Slavery, Revolution, and
the American Renaissance

Eric J. Sundquist

On the first anniversary of the Liberator in 1832 William Lloyd Garrison invoked the "Spirit of Liberty" that was "thundering at castle-gates and prison-doors" throughout the world.  Rather than celebrate the fires of democratic revolution that had spread from the America of 1776, Garrison dwelled on the significant failure of the American Revolution—the problem of slavery.  When liberty "gets the mastery over its enemy," Garrison asked rhetorically, "will not its retaliation be terrible?" Only "timely repentance" could save the American "nation of blind, unrelenting, haughty, cruel, heaven-daring oppressors" from the fate of foreign despots and aristocracies.  Because repentance on a national scale did not seem likely, Garrison introduced a paradoxical possibility: in order to avoid having to join in defending the South against slave insurrection, the North ought to dissolve the Union; were this threat to "break the chain which binds [the South] to the Union" actualized, however, Garrison predicted that "the scenes of St. Domingo would be witnessed throughout her borders."1 

Garrison was no doubt thinking of the Nat Turner rebellion of the previous year, America's largest and most successful slave rebellion (which became, as Thomas Wentworth Higginson put it some thirty years later, "a memory of terror, a symbol of wild retribution"), and he thus drew back from such outright "treachery to the people of the south" and paused simply to reflect that, as a nation condoning slavery, "we are guilty—all guilty—horribly guilty." But the "double rebellion" Garrison found stirring in 1832—the rebellion of the South against the United States government, and of slaves against masters—was nonetheless prophetic.  It defined the crisis of civil war that would engulf the nation thirty years hence, just as the guilt Garrison sought here to expunge can only be understood to have increased over that period.  Surely it had increased by 1844, when Garrison, on behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society, announced their policy of "No Union with Slaveholders" and raised the "banner of revolution." Declaring that "the Union which grinds [slaves] to the dust rests upon us" as well, that "their shackles are fastened to our limbs," Garrison called for "bloodless strife, excepting our blood be shed."2 

Although he spoke radically in advocating the dissolution of the Union, Garrison's nonviolent passion suggests in its hesitation to act, or to act violently, the ambivalence that pre-Civil War generations felt and expressed toward the legacy of the founding fathers. In defining a relation to the recent past, the new generations embraced conflicting impulses and contradictions of the kind that appear boldly in the literary work of the period. Just as the political and social documents of the antebellum period constitute some of its greatest and most imaginative writing, so the literary work in its most powerful forms is infused with directly engaged social and political issues. In both cases, the problem of slavery impinged upon all others, producing a national ideology riddled with ambiguities and tension, and year by year distorting the course of American democracy.  Before examining in more detail the major events and ideas that united the complex problem of slavery with the principles of the Revolution, and the significant literature that the slavery crisis produced, we might first glance at representative responses of two of the period's great politicians and orators, Webster and Lincoln. 


The character of the generations between the wars has been described variously—as a grand fete of nationalism, an exercise in imperial aggression, a time during which the new nation darkened with unredeemed sins.  The simultaneous truth of these descriptions, and the psychological development that may be said to accompany them, are exemplified in the career of Webster.  In 1825 Webster chose a popular rhetorical figure (later echoed to different effect by Emerson in the opening of Nature) in order to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument.  As a race of "children" standing "among the sepulchres of our fathers," Webster counseled, Americans should be thankful that the "great wheel of political revolution," which began in America but soon spread "conflagration and terror" around the world, issued here in tranquillity and prosperity.  In the spirit of nationalism with which they are blessed, the American children should accept as their great duty the "defence and preservation" of the fathers' creation, the cultivation of "a true spirit of union and harmony." When the monument was completed in 1843, its "foundations in soil which drank deep of early Revolutionary blood," Webster again commemorated the fathers, especially Washington, but spoke ominously against the day when the American Union "should be broken up and destroyed" and "faction and dismemberment obliterate for ever all the hopes of the founders of our republic and the great inheritance of their children." By 1850, anxious to preserve the Union at the cost of conciliating slave interests, Webster would dedicate his famous speech of March 7 in defense of the Compromise of 1850 to Massachusetts, and further suggest in a following speech that Massachusetts, "so early to take her part in the great contest of the Revolution," and by "a law imposed upon her by the recollections of the past," would again be among the first "to offer the outpouring of her blood and treasure" in defense of the Union.  At this point, however, Emerson asserted that Webster had become "the head of the slavery party" in the United States.3 

Although Webster sought to ward off a sectional crisis, not to precipitate one, his fall from political grace became part of an unfolding drama of ideals sacrificed and redeemed.  Contemptuously alluding to Webster's "noble words" at Bunker Hill, "the spot so reddened with the blood of our fathers," Theodore Parker replied to Webster that "the question is, not if slavery is to cease, and soon to cease, but shall it end as it ended in Massachusetts, in New Hampshire, in Pennsylvania, in New York, or shall it end as in St. Domingo?  Follow the counsel of Mr. Webster—it will end in fire and blood." In courting the attacks of Emerson, Parker, and others, Webster illustrated the crisis that convulsed the Union—in the very name of "union"—and made appeals to the spirit of the Revolution ironic, if not, as Emerson said of the Fugitive Slave Law that accompanied the Compromise, "suicidal." Perhaps, though, the vision of the fathers and the suicide of the sons were entangled; perhaps, Lincoln warned in his 1838 Lyceum Address, "as a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Setting the context for his ostensible subject, "the perpetuation of our political institutions," Lincoln spoke against the kind of mob violence that took the life of abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy (an event that Edward Beecher that same year described as not simply the murder of a "father" but the slaying of the laws and liberties of a "nation"), and he chose as another example the lynching of "Negroes suspected of conspiring to raise an insurrection."4 The decades that followed, in which Lincoln would in the eyes of many become the heroic savior of his country, proved the examples less significant than the fundamental question they raised: how, in "a nation of freemen," did the Revolution speak to the issue of slavery? 

Lincoln's address, often seen to desecrate the fathers and to betray a monumental desire for personal power, marks his initial turn away from the mesmerizing power of the Revolutionary past.  Twenty years later he broke free from the awe of previous generations at the same time he broke free from the nonviolence of conservative antislavery.  In saving the Union while abolishing slavery, he thus stood between Garrison and Webster.  He was able to do so because the scenes of the Revolution, as he argued in his early address, had grown "dim by the lapse of time." The "forest of giant oaks" had been swept over, leaving only "here and there a lonely trunk," with "mutilated limbs," "despoiled of its verdure." The relationship between Lincoln and the Revolutionary generation can be gauged symbolically by noting that his image of the fathers as declining giant oaks had been anticipated by Thomas Paine, who warned in Common Sense that in "the seedtime of continental union" the least fracture would be "like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound would enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full-grown characters."5 The name engraved in the oak was slavery; only the further violence of domestic rebellion and fraternal war would heal the wound. 

The New Testament figure of a "house divided against itself" that Paine had used to characterize the struggle of king against people in the American colonies would likewise reappear in Lincoln's famous House Divided speech of 1858.  On this occasion, as he did even after the Civil War was a reality, Lincoln continued to speak for union—in the name of the fathers' tacit, limited protection of slavery; but the internal divisions between free soil and proslavery, recast by abolitionists and Republicans to show the South as a stronghold of despotism equal to any European monarchy, were nevertheless present in Lincoln's allusion to a secret conspiracy to extend slavery by means of the Nebraska doctrine and the recent Dred Scott decision.  Like much of the nation, that is to say, Lincoln himself was divided.  As the values and intent of the Revolution became less and less vivid as doctrine, yet more and more compelling as symbols that could be seized with equal insistence by either side, a further division in the "house"—between the Revolutionary past and the nationalistic present—complicated the issues of democratic freedom and sectional power.  As George Forgie has argued, the anxiety of the "post-heroic generations" in the face of the inimitable achievements of the Revolutionary fathers left them at once unable to act with originality and unwilling obediently to follow the example set by the fathers.  They were rebellious and conservative at the same time, on no issue more so than slavery.  The failure to abolish slavery in the late eighteenth century left succeeding generations stymied, imprisoned by the Constitution's apparent protection of slavery, yet conscious of the implicit attack on it in the Declaration of Independence.  The post-Revolutionary sons, it could be said, harbored the sins of the past until the accumulated pressure—of territorial acquisition, of political dissension, of guilt—became too great.  In the violence of internal reblleion [sic] and civil war the post-Revolutionary generations became, as Jefferson had feared in the wake of San Domingo, "the murderers of our own children."6 


The "rebirth" our classic literature is said to constitute occurred precisely in an era—from the 1830s through the Civil War—in which the authority of the fathers had become the subject of anxious meditation and in which the national crisis over slavery's limits compelled a return to the fraternally divisive energies of revolution.  Though duplicitous attitudes toward America's own recent birth and her course of empire increased in cultural and political thought over that period, they had been nonetheless present from the beginning.  The Civil War restored union and may therefore be seen as essentially conservative or redemptive, much as the Revolution itself was seen by many of its participants to be a return—a revolution, rather than a rebellion—to lost principles on the model of the Glorious Revolution of 1689.  In this respect, the Civil War itself might be seen as restoring those freedoms suppressed in 1776, or intended but never actualized: that is, it became a revolution rather than the "war of the rebellion" it seemed at the outset.  The irony of the 1689 model lies in the great wave of slave imports into the North American colonies that occurred at nearly the same moment; at a more contemporary level, the irony appears in the notion of continuing, progressive revolution that Sacvan Bercovitch has demonstrated to constitute the tradition of the jeremiad in America and to provide the basis for a "national consensus" in which the providential design of the country was constantly reaffirmed and revolutionary radicalism "socialized into an affirmation of order." By the time of the war, Lincoln and others would have no trouble appropriating the fiery vision of the Revolutionary fathers to their own regenerative purposes; but Lincoln's initial desire to punish the South and redeem the fathers without abolishing slavery betrays a problem that the national consensus served as well to conceal as to express.7 

It was a question to which Hawthorne, a man otherwise attentive to the ambiguities of freedom and the fraternal complexities of the Revolution, was strangely blind, except, characteristically, as he recognized the elementary doubleness of America's political origins.  Although he understood that "the children of the Puritans" were connected to the Africans of Virginia in a singular way, since the "fated womb" of the Mayflower "sent forth a brood of Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock" in her first voyage, and in a subsequent one "spawned slaves upon the Southern soil," Hawthorne's apprehension of this "monstrous birth," recorded in 1862, did not prevent him from satirizing Lincoln and envisioning a group of escaped slaves "akin to the fawns and rustic deities of olden times." The symbolic connection Hawthorne noted between pilgrims and slaves in a larger sense forms one of the central paradoxes of American history.  The rise of liberty and the rise of slavery in America took place simultaneously from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.  In Virginia especially, as Edmund Morgan has demonstrated, slavery made free white society more homogeneous, allowed the flourishing of commonwealth ideas about taxation, property, and representation, and thus brought Virginians into the political tradition of New England.  The links between liberty and slavery were all the more complicated in view of the rhetoric of enslavement that American colonists employed during the Revolution.  A famous suppressed clause of the Declaration of independence charged George III with "violating the most sacred rights of life and liberty" in the practice of the slave trade and, moreover, with instigating rebellion among American slaves, "thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes he urges them to commit against the lives of another." Revolutionary pamphlets often cast Americans as slaves of king and parliament, suggesting at times that chattel slavery was but an extreme form of a more pervasive political oppression.  As attempts to abolish slavery during and after the Revolution foundered on the questions of (human) property rights, vital economy, fear of insurrection and amalgamation, and the legacy of the fathers, the tentative identification between colonists and slaves collapsed.  The very fact that some of the most influential founding fathers—among them Jefferson and Washington—were slaveholders enhanced the doubleness at the heart of the American experiment and in the long run invited the two-edged sarcasm of Theodore Parker: "The most valuable export of Virginia, is her Slaves, enriched by 'the best blood of the old dominion;' the 'Mother of Presidents' is also the great Slave Breeder of America.  Since she ceased to import bondsmen from Africa, her Slaves [have] become continually paler in the face; it is the 'effect of the climate'—and Democratic Institutions."8 

The increasing distance from the Revolution allowed later generations to focus the contradiction between liberty and slavery in the question of "perpetual union," a question that, despite the great power of Washington's Farewell Address in 1796, did not—perhaps, could not—become a vital issue until the generation of the fathers was dead.  At that point Americans opposed to slavery had to balance the harmony of union against the principle of freedom; they not only could entertain a contradiction in sentiments, but virtually had to, unless they were willing to follow radicals like Garrison in calling for the dissolution of the Union.  Lincoln himself, even though he sought a new "field of glory" equivalent to that enjoyed by the "once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed, race of ancestors,["] demanded in the Lyceum address of 1838 that "every lover of liberty . . . swear by the blood of the Revolution" never to violate the laws of the country embodied in the Constitution, and remember that to do so "is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own and his children's liberty."9 

Lincoln's magically ambivalent speech, juggling the concept of union as precariously as Jefferson had juggled the concept of liberty in framing the Declaration of Independence, is one of the initiating documents of the impending national trauma and the explosive literature that accompanied it. It forecasts Lincoln's reluctance to contravene the fathers' protection of slavery, and it finely illuminates what David Brion Davis has described as the "widening chasm of time between the transcendent moment of rebirth-when the 'Word of Liberty' created a nation-and the recurring rediscoveries of America's unredeemed sin."10 The sense of "continuing Revolutionary time" that kept the chasm from swallowing up the nation could not be extended indefinitely.  Though it was prolonged for close to a century, one may date the first serious fractures, the recurring rediscoveries of sin, most vividly from the early 1830s.  A time of new revolutions in Europe, it was in America a time during which the national memory of the Revolution took on a particularly fragile cast and during which the forces of social and sexual reform, an accelerating market economy, and the crisis over territorial acquisition and the extension of slavery that were to produce the major issues for the writers of the American Renaissance first became tangible. 


The year of Garrison's anniversary editorial, 1832, also saw the publication of his Thoughts on African Colonization, which argued vigorously that the colonization of American blacks was a futile project and became instrumental in turning antislavery attention to the real question of black freedom in America.  The year 1832 was also the widely celebrated centennial of Washington's birth, a fact that brings into special relief the significant events that surround it.  Hawthorne that year published his two great tales of revolutionary anxiety, "My Kinsman, Major Molineux" and "Roger Malvin's Burial" (both responding to the glimmering memory of Washington himself and the generations of fathers that had passed away with the mystical deaths of Adam and Jefferson on the Fourth of July, 1826), and John Pendleton Kennedy brought forth Swallow Barn, the first significant fictional defense of slavery.  At the same time, the Virginia House of Delegates undertook the most serious debate in its history on the question of slave emancipation.  In the wake of Nat Turner's bloody Virginia rebellion and another threatening uprising of slaves in British Jamaica in 1831, the delegates were almost exactly split on the possibility of abolishing slavery in its American place of birth.  After this date the southern stance in defense of slavery prevailed and rigidified, and was characterized with fierce precision by Thomas R. Dew, whose classic 1832 essay, "Abolition of Negro Slavery" (later expanded as Review of the Debate in the Virginia Legislature of 1831-1832), argued against both colonization and emancipation.  Pointing to the example of continued turmoil in Haiti and comparing potentially freed slaves to a Frankenstein monster incapable of coping with liberty, Dew belittled analogies between the cause of American slaves and contemporary revolutions in Poland and France; the "right of revolution" does not exist, he said, for persons "totally unfit for freedom and self-government" and certain to bring "ruin and degradation," "relentless carnage and massacre" upon all.11 Dew on one side and Garrison on the other defined the extreme form polemics for and against slavery would take for the next thirty years. 

