American Abolitionists and Antislavery Activists:
Conscience of the Nation

Updated April 4, 2021

l to r: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips

Encyclopedia of Slavery and Abolition in the United States - D

DALTON, Thomas, 1794-1883, free African American, Massachusetts, abolitionist.  Leader, Massachusetts General Colored Association.  Leader, New England Anti-Slavery Society.  Wife was Lucy Dalton.  Organized anti-slavery conventions with abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.


DANA, Charles Anderson, 1819-1897, New Hampshire, newspaper editor, author, journalist, government official, anti-slavery activist and abolitionist leader.  Proprietor and managing editor of Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.  As editor, he had the Tribune actively advocate for the anti-slavery cause.  The Tribune became one of the leading newspapers promoting anti-slavery. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 64-65; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 49; Wilson, J. H., Life of Charles A. Dana. New York, 1907)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DANA, Charles Anderson, editor, b. in Hinsdale, N. H., 8 Aug., 1819. He is a descendant of Jacob, eldest son of Richard Dana, progenitor of most of those who bear the name in the United States. His boyhood was spent in Buffalo, N. Y., where he worked in a store until he was eighteen years old. At that age he first studied the Latin grammar, and prepared himself for college, entering Harvard in 1839, but after two years a serious trouble with his eyesight compelled him to leave. He received an honorable dismissal, and was afterward given his bachelor's and master's degrees. In 1842 he became a member of the Brook Farm association for agriculture and education, being associated with George and Sophia Ripley, George William Curtis, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Theodore Parker, William Henry Channing, John Sullivan Dwight, Margaret Fuller, and other philosophers more or less directly concerned in the remarkable attempt to realize at Roxbury a high ideal of social and intellectual life. One of the survivors of Brook Farm speaks of Mr. Dana as the only man of affairs connected with that unitarian, humanitarian, and socialistic experiment. His earliest newspaper experience was gained in the management of the “Harbinger,” which was devoted to social reform and general literature. After about two years of editorial work on Elizur Wright's Boston Chronotype,” a daily newspaper, Mr. Dana joined the staff of the New York “Tribune” in 1847. The next year he spent eight months in Europe, and after his return he became one of the proprietors and the managing editor of the “Tribune,” a post which he held until 1 April, 1862. The extraordinary influence and circulation attained by that newspaper during the ten years preceding the civil war was in a degree due to the development of Mr. Dana's genius for journalism. This remark applies not only to the making of the “Tribune” as a newspaper, but also to the management of its staff of writers, and to the steadiness of its policy as the leading organ of anti-slavery sentiment. The great struggle of the “Tribune” under Greeley and Dana was not so much for the overthrow of slavery where it already existed as against the further spread of the institution over unoccupied territory, and the acquisition of slave-holding countries outside of the Union. It was not less firm in its resistance of the designs of the slave-holding interest than wise in its attitude toward the extremists and impracticables at the north. In the “Tribune's” opposition to the attempt to break down the Missouri compromise and to carry slavery into Kansas and Nebraska, and in the development and organization of that popular sentiment which gave birth to the Republican party and led to the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Mr. Dana bore no unimportant part. Writing of the political situation in 1854, Henry Wilson says, in his “Rise and Fall of the Slave Power”: “At the outset, Mr. Greeley was hopeless and seemed disinclined to enter the contest. He told his associates that he would not restrain them, but, as for himself, he had no heart for the strife. They were more hopeful; and Richard Hildreth, the historian, Charles A. Dana, the veteran journalist, James S. Pike, and other able writers, opened and continued a powerful opposition in its columns, and did very much to rally and reassure the friends of freedom and to nerve them for the fight.” In 1861 Mr. Dana went to Albany to advance the cause of Mr. Greeley as a candidate for the U. S. senate, and nearly succeeded in nominating him. The caucus was about equally divided between Mr. Greeley's friends and those of Mr. Evarts, while Ira Harris had a few votes which held the balance of power, and, at the instigation of Thurlow Weed, the supporters of Mr. Evarts went over to Judge Harris. During the first year of the war the ideas of Mr. Greeley and those of Mr. Dana in regard to the proper conduct of military operations were somewhat at variance; and this disagreement resulted in the resignation of Mr. Dana, after fifteen years' service on the “Tribune.” He was at once employed by Secretary Stanton in special work of importance for the war department, and in 1863 was appointed assistant secretary of war, which office he held until after the surrender of Lee. His duties as the representative of the civil authority at the scene of military operations brought him into close personal relations with Mr. Stanton and Mr. Lincoln, who were accustomed to depend much upon his accurate perception and just estimates of men and measures for information of the actual state of affairs at the front. At the time when Gen. Grant's character and probable usefulness were unknown quantities, Mr. Dana's confidence in Grant's military ability probably did much to defeat the powerful effort then making to break down the rising commander. Of this critical period Gen. Sherman remarks in his “Memoirs”: “One day early in April, 1863, I was up at Grant's headquarters [at Vicksburg], and we talked over all these things with absolute freedom. Charles A. Dana, assistant secretary of war, was there, and Wilson, Rawlins, Frank Blair, McPherson, etc. We all knew, what was notorious, that Gen. McClernand was intriguing against Gen. Grant, in hopes to regain command of the whole expedition, and that others were raising clamor against Grant in the newspapers of the north. Even Mr. Lincoln and Gen. Halleck seemed to be shaken; but at no instant did we (his personal friends) slacken in our loyalty to him.” Mr. Dana was in the saddle at the front much of the time during the campaigns of northern Mississippi and Vicksburg, the rescue of Chattanooga, and the marches and battles of Virginia in 1864 and 1865. After the war his services were sought by the proprietors of the Chicago “Republican,” a new daily, which failed through causes not within the editor's control. Returning to New York, he organized in 1867 the stock company that now owns the “Sun” newspaper, and became its editor. The first number of the “Sun” issued by Mr. Dana appeared on 27 Jan., 1868, and for nearly twenty years he has been actively and continuously engaged in the management of that successful journal, and solely, responsible for its conduct. He made the “Sun” a democratic newspaper, independent and outspoken in the expression of its opinions respecting the affairs of either party. His criticisms of civil maladministration during Gen. Grant's terms as president led to a notable attempt on the part of that administration, in July, 1873, to take him from New York on a charge of libel, to be tried without a jury in a Washington police court. Application was made to the U. S. district court in New York for a warrant of removal; but in a memorable decision Judge Blatchford, now a justice of the supreme court of the United States, refused the warrant, holding the proposed form of trial to be unconstitutional. Perhaps to a greater extent than in the case of any other conspicuous journalist, Mr. Dana's personality is identified in the public mind with the newspaper that he edits. He has recorded no theories of journalism other than those of common sense and human interest. He is impatient of prolixity, cant, and the conventional standards of news importance. Mr. Dana's first book was a volume of stories translated from the German, entitled “The Black Ant” (New York and Leipsic, 1848). In 1855 he planned and edited, with George Ripley, the “New American Cyclopaedia.” The original edition was completed in 1863. It has since been thoroughly revised and issued in a new edition under the title of “The American Cyclopaedia” (16 vols., New York, 1873-'6). With Gen. James H. Wilson he wrote a “Life of Ulysses S. Grant” (Springfield, 1868). His “Household Book of Poetry, a collection of the best minor poems of the English language,” was first published in 1857, and has passed through many editions, the latest, thoroughly revised, being that of 1884. He has also edited, with Rossiter Johnson, “Fifty Perfect Poems” (New York, 1883). Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


DANE, Nathan, 1752-1835, jurist, anti-slavery activist, delegate to the Continental Congress, 1785-1788, Massachusetts, framed Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. II, p. 72; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 63; Locke, 1901, pp. 93, 158n; ; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 76)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DANE, Nathan, jurist, b. in Ipswich, Mass., 27 Dec., 1752; d. in Beverly, Mass., 15 Feb., 1835. He was graduated at Harvard in 1778, and, after studying law, was admitted to its practice and settled in Beverly. His acquirements made him a safe and able counsellor, and with his large and diversified experience he became one of the most prominent lawyers of New England. He entered at once into political life, and from 1782 till 1785 was a member of the Massachusetts legislature. In 1785 he was a delegate to the continental congress, and was continued as such by re-election until 1788. During his career in the national legislature he rendered much efficient service by his work on committees, and was the framer of the celebrated ordinance passed by congress in 1787 for the government of the territory northwest of the Ohio. It was adopted without a single alteration, and contains the emphatic statement “that there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory.” He also incorporated in this ordinance a prohibition against all laws impairing the obligation of contracts, which the convention that formed the constitution of the United States a few months afterward extended to all the states of the Union by making it a part of that constitution. In 1790 he was elected to the Massachusetts senate, and again elected in 1794 and 1796. He was appointed judge of the court of common pleas for Essex county in 1794, but, after taking the oath of office, almost immediately resigned, and in 1795 was appointed a commissioner to revise the laws of the state. In 1811 he was delegated to revise and publish the charters that had been granted in Massachusetts, and in 1812 was selected to make a new publication of the statutes. During the same year he was chosen a presidential elector. He was a delegate to the Hartford convention in 1814, and also to the Massachusetts constitutional convention in 1820, but declined serving on account of deafness. For fifty years he devoted his Sundays to theological studies, excepting during the hours of public worship, reading generally the Scriptures in their original languages. In 1829 he gave $10,000, which he increased by $5,000 in 1831, for the foundation of the Dane professorship of law in Harvard law-school, requesting that his friend, Judge Joseph Story, should occupy the chair, which he did until his death. He published “A General Abridgment and Digest of American Law” (9 vols., Boston, 1823-‘9), and “Appendix” (1830). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 72.


DANFORTH, Joshua Nobel, Reverend, 1798-1861, clergyman.  Agent for the American Colonization Society in New York and New England, 1834-1838.  He established a headquarters office in Boston.  He organized numerous auxiliaries and recruited notable members, such as Herman Humphrey, President of Amherst College, and noted historian, George Bancroft.  His assistants were Reverend Charles Walker and Reverend Cyril Pearl. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 73; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 196-197, 201-202, 204, 209-210, 227)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DANFORTH, Joshua Noble, clergyman, b. in Pittsfield, Mass., 1 April, 1798; d. in New Castle, Del, 14 Nov., 1861. He was graduated at Williams in 1818, and spent two years at the Princeton theological seminary. After being ordained by the New Brunswick presbytery, on 30 Nov., 1825, he was installed pastor of the church in New Castle, Del., where he remained until 1828, when he accepted a call to Washington. In 1832-'4 he was agent of the American colonization society, from 1834 till 1838 pastor of the Congregational church in Lee, Mass., and then for fifteen years in charge of the 2d Presbyterian church in Alexandria, Va. In 1860 he again accepted an agency for the American colonization society. Dr. Danforth received in 1855 the degree of D. D. from Delaware college. He contributed largely to the religious and secular press, and wrote “Gleanings and Groupings from a Pastor's Portfolio” (New York, 1852).  Appletons’ Cylcopædia of American Biography, 1888.


DAVIS, Henry Winter, 1817-1865, statesman, lawyer.  Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 3rd District of Maryland, 1854, 1856, 1858, 1863-1865.  Anti-slavery activist in Congress.  Supported enlistment of African Americans in Union Army.  Voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 97-98; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 119; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 198; Congressional Globe)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DAVIS, Henry Winter, statesman, b. in Annapolis, Md., 16 Aug., 1817; d. in Baltimore, 30 Dec., 1865. His father, Rev. Henry Lyon Davis, of the Protestant Episcopal church, was the president of St. John's college, at Annapolis, and rector of St. Ann's parish. He lost both offices on account of his Federal politics, and removed to Wilmington, Del., leaving his son with Elizabeth Brown Winter, an aunt, who possessed a noble character, and was rigid in her system of training children. The boy afterward went to Wilmington, and was instructed under his father's supervision. In l827 the family returned to Maryland and settled in Anne Arundel county. Here Henry Winter became much attached to field-sports, and gave little promise of scholarly attainments. He roamed about the country, always attended by one of his father's slaves, with an old fowling-piece upon his shoulder, burning much powder and returning with a small amount of game. The insight into slavery that he thus gained affected him strongly. He said, in after years: “My familiar association with the slaves, while a boy, gave me great insight into their feelings and views. They spoke with freedom before a boy what they would have repressed before a man. They were far from indifferent to their condition; they felt wronged, and sighed for freedom. They were attached to my father, and loved me, yet they habitually spoke of the day when God would deliver them.” He was educated in Alexandria, and at Kenyon college, where he was graduated in 1837. His father died in that year, leaving a few slaves to be divided between himself and his sister, but he would not allow them to be sold, although he might have pursued his studies with ease and comfort. Rather than do this he obtained a tutorship, and, notwithstanding these arduous tasks, read the course of law in the University of Virginia, which he entered in 1839. The expenses of his legal studies were defrayed with the proceeds of some land that his aunt had sold for the purpose. He began practice in Alexandria, Va., but first attained celebrity in the Episcopal convention of Maryland by his defence of Dr. H. V. D. Johns against the accusation of Bishop Whittingham for having violated the canon of the Episcopal church in consenting to officiate in the Methodist Episcopal church. In 1850 he removed to Baltimore, where he held a high social and professional position. He was a prominent whig, and known as the brilliant orator and controversialist of the Scott canvass in 1852. He was elected a member of congress for the 3d district of Maryland (part of Baltimore) in 1854, and re-elected in 1856, serving on the committee of ways and means. After the dissolution of the whig party he joined the American or Know-nothing party. He was re-elected to congress in 1858, and in 1859 voted for Mr. Pennington, the republican candidate for speaker, thus drawing upon himself much abuse and reproach. The legislature of Maryland “decorated him with its censure,” as he expressed it on the floor of the house; but he declared to his constituents that, if they would not allow their representative to exercise his private judgment as to what were the best interests of the state, “You may send a slave to congress, but you can not send me.” After the attack on the 6th Massachusetts regiment in Baltimore in 1861, Mr. Davis published a card announcing himself as an “unconditional union” candidate for congress, and conducted his canvass almost alone amid a storm of reproach and abuse, being defeated, but receiving about 6,000 votes. When Mr. Lincoln was nominated in 1860, Mr. Davis was offered the nomination for vice-president, but declined it; and when the question of his appointment to the cabinet was agitated, he urged the selection of John A. Gilmer in his stead. He was again in congress in 1863-'5, and served as chairman of the committee on foreign affairs. Although representing a slave state, Mr. Davis was conspicuous for unswerving fidelity to the Union and advocacy of emancipation. He heartily supported the administration, but deprecated the assumption of extraordinary powers by the executive, and denounced congress as cowardly for not authorizing by statute what it expected that department to do. He early favored the enlistment of negroes in the army, and said, “The best deed of emancipation is a musket on the shoulder.” In the summer of 1865 he made a speech in Chicago in favor of negro suffrage. Mr. Davis was denounced by politicians as impractical. He used to say that he who compromised a moral principle was a scoundrel, but that he who would not compromise a political measure was a fool. Mr. Davis possessed an unusually fine library, and was gifted with a good memory and a brilliant mind, which was united with many personal advantages. Inheriting force and scholarship from his father, he had received also a share of his mother's milder qualities, which won many friends, although, to the public, he seemed stern and dictatorial. At his death congress set apart a day for the commemoration of his public services, an honor never before paid to an ex-member of congress. He published a book entitled the “War of Ormuzd and Ahriman in the Nineteenth Century” (Baltimore, 1853). His collected speeches, together with a eulogy by his colleague, John A. J. Cresswell, were published in New York in 1867. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 97-98.


DAVIS, John, 1787-1854, Northborough, Massachusetts, lawyer, statesman, four-term U.S. Congressman, Governor of Massachusetts, U.S. Senator, 1835-1841.  Opposed the war with Mexico and introduction of slavery in U.S. territories.  Supported the Wilmot Proviso and opposed the Compromise Acts of 1850. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 103-104; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p.133)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DAVIS, John, statesman, b. in Northborough, Mass., 13 Jan., 1787; d. in Worcester, Mass., 19 April, 1854. He was graduated at Yale with honor in 1812, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1815, and practised with success in Worcester. He was elected to congress as a whig in 1824, and re-elected for the four succeeding terms, sitting from December, 1825, till January, 1834, and taking a leading part as a protectionist in opposing Henry Clay's compromise tariff bill of 1833, and in all transactions relating to finance and commerce. He resigned his seat on being elected governor of Massachusetts. At the conclusion of his term as governor he was sent to the U.S. senate, and served from 7 Dec., 1835, till January, 1841, when he resigned to accept the governorship a second time. In the senate he was a strong opponent of the administrations of Jackson and Van Buren, and took a conspicuous part in the debates as an advocate of protection for American industry, replying to the free-trade arguments of southern statesmen in speeches that were considered extremely clear expositions of the protective theories. A declaration in one of his speeches, that James Buchanan was in favor of reducing the wages of American workingmen to ten cents a day, was the origin of the epithet “ten-cent Jimmy,” which was applied to that statesman by his political opponents for several years. A short speech against the sub-treasury, delivered in 1840, was printed during the presidential canvass of that year as an electioneering pamphlet, of which more than a million copies were distributed. He was again elected U. S. senator, and served from 24 March, 1845, till 3 March, 1853, but declined a re-election, and died suddenly at his home. He protested vigorously against the war with Mexico. In the controversy that followed, over the introduction of slavery into the U. S. territories, he earnestly advocated its exclusion. The Wilmot proviso received his support, but the compromise acts of 1850 encountered his decided opposition. He enjoyed the respect and confidence of his constituents in an unusual degree, and established a reputation for high principles that gained for him the popular appellation of “honest John Davis.”—His wife, who was a sister of George Bancroft, the historian, died in Worcester, Mass., 24 Jan., 1872, at the age of eighty years.  Appletons’ Cylcopædia of American Biography, 1888.


DAVIS, Paulina Kellogg Wright, 1813-1876, abolitionist, feminist, women’s rights activist, reformer.  Davis was married to abolitionist Francis Wright.  They served on the executive committee of the Central New York Anti-Slavery Society.  Their house was attacked by an angry mob for their anti-slavery activities.  After the death of her husband, she re-married, to anti-slavery Democrat Thomas Davis, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1852.  In May 1850, in Boston, Davis and other women’s rights activists planned and organized the first national women’s rights convention. 

(American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 214-216; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 216; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 106; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 141)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DAVIS, Paulina (WRIGHT), reformer, b. in Bloomfield, N. Y., 7 Aug., 1813; d. in Providence, R. I., 24 Aug., 1876. She married Francis Wright, of Utica, N. Y., in 1833, and after his death became in 1849 the wife of Thomas Davis, of Providence, R. I., who was a member of congress in 1853-'5. For thirty-five years she labored zealously to promote the rights of women, established “The Una,” the first woman-suffrage paper, wrote a history of woman-suffrage reform, and gave lectures in the principal cities of the United States. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 214-216.


DAY, William Howard, 1825-1900, African American anti-slavery advocate, writer, orator, printer.  Husband of abolitionist Lucy Stanton Sessions, who published the abolitionist newspaper, Aliened American.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 10, p. 154)


DAYTON, William Lewis, 1807-1864, lawyer, statesman, diplomat, U.S. Senator.  Member of the Free Soil Whig Party.  Opposed slavery and its expansion into the new territories.  Opposed the Fugitive Slave bill of 1850.  Supported the admission of California as a free state and the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.  First vice presidential nominee of Republican Party in 1856, on the ticket with John C. Frémont.  Lost the election to James Buchanan. 

(Goodell, 1852, p. 570; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 59; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 113; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 166; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 280)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DAYTON, William Lewis, statesman, b. in Baskingridge, N. J., 17 Feb., 1807; d. in Paris, France, 1 Dec., 1864. He was graduated at Princeton in 1825, and received the degree of LL. D. from that college in 1857. He studied law in Litchfield, Conn., and was admitted to the bar in 1830, beginning his practice in Trenton, N. J. In 1837 he was elected to the state council (as the senate was then called), being made chairman of the judiciary committee. He became associate judge of the supreme court of the state in 1838, and in 1842 was appointed to fill a vacancy in the U. S. senate. His appointment was confirmed by the legislature in 1845, and he was also elected for the whole term. In the senate debates on the Oregon question, the tariff, annexation of Texas, and the Mexican war, he took the position of a free-soil whig. He was the friend and adviser of President Taylor, and opposed the fugitive-slave bill, but advocated the admission of California as a free state, and the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. In 1856 he was nominated by the newly formed republican party for vice-president. In March, 1857, he was made attorney-general for the state of New Jersey, and held that office until 1861, when President Lincoln appointed him minister to France, where he remained until his death. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 113.



From the foregoing description of slavery it is plain that generalizations are difficult: in some places and under some masters it was cruel and debasing; in other communities and under different personalities it was a patriarchal system, in which master and slave felt themselves members of one family. There was an opportunity for the South itself to discriminate by making the milder slavery the legally approved and almost universal type. Down to 1830 such a spirit was abroad in the south; 1 churches, the missionary societies, and individuals urged moderate treatment. Then a different spirit manifested itself: the denunciation of slavery slacked; the efforts at amelioration hesitated, and eventually ceased; the former excuses and pleas for slavery changed to justification, then to positive praise of slavery, then to a state of mind in which the admission that any part of its "Peculiar Institution”

1 See chap. xi., below.

ought to be reformed was regarded as disloyal to the south. 1

The defenders of slavery were many, and made up for their lack of literary prestige by the liveliness of their feeling. Some foreign visitors, especially Sir Charles Lyell, condoned slavery; and some northern ministers were enthusiastic champions, especially the Reverend Nehemiah Adams, of Boston, on the basis of a brief visit to Savannah. Within the south the cudgels were taken up for slavery by leaders of every kind. The southern clergymen almost without exception defended the system. There was hardly a college president or professor who would not enter the lists in behalf of slavery, and Chancellor Harper, of the College of South Carolina, was one of a group of contributors, including Simms, the literary man, Dew, a college professor, and Hammond, a public man, who joined in a semi-official defence of slavery entitled The Pro - Slavery Argument. State governors, like McDuffie, of South Carolina, joined in the conflict, and legislatures adopted long, defensive reports.

In the discussion the south had a technical advantage in that not a single southern public man of large reputation and influence failed to stand by slavery; while from the northern ranks some, like Webster, stifled their natural objections; others, like Cass, "Northern men with Southern principles,"

1 Examples of defence of slavery, in Hart, Contemporaries, IV., §§ 25-27.

ranged themselves alongside their southern brothers in an open defence of slavery.

The first argument in favor of slavery was that it was an institution traceable to the very roots and origins of society, "a principal cause of civilization. Perhaps . . . the sole cause." Aristotle recognized and approved slavery; the Romans had slavery, and it was the cause of their prosperity. The Jews had slavery under a system closely resembling that of the south. Hagar was a slave, "and the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands." 2 Against the objection that the medieval Catholic church was resolute against slavery was set the authority of some of the church fathers.3 Had not England admitted villeinage? Did not the philosopher Locke permit slavery in his model Constitution for the Carolinas? 4 That Greece and Rome had perished in spite of their system of slavery; that England had for centuries disavowed both chattel and villien servitude; that by 1830 all Europe, except Russia, had rid itself of serfdom, took away the force of this argument of precedent, which is put forth chiefly by learned and casuistical writers.

1 Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 3, 69-72.

