Abolitionist movement Essay
With the enlightenment and awareness of people regarding human rights came the abolitionist movement. Slavery was something that violated the basic tenet of human rights and dignity, and so it had to be abolished. Northern states have begun to pass acts which declared that all men were born free and equal. Several movements that involved religion and political movements highly influenced the strength and expanse of abolitionist ideals throughout the country. The movements that supported abolitionism varied in method and degree.
Some were pacifist, as they tried to use the legal system and passed legislation seeking to make slavery illegal. Others utilized literature and the press like Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Religious movements declared slavery to be sinful and un-Christian, to discourage believers from keeping and owning slaves. Only a minority of abolitionists used to armed revolt and instigation of unrest and anger among the slaves as the main machinery to further their cause.
The movement continued its stride to abolish slavery, but its strongest anchor point came with the election of a known contester of slavery, Abraham Lincoln, as president. With the head of state holding this position of opposition of slavery, the south felt that their way of life was endangered and threatened. Economic repercussions will be felt by their planters in the cotton, tobacco and sugar farms if the hands that worked in the plantations were to be set free. The zenith of the tensions between the south and the north was the American Civil war.
It broke out when the south organized and removed themselves from the control of the American government. Rise of Abolitionism Historian James McPherson defined an abolitionist as a person who has fought for the abolition of slavery in the United States before the Civil war. American abolition started early on, as there were several groups already fighting for the liberation of slaves, such as the Society of Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, and there were several institutions which prohibited slavery already.
Several states had passed laws that completely prohibited slavery in their territories. Those who joined the American Anti-Slavery Society or other groups were abolitionists. These movements were not unified, and so could not boast a unified strength. Vermont was the first territory to make slavery illegal, and Pennsylvania was the first state to abolish slavery in 1780. Then several states followed Pennsylvania’s example while some states chose to limit slave trading. Many of the states in the south retained the institution of slavery as it was the region’s life line in their plantations.
Their strong adherence to the institution drove them to take a defensive stance against the rising popularity of the abolitionist movement. Many abolitionist writers distributed many anti-slavery writings and literature to the south to help spread the ideologies. Novels, pamphlets and other forms of writing began to circulate not just in the north, but also in the southern region. Southern officials were enraged at the act, and thus moved to ban all types of literature that might instigate rebellion and changes in the south.
Violence was even employed to stop the circulation of antislavery media in the south. Elijah Parish Lovejoy, the editor of an abolitionist newspaper was murdered by a mob of pro-slavery southerners. His printing press was also destroyed. Abolitionists recognized the fact that slavery needed to be abolished everywhere in the country, but the north cannot interfere with the affairs of the south because of federal ruling. Because of this, many abolitionists focused on liberating the north and skipping the southern states.
Some abolitionists were frustrated and did not like this idea, as they believed that every state should be free of slavery. The movement was further fortified by the support of free African-Americans and their church. With the issue of the constitution, the American Abolitionist movement split up into two groups, the Garrisonians, led by William Garrison and Wendell Phillips and another camp led by Spooner and Gerrit Smith. The Garrisonians believed that the constitution promoted slavery while Spooner’s group believed the constitution to be antislavery.
Since slavery was unconstitutional, it could be abolished with the blessing of the law. More divisions in the abolitionist movement arose, but because of the social classes of the abolitionists themselves. The artisans and elites divided themselves on the issue of slavery as well. The Underground Railroad was used as a venue by many abolitionists to become more active in the cause for abolition of slavery. Many of the fugitive slaves were illegally transported away from their masters to be free men via this rail.
But the railroad was made illegal by the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. But this did not stop the abolitionists from providing shelter and transporting slaves to freedom. After the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 was done, many abolitionists moved to liberate slaves in the slave states. There were also movements to improve the social and living conditions of African-Americans all over the country. The Thirteenth Amendment finally ended all slave subjugations in the country.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 June 2017
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