Preachers from the Northern States were aiming towards the abolition of slavery on issues of moral rights and equal liberties for all.
Abolitionism had been an on-going event in the United States since the beginning of slavery through the end of the Civil War and the passing of the 13th Amendment. It is even noted today through spokespeople speaking out about racism and how important equal rights are. At the turn of the 19th century, we see the peak of Abolitionism and still feel the affects of it today due to the history education in schools. The main role in Abolitionism was made by preachers, such as Charles Finney who served as a link between the Second Great Awakening and the Abolitionist movement; he preached that no matter black or white, we were all brothers and sisters in Christ and it is immoral to hold blacks in slavery.

Time Line

Time line of the Abolitionist Movement:
  • 1828: New York State abolishes slavery.
  • 1829: David Walker’s Appeal.
  • 1831: William Lloyd Garrison publishes The Liberator. Nat Turner Slave Rebellion.
  • 1833: American Anti-slavery Society formed.
  • 1837: Abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy is murdered.
  • 1838: Frederick Douglass escapes slavery and becomes active in the abolitionist cause.
  • 1840: Formation of the Liberty Party which ran presidential candidates in 1840 and 1844
  • 1844: John Quincy Adams finally wins repeal of the Gag Rule in Congress.
  • 1846: Wilmot Proviso, prohibiting slavery in any territory taken from Mexico, is passed in the House, but defeated in the Senate.
  • 1847: Frederick Douglass begins publication of the North Star.
  • 1848: Mexican Cession of western territory to the United States; North and South resume struggle over the status of slavery in federal territory.
  • 1850: Compromise of 1850; passage of Fugitive Slave Act.
  • 1852: Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  • 1854: Passage of Kansas-Nebraska Act which determines the status of slavery in these two territories according to the principle of “popular sovereignty.” “Bleeding Kansas.” Formation of the Republican Party.
  • 1857: Dred Scott Court Decision which stated that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, and that slaves were not citizens but the property of their owners
  • 1858: Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
  • 1859: Abolitionist John Brown’s raid at the federal arsenal inHarper’s Ferry, Virginia.
  • 1860: Presidential election of Republican Party candidate, Abraham Lincoln, and the start of southern secession.
  • 1861: The beginning of the Civil War.
  • 1863: Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
  • 1865: Thirteenth Amendment is added to the Constitution, which abolishes slavery.

Arthur (1786-1865) and Lewis (1788-1863) Tappan


The Tappan brothers were raised in Massachusetts under Calvanistic beliefs. Their parents evangelical beliefs were the main thing that got the brothers into fighting for Abolitionism. The Tappan brothers did not begin their lives with Abolitionism, however by the end of their lives that was what they were best known for. Their first businesses were in importing silk from Asia, which gave them a huge fortune, and publishing a newspaper known as the New York Journal of Commerce but they would not print any ads for any businesses that they deemed “immoral”. They sadly lost everything in the Panic of 1837, but they were able to recover and rebuild their business. The brothers began their movement towards abolitionism in 1833 with the help of Theodore Dwight Weld and formed the American Anti-Slavery Society. The main focus of the American Anti-Slavery Society was for the immediate end of slavery and also for African Americans to have the same equal rights as white men. Arthur Tappan served as president of this society from its founding until 1840, when he removed himself from the group because they decided to advocate equal rights for women as well. After that, it was mostly run by William Lloyd Garrison.

The Tappan brothers were not left from problems, however. Louis' home was broken into and his furniture was burned in the street in 1834. The following year a church that they had built was burned down because they were allowing blacks and whites to sit together. Louis went a bit further than his brother, who would help but would not associate with blacks. Louis and his family would go to other churches and sit on pews reserved for blacks, which caused a huge uproar. He would also buy slaves just so he could set them free.

The Tappan brothers assisted in other ways as well, such as donating to Oberlin College in Ohio, a college that provided education for both white and black students in fully-integrated classrooms. They were also supporters of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (1840), which Arthur helped to found along with the American Missionary Society (1846). Lewis Tappan also financially supported The Emancipator, an abolitionist newspaper, and encouraged churches in New York City to end the practice of having separate seating areas for whites and African Americans. Louis was also a member of the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1843.