2 Genesis, xvi., 9; Exodus, xxi., 20, 21; Hopkins, View of Slavery, 74-98; Bledsoe, Liberty and Slavery, chap. iii.

3 Hopkins, View of Slavery, 99-119, 269-275.

4 Ibid., 262-264, 276-283; Dew, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 312-316.

The argument of the authority of the Scriptures was living, vital, and very effectual; for the Reformation habit of referring all cases of moral conduct to the Bible was almost universal in the United States. The advocates and the opponents of total abstinence, of woman's rights, of imprisonment for debt, of instrumental music in churches, of theatres, dipped into that great sea and fished out "proof-texts" which were triumphantly held to be conclusive. It was undeniable that both the Old and the New Testament mentioned, legislated on, and did not expressly condemn slavery; That though the word "slave" appears in but two places in the King James version, the word "servant" frequently refers to slaves. The Tenth Commandment forbids the coveting of '' his man-servant, nor his maidservant." The Jews were allowed to buy "bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy." "If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's." "If a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.'' 1 In these and some similar passages were found Scriptural sanction for the purchase, sale, and extreme punishment of slaves, and even for

1 Exodus, xx., 17, xxi., 4, 20, 21; Leviticus, xxv., 44, 45. 

the separation of families, in the United States of America.1

Another Scriptural argument, a thousand times repeated, goes back to the unseemly behavior of Ham, youngest son of Noah and father of Canaan; when the old patriarch "drank of the wine, and was drunken." And he said, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant." 2 If Shem was the ancestor of the Anglo-Saxons, if Canaan was the ancestor of the Africans, was it not a Q. E. D. that African slavery was not only allowed, but divinely ordained and commanded? In a generation ignorant of any theory of the Aryan race, and still little troubled by the damnation of unregenerate infants, such a curse upon unborn generations for a technical fault of a remote ancestor seemed not unreasonable.

The New Testament also contained passages highly encouraging to the slave-holders, such as," Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called." "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ." "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor." And most comfortable of all was St. Paul's appeal

1 Brief summaries of these arguments in Hopkins, View of Slavery, 7-18; Hammond, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 105-108, 155-159. 'Genesis, ix., 18-26.

to Philemon to receive Onesimus (asserted to be a fugitive slave), who had " departed for a season, ... not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me." 1

That both Old and New Testaments recognized the existence of slavery when they were written, and nowhere instituted direct commands against it, was absolutely irrefutable; but the anti-slavery people quoted Scripture against Scripture. They argued that the references to slavery in the Old Testament were precisely like those to polygamy; and if slavery was justified because of Hagar's children, concubinage was equally justified. There were also passages in the Old Testament bidding the master to set his bondsman free after seven years, and against man-stealing. Were not the Jews themselves, after four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, conducted into freedom by a divinely appointed leader? As for Onesimus, Paul speaks of him as a "brother" and a "beloved brother"--not a useful comparison for a slave-owner.

The most telling counter-argument was always the general spirit of Christ and the apostles. How could slavery be made to fit with the injunction, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature "; with the appeal to "be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another." 2 If Abraham was a 

1 Corinthians, vii., 20; Ephesians, vi., 5; l Timothy, vi., 1; Philemon, 10-16.

2 Mark, xvi., 15; Romans, xii.

slave-holder, Christ was not; and His message was to the poorest and lowliest of His time. The very fact that the Christian people of the south in general admitted that the slaves had souls to be saved or lost, that they were admitted to baptism, to church membership, even in the white churches, made it difficult to set the negro apart as subject to the curses and the admonitions of the Bible, but not entitled to its promises, its comforts, or its principles of equality in the sight of God, that "no respecter of persons.''

Another group of arguments was based upon the character of the negro, and led to inconsistencies not easy to reconcile. "By what right is it," asked Chancellor Harper, "that man exercises dominion over the beasts of the field? . . . The savage can only be tamed by being enslaved or by having slaves"; and he proceeds to demonstrate that the African negro is, at best, an inferior variety of the  human race.1 This inferiority was at great length argued on physical grounds: the negro brain is lighter in proportion to his weight; his skin has an extra quantity of pigment; he has a long head, unusual proportions, woolly hair; his features are brutal; his vocal organs incapable of pronouncing white folks' language; he has an animal odor-such are the arguments repeated by writer after writer.2

The negro's intellectual inferiority was equally 

1 Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 13-16.

2 Van Evrie; Negroes and Negro Slavery, passim.

set up against him, though few southern writers went to the extent of saying "none has given evidence of an approach to even mediocrity of intellectual excellence." 1 That ignorant slaves were inferior to educated masters was self-evident; the materials were not at hand for so complete a judgment as to whether they were in all cases inferior to ignorant white people; and it was difficult to maintain that no person having negro blood was capable of intellectual effort. The difficulty with the argument of mental inferiority, as also with most of the Scriptural arguments, was that they applied equally to inferior white races or to inferior members of the Anglo-Saxon race.

The literature of the subject is full of descriptions of the favorable effect of slavery upon the negro: slavery brought him out of savagery into the elevating influences of civilization, from heathendom into the light of salvation; it gave him care and medical advice in illness, and saved him from the mysterious diseases of the jungle.2 The negroes "are undergoing the very best education which it is possible to give .... They are in the course of being taught habits of regular and patient industry"; 3 slavery brought him into intimate personal relations with the white people, and even into warm friendships and affections with the master's family.

1 Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 56-60.

2 Pollard, Black Diamonds, 81-84.

3 Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 95.

"When I was a boy," says Pollard, "I esteemed Tom to be the best friend I had in the world .... I had a great boyish fondness for him, gave him coppers, stole biscuits for him from the table, bought him a primer and taught him to read." 1

On good plantations there was indeed little suffering and much enjoyment. The owner was often a patriarch whose counsel and sympathy were freely sought by the slaves, to settle their disputes and to reconcile quarrels. To see the master come back was one of the great pleasures in distant and neglected plantations.2 The slaves were free from the responsibility of choosing their career or insuring their own support. They had to be fed and clothed when northern laborers were thrown out of work by hard times, and they were cared for in sickness and in old age. So much did this happy state of things please the slave-holders that sometimes they wished it might be extended to the white people. "If some superior power should impose on the laborious poor of some other country--this as their unalterable condition--you shall be saved from the torturing anxiety concerning your own future support and that of your children." 3

1 Pollard, Black Diamonds, 75; cf. Murray, Letters, 2II; Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 656-659; Olmsted, Back Country, 181; Child, Freedmen's Book ,114; Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter, 76; Bledsoe, Liberty and Slavery, 292-300.

2 Adams, Southside View, 15-19; Simms, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 219.

3 Harper and Simms, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 26, 49, 226; Adams, Southside View, 61. 

If the ordinary slave was expected to be happy, much more the fortunate negroes who were placed in positions of responsibility--the butler, the family cook, the old nurse, beloved and kissed by generations of white children--people who had the profoundest pride in our family." These were the negroes seen handsomely dressed on the streets of the cities, engaging in subscription assemblies, or even holding a little property recognized by the master as their own. 1 A few such specially trusted slaves were actually managers of the master's estates, though a white overseer was always present.2

With regard to the argument of the good of the negro, two questions must be asked: were the negroes really happy? and how far was happiness an evidence that slavery was a good thing for them? Upon the first point the evidence is overwhelming that many slaves were as well fed and housed as the poor whites of the neighborhood, and were unconscious of serious injustice. 3 Even when torn from their kindred and sold to the dreaded "down river," the negroes quickly recovered their cheerfulness. When the advocates of slavery insisted that their slaves were better off than agricultural laborers and factory operatives in England or even

1 Page, The Negro, 173-181; Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 554.

2 Coffin, Reminiscences, 161; Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 425-429, 553-555, 623; Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 43-45.

3 Paulding, Letters from the South, 96-98; Murray, Letters, 263-266; Pollard, Black Diamonds, 41-46. 

in the northern states, they could be contradicted. It was a time of misery and degradation in the factory population of England, and parliamentary inquiries revealed horrors which led to immediate reforms of the worst abuses; these evils served as a text for the south, but the reforms were not imitated.1

The condition of the slave, in comparison with the free labor of the north, may be gauged by two lines of evidence: they were certainly no better off than the poor whites of that day, who were, and still are, far inferior in comfort to what the memory of man knows to have been the ordinary conditions of working-men in the north at that time. This indirect argument is confirmed by the testimony of Olmsted, a farmer, an employer of labor, and an economist, who asserts that hired laborers in the north could not be induced to remain a day in the conditions of the slaves on the best plantations; If the slaves were all happy and contented, it was a fair question why they desired to be free. It was, after all, an odd kind of happiness which no free negro sought, and against which white men would have fought to their last breath.

Perhaps a more candid argument was the good of the white man.  Slavery caused a larger production than could be had by any other form of labor; slavery was favorable to the increase of wealth,

1 Hammond, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 135-138; Fitzhugh, Cannibals All

partly by emphasizing the sacredness of vested proerty,1 partly because slaves, unlike white laborers were wealth, exchangeable from hand to hand, and partly because slavery favored the accumulation of capital in a few intelligent hands.2 That other countries and other states were prosperous with but slavery, and had greater accumulations, was neither understood nor recognized by the south. Certainly the profits of slavery, down to 1860, built up very few fortunes, even measured in slaves; and neighboring parts of states of equal fertility, such as Kentucky and Ohio, or Maryland and Pennsylvania, showed a superiority of northern wealth of every sort, which is hard to account for on any other theory than a better type of labor. Whatever the advantages of slavery to the white race, they were not shared by the poor whites, who had no part in the annual produce of slavery, and for whose education and improvement nothing was spent out of that surplus; while they were exposed to the wide-spread contempt for labor with the hands, and to the degradation brought about by the nearness of a subject and immoral race.

The south was not a mercenary community, and was probably more affected by the argument of social well-being than by the argument of profit.

1 Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 620-624; De Bow's Review, XXI., 455; Dew, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 385-390.

2 Hammond, in 1.

It was generally believed in the south that slavery was necessary to relieve the whites from the danger of labor in a hot climate, and still more from the degradation of manual labor of any kind. Slavery also, by its discipline and the out-door habits of the whites, fostered a military spirit and thus provided for the maintenance of order and for future defence. Hints were not wanting that the masterful race might even organize a negro army officered by ' white men which would be a protection against exterior enemies.1 Slavery was also supposed to be favorable to the manners and breeding of the white race, and it was a notable fact that southerners who visited England were commonly received on better terms than northern gentlemen, 2 while in the midst of all that was noxious in slavery there bloomed the lovely and hardy flower of southern womanhood. The seduction of white women was almost unknown in a society where black women were so easily accessible; and the whole force of society; was brought to bear to protect white girls from the dark and earthly sides of life. On the plantations the mistresses were often springs of bounty, kindness, and genuine affection for the slaves. The evil effects of slavery on young men even southern writers could not deny, for from childhood

1 Harper and Hammond, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 67, 73, 79, III; Olmsted, Back Country, 386.

2 Kemble, Georgian Plantation, 305.

upward they were exposed to the basest temptations to temper and to morals.1 A state of things in  which a boy expected and received the unquestionable obedience of every slave on the plantation was  favorable to self - control or moderation. The South abounded in brawls and homicides.2 The poor whites were often quarrelsome and murderous, and even in the highest circles affrays and duels were frequent. That slavery was the sole reason why so many of the negroes, both male and female, were unchaste was a criticism that could not be sustained; but that slavery magnified the evil influences on the blacks and whites was so self-evident that a witness above cavil says: "We may and do acknowledge our guilt in the south, but not as slaveholders." 3

Another line of argument was that slavery was absolutely necessary for the safety of the whites. The fear of insurrection has been discussed elsewhere. 4 One of the most frequent arguments in favor of slavery was the example of the fitful and disturbed republic of Haiti, which was accepted as proof positive that the negroes, if set free, would never permit their masters to live, and that they could not maintain a civilized community of their own.4

1 Rhodes, United States, I., 343; admitted by Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 61.

2 Buckingham, Slave States, I., 557.

3 Simms, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 228-230; cf. Martineau's chapter on "Morals of Slavery," in Society in America, I., 106-136.

4 See above, chaps. iii., viii.

Yet this argument was thought compatible with the theory that slavery was a necessary condition of a genuine republican government-for the masters. Thus Hammond, after paying his 1 respects to the "nowhere accredited dogma of Mr. Jefferson that 'all men are born equal,'" argues that in the south the slave-holders "are both educated and independent in their circumstances, while those who unfortunately are not so [that is, the poor whites], being still elevated far above the mass, are higher toned and' more deeply interested in preserving a stable and well-ordered government.'' 2   

The time even came when slavery was defended, not as a system that might, by an effort, be explained or justified, and still less as an institution that must remain simply because it was ineradicable, though that argument was sometimes heard.3 John C. Calhoun said, in his seat in the Senate, February 6, 1837: "But let me not be understood as admitting even by implication that the existing relations between the two races in the slave-holding states is an evil;--far otherwise, I hold it to be a good, as it has thus far proved to be to both." 4 This was the theory eventually settled upon by practically the

1 Hopkins, View of Slavery, 249-252.

2 Hammond, in Pro-Slavery Argument, IIO, III.

3 Richmond Enquirer and Richmond Examiner, quoted in Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, 298-300. 

4 Calhoun, Works, II, 630.

entire reasoning south.1 From this position the corollary naturally followed that so good a system ought to be extended into the northern states to replace the dangerous and destructive principle of political equality and universal suffrage. For example, in 1858, Senator Hammond said of the Mississippi Valley: "We own the most of that valley; . . . those who have settled above us, are now opposed to us, another generation will tell a different tale. They are ours by every law of nature. Sla-' very will go over every foot of this valley." 2 Another corollary was that if slavery were endangered through the union of free and slave-holding states, the union must give way. "Come what may," wrote Hammond, in 1845, "we are firmly resolved that our system of domestic slavery shall stand." 3

1 Harper, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 17-24; Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, 83; Seabury, American Slavery, chap. xviii.; the author has under his hand between fifty and a hundred citations to the same effect.

2 Congressional Globe., 35 Cong., l Session., 961.

3 Hammond, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 169.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 136-151. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


DEITZLER, George Washington, 1826-1884, abolitionist.  Extremely active in the Free State Movement in Kansas.

(Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 201)


DELANY, Martin Robinson, 1812-1885, free African American, publisher, editor, journalist, writer, physician, soldier. Publisher of abolitionist newspaper, North Star in Rochester, New York, with Fredrick Douglass. Published The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, 1852. Published The Ram’s Horn in New York.  Supported colonization of African Americans in 1854. Led National Emigration Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1854.  Recruited thousands of African Americans for service in the Civil War.  First African American major in the U.S. Army. 

(Mabee, 1970, pp. 133, 145, 400n18; Pease, 1965, pp. 319-330; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 32, 50, 55, 164, 192, 251-252, 264, 275, 704-705; Sernett, 2002, pp. 151, 240, 314n61; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 219; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 382)


DELAVAN, Edward Cornelius, 1793-1871, Ballston Center, New York, reformer, temperance activist, abolitionist.  Life member of the American Colonization Society (ACS).  Sought to defend the ACS against attacks by William Lloyd Garrison.  American Anti-Slavery Society, Manager, 1837-39.

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 134; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, p. 201)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DELAVAN, Edward Cornelius, reformer, b. in Schenectady county, N. Y., in 1793; d. in Schenectady, 15 Jan., 1871. He was a wine-merchant, and acquired a fortune. At one time he owned much real estate in Albany, including the Delavan house, which he erected. In 1828, in company with Dr. Eliphalet Nott, he formed the State temperance society in Schenectady, and entered with zeal into the cause of temperance reform, devoting .his ample means to its promotion, speaking, lecturing, and writing on the subject, and employing others in all these ways to further the cause. He met with great opposition in this work. In 1835 he wrote to the Albany “Evening Journal,” charging an Albany brewer with using filthy and stagnant water for malting. The brewer prosecuted him for libel, and the trial, which took place in 1840 and attracted wide attention, occupied six days, and resulted in a verdict for Delavan. After this, several similar suits that had been begun against him for damages aggregating $300,000, were abandoned. Mr. Delavan had the proceedings of this trial printed in pamphlet-form for distribution as a tract. He procured, about 1840, several drawings of the human stomach when diseased by the use of alcoholic drinks, from postmortem examinations made by Prof. Sewall, of Washington, D. C. These he bad engraved and printed in colors, and made very effective use of them. He also published for years, at his own expense, a periodical advocating, often with illustrations, the temperance cause; this was subsequently merged in the “Journal of the American Temperance Union,” to whose funds he was a most liberal contributor. He had trained himself to public speaking, and became an efficient advocate of the cause he had so much at heart. Mr. Delavan presented to Union college a collection of shells and minerals valued at $30,000. He lost a large portion of his property a few years before his death. He published numerous articles and tracts, and “Temperance in Wine Countries” (1860). Appletons’ Cylcopædia of American Biography, 1888.


DENISON, Charles Wheeler, 1809-1881, New York City, abolitionist leader, author, clergyman, newspaper editor, The Emancipator.  Manager, 1833-1836, and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), December 1833.

(Dumond, 1961, p. 182; Sorin, 1971; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 140)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DENISON, Charles Wheeler, author, b. in New London, Conn., 11 Nov., 1809; d.14 Nov., 1881. Before he was of age he edited a newspaper in his native town. He afterward became a clergyman, edited the “Emancipator,” the first antislavery journal published in New York, and took part in other similar publications. In 1853 he was U. S. consul in British Guiana. He spent some time among the operatives of Lancashire, speaking in behalf of the National cause during the American civil war, and in 1867 edited an American paper in London, being at the same time pastor of Grove Road chapel, Victoria park. During the last two years of the war he served as post chaplain in Winchester, Va., and as hospital chaplain in Washington. He published “The American Village and other Poems” (Boston, 1845); “Paul St. Clair,” a temperance story; “Out at Sea,” poems (London, 1867); “Antonio, the Italian Boy” (Boston, 1873); “The Child Hunters,” relating to the abuses of the padrone system (Philadelphia, 1877); and a series of biographies published during the war, including “The Tanner Boy” (Grant); “The Bobbin Boy” (Banks); and “Winfield; the Lawyer's Son” (Hancock). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp.140.


DENNISON, William, 1815-1882, Civil War governor of Ohio, lawyer, founding member of Republican Party, state Senator, opposed admission of Texas and the extension of slavery into the new territories.  Voted for the repeal of “Black Laws” in Ohio State Senate.  Anti-slavery man, supporter of Abraham Lincoln.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. II, p. 142; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 241; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 446)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DENNISON, William, war governor of Ohio, b. in Cincinnati, Ohio, 23 Nov., 1815; d. in Columbus, 15 June, 1882. His father was a prosperous business man, and had him prepared for college in the best schools of Cincinnati. He was graduated at Miami in 1835, studied law in Cincinnati, under the direction of Nathaniel Pendleton and Stephen Fales, and practised in Columbus until 1848, in which year he was chosen to the state legislature. About this period Mr. Dennison became interested in banking and in railroad affairs, and was president of the Exchange bank and president of the Columbus and Xenia railroad company. In 1856 he was a delegate to the first National convention of the Republican party. He was chosen governor of Ohio in 1860 by the Republicans, and delivered his first message to the general assembly in 1861. At his suggestion the legislature voted $3,000,000 to protect the state “from invasion and insurrection,” and conferred power upon the executive to raise troops. Gov. Dennison was an anti-slavery man and an ardent admirer of President Lincoln. In response to his call for 11,000 troops, he offered 30,000, sending agents to Washington to urge their acceptance. He took possession of the telegraph lines and railroads in the name of the state, and seized money in transitu from Washington to Ohio, which he gave to the quartermaster-general to clothe and equip soldiers. Gov. Dennison was a delegate to the Republican national convention in 1864, and was elected chairman. He was appointed by President Lincoln postmaster-general in 1864, and continued in that office, under President Johnson, until his resignation in 1866. Gov. Dennison was a member of the National Republican convention at Chicago in 1880, and was leader of the friends of Senator John Sherman during the struggle for the nomination. He was also a candidate for senator in that year. He contributed largely to Dennison college, Granville, Ohio. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 142.


DEXTER, Samuel, 1761-1816, lawyer, jurist.  Member of U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts.  U.S. House of Representatives, 1793-1795.  U.S. Senator, December 1799-June 1800.  Opposed slavery as member of U.S. House of Representatives.  Secretary of War and Treasury. 

(Appletons, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 161-162; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 280; Locke, 1901, pp. 71, 93; Annals of Congress)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DEXTER, Samuel, jurist, b. in Boston, 14 May, 1761; d. in Athens, N. Y., 3 May, 1816, was graduated at Harvard in 1781, and having studied law at Worcester, Mass., with Levi Lincoln, was admitted to the bar in 1784. After practising for some years in Worcester and Middlesex counties, he removed to Boston, which he made his home for the remainder of his life. He was a member of the Massachusetts house of representatives in 1788-'90, served in the lower house at Washington in 1793-'5, and was elected to the U. S. senate, in which body he sat from 2 Dec., 1799, until June, 1800, when he resigned, on being appointed secretary of war by President Adams. This office he held until 31 Dec., 1800, when he was named secretary of the treasury, which place he filled until the inauguration of President Jefferson. He then returned to the practice of the law, appearing every winter at Washington in important cases before the U. S. supreme court. He was a close reasoner and an able logician, and in pleading chose to rely more on the strength of his arguments than on ad captandum appeals to the jury; yet he could be pathetic and impressive in addressing himself to the feelings and the moral sense. He began life a decided federalist, but gradually separated from the party, supporting President Jefferson's war policy, and in 1812 going with the republicans in advocating a contest with England. But he never considered himself a member of the latter organization, and, on being nominated as the republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts, in 1816, a few weeks before his death, he published an address to the electors, declaring that he differed radically with that party. His name was not withdrawn, however, and he was defeated by a majority for his opponent of 2,000 out of 47,000 votes. In 1815 he was offered a special embassy to Spain by President Madison, but declined it. In 1813 he received the degree of LL. D. from Harvard. He was the first president of the first society formed in Massachusetts for the promotion of temperance, in which question he took great interest. He died of scarlet fever, in the prime of life, while visiting Athens, N. Y., to attend the wedding of his son. He was the author of the reply of the senate to the address of President Adams on the death of Washington, and published a “Letter on Freemasonry”; “Progress of Science,” a poem (1780); and “Speeches and Political Papers,” besides political pamphlets. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 161-162.


