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Letter from James Forten to William Lloyd Garrison, October 20, 1831


James Forten was an African American born free in Philadelphia before the American Revolution. A wealthy sailmaker, Forten was an early leader in the abolitionist cause.


                                                                                   October 20, 1831

My Dear Sir,

                  Many thanks for your friendly letter. It was truly cheering to find, that the recent efforts against us have not damped the ardour of your spirits, but that you are still urging onward unintimidated by the many threats of personal violence from the South, indeed we have felt not a little uneasy on your account for they certainly seem to have the will, if not the power, to stop the thundering of the Liberator, which sounds so loudly in their ears, the cause of the oppressed—how fearfully true have been its predictions, the late tragedy in Virginia has clearly shown, and yet with all these facts, and dreadful they really are, before them, that they should still close their eyes and seek to find the cause from without, when all the materials are so plentiful within. How eagerly therefore do they seize upon the liberator, as a pretext, and would willingly screen themselves, by holding it forth, as one of the prominent agents, if not the sole cause of the late disturbance. This insurrection in the south, will be the means of bringing the evils of slavery more prominently before the public, and the urgent sense of danger, if nothing else, will lead to something more than mere hopes and wishes, with which many who have professed themselves friends to emancipation, have remained satisfied. Indeed we live in stirring times, and every day brings news of some fresh effort for liberty, either at home or abroad—onward, onward, is indeed the watchword. . . . Your subscribers at the south I suppose will be afraid to receive the paper any longer, on account of the recent disturbances—this will be a loss, but we must try to make it up by our exertions elsewhere. With the sincerest wishes for the continued prosperity of the Liberator, and its persevering Editor

                                                                                          I remain ever my Dear Sir,

                                                                                                           Most truly yours

                                                                                                                 James Forten


William Lloyd Garrison Papers, Boston Public Library, reprinted in Eric Foner, editor, Nat Turner (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971), 85-86.

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