Like the Vermont Colonization Society, there were people who objected to the Vermont Anti-Slavery Society. Some people did not agree with the anti-slavery societies because they felt that:
- Slaves were too ignorant to be free
- Abolitionists were infringing on the rights of slave owners
- The anti-slavery societies were endangering the Union.
These objections to the Vermont Anti-Slavery Society were sometimes violent. In 1835 abolitionist Samuel J. May made a lecture tour through the state and was mobbed five times. May was an agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and the first Unitarian minister to propose, from the pulpit, immediate emancipation.
The most famous riot took place at Montpelier where Mr. May had been invited to address the Society. Many of the members of the legislature then in session were abolitionists, and May was offered the use of Representatives Hall for his first meeting. In spite of a few rotten eggs and stones appearing on the capitol grounds as a warning to him, he gave his speech and accepted a second invitation for the next evening from the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church.
In the morning, placards appeared about the town advising "the people generally and ladies in particular not to attend the anti-slavery meeting, as....as the person who is advertised to speak will be prevented by violence if necessary." In the afternoon May received a letter, requesting him to leave town, "without any further attempt to hold forth the absurd doctrine of antislaver." At the appointed hour he mounted the pulpit and started to speak.
Chaos began at once; May got in some remarks on free speech. When May attempted to speak again, a rush was made for the pulpit to the cry of "throw him over, choke him!" Rioters included several prominent local businessmen who were involved in the Colonization Society.
Frederick Douglass toured Vermont and tells of a speaking tour he made here in 1843:
"Those who only know the State of Vermont as it is today can hardly understand, and must wonder that there was forty years ago a need for anti-slavery effort within its borders....The several towns [we] visited showed that Vermont was surprisingly under the influence of the slave power. Her proud boast that within her borders no slave had ever been delivered up to his master, did not hinder her hatred to anti-slavery." In Middlebury, for example, "the opposition to our anti-slavery convention was intensely bitter and violent....Few people attended our meeting, and apparently little was accomplished. In Ferrisburgh the case was different and more favorable. The way had been prepared for us by such stalwart anti-slavery workers as Orson S. Murray, Charles C. Burleigh, Rowland T. Robinson, and others."
The Meanings of Emancipation
Members of the anti-slavery societies also often disagreed with each other. While some members believed in immediate emancipation (that slaves should all be set free immediately), others believed in gradual emancipation (that slaves should be set free more gradually). The “immediate emancipationists” were much more radical than the “gradual emancipationists.” The Vermont Anti-Slavery Society took the stand that immediate emancipation was the only "effectual remedy for the evil of slavery."