Date of Award

Fall 1980

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This dissertation examines the abolitionist movement in New Hampshire. The study, consisting of two parts, is divided at 1837 when rival factions of Granite State abolitionists sought control of the New Hampshire Anti-Slavery Society (NHASS). Although the nature and structure of the movement had been altered after 1840, abolitionists in both the 1830's and 1840's were clearly bound by the concepts of power and oppression which served as the organizing principles for their attack on a slaveholding nation.

The New Hampshire Colonization Society provided the foundation for the abolitionist movement in the state. Although the society endorsed black removal, colonizationists nevertheless condemned slavery as a sin and recognized that white society was responsible for the impoverished condition of blacks. After reading the works of William Lloyd Garrison many colonizationists left the movement and created the NHASS in 1835.

Members of the NHASS agreed with their colonizationist predecessors that slavery was a sin, but they also held that politically powerful southern slaveholders were deliberately obstructing the manufacturing and commercial growth of the North. Hence, in New Hampshire, abolitionism was both a movement to free the slaves and a crusade to save northern economic progress from the stranglehold of an archaic and agrarian South.

This concern with the unrestrained power of an oppressive backwater region was taken seriously in rapidly industrializing New Hampshire, for two-thirds of all abolitionists lived in relatively large and prosperous towns, with forty percent residing in the three leading manufacturing centers and the state capital. Furthermore, many of them actively promoted or were personally involved with numerous manufacturing and commercial pursuits.

Unmoved and often angered by the abolitionists' plea, New Hampshire citizens occasionally employed violence to register their displeasure. In Canaan, for example, townspeople forcibly closed the racially-integrated Noyes Academy because they were offended by the presence of blacks and by the fact that most abolitionists engaged in newly created manufacturing and commercial enterprises in what had once been a tranquil rural sanctuary.

By 1840, conservative and political abolitionists had abandoned the NHASS after the radical wing, led by Nathaniel P. Rogers, editor of the Herald of Freedom, advocated non-resistance and women's rights. Once in control of the society, Rogers and other radicals argued that abolitionism would not succeed until the clergy was toppled from power because ministers more than anyone else upheld the authority of the State which, in turn, protected the institution of slavery.

Other New Hampshire radicals took a more direct approach. Stephen Foster, Parker Pillsbury, and others disrupted church services by demanding the right to speak in behalf of the slave. While most radical abolitionists outside New Hampshire were uneasy with this method, they nevertheless withheld public rebuke. Their patience wore thin, however, when Rogers espoused his "no organization" doctrine.

Rogers argued that anti-slavery societies, like the State, were oppressive institutions that stifled free discussion and, therefore, abolitionists should abandon officers, treasuries, and committees. By 1844 Garrison, Foster, Pillsbury, and other radicals denounced Rogers and his counter-productive doctrine. Rogers was further isolated when the NHASS won a dispute over the ownership of the Herald of Freedom. As a result, Rogers established a rival paper dedicated to "no organization.".

The NHASS was seriously weakened not only by the internal squabbling but also by the success enjoyed by the political coalition constructed by the maverick Democrat, John Parker Hale. By 1847, when most abolitionists had filtered into Hale's coalition, the NHASS had become superfluous and consequently ceased to exist.