Christian Abolitionist Movement: United States

American abolition
Figure 1.--This is an illustration from one of many books publidhed by the American abolitiomnist movement. It illustrated text sescribing the use of bloodhounds to track fugitive slaves. The illustrator is not identified, but the illustration itself appears to be based on an illustration first published in Henry Bibb's 'Narrative of the Life and Adventures of ... an American Slave' (New York, 1849). Te actual illustration here appeared in an anonamous book, 'The Suppressed Book About Slavery!'. It was prepared for publication in 1857, but actually published in New York during the Civil War (1864). This comes from a collection od slave images from the University of Virginia Library.

The Constitutional Convention largely side stepped the issue of slavery in the new Federal Constitution. As powers vested in the Federal Government has to be specifically enumerated, the question of slavery became a state matter. The Constitution did contain two provisions on slavery. First slaves were to partially counted in determining the apportionment of Congressmen and thus presidential electors. This in effect gave extra voting power to slave states. Second, the Federal Goverment was authorized to end the African slave trade in 1807. The abolitionist movement in the north had already begun to grow at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified. And it gradually grew in importance leading to abolition in the original northern colonies and the new states formed in the Northwest Territory. Slavery did not, however, emerge as a major national issue until after the War Of 1812 when the number of free states began to outmumber the number od slave states making the slaves states a minority in the Senate. The debate in the Congress over Missouri statehood brought out some empassioned speeches for and against slavery. Movements were a foot to abolish slavery in the northern states and more criticim was being directed at the South's "peculiar institution". Representative Livermore (New Hampshire) asked "How long will the desire for wealth render us blind to the sin of holding both the bodies and souls of our fellow men in chains?" The Abolitionist movement in America was built around Protestant churches in the northern states. At first Quakers were the most prominent voice, but other religious groups in the North also began to question slavery. Southern churches, however, saw no religious problem with slavery. Southern slaves, however, saw considerable paralells with the bondage of the people of Israel in Egypt and their plight. American abolitionism soon found it faced a major problem that the British abolitioinist movement never had to confront. Slasvery so divided Americam on a sectional basis that it threatened the very existence of the nation--breaking apart the national union. The abolitionist movement was a northern moverment. There was no southern aboliionist movement. TYhe movement as it developed was led by a number of agitators. William Lloyd Garrison founded the American Anti-Slavery Society. Noted authors John Greenleaf Whittier and Harriet Beecher Stowe became influential. Former slaves also had some influence, especially Frederick Douglass. Abolitionists could not become major nationmal political figures because of the need to apease southern voters. Only when the natiobal political parties broke apart on a sectional basis was it possible for an anti-slavery party and presidential candidate to win election. Abrahan Lincoln was not an abolitionist, jhe was, however, a clear anti-slavery candidate who opposed the spread of slavery. This was a turning point in the abolitionisdt movement. Abolitionists could not end slavery even after the Peoublican victory (1860). Ir was the secession of the Southern states and Civil War that made this possible. Lincoln Issuyed the Emancipastion Proclamation (1863). With out southern Congressmen, the Republicans were able to pass Constitutiona;l Amendments enshrining the Emancimation Proclamation in the Constitution with the 13th Amendment.

Quakers

The Abolitionist movement in both America and Britain began with the Society of Friends--the Quakers. The Quakers were the first group to register any moral concern with slavery in colonial America. Not all Quakers objected to slavery and some Quakers purchased slaves. But the many Quakers spoke out against slavery, insisting that slaveholding was incompatible with basic Christian piety. Dutch and German Quakers registered their objections to slavery at Germantown, Pennsylvania (1688). Slavery in America at the time was still in its formative phase. English Quakers expressed their disapproval of the slave trade ( 1727). American Quakers became increaingly active in opposing s;lvery (1750s). Quaker opinions were mixed. Some Quakers owned slaves, mostly Quakers in America. There were Quakers who favored abolition, but others argued for improved consitions for slaves and that slave owners educate their slaves, teach Christianity, and prepare them for eventual emancipation. It was Quakers that helped found the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the most important British abolitionist group.

