The Anti-Slavery Crusade
Jesse Macy

Part 1 out of 3


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The Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln marks the
beginning of the end of a long chapter in human history. Among
the earliest forms of private property was the ownership of
slaves. Slavery as an institution had persisted throughout the
ages, always under protest, always provoking opposition,
insurrection, social and civil war, and ever bearing within
itself the seeds of its own destruction. Among the historic
powers of the world the United States was the last to uphold
slavery, and when, a few years after Lincoln's proclamation,
Brazil emancipated her slaves, property in man as a legally
recognized institution came to an end in all civilized countries.

Emancipation in the United States marked the conclusion of a
century of continuous debate, in which the entire history of
western civilization was traversed. The literature of American
slavery is, indeed, a summary of the literature of the world on
the subject. The Bible was made a standard text-book both for and
against slavery. Hebrew and Christian experiences were exploited
in the interest of the contending parties in this crucial
controversy. Churches of the same name and order were divided
among themselves and became half pro-slavery and half

Greek experience and Greek literature were likewise drawn into
the controversy. The Greeks themselves had set the example of
arguing both for and against slavery. Their practice and their
prevailing teaching, however, gave support to this institution.
They clearly enunciated the doctrine that there is a natural
division among human beings; that some are born to command and
others to obey; that it is natural to some men to be masters and
to others to be slaves; that each of these classes should fulfill
the destiny which nature assigns. The Greeks also recognized a
difference between races and held that some were by nature fitted
to serve as slaves, and others to command as masters. The
defenders of American slavery therefore found among the writings
of the Greeks their chief arguments already stated in classic

Though the Romans added little to the theory of the fundamental
problem involved, their history proved rich in practical
experience. There were times, in parts of the Roman Empire, when
personal slavery either did not exist or was limited and
insignificant in extent. But the institution grew with Roman wars
and conquests. In rural districts, slave labor displaced free
labor, and in the cities servants multiplied with the
concentration of wealth. The size and character of the slave
population eventually became a perpetual menace to the State.
Insurrections proved formidable, and every slave came to be
looked upon as an enemy to the public. It is generally conceded
that the extension of slavery was a primary cause of the decline
and fall of Rome. In the American controversy, therefore, the
lesson to be drawn from Roman experience was utilized to support
the cause of free labor.

After the Middle Ages, in which slavery under the modified form
of feudalism ran its course, there was a reversion to the ancient
classical controversy. The issue became clearly defined in the
hands of the English and French philosophers of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries. In place of the time-honored doctrine
that the masses of mankind are by nature subject to the few who
are born to rule, the contradictory dogma that all men are by
nature free and equal was clearly enunciated. According to this
later view, it is of the very nature of spirit, or personality,
to be free. All men are endowed with personal qualities of will
and choice and a conscious sense of right and wrong. To subject
these native faculties to an alien force is to make war upon
human nature. Slavery and despotism are, therefore, in their
nature but a species of warfare. They involve the forcing of men
to act in violation of their true selves. The older doctrine
makes government a matter of force. The strong command the weak,
or the rich exercise lordship over the poor. The new doctrine
makes of government an achievement of adult citizens who agree
among themselves as to what is fit and proper for the good of the
State and who freely observe the rules adopted and apply force
only to the abnormal, the delinquent, and the defective.

Between the upholders of these contradictory views of human
nature there always has been and there always must be perpetual
warfare. Their difference is such as to admit of no compromise;
no middle ground is possible. The conflict is indeed
irresistible. The chief interest in the American crusade against
slavery arises from its relation to this general world conflict
between liberty and despotism.

The Athenians could be democrats and at the same time could
uphold and defend the institution of slavery. They were committed
to the doctrine that the masses of the people were slaves by
nature. By definition, they made slaves creatures void of will
and personality, and they conveniently ignored them in matters of
state. But Americans living in States founded in the era of the
Declaration of Independence could not be good democrats and at
the same time uphold and defend the institution of slavery, for
the Declaration gives the lie to all such assumptions of human
inequality by accepting the cardinal axiom that all men are
created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights,
among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The
doctrine of equality had been developed in Europe without special
reference to questions of distinct race or color. But the terms,
which are universal and as broad as humanity in their denotation,
came to be applied to black men as well as to white men.
Massachusetts embodied in her state constitution in 1780 the
words, "All men are born free and equal," and the courts ruled
that these words in the state constitution had the effect of
liberating the slaves and of giving to them the same rights as
other citizens. This is a perfectly logical application of the
doctrine of the Revolution.

The African slave-trade, however, developed earlier than the
doctrine of the Declaration of Independence. Negro slavery had
long been an established institution in all the American
colonies. Opposition to the slave-trade and to slavery was an
integral part of the evolution of the doctrine of equal rights.
As the colonists contended for their own freedom, they became
anti-slavery in sentiment. A standard complaint against British
rule was the continued imposition of the slave-trade upon the
colonists against their oft-repeated protest.

In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, there
appeared the following charges against the King of Great Britain:

"He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating
its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of
distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying
them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable
death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare,
the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian
King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where men
should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for
suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain
this execrable commerce."

Though this clause was omitted from the document as finally
adopted, the evidence is abundant that the language expressed the
prevailing sentiment of the country. To the believer in liberty
and equality, slavery and the slave-trade are instances of war
against human nature. No one attempted to justify slavery or to
reconcile it with the principles of free government. Slavery was
accepted as an inheritance for which others were to blame.
Colonists at first blamed Great Britain; later apologists for
slavery blamed New England for her share in the continuance of
the slave-trade.

The fact should be clearly comprehended that the sentiments which
led to the American Revolution, and later to the French
Revolution in Europe, were as broad in their application as the
human race itself--that there were no limitations nor exceptions.
These new principles involved a complete revolution in the
previously recognized principles of government. The French sought
to make a master-stroke at immediate achievement and they
incurred counterrevolutions and delays. The Americans moved in a
more moderate and tentative manner towards the great achievement,
but with them also a counter-revolution finally appeared in the
rise of an influential class who, by openly defending slavery,
repudiated the principles upon which the government was founded.

At first the impression was general, in the South as well as in
the North, that slavery was a temporary institution. The cause of
emancipation was already advocated by the Society of Friends and
some other sects. A majority of the States adopted measures for
the gradual abolition of slavery, but in other cases there proved
to be industrial barriers to emancipation. Slaves were found to
be profitably employed in clearing away the forests; they were
not profitably employed in general agriculture. A marked
exception was found in small districts in the Carolinas and
Georgia where indigo and rice were produced; and though cotton
later became a profitable crop for slave labor, it was the
producers of rice and indigo who furnished the original barrier
to the immediate extension of the policy of emancipation.
Representatives from their States secured the introduction of a
clause into the Constitution which delayed for twenty years the
execution of the will of the country against the African
slave-trade. It is said that a slave imported from Africa paid
for himself in a single year in the production of rice. There
were thus a few planters in Georgia and the Carolinas who had an
obvious interest in the prolongation of the institution of
slavery and who had influence enough, to secure constitutional
recognition for both slavery and the slave-trade.

The principles involved were not seriously debated. In theory all
were abolitionists; in practice slavery extended to all the
States. In some, actual abolition was comparatively easy; in
others, it was difficult. By the end of the first quarter of the
nineteenth century, actual abolition had extended to the line
separating Pennsylvania from Maryland. Of the original thirteen
States seven became free and six remained slave.

The absence of ardent or prolonged debate upon this issue in the
early history of the United States is easily accounted for. No
principle of importance was drawn into the controversy; few
presumed to defend slavery as a just or righteous institution. As
to conduct, each individual, each neighborhood enjoyed the
freedom of a large, roomy country. Even within state lines there
was liberty enough. No keen sense of responsibility for a uniform
state policy existed. It was therefore not difficult for those
who were growing wealthy by the use of imported negroes to
maintain their privileges in the State.

If the sense of active responsibility was wanting within the
separate States, much more was this true of the citizens of
different States. Slavery was regarded as strictly a domestic
institution. Families bought and owned slaves as a matter of
individual preference. None of the original colonies or States
adopted slavery by law. The citizens of the various colonies
became slaveholders simply because there was no law against it.*
The abolition of slavery was at first an individual matter or a
church or a state policy. When the Constitution was formulated,
the separate States had been accustomed to regard themselves as
possessed of sovereign powers; hence there was no occasion for
the citizens of one State to have a sense of responsibility on
account of the domestic institutions of other States. The
consciousness of national responsibility was of slow growth, and
the conditions did not then exist which favored a general crusade
against slavery or a prolonged acrimonious debate on the subject,
such as arose forty years later.

* In the case of Georgia there was a prohibitory law, which was

In many of the States, however, there were organized abolition
societies, whose object was to promote the cause of emancipation
already in progress and to protect the rights of free negroes.
The Friends, or Quakers, were especially active in the promotion
of a propaganda for universal emancipation. A petition which was
presented to the first Congress in February, 1790, with the
signature of Benjamin Franklin as President of the Pennsylvania
Abolition Society, contained this concluding paragraph

"From a persuasion that equal liberty was originally, and is
still, the birthright of all men, and influenced by the strong
ties of humanity and the principles of their institutions, your
memorialists conceive themselves bound to use all justifiable
endeavors to loosen the bonds of slavery, and to promote the
general enjoyment of the blessings of freedom. Under these
impressions they earnestly entreat your attention to the subject
of slavery; that you will be pleased to countenance the
restoration to liberty of those unhappy men, who, alone, in this
land of freemen, are groaning in servile subjection; that you
will devise means for removing this inconsistency of character
from the American people; that you will promote mercy and justice
towards this distressed race; and that you will step to the very
verge of the power vested in you for discouraging every species
of traffic in the persons of our fellowmen."*

* William Goodell, "Slavery and Anti-Slavery," p. 99.

The memorialists were treated with profound respect. Cordial
support and encouragement came from representatives from Virginia
and other slave States. Opposition was expressed by members from
South Carolina and Georgia. These for the most part relied upon
their constitutional guaranties. But for these guaranties, said
Smith, of South Carolina, his State would not have entered the
Union. In the extreme utterances in opposition to the petition
there is a suggestion of the revolution which was to occur forty
years later.