DICKINSON, Anna Elizabeth, 1842-1932, anti-slavery activist, African American rights activist, women’s rights activist, orator, lecturer, educator, Quaker

(American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 235-237; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 557; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 171-172; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Supp. 1, p. 244)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DICKINSON, Anna Elizabeth, orator, b. in Philadelphia, Pa., 28 Oct., 1842. Her father died when she was two years old, leaving her in poverty, and she was educated in the free schools of the society of Friends, of which her parents were members. Her early days were a continuous struggle against adverse circumstances, but she read eagerly, devoting all her earnings to the purchase of books. She wrote an article on slavery for the “Liberator” when only fourteen years old, and made her first appearance as a public speaker in 1857, at meetings for discussion held by a body calling themselves “Progressive Friends,” chiefly interested in the anti-slavery movement. A sneering and insolent tirade against women, by a person prominent at these meetings, called from the spirited girl a withering reply, her maiden speech. From this time she spoke frequently, chiefly on temperance and slavery. She taught school in Berks county, Pa., in 1859-'60, and was employed in the U. S. mint in Philadelphia from April to December, 1861, but was dismissed for saying, in a speech in West Chester, that the battle of Ball's Bluff “was lost, not through ignorance and incompetence, but through the treason of the commanding general” (McClellan). She then made lecturing her profession, speaking chiefly on political subjects. William Lloyd Garrison heard one of her anti-slavery speeches in an annual meeting of the Progressive Friends, held at Kennett, Chester co., Pa., with great delight, and on his return to Boston spoke of the “girl orator” in such terms that she was invited to speak in the fraternity course at Music Hall, Boston, in 1862, and chose for her subject the “National Crisis.” From Boston she went to New Hampshire, at the request of the Republican state committee, to speak in the gubernatorial canvass, and thence was called to Connecticut. On election night a reception was tendered her at Hartford, and immediately thereafter she was invited to speak in Cooper institute by the Union League of New York, and shortly afterward in the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, by the Union League of that city. From this time to the end of the civil war she spoke on war issues. In the autumn of 1863 she was asked by the Republican state committee of Pennsylvania to speak throughout the coal regions in the canvass to re-elect Curtin, the male orators at the committee's command being afraid to trust themselves in a district that had recently been the scene of draft riots. Ohio offered her a large sum for her services, but she decided in favor of Pennsylvania. On 16 Jan., 1864, at the request of prominent senators and representatives, she spoke in the capitol at Washington, giving the proceeds, over $1,000, to the Freedmen's relief society. She also spoke in camps and hospitals, and did much in aid of the national cause. After this her addresses were made chiefly from the lyceum platform. On the termination of the war she spoke on “Reconstruction” and on “Woman's Work and Wages.” In 1869-'70, after a visit to Utah, she lectured on “Whited Sepulchres.” Later lectures, delivered in the northern and western states, were “Demagogues and Workingmen,” “Joan of Arc” and “Between us be Truth,” the last-named being delivered in 1873 in Pennsylvania and Missouri, where obnoxious bills on the social evil were before the legislatures. In 1876 Miss Dickinson, contrary to the advice of many of her friends, left the lecture platform for the stage, making her first appearance in a play of her own, entitled “A Crown of Thorns.” It was not favorably received by the critics, and Miss Dickinson afterward acted in Shakespeare's tragedies, still meeting with little success. “Aurelian” was written in 1878 for John McCullough, but was withdrawn by the author when the failing powers of the great tragedian made it apparent that he would be unable to appear in it. It has never been put upon the stage, but Miss Dickinson has given readings from it. She lectured on “Platform and Stage” in 1879, and in 1880 wrote “An American Girl” for Fanny Davenport, which was successful. Miss Dickinson's published works are “What Answer?” a novel (Boston, 1868); “A Paying Inied the doctrine afterward known as “popular sovereignty.” (See BUTTS, ISAAC.) Among the measures that have since been adopted, Mr. Dickinson earnestly advocated the free passage of weekly newspapers through the mails in the county where published. His conservative course in the senate not only secured him the vote of Virginia for the presidential nomination in the Democratic convention of 1852, but a strongly commendatory letter from Daniel Webster, 27 Sept., 1850, in which the writer asserted that Mr. Dickinson's “noble, able, manly, and patriotic conduct in support of the great measures” of that session had “entirely won his heart” and received his “highest regard.” In 1852 President Pierce nominated Mr. Dickinson for collector of the port of New York, and the nomination was confirmed by the senate; but the office was declined. At the beginning of the civil war in 1861, Mr. Dickinson threw all his influence on the side of the government regardless of party considerations, and for the first three years devoted himself to addressing public assemblages in New York, Pennsylvania, and the New England states. In 1861 he was nominated for attorney-general of his state, and was elected by 100,000 majority. He was nominated by President Lincoln to settle the northwestern boundary question, but declined, as he also did a nomination by Gov. Fenton to fill a vacancy in the court of appeals of the state of New York. He subsequently accepted the office of district-attorney for the southern district of New York, and performed its duties almost till the day of his death. In the Republican national convention of 1864, when President Lincoln was renominated, Mr. Dickinson received 150 votes for the vice-presidential nomination. As a debater he was clear, profound, and logical, and not infrequently overwhelmed his opponents with scathing satire. His speeches were ornamented with classical allusions and delivered without apparent effort. Among his happiest efforts are said to have been his speech in the National democratic convention at Baltimore in 1852, in which, having received the vote of Virginia, he declined in favor of Gen. Cass, and his eulogy of Gen. Jackson in 1845. Mr. Dickinson's brother has published his “Life and Works” (2 vols., New York, 1867).  Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 171-172.


DICKINSON, John, 1732-1808, founding father, statesman, soldier, political pamphleteer, Congressman from Delaware, opponent of slavery and slave trade.

(Appletons, 1888, Vol. II, p. 173; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 299; Dumond, 1961, pp. 40-41; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 566; Encyclopaedia Americana, 1830, Vol. IV, pp. 227-228; National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, Vol. 3)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DICKINSON, John, publicist, b. in Maryland, 13 Nov., 1732; d. in Wilmington, Del., 14 Feb., 1808. He was the son of Samuel D. Dickinson, who removed to Delaware, became chief justice of the county of Kent, and died. 6 July, 1760, aged seventy-one. John studied law in Philadelphia, and subsequently passed three years in reading in the Temple in London. On his return he practised successfully in Philadelphia. His first appearances in public life were as a member of the Pennsylvania assembly in 1764, and of the Colonial congress convened in New York to oppose the stamp-act in 1765. In the latter year he began to write against the policy of the British government, and, being a member of the 1st Continental congress (1774), was the author of a series of state papers put forth by that body, which won for him a glowing tribute from Lord Chatham. Among them were the “Address to the Inhabitants of Quebec,” the first “Petition to the King,” the “Address to the Armies,” the second “Petition to the King,” and the “Address” to the several states. Of the first “Petition,” which has been credited to Lee, it has been said that “it will remain an imperishable monument to the glory of its author and of the assembly of which he was a member, so long as fervid and manly eloquence and chaste and elegant composition shall be appreciated.” In June, 1776, he opposed the adoption of the Declaration of Independence because he doubted the wisdom of the measure “without some prelusory trials of our strength,” and before the terms of the confederation were settled and foreign assistance made certain. When the question came to be voted upon, he absented himself intentionally, but proved that his patriotism was not inferior to that of those who differed with him, by enlisting as a private in the army and remaining until the end of his term of service. He served again as a private in the summer of 1777 in Delaware, and in October of the same year was commissioned as a brigadier-general. In April, 1779, he was elected to congress from Delaware, and in May wrote another “Address to the States.” In 1780 he was chosen a member of the Delaware assembly, and in the following year elected president of the state. From 1782 till 1785 he filled the same office in Pennsylvania, and served as a member of the convention that framed the Federal constitution. In 1788 he wrote nine letters over the signature of “Fabius,” urging the adoption of the constitution, and these were followed in 1797 by a series of fourteen, written to promote a friendly feeling toward France. In 1783 he was influentia1 in founding and largely endowed Dickinson college, Carlisle, Pa. At this time he was living in Wilmington, Del., where he collected his political writings in 1801. The remaining seven years of his life were passed in retirement. Besides the writings mentioned, he was the author of “Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies” (Philadelphia, 1767; reprinted, with a preface by Dr. Franklin, London, 1768; French translation, Paris, 1769). In 1774 appeared his “Essay on the Constitutional Power of Great Britain over the Colonies in America.” In 1796 he received the degree of LL. D. from the College of New Jersey. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 173.

Biography from National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans:

To the successful prosecution of the war of independence, the power of the pen was almost as essential as that of the sword. To arouse and sustain a spirit of resistance; to give to the proclamations, addresses, and resolutions of congress a tone becoming the dignity of that body, and the destiny of the country, and to command the respect, and secure the support of the enlightened in Europe, required genius and cultivation of the highest order, and the most commanding influence. In this department of the patriotic contest, none surpassed the subject of this memoir.

JOHN DICKINSON was born in Maryland, on the 2d day of Nov., O. S., in the year 1732. Unlike many of his patriotic comrades, fortune smiled upon his early birth. The greatest advantages of youthful nurture and cultivation, formed a character admirably adapted to supply the deficiencies of many of his associates, whose loftiness of sentiment, and purity of patriotism, he was thus prepared efficiently to sustain. He was the eldest son by a second marriage of Samuel Dickinson, Esq., who, some years after his birth, removed to his estate near Dover, in Delaware, and filled the office of first judge of the court of common pleas. His mother, whose name was Mary Cadwalader, was a descendant from one of the earliest settlers of Pennsylvania. His father had sent his two eldest sons to England to be educated, but the deep affliction produced by their death in that kingdom, probably deterred him from continuing the practice, and accordingly JOHN imbibed the rudiments of knowledge in his native land. A domestic calamity may thus have been the cause of a course of education being abandoned, which might have implanted foreign doctrines in the mind, and dried up the fountain of patriotism from the breast, of the author of the Farmer’s Letters, and of the Petition of Congress to the King. Happily the American plant was not spoiled by being transplanted at too tender an age; and in its own native soil was permitted to acquire a matured growth and a firm structure. The late Chancellor Kilen, of Delaware, then a young man, was the tutor of JOHN, but how long he continued under his charge, and in what manner he completed his education, we have not been able to learn. The subsequent elevation of the preceptor, and the known proficiency of the pupil, in all the branches of knowledge essential to an accomplished scholar, are conclusive evidence of their qualifications and assiduity.

After having studied law under John Moland, Esq., of Philadelphia, he went to England, where he remained for three years at the Temple in London. On his return he established himself in the practice of the law in Philadelphia, where his abilities and acquirements procured for him eminent success.

His first appearance in public life was in the year 1764, as a member of the assembly of Pennsylvania. A controversy which existed between that assembly and the proprietors, founded on a claim by the latter to have their estates exempted from taxation, occasioned the first display of his abilities and eloquence as a statesman. A proposition having been made to petition the king for a change of the government of the province, Mr. DICKINSON, on the 24th of May, delivered an elaborate speech in opposition to it. Believing the measure to be fraught with rashness and danger, that the remedy bore no proportion to the existing evil, and that it was calculated to involve the province in a disastrous conflict with a superior power, he exerted himself to prevent its adoption. The aggressions of the British parliament, which finally involved the country in war, did not commence until the 24th of March of that year; but in this preliminary controversy, we can observe the cautious policy for which Mr. DICKINSON’S conduct was distinguished throughout his public career.

On the 11th of September, 1765, he was appointed a delegate to a general congress, which assembled at New York in October, and was the author of the resolutions of that body, promulgating their hostility to the measures of Great Britain, and the principles which they considered as inherent in their system of government, and to which they ever after strenuously adhered. During this year he commenced his compositions against the aggressions of England, which were continued with vigor and striking effect, until the close of the conflict.

The first production of his pen appears to have been a pamphlet published that year, entitled, “The Late Regulations respecting the British Colonies on the continent of America, considered in a Letter from a Gentleman in Philadelphia to his Friend in London,” in which, with great spirit and elegance of style, as well as force of argument, he exhibited the impolicy of the ministerial measures, both as they related to a profitable intercourse between the mother country and her colonies, and in reference to the discontents which would inevitably be produced by her illegal and oppressive exactions.

The committee of correspondence of the legislature of Barbadoes, in a letter to their agent in London, remonstrating against the English system of taxation, took occasion to compare their loyal submission “with the rebellious opposition given to authority by their fellow subjects in the northern colonies.” Mr. DICKINSON took fire at the ignominious epithet so contumeliously cast upon his countrymen, and, in an admirable letter addressed to the Barbadoes committee, printed with the signature of a North American, in 1766, repelled the accusation, and, with his usual force and animation, vindicated the conduct of his fellow citizens.

But the work which most extensively spread his reputation, was the celebrated Farmer’s Letters to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies, which were published in 1767, and consisted of twelve letters. Few productions have ever been attended with more signal effect, or procured for their author more extensive fame. His object in writing them was to arouse the attention of his country to the illegality of British taxation, and to the necessity of adopting rigorous measures to induce the mother country to retrace her steps of oppression. Distinguished for purity of diction and elegance of composition, they richly merit the applause which has been bestowed upon them. In a style of great vigor, animation, and simplicity, he portrayed the unconstitutionality of the conduct of Great Britain, the imminent peril to American liberty which existed, and the fatal consequences of a supine acquiescence in ministerial measures, more fatal as precedents than by the immediate calamities they were calculated to produce. The Farmer’s Letters were read with intense interest, and produced the effect not merely of enlightening the public mind, but of exciting the feelings of the people to a determination not to submit to the oppressive exactions of the mother country.

Avoiding all violence of expression and of doctrine, and repelling the idea of forcible opposition, they breathe a spirit of firm independence, an ardent love of liberty, and an unconquerable resolution to yield to any sacrifice rather than tamely submit to despotism. Mr. DICKINSON was reluctant to encourage acts of hostility to the mother country, and accordingly we find that peaceful opposition was all that he then contemplated. Although he subsequently united ardently in the military operations of the colonies, yet the principles which he inculcated in the Farmer’s Letters, of moderation in all the measures of opposition, seem to have followed him throughout the contest, and to have occasioned that opposition to the declaration of independence, which it will be proper hereafter more fully to describe. The idea of separation from the mother country was to him revolting, and he therefore urged his countrymen to a peaceful but firm resistance to the ambitious schemes of enlarging the power of Great Britain. He enlightened the public mind, aroused the feelings, and was finally carried forward by the current which he had so powerfully contributed to set in motion. An allusion to his principles seems necessary, fully to comprehend his character and the motives by which he was influenced. At all times active and energetic in his opposition to the measures of Great Britain, he did not unite in sentiment with the majority of his patriotic associates, in those daring measures which gave so decided a cast to the revolution. In enlightening the people, and in exciting their feelings, he was a prominent leader. It was only the boldest measures that he struggled to retard, but when once adopted, no man was more fearless or animated in urging them to a successful termination.

The author of the Farmer’s Letters received the most flattering commendations. At a meeting of the inhabitants of Boston, at Faneuil hall, it was resolved that the thanks of the town should be given to him, and Dr. Church, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Dr. Joseph Warren, the hero of Bunker Hill, and John Roe, were appointed a committee to prepare and publish a letter of thanks. A highly complimentary letter was accordingly published, in which, after paying a tribute of respect to the author, they say that, “to such eminent worth and virtue, the inhabitants of the town of Boston, the capital of the province of Massachusetts Bay, in full town meeting assembled, express their gratitude. Though such superior merit must assuredly, in the closest recess, enjoy the divine satisfaction of having served, and possibly saved this people; though veiled from our view, you modestly shun the deserved applause of millions; permit us to intrude upon your retirement, and salute the Farmer as the friend of Americans, and the common benefactor of mankind.” The answer of the Farmer was published in the Boston Gazette. An edition of the Letters was published in 1769, in Virginia, with a preface written by Richard Henry Lee, and in May, 1768, Dr. Franklin caused them to be republished in London, with a preface from his own elegant pen, urging them upon the attention of the public. In 1769, they were translated into French and published at Paris.

Mr. DICKINSON was, in 1774, a member of a committee from the several counties of Pennsylvania, convened for the purpose of giving to the assembly, by whom delegates to congress were to be chosen. He prepared a series of resolutions and a letter of instruction which, amidst the numerous acts of a similar description in the several colonies, attracted peculiar attention, by their precise and determinate manner, as well as by the merit of being the most formal and complete exposition of the rights of the colonies, and of their grievances, which had then been published. After having been reported by the committee without objection, they were so far modified as to separate the argumentative part from the rest, but the whole were ordered to be published,—the former as an “Essay on the Constitutional Power of Great Britain over the Colonies in America.” The committee unanimously agreed “that their thanks should be given from the chair to JOHN DICKINSON, for the great assistance they have received from the laudable application of his eminent abilities to the service of his country in the above performance.” In his reply to this tribute of respect, which was communicated to him formally from the chair, he very modestly observed,—“The mere accident of meeting with particular books, and conversing with particular men, led me into the train of sentiments, which the committee are pleased to think just; and others with the like opportunities of information would much better have deserved to receive the thanks they now generously give.”

Mr. DICKINSON took his seat in congress as a deputy from Pennsylvania, on the 17th of October, 1774, and immediately became engaged in the composition of the addresses of that body, which shed so much lustre on its proceedings, and now constitute no small portion of its fame. A dignified and elegant appeal to the inhabitants of Quebec, designed to enlist them in the common cause of the defence of their rights, emanated from his pen. But it was the petition to the king which won the highest admiration, on both sides of the Atlantic, and which will remain an imperishable monument to the glory of its author, and of the assembly of which he was a member, so long as fervid and manly eloquence, and chaste and elegant composition, shall be appreciated. Containing a clear exposition of the grounds of complaint, communicated in a respectful manner, it breathes a spirit of uncompromising freedom, and was calculated to strike deep into the heart, if any thing short of adulation could reach it, of him to whom it was addressed. However vain may have been the idea of awakening the king to a sense of the wrongs which, under his immaculate authority were committed, the eloquent composition of DICKINSON reached other hearts, and rallied to the support of the sacred cause in which he had so earnestly embarked, a host of advocates whose applause and benedictions cheered the votaries of freedom in the gloomiest hours of their tribulations. He was not originally a member of the committee appointed to perform the delicate and important duty of framing an address from an assembly, which professed to be composed of loyal subjects, to their distant monarch, but it consisted of Mr. Henry, Mr. Lee, J. Adams, Johnson, and Rutledge. It was appointed on the first of October, and Mr. DICKINSON’S enemies having succeeded in retarding his election to congress, he did not take his seat until the 17th. Mr. Henry actually prepared and reported an address which, not according with the views of congress, was recommitted, and Mr. DICKINSON was on the 21st added to the committee, and on the 24th reported the petition which was adopted. In patriotism Patrick Henry and JOHN DICKINSON resembled each other, but in many respects they bore the most decided contrast. Mr. Henry was an orator of incomparable powers; impetuous, undisciplined, and ready not only to support the boldest measures, but eager to rush onward in the revolutionary career, looking to nothing short of independence, and affecting no respect for a monarch whose authority he could not brook. Mr. DICKINSON, equally devoted to his country, looked with habitual respect upon the mother country and her king, and until the irrevocable step was taken by the declaration of independence, considered the restoration of harmony between the two countries, based upon the security of the rights of the colonies, as the consummation of sound policy and enlightened patriotism. With extensive stores of learning, and a highly polished intellect, were associated that caution, and perhaps hesitancy, which induced him to avoid rashness as one of the greatest errors that could be committed, and to deprecate the breaking of the ranks of peaceful opposition, by the chivalrous spirits, who, perhaps, stirred up by his own eloquent compositions, sounded in his ears the war-notes of revolution, as the only remedy for the grievances which he had so inimitably portrayed. Mr. Henry’s draught, besides being defective in point of composition, was filled with asperities which did not comport with th conciliatory disposition of congress.

As there was no deficiency of men prepared and anxious to press the revolutionary car on to its goal, it was fortunate for the country that congress possessed one man of the peculiar constitution of JOHN DICKINSON; for through his instrumentality, whilst they were rushing with a patriotic impetuousness into the midst of a sanguinary revolution, and their country was rapidly bursting its fetters and rising into national existence; their cause was invested with a dignity, moderation, and firmness; their motives were exhibited in a condition of purity; and the holy principles of civil liberty, which they were struggling to sustain, were promulgated to the world with a force and clearness, which commanded the respect of the civilized world, and have commended the conflict to the nations of the earth as an example which has been gazed at with admiration, and on several occasions followed with ardor.

With the view of making another effort to arrest the progress of oppression, Mr. DICKINSON urged the propriety of presenting a second petition to the king; but it was warmly opposed in congress as altogether futile; the determination to persist in error being as manifest as the discontent it had produced. The confidence he had inspired, and his deservedly great influence, enabled him, however, to accomplish his object; and the second petition to the king, written by him, ranks with its predecessor in usefulness to the cause, as well as in the peculiar merits of the composition. The highest encomiums were bestowed upon them, and it is believed that they powerfully contributed to draw upon congress the celebrated panegyric of Lord Chatham, in which, after alluding to the writings of antiquity, and the patriotism of Greece and Rome, he gave to that body a preference over the assemblies of the master states of the world. The literature of the revolution is a proud field for an American to contemplate. Filled with noble sentiments, lofty patriotism, untainted virtue, and a wisdom which seems to combine all that is essential for the protection of human freedom, there is a rich vein of eloquence irrigating the teeming soil, which the proudest and most cultivated nations of the earth might exult to call their own.

One of the most eloquent and soul-stirring productions of Mr. DICKINSON’S pen, was the declaration of congress of July 6th, 1775, setting forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms, which was proclaimed at the head of the several divisions of the army. He appears, when writing this admirable composition, to have been excited to a pitch of enthusiasm, not surpassed by the most chivalrous of the revolutionary patriots; and to have uttered his eloquent invectives against despotism, with a spirit prophetic of the glorious result. “We are reduced,” said he, “to the alternative of choosing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers or resistance by force The latter is our choice. We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them, if we basely entail hereditary bondage upon them.”

Allusion has already been made to the conciliatory views of Mr. DICKINSON, and to his repugnance to a final separation from Great Britain. In producing a measure of the vast importance of the declaration of independence, it was to have been expected that a great difference of opinion respecting its propriety should exist. Accordingly we find that members of congress became converts to the measure at various periods, and that several whose patriotism was unquestionable, and whose opposition to the despotism of Great Britain had been distinguished by brilliant exertions and extensive sacrifices, refused to coöperate in its adoption. JOHN DICKINSON was the most conspicuous of them. Believing that it was at least premature; that the country was not prepared to sustain it; that it would interfere with foreign alliances, since nations hostile to Great Britain would not be likely to advocate the American cause, when their hostility to Great Britain was gratified by the severance of the British empire; and that dissensions might spring up among the colonies, unless some provision was made for the settlement of their controversies before “they lost sight of that tribunal, which had hitherto been the umpire of all their differences,” he exerted himself to retard its adoption. But it was in vain. His own eloquent compositions had sunk too deeply into the hearts of the people, and their feelings were aroused to too high a pitch of indignation at the conduct of Great Britain, to falter in their march to national independence. A majority of the Pennsylvania delegation were opposed to the declaration; but on the 4th of July, Mr. DICKINSON and another member, Mr. Morris, thought fit so far to withdraw their opposition, as, by their absence, to leave a majority of one in its favor. The vote of Pennsylvania was thus added to those of her sister states. The signatures of some of the members, who at the time had strenuously opposed it, were subsequently affixed to it, and are transmitted to posterity as contemporaneous participators in that act of daring intrepidity. But Mr. DICKINSON’S name has never been associated with it, nor does it appear that he ever recanted the opinion which he had expressed of its propriety, although he not merely acquiesced in it, but engaged with his accustomed zeal and assiduity in preparing and carrying into effect the measures necessary to sustain it. However much we may

regret that his name is not enrolled on that instrument, which is now the pride and the boast of every American, it would not only be uncharitable, but it would be wantonly to dim the lustre of one of the brightest of the revolutionary luminaries, to suspect the purity of his motives, or to diminish the gratitude of the country to him. Party spirit at that period was powerful, and his enemies successfully assailed him. His reëlection to congress was defeated, and the public lost his services for about two years, on the theatre for which he was the best adapted. He soon, however, exhibited convincing evidence that his course with regard to the declaration of independence, did not proceed from a disposition to shield himself from danger, and that his patriotism was too ardent to be cooled by the frowns of his countrymen. He was actually at camp performing military duty, when the loss of his election to congress occurred. We have been able to glean but few particulars of his military services. It appears that he marched with his regiment to Elizabethtown to meet the enemy, and served as a private soldier in Capt. Lewis’s company, when on a similar expedition to the Head of Elk. In October, 1777, he received from Mr. McKean, then president of Pennsylvania, a commission of brigadier-general; the duties of which he fulfilled in a satisfactory manner.

