Foremost among King Cotton's loyal courtiers was the prosperous, pushing, perky little state of South Carolina. Rich in her agricultural resources of cotton, rice, and indigo, she was proud of her beautiful and prosperous city of Charleston, teeming with commerce, graced by the mansions of affluent planters clustered along the waterfront, its streets bordered with tropical palms festooned with Spanish moss, and its gardens bright with gorgeous oleanders. Boastful of her cultural heritage and her brilliant statesmanship, typified in John C. Calhoun and Robert Barnwell Rhett, and not a little arrogant in assertion of her rights, South Carolina typified the slaveholding South. Yet out of South Carolina were to come two of abolition's most effective champions, the sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimké. And it was Angelina who had set Weld's heart aflutter.

Weld had first met the sisters in November, 1836, when they attended his indoctrination lectures for the new agents, although he knew them previously by reputation. Garrison introduced him to them after one of his meetings, and Angelina thrilled when Weld called her "my dear sister."

Sarah was forty-four years old, Weld's senior by eleven years, Angelina was approaching thirty-two. Both sisters were devoutly religious. Their friends remarked their beauty, and Angelina was described as tall and graceful, with a shapely head crowned with chestnut ringlets, a lovely complexion, and clear blue eyes that could either flash or dance. If the sisters were beautiful, however, their photographs are something less than flattering, for they represent both Sarah and Angelina as angular in body and of forbidding countenance.

Their father, John Faucheraud Grimké, was of Huguenot descent. Aristocratic and courtly, he was born in South Carolina and educated at Oxford. He began to practice law in London, but with the outbreak of the American Revolution he returned to South Carolina and served as a colonel in the Revolutionary army. With the winning of independence he opened a law office in Charleston and rose to be a justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Their mother, Mary Smith Grimké, sister of a North Carolina governor, was of Irish and English Puritan stock, so that they had a non-conformist heritage on both sides. High-strung and narrowly religious, Mrs. Grimké was as overbearing toward her children as she was toward the family slaves. Indeed, there seemed to be little affection between members of the family, save the mutual love of Sarah and Angelina and a reciprocal devotion between them and their brother Thomas. A Yale graduate and brilliant orator, Thomas Smith Grimké was a unionist during the South Carolina nullification excitement. Enlisting in such causes as peace, temperance, education, and betterment of the condition of the Indians, his reform adjurations were stilled by his untimely death from cholera in 1834, but not before he had exerted a lasting influence upon the sisters.

Both girls had known frustration. Sarah craved education, and, when admonished that learning was not for ladies, she had studied literature, languages, and even law in secret, until she was found out and rebuked. She rebelled at being a "doll, a coquette, a fashionable fool," and when her aspirations were denied she plunged into the Charleston social whirl of theater-going, bails, and parties in a sort of defiant abandon. This merely induced a sense of guilt, especially when a Presbyterian minister tried to win her to that faith. She said later that she did not know to what this frivolous life might have brought her had she not been obliged to leave Charleston and accompany her father to Long Branch, New Jersey, where he went for the sake of his health. She nursed him there until he died; then she returned to Charleston, only to chafe anew at the social conventions that stifled her intellectual longings, and at the ritualistic formalism of the Episcopal worship in which she was brought up.

Angelina, too, grew up in the social whirl. She fell in love. Her lover died; and she enshrined him in her memory with bittersweet nostalgia. Now she too rebelled at luxury, and in a naive effort at asceticism she would refuse rich cakes, wine, fruit, and nuts when invited out to tea. She could find no more comfort in the church than Sarah could, although her sense of religious mysticism was equally strong and deep.

From girlhood the sisters had pitied the slaves. They suffered agonies when slaves were punished, for Judge Grimké was a stern taskmaster. Yet they were reared on the Southern Bible argument, and did not think the institution sinful until they came under abolition influence. When Sarah was quite young her father assigned her a slave girl as a handmaid, and Sarah was anguished when the little creature died soon afterward. Sarah tried to educate some of the Grimké's more intelligent Negroes, instructing them orally, and complaining about the South Carolina law that forbade her to teach them to read.

