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IMMEDIATISM. The drive to end slavery at once, known as immediatism, had its origins in British abolitionists' frustration in the 1820s with Parliament's gradual approach to abolishing slavery in the West Indian colonies. The American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison adopted the concept when he founded the antislavery newspaper the Liberator in 1831 and helped to establish the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Using as a model the conversion experience of the Second Great Awakening, Garrisonian abolitionists wished to convert Americans to a belief that slaveholding was a sin. A sinner, once aware of his or her sin, should cease sinning immediately. Supporters of immediatism rejected moderate approaches to ending slavery such as colonization or political reform and demanded total emancipation and equal rights for black Americans. Most Americans did not support immediatism because it threatened too many economic and racial interests and because it seemed rash. Garrison believed that the U.S. Constitution was a pro-slavery document. Some of his supporters even called for a secession of free states from the Union. Once immediatism proved ineffectual, Garrison's argument that political action would compromise abolitionist principles was rejected by some abolitionists, who by the late 1830s were entering the political arena.


Kraditor, Aileen S. Means and Ends in American Abolitionism: Garrison and His Critics on Strategy and Tactics, 1834–1850. New York: Pantheon Books, 1969.

Mayer, Henry. All On Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. The best biography of Garrison and his philosophy of immediatism.

Stewart, James B. Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery. New York: Hill and Wang, 1976.

Timothy M.Roberts

See alsoAntislavery .

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