Reform in the land of Serf and Slave, 1825-1861

TR Number
Date
2008-04-30
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
Virginia Tech
Abstract

This thesis argues that the significance of pre-Civil War southern opposition to slavery has been largely marginalized and mischaracterized by previous historiography. By contextualizing southern antislavery activism as but a single wing within a broader reformist movement, historians can move beyond simplistic interpretations of these antislavery advocates as fool-hardy and tangential "losers." While opposition to slavery constituted a key goal for these reformers, it was not their only aspiration, and they secured considerable success in other aspects of reform. Nineteenth-century Russians, simultaneously struggling with their own system of bonded labor, offer excellent counterpoints to reorient the role of antebellum southern reformers. Through their shared commitment to reforming liberalism, a preference for gradualism as the vehicle of change, and a shared intellectual framework based upon new theories of political economy, the Russian and southerners' histories highlight a transatlantic intellectual community in which southern reformers were full members. Adapting multiple theories from this transnational exchange of ideas, southern reformers were remarkably liminal figures useful for contemporary scholarly exploration into the nineteenth-century culture of reform. Ultimately, it was this liminality coupled with the inegalitarian nature of their movement that ensured that the southern antislavery movement would fail to secure a gradual demise to slavery.

Description
Keywords
Antislavery Movement -- Southern States, Emancipation -- Russia, Gradualism, Intellectual Movements -- Nineteenth Century, Political Economy -- Nineteenth Century, Reformism --Nineteenth Century, Serfdom – Russia, Slavery -- United States, Transatlantic Community – Nineteenth Century
Citation
Collections