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 - Q



QUINCY, Edmund, 1808-1877, Dedham, Massachusetts, author, anti-slavery writer, abolitionist leader.  Served as a Manager, 1838-1840, 1840-1842, member of the Executive Committee, 1843-1864, Vice President, 1848-1864, and Corresponding Secretary, 1853-1856, of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (AFASS).  Vice President, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, 1849-1860. 

(Mabee, 1970, pp. 70, 72, 73, 75, 77, 80, 200, 224, 248, 250, 255, 256, 257, 260, 262, 297, 313; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, p. 153; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 8, Pt. 1, p. 306)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

QUINCY, Edmund, author, b. in Boston, 1 Feb., 1808; d. in Dedham, 17 May, 1877, was graduated at Harvard in 1827. He deserves especial mention for the excellent biography of his father, above mentioned. His novel “Wensley” (Boston, 1854) was said by Whittier to be the best book of the kind since the “Blithedale Romance.” His contributions to the anti-slavery press for many years were able and valuable. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 153.


QUINCY, Josiah, 1772-1864, statesman.  U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts.  Opposed slavery as Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 151-152; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 8, Pt. 1, p. 308; Bruns, 1977, pp. 222-223; Locke, 1901, pp. 93, 132, 152; Mabee, 1970, p. 75; Mason, 2006, pp. 46, 53, 64, 66-70, 73, 85, 146, 190, 216-217, 256n65, 257n82; Annals of Congress; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 18, p. 37)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

