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The Grimke Sisters by Catherine H. Birney

Part 2 out of 5

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sumptuous for a _servant_ of Jesus Christ. For this reason, when I took
tea at a minister's house a few evenings since, I did not touch the
richest cakes, nor the fruit and nuts handed, after tea; and when
paying a visit the other morning, I refused cake and wine, although I
felt fatigued, and would have liked something plain to eat. But it is
not only the food I eat at mother's, but the whole style of living is a
direct departure from the simplicity that is in Christ. The Lord's poor
tell me they do not like to come to such a fine house to see me; and if
they come, instead of being able to read a lesson of frugality, and
deadness to the world, they must go away lamenting over the
inconsistency of a sister professor. One thing is very hard to bear--I
feel obliged to pay five dollars a week for board, though I disapprove
of this extravagance, and am actually accessory in maintaining this
style of living, when I know it is wrong, and am thereby prevented from
giving to the poor as liberally as I would like."

She and Sarah had for several years, when at home, paid board regularly
to their mother, and this was probably one thing which irritated the
other members of the family, several of whom were living in idleness on
their mother, doing nothing and paying nothing. The brothers at least
could not but feel the implied rebuke. As we have seen, she was not at
all backward in expressing her disapprobation, when she found her
silent testimony was disregarded or misunderstood; and her language was
generally rather forcible. This, of course, was trying to those who did
not see the necessity of living according to her standard, and very
trying to Angelina, whose convictions were clear, and whose interest in
her relatives was as tender as it was sincere. Scarcely a day passed
that something did not occur to wound her feelings, shock her religious
prejudices, or arouse her righteous indignation. Slavery was always the
cause of the latter, and for the others ample reason was to be found in
what she styled the vain lusts of the world, and in the coldness and
irritability of some members of the family. Unrestrained
self-indulgence, joined to high-strung and undisciplined tempers, made
of what should have been a united, bright, and charming home circle, a
place of constant discord, jealousy, and unhappiness.

Sarah had borne this state of things better than Angelina could, her
extreme gentleness and kindness disarming all unkind feelings in
others. But even she was forced to flee from it at last. The record is
a most painful one, and it gives another evidence of Angelina's sense
of her own power, and of her reliance on divine help, that she should
for one moment have contemplated effecting any change. But the respite
from those dissensions, and the rest thus given to her spirit by her
visit North, softened the bitter feelings she had once entertained, and
when she returned home it was with sentiments of affection for
everyone, and especially for her mother, from whom she had been
grievously estranged. She prayed that she might not do or say anything
to alienate them further from her; but when she fully realized, as she
had never yet done, the sad condition of things, she could not keep
silent. She felt it her duty to speak, and she did so, kindly and
affectionately, but unsparingly. She relates many incidents proving
this, and showing also how badly her reproofs were received. The
mistake she made, and which in after years she freely acknowledged, was
in excess of zeal. But Angelina was a born radical, and if a thing was
wrong, it was wrong, and she could not see why it should not be righted
at once. Temporizing with a wrong, or compromising with it in any way,
were things outside of her reasoning, and she never would admit that
they were justifiable under any circumstances. It was, of course,
difficult to apply this principle in the desired reform of her mother's
inherited and life-long prejudices. Hence the incessant chafing and
irritation which daily made Angelina feel more keenly her isolated
position, and caused her to turn with increasing longing to the North,
where her beloved sister and many dear friends were in sympathy with

To illustrate what I have said, one or two examples will be sufficient.
She was much troubled because her mother had the drawing-room repainted
and handsomely papered. Mrs. Grimke doubtless selected a paper in
harmony with the house and furniture, and had no suspicion that she was
thereby committing a sin. But Angelina thought it entirely too fine,
and felt that she could never sit in the room. When the work was at
last finished, and some friends were invited to tea, and afterwards
repaired to the newly-decorated apartment, Angelina did not accompany
them, but remained below, reading alone, much disturbed during the
evening by the talking and laughing up stairs. Her mother did not
notice her absence, or ascribed it to some other cause; but Angelina
explained it to her some time afterwards, when, she says, a way seemed
to open for it.

"I spoke to her of how great a trial it was to me to see her living in
the luxury she did, and explained to her that it was not, as she seemed
to think, because I did not wish to see brother John and sister Sally
that I was tried at their dining here every week, but it was the parade
and profusion which was displayed when they came. I spoke also of the
drawing-room, and remarked it was as much my feeling about _that_ which
had prevented my coming into the room when M.A. and others drank tea
here, as my objection to fashionable company. She said it was very hard
that she could not give her children what food she chose, or have a
room papered, without being found fault with; that, indeed, she was
weary of being continually blamed about everything she did, and she
wished she could be let alone, for she saw no sin in these things. 'I
trust,' I said, 'that I do not speak to thee, mother, in the spirit
thou art now speaking to me; nothing but my conviction that I am bound
to bear my testimony to the truth could induce me to find fault with
thee. In doing so, I am acting with eternity in view. I am acting in
reference to that awful hour when I shall stand at thy death-bed, or
thou by mine.' Interrupting me, she said if _I_ was so constantly found
fault with, I would not bear it either; for her part, she was quite
discouraged. 'Oh, mother,' said I, 'there is something in thee so
alienated from the love of Christ that thou canst not bear to be found
fault with.' 'Yes,' she said, 'you and Sally always say _I_ speak in a
wrong spirit, but both of you in a right one.' She then went on to say
how much I was changed, about slavery, for instance, for when I was
first serious I thought it was right, and never condemned it. I replied
that I acted according to the light I had. 'Well, then,' she continued,
'you are not to expect everyone to think like Quakers.' I remarked that
true believers had but one leader, who would, if they followed Him,
guide them into all truth, and teach them the same things. She again
spoke of my turning Quaker, and said it was because I was a Quaker that
I disapproved of a great many things that nobody but Quakers could see
any harm in. I was much roused at this, and said with a good deal of
energy, 'Dear mother, what but the _power_ of God could ever have made
_me_ change my sentiments?' Some very painful conversation followed
about Kitty. I did not hesitate to say that no one with _Christian_
feelings could have treated her as she was treated before I took her;
her condition was a disgrace to the name of Christian. She reminded me
that _I_ had advised the very method that had been adopted with her.
This stung me to the quick. 'Not after I professed Christianity,' I
eagerly replied, 'and that I should have done so before, only proved
the wretched manner of my education.' But mother is perfectly blind as
to the miserable manner in which she brought us up. During the latter
part of the conversation I was greatly excited, for so acute have been
my sufferings on account of slavery, and so strong my feelings of
indignation in looking upon its oppressions and degradations, that I
cannot command my feelings in speaking of what my own eyes have seen,
and thus, I believe, I lost the satisfaction I should otherwise have
felt for speaking the truth."

Though constantly disregarded, taunted, and thwarted, Angelina
faithfully persevered in her efforts at reform, at the same time as
faithfully striving after more meekness and singleness of purpose

After a while, she obtained two concessions from which she hoped much:
one, that the servants should come to her in the library every day for
religious instruction; the other, that her mother would sit with her in
silence every evening for half an hour before tea.

The servants came as directed, and Angelina made her instructions so
interesting that soon some of the neighbors' servants asked to be
admitted, and then her mother and one or two of her sisters joined the
meetings; and though no very marked fruit of her labors appeared for
some time, she persevered, with a firm faith that the seed she was
sowing would not all be scattered to the winds.

The proposal to her mother to sit in silence for a while with her every
evening was in accordance with the Quaker practices. She thought they
would both find it profitable, and that it would be the means of
forming a bond of union between them. The mother's assent to this was
certainly an amiable concession to her daughter's views, enhanced by
the regularity with which she kept the appointment, although the dark,
silent room must have been at times a trifle wearisome. Angelina always
sat on a low seat beside her, with her head in her mother's lap, and
very rarely was the silence broken. The practice was kept up until the
mosquitoes obliged them to discontinue it. That it did not prove
entirely satisfactory, we judge from several entries in the diary like
the following:--

"I still sit in silence with dear mother, but feel very sensibly that
she takes no interest at all in it; still, I do not like to relinquish
the habit, believing it may yet be blessed. Eliza came this evening, as
she has several times before. It was a season of great deadness, and
yet I am glad to sit even thus, for where there is communion there will
be some union."

Her position was certainly a difficult and a painful one; for, apart
from other troubles, her eyes were now fully open to all the iniquities
of the slave system, and she could neither stay in nor go out without
having some of its miserable features forced upon her notice. In the
view of her after-work, it is interesting to note the beginning of her
strong feelings on the subject, as well as her faithful crusades
against it in her own family. In April, 1829, she writes as follows in
her diary:--

"Whilst returning from meeting this morning, I saw before me a colored
woman who in much distress was vindicating herself to two white boys,
one about eighteen, the other fifteen, who walked on each side of her.
The dreadful apprehension that they were leading her to the workhouse
crossed my mind, and I would have avoided her if I could. As I
approached, the younger said to her, 'I will have you tied up.' My
knees smote together, and my heart sank within me. As I passed them,
she exclaimed, 'Missis!' But I felt all I had to do was to suffer the
pain of seeing her. My lips were sealed, and my soul earnestly craved a
willingness to bear the exercise which was laid on me. How long, O
Lord, how long wilt thou suffer the foot of the oppressor to stand on
the neck of the slave! None but those who know from experience what it
is to live in a land of bondage can form any idea of what is endured by
those whose eyes are open to the enormities of slavery, and whose
hearts are tender enough to feel for these miserable creatures. For two
or three months after my return here it seemed to me that all the
cruelty and unkindness which I had from my infancy seen practised
towards them came back to my mind as though it was only yesterday. And
as to the house of correction, it seemed as though its doors were
unbarred to me, and the wretched, lacerated inmates of its cold, dark
cells were presented to my view. Night and day they were before me, and
yet my hands were bound as with chains of iron. I could do nothing but
weep over the scenes of horror which passed in review before my mind.
Sometimes I felt as though I was willing to fly from Carolina, be the
consequences what they might. At others, it seemed as though the very
exercises I was suffering under were preparing me for future usefulness
to them; and this,--_hope_, I can scarcely call it, for my very soul
trembled at the solemn thought of such a work being placed in my feeble
and unworthy hands,--this idea was the means of reconciling me to
suffer, and causing me to feel something of a willingness to pass
through any trials, if I could only be the means of exposing the
cruelty and injustice which was practised in the institution of
oppression, and of bringing to light the hidden things of darkness, of
revealing the secrets of iniquity and abolishing its present
regulations,--above all, of exposing the awful sin of professors of
religion sending their slaves to such a place of cruelty, and having
them whipped so that when they come out they can scarcely walk, or
having them put upon the treadmill until they are lamed for days
afterwards. These are not things I have heard; no, my own eyes have
looked upon them and wept over them. Such was the opinion I formed of
the workhouse that for many months whilst I was a teacher in the
Sunday-school, having a scholar in my class who was the daughter of the
master of it, I had frequent occasion to go to it to mark her lessons,
and no one can imagine my feelings in walking down that street. It
seemed as though I was walking on the very confines of hell; and this
winter, being obliged to pass it to pay a visit to a friend, I suffered
so much that I could not get over it for days, and wondered how any
real Christian could live near such a place."

