CHAPTER 3: ANTEBELLUM NORTH, Commerce, Labor, and Activism 1820-1860

CHAPTER 3: ANTEBELLUM NORTH, Commerce, Labor, and Activism 1820-1860

Contents Introduction and Pre-Reading Questions: 1 Documents: 6 Document 1, Competing Views of Life for a Lowell Mill Girl, 1840 (Gilder Lehrman 1840) 6 Document 2, Observation on Lowell by Godfrey Vigne, 1833 ( 1833) 7 Document 3, Thomas Woodcock Writes about a Journey on the Erie Canal 8 Document 4, Harper’s Weekly Guide to Railroad Travel, 1856 (University of Michigan 1855-56) 9 Document 5, Anti-Irish Political Cartoons, 1870 and 1881 (Haug 1881) (Nast 1876) 12 Document 6, The First Editorial of The Liberator (Willis 1831) 13 Document 7, David Walker’s Anti-Slavery “Appeal ( 1829) 15 Document 8, Edward Lawton writes about the Underground Railroad, 1825 (Digital History 1825) 16 Document 9, Frances E.W. Harper’s Poem, “The Slave Mother” (Poet’s Corner 1854) 17 Document 10, Amelia Bloomer on Life with a “Confirmed Drunkard” ( 1852) 18 Document 11, A Letter from Anne Weston Warren to the Female Anti-Slavery Society, 1837 (Anne Weston Warren 1837) 19 Document 12, Notes on the Seneca Falls Meeting, including the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments ( 1848) 21 Post-Reading Exercises 28 Works Cited 28

Introduction and Pre-Reading Questions: This chapter is the first of four chapters that will cover a time period known as the antebellum period. The antebellum period refers to the years preceding the Civil War (“antebellum” means “before the war”). In the next three chapters, we’ll be looking separately at the regions of the North, the South and the West. In this chapter we’ll be focusing on the North—looking in particular at industry, transportation, immigration, western lands and agriculture— and we’ll also be looking at the women who were making waves in the North in this period.

The early nineteenth century was an important period of development for the United States. The population was booming; in 1790, there were 4 million people living in America. By 1820, just thirty years later, the population had grown to 10 million, so it had multiplied by two and a half times. By 1830, the population was at 12 million and by 1840, it was up to 17 million, meaning that the population had increased by 7 million inhabitants in just 20 years! And by 1860, America was the getting close to being the largest nation in the world, nipping at the heels of Germany and France. The majority of this booming population lived in new western lands or, increasingly over the years, in Northern industrial centers. With this rise in population came a rise in commerce which set into place the development of three major contributors to the American economy: canals; railroads; and factories. The first four documents in this chapter cover these massive economic changes. When you read about the Lowell Mills, the life of a factory worker, the Erie Canal, and railroad travel, how transformative do you think the early 19th century was? What must these changes have felt like to people who had been alive during the Revolution? What effect did these changes have on the United States, in general, and on the North, in particular?

All of this economic development took the blood, sweat and tears of workers to achieve. While the massive population growth of the early 19th century certainly helped, the United States also found itself turning to immigrant labor (and becoming a land of promise and hope for immigrants) in order to sustain growth. Between 1840 and 1850, more than one and a half million people moved from Europe to the United States and in the 1850s, the number had reached two and a half million. The majority of the immigrants in this period came from Ireland and Germany and almost all of the Irish immigrants landed in a Northeastern city like Boston or New York City (causing intense anti-Irish sentiment, which you’ll read about in the fifth document). Why do you think there was such strong anti-immigrant sentiment in this period?

With all of the dramatic changes going on in the North, the divide between North and South was growing ever deeper. As the North focused on industry, commerce and economic stability, the South continued to depend on the system of slavery. As the South continued to focus on maintaining traditional gender relationships and cultural traditions, the North began to expand and challenge the old system. And it was women, perhaps the most, who challenged the Northern cultural and social traditions during the antebellum period. Women were able to change public perceptions about women and change their own status in Northern society by getting involved in reform movements, namely the abolitionist and temperance movements. Women eventually became the major players in the reform movements of the antebellum period, from roughly 1820 to 1860, and becoming involved in reform allowed women, for the first time since the American Revolution, to step out of the confines of the domestic sphere and have a public voice—ultimately, this led some women to fight, specifically, for women’s rights.

Abolitionism was one of the reform movements that women got involved in. Abolitionism was the term given to the anti-slavery movement in America. The national crusade against slavery basically began in the 1830s, largely because of the efforts of a man named William Lloyd Garrison and his Boston newspaper, The Liberator. Garrison believed that opponents of slavery should focus not on the evil influence of slavery on white society (this had largely been the way anti-slavery activists argued against slavery—they claimed that it made whites more debased, it brought Africans to America, and so on—all things that don’t take into account the awful effects of slavery on the slaves themselves!), but instead on how evil slavery was to blacks, which you’ll see in Document 6. Other men like Edward Lawton and African-American David Walker also denounced slavery and called for its end in the South (Documents 7 and 8). But it was women like Frances E.W. Harper and others who truly took the reins of the abolitionist movement from the 1830s on, helping to make the antislavery movement a vocal and powerful one, while they simultaneously challenged the separate spheres ideology (Documents 9 and 10). What were the goals and the demands of the abolitionist movement? How do you think these organizations made southerners feel about the institution of slavery?

