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Communications: Letter From Mr. Birney

Communications: Letter From Mr. Birney image
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Letter to the Editor
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Lower Sagin'avv, June I, 1816. Mr. Gkruit Smith: i Dear Sir, - I have just now read your iddress, of May 7, to tho Liberty party. , need scarcely say to you that I have read it atlenlively - as I do every thing coming from hand, and addresscd o that party. , It is willi somc distrust of myself, that , difler from you, knowing, that you are jenerally right. And, perhaps, the erence would not be so great now, did j perceivc as you, no doubt, do, the ( ter, by which you arrive at your ( lusion. Whether, or not, it is owing , o my want of discernment - a question I vill not dispute - 1 know not : but the , ress in question, uppears to me deficiënt , n that clearness, which characierizes fourother papers. You regret, that tho Liberty party id not, "in iis organization" solemnly urpose togive its attention to all the obects and interests of Civil Government, md you would be glad to see it giving Í 'forthwith," this extcnl to the scope of ' ts regards. This is all plain cnough - though some of the most intelligent persons, who have attended the Liberty party, from its first movements, say, this was done. "Nevertheless," you subjoin, "for the Liberty party to commit itself, now, to the numerous specific courses, which it is contended it should commit ilself to, would, as I shall endeavor to show, be premature. It would be premature, even on the supposition, that these courses are right ; for it would be a movement, in advanco of itslightand convictions. The Liberty Party, if not as extensivcly as other partics, is, nevertheless, very ignorent, in respect to the character and uses of Civil Government." No talents, nor labor, nor ingenuity, my dear brother, can reconcile, what appear to be the contradictions of this single paragraph. You wished, that the Liberty party, "in its organization," had done a particular act ; you wish them now to do it, "forthwith," when, itis allcged, they did it, they had not so much knowledge of the character and uses of Civil Government, as they have now, afteix or sevcn years training. And by our own admission, they are superior, )O, io the political party that has possssion of the government, as well as to ie one that is trying to displace it. You urther say, that the action, in this repect, of the Liberty party now would e "premature," although it might be right." The reason that you assign is, that, it would be a movement in advance of :s üght and its "convictions." No one nows better than you do, that the bare equiring of tbese "specific courses" is iroof that the Liberty party is not in adance of its Üght and its convictions - ind that if an act is "premature" it canot be "right." I need not teil you, that the mind of nnan is made for the reception of the uth- that it, naturally, delights in the uth - that one truth supports another - ïat they are all of the same family - ïat it is our business to become acquained wilh as many of them as possible - nd that we ennnot know too many of hem. 1 am well aware, that there are irresouto men, who want courage to attempt vhat they ought to do, and who affect to find their excuses in these words of Christ o his disciples. "I have vet many things to say unto you, hut you cannot bear them now. These men seem te think, that to the barbarían or slaveholder, biU little truth, and that of the elementary kind, ought io be told, at firsl j and he must acknowledge this, to bc true before he is told any thing else.1 Thej forget, too, that Christ revealed to his discinles, truth of the best importancewith whieh they were before unacquainted - truths which were sufficient, of themselves, to make them p erfcct, and which, as thoy are nowunknowri and unfelt, can never be supplied. They forget too, that, we, Protestants, say, that the Bible contains in itself, a sujlcient rule of fnith and conduct, and that the excuse, that Christ did not reveal to bis disciples all that was necessary to them, -implies their own superiority to the people: - of whom, if they rnake not a part, they had botter bn somewheré else, and engaged at something else than the dissemination of truth. An anglc from Heaven, if he had no understanding of our everyday wants, our everyday business and our overydny temptations would be gratified to do rnüch good among us. Ask Newton or Bowditch', if their knowledge of Natural Philosophy "radically" changed their lova for Astronomy, or ever weakened it? You believe in a God : does the furtherjelief, that Jesús Christ reprcsented him, ïere on earth - does the fresh knowledge hat the writers of the Bible give you. jvery dny, or you read that holy book - ioes a cío subject for its npplications, at