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Abolition’s Public Sphere

Robert Fanuzzi
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Abolition’s Public Sphere
    Book Description:

    Robert Fanuzzi illustrates how the dissemination of abolitionist tracts served to create an “imaginary public” that promoted and provoked the discussion of slavery. He critically examines the writings of William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, and Sarah and Angelina Grimke, and their massive abolition publicity campaign geared to an audience of white male citizens, free black noncitizens, women, and the enslaved.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9447-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Lessons of Repeated Experience
    (pp. xi-xl)

    William Lloyd Garrison operated literally in the forefront of the American abolition movement, soliciting subscribers and readers for his newspaper before there were organized, nonsectarian abolition societies. Inspired by the mass pamphleteering campaign of the English emancipation movement, he published the first issue ofThe Liberatorin 1831 and thereafter linked the progress of the cause to the circulation of the newspaper and other printed articles. When the first national gathering of abolitionists did occur in 1833, he wrote aDeclaration of Sentimentsfor the American Anti-Slavery Society that committed the abolitionist agenda to the publicity campaign he was already...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Sedition of Nonresistance
    (pp. 1-42)

    From its inception in the early 1830s until the end of the decade, the New England abolitionists’ publicity campaign circulated not only pamphlets and newspapers but the traces of a former revolutionary threat. The object of this campaign, the formation of a reading public composed of the enslaved, the free blacks of the North, and the women of the abolition movement, was decried by the enemies of abolition as the essence of jacobinism, or, alternately, hailed by the sympathizers of the cause as the resurgence of a people. The egalitarianism of the abolitionists’ public sphere, I have previously argued, was...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Garrisonism and the Public Sphere
    (pp. 43-82)

    Although the founding principles of nonresistance were acclaimed with a “sacred respect for the right of opinion,” there was little doubt that the discussion of nonresistance in public venues and print media honored William Lloyd Garrison’s right of opinion. It was his exercise of this right that gave nonresistance a regular column and columnist inThe Liberator,the flagship abolitionist newspaper; it was his editorial policy that in turn set the agenda for the abolition movement and, his critics charged, turned it away from the singular object of freeing the slaves. Of course, Garrison claimed to publicize nonresistance for avowedly...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Frederick Douglass’s Public Body
    (pp. 83-128)

    As an abolitionist orator during the 1840s, Frederick Douglass confronted his audiences with the presence and power of a body that Garrison, in his capacity as editor ofThe Liberator,could have only approximated. It was Douglass who appeared as the representative of abolition principles through and in bodily form; it was Douglass’s body that audiences acclaimed when they embraced abolitionist rhetoric. Standing before largely white audiences, the black orator composed a physical force, a corporeal reality that they sought to measure and put into words. James Russell Lowell spoke for others when he declared, “The very look and bearing...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Faneuil Hall: The Civic Institution of the Imaginary
    (pp. 129-166)

    Then, as now, a walk through Boston’s streets could provide the historically minded citizen with memories not only of a successful revolution but of founding fathers—James Otis, John Hancock, Samuel Adams—whose names instilled a sense of reverence for the nation’s founding principles. If that citizen was Henry Adams, his patriotism would be indistinguishable from his filiopiety, which he admitted was alive and well in the 1840s. Seeking to account for the “atmosphere” of Boston, Adams described his childhood as a “nest of associations so colonial—so troglodytic—as the first Church, the Boston State House, Beacon Hill, John...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Thoreau’s Civic Imagination
    (pp. 167-204)

    Henry David Thoreau’s participation in the abolition movement was governed by the same principles that underwrote the New England abolitionists’ public sphere, and that is why it should be considered to be marginal. With his “experiment in living,” Thoreau expressed in dramatic and conclusive form the abolitionists’ determination to separate their movement from the civil institutions of the political public sphere and from any positive representation of a people. His commitment to his own exclusion from the sphere of normative social relations led him to articulate a highly resonant discourse of social norms, which, like the abolitionists’ discourse of publicity,...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Douglass’s Sublime: The Art of the Slave
    (pp. 205-250)

    As a former slave, Frederick Douglass knew full well the challenge of translating the narrative of political modernity into the present moment. While Garrison and his white abolitionist colleagues could endorse the past and the future of the American republic as a reference for their public sphere, Douglass had to admit a “quailing sensation” when asked to celebrate the founding of the nation. That history belonged to a “branch of knowledge,” he told his audience, “in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker.”¹ Disowning the story of national origins, he called it “the staple of your...

  11. CONCLUSION: A Cosmopolitan Point of View
    (pp. 251-260)

    In his most forceful abolitionist speeches, Douglass foresaw little future for the antislavery struggle other than a face-to-face encounter with racism. He meant the rhetorical enactment of still more “agitation” within the abolitionists’ public sphere to signal the incompatibility of the present with a narrative construction of progress and of unseen continuity with the past. Garrison, on the other hand, was so determined to put time on the abolitionists’ side that he actually looked forward to this state of antagonism. In his first public appearance on behalf of the cause, he presented the inevitable outcome of antislavery agitation—the virulent...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 261-318)
  13. Index
    (pp. 319-332)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-333)