Active abolitionists who gave time and money to the promotion of
the cause were always few in numbers. Previous to 1830 abolition
societies resembled associations for the prevention of cruelty to
animals--in fact, in one instance at least this was made one of
the professed objects. These societies labored to induce men to
act in harmony with generally acknowledged obligations, and they
had no occasion for violence or persecution. Abolitionists were
distinguished for their benevolence and their unselfish devotion
to the interests of the needy and the unfortunate. It was only
when the ruling classes resorted to mob violence and began to
defend slavery as a divinely ordained institution that there was
a radical change in the spirit of the controversy. The
irrepressible conflict between liberty and despotism which has
persisted in all ages became manifest when slave-masters
substituted the Greek doctrine of inequality and slavery for the
previously accepted Christian doctrine of equality and universal


It was a mere accident that the line drawn by Mason and Dixon
between Pennsylvania and Maryland became known in later years as
the dividing line between slavery and freedom. The six States
south of that line ultimately neglected or refused to abolish
slavery, while the seven Northern States became free. Vermont
became a State in 1791 and Kentucky in 1792. The third State to
be added to the original thirteen was Tennessee in 1796. At that
time, counting the States as they were finally classified, eight
were destined to be slave and eight free. Ohio entered the Union
as a State in 1802, thus giving to the free States a majority of
one. The balance, however, was restored in 1812 by the admission
of Louisiana as a slave State. The admission of Indiana in 1816
on the one side and of Mississippi in 1817 on the other still
maintained the balance: ten free States stood against ten slave
States. During the next two years Illinois and Alabama were
admitted, making twenty-two States in all, still evenly divided.

The ordinance for the government of the territory north of the
Ohio River, passed in 1787 and reenacted by Congress after the
adoption of the Constitution, proved to be an act of great
significance in its relation to the limitation of slavery. By
this ordinance slavery was forever prohibited in the Northwest
Territory. In the territory south of the Ohio River slavery
became permanently established. The river, therefore, became an
extension of the original Mason and Dixon's Line with the new
meaning attached: it became a division between free and slave

It was apparently at first a mere matter of chance that a balance
was struck between the two losses of States. While Virginia
remained a slave State, it was natural that slavery should extend
into Kentucky, which had been a part of Virginia. Likewise
Tennessee, being a part of North Carolina, became slave
territory. When these two Territories became slave States, the
equal division began. There was yet an abundance of territory
both north and south to be taken into the Union and, without any
special plan or agitation, States were admitted in pairs, one
free and the other slave. In the meantime there was distinctly
developed the idea of the possible or probable permanence of
slavery in the South and of a rivalry or even a future conflict
between the two sections.

When in 1819 Missouri applied for admission to the Union with a
state constitution permitting slavery, there was a prolonged
debate over the whole question, not only in Congress but
throughout the entire country. North and South were distinctly
pitted against each other with rival systems of labor. The
following year Congress passed a law providing for the admission
of Missouri, but, to restore the balance, Maine was separated
from Massachusetts and was admitted to the Union as a State. It
was further enacted that slavery should be forever prohibited
from all territory of the United States north of the parallel 36
degrees 30', that is, north of the southern boundary of Missouri.
It is this part of the act which is known as the Missouri
Compromise. It was accepted as a permanent limitation of the
institution of slavery. By this act Mason and Dixon's Line was
extended through the Louisiana Purchase. As the western boundary
was then defined, slavery could still be extended into Arkansas
and into a part of what is now Oklahoma, while a great empire to
the northwest was reserved for the formation of free States.
Arkansas became a slave State in 1836 and Michigan was admitted
as a free State in the following year.

With the admission of Arkansas and Michigan, thirteen slave
States were balanced by a like number of free States. The South
still had Florida, which would in time become a slave State.
Against this single Territory there was an immense region to the
northwest, equal in area to all the slave States combined, which,
according to the Ordinance of 1787 and the Missouri Compromise,
had been consecrated to freedom. Foreseeing this condition, a few
Southern planters began a movement for the extension of territory
to the south and west immediately after the adoption of the
Missouri Compromise. When Arkansas was admitted in 1836, there
was a prospect of the immediate annexation of Texas as a slave
State. This did not take place until nine years later, but the
propaganda, the object of which was the extension of slave
territory, could not be maintained by those Who contended that
slavery was a curse to the country. Virginia, therefore, and
other border slave States, as they became committed to the policy
of expansion, ceased to tolerate official public utterances
against slavery.

Three more or less clearly defined sections appear in the later
development of the crusade. These are the New England States, the
Middle States, and the States south of North Carolina and
Tennessee. In New England, few negroes were ever held as slaves,
and the institution disappeared during the first years of the
Republic. The inhabitants had little experience arising from
actual contact with slavery. When slavery disappeared from New
England and before there had been developed in the country at
large a national feeling of responsibility for its continued
existence, interest in the subject declined. For twenty years
previous to the founding of Garrison's Liberator in 1831,
organized abolition movements had been almost unknown in New
England. In various ways the people were isolated, separated from
contact with slavery. Their knowledge of this subject of
discussion was academic, theoretical, acquired at second-hand.

In New York and New Jersey slaves were much more numerous than in
New England. There were still slaves in considerable numbers
until about 1825. The people had a knowledge of the institution
from experience and observation, and there was no break in the
continuity of their organized abolition societies. Chief among
the objects of these societies was the effort to prevent
kidnapping and to guard the rights of free negroes. For both of
these purposes there was a continuous call for activity.
Pennsylvania also had freedmen of her own whose rights called for
guardianship, as well as many freedmen from farther south who had
come into the State.

The movement of protest and protection did not stop at Mason and
Dixon's Line, but extended far into the South. In both North
Carolina and Tennessee an active protest against slavery was at
all times maintained. In this great middle section of the
country, between New England and South Carolina, there was no
cessation in the conflict between free and slave labor. Some of
these States became free while others remained slave; but between
the people of the two sections there was continuous
communication. Slaveholders came into free States to liberate
their slaves. Non-slaveholders came to get rid of the competition
of slave labor, and free negroes came to avoid reenslavement.
Slaves fled thither on their way to liberty. It was not a matter
of choice; it was an unavoidable condition which compelled the
people of the border States to give continuous attention to the
institution of slavery.

The modern anti-slavery movement had its origin in this great
middle section, and from the same source it derived its chief
support. The great body of active abolitionists were from the
slave States or else derived their inspiration from personal
contact with slavery. As compared with New England abolitionists,
the middlestate folk were less extreme in their views. They had a
keener appreciation of the difficulties involved in emancipation.
They were more tolerant towards the idea of letting the country
at large share the burdens involved in the liberation of the
slaves. Border-state abolitionists naturally favored the policy
of gradual emancipation which had been followed in New York, New
Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Abolitionists who continued to reside
in the slave States were forced to recognize the fact that
emancipation involved serious questions of race adjustment. From
the border States came the colonization society, a characteristic
institution, as well as compromise of every variety.

The southernmost section, including South Carolina, Georgia, and
the Gulf States, was even more sharply defined in the attitude it
assumed toward the anti-slavery movement. At no time did the
cause of emancipation become formidable in this section. In all
these States there was, of course, a large class of
non-slaveholding whites, who were opposed to slavery and who
realized that they were victims of an injurious system; but they
had no effective organ for expression. The ruling minority gained
an early and an easy victory and to the end held a firm hand. To
the inhabitants of this section it appeared to be a self-evident
truth that the white race was born to rule and the black race was
born to serve. Where negroes outnumbered the whites fourfold, the
mere suggestion of emancipation raised a race question which
seemed appalling in its proportions. Either in the Union or out
of the Union, the rulers were determined to perpetuate slavery.

Slavery as an economic institution became dependent upon a few
semitropical plantation crops. When the Constitution was framed,
rice and indigo, produced in South Carolina and Georgia, were the
two most important. Indigo declined in relative importance, and
the production of sugar was developed, especially after the
annexation of the Louisiana Purchase. But by far the most
important crop for its effects upon slavery and upon the entire
country was cotton. This single product finally absorbed the
labor of half the slaves of the entire country. Mr. Rhodes is not
at all unreasonable in his surmise that, had it not been for the
unforeseen development of the cotton industry, the expectation of
the founders of the Republic that slavery would soon disappear
would actually have been realized.

It was more difficult to carry out a policy of emancipation when
slaves were quoted in the market at a thousand dollars than when
the price was a few hundred dollars. All slave-owners felt
richer; emancipation appeared to involve a greater sacrifice.
Thus the cotton industry went far towards accounting for the
changed attitude of the entire country on the subject of slavery.
The North as well as the South became financially interested.

It was not generally perceived before it actually happened that
the border States would take the place of Africa in furnishing
the required supply of laborers for Southern plantations. The
interstate slave-trade gave to the system a solidarity of
interest which was new. All slave-owners became partakers of a
common responsibility for the system as a whole. It was the newly
developed trade quite as much as the system of slavery itself
which furnished the ground for the later anti-slavery appeal. The
consciousness of a common guilt for the sin of slavery grew with
the increase of actual interstate relations.

The abolition of the African slave-trade was an act of the
general Government. Congress passed the prohibitory statute in
1807, to go into effect January, 1808. At no time, however, was
the prohibition entirely effective, and a limited illegal trade
continued until slavery was eventually abolished. This
inefficiency of restraint furnished another point of attack for
the abolitionists. Through efforts to suppress the African
slave-trade, the entire country became conscious of a common
responsibility. Before the Revolutionary War, Great Britain had
been censured for forcing cheap slaves from Africa upon her
unwilling colonies. After the Revolution, New England was blamed
for the activity of her citizens in this nefarious trade both
before and after it was made illegal. All of this tended to
increase the sense of responsibility in every section of the
country. Congress had made the foreign slave-trade illegal; and
citizens in all sections gradually became aware of the
possibility that Congress might likewise restrict or forbid
interstate commerce in slaves.

The West Indies and Mexico were also closely associated with the
United States in the matter of slavery. When Jamestown was
founded, negro slavery was already an old institution in the
islands of the Caribbean Sea, and thence came the first slaves to
Virginia. The abolition of slavery in the island of Hayti, or San
Domingo, was accomplished during the French Revolution and the
Napoleonic Wars. As incidental to the process of emancipation,
the Caucasian inhabitants were massacred or banished, and a
republican government was established, composed exclusively of
negroes and mulattoes. From the date of the Missouri Compromise
to that of the Mexican War, this island was united under a single
republic, though it was afterwards divided into the two republics
of Hayti and San Domingo.