The early 1830s, still transported by the enthusiastic nationalism of the previous decade, also witnessed the initial signs of dissent over a problem that would bring to a crisis the issue of slavery—the problem of territorial acquisition and America's sense of democratic mission.  Celebrating the centennial of Washington's birth, Webster reminded his audience that Washington regarded nothing of greater importance than the "integrity of the Union" and warned that "disunion and dismemberment" would "sweep away, not only what we possess, but all our powers of regaining lost, or acquiring new possessions." The following year, 1833, Lydia Maria Child from a rather different point of view lamented the fact that Washington's farewell advice about the necessity of union no longer "operated like a spell upon the hearts and consciences of his countrymen." She noted that southern threats of secession had diminished the public's reverence for union; and fearing the extension of slavery into new territories (but thankful, at this point, that Mexico placed a barrier against the acquisition of Texas), she derided the government's refusal to recognize Haitian independence.  By the 1850s, appeals to the fathers on this score seemed more than ever to summon up an illusion. In his 1853 inauguration speech, alluding to the "manifest and beneficent [sic] Providence" that guided "our fathers," Franklin Pierce praised the Compromise of 1850 and predicted the acquisition of Cuba ("certain possessions not within our jurisdiction eminently important for our protection"), proslavery positions voiced, as Pierce said, "within reach of the tomb of Washington, with all the cherished memories of the past gathered around me like so many eloquent voices from heaven."12 

The legacy of the fathers provided for manifest destiny, which increased fears of the extension of slavery and slave power, which in turn destroyed the integrity of the Union and the legacy of the fathers.  A belief in the divine mission of America could sanction antislavery but it could just as easily compel devotion to union in the service of slavery and its expansion.  The spirit of American mission that legitimized war with Mexico and prompted self-congratulation that 1776 was the source of current "democratic" revolutions in Europe in 1848 also prompted patriotic defenses of moderation, even fire-eating, on the question of slavery.  Thus Hawthorne, in his campaign biography of Pierce, celebrated Pierce's bodily descent from a renowned Revolutionary father; he repeatedly emphasized the necessary link between Revolutionary glory and the concept of union; he dwelled on Pierce's "heroic" role in the war with Mexico, which "struck an hereditary root in his breast" and linked him to the vision of the fathers; and he argued, with respect to Pierce's support of the Compromise of 1850, that as an "unshaken advocate of Union," Pierce saw that "merely human wisdom and human efforts cannot subvert [slavery], except by tearing to pieces the Constitution . . . and severing into distracted fragments that common country which Providence brought into one nation, through a continued miracle of almost two hundred years, from the first settlement of the American wilderness until the Revolution."13 

Hawthorne's Life of Pierce may be his most neglected romance.  It is a primary document in the nationalistic Young America movement, and it exemplifies Hawthorne's need (one he shared with Sirnms and Cooper) to ground the value of contemporary accomplishments in the bedrock of a highly conservative Revolutionary tradition.  Yoking together union and slavery, sentimerital politics and American expansion, the Life allows Hawthorne the widely shared fantasy that slavery is "one of those evils which divine Providence does not leave to be remedied by human contrivances" but one day, "by some means impossible to be anticipated," will cause "to vanish like a dream." His argument, like the topological patterns of his tales, locates the providential origin of union well in advance of 1776.  As the American Revolution is for Hawthorne a return to the strength of betrayed Puritan principles in which the rebellious patriot shadows forth the grim features of his forefathers, so manifest destiny is here part of the "continued miracle" of America, and union the state of grace ordained by the sacred document, the Constitution.  This aspect of American civil religion was endorsed by Pierce in his acceptance of the nomination when he called upon "a Power superior to human might" that "from the first gun of the Revolution, in every crisis through which we have passed," has brought "out of darkness the rainbow of promise." But the power Pierce relied upon, abolitionists feared, was a godless, aggrandizing "Slave Power," which sought to extend its political influence, along with the institution of slavery, by "revolutionizing" new territories in the name of democratic freedom.  Casting back to the common ground of colonial revolt, abolitionists saw a Slave Power conspiracy that resembled and reanimated old fears of a conspiracy of king and parliament against their subjects.  By "reenacting the primal resistance to subversion" that had prevailed in "popular conceptualizations of the American Revolution" as a combat of conspiratorial British plots against existing liberties, antislavery forces could affirm their kinship with the founding fathers and finish the incomplete Revolution.14 

Who, though, were the subversives in this case?  As they built upon the pattern of paranoia about subversion that had characterized American popular politics since the earliest incidents of  revolution, abolitionists on the one hand and proslavery forces on the other displayed the double face of American liberty.  Antislavery appeared as a conspiracy of Jacobins, British sympathizers, and religious fanatics to renounce the Constitution and to create slave rebellion and revenge; the Slave Power appeared a means of imperial expansion that in its very nature would destroy the liberties first generated by 1776. 


The distilled symbolic representation of this doubleness in the legacy of the American Revolution from the 1790s forward was the slave revolution in San Domingo.  Replete with ironies, as W. E. B. Du Bois sensed, San Domingo caught the fire of the French Revolution in 1791; it bolstered the antislavery movement in England and accelerated the suppression of the slave trade; it became a primary point of reference for both proslavery and antislavery forces in America; and it ended Napoleon's vision of American empire, leading thus to the Louisiana Purchase and, eventually, the crisis question of slavery in the territories.  Following the first flight of terrified planter refugees to the United States in the early 1790s, and again in the wake of Turner's balked rebellion in Southampton, Virginia, San Domingo was summoned up in arguments over the possibility of slave or free black insurrection.  Like a prism, it reflected all sides and shades of the question, paradoxical or not, and appears throughout the literature of the antebellum period.  For example, a southern abolitionist, Angelina Grimke, argued that the worst bloodshed in San Domingo took place not because of black revolution and emancipation but because of France's attempt to reimpose slavery in 1802; while a northern moderate, Catherine Beecher, replied to Grimke in 1837 that radical abolitionism, by evoking such examples and making slavery more severe in reaction, was raising "the paean song of liberty and human rights" among slaves and preparing the way for the "terrors of insurrection" and catastrophic civil war.  From either point of view, however, the presiding threat of San Domingo to the United States was a form of historical revenge.  It threatened to spread what Winthrop Jordan has called "the cancer of revolution" throughout the slaveholding empires and held forth the promise, as the black novelist and political activist William Wells Brown wrote in 1855, that "the revolution that was commenced in 1776 would . . . be finished, and the glorious sentiments of the Declaration of Independence" realized.  Having "shed their [own] blood in the American revolutionary war," Brown argued, slaves were now "only waiting the opportunity of wiping out their wrongs in the blood of their oppressors."15 

