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Scope and method of study. The thesis of this dissertation is that northerners feared slavery, in part, because the rationales for black slavery were inherently subjective and therefore posed a threat to the liberty of all Americans, irrespective of color. Anyone could fall victim to the argument that they were "inferior," that they would be better off enslaved, that they posed a threat to society, or that their subjugation was justified by history and religion. In the course of my research, I examined hundreds of newspapers and printed sources. Given the broadness of my topic, I saw no value in confining my research to a particular state or region---although a significant portion of my material emerged from the Old Northwest, which was the heart of the early Republican Party. Most of my sources will fall within the period of rapidly escalating tensions (1854-1860); however, some arguments will reach back into the nation's first half century, a period in which many aspects of the proslavery and antislavery arguments initially took shape. Findings and conclusions. Many northerners understood that the perpetuation of slavery, and its attendant rationales, made their own liberty, indeed everyone's liberty, contingent on circumstance---namely, the ability to defend oneself against those who would seek to subjugate. Freedom would depend on an individual's economic status, the prejudices of the majority, or the caprice of an aristocracy. They therefore held that the only effective safeguard of individual liberty was universal liberty, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. As long as Americans believed that "all men" were endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, everyone's liberty would be self-evident, regardless of circumstance. Furthermore, the capriciousness of these rationales, which was confirmed by historical evidence, proved that American slavery was simply another example of "might makes right." Like other forms of tyranny, it was determined by the desire and ability of the strong to oppress the weak. As a result, even through the lens of bigotry, white northerners could look upon the slaves' condition and wonder if a similar fate could ever befall them. Black skin had been stigmatized as a badge of servitude, yet there was nothing to guarantee that white skin would always serve as an unimpeachable badge of freedom.