IntroductionCan ideas be dangerous? These "wafers," produced by Massachusetts abolitionists, could be detached and used to seal or close envelopes. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, legislative leaders have approved a resolution aimed at the very same people who would create or use the wafers.
Selection from the Massachusetts Historical Society: Antislavery Wafers, c. 1850.
Selection from the Library of Congress: Mississippi General Assembly, A preamble and resolutions in relation to the persons denominated "Abolitionists" ... Approved. February 27, 1836.
Questions to Consider
- Select 5 "wafers" and explain the meanings of them in your own words.
- What violations are the abolitionists accused of by the Mississippi General Assembly?
- For each of the 5 wafers you select, explain why you feel that these would have an impact on people's ideas about slavery.
- Why are abolitionists a threat to the people of Mississippi? What words are used to describe them? How do they "violate" the "bonds of friendship" and the "national compact"?
- Why are these wafers so brief? Why are the ideas potentially dangerous?
- What does the Mississippi Assembly expect the other states to do, and why?
- Imagine the response of a Mississippian to one of the wafers. Then write a response to that response. You can set this as a dialogue between friends in different states: a person in Massachusetts has mailed one of the wafers to his/her cousin in Mississippi.
- If you were advising the governor of a non-slave state on how to respond to the Resolution, what would be your three key points? What would they be for a governor of a slave state?
- Create a "wafer" using words that could be agreed upon by both abolitionists and people who want to keep relations between the states friendly. How would you manage to appeal to both groups? Can you find evidence in the two documents of common ground? What are the possibilities of compromise? What are the dangers?