A second reform movement in the antebellum period, in which women would play a large role, was the temperance movement. The goal of the temperance movement was to outlaw the production and consumption of alcohol in the United States; temperance activists claimed that drunkenness was a moral and religious problem that had an ill effect on families. In the early antebellum temperance movement, like the early antislavery movement, women were not permitted as formal members in temperance societies. But male leaders called on women to assist the movement from a subordinate position, and women, particularly Protestant, middle-class women, became increasingly drawn to the movement. These women were drawn to temperance because of its focus on morality and its goal of ridding American society of one of its great social ills, the drinking of alcohol. Temperance groups like the Daughters of Temperance pushed to make alcohol consumption illegal, organized women and meetings to this end, broke into saloons and emptied out alcohol containers, published newspapers, and held large-scale conventions. At one of these conventions, in New York in 1852, women passed a series of resolutions regarding how wives should deal with drunken husbands (Document 10); their words were revolutionary. As you read this document, think about what would have seemed “out of line” for women to be saying and thinking in this time period. On the other hand, why were abolitionism and temperance appropriate places for women to get involved?

With the challenges the abolitionist and temperance movements posed to the separate spheres ideology, it should come as no surprise that the women’s rights movement, or as it has often been called, the first wave of feminism, largely grew out of these two reform movements. Women’s activism in the temperance movement and the abolitionist movement got women thinking about their own rights, in particular their economic and legal rights. This thinking

brought together a number of women in 1848 to the Seneca Falls Convention, where a discussion was started about what rights women deserved and needed granted by law to them, as well as a discussion about the merits of starting a fight for women’s suffrage. Document 12 covers the Seneca Falls Convention. What demands did women make at Seneca Falls? Do these seem unreasonable for the time period? Why or why not? Why did they model their Declaration after the Declaration of Independence?

The antebellum North was a rapidly developing and modernizing region. The growth of industry, commerce, the population and activism contributed to a diverse and untraditional society, which seemed to fly in the face of southern convention. The differences mounted between the north and the south, contributing to a growing set of tensions between the two halves of the United States.


Document 1, Competing Views of Life for a Lowell Mill Girl, 1840 (Gilder Lehrman 1840)[footnoteRef:1] [1: Orestes Brownson, The Laboring Classes: An Article from the Boston Quarterly Review, Boston: Benjamin H. Greene, 1840; A Factory Girl, “Factory Girls,” Lowell Offering, December 1840.]

Orestes Brownson, The Laboring Classes: An Article from the Boston Quarterly Review, Boston: Benjamin H. Greene, 1840.

The operatives are well dressed, and we are told, well paid. They are said to be healthy, contented, and happy. This is the fair side of the picture . . . There is a dark side, moral as well as physical. Of the common operatives, few, if any, by their wages, acquire a competence . . . the great mass wear out their health, spirits, and morals, without becoming one whit better off than when they commenced labor. The bills of mortality in these factory villages are not striking, we admit, for the poor girls when they can toil no longer go home to die. The average life, working life we mean, of the girls that come to Lowell, for instance, from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, we have been assured, is only about three years. What becomes of them then? Few of them ever marry; fewer still ever return to their native places with reputations unimpaired. “She has worked in a Factory,” is almost enough to damn to infamy the most worthy and virtuous girl.

A Factory Girl, “Factory Girls,” Lowell Offering, December 1840

Whom has Mr. Brownson slandered? . . . girls who generally come from quiet country homes, where their minds and manners have been formed under the eyes of the worthy sons of the Pilgrims, and their virtuous partners, and who return again to become the wives of the free intelligent yeomanry of New England and the mothers of quite a proportion of our future republicans. Think, for a moment, how many of the next generation are to spring from mothers doomed to infamy! . . . It has been asserted that to put ourselves under the influence and restraints of corporate bodies, is contrary to the spirit of our institutions, and to that love of independence which we ought to cherish. . . . We are under restraints, but they are voluntarily assumed; and we are at liberty to withdraw from them, whenever they become galling or irksome. Neither have I ever discovered that any restraints were imposed upon us but those which were necessary for the peace and comfort of the whole, and for the promotion of the design for which we are collected, namely, to get money, as much of it and as fast as we can; and it is because our toil is so unremitting, that the wages of factory girls are higher than those of females engaged in most other occupations. It is these wages which, in spite of toil, restraint, discomfort, and prejudice, have drawn so many worthy, virtuous, intelligent, and well-educated girls to Lowell, and other factories; and it is the wages which are in great degree to decide the characters of the factory girls as a class. . . . Mr. Brownson may rail as much as he pleases against the real injustice of capitalists against operatives, and we will bid him God speed, if he will but keep truth and common sense upon his side. Still, the avails of factory labor are now greater than those of many domestics, seamstresses, and school-teachers; and strange would it be, if in money-loving New England, one of the most lucrative female employments should be rejected because it is toilsome, or because some people are prejudiced against it. Yankee girls have too much independence for that. . . . And now, if Mr. Brownson is a man, he will endeavor to retrieve the injury he has done; . . . though he will find error, ignorance, and folly among us, (and where would he find them not?) yet he would not see worthy and virtuous girls consigned to infamy, because they work in a factory.

