Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 8. Northern Attitudes Toward Slavery

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXI. Political Writing Since 1850

§ 8. Northern Attitudes Toward Slavery

While Southern thought was being moulded into the unity of conservation, opposite tendencies were at work in the North and West. Trade-unionism took on new life about 1850, and William H. Sylvis, the first great figure in the American labour movement, began his agitation. Wilhelm Weitling, a German immigrant, introduced the ideas of Marxian socialism. In the demand for suffrage and broader legal rights for women, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, William Lloyd Garrison, Joseph Sayers, Henry Ward Beecher, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were leaders. Traditional political alignment was threatened by the American or Know Nothing movement, which sought to capitalize the prejudice against those of foreign birth and the Catholic faith. Among its propagandists were S. F. B. Morse, whose Foreign Conspiracies Against the Liberties of the United States (1852) ran through seven editions, and Thomas R. Whitney, author of a Defense of American Policy as Opposed to the Encroachment of Foreign Influence (1856). These issues, also the industrial development and commercial expansion, tended to divert attention from the slavery question. Indeed, the capitalists of the Northeast and the large planters of the cotton states drifted toward a rapprochement. Noteworthy also was the fact that many defenders of slavery were found among the clergy of the North, and that silence on the issue because of the policy of the churches. The Rev. Nehemiah Adams won notoriety by his favorable South Side View of Slavery (1854), as did also Nathan Lord, President of Dartmouth College, the Rev. Samuel Seabury of the Episcopal Church, Moses Stuart, Professor of Hebrew at Andover, and John Henry Hopkins, Episcopal Bishop of Vermont, for their various defences of slavery.