Here Brown turned on its head the frequent warnings against slave insurrection and echoed a pamphleteer who had written in the wake of Denmark Vesey's 1822 conspiracy that "our NEGROES are truly the Jacobins of the country . . . the anarchists and the domestic enemy." Surely, Brown and others suggested, there was a Toussaint waiting to rise in revolt against the southern states, a "black Cromwell, " as Parker wrote, ready to annihilate slavery just as theocracy, monarchy, and aristocracy had been (or were being) annihilated in Europe.  It seemed not.  The closest American slaves had and would come to San Domingo was Turner's 1831 rebellion.  Turner originally planned the rebellion to occur, appropriately, on the Fourth of July.  To the extent that Fourth of July orations served in the decades preceding the Civil War to give ritual form to America's progressive revolution, Turner's plot—like Garrison's burning of the Constitution on the Fourth of July, 1854, following Pierce's enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law in Boston with federal troops—made the theatrical aspects of American politics more apparent.  "What to the American slave," asked Frederick Douglass in a famous 1852 address, "is your Fourth of July?"—what but "a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages." The Fourth's ritual importance was itself thus double: what does it more resemble, with respect to white America, than one of those holidays of which Douglass wrote in his autobiography, designed to keep down "the spirit of insurrection among the slaves" and provide a "safety valve to carry off the explosive elements inseparable from the human mind, when reduced to the condition of slavery."16 But as Turner's plot and other evidence suggests, holidays, especially the Fourth, could not only defuse insurrection but also conceal and promote it.  Like the idea of union, the spirit of the Fourth of July wore a special mask of political vengeance; its annual celebrations and oratory defined freedom restrictively, of course, but did so with increasing tension and ambiguity. 

Turner may have embodied the spirit of the age of revolution, but the most intriguing thing about the record of Turner's own intentions we have, Thomas Gray's Confessions (1831), is that the ideas of rebellion and freedom are hardly in evidence; instead, the emphasis lies, in Turner's purported confessions, on his messianic visions and, in Gray's editorial commentary, on the derangement of Turner and his "dreadful conspiracy" of "diabolical actors." By staging Turner as a "gloomy fanatic" lost "in the recesses of his own dark, bewildered, and overwrought mind" as he plotted his apocalyptic drama and carried it out in methodical, cold-blooded fashion, Gray reduced this "first instance in our history of an open rebellion of the slaves" (as he deceptively termed it) to a unique example of deviation from the normally good-willed, safe relationship of master and slave.  As it embodied the central paradox of southern representations of slaveholding—that the institution was one of affectionate paternalism but that bloody insurrection could break forth at the least relaxation of vigilance—the Confessions served thus to sound an alarm but also to suppress the violent justness of Turner's plot and to disguise its motives.17 

Contrary to this picture of an isolated madman, Toussaint, by all accounts one of the great leaders of the age of revolution, considered himself the "father" of his new country's "children." In warning the Directory in 1797 of a reactionary move in the legislature to restore slavery, he cautioned that the slaveholding interests were "unable to conceive how many sacrifices a true love of country can support in a better father than they." Compared by Wendell Phillips to Lafayette, Washington, Napoleon, Cromwell, and John Brown in a famous address of 1861 (the more startling because the black general had "no drop of white blood in his veins"), Toussaint invited the withering comparison to the father of America that William Wells Brown provided several years earlier: 

Each was the leader of an oppressed and outraged people, each had a powerful enemy to contend with, and each succeeded in founding a government in the New World.  Toussaint's government made liberty its watchword, incorporated it in its constitution, abolished the slave-trade, and made freedom universal amongst the people.  Washington's government incorporated slavery and the slave-trade, and enacted laws by which chains were fastened upon the limbs of millions of people.  Toussaint liberated his countrymen; Washington enslaved a portion of his, and aided in giving strength and vitality to an institution that will one day rend assunder the UNION that he helped to form.  Already the slave in his chains in the rice fields of Carolina and the cotton fields of Mississippi, burns for revenge.
Brown, author of a novel in which the reputed slave mistress and children of Jefferson figure in a story that includes the Turner revolt (Clotel, 1853), was thus ready to deliver the "scorching irony" that Douglass called for in his Fourth of July address.18 Nat Turner, as presented by Gray, could be afforded no such irony: a maniac, self-styled martyr, perhaps, but hardly the "father" of a new nation.  Still, Gray's version of Turner's revolt commands special attention because it contains at once the contradictory aspects of slave heroism that would soon appear in two of the central fictional treatments of the question of slave resistance, Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Delany's Blake. 


Not surprisingly, the messianic, suffering Turner was precisely the one embraced by such vocal abolitionists as Higginson, Garrison, and Stowe.  The ambivalence about Turner is nowhere clearer than in Stowe's novel Dred (1856), which modeled its title character on Turner (she appended a copy of the Confessions to the novel) and portrayed him as the son of Denmark Vesey; made him appear even more insane than Gray had; and killed him off before anything decisive could come of his plots.  For Stowe, of course, violent revolution was no answer, and her sentimental racialism prevented her from imagining fully the need for, and the effects of, such insurrection.  Rebellion, as it appears in Uncle Tom's Cabin, is an apocalyptic issue: obviously in the Christ-like martyrdom of Tom; or, more revealingly, in the gothic intrigues of Cassy, the demented tragic mulatto who follows Tom's advice to escape "without blood-guiltiness" but does so in a way that acts out the psychic trauma of racial liberation with which the novel, Stowe herself, and the nation were struggling.  When Cassy effects her final escape by terrorizing Legree in the "ghostly garments" of his mother's shroud, she enacts the revenge of feminine power on which Stowe's entire novel draws.  Legree's decaying mansion, reminiscent of the house of Usher, is the House Divided in extremity, the home of both domestic (sexual) and political (racial) perversions of the family.  Whatever "lurid shadows of a coming retribution" the destruction of Legree might anticipate, however, one may be cautious about the novel's commitment to liberation.19 

Stowe's colonizationist impulses were less racist than those of many abolitionists; yet they remain one sign of the disturbing problem of political union that pervades her novel in the form of gothic sentimentalism.  An additional sign appears in St. Clare's assertion that only the "sons of white fathers" among the slaves, only those with Anglo-Saxon blood "burning in their veins," can bring forth "the San Domingo hour" and "raise with them their mother's race." The belief in dominant Anglo-Saxon blood, widespread enough to be echoed even by Brown in Clotel, compromises the invocation of the founding fathers by George Harris and threatens to undermine the power of Stowe's comparison between fugitive slaves and the "heroic" fugitives from the failed Hungarian revolution, eagerly received and honored by Americans.  Whatever its intention, the book's stated assumption that pure blacks are naturally docile comes close to implying that slaves were incapable of revolution and unsuited even for the European "millennium of . . . greasy masses" that St. Clare's brother invokes in ridicule of the worldwide extension of democratic rights.  Once America's missionary spirit and its enthusiasm for the European revolutions of 1848 waned, moreover, the effectiveness of comparisons between American slaves and European rebels was reduced and in large part reversed as Southerners once again emphatically invoked the possibility of a slave "reign of terror."20 

