Prof. Monroe's Speech
My Friends: In behalf of this vast assembly, I am requested to express, in a word, the unqualified satisfaction, the heartfelt joy which we feel, on welcoming you once more to the bosom of this community and to your homes. From that sad day when you left us to the present time, we have never, for a moment, ceased longing for the sight of your faces among us, whenever you could return consistently with duty; and to-night we are glad, from the very bottom of our hearts, that that time has come. We rejoice, not only because you have come back to us, but also because you have come without the shadow of a stain upon that strict integrity which it is the duty and the privilege of a Christian anti-slavery man to cherish. You have made no compromises with slavery. There has been no bowing down of the body, no bending of the knee. Erect, as God made you, you went into prison; erect, as God made you, you have come out of prison. We come, then, once more, to Oberlin. In behalf of this assembly, in behalf of Oberlin, in behalf of Lorain county, welcome! thrice welcome! friends of Liberty!
Christian Friends and Fellow-Citizens: I devoutly congratulate you that our brethren, heroic men, persecuted for righteousness' sake, have now returned to our bosoms. On their countenances we, indeed, trace indications of a severe mental conflict; but, likewise, the divine favor in their personal vigor and health, - and in the flash of the eye, the spirit and purpose of men whom, in such a warfare, tyrants cannot subdue. In your behalf I tender them a cordial and joyous welcome, and in your name I assure them that they are now especially endeared to us all.
But beloved sufferers, this welcome is not intended to cover the fact that you have come to us "jail-birds." You must ever bear this appellation. It , however, comforts us, and it must cheer you to know that you have earned the title after the example of the Prophets and Apostles, having been imprisoned for the act of witnessing for the truth as it is in Jesus.
In your persons, at this joyous interview, we thus publicly acknowledge the gift of God in answer to prayer. In all your confinement, our sympathies for you have been a deep flowing current. We have felt called of God to the special mission of prayer in your behalf. In the daily reports of your persistency in the "Right," we have received the rich, sustaining answer to our prayer. We have been also strengthened and comforted to know that this sympathy is next to universal in the country. The press has given it voice. Its breath, to you in prison, to us in our watchings, has discoursed music along the telegraph wires.
We have felt honored that you have so faithfully represented the moral sentiment of this community, and of our fondly cherished College. Your firmness in this crisis, has sharply admonished us for our sluggishness in the present conflict for Liberty, and what is more, for our lack of moral courage; and still more, the obtuseness of moral sense in men who counseled compromise.
In your imprisonment you have nobly represented a great principle. The Divine Law supreme, everywhere; human enactments subordinate. Thus you have stood before the country the intelligent, sagacious, unflinching friends of human freedom.
Your testimony will live, a permanent record in history, - a memorial to preserve your names to the undying recognition of an approving posterity.
We thank you for your wisdom and firmness in the rejection of all compromise between right and wrong. In this whole movement, your instructive and impressive example is before the country as a model for Church and for State. God has given you the spirit and the courage for the crisis. Your reward is before you, and sure.
Let Politicians, Statesmen, and Christians, but follow this example, and our own Ohio shall be free, - personal rights will be held as sacred, and be sustained. Our country shall be free!
John Watson's Speech
Friends and Fellow-Citizens: I come before you to-night, under circumstances new indeed. And right gladly do I meet you. This is my heart's home. When I look on your familiar and loving faces, my heart flows with gratitude that I may see you once again. On the 13th of September last, when there came a rumor that one of my fellow men had been kidnapped, I left my little place of business to ascertain, if possible, his whereabouts. I went to Wellington, and did what I thought was my duty toward releasing the helpless victim of oppression. Little did I then think of being brought before the District Court of the United States. But I was not only taken there, but thence dragged to prison, along with these my brethren, and there kept in close confinement for eighty-five days; and when I look upon these my brethren in bonds, my heart gushes with gratitude to think that their friends are my friends.
I believe it to be the duty of every Christian - and every man should be a Christian - to help all who are oppressed, whatever be the color of their skin. I believed so then, and it was from this conviction of duty alone that I acted. My friends, when I heard Mr. Fitch and Prof. Peck speak about the death of their mothers, brothers, children, and friends, my own mind was led to the contrast between the separation of mothers and children by death, and that unspeakably more awful separation at the Auction-block.
