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Abolitionism

ABOLITIONISM.

Historical studies of the ideas that gave rise to abolitionism, whether in the Caribbean, Latin and South America, Africa, or the United States, have provided analyses that are variously political, economic, social, demographic, or religious in focus. This entry examines the political, religious, and economic ideas surrounding abolitionism to illustrate that these factors were often intertwined. The role of ideas, ideologies, movements, tactics, and personalities are examined to demonstrate the complexity of this social movement in terms of gender, race, socioeconomic background of the participants, and time and location of the movement.

Political Ideas

The early abolitionist movement in the United States and Great Britain during the late eighteenth century was guided by the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment, the French and American revolutions, and Christian morality. The concept that individuals were created equal and had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness led them to advocate abolitionism. The slave revolt in Saint-Domingue (Haiti) in 1791 led by Toussaint Louverture was based on these ideas of universal liberty and freedom. The importance of the Haitian revolution to the idea of abolitionism is important because it demonstrated that slavery could be abolished quickly and violently and that a gradual approach using persuasion and rationality might not be the answer. Moreover, the revolution radically transformed this former French possession, providing the slaves with full emancipation and political control. Although a visible antislavery movement did not emerge in Brazil until 1850, the political movement for abolitionism there can be traced to the early nineteenth century, infused with ideas from the Haitian, American, and French revolutions. The abolition of slavery in the British West Indies during the nineteenth century grew out of a liberal political reform agenda that sought to provide better treatment for slaves with the view that emancipation would occur gradually. Slave uprisings in Martinique, Cuba, Tortola, Trinidad, Grenada, and Dominica convinced colonial authorities that slavery needed to be reevaluated. For example, in Barbados, after slavery was abolished in 1834 the government instituted an apprenticeship program of six (unpaid) years for field workers and four years for household servants. Jamaica freed its slaves in 1833, and Antigua and Bermuda provided slaves with full emancipation in 1834; as in Barbados, apprenticeship programs served as a transitional institution for several years after emancipation. However, colonial offices throughout the Caribbean dealt with the former slaves in a harsh manner, inflicting punishment for various minor offenses, extending the apprenticeship period, and sending house servants into the fields to labor.

Colonization

The ideas of abolitionism were linked to missionary, colonial, and commercial motives and ideologies of the French, British, and Americans. Quakers in the antislavery movement in the United States worked to settle slaves in Africa based on religious beliefs that slaves had the right to be free and that these political ideas only could be achieved through colonization in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The political ideas of justice, equality before the law, liberty, and the rule of law were meant to serve as the foundations of the colonies. It was equally important politically to utilize former slaves and re-captives in this endeavor to prove that people of African descent were capable of understanding laws, social responsibility, and the dignity of labor. The belief that people of African descent were inherently inferior to whites and could not be assimilated into a white society led many to advocate colonization. The connection between French abolitionism and colonization on the African continent were intimately linked according to some scholars. It has been argued that when the French government abolished slavery in 1848, it was merely replaced with colonization, starting with Algeria; therefore the master-slave relationship continued to leave the African in an inferior, subordinate position, and the French continued to gain from its economic exploitation of land and labor. The same argument can be made for Great Britain following its abolition of slavery, especially in Sierra Leone. Former slaves and recaptured Africans who ended up in Sierra Leone, along with indigenous Africans, were not viewed as having the same claim to citizenship and sovereignty as the Britishotherwise the former slaves and recaptured Africans would not have been colonized. In sum, some Europeans advocated abolitionism, but they did not support full citizenship, equality, and freedom for Africans, and whenever and wherever the slave trade ended, missionaries and commercial enterprises entered the African continent with the backing of the colonial state.

Religious Ideas

The religious ideas that fueled abolitionism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially in the United States and Great Britain, were firmly rooted in the Christian belief that all people are equal in the eyes of God; therefore, the practice of one person owning another was against Christianity. The doctrine of a divine sovereignty that made people accountable only to God was utilized. Under slavery, the slave was accountable to her or his owner and not to God. Another religious idea that served as a catalyst during the 1820s and 1830s included evangelicalism and revivalism, which supported the belief that slave owners and others associated with slavery and its institutions could experience personal salvation through instant conversion. The idea of "come-outism" is important in evangelicalism and abolitionism, adopted by American abolitionists who publicly took a stand against slavery by withdrawing from any institution, especially churches, that did not recognize the sinfulness of slavery.

