Common Justice and Simple Mercy

A black-and-white photograph of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825–1911), standing with her two hands resting on the back of a chair.

What we need today in the onward march of humanity is a public sentiment in favor of common justice and simple mercy. We have a civilization which has produced grand and magnificent results, diffused knowledge, overthrown slavery, made constant conquests over nature, and built up a wonderful material prosperity.

But two things are wanting in American civilization—a keener and deeper, broader and tenderer sense of justice—a sense of humanity, which shall crystallize into the life of the nation the sentiment that justice, simple justice, is the right, not simply of the strong and powerful, but of the weakest and feeblest of all God’s children; a deeper and broader humanity, which will teach [people] to look upon their feeble [siblings] not as vermin to be crushed out, or beasts of burden to be bridled and bitted, but as the children of the living God; of that God whom we may earnestly hope is in perfect wisdom and in perfect love working for the best good of all.

from an address delivered on April 14, 1875 at the centennial anniversary of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery