Timeline of Emancipation Discourse to 1870

This chronology highlights the rhetoric of emancipation from the beginning of European settlement to the Civil War in the history of American public discourse, especially antislavery and womans rights. Its purpose as a tool is to demonstrate the interrelation of these movements. The primary focus is given to movements that advance emancipatory rhetorical strategies.


First Contact to Revolutionary War


The first European settlement in North America, San_Miguel_de_Gualdape, included some enslaved Africans. During a mutiny attempt some slaves revolted—against the mutineers. Nothing is known of their subsequent fate. The settlement failed.


Slave revolts in Panama beginning with a revolt led by Bayano in 1552 established semi-autonomous communities of free people of color in Panama.


British slave trading to the new world begins.


Gaspar_Yanga established a colony of "maroons" (escaped slaves) near Veracruz, Mexico.


The Spanish attacked the Yanga colony and were successfully resisted by a militia of formerly enslaved people. An eventual treaty established the city of San Lorenzo de los Negros de Cerralvo by 1630, subsequently renamed Yanga.


The New_York_Slave_Revolt_of_1712 was a result of increased restrictions on the lives of enslaved people after the British took control of New York. During the revolt, several whites were killed and many more times that number of enslaved Africans and American Indians were arrested, tried and executed. Among the measures taken after the revolt were laws prohibiting slaves from gathering in groups of more than three, carrying firearms or gambling. A 200$ "tax" was levied on slave owners who emancipated a slave.


First_Maroon_War in Jamaica, between previously enslaved Africans and other fugitives, and British colonials resulted in a truce which granted autonomy to several towns in the interior of Jamaica in exchange for returning future fugitive slaves.


Chesapeake_rebellion spread in Virginia following rumors that King George II had decreed freedom to all baptized slaves.

| St. John Slave Revolt


Stono_Rebellion in South Carolina. A group of enslaved Africans rebelled against plantation owners and set out for Spanish-controlled Florida which offered freedom to slaves who would escape from British territory. They were stopped while still in South Carolina and most were executed or sold.


Quakers in the mid Atlantic and New England prohibit slavery among their members.

1776 Declaration of Independence

Federal Period to War of 1812

Thomas Jefferson proposes national prohibition of slavery after 1800 in new states. Clause struck by one vote. Question of extent of federal power in the territories opened.

1786 Jefferson, Letter to Démeunier

1787-1788 James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, Federalist Papers


Virginia Ratification Debates.
June 5 Patrick Henry, Against the Federal Constitution.
June 21 Constitution ratified. "Great Compromise" between large and small states results in House and Senate balance of power. A slave counted for 3/5ths of a person for apportioning representatives, augmenting Southern voting power by 30%.


Mary_Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Men.


Successful slave revolution in Haiti led by François Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture.


Kentucky enters the Union a slave state. Slavery extended to Mississippi south of the Ohio River.
Mary_Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.



Second_Maroon_War: British colonial troops suffered heavy casualties. The terms of the truce were broken and many Maroons shipped to Nova Scotia and from there to Sierra Leone. A number of these returned as laborers after slavery was abolished in Jamaica in 1838.
First Fugitive Slave Law enacted

1797 Caleb Bingham, Columbian Orator 1st ed.


Mississippi Territory organized with slavery permitted


Thomas Jefferson elected President (Democratic Republican).


Louisiana purchase permitted to retain slavery throughout its extent. Chief Justice John Marshall, in Marbury v. Madison, establishes Federal judicial review of Acts of Congress. Haiti declares itself a republic.


British slave trade abolished.


Importation of slaves directly from Africa prohibited in the US.


Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun both elected to the US House of Representatives.

War of 1812 to War with Mexico


War with Britain


Daniel Webster elected to House of Representatives as a Federalist opposing the war with Britain. Clay and Calhoun support the war.


Arkansas territory organized with no prohibition of slavery.


Founding of African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia

1820 Jefferson, "Letter to John Holmes"

Missouri Compromise accomplished by Clay: Missouri admitted as slave, Maine as free. Slavery prohibited in the remainder of the Louisiana Territory N. of 36'30' (Thomas amendment). Controversy viewed as serious threat to the Union.


Benjamin Lundy begins publishing The Genius of Universal Emancipation, an anti-slavery newspaper.
Lucretia Mott recorded as a minister in her local Friends meeting.