Economic Ideas

Although religious ideas were important to abolitionism in the United States and Great Britain and for colonization, they were not as significant in South American, Latin American, and Caribbean abolitionism, which contained more economic and political ideas. This could be due to the fact that abolitionism operated in these regions within the colonial framework, and abolitionists were often fighting on several frontsto achieve independence, achieve freedom for the slaves, and achieve citizenship and other rights for free people of African descent. Throughout most of the nineteenth century, abolitionism in Cuba and Puerto Rico was hampered by the civil war and the revolution in Spain. Abolitionists had to contend with the economic interests of Spain, Cuba, and Puerto Ricomainly wealthy slave owners who were vehemently opposed to the abolition of slavery, especially in Cuba, which had a large slave population vital to its sugar industry in the western part of the island. Puerto Rico had a much smaller slave population, and by 1835 slavery was virtually nonexistent. In addition, the United States had significant economic investments that it wanted to protect in Cuba and Puerto Rico. But at the same time, there were American abolitionists who demanded an end to slavery in colonies controlled by Spain.

The debate among modern historians between the role of economics and the role of humanitarianism in abolishing slavery in British slaveholding colonies in the Caribbean was sparked by Eric Williams's Capitalism and Slavery (1944). According to Williams, capitalism, and not Christian humanitarianism, was the driving force to end slavery because the emerging capitalist system that evolved from the Industrial Revolution demanded free trade and more productive labor than slaves provided. Rational business practices were needed, including a literate workforce. The failing British West Indian plantation economies could not compete with industrial capitalism. This deviated sharply from the British imperial historiography that placed moral humanitarianism as the catalyst for abolitionism. However, Williams's analysis of abolitionism was subsequently rejected by several historians, most notably Roger Anstey and Seymour Drescher, who argued that slavery continued to be economically viable in the United States and Brazil, along with capitalism. They contended that in the late eighteenth century slavery and the slave trade were important to the British economy at the same time that abolitionism began. Still others have contended that abolitionism was a social movement that involved a variety of actors and organizations all grounded in the popular culture and trends of the time in their respective societies. Within the American context, this changing historiography over time includes: historians who supported the humanitarian view of abolitionists (that is, the belief that they were guided by moral and religious values); historians who downplayed the moral aspect and emphasized economic factors; historians who viewed abolitionists as one-sided fanatics who led the country into a needless civil war; and, during the 1960s, historians who again portrayed abolitionists in a more positive light as people who were committed to a just and social cause. Additionally, other scholarsmost prominently W. E. B. Du Bois, Eugene Genovese, and Herbert Apthekerhave given agency to the slaves themselves in bringing about emancipation.

The idea of free labor was another economic idea behind abolitionism in the Caribbean, South America, and Latin America, primarily the commercialization of agriculture, which made slave labor economically outdated. The urban-based abolitionist movement in Brazil responded to economic changes that included greater integration into the global economy, an increase in the urban population, expansion of its infrastructure, and creation of new industries and businesses in both rural and urban areas. As a result of these changes, a more liberal form of economics developed that supported free labor instead of slave labor. Moreover, as people became urbanized, traveled outside the country, and learned more about world developments, the institution of slavery seemed backward and made Brazilians appear uncivilized and out of step with a world that was developing new ideas based on science and rationality. Abolitionism in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Cuba, and other Caribbean islands did not mean immediate emancipation accompanied by full citizenship rights; rather, as outlined above, the practice of apprenticeships was employed to compensate slave owners. It was feared that ex-slaves would not be willing to work for wages, the economies would plummet, and a race war would ensue. The aim was to make a gradual transition from slavery to freedom that would not destabilize society.

