Benjamin Faneuil Hunt to Mayor Harrison Gray Otis (Boston, Massachusetts), October 4, 1831
Charleston So Car. Oct. 4, 1831
To Hon. H. G. Otis.
I have taken the Liberty of writing to you for the purpose of obtaining accurate information relative to a seditious & [p. 277] inflammatory paper called “The Liberator” circulated in the south for the purpose of exciting servile Insurrection. It is peculiarly interesting to us here to know in what light such Conduct is held in Boston. It would be much better that an actual open war were at once declared between the slave holding states and our brethren at North, than that with the facilities of friendly Intercourse, such assaults should be made upon our lives & fortunes. It is by many doubted whether the name of Boston has not been Printed at the Head of the Paper to deceive when in reality the same is printed elsewhere. On this subject you can give exact Information. Such publications may lead to commotion but must end in the Extermination of the mass of blacks and the rigid subjection of the few who may survive, and would forever separate the south from the Union. The murder of women and children which would ensue, would engender the most bitter and irreconcileable [sic] hostility. I fear that the ambition of Politicians may by using the present Excitement give it countenance and encouragement and it becomes every man of Principle and Character to discover and Expose the immediate agents. I am sure that the People of Boston will revolt with disgust from any plan which may bring down desolation on their friends & fellow citizens, and I shall rejoice to have an opportunity of affording to the people of Charleston evidence of the fact. Being aware of your own just & enlightened Views upon this subject I have to request of you information. Whether this paper the Liberator is actually published in Boston – and if so if it receives any countenance and from whom. Also whether there are any means afforded by your laws for suppressing or punishing a systematic plan to injure the citizens of a sister state. I confess I have little confidence in any other Remedy than public opinion and am desirous of being made acquainted with the most effectual means of bringing that to operate and suggest to your better knowledge, how far an Expression of Public opinion could be secured and the Probable Effects of the attempt. I beg leave to add that some calico handerchiefs Printed, Exhibiting negroes under circumstances calculated to elicit sympathy, have been introduced into our market and I believe most falsely state to have been sent from Massachusetts. The Effect is dreadful and I should not be surprised if every article of Massachusetts [p. 278] manufacture were committed to the flames in the city if it was certainly ascertained. I have no doubt it would cut off all commercial Intercourse with Boston. I have seen some of them and believe them to be British, and intended for the West India Market. It would afford me much satisfaction to be able to lay before our community satisfactory Proof that no such articles have been manufactured in Mass. It is important to your Manufactures, to retain the Confidence of our people – for the History of Boston in olden time is Evidence how much Popular indignation can do to interrupt commercial Intercourse and I will readily undertake to make known any Information on the subject to quiet the minds of our citizens. Perhaps your conference with the leading manufacturers may lead to some desirable result. Your Views and Character are so highly estimated here that I have availed myself of your services to prevent any rupture of those friendly relations which subsist between Charleston & Boston and trust that my motives will be an apology for the trouble I may give you. With sentiments of Respect
Benjn. Faneuil Hunt
Samuel Eliot. Morrison, The Life and Letters of Harrison Gray Otis, Federalist, 1765-1848, vol. 2 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913), 276-277.