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THE ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY - William Leggett, Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy 
Democratic Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy, Foreword by Lawrence H. White (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984).
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THE ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY
September 9, 1835.
Title added by Sedgwick.
The annexed address to the public has been sent to us inclosed in a note from an officer of the Anti-Slavery Society, requesting us, in “behalf of the society whose document it is, and in justice to the public who have a right to the information it contains,” to publish it in our columns this afternoon. We most cheerfully comply with this request; and furthermore invite the attention of our readers to this address, as not only one which it is incumbent on them in fairness to peruse, but as one, the sentiments of which, with a single exception, deserve, in our judgment, their approval.
It is quite time, since the South seems determined that we shall discuss the question of slavery, whether we will or no, that we remember the maxim which lies at the foundation of justice, Hear the other side. We have listened very credulously to the one side. We have with greedy ears devoured up all sorts of passionate invectives against the abolitionists, and received as gospel, without evidence, the most inflammatory and incendiary tirades against them. While appropriating to them exclusively the epithets of incendiaries and insurrectionists, we have ourselves been industriously kindling the flames of domestic discord, and stirring up the wild spirit of tumult. It is high time to pause, and ask ourselves what warrant we have for these proceedings? It is time to balance the account current of inflammatory charges, and see which side preponderates, whether that of the incendiaries of the north or of the south.
We have here, in the subjoined official address, signed with the names of men whom we believe too upright to lie, and who certainly have shown that they are not afraid to speak the truth, an exposition of the creed and practise of the Anti-Slavery Society. We have already said that, in our judgment, the matters contained in this document, with a single exception, deserve cordial approval. This expression we wish taken with a qualification. We do not approve of perseverance in sending pamphlets to the south on the subject of slavery in direct opposition to the unanimous sentiments of the slaveholders; but we do approve of the strenuous assertion of the right of free discussion, and moreover we admire the heroism which cannot be driven from its ground by the maniac and unsparing opposition which the abolitionists have encountered.
The particular portion of the subjoined document which we except from our approval is that wherein it is asserted as the duty of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia. That Congress has the constitutional power so to do, we have not the slightest doubt. But high considerations of expediency, in the largest sense of the word, should be well weighed before an exercise of that power is attempted. A spirit of conciliation and compromise should govern in the matter, as it did in the formation of our sacred Magna Charta. Every state in the confederacy should be considered as having an equal interest in the seat of the National Government, and the legislation for it should be of that neutral tint, which results from the mixture of contrary hues of opinion, and is in strong opposition to none. If the free states have a majority in Congress, yet paramount considerations of brotherhood and national amity should prevent them from stirring the question of slavery, by introducing it in any collateral or insidious form. Whenever that question once fully comes into general discussion it is destined to shake our empire to the centre. Let the commotion be then avoided in regard to a spot of ground which is not a pin’s point on the map, and in the government of which, more than in almost any other question, the sentiments of the minority ought to be respected.
We are not sure that the Harry Percys1 of the South, are not by their hot menaces and inconsiderate vaunts precipitating a discussion which must be entered into sooner or later, and may, perhaps, as well be undertaken at once. Be that as it may, their high and boastful language shall never deter this print from expressing its opinion that slavery is an opprobrium and a curse, a monstrous and crying evil, in whatever light it is viewed; and that we shall hail, as the second most auspicious day that ever smiled on our republic, that which shall break the fetters of the bondman, and give his enfranchised spirit leave to roam abroad on the illimitable plain of equal liberty.
We have no right to interfere legislatively with the subject of slavery in our sister states, and never have arrogated any. We have no moral right to stir the question in such a way as to endanger the lives of our fellow human beings, white or black, or expose the citizens of the north, attending to their occasions in the south, to the horrors of Lynch law. Nay, we repeat, what we have often asserted with as sincere earnestness as any loud-mouthed anti-abolitionist, that we deeply deplore all intemperate movements on this momentous subject, in view of the dreadful wrecks which the meeting tides of contrary fanaticism must spread around their borders. But while we truly entertain these sentiments, we know no reason that renders it incumbent on us to conceal how far our views are really opposed to slavery; and while we disclaim any constitutional right to legislate on the subject, we assert, without hesitation, that, if we possessed the right, we should not scruple to exercise it for the speedy and utter annihilation of servitude and chains. The impression made in boyhood by the glorious exclamation of Cato, that
has been worn deeper, not effaced, by time; and we eagerly and ardently trust that the day will yet arrive when the clank of the bondman’s fetters will form no part of the multitudinous sounds which our country continually sends up to heaven, mingling, as it were, into a song of praise for our national prosperity. We yearn with strong desire for the day when Freedom shall no longer wave
“Her fustian flag in mockery over slaves.”3
[1 ]Sir Henry Percy (1366–1403) plotted against the English King Henry IV. The affair is treated in Shakespeare’s Henry IV.—Ed.
[2 ]From Joseph Addison’s play Cato (1716), which depicts Cato the Younger’s tragic last-ditch defense of the Roman Republic against Julius Caesar.—Ed.
[3 ]From a poem by Thomas Moore, satirist of the London Times. See The Critic (January 28, 1829), p. 153, for Leggett’s review of Moore.—Ed.