Tactics, Organizations, and Individuals
in the Americas

In discussing abolitionism in the United States and Great Britain, it is important to divide the movement into periods because the tactics, organizations, and individuals the movement attracted evolved in response to changing religious and political ideas. Following the Revolutionary War, the Quakers in Pennsylvania were in the forefront of the abolitionist movement; their tactics and organizations reflected the elite status of their members (wealthy white men) and their belief in gradual abolitionism. They believed that slavery could be gradually abolished by pressuring government representatives to enact laws and statutes against slavery, providing legal aid to runaway slaves, petitioning the federal government to end the importation of slaves and halt the westward expansion of slavery, and pressuring state governments to grant slaves rights.

The Quakers were active in Great Britain as well. In 1783 they formed the London Committee to Abolish the Slave Trade. In 1787 they joined the Evangelical Christians led by William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson to form the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. They led petition drives and lobbied the government, and in 1807 the British slave trade was abolished. The goal in Britain now shifted to gradual abolition and then to immediate abolition. In 1823 Clarkson, Wilberforce, and Thomas Fowell Buxton formed the British Anti-Slavery Society after British West Indian plantation owners were reluctant to abolish slavery, and in 1833 the Emancipation Act (which applied to the British colonies but not to Great Britain itself) was passed. In France, Jacques-Pierre Brissot formed the Society of the Friends of Blacks in 1788, and in 1834 the French Society for the Abolition of Slavery was established. In the Netherlands, the Réveil movement associated with the Dutch Reform Church was formed in the 1840s after British Quakers convinced them that slavery was against the Bible. The Spanish Abolition Society was founded in Madrid in 1865. The major actors in abolitionism throughout the Caribbean and Latin and South America were the slaves and free people of African descent who staged revolts, work stoppages, and insurrections, and ran away. Significant slave uprisings occurred in the nineteenth century in Brazil in Bahia, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. Slave revolts and desertions from the plantations led to the emergence of immediatism and the formation in 1880 of the Brazilian Anti-Slavery Society (Joaquim Nabuco was elected president), which started as a small group of abolitionists based in major urban areas. This movement grew in size to include people from various educational and social backgrounds. Other antislavery organizations in Brazil included the Cearense Liberator Society, Bahian Liberator Society, and Abolitionist Confederation.

People of African descent played a critical role in U.S. abolitionism before and after the movement became integrated; some of these include Richard Allen, Prince Hall, James Forten, Harriet Jacobs, and Mary Shadd Carey. Upstate New York had a major community of activists who believed in immediatism, among them Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Austin Steward, and Thomas James. Because they were kept out of the first wave of abolitionism, they were forced to establish their own organizations, newspapers, educational institutions, and churches. They realized early on the importance of using moralism and emotionalism as tactics, and the print media served as the vehicle. Some of those who had escaped slavery wrote and published their narratives, lectured, and helped slaves to escape, and many traveled to Europe to gain support (Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Paul, Robert Purvis, William Wells Brown, Alexander Crummell, and Ellen and William Craft). People of African descent in both abolitionist periods advocated full emancipation and rights for the enslaved and free.

The role of women of African descent in the abolitionist movement was important and different because they had to deal with issues of race, sex, and class within the antislavery movement and the white women's movement. These women included Grace Bustill Douglass, an educator and founder of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and her daughter Sarah Douglass; Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who was a teacher and poet; Maria Miller Stewart, Sarah Forten, and Eliza Dixon Day. These woman helped to recruit members to the movement, gave public lectures, raised funds, and organized rallies and events.

Abolitionism and Feminism

The history of feminism in the United States is very directly linked to the abolitionist movement. Black and white women in northern cities in the United States were very active in various religious and benevolent organizations before they joined the abolitionist movement in the 1830s. The administrative and leadership skills and experience they had gained in these organizations were then utilized in the abolitionist movement. It is clear why black women were involved in the struggle to end slavery; however, white women from the working class to the upper middle class saw a correlation between the oppression of slaves and their oppression as women in terms of their legal status, which defined them as the property of their husbands and as their inferiors in society. Women found an outlet in the abolitionist movement for expressing their ideas toward marriage, divorce, and domestic violence. Men made up most of the leadership in abolitionist organizations, and their treatment of female members convinced many of these women that both slaves and women needed to be emancipated. Some abolitionist organizations did not allow African-Americans to join, while others curtailed the participation of women, especially in public speaking, voting, and business decisions. Many of these women continued their efforts to transform society through social movements by working on women's rights in the campaign for suffrage and property rights, along with the rights to file lawsuits, obtain a divorce, and obtain custody of children. The intersection of abolitionism and women's rights influenced the ideas and work of Sarah and Angelina Grimké, Abigail Kelley Foster, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Grimké sisters, who were Quakers, believed they had been called to do God's work in the antislavery movement. Moreover, the linkages between abolition and women's rights in the work of black women abolitionists such as Sojourner Truth cannot be overstated. They were fighting for a double victoryone to end slavery and the other to end discrimination based on gender.

