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By David F. Ericson

Frederick Douglass and George Fitzhugh disagreed on almost each significant factor of the day. On slavery, women's rights, and the maintenance of the Union their reviews have been diametrically adverse. the place Douglass thundered opposed to the evils of slavery, Fitzhugh counted its many alleged benefits in ways in which may make smooth readers recoil. What then may well the top abolitionist of the day and the main sought after southern proslavery highbrow almost certainly have in universal? based on David F. Ericson, the answer's as spectacular because it is easy; liberalism.

In The Debate Over Slavery David F. Ericson makes the arguable argument that regardless of their many ostensible modifications, such a lot Northern abolitionists and Southern defenders of slavery shared many universal commitments: to liberal rules; to the kingdom; to the nation's unique challenge in historical past; and to secular growth. He analyzes, side-by-side, professional and antislavery thinkers akin to Lydia Marie baby, Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips, Thomas R. Dew, and James Fitzhugh to illustrate the hyperlinks among their very assorted principles and to teach how, working from liberal rules, they got here to such substantially diversified conclusions. His increases worrying questions on liberalism that historians, philosophers, and political scientists can't come up with the money for to ignore.

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Extra resources for The Debate Over Slavery: Antislavery and Proslavery Liberalism in Antebellum America

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As discussed in chapter 1, I do not believe that either the antislavery or the proslavery movements were exclusively or explicitly liberal. Rather, the antislavery and proslavery liberalisms that I reveal in the following chapters were more a matter of rhetorical emphasis than of systematic philosophy and more a matter of historical interpretation than of conscious intent. 10 In this chapter, I start presenting the case for antislavery liberalism with Lydia Maria Child’s An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Ameri­ cans Called Africans.

Jefferson memorably expressed this position in the wake of the Missouri crisis: “We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. ”32 Consequentialist Arguments Proslavery consequentialist arguments themselves seemed to fall into “necessary evil” and “positive good” categories. “Necessary evil” (an­ tiabolitionist) consequentialist arguments catalogued the possible harmful social consequences of the abolition of Southern slavery, and “positive good” (proslavery) consequentialist arguments detailed the possible beneficial social consequences of the continued existence of the institution.

The escalation of sectional rhetoric in the 1850s produced the very situation that this rhetoric predicted would occur if certain specified steps were not taken to prevent it. The “exit strate­ gies” of the antislavery and proslavery movements were, however, un­ successful because they were mutually antagonistic. Disunion followed. It was a direct result of the different ways that different groups of Americans had interpreted and concluded the “house divided” argu­ ment. Moreover, the fact that liberal ideas undergirded each of the var­ ious manifestations of the argument did not temper the sectional con­ flict over the fate of Southern slavery because those ideas themselves were subject to different interpretations and conclusions.

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