Angelina was irritable and hot-tempered as a girl, and claimed she overcame these failings when a slave promised to make her a doll and dress it like a soldier, if she would learn to control herself.

She would have nothing to do with slavery, even as a child, except in one case. Mrs. Grimké owned a slave she could not manage, and Angelina persuaded her mother to let her have the girl. She obtained a place for her in another family, but would not accept her wages. Finally she returned title to the girl to Mrs. Grimké on condition that the slave be allowed to remain where she was.

In her late twenties, Sarah visited some Quaker friends in Philadelphia. Later she moved to that city and became a Quaker herself. She had already tried Presbyterianism and Methodism, but they furnished no more comfort than Episcopalianism, and she thought herself the vilest of sinners. Hers seemed to be a misdirected life; she yearned to be a useful member of society.

Under Sarah's influence, Angelina became a Quaker, too, and later joined Sarah in Philadelphia. Angelina might have been happy except for Sarah, who, with her passion for self-immolation, made Angelina doubt that true religion and happiness could be compatible. As it was, neither girl could feel contentment except in austerity and self-sacrifice. Both had the conviction that they were called to some great work.

To come under Quaker teachings was to imbibe antislavery doctrine, for the Friends were pioneers in antislavery, and all of them opposed slavery in the abstract. Their hostility was of varying degrees, however, and the solutions they recommended ranged from colonization to immediatism. Indeed, the Quakers were so rent by antislavery argument that discussion of the subject was now discouraged. But in antislavery the thwarted Grimké sisters found release for their restless spirits. Determined to devote themselves to moral uplift, they became emphatic champions of abolition.

Some of their Quaker friends were quite provoked, not only because of their disputatious agitation of a controversial issue, but by other instances of non-conformity as well. The sisters did not use all the Quaker forms of speech, they wore bonnets better suited to protection from the cold than those prescribed by Quaker style, and they resorted to vocal prayer in private devotions, a practice contrary to Quaker usage. To Angelina the efforts of certain Friends to still antislavery discussion were like the attempts of the Jews to close the lips of Jesus. She felt called of God to speak, and believed that one should not be swayed by others in matters of conscience.

Factors in making Angelina an active abolitionist were the mobbing of Garrison in Boston and the assaults on George Thompson, the British antislavery agent. Angelina wrote Garrison a letter of encouragement, and Garrison printed her letter in the Liberator. This was Weld's introduction to the Grimké sisters. The letter made an odd impression on him. He read it again and again. He seemed to hold communion with this unknown Quaker girl, he told her later.

The sisters were appalled to see Angelina's letter thrust before the public; but their sense of duty soon overcame their shyness. In 1835 Angelina published an Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, urging them to recognize their responsibility for slavery and use the power of moral suasion against it. Sarah wrote an Epistle to the Clergy of the South in which she voiced a similar appeal.: Recognizing the potency of arguments adduced by women of slaveholding antecedents, the abolitionists seized upon these pamphlets eagerly and spread them over the land. But the treason of the sisters outraged the South. Postmasters in South Carolina burned the pamphlets publicly, and the authors were threatened with imprisonment if they had the audacity to come home.

The Quakers were the only well-established sect that encouraged women to speak in meeting, and Sarah and Angelina availed themselves of that right. Persuaded that they had an aptitude for public speaking, they resolved to devote their talent to antislavery lectures. Of course they would confine themselves to women's meetings in conformity with the usage of the day.

