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Antislavery Poetry from San Francisco

Running man image from workshop poster

The Pacific Appeal was the leading African American newspaper on the West Coast during the early 1860s.  A newly-published set of eight antislavery poems from the journal's inaugural 1862 volume captures the sense of expectancy within the African American community for the imminent end of US slavery.  These poems include the work of James Madison Bell, a San Francisco plasterer, brickmason, and poet.  Read more... 
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The Slave's Appeal (XHTML)

published at the
Weed, Parsons and Company, Printers.

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By E. Cady Stanton.
Men and Women of New York:
            From the tobacco fields, the rice swamps, the cotton and sugar plantations and the orange groves of your southern states, we have, for near a century, sent up one long, agonizing cry for help. With eyes and ears and souls expectant, we have stood on tiptoe to catch from northern breezes the first sound of hope. Cold winds from New York’s harbor have sometimes roused our sluggish natures, and waked us up to thought. Oft have we watched the coming of each whitening sail on sea and river, with vague hopes of some relief, but by the receding wave to be o’erwhelmed afresh in blank despair. We know, beyond the bounds our eyes can penetrate, there is a land where man is free and above the clouds a beacon-light to point the way. Feeling that God is just and good and true, in simple faith, long have we waited, with hope and prayer, and conviction strong as death, that his almighty arm, sooner or later, would strike the blow for the millions of immortal souls shrouded in the thick darkness of ignorance and slavery.
            Men and women of New York, the God of thunder speaks through you. He bids you once more proclaim the law, given to his chosen people on Sinai’s mount, mid clouds of dazzling brightness. He bids you dig up those mighty tables of stone from beneath the rubbish of ages—from forms and ceremonies, creeds and commentaries, constitutions, canons, codes and statute laws—and hold them up before all Republicans and the sun, that the Ten Living Commandments of the great “I Am” may be daguerrotyped on the hearts of this guilty people. Command your priests at the altar to

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read the Decalogue with a new and holy unction; to make a higher, broader, deeper application than in their ignorance and falsehood, they have thought or dared to do.
            “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Love justice, speak the truth, do the right ever and always, though like the martyr John Brown—the slave’s Christ—you gave yourself a living sacrifice. Bow down neither to cotton or gold; to union, constitution or law; to false judges or fawning priests; but in thy brother man behold thy God.
            “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” When those who claim to be the servants of the living God, go up to you from our land of bondage—from the midst of violence, and robbery and wrong—proclaim them the base hypocrites, the whited sepulchers, the canting Pharisees, the blasphemous pretenders they really are; who, with the name of God upon their lips, crucify him afresh each hour; who baptize the sins and iniquities of the people as ordinances of God, and wile, with consecrated hands, in the name of the “Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” the sign of redemption is set on the infant brow, perchance in that very hour, the child just born into the kingdom of Christ is weighed in the balance and sold by the pound to the highest bidder, and the price thereof paid to the board of missions in the city of New York, to carry the light of the gospel to the nations that sit in darkness!
            Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” What day, what time, what work is holy, with a nation that has no fear of God before its eyes?
            “Bring me no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear the. And when ye spread your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make

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you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
            “Honor they father and thy mother.” How can the beautiful daughter of a southern master, honor the father who with cold indifference could expose her on the auction block to the coarse gaze of licentious bidders; or the ignoble slave mother, who could consent to curse her with such a life of agony and shame? Or, do you tell us, Sinai’s thunders were never meant for Afric’s ears?
            “Thou shalt not kill.” Go to, now, take God’s image, put out its eyes, cut off its ears, knock out its teeth, burn and brand, and scarify, and catmaul its flesh! Hang it on trees, or head downwards in deep pits, choke it in stocks, hunt it with pikes and guns, and bows, and hounds. Make it a target for all your cruel jests, your spite, your spleen! use all your hellish arts to blot out, if you can, the faintest vestige of immortality; then in white robes, from God’s altar, on each returning Sabbath day, with holy unction, read to the kneeling saints!! “Thou shalt not kill.”  
            “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The trembling girl for whom thou didst pay a price but yesterday in a New Orleans market, is not thy lawful wife. Foul and damning, both to the master and the slave, is this wholesale violation of the immutable laws of God.
            “Thou shalt not steal.” Not even a black man, six feet high and well proportioned, found on the banks of the Niger, idly and ignorantly wasting the entire sum of his existence: not even though the slaver be fitted out under the very shadow and sanction of the diocese of Bishop Potter of New York.
            We ask the ten thousand priests who minister at your altars, to speak God’s truth—and speak it loud enough for each of us to hear, that our glad hearts may echo back each word to heaven. Go tell your sheriffs, marshals, legislators, judges, courts, that in the resurrect-

