Letter to Elizabeth Pease (April 1, 1847)
William Lloyd Garrison
Citation Information: William Lloyd Garrison, Boston, April 1, 1847. Letter to Elizabeth Pease. Merrill, Walter (ed). The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Vol. III: No Union With Slave-Holders 1841-1846. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press, 1973, p. 474.
William Lloyd Garrison
Boston, April 1, 1847.
To Elizabeth Pease
1. Knowing how delicate and fluctuating is the state of your health, and therefore what a task it must be to you to attempt to carry on any epistolary correspondence, I feel under the most grateful obligations to you for your long and interesting letter, received by the last Liverpool steamer. It will be a poor return I shall make by the steamer which is to leave this port this forenoon, though I had hoped to send you an epistle as long as your own; but, in consequence of some exposure and too much public lecturing, I have been quite sick for the last three or four days, — the very time I purposed to give to my friends on the other side of the Atlantic, who are perhaps more constantly in my memory, than if they were only thirty miles, instead of being three thousand, from me. So vivid are my recollections of my late visit, — so much do I live in the spirit-world, — that at times I find it difficult to persuade myself that I am not still with you all, even in body as well as in mind. As for your own dear domicil at Feethams, it seems as if at any moment I could knock at your door, walk into the parlor, take you by the hand, and enter into social conversation with you.
2. On the 11th of December last, an addition was made to our group of children, (making half a dozen complete,) of a dear little girl, to whom we felt it to be both an honour and a privilege to give the name of Elizabeth Pease. I immediately sent the intelligence to George Thompson, (not having time to write to you by that conveyance,) supposing he would communicate it to you; but you appear to have first obtained it from Wendell and Ann Phillips. We have felt the more gratified in giving your cherished name to our dear babe, since we have received the afflicting tidings of the death of dear Thompson’s charming little girl, whose loss I felt like a personal bereavement; for I became exceedingly attached to her during my visit to Chelsea. Our babe is really a beautiful one, and thrives finely. The boys are extravagantly fond of her, as well as little Fanny. I told them that I would put her name into rhyme to the extent of the English language, or as far [as] I could make a tolerably good jingle; and to show you how well I succeeded in this childish effort, I send you (at their request) the following: —
There sits mother at her ease,
With her baby, Lizzy Pease,
Lying softly on her knees. —
Kiss the darling, if you please —
Her lips are “like wine on the lees” —
But be careful not to tease,
Though she’ll bear a gentle squeeze. —
Hark! she is humming like the bees —
Like the lullaby of seas —
Like a music-laden breeze,
Making all the forest trees
Join in chorusses and glees! —
Milk from the breast with her agrees,
But not either bread or cheese.
Keep her warm, else she may freeze,
Or take a sudden cold, and sneeze,
And day and night shall cough and wheeze,
Till her little spirit flees,
(By the tyrant Death’s decrees,
Who is never cheated of his fees,)
To where St. Peter turns the keys!
3. With your letter came one from H. C. Wright, announcing that he was on the recovery. Occasionally, I feel apprehensive lest he may never be permitted to return home. His case seems to be a peculiar one, and it is evident that he will have need of all the caution he and his friends can summon to save him from a premature grave. A life so valuable should be preserved to the latest period, consistent with the discharge of duties absolutely imperative.
4. [Frederick] Douglass, I see, is to return home in the Cambria on the 4th inst. This is somewhat earlier than he anticipated when I left him. Knowing how much still remains to be done for our cause abroad, I am sorry to have him leave; and then, seeing how mighty is the struggle going on at home, and how very few faithful and able lecturers we have in the field, I am rejoiced (as are his numerous friends) at the prospect of soon taking him by the hand. He will be warmly welcomed by the abolitionists, and, doubtless, more kindly regarded by people generally, in consequence of the generous and honorable reception given him in Great Britain. You will see, by the Liberator, that a few individuals here are loudly protesting against his ransom by the English friends, as though it were a violation of principle. I can conceive of a wide difference of opinion honestly existing as to the expediency or necessity of the ransom; but when any attempt to affix a moral stigma to the deed, I am very much surprised at their conduct. Never have I entertained the opinion, for a moment, that it is wrong to ransom one held in cruel captivity; though I have always maintained, in the case of the slave, that the demand of the slaveholder for compensation was an unjust one. But I see no discrepancy in saying that a certain demand is unjust, and yet being willing to submit to it, in order to save a brother man, if this is clearly made to be the only alternative left to me.
5. This country is still prosecuting its murderous warfare against Mexico; but though the American forces have generally been victorious, recently the tide of events appears to be setting in favour of the Mexicans, and confirming the scriptural declaration, that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.” We have rumors, to-day, of a bloody engagement having taken place, with great loss on both sides, — General Taylor having been compelled to fall back on Monterey, with the loss of many of his officers. I desire to see human life at all times held sacred; but, in a struggle like this, — so horribly unjust and offensive on our part, so purely one of self-defence against lawless invaders on the part of the Mexicans, — I feel, as a matter of justice, to desire the overwhelming defeat of the American troops, and the success of the injured Mexicans.
6. The distress in Ireland continues to excite much sympathy here, and contributions in money and food are daily made in all parts of the country. These will arrive too late to save thousands, now beyond all human aid; but they will prevent other thousands from dying of hunger. It is a singular spectacle we are now presenting to the world — with one hand, we are carrying desolation and death into a neighboring republic, and with the other supplying food and clothing to save from suffering and death, those who reside across the wide Atlantic.
7. Our Boston “clique,” as poor [Nathaniel P.] Rogers used to bitterly call us, are all as well and as busy as usual. You are much in our remembrance; and we are cherishing the hope, however faintly, that we may yet see you in Boston. As I have not time to finish, so I have not tried to commence a letter to you; but I hope to send you a full answer to yours by the next steamer. Please give my affectionate remembrances to Mary Martin, and my regards to your brother [John Pease] and his wife. Helen cordially sends her love, and wishes you could a glance at her babe, with its sweet face and mild blue eyes.
Hastily, but truly, yours,
Wm. Lloyd Garrison.