Immediate Abolition: William Lloyd Garrison on David Walker’s Appeal, 1831
In this editorial, published in the second issue of The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison demonstrated both his abhorrence of violence and his belief that slaveholders brought slave rebellion on themselves. The same attitude would again appear in Garrison’s reaction to the Nat Turner revolt eight months later.
The Liberator, January 8, 1831.
Believing, as we do, that men should never do evil that good may come, that a good end does not justify wicked means in the accomplishment of it, and that we ought to suffer, as did our Lord and his apostles, unresistingly—knowing that vengeance belongs to God, and he will certainly repay it where it is due;—believing all this, and that the Almighty will deliver the oppressed in a way which they know not, we deprecate the spirit and tendency of this Appeal. Nevertheless, it is not for the American people, as a nation, to denounce it as bloody or monstrous. Mr. Walker but pays them in their own coin, but follows their own creed, but adopts their own language. We do not preach rebellion—no, but submission and peace. Our enemies may accuse us of striving to stir up the slaves to revenge but their accusations are false, and made only to excite the prejudices of whites, and to destroy our influence. We say, that the possibility of a bloody insurrection at the south fills us with dismay; and we avow, too, as plainly, that if any people were ever justified in throwing off the yoke of their tyrants, the slaves are that people. It is not we, but our guilty countrymen, who put arguments into the mouths, and swords into the hands of the slaves. Every sentence that they write—every word that they speak—every resistance that they make, against foreign oppression, is a call upon their slaves to destroy them. Every Fourth of July celebration must embitter and inflame the minds of the slaves. And the late dinners, and illuminations, ando rations, and shoutings, at the south, over the downfall of the French tyrant, Charles the Tenth, furnish so many reasons to the slaves why they should obtain their own rights by violence.
Some editors have affected to doubt whether the deceased Walker wrote this pamphlet.—On this point, skepticism need not stumble: the Appeal bears the strongest internal evidence of having emanated from his own mind. No white man could have written in language so natural and enthusiastic.