Joshua Giddings was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Ohio from 1838-1859 and helped establish the Republican Party. Giddings was also an outspoken and active opponent of slavery. Before the Civil War, he supported the Underground Railroad to help slaves escape to freedom. He was widely known for his beliefs and actions for racial equality. He worked alongside anti-slavery activist William Lloyd Garrison. Giddings felt strongly that slavery should not be approved by the federal government.
In 1842, Giddings and some of his colleagues in Congress formed a committee on slavery. The committee was dedicated to eradicating slavery by any political means necessary. The committee raised a budget out of their own pockets, conducted research, and gave speeches whenever they could. Giddings believed that slavery was a state issue, not a federal issue. Therefore, he felt that Congress should not be associated with slavery and should not show signs of supporting it.
Giddings was censured for violating a gag rule against discussing slavery in the House of Representatives. Giddings had introduced several resolutions against federal support for the slave trade, which the House refused to vote on. Giddings resigned in protest, but he was re-elected by overwhelming support and served nearly 20 more years in Congress.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Giddings stated that his beliefs on slavery were beyond that of the Constitution and were based on a higher natural law. In one of his speeches, Giddings stated, “There, I repeat, the laws of Congress alone bear rule. There freedom, and not slavery, prevails; and the moment the ship passed the line which separates the State from the high seas, the claims of these people fell for their limbs; the bars of their prison were broken; they were free; they again became men, clothed with the attributes with which nature and nature’s God “has endowed all men;” they again owned their bodies; they again came into possession of themselves…”
Later Giddings continued, “God views this buying and selling of his image with the same detestation, whether practised on the eastern or the western shores of the Atlantic.”