Tactics, Organizations, and Individuals in Africa

Following the end of the Revolutionary War, many slaves and free people of African descent, as well as some American and British whites, began to question the slaves' future, especially in terms of achieving full citizenship rights and economic independence. Colonization was used as a strategy to end slavery, and Freetown in Sierra Leone was established as a colony in 1787. The American Colonization Society was formed in 1816, followed by the colonization of Liberia in 1847. Individuals of African descent who advocated colonization included Paul Cuffee, who was independently wealthy and free. He made two trips to Sierra Leone with financial backing from the British governmentone in 1811 to inquire about the feasibility of African emigration and another in 1815 when he took thirty-eight free Africans with him. Others who shared these beliefs included Joseph Brown Russwurm, Martin Delany, Edward Blyden, and Thomas Peters from Nova Scotia, Canada, who petitioned the British government for assistance. They believed that human dignity, justice, hard work, and the rule of law could be put into practice in the new settlements and that this would prove that these outcasts and marginalized individuals could be given a second chance in life. These philosophical ideas were often intertwined with religious ideas that appealed to ex-slaves because they espoused the importance of God's authority and individual freedom that allowed them to employ petitions, preaching, and the print media as tactics. In addition, a number of Africans, people of African descent, Europeans, and Americans believed that worldwide emancipation would not be achieved as long as there remained a supply and demand for slaves. Therefore, to contain slavery at its source, the campaign against slavery had to shift from the West to the African continent. To do this, Africans, former slaves, and re-captives were mobilized to advance the idea that if slavery were to end, the antislavery movement had to be based on the African continent and Africans and people of African descent on the continent had to be in the forefront of the antislavery movement.

See also Capitalism ; Liberty ; Resistance ; Resistance and Accommodation ; Slavery .

bibliography

Azevedo, Celia M. Abolitionism in the United States and Brazil: A Comparative Perspective. New York and London: Garland, 1995.

Baronov, David. The Abolition of Slavery in Brazil: The "Liberation" of Africans through the Emancipation of Capital. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Bender, Thomas, ed. The Antislavery Debate: Capitalism and Abolitionism as a Problem in Historical Interpretation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

Corwin, Arthur F. Spain and the Abolition of Slavery in Cuba, 18171886. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967.

Eudell, Demetrius L. The Political Languages of Emancipation in the British Caribbean and the U.S. South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Newman, Richard S. The Transformation of American Abolitionism: Fighting Slavery in the Early Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Oostindie, Gert, ed. Fifty Years Later: Antislavery, Capitalism, and Modernity in the Dutch Orbit. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996.

Sanneh, Lamin. Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Schmidt-Nowara, Christopher. Empire and Antislavery: Spain, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, 18331874. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999.

Sernett, Milton C. North Star Country: Upstate New York and the Crusade for African American Freedom. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2002.

Temperley, Howard, ed. After Slavery: Emancipation and Its Discontents. London: Frank Cass, 2002.

Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. 1944. Reprint, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

Cassandra R. Veney

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"Abolitionism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Mar. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Abolitionism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/abolitionism

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Abolition

ABOLITION

The destruction, annihilation, abrogation, or extinguishment of anything, but especially things of a permanent nature—such as institutions, usages, or customs, as in the abolition ofslavery.