Enlightenment

The African slave trade was not a matter of intelectual discourse until the 18th century. There were no protests questioning the morality of enslaving Africans. The first questions came from the rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment. They criticized slavery as a violation of the rights of man. Perhaps this had an impact on public discourse and attiutudes which the abolitionist movement would move, but the grear Enlightenment thinkers did not launch the abolitonist movement and were not among the leaders of the abolitonist movement which develoed. Some figures associated with Enligtenment thinking like Thomas Jefferson were slave owners. Rather the abolitionist movement in both Britain and America would develop wiuthin the Protesant chuches. A similar dynamic occurred in American during the Civil Rights movement. The leaders of the nmovement came from the churches and not the intellecual, university estsablishment.

Capitalism

The British economy like ecomonies throughout Europe was largely based on agiculture and land. This began to change in the 18th century with the Industrial Revolution Capitalism was essentially invented by the Dutch and adopted on a larger scale by the British. The slave trade played an important role in generating the capital that financed the Industrial Revolution. And inputs from slave based economies (the cotton from southhern plantations) played a role in the Industrial Revolution. From an early point, however, Scottish economist Adam Smith's demostrated in the The Wealth of Nations slave labour was not cheaper than the work of free men. The central struggle in the abolition of slavery would be the American Civil War and it was the northern economy based on free labor that would defeat the slave-based economy of the Southern Confederacy. Karl Mark and other reformers generated a body of Marxist idelology in an attempt to address the social problem of 19th century capitalist society. Marx and other Marxist missed the capacity for reforn generated by free labor and democraic systems. It is no accident that it has been totalitarian states (mostly Marxist) in the 20th century which prohibited workers from organizing democratic labor unions that would adopt massive systems of slave labor. The Soviet Gulag was the best known, but other Communist countries set up slave labor systems (Cambodia, China, and North Korea). Other totalitariand like the NAZIs also set up slave labor systems.

Federal Constitution (1787)

The Constitutional Convention largely side stepped the issue of slavery in the new Federal Constitution. As powers vested in the Federal Government has to be specifically enumerated, the question of slavery became a state matter. The Constitution did contain two provisions on slavery. First slaves were to partially counted in determining the apportionment of Congressmen and thus presidential electors. This in effect gave extra voting power to slave states. Second, the Federal Goverment was authorized to end the African slave trade in 1807.

Anti-Slavery Movemnent

Attitudes toward slavery divided on largely sectional grounds. Opposition to slavery in the north took two different forms. First was the abolitionist movement which itself became split into different factions. The abolitionist movement in the north had already begun to grow at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified. And it gradually grew in importance leading to abolition in the original northern colonies and the new states formed in the Northwest Territory. Northern states began a gradual process of emancipation. The Federal government prohibited slavery in the Northwest Territory (1787). The abolitionistsattempted to achieve immediate emancipation and to vary degree and the ending of racial discrimination. Second was a more generlized opposition to the extension of slavery into the Western territories. This developed later. It began with the issue of Texas statehood and then the acquisition of the Southwest as a result of the Mexican American War (1846-48). From have called this movement the Free Soilism and was promoted by the Free Soil Party which would served as the core of the Republican Party. Abolitionists abd Free Soilers were related in opposition to slavery, but differed in many respects. The primary difference was that abolitionists saw the slavery issue as a moral question and thus no compromise was possible. Many Free Soilers were also motivated by morality, but economics was also a major concern. Industry began to grow in the North and while industrialists might brenefir from slavery, workers were generally united in their opposition to slavery. And thanks to the Jacksonian reforms, all whilte male workers were fully enfranchised. Free Soilers did not want free labor to compete with slave labor. As economics was such an infortant factor, they were more amnenable to compromise. While they opposed the extensioin of slavery west, they were less willing to vigorously attack slavery in the slave states knowing that it might mean secession and civil war. The Free Soilers were also less committed to civil rights for freed blacks. Southern slavepwners tended not to descrimate between the two and especially as the abolitionists began to affect public opinion by the 1840s began to see the North as united against them and slavery. While Free Soilers were amenable to compromise, the southern slave owning aristocracy became increasingly stident and determined to push slavery west. And this as the one issue on whicvh the Fee Soilers woulkd not compromise. Most southerners did not own slaves, but state governments, the economy, and the press wre dominated by the slave owning aristocracy. There was some anti-slavery feeling in the Upper South where there were few large plantations during the 1820s, but when the abolitionist movement was founded in the North, anti-slavery efforts in the South disappeared. There was no anti-slavery movement of any importance in the South. And as the issue of slavery intensified it was dangerous to even express anti-slavery opinions in the South.

