The history of the antislavery movement is one of the truly heroic episodes in American history. Over the course of three decades, thousands of men and women actively dedicated their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to abolishing the South's "peculiar institution." But who were the abolitionists, what ideas motivated them and what strategies did they employ to end slavery in America?
In this important new course, Dr. Thompson examines the intellectual and political history of the movement to abolish slavery in the United States. Lecture one examines the nature and history of American slavery and the political philosophy of those who defended it. Thompson examines how proslavery writers attempted to defend the idea of human property, and he elucidates the striking similarities between antebellum proslavery thought and Marxian socialism. Lecture two examines the rise of the Abolitionist movement in the 1830s and its philosophic origins in the natural-rights tradition, and it presents the various strategies employed by the Abolitionists to foster a moral revolution in America. Lecture three presents the wide spectrum of abolitionist ideas and political choices open to antislavery advocates during the antebellum period.
One of the compelling features of this course is the way in which Thompson engages with his audience in order to recapture the moral and political challenges faced by Abolitionists in the period between 1830 and 1860 as they attempted to emancipate three million American slaves. Among the questions that he addresses are the following:
- Should Abolitionists promote emancipation through moral conversion or politics?
- If Abolitionists engage in politics, should they work through the traditional two-party system or should they form a strictly abolitionist third party?
- Should Abolitionists compromise with the Free Soil or Republican parties who opposed the extension of slavery into the territories but would do nothing about it in those states where it already existed?
- Is the Constitution a pro- or antislavery document?
- If slavery is constitutional, should Abolitionists advocate seceding from the Union?
- Was violence justified in abolishing slavery?
- Could emancipation have been achieved without a civil war?
Thompson breaks new ground in this lecture by taking on a topic that has hitherto gone unexamined by Objectivist scholars.
This course was recorded at the 2007 Objectivist Summer Conference in Telluride, CO.
(MP3 download; 4 hrs., 15 min., with Q & A, 184.51 MB)