Presentation on theme: "Antislavery and Abolitionism in British Colonial North America and the United States AAS 101 Review Slides for Prof. French’s Lecture Nov. 16."— Presentation transcript:
Antislavery and Abolitionism in British Colonial North America and the United States AAS 101 Review Slides for Prof. French’s Lecture Nov. 16
Study Question: Why did movements to stop the importation of slaves from Africa and abolish slavery in America arise in the mid- to late eighteenth century after centuries of apathy on the subject?
According to historian Peter Kolchin, several factors converged to produce this development. Age of Enlightenment A rising belief in the malleability of human nature and the influence of environment on human behavior The spread of capitalism and its ideology of free labor Fourth, new religious developments (Great Awakening)
Two Abolitionist Campaigns 1.Movement for the Abolition of the International Slave Trade (outlawed by U.S. Congress in 1808) 2.Movement for the Abolition of Slavery and the Domestic Slave Trade (abolished by presidential decree in rebel states only, 1863; abolished throughout US by constitutional amendment in 1865)
The movement to abolish the international slave trade, beginning in the early 18 th century, enjoyed widespread support among slaveholders in Virginia and the Upper South.
In 1723, the Virginia General Assembly passed an “Act for Laying Duty on Liquors and Slaves,” which imposed a forty-shilling duty on imported slave laborers. The act, supported by the great planters, was designed to limit the number of slaves employed in the cultivation of tobacco with the aim of reducing production and raising prices. British authorities revoked the duties, citing their adverse effect on commerce.
The great planters – concerned about the uncontrolled growth of the slave population through importation and natural reproduction – continued to push the British colonial government for restrictions on the international slave trade. Some planters, such as William Byrd II, added an humanitarian component to the economic argument against the slave trade. In 1736, Byrd wrote that Parliament must “put an end to this unchristian Traffick of making Merchandize of Our Fellow Creatures.”
The British Crown’s veto of slave trade duties became one the major grievances cited by the America’s slaveholding patriots in building a case for independence from Great Britain.
1772: Virginia’s House of Burgesses asks King George III to halt importation of slaves into colonies Justification 1.Humanitarian: “The importation of Slaves into the Colonies from the Coast of Africa hath long been considered as a Trade of great Inhumanity … 2.Public Safety: “Under its present Encouragement, we have too much Reason to fear [it] will endanger the very Existence of your Majesty’s American dominions... 3. Political Economy: “We are sensible that some of your majesty’s subjects in Great- Britain may reap Emoluments from this Sort of Traffic, but when we consider that it greatly retards the Settlement of the Colonies with more useful inhabitants, and may, in Time, have the most destructive Influence, we presume to hope that the Interest of a few will be disregarded when placed in Competition with the Security and Happiness of such Numbers of your Majesty’s dutiful and loyal subjects.”
April 1774: Thomas Jefferson cites the King George’s veto of Virginia’s anti-slave trade legislation as a prime example of his “shameful abuse” of power.
“The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire in those colonies, where it was unhappily introduced in their infant state. But previous to the enfranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations from Africa; yet our repeated attempts to effect this by prohibitions, and by imposing duties which might amount to a prohibition, have been hitherto defeated by his majesty's negative: Thus preferring the immediate advantages of a few African corsairs to the lasting interests of the American states, and to the rights of human nature, deeply wounded by this infamous practice.” Thomas Jefferson, “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” (1774)
1774: Resolutions adopted by Virginia counties condemn the African slave trade “injurious,” “wicked,” “cruel” and “unnatural” Text of Fairfax County, Va., resolution, George Washington, Esq., presiding: Resolved, That is it is the opinion of this meeting that, during our present difficulties and distress, no slaves ought to be imported into any of the British colonies on this continent; and we take this opportunity of declaring our most earnest wishes to see an entire stop forever put to such a wicked, cruel, and unnatural trade.
October 1774: Articles of Association adopted by delegates to the First Continental Congress include this anti-slave importation resolution: “We will neither import nor purchase, any slave imported after the first day of December next; after which time, we will wholly discontinue the slave trade, and will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or manufactures to those who are concerned in it.”Articles of Association
1776: Jefferson’s Draft of Declaration of Independence indicts King George III for perpetuating the slave trade “He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people [Africans] who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.”