It may appear to some who read this biography that Angelina's
expressions of feeling were over-strained. But it was not so. Her
nervous organization was exceedingly delicate, and became more so after
she began to give her best thoughts to the cause of humanity. In her
own realization, at least, of the suffering of others there was no

Not long after making the above record of her feelings on this subject,
she narrates the following incident:--

"I have been suffering for the last two days on account of Henry's boy
having run away, because he was threatened with a whipping. Oh, who can
paint the horrors of slavery! And yet, so hard is the natural heart
that I am constantly told that the situation of slaves is very good,
much better than that of their owners. How strange that anyone should
believe such an absurdity, or try to make others believe it! No wonder
poor John ran away at the threat of a flogging, when he has told me
more than once that when H. last whipped him he was in pain for a week
afterwards. I don't know how the boy must have felt, but I know that
that night was one of agony to me; for it was not only dreadful to hear
the blows, but the oaths and curses H. uttered went like daggers to my
heart. And this was done, too, in the house of one who is regarded as a
light in the church. O Jesus, where is thy meek and merciful
disposition to be found now? Are the marks of discipleship changed, or
who are thy true disciples? Last night I lay awake weeping over the
condition of John, and it seemed as though that was all I could do. But
at last I was directed to go to H. and tenderly remonstrate with him. I
sought strength, and was willing to do so, if the impression continued.
To-day, was somewhat released from this exercise, though still
suffering, and almost thought it would not be required. But at dusk it
returned; and, having occasion to go into H.'s room for something, I
broached the subject as guardedly and mildly as possible, first passing
my arm around him, and leaning my head on his shoulder. He very openly
acknowledged that he meant to give John such a whipping as would cure
him of ever doing the same thing again, and that he deserved to be
whipped until he could not stand. I said that would be treating him
worse than he would treat his horse. He now became excited, and replied
that he considered his horse no comparison better than John, and would
_not_ treat _it_ so. By this time my heart was full, and I felt so much
overcome as to be compelled to seat myself, or rather to fall into a
chair before him, but I don't think he observed this. The conversation
proceeded. I pleaded the cause of humanity. He grew very angry, and
said I had no business to be meddling with him, that he never did so
with me. I said if I had ever done anything to offend him I was very
sorry for it, but I had tried to do everything to please him. He said I
had come from the North expressly to be miserable myself and make
everyone in the house so, and that I had much better go and live at the
North. I told him that I was not ignorant that both C. and himself
would be very glad if I did, and that as soon as I felt released from
Carolina I would go; but that I had believed it my duty to return this
winter, though I knew I was coming back to suffer. He again accused me
of meddling with his private affairs, which he said I had no right to
do. I told him I could not but lift up my voice against his manner of
treating John. He said rather than suffer the continual condemnation of
his conduct by me, he would leave mother's house. I appealed to the
witness in his own bosom as to the truth of what I urged. To my
surprise he readily acknowledged that he felt something within him
which fully met all I asserted, and that I had harrowed his feelings
and made him wretched. Much more passed. I alluded to his neglect of
me, and testified that I had experienced no feeling but that of love
towards him and all the family, and a desire to do all I could to
oblige them; and I left the room in tears. I retired to bless my
Saviour for the strength he had granted, and to implore his continued

"7th. Surely my heart ought to be lifted to my blessed Master in
emotions of gratitude and praise. His boy came home last night a short
time after our conversation, and instead of punishing him, as I am
certain he intended to do, he merely told him to go about his business.
I was amazed last night after all my sufferings were over, and I was
made willing to leave all things in my Father's hands, to see John in
the house. This was a renewed proof to me how necessary it is for us to
watch for the right _time_ in which to do things. If I had not spoken
just when I did, I could not have done so before John's return. He has
escaped entirely.... Oh, how earnestly two nights ago did I pray for a
release from this land of slavery, and how my heart still pants after
it! And yet, I think, I trust it is in submission to my Heavenly
Father's will. I feel comfortable to-night; my relief from suffering
about John is so great that other trials seem too light to name."

"8th. My heart sings aloud for joy. I feel the sweet testimony of a
good conscience, the reward of obedience in speaking to H. Dear boy, he
has good, tender feelings naturally, but a false education has nearly
destroyed them, and his own perverted judgment as to what is manly and
what is necessary in the government of slaves has done the rest. Lord,
open thou his eyes."

On the 13th of March she says: "To-day, for the first time, I ironed my
clothes, and felt as though it was an acceptable sacrifice. This seemed
part of the preparation for my removal to the North. I felt fearful
lest this object was a stronger incentive to me than the desire to
glorify my divine Master."

There was doubtless some truth in the charge brought against her by her
brothers, that her face was a perpetual condemnation of them. Referring
to a call she received from some friends, she says:--

"An emptiness and vapidness pervaded all they said about religion. I
was silent most of the time, and fear what I did say sprang from a
feeling of too great indignation. Just before they went away, I joined
in a joke; much condemnation was felt, for the language to me
constantly is, 'I have called _thee_ with a _high_ and _holy_ calling,'
and it seems as though solemnity ought always to pervade my mind too
much to allow me ever to joke, but my natural vivacity is hard to
bridle and subdue."

The bond between Sarah and Angelina was growing stronger every day,
their separation in matters of religion from the other members of the
family serving more than anything else to draw them closely and
lovingly together. Every letter from Sarah was hailed as a messenger of
peace and joy, and to her Angelina turned for counsel and sympathy. It
is very pleasant to read such words as the following, and know that
they expressed the inmost feelings of Angelina's heart:--

"Thou art, dearest, my best beloved, and often does my heart expand
with gratitude to the Giver of all good for the gift of such a friend,
who has been the helper of my joy and the lifter up of my hands when
they were ready to hang down in hopeless despair. Often do I look back
to those days of conflict and suffering through which I passed last
winter, when thou alone seemed to know of the deep baptisms wherewith I
was baptized, and to be qualified to speak the words of encouragement
and reproof which I believe were blessed to my poor soul.

"I received another long letter from thee this afternoon. I cannot tell
thee what a consolation thy letters are to her who feels like an exile,
a stranger in the place of her nativity, 'as unknown, and yet well
known,' and one of the very least where she was once among the

In one of her letters, written soon after her return home, she thus
speaks of her Quaker dress:--

"I thought I should find it so trying to dress like a Quaker here; but
it has been made so easy that if it is a cross I do not feel the weight
of it.... It appears to me that at present I am to be little and
unknown, and that the most that is required of me is that I bear a
decided testimony against dress. I am literally as a wonder unto many,
but though I am as a gazing-stock--perhaps a laughing-stock--in the
midst of them, yet I scarcely feel it, so sensible am I of the presence
and approbation of Him for whose sake I count it a high privilege to
endure scorn and derision. I begin to feel that it is a solemn thing
even to dress like a Quaker, as by so doing I profess a belief in the
purest principles of the Bible, and warrant the expectation in others
that my life will exhibit to all around those principles drawn out in
living characters."

There is a pride of conscience in all this, strongly contrasting with
Sarah's want of self-confidence when travelling the same path. If
Angelina suffered for her religion, no one suspected it, and for this
very reason she was enabled to exert a stronger influence upon those
about her than Sarah ever could have done. She herself saw the great
points of difference between them, and frequently alluded to them. On
one page of her diary she writes:--

"I have been reading dear sister's diary the last two days, and find
she has suffered great conflict of mind, particularly about her call to
the ministry, and I am led to look at the contrast between our feelings
on the subject. I clearly saw winter before last that my having been
appointed to this work was the great reason why I was called out of the
Presbyterian Society, but I don't think my will has ever rebelled
against it.

"So far from murmuring against the appointment, I have felt exceedingly
impatient at not being permitted to enter upon my work at once; and
this is probably an evidence that I am not prepared for it. But it is
hard for me to _be_ and to _do_ nothing. My restless, ambitious temper,
so different from dear sister's, craves high duties and high
attainments, and I have at times thought that this ambition was a
motive to me to do my duty and submit my will. The hope of attaining to
great eminence in the divine life has often prompted me to give up in
little things, to bend to existing circumstances, to be willing for the
time to be trampled upon. These are my temptations. For a long time it
seemed to me I did everything from a hope of applause. I could not even
write in my diary without a feeling that I was doing it in the hope
that it would one day meet the eye of the public. Last winter I wrote
more freely in it, and am still permitted to do so. Very often, when
thinking of my useless state at present, something of disappointment is
felt that I am as nothing, and this language has been presented with
force, 'Seekest thou great things for thyself, seek them not.'"


At this time of her life, ere a single sorrow had thrown its shadow
across her heart, and all her tears were shed for other's woes, we see
very distinctly Angelina's peculiar characteristics. Her
conscientiousness and her pride are especially conspicuous. The former,
with its attendant sacrifices at the shrine of religious principle, had
the effect of silencing criticism after a while, and inspiring a
respect which touched upon veneration. One of her sisters, in referring
to this, says:--

"Though we considered her views entirely irrational, yet so absolute
was her sense of duty, her superiority to public sentiment, and her
moral courage, that she seemed to us almost like one inspired, and we
all came to look upon her with a feeling of awe."

Of her pride--"that stumbling block," as she calls it, to Christian
meekness--she herself writes:--

"My pride is my bane. In examining myself, I blush to confess this
fault, so great do I find its proportions. I am all pride, and I fear I
am even proud of my pride."

But hers was not the pride that includes personal vanity or the desire
for the applause of the multitude, for of these two elements few ever
had less; neither was there any haughtiness in it, only the dignity
which comes from the conscious possession of rare advantages, joined to
the desire to use them to the glory of something better than self.
Still it was pride, and, in her eyes, sinful, and called for all her
efforts to subdue its manifestations. It especially troubled her
whenever she entered into any argument or discussion, both of which she
was rather fond of inviting. She knew full well her intellectual power,
and thoroughly enjoyed its exercise.

I regret that space does not permit me to copy her discussion with the
Rev. Mr. McDowell on Presbyterianism; her answers to the questions
given her when arraigned before the Sessions for having left the
Church; her conversation on Orthodoxy with some Hicksites who called on
her, and her arguments on silent worship. They all show remarkable
reasoning power, great lucidity of thought, and great faculty of
expression for so young a woman.

But, interesting as is the whole history of Angelina's last year in
Charleston, I may not dwell longer upon it, but hasten towards that
period when the reason for all this mental and spiritual preparation
was made manifest in the work in which she became as a "light upon the
hill top," and, which, as long as it lasted, filled the measure of her
desires full to the brim.

As it is important to show just what her views and feelings about
slavery were at this time, and as they can be better narrated in her
own words than in mine, I shall quote from her diary and a few letters
all that relates to the subject.

In May, 1829, we find this short sentence in her diary:--

"May it not be laid down as an axiom, that that system must be
radically wrong which can only be supported by transgressing the laws
of God."

"3d Mo. 20th. Could I think I was in the least advancing the glory of
God by staying here, I think I would be satisfied, but I am doing
nothing. Though 'the fields are white for harvest, yet am I standing
idle in the market place.' I am often tempted to ask, Why am I kept in
such a situation, a poor unworthy worm, feeding on luxuries my soul
abhors, tended by slaves, who (I think) I would rather serve than be
served by, and whose bondage I deeply deplore? Oh! why am I kept in
Carolina? But the answer seems to be: 'I have set thee as a sign to the
people.' Lord, give me patience to stand still."

