Read "Toussaint L'Ouverture: A lecture by Wendell Phillips, free from thelouvertureproject.org.
Wendell Phillips Education
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Phillips was schooled at Boston Latin School, and graduated from Harvard University in 1831. Afterwards, he went on to attend Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1833. In 1834, Phillips was admitted to the Massachusetts state bar, and in the same year, he opened a law practice in Boston.
After being converted to the abolitionist cause by William Lloyd Garrison in 1836, Phillips stopped practicing law in order to fully dedicate himself to the movement. He joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and frequently made speeches at its meetings. So highly regarded were his oratorical abilities that he was known as "abolition's Golden Trumpet". Like many of his fellow abolitionists, Phillips took pains to eat no cane sugar and wear no clothing made of cotton, since both were produced by the labor of Southern slaves.
It was Phillips's contention that racial injustice was the source of all of society's ills. Like Garrison, Phillips denounced the Constitution for tolerating slavery. In 1845, he argued for disunion:
The experience of the fifty years ... shows us the slaves trebling in numbers -- slaveholders monopolizing the offices and dictating the policy of the Government -- prostituting the strength and influence of the Nation to the support of slavery here and elsewhere -- trampling on the rights of the free States, and making the courts of the country their tools. To continue this disastrous alliance longer is madness. The trial of fifty years only proves that it is impossible for free and slave States to unite on any terms, without all becoming partners in the guilt and responsible for the sin of slavery. Why prolong the experiment? Let every honest man join in the outcry of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
In 1854 Phillips was indicted for his participation in the celebrated attempt to rescue Anthony Burns—a captured fugitive slave—from jail in Boston.
By 1860 many abolitionists welcomed the formation of the Confederacy because it would remove the Slave Power from its stranglehold over the United States government. This position was rejected by nationalists like Abraham Lincoln, who insisted on holding the Union together, while gradually ending slavery. Disappointed with what he regarded as Lincoln's slow action, Phillips opposed his reelection in 1864, breaking with Garrison, who supported a candidate for the first time.
After blacks gained the right to vote with the 15th Amendment in 1870, Phillips switched his attention to other issues, such as women's rights, universal suffrage, temperance, and the labor movement.
Phillips's philosophical ideal was manly self-control of the animal, physical self by the human, rational mind, although he admired rash activists like Elijah Lovejoy and John Brown.
As Osofsky (1973) shows, Phillips's nationalism was shaped by religion. Its ideology was derived from the European Enlightenment, as expressed by Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. The Puritan ideal of a Godly Commonwealth, through a pursuit of Christian morality and justice, however, was the main influence on Phillips's nationalism. He would have fragmented the American republic to destroy slavery, and he sought to amalgamate all the American races. Thus, it was the moral end which mattered most in Phillips's nationalism.
Equal rights for Native Americans
Phillips was also active in efforts to gain equal rights for Native Americans, arguing that the 15th Amendment also granted citizenship to Indians. He proposed that the Andrew Johnson administration create a cabinet-level post that would guarantee Indian rights. Phillips helped create the Massachusetts Indian Commission with Indian rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson and Massachusetts governor William Claflin.
Although publicly critical of President Ulysses S. Grant's drinking, he worked with Grant's second administration on the appointment of Indian agents. Phillips lobbied against military involvement in the settling of Native American problems on the Western frontier. He accused General Philip Sheridan of pursuing a policy of Indian extermination.
Public opinion turned against Native American advocates after the Battle of the Little Bighorn in July 1876, but Phillips continued to support the land claims of the Lakota (Sioux). During the 1870s, Phillips arranged public forums for reformer Alfred B. Meacham and Indians affected by the country's "Indian removal" policy, including the Ponca chief, Standing Bear, and the Omaha writer and speaker, Susette LaFlesche Tibbles.