In colonial North America, the nonviolent Society of Friends stood almost alone in condemning slavery, which has led to the common misperception that the American antislavery movement was ideologically committed to nonviolence. In fact, decades of frustrating campaigning eventually led most American abolitionists to accept the proposition that slavery could not be ended peacefully.
Violence and Nonviolence
The post-Revolutionary antislavery movement got its start in the early 1830s and condemned slavery largely on evangelically inspired moral grounds. Although it represented a minority of the population, its cause and tactics played a significant role in the outbreak of war in 1861. By means of lecturing agents, petition drives, and a wide variety of printed materials, the American Anti-Slavery Society promoted the cause of immediate emancipation and racial equality. The targets of abolitionist efforts, the individual slaveholders and the national religious institutions, rejected antislavery appeals and attempted to suppress the abolitionist...