Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Abolitionists

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ABOLITIONISTS, in United States history, those who advocated the abolition of African slavery in the Southern States. Agitation became acute after the settlement of the war troubles of 1812–1815. In 1833, the formation of a National Anti-Slavery Society took place in Philadelphia, and in 1848 of the Free Soil Party. The abolition movement was powerfully promoted by William Lloyd Garrison, who issued a newspaper, "The Liberator," for the better dissemination of his views; and also by Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner, and others. The more extreme agitators among them denied the duty of obedience to the Constitution, since it contained the clause warranting the Fugitive Slave Law, and they denounced it as "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell." In practice they violated it by systematically assisting in the escape of runaway slaves. In Boston, Garrison was mobbed, and the abolition cause in the United States counted among its martyrs Elijah Lovejoy, shot in Alton, Ill., in 1837, and John Brown, hanged in Virginia in 1859. In 1840, the abolitionists divided on the question of the formation of a political anti-slavery party, and the two wings remained active on separate lines to the end. It was largely due to the abolitionists that the Civil War, when it came, was regarded by the North chiefly as an anti-slavery conflict, and they looked upon the Emancipation Proclamation as a vindication of this view.