abolitionism


abolitionism
/ab'euh lish"euh niz'euhm/, n.
the principle or policy of abolition, esp. of slavery of blacks in the U.S.
[1800-10; ABOLITION + -ISM]

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(с 1783–1888) Movement to end the slave trade and emancipate slaves in western Europe and the Americas.

The slave system aroused little protest until the 18th century, when rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment criticized it for violating the rights of man, and Quaker and other evangelical religious groups condemned it as un-Christian. Though antislavery sentiments were widespread by the late 18th century, they had little immediate effect on the centres of slavery themselves
the West Indies, South America, and the southern U.S. In 1807 the importation of African slaves was banned in the U.S. and the British colonies. Slavery was abolished in the British West Indies by 1838 and in the French possessions 10 years later. In the 11 Southern states of the U.S., however, slavery was a social and economic institution. American abolitionism laboured under the handicap that it threatened the harmony of North and South in the Union, and it also ran counter to the U.S. Constitution, which left the question of slavery to the individual states. The abolitionist movement in the North was led by agitators such as William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society, writers such as John Greenleaf Whittier, former slaves such as Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The election of Abraham Lincoln, who opposed the spread of slavery to the West, marked a turning point in the movement. Convinced that their way of life was threatened, the Southern states seceded from the Union (see secession), which led to the American Civil War. In 1863 Lincoln (who had never been an abolitionist) issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves held in the Confederate states; the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1865) prohibited slavery throughout the country. Slavery was abolished in Latin America by 1888. In some parts of Africa and in much of the Islamic world, it persisted as a legal institution well into the 20th century.

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▪ European and American social movement
also called  abolition movement 

      (c. 1783–1888), in western Europe and the Americas, the movement chiefly responsible for creating the emotional climate necessary for ending the transatlantic slave trade (slavery) and chattel slavery. With the decline of Roman slavery in the 5th century, the institution waned in western Europe and by the 11th century had virtually disappeared. Portuguese exploration of the west coast of Africa beginning in 1420, however, created an interest in slavery in the recently formed colonies of North America, South America, and the West Indies, where the need for plantation labour generated an immense market for slaves. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, an estimated total of 12 million Africans (Africa) were forcibly transported to the Americas.

 Despite its brutality and inhumanity, the slave system aroused little protest until the 18th century, when rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment began to criticize it for its violation of the rights of man, and Quaker and other evangelical religious groups condemned it for its un-Christian (Christianity) qualities. By the late 18th century, moral disapproval of slavery was widespread, and antislavery reformers won a number of deceptively easy victories during this period. In Britain, Granville Sharp (Sharp, Granville) secured a legal decision in 1772 that West Indian planters could not hold slaves in Britain, since slavery was contrary to English law. In the United States, all of the states north of Maryland abolished slavery between 1777 and 1804. But antislavery sentiments had little effect on the centres of slavery themselves: the great plantations of the Deep South, the West Indies, and South America. Turning their attention to these areas, British and American abolitionists began working in the late 18th century to prohibit the importation of African slaves into the British colonies and the United States. Under the leadership of William Wilberforce (Wilberforce, William) and Thomas Clarkson (Clarkson, Thomas), these forces succeeded in getting the slave trade to the British colonies abolished in 1807. The United States prohibited the importation of slaves that same year, though widespread smuggling continued until about 1862.

      Antislavery forces then concentrated on winning the emancipation of those populations already in slavery. They were triumphant when slavery was abolished in the British West Indies by 1838 and in French possessions 10 years later.

 The situation in the United States was more complex because slavery was a domestic rather than a colonial phenomenon, being the social and economic base of the plantations of 11 Southern states. Moreover, slavery had gained new vitality when an extremely profitable cotton-based agriculture developed in the South in the early 19th century. Reacting to abolitionist attacks that branded its “peculiar institution” as brutal and immoral, the South had intensified its system of slave control, particularly after the Nat Turner (Turner, Nat) revolt of 1831. By that time, American abolitionists realized the failure of gradualism and persuasion, and they subsequently turned to a more militant policy, demanding immediate abolition by law.

      Probably the best-known abolitionist was the aggressive agitator William Lloyd Garrison (Garrison, William Lloyd), founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society (1833–70). Others, drawn from the ranks of the clergy, included Theodore Dwight Weld (Weld, Theodore Dwight) and Theodore Parker (Parker, Theodore); from the world of letters, John Greenleaf Whittier (Whittier, John Greenleaf), James Russell Lowell (Lowell, James Russell), and Lydia Maria Child (Child, Lydia Maria); and, from the free-black community, such articulate former slaves as Frederick Douglass (Douglass, Frederick) and William Wells Brown (Brown, William Wells).

 American abolitionism laboured under the handicap that it threatened the harmony of North and South in the Union, and it also ran counter to the U.S. Constitution, which left the question of slavery to the individual states. Consequently, the Northern public remained unwilling to adopt abolitionist policy and was distrustful of abolitionist extremism. But a number of factors combined to give the movement increased momentum. Chief among these was the question of permitting or outlawing slavery in new Western territories, with Northerners and Southerners taking increasingly adamant stands on opposite sides of that issue throughout the 1840s and '50s. There was also revulsion at the ruthlessness of slave hunters under the Fugitive Slave Law (Fugitive Slave Acts) (1850), and the far-reaching emotional response to Harriet Beecher Stowe (Stowe, Harriet Beecher)'s antislavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) further strengthened the abolitionist cause.

 Jolted by the raid (1859) of the abolitionist extremist John Brown (Brown, John) on Harpers Ferry, the South became convinced that its entire way of life, based on the cheap labour provided by slaves, was irretrievably threatened by the election to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln, Abraham) (November 1860), who was opposed to the spread of slavery into the Western territories. The ensuing secession of the Southern states led to the American Civil War (1861–65). The war, which began as a sectional power struggle to preserve the Union, in turn led Lincoln (who had never been an abolitionist) to emancipate the slaves in areas of the rebellion by the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and led further to the freeing of all other slaves in the United States by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1865.

      Under the pressure of worldwide public opinion, slavery was completely abolished in its last remaining Latin American strongholds, Cuba and Brazil, in 1880–86 and 1883–88, respectively, and thus the system of African slavery as a Western phenomenon ceased to exist. See also slavery.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Abolitionism — Ab o*li tion*ism, n. The principles or measures of abolitionists. Wilberforce. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • abolitionism — (n.) 1790, in the anti slavery sense, from ABOLITION (Cf. abolition) + ISM (Cf. ism) …   Etymology dictionary

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  • abolitionism — A term associated with protest on grounds of inhumanity and call for the abolition of: first, slavery (see, for example, the work of, 1759 1833); and, more recently, prisons and imprisonment. The latter stance developed within Scandinavian… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • abolitionism — abolitionist ► NOUN ▪ a person who favours the abolition of something, especially capital punishment or (formerly) slavery. DERIVATIVES abolitionism noun …   English terms dictionary

  • abolitionism — noun Date: 1808 principles or measures fostering abolition especially of slavery • abolitionist noun or adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • abolitionism — noun An opinion in favor of the abolition of something. See Also: abolitionist …   Wiktionary

  • aboliţionísm — s. n. (sil. ţi o ), art. aboliţionísmul, g. d. art. aboliţionísmului …   Romanian orthography

  • abolitionism — ab·o li·tion·ism || ‚æbÉ™ lɪʃənɪzm n. principles held by abolitionists; opposition to slavery …   English contemporary dictionary


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