Abolition of Slavery-
growth of the abolitionist movement in America

By William J. Federer

 The Quaker William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, labored to end
 slavery in the colonies

 Benjamin Franklin, Governor of Pennsylvania, supported the abolition
 of slavery and in 1788, was appointed the first president of the first
 anti-slavery society in America.

 Reverend John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence,
 lost two sons in the Revolutionary War. After his wife died, October
 of 1789, he re-entered politics and headed up a committee in the New
 Jersey legislature to abolish slavery.

 Although a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, George Mason
 refused to sign the United States Constitution as it did not abolish
 slavery. He disapproved strongly of the slave trade.

 Ezra Stiles (1727-1795), was a founder of Rhode Island College (later
 Brown University) in 1763, the president of Yale College, and was the
 president of the first society for the abolition of slavery formed in
 Connecticut, in 1790.

 On April 12, 1786, George Washington wrote from Mount Vernon to Robert

 I hope it will not be conceived from these observations, that it is my
 wish to hold the unhappy people, who are the subject of this letter,
 in slavery. I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes
 more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of
 it; but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be
 accomplished, and that is by Legislative authority.

 On September 9, 1786, from Mount Vernon, George Washington wrote to
 John F. Mercer:

 I never mean, unless some particular circumstances should compel it, to
 another slave by purchase, it being among my first wishes to see some
 plan adopted, by
 which slavery in this country may be abolished by law.

 On January 24, 1801, in a letter to George Churchman and Jacob Lindley
 regarding slavery, John Adams stated:

 My opinion against it has always been known....Never in my life did I
 own a slave.

 In a 1773 letter to Robert Pleasants, Patrick Henry expressed his
 disapproval of the slave trade:

 I take this opportunity to acknowledge the receit of Anthony Benezet's
 Book against the slave trade. I thank you for it....
 Is it not amazing, that at a time when the rights of humanity are
 defined and understood with precision in a country above all others
 fond of liberty, that in such an age and in such a country, we find
 men professing a religion most humane, mild, meek, gentle and
 generous, adopting a Principle as repugnant to humanity, as it is
 inconsistent to the Bible and destructive to liberty?....
 I will not, I cannot justify it....I believe a time will come when an
 opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil.... It is
 a debt we owe to the purity of our Religion to show that it is at
 variance with that law which warrants slavery. I know not when to
 stop. I would say many things on this subject, a serious review of
 which gives gloomy perspective to future times.

 On April 23, 1820, in a letter to Robert Goodloe, Charles Carroll, who
 was a member of a society to end slavery, stated:

 [W]hy keep alive the question of slavery? It is admitted by all to be
 a great evil.

 Benjamin Rush (1745-1813), was a member of the Continental Congress,
 1776-77, and signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1774, he
 helped found and was president of the Pennsylvania Society for
 Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

 John Jay (1745-1829), was the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme
 Court, having been appointed by President George Washington. He was a
 member of the First and Second Continental Congresses and served as
 the President of the Continental Congress. He was very instrumental in
 causing the Constitution to be ratified, by writing the Federalist
 Papers, along with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. In 1777,
 John Jay helped to write the Constitution of New York, and from
 1795-1801 held the position of Governor of the State of New York.
 On December 23, 1776, in an address before the New York Convention,
 John Jay urged:

 The holy gospels are yet to be preached to these western regions, and
 we have the highest reason to believe that the Almighty will not
 suffer slavery and the gospel to go hand in hand. It cannot, it will
 not be.

 On December 3, 1816, in his Eighth Annual Message to Congress,
 President James Madison stated:

 The United States, having been the first to abolish within the extent
 of their authority the transportation of the natives of Africa into
 slavery, by prohibiting the introduction of slaves and by punishing
 their citizens participating in the traffic, can not but be gratified
 at the progress made by concurrent efforts of other nations toward a
 general suppression of so great an evil....

