Tag Archives: Slavery

Northern Opposition to the Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad consisted of a collection of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century enslaved American people to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.

Several earlier (pre-Revolutionary War) routes existed for getting slaves away, but the network now generally known as the Underground Railroad was formed in the early 19th century, and reached its height between 1850 and 1860. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the “Railroad”.

Following Union victory in the Civil War, on December 6, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution outlawed slavery. After its passage, in some cases the Underground Railroad operated in the opposite direction, as fugitives returned to the United States.

There were people opposed to the work done by these people as you can see in this article reprinted in the National Anti-Slavery Standard in 1858.


From The Syracuse Courier:

“Several prominent citizens of New York are soon to be exposed as “freight agents” on the Underground Railroad. Perhaps it may leak out that some of the “conductors” reside in this city.” — Washington Union

This announcement of the Washington Union should appear under the head of “Important if true.” We are at a loss to conceive how it has been possible, thus far, for the U. S. authorities in this vicinity, or those civil magistrates of the State of New York who have taken up the oath to support the Constitution of the State of New York, and to discharge the duties of their respective offices to the best of their ability, to ignore the flagrant outrages upon the Constitution and Laws of the United States which are not only perpetrated, but publicly applauded by prominent citizens of Syracuse.

National Anti-Slavery Standard was the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist society founded in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan to spread their movement across the nation with printed materials. Frederick Douglass was a key leader of this society and often addressed meetings at its New York City headquarters.

A Pro-Slavery Catechism

A Pro-Slavery Catechism

This ran in the Wiskonsan (Wisconsin) Freeman and was reproduced in the African American Newspapers’s The National Era (Washington, D.C.) on July 8, 1847.

The 1847 Prospectus for The National Era stated, “…While due attention will be paid to Current Events, Congressional Proceedings, General Politics and Literature, the great aim of the paper will be a complete discussion of the Question of Slavery, and an exhibition of the Duties of the Citizen in relation to it; especially will it explain and advocate the leading Principles and Measures of the Liberty Party, seeking to do this, not in the spirit of the Party, but in the love of Truth—not for the triumph of Party, but for the establishment of Truth…”

A Pro-Slavery Catechism

  • Who was the first negro? Cain.
  • How did he become so? The Lord set a black mark upon him.
  • Did the Southern slave come from him? Yes.
  • How did they get through the flood? O, no! they didn’t come from him; they came from Ham.
  • How do you know that? Because Ham means black.
  • Upon whom did Noah pronounce a curse? Upon Ham.
  • Does the Bible say so? No, it says Canaan, but then it means Ham.
  • Does that curse make it right that the blacks should be enslaved? Yes.
  • Why? Because they should be.
  • Don’t the Bible say that Christ should be crucified? Yes.
  • Well, did that make it right? No; but the cases are not parallel.
  • From what country did the slave come? From Africa.
  • Did the descendants of Canaan people Africa? No; but that makes no difference.
  • Who were the happiest men that ever lived? The Patriarchs.
  • Why? Because they didn’t have to work.
  • Who was the first Patriarch? Abraham.
  • Why were not Methusaleh, Enoch, and Noah, Patriarchs? Because they didn’t hold slaves.
  • How do you know that Abraham’s servants were slaves? Because he whipped Hagar.
  • How do you know that? Because she ran away.
  • How do you know that it is right to flog slaves? Because God sent Hagar back.
  • When Abraham took three hundred and eighteen slaves, and pursued the kings, why did they not run away, as slaves now do? Either because Abraham had his hounds along, or because God had taught them better.
  • Were the Israelites allowed to hold slaves? Yes.
  • Whom might they hold? The heathen round about.
  • How long? Forever.
  • Whom else might hold them? Their children after them.
  • Who are those children? Southern slaveholders.
  • How does that appear? The Jews were cut off, and the Gentiles grafted in, in their place.
  • But are not the slaves Gentiles, too? Yes, but they are heathen
  • Who ere the heathen whom the Jews might hold? The Canaanites.
  • How does that make it right to hold negroes, then? O, because they come from Ham.
  • Have the negroes been sold as slaves in all ages of the world? Yes.
  • Were the Roman slaves negroes? Yes.
  • How do you know? Because it is impossible to make anybody else slaves but negroes.
  • Did Christ and his apostles approve of Roman slavery? Yes.
  • How do you know? They didn’t say anything against it. (No; but the Bible does; for it says, “the merciful man spareth his beast.”)
  • Was Paul a good man? Yes, he was a holy saint.
  • What did he do? He sent back a runaway slave.
  • What was his advice, and that of the other apostle, to the slave? To abide in their calling, and be obedient to their masters.
This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.
A Pro-Slavery Catechism in The National Era - July 8, 1847

A Pro-Slavery Catechism in The National Era – July 8, 1847


Elizabeth Cady Stanton on Slavery in America

This speech was given during the Twenty-seventh Anniversary of the American Anti-Slavery Society at the Cooper Institute in 1860. The large hall was well filled at the commencement of the exercises, and before the close of the session the number was largely increased, the hall being nearly full.

Mrs. Stanton, on rising, was greeted with loud and hearty applause. She read the following resolution, as containing the thought which she was anxious to urge upon the attention of those whom she was about to address.

