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The revivals focused on an extirpation of sin, a creed of individualism, and a faith in the human capacity for inner perfection. This moralist revival subsequently inspired the activism of many citizens in the region, notably in the crusade against slavery. A center for this activity, as well as the violent responses that sometimes followed, was Utica, which in 1835 was a city of 10,000 people situated strategically along the Erie Canal. Craftsmen, laborers, businessmen, and others soon found opportunities in this gateway juncture between the canal and the surrounding countryside.

Although he did ultimately comply, Woolman told his employer that he considered slaveholding inconsistent with Christianity. This started a life-long campaign for Woolman and like-minded members of the Society of Friends. Quakers soon came to compose a disproportionate number of the most conscientious opponents of slavery. Quakers helped to found the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery in 1775. One of their members, Benjamin Lundy, assembled a series of documents in the late 1820s that indicated a pro-slavery plot to acquire Texas.

The citizens of Alton, Illinois either participated in or tacitly permitted the 1837 murder of abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy. The next year, at Pennsylvania Hall in Philadelphia, activists like Angelina Grimke Weld delivered antislavery speeches inside as a gathering crowd surrounded the building, screamed obscenities, and pelted the edifice and those exiting from it with rocks and any other implements they could find. At the end of the day, whites and blacks walked out of the hall arm in arm, partly as a display of solidarity but also to protect their black comrades.

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Abolitionism by Shmoop

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