Standard 12 American History

The First Abolitionist Societies

The first abolition movement was held by a group of German Quakers, who resided near Philadelphia in 1688. The first meeting took place in April of 1775 and was led by a man named Anthony Benezet. The group was referred to as the abolition society. The society consisted of mainly Quakers, however there were ten white Philadelphians. Four meetings took place before the society dispersed. Nine years later in 1784, six of the original members joined with other Philadelphians to reorganize the group as the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery for the Relief of Free Negros Unlawfully Held in Bondage. The group was commonly referred to as the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, or PAS. The group gradually began to gain popularity within the next two years, with a grand total of eighty-two members. PAS inspired the establishment of antislavery organizations in other cities as well.

In 1787, PAS reorganized again. This time the organization included the member ships to two very prominent figures as Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush. Both Franklin and Rush helped to write the society's new constitution. Due to this, the organization became much more aggressive while beginning to take legal action on the behalf of freeing blacks. PAS began to try to work closer with the Free African Society in a number of things such as social, political and educational activities.

Benjamin Franklin eventually became the president of PAS. In 1789 the organization announced a plan to help free black people better their situation. They also attempted to create black schools, help free blacks obtain employment, and conduct house visits to obtain morality and a storing work ethic in the eye's of Philadelphia's black residents.

Despite all of the good things that PAS either did or attempted to do, the organization became small and insignificant. PAS was overshadowed by a more radical brand of abolitionism in the years leading to the civil war led by William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Sumner, and the Grimke sisters.

Religious Movements

The idea of immediate emancipation was first formed by the practice of Quakerism and the emergence evangelicalism. Both of these movements originated in England and America during the age of Enlightenment. Quakers held the belief that God loved each human, regardless of color, gender, or circumstance in life.

Benjamin Lay was a well-known Quaker advocate, who loathed slavery. He referred to it as the greatest sin against God's will. He was a very dramatic man that tried his best to get his point across; and by 1738, he had addressed the yearly meeting in Philadelphia.

Methodists under the leadership of John Wesley and some Baptist churches proclaimed slave holding to be am evil. However, the expansion of these faiths in the southern states during the early nineteenth century gradually stifled their antislavery convictions

Northwest Ordinance of 1787

Slavery was abolished in the Northwest Territory, making the Ohio River a natural dividing line between the free and slave states of America.

Despite the fact that consent from each state was required for the Northwest Ordinance t be passed, the southern states did agree to the provision. One reason being, the Articles of Confederation stated that the power of the national government to potentially curtail slavery in the southern states was almost nonresistant. The second reason being, the popular crop of most plantations at the time was tobacco. Tobacco could only be grown profitably with the assistance of slave labor. By outlawing slave labor in the Midwest, the southerners were protecting themselves financially.

Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad system was used to move slaves from "station" to "station" by abolitionists. The system was only operated at night time. Each station was usually homes and churches -- any safe place to rest and eat before continuing their journey to freedom. However, slaves mainly traveled to the north alone to avoid being capturing and returned to their master.

The most famous leader of the Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman. She was originally born as a slave, but eventually escaped to freedom. She initially began working on the railroad to free her family members, and later worked to free other slaves. She was very serious about freeing slaves. Therefore, she threatened to shoot any slave who considered turning back once embarking on the journey to freedom. Harriet Tubman made nineteen separate trips into slave territory. She was responsible for freeing about three hundred slaves.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is the most affecting and influential novel in American History. The book broadened and deepened the public's revulsion at slavery.