Document 2, Observation on Lowell by Godfrey Vigne, 1833 ( 1833)[footnoteRef:2] [2: Godfrey T. Vigne, “Six Months in America: Lowell, 1833,” Library of Congress: American Notes: Travels in America, 1750-1920.]

Lowell, the Manchester of America, is twenty-seven miles from Boston, and may be visited in the way from Burlington to Boston. Twelve years ago there was scarcely a house in the place; and only eight years ago it formed part of a farming town, which was thought singularly unproductive, even in the midst of the sterile and rocky region with which it is surrounded. At present it contains 8000 people, who are all more or less connected with the manufactories; and thirty-three large wheels, which are the movers of all the machinery in the place, are turned by means of canals supplied by the prodigious water-power contained in the rapid stream of the Merrimack river. There is no steam-power there, and consequently little or no smoke is visible, and every thing wears the appearance of comfort and cleanliness. At present there are 50,000 cotton-spindles in operation at Lowell, besides a satinet and carpet manufactory. A good English carpet weaver who understands his business, may earn a dollar a-day; but the calico weaving is chiefly performed by females, whose general neatness of appearance reflects the greatest credit upon themselves and their employers. No less than 40,000 additional spindles had been contracted for, and workmen were employed upon them in the large building called the machine-shop, which of itself is well worth the attention of the traveller. The vast buildings belonging to the Merrimack and Hamilton companies, are very conspicuous from the road by which the town is approached from Boston, particularly the latter, which are ranged along the side of the canal. As yet there is, I believe, no linen manufactory in the United States. Lowell contains the most extensive cotton-works; but as a manufacturing town merely, its population and business are perhaps trebled at Pittsburgh on the Ohio. The scenery about Lowell is not deficient in interest and beauty, but it scarcely merits further description.

Document 3, Thomas Woodcock Writes about a Journey on the Erie Canal ( 1836)[footnoteRef:3] [3: Thomas S. Woodcock, New York to Niagara, 1836: The Journal of Thomas S. Woodcock, edited by Deoch Fulton, New York Public Library. Copyright 1999 Houghton Mifflin Company. ]

. . . These Boats have three Horses, go at a quicker rate, and have the preference in going through the locks, carry no freight, are built extremely light, and have quite Genteel Men for their Captains, and use silver plate. The distance between Schenectady and Utica is 80 Miles, the passage is $3.50, which includes board. There are other Boats called Line Boats that carry at a cheaper rate, being found for 2/3 of the price mentioned. They are larger Boats, carry freight, have only two horses, and consequently do not go as quickly, and moreover have not so select a company. Some boats go as low as 1 cent per Mile, the passengers finding themselves.

The Bridges on the Canal are very low, particularly the old ones. Indeed they are so low as to scarcely allow the baggage to clear, and in some cases actually rubbing against it. Every Bridge makes us bend double if seated on anything, and in many cases you have to lie on your back. The Man at the helm gives the word to the passengers: “Bridge,” “very low Bridge,” “the lowest in the Canal,” as the case may be. Some serious accidents have happened for want of caution. A young English Woman met with her death a short time since, she having fallen asleep with her head upon a box, had her head crushed to pieces. Such things however do not often occur, and in general it affords amusement to the passengers who soon imitate the cry, and vary it with a command, such as “All Jackson men bow down.” After such commands we find few aristocrats.

Document 4, Harper’s Weekly Guide to Railroad Travel, 1856 (University of Michigan 1855-56)[footnoteRef:4] [4: Harper’s New York and Erie rail-road guide book…with one hundred and thirty-six engravings, by Lossing and Barritt. From original sketches made expressly for this work.: By William Macleod. 8th ed., rev., enl., and cor. to the present date. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Library, 2005.]

Document 5, Anti-Irish Political Cartoons, 1870 and 1881 (Haug 1881) (Nast 1876)[footnoteRef:5] [5: “The Ignorant Vote,” Harper’s Weekly, December 9, 1876; “Irish Industries,” Puck magazine, 1881.]

Document 6, The First Editorial of The Liberator (Willis 1831)[footnoteRef:6] [6: Reprinted in Wendell Phillips Garrison, William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879: The Story of His Life, Told by His Children, vol. I (New York: The Century Companion, 1885), 224-226.]


In the month of August, I issued proposals for publishing “The Liberator” in Washington City; but the enterprise, though hailed in different sections of the country, was palsied by public indifference. Since that time, the removal of the Genius of Universal Emancipation to the Seat of Government has rendered less imperious the establishment of a similar periodical in that quarter.

During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the minds of the people by a series of discourses on the subject of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of the fact, that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to be effected in the free States — and particularly in New-England — than at the South. I found contempt more bitter, opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen, than among slave-owners themselves. Of course, there were individual exceptions to the contrary. This state of things afflicted, but did not dishearten me. I determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birthplace of liberty. That standard is now unfurled; and long may it float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe — yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! Let Southern oppressors tremble — let their secret abettors tremble — let their Northern apologists tremble — let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.

