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Abolition II
AAS 101
Review Slides for Prof. French’s Lecture
Nov. 18
• The National Context of Antislavery Agitation
• Roots of Abolitionism in Anticolonization/Moral
Reform Movements (1810s-20s)
• Rise of a Northwide, Interracial Campaign to
Abolish Slavery (1830s)
• Schisms over Women Suffrage, Political Action,
• Emergence of Black Abolitionism as an
Independent Movement (1840s)
• The Sectional Crisis of 1840s and 1850s
The Social and Political Context
of Antislavery Agitation
• A growing slave population
U.S. Slave Pop.
in 1790
Total: 698,000
U.S. Slave
Pop. in 1800
Total: 893,000
U.S. Slave
Pop. in 1810
U.S. Slave
Pop. in 1820
U.S. Slave Pop.
in 1830
Total: 2,010,000
U.S. Slave
Pop. in 1840
U.S. Slave
Pop. in 1850
U.S. Slave
Pop. in 1860
A Proslavery Constitution?
• Strengthened the political power of the slaveholding states by
adoption of the Three-Fifths Clause as the basis for apportionment
of congressional representation. Because of this clause,
slaveholding states received extra votes in Congress on the basis
on their non-voting slave population.
The Three-Fifths Clause
Article 1, Sect. 2: Clause 3: Representatives and direct Taxes shall
be apportioned among the several States which may be included
within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall
be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons,
including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding
Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
A Proslavery Constitution?
• Mandated that fugitive slaves who crossed state lines be
returned to their owners.
The Fugitive Slave Clause
Art. IV, Sect. 2: Clause 3: No Person held to Service or Labour in
one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall,
in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged
from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim
of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.
A Proslavery Constitution?
• Pledged full power of the federal government to put
down slave insurrections.
Suppression of Insurrection Clause
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15: To provide for calling forth the Militia
to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel
A Proslavery Constitution?
• Extended African slave trade by no less than twenty
Ban on Laws Abolishing Slave Trade Before 1808
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1: The Migration or Importation of such
Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit,
shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand
eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such
Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
Early National Context of
Antislavery Movement
1777-1804: Long slow death of slavery begins in Northern states; gradual
emancipation achieved by constitutional or judicial enactment
1787: U.S. Constitution protects slavery/gives slave states disproportionate political
power based on non-voting slave population
1787: Northwest Ordinance abolishes slavery in the area north of the Ohio River
known as the Northwest Territory, including present states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
Michigan, and Wisconsin.
1793: Fugitive Slave Act becomes a federal law. Allows slaveowners, their agents or
attorneys to seize fugitive slaves in free states and territories.
1800: Haitian Revolution/Gabriel’s Conspiracy in Virginia generate interest in statesponsored colonization of free blacks and newly manumitted slaves
1812-1817: Slavery’s expansion into the new Gulf States (Louisiana, Mississippi,
Alabama); emergence of cotton as major export; rise of interstate/domestic slave
1820: Missouri Compromise maintains balance of power in Senate by admitting
Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free states; temporarily settles argument
over slavery in the western territories
1822: Denmark Vesey’s Conspiracy, Charleston, S.C.
1829: Cincinnati Riots lead to expulsion of hundreds; many take refuge in Canada
New western states extend democracy to whites; limit black suffrage/restrict
2. Roots of Abolitionism in
Anticolonization/Moral Reform
Movements (1810s/20s)
Early Support for Colonization
African colonization enjoyed some support among prominent African
Americans in the North before 1817.
Prince Hall, Boston -- founder of the African Lodge of the Honorable
Society of Free and Accepted Masons; sent a petition in 1787 to the
general court of Boston to provide "Africans ... one day a week to
work for themselves" to purchase themselves and transport
themselves "to some part of the Coast of African, where we propose
a settlement."
Paul Cuffe, Massachusetts – merchant, ship owner -- led expeditions to
British free black settlement in Sierra Leone
James Forten, Philadelphia – sailmaker, friend of Cuffee’s, early
supporter of African colonization
Founding of
American Colonization Society (1817)
Chairman Henry Clay of Kentucky insisted on constitutional
guarantees that the group would not “touch or agitate, in
the slightest degree,” the issue of slavery. “It was upon
that condition alone, he was sure, that many gentlemen
from the south and the west, whom he saw present, had
attended, or could be expected to cooperate. It was on
that condition, only, that he himself had attended.”