Resolved, That the crowning excellence and glory of the anti-slavery enterprise is that, while its first grand design is the redemption of the Ethiopian of the South from chattel bondage, it is also, through the genius and power of Eternal Truth, liberating and elevating universal humanity above all the behests of custom, creed, conventionalism or constitution, wherever they usurp unrighteous authority over the individual soul; and thus, while our first care is the emancipation of the Southern slave, we are, under the Divine economy, at the same time working out our own salvation, and hastening the triumph of Love and Liberty over all forms of oppression and cruelty, throughout the earth.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Address (Abridged)

MR. PRESIDENT, AND GENTLEMEN AND LADIES: This is generally known as the platform of one idea—that is negro slavery. In a certain sense this may be true, but the most casual observation of this whole anti-slavery movement, of your lives, conventions, public speeches and journals, shows this one idea to be a great humanitarian one. The motto of your leading organ, “The world is my country and all mankind my countrymen,” proclaims the magnitude and universality of this one idea, which takes in the whole human family, irrespective of nation, color, caste or sex, with all their interests, temporal and spiritual—a question of religion, philanthropy, political economy, commerce, education and social life, on which depends the very existence of this republic, of the state, of the family, the sacredness of the lives and property of Northern freemen, the holiness of the marriage relation, and the perpetuity of the Christian religion. Such are the various phases of the question you are wont to debate in your conventions.

But in settling the question of the negro’s rights, we find out the exact limits of our own, for rights never clash or interfere; and where no individual in a community is denied his rights, the mass are the more perfectly protected in theirs; for whenever any class is subject to fraud or injustice, it shows that the spirit of tyranny is at work, and no one can tell where or how or when the infection will spread. The health of the body politic depends on the sound condition of every member. Let but the finest nerve or weakest muscle be diseased, and the whole man suffers; just so the humblest and most ignorant citizen cannot be denied his rights without deranging the whole system of government.

National Anti-Slavery Standard was the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist society founded in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan to spread their movement across the nation with printed materials. Frederick Douglass was a key leader of this society and often addressed meetings at its New York City headquarters.


The Irrepressible Conflict in Play

The term Irrepressible Conflict originated with William H. Seward in an 1858 speech predicting a socioeconomic collision between the institutions of the North and the South. This confrontation settle the question of whether America would be dominated by a system of free labor or slave labor. Lincoln alluded to the same idea in his 1858 “House Divided” speech. In the late 1850s the use of the phrase did not expressly include the assumption that the “irrepressible conflict” would be resolved through violence or armed conflict.

The Irrepressible Conflict doing its Work

“Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad,” is a trite saying, and one entirely applicable to the Democratic party, as is evinced unmistakably the last few years. Not looking for the remote causes that acted potentially to bring about the crisis in modern Democracy, we see it as it is, and find it in a state a distraction, and daily getting into “confusion worse confounded.” Not to go farther back into the past than a few months, we behold the once “harmonious Democracy” divided in the State conventions, held to select delegates to the national convention, and in many cases two antagonistical sets of delegates were the results of opposing conventions in the same State and of the same party.

Part IV of our Civil War collection, A Midwestern Perspective, consists of seven newspapers published in Indiana between the years of 1855 and 1869. These items provide pre-and post-Civil War information, in addition to coverage of the Civil War itself.



Appeal on Behalf of the Amistad Africans

National Anti-Slavery Standard was established in 1840 by the husband and wife team of Lydia and David Child, who both were affirmed abolitionists as well as recognized successful writers (Lydia Child was the author of the poem “over the river and through the woods”). Using the motto “Without Concealment–Without Compromise” the Standard sought to extend the rights of slaves across the country.

Items like the one below focused on major events and topics amount the abolitionist community appeared regularly.   This plea for help for the Amistad  Africans appeared in the National Anti-Slavery Standard on October 7, 1841.

Appeal on Behalf of the La Amistad Africans

National Anti-Slavery StandardThe appeals heretofore made for funds for the defence, support and education of these Mendi Africans, have been successful, and the money, so generously contributed, has been economically expended, and with the happiest results. The sums contributed and the expenditures made have been published in the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter and the New-York Journal of Commerce, for the information of the donors and all persons interested. The time has now arrived when another appeal has become necessary. Such facts have recently come to the knowledge of the Committee, respecting the native country of these Mendians, and the feasibility of their reaching their kindred and homes, if they can be sent to Sierra Leone, that it had been determined to send the whole body of them (now reduced to 35 in number) back to Africa the present autumn. They will leave in a vessel for Sierra Leone as soon as the necessary funds shall be contributed. The Committee have in view two ministers of the gospel, one white and one colored, to accompany them to Mendi, and take up their abode with them as religious teachers, so long as the providence of God shall direct; and they are desirous of engaging one or two more, to be associated with these brethren as missionaries to Mendi.

Contributions are earnestly requested. Remittances may be made by mail, or otherwise, directed to Lewis Tappan, No. 7, Dorr’s Building, corner of Hanover and Exchange streets, rear of Merchants’ Exchange. Donors, if they choose, can specify whether their donations shall go towards defraying the expenses of the passage to Sierra Leone, &c., or for the support of the religious teachers. If not otherwise directed, the Committee will appropriate the money according to their discretion.— All donations will be acknowledged, and a paper, containing the acknowledgment, sent to each donor. The expenditures will also be published, as heretofore. (more…)