Majority of Delegates to U.S. Constitutional Convention (1787) Opposed International Slave Trade Yet delegates from South Carolina and Georgia, with some support from North Carolina, rejected any interference with the slave trade. To keep these colonies in the Union, the other delegates agreed to a compromise: The Constitution would ban federal action against the international slave trade for twenty years.
Constitutional Ban on International Slave Trade Art. I, Sect. 9: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight (1808), but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
Illustrating the Horrors of the Middle Passage Plan of the Slave Ship Brookes, first published in 1789
State laws prohibiting participation by U.S. citizens in the trade were reinforced by federal law in 1794. Congress banned the trade in 1808.
Study Questions: Why did the international slave trade become such an easy target for abolitionists? Why was the practice almost universally condemned by the late 18 th century? Why, in the view of some historians, did the early success of the anti-international slave trade movement weaken the campaign to abolish the domestic slave trade and slavery in the United States?
Rise of Interstate or Domestic Slave Trade in the U.S. (“The Second Middle Passage”) Fueled by closing of international trade in 1808 and expansion of slavery into cotton states of the Deep South. An estimated 300,000 Virginia slaves were sold “down the river,” many of them from Alexandria, within sight of the nation’s capital, to a large depot near Natchez, Mississippi.
Even as slaves were transported into the Lower South, the birthrate among enslaved women rose, creating a large proportion of children born into bondage. By 1830, nearly 700,000 of the two million slaves were younger than 10.
By 1860, the ratio of blacks to whites in the Upper South was 30:100. In the Lower South, the ratio was 82:100.
Overview of Antislavery Activism Between 1777 and 1804, all states from Pennsylvania northward provided effectively for the eventual abolition of slavery. In the same period, in the antislavery South, the tide of public sentiment and action moved tentatively in the direction of abolition until the 1790s, but then took a reactionary turn. By 1807, it was clear that colonization was the only acceptable program of antislavery activism in the South.
Jefferson’s Emancipation/Colonization Scheme (Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785) Jefferson’s plan called for all blacks born after a certain date to be freed at birth, raised at public expense till the age of majority, then “to be colonized to such place as the circumstances of the time should render most proper.” To replace its diminishing slave labor force, the plan called for Virginia “to send vessels at the same time to other parts of the world for an equal number of white inhabitants; to induce whom to migrate hither, proper encouragements were to be proposed.”
Jefferson’s Rationale for the Colonization of Manumitted Slaves Outside U.S. as a Condition of their Freedom From Query XIV: Laws It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expence of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race. -- To these objections, which are political, may be added others, which are physical and moral. From Query XVIII: Manners For if a slave can have a country in this world, it must be any other in preference to that in which he is born to live and labour for another: in which he must lock up the faculties of his nature, contribute as far as depends on his individual endeavours to the evanishment of the human race, or entail his own miserable condition on the endless generations proceeding from him.
Jefferson’s plan inspired the founding of The American Colonization Society in 1817. While many of those present at the founding of the Society shared Jefferson’s view of slavery as an evil inheritance from Great Britain and a grievous burden to the American slaveholder, they did not necessarily share his view of colonization as a first step toward abolishing slavery. Several of the organizers, led by chairman Henry Clay of Kentucky, insisted on constitutional guarantees that the group would not “touch or agitate, in the slightest degree,” the issue of slavery.
As slavery expanded into the cotton-rich states of Gulf Region, the South moved to protect the “peculiar institution” from internal criticism and outside interference. The Southern antislavery movement, in the Jeffersonian tradition of gradual emancipation and colonization, withered and died. The case for slavery as a positive good became orthodoxy for a new generation of proslavery ideologues and demagogues.
The slow death of slavery in the North began after the Revolution. The egalitarian promise of the Great Awakening and the Declaration of Independence, combined with economic changes that made slavery less profitable in the North, generated support for gradual emancipation.
Vermont abolished slavery by state constitution in 1777, tens years before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Massachusetts abolished slavery by judicial decision (the Quock Walker case) in 1783. Although slavery continued to exist in Massachusetts, the Quock Walker decision indicated that it would no longer be supported by the state courts.
