- Cory Edmund Endrulat
Creating True Freedom Towns - 19th Century Abolitionists Teach Us!
When our freedoms can be lost today and tyranny growing suddenly amidst, many people will cower in fear, but others will devote their life and energy toward restoring that freedom, even if that means going against the law. The underground railroad was an effort created by the Abolitionists in the 19th century; it was a network of towns that provided safety away from governments and away from slavery. The fugitive slave act was a law passed by the government at the time that assisted slave owners and the closely related slave-patrol, now modern police, to capture runaway slaves or even re-enslave those Africian Americans considered free among the whites. Abolitionists were willing to break the law in order to uphold morality, and that is exactly why the underground railroad is considered “underground”, much like the concept of black markets.
To think this through, the mere pen and paper altered morality saying that it was wrong to do what is right, that being, to free yourself from slavery or to simply live your life free from slavery. However, it wasn’t the pen and paper doing this, it was the masses of individuals, both the general public, the slave-patrol and slaveholders, which believed in it’s imagined authority and followed it’s orders. A quote from author Larken Rose:
“The evils of slavery, for example, are often blamed on racism and greed, but ‘authority’ played a huge role in making slavery economically feasible. If there was not a huge, organized network of ‘law enforcers’ to capture escaped slaves, and any who helped them escape, how long would slavery have continued? If freeing slaves was not ‘illegal,’ and thus immoral in the eyes of authoritarians, how much larger and more effective would the ‘underground railroad’ have been?” “Shipping slaves halfway around the world would be a very risky business indeed if, the moment you landed, your “cargo” might be forcibly liberated. The problem is that most people believe that even immoral, unjust “laws” should be obeyed until the “law” is changed. Clearly this means that such people’s loyalty to the myth of “authority” is stronger than their loyalty to morality, and doing what the masters tell them is more important to them than doing what they know is right. And mankind has suffered greatly because of it.”
Bearing these facts in mind, we may question for ourselves in our current day and age, are we upholding this concept of authority, in disregard to morality? Individuals should always follow what they know to be right as opposed to wrong, never to follow some presumed authority other than their own conscience, in respect to other’s own conscience. The abolitionists also spoke much about this, for which is why they were even considered “radical.”
Abolitionist Adin Ballou spoke of the evils in all forms of human government, it’s core connection to slavery and the problems with political power, always emphasizing that morality is contrary to legality and creates the most change. Abolitionist Charles Lane spoke of how if government were voluntary and based on consent, not violence, it would not be government, it would be a truly free world. Abolitionist Jeremiah Hacker spoke of how prison systems are failing individuals, jailing them for victimless acts, how political parties divide people and reduce them to foolish sheep, how governments are contrary to love and how our action must be educating the public. Abolitionist Josiah Warren spoke of how governments do not protect rights or property, but actually have historically always done the opposite, as it is in it’s nature. All these individuals, among many others, were part of the efforts of the underground railroad, not simply to end chattel slavery for freedom, but to create freedom to end many forms of slavery. In the new printing age of the 19th century, not many people were aware of all their town experiments and struggles, yet here we are now in the 21st century, able to study their efforts and realize we can make an impact now that wasn’t able to be fully made before. For they ended chattel slavery, it is our duty to recognize the political slavery they also spoke of and warned us about, that of which ever upheld the other form.
Among towns many people don’t know about, one town experiment was known as the “Hopedale Community” by Adin Ballou, founded in 1843. It stood for temperance, abolitionism, women's rights, spiritualism and education. Fourteen years after the purchase of the land however, the town went bankrupt and was sold off to the Draper corporation. The town did what it had to do at the time, welcoming individuals who were in need of help. Many stories from this town have surfaced since, even with community gatherings about it occurring to this day, sharing how many of the residents loved their stay and safety away from the rest of the world, many passionate about the principles of non-violence.
Another town was called “Fruitlands” by Charles Lane among transcendentalists, which now serves as a museum today. The town was to promote principles mostly of self-sufficiency. They broke away from trade or any connection whatsoever to slavery, including the clothes they wear. Though efforts became extreme to such an extent, the land was found not able to be used for crops, causing the town to no longer continue, though it still played a role in the efforts of abolitionism nonetheless. Lane would continue to experiment joining with other communities. This passion we see in these freedom fighters breeds the search of excellence. Not every engagement based on principle is successful, but that does not mean one should abandon principle.
Among towns, reform schools for boys in Maine were also created by Jeremiah Hacker. Through his educative efforts, both him and his readers were able to start up projects that went on to land more than 100 years after his death, also becoming among the top reform schools in the country. The governor of his town would go on to take credit, and Jeremiah criticized it, since the idea originated with his work. His advocacy efforts for land reform also was able to provide land for those without, estimated about two million people over the next century. This is the power of influence and education done by everyday people.
Among one the most accredited abolitionists, Josiah Warren created several towns, one called Modern Times, emphasizing the sovereignty of individuals. No money, no laws, no government, yet there was very little crime and commotion throughout all 13 years of it’s history. He was able to provide homes for families without. The reason why this town could not continue was due to the 1857 Panic and the Civil War; among the fact as resident Charles Codman stated, the ideas of Modern Times were not spreading to the rest of the world. As the name of the town began to get criticized, the civil war preoccupied the era, the name was changed and the ideals died out. Still, inspiring and may be considered successful at times none the less.
So, with the successes by these communities, often only with failure due to an outside world not ready for it, why do historians call them utopian? Simply because there were voluntary ideals contrary to the involuntary government? Should we disband ourselves from the rest of the world and create our own community? Perhaps the world is in need of knowledge, of the concepts of authority and the nature of governments, among the questions challenging statism we propose for all to inquire, before we can ever voluntarily create whatever society we choose to live in for ourselves. The domino effect can occur from just one community stopping a vital statist action and showing the reasoning behind their actions to the rest of the world. We cannot just run away from our problems, otherwise they will come back to get us. We must face them, and therefore help our fellow man who is enslaved, come to freedom. That is, freedom for all. Let us know your thoughts.