She spoke for two hours, and then, being asked to speak again, at the next meeting, she spoke for two hours more. The impression she produced may be inferred from the fact that the chairman of the committee was in tears nearly the whole time she was speaking. The effect upon all who heard her was admitted to be very great.
The sincerity of these women was put to an unusual test. They had a brother who remained in South Carolina, where he was a prominent citizen and a large slave-owner. Like many sharing the privileges of “the institution,” he led a double life. He was married to a white woman by whom he had children. He also had a family by a colored woman who was one of his slaves. In his will he bequeathed his slave family to a son by his lawful wife, with the stipulation that they should not be sold or unkindly treated.
Of these things the Grimke sisters knew nothing until after the war which had freed their illegitimate relatives. Then all the facts came to their knowledge. What should they do about it? was the question that immediately confronted them. Should they—“Carolina’s high-souled daughters,” as Whittier describes them, and not without some part in the pride of the family to which they belonged—acknowledge such a disreputable relationship? Not a day nor an hour did they hesitate. They sent for their unfortunate kinspeople, accepted them as blood connections, and took upon themselves the duty of promoting their interests as far as it was in their power to do so.
Although a quiet and retiring person, and, moreover, so much of an invalid that the greater part of her time was necessarily passed in a bed of sickness, a New England woman had much to do with publishing the doctrines of Abolitionism, through the lips of the most eloquent man in the country. She was the wife of Wendell Phillips, the noted Anti-Slavery lecturer.
“My wife made me an Abolitionist,” said Phillips. How the work was done is not without its romantic interest.
It was several years before he made his meteoric appearance before the public as a platform talker, and while yet a law student, that Phillips met the lady in question. The interview, as described by one of the parties, certainly had its comical aspect. “I talked Abolitionism to him all the time we were together,” said Mrs. Phillips, as she afterwards related the affair. Phillips listened, and that he was not surfeited nor disgusted appears from the fact that he went again and again for that sort of entertainment.
When Phillips asked for her hand, as the story goes, she asked him if he was fully persuaded to be a friend of the slave, leaving him to infer that their union was otherwise impossible.
“My life shall attest the sincerity of my conversion,” was his gallant reply.
In his Recollections, the Rev. Samuel T. May, who was one of the most faithful and zealous of the Anti-Slavery pioneers, and belonged to that band of devoted workers who were known as Abolition lecturers, tells of his experience in delivering an Anti-Slavery address in the sober New England city of Haverhill.