American Anti-Slavery Society: Push for Immediate Abolition

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The American Anti-Slavery Society Convetion, 1840 by Benjamin Robert Haydon

The American Anti-Slavery Society Convetion, 1840 by Benjamin Robert Haydon

The American Anti-Slavery Society spearheaded the movement to immediately abolish slavery during the decades leading up to the Civil War. William Lloyd Garrison,Theodore Dwight Weld, and the Tappan brothers (Arthur and Lewis) founded AASS in 1833. The organization’s Philadelphian beginnings quickly blossomed into 1,350 local chapters with ~250,000 members all over the nation by 1838. Members took a pacifist approach, utilizing periodicals, pamphlets, and lectures to argue that all individuals have a right to liberty. The society holds the distinction of being the first national organization to advocate for immediate (rather than gradual) abolition.

The Zero Theft Movement will explore how the American Anti-Slavery Society contributed to the abolitionist movement and has inspired us in our mission to eradicate the rigged layer of the U.S. economy.

Martin Luther King Jr. sought to achieve economic justice for all American citizens. Slavery, redlining, wage discrimination, the Black community has bore serious economic injustices. The U.S. economy was rigged against African Americans, but we might have an even bigger economic problem currently on our hands…


Clashes between the North and South defined the decade leading up to the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Both sides were fearful of tipping the scales in the other’s favor. A power imbalance would likely lead to one side completely taking over the nation. Abolition was a major point of contention, causing social upheaval and many contentious congressional debates throughout the 1820s.  

The Missouri Compromise

The matter of African American slavery, in combination with a growing argument over federalism and national expansion, led to heated debate in Congress, where the North and South verbally fought over the terms of the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Antislavery and proslavery factions emerged, neither wanting to budge on the status of African Americans in the new western states.  

After much back and forth, a handshake deal established that Maine (free) and Missouri (slave) would enter the Union as a pair, setting a precedent for the establishment of future states. One free and one slave state would enter the Union together every time. Furthermore, the Missouri Compromise split the land purchased from the French (Louisiana) horizontally, at 36° 30’ latitude line. Above it, slavery was prohibited. 

The deal allayed Northerners’ concerns that the South was gaining too much power and liberated some slaves. The acrimonious events resulted in the formation of the Democratic Party (proslavery) and the Republican Party (antislavery) led by Abraham Lincoln. ‘

An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World

Abolition remained on the national agenda, reaching another boiling point at the end of the decade. Bitter debates on the subject in the Virginia legislature occurred in 1829 and 1831. Angered by the lack of reform, David Walker (a free black man) published his radical Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World in 1829. Walker argued against colonization (movement to move freed slaves to a colony in Africa) and urged slaves to revolt against their masters. He wrote, “They want us for their slaves, and think nothing of murdering us. Therefore, if there is an attempt made by us, kill or be killed […] and believe this, that is no more harm for you to kill a man who is trying to kill you than it is for you to take a drink of water when thirsty.”

The Liberator & Nat Turner’s Revolt

In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison established The Liberator, a newspaper championing racial equality and immediate abolition. Nat Turner organized a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. The state militia eventually neutralized the revolt, but only after sixty white people had died. This event stoked the fear of Southerners, leading to authorities establishing stricter laws to control slave behavior. Nevertheless, Turner’s actions contributed to the growing abolitionist movement in the North. 

The Formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society

62 abolitionists organized a convention at the Adelphi Building in Philadelphia in 1833. This would be the first meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Together, they believed they could bring their local abolition activities to the national stage. Garrison emerged as the leader taking on the responsibility of penning the new coalition’s mission. The final document, the Declaration of Sentiments, condemned slave owners and proponents of colonization, arguing slavery was a violation of natural law, the U.S. Constitution, and the will of God.  

He wrote, “That every American citizen, who detains a human being in involuntary bondage as his property is, according to Scripture, (Ex. xxi. 16,) a man-stealer.”  

William Lloyd Garrison

Photograph of William Lloyd Garrison 

The members of the American Anti-Slavery Society agreed to take a pacifist approach, even in the event their opponents responded violently. To be sure, the society was met with combative crowds frequently, but they continued to (peacefully) fight for abolition through public speeches and lectures, petitions, and mass publications such as The Liberator

With Garrison’s leadership, the society gained a big enough following that Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown regularly lectured for them. They also famously bombarded Congress with petitions calling for an immediate end to slavery. Unfortunately, Congress responded by imposing a “gag rule.” Meaning, they would reject any petition pertaining to antislavery.

