On the first day of January, 1831, William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The Liberator, the country's first publication to demand an immediate end to slavery without compensation to their owners. Within four years, 200 abolition societies had sprouted up in the North and had mounted a massive propaganda campaign to proclaim the sinfulness of slavery.
The initial weapon abolitionists used against slavery was moral suasion. They believed that direct appeals to conscience would convince slaveholders that slavery was a moral evil. To spread their ideas, they distributed newspapers and tracts and circulated petitions. They avoided concrete proposals for emancipation for fear of becoming embroiled in debates over the details of specific plans.
Abolitionists denounced slavery as illegal, immoral, and economically backward. Slavery was illegal because it violated the right to liberty enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Slavery was sinful because it reduced a "God-like being" to a manipulable "THING" and encouraged slave breeding, sexual exploitation, and the breakup of marriages and families.
Slavery was economically backward because slaves were barred from acquiring productive skills and were deprived of any incentive to perform careful and diligent work. Abolitionists also charged that slavery impeded the development of towns, canals, railroads, and schools.
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