Samuel J. May, Some Recollections of our Anti-Slavery Conflict, pp.
At the annual meeting of the American Antislavery Society in May, 1835, I
was sitting upon the platform of the Houston Street Presbyterian Church in
New York, when I was surprised to see a gentleman enter and take his seat
who, I knew, was a partner in one of the most prominent mercantile houses
in the city. He had not been seated long before he beckoned me to meet him
at the door. I did so. "Please walk out with me, sir," said he; "I have something
of great importance to communicate." When we had reached the sidewalk he
said, with considerable emotion and emphasis, "Mr. May, we are not such fools
as not to know that slavery is a great evil, a great wrong. But it was consented
to by the founders of our Republic. It was provided for in the Constitution
of our Union. A great portion of the property of the Southerners is invested
under its sanction; and the business of the North, as well as the South,
has become adjusted to it. There are millions upon millions of dollars due
from Southerners to the merchants and mechanics of this city alone, the payment
of which would be jeopardized by any rupture between the North and the South.
We cannot afford, sir, to let you and your associates succeed in your endeavor
to overthrow slavery. It is not a matter of principle with us. It is a matter
of business necessity. We cannot afford to let you succeed. And I have called
you out to let you know, and to let your fellow-laborers know, that we do
not mean to allow you to succeed. We mean, sir," said he, with increased
emphasis,--"we mean, sir, to put you Abolitionists down,--by fair means if
we can, by foul means it we must."
After a minute's pause I replied: "Then, sir, the gain of gold must be better
than that of godliness. Error must be mightier than truth; wrong stronger
than right. The Devil must preside over the affairs of the universe, and
not God. Now, sir, I believe neither of these propositions. If holding men
in slavery be wrong, it will be abolished. We shall succeed, your pecuniary
interests to the contrary notwithstanding." He turned hastily away; but he
has lived long enough to find that he was mistaken, and to rejoice in the
abolition of slavery.
Some Recollections of our Antislavery Conflict, by Samuel J. May,
Fields, Osgood and Co., Boston, 1869.