I deem the publication of my original Prospectus unnecessary, as it has obtained a wide circulation. The principles therein inculcated will be steadily pursued in this paper, excepting that I shall not array myself as the political partisan of any man. In defending the great cause of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties.

Assenting to the “self-evident truth” maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights — among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-Street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this moment to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice, and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My conscience is now satisfied.

I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question of my influence, — humble as it is,– is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years — not perniciously, but beneficially — not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard “the fear of man which bringeth a snare,” and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power. And here I close with this fresh dedication:

“Oppression! I have seen thee, face to face,

And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow,

But thy soul-withering glance I fear not now —

For dread to prouder feelings doth give place

Of deep abhorrence! Scorning the disgrace

Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow,

I also kneel — but with far other vow

Do hail thee and thy herd of hirelings base: —

I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,

Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand,

Thy brutalising sway — till Afric’s chains

Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land, —

Trampling Oppression and his iron rod:

Such is the vow I take — SO HELP ME GOD!”

[by the Scottish poet Thomas Pringle]

Document 7, David Walker’s Anti-Slavery “Appeal ( 1829)[footnoteRef:7] [7: David Walker’s Appeal, In Four Articles; Together with a Preamble To The Coloured Citizens of the World, But In Particular, And Very Expressly, To Those Of The United States of America, revised Edition with an Introduction by Sean Wilentz. Hill and Wang, New York, 1995.]

My dearly beloved Brethren and Fellow Citizens.

Having travelled over a considerable portion of these United States, and having, in the course of my travels, taken the most accurate observations of things as they exist — the result of my observations has warranted the full and unshaken conviction, that we, (coloured people of these United States,) are the most degraded, wretched, and abject set of beings that ever lived since the world began; and I pray God that none like us ever may live again until time shall be no more. They tell us of the Israelites in Egypt, the Helots in Sparta, and of the Roman Slaves, which last were made up from almost every nation under heaven, whose sufferings under those ancient and heathen nations, were, in comparison with ours, under this enlightened and Christian nation, no more than a cypher — or, in other words, those heathen nations of antiquity, had but little more among them than the name and form of slavery; while wretchedness and endless miseries were reserved, apparently in a phial, to be poured out upon, our fathers ourselves and our children, by Christian Americans!…

… I call upon the professing Christians, I call upon the philanthropist, I call upon the very tyrant himself, to show me a page of history, either sacred or profane, on which a verse can be found, which maintains, that the Egyptians heaped the insupportable insult upon the children of Israel, by telling them that they were not of the human family. Can the whites deny this charge? Have they not, after having reduced us to the deplorable condition of slaves under their feet, held us up as descending originally from the tribes of Monkeys or Orang-Outangs? O! my God! I appeal to every man of feeling-is not this insupportable? Is it not heaping the most gross insult upon our miseries, because they have got us under their feet and we cannot help ourselves? Oh! pity us we pray thee, Lord Jesus, Master. — Has Mr. Jefferson declared to the world, that we are inferior to the whites, both in the endowments of our bodies and our minds? It is indeed surprising, that a man of such great learning, combined with such excellent natural parts, should speak so of a set of men in chains. I do not know what to compare it to, unless, like putting one wild deer in an iron cage, where it will be secured, and hold another by the side of the same, then let it go, and expect the one in the cage to run as fast as the one at liberty. So far, my brethren, were the Egyptians from heaping these insults upon their slaves, that Pharaoh’s daughter took Moses, a son of Israel for her own, as will appear by the following…

…I must observe to my brethren that at the close of the first Revolution in this country, with Great Britain, there were but thirteen States in the Union, now there are twenty-four, most of which are slave-holding States, and the whites are dragging us around in chains and in handcuffs, to their new States and Territories to work their mines and farms, to enrich them and their children-and millions of them believing firmly that we being a little darker than they, were made by our Creator to be an inheritance to them and their children for ever-the same as a parcel of brutes.

Are we MEN! ! — I ask you, O’ my brethren I are we MEN? Did our Creator make us to be slaves to dust and ashes like ourselves? Are they not dying worms as well as we? Have they not to make their appearance before the tribunal of Heaven, to answer for the deeds done in the body, as well as we? Have we any other Master but Jesus Christ alone? Is he not their Master as well as ours? — What right then, have we to obey and call any other Master, but Himself? How we could be so submissive to a gang of men, whom we cannot tell whether they are as good as ourselves or not, I never could conceive. However, this is shut up with the Lord, and we cannot precisely tell — but I declare, we judge men by their works…

…See your Declaration Americans! ! ! Do you understand your won language? Hear your languages, proclaimed to the world, July 4th, 1776 — “We hold these truths to be self evident — that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL! ! that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! !” Compare your own language above, extracted from your Declaration of Independence, with your cruelties and murders inflicted by your cruel and unmerciful fathers and yourselves on our fathers and on us — men who have never given your fathers or you the least provocation! ! ! ! ! !