Cotton and Southern Plantations

Cotton is today the most widely used natural fiber in the manufacture of clothing. It has a number of qualities making it ideal for making textiles and clothing. It is a natural vegetable fiber--the most important textile raw material. This was not the case in the 18th century. The reason the shift to cotton occurred was technical advances in first manufactuing textiles and second in the production of raw cotton. Cotton played a major role in the Industrial Revolution that has so changed modern life. The first industrial machines designed for mass production were developed to manufacture cotton textiles. This created a demand for raw cotton. American slavery was declining in importance in the late 18th century. Many even in the South thought that it would eventually disappear as was happening in the North. The Industrial Revolution, however, led to Ely Whitney's cotton gin. Suddenly there was way of supplying the European demand for cotton. The resulting efficiences changed the economies of cotton cultivation. New plantations were founded on King Cotton as Southern planters moved west into Alabama and Mississpi and eventually Texas. Huge profits could be made in cotton. But it was a labor intensive crop. This meant that large plantations and slave labor were the most effecient production system. A very subsrantial proprtion of American slaves were employed in the production of this single crop. Cotton became the orimary American export commodity, in effect financing America's early industrial development. The revitalization of the South's slave-based economy began a process that was to lead inexorably to Civil War. Cotton today continues to be the most important natural textile, still widely used in the production of clothing.

African Colonization Society (1816)

After the abolition of slavery in northern states, the principal project pursued by the American Aboloitionist Movement was the African Colonization Society. This was a movement which began in the 18th century. It was controversial from the beginning among both whites and blacks. Some blacks fispairing of justice in America supported the back to Africa movemnent. Others thought that blacks should remain in Anerica and press for abolition and full legal rights. White supporters had varying opinions. Some saw it as a way of removing what they saw as an inferior people. Others had more benighn view, thinking that blcks would be happier and better off in Africa. Others thought that repatriated Africans could play an important role in Christianizing and civilizing largely pagan Africa. The American Colonization Society (ACS) was founded (1816) to send frees slaves back to Africa. This was an anti-slavery measure which was feasible at the time. Emancipation was mot ppossible in the South, but there were numbers of feed or just about to be freed slaves in the North. The first group of freed slaves reached Western Africa (1822). Elements in the abolitionist movement began attacking the ACS (1830s). They were accused of being a "slaveholder's scheme". The colony became the independent nation of Liberia (1847) and was the only African country to avoid European colonization. The society by the end of the Civil wAr had sent more than 13,000 blacks back to Africa. After the Civil War (April 1865) quite a number of freed slaves wanted to go to Liberia or bcl to Africa. As aesult of Emancipation, however, the ACS found it more difficult to raise funds. After the War the focus of the ACS became educational and missionary efforts in Liberia rather than further emigration. The society donated its records to the Library of Congress (1913), but formally disolved several decades lazter (1964).

Missouri Compromise (1820)

Slavery did not, however, emerge as a major national issue until after the War Of 1812 when the number of free states began to outmumber the number od slave states making the slaves states a minority in the Senate. The debate in the Congress over Missouri statehood brought out some empassioned speeches for and against slavery. Movements were a foot to abolish slavery in the northern states and more criticim was being directed at the South's "peculiar institution". Representative Livermore (New Hampshire) asked "How long will the desire for wealth render us blind to the sin of holding both the bodies and souls of our fellow men in chains?"