In, April, 1779, he was unanimously elected to congress, and resumed the performance of his legislative duties with his accustomed ardor and effect. In the month of May, he wrote the address of that body to the states, upon the situation of public affairs; a production distinguished by his usual felicity of composition and warmth of patriotic feeling. The condition of the country is vividly described, and the states are urged to exertion to rescue it from the abject situation to which a depreciated paper currency, a prodigality in the expenditure of the public money, and the exhaustion of war, had reduced it.

In 1780, he was elected to represent the county of Newcastle in the assembly of Delaware; and was in the same year, unanimously elected president of that state, by the two branches of the legislature. In 1782, he was elected president of the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania, which office he continued to fill until October, 1785.

It is natural to suppose that a man who was so deeply indebted to literature as Mr. DICKINSON, and whose life had been so sedulously devoted to the application of its inestimable riches to the service of his country, would not, amidst his numerous benefactions, overlook education, the main spring of republican greatness and stability. The act of assembly incorporating a college to be established in the borough of Carlisle, has happily perpetuated the remembrance of his munificent patronage of learning, as well as the public sense of his exalted merit. It declares that—“In memory of the great and important services rendered to his country by his excellency JOHN DICKINSON, Esq., president of the supreme executive council, and in commemoration of his very liberal donation to the institution, the said college shall be forever hereafter called and known by the name of Dickinson College.” The institution which was thus brought into existence under the auspices and by the liberality of this great man, is destined, it is hoped, to be a perpetual monument to his fame, and a perennial fountain of unadulterated knowledge and patriotism. Fortunately located near the centre of a powerful state, surrounded by ample resources for its sustenance, and accessible to all the means which give facility to education, its prosperous career is a fit subject for patriotic aspirations. Clouds, it is true, have occasionally darkened its prospects; but in the midst of its adversities, its fame, the advantages of its position, and the exertions of the friends of education, have twice raised it from a prostrate condition, and it bids fair to fulfil the benevolent and patriotic anticipations of its founder. In the selection of the locality of the institution, Mr. DICKINSON appears, as in all of his other public services, to have been actuated by disinterested motives, and to have looked beyond the present time to advance the permanent good of the community. Philadelphia had been, and Wilmington was destined to be, the place of his residence. Carlisle was out of the sphere of his movements and of his influence, but being the centre of a large and growing community, in bestowing his bounty and his services, he looked beyond the time and the space in which he lived.

The formation of a constitution for the United States, was a task to which Mr. DICKINSON’S extensive political knowledge, great abilities, and enlightened views, were peculiarly adapted. Having participated in the adoption of the articles of confederation, and had abundant experience of their numerous deficiencies, and of the total impracticability of preserving public honor, social order, or even national existence, with their contracted powers and feeble authority, Mr. DICKINSON met the convention of 1787, as a delegate from Delaware, with a clear conviction of the momentous duty assigned to him, and a firm determination to leave no effort untried to rescue the country from impending ruin. His exertions were not confined to the convention. The constitution, when submitted to the people for their ratification, met with violent, and in some quarters with unprincipled, opposition. Mr. DICKINSON published nine letters, with the signature of Fabius, in its defence. Although he did not enter into all the details of the plan reported by the convention, nor attempt that systematic vindication of it which was performed by the “Federalist,” yet the letters of Fabius are a valuable acquisition to our stock of constitutional literature, and present a conclusive chain of reasoning on many important topics which they discussed. He very properly disregarded the fear of consolidation from the operations of the federal government, and considered the guarantees of the states, furnished by the organization of the federal system, as entirely adequate to the protection of the rights of the states, and that the freedom of the people would be more likely to be placed in jeopardy by the weakness than by the strength of the federal authority.

In the year 1792, he was a member of the convention which formed the constitution of Delaware, and displayed his usual activity and abilities in the performance of all the duties which the occasion required.

In the year 1797, he published another series of letters bearing the signature of Fabius, which were occasioned by the special call of congress to meet on the 25th of March. His gratitude and predilection for France, are strongly depicted in them; and although they are more than usually discursive, they are replete with liberal and generous sentiments. He professed to write from the impulse of duty, but complains that “neither my time, nor my infirmities, will permit me to be attentive to style, arrangement, or the labors of consulting former publications.” Breathing an ardent desire for the extension of freedom, he seems to have viewed the exertions in France in its behalf, with admiration and high expectation; and to have looked upon the conduct of England with a jealous eye, as partaking of that description which he had devoted the prime of his life in combating.

Wilmington had been selected by him as the place of his residence, where, retired from the toil and anxieties of public life, enjoying an affluent fortune, surrounded by friends who loved him, and by books which, to him, were a constant source of consolation, he spent the concluding years of his life, dispensing among others the blessings which he enjoyed himself, and receiving in return the heartfelt tribute of popular veneration.

He was married on the 19th of July, 1770, to Mary Norris, only daughter of Isaac Norris, of Fair Hill, Philadelphia county, and had two daughters, who survive him.

He died on the 14th of Feb., 1808, at the age of seventy-five. Mr. DICKINSON deserves to be ranked among the most distinguished men of the age in which he lived. Whether we consider the extent of his participation in producing the revolutionary war, and in urging it to a prosperous termination, the steadiness of purpose which directed his path, the inflexible spirit with which he adhered to the cause amidst the numerous discouragements which beset his career, the lustre which his admirable compositions shed upon his country, his accomplishments as a scholar, the purity of his character, and elevation as an orator and statesman, an exalted station must be assigned to him in the highest rank of our most illustrious countrymen. It is, however, chiefly in his labors as an author, that his greatest merit consists. His writings are conspicuous for energy, perspicuity, and simplicity of style, and often rise to strains of impassioned eloquence. His principles were of the most liberal cast consistent with social order. His sentiments were as pure as they were exalted, and a rich vein of benevolent feeling pervades every production of his pen. His devotion to the cause of human freedom, teems in every page. Furnishing copious and exact information of many of the most prominent transactions of the revolution, and of the controversy in which it originated, in a style of unadulterated purity and elegance, his writings constitute a valuable portion of the literature of the country. We there hear the voice of the first congress, and see exhibited the fortitude and patriotism of the fathers of the republic.

Mr. DICKINSON was charged with advocating a timid policy, inconsistent with the spirit which became the great cause in which he had embarked, but nothing of the sort appears in his writings. Although he did orally advise congress to pursue a less daring course than that which was successfully adopted, when he wielded the pen, he invariably made congress speak in a manner that became its dignity, fearlessness, and exalted position, in the presence of the world and of after ages. Many of his views were peculiar. He had early acquired the opinion, that separation from England ought not to be sought after, but that the true object of pursuit was to coerce her to yield to the requisitions of freedom and of justice; and it clung to him throughout the contest. But he supported his associates in the execution of their most energetic measures, and devoted an undivided affection to the cause of his country, no matter by whom, nor in what manner directed. “Two rules I have laid down for myself throughout this contest,” said he on an important question in congress, in 1779, “to which I have constantly adhered, and still design to adhere. First, on all occasions where I am called upon, as a trustee for my countrymen, to deliberate on questions important to their happiness, disdaining all personal advantages to be derived from a suppression of my real sentiments, and defying all dangers to be risked by a declaration of them, openly to avow them; and secondly, after thus discharging this duty, whenever the public resolutions are taken, to regard them, though opposite to my opinion, as sacred, because they lead to public measures in which the common weal must be interested, and to join in supporting them as earnestly as if my voice had been given for them.

“If the present day is too warm for me to be calmly judged, I can credit my country for justice some years hence.”

Having seen the patriot faithful to the end of his career, and undeviating in his course, the peculiarity of his opinions, at a critical conjuncture, should not affect the estimate which posterity should place upon his patriotism and public services. In private life he was conspicuous for the dignity and simplicity of his manners, the benevolence of his disposition, the purity of his morals, and his veneration for religion. His conversation was distinguished for its vivacity, and enriched by the extensive stores of knowledge which, in study and in active life, he had accumulated. His charities were as munificent as they were well directed, and displayed an exalted spirit of benevolence and patriotism. As an orator, his admirers assigned to him a high grade of excellence. If his tongue partook of the fluency and animation of his pen, he must have rivalled the eloquence of his contemporaries, whose oratory has been the theme of such exalted and well merited commendation.

He possessed the most delicate sense of honor, and cherished his character for integrity with the fondest regard; of which the following occurrence, with which we shall close this brief memoir, is a striking illustration, and also vindicates his title to one of his noblest productions. Chief Justice Marshall, in the first volume of his life of Washington, erroneously ascribed the address to the king to Mr. Lee. This produced a remonstrance from Mr. DICKINSON, who, in a letter to Dr. Logan, dated Sept. 15, 1804, gives a detailed account of the proceedings of Congress, and fully vindicates his title to the authorship. The error was subsequently corrected by the chief justice. “I have said,” says Mr. DICKINSON, “that the chief justice has cast a reflection upon my character, and a very serious one it is, from whatever cause it has proceeded. The severity of the reflection arises from this circumstance. In the year 1800, two young printers applied to me for my consent to publish my political writings, from which they expected to derive some emolument. I gave my consent, and in the following year they published in this place, two octavo volumes as my political writings.

“This publication being made in the town where I reside, no person of understanding can doubt that I must be acquainted with the contents; of course I must be guilty of the greatest baseness if, for my credit, I knowingly permitted writings which I had not composed, to be publicly imputed to me, without a positive and public contradiction of the imputation. This contradiction I never made and never shall make, conscious, as I am, that every one of those writings was composed by me.

“The question whether I wrote the first petition to the king, is of little moment; but the question whether I have countenanced an opinion that I did write it, though in reality I did not, is to me of vast importance.”

T. A. B.

Source: National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, 1839, Vol. 3.


DICKSON, Reverend Moses, 1824-1901, free African American, anti-slavery leader, clergyman, activist, underground abolitionist.  Minister, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.  Founded Knights of Liberty in St. Louis, Missouri, 1846.

(Rodriguez, 2007, p. 50; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 4, p. 2)



Chapter: “Intermarriage Law of Massachusetts. - Caste,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

It was the same unchristian prejudice, with far less apparent reason, which induced the regulations adopted by railroads to exclude persons of color from the ordinary passenger cars, and compelled them to ride in cars by themselves, or sometimes, without regard to tastes, character, or means, in "second-class " cars, bare and comfortless, the enforced receptacle of all who from any cause would not or could not take their seats in the first class. The two railroad corporations in Massachusetts, which were prominent in making and enforcing these odious regulations, were the Eastern and New Bedford. On the New Bedford road, outrages were often perpetrated on persons of color, and sometimes on those friends who remonstrated against their treatment. In the year 1841 David Ruggles, a colored man of New York, who had aided six hundred of his countrymen in escaping from servitude, was ejected from the cars, against the earnest protest of Rev. John M. Spear, for the simple offence of taking a seat with white passengers. He brought an action in the Police Court of New Bedford against the employees of the company for an aggravated assault; but Justice Crapo promptly discharged the defendants.

Scenes of violence were of frequent occurrence on the astern Railroad. Colored persons of intelligence and character were, in several instances, violently dragged from the cars occupied by white passengers; and in some cases their friends, who remonstrated against such brutality, were treated in like manner. Among the persons forcibly ejected from these cars was Frederick Douglass, among the most gifted of his race. The general agent of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society was repeatedly insulted, while travelling upon that road, for remonstrating against its unjust and inhuman usages; and in one instance he received blows and kicks, the effects of which were felt for weeks. On one occasion a well-known colored man being ejected, and Dr. Daniel Mann and several white passengers remonstrating against such conduct, the latter were dragged from the cars, and prohibited from continuing their journey “unless they behaved themselves." Dr. Mann brought an action in the police court of Boston against the conductor of the train; but he failed to obtain any redress for such high-handed outrages.

This conduct excited the deepest indignation. Public meetings were held, the managers of the road censured, and the interference of the legislature invoked. The " Lynn Record," edited by Daniel Henshaw, a gentleman of integrity, character, and moral courage, denounced the ruffianism of such proceedings in the most direct and fearless manner.

In spite, however, of all remonstrances, the managers of that corporation persisted in the enforcement of their harsh and unjust regulations. A striking instance of this was manifested on the return from his foreign tour of Charles Lenox Remond. He was a native of Salem, a gentleman of intelligence, of personal worth, and prepossessing manners. In England, where he had spent nearly two years, he had vindicated the cause of the oppressed, and had won the confidence and applause of the British Abolitionists. He was everywhere hailed as the champion of his race, and treated with the most friendly and respectful consideration. He bore from England the warmest sympathies and best wishes of the friends of emancipation. He was commissioned to bear the address of sixty thousand Irishmen to their countrymen in America, headed by the names of Daniel O'Connell and Father Mathew. Arriving in Boston, he went to the Eastern Railroad Station to take passage for his home in Salem. He was not allowed, however, to take his seat with the other passengers, but compelled to occupy what was called the "Jim Crow" car. Several of his white friends, wishing to welcome him on his return, met him at the station, and took seats with him. They were ordered, however, by the conductor, to leave voluntarily, or to be removed by force. Thus was this gentleman of character and culture, fresh from his travels and the hospitalities of the best families of England, rudely and roughly treated on his arrival in his native State. And not only that, but so inveterate and implacable was the prejudice that it visited upon his admiring friends a kind of vicarious punishment for the crime of cherishing and exhibiting anything like feelings of regard and sympathy in his behalf.

Petitions and memorials were sent to the legislature demanding legislation against such arbitrary proceedings, and that protection which could not be obtained from the managers of the roads or from the judicial tribunals. These were referred to a committee before whom there was a public hearing. The committee was addressed by Wendell Phillips, Mr. Remand, and Ellis Gray Loring. A bill was reported by Seth Sprague, Jr.; but interest and prejudice bore sway, and it failed to pass the Senate. The outrages continuing, similar petitions were presented at the next session, and a bill was reported to the Hou Many of the large towns and cities in Massachusetts demanded separation between black and white pupils in the schools and seminaries of learning. Even the common schools, sustained by law, to whose benefits all were entitled without distinction of color, did not escape the hateful discrimination. Though all were equally taxed for their support, yet all could not alike partake of the privileges they afforded. To put the brand of inferiority upon innocent and unoffending childhood, to lay upon it unnecessary as well as unrighteous burdens as it started on the journey of life, found by its oppressors, with all the advantages of birth, position, and superior culture, at best, hard and harsh enough, was as really disgraceful as it was unchristian.

Many saw the gross injustice and undeserved opprobrium involved in such discrimination, and its manifest tendency to perpetuate the existence and evils of caste in communities where such a policy was adopted. Protests in various forms were entered against it. In the city of Salem there sprang up a sharp controversy. Stephen C. Phillips, its mayor, maintained the right of the colored children to the full and complete benefit of the common schools. And. it was chiefly through his influence that a legal opinion was obtained from Richard Fletcher, one of the most eminent and conscientious lawyers of the State, in which he maintained that these schools were contrary to the constitution of the Commonwealth.

In Nantucket, too, the same matter became the subject of an excited controversy. It was brought before the town in 1844, by the report of the school committee recommending that no discrimination should be made between the children of the two races. The report was not, however, sustained, but was indefinitely postponed. A resolution was carried in town meeting that colored children should be instructed by themselves, if deemed practicable by the school committee. A portion, however, of the citizens, aggrieved by this decision, held a public meeting, largely attended by many of the most enlightened of its inhabitants, and presided over by John H. Shaw. They protested against the action of the town as unchristian, as a flagrant violation of the State constitution and of the laws of the Commonwealth, and as imposing an additional tax upon the people. They invoked the friends of law and order, morality and religion, freedom and equality, to act in defence of the just claims of their colored population.

In 1845 petitions were presented to the legislature in favor of legislation. They were referred to the Committee on Education, hearings were had, and a bill was reported to the Senate by Mr. Barrett of Hampshire, providing that any child unlawfully excluded from the public schools should be entitled to recover damages in the courts of the Commonwealth. Coming up for consideration on the 18th of February, it was rejected.

The next day Mr. Wilson moved a reconsideration of the vote by which it was rejected. He expressed his regret at the failure of the bill, which he represented as the most important that had come up during the session. “It concerned," he said, "the rights and feelings of a large but humble portion of our people, whose interests should be watched over and cared for by the legislature, whose imperative duty it was, when complaints were made of the invasion of the rights of the poorest and humblest, to provide a remedy that should be full and ample to secure and guard all his rights." He said the common-school system, the pride and glory of Massachusetts, was based upon the principle of perfect equality, and that the distinction set up at Nantucket aimed a blow at its very existence. The colored people felt, and rightly, that their feelings were trifled with and their rights disregarded. Denouncing the spirit that excluded colored children from the full and equal benefits of the common schools, he said: “It is the same which has drenched the world with blood for six thousand years, made a slaveholder in South Carolina and a slave-pirate on the coast of Africa." He said that those whose rights he wished to guard and secure had but little influence or power; while those who opposed them had both, and were only too willing to use them for their own aggrandizement. It was more popular to keep along with the current of prejudice than by resisting it to be denounced “a Radical or Abolitionist." “In retiring from the legislature," he said,” I am sustained by the consciousness that I have never uttered a word or given a vote against the rights of any human being. I had far rather have the warm and generous thanks of one poor orphan boy down on the island of Nantucket, that I may never see, nor even know, than to have the approbation of every man in the Commonwealth, whether in, this chamber or out of it, who would deny to any child the full and equal benefits of our public schools."

 Mr. Adams of Suffolk thought, if white children left the common school because colored children were admitted, the sooner they went the better. Such distinctions in the common schools sanctioned an aristocracy which he did not acknowledge.

There were several senators, however, who advocated the exclusive policy. Mr. Livermore of Middlesex County avowed his opposition to the proposed legislation. Referring to some remonstrants from Nantucket, he said they had fairly shown that no real injury was inflicted. If the colored children were excluded from the High School of Nantucket, “it was not on account of their color, but of their capacity." "I dislike," he said,” the philanthropic hobby-horses, and am not disposed to mount any of them." Mr. Clifford of Bristol, afterward attorney-general and governor, warmly eulogized the people and schools of Nantucket, and denied that the colored children there were deprived of their privileges. He would not sacrifice, he said, the larger class for the benefit of the smaller. Mr. Park of Suffolk traced the history and establishment of the Smith School in Boston. Referring to the objection of the greater distance some colored children must walk by this arrangement, he said: '' Boys in the country have frequently to walk miles through the snows of winter to attend the district school." Mr. Stone of Worcester County opposed any action. If the bill passed, he said, “interest in the public schools would be lost, and less money would be raised. By driving the colored children in, they will drive the white children out." Mr. Lawrence of Hampshire said if they could legislate to the last moment of time they could not change or remedy the difficulty complained of. "The Ethiopian," he said,” cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spot; neither can the white man change his tastes, nor his prejudices against the colored race. I do not justify it; I deplore it. But it exists, and we cannot change it." After an earnest debate, Mr. Wilson's motion was adopted by a large majority, and the bill was then committed to the judiciary committee. That committee reported a bill in accordance with the prayer of the petitioners, which passed and became the law of the Commonwealth.

A few weeks after the passage of the act a petition was presented to the school committee of Boston, from the colored citizens, praying that “separate schools for colored children should be abolished, and that said children be permitted to attend the schools in their several districts." Vigorous efforts were made by Dr. Henry I. Bowditch, in which he was earnestly supported by Albert J. Wright and Dr. Charles A. Phelps. But the prayer of the petitioners was rejected by a vote of twelve to forty-five. The spirit of caste still lingered in portions of the Commonwealth, and legislation so just and equitable could not then be secured.

se; but it failed of enactment, being indefinitely postponed by a majority of more than one hundred. Mr. Adams, a member of the committee that reported the bill, admitted the legality, but doubted the expediency, of such a law. There were but two railroads that made the obnoxious regulations which he thought should be at once abandoned. He doubted whether the time had come for a general law, and advised waiting to see if the point could not be gained without legislation.

The managers of these corporations, seeing the determined purpose of the friends of freedom and the temper of the legislature, adopted Mr. Adams's advice, and gave up their arbitrary discriminations and tyrannical regulations. So another victory was won, and another of the hateful relics of the slave system, that once disgraced the land of the Pilgrims, was removed.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 492-495.

Chapter: “Intermarriage Law of Massachusetts. - Caste,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

Many of the large towns and cities in Massachusetts demanded separation between black and white pupils in the schools and seminaries of learning. Even the common schools, sustained by law, to whose benefits all were entitled without distinction of color, did not escape the hateful discrimination. Though all were equally taxed for their support, yet all could not alike partake of the privileges they afforded. To put the brand of inferiority upon innocent and unoffending childhood, to lay upon it unnecessary as well as unrighteous burdens as it started on the journey of life, found by its oppressors, with all the advantages of birth, position, and superior culture, at best, hard and harsh enough, was as really disgraceful as it was unchristian.

Many saw the gross injustice and undeserved opprobrium involved in such discrimination, and its manifest tendency to perpetuate the existence and evils of caste in communities where such a policy was adopted. Protests in various forms were entered against it. In the city of Salem there sprang up a sharp controversy. Stephen C. Phillips, its mayor, maintained the right of the colored children to the full and complete benefit of the common schools. And. it was chiefly through his influence that a legal opinion was obtained from Richard Fletcher, one of the most eminent and conscientious lawyers of the State, in which he maintained that these schools were contrary to the constitution of the Commonwealth.

In Nantucket, too, the same matter became the subject of an excited controversy. It was brought before the town in 1844, by the report of the school committee recommending that no discrimination should be made between the children of the two races. The report was not, however, sustained, but was indefinitely postponed. A resolution was carried in town meeting that colored children should be instructed by themselves, if deemed practicable by the school committee. A portion, however, of the citizens, aggrieved by this decision, held a public meeting, largely attended by many of the most enlightened of its inhabitants, and presided over by John H. Shaw. They protested against the action of the town as unchristian, as a flagrant violation of the State constitution and of the laws of the Commonwealth, and as imposing an additional tax upon the people. They invoked the friends of law and order, morality and religion, freedom and equality, to act in defence of the just claims of their colored population.

In 1845 petitions were presented to the legislature in favor of legislation. They were referred to the Committee on Education, hearings were had, and a bill was reported to the Senate by Mr. Barrett of Hampshire, providing that any child unlawfully excluded from the public schools should be entitled to recover damages in the courts of the Commonwealth. Coming up for consideration on the 18th of February, it was rejected.

The next day Mr. Wilson moved a reconsideration of the vote by which it was rejected. He expressed his regret at the failure of the bill, which he represented as the most important that had come up during the session. “It concerned," he said, "the rights and feelings of a large but humble portion of our people, whose interests should be watched over and cared for by the legislature, whose imperative duty it was, when complaints were made of the invasion of the rights of the poorest and humblest, to provide a remedy that should be full and ample to secure and guard all his rights." He said the common-school system, the pride and glory of Massachusetts, was based upon the principle of perfect equality, and that the distinction set up at Nantucket aimed a blow at its very existence. The colored people felt, and rightly, that their feelings were trifled with and their rights disregarded. Denouncing the spirit that excluded colored children from the full and equal benefits of the common schools, he said: “It is the same which has drenched the world with blood for six thousand years, made a slaveholder in South Carolina and a slave-pirate on the coast of Africa." He said that those whose rights he wished to guard and secure had but little influence or power; while those who opposed them had both, and were only too willing to use them for their own aggrandizement. It was more popular to keep along with the current of prejudice than by resisting it to be denounced “a Radical or Abolitionist." “In retiring from the legislature," he said,” I am sustained by the consciousness that I have never uttered a word or given a vote against the rights of any human being. I had far rather have the warm and generous thanks of one poor orphan boy down on the island of Nantucket, that I may never see, nor even know, than to have the approbation of every man in the Commonwealth, whether in, this chamber or out of it, who would deny to any child the full and equal benefits of our public schools."

