Prologue – The 1850’s

The 1850’s began with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act as part of the Compromise of 1850 that sought to quell sectional discord and keep the Union intact. The Act required officials and citizens of Free states to cooperate in the return of escaped slaves. For those Americans at the silent center of the slavery question, it forced them to support slavery in their own, supposedly ‘free’ backyards.

The Act was so emotionally/ contentious that it helped the Abolitionist movement gain considerable traction among a wide swath of Northerners  Taking a cue from Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience (1849), many Free states enacted ‘personal liberty laws’ or other devices to effectively nullify this Federal law.  The conscience of the North began to move towards Abolitionism.
 
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave the movement a shove by personifying the cruelty of slavery.  It sold 300,000 copies in its first year, the equivalent of what would be 5 million today.  The United States would never be the same.
 
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave.  With a gift of oratory and literary eloquence, Douglass became an international celebrity speaking in Ireland and Britain.  He returned to the US in 1847 to save his brethren in bondage through speeches and anti-slavery publications.
 
In 1852, the Ladies of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society invited Douglass to deliver an Independence Day address.  Called the “What to the slave is the 4th of July?” speech, it is to this day regarded as one of the great speeches in American history.
 

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic.  The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men.  They were great men.  I will unite with you to honor their memory.
 
Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country.  Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.
 
I do not hesitate to declare with all my soul that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July!
 
Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today?  What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence?  Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?
 
The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common.  The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me.  The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me.  This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.
 
You declare before the world, and are understood by the world to declare that you “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain in alienable rights; and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.
 
Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting.

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?  I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.
 
To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
 
For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.  We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.  The hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.

At the end of the decade, a zealous abolitionist named John Brown organized a raid on the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.  The raid was a complete failure.  Yet, John Brown’s death did more to end slavery than he could have accomplished in life.  Brown was tried and executed – as a terrorist in the South, as a martyr in the North.
 
Thoreau composed a speech titled, A Plea for Captain John Brown.  It gave inspiration to Northerners whose soldiers went to war singing “John Brown’s Body.”
 
On the night of October 16, 1859, John Brown and twenty one accomplices raided the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in an attempt to arm slaves and spark an uprising against slaveholders.  Word of the raid, however, reached townspeople before it reached slaves.  A company of U.S. Marines, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart, arrived on the 18th.  Brown was wounded and captured while ten of his men, including two of his sons, were killed.
 
Despite pleas from the likes of Henry David Thoreau and Northern abolitionists, Brown was tried by the state of Virginia for treason and murder, and found guilty on November 2.

Before he was hanged on December 2, 1859, he handed a guard a note that read, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”
 
It was a prophetic statement.
 
When Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, the American Civil War finally ended. The blood spent to “purge the land of its guilt” was nothing short of colossal.
 
To this day, total casualties of the American Civil War still exceed the combined total of all other wars fought by the United States.

Prologue – The 1850’s

The 1850’s began with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act as part of the Compromise of 1850 that sought to quell sectional discord and keep the Union intact. The Act required officials and citizens of Free states to cooperate in the return of escaped slaves. For those Americans at the silent center of the slavery question, it forced them to support slavery in their own, supposedly ‘free’ backyards.

The Act was so emotionally/ contentious that it helped the Abolitionist movement gain considerable traction among a wide swath of Northerners  Taking a cue from Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience (1849), many Free states enacted ‘personal liberty laws’ or other devices to effectively nullify this Federal law.  The conscience of the North began to move towards Abolitionism.
 
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave the movement a shove by personifying the cruelty of slavery.  It sold 300,000 copies in its first year, the equivalent of what would be 5 million today.  The United States would never be the same.
 
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave.  With a gift of oratory and literary eloquence, Douglass became an international celebrity speaking in Ireland and Britain.  He returned to the US in 1847 to save his brethren in bondage through speeches and anti-slavery publications.
 
In 1852, the Ladies of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society invited Douglass to deliver an Independence Day address.  Called the “What to the slave is the 4th of July?” speech, it is to this day regarded as one of the great speeches in American history.
 

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic.  The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men.  They were great men.  I will unite with you to honor their memory.
 
Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country.  Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.
 
I do not hesitate to declare with all my soul that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July!
 
Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today?  What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence?  Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?
 
The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common.  The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me.  The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me.  This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.
 
You declare before the world, and are understood by the world to declare that you “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain in alienable rights; and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.
 
Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting.

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?  I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.
 
To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
 
For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.  We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.  The hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.

At the end of the decade, a zealous abolitionist named John Brown organized a raid on the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.  The raid was a complete failure.  Yet, John Brown’s death did more to end slavery than he could have accomplished in life.  Brown was tried and executed – as a terrorist in the South, as a martyr in the North.
 
Thoreau composed a speech titled, A Plea for Captain John Brown.  It gave inspiration to Northerners whose soldiers went to war singing “John Brown’s Body.”
 
On the night of October 16, 1859, John Brown and twenty one accomplices raided the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in an attempt to arm slaves and spark an uprising against slaveholders.  Word of the raid, however, reached townspeople before it reached slaves.  A company of U.S. Marines, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart, arrived on the 18th.  Brown was wounded and captured while ten of his men, including two of his sons, were killed.
 
Despite pleas from the likes of Henry David Thoreau and Northern abolitionists, Brown was tried by the state of Virginia for treason and murder, and found guilty on November 2.

Before he was hanged on December 2, 1859, he handed a guard a note that read, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”
 
It was a prophetic statement.
 
When Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, the American Civil War finally ended. The blood spent to “purge the land of its guilt” was nothing short of colossal.
 
To this day, total casualties of the American Civil War still exceed the combined total of all other wars fought by the United States.