The "horrors of San Domingo" were never absent from the minds of
those in the United States who lived in communities composed
chiefly of slaves. What had happened on the island was accepted
by Southern planters as proof that the two races could live
together in peace only under the relation of master and slave,
and that emancipation boded the extermination of one race or the
other. Abolitionists, however, interpreted the facts differently:
they emphasized the tyranny of the white rulers as a primary
cause of the massacres; they endowed some of the negro leaders
with the highest qualities of statesmanship and self-sacrificing
generosity; and Wendell Phillips, in an impassioned address which
he delivered in 1861, placed on the honor roll above the chief
worthies of history--including Cromwell and Washington Toussaint
L'Ouverture, the liberator of Hayti, whom France had betrayed and

Abolitionists found support for their position in the contention
that other communities had abolished slavery without such
accompanying horrors as occurred in Hayti and without serious
race conflict. Slavery had run its course in Spanish America, and
emancipation accompanied or followed the formation of independent
republics. In 1833 all slaves in the British Empire were
liberated, including those in the important island of Jamaica. So
it happened that, just at the time when Southern leaders were
making up their minds to defend their peculiar institution at all
hazards, they were beset on every side by the spirit of
emancipation. Abolitionists, on the other hand, were fully
convinced that the attainment of some form of emancipation in the
United States was certain, and that, either peaceably or through
violence, the slaves would ultimately be liberated.


At the time when the new cotton industry was enhancing the value
of slave labor, there arose from the ranks of the people those
who freely consecrated their all to the freeing of the slave.
Among these, Benjamin Lundy, a New Jersey Quaker, holds a
significant place.

Though the Society of Friends fills a large place in the
anti-slavery movement, its contribution to the growth of the
conception of equality is even more significant. This impetus to
the idea arises from a fundamental Quaker doctrine, announced at
the middle of the seventeenth century, to the erect that God
reveals Himself to mankind, not through any priesthood or
specially chosen agents; not through any ordinance, form, or
ceremony; not through any church or institution; not through any
book or written record of any sort; but directly, through His
Spirit, to each person. This direct enlightening agency they
deemed coextensive with humanity; no race and no individual is
left without the ever-present illuminating Spirit. If men of old
spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, what they spoke or
wrote can furnish no reliable guidance to the men of a later
generation, except as their minds also are enlightened by the
same Spirit in the same way. "The letter killeth; it is the
Spirit that giveth life."

This doctrine in its purity and simplicity places all men and all
races on an equality; all are alike ignorant and imperfect; all
are alike in their need of the more perfect revelation yet to be
made. Master and slave are equal before God; there can be no such
relation, therefore, except by doing violence to a personality,
to a spiritual being. In harmony with this fundamental principle,
the Society of Friends early rid itself of all connection with
slavery. The Friends' Meeting became a refuge for those who were
moved by the Spirit to testify against slavery.

Born in 1789 in a State which was then undergoing the process of
emancipating its slaves, Benjamin Lundy moved at the age of
nineteen to Wheeling, West Virginia, which had already become the
center of an active domestic slave-trade. The pious young Quaker,
now apprenticed to a saddler, was brought into personal contact
with this traffic in human flesh. He felt keenly the national
disgrace of the iniquity. So deep did the iron enter into his
soul that never again did he find peace of mind except in efforts
to relieve the oppressed. Like hundreds and thousands of others,
Lundy was led on to active opposition to the trade by an actual
knowledge of the inhumanity of the business as prosecuted before
his eyes and by his sympathy for human suffering.

His apprenticeship ended, Lundy was soon established in a
prosperous business in an Ohio village not far from Wheeling.
Though he now lived in a free State, the call of the oppressed
was ever in his ears and he could not rest. He drew together a
few of his neighbors, and together they organized the Union
Humane Society, whose object was the relief of those held in
bondage. In a few months the society numbered several hundred
members, and Lundy issued an address to the philanthropists of
the whole country, urging them to unite in like manner with
uniform constitutions, and suggesting that societies so formed
adopt a policy of correspondence and cooperation. At about the
same time, Lundy began to publish anti-slavery articles in the
Mount Pleasant Philanthropist and other papers.

In 1819 he went on a business errand to St. Louis, Missouri,
where he found himself in the midst of an agitation over the
question of the extension of slavery in the States. With great
zest he threw himself into the discussion, making use of the
newspapers in Missouri and Illinois. Having lost his property, he
returned poverty-stricken to Ohio, where he founded in January,
1821, the Genius of Universal Emancipation. A few months later he
transferred his paper to the more congenial atmosphere of
Jonesborough, Tennessee, but in 1824 he went to Baltimore,
Maryland. In the meantime, Lundy had become much occupied in
traveling, lecturing, and organizing societies for the promotion
of the cause of abolition. He states that during the ten years
previous to 1830 he had traveled upwards of twenty-five thousand
miles, five thousand of which were on foot. He now became
interested in plans for colonizing negroes in other countries as
an aid to emancipation, though he himself had no confidence in
the colonization society and its scheme of deportation to Africa.
After leading a few negroes to Hayti in 1829, he visited Canada,
Texas, and Mexico with a similar plan in view.

During a trip through the Middle States and New England in 1828,
Lundy met William Lloyd Garrison, and the following year he
walked all the way from Baltimore to Bennington, Vermont, for the
express purpose of securing the assistance of the youthful
reformer as coeditor of his paper. Garrison had previously
favored colonization, but within the few weeks which elapsed
before he joined Lundy, he repudiated all forms of colonization
and advocated immediate and unconditional emancipation. He at
once told Lundy of his change of views. "Well," said Lundy, "thee
may put thy initials to thy articles, and I will put my witness
to mine, and each will bear his own burden." The two editors
were, however, in complete accord in their opposition to the
slave-trade. Lundy had suffered a dangerous assault at the hands
of a Baltimore slave-trader before he was joined by Garrison.
During the year 1830, Garrison was convicted of libel and thrown
into prison on account of his scathing denunciation of Francis
Todd of Massachusetts, the owner of a vessel engaged in the

These events brought to a crisis the publication of the Genius of
Universal Emancipation. The editors now parted company. Again
Lundy moved the office of the paper, this time to Washington,
D.C., but it soon became a peripatetic monthly, printed wherever
the editor chanced to be. In 1836 Lundy began the issue of an
anti-slavery paper in Philadelphia, called the National Inquirer,
and with this was merged the Genius of Universal Emancipation. He
was preparing to resume the issue of his original paper under the
old title, in La Salle County, Illinois, when he was overtaken by
death on August 22, 1839.

Here was a man without education, without wealth, of a slight
frame, not at all robust, who had undertaken, singlehanded and
without the shadow of a doubt of his ultimate success, to abolish
American slavery. He began the organization of societies which
were to displace the anti-slavery societies of the previous
century. He established the first paper devoted exclusively to
the cause of emancipation. He foresaw that the question of
emancipation must be carried into politics and that it must
become an object of concern to the general Government as well as
to the separate States. In the early part of his career he found
the most congenial association and the larger measure of
effective support south of Mason and Dixon's Line, and in this
section were the greater number of the abolition societies which
he organized. During the later years of his life, as it was
becoming increasingly difficult in the South to maintain a public
anti-slavery propaganda, he transferred his chief activities to
the North. Lundy serves as a connecting link between the earlier
and the later anti-slavery movements. Eleven years of his early
life belong to the century of the Revolution. Garrison recorded
his indebtedness to Lundy in the words: "If I have in any way,
however humble, done anything towards calling attention to
slavery, or bringing out the glorious prospect of a complete
jubilee in our country at no distant day, I feel that I owe
everything in this matter, instrumentally under God, to Benjamin

Different in type, yet even more significant on account of its
peculiar relations to the cause of abolition, was the life of
James Gillespie Birney, who was born in a wealthy slaveholding
family at Dansville, Kentucky, in the year 1792. The Birneys were
anti-slavery planters of the type of Washington and Jefferson.
The father had labored to make Kentucky a free State at the time
of its admission to the Union. His son was educated first at
Princeton, where he graduated in 1810, and then in the office of
a distinguished lawyer in Philadelphia. He began the practice of
law at his home at the age of twenty-two. His home training and
his residence in States which were then in the process of gradual
emancipation served to confirm him in the traditional conviction
of his family. While Benjamin Lundy, at the age of twenty-seven,
was engaged in organizing anti-slavery societies north of the
Ohio River, Birney at the age of twenty-four was influential as a
member of the Kentucky Legislature in the prevention of the
passing of a joint resolution calling upon Ohio and Indiana to
make laws providing for the return of fugitive slaves. He was
also conspicuous in his efforts to secure provisions for gradual
emancipation. Two years later he became a planter near
Huntsville, Alabama. Though not a member of the Constitutional
Convention preparatory to the admission of this Territory into
the Union, Birney used his influence to secure provisions in the
constitution favorable to gradual emancipation. As a member of
the first Legislature, in 1819, he was the author of a law
providing a fair trial by jury for slaves indicted for crimes
above petty larceny, and in 1826 he became a regular contributor
to the American Colonization Society, believing it to be an aid
to emancipation. The following year he was able to induce the
Legislature, although he was not then a member of it, to pass an
act forbidding the importation of slaves into Alabama either for
sale or for hire. This was regarded as a step preliminary to

The cause of education in Alabama had in Birney a trusted leader.
During the year 1830 he spent several months in the North
Atlantic States for the selection of a president and four
professors for the State University and three teachers for the
Huntsville Female Seminary. These were all employed upon his sole
recommendation. On his return he had an important interview with
Henry Clay, of whose political party he had for several years
been the acknowledged leader in Alabama. He urged Clay to place
himself at the head of the movement in Kentucky for gradual
emancipation. Upon Clay's refusal their political cooperation
terminated. Birney never again supported Clay for office and
regarded him as in a large measure responsible for the
pro-slavery reaction in Kentucky.

Birney, who had now become discouraged regarding the prospect of
emancipation, during the winter of 1831 and 1832 decided to
remove his family to Jacksonville, Illinois. He was deterred from
carrying out his plan, however, by his unexpected appointment as
agent of the colonization society in the Southwest--a mission
which he undertook from a sense of duty.