Slavery abolished in Chile.
Denmark_Vesey conspiracy in Charleston, South Carolina. Vesey was a free person of color and African Methodist Episcopal minister in Charleston. In 1822 he and many others were arrested and executed for conspiracy to mount a slave revolt similar to what had happened in Haiti. In the aftermath, the AME Church in Charleston was dismantled.


Slavery abolished in Central America.
John Quincy Adams, an former Federalist, elected President ("National Republican") by the House after an electoral tie. John C. Calhoun elected Vice President. Andrew Jackson had plurality of electoral votes but not a majority. See 1824_United_States_presidential_election


Death of Thomas_Jefferson and John_Adams Sr. on July 4.
+++ 1827
Slaves over 40 freed in NY, Sojourner_Truth among them.
Daniel_Webster elected to the Senate.


Andrew_Jackson elected President (Birth of Democratic Party).
Vice President John C. Calhoun publishes South Carolina Exposition and Protest under a pseudonym.
William_Lloyd_Garrison introduced to Benjamin_Lundy by Lucretia_Coffin_Mott, becomes editor of The_Genius_of_Universal_Emancipation.


David Walker, black journalist in Boston, publishes his anti-slavery Appeal.
Slavery abolished in Mexico.


Webster-Hayne_debate over Federal tariffs.


William_Lloyd_Garrison publishes first issue of The Liberator. Contains his statement "To the Public." Conventional date for beginning of radical abolitionism.
Slavery abolished in Bolivia.
Nat Turner's slave revolt in Southampton County, VA.
Nat Turner's Confession


South Carolina passes Nullification Ordinance. Calhoun resigns Vice Presidency to enter Senate. Force Bill gives Jackson more military power and compromise tariff gradually lowers rates. SC nullifies the Force Bill but accepts the compromise tariff.
Texas War of Independence begins. Abolitionists, among them Benjamin Lundy, argue that Texas is warring with Mexico to reinstitute slavery.


American Anti-Slavery Society formed by Garrison and Mott. "Declaration of Sentiments" published in The Liberator.
Slavery abolished in Britain.
Formation of Whig party.


Andrew Jackson asks for law prohibiting the mailing of "incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection." Texas Revolution begins.


"Gag Rule" enacted to automatically table abolition petitions in Congress.
[wikipedia:Martin_Van_Buren (Democrat) wins Presidency in close election against Whigs.
Texas declares independence from Mexico.


John_Quincy_Adams, Gag Rule Speeches, 9January and 6 February 1837.
John_C._Calhoun, On the Reception of the Abolition Petitions
7 November - Murder of Elijah_Parrish_Lovejoy by an anti-abolitionist mob, while defending his printing press against the mob.
8 December - Wendell Phillips, "The Murder of Lovejoy", Speech in Boston, Faneuil Hall.


Slavery abolished in Jamaica.


Amistad mutiny. John Quincy Adams argues before the Supreme Court on behalf of the escaped slaves.
Controversy breaks out in the American Anti-Slavery Society over tactics: moral suasion vs. forming a political party. James Birney and William Lloyd Garrison exchange views in the pages of the Liberator.


Massive immigration from Germany and Ireland into Northeast and upper Midwest. These immigrants become the first tenement laborers and will serve disproportionately as Union foot soldiers in the Civil War.


Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton attend the World_Anti-Slavery_Convention, where women delegates were excluded. American Anti-Slavery Society splits, in part over issue of women delegates.
Beginnings of Liberty Party, espoused by reform or "political" abolitionists.


William_Henry_Harrison dies soon after taking office. Replaced by John_Tyler, a states rights Whig.


Prigg_v._Pennsylvania ruled Federal Fugitive Slave Act precluded a Pennsylvania state law prohibiting kidnapping people of color across state lines to be enslaved.


Sojourner_Truth begins public career.


Henry_Clay, Whig, loses Presidential bid to James_K._Polk, Democrat.


Texas_annexation as a slave state.
War with Mexico declared.
Frederick Douglass publishes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.

War with Mexico to Civil War

1846-1848 War with Mexico

Abraham Lincoln serves as Representative from Illinois, Whig.


Wilmot Proviso, an amendment to territorial legislation prohibiting slavery in territories acquired from Mexico, fails. Southerners claim that only states are sovereign, and Congress has no right to exclude some states from equal access to territorial property.


