Thursday, July 12, 2012

Read the Introduction to Caleb McDaniel's New Book on Transatlantic Abolitionism

Check out the Introduction to Rice University historian Caleb McDaniel's new book, The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery: Garrisonian Abolitionists and Transatlantic Reform (LSU, 2013).

Here is a taste:

On April 14, 1865, hours before Abraham Lincoln sat down for the last time at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison sat down for the first time in Charleston, South Carolina. More than three decades before, Garrison had founded the Boston Liberator, a newspaper dedicated to universal, immediate slave emancipation. In 1833, he helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), a group devoted to the same goal. And by the time he went to Charleston, Garrison had served as the society’s president for over twenty years. Only in the last few, however, had emancipation changed from a despised, minority opinion to the official policy of federal armies in a cataclysmic civil war. With the war now ending and a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery awaiting ratification, Garrison had come to Fort Sumter to attend a flag-raising ceremony at the invitation of Lincoln’s administration.

Undoubtedly Garrison’s emotions about the trip were difficult to express, and not only because he met recently emancipated slaves, one of whom pressed a ten-dollar bill into his hand. Garrison’s emotions were also stirred because he could now celebrate a country he had long regarded with deep disillusionment—even disgust. That disillusionment had two main causes. Four million of Garrison’s countrymen had been considered chattel property just three years before. But the abolitionists who had worked for three decades to abolish this evil met with nearly unremitting hostility, even in the “free states” of the North. Garrison once confessed to feeling more at home in Britain, which abolished slavery in its West Indian colonies only two years after he started his paper, and as recently as 1860, Garrison had objected to having the American flag wave over his head. Now, five years later, he literally helped pull the Star-Spangled Banner up the flagpole at Fort Sumter, accompanied by his friend of thirty-two years, British abolitionist George Thompson. 

Read the rest here.  I am looking forward to reading this book.

 

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