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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsSunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 1 - Public Meeting In Edinburgh--April 20
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Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 1 - Public Meeting In Edinburgh--April 20 Post by :add2it Category :Nonfictions Author :Harriet Beecher Stowe Date :May 2012 Read :1210

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Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 1 - Public Meeting In Edinburgh--April 20

THE LORD PROVOST rose, and stated that a number of letters of apology had been received from parties who had been invited to take part in the meeting, but who had been unable to attend. Among these he might mention Professor Blackie, the Rev. Mr. Gilfillan, of Dundee, Rev. J. Begg, D.D., the Earl of Buchan, Dr. Candlish, and Sir W. Gibson Craig, all of whom expressed their regret that they could not be present. One of them, he observed, was from a gentleman who had long taken an interest in the antislavery cause,--Lord Cockburn,(B)--and his note was so warm, and sympathetic, and hearty on the subject about which they had met, that he could not resist the temptation of reading it. It proceeded, "I regret, that owing to my being obliged to be in Ayrshire, it will not be in my power to join you in the expression of respect and gratitude to Mrs. Stowe; she deserves all the honor that can be done her; she has done more for humanity than was ever accomplished before by a single book of fiction. (Cheers.) It did not require much to raise our British feeling against slavery, but by showing us what substantially are facts, and the necessary tendency of this evil in its most mitigated form, she has greatly strengthened the ground on which this feeling rests. Her work may have no immediate or present influence on the states of her own country that are now unhappily under the curse, and may indeed for a time aggravate its horrors; but it is a prodigious accession to the constantly accumulating mass of views and evidence, which by reason of its force must finally prevail." (Cheers.)

(Footnote B: This venerated, and erudite jurist, the friend and biographer of the celebrated Lord Jeffrey, has recently died.)

 