In advocating the elevation of the race of slave "mothers" but denying the possibility of rebellion among black slaves, Stowe codified the matrix of women, slaves, and children that the cult of domesticity had generated in the decades before the war.  Stowe perfected an imagistic rhetoric of sentiment that derived from the eighteenth-century ideal of benevolence, in part a Rousseauian belief that man was everywhere "in chains" and in part a result of a rising evangelical Protestantism.  Although antislavery and other campaigns of reform had employed the rhetoric of sentiment for years with sporadic success, Stowe may have captured the welling emotions of a guilty nation poised for cathartic release.  Uncle Tom's Cabin strengthened political resolve in some quarters, North and South, but more immediately it produced a flood of melodrama, graveyard poetry, popular songs, dioramas, engravings, gift books, card games, printed tippets and scarves, china busts and figurines, gold and silver spoons, commemorative plates, needlepoint, and similar artifacts that gave conventional expression to subversion and thereby contained and controlled it.  Sentiment, not antislavery, made the book popular and its black hero an exemplary suffering heroine; Tom's access of feminine power and his pious sacrifice, in explicit contrast to Legree's inexorable lust and cruelty, marks the fantasy Stowe's audience eagerly adopted—that slavery was the culture's extreme revelation of lust and the South an arena of erotic dissipation "where the repressed came out of hiding." Stowe thus focused the often invisible and passive politics of domesticity and gave them a readily assimilable set of scenes calculated to incite an internal cultural revolution.  Stepping beyond the restricted "women's sphere" of feminine involvement with the politics of slavery advocated by Catherine Beecher and others, Stowe insisted that the power of sentiment, a rebellion of the emotions, of heart over head, would crush the masculine tyranny of American institutions and the law of the "fathers."21 

But as her depiction of Tom suggests, nothing in American culture was more infused with the doubleness at the heart of slavery than the sentimental ideal of domesticity and no "home" more threatened by violent dissension than the House of political union.  A short sketch Stowe wrote in 1851 depicts "The Two Altars" the—"Altar of Liberty, or 1776," in which a Revolutionary family sacrifices its domestic comforts to support the struggle against a despotic British government that would make Americans "slaves of a foreign power"; and the "Altar of ——, or 1850," in which a fugitive slave is returned to bondage, "sacrificed on the altar of the Union." The obvious contrast of the tales obscures the fact that conservative abolition only with difficulty broke free from the domestic ideal sanctioned by the Revolutionary past.  As in the case of San Domingo, the ideal of the "family["] was claimed on both sides as a justification of its ideology.  In rejecting American participation in the 1826 Panama Congress, where black delegates from Haiti were certain to discuss their revolution, for instance, Robert Hayne warned that the South considered slavery a "domestic question" concerning "our most sacred rights" that could be meddled with only at the risk of "the safety of our families, our altars, and our firesides." In addition to making the usual arguments that northern wage labor was more exploitative than chattel slavery, that slavery was authorized by the Bible, and that the Constitution sanctioned slavery, the numerous novelistic replies to Uncle Tom's Cabin joined more respected polemicists like William Gilmore Simms and George Fitzhugh in claiming that antislavery was a misguided attack on the twin paternalistic ideals of family authority and political union.22 

In her treatment of black character and her implicit challenge to the paternal ideal of the Revolutionary past, then, Stowe's novel embraces the very tensions that divided the nation.  Her merger of slavery and sexual mastery, her moving exploration of "deep-laid patterns of escape, bondage, and rebellion" (in the several senses Constance Rourke refers to), draws upon the tangled guilt that Garrison's "No Union" policy sought to expunge but could only etch more boldly.  The romance of sentimental domesticity that lends her novel its great emotional power might free the slaves and crucify them at the same time.  The apocalyptic suffering that activates Uncle Tom's Cabin arises not only from repressed Calvinistic fears of Negro "blackness" but also from a crisis of purification in which Revolutionary sentiment and the will of God struggled antagonistically to become united against slavery. As the issue of union became increasingly tied to sentimental images of home, tranquility, and moral virtue located in the heroic age of the founding fathers, it exacerbated the paradox that antislavery offered a divine stage for the redemption of America's national sins at the same time it invites regressive capitulation to the authority (and chastisement) of the civil fathers.  Our "fear of dissolving the Union," Lydia Maria Child had written twenty years earlier of this "siamese question," is the strongest reason for "our supineness of the subject of slavery."23 The double impulses of defiance and obedience Child identified, so infusing Lincoln's political vision, also lie behind Stowe's association of gothic terror and domesticity.  The gothic was preeminently the genre of revolution and psychological upheaval, and domesticity had become the image of America's successful revolution and its stymied incompletion.  Sentiment, because it turned the idea of black revolutionary violence inward and internalized suffering as imminent heavenly wrath, made it possible to conceive of the revolutionary destruction of slavery without violence. 

Calling instead for human wrath and externalized revolutionary force, Martin Delany replied to Stowe in his novel Blake; Or, the Huts of America, written in the early- to mid-1850s and published serially in part in 1859 and probably in full in 1861 and 1862.  Though it is not artfully crafted and lacks the visionary powers of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Blake advocates slave revolution and depicts a leader, Henry Blake, who combines the vision of Nat Turner and the commanding intelligence and authority of Toussaint.  Identifying divine deliverance with violent revolution and associating the plotted insurrections of Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, and Nat Turner with the spirit of the American Revolution Blake, a free man, spreads a plot for "terrible insurrection" throughout the South after his wife, a slave who rejects the attentions of her owner-father, is sold to a planter in Cuba. Blake then follows her trail to Cuba, buys her freedom, and becomes the leader of the "Army of Emancipation" that will free the slaves of Cuba and, presumably, spread the fire of revolution to the United States.24  The novel, as it survives, breaks off appropriately in an unresolved state of tension, on the brink of black revolution. 

The portion of the novel set in Cuba is significant in several respects, not least because it carries the action to a country that the South, on the example of Texas, had hoped for years to annex either by purchase or outright seizure.  Throughout the filibustering of the 1840s and '50s it was argued that the United States had a providential right to Cuba, as well as Haiti, Mexico, and Latin America at large; moreover, it was believed that freedom for blacks in those regions posed a genuine threat to white life and institutions in the South.  Purported conspiracies between Britain and Spain for the "Africanization of Cuba," combined with countering southern designs on Caribbean and Latin American territories, made Cuba significant in symbolic as well as actual terms.  The same year that Blake first appeared, the Democratic Review, long an organ for the most extraordinary claims of manifest destiny, published a lead essay promoting the acquisition of Cuba that invoked the spirit and blood baptism of 1776, implore the government to "rescue" Cuba from likely European despotism, and anticipated the continued onward movement of "the ark of Democratic covenant." Slavery, of course, would be protected and extended.25 

The ironies of such patriotic designs upon Cuba are used to careful effect by Delany.  Throughout the novel Cuba appears as a representative object of the increase of Slave Power; in Cuba itself the American residents term themselves "patriots" and "rebels" who engineer false alarms of black rebellion against planters in order to increase their political power with the Spanish and to set the stage for American annexation.  One such alarm occurs on King's Day, a festival of African celebration that Delany suggests might well conceal the "rage" of "wild animals" and one day make "the streets of Havana run with blood." Delany had advised as early as 1849 in the North Star that the annexation of Cuba "should be the signal for simultaneous rebellion of the slaves in the Southern States and throughout the island"; and the ominous conclusion to the novel as it survives—"Woe be unto those devils of whites, I say"—leaves little doubt that Delany's vision of insurrection was meant explicitly to answer Stowe's nonviolence and to counter plots of annexation by proslavery forces in the United States.  Those forces, relying on a familiar rhetoric, as did Buchanan and the other authors of the notorious Ostend Manifesto in late 1854, sensed impending treason against "our gallant forefathers" and posterity if the flames of a Cuban slave rebellion, "a second St. Domingo," were allowed to "consume the fair fabric of our Union." They advocated imperial seizure of Cuba on "the very same principle that would justify an individual in tearing down the burning house of his neighbor if there were no other means of preventing the flames from destroying his own home."26  Domesticity and manifest destiny, union and slavery, were here linked indissoluably; the threat of slave rebellion became, paradoxically, a mask for the spread of slavery.  Delany's novel, unlike Uncle Tom's Cabin, tore sentiment and slavery apart by envisioning the suppressed power of the age of revolution ushered in by the America of 1776: the power to end slavery throughout the western world, certainly in the Americas, most of all in the United States. 