"29th. At times slavery is a heavy burden to my heart. Last night I was
led to speak of this subject, of all others the sorest on which to
touch a Carolinian. The depravity of slaves was spoken of with
contempt, and one said they were fitted to hold no other place than the
one they do. I asked what had made them so depraved? Was it not because
of their degraded situations, and was it not white people who had
placed them and kept them in this situation, and were _they_ not to
blame for it? Was it not a fact that the minds of slaves were totally
uncultivated, and their souls no more cared for by their owners than if
they had none? Was it not true that, in order to restrain them from
vice, coercion was employed instead of the moral restraint which, if
proper instruction had been given them, would have guarded them against
evil? 'I wish,' exclaimed one, 'that you would never speak on the
subject.' 'And why?' I asked. 'Because you speak in such a serious
way,' she replied. 'Truth cuts deep into the heart,' I said, and this
is no doubt the reason why no one likes to hear me express my
sentiments, but I did feel it my duty to bear a decided testimony
against an institution which I believe altogether contrary to the
spirit of the Gospel; for it was a system which nourished the worst
passions of the human heart, a system which sanctioned the daily
trampling under foot of the feelings of our fellow creatures. 'But,'
said one, 'it is exceedingly imprudent in you to speak as you do.' I
replied I was not speaking before servants, I was speaking only to
owners, whom I wished to know my sentiments; this wrong had long enough
been covered up, and I was not afraid or ashamed to have any one know
my sentiments--they were drawn from the Bible. I also took occasion to
speak very plainly to sister Mary about the bad feeling she had towards
negroes, and told her, though she wished to get rid of them, and would
be glad to see them _shipped_, as she called it, that this wish did not
spring from pure Christian benevolence. My heart was very heavy after
this conversation."

"3d Mo. 31st. Yesterday was a day of suffering. My soul was exceedingly
sorrowful, and out of the depths of it, I cried unto the Lord that He
would make a way for me to escape from this land of slavery. Is there
any suffering so great as that of seeing the rights and feelings of our
fellow creatures trodden under foot, without being able to rescue them
from bondage? How clear it is to my mind that slaves can be controlled
only by one of two principles,--fear or love. As to moral restraint,
they know nothing of it, for they are not taught to act from principle.
I feel as though I had nothing to do in this thing, but by my manner to
bear a decided testimony against such an abuse of power. The suffering
of mind through which I have passed has necessarily rendered me silent
and solemn. The language seems to be, 'It behooves thee to suffer these
things,' and this morning I think I saw very plainly that this was a
part of the preparation for the awful work of the ministry."

"4th Mo. 4th. Does not this no less positive than comprehensive law
under the Gospel dispensation entirely exclude slavery: 'Do unto others
as you would he done by?' After arguing for some time, one evening,
with an individual, I proposed the question: 'Would'st thou be willing
to be a slave thyself?' He eagerly answered 'No!' 'Then,' said I, 'thou
hast no right to enslave the negro, for the Master expressly says: "Do
unto others as thou wouldst they should do unto thee."' Again I put the
query: 'Suppose thou wast obliged to free thy slaves, or take their
place, which wouldst thou do?' Of course he said he would free them.
'But why,' I asked, 'if thou really believest what thou contendest for,
namely, that their situation is as good as thine?' But these questions
were too close, and he did not know what to say."

"4th Mo. 23d. Friend K. drank tea here last night. It seems to me that
whenever mother can get anyone to argue with her on the subject of
slavery, she always introduces it; but last night she was mistaken,
for, to my surprise, Friend K. acknowledged that notwithstanding all
that could be said for it, there was something in her heart which told
her it was wrong, and she admitted all I said. Since my last argument
on this subject, it has appeared to me in another light. I remarked
that a Carolina mistress was literally a slave-driver, and that I
thought it degrading to the female character. The mistress is as great
a slave to her servants, in some respects, as they are to her. One
thing which annoys me very much is the constant orders that are given.
Really, when I go into mother's room to read to her, I am continually
interrupted by a variety of orders which might easily be avoided, were
it not for the domineering spirit which is, it seems to me, inherent in
a Carolinian; and they are such fine ladies that if a shutter is to be
hooked, or a chair moved, or their work handed to them, a servant must
be summoned to do it for them. Oh! I do very much desire to cultivate
feelings of forbearance, but I feel at the same time that it is my duty
to bear an open and decided testimony against such a violation of the
divine command."

"28th. It seems this morning as if the language was spoken with regard
to dear mother: _Thy_ work is done. My mind has been mostly released
from exercises, and it seems as though I had nothing to do now but to
bear and forbear with her. I can truly say I have not shunned to
'declare unto her the whole counsel of God, but she would none of my
reproofs.' I stretched out my hands to her, speaking the truth in
_love_, but she has not regarded. Perhaps He has seen fit not to work
by me lest I should be exalted above measure."

"5th Mo. 6th. Today has been one of much trial of mind, and my soul has
groaned under the burden of slavery. Is it too harsh to say that a
person must be destitute of Christian feelings to be willing to be
served by slaves, who are actuated by no sentiment but that of fear?
Are not these unfortunate creatures expected to act on principles
directly opposite to our natural feelings and daily experience? They
are required to do more for others than for themselves, and all without
thanks or reward."

"12th. It appears to me that there is a real want of natural affection
among many families in Carolina, and I have thought that one great
cause of it is the independence which members of families feel here.
Instead of being taught to do for themselves and each other, they are
brought up to be waited on by slaves, and become unamiable, proud, and
selfish. I have many times felt exceedingly tried, when, in the
flowings of love towards mother, I have offered to do little things for
her, and she has refused to allow me, saying it was Stephen's or
William's duty, and she preferred one of them should do it. The other
night, being refused in this way, I said:--

"'Mother, it seems to me thou would'st at any time rather have a
servant do little things for thee, than me.' She replied it was their
business. 'Well,' said I, 'mother, I do not think it ever was designed
that parents and children should be independent of each other. Our
Heavenly Father intended that we should be dependent on each other, not
on servants.' From time to time ability is granted me to labor against
slavery. I may be mistaken, but I do not think it is any longer without
sin in mother, for I think she feels very sensibly that it is not
right, though she never will acknowledge it."

_Night._ Left the parlor on account of some unpleasant occurrence, and
retired to weep in solitude over the evils of slavery. The language was
forcibly revived: 'Woe unto you, for you bind heavy burdens, grievous
to be borne, on men's shoulders, and will not move them yourselves with
one of your fingers.' I do not think I pass a single day without
apprehension as to something painful about the servants."

"15th. Had a long conversation with Selina last evening about servants,
and expressed very freely my opinion of Henry's feelings towards them,
and his treatment of John. She admitted all I said, and seemed to feel
for slaves, until I said I thought they had as much right to freedom as
I had. Of course she would not admit this, but I was glad an
opportunity was offered for me to tell her that my life was one of such
continual and painful exercise on account of the manner in which our
servants were treated, that, were it not for mother, I would not stay a
day longer in Carolina, and were it not for the belief that Henry would
treat his servants worse if we were not here, that both Eliza and I
would leave the house. Dear girl; she seemed to feel a good deal at
these strictures on her husband, but bore with me very patiently."

"18th. Oh, Lord! grant that my going forth out of this land may be in
such a time and such a way, let what may happen after I leave my
mother's house, I may never have to reproach myself for doing so. Of
late my mind has been much engrossed with the subject of slavery. I
have felt not only the necessity of feeling that it is sinful, but of
being able to prove from Scripture that it is not warranted by God."

"30th. Slavery is a system of abject selfishness, and yet I believe I
have seen some of the best of it. In its worst form, tyranny is added
to it, and power cruelly treads under foot the rights of man, and
trammels not only the body, but the mind of the poor negro. Experience
has convinced me that a person may own a slave, with a single eye to
the glory of God. But as the eye is kept single, it will soon become
full of light on this momentous subject; the arm of power will be
broken; the voice of authority will tremble, and strength will be
granted to obey the command: 'Touch not the unclean thing.'"

"_Night._ Sometimes I think that the children of Israel could not have
looked towards the land of Canaan with keener longing than I do to the
North. I do not expect to go there and be exempt from trial, far from
it; and yet it looks like a promised land, a pleasant land, because it
is a land of freedom; and it seems to me that I would rather bear much
deeper spiritual exercises than, day after day, and month after month,
to endure the conutless evils which incessantly flow from slavery. 'Oh,
to grace how great a debtor for my sentiments on this subject. Surely I
may measurably adopt the language of Paul, when with holy triumph he
exclaimed: 'By the grace of God I am what I am.'"

A few weeks later, we read: "If I could believe that I contributed to
dear mother's happiness, surely duty, yea, inclination, would lead me
to continue here; but I do not. Yesterday morning I read her some
papers on slavery, which had just come by the L.C. (vessel). It was
greatly against her will, but it seemed to me I must do it, and that
this was the last effort which would be required of me. She was really
angry, but I did not feel condemned."

"_Night._ Have sought a season of retirement, in order to ponder all
these things in my heart, for I feel greatly burdened, and think I must
open this subject to dear mother to-morrow, perhaps. I earnestly desire
to do the Lord's will."

"12th. This morning I read parts of dear sister's letters to mother, on
the subject of my going to the North. She did not oppose, though she
regretted it. My mind is in a calm, almost an indifferent, state about
it, simply acquiescing in what I believe to be the divine will
concerning me."

Had we all of Sarah's letters written to Angelina, we should doubtless
see that she fully sympathized with her in her anti-slavery sentiments;
but Sarah's diary shows her thoughts to have been almost wholly
absorbed by her disappointed hopes, and her trials in the ministry. As
positive evidences of her continued interest in slavery, we have only
the fact that, in 1829, Angelina mentions, in her diary, receiving
anti-slavery documents from her sister, and the statements of friends
that she retained her interest in the subject which had, in her earlier
years, caused her so much sorrow.

It is astonishing how ignorant of passing events, even of importance, a
person may remain who is shut up as Sarah Grimke was, in an
organization hedged in by restrictions which would prevent her from
gaining such knowledge. She mingled in no society outside of her
church; her time was so fully occupied with her various charitable and
religious duties, that she frequently laments the necessity of
neglecting reading and writing, which, she says, "I love so well."

When a few friends met together, their conversation was chiefly of
religious or benevolent matters, and it is probable that Sarah even
read no newspaper but the _Friends' Journal_.

That this narrow and busy life was led even after Angelina joined her
we judge from what Angelina writes to her brother Thomas, thanking him
for sending them his literary correspondence to read. She says: "It is
very kind in thee to send us thy private correspondence. We enjoy it so
much that I am sure thou would'st feel compensated for the trouble if
thou could'st see us. We mingle almost entirely with a Society which
appears to know but little of what is going on outside of its own
immediate precincts. It is therefore a great treat when we have access
to information more diffuse, or that which introduces our minds in some
measure into the general interest which seems to be exciting the
religious world."

The fact, however, remains, that in 1829 Sarah sent to Angelina various
anti-slavery publications, from which the latter drew strength and
encouragement for her own arguments. Angelina also mentions reading
carefully Woolman's works, which she found very helpful. But it is
evident that neither she nor Sarah looked forward at all to any
identification of themselves with the active opponents of slavery. For
them, at that time, there seemed to be nothing more to do than to
express their opinions on the subject in private, and to get as far
away from the sight of its evils as possible. As Sarah had done this,
so now Angelina felt that the time had come when she too must go.

She had done what she could, and had failed in making the impression
she had hoped to make. Why should she linger longer where her feelings
were daily tortured, and where there was not one to sympathize with her
or aid her, where she could neither give nor receive any good? Still
there was a great struggle in her mind about leaving her mother. She
thus writes of it:

"Though I am favored to feel this is the right time for me to go, yet I
cannot but be pained at the thought of leaving mother, for I am sure I
shall leave her to suffer. It has appeared very plain to me that I
never would have been taken from her again if she had been willing to
listen to my remonstrances, and to yield to the requisitions of duty,
as shown her by the light within. And I do not think dear sister or I
will ever see her again until she is willing to give up slavery."

"10th Mo. 4th. Last night E.T. took tea here. As soon as she began to
extol the North and speak against slavery, mother left the room. She
cannot bear these two subjects. My mind continues distressingly
exercised and anxious that mother's eyes should be open to all the
iniquities of the system she upholds. Much hope has lately been
experienced, and it seems as though the language to me was: 'Thou hast
done what was given thee to do; now go and leave the rest to _me_."