Founding of
American Colonization Society (1817)
John Randolph of Roanoke (proslavery advocate) makes
case for removal of free blacks only:
“It was a notorious fact, he said, that the existence of this
mixed and intermediate population of free negroes was
viewed by every slave holder as one of the greatest
sources of the insecurity, as well as the unprofitableness,
of slave property; that they serve to excite in their fellow
beings a feeling of discontent, of repining at their
situation, and that they act as channels of
communication not only between different slaves, but
between slaves of different districts; that they are the
depositories of stolen goods, and the promoters of
Opposition from the Masses
With the founding of the American
Colonization Society in 1817, African
Americans increasingly spoke out against
efforts schemes for the removal of free
blacks and manumitted slaves.
Black Philadelphians Respond
to Founding of ACS (1817)
On January 15, 1817, James Forten and other black leaders called
a meeting at Bethel to discuss the ACS and the idea of colonization.
Almost 3,000 black men packed the church. Three prominent black
ministers, Richard Allen, Absalom Jones and John Gloucester,
spoke in favor of immigrating to Africa. However, when Forten called
for those in favor to say "yea," not a single voice was heard. When
he called for those opposed, one tremendous "no" rang out that
seemed "as it would bring down the walls of the building." As Forten
wrote to Paul Cuffe on January 25, "there was not one sole [sic] that
was in favor of going to Africa."
Black Philadelphians Respond
to Founding of ACS (1817)
“Whereas our ancestors (not of choice) were the first
successful cultivators of the wilds of America, we their
descendants feel ourselves entitled to participate in the
blessings of her luxuriant soil, which their blood and
sweat manured; and that any measure or system of
measures, having a tendency to banish us from her
bosom, would not only be cruel, but in direct violation of
those principles, which have been the boast of this
Black Richmonders Respond to
Founding of ACS (1817)
“At a meeting of a respectable portion of the free people of color of
the city of Richmond, on Friday, January 24, 1817, William Bowler
was appointed chairman, and Lentey Craw, secretary. The following
preamble and resolution were read, unanimously adopted, and
ordered to be printed.
Whereas a Society has been formed at the seat of government, for the
purpose of colonizing, with their own consent, the free people of
color of the United States; therefore, we, the free people of color of
the city of Richmond, have thought it advisable to assemble together
under the sanction of authority, for the purpose of making a public
expression of our sentiments on a question in which we are so
deeply interested.
Black Richmonders Respond to
Founding of ACS (cont’d)
“We perfectly agree with the Society, that it is not only proper, but would ultimately
tend to the benefit and advantage of a great portion of our suffering fellow
creatures, to be colonized; but while we thus express our approbation of a measure
laudable in its purposes, and beneficial in its designs, it may not be improper in us to
say, that we prefer being colonized in the most remote corner of the land of our
nativity, to being exiled to a foreign country -and whereas the president and board
of managers of the said Society have been pleased to leave it to the entire discretion
of Congress to provide a suitable place for carrying these laudable intentions into
effect -- Be it therefore
“Resolved, That we respectfully submit to the wisdom of Congress whether it would not
be an act of charity to grant us a small portion of their territory, either on the
Missouri river, or any place that may seem to them most conducive to the
public good and our future welfare, subject, however, to such rules and regulations
as the government of the United States may think proper to adopt.”
Bishop Richard Allen on
African Colonization (1827)
From Freedom's Journal, Nov., 1827
Dear Sir, I have been for several years trying to reconcile
my mind to the Colonizing of Africans in Liberia, but
there have always been, and there still remain great and
insurmountable objections against the scheme.
We are an unlettered people, brought up in ignorance, not
one in a hundred can read or write, not one in a
thousand has a liberal education; is there any fitness for
such to be sent into a far country, among heathens, to
convert or civilize them, when they themselves are
neither civilized or Christianized?
Bishop Richard Allen on
African Colonization (1827)
“We were stolen from our mother country, and brought here. We have tilled the ground
and made fortunes for thousands, and still they are not weary of our services. But
they who stay to till the ground must be slaves. Is there not land enough in America,
or 'corn enough in Egypt?' Why should they send us into a far country to die? See the
thousands of foreigners emigrating to America every year: and if there be ground
sufficient for them to cultivate, and bread for them to eat, why would they wish to
send the first tillers of the land away? Africans have made fortunes for thousands,
who are yet unwilling to part with their services; but the free must be sent away, and
those who remain, must be slaves.