"Judge not of virtue by the name, Or think to read it on the skin; Honor in white and black the same--the stamp of glory is within." (Louis Tappan)

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1877)


Out of the seventy-four years Henry Ward Beecher lived, twenty-five of those years were dedicated to the Plymouth Church. He was not as intense a preacher as Charles Finney who invented the “anxious seat” and would blatantly call out members of the crowd. Beecher was much more subtle than the average abolition preacher and he was also much more humble than the average man during his time.
Beecher surprisingly had a very contemporary look on preaching and stressed his congregation to have a “Romantic” relationship with God. He said “It is the end of art to inoculate men with the love of nature… But those who have a passion for nature in a natural way, need no pictures nor galleries. Spring is their designer, the whole year is their artist”. When asked about his method of speaking, he said, “I am to make them feel my personality”. In this way, Beecher was one of the most effective preachers of all time and even through the abolition movement.

Henry Ward Beecher
Became the preacher
In 1847,
Although he was new,
They saw he construed
A good sermon for Heaven.

No members left,
They felt no bereft
Of learning of the Christ that once was
Instead they yearned
And also discerned
What was and was not Christian laws

They proudly kept
And always prepped
A place for fugitive slaves
They went and served
And always preserved
The rooms even if for days…

The Plymouth Church’s membership attendance never decreased during Beecher’s time there but instead increased to the extent that people would be hanging off of windows just to hear the famous preacher preach. The members were active in the opposition against slavery and would continually assist him in giving him opportunities to freely provide his message in the Public Square. The congregation also consented to using the church as a major stop in the Underground Railroad. This is significant because it shows how many people agreed that the Fugitive Slave Law was not constitutional and had no moral value. Beecher stated in The Independent, “Not even the Constitution will make me unjust”. It is obvious that when the government Constitution and “God’s Constitution” clashed, Beecher would always choose God’s Constitution and help his congregation see through his eyes. Beecher supported his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe and her publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe was a member of Plymouth Church up until the time she died in 1896 and she used her involvement in the Underground Railroad to write her novel by relating the stories personally experienced through fugitive slaves. Her publication upset many people but Henry W. Beecher supported her since she supported him. Beecher did not believe in the Garrisonian position on anti-slavery and became involved in politics because he knew that was the only way he could make an impact-through government. He became an advocate for Abraham Lincoln as President and actively participated in the Republican Party. Regarding slavery, Abraham Lincoln said, “right is might” during the Cooper Union Address in 1860, thus, leading him down the road to the White House.

Beecher’s sermons would call out the audience and keep them accountable for not only their thoughts but their actions as well. “I do not hesitate to declare that there is abundant evidence outside of the Bible of the truth of this great declaration, that we are to be held to a rigid accountability to God for all our actions and thoughts in this world”- Plymouth Church, p. 31. Because of the passion Beecher bestows upon his congregation, it can be concluded that they were motivated to carry out God’s will on Earth whether it be freeing slaves or abolishing slavery all together; they knew they had God on their side. Beecher’s political speeches all had one theme in common: moral duty would support national destiny.

Elijah P. Lovejoy (1802-1837)


Elijah Parish Lovejoy was the first person to be martyred for Abolitionism. He began his life wanting to be a teacher and a writer after college, but was drawn into the ministry. He went on to Princeton Seminary and after a year began preaching in New York and Rhode Island, leaving only to return to St. Louis to begin a weekly religious newspaper. Lovejoy was very vocal about his views against slavery. Some people say that he became an abolitionist because he was forced to watch a slave burned at the stake. At the time of his writings, Missouri was a very confrontational slave state surrounded by free states. He was threatened by many people at his news office. he was veen told that his views were wrong by a judge. His home was broken into and the press was eventually destroyed.

