Editorial Savoir Faire:
Thoreau Transforms His Journal
into “Slavery in Massachusetts”

By Dr. Sandra Harbert Petrulionis (1)

Appendix:  Examples of how Thoreau's journal evolved into an essay

Thoreau Reader:  Home - Slavery in Massachusetts - Journal Writing


The summer of 1854 was an unusually public one for the reclusive Henry Thoreau. At a Fourth of July gathering in Framingham, Massachusetts, he spoke in league with the most militant abolitionists of the day, vigorously protested the rendition (return to his owner by federal authorities) of fugitive slave Anthony Burns, and seconded the call for an end to the Union that continued to condone slavery. His increased anger over slavery coincided with anticipation, however, as Thoreau looked forward to the publication of his eight-year work-in-progress, Walden. By the spring, he had completed many revisions to the final manuscript, and at least by early May, he had sent the printer’s copy to Ticknor & Fields (Shanley 32). Walden would be published on August 9, and Thoreau’s name was in the papers often that summer as excerpts from the book ran in various publications. Additionally, Charles Scribner notified Thoreau in May that Walden would be included in Scribner’s Cyclopedia of American Literature, published the following year (Harding and Bode 326). It seemed that Thoreau was finally being taken seriously after years of writing and publishing, and he obviously pinned many professional hopes on Walden. Steven Fink claims that “despite [Thoreau’s] protestations to the contrary, he was hardly indifferent to the public’s response to this work,” and he estimates that the publicity Thoreau received this year “contributed significantly to the establishment of Thoreau’s general reputation as an American author of merit” (Prophet 4, 267).

[2]    Fink also argues that Thoreau’s July Fourth speech, soon published as “Slavery in Massachusetts,” exposed Thoreau to a potentially new audience for Walden. This public appearance clearly associated him with radical abolitionism, and those who would not normally have read his works might now have viewed with interest a book written by a Transcendentalist who doubled as an antislavery spokesman (“Thoreau and His Audience” 86-87). When he decided to speak in Framingham, Thoreau began to put together a speech culled from his 1854 Journal commentary about Anthony Burns and earlier Journal entries in April 1851 regarding fugitive slave Thomas Sims. As any good editor would, Thoreau revised his rough prose in order to turn it into a public address: he cleaned up rambling passages, added to and deleted sentences, and clarified his points. Yet he did more than this. The Journal entries from late May through mid June 1854 contain Thoreau’s strongest condemnation yet of northern complicity with pro-slavery forces, but the most vehement and sarcastic examples of this rhetoric do not show up in “Slavery in Massachusetts.” (2)  A comparison of the text of “Slavery in Massachusetts” with the Journal from which it derives reveals that Thoreau curtailed the Journal’s stridency, revising or cutting more than twenty passages that with few exceptions can be categorized as blasphemous, revolutionary, or, at best, politically incautious. In the Journal, among other infractions, Thoreau equates the suffering of slaves with Christ’s, and he unequivocally advocates violence in the fight to end slavery. Why did Thoreau trouble to make these changes? I would propose that probably more than at any other time in his maturation as a writer, in the summer of 1854 Thoreau wanted to be regarded as a credible and an important author; and the Independence Day rally provided an opportunity for him to become visible as an antislavery spokesman and as the author of Walden. Had Thoreau read from the unexpurgated Journal when he spoke at Framingham, he would doubtless have offended many in the audience. So he pointedly removed from the speech the most inflammatory remarks about Christ and religious and government officials — statements that would have reflected negatively on the man who uttered them. These two concerns — slavery and the reception of Walden — should be considered equally important in evaluating why Thoreau spoke at the antislavery meeting and in determining why his remarks there “toned down” the harsh rhetoric of the Journal (Richardson 315). In order to appeal to his July Fourth audience as an impassioned abolitionist, and in order to cultivate a potential audience for WaldenThoreau displayed the skills of a savvy editor who uncharacteristically repackaged private fury into acceptable public discourse.(3)

[3]    Thoreau’s passionate commitment to antislavery is well documented. From his 1844 essay praising the antislavery weekly the Herald of Freedom and its editor Nathaniel P. Rogers, to his advocacy for Wendell Phillips’s appearances before the Concord Lyceum in the early 1840s, to the inspiration for his militant essay “Resistance to Civil Government,” and, finally, to his increasingly enraged Journal commentary in the 1850s, Thoreau makes clear his abolitionist sympathies. His mother and sister Helen were among the founding members in 1837 of the Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society, and they and others often involved Thoreau in their activities. The Thoreau family hid fugitive slaves in their home, and Thoreau assisted the runaways by purchasing their railway tickets, driving them to the train station, often riding with them to the next station, and nursing back to health those who were unable to travel.(4)  In fact, Concord resident Ann Bigelow recalled years later that “Henry Thoreau went as escort probably more often than any other man” when she discussed the town’s participation in the Underground Railroad (Emerson). As Gary Collison points out, runaway slaves who made it to the northern states usually had to depend on whites for assistance to continue their journey to Canada since local free blacks typically did not have the financial wherewithal to help them (151). Thus, in addition to voicing his antislavery convictions in various forums, Thoreau also acted on these beliefs, often at considerable personal risk.(5)

[4]    But heretofore Thoreau had largely confined his abolitionism to local and individual efforts. What motivated him now, in the summer of 1854, to unite with the radical voices who came to Framingham for the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society — the largest gathering of abolitionists anywhere in the country — and to give a speech that clearly catered to this audience? Scholars generally cite “Slavery in Massachusetts” as a more militant example of Thoreau’s political philosophy than “Resistance to Civil Government.” A few critics, such as Henry A. Hawken, have commented on the marked difference between “Slavery in Massachusetts” and the Journal (207), but no one has satisfactorily explained why Thoreau made the specific changes that he did to construct this speech. Robert C. Albrecht claims that the speech omits the Journal’s “strong statements” because Thoreau’s “ultimate purpose in this address is not destruction but the establishment of principles” (184). While I agree with this conclusion, I would like to concentrate on why it was important for Thoreau to achieve this relationship at this time with this audience. The timing of the Framingham gathering is crucial to an assessment of “Slavery in Massachusetts.” The care with which Thoreau reconstructed his often militant Journal into this less offensive speech reflects how attuned he was to his audience that day, and it demonstrates a surprising willingness to soften his rhetoric and tailor his public image, even as it continues to remind us how deeply Thoreau felt about the injustice of human slavery.


