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270civil war history Gamaliel Bailey and Antislavery Union. By Stanley Harrold. (Kent and London: Kent State University Press, 1986. Pp. xvi, 312. $28.00.) Editors of abolitionist and other reform journals played a vital role in disseminating the ideas of the various movements they represented. Gamaliel Bailey's long and distinguished career as an antislavery editor provides a good example and Stanley Harrold's biography a good picture of the reformer as editor. Bailey, born in New Jersey, attended medical school in Philadelphia, sailed as a merchant seaman, and edited a religious journal in Baltimore before moving to Cincinnati in 1832. After practicing medicine briefly, he became a convert to abolitionism and worked with James G. Birney on the Philanthropist before becoming its editor when Birney moved to New York. Bailey's entire working lifewas devoted to antislavery work, mostly as an editor and behind-the-scenes organizer. In 1847 he became editor of The National Era, the only antislavery newspaper published in the nation's capital. Bailey was a moderate in antislavery circles and an early advocate of political action as an effective abolitionist tactic. Although he recognized that the Constitution's writers supported slavery, he broke with William Lloyd Garrison on the wisdom of attacking the political system itself. He tried to separate the moral issues of slavery from the political power he believed available for its restriction. The federal government could limit slavery and denationalize it, but it was the people of the southern states who had to end it. He believed slavery could be abolished by convincing southerners that it was harmful and wrong to continue enslaving humans. He saw the antislavery movement as part of a much broader reform impulse toward human freedom. Although he never compromised his basic opposition to slavery, he moderated his tactics and language in the interest of winning over those in both North and South who were open to antislavery ideas. The National Era played a significant role in popularizing antislavery views, in part because it was published in Washington and in part because of the high quality of journalism which Bailey practiced. Many of the southern editors who exchanged journals with the Era found its approach less repugnant than that of Garrison's Liberator. Bailey also carried considerable news of governmental activity as well as contemporary literary works. James G. Whittier wrote for it, and, of course, its pages were the first to publish Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Bailey's paper dominated the field until 1854, when journals sponsored by the new Republican party came into competition with it. Bailey was never fully convinced of the possibility of a multiracial society. As one of the earliest formulators of the Slave Power Conspiracy theory, he emphasized slavery's harm to free whites, and on several occasions he proposed racial separation, even the colonizing of free black book reviews271 people in Latin America. On this, as on many other issues, Bailey was ambivalent and inconsistent. At times he favored working with the Whigs or the Democrats, at other times heproposed a separate, antislavery party. Even his closest friends could not always rely on his support. On three differentoccasions, forwhat he believed were pragmatic political reasons, he urged friends not to become candidates for president. Because there is no collection ofGamaliel Bailey papers, much of this book is based on his published writing. Thereaderlearns moreabouthis ideas as expressed at a specific time than of his private views or his personality . In addition to writing and editing, Bailey provided information to antislavery congressmen. His home was a center of social life for the Free-Soilers and others who leaned toward that position. More details on those weekly gatherings would have helped round out the picture. A scholarly biography of Gamaliel Bailey was long overdue. His many contributions as an editor alone would make this work worthwhile. His lengthy service as an advocate of a clearly defined antislavery political party adds to his importance. However, along with his ability and willingness to work long hours, Bailey was a difficult colleague. He was a loner who sparked several political movements but seldom followed through. None of the antislavery political parties he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 270-271
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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