REPUBLICAN MEMORIES THE POLITICAL GOSPEL OF ABOLITION
EVIDENCE OF INHUMANITY, institutional decay, political intrigue, and moral decline in their own age convinced abolitionists that the chattel system wrought uncontrolled havoc and that its continued existence jeopardized all remaining vestiges of republican liberty. It was not just the perception of clear and present dangers, however, that alarmed abolitionists. The magnitude of slavery's threat became more apparent by adopting a broader perspective on the problem: by recognizing the chattel system's long-standing abuses, its cumulative effects on liberty, and its recurring pattern of expansion. Such historically based arguments offered compelling proof of slavery's perils. Little wonder, reformers argued, that apologists for the chattel principle either encouraged popular inattention to the past or tried to distort the record of slavery's tyrannical course. The slavery controversy unfolded not only in public arenas of debate but also in private recesses of memory.
Abolitionists believed in the distinctive character of republican historical reflection. Advocates offered lessons on the proper republican standards of historical argument. They commented on the presumed strengths and likely weaknesses of a republican people's historical sense. In addition, reformers cast their own historical surveys in terms deemed appropriate to the character of a republic. Advocates drew on a whig tradition of historical analysis in describing the dualistic struggle of liberty and tyranny, the Saxon heritage of freedom, the recovery of first principles, and the completion of neglected republican tasks. The movement's profession of history was to serve as a republican reveille, rousing the nation