William Lloyd Garrison
MR. CHAPMAN, in his preface, says, ‘In reprinting this little book, the thought crosses my mind that perhaps the shock and anguish of the Great War, which so humanized our nation, may have left us with a keener, more religious, and more dramatic understanding of our Anti-Slavery period than we possessed prior to 1914.’ We may hope that this is so; but to one who lived in that period and became familiar with the views of the contestants, it seems as if those views remained unchanged. Doubtless the survivors of that struggle adhere to the opinions then formed, but among the men of younger generations better counsels may prevail, although the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, the unchecked prevalence of lynching, the mobs of Tulsa, Omaha, and Atlanta, do not encourage us.
But if Mr. Chapman is wrong, the republication of this memoir is all the more needed. Garrison’s example should be an inspiration to every generous youth, and it must be to many. No man ever waged a more gallant war against a wrong more strongly entrenched; no man ever encountered overwhelming odds with slighter resources than Garrison. His career is the most convincing evidence that ‘one with God is a majority,’ which our history affords; and there never was a time when the country was in greater need of men willing, like him, to devote their lives to the service of their fellow men, than now.
To-day prejudice against fellow citizens of different race, different religion, different color, threatens our peace at home; while national selfishness, — miscalled patriotism, —indifference to the rights and interests of other peoples, the greed of exploiters, the words of ignorant and reckless men who spread jealousy and suspicion of Mexico, of England, and of Japan, sow the seeds of foreign war. Garrison’s teachings attack both evils. In opposing slavery, he upheld the right of every human being to freedom and equal opportunity; and for our foreign relations he proclaimed the true principle when he said, ‘My country is the world. My countrymen are all mankind. Would that the people of the United States could make these doctrines the cornerstones of our national policy! Upon such foundations only can any lasting edifice be reared. They are the essentials of civilization, which stands on quicksands while these principles are forgotten or ignored.
Mr. Chapman’s work is well done. He makes us realize how inevitable the fall of slavery was, how the madness of its friends hastened its end. He realizes what Carlyle taught in his French Revolution, that dates and names are of slight importance. When the folly and wickedness of men have brought about intolerable conditions, irresistible forces are set at work to end them. When the situation is ripe, on some day some man strikes the match that kindles the conflagration. If not in July, then in August, the Bastille was sure to fall. If not Danton, some other man would have done his work. ‘The hour and the man are baith come’ is always true at every great crisis in history.
This does not diminish the glory of the man who dares. To all the youth of the country the same opportunity was presented. Garrison seized it, inspired and led the forces of freedom, which lay dormant, waiting for a leader; and the story of his life should be read by every young man as a part of his education. It will teach him what courage and patience can accomplish, and it will teach him also never to despair of his country or mankind, no matter how black the skies may seem. Youth can learn no better lessons.