In his travels throughout the region assigned to him, Birney
became aware of the aggressive designs of the planters of the
Gulf States to secure new slave territories in the Southwest. In
view of these facts the methods of the colonization society
appeared utterly futile. Birney surrendered his commission and,
in 1833, returned to Kentucky with the intention of doing himself
what Henry Clay had refused to do three years earlier, still
hoping that Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee might be induced to
abolish slavery and thus place the slave power in a hopeless
minority. His disappointment was extreme at the pro-slavery
reaction which had taken place in Kentucky. The condition called
for more drastic measures, and Birney decided to forsake entirely
the colonization society and cast in his lot with the
abolitionists. He freed his slaves in 1834, and in the following
year he delivered the principal address at the annual meeting of
the American Anti-Slavery Society held in New York. His gift of
leadership was at once recognized. As vice-president of the
society he began to travel on its behalf, to address public
assemblies, and especially to confer with members of state
legislatures and to address the legislative bodies. He now
devoted his entire time to the service of the society, and as
early as September, 1835, issued the prospectus of a paper
devoted to the cause of emancipation. This called forth such a
display of force against the movement that he could neither find
a printer nor obtain the use of a building in Dansville,
Kentucky, for the publication. As a result he transferred his
activities to Cincinnati, where he began publication of the
Philanthropist in 1836. With the connivance of the authorities
and encouragement from leading citizens of Cincinnati, the office
of the Philanthropist was three times looted by the mob, and the
proprietor's life was greatly endangered. The paper, however,
rapidly grew in favor and influence and thoroughly vindicated the
right of free discussion of the slavery question. Another editor
was installed when Birney, who became secretary of the Anti-
slavery Society in 1837, transferred his residence to New York

Twenty-three years before Lincoln's famous utterance in which he
proclaimed the doctrine that a house divided against itself
cannot stand, and before Seward's declaration of an irrepressible
conflict between slavery and freedom, Birney had said: "There
will be no cessation of conflict until slavery shall be
exterminated or liberty destroyed. Liberty and slavery cannot
live in juxtaposition." He spoke out of the fullness of his own
experience. A thoroughly trained lawyer and statesman, well
acquainted with the trend of public sentiment in both North and
South, he was fully persuaded that the new pro-slavery crusade
against liberty boded civil war. He knew that the white men in
North and South would not, without a struggle, consent to be
permanently deprived of their liberties at the behest of a few
Southern planters. Being himself of the slaveholding class, he
was peculiarly fitted to appreciate their position. To him the
new issue meant war, unless the belligerent leaders should be
shown that war was hopeless. By his moderation in speech, his
candor in statement, his lack of rancor, his carefully
considered, thoroughly fair arguments, he had the rare faculty of
convincing opponents of the correctness of his own view.

There could be little sympathy between Birney and William Lloyd
Garrison, whose style of denunciation appeared to the former as
an incitement to war and an excuse for mob violence. As soon as
Birney became the accepted leader in the national society, there
was friction between his followers and those of Garrison. To
denounce the Constitution and repudiate political action were,
from Birney's standpoint, a surrender of the only hope of
forestalling a dire calamity. He had always fought slavery by the
use of legal and constitutional methods, and he continued so to
fight. In this policy he had the support of a large majority of
abolitionists in New England and elsewhere. Only a few personal
friends accepted Garrison's injunction to forswear politics and
repudiate the Constitution.

The followers of Birney, failing to secure recognition for their
views in either of the political parties, organized the Liberty
party and, while Birney was in Europe in 1840, nominated him as
their candidate for the Presidency. The vote which he received
was a little over seven thousand, but four years later he was
again the candidate of the party and received over sixty thousand
votes. He suffered an injury during the following year which
condemned him to hopeless invalidism and brought his public
career to an end.

Though Lundy and Birney were contemporaries and were engaged in
the same great cause, they were wholly independent in their work.
Lundy addressed himself almost entirely to the non-slaveholding
class, while all of Birney's early efforts were "those of a
slaveholder seeking to induce his own class to support the policy
of emancipation. Though a Northern man, Lundy found his chief
support in the South until he was driven out by persecution.
Birney also resided in the South until he was forced to leave for
the same reason. The two men were in general accord in their main
lines of policy: both believed firmly in the use of political
means to effect their objects; both were at first
colonizationists, though Lundy favored colonization in adjacent
territory rather than by deportation to Africa.

Women were not a whit behind men in their devotion to the cause
of freedom. Conspicuous among them were Sarah and Angelina
Grimke, born in Charleston, South Carolina, of a slaveholding
family noted for learning, refinement, and culture. Sarah was
born in the same year as James G. Birney, 1792; Angelina was
thirteen years younger. Angelina was the typical crusader: her
sympathies from the first were with the slave. As a child she
collected and concealed oil and other simple remedies so that she
might steal out by night and alleviate the sufferings of slaves
who had been cruelly whipped or abused. At the age of fourteen
she refused to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church because the
ceremony involved giving sanction to words which seemed to her
untrue. Two years later her mother offered her a present of a
slave girl for a servant and companion. This gift she refused to
accept, for in her view the servant had a right to be free, and,
as for her own needs, Angelina felt quite capable of waiting upon

Of her own free will she joined the Presbyterian Church and
labored earnestly with the officers of the church to induce them
to espouse the cause of the slave. When she failed to secure
cooperation, she decided that the church was not Christian and
she therefore withdrew her membership. Her sister Sarah had gone
North in 1821 and had become a member of the Society of Friends
in Philadelphia. In Charleston, South Carolina, there was a
Friends' meeting-house where two old Quakers still met at the
appointed time and sat for an hour in solemn silence. Angelina
donned the Quaker garb, joined this meeting, and for an entire
year was the third of the silent worshipers. This quiet
testimony, however, did not wholly satisfy her energetic nature,
and when, in 1830, she heard of the imprisonment of Garrison in
Baltimore, she was convinced that effective labors against
slavery could not be carried on in the South. With great sorrow
she determined to sever her connection with home and family and
join her sister in Philadelphia. There the exile from the South
poured out her soul in an Appeal to the Christian Women of the
South. The manuscript was handed to the officers of the Anti-
slavery Society in the city and, as they read, tears filled their
eyes. The Appeal was immediately printed in large quantities for
distribution in Southern States.

Copies of the Appeal which had been sent to Charleston were
seized by a mob and publicly burned. When it became known soon
afterwards that the author of the offensive document was
intending to return to Charleston to spend the winter with her
family, there was intense excitement, and the mayor of the city
informed the mother that her daughter would not be permitted to
land in Charleston nor to communicate with any one there, and
that, if she did elude the police and come ashore, she would be
imprisoned and guarded until the departure of the next boat. On
account of the distress which she would cause to her friends,
Miss Grimke reluctantly gave up the exercise of her
constitutional right to visit her native city and in a very
literal sense she became a permanent exile.

The two sisters let their light shine among Philadelphia Quakers.
In the religious meetings negro women were consigned to a special
seat. The Grimkes, having first protested against this
discrimination, took their own places on the seat with the
colored women. In Charleston, Angelina had scrupulously adhered
to the Quaker garb because it was viewed as a protest against
slavery. In Philadelphia, however, no such meaning was attached
to the costume, and she adopted clothing suited to the climate
regardless of conventions. A series of parlor talks to women
which had been organized by the sisters grew in interest until
the parlors became inadequate, and the speakers were at last
addressing large audiences of women in the public meeting-places
of Philadelphia.

At this time when Angelina was making effective use of her
unrivaled power as a public speaker, she received in 1836 an
invitation from the Anti-slavery Society of New York to address
the women of that city. She informed her sister that she believed
this to be a call from God and that it was her duty to accept.
Sarah decided to be her companion and assistant in the work in
the new field, which was similar to that in Philadelphia. Its
fame soon extended to Boston, whence came an urgent invitation to
visit that city. It was in Massachusetts that men began to steal
into the women's meetings and listen from the back seats. In Lynn
all barriers were broken down, and a modest, refined, and
naturally diffident young woman found herself addressing immense
audiences of men and women. In the old theater in Boston for six
nights in succession, audiences filling all the space listened
entranced to the messenger of emancipation. There is uniform
testimony that, in an age distinguished for oratory, no more
effective speaker appeared than Angelina Grimke. It was she above
all others who first vindicated the right of women to speak to
men from the public platform on political topics. But it must be
remembered that scores of other women were laboring to the same
end and were fully prepared to utilize the new opportunity.

The great world movement from slavery towards freedom, from
despotism to democracy, is characterized by a tendency towards
the equality of the sexes. Women have been slaves where men were
free. In barbarous ages women have been ignored or have been
treated as mere adjuncts to the ruling sex. But wherever there
has been a distinct contribution to the cause of liberty there
has been a distinct recognition of woman's share in the work. The
Society of Friends was organized on the principle that men and
women are alike moral beings, hence are equal in the sight of
God. As a matter of experience, women were quite as often moved
to break the silence of a religious meeting as were the men.

For two hundred years women had been accustomed to talk to both
men and women in Friends' meetings and, when the moral war
against slavery brought religion and politics into close
relation, they were ready speakers upon both topics. When the
Grimke sisters came into the church with a fresh baptism of the
Spirit, they overcame all obstacles and, with a passion for
righteousness, moral and spiritual and political, they carried
the war against slavery into politics.

In 1833, at the organization of the American Anti-Slavery Society
in Philadelphia, a number of women were present. Lucretia Mott, a
distinguished "minister" in the Society of Friends, took part in
the proceedings. She was careful to state that she spoke as a
mere visitor, having no place in the organization, but she
ventured to suggest various modifications in the report of
Garrison's committee on a declaration of principles which
rendered it more acceptable to the meeting. It had not then been
seriously considered whether women could become members of the
Anti-Slavery Society, which was at that time composed exclusively
of men, with the women maintaining their separate organizations
as auxiliaries.

The women of the West were already better organized than the men
and were doing a work which men could not do. They were, for the
most part, unconscious of any conflict between the peculiar
duties of men and those of women in their relations to common
objects. The "library associations" of Indiana, which were in
fact effective anti-slavery societies, were to a large extent
composed of women. To the library were added numerous other
disguises, such as "reading circles," "sewing societies,"
"women's clubs." In many communities the appearance of men in any
of these enterprises would create suspicion or even raise a mob.
But the women worked on quietly, effectively, and unnoticed.

The matron of a family would be provided with the best
riding-horse which the neighborhood could furnish. Mounted upon
her steed, she would sally forth in the morning, meet her
carefully selected friends in a town twenty miles away, gain
information as to what had been accomplished, give information as
to the work in other parts of the district, distribute new
literature, confer as to the best means of extending their
labors, and return in the afternoon. The father of such a family
was quite content with the humbler task of cooperation by
supplying the sinews of war. There was complete equality between
husband and wife because their aims were identical and each
rendered the service most convenient and most needed. Women did
what men could not do. In the territory of the enemy the men were
reached through the gradual and tentative efforts of women whom
the uninitiated supposed to be spending idle hours at a sewing
circle. Interest was maintained by the use of information of the
same general character as that which later took the country by
storm in Uncle Tom's Cabin. In course of time all disguise was
thrown aside. A public speaker of national reputation would
appear, a meeting would be announced, and a rousing abolition
speech would be delivered; the mere men of the neighborhood would
have little conception how the surprising change had been

On rare occasions the public presentation of the anti-slavery
view would be undertaken prematurely, as in 1840 at Pendleton,
Indiana, when Frederick Douglass attempted to address a public
meeting and was almost slain by missiles from the mob. Pendleton,
however, was not given over to the enemy. The victim of the
assault was restored to health in the family of a leading
citizen. The outrage was judiciously utilized to convince the
fair-minded that one of the evils of slavery was the development
of minds void of candor and justice. On the twenty-fifth
anniversary of the Pendleton disturbance there was another great
meeting in the town. Frederick Douglass was the hero of the
occasion. The woman who was the head of the family that restored
him to health was on the platform. Some of the men who threw the
brickbats were there to make public confession and to apologize
for the brutal deed.