In U.S. legal history, the concept of abolition generally refers to the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century movement to abolish the slavery of African Americans. As a significant political force in the pre-Civil War United States, the abolitionists had significant effect on the U.S. legal and political landscape. Their consistent efforts to end the institution of slavery culminated in 1865 with the ratification of the Constitution's thirteenth amendment, which outlawed slavery. The abolitionist ranks encompassed many different factions and people of different backgrounds and viewpoints, including European and African Americans, radicals and moderates. The motives of the abolitionists spanned a broad spectrum, from those who opposed slavery as unjust and inhumane to those whose objections were purely economic and focused on the effects that an unpaid Southern workforce had on wages and prices in the North.

Efforts to abolish slavery in America began well before the Revolutionary War and were influenced by similar movements in Great Britain and France. By the 1770s and 1780s, many antislavery societies, largely dominated by Quakers, had sprung up in the North. Early American leaders such as benjamin franklin, alexander hamilton, john jay, and thomas paine made known their opposition to slavery.

The early abolitionists played an important role in outlawing slavery in Northern states by the early nineteenth century. Vermont outlawed slavery in 1777, and Massachusetts declared it inconsistent with its new state constitution, ratified in 1780. Over the next three decades, other Northern states, including Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, passed gradual emancipation laws that freed all future children of slaves. By 1804, every Northern state had enacted some form of emancipation law.

In the South, where slavery played a far greater role in the economy, emancipation moved at a much slower pace. By 1800, all Southern states except Georgia and South Carolina had passed laws that eased the practice of private manumission—or the freeing of slaves by individual slaveholders. Abolitionists won a further victory in the early 1800s when the

United States outlawed international trade in slaves. However, widespread smuggling of slaves continued.

During the first three decades of the 1800s, abolitionists continued to focus largely on gradual emancipation. As the nation expanded westward, they also opposed the introduction of slavery into the western territories. Although abolitionists had won an early victory on this front in 1787, when they succeeded in prohibiting slavery in the Northwest Territory, their efforts in the 1800s were not as completely successful. The missouri compromise of 1820 (3 Stat. 545), for example, stipulated that slavery would be prohibited only in areas of the louisiana purchase north of Missouri's southern boundary, except for Missouri itself, which would be admitted to the Union as a slave state. Slavery in the territories remained one of the most divisive issues in U.S. politics until the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Beginning in the 1830s, evangelical Christian groups, particularly in New England, brought a new radicalism to the cause of abolition. They focused on the sinfulness of slavery and sought to end its practice by appealing to the consciences of European Americans who supported slavery. Rather than endorsing a gradual emancipation, these new abolitionists called for the immediate and complete emancipation of slaves without compensation to slave-owners. Leaders of this movement included william lloyd garrison, founder of the abolitionist newspaper the Liberator; frederick douglass, a noted African American writer and orator; the sisters Sarah Moore Grimké and Angelina Emily Grimké, lecturers for the American

Anti-Slavery Society and pioneers for women's rights; Theodore Dwight Weld, author of an influential antislavery book, American Slavery as It Is (1839); and later, harriet beecher stowe, whose 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was another important abolitionist tract.

In 1833, this new generation of abolitionists formed the American Anti-Slavery Society (AAS). The organization grew quickly, particularly in the North, and by 1840 had reached a height of 1,650 chapters and an estimated 130,000 to 170,000 members. Nevertheless, abolitionism remained an unpopular cause even in the North, and few mainstream politicians openly endorsed it.

To achieve its goals, the AAS undertook a number of large projects, many of which were frustrated by Southern opposition. For example, the organization initiated a massive postal campaign designed to appeal to the moral scruples of Southern slaveowners and voters. The campaign flooded the South with antislavery tracts sent through the mails. Although a law that would have excluded antislavery literature from the mails was narrowly defeated in Congress in 1836, pro-slavery forces, with the help of President Andrew Jackson's administration and local postmasters, effectively ended the dissemination of abolitionist literature in the South. The AAS was similarly frustrated when it petitioned Congress on a variety of subjects related to slavery. Congressional gag rules rendered the many abolitionist petitions impotent. These rules of legislative procedure allowed Congress to table and effectively ignore the antislavery petitions.