Both sisters recognized the need for further training and indoctrination, and it was this that brought them to Weld's training course. Weld noted the two young ladies with their little Quaker bonnets in his audience, and upon acquaintance he found Angelina disturbing. He often encountered the sisters at the Tappans'; indeed, much as he tried, it was impossible to avoid them altogether. But Weld was not easily diverted from his life's purpose. He was wedded to a cause; and as the tantalizing fondness for Angelina grew with acquaintance, he strove with all the power of his grim will to suppress it. Moreover, this aristocratic girl was far above him. Like him, she had a mission to perform. And, being a Friend, she was forbidden to marry outside her faith in any event. Weld resolved to overcome his unseemly yearning by devoting his full powers to making the sisters potent antislavery instruments.

Under his tutelage Angelina became eloquent and quick in argument. Sarah was capable, too, although she lacked self-confidence, and often fumbled for words. Sometimes her speech was slow and hesitant; again she became excited and spoke too fast.

The sisters attended colored Sunday Schools and prayer meetings in New York. They began to address small gatherings of women. Their meetings were better attended than they had hoped, but they found New York a difficult place in which to work. "Ten thousand cords of interest are linked with the southern slaveholder," they complained. They extended their area of service to smaller communities outside the city proper, laboring quietly to avoid publicity, devoting their spare time to study in order to be "fully harnessed" for their labors.

Sometimes Weld and other young men at the headquarters office were obliged to act as their escorts. Angelina noticed how Weld's face, which was preternaturally stern in any event, became even more hard-set and impenetrable when she was with him. Yet, when he accompanied the sisters on visits to the colored poor, his perfect ease and lack of condescension impressed them with his innate goodness. Angelina scarcely dared admit it to herself, but she believed she loved him. To be sure, it was an unrequited affection, for he would not even take her arm when they walked down the street, unless one of the other men reminded him to do it. When they went to church, he hung back until someone else had offered to take her home. And when he accompanied the sisters to the steamboat, as they left on a speaking tour of Massachusetts, his farewell was so impersonal that it seemed to stab her heart. She was glad she had not confided her feelings to Sarah. She would overcome this futile fancy with hard work.

The sisters evoked a whirlwind in Massachusetts. Women attended their lectures in such numbers that their courage almost failed before the crowds. Then men began coming too. At first they only gathered around the doors and listened at the open windows, with their heads above the lowered sash. Then some of the more courageous spirits began to venture in. Almost before they realized what was happening the sisters were speaking regularly before mixed audiences, a thing they had never planned to do.

At first they were a little shocked at their own boldness, for the ideals of that day held woman to be a pure and bashful creature whose charm derived from helplessness. Her place was in the home, her function that of mother and fond wife. She w;as supposed to shun the tumult of public controversy and hold her peace in mixed assemblages. Her influence must work in subtle ways.

American men were noted for their deference toward women, yet women won this deference by acquiescing in the notion of masculine superiority. Politics were exclusively men's affair; nowhere in America could women vote. Nor did married women enjoy the right of property, or even the right to their children, before the law. No institution of higher learning admitted women until Oberlin led the way, and except for teaching or domestic service, few jobs were open to them. These usages enjoyed the sanction of the church, and ministers, whose influence was paramount with women, resisted any threat of innovation. Anything smacking of boldness or assertiveness in women was certain to evoke the clerical ire.

The sisters' lectures in Massachusetts were under Garrisonian auspices, and Garrison had already ruffled the clergy with his censures against clerical tenderness toward slavery. Indeed, the ecclesiastical authority had been flouted to a degree that these irreverent radicals must be rebuked. Even so good an abolitionist as the Reverend Amos A. Phelps was impelled to write a letter of remonstrance to the sisters, and the sensibilities of the gentle, kindly Samuel J. May, were shocked by their boldness at first. Delegated to express the views of his colleagues, the Reverend Nehemiah Adams, a preacher of the old school whose friendliness to Southern rights was to earn him the sobriquet, of "Southside" Adams, prepared a "Pastoral Letter" which reprimanded both Garrison and the Grimkés. Garrison was chided for seeking to make the church a place of "doubtful disputation" by instigating abolition agents to make speeches in churches where abolition sentiments were unwelcome, and for undermining the deference due the pastoral office. The Grimké sisters were warned of the insidious effect of female lecturing on both the lecturers and their auditors. Woman's strength came of dependence, proclaimed Adams. God made her weak that she might command man's support; and by assuming the position of a public reformer she forfeited man's respect. For "if the vine, whose strength and beauty is to lean upon the trellis work, and half conceal its clusters, thinks to assume the independence and the everlasting nature of the elm, it will not only cease to bear fruit, but will fall in shame and dishonor into the dust."