“I have no doubt that there are many good men who do not see as I do, and who are for
sending us to Liberia; but they have not duly considered the subject--they are not
men of colour.--This land which we have watered with our tears and our blood, is now
our mother country, and we are well satisfied to stay where wisdom abounds and the
gospel is free."
Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal
"Church in the United States
David Walker on African
Colonization (1829)
Will any of us leave our homes and go to Africa? I hope not. Those who
are ignorant enough to go to Africa, the coloured people ought to be
glad to have them go, for if they are ignorant enough to let the
whites fool them off to Africa, they would be no small injury to us if
they reside in this country.
Let them commence their attack upon us as they did on our brethren in
Ohio, driving and beating us from our country, and my soul for theirs,
they will have enough of it. Let no man of us budge one step, and let
slave-holders come to beat us from our country. America is more our
country, than it is the whites--we have enriched it with our blood and
tears. The greatest riches in all America have arisen from our blood
and tears:--and will they drive us from our property and homes,
which we have earned with our blood? They must look sharp or this
very thing will bring swift destruction upon them. The Americans
have got so fat on our blood and groans, that they have almost
forgotten the God of armies. But let them go on.
Black abolitionism’s influence:
William Lloyd Garrison
on African Colonization (1832)
Garrison’s abolitonist indictment of the American Colonization of
Society (which he supported until 1829)
Is pledged not to oppose the system of slavery
Apologizes for slavery and slaveholders
Recognizes slaves as property
Increases the value of slaves
Is the enemy of immediate abolition
Is nourished by fear and selfishness
Aims at the utter expulsion of the blacks
Is the disparager of the free blacks
Denies the possibility of elevating the blacks in this country
Deceives and misleads the nation
Second Annual Convention for the Improvement
of the Free People of Color
Philadelphia, June 1832.
While generally opposed to colonization, committee members
acknowledged “that the rigid oppression abroad in the land is such, that a
part of our suffering brethren cannot live under it.” Delegates to the
Convention resolved, at the urging of the committee, to establish an agent in
Upper Canada “for the purpose of purchasing lands and contributing to the
wants of our people generally who may be, by oppressive legislative
enactments, obliged to flee from these United States and take up residence
within her borders.”
Rise of a Northern Interracial
Campaign to Abolish Slavery
African American Antecedents
• Massachusetts General Colored
Association (1826)
• Convention Movement of Free People of
Color (first meeting at Mother Bethel
Church in Philadelphia, 1830)
-- early phase of national movement
dominated by whites
-- paternalist ethos; former slaves counseled
on how best to present themselves and
their experience of slavery
-- earlier work of black abolitionists
American Antislavery Society Founded
in Philadelphia (December 1833)
--- 66 delegates from eleven northern states; only
three of them were African Americans
-- dedicated to “the entire abolition of slavery in the
United States” and the elevation of “the
character and condition of the people of color”
-- no stated commitment to “social equality”
African Americans took active part in
organization of AAS state and local
Black and white women join interracial
female auxiliaries
• Philadelphia – daughters of James Forten
• Boston– Sarah and Angelina Grimke of
Freedom’s Journal (New York)
Genius of Universal Emancipation (Baltimore/DC)
The Liberator (Boston)
The Antislavery Standard
Northern Star and Freedmen’s Advocate (Albany)
The Colored American (New York)
Published speeches, poetry, news of noteworthy AfricanAmericans, ads for businesses
Several of these papers are available on line:
Abolitionism Merged with Other
“Moral Reform” Movements
1835 Convention of Free People of Color
establishes American Moral Reform
– seeks peace, temperance, integration,
equality of women, brotherly love,
nonresistance under all circumstances
Repression/Mob Violence
Against Abolitionists
• 1835: Efforts to close the Southern mails
to abolitionist literature
• 1836-44: U.S. House adopts “gag rule”
against all anti-slavery petitions
• 1837: Illinois newspaper editor Elijah
Lovejoy’s presses thrown into river;
Lovejoy shot and killed by a mob
• Riots in Boston, Philadelphia, other
Northern cities
By the late 1830s, as mob violence against
abolitionists in the North increased, some
antislavery activists openly questioned the
Garrisonian doctrine of non-resistance.
