top of page

National Intelligencer (Washington, DC),

September 15, 1831


Incendiary Publications


        The excitement produced a few months since, in the Southern country, by the discovery of several copies of the notorious “Walker Pamphlet,” is doubtless still fresh in the recollection of most of our readers. Notwithstanding the pointed rebukes which the publishers of that inflammatory production received from many of the well disposed and reflecting part of our northern brethren, it appears that some misguided and deluded fanatics are still bent on exciting our colored population to scenes at which the heart sickens on the bare recital, and which instead of improving their moral or physical condition, cannot fail to overwhelm the actors in ruin, and curtail the privileges of all the others. Let them view the first fruits of their diabolical projects in the Southampton massacre, and pause—an awful retribution awaits them. A letter from a gentleman in Washington City, dated 29th ult. to the Postmaster at this place, says


        “An incendiary paper, ‘The Liberator,’ is circulated openly among the free blacks of this city; and if you will search, it is very probably you will find it among the slaves of your county. It is published in Boston or Philadelphia by a white man, with the avowed purpose of inciting rebellion in the South; and I am informed, is to be carried through your country by secret agents, who are to come amongst you under the pretext of pedling [sic], etc. Keep a sharp look out for the villains, and if you catch them, by all that is sacred, you ought to barbecue them. Diffuse this information amongst whom it may concern.”

Tarborough Free Press.


        The existence of the production above referred to and the fact of its transmission in great numbers through the medium of the Post Office, are beyond doubt; though we do not believe in secret agents being employed to circulate it, simply, because the vocation would be too dangerous for even the most desperate man to undertake.


[p. 88]

        No one knows better than we do the sincerity with which the intelligent population of New England abhor and reprobate the incendiary publications which are intended by their authors to lead to precisely such results (as concerns the whites) as the Southampton Tragedy. But, we appeal to the people of New England, if not in behalf of the innocent women and children of the whites, then in behalf of the blacks, whose utter extermination will be the necessary result of any general commotion, whether they will continue to permit their humanity to lie under the reproach of approving or even tolerating the atrocities among them which have already caused the plains of the South to be manured with human flesh and blood. To be more specific in our object, we now appeal to the worthy Mayor of the City of Boston, whether no law can be found to prevent the publication, within the City over which he presides, of such diabolical papers as we have seen a sample of here in the hands of the slaves, and of which there are many in circulation to the South of us. We have no doubt whatever as to the feelings of Mr. Otis on this subject, or those of his respectable constituents. We know they would prompt him and them to arrest the instigator of human butchery in his mad career. We know the difficulty which surrounds the subject, because the nuisance is not a nuisance, technically speaking, within the limits of the State of Massachusetts. But, surely, surely if the Courts of law have no power, public opinion has, to interfere, until the intelligent Legislators of Massachusetts can provide a durable remedy for this most appalling grievance. The crime is as great as that of poisoning the waters of life to a whole community. The destroying angel, visiting the South, would hardly move with a more desolating step than the deluded fanatic or mercenary miscreant who scatters abroad these pestilential sheets. We know nothing of the man: we desire not to have him unlawfully dealt with: we can even conceive of this motive being good in his own opinion: but it is the motive of the man who cuts the throat of your wife and children, in the hope of accomplishing what is an impossibility, and which, if it were not so, would be, of itself, a tremendous evil. There are citizens of Boston who know what slavery is—who have measured the breadth and depth of the evil—who know how much injustice has been done on this subject by well-meaning persons in the Middle and Eastern States to the People of the South in this particular. We call upon them to step forward, and with that pen they wield so ably, vindicate the cause of humanity, as it is outraged by the publications to which we refer. We intreat [sic] them to awaken the People to the truth and the whole truth, on this subject.


        Our readers in the Middle and Eastern states may be assured we do not speak thus earnestly on light grounds. The subject is too grave to be trifled with. By all which they hold dear we conjure the real [p. 89] friends of humanity not to delude themselves into the belief that we overrate the evil of which we speak, but to desist from countenancing, even by silence, these incendiary undertakings. Let them be frowned down by universal consent.



Eric Foner, editor, Nat Turner (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971), 87-89.

bottom of page