The Lord Provost proceeded to say, that they had now assembled chiefly to do honor to their distinguished guest, Mrs. Stowe. (Applause.) They had met, however, also to express their interest in the cause which it had been the great effort of her life to promote--the abolition of slavery. They took advantage of her presence, and the effect which was produced on the public mind of this country, to reiterate their love for the abolition cause, and their detestation of slavery. Before they were aware that Mrs. Stowe was to grace the city of Edinburgh with her presence, a committee had been organized to collect a penny offering--the amount to be contributed in pence, and other small sums, from the masses of this country--to be presented to her as some means of mitigating, through her instrumentality, the horrors of slavery, as they might come under her observation. It was intended at once as a mark of their esteem for her, of their confidence in her, of their conviction that she would do what was right in the cause, and, at the same time, as an evidence of the detestation in which the system of slavery was held in this free country. That penny offering now, he was happy to say, by the spontaneous efforts of the inhabitants of this and other towns, amounted to a considerable sum; to certain gentlemen in Edinburgh forming the committee the whole credit of this organization was due, and he believed one of their number, the Rev. Mr. Ballantyne, would present the offering that evening, and tell them all about it. He would not, therefore, forestall what he would have to say on the subject. They were also to have the pleasure of presenting Mrs. Stowe with an address from the committee in this city, which would be presented by another reverend friend, who would be introduced at the proper time. As there would be a number of speakers to follow during the evening, his own remarks must be exceedingly short; but he could not resist the temptation of saying how happy he felt at being once more in the midst of a great meeting in the city of Edinburgh, for the purpose of expressing their detestation of the system of slavery. They could appeal to their brethren in the United States with clean hands, because they had got rid of the abomination themselves; they could therefore say to them, through their friends who were now present, on their return home, and through the press, which would carry their sentiments even to the slave states--they could say to them that they had washed their own hands of the evil at the largest pecuniary sacrifice that was ever made by any nation for the promotion of any good cause. (Loud applause.) Some parties said that they should not speak harshly of the Americans, because they were full of prejudice with regard to the system which they had seen growing up around them. He said so too with all his heart; he joined in the sentiment that they should not speak harshly, but they might fairly express their opinion of the system with which their American friends were surrounded, and in which he thought all who supported it were guilty participators. (Hear, hear!) They could denounce the wickedness, they could tell them that they thought it was their duty to put an end to it speedily. The cause of the abolition of slavery in our own colonies long hung without any visible progress, notwithstanding the efforts of many distinguished men, who did all they could to mitigate some of its more prominent evils; and yet, so long as they never struck at the root, the progress which they made was almost insensible. They knew how many men had spent their energies, and some of them their lives, in attempting to forward the cause; but how little effect was produced for the first half of the present century! The city of Edinburgh had always, he was glad to say, taken a deep interest in the cause; it was one of the very first to take up the ground of total and entire abolition. (Cheers.) A predecessor of his own in the civic chair was so kind as to preside at a meeting held in Edinburgh twenty-three years ago, in which a very decided step was proposed to be taken in advance, and a resolution was moved by the then Dean of Faculty, to the effect that on the following first of January, 1831, all the children born of slave parents in our colonies were from that date to be declared free. That was thought a great and most important movement by the promoters of the cause. There were, however, parties at that crowded meeting who thought that even this was a mere expedient--that it was a mere pruning of the branches, leaving the whole system intact. One of these was the late Dr. Andrew Thomson--(cheers)--who had the courage to propose that the meeting should at once declare for total and immediate abolition, which proposal was seconded by another excellent citizen, Mr. Dickie. Dr. Thomson replied to some of the arguments which had been put forward, to the effect that the total abolition might possibly occasion bloodshed; and he said that, even if that did follow, it was no fault of his, and that he still stuck to the principle, which he considered right under any circumstances. The chairman, thereupon, threatened to leave the chair on account of the unnecessarily strong language used, and when the sentiments were reiterated by Mr. Dickie, he actually bolted, and left the meeting, which was thrown into great confusion. A few days afterwards, however, another meeting was held--one of the largest and most effective that had been ever held in Edinburgh--at which were present Mr. John Shank More in the chair, the Rev. Dr. Thomson, Rev. Dr Gordon, Dr. Ritchie, Mr. Muirhead, the Rev. Mr. Buchanan of North Leith, Mr. J. Wigham, Jr., Dr. Greville, &c. The Lord Provost proceeded to read extracts from the speeches made at the meeting, showing that the sentiments of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, so far back as 1830, as uttered by some of its most distinguished men,--not violent agitators, but ministers of the gospel, promoters of peace and order, and every good and every benevolent purpose,--were in favor of the immediate and total abolition of slavery in our colonies. He referred especially to the speech of Dr. Andrew Thomson on this occasion, from which he read the following extract: "But if the argument is forced upon me to accomplish this great object, that there must be violence, let it come, for it will soon pass away--let it come and rage its little hour, since it is to be succeeded by lasting freedom, and prosperity, and happiness. Give me the hurricane rather than the pestilence. Give me the hurricane, with its thunders, and its lightnings, and its tempests--give me the hurricane, with its partial and temporary devastations, awful though they be--give me the hurricane, which brings along with it purifying, and healthful, and salutary effects--give me the hurricane rather than the noisome pestilence, whose path is never crossed, whose silence is never disturbed, whose progress is never arrested by one sweeping blast from the heavens--which walks peacefully and sullenly through the length and breadth of the land, breathing poison into every heart, and carrying havoc into every home--enervating all that is strong, defacing all that is beautiful, and casting its blight over the fairest and happiest scenes of human life--and which from day to day, and from year to year, with intolerant and interminable malignity, sends its thousands and tens of thousands of hapless victims into the ever-yawning and never-satisfied grave!"--(Loud and long applause.) The experience which they had had, that all the dangers, all the bloodshed and violence which were threatened, were merely imaginary, and that none of these evils had come upon them although slavery had been totally abolished by us, should, he thought, be an encouragement to their American friends to go home and tell their countrymen that in this great city the views now put forward were advocated long ago--that the persons who now held them said the same years ago of the disturbances and the evils which would arise from pressing the question of immediate and total abolition--that the same kind of arguments and the same predictions of evil were uttered in England--and although she had not the experience, although she had not the opportunity of pointing to the past, and saying the evil had not come in such a case, still, even then, they were willing to face the evil, to stick to the righteous principle, and to say, come what would, justice must be done to the slave, and slavery must be wholly and immediately abolished. (Cheers.) He had said so much on the question of slavery, because he was very sure it would be much more agreeable to their modest and retiring and distinguished guest that one should speak about any other thing than about herself. Uncle Tom's Cabin needed no recommendation from him. (Loud cheers.) It was the most extraordinary book, he thought, that had ever been published; no book had ever got into the same circulation; none had ever produced a tithe of the impression which it had produced within a given time. It was worth all the proslavery press of America put together. The horrors of slavery were not merely described, but they were actually pictured to the eye. They were seen and understood fully; formerly they were mere dim visions, about which there was great difference of opinion; some saw them as in a mist, and others more clearly; but now every body saw and understood slavery. Every body in this great city, if they had a voice in the matter, would be prepared to say that they wished slavery to be utterly extinguished. (Loud cheers.)