[5]    The rendition of Anthony Burns, to quote Walter Harding, was “perhaps the turning point in Massachusetts in the anti-slavery fight” (317). Historians surmise that Boston’s shame over its inaction in 1851 when Thomas Sims was returned to slavery at least partially motivated abolitionist zeal with regard to Burns, so that Thoreau’s engagement this summer with the issue of slavery mirrored the growing antislavery sentiment of many New Englanders.(6) On May 22, 1854, Congress had passed the Kansas Nebraska Act, legislation that effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Western territories could now determine by popular sovereignty whether to admit new states as free or slaveholding, and enraged Bostonians and antislavery voices throughout the nation protested what they regarded as a blatant victory for the pro-slavery Congress.

[6]    Burns’s arrest and imprisonment were authorized by a warrant issued by U.S. Slave Commissioner Edward Greeley Loring, who concurrently served as a Massachusetts probate judge. Burns, a fugitive slave from Alexandria, Virginia, had arrived in Boston earlier that spring, and had been living and working in a clothing store on Brattle Street. On May 24, two days after Congress approved the Kansas Nebraska Act, Burns was arrested under trumped up charges of jewelry theft and immediately jailed in the Boston courthouse.(7)  New England abolitionists quickly mobilized, eager to capitalize on this propitious timing, and the Boston Vigilance Committee called a meeting in Faneuil Hall on the night of May 26 to protest Burns’s detention. An impassioned and eloquent group that included Wendell Phillips and Theodore Parker, they were unfortunately poorly organized.Their attempted rescue of Burns, which Thoreau characterized in the Journal as a “heroic attack,” failed, leaving Thomas Wentworth Higginson with a saber cut on his chin and courthouse guard James Batchelder dead (Journal, MS volume XVII 256).(8)  But the action served to notify federal and civic leaders that Burns’s imprisonment had provoked unanticipated hostility in the city, and the authorities acted quickly, under orders from President Franklin Pierce, to quell the commotion before another rescue could be planned. Mayor Jerome van Crowninshield Smith declared Boston under military law during the three days of Burns’s trial, and he welcomed federal officials as they staged an overwhelming show of military might in the streets of Boston. On June 2, Commissioner Loring rendered Burns to his owner Charles Suttle, and he was taken back to Virginia, the last fugitive slave to be given up by Massachusetts.

[7]    The sensation of another fugitive slave held in Boston, and all of the details surrounding Burns’s arrest, trial, and attempted rescue, were important news in Concord and in the Thoreau household. According to Leonard Gougeon, Ralph Waldo Emerson was so upset by the situation that he started writing a new antislavery speech; and on Independence Day, while Thoreau traveled to speak in Framingham, Emerson’s wife, Lidian Emerson, “covered the front gate with black bunting to demonstrate her feeling that the country was ‘wholly lost to any sense of righteousness’” (Gougeon and Myerson xliii). Although Thoreau had generally found it easy to ignore the external distractions of neighbors, family, and community, he reacted furiously to the reality that Massachusetts officials had once again caved in to the enemies of justice. His Journal for the spring months of 1854 records the annual break-up of the ice on Walden Pond, a trip to the Boston Society of Natural History Library, and the purchase of his first spyglass. But beginning on May 29, the Journal offers much more. Interspersed among canoe trips, forest walks, and sightings of spring flowers and birds are twenty-eight manuscript pages that attest to how deeply Thoreau had become caught up in the social and political fervor caused by Burns’s rendition and the state’s capitulation to the Fugitive Slave Law.

[8]    Twenty-eight pages on any single topic other than natural phenomena or extended outings is somewhat unusual in Thoreau’s later Journal, which by this time has become what Lawrence Buell describes as “a record . . . of daily extrospection” (The Environmental Imagination 117). Although in his Journal of April 1851, Thoreau discussed at length the rendition of Thomas Sims, and in the fall of 1859 he devoted several pages to the arrest and hanging of John Brown, rarely does Thoreau use his Journal to document important events in his life or community.(9) The publication of Walden itself merits but a scant two lines on August 9, 1854 (Journal, MS volume XVII 379). (10)  But by this summer, Burns’s arrest had inflamed Thoreau’s rage over slavery to such an extent that it repeatedly spilled over into his most private writing. On May 29, five days after Burns was arrested, Thoreau wrote, “Why the U.S. Government never performed an act of justice in its life. And this unoffending citizen is held a prisoner by the united states [sic] soldier — of whom the best you can say is that he is a fool in a painted coat. Of what use a governor or a legislature?  they are nothing but politicians” (239). Thoreau then continues for four and a half pages to indict Loring, the U.S. Government, the governor, the chief of Massachusetts’s armed forces, the press, and all who fail to be “men of principle” (238-239, 241).

[9]   In addition to his Journal, Thoreau soon found another outlet in which to sound his rage. On June 28, the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society called for “ALL who mean to be known as on LIBERTY’S side” to attend an Independence Day gathering in Framingham (Dean 12). The Liberator’s announcement of this meeting asked that, in memory of Anthony Burns’s re-enslavement, the Fourth of July be “observed, every where, as a day of deep humiliation and sorrow” (16 June 1854). In an extraordinary response to these entreaties, Thoreau joined with New England’s most outspoken abolitionists and addressed the crowd at this event. Held annually on July Fourth at Harmony Grove, a popular recreation spot in Framingham, these rallies typically attracted thousands of spectators. Stephen W. Herring characterizes the 1854 gathering as the "peak" of the antislavery meetings (4), and estimates for that day’s crowd vary from six hundred to thousands (Mayer 443; Dean 12). In his recent biography of William Lloyd Garrison, All on Fire, Henry Mayer describes the setting at Harmony Grove that day: “A portion of the grove had been formed into a little amphitheater with benches banked into the hillside and a speaker’s platform, festooned this day with two white flags labeled Kansas and Nebraska and banners depicting a downcast Massachusetts chained to a triumphant Virginia” and “an American flag turned upside down and edged with black crepe” (443).

