Abolitionism and Reform

  1. Sources

    1. Rise of market economics linked to rise of abolition

      1. Great Britain, most advanced liberal economy, abolishes West Indian slavery in 1832

      2. In Capitalism, workers must be free to sell labor

      3. Capitalism demands that all people be able to pursue best economic interest - slavery interferes with this

    2. Concern that slavery interferes with family

    3. Second Great Awakening

      1. SGA preachers promoted free choice of salvation - slavery interferes with this

      2. Theology of SGA also implies that all humans are equal before God

      3. Many abolitionist leaders come out of religious movement

  2. William Lloyd Garrison

    1. Most famous abolitionist, but not the most influential

    2. Founded The Liberator  in 1831

    3. Called for immediate end of slavery, devoted to lurid depictions of slavery

    4. Liberator had small circulation, but widely read

    5. Helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society (1833)

    6. Garrison probably convinced few people

      1. Came to promote radical ideas of refusing to cooperate with government

      2. Urged people to leave churches that were not actively anti-slavery

    7. Many in South thought Garrison represented majority opinion in North - not true!

    8. Georgia legislature offered a reward for his kidnapping

  3. Theodore Weld

    1. Created network of volunteers in North preaching against slavery

      1. Under Weld's influence the American Anti-Slavery Society came to emphasize local volunteers, preaching, and petition drives

      2. Along with Garrison and Weld, featured Frederick Douglas, an escaped slave and effective abolitionist speaker

    2. Co-authored American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of A Thousand Witnesses (1839) with Angelina and Sarah Grimke

      1. Based on accounts written by slave owners themselves about their treatment of slaves

      2. Depicted overwhelming savagery of slavery

  4. Public reaction to abolitionism

    1. Often met violent resistance, North and South

      1. Much entrenched racism in North, despite being free soil

      2. Many feared prospect of miscegenation, just as in South

      3. Many also feared any shakeup of the basic social order

      4. Greatest anti-abolitionist sentiment from lower classes and elites

    2. Tensions within movement

      1. Leading personalities (Weld, Garrison, others) often bickered

      2. Black abolitionists complained about condescending attitude of white abolitionists and of not having enough leadership roles

      3. Douglas gradually separated himself from Garrison's work

        1. called for direct political action by free Blacks

        2. At times voiced support for slave rebellion

    3. Southern reaction

      1. Clearly were not going to be persuaded by abolitionists to end slavery

      2. Saw abolitionists as major threat, overestimated their influence in the North

      3. Forced Congress to refuse to accept and anti-slavery petitions (1836)

      4. Tried to repress abolitionists