Garrison's rampant and impersonal egotism was good politics, but bad taste. Wendell Phillips did not hesitate upon occasion to deal in personalities of an exasperating kind. One sees a certain shrinking in Emerson from the taste of the Abolitionists. It was not merely their doctrines or their methods which offended him.
The old abolitionists, whom nobody had thought of since the repeal of the Missouri compromise and who were beginning to feel a good deal neglected, looked upon Phillips now as a deserter from their standard of non-resistance and moral suasion, and perhaps also eyed his brilliant course with some little jealousy.
Large as the number of abolitionists became and bright as the future of their cause seemed, the more the antislavery men saw of the freedmen in congested districts, the more inclined the reformers were to think that instant abolition was an event which they "could not reasonably expect, and perhaps could not desire."
Yet it should be said that the Abolitionists were not all of one mind, and some voted the Republican ticket as being at least a step in the right direction. Joshua R. Giddings was a member of the Republican Convention which nominated Lincoln.
The abolitionists were not personally known to him, and his mind was largely occupied with the pleasures of fashionable society, where he shone before all others. There was a certain strength and good sense in this; the reserve of a man who waits for opportunity, and who does not risk shipwreck at the start by rushing hastily into troubled waters.
I do oppose the extension of slavery, because my judgment and feelings so prompt me; and I am under no obligations to the contrary." It was this strong regard for the established law of the land which set the moderate anti-slavery men apart from the Abolitionists of the extreme type.
A foremost Union leader in the antecedent debate, upon the advent of actual war he had reluctantly but resolutely gone with his state and section. The intractable Abolitionists of the North and the radical Secessionists of the South have much historically to answer for. The racial warp and woof in the United States were at the outset of our national being substantially homogeneous.
It would not be easy to trace here the course of events which led to these outbreaks. It is no doubt true that the abolitionists were often rash, if not reckless, and that when they were maddened by the coldness or the hostility of the people to the cause of human freedom they did not stop at some acts which, though they were righteous enough, were unlawful.
The Abolitionists advocated the emancipation of the slaves in the South by Congress, intermarriages between the two races, the dissolution of the Union, etc. All of which outrageous misrepresentations were designed to render the movement utterly odious to the public, and the public so much the more furious for its suppression.
The Anti-Slavery Society is, as its name imports, a society to oppose slavery not to "make matches." Whether abolitionists are inclined to amalgamation more than anti-abolitionists are, I will not here take upon myself to decide.