In the minds of a few persons of rare intellectual and logical
endowment, democracy has always implied the equality of the
sexes. From the time of the French Revolution there have been
advocates of this doctrine. As early as 1820, Frances Wright, a
young woman in Scotland having knowledge of the Western republic
founded upon the professed principles of liberty and equality,
came to America for the express purpose of pleading the cause of
equal rights for women. To the general public her doctrine seemed
revolutionary, threatening the very foundations of religion and
morality. In the midst of opposition and persecution she
proclaimed views respecting the rights and duties of women which
today are generally accepted as axiomatic.

The women who attended the meetings for the organization of the
American Anti-Slavery Society were not suffragists, nor had they
espoused any special theories respecting the position of women.
They did not wish to be members of the men's organizations but
were quite content with their own separate one, which served its
purpose very well under prevailing local conditions. James G.
Birney, the candidate of the Liberty party for the Presidency in
1840, had good reasons for opposition to the inclusion of men and
women in the same organization. He knew that by acting separately
they were winning their way. The introduction of a novel theory
involving a different issue seemed to him likely to be a source
of weakness. The cause of women was, however, gaining ground and
winning converts. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were
delegates to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention at London. They
listened to the debate which ended in the refusal to recognize
them as members of the Convention because they were women. The
tone of the discussion convinced them that women were looked upon
by men with disdain and contempt. Because the laws of the land
and the customs of society consigned women to an inferior
position, and because there would be no place for effective
public work on the part of women until these laws were changed,
both these women became advocates of women's rights and
conspicuous leaders in the initiation of the propaganda. The
Reverend Samuel J. May, of Syracuse, New York, preached a sermon
in 1845 in which he stated his belief that women need not expect
to have their wrongs fully redressed until they themselves had a
hand in the making and in the administration of the laws. This is
an early suggestion that equal suffrage would become the ultimate
goal of the efforts for righting women's wrongs.

At the same time there were accessions to the cause from a
different source. In 1833 Oberlin College was founded in northern
Ohio. Into some of the first classes there women were admitted on
equal terms with men. In 1835 the trustees offered the presidency
to Professor Asa Mahan, of Lane Seminary. He was himself an
abolitionist from a slave State, and he refused to be President
of Oberlin College unless negroes were admitted on equal terms
with other students. Oberlin thus became the first institution in
the country which extended the privileges of the higher education
to both sexes of all races. It was a distinctly religious
institution devoted to radical reforms of many kinds. Not only
was the use of all intoxicating beverages discarded by faculty
and students but the use of tobacco as well was discouraged.

Within fifteen years after the founding of Oberlin, there were
women graduates who had something to say on numerous questions of
public interest. Especially was this true of the subject of
temperance. Intemperance was a vice peculiar to men. Women and
children were the chief sufferers, while men were the chief
sinners. It was important, therefore, that men should be reached.
In 1847 Lucy Stone, an Oberlin graduate, began to address public
audiences on the subject. At the same time Susan B. Anthony
appeared as a temperance lecturer. The manner of their reception
and the nature of their subject induced them to unite heartily in
the pending crusade for the equal rights of women. The three
causes thus became united in one.

Along with the crusade against slavery, intemperance, and women's
wrongs, arose a fourth, which was fundamentally connected with
the slavery question: Quakers and Southern and Western
abolitionists were ardently devoted to the interests of peace.
They would abolish slavery by peaceable means because they
believed the alternative was a terrible war. To escape an
impending war they were nerved to do and dare and to incur great
risks. New England abolitionists who labored in harmony with
those of the West and South were actuated by similar motives.
Sumner first gained public notice by a distinguished oration
against war. Garrison went farther: he was a professional
non-resistant, a root and branch opponent of both war and
slavery. John Brown was a fanatical antagonist of war until he
reached the conclusion that according to the Divine Will there
should be a short war of liberation in place of the continuance
of slavery, which was itself in his opinion the most cruel form
of war.

Slavery as a legally recognized institution disappeared with the
Civil War. The war against intemperance has made continuous
progress and this problem is apparently approaching a solution.
The war against war as a recognized institution has become the
one all-absorbing problem of civilization. The war against the
wrongs of women is being supplanted by efforts to harmonize the
mutual privileges and duties of men and women on the basis of
complete equality. As Samuel May predicted more than seventy
years ago, in the future women are certain to take a hand both in
the making and in the administration of law.


The year 1831 is notable for three events in the history of the
anti-slavery controversy: on the first day of January in that
year William Lloyd Garrison began in Boston the publication of
the Liberator; in August there occurred in Southampton, Virginia,
an insurrection of slaves led by a negro, Nat Turner, in which
sixty-one white persons were massacred; and in December the
Virginia Legislature began its long debate on the question of

On the part of the abolitionists there was at no time any sudden
break in the principles which they advocated. Lundy did nothing
but revive and continue the work of the Quakers and other non-
slaveholding classes of the revolutionary period. Birney was and
continued to be a typical slaveholding abolitionist of the
earlier period. Garrison began his work as a disciple of Lundy,
whom he followed in the condemnation of the African colonization
scheme, though he went farther and rejected every form of
colonization. Garrison likewise repudiated every plan for gradual
emancipation and proclaimed the duty of immediate and
unconditional liberation of the slaves.

The first number of the Liberator contained an Address to the
Public, which sounded the keynote of Garrison's career. "I shall
contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave
population--I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as
justice on this subject--I do not wish to think, or speak, or
write with moderation--I am in earnest--I will not equivocate--I
will not retreat a single inch, and I WILL BE HEARD!"

The New England Anti-Slavery Society, of which Garrison was the
chief organizer, was in essential harmony with the societies
which Lundy had organized in other sections. Its first address to
the public in 1833 distinctly recognized the separate States as
the sole authority in the matter of emancipation within their own
boundaries. Through moral suasion, eschewing all violence and
sedition, its authors proposed to secure their object. In the
spirit of civil and religious liberty and by appealing to the
Declaration of Independence, the Liberty party of 1840 and 1844,
by the Freesoil party of 1848, and later by the Republican party,
and that nearly all of the abolitionists continued to be faithful
adherents to those principles, are sufficient proof of the
essential unity of the great anti-slavery movement. The apparent
lack of harmony and the real confusion in the history of the
subject arose from the peculiar character of one remarkable man.

The few owners of slaves who had assumed the role of public
defenders of the institution were in the habit of using violent
and abusive language against anti-slavery agitators. This
appeared in the first debate on the subject during Washington's
administration. Every form of rhetorical abuse also accompanied
the outbreak of mob violence against the reformers at the time of
Garrison's advent into the controversy. He was especially fitted
to reply in kind. "I am accused," said he, "of using hard
language. I admit the charge. I have not been able to find a soft
word to describe villainy, or to identify the perpetrator of it."
This was a new departure which was instantly recognized by
Southern leaders. But from the beginning to the bitter end,
Garrison stands alone as preeminently the representative of this
form of attack. It was significant, also, that the Liberator was
published in Boston, the literary center of the country.

There is no evidence that there was any direct connection between
the publication of the Liberator and the servile insurrection
which occurred during the following August.* It was, however, but
natural that the South should associate the two events. A few
utterances of the paper were fitted, if not intended, to incite
insurrection. One passage reads: "Whenever there is a contest
between the oppressed and the oppressor--the weapons being equal
between the parties--God knows that my heart must be with the
oppressed, and always against the oppressor. Therefore, whenever
commenced, I cannot but wish success to all slave insurrections."
Again: "Rather than see men wearing their chains in a cowardly
and servile spirit, I would, as an advocate of peace, much rather
see them breaking the heads of the tyrant with their chains."

* Garrison himself denied any direct connection with the Nat
Turner insurrection. See "William Lloyd Garrison, the Story of
His Life told by His Children," vol. I, p. 251.

George Thompson, an English co-laborer with Garrison, is quoted
as saying in a public address in 1835 that "Southern slaves
ought, or at least had a right, to cut the throats of their
masters."* Such utterances are rare, and they express a passing
mood not in the least characteristic of the general spirit of the
abolition movement; yet the fact that such statements did emanate
from such a source made it comparatively easy for extremists of
the opposition to cast odium upon all abolitionists. The only
type of abolition known in South Carolina was that of the extreme
Garrisonian agitators, and it furnished at least a shadow of
excuse for mob violence in the North and for complete suppression
of discussion in the South. To encourage slaves to cut the
throats of their masters was far from being a rhetorical figure
of speech in communities where slaves were in the majority. Santo
Domingo was at the time a prosperous republic founded by former
slaves who had exterminated the Caucasian residents of the
island. Negroes from Santo Domingo had fomented insurrection in
South Carolina. The Nat Turner incident was more than a
suggestion of the dire possibilities of the situation. Turner was
a trusted slave, a preacher among the blacks. He succeeded in
concealing his plot for weeks. When the massacre began, slaves
not in the secret were induced to join. A majority of the slain
were women and children. Abolitionists who had lived in slave
States never indulged in flippant remarks fitted to incite
insurrection. This was reserved for the few agitators far removed
from the scene of action.

* Schouler, "History of the United States under the
Constitution," vol. V, p. 217.

Southern planters who had determined at all hazards to perpetuate
the institution of slavery were peculiarly sensitive on account
of what was taking place in Spanish America and in the British
West Indies. Mexico abolished slavery in 1829, and united with
Colombia in encouraging Cuba to throw off the Spanish yoke,
abolish slavery, and join the sisterhood of New World republics.
This led to an effective protest on the part of the United
States. Both Spain and Mexico were advised that the United States
could not with safety to its own interests permit the
emancipation of slaves in the island of Cuba. But with the
British Emancipation Act of 1833, Cuba became the only
neighboring territory in which slavery was legal. These acts of
emancipation added zeal to the determination of the Southern
planters to secure territory for the indefinite extension of
slavery to the southwest. When Lundy and Birney discovered these
plans, their desire to husband and extend the direct political
influence of abolitionists was greatly stimulated. To this end
they maintained a moderate and conservative attitude. They took
care that no abuse or misrepresentation should betray them into
any expression which would diminish their influence with
fair-minded, reasonable men. They were convinced that a clear and
complete revelation of the facts would lead a majority of the
people to adopt their views.