The "Pastoral Letter" centered a noisy contention upon the Grimkés. Conservatives regarded them as infamous; to Weld and his abolition brethren they were heroines. At the behest of his deacons, one clergyman invited them to speak from his pulpit; then, in defiance of his official men, he implored the congregation to stay away. Another pastor declared that if they spoke in his church, he would never cross its threshold again. At Groton, where they spoke in a barn because every church was closed to them, a clergyman consented to open the meeting with prayer, then took his leave, announcing as he strode to the door that he would as soon rob a hen-roost as stay and hear them speak.

Traveling by boat from New York to New Haven, James G. Birney encountered the Reverend Leonard Bacon, pastor of the First Congregational Church of New Haven and later to be professor of theology at the Yale Divinity School. Bacon offered Birney his hand, but Birney drew back. "Mr. Bacon," he declared, "I cannot interchange civilities with you till I know the truth of what I have heard you said of Miss Grimké in your speech on Saturday."

"And what was that?" asked Bacon.

"I have been told," responded Birney, "that in speaking of fanaticism, at one time in New England, you said a Quaker woman had been known publicly to walk through the streets of Salem, naked as she was born--but that Miss Grimké had not been known to make such an exhibition of herself yet. Did you say this?"

"I did," replied Bacon. And after a pause: "And should I have said that she did?

Abashed at their unwanted notoriety, but resolute in faith, the sisters continued their campaign, speaking five and six times a week, traveling from one place to another in stages and wagons, sometimes in rain, sleet, or snow, putting up with poor and insufficient food and wretched lodgings, often ill with colds and sometimes so exhausted they would have to spell one another on the platform. On January 5, 1838, Sarah related their experiences at South Scituate to her friend Jane Smith. The notice of the meeting that had been arranged for them came late, and they missed both stage and steamboat. A friend volunteered to take them in a carryall, and they were thankful he had thought to cover them with a buffalo robe, for the wind came in bleak off the sea. It was an awful night, but the house was filled. "I spoke with great difficulty," Sarah wrote, "for the stove pipe was just above the pulpit & the doors and windows were all closed. My mouth became exceedingly parched & water would not relieve it. (Perhaps I was feverish too)."

Sometimes the crowds were so large that Angelina spoke in one hall while Sarah held forth in another. At Woonsocket a joist gave way in a church, and when it was propped others began to creak, but still the people stayed. At another town, where they spoke in a second-story hall, men who hesitated to come in crowded upon ladders at the windows and clung to their precarious perches throughout the meeting.

The longer they stayed in Massachusetts, the more they were subjected to Garrison's influence. Henry C. Wright, an agent of the American Antislavery Society but a man who was much closer to Garrison than to the New York headquarters group, made it his special duty to arrange their itinerary, to write reports of their activities for the Liberator, and to constitute himself their squire and counselor. A tight-jawed man with short-cropped hair, lean cheeks creased with cross-hatching lines, and beetle brows overjutting his hard eyes, Wright had the austere visage of a Cromwellian Roundhead. Impetuous and headstrong, he was so fanatically zealous in reform that it was said of him that only after long wrestling with his soul could he bring himself to spend ten dollars on an ailing tooth, rather than give the money to some worthy cause. He wrote prolifically for antislavery papers, taking care, Weld thought, to make his name conspicuous. Weld could not endure such vanity. And while he would have been horrified to be accused of jealousy, he resented Wright's intimacy with the sisters, and was instrumental in having the agency committee transfer Wright to Pennsylvania, an action which evoked the sisters' anger.

