A Plan for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in the United States, without Danger or Loss to the Citizens of the South
An 1825 plan for gradual emancipation by antislavery newspaper publisher Benjamin Lundy. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.
Benjamin Lundy (1789-1839) was a leading early antislavery exponent and newspaper publisher. Born in New Jersey, he entered social reform publishing after working as a saddle-maker. Lundy founded The Philanthropist in 1819 and The Genius of Universal Emancipation in 1821, the first US journals dedicated to the antislavery cause. A devout Quaker, his newspaper had a pietistic tone. In 1829 William Lloyd Garrison joined Lundy as co-editor; their association was brief due to political differences. In the early 1830s he visited Texas twice concerning re-settlement schemes; later, he deeply opposed the Texas insurrection as a plot to expand slavery. The Genius of Universal Emancipation failed in 1835; he revived the newspaper briefly in 1839 before he died.
This tract provides a brief version of the plan for which Lundy was best known, his advocacy for re-settlement of slaves in Texas and at the western frontier.
As a gradualist, Lundy was concerned to recruit the good opinion of the white population. His plan for gradual emancipation sought to assure slave-owners that they would not lose their investment capital in slaves. Lundy proposed a slave self-purchase scheme, undertaken in family units, based on variable lengths of service linked to the value of agricultural crops. An extra year of service would be added to defray the costs of resettlement. (5) The plan did not conceive that it was the value of the labor of black slaves that had been stolen, and made no provision for restitution from white slave-owners for the value of that labor. The advantage of his scheme, Lundy argued, was that it provided new opportunities for free white labor to replace enslaved black labor. (8) With the removal of black labor from the southern states, according to Lundy, the Union would be able to consolidate itself rather than remain in conflict over the slavery issue. Lundy’s tract and its title instance how even a respected antislavery figure joined the concept of citizenship with whiteness.
The standard modern biography of Lundy is Merton L. Dillon, Benjamin Lundy and the Struggle for Negro Freedom (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1966).
- Joe Lockard