The crucial battle between slavery and freedom lasted about a decade, ending in 1839. The decade began with strong centers of antislavery organization and Negro culture in New York and Philadelphia, which had been well established and active from the days of Franklin and Benezet. These two urban centers constituted the main support of the American Convention which held its last important meeting in 1829. It began with Benjamin Lundy and his Genius of Universal Emancipation in Baltimore, next to New York and Philadelphia the most active center of antislavery activity in the East. It began with the publication of David Walker Appeal and his probable murder in Boston; and to the South with the Nat Turner insurrection in Virginia. It began with a very powerful group of antislavery Presbyterian preachers entrenched in the Chillicothe Presbytery of southern Ohio and a well-organized system of aid to fugitives and free Negroes throughout the state. It began with Christian benevolence and reform radiating north and west from New York City, which was headquarters of the societies, of organizational genius, and of financial support; and to the South with Hayne and Calhoun devising an ingenious philosophy by which the moral standards of the lowest cultural areas could determine the public policy of the nation.
Everyone who had attempted to emphasize the social teachings of Jesus in reference to the racial problem had been summarily rejected by the slave areas. That was true of the Quakers who were driven out of Barbadoes and so persecuted and restrained in the states like North Carolina that they moved out in large numbers. It was true of Presbyterian preachers like Gilliland, Rankin, and Lockhart. It was true of the home missionaries, many of whom asked to be transferred from the slave states to other areas. The cold, hard fact is that the slave states retained their religious fundamentalism, representing eighteenth-century dogma, and rejected in toto the social welfare aspects of the evangelistic crusade and the doctrine of Christian benevolence and good works of the Finney revival. Evangelism and the antislavery movement were inseparable. This was so because slavery and Christianity were absolutely antithetical to such a degree that from the days of Woolman and Benezet greater emphasis was placed upon the sin of slavery -- its denial of the equality of all men in the sight of God -- than upon any other indictment. Even slavery's violation of the natural rights of man took second place.
The evangelistic movement, particularly Finney's revival, provided a host of young men dedicated to preaching the Gospel. They inevitably gave support, and many of them undivided attention for a time, to one or another of the reform movements. Antislavery attracted more than any other because slavery was the greatest existing social evil -- war excepted. Antislavery appealed to the intellectuals, and for the same reason: slavery crucified intelligence. The combination gave to the antislavery movement the greatest concentration of moral and intellectual power ever assembled in support of any cause before or since.