A free man and a professional physician (despite being forced out of Harvard Medical School when white students protested the presence of blacks and women in their class), Delany became a fierce emigrationist, and thus joins Stowe on one critical issue.  Yet his vision of black colonization, first articulated in The Political Destiny of the Colored Race on the American Continent (1854), attacks the premise of Anglo-Saxon manifest destiny and anticipates twentieth-century arguments in predicting that the colored two-thirds of the world population will not forever "passively submit to the universal domination" of the white third.  Delany also participated in John Brown's 1858 Chatham convention (but was in Liberia during Harper's Ferry), and if his emigration schemes were evidence that black "alienation had crystallized into a sweeping ideology that transcended national identity,"27 Blake is meant to suggest, as Higginson warned, that every slave family concealed a Nat Turner—perhaps even a Tousaint—and that alienation would lead to violent resistance before it led to escape. 


For whom, though, did Stowe and Delany speak?  And who, in fact, spoke most eloquently for black freedom in the decades before the war?  One might ask Judge Joseph Mills, who had an appointment with Lincoln in 1864.  Mr. President, Mills told Lincoln, 

I was in your reception room today.  It was dark.  I suppose that clouds & darkness necessarily surround the secrets of state.  There in the corner I saw a man quietly reading who possessed a remarkably physiognomy.  I was rivetted to the spot.  I stood and stared at him.  He raised his flashing eyes & caught me in the act.  I was compelled to speak.  Said I, Are you the President?  No, replied the stranger, I am Frederick Douglass. 28 
Mifls's confusion was appropriate since Douglass, long before Lincoln, saw no contradiction between the principles of the American Revolution and freedom from slavery.  Falling here ideologically and chronologically between Stowe and Delany, Douglass offers what neither of them can—a firsthand account of the rise from slavery.  Although it sacrifices some of the immediacy and visceral simplicity of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which appeared in 1845, the expanded 1855 version entitled My Bolidage and My Freedom develops a philosophical frame and psychological depth for Douglass's moving autobiography and is a classic text of the American Renaissance—not least because of the literal rebirth into freedom it records and the rebirth, the reawakening, of revolutionary principles it advocates.  Because it can carry Douglass's life forward to his alliance with Garrison and his break with him over the disunion issue, My Bondage and my Freedom is able to describe the new dilemmas of freedom faced by an escaped slave. 

A man of subtle paradoxes, Douglass was once shocked to discover that he needed to "talk like a slave, look like a slave, [and] act like a slave" in order to find a willing audience for his story, but he later rebelled against the leading abolitionist ranks and avowed his belief in the "more perfect union"—without slavery—he thought sanctioned by the Constitution.  Douglass's faith in union also finds sanction in the rhetoric of revolution employed in the autobiography.  Like those of Stowe and Delany, Douglass's story is grounded in the sentiment of family, and in this case as in others its argument combines the powers of each, enacting both the display of erotized cruelty destructive of families that Uncle Tom's Cabin portrays and the reasoned progress toward violent resistance on behalf of families that Blake depicts.  "Slavery does away with fathers, as it does away with families," Douglass wrote.  The barbarous separation of husbands, wives, and children, along with the usurpation of sexual privileges by white masters (as, possibly, in the case of Douglass's own father-master), forms a part of "the grand aim of slavery" to obliterate "from the mind and heart of the slave, all just ideas of the sacredness of the family, as an institution." It is in this context that Douglass's growing sentiments of rebellion—against his different masters and against the slave-breaker Covey—acquire their great persuasive force and remind him that a slave who "kills his master . . . imitates the heroes of the revolution."29  Precisely because the fathers to be killed might in this instance be literal fathers, and precisely because their charade of paternalistic conc was often transparently a lie, the appeal to the founding fathes drew on the emotion of lost or threatened union in a double powerful and relevant way. 

The unsettling irony infusing that appeal to the Revolutionary past arises as well in Douglass's 1853 story "The Heroic Slave," a fictional treatment of the slave rebellion aboard the Creole in 1841.  Like the revolt of slaves aboard the Cuban Amistad in 1838, the Creole revolt attracted international attention; whereas the Amistad raised the question of the North's guarantee of freedom for illegally transported slaves (the Supreme Court, against the wishes of President Van Buren and to the diplomatic outrage of Cuba and Spain, upheld that freedom), the case of the Creole involved American slaves who seized their ship, sailed to Nassau, and were freed by British authorities (despite protests from American officials that contradicted the findings in the Amistad case).  Douglass's treatment of the revolt, however, focuses on Madison Washington, the leader of the revolt, and an Ohio man named Listwell, who is converted to antislavery through several encounters with Washington. In Douglass's version of the revolt, Listwell supplies the files that allow Washington and his comrades to escape their chains; but the emphasis in the final part of the story lies clearly on the slaves' determination to strike for liberty: "We have done that which you applaud your fathers for doing," Washington tells the ship's first mate, "and if we are murderers, so were they." As the mate later recognizes, the slaves were acting on "the principles of 1776," and the entire story, from its exploitation of the birth in Virginia of a black hero named Washington to its interlocutory narrative technique aimed at the conversion of a white audience, intends to show that slaves have both the right and the ability to rebel.30 

Even in 1855, however, the year of Melville's Benito Cereno, Douglass was wary of revealing the various "incendiary" sentiments likely to arise in the minds of slaves.  But he warned in one of several passages in his autobiography devoted to the idea of rebellion that "the slaveholder, kind or cruel, every hour violates the "inalienable rights of man" and is "every hour silently whetting the knife of vengeance for his own throat.  He never lisps a syllable in commendation of the fathers of this republic, nor denounces any attempted oppression himself, without inviting the knife to his own throat, and asserting the rights of rebellion for his slaves."  Benito Cereno, mimicking the prototypical image of a languid slaveowner, glimpses the significance of this fatal lesson; Captain Delano, racist New Englander in the age of revolution, only imagines revenge in the theatrical pantomime of decapitation played out in the notorious shaving scene aboard the San Dominick.  Unable to see past an enchanting domestic vision of slavery as "naked nature," a relationship of paternal care and affection, Delano fails to understand the meaning of the very rebellion that he helps to suppress.31 

More than any of his earlier long works, which struggle indirectly with the question of slavery through treatments of territorial acquisition and America's national mission, Melville's short tale comprehends the complex history and knotted contemporary issues of black bondage in America.  The setting—on board a Spanish ship off the coast of Chile in the late 1790s—displaces the question of domestic slave insurrection.  But it does so by casting back to the Spanish initiation of the New World slave trade through the first importation of slaves into San Domingo (under the auspices of Dominican priests) and by alluding to the United States' continued fear of Caribbean revolution and its projected acquisition of Central and South American territories.  As a response to the Compromise of 1850, which in part defined policy on slavery in the territory acquired in the Mexican War, Benito Cereno exploits the collision of domestic and international interests that had previously arisen in the cases of revolt aboard the Amistad and the Creole, but which were now given more urgency by expansionist calls to "revolutionize" Cuba and all of Mexico.  Far from dwelling on an eccentric incident, then, Melville envisioned a conflict between Anglo-Saxon and Spanish of the kind Theodore Parker had spoken of in his 1854 speech on "The Nebraska Question." As the "children of a decomposing state, time-worn and debauched," said Parker, Spanish colonies in America were doomed to corruption and failure.  They inherited superstition and tyranny, rather than arts, letters, and liberty; founded on slavery and despotism, the Spanish empire in its entirety tended toward the fate of Mexico: "Where the carcass of a nation rots there will the fillibusters be gathered together.  Every raven in the hungry flock of American politicians looks that way, wipes his greedy beak, prunes his wings, and screams 'Manifest Destiny.'"  The Puritan spirit, diligent and liberty-loving, has a history counter to that of the Spanish, Parker argued, but still the worldwide march of mankind toward freedom, "every step a Revolution," must overcome the monstrous iniquity of slavery, and America, if it is to lead the march, must first destroy slavery within its own borders.32 