[10]    Thoreau was not included in any of the publicity announcements for the event that ran in the Liberator on June 16, 23, and 30, and so most critics surmise that he was included in the lineup at the last minute (Dean and Hoag 214; Glick 331-333). Possibly Moncure Conway, a young Unitarian minister and abolitionist with whom Thoreau had become friends the previous summer, urged him to come, since it fell to Conway to introduce Thoreau that day; or perhaps Thoreau was encouraged to attend by fellow Concordian and abolitionist Colonel William Whiting, who not only attended the rally, but was elected one of the day’s Vice Presidents (Liberator, 7 July 1854). Fink contends that by this point in his life Thoreau wanted to “be taken seriously as a social critic and moral reformer” (“Thoreau and His Audience” 79), and the Framingham meeting provided a widely publicized opportunity for him to expand on both roles. Thoreau had previously spoken out against slavery, but his participation at an organized antislavery gathering such as this one was unprecedented, and it signaled a shift in his reluctance to contribute publicly to the furor over slavery. (11)

[11]    Thoreau had been earning meager income from the lecture circuit since the 1840s, but these speaking engagements typically addressed “Walking,” “The Wild,” “Economy,” or his excursions to Maine and Cape CodSeldom, with the exception of his lectures in 1848 that led to “Resistance to Civil Government,” did Thoreau deal with overt political topics when he appeared before local lyceums and town gatherings, and he had been speaking as an individual, not as part of a group that espoused particular allegiances. (12)  Although in April 1851, following Thomas Sims’s return to slavery, Thoreau apologized to a Concord audience for addressing “absolute freedom & wildness” rather than the Fugitive Slave Law, by July 1854 he apparently felt that he must speak about it (Dean and Hoag 199). The arrest of Burns enraged Thoreau anew — he simply could not sit idly writing in his Journal in the face of what he now regarded as a threat to his own liberty, as Barry Kritzberg and Alfred A. Funk explain in their studies of “Slavery in Massachusetts” (Kritzberg 548; Funk 168). Perhaps Thoreau felt embarrassed that he had been busily writing angry words but doing nothing when others close to him had acted on their principles. After all, his friends Bronson Alcott and T. W. Higginson had planned and led the courthouse raid that attempted to free Burns, and their efforts had been praised by the antislavery press. (13)  Bradley Dean and Ronald Hoag contend that Thoreau felt “compelled to interrupt his principal tasks by the moral urgency of the situation” (221), an argument substantiated by this Journal entry of June 16, 1854:

"I feel that to some extent the state has fatally interfered with my just & proper business — It has not merely interrupted me in my passage through court-street on errands of trade — but it has to some extent interrupted me & every man on his onward & upward path in which he had trusted soon to leave Court street far behind —  I have found that hollow which I had relied on for solid." (291)
[12]    Thoreau made it clear that freedom could not exist for anyone while slavery remained, because the government that guaranteed his liberty could not be relied upon as long as it sanctioned slavery.

[13]    When Thoreau stepped up to the lecture platform in the sweltering afternoon heat that Independence Day, he did so as an abolitionist who believed that the time had come for him to add his voice to others. We must not fail to appreciate the significance of this event: on a remarkably public occasion for an unusually private man, Thoreau stood next to America’s most fanatical antislavery zealots, denounced the U.S. and Massachusetts governments, and advocated disunion. The antislavery crowd, however bemused by his Transcendentalism, quite possibly also knew of his activities on behalf of Concord’s antislavery effort and were no doubt gratified, as Moncure Conway’s introduction suggested, by Thoreau’s show of solidarity with them on that symbolic day (Conway 184). Despite the fact that Thoreau had lampooned professional reformers, he respected those who were sincere and whose deeds embodied their words: friends like Alcott and Higginson, and abolitionist Wendell Phillips. Surely, as Albrecht points out, Thoreau must have realized that here, gathered together on the Fourth of July, would be a sympathetic audience who would listen appreciatively while he joined his rage with theirs (186). Therefore, as Funk describes, Thoreau delivered a speech that “mirrored perhaps more effectively than any other of his public addresses the tone and temper of his audience, stating in words better than they could express what they wanted to hear” (167).


[14]    Various studies of “Slavery in Massachusetts” focus on the Journal passages from which the speech derives, but I want to examine instead the Journal text that Thoreau deleted from his public remarks in Framingham. The majority of the speech includes material from his Journal of April 1851 (regarding Thomas Sims) and from late May through mid June 1854. The manuscript of the 1851 Journal reflects minimal editing, but in contrast, the manuscript Journal for May and June 1854 contains many pencil corrections as Thoreau refined his thoughts about Burns’s arrest and trial into a formal talk. (14)  Instead of the Journal’s explosive avowals, “Slavery in Massachusetts” trod cautiously as Thoreau took out the most revolutionary or overtly contemptuous words and phrases. Throughout the speech, Thoreau muted the Journal’s tirade against the state, and although he strongly condemned state officials, likening their rhetoric to “the creaking of crickets and the hum of insects,” he deleted the Journal’s more biting assertions, such as one that declared that “the U.S. gv [government] never performed an act of pure justice in its life” (239). Albrecht finds that the removal of certain Journal passages, including this one, “is perhaps understandable,” and he hints that Thoreau may have feared legal action resulting from his strong language (184-185). Given William Lloyd Garrison’s incendiary scene at Framingham that morning in which he set fire to the U.S. Constitution (“‘a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell’”) (Dean and Hoag 216), the Declaration of Independence, and a copy of Commissioner Loring’s decision rendering Burns, it is doubtful that Thoreau, who spoke later in the day and well after Garrison’s actions, would have worried about the personal repercussions of his remarks. Indeed, Thoreau likely would have welcomed another stint of incarceration in light of his commemoration five years earlier of his one night in jail to protest slavery and the Mexican War, which he proudly describes in “Resistance to Civil Government.” Rather, the revisions that produced “Slavery in Massachusetts” result from Thoreau’s sensitivity that summer to his audience.