Two weeks later, she writes as follows:

"_Night._ This morning I had a very satisfactory conversation with dear
mother, and feel considerably relieved from painful exercise. I found
her views far more correct than I had supposed, and I do believe that,
through suffering, the great work will yet be accomplished. She
remarked that, though she had found it very hard to bear many things
which sister and I had from time to time said to her, yet she believed
that the Lord had raised us up to teach her, and that her fervent
prayer was that, if we were right and she was wrong, she might see it.
I remarked that if she was _willing_, she would, I was sure, see still
more than she now did; and I drew a contrast between what she once
approved and now believed right. 'Yes,' she said, 'I see very
differently; for when I look back and remember what I used to do, and
think nothing of it, I shrink back with horror. Much more passed, and
we parted in love."

Two weeks later Angelina left Charleston, never to return. The
description of the parting with her mother is very affecting, but we
have not room for it here. It shows, however, that Mrs. Grimke had the
true heart of a mother, and loved her daughter most tenderly. She shed
bitter tears as she folded her to her bosom for the last time,
murmuring amid her sobs: "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will
take Benjamin away also!" The mother and daughter never saw each other


Angelina arrived in Philadelphia in the latter part of October, 1829,
and made her home with Sarah in the family of Catherine Morris.

Over the next four or five years I must pass very briefly, although
they were marked by many interesting incidents and some deep sorrows,
and much that the sisters wrote during that time I would like to
notice, if space permitted.

We see Sarah still regarding herself as the vilest of sinners, against
whom it seemed at times as if every door of mercy was closed, and still
haunted by her horror of horrors, the ministry. Her preparation
continued, but brought her apparently no nearer the long-expected and
dreaded end. She was still unrecognized by the Church. First-day
meetings were looked forward to without pleasure, while the Quarterly
and Yearly meetings were seasons of actual suffering. Of one of the
latter she says,--

"I think no criminal under sentence of death can look more fearfully to
the day of execution than I do towards our Yearly Meeting."

Still she would nerve herself from time to time to arise when the
Spirit moved her, and say a few words, but deriving no satisfaction
from the exercise, except that of obedience to the divine will.

Doubtless she would have grown out of all this timidity, and would have
acquitted herself more acceptably in meeting, if she had met with
consideration and kindness from the elders and influential members of
the Society. But, for reasons not clearly explained, her efforts do not
seem to have been generally regarded with favor; and so sensibly did
she feel this that she trembled in every limb when obliged even to
offer a prayer in the presence of one of the dignitaries. It is
probable that her ultra views on various needed reforms in the society,
and declining--as she and Angelina both did--to conform to all its
peculiar usages, gave offence. For instance, the sisters never could
bring themselves to use certain ungrammatical forms of speech, such as
_thee_ for _thou_, and would wear bonnets of a shape and material
better adapted to protect them from the cold than those prescribed by
Quaker style. It was also discovered that they indulged in vocal prayer
in their private devotions, which was directly contrary to established
usage. These things were regarded as quiet protests against customs
which all members of the Society were expected to respect. As to the
_principles_ of Quakerism, the sisters were more scrupulous in obeying,
them than many of the elders themselves. Sarah frequently mentions the
coldness and indifference with which she was treated by those from whom
she had a right to look for tender sympathy and friendly counsel, and
feelingly records the kindness and encouragement offered to her by many
of the less conspicuous brothers and sisters. It is no doubt that to
this treatment by those in authority was due the gradual waning of her
interest in Quakerism, although she is far from acknowledging it.

One obstacle in the way of her success as a preacher was her manner of
speaking. Though a clear, forcible thinker and writer, she lacked the
gift of eloquence which so distinguished Angelina, and being, besides,
exceedingly self-conscious, it was difficult for her to express herself
satisfactorily in words. Her speech was sometimes slow and hesitating;
at others, when feeling very deeply, or at all embarrassed, rapid and a
little confused, as though she was in a hurry to get through. This
irregularity laid her open to the charge which was frequently brought
against her, that she prepared and committed her offerings to memory
before coming to meeting, an almost unpardonable offence according to
the views of those making the accusation. That her earnest denial of
this should be treated lightly was an additional wrong which Sarah
never entirely succeeded in forgiving. In reference to this she says:--

"The suffering passed through in meeting, on account of the ministry,
feeling as if I were condemned already whenever I arise; the severe
reproofs administered by an elder to whom I did a little look for
kindness; the cutting charge of preparing what I had to say out of
meeting, and going there to preach, instead of to worship, like poor
Mary Cox, was almost too much for me. It cost me hours of anguish; but
Jesus allayed the storm and gave me peace; for in looking at my poor
services I can truly say it is not so, although my mind is often
brought under exercise on account of this work, and many are the
sleepless hours I pass in prayer for preservation in it, feeling it
indeed an awful thing to be a channel of communication between God and
His people."

Referring to the charge again, some time later, she says:--

"There are times when I greatly fear my best life will perish in this
conflict. I have felt lately as if I were ready to give up all, and to
question all I have known and done."

As contrasting with the very different opinions she held a few years
later, the following lines from her diary, about the beginning of 1830,
are interesting:--

"There are seasons when my heart is so filled with apostolic love that
I feel as if I could freely part with all I hold most dear, to be
instrumental to the salvation of souls, especially those of the members
of my own religious society; and the language often prevails, 'I am not
sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' Yet woman's
preaching mocks at all my reasoning. I cannot see it to be right, and I
am moving on in faith alone, feeling that 'Woe is me, if I preach not
the Gospel.' To see is no part of my business, but I marvel not at the
unbelief of others; every natural feeling is against it."

About this time, Angelina was admitted as a member of Friends' Society,
and began her preparation for the ministry. But her active spirit
needed stronger food to satisfy its cravings. It was not enough for her
to accept the few duties assigned to her; she must make others for
herself. Her restless energy, which was only her ambition to be
practically useful, refused to let her sit with folded hands waiting
for the Lord's work. She was too strong to be idle, too conscious of
the value of the talents committed to her charge, to be willing to lay
them away for safe keeping in a Quaker napkin, spotless as it might be.
She never loved the Society of Friends as Sarah did. She chafed under
its restrictions, questioned its authority, and rebelled against the
constant admonition to "be still." On one page of her diary, dated a
short time before her admission to Friends' Society, she says:--

"I have passed through some trying feelings of late about becoming a
member of Friends' Society. Perhaps it is Satan who has been doing all
he could to prevent my joining, by showing me the inconsistencies of
the people, and persuading me that _I_ am too good to be one of them. I
have been led to doubt if it was right for me ever to have worn the
dress of a Quaker, for I despised the very form in my heart, and have
felt it a disgrace to have adopted it, so empty have the people seemed
to me, and sometimes it has seemed impossible that I should ever be
willing to join them. My heart has been full of rebellion, and I have
even dared to think it hard that I should have to bear the burdens of a
people I did not, could not, love."

Angelina's devotion to Sarah led her to resent the treatment of the
latter by the elders, and came near producing a breach between
Catherine Morris and the sisters.

Nevertheless, she did join the Society, impelled thereto, we are forced
to believe, more by love and consideration for Sarah than by religious
conviction. But she constantly complains of her "leanness and
barrenness of spirit," of "doubts and distressing fears" as to the
Lord's remembrance of her for good, and grieves that she is such a
useless member of the Church, the "activity of nature," she says,
"finding it very hard to stand and wait."

Her restlessness, no doubt, gave Sarah some trouble, for there are
several entries in her diary like the following:--

"O Lord, be pleased, I beseech Thee, to preserve my precious sister
from moving in her own will, or under the deceitful reasonings of
Satan. Strengthen her, I beseech Thee, to be _still_."

But though Angelina tried for a time to submit passively to the slow
training marked out for her, she found no satisfaction in it. She
looked to the ministry as her ultimate field of labor, but she must be
doing something in the meanwhile, something outside of the missionary
work which satisfied Sarah's conscience. But what should that be? The
same difficulties which had humiliated and frightened Sarah into a life
of quiet routine now faced Angelina. But she looked at them bravely,
measured herself with them, and resolved to conquer them. The field of
education was the only one which seemed to promise the active
usefulness she craved; and she at once set about fitting herself to be
a teacher. She was now twenty-six years old, but no ambitious girl of
fifteen ever entered upon school duties with more zest than she
exhibited in preparing a course of study for herself. History,
arithmetic, algebra, and geometry were begun, with her sister Anna as a
fellow-student, and much time was devoted to reading biography and
travels. All this, however, was evening work. Her days were almost
wholly given up to charities and the appointed meetings assigned to her
by the society, into all of which she infused so much energy that
Catherine and Sarah both began to fear that she was in danger of losing
some of her spirituality. She says herself that she was so much
interested in some of her work that the days were not long enough for

There is no allusion in the diary or letters of either of the sisters,
in 1829 or 1830, to the many stirring events of the anti-slavery
movement which occurred after the final abolition of slavery in New
York, in 1827, and which foreshadowed the earnest struggle for
political supremacy between the slave power and the free spirit of the
nation. The daily records of their lives and thoughts exhibit them in
the enjoyment of their quiet home with Catherine Morris, visiting
prisons, hospitals, and alms-houses, and mourning over no sorrow or
sins but their own. Angelina was leading a life of benevolent effort,
too busy to admit of the pleasures of society, and her Quaker
associations did not favor contact with the world's people, or promote
knowledge of the active movements in the larger reforms of the day. As
to Sarah, she was still suffering keenly under the great sorrow of her

At this time, Angelina was a most attractive young woman. Tall and
graceful, with a shapely head covered with chestnut ringlets, a
delicate complexion and features, and clear blue eyes, which could
dance with merriment or flash with indignation, and withal a dignified,
yet gentle and courteous bearing, it is not surprising that she should
have had many admirers of the opposite sex, even in the limited society
to which she was confined. Nor can we wonder that, with a heart so
susceptible to all the finer emotions, she should have preferred the
companionship of one to that of all others. But though for more than
two years this friendship--for it never became an engagement--absorbed
all her thoughts, to the exclusion even of her studies, I must conclude
from the plain evidence in the case that it was only a warm
_friendship_, at least on her side, not the strong, enduring love,
based upon entire sympathy, which afterwards blessed her life. It owed
its origin to her admiration for intellectuality in men, and its
continuance to her womanly pity; for the object of her preference
suffered much from ill-health, which at last gave way altogether in the
latter part of 1832, when he died.

To the various emotions naturally aroused during this long experience,
and to the depression of spirits which followed the final issue, we may
perhaps partially ascribe Angelina's indifference to the excited state
of feeling throughout the country on the subject of that institution
which "owned no law but human will."

In November, 1831, Sarah Grimke once more, and for the last time,
visited Charleston.

In December, the slave insurrection in Jamaica--tenfold more destructive
to life and property than the insurrection of Nat Turner, in Virginia,
of the preceding August--startled the world; but even this is scarcely
referred to in the correspondence between the two sisters. But that
Angelina, at least, was interested in matters outside of her religion,
we gather from a postscript to one of her letters. "Tell me," she says,
"something about politics."