Schisms within the Movement
Disagreement over Garrison’s ideological and tactical
• His pacifist strategy/philosophy of non-resistance (Elijah Lovejoy
had armed himself in self-defense; viewed by many as martyr to
• His interpretation of the Constitution as a pro-slavery document/calls
for disunion
• His rejection of political action (including voting and office-holding) in
favor of moral suasion
• His support of woman suffrage (refusal to participate in 1840 World
Anti-Slavery Convention because women were excluded)
1840: National Movement Split
• The “old” organization – the American AntiSlavery Society-- retained support of African
Americans from New England and Philadelphia
• The “new” organization -- American and Foreign
Anti-Slavery Society -- advocated moral suasion
and political action and led directly to the birth of
the Liberty Party in 1840.
Black Abolitionists
Assert Their Independence
1840: Calls for a national Negro convention in New
Haven seen by some as “separatist” – others
favored an independent movement as a form of
group self-expression, free from white coercion.
Not necessarily an either-or question. Many black
abolitionists participated in both the Negro
convention movement and the mainstream
interracial abolitionist societies dominated by
The Sectional Crisis
of the 1840s and 1850s
American expansionism under the doctrine
of “Manifest Destiny” widened the
sectional divide over slavery in the 1840s
and 1850s.
The annexation of Texas in 1845 thrust the
United States into war with Mexico and
fueled abolitionist suspicions of a plot to
expand the South’s slaveholding empire
across the continent.
At war’s end, a defeated Mexico ceded its vast
western holdings to the United States, reopening
a debate over slavery’s borders that had been
quelled since the Missouri Compromise.
When newly acquired California bypassed the
formation of a territorial government and applied
for admission as a free state, the two major
political parties – the Whigs and Democrats fractured along sectional lines.
The Compromise of 1850, negotiated by Henry Clay, included a mix of
antislavery and proslavery legislation designed to appease the
Northern and Southern factions in each party.
Under the terms of the compromise:
• California was to be admitted as a free state
• Utah and New Mexico territories were to be organized with no explicit
ban on slavery
• Slave trading was to be abolished in the District of Columbia
• Slave hunting would be encouraged under a new fugitive slave law.
Link to exhibit on Compromise of 1850 and Fugitive Slave Acts (PBS)
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
Allowed slaveholders to more easily reach into any state to retrieve
• An accused fugitive need no longer be brought before a court. A
slaveholder or his representative could simply present an affidavit
with a physical description of the runaway, and federal
commissioners could turn over any person presumed to be that
• Empowered federal marshals to compel bystanders to assist in the
capture of a fugitive.
• Stiff fines and imprisonment for those who obstructed the application
of the law.
• Federal funds provided to pay costs of recovering a fugitive.
• Fugitives denied right to speak in own defense; no right of habeas
Reaction to Fugitive Slave Act
Militant abolitionists vowed
to prevent the kidnapping
and return of fugitive
slaves through acts of
civil disobedience and, if
necessary, mob violence.
Despite several wellpublicized rescues, more
than three hundred
alleged fugitives were
hauled into federal courts
and forcibly re-enslaved.
Link to “The Attempted Rescue of
Anthony Burns”
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The passage of the Fugitive Slave Law and a series of highly publicized
kidnapings and forcible re-enslavements, inspired Harriet Beecher
Stowe to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
In February 1851, while living in Maine, she asked her brother Henry to
furnish her with “suggestions and materials for some graphic
sketches that shall have some bearing on the slave power &
principle – something to make slavery a picture instead of a political
For all of her sentimental tributes to faithful Uncle Tom, Stowe warned
her readers that the brutalizing, dehumanizing effect of slavery might
turn the humblest, most obedient slave into a desperado.
The sectional crisis escalated with passage of
the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which erased the
geographical line between free states and
slave states established under the Missouri
The act, sponsored by Democratic presidential
hopeful Stephen A. Douglas, provided for the
establishment of territorial governments on the
basis of “popular sovereignty,” leaving “all
questions pertaining to slavery” to the
inhabitants of the territories.
Link to text of Kansas-Nebraska Act (Avalon Project at Yale)
A small-scale civil war ensued as pro-slavery
forces, aided by “Border Ruffians” from Missouri,
and anti-slavery forces, joined by gun-toting
abolitionists from New England, vied for control
of the new territorial government in Kansas.
