Dissolution of the Union Essential to the Abolition of Slavery

William L. Garrison


September 24, 1855

I do not despair of the triumph of the truth. The slaves in our country are to be set free -- that is as certain as that man is man, and God is God. Slavery is doomed, let this country do what it may. But will it go down peaceably? Will the nation relax its grasp willingly? Will it hear the warning voice, and obey the Divine command? Or will it go on, and add iniquity to iniquity, and multiply slaves for the auction block, and extend the slave system, until its doom is irrevocably sealed? That is the question. I know that our success in the anti-slavery cause has been extraordinary, within the last quarter of a century; I know that, having nothing but the simple truth to begin with, with all that is wealthy, and mighty, and powerful, in church and State combined against us, our march has been right onward. And yet there is such a thing as a nation sinning away its day of grace, so that it is not possible for it to recover itself. There has never yet been made a direct and true issue by the North against slavery. Every thing has been and is in the spirit of compromise. In one-half of the country, we have lost our right of speech; the liberty of conscience is cloven down; editors are driven into exile, and their presses destroyed; the Gospel is fettered, and its mouth-piece gagged; and all the compacts and agreements are perfidiously overturned. All this is the legitimate fruit of the tree; and unless we lay the axe at the root of the tree, and cut it down, and give it to the consuming fire, we shall do nothing -- we are lost. I thank God for any kind of opposition to slavery, and am glad that any issue is raised; and I will respect every honest effort in behalf of freedom. But, until we cease to strike hands religiously, politically and governmentally with the South, and declare the Union to be at an end, I believe we can do nothing even against the encroachments of the Slave Power upon our rights. When will the people of the North see that it is not possible for liberty and slavery to commingle, or for a true Union to be formed between freemen and slaveholders? Between those who oppress and the oppressed, no concord is possible. This Union -- it is a lie, an imposture, and our first business is, to seek its utter overthrow. In this Union, there are three millions and a half of slaves, clanking their chains in hopeless bondage. Let the Union be accursed! Look at the awful compromises of the Constitution, by which that instrument is saturated with the blood of the slave! But even if every word of it were unexceptionable, the fact would be none the less palpable, that is not a question of parchment, but of moral possibilities. How can two walk together, except they are agreed? We are against slavery. The slaveholders say to us, "If we catch you south of Mason and Dixon's line, we will lynch you." They declare that no man shall be put into office, who does not go for everlasting and universal slavery. How great the insanity of the North! Like Samson, it has foolishly revealed the secret of its strength, ay, and the source of its weakness; and the Philistines of the South have taken it captive, put out its eyes, and made it grind in the prison-house for them; and if, at last, it shall rise in its returning strength, it will be to feel for the pillars of this heaven-accursed Union, and bring it to the ground. Samson told Delilah that if she should cut off his locks, he would be weak as other men. Then, said the Philistines, we know where the secret of his strength lies; and the deed was done.


O, the folly and infatuation of the people of the North! For sixty-eight years, we have been telling the slaveholders that we consider the preservation of the American Union paramount to all other considerations! "Do what you will for the extension of slavery, or the subversion of our own rights, there is one thing we mean to do, and that is, always to stand by the Union!" For that, we will give up everything -- conscience, self-respect, manhood, liberty, all! "We ask nothing more," say the slaveholders; "that is a carte blanc in our hands to wield against you with omnipotent effect; it is all we want to know. We will have the Fugitive Slave bill. We know you will wince, and remonstrate, and threaten; but we have only to crack the whip over your heads to bring you down on your knees at once. We will repeal the Missouri Compromise. We expect you to rave and resist but you will yield to the point, like whipped spaniels, when we threaten to dissolve the Union. You have agreed that, to save the Union, you will be submissive to the end." And so, all over the North, there is not a political party that does not say, "We are for the Union." The new 'fusion' or 'republican' party reiterates the cry of the South, "The Union, it must and shall be preserved." What is this but the betrayal of liberty into the hands of the Philistines? Talk about restoring the Missouri Compromise! As well talk of causing the sun and moon to stand still! Talk of repealing the Fugitive Slave bill! "When the sky falls, we will catch larks." Talk about stopping the progress of slavery, and of saving Nebraska and Kansas! -- Why, the fate of Nebraska and Kansas was sealed the first hour Stephen Arnold Douglas consented to play his perfidious part. I hold that any man who talks of a Union with slaveholders, such as they prescribe, has no right to call himself a friend of the slave. In becoming an Abolitionist, I pledged myself to stand by the side of the slave, and make his case my own; and I will not support a Constitution from which he is excluded. I will go in for no Union in which he is doomed to clank his fetters. I will give allegiance to no Government, which does not protect his rights with my own. Therefore, I stand outside of this Government, and, by the help of God, I mean to effect its overthrow. That seems to me to be the only consistent course to be taken. "No Union with Slaveholders!" Why? Because they will have no Union with us, unless we will join in their villainy. I do not know what anti-slavery men mean by saying they are opposed to slavery, and yet for preserving the Union. The colored man who glorifies the Union which makes him an outlaw, is beside himself.-- Our first duty is to pronounce the American Union accursed of God --to arraign every man who supports it, and tell him, as Jesus told the rich young man in the Gospel, that whatever else he may have done, one thing he yet lacketh: he must give up his support of the Union. Why continue the experiment any longer? It is all madness and delusion; let this slave-holding Union go; and when it goes, slavery will go down with it. What ever stands in the way of freedom, I am for its overthrow. The slaveholders are powerless without us. It is the North, after all, which has done this evil work. Our business is with ourselves. The people of the North hold in their hands the key whereby the dungeon's door may be opened, and the slaves set free. We have little to do with the slaveholders. I do not address myself to them; they are incapable of hearing or understanding our arguments; they are insane men. My appeal is not to them, but to the people of the North, who are the props and the pillars of the slave system. Let our rallying cry be, "No Union with Slaveholders, religiously or politically!" Let us up with the flag of disunion, that we may have a free Northern Republic of our own, by the side of which no slaveholding despotism can exist. And when that hour shall come, God will have made it possible for us to be one people from the Atlantic to the Pacific.