Browsing "Abolitionists & Disunionists"

Abolitionist Religious Intolerance in New Hampshire

The abolitionist Republicans of the mid-1850s had dark origins in the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic Know-Nothing party, and were quick to deny rights to those unlike them. President Franklin Pierce appointed Mexican War hero Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as his Secretary of War.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Abolitionists Religious Intolerance in New Hampshire

“In late 1848, Pierce’s law practice brought him before the State legislature to defend the Shakers against an attempt to pass a law restricting their religious activities. The “United Society of True Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing” known as the Shakers, were being accused by former members of the society of a range of charges including the breakup of families, confiscation of personal property, and child abuse. The Shakers existed in New Hampshire since the 1790’s. By 1848 there were some 275 Shakers living in two communities, Canterbury . . . and Enfield.

Over the years, disgruntled former Shakers had periodically petitioned the legislature to take action against the sect. In December, 1848, Asa Fowler, State representative from Concord and Pierce’s former law partner, who was now an active antislavery advocate, presented four different petitions signed by nearly five hundred persons asking for a law to be passed “prohibiting the boarding of minor children to the Shakers . . .”

The Shakers wisely chose Franklin Pierce as their lead attorney . . . Pierce was able to establish that most of the reports of child abuse were secondhand and had not been experienced or observed by the witnesses. Pierce declared the accusations unfounded and unproven and the proposed legislation punitive. [The Committee on the Judiciary] led by chairman Moses Norris, Jr. . . concluded that “Here then, in the free State of New Hampshire, where we boast of our civil and religious freedom . . . it is seriously proposed to visit upon the free exercise of the rights of conscience, a penalty more severe than is visited upon the most hardened and desperate villain now within the walls of the State prison.”

That Pierce was willing to defend, in such a public forum, such an unpopular fringe religion, none of whose members voted, demonstrates his courage for standing up for the rights of all citizens. Equally noteworthy is the role played by the antislavery leaders of the legislature in attacking the Shakers. No doubt they saw a parallel between the closed society of the Shakers and the slavery they so opposed . . . and the attacks on them can only be seen today as a sign of ignorance and intolerance. Considering what he had experienced from the antislavery politicians who supported temperance legislation, restrictions on Catholics and Shakers, and denial of voting rights to immigrants, Pierce equated all of the (abolitionist) reform agenda as an intolerant movement by some to deny rights to others, including of course, Southerners . . . ”

(Franklin Pierce, New Hampshire’s Favorite Son, Peter A. Wallner, Plaidswede Publishing, 2004, pp. 161-166)

 

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)

Abolition Crusade Ends in the Sword

The cause of the War Between the States was not slavery but irresponsible agitation by fanatic abolitionists and their wealthy Northern contributors who went into hiding after John Brown’s insurrection. Not ever forthcoming from abolitionists was a practical, peaceful solution to African slavery in this country which would have saved a million lives.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Abolition Crusade Ends in the Sword:

“Montevideo, Monday, November 7th, 1859

[Rev. C.C. Jones to Mr. Charles C. Jones, Jr.]

“The Harpers Ferry affair proves to be more serious than at first it appeared to be—not in reference to the Negro population, for that had nothing to do with it; but in reference to the hostility of large numbers of men of all classes in the free States to the slaveholding States, even unto blood, and their readiness to aid and abet such attempts with counsels and money, and to employ reckless agents to carry them out.

There is a covert, cowardly, assassin-like heart in these men. Why do they not arm and come to the field in open day? From the tone of the abolition press in the free States, both secular and religious, there is great sympathy for the prisoners at Harpers Ferry. Some go so far as to justify the act, and only condemn the time and manner of it! The whole abolition crusade which has been preached for thirty years ends in the sword. The volunteering of counsel for the prisoners from the free States is another proof of sympathy in their crime, and an insult to the justice of the South.

Some of the papers friendly to the South hope that the South will be forbearing and magnanimous! Against the miserable lives of these men who have plotted arson, robbery, murder and treason over a vast portion of our country, who may weigh millions of property, millions of lives, the virtue, the order, the peace and happiness of our people, the majesty of the laws, the sacredness of religion, our constitution and our Union?

There is no place left for forbearance—no ground for compromises. The magnanimity of the South must not be exercised towards public criminals of the deepest dye, but towards herself in all her greatest and best interests, and towards our common country. Such sparks like these, struck to produce a universal conflagration, should be stamped out immediately. Such enemies should be met and overwhelmed without quarter in a moment.

If the conservative and loyal men of the free States, who we believe do now possess the power, are willing and ready to rule down this spirit of treasonable and violent aggression upon an unoffending and invaluable section of our country, we shall be most happy to see them do it.”

(The Children of Pride, Robert Manson Myers, editor, Yale University Press, 1974, excerpt, pp. 525-526)