By the 1840s, the evangelical abolitionist movement had begun to break up into different factions. These factions differed on the issue of gradual versus radical change and on the inclusion of other causes, including women's rights, in their agendas. Some abolitionists decided to form a political party. The Liberty party, as they named it, nominated James G. Birney for U.S. president in 1840 and 1844. When differences later led to the dissolution of the Liberty party, many of its members created the free soil party, which took as its main cause opposition to slavery in the territories newly acquired from Mexico. They were joined by defecting Democrats who were disgruntled with the increasing domination of Southern interests in their party. In 1848, the Free Soil party nominated as its candidate for U.S. president martin van buren, who had served as the eighth president of the United States from 1837 to 1841, but Van Buren did not win. (zachary taylor won the election.)

After passage of the fugitive slave act of 1850 (9 Stat. 462), which required Northern states to return escaped slaves and imposed penalties on people who aided such runaways, abolitionists became actively involved in the Underground Railroad, a secretive network that provided food, shelter, and direction to escaped slaves seeking freedom in the North. This network was largely maintained by free African Americans and is estimated to have helped 50,000 to 100,000 slaves to freedom. Harriet Tubman, an African American and ardent abolitionist, was one organizer of the Underground Railroad. During the 1850s, she bravely traveled into Southern states to help other African Americans escape from slavery, just as she had escaped herself.

Whereas the vast majority of abolitionists eschewed violence, john brown actively participated in it. In response to attacks led by pro-slavery forces against the town of Lawrence, Kansas, Brown, the leader of a Free Soil militia, led a reprisal attack that killed five pro-slavery settlers in 1856. Three years later, he undertook an operation that he hoped would inspire a massive slave rebellion. Brown and 21 followers began by capturing the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). Federal forces under Robert E. Lee promptly recaptured the arsenal, and Brown was hanged shortly thereafter, becoming a martyr for the cause.

In 1854, abolitionists and Free Soilers joined with a variety of other interests to form the republican party, which successfully stood abraham lincoln for president in 1860. Although the party took a strong stand against the introduction of slavery in the territories, it did not propose the more radical option of immediate emancipation. In fact, slavery ended as a result of the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. Not a true abolitionist at the start of his presidency, Lincoln became increasingly receptive to antislavery opinion. In 1863, he announced the emancipation proclamation, which freed all slaves in areas still engaged in revolt against the Union. The proclamation served as an important symbol of the Union's new commitment to ending slavery. Lincoln later supported the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which officially abolished slavery in the United States.

After the war, former abolitionists, including radical Republicans such as Senator charles sumner (R-Mass.), continued to lobby for constitutional amendments that would protect the rights of the newly freed slaves, including the fourteenth amendment, ratified in 1868, which guaranteed citizenship to former slaves and declared that no state could "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person … the equal protection of the laws." Former abolitionists also lobbied, albeit unsuccessfully, for land redistribution that would have given exslaves a share of their former owners' land.

further readings

Edwards, Judith. 2004. Abolitionists and Slave Resistance: Breaking the Chains of Slavery. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow.

Greenburg, Martin H., and Charles G. Waugh, eds. 2000. The Price of Freedom: Slavery and the Civil War. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland House.

Hessler, Katherine. 1998. "Early Efforts to Suppress Protest: Unwanted Abolitionist Speech." Boston University Public Interest Law Journal 7 (spring).

Kingaman, William K. 2001. Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, 1861–1865. New York: Viking.

Merrill, Walter M. 1971. Against the Wind and Tide: A Biography of William Lloyd Garrison. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard.

Tackach, James. 2002. The Abolition of American Slavery. San Diego, Calif.: Lucent Books.

cross-references

Compromise of 1850; Dred Scott v. Sandford; Emancipation Proclamation; Fourteenth Amendment; Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Lincoln, Abraham; Missouri Compromise of 1820; Prigg v. Pennsylvania; Slavery; Sumner, Charles; Thirteenth Amendment.

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abolitionists

abolitionists, in U.S. history, particularly in the three decades before the Civil War, members of the movement that agitated for the compulsory emancipation of the slaves. Abolitionists are distinguished from free-soilers, who opposed the further extension of slavery, but the groups came to act together politically and otherwise in the antislavery cause. The abolitionist movement was one of high moral purpose and courage; its uncompromising temper made the slavery question the prime concern of national politics and hastened the demise of slavery in the United States (see also slavery).