This refers to nullification, that ill-judged and premature attempt at
secession made by the Calhoun wing of the slave power, which was then
the most exciting topic in South Carolina. Thomas Grimke was one of the
few eminent lawyers in the State who, from the first, denounced and
resisted the treasonable doctrine,--he so termed it in an open letter
of remonstrance addressed to Calhoun, McDuffie, Governor Hayne, and
Barnwell Rhett, his cousin and legal pupil, who was afterwards
attorney-general of the State.[1] Mr. Grimke represented at that time
the city of Charleston in the State Senate; and in a two days' argument
he so triumphantly exposed the sophistries and false pretences of the
nullifiers, that his constituents, enraged by it, gathered a mob, and
with threats of personal violence attacked his house. But this
descendant of the Huguenots had been seasonably warned; and, sending
his family to the country, he illuminated his front windows, threw open
his doors, and seated himself quietly on the porch to await his
visitors. The howling horde came on, but when the man they sought
boldly advanced to meet them, and announced himself ready to be mobbed
for the cause he had denounced, their courage faltered; they tried to
hoot, balked, broke ranks, and straggled away.

[1] Mr. Grimke told Carolina that, if she persisted in her disloyalty,
she would stand as a blasted tree in the midst of her sister States.

A few words just here about this "beloved brother Thomas," who was
always held in reverence by every member of his family, will not be out
of place. As before stated, he was a graduate of Yale College, and rose
to eminence at the bar and in the politics of his State. But he was a
man of peculiar views on many subjects, and while his intellectual
ability was everywhere acknowledged, his judgment was often impugned
and his opinions severely criticised. He gained a wide reputation on
account of his brilliant addresses, especially those of Peace,
Temperance, and Education. He was a prominent member of the American
Peace Society, and did not believe that even defensive warfare was
justifiable. He was a fine classical scholar, but held that both the
classics and the higher mathematics should not be made obligatory
studies in a collegiate education, as being comparatively useless to
the great majority of American young men. A High Church Episcopalian,
and very religious, he strongly urged the necessity of establishing a
Bible class for religious instruction in every school. He also
attempted to make a reform in orthography by dropping out all
superfluous letters, but abandoned this after publishing a small volume
of essays, in which he used his amended words, which, as he gave no
prefatory explanation, were misunderstood and ridiculed. In all these
subjects he was much interested, and succeeded in interesting his
sisters, delegating to them the supervision and correction of his
addresses and essays published in Philadelphia. Strange, indeed, is it,
that this very religious, liberal-minded, and conscientious man was a
large slaveowner, and yet the oppressed and persecuted Cherokees of
Georgia and Alabama had no more earnest advocate than he! And to this
"Indian question" both Sarah and Angelina gave their cordial sympathy.

The correspondence between them and Thomas was a remarkable one. It
embraced the following subjects: Peace, Temperance, the Classics, the
Priesthood, the Jewish Dispensation, Was the Eagle the Babylonian and
Persian Standard? Catholicism, and the universality of human sacrifice,
with short discussions on minor controversial topics. Into all of these
Angelina especially entered with great and evident relish, and her long
letters, covering page after page of foolscap, would certainly have
wearied the patience of any one less interested than Thomas was in the
subjects of which they treated. That which claimed Sarah's particular
interest was Peace, and she held to her brother's views to the end of
her life. She especially indorsed the sentiment expressed in his
written reply to the question, what he would do if he were mayor of
Charleston and a pirate ship should attack the city?

"I would," he answered, "call together the Sunday-school children and
lead them in procession to meet the pirates, who would be at once
subdued by the sight."

In answer to a letter written by Sarah soon after her arrival in
Charleston, Angelina says:--

"I am not at all surprised at the account thou hast given of Carolina,
and yet am not alarmed, as I believe the time of retribution has not
yet fully come, and I cannot but hope that those most dear to us will
have fled from her borders before the day of judgment arrives."

This refers to nullification, which was threatening to end in
bloodshed; but there is in the sentence also an evident allusion to

In her next letter she describes the interest she feels in the infant
school, of which she had become a teacher, and does not know which is
the most absorbing,--that, or the Arch Street prison. Before closing,
she says:--

"No doubt thou art suffering a double portion now, for in a land of
slavery there is very much daily--yea, almost hourly,--to try the
better feelings, besides that suffering which thou art so constantly

Catherine Morris must have acted the part of a good mother to both
Sarah and Angelina, for they frequently refer to their peaceful home
with her. In one of her letters Angelina says,--

"I never valued the advantages I enjoy so much as I do now; no, nor my
home, either, dear sister. Many a time of late has my heart been filled
with gratitude in looking at the peaceful shelter provided for me in a
strange land. It is just such a home as I would desire were I to have a
choice, and I often ask why my restless heart is not quite happy in the
land of ease which has been assigned me, for I do believe I shall, in
after life, look back upon this winter as one of peculiar favor, a time
granted for the improvement of my mind and my heart."

Again: "Very often do I contrast the sweet, unbroken quiet of the home
I now enjoy with the uncongenial one I was taken from."

In one of her letters she asks: "Dearest, does our precious mother seem
to have any idea of leaving Carolina? Such seems to be the distressing
excitement there from various causes, that I think it cannot be quite
safe to remain there. What does brother Thomas think will be the issue
of the political contest? I find the fate of the poor Indians is now

Towards the close of the winter there are two paragraphs in her letters
which show that she did at least read the daily papers. In one she
asks: "Didst thou know that great efforts are making in the House of
Delegates in Virginia to abolish slavery?"

The other one is as follows:--

"Read the enclosed, and give it to brother Thomas from me. Do you know
how this subject has been agitated in the Virginia legislature?"

The question naturally arises: if a little, why not more? If she could
refer to the subject of the Virginia debates, why should she not in
some of her letters give expression to her own views, or answer some
expressions from Sarah? The _Quaker Society_, is the only answer we can
find; the Society whose rules and customs at that time tended to
repress individuality in its members, and independence of thought or
action; which forbade its young men and maidens to look admiringly on
any fair face or manly form not framed in a long-eared cap, or
surmounted by the regulation broad-brim; which did not accord to a
member the right even to publish a newspaper article, without having
first submitted it to a committee of its Solons.

From the beginning, the Quaker Church bore its testimony against the
abolition excitement. Most Friends were in favor of the Colonization
Society; the rest were gradualists. Their commercial interests were as
closely interwoven with those of the South as were the interests of any
other class of the Northern people, and it took them years to admit, if
not to discover, that there was any new light on the subject of human

"The mills of the gods grind slowly;" and perhaps it was all the better
in the end, for the cause their advocated so grandly, that Sarah and
Angelina Grimke should have gone through this long period of silence
and repression, during which their moral and intellectual forces
gathered power for the conflict--the great work which both had so
singularly and for so many years seen was before them, though its
nature was for a long time hidden.

Angelina's experience in the infant school, interesting as it was to
her, was discouraging so far as her success as a teacher went; and she
soon gave it up and made inquiries concerning some school in which she
could prepare herself to teach. Catherine Beecher's then famous
seminary at Hartford was recommended, and a correspondence was opened.
Several letters passed between Catherine and her would-be pupil, which
so aroused Catherine's interest, that she went on to Philadelphia
chiefly to make a personal acquaintance with the very mature young
woman who at the age of twenty-seven declared she knew nothing and
wanted to go to school again. In one of her letters to Sarah, early in
the spring of 1832, Angelina says,--

"Catherine Beecher has actually paid her promised visit. She regretted
not seeing thee, and seemed much pleased with me. The day after she
arrived she went to meeting with me, and I think was more tired of it
than any person I ever saw. It was a long, silent meeting, except a few
words from J.L."

When Catherine Beecher took her leave of Angelina, she cordially
invited her to visit Hartford, and examine for herself the system of
education there pursued.

Sarah returned to Philadelphia in March, 1832, cutting short her visit
at the earnest entreaty of Angelina, who was then looking forward to
her first Yearly Meeting, and desired her sister's encouraging presence
with her. Writing to Sarah, she says: "I have much desired that we
might at that time mingle in sympathy and love. Truly we have known,
might I not say, the agony of separation."

Soon after Sarah's return, Angelina went to live with Mrs. Frost, in
order to give that sister the benefit of her board. This separation was
a great trial to both sisters, and only consented to from a sense of


In July, 1832, Angelina, accompanied by a friend, set out to make her
promised visit to Hartford. Her journal, kept day by day, shows her to
have been at this time in a most cheerful frame of mind, which fitted
her to enjoy not only the beautiful scenery on her journey, but the
society of the various people she met. At times she is almost like a
young girl just out of school; and we can hardly wonder that she felt
so, after the monotonous life she had led so long, and the uniform
character of the people with whom she had associated. She visited New
Haven, with its great college, and then went to Hartford, where a week
was pleasantly spent in attendance on Catherine Beecher's classes, and
in visiting Lydia Sigourney, and others, to whom she had brought
letters. After examining Angelina, Catherine gave her the gratifying
opinion that she could be prepared to teach in six months, and she at
once began to try her hand at drawing maps., and to take part in many
of the exercises of the school. She could, however, make no definite
arrangement until her return to Philadelphia; but she was full of
enthusiasm, and utilized to the very utmost the advantages of
conversation with Catherine and Harriet Beecher. She was evidently
quite charmed with Harriet's bright intellect and pleasant manner, and
refers particularly to a very satisfactory conversation held with her
about Quakers. The people of this Society were so little known in New
England at that period, that Angelina and her friend, in their peculiar
dress, were objects of great curiosity where-ever they went. Catherine
Beecher accompanied them back to New Tork, and saw them safely on their
way to Philadelphia. But when Angelina mentioned to Friends her desire
to return to Hartford and become a teacher, she was answered with the
most decided disapprobation. Several unsatisfactory reasons were
given--"going among strangers"--"leaving her sisters,"--"abandoning her
charities," &c., the real one probably being the fear to trust their
impressionable young member to Presbyterian influence. And so she must
content herself to sink down in the old ruts, and plod on in work which
was daily becoming more insufficient to her intellectual and spiritual
needs. Her chief pleasure was her correspondence with her brother
Thomas, with whom she discussed controversial Bible questions, and
various moral reforms, including prison discipline; but only once does
she seem to have touched the question of slavery, which absorbed the
public mind to such a degree that there was scarcely a household
throughout the length and breadth of the land, that did not feel its
influence in some way.

In 1832 the most intense excitement prevailed throughout the South,
especially in South Carolina, where Mr. Calhoun had just thrown down
the gauntlet to the Federal government. In this Angelina expresses some
interest, though chiefly from a religious point of view, as she regards
all the important events then taking place as "signs of the times," and
congratulates herself and her brother that they live in "such an
important and interesting era, when the laws of Christianity are
interwoven with the system, of education, and with even the discipline
of prisons and houses of refuge." In one of her letters we find the

"I may be deceived, but the cloud which has arisen in the South will, I
fear, spread over all our heavens, though it looks now so small. It
will come down upon us in a storm which will beat our government to
pieces; for, beautiful as it may appear, it is, nevertheless, not built
upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ
himself being the chief corner-stone. We may boast of this temple of
liberty, but oh, my brother, it is not of God."

In this letter she speaks of being much interested in "Ramsey's Civil
and Ecclesiastical Polity of the Jews," and mentions that they were
studying together, in the family, "Townsend's Old Testament,
chronologically arranged, with notes, a work in twenty-eight volumes."
She adds:--

"Will not the study of the Bible produce a thirst for the purest and
most valuable literature, as, to understand it, we must study the
history of nations, natural history, philosophy, and geography."

In another letter she says:--

"I am glad of thy opinions, but I cannot see that Carolina will escape.
Slavery is too great a sin for justice always to sleep over, and this
is, I believe, the true cause of the declining state of Carolina; this
the root of bitterness which is to trouble our republic. I am not moved
by fear to these reflections, but by a calm and deliberate
consideration of the state of the Church, and while I believe
convulsions and distress are coming upon this country, I am comforted
in believing that _my_ kingdom is not of this world, nor thine either,
I trust, beloved brother."

