Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America

By Dwight Lowell Dumond | Go to book overview
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Chapter 19

Benjamin Lundy,1 lonely, wandering saddlemaker, who had dedicated his life to emancipation of the slaves and had begun publication of his Genius of Universal Emancipation at Mount Pleasant, Ohio, in 1821, arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, in the autumn of 1824. He had published forty-four monthly issues before coming to Baltimore. He resumed publication there in October 1824, changed the paper to a weekly in September 1825, and continued it as such until January 1829.

Lundy, it will be recalled, had gone to Greenville, Tennessee, from Ohio, and had published there for nearly three years. East Tennessee probably was the only place in the slave states, aside from Baltimore, where he would have been tolerated. He was relatively secure there because of the large Quaker population, the Tennessee Manumission Society, and the previous defense of freedom of the press by Elihu Embree and William Swain. He had attended the eighteenth session of the American Convention in Philadelphia in October 1823, meeting many antislavery men from the East for the first time. He walked to Baltimore in the summer of 1824, saving his meager funds to establish a press. William Swain came to assist with the editing.

Lundy prospered for three years, then lost subscriptions so rapidly that his press was taken over by his creditors and publication was suspended after the January 3, 1829, issue. Swain returned to North Carolina, Lundy went to Haiti in the interest of colonization. Colonization was the key both to his success and to his failure. In 1821 he had favored congressional exclusion of slavery from the District of Columbia, from the territories, and from new states, prohibition of the domestic slave trade, equal civil rights for free Negroes, and abolition of the three-fifths rule. These were standard antislavery principles at that time and remained so. Lundy, however, unlike Osborn, had favored colonization and remained a colonizationist. In 1825 he endorsed Frances Wright's scheme of permitting slaves to purchase their freedom by co-operative labor on the land, followed by compulsory colonization.2 His search for a suitable colony took him to Haiti in 1825 and 1829, to Canada in 1832, and to Texas in 1830, 1833, and 1834. A great deal of space in the Genius of Universal Emancipation was devoted to colonization, and if Lundy ever lost faith in colonization it was near the end of his career.

Lundy also favored gradual emancipation. In Baltimore he was in an area friendly to both ideas. Maryland alone of all the states was willing to appropriate large sums of money to remove the Negroes to Africa, and in a manner closely approaching compulsory emigration.3 Neither gradual emancipation nor colonization, however, had ever been approved by all antislavery men. By 1829 gradual emancipation was recognized as imperfect, inequitable, and indecisive, and colonization was known to be a complete failure. Men lined up for or against the Negro between 1828 and 1833; freedom, equality, justice on the one side -- slavery and/or colonization on the other. Men like James G. Birney, Gerrit Smith, and Beriah Green thought clearly and acted vigorously for freedom. They publicly rejected colo


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