 James Madison was raised being close friends with many slaves,
 especially a young man named Billy. In regards to slavery, Madison

 The whole Bible is against negro slavery; but that the clergy do not
 preach this, and the people do not see it.

 When a slave greeted Mr. Madison by removing his hat, Mr. Madison
 greeted him back by removing his own hat. When question on this
 practice, Madison replied:

 I never allow a negro to excel me in politeness.

 John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), was the 6th President of the United
 States, 1825-29; one of the few Presidents to re-enter politics after
 his term; U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, 1830-48, being
 nicknamed "The Hell-Hound of Slavery," as he singlehandedly led the
 fight to lift the Gag Rule which had prohibited discussion of slavery
 on the floor of Congress.

 On May 27, 1838, in Washington, D.C., John Quincy Adams entered into his

 The counterfeit character of a very large portion of the Christian
 ministry in this country is disclosed in the dissension growing up in
 all the Protestant churches on the subject of slavery....

 Returning to politics after having served as the nation's sixth
 president, John Quincy Adams spoke to the House of Representatives,
 where he led the fight against slavery for nearly fourteen years
 before seeing results:

 Oh, if but one man could arise with a genius capable of supporting,
 and an utterance capable of communicating those eternal truths that
 belong to this question, to lay bare in all its nakedness that outrage
 upon the goodness of God, human slavery! Now is the time, and this is
 the occasion, upon which such a man would perform the duties of an
 angel upon earth!

 When asked why he never seemed discouraged or depressed over
 championing the unpopular fight against slavery, John Quincy Adams

 Duty is ours; results are God's.

 On December 3, 1844, after years of struggle against the powerful
 slavery interests, John Quincy Adams' motion succeeded to rescind the
 infamous Gag Rule, which had forbidden the discussion of slavery in
 the Congress. After hearing the progress of his long and lonely
 anti-slavery crusade, John Quincy Adams wrote in his diary:

 Blessed, forever blessed, be the name of God!

 Lyman Beecher (1775-1863), was a renowned Presbyterian clergyman in
 New England. He preached in Boston and Cincinnati, where he later
 became President of Lane Theological Seminary. He was the father of
 both Henry Ward Beecher, one of the most eloquent preachers of his
 time, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the book Uncle Tom's Cabin,
 which greatly precipitated the abolition of slavery.

 Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), was an American clergyman, editor and
 abolitionist. He was the son of the New England theologian Lyman
 Beecher, and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the novelist and
 reformer who wrote the book Uncle Tom's Cabin . Over 2,500 people
 flocked to hear him each week at the Plymouth Church of Brooklyn, New
 York. He increasingly used his pulpit to denounce civil corruption,
 support women's suffrage (the right to vote), and preach against

 In 1839, when Henry Clay was about to give a speech in which he would
 declare himself against slavery, one of his friends warned him that
 this would ruin his chances to become President. To this, Henry Clay
 gave his reply:

 I would rather be right than President.

 Congress of the Confederation (July 13, 1787), passed "An Ordinance
 for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West
 of the River Ohio," later shortened to the Northwest Ordinance. This
 Ordinance, recognized in The United States Code Annotated as one of
 America's four most significant government documents, was later
 introduced into Congress by Rufus King, a signer of the Constitution,
 received House approval, July 21, 1789; received Senate approval,
 August 4, 1789 and signed into law by President George Washington,
 August 7, 1789, during the same period the First Amendment was being
 formulated. In Article VI, it prohibited slavery within the territory.

 United States Congress (August 7, 1789), in "An Ordinance for the
 Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the
 River Ohio," later shortened to the Northwest Ordinance, Article VI,
 prohibited slavery within the territory that was to become the States
 of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and the eastern part
 of Minnesota.

 On March 1, 1780, the legislature of the State of Pennsylvania passed
 an Act abolishing slavery within the State.

 On February 15, 1804, the legislature of the State of New Jersey
 passed an Act which abolished slavery within the State.