Religious Base

The Abolitionist movement in America was built around Protestant churches in the northern states. At first Quakers were the most prominent voice, but other religious groups in the North also began to question slavery. Southern churches, however, saw no religious problem with slavery. Southern slaves, however, saw considerable paralells with the bondage of the people of Israel in Egypt and their plight. America was still a conservative agrain state at the turn of the 19th century. This began to change as industry was established and expnded, primarily in the North. The transition from agriculture to industry was unsettling as so many basic cultural pattens were affected. In this unsettled milleu, with the old cultural certainties breaking down, Americans nostly in the North began to ask some basic countries. One result was the growth evangelical religious movements which offered answers and spiritual direction to society. Preachers often stressed the moral imperative of ending sinful practices and personal responsibility to uphold God's will. This was essentially the same message offered by Old Tesamemnt prophets. Some of the important preachers of the era were: Lyman Beecher, Nathaniel Taylor, and Charles G. Finney. The movemenmt became known as the the Second Great Awakening--widespread religious revivals during the 1820s. This provided the religious mileau from whih the anolotionis movement was founded in the 1830s. Other moral reform movements developed out of the Second Great Awakening, including temperance, pacifism, and women's rights. Abolition was the forst majpor spin off to gain politica;l traction. Theodore D. Weld, William Lloyd Garrison, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, and Elizur Wright, Jr. took up the crusade against slavery, demanding "immediate emancipation" on largely noral grounds.

Political Abolitionist Movement

The American abolition movement that energetically confronted slavery began in the early 1830s. It was an outgrowth of religious revivalist movement which has become to be called the Second Great Awakening. Revivalist teachings led abolitionists, most from the religious community, to view slavery as a matter of personal sin. They thus demanded that slsave owners free their slaves as an act of repentance. Race became more of afactor in the 19th century. A factor here was the freed blacks. Questions arose as to race-based laws and regulations such as the tight of black children to attend public schools. Abolitionists saw that slavery was in part sustained by racial prejudice. They thus began to oppose racially discriminatory laws and practices. Here they could work in the north. This effort was conducted in individual states. Changing Federal laws was a much more difficult matter. The Jascksonian era greatly expanded the franchise. While President Jackson was a supporter of the Jacksonian era developed a participatory democracy and a mass aufience which could affect public policy. Abolitionists were one of the first groups which attempted to reach and convert that mass audience.

American Anti-Slavery Society (1833)

Boston newspaper editor William Lloyd Garrison played a major role in organizing the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) was founded in 1833. The Society condemned slavery on moral grounds and sought immediate emancipation. State and local chapers were organized throughout the North, but not theSouth. There lack of interested and both legal and extra-legal action prevented organization. The AASS by 1840 has some 2,000 chapter organized in the North. Nemvership had been estimsates at 150,000 to 200,000 people. The AASS was thus the major promoter of abolition in the United States. The AASS sponsored meetings with speakers including former slaves andcspnsored a range of publications top educate Americans about the evils of slsvery. The AASS addopted resolutions and supported anti-slavery petitions to Congress. Their publications were especially importasnt, reaching numbers of people far beyond their memmbership. The national chapter sent out agents and lecturers. The Society pursued a policy of moral suasion through its lecturing agents, petition drives, and printed materials.

Leaders

The American Abolitionist Movemrnt as it developed was led by a number of agitators as well as more moderate anti-slavery spokesmen. The list includes clergymen, authors, newspaper editors, politicans, and others. William Lloyd Garrison founded the American Anti-Slavery Society. He played a central role in founding and promoting the movement. Noted authors John Greenleaf Whittier and Harriet Beecher Stowe became influential. Stowe was the authoress of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the single most important anti-slavery book and perhaps the mosdt influential book in American history. The abolitionist movement was the first political effort in which women played a major role. Former slaves also had some influence, especially Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.

African Americans

Most blacks in America were slaves and lived in the southern States. There were much smaller numbers of free blacks, mostly in the northern states as well as run-aways. African American in the north joined the anti-slavery movement and the struggle against racial descrimination in the North. Free states had abolished slavery, but did not make blacks citizens with civil rights such as the right to vote and serve on jurie. (Jurors were often often frawn from the voting lists.) Black children often had difficulty attending public schools. Free blacks and runaways came to play an important role in the abolitionist movement. Fugitive slaves, including Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown, provided first hand accounts of the evils of slavery. Black abolitionists encountered a division among white abolitionists. While all were opposed to slavery, many were not committed to citizenship and full civil rights. And probably most harbored some kind of racial prejudice in terms as not believing blacks were equalt to whites in mental and other abilities. Thus blacks in the movement commonly experienced a range of patronizing attitudes from the white leaders of themocement. Thus black abolitionists adopted a range of attitudes within the abolitionist movement. Many unable to do anyhing about slavery in the South beyond supporting the Underground Railway, focused their energies on self-help activities and civil rights in the North. Some despairing of ending white racism supported separatist projects, especially African emigration.