[15]    Other deletions from the Journal continue to corroborate Thoreau’s awareness of his audience. On June 9, Thoreau had written that “the Authorities the Governor — Mayor — Commissioner — Marshall &c — are either weak or unprincipled men . . . or else of dull moral perception” (270). But this conclusion does not appear in the speech. Thoreau freely excoriated Commissioner Loring throughout “Slavery in Massachusetts,” yet removed this Journal passage regarding Loring: “Witness the President of the U.S. What is the position of Massachusetts Massa-chooses-it — ? She leaves it to a Mr. Loring to decide whether one of her citizens is a freeman or a slave” (241). Thoreau also omitted the observation that Loring’s “existence . . . is as impertinent as the gnat that settles on my paper” (238-239). Possibly, Thoreau excised these statements because they belittled Loring as a man rather than as a slave commissioner, especially since Thoreau retained most of the following Journal passage, which, rather than criticizing Loring personally, scoffs at what Thoreau considered irrelevant: the Commissioner’s insistence on the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Law:

The judges & lawyers & all men of expediency — consider not whether the Fugitive Slave Law is right but whether it is what they call constitutional —  They try the merits of the case by a very low & incompetent standard. Pray, is virtue constitutional — or vice — is equity constitutional or integrity. It is as impertinent in important moral & vital questions like this to ask whether a law is constitutional or not as to ask — whether it is profitable or not —  They persist in being the servants of man & the worst of men rather than the servants of God —  Sir the question is not whether you or your grandfather 70 years ago entered into an agreement to serve the devil — and that service is not accordingly now due — but whether you will not now for once & at last serve God — in spite of your own past recreancy or that of your ancestors — and obey that eternal & only just Constitution which he & not any Jefferson or Adams has written in your being. (297-298)
[16]    One of the most striking examples of Thoreau’s editorial shrewdness can be seen in this revision of his warning in the Journal, “I would touch a match to blow up earth & hell together.” Next to this sentence Thoreau penciled in another remark: “I shall not accept life in America or on this planet on such terms” (242). In “Slavery in Massachusetts,” however, Thoreau transfigured this uncompromising language into a more circumspect non-threat: “I need not say what match I would touch, what system endeavor to blow up” (92). And while the speech did retain the infamous proclamation that “my thoughts are murder to the state,” it pointedly left out the penciled line that followed in the Journal: “I am calculating how many miscreants each honest man can dispose of” (294).

[17]    Other deletions demonstrate Thoreau’s especial care with regard to the crowd’s religious make-up. Not one of the irreverent Journal passages that refer to Christ, Christians, and church leaders appears in “Slavery in Massachusetts.” On June 9, Thoreau wrote: “The citizens of Mass. not being men of principle — will it appears send back this fugitive slave — i.e. to call the same thing by another name will crucify christ” (271). Eight days later, he recorded that “While they are hurrying off christ to the cross — the ruler decides that he cannot constitutionally interfere to save him — The christians now & always are they who obey the higher law. This was meaner than to crucify Christ — for he could better take care of himself” (298). From the April 1851 Journal, Thoreau also cut a similar reference: “Of course it makes not the least difference I wish you to consider this who the man was — whether he was Jesus christ or another — for in as much as ye did it unto the least of these his brethren ye did it unto him” (Journal 3 203).

[18]    In truth, such assertions merely affirmed Thoreau’s Transcendental belief that we each equally participate in Christ’s divinity and share in his suffering. But Thoreau knew his audience well enough to predict that some would seriously object to such a blatant comparison of the suffering of slaves and Christ — let alone to the suggestion that Christ was less a victim than the slave. Albert Von Frank points out that the abolitionists commonly linked Anthony Burns to Christ (173), citing a sermon in which Octavius Brooks Frothingham spoke of Burns as “‘Christ himself, in the person of one of the least of his disciples’” (qtd. in Von Frank 269). But Von Frank also notes that such rhetoric was not taken lightly; indeed, many of Frothingham’s congregation left the church well before that sermon had ended (269). Thoreau no doubt realized that it was one thing to turn Burns into a Christ-like figure, similar to Uncle Tom, but an entirely different matter to elevate the slave’s suffering to Christ’s or literally to refer to Burns as “Christ.”

[19]    In what must have been a bow to the legal professionals in the crowd, Thoreau excluded this barb from the Journal: “Why will men be such fools as to trust to lawyers for moral reform —” (292). Likewise, in deference to many of the day’s speakers as well as a good portion of the audience who were clergymen, Thoreau deleted the biting portrayal of church leaders that he’d written on June 16: “I heard the other day of a meek & sleek devil of a bishop somebody — who commended the law & order with which Burns was given up —  I would like before I sit down to a table to inquire if there is one in the company who styles himself or is styled bishop — & he or I should go out of it —.” Beside this sentence, Thoreau wrote in pencil: “I would have such a man wear his bishops [sic] hat & his clerical bib & tucker that we may know him —” (292). The exclusion of this religious commentary contrasts with Thoreau’s criticism five years later in “A Plea for Captain John Brown,” where he chastises the church and “the modern Christian . . . a man who has consented to say all the prayers in the liturgy, provided you will let him go straight to bed and sleep quietly afterward.” In this speech, Thoreau also scoffs that America’s “government . . . pretends to be Christian and crucifies a million Christs every day!” (121, 130-31). By 1859, however, Thoreau’s concern for his reputation had waned, and he freely praised what he contended was the heroism of John Brown.

[20]    “Slavery in Massachusetts” echoes the Journal’s indictment of the press, but at the same time softens yet another caustic reference to religion. In the 1851 Journal, Thoreau accused his countrymen of putting more faith in their newspapers than in the Bible. But where the Journal recorded, “I believe that in this country the press exerts a greater and more pernicious influence than the Church,” Thoreau qualified this declaration so that the speech read “than the Church did in its worst period.” He therefore censured not the collective entity of “the Church,” but, rather, the institutional Church of the distant past, and, thus he safely mitigated his usual scorn for all religious institutions (Journal 3 206; “Slavery in Massachusetts” 99).

[21]    Curiously, many of the penciled changes Thoreau made to the Journal in order to revise it for the speech do not in fact appear in “Slavery in Massachusetts.” Clarifications to a number of specific Journal passages are excluded along with the original text itself. For instance, two of the penciled additions I have mentioned — “I would have such a man wear his bishops [sic] hat & his clerical bib & tucker,” and “I will not accept life in America or on this planet on such terms” — either precede or follow the original Journal entry and therefore were seemingly added for inclusion in “Slavery in Massachusetts.” Yet Thoreau ended up omitting these entire sections from the speech. These deleted passages strongly suggest that as Thoreau deliberated about his Framingham appearance, he reconsidered material that he had initially thought of including but ultimately opted to remove. While such revisions typify his method of composition in the Journal, this decision process denotes un-Thoreauvian caution as Thoreau strove to balance his ethos of honest self-expression with a desire to engage his audience.