Weld watched with apprehension as the sisters' minds inclined increasingly toward Garrison's views; for Garrison was becoming so incautiously intemperate that even fellow abolitionists were turning away from him. Assured of his omniscience, inflexible in his faith, Garrison seemed utterly unmindful of the consequences of his zeal. Tall and erect, prematurely bald, and so nearsighted that his children had discovered that when playing blind man's buff they needed only to remove his gold-rimmed spectacles instead of blindfolding him, he was punctilious in dress, manners, and personal deportment. He was so facile with words that his editorials were ready for the press when they left his pen. In his bitterest diatribes never so much as a comma or quotation mark was misplaced, and when pressed for time he could set his editorials in type without writing them out at all. The power of his speeches came as much from the utter self-forgetfulness with which he developed his theme as from their acrid bite; and the same voice that excelled in oratorical malediction, in private conversation breathed an almost feminine charm. He could argue without becoming excited or loud, and those who knew him only by reputation were agreeably surprised upon acquaintance to find him so bland and urbane.

Born and reared a Baptist, he based his reform philosophy on scriptural precepts. He hoped to find his staunchest allies in ministers and church members, and, when he was unable to shatter their indifference, he turned a critical eye on their theology. He stopped attending church, rejected Sabbath observance on the ground that true Christians should hold one day holy as another, and condemned the institution of a paid ministry with the argument that man needed no intercessor between himself and his Maker.

The Grimké sisters came easily under his spell. Sarah felt a sort of elasticity in the Boston atmosphere. Accepting Garrison's opinion of the uselessness of ministers, which was akin to Quaker beliefs in any event, she rejoiced in the prospect of release from the obligation of attending public worship. She confessed that it had become a weariness to her soul, "and if that part of the machinery of piety is laid in the dust, then the necessity of a regular ministry . . . will cease, and that will be a wonderful relief to my spirit." Ministers had been anathema to her ever since she was reborn in abolitionism. Sarah and Angelina became ecstatic in relating Garrison's virtues to Weld. What a pity, they wrote, that he suffered such torture from the scrofulous infection on his scalp. It was a complaint that continued to break out on various parts of his body for years afterward, and its cure was probably not promoted by his indulgence of the office cat, which he allowed to caress his bald forehead while he spun editorial yarn.

With a mind eager for new ideas, Garrison was surprisingly naive, and fell an easy prey to fads and foibles. He had unbounded faith in patent medicines and nostrums. Phrenologists found tempting quarry in his smooth pate. Mediums could tune him to the spirit world. He tried dietary fads and water cures, and lost an infant son by the imperfect operation of a medicinal steam bath.

A thoroughgoing pacifist, he had early acknowledged the virtues of nonresistance. "We justify no war," said he. "The victories of liberty should be bloodless, and effected solely by spiritual weapons. If we deemed it pleasing in the sight of God to kill tyrants, we would immediately put ourselves at the head of a black army at the South, and scatter devastation and death on every side." In November, 1837, when Elijah P. Lovejoy was shot down by a proslavery mob at Alton, Illinois, while attempting to defend his abolition press, Garrison voiced regret that Lovejoy died with a weapon in his hand. In Garrison's sight, resort to force, even to defend oneself, was a rebuff to God. One must never doubt the power of His everlasting arms.

Of all Garrison's idiosyncrasies, however, the one that was most generally alarming and most unpalatable to Weld and many others of his fellow abolitionists was his rejection of government--an end product of his vexation at those constitutional guarantees behind which slavery could take refuge when hard pressed, and a logical extension of his non-resistance beliefs. For if a man must not resist, he should not be coerced, he explained. Every human government was upheld by coercion or the threat of it. Governmental authority derived from the right to punish.

But Garrison denied this right to men or human agencies; vengeance and punishment belonged to God. Thus Garrison's righteous idealism brought him to a sort of philosophical anarchy.

