In 1852 Wendell Phillips said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few.”
In that same speech, Phillips went on to deliver words that have an eerie resonance for our times. He said this: “The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten. The living sap of today outgrows the dead rind of yesterday. The hand entrusted with power becomes, either from human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continued oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot; only by (uninterrupted) agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.”
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. He disagreed with abolitionist Lysander Spooner and maintained that slavery was part of the Constitution, and more generally disputed the notion that any judge could find slavery illegal.
In 1845, in an essay titled "No Union With Slaveholders", he argued that the country would be better off, and not complicit in their guilt, if it let the slave states secede: