The Liberator & Slavery’s Funeral March (1865)

The Liberator was a weekly newspaper published by William Lloyd Garrison in Boston, Massachusetts. William Lloyd Garrison was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in December, 1805. At thirteen years of age he began his newspaper career with the Newburyport Herald, where he acquired great skills in both accuracy and speed in the art of setting type. He also wrote anonymous articles, and at the age of twenty-one began publishing his own newspaper.

After the end of the Civil War in December, 1865, Garrison published his last issue of The Liberator, announcing “my vocation as an abolitionist is ended.” After thirty-five years and 1,820 issues, Garrison had not failed to publish a single issue. He spent the final 14 years of his life campaigning for woman’s suffrage, pacifism and temperance. He died in New York City on May 24, 1879.

This poem appeared in the final issue.

Slavery’s Funeral March

By J.C. Wagan

Mark! the mournful bells are tolling
Funeral dirges for the dead!
Hark! the muffled drums are rolling!
Mark the mourners’ measured tread!

Serfs, whose bonds now rent asunder,
Once believed he could not die,
Now behold, with awe and wonder,
Slavery’s funeral marching by!

All earth’s tribes are mutely gazing
On the pageant stern and dread,
Or to Heaven their thanks are raising
That man’s deadliest foe is dead.

And well may they gaze—for never
Mortal saw such funeral train;
And no living mortal ever
May behold the like again.

Men are there, of lofty station,
Statesmen famed for wisdom raze,
Woe predicting to the nation,
With their god no longer there.

Judge and priest the pageant grazing,
Bearers of the pall appear,
And with paces grave are placing
Chain and scourge upon the bier.

With their blood-stained banners trailing,
And with arms reversed they go,
Their lost idol’s deem bewailing
More in anger than in woe.

Freedom’s friends in vain had striven
Long to strike the fatal blow,
When a fiery bolt from Heaven
Laid the hated monster low.

Though his friends the corpse may fellow,
Other hands the grave have made,
Vault so deep and dark and hollow
Ne’er was dug by pick and spade.

No true heart to sing his praises,
Or to pray for him, may be;
While the monument Time raises
but records his infamy.

Source: The Liberator, December 29, 1865

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