Anti-Slavery Convention Address (1841)

This is an excerpt from “the Address” produced by the Western New-York Anti-Slavery Convention, billed as “A Convention of the People” held at Le Roy, in Genesee County, New York in January of 1841 ten years after the society’s founding. Accessible Archives subscribers can read the entire Address in the January 21, 1841 issue of the National Anti-Slavery Standard.

Following the convention the Address was distributed to newspapers and other abolitionist groups. This document was produced by committees meeting over a three day period.

Western New-York Anti-Slavery Convention Address (Excerpted)

Slavery, and the slave trade in the District of Columbia present a spectacle of moral turpitude, unequaled in Christian or heathen lands. How long shall it continue? How long shall the clanking of the slaves’ chains, mingle with the voices of your own representatives, as they make their boast of human liberty? How long shall the wailing of undelivered humanity, fall upon your ears like the tolling of the bell of Judgment? How long shall the soil of the Capital, “so fair and free,” quiver with the heavy tread of the land pirate, as he drags the victim of his ruthless tyranny to the auction block, and from thence to the slave prison? How long shall the “Robber right” prevail within your own constitutional jurisdiction? How long shall your petitions be disregarded, and yourselves made the jest and by-word of those whose education has been amid the influences of slavery?

It is for you to say. The power is yours. It will be of avail, when you shall say. This monster is not easily dislodged. Ten years of hard labor ought to have taught us so. If we conquer, it must be by stern, energetic action. The groans of the slave are daily being registered in heaven, and his tears are all bottled up. Fellow citizens, will you not arise? Look upon the blighting, withering influence of such a system upon the blighting, the slave, ourselves, our children, our children’s children— upon our politics, our religion, our social and domestic intercourse –and last, not least, upon our character abroad, and then say, how long it shall continue. Our lives are gliding by, like a weaver’s shuttle, and the time drawing near, when our accounts are all to be balanced by an infallible hand. The hour of death is an “honest hour.” Then, memory, (however long she may have been steeping herself in forgetfulness,) lashed into activity by conscience— that stem monitor of the Deity, runs over the deeds of a life with terrific rapidity. We shall not forget the slave, then. Nature will then be true to her holiest instincts, and proclaim her sympathy with her kind. As we desire peace upon a dying bed, let us not, while living, forget MAN, for he that forgetteth man, forgetteth the image of his Maker. O, then, let us not falter. Let no obstacle daunt us, no opposition dishearten us; but let our voices, “loud as old ocean’s roar,” be heard pleading for the down-trodden of our race, until the clanking of the chains shall no more be heard within the limits of our mighty land. That time will come, and who will not speed it? The spirit of freedom has gone abroad, and neither conferences, congresses, nor general assemblies, can arrest her march.

National Anti-Slavery Standard was the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist society founded in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan to spread their movement across the nation with printed materials. Frederick Douglass was a key leader of this society and often addressed meetings at its New York City headquarters.

“Let them bind, if they will, the swift clouds as they run— The storm bolt, the whirlwind, the tempest of hail— Turn back the red light to its home in the sun— Stay the ruin that rides on the wings of the gale— But they never shall bind with a TYRANT’S command, The spirit of freedom gone forth in our land; Or fetter the TRUTH as she moves through the world, With her hand to the sword, and her banner unfurled.

The war cry of LIBERTY bursts on the ear- Her legions are charging with fetterless speed— Yet not in the strength of the buckler and spear, Or the prancing in pride, of the iron hooped steed; The weapons of DEATH are flung down to the sod, And the TRUTH in its pureness, made mighty by God, To trample the minions of error in dust, Is our vanguard, our rereward, our strength and our trust.”

In this shall we conquer. The day is coming, when every man shall sit under his own vine and his own fig tree, with none to molest him or make him afraid—when SLAVERY shall be driven far, far away from their dwellings, and the loud acclaim as it bursts from the lips of millions, shall declare that MAN IS FREE.

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