Document 8, Edward Lawton writes about the Underground Railroad, 1825 (Digital History 1825)[footnoteRef:8] [8: Edward Lawton to Thomas Evans, Newport, Rhode Island, 1825.]

In the summer of 1822 or 23, a person by the name of Anthony Barklay, or Barclay came from the south to spend the summer here accompanied by his Family in which was included a black girl held by him as a slave. Although professing great suavity of manners and much apparent kindness the master & mistress of this girl treated her with great severity, so much so as to induce some of the friends of Freedom in this place to assist her in making her escape from such intolerable and cruel servitude. She has been pursued by her master with the most implacable determination and there is reason to fear that if he should succeed in recovering her that her persecutions would be redoubled. Thus far the exertions of her friends have been successful in withholding her from his grasp, but information has reached here that Barclay will be here soon (perhaps this day) that he is still determined to recover his slave, and it is also known that many persons who are not to be trued, nay many who are seeking to betray her are possessed of the leading circumstances of her present condition and only want his arrival to disclose them to him. She has been residing in the Family of Nathaniel Hathaway in New Bedford, whose wife was Anna Shoemaker of Philadelphia, who is on a visit among her connections there and has the girl with her. I am unacquainted with the persons mentioned but have the information from an undoubted source in New Bedford by a Letter received this morning. The object of this letter is obviously to obtain for this unfortunate, and I am informed, very deserving girl, the speedy and effectual protection which her case demands, and which will I presure be a sufficient apology for this hasty address from an entire stranger.

Document 9, Frances E.W. Harper’s Poem, “The Slave Mother” (Poet’s Corner 1854)[footnoteRef:9] [9: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, “The Slave Mother,” American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (The Library of America, 1993).]

HEARD you that shriek? It rose

So wildly on the air,

It seemed as if a burden’d heart

Was breaking in despair.

Saw you those hands so sadly clasped-

The bowed and feeble heart-

The suddering of that fragile form-

That look of grief and dread?

Saw you the sad, imploring eye?

Its every glance was pain,

As if a storm of agony

Were sweeping through the brain.

She is a mother pale with fear,

Her boy clings to her side,

And in her kirtle vainly tries

His trembling form to hide.

He is not hers, although she bore

For him a mother’s pain;

He is not hers, although her blood

Is coursing through his veins!

He is not hers, for cruel hands

May rudely tear apart

The only wreath of household love

That binds her breaking heart.

His love has been a joyous light

That o’er her pathway smiled,

A fountain gushing ever new,

Amid life’s desert wild.

His lightest word has been a tone

Of music round her heart,

Their lives a streamlet blent in one-

Oh, Father! must they part?

They tear him from her circling arms,

Her last and fond embrace.

Oh! never more may her sad eyes

Gaze on his mournful face.

No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks

Disturb the listening air:

She is a mother, and her heart

Is breaking in despair.

Document 10, Amelia Bloomer on Life with a “Confirmed Drunkard” ( 1852)[footnoteRef:10] [10: History of Woman Suffrage, Edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Illustrated with Steel Engravings. In Three Volumes. VOL. I, 1848-1861. Rochester, NY: Charles Mann, 1881.]

We believe the teachings which have been

given to the drunkard’s wife, inculcating duty

the commendable examples of angelic wives

which she has been exhorted to follow have

done much to continue and aggravate the vices

and crimes of society growing out of intemper-

ance. Drunkenness is ground for divorce, and

every woman who is tied to a confirmed drunk-

ard should sunder the ties : and if she do it

not otherwise, the law should compel it, espe-

cially if she have children.

“We are told that such sentiments are ex-

ceptional, abhorrent, that the moral sense of

society is shocked and outraged by their pro-

mulgation. Can it be possible that the moral

sense of a people is more shocked at the idea

of a pure-minded, gentle woman sundering the

tie which binds her to a loathsome mass of cor-

ruption, than it is to see her dragging out her

days in misery tied to his besotted and filthy

carcass ? Are the morals of society less endan-

gered by the drunkard’s wife continuing to live

in companionship with him, giving birth to a

large family of children who inherit nothing

but poverty and disgrace, and who will grow

up criminal and vicious, filling our prisons and

penitentiaries and corrupting and endangering

the purity and peace of the community, than

they would be should she separate from him

and strive to win for herself and her children

comfort and respectability ? The statistics of

our prisons, poorhouses, and lunatic asylums

teach us a fearful lesson on this subject of

morals !

The idea of living with a drunkard is so

abhorrent, so revolting to all the finer feelings

of our nature, that a woman must fall very low

before she can endure such companionship.

Every pure-minded person must look with

loathing and disgust upon such a union of vir-

tue and vice ; and he who would compel her to

it, or dissuade the drunkard’s wife from separat-

ing herself from such wretchedness and deg-

radation, is doing much to perpetuate drunk-

enness and crime and is wanting in the noblest

feelings of human nature. Thanks to our legis-

lature, if they have not given us the Maine law

they are deliberating on giving to wives of

drunkards and tyrants a loophole of escape

from the brutal cruelty of their self-styled lords

and masters. A bill of this kind has passed

the house, but may be lost in the senate.