While Garrison's rejection of government was a logical consequence of his own ideas, his thinking in this direction was stimulated by young John Humphrey Noyes, an honors graduate of Dartmouth College who had begun to study law but gave it up to become a minister. Revolting at the Calvinistic belief in human depravity, Noyes became convinced that man could attain to perfect holiness and that he himself already enjoyed that estate. He also rejected the idea of monogamous marriage as being incompatible with human perfectionism, and was already developing a conception of "free love" which was to be put into practice later in his Oneida Community.

Noyes renounced allegiance to the Government of the United States and asserted "the title of Jesus Christ to the throne of the world." He wrote Garrison that when he thought of the United States Government he pictured "a bloated, swaggering libertine," trampling on the Bible and its own Constitution, "with one hand whipping a Negro tied to a liberty-pole, and with the other dashing an emaciated Indian to the ground." Every person who voted or held office acknowledged himself a subject of a slaveholding government, and Noyes could not but think that many abolitionists had heard "the same great voice out of heaven" that had waked him with the call, "Come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and her plagues." Admonishing Garrison to assume leadership of a no-government movement, Noyes admitted that if Garrison did so, he would be deserted by many of his present friends, "but you will be deserted as Jonah was by the whale--the world, in vomiting you up, will heave you upon the dry land."

Weld had no faith in Noyes' type of perfectionism. His brother Charles had seen the perfectionist put on a strange performance in New York. He was in a "highly spiritual" state, and to prove his insensitivity to perverse influences he had consumed large quantities of rum, raw whiskey, and cayenne pepper, topping off the whole by eating a handful of tobacco. Weld's brother was amazed that he survived, and Weld was convinced that Noyes was a charlatan.

But Noyes' plea was not without effect on Garrison, for shortly thereafter Garrison became a leader in the formation of the New England Non-Resistance Society, which denied allegiance to any human government, refused to recognize national boundaries or distinctions of caste, race, or sex, renounced all war, forswore participation in celebrations of military victories, and pledged its members to hold no office under government, to use no governmental agencies for redress of grievances, and to abstain from voting. Henry C. Wright was a leading organizer and first president of the society, and won the Grimké sisters to its tenets.

This topic was the subject of many argumentative letters between Weld and the sisters. Sarah was amazed that Weld could not perceive "the simplicity and beauty and consistency" of the doctrine that all government, whether civil or ecclesiastical, "conflicts with the govt. of Jehovah and that by the Christian, no other govt. can be acknowledged without leaning more or less on an arm of flesh." Angelina thought "No-government" was "a sublime doctrine" which would "bring us into that liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.

Weld retorted that it was a crazy phantasy. He was a peace man, he asserted, but not a no-government man. "The doctrine of personal non-resistance, of returning good for evil, of being smitten and turning the other cheek, I have not only advocated in private for years and in public debate at Oneida Institute and Lane Seminary, but for months when I first began lecturing in Ohio I was called to the test almost every day." But he shuddered at the idea of rejecting government, and prayed that the Lord would enlighten those "who are bewildered in its mazes and stumbling on its dark mountains." Weld feared that the sisters were succumbing to the blandishments of flatterers. They had not thought this thing through, he warned, or, if they had, then they were placing too much confidence in their own reasoning powers.

As the sisters' right to speak was challenged, they were drawn into a defense of woman's rights. Sarah wrote a series of "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women," which were published in the New England Spectator. Both sisters asserted their rights as women from the platform and in the press, and Garrison, with his usual readiness to leap into the forefront of any new reform, not only urged them on, but himself became an aggressive leader of the woman movement. Thus he exposed another angle to enemy fire. For, having antagonized the church and clergy, shocked the Sabbatarians, and horrified those who saw the American government as the perfect political organism, he now scandalized the guardians of the modesty and humility of womanhood. Accepting him as abolition's spokesman, people took his aberrations to be adjuncts of abolitionism. Supporters of the established order not only found reason to detest him, but were also confirmed in their horror of the movement he symbolized.

