By a telegraphic despatch from Cincinnati, which we published yesterday, our readers have seen that Wendell Phillips, in attempting to deliver one of his revolutionary lectures in that city, created a riot which resulted in his being pelted with rotten eggs, driven from the hall where he would not be permitted to speak, and finally escaped narrowly from a coat of tar and feathers, if not from loss of life at the hands of the excited audience.
It is worthy of remark that the people in the Eastern and Western States deal with the abolition demagogues in a very different manner. Here where they are best known, they are regarded as no longer dangerous, and are accordingly treated with contempt, and are allowed to lecture to thin houses. This is the case at Washington, Albany and New York. The abolition lectures in this city were not attended by the people. Cheever, Garrison and the rest have been only beating the air. They could make no impression whatever, and were regarded as of little consequence.
In the Western States, which have sent so many men to our war, and whose troops have accomplished such brilliant results on the Cumberland and the Tennessee, the disunion agitators are viewed in a different light, and particularly Phillips, who has been more talked of in the newspapers than the rest, and is the chieftain of the disloyal faction. In the West they are regarded as dangerous lunatics, who ought not to be allowed to be at large.
Here, for the most part, they are regarded as harmless monomaniacs, whose tom-foolery is only laughed at by the bulk of the community. One thing is very clear, and that is that neither in the East nor the West is revolutionary abolitionism regarded with favor; nor can its destructive, bloods purposes ever be carried out while the conservative common sense of the whole country is so decidedly opposed to it.
—New York Herald
Phillips was born in Boston, Massachusetts on November 29, 1811, to Sarah Walley and John Phillips, a successful lawyer, politician, and philanthropist. Phillips was schooled at Boston Latin School, and graduated from Harvard University in 1831. He went on to attend Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1833.
It was Phillips’s contention that racial injustice was the source of all of society’s ills. Like Garrison, Phillips denounced the Constitution for tolerating slavery. He disagreed with the argument of abolitionist Lysander Spooner that slavery was unconstitutional, and more generally disputed Spooner’s notion that any unjust law should be held legally void by judges.
Phillips was also active in efforts to gain equal rights for Native Americans, arguing that the 14th Amendment also granted citizenship to Indians. He proposed that the Andrew Johnson administration create a cabinet-level post that would guarantee Indian rights. Phillips helped create the Massachusetts Indian Commission with Indian rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson and Massachusetts governor William Claflin.
Although publicly critical of President Ulysses S. Grant’s drinking, he worked with Grant’s second administration on the appointment of Indian agents. Phillips lobbied against military involvement in the settling of Native American problems on the Western frontier. He accused General Philip Sheridan of pursuing a policy of Indian extermination.
In 1904 Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago was named in Phillips’ honor. In July 1915 a monument was erected in Boston Public Garden to commemorate Phillips. The Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis was named after Wendell Phillips.
Collection: The Liberator
Publication: The Liberator
Date: April 4, 1862
Title: Wendell Phillips Treated to Rotten Eggs in Cincinnati