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'NO TAINT OF COMPROMISE' An enriching look at political crisis over slavery



Published: Sat, June 25, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The author taught history at Youngstown State University.

Looking back on his narrow re-election to the House of Representatives in 1862, George Washington Julian of Indiana remarked proudly that, having held fast to his anti-slavery position, he had secured a "triumph [with] no taint of compromise."

Julian's was one of a small but critical number of voices who, beginning in the late 1830s, battled the institution of slavery through political activism. Those are the voices to which Frederick Blue attends in this book, an in-depth account of the trials and accomplishments of 11 men and women who, in the face of great odds and powerful opposition, insisted that emancipation and racial equality could only be achieved through the political process.

Rejecting the apolitical approach of William Lloyd Garrison, those profiled in "No Taint of Compromise" entered the political process through the Liberty and Free Soil parties or worked from within the Democratic, Whig and Republican organizations. Though they represented the full spectrum of opinions on and approaches to abolition, collectively they agreed that southern control of the two-party system by what they called the "Slave Power" prevented any significant move to abolish slavery or slow its spread. The anti-slavery proponents Blue examines include Alvan Stewart, a Liberty party organizer from New York; John Greenleaf Whittier, a Massachusetts poet, journalist and Liberty activist; Charles Henry Langston, a black educator from Ohio; Owen Lovejoy, a congressman from Illinois; Sherman Booth, a journalist and Liberty organizer in Wisconsin; Jane Grey Swisshelm, a journalist in Pennsylvania and later Minnesota; George W. Julian, a congressman from Indiana; David Wilmot, a congressman from Pennsylvania; Benjamin and Edward Wade, a senator and a congressman, respectively, from Ohio; and Jessie Benton Fr & eacute;mont of Missouri and California, wife of the Republican presidential nominee.

"No Taint of Compromise" highlights the motives and actions of those who played instrumental if not central roles in anti-slavery politics -- those who undertook the yeoman's work of organizing parties, holding conventions, editing newspapers, and generally animating and agitating the discussion of issues related to slavery. Their stories, brought together for the first time in this comparative biographical study, enrich our understanding of the political crisis over slavery that led to the Civil War.

Praise for the book

"Offers elegant and cogent portraits of obscure or little-known foot soldiers of the antislavery movement whose disparate lives, when viewed collectively, illustrate how much hard work, talent and political maneuvering were necessary to uproot the institution of slavery."-- Civil War Book

"Frederick J. Blue has added to his already distinguished stature with this perceptive and timely contribution to the politics of slavery abolition. In this study of the lives of eleven fractious and ambitious political men and women, Blue splendidly reminds us today that committed reformers must work within the much maligned political system to achieve their goals."-- Jon L. Wakelyn, author of Confederates against the Confederacy

"Blue has written a gem of book on anti-slavery politics, illuminating the activities of rank-and-file reformers, not just leaders. His portraits of African American figures like Charles Langston and female abolitionists like Jane Swisshelm bristle with insights on the expansion of antebellum reform politics. We've long needed a book which broadens scholars' understanding of the abolitionist political community, and in No Taint of Compromise, Blue has marvelously delivered it." -- Richard Newman, author of The Transformation of American Abolitionism: Fighting Slavery in the Early Republic

"Many of the individuals discussed in this splendid book have no modern biography, or any biography at all. This fact alone makes Blue's book a welcome and significant volume that teaches us much about key individuals in the struggle against slavery. No Taint of Compromise is a wonderful culmination of Blue's lifetime engagement with those who fought for liberty in antebellum America." -- Paul Finkelman, author of Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson

XFrederick J. Blue is a professor of history emeritus at Youngstown State University, where he taught from 1964 to 2002. He is the author of the award-winning biography "Salmon P. Chase: A Life in Politics" and "Charles Sumner and the Conscience of the North," among other books. He lives in Redmond, Ore.




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