Summary of William Lloyd Garrison's 1852 speech "On the United States Constitution."

In his 1852 speech "On the United States Constitution," William Lloyd Garrison argues that the Constitution was the result of a devil's bargain between freedom and slavery. In writing the Constitution, the Founding Fathers formed a nation at the expense of liberty, which it denied to the slaves.

Garrison goes on to say that he refuses to participate in electoral politics, as doing so would involve supporting the "pro-slavery, war-sanctioning" Constitution.

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Radical abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison were deeply critical of the US Constitution. They regarded it as an unacceptable compromise with slaveholders, whom they held to be engaging in a morally objectionable practice.

In his 1852 speech "On the United States Constitution," Garrison describes the Constitution in lurid terms, calling it "a covenant with death" and "an agreement with Hell." Garrison makes it clear in his speech that he has so much contempt for the "pro-slavery" and "war-sanctioning" Constitution that he refuses to participate in the electoral process. Instead, under the slogan of "No Union with Slaveholders" he argues vigorously for a dissolution of the Union in its present form.

The main thrust of Garrison's remarks is that the Constitution, like all aspects of American government, has become corrupted by the institution of slavery. As well as a Constitution that regards each slave as three-fifths of a person there is also a US Congress elected on such a pernicious principle, and which seeks to entrench the power of slave states within the Union.

According to Garrison, slave states abuse their power to do all they can to defend slavery, even to the extent of trampling over the rights of free states. A prime example of what Garrison regards as a constitutional and moral outrage would be the notorious Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which obliged free states to help in the capture and return of runaway slaves.

The political system is so completely infested with the spirit of pro-slavery corruption that it is impossible, argues Garrison, for abolitionists to work within it. Instead, they should agitate for a dissolution of the Union.

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