Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
ABOLITION AND ABOLITIONISTS (in
—ABOLITION SOCIETIES, based on the idea of gradual abolition, were formed in Pennsylvania in 1774, in New York in 1785, in Rhode Island in 1786, in Maryland in 1789, in Connecticut in 1790, in Virginia in 1791, and in New Jersey in 1792. These societies held annual conventions, and their operations were viewed by the more humane slave-holders with some favor, since they aimed at nothing practical or troublesome, except petitions to congress, and served as a moral palliative to the continuance of the practice. The abolition of the African slave-trade by Great Britain in 1807, and by the United States in 1808, came as a great relief to the abolition societies, which had grown discouraged by the evident impossibility of effecting anything in the south, and were now ready to accept this success as the limit of possibility for the present. Their annual national meetings became more infrequent and soon ceased altogether, though some state branches remained alive.
—COLONIZATION SOCIETY. In 1801 Jefferson and Governor James Monroe, of Virginia, had considerable correspondence on the subject of colonizing free blacks out of the country. In the autumn of 1816 a society for this purpose was organized in Princeton, N. J. Dec. 23, 1816, by resolution, the Virginia legislature commended the matter to the attention of the general government, and a few days afterwards the society was re-organized at Washington as the "National Colonization Society," its president being Bushrod Washington, and its organ, "The African Repository." Its expressed object was to encourage emancipation by procuring a place outside of the United States, preferably in Africa, to which free negroes could be aided in emigrating. Its indirect object was to rid the south of the free black population, which had already become a nuisance. Its branches spread into almost every state, and for fourteen years its organization was warmly furthered by every philanthropist in the south as well as in the north. Henry Clay, Charles Carroll and James Madison, in the south, were as hearty colonizationists as Bishop Hopkins, Rufus King, President Harrison and Dr. Channing, in the north. And it is noteworthy that, although the society made no real attack on slavery, as an institution, nearly every person noted after 1831 as an abolitionist was before that year a colonizationist. Benjamin Lundy's travels through North America were for the purpose of finding a location for a free black colony in Texas or elsewhere in Mexico. James G. Birney was for some time the society's agent and superintendent for Alabama and Tennessee. Gerrit Smith, the Tappans, and many others, began their career as colonizationists and ended it as abolitionists.
—LIBERIA. At first free negroes were sent to the British colony of Sierra Leone. In 1820 the society tried and became dissatisfied with Sherbroke Island, and Dec. 15, 1821, a permanent location was purchased at Cape Mesurado. In 1847 the colony declared itself an independent republic under the name of Liberia, its capital being Monrovia.
—II. IMMEDIATE ABOLITION (1830-60). In 1829-30 William Lloyd Garrison, a Massachusetts printer, engaged with Lundy in publishing "The Genius of Universal Emancipation," at Baltimore, flung a fire-brand into the powder magazine so long covered by the decorous labors of colonization and gradual abolition societies. He insisted on immediate abolition, meaning thereby not instant abolition so much as the use of every means at all times toward abolition without regard to the wishes of slave-owners. The effects were almost immediately apparent. Abolition, with its new elements of effort and intention, was no longer a doctrine to be quietly and benignantly discussed by slave-owners, and from 1830 the name of abolitionist took a new and aggressive significance. Garrison's first efforts were directed against the colonization society. Jan. 1, 1831, he began publishing "The Liberator," in Boston, and through its pages converted so many colonizationists, that the "New England Anti-Slavery Society," founded on "immediate" abolition, was formed Jan. 1, 1832. In 1833 Garrison visited England, and secured from Wilberforce, Zachary Macaulay, Daniel O'Connell, and other English abolitionists, a condemnation of the colonization society. In December, 1833, the "American Anti-Slavery Society" was formed in Philadelphia by an abolition convention, Beriah Green being president, and Lewis Tappan and John G. Whittier, secretaries. From this time the question became of national importance. Able and earnest men, such as Theodore D. Weld, Samuel J. May, and Wendell Phillips, traversed the northern states as the agents of the national society, founding state branches and lecturing everywhere on abolition. The consequent indignation in the south found a response in the north with many who saw that the south would never willingly accept "immediate" abolition, and that the continuance of the abolition agitation would involve sectional