Radical Abolitionism: Anarchy and the Government of God in Antislavery Thought
by Lewis Perry
First published in 1973, this book remains the authoritative work on the various radical movements that grew out of antislavery ideas in the 1840s ... Show synopsis First published in 1973, this book remains the authoritative work on the various radical movements that grew out of antislavery ideas in the 1840s and 1850s. Lewis Perry argues that the idea of the government of God was central to the abolitionists' conviction that slavery was a sin: no person could claim to be master over another without violating divine sovereignty. Potentially anarchistic, this view posed challenges to other forms of "slavery" in American society - in the church, the government, the family, and even reform organizations - and led radical abolitionists to experiment with new styles of political action and community life. Perry identifies some striking weaknesses that emerged in antislavery thought by the eve of the Civil War. The abolitionists' devotion to the right of private judgment made it difficult for them to determine which responses to violence and slavery were appropriate and which were not. And despite the emphasis on self-liberation, the abolitionists failed significantly to establish any role for slaves in their own emancipation. The war further aggravated such confusions and inconsistencies, and after the war much of the radicalism in antislavery thought was forgotten. Yet the key issues with which the radical abolitionists wrestled - race, violence, women's rights, pacifism, and the role of government - retain their relevance in today's society. For this edition, Perry offers a new preface that connects his original conclusions about radical abolitionism with the most recent scholarship in the history of African Americans and women.