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  • 1885
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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 her.

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 herself.

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 exaggeration.

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 support.”

“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 greatest.”

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 again.


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 her.

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 life.

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 slavery.

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 enduring.”

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 inevitable.”

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 rights.

“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 duty.


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 following:–

“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 writes,–

“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 conscience.”

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 colonization.”

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 advocate.”

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 espoused.

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 says:

“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 meeting.


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 crisis.

“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 me.

“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 could.

“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 myself.”

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,