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(1859) William Lloyd Garrison, “On the Death of John Brown”

On December 2, 1859, John Brown was executed by Virginia authorities in Charles Town for his ill-fated raid on the federal armory at Harper"s Ferry.  Soon after word of his death reached Boston, William Lloyd Garrison, the leading abolitionist in the United States at the time, gave this stirring tribute to Brown.

God forbid that we should any longer continue the accomplices of thieves and robbers, of men-stealers and women-whippers! We must join together in the name of freedom.

As for the Union--where is it and what is it?

In one-half of it no man can exercise freedom of speech or the press--no man can utter the words of Washington, of Jefferson, of Patrick Henry--except at the peril of his life; and Northern men are everywhere hunted and driven from the South if they are supposed to cherish the sentiment of freedom in their bosoms.

We are living under an awful despotism--that of a brutal slave oligarchy. And they threaten to leave us if we do not continue to do their evil work, as we have hitherto done it, and go down in the dust before them!

Would to heaven they would go! It would only be the paupers clearing out from the town, would it not? But, no, they do not mean to go; they mean to cling to you, and they mean to subdue you. But will you be subdued?

I tell you our work is the dissolution of this slavery-cursed Union, if we would have a fragment of our liberties left to us! Surely between freemen, who believe in exact justice and impartial liberty, and slaveholders, who are for cleaning down all human rights at a blow, it is not possible there should be any Union whatever. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?"

The slaveholder with his hands dripping in blood--will I make a compact with him? The man who plunders cradles--will I say to him, "Brother, let us walk together in unity?" The man who, to gratify his lust or his anger, scourges woman with the lash till the soil is red with her blood--will I say to him: "Give me your hand; let us form a glorious Union?" No, never--never! There can be no

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