Other Northern states followed suit, emancipating slaves by constitution or judicial decision: Pennsylvania – 1780 Rhode Island – 1784 (post-nati, first slave freed 1811) Connecticut – 1784 (post-nati, 1818) New Hampshire – 1788-89 New York – 1799 (post-nati, 1827) Ohio – 1802 New Jersey – 1804 (post-nati, 1825) Indiana -- 1816 Illinois – 1818 (post-nati, 1845)
Post-nati emancipation kept those “freed” at birth in servitude until age 28 Some masters required long indentureships as condition of freedom Former masters kept former slaves in state of dependence by providing provision grounds adequate to survival but insufficient for profitable cultivation Impoverished free blacks forced to apprentice their children; unable to support elderly relatives
The legal status of African Americans varied from state to state in the North Massachusetts: full citizenship Pennsylvania: disfranchisement Variables: –Numerical strength of black population –Geographic position of state –Political and economic factors
“Jim Crow” Laws and Customs in the Antebellum North and West Testimony of African Americans disallowed in cases where white man was a party (Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and California) African Americans barred, by law and custom, from serving on juries (all states but Massachusetts) African Americans prohibited from holding real estate, making contracts, filing lawsuits (Oregon) Unequal enforcement of laws; unequal sentencing Racial segregation enforced by custom, if not law, in schools, public transit (railway cars, stage coaches, steamboats), hotels, restaurants, churches, hospitals, prisons, graveyards, etc.
The Economics of Repression African Americans were restricted to the lowest paid, often most dangerous, most menial jobs limited to work as servants, seamen, and common laborers denied access by unions to skilled trades employed as strike-breakers, further alienating them from whites-only unions
Many Northern and Western states adopted laws restricting or prohibiting in-migration of blacks Rationale: restriction necessary to keep the peace, prevent influx of manumitted slaves expelled from Southern states. Many Northern whites – particularly in border states - - feared their states would become de facto “colonies” for the South’s unwanted free black population.
Methods of Restriction State laws and, in some cases, state constitutions, discouraged free black immigration. African Americans seeking to resettle in the older states of the North and the new states of the West were: –Barred outright from entry –Required to produce proof of freedom and citizenship in another state –Required to post a bond ($500 to $1000) guaranteeing good behavior
Contrast Anti-Black Immigration Laws to “Naturalization” of White Immigrants Naturalization: “to invest (an alien) with the rights and privileges of a citizen.” The earliest naturalization laws adopted by Congress (1790, 1795, 1798) limited the extension of U.S. citizenship to free white persons of good moral character. These white immigrants, particularly the Irish, drove African Americans out of the menial positions they once monopolized.
Frederick Douglass on Anti-Black Prejudice Among Irish-American Immigrants (1854) “The Irish, who, at home, readily sympathize with the oppressed everywhere, are instantly taught when they step upon our soil to hate and despise the negro. They are taught to believe that he eats the bread that belongs to them. The cruel lie is told them, that we deprive them of labor and receive the money which would otherwise make its way into their pockets. Sir, the Irish-American will find out his mistake one day. He will find that in assuming our avocation, he has also assumed our degradation. But for the present we are the sufferers. Our old employments by which we have been accustomed to gain a livelihood are gradually slipping from our hands: every hour sees us elbowed out of some employment to make room for some newly arrived emigrant from the Emerald Isle, whose hunger and color entitle him to special favor. These white men are becoming house-servants, cooks, stewards, waiters, and flunkies.” Source: Speech to American Anti-Slavery Society in New York as quoted in Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
Mob Violence/Forced Expulsion Cincinnati Riots, 1829: Fear of growing black population in city prompts enforcement of anti-immigration laws Mob violence drives 1,100 to 2,200 African Americans out of city; many take refuge in Canada
Black Northerners as “Maroons” Historian Ira Berlin observes that the North was “not free territory but rather, for most of the antebellum era, a slave society undergoing a slow transformation into a free one. Because Northern black communities were embedded in a nation that presumed black people to be slaves, black communities cannot be included in a free society. Instead, they assumed many of the characteristics of quilombos or enclaves of fugitive slaves, and black Northerners might be considered maroons.”