conflict, and perhaps a convulsion which would destroy the Union. Abetted or tacitly countenanced by this class, a more ignorant and violent class at once began to break up abolition meetings by mob violence. In Connecticut, in 1833, Miss Prudence Crandall, of Canterbury, Windham county, opened her school to negro girls. The legislature, by act of May 24, 1833, forbade such schools, and Miss Crandall was imprisoned under the act. As this was ineffectual, she was ostracized by her neighbors, and finally, by arson and violence, her school was broken up. In the autumn of 1834 George Thompson, who had been instrumental in securing British emancipation in the West Indies, came to Boston, and for a year lectured through out the north. He was denounced as a paid agent of the British government for the destruction of the Union, was mobbed, and finally escaped from Boston in disguise, in November, 1835. For some years abolition riots were epidemic throughout the north. Nov. 7, 1837, Elijah P. Lovejoy, a Presbyterian minister, who had established an abolition newspaper in Alton, Ill., was mobbed and shot to death. May 17, 1838, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Hall, an abolitionist building, dedicated three days before, was burned by a mob. Abolition riots then became only sporadic, but never ceased entirely until 1861.
—In the south the import of the single word "immediate" was instantly perceived. By unofficial bodies rewards were offered for the capture of prominent abolitionists, a suspension of commercial intercourse with the north was threatened, and northern legislatures were called upon to put down abolition meetings by statute. Southern grand juries indicted several abolitionists, and, when the accused naturally declined to appear for trial, their extradition as "fugitives from justice" was demanded by the state governor, but without success. The anti-slavery society had been quick to take advantage of the United States mails as an easy and secure means of introducing its publications into the south, where the society's private agents would have had short shrift. Remonstrances were at once sent to the postmaster general against this use of the mails, and he, while he regretted his official inability to interfere, gave southern postmasters a strong hint that they would do well to settle the difficulty by rejecting abolitionist publications from the mails. President Jackson, in his message of Dec. 2, 1835, requested congress to pass a law forbidding the circulation of abolitionist publications in the mails. A bill to this effect was introduced in the senate, carried just far enough to compel Van Buren, a candidate for the presidency, to take open ground in its favor, and then lost. In its stead, the care of abolition documents was left, with excellent success, to the states and the post-masters.
—Congress, in accepting the District of Columbia, had re-enacted the whole body of Virginia and Maryland law, and thus left slavery in full existence; but few persons seem to have denied the power of congress to abolish slavery in the District at will. From February, 1833, a vast number of petitions were introduced, praying congress to abolish slavery in the District, and, after 1836, to abolish the "gag rules" by which the house had resolved to lay all such petitions on the table without consideration. (See
—The Garrisonian abolitionists were, from the first, the radical wing. They believed in no union with slave-holders; they declared the constitution "a league with death and a covenant with hell," on account of its slavery compromises, and for this reason refused to vote, hold office or recognize the government; they attacked the churches freely and angrily, for sympathy with slavery; they made the public speaking of female members a prominent part of their work; and woman's rights, free love, community of property, and every novel social theory, found among them the first and most sympathetic audience. Many who would willingly have joined in opposition to slavery, were repelled by dread of the odium, theological and social, consequent upon a public identification with Garrisonian license of thought, speech and action; and a large and growing element in the American anti-slavery society felt that its influence was thus impaired. In 1838 the annual report of the society made the suggestion that abolitionist candidates for office should be nominated and supported. On this convenient rock the society split into two parts in the following year. The political abolitionists, including Birney, the Tappans, Gerrit Smith, Whittier, Judge Jay, Edward Beecher, Thomas Morris, and others, seceded and left the original society name and organization to the Garrisonians, who at once became, in the opinion of the seceders, "a woman's rights, non-government, anti-slavery society." In 1840 the seceders organized the "American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society," and under this name prosecuted their work with more success than the original society of irreconcilables.