Evangelical Influences

Antislavery sentiment had existed before and during the American Revolution. Philadelphia Quakers founded the world's first antislavery society in 1775, Vermont outlawed slavery in 1777, and abolitionist Benjamin Lundy began his work early in the 19th cent. However, the abolition movement did not reach crusading proportions until the 1830s. One of its mainsprings was the growing influence of evangelical religion, with its religious fervor, its moral urgency to end sinful practices, and its vision of human perfection. The preaching of Lyman Beecher and Nathaniel Taylor in New England and the religious revivals that began in W New York state in 1824 under Charles G. Finney and swept much of the North, created a powerful impulse toward social reform—emancipation of the slaves as well as temperance, foreign missions, and women's rights. Outstanding among Charles Finney's converts were Theodore D. Weld and the brothers Arthur Tappan and Lewis Tappan.

The Antislavery Movement

The Tappan brothers and William Lloyd Garrison, who began publishing an abolitionist journal, The Liberator, in 1831, were the principal organizers in Dec., 1833, at Philadelphia, of the American Anti-Slavery Society. The primary concern of the society was the denunciation of slavery as a moral evil; its members called for immediate action to free the slaves. In 1835 the society launched a massive propaganda campaign. It flooded the slave states with abolitionist literature, sent agents throughout the North to organize state and local antislavery societies, and poured petitions into Congress demanding the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

The abolitionists were at first widely denounced and abused. Mobs attacked them in the North; Southerners burned antislavery pamphlets and in some areas excluded them from the mails; and Congress imposed the gag rule to avoid considering their petitions. These actions, and the murder of abolitionist editor Elijah P. Lovejoy in 1837, led many to fear for their constitutional rights. Abolitionists shrewdly exploited these fears and antislavery sentiment spread rapidly in the North. By 1838, more than 1,350 antislavery societies existed with almost 250,000 members, including many women.

Although abolitionists united in denouncing the African venture of the American Colonization Society, they disagreed among themselves as to how their goal might be best reached. Garrison believed in moral suasion as the only weapon; he and his followers also argued that women be allowed to participate fully in antislavery societies, thus disturbing more conservative members. When the Garrisonians passed such a resolution at the society's 1840 convention, a large group led by the Tappan brothers withdrew and formed the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. The abolitionists were never again united as a single movement.

Advocates of direct political action founded (1840) the Liberty party; James G. Birney was its presidential candidate in 1840 and 1844. Writers such as John Greenleaf Whittier and orators such as Wendell Phillips gave their services to the cause, while Frederick Douglass and other freed or escaped slaves also took to the lecture platform.

An antislavery lobby was organized in 1842, and its influence grew under Weld's able direction. Abolitionists hoped to convert the South through the churches, until the withdrawal of Southern Methodists (1844) and Baptists (1845) from association with their Northern brethren. After the demise of the Liberty party, the political abolitionists supported the Free-Soil party in 1848 and 1852, and in 1856 they voted with the Republican party.

The passage of more stringent fugitive slave laws in 1850 increased abolitionist activity on the Underground Railroad. Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, became an effective piece of abolitionist propaganda, and the Kansas question (see Kansas; Kansas-Nebraska Act) further aroused both North and South. The culminating act of extreme abolitionism occurred in the raid of John Brown on Harpers Ferry. After the opening of the Civil War insistent abolitionist demands for immediate freeing of the slaves, supported by radical Republicans in Congress, pushed President Lincoln in his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Bibliography

See L. Filler, The Crusade against Slavery, 1830–1860 (1960); D. L. Dumond, Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America (1961, repr. 1964); L. Lader, The Bold Brahmins: New England's War against Slavery (1961); M. Duberman, ed., The Antislavery Vanguard (1965); A. Lutz, Crusade for Freedom: Women in the Antislavery Movement (1968); A. S. Kraditor, Means and Ends in American Abolitionism (1969); B. Quarles, Black Abolitionists (1969); L. Perry and M. Fellman, ed., Antislavery Reconsidered (1979); R. J. Blackett, Building an Antislavery Wall (1983); H. Aptheker, Abolitionism: A Revolutionary Movement (1989); P. Goodman, Of One Blood (1998); R. S. Newman, The Transformation of American Abolitionism (2001); S. Drescher, Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery (2009); A. Delbanco, The Abolitionist Imagination (2012).