PROFESSOR STOWE then rose, and was greeted with loud cheers. He begged to read the following note from Mrs. Stowe, in acknowledgment of the honor:--

"I accept these congratulations and honors, and this offering, which it has pleased Scotland to bestow on me, not for any thing which I have said or done, not as in any sense acknowledging that they are or can be deserved, but with heartfelt, humble gratitude to God, as tokens of mercy to a cause most sacred and most oppressed. In the name of a people despised and rejected of men--in the name of men of sorrows acquainted with grief, from whom the faces of all the great and powerful of the earth have been hid--in the name of oppressed and suffering humanity, I thank you. The offering given is the dearer to me, and the more hopeful, that it is literally the penny offering, given by thousands on thousands, a penny at a time. When, in travelling through your country, aged men and women have met me with such fervent blessings, little children gathered round me with such loving eyes--when honest hands, hard with toil, have been stretched forth with such hearty welcome--when I have seen how really it has come from the depths of the hearts of the common people, and know, as I truly do, what prayers are going up with it from the humblest homes of Scotland, I am encouraged. I believe it is God who inspires this feeling, and I believe God never inspired it in vain. I feel an assurance that the Lord hath looked down from heaven to hear the groaning of the prisoner, and according to the greatness of his power, to loose those that are appointed to die. In the human view, nothing can be more hopeless than this cause; all the wealth, and all the power, and all the worldly influence is against it. But here in Scotland, need we tell the children of the Covenant, that the Lord on high is mightier than all human power? Here, close by the spot where your fathers signed that Covenant, in an hour when Scotland's cause was equally poor and depressed--here, by the spot where holy martyrs sealed it with their blood, it will neither seem extravagance nor enthusiasm to say to the children of such parents, that for the support of this cause, we look, not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are not seen; to that God, who, in the face of all worldly power, gave liberty to Scotland, in answer to your fathers' prayers. Our trust is in Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Ghost, and in the promise that he shall reign till he hath put all things under his feet. There are those faithless ones, who, standing at the grave of a buried humanity, tell us that it is vain to hope for our brother, because he hath lain in the grave three days already. We turn from them to the face of Him who has said, 'Thy brother shall rise again.' There was a time when our great High Priest, our Brother, yet our Lord, lay in the grave three days; and the governors and powers of the earth made it as sure as they could, seeding the stone and setting a watch. But a third day came, and an earthquake, and an angel. So shall it be to the cause of the oppressed; though now small and despised, we are watchers at the sepulchre, like Mary and the trusting women; we can sit through the hours of darkness. We are watching the sky for the golden streaks of dawning, and we believe that the third day will surely come. For Christ our Lord, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; and he has pledged his word that he shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment on the earth. He shall deliver the poor when He crieth, the needy, and him that hath no helper. The night is far spent--the day is at hand. The universal sighing of humanity in all countries, the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain together--the earnest expectation of the creature waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God--show that the day is not distant when he will break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free. And whatever we are able to do for this sacred cause, let us cast it where the innumerable multitude of heaven cast their crowns, at the feet of the Lamb, saying, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessings.'"