Watching Garrison's antics from the New York headquarters office, Elizur Wright feared that Garrison had forfeited his usefulness to the antislavery cause. It was downright nonsense to suppose that antislavery could be promoted "with forty incongruous things tacked on to it." "You can't drive a three tined fork through a hay mow," Wright explained to Phelps, "though turn it t'other end to, and you can drive in the handle. And I don't see why when Garrison knew his paper was regarded as the organ of the Mass. Society he did not have abolitionism and common sense enough to conduct it strictly as an abolition paper ....When I charge this mismanagement upon Garrison, I do not forget that he has done far more for the slave than I can expect ever to do. I love him too, like a brother. But I believe his noncombatism and his perfectionism are downright fanaticism, and I don't wonder that there should be a recoil among men who are not ready to concede so much to the Spirit of Liberty as you and I, but are pretty good abolitionists for all that.''

Weld, too, was aware of the dangers inherent in Garrison's scattershot zeal and in the Grimkés' agitation of the woman question. When the sisters wrote to Weld complaining of the way the clergymen were treating them, he accorded them scant sympathy. They must expect resistance if they tried to make an issue of women's rights, whereas, if they would simply "let the barkers bark their bark out," the opposition would soon cool down; for while there were many old-school ministers who would make violent opposition to any change in woman's status as being contrary to God's will, yet there were even more who would come over "if they first witness the successful practice of it rather than meet it in the shape of a doctrine to be swallowed." Abolition was the thing to talk about, Weld pleaded, and, being Southerners, the sisters would command attention and be believed. They could do ten times as much for antislavery as could women like Lydia Maria Child or Maria Weston Chapman, not because they were more competent than they or other Northern women were, but because the Grimkés were Southerners. But the moment they took up collateral reforms they sacrificed their advantage. Whittier also pleaded with the sisters to stick to abolition. In speaking for that cause, he pointed out, they were making the strongest possible assertion of women's rights.

But the Grimkés were mortified and hurt by the clergy's censures and insisted they must be answered. The time to assert a right was when that right was denied, Angelina explained to Weld. "We must establish this right," she wrote, "for if we do not, it will be impossible for us to go on with the work of Emancipation."

Weld was unconvinced, and proceeded to explain his reform philosophy. Garrison was ill-advised, he thought, to make himself a spokesman for every lofty cause that came along. "No moral enterprise when prosecuted with ability and any sort of energy EVER failed under heaven," asserted Weld, "so long as its conductors pushed the main principle and did not strike off until they got to the summit level. On the other hand every reform that ever foundered in mid sea was capsized by one of these gusty side winds .... If you attempt to start off on a derivative principle from any other point than the summit level of the main principle you must beat up stream--yes up a cataract. It reverses the order of nature and the laws of mind.

"Now what is plainer than that the grand principle for which we struggle is HUMAN RIGHTS," Weld asked, "and that the rights of woman is a principle purely derivative from the other. You put the cart before the horse; you drag the tree by the top in attempting to push your woman's rights until man rights have gone ahead and broken the path."

Weld did not want the sisters to misunderstand him. He had no prejudice against women. He was as staunch for equality of the sexes as he was for abolition. Indeed, the rights and wrongs of women were an old theme with him. Woman's rights was the first subject he ever discussed in a little debating society to which he belonged as a boy, and he had always taken the position that woman might make laws, administer justice, sit in the chair of state, plead at the bar or in the pulpit, or do anything else for which she was mentally, morally, or spiritually qualified. Why, he even conceded woman the right to initiate the marriage proposal! But in allowing themselves to be drawn off from abolition to woman's rights, Sarah and Angelina were wasting blows on the limbs of the tree and leaving the trunk to stand. Blows dealt at the trunk would bring the whole tree down eventually, whereas merely to lop off limbs would leave the trunk to sprout anew. And if they went off on some of Garrison's tangential hobbies, they would be wasting strokes on mere branches and leaves.


 Return to THEODORE WELD Index Page