Parker's speech, without the trenchant ironies of Melville's tale, leaves the resolution of this crisis untold, though its version of progressive revolt, in apocalyptic purification, leads closer to the actuality of the Civil War.  Melville's version is the story of a minor rebellion that, in historical fact, did occur.  Yet the enervating suspense of Melville's prose, intimating but suppressing revolt in nearly every phrase, as in the masquerade of terror between Benito Cereno and Babo staged for the sanguine Delano, defines a crisis that would not arise: despite Turner's example, American slaves would not mount a great insurrection.  Rather, the South would rebel against the North, and in putting down this "parricidal rebellion" against "the Constitution, the Union, and the Flag" (as Lincoln called it), the North would appeal to the example of the Revolutionary fathers and the sustained ideal of union.  The value and, indeed, the price of union haunts Melville's tale from beginning to end, not least because in Delano Melville seems to pillory his own father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, who presided in the trial and return to slavery of Thomas Sims, declaring the Fugitive Slave Law constitutional; and also to pillory Webster, whose support of the Compromise and the Sims decision became notorious.  When Delano invokes the blue sea, blue sky, and sunshine that Benito Cereno, overcome by the shadow of "the negro," cannot appreciate, he echoes Webster, who spoke similarly in the wake of Sims's trial.  "A long and violent convulsion of the elements has just passed away, and the heavens, the skies, smile upon us," said Webster of the struggle over the Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Law.  Drawing this "analogy between the occurrences in the natural, and occurrences in the moral and political world," Webster praised the ideal of union once again and assured his Boston audience that "the rich blessings which we have inherited from our fathers will endure, will be perpetual, will be immortal."33 
Perhaps they would, but not without the national violence Webster hoped to avoid, the violence Melville's tale holds at a point of agonized restraint.  Like the compromise with the spirit of freedom it refers to, Benito Cereno simply postpones the final crisis and its potential vengeance.  Whereas Douglass and Delany sought to release the image of just human revenge in the name of the Revolutionary fathers, Melville, like Delano and like the American government through the 1850s, cagily suppresses that image and, retreating into the resolute silence of legal documentation, returns the question to the courts. In doing so, he incorporates every tangled aspect of the crisis over slavery articulated in the decades before the war, and displays in a tableau of painfully frozen gestures the failure of America to act against slavery.  Like so many works on slavery and revolution during the American Renaissance, Melville's story speaks still with particular power and forecasts a volatile problem that reaches beyond the victory for union and abolition in 1865, a problem, without doubt, that has continued for over another century slowly to clarify the meaning of the Revolutionary tradition in America.. 



