The Fortunate Heirs of Freedom: Abolition & Republican Thought

By Daniel J. McInerney | Go to book overview

6
DECLARATIONS OF INDEPENDENCE
THE LANGUAGE OF LIBERTY & THE IDENTITY OF THE REPUBLIC

ON JANUARY 30, 1845, a large audience in Boston's Faneuil Hall listened to a public appeal by the Great Anti-Texas Convention. The address was so long that it had to be delivered by two alternating speakers who bitterly attacked the plan underfoot to annex Texas to the United States. The scheme "to uphold the interests of slavery, extend its influence, and secure its permanent duration" was no ordinary matter of debate, the Convention insisted. The Texas question had to be understood in special terms, in a framework that matched the breadth and gravity of the choices before the nation. Why was annexation so serious and threatening? Why did the Texas controversy hold the potential for such extensive and dangerous transformation? The Convention's speakers had a clear and revealing answer: "This question transcends all the bounds of ordinary, political topics. It is not a question how the United States shall be governed, but what shall hereafter constitute the United States: it is not a question as to what system of policy shall prevail in the country, but what shall the country itself be. It is a question which touches the identity of the republic."1

Abolitionists recognized the influence of slavery over the key political, economic, religious, and historical issues of their day. But they feared that the chattel system had done more than alter the structure, enterprise, soul, and memory of the nation. As orators from the Anti-Texas Convention suggested, slavery reached into another area of human experience, affecting the very self-concep

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