 Mr. Adams of Suffolk thought, if white children left the common school because colored children were admitted, the sooner they went the better. Such distinctions in the common schools sanctioned an aristocracy which he did not acknowledge.

There were several senators, however, who advocated the exclusive policy. Mr. Livermore of Middlesex County avowed his opposition to the proposed legislation. Referring to some remonstrants from Nantucket, he said they had fairly shown that no real injury was inflicted. If the colored children were excluded from the High School of Nantucket, “it was not on account of their color, but of their capacity." "I dislike," he said,” the philanthropic hobby-horses, and am not disposed to mount any of them." Mr. Clifford of Bristol, afterward attorney-general and governor, warmly eulogized the people and schools of Nantucket, and denied that the colored children there were deprived of their privileges. He would not sacrifice, he said, the larger class for the benefit of the smaller. Mr. Park of Suffolk traced the history and establishment of the Smith School in Boston. Referring to the objection of the greater distance some colored children must walk by this arrangement, he said: '' Boys in the country have frequently to walk miles through the snows of winter to attend the district school." Mr. Stone of Worcester County opposed any action. If the bill passed, he said, “interest in the public schools would be lost, and less money would be raised. By driving the colored children in, they will drive the white children out." Mr. Lawrence of Hampshire said if they could legislate to the last moment of time they could not change or remedy the difficulty complained of. "The Ethiopian," he said,” cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spot; neither can the white man change his tastes, nor his prejudices against the colored race. I do not justify it; I deplore it. But it exists, and we cannot change it." After an earnest debate, Mr. Wilson's motion was adopted by a large majority, and the bill was then committed to the judiciary committee. That committee reported a bill in accordance with the prayer of the petitioners, which passed and became the law of the Commonwealth.

A few weeks after the passage of the act a petition was presented to the school committee of Boston, from the colored citizens, praying that “separate schools for colored children should be abolished, and that said children be permitted to attend the schools in their several districts." Vigorous efforts were made by Dr. Henry I. Bowditch, in which he was earnestly supported by Albert J. Wright and Dr. Charles A. Phelps. But the prayer of the petitioners was rejected by a vote of twelve to forty-five. The spirit of caste still lingered in portions of the Commonwealth, and legislation so just and equitable could not then be secured.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 495-498.


DIXON, James, 1814-1873, lawyer.  Republican U.S. Congressman and U.S. Senator representing Connecticut.  While a Congressman, he opposed the war with Mexico and supported the Wilmot Proviso.  Voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. II, p. 186; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 328; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 646; Congressional Globe)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DIXON, James, senator, b. in Enfield, Conn., 5 Aug., 1814; d. in Hartford, 27 March, 1873. He was graduated at Williams with distinction in 1834, studied law in his father's office, and began practice in Enfield, but soon rose to such eminence at the bar that he removed to Hartford, and there formed a partnership with Judge William W. Ellsworth. Early combining with his legal practice an active interest in public affairs, he was elected to the popular branch of the Connecticut legislature in 1837 and 1838, and again in 1844. In 1840 he married Elizabeth L., daughter of the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Cogswell, professor in the Connecticut theological institute. Mr. Dixon at an early date had become the recognized leader of the Whig party in the Hartford congressional district, and was chosen in 1845 a member of the U. S. house of representatives. He was re-elected in 1847, and was distinguished in that difficult arena alike for his power as a debater and for an amenity of bearing that extorted the respect of political opponents even in the turbulent times following the Mexican war, and the exasperations of the sectional debate precipitated by the “Wilmot Proviso.” Retiring from congress in 1849, he was in that year elected from Hartford to a seat in the Connecticut senate, and, having been re-elected in 1854, was chosen president of that body, but declined the honor, because the floor seemed to offer a better field for usefulness. During the same year he was made president of the Whig state convention, and, having now reached a position of commanding influence, he was in 1857 elected U. S. senator, and participated in all the parliamentary debates of the epoch that preceded the civil war. He was remarkable among his colleagues in the senate for the tenacity with which he adhered to his political principles, and for the clear presage with which he grasped the drift of events. Six years afterward, in the midst of the civil war, he was re-elected senator with a unanimity that had had no precedent in the annals of Connecticut. During his service in the senate he was an active member of the committee on manufactures, and during his last term was at one time appointed chairman of three important committees. While making his residence in Washington the seat of an elegant hospitality, he was remarkable for the assiduity with which he followed the public business of the senate, and for the eloquence that he brought to the discussion of grave public questions as they successively arose before, during, and after the civil war. Among his more notable speeches was one delivered 25 June, 1862, on the constitutional status created by the so-called acts of secession—a speech that is known to have commanded the express admiration of President Lincoln, as embodying what he held to be the true theory of the war in the light of the constitution and of public law. To the principles expounded in that speech Mr. Dixon steadfastly adhered during the administration alike of President Lincoln and of his successor. In the impeachment trial of President Johnson he was numbered among the Republican senators who voted against the sufficiency of the articles, and from that date he participated no longer in the councils of the Republican party. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 186.


DOAK, Samuel, 1749-1830, Virginia, educator, clergyman, anti-slavery activist, founder of Martin Academy, Little Limestone (near Jonesboro), North Carolina, founder and president of Washington College, 1795.  He freed his slaves and sent them to Brown County, Ohio.  Trained anti-slavery clergymen.  His son-in-law was anti-slavery activist John Rankin.  

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 91, 348; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 187-188; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 332; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 653)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DOAK, Samuel, clergyman, b. in Augusta county, Va., in August, 1749; d. in Bethel, N. C., 12 Dec., 1830. He was graduated at Princeton in 1775, became tutor in Hampden Sidney college, studied theology there, and was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Hanover in 1777. He removed to the Holston settlement (then part of North Carolina, but now a part of east Tennessee), and two years later to a settlement on the Little Limestone, in Washington county, where he bought a farm, built a log school-house and a small church, and founded the “Salem Congregation.” The school he established at this place was the first that was organized in the valley of the Mississippi. In 1785 it was incorporated by the legislature of North Carolina as Martin academy, and in 1795 became Washington college. He presided over it from the time of its incorporation till 1818, when he removed to Bethel and opened a private school, which he named Tusculum academy. Mr. Doak was a member of the convention of 1784 that formed the constitution of the commonwealth of Frankland. The degree of D. D. was conferred upon him by Washington and Greenville colleges in 1818. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 187-188.


DODGE, William Earle, Sr., 1805-1883, Hartford, Connecticut, industrialist, merchant, abolitionist, temperance activist. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, pt. 1, p. 352)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DODGE, William Earl, merchant, b. in Hartford, Conn., 4 Sept., 1805; d. in New York city, 9 Feb., 1883, received a common-school education, and worked for a time in his father's cotton mill. At the age of thirteen he removed to New York city with his family, and entered a wholesale dry-goods store, remaining there eight years. Afterward he engaged in the same business on his own account, continuing till 1833, when he married the daughter of Anson G. Phelps, and became a member of the firm of Phelps, Dodge & Co. He continued at the head of this house till 1879. Mr. Dodge was one of the first directors of the Erie railroad, and was interested in other railways and in several insurance corporations. He also owned large districts of woodland, and had numerous lumber and mill interests, besides being concerned in the development of coal and iron mines. He was elected president of the New York chamber of commerce three times in succession. He was a trustee of the Union theological seminary, one of the founders of the Union league club of New York city, vice-president of the American Bible society, president of several temperance associations, and took great interest in the welfare of the freedmen. He was a member of the peace convention of 1861, and in 1866-'7, having successfully contested the election of his Democratic opponent, James Brooks, was a representative in congress, serving on the committee on foreign affairs. President Grant appointed him a member of the Indian commission. He left a large fortune, and made several bequests to religious and charitable institutions. A bronze statue of him has been placed at the junction of Broadway and Sixth Avenue, New York city. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


DOOLITTLE, James Rood, 1815-1897, lawyer, jurist.  Opposed the extension of slavery into the territories.  Supported nullification of the Fugitive Slave Law in Wisconsin.  Close friend and supporter of President Lincoln.  Democratic and Republican U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, 1857-1869.  Voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 201-202; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 374; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 746; Congressional Globe)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DOOLITTLE, James Rood, senator, b. in Hampton, Washington co., N. Y., 3 Jan., 1815. After attending Middlebury academy, he entered Geneva (now Hobart) college, where he was graduated in 1834. He then studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1837, and practised at Rochester and at Warsaw, N. Y. He was elected district attorney of Wyoming county, N. Y., in 1845, and also served for some time as a colonel of militia. He removed to Wisconsin in 1851, and was elected judge of the first judicial circuit of that state in l858, but resigned in 1856, and was elected U. S. senator as a Democratic Republican, to succeed Henry Dodge, serving two terms, from 1857 till 1869. He was a delegate to the peace convention of 1861. While in the senate, he served as chairman of the committee on Indian affairs and as member of other important committees. During the summer recess of 1865, he visited the Indians west of the Mississippi as a member of a special senate committee. He took a prominent part in debate on the various war and reconstruction measures, upholding the national government, but always insisting that the seceding states had never ceased to be a part of the Union. He opposed the fifteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States, on the ground that each state should determine questions of suffrage for itself. Mr. Doolittle retired from public life in 1869, and has since resided in Racine, Wis., though practising law in Chicago. He was president of the Philadelphia national union convention of 1866, and also of the Baltimore national Democratic convention of 1872, which adopted the nomination of Horace Greeley for the presidency. Judge Doolittle has been a trustee of Chicago university since its foundation, served for one year as its president, and was for many years a professor in its law school. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 201-202.


DOUAI, Adolph Karl Daniel, 1819-1888, Germany, socialist, abolitionist, newspaper editor and publisher, educator.  Published newspaper, San Antonio Deutsche Zeitung [German News], which strongly editorialized against slavery.  Opposed slavery in the territory of Texas in articles, a very unpopular editorial position, which caused him to lose the publication. 

(Randers-Pehrson, 2000)



DOUGLAS, H. Ford, 1831-1865, African American, abolitionist, anti-slavery activist, military officer, newspaper publisher, born a slave.  Active in anti-slavery movement in Ohio.  Garrisonian abolitionist.  Advocated for African American emigration.  Published Provincial Freeman.  Published in Canada.  Served as African American officer in artillery unit. 

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 4, p. 61; American National Biography, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 796)




IN the controversy into which the country was now plunged by the new turn of the Kansas struggle, the storm no longer raged in that territory, for the ascendency of the Free State party was seen to be assured; nor did it convulse the country at large, for a sense of fatigue and disgust over the whole Kansas affair made itself felt, and the financial depression served to distract public attention. The vital matter was now the complicated and exceedingly bitter party situation resulting from Buchanan's attempt to force the admission of Kansas under the Lecompton constitution, the dramatic bolt of Douglas, and the consequent likelihood of the disruption of the Democratic Party.

The contest began in Congress with an attempt to punish Douglas for his desertion at this crisis, when victory seemed in the grasp of the south, by breaking him down altogether. The Lecompton debate in the Senate took the form of a savage attack upon Douglas and three other Democratic senators who stood with him-Stuart, of Michigan, Pugh, of Ohio, and Broderick, of California. At the same time an official proscription which surprised even the hardened spoilsmen of that day was carried through, every adherent of Douglas being mercilessly turned out of the public service, while congressmen were given to understand that a vote against the Lecompton bill meant political death.1

Under this heavy fire the conduct of Douglas was admirable. Carefully refraining from assailing either the president or any of his defenders, he confined himself to justifying his right to an independent opinion and delivering a series of crushing attacks upon the Lecompton constitution, as a violation not only of "popular sovereignty” but of common fairness and equity. The Republicans, for obvious reasons, gladly allowed him to take the brunt of the conflict. On the other side the arguments did little more than repeat those of Buchanan's messages, but underneath all that the southern senators said ran the assumption that Kansas was by right theirs and ought to be a slave state; and that a refusal to admit it under the Lecompton constitution was sufficient ground for secession.

Feeling ran extremely high in Congress during the contest, especially between the administration Democrats and those who followed Douglas, and the session of the House in which the bill was introduced broke up in a series of fist-fights between

1 Sheahan, Douglas, 387; House Reports, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 648, p. 296.

northern and southern members.1 The struggle was not long, however. On March 23 the Senate voted to admit Kansas under the Lecompton constitution, by 33 to 25, two southern Americans-Bell, of Tennessee, and Crittenden, of Kentucky-voting in the minority with the Republicans and the four bolting Democrats. In the House, however, on April 1, no less than 22 Democrats joined with 6 Americans and 92 Republicans to carry an amendment providing for a resubmission of the constitution; the administration retaining 104 Democrats and 8 of the Americans. In accepting this amendment, the Republicans abandoned their earlier principle of unqualified opposition to slavery, and accepted the ground which they rejected in the discussion of the Toombs bill of 1856; but the practical certainty that the constitution would be rejected, .coupled with the unsettling effect of the· Dred Scott decision, made them willing to use the opportunity even at the risk of a violation of consistency.2

The administration could not afford to let this amendment kill the bill, for a settlement of the Kansas question had become an absolute political necessity. Accordingly, in conference committee, W. H. English, of Indiana, offered a compromise by which the resubmission was granted, but on the condition that if Kansas rejected the Lecompton constitution it was to lose part of the public land it

1 Johnston and Browne, Stephens, 329.

2 Von Holst; United States, VI., 228.

desired, and was not to be admitted as a state until its population equaled the ratio necessary for a representative in Congress. This proposition bore marks of the same kind of statesmanship as that which framed the Lecompton constitution itself, joining as it did a penalty and a bribe to induce the voters of Kansas to accept the objectionable document. Yet the fact that it yielded the main point induced nine of the anti-Lecompton Democrats in the House to change front, and thereby the compromise was accepted, by a vote of 120 to 112. In the Senate Douglas fought the English bill to the end, but it passed easily on April 30.

The final decision was now remitted to the voters of Kansas; their response was made on August 2, when the vote stood, for accepting the constitution, 1,926; for rejecting it, 11,812. The Free State majority preferred to remain in the territorial status rather than to enter the Union under a pro-slavery constitution. With this decision the Kansas difficulty came to an end. Legally, according to the Dred Scott doctrine, slavery might exist in Kansas, but practically it was excluded, through the control of the territory by northern men.

The Kansas question had been settled by Buchanan, at last, although in a manner which brought him neither glory at the south nor popularity at the north, but the party problem created by it remained to be solved. Was Douglas to be pardoned and restored to good standing in the Democrats ranks, or would the administration and its southern counsellors persist in the effort to ruin the man who had been their strongest northern ally? The answer to this question in the summer of I858 was unmistakable. From the southern leaders and newspapers and from the administration organs in the north came an uninterrupted chorus of condemnation of the traitor. “We shall treat Judge Douglas," said a Tennessee newspaper, “just as we should treat any other Democrat who, in an emergency, abandoned his principles and made common cause with the enemy." 1 When Douglas was renominated to succeed himself as senator from Illinois, the south repudiated the action of the Illinois Democrats, and, with the exception of Wise, of Virginia, and the Richmond Enquirer, expressed a desire for his defeat; and the federal office - holders in the state, with the support of the administration, organized separate anti-Douglas nominations for state and legislative offices in order to divide the Democratic vote.2

It now became a question in the minds of many Republican leaders, notably Greeley, of the New York Tribune, and Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, whether their party ought not to seek to enlist Douglas as a new recruit in order to use his great powers in behalf of their cause. 3 Accordingly, they

1 Nashville Union, June 24, 1858.

2 Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, II., 144 et seq.

3 Macy, Political Parties, 2 59-262; Wilson, Slave Power, II., 567.

urged that the Illinois Republicans should not contest his return to the Senate, thinking that he would be more troublesome to the Democrats than any Republican who could be elected; but the western Republicans saw insurmountable obstacles. "What we have seen, heard and felt of him,'' said Chase, "will make it impossible for us to trust him until after a very sufficient probation, ... which he has not the slightest intention of undergoing. In fact, he neither expects nor wishes more from us than a  suspension of hostilities until his re-election is made secure." 1 "The fact is," said the Chicago Tribune1 "Mr. Douglas has recanted none of his political heresies .... The exigencies by which he was surrounded brought him into conflict with the administration upon a simple question of fact as to whether the Lecompton constitution had been sufficiently submitted to the people; upon matters of principle his views are substantially those of Mr. Buchanan. . . . It is asking too much of the freemen of Illinois ... to support a man for Senator who, if not avowedly a champion of slavery extension, gives all his influence to it." 2 The nomination by the Illinois Republicans in state convention on June 16, 1858, of Abraham Lincoln as their party candidate for senator ended the hopes of any coalition.

In the congressional and state election of 1858, the people of the country passed their verdict upon

1 Chase to Sumner, January 18, 1858, in Am. Hist. Assoc., Report, 1902, II., 276.

2 Chicago Tribune, July 10, 1858.

the administration of Buchanan. In the south the Democrats found the opposition party still in the field-once Whig, later American, and now nameless-but had no difficulty in preserving their ascendency. In the north, however, the Republicans made a vigorous campaign on the issue of rebuking the administration for the "Lecompton swindle,'' and were aided in a decisive way by the commercial depression following the panic of 18 5 7. In the state of Pennsylvania, which had remained unswervingly Democratic through the Kansas excitement, the prostration of the iron industry caused a sharp revival of protectionist feeling and a desire to rebuke the Democratic administration; Fired by these sentiments, the Republicans and Americans, joined by a group of anti-Lecompton Democrats led by J. W. Forney; met in a People's convention at Harrisburg on July 14, and nominated candidates for state judge and canal commissioner on a platform which denounced the Lecompton iniquity and demanded "adequate protection for American industry." 1

Public interest centered in Illinois, for Douglas, declining to submit to his political enemies, made a desperate canvass of the state. So "great was his hold over the Illinois farmers that the utmost efforts of the administration agents failed to undermine his popularity; from the opening of the campaign he was greeted by crowds in every town and country with

1 Pa. Inquirer, June 5, July 15, 16, 1858.

cheers and enthusiasm. Popular excitement was soon increased when Lincoln issued a challenge to Douglas to hold seven joint debates in various parts of the state. This was a bold step, for there was no better debater in the United States than Douglas. He was quick, adroit, plausible, wonderfully gifted with the power of fallacious and mendacious assertion in a way that made exposure seem laborious and ineffective. No man in the Senate could hold him to the point or avoid being driven into an uncomfortable defensive attitude by his ruthless personalities. Lincoln, on the other hand, was less self-confident, slower in thought, clumsy in repartee, and by no means Douglas's match in running debate; but he never lost his temper or allowed himself to be distracted by side issues, and he struck steadily and mercilessly at the weak points in Douglas's armor.1 The result was a contest which stirred excitement in Illinois beyond anything hitherto known. To see such debaters matched brought enormous crowds together in sheer joy of sportsmanship. Brass-bands and cannon welcomed the candidates, processions by day and night kept enthusiasm from flagging, and scores of political orators besides the two protagonists took the stump in every congressional and legislative district.2

The debates showed from the start that although Douglas had voted with the Republicans against the

1 Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, II., 146. 2 Lincoln-Douglas Debates (Columbus ed., 1860).

Lecompton constitution, there was no real ground of common principle between them. He attacked Lincoln, precisely as he would have done in 1854, with the charge that he was an abolitionist, a member of a sectional party whose success would imperil the Union. As to the existence of slavery in the territories, he declared himself absolutely indifferent so long as the principle of "popular sovereignty'' were adhered to "I will vote," he said, "for the admission of just such a state as by the form of their constitution the people show they want; if they want slavery, they shall have it; if they prohibit slavery, it shall be prohibited. They can form their institutions to suit themselves." 1 He spent a great deal of time insisting upon the ·natural inferiority of the negro, enlarged upon the necessity of "a white man's government," sneered at the Republicans as "amalgamationists," and in every way showed that he had not changed since 1854.

One of his principal grounds of attack upon Lincoln was a sentence used by the latter in his speech accepting the senatorial nomination. Lincoln had demonstrated the impossibility of ending the slavery agitation so long as slavery existed, and, quoting the Bible to the effect that "a house divided against it- self cannot stand," had predicted that the Union could not exist permanently half slave or half free, but must become all one thing or all the other.2

1 Lincoln-Douglas Debates (Columbus ed., 1860), 103.

2 Lincoln, Works, I., 240.

This Douglas denounced as a virtual declaration of war upon the southern states, "revolutionary and destructive of the existence of this government," and "inviting a warfare between the north and the south to be carried on with ruthless vengeance until the one section or the other shall be driven to the wall and become the victim of the rapacity of the other.'' 1

On his part, Lincoln was obliged to devote much time to defending himself from the charges of fanaticism and incendiarism levelled against him, and he showed by his replies that he was by no means radical in his anti-slavery views. But he showed also that the fundamental difference between himself and Douglas lay in the fact that he regarded slavery as wrong, while Douglas reiterated his entire indifference. Moreover, he made an unremitting effort to force Douglas to commit himself concerning the effect of the Dred Scott decision upon his doctrine of "popular sovereignty" in the territories) This put Douglas in a difficult position, for he could not reject Taney's opinion, nor could he afford to abandon the cherished dogma on behalf of which he had fought his fight against the Lecompton constitution. With characteristic adroitness he replied that undoubtedly the decision stood, and neither Congress nor a territory could expressly prohibit slavery in a territory, but that practically slavery could not exist unless supported by "local

1 Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 70,115.

police regulations." Hence, he concluded, a territory might effectually exclude slavery, in spite of the Dred Scott decision, by "unfriendly legislation." 1 This utterance of Douglas at Freeport, August 27, became known as his "Freeport doctrine," and showed that, regardless of law or logic, he was determined to adhere to his cherished pretension that the people of a territory could regulate their own affairs under all circumstances.

Lincoln is reported to have said that he was pushing the campaign for the purpose of killing Douglas as a presidential candidate. As it later appeared, he was successful in. this aim, but in the immediate contest he was beaten. Aided by a somewhat favorable legislative apportionment, Douglas barely carried the day over Republicans and Lecompton Democrats, and secured a majority of both Senate and House of Representatives. It was a brilliant personal triumph, and made him the most prominent individual in the party and in the country. Instead of being crushed, he returned to the Senate with greater prestige than ever before, a prestige accentuated by the results of the elections in other northern states.