[22]    If Thoreau saw the announcement for the July Fourth gathering, as he quite likely did since his family subscribed to the Liberator, then he also would have read the list of planned speakers and therefore known who would be sharing the platform with him that day. He knew and had long admired Wendell Phillips, he had read William Lloyd Garrison’s outspoken articles in the Liberator, and, in general, he was familiar with the abolitionist jeremiads that often invoked scripture and proclaimed antislavery as the only moral choice for the true Christian.(15)  Simply scanning this list of speakers, Thoreau would have surmised the (at least) moderately religious character of the Framingham speakers and their audience, many of whom were abolitionists solely because of their religious convictions. True to form, Garrison opened the meeting by reading from “appropriate passages of scripture,” followed by an antislavery hymn (Liberator, 7 July 1854). Similarly, Phillips’s speech that day portrayed the rendition of Burns in quite biblical parlance: “God has given us a text in the late events in the city of Boston, and now our object is to take out the burthen of that rebuke and preach a sermon upon it in every great town in Massachusetts” (Hawken 223). Others who addressed the group included Unitarian minister Moncure Conway, outspoken abolitionists Abby Kelley Foster and her husband Stephen S. Foster, Lucy Stone, the Reverend John Pierpont, and Sojourner Truth, who chastised whites for tolerating slavery in spite of their religious convictions (Painter 137-138).(16) When Garrison concluded his performance by burning the U.S. Constitution, many in the crowd were shocked and loudly objected, and the well-publicized moment resulted in some negative press for the entire meeting (Dean 12; Mayer 445). Undoubtedly, Thoreau was right that this crowd would have objected to his criticism of the church and religious leaders, let alone his remarks about Christ. To woo an audience meant that Thoreau couldn’t insult it, and, thus, he reigned in the scorn he had expressed in his Journal.

[23]    Moncure Conway observed Thoreau’s impact on the Framingham audience, and he confirms the crowd’s sensitivity to blasphemous remarks:

Thoreau had come all the way from Concord for this meeting. It was a rare thing for him to attend any meeting outside of Concord, and though he sometimes lectured in the Lyceum there, he had probably never spoken on a platform. He was now clamoured for and made a brief and quaint speech. He began with the simple words, “You have my sympathy; it is all I have to give you, but you may find it important to you.” It was impossible to associate egotism with Thoreau; we all felt that the time and trouble he had taken at that crisis to proclaim his sympathy with the “Disunionists” was indeed important. He was there a representative of Concord, of science and letters, which could not quietly pursue their tasks while slavery was trampling down the rights of mankind. Alluding to the Boston commissioner who had surrendered Anthony Burns, Edward G. Loring, Thoreau said, “The fugitive’s case was already decided by God, — not Edward G. God, but simple God.” This was said with such serene unconsciousness of anything shocking in it that we were but mildly startled. (184-185)
[24]    Conway is mistaken that Thoreau had not previously lectured outside Concord, and he misquotes Thoreau slightly with regard to whose case God as “Commissioner” was judging. In this instance, the speech replicates the Journal: “It was really the trial of Massachusetts. Every moment that she hesitated to set this man free — every moment that she now hesitates to atone for her crime, she is convicted. The Commissioner on her case is God; not Edward G. God, but simple God” (“Slavery in Massachusetts” 96). So instead of God (rather than Commissioner Loring) deciding the slave’s fate, as Conway has it, “God” the commissioner in Thoreau’s version will judge Massachusetts for her crime of returning the slave. What Conway’s remarks do verify, however, is that the Framingham audience would ordinarily have been disturbed to hear Thoreau trifle with the word “God.” But because he had moderated the scornful rhetoric of the Journal, they were only “mildly startled.” If Conway correctly assesses the crowd’s reaction to this one comment, then Thoreau’s editorial prudence was in order.

[25]    Thoreau did not normally take such pains to accommodate the public’s sensitivities. Fink explains that generally, “the Transcendentalists tended to regard any active consideration of audience as adulterating or debasing the work” (“Thoreau and His Audience” 73). Richard H. Dillman concurs and claims that Thoreau regarded catering to an audience as “demeaning to the writer or speaker” (83). Examples from Thoreau’s spotty publication record bear out Fink’s and Dillman’s conclusions. In early 1853, Putnam editor George William Curtis deleted derogatory remarks about Catholic priests from Thoreau’s essay “An Excursion to Canada,” which was then appearing serially in Putnam’s. Thoreau refused to sanction the changes, and publication ceased after three of the five installments of the essay had run (Harding 282-283; Fink, “Thoreau and His Audience” 83-84). Thoreau endured a similar bowdlerization in 1858 when editor James Russell Lowell excised a line from the Atlantic Monthly’s publication of the “Chesuncook” essay because it bestowed immortality on a pine tree. Thoreau angrily wrote to Lowell and protested “the mean and cowardly manner” in which his words had been omitted (Harding and Bode 515-516).(17)  These incidents establish that both before and after 1854, Thoreau refused to alter his prose for the sake of catering to his readers. The revisions to “Slavery in Massachusetts” therefore stand out as a conspicuous example of Thoreau’s deliberate moderation of his public remarks. To ensure that Framingham’s crowd embraced his message, Thoreau extended to his listeners in July 1854 a courtesy that he denied his editors throughout much of his career.


[26]    The ending of “Slavery in Massachusetts,” with its testimonial to nature as teacher and healer, further exemplifies Thoreau’s attentiveness to his Framingham reception. Hawken claims that the speech “endeavor[ed] to protest Burns’s rendition in vigorously introspective transcendental terms” (202), but Thoreau did not wax philosophical until the poignant conclusion and its extended discussion of the water white lily. This lily passage occurs in the Journal on June 16, well before the end of Thoreau’s diatribe against slavery, so that Thoreau purposefully chose to conclude the speech with this image. Albrecht asserts that the description of nature’s redemptive power residing in a white water lily enables Thoreau to retain his belief in the potential for human justice (183-184), and it is this hope that Thoreau proffers to his listeners. From the beginning, “Slavery in Massachusetts” was a social and political tirade. But in its symbolic closing, Thoreau transformed the antislavery speech into a Transcendentalist benediction — an opportune move for the author of Walden.

