Abolitionist: a person who wants to abolish (get rid of) the institution of slavery



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4.2 Analyze how sectionalism arose from racial tension, including the Denmark Vesey plot, slave codes and the growth of the abolitionist movement.
Vocabulary:

Abolitionist: a person who wants to abolish (get rid of) the institution of slavery


Denmark Vesey: a free man living in Charleston who plotted a slave rebellion. It was found out about and one result was stricter slave codes

Republicans (not the same as today)- followers of Thomas Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson lived in South Carolina and many South Carolinians followed his beliefs)


Whigs- like federalist a political party believing in a Strong Federal Government (many New Englanders were Whigs during the Antebellum period)

Sectionalism is loyalty to a particular region or section of a country instead of to the nation as a whole. Sectionalism developed in the period after the ratification of the Constitution as the economies, cultures and political interests of the North and the South became more and more different.

Sectional differences first developed in the colonial period as a result of the different geographies of the regions. The North developed as a trading region of small farms and the South developed the plantation system. Although all regions had slavery prior to the American Revolution, after the war was over, Northern states passed laws to gradually emancipate their slaves. In the South, the invention of the cotton gin led the South to become even more economically dependent upon slave labor (8-4.1). Although both Northerners and Southerners supported the ratification of the Constitution, the different interests of the regions helped to create the two-party system. Southerners tended to be Democratic-Republican followers of Thomas Jefferson who called themselves Republicans (8-3.4). New Englanders tended to be Federalists (and later Whigs). [It is important not to confuse the Jeffersonian Republicans with the Republicans of Lincoln. Jefferson’s Republicans became Jackson’s Democrats. Lincoln Republicans are the ideological descendants of the Federalists.] The political parties and the regions increasingly took different positions on the issues of the day. Sectionalism intensified as a result of the growing slave population in the South. In South Carolina, by the 1720’s, the black population surpassed the white population and there was an African American majority in most Southern states. Although the international slave trade was outlawed in 1808, the numbers of slaves grew due to higher birth rates and smuggling. This growing population increased the fear of slave revolts. The Denmark Vesey plot caused South Carolinians to become even more fearful of their slaves. Slave codes that had been developed as a result of the Stono rebellion during colonial times were strengthened to better protect white society. The General Assembly passed laws that prohibited slaves from meeting, learning to read and write and that regulated all aspects of slaves’ lives. A similar uprising in Virginia, the Nat Turner Rebellion, further increased tension throughout the region. Southerners feared that if slavery could not expand into the territories eventually the national government would be in the hands of the North, slavery would be outlawed and Southerners would have among them a large African American population that they could not control.

Tension also arose as a result of the growing abolitionist movement. The goal of the Abolitionist Movement was to outlaw slavery throughout the United States. Although abolitionism grew in the North, it was effective in South Carolina only in making slave owners more determined to hold onto their ‘peculiar institution.’ Abolitionists were active in South Carolina prior to the uncovering of the Denmark Vesey plot. However, after the plot was uncovered, abolitionists such as Sarah and Angelina Grimke were forced to either leave the state or keep silent. It is important for students to understand that the abolitionist movement was not popular among most northerners. The abolitionist movement grew with the publication of antislavery newspapers such as The Liberator by William A Garrison. Postmasters across South Carolina removed from the mails what they considered inflammatory materials including anti-slavery newspapers. However they could not keep abolitionists from reaching a larger and larger Northern audience. Southerners responded to abolitionists’ criticism by claiming that slavery was a ‘positive good,’ because slaves were cared for throughout their lives, unlike northern laborers that they termed ‘wage slaves.’ Abolitionists manned the Underground Railroad with limited impact in South Carolina since the state was too far from the border with “free states” to make this escape route effective. Abolitionists played a role in all of the incidents that furthered tension between the North and the South (8-4.3).

Sectionalism was furthered by changes in the Northern economy and politics. The development of industry in the North attracted European immigrants to jobs there. The resulting growth of population allowed the Northern states to have a larger representation in the House of Representatives. Another political party that supported a strong national government, called the Whigs, emerged to compete with Democrats, many of whom were southerners, for control of the presidency and Congress. Concern over the North’s greater voice in Congress led the South to compete rigorously for the admission of new states as slave states in order to maintain the balance of slave and free states in the Senate.


  1. Define Sectionalism.

  2. When did sectionalism first begin in the United States?

  3. While the North developed regionally as small farms and trading how did the South develop?

  4. What were the two-parties that developed that created regional differences and who did the majority of the South support?

  5. After the 1720s slavery significantly increased in the South and slaves began to outnumber whites. How many slaves lived in the North?

  6. What does the reading say were a result of Nat Turners uprising and Denmark Veseys possible plot?

  7. According to the reading what did Southerners fear?

  8. What was the result in South Carolina of the Abolitionist movement that was growing in the North?

  9. How did Southerners try and keep the Abolitionist movement from gaining popularity in the South?

  10. How did Southerners respond to Abolitionist criticism?

  11. What attracted Europeans to the North?

  12. How did the Northern states benefit from the large amounts of people immigrating into the north?

  13. Besides being able to have their slaves, why else does the reading say Southerners wanted the new territories to be admitted as slave states?

Primary Readings:

William Lloyd Garrison was a journalist who advocated the immediate end to slavery. He had a newspaper called The Liberator which he used to gain support for the abolitionist movement to end slavery.

The slaveholders in the South demanded the end of the newspaper and the state of Georgia offered a $5,000 reward for Garrison’s capture. The Liberator was a mighty force from the beginning and became the most influential newspaper in the antebellum antislavery crusade.

Below is a part of the reading from his first issue published of The Liberator

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 un-compromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or 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.

–William Lloyd Garrison,
in the first issue of The Liberator


  1. Why do you think William Lloyd Garrison feels he can in no way be “moderate” (moderate in this case means not so intense).

  2. Do you feel he needed to be so severe in fighting to end slavery? Why/Why not?

Workbook Pages



Page 126: Literacy Elements: Reading a Graph (textbook needed)

Page 130: Study Skills: Using Primary Sources


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