Everywhere the verdict of the voters upon the Lecompton administration was decisive. Outside of Illinois every state was carried by the opposition except Indiana, where the successful Democratic

1 Lincoln, Works, I., 315.

candidate for governor was also a Douglas follower.1 In Pennsylvania the hard times proved disastrous for Buchanan's own state, and the fusion, on the tariff issue, won a complete victory. "Pennsylvania may well be proud of the high position she has just assumed," said a local paper. "She has fully identified herself with the Republican cause of Popular Sovereignty, and at the same time has taken a bold and decided stand in favor of Home Mills, Home Manufactories and American Industry." 2 In the congressional elections the Republicans gained twenty-one seats. The northern Know-Nothing party now ceased to be of importance except in the states where its coalitions gave the Republicans a victory.3

As a result of the events of 1858, the Republican party stood forward stronger than before, undamaged by the Dred Scott decision and confident of victory in 1860. Its leaders everywhere were taking bolder ground than ever, and even Seward, who was never in advance of popular sentiment, took occasion to make a speech containing a passage parallel to the phrase of Lincoln which had been the object of Douglas's attack. After describing the struggle between north and south as one between free labor and slave labor, he concluded, "It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and

1 Foulke, Morton, I., 65.

2 Pa. Inquirer, October 14, 1858.

3 Scisco, Political Nativism, 231 et seq.

enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slave-holding nation or a free-labor nation.'' 1

The result of Buchanan's Kansas policy was thus apparent. By his mismanagement he had presented his recently beaten enemy with a winning issue, had lost the cordial support of the Democrats in the north, and by his failure, .after all, to retain Kansas as a slave state had damaged the prestige of his party at the south.  No president has a record of more hopeless ill-success.

1 Seward, Works, IV., 289.

Source:  Smith, Theodore Clarke, Parties and Slavery. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 18, 223-235. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


DOUGLAS, William, 1804-1862, African American abolitionist, church community leader in Baltimore, Maryland, and later in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was active in the Anti-Slavery Society.


DOUGLASS, Anna Murray, 1813-1882, African American, anti-slavery activist, conductor on the Underground Railroad, wife of Frederick Douglass.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 4, p. 66)


DOUGLASS, Frederick, 1817-1895, African American, escaped slave, author, diplomat, orator, newspaper publisher, radical abolitionist leader.  Published The North Star abolitionist newspaper with Martin Delany.  Wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: An American Slave, in 1845.  Also wrote My Bondage, My Freedom, 1855.  Manager, American Anti-Slavery Society, 1848-1853. 

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 331-333; Filler, 1960; Foner, 1964; Mabee, 1970; McFeely, 1991;  Quarles, 1948; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 264-265; Wilson, 1872, 499-511; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 217; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 251-254; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 816; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. II. New York: James T. White, 1892, pp. 309-310; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 4, p. 67)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DOUGLASS, Frederick, orator, b. in Tuckahoe, near Easton, Talbot co., Md., in February, 1817. His mother was a negro slave, and his father a white man. He was a slave on the plantation of Col. Edward Lloyd, until at the age of ten he was sent to Baltimore to live with a relative of his master. He learned to read and write from one of his master's relatives, to whom he was lent when about nine years of age. His master allowed him later to hire his own time for three dollars a week, and he was employed in a ship-yard, and, in accordance with a resolution long entertained, fled from Baltimore and from slavery, 3 Sept., 1838. He made his way to New York, and thence to New Bedford, Mass., where he married and lived for two or three years, supporting himself by day-labor on the wharves and in various workshops. While there he changed his name from Lloyd to Douglass. He was aided in his efforts for self-education by William Lloyd Garrison. In the summer of 1841 he attended an anti-slavery convention at Nantucket, and made a speech, which was so well received that he was offered the agency of the Massachusetts anti-slavery society. In this capacity he travelled and lectured through the New England states for four years. Large audiences were attracted by his graphic descriptions of slavery and his eloquent appeals. In 1845 he went to Europe, and lectured on slavery to enthusiastic audiences in nearly all the large towns of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. In 1846 his friends in England contributed $750 to have him manumitted in due form of law. He remained two years in Great Britain, and in 1847 began at Rochester, N.Y., the publication of '”Frederick Douglass's Paper,” whose title was changed to “The North Star,” a weekly journal, which he continued for some years. His supposed implication in the John Brown raid in 1859 led Gov. Wise, of Virginia, to make a requisition for his arrest upon the governor of Michigan, where he then was, and in consequence of this Mr. Douglass went to England, and remained six or eight months. He then returned to Rochester, and continued the publication of his paper. When the civil war began in 1861 he urged upon President Lincoln the employment of colored troops and the proclamation of emancipation. In 1863, when permission was given to employ such troops, he assisted in enlisting men to fill colored regiments, especially the 54th and 55th Massachusetts. After the abolition of slavery he discontinued his paper and applied himself to the preparation and delivery of lectures before lyceums. In September, 1870, he became editor of the “New National Era” in Washington, which was continued by his sons, Lewis and Frederick. In 1871 he was appointed assistant secretary to the commission to Santo Domingo; and on his return President Grant appointed him one of the territorial council of the District of Columbia. In 1872 he was elected presidential elector at large for the state of New York, and was appointed to carry the electoral vote of the state to Washington. In 1876 he was appointed U. S. marshal for the District of Columbia, which office he retained till 1881, after which he became recorder of deeds in the District, from which office he was removed by President Cleveland in 1886. In the autumn of 1886 he revisited England, to inform the friends he had made as a fugitive slave of the progress of the African race in the United States, with the intention of spending the winter on the continent and the following summer in the United Kingdom. His published works are entitled “Narrative of my Experience in Slavery” (Boston, 1844); “My Bondage and my Freedom” (Rochester, 1855); and “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass” (Hartford, 1881). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 217.

Chapter: “Position of the Colored People. - Frederick Douglass,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

While the free colored people instinctively distrusted the Colonization Society, and withheld their confidence from it, they at once and heartily accepted the abolition movement. This was especially true of the more intelligent and well-informed. Among the colored ministers there were several who, seeing its religious as well as humane bearings, rendered essential aid to the cause. A few others did something in the same direction, arousing public attention and quickening the zeal of the friends of freedom.

But in 1841 a champion arose in the person of Frederick Douglass, who was destined to play an important part in the great drama then in progress. In him not only did the colored race but manhood itself find a worthy representative and advocate; one who was a signal illustration, not only of self-culture and success under the most adverse circumstances, but of the fact that talent and genius are " color-blind," and above the accidents of complexion and birth. He, too, furnished an example of the terrible necessities of slavery, and its purpose and power to crush out the human soul; as also of the benign energies of freedom to arouse, to develop, and enlarge its highest and noblest faculties, --the one aiming, and almost succeeding in the attempt, to make him a mere mindless and purposeless chattel; the other actually and indissolubly linking his name and labors with the antislavery cause, both in this country and in Europe. As few of the world's great men have ever had so checkered and diversified a career, so it may be at least plausibly claimed that no man represents in himself more conflicting ideas and interests. His life is in itself an epic which finds few to equal it in the realms of either romance or reality.

Frederick Douglass was born on the Eastern Shore, Maryland, about the year 1817. According to the necessities of slavery and the usual practice of slave-masters, he was taken from his mother when an infant, consequently deprived of even the rude care which maternal instinct might have prompted, and placed under the guardianship of his grandmother, with whom he lived until he was seven years of age. At the age of ten he was sent to Baltimore, to be the companion and protector of the son of a young married couple, who, in consequence of general refinement of character and his proposed relation to their darling boy, treated him, at first, kindly. This change Mr. Douglass ever regarded as a providential interposition, as the turning-point where his pathway, leaving the descending grade of slave life, entered upon that which led him in that widely divergent and upward direction it has since pursued. Leaving the rude experience of the plantation, with the barren and desert-like surroundings of the Eastern Shore, for the bustle and necessary companionship of the city, an opportunity of learning to read was afforded him, which he most sedulously and successfully, though surreptitiously, improved. But the friendliness which his master and mistress had so generously extended to him as an ignorant slave, they felt obliged, by the necessities of the system, to withhold from him now that he could read, and had learned to question the rightfulness of slavery and to chafe under its chains.

Returned to the Eastern Shore, he encountered the rigors of plantation life, greatly increased by the drunken caprices of an intemperate master, and doubtless aggravated by his own impatient and contumacious rebellings under such slave-holding restraint. This, however, was but a prelude to an experience graver and still more tragic. Despairing of controlling young Douglass himself, his owner placed him - as men place their unbroken colts under the care of horse-trainers in the hands of a professed negro-breaker, known through the region as a cruel and merciless man, who had, not only gained that reputation, but found it necessary or for his interest to maintain it. Concerning this change Mr. Douglass remarks, after referring to the " comparative tenderness " with which he had been treated at Baltimore: " I was now about to sound profounder depths in slave life. The rigors of a field less tolerable than the field of battle were before me." That his apprehensions were not groundless these extracts, taken from his autobiography, abundantly show: “I had not been in his possession three whole days before he subjected me to a most brutal chastisement. Under his heavy blows blood flowed freely; the wales were left on my back as large as my little finger. The sores on my back from this whipping continued for weeks." "I remained with Mr. Corey one year, cannot say I lived with him, and during the first six months that I was there I was whipped either with sticks or cowskins every week. Aching bones and a sore back were my constant companions. Frequently as the lash was used, however, Mr. Corey thought less of it, as a means of breaking down my spirit, than of hard and long-continued labor. He worked me steadily up to the point of my powers of endurance. From the dawn of day in the morning till the darkness was complete in the evening, I was kept at hard work in the field or the woods."

He gave accounts of individual cases of brutal chastisement which were revolting almost beyond conception; while his concise description of himself" as a living embodiment of mental and physical wretchedness” seems but a natural result. "A few months of discipline," he says," tamed me. Mr. Corey succeeded in breaking me. I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed; my intellect languished; the disposition to read departed; the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute." 

Having completed his year with Corey, he was hired out to another and more humane master. But the iron of slavery rankled in his soul, and he could not endure its galling restraints, however softened by kindness. After long rumination upon the subject, and conferences with four or five of his companions in bondage, he proposed and planned an attempt to escape. Betrayed, however, by a confederate, they were prevented from carrying their attempt into execution, and were arrested and imprisoned. Instead of being “sold South"-- that dreaded alternative of success, which held back thousands from making the attempt --he was sent again to Baltimore. Being nearly murdered by the carpenters of a ship-yard, because of their jealousy of slave competition with white labor,--a crime for which no indictment could be found, though sought, because no white witnesses would testify against his brutal assailants, --he was sent to another yard to learn the trade of a calker. Becoming an expert workman, he was permitted to make his own contracts, returning his week's wages every Saturday night to his master. At the same time --which was of more importance to him, he was permitted to associate with some free colored men, who had formed a kind of lyceum for their mutual improvement, and by means of which he was enabled to increase materially his knowledge and mental culture. All of this, however, did but increase his sense of the essential injustice of slavery, and make him more restive under its galling chains. Accordingly he made his plans, now successful, and on the third day of September, 1838, he says, “I bade farewell to the city of Baltimore, and to that slavery which had been my abhorrence from childhood." For prudential reasons the particulars of his mode of escape were withheld from the public knowledge, as they were of little comparative importance; while, had they been known then, they might have compromised some and hedged up the way of escape of others. Landing in New York, a homeless, penniless, and friendless fugitive, he thus describes his feelings: " In the midst of thousands of my fellow-men, and yet a perfect stranger! In the midst of human brothers, and yet more fearful of them than of hungry wolves! I was without home, without friends, without work, without money, and without any definite knowledge of which way to go or where to look for succor." In the midst of his perplexities he met a sailor, whose seeming frankness and honesty won, as they deserved, his confidence. He introduced him to David Ruggles, chairman of the Vigilance Committee, a colored gentleman of much intelligence, energy, and worth, who by his position and executive ability did much for his people. This gentleman advised him to go to New Bedford, Massachusetts, assisted him in reaching that city, and introduced him to trustworthy friends there. Here he was employed, mostly as a day laborer on the wharves, encountering the same shameful and unmanly jealousy of colored competition that had nearly cost him his life at Baltimore, and which would not allow him to work at his trade as calker by the side of white men. Being a professing Christian, he was interested in religious meetings, where he was accustomed to pray and exhort, a practice which probably had something to do with his wonderful subsequent success as a public speaker.

The first demonstration of his eloquence which attracted public attention was at a meeting mainly of colored people, in which were specially considered the claims of the Colonization Society. Here began to be emitted specimens of that fiery eloquence from his capacious soul, burning with the indignant and unfading memories of the wrongs, outrages, and the deep injustice which slavery had inflicted on him, and which it was now inflicting upon his brethren in bonds. Of course, the few white Abolitionists of New Bedford were not long in finding out the young fugitive, appreciating his gifts and promise of usefulness, and in devising ways of extending his range of effort for their unpopular cause. Attending an antislavery convention at Nantucket, he was persuaded to address the meeting. His speech here seems to have been singularly eloquent and effective. Among those present was Mr. Garrison, who bore his testimony, both then and afterward, to "the extraordinary emotion it exerted on his own mind, and to the powerful impression it exerted upon a crowded auditory." He declared, too, that “Patrick Henry had never made a more eloquent speech in the cause of liberty than the one they had just listened to from the lips of that hunted fugitive." Nathaniel P. Rogers, editor of the "Herald of Freedom," thus characterized a speech made by him the same year. After speaking of his “commanding figure and heroic port," his head, that “would strike a phrenologist amid a sea of them in Exeter Hall," he adds: "As a speaker he has few equals. It is not declamation, but oratory, power of debate. . . He has wit, argument, sarcasm, pathos, all that first-rate men show in their master efforts."

This language, especially that of Mr. Garrison, seems extravagant, and the laudation excessive; nor could it be accepted as a general and critical estimate of Mr. Douglass as an orator, great as his powers confessedly were and are. His Nantucket speech was unquestionably one of those rare bursts of eloquence, little less than inspiration itself, which are sometimes vouchsafed to a man in his happiest moods; when the speaker seems to rise above himself and to take his audience with him. Besides, there was certainly much in the circumstances and surroundings of that meeting to impress the minds and stir the sensibilities of such an assembly. On that isle of the sea, at some distance from the mainland, one could easily imagine a picture of the nation overshadowed by the dark cloud of slavery, and prostrate beneath a despotism pressing alike on the slaves at the South and on their advocates at the North. Indeed, the latter had just passed through a baptism of fire and blood, during those fearful years of mobs and martyrdom, which had measurably ceased, but had been succeeded by what the earnest Abolitionist deprecated more than violence, and that was the general apathy which then reigned.

In the conflict for freedom of speech and the right of free discussion Abolitionists had achieved a victory. What they had contended for had, at length, been conceded; at least, the principle was no longer contested. They had conquered a peace; but their opponents were determined it should be the peace of the grave. For the wordy warfare of discussion and the brutal violence of lynch laws they would substitute the policy of neglect. To let them severely alone, to belittle their cause, to pass them by with a supercilious sneer, and to frown contemptuously upon their attempts to gain a hearing, became at that time the tactics of the enemies against the advocates of human rights. Of course, what were termed antislavery measures had lost much of their zest and potency; meetings became less numerously attended, and, consequently, less frequent; organizations, losing their interest and effectiveness, began to die out. Something was necessary to revive and reanimate the drooping spirits and the languid movements of the cause and its friends. It was then, at this opportune moment, while they were thus enveloped in the chill and shade of this most uncomfortable and unsatisfactory state of affairs, the young fugitive appeared upon the stage. He seemed like a messenger from the dark land of slavery itself; as if in his person his race had found a fitting advocate; as if through his lips their long pent up wrongs and wishes had found a voice. No wonder that Nantucket meeting was greatly moved. It would not be strange if the words of description and comment of those present and in full sympathy with the youthful orator should be somewhat extravagant.

The Massachusetts Antislavery Society at once made overtures to Mr. Douglass, and he became one of its accredited agents. For this new field of labor, which he reluctantly and hesitatingly entered, and for which he modestly said he “had no preparation," the event proved that he was admirably fitted. In addition to that inborn genius and those natural gifts of oratory with which he was so generously endowed, he had the long and terrible lessons which slavery had burned into his soul. The knowledge, too, which he had stolen in the house of bondage, had enabled him to read the " Liberator " from week to week, as he was engaged in his hard and humble labors on the wharves of New Bedford, and thus to become acquainted with the new thoughts and reasonings of others. Doubtless many things which had long lain in his own mind formless and vague he found there more clearly defined and more logically expressed; while the fierceness and force of its utterances tallied only too well with the all-consuming zeal of his own soul. Thus fitted and commissioned he entered upon the great work of his life. Though distrustful of his abilities, no knight-errant ever sallied forth with higher resolve, or bore himself with more heroic courage. With whatever diffidence he undertook the proposed service, there was no lack of earnestness and devotion. Nor was his range a limited one. Fitted by his talents to move thousands on the platform, he was prepared by his early experience to be equally persuasive in a little meeting in a country school-house. In hall or church or grove he was alike effective. He could make himself at home in the parlors of the great or by the firesides of the humble: He could ride in the public conveyances from State to State, or tramp on foot from neighborhood to neighborhood. Fertile in expedients and patient in endeavor, he was not easily balked or driven from his purpose. In the midst of the prejudices of caste, hardly less strong and cruel in Massachusetts than in Maryland, he never permitted these, however painful, to divert him from his purpose. If he could not ride inside the stage, he would ride outside; if he could not ride in the first-class car, he rode in the second class; if he could not occupy the cabin of the steamer, he went into the steerage; but to these insults to his manhood he generally interposed his earnest protest, and often only yielded to superior force.

The character, culture, and eloquence displayed by his addresses provoked the insinuation that he was an impostor, and that he had never been a slave. To silence this imputation, he prepared and published, in the spring of 1845, an autobiography, which was widely circulated. As in it he gave the names of persons, places, and' dates, by which his claims and statements could be verified, it was soon known in Maryland, and he and his friends were given to understand that efforts would be made for his recapture. To place himself out of the reach of his pursuers, and, at the same time, help forward his great work, it was proposed that he should visit England. He was very kindly received there, and visited nearly all the large towns and cities of the kingdom. In a lecture in Finsbury's Chapel, in London, to an audience of three thousand, he thus answered the question why he did not confine his labors to the United States.

“My first answer is, because slavery is the common enemy of mankind, and that all mankind should be made acquainted with its abominable character. My second answer is, that the slave is a man, and as such is entitled to your sympathy as a man and a brother. He has been the prey, the common prey, of Christendom during the last three hundred years; and it is but right, just, and proper that his wrongs should be known throughout the world. I have another reason for bringing this matter before the British public, and it is this: slavery is a system of wrong so blinding to all around it, so hardening to the heart, so corrupting to the morals, so deleterious to religion, so sapping to all the principles of justice in its immediate vicinity, that the community thus connected with it lack the moral power necessary to its removal. It is a system of such gigantic evil, so strong, so overwhelming in its power, that no one nation is equal to its removal. It requires the humanity of Christianity, the morality of the civilized world, to remove it. Hence I call upon the people of Britain to look at this matter, and to exert the influence I am about to show they possess for the removal of slavery from America. I can appeal to them as strongly by their regard for the slaveholder as by 'their regard for the slave to labor in this cause. There is nothing said here against slavery that will not be recorded in the United States. I am here, also, because the slaveholders do not want me to be here. I have adopted the maxim laid down by Napoleon, never to occupy ground which the enemy would like me to occupy. The slaveholders would much rather have me, if I will denounce slavery, denounce it in the Northern States, where their friends and supporters are, who will stand by them and mob me for denouncing it…The power I exert here is something like the power that is exerted by the man at the end of the lever; my influence now is just in proportion to my distance from the United States."

In the same speech, referring to the barbarous laws of the slave code, denying that he was inveighing against the institutions of America, and asserting that his only purpose was to strip this anomalous system of all concealment, he said: " To tear off the mask from this abominable system; to expose it to the light of heaven, ay, to the heat of the sun, that it may burn and wither it out of existence, --is my object in coming to this country. I want the slaveholder surrounded as by a wall of antislavery fire, so that he may see the condemnation of himself and his system glaring down in letters of light. I want him to feel that he has no sympathy in England, Scotland, or Ireland; that he has none in Canada, none in Mexico, none among the poor wild Indians; that the voice of the civilized, ay, the savage world is against him. I would have condemnation blaze down upon him in every direction, till, stunned and overwhelmed with shame and confusion, he is compelled to let go the grasp he holds upon the persons of his victims and restore them to their long-lost rights." That, like other prominent Abolitionists of those days, he overrated the power of truth, and underestimated the power of slavery and its tenacity of life, appears in the same speech, and in this connection, when he says: “I expose slavery in this country because to expose it is to kill it. Slavery is one of those monsters of darkness to whom the light of truth is death. Expose slavery, and it dies. Light is to slavery what the heat of the sun is to the root of a tree; it must die under it." Mr. Douglass had not to live long --his own career furnishing the most convincing evidence of the fact --to see that something more than “light " was necessary to destroy slavery. To expose it was not to kill it.

Of this, too, he received substantial evidence in England and Scotland, especially the latter ; in England, by the refusal of the Evangelical Alliance, at the instance of the American delegation, to exclude the representatives of slaveholding churches from its platform ; in Scotland, where he found the Free Church not only receiving contributions for its church-building fund from such churches, but sturdily defending its propriety by the voice of its prince of scholars and clergymen, Dr. Chalmers, and by that of its hardly less honored leaders, Dr. Cunningham and Dr. Candlish. And this latter was done in spite of the earnest remonstrances of himself and others, among them that most eloquent Englishman, George Thompson, urging them not to receive that “price of blood," but to "send back the money."

Mr. Douglass remained in Great Britain nearly two years; in which time he visited England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, everywhere pressing upon the public mind the evils of slavery and the duty of laboring for its overthrow. He was cordially received, and treated with the utmost consideration. His friends, without solicitation from him, raised one hundred and fifty pounds for his manumission, and twenty-five hundred dollars with which to establish a press in this country, which he subsequently did, at Rochester, New York. His journal was first called the “North Star," and afterward "Frederick Douglass's Paper," and was ably conducted and well sustained till after the abolition of slavery. Thus by voice, pen, and personal influence has he contributed in no small measure to those manifold labors which the last thirty years have witnessed for the removal of slavery, and for the rehabilitation of his race with those rights of which it had so long been despoiled, and for the still higher purpose of preparing it for the new position it now occupies.

The main interest and importance, however, of Mr. Douglass's career, are public, rather than personal. Full of thrilling adventure, striking contrasts, brilliant passages, and undoubted usefulness, as his history was, his providential relations to some of the most marked facts and features of American history constitute the chief elements of that interest and importance which by common consent belong to it. Lifting the curtain, it revealed with startling vividness and effect the inner experience and the workings of slavery, not only upon its victims, but upon all connected with it. In it, as in a mirror, are seen how unnatural, how inhuman, and how wicked were its demands. Torn from his mother's arms in infancy, he was treated with the same disregard of his comfort and the promptings of nature as were the domestic animals of the farm-yard. As he was transferred from one master to another, everyone can see what the hazards of a “chattel personal” were, and how the kindness of one only aggravated the harshness of another. In the extreme solicitude manifested by his kind master and mistress at Baltimore that he should not learn to read, and their marked displeasure and change of treatment when he had thus learned, are seen not only the stern necessities of slavery, but how it quenched the kindlier feelings and turned to bitterness even affection itself. In the terrible struggle with Corey which he so graphically describes, when " the dark night of slavery shut in upon him," and he was "transformed to a brute," is disclosed something of the process by which manhood was dethroned, and an immortal being was transformed by something more than legal phrase into a chattel,--a thing. Had he, after his first unsuccessful attempt to escape, been " sold South," as he had reason to apprehend, and had not been sent north to Baltimore, that night would have remained unbroken, and that transformation would have been complete; and the world now knows what a light would have been extinguished and what a sacrifice would have been made. He escaped, indeed; but how many did not? Not all were so richly endowed, though none can tell how many " village Hampdens," how many " mute, inglorious Miltons" have thus been lost to letters and to man; while many have learned to sympathize with Dr. Campbell, at Finsbury's Chapel, when he exclaimed: " My blood boiled within me when I heard his address to-night, and thought that he had left behind him three millions of such men."