 In October of 1777, the legislature of the State of Connecticut passed
 an Act abolishing slavery within the State.

 On March 1, 1780, in the "Declarations of Rights," Article I, the
 legislature of the State of Massachusetts passed an Act abolishing
 slavery within the State.

 In 1792, the legislature of the State of New Hampshire passed the
 "Bill of Rights," Article I, which abolished slavery within the State.

 On March 29, 1799, the State of New York, in the twenty-second
 session, second meeting of the legislature, passed an Act which
 abolished slavery within the State.

 Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, State of (May 29, 1790), was
 the 13th State admitted to the Union. In 1784, the legislature of the
 State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations passed an Act
 abolishing slavery within the State.

 In 1786, the legislature of the State of Vermont passed the
 "Declaration of Rights," Article I, which abolished slavery within the

 State of Ohio (March 1, 1803), was the 17th State admitted to the
 Union. On August 7, 1789, President George Washington signed into law
 an Act of Congress which prohibited slavery from entering the
 territory, entitled "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory
 of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio," Article VI.

 State of Indiana (December 11, 1816), was 19th State admitted to the
 Union. On August 7, 1789, President George Washington signed into law
 an Act of Congress which prohibited slavery from entering the
 territory, entitled "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory
 of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio," Article VI.

 State of Illinois (December 3, 1818), was the 21st State admitted to
 the Union. On August 7, 1789, President George Washington signed into
 law an Act of Congress which prohibited slavery from entering the
 territory, entitled "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory
 of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio," Article VI.

 State of Michigan (January 26, 1837), was the 26th State admitted to
 the Union. On August 7, 1789, President George Washington signed into
 law an Act of Congress which prohibited slavery from entering the
 territory, entitled "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory
 of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio," Article VI.

 State of Iowa (December 28, 1846), was the 29th State admitted to the
 Union. On August 7, 1789, slavery was prohibited from entering the
 territory of Iowa by an Act of Congress entitled "An Ordinance for the
 Government of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the
 River Ohio," Article VI, introduce by Rufus King and signed into law
 by President George Washington.

 State of Wisconsin (May 29, 1848), was the 30th State admitted to the
 Union. On August 7, 1789, President George Washington signed into law
 an Act of Congress which prohibited slavery from entering the
 territory, entitled "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory
 of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio," Article VI.

 State of Minnesota (May 11, 1858), was the 32nd State admitted to the
 Union. On August 7, 1789, President George Washington signed into law
 an Act of Congress which prohibited slavery from entering the
 territory, entitled "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory
 of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio," Article VI.

 Colorado, State of (August 1, 1876), was the 38th State admitted to
 the Union. The Constitution of the State of Colorado, adopted March
 14, 1876, stated:

 Article II, Section 26 . Slavery Prohibited. There shall never be in
 this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a
 punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly

 William Jay (1789-1858), was the son of John Jay, the first Chief
 Justice of the Supreme Court and the father of John Jay, the
 influential diplomat. He was a successful attorney, author and judge
 in Westchester County, New York. William Jay took the unpopular and
 politically incorrect stance of opposing slavery, and, in 1833, helped
 found the New York City Anti-Slavery Society. He was a founder of the
 American Bible Society, 1816, and served as the director of the
 American Tract Society. William Jay wrote several books against
 slavery, including: American Anti-Slavery Societies, 1835;
 Miscellaneous Writings on Slavery, 1853.

 John Jay (1817-1894), was an American lawyer and diplomat. He was the
 son of Judge William Jay and the grandson of John Jay, the Founding
 Father who was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was
 the manager of the New York Young Men's Anti-Slavery Society in 1834;
 secretary of the Irish Relief Commission during the potato famine in
 1847; U.S. Minister to Austria, 1869-75; and the vice-president of the
 Civil Service Reform Association of the State of New York. He served
 as the president of the American Historical Society, 1890; as well as
 being an active member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the
 National Academy of Design. John Jay authored many papers, including:
 "America Free or America Slave," 1856; "On the Passage of the
 Constitutional Amendment," 1864; and "Abolishing Slavery," 1864.

 William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), was the editor in chief of the New
 York Evening Post for 50 years, lending its support in the formation
 of the Republican Party and the fight against slavery.

 Horace Mann (1796-1859), was an American legislator and educator. He
 played a leading role establishing the public school system in the
 United States. As a lawyer, Horace Mann served in the Massachusetts
 legislature as a state representative, 1827-33, and as a state
 senator, 1833-37. In 1848, he became a U.S. Representative and
 strongly fought to end slavery in America.

 At the end of a church service, in which the murder of the
 abolitionist publisher Elijah Lovejoy was recounted, John Brown stood
 up in the back of the church and declared:

 Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, I consecrate my
 life to the destruction of slavery.

 John Newton (1725-1807), was the captain of a slave trading ship. He
 converted to Christianity and wrote the spiritual song, Amazing Grace,
 having realized the wretchedness of his former profession. So
 depraved was he, that even his crew became disgusted. Once in a
 drunken stupor he fell overboard, and his crew, in order to rescue
 him, threw a harpoon through his leg in order to reel him back aboard.
 His constant limp thereafter was a reminder of how God could save such
 a wretch. Throughout the remainder of his life, he kept the
 anniversary of his conversion, March 10, 1748 (21st N.S.) as a day of
 humiliation and thanksgiving for his "deliverance." In 1788, he aided
 William Wilberforce's efforts to rid England of slavery by publishing
 his ghastly experiences in the slave trade.
 John Newton wrote:

 Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound,
 That saved a wretch like me.
 I once was lost, but now am found,
 Was blind, but now I see.

 Robert E. Lee was against slavery and a number of years before the war
 he freed his own slaves. He was so highly respected, that when war
 looked imminent, President Abraham Lincoln offered him the Field
 Command of the U.S. Army. He struggled all night with his decision,
 finally resolving to the obligation of loyalty to his home state and
 the South. He resigned from the U.S. Army and in a letter to his
 sister, explained:

 With all my devotion to the union and the feelings of loyalty and duty
 of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to
 raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home.

 On December 27, 1856, Robert E. Lee wrote to his wife:

 Slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil in any
 country....I think, however, a greater evil to the white than to the
 black race... The doctrines and miracles of our Saviour have required
 nearly two thousand
 years to convert but a small part of the human race, and even among
 the Christian nations what gross errors still exist!

 John Greenleaf Whittier was the editor of the American Manufacturer,
 the Essex Gazette, The Pennsylvania Freeman, and the National Era.
 He bitterly opposed slavery, to the extent that once he was mobbed and
 severely beaten during a speaking tour. Later his office in
 Philadelphia was burned. John Greenleaf Whittier, one of the first to
 suggest the creation of a Republican Party.

 Salmon Portland Chase (1808-1873), was the U.S. Secretary of the
 Treasury under President Lincoln. He served as the Governor of Ohio, a
 U.S. Senator and was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as Chief
 Justice of the Supreme Court. He was a strong opponent of slavery,
 defending so many escaped slaves when he first started practicing law
 that he was given the nickname "Attorney-General of Fugitive Slaves."

 Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903), was an American abolitionist,
 statesman and politician. He served as a diplomat to Russia under both
 President Lincoln and President Grant, 1861-62, 1863-69. A strong
 opponent of slavery, he founded the anti-slavery journal True
 American, in Lexington, Kentucky, 1845.

 Charles Sumner (1811-1874), was a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts for
 23 years, 1851-74. He was strongly opposed to slavery and was
 persecuted for taking that unpopular stand. So firm was his conviction
 against slavery, that he was once physically assaulted on the floor of
 the House by Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina,
 receiving injuries from which he never fully recovered. As one of the
 founders of the Republican Party, Charles Sumner declared:

 Familiarity with that great story of redemption, when God raised up
 the slave-born Moses to deliver His chosen people from bondage, and
 with that sublimer story where our Saviour died a cruel death that all
 men, without distinction of race, might be saved, makes slavery
 impossible. Because Christians are in the minority there is no reason
 for renouncing Christianity, or for surrendering to the false
 religions; nor do I doubt that Christianity will yet prevail over the
 earth as the waters cover the sea.

 Henry Wilson (1812-1875), was a U.S. Senator, 1855-72; and
 Vice-President under Ulysses S. Grant, 1873-75. He took a strong stand
 against slavery, and in 1848 he helped found the Free Soil Party.

 Horace Greeley (1811-November 29, 1872), was an American journalist,
 newspaper editor and politician. He made famous the phrase, "Go West,
 Young Man!" Horace Greeley founded and edited the New York Tribune
 daily paper and The New Yorker magazine. Called by the poet, John
 Greenleaf Whittier, "our later Franklin," Greeley's strong
 anti-slavery editorials helped to stir the North to oppose slavery. He
 was one of the founders of the Republican Party and used his influence
 to secure the nomination of Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency.

 Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), was the author of the Civil War song, The
 Battle Hymn of the Republic, which was a favorite of President
 Abraham Lincoln. She was the daughter of a Wall Street banker, and
 wife of Doctor Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), who ran a school for
 the blind in Boston, (later the Perkins School for the Blind.) Doctor
 Howe and Julia together published the anti-slavery journal
 Commonwealth .
 Julia Ward Howe was very active in the abolition of the slavery
 movement, and later became a leader in the women's suffrage movement.
 In 1907, she became the first woman member of the American Academy of
 Arts and Letters. She and her husband worked hard against slavery and
 even entertained John Brown in their home.
 In 1861, she traveled to Washington, D.C., and saw the city teeming
 with military, horses galloping all around and innumerable campfires
 burning. Sleeping unsoundly one night, she wrote the words to her
 poem. In February, 1862, the poem, The Battle Hymn of the Republic,
 was published in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine (she received $5 for
 the poem).

 On December 2, 1872, in his Fourth Annual Message to Congress,
 President Ulysses S. Grant stated:

 I can not doubt that the continued maintenance of slavery in Cuba is
 among the strongest inducements to the continuance of this strife. A
 terrible wrong is the natural cause of a terrible evil. The abolition
 of slavery and the introduction of other reforms in the administration
 of the government in Cuba could not fail to advance the restoration of
 peace and order. It is greatly to be hoped that the present liberal
 Government of Spain will voluntarily adopt this view. The law of
 emancipation, which was passed more than two years since, has remained
 unexecuted in the absence of regulations for its enforcement. It was
 but a feeble step toward emancipation, but it was the recognition of
 right, and was hailed as such, and exhibited Spain in harmony with
 sentiments of humanity and of justice and in sympathy with the other
 powers of the Christian and civilized world.

 On December 1, 1873, in his Fifth Annual Message to Congress,
 President Ulysses S. Grant stated:

 The existence of this new Republic was inaugurated by striking the
 fetters from the slaves in Porto Rico. This beneficent measure was
 followed by the release of several thousand persons illegally held as
 slaves in Cuba. Next, the Captain-General of that colony was deprived
 of the power to set aside the orders of his superiors at Madrid, which
 had pertained to the office since 1825. The sequestered estates of
 American citizens, which had been the cause of long and fruitless
 correspondence, were ordered to be restored to their owners. All these
 liberal steps were taken in the face of a violent opposition directed
 by the revolutionary slaveholders of Havana, who are vainly striving
 to stay the march of ideas which has terminated slavery in
 Christendom, Cuba only excepted.

