking up the marriage tie, and in scattering families. To say that the Bible sanctioned such a system was, he contended, to say, that the Almighty sanctioned the violation of the moral law. He had never been "down south" since he was two years old; at that age his mother ran away with him. (Loud cheers.) But he had heard Slavery defended from the Bible in New York; and he thought that Rome, and Atheism, and Infidelity united, had not the power to do so much injury to real religion as those professors were doing who pretended to sanction their abominable system from the Holy Scriptures. (Loud cheers.) The great distinction between the false prophet and the true prophet in the Old Testament, and in all times, had been that the false prophet pandered to the vices of the nation, while the true prophet reproved them. (Cheers.) This guilty silence on the part of the Church had been the reason why Slavery had taken such deep root. The north was as guilty, if not more guilty, than the south in this matter; for in all cases, and even at the passing of the infamous Fugitive Slave Law, the

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