But the spirit of slavery is the same North and South, and even here it would rob is of our all as readily as in South Carolina. The Federal Government is possessed of this demon, and we have all seen within the last three months the graspings of its fiendish greed. Yes, and even here in Oberlin, have we wolves in sheep's clothing. They come to us with fawning fingers and smiling lips, while in their hearts they are plotting the most piratical and inhuman atrocities, and plotting them against us, their next-door neighbors, who never lifted a finger to harm them or theirs, and never would. Now, my friends, shall such men remain in our midst? If we had not had these traitors here, we should never have seen such wretches as Lowe, Mitchell, Jennings, and Davis - yes, and even Dayton - prowling about our houses. I think that if emphatic leave of absence had been given these men long ago, we should have been saved all the trails of the last year. But if good has grown out of our sufferings, we ought to be content. My friends, as the hour is late, I will not detain you. I rest in this confidence, that your purpose is one purpose, and that it was never so fixed as now, that whatever you may have done in the past, henceforth you will show oppression no quarter.
Henry Evans' Speech
Friends: when I use the term friends, I do not use it as a mere figure of speech. It comes from the utmost depths of my soul. Your presence here bears testimony of the fact that you are our friends. The care that you have taken to provide for our families during our imprisonment, proved your heartfelt sympathy, for which we are grateful. Never during our confinement have you been forgotten; in our daily devotions to Almighty God you have been remembered. We felt that your cause was our cause, and your presence in such numbers this evening more than substantiates the conviction. While in prison we were cheered by daily communication from your breathing a spirit of prayer in our behalf. I profess to be a believer in Christ, knowing that without prayer and His presence no great good can be accomplished. The Bible has been our guide. Through it we have realized the presence of the Holy Spirit, which has led up on in the discharge of our duty, and buoyed us up to faithfully accomplish the work that had been assigned us; the result of which is a victory on the side of truth, a triumph, indeed, over wrong.
For eighteen years, I have been seeking to know what the Lord would have me do in my humble position in life. During that time he has visited my with afflictions. He has taken from our earthly embrace a darling child; He has taken from me a loved and loving mother. All this I bore patiently in submission to his will. When I was cast into prison, my heat need not tell you, my friends, that to suffer for humanity's sake has been to me a pleasure and not a pain. I rejoice to say that I had resigned myself into the hands of Him who is the wise disposer of us all. Every thing of an earthly nature my mind had given up. My soul had entered into the work that God had called me to accomplish.
I feel that we have discharge our duty; we have finished the work given us to do. The telegraph wires have flashed our victory through the country. It has gone up to heaven - angels and archangels are now singing hosannas to the Lord for our deliverance, and there are no words that better express my feelings than the following, which be way of conclusion I will repeat:
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below."
Upon a scene like this the language has no power. The occasion speaks for itself. My own heart is too full for utterance. I am glad to see you. I am glad to meet friends and associates. I am glad to meet the Fire Department upon this occasion, of which I am a member. I know there are true and devoted hearts to the great cause of freedom in that Department, who would sacrifice their lives and their all to the cause of liberty. What has brought about this great change? Was it a compromise on our part? Did we get down upon our hands and knees, and crawl in the dust at the feet of the slave power? No! It was the government that wished to come to terms. They did not wish not did they dare prosecute the matter any farther. They were not only afraid of having those Kentucky kidnappers sent to purgatory, but they were afraid that the whole Democratic party would be sent there. We have heard those that have visited us during our confinement say that we must not adopt any policy that would damage the Republican party. I would say if there is not power and virtue enough in the Republican party to repudiate the great evil of American slavery, and the infernal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, then I say let the party go. I believe there is virtue enough in the party to do it. Let us go to work and get rid of the conservative elements of the party, and those old fogy principles that stick tighter than a tick on a sheep's back. Our fathers fought at Bunker Hill and on the plains of Lexington for the rights and liberties which we this day enjoy. Liberties, did I say? No. We do not all enjoy liberty. It was the design of the fathers of this great Republic that all should enjoy the blessings of liberty without distinction in regard to birth, complexion, or conditions of men. I would say in conclusion, that we should all adopt the language of Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty, or give me death."
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