Prologue – The 1850’s

The 1850’s began with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act as part of the Compromise of 1850 that sought to quell sectional discord and keep the Union intact. The Act required officials and citizens of Free states to cooperate in the return of escaped slaves. For those Americans at the silent center of the slavery question, it forced them to support slavery in their own, supposedly ‘free’ backyards.

The Act was so emotionally/ contentious that it helped the Abolitionist movement gain considerable traction among a wide swath of Northerners  Taking a cue from Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience (1849), many Free states enacted ‘personal liberty laws’ or other devices to effectively nullify this Federal law.  The conscience of the North began to move towards Abolitionism.
 
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave the movement a shove by personifying the cruelty of slavery.  It sold 300,000 copies in its first year, the equivalent of what would be 5 million today.  The United States would never be the same.
 
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave.  With a gift of oratory and literary eloquence, Douglass became an international celebrity speaking in Ireland and Britain.  He returned to the US in 1847 to save his brethren in bondage through speeches and anti-slavery publications.
 
In 1852, the Ladies of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society invited Douglass to deliver an Independence Day address.  Called the “What to the slave is the 4th of July?” speech, it is to this day regarded as one of the great speeches in American history.
 

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic.  The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men.  They were great men.  I will unite with you to honor their memory.
 
Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country.  Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.
 
I do not hesitate to declare with all my soul that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July!
 
Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today?  What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence?  Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?
 
The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common.  The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me.  The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me.  This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.
 
You declare before the world, and are understood by the world to declare that you “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain in alienable rights; and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.
 
Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting.

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?  I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.
 
To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
 
For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.  We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.  The hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.

At the end of the decade, a zealous abolitionist named John Brown organized a raid on the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.  The raid was a complete failure.  Yet, John Brown’s death did more to end slavery than he could have accomplished in life.  Brown was tried and executed – as a terrorist in the South, as a martyr in the North.
 
Thoreau composed a speech titled, A Plea for Captain John Brown.  It gave inspiration to Northerners whose soldiers went to war singing “John Brown’s Body.”
 
On the night of October 16, 1859, John Brown and twenty one accomplices raided the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in an attempt to arm slaves and spark an uprising against slaveholders.  Word of the raid, however, reached townspeople before it reached slaves.  A company of U.S. Marines, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart, arrived on the 18th.  Brown was wounded and captured while ten of his men, including two of his sons, were killed.
 
Despite pleas from the likes of Henry David Thoreau and Northern abolitionists, Brown was tried by the state of Virginia for treason and murder, and found guilty on November 2.

Before he was hanged on December 2, 1859, he handed a guard a note that read, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”
 
It was a prophetic statement.
 
When Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, the American Civil War finally ended. The blood spent to “purge the land of its guilt” was nothing short of colossal.
 
To this day, total casualties of the American Civil War still exceed the combined total of all other wars fought by the United States.

Prologue – The 1850’s

The 1850’s began with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act as part of the Compromise of 1850 that sought to quell sectional discord and keep the Union intact. The Act required officials and citizens of Free states to cooperate in the return of escaped slaves. For those Americans at the silent center of the slavery question, it forced them to support slavery in their own, supposedly ‘free’ backyards.

The Act was so emotionally/ contentious that it helped the Abolitionist movement gain considerable traction among a wide swath of Northerners  Taking a cue from Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience (1849), many Free states enacted ‘personal liberty laws’ or other devices to effectively nullify this Federal law.  The conscience of the North began to move towards Abolitionism.
 
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave the movement a shove by personifying the cruelty of slavery.  It sold 300,000 copies in its first year, the equivalent of what would be 5 million today.  The United States would never be the same.
 
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave.  With a gift of oratory and literary eloquence, Douglass became an international celebrity speaking in Ireland and Britain.  He returned to the US in 1847 to save his brethren in bondage through speeches and anti-slavery publications.
 
In 1852, the Ladies of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society invited Douglass to deliver an Independence Day address.  Called the “What to the slave is the 4th of July?” speech, it is to this day regarded as one of the great speeches in American history.
 

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic.  The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men.  They were great men.  I will unite with you to honor their memory.
 
Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country.  Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.
 
I do not hesitate to declare with all my soul that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July!
 
Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today?  What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence?  Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?
 
The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common.  The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me.  The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me.  This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.
 
You declare before the world, and are understood by the world to declare that you “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain in alienable rights; and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.
 
Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting.

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?  I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.
 
To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
 
For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.  We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.  The hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.

At the end of the decade, a zealous abolitionist named John Brown organized a raid on the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.  The raid was a complete failure.  Yet, John Brown’s death did more to end slavery than he could have accomplished in life.  Brown was tried and executed – as a terrorist in the South, as a martyr in the North.
 
Thoreau composed a speech titled, A Plea for Captain John Brown.  It gave inspiration to Northerners whose soldiers went to war singing “John Brown’s Body.”
 
On the night of October 16, 1859, John Brown and twenty one accomplices raided the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in an attempt to arm slaves and spark an uprising against slaveholders.  Word of the raid, however, reached townspeople before it reached slaves.  A company of U.S. Marines, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart, arrived on the 18th.  Brown was wounded and captured while ten of his men, including two of his sons, were killed.
 
Despite pleas from the likes of Henry David Thoreau and Northern abolitionists, Brown was tried by the state of Virginia for treason and murder, and found guilty on November 2.

Before he was hanged on December 2, 1859, he handed a guard a note that read, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”
 
It was a prophetic statement.
 
When Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, the American Civil War finally ended. The blood spent to “purge the land of its guilt” was nothing short of colossal.
 
To this day, total casualties of the American Civil War still exceed the combined total of all other wars fought by the United States.