Sectional Suspicions: Southern fears and 'Slave Power'
In many ways the abolitionist movement can be seen as a failure as it failed to persuade white Americans to love and want to free black slaves. However, the movement was to help cause many within the two communities, North and South, to fear and be suspicious of the other.
Northern abolitionist denunciations infuriated the South. They believed that such Northern interference threatened their way of life and pointed to the Nat Turner slave rebellion as prove of the effects of Northern abolitionists stirring trouble. They also wrongly perceived a far greater Northern support for the abolitionist movement. They came to identify the North as sharing such sentiment and became in some ways paranoid of the motivation of Northern politicians.
The forceful reaction of the South towards the abolitionist movement was to have ramifications within the North. Many Northerners come to dislike and distrust the Southern slave owner and to believe in the existence of a 'Slave Power' conspiracy to snuff out liberty throughout the land.
Not surprisingly stung by the abolitionist onslaught the South lashed out in its own defence. While pamphlets and speeches in support of slavery were seen as acceptable forums to express ones view, many Northerners objected to the tactics employed by some Southern states to suppress all criticism, and indeed all discussion of slavery.
In the 1830s many Southerners attempted to suppress abolitionist literature. After a mob had seized and burned anti-slavery publications in the Charleston post office in 1835, Southern postmasters generally refused to deliver them. Jackson's Postmaster General, Amos Kendell, condoned their action, while the President himself suggested a federal law prohibiting the circulation of 'incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves into insurrection'. Congress did not respond but nearly all the...