[27]    In the speech’s version of this lily passage, Thoreau dramatically related the purity of the flower to Anthony Burns.(18)  To appreciate fully the symbolic elevation of the water lily and its relation to Burns, I quote the entire selection as Thoreau read it at Framingham:

But it chanced the other day that I scented a white water-lily, and a season I had waited for had arrived. It is the emblem of purity. It bursts up so pure and fair to the eye, and so sweet to the scent, as if to show us what purity and sweetness reside in, and can be extracted from, the slime and muck of earth. I think I have plucked the first one that has opened for a mile. What confirmation of our hopes is in the fragrance of this flower! I shall not so soon despair of the world for it, notwithstanding slavery, and the cowardice and want of principle of Northern men. It suggests what kind of laws have prevailed longest and widest, and still prevail, and that the time may come when man’s deeds will smell as sweet. Such is the odor which the plant emits. If Nature can compound this fragrance still annually, I shall believe her still young and full of vigor, her integrity and genius unimpaired, and that there is virtue even in man, too, who is fitted to perceive and love it. It reminds me that Nature has been partner to no Missouri Compromise. I scent no compromise in the fragrance of the water-lily. It is not a Nymphśa Douglassii. In it, the sweet, and pure, and innocent, are wholly sundered from the obscene and baleful. I do not scent in this the time-serving irresolution of a Massachusetts Governor, nor of a Boston Mayor. So behave that the odor of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere, that when we behold or scent a flower, we may not be reminded how inconsistent your deeds are with it; for all odor is but one form of advertisement of a moral quality, and if fair actions had not been performed, the lily would not smell sweet.The foul slime stands for the sloth and vice of man, the decay of humanity; the fragrant flower that springs from it, for the purity and courage which are immortal.(19)

Slavery and servility have produced no sweet-scented flower annually, to charm the senses of men, for they have no real life: they are merely a decaying and a death, offensive to all healthy nostrils. We do not complain that they live, but that they do not get buried. Let the living bury them; even they are good for manure. (“Slavery in Massachusetts” 108-109)

[28]    The uplifting tone of this passage contrasts sharply with the damning rhetoric of the entire speech that comes before. In fact, the speech’s most threatening pronouncement immediately precedes the lily passage: “my thoughts are murder to the State, and involuntarily go plotting against her” (108). As Buell contends, this lily “section is one of [the speech’s] most provocative parts, not because of any overt political radicalism, but rather because of its abrupt-seeming swerve from that” (“American Pastoral” 6). Thoreau expresses his conviction that nature’s capability for purity in the face of “the slime and muck” should serve as an example to the audience: they should believe in the comparable potential for human justice to prevail over humanity’s corrupt institutions. Concluding on this note of promise set Thoreau apart from the other speakers that day and augmented his antislavery persona. In short, what Thoreau became here in these final moments on the lecture platform was none other than the author of Walden, the social critic and philosopher who felt compelled to share his hope with his listeners. “Slavery in Massachusetts” is an emotionally charged text. It castigates, accuses, invites revolution. Then it ends, with the Transcendentalist author returning to his source of inspiration and hope — going back to nature. And here, significantly, Thoreau brought both of his midsummer audiences: Framingham’s and Walden’s.

[29]    Similar to the terse announcement of Walden’s publication later that summer, Thoreau glosses over the antislavery meeting in his Journal entry for that date. On July 4, Thoreau records “8 Am to Framingham,” but he mentions neither the purpose of the trip, nor the rally, nor his speech (323). Back to charting the progress of seasonal phenomena such as the color of diervilla leaves and the song of the woodthrush, the Journal remains equally silent during the weeks following July Fourth and does not report any of the laudatory newspaper accounts of “Slavery in Massachusetts” (352, 355). The press, however, exploited the connection between the speech and Walden, and in the weeks immediately preceding Walden’s publication, editors heralded Thoreau as a voice of reason and justice — one who extolled the sanctity of a “higher law.” The Liberator summed up Thoreau’s lecture as “a racy and ably written address,” and William Lloyd Garrison published “Slavery in Massachusetts” in the July 21 issue (Liberator, 7 July 1854). The New-York Tribune also ran the text of the speech on August 2, and editor Horace Greeley praised its “‘racy piquancy and telling point’”; for its part, the National Anti-Slavery Standard reported Thoreau’s presence at the rally under the heading “‘Words that Burn’” (Scharnhorst 23, 25, 28). After reading it in the Liberator, T. W. Higginson wrote to ask Thoreau for a copy of what he called “a literary statement of the truth [that] surpasses everything else,” and at the same time, he congratulated Thoreau on Walden, “which [he had] been awaiting for so many years” (Harding and Bode 336).

[30]    Robert D. Richardson, Jr. views the convergence of “Slavery in Massachusetts” and Walden as a consummate example of Thoreau’s obsession with the overriding issue of freedom for all individuals: “It is thus entirely fit that the final stages of the printing and publishing of Walden should coincide with Thoreau’s renewed involvement in the antislavery movement, and the aftermath of the Anthony Burns affair” (316). Although Thoreau mentions the issue of slavery only briefly in Walden, a few of these comments reinforce his personal involvement in and commitment to the abolitionist cause. In “Visitors,” he describes providing aid to a runaway slave during the years spent at Walden Pond; and in “Brute Neighbors,” Thoreau refers to “Webster’s Fugitive-Slave Bill,” a derisive remark about Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster’s sell-out of his antislavery constituents when he supported passage of the Fugitive Slave Act (152, 232).

[31]    “Slavery in Massachusetts” thus advanced Thoreau’s reputation and enlarged his public following just as Walden began to garner its own attention. Despite the absence of Journal commentary, Thoreau must have been gratified that the connection between his two most pressing concerns that year had been grasped by the media. “Slavery in Massachusetts” positioned Thoreau that summer as a new and potentially significant abolitionist voice, and it reveals a pre-Walden Thoreau at what we might call his most conciliatory, and perhaps his most highly-wrought, self. The speech provides a case in point where Thoreau acknowledged the importance of converting his raw, private venom into constructive public discourse. Speaking before the antislavery rally in the company of ardent abolitionists might not have been a calculated move, but when he decided to face the crowd on that July Fourth, Thoreau crafted a speech that conferred an abolitionist’s wrath even as it dispensed a Transcendentalist’s sense of hope. For the sake of combating slavery and promoting Walden, Thoreau conceded the importance of watching what he said, at least on one auspicious occasion.