The Rev. Professor then continued. "My Lord Provost, Ladies and Gentlemen: This cause, to be successful, must be carried on in a religious spirit, with a deep sense of our dependence on God, and with that love for our fellow-men which the gospel requires. It is because I think I have met this spirit since I reached the shores of Great Britain, in those who have taken an interest in the cause, that I feel encouraged to hope that the expression of your feeling will be effective on the hearts of Christians on the other side of the Atlantic. There are Christians there as sincere, as hearty, and as earnest, as any on the face of the earth. They have looked at this subject, and been troubled; they have hardly known what to do, and their hearts have been discouraged. They have almost turned away their eyes from it, because they have scarcely dared encounter it, the difficulties appeared to them so great. Wrong cannot always receive the support of Christians; wrong must be done away with; and what must be--what God requires to be--that certainly will be. Now, in this age, man is every where beginning to regard the sufferings of his fellow-man as his own. There is an interest felt in man, as man, which was not felt in preceding ages. The facilities of communication are bringing all nations in contact, and whatever wrong exists in any part of the world, is every where felt. There are wrongs and sufferings every where; but those to which we are accustomed, we look upon with most indifference, because being accustomed to them, we do not feel their enormity. You feel the enormity of slavery more than we do, because you are not immediately interested, and regard it at a distance. We regard some of the wrongs that exist in the old world with more sensibility than you can regard them, because we are not accustomed to them, and you are. Therefore, in the spirit of Christian love, it belongs to Christian men to speak to each other with great fidelity. It has been said that you know little or nothing about slavery. O, happy men, that you are ignorant of its enormities. (Hear, hear!) But you do know something about it. You know as much about it as you know of the widow-burning in India, or the cannibalism in the Fejee Islands, or any of those crimes and sorrows of paganism, that induced you to send forth your missionaries. You know it is a great wrong, and a terrible obstacle to the progress of the gospel; and that is enough for you to know to induce you to act. You have as much knowledge as ever induced a Christian community in any part of the world to exert an influence in any other part of the world. Slavery is a relic of paganism, of barbarism; it must be removed by Christianity; and if the light of Christianity shines on it clearly, it certainly will remove it. There are thousands of hearts in the United States that rejoice in your help. Whatever expressions of impatience and petulance you may hear, be assured that these expressions are not the heart of the great body of the people. (Cheers.) A large proportion of that country is free from slavery. There is an area of freedom ten times larger than Great Britain in territory.(C) (Cheers.) But all the power over the slave is in the hands of the slaveholder. You had a power over the slaveholder by your national legislature; our national legislature has no power over the slaveholder. All the legislation that can in that country be brought to bear for the slave, is legislation by the slaveholders themselves. There is where the difficulty lies. It is altogether by persuasion, Christian counsel, Christian sympathy, Christian earnestness, that any good can be effected for the slave. The conscience of the people is against the system--the conscience of the people, even in the slaveholding states; and if we can but get at the conscience without exciting prejudice, it will tend greatly towards the desired effect. But this appeal to the conscience must be unintermittent, constant. Your hands must not be weary, your prayers must not be discontinued; but every day and every hour should we be doing something towards the object. It is sometimes said, Americans who resist slavery are traitors to their country. No; those who would support freedom are the only true friends of their country. Our fathers never intended slavery to be identified with the government of the United States; but in the temptations of commerce the evil was overlooked; and how changed for the worse has become the public sentiment even within the last thirty or forty years! The enormous increase in the consumption of cotton has raised enormously the market value of slaves, and arrayed both avarice and political ambition in defence of slavery. Instruct the conscience, and produce free cotton, and this will be like Cromwell's exhortation to his soldiers, '_Trust in God, and keep your powder dry_.'" (Continued cheers.)


(Footnote C: This, alas! is no longer true. By the recent passage of the infamous Nebraska bill, this whole region, with the exception of two states already organized, is laid open to slavery. This faithless measure was nobly resisted by a large and able minority in Congress--honor to them.)


