Mr. Gerrit Smith's Speech

May 18, 1867


Mr. Gerrit Smith gave a speech in the African church regarding reconstruction and race.He is a man who is very philanthropic and gives a lot to the poor.He wishes to elevate the status of poor freedmen but not let the status of the white man lower.


Mr. Gerrit Smith's Speech. The speech of Mr. Gerrit Smith, which appears in our columns this morning, is the one made by him in the African church in this city on Tuesday evening last, as written out hy himself. It may be received as a correct exposition of the views and purposes of those of the people of the North who, before the war, were abolitionists from principle, and who are now anxious not to humiliate the white race in the South, but to elevate the negro. Mr. Smith is a representative man of this class. He has maintained perfect consistency, we believe, in his speeches and actions from the beginning of the anti-slavery agitation. He made a speech in Congress some ten years ago in which he contended that the northern people were participes criminis of slavery, advocated the emancipation of the slaves, and proposed that the United States should pay their owners for them. He was never considered a Republican, but an Abolitionist. He is, however, more celebrated as a philanthropist than in any other character. His kindness of heart is proverbial. He has contributed of his immense wealth thousands upon thousands of dollars to persons in necessitous circumstances. Widows and orphans in large numbers have been the recipients of his bounty. But we suppose he has expended more money upon negroes, meritorious and worthless, than upon any other class ot people. He was reported to have encouraged John Brown in his mad attempt to free the southern slaves; if not by contributions in money, at least by words of cheer; and the fate of that fanatic was said to have cast such a gloom over Mr. Smith's life to have rendered it necessary for him to betake himself for a short time to a lunatic . asylum. We are not sure that he was ever demented even for a short period; but we are confident that he is a man of sound sense at the present time. His mind is still vigorous in his old age, and his heart is still in the right place. But there is a weak place in the man somewhere, or else all the rest of us are weak. He is -- we say it with all due respect for the nobleness of the man -- he is visionary in his general views of government, an optionist in his ideas of the genus homo, and better fitted to dwell in Sir Thomas Moore's imaginary Utopia, where, if there were any negroes, they would be industrious, intelligent, educated, and wise, than in this land of free love, spiritualism, universal suffrage, wicked white fanatics and malignants, and ignorant "American citizens of African descent." The speech needs no comment. Mr. Smith agrees with Thad. Stevens in the proposition that the Confederate States were out of the Union. He, however, differs toto coelo from that bad man upon the question of confiscation. Mr. Smith looks with an evil eye upon the despots of Europe, and has no notion of acknowledging that the parties to a civil war are liable to be tried for treason because one of them has put down the other by the power of the sword. He reasons as if he thought the South would have had as much right to charge the North with treason had we succeeded as the North has to charge us with that crime. The voice of civilized mankind outside of the United States does now proclaim, and the children of the present generation of northern people will concede, the fact that no southern man has been guilty of treason. The Forneys and other malignants may swear by all their gods day after day that "Jeff. Davis," for instance, is a "traitor, but there is something in the heart the bitterest Radical which tells him that Mr. Smith is right -- the Constitution provided by its silence for Mr. Davis's conduct, and he is not guilty of treason except in the sense in which it is also true that the southern States were never out of the Union. " How absurd,'' says Mr. Smith, "is the doctrine that a State cannot" secede, though he uses a euphemism for "secede." His candor is equally marked when he tells us that "slavery is the superlative piracy." His opposition to the disfranchisement of the whites is as sincere as his hatred of slavery. And he utters a very serious truth when he says that a "heart union" is the only one "worth going to the pains of reconstructing.'' But we did not intend to comment upon the speech. We merely desired to describe the man in order that our readers might read his utterances understandingly. This speech is, however, of itself a very good exponent of his character. We commend it to the attention of our people.
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“Mr. Gerrit Smith's Speech,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed September 28, 2022,