Appendix: how Thoreau's journal evolved into this essay


Works Cited
      • Albrecht, Robert C. “Conflict and Resolution: ‘Slavery in Massachusetts.’” ESQ 19 (1973): 179-188.
      • Buell, Lawrence. “American Pastoral Ideology Reappraised.” ALH 1 (Spring 1989): 1-29.
      • ---. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.
      • Collison, Gary. Shadrach Minkins: From Fugitive Slave to Citizen. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
      • Conway, Moncure Daniel. Autobiography Memories and Experiences. Vol. 1. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1904.
      • Dean, Bradley P. “More Context for Thoreau’s ‘Slavery in Massachusetts.’” Thoreau Research Newsletter 1:3 (July 1990): 12.
      • ---, and Ronald Wesley Hoag. “Thoreau’s Lectures Before Walden.” Studies in the American Renaissance 1995. Ed. Joel Myerson. Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1995. 127-288.
      • Dillman, Richard H. “Thoreau’s Philosophy of Audience.” Bucknell Review 31:2 (1988): 74-85.
      • Emerson, Dr. Edward W. “Notes on the Underground Railway in Concord and the Concord Station. . . .” Typescript. Allen French Papers, Concord Free Public Library, Concord, Massachusetts.
      • Fink, Steven. Prophet in the Marketplace: Thoreau’s Professional Development as an Author. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
      • ---. “Thoreau and His Audience.” The Cambridge Companion to Henry David Thoreau. Ed. Joel Myerson. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 71-91.
      • Funk, Alfred A. “Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Slavery in Massachusetts.’” Western Speech 36 (Summer 1972): 159-168.
      • Glick, Wendell. “Textual Introduction” to “Slavery in Massachusetts.” Reform Papers, ed. Glick. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973. 331-335.
      • Gougeon, Leonard, and Joel Myerson, eds. Emerson’s Antislavery Writings. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
      • Harding, Walter. The Days of Henry Thoreau. 1962. New York: Princeton University Press, 1992.
      • ---, and Carl Bode, eds. The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1958.
      • Hawken, Henry A. “Henry David Thoreau’s Fourth of July Oration, 1854.” Trumpets of Glory: Fourth of July Orations, 1786-1861. Ed. Hawken. Granby, Conn.: The Salmon Brook Historical Society, 1976. 201-230.
      • Herring, Stephen W. “The Halcyon Days of Framingham’s Harmony Grove.” Thoreau Society Bulletin 215 (Spring 1996): 4-5.
      • Kritzberg, Barry. “Thoreau, Slavery and ‘Resistance to Civil Government.’” Massachusetts Review 30 (Winter 1989): 535-565.
      • Liberator. 16 June 1854.
      • ---. 7 July 1854.
      • Mayer, Henry. All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.
      • Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996.
      • Richardson, Robert D., Jr. Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.
      • Scharnhorst, Gary. Henry David Thoreau: An Annotated Bibliography of Comment and Criticism Before 1900. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.
      • Shanley, J. Lyndon. The Making of Walden with the Text of the First Version. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
      • Thoreau, Henry D. Journal, MS volume XVII. MA 1302.23. The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.
      • ---. Journal 3: 1848-1851. Ed. Robert Sattelmeyer et al. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
      • ---. “A Plea for Captain John Brown.” Reform Papers. Ed. Wendell Glick. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973. 111-138.
      • ---. “Slavery in Massachusetts.” Reform Papers. Ed. Wendell Glick. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973. 91-109.
      • ---. Walden. Ed. J. Lyndon Shanley. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971.
      • Von Frank, Albert. The Trials of Anthony Burns: Freedom and Slavery in Emerson’s Boston. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.

      Notes

      1. I’d like to thank Professors Gary Collison and Ian Marshall for their comments on earlier versions of this article. - back

      2. All references to Thoreau’s 1854 Journal are from the holograph manuscript journal, volume XVII, MA 1302:23, housed in The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. Permission to quote from MA 1302.23 is gratefully acknowledged. This manuscript Journal volume is forthcoming from Princeton University Press as Journal 8: 1854, ed. Sandra Harbert Petrulionis, in The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau. This volume has also been published, with some variations and omissions, in Journal VI, ed. Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen (1906; New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1962). - back

      3. No manuscript of “Slavery in Massachusetts” is extant. The speech was first published in the Liberator on July 21, 1854, after editor William Lloyd Garrison asked Thoreau for a copy. It was then reprinted in whole in the New York Daily Tribune on August 2, 1854; in part in The National Anti-Slavery Standard on August 12, 1854; and, after Thoreau’s death, in its entirety in the 1866 volume A Yankee in Canada, with Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers (see Wendell Glick’s “Textual Introduction” in Reform Papers, ed. Glick [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973] 331-335). For this article, I have used the text of “Slavery in Massachusetts” edited by Wendell Glick in Reform Papers; Glick’s copy-text is based on the version of the speech that appeared in the Liberator, with a few textual changes, which he describes in his Textual Notes. Since Garrison wrote in the July 7, 1854 Liberator that “Henry Thoreau, of Concord, read portions of a racy and ably written address,” it is quite possible that Thoreau did not read on July Fourth the entire speech that was published. But since there is no transcript of his actual oration, we cannot know which portions, if any, were omitted from the public presentation. My argument here assumes that Thoreau did in fact give the majority of this speech in Framingham. If he did not, which we cannot know, I believe that my contention as to his probable motives for revising the Journal — what he had intended to read — is still valid. - back

      4. See Journal 4: 1851-1852, ed. Leonard N. Neufeldt and Nancy Craig Simmons (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 113; Journal VI, ed. Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen (1906; New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1962) 472; Moncure Conway, Autobiography Memories and Experiences, vol. 1 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1904) 141; and Dr. Edward W. Emerson, “Notes on the Underground Railway in Concord and the Concord Station. . . .” Typescript. Allen French Papers, Concord Free Public Library, Concord, Massachusetts. - back

