Garnet, Henry Highland. A Memorial Discourse, Delivered in the Hall of the House of Representatives, Washington City, D.C. on Sabbath, February 12, 1865. With an Introduction, by James McCune Smith, M.D. Philadelphia: Joseph M. Wilson, 1865.
PHS does not hold a copy of this speech. It can be found online at the Internet Archive.
See especially pages 69-91.
Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882) escaped from slavery in 1824 and became a Presbyterian minister and leading abolitionist. As a young man, Garnet was active in the American Anti-Slavery Society and vigorously opposed colonization. Later in life, Garnet came to think that emigration to Africa would address many of the problems facing African Americans after emancipation. Garnet himself moved to Liberia in 1881 to serve as a minister, but died soon after arriving. At the time Garnet delivered this discourse, General Sherman’s union army had captured Savannah and had just left for the Carolinas, having completed their “March to the Sea.” Garnet was invited to preach this sermon before the House of Representatives to celebrate the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment on January 31st, 1865.
1. Who is the author of this source? When was it written, and what was the historical context?
2. Garnet opens his discourse with a description of the “Scribes and Pharisees” of the New Testament who “hated and wronged a portion of their fellow-men” (page 70). Who are the contemporary Scribes and Pharisees, according to Garnet (pages 71, 72)?
3. Why does Garnet point out that the slave traders were not Muslims or Hindus, but Christians (page 75)? How does this evidence add to his argument about American slavery?
4. Garnet employs the words of leaders, poets, philosophers, and other notable historical figures to condemn the practice of slavery (pages 80-83). What does this accomplish in his sermon? What are some of the most impactful statements against slavery on these pages?
5. Garnet said, “it is often asked when and where will the demands of the reformers of this and coming ages end” (page 85). What is his answer to this question (pages 85-87)?
6. What is the tone of Garnet’s sermon? What was Garnet’s purpose in writing and delivering it?