Slavery - The Anti-Slavery Effort


Slavery in America can be traced as far back as when Europeans began settling the North American continent. The first town established in the New Worlrd was Jamestown in 1607, and the first slave arrived on the continent in 1619. European pioneers that colonized North America brought slaves with them to help settle the new land, work their plantations growing valuable cash crops such as tobacco and sugar, and to cook and clean in their homes. Most people didn?t see slavery as a problem at this time because it was quite rare in the New World with only a few wealthy landowners who owned slaves, however, public opinion would be swayed.

Abolitionists first started appearing in America at about the time of the American revolution. Opponents of slavery included some of our distinguished Founding Fathers such as Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Paine, and Benjamin Rush, who felt that slavery infringed on the concepts of the Declaration of Independence. Most northern abolitionists were religiiously inspired, such as the Quakers, and felt that slavery was a sin that must rectified immediately.

The abolitionist cause was one a moral argument. They felt that the majority of slaves were being treated inhumanely and tortured. This disgust of southern slave-owners compelled a few abolitionists to act out in extreme measures, but the majority used peaceful protest methods. They used different methods to fight for their cause; fanatics went to the utmost of their power in killing the opposition, while others pacively handed out pamphlets and flyers in protest, or participated in the Underground Railroad.

One fanatic abolitionist who, in this writer?s opinion, just went too far is a man named John Brown. Brown?s anti-slavery efforts are most well-known for his raid on the Us weapons arsenal in Harper?s Ferry, Virginia, 1859.

Brown was born on May 9th 1800 in Torrington, Connecticut, and grew up in Ohio. During his adult life Brown had trouble holding down a steady job due to business reverses and and charges of illegal practices which followed him from the 1820?s and on, but by the 1850?s he became deeply intertested in the slavery issue.

Brown and five of his sons became embroiled in the struggle between proslavery and anti-slavery forces for control of the territorial government in Kansas. By the spring of 1855, Brown had assumed command of local Free-Soil militia. Within a year, proslavery forces had sacked the Free-Soil town of Lawrence, an event that triggered a bloody retaliation by Brown. During the night of May 24, 1856, Brown, four of his sons, and two other followers invaded the Pottawatomie River country and killed five helpless settlers, slaughtering them with sabers. Brown, who was never caught, claimed full responsibility for the act.

From then on, Brown became even more preoccupied with abolishing slavery. By 1858 he had persuaded a number of the North's most prominent abolitionists to finance his anti-slavery efforts. After protracted conspiracy, delay, and diversion, Brown finally chose Harpers Ferry as his point of attack, hoping to establish a base in the mountains to which slaves could flee. Brown assembled an armed force of 21 men about 5 miles from Harpers Ferry, and on Oct. 16, 1859, they seized the town and occupied the federal arsenal. The town was soon surrounded by local militia, and federal troops under Robert E. Lee arrived the next day. Ten of Brown's army died in the ensuing battle, and Brown himself was wounded. Arrested and charged with treason, Brown was hung on Dec. 2, 1859.

William Lloyd Garrison was another abolitionist, however he did not go to the extremes that John Brown went to to free slaves. Born in Newburyport, Massassachusetts on December 12th 1805, Garrison was seen by many as the epitome of the American abolitionist movement. Initially an advocate of moderate abolitionism while coediting Benjamin Lundy's weekly Genius of Universal Emancipation, Garrison soon began more deeply felt attacks on slavery.On January 1, 1831, he published the first issue of the Liberator, declaring slavery to be an abomination in God's sight, demanding immediate emancipation of the slaves, and vowing never to be silenced. The Liberator, in continuous weekly publication through 1865, always served as a personal release for Garrison's views on slavery, but it was also widely regarded as an authoritative voice of radical Yankee social reform in general.

In 1833, Garrison became the president of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and throughout its existence