Abolition's Public Sphere by Robert Fanuzzi

By Robert Fanuzzi

Echoes of Thomas Paine and Enlightenment proposal resonate in the course of the abolitionist flow and within the efforts of its leaders to create an anti-slavery interpreting public. In Abolition's Public Sphere Robert Fanuzzi seriously examines the writings of William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, and Sarah and Angelina Grimke and their giant abolition exposure campaign-pamphlets, newspapers, petitions, and public gatherings-geared to an viewers of white male electorate, unfastened black noncitizens, girls, and the enslaved. together with provocative readings of Thoreau's Walden and of the symbolic house of Boston's Faneuil corridor, Abolition's Public Sphere demonstrates how abolitionist public discourse sought to reenact eighteenth-century eventualities of revolution and democracy within the antebellum period. Fanuzzi illustrates how the dissemination of abolitionist tracts served to create an "imaginary public" that promoted and provoked the dialogue of slavery. despite the fact that, via embracing Enlightenment abstractions of liberty, cause, and growth, Fanuzzi argues, abolitionist process brought aesthetic issues that challenged political associations of the general public sphere and winning notions of citizenship. Insightful and thought-provoking, Abolition's Public Sphere questions normal models of abolitionist historical past and, within the procedure, our realizing of democracy itself. Robert Fanuzzi is an affiliate professor of English at St. John's college, manhattan.

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The immediate participants in the drama of the Enlightenment, like the abolitionists who came after them, were latecomers in this regard as well: they had to rely on the faculty of their memories in order to register the magnitude of a historic occasion. Garrison wanted little else for the abolition movement than for it to have come too late. Although this would position the movement on INTRODUCTION – XXXV the wrong side of contemporary politics, he seemed to understand that belatedness could be an epistemologically privileged position that put abolition on the side of progress, revolution, and popular democracy.

CHAPTER 1 The Sedition of Nonresistance From its inception in the early 1830s until the end of the decade, the New England abolitionists’ publicity campaign circulated not only pamphlets and newspapers but the traces of a former revolutionary threat. The object of this campaign, the formation of a reading public composed of the enslaved, the free blacks of the North, and the women of the abolition movement, was decried by the enemies of abolition as the essence of jacobinism, or, alternately, hailed by the sympathizers of the cause as the resurgence of a people.

By his reckoning, slavery would end only when a tyrannical state ceased its persecution of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and freed abolitionists from their metaphoric gags and padlocks, a proposition that not THE SEDITION OF NONRESISTANCE – 13 only deWed the difference between white male citizens and enslaved African Americans but also sought to reconcile the suffering and persecutions of slavery with a discursive, avowedly Wgurative version of the same. From the inception of the abolitionists’ publicity campaign, Garrison had attempted to portray the critical position of an abolitionist public with and through the same comparisons, but as we observe his deepening conviction in a libertarian politics of dissent and his accompanying modulation of enslavement, we cannot help but regard the strategy of nonresistance as an initiative designed to institutionalize the fantasy of an abject, subaltern state for enfranchised citizens.

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