The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition

The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition

Manisha Sinha

Language: English

Pages: 784

ISBN: 030018137X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Received historical wisdom casts abolitionists as bourgeois, mostly white reformers burdened by racial paternalism and economic conservatism. Manisha Sinha overturns this image, broadening her scope beyond the antebellum period usually associated with abolitionism and recasting it as a radical social movement in which men and women, black and white, free and enslaved found common ground in causes ranging from feminism and utopian socialism to anti-imperialism and efforts to defend the rights of labor. Drawing on extensive archival research, including newly discovered letters and pamphlets, Sinha documents the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the centrality of slave resistance in shaping the ideology and tactics of abolition. This book is a comprehensive new history of the abolition movement in a transnational context. It illustrates how the abolitionist vision ultimately linked the slave’s cause to the struggle to redefine American democracy and human rights across the globe.

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distinctive appellation of ‘white people.’” Whipper’s theoretical objections to racial identification made no sense to most black abolitionists. Morel was in favor of “retaining the term ‘Colored Man,’” as, he wrote, it carried no “inherent degradation.” He argued that, like Quakers, black people should appropriate designations meant to denigrate them and make them a source of pride. Cornish protested that the “good sense of our brethren in Philadelphia has forsaken them” when they suggested

not the only ones to grapple with the contradiction of slavery in a republic, and their British critics, including Samuel Johnson, were not alone in noting that the loudest “yelps for liberty” came from holders of slaves. The petitions for black freedom reveal that from the start African Americans did not hesitate to voice the severity of their situation and question the revolutionary professions of American patriots. A petition from January 1773 of slaves in Boston and other towns in

faithfully established.” Even earlier the enslaved had established a tradition of petit marronage, or forming of communities of runaway slaves, and resistance under slave rebels such as Macandal. Starting in 1791 slaves of African descent inspired by Vodou and led by Boukman waged a relentless war against their enslavers. Slave rebellion in the French Caribbean and the efforts of free colored people to secure citizenship pushed the French Republic to grant the franchise to children of free blacks

the Virginia slave conspiracies of 1800 and 1802, the legislature and Gov. James Monroe proposed colonizing free blacks and freed slaves, not just the indicted slave rebels, outside the country. But the failure to find a suitable place, despite repeated requests to President Jefferson, caused this incipient plan for gradual emancipation and colonization to be dead on arrival. Given a chance to implement his favored scheme, Jefferson remained passive.39 Unlike Virginia, Maryland and Delaware

England as a center of antislavery belies the notion of the region as a conservative backwater until the emergence of Garrisonian abolition. In Rhode Island the Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave Trade, founded in 1789, led the abolitionist charge. One of its stalwart members, George Benson, became Garrison’s father-in-law. Hopkins, who had complained to Moses Brown about forming an abolition society that restricted its purpose to the slave trade only, made sure that he included the

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