The Abolition Movement of the 1850´s Essay

The Abolition Movement of the 1850´s Essay

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In the 1850’s the abolition movement was successful in ensuring that at least part of their message reached mainstream politics. Historian Herbert Aphtheke argued that there existed three major philosophies amongst abolitionist; moral suasion moral suasion with political action and finally, resistance through physical action . While abolitionist such as William Lloyd Garrison exercised the philosophy of moral suasion, others such as Frederick Douglas and Gerrit Smith shifted their thinking to include all three philosophies. Meetings were held of the National Negro Conventions centred on the burning question; how can anyone use moral suasion and the political system to bring an end to slavery?

In 1840, radical abolitionists formed the Liberty Party, who pursued emancipation of slavery through mainstream politics. The Party were themselves divided into two factions; radical political abolitionists of New York, under the leadership of Gerrit Smith, declared slavery as illegal everywhere and urged Northerners to go to the South to help slaves escape. While the latter Liberty group, rejected these tactics. It proposed that Northerners must concentrate on ending slavery where Congress had authority, while encouraging the formation of abolitionist political parties in the Southern states. Although the Liberty Party was not popular amongst voters, this is seen by historians as a significant development in the abolition movement.

The most important result of the Fugitive Slave Law was that it convinced some Northerners that the Government was in the hands of a sinister Slave Power Conspiracy. For many Northerners the Kansas-Nebraska Act was more evidence of a conspiracy was at hand in Congress. This led to the creation of a new politi...


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..., there was 33 states in the Union, and Free Kansas was about to join. By the time of his inauguration 5 months later, just 27 states remained. On the day of his inauguration, Lincoln spoke directly to the South, reiterating not to interfere with slavery, but denied the right of any state to secede, vowed to defend federal installations.

“The Southerners saw the election of Lincoln as an assign that the Union was about to be radicalized and that they were about to be taken in directions they did not care to go” stated historian Shelby Foote, summarising Southern reaction to Lincolns win and shedding light onto why some Southern states seceded. Following Abraham Lincoln’s presidential victory in 1860 marked a turning point in the Abolitionist Movement and America as a whole. Convinced their way of life was threatened, Southern states began seceding from the Union.

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