The debate in the Virginia Legislature in the session which met
three months after the Southampton massacre furnishes a
demonstration that the traditional anti-slavery sentiment still
persisted among the rulers of the Old Dominion. It arose out of a
petition from the Quakers of the State asking for an
investigation preparatory to a gradual emancipation of the
slaves. The debate, which lasted for several weeks, was able and
thorough. No stronger utterances in condemnation of slavery were
ever voiced than appear in this debate. Different speakers made
the statement that no one presumed to defend slavery on
principle--that apologists for slavery existed but no defenders.
Opposition to the petition was in the main apologetic in tone.

A darker picture of the blighting effects of slavery on the
industries of the country was never drawn than appears in these
speeches. Slavery was declared to be driving free laborers from
the State, to have already destroyed every industry except
agriculture, and to have exhausted the soil so that profitable
agriculture was becoming extinct, while pine brush was
encroaching upon former fruitful fields. "Even the wolf," said
one, "driven back long since by the approach of man, now returns,
after the lapse of a hundred years, to howl over the desolations
of slavery." Contrasts between free labor in northern industry
and that of the South were vividly portrayed. In a speech of
great power, one member referred to Kentucky and Ohio as States
"providentially designated to exhibit in their future histories
the differences which necessarily result from a country free
from, and a country afflicted with the curse of slavery."

The debate was by no means confined to industrial or material
considerations. McDowell, who was afterwards elected Governor of
the State, thus portrays the personal relations of master and
slave "You may place the slave where you please--you may put him
under any process, which, without destroying his value as a
slave, will debase and crush him as a rational being--you may do
all this, and the idea that he was born to be free will survive
it all. It is allied to his hope of immortality--it is the
ethereal part of his nature which oppression cannot reach--it is
a torch lit up in his soul by the hand of the Deity, and never
meant to be extinguished by the hand of man."

Various speakers assumed that the continuance of slavery involved
a bloody conflict; that either peaceably or through violence,
slavery as contrary to the spirit of the age must come to an end;
that the agitation against it could not be suppressed. Faulkner
drew a lurid picture of the danger from servile insurrection, in
which he referred to the utterances of two former speakers, one
of whom had said that, unless something effective was done to
ward off the danger, "the throats of all the white people of
Virginia will be cut." The other replied, "No, the whites cannot
be conquered--the throats of the blacks will be cut." Faulkner's
rejoinder was that the difference was a trifling one, "for the
fact is conceded that one race or the other must be

The public press joined in the debate. Leading editorials
appeared in the Richmond Enquirer urging that effective measures
be instituted to put an end to slavery. The debate aroused much
interest throughout the South. Substantially all the current
abolition arguments appeared in the speeches of the slave-owning
members of the Virginia Legislature. And what was done about it?
Nothing at all. The petition was not granted; no action looking
towards emancipation was taken. This was indeed a turning-point.
Men do not continue to denounce in public their own conduct
unless their action results in some effort toward corrective

Professor Thomas Dew, of the chair of history and metaphysics in
William and Mary College and later President of the College,
published an essay reviewing the debate in the Legislature and
arguing that any plan for emancipation in Virginia was either
undesirable or impossible. This essay was among the first of the
direct pro-slavery arguments. Statements in support of the view
soon followed. In 1885 the Governor of South Carolina in a
message to the Legislature said, "Domestic slavery is the
corner-stone of our republican edifice." Senator Calhoun,
speaking in the Senate two years later, declared slavery to be a
positive good. W. G. Simms, Southern poet and novelist, writing
in 1852, felicitates himself as being among the first who about
fifteen years earlier advocated slavery as a great good and a
blessing. Harriet Martineau, an English author who traveled
extensively in the South in 1885, found few slaveholders who
justified the institution as being in itself just. But after the
debates in the Virginia Legislature, there were few owners of
slaves who publicly advocated abolition. The spirit of mob
violence had set in, and, contrary to the utterances of Virginia
statesmen, free speech on the subject of slavery was suppressed
in the slave States. This did not mean that Southern statesmen
had lost the power to perceive the evil effects of slavery or
that they were convinced that their former views were erroneous.
It meant simply that they had failed to agree upon a policy of
gradual emancipation, and the only recourse left seemed to be to
follow the example of James G. Birney and leave the South or to
submit in silence to the new order.


With the changed attitude of the South towards emancipation there
was associated an active hostility to dearly bought human
liberty. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of
worship, the right of assembly, trial by jury, the right of
petition, free use of the mails, and numerous other fundamental
human rights were assailed. Birney and other abolitionists who
had immediate knowledge of slavery early perceived that the real
question at issue was quite as much the continued liberty of the
white man as it was the liberation of the black man and that the
enslavement of one race involved also the ultimate essential
enslavement of the other.

In 1831 two slave States and six free States still extended to
free negroes the right to vote. During the pro-slavery crusade
these privileges disappeared; and not only so, but free negroes
were banished from certain States, or were not permitted to enter
them, or were allowed to remain only by choosing a white man for
a guardian. It was made a crime to teach negroes, whether slaves
or free men, to read and write. Under various pretexts free
negroes were reduced to slavery. Freedom of worship was denied to
negroes, and they were not allowed to assemble for any purpose
except under the strict surveillance of white men. Negro
testimony in a court of law was invalid where the rights of a
white man were involved. The right of a negro to his freedom was
decided by an arbitrary court without a jury, while the disputed
right of a white man to the ownership of a horse was conditioned
by the safeguard of trial by jury.

The maintenance of such policies carries with it of necessity the
suppression of free discussion. When Southern leaders adopted the
policy of defending slavery as a righteous institution,
abolitionists in the South either emigrated to the North or were
silenced. In either case they were deprived of a fundamental
right. The spirit of persecution followed them into the free
States. Birney could not publish his paper in Kentucky, nor even
at Cincinnati, save at the risk of his life. Elijah Lovejoy was
not allowed to publish his paper in Missouri, and, when he
persisted in publishing it in Illinois, he was brutally murdered.
Even in Boston it required men of courage and determination to
meet and organize an anti-slavery society in 1832, though only a
few years earlier Benjamin Lundy had traveled freely through the
South itself delivering anti-slavery lectures and organizing
scores of such societies. The New York Anti-Slavery Society was
secretly organized in 1832 in spite of the opposition of a
determined mob. Mob violence was everywhere rife. Meetings were
broken up, negro quarters attacked, property destroyed, murders

Fair-minded men became abolitionists on account of the crusade
against the rights of white men quite as much as from their
interest in the rights of negroes. Salmon P. Chase of Ohio was
led to espouse the cause by observing the attacks upon the
freedom of the press in Cincinnati. Gerrit Smith witnessed the
breaking up of an anti-slavery meeting in Utica, New York, and
thereafter consecrated his time, his talents, and his great
wealth to the cause of liberty. Wendell Phillips saw Garrison in
the hands of a Boston mob, and that experience determined him to
make common cause with the martyr. And the murder of Lovejoy in
1837 made many active abolitionists.

It is difficult to imagine a more inoffensive practice than
giving to negro girls the rudiments of an education. Yet a school
for this purpose, taught by Miss Prudence Crandall in Canterbury,
Connecticut, was broken up by persistent persecution, a special
act of the Legislature being passed for the purpose, forbidding
the teaching of negroes from outside the State without the
consent of the town authorities. Under this act Miss Crandall was
arrested, convicted, and imprisoned.

Having eliminated free discussion from the South, the Southern
States sought to accomplish the same object in the North. In
pursuance of a resolution of the Legislature, the Governor of
Georgia offered a reward of five thousand dollars to any one who
should arrest, bring to trial, and prosecute to conviction under
the laws of Georgia the editor of the Liberator. R. G. Williams,
publishing agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, was
indicted by a grand jury of Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, and
Governor Gayle of Alabama made a requisition on Governor Marcy of
New York for his extradition. Williams had never been in Alabama.
His offense consisted in publishing in the New York Emancipator a
few rather mild utterances against slavery.

Governor McDuffie of South Carolina in an official message
declared that slavery was the very corner-stone of the republic,
adding that the laboring population of any country, "bleached or
unbleached," was a dangerous element in the body politic, and
predicting that within twenty-five years the laboring people of
the North would be virtually reduced to slavery. Referring to
abolitionists, he said: "The laws of every community should
punish this species of interference with death without benefit of
clergy." Pursuant to the Governor's recommendation, the
Legislature adopted a resolution calling upon non-slaveholding
States to pass laws to suppress promptly and effectively all
abolition societies. In nearly all the slave States similar
resolutions were adopted, and concerted action against
anti-slavery effort was undertaken. During the winter of 1835 and
1836, the Governors of the free States received these resolutions
from the South and, instead of resenting them as an uncalled-for
interference with the rights of free commonwealths, they treated
them with respect. Edward Everett, Governor of Massachusetts, in
his message presenting the Southern documents to the Legislature,
said: "Whatever by direct and necessary operation is calculated
to excite an insurrection among the slaves has been held, by
highly respectable legal authority, an offense against this
Commonwealth which may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor at common
law." Governor Marcy of New York, in a like document, declared
that "without the power to pass such laws the States would not
possess all the necessary means for preserving their external
relations of peace among themselves." Even before the Southern
requests reached Rhode Island, the Legislature had under
consideration a bill to suppress abolition societies.

When a committee of the Massachusetts Legislature had been duly
organized to consider the documents received from the slave
States, the abolitionists requested the privilege of a hearing
before the committee. Receiving no reply, they proceeded to
formulate a statement of their case; but before they could
publish it, they were invited to appear before the joint
committee of the two houses. The public had been aroused by the
issue and there was a large audience. The case for the
abolitionists was stated by their ablest speakers, among whom was
William Lloyd Garrison. They labored to convince the committee
that their utterances were not incendiary, and that any
legislative censure directed against them would be an
encouragement to mob violence and the persecution which was
already their lot. After the defensive arguments had been fully
presented, William Goodell took the floor and proceeded to charge
upon the Southern States which had made these demands a
conspiracy against the liberties of the North. In the midst of
great excitement and many interruptions by the chairman of the
committee, he quoted the language of Governor McDuffie's message,
and characterized the documents lying on the table before him as
"fetters for Northern freemen." Then, turning to the committee,
he began, "Mr. Chairman, are you prepared to attempt to put them
on?"--but the sentence was only half finished when the stentorian
voice of the chairman interrupted him: "Sit down, sir!" and he
sat down. The committee then arose and left the room. But the
audience did not rise; they waited till other abolitionists found
their tongues and gave expression to a fixed determination to
uphold the liberties purchased for them by the blood of their
fathers. The Massachusetts Legislature did not comply with the
request of Governor McDuffie of South Carolina to take the first
step towards the enslavement of all laborers, white as well as
black. And Rhode Island refused to enact into law the pending
bill for the suppression of anti-slavery societies. They declined
to violate the plain requirements of their Constitution that the
interests of slavery might be promoted. Not many years later they
were ready to strain or break the Constitution for the sake of

In the general crusade against liberty churches proved more
pliable than States. The authority of nearly all the leading
denominations was directed against the abolitionists. The General
Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church passed in 1836 a
resolution censuring two of their members who had lectured in
favor of modern abolitionism. The Ohio Conference of the same
denomination had passed resolutions urging resistance to the
anti-slavery movement. In June, 1836, the New York Conference
decided that no one should be chosen as deacon or elder who did
not give pledge that he would refrain from agitating the church
on the subject.