Should it not pass now, it will be brought up

again and passed at no distant day* Then, if

women have any spirit, they will free them-

selves from much of the depression and wrong

which they have hitherto by necessity borne…

Document 11, A Letter from Anne Weston Warren to the Female Anti-Slavery Society, 1837 (Anne Weston Warren 1837)[footnoteRef:11] [11: Anne Warren Weston. “Letter to the Female Anti-slavery Society,” Digital Public Library of America, August 21, 1837. (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library Internet Archive).]

Anne Warren Weston has been directed by the Board of the Boston Female Anti-slavery Society to address the members at this time to assure them that, while “the hearts of many appear failing them for fear, yet it is not so with us. It is a solemn duty to renew our vows of consecration to the cause of the American slave.” This epistle is concerned with the public appearances of women as abolitionists.


Boston. Aug. 21 1837 To the Female A. S. Society

Dear Friends I am directed by the Board of the Boston Female A.S. Society to address you at this time for the purpose of assuring you that though the love of some of those who have been hither to esteemed as the firm supporters of the A.S. cause, seems to be waning[?] cold, & though some who have put their hands to the plough seem to be looking back and though the hearts of many appear failing them for fear, yet it is not so with us. In times like these, it is highly desirable that all who hold the Abolition faith “undimmed & pure” should declare their assurance to others, that the efforts of those who seek to divide the cause of truth may be discouraged, & the hopes of those who seek to strengthen it confirmed & established. Such being our motive, we do now in this moment of addressing you feel it to be our duty solemnly to renew our vows of consecration to the cause of the American slave, our country men in chains, our brother fallen among thieves, and to declare that the inconsistency, the fear & the timidity of others only supplies to us a new and urgent motive for labouring with ten fold zeal and devotedness. It is not the want of zeal abolitionists to[?] rebuke others for the exhibition of too great and warmth and fervor; we therefore trust you will bear with us, if in this epistle we should seem to utter[?] the language of admonition too freely, or should appear to urge the adoption of our own views too warmly upon the minds of others.

As Abolitionists, we have all, I presume, been subjected in greater or less degrees to misrepresentation, contempt, & persecution; by identifying ourselves in a measure with the oppressed & degraded we have been exposed to a portion of the sufferings that have been heaped upon them; but at the present period [?] we are called upon to meet reproach, not as abolitionists, merely, but as women. So corrupting is the influence that a pro slavery spirit exerts both on the intellect and on the heart that in present age of the world, in the city of Boston, men are not wanting who declare that those women who petition for the abolition of slavery, who form themselves into societies to produce this result and who on every suitable occasion express their unfeigned condemnation of the sin of slaveholding and strive by facts and arguments to establish a similar conviction in the minds of others are sinning against the dictates of womanly decorum and propriety and rendering themselves obnoxious to the condemnation of the Apostle as expressed in the 13th of the 5th Church[?] of Timothy. But this is not wonderful. The theologians who justify from the Scripture the enslaving of a certain portion of their fellow men because of their colour are the very people whom we might naturally expect to find perverting the same sacred oracles in a manner almost equally unjustifiable, to sanction the doctrines of woman’s inferiority & subordination. The fanciful illustrations employed by some of these self elected guardians of female manners would be amusing in the extreme were it not for the reflection that in so as these doctrines are received just so for is a most unhappy & prejudicial influence exerted both on the mind and the heart of the believer. The man who looks upon women merely from the fact of her being such, as a creature dependent and subordinate is cherishing a belief that in the very nature of things that cannot fail to exert a more baneful effect on his own character. To render his actions and his opinions consistent, believing women to be inferior, he must ever remember to address them as such; indeed in most cases no effort of the memory will be requisite; he will do so voluntarily & involvuntarily. But with regard to their doctrine, a difference of opinion exists among women themselves, & while one class cheerfully acknowledges its own dependence and subordination, yet there is another who while they cheerfully acknowledge and fulfill all the duties of their various domestic relations, are not prepared merely by virtue of their being women to declare themselves either subordinate to or dependent. By the first class the variety of men will be flattered & soothed, by the latter it will be outraged and wounded and thus all his association with the female sex, the association originally designed by God for his moral improvement must inevitably produce a result directly the reverse. The social intercourse that should exist between men and women as mutual teachers and aides is destroyed; destroyed however not by the fact of a portion of womankind occupying a false position, but mankind remaining in one. It may be said of women as was said of the West India slaves “They are fit for emancipation but their masters are not.” The difficulty arises not because women are exercising their rights but because men are trying to prevent them. To this fact there are many many noble exceptions. Anti Slavery women should be the last to forget this. The men who are laboring in the cause of human rights are not unaware of the vast scope that those words embrace. As a class it will not be found that they are the people who are sorrowing over their aggrieved dignity…

Document 12, Notes on the Seneca Falls Meeting, including the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments ( 1848)[footnoteRef:12] [12: Seneca Falls Convention, Seneca Falls, New York, July 19-20, 1848, including the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions.]

