The Controversy over the Distribution of Abolition Literature, 1830-1860

The Controversy over the Distribution of Abolition Literature, 1830-1860

The Controversy over the Distribution of Abolition Literature, 1830-1860

The Controversy over the Distribution of Abolition Literature, 1830-1860

Excerpt

The controversy over the use of the Abolition Literature originated about 1816 and lasted until 1860. It reached its flood tide in the middle thirties. It has been customary to fix the beginning of this dispute in 1835 -- the time of the Charleston dissension, which ended in 1836 with the refusal of Congress to pass any law to regulate the distribution of literature through the Federal mail. This was a part of the political and economic history of the period and was not an isolated event as has been generally supposed.

The purpose of this study is to trace this controversy from its origin to its conclusion; to ascertain what influence it had upon the political and economic structure of the country; to show the motives which actuated the movement; and to give the reason why the movement broke out in 1835.

The slavery controversy is a vital part of our history from 1820 to 1860. The use of the mail was only one phase of the slavery affair which agitated this country. Its importance has been under-estimated because it has been over-shadowed by other antislavery movements such as the antislavery petitions, coastwise slave trade, the fugitive slave law, and other aspects which are better known. The use of the mail was resorted to by the abolition societies in order to reach their objectives and to convert those persons who were most interested in slavery; namely, the slaveholders. The means by which they hoped to bring this about was the establishment of papers which were to be sent through the Federal mail.

The effort on the part of the abolition societies was in operation before the spring of 1835. There had been established already papers which had the abolition of slavery as their purpose. The method used by these papers was to be gradual emancipation instead of immediate emancipation as was advocated by those papers which followed later. The first abolition paper was influenced by the Tennessee Manumission Society which was organized at Loose Creek Meeting House, Jefferson County, February 25, 1816, by Charles Osborn, John Canady, John Swain, Elihu Swain, John Underhill, Jessie Wills, David Maulsby, and . . .

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