We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR
5. The Problem of Nationalism
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

113 5 the problem of nationalism N ot all Garrisonians drew so directly from Tocqueville, but others echoed Phillips’s ideas about democracy. Certainly Garrison agreed that “there is nothing like agitation,” and that “we have too little, instead of too much dissent among us.” “If we had not innumerable facts to prove the general corruption of the times,” said the Liberator in 1846, “the fear of free speech and free inquiry would prove it; for where the mind and tongue are fettered, either by imperial edicts, by statutory enactments, by the terrors of summary punishment , [or] by popular sentiment . . . it indicates an evil state of society.”1 Garrison’s experiences—his jailing for libel in Baltimore, his mobbing in Boston , his silencing at the “World’s Convention”—also gave him plenty of reasons of his own to deplore majoritarian opposition to new ideas. Yet in the 1830s and 1840s, Garrison and several close allies developed some slightly different ideas about the dangers of governments. While Phillips’s reflections were informed by Democracy in America and resembled the ideas of European liberals like Mill, Garrisonians like Chapman, Quincy, and Wright were guided more by the homegrown doctrine of “non-resistance.” “Non-resistance” was a movement led by Garrison and composed primarily of disaffected members of the American Peace Society who decided, in the mid1830s , that most Christian pacifists did not reject violence completely enough. Garrison supported the Peace Society even before becoming an abolitionist, drawing on the deeply held evangelical beliefs of his mother and the preaching he heard in his youth. After 1830, Garrison gradually lost his respect for northern denominations and clergymen who tried to stop his agitation on women’s rights and rebuked him for “abusive” language about slaveholders. But Garrison never lost the central religious faith that animated him in the temperance and peace movements of the late 1820s: God wanted servants like him to remove the 114 Part II: Ideas sins of the people, because everyone who came into the world without “do[ing] something to repair its moral desolation . . . defeats one great purpose of his creation .” If Phillips’s favorite text to preach from was Tocqueville, Lloyd Garrison preferred the Bible.2 Like other members of the Peace Society, founded in 1828, Garrison believed aggressive war was one of the moral desolations contrary to the gospel of Christ. But after the harrowing reign of terror of 1834 and 1835, he ultimately came to believe that Christianity forbade any act of violence or coercion, even in selfdefense . From that premise, he also soon concluded that it was sinful to vote or participate in government at all, since “all history shows that [governments] cannot be maintained, except by naval and military power.” To follow a crucified Jesus, according to non-resistants, meant withdrawal from any human institution that used, condoned or threatened violence. “We cannot love our enemies,” noted Garrison, “and kill them.”3 Most abolitionists repudiated these doctrines, and only a minority joined Garrison in forming the New England Non-Resistance Society in 1838. But nonresistants drew on some ideas that many abolitionists held in common. “I believe in passing from death unto life—in being born of God—in becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus—in being crucified to the world—in present, perfect, and perpetual deliverance from sin,” Garrison wrote in 1838, echoing common assumptions among antebellum reformers. But just as abolitionists did not think the sin of slavery should be abolished gradually, it made little sense to Garrison to delay one’s repentance from the sins of murder, bloodshed, war, and participation in governments that did all these things. In that sense, as the movement’s best historian has noted, non-resistance was partly the application of immediatism to the problem of violence.4 The doctrine of non-resistance also drew strength, however, from the theological ideas of John Humphrey Noyes, whom Garrison met the year before founding the Non-Resistance Society. In contrast to orthodox evangelical ministers , Noyes preached that Christians could live as though the kingdom of God and the personal sanctification it promised were already arriving on earth as in heaven. His “perfectionist” teachings told Christians to “come out” and be separate from any organizations whose authority was limited to the world, including governments and corrupt religious institutions, and live solely in obedience to the kingdom of God.5 Garrison agreed with only some of Noyes’s ideas, but his utopian “comeouterism ” offered non-resistants a compelling rationale...



Research Areas

Recommend

Subject Headings

  • Antislavery movements -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Slavery -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Democracy -- Philosophy
  • Garrison, William Lloyd, 1805-1879.
  • Phillips, Wendell, 1811-1884.
  • American Anti-Slavery Society.
  • Abolitionists -- United States -- Biography
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access