|dc.description.abstract||Although much attention has been paid to the influence of southern slavery on the
secession crisis and subsequent Civil War, far less has been spent analyzing the
complexities of how northern communities in the antebellum period addressed questions
over the peculiar institution. Northerners were not simply opposed, or perhaps
ambivalent, to slavery during this period. Rather, individuals and groups had various
responses when confronted with the institution. This study attempts to shed new light on
the various reactions to slavery from one antebellum city: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Antebellum Pittsburgh provides an excellent case study for examining diverse
northern reactions to slavery, as well as how those reactions developed and changed over
time. The presence of various groups, each with their own unique responses when
presented with questions over slavery, allows the city to act as a microcosm for the
diverse antebellum North. Pittsburgh was home to many prominent white abolitionists
and a free black community, both of which contributed significantly to the western
operations of the state’s Underground Railroad. Additionally, the city’s geographical
location, on the forks of the Ohio River, promoted southern trade. This left many
businessmen and entrepreneurs in the growing industrial city sympathetic to the struggles
of southern slaveholders. Each of these groups provides a unique component to a larger,
more complex, story of slavery in early America.
A large quantity of primary and secondary sources demonstrates the diverse
reactions to slavery in antebellum Pittsburgh, yet each fails to fit these perspectives into a larger context. To date, no major work seeks to examine these diverse voices in the
Pittsburgh area nor analyzes the complex societies within which they collectively existed.
This research project is an attempt to do just that. By analyzing the writings of prominent
individuals in Pittsburgh, as well as speeches, newspapers, and court cases, a more
coherent understanding of the community and their reactions to slavery are outlined.
Although this thesis examines slavery debates in only one community, the complexities
of reactions and the existence of various groups can, in some ways, reflect the northern
half of the antebellum American nation.||