PHILADELPHIA, 8th month, 30th, 1835.
It seems as if I was compelled at this time to address thee, notwithstanding all my reasonings against intruding on thy valuable time, and the uselessness of so insignificant a person as myself offering thee the sentiments of sympathy at this alarming crisis.
I can hardly express to thee the deep and solemn interest with which I have viewed the violent proceedings of the last few weeks. Although I expected opposition, yet I was not prepared for it so soon – it took me by surprise, and I greatly feared Abolitionists would be driven back in the first onset, and thrown into confusion. So fearful was I, that though I clung with unflinching firmness to our principles, yet I was afraid of even opening one of thy papers, lest I should see some indications of compromise, some surrender, some palliation. Under these feelings, I was urged to read thy Appeal to the citizens of Boston. Judge, then, what were my feelings, on finding that my fears were utterly groundless, and that thou stoodest firm in the midst of the storm, determined to suffer and to die, rather than yield one inch. My heart was filled with thanksgiving and praise to the Preserver of men; I thanked God, and took courage, earnestly desiring that thousands may adopt thy language, and be prepared to meet the Martyr's doom, rather than give up the principles you (i. e. Abolitionists) have adopted. The ground upon which you stand is holy ground: never – never surrender it. If you surrender it, the hope of the slave is extinguished, and the chains of his servitude will be strengthened a hundred fold. But let no man take your crown, and success is as certain as the rising of to-morrow’s sun. But remember you must be willing to suffer the loss of all things – willing to be the scorn and reproach of professor and profane. You must obey our great Master’s injunction: “Fear not them that kill the body, and after that, have nothing more that they can do.” You must, like Apostles, “count not your lives dear unto yourselves, so that you may finish your course with joy.”
Religious persecution always begins with mobs: it is always unprecedented in the age or country in which it commences, and therefore there are no laws, by which Reformers can be punished; consequently, a lawless band of unprincipled men determine to take the matter into their hands, and act out in mobs, what they know are the principles of a large majority of those who are too high in Church and State to condescend to mingle with them, though they secretly approve and rejoice over their violent measures. The first martyr who ever died, was stoned by a lawless mob; and if we look at the rise of various sects – Methodists, Friends, &c. – we shall find that mobs began the persecution against them, and that it was not until after the people had thus spoken out their wishes, that laws were framed to fine, imprison, or destroy them. Let us, then, be prepared for the enactment of laws even in our Free States, against Abolitionists. And how ardently has the prayer been breathed, that God would prepare us for all he is preparing for us; that he would strengthen us in the hour of conflict, and cover our heads (if consistent with his holy will) in the day of battle! But O! how earnestly have I desired, not that we may escape suffering, but that we may be willing to endure unto the end. If we call upon the slave-holder to suffer the loss of what he calls property, then let us show him we make this demand from a deep sense of duty, by being ourselves willing to suffer the loss of character, property – yea, and life itself, in what we believe to be the cause of bleeding humanity.
My mind has been especially turned towards those, who are standing in the fore front of the battle; and the prayer has gone up for their preservation – not the preservation of their lives, but the preservation of their minds in humility and patience, faith, hope, and charity – that charity which is the bond of perfectness. If persecution is the means which God has ordained for the accomplishment of this great end, EMANCIPATION; then, in dependence upon Him for strength to bear it, I feel as if I could say, LET IT COME; for it is my deep, solemn, deliberate conviction, that this is a cause worth dying for. I say so, from what I have seen, and heard, and known, in a land of slavery, where rests the darkness of Egypt, and where is found the sin of Sodom. Yes! LET IT COME – let us suffer, rather than insurrections should arise.
At one time, I thought this system would be overthrown in blood, with the confused noise of the warrior; but a hope gleams across my mind, that our blood will be spilt, instead of the slave-holders’; our lives will be taken, and theirs spared – I say a hope, for all things I desire to be spared the anguish of seeing our beloved country desolated with the horrors of a servile war. If persecution can abolish slavery, it will also purify the Church; and who that stands between the porch and altar, weeping over the sins of the people, will not be willing to suffer, if such immense good will be accomplished. Let us endeavor, then, to put on the whole armor of God, and, having done all, to stand ready for whatever is before us.
I have just heard of Dresser’s being flogged: it is no surprise it all; but the language of our Lord has been sweetly revived – “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” O! for a willingness and strength to suffer! But we shall have false brethren now, just as the Apostles had, and this will be one of our greatest griefs.
A. E. GRIMKÉ.
– Published in The Liberator, Boston, Massachusetts, Saturday, September 19, 1835