To this letter Sarah adds a postscript, and says: "My fears respecting
you are often prevalent, but I endeavor not to be too anxious. The Lord
is omnipotent, and although I fear His sword is unsheathed against
America, I believe He will remember His own elect, and shield them....
Do the planters approve or aid the Colonization Society? There have
been some severe pieces published in our papers about it."

At this time--that is, during the summer of 1832--Sarah lived a more
than usually retired life, and her diary only records her increased
depression of spirits, and her continued painful experiences in
meeting. She would gladly have turned her back upon it all, and sought
a home elsewhere at the North, or have returned to Charleston, but she
dared not move without divine approbation, and this never seemed
sufficiently clear to satisfy her.

"Surely," she says, "though I cannot understand why it is so, there
must be wisdom in the decree which forbids my seeking another home.
Most gladly would I have remained in Charleston, but my Father's will
was not so."

And again she says,--

"But while the desire to escape present conflict has turned my mind
there [to Charleston] with longing towards my precious mother, all the
answer I can hear from the sanctuary is, 'Stay here;' and Satan adds,
'to suffer.'" According to Sarah's own views, she had thus far made
little or no progress towards the great end and aim of her labors and
sacrifices,--the securing of her eternal salvation; and the amount of
misery she managed to manufacture for herself out of this thought, and
her many fancied transgressions, is sad in the extreme. Years
afterwards, in a letter to a young friend, she says,--

"I have suffered the very torments of the fabled hell, because my
conscience was sore to the touch all over. I would fain have you spared
such long, dark years of anguish."

And to another friend, concerning this portion of her life, she

"Much of my suffering arose from a morbid conscience,--a conscience
which magnified infirmities into crimes, and transformed our blessed
Father in heaven into a stern judge, who punishes to the uttermost
every real or imaginary departure from what we apprehend to be his
requirements. Deceived by the false theological views in which I was
educated, I was continually lashed by the scorpion whip of a perverted

During the winter of 1832-33, the time of both sisters was much taken
up in nursing a sick woman, whose friendless position stirred
Angelina's sense of duty, and she had her removed to Mrs. Frost's
house. She and Sarah took upon themselves all the offices of nurse,
even the most menial. They read to her, and tried to cheer her during
the day, sat up with her at night, and in every way devoted themselves
to the poor consumptive, until death came to her relief. Such a
sacrifice to a sense of duty was all the more admirable, as the invalid
was unusually exacting and unreasonable, and felt apparently little
appreciation of the trouble she gave. Angelina, being in the same
house, was more with her than Sarah, and she could scarcely have shown
her greater attention if the tenderest ties had existed between her and
her charge.

This was only one among the many similar acts of self-abnegation which
were dotted all along Angelina's path through life; she never went out
of her way to avoid them, but would travel any distance to take them
up, if duty pointed her to them; and in accepting them she never seemed
to think she was doing more than just what she ought to do, although
they were generally of the kind which bring no honor or reward, except
that sense of duty fulfilled which spreads over hearts like hers such
sweet content.

From many passages in the diaries, it is evident that, as the agitating
questions of the time were forced upon the notice of Sarah and
Angelina, their thoughts were diverted from the narrow channel to which
they had so long been confined; and, in proportion as their interest in
these matters increased, the cords which bound them to their religious
society loosened. Angelina, as we have before remarked, never stood in
the same attitude as Sarah towards the Society. To the latter, it was
as the oracle of her fate, whose decrees she dared not question, much
less disobey. It represented to her mind the divine will and purposes,
which were wisdom entirely, and could only fail through the pride or
disobedience of sinners like herself. Angelina, on the contrary,
regarded it as made up of human beings with human intellects, full of
weakness, and liable to err in the interpretation of the Lord's will,
and, while praying for guidance and strength, believed it wise to
follow her own judgment to a great extent. She could not be restrained
from reasoning for herself, and would often have acted more
independently, but for her affection for Sarah. The scales, however,
were slowly falling from Sarah's eyes, though it was long before she
saw the new light as anything but a snare of Satan, who she felt sure
was bound to have her, in spite of all her struggles. Against the
growing coolness towards her Society she did struggle and pray in
deepest contrition. At one time she writes,--

"Satan is tempting me strongly with increased dissatisfaction with
Friends; but I know if I am to be of any use it is in my own Society."

And again: "I beseech thee, O God, to fill my heart with love for the
Society of Friends. I shall be ruined if I listen to Satan."

But all this was of no avail. Angelina was growing in knowledge, and
was imparting to Sarah what she learned. The evidence is meagre, but
there is enough to show that the ruling topics claimed much of their
attention during that summer, and that Angelina, especially, drew upon
herself more than one reproof from Catherine Morris for the interest
she manifested in "matters entirely outside of the Society." In the
spring, she writes in a letter to Thomas:--

"The following proposition was made at a Colonization meeting in this
city: is it strictly true? 'No two nations, brought together under
similar circumstances with those under which the Africans have been
brought into this country, have amalgamated.' Are not the people in the
West Indies principally mulatto? And how is it in South America? Did
they not amalgamate there? Did not the Helots, a great many of whom
were Persians, etc., taken in battle, amalgamate with the Grecians, and
rise to equal privileges in the State? I ask for information. Please
tell me, also, whether slavery is not an infringement of the
Constitution of the United States. You Southerners have no idea of the
excitement existing at the North on the subjects of abolition and

This shows only the dawning of interest in the mighty subject. The
evidence is full and conclusive that at this time neither Sarah nor
Angelina had formed any decided opinions concerning either of the
societies mentioned above, or contemplated taking any active part
whatever in the cause of freedom.

In February, 1834, occurred the famous debate at Lane Seminary, near
Cincinnati, presided over by Dr. Lyman Beecher, which, for earnestness,
ability, and eloquence, has probably never been surpassed in this
country. A colonization society, composed in great part of Southern
students, had been formed in 1832 in the seminary, but went to pieces
during the debate, which lasted eighteen evenings, and produced a
profound sensation throughout the Presbyterian Church, and even outside
of it. President Beecher took no part in it, standing too much in awe
of the trustees of the institution to countenance it even by his
presence, although he had promised to do so.

The speakers were all students, young men remarkable for their
sincerity and their energy, and several of them excelling as orators.
Among the latter were Henry B. Stanton and Theodore D. Weld, both
possessing great powers of reasoning and natural gifts of eloquence. Of
Theodore D. Weld it was said, that when he lectured on temperance, so
powerfully did he affect his audiences, that many a liquor dealer went
home and emptied out the contents of his barrels. Those who remember
him in his best days can well believe this, while others who have had
the privilege of hearing him only in his "parlor talks" can have no
difficulty in understanding the impression he must have made on mixed
audiences in those times when his great heart, filled from boyhood with
sorrow for the oppressed, found such food for its sympathies.[2]

[2] An incident of the childhood of this zealous champion of human
rights, related in a letter I have, shows how early he took his
stand by the side of the weak and defenceless. When he was about six
years old, and going to school in Connecticut, a little colored boy
was admitted as a pupil. Weld had never seen a black person before,
and was grieved to find that the color of his skin caused him to be
despised by the other boys, and put off on a seat by himself. The
teacher heard him his lessons separately, and generally sent him
back to his lonely seat with a cuff or a jeer. After witnessing this
injustice for a day or two, little Weld went to the teacher and
asked to have his own seat changed. "Why, where do you want to sit?"
asked the teacher. "By Jerry," replied Weld. The master burst out
laughing, and exclaimed: "Why, are you a nigger too?" and, "Theodore
Weld is a nigger!" resounded through the school. "I never shall
forget," says Mr. Weld, "the tumult in my little bosom that day. I
went, however, and sat with Jerry, and played with Jerry, and we
were great friends; and in a week I had permission to say my lessons
with Jerry, and I have been an abolitionist ever since, and never
had any prejudices to overcome."

It is no disparagement to the many able and eloquent advocates of the
anti-slavery cause, between 1833 and 1836, to say that public opinion
placed Weld at the head of them all. In him were combined reason and
imagination, wide and accurate knowledge, manly courage, a tender and
sympathetic nature, a remarkable faculty of expression, and a fervent
enthusiasm which made him the best platform orator of his time. As a
lecturer on education, temperance, and abolition, he drew crowded
houses and made many converts. The late Secretary Stanton was one of
these, and often mentioned Mr. Weld as the most eloquent speaker he had
ever heard; and Wendell Phillips, in a recent letter, says of him: "In
the first years of the anti-slavery cause, he was our foremost

Of Henry B. Stanton, a newspaper reporter once said in excuse for not
reporting one of his great anti-slavery speeches, that he could not
attempt to report a whirlwind or a thunderstorm.

With such leaders, and with followers no less earnest if less
brilliant, it is not surprising that the Lane Seminary debate arrested
such general attention, and afterwards assumed so much importance in
the anti-slavery struggle. The trustees, fearing its effect upon their
Southern patrons, ordered that both societies should be dissolved, and
no more meetings held. The anti-slavery students replied to this order
by withdrawing in a body from the institution. Some went over to
Oberlin; others,--and among them the two I have named--entered the
field as lecturers and workers in the cause they had so ardently

In September, 1834, Sarah and Angelina were gratified by a visit from
their brother Thomas, who was on his way to Cincinnati, to deliver an
address on Education before the College of Professional Teachers, and
also to visit his brother Frederic, residing in Columbus, whom he had
not seen for sixteen years. As Angelina had not seen him since her
departure from Charleston in 1829, the few days of his society she now
enjoyed were very precious, and made peculiarly so by after-events. The
cholera was then for the second time epidemic in the West, but those
who knew enough about it to be prudent felt no fear, and the sisters
bade farewell to their brother, cheered by his promise to see them
again on his way home. He delivered his address in Cincinnati, started
for Columbus, arrived within twelve miles of it, when, at a wayside
tavern, he was seized with cholera. His brother, then holding a term of
the Supreme Court, was sent for. He at once adjourned court and
hastened to Thomas with a physician. He was already speechless, but was
able to turn upon Frederic a look of recognition, then pressed his
hand, and died.

Angelina, writing of her brother's death, says: "The world has lost an
eminent reformer in the cause of Christian education, an eloquent
advocate of peace, and one who was remarkably ready for every good
work. I never saw a man who combined such brilliant talents, such
diversity and profundity of knowledge, with such humility of heart and
such simplicity and gentleness of manner. He was a great and good man,
a pillar of the church and state, and his memory is blessed."

In a letter written in 1837, referring to her brother's visit to
Philadelphia, Sarah says: "We often conversed on the subject of
slavery, and never did I hear from his lips an approval of it. He had
never examined the subject; he regarded it as a duty to do it, and he
intended devoting the powers of his mind to it the next year of his
life, and asked us to get ready for him all the abolition works worth
studying. But God took him away. My own views were dark and confused.
Had I had my present light, I might have helped him."

Angelina bore her testimony to the same effect. Referring to Thomas in
a letter to a member of her family many years after his death, she

"He was deeply interested in _every_ reform, and saw very clearly that
the anti-slavery agitation which began in 1832 would shake our country
to its foundation. He told me in Philadelphia that he knew slavery
would be the all-absorbing subject here, and that he intended to devote
a whole year to its investigation; and, in order that he might do so
impartially, he requested me to subscribe for every periodical and
paper, and to buy and forward to him any books, that might be published
by the Anti-Slavery and Colonization societies. I asked whether he
believed colonization could abolish slavery. He said: 'No, never!' but
observed; 'I help that only on account of its reflex influence upon
slavery here. If we can build up an intelligent, industrious community
of colored people in Africa, it will do a great deal towards destroying
slavery in the United States.'"