Black Northerners as “Maroons” (cont’d) “They were excluded from much of Northern economic and social life and denied the rights most Northerners equated with citizenship. Moreover, like maroon enclaves, black Northern communities developed an internal coherence in ideology, leadership, and institutions, which stood in opposition to – in fact, at war with, the plantation society from which these communities drew their members.”
Caricatures of Black Life in North This cartoon, originally drawn by Edward Williams Clay as one of fourteen in a series called "Life in Philadelphia“ (ca. 1828), satirized the social conventions adopted by Philadelphia's blacks. In the cartoon, a well dressed black man converses with a black woman, who holds forth a tray from a cellar door. He asks, "Is Miss Dinah at home? She replies, "Yes sir but she bery potickly engaged in washing de dishes." He says, "Ah! I'm sorry I cant have the honour to pay my devours to her. Give her my card."
Caricatures of Black Life in the North This cartoon, from the same “Life in Philadelphia” series, satirized black celebrations of the prohibition of the international slave trade.
Caricatures of Black Life in the North This cartoon, another in the "Life in Philadelphia“ series, satirized the committees created by Philadelphia black churches to settle disputes and monitor the moral behavior of members.
Consequences for African American Life in the North Gradual emancipation/harsh conditions of freedom in North inhibit development of independent family and community life Sustained impoverishment of newly freed blacks contributes to racial stereotypes of moral and physical degradation; this feeds into pro-slavery propaganda (i.e., “blacks better off under slavery” Protracted period of emancipation creates class divisions among African Americans
How did African Americans in the North, living and working as despised minority, establish and maintain a culture and community life that sustained them?
Northern Black Abolitionist Activity in the 1820s/1830s Community Organizing through Churches, Benevolent Societies, Schools, Press Anti-Slavery/Anti-Colonization Meetings Negro Convention Movement (1 st mtg. held in Philadelphia in 1830 in response to 1829 Cincinnati riots/passage and enforcement of repressive legislation)
David Walker served as one of two Boston agents for the New York-based Freedom’s Journal, the first African-American newspaper. Walker was active in the anti-slavery/anti-colonization movement. In 1828, Walker delivered an address before the newly established Massachusetts General Colored Association, a group devoted to uniting “the colored population” of the United States. “It is indispensably our duty,” Walker declared, “to try every scheme we think will have a tendency to facilitate our salvation, and leave the final result to that God, who holds the destinies of people in the hollow of his hand, and who ever has, and will, repay every nation according to its works.”
Rise of Militant Abolitionism David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens fo the World (1829): “Believe this, that it is no more harm for you to kill a man, who is trying to kill you, than it is for you to take a drink of water when thirsty; in fact, the man who will stand still and let another man murder him, is worse than an infidel, and, if he has common sense, ought not to be pitied.”
Black abolitionist activity in 1820s represented the vanguard of what became a racially integrated mass movement in the 1830s.
Garrison’s Abolitionist Awakening In 1829, as co-editor of the pro-colonization Genius of Universal Emancipation, William Lloyd Garrison renounced gradualism and made the case for immediate, unconditional abolition on four grounds: That the slaves are entitled to immediate and complete emancipation: consequently, to hold them longer in bondage is both tyrannical and unnecessary. That the question of expediency has nothing to do with that of right; and it is not for those who tyrannise to say when they may safely break the chains of their subjects. That, on the ground of expediency, it would be wiser to set all the slaves free to-day than to-morrow -- or next week, than next year. That, as a very large portion of our coloured population were born on American soil, they are at liberty to choose their own dwelling place; and we possess no right to use coercive measures in their removal.
Garrison maintained that immediate emancipation would remove “every inducement to revolt” and hasten the transformation of slaves into “peaceable citizens.” As he saw it, “one million of degraded slaves are more dangerous to welfare of the country, than would be two millions of degraded freemen.” The sooner the religious and secular instruction of the black masses began, he argued, “the better for them and us.”
