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Slaves Bought and Sold


An anonymous religious antislavery tract published in Buffalo, New York during the 1840s. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.

This anonymous tract was published twice, in 1840 and again in 1849, in Buffalo, New York. ‘Friend of Freedom and the Perpetuity of the Union,’ the unknown author of Bible Against Slaveholders, paid for the printing of the tract at the Buffalo Republican, a newspaper that existed under various names during the 1840s and beyond. Buffalo was a highly active antislavery city during this period, with a well-known vigilance committee that worked to transport fugitives across the border into Canada.

This is a tract that in many ways represents the local character of the antebellum antislavery movement. While the author exhibits significant familiarity with classical terms and dialogical rhetoric, the essay does not reference any text beyond the Bible. It rehearses biblical argument with easy familiarity, indicating that the author was concerned primarily with religious arguments against slavery. Like many religious antislavery texts during the antebellum period, the present tract is concerned to contradict citation of the Old Testament as providing license for the institution of slavery. The author subordinates secular political arguments over slavery to religious argument and concludes that, even under threat of disunion, the iniquitous sin of slavery must be prevented from expansion through passive resistance.

Bible Against Slaveholders is rude-hewn religious antislavery argument written by an author who does not employ the theological vocabulary characteristic of Garrissonian abolitionism. Its expressions are more attributable to the reform evangelical culture that abounded in western New York State during most of the first half of the nineteenth century.

— Joe Lockard