THE ABOLITIONISTS (1830-1860)
THE Abolitionists wet the radical bloc of the general and wide-spread oppositon to slavery. They wanted immediate abolition by federal act; and between 1830 and 1860 they carried on a vigorous propaganda for it. This was the peaceful and legal effort of very respectable citizens to change what they held to be a great economic and social evil; yet they suffered every possible denial of their liberties in the attempt. Their liberty was invaded by law and by the failure of the law, by mob and individual lawlessness, even by violence upon their representatives in Congress.
Their insistence upon the moral right of a minority to agitate for even the most radical changes, by free speech and a free press, by petition, and with full liberty and protection, was scarcely less important than their struggle against slavery. The Abolitionists were attacked by a powerful group--claiming to be a majority of the people--under that ancient pretext that the "safety of the community" is so superior to any constitution that this "majority" can set aside legal processes in favor of force. Yet all this time the real majority of the American people, including many in the Slave States, wanted in a luke-warm way to abolish slavery somehow, sometime. The claim of danger to the state from the abolitionists was unfounded, for, John Brown excepted, the Abolitionists never used force. William Lloyd Garrison, though he burned the Constitution as a "compact with Hell," was himself a nonresistant, and many of his supporters were Quakers. It is the irony of history that these Quakers, accused of "endangering the community," suffered later because they would not take up