This sample of an academic paper on Henry Highland Garnet Speech reveals arguments and important aspects of this topic. Read this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion below.
The source is an extract from the speech ‘Let your motto be resistance’ which was given by Henry Highland Garnet in 1843 to the National convention of Coloured citizens of buffalo in response to an argument from Frederick Douglass (Stuckley, 1982, 193), in an attempt to emphasise the need for a black slave resistance in order to end slavery, as opposed to relying on white abolitionists.
Henry Highland Garnet was born into slavery in 1816, when slaves were under increasingly repressive measures in order to prevent slaves rising as they had in the ‘Barbados revolt of 1815’ (Carton, 1985, 205). In 1825 Garnet and his family were able to escape slavery and fled to new York where for the first time garnet saw large parades by a united black community (instead of West Indian and separate part of African holding their own celebrations) in celebration of the 1827 Emancipation (Stuckly,1982,195).
The effect of this can be seen in ‘Let your motto be resistance’ where Garnet refers to slaves as if they are one community and peoples instead of the traditional view of a mix of many races under the title “native-born American citizens” and not once referring to his listens as slaves but as people in a “forlorn condition”. This creates the impression that slavery is a mere period on the path to freedom , with the idea of black citizenship bringing into question the American Judicial system where in the in 1660’s many states (New York, Maryland, Carolina, Virginia) had ruled that black Americans did not have American citizenship (Jordan.
Throughout the speech ‘Let your motto be resistance’ we can see Garnets Presbyterian clergy tendencies with the speech being presented as if it were almost a church mass with Garnet first addressing all the oppressed “sympathise with each other”, then informing the people of what action God sees as the right road to freedom “you should use the same manner of resistance as would have been just in our ancestors” before finishing on an almost urge for the black slaves to ‘go forth and spread the word’ of slave rebellion with the repletion of “Die freemen than live to be slaves”. This religious way of speaking combined with references to “ancestors” and the “glory of Africa” creates a link between Henry Highland Garnet and both Heathen and Christian slaves allowing for all groups to be drawn into the speech.
The main argument of ‘Let your motto be resistance’ is that there is a need for black slaves to resist slavery and resort to violence if necessary, with lines such as “not much for redemption without the shedding of blood” suggesting a need for the continuation of rebellion like the Turner revolt of 1831″, where fifty nine white people were killed (Kolchin. 1993. 156). Its as if Henry Garnet was arguing this because violent acts seemed to place fear and a need to change in peoples hearts to a greater extent then the white abolitionists ‘moral crusade’ (although these revolts normally ended in harsher measures being introduced an as with the turner revolt many slaves being hung), this can be seen with the line “The time has come when you must act for yourselves”.
Throughout ‘Let your motto be resistance’ we can see an intense form of rhetoric occurring in an attempt to persuade the audience that action was need to get anywhere in the war against slavery, with one of Henry Garnets major arguments being that God would not except slavery as an argument for going against the commandments and Christian way of life ” The forlorn condition you are in does NOT destroy your moral obligation to God…….God will not receive slavery nor ignorance nor any other state of mind, for love and obedience to him”. Not only would this continue the religious link between Garnet and the audience but it would also install an amount of fear that if one did not do all they could to escape and end slavery then god would punish them instead of punishment falling upon slave owners. This ideal is reinforced latter in Let your motto be resistance’ when slave owners are referred to as “devils”, suggesting that that by not trying to escape from oppression slaves were actually working against Gods will under the Devil.
This attack against slave owners continues with “he who brings his fellow down so low as to make him contented with a condition of slavery commits the highest crime against God”. This condemnation of slave owners as being the worst criminals allows one direct group for Garnet to aim an attack at, instead of just plantation owners, this gives the impression of an almost war like situation , with all slave owners on one side and a united slave nation on the other.
It could be argued that garnet through arguing that slavery is against Gods will he could also be referring to the continued injustice of black slavery since in 1661 a Maryland court ruled that an Irish youth should have his slavery time shortened to three years from fifteen because it was “contrary to the laws of God”, which meant an American court had all ready agreed that the slave trade was morally wrong.
It is unlikely that Garnets speech would have made much of an actual change despite provoking controversy, it was more acting as a motivational speech and trying to give direction to a population that had recently won a massive step forward over the ‘Amistad revolt’ in 1839 where a ship of illegally taken slaves from Africa killed the crew of the ship Amistad and were found legally clear of murder in new York. This brought into question the ideal of slavery and whether black slaves were acting as freedom fighters throughout the various revolts.