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Abolition

ABOLITION


The Abolition movement wanted to put an end to (abolish) slavery. The success of the anti-slavery campaign in Great Britain, which prohibited the slave trade in 1807, significantly strengthened the cause in the United States. The U.S. government outlawed slave trade the following year, and in the 1830s the revival of evangelical religion in the North gave the movement to emancipate African American slaves an even stronger impetus. Those Abolitionists believed that it violated Christian beliefs for one human being to own another. They called for an end to slavery, although the system was crucial to the agrarian economy of the southern states.

Leaders of the abolition movement included journalist William Lloyd Garrison (180579), founder of an influential anti-slavery journal; Theodore Dwight Weld (180395), leader of student protests and organizer of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society; and brothers Arthur and Lewis Tappan (17861865; 17881873), prominent New York merchants who co-founded the American Anti-Slavery Society. Writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe (181196), author of Uncle Tom's Cabin (185152), helped strengthen the abolitionist cause and were instrumental in swaying public opinion. But the nation remained mostly split along North-South lines. A middle ground was occupied by the Free-Soilers, who would tolerate slavery in the South but believed it should not be extended into new parts of the country. The slavery controversy deepened with the Compromise of 1850, which proved a poor attempt to assuage tensions. The legislation was prompted by the question of whether slavery should be extended into Texas and into territories gained in the Mexican War (184648). The Congressional compromise allowed for Texas to be a slave state. California was to be admitted as a free state (slavery was prohibited). Voters in New Mexico and Utah would decide the slavery question themselves, while the slave trade was to be prohibited in Washington, DC. Congress also passed a strict fugitive slave law. The question arose again in 1854 when Kansas and Nebraska were added to the Union. Kansas became a proving ground for both sides, but the slavery question remained unresolved. In the hands of some activists the abolition movement became violent: In 1859 ardent abolitionist John Brown (180059) led a raid on the armory at Harper's Ferry (in present-day West Virginia), which failed to emancipate slaves by force. The slavery question for the South was not answered until President Abraham Lincoln (186165) issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863. The Thirteenth Amendment, passed by Congress in January 1865, banned slavery throughout the United States.

See also: Emancipation Proclamation, Fugitive Slave Act, Harpers Ferry Armory, Kansas-Nebraska Act, Slavery, Thirteenth Amendment

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abolitionism

abolitionism A term associated with protest on grounds of inhumanity and call for the abolition of: first, slavery (see, for example, the work of William Wilberforce , 1759–1833
); and, more recently, prisons and imprisonment. The latter stance developed within Scandinavian criminology (see T. Mathiesen , The Politics of Abolition, 1974)
but has since been taken up within wider critical criminology. Abolitionists argue that prisons are ineffective, their justification untenable, and their violations of human rights widespread. The abolitionist stance rejects reformism on the grounds that this perpetuates and legitimizes the existing system. Abolitionism proposes new responses to crime, offending, and disputes—for example community-based alternatives to incarceration—and argues that the urge to punish and inflict pain must be challenged.

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abolitionists

abolitionists Person who sought to end slavery. In the UK, William Wilberforce headed the Clapham Sect that led to the cessation of Britain's role in the slave trade in 1807. In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison published The Liberator, an antislavery journal. The American Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1833, and within five years such societies boasted more than 250,000 members. Harriet Beecher Stowe's abolitionist novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) sold more than 300,000 copies in its first year. The militant actions of abolitionists culminated in the raid on the US arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, led by John Brown. The bitter antagonism between North and South over slavery was a major cause of the American Civil War.

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abolition

ab·o·li·tion / ˌabəˈlishən/ • n. the action or an act of abolishing a system, practice, or institution: the abolition of child labor.

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Abolitionists

Abolitionists in the 19th century, supporters of the abolition of the slave-trade; the term is recorded from the early 19th century.

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Abolition

ABOLITION

ABOLITION. SeeAntislavery .

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