WOMAN’S RIGHTS CONVENTION.-A Convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman, will be held in the Wesleyan Chapel, at Seneca Falls, N. Y., on Wednesday and Thursday, the 19th and 20th of July, current; commencing at 10 o’clock am. During the first day the meeting will be exclusively for women, who are earnestly invited to attend. The public generally are invited to be present on the second day, when Lucretia Mott, of Philadelphia, and other ladies and gentlemen, will address the convention.

This call, without signature, was issued by Lucretia Mott, Martha C. Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Mary Ann McClintock. At this time Mrs. Mott was visiting her sister Mrs. Wright, at Auburn, and attending the Yearly Meeting of Friends in Western New York. Mrs. Stanton, having recently removed from Boston to Seneca Falls, finding the most congenial associations in Quaker families, met Mrs. Mott incidentally for the first time since her residence there. They at once returned to the topic they had so often discussed, walking arm in arm in the streets of London, and Boston, “the propriety of holding a woman’s convention.” These four ladies, sitting round the tea-table of Richard Hunt, a prominent Friend near Waterloo, decided to put their long-talked-of resolution into action, and before the twilight deepened into night the call was written, and sent to the Seneca County Courier. On Sunday morning they met in Airs. McClintock’s parlor to write their declaration, resolutions, and to consider subjects for speeches. As the convention was to assemble in three days, the time was short for such productions; but having no experience in the modus operandi of getting up conventions, nor in that kind of literature, they were quite innocent of the herculean labors they proposed. On the first attempt to frame a resolution ; to crowd a complete thought, clearly and concisely, into three lines ; they felt as helpless and hopeless as if they bad been suddenly asked to construct a steam engine. And the humiliating fact may as well now be recorded that before taking the initiative step, those ladies resigned themselves to a faithful perusal of various masculine productions. The reports of Peace, Temperance, and Anti-Slavery conventions were examined, but all alike seemed too tame and pacific for the inauguration of a rebellion such as the world had never before seen. They knew women had wrongs, but how to state them was the difficulty, and this was increased from the fact that they themselves were fortunately organized and conditioned ; they were neither “sour old maids,” “childless women,” nor “divorced wives”, as the newspapers declared them to be. While they had felt the insults incident to sex, in many ways, as every proud, thinking woman must, in the laws, religion, and literature of the world, and in the invidious and degrading sentiments and customs of all nations, yet they had not in their own experience endured the coarser forms of tyranny resulting from unjust laws, or association with immoral and unscrupulous men, but they had souls large enough to feel the wrongs of others, without being scarified in their own flesh.

After much delay, one of the circle took up the Declaration of 1776, and read it aloud with much spirit and emphasis, and it was at once decided to adopt the historic document, with some slight changes such as substituting “all men” for “King George.” Knowing that women must have more to complain of than men under ally circumstances possibly could, and seeing the Fathers bad eighteen grievances, a protracted search was made through statute books, church usages, and the customs of society to find that exact number. Several well-disposed men assisted in collecting the grievances, until, with the announcement of the eighteenth, the women felt they had enough to go before the world with a good case. One youthful lord remarked, “Your grievances must be grievous indeed, when you are obliged to go to books in order to find them out.”

The eventful day dawned at last, and crowds in carriages and on foot, wended their way to the Wesleyan church. When those having charge of the Declaration, the resolutions, and several volumes ,of the Statutes of New York arrived on the scene, lo! the door was looked. However, an embryo Professor of Yale College was lifted through an open window to unbar the door; that done, the church was quickly filled. It bad been decided to have no men present, but as they were already on the spot, and as the women who must take the responsibility of organizing the meeting, and leading the discussions, shrank from doing either, it was decided, in a hasty council round the altar, that this was an occasion when men might make themselves pre-eminently useful. It was agreed they should remain, and take the laboring oar through the Convention.

James Mott, tall and dignified, in Quaker costume, was called to the chair; Mary McClintock appointed Secretary, Frederick Douglass, Samuel Tillman, Ansel Bascom, E. W. Capron, and Thomas McClintock took part throughout in the discussions. Lucretia Mott, accustomed to public speaking in the Society of Friends, stated the objects of the Convention, and in taking a survey of the degraded condition of woman the world over, showed the importance of inaugurating some movement for her education and elevation. Elizabeth and Mary McClintock, and Mrs. Stanton, each read a well-written speech; Martha Wright read some satirical articles she had published in the daily papers answering, the diatribes on woman’s sphere. Ansel Bascom, who had been a member of the Constitutional Convention recently held in Albany, spoke at length on the property bill for married women, just passed the Legislature, and the discussion on woman’s rights in that Convention. Samuel Tillman, a young student of law, read a series of the most exasperating statutes for women, from English and American jurists, all reflecting the tender mercies Of men toward their wives, in taking care of their property and protecting them in their civil rights.

The Declaration having been freely discussed by many present, was re-read by Mrs. Stanton, and with some slight amendments adopted.


When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves, by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.

He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.

He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men – both natives and foreigners.

Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.

He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.

He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.

He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes, with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master – the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement.

He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes of divorce; in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women -the law, in all cases, going upon the false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.

After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.

He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.

He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.

He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education – all colleges being closed against her.

He allows her in Church as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.

He has created a false public sentiment, by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated but deemed of little account in man.