He then left and moved to Illinois to open another press and began publishing the Alton Observer. He may have been living in a free-state, but he was still being chased by pro-slavery supporters, who destroyed his second press and his third. The Alton mayor got a sixty member militia, since the town had no army, to protect his new press. The following night a mob attacked his home and his press. The militia was doing their best to defend the press, but the mob just laughed at them and the mayor. They used a ladder to get onto the roof and set the house on fire. When Elijah and the other men ran out, he was shot five times and died.

The mob from Alton calmly entered the building after the fire was put out. They walked right past Lovejoy's body, and then they began to dismantle his final printing press. Several men went up to the third floor and dropped it onto the street below. Many members of there group gathered up the pieces and took them off to the steamboat landing on the Mississippi where there were hammers and men ready to destroy the pieces so that no one would be able to tell what they had once been. Eyewitnesses described the behavior of the group as orderly, although they appeared to be enjoying this final act against a zealous and radical voice. By midnight the entire incident became part of history. To those citizens in Alton who had opposed the ideas of Elijah Lovejoy, it appeared as if peace had finally come to their growing city. What they should have realized is that the spirit and convictions of a man who once set out to walk from Maine to Illinois were not so easily defeated.

Owen Lovejoy (1811-1864)

One of the most important things to observe in Owen G. Lovejoy’s personality is the reason for his continuous determination-the murder of his brother, Elijah P. Lovejoy. Because Elijah Lovejoy was nine years older than Owen Lovejoy, it can be assumed that Elijah was the perfect role model for Owen in that he had already established his roots and proved it was okay to break away from the crowd. Owen Lovejoy was a big supporter of his brother by helping him persevere and defend his Freedom of Press. However, this push may have caused his brother’s martyred death.
The antislavery congregation Owen Lovejoy served decided that they would like to form a colony in Illinois. In 1831, this decision became reality and they all made the three month trek from Massachusetts to Illinois. Owen, however, did not join them and there is no record he ever did. His reason for moving West was to join his brother after his father’s death in 1833. He moved to Alton, Illinois to join his brother with his abolitionist movement but this joint relation did not last long because Elijah Lovejoy was murdered the following year. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune on June 12, 1847, Owen declared to dedicate his life to “the cause that has been sprinkled with my brother’s blood”.

Owen became the pastor of the Congregational Church of Princeton, Illinois and used this new chapter of his life to gain more supporters of abolitionism. “We ought to obey God rather than men. Is not the Jehovah God of Illinois as well as of Palestine or Assyria! Is not his authority the same here as there!” While studying his sermons, he uses Biblical stories to lure the crowd in and make them see the morally correct way of thinking about slavery. In his famous sermon titled Sermon on the Supremacy of the Divine Law (January 1842), he quotes Deuteronomy, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, The furnace story, Isaiah, the Apostles and many others. This shows how well he knew his Bible and how well he could incorporate it to make members of the congregation gain his perspective on slavery.

Owen Lovejoy was not one to give up. Elijah showed him it was okay to pull away and form an independent way of thinking. Therefore, he broke away from the Garrisonian position and decided to bring politics into the abolitionist preacher’s vocabulary; after all, fighting for Freedom of the Press cost his brother his life. His new found political stance brought about a new objective to abolishing slavery: “Pray, toil, give, distribute tracts, lecture, preach, get subscribers to the Citizen, move, renovate the state”. Although it took him three different attempts to gain a seat in the House of Representatives, he never gave up and finally earned his seat in 1854. With the power and voice he obtained in the House, he was one of the most active members and ended up befriending Abraham Lincoln. He and Lincoln’s views on slavery were very similar and Lovejoy helped Lincoln gain a seat in the Senate and later advocated him for President. Even though it took Lovejoy three tries into the House, he was re-elected four different times and became an even closer colleague to Lincoln. He helped Lincoln decide on the Emancipation Proclamation which went into effect in January 1863. Lovejoy never got to see the final affects of what he had lived for because he passed away in March of 1864. However, because of what he fought for and the divine agency he used and gained on his side, we see the affects of what he did today and can attribute them to not only his name but Elijah Lovejoy’s as well.


