West India Emancipation – criticism of abolitionists

August 23, 1844

In the column Refuge of Oppression, from the Boston Courier, an article about a celebration of West India Emancipation which is to be held in Concord, and at which Emerson is to speak.  The article firmly condemns slavery, but appeals to Emerson to have independence of thought, and to recognize the failings of abolitionists.  The criticism is rooted in a belief that abolitionists have too often been willing to violate certain principles of the Constitution, though it does not list those.   “But what has been effected by the exertions of the abolitionists for twenty years?  Are the people of the southern states any more willing to part with their slaves than they were twenty years ago?  Has the abstract and universally accepted doctrine that ‘all men are born free and equal’  in its application to the existing relations between the slaves and their owners, wrought out any benefits to the slaves, in consequence of the labors of abolitionists?  These interrogatories will receive a negative answer from every intelligent man.”…..

The article hopes for emancipation, “but we fear such an event will not be hastened by efforts like those of the abolitionists.”   ….. “The effects of the West India emancipation have been good for those who were its immediate objects, but the motive which prompted it, was selfish, cold-hearted, and avaricious.  It looked to the accumulation of national weath— not to the amelioration of suffering humanity.”  The article hopes that Emerson will tell the whole truth of the matter.

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