“Letter From Henry C. Wright: ‘Merry’s Museum’ the Handmaid of Slavery” (from The Liberator, March 20, 1857; p. 48, col 3-4)
‘Merry’s Museum’ the Handmaid of Slavery—The Union for Man, not Man for the Union—A Northern Republic a Right and a Duty.
Milford, N. H., March 9, 1857.
Are you conversant with Merry’s Museum? It is the successor of Peter Parley, by Goodrich. It is designed for the instruction and amusement of the children of the North, who are soon to be men and women, to enter the conflict with slavery, to sweep it from the earth, or to die in the attempt. How important that these children should know the character and designs of that enemy of God and man, with whom they are soon to grapple in a death-struggle! The parent who cruelly neglects to have his children taught on this subject is grossly unmindful of their welfare, by leaving them at the mercy of a monster, of whose nature and tactics they are ignorant.
In the number for October, 1856, is a question put forth to be solved by children—‘Why is —— like the bright side of slavery?’ On reading this, a little girl—a dearly-loved friend and playmate of mine—at once wrote the following letter:—
‘Dear Mr. Merry:
My mother takes the Museum. I like it very much. I love to read Chat, and think the Famous Farm a very good story. I send an answer to question 197—I never knew slavery had any bright side.
I should like to know the reason of the battle now raging among your subscribers. I am only eight years old.
Yours, truly, -------’.
This letter was published in the November number of the Museum, but the sentence I have Italicised was omitted—the editor, Mr. Goodrich, or whoever he may be, not being willing that his young readers should have an intimation that slavery had other than a bright side.
The same little girl then wrote the following to the editor:—
‘Dear Mr. Merry:
Though it may seem hard to begin a letter with a complaint, it must be so. I ask why you did not publish the whole of my letter? In my opinion, you left out the best part of it. Then why did you say any thing to me on the other page, when the other subscribers knew nothing about it?
Mother says a magazine which is helping to educate the children of this country should speak out
plainly against so great an evil as slavery. Do try to save your Southern subscribers from being slaveholders, and your Northern ones from being slaves.
Yours, truly, -------.
P. S. You put in pleas for animals. Why don’t you for human beings?’
This kind and respectful note of the little girl, Merry refused to publish. But, instead, made the following remarks about it in the January number of 1857:
‘------- must allow us to judge what is best for us to publish, and what to reject. There are some questions which, if once admitted into our discussions, would exclude all others, and lead to a worse war than that from which Aunt Sue has just extricated us.’
Thus Merry’s Museum can talk to the children of the North of ‘the bright side of slavery,’ and use its influence to make them feel and think that slavery is all bright and beautiful, but not one word can the editor say in his columns to show them slavery as it is, ‘the sum of all villanies,’ and slaveholders, in fact and of necessity, the blackest of all villains—for fear of offending his Southern subscribers.
A brother of the little girl who wrote the above, who is ten or eleven years old, then wrote the following:—
‘February 4, 1857.
Dear Mr. Merry:
I am the brother of -------, and heartily coincide in her opinion on the great question of slavery, which controls the destiny of our country. I think a magazine intended for the instruction of youth should speak about the great questions of the day, and not exclude any articles, but let there be an equal hearing on both sides of slavery. Because it is always best to do right, whatever may be the disadvantages; and we may be sure it wil come out right in the end.
I think it is quite time that the American youth should be made acquainted with the horrible deeds perpetrated every day upon four millions of innocent men and women by slaveholders, which are sanctioned and sustained by the government and churches of this country.
Yours, &c., -------.’
This correct and truthful letter of the little girl’s young brother could find no place in Merry’s Museum, lest it should offend the children and parents of the South, who take the Museum. Merry’s Museum can outrage the children and youth of the North by talk about ‘the bright side of slavery’—all to please its slaveholding readers of the South. Merry (alias Mr. Goodrich, or whoever the present editor may be,) can, to please the chidren of the South, seek to dazzle and bewilder the children of the whole nation by talking about ‘the bright side of slavery’, but not one word can he say about the dark side of slavery—about slaveholders stealing children from mothers to sell them, and about their thefts, robberies, murders, and their cruelties to mothers and children. All these crimes, and ‘horrible deeds perpetrated every day be slaveholders upon nnocent men, women and children,’ must be concealed from Northern children and youth, lest the children and youth of the South should cease to take the Museum.
How affecting comes the prayer from the loving, noble heart of the little girl to Mr. Merry, and to all men and women—‘Do try to save your Southern subscribers from being slaveholders, and your Northern ones from being slaves.’ To Mr. Merry she might say—‘Do, Mr. Merry, save yourself from being a slave.’ Who can help but love and honor the little girl and her young brother, who thus consecrate their young hearts to sympathy with the slaves, and to eternal enmity to all oppression, and to all apologies for oppressors?
But, Merry’s Museum does but imitate Northern editors, Northern priests, and Northern politicians generally, when it throws its influence on the side of kidnappers, and tries to make the children of the North believe that slavery has a bright side—that kidnapping is a good thing—and that stealing children, whipping women, and shooting and burning men, for trying to be free, are al bright an pleasant doings. Is such a periodical fit to be the companion of Northern children? Assuredly not. If Merry prefers slavery to liberty, as he seems to, let him go South, and be sustained by man-stealers. …