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259 epilogue O n April 7, 1865, one week before Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and Garrison’s visit to Fort Sumter, the Liberator published an excerpt from an essay by Mary Grew, one of the delegates excluded from the World’s Convention of 1840. Grew depicted the closing of the war as a moment of congratulation for abolitionists, whose long faith in agitation had finally been vindicated by “the regenerated public opinion of the Northern States.” But their victory was also a matter of hope for the world, which had seen countless “upheaved kingdoms and overturned thrones” and “destroyed nations” in recent years. “There has been nothing new in our contest but its form,” Grew declared. “It is the old battle between Democracy and Aristocracy, waged in every land.” The defeat of the Slave Power had thus been a victory for democracy itself, as well as for the emancipated slaves.1 Similar statements appeared frequently in the Liberator during 1865, its final year. The paper’s pseudonymous New York correspondent “Maladie du Pays” (who was really Wendell Phillips Garrison) remarked in August that the North’s victory was bound to advance the cause of parliamentary reform in England, which had not made much progress “towards the democratic model in regulating the franchise” for the last fifty years. Garrison’s son, an editor at the new liberal magazine The Nation, attributed the sluggishness of parliamentary reform in England to the previous lack of a “striking and irrefragable proof of the security of our American system.” Now, however, the “liberal party across the water” could cite the American example to aid their case for universal manhood suffrage, which seemed to be making some headway. The younger Garrison cited John Stuart Mill’s recent election to the House of Commons as a sign that Americans would at last aid the liberal party throughout the world instead of being a source of apprehension to it.2 The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery 260 In their joint celebrations of northern victory and liberal reform in Britain, Grew and Garrison continued what earlier Garrisonians started. By linking the career of the nation with the progress of transatlantic reform, Wendell Phillips Garrison, in the beginning of his career at The Nation, revealed a worldview not unlike that of his father at the Newburyport Herald nearly fifty years before. Perhaps it is also telling that both The Nation and The Atlantic Monthly were founded within a decade of each other—in both cases with the help of reformers who had ties to Garrisonians. They had always seen commitments to the nation and the Atlantic as complementary instead of antithetical. William Lloyd Garrison himself continued to insist on that point. At a “Grand Jubilee Meeting” in February 1865 celebrating the Thirteenth Amendment, Garrison invoked the memory of “Professor Follen . . . the friend and champion of impartial freedom in Europe and America” while also rejoicing in “the nation, rising in the majesty of its moral power and political sovereignty.” Garrison believed that, with the American example now purified of its major stain, “the despotisms of Europe must be made to tremble to their foundations, and their down-trodden millions summoned to assert their rights.” Indeed, with “our country thus redeemed,” Garrison believed it was now “qualified to lead and save” the world, which—as the unchanging masthead of the Liberator proclaimed— he still regarded as his country too. Two years later at an international conference on slavery in Paris, Garrison reiterated such points. His speech began in a cosmopolitan vein, hoping for the creation of a universal language that would increase global harmony. Yet it went on to describe the victory of the Union as “closely related to the cause of freedom throughout the world.”3 Phillips echoed such statements, despite his quarrels with Garrison over the extent to which the war had secured abolitionists’ goals. In February 1866 he declared that the United States had already accomplished half of its great mission to the world: “we have tried the force and the courage of democratic institutions ” and proved to Europe that “republican institutions” could survive civil convulsion. Now all that remained was to show the Old World that “democracy is as competent to govern as to fight.” As such lines showed, Phillips continued to enlist himself in an ongoing debate with European observers of democracy like Tocqueville, whom Phillips invoked in this same speech as “that most illustrious of all historical annalists, that profoundest of all statesmen...



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Subject Headings

  • Antislavery movements -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Slavery -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Democracy -- Philosophy
  • Garrison, William Lloyd, 1805-1879.
  • Phillips, Wendell, 1811-1884.
  • American Anti-Slavery Society.
  • Abolitionists -- United States -- Biography
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