In the circles in which these things were going on, it was the fashion to denounce the Abolitionists. Women were the most bitter. The slightest suspicion of sympathy with the “fanatics” was fatal to social ambition. Mrs. Henry Chapman, the wife of a wealthy Boston shipping merchant who gave orders that no slaves should be carried on his vessels, was a brilliant woman and a leader in the highest sense in that city. But when she consented to preside over a small conference of Anti-Slavery women, society cut her dead, her former associates refusing to recognize her on the street. The families of Arthur and Lewis Tappan, the distinguished merchants of New York, were noted for their intelligence and culture, but when the heads of the families came to be classified as Abolitionists the doors of all fashionable mansions were at once shut against them. They in other ways suffered for their opinions. The home of Lewis Tappan was invaded by a mob, and furniture, books, and bric-a-brac were carried to the street and there burned to ashes.
The masses of the Northern people were, however, led to favor slavery by other arguments. One of them was that the slaves, if manumitted, would at once rush to the North and overrun the free States. I have heard that proposition warmly supported by fairly intelligent persons.
Another argument that weighed with a surprisingly large number of people, was that civil equality would be followed by social equality. As soon as they were free, negro men, it was said, would marry white wives. “Do you want your son or your daughter to marry a nigger?” was regarded as a knockout anti-Abolitionist argument. The idea, of course, was absurd. “Is it to be inferred that because I don’t want a negro woman for a slave, I do want her for a wife?” was one of the quaint and pithy observations attributed to Mr. Lincoln. I heard Prof. Hudson, of Oberlin College, express the same idea in about the same words many years before.
And yet there were plenty of Northern people to whom “Amalgamation”—the word used to describe the apprehended union of the races—was a veritable scarecrow. A young gentleman in a neighborhood near where I lived when a boy was in all respects eligible for matrimony. He became devoted to the daughter of an old farmer who had been a Kentuckian, and asked him for her hand. “But I am told,” said the old gentleman, “that you are an Abolitionist.” The young man admitted the justice of the charge. “Then, sir,” fairly roared the old man, “you can’t have my daughter; go and marry a nigger.”
But what probably gave slavery its strongest hold upon the favor of Northern people was the animosity toward the negro that prevailed among them. Nowhere was he treated by them like a human being. The “black laws,” as those statutes in a number of free States that regulated the treatment of the blacks were appropriately called, were inhuman in the extreme. Ohio was in the main a liberal State.