These four abolition preachers were all very influential in this era. The abolition preachers motivated whole congregations to go out in their communities and try to make a difference for future Black Americans. The things that really brought the abolitionist movement were abolitionists in Congress because they had an upper hand on the government. Both abolitionists worked for the greater good and had an impact whether it be communal or political. In the present day, we see the affects of the abolitionist preachers through our equality with those of another race no matter what it is. We do admit, however, that there are still racist people who exists on both sides of the binary line: black and white. We see how the white race influenced the personality of some people of the black race and we see how much has changed within the last 150 plus years in both our government and society. We all personally liked this topic because it made us more appreciative of what preachers did for freedom even though they were the ones who were already free. Especially the ones who gave their lives for people that they didn't even know.... They knew what was morally and ethically correct and did their best to make a change and see a change in society.

Questions asked by Baylor students
How many students were questioned
number of people and their responses
What century did the abolitionist movement take place?
18 people said 1800s
40% said 1800s

10 said 1700s
22% said 1700s

17 said 1900s
38% said 1900s
Can you name an abolitionist preacher?
7 could not
16% could not

1 named one accurately
2% named one accurately

37 named others that were part of the civil rights movement
82% named people that were part of the civil rights movement
Do you believe that slavery is right?
all said no
100% said no
What race do you think most abolitionist preachers were?
31 said black
69% said black

13 said white
29% said white

1 said 1/2 black 1/2 white
2% said 1/2 black1/2 white
Do you think race is the biggest issue in America today?
32 said no
71% said no

13 said yes
29% said yes

Questions Asked of Baylor University Students
# of people asked
1) Do you know what Abolitionism is?
24 96%
1 4%
2) Do you know when the Abolitionist movement was?
21 84%
4 16%
3) Do you believe that the Abolitionist preachers made a big impact on the Abolistionist movement?
23 92%
2 8%
4) Do you know why Elijah P. Lovejoy was murdered?
6 24%
19 76%
5) Do you know what amendment abolished slavery?
23 92%
2 8%
6) Do you know what year that amendment was passed?
13 52%
12 48%


Lovejoy, Owen, William F. Moore, and Jane Ann. Moore. His Brother's Blood: Speeches and Writings, 1838-64. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2004. Print.
Ruchames, Louis. The Abolitionists; a Collection of Their Writing. New York: Putnam, 1963. Print.
Thompson, Noyes L. The History of Plymouth Church. (Henry Ward Beecher) 1847-1872. Inclusive of Historical Sketches of the Bethel and the Navy Mission, and the Silver Wedding. Also, Henry Ward Beecher's First Sermon in Plymouth Church, and an Alphabetical List of the Names of All Persons Who Have Ever Been Members of Plymouth Church, with Date of Admissions, Deaths, and Dismissals. New York: G.W. Carleton &, 1873. Print.
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. Lewis Tappan and the Evangelical War against Slavery. Cleveland: Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1969. Print.
Biography of Henry W. Beecher: http://www.anb.org/articles/08/08-00112.html?a=1&n=henry%20ward%20beecher&d=10&ss=0&q=1
Picture and info of Henry Beecher: http://www.anb.org/articles/08/08-00112.html?from=../08/08-00113.html&from_nm=Beecher,%20Lyman
Picture of Owen Lovejoy: http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/22.1/snay.html
Picture of Elijah Lovejoy: http://www.aaregistry.com/detail.php?id=1471
Picture of Lewis Tappan: http://ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=370&nm=Arthur-and-Lewis-Tappan
Picture of Arthur Tappan: http://maap.columbia.edu/content/places/the_tappan_brothers/images/274/MAAP_ArthurTappan_Then_274.jpg
Harper's Weekly Cartoon: http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/omalley/120/alien/harpers.jpg
Cartoon: http://www.utsa.edu/today/2007/04/blackblue.cfm
Preacher Painting: http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Second_Great_Awakening
Information on H. W. Beecher: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&hid=5&sid=9851efb3-fa0d-4fc0-a958-5bcb5f1ba2b0%40sessionmgr11
Information on H. W. Beecher: http://www.plymouthchurch.org/our_history_henry-wardbeecher.php