—THE LIBERTY PARTY. Nov. 13, 1839, a convention of abolitionists met at Warsaw, N. Y., and incidentally nominated James G. Birney for president, and Francis J. Lemoyne, of Pennsylvania, for vice-president. Birney had been a slave-holder in Kentucky and Alabama, and was now corresponding secretary of the national society. These nominations were confirmed by a national convention at Albany, April 1, 1840, mainly composed of New York delegates, which adopted the name of the "liberty party." The nominees declined the nomination, but received 7,059 votes in the presidential election of 1840, ranging from 42 in Rhode Island to 2,798 in New York. Liberty party tickets were now put forth in various local elections, and the political abolitionists went into training for the election of 1844. Aug. 30, 1844, the liberty party's national convention met at Buffalo. Clay had made public, Aug. 16, a temporizing letter to the effect that he "would be glad to see" Texas annexed at some future day. (See
—UNDERGROUND RAIL-ROAD. During the period 1850-60 the most active exertions of the abolitionists were centred in assisting fugitive slaves to reach places of safety in Canada. (See
—III. FINAL ABOLITION (1810-65). The secession of a number of southern states in 1860-61, and the establishment of a de facto government in the south, was welcome to the extreme abolitionists, who rejoiced to be rid of the slave-holders and of political union with them. But the first shock of actual warfare brought to the surface an intense determination throughout the north and west that secession should not be allowed to become an accomplished fact. The ensuing war (see
—The president's own wish was at first for compensated emancipation, and, in accordance with his special message of March 6, a joint resolution of April 10, 1862, declared that the United States ought to co-operate with any state which should adopt gradual "abolishment" of slavery, by paying the state for the slaves emancipated. The act of April 16, 1862, abolished slavery in the District of Columbia on this principle; but the border states were deaf to the repeated entreaties of the president up to the close of the session of congress in July. In September the president, yielding to the growing anti-slavery feeling in the north, issued his preliminary proclamation, followed, Jan. 1, 1863, by the emancipation proclamation. But this, by its terms, did not affect the slaves in loyal states, or within the federal lines, nor did it affect the principle of slavery even in the rebellious states. Had the war ended without further action against slavery, every slave in the rebellious states would, indeed, have been a free man, but there would have been no bar to the immediate importation of fresh supplies of slaves from the states where slavery had not been abolished.
—In his message of Dec. 1, 1862, the president again brought up his favorite project. He now recommended the adoption of three amendments to the constitution, providing (1) for the issue of bonds to compensate states which should abolish slavery before 1900; (2) for the validation of the emancipation proclamation and kindred measures; and (3) for colonizing free negroes out of the country. Bills to compensate Missouri and Maryland for abolishing slavery were introduced, by members from those states early in 1863, and received favorable votes in both houses; but the shortness of the session prevented their final passage. In West Virginia, by constitutional amendment adopted March 26, 1862, gradual emancipation after July 4, 1863, was secured. In Missouri the state convention, which had originally been called to consider an ordinance of secession, was re-convened, and passed, June 24, 1863, an ordinance of emancipation, taking effect gradually after July 4, 1870. Congress, by act of Feb. 24, 1864, emancipated negro soldiers, a compensation of $300 for each being paid to loyal owners, and by act of March 3, 1865, emancipation was extended to the wives and children of such soldiers. This measure closed the record of attempts at gradual, partial or compensated abolition of slavery.
—Oct. 12-13, 1864, Maryland adopted a new constitution whose 23d article finally abolished slavery in the state. Ordinances of immediate emancipation, without submission to popular vote, were passed Feb. 13, 1864, by a convention of delegates from those portions of Virginia within the federal lines, and, Jan. 11, 1865, by a new state convention in Missouri. A recapitulation of all these partial assaults on slavery will make it apparent that, after Jan. 11, 1865, slavery had a legal existence only in the states of Kentucky and Delaware, if the action of Maryland, secured by soldiers' votes, and of irregular conventions in Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas were valid. To resolve all doubts, and give the corpse of slavery a legal burial, a constitutional amendment in 1865 (see
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