 1. William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator, 7 January 1832, rpt. in William Lloyd Garrison, ed. George M. Frederickson (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: PrenticeHall, 1968), pp. 27-29. 
 2. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Nat Turner's Insurrection," Atlantic Monthly 8 (1861), rpt. in Travellers and Outlaws.  Episodes in American History (Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1889), p. 326; Garrison, the Liberator, 7 January 1832 and 31 May 1844, in Garrison, ed.  Frederickson, pp. 29-30, 51-53. 
 3. Daniel Webster, The Works of Daniel Webster, 5 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1851), 1:59-60, 72-73, 77-78, 81, 89-90; 5:435-38; Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Fugitive Slave Law" (Concord, Mass., 3 May 1851), The Complete Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York: William H. Wise, 1929), p. 1155, 
 4. Theodore Parker, "Reply to Webster," speech of 25 March 1853, The Slave Power, ed.  James K. Hosmer (n.d.; rpt. New York: Arno Press, 1969), pp. 246-47; Emerson, Complete Writings, p. 1156; Abraham Lincoln, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed.  Roy P. Basler, 8 vols. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:109, 111; Edward Beecher, Narrative of Riots at Alton (1838; rpt. Miami: Mnemosyne, 1969), p. 155. 
 5. Lincoln, Collected Works, 1: 114-15; Thomas Paine, Common Sense and Other Political Writings, ed.  Nelson F. Adkins (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1953), p. 19. 
 6. Paine, Common Sense, p. 8; Lincoln, Collected Works, 2:461-69; George B. Forgie, Patricide in the House Divided: A Psychological Interpretation of Lincoln and His Age (New York: W. W. Norton, 1979), pp. 13-53; 89-122;  Jefferson, letter of 28 August 1797, quoted in Winthrop Jordan, White over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (1968; rpt. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), p. 386. 
 7. See, for example, Garry Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (New York: Random House, 1978), pp. 49-64 and Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (1963; rpt.  New York: Penguin Books, 1977), pp. 41-47; Eugene D. Genovese, From Rebellion to Revolution: Afro-American Slave Revolts in the Making of the New World (1979; rpt. New York: Random House, Vintage Books, 1981), p. xvii; Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), pp. 132-75, quote on p. 134; on the revival of Revolutionary rhetoric, see George M. Frederickson, The Inner Civil War: Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), pp. 36-65, and Daniel Aaron, The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War (1973; rpt.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), pp. 1-38. 
 8. Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Chiefly about War Matters," Atlantic Monthly (July 1862), in The Complete Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, 13 vols. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1909), 12:319; cf.  Allen Flint, "Hawthorne and the Slavery Crisis," New England Quarterly 41, no. 3 (September 1968): 393-408; Edmund S. Morgan, "Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox," in The Challenge of the American Revolution (New York: W. W. Norton, 1976), pp. 171-72; Jefferson, "Declaration of Independence," quoted in David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975), p. 273; Parker, "The Nebraska Question" (1854), Additional Speeches, Addresses, and Occasional Sermons, 2 vols, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1855), 1:362-63; on slavery during and after the Revolution, see also Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. 232-46; Duncan J. MacLeod, Slavery, Race and the American Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 1974); and Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823, esp. pp, 255-342. 
 9. On "perpetual union" in early national literature and political thought, see R. A. Yoder, "The First Romantics and the Last Revolution," Studies in Romanticism 15, no. 4 (Fall 1976): 493-529, David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), pp. 44-48, and Kenneth M. Stampp, "The Concept of a Perpetual Union," in The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 3-36; Lincoln, Collected Works, 1:108, 112-13. 
 10. Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, pp. 307-8. 
 11. Thomas R. Dew, "Abolition of Negro Slavery," in Drew Gilpin Faust, ed., The Ideology of Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Antebellum South, 1830-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981), pp, 56-60. 
 12. Webster, Works, 1:230-31; Lydia Maria Child, An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans (New York: John S. Taylor, 1836), pp. 119-21; Franklin Pierce, Inaugural Address, 4 March 1853, rpt, in Franklin Pierce, 1804-1868, ed.  Irving J.  Sloan (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana, 1968), pp. 17-24. 
 13. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Life of Franklin Pierce, in Complete Works, 12:352-54, 361, 372, 412-13, 415; on manifest destiny see Frederick Merk, Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History (New York: Random House, 1963); Ernest Lee Tuveson, Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America's Millennial Role (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), pp. 91-136; and Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 1-198. 
 14. Hawthorne, Life of Franklin Pierce, and Pierce, quoted therein, Complete Works, 12:417, 435; David Brion Davis, The Slave Power Conspiracy and the Paranoid Style (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969), pp. 10-12. 
 15. W.E.B. DuBois, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 (1898; rpt.  New York: Russell & Russell, 1965), p. 70; Genovese, From Rebellion to Revolution, pp. 49, 93, 95, 134; Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, pp. 392 ff.; Angeina Emfly Grimke, Appeal to the Christian Women of the South (1835; rpt.  New York: Arno Press, 1969), pp. 34-35; Catherine Beecher, An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism (Philadelphia: Henry Perkins, 1837), pp. 88-95; Jordan, White over Black, pp. 375-403; William Wells Brown, St. Domingo: Its Revolutions and Its Patriots (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1855), pp. 38, 32-33. 
 16. Edwin C. Holland, quoted in MacLeod, Slavery, Race and Revolution,p 157; Fred Somkin, Unquiet Eagle: Memory and Desire in the Idea of American Freedom, 1815-1860 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967), passim, and Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad, pp. 141 ff.; Douglass, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" (address of 5 July 1852), in The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, 5 vols., ed.  Philip S. Foner (New York: International Publishers, 1950), 2:181-204; Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, ed.  Philip S. Foner (New York: Dover, 1969), pp. 253-54. 
 17. The Confessions of Nat Turner, in Herbert Aptheker, Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion (New York: Humanities Press, 1966), pp. 128-31.  On Gray's manipulation of Turner's story, see Seymour L. Gross and Eileen Bender, "History, Politics, and Literature: The Myth of Nat Turner," American Quarterly 23, no. 4 (October 1971): 487-518 and Jean Fagan Yellin, The Intricate Knot: Black Figures in American Literature, 1776-1863 (New York: New York University Press, 1972), pp. 187-93.  For general examinations of slave revolts in America see Herbert Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts (New York: International Publishers, 1952), Clement Eaton, The Freedom-of-Thought Struggle in the Old South (1948; rev, ed,, New York; Harper & Row, 1968), pp. 89-117, and American Slavery: The Question of Resistance, ed. John H. Bracey et al. (Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth, 1971). 
 18. Toussaint L'Ouverture, letter of 5 November 1797, quoted in C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938; rpt.  New York: Random House, Vintage Books, 1963), p. 196; Phillips, "Toussaint L'Ouverture," in Wendell Phillips on Civil Rights and freedom, ed.  Louis Filler (New York: Hill & Wang, 1965), p. 163; Brown, St. Domingo, p. 37; Douglass, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro," Life and Writings, 2:192. 
 19. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin; Or, Life among the Lowly, ed. Ann Douglas (New York: Penguin Books, 1981), pp, 562, 596.  On Stowe's fear of rebellion and the question of sentimental racism, see George M, Frederickson, "Uncle Tom and the Anglo-Saxons: Romantic Racialism in the North," The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914 (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 97-129. 
 20. Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, pp. 392, 299; on American views of the European revolutions of 1848, see Merk, Manifest Destiny and American Mission in American History, pp. 195-201, Donald S. Spencer, Louis Kossuth and Young America: A Study of Sectionalism and Foreign Policy, 1848-1852 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press), and Michael Paul Rogin, Subversive Genealogy: The Politics and Art of Herman Melville (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), pp. 20-21, 103 ff. 
 21. On benevolence, see David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966), pp, 333-421, 472-82; Stephen A. Hirsch, "Uncle Tomitudes: The Popular Reaction to Uncle Tom's Cabin," in Studies in the American Renaissance, ed.  Joel Meyerson (Boston: Twayne, 1978), pp. 303-30; Elizabeth Ammons, "Heroines in Uncle Tom's Cabin," American Literature 49, no. 2 (May 1977): 161-79; Jane P. Tompkins, "Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Politics of Literary History," Glyph 8: Johns Hopkins Textual Studies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 79-102; and Philip Fisher, "Partings and Ruins: Radical Sentimentality in Uncle Tom's Cabin" AmerikaStudien 28, no. 3 (1983): 279-83; Ronald G. Walters, The Antislavery Appeal: American Abolitionism after 1830 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), pp. 70-110, quote at p. 78; Catherine Beecher, An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism, pp. 97-136. 
 22. Stowe, "The Two Altars," The Writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe, 20 vols. (New York: AMS Press, 1967), 4: 249-64; Robert Hayne, quoted in William W. Freehling, Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836 (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 141. 
 23. Constance Rourke, Trumpets of Jubilee (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1927), pp. 107-8; James Baldwin, "Everybody's Protest Novel," Notes of a Native Son (1955; rpt.  New York: Bantam Books, 1964), pp. 9-17; Forgie, Patricide in the House Divided, pp. 159-99; Child, An Appeal in Favor of the Americans Called Africans, p. 212. 
 24. Martin R. Delany, Blake; Or, the Huts of America, ed.  Floyd J. Miller (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970), pp, 19-20, 84-85, 112-13, 251. 
 25. "Continental Policy of the United States—The Acquisition of Cuba," The United States', Democratic Review 43 (April 1859): 2, 21-22, 32; cf.  Philip S. Foner, A History of Cuba and Its Relations with the United States, 2 vols, (New York: International Publishers, 1963), 2:75-105, and Robert E. May, The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire: 1854-1861 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973). 
 26. Delany, Blake, pp, 298-306, 313; Delany, quoted in Yellin, The Intricate Knot, p. 195; "Ostend Manifesto," Documents of American History, 2 vols. in 1, ed. Henry Steele Commanger (New York: F. S. Croft, 1934), 1:33-35. 
 27. Delany, The Political Destiny of the Colored Race on the American Continent, in Sterling Stuckey, ed., The Ideological Origins of Black Nationalism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1972), p. 203; James Brewer Stewart, Holy Warriors; The Abolitionists and American Slavery (New York: Hill & Wang, 1976), p. 141; on Delany see also Victor Ullman, Martin R. Delany: The Beginnings of Black Nationalism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), and Ronald T. Takaki, Violence in the Black Imagination: Essays and Documents (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1972 ), pp. 79-101. 
 28. Joseph Mill's diary entry, quoted by Basler in Lincoln, Collected Works, 7:508. 
 29. Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, pp. 362, 397-98, 51, 37-38, 191. 
 30. Douglass, "The Heroic Slave," Life and Writings (supp. vol., 1975), 5:473-505; cf. Howard Jones, "The Peculiar Institution and National Honor: The Case of the Creole Slave Revolt," Civil War History 21, no. 1 (March 1975): 28-50; and Robert B. Stepto, "Storytelling in Early Afro-American Fiction: Frederick Douglass' 'The Heroic Slave,'" Georgia Review 36, no. 2 (Summer 1982): 355-68. 
 31. Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, pp. 269-70; Herman Melville, Great Short Works, ed. Warner Berthoff (New York: Harper & Row, Perennial, 1969), pp. 280, 268. 
 32. Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, pp. 165-73; Parker, "The Nebraska Question," Additional Speeches, Addresses, and Occasional Sermons, 1:299-303, 373-80. 
 33. Lincoln, Collected Works, 5:10; Melville, Great Short Works, p. 314; on Melville, Shaw, and Webster, see Carolyn Karcher, Shadow over the Promised Land: Slavery, Race, and Violence in Melville's America, pp. 9-11, and Rogin, Subversive Genealogy, pp. 142-46; Webster, The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, 18 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1903), 13:405-7. 


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