Oct 24 2008

Lydia Maria Child, Rev. Allen’s Address, and General Musings on the Electrical Metaphor

by at 12:13 am under Uncategorized

So, I’ve been reading more of Lydia Maria Child’s work. She talks about lightning and electricity in her letter that I mentioned about before, and, low and behold, lightning and storms keep on recurring in her texts. I’m too tired to copy of that stuff right now, but it will be done, I promise…

Also, she talks about magnetism.

Rev. WM Allen’s Address at the annual Michgan Anti-Slavery Society is extremely promising. So promising that I’m actually going to type it up in here eventhough I’m exhausted. Here it goes:

There were multitudes at the North, who protested that they were opposed to slavery, as much as abolitionists were, but still they did nothing. There was no visible effect from any influence they had exerted. Their abolition principles were like latent electricity. The effects of this subtle fluid, when developed, were seen in the shattered steeple, and in the conflagration. But as it existed in its latent state, it was alla round us and nothing was seen. But let there be an electric machine to develope its terrible energies, and the moment it was touched, there was shock. And there might be a galvanic battery piled up, and piled up, until it had accumulated a power which would reak every bone in the human system at touch. Just so it was with the abolition principle in this class of our citizens. It existed only in its latent state, and the object of anti-slavery societies was to develope its energies by combination. We wanted to raise a galvanic battery here at the north, of sufficient power to shiver every bone in the monster to atoms.

This may be a really good place to begin my paper with–it’s basically my thesis, tied up nice and neatly in a 19th century abolitonist speech. I particularly like how this passage brings up the issue of action. While many Northerners opposed slavery, most did nothing to end it. The electrical metaphor then comes in as a way of attempting to solve this problem: the “latent electricity” that exists in these individuals must be electrified, so that they will become “doers.” Also, the fact that all humans possess a latent electricity on the most scientific level implies that even those who do not oppose slavery have the potential of being electrified–they possess that latent slavery as well. So, to sum it up, I plan on looking at how the electric metaphor was utilized to come to terms with the problem of inspiration and action. A revolution could only be inspired by electrifying the people into action. The quote from John Neal’s book about electrifying personalities could be encorporated here. Also, need to make sure to talk about how the anti-abolitionist mobs play a role in all of this–clearly, these people are “doers,” the problems of inaction are not manifested here. While the abolitionists want to electrify the people, lots of individuals–numbers which far exceed the amount of active abolitonists–are clearly being electrified from the other end by the pro-slavery camp. Could incorporate Stephen Browne’s idea on terrorists versus counterterrorists: they feed off each other and are only defined in relationship to one another. The abolitionists want to electrify the people, but the problem is, of course, that their opponents are doing the very same thing, and more successfully even. How do the abolitionists come to terms with this problem of inspiring action?

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