1831-32: A Watershed Year for Northern Abolitionist/ Southern Antislavery Movements January 1831: First issue of Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, published in Boston April 1831: April 1831: Virginia General Assembly passed a revised bill banning the teaching of slaves and free blacks or mulattoes to read or write. August 1831: Slave uprising in Southampton County, Virginia (Nat Turner’s Rebellion). Many Southern slaveholders cite circulation of “incendiary literature” – specifically Walker’s Appeal and Garrison’s Liberator -- as factors. January-March 1832: Virginia General Assembly defers action on calls for gradual emancipation. Under intense pressure to do something, Assembly passes a law imposing harsh new restrictions on slaves and free blacks. Slavery debates represent last gasp of the anti-slavery/anticolonization movement in the Upper South.
As slavery expanded into the cotton-rich states of Gulf Region, the South moved to protect the “peculiar institution” from internal criticism and outside interference. The Southern antislavery movement, once vibrant, withered and died. The case for slavery as a positive good became orthodoxy for a new generation of proslavery ideologues and demagogues.
Faced with severe persecution in the North, African Americans debated whether to seek asylum outside the United States or continue to press for freedom and civil rights.
2 nd Annual Negro Convention (June 1832 – Philadelphia) “The recent occurrences at the South have swelled the tide of prejudice until it has almost revolutionized public sentiment, which has given birth to severe legislative enactments in some of the States, and almost ruined our interests and prospects in others, in which, in the opinion of your Committee, our situation is more precarious than it has been at any other period since the Declaration of Independence.”
While generally opposed to colonization, delegates to the Convention resolved to establish an agent in Upper Canada “for the purpose of purchasing lands and contributing to the wants of our people generally who may be, by oppressive legislative enactments, obliged to flee from these United States and take up residence within her borders.”
American Antislavery Society Founded In December 1833, representatives of the major abolitionist groups met in Philadelphia to form a new national organization, the American Anti-Slavery Society. The delegates adopted a Declaration of Sentiments, written by Garrison, that endorsed the revolutionary doctrine of human rights in the Declaration of Independence while rejecting the revolutionary violence employed by the Founding Fathers.
“Their measures were physical resistance -- the marshalling in arms -- the hostile array -- the mortal encounter. Ours shall be such only as the opposition of moral purity to moral corruption -- the destruction of error by the potency of truth -- the overthrow of prejudice by the power of love-- and the abolition of slavery by the spirit of repentance.”
The new group went on to declare every slaveholder a “man-stealer” and every law upholding the right of slavery “utterly null and void” in the eyes of God. It reminded “the people of the free States” that they were “living under a pledge of their tremendous physical force, to fasten the galling fetters of tyranny upon the limbs of millions in the Southern states,” and urged them “to remove slavery by moral and political action, as prescribed in the Constitution of the United States.”
Reaction in the South Abolitionist efforts to flood the Southern mails with antislavery tracts and pamphlets prompted calls for federal intervention on behalf of the slave states. In his December 1835 message to Congress, President Andrew Jackson urged passage of a law that would “prohibit, under severe penalties, the circulation in the Southern states, through the mails, of incendiary publications, intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection.” Meanwhile, states throughout the South passed laws that gave postmasters and justices of the peace broad new “inquisitorial powers” over the mails.
Increasingly, white Northerners came to see their own civil liberties threatened by a despotic “slave power conspiracy,” aided and abetted by pro-slavery Presidents and Supreme Court justices.
By the late 1830s, as mob violence against abolitionists in the North increased, some antislavery activists openly questioned the Garrisonian doctrine of non-resistance.
The Martyrdom of Elijah Lovejoy In Alton, Illinois, the abolitionist newspaper editor Elijah Lovejoy declared that he would arm himself to ward off mobs that had menaced his family and destroyed three of his presses. When Lovejoy, gun in hand, was shot and killed while confronting a mob, many abolitionists – to the dismay of Garrison -- hailed him as a Christian martyr. Others found the Garrison’s “peace principles,” which rejected participation in all activities of the government (including voting and office-holding), too extreme.
The schism within the American Anti-Slavery Society led to the establishment of the rival American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1840. It also revitalized the Negro convention movement as an independent voice of black abolitionism.