During the thirty years that preceded the Civil War, abolitionism was a major factor in electoral politics. Abolitionism refers to antislavery activism between the early 1830s when William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The Liberator and the Civil War. By the year 1834, there existed a weak framework of abolitionists, many who were determined to free blacks from the north who had a common goal, the emancipation of slavery. These abolitionists took great courage and leadership, for slavery was either against their moral beliefs and gave the anti-slavery movement the growing popularity that it needed. I believe that the abolitionists (only anti-slavery persons), who wanted an immediate end to slavery, radicalized the anti-slavery movement by demanding an immediate end to slavery and recognition of equality by the year 1836.
By the year 1607, Americans realized that the Chesapeake was immensely hospitable to tobacco cultivation. However growing tobacco meant more labour, but where was the labour source to be from? The Colonies found their answer in indentured servants, servants who voluntarily mortgaged the sweat of their bodies for several years to Chesapeake masters. In exchange, they revived transatlantic passage and eventual “freedom dues.” However, due to various reasons, indentured servants no longer poured into America as they had previously done. Thus, the importation of slaves from Africa began. Many rich plant owners, etc did not think of the moral obligations that one has toward God and were greedy. They exploited these poor, innocent, capable, Blacks and changed the World forever.
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The New Year’s Day in the year 1831, The Liberator (doc. D), had the following passage, “Assenting to the “self-evident truth” maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”… I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population…Urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest- will not excuse…I will not retreat a single inch…AND I WILL BE HEARD!” This document clearly states that the Liberator, a radical abolitionist newspaper in the year 1831, believes that the Abolitionist cause is not moderate, but one that is very severe and must be dealt with immediately.
Also, abolitionists began to demand racial equality in addition to emancipation. The idea that blacks were equal to whites was extreme because racism was still very strong even among the North which was traditionally against Slavery. Peter Williams’ request for equal privileges and end to prejudices (Doc. B) was not supported by most of the north, which supported emancipation not because they believed in racial equality, but because they felt slavery was an unjust Southern advantage. Most of the North was not ready for such a radical step taken by the Abolitionists forward towards racial equality.
The American Anti-Slavery Society (doc. E), writes the following in its Constitution on December 4, 1833, “ The object of this Society is the entire abolition of Slavery in the United State. Slaveholding is a heinous crime in the sight of God…This Society shall aim to elevate the character and condition of people of colour by encouraging their intellectual, moral, and religious improvement. This Document proves that no longer were Blacks considered as a property that could be kicked around (at least by Abolitionists). They are now thought of as citizens of humanity, people who have dignity and intelligence, and must be given their God-given rights. This passage, from the Constitution of the American Anti-Slavery Society, was certainly a very liberal, and radical document of its time.
The American Anti-Slavery Society’s “Particular Instructions” (doc. F) has the following passage, “Our object is the overthrow of American slavery, the most atrocious and oppressive system of bondage that has existed in any country. You will inculcate everywhere the great fundamental principle of immediate abolition…Insist principally on the Sin of Slavery.” Document F calls for immediate abolition because slavery is a sin. By introducing the idea that slavery is immoral, abolitionists radicalized this great movement.
While the abolitionist movement turned radical in 1836, many abolitionists remained conservative. Many abolitionists still supported the American Colonization Society. Unfortunately, because some abolitionists became radical, the movement slowly split. This gap may have weakened the anti-slavery movement as a whole in the long run.
The Abolitionists, by 1836 had shaken the world with their radical views on equality between black and white, and the argument that there should be no slavery. Though many abolitionists were guided by their own sectional interests, a new type of thought was occurring, that even blacks are considered “men” in the eyes of the almighty Lord. By 1836, the abolitionists, in their argument for the immediate emancipation of slaves, and equal rights revolution, opened a new page in radical ideas.
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