Underground Railway

The Underground Railroad is an icon of American mythology. Many school children are disappointed to learn that there were no locomotives, carriages, and it was not underground. But exist it did and it played a major role, not so much in freeing slaves, but in brining on the Civil War which did free the slaves. The Underground Railroad was a loosely organized and constantly changing network of individuals and families who assisted fugitive slaves reach free northern states and Canada. There was no central organization or organizer so southern and Fderal officials found it impossible to shut down. Recent scholarship suggests that many whites, but mostly blacks (both free and slave) were involved in operaing the Underground Railroad. Many of the whites were reliously motivated. Quakers and evangelical protestants played important roles. The first operations are not known, but as early as 1786 George Washing was complaining about Quakers assisting one of his slaves escape. The term "Underground Railroad" was first used in the 1830s and by the 1840s was a universally used term. At the time the first railroads were just being built and they were the technical wonders of the day. The underground railroad adopted the terminology of the railroads. Stops were stations. Operastors were conductors and the fugaive slaves were the passangers. Many famous people were passangers. The most famous was Frederick Douglas himself. There were no maps or timetables and the whole network oprated with great secrecy. This was necessary because even in the free northern states the Underground Railroad was illegal. Not only could the slaves be seized, but anyone involved in assisting them could be arrested and procecuted. As a result the history of the Underground Railroad can not be documented with any detail by modern historians. No one knows how many slaves were spirited to freedom by the Underground Railroad. Most estimates suggest that the total may reach as many as 0.1 million people between the peak years of the Underground Railroad's operation. [Bordewich] Almost all from the upper-tier border states. Few slaves managed to escape from the deep south slave states. At the same time more slaves were shipped south to the cotton plantations of the deep south than escaped north. Also at the same time the slave population grew from 2.0 to 4.0 million. Some might conclude that the Underground Railroad was a failure. The real impact of the Underground Railroad was to inflame public opinion in the North and South. Slaveholders were furious that northerners would help their slaves escae. They demanded and got Federal legislation to strengthen slave catching operatins in Free northern states which fieled Abolitionist sentiment. This in turn further enflamed southern opinion. The outcome was that by 1860, sectionl sentiment had been fanned to such an extent that political compromise was no longer possible.

Women

Women also played a major role in the abolitionist movement. Women did not yet have the vote, but couls influence public policy in a number of ways. They often experienced public disapproval for their efforts. Many were involved with aange of moral reform activities. They came to the movement from different backgrounds ans with aange of motivations. Probably the most common were the women moved by religiously based noral principles. Other were moved by democratic ideals. Women like black Americans often ecperienced difficulties with the white mail leaders. A few women attended the founding convention of the American Anti-Slavery Society (1833), but Society did not allow women to become members. As a result, the women formed their own separae group. They held national conventions (1837, 1838, and 1839). They were particularly successful in raising money for the cause. Money at the time was primrily in the hands of their husbands. The ladies sponsored a range of fund raising events such as picnics and bazaars. The issue of women's rights eventially split the abolitionist movement. Quite a number of male abolitionists opposed any kind of public role for female abolitionists. Many held held deep-seated anti-feminist views. Others were more concerned about how it looked and thought it might geberate a backlash from the all male voters and the male-dominated sociery. Abolitionis in the 1830s and 40s were a minority and very unpopular even in areas of the North. Feminists were even more unpopulr. Thus many abolitionists thought that linking abolition with feminism was a flawed strategy. The "woman's issue" complicated already serious disagreements over strategy and philosdophy (political and religious) within the abolitionist movement. Ultimately the Garrisonians won control of the American Anti-Slavery Society (1840). The anti-feminist element walked out in protest over the election of a female officer. The ladies who took up the struggle became legendary. They included Maria Weston Chapman, Lydia Maria Child, Abby Kelley, Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many others. hey had to face insults and physical threats a they traveled around the country as traveling lecturers and organizers. These women became role models for a new generation of American women who would after the Civil War pursue the struggle foe women's rights.