QUINCY, Josiah, statesman, b. in Boston, 4 Feb., 1772; d. in Quincy, Mass., 1 July, 1864. He was fitted for college at Phillips academy, Andover, and was grnduated at Harvard in 1790 at the head of his class. He studied law with William Tudor, and was admitted to the bar in 1793. His practice was not large, and he had considerable leisure to devote to study and to politics. In 1797 he married Miss Eliza Susan Morton, of New York. On 4 July, 1798, he delivered the annual oration in the Old South meeting-house, and gained such a reputation thereby that the Federalists selected him as their candidate for congress in 1800. The Republican newspapers ridiculed the idea of a member of congress only twenty-eight years old, and called aloud for a cradle to rock him in. Mr. Quincy was defeated. In the spring of 1804 he was elected to the state senate of Massachusetts, and in the autumn of that year he was elected to congress. During his senatorship he was active in urging his state to suggest an amendment to the Federal constitution, eliminating the clause that permitted the slave-states to count three fifths of their slaves as part of their basis of representation. If such a measure could have had any chance of success at that moment, its effect would of course have been to break up the Union. Mr. Quincy dreaded the extension of slavery, and foresaw that the existence of that institution was likely to bring on a civil war; but it was not evident then, as it is now, that a civil war in 1861 was greatly to be preferred to civil war or peaceable secession in 1805. As member of congress, Mr. Quincy belonged to the flarty of extreme Federalists known as the “Essex junto.” The Federalists were then in a hopeless minority; even the Massachusetts delegation in congress had ten Republicans to seven Federalists. In some ways Mr. Quincy showed a disposition to independent action, as in refusing to follow his party in dealing with Randolph's malcontent faction known as the “quids.” He fiercely opposed the embargo and the war with England. But his most famous action related to the admission of Louisiana as a state. There was at that time a strong jealousy of the new western country on the part of the New England states. There was a fear that the region west of the Alleghanies would come to be more populous than the original thirteen states, and that thus the control of the Federal government would pass into the hands of people described by New Englanders as “backwoodsmen.” Gouverneur Morris had given expression to such a fear in 1787 in the Federal convention. In 1811, when it was proposed to admit Louisiana as a state, the high Federalists took the ground that the constitution had not conferred upon congress the power to admit new states except such as should be formed from territory already belonging to the Union in 1787. Mr. Quincy maintained this position in a remarkable speech, 4 Jan., 1811, in which he used some strong language. “Why, sir, I have already heard of six states, and some say there will be at no great distance of time more. I have also heard that the mouth of the Ohio will be far to the east of the centre of the contemplated empire . . . . It is impossible such a power could be granted. It was not for these men that our fathers fought. It was not for them this constitution was adopted. You have no authority to throw the rights and liberties and property of this people into hotch-pot with the wild men on the Missouri, or with the mixed, though more respectable, race of Anglo-Hispano-Gallo-Americans, who bask on the sands in the mouth of the Mississippi. . . . I am compelled to declare it. as my deliberate opinion that, if this bill passes, the bonds of this Union are virtually dissolved; that the states which compose it are free from their moral obligations; and that, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some, to prepare definitely for a separation—amicably, if they can; violently, if they must.” This was, according to Hildreth, “the first announcement on the floor of congress of the doctrine of secession.” Though opposed to the war with England, Mr. Quincy did not go so far as some of the Federalists in refusing support to the administration; his great speech on the navy, 25 Jan., 1812, won applause from all parties. In that year he declined a re-election to congress. For the next ten years he was most of the time a member of the Massachusetts legislature, but a great part of his attention was given to his farm at Quincy. He was member of the convention of 1820 for revising the state constitution. In the following year he was speaker of the house. From 1823 to 1828 he was mayor of Boston, and his administration was memorable for the number of valuable reforms effected by his energy and skill. Everything was overhauled—the police, the prisons, the schools, the streets, the fire department, and the great market was built near Faneuil hall. In 1829 he was chosen president of Harvard, and held that position until 1845. During his administration Dane hall was built for the law-school and Gore hall for the university library; and it was due mainly to his exertions that the astronomical observatory was founded and equipped with its great telescope, which is still one of the finest in the world. In 1834, in the face of violent opposition, Mr. Quincy succeeded in establishing the principle that “where flagrant outrages were committed against persons or property by members of the university, within its limits, they should be proceeded against, in the last resort, like any other citizens, before the courts of the commonwealth.” The effect of this measure was most wholesome in checking the peculiar kinds of ruffianism which the community has often been inclined to tolerate in college students. Mr. Quincy also introduced the system of marking, which continued to be used for more than forty years at Harvard. By this system the merit of every college exercise was valued according to a scale of numbers, from one to eight, by the professor or tutor, at the time of its performance. Examinations were rated in various multiples of eight, and all these marks were set down to the credit of the individual student. Delinquencies of various degrees of importance were also estimated in multiples of eight, and charged on the debit side of the account. At the end of the year the balance to the student's credit was compared with the sum-total that an unbroken series of perfect marks, unaffected by deductions, would have yielded, and the resulting percentage determined the rank of the student. President Quincy was also strongly in favor of the elective system of studies, in so far as it was compatible with the general state of advancement of the students in his time, and with the means of instruction at the disposal of the university. The elective experiment was tried more thoroughly, and on a broader scale, under his administration than under any other down to the time of President Eliot. From 1845 to 1864 Mr. Quincy led a quiet and pleasant life, devoted to literary and social pursuits. He continued till the last to take a warm interest in politics, and was an enthusiastic admirer of President Lincoln. His principal writings are “History of Harvard University” (2 vols., Boston, 1840); “History of the Boston Athenaeum” (Boston, 1851); “Municipal History of Boston” (Boston, 1852); “Memoir of J. Q. Adams” (Boston, 1858); and “Speeches delivered in Congress” (edited by his son, Edmund, Boston, 1874). His biography, by his son, Edmund (Boston, 1867), is an admirable work. See also J. R. Lowell's “My Study Window,” pp. 83-114. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. V, pp. 151-152.


QUINN, William Paul, 1788-1873, African American, leader of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, clergyman.  Actively supported abolition and anti-slavery movements. Also associated with Black emigrationist movements.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 9, p. 302)


Return to Top of Page