      5. According to the provisions of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, the penalty for assisting fugitives was “a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars and imprisonment of not more than six months” (Stanley W. Campbell, The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850-1860 [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970] 24). Scholars have disagreed on whether to call Thoreau an “abolitionist,” a debate that strikes me as largely semantic. Any 19th-century figure who publicly proclaimed his or her belief that slavery should be abolished, assisted fugitive slaves, and championed John Brown, all of which Thoreau did, can accurately be described as an “abolitionist,” despite his lack of membership in an organized group. - back

      6. Even in Concord, however, pro-slavery sentiments were still popular in 1851. A Concord newspaper reported the rendition of Thomas Sims in this manner: “The brig Acorn has arrived at Savannah with Sims the Fugitive Slave, after a passage of five days — all well” (Middlesex Freeman, 25 April 1851). See the following for the details of Burns’s arrest, imprisonment, attempted rescue, and rendition: Albert Von Frank, The Trials of Anthony Burns: Freedom and Slavery in Emerson’s Boston (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998); Charles Emery Stevens, Anthony Burns: A History (1856; New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969); David R. Maginnes, “The Case of the Court House Rioters in the Rendition of the Fugitive Slave Anthony Burns, 1854,” Journal of Negro History 56 (January 1971): 31-42; Stanley W. Campbell, The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850-1860 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1968) 124-132; “The Trial of Anthony Burns,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 44 (January 1911): 322-334; Samuel Shapiro, “The Rendition of Anthony Burns,” Journal of Negro History 44 (January 1959): 34-51; and Jane H. and William H. Pease, The Fugitive Slave Law and Anthony Burns: A Problem in Law Enforcement (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1975). - back

      7. Ironically, another E. G. Loring of Boston, Ellis Gray Loring, was an outspoken abolitionist who served on the Executive Committee of the Boston Vigilance Committee, the group most responsible for aiding fugitive slaves in the city. The National Anti-Slavery Standard and the Liberator reported that Burns was located by way of a letter that he wrote to his brother in Virginia. Even though Burns sent the letter to Canada to be postmarked and mailed, he apparently had written “Boston” at the top of the letter, along with the date (National Anti-Slavery Standard, 3 June 1854; Liberator, 2 June 1854). In 1851, Thomas Sims had also been arrested on the pretext of theft (see Roger Lane, Policing the City: Boston 1822-1885 [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967]) 73. - back

      8. T. W. Higginson calls the rescue attempt “one of the very best plots that ever — failed,” and his account of the courthouse raid claims that Batchelder’s death “was the first drop of blood actually shed” in fugitive slave violence (Higginson, Cheerful Yesterdays [1898; New York: Arno Press, 1968] 150, 154-155). Higginson obviously refers to white bloodshed. See also Von Frank and Stevens. - back

      9. The Journal’s mature phase begins around 1850 with the later manuscript notebooks included in Journal 3: 1848-1851, ed. Robert Sattelmeyer et al. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990). By this time, the Journal has assumed the structure and content that it will sustain until Thoreau’s death in 1862. Robert Sattelmeyer explains that by 1850 Thoreau “turned increasingly to the Journal to record both his thoughts and the details of his study of New England natural history” (“Historical Introduction,” Journal 2: 1842-1848, ed. Sattelmeyer [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984] 446). For Thoreau’s comments regarding Thomas Sims, see Journal 3, 203-209. - back

      10. In its entirety, the Journal entry for August 9, 1854 reads: “Wednesday Aug 9th To Boston Walden Published. Elder Berries. Waxwork yellowing.” - back

      11. Thoreau generally criticized the very reformers with whom he shared the platform in Framingham. For example, he complained a year earlier in August 1853 that the “Abolition Society” would not hire Bronson Alcott as a spokesman: “They cannot tolerate a man who stands by a head above them. They are as bad — Garrison and Phillips, etc., as the overseers and faculty of Harvard College. They require a man who will train well under them” (Journal V, ed. Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen [1906; New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1962] 365). - back

      12. See Bradley P. Dean and Ronald Wesley Hoag, “Thoreau’s Lectures Before Walden,” Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, ed. Joel Myerson (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1995) 127-288. - back

      13. Although Higginson led the courthouse attack and was wounded during the ensuing fracas, Alcott came along later with others from the Faneuil Hall meeting after the original crowd had dispersed and the rescue had failed. According to various accounts, he walked up the steps to the door of the courthouse and asked, “Why are we not within?” (Higginson, Cheerful Yesterdays, 158; see also Frederick C. Dahlstrand, Amos Bronson Alcott: An Intellectual Biography [Rutherford, N. J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982] 235-236). - back

      14. Thoreau wrote his Journal entries in ink. Later changes to the text were usually in pencil and often reflected Thoreau’s polishing of Journal passages for use in lectures or published writings. For more information regarding these Later Revisions, see Thomas Blanding’s “Textual Introduction” in Journal 1: 1837-1844, ed. Elizabeth Hall Witherell et al. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981) 631-632. - back

      15. Garrison leveled harsh criticism at organized religion that defended slavery and had therefore made many enemies in religious camps, but he still exploited the rhetoric of the Old Testament in asserting that slavery was an abomination against God and man. Many abolitionists, including members of the clergy, argued over the extent to which they should denounce the pro-slavery wing of the Christian church. For a profile of a crusading abolitionist who did not hesitate to condemn the church, see Stacey M. Robertson, “‘A Hard, Cold, Stern Life’: Parker Pillsbury and Grassroots Abolitionism, 1840-1865,” NEQ 70 (June 1997): 179-210. Robertson points out that “no major denomination endorsed immediate emancipation prior to the Civil War” (189, n. 7). - back

      16. Similar to Garrison’s use of the Bible, Truth invoked the Old Testament in her speech as she likened the actions of whites toward blacks to those of Cain and Abel. - back

      17. The omitted passage from “Chesuncook” reads: “It is as immortal as I am, and perchance will go to as high a heaven, there to tower above me still” (The Maine Woods, ed. Joseph J. Moldenhauer [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972] 122). - back

      18. James McIntosh finds that in this passage Thoreau “forgets the political outrage of the remission of Anthony Burns to slavery in contemplating a white water-lily” (McIntosh, Thoreau as Romantic Naturalist: His Shifting Stance toward Nature [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974] 214). Thoreau’s linking of the lily and the muck from which it springs to the Missouri Compromise and the entire abomination of slavery, however, clearly demonstrates that Thoreau has not forgotten Burns at all. - back

      19. This excerpt differs only slightly from the Journal version. - back


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