He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.

He has endeavored, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.

Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation, – in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States.

In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions, embracing every part of the country.

The following resolutions were discussed by Lucretia Mott, Thomas and Mary Ann McClintock, Amy Post, Catharine A.F. Stebbins, and others, and were adopted:

Whereas, the great precept of nature is conceded to be that “man shall pursue his own true and substantial happiness.” Blackstone in his Commentaries remarks that this law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their validity, and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from this original; therefore,

Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature and of no validity, for this is “superior in obligation to any other.”

Resolved, that all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature and therefore of no force or authority.

Resolved, that woman is man’s equal, was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.

Resolved, that the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want.

Resolved, that inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is preeminently his duty to encourage her to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies.

Resolved, that the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman in the social state also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman.

Resolved, that the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very ill grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus.

Resolved, that woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.

Resolved, that it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.

Resolved, that the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities.

Resolved, that the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.

Resolved, therefore, that, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities and same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind.

At the last session Lucretia Mott offered and spoke to the following resolution: Resolved, That the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.

The only resolution that was not unanimously adopted was the ninth, urging the women of the country to secure to themselves the elective franchise. Those who took part in the debate feared a demand for the right to vote would defeat others they deemed more rational, and make the whole movement ridiculous.

But Mrs. Stanton and Frederick Douglass seeing that the power to choose rulers and make laws, was the right by which all others could be secured, persistently advocated the resolution, and at last carried it by a small majority.

Thus it will be seen that the Declaration and resolutions in the very first Convention, demanded all the most radical friends of the movement have since claimed-such as equal rights in the universities, in the trades and professions; the right to vote; to share in all political offices, honors, and emoluments; to complete equality in marriage, to personal freedom, property, wages, children; to make contracts; to sue, and be sued; and to testify in courts of justice. At this time the condition of married women under the Common Law, was nearly as degraded as that of the slave on the Southern plantation. The Convention continued through two entire days, and late into the evenings. The deepest interest was manifested to its close.

The proceedings were extensively published, unsparingly ridiculed by the press, and denounced by the pulpit, much to the surprise and chagrin of the leaders. Being deeply in earnest, and believing their demands pre-eminently wise and just, they were wholly unprepared to find themselves the target for the jibes and jeers of the nation. The Declaration was signed by one hundred men, and women, many of whom withdrew their names as soon as the storm of ridicule began to break. The comments of the press were carefully preserved, and it is curious to see that the same old arguments, and objections rife at the start, are reproduced by the press of to-day. But the brave protests sent out from this Convention touched a responsive chord in the hearts of women all over the country.

Conventions were held soon after in Ohio, Massachusetts, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and at different points in New York.

3. JOURNAL OPTION: For this chapter of OB, instead of answering Question 1 or 2, you may instead choose to turn in a 2-4 page typed document (double-spaced) with brief notes on each document in the chapter, as well as 5 questions about the chapter’s material. Please see the handout under Files titled “Journal Notes/Questions Guide” for more specific instructions on how to do this properly.

Post-Reading Exercises

1. Using Documents 1-5, discuss the changes to Northern life that emerged with growing industrialization, being sure to incorporate specific examples and quotes from the primary source documents.

2. List all of the activism that Northerners were involved in during the antebellum period. Then explain the different factors about the North that made this kind of activism possible.

Works Cited Document 10: ( 1852, April 20). Retrieved July 9, 2012, from History of Woman Suffrage, Volume I, Susan B. Anthony: Document 8: Digital History. (1825). Digital History. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from Edward Lawton, The Underground Railroad: Document 11: Weston, Anne Warren. (1837, August 21). Digital Public Library of America. Retrieved December 14, 2017, from “Letter to the Female Anti-slavery Society”: Document 5: Nast, Thomas (December 9, 1876). Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Elections, Harper’s Weekly:; Haug, C. (1881). Retrieved July 9, 2012, from Stereotyping of the Irish Immigrant in 19th Century Periodicals: Document 2: (1833). Retrieved July 9, 2012, from Library of Congress, American Notes: Travels in America, 1750-1920, Six Months in America, by Godfrey Vigne: Document 1: (1840 9). Retrieved December 14, 2017, from “The Lowell Offering Index,” by Judith Ranta, Center for Lowell History, University of Massachusetts Lowell Libraries, : Document 7: (1829). Retrieved July 9, 2012, from Africans in America, David Walker’s Appeal: Document 9: Poet’s Corner. (1854). Poet’s Corner. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from Francis E.W. Harper’s The Slave Mother: Document 4: University of Michigan. (1855-56). University of Michigan. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from Harper’s New York and Erie rail-road guide book:;idno=AJA2207.0001.001;cc=moa Document 6: Willis, J. C. (1831, January 1). America’s Civil War, Retrieved July 9, 2012, from The Liberator, Inaugural Editorial by William Lloyd Garrison: Document 3: (1836). Retrieved July 9, 2012, from An Excerpt from the Journal of Thomas S. Woodcock: Document 12: (1848, July 19-20). Retrieved 9 July, 2012, from Seneca Falls Convention…including Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions:


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