william lloyd garrison
Garrison's Four Propositions, Introduced at Park Street Church:
1. Above all others, slaves in America deserve “the prayers, and sympathies, and charities of the American people.”
2. Non-slave-holding states are “constitutionally involved in the guilt of slavery,” and are obligated “to assist in its overthrow.”
3. There is no valid legal or religious justification for the preservation of slavery.
4. The “colored population” of America should be freed, given an education, and accepted as equal citizens with whites.
Garrison's Antislavery Address
Park Street Church, July 4, 1829
“I call upon the ambassadors of Christ everywhere to make known this proclamation: ‘Thus saith the Lord God of the Africans, Let this people go, that they may serve me.’”
—William Lloyd Garrison, July 4, 1829.
Four decades before the United States Congress amended the Constitution to outlaw slavery, Park Street Church played a significant role in the American abolitionist movement. In 1823, Park Street began hosting an antislavery lecture series dedicated to raising funds for African missions. Held annually on Independence Day for six years, the series gathered many Bostonians in the spirit of benevolence towards “a long divided and suffering people.” At the conclusion of the series in 1829, organizers invited a twenty-three year old newspaper editor named William Lloyd Garrison to give the final lecture. In what was Garrison’s first public address, the famous abolitionist eagerly accepted the invitation and delivered a monumental speech from the Park Street pulpit.
His address, entitled “Dangers to the Nation,” introduced a bold new approach to the antislavery effort. Referring to the words of the Declaration of Independence, Garrison declared America to be shamefully hypocritical for simultaneously celebrating the notion that “all men are born equal” while keeping two million slaves in “hopeless bondage.” He then charged all Americans with the moral obligation to demand an end to the “national sin” of slavery. “Let us, then, be up and doing,” he urged his listeners. “Sound the trumpet of alarm and plead eloquently for the rights of man.” By presenting four powerful propositions that laid the foundation for a new drive for emancipation, Garrison turned his afternoon lecture at Park Street Church into what historian Henry Mayer calls “an epochal moment in the history of freedom.”
To understand the significance of Garrison’s Park Street address, it is helpful to know that few Americans supported the abolitionist cause in the 1820’s. Though many believed slavery was wrong, there seemed no way to eradicate it without breaking apart the national Union. As a result, the vast majority took a stance of toleration and believed that the issue should be handled by the local rather than the federal government. Even in Massachusetts, where slaves were freed in 1781 and antislavery sentiment was strong, most citizens did not feel responsible for the practice of slavery outside their own state. Thus, anyone at the time who called for a national mandate to ban slavery in slaveholding states was considered a reckless extremist. For the most part, those who spoke against slavery advocated a policy of compensating slave masters and sending their freed slaves back to Africa where they could live in designated colonies.
After his Park Street Address, Garrison rose to national prominence as he continued to press hard for abolition. In 1831, he organized the New England Anti-Slavery Society, which demanded that slaves be immediately freed and treated equally with whites. That same year he established the famous abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, in which he announced, “On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation...I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard.” Completely uncompromising and purposely inflammatory, Garrison attracted many angry critics in both the North and the South. Yet his tireless effort for emancipation and equal rights helped pave the way for the abolishment of slavery in 1866.
Brackney, William H. “Antislavery.” Oxford Companion to United States History. Paul Boyer, ed.
Oxford: Oxford, 2001.
Carnes, Mark and John Garraty. The American Nation. 11th ed. New York: Longman, 2003.
Englizian, H. Crosby. Brimstone Corner. Chicago: Moody, 1968.
Garrison, William Lloyd. “Address to the Colonization Society.”
Mayer, Henry. All on Fire. New York: St. Martin’s, 1998.