The Communications Workers of America writes: “While [stock buybacks] are very beneficial to corporate executives and wealthy Wall Street investors, they end up harming workers. Before the stock buyback explosion, companies would often use excess profits to increase worker pay and benefits, to invest in new equipment, or to expand into new markets and create more jobs.” Are stock buybacks unfairly taking money away from workers?

The National Anti-Slavery Standard

National Anti-Slavery Standard

The January 7, 1841 edition of the National Anti-Slavery Standard 

The National Anti-Slavery Standard was the weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Apart from The Liberator, this publication proved quite effective and lasted up until the dissolution of the society in 1870 (when the 15th Amendment got ratified). The Standard made strong appeals to religion, arguing that only God could free the slaves. However, they urged citizens to hold themselves accountable by taking political action and playing their part. The newspaper featured six columns written by African Americans who wanted to share their personal experiences of slavery. 

The newspaper’s motto, “Without Concealment—Without Compromise,” speaks to how the organization had started advocating for women’s suffrage. By the time the first edition was released in 1940, the American Anti-Slavery Society had already grown divided on gender equality. The notion of championing women’s voting rights, in particular, significantly contributed to the eventual split of the organization.

The Split

Only seven years after its founding in 1833, the more conservative Tappan brothers cut ties with the American Anti-Slavery Society and formed the creatively named American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, which would eventually transform into the Liberty Party in 1840. Two fundamental differences divided the society’s ranks. Garrison and his supporters had more radical beliefs than their constituents, criticizing the U.S. Constitution for contributing to the perpetuation of slavery. They also wanted to share much more of the organizational responsibility with women. The tension between the brewing women’s suffrage movement and the American Anti-Slavery Society would later come to a head in the late 19th century, when the idea of universal suffrage and the American Equal Rights Association emerged.  

For much of the following two decades, the abolitionist movement lacked the organizational unity to effect change nationwide. Both the Tappan brothers and Garrison continued their activism, just within local communities. Antislavery eventually returned to the national stage with the Free Soil Party and the Republican Party. 

Fight the Rigged Layer of the Economy with the Zero Theft Movement.  

For its short time as a unified front, the American Anti-Slavery Society did much to bring awareness to the abolitionist movement across the nation. They remained staunch in their belief that patient education about slavery’s atrocities would jolt the many bystanders into action. The rigged layer of the economy, while much less blatant than slavery, persits because we, the public, have failed to treat it as a serious problem. This has been, in part, due to how vague it’s been, how we have lacked strong evidence to prove rigged economy theft occurs. 

That is, until now. 

See the total amount stolen by the rigged economy

We at the Zero Theft Movement believe that solid evidence and public support is the way we will stop crony capitalists from rigging the economy against the public. Big businesses hire lobbyists who then corrupt lawmakers. This essentially gives corporations freedom to violate antitrust laws and rip us off by making us pay exorbitant prices for goods, including life-saving drugs. Corporations run our country, creating a corporatocracy. We are not the democracy politicians often tout. 

By exposing the bad actors, we, the public, will benefit from higher wages across the board, markets that involve genuine competition for our business, and a government that legislates based on our interests rather than moneyed interests

We can achieve this, but we need you to join our movement for an ethical economy.

Heroism Made Easy

All it takes is twenty minutes a day, to play your part by reviewing and voting on a report. The more votes we have, the more legitimate and powerful our proposals will be. With the backing of the public, we can take our movement to the national stage and truly create a world with zero theft.

Standard Disclaimer

The ZeroTheft Movement does not have any interest in partisan politics/competition or attacking/defending one side. We seek to eradicate theft from the U.S economy. In other words, how the wealthy and powerful rig the system to steal money from us, the everyday citizen. We need to collectively fight against crony capitalism in order for us to all profit from an ethical economy.   

Terms like ‘steal,’ ‘theft,’ and ‘crime’ will frequently appear throughout the article. ZeroTheft will NOT adhere strictly to the legal definitions of these terms (since congress sells out). We have broadly and openly defined terms like ‘steal’ and ‘theft’ to refer to the rigged economy and other debated unethical acts that can cause citizens to lose out on money they deserve to keep.