American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (1840)

Non-Garrisonian abolitionists after walking out of the American Anti-Slavery Society over the issue of the role of women, dorned a new group (1840). The American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society continued to lobby major churches. They gained valuable support from important church groups: the Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian antislavery movements. These churches had theological concerns about the role of women and thus were unwilling to embrace the Garrisonian movemnt. These churches were more willing to embrace the more male-based movemednt. It was a major step as it helped to give anolitionists a stature they lacked earlier. As a result, the Methodist and Baptist churches split along sectional lines )mid-40s). The New School Presbyterians formed (1857). This was largely a matter of Southern churches forming asectional organization. Churches in the Border States tended to stay with the national (now northern) groups. Even after these splits, the Northern church branches tended to permit slave owners in their Border State member churches to the disapproval of the Abolitionists.

Opposition

The abolitionists were opposed by individual slaveholders, Southern legislators and officials, and many established churches. These individuals and groups tried to suppress the anti-slavery effort. The moral suasion of the abolitionist movement was confronted by church policies, legal actions, and extra-legal ctions including mob violence.

Liberty Party (1839-48)

The Liberty Party emerged as an one-issue abolitionist political organization centered in upstate New York (1839). Organized abolitionism developed along several different issue lines. One of the most important focused on the constitutionality of the institution of slavery. Here William Lloyd Garrison who became the major figure in the American Anti-Slavery Society, attacked the Constitution as a "covenant with death and an agreement with hell." The Liberty Party opposed this approach to opposing slavery asaolitical dead end. The Liberty Party nominated James G. Birney in 1840. Birney was a Kentucky-born lawyer and former slaveholder who converted to the abolitionist cause. Mob violence forced him to relocated to Ohio. Birney garnered only about 7,000 votes in 1840 and was not a factor in the race. The Party for the 1844 election again nominated Birney. A rising force in the Party, Salmon P. Chase, had doubts based primarily on Birney's ability to generate popular appeal. The debate over Texas appears to generated substantial support for the Liberty Party. He had no channce of election, but hoped to affect some state races. Birney in fact won more than 60,000 votes which had a major impact on the election. It was also an indication that the abolitionists were making headway. Chase as a result was convinced that abolitionists should begin to organize an anti-slavery party with more broadbased appeal. The end result would be the Republican Party. The Liberty Party continued to be a force in some local elections during 1846. It nominated John P. Hale in 1848, but then decided to withdraw his nomination and united with anti-slavery Whigs and Democrats to form the Free-Soil Party.

Liberty League

A small rump group of the most ardent abolitionists were not happy with the demise of the Libert Party and the compromises made to broaden the movement's appeal. For these men it was a simple question of right and wrong. Thus they did not join the new Free Soil Party. The Free Soil platform of universal reform is not what these meant wanted. Instead of going with the majority into the Free Soil Party, they formed the Liberty League. Unlike the Garrisonians, thery did not reject the Constitution as a tainted document. Rather their core belief was that the Constitution did not sanction slavery. Thu Congress had the authority to abolish slavery everywhere in the Union. The Liberty League was unavle to control the Liberty party or to block the merger with the Free Soilers. They did continue to agitate for an uncompromising abolitionist program. They continued running candidates. At first they used the the old Liberty party name and then ran under the Radical Abolitionist Party banner. They had little electoral success, but were a force in pushing tha abolitionist and anti-racist agendas within the more successful Free Soil and Republican Parties. The League finally faded away with the Republican 1860 victory and the outbreak of the Civil War. Most Liberty Leaguers joined the Republicn Party.

Free Soil Party (1848-52)

