American Anti-Slavery Society
Proceedings of seventh annual meeting (Excerpts)
American Anti-Slavery Society, Proceedings of seventh annual meeting. (Excerpts), New York, 1840. Anti-Slavery collection: 18th-19th century. From the Library of Society of Friends. Yale University. Microform.
Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Held, for the transaction of business, At the fourth free church, New York On the 12th of May, and the three following days, 1840.
The seventh Annual Meeting, for business, was held, pursuant to the call of the Executive Committee, in the Fourth Free Church in New York, on Tuesday, May 12th, at 4 o’clock, P.M.
The National convention of abolitionists at Albany, on the 31st of July last, was first proposed by the Society of Ashtabula county, Ohio; and afterwards recommended by several State Societies. Some preparatory steps towards it were taken by the Executive Committee of last year; but the “call” was issued by a special committee of arrangements, appointed for that purpose by the Society itself, at the last annual meeting; and their doings were approved and the committee discharged by the Society, at the special meeting held at Cleveland in October. The result of that convention, in confining its discussions to the objects for which it was called, and in resolving that no man is fit to be a candidate for President or Vice President of the United States, Governor or Lieutenant Governor of a State, or member of any legislative body of the State or nation, who is not in favor of immediate emancipation,—were regarded with so much satisfaction by the Committee, that we gave a wide circulation to the number of the Emancipator containing the proceedings, and also paid for a large number of copies of the address of the convention, in German. The good effects of that national convention, in promoting harmony of feeling and concert of action, would have been seen, had its conclusions been more zealously and unitedly enforced by prominent abolitionists. As it is, there is reason to fear that the just and salutary determination there avowed will be nearly swept away in the tide of party frenzy which seems to be overflowing the land.
The question of political action, being thus still considered open, has engaged much of the attention of abolitionists, and threatened to produce a temporary alienation of sympathy and confidence. The Committee, believing that discussion, and perhaps experiment, would be the only way to settle the question, and that the sort of people, who, because abolitionists, would be little influenced by the edicts of assumed authority, resolved, in December last, that it was not advisable for them to interfere with the question respecting the nomination of anti-slavery candidates for office, but leave it to the people who give the votes, to take such measures as they might deem advisable, for giving to the subject of slavery its rightful pre-eminence as a political question. The Committee have seen no reason to question the prudence of that resolution.
One of our most interesting objects of expenditure has been the diffusion of anti-slavery principles and intelligence, among that portion of our countrymen who use the German language. Besides the German edition of the Albany address, and a German edition of the instructive speech of Samuel Webb at that meeting, a German Anti-Slavery Almanac has been issued, and many thousand circulated. Several German tracts have also been published, and are doing much good. Large numbers have been circulated, also, of an able German newspaper published in Philadelphia, and advocating anti-slavery principles. The numbers of people now in the country, who use only that language, with the immense accessions constantly making to their number, and their exclusion from the ordinary means of obtaining information on the subject, render these efforts highly promising; while the general passion of the Germans for liberty, gives the highest assurance that nothing is wanting but light to range them against oppression in this country, as they have fled from it in their fatherland. The manner in which they are crowding into the slave States of Virginia and Missouri, give additional importance to measures, which the Committee would have continued with increasing vigor, but for their entire inability through want of funds.
The timely visit of Dr. Madden, to afford the benefits of his deposition in the case of the Amistad captives, was duly noticed by the Committee. The eloquent speech which he has delivered to his Catholic countrymen in Dublin, is another service to the cause of humanity, whose value will be better appreciated hereafter. The indefatigable Charles Stuart, whose flying visit among us was so welcome, should also receive honorable mention in this report.
While thus giving honor to whom honor is due among the living, we pause a moment, in tender sadness over the names of the dead, while memory sheds a tear over the graves of DR. CHARLES FOLLEN, of BENJAMIN LUNDY, of JAMES C. ALVORD, of DR. JOSEPH PARISH, and of CHA’S HAMMOND, faith rejoices with thankfulness that such men have lived, and acted among us to rescue our nation from universal reproach, and to shed lustre upon the cause in which we are engaged.
The progress of impartial legislation in the free States, as a most encouraging indication of the advance or our cause, has engaged much attention from the Committee. Mr. Birney had the opportunity of speaking at length on the subject, in the Representatives’ Hall of the State of New York before a Committee, and in the presence of a large number of the members of the State Legislature, now in session, which removed some of the misapprehensions in regard to the Jury Bill, and some other measures in agitation. The effort was made to obtain a similar hearing in New Jersey, but the slave power was too strong at present.
In conclusion, the Committee would express their regret that so much of this report has been occupied with the language of complaint and apparent despondency, with regard to our operations as a Society; while at the same time we declare our entire conviction that THE CAUSE itself, for which the Society was formed, and to which it is therefore merely secondary, is advancing in the public mind with great rapidity and power. The rejection of Henry Clay—a slaveholder and defender of slavery—is a way mark in our history. The success of the committee for the Amistad captives, in keeping at bay the Federal Executive, and preserving these unhappy men from sure death, is another indication. The hard times, which have so deeply embarrassed the Committee, have yet been doing our work, by compelling a reluctant people to look at the commercial and political bearings of slavery. The glorious results of West India Emancipation cannot forever be kept from the knowledge of the American People. The peaceful delivery of that portion of the Hon. W. Slade’s speech which presses the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, with its insertion in the columns of the National Intelligencer, shows a beginning of a change in the feelings of slaveholders. The diminished vote by which the Congressional Gag was carried at the present session, proves that the North is less servile than it was.
But, above all that is visible, the Committee derive assurance of the success of our cause from the consideration that the God of the oppressed is on the throne, that the work of emancipation is His own work, and will be accomplished by His power in such a way as to secure His glory.
By order of the Executive Committee,
New York, May 11, 1840