The Abolitionist Movement

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In the three decades leading up to the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, the abolitionist movement, through direct actions and sentiment against slavery, sowed radical reactionary responses across the southern slave states. While the actions and views of abolitionists did not reflect the widespread or majority opinion of the free states, the reciprocal effect of the abolitionist propaganda and violent actions led to greater polarization in America over the topic of slavery and its expansion. Additionally, the various actions performed by the northern based abolitionist created an aura of fear and paranoia amongst the ruling slaveholding political elite in the south who increasingly saw the actions as an attack on the southern slave…show more content…
Fearful of abolitionists seeking to incite a slave insurrection to overthrow the southern society, southerners resorted to mass burnings of mail from northern outlets in an attempt to quell the anti-slavery messages. Further, southerners viewed these efforts as an undermining of their right to property that “God...entrusted to [their] charge” and became further convinced of northern ambitions to eradicate slavery and the slaveholders themselves. Despite the abolitionists consisting of a small number of people, the overarching impact of their propaganda and literature caused southerners to take drastic measures as many in the slave states increasingly felt their livelihoods and safety were under attack by an anti-slavery north. The manifestation of this paranoia in slaveholders would in essence create a connotation of the anti-slavery movement with that of the entirety of the “free” states and northern…show more content…
With the passage of a harsher fugitive slave law as a part of the Compromise of 1850, the abolitionist movement became even more fervent in its efforts to halt slavery as abolitionists assisted runaways, abused slave catchers, and outright did not follow the federal law, even in the face of federal marshalls. As a result of this outright defiance of federal law, southerners’ connotations of the abolitionist movement being associated with the entire northern population were further solidified. In conjunction with the lack of enforcement of the fugitive slave law, southerners increasingly viewed the violent confrontations in Kansas as an outright effort to uproot slavery and its expansion. In an act of defiance against Stephen Douglas’s popular sovereignty established in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, abolitionists flooded into Kansas and Nebraska in an effort to incorporate both states as free states and directly halt the expansion of slavery into the territories. Violence and bloodshed broke out as pseudo-militia groups attacked one another in a low scale civil war. As Kansas bled, politicians from free states, under the newly formed Republican Party, began to radically oppose slavery and claimed slavery to be the reason for the rise of “flagrant
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