ill diminish your first belief? I know t loes not. You acquire new ideas from he Bible, and serve but to strenglhen hose you have already acquired. So, of emancipation. Does a republi:an, economical, nnd free government - ne that is just to all - that is plain and imple and easily underslood by such as ry to understand it - and such, I believe s the tendency of all ihe "specific :ourses," recommended by abolitionists - loes such a government, I say, at all onflict with emancipation? Why, sir, uch a government could not exis - I may veil say, could not go into existcnce - vithout emancipation. Do not the Liberty party understand hese truths? They do: and, if I misake not, are well inclined to carry thcm iut. But "the chief excellence of the Lib:rty party, you say, is the overthrow of Slavcry," most heartily, do I grant it. - 3ut, supposing, those who have reflected maturely on the subject, think it well to add some olher interest, not hostile to the main design, but compatible wilh it, in which other interest the people feel much concern - and thal they do this, net with the view of "radically" changing our purpose, but of expediting it - ought their honest attempt, to be used to make them ridiculous? I think not ; and 1 firmly trust, that the Liberty party wil always have enough of respect for itself as to ask only for what is right. no matter what their friends may say of them. And what too, if the eubjects introduced by those you oppose, should prove tobe fairly comprehended in principies which the Liberty party had proclaimed, time after time? And what blame can you put on them, if they run a littlebefore you, and see, clearly, that, noto is the right time for introducing them inte practice. The questions they would introduce are questions of governmenl - without which, it must be presumed, thej honestly say, theslave cannot be eman cipated. The questions you would iniroduce are not questions ofgovernment - l have ahvays been opposed in tlie abolition meeting- are as far from being setlled, ' as they were ten or twelve years ago - , without which the slave can be emancipated, and íor which, iif I err not, the "natural right" of women to vote, has not been made, or attempted to be made, impcrative in a single Liberty party meeting, pretending to be general. There are many things which an individual inay do, that are not expected of aparly. This distinction ought always to be kept in view; - its observance will J save us a great deal of trouble. For instance. - for your abstaining from slave labor produce, I, the more honor you ; - it is an additional proof of your sincerity. But your power in this respect, ought to be 'considered as a Messing, by which you are distinguished - not asan occasion for vilifying your poorer brethren ; who with the same wishes, perhaps, that you have, aro incapablc of using the same power. On the same list I place, your not be. ing a member of any church, or a regu, lar hearerofany minister, who has not yet found out - or, if he has found out, he is afraid to say - that, there is a diiTerence between aman and a thSiíg. Whilst at Detroit, for several weeks, last winter, my wife and, I on this account, were confined to one church, the minister of : which was a colored man, and a very ' eloquent, impartial and independaent preacher. He alone had made this discovcry, although there was, at the time. ' in the Roman and Episcopal churches 1 several "successory" of the apostles- Peter, among theni, it may be- n the citv.How io reconcile an intelligent love of freedom and a desire to remain in a pro-slavery church, and' under the prcaching of a pro-slavery minister, I knownot. The duty of leaving them appears soplain, I have long sinCe withdrawn from thern. Not plainer appears this duty to me, íhan does the givingor accepting civilities to and from theslaveholders, who, in despito of all that has been said and brillen, for the last ten years, persist in holding in bonds the poorestofmy brethren. The time has certainly now come, vvhen abolitionists ought to sho, that their professions do not sit so loosely on them, as they have been supposéd to do- when they ought to shov, that their professiorrs have with them that weight which, they say, they have- vhen the slaveholder, no matter whom he may be, should be treated with, at arras length, and regarded, only as the plunderer of mnes mostsacred things, and these the feeblest of men,and woman and children, too, - that ha can-find.Yot as plain as these things areto me, l would not, at this time, if ever, make them party qucstions. Whilst Ido'nothing against the party - the party does against me, even if I carry my opposition toslavery farther than thej do. A man may be a member of the Liberty party, though, by no means a thorough abolitionist. Entertaining these sentimentt, which I am sorry difier from yours, I retnain, dear sir, your obedient servant.