The same spirit appeared in theological seminaries. The trustees
of Lane Seminary, near Cincinnati, Ohio, voted that students
should not organize or be members of anti-slavery societies or
hold meetings or lecture or speak on the subject. Whereupon the
students left in a body, and many of the professors withdrew and
united with others in the founding of an anti-slavery college at

A persistent attack was also directed against the use of the
United States mails for the distribution of anti-slavery
literature. Mob violence which involved the post-office began as
early as 1830, when printed copies of Miss Grimke's Appeal to the
Christian Women of the South were seized and burned in
Charleston. In 1835 large quantities of anti-slavery literature
were removed from the Charleston office and in the presence of
the assembled citizens committed to the flames. Postmasters on
their own motion examined the mails and refused to deliver any
matter that they deemed incendiary. Amos Kendall,
Postmaster-General, was requested to issue an order authorizing
such conduct. He replied that he had no legal authority to issue
such an order. Yet he would not recommend the delivery of such
papers. "We owe," said he, "an obligation to the laws, but a
higher one to the communities in which we live, and if the former
be perverted to destroy the latter, it is patriotism to disregard
them. Entertaining these views, I cannot sanction, and will not
condemn, the step you have taken." This is an early instance of
the appeal to the "higher law" in the pro-slavery controversy.
The higher law was invoked against the freedom of the press. The
New York postmaster sought to dissuade the Anti-slavery Society
from the attempt to send its publications through the mails into
Southern States. In reply to a request for authorization to
refuse to accept such publications, the Postmaster-General
replied: "I am deterred from giving an order to exclude the whole
series of abolition publications from the Southern mails only by
a want of legal power, and if I were situated as you are, I would
do as you have done."

Mr. Kendall's letters to the postmasters of Charleston and New
York were written in July and August, 1835. In December of the
same year, presumably with full knowledge that a member of his
Cabinet was encouraging violations of law in the interest of
slavery, President Jackson undertook to supply the need of legal
authorization. In his annual message he made a savage attack upon
the abolitionists and recommended to Congress the "passing of
such a law as will prohibit, under severe penalties, the
circulation in the Southern States, through the mail, of
incendiary publications."

This part of the President's message was referred to a select
committee, of which John C. Calhoun was chairman. The chairman's
report was against the adoption of the President's recommendation
because a subject of such vital interest to the States ought not
to be left to Congress. The admission of the right of Congress to
decide what is incendiary, asserted the report, carries with it
the power to decide what is not incendiary and hence Congress
might authorize and enforce the circulation of abolition
literature through the mails in all the States. The States should
themselves severally decide what in their judgment is incendiary,
and then it would become the duty of the general Government to
give effect to such state laws. The bill recommended was in
harmony with this view. It was made illegal for any deputy
postmaster "to deliver to any person whatsoever, any pamphlet,
newspaper, handbill, or other printed paper, or pictorial
representation touching the subject of slavery, where by the laws
of the said State, territory, or district their circulation is
prohibited." The bill was defeated in the Senate by a small
margin. Altogether there was an enlightening debate on the whole
subject. The exposure of the abuse of tampering with the mail
created a general reaction, which enabled the abolitionists to
win a spectacular victory. Instead of a law forbidding the
circulation of anti-slavery publications, Congress enacted a law
requiring postal officials under heavy penalties to deliver
without discrimination all matter committed to their charge. This
act was signed by President Jackson, and Calhoun himself was
induced to admit that the purposes of the abolitionists were not
violent and revolutionary. Henceforth abolitionists enjoyed their
full privileges in the use of the United States mail.
An even more dramatic victory was thrust upon the abolitionists
by the inordinate violence of their opponents in their attack
upon the right of petition. John Quincy Adams, who became their
distinguished champion, was not himself an abolitionist. When, as
a member of the lower House of Congress in 1831, he presented
petitions from certain citizens of Pennsylvania, presumably
Quakers, requesting Congress to abolish slavery and the
slave-trade in the District of Columbia, he refused to
countenance their prayer, and expressed the wish that the
memorial might be referred without debate. At the very time when
a New England ex-President was thus advising abolitionists to
desist from sending petitions to Congress, the Virginia
Legislature was engaged in the memorable debate upon a similar
petition from Virginia Quakers, in which most radical abolition
sentiment was expressed by actual slaveowners. Adams continued to
present anti-slavery memorials and at the same time to express
his opposition to the demands of the petitioners. When in 1835
there arose a decided opposition to the reception of such
documents, Adams, still in apparent sympathy with the pro-slavery
South on the main issue, gave wise counsel on the method of
dealing with petitions. They should be received, said he, and
referred to a committee; because the right of petition is sacred.
This, he maintained, was the best way to avoid disturbing debate
on the subject of slavery. He quoted his own previous experience;
he had made known his opposition to the purposes of the
petitioners; their memorials were duly referred to a committee
and there they slept the sleep of death. At that time only one
voice had been raised in the House in support of the abolition
petitioners, that of John Dickson of New York, who had delivered
a speech of two hours in length advocating their cause; but not a
voice was raised in reply. Mr. Adams mentioned this incident with
approval. The way to forestall disturbing debate in Congress, he
said, was scrupulously to concede all constitutional rights and
then simply to refrain from speaking on the subject.

This sound advice was not followed. For several months a
considerable part of the time of the House was occupied with the
question of handling abolition petitions. And finally, in May,
1836, the following resolution passed the House: "Resolved, That
all petitions, memorials, resolutions, propositions, or papers
relating in any way or to any extent whatever to the subject of
slavery or the abolition of slavery, shall, without being either
printed or referred, be laid on the table, and that no further
action whatever shall be had thereon." This is commonly known as
the "gag resolution." During four successive years it was
reenacted in one form or another and was not repealed by direct
vote until 1844.

When the name of Mr. Adams was called in the vote upon the
passage of the above resolution, instead of answering in the
ordinary way, he said: "I hold the resolution to be a direct
violation of the Constitution of the United States, of the rules
of this House, and of the rights of my constituents." This was
the beginning of the duel between the "old man eloquent" and a
determined majority in the House of Representatives. Adams
developed undreamed-of resources as a debater and
parliamentarian. He made it his special business to break down
the barrier against the right of petition. Abolitionists
cooperated with zeal in the effort. Their champion was abundantly
supplied with petitions. The gag resolution was designed to
prevent all debate on the subject of slavery. Its effect in the
hands of the shrewd parliamentarian was to foment debate. On one
occasion, with great apparent innocence, after presenting the
usual abolition petitions, Adams called the attention of the
Speaker to one which purported to be signed by twenty-two slaves
and asked whether such a petition should be presented to the
House, since he was himself in doubt as to the rules applicable
in such a case. This led to a furious outbreak in the House which
lasted for three days. Adams was threatened with censure at the
bar of the House, with expulsion, with the grand jury, with the
penitentiary; and it is believed that only his great age and
national repute shielded him from personal violence. After
numerous passionate speeches had been delivered, Adams injected a
few important corrections into the debate. He reminded the House
that he had not presented a petition purporting to emanate from
slaves; on the contrary, he had expressly declined to present it
until the Speaker had decided whether a petition from slaves was
covered by the rule. Moreover, the petition was not against
slavery but in favor of slavery. He was then charged with the
crime of trifling with the sensibilities of the House; and
finally the champion of the right of petition took the floor in
his own defense. His language cut to the quick. His calumniators
were made to feel the force of his biting sarcasm. They were
convicted of injustice, and all their resolutions of censure were
withdrawn. The victory was complete.

After the year 1838 John Quincy Adams had the effective support
of Joshua R. Giddings from the Western Reserve, Ohio--who also
fought a pitched battle of his own which illustrates another
phase of the crusade against liberty. The ship Creole had sailed
from Baltimore to New Orleans in 1841 with a cargo of slaves. The
negroes mutinied on the high seas, slew one man, gained
possession of the vessel, sailed to Nassau, and were there set
free by the British Government. Prolonged diplomatic negotiations
followed in which our Government held that, as slaves were
property in the United States, they continued to be such on the
high seas. In the midst of the controversy, Giddings introduced a
resolution into the House, declaring that slavery, being an
abridgment of liberty, could exist only under local rules, and
that on the high seas there can be no slavery. For this act
Giddings was arraigned and censured by the House. He at once
resigned, but was reelected with instructions to continue the
fight for freedom of debate in the House.

In the campaign against the rights of freemen mob violence was
first employed, but in the South the weapon of repressive
legislation was soon substituted, and this was powerfully
supplemented by social and religious ostracism. Except in a few
districts in the border States, these measures were successful.
Public profession of abolitionism was suppressed. The violence of
the mob was of much longer duration in the North and reached its
height in the years 1834 and 1835. But Northern mobs only
quickened the zeal of the abolitionists and made converts to
their cause. The attempt to substitute repressive state
legislation had the same effect, and the use of church authority
for making an end of the agitation for human liberty was only
temporarily influential.

As early as 1838 the Presbyterian Church was divided over
questions of doctrine into Old School and New School
Presbyterians. This served to forestall the impending division on
the slavery question. The Old School in the South became
pro-slavery and the New School in the North became anti-slavery.
At the same time the Methodist Church of the entire country was
beset by a division on the main question. In 1844 Southern
Methodist Episcopalian conferences resolved upon separation and
committed themselves to the defense of slavery. The division in
the Methodist Church was completed in 1846. A corresponding
division took place in the Baptist Church in 1845. The
controversy was dividing the country into a free North and an
enslaved South, and Southern white men as well as negroes were
threatened with subjection to the demands of the dominant


Some who opposed mob violence became active abolitionists; others
were led to defend the rights of abolitionists because to do
otherwise would encourage anarchy and general disorder. The same
was true of those who defended the right of petition and the free
use of the mails and the entire list of the fundamental rights of
freemen which were threatened by the crusade against
abolitionists. Birney's contention that unless the slave is freed
no one can be free was thus vindicated: the issue involved vastly
more than the mere emancipation of slaves.