 On Friday, March 4, 1881, in his Inaugural Address, President James
 Abram Garfield stated:

 The emancipated race has already made remarkable progress. With
 unquestioning devotion to the Union, with a patience and gentleness
 not born of fear, they have "followed the light as God gave them to
 see the light."... Let our people find a new meaning in the divine
 oracle which declares that "a little child shall lead them," for our
 own little children will soon control the destinies of the Republic.
 My countrymen, we do not now differ in our judgement concerning the
 controversies of past generations, and fifty years hence our children
 will not be divided in their opinions concerning our controversies.
 They will surely bless their
 fathers and their fathers' God that the Union was preserved, that
 slavery was overthrown, and that both races were made equal before the

 On May 29, 1926, at the dedication of the statue of John Ericsson,
 Washington, D.C., President Calvin Coolidge stated:

 The Confederate ironclad Virginia, reconstructed from the Merrimac,
 began a work of destruction among 16 Federal vessels, carrying 298
 guns....When the ironclad Merrimac went out on the morning of March 9
 to complete its work of destruction it was at once surprised and
 challenged by this new and extraordinary
 naval innovation. Speaking before the Naval Institute in 1876, Admiral
 Luce said that the Monitor "exhibited in a singular manner the old
 Norse element in the American Navy." He pointed out that it was
 Ericsson "who built her," Dahlgren "who armed her," and Worden "who
 fought her." And well might he add: "How the ancient Skalds would have
 struck their wild harps in hearing such names in heroic verse. How
 they would have written them in immortal tunes. After a battle lasting
 four hours in which the Monitor suffered no material damage, except
 from one shell which hit the observation opening in the pilot house,
 temporarily blinding Lieutenant Worden, the commanding officer, the
 Merrimac, later reported to have been badly crippled, withdrew, never
 to venture out again to meet her conqueror....The London Times stated
 that the day before this momentous battle England had 149 first-class
 warships. The day after she had but two, and they were iron-plated
 only amidships. Naval warfare had been revolutionized....
 [Ericsson] had a particular horror of slavery. In 1882 he wrote to a
 United States Senator: "Nothing could induce me to accept any
 remuneration from the United States for the Monitor once presented by
 me as my contribution to the glorious Union cause, the triumph of
 which freed 4,000,000 bondsmen."

 In his Proclamation of 1983 as the "Year of the Bible," President
 Reagan declared:
 For centuries, the Bible's emphasis on compassion and love for our
 neighbor has inspired institutional and governmental expressions of
 benevolent outreach such as private charity, the establishment of
 schools and hospitals, and the abolition of slavery.

 In 1983, in an article entitled "Abortion and the Conscience of the
 Nation," published in The Human Life Review, President Ronald Reagan

 Over the first two years of my administration I have closely followed
 and assisted efforts in Congress to reverse the tide of abortion -
 efforts of congressmen, senators and citizens responding to an urgent
 moral crisis. Regrettably, I have also seen the massive efforts of
 those who, under the banner of "freedom of choice," have so far
 blocked every effort to reverse nationwide abortion-on-demand. Despite
 the formidable obstacles before us, we must not lose heart. This is
 not the first time our country has been divided by a Supreme Court
 decision that denied the value of human lives. The Dred Scott
 decision of 1857 was not
 overturned in a day, or a year, or even a decade. At first, only a
 minority of Americans recognized and deplored the moral crisis brought
 about by denying the full humanity of our black brothers and sisters;
 but that minority persisted in their vision and finally prevailed.
 They did it by appealing to the hearts and minds of their countrymen,
 to the truth of human dignity under God. From their example, we know
 that respect for the sacred value of human life is too deeply
 engrained in the hearts of our people to remain forever suppressed.
 But the great majority of the American people have not yet made their
 voices heard, and we cannot expect them to - any more than the public
 voice arose against slavery - until the issue is clearly framed and
 Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land
 when some men could decide that others were not fit to be free and
 should therefore be slaves. Likewise, we cannot survive as a free
 nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should
 be abandoned to abortion or infanticide.