To William Goodell

27 November 1855


[MS in William Goodell Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Hutchins Library, Berea College, KY]


William Goodell (1782-1878) was a leading political abolitionist. Since helping to organize the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, he had become one of the major propagandists for the cause, writing voluminously and editing several antislavery newspapers. Standing apart from the main political parties, he, Gerrit Smith, and a few others, sought to win over the antislavery ranks to radical abolitionism through alternative political organizations. By the mid-1850s, however, their attempts, through the Liberty Party, the Liberty League and the National Liberty Party, had all failed. So in 1855 they organised the American Abolition Society in an attempt "to mold radical abolitionism into an independent movement and make it a viable alternative to both the moderate antislavery stance of the Republican Party and the disunionist position of the Garrisonians" (Meyer Leon Perkal, "American Abolition Society: A Viable Alternative to the Republican Party?" in Journal of Negro History, Vol. 65, No. 1 [Winter 1980], p. 57).


In August 1855 Goodell started a new monthly, the Radical Abolitionist, to be the official journal of the movement. (See DAB.)


The original letter in the William Goodell Papers, contains various editorial amendments--punctuation, paragraph markings, clarification of words, etc--to prepare it for publication. It was published, with minor alterations, in the Radical Abolitionist (New York) Vol. 1, No. 6 (January 1856), p. 1.


Oberlin College 27. Nov. 1855.

My Dear Br. Goodell,

Your Radical Abolitionist pleases

me much. I agree with you in views & could not

state my own better or much otherwise than you

state them. You have not only gotten the truth, but

also, what is almost equally important, the true & only

efficient way of stating it. Essays are not the things.

Propositions, irresistibly perspicuous, in statement, &

selfevident in truthfulness, are just the thing. It has long

seemed to me that the views you hold of the constitution

are correct, & if they were not that the continuance of our

federal government is neither possible, nor desirable.

The propositions announced at the recent abolition convention

in Boston affirm the only true doctrine, in my estimation.

That these principles thus affirmed, will be understood

& assented to by the American people, I hope and believe.

& my confidence in this is precisely as my hope or wish

that the American government may stand.

The fact is, Br. G. there is progress, great progress. Some years

since, I urged you to write some books which you have

worthily done. Now, you are giving the results of all

your thoughts & researches in this propositional form

to the publick. You now occupy the right position.

Your principles are sound--well digested - irresistibly

stated & not too much at a time. Your paper is, at present

large enough. Truth so condensed & stated can not

[page 2]

be digested except in small portions, by the people.

If a large sheet should contain, as it might, all you

have said in your 5. Nos. It would do indefinitely

less execution. And then all but some 12. or 20 of

your strong points, would of necessity go undigested &

as you would not feel like soon repeating them the

rest, as is always the case, would go for waste paper.

Give the people your clear positions as they can digest

them. For the present & until the foundations are well laid

in first principles, your paper is published often enough.

Meals especially of strong food should not be too near

to gether. It will take the old fogies on the one hand

& the rash aggitators on the other, a month to well

digest the contents of each number & withal avoid

an acid stomach. The Spirit, as well as the form of your

statements, ple[a]ses me well. The same sentiment acrimo

niously stated would repel & anger rather than convince.

I see, my Br. that God is directing you. No property in

man! Legalized slavery is an absurdity! The American

is, the

constitution ^ & government oughthe ought to be the stern

& unbending antagonist of all oppression!

God bless you, Br. Goodell. This is right & nothing else

is right. I do not see how any man of sense & of sound

conscience can deny these positions. But I am writing

too much. Every No. of your paper makes me desire to bid you

God Speed. Away with compromises with sin. Our country is

soon ruined unless these principles prevail. Please present my

kindest regards to the brethren in the Missionary & Antislavery

rooms. The Lord be with you. C. G. Finney.


The convention was held at Boston on 23 October to form the American Abolition Society.

This sentence was omitted form the published version.