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"Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has once seized on it like a lichen on the rock." - Mary Shelly, Frankenstein, ch. XIII
The Unionist 1:51 (or 1:50)
July 24 (or 17), 1834
Masthead from an 1831 edition of the rabidly anti-abolitionist paper familiarly called the New York Courier and Enquirer. Personal collection.
THE RIOTS IN NEW-YORK,
Gotten up by the ‘Courier and Enquirer,’ and the ‘Commercial Advertiser.’
In another column we have given some account of the outrage committed in New York by the partizans [sic] of the Colonization Society,* and the opposers of abolition. We feel the deepest shame that such violations of the public peace, and of the rights of citizens, should be perpetrated in our country, in this age of the world. But as they have transpired, we are bound to publish them—and to attribute these wicked works to their real authors. Who are they? Who are the incendiaries? Not surely the combustible materials which have been inflamed; but those unprincipled men who have inflamed them. Not the mob—but the men who have gathered, excited, and directed the mob. We say without hesitation, that James Watson Webb and Col. Stone should be held pre-eminently responsible for the late notorious proceedings in the city of New York. Their papers, ‘the Courier and Enquirer,’ and the ‘Commercial Advertiser,’ have been, for more than a year past, industriously circulating (through a larger portion of the community, than any other paper could,) the grossest misrepresentations of the sentiments and purposes of the Abolitionists. They have done all in their power to awaken the hatred, and direct the blind zeal of the ignorant, reckless, and unprincipled against a portion of their fellow citizens, whose only offence is, that they are pleading the cause of bleeding humanity—ay, the cause of millions of Americans, who are held in abject bondage, or paralyzing degradation. Paragraphs have repeatedly appeared in their papers, which more than intimated that any measures should be resorted to, for the suppression of the Abolitionists. It was owing to the exertions of the ‘Courier and Enquirer’ and the ‘Commercial Advertiser,’ that the disgraceful proceedings took place there last fall, intended to prevent the formation of the New-York Anti-Slavery Society. And we may fairly attribute to them, more perhaps than to any other agents of the pro slavery party, the succession of riots that have recently occurred. —The style, in which Messrs. Webb and Stone have remarked upon these transactions, (more than half excusing) is adapted, if it be not designed, to urge on the populace to further outrage.
Now we would ask the intelligent and candid, what does this procedure of the pro slavery party prove? What, but that they are conscious they cannot meet the opposers of American oppression and cruelty, in fair discussion!—If they could disprove our statements, refute our arguments, or turn the point of our appeal, are they indeed such men, that they would still, of choice, resort to the base means they have been using? We are unwilling to think they are so bad. Is it not rather because they foresee that moral means can never effect their purposes, that they resort to brute force? We think so. Let the intelligent and candid judge.—Brooklyn Unionist.
* From the non-assemblage of the persons who had designed to occupy the Chapel, it was evident that the objects of the meeting had been abandoned, and the friends of Colonization thereupon entered, organized a meeting, passed resolutions in favor of their own opinions, and peaceably dispersed.—N. Y. Daily Advertiser.
from The Liberator, July 26, 1834, p. 100 (4:30:118)
The Liberator at the Fair Use Repository
Commentary and Analysis
This article is part of an impressive spread of press commentary on the crucial July 1834 anti-Abolitionist riots in New York City. It is my hypothesis that these riots - and the ones the next month in Philadelphia - marked an up-tick in socially allowable violence that made maintaining a school for teenaged women in rural Connecticut increasingly risky, and therefore played a role in the closing of the Canterbury Female Academy. In this article, too, the Unionist makes a tantalizing reference to further coverage of the New York City events - Many of the students had connections to Peter Williams' Episcopal church, which suffered great physical and political damage in the riots; the patronizing letter from the Episcopal bishop Onderdonk, insisting that Peter Williams withdraw from Abolitionist activity, is the focus of extensive editorial commentary in the same issue of The Liberator (p. 119). The article from The Unionist proves that the students were receiving up-to-the-minute news coverage of the terrifying events in the major urban centers.
In addition to the attack on Peter Williams, the Unionist's major benefactor, and one of the Canterbury Academy's most important allies, Arthur Tappan, was affected both fiscally (by destruction of his property) and psychologically (he withdrew from some activities) by the force of these riots. To my knowledge, there is no existing record of his financial support for either the Unionist or the school in the few months that remained to them.
Once again, the precise placement of this material to a specific Unionist issue is made fraught by the close temporal proximity in publication date. In this case, I favor the closer date (July 24) because of the urgency of the news in this case, and the fact that Garrison wanted something pro-Abolitionist for his spread on the New York City incidents. The other technical question here concerns the asterisked reference to the New York Daily Advertiser's report. I cannot be certain if this was in the original Unionist story, or an added gem from the Liberator editors during their scan of reportage on the riots.