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By Richard H. Abbott

Examines the activies and beliefs of a bunch of Boston-area businessmen who promoted the reason for black freedom

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Extra resources for Cotton & capital: Boston businessmen and antislavery reform, 1854-1868

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Merchant, industrialist, and evangelist alike believed that, as it became harder and harder to maintain the traditional controls of state, church, and family over the individual, it was becoming increasingly important to train people to internalize authority. The nineteenth century, with its emphasis on individual rights, economic competition, and the acquisition of material goods, threatened to destroy a sense of community in which all members were bound to one another. Only if individuals could be educated to restrain their passions and act responsibly toward their fellow man could anarchy be avoided.

Republicans, too, would emphasize the dignity of labor, the importance of economic independence, and the right of all individuals to have maximum freedom to improve their situations in life. 14 People in Massachusetts, who were self-conscious about their Puritan past and proud of their churches, schools, and town meetings, found this ideology especially attractive. The self-congratulatory tone of Massachusetts political leaders reflected the sense of mission that had characterized the state since its founding as a Puritan colony.

They all inherited the Puritan belief that New Englanders in general, and people in Massachusetts and Page 5 Boston in particular, had a mission: Through the perfection of their own social, economic, and political institutions, they were to show the way for the rest of the nation. The younger reformers also learned from their more wealthy forefathers the tradition of public service or stewardship. Their predecessors had been content, for the most part, to concentrate on the perfection of New England ways, but by the mid nineteenth century the younger generation was looking outward and thinking of expanding New England influences into other states and regions.

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