THE REV. DR. R. LEE then said: "I am quite sure that every individual here responds cordially to those sentiments of respect and gratitude towards our honored guest which have been so well expressed by the Lord Provost and the other gentlemen who have addressed us. We think that this lady has not only laid us under a great obligation by giving us one of the most delightful books in the English language, but that she has improved us as men and as Christians, that she has taught us the value of our privileges, and made us more sensible than we were before of the obligation which lies upon us to promote every good work. I have been requested to say a few words on the degradation of American slavery; but I feel, in the presence of the gentleman who last addressed you, and of those who are still to address you, that it would be almost presumption in me to enter on such a subject. It is impossible to speak or to think of the subject of slavery without feeling that there is a double degradation in the matter; for, in the first place, the slave is a man made in the image of God--God's image cut in ebony, as old Thomas Fuller quaintly but beautifully said; and what right have we to reduce him to the image of a brute, and make property of him? We esteem drunkenness as a sin. Why is it a sin? Because it reduces that which was made in the image of God to the image of a brute. We say to the drunkard, 'You are guilty of a sacrilege, because you reduce that which God made in his own image "into the image of an irrational creature."' Slavery does the very same. But there is not only a degradation committed as regards the slave--there is a degradation also committed against himself by him who makes him a slave, and who retains him in the position of a slave; for is it not one of the most commonplace of truths that we cannot do a wrong to a neighbor without doing a greater wrong to ourselves?--that we cannot injure him without also injuring ourselves yet more? I observe there is a certain class of writers in America who are fond of representing the feeling of this country towards America as one of jealousy, if not of hatred.. I think, my lord, that no American ever travelled in this country without being conscious at once that this is a total mistake--that this is a total misapprehension. I venture to say that there is no nation on the face of the earth in which we feel half so much interest, or towards which we feel the tenth part of the affection, which we do towards our brethren in the United States of America. And what is more than that--there is no nation towards which we feel one half so much admiration, and for which we feel half so much respect, as we do for the people of the United States of America. (Cheers.) Why, sir, how can it be otherwise? How is it possible that it should be the reverse? Are they not our bone and our flesh? and their character, whatever it is, is it any thing more than our own, a little exaggerated, perhaps? Their virtues and their vices, their faults and their excellences, are just the virtues and the vices, the faults and the excellences, of that old respectable freeholder, John Bull, from whom they are descended. We are not much surprised that a nation which are slaves themselves should make other men slaves. This cannot very much surprise us: but we are both surprised and we are deeply grieved, that a nation which has conceived so well the idea of freedom--a nation which has preached the doctrines of freedom with such boldness and such fulness--a nation which has so boldly and perfectly realized its idea of freedom in every other respect--should in this only instance have sunk so completely below its own idea, and forgetting the rights of one class of their fellow-creatures, should have deprived them of freedom altogether. I say that our grief and our disapprobation of this in the case of our brethren in America arises very much from this, that in other respects we admire them so much, we are sorry that so noble a nation should allow a blot like this to remain upon its escutcheon. I am not ignorant--nobody can be ignorant--of the great difficulties which encompass the solution of this question in America. It is vain for us to shut our eyes to it. There can be no doubt whatever that great sacrifices will require to be made in order to get rid of this great evil. But the Americans are a most ingenious people; they are full of inventions of all sorts, from the invention of a machine for protecting our feet from the water, to a machine for making ships go by means of heated air; from the one to the other the whole field of discovery is occupied by their inventive genius. There is not an article in common use among us but bears some stamp of America. We rise in the morning, and before we are dressed we have had half a dozen American articles in our hands. And during the day, as we pass through the streets, articles of American invention meet us every where. In short, the ingenuity of the people is proclaimed all over the world. And there can be no doubt that the moment this great, this ingenious people finds that slavery is both an evil and a sin, their ingenuity will be successfully exerted in discovering some invention for preventing its abolition from ruining them altogether. (Cheers.) No doubt their ingenuity will be equal to the occasion; and I may take the liberty of adding, that their ingenuity in that case will find even a richer reward than it has done in those other inventions which have done them so much honor, and been productive of so much profit. I say, that sacrifices must be made; there can be no doubt about that; but I would also observe, that the longer the evil is permitted to continue, the greater and more tremendous will become the sacrifice which will be needed to put an end to it; for all history proves that a nation encumbered, with slavery is surrounded with danger. (Applause.) Has the history of antiquity been written in vain? Does it not teach us that not only domestic and social pollutions are the inevitable results, but does it not teach us also that political insecurity and political revolutions as certainly slumber beneath the institution of slavery as fireworks at the basis of Mount AEtna? (Cheers.) It cannot but be so. Men no more than steam can be compressed without a tremendous revulsion; and let our brethren in America be sure of this, that the longer the day of reckoning is put off by them, the more tremendous at last that reckoning will Be." (Loud, applause.)

* * * * *

In regard to this meeting at Edinburgh, there was a ridiculous story circulated and variously commented on in certain newspapers of the United States, that _the American flag was there exhibited, insulted, torn, and mutilated_. Certain religious papers took the lead in propagating the slander, which, so for as I know or can learn, _had no foundation_, unless it be that, in the arranging of the flag around its staff, the stars might have been more distinctly visible than the stripes. The walls were profusely adorned with drapery, and there were numerous flags disposed in festoons. Truly a wonderful thing to make a story of, and then parade it in the newspapers from Maine to Texas, beginning in Philadelphia!

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