And sadder still when it is seen that all this was done, if not in the name of the Christian religion, in spite of it, by those professing its holy faith, -- his owner, and tormentor, Corey, both being members of the church; the latter punctilious and pretentious in his church-going, praying, and psalm singing, adding the latter generally to his daily family worship, -- and saddest of all, that, when Mr. Douglass, rescued as from the lion's den, bore a testimony which could not be gainsaid, the multitudes, though fascinated by his thrilling story and matchless eloquence, withheld from him what he earnestly sought, while only the few were willing to receive the unpopular doctrines of his Abolitionism. For twenty years he labored as few others could, addressing thousands upon thousands in the New England, Middle, and Western States; and yet till the beginning of the Rebellion he belonged to a despised minority, while the system that had so outraged him and his people still dominated the State, and  was sanctioned, if not sanctified, by the  church. In the light of such a history this mountain of national guilt assumes more towering proportions, and its base is seen to rest not upon the South alone, but upon the whole land. The crime was gigantic; and, though its expiation has already been terrible, who shall say that it has been commensurate with the crime itself?

Few have forgotten the closing utterances of Mr. Lincoln's second Inaugural concerning the war still raging, sounding as if they fell from the judgment-seat and were the words of doom itself: " Yet, if God will that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondmen's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so it still must be said, ' The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'" The solemn significance of this language is still worthy of thought, though the war has ceased and the great armies then in the field have been recalled.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 499-511.


DOUGLASS, Grace Bustill, 1782-1842, African American activist, abolitionist.  Co-founder of the Female Anti-Slavery Society. 

(Yellin, 1994, p. 11; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 4, p. 71)


DOUGLASS, Sarah Mapps, 1806-1882, African American, abolitionist leader, educator, writer, lecturer.  Organizer, member and manager of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (PFASS), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Participant and organizer of the Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women in 1838-1839.

(Yellin, 1994, pp. 10-11, 71, 76-77, 96-97, 116-117, 117n, 148, 156, 164-165, 169, 237-238; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 255-256; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 6, p. 821; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 4, p. 76)


DOW, Lorenzo, 1777-1834, abolitionist, clergyman. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 218-219; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 410)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DOW, Lorenzo, clergyman, b. in Coventry, Conn., 16 Oct., 1777; d. in Georgetown, D. C., 2 Feb., 1834. In his youth he was disturbed by religious speculations until he accepted Methodist doctrines, and determined, in opposition to the wishes of his family, to become a preacher of that denomination, though his education was very limited. In 1796 he made an unsuccessful application for admission into the Connecticut conference; but two years later he was received, and in 1799 was appointed to the Cambridge circuit, N. Y. During the year he was transferred to Pittsfield, Mass., and afterward to Essex, Vt., but remained there only a brief time, as he believed he had a divine call to preach to the Catholics of Ireland. He made two visits to Ireland and England, in 1799 and 1805, and by his eccentric manners and attractive eloquence drew after him immense crowds, who sometimes indulged in a spirit of bitter persecution. He introduced camp-meetings into England, and the controversy about them resulted in the organization of the Primitive Methodists. In 1802 he preached in the Albany district, N. Y., “against atheism, deism, Calvinism, and Universalism.” He passed the years 1803 and 1804 in Alabama, delivering the first Protestant sermon within the bounds of that state. In 1807 he extended his labors into Louisiana, and followed the settlers to the extreme borders of civilization. After 1799 he had no official relation to the ministry of the Methodist church, but continued to adhere to and to preach the prominent doctrines of that communion till his death. During his later years his efforts were more specially directed against the Jesuits, whom he regarded as dangerous enemies to pure religion and to republican government. His singularities of manner and of dress excited prejudices against him, causing him to be called “Crazy Dow,” and counteracted the effect of his eloquence. Nevertheless he is said to have preached to more persons than any man of his time. Among his numerous writings are “Polemical Works” (New York, 1814); “The Stranger in Charleston, or the Trial and Confession of Lorenzo Dow” (Philadelphia, 1822); “A Short Account of a Long Travel, with Beauties of Wesley” (Philadelphia, 1823); “Journal and Miscellaneous Writings,” edited by John Dowling (New York, 1836); and “History of a Cosmopolite, or the Writings of the Rev. Lorenzo Dow, containing his Experience and Travels in Europe and America up to near his Fiftieth Year; also his Polemic Writings” (Cincinnati, 1851; often reprinted). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 218-219.


DOW, Neal, 1804-1897, Portland, Maine, abolitionist, soldier, temperance activist, Mayor of Portland, Maine.

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 218-219; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 411)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DOW, Neal, temperance reformer, b. in Portland, Me., 20 March, 1804. He is of Quaker parentage, attended the Friends' academy in New Bedford, Mass., and was trained in mercantile and manufacturing pursuits. He was chief engineer of the Portland fire department in 1839, and in 1851 and again in 1854 was elected mayor of the city. He became the champion of the project for the prohibition of the liquor traffic, which was first advocated by James Appleton in his report to the Maine legislature in 1837, and in various speeches while a member of that body. (See APPLETON, JAMES.) Through Mr. Dow's efforts, while he was mayor, the Maine liquor law, prohibiting under severe penalties the sale of intoxicating beverages, was passed in 1851. After drafting the bill, which he called “A bill for the suppression of drinking-houses and tippling-shops,” he submitted it to the principal friends of temperance in the city, but they all objected to its radical character, as certain to insure its defeat. It provided for the search of places where it was suspected that liquors intended for sale were kept; for the seizure, condemnation, and confiscation of such liquors, if found; and for the punishment of the persons keeping them by fine and imprisonment. Notwithstanding the discouragement of friends, he went to the legislature, then in session at Augusta, had a public hearing in the hall of representatives, which was densely packed by the legislators and citizens of the town, and at the close of the hearing the bill was unanimously accepted by the committee. It was printed that night, was laid on the desks of the members the next morning, and on that day, the last of the session, was passed through all its stages, and was enacted without any change whatever. Mr. Dow was a member of the Maine legislature in 1858-'9. On 31 Dec., 1861, he was appointed colonel of the 13th Maine volunteers, and with his regiment he joined Gen. Butler's expedition to New Orleans. He was commissioned a brigadier-general of volunteers, 28 April, 1862, and placed in command of the forts at the mouth of the Mississippi, and afterward of the district of Florida. He was wounded twice in the attack on Port Hudson, 27 May, 1863, and taken prisoner while lying in a house near. After imprisonment for over eight months in Libby prison and at Mobile, he was exchanged. He resigned on 30 Nov., 1864. In 1857, and again in 1866 and 1874, Mr. Dow went to England at the invitation of the United Kingdom temperance alliance, and addressed crowded meetings in all the large cities. He has spent many years in endeavoring, by public speeches in the United States and Canada, as well as in Great Britain, and by frequent contributions to magazines and newspapers, to win the popular sanction for prohibitory legislation. In 1880 he was the candidate for the national prohibition party for president of the United States, and received 10,305 votes. In 1884 an amendment to the constitution of Maine was adopted by a popular vote of nearly three to one, in which it was declared that the manufacture, sale, and keeping for sale of intoxicating beverages was for ever forbidden, and commanding the legislature to enact suitable laws for the enforcement of the prohibition. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 218-219.


DRAYTON, Daniel, captain of the Pearl.  Together with the pilot, Edward Sayres, they attempted to free 76 slaves valued at $100,000, but were caught and imprisoned.  They remained incarcerated until 1852.  Senator Edwin Sumner prepared an extensive appeal for their release, which was submitted to the US Attorney General.  Drayton and Sayres were granted an unconditional pardon by President Fillmore and were released after four years.  (Wilson, 1872, Vol. 2, pp. 91-105)

See also Pearl Incident



Chapter: “The Dred Scott Case,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS'S characterization of the workings of the Federal Constitution with its proslavery provisions, that it made “the preservation, propagation, and perpetuation of slavery the vital and animating spirit of the national government," was no more terse than true. No language less strong and severe would fully and fitly describe its terrible history. Nor was that influence anywhere more marked than on the judiciary. There, instead of even-handed justice, was its most shameless prostitution, and judges, instead of being “just, ruling in the fear of God," gave unmistakable evidence that their rulings were rather given in "fear" of the almost omnipotent Slave Power. And nowhere was this ever more apparent and distressing than in what was familiarly termed “The Dred Scott Case." In that “case," with its antecedent and attendant facts, there was much to alarm. Its interpretations and rulings were untrue in fact, barbarous in spirit, absolutely revolutionary in their scope and intent, inhuman towards the black, and despotic and defiant towards the white population of the land. It came, too, after and apparently as the sequel and culmination of new slaveholding aggressions, beginning with the compromises of 1850, followed up by the more disastrous legislation of 1854, the border-ruffian policy in Kansas, and its full indorsement by the President, by Congress, and by the Democratic Party. In it the Supreme Court not only gave a similar indorsement, but exhibited a forwardness to give it, a willingness, indeed, to go out of the way to do it. It was felt to be both an index and a presage, a milestone far in advance of any yet reached in that disastrous journey the nation was travelling so rapidly towards one of the alternatives of which Mr. Lincoln had spoken when he predicted that the nation must ultimately become " all slave or all free."

The "case" was that of Dred Scott of Missouri, formerly, with his wife, a slave of a gentleman of that State, though subsequently sold to John F. A. Sandford of New York. During the ownership of his former master he had been taken into Illinois, and also into a portion of the Northwest Territory, now Minnesota. Being taken back to Missouri, he had unsuccessfully sued for his freedom on the ground that he had been taken into a free State. After being purchased by Mr. Sandford, he sued again in the circuit court of St. Louis County, and obtained a favorable decision. His new owner, however, appealed to the supreme circuit court and obtained a reversal. The case now under consideration was on an appeal to the Supreme Court on a writ of error. It was on this appeal that Chief Justice Taney gave utterance to the sentiment, which has been the subject of so much remark and animadversion that "the black man has no rights which white men are bound to respect." It may be said, however, that he did not so much proclaim this as his personal opinion -- though it evidently was as that this was -- his interpretation of history, both European and American. Whether his interpretation was true or not, and whatever might have been his individual opinion, this was his method of placing the sentiment before the court, the nation, and the world.

By a singular coincidence and confluence of circumstances, the necessities of an individual, and the exigencies of a section and faction, this claim of a single unknown slave was made the occasion of a decision more radical in its character, more sweeping in its reach and range, and of greater notoriety than any single case in court or congress, since the formation of the government. The points raised were mainly three. To show that the court had no jurisdiction in the case, it was necessary to make it appear that Dred Scott was not a citizen of the United States, and therefore that he could not bring a suit. To show that taking him into a free State did not vitiate his owner's claim, it was necessary to disallow the principle that such transit did thus inure to his detriment, as had been generally recognized by the courts. To " make assurance doubly sure," it was deemed necessary to prove, too, that the Missouri inhibition was unconstitutional. There were other points, legal and technical, which became the occasion of much discussion in the court, and on which there was much difference of opinion. Indeed, this conflict of sentiment on the side issues and incidental questions that came up did much to break the moral force of the obiter dicta, the extra-judicial opinions which the Chief Justice and other members of the court pronounced on the occasion. A contemporaneous critic thus puts it: " Four judges are of one opinion; two of the opposite; two will give no opinion, and one is divided…. There is no majority in favor of anything, but a majority against everything suggested; unless it should be claimed that Judge Grier is in favor of something." On another point he writes: " The result is that three judges are for reversing the decision of the court below on the plea of abatement ; and six are against the reversal, -- two because that decision is right, one because this court has no authority to examine it, and three without giving any reason. There is no majority for anything, -- to reverse, affirm, or waive."

On the question whether the plaintiff had a right to sue in the courts arose the inquiry whether he was a “citizen." On this the Chief Justice said: " This is certainly a very serious question, and one that now for the first time has been brought for decision before this court Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported and sold as slaves, .... become entitled to all the rights and privileges and immunities guaranteed by that instrument to a citizen? " In reply he entered upon an elaborate examination of the status of the negro, both in "every European nation "and in this country. At the time of the formation of our government, he said, " they had, for more than a century before, been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relation; and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit." This “opinion," he said, was “fixed and universal,” “an axiom in morals as well as in politics "; “ uniformly acted upon by the English government and English peoples " ; " imposed upon the colonies," and fully exemplified in their " legislation," samples of which he gave. These were, he said, “a faithful index" of the state of feeling towards the negro, and of “the degraded condition of this unhappy race." In opposition to the argument that the strong language of the Declaration of Independence concerning the equality of “all men " militated against this view, he said it was plain that its authors did not in their averment " embrace the negro race, which, by common consent, had been excluded from civilized governments and the family of nations, and doomed to slavery." Culling from the acts of the legislatures and courts, especially of the Northern and Eastern States, those provisions which discriminated against the colored race, especially in the matter of intermarriage, serving in the militia, and attending schools, he pointed to them as a triumphant refutation of the idea that the two races were regarded as equal. Though these States had abolished slavery, he gave them no credit for moral principle in the matter; but he con tended that it was for prudential reasons, and not from religious convictions. With such a state of feeling and opinion at the time of framing the Constitution, he contended that the idea could not have been entertained that negroes were citizens; indeed, “the only two provisions which point to them and include them treat them as property." He also quoted from the opinions of William Wirt and Caleb Cushing, when filling the office of Attorney-General, in which they denied that negroes were citizens of the United States. Similar sentiments were expressed by several of the judges, Judge Daniel affirming that " a knowledge of the history of the world compels us to know that the African negro race never have been acknowledged as belonging to the family of nations."

Having disposed of the subject immediately before the court, the writ of error, and having denied the prayer of the plaintiff for a reversal of the judgment, there was really nothing further and legitimately before the bench. Based on his argument that an African could not be a " citizen," the Chief Justice, in the name of the court, had decreed that Dred Scott could not sue at its bar. Though wrongfully, yet authoritatively, he had been denied the privilege of pleading his cause before that high tribunal. What was there further to be considered? Evidently nothing; and had it been a mere judicial question, the matter would have ended here. But it was not a mere question of law. There were ulterior purposes that were deemed of vastly more importance. There were political considerations, by the side of which the fate of Dred Scott and his family was of slight account. To despoil man of his rights and not to defend them, to do injustice and not justice, to circumvent and not to interpret the Constitution, were the special objects the majority of the judges had in view.

The plaintiff had based his plea for freedom on the ground that his owners had voluntarily taken him into a State made free by the ordinance of 1787, and into territory made free by the Missouri compromise. Seizing upon this circumstance, which, true or untrue, valid or invalid, could have no bearing upon the plaintiff, now that he had been nonsuited on the plea of his not being an American citizen, the Chief Justice proceeded to carry out the intentions, if not the instructions, of the Slave Power. Travelling far out of the record, he proceeded to indorse the new dogma of popular sovereignty by declaring the Missouri compromise, or the restriction of slavery north of latitude 36 30', to be unconstitutional.

Of course, conclusions so monstrous and an interpretation so terribly practical were not announced without, at least, a show of argument and authority therefor. And though, since the cause of all this special pleading, these hair-splitting distinctions, these refinements of language and technicalities of terms, has been taken out of the way, there is less interest in discussions that then excited the liveliest concern and the most profound alarm, there may be an historic value in noting some of the steps which led to conclusions so monstrous and astounding. Substantially, then, and without detail, the reasoning was this. In the first place, the Chief Justice contended that the ordinance of 1787 and the article of the Constitution which referred to the government of Territories was restricted to the territory then in possession of the United States, and had no reference to any territory afterward acquired. For any such subsequent acquisitions, the power to govern the territory was inferential, and resulted from the power to admit new States. In the second place, granting that the power resided in Congress to govern such territory, he contended that that general prerogative did not carry with it the right to restrict the existence and practice of slavery. Concerning the inhabitant of such territory, he said, “The Federal government can exercise no power over his person and property beyond what that instrument confers, nor lawfully deny any right which it has reserved." He also quoted from “the fifth amendment to the Constitution, which provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of law." Alluding again to the affirmation, already made, that “the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution," he claimed that to all who desired traffic in such property, " like an ordinary article of merchandise," the right was " guaranteed." “Upon these considerations," he concluded, " it is the opinion of the court that the act of Congress which prohibited a citizen from holding and owning property of this kind in the territory of the United States north of the line therein mentioned is not war ranted by the Constitution, and is therefore void." Judge Daniel pushed the principle to a still further extreme, and contended that even the ordinance of 1787 " never had and never could have any legitimate and binding force."

Inferentially, therefore, the principle was involved, or evolved, from this reasoning, that the Constitution carried with it the right and power to hold slaves anywhere within its widest and extremest range, making slavery literally no longer sectional but national. Such were the leading and salient points of the opinions of the majority of the Supreme Court in the famous Dred Scott case. Other and subordinate points were considered, that cannot here be noted.

Justices McLean and Curtis dissented from the opinions of the majority. The former pronounced the argument against the citizenship of the negro “radically defective." Though it had “never been held necessary to constitute a citizen within the act, that he should have the qualifications of an elector," he showed that even that qualification had often been possessed " in the slave as well as the free States." “Many of them," he said, “were citizens of the New England States, and exercised the right of suffrage when the Constitution was adopted." Concerning the claim that the Missouri compromise was unconstitutional, he replied that it “was passed by a vote of 134, in the House of Representatives, to 42," while Mr. Monroe's cabinet " held the restriction of slavery in a Territory to be within the constitutional powers of Congress." Concerning the effect of taking slaves into a State or Territory, and so holding them where slavery is prohibited, he contended that such act worked their freedom as claimed by the plaintiff. He urged in defence of that principle the decision of the court, in the Prigg case, that “slavery is a municipal regulation founded upon and limited to the range of the territorial laws." He urged, too, the decision of Lord Mansfield, “that a slave brought to England was free." Concerning the claim of the majority that Lord Stowell had given a decision somewhat adverse, he added: “Lords Mansfield and Stowell agree upon this point, and there is no dissenting authority." "This decision," he said,” is not a point for argument, but it is the end of the law, in regard to the extent of slavery."

He fortified his position by quoting from the opinion of Chief Justice Gamble of Missouri upon “the identical question before us," that of Dred Scott v. Emerson, a former owner, in which, after saying that the question had been “settled by repeated adjudications of the court," he had added, that a residence of a master in a free State with his slave " would manumit the slave as effectually as if he had executed a deed of emancipation." Quoting largely from decisions of courts, even in slave States, he made the authoritative and unanswerable statement that, " in every decision of a slave case prior to that of Dred Scott v. Emerson, even the supreme court of Missouri had treated " the constitution of Illinois, the ordinance of 1787, and the Missouri compromise act of 1820," as " in force," and held itself bound to execute them." By it, he said, was reversed “the whole line of adjudication," and it was “in conflict with the decisions of all the courts in the Southern States, with some exceptions of recent cases."

Nor did the eminent jurist forbear allusion, though in courteous and judicial phrase, to the ulterior purposes of these special pleadings and novel rulings of the majority. He recognized, too, a higher law, and a standard of appeal superior to the desperate straits of politicians and the arrogant demands of the Slave Power, though they were recognized within the sacred domain of the Supreme Court. “Rights," he said, " sanctioned for twenty-eight years, ought not to be and cannot be repudiated, with any semblance of justice, by one or two decisions, influenced, as declared, by a determination to counteract the excitement against slavery in the free States…. While I lament this excitement as much as any one, I cannot assent that it shall be made the basis of judicial action." Referring to the assertion made that a slave may be taken, “the same as a horse," into any Territory of the United States, he remarked: "It is true, this was said by the court, as also many other things, which are of no authority. Nothing has been said by them which has not a direct bearing on the jurisdiction of the court, against which they decided, can be considered as authority. I shall certainly not regard it as such…. A slave is not a mere chattel. He bears the impress of his Maker, and is amenable to the laws of God and man; and he is destined to an endless existence."

The dissenting opinion of Justice Curtis was very decided, thorough, fortified by an impregnable array of authorities, and, from his well-known conservatism, worthy of special notice. In reply to the assertion of the majority that the negro was not a " citizen," he asserted that " the citizens of the several States were citizens of the United States under the confederation," and he instanced the fact that all free native-born inhabitants of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, though descended from African slaves, were not only citizens," but many of them had " the franchise of electors." He quoted from a decision of a North Carolina court, that " slaves, manumitted here, became freemen, and therefore, if born within North Carolina, are citizens of North Carolina “; and this decision was given, that court affirmed, on a " case brought here by appeal, and was felt to be one of great importance," and " after a very laborious investigation, both by the bar and bench." Speaking of the “surprise" of the people of Massachusetts at the allegation of the majority that negroes were not regarded as citizens in that State, he said that it was true, beyond all controversy, that even descendants of African slaves were made citizens by their constitution, and that those who had the necessary qualifications " exercised the elective franchise." So of New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey,

their histories "show, in a manner which no argument can obscure, that in some of the original thirteen States, free colored persons, before and at the time of the formation of the Constitution, were citizens of those States." They " were not only included in the body of the people of the United States,' by whom the Constitution of the United States was ordained and established, but in at least five of the States they had the power to act, and doubtless did act by their suffrages, upon the question of its adoption; " a singular circumstance, surely, if they were not included among the " citizens " for whom it was established. Nor did the fact that in some States they were deprived of some of the rights possessed by the whites militate against their citizenship. “The truth is," said Judge Curtis, "that citizenship, under the Constitution of the United States, is not dependent on the possession of any particular political or even of any civil rights."

These rulings and opinions, though regarded as obiter dicta and extra-judicial, produced a profound impression throughout the land, and, of course, excited much comment and many expressions of condemnation and indignant remonstrance. Emboldened by the conflicting utterances of the court, and sanctioned by the dissenting opinions of Justices McLean and Curtis, the press and many of the public men of the country joined in this popular verdict against what was deemed hostile to the legitimate principles of established jurisprudence, and to the demands of that higher law that sits enthroned above all human enactments. Perhaps there were no assaults more severe and noteworthy than those of Mr. Benton. As familiar as any public man with the political and Constitutional history of the government, himself a citizen of a slave State and not averse to the system in obedience to whose behests the decision was given, his judgment and condemnation could not be set aside on the score of ignorance and fanaticism. In a volume, prepared soon after it was pronounced, designed to expose the fallacy of its reasonings, especially in regard to the alleged unconstitutionality of the Missouri compromise, he speaks with great plainness of its principles, and of the purposes for which it was made. Referring to its history and to its revolutionary designs, he said: " I will not inquire into the course of measures which have produced the present disturbance in the Union," nor of " the attempt to compose which by a judicial decision, in which the court overrules the action of two generations, virtually inserts a new clause in the Constitution, changes its character, and makes a new departure in the working of the Federal government." He characterizes, with great force of expression, the decisiveness and completeness of this departure from the uniformity of the action of the government, comprehending "all the departments of all the governments, State and Federal, in all their branches, legislative, executive, and judicial."

While the propagandists were elated and arrogant, the friends of freedom and humanity were cast down and alarmed. It was felt to be at once a blow upon the country and the rights of man, as fatal to the integrity of the nation as to the security and safety of the slave. It was regarded as a great and grievous calamity, because of its intrinsic wrongfulness and harm ; because it was felt to be one of a series of slaveholding encroachments, the culmination of past and the precursor of those yet in store ; because it was regarded as a foul stain upon the sacred ermine of the court, a staggering blow upon the popular confidence in the integrity of the judiciary. Thus radical and revolutionary, it not only sought to reverse "the whole line of adjudication," as affirmed by Jus tice McLean, to make " a new departure in the working of the Federal government," as charged by Mr. Benton, but it sought to change the current of judicial as well as popular thought upon the great question of human rights. Instead of being a matter of " a municipal regulation " of the States, as decided in the Prigg case, it made slavery a creation of the organic law of the land, no longer the exception with freedom the rule, but itself the rule and freedom the exception, -- the Constitution, no longer the sacred shrine of liberty, but the frowning Bastile of a most intolerable despotism.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 523-533.


