Contrary to mainstream historical accounts, New England was not friendly toward the abolitionists in their midst and saw them as radical agitators. This region was no stranger to slavery as Providence, Rhode Island was by 1750 the transatlantic slaving center of North America after surpassing Liverpool; Yankee notions and rum were in high demand by African tribes eager to sell their slaves to New England merchants.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Preaching the Principles of Extreme Democracy
“In 1837, not a single meeting house or hall of any size could be obtained for the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. It met in the loft of a hotel stable which enabled [William] Garrison to declare, “Abolition today, as on every day, stands upon a stable foundation.” Northern merchants and manufacturers with anti-slavery tendencies were boycotted. A black list of New York Abolition merchants was made out by a committee, and the South was told to withdraw its patronage from these destroyers of the Union.
In most financial circles, a pocket nerve was touched by the outcries of people who had cotton to sell and heavy orders to give. When the South called on the North to stay the Abolition frenzy to meet the wishes of their Southern friends, the first men of Boston called a meeting for August 21, 1835 in Fanueil Hall to discountenance the seditious principles of what even John Quincy Adams at that time wrote down as “a small, shallow, and enthusiastic party, preaching the abolition of slavery on the principles of extreme democracy.”
Miss Prudence Crandall, a Quaker, who was conducting a Ladies Academy at Canterbury, Connecticut, accepted Sarah Harris, a colored girl, as a pupil. The white parents objected and threatened to withdraw their children if Miss Harris were allowed to remain, as they “would not have it said their daughters went to school with a nigger girl.” “The school may sink,” Miss Crandall said, “but I will not give up Sarah Harris.” The white children were withdrawn.
Twenty colored girls arrived at Miss Crandall’s school . . . The irate Canterbury citizens invoked against her the Pauper and Vagrancy Law, one of the early “blue laws” of Connecticut colony. This law required people not residents of the town pay a fine…and if …not paid or the person not gone in ten days, he was to be whipped on the naked body not exceeding ten stripes.
A warrant was issued against one Negro pupil, Eliza Ann Hammond, from Providence. As Miss Crandall still held here ground . . . a new law was enacted by the Connecticut legislature on May 24, 1833, called the Black Law, prohibiting under severe penalties the instruction of any Negro from outside the State without the consent of the town authorities. When the new law was passed, bells were rung and cannon fired for half an hour. When the [black] students walked out, horns were blown and pistols fired.”
(Prophet of Liberty, Wendell Phillips, Oscar Sherwin, Bookman Associates, pp. 48-52).