Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America

By Dwight Lowell Dumond | Go to book overview

Chapter 31
BIRNEY AND THOME
John C. Calhoun by 1838 was the recognized leader of the proslavery forces in Congress and chief architect of the constitutional theory by which they hoped to perpetuate slavery ad infinitum. The American Anti-Slavery Society frequently sent its publications to senators and representatives, and one such missive -- Why Work for the Slave -- sent to Calhoun resulted in formation of a committee of Southern representatives to seek general information about the activities of antislavery societies.1 F. H. Elmore of South Carolina, on behalf of the committee, addressed to James G. Birney, corresponding secretary of the society, the following series of questions:2
1. How many societies, affiliated with that of which you are the Corresponding Secretary, are there in the United States? And how many members belong to them in the aggregate?
2. Are there any other societies similar to yours and not affiliated with it in the United States? and how many, and what is the aggregate of their members?
3. Have you affiliation, intercourse, or connection with any similar societies out of the United States, and in what countries?
4. Do your or similar societies exist in the Colleges and other Literary institutions of the nonslaveholding States, and to what extent?
5. What do you estimate the numbers of those who co-operate in this matter at? What proportion do they bear in the population of the Northern states, and what in the middle nonslaveholding states? Are they increasing, and at what rate?
6. What is the object your associations aim at? Does it extend to the abolition of slavery only in the District of Columbia, or in the whole slave country?
7. By what means and under what power do you propose to carry your views into effect?
8. What has been for three years past, the annual income of your societies? And how is it raised?
9. In what ways and to what purposes do you apply these funds?
10. How many printing presses and periodical publications have you?
11. To what classes of persons do you address your publications, and are they addressed to the judgment, the imagination, or the feelings?
12. Do you propagate your doctrines by any other means than oral and written discussions -- for instance, by prints and pictures in manufactures -- say pocket handkerchiefs, etc.? Pray, state the various modes.
13. Are your hopes and expectations increased or lessened by the events of the last year, and, especially, by the action of this Congress? And will your exertions be relaxed or increased?
14. Have you any permanent fund, and how much?

Birney was the best qualified man in the movement to answer these questions. He was a former slaveholder, thoroughly familiar with every phase of the antislavery movement, moderate and dignified in everything he did, trained in the law, a close student of constitutional government, and

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