Browsing "Abolitionists & Disunionists"

Northern Resistance to Abolitionists

Anti-abolition sentiment was often found north of Mason and Dixon’s line and evidenced by incidents like the 1837 shooting death of abolitionist Elija Lovejoy in Alton, Ohio.  The local citizenry tried to convince Lovejoy of his unpopularity by throwing his presses into the Mississippi River three times before resorting to the fatal measure.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Northern Resistance to Abolitionists

“One of the earliest newspapers of Niagara Falls [New York], The Niagara Falls Daily Recorder, had brief but somewhat volatile tenure becoming involved in the hot-button issue of slavery in the 1830’s. The story of early newspapers was related in a 1937 article by city historian Edward T. Williams, himself a longtime journalist and newspaper owner.

The Recorder issue of April 8, 1839, contained a two-column account of a public abolitionist meeting in the downtown union chapel, located near the “Eagle Tavern on the south side of Falls street.” The article, the editor pointed out, was published as an advertisement “paid for jackass and all.” The story had a picture of a jackass at the head.

The meeting was called by a Mr. Pickard, described as an itinerant abolitionist. It was agreed after he spoke one hour that members of the opposition would be allowed to reply. Apparently there was a lot of opposition to slavery abolition in the village, including the Recorder, which was owned by one W. Law.

Williams said the newspaper report “was evidently made up for those opposed to Mr. Pickard, and the abolitionist received little consideration, being called “used up.” The group then passed a couple resolutions against abolition. One said:

Resolved: that the doctrine of the present abolitionists is a far greater evil than slavery as it now exists.”

Another resolution said:

Resolved: that all further attempts to lecture upon the subject of slavery in this village deserves to be met with the most spirited opposition until abolition lecturers become like angel’s visits, few and far between.”

(History of Falls Newspapers Complex, Bob Kostoff, www.niagarafallsreporter.com, Jan. 18, 2011)

Prophets Rebuking Endless Sins

Abolitionists like Wendell Phillips admitted that “our unpopularity is no fault of ours, but flows necessarily and unavoidably from our position” and that public acceptance of their beliefs mattered not.  They were convinced of the righteousness of their cause, and the death of a million people in a war they helped cause left them unmoved.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Prophets Rebuking Endless Sins

“Wendell Phillips . . . characterized Abraham Lincoln in 1860 as “the slave-hound of Illinois,” and said that John Brown “carried letters of marque from God.” But like his fellow champion in the abolition cause [Garrison], he early lost whatever love of the Negro he might have had in an egotistic hatred of his white, Southern opponents.

After the [War Between the States], Wendell Phillips sought new outlets for his persuasive, self-assured energies in the causes of women’s rights and the claims of labor, but William Lloyd Garrison slipped slowly into the background, supported by the charity of his admirers, emerging on occassion to play the aging hero before a younger generation of reform-minded folk, and constant in his role as irritant to the body politic.

In all their activities, both Garrison and Phillips represented a tendency in American life which has never much appealed to observers from the Old World — in which self-appointed guardians of public morals rise up like the Old Testament prophets to rebuke sins as they see it, and in the most intemperate terms.”

(Mr. Lincoln’s Contemporaries, Roy Meredith, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951, page 32)

 

Abolitionist Threat to the South

The African slavery imposed upon the American colonies by a British colonial system eventually became the proverbial “holding the wolf by the ears”;  the North ended slavery within its borders but not its transatlantic slave trade. With a large alien population living amongst them, Southerners lived with a submerged fear of the worst: an American version of a Santo Domingo-style massacre. Once the depth of Northern involvement in encouraging and financing John Brown became apparent, the South had little use for its Northern brethren.  Violence and blood was the North’s method rather than peaceful solutions.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Abolitionist Threat to the South:

“On the wall of my study hangs one of the John Steuart Curry etchings of old John Brown of Ossawattomie, sword and revolver belted at his waist, a suppliant Negro face close to the grim holster, and behind him a Kansas cyclone knifing down from the darkling sky. The imagery is noble, heroic. But my Grandfather Carter would not admire it, were he alive, for he was one of the nervous young militia-men from near-by Charles Town, who circled the Harpers Ferry arsenal and waited for Robert E. Lee and the marines to come and drag out John Brown’s body.

To my grandfather, John Brown was an insane murderer and the father of murdering sons, who sought to loose an old horror upon the Virginia countryside; the horror of the slave revolt, the burning dwelling, the ravished wife, and the slain householder. John Brown was no hero, no martyr to my grandfather who sniped at the arsenal windows. Inside as prisoner was Colonel Washington, the first president’s great nephew and the kindliest gentleman of northern Virginia.

Dead in Harpers Ferry were three other citizens, kindly, decent men too, and one of them a free mulatto. This was no test of the rightness of slavery, this was murder and rapine; and behind old John Brown’s handful of white and Negro followers blew a dank wind from the North, the breath of the Abolitionists, Higginson, Sanborn, Smith, Parker Douglas, and the evil rest, whispering rebellion in the night. These men of New England had encouraged and given money for muskets and sabers to John Brown of bloody Kansas, and now the red, fallen leaves of the Virginia October were redder still. So believed my grandfather, no defender of slavery but of his hearth and State; nor did his opinion change throughout life.

Southern anger and mistrust did not begin or end with Harpers Ferry. A thousand slaves might be docile, but there would always be one to listen to the uncertified stranger; and the Southern white man, counting up the more than two hundred slave uprisings through which the Negro protested his chains, remembered that half of them had been incited by a white conspirator, the fanatic from beyond.

For slavery there is no defense, and long ago there were ardent spokesmen for freedom even within the slave South. But rebellion was not academic; rebellion was Denmark Vessey aloose on the flaming countryside, and Gabriel enrolling his thousands in the woods beyond Richmond, and Charles Deslondes, the free mulatto of San Domingo, killing and burning on the road to New Orleans.

Rebellion lurked behind the whisper of a stranger, the tract of the abolitionist, the speech in Washington; Southern mistrust of the intervener was born and nurtured in an armed camp. If they would just leave us alone, said the moderate men and the worried men of the South together; if they would just leave us alone we would work out our own salvation. But not with a pistol at our heads and a torch at the door.

But the South was not let alone and war is not an abstraction of justice when it is fought among the ruins of a man’s home. My grandfather’s mistrust of the Yankees, vindicated at Harpers Ferry, was not lessened by the bullet that maimed him at Harpers Ferry. Nor was it lessened for anyone in the South, anywhere.”

(Southern Legacy, Hodding Carter, LSU Press, 1950, pp. 120-122)

 

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)