The loss of her brother almost crushed Sarah, although she expresses
only submission to the Lord's will. It had the effect of closing her
heart and mind once more to everything but religion, and again she gave
herself fully and entirely to her evangelical preparation. She
expresses herself as longing to preach the everlasting Gospel, and
prays that she may soon be called to be a minister, and be instrumental
in turning her fellow sinners away from the wrath to come. Later, in
the early part of 1835, after having re-perused her brother's works,
she solemnly dedicated herself to the cause of peace, persuading
herself that Thomas had left it as a legacy to her and Angelina. She
resolved to use all her best endeavors to promote its advancement, and
daily prayed for a blessing on her exertions and for the success of the
cause. This at least served to divert her thoughts from herself, and no
doubt helped her to the belief which now came to her, that at last
Satan was conquered, and she was accepted of God.

If she could only have been comforted also with the knowledge that her
labors in the ministry were recognized, her satisfaction would have
been complete, but more than ever was she tormented by the slights and
sneers of the elders, and by her own conviction that she was a useless
vessel. There is scarcely a page of her diary that does not tell of
some humiliation, some disappointment connected with her services in


Although the Quakers were the first, as a religious society, to
recognize the iniquity of slavery, and to wash their hands of it, so
far as to free all the slaves they owned; few of them saw the further
duty of discouraging it by ceasing all commercial intercourse with
slave-holders. They nearly all continued to trade with the South, and
to use the products of slave-labor. After the appearance in this
country of Elizabeth Heyrick's pamphlet, in which she so strongly urged
upon abolitionists the duty of abstinence from all slave products, the
number was increased of those who declined any and every participation
in the guilt of the slave-holder, and exerted themselves to convert
others to the same views; but the majority of selfish and inconsiderate
people is always large, and it refused to see the good results which
could be reasonably expected from such a system of self-denial. As the
older members, also, of Friends' Society were opposed to all exciting
discussions, and to popular movements generally, while the younger ones
could not smother a natural interest in the great reforms of the day;
it followed that, although all were opposed to slavery in the abstract,
there was no fixed principle of action among them. In their ranks were
all sorts: gradualists and immediatists, advocates of unconditional
emancipation, and colonizationists, thus making it impossible to
discuss the main question without excitement. Therefore all discussion
was discouraged and even forbidden.

The Society never counted among its members many colored persons. There
were, however, a few in Philadelphia, all educated, and belonging to
the best of their class. Among them was a most excellent woman, Sarah
Douglass, to whom Sarah and Angelina Grimke became much attached, and
with whom Sarah kept up a correspondence for nearly thirty years.

The first letter of this correspondence which we have, was written in
March, 1885, and shows that Sarah had known very little about her
colored brethren in Philadelphia, and it also shows her inclination
towards colonization. She mentions having been cheered by an account of
several literary and benevolent societies among the colored residents,
expresses warm sympathy with them, and gives them some good, practical
advice about helping themselves. She then says:--

"I went about three weeks ago to an anti-slavery meeting, and heard
with much interest an address from Robert Gordon. It was feeling,
temperate, and judicious; but _one_ word struck my ear unpleasantly. He
said, 'And yet it is _audaciously_ asked: What has the North to do with
slavery?' The word 'audaciously,' while I am ready to admit its
justice, seemed to me inconsistent with the spirit of the Gospel;
although we may abhor the system of slavery, I want us to remember that
the guilt of the oppressor demands Christian pity and Christian prayer.

"My sister went last evening to hear George Thompson. She is deeply
interested in this subject, and was much pleased with his discourse. Do
not the colored people believe that the Colonization Society may prove
a blessing to Africa, that it may be the means of liberating some
slaves, and that, by sending a portion of them there, they may
introduce civilization and Christianity into this benighted region?
That the Colonization Society can ever be the means of breaking the
yoke in America appears to me utterly impossible, but when I look at
poor heathen Africa, I cannot but believe its efforts will be a
blessing to her."

In the next letter, written in April, she descants on the universal
prejudice against color,--"a prejudice," she says, "which will in days
to come excite as much astonishment as the facts now do that
Christians--some of them I verily believe, sincere lovers of God--put
to death nineteen persons and one dog for the crime of witchcraft."

And yet, singularly enough, she does not, at this time, notice the
inconsistency of a separate seat for colored people in all the
churches. In the Quaker meeting this was especially humiliating, as it
was placed either directly under the stairs, or off in a corner, was
called the "negro seat," and was regularly guarded to prevent either
colored people from passing beyond it, or white people from making a
mistake and occupying it. Two years later, Sarah and Angelina both
denounced it; but before that, though they may have privately deplored
it, they seem to have accepted it as a necessary conformity to the
existing feeling against the blacks.

The decision of Friends' Society concerning discussion Sarah Grimke
seems to have accepted, for, as we have said, there is no expression of
her views on emancipation in letters or diary. But Angelina felt that
her obligations to humanity were greater than her obligations to the
Society of Friends; and as she listened to the eloquent speeches of
George Thompson and others, her life-long interest in the slave was
stimulated, and it aroused in her a desire to work for him in some way,
to do something that would practically help his cause.

On one of several loose leaves of a diary which Angelina kept at this
time, we find the following under date, "5th Mo. 12th, 1835: Five
months have elapsed since I wrote in this diary, since which time I
have become deeply interested in the subject of abolition. I had long
regarded this cause as utterly hopeless, but since I have examined
anti-slavery principles, I find them so full of the power of truth,
that I am confident not many years will roll by before the horrible
traffic in human beings will be destroyed in this land of Gospel
privileges. My soul has measurably stood in the stead of the poor
slave, and my earnest prayers have been poured out that the Lord would
be pleased to permit me to be instrumental of good to these degraded,
oppressed, and suffering fellow-creatures. Truly, I often feel ready to
go to prison or to death in this cause of justice, mercy, and love; and
I do fully believe if I am called to return to Carolina, it will not be
long before I shall suffer persecution of some kind or other."

Her fast-increasing enthusiasm alarmed her cautious sister, and drew
from her frequent and serious remonstrances. But that she also
travelled rapidly towards the final rending of the bonds which had
hitherto held her, we find from a letter to Sarah Douglass, written in
the spring of 1835. Speaking of Jay's book of Colonization, which had
just appeared, she says:--

"The work is written for the most part in a spirit of Christian candor
and benevolence. There is here and there a touch of satire or sarcasm I
would rather should have been spared. The subject is one of solemn
importance to our country, and while I do desire that every righteous
means may be employed to give to America a clear and convincing view of
the fearful load of guilt that rests upon her for trading in the souls
of men, yet I do want the friends of emancipation to take no unhallowed
weapons to sever the manacles of the slave. I rejoice in the hope that
all the prominent friends of abolition are peace men. My sister sends
her love to thee. Her mind is deeply engaged in the cause of immediate,
unconditional emancipation. I believe she does often pray for it."

In July, 1835, Angelina went to visit a friend in Shrewsbury, New
Jersey. In this quiet retreat she had ample time for reflection, and
for the study of abolition. She could, she says, think of nothing else;
and the question continually before her was, "What can I do? What can I
do?" But the more she thought, the more perplexed she became. The
certainty that any independent action, whatever, would not only offend
her Society, but grieve her sister, stood in the way of reaching any
conclusion, and kept her in a state of unrest which plainly showed
itself in her letters to Sarah.

Doubtless she did consider Sarah's advice, for she still looked up to
her with filial regard, but before she could do more than consider it,
an event occurred which made the turning point in her career, and
emancipated her forever from the restrictions to which she had so
unwillingly assented.

The difficulty which abolitionists found in holding meetings in Boston,
to be addressed by George Thompson, of England, brought out in July an
Appeal to the citizens of Boston from Mr. Garrison. This reached
Angelina's hands, and so touched her feelings, so aroused all her
anti-slavery enthusiasm, that she could no longer keep quiet. She must
give expression to her sympathy with the great cause. She wrote to the
author--a brave thing for her to do--but we doubt if she could have
refrained even if she could have fully realized the storm of reproach
which the act brought down upon her. On account of its length, I cannot
copy this letter entire, but a few extracts will give an idea of its
general tone and spirit. It is dated Philadelphia, 8th Month 30th,
1835, and begins thus:--

"Respected Friend: It seems as if I was compelled at this time to
address thee, notwithstanding all my reasonings against intruding on
thy valuable time, and the uselessness of so insignificant a person as
myself offering thee the sentiments of sympathy at this alarming

"I can hardly express to thee the deep and solemn interest with which I
have viewed the violent proceedings of the last few weeks. Although I
expected opposition, I was not prepared for it so soon--it took me by
surprise--and I greatly feared abolitionists would be driven back in
the first outset, and thrown into confusion.... Under these feelings I
was urged to read thy Appeal to the citizens of Boston. Judge, then,
what were my feelings on finding that my fears were utterly groundless,
and that thou stoodest firm in the midst of the storm, determined to
suffer and to die, rather than yield one inch ... The ground upon which
you stand is holy ground; never, never surrender it."

She then goes on to encourage him to persevere in his work, reminding
him of the persecutions of reformers in past times, and that religious
persecution always began with mobs.

"If," she says, "persecution is the means which God has ordained for
the accomplishment of this great end, Emancipation; then, in dependence
upon Him for strength to bear it, I feel as if I could say, Let It
Come! for it is my deep, solemn, deliberate conviction that this is a
cause worth dying for. I say so, from what I have seen, heard, and
known in a land of slavery, where rests the darkness of Egypt, and
where is found the sin of Sodom. Yes! Let it come--let us suffer,
rather than insurrections should arise."

This letter Mr. Garrison published in the Liberator, to the surprise of
Angelina, and the great displeasure and grief of her Quaker friends.
But she who had just counselled another to suffer and die rather than
abate an inch of his principles was not likely to quail before the
strongly expressed censure of her Society, which was at once
communicated to her. Only over her sister's tender disapproval did she
shed any tears. Her letter of explanation to Sarah shows the sweetness
and the firmness of her character so conspicuously, that I offer no
apology for copying a portion of it. It is dated Shrewsbury, Sept.
27th, 1335, and enters at once upon the subject:--

"My Beloved Sister: I feel constrained in all the tenderness of a
sister's love to address thee, though I hardly know what to say, seeing
that I stand utterly condemned by the standard which thou hast set up
to judge me by--the opinion of my friends. This thou seemest to feel an
infallible criterion. If it is, I have not so learned Christ, for He
says, 'he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of
me,' etc. I do most fully believe that had I done what I have done in a
church capacity, I should justly incur their censure, because they
disapprove of any intermeddling with the question, but what I did was
done in a private capacity, on my own responsibility. Now, my precious
sister, I feel willing to be condemned by all but thyself, _without_ a
hearing; but to thee I owe the sacred duty of vindication, though
hardly one ray of hope dawns on my mind that I shall be acquitted even
by _thee_. If I know mine own heart, I desire _not_ to be acquitted; if
I have erred, or if this trial of my faith is needful for me by Him who
knoweth with what food to feed His poor dependent ones, thou hast been
with me in heights and in depths, in joy and in sorrow, therefore to
thee I speak. Thou knowest what I have passed through on the subject of
slavery; thou knowest I am an exile from the home of my birth because
of slavery--therefore, to thee I speak.

