The term Liberalism comes from the Latin word liber, meaning free. Liberalism was a political philosophy that many of the founding fathers of the United States of America adopted. Yet, most of them struggled with the doctrine's call for the freedom of all people. The abolitionist movement in the U.S. pushed Liberalism's call for the freedom of slaves.
The United States’ Declaration of Independence states “that all men are created equal.” These men, who founded the nation, subscribed to the political philosophy of Liberalism. While many of these founding fathers owned slaves themselves, they began to see how the system of slavery could not exist within a liberal society. For many years, this struggle culminated and turned into the abolitionist movement – an effort to eliminate slavery in its totality. The movement first began in Britain and was adopted in the United States by the 1830s. Abolitionists promoted the political philosophy of Liberalism and called for eliminating slavery to fulfill the promise of freeing all people. In the U.S., this culminated in the Civil War – a war over slavery. At the conclusions of the war, the United States passed the thirteenth amendment to its constitution, stating that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States.” While it took many years, Liberalism helped eliminate slavery.
Liberalism did not eliminate slavery. The author of the United States’ Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves on his plantation at Monticello. While Jefferson espoused the political philosophy of Liberalism, he, and many other powerful politicians, viewed their slaves as property and not people. This was ingrained in the United States Supreme Court ruling on the case Dred Scott v. Sandford that declared slaves were protected property that the owner could use as they please – just like the rest of a person’s property. The abolitionist movement eliminated slavery, not the political philosophy of Liberalism. It took the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown to push liberals to eliminate slavery.
Rejecting the premises