Jonathan Bean

in Race and Liberty in America

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780813125459
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135205 | DOI:

Show Summary Details


This chapter describes the era of antislavery, where classical liberal declarations for racial freedom were based upon the Constitution, Christianity, and belief in the right to self-ownership. The Declaration of Independence was also a benchmark of abolitionism, quoted and discussed by James Forten, David Walker, Lysander Spooner, Frederick Douglass, and nearly every other antislavery writer in the tumultuous period leading up to the Civil War. The development of a coherent tradition that dominated the civil rights movement well into the twentieth century, and which still persists today, was brought forth by the strong, and often violent, opposition to antislavery activists. Although Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration, was a slaveholder, it did not weaken the meaning and power of the natural rights theory set forth in that famous document, which mentions God four times as the source of those “unalienable Rights.”

Keywords: antislavery; liberal declarations; racial freedom; Constitution; Christianity; Declaration of Independence; abolitionism; Civil War; Thomas Jefferson

Chapter.  11481 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at University Press of Kentucky »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.