"Previous to my writing that letter, I believe four weeks elapsed,
during which time, though I passed through close and constant exercise,
I did not read anything on the subject of abolition, except the pieces
in the Friends' paper and the _Pennsylvanian_ relative to the
insurrections and the bonfires in Charleston. I was afraid to read.
After this, I perused the Appeal. I confess I could not read it without
tears, so much did its spirit harmonize with my own feelings. This
introduced my mind into deep sympathy with Wm. Lloyd Garrison. I found
in that piece the spirit of my Master; my heart was drawn out in prayer
for him, and I felt as if I would like to write to him, but forebore
until this day four weeks ago, when it seemed to me I _must_ write to
him. I put it by and sat down to read, but I could not read. I then
thought that perhaps writing would relieve _my own mind_, without it
being required of me to send what I wrote. I wrote the letter and laid
it aside, desiring to be preserved from sending it if it was wrong to
do so. On Second Day night, on my bended knees, I implored Divine
direction, and next morning, after again praying over it, I felt easy
to send it, and, after committing it to the office, felt anxiety
removed, and as though I had nothing more to do with it. Thou knowest
what has followed. I think on Fifth Day I was brought as low as I ever
was. After that my Heavenly Father was pleased in great mercy to open
the windows of heaven, and pour out upon my grief-bound, sin-sick soul,
the showers of His grace, and in prayer at the footstool of mercy I
found that relief which human hearts denied me. A little light seemed
to arise. I remembered how often, in deep and solemn prayer, I had told
my Heavenly Father I was willing to suffer anything if I could only aid
the great cause of emancipation, and the query arose whether this
suffering was not the peculiar kind required of me. Since then I have
been permitted to enjoy a portion of that peace which human hands
cannot rob me of, though great sadness covers my mind; for I feel as
though my character had sustained a deep injury in the opinion of those
I love and value most--how justly, they will best know at a future day.
Silent submission is my portion, and in the everlasting strength of my
Master, I humbly trust I shall be enabled to bear whatever is put upon

"I have now said all I have to say, and I leave this text with thee:
'Judge not by appearance, but judge righteous judgment;' and again,
'Judge nothing before the time.' Farewell. In the love of the blessed
Gospel of God's Son, I remain, thy afflicted sister.


The entry in Sarah's diary respecting this incident is as follows. The
date is two days before that of Angelina's letter to her.

"The suffering which my precious sister has brought upon herself by her
connection with the anti-slavery cause, which has been a sorrow of
heart to me, is another proof how dangerous it is to slight the clear
convictions of truth. But, like myself, she listened to the voice of
the tempter. Oh! that she may learn obedience by the things that she
suffers. Of myself I can say, the Lord brought me up out of the
horrible pit, and my prayer for her is that she may be willing to bear
the present chastisement patiently."

In Angelina's diary, she describes very touchingly some of her trials
in this matter. Writing in September, 1835, after recording in similar
language to that used in her letter to Sarah the state of feelings
under which she wrote and sent the letter to Garrison, she says:--

"I had some idea it might be published, but did not feel at liberty to
say it must not be, for I had no idea that, if it was, my name would be
attached to it. As three weeks passed and I heard nothing of it, I
concluded it had been broken open in the office and destroyed. To my
great surprise, last Fourth Day, Friend B. came to tell me a letter of
mine had been published in the Liberator. He was most exceeding tried
at my having written it, and also at its publication. He wished me to
re-examine the letter, and write to Wm. Lloyd Garrison, expressing
disapproval of its publication, and altering some portions of it. His
visit was, I believe, prompted by the affection he bears me, but he
appeared utterly incapable of understanding the depth of feeling under
which that letter was written. The editor's remarks were deeply trying
to him. Friend B. seemed to think they were the ravings of a fanatic,
and that the bare mention of my precious brother's name was a disgrace
to his character, when coupled with mine in such a cause and such a
paper, or rather in a cause advocated in such a way. I was so
astonished and tried that I hardly knew what to say. I declined,
however, to write to W.L.G., and said I felt willing to bear any
suffering, if it was only made instrumental of good. I felt my great
unworthiness of being used in such a work, but remembered that God hath
chosen the weak things of this world to confound the wise. But I was
truly miserable, believing my character was altogether gone among my
dearest, most valued friends. I was indeed brought to the brink of
despair, as the vilest of sinners. A little light dawned at last, as I
remembered how often I had told the Lord if He would only prepare me to
be, and make me, instrumental in the great work of emancipation, I
would be willing to bear any suffering, and the question arose, whether
this was not the peculiar kind allotted to me. Oh, the extreme pain of
extravagant praise! to be held up as a saint in a public newspaper,
before thousands of people, when I felt I was the chief of sinners.
Blushing, and confusion of face were mine, and I thought the walls of a
prison would have been preferable to such an exposure. Then, again, to
have my name, not so much my name as the name of Grimke, associated
with that of the despised Garrison, seemed like bringing disgrace upon
my family, not myself alone. I felt as though the name had been
tarnished in the eyes of thousands who had before loved and revered it.
I cannot describe the anguish of my soul Nevertheless, I could not
blame the publication of the letter, nor would I have recalled it if I

"My greatest trial is the continued opposition of my precious sister
Sarah. She thinks I have been given over to blindness of mind, and that
I do not know light from darkness, right from wrong. Her grief is that
I cannot see it was wrong in me ever to have written the letter at all,
and she seems to think I deserve all the suffering I have brought upon

We approach now the most interesting period in the lives of the two
sisters. A new era was about to dawn upon them; their quiet, peaceful
routine was to be disturbed; a path was opening for them, very
different from the one which had hitherto been indicated, and for which
their long and painful probation had eminently prepared them. Angelina
was the first to see it, the first to venture upon it, and for a time
she travelled it alone, unsustained by her beloved sister, and feeling
herself condemned by all her nearest friends.


All through the winter of 1835-36, demonstrations of violence continued
to be made against the friends of emancipation throughout the country.
The reign of terror inaugurated in 1832 threatened to crush out the
grandest principles of our Constitution. Freedom of press and speech
became by-words, and personal liberty was in constant danger. A man or
woman needed only to be pointed out as an abolitionist to be insulted
and assaulted. No anti-slavery meetings could be held uninterrupted by
the worst elements of rowdyism, instigated by men in high position. In
vain the authorities were appealed to for protection; they declared
their inability to afford it. The few newspapers that dared to express
disapproval of such disregard of the doctrine of equal rights were
punished by the withdrawal of subscriptions and advertisements, while
the majority of the public press teemed with the vilest slanders
against the noble men and women who, in spite of mobs and social
ostracism, continued to sow anti-slavery truths so diligently that new
converts were made every day, and the very means taken to impose upon
public opinion enlightened it more and more.[3]

[3] Apropos of sowing anti-slavery truths, I remember seeing at the
first anti-slavery fair I attended,--in 1853, I think,--a sampler
made in 1836 by a little girl, a pupil in a school where evidently
great pains were taken to propagate anti-slavery principles. On the
sampler was neatly worked the words: "May the points of our needles
prick the slave-holders' consciences."

During this winter we find nothing especial to narrate concerning Sarah
and Angelina. Sarah's diary continues to record her trials in meeting,
and her religious sufferings, notwithstanding her recently expressed
belief that her eternal salvation was secured. Angelina kept no diary
at this time, and wrote few letters, but we see from an occasional
allusion in these that her mind was busy, and that her warmest interest
was enlisted in the cause of abolition.

She read everything she could get on the subject, wrote some effective
articles for the anti-slavery papers, and pondered night and day over
the question of what more she could do. One practical thing she did was
to write to the widow of her brother Thomas, proposing to purchase from
her the woman whom she (Angelina) in her girlhood had refused to own,
and who afterwards became the property of her brother. This woman was
now the mother of several children, and Angelina, jointly with Mrs.
Frost, proposed to purchase them all, bring them to Philadelphia, and
emancipate them. But no notice was taken of the application, either by
their sister-in-law or their sister Eliza, to whom Angelina repeatedly
wrote on the subject.

Learning from their mother that she was about to make her will,
Angelina and Sarah wrote to her, asking that her slaves be included in
their portions. To this she assented, but managed to dispose of all but
four before she died. These were left to her two anti-slavery
daughters, who at once freed them, at the same time purchasing the
husband of one of them and freeing him.

As she continued to study anti-slavery doctrines, one thing became very
plain to Angelina--that the friends of emancipation, in order to clear
their skirts of all participation in the slave-owner's sin, must cease
to use the products of slave labor. To this view she tried to bring all
with whom she discussed the main subject, and so important did it
appear to her, that she thought of writing to some of the anti-slavery
friends in New York about it, but her courage failed. After what she
had gone through because of the publication of her letter to Mr.
Garrison, she shrank from the risk of having another communication made
public. But her mind was deeply exercised on this point, and when--in
the spring--she and Sarah went to attend Yearly Meeting in Providence,
R.I., an opportunity offered for her to express her views to a
prominent member of the New York Society, whom she met on the boat. She
begged this lady to talk to Gerrit Smith, recently converted from
colonization, and others, about it, and to offer them, in her name, one
hundred dollars towards setting up a free cotton factory. This was the
beginning of a society formed by those willing to pledge themselves to
the use of free-labor products only. In 1826 Benjamin Lundy had
procured the establishment, in Baltimore, of a free-labor produce
store; and subsequently he had formed several societies on the same
principle. Evan Lewis had established one in Philadelphia about 1826,
and it was still in existence.

The sisters had been so long and so closely tied to Philadelphia and
their duties there, that the relief of the visit to Providence was very
great. Sarah mentions it in this characteristic way:--

"The Friend of sinners opened a door of escape for me out of that city
of bonds and afflictions." In Providence she records how much more
freedom she felt in the exercise of her ministerial gift than she did
at home.

Angelina sympathized with these sentiments, feeling, as she expresses
it, that her release from Philadelphia was signed when she left for
Providence. She found it delightful to be able to read what she pleased
without being criticised, and to talk about slavery freely. While in
Providence she was refreshed by calls upon her of several
abolitionists, among them a cotton manufacturer and his son, Quakers,
with whom she had a long talk, not knowing their business. She
discussed the use of slave-labor, and descanted on the impossibility of
any man being clean-handed enough to work in the anti-slavery cause so
long as he was making his fortune by dealing in slave-labor products.
These two gentlemen afterwards became her warm friends.

An Anti-slavery Society meeting was held in Providence while Angelina
was there, but she did not feel at liberty to attend it, though she
mentions seeing Garrison, Henry B. Stanton, Osborne, "and others," but
does not say that she made their acquaintance; probably not, as she was
visiting orthodox Quakers who all disapproved of these men, and
Angelina's modesty would never have allowed her to seek their notice.

Leaving Providence, the sisters attended two Quarterly Meetings in
adjacent towns, where, Angelina states, the subject of slavery was
brought up, "and," she says, "gospel liberty prevailed to such an
extent, that even poor I was enabled to open my lips in a few words."
She neglected to say that these few words introduced the subject to the
meetings, and produced such deep feeling that many hitherto wavering
ones went away strengthened and encouraged.

They also attended Yearly Meeting at Newport, where many friends were
made; and where Angelina's conversations on the subject which absorbed
all her thoughts produced such an impression that she was strongly
urged to remain in New England, and become an anti-slavery missionary
in the Society of Friends. But she did not feel that she could stay,
as, she says, it was shown her very clearly that Shrewsbury was her
right place for the summer, though why, she knew not. The reason was
plainly revealed a little later.

She returned to Shrewsbury refreshed and strengthened, and feeling that
her various experiences had helped her to see more clearly where her
duty and her work lay. But she was saddened by the conviction that if
she gave herself up, as she felt she must, to the anti-slavery cause,
she would be cast loose from her peaceful home, and from very many dear
friends, to whom she was bound by the strongest ties of gratitude and
affection. She thus writes to a friend:--

"Didst thou ever feel as if thou hadst no home on earth, except in the
bosom of Jesus? I feel so now."

For several weeks after her return to Shrewsbury, Angelina tried to
withdraw her mind from the subject which her sister thought was taking
too strong hold on it, and interfering with her spiritual needs and
exercises. Out of deference to these views, she resumed her studies,

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