Abolitionists on the Road to War
Forgotten by the New England abolitionists was their own section’s experience with enslaving the Pequot Indians their fathers had not killed, and the transatlantic slave trade those same fathers had enriched themselves by. The onus was on the abolitionists to discover a practical and peaceful solution to a problem New England had done much to create.
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865
Abolitionists On the Road to War:
“As with the anti-liquor and anti-foreign movements [in the North], emotion was the basic quality of the renewed anti-slavery drive. While each of the three had social and economic background, especially this was true of the anti-slavery crusade.
This renewal of the anti-slavery campaign did not, however, represent a belated Abolition triumph. From the time of the Nat Turner insurrection, the Abolitionists’ chief effect upon the North had been to excite distaste and opposition, while in the South they had aroused a frenzy of resentment and fear.
While William Lloyd Garrison’s imprisonment in Baltimore gave satisfaction in Philadelphia, New York and Boston, as well as in Richmond, Charleston and Mobile. When William Lloyd Garrison denounced the Constitution as “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell,” great Northern groups were horror-struck. Attempts to give political instrumentation to Abolition policies became increasingly ineffective, and after 1840, the word came to be used to represent a demand for solution of the slave problem by other than political means.
Examination of Abolition speeches, sermons, pamphlets and books during these ‘Thirties and ‘Forties affords a ready understanding of these reactions. For, in the deep black of Southern turpitude the Abolitionists could see no good, no redeeming trait, no shade of gray. The formula of attack was almost standard: The Negro was God’s image in ebony. White and black were brothers, equals, and slavery was a sin against God. The Declaration of Independence asserted that all men were created equal, and so slavery was a breach of the Declaration as well as an affront to Almighty God.
There could be no honest slave-holder, the Abolitionist insisted, all such were thieves, robbers and man-stealers. The slave-holder underfed his chattels, housed them in hovels and punished them like wild animals. Tales of savage cruelty and bestial lust were eagerly repeated. Abolitionist lecturers went into every hamlet of the North painting tales of unmentionable horrors of the South. The entire Southern social system was indicted along with slavery. All Southern white men were portrayed as lazy, drunken, lustful braggarts. Their society was an oligarchy, a slavocracy destructive of American democracy.”
The Eve of Conflict, George Fort Milton, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934, pp. 160-161)