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tion of the Decalogue there is a new offense to be recorded in your civil code. At every bar of justice in the Empire State, proclaim the law, “that he who steals a man shall surely die.” That in all your broad, rich acres, there is no spot on which a slave can breathe.
            Go tell Ontario’s waters, they need no longer scorn to wash your shores, for freedom has built her temples there; no longer bear the sad complainings of the exiled African to royal ears to find redress, for you have vouchsafed to us peace and protection in all your valleys, plains and forests, and on the outposts of your vast domain; and the four millions jubilees that will simultaneously burst forth in thanks to heaven would drown, for once, your great Niagara’s roar.
            Until New York can do all this, let her not claim that she is free. On the soul of every man, and woman and child, rests the guilt of this Bastile of horrors, so long as they are not pledged with all their power and influence to pull it down.
            Your Republican party, claiming to be for freedom, is now triumphant. Its victories come booming down to us on every breeze. Your greatest statesman has said:
            “That by no word, no act, no combination into which I might enter, should any one human being, of all the generations to which I belong, much less any class of human beings of any nation, race or kindred, be oppressed and kept down in the least degree in their efforts to rise to a higher state of liberty and happiness. Amid all the glosses of the times, amid all the essays and discussions to which the constitution of the United States has been subjected, this has been the simple, plain, broad light in which I have read every article and every section of that great instrument. Whenever it requires of me that this hand shall keep down the humblest of the human race, then I will lay down power, place, position, fame, everything, rather than adopt such a construction of such a rule. If, therefore, in this land there are any who would rise, I say to them, in God’s name, Good speed!”

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            Republicans, follow your leader, and make New York sacred to freedom, that when the panting fugitive shall touch your soil, his chains must fall forever. Give to his exiled countrymen all the rights, privileges and immunities of citizenship, and shut your harbor against the barbarous and Heaven-defying commerce of man in man.
            In these demands, we ask no more than that you have freely given to the oppressed of other lands. The heroes of Hungary and Poland, of Greece and Italy, have ever had your admiration, your protection and your aid. Is Garibaldi, the hero of this hour, more brave than he who takes the high resolve, alone, to face a nation; to fight his battles by night with reptiles, beasts and hounds, through swamp, and wood, and river; and all day long to flee before the wrath of man, his footprints traced in blood, ofttimes on frozen plains and ice-bound waters; no martial music, fame or glory, or hope of high renown, to buoy up his soul; friendless, homeless, naked, starving, beset with foes on every side? Who can count all our brave countrymen, who, for the love of freedom, have, one by one, trod all those weary miles from the everglades of Florida, guided, perchance, by the spirits of the Revolution through Camden, Yorktown, Brandywine, Monmouth, West Point, Bemis’ Heights and Ticonderoga, with no higher hope, than to lie down by the Royal Lion, and die in peace under the free shadow of a Monarch’s Throne?

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            A Depository for Anti-Slavery and kindred publications has been opened in Albany, at 15 Steuben street, a few steps from the Delavan House. Among the works kept on sale, at the Depository, are: The Speeches and Writings of W. Lloyd Garrison. The Sermons, Lectures and Speeches of Theodore Parker. Congressional Speeches and other Discourses by Gerrit Smith. Sermons, Lectures and Essays of Rev. Geo. B. Cheever, D.D. Travels in Texas, and in the Slave States, by Fred. Law Olmsted. The Impending Crisis, original work and compendium, by H.R. Helper. The Life of Capt. John Brown, and other works, by Redpath. The Memoirs and Sermons of Rev. Dr. Channing. Isaac T. Hopper, a True Life, by Lydia Maria Child.
            Also, the Speeches and Writings of Horace Greeley, Alvan Stewart, Lysander Spooner, John G. Whittier, Gurowski, Wendell Phillips, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, William Goodell, Geo. M. Stroud, C.C. Burleigh, W.H. Burleigh, Lydia Maria Child, A.D. Mayo, Harriet Beecher Stowe, James Russell Lowell, Henry Ward Beecher, John Quincy Adams, W.H. Steward, Charles Sumner, Joshua R. Giddings, Cassius M. Clay, William Jay, Samuel J. May, W.H. Furness, Lovejoys, Beriah Green, E.H. Chapin, Geo. W. Curtis, &c.
            These works, with many others, will be sold at the publishers’ lowest prices.
            There will also be kept, for gratuitous distribution, a great variety of Pamphlets and Tracts on Slavery, Temperance, Woman’s Rights, &c., &c.
            Donations are solicited to aid in printing and circulating Petitions, Tracts, &c.
            Subscriptions will be received for the Anti-Slavery Standard, The Liberator, The Herald of Progress, and other liberal newspapers.
            A good supply of Stationery will also be kept for sale at the Depository.
            Friends of the Cause and the public generally are invited to call.
                                                                                    Lydia Mott, Agent.
Albany, November, 1860.