DRESSLER, Horace, d. 1877, lawyer, defended fugitive slaves in New York courts

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 231)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DRESSER, Horace, lawyer, d. 27 Jan., 1877. He was graduated at Union in 1828. Mr. Dresser was one of the first lawyers who spoke in the New York courts in behalf of the negro race, and his best energies were devoted to defending and assisting fugitive slaves. He wrote much on constitutional questions, and published “The Battle Record of the American Rebellion” (New York, 1863), and “Internal Revenue Laws as Amended to July, 1866” (New York, 1866).  Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 231.


DUNCAN, James, Vevay, Indiana (near Cincinnati), clergyman.  Published influential anti-slavery tract, “A Treatise on Slavery, in which is Shown Forth the Evil of Slaveholding, Both from the Light of Nature and Divine Revelations,” 1824.  Wrote Slaveholders Prayer, published by American Anti-Slavery Society in New York and Cincinnati in 1840. 

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 140-141)


DWIGHT, Theodore, 1764-1846, lawyer, author, editor, poet, Massachusetts.  Opposed slavery.  Gave noteworthy anti-slavery speech at Connecticut Society for the Promotion of Freedom, May 8, 1794. 

(American National Biography, 2002, Vol. 7, p. 189; Dictionary of American Biography, 1936, Vo. 3, Pt. 1, p. 569; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DWIGHT, Theodore, journalist, b. in Northampton, Mass., 15 Dec., 1764; d. in New York city, 12 June, 1846, studied law in New Haven with his cousin, Judge Pierrepont Edwards, and began practice at Haddam, Conn., but removed to Hartford in 1791, and became eminent in his profession. He at one time removed to New York to become the law-partner of his cousin, Aaron Burr, but disagreed with the latter's political opinions and returned to Hartford, where he edited the “Courant” and the “Connecticut Mirror,” the organ, in that state, of the Federal party, in which he had become prominent. He was also an active member of a club of young poets known as “the Hartford wits,” and is said to have been a principal contributor to the “Political Greenhouse” and the “Echo.” In 1806 he was chosen to congress to fill the vacancy caused by John Cotton Smith's resignation, serving till 3 March, 1807, and declining a renomination. While in congress he had several sharp passages of wit with John Randolph. He was a member of the state council in 1809-'15, and secretary of the celebrated “Hartford Convention” of 1814. In 1815 he removed to Albany and established the “Daily Advertiser,” but relinquished it after two years, to found the New York “Daily Advertiser,” a journal which he conducted until 1836, when, retiring from active life, he removed to Hartford, but returned to New York three years before his death. Mr. Dwight was a brilliant writer as well as able debater. Although he wrote too much and too rapidly for lasting fame, his political articles were bright and spicy, and his satirical and sketchy “New Year's Verses,” in the “Mirror,” were always looked for with eagerness. Mr. Dwight was a man of unflinching integrity and an outspoken opponent of slavery. In person he was tall and fine-looking. He published a “History of the Hartford Convention” (New York, 1833), and “Character of Thomas Jefferson, as exhibited in his own Writings” (Boston, 1839). The latter is written with a strong Federal bias. An outline of this “Life and Writings” was published by the New York historical society (1846), and a sketch of his character by Dr. Francis appeared subsequently under its auspices. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V.


DWIGHT, Theodore, 1796-1866, Connecticut, abolitionist, author, editor, reformer, son of Theodore Dwight, 1764-1846.

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 47, 113; Locke, 1901, pp. 93, 103f, 103n, 126, 151, 155, 166, 170, 171, 178, 183; Mason, 2006, pp. 31, 86, 147, 225, 229, 293-294n157; ; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 570; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 7, p. 195)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DWIGHT, Theodore, author, b. in Hartford, Conn., 3 March, 1796; d. in Brooklyn, N. Y., 16 Oct., 1866, was graduated at Yale in 1814, and began to study theology with his uncle, President Dwight, but illness forced him to abandon it in 1818, and he visited Europe for his health. He removed to Brooklyn in 1833, and engaged in various public and philanthropic enterprises, becoming a director of many religious and educational societies, and being active from 1826 till 1854 in multiplying and perfecting Sunday-schools. In 1854-'8 he engaged with George Walter in a systematic effort to send free-soil settlers to Kansas, and it is estimated that, directly or indirectly, they induced [3,000] persons to go thither. Mr. Dwight was a prolific writer, and at various times was on the editorial staff of the New York “Daily Advertiser,” his father's paper, the “American Magazine,” the “Family Visitor,” the “Protestant Vindicator,” the “Christian Alliance,” the “Israelite Indeed,” and the “New York Presbyterian,” of which he was at one time chief editor and publisher. In his later years he was employed in the New York custom-house. Mr. Dwight was familiar with six or eight languages. At the time of his death, which was the result of a railroad accident, he was translating educational works into Spanish, for introduction into the Spanish-American countries. He published “A Tour in Italy in 1821” (New York, 1824); “New Gazetteer of the United States,” with William Darby (Hartford, 1833); “President Dwight's Decisions of Questions discussed by the Senior Class in Yale College in 1813-'4” (New York, 1833); “History of Connecticut” and “The Northern Traveller” (1841); “Summer Tour of New England” (1847); “The Roman Republic of 1849” (1851); “The Kansas War; or the Exploits of Chivalry in the 19th Century” (1859); and the “Autobiography of Gen. Garibaldi,” edited (1859). He was also the author of numerous educational works. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V.


DWIGHT, Timothy, 1752-1817, New Haven, Connecticut, anti-slavery writer, educator, clergyman.  Pastor, Congregational Church at Greenfield Hill.  President of Yale.  Member of the American Colonization Society Committee in New Haven.  Condemned slavery and its brutality in his writings and poetry. 

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 77, 87; Mason, 2006, pp. 52, 102, 220, 266nn80-81; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 281-282; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 7, p. 192; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, p. 86; National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, Vol. 1)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DWIGHT, Timothy, educator, b. in Northampton, Mass., 14 May, 1752; d. in New Haven, Conn., 11 Jan., 1817. He was the great-grandson of Nathaniel, who was brother to Capt. Henry Dwight, of Hatfield (see DWIGHT, JOSEPH). His father, Maj. Timothy Dwight (Yale, 1744), was a lawyer by education, and became a prosperous merchant of Northampton; his mother was Mary, third daughter of the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, a lady of great mental ability and force of character. During the boy's earlier years she devoted herself to his education. At twelve he was sent to the Rev. Enoch Huntingdon's school in Middletown, where he was fitted for college, matriculating at Yale in 1765. He was graduated in 1769, having but one rival in scholarship, Nathan Strong. After leaving college he was principal of the Hopkins grammar-school in New Haven for two years. In the autumn of 1771 he was given the post of tutor in his alma mater, and in the same year began his ambitious epic, “The Conquest of Canaan.” He was made M. A. in 1772, and on taking his degree delivered a dissertation on the “History, Eloquence, and Poetry of the Bible,” which attracted much attention. While a tutor, he studied law, with the intention of adopting it as a profession; but in 1777, there being a great dearth of chaplains in the Continental army, he was licensed to preach, and soon afterward became chaplain in Parsons's brigade, of the Connecticut line. While holding this office he wrote several stirring patriotic songs, one of which, “Columbia,” became a general favorite. His father's sudden death in 1778 recalled him to the care of his widowed mother and her family, with whom he remained at Northampton, Mass., five years, tilling the farm and preaching occasionally in the neighboring churches. He also kept a day-school for both sexes, in which Joel Barlow, the poet, was a teacher; and after the capture of New Haven by the British he had under his care several of the students of Yale. In 1782 he was a member of the Massachusetts legislature, but refused a nomination to congress. Receiving a call from the church at Greenfield Hill, a beautiful rural parish in Fairfield, Conn., he removed thither in 1783; and shortly afterward he established an academy, which soon acquired a national reputation, students being attracted from all parts of the country and from the West Indies. In this school Dr. Dwight became the pioneer of higher education for women, assigning his female students the same advanced studies as those pursued by the boys, and earnestly advocating the practice. The College of New Jersey gave him the degree of S. T. D. in 1787, and Harvard that of LL. D. in 1810. In 1799 he declined a call from the Dutch Reformed church at Albany. During this period he proposed and agitated, until he secured, the union of the Congregational and Presbyterian churches of New England. In 1795, on the death of Dr. Stiles, he was called to the presidency of Yale college, an office which he held until his death in 1817. On this long and successful administration of the affairs of Yale college Dr. Dwight's claims to distinction largely rest. When he assumed control there were but 110 students; the curriculum was still narrow and pedantic; the freshmen were in bondage to the upper-class men, and they in turn to the faculty. President Dwight abolished the primary-school system, and established among the class-men, and between them and the faculty, such rules as are usually observed by gentlemen in social intercourse. He introduced the study of oratory into the curriculum, and himself gave lectures on style and composition. He also abolished the system of fines for petty offences. At his death the number of students had increased to 313. In politics he was a federalist of the Hamilton school, and he earnestly deprecated the introduction of French ideas of education. His published works fill thirteen large octavo volumes, and his unpublished manuscripts would fill almost as many more. While he was a tutor in college, imprudence in the use of his eyes had so weakened them that he could use them neither for study nor writing, and he was afterward obliged to employ an amanuensis very frequently. His most ambitious work was his epic, The Conquest of Canaan.” A critic, writing in the “North American Review” (vii., 347), said its author had invented a medium between absolute barbarism and modern refinement. “There is little that is really distinctive, little that is truly oriental, about any of his persons or scenes…. It is occasionally animated, and in description sometimes picturesque and poetical.” His pastoral poem, “Greenfield Hill” (1794), in which was introduced a vivid description of the burning of Fairfield by the British in 1779, was much more popular. In 1800 he revised Watts's Psalms, adding translations of his own, and a selection of hymns, both of which were adopted by the general assembly of the Presbyterian church. The best known of these is the version of the 137th Psalm, beginning, “I love thy kingdom, Lord, the house of thine abode.” His “Travels in New England and New York” (4 vols., New Haven, 1821; London, 1823) was pronounced by Robert Southey the most important of his works. His “Theology Explained and Defended in a Course of 173 Sermons” (5 vols., Middletown, Conn., 1818; London, 1819; new ed., with memoir by his son, Rev. Sereno E. Dwight, New York, 1846) has gone through a score of editions in this country and at least one hundred abroad, and on it rests his reputation as a theologian. Besides these works and numerous discourses he published “America, a Poem” (1772; “The Genuineness and Authenticity of the New Testament” (1793); “Triumph of Infidelity, a Satire” (1797); “Discourse on the Character of Washington” (1800); “Observations on Language” (1816); and “Essay on Light” (1816). See, besides, the memoir by his son, and the life in vol. xiv. of Sparks's “American Biography,” by Rev. William B. Sprague. Dr. Dwight married, in March, 1777, Mary, daughter of Benjamin Woolsey, of Long Island, who bore him eight sons. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 281-282.

Biography from National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans:

This eminent divine was born of reputable parents, in Northampton, Massachusetts, in the year 1752. His mother was a daughter of the celebrated metaphysician and theologian, President Edwards, and is said to have inherited much of the uncommon powers of her father. She early perceived the promise of superior genius in her son, and cherished its progressive developments with all a mother’s fondness. His advancement in learning, while almost in his infancy, was wonderfully rapid; and we are told by his biographers, that at the age of six years he studied through Lilly’s Latin grammar twice, without the knowledge of his father. When he had just passed his thirteenth year, he was admitted a member of Yale college, and he went through his collegiate course with great credit. Immediately after graduating, he opened a grammar school in New Haven, which he continued for two years, when he was chosen a tutor in the college. During the period he was occupied with his school, he made a regular division of his time, devoting six hours of the day to his pupils, and eight hours to his private studies. He was for six years a tutor in the college, and was a laborious and successful teacher. So popular was he with the students, that on his resignation, and when only twenty-five years of age, a petition was presented by them to the corporation of the college, soliciting his appointment to the presidency. In directing his private studies at this time, he turned his attention more particularly to rhetoric and belles lettres, which had been but little cultivated in our seminaries previous to the revolution, and his early productions in prose and verse, in conjunction with those of Trumbull, Humphreys, and Barlow, formed an era in American literature.

In 1771 he commenced writing the “Conquest of Canaan,” a regular epic poem, which employed his leisure hours until 1774, when it was completed. On receiving the degree of Master of Arts, in 1772, he pronounced an oration on the history, eloquence, and poetry of the Bible, which was published in this country and in England. In order to economize his time at this period, and to avoid the necessity of exercise, he restricted himself to certain abstemious rules in diet, which, in the end, greatly impaired his health, and he was at length reluctantly compelled to lay aside his books. His physician recommended the daily use of severe bodily exercise, which he had endeavored to forego, and it is said, that during a twelvemonth he walked and rode upwards of five thousand miles, besides resuming, no doubt, that good old system of living to which he had been accustomed. The result, in a short time, was the complete restoration of his health, which continued good for the ensuing forty years of his life, and until he was attacked by his last illness.

In 1777 the different classes in the college were separated on account of the war, and he repaired, with his class, to Weathersfield, in Connecticut, where he remained from May to September. During this summer he was licensed to preach as a Congregational minister. In September he was nominated a chaplain in the army, and immediately joined the brigade of General Parsons, in the Massachusetts line. While in the army he wrote several patriotic songs, which were much admired and widely circulated.

In 1778 he received the melancholy tidings of the death of his father, upon which he resigned his situation in the army, and returned to Northampton, to assist his widowed mother in the education and support of her family. Here he remained about five years, laboring on the farm during the week, and preaching every Sabbath in one of the neighboring towns, besides establishing a school, which was largely patronized. During this period he was twice elected a member of the legislature of Massachusetts.

In 1783 he was ordained a minister in the parish of Greenfield, in Connecticut. Besides attending to his parochial duties, he also opened an academy here, which soon acquired a reputation then unequalled in our country; and in the course of twelve years, he taught more than one thousand scholars in the various branches of English and classical literature. During his residence at Greenfield he published the “Conquest of Canaan,” for which, at the close of the war, he had obtained a list of three thousand subscribers. He however withheld its publication at that time, and now printed it at his own expense. It was shortly afterwards republished in England, and received the approbation of Darwin and Cowper, the former, particularly, commending the smoothness and melody of the versification. There are many splendid passages in this poem, and if it was not popular with all classes of readers, something may, doubtless, be attributed to the theme; and although the author himself declared in after life that “it was too great an undertaking for inexperienced years,” still, it must be considered an extraordinary production for a youth of twenty-two.”

In 1794 he published his poem entitled “Greenfield Hill,” named after the beautiful spot where he resided.

In 1795 he was elected president of Yale college, on the death of President Styles. On his accession to this office, he found the college in a depressed state, owing to the want of funds and other causes; but his distinguished reputation as an instructer brought to it a great increase of students, and he soon succeeded in establishing two new professorships, and in greatly extending the library and philosophical apparatus. He not only enlarged the sphere of instruction, but changed the whole system of government of the college, while he reformed the modes and elevated the tone of education, directing the students to a loftier aim in literary and moral improvement. The effects were soon abundantly visible, and Yale college has ever since ranked with the first institutions of learning in our country. During the twenty-one years he presided over it, a greater number of students were educated there than in any other similar institution.

In 1796 he commenced a regular course of travelling through New England and the state of New York, which he continued during the spring and fall vacations in each succeeding year, until a short time before his death. In these excursions, undertaken principally for the purposes of health, and of relaxation from his sedentary duties in the college, he was in the habit of making brief notes, upon the spot, of every thing interesting which he saw or heard, for the immediate gratification of his family; and these notes were afterwards written out by him, or to his dictation, by an amanuensis, and have been published since his death, under the title of “Travels in New England and New York,” in four volumes octavo. This work contains a mass of useful and interesting information upon a great variety of topics, with amusing anecdotes and graphic sketches of scenery and character. A most valuable portion of it is its historical notices of the origin and customs of the aborigines of our country. He also left behind him, ready for the press, a complete system of divinity, contained in one hundred and seventy-three discourses or lectures, which formed his course in the college as professor of theology, and which have been published, both in England and this country, under the title of “Theology Explained and Defended.” He continued the active performance of his duties until near the close of his life, and heard the recitation of a theological class a week before his death. During his illness, which continued about two years, he occasionally occupied himself in poetical composition, to divert his mind from his painful sufferings. Four days previous to his death, he performed the last of his literary and earthly labors; and as he laid his manuscript aside, which was a theological dissertation, he said to his family, “I have now finished.” He died at his residence in New Haven, January 11th, 1817, after severe and repeated attacks of his disease, the character of which, it is said, was not well understood.

In this brief sketch, it is not to be expected that full justice can be done to the character of President DWIGHT. We shall endeavor, however, to present our own views of it, derived from personal knowledge, and the observations of others, who have written his biography. As poetry did not form the business of his life, but was written merely as a mode of literary relaxation, there have been those among us who surpassed him in this department of literature, and as a poet, therefore, we do not ask for him the highest meed of praise. His mind, perhaps, was too logical and argumentative, his train of thought too methodical, and his memory too retentive of facts and details, and too much engrossed with them, to leave room for the display of that brilliant fancy which the highest flights of poetry require. His stronger mental powers he had subjected to a severe discipline from early youth, and we suspect that the philosophy of Bacon and Locke had always more charms for him than the music of the Doric reed. Still, some of his smaller poetical pieces are extremely beautiful.

But the fame of Dr. DWIGHT was not built upon his poetry, and does not rest upon it. As an instructer, he stood pre-eminent among his contemporaries, from the opening of his grammar school in New Haven, while a mere youth, to the close of his career as president of Yale college. He early made innovations upon previous methods of instruction, which were dictated by his powerful and original genius, and they were attended with signal success, as many who now occupy high places amongst us can bear witness. The art of the pedagogue, under his hands, expanded into a noble vocation, which commanded respect and veneration, and elevated science and literature in our country to a rank which, before his time, they had not attained. Over his pupils he exercised an unbounded influence, which was cemented in affection; and his unwearied efforts at all times were, to pour into their minds that ripe knowledge, which it had been the whole business of his life to treasure up from study, meditation, and a familiar intercourse with the world. He was versed in almost every subject of science and art, and besides his own peculiar and professional studies, he had acquired inexhaustible treasures in natural philosophy, chemistry, history, geography, statistics, philology, husbandry, and domestic economy; and which were so methodically arranged in his mind, as to be always at command, and when he became animated in discourse, were poured forth from his lips in a perpetual stream of knowledge arid wisdom.

Dr. DWIGHT’S colloquial powers were very great, and no one who had the pleasure of listening to his conversation ever failed to be impressed with a high opinion of his great attainments, and a profound respect for his character, which was heightened by his polished and courteous address. To strangers he was urbane and affable, and among the friends of his fireside, he intermingled, in his social converse, flashes of wit with practical wisdom, the utile cum dulci, in the most fascinating degree. His temper was ardent, but his heart was full of kindness, and probably no husband, father, or friend, was ever more beloved than he was by those to whom he stood in these relations. To them his loss was irreparable, and a whole community sympathized in their sorrows. His memory was a storehouse of anecdotes upon all subjects, which he had been industriously collecting from books, and a long and attentive observation of mankind; and little of what he had once learned was afterwards forgotten. Hence his society was greatly courted, and the attentions which he uniformly received from all classes of his fellow citizens, were richly repaid by the instruction and pleasure which his conversation afforded.

As a theologian he stood at the head of his profession, at the time of his death, and was inferior in learning to none of his predecessors, if we except, perhaps, his maternal grandfather, President Edwards. As a proof of the correctness of this high praise, we confidently refer to his voluminous theological works, and the criticisms which have been pronounced upon them, both at home and abroad. He was an eloquent preacher, and although his discourses were addressed to the understanding rather than the passions of his hearers, who were statedly the members of the college, yet, when the subject admitted of oratorical display, he showed himself equal to the highest efforts of the art. His sublime conceptions of the Deity, especially of the divine attributes of love and mercy, on which he delighted to dwell, when embodied in his powerful and impressive language, were only second to those of the great English epic poet; while in touches of pathos, particularly in his funeral discourses, or over the premature grave of youthful genius, he opened a direct and easy avenue to the stoutest heart, and his appeals were irresistible. His voice was clear, distinct, and loud, and its inflections, although few, were musical and agreeable; the only defect in his elocution was, too marked and frequent an emphasis, and too little variety in his tones; but his manner was dignified, earnest, and impressive, evincing sincere and ardent piety, and a feeling heart. The effect of his eloquence was enhanced by his fine personal appearance, graceful gestures, and an eye of fire.

In his intercourse with his fellow men and his “walk with God,” he was every thing which the most devout Christian or rigid moralist could desire; and when he expired, our country was bereaved of a great and good man, and learning and religion sustained a loss not easily to be supplied.

Source: National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, 1839, Vol. 1.


DYER, Charles Volney, Dr., 1808-1878, Clarendon, Vermont, abolitionist, jurist, businessman, Underground Railroad activist.  Co-founded Chicago chapter of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1838 with Philo Carpenter.  Station master on the Underground Railroad.  Gubernatorial candidate with Liberty Party in 1848. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 285; Campbell, 2009)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

DYER, Charles Volney, Abolitionist, b. in Clarendon, Vt., 12 June, 1808; d. at Lake View, near Chicago, 24 April, 1878. He was graduated at the medical department of Middlebury college in 1830, and began practice in Newark, N. J., in 1831, but removed in 1835 to Chicago, and soon became acting surgeon in Fort Dearborn. He was successful in his practice and business adventures, retiring from the former in 1854, and becoming agent for the “underground railroad” in Chicago. One instance illustrates the courage of Dr. Dyer: In 1846 a fugitive from Kentucky was caught in Chicago by his master and an armed posse, bound tightly with ropes, and guarded while a man went for a blacksmith to rivet the manacles that were to be put upon him. Dr. Dyer, hearing of the arrest, went hurriedly to the Mansion house and to the room where the victim was confined, burst open the door, cut the cords, and told the fugitive to go, which he did before his captors recovered from their surprise and bewilderment at such unexpected and summary proceedings. A bully, with brandishing Bowie-knife, rushed toward the doctor, who stood his ground and knocked down his assailant with his cane. Sympathizing friends subsequently presented the doctor a gold-headed hickory cane of gigantic proportions, appropriately inscribed, which is now in the library of the Chicago historical society. At an anti-slavery convention in 1846 at Chicago, Dr. Dyer was chairman of the committee for establishing the “National Era” at Washington, an organ of the Abolition party, established 7 Jan., 1847. Dr. Dyer had a genial nature, which manifested itself in ready witticisms and pleasant conversation, except when he chanced to come in contact with shams, impostors, or hypocrites, for which he had a most profound contempt and abundant words to express his detestation. In recognition of Dr. Dyer's sterling integrity and the great service he had rendered the cause of anti-slavery. President Lincoln, who knew him well, appointed him in 1863 judge of the mixed court at Sierra Leone, for the suppression of the slave-trade, after which appointment he passed two years travelling in Europe. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


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