Throught the 19th century, slavery grew in importance as an issue in American national elections. The Free-Soil Party evolved out of the rivalry between factions in the Whig and Democratic parties. Because of the importance of the Southern slave states, neither national party wanted to come out strongly against slavery. The most important northern state was New York. Two of the most important factions in New York were the Barnburners (opposed to slavery) and the Hunkers (neutral or supportive of slavery). Former President Martin Van Buren was denied the Democratic Party (1844). Instead Southern slave interests helped manage the nomination of pro-slavery James K. Polk. The Whigs nominated Henry Clay who senseing popular opinion changed his position on Texas annexation. Even so he alienated the South. James G. Birney headed the third party Liberty ticket and managed to take enough votes from Clay, particularly in New York State-to enable Polk, who swept the South, to carry the 1844 election. Polk procecuted the Mexixan War and won huge territories in the southwest. President Van Buren, increasingly vocal about slavery, along with other anti-slavery Democrats decided to form a new party. The Free Soil Party was formed after the Mexican War (1846-48) to oppose the extension of slavery into the new territories annexed from Mexico. The Whig Party had opposed the Mexican War. Anti-slavery Whig, Democratic, along with abolitionist Liberty Party members met in Buffalo, New York to found the Free Soil Party (August 1848). Many anti-slavery northern Democrats (like the Barnburners, were attracted to the Party. The Party opposed the extension of slavery into the western territories. Slavery had been closed to most of Louisana Territory as a result of the Missouri Compromise, but the southwestern territories acquired from Mexico reopened the issue. The slogan of the party became "free soil, free speech, free labour, and free men". While slavery was the central issue, the Party also promote internal improvements, moderate tariffs, and a homestead act. Former President Martin Van Buren headed the Party ticket (1848). He received 10 per cent of the vote, taking enough Denocratic votes to ensure the election of Whig candidate General Zachary Taylor. The Party had by 1852 elected 12 congressmen. Their presidential candidate, New Hampshire abolitionist John P. Hale, however, won only 5 percent of the popular vote (1852). This could be because many Free Soilers concluded that the slavery issue had been settled by the Compromise of 1850. It soon became obvious,however, that the Compromise had not settled the issue. After the formation of the Republican Party (1854), most Free Soilers joined the Republicans.

Major Problem

American abolitionism soon found it faced a major problem that the British abolitioinist movement never had to confront. Slasvery so divided Americam on a sectional basis that it threatened the very existence of the nation--breaking apart the national union. The abolitionist movement was a northern moverment. There was no southern aboliionist movement.

Compromise of 1850

The Compromise of 1850 including the Fugative Slave Act, passed un an effort to placate southern slave owners. The Act enpoowered Federal agents to purse run-away slasves in the northern Free Dtates. This coupled with events in Knsas enfuriated northners sympathetic to the runaways. The result was the spawning of a new mnore militant strain od the Anolitionist Movement. Both free blacksand white abolitionists, often young men, attempted to stop the the rendition of runawaus to the South. Southebers were outraged at the extra-legal tactics. The Compromose of 1850 had the temporary impact of tamperiung Northern anti-slavery sentiment. Gradually incidents relating to the Fugaive Slave Act would reverse this trend. As a result, The Free Soil Party polled only 156,000 votes in 1852. This downtrend was reversed with ther passage of the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854).

Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854)

Congress by passing the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) transformed American politics. It was intended to end the drift toward dis-Union by accepting Sentator Stephen Douglas' doctrine of Populasr Soverignity. It was thought that this woyld plsacate the South. The principal impact, however, was to inflame Northern opinion. The Act repealed the Missouri Compromise by permitting slavery in western territories north of the 36º30' latitude. This along with the simultaneous rise of nativism expressed by the No Nothing Party essentially destroyed the Whig Party. The Whig Party no longer had any appeal for either Northern or Southern militants. The Whigs did poorly in the 1852 election and finally disintegrated amid the political turmoil following passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. As a result Free Soilers and anti-slavery elemets from the Whigs and Democrats merged to form the new Republican Party.

Bleeding Kansas

Abolitionist recruited a armned an "emigration" effort to send antislavery settlers into Kansas to oppse the pro-slavery statehood movement.

Republican Party

The Republican Party rose out of a major party shift following passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854). Most political Abolitionists from the Free Soil Party gravitated to the Republicans. The Republicans were to be sure was anti-slavery, however, it was not an abolitioist party. Its platform was more moderate and much broader. The Republicans in the political turmoil following the Kansas-Nevraska Act attracted a very broad range of Northern voters. A strong element was not focused on slavery, butvwere primarily interested in economic development. Some were concerned with competition from black and immigrant labor. The great majority of abolitionists rejected violence and remained committed to work for peaceful reform, both as part of the political system and through churches. The Republican Party proved to be a suitable political vehichle for both abolitionists and those who were opposed to slavery, but also had other agendas. Former Liberty party members and committed abolitionists from other parties were able to join forces and become the core of the Republican Party which also had conservative and racist factions. Under the aegis of the Republican Party most abolitionist factions and ecen some Garrisonians were able to join forces for the first time in decades. And thanks to the increasingly slave holders increasinly radical demands and actions, not only had the Democratic Party in the North been weakened, but the anti-slavery movement in the form of the Republican Party had finaly become a potent political force.