Rival governments were established, guerilla
warfare broke out, and “Bleeding Kansas”
became a symbol of the nation’s open wound.
Link to Bleeding Kansas exhibit and related entries (PBS)
The violence spread to the halls
of Congress, where South
Carolina Congressman
Preston Brooks brutally
caned Massachusetts
Senator Charles Sumner over
remarks Sumner had made in
a speech denouncing “The
Crime Against Kansas.”
Link to “The Caning of Sen. Charles Sumner” (U.S. Senate)
Link to Secession Era Editorials Project (Furman)
By the late 1850s, the nation had become, in the
words of Abraham Lincoln, a “house divided” –
politically and culturally – along sectional lines.
The Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, which
denied U.S. citizenship to all persons of African
descent and invalidated the Missouri
Compromise, left abolitionists and Republicans
convinced that the “slave power conspiracy”
extended to the highest court in the land.
Dred Scott Case (1856):
U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Persons of African Descent
are Permanently Barred from U.S. Citizenship
Key clauses in majority decision:
“A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this
country and sold as slaves, is not a "citizen" within the meaning of the
Constitution of the United States.
“When the Constitution was adopted, they were not regarded in any of
the States as members of the community which constituted the State,
and were not numbered among its "people or citizens." Consequently,
the special rights and immunities guarantied to citizens do not apply to
them. And not being "citizens" within the meaning of the Constitution,
they are not entitled to sue in that character in a court of the United
States, and the Circuit Court has not jurisdiction in such a suit.”
“The only two clauses in the Constitution which point to this race treat
them as persons whom it was morally lawful to deal in as articles of
property and to hold as slaves.”
Dred Scott ruling (cont’d)
“The change in public opinion and feeling in relation to the African race
which has taken place since the adoption of the Constitution cannot
change its construction and meaning, and it must be construed and
administered now according to its true meaning and intention when it
was formed and adopted.”
Judge Curtis’s dissent in Dred Scott
“The Constitution was ordained and established by the people of
the United States through the action, in each state, of those
persons who were qualified by its laws to act thereon in behalf
of themselves and all other citizens of the state. In some of the
states, as we have seen, colored persons were among
those qualified by law to act on the subject. These colored
persons were not only included in the body of "the people of the
United States" by whom the Constitution was ordained and
established, but in at least five of the states they had the power
to act, and doubtless did act, by their suffrages, upon the
question of its adoption.”
Stephen A. Douglas supports the Dred
Scott decision (1857)
“No man can vindicate the character, motives, and
conduct of the signers of the Declaration of
Independence except upon the hypothesis that they
referred to the white race alone, and not to the
African, when they declared all men to have been
created equal; that they were speaking of British
subjects on this continent being equal to British
subjects born and residing in Great Britain; that they
were entitled to the same inalienable rights, and
among them were enumerated life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness.”
Abraham Lincoln responds to Stephen A.
Douglas’s narrow reading of Founder’s “original
intent’ (1857)
“’They were speaking of British subjects on this continent being
equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain!’
Why, according to this, not only Negroes but white people
outside of Great Britain and America were not spoken of in that
instrument. The English, Irish, and Scotch, along with white
Americans, were included, to be sure, but the French, Germans,
and other white people of the world are all gone to pot along
with the judge's inferior races!”
Abraham Lincoln on the language of the
Declaration (cont’d)
“Chief Justice Taney, in his opinion in the Dred Scott case,
admits that the language of the Declaration is broad
enough to include the whole human family, but he and
Judge Douglas argue that the authors of that instrument
did not intend to include Negroes by the fact that they did
not at once actually place them on an equality with the
whites. Now this grave argument comes to just nothing
at all, by the other fact that they did not at once, or ever
afterward, actually place all white people on an equality
with one another.”
Abraham Lincoln on the meaning of the
Declaration of Independence (cont’d)
“I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but
they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not
mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or
social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what respects
they did consider all men created equal--equal with "certain inalienable
rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This they
said, and this they meant.
“They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually
enjoying that equality, nor yet that they were about to confer it immediately
upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant
simply to declare the right, so that enforcement of it might follow as fast as
circumstances should permit.
“They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be
familiar to all and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for,
and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and
thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence and augmenting
the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.”