Events That Changed America in the Nineteenth Century

By John E. Findling; Frank W. Thackeray | Go to book overview

5
Abolition, c. 1820s-1860

INTRODUCTION

The movement to abolish slavery in the United States was the most significant reform movement in an era of reform that swept the country between 1825 and 1850. The many other reforms ranged from the beginning of the women's rights movement to improvements in prisons and mental health facilities to various health-oriented reforms, such as Sylvester Graham's promotion of the nutrient value of the type of flour that came to bear his name. The abolition movement nevertheless transcends all of these, and its impact on the country was seen in its contribution to the sectional hostility that produced the Civil War.

The history of abolition divides into three periods. From about 1817 to 1830, the movement was dominated by the American Colonization Society, which worked to colonize former slaves in a new African nation called Liberia. During the 1830s, the movement was centered in the American Anti-Slavery Society, which helped sectionalize abolition and laid out some of the basic tenets of the drive to rid the country of slavery. After 1839, the formal structure of the movement was more political, focused first in the Liberty party, a single-issue party, and later in the Republican party, a sectional party that developed in the 1850s in opposition to the extension of slavery into newly acquired territory.

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