There was one institution in our country which many people had long felt should be stopped. This was slavery. Even in 1688 the Quakers declared it was wrong, and made the first petition to have it ended. This opinion spread little by little, until, as you know, laws were made in several states, stopping or abolishing slavery.
People now began to say that in a Christian country, and especially in a republic where “all men are created equal,” it was very unjust and even sinful to allow one class of human beings to be bought and sold, and treated like cattle. Those who talked thus and said slavery must stop were called “abolitionists.” To gain more influence and bring others to share their views, they soon formed what were known as “abolition societies.”
The people in New England were in general against slavery, and, as many of the clever men and women of the day were abolitionists, they began to write and talk against slavery as much as they could. Now, it happened that clever people were just then very numerous in our country, and among them were our brightest literary stars, men whose names should be familiar to every good American.
There were, for instance, our famous poets, Bryant, Poe, Whittier, Longfellow, and Lowell; our novelists, Cooper and Hawthorne; our essayists, Irving, Emerson, and Holmes; our historians, Prescott, Bancroft, Motley, and Parkman; the great naturalists Audubon and Agassiz; and countless other men who had the welfare of our country at heart.
There were, as we have seen, more and better newspapers. Some were written by men who were strong abolitionists, so they were called antislavery papers. The first and most famous of all these editors was a man named William Lloyd Garrison, who, although poor, devoted, all his time and money to a paper wherein he tried to convince people that slavery is wrong. These papers were sent everywhere; but the people in the South soon learned to hate them so bitterly that a law was made forbidding such papers to be sent in the Southern mails.