296 NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
the shores of Lake Erie and hounded over mountain, hill, swamp, and
plain to the Gulf of Mexico. Everywhere he clamored for protection, but
in vain. But by the power of truth the logic of events and the blood of
patriots have made him free, and there is no place where, by virtue of his
manhood, he cannot stand up and be absolutely protected. But no step in
advance, as he had said, had ever been achieved without agony and
blood. He referred to the cost of religious liberty. Before men were allowed
to think for themselves about the inﬁnite, Europe drank the blood
of free hearts for eighty years.³ Superstition stood in the way, but men
fought for the freedom of religious thought and attained it.
When he looked back over the history of the anti-slavery struggle he
marveled that so much blood and so much treasure had been lost in resisting
a principle so self-evident and so simple. When you come to the essence of
that great struggle which had rent the nation asunder and moistened the
land with tears, it was merely a question of individual right of ownership; it
was whether every man shall be allowed to be his self; whether he is born
for himself, breathes for himself, dies for himself, and shall answer to God
for himself. And that great question of ages is now settled forever. Nothing
must be done that will kindle into ﬂames the passions and prejudices that
are smouldering and dying. Let the dead past bury its dead,⁴ and let nothing
be raked up from the grave of sad reminiscences unless it be to point a
lesson to the future.
But colored men cannot be reminded too frequently of the men who
strove for them in the early days. The names of such men as Wm. Lloyd
Garrison (applause) and Wendell Phillips cannot be forgotten. They kindled
the ﬁrst sparks of the black man’s liberty. Abolitionism was first a
sentiment, then an idea, then a principle, and then a great political struggle,
and at each stage of its progress it seemed to be in charge of a different class
of men. The first time it appealed to the polls, it gave seven thousand votes
to a repentant slaveholder, Jas. G. Birney, of Kentucky, for President.
(Applause) It next gave sixty thousand votes for Hale;⁵ next it gave more
3. A reference to the sixteenth-century religious wars in Europe.
4. Douglass quotes a line from the sixth stanza of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's “A Psalm of
Life." Longfellow, Poems, 22.
5. Douglass incorrectly assigns James G. Birney’s total of 65,608 votes in his second campaign
for the presidency in 1844 to Free Democratic candidate John P. Hale who actually received 150,000 in
the 1852 election. Richard H. Sewell, Ballots for Freedom: Antislavery Politics in the United States.
1837-1860 (New York, 1976), 167; Frederick T. Blue, The Free Soilers: Third Party Politics, 1848-
1854 (Urbana, Ill., 1973), 256.
Notes and Questions
Nobody has written a note for this page yet
Please sign in to write a note for this page