Stephen_A._Douglas (Democrat, Illinois) elected to Senate.
Frederick Douglass begins career as newspaper publisher and journalist.


Oregon territory organized with slavery prohibited.
Zachary Taylor elected President (Whig).
Founding convention of Free Soil Party. Free Soilers disavow interference with slavery in the states. Seek to preserve Western lands free for white labor.
First National Womens Rights convention at Seneca Falls, NY. Organized by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott.
Lucretia Mott, "The Law of Progress." Frederick Douglass, "We Have Decided to Stay."
Widespread anti-monarchist revolution in Europe.
Slavery abolished in France and its colonies.


National_Womens_Rights_Convention held annually from 1850-1860, till the outbreak of the Civil War.


Henry Clay returns to Senate.
1850 Compromise resolves dispute over territories seized from Mexico. Admits CA with slavery prohibited. No restrictions on UT and NM. Prohibition of domestic slave trade in DC balanced by strengthened Fugitive Slave Law.
Henry Clay, "On the Compromise Measures." Daniel Webster, "On the Compromise Measures (The Seventh of March Speech)." Douglass, "American Slavery."
Death of John C. Calhoun.


Sojourner Truth, "A'n't I a Woman?"
Whigs begin to break up over slavery issue. Charles Grant Sumner, former Whig, joins Senate as a Democrat.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin.


Death of Daniel Webster.
Franklin Pierce elected President (Democrat).
Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"


Know-Nothing Party flourishes (anti-foreign, anti-Catholic).


Kansas-Nebraska_Act is held to repeal the Thomas amendment. Kansas admitted under Stephen Douglas' doctrine of "popular sovereignty."
Founding of the Republican Party from Whigs, Free Soilers and anti-slavery Democrats.
Lincoln elected to Illinois State Legislature as Republican.
Slavery abolished in Venezuela.


Bleeding_Kansas: Kansas erupts in armed attacks as Free Soilers compete with Missourians over slavery clauses in rival constitutions.


James_Buchanan elected (Democrat). Demise of Whig Party. Charles_Sumner is severely beaten in Kansas by Preston_Brooks, congressman from South Carolina, for anti-slavery speech.


Dred_Scott-V.-Sandford decision. Chief Justice Roger Taney writes majority decision holding that African Americans are not citizens and endorsing constitutionality of popular sovereignty.


Abraham Lincoln, Republican, challenges Stephen Douglas for the US Senate seat from Illinois. Lincoln, A House Divided. "Popular Sovereignty." Lincoln-Douglas debates. Lincoln loses.


John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry. John Brown, "Speech to the Court."


Lincoln, nominated for President by Republicans, defeats Douglas and wins the Presidency. South Carolina leads move toward secession (Sep. 20, 1860)


MS (1/9) FL (1/10); AL (1/12) GA (1/19); LA (1/26); TX (2/1) follow SC in seceding from the Union. Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States written in convention on Feb. 9; Jefferson Davis elected President.
March Lincoln, First Inaugural (March). In April, Confederates fire on Fort Sumter.


Emancipation Proclamation issued as wartime emergency act to destabilize states in rebellion against the Union.
Slavery abolished in the Netherlands and its colonies.


13th Amendment passed abolishing slavery. Lee surrenders. Lincoln assassinated; Andrew Johnson, a pro-Union Democrat, becomes President.


American Equal Rights Association formed to replace the National Womens Rights Convention and promote universal suffrage. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form a second organization, the National Woman Suffrage Association, to promote woman suffrage and full social equality. Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe form another, rival organization, the American Woman Suffrage Association, promoting a more moderate view of woman suffrage which separated political and social roles.
Congressional Republicans passed the usconstitution-amendments, worded to specify "male inhabitants", establishing a precedent that merely being a citizen did not guarantee the right to vote even as it extended citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States.


First Annual Convention of the American_Equal_Rights_Association. Also the Last.
Despite the efforts of the American_Equal_Rights_Association, Kansas held two referendums for amendments to the state constitution, one promoting woman suffrage and one promoting "negro" suffrage. In the debates the two competed against one another with proponents of one decrying the other.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Kansas Referendum Address.


15th Amendment ratified granting suffrage to African American and formerly enslaved males.

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