IV.B. Wendell Phillips and the Concord Lyceuum:
Abolitionist and social reformer Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), a Harvard-educated lawyer who put aside his profession to work for the abolitionist cause, was, like Frederick Douglass, a rousing speaker, referred to as "abolition's Golden Trumpet."
Phillips spoke on slavery before the Concord Lyceum on December 21, 1842, January 18, 1844, and March 11, 1845. In his manuscript autobiography, John Shepard Keyes—a Concord lawyer and later a judge, whose father had objected to the use of the Lyceum as an antislavery platform—wrote tartly that in 1842 the abolitionists had "insisted upon having him [Phillips] lecture because they could thus get an audience and could not for an Anti Slavery meeting." The lecturer's frankly expressed opinions on this occasion raised the hackles of more conservative members of the community. Subsequent attempts to bring Phillips to Concord as a Lyceum lecturer brought underlying tensions within the community to the surface.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Reverend Barzillai Frost of the First Parish, and John Shepard Keyes were the curators of the Lyceum for the 1844-1845 season. On March 5, 1845, after the delivery of the evening's lecture, Samuel Barrett moved that the curators invite Phillips to speak on slavery the following week. The motion was carried by a vote of 21 to 15. Barzillai Frost and John Shepard Keyes promptly resigned as curators, William Whiting—an antislavery mainstay—was chosen president pro tem, and Frost and Keyes were replaced by Samuel Barrett and Henry David Thoreau. Phillips spoke for the third time on slavery before the Lyceum on March 11, 1845.In defense of Phillips's right to speak and in support of his point of view, Henry Thoreau wrote an anonymous letter to the editor of the Liberator, which Garrison published in his March 28, 1845 issue. Thoreau's letter is known as "Wendell Phillips Before the Concord Lyceum."
60. F. T. Stuart (Boston). Engraved portrait of Wendell Phillips, in William Taylor Newton's extra-illustrated copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson's The Conduct of Life—Vol. 6 of the large paper Riverside Edition of Emerson's Complete Works (Cambridge: Printed at the Riverside Press, 1883). CFPL Concord Authors Collection.
60. F. T. Stuart (Boston).