A Tribute To Truth

Children's Literature

Background Notes

As part of their campaign, aboltionists compiled and published books of readings aimed at schoolchildren and youth. Defenders of slavery argued that the South’s “peculiar institution” was part of the American political legacy, that the Revolution had been led by slaveholders and slavery had been accepted by the framers of the Constitution. Abolitionists countered this argument with this excerpt from a speech by the Revolutionary orator and statesman Patrick Henry, who held slaves but believed that slavery was wrong.

Transcription of Primary Source

It is not a little surprising that the professors of Christianity, whose chief excellence consists in softening the human heart, in cherishing and improving its finer feelings, should encourage slavery—a practice so totally repugnant to the first impressions of right and wrong. What adds to the wonder is, that this abominable practice has been introduced in the most enlightened ages. Times that seem to have pretensions to boast of high improvements in the arts and sciences, and refined morality, have brought into general use, and guarded by many laws, a species of violence and tyranny, which our more rude and barbarous, but more honest ancestors, detested. Is it not amazing, that at a time, when the rights of humanity are defined and understood with precision, in a country above all others fond of liberty; that in such an age, and in such a country, we find men professing a religion the most humane, mild gentle and generous, adopting a principle as repugnant to humanity, as it is inconsistent with the Bible, and destructive to liberty? Every thinking, honest man rejects it in speculation; how few in practice, from conscientious motives!

Would any one believe that I am master of slaves, of my own purchase? I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living here without them. I will not, I cannot justify it. However culpable my conduct, I will so far pay my devoir to virtue, as to own the excellence and rectitude of her precepts, and lament my want of conformity to them.

Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
The Anti−Slavery Offering and Picknick; A Collection of Speeches, Poems, Dialogues, Songs for Schools and A.S. Meetings
H.W. Williams
Place of Publication: 
Old Sturbridge Village