Gamaliel Bailey and Antislavery Union

By Stanley Harrold | Go to book overview

Preface

During his long life John Bigelow had served as an editor of the New York Evening Post and as the United States ambassador to France during the Civil War. Looking back from the vantage point of 1909 on the antislavery movement that had preceded that war, he saw Gamaliel Bailey as a "good man and a useful man, without genius or any particular talent." Then recalling that Bailey had died before the Civil War brought the abolition of slavery, Bigelow went on to compare him to Moses, who "was permitted to point out the Promised Land to his followers if not lead them to it."1 That in a few sentences Bigelow could both underestimate and overestimate Gamaliel Bailey's role in the antislavery movement not only demonstrates one individual's inconsistency, but also serves as an indication of the general lack of clarity concerning just what Bailey did that caused him to be remembered a generation after his death. While he had not been forgotten in 1909, Bailey's role had become obscured, and, while much has been written since that year concerning his influence on the antislavery movement, Bailey's personality and the nature of his contribution have remained elusive. It is, therefore, the purpose of this biography to investigate both the substance and significance of what Bailey did.

From the time Gamaliel Bailey became an immediate abolitionist in 1835 until his death a quarter century later, he exerted a major influence on the development of the antislavery movement. As a journalist, ideologue, organizer, and lobbyist he labored consistently to spread antislavery sentiments and to unite the opponents of slavery in a broad-based political party. The many years he spent on the border between the slave and free states--in Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Washington, D.C.--gave direction to these efforts. The border state perspective made him more cognizant of southern

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