The attack made in defense of slavery upon the rights of freemen
was early recognized as involving civil war unless peaceable
emancipation could be attained. So soon as John Quincy Adams
faced the new spirit in Congress, he was convinced that it meant
probable war. As early as May, 1836, he warned the South, saying:
"From the instant that your slaveholding States become the
theater of war, civil, servile, or foreign, from that moment the
war powers of the Constitution extend to interference with the
institution of slavery." This sentiment he reiterated and
amplified on various occasions. The South was duly warned that an
attempt to disrupt the Union would involve a war of which
emancipation would be one of the consequences. With the exception
of Garrison and a few of his personal followers, abolitionists
were unionists: they stood for the perpetual union of the States.

This is not the place to give an extended account of the Mexican
War.* There are, however, certain incidents connected with the
annexation of Texas and the resulting war which profoundly
affected the crusade against slavery. Both Lundy and Birney in
their missions to promote emancipation through the process of
colonization believed that they had unearthed a plan on the part
of Southern leaders to acquire territory from Mexico for the
purpose of extending slavery. This discovery coincided with the
suppression of abolition propaganda in the South. Hitherto John
Quincy Adams had favored the western expansion of our territory.
He had labored diligently to make the Rio Grande the western
boundary of the Louisiana Purchase at the time of the treaty with
Spain in 1819. But though in 1825 he had supported a measure to
purchase Texas from Mexico, under the new conditions he threw
himself heartily against the annexation of Texas, and in 1838 he
defeated in the House of Representatives a resolution favoring
annexation. To this end Adams occupied the morning hour of the
House each day from the 16th of June to the 7th of July, within
two days of the time fixed for adjournment. This was only a
beginning of his fight against the extension of slavery. There
was no relenting in his opposition to pro-slavery demands until
he was stricken down with paralysis in the streets of Boston, in
November, 1846. He never again addressed a public assembly. But
he continued to occupy his seat in Congress until February 23,

* See "Texas and the Mexican War" (in "The Chronicles of

The debate inaugurated in Congress by Adams and others over the
extension of slave territory rapidly spread to the country at
large, and interest in the question became general. Abolitionists
were thereby greatly stimulated to put into practice their
professed duty of seeking to accomplish their ends by political
action. Their first effort was to secure recognition in the
regular parties. The Democrats answered in their platform of 1840
by a plank specifically denouncing the abolitionists, and the
Whigs proved either noncommittal or unfriendly. The result was
that abolitionists organized a party of their own in 1840 and
nominated James G. Birney for the Presidency. Both of the older
parties during this campaign evaded the issue of the annexation
of Texas. In 1844 the Whigs again refrained from giving in their
platform any official utterance on the Texas issue, though they
were understood to be opposed to annexation. The Democrats
adroitly asserted in their platform their approval of the
re-annexation of Texas and reoccupation of Oregon. There was a
shadowy prior claim to both these regions, and by combining them
in this way the party avoided any odious partiality towards the
acquisition of slave territory. But the voters in both parties
had become interested in the specific question whether the
country was to enter upon a war of conquest whose primary object
should be the extension of slavery. In the North it became
generally understood that a vote for Henry Clay, the Whig
candidate, was an expression of opposition to annexation. This
issue, however, was not made clear in the South. In the absence
of telegraph and daily paper it was quite possible to maintain
contradictory positions in different sections of the country. But
since the Democrats everywhere openly favored annexation, the
election of their candidate, James K. Polk, was generally
accepted as a popular approval of the annexation of Texas.
Indeed, action immediately followed the election and, before the
President-elect had been inaugurated, the joint resolution for
the annexation of Texas passed both Houses of Congress.

The popular vote was almost equally divided between Whigs and
Democrats. Had the vote for Birney, who was again the candidate
of the Liberty party, been cast for Clay electors, Clay would
have been chosen President. The Birney vote was over sixty-two
thousand. The Liberty party, therefore, held the balance of power
and determined the result of the election.

The Liberty party has often been censured for defeating the Whigs
at this election of 1844. But many incidents, too early forgotten
by historians, go far to justify the course of the leaders.
Birney and Clay were at one time members of the same party. They
were personal friends, and as slave holders they shared the view
that slavery was a menace to the country and ought to be
abolished. It was just fourteen years before this election that
Birney made a visit to Clay to induce him to accept the
leadership of an organized movement to abolish slavery in
Kentucky. Three years later, when Birney returned to Kentucky to
do himself what Henry Clay had refused to do, he became convinced
that the reaction which had taken place in favor of slavery was
largely due to Clay's influence. This was a common impression
among active abolitionists. It is not strange, therefore, that
they refused to support him as a candidate for the Presidency,
and it is not at all certain that his election in 1844 would have
prevented the war with Mexico.

Northern Whigs accused the Democrats of fomenting a war with
Mexico with the intention of gaining territory for the purpose of
extending slavery. Democrats denied that the annexation of Texas
would lead to war, and many of them proclaimed their opposition
to the farther extension of slavery. In harmony with this
sentiment, when President Polk asked for a grant of two million
dollars to aid in making a treaty with Mexico, they attached to
the bill granting the amount a proviso to the effect that slavery
should forever be prohibited in any territory which might be
obtained from Mexico by the contemplated treaty. The proviso was
written by an Ohio Democrat and was introduced in the House by
David A. Wilmot, a Pennsylvania Democrat, after whom it is known.
It passed the House by a fair majority with the support of both
Whigs and Democrats. At the time of the original introduction in
August, 1846, the Senate did not vote upon the measure. Davis of
Massachusetts moved its adoption but inadvertently prolonged his
speech in its favor until the hour for adjournment. Hence there
was no vote on the subject. Subsequently the proviso in a new
form again passed the House but failed of adoption in the Senate.

During the war the Wilmot Proviso was the subject of frequent
debate in Congress and of continuous debate throughout the
country until the treaty with Mexico was signed in 1848. A vast
territory had been acquired as a result of the war, and no
decision had been reached as to whether it should remain free or
be opened to settlement by slave-owners. Another presidential
election was at hand. For fully ten years there had been
ever-increasing excitement over the question of the limitation or
the extension of slavery. This had clearly become the topic of
supreme interest throughout the country, and yet the two leading
parties avoided the issue. Their own membership was divided.
Northern Democrats, many of them, were decidedly opposed to
slavery extension. Southern Whigs with equal intensity favored
the extension of slavery into the new territory. The platforms of
the two parties were silent on the subject. The Whigs nominated
Taylor, a Southern general who had never voted their party
ticket, but they made no formal declaration of principles. The
Democrats repeated with colorless additions their platforms of
1840 anti 1844 and sought to win the election with a Northern
man, Lewis Cass of Michigan, as candidate.

There was, therefore, a clear field for a party having fully
defined views to express on a topic of commanding interest. The
cleavage in the Democratic party already begun by the debate over
the Wilmot Proviso was farther promoted by a factional division
of New York Democrats. Martin Van Buren became the leader of the
liberal faction, the "Barnburners," who nominated him for
President at a convention at Utica. The spirit of independence
now seized disaffected Whigs and Democrats everywhere in the
North and Northwest. Men of anti-slavery proclivities held
nonpartizan meetings and conventions. The movement finally
culminated in the famous Buffalo convention which gave birth to
the Freesoil party. The delegates of all political persuasions
united on the one principle of opposition to slavery. They
adopted a ringing platform closing with the words: "Resolved,
That we inscribe on our banner 'Free Soil, Free Speech, Free
Labor, and Free Men,' and under it will fight on, and fight ever,
until a triumphant victory shall reward our exertions." They
accepted Van Buren as their candidate. The vote at the ensuing
election was more than fourfold that given to Birney in 1844. The
Van Buren supporters held the balance of power between Whigs and
Democrats in twelve States. Taylor was elected by the vote of New
York, which except for the division in the party would have gone
to Cass. There was no longer any doubt of the fact that a
political force had arisen which could no longer be ignored by
the ruling parties. One of the parties must either support the
new issue or give place to a party which would do so.

A political party for the defense of liberty was the fulfillment
of the aspirations of all earnest anti-slavery men and of all
abolitionists not of the radical Garrisonian persuasion. The
national anti-slavery societies were for the most part limited in
their operations to the Atlantic seaboard. The West organized
local and state associations with little reference to the
national association. When the disruption occurred between
Garrison and his opponents in 1840, the Western abolitionists
continued their former methods of local organization. They
recognized no divisions in their ranks and continued to work in
harmony with all who in any way opposed the institution of
slavery. The political party was their first really effective
national organization. Through party committees, caucuses, and
conventions, they became a part of the forces that controlled the
nation. The older local clubs and associations were either
displaced by the party or became mere adjuncts to the party.

The lines for political action were now clearly defined. In the
States emancipation should be accomplished by state action. With
a few individual exceptions the leaders conceded that Congress
had no power to abolish slavery in the States. Upon the general
Government they urged the duty of abolishing both slavery and the
slave-trade in the District of Columbia and in all areas under
direct federal control. They further urged upon the Government
the strict enforcement of the laws prohibiting the foreign
slave-trade and the enactment of laws forbidding the interstate
slave-trade. The constitutionality of these main lines of action
has been generally conceded.

Abolitionists were pioneers in the formulation of political
platforms. The declaration of principles drawn up by Garrison in
1833 and adopted by the American Anti-Slavery Society was of the
nature of a political platform. The duty of voting in furtherance
of the policy of emancipation was inculcated. No platform was
adopted for the first political campaign, that of 1840; but four
years later there was an elaborate party platform of twenty-one
resolutions. Many things had happened in the eleven years
intervening since the declaration of principles of the American
Anti-Slavery Society. In the earlier platform the freedom of the
slave appears as the primary object. That of the Liberty party
assumes the broad principle of human brotherhood as the
foundation for a democracy or a republic. It denies that the
party is organized merely to free the slave. Slaveholding as the
grossest form of despotism must indeed be attacked first, but the
aim of the party is to carry the principle of equal rights into
all social relations. It is not a sectional party nor a party
organized for a single purpose. "It is not a new party, nor a
third party, but it is the party of 1776, reviving the principles
of that memorable era, and striving to carry them into practical
application." The spirit of '76 rings, indeed, throughout the


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