John Brown (1859)

John Brown emerged from the guerrilla fihting in "Bleeding Kansas" as an individual wsilling to act znd nmot just talk. He was determined to end slavery nd was convined thast it could not be done peacefully. Brown obrained clandestine financial support from various radical anti-slavery groups. Brown after Kansas moved into the Southern Appalachians (1857). He set up a base there and recruited a small company of men. Af first there activities focused on assisting runaways reach Pennsylvania and Ohio. Grafually a much more grandiose plan to launch a lave revolt. It was to be set off by seizing the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry (October 1859). Brown did seize Harper's Ferry, but there was no slave uprisiung. And soon a detachment of Marines commanded by Robert E. Lee reahed Harper's Ferry. Brown and his conspirators were arrested and after a trial hung. While Brown's rebellion failed he succeeded more than he knew. His action although quickly suppressed convinced large numbers of outherners that there was no longer any place for them in the Federal Union.

Achievement of the Abolitionist Movement

The Federal Constitution made it impossible to ablosh slavery at the Federal level. This could only be done by state legislastures and southern legislsaures were not about to abolish slavery. It was even dangerous for known abolitionists to cross the Mason-Dixon Line. Even o the Abolitionis Movement had a major impact on the Southern states. Southerners were offened at their vilification by the abolitionists. This and John Brown's Raid so disaffected Southerners that the idea of secession took root. Ans secession transformed the national debate. Many northners were not moved by the slavery debate. Abolitionists were not a majority in the North. The decesion to become a Free State was a close vote in many northern states like Illinois. The secesionists, however, converted the national debate from slavery to the nationalist issue of preserving the Union. And the combination of nationalists (unionists) and abolitionists were a very strong majority in every northern state. And the nationalists were an important elemen in the Border States. President Elect Abraham Lincoln understood this and based his policies on this calculation. And as it turned out, only secession would give the Federal Government the ability to abolish slavery.

Civil War (1861-65)

Abolitionists could not become major nationmal political figures because of the need to apease southern voters. Only when the natiobal political parties broke apart on a sectional basis was it possible for an anti-slavery party and presidential candidate to win election. Abrahan Lincoln was not an abolitionist, he was, however, a clear anti-slavery candidate who not only opposed the spread of slavery, but favored a moderate program to end slavery, beginning in the border states. The secession of the Southern states overshoded all other isses and Lincoln's primary goal bcame preservation of the Union. This was a turning point in the abolitionist movement. Abolitionists could not end slavery even after the Peoublican victory (1860). Ir was the secession of the Southern states and Civil War that made this possible. And it was influence of the abolitionists (the Garrisonians, the religious abolitionists, and the political abolitionists) that helped provoke the rise of sectionalism The Southern slave holders of course also played a role in fueling sectionalism. The end result of course was Southern secession and Civil War. Only after the secession of the Southern states did many religious denominations join the noral condemnation of slavery that the abolitionists had been preaching for several decades. Political abolitionists and thed Garrisonians were an important force rallyin Northern public opinion behind the War. This provided the public support thst the President needed to announce emancipation as a war goal.

Reconstruction

After the federal victory (April 1865), abolitionists advovated a reform program to be administered by the Federal Government. The abolitionists overwealmingly supported the Radical Republican program. The abolitioniss wanted the Federal Government to protect the newly freed slaves in the South. Thd political abolitionists' constitutional interpretation was based on natural rights theory. This became the legal justification for much of the civil rights legislation of the Recondstruction Era nd most importantly the 13th-15th centuries. President Lincoln Issued the Emancipastion Proclamation (1863). With out southern Congressmen, the Republicans were able to pass Constitutiona;l Amendments enshrining the Emancimation Proclamation in the Constitution with the 13th Amendment. The abolitionists basically suceeded in convincing the Northern public that slavery was a morl evil. And the Republican doiination of Conress was able to pass civil rignhts legislation. The aboliionists were not, however, sucessful in convinmcing the northern public that racism was immoral. Thus the North's commiment to Reconstruction was limited, leading to its ukltimte failure.







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Created: 5:08 AM 4/17/2010
Last updated: 3:02 AM 6/6/2010