Abolitionist Newspaper Slams South on Eve of Civil War
The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison’s powerful anti-slavery newspaper, was highly critical of the South’s position on slavery and the U.S. Constitution. On the day that the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War, the Liberator published this article in its April 12, 1861, issue:
War at Hand!
The last dispatch of our Secessionist friend at Montgomery leaves no room for hope of a peaceable adjustment of our country’s intestine troubles. The Jeff. Davis Confederacy has resolved to wage offensive war on the Government of the United States, and will assault or open fire on Fort Pickens forthwith. Meantime, the limited daily supply of fresh provisions hitherto allowed by Gov. Pickens to be furnished to Fort Sumter has been stopped, and we may hear at any moment that this Fort, too, has been carried by assault, or is so pressed that it must speedily surrender. Within a few days at farthest, the cannon of the insurgents will be battering down the defences and slaughtering the defenders of the American Union.
Let us pause a moment and consider.
Slavery makes open war upon that Union which has so long been its protection and security.
For thirty years, the opponents of slavery have borne the imputation—which not one in a hundred of them has deserved—of seeking their end through the dissolution of the Union.
In all this time, not a squadron has charged, not a platoon has fired, on the National flag and forces, under the inspiration of Anti-Slavery. Its advocates have been beaten at elections, hunted out of halls which they had hired and paid for, mobbed and maimed in the slave States, and generally proscribed and stigmatized in the fray, without being goaded into hostilities. Only in Kansas, when compelled to choose between resistance and annihilation, have they been moved to repel force with force.
The Slave Power, after enjoying undisturbed sway for half a century, has at length lost an election. Hereupon, it proceeds to treat that election as a farce and a nullity, and defy those whom it invested with authority.
It has, while in power, loudly vaunted its fidelity and devotedness to the Federal Constitution. Losing power, it deliberately repudiates that charter, and adopts one radically different in its stead.
“The Union! The Union forever!” has been the vociferous cry of its servitors. Having lost an election, they treat that same Union as a hated curse, passing ordinances and raising armies for its overthrow.
“Let the laws be enforced!” it was thundered whenever the consciences of freemen revolted at the inhuman atrocities of slave-hunting in free States. But the moment the enforcement of the laws has devolved on Republicans, slavery denounces it as “coercion,” and insists that it is inaugurating civil war!
And in fact to very many, North as well as South, slavery is above the Union, above the laws, above the Constitution. Rebellion, in their view, is opposition to slavery; while love of slavery and love of the Union are synonymous.
They plead for Peace, meaning that there be no further resistance to slavery. “National Unity,” in their vocabulary, means a universal agreement that slavery is eminently right, and that it ought to be diffused universally and maintained forever.
And what is to be the attitude of the Northern opponents of the Republican party in the new era now opening before us?
They have professed to sustain slavery so far as the Constitution required, and no further. Slavery now repudiates the Constitution, breaks up the Union, and makes war on the Federal Government. If Northern Democracy allows its sympathies to follow slavery into treason, how shall it conceal, even from itself, the evidence of its own recreancy?
There is not even a pretence that the Federal Government has done or refused to do anything whereby this rebellion is justified. It has been pacific, forbearing, and most anxious to avoid a collision. It has allowed its troops to be disarmed, its arsenals to be robbed, its forts to be seized, its money to be stolen, and its revenues to be collected and appropriated by its open enemies. Through these high-handed villanies, a whole frontier has been opened to savage incursion and massacre, until even Mexico threatens an invasion. It has seriously lost ground with its friends by vainly seeking to conciliate its implacable foes. At length the great slaveholding rebellion is ready to unmask its batteries and open fire on the most exposed and isolated of the National defences. The challenge of its opening cannonade will soon reverberate over the country. The Union flag on Fort Sumter is to be shot down by the rebel batteries unless speedily lowered by the devoted garrison. The American Republic now enters upon the gravest perils it has known since the treason of Arnold. God grant that it pass through them with undoubting reliance on the omnipotence of Justice, and emerge at length, however tried and tested, unwavering in its loyalty to Freedom and the Rights of Man!
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