We’re the New Abolitionists, and We Can Win As the First Ones Did

By Robert Royal: Swimming Against the Current
June 4, 2018
Founder’s Quote
June 5, 2018

Leg irons on the ankles of a slave or prisoner.Related:

By Joe Long, The Stream, June 3, 2018

Joe LongThe modern media would call them “fanatics trying to legislate their religious morality on everyone else.” Now they’re almost universally celebrated among Americans for helping eliminate a huge evil. That’s why we should look to the past for lessons. Looking back can remind us how those evils were overcome.

The story of the abolitionist movement is especially relevant to religious conservatives in our changing society. We’re not a majority, and we don’t have solid control of even one political party. (The other one scorns us openly.)

The abolitionists suffered similar disadvantages. Yet they abolished one of the great evils of their age. What can the pro-life movement, “abortion abolitionists,” learn from them?

The Lessons

First, the abolitionists were a religious movement trying to effect a major social change. They acted on a Christian understanding of human worth and equality. They didn’t see their faith as in conflict with the American Constitution, but as an expression of it.

And now? All those people who cry “separation of church and state” at Christian pro-lifers praise the abolitionists. They see what faith got done. Maybe 50 years from now, the secular people of that day will look back on the pro-life movement and praise us.

Second, the abolitionists blundered badly, and with bloody results, when they failed to strongly and clearly repudiate the terrorist John Brown. Many abolitionists saw his goals as noble. They chose to overlook or even endorse his bloody methods. This didn’t hasten the end of slavery, but it helped to bring on our nation’s most terrible war.

It’s likely that the average anti-slavery advocate singing “John Brown’s Body” didn’t truly approve of the idea of a violent, mass slave revolt. Perhaps he didn’t approve of Brown’s Kansas massacre, either. However, in the South it certainly sounded like endorsement of bloody, indiscriminate uprising, like the earlier Haitian rebellion.

This gave a strong impression that no dialogue with the abolitionists could prosper. It reduced the chances of a peaceful solution. It’s hard to reassure anyone you’re arguing in good faith when you’re singing “his spirit marches on” about a murderer.

Happily, it’s a lesson we have heeded. Pro-aborts love to suggest that the pro-life movement has terrorist tendencies of its own. The case just can’t be made. When some frustrated, unbalanced individual does try terror against abortionists, he’s not honored with popular Christian songs. Instead pro-lifers immediately, strongly repudiate him. We’re “wise as serpents, harmless as doves.”

The Ultimate Success

But it’s the ultimate success of the abolition movement that can provide us the most important lesson. Through the political upheavals of their time, and even the chaos of war, a committed minority was able to help steer the whole society towards their goal.

This was not accomplished by Lincoln’s election. (Another lesson: electing your preferred presidential candidate is never enough by itself.) As the war began, the Union denied that abolition was a war aim at all. Much political maneuvering had to take place, before emancipation became a part of the Union plan.

And they needed patience. The American abolition movement had existed for a century. Slavery itself was thousands of years older than that. It looked impossible to uproot. Yet, looking back, we can see that the abolitionists’ efforts occurred at just the right time. Economic and cultural forces were aligning to make the end of slavery not just practical, but inevitable.

Perhaps Things are Changing

Perhaps in the case of abortion historic forces are aligning once more. What seems impossible to uproot, might not be so firmly established after all. Improved sonograms are the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of the twenty-first century, and today’s youngsters have grown up with those. The clear evidence of their own eyes debunks the lies on which abortion culture is based.

Abortion’s defenders grow increasingly shrill in their own denials. Maybe they see their control of the law beginning to slip away. The abolitionists would tell us to keep working, never give up, to have faith in God, and someday we’ll see a great evil abolished.


Joe Long holds an MA in History from Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. Over the years he’s been published in Civil War Historian magazine, the Journal of the South Carolina Historical Society, the Journal of Asian Martial Arts, and at American Greatness online.  He resides in South Carolina, with his five homeschooled kids and longsuffering wife, and is a member of a conservative Presbyterian church.