What impact did the abolition movement have on society?

The abolition movement impacted American society greatly and eventually led to the American Civil War. It stoked division between the North and South and challenged the way of life that many rich Southerners had constructed for themselves. Laws and legislation for or against abolition increased the furor of both sides. When it was impossible to find more compromises, the country erupted into war.

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As the American abolitionist movement gained traction in the early and mid-19th Century, it led to increased societal tensions. Proponents of slavery felt that the abolitionists were threatening their constitutional rights. The US Constitution originally left the issue of slavery up to the individual states. They also felt that abolitionists,...

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As the American abolitionist movement gained traction in the early and mid-19th Century, it led to increased societal tensions. Proponents of slavery felt that the abolitionists were threatening their constitutional rights. The US Constitution originally left the issue of slavery up to the individual states. They also felt that abolitionists, who were mostly from the North, threatened the way of life in the South.

Abolitionists, for their part, felt that slavery was an inhuman institution that needed to be purged from American society. Both sides often used religious arguments to support their viewpoints.

This conflict led to extreme animosity between the two camps. In the South, supporting abolition was criminalized. President Jackson banned the postal service from delivering abolitionist materials. Occasionally, people were attacked for publicly advocating their anti-slavery views.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 led to further rifts in society. This law stated that any runaway slave must be returned to bondage. It applied whether the person was captured in a free or slave state. It also included a clause that said that anyone could be forcibly deputized in order to apprehend a runaway slave. This angered many who were not full-fledged abolitionists, but did not support slavery. As a result, society became even more divided and anger deepened.

Sometimes, large and violent attacks would erupt over abolitionism. Kansas was settled by both abolitionists and pro-slavery groups. In the 1850s, so much fighting between the two sides occurred that the period was referred to as Bleeding Kansas.

Many southerners feared that abolitionists were encouraging slave revolts. When John Brown and his comrades seized an armory in 1859 with the intent of arming slaves, these fears increased. Southerners felt that abolitionism threatened their safety. Perceived threat made them oppose the movement even more strongly. These fears eventually led to secession.

Tensions over slavery during this period were high. Many correctly felt that the issue would eventually lead to large-scale conflict. The two sides struck many compromises to maintain the delicate balance between abolitionists and pro-slavery agendas. Eventually, the matter could not be put off or bargained over any longer. The country descended into a bloody and destructive civil war.

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