The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery
Garrisonian Abolitionists and Transatlantic Reform
Winner of the SHEAR James Broussard First Book Prize
Winner of the OAH Merle Curti Prize
In The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery, W. Caleb McDaniel sets forth a new interpretation of the Garrisonian abolitionists, stressing their deep ties to reformers and liberal thinkers in Great Britain and Europe. The group of American reformers known as “Garrisonians” included, at various times, some of the most significant and familiar figures in the history of the antebellum struggle over slavery: Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, and William Lloyd Garrison himself. Between 1830 and 1870, American abolitionists led by Garrison developed extensive networks of friendship, correspondence, and intellectual exchange with a wide range of European reformers—Chartists, free trade advocates, Irish nationalists, and European revolutionaries. Garrison signaled the importance of these ties to his movement with the well-known cosmopolitan motto he printed on every issue of his famous newspaper, The Liberator: “Our Country is the World—Our Countrymen are All Mankind.” That motto serves as an impetus for McDaniel’s study, which shows that Garrison and his movement must be placed squarely within the context of transatlantic mid-nineteenth-century reform.
W. Caleb McDaniel is assistant professor of history at Rice University.
Praise for The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery
“This important volume brims with insights that are often delivered with unusually good turns of phrase. W. Caleb McDaniel’s ambitions include painting Garrisonians on a transatlantic canvas and stretching that canvas from the 1830s through the 1860s—both unusual moves within a distinguished and voluminous historiography. He is successful on both counts, and thereby sheds considerable light on both the abolitionist movement and William Lloyd Garrison himself.”—American Historical Review
“W. Caleb McDaniel’s excellent account of Garrisonian abolitionists presents the antislavery crusaders as they saw themselves.”—Journal of the Early Republic
“McDaniel has produced a well-written and engaging work that will undoubtedly enjoy a wide readership and spark debate.”—New England Quarterly
“Although they examine southern literature, politics, religion, and culture, each of the essayists in this fine anthology also ponders the nature of history and narrative in the postmodern world. . . . These essays invite readers to confront human fallibility, appreciating that human beings understand the world and the past as much from the inside out as from the outside in. It is a humbling perspective.”—Journal of American History
Found an Error? Tell us about it.